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Articles in “Active Hands Yoga”

5 Magic Vegan Rock Star Ingredients

Vegan Umami Ingredients

One hard thing about eating vegan for me is finding ways to make food delicious without the use of cheese.

For many vegetarians cheese, especially freshly grated Parmesan, is the magic dust that makes almost all foods delicious.

Cheese, especially aged cheese like Parmesan, adds a kick of umami, a taste that translates as ‘meaty’ or ‘savory’, to pasta, grains, over soups, pizza…almost everything except for chocolate, unless you like your chocolate savory.

To help you get over cheese during your try vegan challenge, here are my top five magic vegan umami ingredients to bring some savory flavor.

Top Five Vegan Umami Ingredients


1. Tomatoes in any form but especially sun-dried tomatoes (top right in the photo)

2. Nutritional yeast extract / Marmite / Vegemite (bottom right in the photo)

3. Mushrooms, especially dried mushrooms, because drying increases their guanylate content (top left in the photo).

4. Fermented soy like miso or fermented soy sauce aka shoyu

5. Kombu and nori seaweed (bottom left in the photo)


What’s your secret weapon to make vegan dishes taste amazing?





Photos clockwise from top left by Edwinek, televiseus, Johnson Cameraface, and katteballetje 

Fancy Vegan in Berlin : Lucky Leek in Photos

To kick off my try vegan month, the last night in July I had dinner at the best vegan restaurant in Berlin–Lucky Leek. There are quite a few delicious vegan restaurants in Berlin, but Lucky Leek is consistently surprising in their menu options. In addition, I love how complex their dishes are, with several layers of tastes. It’s the total opposite of my dead simple vegan lunches. I’ll let the food speak for itself through below.


Strawberry Juice Sparkler and a tall Beer

We started with a strawberry juice sparkler and a tall beer.
















Vegan Gazpacho and Salade Nicoise at Lucky Leek

For starters I had the Apple Melon Gazpacho – Iced Spanish Vegetable Soup Mint, Cripy Hazelnut Ball, and my dining partner had the Salade Niçoise Nori-Cucmber Rolls, Marinated Cherrytomatoes, Green Beans, Pesto Potatoes.













Vegan Saltimbocca and Mystery Main at Lucky Leek

For our mains I had the Saltimbocca made from Sweet Potato Baked Almond Cheeze Potato, Olive Caponata Vegetables and I cannot for the life me remember what my dining partner had. I believe it was some sort of pumpkin risotto ?

Mystery Deliciousness from Lucky Leek

I did get a close-up of the mystery main, however.

Creamy Tahini Salad Dressing Saves the Day

Creamy Tahini Salad Dressing over Cucumber and Tomato Salad

It’s two p.m. and still no lunch yet, vegan or otherwise.

I’ve been running on cookies and coffee since 8 a.m., and that’s all out now. Currently, I’m only running on adrenalin. And hunger. If I don’t get my bag full of vegetables up five flights of stairs, I don’t get to eat.

When I’m a hungry, hungry hippo or hungry like a bear, as the Germans put it–Baerenhunger, I know cucumbers and tomatoes won’t fill me up. I need protein! Good quick sources of vegan protein are nuts and seeds. In fact, I now always have almond butter around for a quick snack since the days I tried quitting sugar.

Improvising with what I had, I decided to make a heavy tahini dressing to dress my tomatoes and cucumbers. Tahini is sesame butter, so it’s loaded with protein.

Variations include adding ginger or garlic to the dressing or replacing the soy sauce with miso.


2 tablespoons tahini / sesame paste

1 tablespoon lemon juice (you may like a bit less, as I love lemon juice…)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

water to thin the dressing to desired consistency

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1. Mix together the tahini, lemon juice, and soy sauce.

2. Thin the dressing with water until it’s as liquid-y as you like.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Mix with salad greens or a raw vegetable salad like I did with cucumbers and tomatoes.


Failing at Trying Vegan


Dont Worry Youre Doing Great Baby Sketch

So there was a small break in my try vegan posts because I was rushing around Wednesday and just plain FORGOT that I had committed to eating vegan for lunch every work day.

I felt bad that I ate cheese spaetzle; I felt worse that I had forgotten my commitment to eating vegan. It’s like forgetting to pick up your son at school or to put on your skirt when you walk out your front door–how could I forget?

Looking back I see now that two big things contributed to my forgetting:

Being too busy — I came back from a long weekend with a full plate, putting out fires on several fronts at once, as well as having places to be at specific times.

Not systematizing it — I didn’t write it down in my calendar. I write almost everything down I don’t want to forget, because my brain is a selective sieve.

I spent all day Thursday moping about it and feeling guilty. But that doesn’t help! I’m eating vegan to bring more joy, not more suffering, to the world.

So if you ever slip in your commitment to anything you said that you’re going to do, whether that’s trying vegan or practicing yoga, here’s how to get back on track.

1. Forgive yourself.

Lose the guilt. Keep going. Making mistakes is part of the game.

2. Figure out what went wrong.

What led to you not doing what you said you’d do?

Was there just nothing vegan to eat? If so, was it a lack of time to prepare something ahead of time or lack of options at the restaurant?

Was the social pressure too great? If so, meet people for drinks or not around eating.

For me, it was not having a daily reminder of my commitment, especially for the busy times when I can only focus on the task in front of me.

3. Take action to implement whatever needs to be in place.

Make a list of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants around your workplace so that you always have good places to suggest.

Change your lunch plans with carnivorous friends who only eat greasy roasted chickens to meeting for coffee.

In my case, I’m going to write ‘vegan lunch’ every single day on my calendar for the rest of August.

4. Repeat again every time you fall off track.

Maybe this seems pessimistic to assume that falling off track is a given, but it’s a fact that humans are not perfect. We learn more about ourselves from our mistakes.

For example, I know that I’m good at focusing on the task at hand and blocking out everything else. Now I have to put in reminders so that I don’t forget anything that’s important to me.


What do you do when you fall off track on your goals and commitments?





Sketch by fuzzymilk

A 3 Bean Salad in 5 Minutes

Three Bean Salad Recipe

Today’s my birthday, and I have no time for lunch.

The quickest yummy and filling vegan lunch I know is the three bean salad.


apple cider vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
1-2 scallions
one can of garbanzo beans, drained and washed
one can of black beans, drained and washed
one can of red kidney beans, drained and washed
one can of corn, drained and washed
one bell pepper
fresh parsley or chives (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper


1. I always start with the dressing at the bottom of your big bowl. Scoop one small spoon of honey, and one larger spoon of mustard into your bowl. Mix them with apple cider vinegar. Once your honey, mustard, and vinegar have an even consistence, drizzle in some olive oil as you whisk.

2. Slice the scallions into thin rounds. Dice the bell pepper. And chop the parsley or chives if you want them. Add them to the dressing with all three cans of beans.

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This salad tastes better if you cook the beans yourself, but that would take longer than five minutes.

Also, the longer the salad chills in the fridge, the better it tastes when the flavors marry.

What’s your favorite quick and easy recipe for when you have NO time whatsoever?
Please share with me in the comments below.





Photo by doc(q)man

Simple Vegan Gazpacho Recipe

Dead Simple Gazpacho Recipe

A long time ago I didn’t know how to cook. Coddled by New York’s cheap and delicious eats as well as the fact that socializing happened around food in New York, I didn’t have to learn.

When I got to France, I realized that unless I had a huge budget (which I didn’t as a student), I couldn’t afford to eat out every day.

But I still didn’t learn how to cook.

Because I discovered gazpacho in a carton as sold by Alvalle (this is totally not a sponsored post, I only wish they would send me crates of their gazpacho–are you listening, Alvalle?)…which I would drink in a lowball cocktail glass, feeling smart for saving myself the washing of one spoon and savoring the gazpacho’s creamy coolness on hot days.

 Gazpacho by Alvalle

Even though eating from a package is usually horrible for your health, after drinking my gazpacho I would feel still healthy. The gazpacho was not only without preservatives but also vegan.

Check out the ingredients : Tomato, Pepper, Cucumber, Onion, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2.6%), Wine Vinegar, Salt, Garlic, Lemon Juice.

Even now my recipe for gazpacho today is the same one from Alvalle.

Gazpacho is delicious made ahead of time and served chilled.


3-5 good-sized tomatoes
one bell pepper, cut up and de-seeded
one long cucumber
1/4  of a red onion
1 clove of garlic
gobs of extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh lemon juice
sprouts (optional)


1. Cut the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, and red onion in big pieces. Put them all into a blender, with the tomatoes on the bottom. Add the garlic, and blend. Don’t worry about not having any water in their; the juices from the cucumber and tomatoes will make it a soup.

2. After the consistency is as creamy as you like, add lots of extra virgin olive oil and stir it in by hand. Do NOT blend the olive oil or else it will turn bitter.

3. Add the red wine vinegar, sea salt, pepper, and fresh lemon juice to taste.

4. Chill for 3-4 hours until the gazpacho is thoroughly cold.

5. Serve alone or with bread.

Photos, from top to bottom, by jlastras and by Alvalle

Yogis Talk : David Wells about Thai Yoga (Reusi Dat Ton)

Thai Yoga aka Reusi Dat Ton Painting

Funny how you start stumbling down paths when you start studying yoga.

I stumbled upon David Wells’ information about Thai yoga aka Reusi Dat Ton and was curious about this other branch of yoga I had never heard about. Since one of my earliest Yogis Talk interviews with a yogi who had meditated in Thailand, I was curious to learn more about movement and meditation traditions there.

To find out:

  • how Thai yoga is different from Indian hatha yoga
  • what to do, according to Thai yoga, if you get a leg cramp (Edited on August 8, 2012 : oops! that should have been foot cramp) or have shoulder problems
  • how to mix different yoga styles to your benefit
  • how David persuaded a living reusi (rishi) to teach him traditional Thai Yoga

Listen to my interview with David below or download it from Soundcloud by clicking here.

David Wells of Wells Yoga

Want to learn more about Thai yoga?

Get in touch with David through his website Wells Yoga or take one of his yoga classes in California.

All photos from David Wells

Secret Ingredient Vegan Creamy Potato Salad Recipe

Vegan Creamy Potato Salad

So today I ate at a friend’s house who prepared a brunch-ish lunch for me, knowing full well about my Try Vegan Challenge.

I was so hungry when he offered his potato salad to me, I ate almost all of it before asking how he made it so creamy without cream.

He totally surprised me. The secret ingredient is to a creamy vegan potato salad is not vegan cream, but avocado! It’s no surprise that it’s so genius because his recipe came from Ms. Vegan Chef Rock Star herself, Isa Chandra Moskowitz. In fact, I even have her book from which the recipe came, Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For–From Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes.

The only caveat to this amazingly creamy potato salad is that if you’re making it ahead of time to pack for your lunch tomorrow, add in lots of lemon / lime if you like the sour citrus taste and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You want to lay the plastic wrap on the salad itself, so that there is no air touching the salad. Otherwise, the avocado turns brown from oxidation over time.


2 lbs tender boiled diced potatoes that have cooled down
2 avocados
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 plum tomato, chopped
half of a red onion, diced small
half of a cucumber, diced very small
sea salt and cayenne pepper or freshly ground pepper to taste
scallions for garnish



1. Cut the avocado in half. Use a spoon to remove the seed, and scoop the avocado out into a bowl large enough to hold all the potatoes. Add the lime juice, and start smashing the avocados in the bowl until they’re creamy.

2. Add the tomato, onion, and cucumber to the avocado. Mix it up!

3. Add the potatoes to the dressing. Keep on mixing.

4. Add salt and pepper as well as extra lime juice to taste. Top with scallions or other fresh herbs you like.


Keep chilled if you are making it the night before for your work lunch.

Easy Vegan Ratatouille Recipe


Easy Vegan Ratatouille Recipe

Today’s ratatouille recipe for the Try Vegan Challenge is inspired from a book I’m a little embarassed to cite, but the recipe is so awesomely simple and easy. Rarely do I find recipes that feature vegetables in all their glory without the makeup of fancy stuff.

This classic French recipe doesn’t much time to prepare–perhaps just 15 minutes of cutting, but it takes more than an hour to cook. The slow cooking draws out the vegetables own juices and then cooks them in it, building up flavor over time. At the end it’s almost like a soup–delicious spooned over couscous or quinoa.

The amount of tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant doesn’t matter as much as their ratio; use an equal amount of the three vegetables to balance their flavors.


1 pound tomatoes, cut into thick slices
1 pound zucchini, cut into thick slices
1 pound eggplant, cut into thick slices
4 garlic cloves or as many as you’d like
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or basil or other green herb you like
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1. Make layers starting with the eggplant, then the tomatoes and finally the zucchini. In between the layers of vegetables scatter the garlic. Repeat the layers until the pot is almost filled.
2. Cover and cook under very low heat until the vegetables are tender, approximately 1-2½ hours.
3. Add the parsley, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper.

This dish is delicious served as is, over couscous, with bread, or cold.

Photo by telly telly


Quick Vegan Garlicky Chard Rice Recipe

Quick Vegan Garlicky Chard Rice Recipe


So I usually just cook what my CSA gave me and don’t plan my cooking in advance like all the pro chefs do. Instead I’m a master substituter and recipe improviser. Read on to find out what I substituted in this Spanish recipe.

The traditional recipe from Andalucia calls for spinach, raisins, garlic, pine nuts as the main ingredients.

  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 medium bunches of spinach
  • at least one clove garlic, but as many as you like if you’re a garlic-lover like me
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

I had, however, a mountain of rainbow chard, so that was going to replace my spinach. Baby spinach will be more tender than chard, but my rainbow chard added some pink to pep up the dish visually. Actually, any leafy greens will star in this dish quite nicely.

Rather than run out to get pine nuts, I just shook in some black sesame seeds that I already had in my pantry. At least I had the raisins and garlic!

Plus, I had leftover rice, and the magic formula to feeling full as a vegan is to include greens, grains, and protein with every meal (learned from pro vegan chef Lagusta, thanks!). So adding the rice adds in grains, whereas the sesame seeds are the protein. And if it’s not obvious already, the greens are the greens. If you don’t have any leftover rice, I’d suggest eating the garlicky greens with another grain like bread or noodles or…freshly-made rice.

My final adjustment was to spritz on lemon juice liberally at the end, because the iron in the greens need Vitamin C to be fully absorbed in our body. Plus, it adds a little zest to the sweetness of the raisins.

With all of my substitutions and additions, my recipe looked more like this :

  • a handful of raisins
  • two scallion, chopped up
  • coconut oil
  • 2 medium bunches of chard, chopped into slivers aka chiffonade
  • leftover rice
  • at least one clove garlic, but as many as you like if you’re a garlic-lover like me, chopped up small
  • a handful of black sesame seeds
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • lemon juice to taste

1. Soak the raisins in boiling water so that they plump up.

2. Heat up your pan, add the coconut oil and the scallion.

3. After your scallion cooks a bit, add in the chard.

4. After the chard has wilted, add the leftover rice or else just skip to step 5.

5. Add the garlic, the sesame seeds, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and lemon juice to taste.

Tada! Enjoy your meal!

That should have taken no more than 30 minutes from opening the fridge, cleaning and prepping the vegetables, and cooking.