Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts – Graduation

I can’t believe it’s been two months since I graduated from the Rouxbe’s Essential Vegan Dessert Course. I just want to send a BIG thank you to all my culinary mentors at Rouxbe for this wonderful experience!

During this course, I learned to make delectable vanilla coconut cakes,  addicting drop biscuits, luxurious chocolate cakes,  graham crackers, rustic fruit desserts and a plethora of “Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts” to quote our fantastic teacher, Fran Costigan  aka Queen of the Vegan Desserts.

In order to graduate, we were asked to prepared five one-bite desserts.  This was my final dessert showcase:

{German}  Black Forest Parfait – Multiple layers of chocolate cake, coconut whipped cream and cherry syrup, topped with a wild Italian Amarena Cherry  preserved in syrup and a drizzle of Kirschwasser. 

{Nicaraguan} Mini Tres Leches Triffle –  Luscious Lemony Cream with vanilla coconut cake, coconut shreds, evaporated coconut milk, condensed coconut milk and aquafaba meringue, topped with a banana chip

{USA} Peanut Butter Mousse in Chocolate Candy Cups – prepared with firm tofu, maple syrup, peanut butter, Dutch-processed cocoa, vanilla and almond extract.

{Thai Inspired} Dragon Fruit and Raspberry Mini Cheesecakes – prepared with pecans, dates, cashews, coconut cream, coconut oil, brown rice syrup, vanilla extract and dragon fruit.

{ Spain – Inspired} Chocolate Cake with Orange Cream – a simple chocolate cake with a soft orange tofu cream topped with a small mandarin and mint

{Spanish Inspired} Mini Chocolate Cake with Orange Cream and Mandarins

Hope you enjoyed it! 
For more information about Rouxbe’s Essential Vegan Dessert Course, check out my previous post here. If you are thinking about joining this course ( who wouldn’t? *:x lovestruck ), drop me a line.  Join me on Facebook and Instagram at @sunshineandkale.






Happy New Year!!

I just want to THANK everyone for your support this year! May the New Year bring HAPPINESS & JOY to you and your love ones!

My hope is that with each post, I was able to bring you a little bit of sunshine and kale  into your life.

Love & Light!
~ Ciry


Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

These Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins are made with Aquafaba. What is Aquafaba? Literally, it means “water bean” in Latin. It’s the liquid that most of us pour down the drain after opening a can of chickpeas. It’s a great egg white substitute for confections such as cookies, cakes, brownies and also savory dishes too like mayonnaise, butter, and cheeses. Aquafaba can act as a binder, leavening agent, emulsifier, and practically anything that an egg white traditionally does.  Needless to say, the discovery of aquafaba has revolutionized the world. Vegans and people with egg allergies can now enjoy meringues, mousses, and macaroons. YES!


My Baked Alaska, prepared with Aquafaba

I recently purchased Zsu Dever’s book, “Aquafaba: Sweet and Savory Vegan Recipes Made Egg-Free” and immediately fell in love with her recipes.


Imagine my surprise when a few days later I learned that she would be speaking at our Rouxbe Vegan Desserts Course lead by Chef Fran Costigan. This is what we call synchronicity!

Zsu Dever has an extensive background in the restaurant business and vegan cooking. She hails from a long line of culinary professionals and restaurateurs too. She proved to be very knowledgeable about cooking with aquafaba and was able to answer ALL our questions (YES, there were many of them!). After this live event, I decided to prepare her Vegan Poppy Seed Muffin. I reached out to Zsu to make sure it was ok to share it with you. Enjoy it! 🙂

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins POPPY SEED MUFFINS
Serves 12
The lemon is subtle if you use only the zest, so if you love it with more of a lemon punch, add the optional extract. (from Aquafaba, copyright © 2016 by Zsu Dever. Used by permission.)
Write a review
  1. 2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  2. 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  3. 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  5. 1/3 cup aquafaba (see Note)
  6. 1/3 cup canola or other neutral oil
  7. 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated organic sugar
  8. 1 cup nondairy milk
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  10. 3/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract, optional
  11. 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from approximately 2 lemons)
  12. 3 tablespoons coarse or raw sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-well regular-size muffin tin with paper cups or spray the wells with oil. Set the tin aside.
  2. Combine the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Place a separate medium bowl on a folded kitchen towel. Add the aquafaba and, using a large whisk, whisk it until it is frothy, about 1 minute. Add the oil slowly while whisking to emulsify. Add the sugar in the same way. Add the milk, vanilla, lemon extract (if using), and zest and whisk well.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture and, using a wooden spoon, mix the batter until almost no more flour is visible. Lumps are fine; do not overmix.
  5. Fill the wells about three-quarters full with the batter and sprinkle the coarse sugar on top. Bake the muffins until a toothpick inserted into the muffin in the middle well comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
  6. Cool the muffins on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before removing them from the tin. Cool the muffins completely before storing in airtight containers, where they will keep for a few days.
  1. Although aquafaba is best if homemade using the recipe provided in the book, you can use aquafaba from canned chickpeas. Use the organic, low-sodium, canned chickpeas and strain off the liquid into a measuring cup using a fine mesh strainer. Note the amount of liquid you acquired, then add it to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces by 1/3. Cool the aquafaba completely before using.
Sunshine & Kale
Before serving, I prepared a simple Lemon Glaze (1 cup of organic powdered sugar + 1 tablespoon of lemon juice) and drizzled it on top. The muffins were light, fluffy, lemony and not overly sweet or tart.

This is by far the best lemon poppy seed muffin I’ve ever tasted in my life! Thanks Zsu!


My Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Glaze Recipe: Zsu Dever Photo Credit: SunshineandKale

To learn more about the history of Aquafaba, click here

To learn more about Zsu Dever, check out her page Zsu’s Vegan Pantry

{Raw | Gluten-Free} Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

I am currently attending the Rouxbe Essential Vegan Dessert Course.
My first assignment is to prepare a vegan pastry or sweet baked recipe that I am familiar with and that is part of my regular repertoire.  
My go-to dessert is cashew cheesecake. In the spring season, I like to prepare cashew cheesecake with lemon and lavender or pineapple and rose petal syrup. In the fall, I like to mix it up a little bit, adding seasonal ingredients and spices like pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. 
For this first task, I prepared my {Raw | Gluten-Free} Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake, a Thanksgiving must-have! Enjoy it!

Pumpkin Cheesecake – Mise En Place


Pumpkin Cheesecake – In Process

{Raw | Gluten-Free} Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake
Write a review
  1. 1 cup pitted Medjool dates (approximately 8)
  2. ½ cup almonds
  3. ½ cup pecans
  4. 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
Pumpkin Cheesecake Layer
  1. 1 1/2 cup of raw cashews (soaked in water for 4 hours)
  2. 1/3 cup agave
  3. 1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
  4. 1 tbsp cinnamon
To prepare the crust:
  1. Place the almonds and pecans in the food processor and pulse for about 10 times. Add the dates and keep processing until a ball is formed. Press this mixture into the bottom of a mini springform cake. Place in the refrigerator.
To prepare the pumpkin cheesecake:
  1. Blend the rest of the ingredients until smooth. If it’s too thick, add more water or agave. If it's too watery, add more dates. You should have a creamy consistency.
  2. Pour mixture onto your crust.
  3. Let it set overnight or for at least 12 hours.
  1. I like to top my pumpkin cheesecake with maple syrup, whipped coconut cream and nuts.
  2. This recipe makes 2 mini cheesecakes.
Adapted from The Nutty Scoop
Adapted from The Nutty Scoop
Sunshine & Kale
Follow me on this SWEET journey by subscribing to my blog ( upper-right hand side). I’ll be posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram as well @sunshineandkale.

Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts

What is my next culinary adventure?  Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts.

It’s a 90-day online intensive course led by world-famous vegan pastry chef Fran Costigan. It’s based on her popular  Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive taught at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. 


The course includes 50 videos and  100 hours of coursework focusing on essential techniques and recipes so students can create vegan desserts with confidence. We’ll practice over 85 recipes to prepare decadents desserts ranging from pies, cakes, tarts and cookies to aquafaba, mousses, gels, trifles and sauces. Is your mouth watering yet? 

vegan-dessertsFollow me on this SWEET journey by subscribing to my blog.

I’ll be posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram as well @sunshineandkale.

For more information about this course, check Rouxbe Vegan Desserts 

Mindful Monday – Drink Your Tea Slowly


“Drink your tea
slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves,
slowly, evenly, without rushing
toward the future.
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life”
-Thich Nhat Hanh-


Tea Room at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery. Photo Credit: @sunshineandkale


Tea Room at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery. Photo Credit: @sunshineandkale


Tea Lounge Room at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery. Photo Credit: @sunshineandkale

“Tea is an act complete in its simplicity.
When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea.
The rest of the world dissolves.
There are no worries about the future.
No dwelling on past mistakes.
Tea is simple: loose-leaf tea, hot pure water, a cup.
I inhale the scent,
tiny delicate pieces of the tea floating above the cup.
I drink the tea,
the essence of the leaves becoming a part of me.
I am informed by the tea, changed.
This is the act of life, in one pure moment, and in this act the truth
of the world suddenly becomes revealed,
all the complexity, pain, drama of life is a pretense,
invented in our minds for no good purpose.
There is only the tea, and me, converging”

Thich Nhat Hanh


 Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

 Happy Mindful Monday! Smile to the cloud in your tea!


A Day of Mindfulness at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery

This year, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery with a Day of Mindfulness. We wanted to keep it simple but meaningful. We both have been practicing and studying Buddhism and couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day together.


Upon arrival at the monastery, we were reminded to slow down, both literally and figuratively!


We were also reminded to: “Breathe You are Alive” …


…   “Peace is Every Step” …


… and “I have arrived”


I have arrived. I am home
In the here. In the now.
I am solid. I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.
-Thich Nhat Hanh



The Days of Mindfulness at Deer Park Monastery usually start with a Dharma Talk at 9 am, followed by a walking meditation and mindful (silent) eating. Today, however, “things will be different” a monastic told us upon arrival. “It’s the end of the Vietnamese retreat which means there are lots of people visiting so the program might change”. My husband and I looked at each other with a little bit of disappointment in our faces. And just as he was reading our minds, he continued with a funny and mischievous smile “Well, this is part of life. Everything comes and goes, everything is impermanent”. The three of us burst into a laugh “yes, yes, yes … the Buddhist law of impermanence. We get it” .

My husband then asked “but are we going to get a chance to meditate?” Again, this man looked at us with an ever greater smile “When we walk, we meditate. When we eat we meditate. When we breath, we …”. Again, the three of us started laughing. He probably knew that my husband meant, “sitting meditation” but he gave us our first lesson, in the most Zen’ish way possible.

Around 9:30 am, we were asked to make two circles. The inner circle was for the first time attendees while the outer circle was for the rest of the people. We were a total of fifty people or so. One of the nuns started signing to Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem and asked everyone to join her:

I have arrived. I am home
In the here. In the now.

Soon after, we were given instructions for the walking meditation, based again on Thich Nhat’s teaching:

“When you practice walking meditation, you go for a stroll.  You have no purpose or direction in space or time.  The purpose of walking meditation is walking meditation itself.  Going is important, not arriving.  Walking meditation is not a means to an end; it is an end.  Each step is life; each step is peace and joy.  That is why we don’t have to hurry.  That is why we slow down.  We seem to move forward, but we don’t go anywhere; we are not drawn by a goal.  Thus we smile while we are walking”

She also suggested that we match our breathing to our steps (i.e. counting 2-3 steps while inhaling and 3-4 steps while exhaling. The exhales being longer than the inhales). One more thing, “no electronic devices”. 




The walking meditation was beautiful and peaceful. We were surrounded by the chaparral mountains, the smell of white sage, the sounds of our shoes kissing the soft ground, kids laughing and fresh cold air.  I am not sure how long it took us to walk up and down the mountain behind the monastery. I completely lost track of time and space.

After the meditation, we were instructed to enter the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall. Today, they were conducting a Dharma Talk in Vietnamese with simultaneous translation for the English-speaking attendees. We were all given headphones.

I'll be in this meditation hall all day tomorrow #deerparkmonastery #thichnhathanh #peaceistheway #peaceiswithin #mindfulness #meditate #meditateeveryday #buddhism #meditation

The Dharma Talk was 90 minutes long and focused on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and the Buddhist’s Noble Truths. At around 12:30 pm, we were invited to one of the Hamlet Dinning halls to  enjoy a mindful meal together.




All meals were vegan and exquisite. I had Vietnamese collard greens soup, spicy tofu, a bean dish that taste like Spanish fabada and Vietnamese bok choy.


After lunch, the Day of Mindfulness was officially over. We walked back to the top of the mountain to take pictures and breathe in the views. We also explored the camping grounds and agreed that we needed to come back with the kids for a weekend family retreat.

deer-park-20  deer-park-18          deer-park-iv


What a magical day!


About Deer Park Monastery

The Deer Park Monastery is a 400 acre sanctuary resting peacefully in the Chaparral mountains of Southern California. It was established in July 2000 by monastic and lay practitioners from Plum Village France. The monastery is under the direct guidance of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, and follow the traditions of engaged Buddhism, practicing mindfulness throughout our every day lives. For more information, visit Deer Park Monastery.











Zucchini Noodles with Cashew Truffle Cream Sauce

These zucchini “noodles” are rich, creamy, decadent and dangerously divine. It’s a healthy alternative to traditional pasta and Alfredo sauce.

For this recipe, I used a mixture of gourmet mushrooms including Alba and Brown Clamshell, Trumpet Royale, Forest Nameko and Velvet Pioppini but you could easily prepare it with a blend of cremini, shiitake and white mushrooms.

Zoodle with Cashew Mise

I used Sabatino Tartufi White Truffle Oil, which is basically an Italian olive oil infused with white truffles. It has a luscious and earthy taste. It’s also very well priced for the quality. If you have never cooked with white truffle oil, I recommend you start with one teaspoon and gradually add the rest to suit your taste.


I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Zucchini Noodles with Cashew Truffle Mushroom Cream Sauce
Serves 2
Write a review
  1. 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours or overnight, rinsed & drained
  2. 1 cup of water
  3. 1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast
  4. 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  5. 1 teaspoon of horseradish
  6. 1 tablespoon of white truffle oil
  7. 8 oz. of mixed mushrooms ~ approx. 3 cups **
  8. 3 medium-size zucchinis, spiralized
  9. 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  10. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine the cashews, 1 cup of water, nutritional yeast, dried thyme, horseradish and white truffle oil in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Set the sauce aside.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes or until translucent and fragrant.
  3. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms have released their liquid.
  4. Add the zucchini noodles and cook for few minutes until they are tender.
  5. Pour the cashew truffle sauce on top of the zucchini noodles and stir to coat. Cook for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Garnish with fresh basil and a drizzle of white truffle oil (optional)
  1. ** I like mixing cremini, shiitake and white mushrooms.
Sunshine & Kale

Buon appetito!

My 10-Day Vipassana Meditation Experience at Joshua Tree (California)

I recently made this announcement to my family and friends:

“See u soon! Heading to my new home in a couple of hours: 10-Day silent (Buddhist) Vipassana Meditation Retreat at Joshua Tree National Park. Feeling excited and a tad nervous (no daily family hugs & kisses, no cooking, no reading, no journaling, no running, no social media, no TALKING for 10 full days… Just me and my cushion). I guess you can say that I find balance in extremes :-)”. 

These were my last words before entering the Southern California Vipassana Center a couple of weeks ago. 

Vipassana Parking

What is Vipassana?

Vipassana means to see things as they really are. It is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation, rediscovered by Gautama Buddha more than 2500 years ago. Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.

How did I end up here?

My mom has been practicing Vipassana for many years. She usually calls me five minutes before entering the center in Barcelona: “OK you won’t be hearing from me for the next 11 days. I love you!”. Vipassana has always been my mom’s thing. I never considered joining her on this adventure. After all, if I truly wanted to learn about my “limitations”, as I once told her, I would sign up for the Two Ocean Ultra-Marathon in Capetown or I would climb the Kilimanjaro. Of course, Vipassana is not about “limitations”, quite the contrary, but that’s how I saw it then, as an extreme meditation practice of some sorts.

A series of events, however, lead me to this path. After completing an eight-week Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course with my husband, the thought of attending a 10-day Vipassana retreat crossed my mind.  “I can now meditate 45 minutes a day. How far can I push the envelop?” and “Can I really disconnect for 10 days?” Next thing you know, I logged in to the Dhamma website and put my name down on the waiting list (there were no openings at the moment). “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”. A few months later, they contacted me. YOU HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED! “Oh dear!”.

I am glad I didn’t check out the daily schedule then or  I wouldn’t have signed up for it (going from 45 min to 10 hours of meditation a day was a little jump). I thought we were going to meditate 2-3 hours a day maximum.

This was our daily schedule:

4:00 a.m. Morning wake-up bell
4:30 – 6:30 a.m. Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30 – 8:00 a.m. Breakfast break
8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Group meditation in the hall
9:00 – 11:00 a.m. Meditate in the hall or in your room
11:00 – 12 noon Lunch break
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Rest, and interviews with the teacher
1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Group meditation in the hall
3:30 – 5:00 p.m. Meditate in the hall or in your room
5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Tea break
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Group meditation in the hall
7:00 – 8:15 p.m. Teacher’s discourse in the hall
8:15 – 9:00 p.m. Group meditation in the hall
9:00 – 9:30 p.m. Question time in the hall
9:30 p.m. Retire to your room; lights out

Day 0 – Wednesday – Arrival

It was 104 degree when I arrived at the Southern California Vipassana Center (SCVC). It was 4:45 pm. As I followed the signs to the registration desk, I noticed that the atmosphere was very friendly. Since the course didn’t officially start until 8 pm, we were allowed to talk to each other.  We wasted no time! There were people in their early 30s, 40, 50s, 60s and late 70s. Women and Men were segregated.


After filling out some forms, I turned in my belongings (purse, car keys, phone, notepads and pens). I was then given my room number, W1 – 15.  At 6 pm, we had a light meal (curried yellow dal) followed by orientation. We went over the Code of Discipline:

All who attend a Vipassana course must undertake the following Five Precepts: 1) No killing 2) No stealing 3) No sexual activity 4) No lying and 5) No intoxicants. We were also told that we needed to observe Noble Silence from the beginning of the course until the morning of the last full day (Saturday).

Vipassana W1

After the brief presentation, we proceeded to our rooms. My roommate was already there, a beautiful tall surfer-looking girl. I introduced myself “Hi, my name is Ciry, pronounced like the iPhone, spelled differently and more helpful”. She looked at me with an alert face. “Oh don’t worry! We can talk until 8 pm”, I told her. “Aaaa, OK!”. She told me that she was from a small island called Samoa. She was a mom of three. She wanted to attend this retreat for the longest time but never had the chance.

Separating our beds, there were two nightstands, two curtains, one window with a short ledge and an A/C unit. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind if we use the ceiling fan instead of the A/C. I had to mention this since we wouldn’t be able to talk again for the next ten days and I didn’t want to suffer (my body dislikes A/C). “Oh I am fine with that! I don’t like it neither!”, she replied. Perfect! Few minutes later, we headed to the meditation hall. No more talking for eleven days!

Vipassana Meditation

As we entered the hall, we were given our sitting placements (mine was E2). We listened to S.N Goenka’s recordings (Dhamma talks) and were introduced to the concept of Sila that provides a basis for the development of Samadhi (concentration of mind) and Panna (wisdom of insight). We were asked to observe our breathing. The instructions were pretty straightforward, simple but not easy:  Notice how the air enters and exits the nostrils.

After the Dhamma talk, we headed to our rooms. We were supposed to wake up 6 hours later but I couldn’t sleep at all.  The bed was hard like a piece of stale bread. No kidding!

Day 1 -3 – Am I alive? + Anapana Breathing

By the time I fell asleep it was almost 4 am. I was awaken by the sound of the gong (featured in the picture below)

Vipassana Alarm Clock

Vipassana Alarm Clock

We were given the option to meditate for two hours in our rooms or in the meditation hall.  I knew if I stayed in the room I would fall asleep so I went to the meditation hall. Now, I am not sure I would call it “meditation” since I was really a zombie for the entire two hours. 

At 6:30 am, we had a light breakfast followed by a short (sleeping) break.  We were back in the meditation hall by 8 am for another 3 hours of meditation. By 12 am, on the first day, I was DONE. I wanted to leave the retreat.  I remember sitting in my bedroom thinking: “Maybe this is not real. I must be in a hospital bed in a comma. Perhaps if I shed some tears, someone in the hospital will see them and realize that I am still alive!”. I really thought that something traumatic had happened to me.  Otherwise, how could I be in so much discomfort? A few minutes later, I fell asleep. I woke up an hour later (12:55). It was meditation time again! We were given the option to meditate in our rooms again, from 1 – 2:30 pm. I looked at the clock and went to bed.

When I woke up from my second nap of the day, I felt renewed and with purpose. “Take advantage of this week! Work hard! Give Vipassana a chance!”

On day 2 and 3, we continued practicing Anapana Sati or “mindfulness of breathing”. We were given instructions to narrow down our focus and to observe our breath as it traveled through the triangle area between the upper lip and the nostrils.

On day 3, I learned a life lesson. I woke up at 4 am and ran for the showers. “There is no way I am going to meditate in this state”, I told myself. As I was getting out, I heard a very loud (conventional) alarm; each room was equipped with one. I thought “Wow, that’s pretty awful. That person is going to wake up the entire building. How rude and unthoughtful”, I thought to myself. A few seconds later, my roommate ran to the bathroom. As she opened the door trying to avoid eye contact (part of the rules of conduct), I realized that the “rude and unthoughtful person” was ME. Aha! I had set up the alarm earlier and completely forgot about it.  I was rushing to the room feeling horrible. I wanted to say that I was sorry but I was not supposed to talk at all (verbally or through gestures). I walked to the meditation hall after turning the alarm off. My roommate followed my steps but decided to leave the hall within minutes.  “Gosh I ruined her day! She usually stays for the entire two hours”. I was feeling guilty.

A few hours later, I saw her outside of the manager’s room. “I am in trouble! She is going to complain about me being loud”. The manager was not there. I saw my roommate rushing to the room. I interpreted it as a sign of anger. Little did I know she was putting a care package together for me: Lemongrass essential oils and cough drops. Oh my goodness, she is not mad at me at all! She just wanted to help me with the sniffing. And there I was judging myself, worrying all day for nothing, judging my roommate (I was pretty sure she is going to report me). It’s amazing how we make these big stories in our heads. I smiled at this realization. Suspend judgment!

I wanted to thank my roommate for the oil and drops but I wasn’t sure how to since we were observing Noble Silence. So I placed her bottle of essential oil in the short window ledge between our beds and left my ginger body lotion and lavender shea butter foot cream next to it. Hoping that she would get the message. Next day, she placed some raw probiotics and papaya enzymes next to my creams. “Aha, she got it!”. We had “accidentally” created a trading post, a little spa and new heaven. And while this was not considered “talking”, there was some beautiful communication between us.

Day 4 – 9 Vipassana Meditation and Adhitthana

On day 4, we were introduced to Vipassana. We were asked to perform body scans and to observe gross and subtle sensations in our body with true equanimity, accepting the reality of the moment without creating aversion or craving.

By day 6, I started feeling very grounded and comfortable. I truly enjoyed meditating in the hall between 8-11 am and 6-7 pm. I was now using my breaks to stretch my legs, go for walks, and wash my clothes. I was quite awake. However, as we learned in this course, nothing is permanent (anytha – law of impermanence). By day 7, we were introduced to Adhitthana or Sittings of Strong Determination. Three hours a day we were to meditate with our eyes closed, without moving our arms or legs. During the first two sittings I struggled. My legs were completely numbed but I was determined not to move. I had tears in my eyes at one point but hearing S.N Goenka’s chanting at the end of each meditation calmed me every single time. By day 8, my body was getting used to it.

During the Dhamma talk, on day 9, we were told that we would be breaking silence next day at 10 am. S.N Goenka mentioned we wouldn’t be able to meditate anymore. He was correct!

Day 10-11 – Metta Meditation and Breaking Noble Silence

The morning schedule on day 10 was the same as usual except we had a brief discourse after our group meditation at 9 am.  Today we learned a new meditation technique called Metta. We were basically directing “loving-kindness” towards ourselves, towards people we love and ultimately towards all beings.  I felt this was an incredible powerful way to finish the course!

Right after Metta practice, we were allowed to break silence outside the meditation hall.  We were all smiles (no hugs allowed yet).  I literally ran to my room to talk to my roommate. Finally!  We had so much to say to each other. I told her I was into cooking. She told me that she dreamed two days before that we were in the kitchen together making vegan cheese. I told her I was finishing my holistic certificate from IIN. She told me she owns a Wellness Center. We talked non-stop for almost two hours when Angeles whom I met during registration came to our room.  “Hurry, before the kitchen closes!”. We walked to the dinning hall and met everyone else. I hardly ate that day. I just wanted to listen to everyone’s experiences.

Suddenly something funny happened. I was sharing my contact information with another attendee: “My website is sunshineandkale”, when my roommate turned around. The conversation went something like this:

She:“I didn’t know you were sunshineandkale”
Me: Whaaat?
She: “I follow you!”
Me: Whaaat?.
She: “Yes, I follow your website”.

I blushed.

Me: “Noooo you are confusing me with I don’t have that many followers”
She: Ciry, I have your website, bookmarked!”
Me: “Seriously? It can’t be!”
She: “Ciry is coming to work for us at the studio”, she told the girl sitting next to her.

I turned really red, tomato face. What at are the odds?

After lunch, we went back to our rooms. We continued talking for two and a half hours with our neighbor Kehaulani, a photographer from San Diego. Around 2 pm, we heard the sound of the gong. We had no idea we had another group meditation.  I don’t think anyone felt like meditating that afternoon.

After this sitting, we all went to the dinning hall to discuss a few issues (car rides, post-retreat cleaning volunteering assignments, etc.). This was followed by our last dinner at the center, a combination of delicious left overs including some spicy Indian lentil soup that I will soon try to replicate.

Vipassana - Tea Break

Our Coffee & Tea Break Room

This evening we were asked to go to bed at 9 pm to be fresh and awake for the final discourse at 5 am next day. We invited a couple of people to our room and continued talking, exchanging information. Around midnight, everyone left. My roommate and I continued chatting until we heard the gong at 4 am. “Wow”, we both said at the same time. We had been up all night talking.

 I can’t recall much about the last video that we watched but I do remember several suggestions made by S.N Goenka to keep practicing Dhamma: Keep a daily meditation practice of two hours (1 hour in the morning, 1 hour in the evening) and attend at least one yearly retreat of ten days. He also suggested five minute body scans everyday before going to bed and right after we wake up.

After the last discourse, we cleaned up our rooms a little bit (leaving it in good conditions for the next set of students). We had a quick breakfast at the dinning hall where we picked up our belongings and exchanged contact information. I stayed for a few minutes to take pictures of the beautiful people I met as well as the center. I was filled with joy and gratitude.

This was a life changing experience that I will cherish forever!

Vipassana Dhamma Sis II

My Dhamma sis and beautiful roommate

Vipassana Dhamma Sis III

My Dhamma Sisters

Vipassana Dhamma Sis

My Dhamma Sisters

Before heading home, I stopped by the Vipassana Bookstore located one mile from the Vipassana Center.

Vipassana Books

I am leaving you with a poem from one of the books that one of the Vipassana teacher recommended to me, “The Moon Appears When the Water is Still” by Ian McCrorie.

We must start from where we are,
not from where we want to be,
for where we want to be,
is to be content with where we are

Vipassana Book

If you have any questions about the Southern California Vipassana Center or about Vipassana in general, I would be glad to help!  Leave a comment below or find me in Facebook (@sunshineandkale)

Watch out for (vipassana) recipes coming up soon! Save


















Tofu Scrambled “Eggs” with Lacinato Kale

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a new ingredient called Kala Namak or Himalayan Black Salt. It’s rich in sulfur and iron. According to Ayurvedic medicine, it helps with digestion too. But perhaps what I find most interesting about this ingredient is how much it resembles the taste of fried eggs ( of course, we are talking about a rich sulfury taste). Eating eggs is something that I truly missed when I first started eating 100% plant-based. After I discovered Kala Namak, I was able to enjoy my favorite breakfast once again: Scrambled “eggs”

Kala Namak

This recipe is a staple in our home. I usually prepare it with seasonal veggies from our local farmers’ market. Right now, we have a large crop of lacinato kale in San Diego, as well as shishito peppers. These peppers are generally mild but like their  Spanish cousin Pimento De PadrĂłn, or Padron Peppers, they can be hot too. They are like life, “full of surprises”. Sometimes they are hot sometimes they are not.  If you don’t find them in your area, you could add a little bit of cayenne pepper to your scramble.

I really recommend experimenting with this new ingredient. You can find it at SaltWorksAmazon and/or  your favorite natural health store.  

Tofu Scrambled

Tofu Scramble "Eggs"
Write a review
  1. 12 oz. organic sprouted tofu, firm
  2. 1 tablespoon of turmeric
  3. 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1 small yellow onion, diced
  5. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  6. ½ small bell pepper (any color), diced
  7. 2-3 shishito peppers, small diced
  8. 1 small red pepper, small diced
  9. 2 cups of lacinato kale, loosely packed, stems removed and cut chiffonade
  10. a pinch of Kala Namak or Himalayan Black Salt
  11. a pinch of pepper ( optional)
  1. Drain the tofu and place in a bowl. With a fork, crumble the tofu into bite-size pieces and add turmeric powder. Set aside.
  2. Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once is hot, add the extra virgin olive oil and onions. Reduce heat to medium. Sauté the onions until they are translucent. Then add the garlic, bell peppers, shishito peppers, lacinato kale and crumbled tofu. Cook for 8-10 minutes until the tofu is slightly browned.
  3. Season with Kala Namak and pepper.
Sunshine & Kale
Enjoy it!