The Mindful Cafe

A point of intersection for wellness, food health and domestic art. Mindfulness as an approach to daily living. Wellness discussion, product reviews, and artistic musings.
I use my iphone to take pictures and unfortunately this weekend I dropped it and shattered the screen.  It is going to be repaired, but for now, I can’t access the images I have from my trip to Maine.  Therefore, my recap of Portland adventures will have to wait.

Until then, I’ve been experimenting a lot with vegan dishes and have been inspired by a wonderful restaurant and chef in Portland and a wonderful vegan curry I dish I tried while there.  Above is a meal I put together with minimal ingredients we had in the house once we returned from our trip.  It’s important when cooking with a few ingredients to try and keep your flavors clean.  I’ve learned from many years of experimentation and practice that it’s way too easy to get muddled flavors from over-spicing and from mixing spices that don’t mix well.  For me, I separate my flavors and group together family of spices so as not to create a muddled and strange flavor.  However, I have placed two spices together that actually create a cool cohesion, but this is usually only attempted in small batches. 
The above dish is Indian spice inspired and used: 1. dried chickpeas 2. red cabbage 3. spinach 4. garlic and 5. rice.  We had dried chickpeas lying around and decided to use a simmer/boil method in order to cook them faster (as opposed to soaking overnight).  Once the chickpeas were done, I roasted them in a baking sheet at 400F for 25 minutes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt&pepper to taste and red chili paper flakes (to taste).  Dried chickpeas have a much cleaner, fresher taste as opposed to canned which pack more sodium and a metallic flavor.
While the chickpeas were busy in the oven, The rice was cooked with about 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, garam masala, paprika, and cumin.  The yellow color that you see in the photo comes form the turmeric (which I love cooking with!).  Once the rice and chickpeas were finished, I sauteed the red cabbage in a skillet with about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, salt& pepper to taste 1/2 tablespoon of red curry paste + a splash of balsamic vinegar and two pinches of sugar (raw).  Simultaneously spinach was being sauteed in another skillet with some garlic and chili pepper flakes.  Instead of olive oil for the spinach, I used coconut oil.  Now, here is where I feel I experimented.  Normally I don’t like to mix oils, however I thought the coconut oil would provide a cleaner flavor with the spinach, allowing the spinach to shine through more against the strong flavors of the cabbage and rice.  It worked!  The meal came out clean, delicious, and just what we needed after a few days of eating out!

I use my iphone to take pictures and unfortunately this weekend I dropped it and shattered the screen.  It is going to be repaired, but for now, I can’t access the images I have from my trip to Maine.  Therefore, my recap of Portland adventures will have to wait.

Until then, I’ve been experimenting a lot with vegan dishes and have been inspired by a wonderful restaurant and chef in Portland and a wonderful vegan curry I dish I tried while there.  Above is a meal I put together with minimal ingredients we had in the house once we returned from our trip.  It’s important when cooking with a few ingredients to try and keep your flavors clean.  I’ve learned from many years of experimentation and practice that it’s way too easy to get muddled flavors from over-spicing and from mixing spices that don’t mix well.  For me, I separate my flavors and group together family of spices so as not to create a muddled and strange flavor.  However, I have placed two spices together that actually create a cool cohesion, but this is usually only attempted in small batches.

The above dish is Indian spice inspired and used: 1. dried chickpeas 2. red cabbage 3. spinach 4. garlic and 5. rice.  We had dried chickpeas lying around and decided to use a simmer/boil method in order to cook them faster (as opposed to soaking overnight).  Once the chickpeas were done, I roasted them in a baking sheet at 400F for 25 minutes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt&pepper to taste and red chili paper flakes (to taste).  Dried chickpeas have a much cleaner, fresher taste as opposed to canned which pack more sodium and a metallic flavor.

While the chickpeas were busy in the oven, The rice was cooked with about 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, garam masala, paprika, and cumin.  The yellow color that you see in the photo comes form the turmeric (which I love cooking with!).  Once the rice and chickpeas were finished, I sauteed the red cabbage in a skillet with about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, salt& pepper to taste 1/2 tablespoon of red curry paste + a splash of balsamic vinegar and two pinches of sugar (raw).  Simultaneously spinach was being sauteed in another skillet with some garlic and chili pepper flakes.  Instead of olive oil for the spinach, I used coconut oil.  Now, here is where I feel I experimented.  Normally I don’t like to mix oils, however I thought the coconut oil would provide a cleaner flavor with the spinach, allowing the spinach to shine through more against the strong flavors of the cabbage and rice.  It worked!  The meal came out clean, delicious, and just what we needed after a few days of eating out!

Current Happenings

Ever since summer vacation has started a lot of things have been in the works. Knitting, cooking, and art projects are underway as well as Trips around New England. This week we are off to Maine!

I’ve been doing a lot more experimenting in Vegan culinary arts, particularly with blending Caribbean flavors with New England dishes. Arroz con gandules, sweet potatoes mashed with plantains farm fresh spinach sautéed with garlic, kale, coconut oil and chili flakes as well as a new creation: roasted corn and bean chili with smoked paprika ( and other spices!). Next idea is a vegan version of a Polish dish!

It’s been awhile… this is mostly due to paper writing, grading, and the usual ongoings of end of the year academic work. The weather has been beautiful and I’ve been cheerful and inspired by so many summer ideas: canoeing, camping, maybe a trip to Maine? In the meantime, however, I’ve been enjoying our backyard and experimenting with new vegan recipes. The two pictured are salads with pan-fried (sautéed) tofu. One is a chipotle inspired salad with black beans, guacamole —and my own chipotle BBQ sauce as a marinade and dressing. The other salad is more Mediterranean inspired with a balsamic chive dressing I made with chives from the backyard. Both were. Delicious! I also threw in a pictures of the cats trying to be with us while we ate outside.

A few things I plan on adding on the next few weeks: Working at your CSA, gear reviews of some outdoor equipment, knitting project updates…and…of course, more recipes.

In the stress of deadlines, academic writing, teaching and grading fair trade chocolate and plants have been keeping me rooted in the earth. Most certainly the right time of year to be thinking about a yoga tree pose: cultivate balance in your life. This has been a personal philosophy of mine the last few months and has sparked some wonderful change and moments of introspection for personal growth.

Above: fair trade chocolates from different countries. Single origin, made the same way, I plan on reviewing the experience of tasting these soon.

Terrariums and aeriums! My new plant lives! Can’t wait to learn how to make them!

Everyday clean routine
I have always been interested in clean health and body products but it was not until a year ago that I made the full switch to all organic/natural products. Above are some of the things I use on a daily basis that I’m really enjoying right now:
Arcona acne cleansing bar: I find this bar to be the most superb cleanser I’ve ever used with great ongredients such as witch hazel that really keep my skin hydrated, clean and acne free. I also appreciate its travel friendly container.

W3ll People narcissist stick foundation: great ingredients, feels wonderful on my skin and you can’t tell I’m wearing anything. Contains sunflower oil and the new formula (white) has aloe. I’m current blending two colors.

Soapwalla deodorant : you already know I love this stuff from a previous post!

Kjaer Weiss lipstick: it moisturizers like a balm, comes in a compact that is reusable, and is the best formula in lip tint I’ve ever used.

John Masters Organics: a pomade made up of oils good enough to eat! I really enjoy the smell.

Soapwalla lip balm: who doesn’t love coconut lime on their lips?


Just a few things to share! As always, all products are purchased by me and all opinions are honest!

Finally, a knitting project completed!

I just discovered the print publication: Taproot and have been enjoying the beautifully written and carefully considered pieces of writing on farming, sustainability, art, and all things hands, heart and soul. The more I read the more inspired I am.

Yesterday, while waiting for my lived one to return from a four mile run I found myself in want of a snack. There it is above: spinach, avocado, tomato, grapes and olive oil.  Now I wish I took a picture of the heirloom lacinato Kale I cooked yesterday! Recipe coming soon! Who says vegans don’t eat great food?

I just discovered the print publication: Taproot and have been enjoying the beautifully written and carefully considered pieces of writing on farming, sustainability, art, and all things hands, heart and soul. The more I read the more inspired I am.

Yesterday, while waiting for my lived one to return from a four mile run I found myself in want of a snack. There it is above: spinach, avocado, tomato, grapes and olive oil. Now I wish I took a picture of the heirloom lacinato Kale I cooked yesterday! Recipe coming soon! Who says vegans don’t eat great food?

Clean cosmetics

About a year ago I realized a lot of the cosmetic products I was using contained carcinogens and other toxic chemicals that were being soaked into my skin on a daily basis.  Becoming more conscious about not only the products we put into our bodies, but also the products we put on our bodies, I decided to slowly revamp the products I use on a daily basis.  As a woman, this included bath products for shower use as well as cosmetic products such as make-up, lip balm, moisturizer, cleansers, etc.  I refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database

Here you can type in any product and the database rates it on a scale of 1-10 for the hazards the product overall, as well as its ingredients, pose.  0-2 is low hazard, 3-6 is moderate hazard, and 7-10 is high hazard.   I use this website quite a bit when purchasing products, particularly those which contain chemicals I am not familiar with, especially since this site gives you information about each particular ingredient listed in a product.

One of the hardest things I’ve had trouble finding is a clean deodorant.  I have very sensitive skin and most of the clean deodorants I’ve found only agitate my skin further or they simple don’t work for me (such as those crystals!) Even sprays I’ve found to not work. 

I decided to try out Soapwalla kitchen’s deodorant cream.  I’ve read a lot about it, and was curious to try it out and see if I would have the similar issues I have had to previous products.  According to the website, the creator of soapwalla kitchen started making luxury products to alleviate skin conditions triggered by lupus.  You can read more here: Soapwalla kitchen

The deodorant cream has received a rating of 0  on the Skin Deep database!  I have been using it for almost a month and find that it works just as good, if not better, than conventional deodorant known for including chemicals that are linked to cancer, immunotoxicities, organ toxicities, neurotoxicities, and very little natural ingredients which do not comprise the bulk of the product.  I’ve found that the average deodorant has a rating of a 4.

According to the Soapwalla kitchen website, the ingredients included in the deodorant cream are:

Ingredients:
Organic jojoba, sunflower, and rosehip seed oils; shea butter; a combination of all-natural and gluten-free vegetable clays and powders; aluminum-free sodium bicarbonate; organic vegan kosher glycerin; a combination of organic lavender, peppermint, sweet orange, bergamot and tea tree essential oils. - (http://www.soapwallakitchen.com/product/deodorant-cream

**All reviews are honest and indicative of my opinion.  I have purchased this product with my own money and have not been asked to do a review. **

Vegan cooking: I’m feeling these nutritious ingredients right now: kale chickpeas, chickpea flour, red cabbage, olives, avocado, and chia seeds

Seasonal Transition Soup

 

 Seasonal Transition soup

March’s arrival in New England is both exciting and tiring.  I noticed the other day that the birds are finally flocking back to our feeder in the backyard again: mourning doves, cardinals, titmouse, chickadees, and nuthatches have finally rejoined the juncos in their daily meals.  The days are finally longer, and that 1 extra hour of sunlight feels almost luxurious after a winter full of two big snowstorms and some extremely cold weather in the teens and low-twenties.  March is a month of seasonal transition.  Bulbs are being planted and daffodils’ bright shout of yellow remind us that spring is right around the corner – but that’s just it, it’s around the corner but has not quite arrived.  And so, while I linger between wearing my rain jacket and then back to my puffer, donning hats or wearing light scarves, I’m constantly keeping in mind that it’s the experience of the transition that should be emphasized – so why try it with our food?

I chose a few things that grow in cooler months or can be stored to keep the wintery months stocked with vegetables.  This dish keeps in mind the heartiness of winter soups and the promise of spring’s arrival.  This soup includes a red cabbage topping that is placed on top of soup in the bowl.  It gives a little crunch and adds some more complexity to the hearty and full flavor of the soup.

 

Ingredients: serves 4

1 large/fat sweet potato or 2 medium sized sweet potatos

4 skinny parsnips

1 can light coconut milk

1 tablespoon of red Thai curry paste

2 cups of vegetable water from boiling pot

½ large red onion

4 pinches of course sea salt

½ medium red cabbage

2 ½ tablespoon of sesame seed oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon of fresh ginger or ground ginger

2-3 teaspoons of light maple syrup

1 handful chopped parsley

1 tablespoon curry powder

Directions:

Chop the sweet potato(s) and parsnips equally into 2 inch cubes and place in a large pot filled with water. Dice the red onion and add to the vegetables in the pot.  Boil until the vegetables are soft enough to place in a blender and puree.  Test with a fork.  If the fork goes through the vegetables without any trouble, then you are ready to blend.  The onions will be ready before the other vegetables.  That is ok.

 

Remove the boiling pot from heat. Remove 2 cups of water from the pot and set aside. Drain vegetables in strainer.  Place half of the vegetables in the blender and add ½ can of coconut milk. add to the blender. Blend and pour back into original, now empty, pot.  Place the other half of vegetables in the blender with other ½ of coconut milk and 1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil.  Blend.  Pour into pot. 

 

Now, add the 2 cups of hot water and bring the pot to a medium-high heat.  Stir in the red Thai curry paste until completely mixed in.  Add curry powder and sea salt.  Continue to stir until blended well.  Once blended, set on simmer while you prepare the cabbage topping.

 

Cabbage salad topping:

Cut red cabbage into short, 1 inch strips.  It is your choice as to make them thick or skinny. Place in bowl.

 Chop parsley.  Add to cabbage.

 Prepare the dressing:  Combine remaining sesame seed oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger, and a pinch of curry powder (optional).  Stir well so that the oils/sauce mix completely.

 Pour dressing over cabbage and parsley.  Toss well.  Serve on top of soup.  Enjoy!