Scientific studies support dozens of health benefits from meditation: improved concentration and sleep, reduced stress and feelings of calm, compassion, peace, and joy. There’s a broad variety of practices and techniques for meditation making it accessible to everyone. Many of the techniques do not involve sitting. Walking, washing dishes, painting, Ti Chi and QiGong are all forms of moving meditation. As a triathlete, running on a trail, swimming and biking often is my vehicle for meditation.
Anyone who’s completed an Ironman or century ride knows what it’s like to be inside your own head for up to 8 hours on a bike. Sometimes my inner voice is preoccupied by solving something going on in my life; other times I’m simply talking myself through a tough workout. It’s the moment that I’m able to remain focused and achieve calm that it becomes meditative for me. I’m aware of my breath. I see the road or trails well. I hear the water, the birds, my foot steps and the wind but without judgment. I simply notice. I don’t have negative thoughts about how much further I need to go. The meticulously defined swim workout in the pool becomes blissful gliding through the water. It no longer feels like an agenda. It’s joyful and rejuvenating.
I had the pleasure of exploring and collecting evidence-based research on the benefits of yoga and meditation with my fellow yogis in our teacher training with Jenn Prugh. If you’re new to meditation, the biggest take-away is that there is evidence that even a beginner can realize some immediate benefits to practicing meditation.
My Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole is an easy to prepare breakfast for a crowd. This recipe was inspired by my high school classmate Kai who gave me the idea to use croissants and Manchego cheese. These ingredients contributed a luxurious texture and flavor to the casserole. Kai’s version, which includes heavy cream, results in a rich and delicious egg custard. I’ve lightened Kai’s recipe up a bit by omitting the cream however the recipe still requires all 9 eggs. I attempted using fewer eggs but the croissants soaked up the egg mixture and begged for more.
While this casserole does require up to an hour to bake and about 10 minutes to set after, you can prepare much of this dish in advance and serve it to the family on a weekday morning. The onions, mushrooms and protein can be cooked, cooled and then stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the casserole. The eggs can be whisked with all of the wet and dry ingredient however I prefer to leave out the milk. Storing the egg mixture, without the milk, is easier than finding a container large enough for the eggs and 3 cups of milk. I cover the toasted croissants in the baking dish with aluminum foil and leave it on the counter overnight until I’m ready to assemble the casserole in the morning. If you don’t have an hour to spare in the morning, you can also bake it the night before and reheat it. This casserole makes a great leftover and heats up well either in the microwave or oven.
Serving size: 10-12
4 large or 6 small croissants, toasted
4-6 tablespoons of olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, sliced very thin
10 -12 white mushrooms, sliced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon dry mustard (I prefer Colman’s Dry Mustard Powder)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 cups whole milk
8 ounces of vegetarian sausage links, browned (Of course you can substitute cooked chopped chicken apple sausage, chopped ham or cooked chopped bacon however I prefer the vegetarian sausages.)
2 cups of chopped broccoli
½ cup grated English cheddar & ½ cup grated Gruyere OR 1 cup grated Manchego cheese
Preheat oven to 350F
In a sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the thinly sliced onion with about 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Check on the onion frequently and toss them occasionally until they are golden, fragrant and caramelized. This can take from 15 minutes to 25 minutes depending on how thinly the onions are sliced. Once caramelized, remove the onion from the pan and allow to cool.
While the onion is cooking, cut the croissants in half lengthwise and toast under a 400F broiler, cut side up. I recommend using a kitchen timer set for 5 minutes to start and check frequently.
Butter a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
Tear up the croissants into large pieces and line the bottom of the baking dish. You will have a few pieces of croissant left over. Set the extra croissant pieces aside.
Add another 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil to sauté pan used to caramelize the onions. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
Steam the broccoli in a glass bowl filled with a 2-3 tablespoons of water in the microwave for about 1 minute. The broccoli should be slightly tender but still firm. Remove from excess water, rough chop and set aside to cool. If you are using frozen broccoli, remove any extra moisture after microwaving.
Brown the vegetarian sausage. Chop and allow to cool.
Spread the browned vegetarian sausage slices over the layer of croissants. Next spread the cooled caramelized onion, broccoli, mushrooms and cheese. Top with any remaining croissant pieces.
In a medium size bowl, whisk 9 eggs together. Add nutmeg, dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, milk, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the croissant and vegetables. Gently press down on all the ingredients with a spatula to ensure everything is moistened and mostly covered by the egg mixture.
Bake in a preheated 350F oven on the middle rack for about 50-60 minutes. The casserole is done when a knife inserted comes out clean and there is no liquid running. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with aluminum foil.
Remove from the oven, loosely cover with aluminum foil and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
Have you seen Fifty Shades of Grey yet? Well if you have the urge to smack something with the back of a spoon, may I recommend a pomegranate? You can then add the luscious pomegranate arils (seeds) to my Pomegranate and Roasted Lemon Salad.
Winter’s fruits, the pomegranates and lemon together in a salad create a burst of bright flavors with every bite. The lemon contains as much vitamin C as an orange and is one of the most nutrient dense fruits. The rind contains the most nutrition. Blanching then roasting the lemon eliminates the bitterness. The pomegranate contains anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and antioxidants. Studies suggest the pomegranate fruit may help prevent or alleviate heart disease and atherosclerosis; high cholesterol; prostate cancer; and Alzheimer’s disease.
Wash the lemons well then slice one lemon into thin rounds. Place the lemon slices into a pot of boiling water. Blanch the lemon slices for 2 minutes. This will eliminate the bitterness from the rind. Remove the lemon slices from the boiling water and lay on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Coat the lemon slices in 1 tablespoon of olive oil then roast for about 10-15 minutes until they start to caramelize a little.
Allow the lemon slices to cool slightly, then cut the slices in half.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice of the remaining lemon (about 1/4 cup), balsamic vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, toss the mixed greens, tomatoes and red onion slices in the dressing. Transfer to a serving bowl. Decorate the top of the salad with the lemon slices and pomegranate arils. Add either grilled or poached chicken to make this a meal. This salad also accompanies a big bowl of soup nicely.
I try to eat some protein and a nutrient dense vegetable in the morning as often as I can. One of the easiest and fastest breakfasts to prepare are my Eggs with Garlicky Spinach & Tomatoes. According to the CDC, spinach is one of the top 5 most nutrient dense vegetable and tomatoes are one of the top 3 most nutrient dense fruits: CDC Nutrient List of Nutrient Dense Fruits & Vegetables
Serving Size: 1
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small cloves or 1 large clove of garlic, peeled, smashed and rough chopped
2 heaping cups of fresh baby spinach
1/3 cup of cherry tomatoes
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce (optional)
PREPPING IN ADVANCE:
To spare every precious minute in the morning, I prepare as much as possible the night before. I begin by washing and drying the spinach, tomatoes and lemon. I was taught by my wonderful home economics teacher, Mrs. Pfromm, to always wash the outside of all of my fruits before storing them in the refrigerator. I do this for citrus and apples but not berries. I only wash berries before I use them, otherwise the moisture will cause them to spoil faster.
Slice the tomatoes and lemon, then place them, along with the spinach, in a sealed plastic or glass container. Refrigerate overnight. In a small glass bowl, add smashed and rough chopped garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan over medium heat. Smash, then rough chop the garlic before adding it to the warm oil. Sauté the garlic for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the spinach and tomatoes to the garlic and olive oil. Toss together until the spinach starts to wilt. Season with salt and pepper, then move the spinach, tomatoes and garlic to one side of the pan.
On the empty half of the pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the eggs on that side of the pan. Then cover the eggs and spinach. The egg only needs 1 or 2 minutes to cook when covered. The eggs can be prepared sunny side up, over easy or you can even poach the eggs in a separate pot. Just before removing the eggs, squeeze 1/2 of a lemon over the spinach and tomatoes.
Serve the eggs either to the side or over a bed of spinach and tomatoes. I like to add a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce to the top of the eggs. I learned this from my parents growing up and have always eaten my fried eggs with Worcestershire sauce. Give it a try. It’s delicious.