On Meditation and New Life

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

   Steve and I recently got back from a much needed long weekend away from work and home. We dropped the dog off at her favorite doggy camp (she dislikes the word 'kennel') and hit the road to the more mountainous region of western North Carolina, a town called Asheville. Let's just say the beautiful landscape, fresh mountain air, delightful local micro brews and out of this world Indian food can expect to see us again, very soon.

   Taking time away from work always gives me a physical and mental energy boost. I suddenly feel inspired to complete projects, start new creative endeavors and my yoga practice is infused with new life. Many people, and I think especially people in medicine, can lose track of the importance of unplugging every once in a while. Leave the cell phones, iPads and lap tops behind and allow yourself time to focus on the things that really matter to you. It's amazing what we end up pondering or discussing when we don't have a news article distracting us every other 5 seconds. For me, these kinds of weekends (or longer if you can!) feel like one long stretch of meditation. The quiet and sense of calm achieved is practically narcotic.

    Meanwhile, here in the south, late winter's chilly breath has reached us once again. It seems almost fortuitous, seeing as I had a grocery bag filled with leftover root vegetables that needed to be used. I came up with this hearty quinoa dish that was so colorful and tasty we made it two nights in a row! Roasting brings out the peppery bite of the turnips and the deep caramelization that develops on the carrots is like candy- only better tasting and prettier. The confetti like nature of this meal seems fitting seeing as one of my closest friends had her first baby over the weekend...! It seems impossible to me that we've reached an age where bringing new life into the world is on the menu, but here we are. I couldn't be happier or more in awe of her and the beautiful family she's created. As we shed these last few days of light jackets and cozy winter blankets, celebrating new life in every way, I hope this dish graces your dinner table.

Quinoa with Swiss Chard and Roasted Root Vegetables

2 large turnips, scrubbed clean
6 carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 bunch rainbow swiss chard, thoroughly rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups spinach

   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with tin foil. Cut the carrots and turnips into 1 inch chunks, spread them on the lined baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until very soft and caramelized.
   Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa (make sure you rinse it well in a fine mesh sieve to remove any silt). Place quinoa in a small saucepan and stir in 1 3/4 cups veggie broth, the parsley, several dashes (no more than 1/4 teaspoon) turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reuce to a bare simmer, cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Without taking the cover off, turn the heat off. Let it sit, covered, while you prepare the rest of the dish.
   When there is 15 minutes to go on the turnips and carrots, trim and discard the dried ends of the rainbow swiss chard.  Slice the chard into 1/2 inch ribbons, including the stalks. In a saute pan, bring 1/2 cup veggie broth and the minced garlic to a simmer. Add the swiss chard and cook, tossing occasionally, until just tender and wilted. Turn heat off.
   Place spinach in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Scoop the hot quinoa on top of the spinach. Add the swiss chard, turnips and carrots and toss everything together, allowing the hot components to lightly wilt the spinach. Taste, add additional salt if desired.
   Serves 4.

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