March 24, 2010

Yoga, Cooking & Giada de Laurentiis: A Delectable Union.

I love to eat.

I came into this world malnourished as a C-section baby.  I don’t think I ever kicked the ‘must-eat-to-survive’ instinct I entered this life with.  It has turned into a full on zeal for eating, cooking or even admiring delectable food.  You could basically paste a curly tail on my behind and I would pass for a calorie crazed puggle who will lick the bottom of a piece of tupperware until it shines.  Like owner, like pet.  Perhaps I’ve made my point.

I’ve had the good fortune to teach the Food Network’s ‘Everyday Italian’ genius, Giada de Laurentiis, for over two years now.  It’s basically a job based in my own little macaroon-clouded heaven.  For starters, I get to do what I love the most—teach and share my love of yoga.  Next, I get to discuss my second favorite pastime in life—food.  We talk about restaurants, old-school gourmet versus modern day vegan flair.  How to properly rinse canned beans to avoid gas (seriously genius).  What dishes to prepare to win over a new date and what foods to avoid ensuring the date ends well.  We chew over the finer points of gluten free bread, natural sweeteners like agave, cleanses and how to bring a healthy awareness to the masses.

Giada even had me on her Food Network show, “Giada at Home” teaching her yoga as she prepares a light and healthy lunch for her audience.  She has blended her love of yoga, food and health and I am incredibly proud of her.  She is a dream client, inspiration to all women and a completely delightful and dedicated friend.

Today she sent me home with a little bag of her homemade polenta croutons.  These little angel teardrops are so devilishly delicious that I started munching as soon as I got into my car.  They’re little squares of polenta that have been cooled to retain their form and then dropped briefly in hot oil so they crisp to a gorgeous golden brown.

I couldn’t help but admire her craft and approach as I absentmindedly popped them into my mouth.  I contemplated and chewed.  Each chew released a new burst of flavor that allowed me to go deeper into my appreciation and thoughts.  The flavors and thoughts swirled together and I found myself falling into deep ujaii breath (style of breath used in yoga).

My two favorite worlds had come together.  Just like two cookies uniting around a patty of ice cream to create perfection.

It was the same feeling I get from doing a fantastic yoga session.  Unrolling my mat is my time to breathe.  To let my inner strength boil to a point where my surrender can bring it to a simmer.  I cook up my courageousness and season it heavily with compassion.  When I combine all the appropriate ingredients—I find contentment and joy.

My point is—enlightenment and joy can come in all shapes and forms.  In our work, relationships, hobbies, moments of prayer or in the simplicity of a delicious piece of fried polenta.

Please enjoy her recipe yourself.  Catch a snippet of her episode, “Body & Soul,” where she features her healthy menu and yoga.  Also, don’t forget to pick up her new cookbook, “Giada at Home,” which hits stores March 30th.

Polenta Croutons:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups Basic Polenta, recipe follows
  • Vegetable oil, for deep frying

To make the croutons: Spread the olive oil over a small baking sheet. Transfer the hot polenta to the baking sheet, spreading evenly to form an 8 by 5 by 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Cover and refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

Cut the polenta into 3/4-inch cubes. Pat the polenta cubes dry with paper towels. Add enough vegetable oil to a heavy large frying pan to come 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil over high heat. Working in batches of 10, carefully add the polenta cubes to the oil 1 at a time and fry until golden brown, stirring to keep the cubes separate, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the polenta croutons to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.

Basic Polenta:

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.

Lightly oil a half sheet pan. Transfer the hot polenta to the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly to 3/4-inch thick. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

Yield: 2 cups polenta

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours


Kathryn is a lover and teacher of yoga by day, a wizard in the kitchen with her Giada de Laurentiis cookbook by dinner time and a professional dog snuggler at night.

Follow Kathryn @kathrynbudig or on Facebook


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