December 24, 2015

Mindful Cooking

During the fullness of life, sometimes it takes a little extra patience to relax and be present what we are doing - no distractions. 

Cooking provides the perfect opportunity to slow down and enjoy the moment. Try this practice as you are preparing food for your loved ones.

Perhaps you want to try it while making the kasha biscuits and herbed green gravy below. 

Slow Cooking


Begin from the very first moment you place the water on the heat, or pour the oil in the pan. Listen to the sounds, the smells and the sensations.

As you begin to cook the various foods, notice how the addition of each new ingredient affects the overall fragrance of the dish. Allow yourself to be present with the different senses, rather than being lost in thought. Each time the mind wanders, just gently bring the attention back to these sounds and smells.


Try to be aware of how your mood and thinking change throughout the cooking process. Do you find the heat oppressive? Do you find yourself getting anxious trying to keep all the different things going at once, or confident and in control? Don’t try and change any of these things for now –- simply building up a picture is enough.

As you observe the mind, use the physical senses as a safe place to come back to when you feel the emotions running off. For example, rather than feeling anxious about feeling anxious, come back to the smell of the food. Instead of getting increasingly frustrated at feeling frustrated, bring your attention back to the sounds of the food cooking.

As you become aware of these things, notice where your mind wants to travel. Does it drift off to memories past, perhaps associating the smells with previous meals? Or does it race ahead to the future, perhaps imagining what the food is going to taste like? 

This doesn’t require any thinking, it is simply a matter of being aware. Being aware of the thoughts in this way will help you to get much better at the exercise, which, for most people, means enjoying a more peaceful experience in the kitchen.

Simple Kasha


Place ½ cup dry kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) and 1 ½ cups water in a stock pot.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until kasha begins to thicken.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt.

Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency.

Serve with scrambled eggs, roasted roots, or greens and beans.

Kasha Biscuits


You will need:
1 cup cooked kasha
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup ground sunflower seeds
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Place ½ cup dry kasha (buckwheat groats) and 2 cups water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until kasha begins to thicken.

Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, mix olive oil, nutmeg, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Incorporate the cooled kasha and then the lemon juice.

Drop mix in heaping spoonfuls on a greased baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges have turned dark brown. Enjoy with butter or gravy.

Herbed Green Gravy


You will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each: dried rosemary and thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids
1/4 cup oat flour
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup kale, chopped

Heat oil over medium in a medium pot. Once hot, add the onion and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened and translucent. Stir frequently. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and pepper.

Add the soy or Bragg’s then stir in the oat flour. Stir until a paste forms and let cook for about 1 minute.

Add a few splashes of the broth. Let cook for 2 minutes then pour in the rest of the broth.

Whisk until well combined.

Add the kale.

Bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat for about 5-8 minutes to further thicken. Stir before serving. For smooth gravy, pour into a blender and blend until fully smooth.


December 22, 2015

Birthday Cake Recipe from Morocco

My birthday is December 20th, which is very close to Winter Solstice. I honor this time of rest, darkness, short days and long nights. It feels like a privilege to be born at this time of year when so many cultures celebrate the little spark of light inside that keeps the soul alive and thriving throughout difficult times.

One thing that nourishes me during this time is preparing simple sweets that are both delicious and wholesome. This year, I made my own birthday cake, which was a delight.

I adapted this traditional North African recipe to include some Vermont ingredients. Try to make it at home! It would make a lovely addition to a holiday brunch or a New Year's party.

Lemon Rosewater Coconut Cake


For the cake:
2 eggs
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 can (7 ounces) organic, unsweetened, full fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups rice flour

Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup shredded coconut

For the glaze:
1/2 can (7 ounces) organic, unsweetened, full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons rose water
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Oil a cake pan with olive oil.

Place all cake ingredients in a blender or food processor in the order listed. Omit the zest and shredded coconut.
Blend well.
Add in the zest and shredded coconut. Mix gently by hand.
Pour into cake pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife tests clean when inserted.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.
Place all ingredients in a small pot and heat to a simmer.
Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to half the volume.
This will take about five minutes.
Set aside and spread over cake once it comes out of the oven.

Cool the cake slightly before slicing. Divine!



December 7, 2015

Baked Latkes

In honor of Hanukkah's beginning at sun down last night, I offer a lighter version of latkes with a few variations.

This festival of the Jewish tradition lasts for 8 nights and 8 days. The word 'hanukkah' means 'to dedicate', and honors the re-dedication of the temple in Jerusalem.

Many light candles in the evening and welcome in the light during this time when nights grow dark so early. Bring light and delight into your home with this delicious traditional dish.


Latkes

You will need:
1 pound potatoes, grated
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon each: black pepper and salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Peel potatoes and grate coarsely.
You can either grate by hand or with the grater attachment of a food processor.

Place grated potatoes in cold water until they are all grated.
Drain the water and mix potatoes with all the other ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease 2 cookie sheets with olive oil.

Place latkes on sheets and bake for 15 minutes.


Accompaniments: sour cream, sauerkraut, applesauce

Variations:
Use sweet potatoes instead of potatoes - in this case, omit the carrots.
Add 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped and 1 carrot, grated

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