inspiration, really?!

If you are the one of those people who often feel inspired, I bow to you with not an ounce of jealousy.  Well, ok, maybe a little jealousy.

Me?  I have to mine the caves of my mind, as in excavate, drill down for ideas.  I can’t explain it.  It could be my disposition.  It could be just me. Could be … who knows?  When I do run across a source of inspiration, it is a tickle.  It is something that pads lightly around the edges of my consciousness like lemon zest in a dish.  It is there, it perfumes the dish, but what is it?

Recently I watched the Olympic swimming trials, by mistake.  I happened to sit down while my husband had the TV on.  I watched, maybe, 20 minutes. You know what?  I started to feel a little inspired.  Inspired to do what… I am not sure.  But, there is no misinterpreting that tiny nudge of encouragement that leads to being enlivened and strengthened.

Lately I’ve found myself feeling a certain way;  and, subsequently telling myself I should be feeling otherwise.  Feeling down? C’mon, Kelly, get over it.  Feeling unmotivated and lethargic?  C’mon, Kelly, get something done.  In doing so, I am telling myself to be someone other than who I am in that moment.  In turn, it leads me away from my inherent nature.  By contrast, if I simply accept how I am feeling in any given moment, I am closer to my true essence.  Being closer to one’s inherent nature enables us to more easily tap into creativity or inspiration because our mind’s are freer.

If ideas germinate with a little tickle, a seed, then it is helpful to have a touchstone, especially if the modality encourages the mind to be freer.    A touchstone that can be used to access an open state of being is So Hum.  So Hum is a sanskrit word loosely meaning, “I am that.”  It is typically used as a mantra.  While practicing this mantra, “So” is thought to oneself on the inhale, “Hum” is thought on the exhale.  Since it’s message to the practitioner is, “I am that,” by remaining in that space, we will most likely not attempt to change who we are in a given moment.  Our minds will loosen up a little.  Once acceptance has occurred, transformation can, and probably will, happen.

Maybe having a few pictures of meals and a dessert may spawn some ideas for you as it does for me…

Why do I post these pictures?  Ideas.  In the past, I found a string of pictures like this to be arrogant.  A little shout-y, if you will.  A little look at me.  But, it occurred to me while contemplating inspiration, I frequently get encouragement from pictures or descriptions of something someone else cooked or baked, (or wrote).  I may not make or do anything remotely like they did;  nevertheless, it oftentimes gives me the nudge I need.

Photo #1:  The strawberry pie I made for two reasons.  It is pretty.  And, my husband loves strawberries.  Although the dessert is much more sugar-based than I typically will make, the color won out.

Photo #2:  The second dish was created by London-based chef, Yotam Ottolenghi.  He puts together ingredients in a new way.  Ways I would never contemplate… until I read about how he cooks.  The pasta sauce pictured above is made with pine nuts, raisins, celery, tomatoes, capers, olives, and a little sugar.  Very different.  Very good.

Photo #3:  Baked pasta with roasted vegetables.  I roasted an eggplant and an onion, par-boiled pasta, combined both pasta and vegetables with stewed, diced tomatoes, marinara sauce, basil, and topped the dish with parmesan cheese.  In the oven it went for about 25 minutes.

Photo #4:  Summer Minestrone.  A favorite of mine.  I came up with this last summer (hence, it’s name) because I love soup, but not hot soup when it is 95 + degrees outside.  It is good at room temperature or cold.  And, you can’t beat eating a jumble of vegetables.

The recipe for today’s post is for Baby Bok Choy Stir-Fry with Lemon Vinaigrette.  I’ve been making quite a few bean and rice dishes lately.  This one came about with ingredients I had on hand, and an idea for tahini dressing that I adapted.  The technique of sauteéing vegetables, adding them to prepared rice and beans, and topping it all with a vinaigrette is versatile and handy.  I’ve made this dish with a variety of kale also.

Baby Bok Choy Stir-Fry with Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves 3 – 4 

1 c. brown rice, cooked, set aside*

1 14 oz. can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed, set aside

1/2 medium sweet onion, diced

1 head baby bok choy, rinsed, thinly sliced

1 8 oz container baby bella mushrooms, cleaned of dirt, thinly sliced

1/2 c. + chicken or vegetarian broth, preferably low-sodium

1 lemon, room temperature, rinsed, zest and juice

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Prepare brown rice according to package directions, set aside. *Depending on your preferred rice to bean ratio in this salad, you may use less rice.  I typically end up using about 2/3 of the cooked rice.  Or, I use all of it and add another can of beans.  Adjust seasonings and dressing accordingly.
  2. Rinse and drain beans, set aside.
  3. In a large skillet with a lid, heat 2 T  extra virgin olive oil over medium heat, add onion and a pinch of salt.  Sauté 3 – 4 minutes until the onion begins to soften and release its moisture.  Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt.  Sauté another 3 minutes or so until the mushrooms begin to release their moisture and begin to brown just slightly.
  4. Add bok choy, pour 1/2 c. broth or more depending on desired consistency over the top of the vegetables, add freshly ground black pepper to taste, put the lid on. Cook over medium to medium low heat until the greens begin to wilt and are cooked, about 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, add beans, cooked vegetable mixture, including the broth which becomes part of the dressing, and the rice.  Zest and juice lemon over mixture.  Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Drizzle about 4 T. of extra virgin olive oil over the salad.   Mix well to combine.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

smoothing the rough edges


Words that take the rough edges off of life, cradling the current moment in a bit more softness than our everyday lives, jump off the page at me.  I don’t run into them often.  Recently, I heard it in Tina Chang’s words.  When discussing the writing she may do in an evening she explained, …”maybe much of it will be discarded, maybe some of it will be saved by the gods.”

What do I hear in that?  I hear silence.  I hear softness. I hear acceptance.  I hear surrender.  What is my reaction to these words?  It makes me want to breathe.  Breathe deeply.  Somehow those words distill the essence of the moment.  Time slows.

To me, Tina’s words are akin to the psychological effects of surrender.  During the process of surrender, time slows, the essence of the moment can become distilled.  “The act of surrender engages, rather than avoids, the process of transformation,” explains Mary Beth G. Moze.  I feel transformation in the words of Tina Chang.  This may be presumptuous of me, but it seems as if Ms. Chang has done the work she has needed and wanted to do, and then let it go.  More importantly, it seems as if she may transmute herself continually by the act of surrender.  If she is doing this, then she is letting go of any perceived control the ego has.  So can we.

Why am I interested in this?  I am fearful.  Fear is, in part, operated by our desire to control.  My fears (if they are strong) tend to lead to obsessive thoughts.  Could surrender be part of the puzzle I was missing in order to deal with this fear ?  I didn’t think so because I practice surrendering regularly.

I’ve learned over the years to welcome any and all thoughts.  Give them an equal place at the table as Rumi tells us to do.  Ok, been there, done that.  But, by welcoming this fear, this time it wasn’t taking an equal place at the table.  It took many seats.

We can employ what I think of as more traditional stress relievers that will help the situation, muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualization, exercise, and keeping journals.  But, sometimes the stressor that causes the fear is just there.  There are times in life when, for whatever reason, it is not going to go away anytime soon.  What to do?

Recently while making dinner, a quinoa and rice beauty, I was carrying on a conversation in my head about how to explain to a seasoned, trained meditator, my problem, hoping she may have some advice for me with respect to dealing with this fear.  I knew from experience how the act of surrender gives rise to the process of transformation.  But, as I mentioned, I had tried that in the past weeks and it didn’t seem like I was making any progress.  I found myself time and time again coming back to my fears.  Telling myself I just needed to be braver.  Needed to pull up my socks and get done what needs to be done.  In other words, I was starting at point A, and I’d return to point A.  My goal was to get to B, not Z, just B.

While I was thinking about how I would explain my situation to the trained meditator, I realized what I needed to do.  I needed to surrender to the fear, as opposed to simply surrendering to a particular situation.  In my opinion, what I had been doing was trying to control and compartmentalize the fear.   The fear is not going to go away.  (It is a healthy fear, based on a medical situation, not an irrational fear.)  Possibly by my desire to control and compartmentalize it, I may have given it a bit more power.

Recently my husband and I learned the timeframe I would be in an upcoming surgery and a recovery room, my husband smiled and said jokingly, “I have plenty of time for a round of golf.”  His comment smoothed the rough edges.  Comparably, my surrendering to this fear (which is an ongoing act)  has also smoothed the rough edges, if only a bit.  By doing so, maybe I too have framed the current moment in softness.  Even if only for a moment.

One of my goals is to live life, “… from a new way of knowing rather than just seeing it from a different perspective,” as Moze describes when explaining how powerful the act of surrendering can be.  I am not saying I’ll reach that place soon or even in my lifetime.  But, if I can make small, small incremental movements toward that place, I am happy.

I read a recipe in Bon Appétit that got great reviews, but at first glance it did not look exciting to me.  I decided to try it.  My first instinct was wrong.  The dish is really good.  The elements of lemon juice, parsley and cheese contrast nicely with the different grains.  It has become one of our staples.

Cumin-Scented Quinoa and Rice                            6 servings

adapted from Bon Appétit

Cooks Note:  I’ve adapted the recipe and included the ingredients I used.  Although the contrast of colors is pleasant, and we eat with our eyes, you can use what you have on hand for the grains.  The original recipe calls for adding fresh chives and cilantro.  I did not have any on hand.  They would be a nice addition.

1/2 c. short or long grain red rice (sub black or brown)

1 c. black quinoa, rinse well and set aside (sub red or transparent color)

1 bay leaf (optional)

1/4 tsp. salt, more to taste

4 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 small onion, diced

1/2 tsp. jarred minced garlic or 1 garlic clove, minced

2 tsp. ground cumin

3 T. fresh lemon juice

1/4 c. flat-leaf parsley, rinsed and chopped, set aside

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, sliced

1 lemon, cut into wedges

small wedges of ricotta salata cheese or goat cheese, optional

  1. Prepare rice and quinoa according to package directions.  Set aside. (Add bay leaf, if using, to quinoa while cooking.  Remove bay leaf once cooking is done.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 T. oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and cumin.  Cook, stirring often, for about 1 – 2 minutes until the garlic and cumin are fragrant.  Remove from heat.
  3. Transfer quinoa and rice to a large mixing bowl.  Add onion mixture.  Add remaining oil, lemon juice, parsley and other herbs, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Combine well.
  4. Serve with wedges of avocado and lemon, adding additional herbs if desired.  Crumble cheese over top of each portion, if using.

obstacles be gone!

If I could just get out of my my own way, I may get somewhere.  But, that would also mean I need to remove my obstacles, my psychological obstacles. Ugh. Obstacles that I’ve created.  Double ugh.  I wish I could say that removing self-imposed obstacles can be done by squeezing our eyes shut as intensely as only a four year-old can, waving a magic wand, and…pouf ! we would open our eyes and immediately feel lighter, happier, and brighter.

But, removal of obstacles is a little bit like Butternut Squash Lasagne and “The Little Engine That Could.”  The former takes time.  Time to make and bake.  The latter uses more mind power.   Removal of obstacles takes both.  It takes time and mind power.  Well then, let’s get to it.

It is said that emotional wounds prevent us from manifesting our true happiness.  If this is the case, it seems to me our wounds, wounds that we have not yet healed,  may be co-owner of creating many of our obstacles.  If psychological wounds lead to obstacles, then, by recognizing the wounds and obstacles are there, accepting them, and believing we won’t let them define us, we should find ourselves mentally healthier and happier.

Addressing both psychological elements of wounds and removal of obstacles are big concepts to handle in a small space.  Maybe someday we can drill down deeper into it.  But, I think simply developing an awareness of wounds and obstacles in our lives is quite helpful, quite healing in and of itself.  As a good friend of Scott’s says, “Just showing up is 80% of the job.”  The same rings true for beginning to identify these two elements in our lives.  Because once we simply begin to notice them, I believe we’ve come a long way.

So, where do we start?  How do we do this work?

A good place to start is by becoming mindful of obstacles we’ve put squarely in our paths of something we want to accomplish.  Ask yourself,  have I set a goal but find myself doing everything except those things that enable me to progress toward it?  Or, do you want to accomplish something, but find yourself running around doing everything but that one thing you want done?  If so, don’t judge it.  Just be mindful of it.  Realize that it is there.  Recognize any wounds that may or may not accompany that particular obstacle.  Ask yourself, do I have a wound associated with this obstacle that needs to be healed?  Give yourself a few quiet moments and see where your attention is directed in your body.  Just feel what comes up.

Here is an example from my life. I wanted to learn how to cook.  But, I didn’t want to go through the process of making it happen.  Why?  Because I had obstacles I didn’t want to deal with.  Exasperation and frustration were standing squarely in my way of achieving enjoyment being in the kitchen. They stood there appearing unmovable with their arms crossed.

I had an undercurrent of thoughts that started rolling as soon as I entered the kitchen.  Yet, the thoughts happened so quickly that 1) they were barely perceptible, and 2) the exasperation and frustration were almost instantaneous when I began to make a meal.  As Yongey Minygur Rinpoche, a renowned Tibetan Buddhist master, points out, it is very easy to not notice our thoughts. Early on in his undertaking of meditation practice, he describes his experience of noticing his thoughts as, “The chatter was going on alongside everything else I was thinking and feeling, though so faintly I hadn’t recognized it.”

We may feel the thoughts first because our central nervous system will react to them whether or not we realize what we’ve been thinking.  That can also be a clue to our undercurrent of thoughts.  We may feel something before we notice them.

Turns out, my frustration got its’ power from a bit of perfectionism I expected of myself, a perceived lack of time, and self-doubt at my skills in the kitchen.  The CEO of Lululemon Athletica says when we set goals, we should expect to fail 50% of the time.  Now, if a crisp or crumble I make has too much topping and not enough fruit as it did a few nights ago, I don’t blink an eye.  I just think to myself, “Ok, I’ll do it differently next time. ”


A recipe for healing seems to be in order … this is how I think of it:

Step 1:  Notice how you feel (recognition of wounds and obstacles.) Ask yourself if there may be one wound or obstacle you’d like healed or removed.  Give yourself a few quiet moments to listen for a response.

Another clue in identifying obstacles is looking for areas in our lives where we make continual excuses about not doing something.  Or, maybe we need to forgive ourselves for a past action to remove an obstacle.  Pay attention to areas of your life where you simply have a feeling needs work.

Step 2:  Be mindful of the response you receive in step#1, if there is one, and gentle with a feeling, if one comes up.

This exercise is not meant to be used to chastise ourselves.  It is meant to treat your feelings with gentleness and respect.  Accept and acknowledge the thought or feeling, if there is one.  Whether negative or positive, give that thought or feeling a place at the table.  It is a part of you.  Don’t push it away.  But, at some point, you may tell it it is no longer going to take a front seat anymore.  It is time for another, healthier emotion to take the front seat.

Step 3:  Excavate.  Look into that emotion or thought.  What is beneath it and in it?  Tell it you are sorry for what happened (healing wounds.)  But, things happen and you are ready to move on.

Step 4:  Rest. Repeat.

Being mindful and developing awareness can be done while driving to school to pick up your child, or while unloading the dishwasher.  They can be and are meant to be woven into our everyday lives.  Ohby the way, I don’t see any harm in squeezing our eyes shut and waving a magic wand when we feel like it.  I, for one, have tried it and I am pretty sure a little fairy dust came my way.

For another recipe, how about trying a Butternut Squash Lasagne?  The typical flavor profile of a lasagne is changed using the squash.  It is slightly sweeter with a different texture.  I added spinach because I love something green in almost any dish.  The result is a healthy, not too involved, lasagne.

Years ago while making a butternut squash casserole, I found squash pairs well with nutmeg, sauteéd onion, and bread crumbs.  Continuing that theme, I added those elements to this recipe.

Butternut Squash Lasagne

1/2 medium sweet onion, diced, sauteéd in olive oil, set aside

1 12 oz. frozen package of butternut squash package, thawed, set aside

1 12 oz. frozen package of chopped spinach, thawed, drained well of moisture, set aside

1 15 oz. whole milk or part-skim ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/4 t. nutmeg

1/4 c. (scant) panko bread crumbs

handful of basil leaves, rinsed, chopped (optional)

freshly ground black pepper

1 32 oz. jar marinara sauce

9 no-bake lasagne noodles

1 c. or so shredded mozzarella

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven according to the pasta instructions.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sauteéd onion through the basil.  Add black pepper to taste.
  3. In a 10″ x 8 ” baking dish( if you do not have a 10″x8″, try a 9″x9″ baking dish), evenly layer 1/3 of the sauce, 3 pasta sheets, 1/3 of the squash filling.  Repeat twice until the final dish has three layers of sauce, pasta and squash filling.
  4. Top the lasagne with cheese.
  5. Place baking dish on a baking sheet to avoid spillage in the oven.  Tent with foil.  Bake for 1 hour and ten minutes or until sauce is bubbling up around edges.  Remove foil for the last ten minutes of baking time.  Let lasagne rest for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30, before cutting. Serve warm.

daily management

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”  – Emerson.

On Monday of this week, my doctor told me I had abnormal test results. She also told me I need to come in for another procedure.  Not much other information was given.  Nor did I ask many questions.  She was in a hurry. We hung up the phone.  My emotions rally as if assembling in a mass meeting.

So, I am going for a second opinion and consultation with another doctor. We’ll see.

Again, “what lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”  – Emerson.

In a situation such as the medical one I found myself in this week, my mind comes up with all of the things that could be wrong with me quicker than greyhounds out of a starting gate.  Then, my emotions dovetail on my thoughts until soon enough they are leading me;  and, I have myself in a grave within six months.  No kidding.  The whole process doesn’t take long. I can pull it off within 1 – 2 minutes.  Why in the world don’t I think of everything that is right at that juncture in time?  I do not know.  I can, however, think of much that is right when I remind myself to and when I train myself to.  It takes management.

Daily Management of the Mind.  That is how I’ve come to think of it and what I call it.

Just as we might train our body to run a marathon, we can train our minds. We are able to learn how to calm the fluctuations of the mind.  Many of the same concepts apply in training the mind as training for a marathon.  It takes consistency and discipline.  It takes mindfulness and awareness.

How does one begin?  Spend time for a few moments daily being quiet in whatever form feels natural to you.  There is one caveat.  Tune out information and sound input to the extent that it is possible.  In other words, set the book down and turn off the laptop, TV, and radio.  In the long run this practice equips us to deal with everyday stresses.  It fine tunes the life skills we all need and put into practice everyday.  It leads us to contentment internally, rather than leading us away to find it externally.

Meditation, or sitting quietly, also aids us in recognizing that thoughts, feelings and emotions change with the moment.  If you’d like, you can watch your thoughts and emotions moving through your mind while sitting quietly, by observing them as if you were the witness.  In turn, detachment is created and learned giving you something else to put in your arsenal for managing your life.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing around with various vegetarian dishes.  One of my favorites is a combination of beans and tomatoes with a poached egg on top.  The technique for poached egg dishes like this is to create a flavorful bed of ingredients that have already been cooked or sautéed on which the eggs rest.   In the same ovenproof skillet that the tomatoes and beans are cooked, the eggs are poached in the oven until the yolks are slightly set.

Poached Eggs with Tomatoes and Cannelini Beans                   Serves 2 -4 

loosely adapted from Bon Appétit

*Cook’s Notes:  If you do not have an ovenproof skillet, simply make the tomato and bean mixture in a skillet on the stove.  Transfer the ingredients to a lightly oiled baking dish and proceed adding cheese and eggs on top of the bean and tomato mixture.  I served the eggs with saltines and chopped tomatoes.

Ingredients 

1/2 medium yellow or sweet onion, diced

2 t. jarred, minced garlic or 1 clove fresh garlic, minced

2 t. paprika

1 t. cumin

1 15 oz can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz can petite cut diced tomatoes or any stewed tomato of your choice

4 eggs

1/4  – 1/3 of a small log of goat cheese , a good 1″ thick slab, or more to taste

2 – 3 T. fresh parsley, roughly chopped, optional

salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°.

  1. In a medium size *ovenproof skillet warm 2 – 3 T. of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté increasing the heat if necessary 10 minutes or until the veg begins to soften and turn a translucent color.
  2. Add garlic, lowering heat if necessary so as not to burn.  Stir 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add beans and diced tomatoes, paprika, cumin, black pepper, salt to taste, bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
  4. Crumble goat cheese over cooked ingredients, add parsley if using, crack 4 eggs on top. Salt and pepper the eggs.  Bake at 425° for 7 – 9 minutes until eggs are set.  Serve hot.  Yield 2 – 4 servings.

are you itchy?

Do you feel content? Most likely, each of us would answer that question differently given our present life circumstances and our state of mind at the time.  

If Ollie, our 3 year old labradoodle, were asked, I am pretty certain he would give a rapid-fire bark response.  “Yes, (bark, bark, bark! as he announces his answer to the world, head held high ) there is contentment in this world.  If I’ve had enough activity, contentment is resting after running and playing!”   

For Ollie, contentment doesn’t come easily.  He is an intense pup. A good hour’s run will take the edge off, as it did the day I took the picture posted above.  After a satisfactory run,  he’ll rest comfortably during the day, albeit mostly awake and alert, always at the ready for his next adventure.  God bless him.  A good 2 1/2 hour romp including lots of running and play is really more his style.

For most of us, much like Ollie, contentment does not come easily.  I think each of us knows, subconsciously or consciously, contentment does not come from external sources.  Our actions, however, indicate otherwise.  How many of us when feeling bored, irritable, or disconcerted reach for a bag of chips or head to the mall for so-called retail therapy?  As a society, we welcome distractions.

There are times in my life when I think distractions, if used well, are healthy.  If distractions are used as purely escapist behaviors, then a problem is simply being avoided.  And, most likely, nothing is being solved or addressed.  

Let me give you an example.  There is an obsessive side to me.  I know it.  It is there.  It will most likely always be there.  If I am obsessing about something, I can do one of three things.  1)  I can continue to obsess about it.  2)  I can sit with it in meditation and try to look beyond the obsession and dissect the emotional layers underneath.  3)  Or, I can set it aside, choose a healthy outlet for my energy, and move on.  

This is where contentment and distraction intersect.  In the example above, the problem arises if I choose to continually avoid the feeling or thought that is bothering me by using an escapist behavior.  If I continue to avoid the feeling or thought by distracting myself, the problem will not be addressed; and, in all likelihood, it will get worse until it manifests itself in some way that demands attention.  In this scenario, I have not moved toward well-being and contentment.  I am seeking contentment externally, outside of myself.  

Whereas, if I take the time to simply acknowledge the feeling or thought, and accept it, if that is comfortable, and then remain with that thought or feeling by sitting quietly, I begin to address the issue.  I have addressed the issue by not running from it, by acknowledging it, and maybe accepting it.  I have taken a step toward well-being and contentment.    If I choose to not acknowledge this part of me, distract myself, and run from the problem continually,  I’ve then used distractions as escapist behavior. And, I have not moved toward well-being and contentment.  

There are a myriad of distractions in this world leading to momentary hits of pleasure, (plug your favorite in here… from retail therapy to gambling.)  Daily distractions can and do continually rub up against our ability to be content like a persistently itchy mosquito bite demanding attention.  So, what is the big deal? Why not scratch that darn bite?  Seeking pleasure and happiness from external sources may bring us to a brief state of contentment, but it is not long-lasting.    

So, what is one to do to combat everyday life?  Try resting in your own space without needing to do anything, just being.  If you are game, try it for a few minutes each day.  Sit comfortably in a quiet space. Listen to yourself breathe.  See if it changes your perspective, or slightly, subtly, buoys your sense of well-being and contentment.  

Is it a cure-all? Will you stop wanting to scratch that mosquito bite?  I don’t know.  But, you may find you are a little less itchy, and more content.    



I really enjoy simple, vegetarian meals.  But, to my mind, they’ve got to be substantial and full of flavor. Thanks to Molly at Remedial Eating, I now have another good, simple vegetarian meal to tuck into the back of my mind.  No recipe required.  

I have long been a fan of roasted vegetables.  A few of my favorites I put in the oven are parsnips, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  But, I tend to roast my favorites again and again.  Another good thing about Molly’s idea for a meal?  This vegetarian dish incorporates eggplant, zucchini or summer squash, and green beans. Vegetables I don’t reach for often enough.  I am glad to have an excuse to roast something different.

The basic components are roasted vegetables served over brown rice, a fried egg on top, and feta crumbled over the whole.  More specifically, I put on each plate a bed of brown rice, added a bit of soy sauce, placed the roasted vegetables on top of the rice,  crumbled feta over the vegetables and topped it with one or two fried eggs. Cannelini or garbanzo beans could be incorporated for a bigger dose of protein and fiber.  

For those of you who prefer a recipe, below are loose guidelines to create this meal.  Cheers.  

Roasted Vegetables and Eggs                                Serves 3   

Ingredients

1 c. brown rice, make according to package directions, set aside

1 medium eggplant, rinsed, cut into 1 inch cubes

2- 3 summer squash or zucchini, rinsed, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 large handfuls fresh green beans, rinsed, cut off ends, cut in half

1 – 2 eggs per person

feta cheese 

soy sauce to drizzle over rice  

Instructions

  1. Begin by preheating oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare the brown rice and let cook while the vegetables roast.  
  2. On a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, place prepared vegetables.  Salt and pepper the vegetables.  Drizzle olive oil, two to three T., over the entire batch.  Toss to coat. Spread evenly on cookie sheet.  Roast 35 – 45 minutes until vegetables are fork tender and begin to carmelize.  Check after 35 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, heat a medium size frying pan.  As soon as veg is done, fry the eggs in a little butter and olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  
  4. While the eggs are frying, place rice on each plate, drizzle with soy sauce, add veg., grate cheese over veg and rice, top with fried egg.   Serve immediately.   

you are on the right path, baby

The past few months I’ve been thinking, it is just me or are the mosquitoes as bad as they seem to be?  As it turns out, it is the worst mosquito season in history, or so I am told.

To be outside means you have to either keep moving or don long sleeves and long pants because within less than a minute, five to six mosquitoes will be on one limb of your body.   Well, ok.  I can handle that.  But, I want my two pups to be able to play outside without seeing them covered in mosquitoes.   Solution?  Bat house!

Then, my thoughts immediately trip to…quick, Kelly, run to the house!  Order online two bat houses!  (Why two, I have no idea, when one would be plenty.)  Request that your husband go to the hardware store and immediately buy two posts to put the bat houses on!  (Never mind the bat houses will probably take at least 3 – 5 days for delivery.)

Problem solved or an example of impulsivity?  Maybe both.  But, I’ve found there are very few moments in life that demand an immediate reaction.  Mosquitoes and bat houses should not be one of them.

More typically than not, forethought and a period of time stands a person in better stead than reacting.  I’ve learned how to keep my impulsivity in check.  Now, that desire to react immediately rarely comes up.  (However, when I am in a certain frame of mind, I am much more vulnerable to it.)

In learning to keep impulsivity in check, did I develop a different neural pathway?  I think so.

Each person’s neural pathways are created over time.  Our cells talk to each other. They send electrochemical messages to each other endlessly.  Over time, we tend to develop well worn neural pathways. The more the same cells talk to each other, the more the others do not experience as much activity or no activity, the inactive cells essentially become useless and eventually die off.  The active cells keep sending the same messages between them, traveling the same path.

Dr. Gene Van Tassell describes the pathways as, “the more often a pathway is used, the more sensitive the pathway becomes and the more developed that pathway becomes in the individual brain.”

Ok, so we’ve developed many well worn pathways in our brain.  Big deal?  Maybe yes, maybe no.   It is a big deal if those pathways lead us away from healthy behavior.  If those pathways find us repeating behaviors that are destructive or counterproductive. It is then that someone should call a time-out on the playing field.

Time-out’s are good.  They can help keep things in check.  If life is far off base, sure it can be tough to get things headed in the right direction.  But, you’ll get there.  Take the steady approach, thumb your nose at impulsivity, and while you are at it, bake a quiche. Why?  Why not.

For dinner, I pair it with a simple green salad and bread with olive oil.

I’ve played around with a number of different types of quiches and different crusts.  A quiche that I want to eat does not have a crust and relies on something other than cheese for the big flavor component.  So, I stir in 2  1/2 cups of roasted vegetables.  The flavor of the vegetables marries well with the eggs and cheese.  If the roasted vegetables are prepared in advance, this can be a quick weeknight meal.  Leftovers are good for breakfast as well, cold or hot.

Farmhouse Crustless Quiche

4  eggs

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. ricotta or mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1 c. mixture of shredded cheeses, pecorino, cheddar, asiago, mozzarella, your choice

2 1/2 c. roasted vegetables, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, onions (recipe below)

1 T. oregano

salt and freshly ground black pepper

optional condiments:  sour cream and salsa

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Butter a deep dish 9″ pie plate.  Place pie plate on a baking sheet to avoid spillage in the oven.  Set aside.

2.  In a medium mixing bowl whisk eggs and milk together.  Whisk in cheeses, both shredded and ricotta or mascarpone.  Whisk until yolks are broken and mixture is incorporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add oregano.  Whisk to combine.

3.  Fold the vegetable mixture into the cheese mixture.  Stir to combine.

4.  Pour the mixture into the pie plate.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until a golden brown crust forms on the top and the middle of the quiche barely moves when jiggled a bit.

Let the quiche rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve topped with sour cream or salsa, if desired.

Roasted Vegetables

Yield 3 cups +
Cooks Note:  The mixture of the vegetables is up to you.  Use what you have on hand.  I’ve found carrots, parsnips and onions add great flavor.   Add  a green vegetable such as broccoli or asparagus for color and additional nutrients.  Bell peppers would work well, any color.  The trick is to cut the vegetables into similar sizes so they roast evenly.

1 large yellow onion, chopped

5 carrots, rinsed and chopped

3 – 4 parsnips, rinsed and chopped

2 c.  broccoli florets, rinsed

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Pile your vegetables on two large rimmed baking sheets, evenly divided.  Drizzle olive oil over the top, maybe 2 – 3 T. over each pile of vegetables.  Salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, toss the vegetables to incorporate the oil, salt and pepper.

2.  Spread the vegetables in a single layer on each sheet.  Check for doneness after 30 minutes of baking.  Roast 30 – 45 minutes until they begin to turn golden brown and are fork tender.

soup, summer, and craziness

I can become emotional and disorganized in the face of making big decisions.  Along with these attractive traits, once in awhile I’ll thrown in being ornery, more easily frustrated and irritable.  If there is a full moon, watch out.  I probably don’t have to tell you it is all on the north side of slightly unbecoming.  Not pretty, I know.

I have been kicking around the idea of returning to graduate school;  hence, the conflicting thoughts in my mind.

Two or more opposing thoughts in the mind create conflict.  I find it best to have at least four to six.  Cognitive dissonance and I are old friends.  We are on a first name basis.

I do suppose that I could approach the process in a more logical manner. Step 1.  Sit for GREs.  Step 2. Wait for score.  Step 3. Determine if score will get me into a graduate school.  Step 4.  I won’t bore you anymore.  You get the picture.  But, oh no, I don’t handle it the logical way.  At least not at first.  I have to begin the process by imagining things like leaving my family to attend school; or, once again, paying back a mountain of debt acquired during one’s education.  I handle it the emotional way.

To me, summer soup (my take on minestrone soup) is a far cry from the messiness of opposing thoughts and decisions.  It is a no muss, no fuss, straightforward dish.  I enjoy making this soup in the summer months because it is good served at room temperature.  The flavors seem to meld and heighten a bit more when the soup is allowed to rest after cooking.

Full of vegetables and beans, a healthier dish is hard to find.   It is also a forgiving soup. Use what you have in your vegetable drawer.  Zucchini instead of carrots ?  Great. Cabbage instead of spinach ?  All the better. Leftover rice in the frig?  Put it in your soup and leave out the ditalini.

Summer Soup

1/2   large sweet onion, diced

2   stalks celery, rinsed and diced

4   carrots, rinsed and diced

8 oz.  button mushrooms, rinsed or wiped, thinly sliced

1  T.  oregano

1/2 T. basil

15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed, set aside

15 oz can corn, drained and rinsed, set aside

4 c. (more, if needed, for desired consistency) low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1/2 c. (scant) ditalini pasta, uncooked

6 – 9 oz. bag fresh spinach, rinsed, set aside

extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper and salt

1.  In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat 2 T. or so of olive oil over medium heat.

2.  Once the oil is fragrant, add the diced onion, carrot and celery.  Add a pinch of salt.  Sweat vegetables until they have softened and begin to turn slightly translucent.  About 10 minutes.

3.  Add mushrooms and pinch of salt.  Sweat mushrooms until they begin to give up their moisture and develop a slight golden brown color.  About 5 minutes.

4.  Add seasonings including freshly ground black pepper to taste.   Stir to incorporate.

5.  Add kidney beans, corn, 3 c. of the broth and ditalini.  Simmer 10 minutes until pasta is al dente.  Do not overcook.

6.  Add remaining stock and spinach.  Stir to incorporate.  Put lid on pot and remove from heat allowing the heat from the dish to cook and wilt the spinach.  Check after 5 – 10 minutes.  Once spinach is wilted, remove lid, serve immediately or at room temperature with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil dressing each bowl.