Category Archives: food

Upwards

IMG_1653Urdhva Danurasana. Also known as the friendly, charming upward facing bow or wheel pose. It’s the pose which I secretly dread but also secretly hope to attempt each class.

My biggest issues coming into this pose are the tightness across my chest, tightness of my hip flexors, and as a result, my lower back compression. It takes several attempts for me to lengthen my spine. There are some times when my body isn’t sufficiently open enough to do the pose properly, so I usually surrender back to bridge pose.

The tricks of the trade? Subtle things like pressing the inner edges of the hands to rotate the triceps inward, activating the serratus anterior (our trapezius is usually over-developed and compensates for it), and rolling the outer thighs slightly inwards to narrow the hips.

Other things to note: move the back ribs and shoulder blades in while bringing the chest and arms forwards.

Variations:

Once you’re up there, in addition to an expansion of the chest and potential crying  (one of my teachers told me she’d cry every time she did upwards bow because it would stimulate certain points of her nervous system), you get a totally awesome view of the world. Kind of like this:

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I was in Chicago the past week doing job interviews (more on that in a later post) and took a stroll downtown (longer than I expected, as my phone clock did not automatically change timezones, so I showed up way early to my interview. Thank God it was East Coast not West Coast time.) Honestly, I got pretty bored of downtown. It was like SF downtown or NYC or HK downtown – after a while they all kind of look the same. My architectural expertise isn’t finely tuned enough in order for me to appreciate the structures. Sorry Dad, I failed.

But I did see The Bean at Millenium Park. I know it’s pretty touristy, but I was thrilled to unexpectedly come across it. It’s such a creative creature with an amazingly simple concept.

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Fine points of mind.

So here’s my little note scribble for the day, hopefully you can take a little something from this:

urdhvadanurasana

Daily Nutritional Facts:

Vegan Quinoa Chili: I came across this fast-food joint downtown called “Protein Bar”. It was a bizzare, intriguing concept. The mindset of the bar was obviously health-centric. Granted, I have a couple things to say regarding the over-proteinizing we have going on in our culture. But I’ll keep my mouth shut. The store featured a lot of the typical health-nut stuff: quinoa, greek yoghurt, kombucha, kale, avocado… stuff you would expect from a vegetarian or even vegan cafe. But then chicken was thrown in. For some reason chicken passed the healthy/non-healthy test and came out gloating.

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Not sure why, but was pretty taken aback with the additional animal product. It was like they were almost going for the home run with the vegetarian philosophy (a la Clover) but stopped short. I tried the vegan chili with quinoa, avocado, and the fake cheese (I feel weird about fake cheese. I tried many brands before and the only one I was down with was this mozzarella made from almonds. Other than that it’s a no go. Give me my brie back. No I don’t want Brittany back, bitch.)


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Calling it a day. Yoga from 4-5 pm in Adams UCR if you want to come hang out!

Today’s Playlist includes: Local Natives, checkit.

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Filed under Clover, food, health, postures, yoga

Obesity Doesn’t Taste Like Much

Umami water.

Sounds like some sort of eel-based sushi distilled into a new type of water (or dare I say alcohol?) And yes, it exists.

This past Tuesday I had the fortune of listening to the White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses. I decided that if I ever made it to being First Wife of some president (hey I’m at Harvard, maybe it’ll happen) I am immediately going to have daily cooking lessons with all the White House chefs.

So besides playing with glass blowers and candy gel (both 100% applicable to my life), I got to try this legendary water. Everyone was given two cups. He asked us to taste the first one and we proceeded to swirl and swish the waves in our mouths. Then he asked us to do the same and contemplate the difference of the second. Nearly everyone liked the first. My friend Marissa commented that the second tasted bitter. She was partially right in that there was a difference in taste in the second, but in actual fact the key difference was umami.

The injection of umami taste molecules into the second water created subtle, fuzzy sensations on my tongue and I noticed my mouth beginning to salivate. It was an extremely cool experience but I’m pretty sure umami (unagi?) water isn’t going to go big anytime soon.

Maybe Michael Jordan’s secret water stuff might.

Umami is the taste response to salts of glutamic acid – like the infamous MSG. Processed meats and cheeses have these savory components as well. The binding of these amino acids to G-coupled protein receptors initiates a “cascade” signaling process in the tongue and sends signals to the brain. Think of one person telling another about your secret crush, and then how the secret spreads like wildfire – exponentially increasing to the point that your secret crush isn’t so much a secret anymore (#fifthgradeangst).

Although my focus for my imaginary and maybe way-way-way in the future documentary is smell, taste is equally as interesting to me because it is a physical sensation on the tongue that defines the larger makeup of flavor – almost like stretching vs. working vs. tweaking vs. pulling vs. lactic-aciding (I made that up, yup) a muscle. But with the tongue, it feels sour vs. sweet vs. bitter vs. salty vs. umami. Then there are the “mouthfeels” produced by other chemicals too – like fats and tannins of wine. Contrary to popular belief, the taste sensations are not localized to one particular area, so swishing whatever you’re eating around your tongue (without swallowing it!) has a huge effect.

Random doodling:

Click here for a brief intro to tastes and how they scientifically function.

A fascinating German study came out that found that obese kids have highly insensitive taste buds compared to their slimmer companions: “especially [with regards to ] salty, bitter and umami. They also struggled to detect the difference between salty and sour, and between salty and umami.”

The main question at hand is whether or not the lack of tasting ability makes a child more prone to becoming obese, or if the lack of ability stems from the child’s obesity and epigenetics. I believe it could actually be deeper than both suggestions – perhaps the emotional dependency on food that many obese children develop is coupled with tasting ability on a more subconscious level in the brain. I wonder if the “numbing” emotional effect food gives is metaphorized in the tongue itself.

On the note of emotional frequencies and influences on taste – one researcher thinks there potentially can be a “hormonal fingerprint” that will determine tasting ability in the present moment.

“For example, the hormone leptin is associated with hunger, fat storage and the ability to taste sweet things. Obese people may be less sensitive to its daily cycles. Also, if the level of insulin circulating in the blood stream remains consistently elevated for long periods of time, as it does in many obese people, it could weaken the cells’ receptors to the hormone, which in turn could mute taste sensitivity.”

One last suggestion is that obese kids “habituate” to tastes – almost like drug-addiction and threshold effects.

Regardless of what the true cause is – this study clearly points to the healthy mechanism of mindful eating as a means to cope with obesity. The meditation on taste forces the consumer to cultivate an awareness of their taste sensations, and like anything in life, this can be trained and improved. So rather than seeing this whole taste bud article as a limiting factor from birth, it’s actually an encouraging piece of information.

Random thoughts – what does tongue scraping have to do with all of this?

Daily Nutrition Facts

Made coffee-almond ice cream in Science of Cooking lab this week:

What I learned? Besides the great flavor combo, that salt lowers the freezing point of ice. Boom. Makin the ice cream.

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Amateurism and Imperfection

A couple weeks ago Kara put on a Boston Youth Leadership Conference and asked me to speak once again. I agreed to and developed a hybrid presentation based off of my PRISE and Chinese Leadership presentations. Lucky for me, this time it was in English so no opportunities to butcher any languages (unless I did without realizing. Oops.)

My brainstorming at Radcliffe Yard.

I quickly went through my little swimming saga, then dove into creativity and its implicit and explicit theories. My favorite part was the interactive portion: a quick divergent thinking task asking the kids to draw something with a little squiggle; a smell/taste experience which required them to draw the sensations; and finally an activity that sets up one’s mind to think more openly – visually focus on an object but then allow your attention to diffuse into the peripheral part of your vision. This translates into a metaphor for your body which puts your mind in a state of divergent thinking.

I was so pumped after giving the talk, especially since most kids stayed awake during the entirety of the presentation (I did make them do a inner visualization about the feeling of disappointment, and I may have lost a few soldiers there).

If you want to see my powerpoint, click here: Creativity and How to Think Differently

Right before giving my 90 minute (was originally supposed to be 45. Don’t worry Kara gave me permission) presentation, I held this mudra for about a minute, and also told myself: “I bow to imperfection.” Things I wish I had learned as a kid. Be imperfect, wait, what? You’re kidding.

On the new domain: I had an interesting little chat with my Dad the other day. As I moved to choosing my domain for this website (neurocholatier.com? thechocolate-apprentice.com? thechocoapprentice.com? I’m bummed that this person took x5 different ways to write my blog title) he asked me why I didn’t switch from being an apprentice to a chocolatier.

Well, it’s because I will always be an amateur.

One of the best conversations I’ve had in the past month was with a friend who I met last summer in San Francisco (who just dropped everything in his life to go sail the world. Pumped for him.) Among many things, one of the things we discussed is what he wanted in life (one of those casual ten things lists – said it took him 2 minutes. It’s taking me more than 2 weeks). And one of my favorites was that he will always be an amateur in music. He’s an amazing, talented jazz pianist but he chose to always be an amateur, never an expert. I liked that attitude.

While working at Clover, I learned that everyone wears blue aprons. Head Chef Rolando came up with the idea – blue is reserved for the apprentices in the kitchen. As with Clover, all employees, including the experienced chefs are all apprentices for life. I love this concept embodying humility and this passion for learning. Something I would love to cultivate in other areas of my life too.

So back to Kyle (friend) – it made me think of the question: what will I always be an apprentice in?

I threw that discussion back to my Dad. Thus, I am always the chocolate apprentice.

Ok yes that would be me trying to sign off with my beautiful blue Clover apron and uttrabodhi mudra…and being late to class.

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Filed under Clover, creativity, food, mudra, presentation, yoga

Creating Corn Chowder

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2012/08/13/kobe-bryant-kevin-systrom-and-the-science-of-creativity/

love this one quote:

You can’t train to be creative. You can’t be coached. You must allow—allow your brain to make new connections by getting out of the office, attending conferences, traveling to new places, having lunch at a different restaurant, or taking a class in a topic unrelated to your job. By doing so your passions will be stirred, your brain’s neurons will fire, and your creativity will soar.

Chinese Youth Service Leadership Conference…

Yesterday Kara had me speak at her conference involving 20 high school students from GuangZhou, China who were interested in service and entrepreneurship.

My portion? I spoke to them (in butchered Chinese – alas, not speaking for a year!) about implicit perceptions of creativity in the East and West, based off of my research paper I did for my creativity class last semester on implicit views of creativity in the East and their connections to Confucian ideals. To introduce them to the major concepts (Westerners find that the creative process involves intrinsic motivation, love for aesthetic, and willingness to break the rules), I began with my own story – how I did something I really didn’t have a passion for all through primary until college, and how that reflected in my progress in swimming. The bigger thing I emphasized was that because I was unhappy, I wasn’t willing to look around at my environment and listen to other people’s stories and make their lives better. I remember chatting with my Dad once who told me: You have to help yourself first before you can help other people. Very true.

You can check out my powerpoint here… (potential recording of me later). Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear what I’m trying to get at through some of the slides (I’m a very picture heavy, minimal word type of presenter), so hopefully you can figure out what’s going on.

nihao

I felt really fortunate that Kara gave me the opportunity to talk to these kids about my past and these ideas because I feel that these are some of the biggest issues within the East Asian education system – the lack of encouragement to fail and make mistakes, the lack of “play time” and experimentation, the authoritative teacher-student relationship, lack of emphasis on learning to take in one’s surroundings and forming connections/metaphors, etc.

And for me, it’s pretty personal. I grew up with their mentality – the “fear of disappointing” and the fear of self-expression. I really wanted to let them know that they’re okay whatever they do and that they should be enjoying their experience in the world this very moment.

I’m hoping they liked my craziness? Kara said they were more engaged than ever. I was running around the room, speaking in Chinglish, making terrible jokes, and just generally hyper about what I was talking about. I wish I could’ve spoken for longer and gone through more exercises with them (like asking what sort of music chocolate tastes like, or what colors you would use to describe your meal, etc.) but I only had 30 minutes.

Daily Nutritional Facts

Had Basil Lemonade at Clover the other day. Oh-my-goodness I think it’s the best kind of lemonade out there. Better than rose, better than lavender, and…dare I say it? Better than my one and only ginger?

I love basil. It’s such a round herb that has a hint of spice and such complexity when fresh. It’s definitely one of the herbs you don’t really ever want dried.

On that note, got my beautiful share of basil from my friend’s farm share (as I’m covering for her over the next couple of weeks) and also got my hands on way. too. much. corn. 10 pieces to be exact! Solution?

CORN CHOWDER

I loved how it came out – light enough with thyme dancing away in the background, but the potatoes added a key element of thickness to the soup. Perfect for the summer. And great cold too!

Also – my first soup ever.

I never took the time to really appreciate how soup is made. I now realize it’s a pretty solid way to create delicious food. (I can hear people rolling their eyes)

The recipe itself was taken from “The Conscious Cook”, a vegan cookbook I hold dear to my heart as it was the first cookbook I was introduced to while I did my little stint at Sandrine’s. Granted, I didn’t have the cutlery to make my setup as beautiful as his, but it still tasted pretty damn good.

Ingredients: 

Sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
a cup of diced onion
a few cloves of garlic minced
one large carrot diced into 1/4 inch cubes (I LOVE DICING)
half a celery stalk 1/4 inch dice, half of a red bell pepper (I’d now go for more) in a 1/4 inch dice
2.5 cups veggie stalk
cayenne pepper (the recipe called for 1 dried chipotle pepper)
2 small-medium size potatoes peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice, thyme (I didn’t have fresh sprigs on me, even with my undercover deals with the Harvard Community garden)
3 ears of corn
3/4 cup cashew cream (1. soak cashews over night with a bit of salt and water fully covering 2. drain and rinse 3. place in a blender and pour an inch of water 4. food process away m’dear!)
freshly ground black pepper
minced chives
1/4 cup diced tomato

1. Place a large pot over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with salt and heat for a minute (creates a non-stick effect! Who knew?) Add oil and heat up for another 30 seconds – make sure it doesn’t smoke. Throw in the garlic for literally 10 seconds and give it a quick stir. 

2. Then quickly add the onions, carrots, celery, and pepper. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring a lot.

3. Then add the stock, potatoes, chile, and thyme. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender (15-20 min).

4. Use the back of a spoon or a fork to mash up the potatoes. Add the raw corn (which should be stripped form the cob) and cashew cream, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Garnish with chives and tomato! Done!

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Filed under Clover, creativity, creativity research, food, ingredients, recipes

Finish Lines, Flying Sheep, Frantic Knives

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down,
the other is pulling up.
— Booker T. Washington

The Finishing Line of Summer Research

This past week was my last of research and finally got to play with the brain-analysis program. Dream come true? What was very cool was that even though I had the smallest sample size ever ( N = 9), the figural creativity scores correlated with increased thickness in the brain regions that I wanted, particularly the TPJ! The TPJ is known as the temporal parietal junction, and that’s where the temporal and parietal lobes intersect. This area is a hotbed for connection, and is also implicated in Theory of Mind (understanding the concept of a mind, that other people have minds – people with autism have deficits).

The brain doesn’t quite look like a brain in the initial analysis because it’s inflated so you can see between the gyri. But down below is what the brain actually looks like (See how hard it is to figure it out):

Final memorable moments:

1) Hilarious phone calls to Dr. Lazar – someone apparently called and said they had a spontaneous awakening and wanted their brain scanned. They also claimed to be an advanced meditator because their “nose itched”. My nose itches right now too, does that mean I’m enlightened?

2) The Biggest Loser – STRESS EDITION – Dr. Britta Holzel, Sara’s fellow researcher who ahs also worked on many papers with her, was asked by a German production company from her native homeland to star in The Biggest Loser. The twist is that rather than losing weight, it’s the contestant who loses the most stress. So Britta’s role is to be the “meditator guru”, while other people will go through things like exercise, martial arts, counting sheep… to be honest I really have no idea where this idea is going. Again, evidence we’re a little too hyped up about “wellness” sometimes. I guess it’s better than more trashy episodes of the Kardashians (no hating) and shows an interest by the “public” in mental health.

Scents and Scentsability

So, hi, guess what? I’ve decided I want to do a [mini] documentary on the sense of smell and human conscience. How did my fascination begin?

Yoga-y: I’ve been told I have root chakra issues and root chakra (muladhara) is related to smell. Something about the psychology of groundedness and being in your body is related to this underappreciated sense.

Neurosciencey: Well, our other senses (and by that I mean the common five, not the extra ones) go through our sensory neurons, to the thalamus, then to its respective part in the cortex. BUT the olfactory system, considered to be part of our more primitive brain, engages in its own direct route. The neurons go straight to the olfactory bulb, which is seated next to the more primitive, emotional centers of our brain too, thus the deep connections of memory and emotions.

Food: Well it’s no secret I love food. But you seriously can’t taste without smell. I’ve started to do this new thing which all my friends make fun of me for – take a deep breath with your mouth, plug up your nose, and then eat something. The only things you can bring your attention to is the sensations created on your tongue and mouth…that’s real taste! It’s texture and sensations! You relearn what salty, umami, bitter, sweet, and sour really mean. You relearn how your mouth feels after certain food.

And then…keep playing and unplug your nose halfway through. WOOM you get a huge attack of flavor, and you can usually identify what you’re actually eating! Most fun with spices 🙂 Try cinnamon on your friends.

Currently reading “Season to Taste” by Molly Birnbaum, an incredible book with delightful descriptions of taste and smell, as well as a juicy handful of scientific knowledge (making the science nerd in me very, very happy). The book recounts her experiences as a chef who loses her sense of smell (anosmia) after getting in a car accident and damaging her brain. While deferring her space at a culinary institute, she falls into the world of journalism and slowly relearns to smell (first thing she detects is rosemary! Then chocolate woo). Can’t wait to meet and discuss with her next week at her book reading – going to ask her for tips on documentaries and also her thoughts on smell.

So basically –  philosophers loved to rave about vision, especially because it distinguishes humans, but why not study the sense that connects us more deeply to other more ancient creatures? I’m starting to read articles which I will update here, but to begin my exploration I watched a BBC documentary – things I learned:

  • many animals are super picky like the koala that will only eat 30 types of eucalyptus, sharks only eat fish (they tried giving them steak, chicken, lamb and swam off), carnivores on land hate sweet things, hummingbirds eat the equivalent of a human eating 1000 chocolate bars a day
  • humans, on the other hand, first like sweet and salty, then learn to develop a palate – “aquiring a taste” is so unique to humans, and may have been one of our many evolutionary advantages
  • I mean, take the crazy example of feeding stilton blue cheese (molded, fermented milk) to Asians, and feeding 100 year old eggs to Westerners. Each group finds it disgusting to eat the others’ delicacy
  • As humans, we’re much more sensitive to bad smells than good…rotting meat for example – sulphurs, small, fast moving molecules
  • Buteric Acid is the culprit for making cheese and vomit taste similar!
  • A lot of smells we’re averse to (excrements) are learned as we become older – initially as babies we don’t think they’re bad at all! (refer again to parmesan cheese and vomit similarities above)

CLOVER UPDATES

I got to attend knife skills 101 with Chef Rolando!! I’ll update under cooking some of the knife skills I learned (by creating my own videos). Unfortunately, I didn’t pass my first time (a minute too slow), but hopefully with some practice I’ll get better.

Ayr had me go on a run around to Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Starbucks, and Crema Cafe (a local Cambridge coffee shop) to check out their basic black coffees. Conversations that I will always remember forever and ever and ever (thanks Ayr!). No, not really.

DD:

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” Her: “I have noooooooo idea. Look online.”

McD: 

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” NiceIrishLad: “I have noooooooo idea. Oh wait. It says by Newman. Ummm Bolivia?”

Starbucks:

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” 2 people: “Uhhhhhhh NO idea.” 1 awesome person: “It’s from somewhere in South America. Specifically, I don’t know. But I do know it’s a combination of farmers we rotate through to manage a flavor profile. And I swear it’s according to a bunch of sustainable codes, you can check online.”

Crema:

Me: “Where is your coffee from?” Her: “Uhhhhhh you can ask George Howell, he makes our coffee. So go online.”

Conclusion after tasting? Somehow, Starbucks tastes way worse than McDonalds or Dunkin. Disturbing.

Also, I am so jealous of these kids who get fields trip to Clover!! I want one!

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Filed under adventures, Clover, creativity, food, meditation, science, smell

I will be hunting for good food

“WASHINGTON — Scorching heat and the worst drought in nearly a half-century are threatening to send food prices up, spooking consumers and leading to worries about global food costs.

On Wednesday, the government said it expected the record-breaking weather to drive up the price for groceries next year, including milk, beef, chicken and pork. The drought is now affecting 88 percent of the corn crop, a staple of processed foods and animal feed as well as the nation’s leading farm export.

The government’s forecast, based on a consumer price index for food, estimated that prices would rise 4 to 5 percent for beef next year with slightly lower increases for pork, eggs and dairy products.

The drought comes along with heat. So far, 2012 is the hottest year ever recorded in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose records date to 1895. That has sapped the production of corn, soybeans and other crops, afflicting poultry and livestock in turn.”

Read full article here from NYtimes

Another reason to eat mainly vegetarian, perhaps?

I thought this comment by someone was pretty funny:

“All of you think that availability of food and fuel are not national security issues? China thinks so.”

Kelly’s interning saga at Clover continues…

Last week was my first time really getting down and dirty with the food trucks. Ayr had me wash + degrease the entire side of the truck so they could reinstall a new counter. Besides learning a few construction tidbits, I also learned that paint thinner makes me feel sick and that sandpapering without a sandpapering device is one of the best arm workouts in the world (wearing my bright orange sunglasses was very, very necessary). I left pretty promptly at 3 pm when I realized I couldn’t lift my right arm to feel the surface that I just sandpapered…at least the side of the truck is clean now?

I don’t take self-photos normally…but hi paint dust!

In order to prepare for a presentation (and educate myself on the food world), Ayr has me on a sort of photo treasure hunt. A couple days ago I stopped by Boloco and Dunkin Donuts for the first round of photos.

I ordered a tiny breakfast sandwich from Dunkin that cost me over four bucks. And Clover’s, with a fresh, soft-boiled egg, great cheese, freshly cut tomatoes, and a delicious pita bread, and only costs an even three!!!! 

This actually blew my mind. And look at how disgusting the preparation is. Some weird egg patty (made from God knows what, it’s the thing my thumb is holding – that’s not cheese), ham, and cheese combination was already sliced up, and then just placed on a paper plate and microwaved. They toasted the English muffin and then threw those items on there. I was mainly really grossed out by the egg.

Kelly’s researcher goes missing on Thursday (actually, she had an eye appointment and her eyes were dilated so she couldn’t see…) and instead does research on Chin/Gyan Mudra. Here and here are a couple of good websites that give introductions to what mudras (hand positions) are in yoga. I will write up my own summary in the future. But for now…

Daily Nutritional Facts

So ancestors of hummus and guacamole sort of had a little affair and made a baby…

Pretty funky looking, huh?

So the recipe is pretty straightforward – “The Very Lean, Green, Mean Machine”, inspired by Tasting Table, and my environmentally-friendly musical I was in as a 2nd grader (it was the title of a rap).

I took about 1 cup of watercress (wilted/steamed for four minutes), 1 medium avocado, 1 small-medium lemon (juice squeeze only), a dash of water, salt/pepper to taste, a couple tablespoons of tahini paste, about 7-8 stems of parsley, half a teaspoon of cumin, and blended very, very happily.

The result:

ALSO got to finally try the popover sandwich from Clovera deliciously inventive combination utilizing the famous southern popover muffin that only consists of flour, milk, eggs, and salt. The outside part of the muffin is merely a slightly salty, crunchy bread crust, but the inside is an *almost suspended* gooey, bread dough that tastes like egg. It’s a weird thought, but surprisingly delicious. In the sandwich, they one-up themselves and include freshly cut tomato, cheddar cheese, smokey tempeh, and fried leeks (the key ingredient!!). A savory rave at 8 am in the morning (after my body wouldn’t let me sleep in). I would probably hit up one of these only once every couple of weeks. But still, so, so, so delicious (I would be not-vegan just for this).

uh, bye.

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Filed under adventures, food, mudra, recipes, yoga

Jaw Lov[ag]es Hips

Oooof, bad title. It’s early. I also woke up at 4:30 AM dramatically smacking my face with my arms because I had just been dreaming about a massive scorpion-wasp flying right for my face.

Not a big bug fan, if you can tell.

Karma Longtin led a fantastic class at Karma Yoga Studio on Sunday, emphasizing the subtle connection between the jaw muscle (the masseter, more precisely) and the hip flexors. The masseter symphasizes with the hip flexors, as both areas carry massive amounts of emotional tension. In addition, the masseter is one of the strongest muscles in our body (in terms of scale-to-size), prodcuing 117-265 lbs of force (vs. 974.99 – an Eskimo descendent!!), while the hip flexor is the “seat of the soul”, being the muscle in charge of our walking and the first to react when we’re about to fall.

You can do jaw muscle exercises (which I’ll update on the yoga/physio page) and also manually massage out your own jaw. Here is a small doodle I did for great core activation exercises:

Meanwhile at Clover…

Going through blog posts (1870 of them!), which actually has been one of the most invaluable learning tools so far, as Ayr has been extremely transparent with the building of the company. The only thing made largely confidential are things relating to investors and workers.

Coming up with a logo: focus on the sound, color, texture, type, environmental influences it creates.

Another thing I love is their food development meetings. We got to taste test a lot of up and coming menu items, as well as analyze how the day’s Chickpea plate was (Pickled veggies + salad + chickpeas + hummus).

One thing I loved that we tried was the lovage soda. It tasted almost like celery juice, with a little more intensity. It sounds strange, but it was actually very refreshing.

My taste drawing:

Lovage: has a slight taste of anise and also reminiscent of caraway (thus pairs well with things from Sauvigon Blanc, fennel, mint, basil, tarragon, etc.) It is rich is thymol and carvacrol, an essential oil of thyme, ajowan, sage, basil, rosemary, and mint.

Here are some excerpts from an awesome book called Jekka’s Herbs Cookbook:

Daily Nutritional Facts

Tried Peace O’ Pie, the local vegan pizza company, for the first time with my partner in crime Kara! We ordered the The Fresh: pesto (but it came with tomato sauce instead. Dissapointment 😦 ), broccoli, onion, and roasted garlic; as well as The Buffalo Chicken: tongue zapping buffalo sauce (as they claim – didn’t really taste it much), onions, and spicy soy strips. Conclusion? Decently good. The vegan part wasn’t so much the issue, but the pizza dough was pretty dissappointing (I’m also a fan of crispy flatbread, so a little biased. But it was very bland) and the flavors were underwhelming, although the spicy soy strips were delicious!

Last night made Rosemary Shortbread Cookies with my friend Alice, as we were inspired to do so my Harvard graduate Joanne Chang’s book, Flour. Definitely not gluten or vegan friendly, but was such an interesting concept (and I’ve never made shortbread either!) that I was dying to try. I loved the savory kick to it and am planning to try it again…vegan?! Does shortbread even work vegan? To be continued… I also threw on some cinnamon for a few bites and found the rosemary + cinnamon surprisingly pleasant.

Also, spot the unicorn in the photo. Winner may get the unicorn I adopted (named Blue) on my night out.

Recipe coming soon.

Also last shout out to: Nutmeg & eggs. I’ve done paprika before, but nutmeg? Who knew a pinch would be such an interesting twist. Becomes more like dessert than savory breakfast!

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Filed under adventures, anatomy, food, health, ingredients, postures, recipes, yoga

An Ode to Arm Muscle Contractions

So a girl asked for an intensive arms/core workout, and I thought building up to a forearm stand was a perfect sequence. Check this article out for more advice on building up to a forearm stand.

On a separate note, I made an effort to really understand the different kinds of contractions, and what yoga poses/physio moves were great for building arm strength in particular. Check it:

For more explanations for the types of arm stretches (ekabuhjaswastiakasjdflkwhuuuuuut?), check the article page as well.

I attended the Clover All-Team Member meeting this past Sunday at the HUB. I thought it was such an awesome concept, as all employees got free beer (Allgash White, to be precise), samples of the new 3pm special – blueberries and whipped cream, and a delicious chocolate cupcake. Again, somehow the chefs nail it with the mild sweetness but fresh taste of the cupcakes, with a light frosting that wasn’t overpowering, meeting its match with freshly picked peppermint leaves. Something about fresh mint in anything kills me.

Ayr gave a brief download on the environmental impact and growth Clover was having. My favorite part was the “tasting” game (where 12 unknown ingredients were provided and we had to guess what they were) and a food education presentation given by Chef Rolando. Both were powerful and so interesting (for me, oh the food obsessed). Interesting things:

1) Their parsnip sandwich, a combination of parsnip, cheddar, spinach (in the earlier versions), and caramelized spring onions that were caramelized with cider vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, mustard seeds, and fresh horseradish. The idea of cooking things that weren’t sweet with cinnamon intrigued me and I did a brief search and came up with these ideas:

  • cauliflower
  • parsnips
  • garlic cloves
  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots
  • zucchini
  • BBQ Brisket
  • Squash
  • Pizza
  • Orzo salad
  • Curried red lentil soup
  • Grapefruit

2) Wheat gluten (things to make your tempeh with) looks and smells like flour (even whole wheat), but once you taste it your saliva gets everything super gooey.

3) Determining the difference between cilantro and parsley for me is….difficult. I went to the Harvard Community Garden yesterday and tried both. The cilantro tasted more ocean-y to me, while the Italian parsley taste more clovery, sprouty, and sunny to me. Let’s see if I can remember that at all…

4) Belgian Wheat Beer can be flavored with coriander, who knew?

RESEARCH MOVES FORWARD, ALBEIT SLOWLY!

Finally, finally, finally the brain data was successfully converted into a format we could use and I could start doing the reconstructing and skull stripping. Alas, I was letting the program run over night and it only got through…3/15 sessions. Derp. Oh well still letting it run.

Meanwhile, I take over the world. Or in other words, find myself amused/fascinated by some of the figural responses on the TTCT as I grade them.

 

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Daily Nutrition Facts

Made myself a salad with red cabbage, kale, cucumbers, smokey tofu, and a mix of vegannaise and BBQ spice.

Also tried green gooseberries for the first time! They are possibly one of the most interesting fruits I’ve had. Fuzzy on the outside, filled with a grape texture inside, but also with seeds that are not unlike chia seeds. Kind of an adventure in the mouth. Tart and sweet like a green grape, but with slightly more complexity and hollowness to the palette. Apparently a recipe suggestion: “Stew gooseberries with coconut milk, Indian spices and vegetables, then serve as a curry over rice.” Omnomnom. I had the pleasure of trying red currents for the first time as well. I don’t have the patience right now to try a pie, but they were deliciously fresh and tart.

I got to adopt a Patty Pan Squash and harvest rainbow chard + kale in return for teaching yoga at the Harvard Community Garden (every Tuesday from 6 – 7 pm). So. Much. Love.

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Filed under adventures, anatomy, Clover, creativity, creativity research, food, neuronerd adventuretime, science, yoga

seasonal discourse

Interning at Clover:

Almost a “Devil’s Wears Prada” experience, but with a little less red lipstick and sass. Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. I got to start the day off by taking a yoga class with Ayr and An Li, and learned a few new things:

1. If your palms are hurting in yoga, press into the outer edges of the fingers and try to transfer your weight more to your feet by elevating hips more into the air (though tight hamstrings may be the culprit for the excessive weight as it would bring you from downdog to plank, so do hamstring stretches to help).

2. In baddha konasana (bound angle/butterfly stretch), imagine bringing sitsbones together.

3. In janu sirsasana (single leg seated stretch on floor), tuck extended leg’s hip back thus plugging the femur bone into the hip socket.

4. Walk your hands out in a diagonal during uttanasana (forward fold) for some gentle side stretching.

Then I got to run around to different food trucks to hand over items for job training (images that show how to make sandwiches) and delivered ipods for repair. So nothing too exciting (though I did get to see Boston…) It allowed me to read Edible Boston cover-to-cover, which I can’t complain about. Most interesting article I read was that the up and coming chic food-related job is not the foodies or the chefs but actually “ag-entrepreneurs”, who “understand the production side of the business but also know the distribution side and can aggregate product from a variety farms for a central delivery”. The writer, John Lee, says that CSAs and farmer markets aren’t passe, but won’t be the best opportunities to make money and have a serious impact on the quality of life for citizens. He also thinks that there will be a big shift from foodie obsession with upper market mechanisms and transition to a broader view of “do better by doing good”.

So. Many. Ipods.

Eat Like a Yogi, Summer Cooking Class: Later that day, Kara and I (my partner in crime for all things yoga/food/health related, who I am starting  a kids yoga series with – see above) made dinner at Siri Bani Kaur’s house (owner of Kundalini Boston) . For those who don’t remember, I tried Kundalini yoga once and had a very trippy, slightly disturbing experience. Kundalini yoga focuses a lot more on the esoteric, chakra regions, and is really fun but definitely not what many people would ascribe to as typical yoga. However, it is one of the oldest forms of Raj yoga.

The class was based on Summer foods (guess why), and she emphasized that a yogi diet is not a strict diet at all. In fact, it’s simply eating according to your own body’s needs and also with the seasons. It takes a lot of listening and patience to cultivate an idea of how your body operates, but it’s worth it in the end. I loved the emphasis on eating with the seasons, as that’s one essence of Clover I’ve come to appreciate and love. They don’t advertise this philosophy but the idea of eating with the seasons is integrated into its structure.

Ayr gave me this example. During a real estate meeting we ate at a bakery that served a plethora of dishes and beverages, including blueberry cake and pear juice. Ayr told me the business structure that the bakery had (sugar + butter) was foolproof. Everyone loves both. The only issues that come with it is that a lot of the stuff is out of season (blueberries and pear) and in order to cover up the lack of flavor, more sugar needs to be added. In contrast, Clover picks fruit that is in season (i.e. strawberries) and in their drinks such as agua fresca (soda water + dash of lemon juice + strained strawberry puree + sugar), about 1/6 of the sugar is used, since the strawberries are naturally ripe and sweet.

This principal of eating with the seasons is seen throughout many traditions, from Far Eastern traditional herbal medicine to Ayurvedic medicine. I won’t go into the details as it’s pretty logical (eat more raw foods and fruits during the summer that are cooling, avoid heating foods such as vinegar, tomatoes, alcohol, cooked foods).

In addition, eating locally and seasonally not only helps you avoid the nasty amounts of sugar/chemical preservatives/weird genetic modifications used with plants (and can disrupt your body balance), but also helps the food retain their nutrients. The marketing director of Harvest Coop did her masters thesis on the loss of vitamin C from shipping. For many produce, there was a 2 ½ weeks gap between picking and purchase. Kale showed a 65% loss in its dense nutrients although it appeared fresh.

Check out this website for great info on local, seasonal foods. For places near MA in early July:

BeetsBlueberriesCabbageCarrotsCauliflowerCucumbersKaleLettuceOnionsOysters, EasternPeasPotatoes,RadishesSnap PeasSpinachSquashStrawberries

So, back to the dinner. I wanted to share a one of my favorite things from the night…

Raw Cacao Cashew Berry Pie

Ingredients: 

Crust = 1 cup raw almonds (no shells), 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs, dash salt, 1/3 cup raw coconut shreds, 1/4 cup soaked cashews, 2 tbsp raw agave syrup

Filling = 2 cups soaked cashews, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup raw agave syrup, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (mleted), 1/2 cup raw cacao powder, dash cinnamon (throw in more or experiment with nutmeg, Mexican chili, lavender, etc. as well)

1. Pulse all crust ingredients together in a high speed blender (dry first then add the soaked cashews and agave)

2. Spoon the mixture into a pie dish and spread evenly, but don’t worry it about it being perfect! It can be a bit wonky to look artisanal (oh my goodness, I said the A-word). Place into a fridge.

3. Blend the pie filling mixture and then pour on top of the crust and smooth out.

4. Slice up your berries and decorate the top! (feel free to use any other seasonal fruit) Drizzle with any spices or a bit of agave syrup.

5. Place in fridge for 2 hours, or you can quickly freeze by placing in freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Brilliance. Berry brilliant (oh ho ho ho)

Daily Nutrition Facts

Had Clover’s delicious, delicate whoopie pie which was made with fresh strawberries. I’m not a big fan of whoopie pies (only served on Friday), but this one was so fluffy and so light. I hate super-sugary things but the quality of the chocolate and strawberries and cream served their purposes well.

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Piriformis Playtime

Yesterday (Sunday) I taught a class by the river and was approached by one of my students about the piriformis muscle. I knew it was  either an internal or external hip rotator that would be effectively worked in some fashion during baddha konasana (bound angle pose), but I wasn’t entirely sure.

So I humbly did my research, and of course, doodle time came about (I apologize once again for my lack of anatomically flattering artwork):

Daily Nutritional Facts

Smokey “Chicken” Salad

Came across this in a French-style vegan cookbook, but changed up a bit of the ingredients and portion sizings. If you’re looking for that creamy, comforting goodness that makes you smile, it’s write here waiting. And it’s blissfully simple. Feel free to mix around the “meat substitute” by using mushrooms, seitan, tempeh, etc., type of nuts, fruit, and also play with spices too! Seriously, anything goes.

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup vegannaise (maybe even go a little less, I still found it fairly heavy)

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 cup green grapes, sliced gorgeously

1/3 cup (ish?) walnut pieces

one celery stalk all diced up into 1/4 inch pieces

salt and pepper to taste, tease it up with some rosemary too if you like!

& whatever you want to serve it with/in (I chose red quinoa, but you can use a wrap or anything)

oh, oh and I totally forgot – smokey firm tofu!! I used half a packet chopped up.

STIR IT ALL TOGETHER, AND BOOM.

Also, get your bum over to Clover Restaurant or Clover Food Truck and indulge in their Basil Sandwich, with tangy pickled red onions, creamy basil pesto, juicy + refreshing cucumbers, and cheese. OMNOM perfect summer treat.

Happy Summer-ing everyone.

Tuesdays I am teaching in Harvard Community Garden from 6-7 PM. Join if you can!

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Filed under anatomy, food, ingredients, recipes, yoga