Monthly Archives: September 2010

Beauty in the Bass


Remember that wonderful post when I offered you a very valuable piece of information? No, not the yoga posts. No, not the quinoa one. No, no, not the one about FARMiCiA.

The one when I strongly urged you to find a boyfriend (or partner of your liking) that cooks, and cooks well. At this time, I’d like to further defend that little piece of priceless advice.

While your boyfriend (or, again, partner of your choosing) cooks a creative, colorful, delicious meal and takes photos of each step, go sit in the living room and relax. By relax I mean read endless amounts of scholarly work around diversity and oppression for hours on end. Then take a break to devour a meal made entirely of fresh produce and Chilean sea bass. Oh, happiness ensues.

Take a break from work for homemade pomme frites tossed with rosemary and seal salt as an appetizer.

If you’re the chef for the night:

Freshly press an orange and then saute a diced yellow pepper in its juice.

Peel and slice potatoes and cook them in a little olive oil prior to placing them in the bottom layer a foil package. Layer another piece of foil over potatoes.

Slice a white onion, place on top layer of foil and add lemon slices.

Place Chilean sea bass atop onions and lemons and top with marinated yellow peppers. Close foil package and bake in the oven @ 400 degrees or so, for about 20 minutes. Feel free to broil the last few minutes.

Once baked, remove from oven and open with bare hands if you feel the need to prove your masculinity.

Boil fresh green beans somewhere in the mix of creating the package of Chilean goodness.

This was the type of meal that one would dress up for. It was almost as though dinner had been served at a fabulous restaurant. I should have looked like this:

At the very least, I should have presented myself with groomed hair and a little makeup. Instead I looked like this:

Which brings me to my next invaluable piece of advice.

You’re beautiful just the way you are. Even if you look like me in that photo.

And even if your sister actually says the word “ew” when looking at the above photo of you. Forget what your sister thinks… this isn’t about her.

Thank your boyfriend for a beautiful meal and for being a beautiful person.

Thank you Miguel!

Now what are you making me next? 😉

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Simply Yoga: Week 2


I’m ashamed to say it. I skipped beginner yoga week 2. Gasp! I know, I know. What a hypocrite. But, before you start judging me, let me tell you why I missed yoga week 2.

A birthday night out in Philly for my sister! That’s a good excuse, right? Especially when my yoga studio is an hour and half away. Or, if I’m stuck in Philly traffic, which has the uncanny ability to bring out the ugly in me, three hours :).

Mad Mex for dinner and margaritas. Apple cider margarita? Yes please! Doesn’t the birthday girl look awesome?

Painful feet after a night out. Quite a quick picture recap. Mainly b/c we’ve got yoga to review!

Dedicated student that I am, I felt the need to make up for my absence in my beginner yoga workshop. What’s a better remedy to my lack of attendance, than to review last week’s session? Okay, enough justification — let’s get started. Beginner yoga fans, read on for your Sunday yoga lesson. The rest of you lovely readers, continue anyway ;).

simply fit. simply clean. simply yoga.

Week 2

Practice a three part breath: Breathe through your nose into your lower belly, then feel the breath move up to your lower chest followed by your low throat. Make sure to focus on the breath. This is a key component in furthering your practice. Use your hands for guidance. When you exhale, your breath will move from your throat to the chest, to your lower abdomen. Read once more and give it a try. So relaxing.

Friendly reminder! Don’t forget to use this breathing practice throughout the movements. Let’s move on.

Cat & Cow: Begin in a neutral, tabletop position, like my lovely model, Jess, below:

Try to align your neck with your spine, and don’t lock your elbows. Fingertips face forward and hands should be placed directly underneath your shoulders. Same with your knees: directly underneath your hips (and hipwidth apart). Now, move on to the cow pose by rounding your back, and, again – don’t forget to breathe through all of these movements.

While exhaling, move to the cat position by scooping your back. You’re on, Jess!:

Moving on to one of my favorite poses, the downward facing dog. Apparently this pose is quite difficult, and our instructor informed us that while in various yoga classes, we will likely be corrected by the instructors regarding our form. My form (which will likely be corrected when I’m actually in class next week):

Notice my hamstrings are tight and I cannot get my heels to the ground. Practice makes perfect :). Also, my arms hyperextend (thanks again, genetics!), so this is something the instructor told me to make note of — obviously the sticky was lost on that post-it. See my hyperextended arms above? Boo, Nat.

In the following picture, I’m doing a “prep” of the downward dog, by bending my knees a bit, to allow for assistance into the move.

Do not lean into your armpits, as reviewed in class. Please see example below:

That took some serious core strength.

Simple seated pose: Sit on a folded blanket if you prefer, to create a comfortable seat. Find your sit bones (or as less civilized people such as myself refer to them: “butt bones”) and your breath, and allow it to help you twist through the movement.

One hand on the belly, and twist towards that arm, while keeping your spine & neck aligned throughout the twist movement for as long as possible. Do not strain yourself. Rest for a few seconds at the end of the pose.

Good work ;). Bridge pose, anyone?

Bridge pose: Lay on your back with your knees bent. Tuck your arms underneath your shoulders.

Raise your hips a bit to understand the flow and structure of the movement.

If possible, raise your hips entirely, but do not allow them to extend above your knees.

The bridge pose is helpful in aiding digestion and with tired legs, among many other benefits.

Wall pose: This move is fairly easy and helps with backaches and stretching, while also aiding in relieving the body of wind. Yup, I said it. “Wind”. Pull yourself together. And then try this move. Sit against the wall as the birthday girl models below:

Use the leg closest to the wall to start climbing your legs up the wall. See picture below. She’s so graceful:

Tehehehe. It will likely be easier for you if you do not attempt this move with a mat, or a makeshift mat, as we used. The end result should look like this, with your booty flush to the wall:

Don’t make me say it again. Remember to…breathe! All together now. B-r-e-a-t-h-e. Allow yourself to relax into this pose for several breaths. Then laugh at yourself as you try to unplaster your legs and booty from the wall. While your back is on the floor, pull a leg to the chest to relieve some more wind. Ha.

I told Hil to “flex your foot” here. She thought I said “flex your butt”. I was wondering why her entire body kept moving up and down slightly, while her foot remained unflexed. So funny.

Poor Hilary. I swear I got you a really good birthday gift. Totally worth all this embarassment.

Lastly, and equally as important as the rest of the poses, is savasana. It’s meant to relax your mind and body. So simple, and really, so effective. As you lay on your back with your eyes closed, relax your mind, fingers, toes, tongue (yes, tongue), face and just be.

Some impressive yoga benefits, many of which are specific to certain poses:

  • Relaxing stretches
  • Helps improve digestion
  • Aids in preventing osteoporosis
  • Provides gentle massages
  • Beneficial in fighting asthma, high blood pressure and sinusitus
  • Relieves pain
  • Calms mind and body

I need to stop wearing see-through shirts for yoga. On that note, namaste :).

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Simply Celebrate


It’s that time of year. The Mama’s birthday!

For our birthdays, my mom makes whatever we desire for dinner. For her birthday we take her out to eat (unlike Janetha’s awesome birthday dinner for her madre). We’re lame. At least the restaurant was gorgeous:

Notice the death stares. The sisters are still acclimating to my incessant picture taking.

Check out this stunning family (and Miguel sporting his black eye – not so stunning):

Drumroll please! The star of the party:

This restaurant was beautiful, the food options were enticing and the meals were plated nicely. I must say, I was so excited for this dinner. We were patronizing a farm-to-table restaurant, which supports the environment through its own garden and purchasing locally grown food.

Stunning setting:

And these goofs:

Appetizers included outstanding kalamata olive bread and homemade herb crackers, as well a mix of salads and Miguel’s steak tartare. Told you he was steak-obsessed.

Moving on to dinner:

Sometimes pictures are simply better than words.

Gifts were opened:

A candle was extinguished:

And, you guessed it, dessert was devoured…

After the bill was paid and the valet was summoned (really… it’s that kind of place), we returned home for a little dog-on-dog action. Playtime, folks, playtime.

Riley, and Miguel’s pup, Chico:

 

Delicious food, beautiful views, a happy family and playful pups.

Now, that’s what I call a simple celebration.

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What a Treat


Generally, I’m a very happy person. I’m aware that I live a very pleasant life filled with supportive loved ones. What more could one ask for?

Maybe this…

…and this, prior to going to a workplace that has been a rather challenging environment as of late.

A smiling barista that remembers my favorite drink even though I haven’t visited for two months? I’ll take one of those too!

Soy latte w/ one pump of pumpkin spice? Twist my arm.

Since I’ve started following the clean eating philosophy a little closer, I’ve simultaneously cut a lot of dairy out of my diet, without even realizing. As a result, I opt for soy b/c dairy in large portions is no longer my friend (unless we’re talking ice cream). For many, soy is not a good option, unless it’s fermented, but I don’t find that it bothers me. Plus, I don’t know a coffee shop around me that carries almond milk!

For arguments against the use of soy, please view the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website. This article was fairly intriguing to me on various levels, as I work[ed] in a state women’s prison: Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Soy Diet for Illinois Prisoners. I find it very interesting and feel that I should be avoiding eating soy products, unless they’re fermented. Thoughts?

To decompress after a workday that will leave me contemplating my options in the near future, I will be visiting this lovely farm and market on the way home from work. Now, what to make for dinner with all the fresh produce?

Pumpkin spice latte, a trip to the farm market, crisp autumn air and fresh produce? Ahhh. A clean eater’s therapy (and a run wouldn’t hurt either).

What a treat.

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Simply Yoga: Week 1


It was a rainy, chilly Sunday morning. And I was thrilled! What better way to start an 8 week beginner yoga workshop than inside a cozy studio?

I’ve taken quite a few yoga classes in the past, including semi-private classes in someone’s home years ago as a remedy to help me deal with stress issues. At that time I had difficulty taking the concept of yoga seriously, but I did learn how to breathe into my stomach. You breathe into your lungs, you say? Well, I do too silly ;). In yoga there is a practice of distending the stomach through your breath in order to create further flow with the movement. This form of breathing is actually the way I breathe on a daily basis, as it helps tremendously in dealing with stress, which I happen to carry in my stomach. I have genetics to thank for that one. Gracias mamacita ;).

My friend Laura told me she was taking an 8 week beginner yoga workshop. While it sounded like an exciting opportunity, I felt that maybe yoga 102 would be a better option for me, but I decided to sign on with Laura anyway, in the spirit of simply fit. simply clean. simply experience. After reading a little more about the class, it was evident that this may be somewhat of a review for me, but a valuable learning experience as well. When going to group fitness classes at commercial gyms, the focus isn’t necessarily on the exact movement, but rather the muscle in the workout. After attending week 1 of beginner yoga, I already have a new, enlightened frame of mind and a deeper respect for the practice.

Highlights to share:

  • There are eight “limbs” of yoga. During this workshop, we will focus on two most heavily: asana (Sanskrit for “postures”) and pranayama (Sanskrit for breathing)
  • Yoga is exceedingly healthy for the body – it helps individuals with various issues pertaining to the mind and body
  • Your everyday breath is called your centering breath, which is about focusing on relaxation
  • Beginner asanas from which to build: cat, cow, downward dog and legs-up-the-wall pose

I encourage anyone who may think that yoga is not a challenging enough workout (cough, cough –> me) or too “out there”, to re-direct your focus and give this practice a try. After attending a few classes outlining the purpose, benefits and basic postures of yoga, feel free to send me a thank you comment ;).

While I still have just a basic knowledge of all that yoga can do for the mind and body, I’m so excited to thoroughly learn the beginnings of yoga, so I feel comfortable in building upon a solid foundation as I pursue further training.

Namaste.

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It’s the Simple Things


It’s 11:00pm and I’ve just finished sweeping my kitchen and living room floors for the third time today. After mopping both, I scraped up the remains of the Rottweiler hair and washed another sink full of dishes. I have my first hour of MSW field placement supervision bright and early tomorrow morning and I didn’t finish all my homework due for this week. Know what I’m thinking? stress It’s all just fine.

Because it’s the simple things in life.

Like spending a chilly, rainy, relaxing autumn Sunday morning with your best friend, learning the proper form of (and gaining a new appreciation for) yoga.

And coming home to a handsome guy with fresh coffee who says things like this to me on a daily basis:

And then meeting him again for lunch.

How about watching these two play until they’re so pooped that one is sprawled out on the floor and the other couldn’t manage the last few inches to the floor and parked it on the bottom step. Phew. It’s a rough life.

I must add enjoying farm fresh peaches while throwing together a simply delicious dinner to the list.

Baked sweet potato fries: sea salt, agave syrup, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

Black lentils: sauteed portobello mushrooms & red onion, with fresh mozzarella seasoned w/ cumin, sea salt and tossed with white balsamic vinegar

Let’s also add a polish change to the list.

And while doing homework, a simple pumpkin scented candle brightened the entire room.

My homework truly is simply wonderful as well, even though I tend to think otherwise. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue what I love and pour through articles and books that resonate with me.

And a welcomed interruption from my simply wonderful homework to read a kind comment from a simply fabulous new blog friend.

And all the while, remembering this quote on a shirt that I purchased today from the yoga studio:

Duly noted.

Remember: it’s the simple things.

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Quinoa Mish Mash


I hate wasting food, especially produce. So, I came home from work the other day and threw together a dish with the remaining produce in my kitchen that had not yet turned moldy.

Some of us have a hard time cooking without a recipe in the kitchen and some of us have a hard time cooking with a recipe in the kitchen. I prefer to cook without. I’m quite certain I can thank my mother for that, who is a gourmet cooking instructor. Now, in no way am I equating myself to her level of expertise (my sisters are scoffing right now), but I like to think she rubbed off on me a little.

Here’s how I avoided wasting eggplant, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, onions, green peppers, zucchini, bread and fresh mozzarella (that was quickly becoming not-so-fresh).

Stab a spaghetti squash as many times as you can handle and then throw it in the oven at 350/400 degrees for about a half an hour. Cooking times will vary if you have an oven that was created after 1950. I don’t.

While I do love this oven because without it I wouldn’t have one, I don’t think it loves me back. If I want the oven to heat to 400 degrees, I have to set it at 475. If I want to bake something, I have to presume that the treat will turn out soggy in the middle, regardless of how long it’s baked. Hence the reason why I did not post the vegan pumpkin bars I made the other day. Boo.

Back to the topic at hand…

I chopped an onion, two large tomatoes and a baby yellow tomato, as well as two baby eggplants and three baby green peppers and threw them into a heated pan with a little olive oil. I then watched the brawl that was going down in my kitchen.

What kind of doggie playdate host am I for letting King sit on Bru’s head? Ehhh. I’m sure we all can recall a few times when we weren’t exactly “cordial” while playing with our best friends. I know I can. Post brawl, my veggies were sauteing nicely.

I added two heaping spoonfuls of minced garlic, as well as a spoonful of organic tomato paste to enhance the flavor. It was time to throw a lid over the mixture and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Don’t worry if your lid doesn’t fit. Things will still work out in the end. I promise.

While my veggie stew was simmering away, I made some zucchini pasta (Emily @ The Front Burner has a great post outlining the process). For those of you who are unfamiliar with zucchini pasta, it’s easy and quite delicious. Simply take a vegetable peeler and peel the zucchini until you reach the seeds. You don’t want to cut into the seeds, as they will ruin the flow of the “pasta.” So as not to be wasteful (as I was by throwing zucchini peels onto the floor), I chopped up the zucchini core and threw it into the stew. 

By now your spaghetti squash should be cooked through. If it’s too hot to handle (ahem, like Miguel), then throw it in the freezer for a bit until you’re able to cut it open and remove the contents.

Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite foods. It has so much flavor and offers a lot in the way of cooking variety. If you’re unfamiliar with how to get to the yummy center of a spaghetti squash, read on :).

Take a sharp knife and cut into the squash skin. Cut it in half, lengthwise. You should be able to do this quite simply, as the squash should be fairly soft to the touch, since it’s been baked. Once it’s been halved, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Once all the seeds are removed, use a spoon or fork and run it along the flesh of the squash to remove the “meat” in shreds.

While my veggies were still stewing and my squash and zucchini were settled, I boiled a cup of quinoa to add to my dish. I also decided it’d be a good idea to use the last slice and a half of Wild Flour Bakery bread that I bought from the Headhouse Farmers’ Market about two months ago. Don’t worry, I had it in the freezer :). This bread was so delicious and froze wonderfully.

I blended the bread in this mini cuisinart food processor that works like a charm. It used to be my grandmother’s. Isn’t it amazing how older products last longer?

I also shredded the last half of a mozzarella ball I picked up at a farm stand with my best friend Laura this past weekend. An aside here — I’m starting my 8 week beginner yoga class with Laura tomorrow morning. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. I’m so excited!

All the ingredients lined up:

Bru couldn’t resist a sniff.

More play brawling, just because they’re cute. And fun. And make me smile. And hurt my feet when they step on my toes.

Because I had just recently made a tomato sauce and several soups, I wanted to be a tad more creative with this concoction. I’m sure we all have a lot of tomatoes left over from the end of the season, and this is how I chose to utilize mine.

I mixed the cooked quinoa with several spices: a little sea salt and ground pepper, garlic, onion, turmeric (a tiny bit) and dried parsley. I then used it to layer the bottom of my pan. Next, I added half my veggie stew.

I then added the layer of zucchini pasta, followed by the spaghetti squash. The rest of the veggie stew was layered onto the squash and topped with the bread crumb & mozzerella mixture, to which I added olive oil, sea salt and pepper and basil to taste.

Bru just can’t get enough!

The finished product prior to being committed to the oven. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture when it was done! What kind of blogger am I? This turned out to be a delicious dish that I have eaten for lunch for several days, and will freeze for dinners. Now that I’m in graduate school, it’s a must for me to cook larger batches of fresh, healthy food, so I when open the fridge/freezer, I have enticing meals to choose from. I’m also thinking about adding it to my mother’s Thanksgiving day menu as my submission. My vegetarian sister would be so thrilled that she’d probably force me to make more for her to bring back to NYC. We love leftovers. Even if we have to threaten each other to get them.

My meat-eating sister? Not so happy. Sort of like when Anthro is closed on a cold, winter’s night.

Coming soon:  

  • No workout equipment? No problem! My friend Megan and I improvised and we took pictures as proof 😉
  • Snacks on-the-go: grad school style
  • The common American diet: Megan let’s me “clean” up a day of her meals

Question: What are your go-to recipes when trying to use up the last bits of produce & extras in your kitchen?

simply fit. simply clean. simply happy.

Natalie

Natalie

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