Recipe Roundup: It’s soup season!

Something about this time of year makes my soul feel at peace. Or, rather, some things, plural. How I love the blazing fall colors, the nip in the air, the comfort of fuzzy cardigans and infinity scarves, and the desire to turn inward in body and mind and cozy up with a blanket and a book. And of course, how could I forget my professed love of soup season?

It may seem such a silly thing to pledge your undying devotion, but there’s something about a warm bowl of soup that makes everything right with the world. It’s hearty, comforting, warming, full of flavor — any kind of flavor you can dream of. And for me, many soups are inherently full of nostalgia. Especially chicken noodle soup.

I grew up in a family that treated the day after Thanksgiving as its own holiday. It was sacred, and the routine never varied: Up came the Christmas decorations, on went the holiday music, and into the kitchen we went for leftover turkey soup. And in the days before DVDs brought the magic of children’s Christmas specials on demand, we’d turn to the newspaper to check that night’s TV schedule for the first of the season’s holiday showings.

Now, no matter what time of year, whenever I smell turkey or chicken noodle soup I am there in my parents’ home listening to Bing Crosby or Manheim Steamroller, hanging my favorite “lovebirds” ornament on the tree and wrapping the banister in tinsel, waiting for the homemade noodles and creamy broth of the evening’s turkey soup.

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What your body needs this fall (besides pumpkin spice)

Has autumn weather found you yet?

If Instagram is any indication, the entire Western world is blissfully sipping on spiced apple cider while crunching through the leaves in cozy knitted cardigans and knee-high boots, basking in the still-warm-yet-crisp fall sunlight on their way to the farmer’s market or pumpkin patch or even a college football game.

It’s not just the dewy pictures of Instagram and Pinterest that are making me long for the idyllic traditions of fall. Autumn is a transitional season — a season of change, and not just for the natural world but for humans as well. Instinctively our bodies know this and prompt us to prepare for the coming cold months ahead.

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According to Ayurvedic tradition, fall is a time to change our daily routines and our diets to keep in harmony with the environmental changes all around us. Ayurveda is an ancient science based on elemental principles that pertain to life on earth, according to Balance & Bliss Ayurvedic Center in Tampa, Florida. “As the external environment changes during the vata (or fall) season, your internal environment can experience the same type of changes; dry leaves, dry skin; crackly leaves, crackly joints; shorter days, shorter attention span; colder days, colder extremities, windy days, windy bowels. … By observing the processes of Mother Nature, you can better understand the processes of your body, mind and spirit.”

To keep from being overcome by the negative effects of autumn, it’s important to strive for a sense of balance this time of year. This is done “by emphasizing lifestyle and food choices that are grounding, stabilizing, warming, moisturizing and softening,” according to Balance & Bliss. “You can stay calm and connected in this whirlwind season with a consistent practice that includes nourishing and protective measures.”

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What do I have to offer?

I have this terrible feeling that I’m not good enough for you.

That I’m not enough of an expert. That I don’t provide enough detailed information, or that I provide information with so much detail that nobody will want to read what I write. That I don’t provide enough insight and tools to actually be helpful. That the message I spend my nights awake thinking about, pondering over, writing and re-writing and re-writing so as to uplift and inspire and change lives — that it actually doesn’t matter to anyone else but me.

Most of all I worry that I’m not thin enough. Or more to the point, I worry that the way I live my life isn’t inspirational enough to get anyone to take notice. Despite what I’ve said about being skinny, and despite really really meaning it, I worry that nobody will bother taking my advice on healthy eating if I’m not a perfectly toned size 2. Because isn’t the thin, sexy, smiling woman on the cookbook cover the reason we buy the book? Sure, we want to be healthy and eat well, but what we really want is to look like that. Because even though I’ve made great progress over the past 11 months, even to the point where I actually bought a bikini and wore it for the first time in public in years, I still am only a size 8-10 and can’t seem to get below 140 lbs.

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Left, July 2014. Right, July 2015.

I really worry about all this stuff because somewhere inside, I feel that if I look like this and not like Giada de Laurentiis — if the way I eat and live my life isn’t as enticing as that teeny little package — then that what I have to offer isn’t valuable. That I’m not good enough to do this thing that I’m so passionate about it makes me skip through the house with glee whenever my daily page views go above 100. Or even 50, if I’m being honest. Because if I can’t offer you that thing that every woman in America wants, what do I have to offer?

Well let me break through the fear and self-pity and tell you what I’m offering.

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Poor nutrition isn’t about fat — it’s about life and death

There are a lot of damaging lies about health and nutrition, but none as physically and emotionally crippling as this: the lie that being fat is the problem we need to solve.

It isn’t. In fact, fat is a sign that your body is out of balance and desperately trying to cope.

The ways and reasons that excess body fat accumulates should be paid urgent attention, much more than the “muffin top” or “saddlebags” we wear. An overloaded liver, unbalanced hormones, excessive stress levels, and nutritional deficiencies are just a few of the reasons our bodies are forced to create and store fat. And all of them have much more serious ramifications than we often believe.

But perhaps the biggest concern of all is that we believe fat is a matter of willpower, or lack thereof. We think that if we just stay off the sugar and carbs and spend our lives at the gym then everything will be in balance and we will be the picture of trim, slim, health and perfection.

This is far from the whole picture — and the whole picture is far more terrifying.

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Recipe Roundup: 3 new twists on old favorites

Whenever you change your diet, no matter how in love with your new lifestyle you may be, eventually you find yourself craving old favorites. Whether or not you decide to cut yourself some slack and indulge in a family fave (which is always my plan of action and a good way to maintain balance and not start to resent a diet), there are plenty of ways to find a substitution and turn a new dish into a new favorite.

With that in mind, here are three recipes that put a new spin on a classic dish.

Tofu Basil Ricotta

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Image courtesy LuminousVegans.com

I’ve never been a big fan of ricotta cheese; it’s way too much dairy and far too little flavor for my liking. But a homemade basil “ricotta” from tofu? Now we’re talking. Continue reading

Everything you know about protein is wrong

When you become vegan or vegetarian, suddenly everyone becomes all concerned about your protein intake. With frenetic intensity they ask, “But where do you get your protein?” And though they seem to genuinely want to know, they’re already skeptical of the answer before they’ve even heard it.

That’s because our culture’s beliefs about animal-based proteins are so deeply entrenched that to go against them is nothing short of blasphemy. But the thing is, those beliefs are based on myths, misinformation, and lies.

The myths about protein

Take a look at the most pervasive beliefs about meat and protein:

  • Protein is only found in animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy.
  • You need to eat meat (a lot of it) to build muscle mass, and you need lots of protein to slim down.
  • Protein keeps you fuller longer.
  • The more protein in your diet the better.

And while there is plenty of testimonial and anecdotal evidence to back these claims, the most complete and un-biased research (read: the studies not commissioned by the meat industry) proves them all to be false. Let’s look at the claims one by one, paired with the truth about protein — including the facts about how much you protein you really need.

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