Say Cheeze!

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One of the reasons it took me so long to become vegan, was cheese. I am not too proud to admit it but I was a cheese addict. It is apparently a thing, being addicted to cheese. Even though I knew it wasn’t doing me any nutritional or health favours whatsoever, I still ate fairly large quantities of it.

Strangely, when I did eventually stop eating it, I didn’t miss it at all and on the odd occasions where I have had a crumb of it (because the rest of the family still eat it sometimes), I found I no longer had a taste for it.

Nutritionally, cheese is not the ultimate source of calcium and other nutrients that the dairy industry would have us believe, and for this reason, whilst I have not forbidden it in the kitchen, I have reduced the amount of cheese (and other dairy), I feed my family. I have had to find some sort of convincing replacements though to make favourite meals like pizza, lasagne and the like. Enter nuts and nutritional yeast and a host of other tricks I have in my pantry…..it was hard to hide the smile the time I made “macaroni cheese” for the kids using gluten free rice pasta with a butter bean based sauce with tapioca for stretch, when it was proclaimed by them to be the “best cheesy pasta ever”….even better than their favourite restaurant version….

But I digress. A while ago I read a book called Artisan vegan cheese and whilst the recipes were mostly a bit time consuming for me, it gave me some inspiration to play around with the concepts.

Recently I threw together some ingredients including some almond pulp (from almond milk making) I wanted to use and cooked up some little cheese rounds. I took one for a friend to try and he fed back that he really enjoyed it and would I mind sharing the recipe. Ummm…..I hadn’t actually written down what I had done so I asked him to take a rain check while I made it again and documented as I went. So, today with my 4.75 year old assistant (who enjoyed clean the food processor after and has been begging to try the finished products since they came out the oven…..I guess that means it tasted ok!!), that is what I did.

And for my friend who wanted the recipe before….here it is….and don’t worry…..a sample will be coming your way soon also. 🙂 You’re welcome.

INGREDIENTS

(makes 2 larger and 4 smaller round cheeses, about 12 cm and 6 cm diameter respectively)

  • 1 cup oats
  • 3 cups almond pulp (ie pulp from almond milk making using 2 cups soaked almonds)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon mixed herbs
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon miso paste
  • juice of 2 lemons and a small lime
  • 1 cup almond or other non dairy milk

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (fan forced).
  2. Line 2x 12cm and 4x 6cm diameter ramekins with baking paper.
  3. Put oats in food processor and blitz to fine meal.
  4. Add all other ingredients and blend to a thick paste.
  5. Spoon mixture into line ramekins and press down / smooth tops.
  6. Place ramekins on tray.
  7. Bake 30 minutes and then remove from ramekins and bake another 15 minutes on tray (you can leave baking paper on – less mess). Should be crusty on the outside and a little soft in the middle (will firm up a bit).
  8. Cool on wire rack.
  9. Store in foil or baking paper in fridge for about a week or so (if it last that long) or freeze and defrost in fridge when you would like to use it.

Hitting on girls – respect me but don’t treat me differently.

Oh! YOU forgot to put YOUR box on?

I am going to keep this rant as brief as possible. I have to say that one of the most annoying things (and I would have to say one of the only annoying things) I have encountered during training, is when other karateka treat me differently because of my gender. It is generally the opposite gender who seem to do this, and I am sure there are any number of reasons for it. I am more than happy to be enlightened.

Outside the dojo, it’s not socially acceptable to go around hitting anyone. In our society there is still, for some reason, a perception that if you are a man and you hit a woman it is worse than if you are a man and you hit a man (or for that matter a woman and you hit a man). Personally I don’t actually accept that notion. In my opinion, violence by any human being against another is unacceptable.

Inside the dojo, however, we do hit our friends / training partners. We don’t want to hurt them, sure, but, part of training (eg conditioning, bunkai, kumite etc) involves a degree of (sometimes fairly strong) physical contact. When you step through the door into the dojo, you tacitly give informed consent to this. If someone gives you more than you can handle you can tell them to back off or stop (which is tantamount to withdrawing that consent either temporarily or otherwise) and by the same token if you are going too hard and someone asks you to back off, you need to respect that.

By all means adjust your techniques to my height / weight / speed / level of conditioning etc, unless you are specifically asked to fully resist. I will do the same for you to the best of my ability. Just please don’t tell me you “don’t / can’t hit girls”, and  / or hit me so gently I can’t feel it. Believe me I will be the first to let you know if I can’t handle it!

I wear the same uniform as you do, I do the same training as you do and we are on the same path. I am pretty sure we all come to class for similar reasons.

I don’t come and train to be wrapped in cotton wool. I do come because I love it. I do come to get tougher (conditioned). I do come to learn. This includes learning how to defend myself against violence should the need arise. I doubt a potential attacker will hold back, so please, at least give me some sense of simulation.

Green tea fudge

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hedgehog slice, green tea fudge and chai slice (similar to the bliss ball recipe but with more oats) as served tonight for dessert.

  • 3 cups plus 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • large handful baby spinach (you won’t taste it but it gives it great colour)
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup dates soaked in boiling water to just cover (and soaking water)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2-3 tablespoons maccha (green tea powder)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon desiccated coconut for decoration

METHOD

  1. Blitz 3 cups coconut in food processor until starting to turn into coconut butter
  2. Add in dates with water, tahini, vanilla, spinach, maccha, cinnamon and bananas and blend until creamy.
  3. Mix in 4th cup of coconut until combined.
  4. Spread into slice tin lined with baking paper and press down with another sheet of baking paper (slice will be about 1 cm thick).
  5. Remove top sheet of baking paper and sprinkle with black sesame seeds and coconut.
  6. Lightly cover with baking paper again then freeze for 2-3 hours to firm up.
  7. Remove from freezer and slice into about 60 squares.
  8. Store in freezer or fridge (freezer if want to last longer) and eat from there.

The “do” of music and the music of karate: Part 1- being and becoming an artist.

This picture is a good representation of most of my Saturdays: Practice karate in the morning and practice or perform music in the afternoon!

I started thinking about this post quite some time ago. I am pretty sure I mentioned that I would write it some day….so I guess I should make a start. I have had quite a few ideas so I will divide it rather than write a really long post. Watch this space for part 2.

Essentially the aim of these posts is to share my observations on the commonalities of karate and music and on being an “artist” versus practising an art.

Anyone who knows me well and many who don’t will know that both music and Karate are a major part of my life. I consider myself to be both a musician and a martial artist. I am not sure where one crosses the line into becoming either of these things or if there is a hard and fast rule. Here are my reflections on that:

Transition from music-nerd to musician.

Apparently, I started singing before I could talk and I remember making up songs before I commenced school. I started seriously studying musical instruments by the time I was in primary school and learning singing (as an instrument) and composition by the time I was in high school. I can’t really remember a time when I couldn’t read music or learn music and lyrics by ear. Although I may have some natural talent and am by no means tone-deaf, I have had to work hard over many years on my music to get where I am….and I am still working on it….there is always room for further improvement.

However, if you were to ask me when I became a musician (not just someone who liked to play, write and sing music), I probably couldn’t pin point it to a day or even a time in my life. I guess in the last few years I have actually felt the part. Before that I was more or less in the “fake it until you make it” zone of acting like a musician so convincingly that other people believe you are one, even if you aren’t convinced yourself.

The difference for me seems to be in the experience of music making. I think one gets to the point where one is part of the music rather than being outside of it when one plays or sings (regardless of whether this is solo or ensemble performance). I think previously, whilst I had the power to transport others, I was still too cognitive about the whole thing to transport myself to the same place.

Metamorphosis from Karate-Geek to Martial artist.

On the flip side: into my life enter martial arts. I started karate as a rather more mature individual, ie just on the right side of 40 years old. I had never done anything like it in my entire life nor had I ever even considered it would be something I would enjoy. I kind of fell in to it….and then fell in love with it, pretty quickly. I was open minded but uncoordinated. I was not good at it at all but I was determined. I was confused but inquisitive. I was highly unskilled but enthusiastic.

Again, I can’t tell you exactly when I became a martial artist as opposed to someone who geeks out over and practises karate, but over the last few months I feel I have metamorphosed into one. The process for me started in my mind as opposed to physically, quite a while back, when I found my thinking and outlook changed considerably as a result of training in karate. However, I have since about halfway through the year begun to have more and more moments where I have felt physically as well as spiritually “pART of my ART”. By this I mean being at one with the movement in kihon / ido / kata or to being in the moment in kumite. Being able to be cogniscent but not overly cognitive about what I am doing feels to me like where the ART pART stARTs and now, especially when I experience this (a feeling not dissimilar to how I feel when I perform music as noted above), I feel like  a martial artist rather than just someone acting like one. (And, OK, I accept that I am still very much a Karate-Geek at the same time…..perhaps this part won’t actually change; time will tell).

Of course there are a lot of more obvious and external similarities between music and karate. I will save these for part 2.

Chai bliss balls

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  1. 2 cups desiccated coconut (plus about 2 tablespoons coconut for coating if desired)
  2. 1 cup oats
  3. 1/2 -3/4 cup sultanas soaked in boiling water to cover (and the soaking water)
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  5. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  6. 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  7. 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  8. 1 teaspoon mixed spice

Blitz coconut in food processor until getting soft and sticky.

Add oats and process until crumb like mixture forms.

Add remaining ingredients and process until mixture forms a dough.

Roll into balls (about 1.5 cm diameter) and roll in coconut (makes about 60 depending on how much of the mixture you eat before / during).

Firm in freezer and eat from freezer or fridge preferably.

Healthy hedgehog

I had originally called this easy chocolate peanut slice but my husband and taste tester in chief (and lover of all things chocolate-peanuty) proclaimed it tasted like hedgehog…..thus the name change.

  1. 2 cups desiccated coconut
  2. 1 cup peanuts (roasted unsalted)
  3. 1 cup oats
  4. 1/2 cup dates (more if you like it sweeter) soaked in boiling water to cover (and soaking water).
  5. 1/2 cup cocoa
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  7. 1 cup sultanas
  8. chopped peanuts and dessicated coconut to decorate

Put peanuts and coconut in food processor. Blitz until starting to form into clumps.

Add oats and blitz well to grind.

Add cocoa to mix in.

Add dates and soaking water and vanilla and blitz until a crumbly dough is formed.

Add sultanas and quickly pulse to mix through.

Press into lined slice tin and decorate by pressing crushed peanuts and desiccated coconut into the top.

Firm in freezer for 2-3 hours then remove and slice into squares.

Store in freezer or fridge and eat from there.

How to Budge the Grudge

I have in the past been accused of holding grudges (guilty as charged) but life is too short and I have decided that my previous default response to being wronged was / is less than useful.

Forgiving is not always easy but we can choose to do it. Forgetting may not be possible or wise. Either way though, holding a grudge is like carrying around someone else’s baggage that they no longer want or need. It is pointless and helps noone.

The following are some of my random thoughts on adopting a forgiving mindset and fostering forgiving in others.

  1. Some people are colour blind and others are blind to colours. Ultimately actions speak louder than words and true colours will shine through and be obvious to the people who matter most.
  2. Respect is a two way street, but, if you notice that someone is driving on the wrong side of the road, you should navigate safely around them. Give the other driver the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, they are half asleep or perhaps they are not as familiar with the road rules as you.
  3. No matter how much of a waste of time it may seem, it is always important to be the bigger person. Whether or not leading by example makes a difference to the other person is irrelevant; it makes a difference to the kind of person you are perceived as and the kind of person you are.
  4. In this life, it is likely that someone, sometime will have a problem with something you do or say. Rarely will you be completely oblivious that there is a problem. Often you will sense it but not know exactly what it is. Sometimes you may find out. If you find out, try and discuss the problem and resolve it. If you don’t, don’t guess and don’t pretend there is no problem. Just be kind and respectful and hope that in time forgiveness will come.

Anyone reading this post who thinks they may have upset me, don’t worry: It’s all good and I forgive you. Anyone reading this post who I have upset, please let me know how I can make it up to you (in whatever format you feel is appropriate) and I will endeavour to make things right. If you would prefer not to discuss it then please try to find it within you to let it go.

My idea of heaven; Karate 24/7 – (Impressions from my first ever Gasshuku)

I recently returned from my first Gasshuku (Karate training camp). I had been really excited about the prospect of going to one for a long time (I was unable to go last year due to the dates) and I would have to say that it exceeded my (high) expectations.

With 6 – 8 hours in the dojo each day I (obviously) learned plenty about karate, but outside of the dojo I also learned so much (about karate, about myself, and life in general). I had the opportunity to mingle with karateka from various clubs and styles ranging widely in age (5 – 83!!) and rank (adults from 6th kyu (ie me) to 7th or 8th Dan and Juniors from 10th Kyu to Dan ranks). There was a very high percentage of yudansha (black belt ranks) and most were more than willing to have a chat about karate, their journey and / or life in general, as were all the participants.

My mind is so crammed at the moment with thoughts and impressions. As usual, some information made immediate sense and other concepts will have to be stored and mulled over to be made sense of in the fullness of time. For the sake of brevity I will just mention some key points and highlights for me. Chronicling my lessons at the end of each day was a somewhat difficult task, due to a combination of the long days and difficulty remembering every detail by the end. As for photos, most of my photos are ones I took on my morning run since there was no time or opportunity to take pictures while I was training.

Highlights for me were:

  1. Delving into modern Arnis (Fillipino fighting art which uses sticks).
  2. Impact / bag work with a focus on developing power / strength / conditioning. There were some interesting boxing / kick boxing style techniques that I found particularly useful in terms of generating power.
  3. Participating in a kumite tournament (I didn’t think this would be open to me considering my rank but when the opportunity presented…..well….I am a hopeless case!)
  4. Training kihon and ido on the beach / in the sea after a particularly long and sweaty day.
  5. Having my Sensei around to touch base with and ask questions so I could contextualise what I was learning with respect to how it fitted with our style and also just to chat with about kata / regular training.
  6. Having feedback about various things (stances / basics / kumite) from various other Sensei within the network.

Lessons I learned about myself during 2 days of fairly intensive (physical and cognitive) training:

  1. My mind is my most important tool in every task. With enough practice I can achieve it if I make up my mind to do it!
  2. I am able to train hard and concentrate without much sleep (probably not desirable but certainly possible).
  3. I can do more hard physical training than I thought I could and still come back for more the next day / the next session.
  4. I can run faster and further than I thought I could (especially if the motivation is not getting push ups for being late to a session because I took too long on a pre-training / pre-dawn run…. 🙂 )
  5. Standing at the very end of a long line (ie being the lowest rank by a good chunk) can be a motivating, rather than humiliating experience.

I came away from this experience feeling very invigorated and even more enthusiastic about my training from this point on. There was such a high level of motivation and spirit in a room filled with so many like minded individuals striving to the best of their abilities, that it would have been difficult not to absorb it. I can’t wait to get back to my home dojo and training buddies (who I missed terribly during my holiday) this week and share!

kumite

Kumite tournament – (I have the blue gloves).