3 Simple Ways to Welcome Spring

1) As more light comes into our lives, think light in terms of your food intake. Not to eat so little you feel hungry or unsatisfied, but in terms of what foods you eat — when you eat clean, you can eat a lot and not feel heavy, congested or tired.

What does “clean food” mean?

  • Fill your plate at least half with salads and fresh cooked vegetables, then let the other half be mostly grains and beans, with whatever meat you’re having being more like a side dish or flavor boost.
  • Take in plenty of fluids and high water content foods (again, basically veggies) so there is less room for denser foods. I just made a quick, satisfying soup from prepared chicken broth in which I simmered onion, carrot, mushroom and zucchini, with a Gardenburger on the side for added protein and satiety. My favorite ready made broth is Rachel Ray’s brand — it actually has less sodium than most brands, including those marked “low sodium” and has a true chicken flavor.
  • Try homemade smoothies for a treat or a meal replacement. Freeze ripe bananas by peeling, breaking into small pieces and storing in a container. For one serving, mix about half a banana with some frozen berries or peach slices, add a scoop of whey protein powder (Designer Whey is a great brand), a tablespoon of flax or coconut oil, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a little sweetener to taste if needed. The combination of protein powder and healthy oil keeps you full and satisfied for hours.

2) Do some mental spring cleaning. Take an hour to meditate and journal on a habitual behavior you are wanting to let go of and what you want to replace it with. For example, if you’ve been beating yourself up about spending too much on non-essentials, think about what other resources you have to fill that need. What sets off the desire to acquire? State your intention to stop, breathe and contemplate the richness of your life the next time you feel the impulse to make a purchase. Then extend your gratitude by passing on clothing items, CDs and books that no longer fit your life.

3) Touch the earth. Find a place to take off your shoes and really feel the ground supporting you and the grass or moss that is coming back to life. Open all of your senses to the moment — the air on your skin, the wind in the still bare trees, the buds that are forming on the branches, the sounds of birds and other creatures becoming active again. Open your arms and breath deeply, knowing that you are part of this cycle of cold and warm, dark and light, dormant and fertile. Embrace your place in the natural order of life.

Happy spring! Wishing you light and warmth in all aspects of your being…

Savory Rice or Quinoa Saute

Here’s a healthy twist on fried rice that can be as complex or as simple as you’d like. I often make this as a side dish, but you can also add bits of cooked chicken, turkey, sausage or shrimp at the end to make a one-pan meal that is truly satisfying and just needs a salad to round it out.

This will make enough for two as a main dish, four as a side, and calls for having leftover cold rice or quinoa on hand. It actually doesn’t work as well with freshly cooked grain because it will still have too much moisture and result in a mushier dish.

All measurements are more intuitive than exact! Switch up the veggies, increase or decrease amounts to your taste and let your own creativity play.

~Saute 1 small onion in olive oil till transparent. Add 1 diced carrot, a bunch of broccoli or cauliflower cut into small bites (or any other hard, longer cooking vegetable) and continue sauteeing until still firm but beginning to soften. Add diced zucchini or yellow squash and one or two minced cloves of garlic. You could even chop up some¬† spinach or other leafy green — if you have some already cooked, add it in with the grains.

~When vegetables are cooked, add in about 1 cup of leftover grain and a bit more oil if needed (this works best in a good non-stick or cast iron skillet which needs very little oil). Season to taste with some soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (a non-fermented soy based seasoning that adds salt and richness), and herbs of your choice — my favorites are thyme and marjoram, maybe a little oregano or basil, or sometimes curry powder instead of herbs — and salt and pepper to taste. How about a dash of Tabasco or cayenne for a little heat?

~If adding meat, have it cooked before hand and stir in at the end till just heated through. Or add a half can or so of your favorite beans — garbanzos are perfect with curry seasoning, or try white or red kidney beans with Italian seasonings.

Zero-based eating at its best — use what you have on hand and turn those leftover bits into something truly tasty!

If you come up with a great flavor combination, please come back and share it with the rest of us…

Looking Ahead in the Now

I talk a lot about mindfulness, being present to each moment as it is unfolding. But there is also much to be said for looking ahead for inspiration, hope and relief. Is this a spiritual oxymoron (which sounds like its own oxymoron!) or can dreaming, planning and even yearning be part of this moment too?

February ended with a real clunk here in the northeast, with two storm systems slamming our area and leaving hundreds of thousands without power for many days.¬† For us it was 4-1/2 to be exact, and with our well no power means not just no heat but also no water. No water means no flushing toilets, along with needing bottled water for drinking, cooking and basic cleanup. Not to mention the loss of lights, computers, TV’s, radios and phone.

It was a rough time, shoveling 2 feet of snow, melting snow to flush toilets, and being in basic survival mode as we waited for a downed tree to be cleared so we could be plowed out after three of those days. It was also intensely, deeply, soul-stirringly quiet, and I drank that in like rain on desert sand. On some level there was nothing to do but be really present –staying warm, fetching and melting snow, clearing paths and cars, minimizing phone conversations to save cell phone batteries.

One morning as I looked out at all of that snow — trees bending under the weight of it, piles mounded higher than my 5’1″ stance — I realized that in 4 to 6 weeks we’d begin to see buds, and in 5 months we’d be eating chard, herbs and berries from our garden, and pulling weeds like mad. And on the 4th day of captivity, I ceremoniously turned the calendar page to March and felt (as I did just writing that word) a palpable relief — we might still be in the thick of this storm, but there was light at the end of the tunnel called winter.

What rough patch are you navigating right now? Are you able to be truly present to the difficulty and also see past it to a future territory that holds more ease? What tender green slips of tulip are hiding in the frozen tundra of your psyche?

Be here now — and be there when it gives you the fortitude to more fully be here now.