2013-12-31

Anti New Year’s Resolutions

                                           
On the eve before New Year’s Day my father will check himself into the hospital. He will be undergoing 2 relatively standard heart procedures. These are, however, precursors to finding out if a heart bypass is necessary. Needless to say no operation is fun especially on the very last day of the year. When my dad asked me what I would be doing it struck me that the whole end of the year thing is over-rated and commercialized like Christmas. I replied with something like, “I don’t believe in the new Year hype. I think it’s more important what you do every day during the whole year rather than focusing on one particular night.”

That said, there is a lot of pressure around this time of year to clean up your act and set new goals. I wonder how many people have achieved them or fell short and gradually let the rest of the year slide. Any resolution we make should be made for the whole year and not a well intended ‘to do’ list that gets stuck in first gear.  

Instead of creating another list here are 4 things for the entire year. Because when we talk about a resolution for the year we should be talking about a resolution for life.

1. Smile

The first time I brought my newborn baby to the mirror was during an intense fussy period.  I was amazed when he took a moment to recognize himself and after a brief pause actually smiled.  It wasn’t a shy grin either but a real ear to ear “hey, that’s me and I like me.” As frustrating as it was for me (a new mom) to figure out how to handle a fussy baby, it reminded me of how we each have the power and the ability to look at ourselves and say, ‘hey, that’s me and I like me.” If a baby can do this I am positive we can do the same and learn from this shining example of built-in self-esteem, as well as self-approval.  

2. Reflect

Modern life certainly has left this out of the packaging. Everything appears like a quick-fix with the underlying message, “you need to move faster.” There are practices both in Yoga and Buddhism that stress the importance of regular reflection. Thai Forest Monk Ajahn Chah said there were 30 days in the month and 2 of these days should be used for retreat from your daily routine. It shouldn’t be that you don’t have time or cannot afford to do so. Isn’t that you can’t afford ‘not’ to do it? Perhaps the better question is how. How to reflect? Read on.

3. Be Calm

If you don’t know how to meditate, breathe or concentrate now is a good time to find out how. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to learn these skills. In fact, all teachers will tell you meditation cannot be 'taught'; it is an experience. You can, however, learn the skill of sitting, hand positions, a mantra and other techniques to enhance your knowledge and ability. Swami Veda Bharati (a disciple of the late Swami Rama) advises a 2-minute daily session. Whether you are sitting at a desk, behind a steering wheel or pushing a baby cart you can take 2 minutes to breathe, close your eyes and go within.

4. Recharge

With heavy work schedules, family obligations, personal goals, plans and business pursuits, it is definitely hard to fit it all in. And then there is supposed to be time to relax? One of the wisest things I ever read was by author Robert Sharma who said when people believe they don’t have time to smell the roses it’s like driving your car and never stopping for gas.  Obviously no one does this, but we often neglect ourselves. Take the time to exercise, go for a walk, hang out with friends or do something you love or like as a way to recharge yourself. It’s the same as stopping at the station to fill up.   

In 2014, throw away your 'to-do-it' list and instead make these 4 things your everyday plan for a happier and more balanced life. 


2013-12-11

Eggplant Chutney


Fast, easy and fantastic. Here's a recipe I made (a combination from two Indian women I took lessons from). It came out great and acts like a meal onto itself. You can eat this with any bread or rice rather than the traditional chappati.

You need
1 eggplant
2 tbsp coriander spice
1 1/4 tsp tamarind paste
1 chopped small ginger
1 cup grated coconut
salt to taste

For tempering
2 tbsp virgin olive oil
2 tbsp mustard seed

Chutney
1. Bake the eggplant for 15-20 minutes. Prick with a fork before baking. Add oil to the skin.
2. Once the eggplant is baked (a knife will enter the skin smoothly) peel and chop.
3. Add to a blender the coconut, coriander, salt and tamarind paste. * I also added chopped ginger.
4. Blend together with the eggplant and add a little filtered water. Be careful not to overblend.

Tempering
1. In a pan add the oil and mustard seeds. Cook until they pop.
2. Gently add the chutney and stir.

Preparation 
30 minutes
2013-11-10

The Cream of the Carrot

Here's a delicious and hearty soup I made after changing a bit of the original recipe.  Instead of making a separate broth I used the water from boiling the carrots. I also added white wine that added a slightly different flavour.  It turns out thick (if you like thick) and very tasty.

Preparation time is about 20 minutes.
Cook time 15-20 minutes.


You need:

~ 7-8 medium sized carrots
~ 4 tablespoons of butter or ghee
~ 2 teaspoons of sugar
~ 1 cup of white wine
~ 1 cup of cream
~ 1 cup of basmati rice
~ fresh thyme
~ salt/pepper
~ 1/2 teaspoon ginger

Directions:

Peel, slice and boil the carrots until semi-tender with 4 cups of water.
Wash and boil the rice in a separate pot. Let sit when ready.
Drain and simmer the carrots  in a saucepan with the sugar and ghee.
I usually cook with ghee and not butter. Add also the rice.
Add salt and thyme as desired.

Using the boiled water for the carrots as the broth add the wine. Stir and let sit.

Once the carrots are soft, add these to the water and blend or puree.
Add pepper as desired along with more thyme. Add ginger.
Whisk in the cream using a half or full cup.

Serve it hot. See my receipt for homemade bread.
2013-07-21

Summer Seeded Yogurt

A great dressing, which is easy to make and tasty. Great for a summer dinner. I revamped a recipe I found from a Sivananda-Yoga cook-book (based on many of the meals they serve at their international ashrams). The effect was pretty good.


You need

~ Plain yogurt (2-3 generous tablespoons)
~ sunflower seeds (1 teaspoon)
~ cumin seeds (1 teaspoon)
~ fresh lemon juice (1- 1/2 teaspoons)
~ black mustard seed (1 teaspoon)
~ mustard powder (1/2 teaspoon)

* Original recipe calls for caraway seeds and no mustard or sunflower seed. You can also use fennel instead of the cumin, however.

Directions 

In a frying pan heat with fresh olive oil (1 tablespoon). Add the mustard seeds and let 'pop'. Once done add the cumin and sunflowers seeds and fry until golden brown. Or, cook until you smell the aroma from the seeds.

In a bowl stir together (you can also blend) the yogurt, lemon juice and the seeds along with the mustard powder. Mix until blended and place in the fridge for 1-1/2 hours.

Serve over raw or cooked veggies. I used baby corn, fried zucchini, cold beets and chick peas.
2013-05-22

The Vegan Pancake

Being home from India has given me more time to start up again with home cooking. This time I am experimenting with vegan-style pancakes. Not as difficult as it sounds and pretty good on a Sunday morning or even for dinner.



You need

1 cup of flour
1 tbsp of sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1 cup of soy milk
2 tbsp of vegetable oil or coconut oil

Directions

Mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder.

Slowly mix together the soy and oil added to the above.

Once it is blended add it to a frying pan (pre-heated for better results).

Use coconut oil or extra virgin oil on the pan.

Tips

Depending on the size of the pancake it can take up to 3-4 minutes to cook on one side.
Flip and allow it cook on the opposite side. For fun, add apple or banana slices (or choose another fruit).

Enjoy.
2013-02-12

Pineapple Juicier


You need:
1 cup chopped pineapple
1-2 carrots (peeled & juiced separately)
1-2 apples or pears (peeled)
Few slices of fresh ginger

Directions:
* Prepare the carrots first by slicing and juicing them rather than blending.
   You could also blend them. Both are good.
* Add the carrot juice to the pineapple and blend.
* Blend apple or pears.
* Add fresh ginger.

(if necessary add a half cup of water)

The taste is pretty good! Fruity and light.

An Indian Meal


These are all pretty traditional dishes of Southern India as far as I understand. Eggplant chutney and cauliflower and potato pulao are amazing with basmati rice. I first learned the art of Indian cooking from a wonderful woman in Mysore.  When we were cooking together I called it,  "1-2-3. ready" because she made it look so easy. Trying it myself was a different story, however.

A few years later, I also took lessons from another Indian lady in Kerala where I was able to brush up on my techniques. Overall, learning the art of Indian cooking from an expert is key.  The two most important tips I learned could probably be applied to all cooking but definitely to Indian.

First, preparation is key. Cutting, slicing, dicing, mincing and having everything prepared cuts down on  time, fumbling around and allows you to do many things at the same time.

Second, spice, spice and more spice!. But it is not just any spice as it is the order of them As well, adding the spice (not stirring it in right away) and letting it simmer are key to it properly being absorbed; helping to create a wonderful flavor and aroma with the vegetables.



                                Baked and sliced eggplant.

                               Fried mustand seeds for the pulao.



2013-02-06

Soup of the Day

There is nothing better than a home-made soup. Until recently I had never even attempted to try! Being inspired by a very good friend of mine who has 4 daughters, this soup is a combination of her creation and my own. However, you can add any vegetable you have in your fridge. In fact, the more the merrier.


First tip is start off with the hearty veggies allowing them to soften before adding things like spinach or less 'hard' ingredients. Second and most important tip is the order of your spices. This is something I learned from my cooking classes in India with Indian women. They definitely know the secrets of the kitchen. Allowing each spice to simmer on the top for a minute brings in more flavour rather than adding and stirring it in. Let it sit and brew then stir!

Here's how I got started:

1. Get a really big pot. This will give you more for tomorrow making great meals for lunch and/or dinner.

2. Fry 3 finely sliced onions with olive oil or ghee until translucent. Using 1-2 garlic gloves (diced) is also great. I have been using mustard seeds, which add another dimension to your soup (about 2 teaspoons).

3. Slice finely and add to the above carrots, beets and potatoes (if you like). Again, the combo is really up to you so be creative.

4. After these are cooked add 6-8 cups of cold, filtered water. Start adding the hearty vegetables first like the carrots, beets, parsnips, cabbage and potatoes. I used carrots, beets and later added broccoli. These were cut into small pieces. If you prefer a less chunky soap then cut the veggies into smaller wedges.

5. Let boil until these veggies are semi-soft. Nothing worse then a mushy veg so I don't overcook them.

6. Now add the less heart veggies like spinach. I also cooked quinoa and added it. I used about 1 cup.

7. Let cook and lower to simmer.

8. The best part, which gives the soup its flavour are the spices. As I mentioned, let each spice do its thing before you stir it in. This means it will sit on the top for a while and you'll see it melt. I used the following and in this order:

~ 1-2 tablespoon of sea salt
~ 1 tablespoon of fresh grounded pepper
~ covered the top layer with oregano
~ again a layer of cumin
~ another layer of curry powder
~ fresh or already grounded basil
~ small amount of ginger
~ layer of freshly grounded cloves

Remember you want each layer to sit a bit and then stir followed by the next spice.

9. Test and taste and if necessary add whatever spice you like or try something not mentioned here!

10. Bon Eating!
2013-01-24

Vineyards & Castles of France




For most of 2012, I was travelling and had the good fortune and opportunity of being in 8 countries (Germany, Hungary, India, Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria and Spain). One of the special pleasures of living near the border of Germany and Switzerland is the relative easy access to some of the neighboring countries. France, Italy and even Austria are only a few hours drive.



One of the highlights was a road-trip to Alsace, a small village known as the "foreign domain". Over 75 years, it exchanged ownership between Germany and France. It now belongs to France and is understood as being a very important region politically in the EU.

So here's a very small town that I never heard of before, but that no one should think has no power of its own. Alsace is also a commune and perhaps better known for all its 'famed' and historical castles. The most famous and largest is the King's Castle or the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg. It's probably the first thing you notice as you enter the village as it stands on an opposing mountain overlooking its world.


Like many castles I guess you could say it has seen its fair share of war, blood-shed and destruction. There are no clear details as to when the castle was built other than it first being mentioned in 1147. Perhaps during the years that lead to the 15th century it was peaceful and serene. By 1462, however, the castle had been attacked and burnt down. Following this it was abandoned for many hundreds of years. It was not until 1899 when a German Emperor of Wilhelm took it over to re-create a castle of the Medieval times. Ironically, he wanted to reconstruct the castle with the hope of reinforcing the unity between the Alsace citizens and Germany. After WWI the French took over the castle. However, the more fitting word 'confiscated' more accurately describes the turn of events. Given the long history of absence it is difficult to determine what really happened--when and how.

And again, like many castles it has been the inspiration for poets, writers and including Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty despite being overgrown and deserted. Since the castle was completely destroyed it has been criticized as being a 'fairy-tale' castle and because most of it was reconstructed to the taste of a German Emperor. Some facts include the Tower being 14 meters too high and a general over-emphasized link to German nostalgia.

As luck would have it the day we headed out it was incredibly foggy and raining. The last castle we visited we were in the same weather conditions. we started late in the hopes the fog would lift but when we arrived at the castle it was closed. Our visions of her are only from the outskirts. Determined not to make a trip in vain we drove back into the village and dined at a lovely French restaurant and hotel (Aux Ducs de Lorraine).

It's on the odd occasion that I drink a glass of wine. And I have to say it would have been  absurd not to and especially in this region of France! Alsace is a gorgeous scene of green that looks like endless vineyards. They specialize in dry and sweet wines, roses and reds. A nice, white (sweet but not too sweet) glass is perfect. The French also know how to dress a table with simple elegance---a white table cloth, silver cutlery and fine bone China.


And doing a balance pose proves I was there and not intoxicated, albeit a cheap date I am! 


Roasting your Veggies


Vegetables are one of loveliest foods on the planet.


I love the colours of red, dark and light greens, purples, orange and yellow. Recently, I have moved away from the conventional and quick method of frying or boiling vegetables. I‘ve been experimenting with roasting and the results are truly outstanding.

Roasting does require more time (double in fact than boiling), but the benefits are worth it. A few facts:

* The vitamin C and B complex in the vegetables are not absorbed by the water when roasted.
   More of the nutrition is maintained and stays right where it should---in the vegetable. 
* The boiling water absorbs most of the good ‘stuff’ and is wasted when poured down the drain.  
* The flavour of roasted vegetables is far superior to boiled vegetables. 
* Vegetables maintain their rich colour and even deepen unlike boiled or fried veggies, which tend to  
   get ‘white-washed’.
* Less oil is used unlike fried vegetables. This lowers your intake of unnecessary fats.
* An array of spices can be sprinkled over the roasting vegetables, which adds another meaning to 
   the word ‘delicious’.

I’ve roasted squash, potatoes, beets, broccoli, carrots and mushrooms all together and the effect is terrific. However, when not dealing with vegetables of the same consistency (re: the roasting time may vary) you need to start off with the ‘tough’ guys first. For example, the order of roasting for this combo is: beets (1st), carrots & potatoes (2nd) and broccoli and mushrooms (3rd).

Other Tips:
* Set the over to 450F or 250C. When ready place the pan in the middle.  
* Use a good-sized pan and place one sheet of baking paper on the bottom.
* Cut the vegetables into medium to small wedges.
* Place in a single row. Don’t do a double –decker!  
* Cover or drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin oil.
* Sprinkle with ginger, fresh grounded cloves or another favorite spice.
* When cooking with more than one vegetable cook until about half soft, add the next vegetable and
   so on. This way each vegetable will be cooked to their consistency but not overdone.
* Add salt and pepper to your liking (or not).
* Check every 8-10 minutes and toss.
* Prick with a fork to check softness and toss again.
* The perfect roasted vegetable is somewhat soft but definitely not mushy.
* Cooking time varies between 25 to 40 minutes.
* Add walnuts, almonds or another nut to complete the dish. 


2013-01-18

Thai Noddles For Two

This is easy and fun. It's also perfect for an intimate dinner. I added tomato wedges for a visual effect.


Main Ingredients
*   7-8 ounces wheat or egg noodles, fresh or dried "instant" type (SERVES 2)
*   3-4 Tbsp ghee or extra virgin oil for stir-frying
*   1/4 cup raw or dry roasted unsalted peanuts, ground or roughly chopped with a knife
*   1 cup medium-firm tofu, cubed and tossed with 1 Tbsp soy sauce
*   White wine or cooking wine or broth (vegetarian) 1-2 Tbsp.

Paste
*   1 red or green chili (de-seeded if you prefer less spicey)
*   3 cloves garlic to be minced
*   1 thumb-size peeled piece of ginger to be grated
*   3 Tbsp. soy sauce

*   Juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime

Fresh Herbs
*  1/2 to 1 loosely-packed cup basil leaves and roughly chopped
*  1/2 cup fresh chives and chopped into small pieces
*  3 spring onions and finely sliced
*  1 loosely-packed cup fresh coriander (chopped) or powder
Boil your noodles until nearly cooked (if you cook them too much it makes them mushy).
Rise with cold water and set aside.
Mix together the paste ingredients well and set aside.
Prepare the herbs by washing and chopping and set aside.
In a frying pan add the ghee or oil and mix around for 1 minute.
Add the sliced tofu with the soy sauce. Mix.
Add the paste with a white wine or cooking wine.
Cook for 2-3 minutes. Push aside in pan to add more oil and the noodles.
Taste it and add salt (1 Tbsp) and/or more chilli (if not spicey enough)
Remove and toss with the herbs. Add lemon wedges.   

Serve and enjoy!  
2013-01-07

Kimchi Casual: Korea's Staple

I was first introduced to kimchi while living in South Korea. It is the fermented cabbage dish of Korean food; the great staple with rice. I've always wanted to try making it, but thought it was too complicated because traditionally it's stored in large crock pots and buried in the ground. However, this recipe made it easy by using mason jars and stored in the fridge or a cool place. For these reasons it's called the 'casual' kimchi.  

For those not familiar with kimchi it is packed with lots of minerals and vitamins especially vitamin C. It is usually made with fish and shrimp sauce, but this recipe offers a great substitute for vegans. Koreans claim that eating kimchi during the winter prevents the common cold, flu, cough and the sniffles. I've also witnessed Koreans eating it for breakfast. 

* 1 Chinese cabbage (medium)
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 1/2 cup chilli powder
* 2 inch fresh ginger
* 6-7 garlic cloves (minced)
* 2 tablespoon red miso paste or Thai curry paste
* 6-7 scallions (minced)
* 1/2 cup water


Prepare the Cabbage 
Cut up into small pieces and add 2 tablespoons of salt on top. 
Toss together. Let sit for 6-7 hours so it create its own water. Place a weight like 2 plates on top of it.


Prepare the Paste 
Add all the ingredients above, stir and blend for 45 seconds.



Next Steps
Scrap out of the blender and mix together with the cabbage. 
Use gloves or just enjoy the messiness of it.  
Add 3/4 to 1 cup of water.
Taste and add more sugar or salt as you like.
Jar tightly to ferment for at least 1 week. 

Place in the fridge around the 2nd or 3rd day.

* As the kimchi ferments it becomes more sweet/sour. 

More Great Benefits of Kimchi 

There have also been studies indicating it may prevent colon cancer. The garlic and spices stimulate the secretion of pepsin in the stomach and activate the bowels. It certainly is not for the faint-mouthed because good kimchi has a strong tang and can be nicely spiced.  In my opinion, kimchi might be something of an acquired taste but if you fight colds during the winter you really may want to give it a try! 

Salad with a Bite (Spinach, Mushrooms and Quinoa)



If you like a salad that has a bit of a bite (in a nice way) and 100 % vegetarian here's one to definitely try.

* 6 white mushrooms (finely sliced)*
   (you may want to use less mushrooms)
* Spinach (4-5 handful or 1/2 bunch)
* 1 cup quinoa
* salt, pepper & curry powder
* 1 clove garlic (diced)
* 1 teaspoon dijon mustard+ (gives it the bite)
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon apple vinegar+
* 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
* 1/3 buttermilk, soy or a substitute+

(+) Experiment with your own version or what's already in your cupboard.

Cook the Quinoa:
~Add 1 1/4 cup of water to the washed quinoa into a saucepan with salt to taste. I added only 1/2 of a teaspoon. Let boil for 1 minute, continue to simmer and cover (about 10-15 minutes).
~When the qunioa is cooked fluff it with a fork and set aside into a bowl. Let it cool (5-10 minutes).

Prepare the Dressing:
~Add the ingredients from the garlic clove downward (see list above) and ONLY the pepper (no salt). Pepper to your own liking.
~Whisk it together in a bowl.

All Together:
~In a serving bowl add the spinach (line the bottom and sides with it).
~Add the dressing to the bowl with the quinoa and stir.
~Then add the mushrooms and stir.
~Scope out and place in the middle of the bowl and on top of the spinach.
~You may need to pull out some of the leaves of the spinach in order to give a more decorative effect!
~Sprinkle with curry powder or another spice to taste.

Serve and smile!
2013-01-02

Home-made Creamy Zucchini Soup

Gourmet Soup you can make at home with lots of nutrition and taste. Better than the restaurant for sure.


* 2 zucchinis (medium)
* 2 potatoes (medium)
* 1 onion (white)
* 2 cloves of garlic
* 3-4 tablespoons of ghee or butter 
* ½ litre water (if you want it less creamy use more water)
* 2 teaspoons of curry powder
* We did not use any stock for this soup
* Salt, pepper and ground ginger
   Optional: Fresh parsley or another garnish

Prepare 
 Cut garlic and onion into small pieces (diced).
 Cut zucchini in half and slice (don’t peel).
 Dice and peel potatoes
.
Cook
Put ghee or butter in a pot and heat. I prefer using ghee.
Put garlic and onions with curry powder and stir. Leave 5 minutes until translucent.
Add water (if you use a stock add it here).
Add potatoes and zucchini and cook until soft for 20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Also add a small amount of ground ginger to taste.
Puree until mixed (we blended it and had the same effect).
Scrap out if you used a blender and return to the pot. Or, now you are ready to serve it!
Add fresh parsley as a garnish.

Serve
Makes 2 portions (what I call gourmet restaurant portions) and with 1 left-over. I describe it like this because everyone has a different idea of size so this eliminates any confusions. In other words, it's not your fast-food or Sloppy Joe portion (nothing wrong with that either by the way).

The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


ME

My Photo
Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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