Birthdays and Re-birth Days

The time has come to reflect on the year that has almost completely passed, introspecting and taking stock of who I was and how I showed up this year. This time of year is especially profound for me because my birthday is New Year's day, and as I age I find birthdays to be a good reminder to take a personal inventory. This has not been an easy year, but then again, maybe none of them have been. ;-) Yet as I was reflecting yesterday to a friend, there are those of us who consciously or unconsciously continuously seek out a challenge. When in the middle of said challenge, whether it is related to work, relationships, or personal development (and it all comes back to personal development) the path can become so hard and require so much growth in order to move forward, that we forget having placed an order with the Universe for it. We might feel like difficulties are happening to us, instead of in collaboration with us as an answer to our prayers for purification and forward motion.

I have received many valuable gifts on my journey this year, the most important one being the value of love. Two years ago I underwent a significant surgery to remove part of a benign tumor from my facial nerve and neck. At that time I realized that although the surgeon had worked on my neck, God was using the opportunity to perform surgery on my heart. I was becoming bitter as a result of losing a relationship. This loss represented not just the loss of a loved one, but the loss of a dream, the dashing of hopes. As often happens in the wake of loss and overwhelming grief, a wounded heart can close up, becoming hard and bitter, in an attempt to avoid being hurt again. Such was my emotional state at the time of my surgery. For those of you who were around at that time, you may remember that (much to my surprise) I was flooded by offerings of love and support in the form of prayers, words of encouragement, and even significant gifts of money.

A couple of days ago I was overwhelmed by feelings of love for so many people in my life - my birth family, my friends (acquired family), my band family, my entrepreneur support group, the people for whom I am blessed to work, and all of you. :-) Love is all around us, at all times, it is simply a question of being open to receiving it, like needing to have your antennae up and being tuned in to a particular frequency in order to hear a radio station. It was then that I understood that I had previously had a very narrow definition of love and what it looked like. The Universe did me an immense favor by taking away my small object of affection, so that I could turn to the world with a broader vision and a big wide open hole in my heart, ready to be filled with more love than it had previously been able to hold. I thank you all immensely for being part of my journey, for giving me support and encouragement to keep writing and sharing, and for financially supporting Govinda's Catering. We have some plans for expansion in the coming year, so stay tuned!

In the meantime I would be honored to invite you to celebrate my birthday with me at our annual community kirtan celebration from 7-10 pm on New Year's Eve at Triangle Yoga in Chapel Hill. If you think writing and cooking and feeding you fills me with joy (and it does!), you haven't seen joy until you have seen me sing. :-) A full listing of upcoming kirtans and events can be found here. God bless you all, and if we do not see each other in person may you have a safe and meaningful end of 2015 and New Year.

This Week's Menu:

Entree #1 - Sambar

It has been quite some time since I made sambar, which is strange because it is a standard classic of Indian cuisine. This recipe calls for toor dal beans, which have a naturally tangy flavor on their own. Filled with vegetables, laced with flavors of tamarind, coconut, and spicy sambar powder, the rich flavor profile of this dal is the gift that just keeps on giving to your palate. The longer you savor it in your mouth, the more flavor you discover. *GF, soy-free

(photo mariasmenu.com)

Entree #2 - Zucchini Kofta in Coconut Tomato Sauce

The response from the Koftas went through the roof last month! I was pretty pleasantly surprised myself with how well they came out. For those of you who are new, these kofta are made from shredded zucchini & potato and a batter of chickpea flour and spices. They are then golden-fried and soaked in a fragrant gravy of tomato, spices, and coconut milk. The word YUM does not even begin to touch the tasty glory of this dish.*GF, soy-free

(photo journeykitchen.com)

Entree #3 - Vegan Hoppin' John

You know, even though I grew up in Virginia Beach, I didn't really encounter for real Southern Culture until moving down here to NC. I was a big girl in my 30's before learning that you MUST eat black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's Day. How did I miss that memo? Especially since my birthday is the 1st, you would think that I would be well-informed of any and all New Year's traditions. Well, my ignorance of this tradition must explain some of my lack of abundance. ;-) So from now on I am firmly committed to correcting my mistake with this tasty version of Hoppin' John with collards. Want to know more history re. this tradition? Click here. *GF, soy-free

(photo food52.com)

Side Dishes:

Brown Rice - $1/serving (1 cup)

Quinoa -$2/serving (1 cup) *GF, soy-free

(photo telegraph.co.uk)

Sweet Potato Cornbread - $2/ea. or 3/$5. We couldn't have Hoppin' John without cornbread and sweet potatoes! That would just be incomplete Southern-ness. This is one of my favorite recipes. I could totally eat these naturally sweet corn muffins every day. Fortunately for my waistline I don't. Oh wait, these are guilt-free muffins! That's right, I forgot. Made with grapeseed oil, agave nectar, chia seeds (to replace eggs), and yams, this cornbread has only good things to say to your arteries. *GF, soy-free

(photo food.com)

Coconut Milk & Mango Rice Pudding - $4/serving. I love it when I find a good recipe. It is like making a good friend, someone you can come back to again and again, finding comfort and pleasure in every meeting. This dessert is one of those. Its simple ingredients - rice & coconut milk - are delicious on their own and yet lend themselves to being dressed up by a variety of flavors. We have done cinnamon, saffron & cardamom, raisins. Always on the prowl for something new and tasty, I thought to add mango to the mix, a little unseasonable taste of the tropics to send out 2015! *GF, soy-free

(photo monpetitfour.com)

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