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Monthly Archives: April 2013

For those who frequent this blog, you’ve probably noticed that skillful listening is a topic I revisit from time to time. One reason for this is that it’s a skill I’m consistently working to refine. Like playing a musical instrument or refining our postural yoga practice, fine-tuning our listening skills requires regular checking in, honest observation, and practice.

Listening fully also goes hand in hand with something else: A commitment to being as present as possible when listening to ourselves and others.

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The practice of presence is cultivated over time through honest self-confrontation, positive discipline, and belief in our potential. Practices like meditation, mindful breathing, and yogasana can be invaluable in moving us toward this more connected alignment.

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While I was on a lovely walk in the woods of Easton yesterday afternoon, I randomly decided I’d make chicken cacciatore for supper.  I’m not sure what sparked my desire to cook this rustic Italian dish whose contents I only vaguely knew of.  I was confident I’d have the needed ingredients and after a brief phone call with my mother and a glance at some recipes realized this was indeed the case.  Well, almost… I had to run to the nearby package store for some white wine.

Chicken cacciatore, which means “hunter’s chicken” in Italian, is a wonderful dinner for a cool, early spring night.  It’s hearty yet not too heavy and very easy to make.  The dish’s stewed tomatoes deliver a nice pump of the cancer-fighting anti-oxidant lycopene, too.

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The cacciatore recipe below is for omnivores. I’m sure, however, that you could omit the chicken and have a beautiful meal.  I also prepared braised carrots and basmati rice.

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Before I share this blog I wrote on my way home from NYC on Sunday, I’d like to send thoughts, energy, prayers, and love to all those affected by yesterday’s tragedy in Boston.

The blog:

It’s a stunning April Sunday here in the New York area and I’m cruising back to Connecticut on one of the sweet new MTA trains after spending last night and this morning with my Doing It co-host Fannie Cohen in Queens. These trains are great – there’s even a power outlet next to my seat!

The reason for my visit to NYC’s most diverse borough (actually, Queens is possibly the most diverse location on the planet) was to conduct an interview for our upcoming Doing It podcast episode about the stuff we get rid of, a.k.a. waste. This morning, Fannie and I trekked out to the picturesque neighborhood of Forest Hills to speak with a leading member of the Freegan movement at a Stop n’ Swap organized by GrowNYC. Stay-tuned for the show and you’ll learn all about what the Freeganism movement is and much more.

The main reason for this blog today is to share the recipe for the delicious vegetarian Shepherd’s pie Fannie served up last night. Fannie’s crust-less, hearty, yet healthy creation definitely hit the spot after a full day of running around NYC! It’s also really easy and cheap to make.

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One of the good things about the time when your fridge and pantry are stocked so low that you shouldn’t put off going to the grocery store much longer is the fact that it can inspire a little trial and error kitchen creativity. Such was the case in my house around lunchtime yesterday. I had a spaghetti squash and really wanted to make the best of it. I threw it in my Breville oven to roast (well, I first washed it and poked some holes through it with a knife) and figured I’d come up with something to serve it with.

I scanned the fridge, counter, and pantry and ended up with a can of artichoke hearts, a little tomato, some onion, garlic, capers, a little parmesan cheese, and parsley from my little plant. Though I didn’t have green olives or anchoives, I figured, why not create a puttanesca style sauce?

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The translation of spaghetti alla puttanesca is quite interesting. Basically, it means “spaghetti the way a whore would make it” or “whore’s style pasta”. The exact reason why is up for debate. As puttanesca is a very easy and quick sauce to make, some say the prostitutes would just throw the ingredients together between sessions. Others suggest the pungent and tangy ingredients used, like anchovies and capers, are reminiscent of a whore. Rumor also has it that the powerful and tempting aroma exuded from a pot of simmering puttanesca would lure customers into the brothels. Well, whatever the reason, it’s a delicious dish of Southern Italian cuisine typically inclusive of tomatoes, olive oil, capers, olives, and garlic.

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If you read this blog regularly, you might be well aware that my mother is my culinary encyclopedia and lifelong cooking teacher.  She ceaselessly inspires me to be a more skilled and curious cook.  Since moving back to Connecticut almost 2 weeks ago, I’ve been trying to persuade my mother, who lives relatively close to our new home, to be my co-blogger.  I’m happy to announce that she’s definitely interested. We just have to carve out some time to sit down and get organized.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this delicious, very simple, and light meal my mother sent me photos of a few weeks back. What is it?

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Eggs in a vegetable nest. Here are the eggs sizzling away in their chard and kale nest.

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Here some FREE food for thought for today and your week ahead:

There are some people who inspire me by something very simple: they seem to easefully maintain a soft and calm expression throughout their day. Even in times of stress, they appear centered and unruffled, as if they were carrying the expression, “This soon shall pass” in their hearts.

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I am inspired by the occasional stranger on the subway who centers me because they look so content and impervious to the rush-hour crowds, and the yoga student whose soft smile never waivers as she maneuvers from pose to pose.

Ever since I read the following quote of zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh a year ago, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to gently smile throughout my day. Doing so has been powerfully grounding.

As Thich Nhat Hanh so playfully shares in his small booklet The Long Road Turns to Joy:

“As you make the effort to let go of your worries and anxieties, please smile. It may be just the beginning of a smile, but keep it there on your lips. It is very much like the Buddha’s half smile. As you learn to walk as the Buddha walked, you can smile as he smiled. Why wait until you are completely transformed, completely awakened? You can start by being a part-time Buddha right now!

“The half smile is the fruit of your awareness that you are here, alive, walking. At the same time, it nurtures more peace and joy within you. A smile refreshes your whole being and strengthens your practice. Don’t be afraid to smile.”

Something so simple can be so strong and potentially transformational.

This week, I invite you to smile more on and off the mat. Feel free to share about your experience here.

(From a vanity point, smiling more, whether subtly or overtly, is an excellent way to prevent frown lines.)

This is officially my first blog from our new home in Easton, CT.  It’s very quiet in this neck of the woods; we mainly hear peepers, birds, and the incredibly active bullfrogs that live in the bog across the way.  In brief, I’m thrilled to be surrounded by nature once more.  I actually grew up about 8 miles from this cottage, in the neighboring town of Weston.  While I didn’t necessarily take nature for granted during my upbringing, 10½ years of New York City living (well, subtract a couple years in the middle when I was staying in India, Paris, and Kazakhstan) completely deepened my appreciation of it… the power of opposition, I suppose.  Anyway, here we are.

There are some amazing luxuries added back into our lives after years of apartment dwelling.  Just to name a few:

  • The use of our own WASHER and DRYER
  • The ability to step outside of our own home BAREFOOT and feel healthy about it
  • The fact we can temporarily put objects outside of our house if we need to make extra space to clean or organize (very good after a move)
  • The ability to buy groceries… LOTS OF GROCERIES and other essentials like kitty litter… I can get FAR more than I could ever lug on the subway!
  • The ability to GARDEN
  • The eventual acquisition of a basic WEBBER GRILL

There is one culinary adjustment that’s less ideal for an avid cook: the switch from gas to an electric coil stove.  We will eventually switch over again but in the meantime, I’m seeking to master my electric cooking skills.  After all, Julia Child cooked amazing meals on one for part of her career.  That’s the motivation I need.  It’s a bit of an abstract experience to not be able to see the flame or know how long it takes for the coil to cool down and heat up, but I’ll get used to it.  For small baking projects, we also have our beautiful Breville oven next to the stove. These things are stellar!

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I was actually pretty pleased with my first supper cooked over electric coils and would like to share it.  It was very simple: Pan-seared cod served with roasted balsamic Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and wilted baby spinach.

Note: I am still teaching at Park Slope Yoga Center Friday and Saturday afternoons. Fannie and I are also charging ahead with the Doing It podcast.  Check out episode 6!

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