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Archive for the ‘Festivities and Celebrations’ Category

In my world, no holiday is needed to enjoy chocolate, but the holidays sure are a great excuse to do just that. I posted this recipe last year, almost exactly a year ago, in fact. It stands the test of time, and it’s worth sharing with everyone again.

Like many of you, I’ve hardly had time lately to eat a cookie, much less bake them. But my plan is to carve out some time this weekend to make some of these dreamy, delicious, chocolately drops of goodness.  Thankfully, the recipe is simple.  You’ll be impressed at how the flavors of chocolate, cardamom, and sour cherry play off of each other.

Enjoy and have a fabulous weekend!

Note: Adapted from  a recipe in the December 2009 issue of Body + Soul Magazine. Photo to the right by Stacey Young.

Chocolate Drop Cookies with Sour Cherries and Pistachios

Prep time- 15-20 minutes

Cook time- 8 minutes Max

Yield: 5 dozen (or slightly less if you like cookie dough as much as I do)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used pastry flour, and it worked perfectly)
  • 1 scant teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 3 egg whites (save the yolks for another use. Perhaps for a custard or for feeding a pet)
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chunks or chips, melted and cooled (If you are avoiding dairy, check the ingredient list to make sure there are no milk products in the chocolate chips/chunks).
  • Generous 1/3 cup chopped, dried sour cherries
  • Generous 1/3 cup toasted pistachios plus approx. 2-3 Tablespoons more for garnishing tops of cookies
  • Generous 1/3 cup chocolate chips or chunks, NOT melted

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and flour and cardamom powder.

3. With a hand mixer, or a stand-up mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy. (You’ll see bubbles). With the mixer running, slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar. When all of it has been added, raise the speed to high, and beat until the egg whites are the consistency of marshmallows. Now beat in the vanilla.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to medium, and beat in half of the melted, cooled chocolate. Then beat in half of the cocoa-flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate all ingredients. Repeat with the rest of the chocolate and cocoa-flour mix. Stop the mixer.

5. By hand, gently fold in the cherries, pistachios, and chocolate chips or chunks. Let sit until thick enough to scoop, about 5 minutes.

6. As dough sets, prepare parchment paper and place on cookies sheets.

7. Now it’s time to scoop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheets. Scoop by the level teaspoonful. Leave about an inch in between cookies. Try to keep the cookies the same size to ensure they cook evenly.

8. Garnish cookies with whole and/or pistachio pieces. Looks so festive and pretty!

9. Bake 6-8 minutes, until cookies are a bit cracked on the outside. (I personally like my cookies on the soft, moist, and chewy side, so 7 minutes was plenty of time for mine in my particular oven. If, like me, you prefer softer cookies, remember, they might look slightly undercooked when first taken out of the oven).

10. Remove from oven and let cool. This is the part where recipes always say to cool the baked goods on a wire rack. Well, I don’t own any wire racks, so mine just cooled on the sheets, and no one’s complaining.

Approximate Nutrition facts from Body + Soul Magazine:

Note, my version is probably a bit more caloric, due to my heavy hand with the cherries, pistachios, and also due to the fact that I added in extra chocolate chips :-) Hey, it’s the holidays! :

Per cookie:

30 Calories

1 gram protein

4 grams carbohydrates

1.5 grams of fat (0.7 saturated)

0 grams of fiber

 

Updated to Add a BONUS: Fun Weekend Contest. Win a $50 shopping spree on one of my favorite sites, iherb.com . Stop by Love Veggies and Yoga, one of my favorite blogs, to find out how.

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Khat in her tiny, inspiring workspace. She's debuting her jewelry line, Khatera Ahmad. Find the pieces at http://www.KhateraAhmad.com

I’m always fascinated by how artists work. Forget the proverbial Fourth Wall. Behind the scenes is where it’s at for me. So when my friend Khat invited me over recently to take a sneak peak at her brand-new jewelry line and show me around her workspace, I was intrigued.

One of my favorite pairs of earrings, the pair that I wear all the time, with everything? A Khat creation. Necklaces that I love to wear, and I don’t even generally enjoy wearing necklaces? Khat made them. Yes, the girl’s got talent. Here’s a look at where the magic takes place.

She says the inspiration for this line of jewelry comes from graffiti and the grit and beauty of the urban landscape of New York City.

Some samples.

Workspace, included sketches and inspirational photos on the walls.

Some of the tools of the trade.

Khat has a whole ladder layered with paints and other supplies she used to make her creations.

Bowl o' baubles n beads.

Necklaces!

The colors she uses in some of the pieces are so rich and vivid.

Beautiful creations.

The obligatory self portrait of Khat and I. :-)

Just in time for the holidays, find the finished products of Khat’s collection at www.KhateraAhmad.com

Be back soon with a food post.

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Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng (Cuz I'm feelin' too lazy to snap my own pic of my sprouts from the farmer's market).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope anyone who’s celebrating is having a most excellent time. And if not, at least excellent food ;-)

What am I grateful for this year? For starters, for taking the year off from being Head Biyatch in Charge in the Kitchen. That’s right, I’m putting up my mitts and saving the cute Anthropologie apron for some other holiday, because I’m officially not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. I think the technical term for how I feel about this is: “Wooo hooo!”

To put this into context, this is a major departure for me. I’ve been in charge of Thanksgiving for several years now. Don’t get me wrong; typically, I loved every second of it. Sure, there were stressful moments. (Sourcing organic, free range turkeys can be a bit of a hunt, and prepping and cooking everything takes some planning and coordination).  Yet overall, I was totally into it. Fast forward to this year. For many reasons, both big and small, I strongly felt that I needed a rest from Hostess With the Mostess duties. When I expressed this sentiment to my friend Khat, she promptly invited me to celebrate the holiday with her family in Long Island. Score!

Khat, left, and me, right, at her brother's wedding, April 2010.

Yes, this is the same sweet friend who invites me to dinner on random nights, and whose brother’s traditional Afghan wedding I attended earlier this year.

Speaking of tradition, there will be traditional Thanksgiving foods, including a turkey. But there will also be delicacies prepared in the Afghan manner, such as leg of lamb, many rice dishes, and elaborate desserts. I can’t freakin’ wait! I’m contributing a dish of Brussels Sprouts with pomegranate molasses, vanilla almond butter, and a garnish of pomegranate seeds. It’s based on this Bobby Flay recipe. I think it will be a nice little pop of green and red to add to the table, and it will meld well with the other flavors.

So I’m off for a pre-dinner power walk, then ramping up to roll out.

Everyone have a great holiday. I’ll leave you with a (partial) list of some of the many people, places, and things I’m extremely thankful for:

  • My health
  • Family and friends (a truly amazing assortment of people are in my life)
  • My readers/bloggies/Twitter friends (you guys rock and are just so fun, talented, and amazing)
  • My Yoga students (the best, seriously!)
  • My Yoga teachers, past and present
  • Being an omnivore with no serious food allergies
  • Books, magazines, etc
  • Hot chocolate (Actually, chocolate of ANY kind)
  • My cat (he’s on my lap now. What a sweet and funny boy he is)
  • Yoga
  • Nature
  • Freedom
  • Having a roof over my head
  • Thanksgiving (one of my fave holidays; it’s not religious; anyone can “play”)
  • Food, especially veggies
  • Green smoothies
  • My naturopathic/Ayurvedic doctor (a Godsend!)
  • That I got to go to the U.S. Open (tennis) again this year
  • Music
  • That both of the Yoga retreats I hosted this year went well
  • That I got to teach a class at Lululemon this year
  • Some fun travel this year to places I’d never been
  • Inner peace and serenity, when I find it. It’s always there. We just have to be open to tapping into it.

Much light, peace, and happiness to you all this Thanksgiving,
Bria

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Eight Limbs, baby! This is how happy I feel about hosting my Yoga retreat upstate this weekend. It's a balancing act for sure, but it should be a blast. Have a great weekend, everyone! Photo taken by Marisa Train, on location in NYC at Mount Morris Park.

Just a quick, hello, gang. I’m rolling out after posting to host my Upstate Fall Harvest Yoga4Soul Retreat. I’m beyond thrilled.

A great group of people have signed up, and I can’t wait to spend time with them, cook for them, teach them Yoga, and just enjoy hanging out in the huge, rambling Upstate mansion we’ve rented for the weekend.

As a huge bonus, my dear friend Katherine is onboard as a special guest. She’ll conduct a healing Reiki session. We’re also going to hit up an apple orchard on Saturday, for some apple-picking and time outdoors in nature. As Katherine said, those Upstate apples had better look out, because we’re on our way!

A big shout-out to Maria, who is my student but has also taken on the role of helping me with some logistics, including driving. She’s a gem and I’m looking forward to spending time with her.

Shanti, everyone. Have a fabulous weekend, and I’ll chat with you soon.

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Eid Mubarak, everyone! I hope all who are celebrating this holiday have a wonderful, blessed celebration. (More info on Eid-al-fitr here). What better to celebrate our good fortune and health than with a platter of traditional sweets and some steaming hot tea?

I got this big, tempting platter of cookies as an Eid gift. Truly wonderful.

Another angle. Many of these cookies are stuffed with dates. Love that!

Did I make these? No, but I sure did eat more than my share.

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Sweet, simple, no-bake version of Gazelle's Horns cookies. Two cups of tea served in coffee cups I found cute. Yes, I enjoy drinking tea from coffee mugs. Go figure.

A heart filled with desire for

sweetness and tender souls

must not waste itself with unsavory matters

—-Rumi

The above is quoted from a ghazal poem by Rumi (the famous Persian poet).

The words above speak to me especially now, in light of recent events and changes in my life. More and more I’m learning to stand up for myself, to listen to that inner voice of wisdom and peace. To feel more comfortable and at ease in my own skin, and in this world. To set boundaries and let go of relationships, situations and thought patterns that no longer serve me or the greater good.

You can play around with the shape of these cookies. They're quite malleable. Kinda like Play-Doh.

After all, Yoga  and many religious faiths teach us about non-violence and forgiveness, but we sometimes forget that we can be violent and unforgiving to ourselves, even if only mentally or in our own hearts. So in my desire for only sweetness and tender souls, I’m letting go of unsavory matters whenever possible. I’m giving mental violence the boot and allowing my heart to open a bit more to love and forgiveness.

With spiritual reflection and sweetness on my mind, some cookies sounded about right. Ha, I’m easily pleased! Today’s cookies are Gazelle’s Horns, popular especially during Ramadan.

Ramadam kareem!

Speaking of Ramadan, a belated Ramadan Kareem to  everyone who is observing the fast.  I admire you so very much.  I’ve so been meaning to do a Ramadan shout-out since the holiday started, but kept waiting for that perfect moment. Then I realized that there is no perfect moment, at least not always. So a big, respectful acknowledgment to all of you out there who are fasting.Your mental and physical strength are simply amazing.

Try this simple cookie recipe some evening. You’re sure to enjoy its ease of prep. This is based on a recipe posted by Nisrine of Dinners and Dreams who in turn based her on a recipe presented by this site, which is in French.  I’ve had these cookies before during travels in Syria, and also here in NYC. They’re quiet satisfying and delicious. Imagine my delight when I learned they’re also gluten-free, and easily veganizable as well.

Did I mention they’re also no bake? Yes, indeed they are. There is another version that is baked–I’ll probably try that after the August heat has gone away, and report back then.

Isn't she lovely? A gazelle! One of my favorite animals, and super popular creature of myth and imagination in the Middle East. Poems and cookies are named after this animal. An exceedingly beautiful woman is sometimes nicknames a gazelle. How sweet! Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.com.

And in case I got a bit too deep for you earlier with my musings, let’s not forget my sly sense of humor lives on, no matter what changes are afoot in my life. I have fun, maybe too much fun,  with the name of these cookies. Like I said, they’re known as Gazelle’s Horns. Sometimes I make a really lame, junior high joke and call these Horny Gazelle Cookies. Because I’m sophisticated like that, yanno.

No Bake Gazelle’s Horns Cookies

I used Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour in this recipe. Coconut oil was courtesy of Tropical Traditions.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond meal (ground, blanched almonds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mahlab (optional)
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or unsalted butter or non-dairy “butter” (like Earth Balance)
  • 5 Tablespoons of honey (or agave for vegan option)
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water (or rose water, if you prefer that taste)

1. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, mahlab, cinnamon and salt. Mix. Get rid of any lumps in the almond meal by using a fork to break lumps up.

2. Stir in the wet ingredients: coconut oil, honey and orange blossom or rose water.

3. If the mixture is too wet to shape with your bare hands, add a bit more almond flour and/or chill the mixture for up to half an hour.

4. Shape into half moon-shaped cookies. From here, you can leave the shape as is, or make it into more of an elongated “S” shape to simulate a different gazelle’s horn shape.

5. Enjoy immediately with tea or coffee, or refrigerate.

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Hey gang. I’m back from Texas. Sorry for the dry spell here on the blog. I’ve been working my tail off in the humid, heat waved NYC. This is a busy time of year for me, so if bloggage isn’t as regular, you’ll forgive me and we all can pretend I’m keeping leisurely “summer hours,” right? Which, in a way, I suppose I AM keeping summer hours. Long hours, not leisurely hours, but whatevs. Ha!

Oh, and let me apologize upfront for the randomness of the images in this post. Beauty shots will have to wait, because I’m busy ;-)

Luckily, it’s not all work. Mostly work, but not all. You might recall my “Big Fat Afghani Wedding Adventure” post from back in April, where I posted pics of the lavish buffet dinner at a wedding I attended. To be sure, it was a meal to be remembered, and I didn’t eat lightly. Everything in moderation, including moderation, right?

I drafted this here post a while back and never got around to publishing it. Now I”m glad, because what better time to publish it than in summer, where there are lots of parties, but also lots of pool and beach and bikini and bathing suit time? For me, this post is especially timely, as I’ll be spending some time at the beach in the coming days.

There’s no need for a large meal to cause ongoing drama. So can we indulge a bit yet still keep on track overall? I definitely think so. It’s important to look at the big picture. One large meal doesn’t have to make or break our eating and health goals. It doesn’t have to be the start of a downward spiral!  But there are a few things we can do before, after, and during the meal to put the odds of bouncing back  in our favor.

As a Yoga teacher, I try to maintain balance, both in my eating and exercise habits. It’s also important to not be rigid–to be flexible and not such a slave to one’s own principles, as of of my friends (also a fellow Yoga teacher) likes to say.

So here are a few tips I find helpful for celebratory special occasion meal. The tips that follow are tips I’ve gleaned from nutritionist friends, research, and my own personal experience, and I share them with my clients, and now, with my readers, too.

I’m using these tips now myself, as my friends Denise and Rich are getting married and their engagement party is coming up. They’re foodies, so you know the cuisine will be excellent. An aside: Denise actually has a really hilarious website called Really Bad Dates that she hasn’t updated in a while, so I encourage everyone to go on over there and submit bunches of bad dates you’ve been on. Your tales of woe are completely anonymous, of course, I’m hoping that she’ll see some fresh new submissions and start updating the site again  (in between bouts of wedding planning and working). Her site’s a winner.

Ok, now on to the tips. Remembering that these tips are not medical advice, and that your mileage may vary. If you have any tips of your own to add, please leave a comment. I’d love to know your tips and tricks for enjoying a big meal without big misery after.

Before the Meal:

1. Cut out or at least limit bread and desserts for a few days (or at least a few hours!) ahead of the meal. Eat lots of vegetables to have a good fiber intake.

2. Daily: Drink a warm cup of filtered water with fresh lemon or lime juice as your first drink of the morning. It’s very cleansing to the digestive tract, liver, and blood. For an extra boost, add in a splash of apple cider vinegar, which can help ease bloat.

3. Consider taking a probiotic, or eating or drinking something with natural probiotics. These helpful bacteria help to ease our digestion. Probiotic sources include kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha. Or you can use this vegan probiotic that I happen to like a lot.

4. The day of, eat lightly but don’t starve yourself. What works for me is a green smoothie for breakfast and a large salad with some sort of protein for lunch. For example, the day of the Afghani wedding, I had a late lunch of a spinach salad with a wedge of a vegetarian frittata as a protein source. A filling, nutritious, yet light meal.

4. To further prevent bloat: Only eat fruit on an empty stomach, and well ahead of any protein. Since fruit digests quickly–usually within 45 minutes–it’s important to time when we eat it carefully. Eating it too close to a big meal (either before OR after) can cause bloating, because the fruit gets stuck in our digestive tracts as the bigger, heavier proteins and fats digest. In other words, things get, uh, “backed up.” We start to feel bloat and perhaps constipation. Not fun!

During the Meal:

1. Scope out the buffet/menu choices ahead of time if at all possible, to get a sense of what is available, what you want to eat more of, and what you might prefer to skip.

2. Slow your roll. As in, eat slowly, putting your utensils down in between bites.

3. Use small plates if possible. You can always go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. Studies have shown that we do tend to eat what’s put in front of us, and I find the small plate trick really works. I do this at home most of the time, except for big servings of salad and veggies.

4. Enjoy. Seriously, this important. If you’re going to have a lavish meal, enjoy every bite. You might even find that by tuning into each bite, you are satisfied with less food overall.

5. Enjoy not just the meal, but the company you’re with. Savor the moment. Life is short, and we have to remember that every moment is precious.

After the Meal:

1.  MOVE! Walk around and/or dance a bit (or a lot!) to stay active.

2.  Lemon Water, again. Start your next morning with warm lemon water again.

3. Probiotics again. Take another probiotic to aid digestion.

4. Drink some unsweetened cranberry juice. This will ease bloating. My double whammy trick to get a healthy dose of  both probiotics and cranberry? Cranberry kombucha.

4. Then drink a green smoothie for breakfast, but only sip it when you’re hungry. You can always make it and take it with you to enjoy once the hunger pangs hit.

5. If you’re not hungry, don’t force yourself to eat. It’s okay to eat very lightly for a day or two after a large meal.

And what of these green smoothies? Well, here is one basic recipe to try:

Summer Green Smoothie with a Tropical Twist.

Ok, so if you made it to the end of this post, congrats. Got kinda long-winded there! Now go out and enjoy that summer fun!

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