i had a wave of panic…

me & dad almost to rob

i had a wave of panic a few years ago, when i was in a yoga workshop and the question was asked, “where in your life is there potential disaster?” the first thing that came to mind was not making an effort to get to know my dad as the cool dude that he is.

don’t get me wrong, i know him. for my biggest life decisions… like divorce, surgery, direction, babies… the person’s opinion i hold closest in my heart, is my dad’s. in no way is this dissing mom. it’s just that she’s probably been part of the whole talking-it-to-death process along the way.

i go to dad when i’m serious. surprisingly, he’s never phased. (hhhmmm. maybe mom has prepped him…?) he’s always supportive. in the most sincere way. this is not someone who would tell me what i want to hear. he gently presents all sides of the situation, and ends with something along the lines of, “i believe in you. you’ve got this.”

so… this year, to prevent any potential disaster, i got the courage to ask dad if he’d like to go out on dates with me. he seemed happy about this. he calls me with plans. (plans that have included chick movies and starbucks… stuff i might like ;)

he picks me up at my door. he pays. he is thoughtful. a gentleman.

dad is a really cool dude.

happy birthday, dad.
may we have many, many, many more dates.

Mexican Cacao Brownies from The Plantpower Way

Mexican Cacao Brownies
gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, naturally sweetened, actual nutrition
from my current cookbook obsession: The Plantpower Way by Julie Piatt and Rich Roll
cute pan courtesy Christmas gift from Anthropoligie :)

mexican cacao brownies

Pure decadence. Worth the extra ingredients you might have to buy if you’re not used to baking gluten-free/vegan. Buy them. You’ll want to make these again. I promise. Oh, and all of the funky ingredients happen to be one aisle… just ask for the Bob’s Red Mill section :)

Ingredients:

3 T ground flaxseeds (I bought this at Sprouts)
6 T filtered water
coconut oil, for greasing the pan
3/4 cup garbanzo flour (I bought Bob’s Red Mill brand, right next to the flaxseeds at Sprouts)
1/4 cup tapioca flour (while you’re in the Bob’s Red Mill aisle…)
1/2 cup cacao powder (can often find in bulk section, or buy brand like Nativas  or use cocoa powder if you don’t want to buy cacao. difference is cocoa powder is processed… nutrients are stripped, but some say it doesn’t matter  if you’re baking because you’re heating the nutrients away anyway)
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t xantham gum (Bob’s Red Mill section)
1/2 t Celtic sea salt (I used Kirkland sea salt)
1 t cinnamon
1 cup almond meal (yea! Bob’s makes this too)
1 (3.5 oz) high-quality dark chocolate chili bar (I bought Sprout’s brand)
1-1/4 cup organic cane sugar (I used Safeway brand organic coconut sugar)
1 cup + 2 T vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 t vanilla
9 oz bag vegan chocolate chips ( I buy these at Sprout’s)

Preparation:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground flaxseeds and filtered water until the mixture forms an egg-like consistency.
2. Preheat oven to 350.
3. Line the bottom of a 9″ square pan with parchment paper and lightly oil sides with coconut oil. (I oiled the whole pan, no paper)
4. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, cacao, baking soda, xantham gum, salt, cinnamon. Add the almond meal and stir with a wooden spoon.
5. Create a double boiler by bringing water to a boil in a small saucepan. Rest a small metal bowl over the top of the pan, add the chocolate bar, and let sit until it’s melted. Stir occasionally.
6.In a mixer, add the sugar, vegan butter, flaxseed “egg,” almond milk, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. (I don’t have a counter-top mixer, I used a hand mixer.)
7. Add the melted chocolate and mix again.
8. Making a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix well with a rubber spatula. The mixture should be thick and gooey. If it is too dry, add a very small amount of almond milk, 1 T at a time. However, it should be perfect!
9. Fold in 3/4 of the bag of chocolate chips, saving the rest for sprinkling on the top.
10. Pour into the pan and spread out evenly with a rubber spatula.
11. Bake for 25 minutes or until a fork stuck in the center comes out clean.

Let sit until cool before cutting. This is key. Once they cooled, I put them in the refrigerator. They are awesome.

Chef Julie’s note:

You can choose to omit the cinnamon and swap the chocolate chili bar for a mint dark chocolate bar instead for a fresh twist.

Chef Denese’s note: 
I topped them with a dollop of Coconut Milk Whipped Cream. You can buy the So Delicious Brand at Whole Foods, or whip up your own batch in 2 minutes:

Place a box of So Delicious Original (not Lite ) Culinary Coconut Milk in the fridge overnight. While you’re at it, place beaters and a small metal bowl in the freezer. If you forget, no big deal.  When you’re ready to make the whipped cream, squeeze the box of coconut milk (like a tube of toothpaste) into the cold metal bowl, add a very small dash of vanilla (or, I prefer vanilla bean powder), and a small squirt of raw honey…….. beat until whipped cream consistency.  Dollop on a brownie and you’re in heaven.

coconut milk
I’ve tried all brands of coconut milk for this… Trust me, the So Delicious one is the best, or the can of Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk (green can on left) is good too.  (Trader Joe’s brand has a plastic-y taste to me.) I keep a couple boxes/cans in the fridge at all times in case we get a craving for whipped cream. For the canned version, open the can and scoop out the solid top half into the bowl, leaving the liquid in the can. (put it in a glass jar and save for a smoothie.) Follow the same process, add the vanilla and honey, beat until creamy consistency.

 

 

pardon me while i get all yoga on you…

pardon me while i get all yoga on you…

sometimes sanskrit is the only way of capturing certain sensations.

one of which, i felt after having a movie and plant-powered pizza party for friends made during our last 40 Days (of yoga, meditation and mindful eating) workshop.

what i felt was sangha,

a sanskrit term for a group of spiritually inclined people that gather and support each other’s unique way of navigating their way toward their best life.

civilians say it takes a village.
yogis say it takes a sangha.

a sacred space to check in and fill up,

with others who simply get it.

without judgment.

sanghas remind us we are not alone.

in them, we see our sameness, our struggles, our desire to shine within each other.

sanghas are sacred because they are rare.

they don’t only happen in yoga studios…

in fact, yoga does not make or guarantee sangha.

the people within the studios do.

sangha takes effort, off the mat.

getting together, listening, encouraging, sharing is what makes sangha.

studios certainly don’t have to organize sangha for you.

you can do that yourself.

with friends who do or don’t do yoga,

just ones who share a desire to create their best life.

sangha is essential because we can not do it alone.

our mind will get in the way every. single. time.

telling us we’re crazy for trying, we will never change, we are not capable.

we need sangha to step in and stop the madness.

a gentle reminder that others struggle too.

that this madness is normal.  it’s part of the process.

a gentle nudge to simply acknowledge it and keep going.

however, sangha is not enough.
svadhyaya is kinda key too.

think of svadhyaya as self-imposed-for-the-rest-of-your-life-for-the-sake-of-becoming-your-best-self school.

it is a regular practice of consistently making an effort to observe and learn from others struggling and shining through life.

it comes in the form of books. podcasts. blog posts. workshops. and movies.

like Yogawoman.

the movie of choice for our movie night.

i love that movie.

it makes me feel like i’m part of something big.

because yoga IS big.

it is powerful, useful and available to each and every one of us.

throughout every part of our life.

young. old. sick. limber. stuck. successful. injured. in jail.

(let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, after seeing this movie, you know that yoga can get you through that too ;)

i also love that it reminds me of my all-time favorite yoga lesson:

that all of this showing up and stretching

is ultimately preparing for us death.

that’s right.

all this breathing is really about dying.

sivasana, aka “corpse” pose, symbolizes the deepest surrendering, acceptance and hopefully, overwhelming sense of pride and well-being.

wouldn’t it be great to lie on your death bed,

truly at peace with what just transpired,

no matter what your age?

like, wow…

what a crazy, amazing, beyond belief adventure that just was.

and i nailed it.

thank you.

on to the next one.

i’m out.

 

in every single practice (even the 5-minute ones),

we are given a chance to “practice” showing up,

being grateful for what we’ve got, where we’re at and what we’re capable of.

we have a chance to dabble, bobble, get it, not get it, then let it go.

we experience our strength, flexibility, capability and grace.

we sense we are not alone.

when it’s all over, we lie down and let the magic of all of those gifts and lessons ,

the ones that happened, right there on our mat, a moment to settle in our bones.

we feel supported. light. loved. happy. free.

 

thank you for being part of my sangha.

it doesn’t matter if you were actually at the pizza party.

sangha can simply be showing up for each other, via email, facebook,  a chat after classs, a walk in the park, a thought, a prayer. it all counts.

namaste,

(the goodness in me, sees and appreciates and learns from the goodness in you)

 

 

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