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Thyme for Coriander & Asparagus

Asparagus with Coriander, Thyme & Lemon ZestI’ve been eating asparagus every week for the past 6 weeks and I am still loving it! With minimal prep and cook time, whether sauteed or steamed, these slightly sweet and astringent tasting spears are topping my spring list for the easiest green veggies. They’re so tasty too!

Rich in the earth and air elements, foods with an astringent taste, like, asparagus, can bind and draw out excess from the body.  Whether it is ama (toxins derived from undigested food), fat or water, the astringent taste supports detoxification. Have you experienced urinating a bit more or longer after eating asparagus? In helping the body release excess water, combined with asparagus’ cooling energy, these delicious spears support reducing inflammation and puffiness, while helping to purify the blood. For individuals who tend to retain water or have accumulated excessive heat from the winter season, asparagus is spring’s natural detoxifier. It’s light and dry qualities harmonize with spring and prep the body for the summer. Mother Nature’s—she’s on it and one step ahead.

Spices for AsparagusWhether steamed or sautéed, the simpler the better when it comes to my favorite way of cooking asparagus. Too much of any spice, I find takes away from it’s natural flavors and can be to over powering.

For those who tend to have more of a kapha constitution or imbalance, steaming asparagus is a great option—no fat needed. For those who tend to have a vata constitution or imbalance, sautéing or steaming works just add a good fat to help balance the astringency and dryness. For pitta constitutions or imbalances fat or no fat—either method works.

Here are two versions of the same recipe…steamed or sautéed, you choice.

Happy eating, happy digesting.

Thyme for Coriander & Asparagus

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 15-20 mins
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: KPV Season: Spring Tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter Qualities: light, dry, cooling, oily** What you need: a 10-12 inch saute or frying pan with a lid

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus (medium width)
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • lemon zest of half a lemon
  • juice of half of a large lemon
  • 2 tsp roasted coriander powder*
  • rock or sea salt to taste
  • 1 T (heaping) ghee, olive oil  or garlic infused oil* (optional)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Directions

1. Rinse asparagus and cut-off or snap off the hard, dried and tough ends of each spear.  Set aside.

2. steamed version: in a small bowl muddle thyme (remove stems), lemon zest, salt and roasted coriander power to release the essential oils. Then whisk in the olive oil (optional) and the lemon juice. If using a jar give it a good shake. Set aside (if using ghee it will need to be melted)

3. steamed version: fill the pan with about 2 inches of water and place on medium-high heat. When the water begins to simmer, add in the prepped asparagus and cover for about minute or 2, until the lid is nice and steamy.  I like to have the spears laying flat for even cooking. If the pan is not big enough, you can do this in batches or rotate the spears, if one ends up on top of another.

In about 2 minutes, check to see if the asparagus is pliable. Once it is slightly pliable, turn-off the stove and continue to cook covered—for another minute or so. After 3-4 minutes of total cook time, the spears will bend with more ease, but still have a crunch. The color will be a bright green. Drain the excess water.  Then toss the asparagus with the dressing directly in the pan, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and serve immediately. The asparagus pictured here, took a little less than 5 minutes— from the time it went into the pan until the water was drained.

Note: while the asparagus is hot or in a hot pan it will continue to cook. I like to slightly under cook them. I timed this recipe several times and found 4 1/2 to 5 minutes to be perfect for the spears pictured here. Transfer the asparagus to a serving plate, if you are not eating them immediately—to slow down the cooking process. If you feel the asparagus steamed for too long, rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Then toss them with the dressing and sesame seeds.

2. sauteed version: in a warm pan add the ghee or olive oil.  When the fat is warm, add in the thyme sprigs. Saute for 20 seconds or so on medium heat to infuse the oil with thyme.  Then, add the prepped asparagus——it is okay if they are a little wet, it will create some steam and aide the cooking process.

Cook the asparagus about 3 minutes—shaking the pan to rotate the spears, you can also use tongs. Add in the roasted coriander powder, lemon zest and salt. Toss for about a minute. Turn off the stove and finish with a big squeeze of lemon juice, this will also de-glaze the pan. Serve in the pan if eating immediately or transfer to a serving dish to slow down cooking process and prevent overcooking. Total time is a little less than 5 minutes, for the asparagus pictured here, from the time the asparagus hit the pan.

Notes: I made about 5 lbs of steamed asparagus for a large party. To ensure the asparagus did not over cook or become soggy, I steamed them in batches for 4 minutes. Then placed the spears in an cold water (not iced). Prior to serving at room temperature, I tossed them in the dressing. Every spear has a crunch—phew!

*if you cannot find roasted coriander powder, warm up a small pan, add in the coriander powder and stir for about 20 seconds until the aroma is released. Toasted coriander powder has a rich flavor and the essentials oils and medicinal properties have been activated. For the sautéed version, you can use non-toasted coriander powder, just add it in about a minute earlier than mentioned and toast while the asparagus continues to cook.  If using coriander seeds, toast them and then crush, its easier when they are warm.

*garlic, if you do not have garlic oil and want a touch of garlic flavor, I recommend sauteing the garlic, prior to adding it to the dressing, if using the steamed method. If sauteing, add sliced or minced garlic about a minute after the asparagus to prevent burning. Medium heat is a good temp.  Cooking garlic helps balance the acidity and makes it a little less rajasic.  For 1lb of asparagus I recommend 1 small clove to not over power the natural flavor of the asparagus.

**oily quality is present if using the saute method or adding oil to the dressing.

Asparagus with Coriander, Thyme and Lemon Zest

Spring Time Masala Chai

Warming & Sweet Cardamom, Ginger & Fennel Chai

Cardamom Ginger Fennel ChaiThose leisurely Sunday mornings…lingering around in your favorite pajamas…slow beats vibrating softly through speakers…sun’s rays beaming in through the windows and pulling on those lethargic, sluggish strings to move on out…while the spirit snoozes under the aroma of cardamom, fennel and ginger brewing atop the stove.

Ginger to heat the body, which has been dormant under the night sky, sweet cardamom to activate love, awaken the lungs, dissolve mucus and cooling fennel to lighten the body of excess air and water.  All three igniting the digestive fire, supporting movement and tantalizing the spirit through their aromatics. Masala chai Sundays are pure joy.

For the past couple months, I’ve made it a spring ritual. Minimal ingredients, effort and three spices that are available in my spice cupboard at all times. This masala chai recipe is my current go to. It’s less milky, thus, less heavy than an autumn chai.  For a little extra pep with each step!

Sweet & Warming Cardamom, Fennel & Ginger Chai

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: KPV Season: Spring Tastes: Sweet, Pungent, Bitter What you need: a small pot, a mortar/pestle or a rolling pin

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 8-10 thin slices of ginger (1 inch)
  • 5-6 cardamom pods crushed (or 1/2 tsp cardamom powder)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp black loose leaf tea or 3-4 tea bags (Assam, English breakfast, orange pekoe)*
  • 1 tsp unrefined sugar (jaggery, succanet, organic raw cane)
  • 1/2 cup whole cow’s milk*
  • pinch of cardamom powder (optional)

Directions

1. Using a rolling pin or a mortar and pestle, crush the cardamom pods to open them and to slightly crush the seeds. Cut the ginger into very thin slices to extract the flavors quicker (or crush the ginger in the mortar and pestle with the cardamom).

2. In a 1-2 quart stainless steel pot bring the water and all three spices to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until two-thirds (a little more than half about 21ozs) of the spiced water remains —or simmer until 1/2 the water remains, if you want a stronger flavor and a more milky chai.

3. Add in the loose tea or tea bags and cane sugar.  Continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes. Until you have a nice rich color.

4. Pour in the milk and bring the chai to a boil. Once it begins to boil or rise, lower the temperature a bit,  let it simmer for about 2 minutes or for a few more rises—the color will shift from a grayish brown to warmer brown. That’s when you know it’s done!  Add a pinch of cardamom powder to finish it off, strain and enjoy.

Notes: reduce ginger to 1/2 inch, if you want a less spicy tea.  If additional sugar is needed add it to the cup individually. Sugar like salt, will bring out the flavor of the spices.  If using organic cane sugar, the cooling energy balances the heating energy of the spices. If you have more of a vata or pitta constitution a little extra sweet is not a bad thing —enjoy!

Caffeine-free option: use tulsi or holy-basil instead of black tea. Tulsi will add a spicy peppery note. Tulsi can also be added as an additional flavoring at the time the tea is added. When using tulsi use an nut or seed milk versus cow’s milk.

Milk: I have not made this chai recipe with a non-cow’s milk, if using a nut or seed milk measurement and tastes may vary.

Make ahead masala chai: the decoction can be made in advance and will keep well in the fridge for a least a week.  The more the spice and water mixture is reduced the stronger the decoction. When ready to drink, start with step 3, after decoction is tea steeping temperature.

Spring Time Masala Chai

Zesty Fennel, Cucumber and Chive Salad

Over the past few years, fennel has a reserved spot my vegetable bin. It’s versatility, carminative properties and cooling energy has made it a weekly produce staple. When in season, I pick up a small to medium size bulb to incorporate half into a bitter-tart-sweet-slightly pungent juice, while using the stalk and fronds in homemade bone broths and the other half to roast with other seasonal veggies or shaved in a salad.

From it’s seeds to flowers, fennel is used in many cultures around the globe. Commonly known as a digestive aide, fennel is cooling for the body. It is also a diuretic, helps with internal spasms and is considered a carminative herb. I wrote about the benefits of fennel, if you would like to learn about it in more detail, click here.

This week, I was craving a slaw like salad. Something with a little crunch that felt cooling, was refreshing, with a touch of pungent and bitter tastes for balance and did not involve any lettuce. Apparently, all the ingredients also had to be green and white! I guess the colors are illustrative of the season.  With warming shades of red, orange and yellow fading away and cooling shades of detoxifying green taking center stage. Green is often a clue that the inherent energy, or virya of the vegetable will be cooling. It’s not always 100%, for example, mustard greens are heating, but in general the color can serve as a good rule of thumb (one of those fun facts I picked up when I was getting my Ayurveda Wellness Counselor certificate).

This simple salad is sort of like a kachumber, a salad eaten with a main course as compliment to the dish. It usually lasts for a couple days and marinades in it’s own juices, while retaining a crunch. My intention was to enjoy it over the next few days with my meals, but my belly had a plan of it’s own. Needless to say, I ate most of what is pictured here for lunch with 1/2 a serving left for my next meal. Ce la vie!

Cooling Fennel, Cucumber & Chive Salad

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: KPV Season: Spring, Summer Tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter What you need: a zester and a mandolin or a sharp knife or the slicer side of a grater.

Ingredients

  • 1 small fennel bulb, stalks and fronds
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 Persian cucumbers or 1 cucumber
  • 1 T finely chopped chives or 2 T thinly sliced scallions (green part only)
  • 2 T chopped cilantro (including the stems)
  • 1/2 serranno chili thinly sliced

Dressing

  • 1 navel orange juiced
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • sea salt or pink rock salt to taste
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper


Directions

1. Use a mandolin to slice the fennel bulb and stalks, cucumber and celery stalks. If you don’t have a mandolin, thinly slice all three or use the slicer of a grater. If you plan on enjoying this slaw like salad for a few days, I would recommend hand slicing the cucumber so it’s a little thicker. This will help retain it’s crunch factor and release less water.

2. In a medium size bowl, toss the sliced fennel (including fronds), celery and cucumber with the chives or scallion greens, cilantro, juice of 1 navel orange, orange zest, apple cider vinegar, pinch of salt or to taste and a big pinch of fresh ground black pepper. Let marinade for about 5-10 minutes and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Serving Ideas

  • mix in a dollop of labni or strained yogurt for a touch of creaminess
  • turn it into a lettuce wrap by scoping  a spoonful in a a piece of butter lettuce
  • add it to a wrap or sandwich for a little crunch
  • serve it over a slice of smoked salmon or broiled fish

Guide To A Beginner’s Meditation Practice

Imagine living with less fear, regrets, anxiety, jealousy, greed, and anger. Imagine instead living with more compassion, self-acceptance, understanding, selflessness, and peace. Does it sound like a dream? Does it sound like an impossibility that sounds great in theory, but can never become a reality?  I am here to tell you that it is absolutely possible. In fact, many people now, in the past, and in the future, have lived and will live this way.

All of our problems start in the mind. We cannot always control what happens to us. We know that all too well from our life experiences. Over the years we all create default settings in ourselves. So, when our ego feels attacked or we feel judged, our go-to responses are defensiveness and self-protection. You can change your default settings to something else, something more nourishing and evolving. How? Meditation.

How to prepare

We need to cultivate the mind for meditation on a daily basis. This means slowly working towards letting go of the things that are preventing us from progressing and replacing these barriers with more meaningful beliefs and goals.

1. Make time for daily introspection. Meditation is not contemplation and reflection. We are actually putting our mind on one sole focus when we meditate, whether that’s the breath, a mantra, or any other technique. Therefore, creating dedicated time to think in our day gives us a chance to digest all that has happened. It helps us to evaluate our feelings and how we want to proceed on certain matters, thus decreasing the chances of our mind wandering during meditation.

2. Limit negative mental stimulation. Determine what parts of your day you can control. Where can you remove negative influences and replace them with uplifting images and messages? Although subtle, social media has the power to affect our thoughts and attitudes. Over time, others’ posts, opinions, and photos deeply play into our psyches. Exposing ourselves to violent images, obscene music, and vulgar language all have an affect on our subconscious too. The more you can eliminate these types of stimuli, the calmer your mind will feel and the more at peace you will become.

3. Resolve any conflicts within the mind. Okay, so easier said than done, right? Meditation will help you get to the root of any internal struggles you may be having trouble resolving. Alongside though, you have to do the outer work in terms of taking action. If you realize that your history with a particular person has kept you from changing certain habits, then what steps will you take to begin creating healthier patterns? It may be challenging at first to institute new ways of being, but it’s necessary in order to find inner harmony.

Rucha-MeditationWhat to do before sitting?

There are many things we can do before we actually sit down to meditate that will help us meditate longer, focus better, prevent physical discomfort, and develop our patience in the process.

1. Abstain from eating or eat something light before meditating.  Traditionally, meditation was practiced in the early morning before sunrise or just as the sun was rising. You began the day with silence and connecting to a higher spirit. Additionally, when your stomach is empty or close to being empty, you are able to concentrate deeper. Try it and see. I have found that when I have eaten very lightly throughout the day and I sit for evening meditation, my mind has a much easier time focusing. If you need to eat something before sitting, then make sure it’s healthy and light, like fresh fruit.

2. Practice yoga or simple exercise. The purpose of yoga, or the physical asana practice, is to prepare the body and mind for meditation. Traditionally, yoga is always followed by meditation. A 10-minute yoga sequence or even just a few Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations) can have an immense benefit on the body and mind. Every pose has a reason and purpose. Walking and light stretching can also help generate energy in the body needed for concentration during meditation. Meditation is not a passive activity, therefore we need to create and preserve energy in the body, so that we can direct it towards raising our consciousness.

3. Find a comfortable seated position. Before beginning any meditation practice, it’s important to spend some time determining what seated position is most comfortable for you. It’s natural to sit down at first and feel okay, but after a few minutes pass you begin to notice some aches and pains in the body. Experimenting over time will help you figure out what types of support, if any, you need in sitting comfortably. The less we are distracted by what’s happening in our body, the more we can bring our attention to our meditation.

Below is a video I created to help beginners familiarize themselves with the basic principles of sitting, while also providing some tips on how to sit comfortably.

VIDEO: How to Sit for Meditation

4. Find a quiet place to sit. Similar to ridding any distractions caused by the body, we also want to prevent distractions from the outside environment. Our minds naturally gravitate towards noise, especially when we are trying to still our thoughts. For example, a truck driving by, kids playing, a dog barking, people yelling, all have the potential to grab our attention. The more regular we become in our meditation practice, the less these things will have an affect on us because we will have developed more control over our minds. Of course, having a quiet place to sit will always be preferable. We also want to meditate in a space that is positive and uplifting, including being free of shouting, crying, clutter, and dirt. These all play a factor in being able to quiet the mind.

How to begin your meditation

It’s difficult to sit and withdraw the senses immediately, especially when we have spent the entire day talking, listening, walking, reading, driving, eating, working, parenting, observing, and any other number of activities. Our minds can easily be over-stimulated without us even knowing it! We think it’s normal because it becomes a part of our daily existence. This is why being quiet and sitting in silence can be challenging, because we rarely do it.

1. Prepare the mind. Our preparation of the mind continues as we sit. We chant mantras and prayers in Sanskrit so that we can elevate the mind and put it into a higher state of consciousness. There are other ways of also achieving this same state of awareness, such as reading excerpts from inspirational books, saying affirmations, and practicing breathing exercises.

2. Create an uplifting environment. We light incense because it purifies the air and in turn, our minds. We can achieve that same elevated state by lighting scented candles, rubbing essential oils on our wrists and palms, and including fresh flowers on our altar. Creating a sacred space in the home helps to motivate us to practice everyday and reminds us of our higher-selves whenever we walk by it.

3 Steps to Creating your Own Spring Cleaning Ritual

How to end your meditation

It’s equally important that you have planned a way to end your meditation, just like you do with the start of your practice. It helps us to maintain the stillness and keeps our spirits uplifted throughout the day.

1. Have a close. It’s a good idea to have a proper close to your meditation. Instead of immediately getting up after taking the time to calm the mind, take a couple of minutes to just sit and bring your awareness back into the room. You can end your meditation similarly to how you began, repeating an affirmation or saying a prayer. Both will help solidify the benefits of your meditation within the mind.

2. Use soothing sounds to come out. If you are timing your meditation, then having a bell or a soothing sound to come out of your silence is more preferable than a jarring alarm. Many alarm clocks offer the option of setting a more peaceful sound, such as birds or the ocean. There are also free apps available on smartphones, such as Chakra Chime and Meditation Timer that provide calming sounds to help you come out of your meditation.

3. Take your meditation with you. The purpose of our meditation practice is so we can take the calmness we create during our sit into the rest of our life. We want to maintain that even mindedness afterwards. Turning on the television right after you are finished meditating to watch the Walking Dead is probably not a good idea. Give yourself some quiet time, at least time without any media or electronics. Try to stay in that space of intentionality for as long as you can.

After my meditation I always like to read an excerpt or chapter from a spiritual book, listen to uplifting music, or a watch and listen to a talk from a guru/swami on YouTube. Of course, if you choose to supplement your practice in this way, it will lengthen the time you devote to your practice. However, ideally you want to create a daily ritual, which will help seal your dedication and serve as motivation. This may take some effort on your part in restructuring your time and schedule, but the benefits are immeasurable.

If you have any questions or would like to share any insights you’ve gained from your own meditation practice, I would love to hear from you. Blessings on starting this journey to inner peace and sustained joy!


Rucha is a Certified Level I and II Meditation Teacher and Certified Yoga Instructor. She serves as a Spiritual Coach, inspiring others to simplify, reflect, and make time for silence.  Read Rucha’s bio to learn more about her and her company, Shanti Path.

Original article appears on theshantipath.com

5 Spices to Heat Up Your Spring Pantry

5 Spring Spices

It’s time to fall out of autumn and leap into spring! Soon, flowers will be blossoming to express the new season. A gentle, quarterly reminder from Mother Nature to start shifting lifestyle choices and harmonize with her spring energy. Generating heat and movement internally will support balancing the cold, wet and heavy qualities she exudes in the spring. While helping to prevent common spring imbalances such as congestion, sluggishness and stiffness. A natural antidote for producing internal warmth to break-up and move stagnation within the body are heating spices. The intoxicating flavors and aromas will lure the cook. While their medicinal magic will bless the meal with the ability to heal.

Generally speaking, all spices can be enjoyed year round, simply by adjusting their quantity according to the season. Ayurveda, determines the seasonal recommendations based the spices’ inherent cooling or heating energy. Spices which foster heat, are recommended in the cold season—winter into early spring. The heat warms the cold and dries the wet qualities. Lightening up congestion not just in the chest but also in the gut. Helping to balance the qualities in the body that Mother Nature is now providing within the external environment.

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Adding heating spices to meals or teas, before the daffodils pop-up to say hello can start to prepare the body for the seasonal shift. Spring may officially begin on the equinox, but the wet and heavy qualities start manifesting earlier. The progression is slow and often not realized until there is an imbalance. When the days start getting longer, begin introducing heating spices with carminative, stimulating and diaphoretic effects  to the daily menu. Generating internal heat, prior to spring, can help prevent imbalances and begin to align the body to the season.

Five Heating Spices for Spring Read More