When I started this blog, I was searching to find ways to promote a healthier lifestyle for myself (and by proxy, for others as well). Over the years, I’ve picked up tips and tricks along the way. For example, drinking warm water with lemon first thing in the morning can help with digestion throughout the day (which is major for people like myself whose GI tract needs all the help it can get). Another little habit I’ve tried to integrate into my daily routine is yoga. Not only does it stretch your body and keep it limber as you age, but it also helps to keep that blood flowing, which promotes dopamine and other hormones that can affect mood and digestion.
This next title is just that, a collection of tips and tricks that integrate yoga and food to achieve a “quiet mind and overall sense of calm.” “The Yoga Kitchen Plan: A Seven-Day Vegetarian Lifestyle Plain With Over 70 Recipes” is a thoughtful reflection of how author, chef, and naturopath, Kimberly Parsons, lives her life.
LET’S TALK ABOUT YOGA
So before we delve into the recipes, let’s talk about yoga. The word itself means “any form of connection,” which is why many people associate it with something that connects the mind with the body. I remember last summer, when I was taking yoga classes during bar prep, I really struggled with this idea of tapping into “awareness” of my mind and body. Initially, I just thought it was about getting the right posture or position, but the crux of yoga is really about developing this awareness and connection with yourself that goes deeper than looking in a mirror and reciting positive affirmations.
I think the first time I “tapped” into this awareness was during a breathing exercise at the end of a yoga class that lasted for twenty or so minutes. Once I stopped counting the breaths and just focused on the sensations that were released with each inhale and exhale, the exercise suddenly felt next-level. There isn’t really another way to describe it other than that; I got lost in the breathing and before I knew it, twenty minutes were up and the headache I had at the start of the class.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t get this elevated experience every time I step foot in the yoga studio, but it’s something I find comes most easily when I am able to dissociate from the day’s stresses and just “be.”
What’s a chakra? Parsons constructs her seven-day lifestyle plan around these “wheels of energy” that are found throughout the body. They’re like a “swirling wheel of energy where matter and consciousness meet, with the wheels perfectly aligning up and down the spinal column.”
Ok, that probably makes no sense if you haven’t heard of these before, right? Right, because I was totally lost the first time I read about chakras, too. Basically there are seven chakras, each of which affect different things in your life. These chakras are:
-Solar Plexus Chakra
-Third Eye Chakra
-and Crown Chakra.
Of the seven, I would say Root Chakra is the one I have struggled with the most lately. This chakra deals with feelings of safety, security, and belonging . . . which isn’t surprising given everything that’s happened in the last few years.
When I first got diagnosed with gastrointestinal issues, I remember feeling an immense sense of loss and instability, in part because I didn’t have anyone in my life whom I could turn to for advice (outside of all the doctors I was seeing), and also because I had no idea if it’d be a quick fix or something I’d deal with for life (after five plus years, I think it’s safe to say I’ll always have health flares, but with proper care, I can reduce the frequency and/or intensity).
When I left law school for a year, again, an incredible sense of loss and grounding because I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to come back, let alone graduate or take the bar (much less pass it). Here’s a post on that. The long-term breakup I went through last year. Here’s a post, and another post, and another post on that. And then there was the time I had to put down my nine-month old puppy, whom I was training to become my first service dog. Here’s a post on that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is you can find chakras in a variety of instances throughout your life, and the more aware you become of them, per Parsons, the more you can “improve where you feel weak (physically, mentally or emotionally) and expand where you feel strong.”
HOW THE BOOK IS ORGANIZED
The reason why I am spending so much time going into depth about chakras is because that is how the book is organized. Coincidentally (or maybe it’s on purpose?) there are seven chakras, one for every day of the week. Parsons organizes the book so readers can spend one day focused on each chakra, complete with activities like: a morning pranayama (breath work; I told you breathing is important!), a daily chakra meditation, a daily chakra task, and afternoon pranayama.
Each day has a specific set of guidelines to ensure readers get the most out of this seven-day commitment. Something I really like here is that each day includes meditations, affirmations, and recipes that coincide with whatever the daily chakra is. As with everything, you can take as much or as little of the structure set forth in this book, but if you have the time and the resources, I’d recommend trying the whole thing the way it’s set out (or at the very least, trying one complete day with its coinciding chakra).
BUT WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT INTO YOGA?
Great question. If yoga and meditation don’t move you, I’d still recommend picking up this book as a standalone cookbook. The recipes are very thoughtful, full of flavor, and coming from someone who does a lot of recipe testing in the kitchen, these dishes are quite creative (and not like creative but lacking in flavor or something like that).
All of the recipes are vegetarian, so you can always adjust for any intolerances, allergies, or modifications (like adding chicken or dairy or something else to a dish). Another thing I really like about this cookbook is it encourages intuitive, or mindful eating habits. What that means is putting thought into what’s going into your mouth, and not just shoveling whatever’s on your plate faster than you can chew it. Taking the time to be a little bit more thoughtful about the eating process can not only help with digestion (hello, old friend), but can also help people who have/had difficult relationships with food.
Soft Shell Tacos With Corn Fritters (p. 96)
This first recipe comes from the Solar Plexus Chakra. Parsons recommends finding foods that promote fuel and energy (like complex carbohydrates and B-vitamin-rich foods that boost metabolism). This dish is great if you’re looking to prepare a utensil-free meal, or want something that’s versatile and you can add extra ingredients (e.g. chicken, more spices, or even more vegetables). I’ll be honest, I was really apprehensive about making a “meal” solely out of vegetables, but like many recipes I try on here, I was blown away by the variety of flavors and textures. For this recipe, I made/used: warm polenta taco shells, crunchy Bibb lettuce, zesty green goddess avocado dressing, and pieces of polenta corn fritters.
I think the corn fritters were my favorite component of this dish. I left them in the oven a little longer, so they had the perfect amount of crunch. I left out the chili flakes because they’re not GI-friendly, but even without that spice, the coriander and dill really made the dish standout as an unusual, but very tasty flavor. I wouldn’t have thought to use those two spices together!
Sweet Potato Wedges (p. 114)
This next recipe comes from the Heart Chakra, which focuses on green foods. These can include everything from vegetables, to leafy green vegetables, to healthy fats like avocados. These sweet potato wedges actually come from a curry recipe, but at the time I did these recipe tests, I couldn’t eat curry, so I just did the wedges. These are super easy to make; as in, three ingredients and that’s it.
Sweet potatoes are one of those foods I’ve only recently grown a liking for, but dang are they good! You can do so much with them. If I’m feeling blasé about cooking dinner, I’ll pop one in the oven (with a tray under it of course, unless you want to clean up drippings). Then I’ll add a sprinkle of olive oil or just leave it solo, and it’s the perfect thing to throw on a plate by itself or with leftovers.
Broccoli, Coriander and White Miso Soup (p. 168)
Last but certainly not least, soup! This recipe comes from the Crown Chakra section, which emphasizes easy to digest and detoxifying foods. I don’t know about you, but when I see “easy to digest” I turn into a giddy little kid. Even if you don’t have digestive issues like yours truly, easily digestible recipes are good to have on-hand if you ever get an upset stomach or are feeling under the weather. Again, like the wedges, this recipe is very straight-forward and under ten ingredients.
My only recommendation here is if you have difficulty finding miso at your local grocery store, check out Asian produce markets (e.g. Ranch 99) or even online through food delivery services like Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods. This recipe is full of flavor and actually a lot more filling than it looks; something great you can prepare ahead of time and then freeze for a meal later in the week.
Overall, I really enjoyed this cookbook. It’s has all of the knowledge and information you’d get at a private yoga retreat, but instead of having to travel (and pay) for it, you can do it all from the convenience of your home. To me, the added meditations and information to learn about the different chakras was extremely fascinating.
This would make a great gift for anyone looking for a little guidance in the health and wellness space. Maybe even your local yoga teacher or fitness instructor. Above all else, it is a great reminder to make the time to pause and reflect and go about life a little slower so that we can take it all in.
I received this book complimentary on behalf of the publisher, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. All photography featured in this post is my own unless noted otherwise; please seek permission before copying or reproducing the images.
Book Stats: The Yoga Kitchen Plan: A Seven-Day Vegetarian Lifestyle Plain With Over 70 Recipes by Kimberly Parsons
Page Count- 192
Binding- Hardcover with color photography