Squash Rings & Sweet Potato Fries (Recipe)

Happy Friday, All!

As much as I love the summer, there’s something so special about the slow, creeping in of cool crisp air against the California sunshine. (It’s probably my East Coast roots…) Autumn is officially here.

Before I start work today, I wanted to share a new recipe in hopes that it might bring some joy (and deliciousness) to your corner of the world this weekend. I tried it out last night, and am still savoring the gratification of a new, healthy take on a favorite comfort food…

I’ve included some extra notes for your reference, and perhaps to introduce some new staples to your kitchen cupboard. I hope you – and those lucky enough to share – enjoy!

I give you: Roasted Squash Rings & Sweet Potato Fries (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Squash*
  • 1-2 Sweet Potatoes, medium to large size
  • 3 Tablespoons of oil (Your choice: I used olive oil I had previously infused with basil and garlic, but coconut oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil are other good options)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (Try sea salt or Himalayan rock salt, if you’re feeling adventurous – the latter is available at most ‘higher-end’ health food stores and packed with 80+ organic minerals)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (To taste – I overdid these a bit, which is fairly easy to do. Beware!)
  • Black pepper, freshly ground (Using a grinder is preferable to preserve its quality until consumption, but ‘table’ black pepper does just as well!)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment (wax) paper, or cooking spray if unavailable.
  2. Slice each squash in half horizontally (to preserve circle-shape) and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Then, slice into ¼” rings. Cut sweet potatoes into halves, and then again as needed into small chunks. (They won’t look as clean cut as store-bought fries; see my photo above for shape and size reference.)
  3. In a bowl or plastic bag, toss squash rings and potato pieces with the mixture of oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Oil should just lightly coat ingredients.
  4. Place squash and sweet potato pieces in a single-layer on the prepared baking sheets and roast in oven 30-40 minutes, turning them over halfway through. Should be fully cooked and lightly browned on each side.

Walah! The perfect snack to cozy up with on your couch this weekend. Pair with your drink of choice (last night, for me, was red wine) and consume slowly, deliberately, and mindfully to fully indulge in what truly is a taste of the season.

Sending sunshine ❤
Amy

*I used Delicata squash, a long yellow variety; however, any squash should do. I’d be interested to hear your variations – Butternut Squash Rings?! Yes, please.

Thank you to my friends at Farm Fresh to You for providing this recipe for Squash Rings (originally adopted from Urban Chickpea) along with my produce delivery this week. The featured ingredient, Delicata squash, was also provided, perfectly ripe and newly picked from San Diego. Yum!

Squash Rings & Sweet Potato Fries (Recipe)

Happy Friday, All!

As much as I love the summer, there’s something so special about the slow, creeping in of cool crisp air against the California sunshine. (It’s probably my East Coast roots…) Autumn is officially here.

Before I start work today, I wanted to share a new recipe in hopes that it might bring some joy (and deliciousness) to your corner of the world this weekend. I tried it out last night, and am still savoring the gratification of a new, healthy take on a favorite comfort food…

I’ve included some extra notes for your reference, and perhaps to introduce some new staples to your kitchen cupboard. I hope you – and those lucky enough to share – enjoy!

I give you: Roasted Squash Rings & Sweet Potato Fries (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Squash*
  • 1-2 Sweet Potatoes, medium to large size
  • 3 Tablespoons of oil (Your choice: I used olive oil I had previously infused with basil and garlic, but coconut oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil are other good options)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (Try sea salt or Himalayan rock salt, if you’re feeling adventurous – the latter is available at most ‘higher-end’ health food stores and packed with 80+ organic minerals)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (To taste – I overdid these a bit, which is fairly easy to do. Beware!)
  • Black pepper, freshly ground (Using a grinder is preferable to preserve its quality until consumption, but ‘table’ black pepper does just as well!)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment (wax) paper, or cooking spray if unavailable.
  2. Slice each squash in half horizontally (to preserve circle-shape) and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Then, slice into ¼” rings. Cut sweet potatoes into halves, and then again as needed into small chunks. (They won’t look as clean cut as store-bought fries; see my photo above for shape and size reference.)
  3. In a bowl or plastic bag, toss squash rings and potato pieces with the mixture of oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Oil should just lightly coat ingredients.
  4. Place squash and sweet potato pieces in a single-layer on the prepared baking sheets and roast in oven 30-40 minutes, turning them over halfway through. Should be fully cooked and lightly browned on each side.

Walah! The perfect snack to cozy up with on your couch this weekend. Pair with your drink of choice (last night, for me, was red wine) and consume slowly, deliberately, and mindfully to fully indulge in what truly is a taste of the season.

Sending sunshine ❤
Amy

*I used Delicata squash, a long yellow variety; however, any squash should do. I’d be interested to hear your variations – Butternut Squash Rings?! Yes, please.

Thank you to my friends at Farm Fresh to You for providing this recipe for Squash Rings (originally adopted from Urban Chickpea) along with my produce delivery this week. The featured ingredient, Delicata squash, was also provided, perfectly ripe and newly picked from San Diego. Yum!

Hey, Good Lookin’

Early on in my teenage years, I received some valuable advice. While hanging at a (guy) friend’s house, he mentioned that his older sister was obsessed with losing weight. He relayed: “My mom says it doesn’t matter what the scale says, it matters how you feel.” As an impressionable 16-year-old, I could only assume his mother’s words were true. Regardless of why this mantra has stuck with me, I am ever grateful to have had it as I entered the age [or rather, decade] of body image and weight-obsession, myself.

Easier said than done – and for better or worse – I’ve always tried to let how I feel lead me. In the realm of weight loss, it’s interesting to note that we all have days when we feel gorgeous and sexy in our favorite size 6 jeans, and others when we loathe ourselves for wearing the same pair. I’d be willing to bet that on those days when you don’t feel good enough, it’s about the number – on the scale, at the store, or in comparison to others – or a reflection of how you’re feeling in other aspects of your life – you flunked a quiz, got in a fight with your boyfriend, or got blown off by your best friend. One negative thought, or instance, breeds many. (See Discovering Your Genius(!)) And it’s easiest to take all this negativity out on ourselves. If only I were thinner, more toned, had longer hair, were a smaller size. Then maybe I’d date that guy, go to that party, or nail that interview. But on those days when you’re feeling good, when all things are going your way, and you rock that size 6 like the hottest bitch in the club…nothing can touch you. And you don’t need a size 2, or anyone else to validate that you can do and be everything you want. What does this tell us? Another mantra I like to revisit in my own journey of up’s and down’s certainly applies here: It’s already in you. When you find yourself looking outside to feel better about yourself – to other people or to the scale – remember, that high you’ve felt before is always in you and nowhere else. (Although, speaking from experience, you may go broke and crazy searching…) It’s just up to us, when the low’s come around, to resist, remind, and rekindle the positivity within ourselves. Nothing else will do. Because, it’s all already in you.

So, with this in mind, I don’t like to spend much time dwelling on weight loss. If you’re happy, at any size, that’s all that matters. I also believe that the journey of weight loss is very personal. No one can do it for you. It can’t be bottled, or put in a pill. It has to be yours and ideally, to be successful, it should be full of activities you enjoy and foods you love. (Pick your poison – What new activity will you fall in love with? Yoga, hiking, kick-boxing, running, zumba, biking – there’s no wrong way, just your way.) As for eating, I believe maintaining a healthy weight without the drama (i.e. constant up’s and down’s of dieting) requires opening your heart and head to a lifestyle change, and learning about food. We’re bombarded with conflicting messages from the media, advertisements, documentaries, and Michelle Obama, advising us on the best approach to a healthy diet. But, I’ve found, when we simply go back to basics, eating well is easy – and intuitive. (Again, it’s already in you!)

First, I suggest getting in the habit of reading the ingredients of the foods you eat. I guarantee we spend more time researching our next big purchase, which movie to see on Saturday, or something about your Fantasy Football team (…trying to be gender neutral here, but that’s all I got), than thinking about the food we put into our bodies. The food we eat is directly responsible for fueling us throughout the day and protecting us from illness, now and as we age. Food also has the power to dictate our moods, energy levels, and even how much we break out, on a daily basis. (Pimples be gone!) You don’t need to put anything back on the shelf – not yet, anyway – but just read and acquaint yourself with what you’re putting in your body. It only takes a second. As you go, you may find that the ingredients listed in certain products, by certain brands, or at certain stores, please you the most. And remember, food is love – you deserve only the best (or the more horrid homage: your body is not a garbage can), and the better you eat, the ones you love will soon follow. [Side note: I have a huge crush on Trader Joe’s, but even there – read the labels! You’ll be surprised what you’ll find.]

My other big rule for healthy living (aka feeling good!) is: learn to cook. Ahh, I can hear the groans from cyber space, but wait just a second before I’m dismissed. I didn’t grow up loving to cook, and it wasn’t a big part of my up-bringing. But when I started living on my own, and wanted to control my weight – and reduce the anxiety I felt in finding something “healthy” among the greasy pubs and food trucks of Boston (however, delicious on occasion!) – I taught myself to cook. Here’s the thing, we’re all busy. I actually, really do believe that you have no time. I feel you, completely. But, I don’t believe you would say “Under no circumstances, will I ever cook for myself.” So I suggest, and challenge you, to create your own conditions. Under what circumstances, would you like to cook. (“Like” is important here – if you don’t enjoy the process, or the results, you won’t keep doing it. It has to be fun, and delicious!) Maybe it’s easiest for you to pack a lunch and snacks for work the night before, or the morning of. Maybe you’d prefer to cook yourself a big meal every couple days and keep the leftovers for lunches. (You can always get creative and jazz them up each time. For example, grilled chicken breast = dinner yesterday, buffalo chicken salad today, and Asian rice bowl tomorrow!) Find things you like to eat that are easy “go-to’s” for when you’re tired or feeling stuck. Under what circumstances would you brown bag it tomorrow? (Maybe buying yourself a rad new lunch bag would get you inspired.) As a loyal BYOL-er for many years, I’ll tell you it’s cooler than you’d think. Impressing people with leftovers has never been easier, in the age of $5 all you eat buffets. But the point is – Food is love. And once you start learning about the food you eat and cooking (some of) your own meals, you’ll discover you’re feeling better – you have less anxiety over what to eat and what you’re eating, more energy, fewer pimples, and more confidence because – Damn, you cooked that yourself?!

I recently received the following info-graphic for “Plus-Size Yoga” and wanted to share it with all of you. No matter your pant size – now or down the road – yoga is good for you. It feeds your physical body and psychological being in ways that allow you to feel better – crave healthier foods, have more energy, lose weight and live longer. This graphic does a great job at explaining some of the scientifically proven, medical benefits of a regular yoga practice, demonstrating specific postures which have real benefits for everyone, at all sizes. (Photo Credit and a BIG “Thanks” to Aldo Baker and Alight for spreading the word!)

I’ll check back in soon with my take on “juice cleansing” as a self-proclaimed once-a-day juicer and former juice bar employee (+ my own recipe for at-home juicing!). There’s no better place to take on the craze than out here in L.A. – I look forward to sharing what I’ve found!

Rock on,
Amy

plus-size-yoga

 

Hey, Good Lookin'

Early on in my teenage years, I received some valuable advice. While hanging at a (guy) friend’s house, he mentioned that his older sister was obsessed with losing weight. He relayed: “My mom says it doesn’t matter what the scale says, it matters how you feel.” As an impressionable 16-year-old, I could only assume his mother’s words were true. Regardless of why this mantra has stuck with me, I am ever grateful to have had it as I entered the age [or rather, decade] of body image and weight-obsession, myself.

Easier said than done – and for better or worse – I’ve always tried to let how I feel lead me. In the realm of weight loss, it’s interesting to note that we all have days when we feel gorgeous and sexy in our favorite size 6 jeans, and others when we loathe ourselves for wearing the same pair. I’d be willing to bet that on those days when you don’t feel good enough, it’s about the number – on the scale, at the store, or in comparison to others – or a reflection of how you’re feeling in other aspects of your life – you flunked a quiz, got in a fight with your boyfriend, or got blown off by your best friend. One negative thought, or instance, breeds many. (See Discovering Your Genius(!)) And it’s easiest to take all this negativity out on ourselves. If only I were thinner, more toned, had longer hair, were a smaller size. Then maybe I’d date that guy, go to that party, or nail that interview. But on those days when you’re feeling good, when all things are going your way, and you rock that size 6 like the hottest bitch in the club…nothing can touch you. And you don’t need a size 2, or anyone else to validate that you can do and be everything you want. What does this tell us? Another mantra I like to revisit in my own journey of up’s and down’s certainly applies here: It’s already in you. When you find yourself looking outside to feel better about yourself – to other people or to the scale – remember, that high you’ve felt before is always in you and nowhere else. (Although, speaking from experience, you may go broke and crazy searching…) It’s just up to us, when the low’s come around, to resist, remind, and rekindle the positivity within ourselves. Nothing else will do. Because, it’s all already in you.

So, with this in mind, I don’t like to spend much time dwelling on weight loss. If you’re happy, at any size, that’s all that matters. I also believe that the journey of weight loss is very personal. No one can do it for you. It can’t be bottled, or put in a pill. It has to be yours and ideally, to be successful, it should be full of activities you enjoy and foods you love. (Pick your poison – What new activity will you fall in love with? Yoga, hiking, kick-boxing, running, zumba, biking – there’s no wrong way, just your way.) As for eating, I believe maintaining a healthy weight without the drama (i.e. constant up’s and down’s of dieting) requires opening your heart and head to a lifestyle change, and learning about food. We’re bombarded with conflicting messages from the media, advertisements, documentaries, and Michelle Obama, advising us on the best approach to a healthy diet. But, I’ve found, when we simply go back to basics, eating well is easy – and intuitive. (Again, it’s already in you!)

First, I suggest getting in the habit of reading the ingredients of the foods you eat. I guarantee we spend more time researching our next big purchase, which movie to see on Saturday, or something about your Fantasy Football team (…trying to be gender neutral here, but that’s all I got), than thinking about the food we put into our bodies. The food we eat is directly responsible for fueling us throughout the day and protecting us from illness, now and as we age. Food also has the power to dictate our moods, energy levels, and even how much we break out, on a daily basis. (Pimples be gone!) You don’t need to put anything back on the shelf – not yet, anyway – but just read and acquaint yourself with what you’re putting in your body. It only takes a second. As you go, you may find that the ingredients listed in certain products, by certain brands, or at certain stores, please you the most. And remember, food is love – you deserve only the best (or the more horrid homage: your body is not a garbage can), and the better you eat, the ones you love will soon follow. [Side note: I have a huge crush on Trader Joe’s, but even there – read the labels! You’ll be surprised what you’ll find.]

My other big rule for healthy living (aka feeling good!) is: learn to cook. Ahh, I can hear the groans from cyber space, but wait just a second before I’m dismissed. I didn’t grow up loving to cook, and it wasn’t a big part of my up-bringing. But when I started living on my own, and wanted to control my weight – and reduce the anxiety I felt in finding something “healthy” among the greasy pubs and food trucks of Boston (however, delicious on occasion!) – I taught myself to cook. Here’s the thing, we’re all busy. I actually, really do believe that you have no time. I feel you, completely. But, I don’t believe you would say “Under no circumstances, will I ever cook for myself.” So I suggest, and challenge you, to create your own conditions. Under what circumstances, would you like to cook. (“Like” is important here – if you don’t enjoy the process, or the results, you won’t keep doing it. It has to be fun, and delicious!) Maybe it’s easiest for you to pack a lunch and snacks for work the night before, or the morning of. Maybe you’d prefer to cook yourself a big meal every couple days and keep the leftovers for lunches. (You can always get creative and jazz them up each time. For example, grilled chicken breast = dinner yesterday, buffalo chicken salad today, and Asian rice bowl tomorrow!) Find things you like to eat that are easy “go-to’s” for when you’re tired or feeling stuck. Under what circumstances would you brown bag it tomorrow? (Maybe buying yourself a rad new lunch bag would get you inspired.) As a loyal BYOL-er for many years, I’ll tell you it’s cooler than you’d think. Impressing people with leftovers has never been easier, in the age of $5 all you eat buffets. But the point is – Food is love. And once you start learning about the food you eat and cooking (some of) your own meals, you’ll discover you’re feeling better – you have less anxiety over what to eat and what you’re eating, more energy, fewer pimples, and more confidence because – Damn, you cooked that yourself?!

I recently received the following info-graphic for “Plus-Size Yoga” and wanted to share it with all of you. No matter your pant size – now or down the road – yoga is good for you. It feeds your physical body and psychological being in ways that allow you to feel better – crave healthier foods, have more energy, lose weight and live longer. This graphic does a great job at explaining some of the scientifically proven, medical benefits of a regular yoga practice, demonstrating specific postures which have real benefits for everyone, at all sizes. (Photo Credit and a BIG “Thanks” to Aldo Baker and Alight for spreading the word!)

I’ll check back in soon with my take on “juice cleansing” as a self-proclaimed once-a-day juicer and former juice bar employee (+ my own recipe for at-home juicing!). There’s no better place to take on the craze than out here in L.A. – I look forward to sharing what I’ve found!

Rock on,
Amy

plus-size-yoga

 

California Oatmeal Cookies (Recipe)

It’s been a busy weekend, and I have to say my own reminder to “slow down and enjoy,” worked. Putting aside my school work today – after a nonstop week – I allowed myself a glorious beach excursion and am feeling entirely renewed and refreshed!

In celebration of my boyfriend’s birthday, we drove up the coast to Ventura for a brewery brunch and beach day (followed by epically delicious fish burritos on the pier, of course). I always love driving up the PCH, but especially today – having just marked my first year in California – I was struck by the first hint of autumn as it steadily engulfed the northern suburbs, seemingly overnight. It’s a bit different here than on the East Coast but regardless, in all corners and landscapes, autumn is my favorite season. The crispness in the air and the cool breeze, sweeping in merrily like an old friend, these moments are just as real here on the Westside. (Bring on sweater weather!)

So naturally, to properly conclude Matt’s birthday celebration and welcome in our good friend Autumn, I had to make my “semi-famous” homemade oatmeal cookies – traditionally, my grandma’s secret recipe. But, of course, I adapted the recipe to include my own spin – and if I may – a taste of the West Coast 😉 I thought I would share* because it’s a great example of how to make something classic and impressive, using what you have and made the way you want it (as delicious – and nutritious! – as humanly possible, for you).

I’d love to know how yours turn out!

California Oatmeal Cookies (makes 2 dozen)

  • 1 ¾ cups Whole Wheat Flour I actually used what we had in the cupboard: good ol’ enriched white flour. But, next time I would try Whole Wheat flour or there are great substitutes like coconut, soy or almond flour that you can find in a Whole Foods, and are gluten-free – and delicious!
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder – $1.99 at Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) – Note: different then Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda – $1.99 at Trader Joe’s, but check the back of your fridge first!
  • 1 cup Organic Coconut Sugar – I used “Organic Coconut Sugar” from TJ’s this time around (no regrets!), but I would advocate for any raw or organic sugar first, then cane sugar, then synthetic sugar/artificial sweeteners – if you’re going to make cookies, you should do ‘em right!)
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt – I used sea salt because – especially when paired with dark chocolate – it just seems to make everything better! Pink rock salt (i.e. Himalayan) is also great if you can find it, as it’s chock-full of minerals for detoxification (if you go this route, make sure you get “table/cooking salt” as there are other varieties for bathing, etc. as well) And if all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with iodized [regular old table] salt!
  • 2 Cage-Free Eggs – If you can afford to go cage free and/or organic, please do! (Just think of a bunch of chickys playing in the grass and laying eggs versus being cooped up in a dark shed – that always gets me. Support Chicky Playtime, Go Cage Free!)
  • ½ cup Coconut Oil – I was excited to use coconut oil because I was curious how it might change the consistency. I have to say they look and taste very much the same, with a little hint of coconut. (Also from the sugar. We’re on a coconut kick!) Other options here might include: vegetable oil, olive oil (earthier taste, better for your heart), sunflower oil (try Whole Foods for this), applesauce or your favorite butter or margarine – there are also a few good coconut oil-based margarine brands out there! (We love a brand called, Melt.)
  • 6 tablespoons Molasses – I went straight for it on this one and used the real thing.
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla syrup – Ditto.
  • 2 cups Gluten-Free Quick Oats* add later – I used TJ’s steel-cut, gluten-free quick oats because that’s what I had on hand. Any oats will do (including Quaker) as long as they’re “quick” oats.
  • Any Add-ons: Your chance to add in whatever you like (and they can be different each time you make them)! Some ideas might be dark chocolate chips, raisins, walnuts, chopped almonds, apricots or figs. 6 oz. of one goody is enough for the whole batch – if you plan to use several add-ons, remember to use less of each. (I made some plain, some with dark chocolate and chopped walnuts and paired with vanilla soy ice cream (non-dairy is happier to digest, especially for late night snacking. And still delicious)…Mmm)

325 F for 12-15 minutes

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl (ideally, in order as listed) and stir until the mixture is even and doughy.
  2. Add in Quick Oats (& add-ons) and roll into dough using spoon, until even throughout.
  3. Use tablespoon to drop dough onto greased pan, do not flatten out.
  4. Heat in oven at 325 F for 12-15 minutes.

Enjoy! And remember to keep some, and share the rest with family and friends (and classmates and coworkers and mail-carriers). Because, food is love ❤

Happy Autumn,

Amy

Clean Eating Connoisseur (+ Recipe)

Once a week I receive a large package on my doorstep in the middle of the night. Like Christmas elves of organic produce, the local farm folk tip toe to my stoop and leave a box full of crisp, yummy delights hand-picked just for me! (I guess Santa’s preoccupied with the late-summer harvest.)

I rant and rave about my weekly produce deliveries to anyone who will listen – not only because it does feel like Christmas every Thursday! – but mostly because these deliveries are what effortlessly pushed me over from being a Lean Cuisine-loving, perpetual dieter to a self-proclaimed, clean eating connoisseur! They took all the guess-work and effort out of buying produce (which for a novice can feel very overwhelming), and now – a year later – I’m comfortable hitting the produce aisle for what’s ripe and in-season, including fruits and veggies I’d never tried or heard of before.

But the best part is that it gets you cooking. Being in transition has meant constantly looking for cheap and easy meals – so I’m adamant about not letting things go to waste. As a result, I’ve been cooking up a storm (to my boyfriend’s delight) making asian stir frys, veggie pastas, and colorful summer salads until my heart’s content. Becoming comfortable in the kitchen is all about practice, and experimentation. I’ve never been one for following a recipe to the T (sorry, Gramma), but believe that if I’m going to cook with what little time and money I have, it better be quick, easy and delicious. The same outcome can be achieved by hitting your local grocery store, farmer’s market, or registering for your own weekly, biweekly or monthly produce deliveries.* (Click here to find CSA deliveries near you – See below for more info.) Always try your best to find what’s fresh and “in season.” A farmer’s market is a great place to learn, and have fun while you’re at it!

Don’t overwhelm yourself. Go ahead and grab your favorite fruits and veggies, but also try one or two things that are new to your kitchen each time you hit the store. (My seasonal favorites lately have been heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, watermelon, and the ever-delicious fresh mint and basil.) Once home, consider what is already in your cabinets and what old or new creation you might cook up. A quick Google search (or my personal favorite: all recipes.com) will give you guidelines, times and temperatures to bring your creation to life. But don’t feel obligated to follow it exactly. You can add things you like, subtract things you don’t like, and replace comparable items with what you have at home. Don’t stress – so what is it’s not a five-star feast? It’s still healthy and delicious! And as you go, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, creating your own personal arsenal of 20-minute meals that feed your body, mind and soul.

A favorite meal I recently added to my home cooking arsenal is what I call an “Eggplant Bake.” Straight forward and simple, it takes little to no preparation and allows you to put a delicious, but often befuddling, seasonal vegetable to use: the eggplant. Here’s my own take on the dish, which runs a little longer at 35-45 minutes with prep time. (But remember, cooking can also be a meditative process – Take the time out for you, to be and live well!) Feel free to try it out, and make it your own…

Eggplant Bake (feeds 2-4, with leftovers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2-3 tomatoes (depending on size, use your judgement)
  • greens of your choice (spinach, kale, arugula, swiss chard – oh my!)
  • cheese of your choice (I used parmesan and fresh mozzarella)
  • olive oil
  • basil, oregano, and/or italian seasoning; salt & pepper

*To make this meal more filling, consider adding a quick & easy whole grain like couscous, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice (Uncle Ben’s is ready in 90 seconds!). If you have a bit longer to cook, try a heartier grain like barley, quinoa or farro – Mmmm!

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add and spread 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in baking dish. (Can also use cooking spray, but olive oil makes your heart healthy – why skip out on the extra goodness?)

2. Slice tomato and eggplant in 1/2 inch rounds (no need to peel!) and place a single layer of eggplant in baking dish. Place a small handful of greens on top of each round and cover with tomato slice.

3. Add cheese – Don’t be stingy, but be mindful. Add seasoning and additional olive oil (sparingly) as desired.

4. Bake for 30 minutes. Switch to “broil” and bake an additional 5 minutes. (It takes a bit of extra time, but I promise it’s worth it.)

5. Enjoy! My final product is depicted above. I’d love to see yours!

Note: Dish is best served when you enjoy the process, and pair with wine and friends. Remember, food is love. 

 

Bon Appetite xx

Amy

 

*A bit more about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):

Investing in weekly, biweekly, or monthly produce deliveries can be a fun and affordable way to jumpstart your new hobby of cooking up your own “clean eating” creations. (I pay $25/box and still grab protein (beans, tofu, chicken) and a few favorite items at the store – This way I spend less than $200/month on groceries! And eat damn well.) Often times, you can even choose what arrives in your box. Not a carrot fan? No problem, swap in potatoes or peppers instead!

Check online if there is a CSA group in your area. These are the folks, or “elves,” that coordinate with local farms to deliver fresh, delectable, and affordable produce to your door. This way, you’ll also know where it came from, how it was grown (often, organic), and even who’s growing it! To find out if there’s a CSA near you, click here.

As an example, this week my box looks like this:

  • 1 lb. Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 4 Barlett Pears
  • 1 Cantaloupe Melon
  • 1 bunch Celery
  • 1/2 lb. Gypsy Peppers
  • 1 bunch Red Chard (luscious greens!)
  • 1 bag Red Grapes
  • 2 Yellow Nectarines

Mmm, can’t wait to dive in! Happy eating 🙂

 

Food is Love.

Like many, I struggled for a long time with my eating. Although I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, I knew that my relationship with food was unhealthy, and that I didn’t want to live my life that way. I developed a regular gym routine, deprived myself of desserts and stocked my freezer full of Lean Cuisines; but never felt any relief from the stress of trying to be “thin.” (Sound familiar?) But still, I always had this itch inside me that insisted: There is another way, something better.

I started Bikram yoga in 2010, my sophomore year of college and the height of my “health” obsession. After three years of almost-daily practice, I felt great and was my instructor’s favorite, having seemingly mastered the 26 posture series. Of course, I hardly basked in this accomplishment, and instead sulked in my frustration that I needed to do more, be better and look better. How was it that I was killing myself in the hot room, and still didn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model? In my unceasing frustration, food became my solace – and my secret vice. My anger at myself for over-eating resulted in self-hatred, and the cycle continued. My “health” obsession – always grappling between not eating enough and binge eating – had become very unhealthy…and then, finally, something clicked.

I remembered a challenging time I’d experienced while studying abroad in Costa Rica. To help cope with my discomfort and anxiety, I had yearned for yoga. But there was no Bikram yoga studio in San Jose, so I took up classes (in Spanish) at a local vinyasa studio. Here, yoga made me feel safe and confident because, when there, I allowed myself to let go of my fears. This had never been the object or focus of my Bikram routine (which for those who don’t know, is a highly physical, half-naked practice in a 105 degree room, leaving few thoughts to ponder “letting go”). So, by shifting my attention and setting the intention to explore and let go of my fears, on and off the mat, I hoped to relinquish myself from nagging insecurities and food anxiety – Forever. This is when yoga clicked for me as something to dedicate myself to – not for the physical, but for its psychological promise: to be liberated and finally be comfortable in my own skin, just being me.*

What I learned in this process regarding my eating, is that diets don’t work. The nature of a diet is exemption or exclusion. They’re not saying what you can eat, they’re telling you what you can’t. And who wants to live their life being told what they can and can’t eat? Where’s the enjoyment in that? Think about it. I’ve done it, too and that’s no way to live. There has to be a better way.

I also learned that by confronting my insecurities, I was free to focus on caring for myself. What I live by now (and have lost 20 lbs doing) is simply practicing self-love when it comes to food. Think about your spouse or your children (present or future) – What would you want them to eat? Probably, things that are good for them. Food that gives them energy to sustain themselves for business trips and soccer games, but that also tastes really good. They deserve only the best. Well, so do you. And more likely than not, if you start feeding yourself this way, the one’s you love will soon follow. This display of self-love, and analysis of your own thoughts (about eating or otherwise) is the key to happiness, and is a living practice of yoga. More specifically in yogic terms, this can be considered a practice of ahimsa, or non-violence against yourself or others. (Read more about practicing ahimsa, here.)

Practicing ahimsa when it comes to food means creating a diet with no exemptions and no exclusions, but plenty of love and education. As a general rule, I discovered: things that come from the Earth will give you sustained energy and are jam-packed with nutrients to support your overall health, while things that come in a box or package are inherently endowed with chemical preservatives and sugar, or “fake” surge energy. So, learning about fruits and veggies is the only road to happy, healthy eating. But don’t worry, there’s way more out there than you find on your plate at the Olive Garden. And I promise, even if you’re “not a veggie person,” there’s plenty to learn and love. But still keep in mind: You’ve gotta live! Eat what you need, but also eat what you want. (A personal favorite in our house lately has been Tollhouse cookies. How can I say no?) Be smart, and care for yourself. Create balance, not restriction. Don’t limit yourself, just love yourself. It sounds corny, but I promise it works. And soon this newfound contentment will seep into other aspects of your life, and you’ll be brighter. And you’ll stop weighing yourself – and judging yourself. Because you’re happy, finally, just the way you are.

I feel incredibly blessed to have reached this conclusion, and I want this for everyone – especially my lady friends, everywhere. You deserve only the best. Feed yourself, love yourself. Food is love.

A post will follow with a recipe to get you started. I always encourage substitutions and new creations when it comes to cooking. Make it your own, from what you have at home, and make it something that you and your family will love.

In the meantime – Chow on, with love Xx

Amy

 

*Note for the Soul Seeker: What ensues when you make this commitment, to “let go” and allow yourself to explore your deepest fears, is a real challenge – but it is the real practice of yoga. Things come up, and you start to deal with what you might have otherwise, gratefully, left buried deep inside. To the soulful explorer, I’ll say – as was advised to me – just trust. This means letting go of knowing what the end result will be. Will this work (to address whatever vice you’ve developed)? Will you really be happier afterwards? Let it go. And trust yourself, that if you’ve taken this step toward self-exploration, then you know what’s best for you. And you do. So follow it, see where it takes you. And feel free to report back – the road ahead gets bumpy, no need to go it alone.*