Vegan Diaries – Roasted Cauliflower White Pumpkin and Leek Soup

Roasted-Cauliflower

I have such a feeling of gratitude over how I get to eat. The past few weeks opened my eyes. It may be what kept me from acting like a damn fool in the grocery store. Though I did pick up some dark chocolate, because I could. And some Pumpkin Ale. It’s fall, had to.

With Autumn on my mind I went to my local Shop-Rite. I many have mentioned but they have a local produce section. It’s not huge, but the prices are good, food is fresh and I’m supporting local farms. Hat trick. Not to mention the reduction of my carbon footprint. Extra 3 points. I know, I mixed my scoring comparisons. It’s all good.

Anyway- I left with:

  • Cauliflower
  • Leeks
  • Mini White Pumpkins (2)
  • Garlic

At home I pulled out

  • Olive oil
  • Veggie stock 3 cups
  • 2 fingerling potatoes

Preparation

  1. I cut the head of cauliflower in half. I’m saving the other half for tomorrow (chickpeas, eggplant and cauliflower curry- say what?!)
  2. I gave it a rough chop and then got to work on the leeks. I only used the light green and white part.
  3. I moved onto the potatoes. You could leave these out, I was looking for a creamier texture. It was a comfort food kind of day.
  4. After peeling three cloves of garlic I put the veggies in a roasting pan. I tossed them with a tablespoon of olive oil and some sea salt and pepper.
  5. The veggies roast for 30 minutes at 425°
  6. I transferred the mixture into a dutch oven (or you can use a soup pot of big pot)
  7. I added another tablespoon of olive oil and sautéed the mixture for about two minutes.
  8. In went the stock and I brought the mixture to a simmer for 20 minutes. (I added another 1/2 cup of broth- but water would do fine- it just looked like it would be too thick)
  9. Then- very carefully I transferred the soup to my blender. I don’t have a vitamix- but my blender still got the soup smooth.

It was all I hoped for. Creamy (without the dairy reprucussions- lactose intolerant), hearty and smoky because I added a pinch of smoked chipotle pepper on top.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

In other weird Wednesday news. I found this strange fact about soup (check the vid below). Enjoy.

Namaste y’all.

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Yoga and Stroke Recovery

 

yoga-black-sand-beach

 

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.”

Yoga heals.

Namsate y’all.

Kayak Yoga – Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

free kayak

Maybe it’s the yoga, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I have a newfound sense of freedom since I got my bike- but I’ve been up for trying new things.

This was not always so.

I wasn’t a fan of change and in fact- I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Round peg, round hole is how things should fit.

At least that’s the way the Dr. Seuss version of me thought of things.

But I caught up with a friend last Sunday and took a dive into the unknown.

Don’t get too excited. I didn’t climb a mountain.

I went out on a kayak.

Hey- baby steps, people. Baby steps.

We rode our bikes to Hoboken from Jersey City and parked at the Hoboken Cove Boathouse. We signed a sheet of paper and got to kayak for free. Right? Free. No strings. Just free. How did I not know about this? They had free kayaking all summer long? This is what happens when you don’t explore, you miss out on good shit.

So- I hopped in my kayak and had a blast. It’s also quite an arm workout.

And because once I dip my toe,  I tend to go whole hog I decided to try a stand-up paddle board.

‘Just keep paddling,’ I was told after a brief lesson.

Off I went.

Look Ma! I’m doing it! Yoga was great prep for this- using the core and feeling the movement of the water to stay steady was a lot less difficult than I thought.

And then, a wave.

Things slow down before the body takes a tumble. I could feel the entire thing. The space-time continuum halted like in an episode of Fringe. I half expected to see bizarro Oneika rise from the water (She better not have a better ass than me, and I do not want her hair longer). But she never showed up and I was snapped my to my merely average  ass swaying to and fro on a paddle board.

The wave came and I could feel the balance shift. I didn’t even fight it, because there was nothing to fight. I was going in the water and that was that. I should say that I love the water and love to swim etc..etc… so this wasn’t a huge thing, but it wasn’t exactly warm and I was hoping to keep my clothes dry.

Ah well. In I went. All the way under. Completely soaked. My head popped the surface and I  exclaimed, ‘THIS IS AWESOME!’ Maybe I was bizarro Oneika? An interesting twist. I glanced at my butt- still the same. No matter. I felt freaking awesome.

I got on the board and fell off again. And again I giggled. I kept thinking I wish I had known about this during the  heat wave because I would have ‘slipped’ over and over.

Eventually I got back in the groove and headed back in. Once back on shore the guy asked if I was okay and I said I was great, it’s about getting back up.

I had to give a mental fistbump to  Dandayamana Dhanurasana- aka Standing Bow Pulling Pose in the Bikram series.

The pose is about falling, in the sense that once you fall can you pick yourself back up and try again- without judgement, maybe even with joy.

There’s one last weekend of free kayaking next Saturday. You can bet I’m going to be back on that stand up paddle board.

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Paddle board yoga. Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diary Confessions 21 Meals $35 (Days 13-14 and Final Thoughts)

Hummus-details

I’m really happy to get back to my old food shopping habits.

I wanted these recipes to be so much better than they were. But I found myself avoiding having to cook. It wan’t fun. This isn’t normally how I feel about food.

Cooking relaxes me. I enjoy preparing meals and breaking bread with friends. This wasn’t merely a a situation of having to make do with what I had because I hadn’t made it to the store. Unwittingly, I found out for a few short weeks of what it’s like to not have what you want or need.

Now don’t get me wrong, I in no way experienced what it is like for so many families to go without. But the malaise isn’t what I was expecting.

On the last two days I enjoyed ate my oatmeal for breakfast and had leftovers for lunch and hummus sandwich wraps for dinner.

This wasn’t the fun experiment I thought it would be. And the admission of this, makes me a little embarrassed. I realize now that I many have inadvenrtantly been trying to slum it- that makes me feel shitty because that wasn’t what I intended. Pema Chödrön says that everything we do is on the path to enlightenment. I figure this is a step in the right direction.

What I learned:

1. Eating healthy on near nothing is really hard.

2. That said (#1), you can find a healthier way to eat on near nothing. Frozen veggies, dried beans and and shopping the aisles of grocery stores provide opportunities to eat a healthy, tasty diet. It takes planning and some research (blogs and Youtube are GREAT help) but it can be done. Soup, yo. It’s the way to go. Soups and stews can be hearty, healthy and delicious. Better yet, they can be made in bulk, ahead of time and freeze well.

3. That is of course provided you don’t live in a food desert. I can’t help but wonder about the mixed message that we send to kids who live where fresh food isn’t easily available. We tell them about the food pyramid and send them home in neighborhoods that have nothing but fast food or in rural areas– nothing.

4. As a society, food deserts plague urban and rural environments. There are too many parts of the country where people are at least a mile away from a grocery store and don’t have a car.

5. It’s not hopeless. Communities can rally together to start food co-ops. Creating awareness about hunger through initiiaves like Hunger Action Month lets gets the message out. And lastly corporate citizens are stepping in to take responsibility. The CEO or Trader Joe’s is testing an idea that takes slightly expired food and bruised produce to the marketplace and deeply discounted prices. Food expiration dates ahve been debated because more often than not expiration date

I was reading an Old Rebelle wellness article that talked about the idea of Nutrition as an act of revolution.
Yes.
Yes.
Yes.

We should, no, we must realize that when parts of our country are hungry we are all hungry. There is too much food wasted and too many easy we can start to tackle this issue. This temporary change has permanently changed me. I cannot go back to thinking about food the way that I did.

Nutrition should be an act of revolution.

Check out this story from NPR. The CEO of Trader Joe’s is launching a test store that sells slightly bruised food and food that is past the expiration dates. Food will be sold at deeply discounted prices. Foods will also be prepared as meals and the most important part? It won’t be in a cushy ‘hood down the street from a Whole Foods, it will be in a neighborhood that needs it.

Bra-vo. Nutrition should be an act of revolution.

Namaste y’all.

Brussels Sprouts With Quinoa – Food Yoga

Derailed. My list is dust in the wind. That’s life though, right? Best laid plans and all that? Right now I have work to do and a hunger to quell.

Pish- no worries. In 20 minutes you too can prepare a tasty and nutritious meal for your family. This also allows you to play whatever music you want during dinner (see Annette Bening).

Ingredients

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Quinoa
  • Onion
  • Garlic cloves
  • Fresh oregano
  • Lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Gently pulse everything (except the lime juice) in your food processor.

  1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Heat 2 T olive oil in a dutch oven oven or pan
  3. Add sprouts mixture
  4. Add lime juice
  5. Gently saute for 2 minutes
  6. Fold in quinoa
  7. Gently saute for 3 minutes
  8. Remove from heat
  9. Slice cherry tomatoes
  10. All done!!!

Namaste y’all!!!

Renewing Your Spirit – 5 Ways to Do It

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 

– George Eliot

There’s something about autumn that I love and loathe. As a kid I loved the crisp mornings getting excited because I knew that I’d soon be able to break out my new sweaters. Warm weather still peeks through the day and it’s cool enough at night to get a morning chill. Fall is associated with renewal and that makes sense. We can shed old ways or reconnect with our pre-summer selves. Once the kids are back in their routines and beach days are gone we begin our own version of molting.

 

Here are 5 ways that I get back to me:

1. Reconnect with my practice

September is a big fitness season. As the family calendar takes over we get back to the business of health. For some this means actually working out again (you know who you are) and for others it means switching up the routine. I’ve never run outside in cooler weather, so I’m doing a little homework.

Fall is a time when I take a look at my practice. The change in seasons wakes up different parts of my senses. My asana practice took place mostly in the evenings. Since I teach most evenings, it was scattered. But I’ve sat my butt down to plan out my practices a few weeks out at a time. Incorporating

2. Jump start healthy eating

Eat seasonally!!! Eat seasonally!!!  My cooking shifts from grilling to roasting. I swap out fresh tomatoes for squash and mushrooms. Quinoa begins to make regular appearances and what I love most of all, SOUP SEASON!!! There is nothing like a hearty soup to make me giggle like wanda the witch from Sesame Street (which is creepy and cool at the same time). Renew your love of the kitchen by pulling down the crock pot and making soup. Crowd pleasers and freezer friendly. This fall and winter you’ll see a bunch of soup recipes  so get ready.

I’m now meatless every day of the week, but before I was I started participating in Meatless Monday. I’d say it was the first thing that really helped think about my carbon footprint.

3. Read a good book

All of the best books come out in fall!!! If you are a book nerd like me, this is your time to find a stack (or queue) of things to get you through the cold winter months. Reading is great stimulation for the brain and a soothing activity. Kids who see their parents read are more likely to read themselves.

4. Make time to make time

Did you know that a 2006 study said that meditating can be better for you than sleeping? Taking even a few minutes to collect your thoughts is great for you and others. I love early morning when I walk Dakota. It allows me to set intentions for the day and reflect on where I am. Take a minute in the shower just to pause can be beneficial. I’ve actually been thinking about my time in the Catskills surrounded by silence. I’ve gotten away from finding a few quiet moments to let go. Seems like the right time to re-commit.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff…” Cliche and overused, maybe. That doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Maybe it was the heat and  (and don’t get me wrong I’m a summer kind of chick) but the little things were getting under my skin. The cool crisp air of fall allows me to exhale.

How do you welcome fall into your life?

Namaste y’all!

Ding Dong Goes the Inversion Practice

door-bell

I zipped downstairs to an early hot power vinyasa practice with friend Jessica Ashen. She’s a yogi and founder of Spiritual Pretzels Yoga. Jessica brings donation based yoga all over Jersey City. It’s awesome and so is she. Her classes are a mix of being playful and learning how to challenge your body in new ways. Jessica teaches from a place of love that is tangible. As a result, I leave her classes lighter in the heart. I love this because that’s something I used to only get from my hot practice.

Anyway, back to this morning.

It’s great taking classes with a teacher who knows that you teach. They tend to be gently relentless about form and adjustments. I’ve been getting a bit lazy when it comes to stacking my hips over ankles in Uttasana.

No slackin’ with the stackin’ in Jessica’s class. It was what I needed.

Roll  the weight forward onto the toes, roll the weight forward onto the toes, roll the weight forward onto the toes. 

Jessica made an interesting observation about me being in between my vinyasa practice and my hot practice. In hot classes the weight is back in the heels a lot.

Shifting the weight forward into my toes and engaging the low belly and feeling my heels lift,  my body yearned to go higher.

It was my brain that was talking me out of it.

Jessica mentioned Christina Sell and how I need to check out her approach to handstands. I found this video, which is fantastic. She points out that many seemingly unrelated poses connect to turning the body upside down. It’s worth the seven minutes. Check it out.

We did handstand practice again the wall and it felt great. Jessica showed me an exercise that Christina Sell uses called Ding Dong.  As you kick up you alternate tapping feet on the wall. I sort of powered through that and felt good.  Inside my active mind, I thought back to my earlier fold and rolling the weight forward so one day can lift into handstand.

One day I can do it, I thought.

And then…we moved onto practicing Pincha Mayurasana against the wall. It was horrible.   hard.

Oh hello Ego, I didn’t see you sneak into class behind me. Seriously? It’s early, I thought you’d be upstairs asleep with Dakota, or getting coffee down the block waiting to pounce on me later riding my bike to class.

Form matters. It was tough activating my triceps, pushing down and engaging my abs. Sure she could have had me just kick up and play, but there is something to be said for doing it right.

Ugh. Hard work.

“Perfect we have something to work on next time!”, she said.

Groan is what I did.

“Be excited! It’s a new adventure!”

Damn if she wasn’t right. It is a new adventure. Something else I get to explore.

I left with a lighter heart, ready to open the door to the unexpected.

Better still, I reconnected with the foundation of yoga, uniting body and breath.

Yoga keeps reminding me that I can go home again (and again) and that more importantly, I must.

Yoga sweet yoga.

Namaste y’all.

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Food Yoga- Food Deserts

food-desert-1

Living on less that $35 weekly (for food) in the middle of Hunger Action Month helped me understand what it means to live on an near impossible meal budget.

In this fast paced world driven by instant gratification it can be easy to consume processed foods because that’s what’s readily accessible. Compound that with the stresses of everyday life and healthy habits can take a back seat.

I made a conscious effort to find foods that could support a vegan lifestyle and met the budget restrictions I was under.

But, there was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. Healthy food was outside my doorstep. Across the street there’s an ethnic grocery store that had fresh bok choy for 2 bucks. More Thai basil than I know what to do with for 1.50. Peeled garlic that will last a week for 1.25.

And I haven’t even mentioned the large grocery store that is within biking distance.

Or the green markets on Wednesdays.

You get the picture.

But if I lived 1.5 miles away, it’s an entirely different story. There are parts of my hometown that don’t have the bus service that I have or the easy access to the markets and stores. Have a craving for Mickey Ds, KFC, Wendy’s, White Castle, or Taco Bell. Well then my friend, you’re in luck. You will need to hold onto that luck to find some decent veggies and groceries that are marked up (If you can find a grocery store)

Welcome to a food desert. A food desert is defined by the USDA as :

Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.

Check out the map below, all over the country there are areas where people in both urban and rural settings don’t have easy access to fresh food.

no car and supermarket

So now let’s take another look at that $4.50 a day that many folks can spend on food. If you can’t get to the store and you are surrounded by fast food a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese off the Dollar menu seems like a viable option. The next part of the story is fairly obvious, no?

Teaching Tolerance has done interesting research on obesity and access.

Studies show that certain racial groups are disproportionately affected by obesity. These problems may be worse in some U.S. communities because access to affordable and nutritious food is difficult. This is especially true for those living in low-income communities of color and rural areas with limited access to supermarkets, grocery stores or other food retailers that offer the large variety of foods needed for a healthy diet such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh dairy and lean meat products. Instead, individuals in these areas may be more reliant on convenience stores, fast food or similar retailers, or they may not have enough money to afford the higher prices. These areas of limited access are called “food deserts.”

But there are groups of people out there that are taking steps for change.

Yoga has a place in all of this. when you move your body, learn how to breathe and take time to connect you start to make better decisions. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that a chain reaction can happen in the other direction.

September is Hunger Action Month.

Namaste y’all.

*Do you live in a food desert and maintain a vegan lifestyle? I’d love to hear how you make it work- send me an email or leave comments.

Vegan Diaries 21 Meals $5 Day (Days 8-12)

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Week 1 is done. Some hits, some misses. But all in all I was pleased with what I got out of it.

Applying what I’ve learned is on the menu this week. This is not as easy as it seems (see past mistakes), but I will do my best.

liz-lemon-eye-roll

I have decided to lean on my pantry more this week (I’ll note the cost per serving).

A pantry building post is on the way.

But first let me do a rundown of the groceries I bought this week with my $35

  • snow peas (2 servings)
  • scallions
  • iceberg lettuce
  • onions
  • soba
  • eggplant
  • tomatoes
  • split peas
  • black eyed peas
  • vegetable stock (this was on sale wee ha!!!! I bought 2 quarts for 3 smackers)
  • popcorn kernals (this was my splurge item at 1.79, but I miss a snack)
  • apples (Trader Joe’s on sale a bag for 2.29 10 in the bag)
  • tortillas
  • oatmeal
  • 2 lemons

I have 8 bucks left that I will use midweek. Leftover from last week: brown rice, white beans, chick peas, kale

Since I had chickpeas left I made a big batch of hummus. I think this is my biggest win so far. Hummus is full of protein, filling and frankly, freaking fantastic on everything. Throw in lettuce and have it on a wrap. A big bag of carrots on sale will cost you $1.59, paired with hummus perfect for snackin’ and relaxin’.

Day 8

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal (why didn’t I think of this last week?)

Lunch

  • Hummus wrap

Dinner

  • Veggie Stir Fry with Soba (Snow peas, scallions, onions garlic)

Day 9

Breakfast

  • Apple (leftover)
  • Oatmeal

Snack

  • Popcorn

Lunch

  • Leftover soba noodles (I had them cold and they were oh so, so good)

Dinner

  • White bean and kale soup (This was only meh. I would have added lots more veggies or some pasta or even some ‘shrooms to give it some umph but I didn’t want to spend the money to beef up this recipe).

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Day 10

Breakfast 

  • Oatmeal

Snack 

  • Popcorn

Lunch 

  • Leftover soup (didn’t finish it. But Dakota liked it over her kibble)

Snack 

  • Popcorn

Dinner

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Another win. I have a tried and true recipe that I love. I was worried that it wouldn’t be so great. I was hoping that eating on a very tight budget could be tasty, but it’s been less that successful in my opinion.

Bah! This version was 6 ingredients and freaking awe-some. Do you hear me? Awe-some.

This recipe made dance inside (also on the outside, I couldn’t help but bust a move when I slurped my first sip. My apologies to the people across the street who may have seen me)

Ingredients 

  • One Eggplant cubed (keep the skin on)
  • Large can whole crushed tomatoes (Cento was on sale, score .79)
  • 5 (peeled) cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes (this is optional- but if you’re from Jerz…you should still have a few) cut in quarters
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Place all veggies and garlic on a cookie sheet. Toss with one tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Roast for 25 minutes in a 425° oven.

3. Place veggies in a large pot or dutch oven with remaining olive oil.

4. Sauté for 5 minutes and then add stock

5. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes.

6. Carefully transfer soup in small batches to a blender and blend.

That’s it. It had an elegant taste but hearty feel. And it freezes well (whoop!)

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Day 11

Breakfast 

  • Oatmeal 

Lunch

  • SOUP! Whoop!

Dinner

SNAP pea soup

Split Pea Soup

Another easy peasy (you see what I did there?) recipe.

So good. In fact, after I made it I forgot to take a photo for this post. No worries I thought, I’ll just get another bowl, take a photo and save it for tomorrow.

Cut to: Oneika slurping. Camera app open but off to the side. Yikes! I’m supposed to take a photo.

I managed to get it *wipes mouth*

Ingredients 

  • one bag split peas
  • small onion- chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic minced
  • 6 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • smoked paprika or smoked chipotle pepper* (this is a pantry usage)

Preparation

1. Saute onions and garlic

2. Add split peas

3. Add 4 cups of water

4. Bring to boil then immediately reduce to medium low

5. Add 1/2 cup water after 20 minutes

6. Stir frequently for another 35 minutes adding water if soup is too think

7. Transfer in batches to blender **

* I debated whether to use this or not. I opted to used it for a few reasons. First, smoked paprika adds richness and meaty flavor to vegan dishes and gives them depth. Second a little goes a long way, so it’s worth getting.

** You could skip this, but I was feeling silky smooth. I’ve also had made split pea without blending and it’s still just as bad ass.

Day 12

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal

Lunch

  • Leftover soup

Dinner

riceandpeas

This second week has been a lot easier on the palate.

I know, you’re saying can  this chick really eat soup every night for dinner?

The answer is yes, yes I could. I still had a few bucks left so I guess I could have grabbed a roll or some fresh bread. There’s a bakery across the street that sells fresh whole wheat loaves for 1.50.

But honestly the soup is plenty. I think a lot of American eating habits are too heavy, focusing on the size of a meal as an indication of success rather than the quality and flavor.

It takes a bit of work. But it can be done.

I felt short changed last week. I kicked rocks a few times. Yeah, yeah, non-attachment.

But I shopped this second week with a determination to make some meals that I could stand behind and say, these are things you can get everywhere.

With two days left, I feel that I’ve done that.

It’s still pretty sobering to know that this is the budget many families have every single day, year after year. This was no game to me. However, next week if I feel like grabbing a green juice after a hot yoga class, I can.

There’s a lot to think about and so much more that we can do to end hunger.

Stay tuned for the last few days (recipes) and my final thoughts about the whole process.

September is Hunger Action Month.

Namaste y’all.