Double Chocolate in the Snow

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Double Chocolate in the Snow

I would be lying if I said these snow days weren't getting me down. Last Wednesday went by in a blur. As the snow came down, I sunk deeper and deeper into the couch. J wasn’t home to save me from myself so I turned on Wild West Country on Netflix, pulled up the covers and welcomed a box of Thin Mints next to me to keep me warm.

Sometimes this is the life of a yoga teacher y’all.

I taught in the morning and stopped by the store to get some butter, JUST IN CASE. Because clearly that’s what one does when the forecast is anywhere from three to 18 inches of snow. What’s going to keep me and the babe well fed? BUTTER.

Sigh.

By noon I had roused myself enough to turn on my computer for a few moments. Didn’t like that and turned it immediately off. In the midst of bathroom and kitchen breaks I came to the conclusion that I would make something today.

Would be it be dinner so I had a nutritious end to my day?

No of course not, it would be cake.

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Chocolate.

Double chocolate to be exact.

Why cook dinner when I can some poor delivery person trek it to me in the middle of the storm??!

I chose to go with a Double Chocolate Bundt cake via David Lebowitz. You can see the original recipe here. I happen to have his exact pan which I have been squirreling away at the back of my cabinet in complete fear of baking a cake and having the entire thing stick and come out in bits. I took care to spray and butter with enormous amounts of both. I’m happy to report the cake came out in one piece!

As always, I would recommend splurging on higher quality chocolate. When I make a chocolate cake, I want it to be rich, satisfying and dense. Here's the thing - Tollhouse is FINE and ok but given that I’m a complete and utter snob, I prefer Guittard everything. I've found that it melts a lot nicer than Tollhouse and gives everything I make a level of richness you won't get otherwise. For this, I used Guittard dutch processed cocoa powder and Ghirardelli semi sweet chips because this is what the day dealt me.

I did make one adjustment, using whole milk and butter in place of the heavy cream which I did not have and was not about the venture out in the snow for. For one cup heavy cream warm ¼ cup of butter and ¾ cup of milk together. 

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For the cake

5 ounces (140g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup (50g) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy

1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream

1/2 cup (125ml) strong coffee

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups (280g) flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 ounces (200g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 3/4 cups (350g) sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the glaze

5 ounces (140g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup (180ml) heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.     Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Set the rack in the center of the oven. Generously, and thoroughly, butter a 10-inch (23cm) bundt pan. I chose to spray with nonstick spray and then butter for safe measure. Better to be safe than sorry!

2.     Put the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium sized bowl. Bring the heavy cream and coffee almost to a boil, remove from heat, and pour over the chocolate and cocoa powder. Let sit for 30 seconds, then stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla.

3.     In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4.     In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer between additions, to scrape down the sides, so the eggs are incorporated.

5.     Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to stir in one-third of the flour mixture. Add half of the melted chocolate, then another third of the flour mixture. Finally add the rest of the melted chocolate then the last of the flour. While you're mixing to reach down to the bottom of the bowl with the spatula, as the dry ingredients tend to sink to the bottom.

6.     Scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smooth the top, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean, but with moist crumbs still attached, about 50 minutes. I checked mine at 45 minutes and it was almost soupy in the center. I set for another 10 minutes and it was on the verge of being over baked.

7.     Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely.

8.     Make the glaze by putting the chopped chocolate in a medium-size bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until almost boiling then pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds then stir until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Stir in the vanilla extract.

9.     Set the cake with the wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper. Use a spoon or ladle to cover the cake with the glaze. If the glaze is too runny, let it cool down a bit until it's thicker. We scooped up the extra glaze from the parchment to spoon back on the cake for late

 

 

 

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4 months and 2 days

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4 months and 2 days

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Finally, four months into my pregnancy, I can say confidently I am pregnant and I’m on the path to feeling great about it.

I didn’t start out that way. A few months ago? I was this picture. On the edge of a cliff about to let the wind carry me away. When I say I was shocked at how terrible I felt, I do not say that lightly. I was a mix bag of 24 hour sadness, nauseous and a mono/flu level weakness that left me grasping for my “old” life.

While we’re excited about the pregnancy, I was not happy or excited about how “weak” I felt. I spent the previous months exploring all different types of practice off my mat. Running, weight lifting, kettle bells, TRX. And within the blink of an eye, it came to an end.

It wasn’t because I felt like it had to but because I could physically not do much but walk around the block. Coming to terms with this overwhelming physical and mental weakness has been a long road to travel.

And like most things it requires constant practice…repeatedly returning again and again to where we are, in space, in this current moment. Not where we want to be, not where we think we should be because of where we were yesterday, but where we actually are in our entirety.

Sutra 1.12 Abhyasa/Practice - Vairagya/Non-attachment - Both are required to still the patterns and cessations of the mind.

I’ve accepted that I will not be going upside down for the next 9 months because when I do, I feel like all of my organs are being pushed into my lungs and through my throat. I’ve come to terms with the fact that where, months ago I was running a few times a week, now a brisk walk up a hill makes me winded like I’m climbing the Great Wall of China. And most of all, I’ve accepted that I can now sit and stare at a wall, in complete exhaustion from watching Netflix all day (walking to the kitchen can really wear a girl out) and not feel bad about it.

Yes dear husband, I tried to walk around the block. I truly did.

It wasn’t the sound of the baby’s heart beat that helped me accept my new role, but the image of he/she’s spinal column. Seeing the natural curves of a spine, unadulterated by the daily grind of sitting too much and spending too much time on our phones literally took my breathe away.

We made that. 

I’ve been watching this babe develop on the fetal monitor through my many, many, many
“advanced maternal age” doctor visits and I’m learning to cherish that this body, my body, is now a vessel for growth and strength in more ways than what I ever previously thought was possible.

Yoga has given me the space to see this.  And once again, I can say that yoga has fully saved me from myself. I realized the more I consciously breathed, the less anxious I felt. I saw myself returning to mantras that I only toyed with in the past, but now they seemed almost automatic, playing a deeply profound part in grounding my heart and brain.

Breathe in - I am

Breathe out - Here now

So for now, my runs have turned into walks, my hand stands into legs up the wall and my kettlebell swings into shrugs. I’m redefining my expectation of what being strong really means by letting go of any expectations at all.

May this carry me softly through the next 5 months…

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Pratipaksha bhavana - a Practice for Holiday Stress

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Pratipaksha bhavana - a Practice for Holiday Stress

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The practice of Pratipaksha bhavana is a simple one. Stop or discontinue negative thoughts by cultivating the opposite. If we think enough good thoughts, there will be no room for the bad!

Is the glass half full? Or is it half empty?

What better time than the holidays, when emotions can run ramped and we often have our blinders on, to put this practice into play?

Kevin Ochsner, who studies the neuroscience at Columbia University says, “Our emotional responses ultimately flow out of our appraisals of the world, and if we can shift those appraisals, we shift our emotional responses.”

This practice, like any other takes time. Through yoga we learn about our monkey brains and how they churn out thoughts faster than I churn ice cream in the summer. Becoming aware of these thoughts is the first step. When we start to consider why we have these thoughts and then try to see them from the other side is where the hard work begins.

When I first learned this philosophy, I was eager to put it into practice. At the time, I was just finishing up my 200 hour while working at a stressful job where I didn’t get along with the boss. (Never a good play.) I was spending a good portion of my day in a complete rage and I was deep enough into my 200 hour to know that’s not a good thing mentally or physically.

I decided every time I would get angry or upset, I would take a quick five-minute walk around the block with a co-worker. We would talk about anything BUT work. Those first few days…we took A LOT of walks. But after those first few days, I realized it started to work. And when I couldn’t sneak out for the walk, I became very aware of my physical and mental self when I started to become upset. And sometimes I could even see this boss’s responses from his side of thinking. Just sometimes!

This practice gave me the space to see the world I was living in from the outside in. Kind of like I was watching myself from outside of a snow globe… Slowly turning the globe and watching the scenes play out from each different angel. Jill Bolte Taylor, brain researcher, found that our triggering, weighty thoughts only have a life span of about 90 seconds IF (and this is a big IF) we do not engage with these thoughts. 

Pratikpaksha Bhavana can be particularly useful in the holidays when we might be having closer than usual encounters with loved ones. When the first flush of a heated face appears, or the feeling of a rapid heart rate starts giving you the stress signal... what do you need to do to take a step back? Can you take a step back and think of something positive about that same situation?

And if not, can you take a quick walk around the block to let some of the good in? Give yourself 90 seconds of good thoughts and see what happens. We can do anything for 90 seconds. 

 

 

 

 

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