Deep listening

When I say that I am not “strict” in a cleanse, what I mean is that I don’t tell myself I “can’t” have anything. Or that I “have” to do things a certain way. Instead I become really sensitive and notice the effects of my choices. And let myself resonate with what I gain by not eating the whole block of cheese just because I want it, rather than that I can’t. Because I can eat it, I’m just choosing not to, for now. And seeing what that is like. For now.
It is an interesting freedom to feel desire and not have to react. As the tantric adage says – nothing is forbidden, nothing is advised. However we act has consequences…it is up to us to discern through time and practice which way we choose to go in any circumstance. And that may vary according to the situation.

Golden Cauliflower Soup

Perfect for soaking up the warmth and sustenance of the sun on this crisp and golden autumn morning, as we shift from the final night, last night, and following day, today, of Laksmi, into the first night, tonight, of Sarasvati, in the Indian festival of Navaratri.  The goddess of good fortune and abundance in the Hindu pantheon, Laksmi is symbolized by the harvest and the light of the sun that nourishes us, and the color yellow.  Sarasvati, associated with purity and the color white, is the river of wisdom and inspiration that moves through us when we have cleared the path and built the channel strong enough to hold her.  This soup, both raw and pureed, is very cleansing and sustaining, as it moves easily and quickly through your digestive system and provides lots of food and nourishment in each bite without as much bulk in your stomach.  The fiber in cauliflower acts like a scrubbing brush that pushes other food through your system, the lemon juice an astringent that draws out impurities and leaves you feeling clean.  The tahini provides calcium and protein, the miso and soy sauce friendly enzymes, the avocado potassium, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fats that soothe your stomach and keep your skin supple and moist in this drying time of year.  Cumin and coriander both stimulate appetite and improve digestion, and make everything more delicious!  They also balance each other as cumin is slightly warming and coriander cooling in nature.  Turmeric is also warming, and is an anti-inflammatory that relives joint pain and stimulates healing in the body.  And it imparts the golden tint to this cauliflower soup that causes even its aesthetic to reflect the blending of the golden light of Laksmi and the clear white purity of Sarasvati symbolically occurring on this day.


(This recipe and some of the nutritional information is adapted from the recipe for Curried Cauliflower Soup in Brigette Mars’ amazing cookbook, “Rawsome”, which is, um, rawsome, truly…I am not raw or vegan and yet including these types of recipes in your diet can increase your nutrition and add another way of experiencing food to your repertoire of food preparation.)

Golden Cauliflower Soup

½ head cauliflower

1 avocado

Juice of ½ to 1 lemon

5 Tablespoons tahini

½ teaspoon turmeric

teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 ½ Tablespoons sweet white miso

2 or more cups water

Cut cauliflower into pieces that will fit into your food processor.  Peel and pit avocado.  Squeeze lemon juice through a strainer to remove seeds.  I use whole cumin and coriander and pulse them to a powder in a coffee grinder that I only use for spices, never coffee – coffee is too strong and will overpower the taste of all your spices.  Put everything into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Adjust water and all seasonings to desired taste and consistency.

Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta/Fresh Pizza

Hopefully this is not too late, for my garden this its just in time…you can use any tomato, yet the tastier the tomato the better, as this really highlights the tomato flavor, and the heartier the tomato the more it will hold up to the toasting.  This is my favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes in the summertime…

Cut tomato into chunks and place in a bowl.  Add diced garlic (1 clove?), balsamic vinegar, a slight squeeze of lemon, olive oil, salt, and if you like, pepper, to taste.  A great way to cut basil is to stack a few leaves on top of each other and roll into a little tube, then slice across to make lots of small, pretty strips of basil.  Add to mixture and adjust all this to taste.  Cube fresh mozzarella and toss.  Put on any kind of bread and toast in the oven until the bread is toasty and if you are using the cheese it is just the slightest bit melted, to your liking.  I just made it in 5 minutes and was so good I had to share…yum!

Muy Rapido Chili Con Col (Kale)

I always get excited when I wonder, “What am I going to feed myself?” and I remember that I have all the ingredients for this recipe waiting in my kitchen – which I usually do.  With so little effort I can set this chili in motion while I take care of everything else, and with only an occasional stir, it is suddenly ready to feed me.  Love.  Kind of like baking sweet potatoes, which are, by the way, delicious alongside this dish too,

Pretty much everything is optional here, except the chili powder and the tomatoes, although arguably you could get along without them too and just add other spice.  Although then it technically may not be chili…

This is my favorite combo, although garbanzo beans fit in nicely as well.  I tend to serve it over yellow corn grits/polenta, although you could have it alone, with cornbread, or over rice.  Toppings as far as your imagination will take you.

You may want to go easy on the chili powder and jalapeno at first, as every pepper and powder ends up being a little different.  You can always add more spice at the end, but you cannot take it away.  Yet you can balance it with grated cheese or sour cream if that’s your fancy.

Play with it!  Let me know if you come up with something good.


1 Tablespoon butter or oil

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds or powder

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

½ – 1 fresh jalapeno, diced

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes

1 15-oz can corn

1 15-oz can black beans

1 15-oz can pinto beans

1 15-oz can kidney beans

2 teaspoons – 1 ½ Tablespoons chili powder

2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon oregano

1 Tablespoon red or white wine or apple cider vinegar

3-4 cups kale chopped into bite sized pieces

1 bunch fresh cilantro

Salt to taste


1 1/2 cups yellow corn grits/polenta (I buy Bob’s Red Mill rand in a bag in the gluten free section)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter or oil

1 teaspoon salt


Heat on medium high a pot large enough to fit all of the ingredients.  Add butter or oil, once runny add cumin seeds if using.  Wait if using cumin powder.  Once seeds are fragrant, add garlic and jalapeno.  Once softened, add tomatoes in their juice.  Let come to an almost boil and then add corn and beans in their juices, cumin powder if using, chili powder, bay leaves, oregano and vinegar.  Let cook for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the gravy is as thick as you like it.

If the pot is large enough, you can add the rinsed kale after about 5 minutes to let it cook right in the pot.  If the pot is too small, rinse the kale and put it in a skillet with a little water and cook it down.  Then add it to the chili.

I like to cook one cup of polenta at a time, as I usually eat the chili over a number of sittings.  1 cup will serve me alone 3-4 times.  Depending on how many people you are serving, decide whether to make it all at once or it batches.  When it is fresh it is softer and more like a corn pudding or porridge, when it has set it slices.  The slices are delicious fried in a little butter, although you can also reheat the slices with a little water in a skillet or in the oven.

For each cup of polenta, boil 3 cups of water with ½ teaspoon of salt.  Once boiling add polenta and 1 tablespoon butter or oil.  Butter is really good here.  Stir and cook for about a minute longer on medium high and then let sit for a few minutes.

Adjust the seasoning of the chili to taste.  I also like to mash some of the beans against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken the gravy.  A quick wizz with a stick blender can work too.

Serve a portion of polenta topped with chili and garnish with a few tablespoons of minced or torn cilantro.

Enjoy as is or add grated cheese, sour cream, black olives, pickled jalapenos (a personal favorite), a squeeze of lime, guacamole…

4-5 servings as a meal with polenta

Red Lentil and Kale Stew – Masoor Dal

In cooking, as in life, all innovation is adaptation.  We take in what has already been done and, working with whatever we’ve got, tweak it with the spice and flavor that makes it uniquely our own.  And then others take the baton from us and it just keeps going.  It’s how we evolve.

I have been making a variation of this recipe since my son was a baby and I was fortunate enough to discover Cynthia Lair’s book, Feeding the Whole Family.  I’m pretty sure I was introduced to this book from Amanda Soule, aka Soulemama of, when we were new mamas trying figure out how to feed our new families.  In Lair’s book she gives credit for the recipe to an Indian restaurant in Seattle called Silent-Heart-Nest, who calls the soup Masoor Dal (the Indian name for red lentils).  From inspiration to innovation, we just keep going.

One of my favorite variations adds kale – shocking, I know.  And asafetida – which I discuss in an earlier post as well, and is optional in this recipe. I also add nigella, or kalonji, delicious little black seeds that give a pungent and authentically Indian flavor to the stew, also optional.  They are purported to have numerous medicinal properties, including relieving gas…hee hee…which helps with any lentil or bean product.  The cumin seeds help in this way too.  I have found nigella seeds at Concord Mart in Concord, NH, and they are available online.

You could use curry powder again, although starting to build your toolbox of individual spices will allow you to customize the flavor more to your unique taste.  Like ready-made clothes in India, curry powder will do, but when you get a garment custom tailored to your shape, it really fits you.

I often cut out the onions and garlic that are in Lair’s recipe.  While they taste delicious, through time I use them less and less in my own food because they are so strong.  Unless i want them as medicine to ward off a cold.  Asafetida and nigella seeds add some of the pungency that the onions and garlic would impart, and feels easier to digest.  I also add in ginger juice and jalapeno, which also add a peppery-ness, and help promote digestion too.

You can use olive oil in this recipe to make it vegan, although the butter or ghee (clarified butter) gives a delicious creaminess and also makes the lentils softer and easier to digest.  To make your own ghee, try this recipe from Vasant Lad at the Ayurveda Institute in New Mexico.

A trick I learned to know if the ghee is done is to take a clean strip of paper and dip it into the butter.  Ghee is used in oil lamps, so if the paper burns clean without sputtering when lit, it is now free of milk solids and is ready to be taken off the heat.  I like to do this over the sink and then douse the paper with the faucet.

Playing with my food is one of my favorite things to do, and I encourage you to do the same.  If you are a beginning cook, follow recipes to a T to start to get an understanding of how foods work together.  Yet realize that your lentils may be slightly bigger than mine or your ginger juicier or your kale more tough.  We have to adapt to what we have to work with.  And as you start to get a hang of it, experiment, a lot.  Sometimes I take a little bowl of soup out and try adding a certain spice or vegetable or condiment to taste it before adding it to the whole pot.  Once it’s in, there’s no taking it out…

Once of my teachers, Parvathi Nanda Nath Sarasvati (Kirin Mishra) says that it is our responsibility to allow what we learn to distill through us and transform into the unique interpretation that we are able to offer to the world.  Of course, this is my interpretation…

So make the best food your mouth can imagine!  From our own experience is where we find what we have to share.

Red Lentil and Kale Stew – Masoor Dal

2 teaspoons oil, butter or ghee


1 Tablespoon cumin seed

1 Tablespoon nigella (optional)

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

Large pinch asafetida (optional)

¼ teaspoon cayenne


3 Tablespoons curry powder


½ -1 whole jalapeno (optional, depending on taste)

1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

2 cups red lentils

8 cups water

4 cups kale, stemmed and chopped into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon sea salt

Optional, if using individual spices:

2 teaspoons oil, butter or ghee

2 teaspoons cumin seed

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 inch ginger root

1/3 cup cilantro (optional – leave out if you are feeling cold)

Sesame oil to taste (optional)

Cooked rice or quinoa if desired

Heat on medium high a pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients.  Add oil, butter or ghee.  Add one cumin seed, when it pops add the rest along with the nigella.  When aromatic add the rest of the spices Or add curry powder.  Stir.  Add jalapeno if using.  Stir again.

Add diced tomatoes, stir.  Cook together for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile wash the red lentils.  Add them to the pot, stir to coat.  Add 8 cups of water.  Stir to blend.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer about 40 minutes.  Stir often to keep from sticking to the bottom.

Prepare kale by stemming – holding the bottom stem in one hand and stripping the leaf from the stem from bottom to top with the other hand.  Chop into bite sized pieces.  Wash and add to stew.  Cook until both kale and lentils are soft.  This time will vary.  Add more water if necessary – bringing the heat up until the water boils then returning it to a simmer.

WAIT until the lentils are completely soft before you add the salt.  Or they will never completely soften.  This is true with beans too.  Learn it now and save yourself some trouble.

Heat oil, butter or ghee and melt, then roast cumin and mustard seeds if using.  Add to stew.

Grate ginger on the small holes of a cheese grater and then squeeze juice into stew.  Taste.  Add some of the gratings – I do about ½ of what is there – if you want more gingery spice.

Chop cilantro, if using, and add to stew.  Blend well.

Serve alone in a bowl or atop rice or quinoa.  Top with more cilantro and a drizzle of sesame oil if desired.

Serves 4 with some leftovers.  Maybe.  I always make a large pot like this so I don’t have to cook again right away.