Creamy Chipotle Dressing

Ever since I made this recipe from Dora’s Table, I’ve been in love. It is addictive, it’s easy to make, it’s raw vegan, and it goes well on (almost) everything.

Use it as a sauce mixed with pasta. Use it as a salad dressing on top of greens, avocado, red onion, cucumber, and cilantro. Drool.

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk

1 Chipotle in adobo sauce

1 clove garlic

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup canned fire-roasted tomatoes (I used Muir glen)

1 tbsp. Fresh lemon juice

Himalayan pink salt or sea salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in high-speed blender (I use my Vitamix) and enjoy. I find this keeps well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Enjoy!  And subscribe below to get email updates when I post amazing, healthy, easy recipes and other fitness/wellness tips!

Leaning into Acceptance 

   
Before I discovered Kripalu yoga, I had a deeply rooted discomfort with my body. I constantly tried to force myself to go on diets, limit my calories, write down every single morsel of food that passed my lips, run until my knees hurt and my head throbbed, and on and on. None of these practices made me more satisfied. If anything, my anxiety about my body grew worse. I couldn’t relate to my physical self in any way other than with mean thoughts and criticism. I was always looking for the ultimate rule book, something to keep me contained, as if, left to my own devices, my body and my life would go horribly awry. I thought if I had control over my body and my weight, somehow I’d have control over what was going wrong in my life (even if it had nothing to do with me). When my mom told me she had breast cancer, I felt helpless. I almost instantly reverted back to my old ways. Somehow, controlling my food intake and exercise in a drastic way (aka disordered eating) deluded me into believing I had things “handled”, and life would go exactly the way I wanted it to. Gripping onto idealized outcomes in this way only adds to suffering. If such is true, then the only other path to take would be that of acceptance.

 

Accepting painful circumstances is challenging. Allowing ourselves to feel emotions fully is something we tend to writhe away from, especially when these emotions make us feel vulnerable, or angry, or sad. But when we ride these waves of emotion and senses that arise, especially in the safe space of yoga practice, we can eventually release them. We can learn to trust our inner compass, the brilliance of our physical body, that is constantly trying to keep us in a place of homeostasis, or balance. 

 

When did I learn such mistrust for myself? I stopped listening to the innate wisdom of my body, which tells me when I am hungry, when I am full, when I need a nap, when I need to go for a walk, when I need to retreat to nature. I’ve gripped on to perfectionism for so long. I’ve thought on some subconscious level that the more I achieve, the more I push for results that seem to indicate success, the happier will be, or the more I will like myself. That, also, is not true. We all deserve happiness regardless of achievement. 

 

I encourage you to remind yourself of the below affirmations. You may choose one to focus on, or attempt to incorporate all of them in your day:

 

“Today, I am redirecting my energy away from perfectionism. I will commit myself to quieting the inner critic, who tells me I am not “enough”. I will reframe those thoughts into ones of worthiness. I will extend warmth and sweetness toward myself and others.”

 

Namaste,

 

Xo Steph

Joy is here

  

I felt it. I tapped into the unfathomable, untainted joy that I don’t think I’ve felt since a child. Yesterday was the first instance, as I drove my beloved Subaru up to the Berkshires. Destination: Kripalu. Everything was a green so vivid and rich, I could’ve been inside a watercolor painting, or maybe a high-definition photograph would be a better analogy. As I drove further away from denser populations, I felt my body melt. Shoulders, neck, fists. Everything unclenched and relaxed. I remembered my breath, it’s location and path. I noticed the quality of the air on my face, I recognized that the wrinkles between my brows disappeared. Everything soft and warm. Along some parts of my journey, nothing but the winding paved roads seemed touched. Places unimaginably unscathed by humans. My delight in this was obvious. I felt alone with nature, and that freed my spirit. It was back. My happiness, my lightness, my appreciation for details, for subtle movements, for life in it’s basic form. My proverbial well kept filling, rising higher and higher.  
I reached Kripalu and felt the click of a lock open. It was me. I was open again. I was back. My heart, my softness, my joy, my self. This wasn’t a question of ego. It was simply a reunion with self-determination, passion, and peace. I checked in and felt on top of the world. The staff member informed me there was an envelope that was to be presented to me with my room key and welcome papers. I opened the envelope to find a gift certificate to be used for Healing arts. Love, Summer, Shannon, and Zile. My roommates from YTT. Again, my well filled higher. The gesture overwhelmed me with love. 
Later, after getting my ass handed to me in a vigorous yoga class led by the anatomy genius Chris Holmes, my sweet Summer came to visit. We talked about life, love, work, travel, dreams, and everything in between. We chanted om gum ganapataye namaha and om namo bhagavate vasudevaya in the whirlpool. We grabbed some famous Kripalu cookies and headed to the 4th floor meditation room, where she led me in an 11-minute Kundalini meditation, which I hope to continue practicing for 40 days. Ong namo gurudev namo. Mudras were left hand on the heart with thumb pointing up and fingers pointing right, and right hand lifted with first finger and thumb touching.  

She is an incredible human being, and brings laughter and love to everyone who crosses her path, I’m sure of it. 
Fast forward to breakfast this morning. I sat in the silent dining room facing makeenac lake, gazing out over the pristine water and rolling mountains. The longer I sat, the longer I looked, warmth overcame me, body and soul. Electric light traveled through each artery, vein, organ, muscle fiber. Tears welled up in my eyes, stemming from nothing but pure joy. Words fall extremely short of what I experienced in that moment. But I knew without a single seed of doubt that this is where I want to be. Maybe not Kripalu specifically, but here. In this place of happiness. With nature. Away from the noise. In this space where I feel real, and whole, and full. This is me. This is mine. This is I. I am this. 

For Today, I choose me. 

In painful times, I turn into a machine.  I surge on, and distract myself with activities. It’s easier to distract and avoid than to face the pain dead-on. It’s what I did when I learned my mother had cancer, and it’s what I’m doing now when certain aspects of my life seem to be disintegrating,  slipping through my fingertips. 

Realizing this tendency to distract and avoid, I’m making a conscious effort to find a little patience and compassion for these necessary emotions. 

It’s been awhile since I’ve practiced yoga. And to be honest, I think I was subconsciously avoiding yoga because for me, it brings a lot of emotions to the surface. It’s a looking glass into the depths of my heart and mind. For me, it was infinitely easier to go to the gym, hop on a treadmill, blast Pandora, and let myself go blank.  As I write this, I realize the irony in that.  It’s a parallel to the treadmill I’ve been on in my life. The avoidance of the moment. 

Sitting at my desk and contemplating how I’d spend my evening, my immediate thought was to run.  But as I recognized my emotional exhaustion, I realized running isn’t the answer. I’m trying to run away, when I need to get on the mat and face my emotions. Feel them fully. It’s the only way I can release them.  I may cry, I may feel anger and discomfort, but this is the work of my life. 

Isn’t it a Lumineers song that says:

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all..

I have to say, i think i agree.

Buffalo Roasted Chickpeas

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I’ve always been a snacker. I could put away a bag of Pirate’s booty in a sitting, dominate some Cape Cod potato chips. I decided to finally try roasting chickpeas as a healthy snack, and now I wonder what took me so long! These little babies are bomb. Seriously, if you like crunch, they’ve got it. And you can jazz them up anyway you like (make ’em sweet with honey and cinnamon, or savory with olive oil, kosher salt & thyme). Plus, they’re super simple and low-maintenance.

Ingredients

Can of chickpeas (or 2, depending how many you want)
Olive oil (I use my Misto sprayer to cut down on the fat content)
Kosher salt or Himalaya salt
Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain chickpeas, rinse with water, and let them dry on paper towels, patting them before placing onto a baking sheet. Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, and spread chickpeas out on tray. Toss with olive oil and salt. Bake in oven for 40 minutes, until chickpeas are crispy. Take out of oven and toss with a couple teaspoons of hot sauce. Place bake in oven for another 10 minutes. Voila! Crispy, crunchy, yummy, fiber-filled snacking!

Enjoy.

Xo Steph

Best Banana Bread

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This recipe wins every time. That is all.

Ingredients

2 very ripe bananas (brown and gross-looking is best)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup organic sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted butter
1 large egg
Chocolate chips, optional
Chopped walnuts, optional

Mash bananas in a bowl with a fork. Add in remaining ingredients until just combined (do not over mix). Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool, slice, and devour the heaven-sent gloriousness that is banana bread!

Boyfriend-Approved Cauliflower Crust Pizza

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I have absolutely nothing against Paula Deen. However, I was skeptical when I found this recipe. A Paula Deen recipe with no…*gulp*…butter?? Healthy, even? It’s true. And I have to tell you…this Cauliflower Crust Pizza is the chiz (for lack of a better adjective). It’s easy to make, too. Also, I’d totally promote it as an arm workout, if you switch arms halfway through grating the cauliflower.

Anyway, just try it when you get a chance. It won’t disappoint.

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray
2 1/2 cups grated cauliflower (approx. half a large head)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Pizza sauce of your choice
More cheese and your favorite pizza toppings (I like black olives, peppers, mushrooms, and spinach)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a pizza pan with parchment paper.

Grate the cauliflower with a box grater until you have 2 1/2 cups. Place in large bowl and microwave for 7-8 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Once cool, mix in the beaten egg, mozzarella, Parmesan, and salt and pepper. Once combined, press into a pizza pan. Spray lightly with nonstick spray and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Top the pizza with sauce and your favorite toppings. Bake in the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until bubbly and beautiful. Enjoy!

The Write Stuff

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It’s funny how the mind functions. Not like Jim Carrey funny. More like, A Clockwork Orange funny. Which isn’t really funny at all. Anyway, now that I’ve gone off on a mini-tangent..I promise there’s a point to all of this.

So yesterday morning, somewhere between silently muttering profanities to myself about my fellow commuters’ driving incompetence, a great blog post idea dawned on me. I vowed to commit it to memory, write it up and publish it immediately upon arriving home from work at day’s end. Of course, by 3 pm, several meetings, headaches, and desperate cups of coffee later, the brilliant idea had wandered away. There were no details, only the distant memory of knowing it was a damn cool thought.

I sighed deeply, feeling defeated, and stuck my earbuds back in, reluctantly turning my attention back to the riveting task at hand and drowning out the white noise (literally…we have white noise pumped into our British, nouveau open-concept floor plan at work) with my favorite tunes.

Shuffle. Skip. Skip. Aha! Wilco. One of my most beloved bands. I sank back into my ergonomic chair and tapped my TOMS wedges, feeling quite content, if for a few moments.

Wait. That was it! The blog post idea! Some of my favorite things! Wilco…favorites. Passion. The things that glitter my world.

When I was at Kripalu for my yoga teacher training, brilliant author, psychotherapist, and yoga adept Stephen Cope spoke with us about the ancient text the Bhagavad Gita, and it’s main theme, which is dharma. Dharma means your life’s purpose. What you were meant to do. Your legacy; your destiny.

It’s not always clear what my dharma is, and I’m sure many people can relate to that. When Stephen started speaking to is about dharma, I felt overwhelmed, and skeptical. I didn’t know where to begin. How do I find out what I’m meant to do, and who I’m destined to become?

His next instructions surprised me. He told is all to take out a sheet of paper, and he’d give is 5 minutes to jot down all of the things that light us up. The things in our life that give us energy, joy, purpose, and fill us with electricity and excitement.

I encourage you to try this simple exercise. Right now. If for nothing more than to remind yourself of the many things to be grateful for…go for it. Take out a sketch pad, a journal, or maybe start a new blog post.

Stephen gave us a way to narrow these things down, and give more focus to unveiling our dharma. I’ll explain this in a later post. For now, just start with a list of things that “light you up”. To get you started, here’s my list:

Things I love:
Yoga
Meditation
Kundalini Yoga
Yoga Nidra
Ayurveda
Whole Living
Organic Food
Eating/Buying Local
Running
Massages
Photography
Nature
Nutrition
The Greek salad @ Tapas restaurant (best dressing ever)
The smell of an orange (comforting)
Keller Williams’ music
Old British romance novels and movie adaptations
Reading
Writing
Poetry
Decorating
Popcorn, stovetop style (obvs) 🙂
Eastern philosophy
SNL digital shorts
Kalamata olives
Cooking
Afternoon sunshine
Fall foliage
Pumpkin everything
Everything to do with weddings
Ben Harper
Eddie vedder
Beck
Ryan Adams
String cheese
Fireplaces
Bare feet
Coffee. Tea. Wine. Chocolate.
Wilco
Working out
Chocolate covered strawberries – heaven!!

Tofu Pad Thai

So, several years ago I attempted making homemade Pad Thai. Let’s just say, it wasn’t so great, and my brother has never let me live it down.

I finally made it again using a recipe I found on the PETA website, and it. Is. Phenomenal.

1 10-oz. package rice noodles or ramen-style noodles
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into chunks
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. peanut butter (I used Teddy’s Super Chunky)
Juice of 2 limes
3 Tbsp. sugar (or less)
Sriracha, to taste
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Chopped peanuts, for garnish

· Cook noodles according to package instructions.
· In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic cloves and tofu chunks. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce over the tofu and sauté until golden brown.
· In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, lime juice, sugar, Sriracha, remaining soy sauce, and 1 cup of water.
· Add the cooked noodles and peanut butter mixture to the tofu and cook through, about 5 minutes.
· Garnish with sliced green onions and chopped peanuts and serve right away. Enjoy!

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Winter Splendour

The New England winter weather is beautiful, if in a haunting, dark sort of way. It’s gray and bitter cold, but the snowflakes float amongst the pines as if they were suspended in air, as if they were coaxing the kinks out of winter’s melancholy, its’ “funk.” There’s a certain nostalgia that accompanies this weather. Being Connecticut-born and raised, and unquestionably introverted, I sometimes feel gratitude for the cold and the gray. It means that I have a reason to stay in my home, bundled up in flannel or cozied next to my love, glazed over in front of a blazing fire. It means less social events, less coming out of my shell, and more introspection and solitude. It means cravings for spicy, piping hot Pho, or contentedly sipping herbal tea and journaling feverishly.

By March, as the story goes, my tune will change drastically, and I’ll threaten my fiancé that I’m moving down South, to get away from the cold and this “depressing weather”. But, this is my home. I don’t know if I could ever actually leave this way of life. Sure, the people can be rude and closed-off, the cost of living is outrageous, and we as a state unfortunately take very little pride in Connecticut. But mostly, I think we’re misunderstood. And so is Winter, for that matter. There is beauty to be found everywhere, if you’re willing to look for it.

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