I have just returned from our wonderful Aloha Yoga Retreat on Dartmoor.  It is always such a privilege and an honour to work with such inspiring groups and to be teaching alongside my colleague, Jagdambe Ma.

This year we allowed plenty of time for creative activities alongside yoga classes, massages, walking and of course rest.  On the Saturday morning we hosted a Raw Chocolate Workshop making a Raw Chocolate, Oats and Almond Milk Breakfast Smoothie; Raw Chocolate Fudge and a Clay & Raw Chocolate Face Mask.

We forget that play and laughter are important sources of relaxation for adults.  By developing our playfulness we can feed our imagination, creativity, develop problem-solving skills and improve our mental health.

In our busy lives, we may focus heavily on work and family commitments and having fun can be a low priority.  Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we have stopped playing and we may take life a little too seriously.  We all need to play so it is so refreshing to have the time and space for some fun!

We had the added bonus of being in an area with no phone signal and limited WiFi access so it was the perfect opportunity to be creative, playful and also have a digital detox.

There are numerous benefits to play such as:

  • Stress Relief – Play can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.  This helps to promote an overall sense of well-being.  The social interaction of play can also help ward off stress and depression.
  • Improve brain function – Puzzles or activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function.
  • Stimulate the mind and boost creativity – It is easier to learn new task when it’s fun.  Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve.
  • Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others.
  • Keep you feeling young and energetic – Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease.

Here’s the Clay and Raw Chocolate Face Mask Recipe from our Raw Chocolate Workshop.  It’s great fun to do and makes your skin feel so smooth and glowing.

Clay helps to draw purities out and away from skin. Cacao is packed with antioxidants to help repair skin and flavanoids to reduce inflammation. The copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc in cacao can also promote healthy cell growth. Combined, these ingredients can help your skin feel fresh and cleaned, while also offering the aromatherapeutic pick-me-up benefits of chocolate.

Choosing to use green tea in this mask instead of distilled water can offer additional anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, which is particularly helpful around tired eyes.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of powder clay

1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder

1 tablespoon distilled water or cooled green tea

Method:

1. Place the clay and cacao powder a bowl and blend well with a spoon.

2. Add purified water or cooled green tea to produce a paste that is of medium consistency — not too thick, not too runny.

3. Using either your fingers (or a clean brush if you prefer), apply a thin but evenly distributed layer of the paste to your face in upward strokes paying particular attention to your t-zone and nose, but avoiding the eyes and lips.

4. Allow the mask to dry for 15 minutes. Take this opportunity to put your feet up and relax. Once the mask has dried slightly, gently rinse your face with warm water and gently pat dry with a clean towel.

If you wish, you may follow this with a gentle face wash and toner, but most importantly, don’t forget to moisturize. This mask is not recommended for people with eczema. If you have sensitive skin, please do a patch test first.

 

 

Thank you to Yotam Ottolenghi for this paneer recipe.

I’ve just made a batch of paneer cheese and it is so simple to make.  Try making this tasty Braised Eggs with Potato and Paneer dish.  Paneer can also be used in currys and stir frys.

Paneer Cheese

Makes about 170g, or enough to feed two to four.

Ingredients
1 litre whole milk
2 tbsp lemon juice

Method
Line a large sieve with two clean J-cloths and place in the sink. Pour the milk into a medium, heavy-based saucepan and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, so the milk comes slowly to a boil – resist the temptation to turn up the heat. As the milk nears a boil, keep an eye on it and, as it starts to rise in the pan, stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice. As the milk starts to split, add the remaining lemon juice and cook, stirring continuously, until you have a solid and a liquid: the curd and whey.

Pour the contents of the saucepan into the lined sieve, and leave the whey to drain away. Run cold water over the curd to rinse off excess whey, then draw together the J-cloths to form a bag around the curd and squeeze tightly to remove any moisture – you should end up with something resembling a wrapped ball. Flatten the package a little on a large plate, then place something heavy on top – another heavy pan, say, or a few tins of food. Refrigerate for at least two hours, until all the liquid has been squeezed out and the curd has set. Keep the paneer wrapped in the J-cloths, cover with cling-film, and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Braised Eggs with Potato and Paneer

This is great with crusty ciabatta or a thick flatbread. Serves six.

Ingredients
2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut widthways into 1.5cm slices – about 550g net weight
1½ tsp ground turmeric
Salt
75ml olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1½ tsp caraway seeds
1 large green chilli, deseeded (unless you want it spicy) and thinly sliced
2 medium green peppers, deseeded and cut lengthways into 0.5 cm strips
3 bunches spring onions, trimmed and cut on an angle into 1cm pieces
300ml vegetable stock
10g picked parsley leaves, chopped
10g picked tarragon leaves, chopped
170g paneer (homemade or shop-bought), broken into 2cm chunks
6 large eggs

Method
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of turmeric, cook for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are almost done, then drain, refresh and set aside.

Pour two tablespoons of oil into a sauté pan on a medium-high heat and fry the onions for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften. Add the caraway and the remaining turmeric, fry for five minutes, then turn down the heat to medium, add the chilli and peppers and fry for five minutes, to soften. Turn the heat back up to medium-high, add two more tablespoons of oil, and stir in the potatoes, spring onions and a teaspoon and a quarter of salt. Cook for five minutes, so the potatoes brown a little, then add the stock. Bring to a boil and cook rapidly, stirring, to reduce the liquid to six tablespoons – this will take about four minutes. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the fresh herbs and tip the lot into a 25cm-square gratin dish.

Dot the paneer over the top, then use a large spoon to make six indentations in the veg mixture and break an egg into each. Drizzle over the final tablespoon of oil, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for five to 10 minutes more, until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Remove from the oven, rest for five minutes and serve hot.

For more paneer recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi click here.

Photo Credit: Yotam Ottolenghi’s braised eggs with potato and paneer: ‘Great with crusty ciabatta.’  Photograph: Colin Campbell for the Guardian. Food styling: Claire Ptak

I am extremely honoured to have a feature in the new edition of the International Lifestyle Magazine.

intlifestylearticle

 

The International Lifestyle Magazine takes a look at positive lifestyle choices from around the globe. Promoting balance in life.  It’s a really great magazine featuring retreats, alternative health and wellness, recipes, yoga, meditation, travel.  Be inspired and take a look!  Plus it’s totally FREE.

You can sign up to get the magazine to your inbox each edition and International Lifestyle Magazine is on Facebook.

 

 

Here’s the latest recipe which I made for last Saturday’s Yoga Nidra workshop.  A really tasty, healthy snack and as it is raw chocolate they are fairly rich so you do not need too many to enjoy the taste!

We all know how powerful chocolate can be particularly from our intuitive emotional response to it.  Here are a few chocolate facts which further explain our natural response to the pleasure of chocolate…

  • Chocolate contains over 300 chemicals including a vast range of vitamins and minerals (calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium).  It contains phenylethylamine which is released naturally in the body when you fall in love and is also considered to be an aphrodisiac.
  • The smell of chocolate promotes relaxation, it significantly reduces theta activity in the brain which is associated with relaxation.  (Source: International Journal of Psychophysiology, 1998).
  • Chocolate also contains dopamine which is a natural painkiller. Serotonin which is found in chocolate produces feelings of pleasure. Chocolate has over 400 distinct smells.  A rose has only fourteen and an onion just six or seven.
  • A cup of hot cocoa (using pure cocoa powder) has more than double the amount of antioxidants as green tea and four to five times more than black tea. (Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 2003).

Ingredients:
1 cup of cashews blended until smooth (or you can cheat as I did and buy cashew butter)
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 dates (pitted and soaked for at least 4 hours or you may wish to buy chopped dates)
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder (raw chocolate)
1 cup of desiccated coconut for coating

Place all of the ingredients,except for coconut, into a mixer and mix until smooth.  With your hands roll the mixture into small balls.  Then pour the desiccated coconut onto a chopping board and roll the balls in it to top.  Place the balls on a plate and refridgerate until hard.

Tips:
Raw cacao powder and cashew butter can be found at your local health food store.

Make a batch and keep them in the fridge, they make a tasty snack across the week and saves eating too much processed chocolate!