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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

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.

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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!

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

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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!

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?


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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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Host an Ayurvedic Brunch with Friends

Nothing beats a lazy Sunday brunch—a welcome antidote to the hectic work week. Any brunch worth its salt tends to feature the following ingredients: hearty fare, a mix of sweet and savory tastes, and good conversation with loved ones. But if you find you often feel heavy after those waffles with a side of Eggs-Benny, you might want to consider hosting your own Ayurvedic brunch next week.

Here are some delicious, dosha-balancing brunch options to fill you and your guests up without weighing you down. Word to the wise: agni, your digestive fire, is strongest around noon, so try to rally your friends to show up around 11.


The Menu

  • Apple Pancakes: Made with a crepe batter, these pancakes are softer and more moist than regular ones. They’re also sweeter because of the apples, so they don’t require any topping.
  • Scrambled Tofu or Panir: This Heaven’s Banquet recipe from Miriam Kasin Hospodar is Vata-balancing, quick to make, and a great substitute for scrambled eggs.
  • Cranberry Muffins: Packed with vitamin C, these muffins taste great with nut butter.
  • Raja’s Cup Latte: A delicious, grounding, antioxidant-rich alternative to coffee.

And, if brunch turns into an afternoon visit...
  • Golden Milk: A warm, frothy drink that’s rich in turmeric, which helps purify the blood and promotes healthy circulation, lung function, and immunity. Note: it’s best to drink Golden Milk at least an hour away from meals to avoid slowing the digestion.

The Recipes

Apple Pancakes

Apple Pancakes

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Conquering Mountains: Triumph Trail Mix

 

There are some things we do because we know they work, like exercising and brushing our teeth. There are other things we do simply on faith. Prayer is one of those things.

 

A number of years ago I was chaperoning a group of teenagers on a cycling trip through the Swiss Alps. The route was beyond my skill and physical fitness level. And, it didn’t help that I was also recovering from the flu. As my legs grew increasingly fatigued, the distance between the nearest student and my puttering bike grew like a deep chasm.

 

The mountain stretched in front of me as far as my eye could see. Up. Up. Up. My thighs burned, my breathing was labored, and tears were threatening to stain my cheeks. In a fit of utter hopelessness, I began to pant under my breath, “Please help. Please help me.”

 

Since we were riding through military land, only bicycles and official vehicles were allowed on this desolate stretch of road, but I had yet to even see a vehicle. To my sheer amazement and delight, a few minutes later, a Jeep drove by. My jaw nearly fell to the ground. Although totally enamored with my good fortune, I was too embarrassed to flag it down. This was not uncommon for me at that time in my life. On a number of occasions, my prevailing shyness had prevented me from actualizing my heart’s content and speaking my truth.

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Kitchen Creativity

One of THE great books of 2017, and sure to endure: Karen Page and photographer Andrew Dornenburg’s Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius—with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs.   


That’s a tall order! And in this, their 11th book, they deliver. A couple of delightful quotes from the mountains of dazzling praise for Kitchen Creativity:


“Utter genius…If Leonardo da Vinci wrote a book on culinary creativity in 2017, this would be it.” — Michael Gelb, NY Times bestselling author of How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci


“A delectable mix of sensuality, intellect, insight 
and surprise that reveals not only the secrets of creative chefs, but of creativity itself.” —MacArthur Fellow Robert Root-Bernstein and Michele Root-Bernstein, Authors, Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People.


What I love about her new book: Karen is putting people at ease.


She lays out creativity in 3 stages:

  • Mastery. Mastering the Fundamentals | Studying the Past | Learning by Copying
  • Alchemy. The Evolution of Classics | Converting Food Through Flavor | Flavor Dynamics | The Flavor Equation
  • Creativity. Cooking with All Your Senses | The WhoWhatWhenWhere&Why of Creating a Dish | Evolving to Interdependence


Kitchen Creativity
 pulls back the curtain on “a world of infinite culinary possibilities.” For the chef, it truly comes down to the basics: the quality of your ingredients, how you’re going to make your ingredients shine, and how you’re going to tell the story of your dish.


This is where I always feel that her books are so masterful and useful for a cook whether a beginner or expert. She piques our curiosity: Have you thought about this ingredient with that?  But here she goes beyond heightening our knowledge and skills to cultivating our creativity— increasing our confidence, autonomy and leadership in our own kitchens. Did you know that “chef” means “chief” in French? Dear reader, you can be the chef/chief of your domain!


Lots of people think, I’m just not the creative type. But EVERYBODY has creativity. Whether you’re right- or left-brained, there’s an intuitive part of yourself that knows. You can be an accountant or coder and be incredibly creative. When you’re familiar with your world, there’s a way in which you can use your instincts to confidently move forward.

Kitchen Creativity Open Book

Chocolate Matcha Tart with a Sesame Crust

My love affair with the combination of matcha and sesame seeds started when I made these Black Sesame Matcha Rolls three years ago (has it really been that long?). They are still one of my favorite desserts out of the ones I’ve come up with. When Nuts.com, the bulk goods online one-stop shop that I love dearly, sent me their matcha to try out, I knew I wanted to revisit that magical combo. I took a glance at the dessert section in our recipe index and realized that we haven’t posted a tart recipe in a while. I love making tarts, so coming up with the recipe for this Chocolate Matcha Tart with a Sesame Crust was some of the most fun I’ve had in the kitchen in a while.


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Split Moong Dhal

This is a basic mung bean dhal, meant to be a simple everyday Indian meal with rice and chapati, or a side dish as part of a larger meal. The wonderful buttery flavor is obtained from the technique called tarka, which means spices sizzled in ghee, added to the pot at the end of the cooking process.


Ingredients

  • ½ cup split moong dhal
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ carrot, cut into thin slices
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated
  • 1 teaspoon MAPI Organic Vata Churna
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Rinse dhal in cool water 3 times. Place water, carrots, and dhal in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Skim off the foam that forms on the top of the boiling water with a tablespoon and discard.
  3. Lower heat and continue to simmer for 20 minutes, till the dhal is tender. If you want a thicker dhal, you can continue boiling for 5 minutes longer. Add the salt.
  4. In a separate saucepan melt the ghee. Add the fresh ginger root and sauté for several minutes.
  5. Add the Organic Vata Churna and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds, with the ginger root, making sure that the spices do not burn.
  6. Add spice mixture to dhal. The dhal may splash when you add the hot oil to it. Add the fresh cilantro and lemon juice.
  7. Stir and serve over rice or as a side soup with your main meal.

Cooking an Ayurvedic Meal at Home

Clean Your Kitchen, Change Your Life

Earlier this week, I spent two whole days cleaning every nook and cranny in my home. I organized the cupboards, got rid of expired food, found new homes for items I no longer use, and I even scrubbed all the cabinet doors in my kitchen and laundry room. After exhausting so much time and energy bringing the sparkle back into my home, you’d better believe I was hovering over the stove, sponge in hand, the moment the cranberry sauce bubbled over. And, I’ve been following the dog and cats around like a hawk picking up the chunks of hair that they seem to leave everywhere.

 

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