Tag Archives: lifestyle

Pasta Primavera

Sunday March 20th 2016 marked the bringing of another spring!

flower

YAY Spring is here!

Traditionally for the Spring Equinox, I always make my Pasta Primavera, and this past equinox was no exception. Pasta Primavera is a traditional Italian dish – Primavera means spring in Italian – and this dish is made all throughout the spring to celebrate the fresh produce that has come into season and harvest after the winter. I love making Pasta Primavera because it is simple, it is elegant, it supports seasonal eating, and it is actually quite healthy since it is loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.

food jennifer lawrence

Because a season change just means an excuse to eat more foods.

Sound good? I know you want to make it. Great! Well, you should make MY recipe for Pasta Primavera. Whereas many other recipes for this springtime dish call for boiling, steaming, or sauteing the vegetables within it, I roast them to really intensify the flavors because roasting brings out the best in vegetables. I also add goat cheese to this dish to bring a bright tang that I think is indicative of spring which gives the dish a slight richness and definite creaminess.

It is so simple and inexpensive, yet so fresh, bright, and absolutely delicious; I think you should definitely make my Pasta Primavera, and make it often! Buon Primavera!

Pasta Primavera

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 large carrots, sliced and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
  • 10 medium thick asparagus spears, cut to two inches
  • 15-20 sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup basil, julienned
  • ½ pound Farfalle (bowtie) pasta or other short cut pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400̊F.

Arrange the broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and garlic. Toss until all the vegetables are well coated and spread into a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once half way through, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the last 1o-12 minutes of the vegetables cooking, add the pasta to the water and cook till al dente, about 10-12 minutes.In the last 2 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas to the water with the pasta as well. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta, asparagus, and sugar snap peas.

Add the roast vegetables to a large pasta bowl, followed by the pasta. Add the goat cheese and parmesan cheese on top of the pasta and toss thoroughly until the cheeses melt and coat all the pasta and vegetables, using the pasta water as needed to help spread the cheese out. Toss in the basil.

Serve into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with additional basil and parmesan cheese!

 

Saucha and the Spring

In yoga, we practice principles called the Yamas and Niyamas. These principles are essentially positive codes to live by – I often refer to them as the 10 Commandments of Yoga. Back in November around Thanksgiving time, I discussed Santosha, which translates to contentment or gratitude, and is one of the Niyamas. For that post, please click here. Today, I am moving onto another of the Niyamas: Saucha.

From Sanskrit, Saucha translates to “cleanliness” or “purity”, and it applies to many different facets of our lives. Saucha is a concept, or in the definition of a Niyama – a positive duty – that I have come to value a great deal. When we talk about Saucha, we talk about cleanliness in our environments, in our bodies, and in our mental and spiritual spaces as well. The big idea is that when we regularly purify and keep clean these different areas of our lives, it allows us to live in our best health physically and emotionally, which then allow us to more freely pursue our spiritual journeys.

So what does it mean to practice Saucha in these various corners of our lives? Let’s break down.

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The practice of Saucha in environment means a few different things. The first is keeping clean our immediate living spaces; yes, this means cleaning your room, organizing your cubicle, clearing out the fridge every so often, and so forth. We need to have clean spaces to live and operate in, when we have our immediate environments clean and tidy, it allows us to operate more efficiently and healthfully which allows the mind to reflect that state of purity and order as well. Friends of mine have commented on how impeccable I keep my room and how I seem to be quite diligent about cleaning my apartment; this is because I really value having a nice, clean space for myself to live in and especially at home rest in.

Beyond our immediate living spaces, Saucha in relation to environment also means working to keep a clean community and ultimately world. Saucha would encourage us to adopt sustainable practices, to not litter, when we see litter to have a hand in helping to pick it up and dispose of it properly. For me, this means lending a helping hand every so often at a beach clean-up through my yoga studio, it also means being more diligent about recycling and actively working to reduce my plastic consumption, and at the very least, it means not littering myself. If we can all work to practice Saucha on a larger scale through small individualized means, it can equate to a cleaner and purer Earth for all, which is very important at this time.

nourish

The practice of Saucha in the body is much what you would think it be: taking care of your body, your temple. Saucha in the body means nourishing your body with whole foods, providing it with the necessary amount of sleep, moving it to keep its internal functions working well, sweating to cleanse from within. In many ways, this is the simplest part of the practice of Saucha; we all know that we should strive to take good care of ourselves, but it’s often an area we fall flat in. Once you practice taking good care of your body, however, it is amazing the difference you feel; and that eventually translates from a physical space to a mental and emotional one as well.

meditate

That is the perfect transition into the final practice of Saucha; Saucha in the mind space. This area of the practice is a bit more challenging, and one could argue it is a bit subjective as well. The way I look at the practice of Saucha when it comes to the mind is cleaning out and releasing old thought patterns and mentalities and generally negative thoughts that are not serving in the present. Sometimes, we mentally cling to old ideas or ways of thinking about or working out happenings in our lives; when they no longer serve us, it is time to let them go and embrace new types of thoughts that are positive and do serve us. Just as it is important to regularly clean your bathroom and detox your body, it is also equally important to tend to the mind and emotions in such a way as well, constantly cleaning out so that nothing potent grows and always making space for good and light to come in.

spring

As we transition into Spring, we enter into a season of cleaning, a season of Saucha. We resew and water the garden, we deep clean our homes, and we reorganize the disarrayed garage. This is a great time to reconnect with the idea of Saucha, recognize how good it feels to practice it, and then make a commitment to regularly practice Saucha more often throughout your daily life. Clean space, clean body, clean mind – feeling clean typically means feeling good and who doesn’t want to feel good all of the time?

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Book Review

You know Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert, because I know you have seen and/or read Eat Pray Love – that’s her book. And though you may only associate her as the woman who found herself through her time  eating in Italy, meditating in India and loving in Indonesia; what you may not be as aware of as I am is that Liz Gilbert is an earth-bound angel sent to help us capture inspiration and liberate our creativity in our daily lives. I’ve listened to her talks and interviews and read other works of hers and her words always touch me at my core; it’s the same story with her most recent memoir, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

In Big Magic, Gilbert touches on many different aspects of creativity and the undeniable human instinct that we have for it. For the book, Liz draws on experiences from her own life, stories from others, and the wise words of many different types of memorable people. It is, in short, a discussion of creativity, its importance to us and our world, and how we should go about treating it, cultivating it, and living it.

Now, I am not going to launch into some 10 page essay breaking down every facet of the book and dropping quotes left and write; you don’t need to read much more from me, you don’t need more words to process, you just need to go and read the damn book. The book manages all at once to be informative, educational, comical, thought-provoking and, well, inspiring. You’ll love it!

With that said, if you’d like to read on, I would like to share a few of my biggest, personal takeaways from my read of Big Magic.

idea

Inspiration and Ideas are often external forces – Gilbert theorizes that the inspiring thoughts and ideas that come to us do so in the literal sense of the phrase – they come to us from somewhere else, outside of ourselves. In a sense, she discusses the intriguing possibility that the ideas that spark us to create are their own beings of energy and light floating around, and they seek a vessel – a person – through whom they can be brought into the physical world. Ever had an idea that you thought, “Huh, that’s really cool!” but you never acted on it, and then a month, a year, or even a decade later you see that idea come into reality by someone else and you think, “Hey! That was my idea!” but you accept it as a mere coincidence? I know you have, we all have. Well, you probably did have that very idea. That idea probably chose you to try be born through, but you didn’t do anything with it. And so, it left you and moved onto someone who could and would bring the idea into reality.

I found this discussion in Big Magic to be incredibly intriguing. I had heard Gilbert discuss this topic before in this TED Talk, and at first I wasn’t sure what to make of it. After reflecting a bit, I’ve come to realize that I totally and completely agree with this concept of the external idea. Have you ever had a thought or idea that when you first thought it up you believed it to be the greatest idea ever, but then you didn’t write it down fast enough and no matter how hard you try you simply can’t remember what that idea exactly was? We’ve all had it happen; the poem or song you dreamed up but didn’t pen down and now you can’t remember how it went in your head, the storyline of the epic novel that would be riveting but you didn’t draw it out fast enough and now the storyline isn’t as strong, etc. I have had ideas – flashes of inspiration – but I didn’t eternalize them fast enough; and when I go to remember them, no matter how deeply I rack my brains, I simply can’t remember them at all! I have lost great ideas and tore myself apart in search of finding them again, but I can’t. Why? Because they are nowhere to be found within me; they have literally left my body and my conscious and moved onto a person that will act on them more quickly and birth them into the mortal world where they can touch others.

This is not to say that this theory discredits people who appear to always be brilliant in terms of creativity and may even be called geniuses. Rather, the theory supports the idea that some people are great vessels or instruments for catching the ideas that are floating around in the ether, working with them, and developing them into something truly amazing. We can be creative people, but we just have to be open to reaching out into the universe and catching the right ideas that we can then work with to create. As you can tell, this was a hugely important part of the book for me; I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

personal-freedom

Stop putting requirements and expectations on your creativity – In Big Magic, Liz implores us to not burden our creativity with fantastical expectations and goals. Translation: stop telling your creativity that it must make you X amount of dollars so that you can leave your day job, stop telling your creativity that it must make you famous and adored, stop telling your creativity that it must produce more than the art you are making it for. This type of energetic thinking does no one service; it limits your creativity, it creates stress and longing within yourself, ultimately leads to sacrifice on the part of the creativity, which eventually leads to frustration and disappointment. There is no point to this! Be kind to your inspiration and creativity and do it simply for the fact that you feel compelled to do so without any attachment to the end result!

This was a very important takeaway for me. Look at this blog, Johnny La Pasta, for instance. This blog is one of my creative endeavors; through it, I pursue my creativity namely in relation to cooking, yoga, and lifestyle all through the medium of writing. Lots of other people do this too, and many of them make money for it – like lots of money for it. And so, I have at times placed expectations on my work for this blog that it will earn me a larger income than what I currently make, allow me to work from home, afford me more funds and time to travel, etc. When I have placed these bar marks on my work for Johnny La Pasta, I have noticed that my writing becomes more difficult and I become more stressed – especially when I am not seeing the high expectations that I created met. Now sure, the goal of turning my blog into a fiscally viable line of work is a decent and respectable goal, but I now refuse to make it a requirement of my work here. I create the posts and stories that I do because I have a passion for writing and the topics that I am writing about. I cannot burden my writing and artistic impulses with grand schemes. Instead, I will continue to create what I do because I feel compelled to and because I want to!

So, create because you feel it is something that you need to do, and do it without attachment or expectation. Enjoy the process, enjoy the result, be not disappointed by any of it!

splatter

Humans are meant to create…SO CREATE! – History tells us that humans have a deep need and will to create. Ever since ancient people figured out how to make scrapes on cave walls, we have been creating. We have been creating even at times where it doesn’t even make sense to create. When there is famine, plague, and terror; logically you would think that all creative endeavors would stop because there is a greater need to focus on tasks that support survival, but still, people continue to write and draw and paint and sculpt and weave and more throughout all of it. Creativity is nearly as a basic a need for people as food, sleep and sex. As a collective species, we have an insatiable desire to create and so we do.

In Big Magic, Gilbert tells us to follow our creative impulses when they come. Creating is good for us on many levels; it’s like a vitamin for the mind and the soul. And anyone can take that vitamin.

For some reason, we have come to believe that to create you must be creative, creative in the Pinteresty sense of the word. We have come to believe that if you want to create you must be a genius or a prodigy in one medium, only then can you actively and often create. The truth is, however, that anyone can be creative at any time. We can all be creative in big and small ways on a day to day to basis. This does not mean that what you create has to publishable or producible or worthy of a nomination. You create whatever you want simply because you feel the need on any given day; no one has to see or know about it, you don’t have to judge and critique after the fact. All you have to do is enjoy the process of it!

Look at children. They take a piece of paper and some crayons and just go for it. They aren’t attached to the end result. They aren’t worried about winning an award for it. They just see pretty colors in the crayon box, inspiration strikes them, and they ride that wave and create. The tree they set out to draw might end up looking like deformed purple octopus; but who cares? They certainly don’t. They are creating for the hell of it, and that’s beautiful. Let’s be more like that.

Are you a plumber with a poem ringing through your head? Write that poem! It doesn’t matter that you are a plumber, if you’ve got the inspiration, act on it. Even if it turns out as ghastly as some of the jobs you encounter in your plumber duties, just get it out of you and enjoy it for what it is! Are you a mechanic with music radiating between your ears? Pick up and instrument and play and sing it loud! It could be great, it could be okay, it could sound like cats dying; it doesn’t matter! Are you a screenwriter with a silver screen idea in your mind’s eye? Write that damn screenplay without concern of whether or not a studio executive would buy it or even like it. Ski that slope of creative energy for as long as it goes.

Okay, I’ll stop now, you get the picture. The point is, Big Magic was a reminder for me that creating is fun and it is healthy and it is accessible at some level to all of us at all times; so we should do more of it.

And with that, I hope I inspire you to read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

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Adapt and Embrace Yoga Class

If you have read any of my previous yoga posts on this blog, then you will know that I am a firm believer that yoga is a great way to exercise not only the body, but also the mind and the spirit to strengthen and prepare for what goes on in life off of the mat. In yoga classes, or at least the ones I teach and take, we often theme the class – the sequence of postures, the music, the spoken words, and the energetic intention – to correspond with other aspects of life and the self.

Recently, I was meant to travel to Denver to visit with my good friends for the weekend. I was all packed and ready to go when just a few hours before my flight, I learned that an unusual snow storm had begun to blanket the Denver area and that because of it I would not be able to make the trip. Now, my first reaction was one of deep disappointment and even a bit of anger. I had been looking forward to the visit for months and now it was all off! Understandably, the circumstances darkened my mood.

I remembered, however, that life flows like water and you never know when the current is going to shift. Sometimes, you simply have to adapt, go with that flow, embrace it and see where it takes you while keeping an open mind. I decided to practice what I preach and shift my perspective about the Denver trip cancellation. Firstly, I was able to rearrange the trip for just two weeks later so it wasn’t like all my hopes for Denver and seeing my friends were ruined; they were merely delayed. Secondly, I decided to look at my now free weekend as a blessing; I could now go to lunch with my cousin whose schedule and mine hadn’t been lining up for a get together, I could now work on writing projects I hadn’t had as much time to dedicate to as I would like, and I could simply relax. Once I took this mindset – once I adapted, embraced and went with the flow that the universe was pushing at me – all was well; it ended up being a great weekend in its own way with lots to be grateful for.

I took the experience as inspiration for the below yoga class. In this class, I talked to my students about adapting to the present, accepting and embracing what is, and going with it with a light sense of peace for it all. On the mat, this can mean adapting to how your body is feeling during the yoga practice, accepting how the body is doing without judgement or resistance, and simply continuing forward through the class as best as you can and with a sense of peace with where you are at that day. No solid plans to come in and nail a handstand or get that cool new posture you’ve been working on; simply coming in with an open mind to the practice and going with what comes. I then encouraged my students to take this off the mat as well by exploring where that adaptability and ability to go with the flow could be applied in their everyday lives.

The sequence is meant to representative of all of this and provide challenges that you must adapt to as they come; strange and unexpected transitions like Tibetan rolls, Baby Birds of Paradise as a peak posture – a rare but equally challenging and fun variant of the classic Birds of Paradise Pose, and a literal change in the direction of the class as this class was a Mandala flow – where you begin facing the front of the room but eventually end up facing the back of the room. From the feedback I received, my students really enjoyed the class for the sequence and the theme.

Here is the sequence that you are more than welcome to try and/or borrow!

IntegrationSun ASun BCore and Strength Part 1Strength Part 2Cool Down

Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

As an avid supporter of Meatless Monday and the concept that we can eat less meat and also go about the cultivation of the meat that we do eat in a more sustainable way, I am constantly looking to try new and exciting vegetarian and vegan dishes. I love eating at vegan restaurants and seeing what they’ve come up with and I myself really enjoy making vegan and vegetarian dishes; in fact, some of my most popular recipes are vegan like Johnny’s Tomato Soup.  I do, however, often get stuck in a rut when it comes to cooking vegan for myself. I usually rely on another cook’s book or blog to tell me what to do. One day, however, I decided to be adventurous and experiment in the kitchen using ingredients that I love and crossed my fingers that a great vegan dish would be born from all of it. Lo and behold this chili happened!

What I love about this chili is that it is incredibly hearty in texture, flavor, and feel when in all reality; it is an extremely light and nutritious veggie packed dish. Chunks of Portobello mushrooms mimic chunks of beef that you might find in one chili. Finely chopped cauliflower emulates ground meat that you might find in another chili. Other veggies and spices give the stew a rich and warming flavor profile. The result is a chili that is thick and filling while also bringing the nutrition without any animal products.

I loved this chili so much; I made it two weeks in a row and knew that I had to share it with you! I hope you enjoy this new vegan friendly dish from yours truly. Buon Appetito!

Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, big diced
  • 3 cups cauliflower, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Heat the olive in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery, and bell pepper with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cook until tender, another 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and sage, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Coat the veggies in the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

 

Quick Health Tips

As we continue forward into the New Year, there is an extreme emphasis on health and fitness with many, many people resolving to pursue better health and fitness for themselves in 2016. Now, if you have read my latest post MODERATION-BALANCE-LIFESTYLE, you will know that I believe in finding a kind way to get one’s self into a greater state of wellness with a more healthful lifestyle that one can sustain over a long period of time. If you hadn’t read that post, please do.

I am, however, fully aware that many of you would like quick health tips to adopt into your life to obtain a better shape and hopefully build a healthier lifestyle overall. And so, I am happy to share some of those with you here. Many of these will be tips that you have heard before, but I repeat them here because in my experience, they work. I will keep them short and sweet so that they are easy to remember and refer to.

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Moderation – Balance – Lifestyle

Ciao friends and a very Happy New Year to you! And with it being the New Year, I know that there is a definite focus and even craze around New Year’s Resolutions; specifically health and fitness based resolutions. It seems to be the same story every year. On the one hand, it’s great; it’s wonderful that folks can look at the beginning of a New Year as a time of renewal and a time to make changes. On the other hand, however, I find that New Year’s resolutions, especially those around health and fitness, lead people to be unkind to themselves in the pursuit of their goals and more often than not end up abandoning the journey towards those goals a month or two into the year. I mean not to sound arrogant, but because I do appear to live my life, eat well, and remain in good shape, every year around Christmas and New Year’s my friends and family, my colleagues, my students, and even complete strangers ask me for advice about how to become fitter, healthier, and remain that way. So today, I am going to talk a little bit about how I have found success and offer you some tips into how you may as well!

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