Wednesday, February 29, 2012

foodie wednesday: spaghetti spaghetti squash is twice as nice

i have been LOVING spaghetti squash lately.  craig and i have been enjoying this delicious veggie almost every week.  if you've never tried it, you must!  it's simple, yummy and is a fabulous substitute for spaghetti.  try this super easy recipe, and you'll be hooked.

credit {here}

spaghetti spaghetti squash
makes 4+/- servings

1 spaghetti squash
1 onion, chopped
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (i use organic 4-cheese marinara)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (italian blend)
olive oil

preheat oven to 425

1. puncture the skin of the squash several times with a knife and place on a baking sheet.  roast in the oven for 45 min or until tender.

2. in the meantime, saute the onion in a bit of olive oil until caramelized.  season with salt.

3. once squash is done, allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting in 1/2 and scooping out seeds.  then, with a fork, shred the flesh into a large bowl.

4. add onions and sauce to squash and mix well.  season with salt.  put squash mixture in 9 x 13 inch baking dish and sprinkle the top with cheese.

5. reduce oven temp to 325 and stick the casserole back in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts.

serve with a side salad for a completely easy (and yummy) weeknight dinner.  i guarantee you will not miss your traditional spaghetti dinner at all!

mangia!  mangia!

Monday, February 27, 2012

are you the best version of yourself?

credit {here}
when i take the time to envision my best self, physically i don’t picture myself all that differently.  where the shift takes place is more so in my attitude towards myself and others.  my best self doesn’t obsess over the fact that she ate too much last night or replay the same frustrating moment again…and again…and again in her head.  she doesn’t impatiently follow people too closely in her car, and she doesn’t get annoyed at her husband for petty, insignificant reasons.

she’s self-possessed and calm.  and glows with an unearthly radiance that only comes with the true understanding that our world is what we make it, and nothing more.  her actions are purposeful and clear, and the base of all she does is love and compassion.

when i finish with a visualization like that, i feel refreshed and renewed.  the challenge is to keep that grounded feeling as you continue about your day, even when some jackass guy cuts you off when you’re driving.  notice your knee-jerk reaction.  just notice.  and if you don’t act on it (i.e. beep, curse, flip him the bird or whatever other creative thing you can think of), it will subside.  i promise.  and you can pat yourself on the back for reacting from your ‘best self’ – not the self that has a tendency to grit her teeth and mumble an obscenity under her breath.

deep down, we all long to be free from these baser instincts – that inner mean girl that tells you you’re fat or unattractive, the harsh critic who scoffs at your self-improvement attempts, the nasty lady who snaps at her husband.  that mean girl is not you.  and she is the only ‘person’ who truly deserves your fierceness.  so, next time the snotty lady stops by, tell her to take a hike.  then take a deep breath, and revel in your instantaneous (if momentary) transformation into the best version of yourself.
meditation prompt for your journal or cushion:
what does your best self look like?  act like?

Friday, February 24, 2012

weekend menu: happy birthday, mom!

today is my mom's birthday. we're heading out to dinner at a fabulous restaurant that has a gorgeous river view, then we're heading back to my parents' house for birthday cake - chocolate orange ganache tart - and presents.  and tomorrow i'm cooking a b-day brunch - biscuits with scrambled eggs, caramelized onions with rosemary and bernaise.

food and birthdays seem to go hand in hand.  there's something about delicious food, good conversation, and a well-mixed cocktail that makes any celebration better!

mom's favorite cocktail: gin gimlet

i think mom would love this variation: ginger pear gimlet

mom's birthday cake: chocolate orange ganache tart

this deliciously rich ganache tart has an orange wafer crust and is sprinkled with toasted nuts - recipe {here}

mom's brunch: biscuits (with eggs, chicken sausage and caramelized onions)

 photo credit & recipe {here}

happy, happy, happy birthday, mom!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

foodie wednesday: super easy guac!

guacamole tastes good on just about everything - pita chips, veggie burgers, salad, tacos, scrambled eggs, a spoon.  if you've got a hankering for some guac, this super simple, 3-ingredient recipe will never let you down.

1 avocado, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 medium tomato, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
sea salt

gently toss the avocado with the lime juice to coat it (and keep it from browning), and then mix in the tomato.  season with salt, and you're all set!

recently, we topped homemade veggie burgers with it, and it was delish!

bon appetit!

Monday, February 20, 2012

stop apologizing for being you

trying to “fit in” is exhausting.  yet, at different moments throughout my life, i can recall that “fitting in” was the only thing that i cared about.  in fifth grade, it was “fitting in” with the popular girls, and in high school, my tennis team, and even just recently, i found myself longing to be defined wholly by my yoga practice - instead of letting my practice be an extension of who i am.
credit {here}

as an individual who tends to gravitate towards the “black” and “white” of things, in my mind, if i wanted to be a true yogi, i needed to become a vegan, pierce my nose, drink wheatgrass and eliminate my carbon footprint.  but all those external factors (that i felt i should impose upon myself in order to become a “real” yoga practitioner) have nothing to do with my authentic self.  they’re not me.  they’re not cailen. 

my nose isn’t pierced (yet, haha), and i like drinking cosmos at happy hour.  i can’t do all yoga poses perfectly (far from it), and i don’t know all their sanskrit names.  i’m not always calm or ego-free, though i’m working on it.  i really, really am.  meditation kicks my butt, and i can be totally impatient, and that bothers me.  i’m hard on myself sometimes and still struggle with my self-image sometimes.  but, overall, i’m getting better at accepting me…all of me…perceived flaws and all.

i like yoga and vodka.  does that make me less of a yogi?  i don’t think so.  yoga is the unity of all of who you are – body, mind and soul.  and it takes real guts to stand in all of who you are. 

i’ve come to realize that fitting in is kind of boring.  it’s expected and encourages you to define your life from the outside-in.  when you try to fit in, you live your life according to what you think you should do, wear, eat or say, instead of moving outward from your inner wisdom.  fitting-in is a life disconnected.

so, come back to yourself, and see the beauty that was always there.  no apologies.

yoga video: make your practice all about you!

Friday, February 17, 2012

my perfect weekend menu

friday night dinner:

mashed sweet potatoes with spinach & goat cheese
saturday night happy hour:

champagne cosmopolitan cocktail - my two favorite drinks combined!!!
saturday night dinner:

the yoga pot - delicious combo of lentils, zucchini & ginger.  yum!
sunday morning brunch:

blackberry-lemon coffee cake

hope you have a delicious weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

foodie wednesday: sesame pasta

i love this pasta!  it's great as either a side or an entree, and delicious cold, warm or room-temperature!  if you bring this to a party, i guarantee you'll get several requests for the recipe : )

credit {here}
sauce ingredients:
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

pasta ingredients:
1 pound pasta, such as angel hair
2 large carrots, grated
1/2 pound snow peas, strung and washed
thinly sliced scallions for garnish             

credit {here}
1. mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

2. cook the pasta in boiling water. one minute before pasta is done, add the carrots and the snow peas to the pasta pot. drain pasta and vegetables immediately, but do not rinse.

3. place pasta and vegetables in serving bowl. pour sauce over; toss well to mix. garnish with scallions.

serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side or starter.

bon appetit!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

open heart

craig & me on our wedding day - taken by m2 photography

i give you my heart, fully open.
no strings attached -
unfettered and unencumbered,
vulnerable and fully surrendering.
i give you my heart, willingly.
no expectations –
free of walls or rigidity,
boundless and endless.
i give you my heart, my love.
nothing held back –
all things for you,
all thoughts of you.

my heart is yours.

(one guess who i wrote that for.  happy valentine's day, baby!)

happy <3 day, mavens!

Monday, February 13, 2012

let go of labels

credit {here}
i am lazy…or at least i tell myself i am.  a lot.  why?  because somewhere between the ages of 5 and 15, having a penchant for hanging out instead of helping out, i developed this belief.  and, as with anything we believe to be true, the label stuck.  and now, at 26, i still feel like i’m “being lazy” if i don’t bust my butt 24/7.

despite the fact that i have a full-time writing job, teach yoga 3-4 times a week, write and manage my blog, attend yogadharma training 2 weekends per month and go to buddhism class once a week, i still call myself lazy.  after re-reading that list with objective eyes, it seems that more than anything, my schedule is a little crazy right now.  go figure…

so why do i still have that inner dialogue that says “you’re lazy for not doing the laundry today” or “typical cailen – didn’t devote enough time to her blog today”?  because the label of laziness has been part of my identity for so long.  for better or worse, it became part of who i am and how i perceive myself.  and, as you can see from the discrepancy between the label and my current reality, how we label ourselves is rarely an accurate reflection of who we truly are.

so, how are you labeling yourself?  ugly, fat, unlovable, stupid, bitchy, weak, lazy?  these labels cripple us and our potential. 

need an example?  i want to be an entrepreneur and ultimately work for myself.  all successful entrepreneurs are super hard-working.  i am lazy.  therefore, i will never be a successful entrepreneur.  

see how my label totally crapped on my dream?!  it took the wind right out of my sails and sapped my energy –and consequently makes me feel like acting lazy, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle!

but, since these labels are self-generated, they can also be self-destroyed.  the next time you hear one of your typical labels pop into your mind, call yourself out!  and notice where that label is coming from –most likely not from an authentic place connected with your deepest potential.  more likely, it’s shallow, superficial and only sticks around just because you let it.  so take your life back by redefining how you label yourself.   i’m not lazy.  i’m actually quite efficient with my time and am doing my very best.

meditation prompt for your journal or cushion:
what is one label i’m ready to let go of?
what positive label or thought can i replace it with?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

what are you afraid of?

sadie nardini
confession: i’ve been putting off a few business to-dos.  i’ve had it on my calendar to contact some influential and successful yogis – one being sadie nardini, founder of core strength vinyasa.  yet, despite my intentions, i’d push “contact sadie” from week to week, always blaming my schedule for not allotting me the time to reach out to her.  but, in truth, my schedule didn’t prevent me from emailing her, my mind did – and more specifically, my fear of rejection and the unknown.

when we’re young, we’re scared of the monsters under our beds, but as we mature, we’re scared of the monsters in our own minds – and we find ourselves plagued by a whole new set of ghoulish mental afflictions.  fear of loneliness, rejection, the unknown or failure can paralyze us, convincing us it’s better to stay exactly where we are (stuck on the proverbial hamster wheel), rather than confront what we’re scared of.  our fear keeps us in a box – making our life small by binding us to patterns of thought-processes that no longer serve us.

we diet because we’re afraid of losing control and gaining weight.
we jeopardize relationships because we’re afraid of being vulnerable.
we beat ourselves up when we’re not “perfect” because we’re afraid to fail.

sound familiar?  we’ve all been there…

but the really cool thing that happens when you face your fears is that you learn that they’re not as bad as your mind envisioned.  and, you also give yourself a chance to learn and grow.  when you choose to listen to your innate inner wisdom instead of your fearful mind chatter, you put yourself on the path of growth and evolution.  and, the more you cultivate that voice, the happier and more fulfilling your life will become.  anxieties about your body will melt away.  worries about your work performance will subside.  and obstacles that used to appear to stand between you and your best self will no longer be unconquerable.  because you realize that moving outward from your most authentic self will ultimately bring nothing but good to you.    

oh yeah, and not only did sadie nardini email me back with a beautifully composed and thought-provoking email, she even gave me a shout out in a piece she wrote for the popular site, elephant journal.  so cool! 

check out sadie’s post "can money & spirituality mix?" {here}

today’s meditation prompt for your journal or cushion:

what fear keeps cropping up in your life?
are you ready to confront it?  if not, why?
if you’re ready to move beyond it, what action can you take?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

foodie wednesday: roasted fennel with parmesan

as a person who loves to cook, i love trying new ingredients.  when i was at the farmer's market the other day, i came across some fennel - thought i've enjoyed it several times, i've never cooked it myself.  i figured i could probably handle it, so i purchased the bulb and headed home.  not sure what to do with it, i watched {this youtube video} about how to clean it and then googled some recipes for inspiration.

this is what i came up with:

1 fennel bulb, cut into 1/3 inch strips horizontally
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tbsp fennel fronds, chopped
salt & pepper

preheat oven to 400

1. drizzle baking sheet with 1/2 tbsp of oil and arrange fennel. 

2. drizzle fennel with remaining olive oil and season with parmesan, salt and pepper.

3. bake for approximately 35 minutes until fennel is tender.

4. remove from over and sprinkle with chopped fronds.

this makes a simply delicious side dish for two, or you can use it atop a salad or mixed into pasta or couscous.  yum!

bon appetit!

check out my new mission for lifestyle maven {here}.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

aging gracefully {interview with baxter bell}

credit {here}
i've come to realize that a big part of yoga is engaging with your community - reaching out to fellow yogis and teachers to get their perspective on the practice.  recently, i had the pleasure of interviewing baxter bell, yoga teacher and MD, regarding his yoga philosophy and teaching style.  on his blog, yoga for healthy aging, baxter offers yoga advice and information to help individuals age gracefully using the practice of yoga.  his background in medicine combined with his yogic knowledge provide him with a holistic perspective that is undoubtedly beneficial to his clients, students and fans.  keep reading to find out even more about baxter's perspective on yoga. 

cailen ascher: what does yoga mean to you?

baxter bell: As my blog name implies, I see yoga as an amazing tool to aid us as we age.  In addition, I ask the applicants to my teacher training program this very same question each year-and as you can imagine, the variety of answers is almost endless, from quotes from the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra, to personal distillations of yoga's effects in their lives.  For me, it has been an almost 20 year companion, both a discipline I practice, and a lens through which I see and experience the world.  Its also an almost endless, infinite course of study and inquiry that continues to capture my  attention and interest after all these years.

ca: what style of yoga do you teach/practice?  why?
bb: I like to joke with my new students when they ask me this by saying that I teach "Generic" yoga-you know, comes in a brown bottle, saves you a bit of money, but seems to do the trick!  what that really means to me is that I practice and teach a distillation of all the powerful influences my various teachers have taught me over the years, from Rodney Yee, Richard Rosen, Mary Paffard, Patricia Walden, Erich Schiffman, Judith Lasater, Donald Moyer, and Kaustab and TKV Desikachar.  I suppose there could be a downside to studying with many teachers and not just one Guru, as was the case back before Krishnamacharya opened the door to us householders, but its the way my path has taken me.  And of course I am also exploring new ways of doing things, so that makes it into my teaching as well.  If that doesn't tell you enough, drop by a class next time you are in Oakland and let's practice together!

ca: do you have a favorite yoga sutra?
bb: Depending on what my focus is an a given day, I have bunch of favorites.   One that I feel is so helpful in everyday interactions is 1.33, where Patanjali suggests we adopt certain attitudes toward our fellow human beings, in order to maintain an inner tranquility of mind: Friendliness for the happy, Compassion for those suffering, Joy and Honor for those doing good works in the world, and Equanimity and Neutrality for those who's actions don't align with our own.  Practical advice I try to put into action each day!

ca: what is your mission statement as a teacher?
bb: To safely and joyfully take you to places you have never been before! (or to take you back to incredible states of inner peace you've visited before!)  But, let me add that, like any "mission statement,"  this is inherently limiting.  I am also involved in training new yoga teachers, training yoga teachers interested in yoga therapeutics, and also educating yoga practitioners on how to do asana for maximum benefit and minimal risk of injury.  I try to get my ideas out locally in classes and workshops, and nationally via my 2 blogs, Yoga for Healthy Aging and Doctor's Orders at Yoga Journal blogs.

ca: what inspires you and your practice? 

bb: My inspirations are varied, but they seem to cluster around a few concepts: 
Setting time aside to be quiet and introspective
Connecting with Beauty: via nature, music, dance, poetry
Connecting with other teachers who are still investigating all yoga has to offer
Reading about yoga philosophy,which I find very fascinating!

baxter bell

a huge thanks to baxter for making the time to answer my yoga questions.  for more information about his yoga teachings, be sure to visit baxter's blog {here}.

namaste : )

and mavens, check out my new mission for lifestyle maven {here}.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

ok, it's time to get real

for a while now, i’ve been flirting with the idea of really fusing my love of yoga more completely with my concept of lifestyle design but didn’t know exactly how to approach it.  i guess i was hesitant to lay it all on the line and then get pigeon-holed into talking about the same stuff over and over. again  in need of some guidance, i reached out to anna, founder of curvy yoga with my question: how important is having a niche to define and build your brand?  to my delight, not only did she respond to my inquiry, but she also offered to talk over the phone to discuss it even further.

credit {here}

anna reassured me that having a niche – in her case, yoga for your body, no matter your size – only helps to expand your presence.  by creating a voice and defining your topic, you become the “expert”, and you can then draw from your experience to further connect with your audience – something i long to do on a grander scale.

with her advice to share more heart-to-hearts, i’ve decided to take the leap and commit to the idea that’s been haunting me (in a good way) for some time: to share my transformation – from a girl who hated her body to a young woman who not only loves but appreciates her being, inside and out (most of the time – we’re all a work-in-progress). 

afraid that things would get too serious and that i wouldn’t have the proper advice to offer, i’ve continually shied away from getting too deep on lifestyle maven.  but, the truth is, the stuff that i didn’t want to talk about is the very stuff that we, as women, need to hear, because when it comes to ourselves, we so easily forget to treat our bodies with kindness.  instead of trusting our bodies' innate wisdom, we ignore it, preferring to harp on the notion that they are too big, too small, not curvy enough or too flabby. somewhere along the line we’ve come to believe that berating and punishing ourselves with our thoughts, actions and with the way we treat food will accomplish something.  but we’re too smart to continue to believe that – we’ve been there and know deep down that hating ourselves will never bring about a truly positive change.  constrained by never-ending diets, general self-loathing or, in the most extreme situations, an eating or body-dysmorphic disorder, we make our lives small – not our bodies.  with the first-hand knowledge that these negative thoughts plague the minds of so many women, no matter their age or dress size, i feel i can no longer deny the need to share, encourage and support through the platform that i’ve developed – my blog.

growing up as a sometimes slightly-overweight, sometimes “normal” weight girl was rough – not because i was teased relentlessly (although i had my fair share of weight-related comments that stung), but because i tortured myself.  i was consumed by my weight and full-heartedly felt that if i could only weigh less, i would be infinitely happier.  somehow i believed that the smaller the size i wore, the more happiness i would be allotted.  but, in case you didn’t guess where this was headed, it doesn’t work like that.  true happiness has no correlation with the circumference of your waist, and no matter what size you are, you can still have “fat days”.

so, what gives?  if you hate yourself when you’re “fat”, and are still at war with your body after you’ve achieved a normal weight or are even thin, then happiness must come from somewhere else.  {light bulb moment.}  just when i had myself convinced that i would have to count calories and forever do exercises i hated just to maintain my weight, yoga came into my life.  i admit, i was initially drawn to the practice because it was a good workout – but it soon turned into something more.  something beautiful.  i found that through the yogic practice of linking movement with breath, i began to experience my body in a new way – caring more about how my body felt, and less about how it looked.  yoga puts you in touch with your intuition – that authentic voice that we override with diets and negative self-talk.  and, the more in-touch i got with my true self, the more i softened my tight grip on what i “should eat” or “shouldn’t eat” or “should do” or “shouldn’t do” in terms of exercise, and the more effortless maintaining my weight – and my happiness – became.

my yoga practice has enabled me to tap into my inner wisdom and consequently bring more mindfulness and awareness into my life as a whole.  when we are conscious of the subtle needs of our being, we are more able to fully embody our authentic selves and move away from our ego – that crazy voice that tells us that we’re fat, unworthy or unlovable.  and, we begin to cultivate a calm mind housed in a healthy body.

i invite you to join me on this journey of self-exploration. i know, without a doubt, that yoga and intuitive living can change your life and begin to release you from the negative thoughts, feelings and self-talk that continue to infiltrate your life.  i know this, because yoga has transformed my life for the better.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

foodie wednesday: homemade trail-mix granola bars

i've been on the hunt for a good granola bar recipe for years now. i love chewy granola bars, but in general try to avoid processed foods - hence, my need for a good recipe.  this one i've adapted below came to me via a vegetarian times email, and it gets 2 thumbs up from me (and craig...and my mom). my one point of contention: it's more of an oat "blondie" than a true granola bar, but it's so delicious, who's complaining?

here's what you'll need:

1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup butterscotch morsels
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg white
cinnamon & nutmeg

(the original recipe {here} called for dried apricots, chocolate morsels and walnuts...among other things...but i modified the recipe to suit what was in my pantry.)

preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8x8 baking dish.

1. in a medium bowl, mix together oats, flour, baking soda, salt, raisins, butterscotch morsels and pecans.  add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg if you want.

2. in a large bowl, combine sugar, syrup, peanut butter, oil and the egg white. mix until smooth.

3. add dry oat mixture slowly into the wet ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

4. pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake for approximately 35 minutes.

allow to cool completely before cutting.  this recipes makes 12 bars : )


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