My best friend in the whole wide world is a quirky lady. When we first met in graduate school, it was a beautiful fall day in Cambridge at the Longy School of Music. I had already become close friends with another singer named Brenna who was a cute little soprano with the same voice type and the same sense of humor as me. Ms. Sara Bielanski stood up in class to introduce herself and Brenna and I instantly hated her. She seemed too cool, too relaxed and maybe a little too chill for our early music loving sensibilities. A few hours later, we ended up chatting with her in the hallway after class and we have all been best friends ever since. No one is more genuine than Sara. I can always count on Sara to build me up when I'm feeling down but also call me out on my BS when I'm doing something crazy. Sara is definitely one of my favorite humans and I am grateful for every day that I get to hang out with her and her two crazy doggies.
Sara had always told me that she was born with a bicuspid valve disorder that she knew she would have to have surgically corrected at some point. But when the time came, we were all very concerned. Here was our 35 year old girlfriend going into the hospital to have open heart surgery to go get a valve replacement. We were scared. We were terrified. But she was a fighter and the surgery was a success and although recovery was hard, she bounced back better and more beautiful than ever...only with an impressive battle scar on her chest.
The friend crew has since attended Heart Walks and events in which Sara was celebrated for her work with the American Heart Association. Sara is a true hero in my eyes for what she has gone though and the awareness she has brought to all of us regarding women's heart heath issues. A wonderful thing we've realized is that life is short and that we should live the best life we can, while we're here and part of that is taking care of ourselves and our bodies. I would like to share with you one of my favorite heart-healthy recipes...my famous* black bean soup! (*okay, maybe it's not famous, but it's amazing and easy!). This recipe is cheap and delicious and good for your ticker! Black beans and most legumes are great for your overall heart health...just don't forget the Beano!
-Half a Yellow Onion
-One Stalk of Celery
-2 or 3 cloves of garlic
-two cans of black beans
-one can diced tomatoes
-1 1/2 cu of chicken or vegetable broth
-1 tsp of cumin
-1 tsp of chili powder
-1tsp of oregano
-(optional) -A chopped jalapeno
-Salt and Pepper
-(optional) Fresh Chopped Cilantro
Small or medium dice the onion, celery and garlic. Heat a saucepan or pot over medium high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot. When the pot is hot, add the chopped celery, onion and garlic to the pot. Stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes being mindful not to burn the garlic.
Pour in the chicken or veggie broth and add the spices. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 5 minutes and add beans and diced tomatoes. Add diced jalapeno if desired and let simmer for 30 minutes. If desired, you may puree with an emersion blender, but can be served with brown rice and plain low fat yogurt.