Rachel Naomi Remen: sustenance for uncertain times

When it comes to healing, our notion of time can behave very strangely. It might speed up or it might be infinitely slow, like molasses. When we are eager for a loved one to get better, as I am now, it can seem like forever. The body heals at the rate that it heals. I remember Rachel Naomi Remen saying disease is a weird thing; it reveals itself when it’s ready to reveal itself. It can be frustrating when all sorts of symptoms appear, but no prognosis is certain. You are left wondering...where am I?

Rachel Naomi Remen, one of the pioneers of the mind-body health movement and relationship-centered care, is my inspiration for how to think about these unfathomable mysteries. How many of you have read (and reread) her book Kitchen Table Wisdom? I read it when it first came out and I was in culinary school. My copy is a dog-eared treasure on my shelf.  

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Mindfulness on the Mountain: Spring Rolls

As I swallowed my last sip of tea, the leader of our group hike announced that it was departure time. Like horses at the racetrack when the gates open, the hikers in my group hit the trail with a jolt. It was barely daybreak, but they were already swiftly moving, chatting, and increasing their gait at a rapid pace.

 

Having just rolled out of bed, I was still having difficulty focusing my eyes, let alone taking deep enough breaths to fill my lungs with oxygen. I huffed and puffed as the burn began to grow in my thighs. Already overheating, I stopped to remove my fleece shirt. By this time, the swiftly moving hikers were already far ahead and the slower few passed me as I tugged my shirt over my head.

 

A few years ago this would have concerned me greatly. I had a thing about always being in the front.

 

I’m not as fit as I used to be, so it’s much more difficult for me to be at the front; however, I’ve also learned a valuable lesson about slowing down. It’s not always necessary to race to the end. There can be great value in being more mindful and reveling in the journey.

 

So, on that dark morning, instead of sprinting to the finish line, I got to breathe in my surroundings, feel the morning air on my cheek, and see the colors of the sunrise. For a while I hiked alone, which offered me an opportunity to think, which is something I don’t always make time for in my daily life. And when I met up with another hiker, we ended up having a delightful conversation about mindfulness, which seemed to be a nod from the Universe.

 

Letting go of my need to be the lead trail horse was not easy; sometimes I still find myself worrying that others will think less of me, but when I see how enriched my life can be when I take time to go more slowly and savor what’s around me, I know I’m on the right path.

 

Do you ever find yourself pushing so hard to reach a destination that you miss the journey? What do you do because you fear the judgments of others? What steps can you take to bring more mindfulness into your life?

 

 

Fresh Spring Rolls for Mindfulness

 

Nothing says, “spring isn’t too far away” quite like spring rolls…the name says it all! Not only are they delicious, but also they’re fun to make. There is something meditative about rolling them. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Cucumbers, micro greens, pea shoots, bean sprouts, red bell pepper are all tasty additions. Flavored tofu can be used in place of the shrimp. As you work with each ingredient, take time to really see it. How does it look, smell, feel, sound, and taste?

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Edible healing

Julie Burford, my beloved Soup Sister and neighbor about whom I’ve frequently written (watch us making soup together here) is always on the frontline of cooking for people in need. She’s the Florence Nightingale of the kitchen, the one in our neighborhood who absolutely shows up with something nourishing or comforting or both when someone is sick or struggling. Her husband Stan says, “She’s the edible therapist!”

There have been a flood of people in her world who have been ill lately, including five people this week. Granted Julie’s 74 and has a bit more time on her hands now that she’s not running a non-profit, but she. Steps. Up. Every time. For her friend diagnosed with Parkinson’s...  or for friends of friends... or friends of friends of friends! “Oh, I got home early from dinner tonight,” she says breezily. “I can whip up a batch of butternut squash soup.”

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She has her tentacles out for who needs what when, and an extraordinary capacity to nourish. Without any compensation. I mean, don’t even think about it! She cooks for a woman who has chronic leukemia every week.

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Our Favorite Weeknight Curry

Curry is such a great weeknight dinner solution. It’s a vibrant, one-pot dish, doesn’t take too long, packs a lot of flavor, and does well when loaded with all kinds of veggies. This recipe is our absolute favorite weeknight curry of all time, and it’s built on the combination of canned tomatoes and coconut milk. Have you ever tried pairing the two? The umami from the tomatoes, mixed with the rich fattiness from coconut milk, makes for the silkiest, most flavorful curry base, with minimal effort. 



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Quick Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding w/ Adaptogenic Mushrooms

Pudding/mousse-like desserts are my favorite, and coming up with new, simple chocolate pudding recipes is sort of a hobby (check out this Whipped Chocolate Chia Pudding and this Black and White Chocolate Pudding from the archives). Most times, a new chocolate pudding recipe happens when a craving hits at the most inconvenient of times. Instead of going to the store, I work with whatever ingredients I have on hand to create something satisfying. I pretty much always have cacao powder around, and I go from there, figuring out what I can use for the creamy element, then the sweetener. The creaminess can come from anything from avocado to sweet potato, cacao butter to coconut fat, to agar. For sweetener, I usually stick with maple syrup or dates, both of which are a constant in my pantry.


This sweet potato version is my new favorite because it comes together in a flash, especially if you are in the habit of roasting up a few whole sweet potatoes on the weekend, like I am. It tastes perfectly luxurious, and it’s so easy to spruce it up with all kinds of super-powders – in this case, powerful adaptogenic mushroom powders.
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Healing Greens 101: An Ayurvedic Perspective

No longer just a frilly garnish, kale is taking the culinary world by storm. Along with it, leafy greens like spinach, chard, and even collards and turnip greens are gracing plates everywhere from fine dining hotspots to fast food restaurants across the country.

These nutrient-packed veggies have long played a starring role in Ayurvedic cooking, and with good reason. They’re hydrating, nutrient-rich, and when prepared while fresh, they contain prana, or life-supporting energy. Below, we’ll share both Ayurvedic and nutritional insights on leafy greens, along with tasty ways to incorporate them into your daily diet.

Greens Are Good for You

From a nutritional perspective, leafy greens are excellent sources of antioxidant vitamins A and C, and they also provide vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K, iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. They’re low in calories, and many varieties—especially the cruciferous (cabbage) family—contain unique enzymes that have been associated with supporting the immune system.

Ayurvedic vaidyas (experts) regularly prescribe a daily dose of leafy greens, because they’re good for your skin, hair, and for removing amavisha (toxic wastes) from the body. The human body is about 60 percent water, and leafy greens help purify your shrotas (the subtle channels of the body) and replenish your inner hydration stores.

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Baby artichokes! A treasure house of nutrients, fiber and flavor

In California every spring (and briefly again in the fall) the baby artichokes arrive. It’s a very special moment, a seasonal splendor many of us cooks wait for. Especially those of us who’ve eaten the carciofi simply and elegantly prepared in Tuscany. One of the seven wonders of the culinary world!

I’ve written about finding my sweet spot with food when at 35, I left a hard-driving job on the east coast and took what I call my life sabbatical, arriving in Rome with no language and no luggage. What I haven’t shared is what happened after Rome, when I went up to Florence, largely because I thought I should. I didn’t really know what I was going to do other than continue studying Italian, since my skills were still not, um, very polished. In Italian class, the teacher shared information about a cooking class. All those memories of standing on a stool stirring soup in my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens stirred something inside me…

Next thing I knew I was standing on a corner of the Via Taddea, where the big market is in the center of Florence. I’m waiting and waiting (turns out I was ½ hour early), not even sure who I’m waiting for. It’s late Friday afternoon. I’m thinking, if she doesn’t show up in 3 minutes… and here she came, with her basket—Judy Witts Francini, of Divina Cucina cooking school. Are you here for the cooking class? She asked. I am barely able to reply with my rudimentary Italian.

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Secret to a Great Life: Getting What You Need, Not What You Want

What in your life is exactly as you planned? What is completely different?

 

Never in a million years would my 22 year-old-about-to-graduate-from-college self have imagined my present life. She would’ve fallen out of her chair laughing if you’d told her she’d miss her 15-year reunion because she’d be speaking on a spirituality cruise to Alaska. Or, that she’d be making plans to have a child on her own. That pearl-wearing, Camus-reading girl would’ve thought you were making it up.

 

It’s rare that we end up doing what we think we’ll do. Each step puts us on a slightly different trajectory. And, as we get older, we grow and change, and our priorities adjust as we become increasingly more ourselves.


In the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” I didn’t get what I thought I wanted when I graduated college, but I got exactly what I needed. And for that, I am truly grateful.

 

When in your life did you get what you needed instead of what you wanted? In what ways has this shaped who you are? Although it can feel antithetical to moving forward, as often as you can, take time to be grateful for all the missed turns in your life, because they may have actually been keeping you on your true path. It’s easy to feel regret. Gratitude can be much harder, but the things we regret are often the things that helped shape us and make us who we are today.

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Bukhara Farro Pilaf from Simply Vibrant (video)

Checking in today to share another step-by-step cooking video that we shot of one of our favorite recipes from Simply Vibrant, the Bukhara Farro Pilaf. Pilaf is a dish that’s taken very seriously in the southwest of Russia, where we’re from. It’s also common belief there that the best pilaf recipe comes from Uzbekistan, named after the ancient Uzbek city of Bukhara.


I’ve encountered almost as many recipes of Bukhara pilaf as I have cooks in my life, each believed to be more authentic than the other, and each very good. My recipe is far from authentic, but I’ve taken all of my favorite (plant-based) elements of Bukhara pilaf and combined them in this dish. I also decided to use farro as the grain of choice here, but I did that to show the versatility of this dish more than anything else. It can be made with rice, farro, or any other similarly sturdy grain.
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10 Powerful Purple Vegetables You Should Be Eating — and Why

dish with veggie loaded kale
pineapple salsa in a pineapple half
Za'atar Spiced Rainbow Carrots
bowl of pansy salad
bowl of purple potato salad
salad bowl with potato patties, olives, and mango
purple asparagus bunch
pile of eggplants

Purple vegetables may be pretty, but they also have powerful health benefits. See why and get mouthwatering recipes for 10 purple vegetables.

The color purple often symbolizes royalty and magic. And lately, purple vegetables have been popping up in more places.

You might have seen shades of purple in your grocery store or local farmers market — from vibrant purple cauliflower to the darker skins of purple potatoes.

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The Smartest Diet for Your Brain

In the scheme of things, your brain is one of your greatest treasures. Learn to take care of it! Feed it what it needs. This post from the archives will fill you in of brain nutrition basics. And, by the way, you won't miss a beat on flavor! Brain healthy foods include some delicious favorites. I recommend making them part of your repertoire, and weaving them into your day on a regular basis.

It starts with the “p” word — and that would be “plants.”

A flood of new and surprising research is emerging about the role that plants play in brain health. For example, a study on the MIND diet — a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets — published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association — concluded that people who eat more dark, leafy greens at least once a day have substantially slower cognitive decline with age than those who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD).Bingo!

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YES! Coconut Chia Pudding with Pineapple Gelée

What if you said, “yes” to every invitation, request, and opportunity? What if instead of spending time and energy making excuses and avoiding people and experiences, you simply said, “yes”?

 

This is the premise of a Jim Carrey movie called Yes, Man. His character avoids his friends and says “no” to everything. However, after being dragged to a self-help workshop, he makes an oath to say, “yes” to everything. From there we see how his life begins to unfold.

 

By saying “yes,” he opens himself to an entirely new world filled with fun, joy, and adventure. By the end, however, he learns the important difference between saying yes because he wants to and saying it because he thinks he has to. “No” is an equally powerful word. Being genuine and authentic and saying “no” when that’s what you mean is vital to living a balanced life.

 

You can say “Yes!!” to this dessert. It’s delicious, easy to make, and pretty darn healthy as far as desserts go.

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Strawberry Coconut Candies

Sorry we didn’t post these guys for you before Valentine’s Day! I know they would have been perfect for that. To be honest, I forget about that holiday every year and never succeed at thinking about it ahead of time in terms of recipes. Any day is a great day to make strawberry coconut candies though! These are the perfect, simple treat for all the coconut lovers out there (as well as chocolate and strawberry lovers).
 


I don’t think Bounty (the coconut candy bar from the same candy bar family as Twix and Snickers) was ever as popular in the U.S. as it was in Russia. Correct me if I’m wrong! People in Russia used to be obsessed with Bounty in the 90s, when Western foods first started being imported after the fall of the Iron Curtain. I was definitely one of those people. Coconut was generally a very exotic flavor to us back then, since the Soviet flavor lexicon most definitely did not involve anything coconuty (another fun fact about growing up in the Soviet Union: I tasted my first banana when I was 16 years old because they were so difficult to get a hold of). Tasting chocolate-covered coconut for the first time was a heavenly experience, and I’ve loved that combination ever since.

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A marvelous obsession: Asparagus!

Roasted Asparagus Salad with Arugula and Hazelnuts - Rebecca Katz
Roasted Asparagus Soup with Pistachio - Rebecca Katz



It's that time of year! Asparagus is on the way. As those of you who have followed my blog or played with my cookbooks already know, I am WILD about asparagus. Are you with me? Do like to eat asparagus in all its guises as long as you can get it while it's truly fresh and seasonal? It's uniquely delicious AND the perfect detoxifier as spring arrives. If you're already in love with this elegant vegetable—or if this will be a new romance—here's a favorite blog post to help you dive right in.

Can I help it if I wear my culinary heart on my sleeve?

Those who know me, especially my farmer buddies at my local market, know that this is the time of year I SWOON over what I call those elegant green long ladies of spring. 

I start tapping my foot in late winter, impatient for the day when they’ll arrive. Chris, my asparagus dealer who sadly is no longer with us, would sidle up to me and whisper, One week. Enough said. The long ladies were about to make their entrance, stage right, strutting like slender Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. But oh, so briefly! In California, their appearance lasts only from the end of February to May -- then gone!

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How to Experience Increased Joy and Wonder Sweet and Sour Beet Soup

Do you feel lonely at times and wish you could share special moments? Have you ever remarked on the beauty of a rainbow, only to discover there’s no one there to hear your gasps of delight? Do you sometimes get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day that you forget to notice little glimmers of magic, and do you sometimes feel too overwhelmed and stressed to appreciate the simple joys of being alive?

 

A number of years ago I was supposed to fly to Vietnam with my parents, but due to some airline mishaps, I ended up getting separated from them and had to make the approximately 36-hour journey by myself. Since I’d been expecting to travel with my parents, I hadn’t paid much attention to the ins-and-outs of getting to our destination.

 

When I mentioned my anxiety to my friend, Kyla, she suggested I imagine a small version of her keeping me company and pointing out all the cool and wondrous things along the way. My shoulders began to relax and my breath deepened as I realized that this solo journey could actually be fun.

 

Just before embarking on the first leg of the trip, I put a small heart-shaped rose quartz in my pocket and decided to call it “Mini-Kyla.” I liked the idea of having a physical object to represent my imagined companion.

 

What had started simply as a way to find pleasure in a long overseas flight became a wonderful new habit. The rose quartz is now in my pocket every day. If I’m in a bit of an uncomfortable situation, I gently touch the outside of my jeans pocket, and I feel its love and support. And, if I’m watching a particularly glorious sunset, somehow it feels as though it’s also sharing in my joy. But, most importantly, having the stone in my pocket reminds me to enjoy and appreciate simply being alive. It’s so easy to get caught up in work or family commitments and forget to cherish the beauty of our breath and the rhythm of our beating heart.

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Ode to Cabbage — the unsung hero!


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Your inspiration for the week: don’t overlook cabbage! I call cabbage the bocce ball of the cruciferous set. A bowling ball, a big, heavy dense, ball of leaves. In terms of nutritional benefits, cabbage rocks. It’s chock full of goodness! Fiber, potassium, choline, B12, iron, selenium, pantothenic acid (B5), manganase…. But. It’s like the stepchild of broccoli and kale. It’s the humblest of vegetables. Nobody even thinks about it.

But I have something to say about cabbage, and why it’s number ONE on my list: it’s crunchy. You can eat it raw or cooked. It’s durable. You can do a zillion things with it. It’s always there for you, in your crisper drawer. How many things can you say that about?

My love affair with cabbage began when my grandmother served cabbage leaves stuffed with all manner of things and topped with a lovely sauce. With such an elegant introduction, I never thought of it as boring!

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Plant-Based Winter Meal Plan, Part 1

We are so excited to finally post this winter meal plan! If you’re anything like us, February can feel a little gloomy, and inspiration levels tend to be low, whether with cooking or with anything else. This meal plan is here to prove all of that wrong and to show us that plant-based winter food can be just as exciting and tasty as any other season’s. I can definitely say that creating recipes for this plan got me out of a mini cooking rut.

So we’ve got vegan and gluten-free breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert recipes that will feed you for a week. Everything starts with roasting up a bunch of root vegetables (the darlings of winter cooking), cooking beans (we are focusing on mung beans and black beans this time), and making a pot of rice. We’ll then mix and match those foundations to make delicious, nourishing meals. We’ve got you covered with the shopping list, as well as all the prep and planning. As usual, we are splitting this meal plan into two parts. This first part will focus on weekend prep, as well as breakfast and lunch recipes. Part 2 is here, and it’s all about dinner and dessert recipes. Ready? Let’s do this.

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Apple Crisp (Video)

Apple Crisp is simple to prepare, easy to digest, and when served warm in the cold winter season is Vata-pacifying. Stewed fruit is always a favorite of ayurveda! 

Vata governs all movement in the mind and body. It controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing and the movement of thoughts across the mind.

Since Pitta and Kapha cannot move without it, Vata is considered the leader of the three Ayurvedic Principles in the body. It's very important to keep Vata in good balance.

Recipe and video from from Heaven's Banquet, Vegetarian Cooking for Lifelong Health the Ayurveda Way

by Miriam Kasin Hospodar

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For Valentine’s Day, I’m enchanted with red… beets!

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I could be thinking about chocolate... but I’m thinking about the color red. And I might be thinking about strawberries… but I’m thinking about beets!

What inspires me about beets?

DEFINITELY the color. Of all the plants in the plant kingdom, beets have the most electrifying color. I have my kitchen workshop and my art-making workshop, and I play with color in both! Sometimes it’s fun to take a food and look at all the colors that make up the color of that food.  

Red is a primary color, but beets are not a singular, primary red. Beets have other colors in them: a little blue, a little purple, some magenta, and fuschia. Beets can look very dark and ruby-esque; or blended into soup, they can bright and magenta-y. Chioggia beets are swirled burgundy and white. Golden beets are a deep, earthy gold.

The key to heavenly flavor: roasting.

When I was little I hated beets. They used to come out of a jar. They were called Harvard beets. Ugh! It took me awhile to start loving beets.

And then I discovered roasting. Beets are VERY sweet when roasted, a whole new, almost addictively delicious thing. Oh, yum.

One of the most electrifying dishes I learned to make in Italy is pasta a la rubino, “ruby” in Italian. Basically a pasta with garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, roasted squares of beets tossed together on a blue plate. An electric purple!

Now I do roasted root vegetables or roasted root vegetable salads, which are very elegant, or pickled beets, or a borscht (both blended and not). I make a stunning electric slaw out of beets (an absolute smash hit on a buffet line!). I slice them very thin and make them into chips, an unexpected and delightful topper for salad or soup. (Don’t you love crunchy things?)

There is nothing better than a beet salad with a little feta, fennel, blood orange… OMG! Or valencia orange and beets! Electrifying.

No-Recipe Creamy Soup

Yesterday was our new cookbook’s pub date, which is sort of like a birthday in the book world. It feels so good to finally have it out there, and thank you guys so much for all the support! We have a few book events coming up, and the first one is this Saturday, February 10th at Williams Sonoma in Tampa, FL. I’ll be doing a cooking demo for a chocolatey cake from the book and signing/selling copies. I would love to see you there. Click here to learn all the event details.


Now onto the no-recipe soup, which I’m so excited to share. I love simple, creamy soups and make them all the time, especially in the winter. I find that they are incredibly forgiving and perfect for utilizing whatever produce I have on hand that needs to be used up. The thing is, I pretty much never use a recipe. Instead, I’ve developed a sort of formula that I apply to basically any vegetables (and some fruit), and those soups always come out ranging from very good to really delicious. It’s not complicated, and anyone with a blender can do this. In fact, I bet you might have the ingredients for a tasty creamy soup in your refrigerator/pantry right now. I thought it would be helpful to share that formula here. 
 

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