Kate O'Donnell: The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook
The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook is A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well with over 100 recipes for simple, healing foods.
“Preparing food for yourself is a key element of wellness”, writes Kate O’Donnel in The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook. While applying the millennia old Ayurvedic know-how, this healthy lifestyle guidebook will get you cooking from mostly local, seasonal vegetarian produce found at your farmers market in Europe and Northern America. The recipes were adapted to the Western realities, but mostly remain authentic to the Ayurvedic diet upheld in traditional Indian households.
The Boston-based author is an Ashtanga yoga teacher and certified Ayurvedic practitioner. O’Donnel tasted the busy burdens of urban life, therefore she reduces the complex rules of Indian Ayurveda, to simple, easy to follow daily routines, recipes and attitudes to strengthen in order to live well. She alerts that unlike “the propaganda paid by manufacturers”, Ayurveda offers “unbiased recommendations based on thousands of years of discovering what works”. A common sense agrees, yet even the author uses some non-traditional produce, plus nutritional science research has advanced a deeper insight into how a human body can work better with certain food stuffs, and in the third millennium we can hardly avoid pollution in the air, soil and water.
Chia seeds are one of the non-Indian additions into the books repertoire. Their recent popularity and availability next to their sluggish digestion improving and omega-rich properties elevated chia into the vegan daily pudding phenomenon. The four seasonal recipes for the Everyday Chia Pudding are delicious. In particular the summer coconut water and mint version and the more rich fall squash and spice mix blend rang a harmonious symphony with my taste buds. Nutritional yeast is another non-Ayurvedic ingredient, yet as as the author poignantly explains, it is “a good source of protein and amino acids, which vegetarian diets sometimes lack”. This pre-digested B vitamins-rich supplement rendered the Stovetop Tofu extremely mushroomy flavoured and satisfying. Detailed practical advice, recommended seasonal variations, highlighting nutritional qualities and comparisons with the modern Western healthy diet in a well-researched, easy to follow format will make your exploration of Ayurveda much more digestible.
A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well
Each season is introduced by an overview of the seasonal effects on human body, supplied with a recommended shopping list, warnings on what to avoid or at least reduce, and divided into the meals from breakfast, lunch, supper to snacks. Detailed tutoring on a spring and fall cleanse is also included.
My four seasons-spanning experience with The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook in France has approved its suitability for any level of busy, yet discerning eater seeking a more connected and certainly better feeling experience with food. “The Ayurvedic principle of eating digestible foods in a calm environment remains, for me, the key to staying healthy and vibrant.”, writes the two decades Indian cooking practicing O’Donnel. She explains the ways to improve the agni or a digestive fire that is central to Ayurvedic well-being. “Food has always been a friend”, her healthy relationship with food introduces The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook. Thus setting the tone for a balanced lifestyle in harmony with seasonal changes and one’s true prakriti (your individual, elemental nature). Advices to reduce bodily and mind’s cravings supplement the fundamental toolkit to personal Ayurvedic routines, seasonal spice mixes, ingredient combinations and the theoretical foundations of the Ayurvedic eating.
Non-vegetarians can easily include the satisfying recipes into their weekly meal plan to nutritionally diversify their diet as myself and my husband did. You will not be able to source everything locally grown, since for example fresh ginger that she uses often in her warming recipes is imported either from Asia or South America to the rest of the world.
The Everyday Ayurveda basic principles:
No refined flour, sugar, raw garlic and onion or an overt reliance on toxins accumulating nightshade vegetables will benefit all of us. Nevertheless, as the healthful Mediterranean diet recognised cooked fresh tomatoes as excellent sources of beneficial lycopene, do not hesitate to include these nightshades when the summer season peaks. Eggplants are nutritionally poor, so you will not miss much, but peppers are tough to substitute so have them once in a while. Switching to sweet potatoes or yams instead of the white tubers introduces new flavours to your meals. If your garden yields the white version typical in Europe and the Americas though, their freshness is nutritionally superior to the imported potatoes traveling a long way.
Yogis with integrity will certainly find The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook life changing. As a mindful yogic eating manual it offers a holistic and practical vegetarian guidance grounded in the ancestral Ayurvedic know-how.
Each recipe highlights the Ayurvedic perspective followed by cooking instructions. Suggestions for seasonal variations are included, so flexibility and mindful playfulness in the kitchen were planted in (and are encouraged by) the book. Some ingredients like mustard seeds and hemp protein are highlighted when relevant to enlighten the reader about their nutritional benefits or shortcomings when ama or toxicity in the body is increased. For example, you will learn why long grain white basmati rice is preferred to brown or other fibre-rich, whole grain rice by Ayurveda. Further talks on dietary topics such as when and what kind of cheese is better to avoid, why coffee is a no go in Ayurveda or why “raw honey is the preferred springtime sweetener” introduce more insight into your daily meals. A detailed guidance for making almond milk, real healing lassi, dosas, and other staples from scratch are included. Nobody can argue that freshly made nut milk “offers more vitality than the kind you buy in a box”. Visually, there is no fancy plating. Like in my regular cookbook reviews, real everyday presentation of the dishes cooked and eaten by the author and her photographer Cara Brostrom will boost your confidence.
My favourite recipes in The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook:
The basics: Everyday almond milk, Ghee & Digestive lassi, cleansing green soup, vegetable broth (with herbs and ginger), frittata, chia pudding (the summer coconut water, and the fall Pumpkin chia pudding seasonal versions were my favourites)
Spring season: Carrot ginger soup with roasted chickpeas (I digest chickpeas aka garbanzo beans badly and the addition of ginger in this recipe aids my agni creating a happy belly meal); Cleansing green juice (no juicer needed for this one); Tofu tacos with greens; Simple stovetop tofu; a healthier, homemade version of the cacao hazelnut spread “Notella”.
Summer: Ananda-coco; Basil melon cooler; Beetroot Palya; Cucumber mint raita (I prefer local sheep’s whole milk yogurt in all her recipes calling for “organic” whole milk yogurt); Detox dal soup (used green lentils instead of the yellow split); Fresh fennel and dill soup (used my favourite fine local Pigna beans); Only zucchini soup with avocado and cucumber salad.
Fall: Fig Cardamom oat cup; Medicinal hot cocoa; Pumpkin chia pudding.
Winter: Almond ginger macaroons; Collard wraps with red lentil pate; Cream of anything soup; Huevos rancheros and brussels sprouts hash; Roasted maple almonds; Sweet potato bisque; Yam and Oat Muffins; Warming tomato dal.
Still, there were some recipes that either did not ring in tune with my taste buds or stirred an unpleasant belly sensation. The sharpness of the Refresh-o-rama juice blend punched me not just like a strong coffee would, but the high acidity upset my stomach. The Cukamint mocktail and the Surprising cream of broccoli soup were boring, and the Creamy coconut breakfast barley needed some cinnamon to lift it up. Otherwise, from the two dozens recipes I cooked, everything else tasted pleasantly. Comfort is the main benefit of eating according to the Ayurvedic principles manifested throughout the book.
The ancient adage, when food is viewed as medicine is awakened in Kate O’Donnel’s The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook. Food’s functional role, rather than just basic cravings, emotions or its primal urges satisfying properties, are central to the Ayurvedic understanding of beneficial nourishment for a happy and satisfying life. Where food is necessary for our survival, we better learn how the daily bread can improve our life rather than cripple us with disease. Here, Ayurveda offers her own answer based on the millennial observation of food’s effect on our health and well-being. My Ayurvedic retreat in the Indian Ocean indeed felt so wholesomely rejuvenating, but bringing the learnt principles into my busy life did not materialise. Not until I thoroughly read and tested many of the recipes in The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook, I realised how my body and mind crave different qualities in food with the changing seasons. Heat, humidity, cold, dry wind, they all change your individual metabolism and for each of us a different meal can feel comforting, so we must adapt to it if we want to live well.
Tony Nader, MD, PhD, an internationally respected MIT-certified doctor and expert in transcendental meditation lectures around the world about the neuroscience, physiological and psychological aspects of Ayurveda.