Monday, August 31, 2009

BBQ Ribz

Something that I don't do enough of is cooking out on the grill. It's the perfect way to enjoy a tasty meal on a hot summer day! Plus, there's something nostalgic about cooking a meal on the grill and eating outdoors. Some may think that a vegan diet limits your options for grilling. That couldn't be further from the truth, from home made or store bought vegan sausages to tofu to veggie kabobs vegan options for the grill abound.

A while back The Happy Herbivore posted a link to a recipe for vegan ribs, as well as a link to her mustard based barbecue sauce. The recipe immediately had me wondering how they would stand up to the grill.

Let me be the first to say that these ribs are awesome on the grill. I followed the recipe exactly adding the liquid smoke and paprika suggested by Lindsay. I cooked them the full amount in the oven. When the seitan ribs were finished baking I removed them from the pan and transferred them to a well oiled warm grill basting with bbq sauce as they cooked. Since they are already cooked, these only need to be on the grill long enough to develop those beautiful markings, and dry the sauce out slightly. My only complaint is that this recipe did not make enough to feed my hungry family. I could easily have doubled the recipe, and will next time. The girls loved these ribs, and Rob, who has never, ever liked ribs could not get enough of these.

As for the sauce........let me just say Oh.My.Goodness. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a mustard based barbecue sauce. I can however, safely say that this mustard based South Carolina style sauce is my absolute favorite. I can think of so many uses for this.

Try these ribs for your Labor Day weekend cook-out with some of that sweet, delicious summer corn. You will not be disappointed!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Should there be so many??

As the Vegan Examiner for Louisville I just published an article describing the many classifications of a vegetarian diet. It seems that as the popularity of vegetarianism has grown, the number of classifications has grown as well. There's a category of "vegetarian" diet to fit nearly any diet you choose. There's vegan to describe a person who consumes and utilizes nothing derived from an animal to flexitarian which describes a person who actually includes all foods in their diet.......but still, the label identifies them as vegetarian.

My question is this; should there be so many labels. Shouldn't the term vegetarian describe a person who only consumes plant based foods? Why does there seem to be such a need to identify as a vegetarian? Is it perhaps because people realize (either consciously or unconsciously) that consuming animal flesh and secretions is inherently wrong? Is it because people recognize that a plant based diet is better for their health? Is it because they realize that a plant based diet is more sustainable?

My personal opinion is that the myriad labels be dropped, that there be one term. I prefer that the word vegetarian describes a person who does not consume animal flesh, animal secretions, or the result of animal labor (honey), and animal slaughter (gelatin). I feel that the word vegetarian looses it's meaning when we begin to add those that eat fish, or those that sometimes consume meat (flexitarian). Vegetarianism should be a lifestyle of health, compassion and sustainability, period.

Share your thoughts.

Just Breathe

Pranayama is the yogic practice of breath control. Most of us unconsciously breathe short, shallow breaths. This short, shallow breathing taxes the heart and nervous system, exacerbating many common ailments. Through the process of pranayama, or conscious control of the breath, we learn to deepen and extend the breath, thus reducing the number of breaths required per minute. Deep mindful breathing provides relaxation to the nervous system, as well as decreases the workload on the heart. Practicing pranayama also increases the amount of oxygen supplied to the brain. According to Patanjali, sage and philosopher who authored the Yoga Sutras, pranayama helps one develop concentration and clarity, preparing a person for meditation.

In the yoga community there are mixed feelings regarding the practice of pranayama. Because pranayama is thought to be instrumental in raising Kundalini, the dormant energies in the body, some gurus and respected yogi's recommend practicing pranayama only under the strict and watchful guidance of a well trained teacher. Others believe that the careful practice of pranayama is appropriate and beneficial for all yogi's. My personal opinion is that pranayama is a beneficial practice, and that after learning proper technique from a trained teacher, pranayama should be added to your daily practice of yoga.

There are several different pranayama techniques designed to create a different effect on the body, mind, and spirit. I will list and discuss some of the most common techniques here.

Deerga Swasm is also known as the 3 part or diaphragmatic breath. It is a deep breathing technique that fills and empties the lungs completely. Deerga swasm utilizes and increases lung capacity. Deerga Swasm is a great pranayama technique to add to the beginning of any asana or meditation practice, as it is calming and centering.

Deerga Swasm is practiced by sitting comfortably with the spine erect. Begin by inhaling deeply drawing the breath low into the belly, feeling your abdomen expand in all directions. As the abdomen becomes full of air, the breath then moves into the rib cage. Focus on feeling the rib cage expand in all directions; front to back and side to side. Finally, the breath rises into the chest, slightly lifting the chest and clavicle. Once the entire torso is fully expanded by the breath, you slowly release the breath in reverse, from the chest to the belly, drawing the navel in toward the spine to release all stale air before beginning again.

Kapalabhati is known as the skull shining breath. This breath sends energy to Sahasrara, the crown chakra. Kapalabhati is a rapid breath, with the emphasis on the exhalation. This breath is very clarifying and energizing and is beneficial in releasing toxins from the body. Beginners should start this breath slowly and work toward a more rapid breath. One round of kapalabhati is around 25 breaths for a beginner, working up to as many as 300 breaths for a more advanced practitioner.

Kapalabhati is performed by beginning with a deep inhalation, expanding the abdomen. On the exhalation snap the abdomen in actively, then passively inhaling again. Remember the emphasis in kapalabhati is on the exhalation

Nadi Shodhana is also known as alternate nostril breathing. Nadi shodhana cleanses the nostrils and balances the energy channels of Ida and Pingala. Ida ends in the left nostril and represents the moon side of the body. The lunar side of the body possesses more cooling, yin, feminine energy. Pingala ends in the right nostril and represents the solar side of the body, possessing warming, yang, masculine energy. Nadi Shodhana calms the nervous system and begins to draw awareness inward.

There are several ways to practice nadi shodhana. The right thumb is used to close the right nostril, the right ring finger is used to close the left nostril. To begin, sit in a comfortable position, spine erect. Seal off the right nostril, inhale through the left. Seal the left nostril and exhale through the right. Inhale through the right nostril, seal off right, and exhale left. This makes up one round (each round is completed by exhaling through the left nostril). Another popular technique for practicing nadi shodhana is by sealing the right nostril, inhale and exhale through the left. Seal the left, inhale and exhale through the right. This would be one round for this technique.

Other popular forms of pranayama are the Ujjayi Pranayama, Bhastrika (Bellows Breath), Bhramari (Humming Bee Breath), and the Kundalini Yoga Breath of Fire.

The following example of a pranayama practice is designed to calm the mind and create energy in the body. Please consult a trained instructor before beginning a pranayama practice. It may be helpful to have a timer near so that you aren't distracted by how long you should practice. I suggest practicing each section of pranayama for at least 2 minutes, unless otherwise noted.

Begin by finding a comfortable seated position. Sitting on a bolster or blanket to lift the hips if this is comfortable for you. Be sure to relax through your hips, knees and ankles. Allow the spine to become erect, yet relaxed.

Start by closing your eyes, resting your hands on your knees or in your lap, and just breathe normally and naturally. Bringing your focus to the tip of your nose and noticing the breath that flows in and out of your nostrils. Notice the temperature of the air, the texture and speed of the breath. Don’t attempt to do anything at this point to manipulate your breathing, just notice what is natural for you. Take a few minutes of quite time here allowing for focus on breath.

Now begin to deepen the breath and draw the breath deeply into the belly. With each inhalation feel the lower abdomen expanding, then notice the breath rise into the lower lungs as the rib cage expands in all directions, finally you notice the breath rise into the upper lungs as the clavicles lift. Exhaling in reverse. First emptying the upper lungs, then the lower lungs, then finally the abdomen. Draw the navel in toward the spine to release all stale air, and then begin again. Focusing on inhaling in three parts and exhaling in three parts. Take a few minutes of quite Deerga Swasm here.

When the 2 minutes have passed, finish one more complete 3 part inhalation and 3 part exhalation, then inhale deeply through your nose, hold the breath for a moment and exhale through pierced lips. Now return to your normal breath for a few moments.

Moving to Nadi Shodhana, begin by using the thumb and ring finger of the right hand to close the nostrils. Begin with one deep inhalation and exhalation through the nostrils to cleanse. Following the exhalation, close the right nostril with the thumb, inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril after inhalation, open the right nostril and exhale. Inhale through the right nostril, close the right, open the left and exhale through the left. This completes one round. Again, inhale through the left, close, exhale through the right, inhale right, close and exhale left. Continue in this manner silently for a few moments. The breath should not be deep or forceful, just smooth consistent inhalations and exhalation. Imagine that there is a feather between your nostrils and try to keep that feather from moving as you breath. This will help develop a smooth, consistent breath. Take a few quiet minutes for Nadi Shodhana.

When the 2 minutes have passed, finish the round of Nadi Shodhana that you are on then complete one more full round. Finish with a cleansing breath in through the nose, out through the mouth then return to normal breathing.

End your pranayama practice with Kaphalabati. During this breath you will be emphasizing the exhalation by snapping the stomach and inhaling passively. This breath can be practiced as fast or as slow as feels comfortable to you. If you get tripped up on your breath just begin again. Do 3 rounds of 25 breaths each, followed by a cleansing breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Now, just return to your normal breath and notice how you are feeling.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Focaccia Ai Pomodorini

I don't speak Italian, or even read it for that matter, but I do know focaccia, and from the ingredient list of this recipe, I'm assuming ai pomodorini means with tomatoes and olives, but who knows? All I do know is that this focaccia is possibly The.Best.I've.Ever.Tasted!!

I wanted to cook a real meal last night since I wasn't teaching, but the kidlets were pleading for spaghetti. Being the fantastic mommy that I am I again obliged. It was then I remembered this focaccia recipe that I'd torn out of a magazine waiting at a doctors office a while back. This seemed just the thing to cure that cooking bug, because boiling water for spaghetti certainly wasn't going to cut it. I had everything I needed on hand, so really it was a no-brainer.

My family are suckers for home-made bread of any kind. A bunch of carbaholic's they are!! I knew that this bread would be met with loving eyes and taste buds. What I didn't know was that this bread would change my opinion of focaccia forever. Don't get me wrong, I like focaccia and all, but I'll never like another focaccia as much as I liked this one.

The recipe comes from Saveur magazine, but I have no idea which issue. I'm reprinting it here so that you can try this divine delight for yourself. Enjoy!

Focaccia ai Pomodorini
1 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. kosher salt
1 Tbs. olive oil +more for oiling bowl and drizzle
2 roma tomatoes, diced small
1/4 lb kalamata olives
Coarse salt
In a small bowl combine yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/4 cup hot water. Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together four, 1 Tbs sugar and salt in a large bowl; form a well in the center. Pour yeast mixture, 1 Tbs oil, and 1 cup warm water into the well and mix into a stiff mass. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball, transfer to a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Oil bottom and sides of a 12" cast iron skillet. Transfer dough to pan, flip to cover both sides with oil and flatten into the bottom of the skillet with your fingertips. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 475. Gently press tomatoes and olives into the dough and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until golder brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
**I did all of the kneading in my stand mixer with a dough hook. Some believe that this creates a tougher dough, but I've never found that to be the case. Watch the dough and as soon as it is smooth stop kneading. I believe not over kneading is the key in using the stand mixer.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Diet and Yoga

As a yogini every aspect of my life is approached with a yogic attitude. Yoga is indeed a lifestyle for me that goes beyond asana, pranayama and meditation. Each moment of each day is a practice of my yoga. We are faced with a plethora of choices on a daily basis, some we act on, some we don't, but there is not one thing we choose more times in one day than the food we eat. It's something we all do, every single day, preferably 3 or more times a day. Food and diet gives us an opportunity each morning, afternoon, and evening to live our yoga. Yoga promotes a healthy body, mind and spirit and without proper nutrition our full potential will not be reached.

In yogic philosophy there are 3 gunas. The gunas are the earthly qualities that bind our spirit to our body. The gunas represent an attitude that can be applied to everything in our life. The three gunas are tamas (the quality of being sluggish or lethargic), rajas (the quality of being over stimulating or over active), and sattva (the quality of being pure, relaxed and clear). These 3 qualities can be evident in all of our choices, from the food we eat to the way we approach our jobs.

In Ayurvedic medicine foods are classified with regard to their guna. Sattvic foods are foods that are wholesome. They keep us centered, and peaceful. Sattvic foods keep us nourished and energized. Examples of sattvic foods would be organic fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and grasses. Rajasic foods are foods that are stimulating to the nervous system. They create an unbalanced effect on the body-mind-spirit connection. This category includes coffee, sugar, tea, tobacco, flesh foods and oily or fried foods. Also included in this category are onions and garlic. While these are both very healthful foods they produce a stimulating effect on the body. Tamasic foods are foods that detract from our health and pollute the body. These are stale, spoiled, decaying, highly processed, and chemically treated. Tamasic foods create an unbalanced energy state within our bodies.

Asana practice teaches us to cultivate mindfulness. We learn to still the mind and allow ourselves to become one with the moment. This is easy to do on the mat, as we twist, turn and contort our bodies it's hard for the mind to be anywhere else. The challenge comes when we move our practice off of our mat. Remaining open, aware, and mindful as we go about our daily lives isn't always easy. There's no better place to start than with the activity you do more often than any other, eating.

As you cultivate awareness around your meals you will begin to notice the subtle energy shifts that occur within you based on your food choices. You will notice that when you include more sattvic foods you feel energetic, full of life, and ready to take on your day. When you fill your body with tamasic foods you will feel sluggish, lethargic and inert. With this increased awareness of your subtle energies you will naturally begin to make smarter and healthier food choices. As the mind becomes centered, peaceful, and clear you will be able to continually evaluate the quality of your diet, and start to question and possibly abandon some of your food addictions that are detracting from your full potential.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hip Opening Yoga Sequence

Photo courtesy of my Lovely friend and fellow Instructor Kathryn

Our hips tend to be one place that is universally tight in a yoga asana class. Mention hip openers and the room is immediately filled with grumbling and groaning. The muscles in and around the hip joint are habitually tight because of the massive load of stress we put on them. The hips are essentially the cross-roads between the upper half of our body and the lower half of our body. Therefore, virtually any gross movement of the body requires some work in the hips. It makes sense then that almost every yoga asana would involve some strengthening or stretching of the hips.

Being that the hips are comprised of thick solid muscles and a plethora of connective tissue, opening the hips is best suited to a yin practice, with poses held relaxed, gentle, and for a long period of time. However, regular hatha practice can be beneficial to the hips if focus on the area is consistent and gentle.

In yoga practice hips are known to hold a lot of unreleased emotions. So, in addition to being physically uncomfortable for most people, they can be emotionally uncomfortable as well. Hip openers are great poses for practicing presence, non-attachment, and non-judgement while on the mat.

The following sequence is designed as a gentle vinyasa flow to fit all levels of practice. As with any exercise routine, consult your doctor before engaging in physical activity.

Begin lying in Savasana and practice Deerga Swasm (3 part breath)

Supta Padangusthasana A-C

Ananda Balasana; rocking up to seated and coming to table-top

Cat/Cow Stretching and Hip Barrel Rolls

Adho Mukha Svanasana; coming to front of mat in Tadasana

Surya Namaskara A (x2)

Padangusthasana --> vinyasa to Adho Mukha Svanasana

Utthita Trikonasana (R) --> Utkata Konasana --> Utthita Trikonasana (L)

Prasarita Padottanasana series --> jump back to Tadasana

Garudasana (R&L) --> Uttanasana --> Uttkatasana--> Uttanasana

Vinyasa to Adho Mukha Svanasna then come forward to Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (or variations) (R)--> Vinyasa --> Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (L)--> Vinyasa

Ardha Badha Padmottanasana --> Vinyasa to seated

Upavistha Konasana

Baddha Konasana

Ardha Salabasana --> Ardha Bhekasana (repeat 2nd side)


Marichyasana A and C

Ardha Matsyendrasana --> recline to back

Ananda Balasana


Mexican Sunflower Salad

Hopefully by now you've all heard about and are promoting Meatless Monday. A campaign aimed at reducing meat consumption in America by encouraging everyone to go meat-free for just one day. If everyone adopted a plant based diet just one day a week the environmental impact would be huge. Not to mention the impact for the animals. Some estimates say that nearly 28 million land animals are slaughtered DAILY in the United States for human consumption.

Meatless Monday has been being promoted on Twitter for awhile now, and eventually morphed into adding Tofu Tuesday to the mix. A few weeks ago Lindsay the Happy Herbivore thought it would be a fun idea to give each day a veg related theme, and promote it as Veggie Awareness Week. We've had a lot of fun with Veggie Week so far, and continuing with the theme, today is Raw Wednesday.

I eat raw nearly every day until dinner. Raw food is not only incredibly filling, it is also packed with nutrition. The vital nutrients in the food has not been cooked out, therefore providing an added punch of vitamins and minerals. Raw foods will provide you with energy rather than sapping your energy like cooked foods will. I love to start the day with a glass of fresh fruit juice and a raw smoothie. Fruit and raw food bars are also great choices when you are in a hurry or on the go.

My contribution to Raw Wednesday this week is this beautiful raw sunflower seed salad. I was given this recipe during my yoga teacher training and it's been a favorite ever since. I was handed the recipe on a sheet of paper, with no acknowledgement as to where the recipe comes from, so I guess it's safe to re-print it here. I have a made a few changes, so we should be good!!

Mexican Sunflower Salad

1 1/2 cups raw sunflower seeds, hulled
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 large red onion, sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp Raw agave nectar
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (if you don't like spice decrease this amount)
1 tsp dried oregano
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Alfalfa Sprouts to garnish (optional)
Bib lettuce leave for wrapping (optional)

Soak Sunflower seeds for 30 minutes, rinse and drain. Place sunflower seeds and sliced onion in food processor and process until sunflower seeds are chopped (but not pasty) and onion is diced. Remove from food processor add remaining ingredients up to Alfalfa Sprouts, and mix well. Serve wrapped in bib lettuce leaves and garnished with alfalfa sprouts.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chewy Chocolate Granola Bars

We are in to our second week of the school year. Because there are no vegan options on our school lunch menu I pack lunch for M to take to school every day. Like last year I am always looking for ideas to keep M's lunch fresh, new and exciting for her. Just in time for the start of the school year, Lindsay the Happy Herbivore, posted her ideas for great packable vegan/vegetarian lunches. She's got many many great ideas for fantastic kid-friendly lunches. If your school, like many, also has less than vegan friendly lunch options please visit this site, and sign the petition to get healthy vegetarian school lunches available for our children.

In addition to packing lunch every day, I also have to pack a healthy snack for school. Because the snack must be packed in the backpack, and left hanging on a hook for most of the day it needs to be non-perishable and durable. It also needs to create little mess and be able to be eaten in a reasonable amount of time. Therefore, things like yogurts (soy of course) and fruits are not good options. Fruit, except for apples, typically gets smashed and bruised in the backpack. M has an aversion to bruised fruit, and right now she is missing more teeth than she has left, so whole apples aren't the easiest thing for her to eat. We've found that bars typically fit all of the requirements for afternoon snack. She loves Larabars, but they are expensive and not practical to take everyday (especially when mommy has a Larabar habit that she has to feed daily). Chocolate Chip Oat Bars are a good choice, and she took them quite often last year (she was always the envy of the class when she brought these....the teacher was even known to ask if she could break off a bite!!). But, as always, I'm trying to find or develop new snack options.

When thumbing through the latest issue of Yoga Journal magazine I ran across a recipe for chewy granola bars. To my delight these granola bars were totally nut free, meaning S could enjoy them as well. You could of course add nuts to these, and they would be great. I didn't follow the recipe exactly, it called for a lot of dried fruit and crystallized ginger, that I didn't think my kids would eat, and I think the trick to getting kids to eat healthy is to disguise it as a treat. Hence, my version, chewy chocolate granola bars. You can take this recipe, use the method, and develop a plethora of variations on this granola bar......enough snacks to last the entire school year. Once the were ready, I cut them into bars and wrapped them individually in wax paper, ready to go in the back pack all week.

Chewy Chocolate Granola Bars
makes 10 bars

1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup oat bran
1 1/2 cups crisp brown rice cereal
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt

Lightly oil an 8x8 square baking pan. Mix oats, seeds, oat bran, cereal and chocolate chips in a large bowl until well combined. In a small saucepan, combine rice syrup, sugar, vanilla and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir syrup mixture until mixture starts to thicken, about 3 minutes. Pour the syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until well coated. Spoon into prepared pan, cover with wax paper and press mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Allow the mixture to cool at room temperature. Remove waxed paper, cut into bars, wrap individually and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

**Remember, taking a few minutes before bed each evening to lovingly prepare a healthy lunch for your child means so much to them. It only takes a few minutes and ensures that your child will have a lunch well suited to a successful day at school.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Welcome to the new home of Adventures in Vegetarianism. Since I've been a little remiss in posting over at AiV, I thought it was time to start fresh and combine my love for yoga and veganism into one space. Hence the creation of Happy Vegan Yogini.

All of the posts from Adventures in Vegetarianism have been saved, and are still accessible by me, so if there is anything you want to see again leave me a note and I'll be sure to get it to you. My original recipes will all be visible, as posted, below this welcome message. My reviews of others recipes are all still here, just not visible, and since it's been quite some time since I've last posted, and we've been eating many repeat meals, I will start fresh in this new space with reviews and suggestions.

Now that M is in school and I am teaching more yoga it seems that we are always running short on time. I will keep this blog updated to the best of my ability, but don't be surprised if you don't see me around for weeks at a time. Sometimes life just gets in the way of all of the "extra" stuff we want to do (and sometimes Twitter gets in the way too)!!

I'm glad you are all here. Hopefully we can talk food, talk yoga, and have a little fun along the way!!