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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

3 Steps to Creating Your Own Spring Cleaning Ritual

3 Steps to Creating your Own Spring Cleaning Ritual

Each spring the festival of Holi is celebrated in India. It signifies the welcoming of the harvest season, as well as new beginnings in our relationships and lives. Colored powder and water are tossed through the air. Everyone wears old clothes they don’t mind getting splashed on. No one walks away untainted or without a hue of vividness on their faces. It’s a scene of laughter and joy, as friends and strangers alike gather in the start of a literally and figuratively, new season. What a beautiful way to remind us that we always can make a fresh start.

Here in the West, some of us have our annual spring cleaning to help us remove the clutter accumulated in our households over the winter hibernation months. It, too, signifies a new beginning. Not only does clearing our spaces create more physical room, but it also helps us to mentally prepare and embrace positive change.

Below are three steps to creating your own spring cleaning ritual: Read More

Smokin' Sweet Cranberry Chiptole Chutney

Smokin’ Sweet Cranberry Chiptole Chutney

Chiptole Cranberry ChutneyWith the craziness of the holiday season, I should have, could have, but didn’t post my cranberry sauce recipe in November. Ce la vie, at times. You do what you can do—right?

It may seem out of season, but cranberries are still lingering around in the markets. If you love sweet, smokey and tangy flavors, you’re going to want to preserve a jar of this chutney, to take you through spring. If not, hold on to this recipe for next fall!

Six years ago, I came across Chiptole Cranberry Sauce in Bon Appetit and have never looked back. The following year, I used it as my base recipe and added a little orange zest and increased the spices a bit. The flavor form the zest is not strong, but it adds a little complexity that makes it taste extra good. It’s hard to believe that was five years ago. To my surprise, this recipe is one of the few dishes that returns to the Thanksgiving table. every year.

This cranberry chutney/sauce is a-mazing with turkey, but the sweet, spicy, garlicky, smokey flavors make it a delicious condiment for so much more. Imagine a dollop on a a fresh cheese board, or a slice of toast with some lebni, brisket, a savory galette, spread over a veggie burger—and so much more, I can’t even think of right now. If you do, let me know please. I love ideas!

Smokin’ Sweet Cranberry Chutney just adds a little something, something. Hope you like it as much as I do. Happy eating. Happy digesting!

Smokin' Sweet Cranberry Chiptole Chutney

  • Servings: 2cups
  • Time: 45mins
  • Difficulty: easy

Dosha: VKP**  Season: Fall, Winter  Tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, Bitter  What you need: a zester or the fine side of a grater

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 1 medium dried chipotle chile*
  • 1 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 cup jaggery or succanet*
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • juice of 1/2 a naval orange
  • 1 tsp orange zest (about 1/2 an orange)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced finely
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp himalyan pink salt

Directions

  1. Place chili in medium size bowl, pour  boiling water to submerge and cover the bowl until the chili softens. Remove seeds and chop. If the chili is really dry, you can also simmer it over the stove in a small saucepan until its soft enough to chop. Drain the water.
  2. Combine softened, chopped, seeded chipotle and the remaining ingredients in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Stir occasionally. Cook until cranberries begin to pop. You may need to lover the heat. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly and flavors meld. About 15-20 minutes.
  3. Let cool, cover and chill. I like to serve this at room temperature, so I will remove it from the fridge a couple hours in advance of serving. It can be made about 1 week.

Notes: * I reduced the quantity of sugar, as I like the chutney to all be a little tangy. Increase sugar or maple according to your taste preference. Depending on the size of the chili, you might want to increase quantity to two. I used the size pictured. If you like a smooth textured chutney, use a hand blender or a potato masher, prior to cooling.

**If you have a pitta imbalance, reduce the amount of chili to 1 and note that cranberries may be to acidic. Reduce quantity, avoid or combine with suitable foods.