Friday, January 24, 2014

Xhale Yoga Retreat- Pai, Thailand

The ideal setting for a yoga retreat
                                       Daily Schedule

                                            Break time
Made so many wonderful friends from all over the world

Since my yoga retreat, I can't stop raving to my family, friends, and even strangers just how amazing the retreat was. This was my very first yoga retreat and I didn't know what to expect. All I knew was that I was going to spend six days doing yoga and eating vegetarian food. The only hope I probably had was to lose weight! 

I've being practicing yoga on and off for about seven years now and I'm always looking for another reason to fully dedicate myself to the practice, I think I finally found it. The retreat focuses on a deeper understanding of the yoga practice and encompasses a range of yoga styles so you're never bored with the routine. One of the most important lessons of any retreat is learning to incorporate the techniques and training into daily life. I'll be the first to admit that it's difficult as hell especially with the crazy lifestyle we all have these days.

 So here are a few tips:

-Change it up: I've been looking for new and innovative yoga studios in NYC. It's easy to get into a routine rut, even if you are a true blown yogi, it's always nice to explore other styles. I found an aerial yoga class at OM Factory and yin yoga classes at Yoga Agora. Can't wait to try these :)
-Take a moment to breathe: We often forget that the easiest way out of any tense situation is to breathe. It's a full proof way to release any stress or tension.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Easy Vegan Apple Crumble

                                    Ingredients for the filling
                                  Filling all mixed together
                                Dry ingredients for the crumble
                            Crumble topping is loaded with almonds
                              Out of the oven and ready to enjoy!

Ugh! I indulged so much on my six month trip that I'm going VEGAN! Just kidding! I love meat and butter too much to give it all up. But I do have a crazy sweet tooth and fruit desserts are my vice. As much as I love apple strudels and tarte tatin aux pommes, I just crave a good ol' apple crumble or crisp. But a traditional crumble or crisp is loaded with butter and processed sugar. So I devised a healthy yet scrumptious and satisfying apple crumble recipe that won't disappoint. This recipe won't take you longer than 45 minutes (including baking time) and you probably have all these ingredients on hand. The recipe only serves one in a medium sized ramekin. Multiply accordingly for multiple servings.

Easy Vegan Apple Crumble

1 medium sized apple-cored and cubed (preferably Gala or Pink Lady)
1/4 cup of raisins (soaked in water and drained)
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of maple syrup

1/4 cup of rolled oats
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
2 pitted dates

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the apples, raisins, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon juice, and maple syrup in a bowl. Place the oats, cinnamon, coconut oil, and half (1/4 cup) of the slivered almonds, and dates into the food processor. Pulse the mixture a few times until it clumps together. Mix the oat mixture with the remaining 1/4 cup of almonds. If needed, add more coconut oil to the mixture.

Transfer the apple filling into a medium sized ramekin and sprinkle with the oat topping. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes or until the topping is slightly brown and crispy. Serve warm. :)

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Warming Chai Tea

Star Anise, Dried Orange Peels, Cloves, Black Peppercorns, and Cardamom Pods

               Extra large cinnamon stick can be used as a stirrer. Double duty!

                   Frigid temperatures in NYC. Nothing like a hot cup of chai :)

I'm not adjusting well to this wintry mess in NYC; negative temperatures, a foot of snow, and high winds. :( I miss basking in the glorious sun and the warm temperatures of South East Asia. So to make the best of my day all couped up in my apartment, I decided to make some homemade chai tea to warm myself up. I remember during my yoga retreat, our wonderful chef de cuisine, Muk, would make us the most amazing homemade chai right before our morning practice. Unfortunately, I never got Muk's chai recipe and have been thinking about recreating it ever since. This is what my rendition of Muk's chai looks like:

Homemade Chai

2-3 star anise pods
3-4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 small pieces of ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2 pieces of dried orange peel
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of cloves
1 black teabag (masala or english breakfast will do)
Agave nectar or honey for sweetness
*Almond milk, soy milk, or any other milk you like.

Makes 1 16-20oz cup

Bring water to a boil. Add ginger, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, orange peel, peppercorns, and cloves and lower heat to a simmer. Let the spices steep for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat completely and add the tea bag. Let the mixture steep for another 5 minutes. Serve hot with any milk you like.

*Note: you can also steep all the spices in your milk of choice. This will produce a more flavorful and robust cup of chai. 
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Breakfast: Spinach with Almonds and a Poached Egg

I love poached eggs. It's comforting and such a treat to have on the weekends for brunch. But it doesn't just have to be a brunch item. Poached eggs are easy to make and when you add spinach to the mix it packs on a daily dose of Vitamin A.  This recipe is easy peasy and the toasted almonds create a nutty sauce when mixed with the runny egg yolk.

Spinach with Almonds and a Poached Egg

1 1/2 cups of baby spinach
1 egg
1/4 cups of toasted almonds
1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Makes 1 Serving

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Toss in the spinach and cook for about 1 minute. Drain the spinach and leave aside. Next, pour the vinegar into the same boiling water and bring down to a simmer. Crack the egg into a mug and slowly pour the egg into the simmering water. The vinegar ensures the whites stay together and the mug allows the poached egg to keeps its shape. Cook the egg in the simmering water for 3-5 minutes, depending on the desired doneness of the whites. Add the toasted almonds to the spinach and top with the poached egg.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kale Goodness

I love my green juices, but I lack the discipline to stick to a juice cleanse for longer than a day. However, I have no problem incorporating at least one green juice to my daily diet. This is an easy and delicious way to eat kale. Kale is best consumed raw so it maintains its fantastic health properties. I like to use Gala or Pink Lady apples and the inherent sweetness creates a great balance against the bitterness of raw kale. Lastly, ginger gives it a bit of a kick and adds a refreshing note to the juice. Enjoy! 
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Honey Lavender Chia Seed Pudding

The first time I had chia seed pudding was at Organic Avenue. I just finished my workout and was craving something sweet. I had a choice between a raw cacao bar or the pudding. I decided to give the pudding a try since it resembled tapioca pudding and I'm a HUGE fan of tapioca pudding. After that I was hooked! My inspiration for this recipe comes from my addiction to chia seed pudding and the best gelato I've ever had in my life.

While in Rome, we stopped into this ever so conspicuous gelato shop nestled between a garden alley and a church. At first when we walked by, we didn't even realize it was a gelato shop, there was no sign! Business was good, so we decided to give it a try. I'm a huge fan of lavender so I had to try the Lavender and White Peach. It tastes just as good as it sounds. It was hands down the best gelato I've ever had. Mind you, I was on a two servings of gelato per a day for a month diet! ;)

Not only does this pudding taste good, but it's incredibly good for you. Chia seeds are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and copper. Believe it or not, but chia seeds have more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach! Enjoy!

Honey Lavender Chia Seed Pudding

3 tablespoons of honey lavender tea, cooled (steep the lavender in less water than you normally would for a more robust flavor)
3 tablespoons of agave nectar or maple syrup (optional, if  the desired sweetness was not already achieved through the cashew milk)
1/4 cup of chia seeds
About 1 cup of Cashew Milk (add more or less depending on consistency preference)

Cashew Milk

1 cup of raw cashews
2 cups of water (more is needed for soaking)
3 tablespoons of agave nectar

Makes 2 servings

First, soak the raw cashews overnight in water. After, drain the liquid and blend the cashews, water, and agave until smooth and milky. If a smooth consistency is not achieved, sieve the milk through a mesh strainer and/or through a cheese cloth.

Pour the cashew milk over the chia seeds. Stir in the honey lavender tea. Continue to stir the mixture, on/off, for the next 15 minutes. The chia seeds will slowly absorb the milk and the consistency of the mixture will thicken. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with fresh fruit or on its own is good too!

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Banana Bhud

                       Banana Bhud (named after my yoga instructor, Bhud)

I have a MAJOR sweet tooth. I take them in any shape or form; cakes, puddings, pies, ice cream, chocolate, name it, I like it. So when I realized that I wasn't going to have dessert for a week, I started to panic. Luckily, I wasn't the only one that was in dire need of some sweet satisfaction. One night, me and my partner in crime, Erin, discovered something amazing. Bananas, honey, and cinnamon. Healthy, simple, and satisfying! I have to say, after a few Banana Bhuds, the whole retreat started eating them!

If you're feeling extra sinful, substitute the cinnamon with some cocoa powder. :)

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