Food for the Body

Thoughts about eating well to feed your body and spirit.

Okra Germinated; First Roses Opened

First flower on a cherry tomato appeared overnight.  Peppers are budding.  They all like the heat.  Dill is going yellow around the edges already.  It does not like the heat.  One of the things I love most about gardening is noticing what thrives to excess and what struggles, depending on the weather patterns.  With the right balance of plants, there will always be a bumper crop of something (both edible and ornamental).  Eating locally, with consciousness acknowledgement of the limits of space and time in an affirming way,  requires accepting what are the crops of the year and being creative with them rather than finding a recipe and insisting that the ingredients be available to the detriment of flavor, pocketbook, and environment.

Fostering such a relationship to my garden and my food helps me also accept that although I can grow and shift, I ultimately cannot change certain fundamental things about myself.  It is better radically to affirm what I have been given than to try and contort myself into something that it seems society (Heideggerian “they”) would prefer.

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Granola (yes, it’s basically cookies in milk without the egg and butter)

On Wednesday, reluctant to turn on the heat despite the cold, I turned on the oven instead.  I already had muffins and bread from the previous weekend in the freezer, so I decided to make granola.  I first made granola at Quaker youth camp in the 1970s in upstate New York.  It was tasty, but loaded with honey and fat, and we made it in such vast quantities that it was years before it occurred to me I could just make the same amount that would be in a cereal box for myself.  If you have never done it, or suffer from the same inhibitions I’d suffered from, give yourself a treat and make your own.

Take a few cups of multigrain flakes (or just oat flakes).  Throw in any or all of the following:  shredded coconut, chopped nuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seed nuts.  If you have them in the house, add a handful of wheat germ and/or flax seed meal, a little salt (makes it taste sweeter) and spices if you like (e.g. cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg).  Stir in enough of any of the following liquid sweeteners (my favorit is brown rice syrup because it gives the best clumping with the smallest amount), honey, maple syrup, agave, fruit juice concentrate (thaw first) and a little vegetable or nut oil (my favorite is walnut), that the mixture is a pleasing combination of coated flakes and small clusters.  (The more sweetener you use and the stickier the sweetener, the bigger the clumps).

Spread mixture on an oiled cookie sheet.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 325-350F.  Let the mixture get golden, but not brown (or to taste).  Turn and respread mixture once at about the 12-15 minute mark.

When you take the mixture out of the oven, stir in dried fruit of your choice (raisins, currents, dried blueberries or cranberries; dice larger fruits such as dried apricots or apples).

Use combinations of nuts, spices, sweeteners, and fruits that make sense:  apple, walnut, maple syrup; brazil nut, coconut, pineapple juice concentrate, nutmeg; cranberry, raisin, walnut.  You get the idea.  If you like peanuts, blend some peanut butter in with the sweetener and oil before mixing it with the grains.

Why is this recipe not exact?  Because it does not need to be exact to come out delicious.  Because breakfast cereal is best if it is the way you like it and not the way someone else likes it.  (Just like doing your own asana practice at home).

If you have never done it before and are afraid of picking your own proportions and oven temperature, find a couple of recipes on the internet or in a cookbook and then use the recipes as a basis for experimenting.

For muesli, leave out the sweetener and the oil, omit the baking, add the fruit to the flake and nut mixture and then prepare as you like your muesli (soaked or not soaked, with yoghurt or with milk, etc).

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Green

greensThe haze of pink on the flowering trees is turning to green, and the maples and oaks are starting to leaf.  I love the pale green of new leaves before they have gotten dusty from smog and heat.  I hope this time we will get the promised rain (last storm we only got a fourth of what was forecast).

Another green:  in the garden, my spinach is coming up, as is the new chard, kale, cilantro, and salad greens.   I have been eating the romaine that seeded in the fall and the chard plants that weathered winter.  Delicious!

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Vegan Cranberry Walnut Oatbran Muffins

At what point does a recipe cease to be the one from the book and become one’s own?  These muffins are loosely based on Martha Rose Shulman’s “Overnight Bran Muffins” from her book Great Breads. Her ingredients are:  raisins, bran, boiling water, eggs, sunflower oil or melted butter, honey, molasses, buttermilk, whole wheat flour, white flour, baking soda, and salt.  She bakes hers at 400F for 20-30 minutes.  If I had just replaced the raisins with cranberries (sometimes I use other berries or dried fruits), or replaced the buttermilk with soy milk or juice, or used all whole wheat flour instead of a mixture of whole wheat and white flour, and added a few spices, it would not have been my cooking.  But when one changes nearly every aspect of a recipe, is it a new recipe?  I just happened to start with this one, but I could just have easily started modifying the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries for cranberry bread or any one of a number of the recipes I have for apple, cranberry, or bran muffins and came to the same place.

I used chopped cranberries, succanat, walnuts, oat bran, egg replacer, walnut oil, soy milk, ground flax seed meal, whole wheat pastry flour, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, and salt and changed some of the proportions, the order in which I prepare and mix some of the ingredients, and the baking temperature and time.  Ms. Shulman’s muffins are richer and more classic for having the eggs, buttermilk, and white flower, but the ones I made this morning tasted pretty good, and I recommend her book as an excellent place to find solid, easy to follow recipes.  I honor her recipe as a starting point, the way I honor my teachers on the yoga path, but still bring in my own experience.

Want to make your own?

  • Take a cup of cranberries (these are the last of the cranberries I bought last fall and then froze to use through the winter; you might not be able to find cranberries this time of year, so use whatever you have on hand), chop them in a wooden bowl, toss with a few spoonfuls of succanat (dried fruits or sweeter berries do not ask for the extra sugar) and set aside.
  • Wisk together in a large bowl egg replacer (one egg’s worth), 1/4 cup walnut oil, and 1/4 to 1/3 cup maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener, including fruit juice concentrate).  Soften 1 cup oat bran with about 7/8 cup boiling water.   Mix oat bran into liquid ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 cup ground flax seed meal, a pinch of salt, and a slightly rounded teaspoon of baking soda.
  • Quickly fold the dry ingredients into the wet without over mixing.  Add the cranberries and then the walnuts.  Bake at 350-360 for 18-24 minutes in lightly oiled muffin tins.  Makes 12.
  • Modify to your delight.  If you are allergic to nuts, skip the walnuts and use safflower or canola oil instead of walnut oil.  Go to Ms. Shulman’s recipe as a starting point and create your own.

I freeze muffins and then take one to work (I transport muffins wrapped in a cloth napkin or a reused bag from nuts or dried fruit)  instead of buying coffee shop muffins.  Saves on packaging, calories, and I know it was made with love.  Keep the coffee store pastries for a special treat or for when you’ve temporarily run out of your own.

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Sprouted Lentil Salad

When I came home from teaching today, I put together a salad of sprouted lentils, celery, spring onions, and walnuts, dressed with walnut oil and aged, organic balsamic vinegar.  What made the salad special was freshness of the lentil sprouts, the subtlety of newly ground pink himalayan salt and the little luxury, the balsamic vinegar.  In the summer, it would be great with a new cucumber from the garden on a bed of fresh mixed greens.

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An incredibly comprehensive list of energy saving tips small and large

I was reading an article in the NY Times about what one can do to  “green” a home that led me to this list.  There is always something else to learn:  unofficial list of energy saving tips.

FYI, PEPCO Energy Services does offer “green” and “wind” electricity.  Not perfect, but better than regular PEPCO.  I think there are some other alternatives in Maryland.  I have not investigated recently in the District, but switched to the “green” electricity a number of years ago.

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Yum — Fresh Sprouts

Unable to wait another 3-4 weeks before the first baby greens can be picked, I’ve been sprouting indoors.  In 2-4 days, with just a little attention, you can have the taste of spring in the smallest and darkest of spaces.  I had a good on-line experience getting spout supplies from the Sprout People.

Tonight I made sprout slaw.  I chopped some red cabbage, minced some onion, added an equal volume of  “French Garden” sprouts (clover, arugula, cress, radish, fenugreek, and dill).  Dressed the slaw with sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, unsweetened soy milk (if you drink it, you could substitute milk or yoghurt — I just like to cut the amount of mayonnaise), vegan mayonnaise (you can make your own if you like–sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t), and sea salt.  Went fabulously well with rice and beans (yes, my diet is still under the influence of the trip to Tucson).

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Pressure Cooking

I admit it.  A couple of years ago, when a friend was waxing poetic about the virtues of pressure cooking, I was skeptical.  Shortly after the second or third conversation on the topic in a short space of time, I came across Lorna Sass’s “Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure” at the Lantern (used bookshop).  Seeing it as a sign, I bought the book and a pressure cooker (an Aeternum — pricey, but sturdy and easy to use).

What I like best about the pressure cooker is that it cuts the cooking time of beans or soup from 1-3 hours to 20-35 minutes.  Kitcheree (indian rice and lentils) cooks in 15 minutes.  I’d estimate that in the two and half years I’ve had my cooker, I have saved over 200 hours of cooking with gas time.  Not sure how much cooking gas I’ll have to save before I’ve made up for the energy to manufacture and ship the pot to me, but I should cross that at some point in the life of the pot.  Even better is that I can come home after a full day at work and cook dishes with dried beans or slow to cook grains without staying up all night.

Once you put the cooking ingredients in the pot, get it up to pressure, turn down the flame, and set the timer, there is no need to watch the pot.  So today, for lunch, with only about five or ten minutes of prep time, I have rice (with saffron and amaranth made in the rice cooker) and pot beans (coco rubico from the Dupont Farm market, seasoned with celery, onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, dried chiles brought back from Tucson, and dried bay leaf, epazote, and mexican oregano from my own garden).  Start to finish about a half hour (I did presoak the beans).  Able to continue working except for the minor prep time.  Wonderfully content to have nourishing, delicious food to warm and inspire my day.  I do better work (I do work better) when I eat well.

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Jala or Ap (the water element)

For the past week, I have been meditating on, practicing with, and teaching the water element in classes.  Our health and the health of the planet depend on the water element being balanced.  When our water element is in balance, we are fluid, open, well-nourished, malleable, and life-supporting.  Too much or too little water is immediately a problem.  Dehydration and drought wither life; flooding overwhelms.

Yesterday, I developed the symptoms of a rather watery head cold that is going around.  Did it come from invoking the water element?  Doubtful; probably just a virus.  I treat the watery symptoms of not merely with more water (as in plenty of liquids), but more truly with fire:  hot soup, hot tea, steam to clear the head, a hot water bottle under the covers.  The heat balances the excess of water and the missing fire that comes from a cold in winter.

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