Listen to Your Body (Spinach Garlic Hummus Recipe)

One of the best bits of advice I've ever received in my life came from a high school teacher.

Mrs. Langlieb was an amazing lady who taught religion and philosophy classes at my school. These courses were a little different than the typical high school fare. For example, one of my favorites was called "On Death & Dying," which was based on the work of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and delved into everything from what happens to your body as it dies (death rattles, rigor mortis), the afterlife, caring for a dying person, and the grieving process. There were even a few classes on things like "how to write a sympathy card" and "what to do when attending a wake."

It sounds like an odd, depressing class to offer young students, but I think it was probably one of the most useful ones I've ever taken.

She also taught a class on sex, love & relationships. Again, not what you expect in high school--especially not a private Catholic high school, but this lady was special. I remember we once spent a week discussing the subject of intimacy in relationships during which she showed us a clip from Dawson's Creek. It was the episode where Pacey and Joey had sex for the first time. The clip showed Pacey standing behind Joey and lovingly brushing her hair, at which point she turns around and tells him she's ready to sleep with him, and they soon embrace and end up on the bed together. She explained that the intimate act in that scene was not the sex or the kiss, but rather the moment where he brushed her hair.

I think what made her so great was that once the doors to her room shut, it was like a whole different world. She made sure we covered all the things required by the curriculum, but she also made a lot of time to let us talk about other things that were affecting us--whether those be academic or personal--always without judgment.

And on days when we seemed high-strung or perhaps even just tired, she would shut off the lights, turn on soft music, and encourage us to meditate or pray silently for 15 minutes. I would sometimes fall asleep during these moments, awaking with a start and fabric creases on my face.

Mrs. Langlieb would silence my apologies and say, "It's OK. You have to listen to your body and do what it says." She then talked at length about the importance of checking in with yourself and figuring out what your body needs. A nap? A glass of water? A few minutes of quiet?

I've since used this phrase in my life over and over again, and find it particularly important these early weeks of January. December can be an exhausting time for many of us. There is stress. There are emotions. There is snow. Regular schedules go out the window. Not to mention the invitations, parties, and guests. And then there is the sugar--cookies and peppermint candies, fudge, and dozens of baked treats.

It's wonderful, but it is a lot, and by the time that January rolls around, many of us are ready to barrel in with good intentions and dramatic declarations.

But sometimes, I think it's important to stop and be quiet first. Take a little time to listen to your body, and find out what it really needs.

For those of you whose bodies need green and protein, give this little twist on classic hummus a try. Packed with spinach, it's brightened up with lemon zest and juice, and uses water to reach the perfect creamy hummus consistency. I know raw garlic can be harsh for some people, so I simmer it gently in the olive oil first--just enough to take the bite off while infusing the oil with great flavor.

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Spinach Garlic Hummus
Makes about 4 cups

2 cans chickpeas
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 10oz package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
Zest of one large lemon
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt, to taste

Olive oil, za'atar spice for garnish (optional)

Drain chickpeas and rinse well under cold running water. Add to food processor base. Combine olive oil and sliced garlic in a skillet and heat just until the garlic starts to sizzle and become fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into food processor. Add the lemon juice, tahini, thawed spinach, and zest. Puree until smooth, adding water slowly until it is creamy. Season to taste with kosher salt.

Transfer to a bowl, cover, and let chill in the refrigerator. As it chills, the flavors will blend together and intensify. Sprinkle with za'atar and a drizzle of olive oil before serving, if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered. Will keep about 1 week.

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