I consider myself to be a dedicated vegan. I became vegan for animals and the environment after learning the impact of climate change on both animals and human beings. I believe the choices I make about what I purchase and eat make a difference on this planet and I hope sharing my experiences helps others to explore eating more plants and less animal products. What this means is I need to stay healthy and eat a well balanced diet. For the most part, I eat intuitively and try to have variety in my meals throughout the day which provides me with all or most of what I need (I do supplement with B12, D3 and a mulitvitamin daily). To make sure I am getting what I need, I occasionally spend a few days plugging my meals into cronometer.com to see how I'm doing. Recently I learned I'm not getting enough Selenium in my diet. Selenium is a mineral which acts as an antioxidant (which means it protects cells from damage) and protects the heart and brain, supports healthy thyroid function and can boost the immune system. The good news is, increasing this important mineral in my diet was an easy fix. One to two Brazil nuts a day provide more than enough recommended daily Selenium allowance. The amount of Selenium in Brazil nuts can vary depending on the soil that they are grown in so it's always a good idea to have a variety of sources. Selenium is also found in smaller quantities of sunflower seeds, couscous, whole wheat pasta and shiitake mushrooms.
When the stress and anxiety start to rear their little heads, pause and take a breath. Where are you experiencing resistance? What are you trying to control? What if you surrender into what is and allow yourself to be present with the here and now. Trust that it has already been written, there is nothing to figure out or fix. Just be. And breathe.
CWAU = Cooking While Angry/Upset
Stop. Don't do it.
Life happens. An argument with our partner, the kids are fighting, a parent is sick, rough day at work, just finished the tax return - and we owe. Situations that may cause our stomach to turn, a sinking feeling, rage, frustration, gritted teeth - and yet it's 5pm and we need to get dinner started. Take a deep breath (no really, take one right now), the energy we put into our food affects how we digest it, our emotional state impacts digestion as well.
Here are a few tips when you are feeling angry or upset and it's meal prep time:
Know that you are loved and appreciated. xoxo
At the start of winter, I watched a video by Dr. Douillard about the importance of eating seasonal foods to maximize our digestion and nutrient absorption. It made sense. While we have access to all sorts of fruits and vegetables throughout the year, it doesn't mean we should eat all that we have access to. Over the last few months, I focused on eating more winter foods - root veggies, cooked foods, more oil, soups and stews and what I found was that these foods were easier to digest and most notably - I did not have the eczema break out that I typically have toward the end of winter which was not only a relief, but an indication that what I was eating was being optimally digested and absorbed.
I have noticed at the grocery store that asparagus is affordable again which means it's in season - an indicator that spring has sprung! From an Ayurvedic perspective, in the months between March and June, we want to focus on foods that are Pungent/Spicy, Bitter, Astringent/Light, Dry and Warm. This includes some of my favorites like asparagus, beets, carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers and spinach. While not in season here in the midwest, using chilies and hot peppers are a nice way to incorporate some of the pungent taste into dishes in the spring. We don't have an abundance of seasonal fruit this time of year in the midwest, but frozen berries and dried fruit are good options for spring. I've been enjoying nuts and dates as an afternoon snack lately, very rich and satisfying to my sweet tooth.
In terms of legumes and grains, try to incorporate kidney or garbanzo beans, lentils and mung beans, quinoa, oats, corn and millet into your spring recipes. Dr. Douillard also provides a list of recommended spices and more suggestions for spring foods here. Just reading through this list and seeing what is currently available locally is making me excited to create and share some spring recipes using the pungent, bitter and astringent recipes.
What are your favorite spring veggies?
Well seasoned food is important for any cook, but especially the plant-based cook and especially if you are cooking for people who still eat meat. I find if I season food well, my husband not only enjoys it but let's me know he doesn't "even need meat with this meal." This is music to my ears.
I love my spice collection. I enjoy having a variety of spices on hand so I can create any flavor combination and try new pairings. But as you can see below, I have a lot of spices and organizing them has been a challenge. We moved into our place about 3 years ago and at the time, I wasn't sure what to do with my spices. I knew I wanted to have them near the stove and I wanted to be able to see them. We have these little shelves next to the stove and I though - perfect! I'll put them there and they will be accessible when I cook. But they didn't all fit, so I also used a small drawer and put less used spices in the drawer and the spices I regularly use on the shelf. As you may imagine, that didn't last long as drawer spices ended up stacked on the shelf and while everything was accessible, it was such a pain because I could only see what was in front. I had spices stacked on top of each other both on the shelf and in the drawer. It was messy and inefficient.
In January, I watched Marie Kondo and was totally inspired to overhaul - well - everything 😂 especially my kitchen. I pulled everything out as she suggested, and yes, it was OVERWHELMING. I went through my spices and tossed those that were old, empty and rarely used. Because I pulled everything out of my cabinets and drawers (which was totally worth it) I was able to assess the best place for each item and I realized I have these big drawers that would be perfect for spices. I selected a large wide top drawer that had the perfect depth for spice jars and lined them up, they all fit nicely. I categorized the jars placing spices with each other, then herbs, then blends and seeds and extras in the back. While I alphabetized everything as I put them away, that didn't last long (let's not get too crazy), but this system has worked VERY well for the last 2 months. I know what I have and where to find it. It is functional and I feel happy and inspired took cook every time I open my spice drawer.
I would love to know, what type of organization do you use for your spices?
If you are just getting into cooking - welcome! I have exciting news: it doesn’t take a lot of “stuff” to get started. In fact, start with just what you need now (pan, knife, cutting board) and add to it from there. As you stock your kitchen, I recommend buying the best quality you can afford every step of the way so you aren’t wasting money upgrading or replacing broken or damaged items in the future.
Below is my list of kitchen essentials. As you refer to this list, consider what you want to start cooking and prioritize what you feel you really need to get started and grow from there. I created categories and ranked items within each category in what I consider to be most beneficial to have on hand in your kitchen.
Pots & Pans:
I hope you find this list to be a useful reference. Let me know in the comments what kitchen tool you can't be without.
Cooking offers us many lessons and the beauty of plant based cooking is when a recipe doesn't turn out like we envisioned, we can almost always save or repurpose it.
Saturday, I was teaching my Plant Based Cooking class at Urban Yoga Chicago and I was so excited to share my breakfast recipes with the group. The day before I finally perfected my Banana Walnut Pancake recipe and was looking forward to preparing it with the class. Things seemed to be running smoothly until we got to the pancakes.... When I made the batter in the Vitamix, it was quite thin but I thought it would thicken up as it usually does when it sits, it didn't. I wasn't sure what the problem was because it had been quite consistent when I made it at home. Perhaps doubling the recipe threw it out of balance?
We forged ahead and fired up the cast iron skillet (same type of pan I use at home) and drizzled it with coconut oil, but when I poured the batter into the pan it seemed to take an extra long time to begin to cook - I wasn't seeing the bubbles popping. Hm.... As this was happening, I realized we don't have a spatula aka pancake turner at UYC 😳. I was hopeful I could make it work, but I quickly saw that all I was creating was a pancake mess. I tasted the deformed blob in the pan and it tasted so good! It was banana-ey and sweet, I wasn't ready to give up. Thinking quickly, I turned on the oven to 350˚ and pulled out a baking sheet, lined it with parchment paper and poured the batter into the center creating a large pancake. We topped it with chopped walnuts and into the oven it went. I crossed my fingers for something edible come out of this.
What emerged twenty minutes later was such a treat! A big pancake that we cut into wedges and topped with coconut oil and maple syrup. The taste and texture were right on. It was simple to make - no standing over the stove, no smoking oil (coconut oil always smokes for me when I'm making pancakes, does this happen to you?), no trying to keep the already made pancakes hot and if you prefer less oil - these had far less oil since they baked on a dry baking sheet which also made clean up a breeze.
Through remaining calm and considering the options, we were able to transform a disaster into a delight. On a personal level, this was an opportunity for me to connect into my breath, remain calm and set my ego aside knowing even as a teacher, I don't have to be perfect with all that I do and there are valuable lessons to be learned even when things don't go the way we planned.
I am an animal loving-Vegan runner, I practice and teach Kundalini Yoga and I love to cook and eat flavorful plant-based food.