Valentine’s day -celebrate connection

valentine's day partner yogaValentine’s day is almost here.

It means so many things to so many people.. To some, it means an indulgence in sinful treats like dark chocolate (i’m a culprit, I confess :). To others its a frantic running around organizing a dinner date or romantic getaway with your partner. To others, its no reason to celebrate one day of love in a year.

But for me, coming from a country of many, many cultures, everyday living is a celebration. Every religion’s special holidays are celebrated universally by everyone. I was born in a hindu home, but my dad’s 2 best friends were catholic & muslim. This was a pretty common theme growing up and being exposed to all these different cultures. Every festival was unique. Even though each festival rolled around just once a year, they were different reminders to the various qualities of love. So I happily embrace valentine’s day as a reminder of love in our lives-be it from partners, friends, siblings, children, grandchildren.

What valentine’s day really means to me is connection. I’m so excited to add one more celebration to my growing list. Valentine’s day with its emphasis on love and especially romantic love touches all of us to our deepest inner core. In yoga, romantic love is worshipped and revered.. Its connecting with our romantic partner that we feel our connection to the source of all love, the divine. its when we feel whole & complete.

When I asked a child in my partner yoga class why she comes to class, her innocent response was ‘I want to feel more connected to my grandmother‘. Isn’t that the best reason to celebrate valentine’s day, even if you are not a materialistic kind of person 🙂

To celebrate this fun festival, I’ll be teaching 2 partner yoga classes:

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Come join us as we celebrate connection.. come even if you don’t have a partner. We’ll find one to partner with in class. I can’t wait for valentine’s day weekend to deeply connect with my class. And I can’t wait to have you join us. To sign up, write to me at apsaraaliveyoga@gmail.com or text us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/ApsaraAlive/

Lovingly

–charuyoga–

Mulligatawny soup

20160111_140328Brimming with luscious flavours, spiked with healing spices, you will fall in love with my variation on this anglo-indian soup. Muliga (pepper) + thanni (water) are the origins for this british soup that the brits borrowed from my rich tamil heritage 🙂

Last night I happened to rear end a car while driving home on the blusteriest of winter days.. My car buffeted, I was on the streetcar tracks, it was icy, my car screeched to a halt trying to not ram into the car in front that was trying to turn left. But, the elements, the road conditions got out of my hand. I lost control. After a long night of getting towed to the collision center, when I reached home, I kept reliving the episode, quite shaken at the turn of events. Still grateful that I was spared and only the car was a write off. This morning 20160111_140427when I woke up, I felt as if I had gone through a big fever or something, I felt the need to heal. I had made this batch of mulligatawny soup the night before for a friend with a fever and had some left over. Just the perfect soothing, nurturing, spicy, healing soup my mind and body needed. I remembered my grandmother making a variation of this soup and recalled the ingredients from memory. It was finger lickin good!

You need
¼ cup toor dal or pigeon peas (optional)
½ cup tomatoes
1 cm fresh ginger crushed

 

 

Spice paste
1 tsp yellow split peas
½ tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp curry leaves
2 dry red chilies
Salt to taste
Spice oil
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp curry leaves
Pinch hing

Garnish
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro

How to

• Cook toor dal if using with ½ cup water. I like to use it to add some protein into this soup. Puree and set aside.
• Heat pan for spice paste. Dry sauté(no oil) the spice paste ingredients. When roasted light brown grind to a thick spice paste with 2 tbsp water. Set aside.

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• Heat pan. Add coconut oil. Add mustard seeds, when they splutter toss in curry leaves, hing and turmeric powder. Add tomatoes & lightly sauté till cooked.
• Now add in the toor dal, 1 cup water, fresh ginger & tamarind paste.
• Let everything boil together.

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• Add in the spice paste & allow to come to another boil so there are no raw spice smells.
• Garnish with fresh cilantro.
• Serve with rice. I like to use sona masoori rice that is short grained & not sticky for this soup..

Oh!. The comfort of mulligatawny soup. For a few minutes I was transported to my grandma’s kitchen. Nurtured and healed through my car adventure. Hope you enjoy this well kept secret recipe. Doesn’t the broth look pretty and nourishing? I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it. What do you eat when you need nurturing? What’s your favourite go-to comfort food ?

20160111_140427–charuyoga–

Chickpea Basmati Pulao – One pot dish

20151125_201938When it gets cold and all you want to do is snuggle up to warm tastes with least effort. 
Its time for one-pot meals to make their appearance.
No fuss, easy to make, spicy, warming, comforting – hope you enjoy my take on classic pulao

You need
4 tbsp. roasted chickpeas
2 tbsp. fresh spinach
2 tbsp. carrot slivers
2 tbsp. cauliflower
½ cup basmati rice
Spice Mix
2 whole brown cardamoms
½ tsp turmeric powder
4 cashews split in half
4 green chilies, slit
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fresh garlic
2 cloves
Salt to taste
Serves 2

How to
• Heat oil in pan. Add all spices and sauté till spices release fragrance.
• Add cauliflower and carrot and let lightly cook.
• Meanwhile rinse basmati rice thoroughly several times in cold water. Drain water & set aside.
• Add rinsed basmati rice to pan along with chopped spinach. Sauté everything and add salt to taste.
• Toss in the roasted cayenne chickpeas. (Apsara tip – no time to make the roasted chickpeas. quick substitute – use canned as a last resort. otherwise. soak 2 tbsp. chickpeas overnight, and drain before adding at this stage)
• Add ½ cup to ¾ cup water. Depending on how aged your basmati is. The older the basmati the more water it will drink, but it will also be more fluffy & each grain will stand out beautifully without sticking together. New basmati needs lesser water.
• Let come to boil and then turn heat to low and cover. Pulao will continue cooking process for about 5 minutes or so & then turn heat off. Let rest covered for about 5 minutes, before removing lid.
• Fluff with fork.
• Serve with a dollop of yoghurt.

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–charuyoga–

Garlicky Beet greens with Quinoa pasta

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Stop! Don’t throw those beet greens away.. They are really tasty & awfully good for you. And I’m going to share with you exactly how you can put them to good use.

Its been ages since I shared a food recipe. You might be tempted to believe that I haven’t been cooking. Far from it. Truth be told.. I’ve been cooking up a daily storm. And I’ve been cooking at my yoga center on Thursdays. I’ve become the chef on Thursdays. Ahem! It feels nice to have a couple of helpers in the kitchen. It was getting a bit lonely cooking all by myself.

 Other than a spot of work travel, a couple of new courses that I designed and taught, I’m also delighted to announce that my yoga center partnered with Doctors without Borders “Medicins sans frontiers” to raise funds for work in Syria. This was a 30-day long event culminating in a concert on the final day. When the organizer asked if I would sing I jumped at the chance. I’ve been a singer for a long time, and love to sing, especially for worthy causes like this. Instead of giving handouts the doctors actually go on the field and provide urgent medical care and attention.

 How could I not help? I said yes and then had to think about fellow musicians. The ones I used to play with had moved on to other cities. Luckily, 2 musicians showed up in my life just in time for the Syria concert. A classic case of ‘ask and you shall receive’  🙂 we practiced and it was so interesting, blending my Indian classical music with western instrumentalists who were trained in a completely different musical tradition. The end result was phenomenal, the recording wasn’t clear so I’m posting some pix instead.

Macaroni1Now for the recipe I want to share with you. I found the quinoa pasta in Costco. Wasn’t really sure how I would use it or even how it would taste. But it looked really delicate and pretty unlike whole wheat pasta or gluten free pasta which can look downright mean 🙂

Ingredients
1 cup GoGO red and white quinoa pasta
2 cups beet stems and greens
½ cup red onion, chopped
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. coconut oil
Spice Mix
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 hot green pepper
1 tbsp fresh garlic
½ tsp urad dal
Salt to taste
Serves 2

Method

•  Remove stems with leaves intact from beets. Wash thoroughly and chop into 1 cm length approx.
•  Heat oil in pan. Add mustard seeds, let them splutter, then add urad dal, green chili, and chopped garlic. Sauté lightly and then add chopped onions and salt.
•  Sauté greens till cooked and then toss in the beet stem and leaves.
•  Let cook and then squeeze in lime juice to balance off the greens. Set aside.
•  Boil 1 cup quinoa pasta in 2 cups water. I got this beauty at Costco and haven’t stopped singing its praises. Just watch out since it cooks super fast, less than ½ the time of regular pasta. Drain water and serve beet greens on top of the pasta. I added chopped walnuts for a nice crunch.

Health Benefits

20151122_174056There’s something about greens! I feel so fresh and alive after a meal with greens 🙂 Did you like this recipe where I tried an unusual mix and match? Beet greens that we would normally throw away combined with quinoa in pasta form.. Creating new recipes out of old is what I love.

Besides look at all the goodness – protein, phosphorus, and zinc, beet greens are also a great source of fiber. Packed with antioxidants, they’re high in vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, and low in fat and cholesterol. Best of all, the vitamin K in beet greens contains blood clotting properties, helps ward off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength, and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach, and a higher nutritional value than the beetroot itself.

I also love the premise of musicians of different backgrounds coming together to play. Its possible to combine indian music melodically… with clarinet, harmonica, keyboards & western drums.. in the spirit of yoga, or oneness…its possible … to overcome all barriers of language, borders, and differences through … the language of music. Here we are, Jeremy on the clarinet, Richard on the drums and me singing.

SONY DSC

–charuyoga–

Chinese Cold Tea

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Pride comes before a fall 🙂 Having boasted about not catching a cold for about 3 years, it was time to show some humility. I caught a cold.. not a nagging, 2-week long one that others had. Mine was just 3-days of suffering in all.. Could it be due to the benefits of yoga & meditation.. when you fall sick, recovery is quicker. Still the cold did not feel pleasant, all stuffy and tired.. I couldn’t do much. With a teaching job, I also couldn’t speak so had to bluohang1orrow a mike. My friend made some awesome Chinese tea that I really loved. It has a mystery ingredient that helps relieve colds.

When she brought me the mystery fruit from her special market, I rightaway made a huge pot of tea and kept sipping all day at work. My throat felt better, it was like a soft massage to my throat. Hope you enjoy this too.

Ingredients
1 luohanguo
3 fresh dates(use dry dates if fresh not available)
4-5 almonds, peeled
2 cups water
Spice Mix
1 tbsp crushed fresh ginger

Method

• Soak almonds in hot water and peel. Set aside.
• Boil 2 cups water with dates, luohanguo, almonds, and fresh ginger
• Remove from heat.
• Sip all day long.
• Hint: since the herbs and spices sit soaking in water, the tea can get strong through the day. But its caffeine free. Dilute with some fresh water when drinking.

Did you like this Chinese cold tea. When you try it, I’d love to hear how it helped your throat.20151107_120240

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–charuyoga–

 

Crunchy roasted cayenne chickpeas

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Crunchy roasted channa are my favourite. They are a great street food and you can find them at every corner market in delhi. But I got tired of looking for this Delhi street food classic in grocery stores.  Stores in Canada tend to carry excessively salty & overly spiced roasted channa in packages. So I decided to make my own and was truly surprised by how good home made roasted channa can be. Nothing out of a can, nothing overly oily, or spiced, just hints of spices for an amazing home made snack.

Ingredients
1 cup chickpeas, soaked, rinsed and cooked till soft
Spice Mix
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Method

• Wash dry chickpeas thoroughly and soak in fresh water overnight. Next morning, rinse thoroughly and cook till soft. I use a pressure cooker as a great time saver.
• Set aside to cool.
• Meanwhile heat oven to 350 degrees C.

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• Wipe down cooked chickpeas thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel..so no trace of outside moisture remains. This is very important to get them crunchy.
• Toss in olive oil and let bake for about 20 minutes, turning once.

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• You’ll know chickpeas are done, when they smell like toasted heaven and coloured light caramel.
• Bring out of oven, shake cayenne pepper & salt to coat all over.
• Serve up with your favourite beverage, madras coffee is a great complement.

Try it by itself, or in salad. I added them as a topping to ruby jewel beet salad I took for a 15 k hike for my friends who love this salad..

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Or sprinkle them in your pastas. like I did for today’s lunch..so many possibilities.

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Reach for them in the afternoon when your energy levels dip for a healthy & tasty accompaniment to caffeine. Be warned! highly addictive..I polished off the first batch single-handedly in no time.

Hope you get to try my snack! Let me know how it came out for you. Most importantly let me know if you had any leftovers 🙂

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–charuyoga–

Oil pulling – easiest way to keep that cold away

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Fighting a cold.. fight no more.. I’m about to share my secret tip. And its super easy.

Its that time of the year. Fall, cooler weather, body adjustments.

A friend has been battling a cold for several days. I thought I’d share a new method, but not really that new. Oil pulling is the way to go..I’ve been doing it for years & happy to admit, no more suffering from severe colds. Come to think of it, I haven’t really taken a sick leave day to battle a cold for about 3 years 🙂 since I started doing this regularly.

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic method of detoxing and rejuvenating the body.

…….

All you do is literally swish oil around in your mouth, much like you would do with mouthwash.

here’s how :

• First thing on waking up. Yes, even before brushing or eating or drinking anything, take a tablespoon of your choice of oil. any oils to choose from: coconut, sesame, sunflower. Personally I like sesame oil due to its non freezing property & its ability to really coat my mouth.
• Put oil in your mouth, and swish it around for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes
• Spit it out into your garbage. Don’t spit into sink because it can clog your pipes.
• Rinse your mouth out with water.

Hint: easiest timesaving way to fit this in your daily routine – do it in the shower.
—-
Studies show that oil pulling can reduce the amount of S. mutans (germs) in the teeth and mouth. thanks to the slick surface the oil creates (just like in your frying pan), oil keeps bacteria from getting a good hold in your body.

Other studies found actual “saponification” or cleansing effects that literally get rid of bacteria and fungus that can cause anything from bad breath to sore throats.

Try this out for a week. let me know how goes.

From whiter teeth to reduced colds, the benefits of this ancient tried, tested and true detox are huge.. Can’t wait to hear from you..

–charuyoga–