I am part of a club of athletes called LA Freedivers. Everyone in our club enjoys being in the kitchen and making healthy, clean food. Some of our members are spear fishermen and we are lucky to have amazing food and crafted beverages at our Holiday gatherings. One of our members makes fresh lobster and vegetable cakes – I am a vegetarian, but am happy to eat food that a friend has humanely hunted.
This year I made a raw vegan Sweet & Festive Apple Red Radish Slaw, which was a colorful addition to our plates.
It is simple to make, and goes really well with other Holiday fare…
1 tablespoon Dijon or other fancy artisan mustard you find
juice of 1/2 a large ripe Meyers Lemon (I picked one right off my tree here in SoCal!)
1 tablespoon raw local honey (great for your immune system)
2 cups grated Green Cabbage, don’t use the core
2 Tart Green Apples, grated
1 large Shallot or 2 mediums Shallots, grated
6 Red Radishes chopped, not too thin
1/2 cup chopped Parsley
1 teaspoon Salt
fresh cracked Pink Pepper, to taste
In a large bowl toss the SLAW ingredients with the DRESSING. Serve fresh, or chilled one hour later to increase the depth of flavors. The day after the slaw becomes more pickled which is also good!
This recipe is vegan, gluten & sugar free, and comes out tasting something like a coconut milk pumpkin flan with a pecan macaroon crust. A friend told me this week that it tasted like the healthy version her father’s Jamaican Bread pudding!
GLUTEN FREE CRUST
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup coconut shreds
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons date sugar
Toast your pecans in a pan until they become fragrant and your coconut shreds until they become golden. Let them cool. Add all ingredients to your food processor and pulse until the mixture is fine. Mash into and up the sides of an ungreased 9 inch pie pan. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, until the crust is frozen solid.
SUGAR FREE VEGAN PUMPKIN PIE
3/4 cup date sugar
3 tablespoons organic non GMO cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
pinch of salt (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
15 oz pumpkin puree, or fresh roasted pumpkin (cooled)
13 oz coconut milk (can is OK, but I prefer it fresh, with out preservatives*)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Slowly add in the wet ingredients and mix in well, the mixture will become smooth like a pudding. Get your crust from the freezer, and pour in the pumpkin mixture. Bake for 30 minutes then spin the back to the front and bake another 20-30 minutes, until the pie looks solid and the center no longer looks wet. Let it cool and serve slightly chilled.
If celebrating a special occasion you can decorate your cake with stevia sweetened, vegan dark chocolate chips :)~
*My favorite coconut milk is from JUICE SERVED HERE. They call it Cream Party, and it is a dream!!!
Finally settling into my new digs in sunny Mar Vista, California, I have been craving mint (off the charts) and playing with various recipes inspired by stimulating visits to my local farmer’s market, one of which I will share with you below for a Coco Cream de Mint Shake.
Appropriately, mint has been considered a hospitality herb in Greece and the Middle East for centuries; used to welcome people as they enter your home, served as a tea, iced or hot, or even rubbed on the table before a meal for a special guest. Mint is rich in Vitamins A and C, contains small amounts of B2 and also a wide range of minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium and calcium. Mint is thought to decrease the risk of colon and rectal cancer and can aid in stimulating digestion before a meal plus improve digestion after a meal.
On a side note, if you ever find your self in Boulder, CO – go to visit the Celestial Seasons Factory. Apparently the oils and aroma of mint leaves are so strong that they are stored behind big heavy doors in their own room, so as not to infuse all of their other teas. On the FREE factory tour, you are allowed to go into this room, and can immediately feel the deep healing properties of the mint infused air clearing your sinuses and lungs. Needless to say, that visit inspired me to want to create my own “mint room”…some day. For now, I will will grow mint in the sun light of my new patio.
COCO CREAM DE MINT SHAKE
1 freshly picked organic apple
2 heaping table spoons of fresh pressed coconut cream*
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 pieces of kale, de-stemmed
1 large handful of freshly picked mint leaves
3 cups fresh coconut water*
Blend all ingredients in a powerful blender, like a Vitamix. Use less coconut water if you like your shakes thick. ENJOY your energizing, naturally sweet, green shake.
*LA peeps, I have an excellent source for fresh pressed coconut cream and water. Email me for more info. :>
The next stop on the journey East to West was Las Vegas, Nevada, which despite its raunchy reputation, holds a few diamonds in the rough. We stayed in the Signature Towers at the MGM Grand, in a room that had an en-suite kitchen that included a stove, blender, and all the cutlery needed to make delicious meals. FYI, there is a Whole Foods a few miles from the hotel.
Paul Van Dyke, Wet Republic Pool Party, MGM Grand Las Vegas
Staying at the Signature ensures you a smoke and gambling free environment, and gives you access to 3 serene private pools. You are also allowed entrance to 5 additional pools within the MGM Grand complex which are open (for a fee) to the rest of the public. The pools include a half olympic, dedicated to lap swim, a water polo pool, one for splish slpash and cooling off (a good spot for kids), another called Wet Republic that is a raging pool party with world famous DJs, and my favorite of the pools, The Lazy River.
The river pool is architecturally designed with lots of curves and bumps at the bottom that create a strong current. Most people rent inner tubes, order a tall fruity drink, and float along by the river’s design… but I saw the river as an opportunity for a work out. I started to jog into, the rather strong, current. On my first lap around the long course, people floating by were saying things like, “Hey, you’re going the wrong way.” I just smiled, and by the third lap there was a small heard of people who had joined me in this amazing upstream workout that required massive leg and abdominal strength, especially after the first lap. And yes, it hurt so good the next day.
Vegas has become a place to see theater. Cirque du Soleil has several shows that have built homes in theaters specifically to meet their needs. This creates an experience that becomes one part amusement park ride, as is the case with the Beatles LOVE show. In addition to amazing dance and aerial work the sound design is 3d, with speakers in each seat playing the Beatles songs you love, remastered and remixed so that at times it sounds like a little bird is chirping on your shoulder, or as if your section is playing the trumpet and across the theater is playing the guitar. This effect is fantastic, and brought me to tears in moments from its audio beauty combined with the overall show staging.
Remember to bring walking shoes so that you can stroll the strip and take in the colorful crowds, street performances, plus neon gone wild.
As we headed to our final stop, California, my Mom and I took a few moments to reflect that we were grateful to be able to create the time to make this journey together.
Driving out of Wyoming towards Salt Lake City, Utah we saw many animals in herds – horses, cows and sheep. This is the part of our country where herds are “kept,” and there was a kind of sadness hovering over the land. I remember closing my eyes in moments to reflect on the grandeur we had just left in the Tetons and Yellowstone; the purple rivers, and jade thermal waters framed by waves of grain, ever greens, and sculpturesque mountain ridges. I love that being in the National Parks of Wyoming increased the number of unique water visuals I have in my heart, to call upon as guides.
When traveling to urban spots in the U.S. I always check to see if there is a Kimpton Hotel, and to my joy there was one in Salt Lake City. Founder Bill Kimpton created this 50 location boutique hotel experience (and growing) on the foundations of affordably chic comfort while setting new industry standards for being eco and pet friendly. I have been to one of their hotels in San Diego too, both featured wine tastings in the evenings, a restaurant with menus based on locally sourced organic produce, as well as comfortable modern design features and in-room swag that included razors made from recycled materials.
Also made from recycled materials are all the staff’s uniforms. And for those chem sensitive folk, you will be happy to know that their cleaning products are green and environmantally friendly.
Kimpton Hotel Salt Lake CIty
Don’t forget to request your FREE Yoga Kit which includes a mat, bag, brick and strap to use while staying at the hotel. At the front desk you will find a list of staff picks for how to “act like a local” featuring directions to gardens, their favorite spas, farmers markets etc. I could go on and on about the amenities, perks, and social responsibility aspects of the Kimpton chain, but I would like to sum it up by saying, if you have the opportunity to stay with them, give it to your self and your loved ones – they seem to think of everything.
As a lover of synchronicity, I was happy to discover that Anusara teacher, B.J. Galvin, just happened to be teaching a workshop at The Yoga Center the morning I was in Utah. I received some wonderful adjustments in her class as well as good take-aways to share with students including the yummy, brick between the feet in Ustrasana. Try it… you’ll see what I mean.
Rolling out of Salt Lake City towards Bryce Canyon, I popped into the car’s audio deck an informational CD on one of the essential oils that I use in treatments with clients. Only a few seconds into the CD I noticed an advertisement on the side of the road for the very farm in Mona, Utah where that very company, Young Living, grows and distills some of their herbs. This was completely unplanned… and goes to show, when your journey is filled with gratitude, and your eyes are open to opportunity, synchronicity provides auspiciousness in abundance.
One of the photos in the slide show below shows a glass encased collection that dates back to 1883 of nearly two hundred herbs and instruction manuals for their use. It would be amazing to read those manuals.
One of the best ways to decompress after spending magical mellow time in Yellowstone National Park is to drive out of the South Gate, just before sun set, stopping along the way to watch shards of light shine through the Grand Tetons, reflecting and fractalizing on bodies of water. Be prepared to encounter lots of “nature paparazzi” eager to instruct you on how to get the best shots of this phenomena.
For dinner, keep driving South and pull your horse and buggy into the cow boy / skii village-town of Jackson, Wyoming. For large portioned healthy vitals and fresh juices check out the Lotus Cafe, an organic bakery, bistro, and lounge open until 9pm.
Just down the street is the eco-certified Alpine House, a boutique bed and breakfast lodge, complete with mini spa, dry sauna, rooms that feature hand crafted bath botanicals to enjoy in deep Kohler bath tubs, and free bikes for guests to use around town. The lodge was created by Winter Olympians Hans and Nancy Johnstone to reflect the hospitality and coziness they had experienced in similar family-run inns in the mountains of Europe. Another comfort they offer is a 24 hr self-serve tea bar featuring Dragon Lady Teas. I was partial to “Happy Tea” a blend of Lemon Balm, Rosebuds, Jasmine, Licorice Root, Honeybush, and Lavender.
Jackson is home to the online Yoga TV station Yoga Today which features classes shot outside in the splendid beauty of the area. A good spot to stretch your legs and hips indoors is Akasha Yoga, a sweet shala with mountain views and alignment based teachers. I was able to take a class with Jen, the studio manager, and it was like dental floss for my road tripped out joints.
Stock up on healthy snacks at the Jackson Whole Grocer. They have a fantastic food and juice bar. I tried the “What’s Up Doc” and the “Joint Juice” and felt my sinuses clear, nerves soothed, and brain fog lift. This is a large market that prides itself on being purveyors of everything local from granola to kumbucha, raw dairy and locally raised grass fed meats as well as raw and vegan treats.
The community was just starting to raise funds for a project called Vertical Harvest while we were there in the Autumn of 2011. I am curious to return and check in on the progress of this 3 story indoor farm. With the ground floor open to the public plus two “growing” floors above, by going vertical, this greenhouse hydroponic farm will increase it’s 4,500 sqft footprint to 13,500 square feet dedicated to providing fresh, locally grown produce to the town of Jackson 365 days a year!
Back at Mt Rushmore, my Mom was excited to buy her “senior” Lifetime National Parks Membership for the bargain price of $10 which included admission for her junior companion, me. (this next part is to be read tongue-in-cheek) She was excited to use it at our next destination, but being a senior means you some times forget where you are going, and she kept talking about going to Yosemite, which we were not. After a few times of correcting her, she started to get it, but it would still come out some where in-between as Yosmellowstone. I then translated this to Los Mellowstone in tribute to the chilled out feeling you get when you spend time in the amazing part of our planet that is Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone lodgings, including camping permits, often get booked a year in advance, so you have two options: plan ahead or a friend, who goes to the park regularly, told me about this tip: keep calling, you will eventually get the reservation you want because there are always cancellations, and she was right. This is how we got our nearly last minute room at the Old Faithful Inn, also known as the Great Lodge. Constructed in 1903 from mostly locally found materials the hotel boasts no TVs, no internet, and very limited cell phone service.
To our joy, our room directly faced the infamously on time geyser, and we could watch it going off from our cozy room. This was helpful as temperatures in America’s first National Park in September range from 29 to 79 degrees.
If you can, take the opportunity to go on a Photo Safari of Yellowstone with the most patient and generous man, resident guide and photographer, Win Kolk. You will rise before dawn to experience the cold morning air mixing with the hot steam of the geysers to create morning mists that leave mana like dew on all the wild life. Win will show you some of his favorite spots to photograph in the park, and how best to capture them as well as feed you breakfast and hot chocolate out of the back of the old time refurbished 1930’s Yellow Touring Bus you will ride around in.
with Photo Safari Guide Win Kolk
Our last stop of our tour with Win was into a forrest of ancient lodgepole pines. You can tell the age of a lodge pole pine in inches as they only grow an inch or 2 a year, depending on how much sunlight they are receiving.
Another favorite place we found is called Artists Point and Inspiration Point where at sunset the yellow rocks that gave the park its name, shine like gold, highlighting the 308 foot fall of the Lower Falls into the park’s Grand Canyon.
For those who would want to enjoy the healing waters of the thermal springs, most all of the pools in the park are hot enough to melt your skin off. However in the Northern corner of the park, the part that is in Montana, there is a must stop spot called Boiling River. It is a little bit hard to find, but after an easy 1/2 mile walk you arrive at an area where a thermal spring runs into the Gardiner River. Humans have built little natural “tubs,” out of rock barriers, to capture the mix of water. The side of the tub closest to the river is cooler, and the side closest to where the thermal spring comes out of the earth is hot. The rocks also create a minimal barrier to the strong current of the Gardiner River. My mother was highly skeptical about going into the fresh water, but once she got in and felt the healing energy she had the biggest smile on her face. I really applaud her sense of adventure and pushing through the fear of doing something new.
The Boiling River
The entire time we were at the Boiling River, large reddish brown dragonflies danced around us and then followed us on the trail out. The dragonflies were so big they looked prehistoric.
We were blessed and grateful to make eye contact with many animals on this trip: Chipmunks, a moose, many deer and elk, and a heard of mother and baby buffalos as well as 2 grazing males.
One can fish (with a permit) all year long in Yellowstone, where the thermal waters meet the rivers, which is what attracts the many animals that call this place home.
Buffalos, incredible creatures that they are, survived the last ice age.
It was beautiful to be at Mt Rushmore with my mother. Neither of us had ever been there before. Our sunrise stop here was a bit of a quickie. Our 2 hour pause was not quite enough time to see everything, as there was more that both of us wanted to explore at this beautiful place where man installed art into nature. It was moving to see the gratitude welling up in my Mom’s eyes at the opportunity to be able to share the experience of seeing (as another visitor put it) “some presidents” for the first time, together. Artist Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers spent 14 years in a daily ritual carefully placing dynamite in granite to carve George, Thomas, Teddy, and Abe, forever changing the Black Hills of South Dakota with their determination and love.
Buffalo, WY was a fun town to stop in. It newly has a health food store, the Buffalo Food Depot, lots of hiking trails, and is home to the famous Occidental Hotel & Saloon, which has been in operation since 1880! Guests have included Buffalo Bill, Teddy Rosevelt, Butch Cassidy & Calamity Jane. The hotel is still fully operational with antique and old world touches updated to modern age functionality, plus you can go through room to room to view the hotel as a museum chock full of history.
The Occidental Hotel 130 Years of Continuous Western Hospitality. Pictured here, a shared guest kitchen complete with vintage fridge and cow hide chairs.
Some times a trip is about the things you see and the people you meet along the way.
Cesar & Augie owners of La Casacada Restaurant Mitchell, South Dakota
One of the goals I set while traveling across country was to create each day in gratitude. There were some guidelines for how to perform this. One of those was to nourish my body with only the best food and company.
Now there are some stretches of our country that make the food part of this rule very challenging, like the long and beautifully stark stretches between Wisconsin & Wyoming. So I came prepared for how that would go: keep driving on and on until my nose and heart knew it had found some place worth stopping for; otherwise I would just nibble on my carefully picked car full of supplies.
In Mitchell, South Dakota I found a place worth stopping for! La Cascada Mexican Restaurant, owned and operated by Augie and Cesar, a lovely couple who make delicious house made sauces and salsas for their fresh, made with love, food. I felt blessed to find a family establishment and a real “home cooked” meal just at this half way point in my trip across country.
La Casada Mexican Restaurant ~ 1522 W. Havens Ave. Mitchell, SD ~ open Tues - Sun 11am - 9pm (605) 995-2094
Back on the main drag, Highway 90, I saw sign after sign describing the fabulous Wall Drug. I have to admit, they captured me with their simple marketing investment of what looked like hundreds of hand painted signs describing refreshing FREE ice water, T-Rexes, and elusive Jacalope sightings. I was convinced I needed to stop there.
When I got there it was a rather large outpost of stores linked together selling everything from drug store items to homemade ice cream, and various South Dakota trinkets. The part that both my Mom (who was with me) and I really enjoyed was the sculpture garden, a great place to stretch you legs, laugh, and eat our left overs from lunch at La Cascada.