Monthly Archives: February 2013

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).



  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.



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



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.


Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and is what carries oxygen to tissues and carbon dioxide away from tissues
Image found from

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!


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?!


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


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 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.”


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.


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


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



“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.


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.


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


Chocolate Covered Cherry Soy Smoothie

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