Vegan Diaries – Spinach Mushroom Soup

There’s nothing like a cup of soup to set the world right. There are so many great things about soup:

  • It can be an entire meal
  • It can be rich and creamy
  • It can be slim and lean
  • It freezes well

This recipe was inspired by Veggie Belly! The trick of adding a pinch of baking soda to keep the spinach greens, *high pitched voice* brilliant!!!

Ingredients

  • olive oil – 2 tablespoons
  • onions – 1/2 cup chopped
  • garlic cloves – 2 peeled and minced
  • potatoes – 1 cup peeled, diced
  • spinach – 4 cups tightly packed fresh, tender  leaves
  • fresh oregano – 2-3 sprigs  (or freshly dried oregano)
  • baking soda – A pinch of  optional
  • button cap mushroom tops – 15 large
  • dried mushrooms – 2-3 soaking in 4 cups of hot water (for at least 30 minutes)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation 

  1. Heat a medium, heavy bottom sauce pan with the olive oil.
  2. Add the onions, and sauté on medium heat until translucent.
  3. Add the minced garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add the mushrooms and sauté on medium heat till they brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Then add the potatoes, a pinch of salt and 4 cups mushroom water.
  6. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer until the potato cubes are cooked.
  7. Add washed spinach leaves, oregano and salt to the pot (keeping in mind you’ve already added a little salt to the soup in the previous stage).
  8. Immediately add a pinch of baking soda to the spinach; this will keep the spinach green when cooking; but this step is optional.
  9. Boil for about 1 minute or till the spinach is wilted.
  10. Turn off the heat. Using a hand/immersion blender, puree the soup till smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, pour the soup into a regular blender and carefully puree. If the soup is too thick, add ½ cup water and blend again.
  11. Serve warm, with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.

Winter may be on its way out, but it’s still soup weather!!!

This is yoga. Sometimes you have to hold it around your hands and take a big warm sip.

 

Namaste y’all.

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Yoga and Stroke Recovery

Yoga as a Part of Stroke Recovery?

For years yoga has been touted to make you feel more well-rested and centered. In the past few years its come in to the spotlight as more people have discovered some of the physical benefits. But a paper published in the American Heart Association Journey has said that if you suffered a stroke less than six months ago, yoga may be good for you too. The study was conducted with 47 participants at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.

“For people with chronic stroke, something like yoga in a group environment is cost effective and appears to improve motor function and balance,” said Arlene Schmid, lead researcher and assistant professor at the University said in a statement.”

The yoga was practiced in a group setting and focused on gentle postures, meditation and relaxation. There was also an improvement in balance. Though it was a small study there is hope. Renee Pande, MD wrote in the Harvard Medical Journal Blog, “Furthermore, survivors in the yoga groups had improved scores for independence and quality of life and were less afraid of falling. This is something that has scope to be a boon to stroke survivors.”

My grandmother had a stroke when she was young. I used to linger in the back of my mind when I was in my 30s as I continued to smoke. Now that I yoga, it’s nice that yoga gives me peace of mind, literally.

This is yoga. And it can heal you.

Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diaries – Vegetarian Curry

veggie curry

Looks like my vegan lifestyle is really trying to stick.

I’m a big fan of Indian food. The other night- I made Vegetarian Curry. Served over a 1/4c of brown rice and greens it made a great meal. I made too much and stored the rest in the freezer.

What’s fantastic about curries is that there are no hard and fast rules- use whatever veggies suit you. Don’t have cumin? That’s okay… Feeling risky? Throw in a few golden raisins! Cooking should be fun and place to experiment. It’s easy to get lost in cooking blogs Show Me The Curry is a wonderful one.

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh ginger

1 clove garlic minced (I used 2)

1 onion diced

1 sweet potato cubed

1 Idaho or russet potato cubed (if you feel fancy use purple)

½ package of tofu cubed (firm and definitely optional)

1 cup chickpeas precooked (I keep my beans dried and cook them when I need them- but canned work just as well)

1 tomato diced

1 can tomato paste

2 cups vegetable broth (I made some because I didn’t have any on hand- keep your pantry stocked is the lesson here) Use less broth if you want a thicker sauce

1 cup peas (frozen are fine- fresh are better)

1 cup green beans

2 Tbsp curry powder (good quality- this is important but just about every grocery store carries curry)

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp salt (optional)

Juice from 1 lime (or lemon)

Topping (optional)

½ cup soy yogurt

½ cucumber finely chopped

Black pepper

Mix together in a bowl

In a wok or large pan- heat the oil. Add the ginger to release flavor. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté until translucent. Add the sweet potatoes, potato and tofu. Cook until browned. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes and stir in spices. Cook for 5 more minutes to release flavors and then slowly add the broth. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the remaining peas and green beans and lime juice. Cook for 5 minutes.

Serve over brown and fresh spring greens.

For a dressing I used balsamic vinegar, soy sauce a splash of honey, lemon and mustard. Add salt and pepper. Whisk with a tbsp of olive oil. Drizzle over the greens.

Add a dollop of the Topping (Raita) on the curry.

Enjoy! I wolfed my down while watching…Top Chef of course!

Free Your Mind – Yoga and Addiction

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I used to smoke.

A lot.

I won’t go into the details of the beginning because I think the end at least in my case, was more important. Addiction will grip you so tightly you don’t think you can ever let it go. And even after the worst is over and the ‘habit’ is dead and gone, on some days out of nowhere it sneaks up on you.

It’s a gentle whisper that tells you that you are ‘better’ so one puff isn’t a big deal.

That’s the insidious side of addiction that people don’t talk about. Lots of times it doesn’t feel bad. Like Dexter’s dark passenger it shows up when you least expect it or worse, when you really think you need it. It’s a soothing voice that says you are different from all the other addicts. You had a problem in the past but now you can smoke just one.

I can’t. Not ever. This is what makes me different than the person who enjoys a cigarette or cigar once in awhile. I cannot contemplate that. I don’t have that kind of control. It’s more than just an issue of willpower. I’m addicted to cigarettes and smoking opened the door to all kinds of other self-destructive behavior.

Sometimes I would stop smoking for awhile and then bum a cigarette while out at a bar. That would lead to me buying a pack on the way home and smoking most of them that night.

I attempted to quit many times. I was blasé about failing. It was a way to deny the inevitable truth that I was letting tobacco ruin my health.  Unless I spoke that sentence out loud, smoking would always be a part of my life.

That utterance would have to lead to action. That action would mean that I could never go back. I’m ambitious and driven by nature- this consistent inability to quit was impossible for me to understand. Because I couldn’t understand it, I couldn’t share it with anyone else.  Those who haven’t had a struggle with addiction may not understand, but it’s scary. Loss of control for a Type A is not familiar nor comfy ground.

Enter yoga.

Yoga is increasingly used in conjunction with many addiction treatment programs. Whether it’s an addiction to sex, tobacco, drugs, gambling, shopping, food, toxic relationships or control, yoga is one of many tools that helps you when a critical moment arises.

For me it’s more than that, it’s a new way of being. And though I have embraced yoga with a zeal that might make you raise an eyebrow in suspicion, yoga isn’t a replacement for smoking. Rather it’s a way to deal with stress, a way to be happy and embrace the present.

There are certain poses in yoga that can get us through a rough patch. Here are 3 that work for me.

photo credit nuonsros.com

1. Ustrasana (Camel Pose) – This pose is a heart opener and it can release a surprising amount of emotions. This may seems like a bad thing, it’s not. When you push feelings down, it can lead to acting out. Letting go can bring about the sense of calm you need to stay on track.

2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) – Sometimes a new perspective is just what we need to get through a stressful moment. One day at a time is sometimes one hour at a time or one minute at a time or even one second at a time. A different view can paint a different picture. New pictures can be what is necessary to stay present.

photo credit redbubble.net

3. Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing Bow Pose) – This pose helps with circulation and  patience. It takes times to master this pose. And until you do master it, you fall out of position again and again.

It’s this practice of of coming back that helps me be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes that’s what being free from addiction is all about learning to be okay with what feels icky or frustrating. The act of feeling a feeling helps it pass and helps you move on. It’s what I love most about this pose. Every motion of this pose even when it doesn’t work move us forward.

Of course if you have serious problems with addiction you should seek professional help. But for those of us who need a boost, these poses can help remind us the joys of being free.

This is yoga. And it can help you maintain peace during the storm.

Namaste y’all.

Hair Yoga – Lessons in Moderation

chemical free!!
chemical free!!

I’ve never been good at a little. To paraphrase the best song ever (the best along with 500 other songs which are the best songs ever) half of anything never appealed to me. I love without abandon.

I’ve been known on occasion to have an extra glass (or 3) of wine. When I find a new passion- I research it extensively, shoving information down my throat like a last meal. And while I do all of this- my eternally patient family and friends take the ride with me- because I am unable to keep any of it inside.

My motto when I was younger, (and if I’m to be honest- even now to some degree) if enough is good- then more must be better!!!!! This of course left me in some tight spots, a few injuries, one or two broken hearts (mine and others) and lots and lots of reflection.

When I was in college- I decided that I was adept enough to relax my own hair. I was told that using lye relaxer was better than using non-lye relaxer. 45minutes later- I’m in the hospital sporting an eye patch and a burned cornea. There was another unfortunate incident a few weeks later when I tried to cut the back of my head with a pair of clippers- no guard and without a mirror. The barber (a burly fellow) shrieked. Foiled again.

After college- confused as to what I wanted to be when I grew up- I decided that I didn’t want to work at my department store job in Manhattan. I quit, without a new job. I had decided I was going to work in a bookstore. I then proceeded to apply to 30 bookstores in the NYC metro area. (Luckily- I was hired by one and worked there for 15 years.)

In my 20’s I went on a date. We met at 8pm for drink and the next morning he was moving in- we were inseparable for about 18 months. Then the date ended.

Three years ago- excited to try the lemonade diet- I went 10 days without eating anything, except lemonade made with cayenne pepper, lemons and maple syrup.

Instead of breaking the fast with juice and broth as suggested- I went to a cheese farm in NJ and had a half-pound of cheddar (insanely delicious and a newly acquired passion- that I still have), rosemary bread and to top if off- slow roasted pork belly (also tasty beyond description). I was in the hospital for almost a week.

So when it comes to my hair….Suffice it to say that I also have a cabinet full of stuff.

There is a manic glint in my eye that you can see as I wander around places like Sephora. And now with so many more products on the market for natural hair- I can get whipped up into a frenzy. I try everything and the better it smells the more I’m hooked. Smells like Lemon? I’m in heaven. Cotton candy? Dandy!!!

Once home- it’s worse- I unpack and caress the jars- introducing them to their roommates in my oversized bathroom in my tiny Jersey City apartment. I don’t try and play favorites either- on a rainy Saturday, watch out! I can have mask on my face- followed by a steam- gentle toner and then moisturizer. I am an advertiser’s dream. Why? Perhaps it’s because I love packaging (oh and I do- show me a great display and I’ll show you where I’m a customer). But no, they love me because I don’t read instructions. Therefore- I buy products all of the time. But this excess doesn’t lead to excessively wonderful results.

“Use sparingly”- a container will read. Huh? What’s sparingly? I stick my whole hand in a tub of gel. I’m convinced that somehow I must know better that the print on the side of the jar. Inevitably hours later my hair, is crunchy beyond words or worse, flaking like an extreme dandruff victim.

I want to tell you that I had some moment when I decided that I would read instructions and follow them. Truth is I’m more likely to start following the directions on my GPS. But one day when I was at the last dribs of my Kinky Curly hair gel- I was forced to use what I had left.

EUREKA!!!! My hair looked soft and spectacular! Could be some merit to this instruction following? Emboldened and empowered with my newfound wisdom I made my trip to Hair Nirvana (aka Ricky’s in Hoboken). They have an entire section dedicated to natural hair and I armed myself with usual suspects. Later that day- after washing my hair- I eagerly ripped open my fresh tub of gel.

My wicked giggle rising, I was about to thrust my hands in the jar and then- I stopped. I picked up the jar and decided to use the “quarter sized dollop” that was recommended. I snickered as I did it- sure that this would not do. However, it was enough. Strange. My hair looked great- and my hair gel would last so much longer! Sweet.

There might even be something to this moderation thing. However, I have to take a deep breath every time a jar reads ‘use a generous’ amount. One step at a time.

This is yoga. And I love it from roots to tip.

Namaste y’all.

No Yogi Left Behind – Celebrate Modifications

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Have you ever liked someone you never met? I feel that way about Dianne Bondy. She’s a yogi who is active in her community and is just an inspiration.  Skype classess, YTT her own studio, Eastside Yoga, Dianne is doin’ the damn thing.

Even her facebook updates have nuggets of wisdom….last week she wrote:

My motto is ‘No Yogi left behind’. 

Pow.

How often do I tell people about the joys of yoga for them to tell me they aren’t contortionists. Or they they say chanting ‘aum’ isn’t for them. Or it doesn’t seem fun. Or it seems intimidating.

Modifications baby. Modifications. We talk about them, but I need to remember to celebrate them. I taught a class on Sunday and really focused on holding the modified pose.

That devilish ego. It can tempt us to go places we shouldn’t. This if course can lead to injury and a bruised ego. Ironic isn’t it? Pushing ourselves too far because we thought that’s what we wanted.

Find your fullest expression of a pose for your body and spirit, today. Not based on yesterday’s body. But based on where your body is in the now.

This is another reminder I plan to give throughout class. I make a point of mentioning honoring your body when setting an intention, but throughout class I need to celebrate and not just demonstrate the modifications.

Yoga is a journey that everyone should take. It would be a shame if people didn’t take it because they didn’t think they were invited.

This is yoga. And everyone is welcome. No yogis left behind.

Thanks for the reminder Dianne.

Namaste y’all.

Farmers Markets Syndrome (FMS)- Food Yoga

Green Market Union Square

 

In my neck of the woods farmers market season is around the corner. Confession time, I can go crazy at a good farmers market. They have bright colors, people buzzing around, pretty packages, shiny objects, food samples and great prices! How can you go wrong? You also get to support local businesses.

Color. Me. In. Love.

I don’t know about you, but I get suckered in by the fresh veggies. Walking home from yoga when it’s warm I spy kale in that bushel or on a table and it’s like I’m in a trance. Maybe it’s the yoga high, maybe it’s the vibe, but I always buy something. Usually, too much. Everything seems priced at a dollar and before you know it I’ve only spent 7 bucks but I have 20 pounds of green goodies.

You can’t stop the inevitably train (Yeah that’s right- Mr. Smith). Like many things, much of it can go bad (Like my Matrix joke).

I get through kale, but the spring greens are bad. I think corn is good for a longer time than tomatoes? What about asparagus? You get the picture. Train wreck.

I’ve decided to help all of us who suffer from farmers market syndrome (FMS). I may not be able to stop you, but I can help. I’ve done research on the shelf life on some of the most popular characters we see in those tempting bushels and gingham lined baskets (the little vixens).

 

With the help of Still Tasty- Your Ultimate Shelf Life Guide I was able to get the support we need. Still Tasty has answers to all of the food questions that you think you should already know the answers to but don’t ask. So check them out.

Back to our program. Here is the shelf life for some items commonly purchased veggies at farmers markets:

1. Kale- 5-7 days in the produce compartment of your fridge

photo credit eatrealbutter.com

2. Arugula (rocket, roquette, rugula) 2-3 days in a plastic bag (This doesn’t not include the stuff you can get at your grocery store in the plastic box. That expiration date is fine)

3. Cucumbers- 7 days

photo credit the dailygreen.com

4. Green beans (all kinds) 3-5 days

5. Butternut squash (and other whole winter squash like acorn, spaghetti, hubbard) 1-2 months

photo credit thedailygreen.com

6. Zucchini (and other whole summer squash like scallop, crookneck) 4-5 days

7. Tomatoes (I know it’s really a fruit) 1-5 days in the pantry until ripe or 2-3 days once ripe

8. Beets 1-2 weeks

9. Broccoli 3-5 days

10. Brussels sprouts 3-5 days

photo credit onthegreenfarms.com

11. Parsnips 1-2 weeks

photo credit dietsdessertsanddogs.com

12. Spinach 3-5 days

photo credit the-kitchenette.com

I feel better having this information and hope you do too. So go ahead veggies, I see you flashing that green smile. I’ll probably even take you home. But you’ll never go bad on me again. Good luck to those with FMS. Be strong.

 

This is yoga. And it’s about to be in full bloom.

Namsate y’all.

Handstands – Practice, Practice, Practice

HikeYogaSplitHandstand

Have you read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? It’s an interesting read that delves into the world of exceptional performance- what makes people like Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan and the rest of us mere mortals . Turns out genetics can be useful- but the real differentiator is practice. People who are great at something do it all of the time. They log thousands of hours making them more proficient and movements become second nature.This makes me feel good. When I like something I do it all of the time. This is not such a great thing when it comes to things like smoking or eating cheese, but turns out its pretty cool for yoga.

I’ve been itching to get into a handstand. It may be silly but for my particular yoga journey it’s one if several destinations. In a class a few months ago a teacher gave me an assignment- practice kicking up a little bit each day. I was also to try doorway handstands and handstands against the wall. It will come she told me just practice.

I did it for a week and was frustrated (I know and I’m a yoga teacher- just imagine if I didn’t have yoga- yikes). I kept at it. And I kept at it. And I kept at it.

Today I kicked up against the wall at hung for a few seconds and then realized my legs hadn’t yet touched the wall.

I. Was. In. A. Handstand.

Holy shit. My feet touched the wall and I was grinning upside down like a freaking Cheshire Cat.

I had done it!

Sure it was only a few seconds- but it was pure magic I tell ya.

There’s nothing like the joy of working hard on something and seeing progress.

This is yoga. And it progress happens after thousands of hours of practice and in the blink of an eye.

Namaste y’all.

Popsicle Toes – Tuladandasana and Virabhadrasana III

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You’re so brave to expose all those popsicle toes.

Michael Franks

It’s crazy how much yoga gets you in touch with every part of your body, even down to a cellular level. Different poses can trigger emotions and the grounding of body parts can entirely change your experience in a posture. So many postures begin and end with the feet.

My feet sickle, meaning I have toes and arches curve in. Strengthening my arches has been a personal mission. It’s really helped my practice, especially when it comes to balancing poses. With strong arches and feet you can feel firmly planted on the ground. Strangely enough this can make you feel lighter.

Your big toe can tell you a lot about your body in a balancing pose like Tuladandasana or Warrior III.

I’ve always loved both of these poses but with stronger feet it’s a whole new ball game.

When I do Tuladandasana (Balancing Stick) I’m usually in a hot class. This means by the time I get to this pose, it’s at least 105° and I’ve been in the room for about 45 minutes. My clothes are soaked and with two balancing poses done before I step to the back of my mat, my heart is already pounding.

And yet despite all of this I smile, step forward on my right foot and drop into the pose.

This is when I check in with the big toe of the standing leg. Is it getting squirrelly  and squirmy on me? If so, by actively pushing down on my toe I’m engaging my inner thigh creating additional support. It also activates the arch and stabilizing muscles on the lower half of the body. The difference is – astounding.

Seriously. I mean such a small movement can powerfully change a pose as well as your ability to breathe in said pose. 

In Warrior III, by pushing the big toe down on the standing leg you can draw the pelvis forward and get the hip in line over the ankle. This gives me the feeling of flying.

As a new teacher (and a perpetual student) I’m looking for ways to cue students (and myself) to get the most out of a posture.

There’s a great website Bandha Yoga that shows poses in an anatomical viewer. If you like to geek out about poses, this is the site for you.

This is yoga. From head to toe.

Namaste y’all.