Spring Chicken Vegetable Soup (immune strengthening)

It’s one of the worst things to feel “under the weather” on a nice sunny, spring day. However, it’s important to listen to your body when the sniffles start to rise, which usually indicates that an adjustment is needed. Instead of dousing your system with over-the-counter medications that just mask symptoms and push them deeper inside, it’s important to take a look at what’s been happening in your life externally and internally (i.e. stress, non-healthy diet, over-worked, surrounded by others who are contagious, hygiene practices, etc.) that may indicate that restoration is needed. Here’s a simple cleansing recipe that will soothe, strengthen and warm your soul.

chxsoup

Ingredients:
boneless chicken thighs (chopped)
organic vegetable broth (low sodium)
carrots (diced)
celery (chopped)
red potatoes (diced)
shallots (minced)
garlic (minced)
olive oil
oregano
thyme
rosemary
cilantro
salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot on medium heat.
  2. Saute minced garlic and shallots for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally (do not burn).
  3. Add chopped chicken breasts. Stir and coat in oil.
  4. Add oregano, thyme, rosemary and black pepper. Stir occasionally. Cover and let simmer on medium-low heat for approximately 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is browned (but not all the way cooked).
  5. Add diced potatoes and carrots. Increase heat to medium and stir for approximately 5 minutes.
  6. Finally, add chopped celery. Simmer for approximately 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add 1 quart of vegetable broth (I used the low sodium Pacific Organic brand).  I know this is not the authentic way to make chicken soup, but sometimes time is of the essence!
  8. Increase heat to medium-high/high to allow the soup to boil. Once the soup reaches boiling, reduce heat back down to simmer (medium/medium-low).
  9. Add salt to taste.
  10. Garnish with cilantro.
  11. Serve hot and let your system be cleansed and nourished!

Click here for another immune strengthening soup recipe.

Top 5 Songs of the Week (theme: transitional shifting)

During the transition from winter to spring, there are often a lot of emotions that come up.  Winter represents a dormant time of rest, stillness, and death; while spring represents a season of birth, germination and an opportunity for a tiny seed to grow into a little bud. Though spring brings new life and resurrection, it can also be a reminder of what has been lost or what needs to be let go of in order to allow space for fresh sprouts to flourish.  As I take inventory of my personal losses and situations I wish could have been different in the past, I also continue to move forward towards a future of unbounded faith, while attempting to maintain an appreciation for every moment that comes my way… in the present here-and-now.

It’s quite easy to get lost in the clouds and dream of “better” days, however maybe the times we all long for are taking place right now; here on the ground and underneath our own two feet.  Perhaps heaven doesn’t exist in a far away land off in the distant sky.  Maybe glimpses can be seen and revealed in everyday moments with ordinary people.  So the question is.. what do you see in your life?  Are you able to see glimpses of heaven or are you living in a personal hell?  Sometimes the pendulum can swing pretty wide, and it’s often not always a black and white scenario.  Shades of gray mainly permeate the air and sometimes it’s hard to know how to navigate.  However, instead of trying to take control of a situation and jump in the driver’s seat to get to the next destination or solve the existing riddle, perhaps allowing oneself to float within the spectrum of overcast pigments can allow room for a kaleidoscope of colors to shine through. 

All this to say that spring is arriving, I’m stoked about it and here are a few songs I’ve chosen to represent this time of transitional shifting and change.

Just discovered these guys. Super sweet song.
Jamestown Revival – Golden Age

Recently went back to re-discover the tunes of this leading lady.
Alison Krauss & Union Station – Paper Airplanes

Our local Seattle hometown heroes.
The Head & the Heart – 10,000 Weight in Gold

This duo is hilarious. That’s all.
Shovels & Rope – The Devil is All Around

Super epic worship band. This is a great acoustic version of this anthem.
Hillsong United – Oceans

Chicken Enchilasagna

Here’s a fun and tasty recipe that’s guaranteed to be a party-pleaser.  I guess you could call it a Mexican spin on an Italian classic.

Enchilasagna

Ingredients
boneless chicken breast (1 lb)
corn tortillas
three-cheese blend
roasted corn
black beans (1 can, drained)
red bell pepper (chopped)
tomato sauce (1 can)
white onion (chopped)
garlic (1 bulb)
chili powder
oregano
cumin
garlic powder
olive oil
vegetable oil
flour
brown sugar
salt
tortilla chips (optional for garnish)

The chicken..

  • In a large stock pot, heat approximately 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium heat.
  • Add garlic cloves and chopped white onions.
  • Add approximately 1 tbsp. of chili powder and oregano.
  • Slowly saute onions, garlic and spices together (stirring frequently).
  • Add boneless chicken, fully coating chicken with oil and spices. Lightly brown, then add 4 cups of water.
  • Cover and boil for 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
  • Remove chicken from broth and pull apart with two forks. Set aside.

Enchilasagna1

Enchilasagna2

The enchilada sauce..

  • Heat approximately 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil on medium heat.
  • Add approximately 3 tbsp. of chili powder and 1 tbsp. each of cumin, garlic powder, and oregano.
  • Stir together to create the flavor base for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add one can of tomato sauce. Stir on low to medium heat.
  • Add 1 tbsp. of brown sugar and salt.
  • Add sprinkles of flour to create a smooth consistency.
  • You want the sauce to taste sweet with a hint of spice.
  • Keep stirring on low to medium heat (you don’t want the sauce to burn).

Enchilasagna3

The casserole…

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a 9 x 14 baking pan or casserole dish, coat bottom of pan with a layer of enchilada sauce.
  • Take the remaining sauce, and mix it with the pulled chicken in a large bowl. Make sure the chicken is fully coated with sauce.
  • Cut corn tortillas in half. Layer the halves on top of the sauce in pan.
  • Add one package of roasted corn, one can of black beans and a layer of chicken.
  • Add another layer of tortilla halves, enchilada sauce and chicken.
  • Add chopped red bell peppers and a layer of cheese (3 cheese grated blend).
  • Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.
  • Let cool for 5-10 minutes, slice and serve! Also stores well for leftovers the next day.
  • Optional: garnish with tortilla chips around the border and call it good.

Enchilasagna4

Enchilasagna5

Enchilasagna6

An Ode to Hopping on Another Reflective Bandwagon of the Year.

DarkHole
Dark Hole in a Tree Trunk, Olympic National Forest

As a new year begins, one can’t help to reflect on the year that has just passed. What a wild ride.  I’m not a resolution type girl, because I feel making new years resolutions can place one on a dangerous path of unfulfilled and unmet expectations, especially if and when things don’t pan out.  For more about why resolutions are problematic, click here.

Of course one must live with hopes and dreams, however, in most cases, maybe slow and steady “wins the race.” Perhaps it’s not about how you’re going to accomplish something, change your lifestyle and become someone better, but instead accept what has been given to you and work what what you have, while still keeping a glimmering flame alive for those moments of joy, beauty and peace.. however few and far between they may seem to come.

This article is an ode to hopping on another reflective bandwagon.  It’s so cliche.  I suppose I could have tried to think of a more “original” idea or attempt to come up with something new and innovative, but I like to recycle and compost.  How can one literally turn manure and decaying matter that’s been thrown your way into fertile soil and organic material that can be used to plant further seeds of cultivating blossoms?  It’s like the age old saying, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  How annoying.  What if one doesn’t want to be a stiff, solid strong rock?  Sometimes it seems easier to wither and float away. It seems more appealing to be a leaf that changes colors like a chameleon, or drifts from one tree to the next.  Rumi, the legendary Persian poet, Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic states, if you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?  So the question then is are we meant to be shaped and polished and who is doing the polishing?

Apparently there are a plethora of various polishing techniques.  When one polishes something, perhaps a jewel, a sculpture, or a car, sometimes a piece of paint needs to be completely scraped off, a piece of metal needs to be burned at extreme temperatures or a piece of wood needs to be rubbed harshly with sandpaper.  How painful.  However, without taking these necessary steps, how can the process of enhancement and ultimate refinement continue?  One can “gloss over” and continue to paint thicker and thicker layers on one’s walls in order to hide the festering mold and holes, but the underlying matter still remains.  Sometimes we have to be stripped.  Stripped savagely.  And it sucks.

As I continue on my reflective bandwagon, the common themes of my year have been related to loss, renewal and deep questioning.   I started off the year stranded in the snow in a four car pile-up, and ironically I ended the year in a t-boned car accident that’s left me stranded without a car.  In addition to addressing my health care needs due to these accidents, I’ve also had many other transitions throughout the year.

  • completed a contract assisting a music school, which resulted in a publication of a music textbook.
  • ended a job at an Italian bistro I worked at for 2 years, due to the restaurant closing its doors.
  • was a part-time teaching assistant at a private preschool working with 4 and 5 year olds.  They were so cute.
  • started a serving position at a prominent and upscale Trattoria in downtown Seattle.
  • hosted my first annual chili cook-off (my team won!)
  • said good-bye to old roommates and hello to new ones.
  • became more actively involved in volunteering at my church.
  • started graduate school, working towards a Master’s in Counseling Psychology.

Wishes for 2015..

  • Take some time to travel, if possible.
  • Spend more time with old friends and deepen my current friendships.
  • Go on real “dates.”
  • Participate in an intimate and fruitful relationship with someone who holds a common shared vision.
  • Continue my post-accident health care journey.
  • Continue to grow in my faith and remain hopeful.. wherever the path shall lead.

——–
by Kristin Bach
Copyright 2015

Top 5 Christmas Songs (2014)

The Swingle Sisters – O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Super sweet acapella.

Blind Boys of Alabama (featuring Tom Waits) – Go Tell It On the Mountain
Groovy and funky soul.

Ella Fitzgerald – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Smooth and swingin.’

King’s College Choir – O Come All Ye Faithful
Beautiful hymn with traditional choir and pipe organ.

John Lennon – Happy Xmas (War is Over)
Peace, love and hope.

The Psychology of Interstellar (part 1): Concept of Hope & the Power of Relationships

interstellar
Image borrowed from Mashable.

Interstellar was a breath-taking, extremely thought-provoking and emotional heart-wrenching clencher. If you haven’t seen this film yet, I highly recommend it. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire 3 hours and it never dragged on or felt like it was too long. I was always wondering what was going to happen next and was filled with much wonder, awe and tears. The entire film opens up a world of uncertainty and unanswered questions, but the finale leaves behind a feeling of hope. I’m not sure if there is one main plot, theme or lesson to be taken from this film. One could probably spend an entire lifetime analyzing the direct and subtle themes the director, Christopher Nolan, has presented. He brings various existential questions to the surface on numerous levels, and though this is a film about outer space and time-travel, it is done in a beautiful way that brings it realistically back to our own personal humanity and the perceptual power of relationships.

A few major themes Nolan exposes is the state of our humanity on Earth in terms of climate change, dwindling food supply, what is happening in our educational system, and explores the concept of truth. There is a robot named Tars that has been programmed to exert certain percentages of “truth” and “discretion.” He has been programmed to speak 90% truth, because the belief is that sometimes the full truth is not what’s best. Based on events that take place, Tars later becomes re-programmed into speaking 95% truth.

This film also tackles love, gravitational pulls, black holes, isolation and the concept of salvation.  There are huge parallels among the fields of psychology, science, philosophy, religion and bare bones instinctual survival.  Dr. Mann, played by Matt Damon does a suburb job of portraying a single, successful astrophysicist who has been isolated on an ice-filled planet for several years (the concept of time is completely relative, so in essence, we don’t really know how long he was stranded for because our perception of time on Earth is different depending on where one is placed at in a space-time continuum).

Dr. Mann was part of a Lazarus mission that was sent out to find another planet for humanity to survive on. He ends up stranded, sends false messages back to Earth stating that he has found an answer, then puts himself in a hibernation chamber, in hopes that he will be rescued.  When the Endurance crew, made up of main characters Matthew McConaughey (Cooper) and Anne Hathaway (Brand) find and release him from hibernation, he is literally in awe and thankful that he has been “raised from the dead.”   This is an obvious parallel of the gospel of John in the New Testament, where Lazarus was a sick man who had fallen asleep and then was raised from the dead by Jesus.  If Jesus truly is flesh and bone, as well as the son of God sent to “save” humanity, then Anne Hathaway becomes an imaged reflection of God at the end of the film when she arrives on Edmund’s planet in hopes of re-colonizing this “new Earth” in order to restore and renew the human race.

Dr. Mann’s character, though short-lived, is extremely influential in that he brings to light the true spirit of our paradoxical human nature, of which we have an innate tendency for survival and to rely only on ourselves (whether as a personal “self” or self as humankind), yet at the same time have a deep desperate need for others (whether through relationships with our own kind or a deep longing to connect with a singular or plural entity beyond our imagined perceptions).  Even though Dr. Mann ends up reunited with his peers, his extended period of cold, desolate isolation has caused him to go mad and he continues on a solitary journey of only trying to save himself.  In a last ditch effort, he attempts to murder Cooper, rejects his human “saviors” and ends up killing himself.

The relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murph is another compelling tale of fatherly love and gravitational pull.  The passion and hope kept alive by Brand who is in love with Dr. Edmunds, who may or may not be alive on the last planet they have been sent to explore, is another beautiful, yet idealistic notion.  She is literally soaring through the universe through endless space and time in a desire to be with her lover.  She cannot accept the fact that he is probably dead, but instead is kept fully alive by the uncertain possibility that he may not be so.  This is directly in relation to Murph’s lifelong search to reconnect with her father who she felt abandoned her, yet she still holds on to the promise that he will one day return.   At the same time Cooper is perilously trying to return home to his daughter and attempts to communicate with her through books and Morse-code signals on a wristwatch, while somehow existing in a tesseract which is almost like a warped infinite bridge or 4th dimension between the 3D world on Earth and the fifth (or assorted multitude of dimensions) subsisting in space.  What starts as a story of finding truth and survival through scientific data becomes an ultimate mission and desperate attempt to connect and be reconciled with love.
———
by Kristin Bach
Copyright 2014

I’ve just lightly touched on a few themes of “Interstellar” and will attempt to formulate my thoughts on space, time, multiple dimensionality and what it means for gravity to be a “problem” in my next article.  To be continued…