Saturday, September 17, 2011

Welcome Fall: 5 Spice Pumpkin Muffins and Pumpkin Chai

I love Fall. I love the chill in the air, the beautiful deep red maple leaves and the variety of fruits, flowers and vegetables at the farmers' markets. My favorite part about fall is access to fresh pumpkin and squash. I use deep red squash (typically kabocha or red kuri) and sweet pumpkins interchangeably in recipes calling for "pumpkin puree". I find that squash is typically cheaper and I do not detect a difference in baking with squash vs. pumpkin. We have access to fresh pumpkin and squash...use it instead of grabbing that can of pumpkin puree!

To create the puree:
Cut the squash in half. Remove the seeds and the guts. If you feel extra ambitious, set the seeds aside to try and then roast them in the oven! Butter (or use oil to keep it vegan) a cookie sheet or a 9x13 pan...something with edges. Place the squash cut side down onto the pan. Roast in the oven at 350F until you can easily poke a fork into the top of the squash (usually 30 mins of roasting will achieve this consistency). Puree the squash in a blender - add water as necessary to get it moving and blended up well. Set aside.

Vegan Five Spice Squash Muffins
1 cup of whole wheat flour
3/4 cup of white flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t Chinese 5 Spice powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
pinch of cloves
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup turbinado sugar or brown sugar
1 1/4 cup squash puree (see recipe above)
1/4 heaping cup of olive oil
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup chopped dates

Combine the sugars, squash puree and vegetable oils. Add the ground flaxseed and water (this is a 2 egg replacement). Stir well. Add in the flours, baking powder and baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in chopped dates.

Oil 14-16 muffin wells. Drop tablespoonfuls of the batter into each muffin well. How many you create depends on how big you want them. Do not fill over the top of the muffin tin rim. Baking in a 350F oven for 30 minutes.

Now that you have so much pumpkin puree in the need something else to do with it! Going off of a blogger's recipe for a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, I created a Pumpkin Chai.

Pumpkin Spiced Chai
1/4 cup of pumpkin puree
1 T honey, 1-2 T sugar to taste (or more honey, agave syrup, stevia, brown sugar, etc.)
1/2 t cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, pinch of cloves
1 cup of almond milk
1 Decaf Black Tea Chai tea bag

Brew half a cup of tea. Let steep 3 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the almond milk, pumpkin puree, sugars and spices in a small pot on the stove. Whisk to combine. Heat to warm. When the tea is steeped, remove the bag and set aside. Fill the rest of the cup with the pumpkin milk mixture.You should have enough of the pumpkin mixture for another cup or two!

Welcome, Fall 2011!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Two Sided Coin of Acceptance

One of my frequent yoga intentions is the word and concept of acceptance

I use my focus on acceptance to be okay with not holding a posture as long as my yoga mat neighbors. I accept the fact that my body is different from their body. I accept that I should not be comparing our posture or bodies or movements at all. I accept that I have tight hip flexors that cannot fully get into padmasana (lotus). I accept that I have issues with virabhadrasana III (warrior 3). I try to use my focus on acceptance to be okay with where I'm at in each posture. I try to be compassionate towards myself and give my body a break. I have come a long way from where I was a year ago...and I've got a long way to go...and I don't have to get there by a certain date or time. Acceptance.

On Sunday, while holding utkatasana (chair pose), feeling the vibrations of an electric violin flow around the room and listening to the deep breath of the Hilltop Yoga community around me, I realized that acceptance is not one sided.

Acceptance is not just being okay with limitations and edges. Acceptance also means staying where you are when you know you can. It means sitting deeper in my chair, mentally and physically. Acceptance truly means accepting where you are. Limitations, edges and also my own ability to stick with it and to just be there. Being, not doing.

A good teacher told me "you can choose how you react to a posture, but you cannot choose the posture I put you in".

This concept is not unique to yoga asanas. We cannot always choose what happens to us. We can choose our reactions to the world. Acceptance is a two sided coin - honoring limitations and edges; sticking with it and going deeper. To paraphrase another great teacher, practice to your edge but don't slash at yourself with a samurai sword. Balance in being.