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Holly Alexander

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This word means different things to different people. To some, it conjures negative emotions and thoughts; to others it provides a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. When associated with health and weight management, many people struggle to gain “control” of their health and eating habits. We often look to or blame outside influences and time parameters as road-blocks or excuses for not being able to maintain the choices we strive for. When we lose this control it can feel like a slippery slope with no other choice but to keep sliding down.

Control is a strong word and should make you feel strong when you have it. Being in control can be something as simple as choosing to pack your own lunch every day, or stocking your house and office with healthy snacking options. We tend to lose control in moments of weakness when hunger hits and you cave to the candy dish full of snack-size Snickers, or over-indulge on chips and queso or bread before your actual meal even arrives.  It’s this mindless, in-the-moment-eating that can often make us feel out of control.

The key to feeling in control and taking responsibility for your actions is to be kind to yourself. There are always going to be unexpected twists and turns in our daily lives, but giving yourself the tool of preparation and planning can help mitigate some of the chaos and put the ball back in your court. Be mindful in the moment and ask yourself if you feel in control of your actions. As the holidays approach, this is a great practice to put into place in order to feel good about your health and nutrition goals when faced with overwhelming temptation.

You can help yourself make better choices by bringing healthier options to the table, such as LWBF’s favorite Fall Harvest Salad, or for a sweet, healthier offering make these delicious Raw Chocolate Carrot Balls (you don’t have to tell anyone there’s veggies in their dessert!). So, take control of your body and health this holiday season by making mindful choices. Enjoy some of the treats of the holidays, but practice moderation and think about what your body needs as opposed to what your senses think you want.

Happy, Mindful Eating!

Holly

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, grain-free, paleo, vegetarian and vegan.

After a visit to the Farmer’s Market, I had a large bag of kale and some gigantic elephant garlic that I had planned on sautéing together in a little oil and apple cider vinegar (my usual go-to kale dish). However, with the addition of only a few raw ingredients, I ended up making a delicious and satisfying meal!

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: 2 servings
  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 5-7 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale, washed and trimmed from stems
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 15 oz. can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Heat a medium-sized sauté pan on low-medium setting.  Once heated, add the oil and garlic, cook for about 30 seconds.
  2. Destem kale, pulling leaves away from the stems. Discard stems. (This step is optional).
  3. Cut the kale into ribbons and add to the sautéing garlic and oil, then add the Apple Cider Vinegar.
  4. Cook the kale for approximately 4-5 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  5. Remove pan from heat and toss in remaining ingredients.

You can serve this dish warm, at room temperature, or chilled! We know that kale is a great source of vitamins and minerals, but recent studies have also shown that kale can help regulate detox at a genetic level. Also, by adding beans (protein), seeds and healthy fats, this dish becomes a complete and satisfying meal.

 

Eat Mindfully,

Holly

 

Inspired to create some diversity in my blended soups while on the CLEAN program, I came up with this simple and tasty recipe.  Using ingredients I had on-hand, I blended roasted butternut squash – known for its abundance of carotenoids – with some sweet and savory flavors to create a deliciously balanced soup.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: 4 servings
  • Prep time: 5-10 minutes
  • Cook time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (2-3lb.) Butternut squash
  • 3 Celery stalks
  • ½ Sweet, organic apple (such as Gala or Pink Lady)
  • 3 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock (use veggie stock for a vegetarian/vegan recipe)
  • 1-2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Then cut the squash in half, length-wise, and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Brush each cut-side of the squash with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then place the squash in a pan, cut-side up, and bake for 35-40 minutes or until fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the apple and cut it into bite-size chunks.
  4. Remove outer layer of celery strings by either peeling them or cutting down the length of the stalk. Then cut into 1-inch pieces.
  5. Once squash is cooked and slightly cooled, scoop the cooked flesh out of the skin and into a blender.
  6. Add stock, apple, celery, pepper and thyme and blend until smooth.

You can also garnish each bowl with slices of avocado, toasted pinenuts, or some fresh, chopped thyme leaves.  Serve warm or cooled and enjoy!

Happy Blending!

-Holly

 

 

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, grain-free, paleo, vegetarian and vegan.

I absolutely love roasted vegetables. Cauliflower provides a great source of Vitamin C, which boosts immune function, as well as Dietary Fiber, which helps in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The basic roasting technique in this recipe can be applied to any root vegetable and seasoning options are up to you, although salt, pepper and olive oil is simple and delicious.

I like tossing leftover roasted veggies with fresh spinach, leftover cooked grains (such as brown rice or quinoa), and a simple Dijon & lemon vinaigrette. By adding nuts, seeds or beans to the mix, you can get extra protein in as well.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: 4 servings
  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Heads of cauliflower
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Turmeric
  • 2 tsp. Cumin
  • 2 tsp. Chili powder
  • 1 tsp. Yellow mustard seed
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425° and place a rimmed cookie sheet in the oven while it’s preheating.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse cauliflower and cut into pieces (any size you like, just make sure they’re consistent in size).
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil and all spices.
  4. Toss cut cauliflower in the spice oil and use your hands to make sure the spice oil is distributed evenly.
  5. Remove heated baking sheet from oven and spread the cauliflower evenly on the sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes.

Serve as a side dish with Lentil Dal, or on its own with brown rice, chopped fresh spinach and chickpeas for a complete meal.

Happy Roasting!

-Holly

I love soups, stews and chilies. During cold-weather months, soup is my go-to meal. Not only is it a great comfort food, it can be a great way to get essential vitamins and nutrients to keep your body and immune system strong during the cold and flu season.

Additionally, soup is a great make-ahead meal that can be low in calories and fat, which helps you stay satisfied while working towards those 2013 personal health goals.

Here is my step-by-step guide to making great soups with some basic ingredients and options to utilize items you already have in your pantry and fridge.

Step One: Building the base

For a great tasting soup, I always start with a simple mirepoix, which is a fancy French cooking term for chopped onions, carrots and celery. Adding 3-5 chopped garlic cloves (depending on your taste for garlic), while the mirepoix is sautéing in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil will create a nice flavor base for your soup.

Step Two: Choosing a broth

Depending on your personal dietary choices, the broth type is up to your tastes. I recommend using a low-sodium, organic broth base or homemade stock. The amount also depends on how much soup you want to make. I typically use about 2 quarts of stock.

Step Three: Pick a healthy starch

Potatoes, pasta, and grains (cooked brown rice, farro, barley or quinoa) are great for a hearty soup. Potatoes, pasta and quinoa can be cooked in the soup, but any cooked starch you have on-hand is a good addition and reduces cooking time while utilizing leftovers.

Step Four: Add essential nutrients

Canned whole tomatoes (if you can, get them in a glass jar), with their juices, helps balance flavors while adding lycopene to your diet, which has been shown to be a cancer-fighting agent. Also, adding dark leafy greens like spinach, kale or collards provide essential vitamins such as A, C and K as well as folate and calcium. I just use my hands to lightly crush the tomatoes and after washing my greens, I give them a rough chop and add them to the simmering soup.

Step Five: Pack in protein

Finally, I like adding a simple protein such as white beans, cooked chicken or turkey. Almost any bean or cooked, lean meat is a tasty and hearty addition to your soup.

 

One of my favorite recipes is Rachel Ray’s Tuscan Kale & Farro Soup. I use only 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and add 1 cup of chopped celery and use 1 cup of chopped carrots to incorporate more vegetables.

Happy Cooking,

Holly

“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephen Grellet

I came across this quote while waiting to pick up take-out from my favorite neighborhood Mediterranean restaurant. The final line of the quote struck something so deep in my heart that I found myself tearing up then nudged my mom standing beside me and pointed to the framed quote. Once she finished reading she looked over at me and we both smiled and choked back unexpected tears.

Such a simple and beautiful statement about the choices we have in life. It reminded me that every day we are fortunate enough to live our lives and have the opportunity not only to impact ourselves and how we feel, but also those around us.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

Helping those around you make healthier lifestyle choices, such as going for walks with a friend who might not have the motivation to do it on their own, or bringing fresh vegetables or fruit into the office instead of the usual baked goods or sweets are simple ways to show kindness and love for those around you.

With the coming holidays, there will be several opportunities to show kindness to your fellow human beings. You can make a positive difference by contributing nutritional dishes and snacks and taking the time to be active with friends and family.

“Let me not defer nor neglect it (kindness) for I shall not pass this way again.”

 

Happy Holiday Choices,

Holly Alexander

Growing up I witnessed my mom struggle through numerous fad diets – Cabbage Soup Diet, No Carbs Diet, Fat-Free Foods Diet, etc. I also noticed that although she may have reached a goal weight utilizing these fad diet methods, but she could never maintain it.

90-95% of the people that go on a diet will add more weight than what they started with.” – Hungry For Change

However, no matter what fad diet my mom was trying, she and my dad continued to prepare healthy, balanced meals for the rest of the family that included vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy starches. For that, I can’t thank my parents enough. They helped me learn the importance of including a variety of foods and nutrients into my every day eating.

The struggle that my mom, and millions of men and woman across the country have encountered, is keeping the weight off while maintaining a normal lifestyle. The origins of the word diet comes from the Greek word díaita, which means, “way of living.” We have to re-train ourselves to make good food choices on a daily basis, which means buying and cooking whole, nutrient-rich foods as part of our lifestyle.

Another pitfall that my mom and many others face when it comes to eating well consistently is treating food as a reward. I grew-up thinking I could eat as much as I wanted as long as I stayed active and “worked it off.” To an extent, I believe this is true. Your body definitely needs sufficient fuel stores to perform strenuous physical activity, however, the kind of calories you are putting into your body is what matters most.

Healthy eating is a never-ending journey and should be viewed as a continuous education. The more you learn the better off you will be to make informed choices and do what’s best for your body. As I’ve stated before, I love food. I do not enjoy eating strictly as a means to fuel my body, but rather as an opportunity to indulge in nature’s most delicious offerings. Let fresh, whole foods be your reward and be sure to balance your díaita with activity and movement.

Happy Eating!

Holly

This recipe is dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

I had made a large batch of pearled barley the other day and after using some of it in a soup, I still had a lot left over and wasn’t quite sure what I could do with it. Since beets are in season right now – and are antioxidant superstars containing compounds that fight inflammation and help neutralize toxins making them easily flushed from the body – I was inspired to create a roasted veggie barley salad. Since I had already cooked the barley, this dish was quick and easy to put together for a weeknight meal.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cooked barley (room temperature)
  • 2-3 beets with stems and greens
  • 1 lb. baby brussels sprouts
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 lemons, halved crosswise
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 2 Tbsp. for sautéing
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425° and place a rimmed cookie sheet in the oven while it’s preheating.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the stems and trim the bottoms of the beets, then wrap each beet with foil.
  3. Trim the stem ends of the baby brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Place in a bowl and toss with 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt & pepper.
  4. Once oven is preheated, turn prepared sprouts out onto the hot cookie sheet along with foil-covered beets and halved lemons, cut side up.
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Beets may need longer depending on size – check for doneness by piercing largest beet with a knife, if it goes in and out with ease—they’re ready, if not—remove sprouts and set aside and continue cooking the beets until done.
  6. While beets, sprouts and lemons are cooking, rinse beet greens and cut the greens away from stems then slice into ribbons. Chop garlic and sauté for about a minute in 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the beet greens and sauté until wilted, about 5-7 minutes.
  7. When beets are cooked, let cool slightly and remove outer skin. Dice into bite-size pieces.
  8. Finally, in a large bowl, combine barley, diced beets, sautéed greens & garlic, roasted Brussels sprouts and toasted walnuts. Squeeze roasted lemons over the salad and add salt and pepper to taste.

This entrée salad is delicious served at room temperature and although it may seem slightly involved, if you can get an extra hand in the kitchen it can be ready in no time. I added the leftovers to fresh greens the next day with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon for a lunch-ready meal!

Happy Fall Eating!

Holly

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, grain-free and vegetarian.

When shopping at my favorite local farm in Austin, I picked up a few baby eggplants and asked one of the farmers for recommendations on the best way to cook these beautiful little gems. She suggested to not cook them at all, but to slice them raw into thin slices to best enjoy they’re sweet, light flavor. Wanting to balance the sweetness of the eggplant, I paired them with quick-pickled onions and arugula for a slightly sour and spicy contrast.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: 4 servings
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2-3 baby eggplants, thinly sliced
  • ½ red onion, pickled (see Quick-Pickling recipe below)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 10 oz. washed arugula
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Quick-Pickling Recipe

  • 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 allspice berries (or ¼ tsp. ground allspice)
  • 5 whole cloves (or ¼ tsp. ground cloves)
  • 1 small, dried chile pepper

Directions for Pickling

  1. In a small, non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings and chile until boiling.
  2. Add the onion slices and lower heat, then simmer gently for 30 seconds.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  4. Transfer onions and liquid into a far and refrigerate until ready to use.

seasonal summer salad eggplantDirections for Salad

  1. Rinse quinoa and cook according to directions. Let cool.
  2. Toss arugula, eggplant, pickled onion (along with 1 tsp. pickling liquid), quinoa and oil in a bowl.
  3. Add salt & pepper to taste.

I made this salad part of a satisfying meal by serving it alongside baked sweet potato fries. For an extra flavor and protein boost, add shavings of parmesan cheese before serving the salad. Using local, seasonal ingredients like eggplant and arugula are a great way to ensure your getting the most nutrition and flavor from your produce, not to mention the environmental advantages of buying local!

If you like this recipe, try our Grilled Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad.

Happy Eating!

Holly

I decided to change the way I eat about five months ago and incorporate a mostly plant-based diet. After watching the movie Forks Over Knives (as well as other influential books and movies), I was not only inspired, but also a little shocked to discover such a different point of view when it comes to the “healthy” food I thought I had been eating all these years (i.e. low-fat dairy and lean meats).

Once I realized that I didn’t have to have all of my protein and nutrients come from animal-based products, I began my search for plant-based recipes and foods. It was exciting and fun for the first few months. I felt challenged to create new dishes and staple meals that incorporated all of the nutrients and ingredients needed to be a healthy Vegan.

However, a few weeks ago I hit a food slump. I love food and using fresh, simple ingredients in my cooking, and I realized that I was no longer cooking for love, I was cooking for fuel.

Being 100% Vegan takes a lot of dedication and time, especially if you try to avoid things like soy.  Then there are the really hard-core Vegans that don’t even use honey or oil (with the exception of coconut oil)! Anyway, it was starting to frustrate and exhaust me. The ingredients lists were getting longer and longer just to create a variety of meals that were not only delicious, but that also included the nutritional value I needed.

Then I read Melissa’s bio again and her words really hit home, “…the more “whole” I try to live, the less stressed and more “free” I feel.”

Bingo – that’s it! I’m striving to make good, well-informed decisions every day, starting with what I put into my body to spending time with family and friends, and that is what really matters when all is said and done. For me, that means incorporating a mostly plant-based diet, but also enjoying some of the simple, non-Vegan foods and flavors that I love so much. If and when I do stray from plant-based foods, I make sure that I am still eating responsibly and ethically – a smattering of fresh, creamy goat cheese from my neighborhood farm spread over a piece of warm, crusty whole wheat artisanal bread topped with the sweet, complex flavors of sliced purple, green and red heirloom tomatoes.

Now that’s a compromise I can live whole and be free with.