Deliciousness

Yesterday at the yoga studio, Bikram Yoga Durham, Clarissa from Full Lotus Juice Bar (on 9th street located inside the Blue Corn Cafe). We had a delicious lunch which consisted of raw seaweed noodles with a delicious spicy sauce over a bed of greens, and of course green juice! I know raw seaweed noodles sounds gross/weird/what-the-hell-is-that, but I learned that I really loved them! I thought I’d share some things I found very helpful and good insight into healthier eating. Mind you, I am a meat eater, but I love to juice and love smoothies, and loveeeee salads.

1. She described primary nutrition as your relationships with yourself & others, your spirituality, your mental state of mind, and your interaction with the community in which you live and work. Secondary nutrition is the food we CHOOSE to eat. I like how she said what we choose to eat.

2. She stressed bioindividuality. I love this about her and her teaching. She said being vegan isn’t for everyone. Being vegetarian isn’t for everyone. Eating meat isn’t for everyone. Everyone has different needs, and we should respect each others needs but support those needs as well. I love that word = bioindividuality. She gave the example, if you make something that is raw/vegan/gluten free/dairy free you don’t have to be like OMG THIS IS RAW VEGAN AND SO GOOOOOOD EAT SOME NOW. Instead, you can just sit the dish on a table if you are at a party and walk away, or if you’re with just one other person you can be like, “wow this is really good, wanna try?”

3. She works with more unhealthy vegans and vegetarians than meat-eaters because they may not be getting enough fat or protein, and also because they may eat more packaged/processed food which is high in sodium. Sometimes vegans/vegetarians run out of ideas with things to make so they resort to processed food. In turn, she said just because you’re vegan/vegetarian doesn’t mean you’re healthy.

4. Green juice first thing in the morning. It sets your body up for the day. Juice is so easy for your small intestine to absorb because its already broken down so the stomach doesn’t have to do too much work, the nutrients are just taken up! (My physiology two cents: remember, food breakdown starts in the mouth via mechanical breakdown and amylase, and breakdown continues in the stomach. Absorption only happens in the small intestine, not stomach! After the small intestine, only water absorption takes place,not nutrient absorption).

5. Unless you are terminally ill, you don’t have to drink the juice right after you make it. That is the ideal time, but it is perfectly okay to make juice the night before to have the next day! This was so good for me to hear, because I’m now more inspired to make my juice the night before when I have more time.

6. Cayenne pepper is good to heat the body up and gets rid of toxins. Good for us (my husband and me) because he loves spicy things!

7. Make dietary changes simple, and don’t just jump right in full force. For example, say you want to start juicing. This doesn’t mean you have to replace solid food for breakfast with a juice. This is what I tried to do when I first started juicing a year ago and I fell off the bandwagon real fast. One day I may be able to replace breakfast with a juice, but I learned that its okay to just start with baby steps! It’s better to do that anyway rather than jump in with both feet, than get burnt out. Or a different example, say you want to go vegan. You don’t have to be 100% right off the bat. She said its a process, not perfection.

8. If you’re hungry, it’s too late. Meaning, figure out the times of day you start to get hungry, and actually eat 30-40 minutes before that. Once you are hungry, your body has already started to go into starvation mode and then you begin storing energy/fat because your body doesn’t know when you’ll eat next. This reminds me what my mom always said: preventative eating!

9. Someone asked the question, but when I juice I feel hungry. Clarissa said well that’s fine! Remember the word bioindividuality? Everyone has different needs. If you are hungry, then just eat something with your juice. Whew this made me feel better. Eventually, she describes, your body will not be so hungry but this could take a little time or a long time. Basically listening to your body (same lesson you learn in yoga!)

10. The way you eat can be seasonal and dependent on your environment/situation. She said its okay not to setup rigid boundaries because there’s no reason to be hard on yourself if you ate something “you’re not supposed to”. She said its better to eat rather than let yourself go hungry! This was a good lesson for me because sometimes when I’m running around like I do these days, I don’t want to eat “bad” so I just don’t eat at all until I can finally get home. But then my head hurts, I’m cranky, blah blah blah. Clarissa explained that from now until about September she is 99% raw and then for the fall/winter she eats cooked foods because that’s what her boy needs! So it’s important to recognize what you need, rather than deprive yourself.

11. Someone asked, how do I know when I’m just craving something or my body needs it. Whoa good question! Everyone has to make that decision for themselves. Your primary nutrition may be lacking, too, which could cause these cravings. Sounds correct right, we eat things that aren’t so good for us when we feel bad or are stressed, but sometimes we say “oh I was craving it”. But the point is too to not feel guilty about it. Your human, and your mind gets in the way – just like standing head to knee! Always a work in progress.

And as the lovely Mary Jarvis says, you’re on your way.

My favorite smoothie, especially in the morning before I teach or practice:
1 banana
1 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon honey
Lots of cinnamon
1 cup ice

My favorite green juice, so good for rehydration after a bikram class:
Handful kale
1 cucumber
1 apple
1 celery rib
Handful romaine
Handful parsley
Half lemon

Can add chia seeds to either!

PS: I put an avocado INCLUDING THE SEED in the vitamix this morning for a smoothie. I was amazed it chopped up the whole thing! Best invention ever.

Happy yoga-ing, juicing and smoothie-ing!

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apres yoga salad

i eat a lot of salad. sometimes i just crave raw greens. i’ve always been salad-obsessed since i was little. my aunt sharon says the reason i like salads was because when i was little she told me if i ate them i’d be skinny (did she lie to me?). my mom says this isn’t why i like salads, but because my nonna (italian grandma) always made the best salads and i always ate her salads at her house and when we went out to eat. who knows, all i know is i like salads. all kinds, too! fruit salads, green salads, bean salads, whatevs.

often times i crave salads after i practice. this morning someone asked me after class what i recommend eating AFTER class. i was like what? normally people ask what to eat BEFORE class. anyway, i don’t even remember what i told her or suggested.  but then it made me wonder what DO i eat after class – normally salads! i admit sometimes it’s a burger, or ….. bojangles, LOL, but that’s just from time to time. hey – your body will crave what it needs! for sure learned that at teacher training.

i taught 2 classes this morning, then i took one class this afternoon. lots of time in the torture chamber! i came home and i immediately went for the cannellini beans. i thought i’d share this favorite after-yoga salad. it seems to have all the essentials: leafy greens, salt from capers, and protein from the beans. nothing is to measure, just add the following:

  • cannellini beans
  • arugula
  • tomatoes 
  • raw garlic (the more the better!)
  • capers (or your favorite pickled asparagus, from uncle RJ – do you have one of those?)
  • olive oil
  • pepper

it’s the simple things in life.

ps – my inspiration for this favorite is from Sosta’s in downtown Raleigh. check ’em out. little French/Italian cafe. 

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strawburrry shortcake

yikes! it’s been awhile. life got in the way. but obviously not in the way of eating delicious things, just in the way of writing them all down! i like how this blog sorta-kinda holds me accountable for writing down my ideas. be it food ideas or yoga ideas. always nice to keep a record of the monkey mind & creations!

i got really frustrated with vegan/non-dairy deserts. every time my husband and i tried to make something, it turned out horrible! not to mention the ingredients are expensive, so you spend lots of mula (no money, no honey) on these fancy things, only to let the dessert vacate to the TRASH CAN. i came up with the brilliant idea to try something that is already dairy-free to begin with. i don’t know why i didn’t think of this sooner.

my creation was angel food cake with strawberries. since there is like NO non-dairy whipped cream, nor is there a good way to make this, i went with a dairy-free pastry cream. i topped the cake with some home-spun powdered sugar, via the vitamix.

*side note: we’ve tried using dextrose, coconut cream, soy cream, and tofu to create some sort of whipped cream-like concoction, only to visit our lovely  $5.99 trashcan.also, now that strawberries are about to be in season, this recipe will be perfect!

nice and light! this will be perfect on the porch in summer time with a glass of chilled pinot grigio.

nice and light! this will be perfect on the porch in summer time with a glass of chilled pinot grigio.

ANGEL FOOD CAKE:

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 12 egg whites (room temp!)
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F
  2. in a food processor spin sugar about 2 min until it’s super fine
  3. sift half the sugar with the salt and the cake flour and set remaining sugar aside
  4. whisk together egg whites, water, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar. after about a minute switch to a hand mixer.
  5. add the reserved sugar and beat at medium speed
  6. you are looking for peaks to form. this can take about 10-20 minutes, and it varies on how close to room temp your eggs were.
  7. once you get the peaks (be patient!) add some of the flour mix to dust the top of the foam you just created. fold in with spatula. repeat until all is incorporated.
  8. add the mixture to (2) 8′ round pans. no grease required, please!
  9. bake for about 40 minutes, but check before you take it out.
  10. cool upside down for about an hour or two. you don’t want to rush the cooling down, and it must be upside down so that the cake won’t collapse on itself.
this is what it starts to look like once the peaks begin to form. this could use another minute or so under the beater.

this is what it starts to look like once the peaks begin to form. this could use another minute or so under the beater.

PASTRY CREAM 

*NOTE: this cream can be used for ANYTHING your mind can dream up.

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp butter/butter alternative
  1. in a saucepan, whisk egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt
  2. whisk in milk
  3. cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until mixture is thickened. should take a couple minutes.
  4. remove mixture and whisk in vanilla, butter until mixture is melted and smooth.
  5. pour the mixture into medium bowl, cover, let cool in refrigerator for about 2 hours.
pastry cream about to go into the fridge to cool! nice a smooth (comfortable, easy and flexible).

pastry cream about to go into the fridge to cool! nice a smooth (comfortable, easy and flexible).

 

to assemble: gently take the angel food cakes out of pans. put one cake flat on a plate. the nice thing about angel food cake is you don’t have to cut the bottom to make a flat edge when you are stacking layers! gently add the cooled pastry cream. you’ll notice the cream has gotten pretty thick. you don’t want to make it too heavy on the angel food cake or else it will collapse. so just be mindful about adding the cream in the middle. layer the top layer on. add sliced strawberries and powdered sugar if desired! Mange!

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do you like indian chai? i do

i’ve been to india twice. both for volunteer purposes. i love a million things about india, and i can’t wait to go back soon. the thing i miss the most, is the chai. I LOVE CHAI. aka tea. chai means tea, so when you say “chai tea” it’s like tea tea. kind of like the “Sahara desert” – just means desert desert.

the second time i was in india, i was living at a house where all the volunteers lived. there were 3 indian women that lived there. they cooked, taught us hindi, watched bollywood movies with us, and made us CHAI! so in india, every where you go it’s a hospitality gesture to give you chai. fine by me because that shit is good.

i loved the chai so much, i asked one of the ladies to teach me how to make it. so for a week she made me help her make the chai every afternoon [they like to drink chai in the afternoon just for a pick me up]. it seemed so easy, and even though i made it several times and wrote it down, i still can’t do it! loose tea levels, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger if you are cold [those were her specific instructions, only add ginger if you’re cold], hot water, sugar and milk. she of course didn’t use measurements, but she knew just exactly how much to use. perfecto.

i even bought tea masala in india. tea masala is just a mixture of tea leaves and all the spices so you can just add water and milk and sugar and voila. nope even that didn’t taste right. i tried adding in everything separately. nope that didn’t work. over the years i’ve tried to make it probably a hundred times. and to get rid of the loose tea leaves? i used a coffee filter. then i tried to use a spaghetti strainer. oy. this was quite the process. why did she make it look so easy? i even helped her! what was wrong with me? when i went to ethiopia TWO YEARS LATER i bought a tea strainer from a man on the side of a dirty street for 3 Birr, which is like 18 cents. i was like aaahaaa! this will make my indian chai just the way i need it. no, that didn’t work either.

something clicked in the ol’ nogin (thank you yoga), and i got it down. follow here if you want a delicious pick-me-up and you want to taste india (no don’t do that, that makes me think of licking the extremely dirty street in new delhi which is filled with paper, trash, food scrapes, and human p…. don’t need to say more).

 

CHAI

  1. boil water
  2. put water in cup, leaving a tiny bit of room
  3. add a teaspoon of honey. the honey melts off the spoon. this is my favorite part of the process.
  4. add tea bag.
  5. add 4 green cardamom seeds. this can be found at any indian grocery store. they are the cheapest from here! other stores will charge and arm and leg. not necessary.
  6. add other spices if you want – cinnamon, ginger, cloves. i only add these if i am feeling fancy.
  7. strain tea bag.
  8. add a little bit of soy creamer.  i usually just add as much until the color is the way i want

*side note: a Kate Spade tea cup will also make your chai taste even better.

ENJOY!

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tea before milk. add honey, cardamom, tea before milk. i like everything to get all nice and juicy before you add the soy creamer.

 

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the soy creamer is like the icing on the cake. in india they use whole milk, that they don’t refrigerate. but this is ‘merica and i don’t eat dairy, so cold soy creamer does the trick.

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the story of: mysterious goats dairy, homemade pizza dough and baked ziti

trying to limit dairy is extremely hard! My GI told me about a year ago that I can have other animals milk, just not cows milk. Some people who have a dairy allergy can still eat the milk fat (like sour cream, cream cheese, heavy cream, etc) because there is only trace amounts of milk protein casein.  And then there are some who are allergic to dairy and they are allergic to ALL dairy – cow, sheep, goat, buffalo, whatever! My GI told me to avoid ALL cows milk products, so I have found satisfaction in a lot of goat products such as:

  • yogurt
  • cream cheese
  • brie & other forms of goat cheese like chevre, crumbles, slices (!!)

and soy dairy products such as:

  • creamer (for coffee/tee)
  • milk
  • cream cheese
  • sour cream
  • ricotta
  • shredded “cheese”

This dairy allergy thing is quite confounding. There are 3 different allergic reactions: digestive, respiratory, and dermal.  You either vomit/diarrhea, can’t breathe, or get hives – or a combination of all these.  I imagine that depending on how your body responds to the hypersensitivity reactions might make the allergy a little different for you.  I have also read that ALL milk from mammals (only mammals produce milk, anyway, but this isn’t regarding “milk” from cashews, almonds, soy, etc), contains casein and lactose.  Casein is the protein in milk and is what is thought to be the allergen in dairy products.  Furthermore, casein and lactose are found in different ratios among mammalian taxa. There are also different protein and sugar variants within a specific mammalian classes, which may make an individual allergic to the dairy product from a specific animal.  All of these differences and varieties among mammalian dairy add complexity to uncovering who is allergic and what specifically they are allergic too.  Clinically, it’s not of interest to uncover how or why you are allergic – if you develop a hypersensitivity reaction to dairy then JUST DON’T EAT IT!  To me it is just fascinating the varying degrees of hypersensitivity to dairy.  Interestingly I read from UC Davis that the casein found in goats dairy is the same amino acid sequence, but they are structurally very different. If you’ve taken any molecular biology/or organic chemistry class you can appreciate the fact that STRUCTURE = FUNCTION! That’s a common theme of biology/chemistry.

*quick note on proteins to further understand proteins on molecular level:

Proteins (such as casein) are made from amino acids (such as histidine, lysine, valine, etc), and amino acids are produced from genes, or more specifically, codons coded in mRNA.

Central Dogma of Biology: DNA –(transcription)–> mRNA –(translation)–> protein

Once protein is translated, it must be folded before it’s active.  There are four classifications for protein folding.  Primary is the amino acid sequence.  Secondary is the folding of that sequence into helices or sheets.  Tertiary is the sheets or helices folding on each other. and Quaternary is tertiary structures interacting with each other.  Not all proteins undergo Quaternary folding; an example of  this level of folding is seen in hemoglobin.

So potentially among these 3 or 4 stages of folding, there can be many structural differences that arise.

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Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and is what carries oxygen to tissues and carbon dioxide away from tissues
Image found from http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/H/hemoglobin.html

I mentioned all that, because once you can understand whats happening on the small scale, it’s easier to understand why there may be a difference between proteins among different species.  Specifically, if the casein in goats milk and casein in cows milk have a very similar amino acid sequence, but they are structural different (ie folded differently), they will most certainly have different functions and different effects as an allergen.

References & Further Reading:

I’m half Italian, so I grew up eating cheese.  When I was about 16 is when I started developing issues with it.  So it’s SO HARD to not eat cheese especially when I go home for dinner!  For the sake of my intestinal tract (as well as being less mucous-y and less breakouts, oh the benefits of no dairy) I try to go for vegan dairy options when I can.  Sometimes vegan cheese options just don’t cut it for me, so I will try to find other mammalian alternatives.  I’ve already stated a lot about goat but I do enjoy mozzarella from buffalo and Pecorino Romano which is from sheep.  I have two recipes we made up this week.  1) pizza made with vegan mozzarella, and 2) baked ziti made with Pecorino Romano, vegan ricotta, and buffalo mozzarella. 

  • Vegan Mozzarella found at Trader Joes.
  • Vegan Ricotta is made by Tofutti and found at Whole Foods
  • Buffalo Mozzarella can be found at an Italian grocery store, Trader Joes, and sometimes Whole Foods.
  • Pecorino Romano can be found just about every where! Just read the label to make sure it is not mixed with any other part of cows milk.

I have to say, if I have the choice between vegan mozzarella and buffalo mozzarella, could you guess which I’d choose? The choice is obviously buffalo.

Any of these recipes you can substitute for “real” cheese or whatever you want.  The possibilities are endless with different types of cheeses! I hope to provide some ideas for you to make your dishes vegan, cows milk free, or go all for it and use cows dairy!

PIZZA!

dough should be made about a day before use.  recipe makes (3) 12” pizzas.

  • 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  1. add flour, sea salt, yeast to bowl and whisk.
  2. slowly stir in water and mix gently until in a big ball (you can use your hands)
  3. transfer ball of dough to a clean bowl, cover with Saran wrap and let sit for about a day.  you will see little bubbles coming up, and dough will rise.
  4. once dough is done, separate into 3 equal balls.  Use all 3 right away, or pack what you don’t want into individual zip lock bags and refrigerate or freeze.
  5. to use the dough right then, flour the counter and use your hands to shape dough into 10-12” pizza.  Diameter differs based on how thick you like your pizza.

our pizza was made with the following vegetables & soprasata and no tomato sauce, but you can add whatever you like!

  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 “a thing” of Soppressata  (lol I don’t know what you call it that it comes in… a roll?)
  • 1 cup Trader Joes vegan mozzarella
  1. spread a little bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on dough
  2. add toppings then add vegan cheese on top
  3. preheat oven to 500 degF, put pizza on baking sheet, bake for 10 min. VIOLA!
vegan mozzarella.  big question - does it melt?!

vegan mozzarella. big question – does it melt?!

pizza

and the answer is ………… YES! yes it does!

BAKED ZITI!

Recipe from my dad, with my substitution of Tofutti Ricotta cheese.  Makes several servings in an 8″x8″ square dish.

  • 1 lb cooked ziti
  • 1/2 lb Tofutti Ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
  • 1 quart sauce (make your own via my recipe in different post, or use my families 825 Main! delish)
  • 8 oz Buffalo Mozzarella
  1. Mix first 4 ingredients together
  2. Put 8 oz of sauce on bottom of pan, pour ziti mix on top, top the ziti mix with remainder sauce.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degF, bake ziti loosely covered with foil for 45 mins.
  4. After 45 mins, take off foil, add mozzarella, and cook for mozzarella to your liking.  Usually about 10-15 mins more.
Once I started getting everything together, I realized I had very little ziti, so I mixed ziti, farfalle and gemelli.  My 3 favorite pastas so I liked it!

Once I started getting everything together, I realized I had very little ziti, so I mixed ziti, farfalle and gemelli. My 3 favorite pastas so I liked it!

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intention

Intention is everything. I know you’ve heard that before, but I really mean it.  Just think of it, and it will happen!

I really believe that when you set a mental goal for yourself, subconsciously you will do what needs to be done to achieve that goal. Even if you aren’t thinking about it every second of every day, you are still somehow working towards it.  That’s why I think you get benefits by just THINKING about yourself in a posture. Thinking about your leg kicking out in standing head to knee.  Thinking about getting your body higher off the floor in the air in full locust pose.  Thinking about getting your leg wrapped around in eagle.  In standing head to knee, you will think about what it’s going to take to get your leg kicked out and to stay there.  Then the next time you come to class, you will try what you thought about.  You don’t have to think deeply about it, just think of it from time to time.  In full locust pose, you can think about how much body you have on the floor, and think about what you can do to get a hairs width more off the floor.  You don’t have to do anything crazy, maybe just contract this muscle or that muscle a little more.  Try it out and see.

The posture is a continuum.  There’s no definite posture. The posture is the entry, the falling out, the exit, the vision you have for yourself, the space that is not the posture (good one, eh?), and the posture that is your deepest FOR YOU FOR THAT DAY FOR THAT MOMENT IN TIME.  Trying the right way is the posture. Everything is the posture.

Using mental determination is how I got my leg wrapped in eagle.  My foot was far far farrrrr away from my calf muscle (like in Never Ever Land).  Pretty convinced it would never get wrapped.  The thing is, I was right.  It was never going to get wrapped, because that is how I thought about the posture.  I never made very much improvement because I always settled on having an un-wrapped leg in that posture.

That is how I mentally SAW the posture for myself.  In the posture I’d think “my thighs are too fat, my knees are too tight, and my stomach looks so smooshed in this posture I don’t even want to look at it in the mirror.  Whatever I’m never going to get this. And also, I hate the next posture, too (standing head to knee). Don’t worry, Christina, it will be over soon.”

When I went to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, my view of MYSELF in this posture changed.  I attribute this to Emmy Cleaves.  If you practice Bikram Yoga, I highly encourage you to take a special trip to Los Angeles solely to take her class.  There is no single word to describe how wonderful she is.  She is a tough cookie, but you will get exactly what you need from her.  Not what you want, what you need.  Anyways, she told me specifically; “use your hands in eagle posture to get that leg behind your calf muscle, or you’re going to stand there for 20 years like a dummy and nothing is going to happen!”  I took her advice, and 3 weeks later, I wrapped my leg.  Granted I was doing doubles at the time, but I did it.  She put it in perspective to me that I can wrap my leg.  She gave me a two tools how to achieve that. 1) she gave me a physical piece of advice on how to do it, and 2) she set that intention in my mind, made me mentally SEE that for myself.  Within those 3 weeks I started having DREAMS (subconsciously thinking about it!) about wrapping my leg in eagle.  One time, not kidding, I had a dream I was standing in a grassy, flower-filled field in MY perfect eagle posture and someone playing a harp in the background. LOL I know dreams at TT are weird.  I also started having dreams I could sit in lotus.  I tried it one day, and I did it!

Intention is everything.

I started having dreams about being in full camel, and I am SO excited! You could imagine why 🙂

“If you’re thinking about it, you’re doing it”

I often say (in wind removing pose, to be exact) – if you think it (touching your knee to your shoulder) can’t happen, then you’re probably right.  If you think in will happen then use your extra bicep strength to pull down harder! 1) thinking about it, 2) doing what you need to do to DO IT!

Don’t give up on yourself (I say that a lot too, lol).  Seriously.  Just think about it.  As Mary Jarvis says, “you’re on your way.”

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Eagle Pose – took 2 years to get my right leg wrapped. Still working on my left! It’s a start. Always room for improvement.

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eggplant yum

I love cooking with eggplant because it’s such a meaty vegetable. I have two eggplant recipes for you: “milk” honey eggplant & eggplant parmigiana. You can vegan-ize either recipe.

The “Milk” Honey Eggplant is good for a lunch or light dinner.  Eggplant parmigiana serves as comfort food for me! Note: I give you my tomato sauce recipe – it is not exact. I don’t really follow a recipe for this, just watching my parents make sauce over the years! I just kinda throw things in the pot, using different vegetables or herbs when I feel like it – maybe that’s why majority of my organic chemistry experiments failed in undergrad.  However, I wrote down what I did for this sauce just for you!

Side note: If you want some REALLY good jarred sauce, check out 825 Main Sauce.  I refuse to buy jar sauce in the stores, but this one is made by my family in NY and it’s just as good as fresh sauce!  My aunt and uncle started this business after they closed a family restaurant that had been cooking homemade Italian food for 50 years! Yeah, I trust their tomato sauce 🙂

GOOD VEGAN CHEESE ALERT! Regarding the eggplant parm, I have made a very exciting discovery.  My local Trader Joe’s has now started carrying VEGAN CHEESE!  For awhile I was buying their soy cheese, without reading the label, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t feeling right.  I read the label one day and saw it contains MILK PRODUCTS! What da hell. They advertise soy cheese, but it has milk in it. Makes no sense.  So my husband and I returned all the varieties of “soy cheese” we bought and complained. The next week we went in, and they had purely vegan cheese! I was so excited.  We bought the mozzarella kind, and it is pretty good.  I am not a fan of Daiya cheese.  I don’t know why, I just don’t really like it.  My friend said it looks/taste like mayonnaise  which made me like it even less. But I have found a brand at Whole Foods I like called Galaxy foods in a purple package.

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Vegan Mozzarella from Trader Joes! Feels like Christmas to find a good vegan cheese.

Now for the recipes. I’ll do the easy one first:

“Milk” Honey Eggplant

4 servings

1 eggplants, peeled and sliced

2 c soy milk (enough to cover slices)

honey or agave to drizzle

olive oil

bowl of flour

salt

goat cheese to top, optional

1. soak eggplant in soy milk for 1 hour

2. dredge eggplant in flour

3. put some olive oil in a pan and heat to medium

4. fry a couple of slices of eggplant in olive oil until golden brown. flip.

5. drizzle honey or agave on top

6. sprinkle goat cheese crumbles

7. EAT EAT EAT!

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“Milk” Honey Eggplant. I found these goat cheese crumbles, and I am kind of obsessed with putting them on everything.

Eggplant Parmigiana 

4 servings

1 eggplant, sliced thin

1/2 bag Trader Joes vegan mozzarella

1/2 box Farfalle pasta (or whatever pasta you desire, Farfalle is my personal favorite)

eggwash: 3 egg yolks in a bowl, 1 1/2 c flour in bowl

*to make this recipe vegan, soak eggplant in milk for an hour, then coat with flour like above recipe

sauce: 1 can (24 oz) crushed tomatos, 4 cloves garlic (minced), 1 mushroom (sliced), 1 Tbsp parsley (chopped), 1 tsp dried oregano or herbs de province, Salt and Pepper to taste (you use more salt than you think, but just taste as you go.  Hey, a good cook will taste their food!)

1. Put enough olive oil in the bottom of the pain so you can fry the eggplant.  Less is more.  Heat to medium, no higher or else you will get hot oil splattering.

2. Dip eggplant in egg yolk, coating evenly.  Wipe off any excess egg yolk, then dip in flour, coating evenly.  Put slice in oil.  Usually, you can put 3 slices at a time.  Fry until golden brown and flip, frying each side until perfection.

3. While you are frying slices, make your sauce.  Put some olive oil in the bottom of a big pot on medium heat, and saute minced garlic.  Don’t burn the garlic!

4. Once the garlic is starting to turn golden, dump the whole can of crushed tomatos. Simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Add mushroom, parsley, oregano/herbs de province, S&P.  Lower to low heat, and keep there until ready to use.  Taste from time to time to see if you need to add salt.

6. Sauce is done, eggplant is fried, so put another pot on the stove and boil water.  Once water is boiling, add half the box of Farfalle.

7.  While pasta is cooking, pre-heat oven to 350 degF.

8.  Layer fried eggplant in a baking dish, separating layers with tomato sauce.  Keep some tomato sauce to put onto of Farfalle.

9. Sprinkle Trader Joes vegan mozzarella on top.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

10. Serve eggplant on top of pasta, using remainder sauce to top.

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eggplant is pretty and pretty delicious.

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chocolate & chia

I discovered chia seeds at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training.  My friend introduced me to kombucha, and the kind that I drank was grape flavored with chia seeds.  Besides them being a great source for omega-3 FAs and fiber, they are like candy to me.  They absorb 10x weight when put in a liquid, so they blow up like little jelly beads! How fun.  Because they expand, you will feel full, too. Chia seeds have been deemed the “runners superfood” & some suggest that they can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease & diabetes, but most studies done on chia seeds are animal studies or studies that involve a small amount of human subjects, so there are still areas to research to more thoroughly understand the benefits.

Regardless, they have a high amount of omega-3s and they are yummy.  You can add them to smoothies, on yogurt, in juice, or whatever, really.  I get mine from Trader Joes.  If you want to make them expand before you put them in a drink, I go by this ratio: 1/4 c chia seeds to 1 c liquid. Let it sit for at least 24 hours.

My favorite way to enjoy them is in chocolate soy milk.  I soak 1/4 c chia seeds in 1 c chocolate soy milk and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  It makes chocolate pudding!  Sometimes I will put a spoonful or two in the bottom of a cup and top it off with chocolate soy milk and drink it like that.  I have found this a great snack in between teaching & practicing Bikram yoga classes, or for breakfast if I don’t want to eat too much before class.

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1/4 c chia for 1 c chocolate soy milk (or whatever liquid you desire). Blowing up the chia seeds for chocolate pudding or to add to MORE chocolate soy milk!

 

While on the subject of chocolate, I love it. After being dairy-free, I have had to like dark chocolate.  But you have to be careful, because a lot of dark chocolate still has dairy in it! Wah. If you are having a SERIOUS chocolate craving, I suggest this smoothie: Chocolate Covered Cherry Smoothie.  Might sound too …… I don’t know, gross? Or chocolatey? Or ew, my grandma eats chocolate covered cherries and those gross me out. But no, this is SO good.  You can buy a bag of frozen dark cherries for like $3 at Whole Foods (my local TJ’s doesn’t carry frozen cherries).  It’s kind of like a chocolatey milkshake, but you don’t feel guilty drinking it.  Try it, it’s good.

1 c soy or almond milk

1 c frozen dark cherries

2 Tbsp cocoa powder (I use dark chocolate coca powder)

1 Tbsp honey/agave

1 c ice

1 Tbsp minature chocolate chips to top it off with

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Chocolate Covered Cherry Soy Smoothie

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Yogini and Foodie: Blog facelift!

When I started this blog in Spring of 2012, it was all about yoga. I mean after all, yoga=life.  I practice Bikram yoga 5 days a week, and now I am even teaching it! Yippee!  Along with practicing 5 days a week, I eat 7 days a week – multiple times a day. Weird, I know.  We are all well aware that yoga takes care of your body and mind, but it’s also important to have some sort of mindfulness about what you fuel your body with.

I am not a raw vegan.  I am not a vegan.  I’m not even vegetarian.  I don’t really ever have plans to be because, I love meat.  However, I truly do not judge nor criticize my peers and friends who have choose these lifestyles for them.  I love eggs, I love shrimp cocktail, I love chicken parmigiana (with buffalo milk mozzarella) , I love a nice piece of steak over arugula, walnuts, cranberries and goat cheese.  However, I do NOT love cows milk.  Actually I love it, but my body does not love it.  I came to know at about age 16 that I was allergic to dairy.  Not lactose intolerant, but rather allergic.  Meaning, I really can’t have any part of cows milk (casein, whey, etc).  With this allergy manifestation came trying other types of foods that have no dairy such as Indian food (well my husband is Indian, so I get a two for one win when I eat Indian food), Ethiopian food, and a variety of Asian foods.  The lovely think about living in Raleigh is I can find a lot of these restaurants AND ethnic grocery stores around.  Both my husband and I love to cook, and we love to do so with cow dairy alternatives (but I do enjoy goat, sheep, and buffalo milk products) such as soy, and we love trying new food & local restaurants.  The thing is, I still like to enjoy the occasional fried food (um hello, BOJANGLES!) and I have a serious sweet tooth.  I don’t believe in diets, I believe in making good choices for eating as part of your lifestyle.  I don’t believe you should deprive yourself of something that you really enjoy, but at the same time I believe everything in moderation.

So – with all that being said, my blog will now be all about yoga AND food.  Oh, did I mention I love wine? I know, I lead such an “anti-yogic” lifestyle with drinking wine, eating some sorts of dairy, sweets, occasional fried food, but hey I said everything in moderation!  Life is to be enjoyed.  And yoga = life, food = life, so therefore you should enjoy what you put in your body!

I will blog about teaching Bikram Yoga (which I have yet to do yet, forgive me), practicing, cooking & baking with soy or other dairy alternatives including recipes, smoothies & other vitamix goodies, eating at local restaurants in the Raleigh & Durham, NC area, and survey of non-dairy products (& other grocery store goodies) my husband and I have come to love.

Now I am going to make a salad with soy ranch dressing!  This dressing is better than any non-dairy or dairy ranch I’ve ever tried, seriously.  I don’t lie.  Tonight I am practicing my 561st Bikram Yoga class, and I am teaching my 46th! Wow. “Can you believe it?!”

Recipe: Soy Ranch Dressing via silk.com

1/2 cup Silk original soy milk

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1 cup mayonaise

1/2 tsp dried dill weed

2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 Tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

pinch of Salt & Pepper

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

*Note to vegan friends: Silk.com also has a recipe to make vegan mayonaise if you don’t already have a pre-made product you like.

1. Add lemon juice to soy milk and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Whisk in mayo & all herbs and spices.

3. Refrigerate

“people will love your voice, but they will not love your body.”

Yes. Someone said that to me at training.

Warning: this blog post might make some people angry. It is also quite lengthy.  Enjoy.

Teacher training is DONE!!!! I have been home now for a good week, and I have already taught 5 classes. The end of teacher training seems to be a blur.  Hilary and I left before the graduation ceremony finished, because we had a red eye to catch back to the east coast. We were for sure ready to get out of there! We completed 95 classes in 61 days; what an accomplishment.

I never thought I’d enjoy teaching so much. Wait, maybe I did know that I would love it. I especially love the morning (6am) yoga class because the students are so disciplined, determined, and everyone moves together. It’s really beautiful to watch and lead.

There’s one thing I would like to comment on, and it has been in the back of my head since before coming to training. That is – the amount of girls (and guys, I’m sure) with negative body image.  This makes me so sad.  This yoga is hot, which means female students are usually wearing little shorts and a bra top, and men are wearing either short shorts or a speedo. People who don’t do Bikram yoga think this is weird and usually always make comments, but we know that it is the easiest to stay the “coolest” and also less clothing is easier to move around in.  Since beginning a consistent practice in Jan 2011, I have heard so many times thin girls talk about how fat they are in front of the mirror.  This practice is for sure a self-realization practice – you learn so much about your physical, mental and spiritual self. You standing in front of the mirror for 90 minutes and watch yourself, not once ever closing your eyes.  Bikram often says “not only do you have to suffer for 90 minutes, you have to watch yourself suffer.”  Looking in the mirror can teach you all sorts of things – how strong you are and how confident you are. You can also look in the mirror and start judging yourself (which we all fall victim of) – your love handles, your pimples, your greasy hair (or is that just me?! Lol).  And it’s true, maybe you could spare a few pounds or so.  The practice of Bikram yoga is to think those thoughts and then let them roll out of your head.  The purpose of the practice is to listen to the dialogue and apply the words to your body.  That’s your meditation.  But in reality, many girls come away and think they need to diet and do more yoga because they are “too fat”.

Everyone has heard that “Americans are getting fatter.”  We love fast food, processed food, etc. etc.  However, I think the opposite is true as well.  I think we also love organic food, vegan food, raw food, etc. etc.  I think “Americans are getting more obsessed with their food.”  Yogis (I say yogis because this is the population I’ve observed this the most with) will go on this juice fasts, raw diets, no meat diets, no carb diets, you name it, you got it!  That’s fine, it’s probably healthy to do every so often and also teaches you self control and maybe new habits to adjust on how to eat better for your body.  However, I think the danger is when people obsess over this, and I see that a little too much among the yoga community, particularly at training.  Girls would obsess over what they ate, how much they ate, and if we had a “cold” class, they couldn’t eat as much because they didn’t sweat as much.  I would often see girls at the gym on the treadmill or the elliptical before our 8:30am class.  I even heard of some girls going to a different yoga studio to take a 6am class before our 8:30 am class – meaning, they would do a triple! That’s insane! Our bodies were under so much stress, doing 2 classes a day doesn’t allow for very much recovery.  We all were eating less food just due to our tight schedules and lack of means to make a proper meal, so I know from my experience I certainly wasn’t eating right.  A banana with peanut butter for breakfast, an avocado and tomato for lunch, and a can of soup for dinner is not a well-balanced days’ worth of food, but this was often how I would eat for days at a time.  On top of that, in the late night lectures I would just eat cookies (yay Hilary!) and dark chocolate to try to stay awake.

We were told time after time that the best food, is NO food.  I cannot even imagine what affect this statement would have on someone with body image issues or someone struggling with an eating disorder.  At one point we were told that a good “yogic” breakfast is SIX almonds and a glass of water.  Knowing the group of people there, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them took this to heart.  People were constantly called fat, told “you eat too much food, give some to her (a skinny girl)”, “you have so much body, use it (in a posture)”, “cottage cheese ass, fat stomach”, I could honestly go on.  After hearing all these things for 2 months I am so SICK of coming home and still hearing about people (non-yogis) obsess about their body weight!  I see it on TV, I hear it on the radio, I see it in the mall, etc.  All these diets are out (fad diet, much?!) and all these electronics to monitor what you eat and how active you are – anybody ever think that maybe your body is the way it is because ummm maybe that’s the way you were made?!?!  I’m not talking about a 300 pound person.  I’m talking about a normal size (maybe my definition of normal is not socially acceptable, but whatever).  While at training, I thought – what makes a person FAT?  What makes someone look at someone else and say – hey that person is FAT?  If you get an annual physical and your triglycerides, HDLs, LDLs, blood pressure, heart rate, enzyme levels, etc are all normal but the person is say a size 10, does that make them FAT? Makes no sense to me! If someone is a) healthy by a doctors standards and b) is comfortable in their body, how can another individual declare them to be FAT?

Here’s my perfecto example.  It was about week 7.  We were done with the dialogue but at this point in posture clinic we were stringing 3 postures together.  It was late at night and we had one teacher leading our group, who I will leave unnamed.  I stood up to go – I wanted to do separate leg stretching pose, triangle pose, and separate leg head to knee pose.  I was excited because first of all these are my favorite postures to say and second of all these are my favorite postures to do so they make me enthusiastic! I taught 5 people both sides of all 3 postures, and I was pretty proud of myself.  I think I was the first person in my group to string those 3 postures together, and like I said, I like these postures.  My feedback from my faux-students was all positive, and I was happy they were happy.  I turned to the leader of my group, and he said: great dialogue and great voice. Then he said this very strongly, and I quote it because I remember his words very vividly: “Look me in the eyes, Christina, LOOK AT ME.  People will love your voice but they will not love your body.  Promise me, promise me Christina, that you will lose at least 25 pounds.  Take care of yourself here, but when you get home, it’s time to get serious.”  I know he was expecting me to cry.  I actually wanted to laugh.  I felt that he was SO stupid to tell me this advice, because he doesn’t know me. He actually couldn’t even see my body because I was wearing a shirt and long pants.  I looked at him and said “thank you for your feedback, but I’m very comfortable and confident in my own body, and I think I look just fine.”  His jaw just dropped.

Before I came to training, I found that an old teacher of mine had posted on their twitter account that I was “a lazy, distracting, telletubby” aka – another way to call me fat, and ugly I assume because telletubbies are some of the ugliest made up TV characters I’ve ever seen! While these words are mean, that’s not what upset me. What upset me is that a leader, someone I and many other students look up to, can not only think this about their students but also say it, in hard writing that can be saved, printed, copied and viewed on the internet.  This is upsetting because this only solidifies my thoughts of how warped some of our minds are around body image and food, and subsequently this yoga.  I have judged my body PLENTY enough since before I can even truly remember, there is no need for outsiders to do the same.  I always had the biggest thighs and was the tallest in my dance class, I’ve ALWAYS had love handles, I’ve always had more weight around my waist. ALWAYS. When I say ALWAYS I mean like I remember pinching my love handles on my 5th grade sleep away field trip because all the girls were staying up late in the bathroom obsessing over their bodies.  I was the only one with love handles and a fatter stomach.  Guess what – I have come to the realization that is just how my body is!  I am perfectly healthy. In fact, since starting Bikram almost 2 years ago, I have lost 20ish pounds, my HDLs have gone up, my LDLs have gone down, and my blood pressure went from 160/100 to 120/70 (I suffered from anxiety, and after many tests doctors concluded my high blood pressure was from stress).  I threw away my Lexapro, and I could finally sleep at night without the fear of dying in my sleep.  Yeah, I was really anxious.  I get a physical every year, and I continue to show that I am healthy.  Even after as much as I’ve toned up from Bikram, I still have big thighs, a love handle, and more weight around my mid section.  I eat healthier than many of the people I know who are sizes 0 and 2.

SO – when people tell me how good I look after teacher training or comment on how I lost so much weight, I don’t know what to say.  Why? Because, yes I did work hard – I mean helllooo I took 95 classes in 61 days, and I did push myself because I wanted my practice and postures to improve.  BUT – I’m so sick of hearing so much obsession over body weight and food, I just don’t know how to respond.  After hearing day after day girls call themselves fat and then other people calling other people fat, I’m just sick of thinking in terms of “FATNESS”!  Thank you for telling me I look good, but I think I looked great even before training.  I didn’t try to lose weight – I didn’t obsess over extra workouts or crazy diets – and I still won’t.  My clothes are looser, but my weight in pounds is the same before I left.  Most importantly, I feel good and think I look good.  Same thing happened after my 100 day challenge (100 Bikram classes in 100 days) – my clothes fit looser but I actually didn’t lose one pound.

I hope this post inspires other people who practice or even those who don’t, that you don’t have to have a certain body type to practice Bikram yoga, and you certainly should try your very hardest not to judge yourself in the mirror during your practice!

As I finish this post, I’m about to enjoy a sweet potato and pork chops with my sweet husband.

Namaste – Christina

 

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backbending one last time in the grand ballroom aka THE YOGA ROOM! on our last class, which was with Bikram of course, we wore all black. at the end of class, we skipped final savasana to dance around with a disco ball going and people were spraying silly string!