Sunday, July 17, 2011

Make This Tonight: Super Foods Dinner

Wheat berry salad, grilled salmon and sauteed kale

Call me lame, but there are few things in life that give me greater satisfaction than looking at my plate, knowing that every single piece of food on it is ridiculously good for me. While I try to make this happen as often as I eat, tonight I really outdid myself. I honestly got a little giddy as I dive bombed my fork into the pile of bright green kale and chipped away at the heap of chewy wheat berry salad. It didn't hurt that everything tasted fresh and fantastic, too. So here it is: Tonight's Super Foods Dinner.

Wheat Berry Salad
I must thank the fabulous Ali Schwartz for the original recipe. Without her, I wouldn't even know what a delicious wheat berry is. (Which, by the way, is a wheat kernel minus the outer hull.)

First, cook the wheat berries (Find them in the bulk bins aisle of Whole Foods or here.)

In a large pot, combine 2 cups wheat berries with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about one hour. Drain and rinse.

I let them cool for several hours in the fridge. Then added:
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
You could also add: Scallions, avocado, bell and jalapeno peppers, peas, edamame, carrots, etc.

Sauteed Kale
Check out my tried-and-true kale recipe here.

Grilled Salmon
I marinated the filets in my go-to salad dressing, Brianna's Real French Vinaigrette for about 15 minutes. Funny thing is, I've never actually used it on salad (I usually make my own dressing) but I've marinated every kind of fish you can think of as well as chicken breasts in the stuff. I then grilled the salmon on the George Foreman for about four minutes, squeezed 1/4 of a lemon on top, and dinner was served.

Delicious. Healthy. Completely satisfying.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Make This Tonight: Summer Comfort Food

Ingredients: Halibut, tomatoes, broccolini, and beans.

For the most part, my cravings are entirely in step with the seasons. In the winter I prefer heartier, warmer meals like soups, stews, and roasts and in the summer I tend to eat lighter, cooler foods with a higher water content such as raw or grilled fruits and veggies and lean proteins.

But sometimes I like to change it up, which is exactly what I did this past Sunday. I wanted something that would fill the very depths of my belly without being heavy or greasy. I found the perfect solution: Italian Flag Halibut. The original recipe comes from Rachael Ray (her titles of recipes are questionable--this one earned its moniker, I suppose, because it's red, white, and green. I wouldn't exactly describe the flavor as Italian, however.) The health content of her recipes are also sometimes iffy: She's often heavy on the cream, butter, and cheese. Not so with this summer dinner. All of the ingredients are healthy and in-season. It's rich in good-for-you fats and packed with nutrients thanks to the greens (broccolini), tomatoes, garlic, and beans. And it's even better for you because I doubled the amount of veggies found in the original recipe. You're welcome.

So here you go: A summer Sunday dinner winner. (Maybe the dumb titles thing is contagious.)

Italian Flag Halibut
Serves: 4

4 bunches of broccolini
4 skinless halibut fillets (About 6 oz each) (NOTE: I used frozen fillets because they're less expensive and equally fresh. Thaw in a bowl of cold water for about 20 minutes beforehand.)
Extra virgin olive oil
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
6 medium tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1.5 cans cannellini beans, rinsed
1-2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • Discard the leaves from the broccolini and cut the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.
  • Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper. Lightly coat the bottom of the skillet with olive oil. Add the fish and cook until nicely golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip the fish and cook until firm, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
  • Add the garlic and a little more olive oil (about 1 Tbsp). Cook, stirring and scraping up the browned bits, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broccolini and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, beans and 1 cup broth and cook, stirring occasionally until the broccolini is tender and tomatoes have broken down and become a little saucy, about 5 minutes. If you're feeling extra saucy, add a little more broth and continue cooking a bit longer.
  • Spoon the tomato-broccolini-bean mixture onto each plate and top with a portion of the fish. Lightly salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Learning to Let Go

Fact: A recent study found that hammocks improve sleep. I can confirm this.

If there’s one thing I’m particularly bad at, especially in my adult life, it’s relaxing. Yep, I pretty much suck at it. Now, don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I spend all 16 of my waking hours working. In fact, I allow myself one delicious hour of TV at the end of each weekday. But even those 60 minutes are carefully scheduled into my day. I zip through commercials (thank you, DVR) and as soon as the show is finished I turn off the TV and get into bed. And sometimes I wonder whether I was truly entertained or just felt compelled to watch the show in order to find out which poor guy the bachelorette sent packing.

For years, I’ve accepted my inability to fully relax—to let go, to do nothing, to chill out—as part of my personality. I’ve also figured that it might just be a reality of working for myself. Sure, it’s wonderful being my own boss and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But even when I have back-to-back deadlines and more work than I can handle, I’m still constantly worried whether I’m doing enough, whether I’m branding myself in the best possible way, whether I’m pitching enough, whether my work is the best it can possibly be, whether I’ll still have more work than I can handle (apparently in my book that’s a good thing) a month from now…six months from now…six years from now…

Yeah. It can be stressful. And I’ve let the pressure dictate not only what I do when I’m working, but also how I feel when I’m not.

That is, until someone special came into my life last year and has continued teaching me how to unwind ever since.

I guess you could say I learned by example. Because I saw that being driven and ambitious and taking time to relax aren't mutually exclusive. On the contrary, I’ve learned that the harder you work the more important it is to find that time to kick back. To do whatever you want. To do absolutely nothing at all. Part of the reason why it’s so crucial, of course, is self-preservation. But more importantly, it’s about taking the time to enjoy life. To taste the fresh berries on your tart frozen yogurt that you picked up on your walk home from the delicious pancake brunch at 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. To feel the sunshine on your shoulders and fully enjoy the company you’re in (even especially if it’s your own). To simply do the living that’s so difficult to do with deadlines and e-mails and phone calls.

My newly discovered ability to relax was truly put to the test a few weeks ago during my family’s sailing vacation to the British Virgin Islands. (Tough life. I know.) My fear was that the trip would be wasted on me. It was my first non-working vacation since I’ve been, well, working, and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to let work go. That I’d cling to my iPhone, checking my e-mail every 10 minutes to make sure I didn’t miss the chance to accept an assignment or correspond with an editor.

Fortunately, I had had some practice in this whole relaxing thing in the months leading up to this vacation so I took steps to prevent this frenzied approach. I let everyone know I was going away. I put up a vacation message for the first time ever. (I actually had to Google how to put up a Gmail vacation message.) And luckily, my phone didn’t work in the islands. The only person who could keep me from soaking up what it truly meant to be on vacation was me.

But I got out of my way. And I relaxed. Fully…completely…entirely…

Without a shadow of a doubt, it was the very best experience of my life.

Maybe I owe it to the buzz of Pusser’s rum in my morning coffee. Or the feel of the cool breeze against my skin, sticky with SPF and humid air. Or the crescendo of laughter echoing from our cockpit countless times per day. It could be the pina coladas and deep-fried conch fritters we sampled on every island; the water slide and infinity pool; or the five-star meal at TradeWinds on Peter Island.

More likely it was because I got out of my way so I could soak up every moment of joy. Because I knew that there was nothing else on my agenda but to do just that.

A couple of months from now I might forget the taste of the nutmeg sprinkled on top of my rum punch and the hard-to-pronounce name of our boat, Lalie. But what I will remember for as long as I live was that this was the very first time in my life I surrendered enough to let life in. And it is my deepest hope that I will never forget how.

In case I ever need a reminder of what relaxation looks like.