12.28 / vegan tom kha soup

this year, right before Christmas, a massive change took place in my life, one that I promised would never, ever happen – I became the stay at home mom of a baby. To clarify, I’m really just a working from home mom of a baby husky puppy, but let me tell you, it feels a lot more like I’m raising a human baby than I ever expected. And I love it. But today, as I tucked little Fitz up for his nap and ran out to Whole Foods for the first round of groceries I’ve gotten to buy since the little fur baby joined the family, I realized how long it’s been since I’ve cooked a full, legitimate meal for myself. Between the holidays and motherhood-ish, my meals have either consisted of take out, packages of smoked salmon with green juice, or “oops, a meal?”

 

So today, on this beautifully rainy December Monday with both dogs blissfully napping, I decided to treat myself to the gift of a half hour of cooking time. Praise and thanksgiving. And, of course, that half hour resulted in some seriously delicious Thai food. And, of course, I had to celebrate by blogging about it. Adapted from greenkitchenstories.com, here’s the recipe I went with:

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Vegan Tom Kha Soup

(makes enough for two, or one really hungry person)

1 can of light coconut milk

1/3 napa cabbage

2 leaves bok choy

1 tomato

1/2 dried chili

1 handful of mushrooms

1/2 a cup of vegetable stock

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp dried lemongrass

extra virgin olive oil

1/4 lime

handful of cilantro

 

directions: slice tomato into smaller chunks and the dried chili into tiny pieces, add these with a dash of olive oil into a soup bowl. Pour the lemongrass and ginger into a pot, turn the stove to medium heat, and add the coconut milk in. Chop the remaining vegetables into large chunks while waiting for the coconut milk to boil. Once it begins to boil, add in the vegetable stock, mushrooms, cabbage, and bok choy. Let cook for 2-4 minutes, and then pour the soup over the tomatoes and spices in the soup bowl. Garnish with a pinch of sea salt, chopped cilantro, and a generous squeeze of lime juice.

fresh thai rolls

coming off of a juice cleanse recently (much more to say on that topic, stay tuned), I’ve been really struggling with what to eat – after three days filled with nothing but fresh, delicious green juice, my stomach has started to get even more agitated than usual by things like processed, salty foods… which is great – it means more meals at home, more fresh fruits and veggies, and more time spent mindfully cooking. It’s almost like my stomach is forcing me into continuing my cleanse, and I’m grateful.

However, in an effort to use less salt but still get a ton of flavor, I’ve had to do a lot of experimenting with different spices and seasonings to make things taste as deep and rich as I’m craving, while not having all of the nasty effects that a sodium overdose can bring. Hence these fresh rolls, which get a deep and delicious flavor from the combination of spices, cilantro, and crushed peanuts.

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To make them, just sauté thin strips of sweet potatoes, shredded fish, and half a cup of green peas in olive oil until they’re crispy… Once they’re finished, lightly wet three traditional rice paper wraps and pour the sautéed mix in, adding in thinly sliced kale and long, fine strips of Daikon radish. Carefully roll it all up, and top with crushed peanuts, sliced cilantro, and some chili flakes and a dash of sweet chili sauce, and maybe a freshly squeezed lime. (If you’re focusing on cutting out sodium, like I’m *trying to* at the moment, swap the sweet chili sauce for a mixture of finely ground red pepper, 1 tbsp of water, and 1 tsp of local honey). Enjoy!

what I learned from paddleboard yoga

welcome to stand-up paddleboarding (SUP?!), aka my latest and greatest obsession. As someone who grew up surfing, I held off as long as I could on the SUP wave, because it seemed like a less exciting and athletic version of surfing. False. It is completely in it’s own beautiful, wonderful category of athletics, maybe more like kayaking with balance if anything. And it’s got me hooked. So, lately, I’ve been spending as much free time as I can squeeze out on the river. In my (so far incredibly short) time paddleboarding, I’ve realized that there is a lot of connection between it and yoga, which was an incredible and welcome realization – a lot of the lessons I’ve been learning through my yoga practice and through my teaching books have really only been solidified, and even brought into a more tangible reality, by time on a paddleboard. Maybe it’s partially due to the fact that those two activities are the only times I really have the space to do nothing but breathe and be, but I think it also has a lot to do with the element of balance that is very present in both.

lately, I’ve been really challenged by the idea of appearance – how things look, what they really are, and why there is so much emphasis placed on maintaining the former, while the latter often tends to be neglected. I’m always painfully aware of my need for this during my yoga practice – even if I’m worn out, or my shins are extra-painful, or I simply feel like taking a child’s pose instead of pushing to my absolute limit, it is really hard for me to hold back, and I can admit that a big reason for that is because I’m afraid of how it will look. It seriously bothers me, the idea that someone might think that I can’t take a wheel, or whatever. And I am finally starting to recognize that as a huge problem. Well, naturally, it’s a problem that I encountered on the board last night as well. I was heading out to Gibsonville after work to paddle for a few hours, and had my camera with me, with the intention of shooting some really bad-ass paddleboard yoga pictures. I’ve been really blessed lately to get to expand my active/outdoor photography portfolio through my job, and it’s already opening up some incredible opportunities, so whenever a chance presents itself to add to that collection, I jump at it. So that was the intention. The reality, however, was almost an entire hour’s worth of completely out-of-focus pictures. I pride myself on my ability to turn my vision into an image pretty clearly, but in this instance, that was not even close to the case. Holding a camera remote while maintaining a moving board in exactly the right position AND trying to do a yoga pose on said board may have been the hardest point of my photography career. I paddled out into the water, and started doing my thing… before this point, I had only ever pulled off a few Sun A’s on the board. But I went for a few different things, and was super excited to find that I could pop into wheel, or reverse warrior… and I even managed a minute or two of tree on the water! I hopped back off the board, really excited to see all of the images I had snapped, only to find a long series of out-of-focus pictures of water, some with the tip of my board and many that I wasn’t even close to being in. I don’t remember the last time I was so frustrated with a shoot – I had a very clear image in my head of how I wanted it all to look, and I thought I had given it my best, but nothing had turned out right. So I left the remote on the shore, turned the camera off, and went back to the board to practice by myself, without a digital audience. It was during that time that I realized: here it was again, my struggle with appearance versus reality. I got so caught up in how it was going to look that I forgot to pay attention to the reality behind that. Once I realized that, I managed to really start to have a great time out on the water… and, once I got my breath back in line, I was able to get out and snap a few shots I enjoyed. But the experience served as a really cool reminder that, in yoga and life, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, or what anyone else gets to see. Instead, it is what’s really there that matters.

 

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 (included the above puppy – it might illustrate this lesson better than any of the others)

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current obsession: cauliflower rice

actually, amendment – current obsession: cauliflower everything. I’ve taken to buying a giant cauliflower at the beginning of the week, and seeing just how many different styles of meals I can incorporate it into. So far, I haven’t found a single one that I can’t somehow sneak some cauliflower in to. I wrote this post a little while ago for the lululemon blog about all of the different health benefits of cauliflower, but basically, to summarize, in addition to being a vitamin-filled powerhouse, cauliflower is also a pretty complete detox package, offering not only the fiber needed to begin a system cleanse, but also sulforaphane, a molecule that breaks down toxins and fats in the body, all the while helping to prevent bacterial overgrowth in the gut. Too awesome. Eat more cauliflower.

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Although cauliflower is delicious in more simple forms, like raw and chopped, or even baked, one of the most fun ways I’ve found to add cauliflower to a meal is to make cauliflower rice! It’s awesome, because I rarely ever eat traditional rice, but there are definitely some meals that call for a rice-like substance, such as curry, or mexican, or this delicious Brussels sprouts dish.

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Cauliflower rice is ridiculously easy and quick to make – actually, much more so than regular rice. It can be as simple as taking chunks of cauliflower and throwing them in a food processor for a minute or two, and that provides a perfect substitute for traditional, unflavored white rice. In this case, however, after shredding up the cauliflower, I tossed the “rice” into a small pan, and sauteed it with a little bit of olive oil, some grated garlic, and kale. The garlic provided an excellent flavor compliment for the lemon in the Brussels sprouts. All in all, this is one of my absolute favorite dishes I’ve ever made – partially because of the flavor combinations, but also partially because it’s so quick and easy, but still healthy and flavorful. So, without further rambling, here’s the recipe:

Cauliflower Rice:

1/2 head of cauliflower

2 cups kale

2 cloves garlic

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

instructions: pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until evenly ground, and then pour into a small cooking pan. Grate the cloves of garlic into the pan, and then add in the kale, mushrooms, and olive oil. Sauté, stirring, for 3 minutes or until cauliflower browns slightly around the edges.

Lemon-Thyme Brussels Sprouts:

1 1/2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved

1/3 cup roasted cashews

1 tbsp thyme

1 – 1 1/2 whole lemon(s)

1 tsp olive oil

sea salt

instructions: slice and squeeze the lemon into a little bowl, adding in the olive oil, thyme, and a dash of sea salt. The toss in the Brussels sprouts and cashews, allowing them to marinate as long as desired. I only left mine in for a half hour, but they could soak all day. Once finished, pour the mix out onto a baking sheet, and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges of the Brussels sprouts get crispy.

Serve together, and enjoy! 

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kombucha: the what and the how

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kombucha. First of all, what the heck is it? They have it on shelves at whole foods, you hear chatter about it at yoga class, but you’ve never actually understood what kombucha is. Kombucha is naturally carbonated yeast-fermented tea, a drink that has been around for over 2,000 years and is highly praised for its energizing, healing, and revitalizing qualities. Not surprisingly, as with a lot of alternative superfoods these days, there is a lot of controversy surrounding kombucha and it’s benefits, but there is studied proof that this drink, at the very least, offers large quantities of amino acids, antioxidants, B-vitamins, and probiotics. Beyond that, it provides fantastic detoxification support for the liver (and is therefore my all time absolute preferred cure for one two many glasses of red), a kickstart to your metabolism, a natural, caffeine-free energy boost, and some truly amazing gut-healing qualities. In a world full of unnatural toxins, regularly drinking kombucha is a great way to keep your insides healthy and functioning properly. The only problem is that regularly drinking kombucha is in no way a small investment, with bottles of this fermented drink ranging from 4-14 dollars on grocery store shelves. The good news? Kombucha is ridiculously easy, and fun, to make at home, and once you’ve made it, it’s even more simple to keep it going, allowing it to constantly brew in as large a quantity as you want. I can usually be counted on to have five or six jars of kombucha fermenting somewhere around the house, and have started having to warn people ahead of time, as my friend once asked me if I had a jarred fetus in my bedroom. Oops.

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So, pictured above is all you need to make your own delicious kombucha, except for the mason jar and little cutting of cheese cloth needed to cover the lid. The option is available to buy a dehydrated “mother yeast” online, from websites such as Cultures for Health, but it really is just as easy to get your own started from a bottle of store-bought kombucha, and that way you get to enjoy a bottle as you prepare.

To start off, take a bottle of raw kombucha (I used GT Dave’s brand), and start sipping. As you’re making your way towards the bottom of the bottle, bring a pan with 8 oz of water (or as much as desired – amount depends on the container you have to brew in) to boil, adding 2-3 tbsp of sugar once the water hits a boil. Stop sipping your kombucha once there’s about an inch or two of liquid left.. all that weird stringy stuff that floats around the bottom? Make sure that’s still in there. Remove the boiled sugar-water from the heat, and stir with a wooden spoon (very important – do not use metal!) until the sugar dissolves completely. Next, add a bag of unflavored green tea (or two, depending on the strength you want) and let it steep – at this step, I generally tend to wait a while, so that the tea is strongest. You really only need to wait until the water reaches room temperature, but I’ve left it steeping overnight before, partially because I was getting impatient waiting for the water to cool, and it turned out just fine. Once the tea is steeped and cooled, pour it into your glass jar, along with the remnants of your kombucha drink. Cover the top with a cheese cloth, or another light cloth, so that it is protected from dirt in the air but still has room to breath, and place in a warm area out of direct sunlight. Then comes the waiting part… I usually give mine several weeks to brew, but that’s partially because my house is so cold. A thick film will form on the top of the liquid in your jar (that’s creating a new mother yeast, for your next brewing!), and once that starts to get really thick and sink, that’s a pretty clear indicator that your kombucha is ready to drink (see below – jar of kombucha in mid-brew.)

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Once your kombucha finishes brewing, it’s up to you how you want to prepare it! I tend to make a fruit or ginger juice blend (my favorite is juiced ginger and pineapple), mix that in a bottle with the kombucha, and leave it out to ferment on the fruit juices just a little bit longer. You can absolutely drink it, raw and unflavored, right away though. As for that weird floating brain-like thing in the jar? Keep that guy in there, along with a splash of the finished kombucha, and add another jar of sugar tea in with it to start brewing more!

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Lastly, if you’re looking for a way to mix healthy and hip, I’ve found some pretty interesting kombucha cocktails on the internet, my current favorite being the tequila/cinnamon/kombucha blend at the bottom of this article. Probably not something we’ll be seeing served in fine dining establishments any time soon, but who knows? It can never hurt to add a little splash of probiotic to your cocktail. Happy brewing, lovelies!

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want to know more? Check out thisthis, and this!

* note: I originally wrote this article for the lululemon greensboro blog, but am sharing it here too!

12.7.2013/sundried tomatoes and daikon noodles

during the warmer months, my diet is nearly 100% raw: salads on salads on smoothies on salads. I remember just a few months ago being absolutely stunned by a co-worker saying that he didn’t remember the last time he ate a salad, because they were all I ate, for every meal. But, as it’s getting colder here, I’ve been finding myself seriously craving some warm, hearty meals. And although I miss my light salads, and days where I eat smoothie bowls for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I am seriously loving coming home at night to make a big, warm, and delicious meal. As I’ve been slowly learning more about ayurveda and the doshas, it’s been interesting to realize that, aside from the obvious chill, there is a reason that our bodies tend to crave warmer foods during this time of year. Such interesting stuff, and so important to remember how delicately hinged life is on the idea of balance. Also, it gives me a lot more room to play around in the kitchen, which is small heaven for me. I was meeting a friend for coffee tonight, and he asked me what my favorite way to unwind is, and I said, without missing a beat, that it was cooking. Not eating, but cooking. I do love eating, absolutely, all the time, but I’ve realized more and more recently that cooking, preparing, combining, creating – that’s one of my favorite outlets. Back when I was drowning in the work/schoolwork grind, I would come home after a 12-15 hour day, and just bake and cook and blend… almost everything would get wrapped up and frozen or stored for later, but the preparation of food just calmed me down immensely. I love it. So, with these bigger meals that require a bit more preparation than the chopping and mixing of veggies, I’m finding myself to be so much more consistently calm and at peace. Of course, it might also have a lot to do with the fact that my weekly schedule has been nearly cut in half, and I am now well-rested and caught up in life, or the fact that I’m getting one or two yoga classes in daily… but I think it also has a lot to do with the amount of time I can spend doing what I love, like cooking. Ah, so grateful for this refreshing break.

Anyway, with all of this new time to cook and create, I feel like I’ll be forever behind in sharing my current favorite recipes. This one, however, is (for this week, at least) one of the best – it’s the perfect mix of familiar and different foods, a great combination of preparation styles, and a delicious blend of flavors, and it’s still pretty simple to make. Plus, there’s still plenty of room for substitutions – if you don’t want the thick daikon radish noodles, use rice noodles. Or zucchini noodles, although I’d still recommend finding some way to heat them, as this is absolutely supposed to be a warm dish. Don’t like mushrooms or kale? Use broccoli, spinach, squash, or really anything else in the world. Don’t like spicy? Use a sweet chili paste, instead of red chili flakes. Play around with it. That’s what recipes are for. But here’s the way I did it: First, you bake 1/2 of a daikon radish, cut into long, semi-thin noodle-like strips, at 350, until it’s slightly brown around the edges. Then, simply sautée  sliced mushrooms and kale with olive oil and onions (be careful not to let the kale get too limp, I usually don’t put it in the pan until about a minute before I turn the heat off) and dump everything into a bowl, adding in a handful of sundried tomatoes (I love Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods has some great options too), and sprinkle on some red chili flakes and sea salt. I caked on the chili flakes, but I’m a huge sucker for spice, so maybe start off more sparingly with these puppies and just add on to taste. And there it is! Yes, it may still be just a bowl of veggies, but instead of a cold, simple salad, it’s a warm, spicy, noodle-esque dish!

 

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12.5.2013/all of the almonds

whatever you’re doing right now, stop doing it, and go eat an almond instead. But really. Almonds are one of the most delicious snacks in the entire world, they’re incredibly portable (I usually have almonds stashed away in my pockets for snacking – I find almonds in the washer/dryer all the time), AND they’re ridiculously good for you. They’re super high in monounsaturated fat, which is a necessity for a healthy heart… fun fact, actually, if you substitute the unsaturated fat of almonds for the saturated fat in things like meat and dairy, studies show that you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease by 45%. This is a great way of putting the study, because as amazing as they are for you, almonds still do pack a lot of fats into the diet – so instead of just adding almonds to an unhealthy diet and thinking that makes all the difference, try to be mindful of swapping out some unhealthy fats for almonds (or really any other kind of monounsaturated fat food) at least a  few times a week. Additionally, a serving of almonds (about 1/3 of a cup) actually provides you with half of the recommended daily value for vitamin E, an incredible little antioxidant that works to destroy free radicals, lower cholesterol, and is important for the formation and development of muscles. Vitamin E is a little bit of an unsung hero, and while it’s pretty readily available through fortified cereals and such, it’s still crucial to get some of your nut-based vitamin E in when you can.If you’re a health nut like me, check out this cool page to get a little bit more of an in-depth profile on vitamin E.

amazing health benefits aside, however, almonds also happen to be a key (and sometimes only) ingredient in one of my favorite foods on the planet: almond butter. There are very few pre-prepared foods that I’ll buy these days, but under kombucha and coconut yogurt on the list is, or was, whole food’s almond butter. That stuff is unreal, and dangerously so, as I think the first time that I ever tried it, I ended up eating at least half of the jar in one sitting. Oops. As delicious as almonds are, I still don’t entirely understand how almond butter can be so much more delicious, especially since most good almond butters have no ingredients other than almonds. One of life’s serious mysteries. However, since I’m so very into almond butter, I figured it was time to start making my own… not even for the price point, as I think it costs pretty close to the same amount to make it as it does to buy it, but there’s just something so great about knowing that you can make everything you need, from pure, whole ingredients, knowing exactly what goes into it and how it is prepared and packaged. Rad stuff. And almond butter is just far too easy to make to ever justify buying it. All you need is a food processor. I also used an oven, just because I dry roasted the almonds before dumping them into the food processor (helps the oils release a little quicker, better for an impatient human like me, and also adds a little bit deeper of a flavor). But it’s as simple as that – dry roast the almonds, if you want (you can also honey roast them, coating them in honey and sea salt before roasting), throw them into the food processor, and wait. The waiting is what is key to this whole process – the first few times I tried to make almond butter, I didn’t do so hot on the waiting part, and there were a solid two or three months where I thought homemade almond butter was just supposed to be really chunky and dry. It’s not. Wait longer. After what seems like an eternity of processing (usually probably 10-15 minutes), the mixture will look like a dry, clumpy, brown disaster. Don’t take it out and put it in a jar. It won’t be enjoyable. It won’t be impressive when you slather it on some poor guy’s toast and say “hey, check out this almond butter I made myself!” You’ll probably end up just getting really sad about it whenever you open the fridge. So just wait a little bit longer. Because eventually, the oils will release, and the almond butter will actually start to become almond butter. Success. At this point, I’d say give it just a few minutes processing time past what you think it needs, just to be safe, and then take it out of the food processor, jar it, and voila! You can stir in just about anything too – I really love honey and sea salt almond butter, but just regular honey or regular salt is great. A nice seasonal blend can be made adding in a tiny bit of maple syrup, 1 tbsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tbsp of nutmeg, 1 tsp cloves, and 1 tsp cardamom. Also, a bit of vanilla extract blends in great with any of the above options. AND, homemade almond butter makes an awesome Christmas gift. Creamy, delicious vitamin E in a jar, what more could you want under your tree?

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