It's a new year -- Happy 2018, you guys!
There's something about starting a new year - even though, technically, I know nothing has changed between the 31st and the 1st - that makes me feel lighter, refreshed, and inspired. It may be due, in part, to the rituals we collectively partake in as a society to ring in the New Year; fireworks, parties, special meals (note to self: post my Chipotle Black-Eyed Pea Stew next year!). But I believe a larger piece of the puzzle is the simple act of pausing and taking time off that allows the space for our energy, mood, and perspectives to reset.
But if you know me, you know I'm not here to make a New Year, New You proposition. We don't need to wait for January for a fresh start. We can create this space any day, any month. And I want to capitalize on the momentum of the new year to share a two-minute strategy I use to reset and get clear on my intentions, whether they're for the New Year or just the day ahead. And it starts with a question for you:
Do you ever pause during the day to check in with yourself?
And by pause, I mean, stop what you're doing, close your eyes, get still and check in with your body. Sounds crazy, right? But it's a legit question. Because no matter how much we resist carving out time to slow down and quiet our mind during the day, the truth is, this simple act is the catalyst for changing or upgrading our habits, behaviors and routines.
Most of our day is on auto-pilot. We spend so much time in our head -- thinking, worrying, analyzing, judging -- that we're out of touch with our body, unaware that we're running through the motions and disconnected from how food and our thoughts make us feel.
So whether your intention this year is to eat more mindfully, be more present with your family, or be less reactive at work, building in an introspective pause to check in (and practicing it daily!) is key to truly living in our bodies and breaking the cycle of automaticity.
Whether it's through yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or the strategy I'm sharing below, research shows these activities can lower heart rate, reduce cortisol levels, blood pressure and inflammation, manage mood, strengthen immunity, and more. This is the mind-body connection at work!
Two-Minute Reset for Calm, Clarity & Focus
This is a two minute exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere to reconnect with your body and create calm, quiet space in your mind. Ideally you are able to close your eyes. If you're driving, you'll obviously want to keep them open. Practice this daily and notice the difference it makes in how you feel. You're welcome to go longer than two minutes. In the first week you might want to schedule a reminder on your phone or calendar. But after a while, your body (and mind!) will start to crave this moment of peace and calm in your day, and intuitively know when you need to check in. If you'd like extra guidance during the reset, this 6 minute meditation is a great companion to get you out of your head and into your body.
Take a moment and settle into your chair. Place one hand on your belly, one hand on your heart. Close your eyes and take two minutes to breath slowly, deeply. Focus your attention on relaxing the muscles in your forehead, then around your eyes, then in your neck and shoulders, allowing your attention to gradually move from your head down through your body. Let your thoughts come and go and maintain attention on your breath and relaxing the muscles in your body.
And in terms of food, this Everyday Dal is the ultimate reset, whatever the need. It's been one of my go-to recipes for years now, whether I need something pantry-approved, quick, or warm and nourishing. I also turn to this dal for a make-ahead breakfast during the winter. Yep, breakfast soup is a regular around here. With all six tastes and good protein and fat (much easier to achieve with savory breakfasts), this dal is grounding, fights cravings and inflammation, and stabilizes blood sugar to keep me going until lunch. Plus it's just delicious to eat and gets my day started on a happy note.
Here's to wishing you all a nourished and grounded 2018. I'll be here for you, serving up more nourishing meal inspiration for your everyday life, with some (new!) meal prep guidance and of course more videos sprinkled in.
Notes: Relying primarily on pantry and freezer staples such as spices, lentils, beans and frozen peas and spinach, this is my top go-to, quick and hearty meal that's also one of the most nourishing. The range of spices in this dal supply antioxidants, support gut health and fight inflammation. Frozen vegetables are frozen just after picking, thereby retaining more nutrients than what some fresh produce shipped a long distance can offer. Recipe calls for fresh carrots and broccoli and frozen peas and spinach. I typically always go for the frozen bunch, because they're, well, always on hand. But feel free to adapt the fresh additions to what you have at the moment; cauliflower and sweet potato are also nice options.
2 Tbsp. ghee (or coconut oil)
3 Tbsp. minced ginger, divided (3 in. or 7.6 cm piece of ginger)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder (or half smoked paprika & half regular chili powder)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1.5 tsp. ground turmeric
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups (400 gr.) red lentils, rinsed and drained
6 cups (1.4 L) water
2 tsp. salt
1-15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained (optional)
1-15 oz./400 ml can of coconut milk
2 medium carrots, sliced in half-moon shapes
1 small head (~280 gr) broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup (130 gr) frozen peas
1 scant cup (110 gr.) frozen spinach
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Toppings: Fresh cilantro, toasted cashews, firm pear or green apple cut into matchsticks with a squeeze of lemon, Beet and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut (or your favorite fermented veg)
Heat ghee in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add HALF the ginger, all the garlic and spices (curry powder, chili powder, cumin and turmeric). Stir to combine with ghee and cook 1-2 minutes, or until spices are fragrant.
Stir in tomato paste, then lentils. Add water and salt and cover. Raise heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
Add chickpeas if using, coconut milk, and carrots. Simmer another 5 minutes, covered, then add broccoli, peas and spinach. Cook 5-10 more minutes, covered, until carrots are just tender.
Stir in juice of 1/2 lemon and second half of minced ginger. Taste, adjust for salt and acid. Ladle dal into individual bowls and finish with toppings of choice.
A note on toppings: Some of the toppings this time might sound strange. The dal is fantastic with the regulars: toasted cashews and cilantro. But if you're curious, the fresh, crispness and sweet/tart flavor of a pear or apple is a fun compliment to the dal - the apple is a trick I picked up from Green Kitchen Stories. And the sauerkraut is a great way to add a much-needed fermented, probiotic-rich element to our meals - a gut health booster that we certainly can benefit from, post holidays, but honestly need all year round. If you go for a mild but complimentary flavored kraut, such as the ginger-cilantro version I'm posting next week, it works really well!