Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Avatar

I didn't want to see the Avatar. Seeing the military uniforms in the preview was enough and I am not into Action or Sci-fi. But so many people liked it and told me that I "have to see it", that I decided to check it off my list and see it for the "special effects". After two failed attempts (it was sold out by the time I got there), I am trying again. We're the car and on our way in sleet and ice, hoping that most people would stay home and we'd have no problem getting tickets (smart people did stay home that night).

As we slowly make our way down the mountain I engage into a long monologue about our culture going the wrong way with its technological advances, that are slowly killing us, about few small cultures, like American Indians, who did choose the path of harmonious and spiritual living, but could not withstand the bulldozer of the "civilized" way of living. Remember "Dances with Wolves"? As I was talking about that I didn't really know what the Avatar was all about. How wild is that? Turns out, the movie was about going up the spiritual path, about the Universal Energy, the oneness of all, and the Union with the Divine. Turns out it's one the best movies about Yoga ever made.

Whatever they spent on Avatar wasn't wasted on creating useless, senseless entertainment. It was used to send a powerful, profound message: we are heading towards a grim future, filled with wars, living on a "gray" planet. Unless... we stop, think, feel, connect to the Universal Energy that surrounds everything and slowly make our way back.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A short lesson in French Cooking

French cuisine can be intimidating. Just thinking about all the steps involved in Bouillabaisse preparation makes me want to take a day off. But the everyday French "style" cooking can be simple, inspiring, and economical. Step one: open your fridge and see what you have. Step two: decide what to make (can be daunting)

Here is my take on it, inspired by the latest issue of Vegetarian Times:

Pasta and Roasted Vegetables with White Wine Sauce

(ok, this is not a traditional French dish, but the cooking style is) This dish is Vegan if you skip the parm at the end.

You'll need:

Fresh vegetables - whatever you have: sweet peppers in any color, asparagus, mushrooms (I used shiitakes), Brussels' sprouts (just love them), baby artichokes, zucchinis or yellow squash, eggplant, onions, garlic, tomatoes. Any combination! About 4-5 cups

Herbs: parsley, basil or cilantro - chopped.

1 box of pasta

2-3 Tbsp of Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop all your veggies up to fill a large roasting pan, spreading it thin, add salt and pepper to taste, add 2-3 Tbsp of Olive oil, mix it well and bake for 20 minutes in the oven preheated to 400 degrees. Stir, then add chopped tomatoes, if using, and bake another 10 min.

Meanwhile make pasta - any pasta you like will do. Cook according to directions, drain well and transfer back to the pot.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven and transfer the veggies into a dish. If you using herbs, you can add them now. Deglaze the pan for 5 min. with 1/2 cup of white wine. You can do it on the stove or, if using a Pyrex pan, in the oven. Then add 1/2 of cooking water from pasta. Add the wine sauce to your vegetables, mix well, adjust the seasoning and add to pasta.

Serve with grated Parm or Romano cheese.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sour Milk

Everything in the physical world changes. Absolutely everything. Yet we refuse to accept the fact and keep clinging to whatever made us happy, gave us pleasure and joy.

You buy a carton of wonderful, fresh, organic milk. It tastes so good, it's full of nutrition and you just love it. Few days go by and it's not the same milk anymore. Under certain conditions it can turn into another delicious and nutritious product that may be even better for you. But very often it simply goes bad and can harm you. So what do you do? You keep the new milk product in the fridge and enjoy the new taste and the new qualities or you simply toss the spoiled milk out. We clearly understand that the milk will never be the same, remove it from our fridge and forget about it.

Why can't we be as wise when it comes to relationships with friends, jobs, spouses and lovers? Why do we go on obsessing over relationships that went sour when we know for sure it can only bring harm? It's important to remember that clinging restricts the flow of life - the only constant we can rely on. And if you feel the need to cling now - remember: "this too shall pass"...


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day Mayo Cookies

My life is a constant flow from one thing to another. Different jobs, places, people, projects, tasks, chores, and commitments – it’s a constant kaleidoscope of things throughout the day. And then a snow day comes… I welcome being stuck in the house with nowhere to go and nothing to do (well, that is very relative). I can do all the things I dream about doing during the course of my on-the-go, crazy, fast paced life. I can knit, read, do an extra long yoga practice, soak in the tub and I can bake something yummy for my kids. They are stuck in the house with me. How cool is that! We can even play a game together. What a perfect life! (The life I can only take for a day or two…)

So, here is one of my snow day projects: Mayo Cookies… My mom used to make them. It may sound strange to some of you who are conservative when it comes to food, but they are truly delicious and simple. I will not attempt to describe the taste. Try for yourself.

Snow Day Mayo Cookies

4 oz of Mayo
4 oz of butter
1.5 cups of sugar
1 egg
½ tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of vanilla extract
4 cups of flour

Large non-stick baking sheets

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix all the ingredients well, roll walnut size balls and flatten them lightly. Bake for 10 min and check. Do not over bake.

Happy snow day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

On music and energy vibrations...

I am in the car with my husband, heading to a party. Usually I am in charge of the entertainment and he is at my mercy, but today my iPod is dead, so he plugs in his phone, which doubles as an MP3 player. Red Hot Chili Peppers...I feel discomfort and lower the volume. It doesn’t help. I close my eyes and try to relax. I used to like that stuff. What's wrong with me? I begin to slip into meditation and the only word that's left in my head is "disharmony". That's it! I am just not in-tune with that music anymore. We are on two different wave lengths.

Every tune, word, dead and thought has a frequency. You can raise your frequency by avoiding thoughts and feelings of low vibrations. Feelings like greed, jealousy, hatred and any thoughts associated with it. You can also raise your frequency through various spiritual practices.

If you like a tune, that's because your soul's vibrating in unison with that music. It may change during the course of your life or even throughout the day. Some music can inspire you to do great things, some can push you to do bad and crazy ones. In general, most religious chants, songs and mantras have a high frequency, so does classical music. Most of it, but not all by any means. AC/DC does not have a high frequency... sorry, mom!

Same goes for TV programs and movies. I am sorry to say, but most TV programs, especially News Channels have a tendency to bring you down. Everyone notices that, but people continue to watch. Why? It's easier to vibrate on the lower wave length. It requires less effort.

Everything has an effect on you. You affect everything around you as well. That's why it's so important to watch want you "emit" as well as to choose wisely what you "put" into yourself. You are so careful with what you eat, but being careful about what comes into your body through your eyes and ears is just as important. Enjoy things that sound like "harmony" to you and strive to raise your vibration.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here came up in deep meditative state and do not belong to the writer :-) I am in no way "yogier" than you just because you like your AC/DC nice and loud. Namaste!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Butternut Squash Quickie

This is perfect on a cold night and is super quick in terms of the hands-on time. Who has the time to slave in the kitchen?
You can buy your butternut already cut into 1 inch pieces. That will speed things up even more.

Preheat your oven to 400. Place your butternut chunks into a large Pyrex baking dish, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (I use Organic Olive Oil Spray), toss to coat well. If you like spice, you can add nutmeg, or cumin, or paprika, or cinnamon. I use a Moroccan spice mix. From Ayurvedic point of view, you can use various spices to adjust the recipe for your dosha or unbalanced dosha.

Bake until almost ready (about 30 minutes), then sprinkle with brown sugar, lower the temperature to 350 and bake a little longer. May be 5-15 minutes more – you’d have to keep checking.
Serve with rice or toss with spinach and Kalamata olives to make a warm salad (perfect for all of you Vatas out there who can’t have cold salads in the winter) Be creative!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Turkey, Spinach and Feta Invention...

My husband brought home some organic ground turkey. After a quick look in the fridge I found a large pack of organic baby spinach and feta cheese. Googling the ingredients brought back nothing but "feta-turkey burger" results that are "so perfect for your summer grilling". It's February out there! But I really liked the combination of the ingredients and here is how the recipe was born. I am not sure what I should call it... Turkey Mini Meatloaves, Turkey "Hats", Winter Turkey Burgers? I didn't measure anything. Cooking is a form of art for me. But for all of you out there who need "directions" I'll do my best to estimate what went in there.

This recipe is quick, nutritious and healthy. If you know me you also know that I don't have time for time consuming fancy meals, but the final result looked fancy and tasted great.

You'll need a muffin pan (non stick if you have it) lightly greased with Olive Oil (I used Organic Olive Oil spray)

For the Mini Meatloaves:

Ground Turkey - about 1.5 Lbs
Spinach - about 4 cups of fresh (cooked, chopped and squeezed dry)
or 1 pack of frozen chopped spinach (squeezed dry)
Feta Cheese - about 1 cup
Lemon Juice - 1 Tbsp
Salt and pepper to taste
You can add paprika if you want- feel free to experiment with quantities and ingredients!

For the Sauce (the sauce is optional if you short on time, ingredients or just feel lazy):

1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Small bunch of Parsley (optional), chopped
You can add some celery or cilantro - experiment!
1 Tbsp of flour
2 Tbsp of butter
1 cup of Organic Half and Half
Spinach - about 4 cups of fresh (cooked, chopped and squeezed dry)
or 1 pack of frozen chopped spinach (squeezed dry)
About 3 Tbsp of Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mini Meatloaves:

Just mix up all the ingredients, fill up the muffin pan and bake at 350 for about 30 min. Now you can really appreciate the speed and simplicity of this!

Heat butter in a non stick frying pan, add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, flour, and herbs (if using) and cook a bit longer. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add cream, mustard and heat through. Avoid boiling. Use a blender (I used a hand held blender) or a food processer to bring the sauce to a smooth consistency. You can thin it with more cream if desired.

Serve your minis with the sauce on top (or without- it will be pretty juicy) and your favorite grain on the side. We went for buckwheat, but I am sure quinoa or rice would go well too.