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

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Favorite Vegan Shampoo and Conditioner

I have been trying for a few years now to find a good vegan, paraben-free, and sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. I have tried a lot of different brands and haven't had any luck until NOW! This coconut shampoo and conditioner by dessert essence is made of all natural oils and extracts (some organic) and made my hair shiny and feel smooth and healthy. My hair is thick and tends to be on the dry side, and it's been tough to find a product that leaves my hair feeling this soft. You can buy this online or at whole foods.

What is your hair type? Do you have a favorite shampoo and conditioner that is natural, paraben free, and vegan? I would love to hear about it. Make a comment or Email Me! Hope to hear from you soon.

Namaste,
Monica

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Cove and How to Take Action



Have you heard of The Cove? When I ask this question, most people they say, "Is that the dolphin movie? I can't watch that stuff."  Seriously people, avoiding this movie just because you don't want to see something that is going to make you sad and teary-eyed is not a good enough reason for me. Yes, it's horrific, but It's really amazing and inspiring to see this group of activists join forces and document their journey to a cove in Taiji, Japan where approximately 23,000 Dolphins are killed each year. This film is a must see. It will inspire you to take action, spread the word, and will leave you feeling empowered.

Please don't avoid this film -  It's a very powerful documentary that demands to be seen.

Please visit this website to find out how you can take action and  make a difference in whatever way you want just like the people in this film are doing.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Veg Out At This Restaurant In Sarasota

Veg: A Vegetarian and Seafood Eatery

Hi Friends! I wanted to tell you about a restaurant that I ate at when I was visiting my parents for Fathers Day this past weekend. The restaurant is called Veg and it's a Vegan/Vegetarian/Pescatarian eatery. The menu had a decent amount of vegan options and everything was so creative. I had a hard time choosing what I wanted to order because everything looked so awesome. 

We started off with the Hummus, Quinoa, and Babaganoush Appetizer. Watch out though, the Babaganoush is made with mayonnaise, so it is not vegan. Either order it with double hummus or quinoa. I mixed a small scoop of hummus and quinoa together and spread it on my pita. 




I ordered one of the specials, so it's not a regular on the menu. This was half of a butternut squash stuffed with tempeh curried rice served on top of spinach with a side of beets. This was easily one of the best meals I have had, and happy that I was able to have some the next day for leftovers. The next day I scooped everything out of the squash and mixed it together. Yum!




My mom ordered the Portobella Volcano. This is marinated portobello topped with caramelized onions and garlic mashed potatoes on a bed of sautéed spinach and quinoa. I had a bite of this and it was to die for. I almost ordered this for my dinner, but I went with the special since I can always order this. 




My dad ordered the Organic 7-Bean Root Soup. I had a bite of this and it was delicious, savory, and filling! 




If you live in Sarasota, or are ever there for any reason, this is a place that you won't want to pass up. The service is top notch, and the food is so creative, fragrant, and delicious. You can't go wrong, and you will find yourself wanting to go back for more!


Everyone really liked their dinners, and my dad seemed to have a great Fathers Day!

Have a great night!

Namaste,
Monica

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Check Out My Sweet Beets



Hi Everyone!

Yesterday I did my blog on how to cook beets, which I was quite happy with. But, today I am sure you are wondering what items you can pair beets with to make a full lunch or dinner (or breakfast.. why not?). I know I gave you some ideas at the end of my last blog, but I would like to indulge you with a recipe that I made last night that includes a sauce that you can use with almost anything. This sauce is a staple in my diet, and maybe it will be in yours too! 

Read on to find out kiddos…….

1 package Rising Moon Butternut Squash Ravioli
1 cup roasted beets, sliced or cubed
5 green onions
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 to 2 cups beet greens (I used greens from three beets… however much that makes)
Some salt and olive oil to use in the boiling in the water for the ravioli.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic
1/2 tablespoon agave

Start by preparing and roasting the beets  - click here for directions on roasting beets. While the beets are roasting, prepare the green onions: cut the white parts into long strips and then cut in half lengthwise. Continue to cut the green parts into smaller slices. Chop up the beet greens and get them ready to sauté. Click here for more detailed instructions on how to prepare the beet greens.

Heat the water for the ravioli and add the salt and olive oil. Bring to a boil and pour in the ravioli. Cook according to directions on the package. Drain the ravioli.

Heat a skillet with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Once it's heated, put in the smashed garlic. Cook until the garlic starts to get slightly brown. Add the green onions and cook for about 2 minutes. add the beet greens. and cook for about a minute. Add the roasted beets, the ravioli, the agave and balsamic and stir together so that everything is coated and warm.

Put on a plate and you're done!

Yay for colorful food!

How To Make The Garlicky-Agave-Balsamic Sauce Separate:
Mix together the balsamic, garlic, olive oil, and agave in a blender. Now you can use this to pour over already made dishes, salads, or anything that you want to eat with this sauce!

I borrowed this sauce out of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian Cookbook, which is one of the handiest cookbooks I own. It's a cookbook about how to cook every type of vegetable, noodle, grain, bean, spice, and anything else you can think of (besides meat of course) with many variations to each dish. I recommend that you pick it up!


I was so happy that I was able to use the Butternut Squash Ravioli. It had been in my freezer for months. Every time I cook it up it always tastes so delicious and I have no idea why it took me so long to make it! The whole mixture topped with the sauce made it taste like candy, but in a healthy way.

I always put on music when I cook, so this time I decided to listen to Mates of State. I listened to their last album Re-Arrange us over and over and loved it, but I probably overplayed it. This time I decided to listen to the prior album, Bring it Back. I listened to it a bit when it entered my music collection, but I hadn't really listened to it enough to form an opinion. Now I can't decide if I like Bring It Back more than Re-Arrange Us or the same. I guess that's a good thing, but I still need to pick up their newest album and their first three! If you haven't heard of them, they are an indie rock band made up of two members that are husband and wife. I would describe their music as indie pop, and I would say it is very catchy, but it's not too cute or poppy. When they sing together they harmonize beautifully, and you won't be able to help yourself from singing with them. They also use variety of instruments to bring you through each song to the end of the album. The colorful music was a perfect fit with the dinner.

I hope you enjoy!

Do you have a favorite beet recipe? Make a comment or Email Me, I'd love to hear from you!

Namaste,
Monica

Monday, June 21, 2010

Put This In Your Mouth

Beet Me Up!





A few years ago, right about the time when I became a vegan, I went to Seasons 52 with my parents. I ordered the vegetable plate, and I was delighted to see all of the vibrant and delicious vegetables. I studied the plate to see what my dinner would consist of that night, and I noticed a golden vegetable that I just couldn't put my finger on. I thought it was a potato, but I could tell by the mildly sweet taste and non-starchy texture that this was not a potato. I had no idea what this was, but it was so succulent and I had to figure it out. At the end of the meal, I asked the waiter, and he told me that I was eating beets. I had never tried beets before, and for some reason I thought I wouldn't like them. They tasted amazing compared to what I had imagined. 


Some time went by and I forgot about beets for a little bit. Then, a few months ago I was at Cafe 118 Degrees and had a beet juice that was magnificent. After that I had some delicious beets in a faro dish with white truffle oil at a fancy restaurant in St. Louis. Obviously this was a message that beets were supposed to be part of my life, so I started reading about all of the health benefits, and decided that I was going to learn to cook beets and make them a regular part of my diet. Please continue reading to find out more about cooking, buying, and storing beets....

Quick tips of buying beets:

*There are a few different types of beets; some are red, some are a gold color. I like both types, and I just decide which one I want depending on my mood. Red beets are sweeter in taste, and the golden beets have a mild sweetness.

*Buy the beets with the greens attached to ensure freshness. You also want to cook and save the greens. Nothing goes to waste except the stems!

*You can store beets wrapped in plastic. If you buy them fresh, they will store for over a week this way.



I have only cooked beets twice, and I am a big fan of roasting root veggies, so this is how I have had the most luck:

*Preheat oven to 400
*Use a few tablespoons olive oil, and a pinch of salt,  and coat the baking sheet.
*Cut off the bottoms of the beets, and cut the beet away from the greens
*Cut each beet in half
*Once the oven is preheated, place beets on pan face down.
*Place in the oven for 30 minutes
*About 15 minutes in, turn the beets
*Cook for the remainder
*Take beets out of the oven when finished
*Let them cool for about 15 minutes (you can prepare the beet greens at this time)
*Once cooled you should be able to easily peel the beet with your fingers, or if it freaks you out to get the red pigment all over your hands, then you can take a knife to the beet and peel it that way. Either way, you will get red pigment on you unless you wear gloves. It comes off easily.
*Then, cut to whatever shape you like (cubes, slices, stars, feet)!
****EAT!****

How to cook beet greens:
*You can really cook beet greens the same way you would cook any green (kale, spinach, chard)
*Cut the greens away from the beet
*Also, cut any rough stems away from the green. You don't have to be super picky about cutting the stems away. Just make sure anything too thick is discarded.
*Chop up the greens
*Heat a skillet with some olive oil, salt, and garlic
*Once sizzling, put in the greens and cook for about a minute or until your desired doneness .
*Add them to you favorite dish to get some heart healthy greens in your diet!

If you are interested in learning more, here is a link explaining some of the health benefits of beets.

You can eat the beets and greens just like that or you can add them to a dish. I think they would be great with anything! Some things that come to mind are beets with a side of quinoa and asparagus, beets and beet greens with Soba noodles and tofu, or beets over faro with other roasted root veggies. But, one of the best combos is the one that I made tonight.... Rising Moon Butternut Squash Ravioli with sauteed green onions, beet greens with roasted beets in an agave-olive oil-garlic-balsamic sauce! This dish was inspired by one that I had at Veg, a restaurant that I will blog about soon located in Sarasota. You will see the recipe this week!





Do you have a favorite beet recipe? How do you cook beets? Make a comment or Email Me, I'd love to hear from you!

Namaste!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Propaganda or Propagandhi?


One thing that I love to do when I have free time is go through and listen to all of my old cds. It's pretty interesting to see what holds up over time, and then what just doesn't impress me anymore. Then, there are always the cds that I never really gave a chance and I wonder what took me so long because the album ends up rocking my world.

When I was going through my old albums, I came across the album How To Clean Everything by Propagandhi. I bought this album when it came out in 1993 from a mail order catalog (remember those days), and it easily became one of my top five favorite albums. I think I listened to it all through high school alongside Ani DiFranco on repeat. And, if you know me, you know how much I love Ani DiFranco, so that says a lot. I usually throw in Less Talk, More Rock, which came out in 1996, but it had been so long since I listened to their first album, so I dusted off this old thing and popped it in the cd player. It was so great to hear it again and how much it still rocks. It's probably one of my favorite punk albums of all time, but it's also nostalgic to me.

I think what drew me in is that they were one of the first bands that I listened to that were major political activists - saying things like, "I never have and never will pledge allegiance," and singing about veganism, animal rights, atheism/religion, capitalism, and just human rights in general. I was an angry teen at the time, so this was very fitting. Even though I get all fired up the more I think about the messed up things going on in the world, I am not angry anymore (that's an Ani DiFranco song… I didn't even mean to do that). I am passionate about these things though, and it's important to be an activist and speak your mind. You just have to do the best you can with what you have, and continue to do your part to try to make the world a better place.

Since How To Clean Everything, they have released more albums, their sound has matured and they continue to preach their message. I really haven't kept up on them since Less Talk, More Rock. I went ahead and did some searching on the internet and found this podcast on Vegan Freak Radio where Chris Hannah talks about animal rights, being vegan, and their newest album! The interview doesn't happen until the last half hour of the show, so you might want to forward to it.

Check it out the podcast here!

This is also a link to the resources section of their website where they list all of the activist groups they support.

Here is a link to an interview with Chris Hannah on the Peta2 site!

I still listen to Propagandhi because they continue to be animal rights activists, promote veganism, and speak their message on other political subjects. I like what they stand for, and as long as they are taking action I will support them.

I am listening to this cd now, and I forgot how awesome it is....It's blowing my mind! I hope you enjoyed learning about Propagandhi! Now go listen to them!

Do you have any favorite bands that promote veganism or have a political message? What were some bands that you loved that you rediscovered that still held up well over time? I love talking about and discovering new music. Make a comment or Email Me, I'd love to hear from you!

Namaste,
Monica

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm With Coco....


          
Hi Friends! I'm not sure if you've noticed, but it's been extremely hot this summer - especially in Florida. If I go outside for 5 minutes, it looks like I've just been through a spin class. Last night, my yoga instructor even said, It's not everyday that you come to yoga to cool down!

Speaking of summer heat, one thing that I know I can count on to keep me hydrated is Coconut Water. I've tried a few brands over the last week, and my favorites are O.N.E and Vita Coco. Naked also makes a brand of Coconut Water that uses the same pasteurization process as the others, so I imagine it's just as good. There is another brand of Coconut Water that I wanted to bring to your attention called Zico. I do not recommend this brand because it has added natural flavors and it is from concentrate. I did try it, and it does not taste natural at all - so stay away!

The sweet sweet Coconut Water in these tetrapacks are 100% natural, but not raw. The water is extracted from young green coconuts from Brazil, and they use a process called "flash" pasteurization to eliminate any bacteria, but this does not ruin the nutritional value at all. These products also have no additives, preservatives, added sugar, or natural flavoring - the only ingredient is 100% natural coconut water. Hooray! 





The refreshing  sweet water flavor is not the only reason to drink coconut water. I have found that Coconut Water is the purest liquid second only to water itself. It has more electrolytes than sports drinks, more potassium than a banana, and it is also full of calcium and magnesium. 



Here are a few fun facts about Coconut Water:
  • Helps keep the body cool and at the proper temperature.
  • Helps carry nutrients and oxygen to cells and boosts poor circulation.
  • Regulates the function of the intestine, helping promote smoother skin.
  • Helps replenish your body's fluids after exercising.
  • Helps detoxify your body and boost your immune system.
  • Helps ease stomach pains.
  • Coconut water releives urinary problems and breaks down kidney stones
  • Coconut Water is a universal donor and has been used in blood transfusions
  • It's cholestoral and fat free
  • Regular consumption of coconut water can naturally improve immunity, increase metabolism, alter HDL, and detoxify the body.


I also discovered that in World War II and The Vietnam War coconut water was used intravenously to prolong life when IV solutions were in short supply. It was injected directly to the blood stream to prevent dehydration because coconut water is similar to human plasma. Isn't that fascinating?


I have no idea how it took me so long to discover Coconut Water! 


How often do you drink coconut water? What are your favorite brands? Are there any healthy recipes, drinks, or smoothie recipes that you would like to share? I've never actually attempted to cut open a coconut, and extract the water myself. I'm a little intimidated, but one day I will do it! Have you ever done that? I'd like to hear about it! Make a comment or  Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 


Namaste, Monica

Monday, June 14, 2010

You're Not Supposed to Outlive Your Kids


Hi Friends! Todays blog is about food that is marketed as healthy, but is actually very harmful to your health. Many of these products are targeted towards children, and I think that's pretty sickening. Okay... Ramen has never been marketing as healthy, but I think that some parents may not be aware of how bad the ingredients are in these products. It is upsetting that many parents buy these products for their families, and do not even look at the ingredients or pay attention to what they are actually feeding their children. These ingredients are the cause of diabetes, obesity, and other future health problems. 

First, let's talk about GoGurt. What pisses me off is that I could not find the ingredients for GoGurt anywhere on their site. I had to search and search the internet to find out that it contains many harmful ingredients including sugar, high fructose corn syrup, kosher gelatin, natural and artificial flavors, yellow#5, and blue#1. First of all.... sugar and high fructose corn syrup? Why do we need two types of sugars? Also, do you know what gelatin is? It's made from the collagen inside an animals' skin and bones. Oh, but this is kosher gelatin - Well, then that's okay, right? No, it does not make a difference... that's crazy talk.  I found this article about GoGurt and how it contains more sugar that a coca-cola. Well, that's just awesome! 

Okay... Ramen noodles.... first of all... the noodles are deep fried! That should be enough said right there. But no worries... I'll indulge you with more information.... the noodles also contain cottonseed oil and a bunch of other ingredients I cannot pronounce. The packet contains: Salt, MSG, chicken powder (how is chicken powder even made?), sugar, natural and artificial flavors, and more ingredients I can't pronounce. 

Cottonseed Oil is a natural toxin and contains pesticide residue. Here is an article that explains how bad this is for you. Why would you let your kids ingest this?

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) can cause migraines, numbness, chest pain, nausea.... read more about it here. 

One of my favorites is Chex Cereal: Whole Grain Wheat, Sugar, Salt, Molasses, Trisodium Phosphate, BHT added to preserve freshness. Wow.... that sounds really healthy... sugar, salt, molasses, and some other ingredients that sound like diseases. Awesome! 



Then, there are Lunchables. The easy go to lunch for kids so you don't have to pack it yourself. You can see I posted the ingredients to the left. Look at all of those ingredients! This drives me crazy! Smoke Flavor, Carmel Color, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Guar Gum! What happened to a good old fashioned home made sandwich with natural ingredients? These are some of the worst things that you can feed your kids. Did you watch Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution? Jaime Oliver refers to feeding your kids these types of products as child abuse.  









Who came up with 100 Calorie Snacks? What a genius idea! It's like someone said; What should we do with all of these leftover ingredients that no one wants to eat anymore? Oh I know....how about we figure out how much adds up to 100 calories, and that will trick people into thinking it's healthy, and sell it!  This 100 cal snack to the right will kill you.... it's full of trans fat, cottonseed oil, msg, etc.





The list goes on and on: Cool Whip, Honey Nut Cherrios, Chex Mix, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Fruit Roll Ups, Juicy Juice... all of these products are just awful. Start paying attention to the ingredients and do yourself a favor and don't consume these products. Make healthy choices for your kids early in life so they don't get addicted to these products, and so they will be more inclined to crave, buy, and cook healthier food as they grow and mature. When you know exactly what you are putting into your body you feel better, look better, and are more confident. Knowing you are doing the same for your children will lighten up your life.

One last thing: Do you know what's in your orange juice? I bet you have no idea. Watch this video and find out!




What are some quick and healthy meals that you make your kids? Are there any products that I forgot to mention that you would like to add to this list? Make a comment or  Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 

Namaste, Monica

PS. Stop buying soda for your kids. Have you ever seen how a soda cleans the corrosion off of a car battery? Why would you do that to your intestines? Stop drinking soda!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mac & Cheeze & Gardein Chick'N Tenders - For The Kid In You


Hi Everyone! I hope you've had a really good weekend! One thing that I have had a very hard replicating is some good old fashioned mac and cheese. When I first heard the hype about vegan Daiya Cheese I was so excited to run out and get it and whip up this favorite from my childhood! This isn't super healthy.... just a treat, and sometimes we need that! But, I do try to make it as healthy as possible by using whole wheat noodles and throwing some broccoli in there. I paired it with some Gardein "Chicken" tenders and some Regina Spektor because they are both fun and goofy.

Here is my recipe:

For The Noodles:
1/2 LB (plus a little more) Whole Wheat Elbow Noodles
1/2 Tbls olive oil
A few pinches of sea salt

For the Main Dish:
1 bunch green onions, sliced (white and green parts)
1 cup broccoli (cut really small)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbls Olive Oil
1 Tbls Earth Balance
1/2 cup water
1 cup cheddar Daiya Cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella Daiya Cheese
2 Tbls Braggs liquid amino (or tamari, shoyu, soy sauce)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 bag Gardein Chicken Tenders

Directions:

Preheat the oven and cook the tenders based on the directions of the package.

Add the olive oil and salt to the water that you are going to cook the noodles in, and bring the water to a boil.  Once it boils, pour in the noodles and cook to your desired tenderness. I used a little more than half of the 1LB bag.

Once they are done, drain the noodles. In the same pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the olive oil and Earth Balance. Once heated and melted, add the garlic, onions, and broccoli. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add the noodles back into the pot, add the water, the Braggs, garlic powder, and onion powder. Then mix together and add the cheese gradually as you mix. You might want to lower the heat a bit, but still hot enough to melt the cheese. Keep mixing together. You will notice that the cheese might start to get stringy, but just keep mixing and it will start to coat the noodles and eventually look like real mac and cheese. It might take about 10 minutes. If you notice that the noodles or cheese starts to stick you might need to turn down the heat or add a splash of water.


This was my second time making this, but the first time I just used the cheddar, and it turned out fabulous as well. So, it's your choice. I like having the mixture though. Grab a few of the tenders (which are addicting and even good cold), a few spoonfuls of mac and cheese, and you are done!

And, don't forget to put on something fun, like Regina Spektor. Fun is actually an understatement, even though she is silly and quirky, her music is also intelligent, creative, and sometimes complex. I only own and have heard Far and Begin To Hope. When my friend gave me her latest album, Far, I could not get it out of my cd player. I loved it - song after song. I love the themes and enchanting stories, the piano playing, her whimsical singing style, and each song is just as catchy as the next and easy to sing along to.

When I listened to Begin To Hope, I liked about half of it, but the more I listen I am getting into it. At first I thought her voice was just annoying in some songs, but I started to appreciate the quirks and eccentricities. I love the way that she sings as if she's just talking to you. I think it makes the music more intimate. She has this way of capturing a moment in time, and it feels like you are reliving it with her.  I don't know what it is about cooking, but it makes music better. Now I have to grab her older albums!

I hope you enjoy!

Do you have a favorite vegan mac & cheese recipe? What are some of your favorite childhood dishes? Have you made any of them vegan and would like to share?  Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 

Namaste.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Like It Raw


Hi Friends! Today has been absolutely delightful, and I hope that your day has been as well. I started off the day with some organic Yerba Mate that I bought from Infusion Tea, and then did some stuff around the house, and made my way to the sauna. I always feel so refreshed after a visit to the sauna, and nothing feels better than finishing it off with a cold energizing shower immediately after. I feel more awake, my skin looks better, and my body feels lighter and freer. I have this quark where I worry that if I wait to get home and shower after the sauna that it won't work to its full extent. I figure - you sweat out toxins such as sodium and environmental pollutants - but if the sweat dries does it seep back into your body? That's why I like to run right to the shower after. Does anyone know the answer to that? 


It's been so hot out in Florida, so today I was craving some sort of healthy and cold smoothie. I usually make a trip to Cafe 118 Degrees on Saturdays to get one of their raw smoothies. If you don't know about Cafe 118 Degrees, it is a raw food restaurant off of Park Avenue in Winter Park, and everything is fabulous. If you are not familiar with cooking with raw foods, it means that they only use nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies. All food is vegan, free of processing and refining, and everything is heated below 118 degrees in order to preserve vitamins and enzymes. 


I know what you are thinking.... can't I just eat raw at home? Not like this! Everything is so out of this world and you won't believe what kinds of concoctions the chef can make. It's like nothing you have ever seen. Today, I got the Venus Verde, which is Spinach, Basil, Pear, Banana, and Pineapple. It's my favorite smoothie from there. They also have "milk" shakes, juices, entrees, and raw deserts. I have just been going down the list ordering from their menu. My favorite dish so far has been the Beet Ravioli, but I have tried many things, and there is not one thing that I can say yuck to. My favorite raw desert is the 'Smores'. The Chocolate Hazelnut Tart is amazing and so rich, and the raw ice cream is to die for. 


Below are pictures of the Venus Verde, the Gazpachos, the Fettuccini Alfredo (the noodles are made out of zucchini), the Raspberry Agave Lemonade, and the Chocolate Hazelnut Tart.




You would think that it couldn't get any better than this, but I am off to see Passion Pit!


What are some of your favorite vegan friendly restaurants? What is your experience with raw food, or do you have any recipes that you would like to share? Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 


Talk to you soon!


Namaste, Monica

Friday, June 11, 2010

Beat Your Meat - With These Proteins

I don't make a habit of eating meat replacements, but they are not bad every once in awhile. They are great when you are having a lazy day, need something fast, or are just having a craving that you want to nourish. I wanted to share my favorites in this category, and you will see that I use these every so often in my recipes. These also make great transition foods for people wanting to make the changeover to vegetarian or vegan. 


Gardein is a play on the words garden and protein. It's made from soy, pea and wheat proteins, and ancient grains, and then slow cooked to give you a meaty bite and texture. You can cook Gardein in the microwave, on the grill, in the oven, or on the stove - all of the conventional ways that you would usually cook meat. I love Gardein when I want something quick, or when I am craving one of the old dishes that I used to make such as "Chicken" Piccata or "Beef" Stir fry. I have tried all of the products in the pictures and they are awesome and totally vegan!




I love Boca Crumbles when I am craving spaghetti and "meat" sauce, and a Boca Burger whenever I don't have time to make dinner and I need something quick before a night out. I wouldn't say they are super healthy, but good in a pinch.  
Sunshine Burgers are the best! They are made from sunflower seeds, brown rice, herbs, sea salt, and carrots. They taste awesome and they are great on the grill at a cookout!

                                

I'd love to hear about how you use these products in recipes, or to answer any questions you may have about being vegan. Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 

Namaste.