Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Morning Glory: Baked Cherries

Have I mentioned that I'm in love with this little clay baking pot I found at Good Will last year?  It's amazing. After having so many good things come out of it after 30 minutes in the oven, I'm convinced it's an alchemist.  I've baked everything from mini-casseroles and leftover soup to duck eggs over potatoes and coconut milk rice pudding in this adorable little cassoulet. There must be something about the covered-clay-baking-process that turns the ordinary into the sublime. Eggs are more evenly cooked, desserts are more soft and creamy, and soups are imbued with new flavor and life. This morning I decided to give baked cherries a whirl.

My Ayurvedic constitution is Kapha (http://doshaquiz.chopra.com)  so maybe that's why I prefer warm foods vs. ice-cold.  Warm fruit out of the oven is simply more enjoyable to me, whether it's apples, peaches, or berries.  The heat, when applied gently and for the right amount of time, beautifully brings out the flavor, as well as a river of juices you just wouldn't get from fruit out of the fridge, or even at room temperature.  One of my most adored fruits are now in season so what better time to do the baking experiment:  a crock full of washed bing cherries baked covered at 335 for 30 minutes. This morning the cherries were straight out of the fridge; if you're using room temperature cherries, the time or temperature might vary.  I always turn the oven off at the end and let them marinate a little more, say 10 minutes or so.  The result is pure Nirvana: The beauty and fragrance of a cherry pie minus the white stuff to wreak havoc with the blood sugar.

The photos might not do their splendor justice, so you'll just have to try it out to see what  I mean.  Any covered casserole dish will do if you don't have a crock.  Let the cherry-baking begin!  Bon Appetit...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Almond Joy - My A.M. Ritual Improved

Espresso in the a.m. has been a ritual since the 80's.  Once I discovered its hedonistic depth and flavor, there was no going back to coffee.  The thing is, I've never been a black coffee kind of drinker, so the octane of my espresso was always tempered with a generous splash of cream. It was my own version of a strong, full-bodied latte.

Three years ago, when I found DDPYOGA and the guidance of Diamond Dallas Page and Terri Lange, they strongly urged me to give up cow dairy.  It was sound advice, but I also knew I was in no way, shape or form ready or willing to give up cream from my beloved a.m. ritual.  When I undertook a vow to change my life, health, and food choices, I knew that to make it work long-term, I had to be realistic.  For me, this meant keeping pleasure in the equation to a certain extent...it would be crucial to the longevity of my changes.  The deal I made with myself was as follows:  cow cheese takes a hike; cream in the espresso stays in the picture.  This decision was due in large part to never finding a suitable cream substitute.  I didn't like the fake creamers or the substitutes made of soy or coconut.  Then oneday, an unexpected revelation:  Almond Milk makes FABULOUS latte's.

It all came about quite by accident while vacationing at my friend Rene's house.  Rene is also a recent 'no cow dairy' convert and drinks only Almond Milk.  My first morning there I was horrified to discover she hadn't had time to shop for cream, and I was too groggy for a supermarket run, so I bit the bullet and heated Almond Milk on the stove in a saucepan in tandem with the percolating Bialetti.

"It's gonna be horrible," I thought to myself as I mixed the two together in a mug.  Then I took a sip.  Then I smiled in delight.  That was a year ago.  Suffice it to say, I don't buy cream anymore. I'm not saying Almond Milk tastes the same. How could it?  It's an entirely different substance with significantly less fat, but somehow, it still works.  And it has loads more nutrition (Calcium, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Phosphorus, Manganese) than cream.  Now that my palate is acclimated to it, cream tastes a little heavy and odd when I'm dining out and it's the only option.

The key to a good espresso latte is adding enough Almond Milk to make it milky and lush without overpowering the coffee. I use about a half cup of espresso to 1 cup of Almond Milk.  Another way of gauging it is color:  I prefer my Almond Latte's to be a deep beige.  If you're not into espresso, use whatever coffee you're accustomed to.  So if you're a regular coffee drinker, I hope you'll give the Almond option a try, and let me know how you like it.  Oh, and it's also FANTASTIC chilled...just in time for heatwave season.

And last but not least:  my favorite brand is Blue Diamond's Almond Breeze, Unsweetened.  It's only 40 calories a cup, loaded with nutrients, and unloaded with sugar. Sweetened varieties can range from 60 to 90 calories a cup and I'd rather spend the calories elsewhere. 

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Sweet Sound of Guided Meditation

Last night I needed some comfort. Rather urgently.  It was the end of a rather drawn-out and trying day, and I felt my irateness rising, slumped at the computer answering e-mails and taking care of back-logged business, noting that the day's "To Accomplish" list looked woefully unchecked. 

I'm in the midst of maintaining a 185 weight loss.  The process began in January of 2009. On the surface, it seemed like everything fell seamlessly into place:   I found DDPYOGA and began doing it; I listened to the advice of Dallas Page and Terri Lange and stopped eating gluten and cow dairy, and among other milestones that year, I was spurred by my steady weight change and decided to train for and complete Avon's walking marathon for breast cancer research.  

The steady shrinking of my hipline garnered a lot of oooh and aahhs from those around me and I'm not going to pretend I wasn't ecstatic because of it. But there were emotional demons to conquor before the poundage faded away. All along, even when I was 300 pounds + for so many years, I've made sure to pay careful attention to the part of me that is incorporeal.  Sure it's a fact that the body needs care, but I've come to realize that the outer is only a reflection of the inner afterall, so what good does it do to focus solely on calories-in and sit-ups?  I've been down that road before, twice to the tune of two 100-pound weight losses and subsequent regains. Not interested.

So last night, as I felt the breezey undercurrents of emotional turmoil gaining velocity, I knew the breeze could easily churn into funnel clouds if I didn't acknowledge them with a time out.  Four years ago, the time-out would have consisted of me beelining into the kitchen for the most easily accessible fistfull of simple carbs.  I no longer attempt to solve problems this way.  

Instead, I decided that some soothing of my Spirit was in order.  I employ a variety of remedies for this ranging from getting down on the floor and stretching to candlelight and incense, flipping on some relaxation music, or one of my favorites:  reaching for the headphones and turning on a guided meditation.  There's nothing like a gentle, calming voice to guide me back into the gale-free zone of serenity again.  Shelley Cummins is one of my favorite purveyors of the guided meditation.  She's a spiritual teacher and yogini I've studied with for years, and Shelley conducts workshops around the world. Since I can't always get to where she is, I thank God for her MP3 downloads. Last night I took refuge in her Tonglen Breathing Meditation, a transformational breathing practice meaning "to send and to receive."

Shelley's meditation downloads, books, and yoga DVD's are available on Amazon ( www.amazon.com/Divine-Breath/dp/B001BLKNVI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1338931403&sr=8-3 )

As I drifted off to sleep last night to the strains of the meditation, with seagulls and ocean waves interspersed with Shelley's gentle directives, I was truly at peace. How good it felt to listen to what my body and soul really wanted and give it to them.  To me, that's the essence of real nourishment.

For more information on Shelley Cummins, visit  www.jaisriyogis.com