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Vegan Adventures in the Kitchen
I absolutely love cooking! It’s one of my favorite things to do—both holidays and non-holidays alike. Living at Kripalu doesn’t offer many cooking opportunities outside of the bakery so I dutifully abstain from checking out vegan cooking blogs. In anticipation of Thanksgiving, however and the known future of a kitchen awaiting me, I took to the computer with gleeful excitement. My two favorite blogs for stellar vegan recipes, guaranteed: Post Punk Kitchen http://www.theppk.com/ and Fat Free Vegan http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/.
Already scheming what to bake days before returning home, I ended up baking a Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf last night (above), Apple Pie Pancakes this morning (both recipes courtesy of Post Punk Kitchen) and then a personal experiment in pie making this afternoon—a Vegan Pumpkin Coconut Pie!
Check out my recipe below:
Vegan Pumpkin Coconut Pie
This pie can be prepared either raw or baked and could certainly be paired with a more traditional vegan floury crust if so desired. I recommend using the crust below for the raw version.
1/2 cup dates
1 cup soaked raw almonds (or can try soaked cashews, either way, soak nuts overnight for best results)
1/2 cup coconut flakes
2 tsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp warm water
2 cans organic pumpkin
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 cups soaked raw almonds
1/2 cup hot water (give or take a bit)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
Try sprinkling unsweetened coconut flakes on top or pair the pie with delightful coconut milk ice cream (I like Coconut Bliss and Purely Decadent’s Coconut or Vanilla flavors best)
Equipment and supplies needed:
- food processor
- mixing bowl
This is a super delicious recipe that is totally vegan and can be prepared raw or baked for a delicious and festive dessert! If baking, start by preheating your oven to 350.
First prepare the crust by blending the soaked almonds, dates, coconut flakes and soaked chia seeds (pre-soak chia seeds for 5-10 minutes in the 2 Tbsp. water, giving them a nice swirl with a fork before letting them sit). Blend well so that the mixture is sticky with smaller chunks, it won’t get completely smooth which is totally fine. Press the crust into the pie pan of your choice. I used a 9 inch pie pan but you can use smaller forms if smaller personal pies are desired. Set the crust-ed pans aside and begin on the filling.
For the filling, blend the soaked almonds first, adding a bit of the hot water to allow the almonds to get nice and fine. Then in one fell swoop pop the rest of the ingredients into the food processor, pumpkin, coconut milk, maple syrup, remaining hot water, and spices. Blend until smooth and creamy. If it’s still a bit stiff, add more hot water to the mix.
The filling makes a plentiful amount, enough to make one 9 inch pie and a smaller pie. I used the crust for the big pie and baked it, and used the remaining pie filling for a smaller raw pie that I popped into the freezer while the other pie headed into the oven.
Bake the pie for 45 minutes at 350°, allow to cool for 10-20 minutes and then place in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before serving.
Or, if making raw, freeze the pie for a few hours until firm (best if allow to freeze overnight before transferring to the fridge before serving), then transfer to the fridge.
Filled with Gratitude
I am filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving. I love that this day is another opportunity to express thanks, gratitude and love to all those I love and the chance to pause and remind myself of all of the little and not so little things in my life that consistently fill my well with happiness—my amazing family and friends, relationships, nourishing food, the Kripalu community, my yoga practice, art, dance, nature in the Berkshires, hugs, animals (particularly Mandy and the jazz cats)…
Thank you–blessings, love, and peace this Thanksgiving.
With the start of a new moon cycle upon us and the fall equinox recently passed, I am reminded of the ever-recurring possibility for setting new intentions, beginning new routines, and turning a new leaf. Especially with the cold weather looming (though I hate to admit it to myself) I find fall a perfect time to set intentions for the coming months, hoping to instill a sense of positive routine going into the cooler months and motivating myself to stick with it as the weather turns frosty. For me, to articulate intentions to myself is one thing, but to share an intention even just in writing, is assurance that I am making a commitment to myself in this new phase.
So, in honor of the new moon, in honor of the fall equinox and in honor of the ever-present ability to say “begin again” here are a few intentions.
- make ART at least once a week–this can be the smallest of drawing.
- get my butt to morning yoga at least once a week
- stick with my morning meditation
- remember to give myself space for solitude
- live, eat, and communicate consciously and with mindfulness
- read everyday
- delight in each day and each moment
- remember that I can always say, “begin again.”
A Chance to Pause
There is something about the consistent pattering of rain and blustering wind that is cleansing. Mostly I feel relieved by the excuse to sit inside as a spectator and relax.
There is nowhere to go but here.
Stores are closed, trains have stopped running, bus schedules paused, and outdoor events cancelled all in a deep if not slightly frustrated surrender to Mother Earth.
I sometimes think that these shouts from Mother Earth are her best attempts at asking us to listen. We are all far to busy to do this regularly. There are to-do lists to be checked off and there is nothing that mother earth can do to disrupt this routine, right?
We turn on the A/C when it’s blistering hot as to continue working unfazed by the blistering heat. We bust out stylish umbrellas and flashy rain boots to stay dry and we wear sleeping bags as coats for warmth in the wintertime.
Our houses are more weather-resilient than they used to be and we often can be oblivious of the wrath of mother nature until we decide to (reluctantly) emerge from our safe caves to witness the damage—snow to be shoveled in the winter, withering plants to be doused with water during drought, and basements to be excavated of flood waters, etc.
A few confessions: Now, while I am an air conditioning naysayer, I also admit that I live in the northeast and there are rare summers when A/C feels completely necessary given the argument that they are a huge money pit and aren’t eco-friendly. However, there were a few weeks this summer where I caught myself fantasizing about that old window unit blowing cold air on my face while sleeping. Instead I brought cold washcloths and ice cubes into bed with me—sad but true. I also wear a massively large coat in the winter that keeps me warm from head to knees. And, while I enjoy romping in the rain, I also generally embark on watery adventures with precautionary measures at hand like my raincoat and knee grazing rain boots.
Weather is distracting. Sometimes it is all we can think about. People joke that when there is nothing to talk about on a bad date or an undesired encounter with an acquaintance, the topic of conversation inevitably falls to the weather. This is natural. We all experience the weather to some extent—whether from through our windows or by walking through it. So, naturally it’s a common talking point.
But aside from the common experience aspect of the weather, why do we dwell on it again and again?
We often treat weather as an extreme adventure, a foe to be reckoned with demonstrated by outrageous news headliners about dealing with storm weather, newscasters bearing the brunt of the most extreme weather to give at-home viewers a picture of what they might experience if they so choose to venture outside.
Perhaps to some extent it is hard to just be present to its happenings. Weather disturbs our flow and we would really rather not have a blip in our routine due to rain or snow.
Yesterday, I was looking forward to running some errands. With Irene on my mind I was still disappointed by the furious rains and winds. Maybe I thought that they would hold off until I was ready for them. Apparently Irene had other plans.
And yet, after acknowledging the rain I found myself running right out into it anyway. After briefly strategizing, my shoes were removed and placed securely in my bag that was cradled inside of my rain jacket. My pants were rolled up, and a jog ensued as to make it inside without getting totally soggy. In the end, I arrived—soggy, yes, but disgruntled, no. The weather allowed a quiet afternoon to be turned into an adventure.
Today, I say to you, Irene: you win—hurricane upon us today and let us sit back and witness the immensity of your rains. We could all use the deep cleansing washing over and pause in our otherwise hectic lives. So thank you, Irene for a reason to surrender today.
For those who were affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, I send my heart to you.
Finding a new perspective from the mat
“Fluent” by John O’DonohueI would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding.
I firmly believe that giant shifts in perspective can drop out of the sky at just the right moment. Just when I stop believing, I find a reason to believe again with more conviction than ever.
So, today, when all feels just slightly out of whack, when all of a sudden everything feels uncertain, how can I sit in that place of uncertainty with a knowing calm? Today, the answer was finding my way to my mat in the breeze.
Late afternoon light slanted down through the trees, projecting elongated shadows of slats of deck and stems of flowers across my mat on the deck. Collapsing onto my back I lay in quietude, gazing upwards.
Blue sky, green trees and a welcome breeze brought sanity to the recent week of hot humidity. Birds are awake again and their sounds vibrate and echo throughout the trees. The air finally smells like crisp summer without the density of the past muggy days.
I find myself on my mat. If nothing else, finding my way to the arbitrary rectangle of rubber has given me the silent go-ahead to breathe more deeply and let out steam that has been building and boiling up within my head.
Mat: A place to listen, a place to trust and a place to let go.
I found myself all of a sudden in a place of possibility that felt all too uncertain and intimidating. And so, when everything feels like it’s starting to break the diagram, starting to take new form and surprise me, I must continue to look inside, to that voice that rings loudly on the mat.
Perhaps it is the form of surprise that offends me. How could I have been sitting here all this time not knowing what was to come? How could I have spent all of this time anticipating something that might not be?
All I needed was a little change of perspective, a shift—seeing light slant and shadow in a new way, soaking in the sky from the ground and seeing the earth up close rather than from my usual standing perch.
I stand on my mat and let my head hang down below my heart. Eyes open or closed—doesn’t make a difference. The blood is flowing in a new way and all is shifting, oscillating and finding a new, refreshing place to rest. Each breath is an opportunity to stop thinking and start feeling.
Despite future shifts yet unseen and unpredicted, each gentle twist in perspective is the gift of seeing each moment with fresh eyes. When I look to my mat in this place of change and transformation I choose a willful heart-centered surrender: turn off the thinking mind and feel.
It took me a while to let go of my attachment to everything I create.
I spent years worrying over every line I drew or stroke I painted. If it wasn’t what I had planned, it must be erased, painted over, forgotten and trashed forever, I thought. Not long ago I realized I was missing the point entirely.
So then came the goal: use my sketchbook as an object of creativity not a place for seeking perfection in the product.
Now, on each new page, I see possibility, freedom and creativity. The book is bound for a reason; it offers a collection of each part of the process. My sketchbook is not bound to taunt me for my flawed lines or duds on the road to unrealistic ideals of perfection. It does not need to be included in my portfolio or shared with anyone but myself. For me, my sketchbook is a place for process because, I feel, in process there is perfection.
In this acceptance of the process I find room to breathe more deeply.
With each little drawing, collage and painting, I revel in the ephemeral quality of the image. Each page is connected with the place from which it was conceived and each drawing sits in the company of other well-traveled creations. Whether it is a gesture or quick sketch or a drawing that I continue to come back to again and again, it belongs in a sacred collection of other sparks of inspiration along my path.
Another wonderment: what if beauty is enough.
Historically speaking, I have spent time analyzing myself as an artist and human—thoroughly overanalyzing the meaning of what I do. What does it mean to make that choice—to volunteer versus to work, to make art for me versus creating for others? What does it mean if I want to make art that isn’t infused with a deep philosophically riveting message? And, one big question that is pressing on me right now—what does it mean if I make the choice to pour my energies into things that aren’t my art?And, to be honest, do any of these comparisons really need to be made in the first place anyway?
Now, I have found much more comfort lingering in the place not knowing. I think that it is beautiful (for lack of a more descriptive word) to find beauty in everything and for that beauty to be enough.
I think that this exact mentality is what makes my new view on sketchbook-ing so perfect. If I can allow the space of the sketchbook to have the freedom and breath of possibility then everything within it is perfect. Holding a deep sense of knowing that each mark is sacred then I can take each breath more deeply.
Because, I ask myself, what is more perfect than the imperfect or more beautiful than a pause in the wonderment of it all?
How can I let go today, I ask myself as I pull my black sketchbook from my bag and un-cap my pen.
SMOOTHIES: A DELICIOUS AND POWERFUL WAY TO START YOUR DAY
Wake up, rise and eat! Powering up in the morning is an awesome way to get your day started off right. I firmly believe in the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It also happens to be my favorite meal of the day. I love food, cooking and most of all, eating. What better way to start the day than by enjoying a delicious meal?!
By choosing a nutritious and delicious meal in the morning, you are setting the tone for the rest of your day, getting your metabolism going and gearing your body for yoga, work or whatever else you might be up to. No matter what activities are on tap, breakfast will help wake you up and set a solid foundation for you to conquer the world…if that’s what you’re going for.
My all time favorite breakfast of the wintertime is miso soup with veggies. And while I’ll still dabble with miso soups in the summertime, I’ve found myself more interested in a cooler meal to start my day. I admit that first I like a cup of hot coffee or green tea in the morning but during the summer I also plug in my blender as I turn on the tea water.
Wondering what my magical summer solution to breakfast is? Smoothies!
Here’s the thing about smoothies…you really can’t go wrong. How beautiful is that?! In the mornings I like a heartier smoothie that can serve as my meal while in the afternoon I choose a lighter smoothie that I can sip as a midday snack. I love experimenting with smoothie recipes and often end up throwing a bunch of ingredients into the blender in a rather hodge-podge way.
Never has the hodge-podge method failed me. However, I realize that for the sake of reproducing delightful concoctions, some semblance of recipe is helpful. First I have a few key ingredients that I recommend stocking your fridge and freezer with before you get going.
Frozen fruit! It’s awesome to find ripe and local fruit at farmer’s markets during the summer but that’s not always the reality. You can often find great organic frozen produce at health-conscious grocery stores when you can’t find fresh fruit. I also think it can be great to slice and freeze fruit like bananas, blueberries, strawberries, etc. and have them on-hand in the freezer for instant
Almond milk! I prefer using almond milk because I like to avoid using a lot of soy and I enjoy the flavor. But, you can try out any variety of non-dairy milks and see what strikes your fancy—soy, rice, hemp, coconut, etc. Non-dairy milk adds body, protein and great flavor to a smoothie. Some non-dairy milks have more prominent flavors so see what you like best.
Fresh greens! Adding dark leafy greens to a smoothie can add instant nutrition (vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A, and potassium just to name a few), awesome color and earthly flavor to any smoothie. I personally love using fresh kale in the summer and when it’s not available I choose frozen spinach, which stays good in the freezer all year round.
Dried fruit! Having dried fruit around like apricots, dates and prunes can add some natural sweetness if you’re looking for a sweet start to your day.
Nuts! Using a little bit of nuts or nut butters can add some great flavor, protein and texture to your smoothie. I love using natural peanut or almond butters or chopped nuts like almonds or walnuts in my smoothies.
A few other fun ingredients that I have grown quite fond of…
Rolled oats: Oats add a great thickness and texture to a smoothie. They are also really filling and can be a great combo with nuts especially when making a smoothie as a full meal.
Hemp protein: If I’m feeling like I need some extra protein, I consider adding a small scoop of hemp protein to my smoothies.
Coconut: I find coconut delicious in every possible form. If I have it, I’ll always add unsweetened coconut flakes into a smoothie. I also like adding a little bit of coconut milk yogurt into fruity smoothies or coconut water in lighter smoothies. You can also try a bit of coconut oil or coconut milk ice cream for more decadent dessert creations.
Blender, of course. Know your blender, some blenders are more powerful than others. Some blenders like Vitamix blenders can pretty much blend anything into smithereens a.k.a., a smoothie. This makes experimenting rather easy. Others, like my sturdy but rather noisy Oster 12-speed blender, will need more assistance and might require adding more liquids and patience. If a smoothie is not blending, first see if you can pause and stir it around manually (blender off of course). If that’s a no-go, try adding ice or more of whatever liquid you were using.
Tasty ingredients of your choosing. The possibilities are endless.
Now, a few recipes to get you started:
Purple Passion Smoothie (serves 1-2 depending on the appetite)
I love the deep eggplant purple that this smoothie makes. The combination of wild blueberries and kale makes a stunning purple that could potentially fool a hesitant taster of green smoothies into thinking that there aren’t any crazy ingredients like kale (gasp!) inside their glass. Personally I love when it comes out greener and it also doesn’t bother me if a batch ends up looking grayer but for aesthetic purposes you can be mindful of the ratio of vibrant-colored fruit to dark greens to maximize the outer beauty of your smoothie.
1 handful of kale, roughly chopped (or frozen spinach if no kale is readily available)
1 cup wild (frozen or fresh) blueberries
1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
a few ice cubes
1 tsp local honey (optional)
There is no magical secret to this smoothie although I would recommend de-stemming the kale if you’re using kale with thick stems. I often refrigerate or freeze my bananas to keep them fresh and cool for adding to my smoothies. The honey is totally optional; it can just be a nice sweetener if you are looking for a sweeter smoothie.
I also consider this the bare bones of the ingredients. Go ahead and experiment! Sometimes I’ll add some raspberries and unsweetened coconut flakes too.
Peanut Power Smoothie (serves 2-3 depending on appetite)
This is definitely a filling smoothie recipe. I love the density that the oats and nuts give this smoothie. You can also try using your favorite granola instead of the oats. Just be mindful that your granola is probably sweetened so it will definitely give the smoothie a sweeter edge.
½ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
2-3 Tbsp. organic peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 tsp. local honey (or other natural sweetner)
¼ cup dried fruit (dates, prunes, apricots) optional
¼ cup nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts) optional
2 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
a few ice cubes
Go Green Smoothie (serves one)
This is one of my easy go-to combinations. It can be jazzed up by adding fruit or enjoyed in its pure delicious simplicity. Blend and enjoy!
1 handful kale, roughly chopped (or frozen spinach if no kale is available)
1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
a few ice cubes
Here is to summer and beautiful mornings! Blend a smoothie for yourself, friends, family, strangers, whomever. I promise they will be eternally grateful for the love that you serve from blender to glass. Enjoy every start to your day and treat yourself to a delicious, nutritious smoothie this summer—you deserve it!
Have any smoothie masterpieces that you’d like to share? Keep spreading the smoothie love and share your recipes here and with friends.
Love a Yogi, don’t Catcall
Choose respect and love, “just say no” to objectification
Last weekend led me to a family reunion halfway across the country. Travel can feel un-grounding for me, and so, with yoga mat in tow I prepared to carry deep breaths cross-country via plane.
The slow spring sunshine finally pulled me outside to the lawn to stretch and practice on the second day of the trip. I felt grateful for the fresh air, warm grass and sun. I had convinced my cousin, a “yoga-virgin” to join me in practice. With each breath the sun came out further and I felt my body finding a new sense of grounding and expansion amidst the busyness of a family reunited.
Cars had been driving past our lawn-turned-yoga-studiothroughout our practice and so the sound of engines provided more of a consistent sound track than an annoyance. There was one car, however, that stood out from the rest. From the front seats of the indistinguishable black sedan peered two men, presumably college students from the local state university.
First I returned their gaze, becoming aware of their eyes as I melted forward into a seated forward bend. I quickly regretted my decision to look to my right when my eyes were met by the abrasive sounds of catcalls hollering out into the stalled traffic.
I glanced to my right to make sure I was getting this image right. Were these guys for real?
As if looking for some sort of understanding I stifled a groan, turning to my cousin for validation in my disgust. I could feel the frustration bubbling up inside of me. I felt shocked and conflicted.
Taking a deep breath in and out I reflected in my forward fold. My practice is about compassion and patience, I reminded myself and yet in the midst of it I had the urge to yell back, to stick up for myself, and reassure these catcalling men that blatant objectification of women is never OK.
Rather than yell back, I breathed another dirgha (three-part yogic) breath and after a second catcall, the light changed and the car pulled forward into the intersection. I felt myself rolling my decision to remain silent over and over again in my mind. This time I chose understanding, I told myself.
My cousin didn’t understand, he had never witnessed or been victim to a similar instance. I wish I could say that this sort of act is an anomaly but unfortunately, it isn’t. Earlier that week my sister had been catcalled and photographed while biking by a passing group of construction workers in their truck — not cool.
I am not trying to suggest that only men are catcalling — I have definitely witnessed women falling guilty of the same act. Nor am I suggesting that only women are victims to the calls or that all guys catcall. But, I am saying that with each utterance of a catcall, hurt is felt. Whether you think we can hear your call or not, take a second and realize what you’re doing by yelling out.
Sure you may think I look pretty awesome in my forward fold but that’s not the point. Please resist the urge to holler and instead send out some love. Yogis and bicyclists alike much appreciate the respect.
check it out–my first post is officially posted. it can be found at: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/love-a-yogi-dont-catcall-emma-burrows/