Comfort Foods for the Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and it’s my favorite time of the year too! One of the aspects of the holiday season I love the most is simply having wholesome meals with my friends and family. For me, every meal with people I love during the holiday season is a celebration. I cook something warming and comforting, I turn on the Christmas lights, I play the Christmas tunes, and we have ourselves a merry time. So I wanted to share with you some of the comforting dishes I like to make around this time of year. Explore below!

Easy Bolognese

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As an Italian-American, I find few dishes more comforting than pasta with a chunky red sauce. Bolognese is a classic sauce you can use for pasta, gnocchi, polenta, spaghetti squash, or by itself with crusty bread. My recipe for Bolognese is simple and warms from the soul outward.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

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This is the one to make when you are looking to impress your guests. Sweet, savory, and spicy, Stuffed Acorn Squash is an indulgent, gourmet-style dish that has everything going for it. Get the recipe here.

Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza

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I love making seasonal artisan pizzas. For Fall and Winter, my go-to pizza is this Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza. Truly, this is one of the best pizzas ever. This is great for a weekend night in with friends while watching a Christmas movie. Get the dough here. 

Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup

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This soup is a great easy weeknight meal served with salad and bread or can be used as an appetizer course. Both sweet and savory, this soup feels very seasonal and like something you would have in a Christmasy cottage somewhere in a fairy-tale. Learn to make it here. 

Johnny’s Tomato Soup

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Sometimes, tomato soup just cannot be beat. While tomato soup isn’t the fanciest of dishes, it is often a great choice on a busy weeknight or when your guests are wanting to still eat healthy while also eating cozy. My Tomato Soup is warming, earthy, and slightly spicy and is completely vegan. I will serve this with a nice winter salad and some crusty bread and before you know it you have a full holiday meal. Get the recipe here. 

Christmas Biscotti

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I am not much of a baker, but once a year I get in the kitchen and whip up a batch of my Christmas Biscotti. These biscotti have the flavors and colors of the season with cranberries, pistachios, orange zest, vanilla, Amaretto, and dark chocolate. These are an incredibly festive dessert and are also a great baked good to bring to potlucks or even present as a food based gift. Learn to make them here. 

Whatever you decide to cook for your loved ones this year, I hope that you have a very merry and tasty holiday season!

My Health Tips for Flu Season

Fall is here and it’s brought more than just pumpkin spice everything with it. This time of year marks the return of cold and flu season. But before you grab your hand sanitizer and don a face mask, Johnny La Pasta has a few tips to help you stay healthy and fit this sick season!

While I do fall ill sometimes just like everyone else, I have a pretty good track record of staying healthy most years, often completely missing the major flu or cold that everyone around me seems to catch (knock on wood). Even when I do contract an illness, I often bounce back from it rather quickly. This has led many of my friends, family, and students to ask me: How?

Here are my tips for staying healthy and fit during the flu & cold season –

-1- Hydration

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Hydration is always key, including during flu & cold season. Staying hydrated promotes your elimination system which can help to flush build ups of toxins from your body before they can take root and do any harm. So even if it’s cold outside, drink your water like it’s a scorching summer day!

-2- Citrus All Day, Every Day

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 One of the ways I stay healthy all year long is I am almost always consuming some form of citrus. As we all know, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes are rich in vitamin C which is key for immunity. Citrus fruits have been shown to strengthen your white blood cells as well as increase your white blood cell count. White blood cells are the guys that fight off infection, so you want them strong and in abundance! So, how do you get your citrus in?

Put citrus into your water! Cut up citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit into wedges and store in mason jars in your fridge at home and at work. Anytime you refill your water, squeeze any combination of the fruits into the water and drink. This will make your water tastier and be consistently providing you with a powerful source of vitamin C.

-3- Apple Cider Vinegar

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Another way I keep my health going throughout the year and especially during this season is Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). ACV is rich in minerals, vitamins, and enzymes that help to bind to and then remove toxins from the body, promote better lymph circulation, and act as a natural antibacterial and antiseptic within the body. ACV has been used medicinally since ancient times in many cultures and science shows there is no reason to stop now!

Take a shot of ACV a couple of times a day or add a couple tablespoons to your water at least twice a day. Yeah, the taste is not the best, but the results are worth it! And if you do get sick, drink ACV all damn day to promote that illness getting killed off!

-4- doTerra On Guard® Protective Blend Essential Oil

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I swear on Oprah by this oil. Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Leaf, and Rosemary Leaf/Flower essential oils come together to create a master oil that supports the immune and respiratory systems, protects against environmental threats, and supports the body’s natural antioxidant defenses.

Throughout last year’s epically bad flu season, I used this oil in a few different ways. The first was that every night, I mixed a few drops of On Guard into a couple tablespoons of coconut oil and rubbed that mixture into my neck, chest, stomach, and the bottoms of feet so that my body could absorb the oil and all its benefits overnight as my body restored. Secondly, I diffused a few drops of this oil in my oil diffuser next to my bed as I slept. Lastly, when I felt like I was rundown or perhaps coming down with an illness, I added a drop of On Guard to my water a few times per day and drank it down. And I will be repeating all of these techniques with On Guard this sick season.

You can learn more about doTerra’s On Guard® Protective Blend and how to safely use it here.

-5- Oil of Oregano

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Oregano Essential Oil has been used by the Chinese, Greeks, and Romans since ancient times as a medicinal substance. Oregano is highly potent with a phenol called carvacrol that possess powerful antioxidant properties. When ingested, oregano oil acts as an antibacterial, antiseptic, and antiviral.

I do not take oregano essential oil on the regular because it’s nasty AF. However, when I feel myself getting sick or am sick, I will use the oil to help fight and kill off whatever is in my system. You can honestly almost feel the oil burning away at the infection inside you. Again, oil of oregano is extremely powerful and so be mindful to use with caution. Best practice is to dilute 1 drop of oregano oil in at least 4 fluid ounces of water and drink, trying to avoid getting the oil on your lips as it can cause a burning sensation.

I use doTerra’s Oregano Essential Oil, which can learn more about here.

-6- Good Nutrition

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This one should go without saying. Making a nutritious diet part of your lifestyle is simply key to overall health and wellness. If you are eating wholesome foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, then your body and immune system are going to be better supported to resist and fight off infection.

-7- Exercise

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Here again, exercise is just important to living your best life. When it comes to immunity, exercising promotes the elimination of bacteria from your lungs and airways. It also promotes the circulation of your white blood cells; it makes them more active in doing their job of fighting infection. So just move!

-8- Sleep

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Making sure you get your 7-8 hours of sleep per night is essential during flu & cold season. Deep sleep is your body’s time to restore and rejuvenate. If you give it the time it needs to do this, then it is going to be more equipped to ward off sickness. I swear, whenever I find myself in a situation where I am sleep deprived, I end up getting some sort of illness. We really do need our sleep, so be diligent about it.

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These are the practices and techniques I have incorporated into my lifestyle which have served me in keeping my healthy and strong. I invite you to try a few or all of these on and see how you fair this sick season. Good luck!

 

 

Today’s Gratitude’s & Tomorrow’s Visions

Today I am sharing about a mindful practice I have begun over the past few months that I have found to be meaningful and powerful in my life. I call this practice “Today’s Gratitudes & Tomorrow’s Visions”. This practice is a journal based daily ritual very much akin to the Gratitude Journal often promoted by Oprah. In this practice, I take a few moments before going to sleep to write 3-5 things I feel gratitude for, followed by 3-5 things I would like to manifest the next day. The gratitudes elevate my positive vibrations and the requests for manifestations go out into the universe overnight to hopefully brew and make their way back to me. Having continued this practice for about three months now, I can tell you honestly that Today’s Gratitudes & Tomorrow’s Visions have had big impacts on my life! So grab one of those pretty journals you have on your shelf that you’ve never used and let’s get writing!

Today’s Gratitudes & Tomorrow’s Visions How To:

Step 1: Make a Few Minutes Before Bedtime

I deeply feel that the very end of the day is the best time to practice this ritual. Reflecting with gratitude on the day stimulates a sense of contentment and peace. Expressing hopes and dreams for the following day allows us to go to sleep without imaging or worrying about it because you have gotten it out on paper.

Step 2: Today’s Gratitudes

Write 3-5 things you are grateful for from the day. Write whatever first comes to mind. Write them in bullet points and keep them short and sweet. You can be grateful for big or small things, grand or simple things, deep or silly things; as long as it is authentic and true, it is noteworthy.

Somedays what comes to mind for me are the big, obvious things like my family and friends, my health, for simply being alive. Somedays what comes to mind are really ridiculous things like peanut butter and coffee (peanut butter makes an appearance in my journal at least twice a week) – but I am grateful I have those things as simple as they are, and so I still feel inclined to write them.

Try not to overthink, really just reflect and find gratitude for all.

Step 3: Tomorrow’s Visions

Write down 3-5 things you would like to transpire the following day. Similarly, write these aspirations as bullet points and keep them short.

What is different and key when it comes to Tomorrow’s Visions is to keep your requests somewhat open-ended. As I discuss in my piece, “Manifestation: There’s Something to It”, it’s important to leave room for the universe to gift back to us what it feels is right for us, even if it is slightly different than what we originally envisioned. If you write out how you want tomorrow to unfold hour by hour, then you have really limited all of the possibilities the universe might have brought your way, and thus the universe is probably going to ignore you and you will be disappointed.

So rather, you keep your requests for manifestation more broad: I would like to have a good meeting with my boss, I would like to receive good news of some kind, I would like to find some time in the day for me to relax a little bit, etc. These requests leave plenty of room for the universe to cook up something for you that fulfills the request, perhaps even beyond what you could have imagined!

So keep it open, and of course, keep it positive!

Step 4: Start Writing!

This is a practice I have found to be uplifting, and at times, magical. I feel the expression of gratitude changing my energy for the better, and I have seen how my visions have been manifested in some shape or form the following day. It’s just another way to elevate the vibe of your life!

I hope you find this practice to be as wondrous as I do!

Do you have other daily practices or rituals you do to elevate your vibe? Let me know below!

 

 

Manifestation: There’s Something To It

If you are in the yoga world, then you have probably heard someone talking about “manifestation” at some point. Maybe someone in your local yoga studio was explaining to a friend about how they were trying to manifest a solution to a problem or perhaps your yoga teacher taught a class themed upon manifesting your best life. ‘Manifestation’ and the action of ‘manifesting’ are very popular buzz words in the yoga world; this idea that through focused thought and energy we might be able to create outcomes, objects, and even attract people that we need and desire out of the ether. I have always been a big fan of the concept and have more or less believed that manifestation was a possibility, although, I did not place a great amount of faith in it and generally saw abstract manifestation as a possibility but not at all a likelihood. That was until I decided to give manifestation a good honest try and discovered that manifestation can indeed be a powerful force that works.

My Story of Manifestation

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Photo by Neil Bloem – @coldxneil

Last year, I found myself in a dark place. I was working at a corporate marketing job that I loathed with every fiber of my being. I had come to the realization within this job that it was not just the company and the position I held within it that made me deeply unhappy; it was the industry of marketing that was the true problem. I recognized that I was in the wrong profession for myself and it was harming my mind and spirit.

I have two central passions in this life: writing and yoga. Though my primary career was in marketing, I always pursued my true passions on the side in my own time. I was always working on some sort of writing project whether it be a screenplay, novel, or article. And I had trained to teach yoga, teaching several classes per week in the mornings before or the evenings after my corporate job. It was in these devotions and crafts that I found light and life.

At that point in my life, I had come into a place where I desperately needed to make a transition out of full-time marketing and into some sort of working existence made of yoga and writing. For a while, I approached my wish for change from a very angry place: I was angry at the universe for not making me a highly sponsored Instagram yoga star and not landing me a book deal for my novel. Of course, directing negative energy at the situation did not move it into a positive space. And so, I decided to do something different.

I decided to give manifestation a go. Without being specific, I expressed to the universe what I wanted; an exit from my corporate job, a new financially stable career that included more yoga and writing and a new lifestyle to go with it. I wrote down my wishes, I made a vision board to represent them, I spoke about them to friends, and I meditated on them during my yoga practices. I trusted that something out there was listening to me and conspiring in my favor. Sure enough, a couple of months later, I was given an amicable outing from my marketing job, offered an abundance of yoga teaching opportunities, and landed a few freelance clients to help supplement my income. I transitioned away from a high-stress, fast-paced, regimented lifestyle into a new one that was flexible, steady, rewarding, and abundant in positivity.

As I began this new and glorious season of my life, I found myself in awe that I had evidently manifested this whole new career and lifestyle for myself. It had worked, it had really worked! And so, I wondered what else I could manifest.

Wanting to build my career and reputation as a writer, I decided that I would attempt to manifest being published. I did not necessarily mean becoming a New York Times best-selling author right away, but just being published in some form or other to add to my writer’s resume. Within weeks of putting this out there into the ether, I was officially published by the new age publication Elephant Journal. The article I wrote for them began to trend, earning thousands of views, and I was soon featured on their website. I have since been able to publish two more articles with them.

Manifestation again worked in my favor a few months later, this time on the yoga front.  When the teacher training programming I served as a coach for came to an end in June, I wondered about how I was going to make up for the pay I would no longer be receiving at the end of the program. I decided to manifest more opportunities in the yoga world that could take the place of coaching teacher training. Within two weeks, I was offered another permanent yoga class at a different studio and a corporate yoga gig. A month after that, I received an opportunity to teach for a private client for a higher rate of pay for yoga instruction than I had ever received before.

If the past year with all of these experiences have taught me anything, it is that manifestation is indeed possible when you dedicate enough energy to it and put enough trust in it. I continue to be amazed by what I have been able to manifest and I am excited to keep at it to see what else might be possible.

 

The Basics of Manifestation

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Photo by Neil Bloem – @coldxneil

In addition to my own experiences, I have done a good amount of research on the philosophies surrounding manifestation. I have read articles, book chapters, and listened to podcasts all centered on the subject. Through all of my studies and experiments, I think I have identified a few basic principles for manifestation that I would like to share with you.

  1. Ask Rather Than Demand

I think this is the most important principle of manifestation. When you choose to try and manifest something – whatever it is – I believe you have to ask for it humbly rather than demand for it aggressively. I feel that (the Universe/God/the Force/whatever-you-want-to-call-it) is much more receptive to a polite request than they are to a hard and firm order.

  1. Keep It Open-Ended Rather Than Specific

Everything I have read and listened to on the subject of manifestation more or less comes to this same conclusion. We must create space for our manifestations to come to fruition in different forms. Sometimes, our manifestations look very different than what we originally imagined or intended, but they ultimately provide us with what we need.

Think about my earlier example when I set out to manifest becoming a published writer. Though my end goal was – and still is – to become a published novelist, I did not specify that in my first attempt at manifestation around writing. Rather, I simply stated that I wanted to be published and I was open to that transpiring in any way. The result was publishing a short article in an online publication. It was not grand or life altering, but it was something. And perhaps that one manifestation will evolve into more.

Another more universal example: manifesting material abundance. If you specify to the universe that you want material abundance and thus you want to win the lottery, it is highly unlikely that the universe is going to reward you with the winning lottery ticket – if it was that easy, many would have done this already. If you, however, ask for abundance and remain open to that transpiring in various ways, you may receive. You could receive a new job offer that comes with a raise, you could receive new side hustle opportunities that bump up your income, or you may receive a reduced rate on a car or house payment that gives you some extra pocket money. The possibilities are endless as long as you are open to them.

We have to remember that whatever is out there is far wiser and more intelligent than we are. Sometimes this force will gift us with a manifestation that is not quite what we envisioned, but may ultimately be more valuable to us and our journeys, even if we do not fully understand it. So keep an open mind, an open heart, and receive and give thanks for what comes.

  1. Be Patient

The powers at be do not operate on your timeline. Avoid putting a deadline on your manifestations. Those powers will decide when we are ready to receive, and we have to accept that.

  1. Not All Manifestations Manifest

We are not going to be successful in manifesting 100% of the time. Once again, the Universe/God/the Force/etc. see and know more than we know. Sometimes it/they might decide that what we are trying to manifest is actually not right for us, and we just don’t know it.

  1. Practice Gratitude

We should always practice gratitude, but I think it is key to express gratitude when our manifestations are realized.  When we successfully manifest, we should be sure to tell those powers at be that we are thankful. If we are consistent in giving thanks, we will probably receive more consistent blessings.

 

Conclusion

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Photo by Neil Bloem – @coldxneil

I believe that manifestation is real and we have the power to influence our own realities. I see manifestation as a branch of real magic; curious to understand, challenging to practice, impossible to master, but powerful in its potential. I encourage everyone to give manifestation a try and see what the possibilities are!

Have you ever manifested something before? What are your currently trying manifest? Tell me all below!

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*All photos within this article were captured by my old travel buddy, Neil Bloem. Neil is a photographer and visual artist currently based in Lofoten, Norway. The natural beauty he captures is truly remarkable. I find myself in constant awe of his work. You can follow him on Instagram @coldxneil Enjoy the beauty he will fill your Insta-feed with!

 

“How Travel can be a Practice in Presence, Mindfulness, & Joy” published on Elephant Journal!

Oops! I did it again!

My latest piece “How Travel can be a Practice in Presence, Mindfulness & Joy” has been published in Elephant Journal!

Written shortly after my return home from the Netherlands, this article explores how travel can be an avenue to becoming more present and to discovering much about the world and ourselves.

If interested, please read, like, and share!

Lots of Love & Travel to you!

Link: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/05/how-traveling-can-be-a-practice-in-presence-mindfulness-joy/

“What to Remember When You Start to Doubt Yourself as a Yoga Teacher” on Elephant Journal!

Ciao friends! My most recent article, “What to Remember When You Start to Doubt Yourself as a Yoga Teacher” has been published on Elephant Journal! Very happy to be contributing regularly to this great publication. Please give it a read by following the link below:

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/04/what-to-remember-when-you-start-to-doubt-yourself-as-a-yoga-teacher/

 

Slow Cooker Vegan Lentil & Spinach Stew

It’s been awhile since I created and shared a new recipe with you all. I have been in a bit of a culinary rut as of late, mostly cooking tried and true classics for the past couple of months. Today, however, I felt the urge to create something new on impulse and thus this Slow Cooker Vegan Lentil & Spinach Stew was born. I love a good plant-based soup, and particularly one that you can make entirely in the slow cooker, minimizing the active cooking time to almost nothing. This recipe ended up hitting all of the marks with its five minutes of prep and incredibly warming, earthy flavors and feel. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Slow Cooker Lentil & Spinach Stew

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Absurdly Easy
  • Print

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups green lentils
  • 1 15oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups Spinach
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions:

Combine all ingredients onion thru bay leaf in a slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook on low 6 hours or high 3 hours. When ready to serve, stir in the vinegar and spinach until wilted. Ladle into bowls and serve.

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