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What is unique about cooking for guests at a yoga retreat?
Blanche: We need to be able to prepare light food that keeps the quests energetic so they're able to do yoga and meditation. The food can't be too stimulating-it needs to also keep the guests calm and centered. The challenge in cooking for yoga and meditation students is how to bring out the natural flavors of vegetables and grains, yet keep the tastes exciting and not dull. We avoid junk foods, but we work hard to find the foods that will satisfy guests so they don't have junk food cravings.
The food at The Expanding Light has received rave reviews - even by meat-eaters! How do you satisfy them?
Blanche: For meat-eaters, I make sure to have heavier dishes that are also healthier. If you're a meat eater and then switch to eating vegetarian foods, these heavier foods can be more satisfying. I fix things like Mexican Rice Casserole or Pad Thai with tofu, vegetables and a peanut sauce. Our Spinach Tofu Pie tastes just like Greek Spanakopitta-people can't tell there's no cheese in it. Our Mexican food recipes are very popular with first time vegetarians.
What do you for those who crave sweets?
Blanche: Instead of sweets, I added a whole section of breads-yeasted and non- yeasted. These breads are easy to make, wholesome, and they replace the need for heavy sweet desserts. For instance, the Zucchini Dessert Bread, which has a cake texture, is very popular. Our Spinach Stuffed Bread, Garlic Potato Bread, and Rosemary Olive Bread are all very popular and we make them fresh daily at the retreat. These are nurturing foods that satisfy the hunger for sweets.
What recipes do guests say they love the most?
Blanche: People really like the Maple Sesame Tofu because it's a combination of sweet and salty tastes. The Kale Sunflower Salad, which may sound strange, is a big hit as well. I make it with a marinade that makes it very tasty. Millet Patties with our Mushroom Gravy as well as the Sweet Zucchini Salad are very popular, as are our Lemon Ginger Dressing and Vitality Dressing. We plan menus ahead for a whole week, making sure that there are balanced meals and a variety for our guests, who often stay for a week or a month.
Put in a pot:
3 cups water
4 cups yams, peeled and cut into cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into rounds
2 stalks celery, cut into diagonals
Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté in a separate pan for 5-8 minutes:
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
8 ounces frozen, chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
When yams, carrots and celery are soft, let cool for 10 minutes. Then purée in a blender, food processor or with hand blender. Return to pot and stir in:
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon tamari or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Discard garlic from sautéed spinach. Add spinach to puréed soup.
Serving idea: Serve with Basic Whole Wheat Bread.
Tofu Spinach Pie
Non-dairy, healthy version of Greek spinach pie (spanakopitta).
Preparation time 40 minutes
Baking time 30 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix in a bowl:
1-3/4 cup whole wheat pasty flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine thoroughly with:
1/4 cup canola or sunflower oil
1/2 cup cold water
Mix until it forms a ball of dough. Roll and flatten dough. Place in bottom of well oiled glass 9" pie dish. Press dough with your fingers, starting with your fingers, starting from the center until it fully covers the sides of the dish. Make sure the dough is evenly distributed. Prick bottom of dough with fork. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
Mix together in a bowl:
1 pound firm tofu (not silken), crumbled by hand or food processor
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Saute( until onions are golden)
2 tablespoons canola or sunflower oil
1 cup onions, minced
Add and Saute( for 3 minutes or until wilted:
3 cups fresh spinach, cut into strips
Add spinach and onions to tofu mixture. Spoon into baked pie crust and press in with spoon so top is uniform. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes 350 degrees until top is golden. For shiny finish, brush top of pie with olive oil immediately after removing from oven.
For a creative alternative to whole wheat crust, use filo dough (available frozen in most markets). Follow directions on package. Spread half of filo sheets and cover with fillings, then cover with remaining filo sheets. You may need to adjust the amount of filling.
Warm Couscous Salad
A festive, colorful, light salad.
Preparation time: 40 minutes, Serves 5-6, Spring, summer, Fall
Place in a bowl
2-1/4 cups boiling water
2-1/4 cups couscous or whole wheat couscous
Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile mix together:
1/2 cup green or red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup quartered artichoke hearts
2 tablespoon capers (optional)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 cup raisins
Fluff couscous and add mixed vegetables. Cover and set aside.
To make dressing, mix in a small bowl:
1/3 cup natural rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
Pour half of dressing over salad, taste. Add more as needed.
Use organic short grain brown rice instead of couscous and follow rice cooking procedure.
Note: Whole wheat couscous can be found in health food stores.