Leave Room for Growth

A couple years ago when I parted ways with my longtime corporate career, I had a huge amount of new found space in my life. Not only was my calendar clear, so was my head, my ego and my agenda. I literally had no plans or aspirations and it was a scary feeling. Thankfully, it was beautiful fall weather and I decided to create a new perennial bed in my front lawn.

A lone, scraggly lilac bush stood in the area by the curving walkway to the front door. I began fervently digging up clumps of crab-grass in order to make room for new plants. I didn’t plan or design the space, I just wanted to be busy and not focus on getting my life in order. The garden became a metaphor for where I was at the time; unplanned, uprooted, and not sure what was going to take hold or even blossom.

I moved perennials from my backyard to this new space as well as buying some bargain bin plants at the local nursery. I hastily shoved root balls into the hard ground and shoveled dirt on top, ready for the garden to be up and blooming soon. I needed some type of movement in my life, I was counting on these plants.

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Fall turned into winter and the plants began to die back for the season. The space now just looked like a big patch of ugly lawn that someone had haphazardly taken a shovel to. The weather eventually killed any sign of green and I began to regret what I had done. I didn’t think it would ever recover.

The following season, to my surprise, most of the perennials came back. Not big and strong like I had envisioned, but they survived. I enjoyed a couple coneflowers and my little rosebush gave out more blossoms in it’s new home than before. Again in the fall, I covered the new bed with dried leaves and let it rest while I went about my business of still trying to figure out my life.

This spring, just as things in my life are really beginning to take root and put forth lots of new growth, so is my garden! The little lilac is now a sweet smelling large shrub, the yellow rose has about 100 buds on it, and the other perennials are thick and lush! Everything has filled in so nicely and evenly, it’s hard to believe this was once a bare plot of land I had created out of nothing.

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It reminds me that when things seem slow or empty to not be in such a big hurry to fill them up. To not cram our schedules full of appointments so we leave no room for spontaneity. To leave space and room for things to happen naturally, in their own time, without being crowded out by our own plans.

Banana Nut Protein Bars

Have I told you how much I love “Oh She Glows”? So many great recipes, food photos, and info about vegetarian and vegan cooking. I’m constantly bookmarking recipes to try. Here is one that I found on Pinterest and made this afternoon. I was able to use some ingredients that I normally don’t have, like chia seeds and chocolate chips. Chia seeds are super high in Omega 3 fatty acids and considered a superfood. For being so tiny they are full of minerals and fiber. Toss them in oatmeal, smoothies, and use as a thickener for recipes that call for eggs.

Ingredients for Banana Nut Protein Bars ala “Oh She Glows”

1/2 cup ground buckwheat, 2/3 cup whole oats, 2 tblspn chia seeds, 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/2 cup walnuts, cinnamon, 2 ripe mashed bananas, 1/2 cup brown rice syrup, vanilla, 1/2 peanut butter, chocolate chips. Pretty much all of my favorite things!!

Banana Nut protein bars

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Use your blender to blend buckwheat to a fine powder.

oats, coconut, chia seeds

Stir in good quality chocolate chips. I didn’t measure, I just scooped some in. My boyfriend was nice enough to buy me the fancy shmancy organic pure dark chocolate chips from the whole foods bins. These for me are a luxury, not the norm.

dark chocolate chip banana protein bars

In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients. I used one and a half large bananas and salted peanut butter. And of course my pure dark vanilla from Mexico that literally smells like heaven!

brown rice syrup, bananas

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix well. It will be thick and sticky and pretty fun.

the money shot

Pour (or glob) into an 8 inch greased baking pan and press down with fork.

beautiful sticky oats and chia and banana

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until edges are golden.

Banana chocolate chip protein bars

These are SO yummy when eaten straight out of the oven!

Banana chocolate protein bars

The chocolate and chia make them gooey and soft and the nuts and peanut butter give them a substantial texture. Check out my other “oh she glows” recipe post here.

Who else is addicted to Pinterest? I LOVE it!

Weekly Nosh-Up

Happy Spring! I am enjoying the green grass and wild violets that have taken over my backyard and it’s been warm enough to go barefoot, which is my favorite thing in the world!

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I had an interesting food week this week with lots of mini-meals and cravings for green vegetables and comfort food. I guess I was in need of all of it. I enjoyed warm steel cut oats in the mornings as it was still a little chilly here and I know when summer arrives I won’t want hot cereal much. But I also made overnight oats a few times with my new dried goji berries and raw pumpkin seeds. Goji berries are considered one of the superfoods because of all the nutrients and antioxidants in them. They have a slight tartness so they are good in recipes. See a list of more raw superfoods from David Wolfe here.

goji berries in oatmeal

I was also craving greens so I bought: Broccoli, shredded broccoli and carrots, baby bok-choy, kale, and brussel sprouts. I ate the kale and bok choy in coconut oil as usual and I roasted the B.Sprouts with a drizzle of olive oil and topped with slivered almonds. I noshed on them all week, hot and cold.

brussel sprouts w/sliced almonds

For the sweets I was craving, I swirled frozen berries, banana, honey, cinnamon and walnuts into some plain greek yogurt. This has become a daily ritual for me. I want to try shredded coconut in it soon.

berry yogurt swirl

I found some cara cara oranges and bought a huge bag as they are in season right now and won’t be back again until next year. These taste like CANDY to me, they are so hydrating too. I think the extra vitamin C has kept me from getting sick all year while most everyone else I meet has suffered colds or flu.

cara cara orange

Earlier in the week I attended a vegetarian dinner at a local university and got a lot of good ideas I want to try at home. I spent most of the meal trying to figure out the ingredients of what I was eating.

I also visited a new juice bar in my neighborhood (Finally!) called The Urban Juicer

The Urban Juicer

and had a yummy raw cacao powder smoothie. Cacao is another superfood so I guess I’ve had a Super week!!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Nut Muffins

The grey day this weekend inspired me to bake as it always does. It’s funny how weather can affect what we feel like cooking. I also wanted a chance to try brown rice flour which I had just purchased for the first time. I normally bake with whole wheat flour but am branching out to some of the other great flours available like brown rice, almond, and oat flour (which is easily made by blending whole oats in a blender until fine).

I had some pumpkin in the freezer that needed to be used as well so I came up with these nutty, healthy muffins made with honey and unsweetened apple sauce.

brown rice flour muffins

Combine 2 cups brown rice flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder.

In separate bowl combine 2 eggs, 1/2 cup honey, 1 cup mashed pumpkin, 2 cups unsweetened apple sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil (or avocado, coconut).

pumpkin muffins batter

Add generous sprinkle (about a teaspoon or more) of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of all-spice

spiced pumpkin muffins

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. Stir in any or all of the following:

Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Shredded Coconut, Raisins. I used all but the coconut, I just thought of that one!

nuts and seeds

Pour into muffin tin and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

healthy pumpkin muffins

These muffins have a lot of liquid ingredients  so be sure and bake thoroughly, use a toothpick to check. Some of mine came out a little too “doughy” for my liking because I didn’t leave them in long enough. Patience has always been my weak spot.

These are SO good!!! Moist, chewy, full of flavor and texture. Plus NO white flour or white sugar (of course!)

I spread mine with almond butter while still warm!

pumpkin nut muffins

Vegan Yoga Bowl

Julia Childs once said “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients” I love that!!! That is my exact philosophy in the kitchen. The ingredients are truly what make the meal special. The fresher, and more REAL the ingredients are, the better the dish will taste and nourish your body.

Tonight after yoga I was craving something super healthy. It’s funny how when we take care of our bodies, our tastes begin to change to crave more nutritious foods and less processed junk. I had been to the grocery earlier and stocked up on lots of good produce, legumes, nuts and greens. I was starving and wanted it ALL!!! Solution: meal in a bowl.

I roasted cauliflower in a 375 oven for 25 minutes after drizzling with olive oil

roasted cauliflower

I simmered red lentils in water for 20 minutes on low heat with garlic, cumin, curry, red pepper flakes and turmeric .

red lentils

Kale was sauteed in coconut oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon as usual

sauteed kale

I cooked quinoa while the lentils simmered and sprinkled it heavily with nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor and creamy texture.

After everything was cooked, I began layering ingredients  into a bowl, starting with small pieces of cauliflower:

1. Cauliflower

1. Roasted Cauliflower

2. Red Lentils

2. Curried Red Lentils

3. "Cheesy" Quinoa

3. “Cheesy” Quinoa

4. Kale and Almonds

4. Kale and Almonds

A lot like the buddha bowl  I made last month but without the tempeh.  Simple and nourishing.

The best part of it was holding it in my lap as I watched an old show on hulu while sitting on my futon. Definitely not typical, but a perfect friday night for me!

Weekly Nosh-Up

This week has been heavy on the vegetables for me as usual. I experimented with a couple of things I hadn’t had in awhile, like beet greens, and also stuck with my favorites like kale and carrots for juicing. I try to incorporate as much variety into my diet as possible in order to maximize the nutrient intake. Plus I love all the different colors and flavors! The farmer’s market is scheduled to open soon and I cannot wait for local produce!

I haven’t had bok choy in awhile and found these cute babies at TJ’s.

baby bok choy

I sauteed them in coconut oil with minced fresh ginger.

Roasting asparagus alongside broccoli was a good idea too. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil and place in 350 oven for 15 minutes, or until color begins to darken slightly.

roasted asparagus

Over the weekend I prepared steamed salmon wrapped in foil packets. I sprinkled dill, chili powder, cumin, and lemon on top of the fillets and let them marinate before baking at 350 for 25 minutes. They always come out so moist and flaky this way.

baking salmon

Of course I had plenty of my juice from the Supreme Juicerator. My favorite is Beet/Carrot/Ginger/Celery with a big squeeze of lemon. This is a good morning snack if I’m teaching an early yoga class. That way I get some instant energy without my body having to digest a bunch of heavy food.

beet juice

My favorite meal of the week was this tempeh and broccoli rapini and steamed beet greens with tahini sauce served over brown rice. Read more about how to prepare tempeh here. It’s so filling and fun to eat because of all the different textures. Plus I’m in love with tahini on just about everything- including cookies.

tempeh with tahini

In other good news- I had my 10th post published on Mind/Body/Green!! Check it out Here. And also if you haven’t signed up for my monthly newsletter please check it out in right side column- they are short, sweet, and pretty!

5 Ways to prepare for Spring

Preparing my body for spring is my favorite thing to do! It’s all about renewing, shedding excess layers, and creating space for new growth. All of that is exciting as we get to lay the groundwork now for the rest of the seasons. The foods we eat, how we exercise, and how we care for our health is all affected by the changing seasons. Spring is a transition from the restfulness of winter into the vibrant growth of summer.

1. Add in more sun-reaching, tender vegetables to your diet. Think of plants that reach up, as opposed to the rooted winter veggies like potatoes and carrots. Baby kale, bok-choy, collards, asparagus are all good options to start off the salad season. Eating raw plants is literally feeding your body ‘life force’- all of the nutrients and cells of the plant go directly into your system and fill you with life energy.

Baby red kale and bokchoy

Baby red kale and bokchoy

2. Begin to awaken with the earlier rising sun. The now active birds can certainly help with this. All of nature works with the natural cycles of daylight except for humans. We force artificial light when it is dark outside and change our clocks so that our natural circadian rhythm no longer functions as it should. Try to see how it feels to rise closer with the timing of the sun.

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3. Incorporate more twists into your yoga practice. It’s time to “wring out the dishrag” as I like to say in class. Squeezing and compressing the internal organs allows freshly oxygenated blood to flow to them and to release stagnant energy, creating spaciousness.

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4. Purge! Your clothes closet, your kitchen cabinets and even your bookshelf. Go through and discard items that are weighing you down physically or emotionally. They call it “spring cleaning” for a reason. Take it literally this year and really make some space in your life to make room for the new!

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5. Eat less. Yes, I said it. We no longer need the extra calories that were once used to keep us warm during the long winter months. It is time to lighten up and that means less food at each meal. I feel best when I eat several small meals spread throughout the day and keep my later meals small.

SImple kale salad with carrots, pumpkin seeds, raisins and balsamic vinegar

SImple kale salad with carrots, pumpkin seeds, raisins and balsamic vinegar

How do you prepare for spring?