Make Your Plate Pretty, No Matter What’s On It

chicken

Even though I love to cook from scratch with quality ingredients, some nights my time or money runs low, and I have to cob together a meal in a hurry and on the cheap.

The dinner pictured above costs less than $3. It is ½ cup of jarred marinara sauce, ¾ cup frozen peas, and a frozen chicken breast I bought in bulk.  I microwaved the first two ingredients and pan-fried the third. Even though the food is humble, I took the time to plate it in a pretty way.

I like this plate because it represents the difference that a little extra care can have on something. The food is simple and cheap, but I took the time to arrange it nicely. I don’t have to carelessly plop everything on a dish just because the food is mediocre and I am alone. It is in these small acts of self-care that I reinforce the idea that I am someone special and worthy. I think that the more love and respect we show ourselves, the more love and respect we begin to feel for ourselves.

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Fall Schmall, Autumn Schmautumn

mums

This year, when the air began to cool and leaves change color, I was seized by anxiety about imminent winter. I am someone for whom winter has always brought low-grade depression, and in the autumn it is hard for me to think about anything but the long, cold season ahead.

I was talking about this at the beginning of one of my classes at the Auburn YMCA, and a student balked at me. “But don’t you just love the fall? It’s so beautiful, and the food is so good.”

Actually, I hadn’t thought to love the fall: to love the fall had not even occurred to me. I have Instagram, so I am aware that other people love the fall, but not me.

Isn’t that a terrible thing to do? To dislike an entire season because it is a harbinger of the next? The fleeting weeks between summer and winter are they themselves worth embracing and enjoying. This year, I am going to practice loving the fall and, in doing so, practice loving the present.

I will buy some mums. I will eat pumpkin bread and butternut squash. I will go on a hike and fill my lungs with cold morning air. I will wear a sweater and go apple picking and make a pie. I will not spend the season mourning a summer’s end and a winter’s inevitable start. I will let the fall be about gratitude, not dread.

I am learning how to live in the day and enjoy it for what it is. Progress, not perfection, is my goal.

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Thai Red Pepper Stir Fry

thaifinishedinwok

The weather is getting colder every day here, and basil is the last man standing in my herb garden. This week I needed a way to use up a lot of basil, and I thought a stir fry would be the perfect thing. Try it over rice or rice noodles, and enjoy the Thai flavor profile knowing that in addition to a treat for your tongue, this dish is full of nutrients from fresh herbs and peppers.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 red bell peppers cut into silver dollar size pieces

2 yellow onions cut into similar size pieces

thumb size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

large handful basil leaves

salt to taste

Directions:

Heat wok or heavy bottom pan on medium. (It is important to keep the burner on medium so you do not burn the sensitive olive oil.) Add the oil and spread around the pan. Add the peppers, onions, and ginger and stir to coat with oil.

thairawpeppers

Let cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions have slightly browned.

thaiwithredpepperbrowned

Add basil and garlic. Stir in.

thaiinwokwithfreshbail

The dish is done when the basil is wilted and garlic is soft. Nomnomnomnom,

thaionplate

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Asparagus Tips with Sunflower Oil, Yellow Onion, and Red Pepper Flake

asparaguscloseup

Quick, healthy, and delicious. I made mine in my trusty wok, but any heavy-bottom saute pan would do fine.

Ingredients:

tablespoon sunflower oil

bunch asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces

yellow onion, cut into thumbnail-sized pieces

pinch of red pepper flake, depending on taste

salt and pepper, depending on taste

Directions:

Heat pan. Add oil and heat oil. Add onion and asparagus. Saute for about five minutes, stirring a few times. Add red pepper flake. Continue to cook until vegetables have reached desired tenderness. Serve over rice or alongside your favorite protein.

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Say Yes to Bacon Grease Popcorn

popcorn

I never throw away the bacon grease drippings at the bottom of a frying pan. Instead, I store it in a mason jar and keep it in the fridge. Last night was the first football game of the NFL season, which was a great excuse to use my precious grease in a savory, simple popcorn recipe.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons bacon grease (rendered bacon fat)

1/2 cup popcorn kernels

salt of your choice (I have switched to Himalayan pink salt for everything)

Directions:

Use a heavy-bottom pot with a cover that fits. Heat up pot on medium-high heat until bacon grease liquefies and starts to bubble. Pour in kernels and cover. Pick up and shake covered pot every thirty seconds until you stop hearing popping sounds. Pour into serving bowl.

You’d think that the bacon grease would be salty enough, but not for my taste. Depending on your preference, you may or may not want to salt yours. When I first made this recipe, I expected the flavor to be really intense, like in fried packaged pork rinds, but I found that this snack is surprisingly subtle. I like it so much that it’s hard for me to share and I want to HOG it all. (Sorry.)

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3 Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice

 

growyouryoga

I believe that yoga is about growth and that it is important not to let your practice stagnate or stall out. Below are some tips to continue growing in your yoga.

1. Develop a Home Practice

Beginning to practice alone can be intimidating, especially if you are a newcomer, but your commitment can start small. Schedule a once-weekly home session and treat it with the same importance as going to class. If you don’t feel like you can be guided by yourself yet, buy a yoga video or stream a full class on Youtube. When I practice alone I can have a more deeply personal experience freed from preoccupation with others or the need to keep up with a pace set by my teacher. I enjoy the opportunity to linger longer in poses that speak to me, to repeat sequences that felt especially yummy or that I want another chance to perform. 

2. Start a Yoga Journal

Sometimes in class you will hear the teacher make a comment that clicks with you. You may have an insight about your body that occurs suddenly on the mat. You may discover that something has been bothering you in the quiet of your savasana. Don’t lose your “aha” moment- write it down! Treat yourself to a pretty bound book, and commit to writing about your yoga. You don’t have to be a master wordsmith or come up with brilliant, cosmic observations. I began mine by simply recording the time and place of my classes or, with my home practice, where in my home I practiced and for how long. You can use your diary to make observations about classes or keep track of your progress in your favorite asanas. Observe what comes up for you in meditation. Anything goes, so long as you are putting pen to paper.

3. Make a Yoga Friend

For a long time I thought my yoga practice was such a personal thing that I couldn’t possibly put my experience into words or share a conversation about it. When I went to India for my teacher training I discovered that discussing my practice greatly helped me clarify my own experiences. Additionally, listening to the experience of others helped me see new and different perspectives. Today, I am friends with a few teachers and students, and it is a treat to discuss yoga with them.   

Classic Banana Bread

bananabreadslicedMost of my baking recipes on this site have been paleo or otherwise healthy, but occasionally I crave a classic American banana bread and I allow myself to have it. Healthy living isn’t about “good” and “bad” foods, but rather about moderation and balance. This dense, moist banana bread has a crispy top and a rich sweetness that is great at breakfast or for dessert.

Ingredients:

cup granulated white sugar

stick of butter (preferably unsalted, but salted is fine)

2 eggs

3 ripe or overripe bananas

tablespoon milk

teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups all-purpose flour

teaspoon baking powder

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon salt (skip this ingredient if your butter is salted)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter or spray a loaf pan. Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. In a small bowl, thoroughly mash the bananas, cinnamon, and milk together. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

bananabreadloaf

Cool Kids Yoga Playlist

rainbowlotuses

Over the last two weeks I was invited to participate in training camp for the Skaneateles Varsity Girls Swim Team. It was an incredibly special experience for me to teach teens, and I feel so lucky to have had their coach ask me. Hope you enjoy the songs as much as we did!

1. Twin Peaks Theme – Angelo Badalamenti

2. Spirit Bird – Xavier Rudd

3. Aloha Ke Akua – Nahko Bear

4. Emancipator – Vines

5. First Aid Kit – Wolf

6. Moon – Little People

7. Light – Dr. Toast

8. Back in the World – David Gray

9. Near Light – Olafur Arnalds

10. My Life as a CPA – Andy McKee

11. Far Away – Temmy Lewis

12. An Arc of Doves – Brian Eno and Harold Budd

Rock and Roll Playlist for Yoga

Gandhi_Graffiti_San_FranciscoAnother mix tape for a balanced, energetic hour of practice.

1. Ease into Me – Kalai

2. Bowsprit – Balmorhea

3. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley cover by Two Worlds

4. Squealing Pigs – Admiral Fallow

5. Back in the World – David Gray

6. Bloodflood – Alt-J

7. Oh God – Citizens

8. Slow and Steady – Of Monsters and Men

9. Love Song – cover by 311

10. Breathe – Telepopmusik

11. Oh my Stars – Andrew Belle

12. Fix You – Coldplay cover by Lizzy King

13. Clean Slate – M. Ward

14. In the Morning Light – Yanni

 

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Read This Book!

poser

 

Just finished this wonderful memoir, a funny, honest, and helpful book about not only asana but the ways yoga can mirror and transform the practitioner’s life. Claire Dederer is a writer and mother obsessed with being good, and the decade-long story of her yoga journey is one that carries her away from the prison of her own perfectionism. She writes not only of the teachers, poses, and challenges of her practice, but about their backdrop: her childhood, career, and family. The text is full of funny and insightful observations from the mat, ones that often made me smile or cock my head or frown and think, “Hm. I never thought of it that way.”

Reading this refreshed my own practice, and I’ll be recommending it to everyone I know!

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