Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Heart of the Matter: Artichoke

One of the great things about being in California these 6 months has been the produce. Sad to see artichokes less and less in the marketplace, it's been incredibly lovely to just steam them with lemon wedges, garlic cloves, and a handful of whatever herbs I have on hand. It seems so fancy, but really just easy and light and good for you. High in antioxidants, it's got a lot of fiber and is great for digestion. I love the tactlessness of eating artichoke like this, as well, it feels like love. 

Simple Easy: Chick Pea Quickie

These days, I'm usually famished by the time I'm done with my own yoga practice, which on a good day is about 2 hours, that's usually after teaching three hours from 6-9am in a Mysore room--which pretty much means serious physical labor. My breakfast is also my lunch and I want something hearty and warming in a hurry.

A can of organic ready to eat chickpeas is like manna from heaven. And I've taken to making sure I have a couple of cans of it for those days that I don't want to fuss with much preparation.

Above is a simple easy recipe that takes no more than 10-15 minutes. The grain is buckwheat, which cooks faster than rice and digests just as well, is rich in amino acids and in protein. All the vegetable is pre-washed. All I had to do was chop the onion.

Chick Pea Quickie
1 can chickpeas
sweat peas
small onion, chopped
arugula leaves
mustard seed
cumin seed
himalyan salt
black pepper ground
coconut oil
sesame oil
tamari sauce

Sauté the mustard seed and cumin seen in coconut oil, add onions and cook till translucent. Add chick peas, then sweet peas, sprinkle on some sesame oil and tamari sauce. Add a bit of water. Let cook. Top with arugula which will wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Tada, simple easy! Quick as lightning. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Loving the Artichoke

My Lovely Valentine Meal:
Garlic, tomato and button mushrooms sauteed with whole grain pasta.
Artichoke steamed with lemon wedges and orange peel--
I had an orange before preparing this meal and just when I
was about to throw the peel out I thought...wait a minute...
and threw it into the pot! Voila, artichokes has a beautiful
but very subtle citrus-y quality.  

Made a big deal about Valentine's Day this year. It's the first time I've been single on this date for a long time. This is something I am celebrating at the moment. Being able to spend time with myself, choosing to do what I like, learning to not be so self-sacrificing is a whole new adventure for me. And yesterday was an exercise in loving myself in all ways possible.

And one of the ways I treated myself yesterday was with food. I prepared a nice picnic for one, a couple of lovely spelt bread sandwiches with creamy peanut butter, tomato, cucumber and avocado which I enjoyed along with a thermos of anise tea up in Monserrat during the day.

Later, as I made my way back to Barcelona, I thought about taking myself to a restaurant but then recalled the fresh organic artichokes I had bought the day before. Coming from an Asian household, artichoke is not something we prepared at home. Ever. And I always think of it as a specialty food, one usually ordered in an Italian restaurant during a special occasion. In my head, it was a complicated to make. Then, last weekend during a workshop, I was reminded how easy it was to prepare artichokes. And right now, in all the veg stalls and markets here in Barcelona, the vegetable (really it's a flower bud) is pretty much everywhere.

It could not have been an easier meal to prepare: I cut the two artichokes in half. Cut up part of a lemon into wedges. Looked at the rinds of the Valencian orange I had just eaten and threw it in there as well. As it steamed in the pot, I put a smaller pot to boil for pasta. And prepared a simple sauce. The pasta and artichokes were done practically at the same time.

Artichoke hearts for Valentine's. All for me too. Quite fitting. It was a pretty satisfying meal, pairing the artichoke with pasta, and having the meal with a glass of red wine. I put on a movie, and savored each delicious leaf with the local organic cold-pressed olive oil that made up my pasta sauce.

I had made something delicious, special and simple. And I was eating something very good for me. Artichoke is thought of to have more antioxidants than any other vegetable. It helps the liver cleanse, aiding in the creation of more bile, which then helps the body break down foods as well as absorb nutrients easier.

So yesterday the artichoke helped me love myself just a little bit more than usual! 

Intelligent Eating: La Inteligencia Organica en Sistema de Desintoxicaccion

Last weekend was a special treat here in Barcelona as I attended a day-long workshop that two friends run combining the deep energetic cleansing of Life Alignment therapy, which is facilitated by Juliana Simoes, with intelligent eating, which is made possible by cook and nutritionist Gara Benitez.

Having had a deep emotional release during the workshop, there is heaps to say about Life Alignment and the work that Juliana does--one that I hope to write more about in on(e)love. The Life Alignment process goes beautifully and practically with the presentation of how our body can absorb energy and cleanse itself based on the kinds of foods we eat. Juliana and Gara make a beautiful pair and a strong argument for developing healthy eating and drinking (water, lots and lots of clean and also positively charged water) habits into our day to day life. 

The workshop takes a slightly more esoteric turn when coming into the particulars of Life Alignment (a truly powerful healing system), but it's made accessible by the practicality of that which is a normal everyday part of our life: eating and drinking water, which really grounds the essential message, that we have the power to heal our bodies. Food and water is as good as any medicine; that by simply eating consciously, making smart decisions about what we eat, eating the right combinations of food, we, in essence, maintain good health and promote self-healing. 

What was interesting for me, as well, is that the lunch menu was a detox meal. And yet resembled not anything that I would have imagined as a detox meal at all.

Now, I've been on some detox-centric retreats. The benefits are awesome, I always enjoy the end results. But I must be honest, fasting is not my favorite. I have a slight build, a fast metabolism and usually am engaged in a lot of activity. Like most people, I get hungry when I don't eat. And light eating is a little like not eating, for me anyways. Most detox diets I've come across include raw food, juices and green smoothies--more or less liquid or solid salad, leafy or chunky, but a salad is still a salad!

What Gara prepared was a hearty combination of raw and cooked food. Fresh herbed cabbage leaves were served with artichokes steamed with lemon and possibly garlic. Brown rice and wild rice was reheated in the artichoke broth. Fresh orange with cinnamon was a delicious sauce for the cabbage and artichoke. Adzouki bean, unpasteurized miso and agua del mar made the tasty protein paste. Gomazio (ground toasted sesame with sea salt), fresh sprouts, endive leaves and one delish turnip-like root veg that I can't seem to remember but was so crispy and slightly sweet added different layers to the meal. Detox food has never been so good. All ingredients were organic. 

     What's more is that all of the dishes are so brilliantly simple that any of us participants regardless of cooking ability could replicate the meal--though, perhaps not quite so delicately flavored. I went home a little more inspired to cook healthy. It was an important reminder that eating healthy and creatively doesn't have to be a laborious process, but one that required most of all love: love of the food which gives us so much, love of the creative process of cooking, and the love for eating!

Thank you Juliana Simoes and Gara Benitez for a truly delicious experience. Compliments to the chef! The photos below say it all...

Also rich in antioxidants, cabbage is high in Vitamin C and is a
good source of fiber. Though technically a flower bud, artichokes
are supposed to have more antioxidants than any other vegetable. 
Orane sauce. Adzouki bean paste. 

Gomazio! Yummm. I can sprinkle this just about on anything.
Tasty, sesame seeds are also good antioxidants.  

My plate! I was a happy bunny!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cooking, Grounding in Cairo

Settling in means making a home-cooked meal. Fusion
wheat pasta cooked in tahini with curried courgettes
and green beans, topped with avocado and
flax, sesame and sunflower seeds and
spirulina flakes (only thing not locally found).

I was starting to sound a little like a broken record, among the many questions that I had for my friend Iman, who was leaving soon for India, about Cairo, about Maadi where I would be living, about the classes I would be taking over while she was gone and about life at large in Egypt, there was one question that kept on coming up: "So where is the nearest grocery store?"

I realize that I've been traveling for almost two and a half years. That's how long I've been without a home. It's been an amazing journey but moving so much can also be a challenge in terms of grounding oneself.

Food is a big factor in my ability to settle in anywhere, whether it's a weekend, a couple of weeks, or months in one place. I need to know where to eat; yes, good veg-friendly restaurants and coffee shops. But, more importantly, I need to know where to buy ingredients, fresh local or organic produce and other groceries that enable me to put a meal together.

On my first day, I wandered out and walked in Maadi, near where Iman lives, and found an organic shop just walking distance. This little discovery was like an exhale. It helped me relax a little in this whole new environment. Ok, Egypt is a different place, a whole new culture, but organic shops the world around, that's a universal movement, one very dear to me, one I am very at home with. It made me feel comfortable.

The shop, though, was just a small comfort with its very special organic-only selection. I knew at some point I would need to find a proper super market.

Then Iman and I got busy. We had some special workshops on offer the first weekend. Then classes to to turn over in the week, and a whole culture to orient me too. And before I knew it, Iman had gone, and I still had no clue where the nearest grocery store was.

Last Friday, a day after Iman's departure, one of the students drove me to the nearest and most complete market near to where I was living. A quick walk away, they even delivered my groceries to my door. Since then, I've been able to make my own meals when I've had time in between classes.

And tonight in particular, not being on the run; instead, having the time to be creative in the kitchen, having time to "play" with my food, has been the ultimate exercise in setting in. I felt that in this most ordinary act I had given myself the biggest gift, I was making myself at home by home cooking.

Not only is home-cooking, for me anyway, the best kind of food. But the act of cooking grounds me. It helps me tune into a place. Working with local ingredients, eating what grows in season, creating with the ingredients available is nourishing in so many ways to the mind, the heart and the body.

A Cairean Breakfast

It's my first day to be a tourist in Cairo and my tour guide and yoga student Sherif starts the day by taking me to a sweet cafe on the Nile in Zamalek where I have, aptly, the Cairean Breakfast (of champions)--had them remove the one meaty part of the dish, the salad is normally topped with an Egyptian beef prosciutto of sorts. In that respect, Egypt reminds me a little of the Philippines with its love for eating animal flesh, which needs to be placed on top of anything actually vegetable.  

The omelet comes with a fresh green salad, herby feta cheese, foul medammes (a local dish of cooked fava beans), seasoned chickpeas, and dainty falafel chunks served with slices of tomato. Never have I been served with such a variety of protein for breakfast! There was bread too on the side, a shot of juice, and a choice of tea or hot chocolate at the end. 

Left Bank is a fashionable restaurant right on the river. It has outdoor seating as well as a spacious indoor dining area. It's breakfast selection is vegetarian friendly and they can adjust when needed. 

A perfect start to my introduction to modern Egyptian history --not from western text books but from real Egyptians! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Perfect cup o' cappuccino

The photo above is the best cappuccino I've ever had. It was perfect, foam lasted forever. Wasn't too hot to begin with and stayed hot as I drank it. And the flavor! Oh the flavor...

It was as at a chic little cafe called 2Periodico in one of the side streets of Rome, near the Coloseum. Capuccino and was only 1.50 Euro. 

My friend Andrea is half Italian. And when he was touring me around Osaka just a couple of months ago, the "best" coffee hot spots outnumbered the tourist destinations. Most of the time, he favored places with Italian coffee. When I challenged him that Japanese coffee was also very good, he was adamant that Italian coffee was not only better but cheaply priced as well. I dismissed his attitude as Italian coffee snobbery, but I think he may be right...