North African Lentils on Naan

A little spice keeps things nice. ❤️

While we endure the cold winter months with Covid present in our lives, the little things we can do to bring warmth into home and heart may brighten our days.

Our anti-inflammatory arsenal.

Stress can do a real number on ourselves, not only psychologically but physiologically as well. There are practices we can add to our lives and daily routines to help ease the stress. Taking time to pause and breathe deeply is scientifically proven to calm the nerves by increasing our oxygen intake, slowing heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and giving our brain a chance to communicate to our bodies that “everything is okay.”
But we can also incorporate foods that chemically alter the hormones that are produced in our bodies. Stress causes our bodies to increase certain hormones, that when not kept in check or reduced to normal levels, an avalanche of symptoms begin to accumulate in the form of inflammation. Chronic Inflammation creates a host of problems, from our brain to our gut, then every part of our being.
Harvard Medical School: Understanding Acute and Chronic Inflammation
Nature Medicine: Chronic Inflammation in the Etiology of Disease
NIH: Inflammation Theory and LiveScience: Inflammation and Diet
We now know through extensive research that inflammation results in a staggering number of diseases.

Foods that heal.

half a pound of grass fed, pasture-raised beef (optional – if not using beef, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 2 Tbs ground flax, 2 Tbs tomato paste, and 1/2 cup water or veggie broth)
2 cans lentils
1/2 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots or 1 cup, chopped
red onion, sliced
apple cider vinegar with “the mother”
maple syrup
harissa spice
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup whole fat plain yogurt (can use dairy or plant-based ~ when using plant-based, I use Kitehill Greek Almond yogurt)
garlic powder
dried dill
2 solid bunches of fresh parsley, chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
4 whole wheat naans
salt and pepper

North African flavors warm this kitchen in Virginia.❤️

I start out mixing the onion slices with the apple cider vinegar, 2 Tsp maple syrup, and a dash of salt and pepper. I stir this around while I’m chopping and cooking, every 3-4 minutes. I sauté the beef over medium heat with carrots and celery in virgin cold-pressed coconut oil, adding a dash of salt and pepper. If using walnuts instead of meat, do the same. Once the veggies turn opaque and the beef is browned, I add the mushrooms and spice and cook until the mushrooms darken and release their juices. I then add the lentils and 2 Tbs harissa spice, stirring to incorporate and letting warm through 2-3 minutes. If not using meat, this is when I would also add the tomato paste, flax, and liquid. Once bubbly, turn the heat down to low. Mix your yogurt with 2 Tsp garlic powder and 1 Tsp dill. Start toasting or warming your naan. Chop your parsley and apricots if you haven’t already done so and add them to the skillet or pot. Add more salt and pepper to your liking and turn off heat. Top your warm naan with meaty medley, cool yogurt, and tangy pickled onion.

The medley of flavors create a melody worth singing about. 🎶

Spicy meat and veggies combine with this cool and tangy yogurt sauce, sour and sweet red onion, while apricots add enough bursts of sweet alongside tart to hit the flavors that light up our senses. 💛 There are many benefits to this dish that not only pack flavor but bring to the body healing components necessary for function and thriving.

Apricots : high in folic acid
Parsley : antioxidant, antibacterial, high vitamin K & A supporting bone density and eye health
shiitake mushrooms : vital amino acids, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral, vitamin D
lentils : high fiber and protein, iron and folate, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective
Celery, Carrots, Red Onion

So whatever you’re surviving out there, I hope you’re able to pause and make something you can appreciate. From the plate on your table to the people that join you at meal time, may you enjoy your art and live well!

Eating Well on a Tight Budget During Scarcity and Pandemic

As basic items run low, and people hunker down during Quarantine, it’s so important to do what you can to keep up your health.

At our local grocery store, I’ve seen, twice now, dry foods run completely out and canned goods🥫run low. Beans are a staple in this house, and fortunately, we’ve been able to get what we need and were already stocked with dry rice. 🍚 Paper products have been empty since the panic buying started, and we were fortunate to already have a pack of TP before the panic.

Like so many other people in this country 🇺🇸 and around the world 🌎, we have felt the impacts of life around us pausing. With the loss of income, eating well on a tight budget needs to remain a focus, as well as supporting a healthy outlook to keep anxiety at bay. Practicing deep breathing 🧘‍♀️ and taking breaks 🧎🏻‍♂️to unplug 🔌📺📱💻 and get fresh air 🏞🛤🌤 can help stimulate calm and help you process the situation. If you have access to a trail where it isn’t crowded, sit near a babbling stream and breathe deep the open air. A backyard 🏡, a balcony🌇, or an open window can serve to keep you safe as you listen to the singing birds and feel the breeze.

Practicing social distancing by spending time in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Strolling through the quiet streets of our neighborhood to see the Spring blooms.

I’m focusing on immunity supporting foods full of vitamins, protein with aminos to support mental health and function, fiber to feed the microbiome, and food sourced probiotics to keep my digestive tract healthy. Stress triggers my autoimmune response, so it’s vital to give my body everything it needs to make it through a tough time. Life can cause flare-ups, but don’t give up. 🙏🏻💛 Let a loved one know you’re struggling and practice the things that help pull you through. Remember, you are doing every thing you can, one day at a time. Pause and breathe. And know, we are all in this together. 🌎🌍🌏

Trying to avoid the “Quarantine 15” with salad! 🥗
Mixed greens 🥬 are full of beneficial fiber and immune supporting vitamins. Lentils not only keep but are also cheap! 💵
Supporting health with lentils cooked with walnuts in chili spice, cumin, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper, rice 🍚 cooked in seaweed broth, organic quinoa-corn-chia chips, greens including spinach, chard, and baby kale 🥬, sweet potato 🍠, jalapeños 🌶, garlic 🧄, tomato 🍅, avocado 🥑, salsa, and probiotics—choose nut-based alternatives to avoid lactose inflammation).
Supporting liver, digestion, and a light wallet with this simple and hearty dish!
Broccoli 🥦 supports the liver which may be weighed down with stress. Mushrooms 🍄 help alleviate the stress response. Red or gold potatoes 🥔 with skin on are full of minerals and are cost efficient! 💵
Baked red potatoes 🥔 loaded with cultured vegan butter 🧈 , cultured sour scallion-cashew & coconut cream cheese, mushrooms 🍄 and crunchy pecans sautéed with garlic 🧄, and steamed broccoli 🥦 with salt and pepper with sourdough toast 🍞.
Creamy curry over brown rice full of anti inflammatory spice!
Keeping things light with canned chickpeas, sweet potato 🍠 and brown rice 🍚, which not only support a tight budget 💵, but provide vitamins and minerals that help reduce the wear and tear of stress build up.
Aiding my digestion with curry spices of coriander, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, nutmeg, cloves, chili pepper flakes, and ginger, stewed with onion 🧅, garlic 🧄, tomato 🍅, carrots 🥕, jalapeño, sweet potato 🍠, chickpeas, cashew butter, ground flax, and coconut cream 🥥, served over brown rice cooked in sea weed broth. 🌱

Drinking celery juice with lemon, apple, greens, and ginger help support the liver and detox.

Drink your greens! 🥬🥒🥦

A smoothie every morning with essential protein and vitamins with addition of nut butter, avocado, banana, and probiotics blended in to support mental health and hormone balance while also being easier on the digestion. Living with autoimmune disease makes digestion difficult at times.

The mean green protein smoothie.
Protein power! 💪
Vitamins and supplements to help me reach optimal levels of nutrition, especially when digestion is struggling to absorb nutrients and needs a little help with severe inflammation.
*As always, do your own research and make the most informed decisions you can. Vitamins and supplements can be a contentious topic. Be your own health advocate and partner with a nutritionist and health expert.*
A little aid for mental clarity and processing stress.
*See above disclaimer.*

Don’t forget that one of the most important things we can do for our health is to be kind and support one another. We may have to keep our physical distance, but we don’t need to keep our emotional distance, especially during a time like now—it may be more important than ever to reach out to those you love and share some kind words with someone you know is struggling. Spread love during a time of fear. 🙏🏻❤️ Love may be the most beautiful creation of all. Live your art!

Enjoy your art and may you live well! 💛

Ecuadorian Garbanzo Stew

This vibrant blend will warm your blood like dancing the Pasillo with your loved one on a steamy, Ecuadorian night. 💃🏻

This recipe originally called for 🐓, but I decided to incorporate the use of high fiber beans and savory mushrooms 🍄 instead. Everyone must listen to their body, and I know my body tells me it really appreciates legumes and mushrooms. When cutting down on meat consumption, it’s important to pay attention to foods that are high in choline and amino acids, such as tryptophan. I try to stick with plants that do just that, while adding other important nutrients that help my body produce collagen and absorb calcium. Healthline: Top Foods with Calcium

As colorful and diverse as Ecuador.

1 cup brown rice, cooked in bone or veggie broth
2 cans chickpeas, drained
5-8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 Tsp ground cumin
1 yellow onion, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
4 tomatoes, diced
6 oz tomato paste
1 orange, juiced
1-2 jalapenos, diced
2 Tsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbs ground flax
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tsp oregano
1 lime, juiced
10 sprigs cilantro, chopped and/or more for garnish
salt and pepper
Makes enough for four.

Rich flavors equal each other with herbs, spices, and savory tomato, onion, legumes, and shrooms.

Cook rice in broth according to instructions. In a large pot or deep pan over medium heat with *coconut oil, saute your onion and tomato for 3 min. Add your peppers and a dash of salt and pepper and cook another 2 min. Add your mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes. Add your garlic and cumin and let warm for a min. Add your garbanzo beans(chickpeas), tomato paste, 6 oz of broth, orange juice, lime juice, nutritional yeast, flax, and simmer for 4 to 5 min, turning the heat to low. Stir in cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish your art how you like. 🎨

This stew will have your taste buds dancing to this vegetable melody. 🎶

The flavors of this stew hit all the right places: savory, spicy, sweet, salty. We felt full and satisfied this night. My husband may have even asked for a Pasillo waltz afterwards. ❤️

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Avgolemono Soup

Avgolemono, you’ve golemono, we allgolemono! 🍋

Normally, when I think of using citrus, I think of bright and warm summer dishes. I think of lemonade on the porch and lemon or lime pies at picnics. And if I really let my mind wander, I venture over to the Mediterranean, to Azure-blue waters, white houses overlooking cliffs and narrow paths, and citrus trees dropping their treasures to be used in limoncello or fish dishes and pastas. So, why not take a little mind vacation from the crisp winter air and head into the kitchen where our palate can experience the zesty, bright flavors of a mild climate?

Let lemon and shallots do the heavy lifting in this soup.

The word “dill” means to “calm or soothe” and has been in use since the ancient days of the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman empires to do just that. The uses of dill have been many, including the aid in reducing menstrual cramps, depression, cholesterol, buggy pests, and improving digestion.

Making a big dill with garbanzo, baby kale, and dried dill. 💚

half cup brown rice, cooked in bone or veggie broth
2 cups veggie broth
4 shallots
5 oz baby kale
2 cans chickpeas
1/2 Tsp or more to your taste of dried dill
1 lemon, juiced
3 oz (half container) Treeline cashew cheese(scallion flavor) or other creamy cheese alternative
2 Tbs ground flax
salt and pepper
Makes enought for 2 and leftover.

Without an egg, you can relax if you have flax. The original recipe called for eggs. I sometimes prefer to use the plant alternative for healthy Omega 3 ALA.

Cook rice according to instructions. Over medium heat in a large pot, heat oil and saute shallots for about 3 min with a dash of salt and pepper. Add baby kale and cook until starting to wilt. Add broth, chickpeas, and dill, bringing to a simmer. Add cashew cheese and flax, stirring to incorporate. Add rice and lemon juice, half lemon at a time to meet your zesty preference. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Bringing sunshine and warmth☀️🍋 to your chilly day. 💛

This soup tasted like Greek sunshine to me. My husband preferred to add a little heat to balance the zest by incorporating Tobasco. Playing around with the ingredients brings joy and fun to our kitchen. Don’t be afraid to do something different and learn from what you try.

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Cheesy Rice and Beans

For that childhood craving of Mac n Cheese and Ranch Beans…. 😋

Nothing satisfies like a meal from your childhood. And something my sister and I grew up on, and for me, was a staple in college, was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with a can of Ranch-style Beans. It’s as terrible to your health as you would guess, oh but that powder cheesy goodness with the sweet-savory-zesty pintos… 🤤 I haven’t delighted my childhood palate in a long long time… until tonight!

Don’t forget your yellow onion 🧅! Mine got left out of the pic. 😞 But not to worry, it made a big appearance in the prep because no successful dish puts onion in the corner. 🕺🏻💃🏻 Keep the onion and keep it savory. ❤️

Trying to keep to a whole foods, plant-based diet 🌱 and incorporating foods that do not trigger my gut inflammation, this recipe satisfies the craving, the gut, and left my husband and I feeling fueled and satisfied. 💛 The benefits of cooking with leeks includes: high in vitamin A and beta-carotene which aids in vision, immunity, and cell communication; high in vitamin K for heart health; higher in vitamin C than an orange which aids in immunity, iron absorption, collagen support; high in manganese which supports thyroid function, hormone balance (good for PMS symptoms), reduces inflammation and a good prebiotic/soluble fiber that aids digestion and gut health. Healthline: Benefits of Leeks and Wild Ramps

The flavor won’t be weak when you use garlic 🧄 onion 🧅 and leek(s)! 😋

1 cup organic brown rice
1 cup organic veggie broth (no sweetener) or 2 cups if not using bone broth
1 cup organic chicken bone broth (no sweetener)
2 leeks, halved and diced
1 yellow onion,chopped, or 1 Tbs onion powder
2 garlic cloves, chopped, or 1 Tsp garlic powder
5 oz baby kale
3 oz Treeline scallion cashew cheese (half container)
3 oz Treeline garlic cashew cheese
1/2 cup organic almond greek yogurt or whole milk kefir for the benefits of *probiotics*, or almond milk
2 Tsp ground mustard
2 Tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tsp smoked paprika
1 can kidney beans(salt and water only), drained
salt and pepper
*See Science Daily: Probiotics could disrupt Crohn’s disease biofilms*
and Healthline: Probiotics for Crohn’s

When those bulbs start to sizzle, you know something good is gonna happen.

Recipe: Cook rice according to instructions using broths. Over medium heat, sauté onion and leeks until browned and wilted. Add garlic, beans, and kale, stirring until beginning to wilt. Add paprika (onion and garlic powder if using instead of fresh) and a dash of salt and pepper, and let heat for half a min. Add cooked rice, cheeses, kefir, mustards, and yeast. Season to taste with salt and pepper, to your liking. Makes enough for two and some leftover.

One pot, less mess. 🥘

One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of my bowls don’t come out looking brilliant, and that’s because I don’t keep the ingredients separated for that perfect picture. I might play around with that in the future. But a one or two pot meal doesn’t always come out looking the “prettiest,” and that’s okay! What matters most is that you are satisfied with the results, both creatively and nutritionally. ❤️

Beauty is in the eye of the holder of this bowl. 🥣

Enjoy your art and may you live well. 🙏🏻

Two Bean and Queso Capas

What hidden treasure hides in these layers, you say?
Why, it’s omega-3 fatty acid, my friend–DHA. ❤️

With cold weather ❄️ upon us, my husband training for a marathon on the Blue Ridge Parkway 🏞, and me going through recovery 🤕… We.Are.Hungry! And instead of making the traditional pan of enchiladas, I decided I’d make layers of warm gooeyness, full of protein, omega-3 DHA, and flavor! 😋

I have the need, the need… for cheese! 🧀

For the queso, I did cheat a little bit. The local grocery store carries a plant-based 🌱 tub of queso made of whole ingredients. If cheating makes you uncomfortable or you’re being a little judgy, then skip ahead to the full, no-cheat recipe below 😉. *My stance on cheating.* The ingredients are very similar to a cheese sauce I’ve made the full recipe in the past, but tonight, to save a little time, I used “the cheat” as the base and added what was missing to complete it. The cheese sauce recipe is good for mac n’ cheese 🥣, veggies 🥦, sandwiches 🥪, or whatever you want to drizzle a guilt-free no-cheese 🧀🍔🌮🌯 on.

I made the mistake of not counting out my tortillas before-hand 😣… You’re gonna want at least twelve. I had to sub in some toasted whole wheat pitas split into quarters to cover the top. 👍🏻

A special ingredient I’m hiding in the mix is a seaweed salad 🌿 I picked up from the sushi bar. It’s full of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is necessary to support brain development 🧠 and function, as well as eye health 👁. The body only makes a small percentage from ALA, another important omega-3 fatty acid that is found in plants 🌱 such as chia, flax, hemp, and walnuts, so you have to consume DHA to get appropriate amounts. Part of our human ancestral diet was influenced by living near the water 🌅 where we began consuming sea animals and plants. Discover Magazine: Dining on Seafood and Brain Development And this aided in our development 💪. Psychology Today: Was Seafood Brain Food? The health benefits of DHA are many, including heart health💓, brain cognition, reduced inflammation, and MORE. Healthline: Benefits of DHA

DHA: Deal or No Deal?

Some people supplement with DHA oil or find it in powdered nutrition boosts in their smoothies. I occasionally consume seaweed 🌿 in my meals or fish 🐟 when I’m visiting the coast, and I drink it in my smoothie every morning via a whole food, plant-based, cold processed, powdered multivitamin (that’s a mouthful! 😜) that contains a slew of other healthy ingredients. As always, it is up to you to be your own health advocate. Do your research and make the most informed decision you can to the best of your abilities. 🙏🏻💛

Fewer ingredients with the cheat, but trust me, the full no-cheat version is worth it. If you can get your hands on a healthy store-bought version, I don’t judge. When extra busy, these healthy helpers can be a save in the kitchen. 💛

Queso or No-cheese Sauce Full Recipe (no cheat version 😉):
3 gold potatoes
1/3 red bell pepper
4 baby carrots
1/2 a small yellow onion
1/2 cup raw cashews
3 garlic cloves, roasted or 1 Tsp garlic powder
1 Tsp lemon juice
1 Tsp miso paste
1/2 Tsp Dijon or brown mustard
1/2 Tsp smoked paprika
1/2-1 Tsp salt (your preference)
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tsp apple cider vinegar
1/8-1/4 Tsp turmeric (your preference)
reserve the water from boiling

Place all veggies and cashews in a medium sauce pan, cover with water 1 inch over, and boil until carrots and potatoes are soft. To a blender with a slotted spoon, add your veggies and the rest of the ingredients, reserving the veggie water. As you blend, add a splash of the water until you get the right consistency, a thick, creamy sauce. Add salt to your preference if needed.

The mushrooms got left out of the picture! I forgot to make room for my shroom. 🍄

Two Bean and Queso Capas for Four:
1/4 cup rice, cooked acc to instr with veggie broth (I use Halo brand for DHA benefits)
can of black beans, mostly drained
can of dark kidney beans, mostly drained
small yellow onion, diced
1 jalepeno, seeded if necessary, chopped
1 Anaheim green chili pepper, chopped
8 oz diced tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tsp coriander
1 Tsp oregano
3 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
3-4 oz of kale, chopped
4 oz seaweed salad, optional for DHA benefits
fresh cilantro for garnish
salt and pepper
12 corn tortillas
1 avocado (mashed with 1 Tbs vegenaise, a Tsp of lime or lemon juice if you have it, a tiny splash of broth until you get a thick sauce consistency, and salt and pepper to your liking
your homemade queso

Sometimes, you gotta be flexible to make things work in the kitchen. Sometimes, flexibility allows us to see outside the problem 🖼, where the solution can be found. Get creative! 🎨

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Cook the rice acc to instr. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté your onion for 3 min with salt and pepper, aprx 1/8 Tsp. Add your peppers and mushrooms and cook for another 2 min. Add your garlic, herbs and spices and cook for a min. Add the beans, kale, tomato sauce, 3 oz of broth or water, and aprx 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper, cooking until kale is softened and ingredients are well incorporated. Turn off heat and add seaweed and cooked rice, mixing thoroughly. In a large baking pan, 9×12, begin your layers, starting with the mixture, then queso, then 3 tortillas… mixture, queso, tortillas… ending with the last 3 tortillas on top. Bake for 20 min. Remove from oven, top with queso, guacamole (avocado sauce), and fresh chopped cilantro.

Let there be layers!

Even with the couple blunders I made (forgetting to save three tortillas for the top, adding the mushrooms in late), the flavors pulled off a nice, warm, cheese-saucy comfort food. If you’re not a fan of the seaweed flavor that can sometimes accompany with a little brackish taste, this dish hides that really well. There are other ways of incorporating DHA into your diet. Try to do as much whole food as you can, but in the end, making strides in your health journey may look different from someone else. Your journey is what matters. 🛤

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Pontificating Protein: How do I Get It on a Plant-based Diet?

Me and my sad face when my pastry cracked on Thanksgiving. 😄

“How do you get your protein?” It’s a question I often hear about in conversation circles. The point I often bring up when this topic arises is, it’s not about the protein, it’s about the amino acids. I get a lot of blank stares with that one. What do I mean, aren’t amino acids proteins? And if plants have protein, then why be concerned about the amino acids?

If your digestion can handle a good quality wheat pasta, go for it! Here, I’m using an organic quinoa pasta. Quinoa is an excellent source of protein, even better in the whole food form. 😋

What is a protein? Proteins are large biomolecules, or macromolecules, consisting of one or more long chains of amino acid residues. Ok… what are amino acids? Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins and are vital in the synthesis (production from combining) of hormones and neurotransmitters… In other words, they are the building blocks of life. And what does that mean for us? They perform functions like helping our brain communicate effectively to the various parts of our body, stimulate and repair muscle, build collagen, metabolize fat, helping with immune function, regulating blood sugar, producing energy, helping in the absorption of calcium, and protecting your nerve cells from damage, AND more… Our body needs twenty of these magic building blocks, but only nine are considered essential because you don’t produce them yourself… You have to EAT THEM. *cue scary music*😱😱😱

No canned spinach, here. Onions and mushrooms make for savory. Walnuts for great protein and omega 3! 🧠

In the world we live in, the planet we live on, all living things consume life energy from something else. It’s just a fact of life. The hang up for us intelligent (most of us), caring (most of the time) beings is where do we get this energy from, who or what do we consume?

This wine was not particularly tasty to me. A wine like this can become great when used in your cooking! 🍷

But coming back around to the conversation starter, “how do you get your protein,” the simple answer is, you eat protein. Yes, plants DO have protein. 🌱 And some of the best sources – legumes, grains, nuts and seeds – have LOTS. But *not all plants* have the nine essential amino acids, nor *equal portions* of them. NIH: Soy is deficient in the amino acid, methionine. And while quinoa is also a complete protein, you have to *eat a lot more of it* to get the equivalent nutrients that you would find in a smaller amount of animal meat. 🥩🍖🍗 🥚 But if you are aware and mindful of what you eat, you CAN get all the essential aminos from eating a completely plant-based diet. 🙌🏻🥑🥦🥬🍎🍓🥥🍠🥕🍞🍚🌯🥙🍛🥗 And this is why having a varied diet will help you. One of my favorite plant combinations to get plenty of the necessary amino acids is beans and rice. Pasta and legumes and/or nuts/seeds are also great combos, as is hummus with seeds (chickpeas and tahini/sunflower seeds).

My favorite cheese. Simple whole ingredients make this beautiful French-style creamy cheese. The scallion is great when you want a little tangy. Garlic and herb, their other flavor, is a great ingredient as well! 🌱

I actually found this out the hard way as I was starting to transition to a more strict, plant-based diet. What I was leaning on for my protein sources didn’t contain enough of the amino acid, tryptophan. I was also in a vicious cycle of stress triggering OCD symptoms, anxiety, and depression. 😣 What I noticed was that my hair started falling out, I wasn’t falling asleep, and I was becoming overwhelmed with paranoia. My doctor prescribed serotonin regulating antidepressants. BUT, I went home and looked up side-effects 👀, then started reading about how I could naturally get more serotonin and melatonin from food 📚, which lead me to analyze my diet🤔. There was a reason why I was craving chicken salad sandwiches like crazy 🥪. My body was familiar with that food source and it’s high amount of tryptophan and the carbs needed to increase insulin production, *which decreases plasma levels and allows tryptophan to cross the blood brain barrier.* -NIH

I don’t crave chicken salad sandwiches anymore, but instead, chickpea sandwiches with pumpkin seeds or cashew butter. 😋 I make sure to drink a protein smoothie everyday that has cold-processed pumpkin seeds along with other great plant-based protein sources.

Protein Power! 💪

The point is, we might all be better off if we were mindful of what we eat. Our bodies would be healthier (most likely), and the planet would be healthier (most likely). 🌎🌍🌏💚 Do your own research. Advocate for your own health. Don’t 🚫 let anyone bully 💪 you for your food choices. We’ve come a long way in our evolution, and the way we’ve eaten that has produced our big thinking brains 🧠 should be considered. *Nature: When did we start eating meat?* *Science Daily* *Smithsonian: Cooking Food* There is so much conflicting information 🤯, you have to be open-minded 💆‍♀️💆🏻‍♂️ but also skeptical 🧐. Bias is a real conundrum in the scientific world of research, and everyone’s research is funded by someone (probably with an agenda).

Panning for Panko with almonds, walnuts, and ground flax.

When you start feeling better through your food choices and meeting *YOUR unique, individual needs*, you might consider treading carefully in your new-found information and the desire to share (or convert) others. In fact, let’s not TRY TO CONVERT others to our way of life. If it works for you and you feel good, and if it’s life transforming, your lifestyle will speak for itself. If someone asks you, “Hey, you look great and happy, what are you doing?” Then by all means, share. Or, hey hey, blog about it! 😃💛 I post lots of strictly plant-based recipes. But it’s not for me to convince anyone what IS good for their *individual* health needs. I share recipes with links to health articles that also show you CAN eat more plants AND less meat AND be healthy. There’s a reason why most people get defensive when they’re told “You shouldn’t eat this!” It’s hardwired into our biology. Food scarcity was, for a long time, a real issue. *And it’s still an issue for some.* And food addictions are sometimes a debilitating problem. So before we think it’s our job to convince someone what kind of special diet someone else should be on, pause and consider that “the someone” may have an underlying health condition, like Crohn’s or Celiac disease, which very much affects what they actually can and can’t eat. Or they may have an eating disorder they’re battling, like anorexia or binge eating and bulimia, which having someone in their face telling them what they should and shouldn’t do adds to an already full plate of their mind telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. Why do we bully others in the first place?? Maybe, we are struggling with how we identify ourselves and dealing with our own deep-seated insecurities and projecting onto others. *Finding Light in the Dark*

Recognize this cream cheese?

When it comes to ethical choices, that is a real dilemma in our modern world of factory production food 🏭. There are some great documentaries that depict the issues we face with consuming cheap, mass produced food. Food, Inc, Food Choices, and Sustainable are some more balanced docs available. And most health organizations recognize that the Standard American Diet is too high in meat and cheap saturated fat consumption, as well as Omega 6 fats, fried food (trans fats), and added SUGAR. We should be careful to label any whole foods as bad. Healthline: Conflicting information about fat. *For an eye-opening doc, consider watching Sugar Coated.*

So, if you’re new to plant-based or curious about the health benefits, I encourage you to read the scientific journals on nutrition. Seek guidance from a nutritionist or certified health coach, especially if you have health issues. They can be an assistant on your journey to finding health.

You won’t feel any lack with this protein smack!

If you’ve stuck around this long, Thank You! I am eternally grateful for my readers and hope there was a little useful information for you. I wish I could give you something extra special… maybe, two recipe links will have to do. 🙌🏻😊 These are two pasta dishes that are packed with protein. *Pasta with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Cream Cheese* and *Creamy Panko Crusted Pasta* I stuck with simplicity, so maybe not as pretty as they could be, but tasty and easy to make will hopefully make up for it. 😃😘

Fuel your body and Love your body where you’re at in this health journey. ❤️

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Creamy Panko Crusted Pasta

8 oz pasta
6 oz spinach
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup almonds, finely chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 Tsp nutritional yeast and 1 Tbs ground flax
1 Tsp red pepper flakes
3 oz tangy scallion cashew cheese (or vegan cream cheese, preferably nut-based and not oil-based, and half a juiced lemon)
salt and pepper

Start salted pasta water boiling and cook acc to instr (reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining). Saute shallots with apprx 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper, almonds, and walnuts over medium heat. Add garlic, nutritional yeast, flax, and red pepper flakes and warm up for a min. Add spinach and apprx 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper, stirring until wilted. Add pasta water and cashew cheese (or vegan cheese and lemon juice if using) and stir until cheese is melted. Stir in pasta and toss. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

Pasta with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Cream Cheese

8 oz pasta
half a large yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
5 oz shiitake mushroom, sliced and roughly diced
1/2 Tsp Rosemary
6 oz baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup white or red wine
3 oz tangy scallion cashew cheese (Treeline) or 3 oz vegan cream cheese with a half squeezed lemon juice (preferably a nut-based and not oil-based)
salt and pepper

Start salted pasta water boiling and cook acc to instr. Saute onion and walnuts for 3 min in a large pot over medium heat with apprx 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and cook for another 2 min. Add garlic and rosemary, letting warm up for a min. Add spinach and approx 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper and cook until wilted. Add wine and cook down until thick liquid remains. Add cashew cheese (and lemon juice if using) and stir until cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta and toss.

Pumpkin-Tomato Bisque

Pumpkin-tomato soup for the soul. ❤️

Sticking with the theme of warm dishes for cold days, here’s another to warm belly and heart. 💓

“To market to market to buy a fat…” What?

The other day at the local farmers market, I found that there wasn’t a whole lot of fresh, local produce happening. I guess there isn’t a whole lot growing on the farms that’s available for market sale. *those greedy farmers are probably keeping a bunch of good stuff for themselves!* (Not likely. 😄 I love all you farmers and what you provide for us!) What I did find was some pickled veggies, sourdough bread, preserves, and meats and cheeses. That got me thinking: preserved veggies is what we used to do a lot of, back in the day! So I decided to keep it simple AND tasty with a batch of what sounded good to me, mixing pumpkin and tomato together!

Bisque and a fresh French Country Sourdough… Oo, la la. 💋

I also thought to myself, as I had also toyed with the idea of sweet potato purée instead, when I think of tomato soup, I think of Italian herbs. When I think of squash or potato soup, I think of Indian inspired spice. Why not marry the two? I did, and the result I felt was a good harmony.

No sugar, just herbs and spice. The sweetness from the tomato, pumpkin, and coconut paired beautifully with spice.

Pumpkin-tomato Bique for Two
6 oz canned tomato paste
15 oz canned pumpkin purée
8 oz canned diced tomatoes
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 Tsp oregano
1/2 Tsp marjoram
1/2 Tsp basil
1/2 Tsp coreander
1/2 Tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 Tsp curry spice
1/4 Tsp turmeric
enough veggie broth and coconut cream *I actually swapped from milk to cream, so it’s not pictured* to get the right consistency
salt and pepper
fresh oregano for garnish if you happen to have

No need to frisk for the ingredients in this bisque.

Recipe: sauté your shallots over medium heat with aprx 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper, then add garlic, herbs, and spices and let them warm up for a minute, releasing those deep flavors. Add your paste, purée, and tomatoes, stirring to incorporate. Add another aprx 1/8 s&p. Then began alternating with veggie broth and coconut cream until you get a thick soupy consistency. I used aprx 2 cups of broth and 1/2 cup cream. Cover and let simmer for at least 20 min. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

The subtle sweet and spiciness in the soup and grilled cheese paired nicely with a South African red that had notes of cherry and tobacco. 🍷

This goes very well with a nice crusty bread. For the first night, I made grilled cheese. You can use dairy or vegan cheese, this is your life, your show! 💛 (🌱Will post a great homemade vegan cheese.🌱) I hope this soup keeps you warm. Share it with a loved one to stay extra warm. 💞

After a long walk in the cold, this was nice to come home to and share with my life partner. ❤️

Enjoy your art and may you live well!