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A couple of weeks ago I was invited upstate to Old Stone Farm, an inn and horse farm in Rhinebeck, to photograph a wellness retreat that included lectures on health, yoga and cooking. Dr. Robin Berzin led lectures about our bodies and what we put into them, demystifying some of the mixed messages we get about things like vitamins and probiotics and illuminating subjects like the science of ayurveda.  We moved through beautifully sequenced and well thought out yoga classes with Nikki Vilella, a senior teacher from Kula Yoga.  And later we cooked and ate lunch with Carolina Santos-Neves, chef de cuisine and partner in the restaurants Comodo and Colonia Verde in New York, who was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute. As we cooked, Carolina explained the benefits of the ingredients we were using like coconut oil and spices.   We ended the day with guided meditation in the barn.

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There was something so completely fulfilling about these days.  It wasn’t just that we were being coddled by the gorgeous, idyllic setting of rolling green valleys and pathways of fallen leaves, surrounded by powerful, beautiful horses, there was something more.  Taking the time out of our busy lives to focus on the source of our energy, what makes it possible for us to get through our days and achieve our dreams, is so important.   Like so many, we sometimes neglect the engine and push ourselves to the limit and then wonder why we feel exhausted, depleted, or unable to focus.   Once you start thinking about what you are feeding your body, it affects all the rest.  Are you nourishing your head, your heart, your soul? Without any prodding or digging all of us seemed to open up over the course of this retreat revealing parts of ourselves, our stories.  Our bodies were open and clean and somehow that effected our thoughts as well, ideas and new energy emerged.

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I  was invited on this trip as a photographer, but immediately got pulled into the experience and really became a part of the group.  It was such an honor to participate in the weekend and share a special moment with this team of people.  I think we all healed some part of ourselves, by just stopping, listening and checking in.  What I brought back with me from these days is really that.  We should all stop for a moment whether we are on retreat, or in the thick of it in our life in the city and be mindful of ourselves, of our bodies, of our thoughts.  They need our attention too.  The mind, body, spirit connection is undeniable…

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ROASTED VEGGIE CURRY STEW– Chef Carolina Santos-Neves graciously created and shared this healthy, delicious recipe with us. Serve this stew over quinoa for extra protein, or any other grain, or eat plain. 

Serves about 6

1 head cauliflower cut into florets
1 head of broccoli cut into florets
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons garam masala (or a mix of cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin)
1 ½  tablespoons black mustard seeds
1-1½  cans organic coconut milk
½  can of whole tomatoes
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 kabocha squash, skin on, cubed
1 ½  cans organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, de-stemmed and rinsed
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425.

Place the cauliflower and broccoli on two roasting trays. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, gently toss together. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until browned.

In a large pot, over low to medium heat, warm a tablespoon of olive oil, add chopped onions , cook until translucent. Add curry powder, garam masala, black mustard seeds and a pinch of salt, stir with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute. Add coconut milk, and tomatoes. Cook for approximately 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and add squash, then turn down the flame so that the mixture is just simmering and cover.

After about 15 minutes check to see if the squash is cooked through by piercing with a fork.  When it’s soft, add rinsed chickpeas and roasted veggies. Let cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and top with cilantro leaves.