Goodbye 2012

Like most, I’ve been a little introspective as the year comes to a close. A lot of change happened in 2012. I quit the ad job I’d had for 5 years, moved across the country, decided to teach yoga full-time, started this blog and learned to run in 30 degree weather.

I am so thankful for all of these new opportunities but I would be lying if I said it’s all been a perfectly easy and seamless transition. Like anything new there have been plenty of ups and downs. There have been moments of doubt, days of homesickness for San Francisco and all those I’ve left behind, nights pondering my now stagnant 401k and ego-driven conversations with myself about whether I’m really any good at this teaching thing.

But in the end I’m proud to say that I took the leap. That I didn’t allow fear to get the best of me. Knowing deep in my gut that I will never regret taking this chance regardless of the outcome. I am thankful for the opportunity to ‘start’ again, to reinvent my career, call a new city home, exploring both it and myself.

I am also so grateful to have a such a supportive partner, who believes in me with his whole heart and listens to the craziness and next big idea with complete attention. His confidence buoys mine and this adventure could never have been possible without him nudging me to try.

I have a new appreciation for New Years as it brims with possibility, hope and sparkle. I’m genuinely looking forward to the year ahead and all to come.

We happen to be celebrating in NYC this year. We drove down early yesterday morning after dropping my mom off at the airport. We got a fair amount of snow on Saturday night so the drive was beautiful and white and at 7am it only took about 3.5 hours.

Conn highway Snow on the drive Snow on the drive

For all the times Michael and I have both been to New York separately this is our first time in the city together.

We spent yesterday running with Eli in Central Park, exploring the city and shopping.

On our walk we stopped by Rockefeller Plaza to see the skating rink and tree.

Rock TreeRock Plaza30 Rock

Rock Plaza

Tonight we have reservation for a vegetarian prix fixe at Blossom and then we may attempt to walk near Times Square but don’t think we’ll be willing to brave the crowds.

Wishing you a wonderful end to your 2012 and a great start to 2013. Thank you for supporting my new endeavours as well. This blog wouldn’t be the same without its readers.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Christmas in Pictures

We had a great holiday. Hope you did too.

My mom is still here so I won’t spend my short time with her writing a long post but here are a few highlights in pictures.

Eli and Michael

Eli waiting patiently for a little scrap of daddy’s sandwich.

Eli

Eli’s holiday necklace.

Me

Cooking in my father’s daughter apron. A gift from my mom last Christmas.

Sarah and Me

Pearls in the kitchen.

Holiday veggies

Root veggie hash, roasted brussel sprouts with grapes and chocolate soufflè cake in the back.

Christmas Eve Dinner

The Christmas Eve spread.

Christmas Eve Dinner

Close up of my plate.

Mom

My mom by the tree.

Christmas Day Lunch

Christmas day lunch: leftover salad with Field Roast loaf.

Holiday Presents

His and hers gifts. Can you guess which is mine?

Christmas Cards

Our mantle with my sister’s holiday card for Michael.

Christmas Day Dinner

Christmas day meal. Pumpkin mashed potatoes with spinach, brussel sprout and kale salad and a lentil loaf peeking out from the back. I changed up the lentil loaf recipe a little which made it much easier and faster to make. I’ll update the recipe in the next few days.

Sarah and Teddy

Sarah and my brother Teddy.

Sibs

Horvath kids.

Michael and Teddy

Michael and Teddy.

Sarah

My sister’s boyfriend made a custom puzzle from a picture he took during their last visit to Boston. Nice work Will!

Family

Dinner shot.

Now time to get back to work. Teaching at Crossfit at 12:15 and 7, All One Yoga at 4:30. If you’re in Boston come by.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Holiday Prep

Sorry for the silence.

Michael came home on Friday and we’ve been busy wrapping gifts and watching holiday movies, including one of my all-time favs, Elf!Will Ferrell in Elf

[Photo Source]

We’ve also been running millions of errands and cleaning the house.

My family is coming to visit for Christmas. My mom and brother arrive tonight and Sarah is heading up on the train tomorrow afternoon. A full house means lots and lots of cleaning. I’m seriously considering shaving both pets (just kidding!). House guests also means grocery shopping and food prep for 5 instead of 2. Much harder than I imagined, especially for 3 people I don’t live with and don’t really know their tastes.

We’ve planned for a lot of food, some of which I’m sure will be vetoed by my unconsulted family, but here’s our tentative plan for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.

Christmas Eve: 

Turkey for the meat eaters with cranberry sauce.

This root vegetable hash from a few months back, yum!

Spinach salad with candied pecans, dried cherries and crumbled blue cheese

Michael’s mom Linda’s roasted brussel sprouts and grapes

For dessert, we’re attempting Jacques Pepin’s Chocolate Soufflè which happens to be naturally gluten-free.

Christmas Day: 

Brown sugar glazed ham for the meat eaters

Pumpkin, spinach mashed potatoes from here. I’ve made this a bunch of times, it’s amazing. If you’re still looking for a potato dish to serve I strongly suggest this one.

Shredded brussel sprout and kale salad topped with a garlic vinaigrette and pecorino

Roasted carrots with tahini sauce

For dessert my mom’s famous green cookies!

I’m very much looking forward to some family time, eating good food, drinking a little wine by the fire and hopefully enjoying my first white Christmas.

Wishing you a peaceful, happy holiday filled with sweetness and love.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Christmas Colored Quinoa

It’s been a lot of sweets around here lately and although I love me some sugar, it’s time for something savory.

tomato basil quinoa

This quinoa salad seems a little summery for late December but let’s use red and green to our advantage and say this is a Christmas themed quinoa salad shall we? Even if it’s really just a product of the leftovers from my paninis earlier this week.

This basil has been taunting me, slowly turning brown with each passing day, and yet I didn’t know what to do with it. And these grape tomatoes, although completely out of season, taste surprisingly sweet and shouldn’t be wasted. So I decided to keep with the panini theme in quinoa form. I mixed the grape tomatoes and basil with sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and a big squeeze of lemon for a dish that makes it feel like August in December.

Just a little something healthy in between all the Christmas cookies.

Tomato, Basil Quinoa Salad (vegan, gluten-free)

2 cups dry quinoa

4 cups water

pinch of salt

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced to 1/4 cup

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup grape tomatoes

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1/4 cup basil, cut into ribbons

————

Cook quinoa according to these directions.

While quinoa is cooking, heat the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on medium low. Reduce to about half, approximately 7-8 minutes. The vinegar should still be liquid-y, don’t let it get too thick.

Chop tomatoes into bite size pieces and chiffonade the basil (i.e. French for cut into little ribbons).  grape tomatoes

sundried tomatoes and basil

Place quinoa in a bowl with the tomatoes and basil. Mix in balsamic reduction, olive oil, lemon and salt.

quinoa salad

I mixed the basil in when I took these photos but you can also just top with basil at the very end if you prefer.

tomato basil quinoa

I also only used 1 cup dry quinoa in my recipe and found it a little heavy on the vinegar. Hence the quinoa in my photos will seem a bit darker than yours will, use 2 cups quinoa as the recipe states and I think it will be just right.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Little Balls of Energy

On Saturday mornings I teach back-to-back classes at 9 and 10:30 with about 20 minutes of frantic driving across town in between. I’m usually on my scooter so eating between classes is impossible. This requires that I have a quick but nutrient dense breakfast beforehand that will tide me over until lunch.

In my pre-blog days I would have stocked up on Lara or Clif bars but I have the time to make homemade treats now so why not take advantage of it?

I’ve experimented with a few grab and go-tos like these and these. Both of which keep me pleasantly full through 3 hours of utkatasana demonstrations and core work. But there’s nothing wrong with adding some additional recipes to the line up.

These were originally inspired by Lara bars with the use of dates as the binder and nuts for the holding power although I did follow the basic recipe from here. In honor of the holidays I continued with the ginger, allspice, cinnamon theme but promise to expand my spice use in the new year. I also bought a bag of dried cherries this weekend and they are just begging to become cherry pie flavored energy balls. Oh the things you get to look forward to, haha.

Ginger Cinnamon Energy Balls (vegan, gluten-free)

1 1/2 cups of mixed nuts, I used walnuts, cashews and almonds

3/4 cup gluten-free oats

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup pitted dates

1-2 tablespoon crystalized ginger, chopped

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons maple syrup

————

nuts and raisins

Soak dates in water for 30 minutes to an hour.

Add nuts and oats to a food processor and grind until fine.

nuts, oats and spices

nut and grain flour

Add dates, raisins, crystalized ginger and spices to the nuts and oats. Lastly add maple syrup. After a minute or two it should form into a dough.

energy ball dough

Wet your hands slightly and roll mixture into balls. You can also pat into a loaf pan if you want to make bars instead of balls.

ginger cinnamon energy balls

Yields about 16. Give or take if you snack a little straight out of the processor like me.

Store in the fridge.

The perfect on-the-go breakfast or snack!

ginger cinnamon energy ballss

One note on travel for these little guys, even after a night in the fridge they were a little sticky so make sure to put them in a plastic baggy or tin foil if you’re packing in lunches. Or you could roll in shredded coconut if you’re into that sort of thing.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Fire Trucks and Blueberry, Orange Salad Dressing

I admit that yesterday’s post was a bit of a downer. So much so that Michael’s mom called me just to say hello. Too sweet.

We had a little bit of drama after I posted last night. Around 10 I was watching the 49ers/Pats game and started to smell a little bit of smoke. This isn’t unusual, it was very faint. We have a fireplace and sometimes the wind will blow back down the chimney and make it smell a little smokey. But, then I started to hear sirens at the front of the house. When I looked outside there were four fire trucks and a bunch of cop cars. Not wanting to be the stupid girl who stayed in a burning house I put on my parka, leashed up Eli and headed out in the rain.

Turns out it was next door. Not sure if it was a small fire or just a false alarm but after 15 minutes the firemen started to roll their hoses back up so I headed inside. I did take a few pics of what drama there was though.

fire ladder fire trucks

Also not wanting to let another rainy, gray day dampen my spirits I made something bright and full of citrus. I bookmarked this salad dressing before Thanksgiving. A fellow blogger (whom I cannot locate now to link to her blog) suggested using blueberries instead of cranberries like the original recipe suggests, which I did.

I also added some cornstarch to thicken this up as I’m not a huge fan of the runny-ness of vinaigrettes but feel free to adjust to your liking.

This was tangy and sweet with a bit of spice from the hot mustard. Family take note, you may be seeing this on the table next week.

Blueberry, Orange Salad Dressing (vegan, gluten-free)

Recipe originally from Oh She Glows

1 cup frozen blueberries

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon Chinese hot mustard

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt to taste

1 teaspoon corn starch

————

Bring blueberries, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup to a boil in a pot.

frozen blueberries blueberries and maple syrup

Reduce to medium heat for 10 minutes.

Let mixture cool then place in a blender or food processor with orange juice, mustard and olive oil. I made fresh juice from some mandarins I had but you can easily use store-bought juice.

The original recipe also calls for Dijon mustard but I didn’t have any. Chinese hot mustard worked well but feel free to experiment with whatever you have on hand.

IMG_2967

Blend or process mixture until smooth. Add salt.

I used my processor and it never got fully smooth. Although I decided not to strain the mixture, you can if you want silky smooth salad dressing. I personally felt like the original recipe was too thin even without straining so I added a little cornstarch.

Mix cornstarch with a tablespoon of the dressing.

blueberries dressing and a bit of cornstarch

Place remaining dressing in a pot. Bring to a boil and add cornstarch. Boil until thick, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Let salad dressing cool before using.

IMG_2975 IMG_2980

Looks a little like a jar of jam.

I served it over a spinach salad with dried cranberries, diced apples and pecans. The perfect holiday salad.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Some Kind of Sunday

To start, I’d like to take a moment to remember all the innocent lives lost in Newtown on Friday. Healing and understanding of loss are such personal journeys and everyone grieves in their own way so I will not pretend that I can offer much guidance. However, I do believe in the power of collective voices. So I ask that as you move through your week, may you use your voice as an offering of love in a way that feels authentic to you: chant an Om, say a prayer, dedicate your practice, sing a song, say I love you, sign a petition for gun control, offer light and hope to those around you, especially as we head into this week before Christmas. It might not seem like much but who are we to say that adding a little compassion to the world won’t help?

candles

[Photo Source]

It’s cold and gray here, if not a little bit lonely too. Michael left for South Africa yesterday for work and will be enjoying some 90 degree weather, leaving me and the boys to freeze our tails off. Determined not to let the cold weather get me down I took Eli out for an early 3.5 mile run this morning. We went very slow in comparison to last weekend, part of that was definitely due to the chill, the other to a dog that felt compelled to sniff every tree as we went along. I try not to get too attached to the pace of my runs, many times not even tracking, but sometimes I’m bringing my phone along in hopes of a good photo opportunity anyway so why not Map My Run while I’m at it?

Regardless, here are the stats, if you’re interested that sort of thing.

Map My Run Sunday

When we got back I drank the hottest tea I could muster and searched fruitlessly for recipes to try this week.

I was hoping a new recipe would kick the ugly habits I’ve reacquired from my bachelorette days since Michael’s been gone. I’ve had two back-to-back meals of tomato, basil, cheddar paninis, read countless magazines and watched one very awful Lifetime movie. Michael puts up with a lot of bad TV but Lifetime movies are not tolerated. This was my chance to watch movies like Finding Christmas Eve Under the Mistletoe and Very Merry Holiday Love. I made both those titles up but you get the point. They’re so bad but so addicting. Ladies you feel me right?

I suppose this is my round about way of saying I don’t have a recipe to share. But I can tell you that Dr. Oz highly recommends that getting more calcium be on your new year’s resolution list, that Haylie Duff is not a very good actor and that it is possible to waste an entire afternoon browsing food blogs!

I sincerely hope that you are enjoying your weekend and that it’s been a bit more productive than mine.

Enjoy and Exhale!

And Exhale?

 

yoga

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog title as I’m sure you have too :). Overall I feel really good about the Quinoa and Kale part, although I do owe you a few more kale recipes but that’s for another day. Right now it’s the exhale part that’s got me bothered.

When I started this blog I sort of resigned myself to allowing my MindBodyGreen articles and occasionally talking about going to or teaching a class to cover the exhale/yoga but I’m starting to think it’s not enough. I spend so much of my day reading, thinking about, practicing, and teaching the exhale part that it seems sort of odd not to talk more about it.

The problem is my own low self-esteem when it comes to yoga. I have been practicing for many years and although there is more to learn (side note: there is always more yoga to learn), I feel fairly confident in my own asana (or physical) practice. Unless of course I get around Michael’s sister-in-law who officially has no spine and makes me feel like an 80-year-old woman, though that’s besides the point.

But you see, the physical practice is only one of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s yoga and its main purpose is to set you up for a meditation practice, which I’m still struggling with. And then there are six other limbs that I am only now beginning to explore. Plus, the philosophy and the history and the ancient texts and the teachings and the chants I know some of the words to but not the meanings of, and, and, and you can see that I know very little about all of this and I don’t want to seem like a big, fat fraud.

yoga mat

Though the more I contemplate it the more my gut keeps telling me not to shy away. I have learned something about yoga, however little that might be, and I think there are some really valuable lessons to be shared. Everyday concepts that are easy for anyone to grasp, not only those who have dedicated their lives to the practice or live in ashrams or even those who’ve step onto a mat. So I’m going to do my best to cast aside my egoist fears and start talking a little bit more about what I now do for a living and my own personal journey with yoga. Everything may not be 100% correct but it will be 100% heart-felt and genuine to my life, practice and experiences.

Now that we have that out of the way, yesterday I read the following quote from Eastern Body, Western Mind and it struck a chord with me, especially in this time of technology obsession (btw, I have that too)!

“Disconnection from the body is a cultural epidemic. Of all the losses rupturing the human soul today, this alienation may be the most alarming because it separates us from the very roots of existence. With jobs that are degrading, routines that are automatic and environments that annihilate our senses, we lose the joy that arises from the dynamic connection with the only presence we are guaranteed to have for the whole of our lives: our body. To lose our connection with the body is to become spiritually homeless. Without an anchor we float aimlessly, batter by the winds and waves of life.”

I shared this quote in one of my classes last night and asked that my students stay really present in their bodies for the full 75 minutes, not letting their minds run off to their to-do lists and dinner plans, not setting themselves to autopilot. Of course, this was more easily applicable to a yoga class but what about everyday life?

Can we be a bit more present in our own bodies? Can we set aside the constant stimulation of technology and just be, even if for a minute or two? Can we take a moment to scan our own bodies to see how we really feel? Especially this time of year when we’re supposed to be cheerful, joyful, all holiday’d up, is it possible to be honest with ourselves about how we’re really feeling and be okay with whatever emotion comes up? Can we breathe a little more fully? Eat a little more slowly?

As I mentioned, I’m guilty of neglecting all of the above as well. So this morning I took Eli out for an extra long walk. I left my cell phone at home. I took a couple of deep breaths into the December sun, I gave my dog my full attention and my body a little time away from a glaring screen. Of course I’m back here typing but I offer this up as a simple reminder. Do with it as you please.

And if you read this far (bless you), check out this amazing story from a blog I came across yesterday, it’s a true depiction of the holiday spirit.

Happy weekend all and with a new sign off…

Enjoy and Exhale!

Twinkly Little Lights and Gluten-Free Banana Bread Muffins

I’m not a baker. I don’t like the exactness it requires or that you often can’t fix mistakes until it’s too late. Dough tastes different from the final product and you can’t just go back and add more salt or a touch more sugar if you find what you’ve made lacking in some way.

However, sometimes it’s good to expand your culinary limits. That’s how this delicious treat came about.

This weekend I started altering a recipe for banana bread that I ran across online. On Sunday I bought bananas, which I usually put straight into the freezer, but I’ve now spent the last four days patiently waiting for them to start browning. Today they were brown, enough.

These muffins are soft on the inside and a little crispy on the outside. They are not overwhelmingly banana-y and have a nuttiness from the almond and flaxseed meal. I was going to make a traditional banana bread loaf but I like built-in portion control with my baked goods. It’s so easy to keep nibbling off a loaf making excuses that you haven’t eaten that much but you can’t deny eating a muffin, or two, and a half. So, muffins it was.

Whichever way you decide to make these, I think you should. Maybe for your family when they come to visit in a few weeks? Or as a special treat to yourself as we get closer to the holidays and things get crazy?

Take a little time, put away the oatmeal packets, the Clif Bars and the Starbucks’ pastries. They get the rest of the year.

Make a cup of tea or coffee and savor these little treats. Savor December. It’ll be gone before you know it and we’ll be wondering why we didn’t take 15 minutes in this busy time to revel in a bit of stillness, some twinkly little lights, the smell of cinnamon and allspice baking in the oven. I can’t imagine you’ll regret any of these things. It may even bring about some unexpected joy in this hurried month.

I’ll step off the holiday soapbox now.

Banana Bread Muffins (vegan, gluten-free)

3/4 cup oat flour

1/2 cup almond meal

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup pitted dates (this is ~12 dates)

1/2 cup +1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ripe bananas

————

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If you’re making your own oat flour, place oats in a food processor until ground.

Before:

Gluten-free oats

After:

Ground Oat Flour

It’s okay if there’s a little texture.

Place oat flour, almond meal, flaxseed meal, allspice, cinnamon, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Mix.

Process dates with almond milk and vanilla until smooth.

Before:

dates, vanilla, almond milk

After:

date paste

This took about 2 minutes of running the processor consistently, however, I was using my small hand-held one.

Add date mixture to your dry ingredients.

I didn’t want to dirty another bowl for mashing my bananas so I processed my bananas as well. About a minute should do. The bananas were a little creamier than if I had just mashed them but they still turned out fine.

Add bananas to dates and dry ingredients. Stir.

banana puree and muffin batter

Grease a cupcake tin. I used a little cooking spray. Put batter in tin. These didn’t rise much so fill each tin almost to the top.

gluten-free banana bread muffins

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes cleanly out.

gluten-free banana bread muffinsgluten-free banana bread muffins

I may be eating my second one topped with a little bit of peanut butter as I type. 🙂

Enjoy your little slice of the holidays!