27 November 2010

Loving Hot Yoga in Chilly Washington

When I was looking for a yoga studio near Kent where we were staying with family during our visit to Washington, I stumbled upon Hot Yoga Inc.'s website and hit the jackpot when I saw that they were offering a "10 for $10" introductory promo to first-timers at any of their studios. A dollar for a class!!! Unbelievable!!! There was simply no excuse not to enroll. Back here in Manila, I had been making excuses about classes being too expensive (with single class rates starting at P550+) and that I lived too far from the nearest studio. With Hot Yoga Inc.'s branch in Federal Way just a 10- to 15-minute drive from Kent, there was no escape!

Hot Yoga is basically just a series of yoga postures done in a heated room. It doesn't necessarily have to follow Bikram Yoga's strict series of the 26 postures, but most Hot Yoga studios still do anyway. At Hot Yoga Inc., you can choose either the Hot Hatha Yoga classes (60 or 90mins) which basically follows the Bikram Yoga series or the 60-minute Power Yoga class.

Basically, the difference between the two is that when you choose the Hot Hatha, it follows the set 26 poses from the original Bikram Yoga series all performed twice plus the two pranayama breathing exercices (one at the beginning and one to close the class). At first, it seems so easy since it's not a flowing yoga where everything is done in a flowing sequence so you do get breaks in between postures. The thing is, the postures are very challenging, especially the balancing postures and you'd have to stay in the poses for longer periods of time. Often, I would find myself with my knees shaking and just wanting to collapse and sit out the rest of the class.

the reception area at Hot Yoga Inc. in Federal Way

The Power Yoga on the other hand would be a flowing sequence which won't require you to hold poses for too long. I didn't get to try this at Hot Yoga Inc. but I would imagine from previous ashtanga / vinyasa classes I've tried elsewhere that it would be made up mostly of sun salutations and basically, more of a workout than the Hatha since you'll be moving continuously. I wanted to try the Hot Power Yoga class but just didn't have time. The people I met there though kept giving me mixed reviews on it. Some people liked the Power Yoga more since it's only 60 minutes so even if it's a lot more physically taxing, it's over sooner than the Hatha. But I also got to chat to several people who still liked the Hatha class more since they feel like they get more from it than the Power Yoga class because the poses are a lot more challenging.

the heated studio to the left and the shower & changing rooms
at the end of the corridor

My first class at Hot Yoga Inc. was super exhausting and I almost didn't make it thru the end of the class! I used to go to Bikram Yoga in Eastwood but it had been months since the last time I went so the intense heat in the room and the challenging balancing postures took a bit of getting used to all over again. And I guess what makes it harder to do Hot Yoga in Washington is the cold weather. Doing Bikram Yoga back here in Manila is just like doing yoga on a hot summer day. I remember a few months back, when I was too lazy to drive down to Eastwood, I would just do the same 26 postures inside our house with no electric fan turned on and I would sweat buckets still - sometimes even more that I sweat off when I go to the studio. When you're in Washington though, your body gets used to the chilly weather so the heat inside the studio brings more of a shock to your body than it does back here.

After one class, I noticed that right after savasana, a lot of the people who couldn't stand the heat anymore just stood up and left to go out. When I finished my savasana and got out of the studio, I found several of the people in the class just walking around the parking lot with their shirts off in the cold and it was just a funny sight: half-naked men and women in their yoga shorts & sports bras just walking around in the empty parking lot, drenched in sweat!

yoga clothes and accessories for sale

What's great about the heat though is that it loosens up your muscles so much that it facilitates stretching more and lets you be more flexible with your body than you usually are without the heat. And because you sweat tons, it's a great way to flush toxins out of your body!

And that's basically what Hot Yoga promises. According to their flyer, Hot Yoga's Heat Therapy builds strength (check!), improves balance (half-check! I never did get to hold those one-leg standing poses for its intended duration! :s), increases flexibility (check! I can now touch my head to my thighs when doing the standing forward bend -- YAY!), relieves stress (check! Because your mind is so focused on making your body hold the postures, it really does let your mind forget about everything else and lets your mind rest from all outside stress even for just 90 minutes!), helps you lose weight (only a half-check! I know I could've lost a lot more weight if I didn't always find myself looking for a good lunch right after the class! Boo!), helps you release toxins (check!).

I love Hot Yoga. I'd keep going everyday if only there was a studio closer to our house. The first few classes are always the most challenging but one thing I also learned from Hot Yoga is super determination. I learned that if you really put you mind into making your body do something, it's possible even if you don't think you're flexible at all. Even I suprise myself sometimes with the postures I can actually do! I always leave Hot Yoga a lot more energized than when I came in. And as exhausting as the classes are, it always leaves me feeling fantastic all day!

Hot Yoga Inc.
31839 Gateway Center Blvd S

Federal Way, WA 98003 (p) (253) 528-0880

26 November 2010

Back from another hiatus!

The universe works in the funniest ways.

The Mister and I had been dealing with some pretty heavy stuff lately and we were getting pretty burnt out when we got a call from his family in Seattle asking us to visit very soon since my dear father-in-law was recently ill and during that time didn't seem like he was getting any better. Of course, the immediate thought bubble was: "Wow, when it rains, it really does pour!". We were of course terribly worried, so we took our chances and tried to book tickets and in no time, we were booked for a flight that leaves in a couple of days and barely had time to pack and fix things at work before we had to leave.

So in a rush, we left all reservations, recipes and bilins to my family and our staff and packed and left for what was supposed to be just a two week-long visit to Seattle.

In the plane on the way to Seattle, I was already thankful for the time off and the extra time I'd have on my hands to spend with family and finally be able to read atleast a couple of the books that have been piling on my bedside table; experiment with more raw food recipes; do yoga daily; and was really looking forward to finally being able to post all my blog backlog from so many of our recent trips and green adventures. What made me think I'd have time to do all those things is beyond me now. Of course, no blogging happened. And as hard as I tried, I didn't even get to read a single page from any of the books I brought with me!

I did get to do so many other things though. Apart from the time we happily spent with family, I did get to enroll at Hot Yoga in Federal Way and was able to go to class almost daily (something I could never do back here since the nearest yoga studio is about an hour away!)... I also went gaga over how beautiful organic veggies and fruits in Washington are and how easily available raw natural food is so the Mister and I ended up cooking up a storm there and making and experimenting with more new dishes than we ever have back home... I was also able to finally fix my body clock and am happy to say that we sleep normal hours now, no longer going to bed way past midnight and waking up a little before noon; and basically, I was just happy for the breather that the Mister and I along with the Little Boy got from this visit.

beautiful fresh organic fall produce

a raw food dinner we prepared in Seattle

The best news, however, was that when we got there, my dear father-in-law was no longer ill and was just getting better and better each day and in no time, was back to his daily laps in the gym pool and watching football like he never even got sick at all! It was like the Universe just made an excuse to get us there for literally a breath of fresh air and a dose of positive energy.

Washington was gorgeous at the time of our visit, too. It was my first fall in the US and I was just amazed and overwhelmed by its beauty: the trees with their red, orange and pink leaves; the beautifully-shaped fallen leaves that still looked just as beautiful covering the streets and the sidewalks as they were when they were still clinging on to their branches; the gorgeous views of snow-capped Mt. Rainier from just about anywhere; the calm lakes and the sounds; and just how crisp and fresh the air was.

Of course, my lovely in-laws were such gracious hosts and took us to more wonderful places to see more of Washington's beauty. We went to Leavenworth for its little Bavarian village that makes you feel like you're in a fairytale; we visited Stevens Pass to make a snowman and throw snowballs; we went to gorgeous Snoqualmie with its trails & waterfalls; Alki Beach for a grand buffet at Salty's and the best view of Seattle and the Puget Sound; and just saw so many incredible places while we were there.

faerietales come to life at Leavenworth

our Little Boy's first snowman!
gorgeous Snoqualmie Falls

the view from Salty's at Alki Beach

On our own, we rented a cozy little apartment at St. John's in Capitol Hill in Seattle for a few nights and explored downtown and its many vegetarian, vegan and raw food cafes! We went for a full Vegan Happy Hour at Plum Bistro; a lovely vegetarian lunch at Cafe Flora; bought colorful organic fruits & veggies from Pike Place Market; had a deliciously spicy Thai vegan dinner at Araya's at the University District; tried raw nachos, yummy cacao tortes and smoothies at Thrive and more raw desserts and chai tea lattes at Chaco Canyon and Healeo. We also met Kelly of Seattle Raw Food and she gave us super useful tips & easy recipes and made us yummy raw treats like tacos, pizza and those carob fudge brownies that were just too delicious! While I am a pescetarian at the moment (I cannot give up seafood & fish just yet -- especially with all the salmon & clam chowder Washington has to offer!!), we did have a lot of full vegan days while we were in Capitol Hill and it felt great! We didn't even have to try so hard to look for full vegan meals because they were so readily available!

flying fish at the Pike Place Fish Market

more fruits and vegetables at the Pike Place Market

Vegan Happy Hour at Plum Bistro
raw nachos at Thrive
In a nutshell, that visit to Seattle (or Washington actually) was just what we needed! We were so happy in Seattle that leaving became a bit painful, so what was supposed to be a visit for just 2 weeks was extended to 3. And despite the extra work that we had to put in just to be able to manage work from the other side of the world and all its hassles, it was worth it! 

It really was amazing. At a point in our lives where were were at the brink of being just too burnt out and jaded, the Universe interferes and conspires to bring us to this place where we were able to regain a sense of belonging and balance in our lives again and gave us that much-needed inspiration and all this positive energy to go forth and live happy and passionately once more!

So, I am grateful. Very, very grateful. And as a means of expressing my gratitude to the Universe, to Washington and for all the beautiful people that sent us so much loving, positive vibes while we were there (whether thru actions, thoughts or thru their wonderful food), I am promising to blog a little more diligently now. I have so much to share about how green the state of Washington is in so many ways and what I've learned on eating sustainably that it would be a pity not to be able to share it with friends and more people. Not to mention all the amazing vegetarian finds we discovered in Washington that I MUST write about!

Also, some of the most important things I brought home from Seattle with me are my new raw food recipe books, a brand spankin' new blender and food processor (yay!) and all the natural raw food ingredients like nuts, carob powder, grains and seeds that I hoarded from the Natural Food Store's bulk section. So needless to say, I've taken over our kitchen now and have been experimenting relentlessly on yummy raw food recipes since we got back! So I've got loads of recipes to share, too!

raw stuffed mushrooms

raw nori shiitake sushi rolls
coconut carob fudge

So dear blog, let me get my recipes together first and starting tomorrow, I'll be posting recipe after recipe, and many other stories to tell, and blogging every day. I promise.

And again, dear Universe, for all your good energy, a big, big THANK YOU. :-)

14 October 2010

Today's Raw Lunch: Cucumber & Eggplant Lasagna with Cashew Pesto & Marinara Sauce

I love eggplants! So when Daniw of Bahay Kalipay told me that you can actually eat eggplants raw, I got super excited and I decided to make a raw lasagna for lunch today (another great tip from Daniw. Thank you, my raw food guru!!) :)

Raw Lasagna with Cashew Pesto & Marinara Sauce

1 eggplant
1 cucumber or zuchinni
extra virgin olive oil
Braggs liquid aminos or Nama Shoyu
dried rosemary
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
raw cashew pesto (recipe here)
raw marinara sauce

For the raw marinara sauce:
dried rosemary
fresh basil leaves (dried basil will work, too!)
sea salt
black pepper
a bit of wild honey

I just throw all the marinara sauce ingredients into a blender & process. If you guys are planning to make it at home, again I would encourage experimenting with the quantity of each ingredient to suit your taste. Different strokes for different folks! ;) Set aside.

For the lasagna, I just soaked some slices of eggplant in a mixture of olive oil (I only drizzled enough to cover the slices), Braggs liquid aminos or Nama Shoyu, dried rosemary, a bit of sea salt & ground black pepper for 20-30 minutes.

To make the lasagna, arrange the first layer of eggplant slices on a plate. Top it with some cashew nut pesto. Then top the cashew nut pesto with another layer, this time with the cucumber slices. Pour some of the raw marinara sauce on top of the cucumber slices before putting on another layer of the eggplants & then the cashew pesto. I topped off my lasagna with a slice of eggplant & another slice of cucumber and poured some of the raw marinara sauce on top.

This was a fun dish to make! And I had the Little Boy watching the whole time I was making it and even got him to try a few bites since he was so fascinated by the whole process. He likes it, thankfully! Yay!

I had some cashew pesto left over from lunch a couple of days ago so I decided to use that instead of making a different sauce altogether,  though I would imagine that experimenting with several other different sauces would work well for this dish, too! It's so versatile! Maybe next time, I'll try it with some marinated mushrooms! 

Also, I'm no big fan of cucumber! But I ran out of zuchinni so I had to use cucumber instead. It still tasted great but made the dish a little watery once you start cutting into the slices. I'm definitely using zuchinni the next time I make this dish though!

Anyhoo, I've got tons of work to do but I got so excited about how tasty this was I just had to share it! ;p

So, that's it for now! On to dessert now: Mango & Cashew Nut Milk Smoothie. Yum! <3

12 October 2010

Today's Raw Lunch: Raw Cashew Pesto on Zuchinni Fettucine

For today's raw lunch:

Raw Cashew Pesto on Zuchinni Fettucine

For your raw pesto sauce:

1/2 cup cashew nuts (soaked in water for atleast 20-30 minutes)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
a handful of basil
a handful of cilantro
sea salt

Just throw everything into a blender/food processor and process until smooth.

For your "pasta", just use a peeler to peel off fettucine-like strips off the zuchinni. Pour some cashew pesto sauce on top and top it off with some chopped tomatoes (and any other vegetable you like!) and some Bragg's Nutritional Yeast for "cheese".

Yummy & easy!

...and for today's Green Smoothie:

lolla rossa lettuce
frozen mango
frozen bananas
freshly-squeezed lemon juice
wild honey

Chop fruits into chunks & throw into the blender with your greens. Pour in juice from half a lemon and put in some wild honey if you want your smoothie sweeter. Pour in just enough cold water to cover half of the ingredients in the blender. Blend away! :)

This combo is a new favorite of ours. We love bananas & mangoes and the bit of lemon juice really gives it an add'l zing (not to mention Vitamin C)! It was our first time to use bok choy, too, and it's great! Bok choy is a great source of Vitamin C, calcium and Vitamin A which makes this an extra healthy green smoothie! :)

And while I'm at it, here's a few of notes on green smoothies:

1) If you noticed, I intentionally left out quantity since it should really be up to you how much of each ingredient you'd want to put in. No measuring needed! It's all about experimenting with the quantity and the fruits you use before you get the "perfect" combination that suits your taste. As far as fruit to greens ratio, the general rule (as I've gathered from many green smoothie advocates & websites) is that you put 60% fruit, 40% green vegetables. I tend to go 50-50 though and it still tastes great!

2) I almost always use fresh fruit, as opposed to using frozen. However, I started to use frozen fruits during a time when we had way more bananas & mangoes than we knew what to do with, so we had to put some in the freezer so they won't go to waste and now, I'm beginning to learn that using frozen fruits may actually be better since I end up with refreshingly cold green smoothies without having to add ice. I'm assuming though that the freezing process takes away a bit of the fruits' nutritional value (I need to research some more on that actually!) but hey, frozen fruit is always better than no fruit at all!

3) There're many green smoothie drinkers who prefer their smoothies with no water at all to really make the most out of the greens & fruits in it. I for one cannot enjoy a warm, way-too-thick green smoothie so I always add a bit of water to thin out the smoothie's consistency. Another great alternative is to use fresh fruit juice instead of water so that it's still a fruit base!

I'm so hooked on green smoothies now! It's always a great drink for a quick energy boost plus it's so filling, I actually don't crave so much for junk now. What I love about it though is that you can pretty much use any green vegetable (lettuce, cabbage, spinach, pechay, bok choy, arugula, etc.) and any favorite fruit so the green smoothie list is just endless! And it's always fun to just experiment with different combinations everytime and every once in a while stumble upon a favorite (like this one is for us!).

Enjoy your green smoothie!!! :)

08 October 2010

Trying To Get Back on the Healthy Track With My Favorite Raw Breakfasts

I've been feeling a bit under the weather lately. Last week, I found myself in the Emergency Room at Medical City at 3 in the morning because of a severe migraine. I brushed it off all throughout the day and after finally taking some pain relievers and my head still feeling like it's about to explode, I finally gave in to the Mister's pleas of bringing me to the ER just to make sure it wasn't anything serious.

When I got there, my blood pressure was so low that they wanted me to stay for another hour so they could monitor me. :s After a couple of hours, the doctors let me go home but not before making me promise that I'd stay in bed for the next few days since apparently, the severe migraines and low blood pressure was, according to them, due to too much stress and lack of rest. Hmmm.

I admit that since getting back from my super restful retreat in Puerto Princesa, I've been subjected to day after day of work-related stress and pressures and other personal problems.

For the first week after getting back, I was so well-behaved: went to bed early every night, woke up early to do yoga and morning meditation, ate raw food for 2 out of my 3 daily meals, downed green smoothies as my energy drink, and I felt fantastic!

After that though, with increasing pressures and hundreds of errands & deadlines to meet, I slowly went back to skipping breakfast cause I just didn't have time.. being glued to my laptop & iPhone replying to queries & working through midnight.. skipping my morning yoga & meditation.. not having time to make my raw meals so I ended up eating cooked food.. and now, I'm back to feeling sluggish and just sickly! :s

So now, after a week of struggling to meet deadlines & rushing thru the week again, I'm determined to go back to that slower, healthier lifestyle.

I'm determined to make all-raw breakfasts everyday now for a good kickstart to the morning and since it inspires me to eat raw & healthy for the rest of the day. Here're a few of my favorite raw breakfast recipes that are easy to make and super yummy:

Fresh Mangoes & Bananas in Coconut Milk-Mango-Honey
(this was actually my very first attempt to a raw meal at home so I tried to replicate one of our breakfasts at Bahay Kalipay. But since I didn't have a lot of the other stuff that went in to the original version (like wheatgerm, avocadoes, goji berries, etc.), I decided to just make do with what I had at home and make a simpler version.

yummy fruit breakfast at Bahay Kalipay

Ingredients for the sauce:
coconut milk (don't use canned coconut milk! we made ours just by squeezing all the milk out from the grated coconut meat that you also get to use in the dish -- see? nothing wasted!)

Just blend everything together and adjust amounts of each ingredient to your liking (e.g. more honey if you want it sweeter). Set aside.

1 mango, sliced into cubes
1 banana, sliced
grated coconut meat
ground cashew nuts

Just put the mangoes and bananas in a bowl. Pour coconut milk-mango-honey mixture into the bowl and sprinkle grated coconut meat & ground cashew nuts on top.

Super easy to make and also super filling! Since my first try, I've experimented with it several times more and I now put ground flaxseeds or wheatgerm for more fiber/protein; I also use whatever nuts we have at home for variety.

You can also opt to put avocados, goji berries, or any of your favorite fruits! If you don't have coconut milk, you can also use almond milk or cashew nut milk -- it's still yummy! :)

my version with just mangoes, bananas, coconut
and crushed cashew nuts

Apple Ginger Almond & Cashew Nut & Flaxseed "Granola" in Almond Nut Milk & Honey

This one is actually my own version of a recipe I found here. Almonds are expensive here so I substituted cashew nuts for half of the amount of almonds that the recipe calls for. Turned out great!

1 apple, finely diced
1/4 cup almonds, soaked & chopped
1/4 cup cashew nut, soaked & chopped
1/4 inch piece of ginger
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (original recipe calls for 1/4 only but i love cinnamon!! so i added a bit more. do as you please.)

So basically, you just put all this in a food processor until it's got a granola-like texure.

You may opt to add more stuff like goji berries, coconut meat, etc. But to me, it's perfect the way it is! :)

I just made a mixture of almond nut milk & honey and poured that into the bowl for a yummy raw cereal breakfast!!

For some, the taste of the ginger may be too strong so you can omit this if you're not a ginger fan or you can just put in a smaller piece and make sure it's finally chopped so you don't get nasty whole chunks of it in one bite!

Banana Cinnamon Almond Nut Milk & Wheatgerm Smoothie
This is a great quick breakfast for those days when you just don't have time to make a bowl of the other 2! The wheatgerm (you can also try flaxseed) makes it super filling, too. Even I'm surprised that it gets me through the morning until lunch without getting hungry.

making almond nut milk at home
1 banana
1 cup almond nut milk (better if it's homemade!)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground wheatgerm or flaxseed

Just put everything in a blender and you'll have a great glass of breakfast in the morning!

Enjoy! :-)

27 September 2010

Lemoni Cafe: The Perfect Boracay Lunch

I've always loved Lemoni. I never let a Boracay trip pass without atleast one visit to this sunny cafe, whether it's for their great Lunch Box Sets or for a quick coffee & dessert stop after dinner. Sometimes I even find myself going all the way to D'Mall just to order a tall glass of Lemoni's Watermelon Ginger Crush for take-out!

Right smack in the middle of often-too-crowded D'Mall sits this airy little cafe, with its bright yellow & white interiors making it look all the more cheerful & inviting. Always the perfect spot for a cozy, hearty lunch in Boracay!

I usually go for the Lemon Lunch Box everytime we're at Lemoni. For P450, you get the Soup of the Day, Salad Greens with Raspberry Vinaigrette, your choice of their tasty sandwiches (the Pan-fried Tuna with Egg Curry on Ciabatta and the Thai Lemon Chicken Ciabatta being my personal favorites!) or their rice toppings (beef, chicken or fish) plus dessert (you can choose from Coconut Pannacotta, Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse, Caramel Pot de Creme or Tropical Mango Parfait)! That's pretty good value for just P450 if you ask me! That's a complete meal!

I was tempted to get a set lunch on our last visit actually. That time though, The Mister and I were craving for one of their best-selling signature dishes that we had heard so much about from friends and fellow foodies... the Tiger Prawns, grilled and served with Spinach and Coconut Risotto (P495). So we ordeed that and what a pretty dish it was... Perfectly grilled prawns sitting on top of a bed of spinach leaves and risotto that's literally swimming in rich coconut cream. Just a forkful of the rich coconut risotto with a bit of the prawn was enough to explain why this was a bestseller. It was delicious!

We also ordered their Curried Laksa Noodle Soup with Seafood (P200) for the Mister's main course as he claimed he was still full from breakfast that morning. Of course we ended up splitting my order of the Tiger Prawns which was okay since the coconut risotto was really rich and heavy, I couldn't finish it by myself. But the Laksa serving was actually quite big, too! It was pretty good laksa, with just the right amount of coconut milkiness and spice, served with a big wedge of ciabatta on the side.

Mother ordered the Pan-fried Mahi Mahi with Warm Potato Salad and Lemon Butter Garlic Sauce (P390). I didn't get to try the Mahi Mahi but Mother says it was just okay. I was able to try the potatoes though and they were pretty tasty!

The Little Boy ordered from their All-Day Breakfast menu, a serving of their French Toast with Cinnamon, Fresh Mango & a Dash of Yogurt (P185). Pretty yummy, too!

One of the things I love about Lemoni is their drinks selection. They have the most refreshing fruit shake combinations with drinks like the Mango Lemon Crush (P115), Mint & Pineapple Crush (P100), Banana & Coconut Crush (P95) just to name a few. We try to order something different everytime we're there but we almost always gravitate towards our all-time favorites: the Watermelon Ginger Crush (P90) for me and the citrusy Papaya Orange Calamansi Crush (P130) which my boys just love. Perfect for washing down all the rich food we devoured for lunch!

Despite being full to the gills, I can never leave Lemoni without having dessert and coffee. And the Caramel Pot de Creme (P70) never lets me down! This little cup of sweet caramel heaven is an all-time favorite, though the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse (P85) comes in as a close second!

But that's just the chocolate monster in me. The few times that I let myself stray away from the chocolate desserts, I end up ordering the Classic Lemon Tart (P110), a cheery bright yellow dessert that almost makes me forget about chocolate!

desserts galore from another visit to Lemoni from last summer

Coffee at Lemoni's great, too! I think they serve Lavazza so their lattes are pretty good! And when the staff or baristas are in the mood, they even draw cute little faces with the coffee's foam & crema! Cute!

For lunch that day though, we just went for a Caramel Pot de Creme, the Mochachino (P120) and an Iced Latte (P95) for the Mister. Perfect for capping off yet another perfect Boracay lunch at Lemoni! :)