Dad’s Brussels

Tuesday night is Dad’s night. Chelsea teaches a prenatal yoga class and doesn’t get home until after I’ve put Matteo to bed. So once she leaves for class, it’s Dad’s night. After walking around the neighborhood looking at all the Holiday lights, we came home and cooked dinner together.

I love food and cooking and I want my son to appreciate it too. I have made it a point through his life so far (2 years 9 months) to expose him to all aspects of food. From growing and buying it to cooking and eating it. My hope is that he will understand how eating a healthy well balanced diet can positively impact his life. This method has worked pretty well so far as he is an adventurous eater, who loves fruits and vegetables. Tonight he ate green beans, roasted potatoes, chicken and brussels sprouts.

When he eats a protein, I say, “this will make you strong”. When he eats a vegetable, I say, “this will keep you happy and healthy”, when he eats fruit I say, “this will give you energy”. The carbs are never a problem for most kids. Getting young kids to eat rice, pasta or bread doesn’t really seem to be an issue for most parents. It’s the vegetables that are the most important for mental and physical development, but also the most challenging to get kids and even some adults to eat.

Matteo and Aven checking out the broccoli for bugs

Involving Matteo in the growing, harvesting and cooking of vegetables has really helped cultivate his love of vegetables and food in general.

Back to the brussels. They have been a chef/foodie thing for the last several years as it seems like just about every restaurant I go to has their own riff on this vegetable that when I was a kid, no one really ate.

I make it a point to order them as a side whenever they are offered. They are all a little different and I kind of like them all. My ideal brussels sprout side dish has a crunch from a toasted nut, a sweetness from a grape or berry and then the charred crispy vegetable, all of this married together with a sweet and tangy sauce.

Trying to perfect my homemade brussels sprouts to combine my favorite aspects of all those that I’ve had out and about has been a labor of love for the last several years. I’ve tested out different ways to cook them.  From complex: steaming, pan frying and baking, to simple: baking at high heat. I feel like the other night I had a major breakthrough and wanted to share it with anyone else who enjoys these mini cabbages as much as I do.

First, I cranked the oven to 425 and prepped the brussels by trimming the ends, cutting them in half and rinsing them in the colander. Then I tossed them in olive oil with some salt and pepper and placed them flat side down on the baking sheet.

Brussels and Potatoes

I also cut potatoes into 1/2″ wedges and tossed them in olive oil with salt and pepper as well and put them on the same sheet. After 20 minutes, I flipped the potatoes and  tossed the brussels around. Lately I have been adding chopped walnuts and cut up grapes, but since I didn’t have any, I added some of trader joes omega mix, which has dried cranberries, walnuts and pumpkin seeds and that turned out great.

After 10 more minutes, about 30 minutes total (checking because ovens vary) I took out the brussels and put them in a bowl. Then, I added honey and balsamic vinegar to the bowl and tossed everything together. I shook the potatoes around and placed them back in the oven for a few more minutes until they were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

In the past, I added balsamic vinegar and sugar while pan frying, but most of the time, while they would be tasty, they would be a little bit soggy. I found adding the honey and balsamic in the end is the way to go. They get absorbed into the brussels while they are hot. Finally I had something that was “blog worthy” because it was delicious AND super easy to make…

I steamed the green beans and then tossed with a little butter, salt and pepper. For the chicken sausages I cut them into little circles and pan fried them according to the package directions with a little olive oil. If you’re not into chicken sausages, I also make the same dish with salmon and it goes really well.

Matteo and I both enjoyed our dinner and ate everything on our plate. I came out from putting him to bed and Chelsea had come home and devoured her plate that we left for her and she said “that was awesome, I really loved it” and she doesn’t just throw out compliments. If she is saying it’s legit, then it truly is. It was an easy dinner to make and I got everything Organic from Trader Joes. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Recipe for Brussels Sprouts

  • Brussels sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup crunched up walnuts
  • 1/4 cup grapes sliced in quarters

Heat oven to 425°F.  Meanwhile, trim the bottoms from the sprouts and cut each one in half through the stem. Add olive oil and salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange them cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven.

Roast, for 15-20 minutes, then add walnuts and grapes or TJ’s omega mix and continue to roast until the leaves are dark brown and crisp and the undersides of the sprouts are browned, 25 to 30 minutes total. Take them out and put in a bowl and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and honey and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Yum.

Organic Baked Thai Curry Chicken Dinner with Coconut Rice and Veggies

Home Grown

Organic Baked Thai Curry Chicken Dinner with Coconut Rice and Veggies

Dinner was ready in 35 minutes with very little prep.

While my wife Chelsea and I  cook and eat healthy and what I think are delicious meals on most nights, we’ve grown tired of the same old recipes. So tonight we decided to try something totally different and it was such a success and so easy to make that I decided to write my first blog post in nearly 3 years because I wanted to share it.

For my vegetarian friends, you can try it with tofu. We are going to do that next week and I will let you know how that turns out.

First, Chelsea searched yummly and found this   https://www.yummly.com/recipe/Baked-Thai-Coconut-Curry-Chicken-Breasts-932046#directions from Alejandra

We already had some red Thai chili paste, fresh ginger and garlic, cilantro from our garden and a couple of cans of light coconut milk. I stopped by Whole Foods and picked up some organic chicken breasts on my way home from work.

Over the last two years of our son Matteo eating solid food, we have made a conscious effort to involve him in the meal preparation process. Everything from shopping or growing the food, to prepping and cooking it. I know it has made a huge impact on his eating habits. He is a very healthy eater and will try just about anything we make. He doesn’t necessarily like everything, but he will at least try it.

Ingredients for tonights dinner

  • 3-4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts (not cutlets)
  • 2 cans (14oz) light coconut milk
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 inch fresh ginger (peeled)
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 1 small bunch cilantro (trim ends)
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Rice
  • Veggies (We did broccoli) I’ll try cauliflower next time

Directions for baking chicken

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Place chicken breasts in a baking dish seasoning with salt and pepper
  • In a blender or I used a magic bullet, combine remaining ingredients (coconut milk, curry paste, ginger, garlic cloves and cilantro)
  • Puree until smooth
  • Pour over chicken (Matteo did this part)
  • Bake for 30 minutes in oven
  • Turn on broiler and broil for 5-7 minutes until crispy and a little charred on top

While chicken is cooking, rinse one cup of rice and add to a pot with a 14oz can of light coconut milk. Cook rice until done. One cup of rice with one can of coconut milk is the perfect amount of liquid to make delicious tasting rice. I learned this from my brother when we were on a family trip to Hawaii a couple of years ago and it has been my favorite way to enjoy basmati rice ever since.

We steamed broccoli, because it’s easy and we all love it. We grow broccoli in our garden. I think this is why Matteo likes it so much. He helps us plant and water it and then harvest it when it’s grown and I’m sure this helps him appreciate it even more. Next time I do this dish, I will probably also add cauliflower and maybe zucchini.

When everything was cooked, we put the rice in a large bowl, added the chicken and broccoli and then poured some of the cooked mixture over everything. We blessed our food with love and gratitude an thanked the chickens that gave their lives for us to enjoy a yummy dinner. It was delicious and we ate it all up.

Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Namaste

 

 

The Organic Baby

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Anytime in the next day or so, my wife, Chelsea is going to go into labor and if all goes according to plan, we will have a baby, in our home, with no drugs or painkillers, completely naturally. Something I never even imagined a few years ago, before I met her.

I didn’t even think I would have children, much less try to have one at home. I was in my 40’s, with no kids and had come to terms with the fact that it probably wouldn’t happen for me and I would just be an awesome uncle to my younger brother’s 4 children and felt blessed to have them in my life.

Funny enough, shortly after I surrendered to this fact, I met Chelsea. We became friends, then lovers and I knew for the first time in my life, I wanted to have a family of my own with her. We were married a few years later and began praying every day that we would be blessed with a baby, naturally, with no stress.

In addition to being an amazing prenatal yoga teacher, Chelsea is also a certified birth doula (birth coach) and she leads childbirth education classes where she teaches women the tools they need to have a natural birth. So she is very passionate about the natural birthing process and was born at home herself. After assisting in mostly hospital births, we decided that we would rather delivery our baby in the safety and comfort of our own home also. Before she was even pregnant, we told our family about our plans and my niece Honey said, “so you’re going to have an organic baby?” I thought about that and said, you know what? that’s a great idea. I wonder if we could actually do that.

Less than a month after my 45th birthday in May, we went to Turkey, where I was IMG_3507officiating our friends wedding. Chelsea said, “I want to get pregnant in Turkey.” I said, “I do too!” We stepped up our prayer requests in hopes of it happening then.

 

About a month later, I came home on the morning of the 4th of July after an early morning bike ride to watch the Ironman in Hermosa Beach and caught her in the guest room with a weird look on her face. I said, “what are you doing?” She said, “Am I reading this right?” as she handed me a pregnancy test. There was a giant + in the spot where it said yes you are indeed pregnant. I looked at her with my jaw dropped open and she said, “There goes your freedom.” We laughed.  But were serious at the same time, things were about to change in a major way. After 45 years of being the most important person in my life, I was now #2 and soon to be #3. My instincts to take care of Chelsea during these next 9 months took over. I knew that her water intake and food intake were of paramount importance for the proper development of our child. Let’s eat everything organic and see if that makes a difference. If we’re going to have an “organic baby” let’s go all the way and eat an “organic baby diet”.

I am a big believer in the importance of organic foods and eating lots of fruits and veggies. In addition to that, staying away from processed foods. I’m on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization GrowingGreat, which teaches science-based garden and nutritional education to elementary school children and is now expanding their programs to reach middle and high schoolers as well. So eating healthy is a passion of mine. I decided that I would do my best to make sure Chelsea ate as much organic, locally grown, seasonal produce as possible. We normally eat like this, but we now had more motivation to be even more mindful of what she was putting into her body. Since a growing baby is so small, things matter that much more.

So for the past 9 months now we have created several delicious, healthy and easy to make meals that are nutritious and satisfying to Mommy and Baby and even Daddy. I have included our favorites below. There is a meal for each night of the week, with one night set aside to go out to dinner. Even though we both love to cook, it’s nice to go out to eat and have someone else do the cooking. Whether its dinner with friends or out to eat Simmzy’s (our favorite local spot). It’s the one night we let go of the strictness of everything having to be organic. We do our best, but some things you just can’t control. So we let it go and just enjoy.

Chelsea has been a vegetarian for most of her life, but she said she would be open to eating meat during her pregnancy if she felt like her body craved it. Turns out, this baby is a meat eater. From her early cravings for chicken wings and breakfast sausages to this morning when she said “I want some bacon”, Chelsea has indulged in turkey, chicken and pork. However, I made sure of two very important things when it came to her meat intake. #1 The meat had to be consciously raised. Meaning it had to be organic, grass fed, free range and therefore, free of hormones and antibiotics. #2 We blessed the food before eating it and thanked the animal for giving its life so that we and our baby could enjoy the protein that it provided. This made us feel better and enjoy the food more.

There are so many unknowns in a pregnancy and things that are out of your control. However, you can control both what you put into your body to nourish it and your growing baby and you can also control your thoughts. It’s easy for fear to creep in. When you become pregnant it seems like everyone wants to tell you either their birth story or an exceptional tale that someone they know went through. This seems to be especially true with a home birth. Some people will tell you their fears as they question the sanity of what you are doing or the negative stories that they have heard along the way. It is important to not allow their fears or the worst case scenario to dominate your thoughts. Chelsea and I both have our own ways of dealing with this.

We both meditate every day. For me, the first thing I do when I wake up, is to go to my IMG_3638meditation spot. We have a little loft (above the nursery) in our house and I go there and just sit. I sit quietly and breath and just allow my thougths to come and go. Usually after a few minutes, they dissipate. Then I say a short prayer and go on with my day. Chelsea has her own space that she goes to meditate. She does a Chakra meditation each morning and plays her harmonium as the sunlight beams in from the window above where she sits. I know in my heart that the meditation practice has helped us both keep fear at bay and trust in the process.

 

Another thing that has really helped Chelsea is her prenatal yoga classes. She teaches prenatal yoga three times a week and performs the class with her students while teaching. She has prenatal classes that can be found at Spread Yoga Love.

So what have been the results of her “Organic Baby Diet”… Well, let me tell you from my perspective. It has been amazing! She is rocking it. She has plenty of energy and has been happy and vibrant this whole pregnancy. We even hiked the Napali Coast when she was 30 weeks pregnant!

In general, Chelsea is very verbal about how she feels. I always know if she is too hot or too cold or if her back hurts or if she is generally uncomfortable, tired or annoyed. Amazingly enough, she has rarely complained this whole pregnancy. She was tired during the first trimester, which is normal, and she was only nauseous when she didn’t eat anything. Otherwise, she has had plenty of energy and been able to get lots of sleep. In fact, we moved during this pregnancy to a new home and she had everything organized and packed up and then unpacked and re-organized into our new home with the greatest efficiency I have ever seen and I’ve moved over 20 times in my life.

One night a few weeks ago, she was feeling uncomfortable in bed and said, “I guess this is the time in your pregnancy where I won’t sleep very well”, but it only lasted one night. I can count on one hand the number of poor nights sleep she has had during her pregnancy.

She continues to comment on how good she feels. Throughout her pregnancy, she has said that she feels great both physically and mentally. Our midwife seems very pleased and has continually said that everything looks great.

So something is working. As it is with most things, there are several contributing factors. The prenatal yoga, her food intake and our love for each other and this baby have all had a positive impact. YogaLoveFood. The combination that helps with everything.

Here is Chelsea’s typical day eating The Organic Baby Diet.

Warm water with lemon to start the day – This is great for the body’s digestive system.

Smoothie in the morning with…

  • Coconut water (hydration, reduces swelling)
  • Almond milk (calcium)
  • Spinach (Iron, Vitamin A)
  • Frozen fruit
  • Hemp seeds (protein)
  • Chia seeds (hydration)
  • Dried oats (fiber plus keeps you full for longer)
  • 1/2 avocado (healthy fat)
  • Sunflower seed butter (Protein)

Since Chelsea doesn’t drink any dairy from cows, she needed calcium from other sources. Almond milk was the main one. Yogurt too. We found creative ways to use the almond milk. In addition to the smoothie, we ate cereal and oatmeal and added hemp and chia seeds as well as many nuts for healthy fats and proteins. Strawberries, blueberries and banana as well for some fruits with all of their nutritional content. Be careful with fruit to not have too much. The body craves it, but too much sugar can lead to other issues like gestational diabetes. So be mindful of how much fruit you eat but, definitely eat fruit.

Eggs provide good protein and she has craved them nearly every day in some form or another. Hard boiled has been her favorite, however today we had a curried egg salad sandwich. Oatmeal has also been a breakfast favorite in addition to cereal and yogurt. Along with these, she will usually have toast with a nut butter and hemp seeds for additional protein.

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Chelsea noticed that small snacks throughout the day, every 2-3 hours helped keep nausea at bay and from what I’ve read on the subject, better for mom and baby. Our doula showed us a picture that shows what happens to all of the internal organs as the baby grows. There isn’t much space for the internal organs, so you have to pee a lot and can’t fit as much into your stomach, but need to eat more because of the nutritional needs of the baby. By eating every few hours, your body has time to process the food and give the baby what it needs. Babies are small and growing rapidly. So feeding yourself with nutritious foods every few hours is feeding the baby, nutritious foods every few hours. Which if you think about it, is how often they usually eat when they are born.

Healthy Snacks

  • Hard boiled eggs (protein)
  • Dried fruit and nuts (apricots for iron) (Walnuts for healthy fats)
  • Apples with almond or peanut butter
  • Carrots, celery and cucumbers with hummus
  • Chips and guacamole (healthy fats from the avocado)
  • Yogurt with hemp and chia seeds

Being someone who grew up a vegetarian and rarely had dairy, she had never experienced a grilled cheese sandwich. Well, for some reason, one day she was craving one, so she had one and fell in love. It became almost a daily occurrence for her. I was slightly worried because I wouldn’t condone eating one every day, no matter how delicious they are! However, I knew the calcium and proteins that the cheese had are good for her and our baby, so I just made sure she had good organic cheese, from Wisconsin of course.

Dinners

The great thing about these meals is that they use a lot of the same ingredients. So these delicious, healthy, organic dinners can all be made on a budget and the ingredients are easy to find. All ingredients are organic unless otherwise noted.

  • Red lentils
  • quinoa
  • chicken or veggie stock
  • sweet potatoes, potatoes
  • butternut squash
  • onions, garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli.

Cans – Chickpeas, diced tomatoes, coconut milk

Gluten free pasta noodles. Pasta sauce. Cheese if desired.

Here are 6 dinners that can be made from all of the above ingredients, except for the pizzas which you will need to buy crusts or make them.

Red Lentil Soup

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Recipe

  • Chop onions, carrots, celery, zucchini and add to a pot with olive oil. Sautee over medium heat about 7-10 mins
  • Rinse 1 cup of red lentils and add to pot with enough chicken or veggie stock to cover veggies and lentils
  • Add 1 Bay Leaf, Salt & Pepper, and Everyday Seasoning
  • Stir half way through and add more broth to your desired amount
  • Cook until carrots are soft and soup is thick and creamy (about 30 mins)

Butternut Squash Stew

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Recipe

  • Chop 1/2 onion and garlic, add to a pot with coconut oil. Cook over medium heat
  • Add spices – 2 t Cumin, 1/2 t Cinnamon, Salt & Pepper. Cook a few minutes
  • Chop butternut squash and add to pot with 3 cups of chicken or veggie stock
  • Add a can of chickpeas and diced tomatoes along with 1 cup of red lentils
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until butternut squash is soft
  • Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon and add red pepper flakes (Optional)
  • Stir in spinach at the end and mix it up until spinach is soft (less than a minute)

Coconut Curry

Recipe

  • Chop onion, potato, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower
  • Cook down onions and mustard seeds in coconut oil
  • Add remaining veggies plus 1 can of organic coconut milk & 1 can of water
  • Add 2 t Curry Powder, 1 t Tumeric, 1/2 t Corriander (taste – add to liking)
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer until veggies are soft
  • Lastly add, frozen or fresh green peas
  • Serve over Quinoa or Rice (optional)

Red Lentils and Quinoa w/broccoli

Recipe

  • Rinse 1 cup of red lentils and 1 cup of quinoa
  • Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of chicken or veggie stock to a boil
  • Add lentils and quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 10-12 minutes
  • In a separate pot, steam broccoli or cauliflower
  • When lentils and quinoa are finished cooking (thick and creamy) add 2 T of ghee
  • Broccoli or Cauliflower on the side with a dash of Salt & Pepper

Pasta with Turkey and Veggies

Recipe

  • Boil spiral or elbow pasta noodles and drain
  • Sautee onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini and 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • Add Garlic Powder, Cumin, Red Chili Flakes, and a Bay Leaf (to taste)
  • In a separate pan cook ground turkey meat until browned
  • To finish toss everything together and add extra sauce if desired
  • Top with fresh spinach and shaved parmesan cheese (optional)

Homemade Pizza

Recipe (crusts purchased from Whole Foods)

  • Sautee bell peppers, onion, garlic, zucchini (anything else you like)
  • Cover pizza crust with marinara sauce (I like BBQ sauce on mine)
  • Add toppings and cheese plus spinach or kale
  • Cook for 15-20 mins

 A night out

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  • Have fun and let someone else do the work:) She’s having a kale salad with salmon. Yes, those are fries (probably not organic)

Dessert

Some studies show that eating 6 dates a day the last 4 weeks of pregnancy can lead to a shorter labor, prevent postpartum hemorrhage and reduce the need for induction.  Chelsea has noticed with her clients that have done this that they have all had shorter than average labors. So she is doing that. One of the ways we have incorporated that into her diet is through some delicious ice cream that we were able to make with our magic bullet.

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  • Ice cubes
  • Almond Milk
  • Coconut flakes
  • 2-6 dates
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • Frozen berries
  • Peanut butter

Blend it up in the magic bullet for a minute or so until it becomes nice and smooth like ice cream or gelato. So delicious.

Another way to get your dates in is to take out the pit and put a dollop of peanut butter inside and place in the freezer.

So there you have it. Our humble attempt at making an Organic Baby. Check back in a few weeks to see how the delivery went. We don’t know if it’s going to be a boy or a girl, but I’ll be sure to let you know.

Namaste ~

 

Cheers…to homemade BBQ sauce

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Let me start by saying, I LOVE Barbecue Sauce! Maybe it comes from my roots in Arkansas, or my upbringing in North Carolina, where the Southern folks love them some BBQ. But, I have always loved the sauce. There are so many different kinds too. Even different regions of the state have different flavor profiles. Some are sweeter, some more tangy , but all just a little bit different. Have you ever noticed, there is basically just one ketchup, but there are a wide variety of sauces with the title BBQ attached to them. Over the years, I would always order a side of it whenever I was at a new restaurant. As a result, I have tried hundreds over the years and my love of cooking inspired me to make my own. I have modified this recipe over the years, so sometimes it is sweeter and sometimes more tangy, but I love it and rarely do I find one out on the town or even in stores that I like better.

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The great thing is, it’s easy to make and can be made from organic ingredients , which is important to me. I look at the ingredients of many of the popular versions in stores and they have high fructose corn syrup as one of the first ingredients. None of that here, so you can slather it on whatever you want. One time Chelsea came home to her roommate eating it with rice. She said “I just wanted to eat this sauce”!

So, at the request of my friend Val, I’m sharing this recipe on here for anyone to try. Have fun with it and feel free to make modifications depending on your own preferences. This one is a little sweet, a little tangy, a little spicy and full of umami. (Which is that pleasant savory taste that helps make ketchup so satisfying) http://www.umamiinfo.com/2011/02/What-exactly-is-umami.php

For Matt’s homemade BBQ sauce 2014 edition, mix together
1 cup organic ketchup
1 cup organic brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

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The key is then to cook it down, meaning adding mixed ingredients to a skillet and cooking it on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring it occasionally, especially as it begins to bubble. This will give it that stickiness that takes it to the next level for my taste buds, it’s where the umami comes out. Then after it cools a little, I put it in a glass jar and either give it away to someone I love (I’m bringing some to yoga tomorrow for you Val) or enjoy it on everything from salmon to grilled eggplant. I even use it on our home made pizzas.
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Oh yeah, the beverage… It’s a mock tail. Non alcoholic cocktail. Fun to drink and easy to make. Chelsea and our friend Laurel made some ginger syrup. I used a little of that, along with soda water. I then muddled up fresh basil from a basil plant we have next to the sink along with lemon from a tree outside, mixed it all together while the sauce cooked down. Delish!
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This is the yoga pose for today’s post. It’s called Malasana, basically a squat. Great to do when your muddling. This pose helps my low back feel better the way it stretches and builds strength. I have had two yoga teachers say that “Cultures that spend time in this position have fewer back issues” I can believe that. Since I’ve been doing it, my back feels great. Try to do it for one minute per day, followed by a forward fold, muddler not needed to perform this pose;)
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It’s like riding a bike

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Exercise is one of my 7 Steps to a Happier Life. It releases endorphins and make you feel good, but I get bored easily and have been searching for a new form of exercise to compliment yoga and surfing and skateboarding and bouldering. More on those later…It was the first thing I, like many of us, mastered after walking… Riding a bike. You know the phrase…”it’s like riding a bike” I think this means, it’s hard to figure out how to do it at first, but then, once you figure it out, you never forget how to do it. Learning a new yoga pose is the same way. That balance thing…once your mind and body work together and figure it out, you will always have that skill. Learning something new takes practice, sometimes a lot of practice. Then, when you finally “get it” the feeling is pure joy!

This is a feeling I always want more of in my life and who doesn’t? Pure Joy is where it’s at! Learning a new skill, figuring out how to do something you couldn’t do before, leads to Joy.

My mom wouldn’t let me ride a skateboard when I was a kid. She said “you can’t do that, you’ll crack your head open” She was probably right. I most likely would have. I almost did several times when learning at age 34. I had just moved to the South Bay and there is this beautiful strand that goes along the Pacific Ocean and a friend gave me a skateboard, so I gave it a try. I felt like a total clutz. I was so goofy and felt out of control, falling down several times and getting hurt, but after practicing for a little while, I figured it out and loved it. It gave me so much joy. Learning something new. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes practice.
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Surfing was the same. Growing up in the East, South and Midwest I learned how to play golf and ski. I can still crush it at those sports as well as tennis, football, baseball and basketball, even bowling. But I had only surfed once with my friend Todd in Florida. So teaching the brain something new with the added element of the powerful Pacific Ocean in my 30′s was interesting. I had an emergency room visit along with several other “close calls” People who didn’t surf would say, “aren’t you afraid of sharks? I’d say no, I’m afraid of the Ocean and other surfers! The waves can be treacherous if you don’t respect them. The surfboard is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands and the waves are unpredictable. The key however is to not get caught up in the fear. Fear can stop progress dead in its tracks. Fear of failure, fear of injury, fear of looking stupid. Focus on the end result…Joy, the joy you will feel when you have added a new talent to your repertoire. Rest your mind on Joy, not fear. Feel the Joy.

My forties are turning into the music decade for me. I wanted to learn the guitar for years, but never practiced, so nothing ever happened. Now I am into the ukulele. It is easier because it only has four strings instead of six and has a really nice sound. So I started taking lessons and I am committing to practicing for 15 minutes a day. That is only one percent of my day. Figure it out. Mathematically it is only 1% of a 24 hour day. I owe that to myself! I am going to give it a try. I’m still not very good, but I can already feel the joy as I learn new cords and begin to see progress. My wife has started harmonium lessons (see photo above) and it has been fun to watch her progress. I can see the joy in her spirit as she “gets it”.

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So I encourage you… Try something new. For 7 days. 15 minutes a day. Commit to doing something you want to incorporate into your life. Meditation, making a smoothie, cooking, hula hooping, practicing handstand, playing guitar, learning a new language, whatever it is. Give one percent of your day to yourself and something new and see what happens! I predict you will add a new skill to your life and create more joy while doing it. Have fun and let me know how it goes:)

Now, I’m going for a ride…
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I’m back!

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After years of writing all my random thoughts and inspirations into paper journals and after being inspired by my friends and fellow bloggers Gabby from Cause We Can Events, Jessica form Life, Love, and Yoga; and Peggy and Megan from Curry Girls Kitchen…I’ve decided to share with those who care, my thoughts and inspirations on everyday life. In the hopes that someone, somewhere, will be inspired to live a better life, be a better person, and have a positive impact on the world around them.

I will do this through the lens of Yoga, Love and Food. Three things that I am passionate about. Three things that positively impact my life. I love yoga (teaching and practicing), I love Love (making and spreading), and I love food (growing, cooking and eating). So here goes…

Namaste and Bon Appetit.

Love,
Matt

Veggie Burgers

 

Veggie Burgers. That sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it. When I hear the word Veggie, I think of things like, healthy, vegetables, Vegetarians, etc. When I hear the word Burgers, I think of things like back yard BBQ’s, cows, In & Out Burger, and also in the back of my mind…fat, cholesterol, unhealthy for the heart, etc.

I grew up eating hamburgers. Growing up in the South and Midwest portion of the United States, there were lots of cows and we ate a lot of hamburgers. Everything from Fast food hamburgers like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s to the gourmet burgers found in  little known hole in the wall places. Every year for our birthday’s, whether it was my Mom, Dad, brother, or me, we would go to this little place called the Parkway in Holland, Michigan. In Hickory, North Carolina, it was the Windy City Grill where everyone went after school and on weekends. We all called it Homer’s. Long before Homer Simpson ever came around. They had the best one’s in town. It was one of those places that had been around for years and everyone came there for their burgers. Then, during the Summer, every backyard BBQ was stocked full of juicy, mouth watering, homemade hamburgers. I never really thought about the perils of eating this classic American culinary delight.

I never had a veggie burger as a kid, what was the point. No restaurant carried them, my Mom never bought them at the store and I guess I hadn’t really heard of them before or really even saw a reason to eat one. Then through life and experience and all of the articles and documentaries and stories that I heard over the years, I began to get this feeling that maybe a hamburger isn’t such a good thing to be eating all the time. Stories of heart attacks and obesity rates and lethargy, all somehow related to the consumption of red meat caused me to cut back on my indulgence of this great American pastime.

Then, I moved to California, started practicing yoga, and dating a vegetarian. Now I rarely eat a good old fashioned hamburger. Remember Samuel L. Jackson’s character from Pulp Fiction, when he said, “my girlfriend’s a vegetarian, so that pretty much makes me a vegetarian”  Well, that’s pretty much me right now.

I still have the craving for them though. I guess it’s years of mental and physical programming. Also the fact that they taste good. I will usually indulge in a quality one every few months. I believe it’s my body telling me I need the iron and protein and other nutrients that it provides.  At least that’s what I tell myself. Someday, I may go completely vegetarian, but I’m not there yet. I am now very conscious of the burgers that I choose to eat though. I also make sure I bless my food and thank the cow for sacrificing it’s life. Currently my top choice for a burger is from Simmzy’s in downtown Manhattan Beach (Delicious burgers that come from grass fed cows in the Midwest).

So, how do I satisfy this craving for a good hearty burger without actually eating one? That may be a question many of you are asking yourselves. Especially if you’ve tried to order a veggie burger from a restaurant or gotten one from the frozen food section of the grocery store.

Veggie Burger selection from Trader Joe's
Veggie Burger selection from Trader Joe’s

Let’s be honest, there isn’t much out there that is very satisfying in my opinion. They all seem thin and not very flavorful. Plus, if you read the nutritional information on the back of the box, there isn’t even much protein, which is what you get from the red meat of a hamburger.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own. I have been experimenting over the last couple of years with different styles and varieties. I wanted to maximize the flavor and nutrition, as well as give that Umami satisfaction that comes from eating a burger. Without any of the guilt or fat or cholesterol that also comes from consuming the animal product.

I recently enjoyed my favorite version so far and would like to share with you how delicious they were and how easy they were  to make. I got the basis for this recipe from the back of a bag of Organic Tri Color Quinoa, then added a bunch of things and took a few out. I have found this is a great way to cook. Use a recipe for the foundation and then modify it to your liking and preferences. I made these gluten free. So the recipe called for bread crumbs and an egg (beaten). Without the bread crumbs, the egg is not necessary. If you decide to use them. Add them in at then end, just before forming the patties.

The following is the Gluten free and vegan version.

First, here is what you need…Note, I used all Organic ingredients

3 cups Quinoa (rinsed and cooked)

1 can black beans (drained)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

1 onion (diced)

red, green, yellow, or orange pepper (diced)

1 carrot, zuchinni, yellow squash (quartered into 1/2″ slices)

Olive Oil

I find it easiest to get the quinoa going first. I rinse it and then get it cooking.

Cook Quinoa 2 parts water or broth to 1 part Quinoa

While the quinoa is cooking, I chop up the onion, garlic, and peppers. I add some olive oil to the skillet and then…Saute’ the onions, garlic and peppers.

sautee in olive oil

While that is going I blanche the carrots and squash. You could also add celery or different colored peppers. I prefer the orange, yellow, and red, but this day I only had the green, so that’s what I used.

tasting veggies and beans

Chelsea, tasting the veggies, to make sure they are done. Note, the recipe in the background that I used as my base. I prep all my ingredients first, so the beans have been drained and are awaiting their turn. I didn’t end up using the egg. If I were going to use the bread crumbs I probably would have, but since I didn’t, it wasn’t needed to bind everything together.

I then took the veggies, black beans, and onion, garlic, pepper sauté and put them in the immersion blender that my sister in law gave me last year. If you don’t have one of these in your kitchen, I highly recommend it. It has so many great uses. Making soups, veggie burgers, etc. It’s just as effective as a food processor, but much easier to clean.

In the past, I have added cooked beets at this time and it gives the veggie burger the look of red meat when its done and also adds some great nutrients.

going in the immersion blender

 

After that has all been blended up, I add it to the quinoa and mix it all together. Adding salt and pepper and any other spices at this time. Feel free to get creative with your spices.

All mixed upNext, I form the mix into patties and put into the refrigerator for 10 minutes. This is also where you would add the egg and the bread crumbs if you’re using them. However, it’s really not necessary.

finished productAfter taking them out of the refrigerator, add some olive oil to the skillet and fry them up. An iron skillet would be ideal if you have one.

Then be sure to load them up just like you would a normal hamburger and voila’

Gluten Free bread, Heirloom tomatoes from our garden, cheese (guess this one’s not quite vegan) avocado and my homemade BBQ sauce. Yes, those are brussel sprouts in the background.

Now that’s a tasty burger. It has more than twice the protein of any of the veggie burgers you can buy at the store. Not to mention, Healthy, Organic, and Delicious.

Bon Appétit