Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Go-To Meals

I was thinking yesterday about how I actually eat on a day to day basis, the recipes I post on my blog and Facebook, and the reality of LIFE - balancing health and nutrition considerations with convenience with enjoying the romance of food with the occasional splurge. As I was contemplating this I was also making one of my go-to lunches, a poached egg salad, and as I sat down to eat it I thought "this is the kind of stupid-simple recipe I should post on my blog. It's not complicated or remotely gourmet, but it's super-yummy, full of decent nutrition and maybe not a totally obvious combination."

So without further ado, some of my Go-To recipes. Here's the truth - these are painfully simple, use a lot of healthy convenience foods (like pre-washed quinoa, boxes or bags of pre-washed spring mix, spinach and kale, canned beans, etc.) but are based in the reality of busy living, hour-long lunch breaks, and getting home at 5:30pm after a long day at work exhausted and in no mood for vege prep. Okay, and some of them are a little bit weird. =) And the photo? Well, that's just because the truth is, I could probably live on antipasti if necessary. Olives are my muse.

Steel-cut Oats with Flax, Blueberries and Cinnamon
It's hardly a recipe, but it's a combination I love, so I'll throw it out there. 
I've recently discovered that you can, indeed, use the quick cooking steel-cut oats and not sacrifice too much of the steel-cut oat experience. TIME SAVER. So make your oats, toss in 2 tbsp of ground flax meal, some cinnamon and serve with a huge pile of blueberries. SO GOOD.

The Poached Egg Salad
You can get really creative here, adding all sorts of veges and even some almonds, or you can keep it simple, like I do, and get in and out of the kitchen in ten minutes flat.

One slice of toasted Ezekiel bread (I prefer sesame)
Two poached eggs (bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, crack your eggs into a heat-proof glass, salt the water and/or the eggs, reduce the heat on the water to medium and bring it down to a gentle simmer. Gently lower the glass into the water so the eggs sit on the side and water can start to flow into the glass. After a few seconds, slowly release the eggs into the water. Set a timer for three minutes. After a minute or so, give the eggs a little nudge just so they aren't sticking to the bottom of the pan, and don't be alarmed if it appears your whites have gone haywire. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon after the three minutes - ta-da, perfectly poached eggs.)
Spring mix or spinach
1/2 an avocado
sprinkle of red wine vinegar and a splash of olive oil
salt and pepper

On your toasted bread, pile the eggs, a few generous handfuls of spring mix and/or spinach and the avocado, broken or cut into bite-size pieces. Sprinkle with the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. To eat, stab your fork through the greens, cut a bite of toast and egg (the best part is the runny egg going all over the place) and get a nice chunk of avocado. It's YUMMY!

Warm Bean and Rice Salad
A few years ago I was inspired by Stephanie from Top Chef when she made a green salad with hot rice in it, and explained it was something her mom used to make. I'm sure her recipe is super delicious and probably complicated, so I took the general idea and dumbed it down enough so that I could make something similar on my hour lunch break. And again, it's deceptively simple, and involves no prep-work other than rinsing beans and microwaving rice.

1 can of ready to eat beans - any type. (I used to use a can of organic 3-bean salad mix that I think had garbanzos, kidneys and navy beans in it.)
1 box of Annie's sprouted brown rice (or any leftover rice you have. I find this sticky sprouted brown rice works really well here, though.)
Spring mix
Sesame oil

Microwave your rice, drain and rinse the beans. Pour a teaspoon of sesame oil over the rice while it's still in the container and sprinkle with salt. Then toss everything together - the greens, the rice, the beans. Add more sesame oil to taste, or add a splash of lemon juice if you need some acidity. The spring mix will wilt just a little bit and the beans will pick up some of the heat from the rice - and it sounds crazy but it's super tasty and FAST.

Crispy Kale and Quinoa Salad 
Roast de-stemmed kale, tossed in olive oil, at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes or so, checking on it/tossing it every ten minutes. You want it to get crispy but not too brown. Meanwhile, make some quinoa (you can buy pre-washed quinoa - I like to toast it in the hot pan before I add the water or vege stock, but you don't have to do that) adding any spices or herbs you have on hand. Toss the hot crispy kale with the quinoa, add a squeeze of lemon and a handful of raw almonds. Sesame oil works great here, too.

Roasted beets for Salads, Sandwiches, General Enjoyment
Cut the tops and bottoms off of the beets and scrub the skin clean. Place in a baking dish with an inch of water (if you like citrus, you can use a mix of water and orange juice or all orange juice instead) and cover with aluminum foil. Put in a 400 degree oven for an hour, flip over, check the tenderness with a fork, re-cover with the aluminum foil and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes or so (if your beets are really big!) until a fork pierces through the beets easily. As soon as they are out of the oven remove the skin - it's easier than you think it will be using the back of a spoon while they are still hot. You can eat them hot or roast a bunch and eat them right out of the refrigerator.

My current favorite roasted beet situation is a sandwich of pumpernickel bread, goat cheese, sliced roasted beets, spring mix or wilted spinach, toasted almonds and sliced avocado.

Roasted beets also make a great addition to the poached egg salad, as described above.

Super-Simple Cabbage
My sister LOVES this. I do, too. You can use any kind of cabbage, but I'm partial to Savoy.

1 head of cabbage
1 tbsp olive oil
chicken or vege stock

Chop up the cabbage into bite size pieces as you heat the olive oil in a big saute pan. Toss the cabbage into the olive oil, and stir-fry it for ten to fifteen minutes, until it has a nice golden brown color and is softened. Pour the stock over the cabbage (the measurements here are not precise - you just add enough stock to cover the cabbage) and, if you want a little more richness, add a teaspoon of butter. Cover and simmer the cabbage for as long as you like. I prefer my cabbage to still have a bit of firmness, so I usually like to eat it after about 10 to 15 minutes, but if you prefer really soft cabbage you can simmer it until the cows come home. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. We had this instead of coleslaw with grilled chicken on the 4th of July, and it was GREAT. It also keeps remarkably well and heats up as a quick lunch or dinner like a dream.

Tuna and Almonds on Celery
I don't know why this works so well for me. I used to eat it for dinner all of the time, though, and I associate it with the winter Olympics of 2008. Weird, right? But I offer it in the same spirit as a dear friend who once confessed to me his penchant for peanut butter and blue cheese sandwiches. 

Mix a can or pouch of tuna with a little bit of mayonnaise. Add an ounce of raw almonds. Scoop it up with celery and enjoy. Yum.

All Vegetables Want to be Roasted
I make a big tray of sliced yellow onions, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, cauliflower and broccoli, cut them in pieces of similar thickness so they will cook evenly, toss them in some olive oil and salt and roast at 425 to 450 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes, checking on them, tossing and turning them every ten minutes or so. If something is clearly DONE before something else, I just take it off the baking sheet and stick everything else back in. Mix a bit of Greek yogurt with Siracha (more if you like a lot of heat, less if you don't) and add a bit of water if you like a thinner dipping sauce. Dip your veges in the yogurt sauce and take a trip to vegetable heaven!!!

The No-I'm-Not-Pregnant Sandwich
Here you go. The truth. I have to have this at least twice a year. And no, I'm not pretending it's healthy.

3 slices of GOOD bacon, cooked crispy
Jiff peanut butter
sliced dill pickles
honey-wheat bread

Toast your bread, spread with peanut butter while the toast is still warm. The peanut butter will get all nice and melty. Top with the bacon and sliced pickles. If you are a sweet/salty fiend, like me, you'll understand that the peanut butter becomes the sweet, the bacon and pickles are the salty, and it's the same general concept as a Reese's Cup. Or you'll hate it.

Salmon for Dummies (and me)
Oven at 425, salmon rubbed with olive oil, lemon and salt (some dill if you're feeling frisky) and wrapped, pouch-like so it can steam, in aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes. The end. Two birds with one stone: put your pouches of salmon on one side of a baking sheet, asparagus tossed in olive oil on the other side - fish and veg done at the same time. Complete meal bonus: make some five minute cous-cous on the stove when the timer gets down to 8 minutes. You're a genius.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Angry? Me? Never!


Let's talk about anger.

I don't consider myself an angry person, but I'm starting to wonder if my self-awareness is a bit off-kilter, because I've been struggling with a lot of anger as of late - and been hearing from people in my life that I am angry - and screwing up relationships because of even though I don't CONSIDER myself angry, gosh, maybe I need to change my perspective.

It's confusing, though, because I really don't FEEL angry. Well, except for sometimes.

Which leads me to the practice of Osho Kundalini Meditation, because I think there is a connection between my experience with the practice and my current inability to SEE myself as angry, even though I'm hearing from a lot of people that I am, indeed, such. I had an experience with anger last August that didn't make a ton of sense to me at the time, but it's starting to make a little more sense to me now.

About halfway through Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu, we did the Osho Kundalini Meditation practice. Instead of trying to summarize this meditation technique, allow me to quote the Osho website:

Many meditative techniques require one to sit still and silent. But for most of us accumulated stress in our bodymind makes that difficult. Before we can hope to access our inner powerhouse of consciousness, we need to let go of our tensions.
Osho Active Meditations have been scientifically designed by Osho over a period of time to enable us to consciously express and experience repressed feelings and emotions, and learn the knack of watching our habitual patterns in a new way. (from the Osho website
At Kripalu, we were guided in the Osho Kundalini Meditation one fine Sunday morning, and I am pretty sure I went into it with an open mind and heart. I was two weeks into my YTT experience, and I was probably the happiest I'd ever been in my whole life, save a few choice moments at Kenyon. I was eating amazingly well, practicing at least four hours of yoga a day, surrounded by like-minded human beings with the most incredibly kind and generous spirits, getting eight solid hours of sleep an night, spending an hour in the sauna and hot tub a day, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. And I was IN SCHOOL, working toward a goal, feeling completely in the right place at the right time. All of this to say that I was NOT. ANGRY. Not in the slightest.

In the Osho Kundalini Meditation, you go through four stages over the course of one hour, all to a very specific soundtrack of music. The first stage is shaking - just shaking to this pulsating music, trying to feel the shake originate from somewhere deep underneath you, feeling the energy bubble up through the soles of your feet and letting it move your body - pulsing and shaking while standing mainly in place. The music is rhythmic and loud and INTENSE. The second stage is dancing, again to very specific and intense music. You dance like there is no tomorrow, letting the dance emanate from deep inside of you instead of YOU dancing the body. You let the dance be organic and natural - it doesn't have to look like any dancing anyone has ever seen before - it's all YOURS. Dance like it's the last time in your life you'll feel this way, be able to express yourself this way. Dance. The third stage you either stand or sit, completely still, and just WATCH. After thirty minutes of movement, you simply stay completely still and watch the flow of energy that you created as it bubbles through you, noticing thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical sensations as they occur, without inviting them or pushing them away. Just being AWARE. There is a soundtrack for this, too, that facilitates stillness. Lastly, in the fourth stage, you lay in savasana posture and simply let go, relax. Breathe. You stay here for 15 minutes.

So the theory behind this makes sense to me - it's hard to just SIT in meditation without transition, without releasing any pent up energy in the body first. This is why I always start my meditation classes with about ten minutes of light yoga - mainly pratapana and movement. But Osho meditation takes it to another level, with thirty minutes of intense, purposeful, powerful movement. And then you sit (or stand) in stillness, and then you relax. And then? Well, I guess that depends on who you are.

We were encouraged, immediately following the four stages, to spend another fifteen minutes writing ourselves a letter. And for this specific practice, we were encouraged to open our letter "My Dearest ______".

I was aware I was FEELING something powerful bubbling up inside of me as I sat to begin writing this letter to myself, but it was undefinable. However, as soon as our guide added the caveat of writing from a place of love and compassion, I felt something inside of me break wide open and I was SEETHING. I felt as though I was in a blind rage, I was so totally and inexplicable furious. What I wrote in that letter is immensely personal and not something I'm sharing on a public blog, but suffice to say I was PISSED OFF. And I'm not someone who considers anger a dominant emotion in her life. Hmm.

Now the inquiry, yes?

In any event, I'm leading my meditation group tonight in the Osho Kundalini Meditation, and I'm already thinking in terms of holding space afterward for whatever people might need. This can definitely be an intense experience. After I did it, I skipped lunch and spent two hours in the hot tub, letting the scalding hot bubbles mirror the anger that was pouring out of me. Unfortunately for my meditation students, I don't have a hot tub. But a comfy couch, a shoulder to cry on, Skinny Girl margaritas, snacks and leftover Sweet & Salty cake? Yup, I've got them covered. =)