Again this week I found myself entering The Anxiety Loop. You know this Loop, right? That is the one where you allow an idea, concern, or worry to cycle repeatedly around in your brain, damaging all other productive chains of thought in its path. This process is kind of like mental racquetball. Each time you pay attention to that thought, it is like hitting the ball, which then goes pinging off into your brain, bouncing off the sides of your mind, coming back to the racquet expecting to be spun into space yet again. The catch is, if you put simply put down the racquet, turn your head, and whistle while ignoring it, the annoying, repetitive ball of thought drops to the ground. The ball is dropped. It is halted and defeated by nonattention.
So the racquet ball of thought for me this week was... you guessed it! "What am I going to write about? What am I going to cook?" It was becoming an obsession of the unpleasant type. Then yesterday afternoon I realized that I would be going to the Honeysuckle Tea House that evening. Duh! I could just write about the Tea House like I did about Boba House. Isn't that what bloggers do? They just live their lives and purposely go to fun places and restaurants for the purpose of reviewing them and gaining material for their blogs. Now that I had reminded myself that as long as I keep an active and varied social calendar, I will have ample material to write about, I could put down my racquet. I could relax. I could be present right where I was instead of worrying about the future. Did I? For a few minutes, until I allowed some other worry to take up the slack. ;-) Fortunately each moment is another good opportunity to practice mindfulness. None of us is doomed to Forever Failure as long as you take life one moment at a time.
I went out to the Tea House to see an acquaintance and fellow kirtan enthusiast, Allison Dennis, sing, and also to say good-bye to my very dear Indian uncle, K. Sridhar. What I didn't realize is that it was also a birthday party for my good friend Munsie. (See Munsie, I told you I would put you in here!) I drove out with a couple of other friends, one of whom is visiting from Colorado. On the drive this friend intelligently asked the question "How on Earth can they do a good business being out in the middle of nowhere?" I had never been to the Tea House, but know exactly where it is because I have a friend who lives on the next driveway over. And trust me, every time I would drive out on a seemingly endless network of country roads to visit my friend, I would ask myself this same question. However, the Tea House is in their second year of business (making it to #2 is always a good sign for a business). By 7 pm when Allison started her beautiful smooth jazz set, the place was actually crowded.
The Tea House certainly gets 5 out of 5 stars for ambiance. When we pulled up, my other friend exclaimed, "Oh now I know why Sridhar loves this place so much! It looks just like a tea stall you would find in India. You know the kind that your taxi driver stops at for 2 hours on the way back from the airport!" Those of you have been to India know what we are talking about. And it does kind of look like a cross between said taxi driver rest stop and the Swiss Family Robinson tree house. I was especially reminded of the latter last night when it was pouring rain, and nothing in the open air space was getting wet because the roof was so well designed, overhanging the "window" openings by a good yard or more. Everything inside was clean and attractive, made out of unfinished-ish wood. It is difficult for me to descibe the level of earthy cuteness that this place exudes. You will have to just see it for yourself.
Another reason that Honeysuckle Tea House is a must-visit is because the grounds are filled with neat rows of garden where they grow 80%! of the ingredients for their teas, smoothies, and herbal sodas. They also host workshops and training sessions for how to grow and harvest tea, sustainability & eco-living, nia, reiki, and astrology. Every weekend they boast local, talented musicians. I mean really, what could be more exotic and satisfying than sipping a home-grown and hand-made hibiscus-mint iced tea, eating your own veggie dinner (they were so cool they allowed us to BYOF and eat it there), talking with friends, listening to gorgeous, heart-stirring music, all while looking out at the misty, verdant, rain-drenched scenery from inside a second-story Swiss Family Robinson Tree House? Fantasy #10115 successfully checked off my list. I suppose this answers the question as to how they do a decent business in such an off-the-path location. The Path is highly overrated. Honeysuckle Tea House provides an absolutely off-the-path experience that keeps people thirsting to come back for more.
It has been a minute since we had quinoa, so our grain choices this week will be brown rice and Quinoa. Please do specify if you would like Quinoa, and add $2 to your order. Regular orders with brown rice are $8 per 2-cup serving.
Entree #1 - Hearty 5-bean Dal. Although there are practically innumerable variations on a 5-bean dal, this particular combination of mung, urad, split pea, toor, and chana has been a favorite of the Govinda's community. This recipe comes from Yamuna Devi's cooking encyclopedia, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, and was personally given to her by her spiritual teacher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. I suppose the origin of the recipe may explain something about the attractive nature of this dal. The ingredients are deceptively simple - the beans, spinach, ginger, green chili, turmeric, cumin and coriander. Yet, the combination of them all together is magically satisfying in a "Wow. I think I need another bowl" kind of way. *GF, soy-free
Entree #2 - Simply Soup-er Cannellini Beans. Before I went all Asian last week, I had been thinking of this soup. It was one of those soups that my son ate more than once. He is only in the mid-range of picky eaters, so often he will let something pass his lips one time, but after that you may be out of luck. The shining exceptions to this rule are of course macaroni and cheese, pizza, french fries, and a few of the lesser spiced, bean-heavy soups that I have made. Mothers take note, this soup is very kid friendly! Made with white beans, carrots, celery, and fresh green herbs, it has a mild and comforting flavor. *GF, soy-free
Entree #3 - Gujarati Sweet & SourDal. This dal is the new kid on the block. I have made all of these recipes before, with the exception of this dal. I had another Bengali recipe in mind, and went to VegRecipes to look for a photo. Well, one thing led to another... while I was browsing the site, I found this dal. The Gujarati name for it is Katthi Meethi, which literally means Sour & Sweet dal. The sweetness comes from jaggery, the Indian version of unrefined sugar that comes in hard-packed dark brown shapes, like Mexican piloncillo. The sour element is provided by not tamarind, but kokum, a relative of the mangosteen. Kokum grows well in the western part of India, and thus it is widely used in the cuisines of Goa, Maharastra, and Gujarat (all states on the western side of the subcontinent). I have never used kokum before, so being naturally
attracted to variety and change, I felt compelled to add this recipe to our menu.*GF, soy-free
Sweet Potato Oven Fries - $2 For some reason, I couldn't shake the image of sweet potato fries from my mind. I don't believe that I have ever made them for you all. I was also intrigued to see that no one on the internet had used my recipe which is super simple and super tasty - coconut oil, cinnamon, and a little salt. Most of the recipes that I found while looking for this photo call for olive oil, paprika, black pepper and some form of garlic. I am sure that tastes great too. I just had this (rockin') sweetly spiced version in mind. *GF, soy-free
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes - $3 or 2 for $5. So continuing with the orange theme... It has been a little while since we made these wonderful personal sized "cheesecakes." They have become one of my favorite desserts because they are so healthy and satisfying. The "crust" is made of ginger snaps; the filling pumpkin puree, cashews, bananas, and a little agave; and the topping is none other than our resident favorite - Coconut Cream! For you DIY folks out there, here is my totally unpaid endorsement - Trader Joe's Coconut Cream. It is not totally additive free, and yet has everything else I want - super thickness, divine flavor, and a much cheaper price than any other brand in my area. *soy-free