Posts

Do Something Different

2020 is a year like no other. (How’s that for an understatement?)

Except maybe 2021. We don’t know yet what 2021 will look like because nobody knows what the future holds. And since it seems nobody has ever really lived through a pandemic like this before and we don’t have a proven protocol to follow, we’re left shooting from the hip and doing our best to surf the current tidal wave.

Life sure is topsy-turvy.

Lately I hear a lot of people wondering and worrying about when things will “get back to normal.” Understandably, they want to get back to their normal social activities, travel plans, work and school schedules, etc. I am not immune to these thoughts. Holy cow do I miss traveling. It actually leaves me with a deep, physical longing in my belly when I allow myself to think about it. Same goes for not being able to dine out with friends. But at the same time, I wholeheartedly believe that waiting for life to be “normal again” and dreaming of life as it once was is counter-productive to achieving a state of well-being now.

The pandemic has brought fear and forced change into our lives. And with fear and change comes uncertainty, which is unappealing and unfriendly to the majority of people. Human beings, in general, are not designed to cope well with uncertainty. COVID-19 is giving us an opportunity to rise to the challenge.

What if, instead of spending our energy resisting reality, we fully ground ourselves in the present and  treat this timeframe as an opportunity? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What can I do differently immediately to bring more joy into my life?
  • What small thing can I do immediately to positively enhance my health?
  • What have I always wanted to learn and how soon can I get started learning this skill/topic/sport/etc.?
  • Since life is upside down anyway, what innovative new thing can I try that I wouldn’t do if life were “normal?”

This is our opportunity to show up differently in life.

So today I learned how to play a C-chord on the guitar. A single chord! I’ve wanted to learn to play the guitar for fifteen years. Finally, I played one single, stinking chord. So fun.

P.S. There are no guarantees that life will ever return to normal. So take a deep breath, open your mind, and start getting curious.

xo,

Claudine

Early Autumn Moroccan Stew by Andrea Bemis

Though I’ve raved about the cookbook Dishing up the Dirt by Andrea Beamis before, it’s so dang good it’s worth mentioning again. This gem hasn’t let me down yet, and therefore I highly recommend you add it to your kitchen library. As winter nears and cooler temperatures (along with the pandemic) drive many of us back inside, I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who’s devoting more time to home cooking again. ‘Tis the season for more warming soups and stews, which is why this recipe caught my eye. So good. So, so good. Just what a pandemic winter calls for.

Since it’s late autumn at the time of this writing, I omitted the eggplant and used canned tomatoes instead of fresh. I also subbed wild rice for the quinoa since wild rice is local to Minnesota.

Early Autumn Moroccan Stew by Andrea Bemis

Yields: 6-8 servings

1 cup dry quinoa

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 medium-sized carrots, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium-sized sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium-sized eggplant, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 medium-small zucchini (or summer squash) chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 1/2 cups vegetable stock (homemade or store-bought)

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained if from a can)

1/2 cup dried currants

fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

full-fat yogurt for serving (use plant-based for a vegan option)

fresh lemon juice for serving

minced parsley for serving

1/2 cup toasted almonds for serving

 

Prepare quinoa (or wild rice, if following my lead) according to package instructions.

In a stew pot, heat the oil over medium-high and saute the onion for 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, and allspice. Cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the carrots, sweet potato, eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Add stock and bring the stew to a simmer. Cook on medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the chickpeas and currants, and season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the chickpeas are warmed through.

Ladle the stew over the quinoa (or other grain) and top with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of lemon juice, parsley, and toasted almonds.

xo,

Claudine

Red Curry Kabocha Squash Soup

I’ve been working virtually from my family’s cabin on Lake Kabetogama (near the Canadian border) for the last week or so, and in true Northern Minnesota fashion fall arrived overnight last night. We woke up to 39 degree temps and drizzle, so the first thing I thought of this morning was soup!

Last week I was enjoying grilled corn and shishito peppers, but now overnight my food dreams have drifted to squashes, pumpkins, apples, and the flavors of autumn. If the autumnal cooking bug has grabbed you too, here’s a fav recipe I highly encourage you to play with. This Red Curry Kabocha Soup never disappoints. If Kabocha squash is hard to find in your area, substitute another variety you enjoy like butternut that isn’t too stringy or watery. 

Red Curry Kabocha Soup

Yields: 8 servings

1 medium Kabocha squash

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon red curry paste, or to taste

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 lime, juiced

½ cup fresh basil, torn into pieces

2 tablespoons lemongrass, finely chopped

2 small jalapeno peppers, diced

6 cups chicken stock

14 ounces coconut milk (whole or reduced fat, whichever you prefer)

salt, to taste

Heat oven to 375º F. Slice squash in half and scoop out seeds and stringy guts. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and put face down in a roasting pan. Rub peeled garlic with a little oil and toss into pan along with ½ cup water. Cover and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until squash is tender and garlic is caramel-colored. When cool enough to handle but still warm, scoop out squash flesh and toss squash shell.

In a large soup pot, heat remaining 2 Tablespoons oil. Add onion; reduce heat to low. Cover and sweat onion until translucent, about 7-10 minutes.

Whisk together curry paste, fish sauce, lime juice, basil, and lemongrass. Add mixture to large soup pot along with roasted squash, garlic, and stock. Stir in diced peppers. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and heat through. Puree soup in a blender or food processor. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

xo,

Claudine

Endangered Pleasures

Way back when, one of my favorite English professors assigned us the book: Endangered Pleasures, In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences. I loved it, so much in fact I ended up reading it several times throughout the years (which I don’t often do given the number of books I consistently have waiting in the wings). I still remember the book fondly, despite the fact that I haven’t picked it up in ages, and I’m considering reading it yet again in light of COVID-19.

The title is pretty self-explanatory. Endangered Pleasures leads the reader on a tour of some of the author’s favorite simple things in life, many of which had developed a reputation for being unhealthy, unproductive, or uncouth. For these reasons – much to the author’s horror – she felt too many of her pleasures were falling out of favor and therefore becoming endangered. The reader learns how each of the endangered pleasures highlighted in the book enhances the author’s life.

2020 has turned out to be one of the strangest years ever, a year we will all surely remember and talk about for the rest of our lives. Some people’s lives have changed more dramatically than others as they find themselves working virtually for the first time, homeschooling children, and feeling too isolated from family and friends. Everyone has made sacrifices, from canceled vacations to fewer hugs with loved ones, and it’s had me considering my own simple pleasures in life, endangered or not. I’m realizing there are things I had been taking for granted, which I now fully appreciate again. There are also new pleasures I’ve discovered as a result of not being able to default to all of my usual pastimes. It’s been insightful to self-evaluate, exploring how to keep myself sane, content, and growth-focused during a time when many of life’s sweet delights are harder to access, especially things like travel and dining out at lovely farm-to-table restaurants  – activities which have always made my life richer and succeeded in lighting me up.

Here are some simple pleasures I’ve identified for myself so far:

  • Working in my gardens
  • Watching butterflies in my gardens
  • Reading
  • Hugs (LOTS of hugs)
  • Setting puzzles (NOT my hubby’s thing, but I sure have fun with it, and I’m pretty sure he’s finding delight in making fun of my new pastime)
  • Savoring a cup of tea or coffee
  • Hiking and exploring state parks
  • Daily walks with my sweetheart
  • Conversations with neighbors we run into on our daily walks
  • Shopping at farmers markets
  • Phone and FaceTime dates with friends and family
  • Backyard patio dates with friends
  • Watering and tending to my indoor plants
  • Adopting more indoor plants!
  • Researching home decorating ideas
  • Researching potential new recipes and then giving them a shot
  • Writing (for personal pleasure, letters, thank you notes, notes for no reason, etc.)
  • Fishing
  • Tidying up corners of our home, clearing out my closets
  • Chocolate
  • Listening to podcasts (also, sharing podcast recommendations with friends, then discussing together)
  • Bird watching, especially hummingbirds at the cabin
  • Getting take-out with friends, then enjoying picnics together in state parks
  • Walking down a musical memory lane, revisiting favorite CD’s throughout my life (and subsequently singing my heart out)
  • Taking advantage of all the opportunities to learn new things online
  • Knitting
  • Boning up on my French language skills through Duolingo (a free app)
  • Going to bed early and getting a really good night’s sleep
  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • Decluttering my file cabinet (yes, this is truly pleasurable for me; love that dopamine kick I get each time I recycle some paper)
  • Visiting farms that are comfortable having people visit, enjoying feeling close to the source of my food
  • Listening to thunderstorms
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Campfires

Simple, simple pleasures. And this is just a start. What are some of your simple pleasures, and can you bring more of them into your life?

xo,

Claudine

Farmacology – Farm as Medicine

At the risk of sounding like I’m writing a review, I feel compelled to share a bit about a book I’m devouring these days that I believe anyone interested in studying various approaches to cultivating health would find stimulating: Farmacology: Total Health from the Ground Up by Daphne Miller, M.D..

My attraction to this book lies in how beautifully it bridges the connection between farming and health – a connection often ignored or overlooked. Personally, it perfectly links my devotion to local, farm-fresh foods with my background and passion for nutrition. From the first chapter, I was struck by the wisdom the author learns from the farmers she meets on her journey and how it mirrors my own experience gaining insights into nutrition from the farmers I’ve interviewed throughout the years, seeking to understand how they farm for health. In fact, much of what I have learned about nutrition since graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition has come from farmers – not formal teachers.

The author, a practicing physician, explores what farming can teach us about nurturing ourselves and presents the idea of “farm as medicine,” a concept I’d love to see gain widespread traction. As she travels to various family farms around the country, she seeks to discover the hidden connections between how food is grown and raised and the link to our health, asking questions like, “Are there connections between soil microbes and those in our bodies?” and “Why does a dirty farm offer protection from allergies while a dirty urban apartment does not?”

As Dr. Miller tells stories and shares insights from the farms she visits, she also introduces the reader to one of her most challenging and mysterious patients, Allie, who struggles with a laundry list of health concerns nobody can resolve: chronic bloating, allergies, weight gain, premature aging, and extreme fatigue. Allie never experienced a dramatic illness or accident; instead her symptoms started out low grade and mushroomed. By the time she found Dr. Miller, Allie had reached a point where simply getting out of bed each morning felt challenging. High-dose supplementation, energy bars, and sophisticated testing from various medical specialists hadn’t been helpful.

As Dr. Miller gleans as much knowledge as she can from each farmer she meets, she approaches Allie with a radical idea (especially for a physician): would Allie be willing to “join a farm cycle?” When Allie agrees, essentially Dr. Miller prescribes the following:

  • Choose farm-fresh food: shop at farmers markets and join a CSA to ensure consuming the freshest, most nutrient-dense food possible.
  • Eat for biodiversity: to save the plant-loving microbiota (a community of beneficial bacteria, protists, fungi, and more) in her gut from extinction, eat a diverse assortment of local grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Eat dirt and bugs: not literally! Simply don’t be too obsessive about cleaning farm-fresh produce, knowing that micro traces of healthy soil clinging to food carries healthy bacteria and minerals.
  • Engage in farm love: seek out opportunities to engage with a community garden or farm, which offer natural opportunities for physical activity, increase the chances for interpersonal connection, and have anti-depressant effects, according to research.

Definitely not your typical doctor’s office prescription, yet four months later Allie was feeling better than she had felt in years and her labs finally came back normal.

Dr. Miller writes, “…it is fair to say that most of us in the medical profession are just starting to grapple with what it means to take a “whole system” approach to health and healing. Agriculture, meanwhile, has been considering this question for decades. From my perspective, there are many reasons why agriculture is ahead of medicine when it comes to weblike thinking, starting with the simple fact that farming, even at its most technological, has never completely turned its back on nature.”

In closing, I would love to see us move beyond the well-accepted “food as medicine” mantra and adopt a richer “farm as medicine” philosophy. I have no doubt that farmacology has the potential to gently guide us back to a natural state of health. So, how soon can you get your petudie to a farmers market?

xo,

Claudine

Spring Greens Goodness!

Spring’s arrival marks the beginning of the long-awaited growing season in Minnesota, that abundant time of year when the freshest of fresh produce – in a rainbow of the brightest colors Mother Nature has to offer – entices us to move away from the onions, carrots, and potatoes we survived on all winter and turn our focus to flavorful herbs, tender baby lettuces, bitter greens, and other short-lived spring riches like rhubarb and foraged mushrooms.

For me, spring is synonymous with everything green: super fresh baby salad greens, microgreens, and every kind of nutrient-dense leafy green you can imagine. Traditional medicines like Traditional Chinese Medicine tells us that these are the foods our bodies need to detoxify from the extra fats and sugar we consumed during the winter months, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when we start craving fresh salads in April or May.

Additionally, it is widely accepted that eating a lot of these green foods in autumn to detoxify our bodies in preparation for the heavier foods of winter is also a good idea. When shopping at farmers markets and eating with the seasons, you’ll see that farm fresh greens are often available now in both spring and fall.

Though leafy greens have definitely gained a larger audience the last five years, they still feel mysterious to a lot of folks. The following is a super simple template our CSA farm gave us early into our membership that can be used for kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and even arugula.

 

Easy Kale

1 bunch kale

1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

red pepper flakes, to taste

Thai fish sauce or balsamic vinegar, to taste

 

Wash, stem and chop the bunch of kale.

Sauté 1-2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic in the olive oil.

When the garlic begins to turn golden, toss in red pepper flakes to taste and sauté briefly.

*Add the kale and a couple splashes of Thai fish sauce (use balsamic vinegar instead, if you prefer a “sweeter” taste)

Cover and steam until tender.

(*If you don’t like the tougher texture of steamed kale, you can choose at this point to quick-boil the kale in another pot first before adding it to the pan with the fish sauce.)

I often add chopped spicy sausage or chicken to this template in order to make it into more of a meal. If you use balsamic vinegar instead of fish sauce, you can also add dried fruit like currants or raisins to jazz it up. Greens can be a great vehicle for a wide range of satisfying flavors!

xo,

Claudine

Watermelon Salad Recipe

It’s the height of summer, and peak summertime meals in my household are much more about “assembly” than they are about actually cooking. In general, from June-August our food mantra is “simple and fresh.” I find great joy using ultra fresh ingredients from farmers markets and our CSA (community supported agriculture) share to assemble creative but quick salads and sides that feel in harmony with the season.

Earlier this summer my friend Sarah, owner of Food Gallery Catering, offered this watermelon salad in one of her meal kits I splurged on. It was incredibly refreshing and tasty, and it was obviously super simple to prepare, so I asked if she would be willing to share the recipe. Like most experienced chefs, she didn’t have a concrete recipe per se, but she did send the cute comment and template below. As you will see, there aren’t any quantities. Just play with amounts. If you add the lime juice and salt to taste as you go, it is impossible to screw up this treat.

 

Watermelon Salad

“Legit, this watermelon salad is the easiest thing you’ve ever made.” – Sarah Enrico :)

watermelon

jicama

juice of limes (I used 1-2 limes)

salt

jalapeno or serrano pepper

cilantro leaves

 

1. Cube watermelon into bite-size pieces.

2. Cut jicama (Sarah used a mandolin with the finest shredder blade to get a fine julienne, but I just used a box grater. She also suggested using a food processor with a shredder attachment to get the same effect.)

3. Mix.

4. Squeeze lime juice on watermelon and jicama (I ended up using the juice of 1 whole juicy lime when I made this salad. I had cubed about 1/2 of a big watermelon.)

5. Salt everything, to taste. (Sarah said, “Use a little more salt than you would think – enough salt makes the sweetness of everything else pop.” I was nervous about over-salting, so I added a little at a time and tasted as I went.)

6. Top with super thinly sliced jalapenos or serranos and cilantro leaves, to taste.

A final note: On one occasion, the jalapeno I used didn’t have any heat and I really wanted some spice, so I finished everything with a sprinkle of cayenne. It gave the desired zip I wanted and tasted absolutely delicious.

Happy summer!

xo,

Claudine

P.S. The picture of this salad shows it with mint, rather than cilantro, which is also a great substitute for those not drawn to cilantro.

Singing the Praises of Local Food

Photo credit: my talented friend, Katie Cannon (www.katiecannonphotography.com)

Anyone who really knows me knows how passionate I am about nurturing a strong local food system here in Minnesota (and everywhere!) and how I believe in the power of local foods to cure so much of what ails us. Strong local food systems equal food security. Strong local food systems support rural communities and give people interested in farming a fair shot at earning a living. Strong local food systems foster the health of people and the planet. Interested in curbing climate change? Buy local. Concerned about animal welfare within our food system? Buy directly from a small local farmer.

The reasons to support family farmers go on and on, and the evidence supporting the local movement is dang compelling. Here are a few reasons to connect with nearby farmers (and make a new friend in the process):

Why buy local?

  1. Local foods are fresher. Buying local produce cuts down travel time from farm to table. The longer fruit and veggies spend on a truck or in storage before being delivered to you, the greater the loss of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The moment a piece of produce is picked or cut, its enzymes begin decomposing and feeding on precious nutrients. Researchers at Montclair State University revealed that the vitamin C content of broccoli was cut in half when it was shipped from out of the country compared to when it was sourced locally. A study at Penn State University found that spinach lost 47% of its folate after 8 days.

  2. Local foods are seasonal. True, it would be great to have fresh tomatoes and berries all year round, but eating seasonally means avoiding “artificial ripening” with gases or eating a bland version of a fruit or vegetable that’s been shipped thousands of miles. Eating seasonally results in the most delicious and nutrient-dense produce.

  3. Local foods are better for the environment. Some foods are shipped literally thousands of miles; that is a big carbon footprint that could be avoided by purchasing local and seasonal foods. For example, the average carrot has traveled 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.

  4. Local foods preserve green space and farmland. Buying foods grown and raised closer to where you live helps maintain farmland and green space in your area.

  5. Local foods promote food safety. Less distance between your food’s source and your kitchen table leaves less of a chance of contamination.

  6. Local foods promote variety. Eating locally promotes diversity in one’s diet. Farmers who run CSA (community-supported agriculture) programs, sell at farmers markets, and provide food to local restaurants have the demand and the economic support for raising more types of produce and livestock.

  7. Local foods support your local economy. Money spent locally stays local. Purchasing locally builds your local economy instead of handing over the earnings to a corporation in another city, state, or country. Also, since the food itself moves through fewer hands, more of the money you spend will end up in the pockets of those raising and growing those foods.

  8. Local foods create community. Ever find yourself spending much of your time at the farmers market chatting and socializing in addition to purchasing your produce? Getting to know your farmer, cheese purveyor, fishmonger, butcher, workers at your local co-op, etc., creates a sense of community, which is important for everybody.

Adapted from articles from the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington.

 

Local Food Resources in Minnesota

For CSA (community supported agriculture) farms:

www.minnesotagrown.com

 

For a list of farmers selling direct to consumers (especially during COVID-19): 

www.minnesotacooks.org

 

To find restaurants working with local farmers around Minnesota and serving quality foods, check out the farm-to-table directory at Minnesota Cooks:

www.minnesotacooks.org

 

To visit two of my favorite Twin Cities farmers markets:

www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com

www.millcityfarmersmarket.org

 

For a wonderful, satisfying, local food experience in Northeast Minneapolis:

www.foodbuilding.com

 

For Animal Protein:

www.pettitpastures.com (grass fed beef)

www.ykeracres.com (pastured pork & grassfed beef)

www.redtablemeatco.com (salumi)

www.ferndalemarketonline.com (turkey)

www.ironshoefarm.com (pork, beef, chicken, and more)

www.lowryhillmeats.com (butcher shop)

Drunken Beans

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I couldn’t resist sharing a recipe template for drunken beans – frijoles borrachos – that we’ve been eating up (literally) like nobody’s business at our house.

A dear friend mentioned she’d just added them to her cooking list, inspiring me to rotate them into our own meal plan for the week. For those of you who’ve never tried drunken beans, they’re basically just beans simmered in dark beer with onion, bacon, and a handful of seasonings, which results in a super flavorful and satisfying meal or side dish.  Virtually all of the alcohol from the beer boils out during cooking, so you don’t have to worry about anyone getting tipsy from eating them.

Though I’m no expert, I think drunken beans are usually made with pinto or black beans, but I picked up some dried local heirlooms at the farmers market last week called Good Mother Stallard, and they turned out deliciosos. Good Mother Stallards look like a speckled pinto and are slightly larger than your average pinto. I picked them for no other reason than they are beautiful, grown locally, and I felt drawn to them. I’m certainly not a drunken bean expert, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use red beans or another specialty bean you enjoy. I’ve heard Peruvian or Mexican yellow beans are another good choice.

During this strange time we’re living in, when COVID-19 is shutting down major meat processing plants and panic buyers are even causing some of our small farmers to sell out, many people are considering the benefits of eating more plant-based dishes, which is usually not a bad idea. The average American needs more plant-based meals in his or her diet. Beans are filling and therefore make an excellent substitution for meat. They’re also nutritious and contain protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, and important vitamins and minerals, such as folate, manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorous, copper and magnesium. Beans are also considered helpful for lowering LDL cholesterol, the type we don’t want climbing too high.

Though this template calls for bacon, you could easily leave it out. I hope you give them a whirl!

Drunken Beans

  • 1 lb dried beans like pinto or Good Mother Stallard, rinsed and preferably drained overnight
  • 4 pieces (uncooked) bacon, diced (optional)
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and diced (a poblano would also be delicious)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark, gluten-free beer (or any dark beer, if you’re not sensitive to gluten)
  • 1 tablespoon brown coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 -1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Soak beans overnight or for eight hours. Drain and then place in a large sauce pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, 45-60 minutes. When tender, drain remaining water and set aside.

Cook bacon in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until crispy, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a separate plate. Set aside.

Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the sauté pan and discard the extra. Add onion and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic, and sauté an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add beer, beans, brown sugar, oregano, chili powder, salt, and cumin, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering uncovered for about 15 minutes.

To serve, stir in the bacon and lime juice and top with fresh cilantro. Delicious served with a side of chicken or alongside your favorite tacos or burritos!

Claudine Arndt

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Love in the Time of Coronavirus. These are the words that keep visiting me, gently whispering in my ear multiple times each day, guiding my thoughts and outlook around the pandemic we’re facing: Love in the Time of Coronavirus.

Literature nerds will recognize this as an overt wordplay (aka ripoff) from Nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera. For those of you with passions beyond fiction, very simply Love in the Time of Cholera is a love story following two main characters, Florentina and Fermina, who first fall in love while young but don’t end up in a relationship together until five decades later. Among many plot twists and turns and enough drama to flush out a novel, the book encourages readers to explore what love really, truly looks like.

Which brings me to where I started – love in the time of coronavirus. Though the plot we are currently living more closely resembles the apocalyptic trajectory of Station 11 (one of my top-five favorite fiction reads ever), I wonder if you see what I’m seeing lately: a global love story unfolding within this pandemic, bearing a depth I’ve never witnessed before. Love showing up in both ordinary and extraordinary ways: farmers donating food to food shelves and schools for grab-and-go boxed lunches, young healthy individuals staying home for the greater good of all, neighbors intentionally checking on each other and delivering food when needed, families and friends regularly FaceTiming to stay connected, chefs and restaurant owners donating meals to health care workers and the recently unemployed, executives donating their salaries, neighbors singing to each other across Italian plazas and New Yorkers giving a resounding round of grateful applause to health care workers as they leave their shifts at the hospital, people asking each other, “how are you,” and actually listening deeply to the answer.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus.

Perhaps I’m being overly romantic in my outlook, just as Gabriel Garcia Marquez was criticized for being too simplistic in his depiction of enduring love (though perhaps only by those who chose to interpret his message simply). If that’s the case, I’m cool with it because having this outlook makes me feel better and encourages me to step up my own game and be the best person I can be. This crisis is offering me a beautiful reminder of what is important in life. I like looking for and uncovering all the positive and generous acts emerging amidst the universal uncertainty. It definitely beats the negative news headlines.

Of course, within this global love story is also the opportunity for each of us to cultivate a deeper self-love story, one in which we commit to taking care of ourselves as if our health matters – because it always has and always will. Life has changed dramatically in the last few weeks, and it looks like many of these changes are going to be with us a while, but we are still living. Do you feel alive? I cannot begin to imagine a better time to start valuing your health more deeply and learning to cultivate healthy habits. Seriously. The time is now, when nothing is normal and everything feels topsy-turvy anyway.

Close your eyes: Can you imagine a healthier, stronger version of yourself? Take a few seconds to sit with that vision, and then see if you can land on one or two ideas you already have for boosting your health. You’re smart. I know you have some ideas.

If you’re looking for other ideas, today’s love note from me offers resources for how to buy locally from farmers during this time when quality food is essential, and ideas for moving your body while sheltering in place. I also wanted to share a favorite springtime recipe and the link for a healthy deviant journey I’ve begun, in case you want to join. Here goes:

1. There is no better time than the present to connect with local farmers and buy your food directly from them. Quality food is essential to health and well-being, and one of the best ways to get quality food is to buy it from a source close to home that took care growing or raising that product while also caring for the land. I am well-connected with Minnesota farmers because of my work with the Minnesota Cooks program at Minnesota Farmers Union. Over the last two weeks, the Minnesota Cooks team has been compiling a resource we’re calling Buying Locally While Social Distancing, which is a list of Minnesota farmers offering farm fresh foods for safe delivery or pick-up. Small family farmers = healthy food + food security. During a time when none of us really wants to be grasping for the last package of chicken in the grocery store while trying to maintain distance from others, why not seize this as an opportunity to connect directly with farmers for the freshest food possible?

For those of you from other parts of the world, simply google your city and state with the words “farmers market association.” That should give you a good starting place for connecting with farmers. You can also contact your state’s farmers union and ask for names and numbers. Remember: don’t show up at farms without a prior appointment.

2. Move your body while sheltering in place. Though our world has changed dramatically in a short span of time, our body’s need to move has not. Perhaps now more than ever it’s imperative we continue to exercise – or build some sort of a movement practice if we aren’t already in the habit. Barring any health concerns which prevent you from exercising, movement is a critical pillar of overall well-being – both physical and mental. If you’re typically a sedentary person, it’s totally okay to start small with a short walk down your street, a few intentional extra trips up and down the stairs, or simple bicep curls with five-pound dumbells. Consistency is key, and getting started is the hardest part. Every little step we take adds up.

If you’re looking for instructed fitness opportunities, consider checking out some of the super awesome people and studios I’ve listed below, all of which have taken their classes virtual and, therefore, are currently available to you wherever you’re hunkering down in the world:

a. My friend Suzy, owner of Defining You Pilates and Fitness in St. Paul, and her stellar team quickly transitioned their Pilates and fitness services to a virtual format. As stated on their home page, “We are choosing to be creative, nimble and innovative in our approach to community fitness.” Yes!!! Suzy is a leader in the Pilates universe and the queen of staying upbeat. She will make you smile while giving you a great workout.
b. Feeling sassy? If so, mXe (prounouced moxie) is the studio for you. Offering dance, cardio, barre, boxing, and more, they’re also offering the first week of online classes free. Dancing helps me feel alive, and the folks at mXe know exactly how to get your heart rate up while making it fun enough to help you forget just how hard you’re working.
c. In the mood for one-on-one personal training? The dedicated team at Discover Strength is offering 1-on-1 virtual training for $39 per session, with the introductory session free. You don’t need any equipment, though small weights and an elastic band might be useful if you have them on hand.

Of course, walking or running outside are always available to you, as are body-bearing exercises like planks, push-ups, and lunges, which you can do from the comfort of your living room. I’ve also enjoyed discovering fitness videos like this Latin Dance Cardio Workout on YouTube, which keeps me hopping and flailing around my house breathless while giving my husband some cheap entertainment. It’s a win-win. ;)

3. Embark on a 14-day healthy deviant adventure with Pilar Gerasimo, health journalist and author of The Healthy Deviant. I mentioned Pilar in my last newsletter after attending her book launch, as I am a huge fan of hers and love the health revolution she’s promoting. Acting on instinct, Pilar decided to offer this 14-day healthy deviant adventure now while our lives and routines are already disrupted. Makes sense to me! The adventure started last Wednesday, but it’s not too late to sign up and catch up. Price is based on what you feel you can afford right now: $0 – $79. I’m always up for being a healthy deviant, so I signed up. I hope you do, too.

4. Minty Pea Spring Soup. This soup is an easy springtime dream. You should make it. End of story.

As a reminder, I am still seeing clients and have room to take a few new clients, but all of my sessions are taking place virtually until further notice. If you could use support, please reach out.

Stay healthy and sane, everyone!