Thursday, January 31, 2013

Know Yogurt Know Peace

Well, I've done it... I completed the 30-day yoga challenge! That's right, 30 yoga classes down for the month of January! And I went today, too, even though I completed the challenge yesterday. In celebration of my amazing feat, today's blog entry pays homage to my yoga studio, Know Yoga Know Peace, in Bloomington, Indiana. It's a great little place to practice yoga, just a few blocks from home in the downtown area. As I mentioned a few days ago, I started going there after a car accident last August. Yoga has been very good for me, I'm still not the most flexible kid on the block, but who's comparing, I feel great! Whether I'm sweating out last night's beer in a hot yoga class, or flowing through a vinyassa, or pressing my forehead to my knee and squeezing out all of my crazy female hormonal stuff... I love yoga. But, there is one thing I will perhaps always love more than yoga, the food I've been eating since I was a toothless baby: yogurt.

When I was checking out at the local food co-op a few days ago one of the cashier's noticed I had my yoga mat with me in a tote bag slung over my shoulder. And he also noticed I was buying some yogurt. "Hm," he said, "I wonder what the etymology of yoga and yogurt are, they seem to have a similar root... they must be from the same culture." He absolutely intended the pun with "culture" and I went off to yoga class having a silent laugh with my inner-nerd. Even if the words don't come from the same root, I still lump yogurt and yoga into the same box of things in life that make me a very happy person. I've had fantasies of a restaurant/café that could be created that makes several different batches of plain yogurt every day and then offers a slew of toppings and add-ins, fresh fruits, grains, honey, nuts... oh, be still my heart. The fantasy goes on to make the location of this heavenly yogurt bar right next to my yoga studio, so that you would have Know Yogurt Know Peace right next door to Know Yoga Know Peace! Siiiiiighhhhhhh...



Some of my favorite yogurts from my trip to England last summer.

My mother used to make homemade yogurt when I was little. She had a plug-in electric machine in which sat several quart-size containers with a cover over the whole lot of them. This is where the yogurt would stay at that magic temperature where the cultures multiply and thicken the milk. When I was in college, I bought a glass kitchen thermometer and began playing around with making yogurt using a big pot and low-temp oven with the door slightly cocked. Now, I chiefly buy my yogurt, but a short stay at a hotel in Sweden this past summer had me dreaming again of making my own. All of the yogurt in Europe, the English and the Swedish yogurt I tried last summer, has a quality to it that is somehow missing in most yogurt I find on the American market, including the "European style" yogurts. The American yogurts seem to try to hard. They seem overly-gelatinous, and too sweet. Yogurt is tangy, it is creamy and almost liquid but not liquid. I will eventually get to making yogurts again and share recipes with you for that, including almond milk yogurt! For now, I want to share with you some concoctions and recipes I enjoy creating with yogurt. Enjoy!

SP's Breakfast Yogurt
Don't limit this concoction to breakfast, I eat it as lunch, dinner, a pre-bedtime snack when dinner wasn't quite enough...

- 1 cup or so of your favorite plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup raw oats
- 1-2 TBSP honey

Mix together and eat. If you let it sit 5-10 minutes the oats will be softer. I am always playing with variations on this basic recipe. My current favorite is the maple nut variety. This involves using 100% maple syrup instead of honey and chopped nuts (I use a mix of almonds, pecans, cashews). One thing I love about this variation is the added protein, which is especially important to give your body in the morning for your first meal. Also, as a vegetarian, I'm always glad to find tasty ways to slip more protein into my food!



Just a dollop!...
A dollop of yogurt is just the thing to cool off a spicy Indian dal or a plate of black beans and rice! A dollop of yogurt with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and a couple slices of fresh jalepeno can really dress up a simple beans or lentils and rice dish. If you make borscht or some other kind of thick soup or stew, a dollop of plain yogurt on top with some chopped fresh herbs can be a brilliant addition. In the picture, I've made a dal and fennel soup with a dollop of yogurt and a sprig of fennel. Oh là là. Dollop off into the sunset!



Sexy Dessert Yogurt
That's right, if you never thought of yogurt as sexy, then you just haven't seen it from the right angle yet.

- 3 cups plain yogurt
- 1/2 pint of whipping cream
- sliced peaches and raspberries (or choose your favorite fruit combination: strawberry and banana, blueberry and blackberry)
- 1/4 cup plus 4 TBSP agave nectar
- dash of ground cinnamon

Beat the whipping cream in a chilled metal mixing bowl (just chill the bowl in the freezer 15 minutes first). Once the cream is stiff and fluffy, fold the plain yogurt and 1/4 cup agave nectar in with a spatula. Divide the fluffy yogurt mixture among four desert bowls or glass dessert cups. top each with fruit, a tablespoon of agave nectar and a dash of cinnamon. I love the fluffy mousse-like mixture of yogurt and whipped cream, but if it's not your cup of yogurt, I suggest trying this recipe with greek yogurt instead, minus the whipped cream!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yogi Healing Roots Soup

At this blog I'll be sharing with you some healing recipes from time to time-- food as medicine-- as well as the everyday kind of recipe. When the body goes into a healing crisis our food choices can mean the difference between suffering for weeks instead of a mere day or two, or in more drastic cases the difference between life and death. Today's recipe is for a soup that will help balance your body energy when you aren't feeling well. It is very simple and the blend of nutrients is near-perfect. I first made a big batch of this soup last fall and we had it for over a week every day-- a bowl of it at lunch, a cup with dinner. It was at a time when noses were sniffly, sneezes were sneaking up on us suddenly, and temperatures were running higher than normal. How did I come up with this recipe? Well, the truth is I channelled the recipe. Yep. Yogi Bhajan came to me in my kitchen and said, here is a soup recipe, go to the store and get these ingredients now, then come home and make it so you guys don't get too sick! I'm always up for a culinary adventure, in whatever form it may take, so I complied. He showed me how it was important to use the greens of the carrots and told me how long to cook everything. So, if you don't like the results, blame Yogi Bhajan, not me. And, yes, I did find a potato chip shaped like the Virgin Mary, how did you know?

A note about onions and garlic...
I don't use onion much in cooking, nor do I use garlic much, but I do use both of these occasionally in medicinal foods. My reason for not using them in everyday cooking is that they are highly-potent and can be disruptive to normal digestion. Good digestive processes are essential to bodily health. However, garlic is a powerful blood purifier and helps to regulate blood pressure and body temperature as well as boosting white blood cell production for immune defense. Onions are also purifying, they are good for the heart and detoxifying for the liver. Both onions and garlic help ward off infections because they contain chemicals that resemble antibodies (those little heroic germ-fighters in the body). One particular chemical in onions and garlic is called "allicin", which you can find studies online showing how it has proven more effective than penicillin and also is being used to team up with antibodies to target and destroy cancer cells. It is the allicin chemical in garlic that is said to increase white blood cell counts.


For this recipe...
- 4 quarts purified water
- 4 medium-large onions
- 5-6 carrots with green tops intact
- 4 turnips
- 1 head garlic (that's one whole head, not just a clove!)
- 3/4 cup chopped ginger root
- 1-2 tsp rock salt
- 1 TBSP cumin seeds
- 1/2 TBSP anise seeds
- 6-7 cardamom pods

Peel the skins off each garlic clove. Chop the onions in quarters. Put garlic, onion, ginger and water in a pot with some rock salt on medium-high heat for 30 minutes.



Turn down to simmer, add carrots and greens, turnips, and the spices (cumin, anise, cardamom).



Simmer 2 hours, turn off the heat and let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm.

Some additional notes on produce selection...
Medicinal cooking requires careful ingredient selection. In almost every recipe I create I am attentive to the ingredients I select, whether it is meant to be a particularly healing recipe or not. I would say that most of my recipes have a healing quality to them. They are all intended to work in harmony with (not against) your body, digestion, and overall well-being. That said, I wanted to give you some pointers on selecting some of the produce for this recipe. Look for turnips that have a vibrant root network coming from the base, and the top of the turnip where the stem was chopped off should still be green with life. What does this mean? It means the life-force energy in your turnip is greater and that it hasn't been sitting out lifeless and disconnected from the earth for months.

For the carrots, look again for vibrancy in the greens. I chose a bundle of different-colored carrots and the greens were shockingly deep rich green... you can almost feel the life-energy pouring off them!

More medicinal recipes to come, for now, please feel free to email me cold/flu remedy questions, or if you have a particular disease you're working through and want some medicinal foodie tips, send me a note. I love to hear from you and hear how you're inspired and what you're creating in your own kitchen.
Love,
SP

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nachos 101: Nacho Cheese Sauce De-yuck-ified

This isn't your mother's can of toxic bright orange "cheese sauce", this is the real deal. Today you are going to learn to make a perfect cheese sauce from scratch. And it starts with learning to make another sauce, one that has been around likely longer than its namesake, Louis de Béchamel. Béchamel (bay-sha-mel) is a white sauce with three basic ingredients: butter, flour, and milk (or cream). As non-vegan as that sounds, vegans, do not dismay! The sauce can be made subbing a number of oils (I use olive) and alternative milks (I prefer hempseed milk myself, but soy and almond work well too). I used to use wheat flour but now I use an all-purpose gluten-free flour I buy from the bulk bins at my local co-op grocery store. So, make the adjustments according to your own diet and what your body wants. Let's get started...

Nacho, nacho cheeeeeeeeeese!



You'll need everything in the above picture...
- 1 cup grated cheese of choice (something like colby or cheddar)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 TBSP butter
- 2 TBSP flour
- 2 tsp salt

Now you put the lime in the coconut and shake it all up, you put the... oops. Okay, I'm back after a momentary lapse into my childhood, dancing to mom's records as they spun round and round on the turntable in the dining room. Get a saucepan (there's a reason they're called saucepans after all), turn the burner to medium and add the butter. As soon as the butter has melted add the flour and stir into a paste fairly rapidly (you don't want it to burn), once the paste is nice and mixed together like so...


... begin adding the milk in 1/4 cup increments at a time. Make sure you mix each increment in completely and don't let it get too hot, you don't want to burn anything or scald the milk. When you mix the milk with the flour and butter mixture over the heat it magically thickens, much like cheese sauce, but not quite-- unlike what history has attempted in giant school cafeteria cans, you cannot have cheese sauce without cheese. Once the milk is all mixed in, turn the heat down to low and begin adding the cheese, stirring it in to melt as you add it. Now you have cheese sauce. Congratulations! Add the salt to taste.


For simple nachos, put a handful of chips in a bowl, heat a can of pinto or black beans on the stove and put some beans on the chips, then pour on the nacho cheese... I like to add chopped cilantro to mine. In the photo I also added finely chopped romaine lettuce. You might like to add avocado slices, diced tomato or jalepeño to yours.



Here are a couple more ideas for this sauce. You can make a healthier homemade version of the ever-sinful concoction known as "chili-cheese fries". Bake fries in the oven and then top with your own homemade chili or a can of Amy's vegetarian chili (or something similar... you'll have to make-do with this for now, I won't be sharing my super-easy, super-good vegan/vegetarian chili recipe with you for another few weeks yet, at least)... where were we?... oh, yes, ADD THE CHEESE SAUCE! That's always a good place to be. Doesn't it just make you want to do a song and dance number? "Cheeeeeeese, cheeeeeeese..... sauce!!" Or the K-pop-esque... "Oppan cheese sauce style!" Another use of this sauce is to steam carrots, cauliflower and broccoli and then toss them with CHEESE SAUCE! Bwah hah hah! Now, before I become too maniacal on account of the cheese sauce, I'm going to leave you to your own imaginations and CHEEEEEESE SAUCE...  xoSP

Monday, January 28, 2013

No-butter Chocolate Chip Molasses Crinkle Cookies ... and my life story

I've been taking a break from this blog idea, but not from the kitchen. In fact, the new recipes and concepts I've been developing in the past year have got me feeling pretty excited about knotting my apron about my waist and making something utterly fabulous. Many people who enjoy my food wonder if I use magic. I do. My magic wand is my wooden spoon. It is a cherrywood spoon, as all of you Harry Potter fans out there know, the type of wood is important for a magician's wand. But my cherrywood spoon does not contain the magic itself, the magic only flows through it. Where does the magic come from? My theory is that there is a universal vibration of awesome recipes and cooking inspiration "out there" (i.e., floating in the ethers) and you have only to tap into its flow to access the magic that allows you to whip up a perfect soufflé on the first try without following a recipe exactly, and to instinctively know how long to cook each ingredient in a perfect pot of soup. I do have quite a few more recipes to share with the world (meaning you), in fact, I can't really see an end to them. The ethers of universal recipes run thick, like a great homemade nacho cheese sauce, and I can't get enough.

In this past year while I've been breaking from blogging I've been quite the busy bee (so put that picture of me wearing a moo-moo and slippers, glued to a couch eating bonbons and watching Magnum P.I. out of your head). I travelled to Europe where a friend in Brighton, England introduced me to a great new sandwich concept that I've tried with success in a few variations (her original recipe has shrimp), and I also discovered the joy of watercress and the "English Breakfast". I've also moved into a great new house with my sweetie and his 8 year-old, so I'm enjoying cooking for a couple of boys now too which has inspired me to cook even more, and I've also found more success than ever with baking (the gluten-free applesauce cake... just you wait!). I've been doing some small-to-medium size catering events and business dinners too. In fact, the positive feedback I've been getting from those events is what has mostly inspired me to pick up my pen... er, laptop... again and start blogging some recipes. The thing about my recipes is that they are simple and don't take a whole lot of time or prep, they taste really awesome, and they are mostly very healthy, your body can actually feel how good it is!

Another interesting tidbit about me in the past year is that a kid hit my Volvo with his Jeep and totaled it about 5 months ago (thankfully I didn't still have my old flimsier car-- it was made of paper, which is why I had to get rid of it after a heavy week of rain last March-- but I didn't even get to enjoy my new Volvo 5 months!... aughh, universe... why?! why!!!). I had whiplash and so saw a doctor to set me back in a straight-ish line. As part of that I started doing yoga and realized it was setting me back in a straight line and then some, so I've actually been enjoying an almost-daily yoga practice for four months. I am even doing a January Yoga Challenge at my studio (yes, it's mine now, it belongs to me, if you want to join, the owner calls me first to make sure it's okay). The challenge is to do yoga every day for 30 days straight. I only have three days left! My partner's son asked me the other day, "So what do you win?" I win an extra-sexy body was the response that popped into my mind and didn't come out of my mouth, but the truth of the matter is that if I complete the challenge then I am entered in a drawing for a month of free unlimited yoga classes. Right now, mine might be the only name in the drawing, so my chances look good!

Well, not to disappoint you with all chat and no recipes... as the saying goes, "All chat and no recipes make Jack a very dull girl." Here is a simple recipe for no-butter chocolate chip molasses crinkle cookies...



- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 3/4 cup almond oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 heaping cup chocolate chips

I don't measure or follow recipes, but I think I'm pretty good at converting what I make into recipes that actually recreate the result very closely. That said, feel free to get nit-picky and make your own adjustments if you dare. I do not recommend adding diced sweet pickle to this recipe, nor do I recommend putting three heaping cups of molasses. You have been warned. Here's how I recommend doing it...

Beat the eggs, oil, half the sugar, and the molasses in a bowl. Put the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in another bowl and mix together with a fork. Add the wet ingredients to the dry beating them in as you add. Now, take a good look at what you've done. Cookie dough is NOT cake batter, you don't want it to be runny. If it's too runny, you need to add a little more flour right now. And don't let it happen again. Likewise, if it's too dry and stiff so too your cookies shall be... dry, stiff... sad. Yes, cookies get sad too. Add a little more almond oil, only maybe a little tablespoon at a time, and mix thoroughly, to quench the dryness. Okay, now your dough is perfect, right? Wrong! Every good cookie dough (and I realize culinary opinions on the matter vary according to taste) must contain chocolate chips. Duh. So add those in. Put the other 1/4 cup of sugar into a small bowl. Now, get a couple soup spoons out of your silverware drawer and scoop up a ball of dough with one (think ping-pong ball, not basketball), slide it off into the sugar with the other, now pick it up and press it slightly with the back of one of the spoons sugar-side-up onto the cookie sheet. Your oven should be at 375 degrees. If you didn't let the cookie sheets warm up in the oven first, you'll probably need to bake the first batch of cookies about 12 minutes. After that, you'll only need to bake them about 10 minutes, just keep an eye on them. They'll crackle on the top, the edges may be firm, but the center will be a bit soft usually. Take them off the tray with a metal or wooden spatula and set them on a wood block or cooling rack if you've got one of those. Keeps several days in a cookie jar. (That was a joke... you'll be lucky if they last a day or two, they get eaten very quickly in our house). Makes about 12-18 depending on how big you make them!