Meatless Monday – Grits with Sautéed Vegetables

photo-39

 


Official Meatless Monday Blogger

 

If you have a case of the Mondays, breakfast for dinner can help. It’s like ending the day from the beginning except better because it’s over in a matter of hours and you are at home. Boom.

 

One of my favorite things for breakfast is grits.

 

What are grits? You’ll have to excuse me as my gaze hazily travels off in the distance… I love grits. They remind me of my mom cooking weekend mornings, Sunday brunch, cold weather and jazz. If you’ve never had them, this probably gets you no closer to knowing what they are. About Food gives a more substantial definition:

Grits are confusing to both the Southerner and non-Southerner alike, so let me break it down for you. According to The Food Lover’s Companion, the word “grits” is really a shortened way of saying what it really means, “hominy grits.” Grits are derived from hominy. The Food Lover’s Companion further cites hominy as being one of the first foods that American Indians gifted to the colonists. Hominy is dried corn kernels with the hull and germ removed. When this dried hominy is ground, it turns into what we know as grits.

 

 

Fun Facts About Grits

  • The annual World Grits Festival is held in April at St. George, South Carolina. The town claims to be the ‘Grits Capital of the World’, eating more pounds of grits per capita than anyplace else in the world. Via Food Reference 
  • Three-quarters of grits sold in the U.S. are sold in the South, throughout an area stretching from Texas to Virginia, sometimes referred to as the “grits belt”.[3] The state of Georgia declared grits its official prepared food in 2002.[4] Similar bills have been introduced in South Carolina, with one declaring: Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grits mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as Charleston’s The Post and Courierproclaimed in 1952, “An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.”[5]

 

 

People who love grits take them very seriously. Trust. I grew up eating grits for breakfast. For most of my life I was a grits purist and would only eat them with a dollop of butter, salt and if I was feeling jazzy some pepper. When my mom added cheese to the mix I definitely changed my tune. I have heard that there are people out there who eat grits with milk and sugar like cream of wheat. I do not understand these people.

That’s cool, they get to live here too. (side-eye)

mondays

 

This recipe is fast and delicious.

 

Ingredients

You should use whatever veggies move n’ groove you and your family. When I was grocery shopping I grabbed a few things that were on sale:

  • Red pepper
  • Green pepper
  • Onion
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Italian spice blend
  • Shredded cheese (1/4 c)
  • Pat butter (optional)
  • Olive oil

 

Directions

For the grits

Prepare according to package.

For a extra blast of flavor you could:

  • substitute veggie broth for water and…
  • after the grits are done toss in 1/4 c of shredded cheddar cheese
  • go the extra mile and sprinkle crushed red hot pepper and a dash of smoked paprika

If you like your grits super creamy stir, stir, stir while they cook. For thicker grits use a little less liquid.

 

Keep it vegan and leave out the cheese… there are always choices. See your case of the Mondays is fading away.

 

For the veggies

  1. I halved the baby tomatoes and roasted them with olive oil and italian seasoning- roasted them in a 375° oven. I roasted the veggies while I cooked everything else. You could easily sauté the tomatoes- I am just a fan of roasted tomatoes.
  2. I put the brussels sprouts in the food processor and pulsed a few times
  3. Sliced the peppers and onions into strips
  4. Minced fresh garlic
  5. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a pan or skillet
  6. Sauté veggies starting with the onions and garlic
  7. Add the peppers and spices
  8. Add the brussels sprouts
  9. Add enough liquid to steam the sprouts (maybe 1/8 c. I used a splash of broth and lemon juice)

Scoop veggies on grits and dig in!!!

 

Happy Meatless Monday!!

 

Namaste y’all

Riker’s Island – Three Tuesdays, One Lesson

city-storm

Writing posts about Riker’s for the past three weeks has been tough…

I claimed writer’s block. But in the black recesses of my mind I knew it wasn’t. Until today, the past two Tuesdays at Riker’s seemed bleak. At first I wanted to pass it off on the weather. When the sky is gloomy and you’re headed to an island where more than half of the ‘residents’ can’t leave- it’s hard to find a bright spot.

Two Tuesdays Ago…

As a teacher I know that struggle means change is happening but in the moment it can feel shitty. Progress be damned. Two weeks ago one of my students wasn’t feeling great mentally and stopped coming to class and was in the infirmary. The politics that plague any dorm situation are amplified by incarceration and it seemed that some drama was occupying some of my students time.  Class felt disjointed and distracted. The respectful silence that had taken over the area where yoga and meditation happened had all but disappeared and newer faces meant really reevaluating what made sense with the program and the class. I was wrestling with topics- I didn’t want to repeat themes for women who had been through the program. Talking and writing about the themes was essential to the practice. At the same time I didn’t want women who had been coming faithfully to classes stop coming because they were bored or felt ‘been there, done that.’

It wasn’t just the class that felt off-kilter, the entire place felt edgy. With new leadership and uncertain of where things stand- tensions were high. It’s important to be alert in this environment. It’s the reality of the situation. It can’t change how you connect with with students, but it’s jail. I keep my eyes open. But my spidey senses were extra tingly.  There’s a meeting in a few weeks with the LPY teachers and I’m looking forward to hearing their experiences.

Last Tuesday

Anneke asked if I would be open to working in a different section of the building. And while I’m sad to give up the class on the fifth floor the timing seems right since a lot of the students have left. I’ll be able to get closure and say my goodbyes and transition to a new class. Class this week was much better for the students but there was still a lot of background noise. New guards who don’t seem to notice the yoga or meditation had bigger issues to discuss through the windows rather than using the phones. I get it. It’s tough all over. I smile at them. Though I haven’t been here long, it’s crazy how quickly you settle in.

With both classes I spent time on pranayama and slow gentle movements in the neck and shoulders. I can feel the release that women get when they do this. The mantra for meditation was focusing in the peace inside. With hands over eyes I seal our practice by saying, “This stillness that is in me is mine. I’ve created it and it something that I can call up whenever I need it.”

This Tuesday

On Monday I was in need of a class at my local studio.  Julie Fitzpatrick, who has quickly made her way into my yoga heart was talking about serene intelligence. As she talked about our ability to stay connected to our source (however we define that), I felt tears well up in my eyes. Instantly, I heard the song Woman in Chains by Tears for Fears pop in my head. Was I letting outside situations draw me away from my center? Was I feeling guilty about my own freedom?

No, it wasn’t guilt. I wasn’t feeling bad for being free knowing that so many of the women I teach aren’t. I was feeling untethered. For all the right reasons my life is busy and I drifted. But on my mat I was able to reconnect. It’s why I practice and what I hope to share with the women at Rosie. I decided after class that no matter how crappy the vibe was- I’d choose to react in a way that was compassionate.

At the entrance to Rosie (RSMC) the guard says, “Good morning, smiley.” There is no contempt in his voice. As I swap my ID for my visitor pass I’m jokingly told not to cause any trouble and have a good class. When I let the women on the fifth floor know that I was leaving a few were bummed, but quickly perked up when they realized that I was just leaving and not the yoga. Classes were good and in that moment a little peaceful.

Everything is temporary. Things are good. Things are bad. Things are whatever they are. But none of it is forever. I will try to remember this more often. It’s hard to do. Hard to do in my own life, I want to hold on tight to the good stuff and release the awful stuff quickfast like a hot potato.

The same was true with the classes I teach at Rosie. It’s okay to be okay with how things are. It doesn’t change how much compassion I have, but it releases my students (and me) from being attached.

As I continue to learn more about the system and how it works  hobbles along one thing is clear.

We all all bound by something and until we are all free, none of us are.

May all beings everywhere be happy and free.

Namaste y’all.

Meatless Monday – Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup with Roasted Pepper Sandwich

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

 

 

 


Official Meatless Monday Blogger

I love eggplant. I once someone who hated eggplant. We broke up. Not because of the eggplant. But it definitely should have been a warning sign.

Eggplant is delicious and versatile! It can be roasted, baked, grilled, sautéed, stuffed and in honor of this Meatless Monday- it can be blended into a delicious soup. I’ve paired the soup with an open-faced sandwich. The soup is substantial enough to have as a meal but dunking things into soup is a fun pastime.

Let’s stop the chit-chat and get down to business.

This soup does require a little more work than many soups which you can throw into a pot and simmer. The layers of flavor will make you glad you took the time to roast the veggies first. I’d never steer you wrong when it comes to soup. My soup game is pretty serious.

 

Ingredients

  • One whole eggplant peeled and cubed
  • One pound of tomatoes (of your choice) quartered
  • Two red potatoes cubed
  • One large onion- roughly chopped
  • Four cloves of garlic
  • Four cups of stock or water (but stock is yummier- for real)
  • One tablespoon flour
  • Italian seasoning – 2 heaping tablespoons
  • Crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Olive oil

 

For the sandwich

  • Roasted red peppers (I used the kind in a jar)
  • Sautéed onions
  • Lettuce (your choice I had Boston on hand)
  • Lemon garlic aoili
  • Cucumbers
  • Feta
  • Bread – baguette (or your favorite sandwich bread)

 

Directions

  1. Coat veggies with olive oil and spices.
  2. Roast all veggies in a pre-heated 375° oven.
  3. Transfer veggies to a large soup pot that has been heated with one tablespoon olive oil.
  4. Add stock bring to boil add flour, stir and reduce to very low heat
  5. Cook for another 45 minutes.
  6. Transfer to blender in small batches and blend until creamy.
  7. Return to pot and reheat for five minutes.

 

Sandwich directions

  • Use whatever ingredients move you.
  • I’ve had people say that they miss protein on a sandwich- add a bit of feta or mushrooms.
  • A dollop of hummus or pesto also adds depth.

 

Happy Meatless Monday!

 

Namaste y’all.

Meatless Monday – Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Soup with Tricolor Carrot Salad

Roasted Carrot and Cauliflower Soup
Happy Meatless Monday! Soup, salad and bread. Yum.


Official Meatless Monday Blogger

I love summer. The sun on my face and heat on my skin make me feel alive. It’s a time of year when ice clinking in tall glasses of water and taking big bites of fresh tomatoes off the vine is an acceptable dinner.

May-August is my time.

September is beautiful but makes me sad because cold weather is rolling in. You can’t see it but it’s there, hovering in the background.

But, I must admit there is something vaguely sexy about the fall. Turtlenecks and flip-flops are standard uniforms. It’s still warm enough to grab a drink outside, but you can rock a hat. The heat of summer still lingers in the air like perfume at the end of the day…

And while I miss summer, soup season makes it bearable. I am nothing if not a lover of soups.

This roasted cauliflower and carrot soup  I found in the New York Times is a perfect blend of summer and fall flavors. The lemon keeps it light as the rooted flavors of carrot and cumin keep it grounded. It’s yoga, for your mouth. The miso adds umami. Its a soup that makes you want to lay down on your back and exhale… I took the liberty and added (and subtracted) a few things to suit my palate. Not that the Times doesn’t know their stuff but hey, I like things the way I like them.

All jokes aside, this is a great meal for after a long yoga practice or any kind of workout. The soup is filling without being heavy and the carrot salad has crunch with layers of sweet and savory because of the dressing. I had mine with bread because I’m a girl who likes to sop things up.

Don’t judge. Sometimes a dish is so good you want every drop. And the truth is, it’s much classier than me licking the bowl. I’ll let my dog keep that party trick.

 

Enjoy. Happy Meatless Monday.

Namaste y’all.

 

Ingredients

  • cauliflower- one head choped
  • carrots – one pound chopped
  • onion- one large chopped in chunks
  • garlic – one head unpeeled
  • celery- one stalk – roughly chopped
  • 4-5 cups stock or water
  • corriander seeds- one tablespoon
  • cumin- one tablespoon
  • smoked paprika
  • salt pepper
  • juice from one lemon
  • lemon zest
  • cilantro (dried) – one tablespoon
  • olive oil
  • miso- 1 tablespoon

 

Ingredients for Salad

  • tri-color carrots
  • scallions
  • cucumbers

 

Dressing

  • balsamic vinegar
  • honey- one teaspoon
  • dijon mustard- one teaspoon
  • soy sauce
  • garlic- minced one teaspoon

 

 

Directions

  1. Place veggies in a pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Makes sure to coat the garlic bulb with oil so it doesn’t burn.
  2. Roast veggies and garlic bulb in 425° oven for 35-45 minutes (check frequently- I like veggies roasted but not mushy)
  3. Transfer veggies to a large heated soup pot that has 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. Add spices and sauté veggies for six minutes
  5. Add miso and broth
  6. Bring to a simmer and then lower heat
  7. Cook for 10 minutes
  8. Blend until smooth in very small batches
  9. Serve immediately

 

For the salad 

  1. I spiralized the carrots and cucumbers.
  2. To make the dressing put all of the ingredients into a blender (or whisk in a bowl if you are looking for a forearm workout)
  3. I cut the scallions into the thin slices and and tossed with the dressing.

 

Meatless Monday – Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancake
Sweet Sweet Potato Pancake

Official Meatless Monday Blogger I don’t know if I had latkes on the brain or what, but wham- I had an urge to make a sweet potato pancake. However instead of apple sauce and sour cream, I opted for a healthier topping made with apples and cucumbers! Ingredients For pancakes (yields 6-8 pancakes)

  • 1 sweet potato grated
  • 1 small onion grated
  •  3 tablespoons egg substitute or 1 egg
  • 2 heaping T of quinoa flour (or whatever flour you have handy)
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • small handful chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T olive oil

Apple Cucumber Salsa

  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 small handful cilantro

1. To make the pancakes combine all ingredients with the exception of the olive oil, only use 1 T. Reserve the rest of the oil for cooking (or use a non-stick spray) 2. Drop batter into a hot pan that has either the olive oil or the non-stick spray 3. Cook pancake on each side for 4-5 minutes or until browned Salsa preparation

  1. Roughly chop all ingredients
  2. Pulse in food processor until mixed but not mushy

Scoop a spoonful of salsa on each pancake and enjoy!!

5 Tips to Teach Yoga from a Mindful and Trauma Sensitive Perspective

Yoga keeps him young

Creating a safe space for students should be the number one priority of any yoga teacher. As a teacher who is moving into the world of yoga therapy, I understand that the idea of what’s ‘safe’ varies. Getting properly trained in trauma sensitive yoga has been an invaluable tool when it comes to teaching in a wide variety of non-tradtional settings. The more I’ve learned, the more I have been encouraged to share my experiences and tips for creating a meaningful class.

1. Do your homework

I’m constantly reading about new approaches to teaching in this ever evolving field. In addition, I spend time talking to my former teachers who are experts in yoga therapy, trauma-senstive yoga and doctors. There isn’t an end to the learning process. Spending time learning about where you are going to teach a new class can provide assurance that your first class will be provide the best experience possible for your students.

2. Be prepared and flexible

Having a clear plan is always the way to walk into a studio and this is certainly the case when teaching in non-traditional environments. But when class starts and how people are moving doesn’t fit the plan- I must adapt. The same holds true when I teach a trauma-senstive/therapeutic yoga class. A few weeks ago I had planned a class for a group of students at Riker’s Island Correctional Facility. When I walked into the dorm there was a lot of talk about a search that had been conducted overnight, as a result the group was very stressed. Rather than work through the more powerful flow I had mapped out, it made sense to cut that part of class short so I could teach a few poses that released stress. In addition, I took the class through a longer guided meditation. The more tools you have in your toolbox the easier it is to adapt on the fly.

3. Know your audience

When you are teaching in a space with people who have suffered trauma it’s vital to understand their backgrounds and potential triggers. When I am working with women who have suffered sexual abuse, I’m careful not to do poses that could be deemed sensual. Cat/cow provides a good example of this. It’s a fairly innocuous pose in a traditional yoga setting, it’s great for warming up the spine but with women who have had a history of abuse it’s potentially a huge trigger.

4. Listen. Listen more. Listen again.

Active listening skills are required in trauma sensitive teaching. It’s vital to be able to listen to verbal and non-verbal cues. Are students comfortable? Are you talking too much? Or not enough? In a traditional setting with experienced yogis, silence is golden and allows for exploration. But when working with women who have been abused or PTSD patients silence can be scary. Listen with your eyes, ears and EQ (Emotional Intelligence).

5. Know your limits and have a network

As yoga teachers it’s easy to get connected to your students especially when you work with folks who suffer from PTSD, have physical illnesses or are in challenging situations like prison or rehab. I stay true to what I know to do with the body as a yoga teacher. I stay honest with myself about my skills and training. I am a certified therapeutic yoga teacher who has done trainings to work with folks who have chronic illness, addictions, are in prison and who suffer from PTSD. I’m not a therapist, a physical therapist, nutritionist or doctor. But I have built and continue to build a strong network of these folks who understand the value of yoga. Having a rolodex of names allows me to refer a student to the right person when they ask something out of my depth.

One last critical component to teaching trauma sensitive yoga is self-care. Providing a space for healing is rewarding but can be draining physically and emotionally. Knowing how and when to recharge is a part of my routine. I make sure that there is one day of the week when I am not teaching- at all. That is my day to take my own classes and relax. My daily meditation practice is also a way that I stay  emotionally fit. As a Therapeutic yoga teacher I’ve also reaped the benefits of the TY practice. My bolsters, blankets and blocks are never far from me. Practicing what I preach has become a necessary part of my practice.

Yoga is now being widely recognized as a was to compliment many traditional treatment plans. The more that I’m educated, the larger impact I can have.

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Teaching Yoga – Riker’s Island (Liberation Prison Yoga)

rikersbarbed

In 30 years, the number of women in jail has increased by over 800% [Source: Institute on Women & Criminal Justice]. Most of these women are imprisoned as a result of drug-related charges; however other leading causes of incarceration are immigration status issues.

M. comes to class each week. She doesn’t speak a lot of English but is one of the first students to sit on her mat. I make sure that during class I make eye contact with her and nod so she understands she’s moving safely. Part of me feels stupid for not speaking Spanish and by next week I will know at least how to say inhale deep and exhale slow.  Though we speak mostly in smiles, gestures and nods, I can see her body relax during guided meditation.

I’m frustrated with myself. It’s easy to take life for granted. It’s just one more thing that these women teach me.

Here’s some startling information about women in prison:

The vast majority of women in prison—85 percent to 90 percent—have a history of being victims of violence prior to their incarceration, including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and child abuse. And racial disparities strike here too: Girls of color who are victims of abuse are more likely to be processed by the criminal justice system and labeled as offenders than white girls, who have a better chance of being treated as victims and referred to child welfare and mental health systems. This disparity is particularly devastating for gender nonconforming girls, who are up to three times more likely to experience harsh disciplinary treatment by school administrators than their heterosexual counterparts.

In addition to intimate partner violence, other risk factors contributing to women’s criminal behavior include substance abuse and mental illness. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of women prisoners suffer from substance addiction. While it would be much more cost effectiveto treat these women than imprison them or pay for foster placement for their children, they are refused such rehabilitative measures—measures that could facilitate their integration back into society as productive members.

-Center for American Progress

This week instead of the noise, I couldn’t help but notice the beds.  I use the term bed loosely. The mattresses are about 3 inches thin and sit atop metal cots which sag even when empty. While I’ve seen them before, on this particular Tuesday they were glaring. Maybe it was because I was on the third floor with the sentenced women. I guess in my head I rationalize that many of the women on the fifth floor will be going home. Because they are consider detainees, the energy feels more transient.
I don’t know. Maybe I was stuck on the beds because I’m more familiar with my surroundings. Whatever it was it created an opening, a desperate moment of clarity…
As the CO announced class I took in utter lack of privacy of prison dorm life.  I averted my eyes and felt flushed with shame. There wasn’t anything happening- but the dorm is their space. Some women were sleeping and others were talking. And a CO is there the whole time watching all of it. I’m not waxing political with commentary (yet)- but a stark reality is clear. This is their life- at least in this moment.
On the third floor 12 students came to their mats. I am glad but try to hold back because I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. But maybe it won’t. In the common/dining/yoga area the person watching TV turned it off and went back inside the dorm. It pleasantly surprises me but also gives me pause. These women have to adapt at the drop of a hat. I can never forget that. I’m the visitor. It doesn’t matter (to me anyway) that I choose to be there. These women must be able handle whatever comes their way, even if it’s a yoga teacher with some mats.

During class more people started to watch.  J, who is in her sixties said she was too out of shape to do it. But J’s friend told her to stop making excuses and try, since she ‘d never done yoga, how could she know what she could do and couldn’t do. It was a fair point, I thought.  Without fail at the end of class there is a greater sense of serenity on every woman’s face. I think back to M. on the third floor. She may not understand every word I say. But she is learning how to move in her body.

When I leave Riker’s I’m consistently struck with the need to do more.
More for the women there.
More for women in prisons everywhere.
I watched the documentary Crime After Crime about Deborah Peagler and her 27 year incarceration for death of her incredibly abusive boyfriend. The system was not set up to support her. In fact,  statistics show that because she was abused and called the authorities she is over 80%  more likely to end up in prison (Center for American Progress).
And then I think about the women who get out and their struggles to transition back to the world. It seems overwhelming and at times I have to fight against the voice that says what the hell is yoga going to do? What can I do? Without fail I come back to M.’s face sitting there on her mat, moving, breathing and maybe knowing that she is important. Her body is important. Her ability to inhale and exhale into a better life is possible.
So I’ll be back next Tuesday and the Tuesday after and the Tuesday after that. Two weeks ago Seane Corn, a yoga activist spoke at a yoga festival. She said that as yogis we can no longer be silent and passive. We have an obligation to take the love we have found on our mats and share it to bring change to the world.

On Friday I was standing on the corner of Sixth Ave and Canal. The weather was perfect. I had an early day and I got to wrap it up by tasting a custom blended tea for my upcoming workshop. Later, I took a class and capped off the night with some chores, a glass of wine and Netflix. Tired, I crawled into my bed more grateful than I have ever been for the comfort of my bed. And I think of M. and know that in the morning I need to wake up and do more.

It’s the beautiful burden of being free.

Namaste y’all.

Interested in finding out more about Liberation Prison Yoga? Click here