Monday, January 31, 2011

Make This: Mediterranean Fish Packets

I knocked the socks off of dinner tonight. So, naturally, I had to share it with you. It’s a meal that the likes of Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan would totally endorse—made only with fish, veggies and legumes. Plus, it's incredibly easy and fast. Get ready because this is quickly going to become a weeknight least in my home!

Mediterranean Fish Packets

Serves 2


2 halibut filets (about 6 oz each)

1 can organic no salt added diced tomatoes*

1 can organic no salt added great northern beans^

1 can organic no salt added kidney beans^

1 bunch organic collard greens or any leafy green vegetable (spinach or kale would also work), washed, stems removed, and cut into thin slices

1 lemon, sliced

2 sheets aluminum foil


Preheat oven to 450.

Thoroughly rinse beans. In the middle of each slice of aluminum foil divide ingredients and layer in this order: Collard greens, tomatoes, both kinds of beans, and fish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and top with two lemon slices each. Fold the packets, place on baking sheet and cook for about 18-20 minutes. Let them sit for 2 to 3 minutes while you open a bottle of sauvignon blanc (Cakebread if we're dreaming here). Using tongs, place the contents of each packet on a plate and dig in--guiltlessly.

*When in season, I’m sure regular tomatoes would be key, but canned diced tomatoes are a great winter solution.

^As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of anything that comes in a can because of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). I ordered a slow cooker this weekend so I’m going to try this recipe again after cooking dried beans in it all day and compare. Still, beans are so wonderful for you so it’s more than OK if they come from a can—just rinse really well.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


As anyone who has ever stepped onto a sticky mat knows, yoga is a metaphor for life. Sometimes the parallels are subtle—like learning the meaning of humility when you nail a tough pose and then quickly tumble out of it; or understanding patience when gently coaxing your body to learn a new one. And sometimes the parallels are lovingly-slap-you-upside-the-head obvious. That’s what I experienced lately. The lesson: Translating the suppleness in body I’ve accrued on the mat to flexibility in mind off the mat.

Let me start at the beginning to show you how I got there (and by there I mean seeing that this is a lesson I need to learn—not one that I’ve mastered quite yet.)

I love routines. Ask me what I’ve had for lunch for the past 20 years and you’ll see just how much I cling to my routines for dear life. The way I see it, there is so much to think about and so many decisions to make on a daily basis. Creating habits that are more reliable than a gray sky in January eliminates the need to make so many decisions, clearing up mental space to tackle the more unexpected events life lofts our way from one moment to the next.

But life is not static. So a routine that works for us in one scenario may become burdensome when life veers off in a different direction. And that’s exactly what happened to me.

The avenue through which I learned this very yogic lesson came from…wait for it…yoga of all places (shocker, I know.) Since I first began my practice four years ago, I’ve always (always) taken classes in the evening. It made the most sense. It didn’t interfere with my workday, it gave me an incentive to step away from my computer at a reasonable hour, and it was a pleasant way to transition from work mode to me mode.

But about a month ago I realized that this routine wasn’t as lovely as it appeared. I often had to detach myself from my computer while there were still fires burning in my inbox—not the most ideal way to show up to a yoga class. By the time I drove home after class and walked the dogs, it was often 8:30 or 9pm before I sat down to dinner. Not my favorite. And as much as I love backbends, doing half a dozen of them is the energetic equivalent of downing several shots of espresso and then trying to fall asleep a few hours later.

So what other options did I have? I could take a morning class, sure, but that would be crazy! Most other people would be at work while I’d be twisting and folding on my mat. That would be way too indulgent! And what would happen in my inbox while I was away from my iMac? My editors are used to my rapid-fire responses and now, sometimes, they’d have to wait an hour or more before my reply. Surely, my career would fall apart.

I drummed up enough courage earlier this month to try just one a.m. yoga class. And guess what? None of this happened. When I flipped on my iPhone and loaded my e-mail afterward, I realized that the world did not end just because I checked out (or checked in, depending on how you look at it) for two hours. (Go figure.) In fact, I’m able to return to my desk with a more even temper and a clearer conscience and work more efficiently thanks to my morning practice. To compensate for the time away, I often work later into the evening, but this gives me the opportunity to wrap up more items than I could when I was rushing out the door at 5 p.m. The result? A calmer mind when I climb into bed. Even better, I can give those badass backbends all the gusto I like and ride the energetic wave throughout the rest of the afternoon. It’s kind of awesome.

I totally understand that having the ability to take a yoga class at any time I like is a luxury. I get it. And I’m still working on getting over the guilt I feel when taking advantage of this luxury. But what good is this unique career and life I’ve created for myself if I don’t reap the benefits? Before, I may as well have signed up for a job in a cubicle because I had basically boxed myself in with my routines anyway.

The implications of this shift have reached much farther than dictating the time of day that I practice yoga (and if I can’t make a morning class then I go in the evening—another way in which I’ve let go of some rigidity.) More importantly, I’ve taken this lesson as an opportunity to reexamine other routines in my life that may no longer work for me, as hard as I have tried to hold on to them. I ask myself: Does this routine make my life happier/calmer/better/easier/more blissful/more fun? With the answers, I’ve released several of them and revised others.

I still believe that routines have their place as long as they are an intentional part of our daily existence instead of an automatic one without purpose or meaning. With this in mind, I’m still okay admitting that I am and probably will always be a creature of habit (if nothing else, it makes me a very reliable friend!)

And as far as my daily lunch is concerned? Well that’s not about to change any time soon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lucky Soup

French green lentils make all the difference in this recipe--great consistency, texture, and flavor.

Sticking with the New Year theme, I thought I’d tell you about the unbelievable soup I made last week. Hands down the best one to date. What does this have to do with the New Year other than the fact that I made it the first week of January? I’ll tell ya: I made lentil soup. Still not seeing the connection? According to some traditions (Italian, I think? Can anyone vouch for that?) eating lentils at the start of a new year symbolizes good luck and prosperity. I’d been looking for a great lentil soup recipe for a while and as soon as I landed on one, I figured what better time to have a crack at it? Get out your stockpot and pile of veggies—this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa is a keeper.

Lentil Vegetable Soup


1 pound French green lentils (MUST be French green lentils—they maintain their consistency far better than regular ones. I found them in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods.)

3 large yellow onions, chopped

2 leeks, chopped (white parts only)

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup olive oil

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 ½ tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp ground cumin

8 stalks celery, chopped

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 quarts low-sodium chicken stock

¼ cup tomato paste


In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 2 to 3 hours, until the lentils are cooked through.

Happy New Year, Indeed!

I’ll admit that it’s tempting to want to set a New Year’s resolution. The thought that somehow when the clock strikes 12am on January 1, you could be a new person—a better version of yourself because it’s a new year—is enticing. But I know better. Resolutions are hard. They’re often broken and they take work and change. The dreaminess of Paige version 2011 is overshadowed by what’s truly behind a resolution—admitting that the current version of myself isn’t good enough or that some part of myself doesn’t make the cut as I cross over into a new year. And resolutions are lonely. It’s you against the universe trying to upgrade some aspect of yourself that isn’t quite right. While I’m all for constant self-improvement and refining my definition of who I am, I never want it to feel like a struggle. It should be a natural, seamless evolution of my being.

So this year, standing outside in the snow swallowing frisky bubbles of champagne while moving my body to Michael Jackson beats on New Year’s Eve, I resolved that setting intentions were much more my speed. At first blush, an intention may not seem that distinct from a resolution, but to me it’s a horse of a different color. An intention is like a pact with the universe. “Look, universe, I’ll do my part to bring this desire to fruition if you’ll lend a hand along the way.” And unlike a resolution, which often ends in disappointment, an intention will almost never let you down. No matter how hard you try to make your intention a reality, if it hasn’t happened yet it either a) isn’t time or b) actually has come true and you haven’t realized it. As an aside, the latter happened to me just a few months ago. For nearly a year, my intention was a single word: “Shiny.” I set it over and over again and focused on it even though I had no idea what it truly meant at the time. The word had just come to me, randomly, and I went with it. And one day toward the end of last year, I noticed a shiny quality in myself—I was bright, enthusiastic, and energetic. I felt like a beam of positive energy. I realized that I had been setting this intention, not knowing its true meaning, when I’d actually been shiny for months. It was who I had become, and yet I was still hoping to cultivate that quality because I hadn’t yet acknowledged that it was a fundamental part of my personality.

So what intentions was I going to set? I knew immediately. (My belief is that if I need to think long and hard about my intentions, they’re not really my intention—they’re something I think I should want. Or if I choose to ignore my immediate thoughts because they seem silly or strange then I’m not giving them a chance—I could have easily ignored “shiny” because it’s ridiculous. Instead, I went with it to find out where it would take me and it lead to a deeper understanding of myself. If you truly want something your gut will know and once you check in, it will relay the message to your conscious mind. Spiritual anatomy, folks! Ha.) So, without thinking long and hard, here are the two intentions I set for 2011:

Opportunities. I actually set this in 2010, but at the time framed it—more or less—as “career opportunities.” Boy, was it a success. Just last year I started writing for magazines I never imagined would sport my bylines—Oprah, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart Living,, and American Baby—while stepping up my contributions to Women’s Health, SELF, Fitness, and others. Rock on. While I hope to continue expanding my career opportunities, my intention is to invite and create opportunities in as many aspects of my life as possible (dream big, right?): Friends, family, love, travel, and yoga to name a few. How will I do this? Really, I think it’s about creating and seeking out opportunities. Pitching stories to more magazines can result in greater writing opportunities. Taking advantage of opportunities to spend time with my family means deepening my relationship with them. In addition to two upcoming Anusara yoga immersions in Park City, I’m hoping to do at least one other yoga workshop somewhere this year—I just need to look into the opportunities that exist and appeal to me most and then jump on board. Really, it’s up to me. But it’s also an open invitation for the universe to let me know when I’m on the right path and to help guide my actions into favorable outcomes along the way.

Acceptance. This is a biggie. Ginormous, really. So here’s the deal. Originally, what came to mind was, “not comparing myself to others.” But I like to leave negative words (like “not”) out of intentions—I don’t want to send the universe any mixed messages. So what “not comparing myself to others” really means is “accepting myself for who I am, as I am.” Acceptance. Recently, I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to compare myself to others. All. The. Freaking. Time. And no matter what, I always fall short. I literally set myself up for failure. Clearly, this behavior fits neatly under the heading of Habits That Don’t Serve Me. It’s definitely at the top of the list. (Right above checking my email every four seconds, but that’s another story.) I’m done with it. What good does it do? I can appreciate other people’s successes for the examples they set in my life, but really, I’m the only one I need to worry about. What they do—or have, achieve, think, or look like for that matter—has no impact on who I am unless I allow it to detract from who I am. But I’m closing that door. (I can’t expect it to happen over night, but acknowledging when it happens is certainly a first step. The next step is remembering my own goodness exactly as I am.) And that starts now.

Finally, here’s the beautiful thing about an intention (vs. a resolution): You can set them any time. You can set them every day if you like or renew them or revise them as the year goes on. Not so much with a resolution—it’s a once a year phenomenon; you don’t often hear people setting a resolution in July, for instance. And one more thing: With an intention, success is the only outcome because you always receive exactly what you need.