Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Quarantine Food Diaries, Get outside, Picnic Packing Goodies and Shinrin-Yoku

The weather is warm and we can all be outside, reconnecting to the earth, walking through a forest, releasing, discharging our bodies frenetic energy and absorbing the negative ions released by our planet, bare feet upon the earth.
In Italy we take our entire lunches to the beach in the summer or  into the countryside, it's called a "scampagnata" literally to escape to the countryside. We carefully prepare and pack way more than the typical sandwich and potato salad, you might say it is somewhat of an art, not as much as the Japanese create sushi and bento boxes to go but all the same the italian will figure out the how to of eating well during a "scampagnata".
Picnics will become a new way to pass time with friends, bring a plate to share and be with others,  here are a few of my go to favorites.

Insalata di Riso


1 cup dry arborio rice
Tonino brand or other glass jar tuna ( please no canned tunafish)
handful or more pitted olives sliced ( I use calamata, but your preference is fine) 
1 cup fresh spring peas
2 hardboiled eggs
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped radishes
1/4  cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Himalayan Pink salt, Pepper

The recipe is super simple, the key is to eat a little warm and then chill it for up to 24 hours before taking it on your picnic. Mix all ingredients, add Mayo salt and pepper and chill!

Chickpea flour fritelle

a common Sicilian street food is Panelle, a smooth chick pea flour paste that is deep fried into little rectangular pancakes and placed in a bun called "rosetta" with a squeeze of lemon and off you go.
Because I am gluten free, I use the panelle like the bread and make a frittata to put between two to take to the beach!

Savory Pinwheels and Napoleons

Store bought puff pastry sheets
sauteéd maitake or button mushrooms
cherry tomatoes
a few fresh basil leaves
1 egg yolk

De thaw puff pastry sheets until flexible, flour and roll out cut rectangles for layering the  napoleons and one long recatangle for rolling the cherry tomato goat cheese spirals. This is uber easy but presents like it was way more complicated!
Spread chevre and sliced tomatoes and a chopped basil, salt and pepper on the long rectangle, roll and slice into spirals. Arrange on parchment on a baking sheet.
Layer puff pastry squares alternately with sauteéd mushrooms and chevre until they are neatly stacked, place on parchment paper. Wash both spirals and napoleons with an egg yolk wash and
pop in the oven 400F for about 20 min, e´voila!!
Picnic blue ribbon ready!!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Quarantine Food Diaries, Settle Down Bars, Ashwaganda Powder Power!

Settle Down Bars

Settle Down Bars
makes 30 single serving bars

Stone ground peanut butter, oats, oat bran, chia seeds, sesame seeds, ashwaganda, sunflower seeds, coconut, pink Himalayan sea salt and local honey make these protein bars both a satisfying salty sweet snack and calming adaptogenic healing morsel!  Ashwaganda is a widely used Ayurvedic adaptogenic herb used to calm vata energy and soothe the internal anxiety of the body. 

3/4 cup oats
1 cup stone ground peanut butter or almond or cashew
1/4 oat bran
1/4 whole raw almonds
1/2 roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
3 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup coconut, raw, organic no added sugar
3 tsp ashwaganda adaptogenic powder ( I use this one )
1/4 cup or less,  honey
1/4 cup chia seed 
2 tbsp sesame seeds
Himalayan Pink salt to taste, 1/4 tsp or more depending on butter saltiness 

Mix in a bowl with a heavy wooden spoon, it's thick. Make  a paste and adjust salt and honey to your taste. Wrap in parchment paperand roll flat with a rollijg pin to about 1 inch thickness evenly, pat the sides square and chill. after a few hours you can slice into bars and keep wrapped in parchment in the fridge and eat as you please. Just the right amount of salty and sweet!

It was hot and humid this morning when I woke, the perfect opportunity to sweat out impurities of both mind and body. I got on my bike and plugged into a playlist I made called BIG LOVE. Scrolling through the thousands of songs I realized my musical tastes said something about me, I am inclusive, expansive. I pressed shuffle and started my ride, the wind and heat softened my joints, the speed and exertion neutralizing the pent up stuff stuck in my gut from feeling the groan of the world. I don't have the words to speak using historical reference, I don't have statistics on the tip of my tongue, but I am still having conversations about individual consciousness with anyone who would embrace these words as a starting point. I have never had a group mentality, never followed a crowd, particulalry one that shames. I don't see how our social media is encouraging anything other than polarization as usual. I saw this with the me too movement, with our politics and now with black lives matter and I can feel in my gut that we are not raising our consciousness, that we are using thunder instead of rain to try to grow flowers.
I am an empath, these days I feel like everyone's mother, daughter, sister and friend all in one and it hurts and I want all to feel love and acceptance and compassion. Changing thoughts and beliefs comes from within. It may not be my thing to protest in a crowd, but to instead quietly love and accept and give to whomever crosses my path, like creating a safety net for however long you stay in my presence, this is my vow. 
There is a simple but profound Hawaiian prayer that carries me:

Ho' oponopono
The Four Mantras

Ho' oponopono is about taking responsibility for everything that affects your state of being. It's the art of acceptance, forgiveness, and cleansing of the energies that you attract into your life.

I'm Sorry 

When you say "I'm sorry" you are recognizing and accepting responsibility for the actions, thoughts, and emotions that have caused conflict to manifest into your reality.

Please Forgive Me

The words "please forgive me" are said as a request to make amends with your higher self and the universe alike. 

Thank You

"Thank you" is the opportunity to show gratitude to your higher self as well as the universe for allowing your negative thoughts, actions, and emotions to be cleared.

I Love You

"I love you" can be offered out to the universe as a form of gratitude. When you use the words this way you are saying "I love you for allowing me this earth experience"

Friday, May 15, 2020

Quarantine Food Diaries, Thai Vedic bodywork and, Lentil Fattoush Salad

I spent three weeks in the French Alps two years ago, cooking for a group of 65 yogi's doing an 150 hour advanced teacher training. I woke at 6:30 and walked down the mountain road, past wild thyme bushes, picking along the way, gazing upwards at snow covered mountain peaks obscured by morning cloud cover. Each day the kitchen cranked out plant based meals using local market veggies, mountain goat cheeses and warm bread baked just round around the corner from the shala.
The cooking was inspired and a collective effort, joyful and full of love. What I came away with was more than just a beautiful culinary experience but rather, because we were organized enough to work in shifts those of us who wanted to, participated in the occasional advanced teacher asana class or teaching module on anatomy, sequencing or bodywork. I jumped at the chance to learn all I could in between shifts on this bodywork technique that incorporated Thai massage, shiatsu, osteopathy and acro yoga. I paid for a full session of the work on my own body from it's founder Gwyn Williams and what I experienced was nothing short of the most simbiotic flow of practitioner and client body movement. After an hour which found me on my back, on my side, on his knees and hovering above him dangling in mid air, my entire body felt liberated in a way I had never felt before. This therapeutic massage resonated deeply with me, the only hitch was to become a Zen Thai Shiatsu practitioner meant 9 months in Australia. I am a mother of three and well, it wasn't the time, until now!! Covid has brought many of us to a screeching halt and we have had to adapt to survive. I found, another teacher, still waiting for Gwyn to go online, in the meantime, and am loving the practicum, my partner is benefitting a ton. Imagine your partner says, hey, I really have to practice my massage on someone about an hour a day, yes a daily full body massage, not bad.
Expanding my repertoire of healing touch is never a bad thing, is it?
I am a nurturer, the best thing in the world to me is having the ability to wholly take care of people, feed them, love them and heal their bodies, healing the spirit.
The weather is starting to heat up and I chose to make a twist on a Lebanese Fattoush salad.
As the temperature rises my desire for meat wanes and my tastes turn to cold salads and grilled vegetables.
This salad is still warm, but not hot, I just don't love how floury the lentils taste when they are cold, cold beans just don't do it for me, unless it's a hummus, I even serve Cannellini bean salad warm.

Fattoush and Lentil Salad
serves 4

1 cup Beluga lentils
1/2 white onion

4 small cherry tomatoes
1 small cucumber
1/4 cup (roughly) chopped feta 
1 healthy bunch mint
1 tbsp Cumin

1 Tbsp butter roasted pine nuts
Extra Virgin Olive oil, Salt and Pepper

Saute the chopped onion in olive oil. Add lentils briefly saute and then add 4 cups water or veggie stock to a boil, cover and simmer 20 min or until tender, not mushy. 
Drain, set aside.
Meanwhile, chop tomatoes, cucumber, mint, and feta, sprinkle with cumin, more olive oil and salt and pepper.
Let the lentils cool to just warm and mix with the fattoush (tomato, cucumber, mint...) 
top with a a little more mint and buttered pine nuts..

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Quarantine Food DIairies, First corn crop, Mother's Day

Rosa and Franco, 1975
It all started with these two Mammas, my Mom circa 1974

Then came these three beauties 

Sebastiano 2002
Sonia 2003
Simona 2006 

 Motherhood maybe the singular most effective place to use the practice of yoga in our daily lives. There is no more demanding and important job then that of ushering into the world mindful, loving humans.  I love that I was born a woman, capable of bearing new souls into the world, it is the mightiest super power I know, but that was just the beginning of this journey. It's impossible to get it all right, three kids, an 18 year marriage and divorce, teenagers, hormones, and all the rest. I have found, better late than never, that my practice of mindfulness is sneaking into who they are, little by little by way of example instead of brute force. I was never a "tiger Mom" my kids will attest, a complete Libra, authoritarian consistency was not me. I was mostly in love with my babies, but clueless as to how to get them to behave if they were not, I used self help books and the nanny show, a had a time out step and counting to 10 routine, and yet I very rarely felt like I was a good mom. I felt overrun and lacking most of the time. Now, almost two decades into this incredible job I think I may be getting the hang of it, more days than the days that I think really suck.  I have raised three incredible humans who, the last four years have witnessed a really different kind of Mom. I am more mindful and less judgmental of myself and of them then I have ever been before. I am more patient and more resilient and I have yoga to thank for all of this.
In Yoga, like in Christianity there are rules for living a good life ethical principles and spiritual guidelines before a physical or Asana practice is ever even considered. These are called the Yamas and Niyamas and they along with a consistent physical practice have changed the way I interact and think about everything and everyone, first and foremost my babies.
Ahimsa and Santosha, the two places my practice resides these days.. the Yama of Ahimsa means to practice non violence, a peaceful approach to the self and other. It is the consistent practice of awareness, mindfulness in all actions and thoughts that they be non harming.  Santosha is  one of the Niyamas or rules of spiritual observances, that asks us to find contentment in all things. The first I heard and understood of this Niyama was in a yoga class on a rainy day. The teacher reminded us that without the rain, the flowers would not bloom, the crops would not grow to be harvested, the earth would not offer the lush green return of spring, so for this we were to be also in a state of Santosha for the rain.
As I see mothering now it is all a balance of Ahimsa and Santosha. I am happy to softly model mindfulness and have the patience and contentment with all the phases of growth to watch and be in a constant state of awe over what the development of a human in my care looks like. It's ok that I don't always get it right, I too am still learning and growing.  My children are mine but for a short period of their lives and then they are released on the world like arrows, hope that the bough that has launched them was sturdy and mindful so that this is what they bring with them.

First fresh corn of the season and one brilliant day of wearing shorts and feeling the warmth of the sun had me wanting to make a corn salad to scoop up with chips!!

Roasted Elote Corn Salad
 ( Mexican Street Food) 

4 cobs of corn 
1 avocado
5 cherry tomatoes
1 cup quinoa
4 spring onions 
queso fresco or feta 
1 tbsp mayonnaise 
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 lime, zest and juice
1/ 2 cup Cilantro

Boil corn if you are short on time, if not keep in their husks, soak 3 hours and grill ( super good this way) 
boil water and follow instructions for quinoa, salted water
chop cherry tomatoes, avocado, spring onions and feta or queso fresco if you could find it. 
mix in a little bowl mayonnaise, and spices and lime.
mix all ingredients 
salt and pepper.
Scoop with tortilla chips, add to a taco or add a soft boiled egg and lettuce to bulk up to a full meal.

Quarantine Food Diaries, Grilled, Truffled Portobello Steaks, Adaptogens

I’ve never met a mushroom Quarantine Food Diaries, Grilled, Truffled Portobello Steaks, Adaptogens
I've never met a mushroom I haven’t loved, truth be told. Mushroom’s have incredible healing power and not just the psychedelic ones can take you on a journey of discovery 🍄!  I was diagnosed 13 years ago with an auto immune disease which left me taking copiously high doses of maitake shrooms, known to cure cancer. I have been super aware of what goes in this body ever since that time. Mushrooms are some of the most potent adaptogens around, balancing immune responses, adrenal function and energy potential in the body. So pardon my excess of mushroom based recipes, but now you know why. 

Grilled, Truffled Portobello Steaks 

4 portobello caps ( brushed never washed) 
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
1/4 extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp truffle oil
Pinch or so fresh thyme about 3 branches 
Himalayan pink salt and  fresh ground pepper 
1/2 cup pine nuts 
1 tbsp salted butter 
Chèvre to garnish 
Honey 🍯 
In a shallow baking dish combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and place the mushroom caps to marinate, about 20 minutes. ••••••••••
Meanwhile sauté pine nuts in butter until butter and pine nuts are delicately browned and impart their nutty aroma, don’t burn!!
Take roughly half of a small log of chèvre and amalgamate honey to taste, I prefer it just a tad sweet not cloyingly so. Up to you. 
Grill mushroom caps, nicely softening and creating a few beautifully placed grill marks. About 10 minutes. They must soften. 
Compose your plate, mushroom steak, a dollop of honey chèvre, a sprinkle of buttered toasted pine nuts, a sprinkle of rucola, for peppery crunch and a drizzle of truffle oil !  Buon appetito ! 

Monday, May 4, 2020


What do we mean when we say "drop into your breath" ? I took a walk in nature today, an improvisational day that found us in a  wild animal preserve still open for walking it's many trails. We came upon a a perfect seat, a sun bleached log made into a bench in a clearing, white sand beneath it, the whiteness of it in the sun surrounded by deep forest green of spring was what an oasis looks like in the middle of the desert. I sat upon it, the air still crisp but the sun warming. I gently placed my hands upon my knees, feet solidly on the ground and closed my eyes. When we begin to remove sensation and perception from the body and mind, by way of closing the eyes, by way of being in  a physically relaxing but upright position we can focus more easily on the breath. The ability to have a therapeutic yoga practice relies mainly on your ability to focus on the breath and find the place of ease in each posture. This is what it means to "drop" into your breath, to find ease within your physical and mental state so much so that the breath is the focus, not external or internal stimuli. For each of us this space is different, I encourage you to try to find it daily.  Find where your body is no longer "speaking" to you, where it just exists as a the vessel for your true self and you become less and less aware of it. This is when meditation comes with ease, this is when you "drop" into your breath and the your mental chatter slows. 

I woke to make something new after a two day fast, I wanted to give my body a rest and renew but my love of cooking could never see me dieting for any length of time. I soaked chia seeds in coconut milk, probably one of my all time favorite textures, creamy, a little sweet, a little salty and great mouth feel with a tiny crunch, so easy.

Coconut Milk Chia Parfait 

1/3 cup chia seeds
1 13.5 oz can of full fat organic coconut milk
1 tbsp maple syrup ( stevia if you are keto)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients together in a airtight container to keep in the fridge, stir well and let set up for about and hour, ladle alternating coco chia pudding and fresh berries and a little mint if you have it!!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Quarantine food diaries, Fermenting Veggies and It All Takes Time

It’s been well over a month now, I’ve lost count, I’ve lost a grip on what the old normal used to feel like as we all have to some extent. Adapting and evolving, but in which direction? There have been twists and turns in this time that have made my head spin told to go inward, don’t connect with others in community. I spent my last 18 mothering years teaching my children of the importance of tribe, of the necessity, as spread out as we are, in friends as family. And now I’m teaching the opposite and I understand why, we all do, but it is a discipline to stay focused on going inward exclusively, and it is not balanced. 
I strive for balance in my life, I spent most of my youth acting on whims of heightened emotion, to some degree it was the age and this is the marker of this age but for some of us the awareness around each of our actions is more acute than for others. I’m aware of trying to keep my balance being more and more difficult with each passing day during this time. My ability to go inward has been profound, that’s good, right? But when I resurface and need to balance with connection, then what? 
I am empathically affected by the deep fear I witness in the averted gaze of most people in the socially distanced grocery store lines, but equally as affected by  the renegade kid who has decided to carelessly meet in groups with their friends. Where should we land ? 
I’ve noticed an increasing use in plastic everything, gone are the days of reusable shopping bags too, so as Mother Earth has put us on a global time out and is reaping the benefits of it in the short term what wave of toxic plastic garbage is coming up behind us ? 
And where should we land in this argument?  It takes time to evolve and adapt, it is not painless and those that were around through the two world wars and the Spanish flu and the Great Depression can teach us a thing or two if we remember how our grandparents behaved. My overwhelming memory of mine was their mindfulness in all things. My grandfather always folded his paper grocery  bags and they had a home in the same cupboard  next to the container for plastic bags and reused them both for various things mindfully. He wasted almost nothing. My grandmother mended everything and made things last, things we wouldn’t dream of mending, like pantyhose. They were not poor when I was young but they were born in 1920 into a generation of parents who had just come out of the Spanish Flu of two years and survived the First World War. 
They composted in the garden no fancy composter. They were practical and not extravagant but they also new how to enjoy small things like they were a big splurge, like indulgently eating a bowl of ice cream after a long day of work. They had travelled to Europe and experienced adventure but not monthly and annually like we do now. Their singular trips to Europe were relived in story and photographic journeys and it never felt like they were missing something by not having been back again or to many other places. They had singular deep appreciation for their past  adventures, not a lust for those they had not yet had. Our grandparents lived well in the present moment. I’m looking backwards to learn from them about how to behave in this time. Slow down, take time, be mindful. 
It seemed only natural to ferment veggies for my next recipe then, it takes time. 

Fermented foods help our gut microbiome, we have heard so much about. A healthy gut means a healthy immune system, a flatter belly, and a youthful glow, in brief. 
Any number of veggies can be fermented like cabbage, onions, beets or carrots. 
I bought a red cabbage for color and crunch on the cauliflower tacos last week and was left with the majority of the cabbage just staring at me out of my vegetable drawer beckoning further use, so off I went mindful not to waste. 

Ginger Fermented  Red Cabbage

1 red cabbage sliced thin into strips
4 carrots julienned
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 cloves  sliced garlic
1 apple grated
2 heaping tbsp salt 

Make sure your hands are super clean and your mason jar has been boiled and sterilized. 
Before slicing the cabbage peel off outer leaves to use later in tact. Conserve the core as well. 
Place thinly sliced cabbage and salt into a bowl and let rest to soften the cabbage for an hour. Return to massage the cabbage, you should be able to squeeze liquid from it by this point. Add in all other ingredients and massage together. 
Begin placing handfuls of cabbage into the mason jar and at each handful tamp down, squeezing juices over the previous layers, use a lot of force. 
Leave a substantial gap at the top of the jar and 
Take your outer leaves and place them covering your packed down cabbage under their own juice. Push the sides down creating an umbrella over the cabbage with the outer leaf. Next place the pieces of core on top and maybe a little weight like a stone, the idea is that the fermentation of then julienned cabbage must be completely submerged at all times. Close the mason jar half way and place a tea towel over it, maybe a rubber band too, keeps dust and potential bugs out. Leave on the counter in a dark place. Twice a day push down the cabbage, removing baby air bubbles forming and keeping it submerged. You can continue its fermentation anywhere from 5-20 days, the key is to keep trying it, when you like the taste it is done and then you can put it in the fridge for up to 2 months! 
Eat often!