Now and Zen

Short post today, since I had to take a two-hour microbiology test online last night. In the theme of Zen, I’ll refer to an article that landed in my inbox from Harvard Medical School about how yoga may have some serious heart benefits. Not surprising, since yoga is very much a mind/body exercise, and both mental stress and physical inactivity can take a toll on our health and increase our risk of heart disease.
I love yoga. It’s not my primary mode of exercise (I’m no yogini), but I’ve been doing yoga from quality DVDs for years. (You’ve got to be careful…there’s some really fluffy, crappy yoga DVDs out there. Anything affiliated with Yoga Journal is a good place to start.) I do at least a 20-minute yoga session almost every day, and really miss it if I skip a day. I’ve never studied yoga with a teacher, but I plan to someday. Maybe after grad school.
For more Zen goodness pulled from my inbox, Leo Babauta had a nice post this week on his Zen Habits blog. “Get Started: From Overweight to Healthy” made an important distinction between being obsessed about having rock-hard abs and simply doing what needs to be done to avoid heart disease and diabetes. I agree wholeheartedly with his simple but significant advice to:
  1. Eat more veggies
  2. Walk
  3. Drink water [instead of calorie-laden beverages]
  4. Get rid of the junk [food]
Honestly, anyone who does those four things will be so much healthier. It’s so basic, but so effective.
In spite of having a microbiology test, and feeling like we’re all lucky we haven’t died of botulism by now (note to self…don’t study botulism and necrotizing fasciitis while eating lunch), I managed to put together a simple but very tasty dinner. It’s a minor variation of a recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. I got the recipe from Whole Living magazine, since I still don’t have the Heidi’s latest book in my collection (yet). I’m still regretting that I missed her recent book signing in Seattle.
My only tweaks to the recipe were to use walnuts instead of pine nuts (I started doing this a few years ago when the price of pine nuts went through the roof, and haven’t switched back yet), and use plain Greek yogurt instead of creme fraiche. Oh, I also used regular orzo, because I could not find whole wheat orzo for love or money. Jeff (bless him) looked at Whole Foods AND a natural foods coop. I’m not sure whole wheat orzo exists! Finally, I put some leftover grilled chicken on top, because I needed more protein.
It was really delicious, so much so that Jeff asked me if I was going to put it in a regular rotation. He actually complained that I’ve been making so many new recipes lately (most of them good, a few truly not worth repeating) that I’m not likely to ever make any of them them a second time. Hmmm…that is a poser. Variety may be the spice of life, but a little welcome repetition can be nice, too!

Whole-Wheat Orzo Salad with Broccoli-Pine Nut Pesto
Serves 6

Ingredients:
Fine-grained sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat orzo
5 cups broccoli florets and thinly sliced stems
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (walnuts can be substituted)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup creme fraiche (plain Greek yogurt or sour cream work as substitutes)
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt, add orzo, and cook according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain well again.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the broccoli. Bring 3/4 cup water to a boil in a large pot. Add a big pinch of salt and stir in the broccoli. Cover and cook for 1 minute until bright green but still slightly crunchy. Drain the broccoli in a strainer and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well and set aside.
  3. Make the pesto: Combine 2 cups of the cooked broccoli, garlic, three-quarters of the pine nuts, Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a food processor. Drizzle in olive oil and creme fraiche and pulse until smooth.
  4. Toss orzo and remaining cooked broccoli florets with about two-thirds of the broccoli pesto and the lemon zest. Thin with a bit of warm water to desired consistency. Adjust seasoning by adding more salt, lemon juice, or pesto as desired. Fold in avocado. Serve topped with remaining pine nuts.