Friday, December 28, 2012

Community, by my Uncle Gene

Community is one of those words we use all the time, without thinking much about what it means. While it means "those who share common interests," it  implies that some kind of "unity" is essential if there is to be a "community." We have a common interest in the welfare of children, and so we quickly became a national community in our grieving over the mass shooting in Connecticut. We "come together" as a community when such disasters occur, and we like to think our patriotism or love of country unites us all in the community of Americans. We acknowledge that our own "families" are our most basic community, and we build our other communities to some extent on that model. Our recent national election, however, profiled what deep differences there are, when we try to think of the community of all Americans. We have personal examples of how the various communities to which we belong are sometimes torn apart by the differences of opinion held by the members. Some of the most vocal disagreements we hear about, come from members of religious communities, be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu. To the ancient question, Why can't we all just live together in peace?, the philosophical response dates back to ancient times, and is brought up to date by lively interchanges between Harvard philosophers like Thomas Scanlon, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, and Michael Sandel.

But no philosopher has looked at the problems of community more perceptively than Alasdair MacIntyre. From his book After Virtue:  "We all approach our own circumstances as bearers of a particular social identity. I am someone's son or daughter, someone's cousin or uncle; I am a citizen of this or that city, a member of this or that guild or profession; I belong to this clan, that tribe, this nation. Hence what is good for me has to be good for one who inhabits these roles. As such, I inherit from the past of my family, my city, my tribe, my nation, a variety of debts, inheritances, rightful expectations and obligations. These constitute the given of my life, my moral starting point. This is in part what gives my own life its moral particularity." MacIntyre claims we have lost the sense of loyalty to a tradition, the sensitivity to the needs that others may have, a willingness to go the extra mile simply for the benefit of someone who stands in need, and is a member of some community of which we are a part. 

What has torn us apart in recent years is our own penchant for extreme libertarianism: I am free to choose whatever I want to be or to do, quite apart from the needs of my community or my communities. "From the standpoint of individualism I am what I choose to be." While finding our own identities is no doubt important, we do owe something to each community to which we have belonged, beginning with our own family, but also to virtually every community that has had a hand in making us who we are. (Personal confession: I was a student in Canada for nine years, and I know I owe something to that community, something that can never be repaid, so it remains one of my many outstanding debts…) As MacIntyre comments: "For the story of my life is always embedded in the story of those communities from which I derive my identity. I am born with a past; and to try to cut myself off from that past…is to deform my present relationships." 

In a word, we owe something to the communities of which we are members. We owe something on a personal level, not just through the taxes we pay, but through some obligation of community building, of doing something to make every community of which we are a part, better for our having been there. Evolutionary biologists study the phenomenon of "altruism," the capacity to do something strictly for the benefit of someone else, and note that human beings are capable of remarkable acts of altruism, even to the point of sacrificing one's own life. While we may not be called to do that on an everyday basis, certainly there are daily examples when we can ride to the rescue of someone who needs our attention...

Just as we are born into the family that nourished us, and have built families where we may be the primary nurturers, so we are all members of larger communities, and we owe something to those with whom we share common interests, common boundaries, common visions of the future. In pursuing our own private interests, it is all too easy to overlook the obligations we have as community members, to do some good for others. It is the interests we have in common with all those with whom we associate, that truly make us who we are. While we may take pride in our individual achievements, we could not achieve anything apart from the communities that have nourished us. We have obligations of solidarity and loyalty that go far beyond whatever differences that may divide us. We only become truly human by participating in the communities that nourish and sustain us...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Take Time for Meditation, by my Uncle Gene


People often talk about how "stress-full" the holidays are. How can that be? Holidays are days off from the serious business of making a living and getting things done, supposedly giving us time to think about the things that really matter. We are all caught in the grind of trying to get more and more done in less and less time, and there are never enough days in any week to get done all the things on your "To Do" list for that week. 

The best time management technique I know is also the best stress buster. Set aside ten minutes every day where you will not be disturbed or easily distracted. Find a quiet place, and sit and meditate. Think first about your breathing: breathe deeply, and for a few minutes, count your breaths. You may want to spend a few minutes deliberately relaxing each part of your body, beginning with your toes, and progressing to the top of your head. You may want to focus on a plant that you can see, or a blank wall. You may find a mantra helpful, something as simple as: "There is nothing I have to do right now, there is no place I have to be right now." Whatever trials and tribulations your life has brought you, right now is a moment of tranquillity, when you are neither concerned about the past or the future. Devote ten minutes a day for a week to this simple practice, and you may find you want to make it a permanent part of your day, and you may find you want another ten minutes in the evening, or some other time when you can get away from it all, and focus simply on the joy of being alive.

As Gail Sheehy wrote many years ago, "there are predictable crises in adult life." There are also unpredictable crises, and concerns that may become more serious as you age. Every time you have a doctor's appointment, you may hear something you would prefer not to hear, maybe something you thought only happened to other people. We have our lives parceled out to us one day at a time, and each day is something of a little life, an entity complete to itself. It may be helpful to reflect that as long as we exist we are in motion towards something, but that we should also "delight" in what we have, what we have accomplished, and what we hope to do.

One of my meditating friends of fifty years passed away last week. His dying words were: "I am ready to go, but I am not eager to go." There have been giants of the spiritual life who have looked upon life and death with equanimity, and written words like these: "Let nothing disturb thee, nothing terrify thee: all things are passing, God never changes." While atheists might ask what God has to do with it, and theologians might debate the unchangingness of God, there is a point to having an anchor somewhere where nothing will disorient or overcome you, and the daily practice of meditation may help you reach that point. 

Even in these busy weeks, set aside ten minutes where you will not be disturbed. Take stock of your life: do you do some things that aren't really necessary? Are there things you know you should do that you have not taken time for? Do you set aside some time each day for yourself, for your own mental and emotional health? Meditation may do more than any other practice to put you on the path to taking control of your time and your life. Don't wait. Your life, and the meaningfulness of your life,  depends on it...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eat Your Greens!


This is a wonderful combination of greens, beans and rice, and there are a couple of ingredients that you can easily sub out for others if needed. The most unusual ingredient in this recipe is black garlic. I found it at Whole Foods. Before cooking, I researched and learned that it is fermented garlic. It's often found in Asian cuisine and it's rich in antioxidants! It's made by fermenting whole bulbs of garlic at high temperatures resulting in a deep black color with a slightly sweet taste similar to that of balsamic vinegar. If you already have this tasty garlic in your house, lucky you! If not, it won't be hard to find. There are on-line sources if it's not in your nearby health food store.



Eat Your Greens
Serves 4 as a Side Dish

1 C cooked rice
1 - 2 T Fustini's Extra Virgin Garlic Olive Oil
1 leek, white part only, diced
1 large leaf of red chard, vein removed and chopped
1 clove of black garlic
10 leaves of dandelion, chopped
1 C spinach
1/2 C maitake mushrooms, chopped
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1/2 C cannellini beans
1/4 C kalamata olives
sliced almonds, toasted in a skillet over med. heat for 7 - 10 minutes
fresh lemon juice

Cook the rice according to the package directions so you end up with about one cup. Toast the sliced almonds. Once that's done, warm the olive oil in a saute pan. Saute the leek over medium low heat until it becomes translucent. Add the chopped chard and saute for 5 - 8 minutes. Add the black garlic and mash it as you stir it in. Add the dandelion, spinach, maitake mushrooms, thyme and continue to cook over low heat until the greens have wilted and the mushrooms have cooked down. Add the rice, beans and olives to the mixture and continue to cook until heated. Mix in the almonds and squeeze with a little fresh lemon juice.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Meditation and Morals.... by my Uncle Gene

It dawned on me that in whatever city I have practiced Sitting Meditation with a group, I could have left my wallet and my car keys anywhere on the floor, and they would have been there when the session ended. Granted that those who practice  Meditation are a special subsection of the general population, there is something about all practitioners of "mindfulness" that sets them apart, and not just the capacity of some of them to sit in an unusual cross-legged position (a capacity I do not happen to share). Is there something about practicing mind-full-ness that disposes one to be more fully aware of how one should behave, including a heightened sense of compassion? Are meditators more moral than the rest of the population? 

I am reminded of what I heard from a Catholic priest, before the dawn of the ecumenical era. He said: "Better to forget your umbrella in a Protestant Church on a rainy Sunday, because Catholics are obligated to go to Mass, so the moral people as well as the thieves are there, but only the moral Protestants go to Church on rainy Sundays." Whether you go to Church, Synagogue, or Mosque, the preaching inevitably will relate to what you should do, and how you should live your life. And certainly the quiet times, the interludes when nothing appears to be happening, might be the times of quiet meditation, times for reflection, times for thinking about how your life should be lived, and perhaps what your obligations to others might entail...

How much more "moral" our culture might be, if some form of Mindful Meditation were taught in our schools! While some might fear an intrusion of something that appears to have a Buddhist heritage, Mindfulness Meditation has become a distinct practice that can be applied in many ways. Jon Kabat-Zinn's new book, Mindfulness for Beginners, could create something of a moral revolution, if what he teaches in the book were ever widely practiced. "The real challenge...is that the practice itself gives us instant access to other dimensions of our life that have been here all along, but with which we have been seriously out of touch." I wonder how many of those dimensions relate to how we might become better at the art of being fully human...

There is a collection of stories within the Sufi Tradition called "The Nasrudin Tales." Here is a good example: "Nasrudin, is your religion orthodox?" "It all depends," said Nasrudin, "on which bunch of heretics is in power."

And there is a story circulating in Meditation circles about a renowned Rabbi from Byelorussia. An American traveler stopped to visit him, and was surprised that the Rabbi lived in a one room apartment, with a table, two chairs, and a small desk. The traveler said: "But where is your furniture?" The Rabbi replied: "Where is your furniture?" The traveler said: "I have no furniture, I am just passing through," to which the Rabbi replied, "I am just passing through too...."

There is much to meditate about, in those tales...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Blueberry Cherry Cobbler


I don't make desserts often because I rarely crave something sweet. Also, I don't think the habit of a nightly dessert is a healthy practice. But every now and then I do like to bake. So, when I was at the farmers market and saw an abundance of blueberries and cherries, I took it as a hint and decided to make a cobbler. I have an old recipe that I veganized and this combination of fruit turned out to be delicious! It was a bit of a surprise to me, but I really enjoyed the pairing and I hope you do too!

Hot out of the oven!
My husband had his with vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Cherry Cobbler
Serves 6

Filling
4 C blueberries
1/2 - 1 C sweet cherries, pitted (this takes a little time, but well worth it)
1 T flour
1 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Topping
1/2 C Earth Balance, melted
1 1/4 C flour
 1 C sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C toasted walnuts
1 t cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts by placing them onto a sheet pan in a single layer. Put the pan into the oven and remove after 8 - 10 minutes. Set the walnuts aside to cool. Once cool, chop into smaller pieces.

Lower the temperature of the oven to 300 degrees. Combine the ingredients for the filling stirring to mix well. Put the fruit mixture into an 8 X 8 baking dish and set aside. Combine the melted Earth Balance with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Top the fruit filling evenly with the topping and bake for one hour. The topping should be brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and cool.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Food Pyramid for Vegetarians & Vegans

My Uncle Gene, who is a vegan, sent this to me. I always find his advice helpful and this is another example. Not only does this pyramid make sense, it's easy to remember.

Thank you Uncle Gene!
 
Web MD and the Mayo Clinic Health letter have both been talking about the challenges of a Vegetarian, or Vegan diet, and I found this chart helpful:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guacamole



Well... how can I post a salsa recipe without guacamole! Silly girl... So I went back to one of my first blog posts and dug it up. Of course, there's a story...

My sister, who lives in Arizona, makes the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted. I've been eating it for years. All this time I thought she used sour cream and Mexican cheese, but during my last visit to Arizona she made it. To my surprise, she doesn't use either one of those ingredients! It's still the best ever, and it's just one of those things... the girl has it down!

Now, I hope this doesn't disappoint you, but what follows isn't her recipe. She really doesn't have one. Figures. So this is mine. It's very good, really! 

Guacamole

3 avocados
1T. lime juice or more to taste
½ C. red onion, diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 minced garlic clove
2T. cilantro, chopped
½ t. cumin
½ t. salt
Pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together and serve. I keep it fresh by placing plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole, pushing down so it's air tight, and placing it the in refrigerator.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tomato Salsa


We went to my favorite Mexican restaurant last night. I just can't get enough of that cuisine. The beans and rice, the corn tortillas, the sauces and salsa. Ahh yes... the salsa. I could eat salsa everyday. It has an addictive quality. I like making it too!

I've posted this recipe before and I decided to post it again, not just because I love it, but because my daughter was looking for a "favorite recipe" to give to a friend at a wedding shower. Cute idea, right? Everyone brings their favorite recipe to go into a cookbook for the bride. As my daughter brought the recipe card in to the kitchen she went right to my salsa recipe. I love that girl.

The truth is everyone LOVES this recipe. Whenever I make it, it's gone fast! It's an adaptation on a recipe given to me by my sister-in-law. I tweaked it to suit our tastes and I hope it suits yours. Enjoy this easy and delicious salsa!

Tomato Salsa

Easy
15 minutes

1 - 28oz. can Dei Fratelli Seasoned Diced Tomatoes
1 T. cilantro, chopped finely
½ small red onion, chopped finely (approximately ¾ C.)
½ - 1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and chopped finely
1 t. of fresh lime juice
¼ - ½ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Drain the can of diced tomatoes. Add all of the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for at least ½ hour. Serve with chips.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Easy Schmeezy White Bean Salad


Looking for a simple, quick, delicious salad? Then try this. It's a light, healthy side dish.
 

 Easy Schmeezy White Bean Salad

2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 C red onion, chopped
1/3 C celery, chopped
1/4 C chopped parsley


Dressing
1/8 C + 1 T white wine vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. sea salt
1/8 t. black pepper

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together in a medium to large bowl. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Collard Greens with Beans and Rice

This is another dish inspired by the local farmers market. It's a complete protein meal that's easy to put together. Everyone in my family liked this one!!

Collard Greens with Beans and Rice
Serves 4

2 T olive oil
2 T Earth Balance
2 small sweet Spanish onions, thinnly sliced (or shallots)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1 inch wide pieces
1 C. water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans
1 C brown rice, cooked according to package instructions
fresh lemon juice

Begin by cooking the rice according to package directions. In a large saute pan, saute the onion in the oil and Earth Balance on a low heat until lightly browned or caramelized, 5 - 10 minutes. Add the sliced garlic cloves and crushed red pepper. Continue to saute another 4 - 5 minutes. Add the collard greens and stir to coat with the oil mixture. Once slightly wilted, add the water and bouillon cube. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, uncover and add the cannellini beans. Continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated (5 - 10 minutes). Add the rice to the mixture stirring to combine. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the mixture, stir and serve.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fresh Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries in Orange Liqueur


I was at the Royal Oak Farmers Market recently. It's an excellent market with lots to look at, think about, sample and buy. I bought some veggies, fruit, wild Alaskan salmon (for my husband) and a beautiful succulent plant arrangement for my kitchen. It's a fun way to spend a morning.

When I got home, I put the fruit together with some sugar and orange liqueur. It made a really quick, fresh dessert that we all enjoyed. In fact, I've made twice since. We tried the fruit compote with three different sorbets and thought mango was the perfect compliment. Enjoy!



Fresh Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries in Orange Liqueur with Sorbet
Serves 4

1 half pint raspberries
1 C strawberries
1 C blueberries
3 T sugar
2 T orange liqueur
zest of 1/2 lemon
Sorbet

With the back of a fork, lightly mash half of the raspberries and strawberries to get the juices flowing. Add the blueberries and mix together. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, liqueur and zest of the lemon. Pour the mixture over the berries and gently stir to combine. Cover and let sit until ready to serve.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Raw Food at Oryana


My sister is working at Oryana in Traverse City. She has long been interested in the relationship between food and health, so working at Oryana is a great fit. Oryana is a food co-op that consistently provides quality food to the community. It's an amazing store that reminds me of a smaller, better version of Whole Foods.

There's a lot going on in this store and all of it is good. They pride themselves on featuring local products some of which include produce, chocolate, wine, and bread.  There's a restaurant that serves up anything from smoothies to sandwiches and when you visit you may find yourself happily listening to live music as you sip your chai.


But back to my sister. She loves her job and its easy to see why. She demonstrates healthy, delicious meals featuring seasonal food while focusing on dishes that are easy to prepare. I visited recently with our mother and she was serving up a raw dish that could be made for lunch or dinner. It's a twist on pasta. You simply sub out the pasta for zucchini and end up with a raw, fresh, healthy, fun, good for you meal (her words). She found the recipe in the magazine,  "Whole Living,"  and it is so delicious I had to share.


Zucchini "Pasta"
Serves 2

8 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts
2 T torn fresh basil, plus leaves to garnish
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
sea salt
1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise, slices cut into 1/4 inch long strips

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, basil and oil. Season with salt. Let stand 20 minutes. Toss with zucchini, garnish with basil and an extra drizzle of olive oil if desired.

This photo is from the Whole Living website.



Oryana - Natural Foods Market

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why not meat?


We come to this way of eating for different reasons, in different ways and with different levels of commitment. My Uncle Gene emailed the following excerpt to me and I thought I would share.

I met Christof Koch at the Consciousness Conference 4 years ago. He has this remarkable new book out entitled "Consciousness," in which he not only pulls together the research on consciousness, he says a great deal about himself, and about how his research has changed his life. 

"When my beloved dog Nosy died, I was moved to act... when she passed away, I was distraught; I still dream about her today. I asked myself that night, as she lay dying in my arms, how could I cry over her but happily eat the flesh of lambs and pigs? Their intelligence and brains are not that different from those of dogs. From that night on I stopped eating mammals and birds, though somewhat inconsistently, I still consume fish." (p. 160)

--of all the Consciousness researchers I have met, he was by far the most personable. I can't help but thinking he might also be the smartest.....which is no small compliment....

Monday, June 18, 2012

Easy Vegan Baked Beans


I made this dish for Fathers Day and everyone liked it. I have to say it was very simple.  

Easy Vegan Baked Beans
Serves 4 - 6

1 28 oz. can vegetarian baked beans
1/2 C onion
1/2 C celery
1/4 C catsup
2 T brown sugar
1 T canola oil
1 t. molasses
1 t. prepared mustard
1/2 t. apple cider vinegar
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
fried onion rings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl add all of the ingredients. Place the beans in a shallow ovenproof dish. Bake covered about 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle some fried onion rings on top and bake 30 minutes more.

Note: The pic is not mine.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pico de Gallo


I know I haven't been blogging, but there's a reason. One you can all relate to... stress!

Work had been crazy and I felt like I wasn't doing anything well. I had been in the middle of reading a book (for about a month), my house was screaming "CLEAN ME" as I walked through every room, the weeds wouldn't stop growing (no matter how I looked at them) and I wasn't cooking. I was a mess.

Still, there are those beautiful moments that happen in the middle of all the chaos, and you just can't ignore them. In this case, it was on Mother's Day. Everyone (including the dog) let me sleep late. I laid in bed and read all morning. My girls came home. They cleaned the house, shopped and cooked dinner. What a gift. They probably won't understand what that meant to me until they're a little older, but I know the gift will be returned to them one day.

So, when I saw what they were making for dinner I decided to help out, just a little. I had the ingredients to make a pico de gallo that would fit in nicely with the dinner the girls had planned. So I made it.

I really love adding pico de gallo to a Mexican menu. In fact, I think it's a great condiment most any time. It's also called salsa fresca. It's a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, onion and chilis.  Other ingredients are often added, such as lime juice and fresh cilantro. My recipe is well liked and very versatile. You can easily build onto it and I hope you do.

Also, I know it's seriously late in the year, but Happy Mother's Day ladies!

Pico de Gallo

3 plum tomatoes, about 1 3/4 - 2  cups
3/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon diced jalapenos, seeded and de-veined
1/2 cup cilantro
Salt and pepper

Directions

In a bowl combine all ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to almost ready to serve. Let it sit out for about 30 minutes if you can. Serve.

Note: The pic is not mine.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Cashew Bars


This recipe came to me by way of my dear friend, Mary Ann. She enjoys cooking and reading blogs, and she always sends me her best finds. This one is from the blog "Peas and Thank You" and it hit a home run in my house. It's a sweet and salty, fruity and chocolaty, crunchy and chewy taste treat.

What more could you want?

Chocolate Cherry Cashew Bars


Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook Time: 30 mins | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • Ingredients (12 bars)
  • 2 T. flax seeds (or approximately 3 T. ground)
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup, agave or honey (or mixture of any of the three)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. whole almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. cashew pieces
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries
  • 1/2 c. quality chocolate chips

Directions:

Prep Time: 5 min.
Cook Time: 30 min.


Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To the ground flax, add the syrupy sweetener of your choice. Mix well and set aside. In a large bowl, combine salt, almonds, peanuts, cashews and cherries. Pour flax syrup mixture over nuts and cherries and stir until evenly coated. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the nut mixture in the baking pan evenly, from corner to corner. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until bars are slightly browned and edges are crisp. They will be soft, but will harden upon cooling.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave or over a double-boiler. Drizzle chocolate over almost cooled bars. Chocolate will be wet, but will set upon cooling.

When bars and chocolate have set, pull parchment out of pan and set bars on a flat cutting surface.
Cut bars into squares, and store in an airtight container. They stay especially crunchy if you refrigerate them.

Nutritional Info:

3.62 = weight watcher points 1/3 cups = cherries

Note: The pic is not mine.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"MEDITATION" by my Uncle Gene



There were more Asians at the Tucson Consciousness Conference this year than ever before. The presence of Deepak Chopra, the special section on "Eastern Philosophy and Consciousness," and the increased interest in the West about the practice of Meditation probably all contributed. Dr. Herbert Benson's book thirty years ago, The Relaxation Response, fostered medical interest in the benefits of the practice of meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn has gone around the country for many years offering stress reduction programs at Hospitals and Universities; he has a new book, Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the present moment and your life. It is an all out, no holds barred exhortation to practice daily meditation. "In many Asian languages, the word for 'mind' and the word for 'heart' is the same word. So when you hear the word 'mindfulness,' you have to hear the word 'heartfulness' simultaneously to understand or feel what mindfulness really is." 

There are many thumbnail sketches of how to practice meditation; the following is slightly modified from a recent posting on the RealAge website:
--Find a quiet place to sit, where no one will interrupt you. Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Breathe.
--Unwind: tense and relax each body part, to bring your whole body to stillness.
--Go blank. When thoughts come to your mind, repeat a mantra like "peace," or "om," or "Cloud Nine." 
--Don't move for 5 minutes. Go for 10 or 20 minutes when you can.
--Get up slowly, and keep the sense of peacefulness and calm with you as you go back to your daily tasks.

What do the presenters at the Consciousness Conference have to say about this? There are now (f)MRIs available to monitor what is actually going on in the brains of both novice meditators and long-term practitioners. The bottom line? "Long-term meditators, those who have been practicing for many years, or even decades, do enter states of very deep relaxation. Breathing rates can drop to 3 or 4 breaths a minute, and brain waves slow down from the usual beta (seen in waking activity) or alpha (seen in normal relaxation), to the much slower delta or theta waves." The oddity here is that most of these meditators are not doing it to seek relaxation, but something quite different: they meditate to seek salvation, to help others, to gain insight, or because it is the portal to ASCs, "altered states of consciousness," and they simply have become habituated to this unusual experience. For such experts, the goal is the original meaning of the word "meta-physical," they are doing something beyond the physical. 

To the person who sets aside five minutes a day and uses meditation as a mode of relaxation, the experts would probably say, better spend that time going for a walk, or engaging in vigorous exercise. What do I think of all this?  I believe that even a few minutes a day dedicated to Meditation can help you cope with the stresses of daily life. I suspect that the experts in Meditation, who practice for an hour or more a day, really do experience something denied to the rest of us, something we might perceive in that occasional "Aha!" experience, something that, however infrequent, cleanses the doors of perception, and enables us to see more deeply into what our life means. Even a little bit of Meditation is better than none; even a few moments of reflecting on the mystery of Consciousness, the mystery of what it means to be a self, is better than going through life only half awake.....

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Summer Sandwich


Yes, I know it's still spring, but I posted this recipe last summer. Hence the name. It's my daughter's creation. She recently made it again and I was reminded just how much I love this sandwich. It's simple and fresh. There's no added fake cheese for creaminess, no sauce or dressing to make. It doesn't need it! It goes together quickly and it's delicious!!

Summer Sandwich

Serves 4

You're favorite artisan bread
2 fresh tomatoes, sliced
1-2 avocados, sliced
red onion, a few slices
spinach
colossal green olives, sliced
olive oil

Slice the bread into thick slices. Lightly oil one side of each and grill or broil until golden. Begin layering the rest of the ingredients onto the toasted side of one slice... spinach, tomato slices, red onion, avocado and olives. Yum!

Note: The photo isn't mine. I ate the sandwich before I thought about taking a picture.

Friday, April 6, 2012

My Classic Vinaigrette


I've been making this vinaigrette for years. It's a simple, classic vinaigrette that everyone loves. It's not too acidic and has just a hint of mustard. If your serving a simple salad toss the greens in this lovely dressing and fall in love. Lately, I've been using it on a vegan nicoise salad and it's out of this world good.

My Classic Vinaigrette

1 T minced shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t sea salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t Dijon mustard
1/4 C white wine vinegar
3/4 C olive oil

In salad bowl, combine the shallot, garlic, salt, pepper, Dijon and white wine vinegar. Blend well. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Serve.

Note: The pic is not mine.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Meditation, Sleep, CBT-I... written by Gene Bammel

Meditation has been described in many ways, and there are distinctively different ways of meditating. There will be Buddhist meditators at the upcoming Consciousness Conference in Tucson, and they will set aside an hour each day, and invite beginners to "sit" with them. "How best to meditate? Simply sit still; calm your body, and then, calm down your mind. Think of nothing in particular, and do not worry about where your consciousness takes you. Within a few minutes, you will find that your body and your mind have attained a level of tranquillity that will remain with you the rest of the day." Religiously disposed meditators  might begin by thinking of Psalm 46: "Be still, and acknowledge that I am God."  " Others might begin with the invitation of Jesus in Mark 6: "Come apart, and rest awhile." Some psychologists have worked with "centering meditation," encouraging the practitioner to focus on a particular problem, the antidote to the problem, and cultivating the emotions needed to cope with the problem.

Some people seldom have a problem with sleep. Most people, however, will experience periods of some sleep disturbances, sometimes for clearly physiological reasons, at other times for emotional stresses. At sleep clinics, insomniacs often state that some nameless anxiety is the partner in their sleep difficulties. If you wake up in the middle of the night and are "anxious" about some event of the day that did not disturb you then, but does now, you are probably having a fairly universal experience. But if it happens continually, and over truly trivial matters, you probably have something specialists would classify as an anxiety disorder. "More than 40 million American adults are affected by anxiety disorders each year. However, it's often hard to judge when normal feelings of worry, fear, and stress cross the line and become a serious condition that impacts both your emotional and physical health." --Harvard Health Letter. And that is where "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Insomnia," or "CBT-I" for short, comes in. Sleep clinics often try to wean long-term insomniacs off the strong medications they have been taking, by having them attend a few sessions with a psychologist who practices this form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The heart of the therapy is as ancient as the Greek and Roman Stoics, and as modern as the Reinhold Niehbuhr serenity prayer. There are things you can change, and things you can't change, and it takes prudence to know the difference. Or as Marcus Aurelius said: "Be like the rock against which the waves continually break: it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it." In the ancient world, there were more Stoics than there were Platonists or Aristotelians, and for good reason: Stoicism is a philosophy that works. It accepts that bad things happen to good people, and tells you to take that in stride, and get on with your life. And the ancient world had large scale problems in some ways similar to the kinds of problems we encounter, although our problems may have a more global scale. The ancient world had a way of saying you can disagree without being disagreeable or hostile, but we seem to be losing some of that good sense. 

For the most part, scholars tend to be charitable in their arguments with each other, even political scientists. We have seen recently, in the public sphere, inflammatory remarks by politicians and others, where not only hostility, but enmity or hatred accompany the verbal interplay. Those scenes are disturbing, and could be sources for what might keep people awake at times they would rather be sleeping. I have no prescription to cure whatever political ills afflict us, but I do have an antidote to the "hidden anxiety" that may disturb the sleep of some. Time set aside for meditation might put the body into a more tranquil state; it might move deeply into the physiology of emotions, and put the body at rest, which may keep the mind tranquil. The sleep specialists say that the root source of some of the sleep problems of older people is due to arthritis: the joints of the body send disturbing messages when they are not moved, and may awaken one from even the deepest of sleeps. Surely some of the repressed emotions of the day, some of the raw emotions from challenging encounters, may affect our psyches in a similar manner, and bring us to wakefulness that is not easily subdued. Perhaps the daily practice of meditation, or a meditative form of Tai-Chi, might put our minds at rest, the way a warm bath might ameliorate arthritic problems. And for those who have the good fortune to sleep soundly almost all the time: meditation might either promote even deeper sleep, or, it might make them more aware of the kinds of problems that keep other people awake late into the night! Whichever outcome, setting aside a few minutes each day for the practice of some form of meditation is all but guaranteed to produce beneficial results...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Roasted Artichokes & Vegan Aioli

If you are a long time reader of my blog, you know that about three years ago I fell in love with the roasted artichokes served at The Cheesecake Factory. Recently I was in Arizona and made sure I got to a Cheesecake Factory just so I could eat them again. Then I came home and made them! Enjoy!

Roasted Artichokes and Vegan Aioli

Roasted Artichokes
2 artichokes
2 lemons
4 cloves garlic, peeled
8 - 10 T olive oil

Break off and discard the outer layers of leaves on each artichoke. With a scissors, snip off the thorny tip of the remaining leaves. Cut the artichokes in half. Slice a lemon so you have four slices. In a pan large enough to hold the artichokes tightly, lay the lemon slices down with a garlic clove on top of each. Lay the artichokes on top of the lemon slices and squeeze the juice from one lemon over the top. Drizzle the olive oil over the top as well. Seal the pan well with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.

Once roasted, use a spoon to remove the choke and grill the artichokes lightly before serving (this step is optional, but well worth it). Serve with the vegan aioli sauce.... wonderful!



Vegan Aioli

1/2 C Vegeniase
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 t juice from capers
Zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: The pic isn't mine.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pasta Primavera


This recipe came to my attention courtesy of my beautiful daughter and her boyfriend. The two of them made this over the weekend and enjoyed it so much I received an email containing the recipe along with photos! They found it on the Food Network website from Giada De Laurentis (I've included the link below). My daughter said it was easy to make and fairly flavorful. Her other comments were that it was good either hot or cold, but she preferred it cold, so it sounds like a great lunch too. The recipe below is a copy of what appears on the website but I added the two notes, "minus tomatoes," and "great for the omni's in the house". Thanks Lo!!!

Pasta Primavera
Makes about 6 servings  

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence
  • 1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (great for the omni's in the house)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables (minus tomatoes) with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes, about 20 minutes total.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/pasta-primavera-recipe/index.html

Friday, March 9, 2012

"To sleep, perchance to dream..." by my Uncle Gene


"Sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care." Sleep has been much in the news lately, and what I have heard at two recent seminars may be of interest to you. First of all, Dr. Suzanne Salamon, who writes for the Harvard Health Letter, said: "Sleeping pills, in general, are problematic for older people. They lead to grogginess the next day and may contribute to cognitive problems, poor balance and falls." So, do older people have more problems getting to sleep and staying asleep? And if so, Why? Turns out, there has been some recent research on circadian rhythms, the daily ups and downs of energy our bodies experience. These rhythms are stimulated by how much light, and what kind of light we are getting. As we age, we do not process the blue part of the light spectrum as well. By the time you are fifty, you are only processing 50% of the light needed to fully stimulate your circadian rhythms, and, by the time you are 75, only 17%. Bottom line: unless you are very lucky, as you get older, you will not sleep as well.

Well, is that really a problem? Wouldn't it be great to have more active hours? More hours awake are only valuable if you feel you can be enjoyably active during those hours. There are some things to be concerned about, if your sleep has deteriorated. Poor sleep does raise blood pressure and blood sugar, and not only makes people less efficient in what they do, it also detracts from taking delight in what might otherwise be pleasurable pursuits.  What constitutes poor sleep? Basically, not getting as much as you feel you need. How many hours of sleep do you really need? The need  varies from person to person, but most people "need" at least six hours of sleep, and seven to eight hours  seems to be ideal. The first three hours of sleep produce physiological restoration, the next three, some degree of mental restoration. You do go through four "sleep cycles" during the night, reaching R.E.M. sleep, or "Rapid Eye Movement," and then you repeat the cycle, which may last about ninety minutes. Your first dreams of the night may last only a few seconds, the last one may last for ten minutes! Most people actually "wake up" four or five times a night, but unless you get up, you probably don't remember your instants of wakefulness. 

What can you do to get a good night's sleep? There is a lot of evidence that regular exercisers sleep better than non-exercisers, and those who exercise earlier in the day sleep better than those who exercise later in the day. Several doctors suggest that watching the news at bedtime is not a good idea: it is mostly bad news, and you should calm down, relax, meditate, or take a warm bath, or a little bit of warm milk, rather than get yourself excited or upset by what TV has to show you. It takes most people five to twenty minutes to fall asleep. Some people insist that an alcoholic "nightcap" helps them sleep, but the research indicates that while alcohol may make you drowsy, it does not promote sound sleep. What about sleeping pills? The doctors who work with insomniacs acknowledge that pills may help temporarily, but persistently caution against the prolonged use of sleeping pills, including OTC medications like Tylenol PM. One doctor speculated that the ingredient in most of these drugs would not be cleared by the FDA, if it were tested by current standards. 

In research studies, even drinking one cup of regular coffee leaves caffeine in the system seven hours later. "Four cups in the morning is equivalent to having one cup at 10 pm." Some people who insist that coffee does not bother them, find out that switching to Decaf really makes a difference. Some people seem to benefit from taking melatonin, which is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, and that does have something to do with circadian rhythms. However, as with all "supplements," getting the good stuff and getting the right dosage is not easy. One other factor that seems to correlate with older people having sleep problems: as you get older, the level of cortisol in your system, increases. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and stresses that were once easily dismissed can have a greater effect on people as they age. ("It takes less to stress us out as we get older.") Which brings me to the last corrective for sleep problems: CBT, or "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy." Even a couple sessions have proved beneficial to people having serious problems sleeping. To find an expert in CBT, you may have to contact a nearby sleep clinic, or talk to your medical professional. Sleep, as Shakespeare said, is the "balm of hurt minds," so having gotten this off my mind, I think I will go take a brief nap, in the hope of being fully restored to my youthful energies...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Fresh Mimosa



When my husband and I were in Chicago we went out for breakfast and I ordered a mimosa. It reminded me just how much I truly enjoy this drink on an occasion. When I make it, I use freshly squeezed orange juice, a dry sparkling wine (Mumm Napa is good for this) and float Grand Marnier on top. Then I serve it with a strawberry on the side of the glass.

Fresh Mimosa
Makes 1
 
3 parts of your favorite sparkling white
1 part fresh orange juice
1 T of Grand Marnier 
Strawberries for garnish

Note: The pic is not mine.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Avocado Quesadilla Appetizer


So... I've been watching Dr. Oz lately, and he said I need to eat more avocados. Rough prescription, but I'll do my best!

Avocado Quesadilla Appetizer

4 flour or corn tortillas
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cherry tomatoes, diced
2 T red onion, diced
2 t. fresh lime juice
pinch of coriander
pinch of sea salt
Tabasco Sauce to taste
canola oil or a spray oil for cooking

Salsa for serving

Mix the avocado, cherry tomatoes, red onion, lime juice, coriander and sea salt together. Add the Tabasco Sauce to taste (I used 5 drops) and mix. Get out 1 tortilla on a work surface. Place about a quarter of the mixture on one half, not too near edge. Fold the tortilla in half over the filling to form a semicircle. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Add oil. Slide uncooked quesadilla onto the pan. Press briefly with a spatula. Cook until golden, about 1 minute, then flip and grill 1 minute more. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and slice into 3 wedges. Serve immediately with your favorite salsa. This recipe will make 24 wedges.

Note: The pic is not mine.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spicy Black Bean & Corn Chili


If you like hot... you'll like this! And it's quick and easy! I posted this recipe a long time ago and on Saturday I decided to make it a part of our Superbowl celebration. When I brought the recipe up to jot down the ingredients I re-read the comments and found one from my sister Kathy. She and her family love this chili, but she only uses 1 cup of corn when she makes it. So this time I took her advice on the corn and changed a couple other ingredients. As usual, my sister was right and now I love it even more.


Spicy Black Bean & Corn Chili

Serves 6
Easy
30 - 40 minutes

1/2 onion, chopped (1/2 C.)
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, diced
2 - 10 oz. cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 - 14.5 oz. can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
2 - 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 C. frozen corn
1 C. water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1/2 t. cumin
cilantro

In a stockpot, saute onion and celery in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for about 2 minutes more. Add the rest of the ingredients minus the cilantro. Simmer on low heat for 20 - 30 minutes more. With a potato masher, mash the mixture a little breaking up the beans. Serve with a garnish of cilantro.

Note:  I used Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies and Muir Glen Fire Roasted Organic Crushed Tomatoes when I make this.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Philosophy and Meditation.... by my Uncle Gene

The word "philosophy" comes from two Greek words, "philo," the love of, and "sophia," wisdom. So philosophers are simply "lovers of wisdom." Philosophers are not necessarily wise, but, if they are deserving of the name at all, they are at least in pursuit of wisdom. Socrates' reputation as 'the wisest man in Athens," was rooted in the fact that he knew he was not wise! It is not uncommon, in any survey of the history of philosophy, to find philosophers who give up on the use of words altogether, because they cannot find the words to express their most profound perceptions. (I cannot tell you what it is I am trying to say, but if I had a piano here, I could play it for you." -Gabriel Marcel) It is not unknown for philosophers, lovers of words though they are, to turn to the experience of meditation, or to turn to the comparative silence of contemplation. 

The Dalai Lama is a person of the most profound wisdom. His new book, Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World, is a distillation of the wisdom he has been espousing for half a century. While the theme of the book is his expression of a "secular" ethic to which everyone in the world could subscribe quite apart from their religious convictions, for me the most relevant chapter in the book is entitled: "Meditation as Mental Cultivation." The Dalai Lama's hope for peace in the world is based in his hope that some form of meditation might become universal, and the fruit of this practice might be the anchor for global peace breaking out all over. 

The Dalai Lama's summary of the practice of meditation is brief: Set aside some time early in the morning when your mind is freshest and clearest. Begin by setting aside ten or fifteen minutes, and reserve for yourself a couple five minute interludes later in the day. Find a position that is comfortable, and begin by simply focusing on your breathing. Even a few minutes a day will help you overcome any tendency toward excessive worrying, useless obsessions, or anxiety about having more to do than you have time for. It may be helpful to focus on a flower, or a painting, or some object of religious devotion, "or you may imagine looking down from a mountaintop where you have an unimpeded view in every direction." It may be helpful to focus on compassion, or patience, or tolerance, or forgiveness. His own words offer the best summary:

"In a typical session, we begin by settling our mind through breathing. We then choose our object of meditation and focus our attention on it. When we notice our mind wandering, we gently bring it back to our object of meditation. When we wish to end our session, we can do some deep breathing exercises once again so that we finish in a relaxed state of mind." 

Meditation is a very simple practice. It can help us overcome our negative emotions, it can promote greater wakefulness, and it can help us cope with the predictable and unpredictable stresses of everyday life. Strangely enough, by emptying ourselves of our negative feelings and our inclination toward self-centeredness, we can become more ourselves. Meditation is an essential ingredient in the pursuit of wisdom. The Dalai Lama has led a tempestuous life, yet he has come through all his adversities unscathed. His capacity for meditation has been a major ingredient of his success, and probably of his good health. Improve your capacity for meditation, and, who knows? You may become the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama! Short of that, your daily life may be much improved...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rustic Vegetable Soup with Almond Pesto Topping


I really like making soup. To me it's comfort and goodness in a bowl and all I need is a spoon. I made this soup and my husband had one word for it, "Delicious." It's easy to put together and with the pesto on top it has a fresh taste that's very satisfying.



Rustic Vegetable Soup with Almond Pesto Topping

2 T. olive oil
2 small onions, rough chop, 1 - 1 1/2 C.
2 carrots, rough chop, 1/2 C.
5 cloves garlic, rough chop
1 quart vegetable broth, low sodium
1 28 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 cube of vegetable bouillon
1 16 oz. can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 19 oz. can of cannellini  beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can of butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 T. fresh Italian parsley, rough chop
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the carrots and onion in the olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the salt and pepper, and cook slowly for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the Almond Pesto on top. 



Almond Pesto Topping

In a food processor, pulse the almonds until chopped small. Add the basil leaves and pulse until the basil is shredded. Add the olive oil and pulse quickly just until fully incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

1/4 C. almonds
1/2 C. packed basil leaves
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sparkling Sangria

My husband and I were in Chicago for the weekend and our girls had recommended a restaurant. We decided to try it and ended up there for dinner. They were right, it was great, but the star of the evening was the sangria.

Maybe it's because I've never had a sparkling sangria before, but I really enjoyed it and found it a nice change of pace. So I jotted down the ingredients and came home with the idea of recreating it. Certainly this isn't the exact recipe, but it's close. And don't let it sit like other sangria's because you don't want to lose the effervescence of the sparkling wine. Just make it and serve! My family really liked it. I hope you enjoy it too.

Sparkling Sangria

1 1/2 oz. of Licor 43
1 1/2 oz. of Creme de Cassis
1 oz. of simple syrup
1/2 a lemon, sliced thinly
1 orange, sliced thinly
1 pint of raspberries
1 bottle of chilled Cava, or other sparkling wine

In a large pitcher combine the Licor 43, Creme de Cassis and simple syrup. Stir. Add all of the fruit and gently mix. Add the cava and serve on ice.

Simple Syrup 

1/3 C sugar
1/3 C water

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool before using.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Meditation...Another AMAZING article by my Uncle Gene... Enjoy!

The Practice of....

Meditation! I come back, on a regular basis, to the importance of the practice of Meditation. If you want to improve your life and your health in the New Year, you too might want to begin the practice of meditation, or improve upon your practice, if you have been doing it for a long time. I have practiced meditation, in one form or another, for over fifty years, and I find the practice becomes increasingly important for me. I have written about it in various places, and I often find myself trying to improve on what I have said before. Here is the gist of it:


Set aside some secure time, find a comfortable position, and meditate just for the sake of meditation. Focus your mind on your breathing, and meditate with no specific purpose in mind. Do not be surprised if, over time, meditation becomes the root of major changes in your attitudes and dispositions. It has been well documented that meditation works to reduce the feelings of stress, and we all face some major sources of stress each day. Meditation can easily become the most important activity of your day. "Meditation is not the killing of time. It is the deepening and enriching of time." 

There are many sources of stress in our lives. Most cardiac care programs are composed of sessions on diet, exercise, and stress reduction. I handle the stresses of daily life much better, if I start off the day with a few minutes of walking meditation, in which I do nothing but try to breathe deeply, while setting my mind at peace. There are many different masters of meditation, and many different religious traditions have generated their own methods of meditation. I have found Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Peace Is Every Step, to be particularly helpful, and I find what he says is applicable to many different forms of meditation. The following paragraph says it better than I ever could:

"Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing in order to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing, both inside and around yourself. Plant the seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness."


--With the New Year, I know I have many new readers for these "occasional" reminders about "the things that really matter." What I offer is the distillation of many years of "philosophical" thought, results of my encounters with people much wiser than I, and people who have in one way or another mastered the art of living. I have been a cardiac patient, and have been "in death's vestibule" a time or two, so I have a deeper sense of the importance of living each day as well as possible. The year 2012 has all the earmarks of becoming a year of multiple sources of stress for all of us. Is it too much to ask of yourself that you set aside a few minutes everyday to practice some form of meditation, to be sure you spend some time concentrating on your own breathing, and develop some sense of trying to live in harmony with your surroundings? It might be one way of making sure that you make the most of the golden opportunities that every new year brings...
--Gene Bammel

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ratatouille Appetizer


My husband and I went north for New Years Eve and spent it with family. My sister Kathy organized the celebration and did nearly all of the cooking. She's an amazing cook. She thinks of everything! So when I walked in to find a vegan appetizer, I wasn't surprised. As usual, it was fantastic.  I begged her for the recipe and she sent it on to share along with this note.

"Here is the recipe for the ratatouille! This is my tweaked version of a recipe from a newspaper insert. I can't remember which one! You can use it as a main vegan dish or do the appetizer. If doing the appetizer, you should still have leftover ratatouille. I think this would also be great served over pasta."

I cannot adequately express how beautiful this appetizer is to look at, and it's soooo delicious! Thank you Kathy!

Yummy over pasta too!
Ratatouille
  
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced 
1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
1 medium orange bell pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1/2 medium eggplant, diced (My sister used a bit less and left the eggplant unpeeled, but you could peel it if desired)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 t coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
30 - 45 mini phyllo cups

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, cook for 2 minutes. Add yellow and orange bell peppers and cook for another 2 minutes. Add zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant and cook for 2 more minutes. Add garlic, tomato, salt and pepper and cook for about 1 minute.

To make into an appetizer, spoon ratatouille into the mini phyllo cups and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes, or until heated through.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Vegan Vegetable Pot Pie


Ahhhhh... comfort food. Winter screams comfort food, doesn't it? And this is something I've been missing... pot pie. I use to love chicken pot pie. I remember eating it with delight as a kid and that continued well into my adulthood. So I thought I'd try making a vegan version. My family liked it and so did I!!

It was fun to make, and if you buy pre-cut or frozen vegetables it goes together easily. If you've never used phyllo dough, don't let that get in the way. Just follow the directions on the package. If a sheet or two breaks in the process, don't worry, no one will know... but you could substitute the phyllo for a vegan pie crust if you like. 

Vegan Vegetable Pot Pie

This recipe can be made in ramekins. If you do that, it should make at least four individual servings.?? 

Filling:
2 T olive oil
1 C onion, diced
1 C celery, diced
1 C carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C cauliflower, diced
2 Russet potatoes, cubed small
3 T flour
2 C vegetable broth
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
1 C frozen green beans
1 C frozen corn kernels
garlic powder
celery salt
1/2 t salt
freshly ground pepper

Crust:
10 sheets of phyllo dough, you'll use 1/2 of a package
Earth Balance 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the cauliflower and russet potatoes and continue to cook for 5 - 10 minutes. Stir often so the vegetables don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the flour and stir it into the vegetables. Once fully incorporated, add the broth and bouillon and scrap all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the bay leaf, thyme, greens beans, corn, garlic powder, celery salt, salt and pepper and simmer on low, stirring often, for 20 - 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, melt some Earth Balance and get the phyllo out of the refrigerator. Once the vegetables are done, remove the bay leaf and sprig of thyme, and pour into a  9" X 13" pan. Lay a single sheet of phyllo on top of the vegetable mixture and brush with Earth Balance. Place another sheet on top of that brushing it with Earth Balance. Repeat the process until all the sheets are used. Brush the top of the last piece with Earth Balance and put the pot pie in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until it is golden and the mixture is bubbling up around the edges. Let it sit a few minutes before serving.

Note: The picture is not mine.