Posted tagged ‘cashews’

Stress, Boxing and Granola

May 31, 2015

There is nothing quite like hitting when it comes to stress relief.  Between work and my personal life, there are days when I feel as though I might self-combust with all of the energy built up from teaching group fitness classes, working with clients in physical and emotional pain and then, of course, my own emotional junk that seems to pile up as I ignore my own feelings while I am thinking about everyone else. Although an extra workout is probably the last thing I need, wrapping my hands, slipping into my 16 ounce gloves and throwing jabs, crosses, hooks and upper cuts brings the sort of relief that leaves me soaked in sweat, limp with exhaustion and free from every single thought that burdens me.

The drive to Peabody is long. The traffic is heavy as I sit in my tiny convertible waiting for the last couple of traffic lights to turn green. Finally, I am in the dirt parking lot of the boxing studio. Throwing the gear shift into park, I leap from my seat, gym bag in hand, and take the three flights of stairs to the gym two at a time.

I burst through the door and John, the owner of Dullea’s boxing gym and also the trainer, greets me with a broad smile and a bear hug. “Where you been?” I confess to working too much and he shakes his head. “You gotta make time! We miss you!” And I feel as though I have come home. I make my way to the back of the gym and drop my stuff beside a heavy bag. There are men and women already putting on their wraps, standing around, chatting. I see my friend Leah and her husband Dave. I see Eric and Chris. Jen comes in, looking like she has been training hard and ready for more. The room begins to fill up, but today it looks like the class will be small enough that I will not have to share a bag with anyone. Good.

I chat with Leah. She talks to me about running, one of our shared passions. She used the training plan I wrote for her to not only run a half marathon, but to become a runner like me—that is, she runs almost every day, cannot get enough of it, and well, is addicted to the feeling that comes with logging mile after mile. It’s that peaceful clarity and elation that makes us both want to run and run and run until there is nothing left but the movement of body, the breath and the stillness of the mind. Moving meditation.

We talk about the vast quantities we both eat to fuel all of our workouts. I tell her about my favorite “second supper”. Home made nuts and seeds granola mixed with crunchy almond butter and dusted with raw cacao is better than ice cream—it’s creamy,  it’s not cold, it’s satisfying and packed with nutritious calories. As we prepare for tonight’s workout, she asks if the recipe for my granola is on my blog. I feel a rush of guilt and neglect. I have not been writing.  Better get on it.

The bell sounds and we start with jogging in place, jacks and push ups. We move into plyometric squat jacks and I get that awesome sense of floating every time I squat low, then explode up into a star shape, arms and legs open wide, hovering in the air before landing lightly and returning to a deep squat. We do about 50 push ups, about 40 squat jacks, all woven into running in place, knees high, sweat pouring and puddling on the soft mats underfoot.

Drills start and I throw jabs, crosses and hooks. First in the air, then on the bag, each punch releases anger, fear, pain and stress. Each blow to the bag jars every inch of my body. Because I have not hit in a while, my hands begin to ache, then hurt outright. I don’t care. I hit and hit, free-style on the bag. Jab. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hook. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hay maker. My shoulders clench. I have to stop and wipe sweat from my eyes.

We hit the mats for core work, then flip over for about 50 Japanese push ups (which are really Hindu push ups.)

I do them all, grunting and pushing myself until I think I am going to break. Off the floor again, we start shadow boxing, then a couple more three and five minute rounds of free style on the bag. I stop bothering to think about combinations and just start throwing hooks, one after another, until I cannot lift my arms.

We spar for two rounds and my friend Danny holds the pads while John calls out the combos. I barely make it through the round. I hold for Danny and I can tell that he is going easy on me. I want him to hit hard and egg him on. “Come on! You can hit harder than that! Let’s go!” He finally lets loose for the 30 second drill and I fight to take his punches. The bell rings and we are done.

We finish with core on the floor. John bellows “Iron Cross!” and we do an isometric iron cross pyramid, which means we hold it for 10, 20, 30 seconds, then 60, 30, 20 and 10. On the floor, on the back. Head two inches off the floor. Arms wide to the sides and legs together, all two inches off the floor. I look around and from what I can see, I am one of the few still holding the pose at the end. I feel strong. I feel good. I stand, unwind the long wraps from my hands and head toward the door, both drained and exhilarated. There really is nothing like hitting. I am myself once again.

Now, the recipe for my friend Leah:

IMG_2529

 

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Ingredients:

1 c rolled oats, gluten free if you are allergic to gluten

1/2 c raw coconut butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 c each raw walnuts, slivered almonds, pecans, cashews and any other raw nuts preferred

1/4 c raw sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

1/4 c maple syrup

3 T chia seeds

3 T raw hemp seeds

1/2 t cinnamon (optional)

1 T raw cacao powder (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Place sheet in center of oven and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, or until nuts and seeds turn golden.

Remove sheet from oven and allow to cool. Stir in the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder (if using) and transfer to glass containers. This keeps for up to six months, if it lasts that long!

Add some dried fruit, such as raisins, tart cherries and/or apricots before serving if desired. I don’t bake any dried fruit with the granola, as dried fruit gets too hard in a slow oven, and I don’t mix it into the finished granola, because it adds too much moisture. I like granola crisp and crunchy.

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Second supper: Mix 1/4 c raw, crunchy almond butter into 1/2 c nuts and seeds granola. Stir in a generous spoonful raw cacao powder and some dried fruit. Yum!

 

 

Vegan Cooking Demo #3

January 14, 2013

At dinner one night with a group of friends, one of them thought it would be a good idea if I started teaching them how to cook vegan.  The women who are in this little group with me are thoughtful about what they bring when we eat together, but I always bring both an entree and a dessert so I know for sure I will not go hungry, in case someone forgets that chicken broth is not vegan, or that eggs are not okay if they are in a cake.  Sometimes they just don’t know how to make a cake without any animal products.  “What should I use instead of eggs?  Ground flax seed?  How would that work?”  or “What would I put in the salad if you don’t eat goat cheese?”  (The answer to that one is easy—leave out the cheese, or at least offer it on the side.)

I thought it was a good idea, but I am a bit shy about standing in front of a group and talking about, well, anything, really.  I am comfortable in small, informal settings with people I know.  Stage fright hits when I am standing in front of a roomful of people and expected to perform in any way, even just cooking.  My friend Michaela, the one who is a superb baker and who has the most imploring big brown eyes asked again and again until I finally conceded.  Vegan cooking lessons for everyone.  In my kitchen.  Second Sunday of each month at 2 pm.

I thought it would be good to start with desserts, an area that seems the most challenging for bakers who want to try making vegan sweets.  I double and triple checked my recipes, trying things out ahead of time, and my family benefited from multiple batches of cookies and muffins.  I scrutinized recipes I make regularly, making sure the measurements were exact.  I prepared a sheet of vegan baking substitutions and handouts of all the recipes.

I was shaking as I began the first session, but after a few minutes, I forgot I was being watched and just started chatting away as I measured, mixed, and baked.   I planned to pull off three different recipes—giant, crunchy, chocolate chip cookies, molasses ginger cookies, and the famous Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin recipe.  I printed the blueberry muffin recipe right off of the internet, using it like a worksheet so everyone who came could see how easy it is to figure out the substitutions.  1/4 c silken tofu for each egg.  Soy or almond milk in place of dairy milk.  Vegan margarine in place of butter.  Organic sugar.  I made the muffins with the changes, and no one could believe how delicious they were—just as good, if not better than the original recipe.

It went well.  Really, really well.   “Is it okay if I invite a friend next time?”  “Can I bring my niece?”  “Could you please email me a link to your blog?  To that website?”  “What was the name of that book you read?”  My cell phone began ringing—strangers calling.  “I heard you are giving vegan cooking lessons.  Do you have room for one more person?”  “How much does it cost?”

The answer was, of course, yes!  And it’s free.

The second lesson focused on entrees, and I demonstrated how to make homemade seitan, a chewy and delicious main course.  I also showed how to make cashew cream, and from that, made a vegan Alfredo sauce with mushrooms, peas, and kale, served over spaghetti squash.  We ate dinner together at the end of that demo, and I happened to have enough raw ginger cookies to pass around for dessert.  “Raw cookies?  How do you do that?”  “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!  Could you share the recipe?”  It was a small group, easy to please, full of excitement for learning vegan cooking.  Then another round of phone calls and suddenly a bunch of people, some of whom I have never met, are sitting in my kitchen, raptly watching me chop, stir, process and talk about why I am a vegan.  And a vegan cook.

So— here I am at the beginning of my third group vegan cooking demonstration, this time teaching how to make vegan cheeses.  My friend Krissie was kind enough to bring her camera and take a few shots of the event.

I am holding up a package of agar-agar, a type of seaweed used as a thickener for many vegan cheeses.

I make three different cheeses in one hour.  The first is  smokey cashew cheese from the fabulous website:

 http://www.olivesfordinner.com

  Krissie got a great shot of the smokey cashew cheese.

The second is pine nut cheese, adapted from a recipe a friend found online while trying to impress me with her vegan cooking skills.  (Not that she needs to try—my friend Stephanie is an amazing cook and I always leave her table with a happy, full belly.)

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Beet-Ravioli-with-Pine-Nut-Goat-Cheese-Rosemary-Cream-Sauce-Aged-Balsamic-Vinegar-354390

I have made this entire recipe as it stands and was a bit disappointed, especially in the pine nut cheese.  The lemon was far too strong, so I eliminated the lemon zest, and instead of using the full amount of lemon juice, I used a little less than half the amount and used organic apple cider vinegar for the remaining volume.  I added about 2 tsp fresh rosemary to the processor along with everything else and wound up with what is perhaps the best nut-based ricotta cheese ever!  It freezes very well, so go ahead and make the full recipe, then divide into 1/2 cup containers and store in the freezer.  This is amazing in a vegan lasagna, or on a whole wheat pizza with a little vegan pesto, some tomato sauce and some caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms.

The final cheese is tofu feta.  Tofu feta is tricky.  There are a lot of recipes out there and I have tried many.  This one is truly delicious and easy.

http://www.ourveggiekitchen.com/2010/03/tofu-feta.html

My captive audience.  I’m making tofu feta in this one.  Beneath the orange pot lid is a block of tofu.  The block is wrapped in a clean dishtowel and the weight of the lid is pressing out the excess water so that the tofu will absorb more of the marinade.

I serve the tofu feta mixed with some chopped cucumbers, halved baby grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, all dressed with a dash of hemp oil, a bit of lemon juice, a sprinkle of oregano, and some freshly ground black pepper.

For a quick and easy tasting of the pine nut cheese, I cook a box of pasta, add a couple of cups of chopped fresh broccoli, a can of drained chickpeas, and some red sauce.  I pour that into a casserole, dollop on the pine nut cheese, and heat at 350 ° for about half an hour.  There are no leftovers!

Sometime during the lesson, my friend Jane raises her hand, old-school style.  “I think you should get paid for this, Elizabeth.”

“Oh, no, I don’t want to take any money for this.  I am truly okay doing it for free.”

“No, we should at least reimburse you for all the ingredients.”

“No, it’s really fine!”

And so on, until, as I stand behind my kitchen counter, trying to talk and cook and be entertaining and all that, one after another, my audience comes behind the counter.  They tuck bills into the front pocket of my jeans.  I am uncomfortable with this, but at the same time, secretly thrilled that anyone is willing to pay me to teach how to cook vegan.  After they leave, and I clean up, I empty the contents of my pocket onto the counter.  I think— I could make a living doing this—and my gratitude is immense for the generosity and kindness of my friends and the friends they have brought to me.