Thursday, February 17, 2011

Comfort Chickenless Soup

Recently, I took another yoga retreat getaway to Kripalu for some R&R (Reatreat and Renewal). I came back with one major complaint: it was too short. Two of my co-workers and I headed out to the Berkshires with the intention of staying 3 nights. Due to one of the previously mentioned slew of snowstorms we have been having, we were forced to leave early. This made me sad because I was having such a nice time. To give you an idea of the kinds of things you can do there, the following is the schedule of events I chose to take part in on one of the days I was there:

6:30-7:45: Intermediate Morning Yoga
8:00-9:00: Silent breakfast
9:00-10:30: Workshop on Core Stabilization
10:30-12:00: Reading time in the Solarium
12:00-1:00: Yoga dance
1:00-2:00: Lunch
2:00-3:00: Hula Hooping: Flowing through Life class
3:00-4:15: Bought cute yoga dress in gift shop and more reading time
4:15-5:45: Intermediate afternoon Yoga
5:45-7:30: Dinner and hang out
7:30-9:00: Cooking demonstration

During our stay we also did a meditation workshop and took part in a drumming circle. I realize this type of thing may not be everybody's cup of tea, and you might be thinking "that sounds awful", but I really did come back rejuvenated. I find that yoga can do that for me in similar, yet different ways that running or riding perk me up. Last night, for instance, I left work feeling completely droopy and wilted. I could've gone straight to bed to put an end to the day. I had wanted to run, but I just didn't have it in me. I opted instead for a candlelight yoga class. I left with more energy and focus and felt more positive. It's not the same as an exhilarating run or ride when you get that endorphin high. Instead, it's both calming and energizing at the same time.
I recently read an article in the NYT about meditation and how some recent research is showing that it may actually change the brain by increasing the gray matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. I've been wanting to add a regular meditating routine to my day, anyway, and hearing that is good incentive for me. I've talked to many people who have had noticeable behavioral differences from regular meditation. I'll keep you posted on my own routine.
I'd like to share with you one of the recipes I learned at Kripalu, but I haven't made it yet, so instead I'll share this comforting brothy soup, Kriste, a vegan co-worker passed onto me and I've made a couple of times. It's provides comfort very quickly since it's so simple to put together. The original intent by the author, oliviabeans, was to create a Lipton like cup of soup that was vegan friendly. It really works!

Comfort Chickenless Cup of Soup
2 tblspns grapeseed oil
1 small onion, chopped up small
5 cups of water
2 vegetarian bouillon cubes (or 5 cups of broth instead of cubes and water)
3 to 5 tblspns nutritional yeast flakes
1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
Leaves from celery stalk, chopped finely (optional)
1 small carrot sliced thinly
1/4-1/2 cup of small pasta (I used orzo)
1/2 tblspn garlic powder
pinch of celery salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 tspn turmeric
1/2 14 oz can chickpeas (or more to taste). You could also cook your preferred chix substitute like Quorn naked cutlets and chop one of those up and add it at the end.
Pepper to taste

1. In medium pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook until starting to brown.
2. Add: 5 cups of water and bouillon cubes. Let dissolve.
3. Add everything else except for pasta and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 7 or so minutes, until carrot is partially tender.
4. Add pasta and simmer until pasta is cooked. Add chickpeas and let heat for a few minutes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sauteed Cabbage With a Kick

Could the birthday song be any more boring?
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear xxx
Happy birthday to you.
Really? That's all we could come up with? No mention of the year past or well wishes for the coming year? I just had a quick look on Wikipedia and found that the song originates from the late 180os and is based on the melody of another song, "Good Morning to You" written by a kindergarten principal. I understand that kids are most excited by birthdays and so the song should be something easy for them to learn, but it could be a tad more thought provoking. It's gotten to the point that I can hardly sing it because I find it so lame.
I cannot possibly be the only person that feels this way. And, so therefore, I hope to someday leave behind as my legacy, a new birthday song. I've done a bit of work on this, trying out some new lyrics and/ or melodies and leaving them on friends' voicemail. I have not found the winner yet, but I'll keep working on it.

If I could do this and get more people to enjoy cabbage, I think my life would be well lived. Ok, I do have a few other things in mind I'd like to accomplish, but these two things are on the list. I have brought different variations of cabbage dishes to family holidays because I figure I should start this endeavor close to home. Plus, traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meals tend to be very startchy, so I like to bring something crisp and light to counter that. This year on Thanksgiving I had brought this dish and wanted to make sure I recorded it, since it's a quick and tasty way to enjoy some shredded cabbage.

Shredded Spiced Cabbage
1 medium onion sliced
1 tblspn grapeseed oil (or another oil good at high heat)
1 tomato chopped, or a big handful of grape tomatoes cut into quarters
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
big pinch of red pepper chile flakes
1 small head of cabbage, cored and sliced
1 tspn of sea or himalayan salt

1. In sautee pan, heat oil, add onion and let cook for a few minutes. Then add tomato, ginger and pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes to take some of the moisture out of the tomatoes.
2. Add cabbage (it will seem like a lot) and salt. Stir it together with the other ingredients in the pan. Cover and let cook down. You'll want to cook for 10 to 13 minutes. Do not overcook. If the pan seems dry add a couple of teaspoons of water here and there.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Creamy Potato Garlic Soup (sans cream)

The last time I can recall snowbanks of this grandeur was the infamous Blizzard of '78. Of course, at 9 years old, I was much smaller so perhaps my perspective is skewed. Snowstorm after rainstorm after sleetstorm and more snow on top of that has brought messy conditions, weekly school cancellations, laborious commutes to the office, difficulty walking on sidewalks and lots of shoveling. It's gotten to the point I've noticed, that us New Englanders who are usually eager to discuss the weather as small talk on elevators or as we pass a neighbor by in the street, can no longer even bear to discuss the elements. People are just exhausted by it and it's only the beginning of February. I heard one psychologist refer to it as "snow fatigue". The relentlessness of Mother Nature is wearing people down and making them irritable. I forget what grass looks like and Spring seems an eternity away.
I often think I should approach this scene as Zuree does. As we head out for our walk three times daily, she is equally enthusiastic each time, as if it's the first. She takes in the scene for a moment and then charges ahead. She takes any conditions in stride and inhales everything there is to see and smell. It reminds me of a Zen-type approach: being in the moment and taking things for what they are. There's nothing I can do to control the weather, so getting upset about it is just an energy drain. I've just got to do the best with what is presented to me. And, often, even though I'm dreading going out in the frigid temps to brave the icy sidewalks, once I get out it can be pleasant and peaceful. It's nice to get some air and move around a bit. So, I'll be keeping this all in mind as I head out, especially for the pre-bedtime walk which is the one I look forward to the least.
I'm guessing the soup intake in this area has gone up considerably over past winters. Here's one I concocted tonight since I was limited to ingredients I had on hand.

Creamy Potato Soup
1 head of garlic, roasted (or more if you like garlic, the flavor was very subtle with the one head)
1 tblspn grapeseed oil
1 medium to large onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 tblspn all purpose flour
4 cups of veggie broth or 4 cups of water and 2 boullion cubes
3 medium potatoes, cut into cubes
1 bay leaf
some dried or fresh parsley
1 14 oz can of cannelini beans
the juice of 1 lemon

1. In a toaster oven or oven, roast the garlic for about 40 minutes on 425. Let cool
2. Meanwhile chop veggies. Then, heat oil in a soup pan. Add onions and carrots and saute until just softening.
3. Add flour and stir constantly for a minute. Do not let brown.
4. Add broth or water and boullion, potatoes, bay leaf and parsley if using dried. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
5. Add cannelini beans, parsley if using fresh, and salt to taste. Let heat for about 5 to 7 minutes.
6. Add lemon juice (up to one lemon depending on your taste)
7. Puree soup. You may find you need to add more water to get it to a consistency you like.