not all who wander are lost.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Zen Den!!

Starting this Wednesday, January 4th, I will be teaching two days a week at the Zen Den in margate!!! The studio is ammmmazing, and the owner Ari Green is one of the most bad-ass and sweetest Yoginis that you'll ever meet! The space is in a business complex that had a cute court yard. It's towards the back of the development, so it's nice and quiet. The address is 101 N. Washington Ave in Margate, and I'll be teaching on Wednesday's and Fridays. The Wednesday classes are Slow Flow Vinyasa...perfect for beginners and for those who want a more restorative, sweat-free practice. Fridays will be Yin (with a touch of Kundalini!), which is all levels- and if you've never taken Yin this will blow your mind!!! Hope to see some familiar faces for this weeks classes!!! Also- Ari offers up great class pass deals that you have 6 months to use!!!

Upekkha Meditation

Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight. "The state of being calm and balanced, especially in the midst of difficulty".

"The real meaning of Upekkha is equanimity, not indifference in the sense of unconcern for others. As a spiritual virtue, upekkha means equanimity in the face of fluctuations of worldly fortune. It is evenness of mind, unshakable freedom of mind, a state of inner equipoise that cannot be upset by gain and loss, honor and dishonor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. Upekkha is freedom from all points of self-reference; it is indifference only to the demands of the ego-self with its craving for pleasure and position, not to the well-being of one's fellow human beings. True equanimity is the pinnacle of the Four Divine Abodes."

The full essence of Upekkha is to go beyond attachment and detachment, beyond likes and dislikes, to relate to things as they are.

"The Great Way is not difficult, For Those who have no preferences."
"The Great Way is not difficult, just give up thinking right and wrong."

UPEKKHA: The state of being calm and balanced in the face of those things that should be let be. It is the guardianship of our own karma and the acknowledgement that we are responsible for what we think, say and do. Equanimity is a spacious balance enabling us to work with, rather than against, change. Indifference is the near enemy of equanimity. It is a cold distance from a heartfelt sense of life. Indifference blocks the potential to engage the love and freedom life has to offer.

Upekkha Meditation Mantra:

I am the owner of my own karma.
Happiness & unhappiness arise with my own actions,
and not outside sources.

  • First repeat this several times for YOURSELF.
  • Now focus it and send it to someone dear to you (You are...)
  • Send this to someone neutral. A neighbor, acquaintance, coworker, etc. (You are...)
  • Focus on someone negative or difficult. Someone that maybe you just don't like. Now send it to them (You are...)
  • Finally, send it to All Beings Everywhere (All beings everywhere are...)


    Thursday, December 29, 2011

    Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation

    Dean Randazzo is a local legend...a kid from south jersey that made his mark in the world of professional surfing. Kelly Slater (11x asp world champion) said that when Dean was on fire, it was him that he was most scared of competing against. He is responsible for putting New Jersey on the surf map! Unfortunately in 2001, Dean was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease...and it has been a long and challenging battle. Since then he has become an avid spokesperson for cancer awareness and research, and has founded the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation. Why am I telling you all of this? Because tomorrow night (Friday December 30th), the Atlantic City Surf Club is honoring Randazzo with the Surfer of the Year Award. The festivities are taking place at Le Grande Fromage in AC, starting at 9pm. I've volunteered to sing from 9-10, and I would love it if everyone came out to support this great foundation and a great man. There will be $5,000 worth of raffles, drink specials and of course- live entertainment. All proceeds go to the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation :)

    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    A Winter Farm Feast

    A winter farm feast for the family.


    • Apple and Bartlett Pear Sauce
    • Pasta Salad with Lemon, Fresh Herbs, Capers, Olives and Parmeasan Reggiano
    • Pickled Green Tomatoes
    • Freshly Ground, Freshly Packed (Freshly Killed) Venison Burgers

    Pasta Salad with Lemon, Fresh Herbs, Capers, Olives and Parmeasan Reggiano

    • 2 bags of small shells (cooked and drained)
    • 1 lemon (juice of 1 and zest of 1/2 lemon)
    • Fresh basil and oregano (small handful each)
    • 1 small container (small) capers (drained and rinsed)
    • 1 cup kalamata olives (pits removed and diced)
    • 2/3 cup good quality shredded parmesan reggiano
    • 1/2 cup EVOO
    • salt, to taste

    Apple and Bartlett Pear Sauce

    • 2 Granny Smith apples: peeled, cored and quartered
    • 6 *VERY ripe Pears: peeled, cored and quartered
    • 1/2 cup of water
    • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
    • juice of 1/2 lemon
    • cinnamon stick

    Put the apples in a pot with the water, agave, lemon and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 5minutes (until apples are soft). Turn heat to medium, add VERY RIPE pears and cook for 5minutes. Turn the heat to simmer, cover. Smash. EAT.

    Muscle Testing

    THIS is my AMAZING friend EMILY BOGY.

    I have known Emily for about 6 wonderful years now, and she is a powerful and amazing individual. She's been living in Boulder, Colorado for a little more than two years now - and as some of you may remember, this is who I connected with while driving cross country earlier this fall. Em knows a lot about everything that I am familiar with, and also with things that I HOPE to become familiar with. She's a baker out in Boulder, but for years she has worked different jobs in the Health and Holistic field. If you have a question about supplements, diet or energy work: Emily is your girl. She came to my Tuesday night class and then came back to my house for some dinner and a good old fashioned sleepover. As exhausted as we both were, we chatted on into the evening about yoga, meditation, babies (Emily is becoming certified to be a Doula), supplements, food, astrology, love, energy and all that other stuff that most people in South Jersey aren't too concerned about. My brain was in overload, and my heart was on the brink of combusting. I was soaking up all that she had to said, asked a million and one questions, and enjoyed running through some of lifes difficulties with her -- a compassionate, insightful, thoughtful and wise woman. The depth of the conversation is a bit too much to share with the WWW, but I WILL share the amazing MUSCLE TESTING sequence that she taught me....

    MUSCLE TESTING: So, I was telling Emily about how my joints have been the point that it hurts to move (lymes disease). For this she recommended a super potent, high quality fish oil and lots of turmeric root and ginger. Excited - I reached for our huge supplement cabinet and pulled out a bottle of Fish Oil and a bottle of Turmeric pills...."Is this what you'd recommend", I asked. She responded with "Well, does it resonate with your body?". Huh? What the friggin' hell does that mean? She explained how to do the Muscle Testing, and godddamnit - the freakiest thing ever - and it worked!!! She had me stand and hold my phone against my chest with my right hand (if you are a righty- you'd use your right hand...a lefty, use your left). Then she had me extend my left arm straight out. Then she said that she was going to try to press my left arm down, and to resist. Sadly, it went down rather abruptly. "Shit", I thought, "I need to build some muscles...add in a few more chatarungas to my practice". Then she had me hold the bottle of turmeric to my chest, and when she pushed my arm down it barely moved!!!! Well shit balls...I was intrigued. So I was grabbing things all around me and holding them to my chest, having her press down my opposing arm. My body did NOT resonate with the brand of fish oil that we had. After going through a bunch of different objects, I was completely sold on the power and accuracy of the "muscle testing". Emily said that the next time I'm at the store and want to pick out a supplement -- just close my eyes, hold the container to my chest and have someone try to push my arm down.

    Well goddamn - people ALREADY think I'm a bit looney - I can't imagine what everyone will think when they see me doing this! But who cares, I know that I'll be taking supplements that energetically correspond with my body.

    In addition to just the beautiful physical presence of Emily, she also came with a present for meeee!! Sonia Choquettes' "Ask Your Guides ORACLE CARDS". My dove for a card and she picked "REST" and I dove for a card and came up with "BALANCE". How spot on! Mom has been saying for all of December how EXHAUSTED she is and how she needs to just take some time to sleep, rest, and rejuvenate after a very long, very exhausting (physically and mentally) year. Balance was perfect for me because lately I have been spreading myself thin - trying to give 180% of myself to each and every yoga class. I'm reading half a dozen kundalini/zen/meditation/vinyasa/and philosophy books simultaneously, as well as trying to promote myself and create a business. Balance, yes. I promise to honor that.

    Anywho -- all in all, a FABULOUS visit from my very wonderful friend, the lovely and amazing EMILY BOGY.

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    'twas Very Merry...

    So much to be thankful for this blessed Christmas.

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    I love my family- and I love all of you MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE.

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Karuna Meditation

    This is the Karuna Meditation...Karuna being the 3rd of the 4 Divine Abodes of Buddhism (and the Four Immeasurables from Patanjali's sutras). Karuna means compassion. The difference between Karuna and Metta is that Karuna is the desire to remove harm and suffering from others; while Metta is the desire to bring about the well-being and happiness of others.

    In Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, one of the foremost authoritative texts on the Bodhisattva path is the Bodhicaryavatara by Shantideva. In the eighth section entitled Meditative Concentration, Shantideva describes meditation on Karunā as thus:

    Strive at first to meditate upon the sameness of yourself and others. In joy and sorrow all are equal; Thus be guardian of all, as of yourself. The hand and other limbs are many and distinct, But all are one--the body to kept and guarded. Likewise, different beings, in their joys and sorrows, are, like me, all one in wanting happiness. This pain of mine does not afflict or cause discomfort to another's body, and yet this pain is hard for me to bear because I cling and take it for my own. And other beings' pain I do not feel, and yet, because I take them for myself, their suffering is mine and therefore hard to bear. And therefore I'll dispel the pain of others, for it is simply pain, just like my own. And others I will aid and benefit, for they are living beings, like my body. Since I and other beings both, in wanting happiness, are equal and alike, what difference is there to distinguish us, that I should strive to have my bliss alone?"

    KARUNA MEDITATION (Compassion):

    Begin by focusing on the heart center - the middle of the chest, just beneath the sternum. Feel the breath moving there, rising and falling. Soften the heart, let yourself be open and receptive, letting down any defenses. Very slowly move through these phrases in your mind, contemplating their meaning and letting their meaning penetrate beyond the idea to the actual feeling itself.

    • May I be kind.
    • May I be aware of my own suffering.
    • May I be open to my own suffering.
    • May I respond to my suffering with love and compassion.
    1. First repeat this several times for YOURSELF.
    2. Now focus it and send it to someone dear to you (May you be...)

    • May I be kind to you.
    • May I be aware of your suffering.
    • May I be open to your suffering.
    • May I respond to your suffering with love and compassion.

    • May you be kind.
    • May you be aware of your own suffering.
    • May you be open to your own suffering.
    • May you respond to your suffering with love and compassion.
        1. Send this to someone neutral. A neighbor, acquaintance, coworker, etc. (May you be...)
        2. Focus on someone negative or difficult. Someone that maybe you just don't like. Now send it to them (May you be...)
        3. Finally, send it to All Beings Everywhere (May all beings everywhere be...)
        Radiate Karuna outward to all beings nearby, and gradually out to the whole planet, and finally the entire universe. At the end, come back to an awareness of breath and the heart center again, returning to the reality of your own body and this present moment.

        Metta Meditation

        I'm realizing just now that I never posted the other 2 (of the 4) Divine Abodes that we have practiced in Yin: Metta and Karuna. So, here you go!

        A meditation taught by the BUddha himself, and is designed to bring unconditional love to your Self, your loved ones and even learn to send unconditional love to beings throughout the universe. IT will help bring peace to situations taking place in your life - and allow you to look at the world in a more positive light. Bring your attention to your breath - exhaling negative thoughts and emotions, breathing in pure light, kindness, generosity and love - breathe out anger, breathe out any thoughts or feelings of fear or failure. Relax your body. Feel your energy settle into your heart and into the present.

        METTA MEDITATION (Loving-Kindness):

        Begin by focusing on the heart center - the middle of the chest, just beneath the sternum. Feel the breath moving there, rising and falling. Soften the heart, let yourself be open and receptive, letting down any defenses. Very slowly move through these phrases in your mind, contemplating their meaning and letting their meaning penetrate beyond the idea to the actual feeling itself.

        • May I live in safety.
        • May I be happy.
        • May I be healthy
        • May I live with ease.
        1. First repeat this several times for YOURSELF.
        2. Now focus it and send it to someone dear to you (May you...)
        3. Send this to someone neutral. A neighbor, acquaintance, coworker, etc. (May you...)
        4. Focus on someone negative or difficult. Someone that maybe you just don't like. Now send it to them (May you...)
        5. Finally, send it to All Beings Everywhere (May all beings everywhere...)
        Radiate Metta outward to all beings nearby, and gradually out to the whole planet, and finally the entire universe. At the end, come back to an awareness of breath and the heart center again, returning to the reality of your own body and this present moment.

        Thursday, December 22, 2011

        Mudita Meditation

        In yesterdays Yin class did a Mudita Meditation. Mudita is the 3rd of the Four Divine Abodes in Buddhism. There is Metta (loving-kidness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (sympathetic joy) and Upekkha (equanimity). We are working our way through each meditation...and not just using them in class, but incorporating them into our lives so that we can become the best person that we are capable of being.

        If you'd like to add this to your life, it is easy to incorporate (even into a busy lifestyle). You can repeat it when you first wake in the morning, or as you are winding down your day.


        Begin by focusing on the heart center - the middle of the chest, just beneath the sternum. Feel the breath moving there, rising and falling. Soften the heart, let yourself be open and receptive, letting down any defenses. Very slowly move through these phrases in your mind, contemplating their meaning and letting their meaning penetrate beyond the idea to the actual feeling itself.

        • May I be appreciative and grateful.
        • May I be aware of beauty and joy.
        • May I be open to beauty and joy.
        • May I respond to beauty and joy with appreciation and gratitude.
        1. First repeat this several times for YOURSELF.
        2. Now focus it and send it to someone dear to you (May you be...)
        3. Send this to someone neutral. A neighbor, acquaintance, coworker, etc. (May you be...)
        4. Focus on someone negative or difficult. Someone that maybe you just don't like. Now send it to them (May you be...)
        5. Finally, send it to All Beings Everywhere (May all beings everywhere be...)
        Radiate Mudita outward to all beings nearby, and gradually out to the whole planet, and finally the entire universe. At the end, come back to an awareness of breath and the heart center again, returning to the reality of your own body and this present moment.

        Namaste my friends, and Happy Holidays!

        Tuesday, December 20, 2011

        JourneyDance Joy!

        Let's admit it, only about 99.9% of us are dealing with something right now, right?? So when you go to a place like Kripalu it is inevitable that you will have some kind of breakthrough (yes, it's not a "breakDOWN" it's a "breakTHROUGH"). The last time that I visited Kripalu (which is the largest yoga center in the US), I had my break-through in a Grief workshop. All day long they offer a variety of yoga classes, workshops (both lectures and hands on) as well as outdoor activities. I was feeling a bit too run down to partake in the Grief workshop again this year, so instead I opted for a double dose of JOURNEY DANCE, with the Oh-So-Amazing Toni Bergins. I'd danced my heart out on Saturday at Toni's Journey Dance...she had LIVE DRUMMERS!!! You could feel the beats pulsing through your feet and into your soul. We broke down any "I'm Too Cool" barriers by dancing like no one was watching (despite the fact that there were about 70 people in the room), and would at times grab a partner and have to look into their eyes. Let me tell you how LIBERATING it is to be dancing around like a complete asshole, and then to simultaneously look at a complete stranger and sing to them at the top of your lungs "YOU ARE AMAZING!". I mean - really -- how often do people look one another in the eye anymore? Especially when it concerns strangers and mildly embarrassing dance moves...

        SO, Saturday was pure bliss. Sweating and dancing and laughing and not caring what anyone thought - including myself. I want to Journey Dance every day, and I think that if everyone did a little Journey Dance that the world would be a better place. Anywho....about 2 hours before our departure Kylee and I decided to sneak in one more of Toni's classes before hitting the road. The vibe of this class was totally different than Saturday. A bit slowed down, super fluid, and for me - very intimate. Now, just to set the scene - Toni has you visualize and act out all sorts of crazy shit while your dancing. So today, we were SHAMANS. We were dancing around like lunatics, and she guided us through: "put on your shaman clothes, whatever clothes you want your shaman to wear. and now dance around in a circle, because THIS is your shaman healing circle" on and so forth. This may come off as crazy, but I promise you it is truly and utterly amazing. During this time my mind was so crystal clear, and visualization became NO problem for me. I could picture specific, detailed images once I closed my clear it was almost frightening. I'm going to give a weekend full of Kundalini yoga the credit for this ability to visualize, focus, and meditate on a thought, emotion or image. Powerful stuff. So as a Shaman, Toni instructed us to start healing. So I did. And this was the picture, clear as day, that was going through my mind as I danced around with eyes closed, acting this out:

        My Dad was with me. And he was smiling....I was reaching into his head and pulling out all of the bad stuff. And then I figured just incase that didn't work, I wanted to fill his heart so that no matter what bad stuff may happen, no matter how things work out - that he would take comfort in the love that I gave him, and that he would always have with him. So first I was removing stuff from his head, and then taking love from my heart and filling him up. I just kept doing this over and over for awhile as tears were running down my face. And then I figured that I needed some healing, so I put all of the love that my Dad has been giving me over these past 24 years and put it into MY heart. And THEN I pictured my Mom, and I sent HER that I was able to cultivate after a nourishing weekend at Kripalu, love that I have gotten FROM here and my Dad, and the love that I have been getting from my friends.

        And then as Shamans, we all danced our way to the center of the room to finish our healing dance - and to throw all that bad shit into the "fire". At this point it took everything in my power to keep from losing it. Usually I'm pretty good at crying when I need to cry, but something told me that once it started it wasn't going to stop - and we were only half way through class. The Journey Dance hour ended with us standing alongside our partners and then taking turns dancing....the non-dancing partner just holding space for them and observing them. It wasn't an "I see you" but it was an "I SEE YOU...I see your pain and suffering and love and beauty. I see you." Well holy shit balls, I've never felt so vulnerable!! Because what was being seen was me totally scared and sad. A long savasana allowed me the privacy to cry it out and I felt feeling like a bit of weight had been lifted off my chest. Some times we are ignorant to the weight of our emotions, and it's something as simple as pretending you're a shaman and dancing around with strangers that helps you to digest it, break it down, and breakTHROUGH. A ton of gratitude to the amazing TONI BERGINS for allowing me the safe and sacred space, along with some encouragement, to come into a better place emotionally and spiritually. Namaste!

        Monday, December 19, 2011

        Hula Hoop Heaven

        I just hula hooped with 50 other individuals for an hour, under the guidance and inspiration of the fabulous Coby Kozlowski. Hula Hooping = UNCONTROLLABLE BLISS. It was just pure fun for 60 minutes, and I plan to hula for at least 15minutes a day EVERY DAY for the rest of my life. Coby told us how to make our own hula for super cheap ( I'm pretty sure that they sell them at the 5 Below stores for a cool five bucks as well. So: go out, RIGHT NOW, and buy a hula. It is a cheap way to have an outstanding day.

        You can check out the wonderful Coby Kozlowski online and see what hula/yoga/amazingness that she has going on...

        Sunday, December 18, 2011

        Kripalu Kundalini and Friends.

        Today finished up my Kundalini immersion with Daniel Orlansky here at the Kripalu Yoga Center in Massachusetts. I don't have a ton of experience with this powerful, breath-based form of yoga...but this weekend has left me invigorated and inspired. I'm so excited to bring it home to share with my family, friends and fellow yogis! I was fortunate enough to be in a class
        with some amazing individuals...a specific few with whom I really connected. Army John will definitely be getting a visit next time I'm down in DC, and I'll be sure to make a special trip to Mahwah just to see Suz (who gifted me a GORGEOUS hand knitted scarf that she made!!!!!). Boston is in the cards as well, because I'm planning to head to Daniels studio for an amazing Thai Yoga Massage certification that will be there. He has generously offered me up a place to stay, which as you all well know I will fully take him up on! So that's all for now- just a little update on the latest an greatest happenings. I'll post some basic Kundalini Kriyas once I get home, but for now I'm going to sign off and enjoy my tea, the beautiful view and my post-Sauna high. Sat Nam.

        Maria, Me, Alan, Daniel, Suzanne, and John.

        Suz and the BEAUTIFUL scarf that she knitted and gifted me!

        Army John and final farewell!


        Kylee, sound asleep on one of the community couches...

        Kylee and I have had FULL days, hence the lack of blogs. Information overload- I promise to blog once I get back. Namaste!


        Just wanted to share my moms latest email update, it's beautiful and really gets down to who and what are most important in life:

        Men- I have been fascinated with them for years.They get a bad rap at times. The men in my life however are extraordinary. The men in Paul's life can not even be put into words. Paul's friends have stuck by him for these two years as if he was their only mission in life. They take him out , they call him ( not on his phone, but mine) they stop by and visit, they bring him goodies, they take him fishing , and they take him hunting. The last is what I want to talk about now.
        For those of you who don't hunt, I will try to explain a few things. No one just walks into the woods and kills a deer. You scope it out, read the signs, pick a spot, clear your shooting lane, bait the spot, etc,. etc., etc. You get my drift right? Well Gary has been for 2 years keeping Paul's spots ready for him. Its a full time job. He has been waiting until Paul can hunt with him like last year, but alas this year he still isn't quite ready for those deer stands . Gary keeps at it though, because if and when Paul is ready he wants everything to be just right.
        Yesterday , Jason , whose father hunts from a deer blind on the ground, called me and asked if Paul would like to go hunt today. I had to work today, so I needed to ask Joe King to take him and buy him his permit. Joe showed up and took him to Just Sports and they got all the necessary paper work. Then they came home and tried to get Paul's gear together. Paul hasn't used his muzzle loader in 2 years, so he got confused and frustrated trying to get it together. Joe tried hard , but he couldn't help. Paul was really dejected ,but I came out and told him to walk away from it and we would deal with it later.
        At that point I was feeling like I needed a miracle or it would back fire and turn this into a negative experience. I texted Jason, he said if they couldn't figure it out he could just use his gun. So we were back on track.
        When Jason called after work to say he was ready i woke Paul up and helped him get into some warm clothes. He wanted to wear all his camo hunting clothes , but they were a little snug ,and I convinced him that he didn't need them since he would be in a blind anyway.
        When I dropped him off all I could think about was the emotions i went through sending Cailin off to kindergarten. You kiss them, tell them to listen to the teacher ( Jason in this case) remind them to be quiet ( He's sometimes a little loud because he's uncomfortable) and you just want the best for them. I cried the whole way home saying over and over, "please let him get a deer, please let him get a deer." Mostly I cried because I can't believe how good his friends are. Jason gave up a day of hunting to just sit with him and watch him and make sure he was safe. 10 people at least text me to see how he was doing just because they care.If deer could drop dead from prayer, Paul could have killed a herd.Everyone wanted him to get one.
        Well , he didn't get a deer , but they saw plenty. A buck needs to have at least 3 points on one side to be legal, so they had to let a few go , but Paul walked 150 yards to and from the blind, and he stayed quiet, and he listened to Jason, and he propped his borrowed gun on his cane, while sitting in his office swivel chair, and he came home smiling, so that was a successful hunt.
        Jason is going to take him again later this week. In January Cailin and I will take him to Dude's , as will several other people. Life is what you make it. And we are making ours good.
        It gets even better. Paul came home with Jason and we had a venison feast with Capt. Timmy.So he got to talk about it all over again. Tomorrow Jay Hallus will come by for breakfast. We can't wait.Toni come over if you want (around 10:30)
        Men, can't live without 'em. Thanks you to all the men in our lives. You astound me. love, doreen

        Sent from my iPhone

        Friday, December 16, 2011

        Kripalu Here We Come!

        Kylee and I just arrived in Lenox Massachusetts, and the laughter has been going strong since 6am this morning. It's cold and windy up here, but it's toasty inside!!! First stop- Kripalus epic sauna and steam room!!

        Thursday, December 15, 2011


        Another amazing Yin class, focusing on the lung, heart and intestine meridians. We finished with a Karuna (compassion) meditation, one of the Four Immeasurables. With the stress of the holidays, take a second to treat yourself to an amazing yoga class...

        Dear Santa

        Family man, surfer, fisherman, tall, handsome, funny, well-read, well-traveled, outdoorsman, tolerant of someone with a ludicrous Twilight obsession, handy, compassionate, adventurous, into yoga and good food and good wine. Is that really too much to ask....? Really? Haha. Today my mantra is focusing on what I DO have as opposed to what I DON'T have. But Santa, all I have is one little request for Christmas... Well, THAT and maybe some fabulous feather earrings!

        Wednesday, December 14, 2011

        Morocco Main Course

        And now onto the main courses:

        • Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives
        • Seared Lamb Kebabs Cooked in Butter (with Eggs)
        • Winter Squash with Caramelized Onions
        • Cailin's Saffron CousCous
        Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives

        This recipe I definitely altered a lot. It called for preserved lemons, Oudi, and saffron water. It was also the FIRST chicken that I have EVER made (I know, hard to believe...but I usually leave the meat cooking to my parents, and I stick with everything vegan and vegetarian).

        Chicken (about 3.5lbs)
        4 garlic cloves
        1 teaspoon ground ginger
        1 teaspoon ground white pepper
        1 teapsoon ground turmeric
        sprinkle of saffron
        small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
        small handful of fresh cilantro
        butter (1/2 stick)
        1 cup chicken stock
        2 medium onions
        a dozen or so green olives

        Preheat the oven to 400. Stuff a quartered lemon and some cloves of garlic up the chickens bum. In a food processor blend a few tablespoons of EVOO with all of the seasonings (fresh herbs, garlic, turmeric, ginger, salt and white pepper). This creates a sort of paste that I rubbed all over the chicken. Pour the chicken stock into the roasting pan, add the butter in, and then sprinkle in the saffron. Quarter your onions and toss them in. Cover with tin foil and cook for the first hour with the tinfoil on. An hour to an hour and a half in, remove the tin foil and throw your olives into the pan. The chicken should be done in an hour. This was my first chicken ever - and my father, the KING of roasted chicken, said that it was "GODDAMN DELICIOUS"...going in for seconds and thirds, and then claiming any leftovers for the next days lunch. Before serving it sprinkle some fresh cilantro and parsley on top to make it look pretty :)

        Seared Lamb Kebabs Cooked in Butter

        This lamb was crack...and that's coming from someone who doesn't enjoy lamb. CRACK. Like, I couldn't get enough -- and neither could anyone else. I definitely used more lamb than was called for, so I adjusted the amounts of other ingredients with my eyes and palate. Plus, by this time I'd been prepping and cooking for about 14 hours - plus I was pretty buzzed, so any and all rules set by Paula Wolfert went out the window. It was frickin' delicious. Because I messed with the recipe so much and just went with my gut, I'll post her recipe so that you'll have something to follow. But I will say, I didn't sear the meat -- I just sauteed it in a pan for a minute. And I actually DID grate the onion, rinse it, strain it and then used it. Also, I think I tripled the amount of butter she calls for.... So here is Paula's recipe for the Lamb:

        1 1/2 pounds of boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
        1 cup grated onion
        salt and freshly ground pepper
        3 garlic cloves, crushed
        4 tablespoons unsalted butter
        1/4 cup mixed chopped flat leaf parsley and cilantro
        1 teaspoon ground cumin
        1 round teaspoon paprika
        1 cinnamon stick
        juice of 1 lemon
        4 - 6 large eggs

        1. Toss the lab with half the grated onion, salt and pepper to taste and the crushed garlic. All to "ripen" for at least 1 hour. (**I DEFINITELY didn't do this....and it wasn't necessary).

        2. Preheat the broiler to the highest setting. Arrange the lamb on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and, when the broiler is very hot, sear quickly on both sides. The lamb will not be fully cooked. (**I didn't do this, I just sauteed it in a hot pan, browning the outsides).

        3. Melt the butter in a tagine or cazuela set over a heat diffuser. Add the meat, remaining onion, the herbs, spices, and cinnamon stick, and cook briefly, then add enough water to almost cover the meat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time and adding water if necessary to maintain about 1 cup of sauce. (**Okay, by this time in the evening I was definitely a bit drunk, so my memory is hazy. But I do know that I didn't use a tagine or a cazuela, I used a cast iron skillet. After browning my meat in it- step 2- I then added in the onion, herbs, spices, cinnamon stick and lots of butter. I think I added a bit of water too.... Anywho, I didn't add water throughout. There was enough sauce left at the end.)

        4. Add the lemon juice (just a touch) and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Break in the eggs carefully, cover the tagine (or in my case, the skillet), and cook until the eggs are set. (**You want them a bit runny, so don't cook too long!)

        5. Serve at once.

        Winter Squash with Caramelized Onions (Cassolita)

        I cooked this the night before, so I was definitely sober and remember the details! I Didn't follow her recipe word for word, so I'll give it to you from my perspective:

        2 pounds butternut squash (thats just one medium sized butternut)
        1/2 cup slivered almonds
        2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
        small handful flat leaf parsley
        1 teaspoon cinnamon
        1/2 cup dark raisins
        freshly ground pepper

        Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Place it is a roasting pan, cut side down. Add just about 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of the pan, cover with tin foil and roast for about 30-40minutes (until the squash is very soft). I put it in the fridge and then this was the first thing that I started working on the morning of the dinner party. By then the squash was obviously cooled. I remove the pulp and set aside in a bowl. I thinly sliced the onions and caramelized them in a skillet for about 30 minutes. When they were almost finished I added a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a touch of salt and pepper and a handful for dark raisins. In a separate skillet I lightly toasted the slivered almonds (with just a touch of EVOO in the pan). Squash on the bottom of the serving platter, caramelized onions and raisins on top, toasted almonds on that and then some fresh flat leaf parsley for color. I heated this up in the oven about 20 minutes before serving it.

        Cailin's Saffron Cous Cous

        Paula only had fancy cous cous recipes, and I knew that I wanted something basic to compliment the meat dishes. SO, I just followed the instructions on the cous cous container - with a few exceptions. With cous cous you do equal parts liquid to grain. So I did 1 cup chicken stock, 2 cups water...brought it to a boil, tossed in a few saffron threads, turmeric and fresh garlic and then added in 3 cups of cous cous and about 3/4 cup of golden raisins. Take it off the heat and cover for 5 minutes and then FLUFF it with a fork. If you don't fluff it right after you've cooked it then it will never fluff. So, fluff fluff fluff. Enjoy underneath your meat dishes and their sauces, as well as with a big scoop of Harissa!!!

        Morocco Round Two

        Again, Wolferts recipes with my own twist are what I'm posting.... This was round 2:

        • Riffian Split Pea Soup with Paprika Oil
        • Potato Pancakes
        Riffian Split Pea Soup with Paprika Oil

        1 large onion, chopped
        salt and pepper
        1 cup dried split green peas
        3 cloves garlic
        small handful fresh cilantro
        1-2teaspoons ground cumin
        2 teaspoons paprika
        lemon juice
        1/2 cup crumbled aged goat cheese

        Drizzle some olive oil into the bottom of a pot and brown your chopped onion. You want the onions gold and soft, so cook over a medium heat for about 15minutes. Add the split peas, garlic, cilantro, cumin and paprika. Let it cook for just about 2 minutes and then add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium/med-low and let it cook for about an hour - stirring occasionally.

        Add in the goat cheese and once the soup has cooled a bit puree it in batches. I made this the night before and then warmed it slowly on the stove for about a half hour before serving it. Before sending it out I added some more salt (you definitely want to be a bit heavy handed with the salt for this soup...if you taste it and think "what does this need?", it needs salt). I also added fresh lemon juice and drizzled it with olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika before sending it out. The recipe called for heavy cream, but this soup doesn't need it, so I left it out. This soup is taken to a whole other level by adding a scoop of HARISSA sauce (this is a Moroccan hot sauce paste that can be bought at any Middle Eastern supermarket, any speciality store, and can also be found at Williams Sonoma. This is absolutely essential for any Moroccan meal).

        Potato Pancakes

        2 pounds Red Bliss potatoes (or Yukon Gold)
        3 garlic cloves
        sea salt
        2 teaspoons cumin
        small handful fresh cilantro
        small handful fresh parsley
        pinch each of cayenne, ground turmeric, and white pepper
        2 large eggs, whipped
        lemon wedges

        I made this the night before. I peeled and quartered the potatoes and then tossed them into a pot of boiling water. I boiled them for probably like 20minutes or so?? I cooked them about 5 minutes shy of them being able to be used for MASHED potatoes. I let the potatos cool a bit and then I used a potato smasher and smashed em, still leaving large chunks though. Then I cracked and whipped one egg, and tossed that in with the potatoes. I threw in all of the seasoning, zested garlic, and the fresh herbs. Then I made a bunch of small fist-sized pancakes. I made about 15 of em. I put them in the fridge and then the next night right before I was ready to serve them I dipped them in egg, coated them in flour and then lightly fried them in the skillet. Before serving them I hit em with a few more turns of sea salt, a touch of cumin and I garnished the dish with lemon wedges. LEMON is .must. put lemon juice on them. Also, dip em in HARISSA sauce (this is a Moroccan hot sauce paste that can be bought at any Middle Eastern supermarket, any speciality store, and can also be found at Williams Sonoma. This is absolutely essential for any Moroccan meal).

        Tuesday, December 13, 2011

        Morocco Round One

        Here are recipes from the first round of food that was put out:

        • Fresh Tomato and Caper Salad
        • Orange and Olive Salad
        • Grilled Red Pepper Salad
        • Eggplant Zaalouk
        The beauty of Moroccan feasts is that because there are many dishes served, there are certain things that are meant to be made and/or prepped a day ahead of time. All of this was made the day before, with the exception of the tomato salad. These are MY adaptations of Paula Wolferts recipes from her book "Food of Morocco". I've put my spin on them, so enjoy...

        Fresh Tomato and Caper Salad

        6 medium sized tomatoes (peeled, seeded and diced)
        *the way that you peel a tomato...bring water to a boil, place the tomato in the boiling water. Remove in about a minute, once you notice that the skin has a crack in it. voila.
        1 small red onion, finely diced
        1 small green bell pepper, diced
        1 large handful of medium to large capers (rinsed and drained)
        sea salt
        ground white pepper
        3 tablespoons EVOO
        Juice of 1 lemon and zest of one lemon

        This was probably my most favorite thing of the whole evening -- and it was the EASIEST thing to make. This will definitely be a regular on our dinner table.

        Orange and Olive Salad

        6 navel oranges
        24 oil cured black olives

        4 tablespoons EVOO
        4 tablespoons orange juice (from the oranges youre peeling)
        1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
        1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
        pinch of cayenne
        drizzle of honey
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

        Section the oranges but slicing the top and bottom off the orange. Then cut the peel off. Then slice the sections out. Easy. I made this the night before by sectioning the oranges and then making the dressing separate -- tossing it all together and throwing some parsley on just before serving.

        Next up were the peppers. Again, I did things my way more so than Wolferts', but it tasted good and thats all that matters.....

        Grilled Red Pepper Salad

        3 large red bell peppers (peeled, seeded and quartered)
        *an easy way to peel peppers....put them under the broiler and once the skin starts to bubble and char just peel them off.
        sea salt
        1 medium sized tomato peeled, seeded, and diced
        2 garlic cloves crushed ( i just use a zester and zest the garlic, creating a paste)
        generous sprinkle of cumin
        chopped flat leaf parsley

        First I sprinkle the quartered and seeded peppers with salt. I rolled them in paper towels and pressed them, letting them sit for an hour. Once removing the excess moisture I put them under the broiler so that I could remove the skin. Wrapped em up and went to bed. The morning I sauteed them in a skillet with the tomato, olive oil and seasonings for several minutes. Refrigerate. Sprinkle with fresh cut parsley just before serving.

        Mindy was in charge of the eggplant zaalouk...and it was delicious! She said that it sucked the day she made it, but luckily for her she followed the recipes instructions that you make this dish atleast 24 hours before consumption....

        Eggplant Zaalouk

        2 medium eggplants
        1/3 cup EVOO
        1 pound ripe tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and chopped - or 2 cups drained chopped canned tomatoes)
        pinch of sugar
        1 tablespoon crushed garlic
        3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
        1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
        1/4 teaspoon cayenne
        2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
        fresh lemon juice

        Halve the eggplant lengthwise, place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet, and broil until blackened and tender (20minutes approximately). Dump into a colander set in the sink. Peel while still hot and allow to drain until cool. Squeeze gently to remove any bitter juices. In a skillet pour 3 tablespoons EVOO, add in tomatoes, sugar, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt. Cook, stirring, for about 20minutes. Crush the eggplant with a fork and add to the skillet. Stir in the chopped cilantro and continue cooking for another 10minutes. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. LET COOL AND THEN COVER AND REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT. Toss with a bit more olive oil before serving.

        Moroccan Madness

        Wow. I cook a lot...and I gotta say, I'm pretty good at it. But for the first time ever I totally knocked my own socks off. I can't believe the I pulled off this many dishes, for this amount of people, in such a short amount of time. And I never lost my cool (only a few times when I was making the cookies...I'm definitely NOT a baker). I shopped, prepped, and cooked. I cleaned the house (and myself) and set the table in true Moroccan fashion. After many hours cooking I soaked in a hot tub infused with orange blossom water. I scrubbed my body with coarse salt and lavender oil. I soaked my hair in rose water. What an experience. Then I put on my finest Moroccan threads and finished the final preparations before company arrived. There was Middle Eastern music playing in the background, incense wafting through the air, and the scent of cumin, fresh herbs, lemon, and exotic spices filling your nose. There is NOTHING better than preparing food for people that you love, and then getting to share it with them and enjoying it in their company. Out of my many family meals, this has been my best. Hands down. Recipes will be posted later tonight I promise!!

        All of the place settings had name cards, fresh mint in the tea cups, no silverware (in true Moroccan fashion), and a bowl of rose water to your right to rinse your fingers before and after the meal.

        Women in the kitchen....

        The people I love.

        The ladies...posing with the fabbbbulous "Food of Morocco" by Paula Wolfert cookbook that inspired the meal.