happiness

A happy belly and a happier heart. 

 This afternoon my aunt invited my kids along with their cousins over to her place for some Italian cooking lessons. They cooked and had fun all afternoon and then us adults got to go enjoy the spoils. 

I can’t even begin to describe how much I have missed these family get togethers and how grateful I am that they’re part of our regular life experience now. 

Seeing how much fun the kids had and then visiting with some of my favorite people in the world – that was my happiness moment today.  

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happiness

Masterchef Jr Marathon

We had so many plans for the day. We were going to get up bright and early and head off to church, then come home and clean house, then maybe go for a nice afternoon drive. Best laid plans and all…. What ended up happening was that I slept for 10 hours (Jenna a little longer), we missed church, and ended up spending the day in our PJ’s on the couch binge watching Masterchef JR (and one Beethoven movie).

I had no idea how tired we were until we stopped and rested. I am so incredibly glad that we have a few days off pretty soon where everyone can just slow down a little bit and recharge their batteries.

Even though I spend a lot of time with the kids, we are often rushing here and there, going to school or various activities. I love quiet, lazy time spent with them as well. It was so nice to cuddle up with my girl on the couch and watch those little kids cook some pretty amazing meals.

Jenna used to cook all the time. When she turned 5 we were living in Rhode Island and she decided she wanted lobster bisque for her birthday. I chopped and turned on the stove, but she did all the rest of the cooking. We also used to make naan bread together all the time. Obviously it’s time to get motivated and get us both back in the kitchen. It was a great way of bonding for the two of us.

It was a great, slow, lazy happiness moment spent hanging with one of my favourite people in the world. I am so grateful that it is my job to nurture my amazing humans, watching them grow, learn, love and laugh.

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Chefs in the kitchen 

Tonight we brought a little New Mexico back to our kitchen. Well, a Canadianized version of southwestern cooking since it involved a lot of throwing what we had in the pantry into the mix. 

The kids decided they wanted enchiladas for supper, Jacob had made some last year in his foods class, so he declared himself head chef. 

The three of us worked in the kitchen together to prepare the meal. We used to cook together a lot, it feels like it’s been a long time since we have come together like this.  A welcome return of a fun and bonding activity. 

As we worked we listened to my “yoga mix” on my playlist. May it be is one of the songs. On our drive home I had to play the song to see if it was familiar to Jacob. I had thought it was familiar besides playing on my pandora station. Yesterday I realized that it was on his Hobbit album that plays non stop. His has a different singer and is just different enough that he didn’t recognize it. When he realized that we had both been enchanted by the same song we had a good giggle and then had to justify why our version was the better one. 

As we made supper, I played my yoga mix as background music. As well as May It Be, we enjoyed grooving to KDZ the Kripalu drummers. There’s something about drinking music that is good for the soul. 

My happiness moment, Jammin’ in the kitchen with my monsters. I sure missed them, we work best as a unit. 

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Cilantro mint chutney and 44 days of happiness

In Ayurveda chutneys are the appetizers of the meal. Which makes sense if you think about the word “appetizer” – something to increase appetite. Not a mini meal before you have your main meal. They help both improve digestion and the absorption of your food, and can be specialized to nurture the different doshas.

There are many different recipes for this chutney. I seem to always make it with just 4 ingredients: fresh cilantro, fresh mint, a hot pepper, and fresh squeezed lemon.

I used 2 bunches of cilantro and 2 small packages of mint. I can’t wait until they’re growing outside instead of me having to buy them.

pretty, pretty….

Wash all ingredients, make sure you just have mint leaves – take them off the stems –  and put them in a blender. I used to use my Cuisinart food processor, but I found that the little green specks were impossible to get out of all the little nooks and crannies. So, I now use my blender. I have to cut up the cilantro and then add things bit by bit or it takes forever to blend up.

Once it’s all blended, put in a glass dish – enjoy!!

Today is day 44 of the 44 days of happiness. My happy moment came while I was driving kids from doing recycling to drop off a form at the library. Jacob was reading the form – it was for a teen night and so I had filled out his information – and he said “why did you put M as my grade?” Well, I had read it as gender, so I put M for male. But, since the three of us are huge Goldbergs fans I said “The M is for moron” (because that’s what the dad is always calling everyone – it’s how he says I love you). We started laughing so hard I had to pull the car over because I couldn’t see to drive (thankfully we were at a light). Those spontaneous belly laughs are what it’s all about!

I was thinking about my 44 days of happiness yesterday while I was out for my walk. This mini-journey has brought so much to my life. We have lived in such stress and chaos for so long that it was really easy to focus on that part of life. Which is a shame when there still are so many awesome things happening every minute. Finding one thing that made me happy every day has made me an overall happier person. I laugh more, I play more, I have more patience with the kids, I talk with friends more, I even lost some weight – clothes that haven’t fit for ages are fitting again. I’ve also been doing yoga much more regularly and that is so blissful for my body and soul. I’m 4 weeks into a 6 weeks course on Healing Light Yoga Therapy which is led by Asreal Zemenick. This session is about addictions and letting go of old beliefs and patterns, and man do I have some old beliefs and patterns that need to be let go. I hadn’t realized how addicting those ways of thinking could actually be. But learning to let go of what no longer serves me is life changing to say the least.

Overall I’d say that the 44 days of happiness has made me a better version of me.

I realized while walking that I was just starting to hit my stride with this whole happiness thing and that just ending it could very easily turn my focus back onto those things that cause me stress. And I don’t want to do that.

So, I have decided that in order for my 44th year to be a year of happiness, I need to continue to look for the happiness in every single day. Why not? I’ve had lots of years where the focus has been on  stress and anxiety and unease (no wonder my Vata is all upset) – why not have a year of happiness? It goes along with my intention of the path of least resistance and obviously I’ve intended on keeping this going from its conception as is evident in my birthday post.

So, now that I’m 44 and 44 days old I can say that I’m thankful that this year is off to such a blessed start. I feel happier and more blissful than ever.

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My (not so ) Secret Crush on James Barber

“Cooking, like sex and dancing, is a pleasure best shared.” (James Barber, The Urban Peasant)

Somehow I made it into my 20s not having any idea at all how to cook. Honestly, I don’t think I was very interested in learning. I liked eating, but I had no interest in how the food got to my mouth. I was perfectly happy eating a sandwich on my way to the barn.

Around the age of 22 I took a job at a busy show-barn and I was often so tired from working and riding that I had no desire to go anywhere anyway. Because we were in the country we had only 3 channels – one of them being CBC. This was a glorious time (in my mind) for CBC because on Friday nights they would show Mr. Bean, The Kids in The Hall, and This Hour has 22 Minutes. Even if I had the option to go out on a Friday night I would choose to stay home so I could laugh myself silly all night.

But at 10:00 am every weekday there was this man who would come on the CBC. A man who ended up changing my life. I fell in love with James Barber the first time I watched his show The Urban Peasant . I think part of the reason why I was unwilling to cook – once I moved out and had no other way to actually feed myself – was because I had no idea how to do it. What if I didn’t have an ingredient? Did that mean I had to scrap the whole thing? What if I didn’t measure something properly – would it be ruined? What if I followed the recipe perfectly and it turned out tasting like crap?

James Barber was cooking some sort of stew and was talking away and went to grab a spice. It wasn’t on the counter where he thought it was. He turned and went through his cupboard and it wasn’t there either. Instead of going into full out panic mode like I would have, he just said ‘Oh, I’ll use _______ instead, it will make it taste just as good’. I was like ‘you can do that???’ It changed how I looked at cooking. It sounds simple I know, but watching him free flow and create in the kitchen gave me the confidence to start experimenting myself.

Some of the the things were pretty gross that I made, but some of them were actually pretty good. And as I practiced they got better and better. I gained some confidence and some basic knowledge and started to really enjoy myself. I began taping his show (old-school on the VHS) in the morning so that I could watch it when we were done cleaning the barn -and I was so tired I could barely move. I started developing a real (one sided) relationship with him.

Years later my sister in law treated me to a cooking lesson with him. It remains one of the coolest things I have done. He was just as awesome in person as he was on TV. Full of passion and fun and life. He made all of us participants as excited about the meals he was creating as he was. I remember the food he made, I remember how it tasted, but probably what I remember best was what he said – it was something like: “If you ever move into a new apartment and you’re having difficulty meeting people, just put some onions in your frying pan with some butter and start browning them. The smell will be so amazing that people will start coming knocking on your door just to see if they can have a bite.”

Over the years I bought all of his cookbooks and made almost all of his recipes. Everyone around me got Urban Peasant cookbooks for their birthdays and Christmas.

I have always felt a huge amount of gratitude to this kind man who taught me not only how to cook, but how to love to cook. I think of him when the kids are creating in the kitchen. They approach it with the same freedom and joy.

Sadly he passed away in 2007 at the age of 85, but even that he did in a way that showed how much he loved the life he was living:

“He was sitting at the kitchen table, reading a cookbook when he passed away,” said his wife Christina Burridge. “There was a pot of chicken soup on the stove. He would have been pleased.” She said his death was sudden, unexpected and most likely a heart attack. (from his obituary)

He made me want to be like him – loving what I was doing. Living the life as they say.

My happiness moment on day 43 of the 44 days of happiness came early this morning. The kids were sitting at the kitchen table in kind of a stunned silence waiting for breakfast. With the time change it’s now dark when they get up so we sit staring at each other instead of the sunrise. Jacob slumped down in his chair and said “It’s still dark out, why do we have to get up before God gets up? This is wrong!”

Which I agree with, but they do have to go to school sometimes.

We went on to talk about how nice it had been to have these latest snow days off. Jenna mentioned how different it would be if I was working. I said that they would have to be dropped at a sitter, or have someone come in and look after them. Jacob said how hard it would be to have to go somewhere all summer long and not be able to just hang out and sleep in in the mornings. They both looked at me and said thank you for deciding to stay home with us so we can do things together. Jenna said she was so happy that it was me that was the adult who was with her and Jacob said that he was happy that we got to spend time together. I told them how happy I was that I was so blessed as to be able to watch them grow and to be there every step of the way.

It was a real heart warming moment. There is such a struggle for women – to work or to stay home – and both of them have huge benefits and also huge downsides. But this morning, in that moment I felt my inner sunshine as I knew that all the choices I’d made were the right ones for us.

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ayurveda, cooking, happiness, recipes

Churna time and a day of bliss

I finally got to making my kapha churna. I’ve mentioned it the past couple of days when I posted recipes for saag and for kitchari.

A churna is a mixture of different dry herbs and spices and is used frequently in Ayurvedic cooking. Ayurvedic churnas combine all six of the ayurvedic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. While it enhances the flavour of a dish, each one of the spices has it’s own medicinal properties. They can be sprinkled onto or cooked into any dish, however for better absorption they can be sauteed in ghee before being added to the dish.

Here are the ingredients for a kapha churna (from Eat, Taste, Heal)
Ingredients:

  • 1 tbl. fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tbl. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tbl. ground ginger
  • 1 tbl. whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tbl. ground turmeric
  • 1 tbl. ground cinnamom
  • 1 tsp. ground clove
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper or chili powder

Preparation:

1.      Put all ingredients in an electric grinder or spice mill and grind them.
2.      Store in airtight container such as a glass jar.

Don’t the spices look pretty? Jenna stood over the plate and smelled and smelled and said how wonderful they were.


  Put them in a coffee/spice grinder and grind until fine

 

Place the churna in an airtight glass container.

Enjoy!!

My moment of happiness on day 42 of the 44 days was more like a full day of happiness. I was trying to figure out what the best part of the day was, but honestly this entire day has been one of happiness. I’ve noticed that as I’ve spent these past 42 days really focusing on happy things that more and more happiness is coming into my life.

This is how the morning started

When there is a sunrise or a sunset that is this fabulous I always imagine God dancing around like an excited 4 year old saying “look what I did!! Look!! Isn’t it beautiful? Look!! Stop and pay attention!!!”

So I did. I sat with my cup of tea and watched the sunrise with the dog and the cat ignoring each other on either side of me. As the rays moved on, Ella and I went and played our game of fetch. The colours from the sunrise were still coming in the window and they lit her up. She looked so pretty.

Before church I met a friend at Mill Mountain Coffee and we sat outside (outside!!) and had a wonderful visit in a sunbeam.

I didn’t have to teach children’s chapel so I got to sit in through the entire service which was led by the kids. It was a joyful service.

Jacob and I took a church selfie. Is this ok to do? Probably not.

I ran into  friend I haven’t seen in a few months. After losing a child late in pregnancy she and her husband have a wonderful, beautiful adopted son. Joy! Joy! Joy!

We drove to the Co op after church and we could see buds (buds!!! Spring!!!) on the trees.

I had a nap. An awesome, blissful, middle of the day nap (Jenna was at a sleepover last night and I had to check my phone 10,000,000 times at night to make sure she hadn’t called as she sometimes does).
It’s 7:15 and it’s still light out! I love daylight savings time!
Sunday Funday
 
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ayurveda, happiness, recipes

Saag, my new comfort food

Saag, saag, saag, I love it. It’s my go to order at any Indian restaurant. It’s become my adult comfort food in the same way that grilled cheese and tomato soup was in my childhood. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it at home, and to make it kapha pacifying (which is what I need right now).

I have a habit of finding something I like and then eating it for ages until I finally get sick of it. Then I have to rotate off for a while, enjoying something else before I come back around to it. These days I’ve been working on a kapha balancing saag. Perfect for what I need to be balancing for myself and perfect for kapha season.

I leave out the more traditional paneer and cream to lighten it up a bit to pacify kapha. Feel free to add some if it’s your desire.

Our local co op has their own garden and their spinach is ready. It has such a fantastic smell. Like real food. It reminds me of being in the garden back home. I can’t wait to have a garden again.

Fresh spinach in the pot

Combination of split mung dal and basmati rice in a separate pot

Add water to the rice/dal mixture- if possible let it soak for a few hours, then boil and simmer on low until done

Add boiling water to cover the spinach in pot. Cover and let it sit for a few minutes to blanch the spinach

Water on the spinach.

Meanwhile chop up some ginger. There’s fresh turmeric at our Co op right now so I add some of that too (instead of adding powdered later on)

Finely chopped onion

After about 5 minutes strain the spinach into a colander and put in a bowl with ice water (I get lazy here, I just put it in the colander and run cold water on it, shhhh don’t tell anyone) doesn’t it look fantastic? I love spinach. Have I mentioned how good it smells?!


In the pot that had the spinach melt some ghee ( I keep a bit of water in the pot to ensure the oil does not get to too high a temperature) and add cumin and fennel seeds, let fry for a couple minutes

Add the onion, continue to fry until the onion has turned kind of translucent

Meanwhile put the ginger, turmeric and spinach in a blender and whirr it all up until it’s completely blended (you may need to add a bit of water)

Here are the onions all done and ready for the next step

Add some chopped up fresh tomato. It’s March in Virginia and we have 6 inches of snow outside. There are no good tasting tomatoes, I’ve been using these ones by Muir Glen

stir it all in and let simmer a minute or so

Add the spinach mix into the pot – pretty green isn’t it?

Add some spices – here I’m using garlic, and a curry spice. We were snowed in and I had to use what was available. Normally I’d have made a kapha churna to add in

Here it is all done. I added some pumpkin seeds on top. I made this before my yoga class and put it in the warming oven for 2 hours. It tasted much better with the long slow low cook. 

I’m bad at exact measurements but here’s what went into one serving

1/4 cup basmati rice

1/8 cup split mung beans

1 3/4 cup water

(those things I actually do measure)

These go in the separate pot. Bring to a boil then simmer 20-30 minutes until done. Soak the mung beans first in water

3 or so big handfuls of spinach. Remember it shrinks up to nothing when it cooks

2-3 tablespoons of onion (I like onion, you could use less)

2 tablespoons of canned tomatoes. In the summer I’d use one smallish tomato

1 tablespoon kapha churna (in this case since i didn’t have the ingredients for it –  I used a tsp cumin and a tsp curry and a pinch of garlic)

Big pinch of fennel, big pinch of cumin

1/2-1 tsp ghee

little nub of ginger, smaller one of turmeric – do it to taste.

I am going to grocery shop tomorrow. I will make the kapha churna and post it then

My happiness moment on day 41 of the 44 days of happiness came this morning. Jenna has a sleep over tonight and decided that instead of going to buy a bag or wrapping paper that she would sew a bag to put her present in. She sat at the table and figured out all by herself how to put this bag together. She even put on a handle for easier carrying. It brought me such joy to see her sitting enjoying herself while learning a new skill. I was so proud of her – but mostly so happy that I got to be there enjoying the process with her. She’s pretty awesome.

(she was happier than she looks in the picture….)

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ayurveda, cooking, happiness

Barley Kitchari

Another snow day here. Seriously, it’s March 6th. Spring can not come soon enough for me. Most of the winter was pretty mild – until the last 6 weeks when it seems like we’ve had storm after storm. Then I go on Facebook and see pictures of our friends up in Rhode Island and the Boston area and realize we don’t have it so bad. Plus I have had a lot of bonus home days with the monsters – and I love that.

It was cold and damp feeling out today – Kapha like day. And we are entering into Kapha season, so I decided to make an appropriate meal – barley kitchari. Super simple and super yummy.

You need: (for one serving, increase accordingly)

1 tsp ghee

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 heaped tsp kapha churna (you can buy this at MAPI.com, and in the next day or so I will post a recipe you can make at home)

1/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed

1/8 cup split mung beans (let soak in water for an hour prior)

1.5 cups water

optional: steamed broccoli, pumpkin seeds, raisins

Heat the ghee in saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel and coriander seeds and saute until fragrant (3-4 minutes)

add the barley, mung beans and water and simmer for aprox 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If desired add broccoli, raisins, and pumpkin seeds.

So yummy

Kapha season is in the spring when it is wet and damp and sometimes still chilly. Unless you live in Alberta and then springtime is about an hour and a half sometime in June (but that hour and a half is awesome – I love standing out in my parents’ yard looking at the cherry blossoms – until that chinook wind blows them all off).  Kapha is comprised of Water and Earth and is cold, heavy and stable. It governs the structure and the lubrication of the body. Kapha is most aggravated by sweet, salty and sour tastes and is balanced by bitter, astringent and pungent tastes.

Kapha is what I need to be balancing right now, and since it’s the season for it – it’s kind of a double whammy reason for me to get some kapha recipes ready.

Happiness moment for day 40 (40 already!!) of my 44 days of happiness came this morning. Ms. Ella has stashed away all of her mice and we can’t play fetch anymore. She says she does not remember where they are, and has informed me that this is my problem and that I need to fix it. Jenna – bless her – sat down at the table and pulled out her sewing box. She spent a great deal of time figuring a way to stuff catnip inside a cotton ball and then sewing that inside some fabric.

Ella approved. She is content for the time being.

I am so proud of Jenna for learning how to sew and figuring things out as she goes. Goodness knows she’s not going to learn anything from me. But she is determined and loves making new creations.

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ayurveda, cooking, happiness

Ghee, that was simple!

For some reason I found the idea of making my own ghee quite intimidating. I don’t know what gave me the impression it would be difficult because the reality is that it is so very simple. The most challenging part of the whole process was trying to remember where I’d stored my cheesecloth.

We’ve had so many snow days in the past month (we get a 4 day weekend this week thanks to the latest storm), it’s given me a chance to try out some things in the kitchen I’ve been wanting to get to.

Ghee – or clarified butter – is widely used in Ayurveda. It is said to balance all three doshas (although it should be used sparingly for Kapha due to it’s oily nature). It can be used as a vehicle to carry herbs and other medicines deep into the tissues of the body. It also helps kindle Agni – or the digestive fire.

Here’s my ghee making process. I start with this grass fed unsalted butter – it’s so yummy. 

Put the butter in a pot on the stove, turn the stove onto medium heat and let the butter melt

Melt, melt little stick of butter

After a bit you’ll start to hear a crackling kind of sound. Turn to medium low and let crackle for about 20 minutes. My butter is less than a pound so it finishes at about 15 minutes. You don’t want to leave it for too long and have it burn.

Crackle, crackle…..

Put your cheesecloth over a glass jar and pour the butter into the jar. All the impurities from the butter stay in the cheesecloth and your butter is clarified. 

Look at how nice and golden it is! Let it sit on the counter until it hardens into solid form

Then you can put the lid on it and put it in the cupboard. It does not need to be refrigerated. It will keep in a cool, dry place for a couple of months (like it will last that long)

So ridiculously easy. So yummy.

The kids and I were home today because we had yet another massive snow storm. The storm was expected to hit early this morning, but didn’t come until early afternoon so we escaped the house to do a few errands. Because we were expected to be snowed in I left the house a complete disaster safe in the knowledge that no one would want to be out house hunting on such a day. Naturally we got the call. I was standing in Panera with the kids ordering soup when the realtor called and wanted to come see the house right away. Ummmmm – no. I just don’t live in a show ready home. I bought us a couple of hours to get ready so we had our lunch and raced home to clean up.

When we finally were feeling like the house could be seen by other people, I called the realtor and left him a message telling him he could come early if he wanted. Then the kids and I sat on the couch teasing each other about who was the most immature person in the house (this is a badge of honour for us). I was busy claiming most immature person of the year when my phone rang. Jacob was closest to it so he answered. I figured it was the realtor, but couldn’t understand why Jacob got this stressed out look on his face and turned kind of a funny colour. He handed me the phone – it was the realtor – and we sorted out times.

After I ended the call Jacob said “well, that was weird. I answered and the guy just started talking to me. He said ‘I just had a message from your wife about seeing the house earlier’ and I had to cut him off and hand the phone to you.”

This is what happens when you are 13 and your voice changes into a big deep man voice!!! Jenna and I literally fell down on the floor and rolled around we were laughing so hard. I said ‘I guess you’re the mature person in the house then, bwaaahaaa I’m off the hook’. Even Jacob found it funny – although I think he found our laughter funnier. That was our happiness moment on day 39 of the 44 days of happiness.

The people showed up at the same times as the snow storm. Here’s crossed fingers that they liked the house, because I’m right tired of this whole selling process.

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