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 Bones

Yoga thought for the day: “Most Western exercise is contractive in nature. This means that it is designed to tighten, shorten, and harden the body. A muscle that is only taught how to contract will ultimately lead to short and contracted muscles. As the muscles continue to contract the surrounding fascia will shorten, harden, and dry out as well. . . . Yoga is different. Yoga is a system that is designed to be expansive in nature. The body is taught how to lengthen and expand with each and every practice. Muscles will lengthen through the joints and the surrounding fascia will also take on a longer shape. With yoga the body is transformed into a longer and more spacious creation, rather than a stiff and hard body, as exemplified by most Western exercise. . . . When it comes to your bones, yoga is the key to health and longevity.” excerpted from Jon Burras, “Yoga for Healthy Bones”

http://www.jonburras.com/pdfs/YOGA-FOR-HEALTHY-BONES.pdf

When it comes to the health of our bones, we tend to think in terms of our diet: are we getting enough calcium and protein in the foods we eat and the supplements we take? We may also have heard or read that weight training and aerobic exercise can help to keep bones strong. But too much weight training and aerobic exercise without attention to flexibility, range of movement, and mobility may wind up causing more harm than good.

Burras’s short article was a welcome reminder that our bones are alive, and led me to explore other sources of information about the skeletal system and the benefits of yoga. Usually when I think of bones I imagine the skeleton we use in anatomy class or the dry bones discovered in a shallow grave in some murder mystery.  But the 206 bones in the adult body are made of living tissue consisting of protein, minerals, and vitamins, and continue to be reshaped and renewed all the time.

Our bones serve us in many ways. They:

  • provide strong protection for the inner organs,
  • support the body against the pull of gravity,
  • produce blood cells,
  • allow us to move, and
  • store important minerals.

Yoga contributes to the health of our bones by:

  • providing weight-bearing exercise through the entire body, which stimulates bones to retain calcium,
  • enhancing circulation of blood, nutrients, and energy or prana throughout the body, and
  • improving our balance.

With yoga, we develop our strength, flexibility, and mobility over time so that the weight applied to bones increases gradually and safely. Our joints and muscles benefit from this incremental approach as well. Yoga postures also have a balancing effect on the endocrine glands, which secrete hormones that fuel the body’s growth, development, metabolism, and reproduction processes. Finally, certain yoga postures promote deep relaxation, helping to reduce stress levels. All good news for our bones.

Speaking of bones, I think we all know that many bird bones are hollow and that bird skeletons are lightweight to offset the high energy cost of flying. But did you know that bird skeletons do not actually weigh less than the skeletons of similarly sized mammals? It’s true. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100322112103.htm

I bring up the subject of bird bones, because Philip is a paraglider, a human bird. Paragliding is a recreational and competitive flying sport. A paraglider is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a soft, fabric wing that once inflated has an elliptical shape. Paragliders launch from hills or mountains, or can be towed aloft. Philip says paragliding is the ultimate in anti-gravity. When he paraglides he sees the earth from a very different perspective, and it thrills and amazes him every time. I have long wanted to create a paraglider cookie, and this weekend I finally did just that.

May all beings have enough to eat. Namaste and Sat Nam.

Note: The yoga images used in this post are in the public domain.