Cheesecake, Chutney and Chaturanga

Yoga thought for the day: “No single posture is the antidote to an overdose of chaturanga dandasana [four-limbed plank pose], but if you had to pick just one, purvottanasana [upward plank pose] would probably be your best choice. Why? First, it stretches most of the muscles that chaturanga strengthens. Second, it strengthens opposing muscles (antagonists). . . . In short, while chaturanga primarily strengthens the front of the body, purvottanasana stretches the front of the body and strengthens the back of the body. This makes the two poses wonderfully complementary.” – Roger Cole, “The Anti-Chaturanga Dandasana,”   http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2051/

A lot of vinyasa classes probably means a lot of chaturanga dandasanas, as well. Chaturanga is a basic yoga pose that builds strength, but it is not an easy yoga pose. Proper alignment – elbows directly over wrists and in close to the ribs, shoulder blades down the back, quadriceps engaged, belly pulled into the spine – is critical to avoid injury to the shoulders, wrists, and low back. And as Roger Cole suggests, practicing purvottanasana along with chaturanga can help us create a more balanced, flexible strength in our bodies.

If chaturangas are a staple in my yoga diet, chutneys are a staple in my culinary diet and cheesecake . . . well, cheesecake has always been one of my favorite sweets.

With friends coming for dinner a week ago Saturday, I decided to make two varieties of chutney to serve as hors d’oeuvres with assorted crackers and Mitica Cana Cabra cheese. Mitica Cana Cabra is a soft-ripened goat milk cheese from Spain – creamy and mild, with a hint of mushrooms. The one I found (at Whole Foods Market) was made with vegetarian enzymes rather than rennet. My chutneys were a blueberry nectarine chutney and a curried leek and golden raisin chutney (recipes follow).

I then brought the chutneys to the table to serve with our main course, as well – my
version of a Thai red curry with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, potato, and red lentils. The two chutneys, along with fresh avocado lightly mashed with a tiny bit of salt, freshly ground pepper, and a splash of white balsamic vinegar, each added their own particular accent to the curry.

For dessert – scrumptious, vegan, mini blueberry cheesecakes. I love mini cheesecakes, because I can indulge my sweet tooth without overdoing it. And they freeze well, too. So you can pluck just one from the freezer whenever you crave a delicious and nutritious treat.

I’m not sure which I enjoy practicing more – my chaturangas or my chutneys and cheesecakes!

Plum Nectarine Chutney – makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 plums, more ripe than not ripe
  • 2 nectarines, more ripe than not ripe
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion
  • ¼ cup turbinado sugar, sucanat, or brown sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions: Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until mixture thickens. Transfer to glass jars or plastic containers. Let come to room temperature. Then store in refrigerator. Refrigerate at least two to four hours before serving. Will keep at least two weeks. Serve with all your pastas, chilis, lentil dishes, curries, cheese, bread . . . .

Curried Leek and Golden Raisin Chutney – makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon saffron, optional but adds nice color and subtle flavor
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 4 medium leeks, trimmed of all but 1 inch of greens
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted EarthBalance or coconut oil
  • 4 tablespoons low-sodium vegetable broth, divided, plus additional for pureeing
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vegan sugar
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 rotations of the pepper mill

Instructions: Combine curry powder, 1 teaspoon sugar and vinegar and whisk in olive oil.  Cut leeks in half lengthwise and then crosswise into half-inch slices.  Place in colander and rinse. Combine saffron threads with 2 tablespoons vegetable broth.  Melt EarthBalance or coconut oil in dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add leeks, 2 tablespoons vegetable broth, remaining 1/2 teasoon sugar and water. Add half of the salt and half of the pepper. Simmer, covered, for ten minutes. Stir in raisins, pine nuts, saffron and vinaigrette. Let cool about 10 minutes. Puree in food processor. Stop occasionally to scrape down sides. After the second stop, add vegetable broth or water by the tablespoon as necessary and the rest of the salt and pepper. Continue to process until smooth. Keep adding additional vegetable broth or water to reach desired consistency. Remember that the chutney will thicken as it cools. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to glass jars or plastic containers. Let come to room temperature. Then store in refrigerator. Refrigerate at least two to four hours before serving. Will keep at least two weeks. Serve with all your pastas, chilis, lentil dishes, curries, cheese, bread . . . .

Yoga Anatomy Newsletters

Yoga, Poses, Stylized, clip

Yoga thought for the day: “There is never any reason to rush or force oneself into a yoga pose.” – Ray Long, MD FRCSC and Chris Macivor, 3d Graphic Designer/Illustrator, The Daily Bandha: Scientific Keys to Unlock the Practice of Yoga

“You can’t integrate the pieces until you can differentiate them, and that for most people is a big deal – most people don’t even register on a sensory level that there’s a distinction between their shoulder blades and their upper back.” – Leslie Kaminoff, internationally acclaimed yoga instructor and author

Yoga should never hurt. Now that I am a yoga instructor, one of my principal concerns is ensuring students’ safety. I encourage them to learn to listen to and honor their bodies. This takes practice. I want to help each student find the best expression of the pose for her or his body. I try not to overwhelm students with verbal cues regarding alignment and anatomy, but I do want continually to improve my own knowledge about these crucial subjects to better serve my students.

Two online resources I have found especially useful and interesting for understanding what’s going on anatomically in yoga poses are Ray Long and Chris Macivor’s email newsletter, which you can sign up for at http://www.dailybandha.com/ and Leslie Kaminoff’s weekly email newsletter, which you can sign up for at http://yogaanatomy.net/.  If you are not already familiar with the work of these experts, you may want to check them out. 

Yoga remains ever fresh and exciting for me because it is a never-ending adventure in learning – about myself, others, and the marvelous universe we inhabit. Needless to say, cooking and baking also provide endless opportunities for discovery. And now with summer vegetables at their peak, it’s time to explore and enjoy your creativity in the kitchen.

Philip and I are fortunate to have a friend, Mark, who has an extraordinary organic garden. Recently, Philip returned from a visit to Mark with several bags full of gorgeous melons and vegetables. I took the time to take photos of these wondrous gifts before they went under the knife, but was not so good about taking the time to take photos of the finished dishes. We were just too eager to eat!

Nevertheless, I would like to share this recipe for an incredibly good curry I made just one week ago that featured Japanese eggplant and fresh basil from Mark’s organic garden, along with brocoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms from my neighborhood farm stand, which features mostly organic or pesticide-free local produce.

Eggplant Curry

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • vegetable broth, about one cup
  • 1 Japanese eggplant, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 1/2 cups fesh cauliflower florets
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, halved or quartered, depending on their size
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoonlow sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk

Instructions: Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the eggplant and 2 tablespoons vegetable broth and sauté, stirring contantly for 2 minutes. Add additional vegetable broth by the tablespoon as necessary to keep the eggplant from sticking to the bottom of the dutch oven. Add the broccoli and cauliflower and 2 more tablespoons vegetable broth. Sauté, stirring constantly, 2 more minutes. Add the mushrooms and 2 more tablespoons vegetable broth. Stir to combine well. Lower heat and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms release their juices.  Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Combine the red curry paste, soy sauce, and agave nectar and then whisk in the vegetable broth. Add sauce to vegetables. Add the lentils. Stir to combine well. Add the coconut milk. Let come to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook 20 to 30 minutes, untl lentils and eggplant are soft. Check frequently and add water, if necessary, in small amounts, to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the dutch oven and to provide enough liquid for the lentils to cook properly. But don’t over do it, because you want the curry to be thick and creamy. Stir in the basil before serving. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. I like to serve this over a blend of couscous and brown rice, or couscous, brown rice and quinoa.

Note: The yoga image used in this post is in the public domain.

 

Worshiping the Sun Through Mindful Yoga and Healthy Eating

Yoga thought for the day: “Sun Salutations bring you skillfulness for moving your breath and energy. They’ll warm up your muscles and lubricate the joints. The flow of oxygen and blood to your brain nourishes it, relaxes it, and calms down the mind’s chattering. Feel the energy as Sun Salutations quicken your blood!” – Ana T. Forrest, Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit (HarperCollins 2011)

“… let me repeat that no asana practice is complete without sun worship. Without its focusing of mental energies, yoga practice amounts to little more than gymnastics and, as such, loses meaning and proves fruitless. Indeed the Surya Namaskara should never be mistaken for mere physical exercise – for something incidental, that is, that simply precedes the asanas of yoga. Therefore, it is necessary, before beginning the sun salutations, to pray to Surya […] to bestow upon us the good fortune of having only good thoughts, of hearing and speaking only good words, and of attaining a sound and strong body, so that we may have a long life and, one day, achieve oneness with God.” – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, “Suryanamaskara”

While slicing Valencia oranges and Meyer lemons the other day to make candied lemon and orange slices to decorate my mock chocolate mousse and coconut-lemon cake, I couldn’t help feeling the delicious warmth of the sun on the back of my neck, my face, my arms. The half moon-shaped slices of oranges and lemons of bold-colored rind, white pith, and paler-colored flesh combined wondrously to create divine half haloes of light. I couldn’t help but think of the sun in all its brilliance.

And in yoga teacher training this past weekend, sun salutations were flowing as my sisters in training and I practiced teaching each other variations of this dynamic sequence of poses. Sun salutations, surya namaskar in Sanskrit, help us bring awareness to coordinating our breath and our movements.

Even on a grey morning, greeting the sun with gratitude and appreciation is not a bad way to start the day. My little bunny buns (little orbs of sunshine and joy) – made in honor of Easter and my first Puja – are also not a bad way to start the day.

My recipe for candied lemon and orange slices comes from my friends Ducky and Gerry, who clipped it for me from the San Diego Union Tribune, because they know just how much I love lemons! I decided to try it with oranges, too. And guess what? The result is fantastically tangy morsels of sweet sunshine.

I’m reluctant to share my mock chocolate mousse recipe, because this one required lots of experimentation and trial and error with a far from perfect recipe that I found in the local weekly. I lost track along the way of exact proportions. Suffice it to say that the key ingredients are sweet potato, banana, whipped silken tofu and dark chocolate.

As I said last time, the Coconut-Lemon Cake recipe is from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moslowitz and Terry Hope Romero. You can check this marvelouscookbook at out http://www.theppk.com/books/veganomicon-the-ultimate-vegan-cookbook/

Candied Lemon and Orange Slices

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 juice orange
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

Instructions: Cut the lemon and the orange in half vertically. Cut each half into slices – not too thin. Combine the water and the sugar in a medium skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Add the fruit and simmer until the lemon and orange slices are cooked and the liquid is reduced – about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spatula to parchment paper and let cool. Can be stored in a glass container in the refrigerator for 1 month.