Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another great article written by my Uncle Gene. This time it's about...

Most of us feel the stresses of everyday life, and find various ways to deal with them. (It is a myth that as you get older, you know how to handle stress. Some of life’s most stressful events do not happen until you have gray hair and a weakened immune system!) Physical activity at any age reduces stress for most people, but the practice of meditation has a long and successful history of helping people to cope with life’s challenges. Anyone can practice meditation: you don’t have to go to India and hire a guru; you don’t have to visit a monastery and join the monks at prayer. Meditation can be a religious exercise, or it can simply be a calming experience, a way of stepping back and emptying the mind of all that is extraneous and trivial. “To people who say they are too busy to meditate, I tell them, set aside ten minutes every morning for meditation, and you will find that your schedule is not nearly as oppressive as before you started the practice of meditation.”
If you are new to meditation, or returning after a long absence, begin with five minutes. Find a place where you will not be disturbed, make yourself moderately comfortable, and simply sit and meditate. Close your eyes if that helps, have a clock where you can see it if you look, and begin by counting your breaths for five minutes. By the second day, you will look forward to this time of collecting your self, and you will find something else to hold your attention, whether a word, a thought, a picture, or a blank wall. Meditation comes naturally to those who set aside a time, find a place where they will not be interrupted, and empty their mind of all distractions.
Many medical professionals recommend meditation as a way to good health. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, for reasons religious, philosophical, and healthful. It is a calming and quieting experience, a turning off of the noise and distraction of everyday, and attentiveness to what is basic and elementary: breathing, for example. The simplest form of meditation is to find a quiet place, sit comfortably, and spend ten minutes simply paying attention to your breath. Dr. Andrew Weil says there is no medical prescription more important than re-learning how to breathe! (From the Mayo Clinic Health Letter: “Resperate is a portable electronic device that promotes slow, deep breathing. Resperate is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. The goal is slow, deep breathing with particularly long exhalation. Resperate is intended to be used at least 15 minutes a day, three to four days a week. Within a few weeks, the deep breathing exercises can help lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.”) Given our American passion for technology, we have found a way for technology to produce what experienced meditators have been doing for centuries!
As we get busy, we tend to breathe shallowly. We can go days or weeks without paying attention to our own breathing. Simply counting your breath can help focus your attention. Controlling your breath is the next step: breathe in for 5-10 seconds, hold your breath, and then breathe out slowly and calmly, and try to focus your entire attention on the act of breathing.
      Is meditation really as simple as that? You can dress it up in many ways, but that is the basis. You may make it a religious experience by incorporating the appropriate imagery, you may make an aesthetic experience by meditating on the sunset or on the stars, or some other natural phenomenon, or you may make it a calming and relaxing experience through the recitation of some “mantra” that has particular significance for you.
      Dr. Herbert Benson has documented that the regular practice of meditation lowers blood pressure; Dr. Dean Ornish claims that regular meditation reduces the risk of sudden heart attack.  Dr. Weil claims that meditation boosts the effectiveness of the immune system. Perhaps it does these because it brings us back to our most basic self, puts us in touch with the roots of our pre-consciousness, and does something to establish a calm and tranquil center at the heart of our activity.
      Among philosophers, Socrates had his meditative trances from which he could not be awakened. Plotinus had his transformative experiences of solitude, of being “alone with the Alone.” Thomas Aquinas was so transformed by his meditations that all he had written seemed like so much straw.  Asian traditions are parallel: Thich Nhat Hanh, perhaps the greatest living teacher of Buddhism, recommends the simple formula: Breathing in, I calm my body, breathing out, I smile. His books, Peace is Every Step, and Interbeing, can be great helps along the path to successful meditation.
The best cure for an overly-busy schedule is to set aside a few minutes a day of uninterruptible quiet time, quiet your mind and your emotions, put your breathing, and therefore your life, into good and peaceful order…

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Bisque

My daughter bought a new cookbook. It's "Totally Vegetarian," written by Toni Fiore, and there are some great recipes inside. Many of them are vegan and many others can be adapted. She's made 3 recipes from this cookbook and all of them have been wonderful. This bisque is the best! I only changed a couple of things. I switched out the sugar for agave nectar and added cashew cream instead of soy milk. So get to the store and buy a pie pumpkin before their all gone. Then try this soup. It's delicious! 

Roasted Pumpkin Bisque
One 2-pound sugar pumpkin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 - 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves
Fine sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
4 cups vegetable stock
1 - 2 teaspoons agave nectar
1/2 to 1 cup soy milk or cashew cream
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped chives
Sprinkle of nutmeg (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half across the equator, not stem to bottom. Remove the seeds and strings with a spoon. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until tender about 40 minutes. Set it aside until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the pulp and place in a bowl; discard the shell.

Heat the olive oil in a 3 - 4 quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, ginger, and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until the onion is translucent and the carrots begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin, rosemary, and 2 teaspoons salt. Stir well and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the agave. Let cool 10 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender and blend, slowly adding the milk a little at a time. You may need to do this in two batches. Check the texture, which should be smooth and dense, you may not need to add the entire cup of soy milk or cashew cream, so do this to your taste. When the soup is whipped and creamy return to the pot and heat through. Stir in the chives, season with black pepper & sprinkle with nutmeg if using.Serve hot.

Totally Vegetarian: Easy, Fast, Comforting Cooking for Every Kind of Vegetarian

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The CSN Giveaway is over!

The winner of the $40.00 CSN Gift Card Giveaway is.... Kathy!

Congratulations! I will email you, and CSN will be in contact. Thanks to everyone who entered!

And stay tuned for the most fabulous vegan pumpkin soup you've ever tasted!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Another CSN Giveaway! Yea!!

Yes, it's true! CSN is offering a $40 gift card to one lucky reader, again! 

If you follow my blog then you already know how much I love CSN.  They have over 200 online stores where you can buy anything from cookware, shoes,  dining sets,  exercise equipment, tools, cribs, lighting, even pet beds!  You name it, they have it! At CSN, there are SO many things to choose from you're certain to find something you can’t live without.

So here's the deal...
The contest will be open for one week. On Tuesday, October 12th, the contest will close. I will pick a winner using and post the winner's name on Wednesday.

Here's what you need to do:
1. Go to the CSN website (using the link, dining sets) and tell me what 1 item you would love to have in your home. It can be anything! Spend some time looking around.
2. Be a blogspot follower of my blog
3. Get the word out and post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, whatever!

Good luck everyone!

BTW, This is open to US and Canadian residents only.