Meatless Monday Recipe: Roasted Eggplant

As I take baby steps toward a primarily plant-based diet, I’m trying to do a couple meatless meals each week. Dinner tonight was one of those meals, and since I had a large lunch, I wanted something lighter for dinner. I adapted recipes for roasted eggplant with garlic cumin yogurt and Martha Stewart’s roasted eggplant with basil (follow her roasting instructions) by making the yogurt with ras el hanout, a delicious and fragrant Moroccan spice blend. I also seasoned the eggplant with garlic salt and smoked paprika prior to roasting and garnished with fresh parsley and mint. The result was a slightly smoky flavor with a fresh, cooling finish –  very satisfying!

 

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Roasted eggplant photo from marthastewart.com

Kitchen Adventures: Boozy Creme Brûlée Brownies

Another St. Patrick’s Day weekend, another good excuse to bake with beer. There’s just something so magically delicious about beer and chocolate in a baked good. This year I made brownies with Southern Tier Creme Brûlée Stout. (I also made a boozy ice cream float with it.) They have a more cake-like than fudgey texture, though that could be changed by adjusting ingredients. The recipe I used is below. I don’t typically like icing on brownies, but these might be even better with a little ganache or icing.

 

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

Approx. 2 oz. dark chocolate morsels

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

About 10-12 oz Creme Brûlée Stout

1 cup all-purpose flour

Melt together butter and dark chocolate morsels. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Spread into greased 8×8 brownie pan and bake at 350 for about 28 minutes (depending on type of pan). Devour (mindfully).

For Winter Survival, Rum, Soup, and Yoga

After digging out (again) yesterday, I needed something to warm up. Enter Sweet, Spiked, and Spicy Hot Chocolate and Chicken Kai Pa Lo.

 

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My snow angel

 

As usual, I made a couple modifications to the recipes. For the hot chocolate, I subbed Nutella for peanut butter. Really, who wouldn’t?? I also prefer whipped cream to marshmallows on my hot chocolate, and I didn’t have sea salt. Nonetheless, it was a nice treat.

Key to the chicken kai pa lo is the soft-boiled egg. I didn’t fully appreciate the wonder of a good soft-boiled egg until a vacation to Hawaii and one of the most memorable meals of my life at Lucky Belly. There I had the Beast Bowl, a phenomenal bowl of ramen with brisket, short ribs, oxtail, and of course, a soft-boiled egg. My mouth waters just thinking of it and the pork belly bao I had with it… anyway back to my dinner last night. The broth was delicious and topped with jasmine rice and the egg – yum! I also sprinkled some sesame seeds on top. A tutorial to make the perfect soft-boiled egg can be found here.

This morning, I’m recovering from all that shoveling with some yoga to stretch the muscles I used and hoping for the end of the snow this winter. Namaste.

Kitchen Adventures: Brinner

I haven’t had a good brunch (any brunch, really) in a while, which is just a shame. The thing I like most about brunch is that I get to indulge my sweet and salty cravings in the same meal. To make up for my lack of brunching, I did brinner (breakfast for dinner) last night. The centerpiece of brinner was a veggie quiche, made with sautéed onions, spinach, piquillo peppers, and (my personal favorite ingredient) goat cheese, with some herbs de provence for a little extra flavor. I have obtained neither the patience nor the tools to make homemade pie crusts just yet, so I used a pre-made crust. The quiche still turned out great and would’ve been even better with a flaky, hand-made crust. Served alongside a stack of fluffy, chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes and crispy bacon (because what’s breakfast without bacon), this meal satisfied my brunch needs.

 

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My vintage-looking quiche (pre-made crust notwithstanding)

Resilience

A Google images search of “resilience” will yield various pictures reflecting the meaning of the word, perhaps most commonly the image below. These images reflect the idea that resilience is about growing despite adversity or the ability to bounce back. As I shoveled snow this morning, something I haven’t done in several years and had dreaded doing upon my move out of the South, I thought that perhaps my personal image of resilience would be something like the red ivy and green berries or glistening blacktop that poked out in patches from under the snow. Or perhaps just me standing triumphantly atop a mound of snow I had shoveled. (I really dislike cold and snowy weather.) What I also noticed is that if I stopped thinking about how much I hate being cold and instead noticed how beautiful the white, powdery snow was, how it looked as though glitter or diamonds had been sprinkled in with it, it actually was kind of nice. If I checked in on my emotions, I really wasn’t terribly upset to be outside. Also, it provided an excellent workout.

Winter weather is not a serious adversity to overcome, but I have learned through other personal and professional experience that mindfulness and a handful of other practices can be helpful in facing stressful conditions and building resilience. The American Psychological Association offers 10 ways to build resilience, including keeping things in perspective (for me this morning, it was the first real snow of the season and much less than people in other parts of the country have had to deal with; also, it was a powdery snow, much easier to shovel than a heavier, wet snow) and maintaining a positive outlook (bonus workout today!). Also important is staying positive about your abilities to deal with the stressor, particularly when based on how you have handled other stressors in the past. When I have experienced professional setbacks, I have taken time to reflect upon the problem-solving skills that I developed through years of school, then used that critical thinking to find solutions to the problem or reframe the stressor (sometimes there is a silver lining to be found). Less focused on reflecting on the past or reframing the present situation, mindfulness also can help cultivate resilience by encouraging acceptance (seeing the situation for what it is, without the emotional baggage), self-compassion, and cognitive flexibility.

People generally are resilient, whether with major life changes or everyday stressors (including snow storms). Keeping our own resilience in mind often is the first step in tapping into our resources to deal with challenges.

 

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I think, therefore, I am…or am I?

Recently, I was talking with someone about running when he asked me if I was a runner. I hesitated, and he quickly replied, “That means no.” For many years, I would have agreed with him. I have never considered myself to be “a runner.” It’s not something I particularly enjoy; I certainly am not setting any records for running. But does that really mean I’m not a runner? What would make me worthy of that label? Because really, in those few minutes on the weekend when I’m running, I am a runner.

Likewise with being an introvert, a characteristic that has been celebrated somewhat more recently. Most psychologists acknowledge that people may fall at different places along the introversion-extraversion continuum in different circumstances, though people tend to be labeled as one or the other. I have always considered myself more of an introvert and fit comfortably into that role. Except that it doesn’t always fit. When I was described once as being outgoing, I was taken aback, but when I paused to reflect on the things that made me outgoing to that person, I realized that my interpersonal style doesn’t always follow the same script.

The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we can do are powerful. In reflecting upon the stories I have about myself or the labels I have given myself (or have been given by others), I see that I have been limited at times in trying something that I wanted to do because it didn’t fit the mold. In saying “you’re (I’m) not a runner,” I am excused or inhibited from engaging in a behavior. When we let go of the script that we follow and instead engage mindfully in an activity that may be interesting or important to us, we don’t have to think about what we’re supposed to do; we can simply do.

For more information on building this type of psychological flexibility, read about ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).

A Season for Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving always has been my favorite holiday – it’s a day centered around delicious food and expressing gratitude for the people and things for which you are thankful. I feel fortunate to have so many things for which to be thankful in my life and try to make a regular practice of noticing and expressing this gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal or maintaining a similar gratitude practice is associated with a host of health benefits, including boosts in immune system functioning, improved response to stress, and enhanced mood and well-being. No wonder then that so many scientists are researching and extolling the effects of gratitude, as evidenced by Ted’s Thanksgiving-themed playlist.

One of the many things for which I am grateful was the overabundance of food at my family’s Thanksgiving table. Many individuals are not so fortunate, with 1 in 6 individuals in the US going hungry, according to Feeding America. Perhaps in this season of giving, you might be inspired to donate to an organization that works to combat hunger in America and throughout the world, such as Feeding America, Heifer International, Meals on Wheels, and others. A simple way to minimize food waste in your home, get creative with using up your Thanksgiving meal leftovers. Below are a few tasty ideas!

Sweet Potato Casserole = Sweet Potato Pancakes

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Image by Lydia Degaris at myrecipes.com

Mashed Potatoes = Mashed Potato Latkes or Shepherd’s Pie

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Image courtesy of grandmotherskitchen.org

Boil the turkey bones to make stock for Turkey Noodle Soup or Turkey Chowder

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Via bombshellbling.com

Stuffing = Stuffed Mushrooms

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Image via rachelraymag.com

Cranberry Sauce = Sweet & Spicy Meatballs

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Image via Taste of Home

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Dies: Amanda Bynes, Robin Williams, and the Spectacle of Mental Illness

Originally posted on Let's Queer Things Up!:

Internet, we need to have a talk.

I’ve had a number of readers ask why I’ve neglected to write about Amanda Bynes this last year. It’s simple, really. I don’t believe that celebrities are “fair game,” and that, when they have very human and very difficult struggles, I should capitalize on those things by writing an article, however well-intentioned. I believe they are deserving of privacy and respect, by virtue of their being people.

However, I’m making an exception here, because in the midst of the negative and callous press that Bynes has received, I think it’s time we had a chat about it from a different perspective. And then, after we’re done, I think it’s time we stop speculating about it altogether. Deal?

First and foremost, there is no way for us to know what, if anything, Bynes has been diagnosed with. The family has denied schizophrenia and bipolar…

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Random Acts of Consideration

As a psychologist, I often find myself noticing how the behavior of one person can  affect the behavior of another. For example, over the past few weeks while driving to work in the morning, I have noticed that if I leave a space open at an intersection, the car in the lane next to me often will do the same. I tested my theory by sometimes blocking the intersection and sometimes leaving an opening and, without fail, the other driver followed suit. This isn’t ground-breaking science, but it got me thinking about how important is can be for each us to model prosocial behavior. I’m not talking about pay-it-forward, random acts of kindness gestures (though those certainly are nice, too) but rather modeling an awareness that there are other people around us to consider. Huffington Post recently published an article about the habits of considerate people which supposedly include, among other things, anticipating the needs of other people, having good manners, and being empathetic. These are not behaviors that necessarily take a lot of time or other resources; these are things we can be mindful of in daily activities. Perhaps letting someone in in traffic won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it does signal respect and may decrease another person’s frustration by a margin. What could be bad about that?

 

 

Playlist: 5 Mindshifting talks on happiness

Originally posted on TED Blog:

(TED is on its annual two-week vacation. During the break, we’re posting playlists from the TEDTalks archive. We’ll be back with new talks on August 29th.)

Happiness seems simple, yet the more we look into it, the more layers and complexities we find. Here are five TEDTalks that will transform how you view happiness, and how to achieve it.

1) Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.

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2) Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy — and our own self-awareness.

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3) Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life…

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