Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Triple Berry Raw Vegan Ice Cream

This simple raw vegan sattvic ice "cream" is a triple berry, triple step process.

Step One:

Freeze 1 banana + a handful each of 3 different berries (I used strawberries, raspberries & blackberries)

Step Two:

Once frozen, blend everything together in a food processor until it resembles soft serve ice cream.

Step Three:


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Sitali For a HOT Summer's Day

Here's an easy breathing exercise to cool you off during the next summer heat wave.

Sitali is one of many breathing exercises commonly practiced either before or after yoga asana (postures).  These exercises are called pranayama.  A Sanskrit word, pranayama literally means restraints of the breath.  Prana is the vital life force that exists in everything.  In this case it's referring to the most gross form, which is the breath.  Yama means to restrain or control.  Thus pranayama literally means to control the breath.  When the breath is controlled and calm the body will follow and eventually the mind.  If you practice pranayama regularly you will notice that everything else seems to melt away when you are focused on your breath.  The mind becomes one-pointed.

To practice sitali, first sit in a comfortable position, preferably cross legged.  If your knees are higher than your hips you may require a meditation cushion or a folded blanket under your bum to take the pressure off your knees.

Take a few deep abdominal breaths, both inhaling and exhaling through the nose.  When you inhale your abdomen will expand with the air filling your lungs.  Then as you gently exhale relax your abdomen.

Now open your mouth and stick out your tongue, curl your tongue as in the picture above.  If you cannot curl it like the picture, just do your best and curl the edges as much as you can with the tongue sticking out of the mouth.  Now inhale deeply sucking the air in through your curled tongue.  When you have finished inhaling comfortably, bring your tongue back in and close your mouth and exhale through the nose.  Again stick out the tongue and inhale.  Then exhale through the nose (with the mouth closed).  Continue inhaling and exhaling this way for several rounds.  You can practice making the inhale and exhale smooth and rhythmic by counting to 4.  Inhale for 4 counts, then exhale for 4 counts.  Now you're doing sitali!

Sitali not only cools you down, but also purifies the blood and quenches thirst.  It's also safe to practice sitali at home without the guidance of a teacher. 

Happy Summer Everyone!


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Rhubarb Blackberry Raw Margaritas

Celebrate summer with frozen margaritas

Simple to make, raw and vegan.  These ones are virgin, but you can add some booze if that's your style.

Meltin' in the hot summer sun

Here's what I did:
  • 15-20 stalks of fresh rhubarb, juiced in a juice extractor then frozen in an ice cube tray
  • 1 cup blackberries, frozen
  • raw vegan sweetener, to taste
Mix everything in a blender until well combined.

It's a little labour-intensive to haul out the juice extractor for the rhubarb, but I thought it was well worth it.  Besides I didn't want to do the same old boring strawberry rhubarb tart.  I really wanted to try something different. 

I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

DIY #10: From Tank Top to Bag

Here's a super easy bag made from an old ill-fitting, but lovely Indian silk tank top.  All you'll need is a tank top and either a sewing machine or needle and thread.  Even if you are hand sewing, this project will take you no time!
  1. Turn the tank top inside out.  
  2. Lay the tank top lining up the side seams so the straps line up.  The straps now become the handles of your new bag. 
  3. Sew the bottom closed. 
  4. Turn right side out. 
Important Note:  Choose a tank top that has the same neckline as the back.  This tank top has a scoop neckline that is the same in the back, but some tanks have a scoop or v-neck in the front and a flat neckline in the back.  The latter will not work for the project.

My tank top had a slightly different pattern on the back, so when the side seams were lined up the front of the bag had a kind of mismatched look, but I think it's charming (plus since I didn't want to go out a buy a tank for this project, I couldn't exactly be too picky).  If you're concerned about this, make sure you use a top with a matching pattern both back & front.

This top is from a Canadian company that I absolutely love, Alchemy.  The owner sources the materials and labour from India, paying local women a fair wage and then shipping back to Canada for sale. 

I love that I can support both my countries by buying Alchemy merchandise.  Reading the story of the owner, Trish, who is also a yoga teacher, describe how she fell in love with India which resulted in her repeated travels back and forth from Canada is a bit reminiscent of my own story.

I absolutely love that in less than 10 minutes after being a tank top I was already using my new favourite bag.  I stuffed one of my favourite books in there ...

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Happy craftin'

Monday, 4 June 2012

Rose Gold Snake Bracelet DIY

I'm going to a wedding this weekend and I need some jewelry to go with my "new" thrift store dress (yes, that's how I roll).  Determined not to buy anything new I rummaged through my jewelry stash and found this plastic, rather unattractive snake wrap bracelet.  I wonder why I even kept this thing ...

Well good thing that I did because it's perfect for a DIY project.  Tiffany's recently came out with a line of rose gold jewelry, and of course just a few short months later everyone is copying them ... including me!  I mixed some pearly pink acrylic paint with gold paint and voila - rose gold!

My favourite part?  The emerald green snake eyes ...

I used an extra fine tipped brush to paint around the eyes.

It's June, are you going to any weddings this summer?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Berry Friendly Strawberry Raw Vegan Tartlets

I made these dessert cups for my mom and a group of her friends who were getting together the day before Mother's Day.  I wasn't there, but apparently the tartlets were a hit and everyone asked for the recipe, which of course my mother didn't have.  But now you do:

Crust -
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • handful of dates, pitted and soaked
  • pinch of sea salt
Filling -
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1/8 cup coconut oil
  • 4-5 tablespoons raw sweetener (honey, agave, stevia, etc ...)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol-free)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • water, enough to make everything blend
  • 2-3 strawberries for garnish and filling (optional)
This is actually the recipe I used for my very first raw vegan cake!  That was an exciting day for me ... and for the people we had for dinner the next night.  This time I cut back a lot on the coconut oil because I found it a little too coconutty, and well oily as well.  The coconut oil is basically what holds the cake together, so instead of making a cake I chose to put individual servings in muffin cups.  That way it didn't matter if there wasn't enough coconut oil to hold it together.

You can't see it in the picture, but the crust is on the bottom.  Simply crush the nuts in a food processor until it's a powder.  Add the salt.  With the processor running add the dates one-by-one until the mixture begins to form a ball.  Press the crust into the bottom of the muffin cups.  Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

I used to think I could never blend a nice nut based dessert in my cheap low-speed blender, but that's so not true.  It just takes a little bit of extra work (and maybe more liquid).  Add a little bit of water in the bottom of your blender and about half the strawberries.  Mix until well combined and then add the rest of the strawberries.  It's important to have some liquid to help everything blend.  Add the cashews one handful at a time.  Stop the blender often and stir.  Make sure it's not getting too hot!  This is a raw tart after all.  Keep adding the nuts and then the rest of the ingredients and blend until it's smooth.  This took me about 20 minutes.  If you have a high speed blender it'll probably take you 5 seconds ...

Add a little of the filling into the crust.  I placed some sliced strawberries inside for a sweet surprise.  Fill the cup with more filling and garnish with a strawberry slice on top.  Place in the freezer overnight to firm up (since there's not much coconut oil).  Remove from the freezer 1-2 hours before serving. 

This recipe made 10 tartlets.  My mom was getting together with 7 friends, so you know what that means.  I had 2 tartlets to play around with myself.  Here's a peak at what I did:

That's right!  I added 1 heaping teaspoon of aromatic velvety smooth raw vegan cacao!  It's been so long since I've had anything with raw chocolate.  I'm trying to be a good yogi and stay sattvic, but I just couldn't resist.  And the cacao really helped to keep the filling firm.  I'm thinking of trying it with cinnamon next time.  I also put the crust in a cute flower shaped cake mold.   

Stay tuned for more raw vegan dessert recipes very soon ... 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

What is Organic Honey?

Have you ever wondered, what does organic honey actually mean??  It's not a plant that can be sprayed with pesticides.  It's not grown in soil with artificial fertilizers.  Is conventional honey from bees treated with antibiotics??  I started to wonder, how different can the organic honey be from the non-organic golden goo?  Is this just another case of the big bad marketing man trying to fool us innocent consumers? 

(Note:  I know, I know, it's not vegan.  But as I've mentioned before on my blog, I occasionally use local raw organic honey as a sweetener [and facial moisturizer], rather than highly processed, albeit vegan agave syrup from abroad).

Thankfully here in Canada there are quite a few rules being enforced by organic honey certifiers that make organic honey quite different than conventional.  Here's what I found out about organic honey standards in Canada:

[Caution: before reading further, only truly organic nerds will find this stuff interesting ...]

  • Origin of bees - All bees must come from organic sources.
  • Sources of nectar - Sources of nectar and pollen must be mainly from organic plants.
  • Location of bee hives - There must be a buffer zone of at least 3000 meters from plants treated with non-organic substances.
  • Food - Organic honey must be the main food for adult bees.
  • Humane treatment of bees - Adequate honey and pollen must be left in the hive for the colony to survive after the honey is harvested, clipping of the Queen Bee's wings is forbidden, bee smokers cannot contain synthetic materials, destruction of hives after harvest of honey is forbidden, lead-based paints are forbidden.
  • Pest Management - Antibiotic drugs are forbidden and only non-synthetic (certifier approved) substances can be used to control pests, parasites and diseases.
  • Extraction of Honey - Beekeepers cannot extract honey from a comb with a live brood inside.
  • Cleaning - Only organically approved cleaning products can be used.
The Soil Association has similar rules for organic honey in the UK. 

I definitely feel better buying organic honey after researching all this, and I never would have imagined there are so many guidelines regarding humane treatment.  No wonder so many bees have gone missing in the past few years! 

Remember that like organic food, organic honey also has a lengthy (and costly) transition period.  So if your favourite stall at the farmer's market isn't selling honey with the Canada Organic logo on it, it could be that they are following most of these same rules but are awaiting certification or simply cannot afford it.  Talk to them and see how they produce, collect and jar their honey. 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

New Posts Coming Very Soon ...

Hello there faithful followers!  No, I haven't forgotten you, I've just been a wee bit busy.  My annual trip to India was cut short this year.  I usually return in May, this year I landed back in Canada at the end of March.  But I wasn't home for long before I made an unexpected trip to Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean!  I had a wonderful time re-connecting with family.  Unfortunately the airline lost my luggage, so now that I'm back home I'm scrambling to re-place my lost items and repeatedly contacting the airline to arrange my reimbursement.

... but don't worry I haven't forgotten my blog.  In fact I have lots of posts planned for May.  There will be lots of crafts (mostly replacing the lost items from my luggage), organic info and of course raw vegan sattvic food.  Here's some of the good stuff:

Blueberries with Cardamom "Milk"

  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup water, filtered
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • raw sweetener, to taste
Combine everything (except blueberries) in a blender and mix until it resembles milk.  Pour the "milk" over the blueberries and mix. 

I used frozen berries, so it turned the milk purpleYUM!

Raw Vegan French Dressing 

It's pictured here as a dip, but believe me, that's only because it's so good that every time I pour this dressing on a salad I devour it so quickly that I only think about pictures later!  My secret ingredient here is fresh raw turmeric root, which I picked up in Trinidad:

If you don't have the root, which most people probably don't since I've only ever seen it in the Caribbean, then 1/2 teaspoon of the powdered tumeric will do just fine.
  • 1/4 cup water, filtered
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, soaked
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked
  • squeeze of half a lemon
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 inch piece of tumeric root, peeled and chopped
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup cold-pressed olive oil
Blend the water, nuts and red bell pepper in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend.  With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil and mix until everything is well blended.  Keep in a covered bottle in the fridge.

Another favourite of mine are these dehydrated cinnamon apple crisps:

These were bought, not made (sorry no recipe).  I don't own a dehydrator, but if I did, these would definitely be first on my list to make (along with raw kale chips ...).

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about raw vegan tarts, DIY devi bracelet, organic honey de-mystified and my thoughts and lessons learned from my time in Thailand (with photos!).

Friday, 3 February 2012

5 Raw Vegan Recipes To Try When I'm Back in Canada

No blender, no food processor, no fridge, heck I don't even have my julienne peeler!  So these 5 yummy recipes will have to wait until I get back on Canadian ground ...
  1. Raw "Oat"meal (oat-free) from Raw Therapy (my new favourite blog)
  2. Juice: carrot, grapefruit, ginger, lemon - Facebook status update from Ani Phyo (love her!)
  3. Broccoli & tahini heaven from Path Less Trodden
  4. Heart Beet Rawvioli from My New Roots (which is an awesome blog BTW with amazingly mouth watering photography)
  5. Avocado, fennel & citrus salad from Vegetarian Times
Of course there's no reason why you can't prepare these recipes right now, unless of course you're away from home like me.  That's why I`ve shared my raw to do list with you all.

    Saturday, 28 January 2012

    My Organic Pilgrimage in South India

    Hello bloggie friends!  Are you still with me?  I wouldn't blame you if you've forgotten me in favour of those other blogs.  You know, the ones where they post frequently ;)

    My blog-o-sphere absence is because of two things:
    1. My camera broke so I have no interesting photos to share. 
    2. I'm working on a super exciting project that has taken up most of my time here in India.  More on that in a few weeks ...
    As I've mentioned before the place where I stay in India has a kitchen team, and they provide the food for the teachers, students and yoga vacation guests ... soooOooo that means I don't really have a lot of control over the food I eat.  At home its mostly raw green veggies, green smoothies and vegan, sattvic cooked foods.  Here it's mostly rice, sambar and dosa (all vegetarian of course).

    When I first ventured to south India in 2010 I couldn't find anything organic.  Sure, big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai have health food stores selling organic items.  But I'm in rural south India.  Sometimes we don't even have electricity!

    To my surprise this year I discovered a few items using the word "organic" on the package.  I was skeptical at first.  "Yeah right," I thought.  But a funny thing, turns out it's actually legit.  Here's what I've learned about organics in India:

    Similar to our system in North America, India has several third party organic certifiers.  If a product meets the certifier's standards, the package can feature their logo, thus reassuring the legitimacy of the product's organic claims (of course, finding genuine organic products is a problem back home too.  See my previous post on this topic for more information).

    But here's where it gets interesting ... organic certification takes a few years.  Back home a product cannot bear the certifier's logo until this lengthy (and costly) process is completed (often it can take up to 2 years!).  One franchised company, Fab India, actually categorizes organic products depending on where the company is in the certification process, and then uses a corresponding logo to signal to customers where they are in this lengthy process.  This process is broken down into 3 steps:
    1. Natural - Produced by a farm that uses 100% organic methods, but has not taken the steps to officially certify (possibly due to the large costs).  This category also includes products that are mostly organic but may contain non-organic preservatives, dyes or flavourings.
    2. In Conversation - Producer is using organic methods but has not yet completed the 3 year process in order to be considered organic. 
    3. Certified Organic - Producer is recognized by a third party organization as using 100% organic methods.
    I love it!!  Okay I know at this point I've probably lost a lot of you, but for those of you that are organic nerds like me, isn't this great?!  See other examples of my organic nerdy-ness here and here.

    So far all of the organic items I've found are pre-packaged (teas, spices, lotions, etc ...).  I haven't seen fresh fruits or veggies marked as organic yet (again I'm just referring to my small corner of south India), but unless there was some kind of package with a certifier's logo on it, I wouldn't trust any organic claims anyhow.

    So there you have it!  My organic report on south India.  Rest assured, you haven't heard the last of this from me.  So stay tuned for many more posts on organics!!

    Monday, 23 January 2012

    Gluten-Free Coconut Cupcake (with Coconut Frosting)

    I think I might be obsessed with coconut.  I am definitely obsessed with coconut!  These gluten-free, vegan cupcakes are a coconut lover's dream.  Hot from the oven these little gems are sure to keep you warm on those cold winter nights. 
    Now no more chit chat, here's the recipe:
    for the cupcakes -
    • 1 1/2 cups coconut flour
    • 1 cup raw evaporated cane sugar (would be lovely to substitute coconut sugar if you can)
    • 1/2 cup shredded dried coconut
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • 1 cup almond milk (hemp milk might be nice too)
    • 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    for the frosting -
    • 1 cup coconut oil
    • agave, honey or coconut nectar (to taste)
    • shredded dried coconut (for garnish)
    Combine all the dry ingredients for the cupcakes in a bowl and mix well.  In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients.  Slowly add the wet to the dry and mix until well combined.  Pour into a muffin tin and bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes.
    When the cupcakes are cooled, whip together the coconut oil and sweetener.  Give each one a generous dollop of frosting and then sprinkle with more shredded coconut. 
    It really can't get any more coconutty than this!

    What could be better ... um ... how 'bout chocolate gluten-free coconut cupcakes with chocolate coconut frosting!!

    I just couldn't resist trying out a chocolate version.  Simply add a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to the batter (chocolate chips in there might be nice too) and add some cocoa powder to the coconut oil frosting.

    Tuesday, 3 January 2012

    The Law of Least Effort: It Doesn't Have To Be That Hard

    It doesn't matter if you believe in them, or even realize that they exist, but everything and everyone in the universe acts in accordance with certain laws.  There's laws of gravity, laws of cause and effect and laws of attraction (made famous by the highly criticized movie, The Secret).  In Deepak Chopra's book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success he briefly discusses another law, one that turned my life upside down, the law of least effort.

    Life is an up hill struggle and nothing worth while comes easily.  No pain, no gain.  Makes sense, right?  It used to make perfect sense to me until a few years ago when I started studying yoga.  Now I'm just starting to realize that it really doesn't have to be that difficult.  When you are living authentically the life that you were created to live, things easily and effortlessly become available to you.  It's The Law!  Nature (as is often the case) is the best example of this.  Deepak Chopra explains: 

    "Grass doesn't try to grow, it just grows. Fish don't try to swim, they just swim. Flowers don't try to bloom, they bloom. Birds don't try to fly, they fly. This is their intrinsic nature. The earth doesn't try to spin on its own axis; it is the nature of the earth to spin with dizzying speed and to hurtle through space. It is the nature of babies to be in bliss. It is the nature of the sun to shine. It is the nature of the stars to glitter and sparkle. And it is human nature to make our dreams manifest into physical form, easily and effortlessly."
    Wherever you're going in this life, whatever your dreams and heart's desires, achieving them doesn't have to be an uphill battle.  It's only when we struggle against our nature, against the laws of the universe that things become difficult.  You wouldn't expect to defy the laws of gravity by throwing an apple in the air and having it stay suspended there while you fold laundry.  Likewise you must also live according to the law of least effort.  One of the most powerful pieces of advice one of my yoga teachers said to me was to practice letting go and letting be.  Let that be your mantra from now on.  Putting aside expectations, anxieties and past life baggage to allow your unique divine path unfold naturally, effortlessly and with ease. 

    The Bhagavad Gita describes this state of effortlessness as the action in inaction.  The Bhagvad Gita, a sacred text in India, chronicles the story of Arjuna, a warrior on the battlefield who is conflicted about his involvement in the war.  Lord Krishna guides Arjuna in his journey and discovery of right and wrong action.  One of the most profound verses is Chapter 4, verse 18, where Krishna explains how one can do very little, yet accomplish huge tasks.  In Swami Sivananda's translation the verse reads:

    "He who seeth inaction in action and action in inaction, he is wise among men; he is a Yogi and performer of all actions".
    My interpretation of this verse is you can physically appear to be doing nothing (effortlessness), but using the law of least effort also be hard at work making your deepest desires come true.  This verse shows us that although the physical body remains still (inaction), the higher self can still be busy at work (action).  On the other hand, we all know people who run themselves ragged following their every impulse and material whim (action).  But since these actions are not in accordance with their authentic selves, they are really going nowhere and doing nothing to grow and mature (inaction).

    When we studied the Bhagavad Gita in my yoga teacher's training course, intellectually I understood this verse and could explain it's meaning in detail (it was one of the exam questions!).  But that was just cerebral.  I couldn't really understand it practically or see it's importance in my own life.  It made sense, but how could I living in this world put all this theory into practice?  I'm not Arjuna on the battlefield. 

    Actually we are all Arjuna on the battlefield.  But it's not a battlefield, it's your life and you can chose whether it's spent in conflict, war, anxiety and doubt or bliss (ananada in Sanskrit).  Like anything in life, integrating the law of least effort into your life takes time, patience and lots of faith.  I still have days where I feel like Sisyphus rolling that boulder up hill.  But when I slow down, breathe and try to see beyond the temporary chaos, I always find an answer to help me through.  To help you integrate the law of least effort into your life, Deepak Chopera lists 3 techniques: 
    1. Acceptance - Accepting people, situations and everything that occurs.  If you believe that every challenge is present in your life to teach you and help guide you, you will realize your "difficulties" are really blessings. 
    2. Responsibility - Taking responsibility for everything that happens to you and how you chose to react to the difficult situations.  Whatever happens, ultimately you are the one that is allowing it to happen that way.
    3. Defenselessness - Sounds similar to helplessness, but it doesn't have to be.  Don't waste energy on fighting it, just surrender and let whatever comes, come.  Because believe me, life's difficult situations are going to come, whether you like it or not.  So why get on the defensive?  Instead see the lesson in the chaos and move on.
    Wishing all of you an effortless journey forward this new year.

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