14 Feb 2020

CULTIVATING LOVE with CHANOYU (MATCHA TEA CEREMONY)


Tea: "the adoration of the beautiful among the facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony. It is a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life."

-- Kakuzō Okakura, The Book of Tea

Hello, friends! Happy Valentine's Day. I have been reconsidering the art and act of love this year. I'm in a place where nurturing my relationship with myself is fundamental to the health of all my other relationships. As RuPaul exclaims at the end of every Drag Race episode: "If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else!?" Point taken. 

So for this Valentine's Day, I want to share one ritual which allows me cultivate a deep sense of love, peace, and groundedness in my life: chanoyu! In English: hot water for tea. It refers to the centuries-old Japanese matcha tea ceremony developed by Taoist and Zen Buddhist monks. I'm going to talk about love for a second, then we'll get into tea, and finally you'll find my match tea recipe at the end of the post.

If I don't have a foundation of love and empathy for myself, I come into other relationships with fear, anxiety, and even jealousy. When I remember that I am already whole in my own identity, everything changes. I can live free from the fear of rejection and conflict, because I know that whatever happens, I'll be OK! This extends beyond just human to human relationships. This foundation of self-acceptance and love permeates to the whole universe. I am home in the cosmos when I recognize I am part of it, and that I was born good. I am inherently enough! This allows me to live in gratitude, compassion and wholeheartedness; instead of worry, dread, and hopelessness. In regards to the lesson of loving/accepting yourself, Tara Brach is an indispensable teacher. I recommend her book, Radical Acceptance. She writes: 

"On this sacred path of Radical Acceptance, rather than striving for perfection, we discover how to love ourselves into wholeness."

So! What does this have to do with matcha tea? Everything. Chanoyu is about embracing imperfections, balance, simplicity/austerity (wabi), ritual, respect, the present moment, and all the senses in order to connect with the universe and our own bodies. For me, this is an incredibly powerful act of acceptance of the Now, of myself, and of the forever-changing nature of the world. As I go through the stages of preparing and then drinking matcha, I am aware of my senses, and the temporariness of identity, feelings, and thoughts. All the lessons remind me I am but one mortal mammal in the universe, no better or worse than anyone else. Each imperfect part of the ceremony comes together to form a sacred whole, and I am part of this process. I am home. I deserve the tranquility chanoyu brings, and I deserve love. We all do.

I won't go into the details of the history of matcha and chanoyu, because other people have written about it with more knowledge and articulation than I possibly could. I am just beginning my journey into the ceremony. I recommend the following resources if you are yearnin' to learn more!

Videos:

Books:
The Book of Tea, by Kakuzō Okakura
Way of Tea, by Rand Castile, forward by Sen no Soshitsu
Tea in Japan: Essays on the History of Chanoyu, edited by H. Paul Varley and Kumakura Isao


MATCHA TEA (usucha)

2-4 grams ceremonial grade matcha powder (I've been using Matcha Kari)
60-80 ml water, just below boiling (70–85 °C)

Preparation: Before making your matcha, prepare your tea bowl (chawan) and bamboo whisk (chasen). Pour some hot water into the bowl and gently stir the whisk around in the water. This warms up the bowl and whisk so they are ready for your matcha. If you wish, wipe the bowl dry with a linen cloth. Now, let's make the tea!

Making the matcha: Carefully sift 2-4 grams of matcha powder through a fine sieve into your bowl. Next, pour in 60-80 ml of water heated to 70–85 °C. Introduce the whisk to the matcha and water, making a few W shapes slowly. Then, whisk as quickly as you can for 20 seconds in a vertical back and forth pattern. This will produce that wonderful foam. 

Drinking the matcha: drink the matcha right away, or else it becomes very bitter. Take a deep breath, coming back to your body and spirit. Notice all the beautiful details in your bowl of matcha: the colours, textures, smells and shapes. The whole universe is in this bowl! Take 3 and a half sips in total: the last half sip will be the remaining foam. With each sip, stay concentrated on how the matcha tastes and how it is moving through your whole body. This tea is nourishing, energizing, and becoming part of you. Think of all the people who played a part in bringing this matcha to you. Notice how the matcha makes you feel after you've drunken it. 

Optional additions: I like having my matcha with a sweet treat like a cookie to balance the bitterness. Traditionally in chanoyu, these sweets (wagashi) are eaten before the matcha is served to guests. You can also add nondairy milk or a sweetener to your matcha if you like. Or, have it over ice. 


31 Oct 2019

PUMPKIN PIE PANCAKES


Hello, all. How is everyone doing? I've got a treat for you today! It's cozy, sweet, and seasonally-inspired. In the festive spirit of Autumn, October, and Halloween: I give you... *drum roll* ... pumpkin pie pancakes!! (I understand you probably already read the title of this post, so that drum roll wasn't necessary. I just like drum rolls.) They are vegan and gluten-free, but you really wouldn't know it.

I readily admit I am not normally great at making pancakes. For whatever reason, they have always been a tricky recipe for me to pull off successfully. I either end up with weird gooey messes, or burnt pieces of batter. That's why I feel confident sharing this recipe: if I can make it work, anyone can. These pancakes turned out PERFECT. (My parents agree.) This recipe is sublime when you want pumpkin pie and pancakes all in one. Then, top them off with whipped coconut cream, maple syrup, roasted hazelnuts and oooh, baby! This recipe is excellent for a decadent breakfast, and it works just as well - if not better - as a dessert. You can make these pancakes in just a few minutes, and they look so darn cute garnished with all the toppings. I strongly believe we all deserve cute pancakes. Let me know if you make this recipe, and how it turns out!

xo, em


PUMPKIN PIE PANCAKES
Makes 7-8 pancakes. Print the recipe.

Pancakes:
1 cup gluten-free flour mix (I used GoGo Quinoa)
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon ground chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Vegan butter (or coconut oil), as needed (I used Earth Balance)

Toppings (non-negotiable!!!):
Coconut whipped cream
Roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Maple syrup
Flaked salt

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, chia seeds, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Add the pumpkin puree, milk, and maple syrup, and whisk everything together until evenly smooth. Let the batter sit for 5 minutes while you heat up a pan.

Heat up a non-stick pan on high heat, then reduce to medium-low (you just need to get the pan hot). Add a small scoop of vegan butter* to the pan; it should be hot enough that the butter quickly melts and sizzles. Scoop in 1/4 cup of batter; cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Continue this process until you've used up all your batter.

Serve your pancakes with all the toppings, and enjooooy!

*Note: I used a small pan and made my pancakes one at a time, using about a 1/2 teaspoon of vegan butter to cook each one. If you're using a larger pan, add more vegan butter, and cook several pancakes at once. Up to you, and the size of your pan!

25 Sep 2019

MAPLE HAZELNUT GRANOLA


Hey, fam! September is here, and that means some of us are BACK! IN! SCHOOL! I have been working my way through an undergrad for about 100 years, and that's no different this semester. So: I've been inspired to create some easy, nutritious and delicious recipes, that I can eat at home or on campus. One of these recipes is granola. It's been a fave food of mine ever since I was a kid. When I realized a few years ago how simple granola is to make yourself, there was no going back to your average store-bought varieties. Seriously: you throw some oats in a bowl, mix them around with nuts and maple syrup, then bake it all for 40 minutes. Voila. Perfect, fresh, and fragrant granola every time. It makes a quick breakfast before school, a light snack, or a terrific topping for ice cream and other sweet treats. 

29 Aug 2019

MY FAVE VEGAN SUPPLEMENTS


Today I am giving my own personal response to the age-old vegan question, "Should we take supplements, or nah?" In short, my answer is: it depends, but probably. Read on for the longer version. 

21 Aug 2019

PERFECT BREAKFAST BAGELS with TOMATOES & BASIL


Hello, friends. Busy as I am with school, meditation practice, endless to-dos, trips, errands, and life, I am TRYING to post more regularly. It's not really happening. I remember when I used to publish recipes every week... Oooh, those were the days: back when I was a teenager, with about 200% less worries. ANYHOO. Today is THIS day, and here I am. I want to share with you my current fave breakfast. It's a bagel. But not just ANY bagel. This recipe includes garden-fresh ingredients to give you nourishing vibrancy all morning.