Ringing in the New Year with Tradition & Fusion

Last yoga class this year was the unexpected Vinyasa/Hatha Flow subbing at a local club.  Glad to be of service to close the year; now onto the tasks of service for the family and friends – it’s New Year’s Eve tradition fusing the old with the new.

Toshikoshi Soba (Ringing in the New Year Buckwheat noodles) was pre-ordered as they are limited hand-crafted by a local chef. Tempura is homemade, an assortment made to Vegetarian and Pescatarian tastes … It’s a tradition to eat the soba at midnight at the dawn of New Year …Eating of Soba at start of the year is supposed to bring about prosperity and longevity while letting go the past year’s regrets, so we all eagerly dipped and slurped in this perfectly al-dente noodles.

Preparations – Soaked Red Azuki Beans overnight … To simmer the soaked red beans with yes, you see the orange peel and lotus seeds … to make Oshiruko or sweet red bean soup for the auspicious occasion. Forgoing processed sugar in sweetening the soup by using stewed dates …

Meanwhile the American sect of the family baked POPOVERS !

While Daikon radishes for savory Oden is prepared in Umami rich broth:)

Last 2-3 years, realizing that I had been in Japan for New Year’s but this year, here in California, did not prepare or purchase Osechi (elaborate traditional Japanese New Year feast that came about so that the women of the household can be relieved from having to cook for 3 days so that they can start out the new year, well rested !) My grandmother used to make each dish, probably spending 3-5 full days working up to New Year’s Day.  Sorry, this is modern American Japanese-ish New Year celebration. Thank you for the Sweetened Black Beans – “Kuromame” made by a dear friend who makes a whole pot and shares to spread the good luck around.  Black beans is said to bring you health and vitality so that you can work for success.  Thank you K:)

Happy New Year !

Chef Toshio Oya from Japan

and his sweet wife were hosted by Wanowa, a lovely home in Santa Cruz redwoods.  Chef Oya and his wife had flown in from Japan, taking a break from a Japanese version of a “Bed & Breakfast” hotel or a lodge, he owns and manages.  This lodge’s kitchen strictly serves plant-based cuisine (Peruvian, Japanese) …yes,  in Japan.  It is apparent by his lecture that he is a true scientist, researching and talking to those in the food industry and out in the fields, to find what is real and what is artificial; what is healthy and nourishing for our body and what may pose a risk.

He taught us how to use chickpeas to create Vegan and Gluten free custard pudding and savory “Chawamushi”. Most fascinating that he can create these rich and smooth textured puddings without eggs and absolutely no dairy. If you’ve ever made custards from scratch, we know that eggs and dairy such as cream are key ingredients to bring out the rich taste but … he creates these sunny yellow custards … Vegan. While I am not vegan (eating with gratitude not tolerating food waste), really feel like I could be Vegan again (tried for about a year) when you eat his delicious creations – So tasty So amazing, we don’t feel deprived in any way.  Rather, feeling so nourished and energized with clear conscience.  If we were not told, we wouldn’t know that these are all vegan.

Loaves of Stollen (German fruit & nuts bread usually eaten during the Christmas season) It’s gluten free, using NO wheat flour ! Near sugar-free as instead of powdered white sugar, he uses powdered roasted rice for that snowy decorative touch.  The bread is soft and moist inside, but crust is just how we like it – chewy:) Sweetened naturally with dried fruits soaked in wine/brandy/rum with some walnuts.

He also went an extra mile and made Creme Brulee – again, using no eggs, no dairy.  Crazy that they turned out so rich – have some photos of him torching the tops, the modern way and the old fashion way (insert the spoon into a flame, then, place backs of the spoon on the surface for that toasty golden tops:)

Gratitude to this opportunity to meet such passionate adventurous and fun couple.  Chef Oya has been operating and cooking at their lovely Tanbo Lodge for over 20 years having retired from an exciting career as a professional photographer.  He especially loved South America so much, he apparently resided in the Andes for a period to really get to know their culture.  Yes, his camera lense focused on South America, especially Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city high in the Andes mountains. Given his eye for beauty, adventurous spirit and forever inquisitive and curious mind, he’s one of those passionate people who experiment over and over to perfect his recipes and skills.  He’s actually a revolutionary … being the FIRST one to serve Peruvian Vegan dishes in Japan.

Thank you for organizing this informative cooking workshop and gathering over vegan sushi, Shinobeau of Wanowa Catering and Cooking School 🙏



Art of Wholesome Ayurvedic Cooking Course Autumn Reunion

Thank you Jyoti !

A couple of years ago, I attended Jyoti Jain’s Art of Wholesome Cooking course and learned about Ayurveda & Ayurvedic Cooking.  I mentioned it back then Here:) She had never made any of the “breads” (we all know Nann but others) back then but  this time, yes: … I found her course to be comprehensive and super useful as in … the next day, you can take the recipes and make the delicious dishes (provided you have the spices, that, along with the technique are the keys to successful recreation of her sublime dishes:)  She is a certified cooking teacher/trainer from Art of Living Foundation but in her own home cooking, she has always been a talented across the borders cook.  She formally became certified in “Ayurvedic” cooking because she felt that Standard American Diet (“SAD”) lacks some aspects of “balance” and felt that incorporating Ayurvedic cooking in our everyday can vastly improve our moods and enhance our health.

It is fascinating to learn different methods and styles of cooking as I had also completed courses in Macrobiotic cooking hosted by Teacher Fumiko Arao (Palo Alto) and Yukie Kawase (of Japan).  One is not better than the other – both offerings so much to improve our health and relationship with our body, foods and the cosmos.

From both teachings, what I have learned is the importance of quality protein, mostly plant based; how to flavor them if in Ayurvedic cooking, with herbs and spices; if in Macrobiotic cooking, with Umami rich probiotic seasoning (Miso, Koji, shoyu, dashi).  What’s interesting is the vast difference in use of “oil”.  Macrobiotic cooking uses virtually no oil; Arurvedic cooking uses abundance of oil, namely Ghee (clarified butter). I have ideas as to why and why this works in each of the cuisines to maximize the flavors.

Again, this is not a contest or a comparison on which is better but it’s really about knowing the wisdom that supports the philosophy of each, both medicinal and both health enhancing when we adhere to the intention of balance, variety and quality nourishment.  In both cuisines, reasons for going further, for example to be vegetarian or vegan is usually for philosophical and spiritual reasons, not so much for health.  It is interesting though, once you embark on either or both, fusion cooking that’s more plant based, our body either shuns meats or feels at odds when consumed.

A lot has to due with the LOCATION and the CLIMATE of that culture (for example, the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine is often cited), where that particular cuisine originates.  Each cuisine is packed with the wisdom accumulated over time of people who lived in that geographic place which determined their needs.  We can take that wisdom and when we know why’s, then, we can do better incorporating the ideas birthed from the wise ancestors to fit the needs of us, living this modern times.

Detox Tea making … homemade “CCF” Tea assists body’s natural ability to flush out toxins or “ama”.  Traditionally a combo of Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel seeds; eaten with stewed apples spiced with cinnamon.  No sugar needed – plenty sweet.

Use of pressure cooker for the chick peas soaked over night, such flavorful stew lovely for the chilly day.

Jyoti just whips up these Chapati (not poori, as these are not fried) by rolling the dough and with hands shapes them and … onto the stovetop for the final grilling to puff.  SOOO yummy with a drop of Ghee on top 🙂 She whips them up or shall I say she puffs them up and … eaten warm, right off the grill. Heaven.

Aruyvedic Detox Tea & the bowl of chickpeas was so so flavorful and good, I forgot to that the photo – an empty bowl attests to the delicious taste.

If you’d like to sign up for her next class, just DM me for more information.