New York New Years

Our new years eve started out great. We went on a long run in Central Park with Eli. We did a bit of exploring and walking during our run so it was on the slower side. It’s so easy for the distance to add up in the city. We ended up covering way more mileage than we’d planned.

NYC run

After our run we went to Le Quotidien for breakfast. I had a tartine with black bean hummus and spicy tahini and an English breakfast. Michael had an unpictured omelet.

Le Quotidien breakfast

In the afternoon, we headed to Grand Central and then Bryant Park with my sister. There is a really cool market in Grand Central with just about anything you can imagine.

SpicesGrand Central market

Sarah Horvath in Grand CentralMichael and Sarah in Grand Central

We’re so lame. But had to do a reenactment of Gossip Girl while we were there. Spotted.

GG

Then we headed over to Bryant Park to check out our third skating rink of the trip.

Bryant ParkBryant Park

My sister had to work the evening shift last night so Michael and I walked down to Chelsea for dinner at Blossom.

Empire State Building

Here’s a pic of the menu but as you can see it was super dark in the restaurant so the rest of the photos aren’t worth sharing. It was a tasty dinner but I much preferred my meal at Candle 79 a few months ago.

Blossom Prix Fixe

After dinner we tried to find a place to ring in the new year with little success. After walking around for almost an hour we stopped in at a speakeasy called Middle Branch in midtown which was perfect. Great specialty drinks, a small manageable crowd and a cool vibe. We spent the last bit of 2012 writing down our resolutions and reminiscing about our favorite memories of the year.

Middle Branch

Sarah met us after midnight with a couple of her work friends before we all called it a night.

Sarah and Friends

We spent most of today in the car and are now happily home watching School of Rock while lamenting the end of the holidays.

Onward and upward to a busy January. Recipes to come again soon.

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!

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!