Vineyards & Castles of France

For most of 2012, I was travelling and had the good fortune and opportunity of being in 8 countries (Germany, Hungary, India, Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria and Spain). One of the special pleasures of living near the border of Germany and Switzerland is the relative easy access to some of the neighboring countries. France, Italy and even Austria are only a few hours drive.

One of the highlights was a road-trip to Alsace, a small village known as the "foreign domain". Over 75 years, it exchanged ownership between Germany and France. It now belongs to France and is understood as being a very important region politically in the EU.

So here's a very small town that I never heard of before, but that no one should think has no power of its own. Alsace is also a commune and perhaps better known for all its 'famed' and historical castles. The most famous and largest is the King's Castle or the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg. It's probably the first thing you notice as you enter the village as it stands on an opposing mountain overlooking its world.

Like many castles I guess you could say it has seen its fair share of war, blood-shed and destruction. There are no clear details as to when the castle was built other than it first being mentioned in 1147. Perhaps during the years that lead to the 15th century it was peaceful and serene. By 1462, however, the castle had been attacked and burnt down. Following this it was abandoned for many hundreds of years. It was not until 1899 when a German Emperor of Wilhelm took it over to re-create a castle of the Medieval times. Ironically, he wanted to reconstruct the castle with the hope of reinforcing the unity between the Alsace citizens and Germany. After WWI the French took over the castle. However, the more fitting word 'confiscated' more accurately describes the turn of events. Given the long history of absence it is difficult to determine what really happened--when and how.

And again, like many castles it has been the inspiration for poets, writers and including Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty despite being overgrown and deserted. Since the castle was completely destroyed it has been criticized as being a 'fairy-tale' castle and because most of it was reconstructed to the taste of a German Emperor. Some facts include the Tower being 14 meters too high and a general over-emphasized link to German nostalgia.

As luck would have it the day we headed out it was incredibly foggy and raining. The last castle we visited we were in the same weather conditions. we started late in the hopes the fog would lift but when we arrived at the castle it was closed. Our visions of her are only from the outskirts. Determined not to make a trip in vain we drove back into the village and dined at a lovely French restaurant and hotel (Aux Ducs de Lorraine).

It's on the odd occasion that I drink a glass of wine. And I have to say it would have been  absurd not to and especially in this region of France! Alsace is a gorgeous scene of green that looks like endless vineyards. They specialize in dry and sweet wines, roses and reds. A nice, white (sweet but not too sweet) glass is perfect. The French also know how to dress a table with simple elegance---a white table cloth, silver cutlery and fine bone China.

And doing a balance pose proves I was there and not intoxicated, albeit a cheap date I am! 

Roasting your Veggies

Vegetables are one of loveliest foods on the planet.

I love the colours of red, dark and light greens, purples, orange and yellow. Recently, I have moved away from the conventional and quick method of frying or boiling vegetables. I‘ve been experimenting with roasting and the results are truly outstanding.

Roasting does require more time (double in fact than boiling), but the benefits are worth it. A few facts:

* The vitamin C and B complex in the vegetables are not absorbed by the water when roasted.
   More of the nutrition is maintained and stays right where it should---in the vegetable. 
* The boiling water absorbs most of the good ‘stuff’ and is wasted when poured down the drain.  
* The flavour of roasted vegetables is far superior to boiled vegetables. 
* Vegetables maintain their rich colour and even deepen unlike boiled or fried veggies, which tend to  
   get ‘white-washed’.
* Less oil is used unlike fried vegetables. This lowers your intake of unnecessary fats.
* An array of spices can be sprinkled over the roasting vegetables, which adds another meaning to 
   the word ‘delicious’.

I’ve roasted squash, potatoes, beets, broccoli, carrots and mushrooms all together and the effect is terrific. However, when not dealing with vegetables of the same consistency (re: the roasting time may vary) you need to start off with the ‘tough’ guys first. For example, the order of roasting for this combo is: beets (1st), carrots & potatoes (2nd) and broccoli and mushrooms (3rd).

Other Tips:
* Set the over to 450F or 250C. When ready place the pan in the middle.  
* Use a good-sized pan and place one sheet of baking paper on the bottom.
* Cut the vegetables into medium to small wedges.
* Place in a single row. Don’t do a double –decker!  
* Cover or drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin oil.
* Sprinkle with ginger, fresh grounded cloves or another favorite spice.
* When cooking with more than one vegetable cook until about half soft, add the next vegetable and
   so on. This way each vegetable will be cooked to their consistency but not overdone.
* Add salt and pepper to your liking (or not).
* Check every 8-10 minutes and toss.
* Prick with a fork to check softness and toss again.
* The perfect roasted vegetable is somewhat soft but definitely not mushy.
* Cooking time varies between 25 to 40 minutes.
* Add walnuts, almonds or another nut to complete the dish. 


Thai Noddles For Two

This is easy and fun. It's also perfect for an intimate dinner. I added tomato wedges for a visual effect.

Main Ingredients
*   7-8 ounces wheat or egg noodles, fresh or dried "instant" type (SERVES 2)
*   3-4 Tbsp ghee or extra virgin oil for stir-frying
*   1/4 cup raw or dry roasted unsalted peanuts, ground or roughly chopped with a knife
*   1 cup medium-firm tofu, cubed and tossed with 1 Tbsp soy sauce
*   White wine or cooking wine or broth (vegetarian) 1-2 Tbsp.

*   1 red or green chili (de-seeded if you prefer less spicey)
*   3 cloves garlic to be minced
*   1 thumb-size peeled piece of ginger to be grated
*   3 Tbsp. soy sauce

*   Juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime

Fresh Herbs
*  1/2 to 1 loosely-packed cup basil leaves and roughly chopped
*  1/2 cup fresh chives and chopped into small pieces
*  3 spring onions and finely sliced
*  1 loosely-packed cup fresh coriander (chopped) or powder
Boil your noodles until nearly cooked (if you cook them too much it makes them mushy).
Rise with cold water and set aside.
Mix together the paste ingredients well and set aside.
Prepare the herbs by washing and chopping and set aside.
In a frying pan add the ghee or oil and mix around for 1 minute.
Add the sliced tofu with the soy sauce. Mix.
Add the paste with a white wine or cooking wine.
Cook for 2-3 minutes. Push aside in pan to add more oil and the noodles.
Taste it and add salt (1 Tbsp) and/or more chilli (if not spicey enough)
Remove and toss with the herbs. Add lemon wedges.   

Serve and enjoy!  

Kimchi Casual: Korea's Staple

I was first introduced to kimchi while living in South Korea. It is the fermented cabbage dish of Korean food; the great staple with rice. I've always wanted to try making it, but thought it was too complicated because traditionally it's stored in large crock pots and buried in the ground. However, this recipe made it easy by using mason jars and stored in the fridge or a cool place. For these reasons it's called the 'casual' kimchi.  

For those not familiar with kimchi it is packed with lots of minerals and vitamins especially vitamin C. It is usually made with fish and shrimp sauce, but this recipe offers a great substitute for vegans. Koreans claim that eating kimchi during the winter prevents the common cold, flu, cough and the sniffles. I've also witnessed Koreans eating it for breakfast. 

* 1 Chinese cabbage (medium)
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 1/2 cup chilli powder
* 2 inch fresh ginger
* 6-7 garlic cloves (minced)
* 2 tablespoon red miso paste or Thai curry paste
* 6-7 scallions (minced)
* 1/2 cup water

Prepare the Cabbage 
Cut up into small pieces and add 2 tablespoons of salt on top. 
Toss together. Let sit for 6-7 hours so it create its own water. Place a weight like 2 plates on top of it.

Prepare the Paste 
Add all the ingredients above, stir and blend for 45 seconds.

Next Steps
Scrap out of the blender and mix together with the cabbage. 
Use gloves or just enjoy the messiness of it.  
Add 3/4 to 1 cup of water.
Taste and add more sugar or salt as you like.
Jar tightly to ferment for at least 1 week. 

Place in the fridge around the 2nd or 3rd day.

* As the kimchi ferments it becomes more sweet/sour. 

More Great Benefits of Kimchi 

There have also been studies indicating it may prevent colon cancer. The garlic and spices stimulate the secretion of pepsin in the stomach and activate the bowels. It certainly is not for the faint-mouthed because good kimchi has a strong tang and can be nicely spiced.  In my opinion, kimchi might be something of an acquired taste but if you fight colds during the winter you really may want to give it a try! 

Salad with a Bite (Spinach, Mushrooms and Quinoa)

If you like a salad that has a bit of a bite (in a nice way) and 100 % vegetarian here's one to definitely try.

* 6 white mushrooms (finely sliced)*
   (you may want to use less mushrooms)
* Spinach (4-5 handful or 1/2 bunch)
* 1 cup quinoa
* salt, pepper & curry powder
* 1 clove garlic (diced)
* 1 teaspoon dijon mustard+ (gives it the bite)
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon apple vinegar+
* 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
* 1/3 buttermilk, soy or a substitute+

(+) Experiment with your own version or what's already in your cupboard.

Cook the Quinoa:
~Add 1 1/4 cup of water to the washed quinoa into a saucepan with salt to taste. I added only 1/2 of a teaspoon. Let boil for 1 minute, continue to simmer and cover (about 10-15 minutes).
~When the qunioa is cooked fluff it with a fork and set aside into a bowl. Let it cool (5-10 minutes).

Prepare the Dressing:
~Add the ingredients from the garlic clove downward (see list above) and ONLY the pepper (no salt). Pepper to your own liking.
~Whisk it together in a bowl.

All Together:
~In a serving bowl add the spinach (line the bottom and sides with it).
~Add the dressing to the bowl with the quinoa and stir.
~Then add the mushrooms and stir.
~Scope out and place in the middle of the bowl and on top of the spinach.
~You may need to pull out some of the leaves of the spinach in order to give a more decorative effect!
~Sprinkle with curry powder or another spice to taste.

Serve and smile!

Home-made Creamy Zucchini Soup

Gourmet Soup you can make at home with lots of nutrition and taste. Better than the restaurant for sure.

* 2 zucchinis (medium)
* 2 potatoes (medium)
* 1 onion (white)
* 2 cloves of garlic
* 3-4 tablespoons of ghee or butter 
* ½ litre water (if you want it less creamy use more water)
* 2 teaspoons of curry powder
* We did not use any stock for this soup
* Salt, pepper and ground ginger
   Optional: Fresh parsley or another garnish

 Cut garlic and onion into small pieces (diced).
 Cut zucchini in half and slice (don’t peel).
 Dice and peel potatoes
Put ghee or butter in a pot and heat. I prefer using ghee.
Put garlic and onions with curry powder and stir. Leave 5 minutes until translucent.
Add water (if you use a stock add it here).
Add potatoes and zucchini and cook until soft for 20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Also add a small amount of ground ginger to taste.
Puree until mixed (we blended it and had the same effect).
Scrap out if you used a blender and return to the pot. Or, now you are ready to serve it!
Add fresh parsley as a garnish.

Makes 2 portions (what I call gourmet restaurant portions) and with 1 left-over. I describe it like this because everyone has a different idea of size so this eliminates any confusions. In other words, it's not your fast-food or Sloppy Joe portion (nothing wrong with that either by the way).

The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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