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My green drink. Old pic, but the drink color is accurate.

Hey Guys!

I just got back Sunday night from my Upstate New York Fall Harvest Yoga Retreat.

It was a lovely weekend, full of Yoga, amazing food, and time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air and taking in the beautiful sights, like colorful fall foliage and deer snacking on grass just outside of our retreat house.

It was also wonderful to spend time with such an amazing group of people.

The retreat inspired this smoothie. Throughout the weekend, my chef/friend/student Maria prepared foods with the best flavors of fall: apples, pumpkins, fall spices, apple cider, and more.

So I threw that idea (along with some random, but seasonally-appropriate ingredients)  into the Vita-Mix for a green smoothie that tastes has a very strong overtone of pumpkin pie flavor. It’s quite delicious.

Flavors of Fall Pumpkin Pie Green Smoothie

Yield: About 8 cups. Recipe can easily be halved.

  • 1 16 ounce frozen spinach, thawed or broken into chunks that your blender can handle
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I used coconut and almond milks)
  • 1 cup apple cider or apple juice

    Pumpkin is off the wagon and in this smoothie.

  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie seasoning (yes, I like a lot of this ingredient)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sweetener of choice (I used stevia)

1. Add all ingredients into blender, and blend. Add more liquid as needed.

2. Taste for sweetness, and adjust as needed.

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One unscathed peach, as the rest simmer in the background for Lazy Peach Butter, my peach butter that leaves the skins ON.

Peach butter’s all over the blogosphere. I’m aware of this.  It makes perfect sense: peach season is winding down, and canning is the cool thing to do these days. Like all old school and retro and local and Recession-friendly and stuff.

So if anything, I’m kind of late (and a follower to boot) by even “going  there” with this recipe.

However, my peach butter is different in a key way: it leaves the skins on.

Personally, I haven’t yet run into any peach butter that doesn’t involve either:

a. Blanching, then peeling the peachies.

b. A food mill.

I hate peeling fruits and vegetables. It’s a pet peeve of mine, to be honest. Because I’m lazy like that. I’ll admit it. Plus, I love the skin of fruits like peaches, plums, pears, and apples. The skins have tons of flavor and all of those beautiful colors. Plus, I mentioned I’m lazy, right?

Bless this mess. Chunky, messy, peachy goodness.

Regarding canning:  I’m not yet set up to do canning. In the future, I wanna be all up in the canning scene. With decorative labels and shiny Ball jars and both innovative and classic preserves flavors. But for now, that’s not the deal over here.

Moreover, I’m not about to buy a food mill, not just yet. Most of my cooking and such doesn’t really justify owning one, and this humble kitchen is tiiiiiiight for space as it is.

So my peach butter is beyond simple; it keeps the peels on, and it’s a good thing it does. Because once I tell you what I went through to get these peaches from farm (market) to table, you’ll realize the wisdom (and hilarity) of my Lazy Peach Butter. Keep reading, or scroll on down for the recipe. . . .

Labor Day 2011 summed up my entire summer in so many ways. It included:

  • Biking
  • Yoga
  • Fresh produce from the farmer’s market
  • Buying a random (but needed) item off of Craigslist
  • Eating an ice cream cone (I’ve been nuts about ice cream this summer; this doesn’t happen every year, so go figure)
  • Mishaps
  • A lazy,  minimal recipe

Today’s agenda sounded so simple. After taking it pretty easy this weekend (only teaching 2 classes, as all of my other gigs were canceled, and I hadn’t been doing much of anything), I was ready to pick up the tempo.

I decided to ride my bike down to Chelsea to take a Yoga class that’d been gifted to me by a friend.  Today was the last day I could take the class, and wasted pre-paid classes make me sad, so I was up kinda early to get rollin’. I figured a farmer’s market run at the nearby Union Square Greenmarket after class to snag the peaches for peach butter would be a smart idea. Sounded simple enough.

I already assembled the garment rack. Took all of five minutes. Loving it already! Note the mix of summer and fall clohes hanging on it.

Until I got an email from a girl I’d written to on Craigslist, telling me that the garment rack she was selling was still available, and could I come get it today.

I’ve been wanting a garment rack for ages. This one was only $15. She was in the East Village, and I was going to be nearish to there anyways.

So I made plans to meet her after class, pre-market.

I figured I’d take the garment rack parts and stash them in a locker at one of my work sites, returning  to fetch them later in the week. Surely garment rack parts would be too bulky to carry, especially on a bike. Right?

Wrong.

This is where my Iranian Engineering kicks in.

What’s that, you ask? Well, growing up, my dad had a way (he still does) of, ahem, rigging things up around the house, and at his businesses. My mom used to roll her eyes and say, “There’s a right way to do something. And there’s a wrong way. Then there’s your Dad’s way.”

So my dad’s Iranian, and he’s trained as an engineer, he has his ways, so there we have it. Iranian Engineering.

Apparently, folks,  the gene got passed on to me.

The garment rack parts were light enough that I decided we were all coming home together: Me, the rack, and eventually, the delicate, fresh peaches. One the bike. On Labor Day. In Manhattan. Ahem.

I was able to stuff most of the “poles” of the rack into my Yoga mat bag. I wrapped my super lightweight travel mat around them, secured the mat and the poles with a heavy duty rubber band. I stuffed the rest of the garment rack parts in my backpack. Then I slung both the Yoga mat bag and the backpack on my back. Carefully. (And I wonder why my shoulders tweak out sometimes, but that’s another story for another day).

The farmer’s market run was pretty quick and painless. I stuck the peaches in a plastic bag, and stuck that in a reusable bag. I looped the reusable bag around the bike handlebars a couple of times, and we were off. I’m pretty sure some people thought “friggin’ idiot” as I rolled past, but I pit them no mind. I was too psyched that I might actually get all the stuff home in one trip.

Soon enough, I realized the Yoga mat was going to keep slipping off my back and possibly cause me to bob and weave across the road like a drunk. I’m totally against doing that unless already intoxicated, plus I can think of better ways to go than getting mowed down by a garbage truck. So I rigged up a way to loop my mat around the handle bars. I then took my two “U” locks and looped them around the mat and the handlebars to further secure it. (Yes, I have two locks. Don’t ask).

It was a feat of Iranian Engineering. Lemme tell ya. It was actually quiet comfortable and relatively stable, and I was proud.

Peaches cooking up. I swear the pic is in focus. The foggy look is from the steam floating off of the peaches.

Until an incident with the bag of peaches hanging low on the handlebars and um, somehow getting caught in the front wheel.

You know what they say about low-hanging fruit. .  .

Long story short, about half the peaches were pureed before I even got north of 23rd Street.

Sigh.

This is where Yoga kicks in. The old Bria would’ve been madder than a hornet’s nest at such a turn of events. And yeah, a few curses did fly, as I freed the bag and the peaches from the wheel and got all sticky in the process. But really, I mostly laughed. My bike had done some of the prep work for me.  And I was able to salvage every last peach. After a good rinse at home (of both the peaches and myself), everything was fine. Except for the brown sugar I’d chosen to use almost burning up the whole pot of peach butter.

Yes, another error. Again, luckily one I caught in time. The simple flavor of peaches and the slight caramel note added by the brown sugar is quite delicious, but next time, I’m do half brown sugar, half regular sugar to prevent scorching. I’m glad I didn’t add any spices. I’m also glad that I went pretty easy on the sugar, because a lot of fruit butters are too darn sweet. To me, this one is perfect.

Thank goodness, considering what I went through to make it!

Lazy Peach Butter

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.)

Yield: 1 and 1/2 cups peach butter. Recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.

  • 1 pound of peaches, pits removed and cut into 8 pieces per peach
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I used brown sugar, but it seems more prone to scorching, so just be aware and feel free to use white sugar or a mix of brown and white sugars)

1. Add peaches and water to a pot/Dutch oven. I used my small Le Creuset.

2. Boil for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

3. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

4. Place peaches in blender (I used my Vita-Mix) or food processor and puree lightly until desired consistency is reached. (Go slowly, especially if you want a chunkier texture, like I did).

5. Return puree to pot and add lemon juice and sugar.

6. On a low heat, simmer for another 5-10 minutes (up to 40 minutes for bigger batches), stirring gently and often.  (Mine was done at 5 minutes, and I think the brown sugar caused the bottom of the Le Creuset to get a caramelized layer on it, so be careful here.)

7.  To test for correct consistency, place some of peach butter on the back of a wooden spoon. When one finger swiped down the middle leaves a clean space, the peach butter is thick enough.

8. Allow to cool, and store, covered in a jar for up to a month. Alternatively, you can freeze it. I’d guesstimate it’ll last at least 6 months frozen.

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Maybe I'll catch up on my reading...Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng.

 

It took a hurricane to get me to finally update this blog. Ha!

As you may have heard, we on the East Coast are fixin’ to get walloped by Hurricane Irene.

For some people I know, myself included, it takes a major storm and a shut down public transit system to get us grounded and to spend time in relative stillness.

As much as I love lounging, I typically work a lot on the weekends and am often social as well. But not this weekend. All of my classes are canceled, and New York City transit isn’t running.

Let me say this now: I’m safe, prepped, and have coordinated with my neighbors and friends so that we can help one another out should the need arise. So please, no one worry! And no, I’m not in an evacuation zone. Thankfully!

I was slated to teach one class this morning, near an evacuation zone, no less, but once I got there (miraculously on time!), it quickly became apparent than no one was showing up to take the class. So I worked out instead.

I'm getting this top soon. Can't wait to work out in it. Red, cheetah print, black, and with a criss-cross/lattice back? Yes, PLEASE! To see the back view, click here: tinyurl.com/3u8x95c

Why not work out, I figured. I was already in a gym setting, and it was quiet. Love that. Here’s what I did :

Bria’s Hurricane Workout

  • 30 minutes on the elliptical, hill intervals
  • 10 minutes of Yoga, with a simple flow: Down Dog to Down Dog Split to Warrior One,Warrior 2, Reverse, Triangle, Revolved Triangle, Warrior 3, Warrior One, Vinyasa. Repeat on the second side.
  • I practiced a bit of headstand and handstand as well.
  • Then 20 pushups (10 regular, 10 narrow hand position)
  • Hyperextension: 20 reps
  • One set of Pilates hundreds, some oblique crunches (16 per side)
  • A few cool-down stretches. Done!

This all took about 45-50 minutes

And now I’m blogging.

As I said before, I’ve definitely put this space on Summer Hours for the past few weeks. It’s just been busy in my life, plus I’m cooking up some ideas on how to make this blog better. Perhaps much better.


Yoga has definitely helped keep me calm during a crazy week.

What a week!

Wanna hear my earthquake story?

Tuesday, I was teaching Yoga, in the MetLife building no less, during the earthquake tremor/aftershock. Really!

The room shook, and I saw and felt it move, but thought “Maybe there are window washers outside, and they’re working too vigorously. And also, those goons in the weight room really shouldn’t throw around their weights so much that it causes the entire floor to shake.”

I'll be watching lots of this. But where are my Law and Order marathons on a stormy weekend like this? Picture courtesy of Stock.xchng.

A few minutes later, a voice came on over the loudspeaker when my students were in Warrior 2, saying “We’ve had reports of the building shaking, and are investigating.”

A few minutes after that, we were evacuated. I ended up walking home, because no WAY did I want to be underground on the subway if another aftershock came through.

Fast forward a few days, and I’ve noticed that some of my friends don’t know what to do with themselves with all of this downtime as we wait to feel the full effects of the hurricane.

I say, get grounded. Have some fun. Maybe even be productive, but in a low-key, meditative kind of way, not a frantic, deadline-meeting, stressing ourselves out kind of way. Know what I mean?

Steak! I cooked one of these for dinner tonight. Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng.

Squeeze in a mini workout. Cook. Can food (like make quick pickles or preserves). Clean  house. Watch movies. Cuddle. Breathe and actually tune into that breath!

I typically have no problem keeping myself entertained. I love downtime, alone time, and quiet.

My plan is to do some or all of the following. This isn’t so much a to-do list as a list of options:

  • Meditate
  • Organize a bookshelf I recently got
  • Put up some laundry (never-ending chore!)
  • Attend to some other assorted light household tasks
  • Lots of lounging and napping
  • Plan upcoming trips (Montreal, Toronto, and I’m jonesing for a Winter island trip)
  • Drink tea. And hot chocolate. And my homemade kombucha! (posting my recipe for kombucha soon)
  • Catch up on reading; I just re-read “On the Road,” and think I have a crush on Jack Kerouac
  • Yoga and maybe some Pilates, too
  • Watch TV (but where are my Law and Order marathons when we NEED one? Wall to wall news coverage gets old when nothing NEW is being said.)
  • Watch movies. My friend Athena Lee has assigned me to re-watch Wedding Crashers. Gladly!
  • Pray the electricity holds. (Power outages and blackouts aren’t fun. Yes, I lived through the New York City blackout of 2003).
  • Cook. Not bake. Ha, too dangerous to have bunches of fragrant, gooey goodies lying around  ;-)

Anyways, forgive the light tone of this post. Yes, the storm is serious. I get that. I just really hope that everyone stays safe and makes the best of the present moments, even if they’re not what we expected for our usual weekend dabblings. Breaking the routine can be a good thing.

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Azaleas, snapped at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Azaleas remind me of Texas, actually. I love the flowers of summer.

Hey Everyone. I’m popping up for a moment to wish everyone a Happy Summer! Today is the official first day of summer. It starts at 1:16 P.M., Eastern Standard Time.

I mentioned this in class this morning, and one of my students asked me if I was counting down. Well, not really. Ha! I just heard that fact on the news and wanted to pass it on.

I hope everyone has some time to spend outdoors to enjoy these long, sunny days. If you practice Yoga, notice how the increase in warmth increases your flexibility. Some other worthwhile summer activities:

In the spirit of summer relaxation, I”m posting less lately, as you may have noticed. I’m calling this my Summer Hours. But don’t worry, I’m hard at work on different projects, have some travel planned, and definitely have a recap of my recent Yoga retreat that I’ll share soon. Also, I’ve got a couple of Summer-friendly recipes to share soon.

Until them, have an awesome first day of Summer.

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What's your idea of heaven on earth?

Hey Guys!

I’m busy planning my next Yoga getaway.  

Yes, I’m thrilled to be hosting another retreat.

Just this week, I met with Chef Maria, also a student of mine, to sketch out the menus. Maria has helped me in the past with the catering aspect of the Yoga retreats, and now she’s doing so in a more official capacity. I’m super psyched to have her onboard! This way I know the food prep is in excellent hands, and I can focus even more energy on teaching my awesome students.

Trust me, the menus we are planning are our very best yet. We have our basic outline, and of course will allow for what is freshest/in season/looks good in our final shopping trip before the getaway.

So where are we going? To Upstate New York. In early summer.  To spend some precious, rejuvenating time here:

Partial view of our retreat house in Upstate NY. I say "our" like we own the place. Ha! For the weekend, we rent it. One of my dreams is to someday own a retreat center of my own, perhaps some place out West.

One of the students who came to the Fall Harvest retreat I did back in early November of 2010, said that she now thinks of this spot Upstate as a “happy place,” that she returns to from time to time in her mind’s eye when day-to-day life gets to be a bit much. What’s you’re happy place?

I definitely think beautiful mountains and woods, lots of nature, flowers, and green, is happy for me. Plus beautiful rocks and clean, pure, moving water. I love beaches, too.  So Colorado but with a temperate beach in my backyard. Ha! Obviously I don’t think of such environs as my day-to-day environment. For me, they’re getaways. (For now; let’s never say never; spending more time in the mountains and on the beach is very possible).

So when I ran across this passage in a book just today, it struck me that this sounded like my Day to Day Heaven on Earth. Check it out:

Situated on the unpaved banks of the Seine in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly, La Roseraie, home to les Madrus, was names for its lush, rose-filled gardens. The property also contained a handsome grape arbor where lunch was served on sunny days. A henhouse was headquarters for two roosters named Ali and Baba, a harem’s worth of chickens,  few golden pheasants, and a score of huge Toulouse geese. In addition to this menagerie were a tame gazelle, a goat, a few angora rabbits, and an alley cat that wandered in one day and became part of the family. The villa’s interior contained thousands of books, handsome Arabian carpets, and practical American style furniture.

—From Wild At Heart, Natalie Clifford Barney’s Journey From Victorian America to the Literary Salons of Paris, by Suzanne Rodriguez. p. 147

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well, maybe the birds aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it sounds like fun. Especially the tame gazelle. How cute! I want one! The rose gardens and orchards sound beautiful, especially if someone else is tending them. Ha!

For me, a happy place has plenty of comfy nooks where I can sit and read a book, nap, or lounge and gaze out to a pretty, green, quiet space. This nook at the retreat house fits the bill perfectly. .

So tell me, what’s your happy place?  It doesn’t even have to be real.

Feel free to get creative. I think visualization and letting our imaginations run free is an important part of life. It opens us up to creativity and new possibilities, so that we don’t get too closed into the “same old same old.” AKA a RUT! Hey, I’m all about routine to large degree, but shaking things up can be good, too!

A quick food note before I roll: I’ll be posting a really juicy, delicious Persian chicken kebab recipe soon (as soon as I photograph it). My dining table is always a happy place when that kebab recipe is on the menu. Talk to you all soon.

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Fitness Magazine dug this photo. Its the one they selected as a finalist for the Face of Fitness contest. Please vote for me here, and pass it along. You can vote daily! My friend Marisa Train took this photo. http://photos.fitnessmagazine.com/face-of-fitness-contest/16/2011/38?esrc=nwphotofaves_fitcover

So I heard Fitness Magazine, which I love, was having a “Face of Fitness” contest. On a lark, I submitted some photos late last week. Monday morning I got an email that I’m a finalist for this week. (Every week of the contest they have several finalists). What a great way to kick off the week!

Guess they really dug my Yoga photos. (That’s all I really had to send in, plus a headshot, so that’s what I did).

If I win the week’s contest, I win $250. If I win the overall competition, there’s a Hawaii vacay and a photoshoot on tap. Wow!

So if you have a moment, please click through and vote for me. I’m currently in 38th place in the “Readers’ Choice” portion of the contest. I was #145 yesterday!

I told my friend Katherine to submit her pic, too, and she did. Get this–She’s also a weekly finalist. Woot! Vote for her, too, while you’re at it. You can vote for us daily :-) through April 24th.

Direct Link to Vote for me is here.

Direct Link to Vote for Katherine is here.

And feel free to re-post, Facebook, “like,”  Tweet, and all that jazz. That would be really awesome!

Thanks so very much!

On the food front, I have a fast, easy, and delicious recipe I’m posting very soon; it’s quite healthy and fun as well, so stay tuned.

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Self portrait of me in between takes of a Yoga photo shoot last fall. Note the peaceful look. I credit the Yoga ;-)

Hey Gang!

If you need some Yoga to help sweat out those Valentine’s Day sweets, and you live in the New York City area, today might just be your lucky day, a true Wellness Wednesday:

A month of UNlimited Yoga at ISHTA Yoga in Manhattan is on offer via Groupon. For $30. Yeah, you read right: 30 bucks!

I’ve yet to try out ISHTA, but it’s been on my list of “must-try” studios for awhile. Now I’m IN to check it out.

I dug around on their website and elsewhere online, and I like the following:

  • They have lots of class options throughout every day. Even random times, like mid-afternoons.
  • The Union Square location is convenient.
  • The reviews I’ve read are quite good.
  • Several teachers I’ve been meaning to try out teach there.
  • One class at a typical Yoga studio can cost $15 to $20. Dunno about you, but this can put a serious dent in my budget. The opportunity to take unlimited classes for the cost of two classes is awesome. And to do this for a MONTH? Wow!
  • Not ready to do this? It’s okay, you have until July 17, 2011, to activate the coupon.

This is about as much vetting as I can do short of checking the place out myself. Sooo. . . .

Click this link if you’re interested:

ISHTA Yoga Deal

Another food post soon, my dears. Have a lovely Wednesday. Be well!

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