It's a cold and snowy Halloween which means its a perfect day to turn on the oven, make some comfort food and get cozy. On days like this, I love using my oven to prepare meals. It warms the kitchen, adds a depth of flavor to the food and makes cleaning up easy. And the smells, oh the smells!
Today I prepared Roasted Autumn Veggies with Tahini Drizzle and chocolate chip cookies that were so on point, my husband exclaimed, "These are NOT vegan!" I call that the seal of approval. Recipe for the cookies coming soon.
I have found that if I write before running, I get my writing in and I do get my run in. Sometimes it is shorter than I planned, but it gets done. Then there are days like today where it's cold and rainy and while my body wants the run, my brain is resisting going out in the weather. So I procrastinate, looking for inspiration, taking my time getting my daily writing done. And then I think of my friend saying she sometimes gets a case of the "I don't wannas" and I totally feel that. In almost the same thought I hear the sutra, "When the time is upon you, start and the pressure will be off."
And so it is. Here I go.
My teacher said, "The stomach has no teeth."
To properly digest our food, we need to chew it. Eating meals can be so enjoyable especially when we eat consciously. Taking a moment to engage our senses in the experience. Smelling the aroma, feeling the steam surrounding the face, hearing the bubbling or sizzling as the food cooks, taking in the colors, tasting the flavors, noting the textures.
As you chew your food, notice the flavors and how the taste changes. Digestion actually begins in the mouth. Chewing the food incorporates saliva helping to break down the food making it easier on the stomach. Try meditatively eating your next meal. Engage the senses, enjoy every bite and chew at least 30 times. Eat until just before you feel full. Sit quietly for 5 minutes after eating, connecting with your breath and feeling gratitude for your nourishment.
I appreciate immediate feedback. When I eat well, move my body and meditate - I receive immediate feedback - I feel good. When I practice a new yoga set or push myself in my runs and experience sore muscles, I feel good knowing I challenged my body and my mind. When I keep up with my commitments, I feel good knowing I'm in alignment and in integrity.
On the flip side when I eat poorly or don't run for a week, I feel more sluggish, heavier and more tired. When I say something hurtful, I feel the pang of regret. When I don't follow through with my commitments, I feel guilty.
When we slow down and tune into our behaviors and actions and how they make us feel, we tune our intuition. We learn to take stock of our decisions before we make them so we can remain in integrity and make choices that support our well being.
Historically my success with baking was very poor. There were times where I fantasized about making these beautiful and delicious birthday cakes for my husband only to produce a dry, crumbly mess worthy of a #nailedit post on Pinterest (if it existed back then). I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong and eventually I gave up stating emphatically, "I love to cook, but I'm not a baker". Desserts from that point on came from the grocery, bakery or a friend. Things have shifted in the last couple of years, however, and I have a few treats in my baking repertoire. I have learned if I repeat the mantra, "I am a baker, this will turn out to be delicious" and I breathe and follow the instructions carefully (and measure properly), I can actually turn out some pretty good breads and simple baked desserts.
Recently, I have been working on a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I just can't get quite right. The taste is there, but not the texture. Last night I made a batch and didn't follow the instructions and ended up with an oily mess that I knew wouldn't turn out. Baking these cookies produced a pathetically flat and crumbly cookie that actually tasted pretty good. If only I slowed down, and read through everything and followed the very simple instructions.
It's a lesson for my life, really. Taking time, slowing down, paying attention. I find myself grateful for these lessons in baking.
When you experience pain - physical, emotional, mental or spiritual - surrender. Accept and surrender to the pain. Allow yourself to feel it. Be in it. Seek to know why you are in pain. What is the gift or lesson? Listen for the answer. And begin to heal.
With the cooler weather, I have been craving oatmeal for breakfast. Initially, I thought it was too heavy for a pre-run meal, but I have been experimenting with it and it's not too heavy at all. In fact, it's perfectly warm and satisfying.
Oatmeal is quite nutrient dense, 1/2 cup of uncooked oats makes about 1 cup of cooked oatmeal and contains 13 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. A solid start to the day. I have been adding a spoon of almond butter, chia seeds, cacao powder, a banana and drizzle of maple syrup for a slightly sweet, grounding, nourishing bowl of breakfast. It's quick to make and provides the right amount of fuel for me to get moving.
Oatmeal provides a nice base for a variety of toppers - raisins, dates, dried cranberries, fresh or frozen berries, coconut, hemp seeds and cinnamon offer a variety of combinations that will keep oats interesting so we can continue to enjoy them throughout the colder months.
There are some areas where I find it easy to have discipline and to create healthy habits. I meditate daily and practice yoga regularly. I am able to keep up a consistent running program. I eat well. There are other areas where I struggle - one is writing daily. I want to, I know it will challenge and humble me and help me grow... and then I don't prioritize it so it doesn't happen.
In our practice, the lesson is:
I'm drawing the line in the sand and committing to 40 days of daily writing. It's humbling because I have students who struggle with the 40 day commitment for a yoga/meditation practice that I find to be so easy. I want to explore this challenge within me. I know this practice will help me become a better student and teacher. I find my meditation practice to be easy because I have experienced tremendous value from it, I have grown and transformed significantly and I don't want to go back to how I was before I found this practice.
I am stepping out with this declaration publicly so that I make this commitment to myself and experience the value in sharing my thoughts, recipes and musings here. It's been on my mind for weeks and I'm tired of allowing myself to have excuses about it. Let this journey begin!
When the seasons change, I feel the excitement of things feeling new again. Fall brings the cool crisp air, the wind in the trees, leaves littering the sidewalks and a new batch of seasonal veggies and products at the market. Of course, since we are now immersed in fall - pumpkins are everywhere. For a long period in my life, I equated pumpkin with sweetness - pumpkin pie (and tons of cool whip!), pumpkin spice latte (whip cream!) , pumpkin ice cream (why not - whip cream!)... you know how it is. Lately I find myself craving pumpkin and other members of the squash family in a more savory way.
As I was strolling through Trader Joes last week, I saw canned pumpkin, red lentil pasta and coconut milk and I could taste the dish in my mind. Experimenting in the kitchen is a fun way to put flavors together and the beauty of plant based cooking is - you can usually make it work even if it turns out totally different than you imagined. In fact, as I started preparing this dish, I thought it was more soupy than I wanted it to be, but it thickened up with cooking. I also wasn't sure about the pasta, the red lentil penne remains quite al dente, even after cooking a bit longer than the package recommended. It also took me a moment to adjust the seasonings as I often use coconut milk in spicy curries over rice, and with this dish I was incorporating some traditionally American fall flavors by using the poultry seasoning (don't worry, it's vegan) and sage.
When it came down to eating this creation, I was quite happy with how it turned out and I was astonished when my omnivorous husband kept going back for more. I will make this again with wheat penne to compare the texture and I also think this would be a good sauce with tofu or chickpeas added for protein and served over rice.
Having canned and dry goods like these on hand with some fresh veggies means you can put together a simple meal with relatively little prep and still feel inspired by the season. Try my Creamy Pumpkin Pasta and let me know what you think.
As I listen to the blustery wind and observe the red and golden leaves blowing off the trees and down the sidewalk, I find myself reflecting on how positively agitating that sound once was for me. Several years ago I lived in an apartment near the lake where my window faced the alley and next to that alley was a very tall building. In the fall, it was a virtual wind tunnel. The sound of that wind positively filled me with anxiety and agitation. I could not get relief from that sound or the feelings it provoked in me. Between the wind and the colder, darker days, I absolutely loathed this time of year.
It’s no coincidence that I found Kundalini Yoga in October (of 2007!), the month where I historically began to steel myself for the winter by staying indoors, isolating myself. It was not an enjoyable or peaceful way to live. As I began my Kundalini Yoga journey, I gratefully noticed immediate shifts. The darkness was not as bothersome. I went out in the evening regularly for classes. I felt more relaxed, not as sad or alone.
As I continued on my journey, I was introduced to Ayurveda and learned that this time of year has the qualities of the Vata constitution or dosha, meaning it is a windy, cold, dry season that can aggravate those parts of me. Understanding this, I began to support myself with new tools, which have allowed me to embrace the beauty of this season, rather than resist it. Simple things like sipping hot water throughout the day, eating well cooked veggies prepared with olive or sesame oil, consuming seasonal foods especially root vegetables, hot peppers, ginger and squash. Enjoying sweet treats like warm apple crisp and fruit pies. Taking time to massage my skin with warm sesame oil before I shower. Running regularly, breathing through my nostrils to ground myself and keep a calm and steady pace. Engaging in suspension of breath pranayam meditation. And slowing down, focusing on walking more slowly, eating and drinking more slowly and being intentional in my thoughts, words and actions.
Using these tools, which I have incorporated slowly, over time, have contributed to a calmer mind; improved digestion; happier feelings; a deeper level of satisfaction with my life; a stronger sense of self, self-love and compassion; enhanced well-being; feeling connected with others; enhanced, more loving & understanding relationships; a deepened spiritual connection; an open heart and softer, more comfortable skin. I am a more open, loving and compassionate person because of these tools and my dedication to practicing them. And for this I am beyond grateful.
And the journey continues… Wahe Guru.
I am an animal loving-Vegan runner, I practice and teach Kundalini Yoga and I love to cook and eat flavorful plant-based food.