Archives for category: health

I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, taking advantage of the last round of cool days before the heat of summer really sets in.

When roasting vegetables, I almost always go with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), but roasting cauliflower with coconut oil somehow elevates it to a whole new level. Coconut oil is not as heart healthy as EVOO, but it’s nice to use once in a while. And with this simple side dish you are getting in your cruciferous vegetable, so it all balances out.

1 large head cauliflower, cut into small (1-1/2 to 2″) florets

2 tablespoons coconut oil

salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450F.

Spread cauliflower florets on a large cookie sheet in a single layer. Melt coconut oil in small pan then drizzle onto florets. Stir and turn florets gently with a spoon to coat evenly. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Pop into oven and roast for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it; you might want to remove from oven and stir halfway through cooking. You want the cauliflower to be golden brown, with the tips just beginning to char.

Remove from oven when done, let rest for a minute, and enjoy!

Serves 4.

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If I have developed one skill lately, it’s to embrace change.

I’m at a crossroads in almost every area I can think of: my personal life, my career… yet many things chug along as they always have. I still have the same responsibilities and new ones to come. Each day brings sublime little moments and take-a-deep-breath challenges.

This crossroads stuff is scary, but it’s also refreshing. It’s a reboot, akin to those uncertain years of high school and college. It’s back to figuring out who you are, what is important to you, where to go next.

And it’s a reminder to me that we are all in a state of continuous change, just like the greater world around us.

Whether your next move is groundbreaking, or just a subtle shift (either can be huge)… you are utilizing your life energy and you are moving forward. It’s when you keep things static that you run into trouble.

So enjoy the moment and keep it flowing.. your mind, your body, your outlook. Shed old ideas. Remain true to who you are. Hit reset. Hit go.

At the farmer’s market in Michigan, I picked up four perfect candy onions. (I mean, who can resist that name?) This recipe produces insanely delicious sweet, slightly crispy onions that would complement a million things, but I end up just eating them as they are. And of course they are good for you…. onions have anti-inflammatory benefits and protect your body in all sorts of ways, we all know about olive oil, and even maple syrup provides the antioxidant benefits of manganese and zinc.  Note: there is a slight bit of technique involved here, but your patience and attentiveness will be highly rewarded!

4 medium candy, sweet, or Vidalia onions

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 good dashes salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Peel outermost layers of onions; trim off stem and root ends; cut in halves, then into thin slices. In large saute pan, warm olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion slices and stir with spatula to coat with oil. Spread the slices evenly in the pan and allow to cook for ten minutes or so. Sprinkle with salt, give it a stir. You may need to adjust the heat to prevent onions from burning or drying out. Feel free to add a bit more oil as well to avoid this. Stir frequently as all slices become softened.

Continue cooking the onions for up to an hour. Keep an eye on them, stirring only when the onions begin to brown but before they begin to burn; this is what helps caramelize them. After 25 minutes or so, you might want to lower the heat and stir and scrape the browned bits more often. Add the maple syrup for flavor and to encourage the caramelizing process. Watch, stir, and scrape until the onions are very soft and nicely browned. Splash with balsamic vinegar, stir well. Let rest for a few minutes and serve.

Serves 4-6 as a topping or side.

This very simple recipe is elevated by the quality of its seasonal ingredients, making beautiful use of all those ripe tomatoes you have in your garden or just picked up at the farmers’ market. It’s super healthy because it really doesn’t need dressing; the ripe tomatoes and all of the flavors just meld into a celebration of summer.

6-8 Ripe summer tomatoes, thinly sliced  (no need to peel or remove seeds)

2 Sweet or Vidalia onions, very thinly sliced

2 Cucumbers, peeled if not organic, very thinly sliced

Salt

Fresh ground pepper

A bit of chopped fresh basil, dill, or parsley if desired

Layer the bottom of a large salad bowl with cucumber slices.  Follow with onion slices, then layer on tomato slices. Generously season with salt, pepper, and herbs if you are using. Continue layering in this order until all ingredients are used. Chill in the refrigerator for about two hours to allow flavors to blend.

So I had this little fall, one false move, on the stubborn ice of late winter. It began a journey of injury, surgery, and rehab. A small injury by many standards, but a torn rotator cuff causes an impressive amount of trouble.

At first, I continued yoga at half mast. Three months later, post surgery, I ran around town in a massive sling. Six weeks later, off with the sling, but then my right arm didn’t work from being immobilized for so long.

Enter physical therapy, three days a week. Joe, my awesome therapist, made a little speech at our first session, assuring me he knew what he was doing. I’m glad he told me this, because there were many times I thought he was trying to break my arm.

Through this experience, I’ve learned a few things.

In yoga, your instructor reminds you to stretch to your edge but back off at the first sense of pain. I applied this practice to my home rehab work. After six weeks, my surgeon registered his disappointment in my progress by gently grabbing my arm and demonstrating how it should feel when I work. I learned quickly that therapy doesn’t involve a gentle yogic stretch. It’s not even old school “feel the burn”. It is dig in and push yourself right past the barrier you thought existed.

I’ve also learned that my sense of empathy is heightened, always a good thing. I understand that my experience, as challenging as I find it, is minor compared to what so many people face.

I’ve long had a reverential appreciation for what our bodies can do, and now that mine is floundering, I feel that I owe it everything I’ve got to recover.

My sense of self discipline is getting a nice workout in itself as I keep up the therapy routines at home.

To that end… I’m not much of a TV watcher. But suddenly, every time I walked through the living room there were zombies staggering around on the screen. Never having seen such a thing, I sat down and while I watched, I cranked my arm and hardly noticed the pain. I learned that it’s OK to binge watch episodes of The Walking Dead. It can be therapeutic to work on my routine while watching silly horror TV, summer evening after summer evening, with my teenage son.

A friend recently invited me to a Yin class, my first yoga class in months. Yin is a perfect re-entry into yoga, because it is quiet, open, focused, and can be modified for anyone. I’m thrilled that I can move into Yin and eventually back to all that yoga has to offer.

As much as I have missed restful nights, a strong right arm, and my favorite summer sports of bicycling and kayaking, I’ve re-learned an important truth… that pain and challenge opens the mind to a greater appreciation of all we have.

I’m psyched! I just signed up for a writer’s workshop run by some of Chicago’s top writers. So now I know what I’m doing the next two Saturdays.

And that’s really good, because lately life has been full of personal challenges and difficult work.

We all face tough times — too much of something for weeks then too little of something else for much longer. And it’s easy to get “stuck in your head”; rarely coming up for air to notice the truly good things in life or to notice how we are taking care of ourselves.

But by giving yourself some structure in your daily and weekly routine, like exercising regularly or attending a class, you create a reality base for yourself (yes, you do have a life outside these problems!) It clears your mind, helps you focus, and allows you to say adieu to much of that built up stress.

On the next level, by scheduling personal events that are intriguing by your definition, you create a meaningful and tangible near future. Give yourself something to look forward to, and you can manage today.

For me it’s the summer workshop, a trip up north, an Atoms for Peace concert in the fall, and more. I’ve got a few great events planned, and in between these events, I hope to create many moments of peace, spontaneity and balance.

I don’t use drugs, my dreams are frightening enough. – M. C. Escher

The dreams I remember upon waking feel like a strange little gift presented by the subconscious. Even if I have a horrific dream, at least it is something interesting to tumble around in the back of my head the next day (or sometimes for the rest of my life).

We forget most of our dreams, of course, shortly after our feet hit the floor. Some of the best stories and songs ever written appeared first as dreams, and those dreamers had the good sense and well worn skills to immediately record a few notes before the brainwaves settled back down.

My first memorable childhood nightmare was a harrowing adaptation of the Norwegian fairy tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, with my parents and brother as the three goats clip clopping across the bridge. I watched in horror as an ugly troll emerged from under the bridge, pulling them down and and eating them alive, one by one.  I slept the rest of that night in my parents’ bed.

Perhaps we’ve all had the classics.  Falling perilously and waking up just before hitting bottom was a repeat throughout my childhood. It was coolest when it involved a waterfall, but I usually fell from a mountain or foreboding cliff. I’m glad I outgrew this set of dreams and thankfully never hit rock bottom.

Another childhood classic (I say hopefully) is walking to school naked or taking off my coat at school and realizing I had forgotten to get dressed. Social anxiety, not prepared for my third grade quiz? This one I looked up online, and the questionable source suggests an inflated sense of self. OK then, perhaps I was a confident eight year old.

Somewhere in adulthood I started having “vision dreams”. There is no memorable plot or story line to a vision dream; you simply awaken with a wildly vivid picture in your mind. In my favorite I’m up on a mountain looking down at a tropical bay and boats and fireworks and thousands of stars in the sky.  Years later I found an illustration that doesn’t depict it, but the colors and mood are exactly like that in my dream.  I definitely dream in color.

I haven’t taken out books from the library to study dreams or anything like that. I can usually piece together the two or three elements from recent events that curdle into mind blips that then surface as dreams.

But I was inspired to write this post because today I had my favorite kind of dream… in which a close, beloved deceased relative or friend pops in, for a few lifelike moments, to say hello. While I was taking a 20 minute power nap, my father appeared. It was just for a second;  only a quick look at his combed hair and his glasses and his bright blue eyes, wearing his favorite tan jacket over a tall wiry frame, smiling and stepping up a curb to approach me as I stood somewhere outside.

So thank you, dream, for giving me back my Dad, just for a moment. That’ll keep me going for a while.