Thursday, August 25, 2011

Miso Noodle Soup

I'm pretty sure the first thing I ever learned to cook was Top Ramen. I remember coming home after school and cooking myself up a batch. I even used to add vegetables, so it would look like the picture on the package.

These days I never buy packaged ramen, though I am still very fond of a steaming bowl of noodle soup. Last night I made this, and it was delicious!

The wonderful thing about noodle soups is that you can use whatever you happen to have in your fridge. We had recently cooked up a bunch of fresh corn to freeze, so I had a lot of corn water to use for my soup stock. Here's my recipe, you will notice I don't worry too much about quantities- trust your instincts!

Take about 2 quarts of  stock, and start heating it in a large pot. While the soup stock is heating, sliver up some carrots, onions, cabbage, and red bell pepper, or whatever vegetables you have on hand. You could also add tofu, if you like it.

Sauté all the veggies in a large pan, and remove them from the pan into a bowl when they are becoming tender but are still a little bit crunchy. When the corn stock came to a boil,  put in a large handful of udon noodles. While the noodles are cooking, beat 2 eggs. Heat some oil in the same pan that you cooked the veggies in. When the oil is hot,  pour in the eggs. This is just like making an omelet- add salt and pepper. (If you are not an egg eater, just leave out this step- your soup will still be delicious). Cook your egg circle until it is getting golden spots on both sides, then remove from pan and cut into strips. By now your noodles should be tender. Add some freshly grated ginger, along with your sautéed veggies, and turn off the heat.

To finish the soup, ladle about one cup of the hot stock into a bowl, and whisk in a couple tablespoons of miso paste. When this mixture is smooth, add it back in to the pot. If your soup doesn't taste salty enough, you can add more miso or some tamari.

Now ladle the soup into individual bowls, and top each bowl with egg strips and slivered scallions or chives. This is way better than Top Ramen- enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Welcome to the Mindful Otter

Hello and welcome to the Mindful Otter. On the banks of Otter Creek, in Middlebury, Vermont, is a yoga center we call Otter Creek Yoga. My name is Joanna Colwell and I am the director of this yoga studio. The aim of our studio is to offer yoga teachings to all who wish to receive them. We are dedicated to the health and well-being of our community. In this blog I'll be posting about yoga, breathing, relationships, healing, food, money, compost, and other tasty topics.

This essay appeared, in a slightly different form, in the Addison Independent, on July 7, 2011

Approaching the Altar

We all had trouble falling asleep the night before my cousin's wedding. The friends we were staying with had set up a very comfortable guest room for us, but no one seemed able to settle down. Our daughter crawled into bed with us and promptly fell asleep, smashing me in the middle, between her lanky frame and that of my husband. It was going to be a long night. I extricated myself from the bed and looked out the window. Rain was pouring down, clattering on the roof.

With the exception of my own, eleven years ago, I don't remember ever having trouble sleeping the night before a wedding. But this one was different- I was the officiant! My mind raced with everything that could possibly go awry. Although I had spent weeks writing the ceremony, and going over it again and again in my mind, although friends had looked it over and said it was lovely, although the bride and groom seemed to have nothing but confidence in my ability to pull this off, still I worried. The rain was not letting up.

I decided to practice some yogic breathing. In yoga class, when we need more energy we focus on the inhalation. When we want to calm down, we emphasize the out breath. It was definitely time for some serious exhaling! After a few moments I could feel my breath slowing down a bit, and my mind starting to feel less like a frenetic hamster. Then I remembered my dress. Oh no! I left it out in the car! Why did I do that? I should have brought it inside and hung it up like any normal person would have done. It's probably getting all wrinkled out there. Maybe I should go and get it. No, it will get rained on. And what about my daughter's outfit? She was to be a flower girl in the ceremony, and had picked out her favorite blouse to wear with the matching skirts all the girls had for the wedding. But she'd been growing so much these last several months, and I hadn't thought to have her try on the blouse before driving down to Massachusetts. What if it's too small, and she's walking down the aisle with a bare midriff? Breathe. Listen to the rain.

A couple weeks before the wedding, my friend Shari and I had driven down to Wood's Market Garden to get plants and fresh strawberries. I had told Shari how nervous I was about officiating a wedding, something I'd never done before. "Relax," Shari had said. "It will be exactly like teaching a yoga class, only with everyone sitting in chairs, wearing nice clothes, and not doing yoga!"

The great writer Anne Lamott says, "My mind is a very dangerous neighborhood. I try not to go there alone after dark." Maybe I was nervous because my family is supremely unreligious, to the point of rejecting most things overtly spiritual. And yet here I was, in this role of spiritual leader, standing up in front of my entire extended family and helping my cousin and her fiance bind their lives together. Surely they chose me for this because, rather than in spite of, my spiritual leanings? Yet on the eve of the wedding, I wondered whether the ceremony I'd written would rub my family the wrong way.

I've known the bride, my thirty year old cousin, since she was born. This was her wedding, and she chose me to be the officiant. So that night, listening to the rain pounding the roof, I made a choice to let go. My mind would no doubt continue to conjure up unfortunate scenarios of offended relatives, wardrobe malfunctions, and missing wedding rings, but I was going to exhale out good wishes toward my cousin and her almost-husband. I breathed in toward my heart, and imagined the energy of my heart radiating outward toward the betrothed. Eventually, I feel asleep.

In the morning, umbrella in hand, I dashed out to the car and retrieved my dress, which looked fine. My daughter's blouse still fit her. A glance at the Boston Globe informed us that the state of New York had just legalized gay marriage. A good omen for the day's events, to be sure! We met my father and his wife at a cafe and celebrated the happy news with much needed coffee. Back on the sidewalk I saw a beautiful sight: two people wearing sunglasses. The rain had stopped, and the sun was making a surprise guest appearance!

Two hours later, standing at the altar, I watched the groom walk toward me, escorted by his grandfather and aunt. Next the procession of flower girls, each holding a giant sunflower. Now the bride, flanked by her parents. Did I mention she is six months pregnant? And so very beautiful. We began the ceremony with a meditation from the Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. I asked the congregation to look at their hands, and to recognize that we are each a continuation of our ancestors. If we look deeply, we can see all of these lives in our own life. Now the bride's family and the groom's family are being woven together. Standing at the altar together, we can see the past and the future, all contained in this present moment.