Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We're Cookin' Now!

Recipe: Nut 'Cheese'

Some people love to cook. Some people feel they just don't have time for it. Some, well, just have no interest.

Cooking analogies are particularly apt for many aspects of our lives. Cooking is a transformational act. An alchemical process.

Like, 'what's cookin'? Or, 'Let's simmer on that', 'that's half baked!', 'put it on the back burner', or 'we're cookin' now!'.

Let's take it a little deeper. 'I'm cooked'. 'I'm sitting in the fire.'

Getting warmer?

We begin with a raw substance, usually a living substance. A plant. An animal. Something that lives and breathes. A life. Life. Living and breathing. Can you touch the life happening in yourself right here, right now?

Our heads buzz along at such a fast pace, we often miss a deeper communication with our food, and with ourselves.

Imagine all the input of our lives as food from the fields. The process of getting it from the field to our plate is how we respond, react, ruminate and navigate through our days. Wouldn't you want to give it your full attention? Pick it with love, chop it carefully, notice which are the choicest, plumpest experiences, have the earthiest spice mixture, the hottest fire for searing, the gentlest heat for the long simmer, send the indigestible bits to the garden for composting to make the soil richer. Wouldn't you want to pay attention to the natural vibrancy, the life inherent in the process itself?

Oh, let's up the ante - what if you dove in full body, bathed in the luscious, scrumptiousness of flavor and texture, snuggling and giggling with complete abandon with the leaves and fronds, licking and slurping and rubbing all the amazing fats and brothiness into your welcoming pores....

In my twenties I cooked to pay the bills while I was studying to be - an actress, a writer, a filmmaker, ... I was a party girl rushing headlong into the future of imagined fame and fortune. I rushed through a marriage and a divorce, about 15 different apartments and houses, and enough drugs and alcohol to fully cover all my need for escape for the rest of my life. I was running as fast as I could to avoid catching up with myself, to really experience what was happening in my life.

Until, running full tilt, I hit the wall. The heating element on the electric stove of my life burned out, short circuited. There had to be a different way.

In my thirties I found myself cooking at a meditation retreat center with no other goal than the cooking and the meditating. My thoughts were incredibly loud for a long time, but they did eventually quiet down. A bit. And that revealed the incredible dance that I wrote about in my last blog post.

It also revealed many sweetnesses and subtleties in my emotional life. Some were painful. It was clear that running for as long as I did had contributed to habits of distraction that were very difficult to break.

Slowing down with the cooking allowed me to slow down with myself. Slowing down with myself allowed me to slow down with the cooking. Which is true? Each revealed the other.

I invite you to slow down in the midst of your life. We don't have to go to the retreat center to slow down (although it can be a helpful jump start) - we just have to value the precious moments of our lives. Value our bodies, our loved ones, our contributions to the world.

Just take a moment, right now. Look out the window. Take a breath. Feel your body in your chair.

Let this moment take care of itself. The next moment will come, all by itself. And if you're fully in this one, you'll be more ready for the next, standing right in the center of your life. Because where is that? Right here.

And don't forget to really enjoy your food. It's life itself.

Nut Cheese
Gluten and dairy-free, salicylate free, low carb

  • 1 cup nut or seeds of choice - hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, pecans, etc. Cashews make a delicious 'cheese', but know that they are considered a 'mold' food
  • 1 - 2 cups cabbage tonic, or a couple of good quality probiotic capsules and water
  • 2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Celtic sea salt to taste
  • flavorings of choice - my favorite is pesto. Any mix of kalamata olive, sundried tomato, nutritional yeast, garlic, parsley; or with cashews, pecans or hazelnuts you can go more in the direction of dates and stevia for a sweeter 'cream cheese'.
Soak nuts or seeds in plenty of non-chlorinated water for at least 8 hours, preferably 12 - 24 hours. Drain and rinse. Set to sprout if desired.

Place nuts and enough cabbage tonic or water and probiotic capsule contents to barely cover in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts or seeds are broken down and mixture resembles cottage cheese.

Place mixture in a jar and cap with a sprouting screen or layer of cheese cloth held on with rubber band or canning ring. Set in a warm place for up to 12 hours.

Drain 'cheese' in a nut milk bag or other fine mesh strainer until fairly dry and crumbly. Mix with flavorings in a food processor until desired consistency - if your looking for a 'cream cheese' like product, you may need to add a little water and let it process for a few minutes until very smooth. Other herb flavors will lend themselves to slightly chunkier textures.

Serve with crackers or raw vegetables. Or I just eat it by the spoonful as a snack.

I know this is called 'cheese', but honestly I think of it more as a low carb replacement for hummus. Enjoy!

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Do You Dance?

Recipe: Cabbage Tonic, aka Non-Dairy Innoculant

I’m fond of saying that cooking is a dance. The food and our bodies ask for what they need to delight and be delighted in, to be nourished and nourishing, if we have the sensitivity to pay attention. It takes some experience and willingness to be open. Willingness to feel, sense deeper currents than just the following of a recipe. Willingness to touch the food - smell, hear, taste, see - really experience the substance that supports our bodies.

It takes a willingness to be quiet. Who leads in this dance may not be easy to feel. Our minds are full of the chatter of the stories of our lives. Where we have to go, who we have to see, what we have to do by when - and the ongoing pull and push between food and our bodies may be more subtle than those surface voices.

That dance is a vital one to pay attention to if we want to be healthy. Be connected with our true natures. If we want to be happy.

I’m not necessarily saying this dance will always be about eating what we might think of as perfectly healthy food. There are many influences on this dance, some cultural, some seasonal, some nutritional. Emotional. Our relationship with food is intertwined with our families, health, finances, creativity, communities, and history. It can be how we reward or punish ourselves. How we redeem ourselves.

It can include information we learn from books and health care practitioners, but, just as when we learn the steps to a new dance from an instructor, in the end things flow best when we make the dance our own. When we take what we’ve learned and see how it dances through us, how it finds it’s natural balance with the rest of the complexity that is our personal dance of life.

Our lack of relationship with food reflects on that list as well. If food is taken out of that equation, or if the relationship with food is too far distorted - you can sense the far reaching consequences.

All relationships take some energy and attention. A balance of energy and attention. If they don’t get enough, they will at the least go stagnant, at worst, die. If they get too much, they can be smothering, have a distorted and unbalanced effect.

What does your dance of body and food look like? What does it feel like from the inside? How much attention do you give it? Is there love in that attention? Compassion? Fun? Joy? Substance? Or is there fear? Denial? Tension? Resignation? Even hatred? Or simple unconsciousness? Boredom?

Let what you ‘know’ about health be applied through a lens of sweetness, even if you know you don’t do well with sugar on the physical level. Find safe ways to nourish yourself on ALL levels. Experiment. Be willing to fail.

In other words, be willing to learn. To change. But not because the slave driver in your head is lashing at you with a whip.

Do it because you love yourself.

And if you find you don’t love yourself - well then, that’s where you begin. We always begin where we are. Know that it is possible to love yourself, and to take care of yourself with love.

It’s just a part of the dance you haven’t learned yet. Or have forgotten. No big deal, we can all learn new skills. It starts with the desire.

Do you want to be happy?

Cabbage Tonic, aka Non-Dairy Innoculant
Gluten and dairy-free, salicylate free, candida friendly

  • 1/4 green cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 gallon brine made with Celtic or Himalayan sea salt, or Real Salt

Put the cabbage into a half gallon mason jar.

Make your brine. put enough salt in the water to make it too salty to be pleasant, but not so salty that you gag. (Thanks, Alyss!) Pour the brine over the cabbage. Cap tightly and shake well.

Leave on your kitchen counter or in a cupboard for 3 - 7 days, burping daily, until it has become quite active for at least a couple of days, or at least has taken on a sour flavor, not just salty.

Transfer to the refrigerator when it's done. Strain for a refreshing salty tonic, and use a couple of Tbsp when making veggie ferments that do not contain cabbage or cucumbers. You can use it for cabbage ferments, too, but it's not usually necessary. Great replacement for whey in recipes that use that for an innoculant.

Can also be used as an innoculant for nut cheese - which will come in a future recipe.

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesdays.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's Not Fair!

Recipe: Frozen Coconut Yogurt

Those of us with food sensitivities can sometimes wonder why we got left out of the bounty of life. There are so many delicious dishes we'd love to savor that are traditionally made with ingredients that do harm to our bodies.

What wrong with this picture? Why is this happening? It's just not fair! Everyone else gets to enjoy!

I could tell you how many wonderful things you CAN eat, the amazing fresh vegetables with delicate or hearty earth flavors, the alternatives to dairy or gluten, or (insert your sensitivity). Foods with their own subtleties that it's possible to enjoy.

But that's not really the point, is it? We sometimes just miss those
foods, the very one's we learned to love, and led to us feeling: in pain, tired, foggy, irritated, angry, etc.

Or we're overwhelmed because it's just not easy to keep ourselves supplied with the alternatives, or they don't travel well. It would be so much easier to just make a quick stop at a convenience store when we need a snack... if only they stocked something without - all the stuff we can't eat.

This is one of the reasons it's important to incorporate food and eating into our spiritual practice. Even view it as a spiritual practice. We don't have the luxury of being unconscious about our eating, when eating too far outside our limits makes us sick.

If you're thinking it's not fair, you're right. It's not fair.

But it's what is. And what a spiritual practice can do is help us shift our focus to what's useful and true. Less on what gets us nowhere.

Here are a few statistics from
• 75% of insomniacs who started a daily meditation program were able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed.
• Production of the stress hormone Cortisol is greatly decreased, thus making it possible for those people to deal with stress better when it occurs.
• Women with PMS showed symptom improvements after 5 months of steady daily rumination and reflection.
However a spiritual practice might look in your life, whether that might be meditation, prayer, singing, dancing, mindful cooking and eating, or all of the above, it's clear that there are very real health benefits to be had. Think of what a valuable adjunct to good nutrition this is!

We always need to be kind to ourselves, and realize it's hard to have to take such care with our food. We may need to grieve the loss of certain flavors and textures we associate with comfort and happiness. This is part of the process of coming to terms with the reality of our lives. It is not always as we would wish it.

And we need to tap in a bit deeper, to the real love and kind regard we hold ourselves in. It's there. It's the longing for a deeper happiness.

It's easier to find when our health is stabilized. And tapping into it intentionally helps us get our health stabilized, by helping us make clearer decisions. Truly life affirming decisions.

From this place, you may find yourself noticing how incredibly delicious fresh vegetables are, simple soups, herbs, coconut yogurt,... you may find the 'replacement' foods have an identity in their own right on your tongue and in your belly. And they are magical in their utter reality and rightness.

May it be so. And may all beings be well nourished and happy.

Frozen Coconut Yogurt

  • o 14 oz coconut yogurt (1 can of coconut milk made into yogurt)
  • o 2 eggs of choice, chicken or duck (optional)
  • o 1 _ tsp vanilla, preferably glycerin based, or powdered vanilla
  • o 15 drops stevia extract, preferably glycerin or water based
  • o Optional add ins: 1 - 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder, a handful or two of berries, a handful of shredded coconut, nuts, or a swirl of nut butter of choice

Mix the first four ingredients together in a bowl, and whisk until smooth. If using the cacao powder, mix it in now.

If you have an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

If using a Champion juicer or food processor, pour the mixture into ice cube trays. You'll probably need two. Freeze well.

Pass through the juicer with the blank plate on it. Mix in any optional add ins. Serve immediately.

Or, mix in a food processor, adding a little more coconut yogurt if needed to get the frozen yogurt smooth. Mix in add ins. This might need to be returned to the freezer for a little while to firm up.

o Use coconut milk instead of coconut yogurt.
o Make the liquid mixture into a custard before freezing by heating it slowly in a double boiler until thickened.
o Use fresh vanilla bean - split a vanilla bean from end to end and scrape the seeds and pith out of it. Steep it in warm coconut milk or yogurt for a few minutes. Whisk the seeds into the mixture to blend as well as possible.

I usually love the chocolate version of anything, but I have to say the vanilla is outrageously delicious.