Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eating Mindfully, Eating Well

As most of my friends will tell you, I'm a little in love with food. This is a very good thing for my friends—I love nothing more than to throw a good dinner party. And usually it's a good thing for me too, except when I emerge from the winter darkness and can barely squeeze into my summer clothes.

So, it's back to Weight Watchers for me. Actually, I kind of love being "on plan" as they say, for it gives me an opportunity to use cooking as a hobby. The key to success is planning, so I've been reading cookbooks, and my latest favorite is Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan.

He's funny, and he's very into making your own condiments: citrus-pickled onions; parsley-garlic dressing; salsa verde, etc. He likes eggs, and tacos, and sweet potatoes (he puts sweet potato in places you would never expect....) He's also quite clever. Tonight I made his Mahi Mahi with Kiwi-Avocado Salsa and Coconut Rice, and there were several things about this meal that made it memorable:

1. He uses coconut WATER instead of coconut milk, to infuse both the rice and fish with a subtle coconut essence (and of course reduces both fat and calories).
2. He cooks the fish in the same pot as the rice. Easier clean-up!
3. It was SO easy and SO delicious!

Here is the recipe, but I adapted a bit. I used brown jasmine rice instead (tripled cooking time, and added fish about 2/3 of the way through),  and I cut the amount of avocado in half. I also didn't have scallion so I used shallot, and I left out the jalapeno, because for me that overwhelms the flavor.

Mahi Mahi with Kiwi-Avocado Salsa and Coconut Rice
(serves one; I doubled the recipe to have leftovers)

1 (6-ounce) mahi mahi fillet
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup coconut water (pure coconut water, unsweetened)
1/3 cup jasmine or other long-grain white rice
1 kiwi, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 scallion, white and green parts, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 fresh jalapeno chile, seeded, and finely chopped (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
Leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon honey, or more to taste (optional)

Pat dry the mahi mahi with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small skillet or saucepan fitted with a lid, combine the coconut water, rice, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat until the liquid is barely bubbling.

Place the mahi mahi fillet on top of the rice, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the coconut water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the rice and fish stand, covered, for another 5 minutes.

While the rice and fish are cooking, make the salsa. In a small bowl, stir together the kiwi, avocado, scallion, jalapeño, lime juice, and cilantro. Taste and add a touch of salt if necessary and a drizzle of honey if it’s too tart.


Another key to success is to remember mindfulness in my eating: to become aware of different kinds of hunger that send out signals in my body and respond calmly, thoughtfully, and with love.

A great ally in this has been the book Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, by Dr. Jan Chozen Bays

 What drew me to this book is the way she articulates "The Seven Kinds of Hunger." They are:

1. Eye Hunger
2. Nose Hunger
3. Mouth Hunger
4. Stomach Hunger
5. Cellular Hunger
6. Mind Hunger
7. Heart Hunger
I've only made it to Cellular hunger, but already I can feel myself differentiating a bit, able to wait and assess before eating. I'm able to sit with my meal: before diving face first into the gorgeous Mahi-Mahi, I took the time to really admire all the colors and brightness of the dish (eye hunger) and smelled it thoroughly (nose hunger) and chewed slowly to absorb the textures (mouth hunger). I felt how this food satisfied all those hungers before even getting to where we normally think our hunger lies.

Food is so elemental, in every sense of the word. May you have a week of mindful eating that brings you great satisfaction.



  1. I find that I really really enjoy growing my own food. I'm more mindful of quantities and the inherent sensory quality of each ingredient that way - the whole life cycle of the mustard green for example. A second best is the farmer's market - we have an amazing one here in Homer - then at least I know the people who know my food well. I love to cook as well, it's such an art to make healthy good food that pleases the eye and the mouth (and nose).

    1. Wonderful Erin! I forgot to mention that I also had a small salad of greens I plucked from my little windowbox planter on the deck: so delicate and delightful!

  2. This is so helpful to me to read right now. The chef in me resonates with the planning, the home-made condiments, the smart cooking strategies. All the 'fixing for other people' stuff.

    The part of me that self-deprives into a downward spiral so that I can't eat at all appreciates the reading recommendations and the talk of mindful eating, such that eating can be a spiritual practice rather than an abomination.

    1. Hello Ela! I think you'd really enjoy reading Mindful Eating. Food is such a complex issue, and she helps us understand our relationship to it more fully.

  3. Hello Brenda. I too am a long time yoga practitioner and teacher, and look forward to reading "Listening..."
    Glad to have found you!

    1. Thank you Monica! Glad to have found you here too!


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