Posts tagged: healthy
May 15, 2013

Carrot-Ginger Soup with Lemon

Soup might not seem like an especially fitting spring endeavor, but in Brooklyn now, where it is sunny and 70 degrees one day and moody and cold the next, soup feels right. Especially when it is a bright, light one like this.

It would have never come into being were it not for the carrots at the farmer’s market, an especially young and sprightly looking bunch, unignorable in blightless, look-at-me orange. I grabbed three, not knowing what I would do with them, and hoping their end wouldn’t be boring or worse. Far too many vegetables spend their last days in my crisper drawers, giving up until they’re wan and limp.

I searched “carrots” on my Epicurious app, as I often do in this situation, and this rendering just about fell in my lap. It was my jumping off point. Simple, but still exciting, this soup has a warm, bracing hit of ginger along with a lift of lemon. I love it because it is so healthy (doesn’t it feel enlivening just to look at?), and because it saved me more than once. It was an easy snack one afternoon, plain and unadorned, and a fast hit-the-spot dinner one night, served over farro, and scattered with cilantro and mint. (I bought the herbs on that same farmer’s market run, and miraculously, I have kept them alive in their little pots out on the fire escape.) I dusted it with cayenne pepper, but a spoonful of Greek yogurt would have been a sultry companion, too. Half of the batch stands by at the ready in the freezer, ready to sweep in again at the next hungry moment.

I think this is why I’ve been blogging so little about cooking lately: they aren’t so much recipes I’m working with as they are components thrown together in various pairings. A bunch of sautéed kale appears with brown rice at dinner, then is scrambled with eggs the next morning. Leftover cooked grains go into a frittata, or to bulk up a soup, or get sautéed with herbs and nuts and served alongside roast chicken. When I do manage to get myself in front of the stove, I cook more than I need, and store the rest in the fridge or freezer. If it’s there and ready to use, chances are I will. It’s not a particularly exciting way to eat, and invariably my combinations involve garlic, soy sauce, and brown rice vinegar, but it’s working for me. It feels easy and simple and healthy, and there’s something reassuring about it. Without relying on our cookbooks or recipes, what happens when we just get down to practice of making a meal? As is often the case, we know more than we think.

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February 8, 2013

Grounding, Sure-Footed, and Simple

We touched home at JFK on Sunday night, and I could already feel a cold creeping up. It reminded me of stormy fights that brew just when it’s time to say goodbye; at least getting sick would make it easier to leave beautiful and charming Copenhagen. Which I want to tell you all about in potentially florid detail–all those vacation breakthroughs and epiphanies and a sense of wide-eyed awakeness. Right now I’m still sorting through them and testing them against the light of real, everyday life.

I am also blowing my nose into oblivion. But I was enormously grateful to open the freezer and find I had the foresight to freeze a bit of this soup before our trip. It has bunches and bunches of greens in it, dill and a lively squeeze of lemon. It’s soup at its best: filled with the kind of clean, bright flavors you long for in the dark of winter or after too much indulgence or when you are sniffling endlessly. It feels nourishing, as if just breathing its lightly-scented steam will put you right again. It’s the kind of food we need when we’ve had major upheaval: it’s grounding, sure-footed, and simple. It’s what I was craving before I set off on what I called my Life Design Inspiration Trip, and what I’m wanting even more now that I’m home.

For all of you with mid-winter colds, heartaches, or who are just experiencing the dull, panging ennui that February so often brings on–this one’s for you.

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January 4, 2013

Themes (and a Salad!) for the New Year

Happy new year, friends! I hope you were able to dedicate some time to yourself over the holidays away from work and obligations to be decadent and indulgent. I rode a train north to Massachusetts to meet my family in Northampton. It snowed on Christmas Day, my niece wore no fewer than three hand-me-down Christmas ensembles, and I felt restored to myself, just for having a wide open expanse of time. Some of what I learned included:

  • Being able to go and stay offline––for days!––feels like the rarest and most glorious kind of luxury
  • I love the Mindy Project (and Dr. Danny Castellano)
  • It can take a full week for the stress and anxieties of work to lose their grip on you
  • If someone offers you a shot of innocent-enough sounding pink gin (which is actually the vile combination of gin spiked with bitters), do not kick it back
  • A long winter walk can ease just about any kind of hurt
  • Grown adults can sit in a circle and be entertained for hours by the smiles, squeaks, and flirty expressions of a five month-old
  • It feels good to set time aside to dream
  • Another rare and glorious luxury: slipping into an outdoor hot tub surrounded by packed snow, bare tree branches stretching over your head
  • I am a woman who wants to wear a furry hat

Over the holidays I watched the documentary The Queen of Versailles, a movie about David Siegel and his time-share business and family. One scary scene brings you into a motivational sales meeting. The man at the front of the room, in sort of creepy Tom Cruise in Magnolia-like fashion, tells a crowd of time-share sales reps that they are just like doctors, like nurses, like firefighters. “Vacations save lives,” he tells them. Well, I had to give him that. Studies do show how vacations encourage physical and emotional well-being, and right now, fresh from time with my friends, my family, and to myself, I feel it. I feel optimistic and grounded, lucky, loved, and centered.

I haven’t been one for resolutions lately. Last year, I gave myself a theme to repeat to myself like a refrain: Back to Basics. With its simple encouragement to stay tuned in to what matters, it’s one I’d like to keep up this year. I’d also like to wear more flattering v-neck t-shirts and read more books. But I think my strongest thematic influence this year, which I will share at the risk of sounding like Iris McKay, is inspired by the two archetypal feminine cards in the tarot deck: The High Priestess, who is complicated and confusing to me, but who stands for potential, mystery, and the magic of the unseen world, and The Empress, who is as wonderfully straight-forward as a woman lounging on a chaise in a woodland scene, wearing a flowing gown and a crown of stars can be. All of my intentions for the year, though, are bound up in a bigger one: to be with what’s here right now. It’s a resolution I could make for a lifetime.

In the spirit of fresh starts, and because you, like me, are probably craving vegetables right now, I also wanted to share my current favorite winter salad. It’s as simple as can be really, and more a template than a recipe: any roast squash will do, some chopped apple, the nut or seed of your choice tossed with lots of shredded kale and a sweet-tart apple cider vinaigrette. Before the holidays I was sprinkling this salad with a bit of blue cheese, but if that feels too hedonistic, I think some pomegranate seeds would be just lovely.

If you feel like sharing, my questions are manifold: what themes/resolutions/intentions are you thinking about for the new year? What vibrant, healthy meals are you making right now? And what did you learn on your winter vacation?

 

January 11, 2012

Detox Recipes That Taste Really Good

After my usual holiday over-doing it, It feels good to board the healthy eating bandwagon. And while it’s probably not the best habit to bounce from extremes (steak, bourbon, gravy to kale, green tea, soup), it does make me very eager for the change. I was stuffed with cookies and cheese; it felt good to alter course.

And perhaps a little surprisingly, it tasted delicious. After my brother-in-law sent me a link to My New Roots, I started seeing this vibrant Danish blog mentioned everywhere. She designed the recipes below, and they’re wonderful.

One of the recurring questions among my friends is, “Why is it so hard to do what’s good for you?” Cause lord knows it usually is. But there’s also a kind of snowball effect once you get going with decisions that affect your well-being. When you feel good, you want to keep feeling good. You begin to even crave the habits that make you feel bright, content, and fluid.

Here’s an example: I spent this past weekend in the first part of an Anusara yoga immersion. Going in, I was a bit terrified of what six hours of yoga two days in a row would feel like. I should have been more concerned about returning to my desk Monday morning and sitting in a chair for eight hours. Come evening, I’d usually rather watch another rerun of Roseanne than put on yoga pants right before bed. But on Monday evening a few pre-bedtime twists was the right choice for me.

The ultimate challenge, I think, is getting from feeling bad, mired in habits, depressed, whatever the current stuckness may be, to finding a spark that can spur a new kind of decision. Many of us tend to force ourselves out of it, but a friend of mine takes a more gentle approach. A change can start with the smallest choice, she says, and we’ll bring it on when we’re ready. I find that comforting. We don’t need to strong arm ourselves into new habits or new eras; it’s not a matter of force, it’s a matter of ease. And when we’re ready we’ll know it. I read a section in a book last night on receptivity that seems fitting:

Receptivity is a practice many people find difficult, because we live in a culture that says things are accomplished primarily through doing. This attitude creates a bias toward knowing, planning, taking action, a kind of predatory attitude toward life––where we decide what we want, focus on it, and go for it at all costs. But how many of us have done this only to be dissatisfied with what we get?  ––The Practice of Wholeness

Being receptive seems to fit beautifully with back to basics and leaning into the life we have now: being open to ourselves, our thoughts, our sense of whimsy, being open to the world around us and the people and obstacles we meet each day, and being open to every joy, quirk, and marvel in the moment to moment moment of the everyday. “We may experience a sense of magic or serendipity––wherein events happen which fit our needs perfectly. Seemingly remarkable coincidences [...] are the result of our receptivity.”

And so back to feeling good, and specifically these recipes. Please, dear heavens, don’t see these dishes or this post as an admonition. If anything, it’s an invitation to be receptive to where you are, wherever you are, right now. If they recipes appeal to your senses at this moment in time, I promise they’re both really lovely. And no one’s saying you can’t eat a little kale slaw before a nice steak, either.

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Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
- Buddha