Commitment Therapy / 7 Posts in 7 Days

Today brings my week-long blog writing challenge to a close. I’m feeling pretty groovy: proud that I accomplished what I set out to do and grateful for the outpouring of love and support from the MBP community.

butterfly lens flare - MindBodyPlate

When I started, I made the disclaimer that the posts “probably won’t all be home runs, but they will get written.” And yet I’m delighted to report that I truly poured my heart and soul into every single post and was proud to hit the publish button each time.

We talked about a lot this week:

A little mental health, a little physical health, and a little nutritional health: mind, body, plate.

There were days when I worried that I had nothing to write about. Then, usually over an almond milk iced latte at  my neighborhood coffee shop, I’d come up with a hook, with a little seed of a thought. And to my surprise, those seeds never failed to bloom into fully realized conversations.

Regardless of the quality of the work, what surprised me most about this process was the incredible energy I felt in response to carrying out a commitment. To say you’re going to do something and then actually decide to do it creates a kind of power inside of you, a kind of secret pride that actually makes more space for possibility, not less.

It’s addictive, in a way; perhaps commitment begets more commitment. For instance, five days ago, my husband and I began a new regimen of early morning runs. We’ve been up at 6:20 AM every single day, just making it happen. And now that this week-long challenge is finished, I’m wondering what new area of my life could use a little commitment therapy, as it were.

What area of your life could use a little commitment therapy? What’s the difference between saying you’re going to do something and then actually doing it? Let me know in the comments below. Thank you for a wonderful week!

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Spiced Summer Slaw with Pistachios

spiced summer slaw - MindBodyPlate

It was a humid one in Brooklyn today. And after a short morning run with my husband, a 90 minute yoga class, and a sunny, mile-long walk home from the studio, I was feeling the heat. I needed something light, fresh, and cooling.

Enter my subtly spiced summer slaw with pistachios – a raw green cabbage dish with a delicate hint of coriander, celery seed, and nutmeg. It’s just the side dish for your next dinner party, BBQ, or picnic.

cabbage - MindBodyPlate

Ayurvedic wisdom tells us that coriander is a cooling spice, good for dissipating the excess pitta energy that tends to build within us during the summer months. This recipe asks you to warm it on the stove top with some extra virgin olive oil in order to bring out its unique flavor, a step that you can probably omit without much consequence if you’re stretched for time.

pistachios - MindBodyPlate

In case I haven’t made this clear before, I’ll say it again: I love sauce. The dressing for this slaw is designed to be rather abundant, so that each bite of cabbage will be fully saturated with flavor. If you don’t want your slaw to be a tad on the soupy side, you may wish to add more cabbage or refrain from using all the dressing.

spiced summer slaw - MindBodyPlate

Spiced Summer Slaw with Pistachios

Vegetarian / Gluten Free / Soy Free

Ingredients:

  • 6 c green cabbage, finely shredded (there’s more than enough in one small head)
  • 1 c yellow onion, finely diced (approximately one onion)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 clove of fresh garlic
  • 1 c plain organic yogurt, from grass fed cows
  • 1/8 – 1/4 c champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Heat the olive oil and coriander on the stove top over low heat for approximately 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let cool completely.
  • Peel away and compost the outer leaves of the cabbage and rinse what remains thoroughly. Divide the head into wedges and finely shred them in a food processor (I like the pieces of cabbage to be quite small). Set 6 cups of shredded cabbage aside in a large bowl.
  • Finely dice one onion (ideally about 1 cup), and add to the bowl of shredded cabbage.
  • Add the cooled coriander-infused olive oil to a blender, along with the garlic, yogurt, vinegar, and remaining spices. Blend until incorporated.
  • Pour the finished dressing on the cabbage and onion mixture, add more pepper to taste, and stir in the roughly chopped pistachios (leave a few whole pistachios for garnish).
  • Stir thoroughly and refrigerate until serving. Can be made a day ahead of time, giving the flavors a chance to really mesh!

Serves 4

spiced summer slaw - MindBodyPlate

MBP Daily Three: When Your Lucky Underpants Don’t Help

MBP3 IS A SERIES DEDICATED TO WALKING THE WALK. WHAT ARE 3 THINGS YOU’VE DONE TODAY TO NOURISH YOUR MIND, YOUR BODY, & YOUR PLATE?
calvin and hobbes lucky rocket ship underpants

From Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Woof. Some days, you’re just so, totally down in the dumps. I knew a girl who called it “going to her dark place.” Luckily, the MBP Daily Three is a tool you can use to pave the way toward a better tomorrow, no matter how you feel today. It’s easy to remember: just check off one thing you’ve done today to nourish your mental health, your physical health, and your nutritional health (mind, body, and plate). The MBP3 might not turn your whole day around, but a little bit of self-care today may do a great deal of good in the long run.

Body: My handsome, bearded husband took the day off for a doctor appointment. Though he practically had to drag me out of the house, we ended up going for a short run through the neighborhood together. My brain was doing this weird thing where I thought if I couldn’t go run a 10k, then I shouldn’t run at all (being a perfectionist is really special sometimes). In the end, I just had to strong arm my way through that resistance and get out there. And don’t think I forget for one second how lucky I am to have a partner who can kindly nudge me in the right direction when I’m getting in my own way.

Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista

Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista

Mind: Our new neighborhood in Brooklyn is home to this cool little business called Sycamore Bar & Flower Shop. It’s, well… a bar attached to a flower shop. They’ve got all kinds of beautiful moss and ivy creations hanging in glass terrariums in the windows, along with gorgeous and unique flowers littering the mason-jar-filled space. After our run, we stepped inside just to have a look around. There was something about taking in the delicate beauty of some of those little succulents and air plants that demanded mindfulness. And practicing mindfulness helped lift my mood. Maybe we just ducked into a little bar and flower shop, but in some way it felt like a tiny trip to some sort of Midsummer Night’s fairyland, and it shook up my day in just the right way. It’s interesting how the smallest things can affect one’s perspective.

Plate: Finally, we stopped at the health food store, and I pulled up a recipe for red lentil coconut soup that I’ve been eyeing on Pinterest for a while. I took my time perusing the store, an enjoyable pastime for me in itself, and gathered the ingredients to make the dish. The truth is, I may not even make it tonight; I may just not have it in me. But I’ll be able to make it tomorrow. And somehow, just knowing that I have all of the ingredients to make such a rich and healthy meal makes me feel more at ease.  No matter what happens, I know I have some rewarding nourishment coming my way.

Will you tackle your MBP Daily Three even when it seems like a futile undertaking? Who are the people in your life you can turn to for a gentle nudge in the right direction? Let me know in the comments below, and have a lucky rocketship underpants kind of day.

Navy Beans with Feta, Tomato, and Basil

navy beans with feta

Spring has sprung here in New York City, but it’s still cool enough to enjoy a warm, creamy dish like these navy beans with feta, tomato, and basil. I ate them today in front of my open window, enjoying the light breeze and marveling at how something could taste so comforting and so fresh.

navy beans with feta close up

With garlicky-sweet grape tomatoes and salty, luxurious feta, these beans are reminiscent of a creamy pasta dish, but without the pasta. It’s super simple to make, requires just one pan, and only calls for a few ingredients.

Don’t have any basil on hand? Chop up some arugula or kale instead. The greens do more than add color, they really elevate the flavor and give it a crisp brightness.

navy beans stove top collage

Navy Beans with Feta, Tomato, and Basil

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic (or 1/2 large clove), minced
  • 3/4 c grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 c canned or pre-cooked navy beans
  • 1/4 c feta, crumbled (more or less, depending on the severity of your cheese addiction)
  • 1/4 c basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • In a large saucepan, heat 1-2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over a low flame.
  • Add the halved grape tomatoes and the garlic, stir, and let them cook over low heat for anywhere between 15-20 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until the tomato skins are crinkled, the juices are gurgling, and the garlic is golden.
  • Add the navy beans, and increase the heat just a tad, stirring occasionally until the beans are warm, about 5 more minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, but don’t overdo it on the salt! Feta is pretty salty on its own.
  • Turn off the heat, and immediately add the feta, stirring constantly so that it melts a bit and incorporates fully.
  • Toss in a small handful of chopped basil, stir, and serve warm.

Serves one as a main dish, or two as a side dish

navy beans and window

Tough-Enough Kale Salad with Green Garlic Dressing

tough enough kale salad title pic

I’ve got a client who is busy. Like, crazy busy. When I challenged her to boost her daily dark leafy green intake, she was absolutely game – the only problem was figuring out how to fit them all into her insane schedule. It’s not too hard to get your greens on the go these days; practically every bodega in NYC carries kale chips. But if you’re buying all your greens at restaurants or in pre-packaged form, it’s easy to break the bank. And making leafy greens ahead of time is often a loosing battle – more often than not, you’ll end up with a soggy, wilty mess, especially if you’re so busy that you want to stretch a single recipe into multiple left-over meals.

colorful sweet peppers

Enter, my Tough-Enough Kale Salad. Raw kale is one of the few dark leafy greens tough enough to last a day or two in the fridge, if you prepare it right. The trick is to pair it with items that won’t release a ton of moisture. I’ve added crunchy sweet peppers and dried cranberries to start, but if I wanted to make it more hardy, I might add shelled hemp seeds, nuts, or pan-fried tempeh. Especially if stored in an airtight container sans dressing, this salad will last a couple days in the fridge – perfect for taking to work for a power-packed lunch.

kale prep

Anyone new to raw kale salads might be put off  by the strong flavor or toughness of the leaves, so I recommend a few tricks to make it more palatable. First, I seek out Lacinato Kale (also known as Tuscan Kale) because this variety is slightly less bitter than curly leafed kale. Its leaves are also smoother, which makes it less intimidating to clean and chop. Next, I cut out most of the hard, fibrous stems for a more consistent texture (see above left). Finally, I like to chop my raw kale very thoroughly when preparing a salad (curl those fingertips!); not only do the smaller bites mitigate the toughness of the leaves, but I find they become more easily coated with delicious dressing – and I do not kid around when it comes to salad dressing.

Annie's Green Garlic

Speaking of salad dressing, my client isn’t ready to start making her own, and that’s just fine. The most important thing is that she gets the greens into the bod! Annie’s Naturals makes some pretty decent products, and though I’m not a huge fan of using canola oil for salad dressings, I was inspired by this particular flavor and decided to try my own hand at a Green Garlic Dressing. I may not have tried the original, but lemmie tell ya: this is my best salad dressing YET! Can’t get enough of it.

Tough-Enough Kale Salad with Green Garlic Dressing

Raw / Gluten Free / Soy Free

Salad Ingredients:

  • 8-10 large leaves of Lacinato Kale, thoroughly rinsed and dried, and chopped finely
  • 6 petite sweet peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 handful of dried cranberries
  • Optional:
    • 1/2 c raw broccoli florets, chopped finely
    • 2-3 Tbsp shelled hemp seeds
    • 1 small handful of walnuts
    • 3/4 c of tempeh cubes, cooled and patted dry
    • Get creative, but keep it dry!

Green Garlic Dressing Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp water
  • 4 Tbsp unfiltered cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 4 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
  • 7-9 large basil leaves
  • 1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove(s), smashed and peeled
  • Sea salt to taste

Preperation:

Toss all the salad ingredients together. Makes 2 meal-sized salads.

For the dressing, place all the ingredients in a high speed blender and whiz on high until fully incorporated and smooth. Makes about 2/3 c of salad dressing (good for at least 2 meal-sized salads).

tough enough kale salad add ons

Do you have a dark leafy green recipe that does well as a left-over? Share in the comments below! xo

Tarragon Pea Bruschetta

Tarragon Pea Bruschetta

The weather here in New York City has taken a turn for the pleasant after a very frigid spell, just in time to pamper those of us staying here for the Christmas holiday. When I left my apartment yesterday, I smiled at the sunny sky and thought, “it’s amazing how warm 32 degrees can feel.”

In that moment, it was so easy to find joy in the unpleasant, though I often find fault with the otherwise perfectly fine. Perspective is totally relative, and ultimately, we’re in control of our own contentment.

So I’m trying to apply that lesson to my shoulders. See, I’m right smack in the middle of my yoga teacher training, and about a month ago my shoulders started pestering me every time I flowed through chaturanga. Turns out it’s rotator cuff tendinitis, and when I first got the diagnosis I was majorly bummed. My first instinct was to turn on myself and go for the jugular: What a loser! Why even bother going to yoga anymore? How do you think you can be a yoga teacher if you can’t even keep from injuring yourself?

But in light of this lesson on perspective, I’ve decided to change my mind. Instead of letting my injury get me down, I’m practicing gratitude. I can’t wait to finish my yoga teacher training with the added benefit of learning about modifications for shoulder injuries. And it’s totally a blessing in disguise that I can’t mindlessly sling my mondo purse on my shoulder – it’s going to do wonders for my back. Most importantly, my injury is keeping my ego in check. After all, the aim of yoga is not to show off your perfect handstand. There’s so much more to it, and it’s the inner work that I fell in love with in the first place.

My injury is an obvious example, but just think of all the opportunities we have every single day to change our minds and enjoy, appreciate, even delight in an otherwise unsavory situation. Yet, so often we plow right thorough them without even noticing.

In honor of making the unpleasant pleasant, I give you a recipe featuring my most reviled childhood food: frozen peas.

Tarragon Pea Bruschetta

Tarragon Pea Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp ghee*
  • 1 small or ½ large white onion, very finely diced
  • 1 16oz bag of frozen organic peas, thawed
  • 1 ½ Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • Sea salt

Preparation:

  • In a large saucepan, warm 1 Tablespoon of ghee on the stove top.
  • Add the finely diced white onion to the pan and sauté on low heat for 10 minutes or until they turn translucent and just begin to caramelize.
  • Add the thawed peas directly to the pan, along with a very generous cranking of ground sea salt.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high, stirring fairly often to prevent browning.
  • After 10-15 minutes, when the peas are soft, remove from the flame and allow to cool.
  • Add the pea mixture to a food processor, along with 1.5 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • Pulse until the mixture is fully incorporated and has achieved a soft but chunky consistency.
  • Pile pea mixture onto crackers, raw seed-based “bread” (as in my example), or toasted bread drizzled with olive oil or melted ghee.

*Ghee is one of my favorite cooking fats. It’s got all the flavor of butter without the lactose or casein (controversial milk protein). You could absolutely substitute with extra virgin olive oil, if that floats your boat.

**I garnished with some homemade Sumac Onions, but I’m not happy with the recipe yet, so look for them in a future post.

Makes approximately 2 cups of bruschetta topping

Sweet Yams with Balsamic Cherries and Caramelized Onions

The best way to curb sugar cravings is to increase the number of naturally sweet, wholesome foods in your diet. I just returned to New York City from a weekend in the Catskills, where I whiled away a blissful afternoon enjoying a bowl of sweet, juicy cherries. Now that I’m back in NYC, I can’t stop thinking about those cherries and all the sweetness summer can bring.

Cherries aren’t just a great way to get your sweet on. They pack a slew of anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-cancer compounds, including perillyl alcohol, which inhibits tumor growth, and ellagic acid, which kills cancer cells without harming healthy normal cells. Cherry juice contains anthocyanins, which help to relieve inflammation throughout the body. But keep in mind that the Environmental Working Group listed cherries among the 12 foods most contaminated with pesticides, so it’s important to buy organic.

For this recipe, I paired cherries with the natural sweetness of caramelized onions and the candy-like confection of baked yams. It’s a combo that’s guaranteed to nip unnecessary sugar cravings in the bud. It makes an excellent side dish or a light meal on its own. And it’s so creamy and yummy that I bet it’d make a great breakfast as well.

Sweet Yams with Balsamic Cherries and Caramelized Onions

Vegetarian / Vegan / Gluten Free

Ingredients:

  • 6 baby yams, cut into small chunks
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 dozen cherries, pitted, stems removed, and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preparation:

  • Wash yams and chop them into uniformly small chunks.
  • Add yams, minced ginger, and minced garlic to a baking pan that has been lined with tin foil (save yourself the mess – they get sticky).
  • Coat yams with coconut oil and maple syrup. 1 to 2 tbsp each should do it. Equal amounts. Use as much or as little as makes sense to you.
  • Bake yams at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat a dollop of coconut oil in a large sauté pan.
  • Add chopped onions to the pan and sauté on VERY LOW HEAT for 20-30 minutes until they begin to caramelize.
  • When onions have begun to brown, add chopped cherries and balsamic vinegar.
  • Continue to sauté for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the cherries have softened and the mixture is a bit syrupy.

Serve the baked yams with a mountain of the cherry- onion mixture right on top. I like mine with a light sprinkling of sea salt. The subtle flavors of the roasted garlic and ginger with the intensely sweet and tart balsamic cherries make this dish absolutely irresistible – and worth turning the oven on in the summer.

Serves 2

References:

Bowden, Jonny, Ph.D., C.N.S., (2007). The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The surprising, unbiased truth about what you should eat and why. Gloucester, MA: Fair Winds Press.