All posts by petersan

Picture of glass jars filled with fig jam

Healthy jam

Yoga Kitchen – Simple, healthy, and plant-based

A precious gift from Indian Summer

Fruit, at least with the exception of tropical regions, is only available during a short period of the year. It is late summer, the transition between summer and autumn. Fruit is harvested and the fruits are ripe and can be picked. According to the Eastern view of energy and the seasons, it is one of the four transitions between the four major seasons where the earth energy is most strongly tangible.
Sometimes the harvest is so exuberant that it is impossible to eat all that fruit before it spoils.

What are the nutritional benefits of fruit?

Fruit is a great gift from nature. It contains:

  • Water
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Fibres
  • Plenty of carbohydrates, much of which are relatively fast-absorbing sugars

Fruit contains little protein and almost no fats.
If you eat the fruit whole, the absorption of sugars slows down somewhat. It is much healthier for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels than drinking fruit juice.
Read more information on the best way to enjoy fruit here.

How best to store fruit?

We can preserve vegetables over the long term in a very eco-friendly way through the lacto-fermentation process. However, fermentation of fruits is more difficult. It is a delicate matter. Because they are packed with natural sugars, which results in alcohol being produced by the fermentation processes.
To preserve fruit in an environmentally responsible way, you can use one of the following techniques, for example:

  • Storage in a naturally cool room (such as a cellar or basement). This can only be done for certain types of (hard) fruit.
  • Cooking and then sterilising. This was popular with our grandparents.
  • Drying or dehydrating.
  • Making jam or jelly.

Our grandparents stored their apples almost all winter by stacking them on racks at regular intervals in the cellar.
Sterilisation is associated with loss of nutritional value. Vitamins and enzymes are broken down by intense heat.
Drying or dehydrating fruit is very suitable for hot, dry southern regions. Hot air or the sun is used for this purpose. Here at home, even with climate change, really dry summer heat is rare and unpredictable. We need to use a dehydrator. Dehydration extracts the water from the fruit. If it is done at a temperature below 42°c, the nutritional value of the fruit remains almost intact.

And then there is jam, or confiture, as the French say.

The classic way of making jam was by cooking the fruit with 1 kilogram of sugar for 1 kilogram of fruit. And then, possibly depending on the type of fruit, one could add a binder or thickener such as pectin. There is then such an excess of sugar in the jam that bacteria and yeasts do not survive, and this will keep the fruit from spoiling.
The cooking process used to take a long time, which is not necessary at all.
In my youth, people used plain white, refined beet sugar for jam. Even today, people apply that principle for the commercial, classic jams you find in supermarkets. Only in organic shops can you find jams sweetened in a healthier and alternative way, totally omitting artificial chemical sweeteners such as aspartame.

Here is a much healthier alternative for preparing your own, homemade jam. You can apply this to the fruit from your own garden or when you have a large quantity of fresh, organically grown fruit at your hand.

What you need

  • One kilogram of fresh, washed and cut fruit
  • 300 ml of concentrated apple juice
  • The juice of one or two lemons
  • 4 to 6 grams of powdered agar-agar
  • A small amount of water

This is how you proceed

  • Bring the chopped fruit together with the water to the boil.
  • Let it continue to simmer on a low heat until the fruit becomes soft.
  • Add the concentrated apple juice and bring to the boil again.
  • Next, pour in the lemon juice.
  • Stir in the agar-agar and mix well.
  • Leave to simmer gently for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and if wanted and necessary, mix the fruit mass to a homogeneous texture with a hand blender.
  • Spoon the jam into cleaned glass jars. Immediately screw on the lid.
  • Let cool and then store the jars of jam in a cool, dark place.

The amount of agar agar depends a little on how firm you want the jam to be. Manufacturers state the dosage on the packaging. For a firm, jelly-like thickness, use about four to six grams of agar agar per litre of liquid.
The lemon juice provides a acid note in terms of flavour. It also has the advantage of making the environment of the jam a little more acidic, which further improves the shelf life of your jam.
Once you have opened a jar, store it in the refrigerator.
Bon appétit!

Why is eating according to the seasons better?

We live in a society where we have fresh fruit available all year round, because it is hauled in from all over the world, from all latitudes and often by plane. Therefore, this results in a huge hidden carbon footprint for those products.
Also, our food culture disrespects the connection with the seasons. And that is a pity, because eating according to the seasons ensures, that you are better in harmony with the energy of your environment. Our bodies also go through an energetic cycle every year, making it more beneficial to consume or not consume certain types of food depending on the period of the year. The excess of sweet and high-calorie fruits does not happen to come by coincidence just before the winter period, when food is scarce. Thus, the body had access to an excess of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients before entering the scarcity of winter.

Read more about plant-based nutrition and health:

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Picture showing nuts and fruits energy balls

Energy balls with nuts and dried fruits

Yoga Kitchen – Simple, healthy, and plant-based

Little energy bombs

Dry fruits and nuts belong to the food items with a high energy density.
Firstly, they are very nutritious: they contain many minerals and nuts in particular contain healthy fats. Furthermore, they contain a relatively high amount of energy per unit weight, expressed in calories. You only need to eat a little bit of them to quickly reach a decent calorie intake.
However, calories are only a flawed way of measuring nutritional value. You can read more about that at the end of this post.

In the example below, we combine nuts and dry fruits to create a delicious plant-based snack that you could even eat for breakfast. And all with raw, unprocessed produce, with no added sugars.

What do you need?

The number of balls depends on how big or small you roll them.
You get about a total of 320 grams of finished product with the quantities suggested below.
From this you get about 24 pieces with a diameter of about one and a half centimetres.
Take 80 grams of each of the products listed below:

  • pitted tamarind paste
  • cashew nuts or white almonds
  • grated coconut
  • raisins

The tamarind is also called the Indian date. The fruit is also well known in South America and the rest of Southeast Asia. The seeds of the tamarind are rock hard, and these have to be removed. Look carefully on the packaging to make sure you have the pitted version. The pulp of tamarind is sold in packets of about 150g to 200g in Asian and Indian shops. Tamarind has a pleasant, fresh sour-sweet flavour.

This is how you make the energy balls:

  • Cut the tamarind paste into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. Remove any remaining seeds.
  • Add the nuts to the bowl of a food processor and pulse them to a fine, granular powder.
  • Add the grated coconut and pulse a few more times.
  • Set the finely ground nut and coconut mixture aside.
  • Now add the tamarind and sultanas to the bowl of the food processor and pulse them finely.
  • Continue to grind the tamarind and sultanas until a sticky mass with a doughy consistency forms.
  • Then knead the fruit mixture and nut-coconut mixture together well with your fingers.
  • Roll balls of approximately equal size between your fingers and hands.
  • The balls will keep for a full week in a sealed container in the fridge.

Kneading is solid work for fingers and hands! You’ll get muscular forearms!

Take the above recipe as a general model for this kind of healthy snack.
You can make your own combinations from the following ingredients:

  • Nuts such as: walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts …
  • Whole grains such as: buckwheat, oat flakes or other cereal flakes …
  • Dried fruits such as: sultanas, cranberries, plums, apricots, figs, dates …
  • Spices such as: pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom …

Use your creativity and be guided by your tastes and what you have available.
Preferably buy organically grown ingredients in bulk, which further saves packaging waste and is often cheaper.

Approximate nutritional value of these energy balls, per 100g of product:

Energy Carbohydrates Sugars Fat Sat. Fat Protein Fibre Salt
459,5 kcal 48,6 g 29,8 g 28,7 g 15,3 g 8,5 g 10,8 g 0,032 g

Calorie counting, does it make sense?

The energy value of a food product, expressed in calories, is a theoretically calculated amount of energy that would be released if you were to burn the food product completely to ashes in a closed vessel and then measure how much heat energy is released in the process.
But of course, we humans are not a closed vessel, nor do we burn our food completely to ashes!
Further, the energy from our food acts on our organs in a much more complex way than just heat energy.
As an example, to 1000 kcal steamed cauliflower, your body will react completely differently than to 1000 kcal smarties or some other criminally unhealthy candy.
Furthermore, eating 1000 kcal of food of any kind does not mean that your body will also absorb 1000 kcal of it. Some of your food will digest, some will not. Also depending on what your individual digestive system can handle. Indeed, a lot depends on the condition and diversity of your gut flora.

So calories are very, very relative as a measure of one’s nutritional intake and give little or no relevant information.
They are only useful if you already have a varied and balanced diet.
In the following cases, with a balanced diet, it may possibly make temporary sense to monitor and adjust your calorie intake:

  • If your weight is really too low and you need to gain weight for health reasons.
  • If your weight is really too high and you need to lose weight for health reasons.
  • Or if you want to build muscle or lose fat in a controlled way as part of a strength training programme (body-building).

In these cases, it comes down to eliminating excess or deficiency in nutrition by ajusting portions. Or by changing the ratios between carbohydrates, fats and protein and thus creating a better balance.

What is the right portion size for a meal?

It is a misconception to think that you have to eat your stomach full.
It is sometimes said in Ayurvedic health teachings that you should scoop up a volume of food the size of your two fists per meal on your plate. That makes sense somewhere. After all, our stomach is a very elastic organ. The more we eat, the more the stomach stretches. The bad news is that once stretched, it retains its larger volume, making it easier to eat just a little too much next time. So it becomes a vicious cycle in the long run.
A golden tip for better digestion and health: Chew as long as possible before swallowing.

Read more about plant-based nutrition and health:

Read more articles about nutrition, health and plant-based foods:

Read more about plant-based food

Read more about yoga and yoga classes in Schaerbeek:

Check out our yoga classes here:

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Picture of tempeh with mushrooms

Tempeh with mushrooms

Meet a real vegan protein champion

Tempeh is made from yellow soybeans. Mixing those beans with a fungus (Rhizopus oligisporus) and letting them ferment creates a kind of cohesive cake that is very nutritious and has a typical aroma of its own.
Tempeh is Indonesian in origin. Many people are not yet familiar with this plant-based super protein source. You can commonly find it in organic grocerry stores, organic supermarkets, in Asian supermarkets and I have found them a few times in regular supermarkets too.

In terms of texture, it is a perfect meat substitute, with a firm “bite”. The dish below makes tempeh also enjoyable for people who are not so into Asian flavours. It is reminiscent of an autumn or winter hunting dish and could very well be served with cranberries, for instance.

What you need:

For 4 generous servings:

  • 400 g tempeh
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
  • 250 g Parisian mushrooms or other mushrooms, or a combination of both
  • one and a half to 2 tablespoons tamari (soy sauce) or sea salt to taste as you prefer
  • a generous tablespoon of almond paste
  • a generous tablespoon of sesame paste (tahini)
  • two teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • one teaspoon of thyme
  • black pepper, ground
  • a quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • a bunch of fresh parsley

Picture of all ingredients for Tempeh with mushrooms

This is how you get it done:

  • Cut the tempeh into smaller pieces. If you are starting from the cylindrical tempeh stumps, you can, for example, cut them into discs, which you then quarter crosswise.
  • Chop the onion and garlic cloves.
  • Make the mushrooms clean and cut them into thin slices.
  • Finely chop or cut the fresh parsley.
  • Place the tempeh in a steamer basket over boiling water and steam for about 10 minutes(optional).
  • Then let the tempeh drain a little and cool.
  • In a wok or large pan, bring a little water to the boil and sprinkle in the cumin seeds and thyme. Allow to boil for a few moments.
  • Add the onion and garlic to the herb broth and cook together until the onion becomes slightly translucent.
  • Add the tempeh pieces, stir and simmer together for about five minutes with the lid on the pan.
  • In the end, add the sliced mushrooms to the pan, stir well and let the mushrooms soften for about five minutes with the lid on.
  • Sprinkle with black pepper: about 5 to 8 brisk turns of the pepper grinder.
  • Next, add the ground nutmeg.
  • In the meantime, combine the almond paste, sesame paste and tamari in a bowl and pour some hot water over them (approx 200 ml).
  • Mix with a fork or a whisk until the mixture becomes homogeneous.
  • Pour the mixture into the pan with the tempeh and mushrooms and stir.
  • Turn off the heat and add the parsley. Stir to combine. Your tempeh with mushrooms is now ready.
You can serve the tempeh for example with a warm, steamed or roasted vegetable dish and some wholemeal rice or another grain. Raw vegetables or some fermented vegetables also go well with this tempeh dish.

Why steam tempeh beforehand?

According to some authors, steaming tempeh beforehand has the effect of opening up the structure of the tempeh a little, allowing the flavours of the sauce or marinade to penetrate more deeply. But it can also be done without.

Can you deep-fry tempeh to make it crispy?

.
Tempeh also lends itself very well to frying in oil, or even deep-frying. I personally am not a fan of that. I prefer softer cooking techniques. If I do want to add a line of oil, I would rather do it at the end. In this recipe, the tempeh is simply simmered along with the onion and vegetables. When you heat oil, do it gently so as not to exceed the maximum recommended temperature, which by the way is different for each oil.

Approximate nutritional values of tempeh per 100g product(*)

Energy Carbohydrates Sugars Fat Sat. Fat Protein Fibre Salt
722 kJ/172 kcal 0,8 g 0,6 g 9,9 g 1,6 g 16,9 g No info 0,1 g

(*) Based on the values as mentioned on label of Belgian manufacturer De Hobbit

Beans spread

Yoga Kitchen – Simple, healthy and plant-based

When beans become spreadable

As a child, I had an aversion to beans. They were white beans, often in an uninspiring tomato sauce, from cans. Fortunately, we didn’t eat them very often.
Things are different now! I eat beans pretty much every day in one or other form.
Beans are an essential ingredient in healthy plant-based cooking.
They contain relatively high amounts of vegetable protein as well as a lot of fibre and useful minerals.

There are countless different varieties, many of them local. In recent years, I have been quite a fan of the multiform and multicoloured Greek beans.
For the recipe below, you can actually use any kind of bean.
I like to start from dry beans. These are very inexpensive in terms of price and you can buy them in bulk.
That’s immediately a lot less packaging waste.

For almost a kilo of bean paste you will need:

  • 200 g dried beans
  • One large carrot
  • A medium-sized onion
  • 40 g dried tomatoes
  • One clove of garlic (optional)
  • Savory, two teaspoons to one tablespoon
  • Some seaweed, e.g. a tablespoon of dried sea lettuce
  • One teaspoon of the following herbs or spices:
    • Thyme
    • Origano
    • fennel seed
    • paprika powder
    • turmeric (optional)

Picture of ingredients for a vegan bean spread
Turmeric gives your bean spread a warmer colour. Turmeric is a spice with a very respectable health reputation; among other things, it has anti-inflammatory properties. Savory is a herb that will improve the digestibility of the cooked beans.
You can of course adapt the suggested spice and herbs mix. Give your creativity full rein.

Preparation

  • Soak the dry beans in water for 24 hrs. They will swell and come to life.
  • Chop up the dried tomatoes and soak them in a little water too

This is how to cook the beans

  • Pour away the soaking water from the beans and briefly rinse them under the tap. Drain briefly.
  • Cook the beans until tender. This is best done in a pressure cooker:
    • Fully submerge the beans in water (+ 2 to 3 cm) and put the pan under fire. Do not add any salt!
    • Bring the water to the boil. Depending on the type of bean, white foam will rise to the surface.
    • Remove the foam with a skimmer until almost no foam rises to the top anymore.
    • Add 1 teaspoon of savory and 1 teaspoon of dried seaweed (sea lettuce or some other seaweed).
    • Now close the pressure cooker, bring under pressure and boil for about 45 minutes.
    • Turn off the heat after the cooking time and slowly let the pressure release.

This is how to prepare the vegetables

  • Bring a little water to the boil in a pan, sprinkle in the herbs of your choice (e.g. cumin seeds, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds …).
  • Add the finely chopped onion and garlic and allow to glaze a little.
  • Next, add the finely chopped peeled carrot and the soaked tomatoes, the latter along with their soaking water.
  • Let everything continue to simmer together with the lid on for about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and leave to cool down a little.

This is how to mix everything into bean puree

  • Bring the stewed vegetables into a food processor.
  • Add the cooked and cooled beans. Keep some of the cooking liquid aside.
  • Add two generous tablespoons of sesame paste (tahini).
  • Mix, first on low, then on high speed until you get a spreadable, puree-like texture.
  • Taste and add extra black pepper, paprika powder and a generous amount of turmeric if necessary or desired.
  • Divide the bean spread between two jars of approx 500ml capacity, close them hermetically.
  • The bean puree will keep for a week in the fridge.

If the mixture turns out too dry, add a few tablespoons of the beans’ cooking liquid until the consistency feels right to you..
It’s important to cook the beans without salt.
When you cook beans in salted water, their skin hardens, so they tend to take up to twice as long to cook until soft.
In the above recipe, you basically don’t need to add extra salt. After all, most dried tomatoes are salty on their own. That is why we also include the soaking water of the tomatoes in the recipe.
If you doubt whether your dried tomatoes are already salty or not, taste the soaking water before adding them.

The endless variety of legumes

If you do some browsing in organic shops and Asian food supermarkets, you almost fall over backwards with the sheer variety of shapes and colours of beans and lentils. What a far cry from the monotonous “white beans in tomato sauce”. The Greek and Italian regional varieties are particularly striking.
When you eat a combination of a grain and legumes (beans or pulses) every day, that in itself is a solid daily base to meet your protein needs.
If you are an intense athlete, do heavy physical work or dislike legumes, then the more concentrated plant-based protein sources such as tofu, tempeh and seitan are recommended to secure your protein intake.

Are legumes easily digestible?

As with any new type of food food you add to your menu for the first time, it may take a few weeks for your gut flora to adjust. Some flatulence may occur at first.
It is true that legumes, and beans in particular, are coated with certain substances that inhibit premature germination of the bean. These are the famous lectins. These indeed inhibit the digestibility of legumes.
Therefore, use a few simple techniques to virtually eliminate those substances:

  • Soak the legumes for at least one night and pour away the soaking water.
  • Scoop away the foam that rises to the top at the start of cooking.
  • Cook the beans and lentils long enough until they are really well cooked.
  • Chew! Chew the beans and lentils long enough before swallowing

For beans, the cooking time will be easily an hour and 15 minutes to as much as an hour and a half in a regular pan. With a pressure cooker, you reduce cooking time to 35 to 45 minutes. A little experimentation pays off!

Can you eat legumes raw?

You can sprout both lentils and beans for a few days in a sprouting jar or sprouting machine. First leave them under water for 24 h, then rinse and keep them moist. Change the water once or twice a day and rinse the sprouts under running water each time.
Sprouted beans and lentils are delicious in salads.

Picture of home made vegan croissants

Vegan stuffed croissants

Yoga Kitchen – Simple, healthy and plant-based

A moment of Sunday bliss

Well sure, croissants and viennese pastries are not healthy food. I remember how I ate way too many of them during my college days. It was convenience food. Quickly store-bought and rapidly devoured. Still, we don’t have to go through life as purists and, if your diet is generally healthy, you can enjoy this kind of heavenly smelling pastry from time to time.
By the way, it is very easy to make a much healthier, plant-based version of it.
In doing so, you start from a roll of vegan puff pastry. Unlike ready-made croissants and viennese cakes, the vegan puff pastry rolls are already quite widely available in a plant-based version. Just ignore the rolls that boast “made with real butter” on the packaging.

And the filling? You can decide for that yourself, with healthy ingredients of your choice. A world of difference from the oversweetened fillings full of refined sugar or glucose syrup of unclear origin.
Here is an example of stuffed croissants with an Ayurvedic touch.

For four croissants you will need:

  • One roll of puff pastry without egg or milk products such as butter
  • One medium-sized or two small organic apples
  • Some dried organic fruit such as apricots, figs and/or dates
  • One teaspoon of coconut oil
  • 20 grams of white almonds
  • One or two tablespoons of almond paste
  • Warming spices such as: cinnamon, ginger, allspice and/or garam masala
  • One tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • Two tablespoons of water

Picture showing the preparation of vegan croissants

This is how you prepare them

  • Bring the crushed flaxseed into a bowl and mix with the water. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Peel and cut the apples into pieces.
  • Cut the dried fruit into pieces.
  • Melt the coconut oil in a pan, stew the apples along with the dried fruit for a few minutes on low heat.
  • Add the spices and remove from the heat. Leave to cool.
  • Coarsely chop the almonds. For example by grinding them briefly in a food processor, while pulsing.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Take the puff pastry out of the fridge and let it soften for 15 minutes to make it easier to roll out.
  • Roll it out and cut it crosswise into four equal quarter circles. Each quarter becomes a croissant.
  • Moisten the 3 sides of each puff pastry triangle with water to increase their adhesive capacity.
  • Place a quarter of the fruit mixture on each triangle.
  • Then divide the almond butter over the four croissants.
  • Divide and sprinkle the chopped almonds over each of the four triangles.
  • Roll the croissants to close them, from the longest side towards the tip.
  • Press the seams and spiralise the points so that the croissant is tightly sealed.
  • Apply the soaked linseed generously on the outside of the croissants.
  • Place the baking sheet in a baking tin and bake for about 20 minutes in the middle of the oven.

Let the croissants cool sufficiently after baking. I guarantee you’ll eat these healthier versions of your Sunday croissant in no time. At least in terms of flavour, they will briefly transport you into a state of nirvana that you will crave more often.

How does cooking within Ayurvedic nutritional teachings look like?

The suggested mixture of fruits, nuts and warming spices for these Sunday croissants tastes delicious. You can also eat that on its own as breakfast on other days. It is totally in line with the Ayurvedic approach to cooking. Just deliciously warming in the cold season.
In Ayurvedic cooking philosophy, one aims to maximise the digestibility of food. Whole grains and pulses, such as rice and lentils, vegetables and also fruits in moderation are on the menu. In terms of preparation methods, cooking and heating are the rule. With lots of spices because these stimulate digestion.
Ayurvedic health philosophy is based on three basic constitutions or doshas: vata, pitta and kapha.Everyone has one or more doshas that predominate in their basic constitution. You prepare your meals by choosing foods that suit your overall constitution on the one hand. And on the other hand, you take into account seasonal influences and any imbalances that you want to correct.
Within this vision of nutrition, one avoids raw food as much as possible.

How does ayurvedic nutrition view the use of animal products?

Ayurveda is pre-eminently a vegetarian cooking philosophy.
there is no use of meat nor fish. Ayurvedic practitioners will only exceptionally prescribe them. And then only as a temporary cure, if someone’s health is really very severely debilitated.
Eggs are not on the food list either.
In terms of dairy products, there is very limited use of (fresh) cheese, which they call paneer in India.
There is one dairy product which, on the other hand, enjoys an extremely high status. That is ghee. Ghee is “clarified” butter. It is butter that has been brought to the boil and from which the protein content, which floats to the surface, is skimmed off. This makes the ghee keep for a very long time, even at room temperature.
It is considered almost a miracle ingredient within Ayurveda and people attribute all kinds of far-reaching health benefits to it.

My opinion about ghee

Personally, I think ghee is not done. Probably objectively, it is similar in nutritional value to coconut oil. Both are fats high in saturated fatty acids. Not bad in itself but better to use in moderation.
Energetically, coconut oil is cooling for our organism compared to ghee, which has a more warming effect.
Butter, and hence ghee, are both products of a merciless exploitation of cows by the food industry.The poor animals are artificially kept in lactation and separated from their newborn calves several times, year after year, immediately after birth. Unusually cruel and totally unnecessary.
And from whatever perspective you look at it, the frequency of the energy of that suffering you also absorb from the butter or ghee you consume. Better to avoid.
By eating more plant-based foods, we can actively contribute to ending this abusive and useless suffering.
As for me personally, I think this ethical consideration is the deciding factor, especially since coconut oil offers a good plant-based alternative.

Picture of vegan panna cotta topped with fruit

Vegan panna cotta

Yoga Kitchen – Simple, healthy and plant-based

Coconut and co

You can make a purely vegan version of just about anything. Italian cuisine, for example, is rich in all kinds of dairy desserts based on cream and fresh cheese. Did you know that you can also make them using purely plant-based ingredients?
You can make vegan dairy-style desserts using the following alternatives:

  • soy products such as tofu, silken tofu or soy cream
  • Nuts, such as almonds and cashews
  • Coconut

Here is a super simple alternative for a fresh and light Italian-style dessert: the classic panna cotta. If you translate that, it means “cooked cream”. We make this vegan version using coconut milk and soy cream.

To give the dessert a firm and at the same time soft texture, we use agar-agar.
Agar-agar is very well known in vegan and vegetarian cuisine and the perfect alternative to gelatine.
Agar-agar is extracted from red seaweeds.
Gelatine is no more or no less than melted and processed bone and offal from dead mammals.
I know immediately which of the two I prefer. And do you?

What you need for this vegan panna cotta

  • One 400ml can of coconut milk
  • One brick packet of soy cream of which you will need 75 ml
  • Two tablespoons of agave syrup or rice syrup
  • A teaspoon of agar-agar powder
  • 300 to 400 grams of fresh or frozen fruit for the top layer
  • Some grated coconut for the decoration

Read more below about the different coconut products on the market so you can purchase the right items for this recipe.

How to prepare

  • Bring the coconut milk, agar-agar and soy cream together in a saucepan and put under heat
  • Gently bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly
  • Continue to boil for 2 to 3 minutes and keep on stirring
  • Remove from the heat and divide evenly among 4 or more glasses
  • Let cool completely. If during cooling you notice that the mixture loses its homogeneity and starts to layer, stir occasionally with a whisk
  • Cool in the fridge for a few hours
  • Before serving, puree the fruit into a coulis and pour it over the panna cottas
  • Scatter some grated coconut over the top

In this example, we used raspberries. You could just as well use strawberries, kiwis or mangoes. Fresh or frozen fruit is best. On the other hand, you can also use rehydrated (soaked) dry fruit, for example dried mango or dried apricots.
So enjoy this italian style vegan panna cotta!

What type of coconut product should you choose?

I myself have struggled for a long time to see clearly through all these coconut products available.
There are many to be found on the market.
Here are the main ones:

Milks and creams

  • Coconut water: the watery juice of the coconut to which people attribute many health benefits
  • Coconut milk: made from the white flesh of the coconut with added water. The fat content may vary. For this recipe, use a coconut milk with 17-20% fat. Other versions can have up to 30% fat and are easier to whip into a firmer whipped cream texture. Not necessary for this recipe!
  • Liquid coconut cream: with a higher coconut and fat content compared to the milk. Fresh coconut meat is used, but no water is added.
  • Solid coconut cream: (creamed coconut) which is even more concentrated than liquid coconut cream and is sold in block form, like a bar of soap. It is made from the flesh of dried coconuts.

The oil

  • Coconut oil: it is only the fat from the flesh of the coconut. This fat, although saturated, is very healthy and has a cooling effect on the body.
    • Extra virgin coconut oil: it is pure and still has the typical taste and smell of coconut.
    • Deodorised coconut oil: it is the result of a treatment or transformation process and has a neutral taste.

Flour and sugar

  • Coconut flour: once the coconut oil has been extracted from the coconut flesh, the remaining pulp can be ground into coconut flour.
  • Coconut blossom sugar: a full-flavoured, mineral-rich sugar that is made from the nectar of coconut blossoms.

I hope you can now see a bit more clearly.

Why is animal dairy unsuitable for many people?

Dairy products are unsuitable for the majority of the world’s human population, who experience moderate to severe digestive problems as a result. The result is abdominal pain, bloating of the intestine and sometimes diarrhoea. This phenomenon is called “lactose intolerance”. It is the so-called milk sugar or lactose that most people cannot digest, or cannot digest sufficiently. The phenomenon is described as an aberration, a deviation from a norm, but that is not at all true. It is part of the cultural myth surrounding milk.

It is the northernmost peoples who, over the course of history, had apparently adapted to digesting milk. That makes them something of an exception. That exception was then considered to be the norm after the Second World War.
But apart from that, about 80% of the world’s population is unable to digest the lactose in milk and milk products such as cheese. Being lactose intolerant is therefore not a disease, but simply the most normal thing in the world.

Why is deodorized coconut oil often cheaper than pure, undeodorized coconut oil?

Seems paradoxical, doesn’t it? The deodorized coconut oil undergoes an extra treatment, and still it is cheaper than the pure “extra virgin” coconut oil.
For the virgin coconut oil, only the better, fresh coconuts are used.
However, the deodorisation process also allows the use of coconuts of inferior quality. When the coconuts are harvested, the farmers pile them up in anticipation of processing. In the tropical climate, some of the nuts soon start to turn mouldy, which creates an unpleasant smell. With the deodorisation process (heating with steam), not only does the typical sweetish coconut smell disappear, but also the unpleasant odours of the mouldy nuts.

Picture of revolved lunge yoga posture

Stability when circumstances change

For the month of September, I chose the Revolved Praying Hero posture. In the more fitness oriented postural yoga, this one is also known as Revolved Lunge. The technical or Sanskrit name of this posture is Parivritta Namaskara Virasana. I deliberately do not use sanskrit terminology during yoga classes, because that is like giving a Catholic mass in Latin. And that is no longer of this time.
Sanskrit is good for the technical classification of postures or if you are studying or retraining in the Indian tradition.

Why does this posture fit so well with the month of September?

This posture fits well in this transitional season between summer and autumn. It is a yoga posture with a strong “grounding” character. Still, it is also “fiery”. It is a posture in which the earth element comes to the fore and the fire energy of summer can still be felt. It invites you to stand firm and stay in balance. That is exactly what we have to do now.
In the transitional periods between the four seasons, we are invited to make adjustments to our daily habits in order to keep our health in balance through the change of seasons.
This posture can be a good part of a sun salutation sequence.

Yoga influences and supports our well-being on all possible levels: physical, energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual.
See here how this posture affects all these levels:

Physical benefits

.

  • Strengthening of the back, arms, ankles, legs, glutes
  • Stabilizing and strengthening of the hip joints
  • Opening and widening of the chest area
  • Building and maintaining strength in the abdominal area
  • Improving the mobility of the shoulders, shoulder blades and upper back

Energetic effects

  • Activating and warming
  • Stretching the kidney and liver meridians in the straightened rear leg, and of the gall bladder meridian in the side of the body
  • Grounding of the feet and legs
  • Stability and firmness in the lower chakras, space and release in the upper chakras

Emotional well-being

  • Intensity
  • Balance
  • Staying calm in your own centre, even if conditions are challenging
  • Stability
  • Opening of the heart from a firm and balanced foundation

Mental attitude

  • The ability to take several actions at once while staying focused
  • Concentrated, clear and alert thinking
  • Maintaining the balance between opposites

Spiritual growth

  • A firm connection with the earth as a basis for development and liberation

Would you like to book one of our classes?

Have a look at our offer in yoga classes and book using the links here below:

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Prana Yoga Flow

A full description of the basic postures of Prana Yoga Flow can be found in the book: “Prana Yoga Flow – Activate your life force, open your heart and live freely”, by Alberto Paganini. (Available in both dutch and english).
Alberto Paganini was one of my very first yoga teachers. You can find his website (in Dutch) here.

Picture of bread with vegan cheese spread

Fresh vegan cheese

Yoga Kitchen – Simple, healthy and plant-based

The perfect and tasty alternative

Fresh white cheese, also known as flat cheese in Flemish and cottage cheese, used to be a favourite on my breakfast table. Fortunately, today I can make a quick vegan version of this in no time.

There are some vegetable cottage cheese substitutes available on the market. The organic versions, from the brand Provamel among others, are hard to find in organic stores and organic supermarkets, which still give high priority to (organic) animal dairy products. The classic cottage cheese substitute from Alpro in the ordinary supermarket (Alpro Greek Style) in its “natural version” contains no less than 14 ingredients, including sugar (!) and a whole bunch of preservatives to guarantee the thing a long life on the shop shelves. Whenever I eat the latter, my palate tends to react violently against it.

The good news: with silken tofu you can make vegan “flat” cheese in no time with just 3 ingredients!

What you need

  • One packet of silken tofu
  • The juice of half a or a whole lemon (to taste)
  • A pinch of sea salt or Himalayan salt (to taste)

Silken tofu is commonly found in 400g (The Hobbit or Taifun) or small 300g (Clearspring) brick packs. The protein content varies quite markedly. So this is not a recipe with very precise quantities. I invite you to experiment according to taste and preference.

This is how you do it

  • Put the silken tofu in a food processor after you drain or press out the excess water
  • Add the salt and lemon juice
  • Mix in the food processor until you get a creamy consistency
  • Taste and if necessary add some more lemon or salt

This vegan fresh cheese will keep for about 5 days in the fridge.
It can further serve as a starting point for all kinds of delicious variations

How to make a savoury dip of this vegan cheese

  • Add a tablespoon of miso to the mixture
  • Add a tablespoon of sesame oil and mix well
  • You can finish off with extra fresh herbs or spices to taste

How to make a chocolate spread

  • Add a tablespoon of unsweetened (preferably raw) cocoa powder
  • Sweeten with one or two tablespoons of agave syrup or other suitable wholefood sweetener

How to make a delicious plant-based tzatziki

Read the recipe for vegan tzatziki here (link) and see how easy it is to make a delicious fresh summer side dish with this vegan fresh cheese as a base, for a salad buffet or as a spread.

Sweet treats with silken tofu

Silken tofu is also a perfect base for all kinds of sweet desserts. Read more here.

Why not use animal dairy products?

The current methods of producing animal dairy products are very harmful to the environment and wasteful of resources and raw materials. Moreover, they are based on the merciless exploitation of animals. Newborn calves, goats or buffaloes are immediately taken from their mothers because the milk is stolen for human consumption. It is a painful cycle of forced insemination, forced childbirth and repeated severing of the maternal bond that the mother animals are forced to go through again and again. Until, after repeated pregnancies and giving thousands and thousands of litres of milk, they are finally sent to the slaughterhouse. I find that incredibly cruel and out of keeping with our current state of civilisation.

In addition, milk is presented as much healthier than it really is. The fact that adults still drink the mother’s milk of another species is completely absurd.

Food technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and it looks as if the entire classical dairy sector is going to disappear completely. Anyone who wants to eat animal cheeses and other derived dairy products in the future can be sure that in the near future they will be made by fermentation processes in tanks. The starting point will be a limited quantity of animal stem cells or substances. The animal itself will finally be freed from the slavery of dairy production and human exploitation.

Picture of two brands of silken tofu

Silken Tofu in depth

Yoga Kitchen – Simple, healthy, and plant-based

Two tofus, yet so different

I cannot repeat it enough. The food industry does not have the slightest interest in or commitment to our health or well-being. It is a big >
machine whose motto is to make as much money as possible. Give as little quality as possible, and make the consumer pay for it as much as possible. You may think that I am exaggerating, but the reality is often much more shocking. Sometimes I feel that words are inadequate.

The yoga of nutrition

Yoga is, among other things, about developing consciousness. And you can’t have enough consciousness. Certainly not when it comes to food.
In a recent press article, plant-based milk substitutes were pretty much destroyed because, with only a few exceptions, they were judged to be of very poor nutritional value.
What is true in that story is that there are indeed many manufacturers who shamelessly put watery concoctions in tetra packs on sale for far too much money. In those cases, you can just as well drink ordinary tap water for a fraction of the price.
What is wrong with that story is that plant-based milk substitutes are by definition poor in nutritional value. Good soya, almond or oat milk, preferably homemade from beans, grains or nuts of organic origin, can easily withstand the comparison with animal milk. At least, if you take all the health parameters into account.

A matter of business ethics

And there are indeed a handful of manufacturers in the food sector who still do efforts to offer you quality. In the context of plant-based milk substitutes, the percentage of protein is a good measure of quality. This is directly proportional to the amount of nuts, beans or grains added in the production process.
Just compare the different brands. Compare, for example, the percentage of protein in the organic almond milk of the Italian brand Valdibella, with that of the almond milk of the market leader Alpro, which is more often than not in the doldrums. Then price differences suddenly appear in a completely different light, and a low price is often synonymous with total delusion.

Read the labels and learn how to interpret them

We have little or no means of really checking what is added to pre-packaged food. Yes, there are the labels. But even there we are never sure if the legal minimums of average composition stated on them correspond to reality.
The differences in composition between manufacturers sometimes affect the recipes for home made preparations.
For example, take the product known as “silken tofu” An example of such a recipe with silken tofu can be found here on this blog.
Tofu is essentially a type of vegetable cheese, which, like cheese of animal origin, is made after a process of curdling soy milk. Silken tofu is a creamier, softer and more liquid version of classic tofu. It can be used to prepare dishes with a cream or cream cheese-like texture.
Let us have a look at what three very respectable manufacturers of soy products are offering.
Both manufacturer De Hobbit from Belgium, manufacturer Taifun from Germany, and Clearspring from the UK certainly belong to the world top when it comes to organic soy products that are in principle (*) free of genetically modified soy.
All kinds of silken tofu are sold under the same name (silken & smooth tofu).
See below for the composition as stated on the labels:

Silken tofu from Clearspring, per 100 g product

Energy Carbohydrates Sugars Fat Sat. fat Protein Fibre Salt
257 kJ/61 kcal 2,8 g 1,1 g 2,7 g 0,5 g 6,5 g No info 0 g

Silken tofu from De Hobbit, per 100 g product

Energy Carbohydrates Sugars Fat Sat. fat Protein Fibre Salt
353 kJ/85 kcal 2,1 g 0,8 g 4,0 g 0,7 g 7,8 g No info 0 g

Taifun’s silken tofu, per 100 g product

Energy Carbohydrates Sugars Fat Sat. fat Protein Fibre Salt
202 kJ/48 kcal 1,8 g <0,5 g 2,1 g 0,5 g 5,3 g No info <0,01 g

The rather huge difference in protein and fat content explains why the Hobbit’s silken tofu has a much thicker texture than Taifun’s silken tofu. The one made by Taifun contains more water. You sometimes have to take this into account in recipes, because the creaminess and the end result can be quite different.

Calcium or magnesium?

And there is another important distinction between the two. In order to make soy milk curdle, salts are usually used in the industry. These are either:

  • Calcium salts
  • Magnesium salts

According to its label, De Hobbit uses calcium sulphate
On the other hand, Taifun and Clearspring use, according to their label, magnesium chloride
This means that you cannot make a general statement about the high calcium content of tofu. There is simply not a general rule. Everything depends on which salt is used. And that’s tend to differ from one manufacturer to another.
For vegans, this does have important consequences. After all, they do not consume calcium from animal dairy products, something that vegetarians or omnivores do.
For vegetarians, the distinction is less important.

Conclusion:In case of doubt between product A and product B, always rely on the facts that are mentioned on the labels. A warned consumer is worth two!

Genetically modified soy

(*) When we say that both manufacturers’ soy products are in principle free from GMO soy, we mean that both use cultivation methods that are in line with the organic cultivation methods in Europe, which starts with natural, unmanipulated seed. However, GMO-soy contamination can of course never be ruled out completely. That is one of the unpredictable consequences of the fact that genetically modified soya is allowed to be used elsewhere in the world, and also reaches our regions in animal feed.

Why are soybeans being genetically manipulated?

The phytopharmaceutical industry has placed on the market artificially genetically manipulated variants of various plant species, including soy, which have mainly been made resistant to pesticides. These seeds, together with the accompanying, often dangerous pesticides (think of Monsanto’s RoundUp) are sold to farmers with the promise of much higher crop yields. The consequence is that it is in fact an incentive to use even more pesticides.

Read more about plant-based nutrition and health:

Read more articles about nutrition, health and plant-based foods:

Read more about plant-based food

Read more about yoga and yoga classes in Schaerbeek:

Check out our yoga classes here:

View our full range of yoga classes

Picture of wheel posture in a sunny garden

Embrace life with wheel posture

Our favourite posture for the month of July is the wheel posture. The technical or Sanskrit name of this wheel posture is Chakrasana or Urdhva Dhanurasana (Bow upwards). I deliberately do not use sanskrit terminology during the yoga classes I guide, because that feels like giving a Catholic mass in Latin.
Like the fish posture, this is also an opening pose, a variation of the backband. It opens and extends the front side of the body intensely.
Wheel posture is pre-eminently a posture that is somewhat easier to perform in the summer season, and somewhat more difficult in the winter. This is no coincidence. It is a yoga posture with a very “fiery” character, which strongly activates the solar plexus chakra.
It is one of the most intense postures in the Prana Yoga Flow. In our classes you will learn how to work towards it step by step.

Yoga influences and supports our well-being on all possible levels: physical, energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual.
See here how this posture affects all these levels:

Physical benefits

  • Expanding the breathing capacity and strengthening the heart
  • More space around and release of tension around the heart
  • Strengthening of the back, arms, legs and buttocks
  • Opening and expanding of the abdomen and chest
  • Relaxation of the head and neck
  • Improving the flexibility of the shoulders, shoulder blades and upper back
  • Increased blood circulation in the whole body
  • Prevention of heart and artery diseases

Energetic effects

  • Activating and warming
  • Stretching of the Ren Mai, stomach, heart and spleen meridians
  • Grounding of the hands and feet
  • Intense opening of all 7 chakras in the body
  • Improved energy flow between the solar plexus and heart chakra

Emotional well-being

  • A stronger will
  • Opening up fully to life
  • More confidence and joy of life
  • Opening up the heart from a strong foundation
  • Transforming tension in the diaphragm and abdomen into a constructive force
  • Mental attitude

    • Improved sense of purpose
    • More openness
    • Concern for the positive and constructive

    Spiritual growth

    • Connection
    • Powerful action with an open heart
    • Joy of life
    • Entrepreneurial spirit
    • Healthy vigour
    • Strong foundation

    Would you like to book one of our classes?

    Have a look at our offer in yoga classes and book using the links here below:

    Book a yoga class

    Chack our yoga classes offer

    Prana Yoga Flow

    A full description of the basic postures of Prana Yoga Flow can be found in the book: “Prana Yoga Flow – Activate your life force, open your heart and live freely”, by Alberto Paganini. (Available in both dutch and english).
    Alberto Paganini was one of my very first yoga teachers. You can find his website (in Dutch) here.