Friday, November 15, 2013

The Yogi Movement

Hi everyone! I have created a new blog at 

The Yogi Movement

Please check me out there and subscribe if you like my stuff!

Thanks and looking forward to keeping connection!

xo,
Monica

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Soba Noodles with Ginger





If you know me, then you know I LOVE soba noodles. Actually, if you just scroll through this blog a bit, you'll see a lot of Soba Noodle recipes. Well, here's another one! 



I used honey in this recipe, but if you want vegan, just use brown sugar instead. One thing I really like about this recipe is the use of ginger, lemon, and honey which is 
an ayurvedic aid for digestion and many other ailments. I usually make a lemon, ginger, honey tea every night, but this works too. This is a tweaked recipe inspired by 101 Cookbooks.


1 pack dried soba noodles (I use Eden's which is 8.8 oz)

1 tablespoon freshly grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup toasted sesame oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup Chopped white onion
2 teaspoons brown sugar (I actually used honey, but use sugar if you're making this vegan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 celery stalk chopped
3 tablespoons of chopped tarragon, plus more to taste
a few big handfuls of tofu, pan-fried until golden. I like to experiment with different shapes. This time I did matchsticks, and I browned on all 4 sides.
3 or so handfuls of sesame seeds. Maybe more if you love them, and less if you don't!

I started by making the dressing since it's the most time consuming:
Combine the ginger, toasted sesame oil, lemon juice, onion, sugar (or honey), salt, vinegar, celery, and in a food processor. My dressing came out a little clumpy, but that's because I don't own a food processor and didn't want to use and clean my blender. Instead I used my coffee grinder which worked just fine, but won't give you a smooth finish. It's up to you. Taste and tweak if needed to get the dressing to your liking. It like it with a bit of a bite. Set the dressing aside.




At this point I cut up the tofu and begin to sauté it with a little bit of sesame oil in a skillet. At the same time I start the water boiling and noodle cooking process. Once the noodles are done, drain and rise.

When everything is done, in a large bowl, toss the soba noodles with the tarragon, the tofu, the desired handfuls of sesame seeds, and about 2/3 of the dressing. I use all of the dressing, but if you're skeptical then just add a little at a time as you taste.

I ate this with a side of cooked kale, purple asparagus, and chopped up raw cucumber. It was pretty delightful and refreshing, especially for hot Florida weather. I ate everything right after cooking, so it was warm, but the next few days I had the leftover noodles cold, which was really good too. If you're feeling frisky add some cayenne or even cilantro! Hope you feel healthy and refreshed, and enjoy treating your body like a temple!

Oliver helped me cook too! He's a cool cat.

Namaste, Love, and Meow,
Monica and Oliver

Monday, May 27, 2013

More Walking, Creative Cooking, and Less Driving


Since I've been back from Nepal, I've made a conscious decision to take more walks. In Nepal we walked everywhere, and it kept me feeling light and free. When I arrived back I realized how many things I have so close to me, but I still choose to drive to them. This weekend I decided to start cooking creatively again and take walks. 

On Saturday I walked to Whole Foods to purchase my groceries for the new recipe that I will post tomorrow. What I loved about this walk was the cool breeze and fresh air. The air is so fresh and clean here. I can feel it penetrate and hydrate each cell in my body as I breathe. I have never appreciated fresh clean air so much since I've returned. The air was so polluted in Nepal that it made my throat scratchy and made me feel weak and fatigued everyday. Just from the start to the end of a taxi drive would exhaust me because of the air, and also the probably the bumpy roads and jerky driving, but mostly the pollution. I remember thinking that the air felt like drops of refreshing water in my lungs. Here are some pictures from my walk. 

Half Full Water on Bench










Lonely Taxi




On Monday I decided to walk to Starbucks. What I loved about this walk was walking by a bunch of homes and businesses and noticing little gems of beauty that I would have never noticed otherwise. I also just kept looking around at the sun shining down and how it was making everything glisten. The colors of the leaves, flowers, and grass just looked so sharp. I can't believe how beautiful of a world we live in. I'm so in awe and never want to lose this perspective.








Do Not Enter, or Enter?




Peace sign or bunny




Penetrate the heart
Well, have a good sleep, and look for my new recipe tomorrow! First recipe post since 2010! How's that for a come back....!

Namaste,
Monica

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Infusion Tea: Gazpacho, Hummus, and Vegan Pumpkin Pie Gelato!


Namaste! 

How was everyone's weekend? I so look forward to the weekend just to make time to do the things that I don't get to do during the week. October is always a crazy month for me and this one is extra crazy, but definitely not a bad thing. My dads birthday is this month and so is mine, and then there are a ton of concerts this month. There were even so many that I had to eliminate a few! 

Last Wednesday I went and saw The National. They've become one of my favorite bands over the past three years. When I first heard then they reminded me of the Silver Jews. Matt Berninger has that deep intoxicating voice like David Berman. The music is different, but at times it can be similar enough to make the reference. You should check them both out! 

I went to infusion tea last night and finally finished The Yoga Sutras… they are so fascinating - I can't wait to read them over again. I tried a new black tea called Almond Amaretto. It was good, but it won't make my usual circulation. Every time I go there I try a new tea, but I usually just end up buying the tins of the same ones. The last really good tea I tried that made my circulation was a black tea called Blue Lady. I also really like White Raspberry Truffle, Rose Colored Glasses, Winter Mint Rooibos, and Rooibos and Roses. Whenever I go to Infusion Tea I get a little nostalgic because it's right next to where Urban Ashtanga used to be. That's where I first tried and fell in love with that practice. I do miss that place!

I love everything about Infusion Tea. It's vegetarian with many vegan options, and I really don't think you can go wrong with anything that you order. I saved up a few pictures of what I've ordered over time so you can see how refreshing everything looks! They are also the only place I know with vegan gelato! Right now they have vegan Pumpkin Pie Gelato!  Move over Starbucks!


They also have a nice assortment of vegan cakes and cupcakes. I really wanted to try the Vegan Pumpkin Chai Cake, but the gelato was really enough for me :)


This was a delightful and healthy hummus wrap with one of the best side salads! They use some sort of sweet vinaigrette dressing, and it's to die for!


I saved the best for last! I realize this is a slightly blurry picture, but don't let that fool you! It's really the best gazpacho in town. Maybe the best ever! It's such a good mixture of tomato, cucumber, cilantro, onion, etc...and just so so so refreshing and delicious!

Here is a link to their website.. Infusion Tea

I hope you all have a nice night and week!

Until Next Time.... 

Love,
Monica

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Farmers Market, Vegan Chili, and Rockin' Backbends!


Namaste! 

Practice last night was amazing as expected. I haven't practiced the whole series for awhile, but I noticed that I moved my feet closer together and got my hands further up my back in Supta Kurmasana. I'm not clasping yet, but it's neat to see the changes. 

After Monday nights practice I usually hit up the Stardust Farmers Market with some of my Yogi & Yogini friends. I love a farmers market at night…  live music… good food! It's a nice way to wind down the night. Stardust also has some good vegan fare. Last time I got the vegan chili which was awesome! They really give you a lot… I had leftovers for two days! They also layer it…. I was eating it for 10 minutes and then realized that there was rice underneath. It was a pretty exciting moment. Last night I got the vegan quesadillas. I didn't think those were that great. They were calling them quesa-nadas though since they didn't have cheese, which I thought was funny. 

While we were all eating we were discussing what our favorite poses were in primary series and then the ones we struggle with. I was trying to think of what my favorite pose was, and I had a hard time answering that question. In Ashtanga, I really love the practice as a whole. It's not really the asanas, but the breathing, the meditation, the way I feel when I am in them, and the way I feel after practice. I also get this energy when I am practicing that I is totally new. I can be tired and sometimes I even try to talk myself out of practice, but once I get there and hop on the mat I all of the sudden forget that I was tired. I have this energy that takes me through the whole practice and I even feel it after. Maybe that is the Prana I am feeling? 

Aside from saying that, I can say there are poses that I do struggle with, or are not very comfortable for me. For example… Upward Bow. In my first backbend I feel a little weak in the feet and lower legs. I am not totally sure why, but I think it might have to do with how my weight is distributed. When my feet are adjusted to the proper form (heels out, toes in) my feet tend to feel a little weak. It's probably because my feet are not used to being in that position and holding my body up that way. The first time I was told to turn my heels out I actually had to bring myself down. I can hold myself up now, so I guess I'm adjusting and getting stronger. I do six backbends to start with. The first three are normal, and then the next three I walk my hands in more each time… with my 6th being the deepest. I hold each one for five breaths. After that I work on drop backs which I think I enjoy more than laying on my back and pushing myself up. I really feel like I am almost to the point of bringing myself up on my own, but not so much going back and catching myself from standing. I did gymnastics all growing up, but this type of backbend is much different than a gymnastic one. The interesting thing is that as much as I feel like I am struggling in this asana, I look forward to it everyday, and once I started doing more and intense backbends my body and energy has been different. I don't know how to explain it, but it's like I have this added energy and I feel lighter.

Besides upward bow there are other backbends in Ashtanga. Second series is made up of many backbends which are much different than upward bow. In Some of them, you start on your knees and bend back and grab your heels, or you bend all the way back so your head is on the floor and your forearms are on the ground and your hands are walking in and reaching for your feet. Others you are on your stomach and you reach back with your arms and grab your feet and pull your body up. I love the backbends in second series. 

On another note, I do really like practicing arm balances! Those might actually be my favorites!

Have a  wonderful night and day!

Om Shanti
Monica

Monday, October 4, 2010

Contemplations and Asana



Namaste Everyone!

I know I haven't blogged for awhile, and that is because I have not been very active with creating new deliciously succulent vegan dishes. I have topics I want to blog about, but they don't really have to do with the topic of being vegan. Honestly, I have been pretty basic lately…. cereal with strawberries and hemp milk for breakfast, soup or a salad for lunch, and a lot of greens and veggies in the wok, soba noodles or wild rice, some braggs liquid amino, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes and I'm good to go for dinner. Last night I made wild rice with broccoli, veggies, and edamame, so I change it up now and then, but that's the usual! 

I have been so focused on my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice that I haven't really had time to be experimental with new dishes and recipes. I really want to take time to blog about my experiences and contemplations that I have been having as I have delved deeper into this lifestyle. I am reading, learning, practicing, and experiencing so much and I know writing and sharing these experiences will help deepen my practice. So, I am changing the focus of my blog for a bit, and I hope you'll stick with me. I, of course, will still blog vegan recipes and thoughts as they come about as well. :)

This particular blog is pretty much going to be a ramble of a bunch of things that have been going on in my mind lately. As I've been reading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I have spent a lot of time just thinking about my life and how everything has changed. I read in the Yoga Sutras that the mind is always changing and you have to embrace that. People are scared of change and they try to hold onto this and that, but that's impossible because everything is always changing everywhere all of the time. We are always changing - every minute. So, once we realize this and embrace this - it's like a weight off your shoulders. It's such a relief to accept change (because it will happen whether you like it or not) so life can happen and you can really begin to enjoy it. 

Everything in my life has changed and I am happier than I've ever been since I stopped planning or forcing anything for the future. I truly believe that when you give up expectations and analyze everything in your life: your thoughts, your reactions, your worries and stressors - a path will open up and everything will start to make more sense. Swami Satchidadana says, "If we live in the present, even though the whole world might blow up in a minute, it won't bother us. If we have decided to be happy, nobody can make us unhappy. Anything might happen. An earthquake might decimate the entire world, but we need not bother about the future. Nor should we worry about the past. It has already gone. To be happy this minute is in our hands. But, a carefree life is possible only with a well-controlled mind, one that is free of anxiety, one without personal desires or possessions." 

I used to get so much anxiety and stress about money. You always hear… "Go to school so you can get a good job and make money. And, if you further your education, then you can make even more money!" It's so much more about money than education or doing what makes you happy these days. How many of you chose your profession because it's what you are passionate about and is exactly what makes you happy? How many of you received a degree in what you thought would make you happy later to find out that it's not for you? Don't get me wrong… I went to college and have an undergraduate and a graduate degree. I wouldn't give up or take back those experiences. I have learned something from everything that I have experienced in the past, and it has led me to where I am now. I am thankful for that, and I am excited for new discoveries. I can honestly say though that I didn't figure out what I was passionate about until after I received those degrees. Everyone is different though - this is just my experience. 

I used to get so stressed out about money, but once I started to think of money differently, it was like I was a new person. I started to think of it as just a number. I mean, that's really all it is… it's a number on a computer screen, a piece of paper, a round piece of copper, or a plastic square. What significance does it really have… why do we let it define us? When I die am I going to say…. I'm glad I owned all of those cars and homes and paid off my credit cards… or am I going to say I am so glad that I have an amazing group of family and friends and experiences? Yes.. we need money to survive and live comfortably, so I'm not knocking money… I just think we need to change how we use it.  In Asteya (non-stealing), which is part of the first limb of yoga ,  Satchidanada explains that we should just use our money for what we need to survive. He calls it stealing if you overindulge in buying and spending….. "If someone has fifty garments in his closet and his neighbor does not have one, the first person is stealing the second usage. Because certain people have the buying power to make a lot of purchases they raise the prices for poor people who don't have much money. If everyone merely bought for their own necessity, goods would be left over in stores and prices would come down. The whole worlds economy is based on this." I love this perspective. I never thought of overspending as "stealing" until now. 

It seems like once we have one thing…we can never be fully satisfied. When a person goes to purchase a home they look for the biggest they can afford, and then the next home purchase must be bigger with lots of upgrades! If we just built houses that were standard in size depending on how many occupants  to live comfortably with minimal possessions than we would have more room for people and families that didn't make tons of money to live. We would make it more affordable for them too. 

It's definitely a life long journey. I don't know that I will ever be free from personal desires completely or have a well-controlled mind 100% of the time. But, I am definitely going to try and do the best that I can to notice when these feelings come about, and then continue to analyze so that I can let go even more. Next time you feel stress or anxiety about something ask yourself why. Is the stress really worth it? What's the worst that can happen? Also, try to analyze negative thoughts as well. Do you think of someone negatively? Why do you not like that person? Is it really a good reason? I have found that self analyzation and compassion for others makes everyday a good day. 

Alright well that is my thought for now. 

Onto the next…..

I also wanted to talk about my Asana practice.The Mysore method has really helped my practice and I look forward to it everyday. Right now I am stuck on Marichyasana D, and I am trying to not get frustrated with that. I know I am getting closer, at least on my right side. My left is much tighter for some reason, but everyday I notice I am able to twist a little deeper and rotate my arm a little more. I am working to control my breath, my bandhas, and just examine how my body feels so that I can deepen all postures. I keep telling myself to enjoy each posture and the steps along the way. I will be excited when I can move on to Navasana though! I love working with all of the instructors here… I learn something new and different from all of them. 


Besides the asanas, my main focus is on overcoming distractions, controlling and deepening my breath, and learning to let go. Controlling my breath seems to be a challenge. By the time I reach Virabhadrasana A & B I realize I am actually a little out of breath. I can actually feel my heart beating faster, and that makes it tough to keep my breath slow and under control. Last night at Mysore was the first time that I felt normal in those poses. I think it's because I am doing better at always engaging my bandhas and paying attention to my breath. I'm trying to see if I can slow it down and deepen it even more. At the point when I get to the Marichyasanas I have to remind myself to keep my breath deep and even. Since I am trying to improve C and working on the bind in D I notice that my breath pattern becomes shorter and more forced. When I deepen and slow down my breath I feel like I can concentrate more and move deeper into the pose. I am trying to learn to let go and release tension in my body. Since I am working on the bind I believe I sometimes try to force it or tighten up. When I do concentrate on letting go I have noticed a difference. I am not there yet, but I know I have opened up and moved deeper into the pose, so I am optimistic!


Tonight is Monday so I am going to do the led series. I don't get to move past Mari D anymore since that is where I stop in Mysore. Every pose leads to another in Ashtanga, so until I reach Mari D I'm really not ready for the other poses. Even though this is true, I still like to attend a led class and practice the postures. I also love the group energy when a class is moving, breathing, and experience Savasana together. It really depends on the instructor too…. Lewis, who teaches Monday nights, radiates the most positive energy and I feel the prana in full effect.

Until Next time……… Om…….

Monica


Do practice Ashtanga? What are your thoughts on practice on and off the mat - Email MeI'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Soba Noodles with Tofu and Cucumber in a Soy-Vinegar Dressing




I love soba noodles. If you're not familiar, soba noodles are the size of spaghetti and they are made from buckwheat. I can't believe I have never written a blog about them since I eat them at least twice a week. They're so easy and quick to cook up. I usually just boil them, add something green like broccoli or kale, add some tofu, and flavor with some sesame oil, braggs amino, and sesame seeds. Maybe I'll top with some cilantro and avacado - just depends what I have around the house. They're pretty tasty. 


One of my favorite Soba dishes is called Otsu from the Super Natural Cooking Cookbook by Heidi Swanson. Here is how I make it!

The Dressing:
Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, chopped
1 tablespoon agave
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned brown-rice vinegar
1/3 cup shoyu sauce or braggs liquid amino
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

For the Protein:
1 block extra-firm tofu
Red Pepper Flakes
Sesame Oil
Sea Salt

The Rest:
8-10 ounces dried soba noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish


Make the dressing by combining the ginger, agave, cayenne, and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.

Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.

While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into triangles. Make a rub with the sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and sea salt and coat both sides. Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Flip gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and a bit crispy on both sides.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the ¼ cup cilantro, the green onions, cucumber, and about ⅔ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and the toasted sesame seeds.

This is seriously one of my favorite dishes. Some other variations I like to make are adding some or all of the following: sauteed brussel sprouts, lightly cooked broccoli, sauteed kale or spinach, edamame, shiitake mushrooms, or Gardein instead of tofu. I also like to top with avocado whenever I have that available. You really can't go wrong with Soba Noodles. Anything Goes!

Lately I've been listening to a lot of Neko Case. I really enjoy her latest album, Middle Cyclone. It's one of those albums that I like more every time I listen to it. I like to listen to it when I am cooking, but it works anytime. Here is a song from it, perhaps you'll like it as much as I do. 


Do you have a favorite Soba Noodle Dish? Make a comment or Email Me, I'd love to hear about it!

Namate, 
Monica