I’m one of those people that if you put me on a diet I’m bound to gain weight. I tried the low carb diet once and simply blew up. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why until I started doing yoga. Trying to control what I ate all the time made me just eat more. I love food too much to spend even a moment eating food that isn’t simply divine. Life’s too short for low fat butter spreads, low fat sour cream, and skim milk.
That doesn’t mean avoiding healthful foods. Fruits and vegetables make up the majority of my plates alongside local butter, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, and of course, high quality chocolate. But the most important aspect of any diet is the way you eat. Every meal is a gift for which you’re thankful. Imagine you’re eating your rolled oats with fresh fruit as you stare out into Mediterranean Sea with crystal blue waters as far as the eye can see.
Traditional paella is usually made with an assortment of seafood and meats like mussels, shrimp, lobster, chorizo, and cuttlefish, but in this recipe meaty mushrooms and eggplant replace fish and meat. Once you get used to leaving them out, including them seems strange. For Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, father of Ashtanga yoga, a vegetarian diet was as much a part of yoga as asanas and meditation. Jivamukti Yoga advocates for a vegetarian diet and in most cases, a vegan diet. For me a vegan diet just isn’t realistic, but vegetarianism with local eggs, cheese, honey, and dairy helps in my practice of karma yoga.
Choose ingredients that are seasonally available. Use organic canned tomatoes or tomatoes that you canned yourself last summer instead of out of season, tasteless tomatoes. You can also find local eggplant and sweet onions. Paella usually has some bell peppers as well, but I left them out of this recipe because I can’t find them at the farmers’ market right now and often times, bell peppers are flown in from a terribly far destination like Mexico. If this is the case, just leave them out.
It’s funny that as much as I love to cook, I infamously screw up the easiest recipes. Rice for instance, has taken me years to get the hang of and from time to time it still comes out a gummy mess. This is true of yoga as well. Sometimes when we get caught up in the handstands and arm balances of the world, we lose site of the importance of mountain pose and warrior one. Don’t get caught up in the glamour of a difficult recipe and forget to ground down into the pose.
I love this recipe, which initially started off as a soup and then condensed down to heartier black beans and rice. If you’re all pitta all the time, then too many spicy foods may not be a good thing for you and in that case, just reduce the red pepper flakes and jalapeno to taste. The ghee will help to cool you off as well. If you’ve got a pitta imbalance going, you’ll want to reduce your spice as well.
It’s the salad that makes nutritionists and foodies alike smile. The bland diet that’s become so much a part of a yogi’s life is ever so overrated. This weekend Sadie Nardini came to our studio with a message that left me feeling at home. “Enjoy yourself,” she said. “Have fun, live life, and stop worrying about the paths that others take.” It was a welcomed piece of advice for so many of us that live life with unnecessary rigidity.
Treat yourself well because you love yourself and you want to feel good. Because you’re deserving of the compassion that you show everyone else. This Warm Sweet Potato Salad with Chickpeas is a lesson in self indulgence and self compassion all in the same recipe.