July 31, 2012

Asian Cucumber and Tofu Salad

I like Asian food.
I like Mexican food.
I like Indian food.
I like American food.
I like Vietnamese food.
I like Thai food.


And I REALLY LOVE FOOD when it looks and tastes like this!

Filling, but not heavy.   
Flavorful, but not overpowering.  
Veggie-packed, but not rabbit food.  

This dish is all three of these things and MORE!

So what are we waiting for?  I have some Olympics on DVR to get to, and I know that you must be salivating for the recipe.  Here goes(!):

Asian Cucumber and Tofu Salad
Serves 2-4

1 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 carrots, shredded
1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1 bunch of kale, torn into bite-size pieces and rinsed
2T soy sauce
2T rice vinegar
1T oil
1/4 (heaping) tsp ground ginger
1T honey
pepper, for garnish
sesame seeds, for garnish

  • Combine the cucumber, carrots, and tofu in a large salad bowl.
  • In a small jar, shake together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, oil, ginger, and honey.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Once heated, add the kale.
  • Pour half of the dressing over the kale.
  • Cook until the kale turns bright green and begins to wither.
  • Once wilted, add the kale to the large salad bowl.
  • Pour the remaining half of the dressing over the vegetable mixture.
  • Toss to coat.
  • Season with pepper and a generous amount of sesame seeds.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of  2 hours.  The flavors of this salad with improve over time.
  • Serve chilled.

And if you don't like tofu - or, rather, aren't willing to give it a fair shot - then feel free to replace it with your favorite protein!  Personally, with the dishes Asian flare, I think that seared tuna would be a great fit; but if you aren't into seafood, then I am sure that either chicken or pork would taste just fine.

Question of the Day:

Do you like Asian flavors such as soy sauce, rice vinegar, and the like?!  

Ally and Bo

July 30, 2012

Reading vs. Listening: Is listening to an audio book REALLY reading?

Recently, I have started listening to quite a few audio books.  Since the studio that I co-direct is approximately a 30 minute drive away, I do a lot of driving.  Once I add in my regular errands, I can easily listen to a complete audio book every one or two weeks.  In fact, over the last couple of months I have "read" five Diana Gabaldon novels, including:

You might recognize Gabaldon's name because I did a book review of the first book in her series, Outlander.  You might also remember that Outlander is a 625+ page treatise novel, and was the shortest novel in Gabaldon's series!  Truth be told, the size of her novels is actually what led me to "reading" the subsequent installations in audio book form.  

And it has really worked for me!  

Honestly, without the audio books, I don't think that I would have had the time - not to mention the dedication - to read the five (now six) additional novels in the Outlander series.  As much as I would have liked to, the truth is that I just don't have that many hours in my day to dedicate to sitting on the couch reading.

So here's the conundrum: 

While the purist bookworm in me says that my recent infatuation with audio books makes me a cheat, a phony, a poser, a hypocrite, and an outright charlatan, the realist in me says that I am simply fitting my love of reading into the difficult reality of a busy life.

Even more to the point:

Can I really even call what I listen to in the car "reading"?

To help me answer that question, I did a little a lot of research, and here are a few things that I learned:
  • Research that predates CD's suggests that reading and listening are strikingly similar cognitive processes.  For example, a 1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension - suggesting that those who read books well would listen to them well, also. (Source
  • In a 1977 study, college students who listened to a short story were able to summarize it with equal accuracy as those who read it. (Source)
  • Language comprehension and production evolved in connection with HEARING probably 150,000 years ago, and to some extent is "hard-wired." (Source)
  • Writing is 5,000-7,000 years old - partially piggybacking on the same circuits as hearing.  So, it's possible that LISTENING to speech is more spontaneously comprehensible and linked to emotion brain center - hence more evocative and natural. (Source)
  • On the other hand, reading allows you to pause and reflect and go back to do a second take. (Source)

As for me, I agree with John Colapinto from The New Yorker because I, too, have "discovered that audio books are (among other things) an ideal way to get to know a work that [I couldn't], for whatever occult reason, bring [myself] to read in book form."

But, even with that said, the purist bookworm in me is still a little skeptical.

Still, more than 100 audio books later, I remain on the fence between reading and listening.  Audio books are good.  They're enjoyable.  They're wonderfully efficient.  But I wonder if the audio book experience is quite as full and as nuanced as reading.  Is the world I create as a listener as rich as the one I form as a reader?  Then again, there's [the audio book reader} and the intimacy of a performance even more personal than reading and more original than I would have conjured.  I cannot decide.

And if a professional reader and writer cannot decide, then why should I?!

Next up - an awesome recipe that I am SO excited to share with you all!  If you've been craving something with an Asian flare, you won't want to miss out on this one!

Question of the Day:

Have you ever listened to a book on tape?  If so, what was your experience?  Did you like it as well as reading a book in the traditional manner?  Did you like it better?  Did you feel like you were actually "reading"?

Tell me all about it in the "Comment" section below! :)

Ally and Bo

July 29, 2012

Banana Melon Smoothie

Everybody knows that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  I mean, honestly, the proof is in the pudding, right?!  I have more breakfast recipes on my blog (thus far) than any other type of recipe.  Granted, most of these recipes include oats; but what can I say?  I LOVE oatmeal.

But today's post has NOTHING to do with oatmeal.

Nope, there isn't an oat in sight.  

You see, yesterday morning I was craving something different for breakfast.  By 7:30AM it was already H.O.T. outside (over 95 degrees, with the heat index!).  Needless to say, I wasn't in the mood for my regular hot tea or hot chai.  Instead, I had an overwhelming craving for a smoothie.

But not just any smoothie...

...I wanted to incorporate the sweet, juicy, freshness of melon!

Sweet and bursting with flavor, this smoothie is the perfect way to start a summer morning off with a BANG!  The frozen banana makes it creamy, the flax gives it staying power (along with fiber, antioxidants, and healthy omega-3's), and the melon simply makes it delicious.  Feel free to use cantaloupe, honeydew, or any type of specialty melon.

Banana Melon Smoothie
Serves 2

1 large banana, broken into pieces and frozen
1 heaping C of melon (I used cantaloupe)
2T ground flax
1/4C orange juice
1/4C Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

  • Add the banana, melon, flax, orange juice, and almond milk to your blender.
  • Blend on the lowest speed first, and then gradually increase the speed.
  • Continue blending for 1-2 minutes until thoroughly smooth.
  • Serve chilled, as a snack, or alongside your breakfast of choice!

I decided to add flax meal to the smoothie for a number of reasons, but primary because flax contains significant amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.  It is also high in B vitamins, which is important for someone like me who doesn't receive those vitamins from animal protein.  If you want to learn more about the benefits of adding a tablespoon of flax to your morning smoothie, oatmeal, etc., just read here.

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite summer drink?  Is it iced coffee? A milkshake?  A smoothie?  Iced tea?  Orange juice?   Tell me all about it in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

July 27, 2012

Chocolate-Covered Katie's Cookie Dough Dip

Sorry to be a little MIA this week.  The studio that I run - Yoga Life - is right near the tail-end of a total website overall.  As such, I have been very busy collaborating with the web designer, creating web content, and learning the strange computer programming based language of HTML.

Needless to say, my brain has been a little bit drained fried the past few days!

Thankfully, Bo and I are heading over to a friend's house tonight for an "Olympic Opening Ceremony" party.  The hosts will be grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, while the guests have all been asked to bring a dip.

Now, being the New Mexican resident that I am (Yes, even though we move all the time we are still NM residents!), when you say "dip" the first few things that pop into my mind are guacamole, bean dip, and salsa.  Unfortunately, both guacamole and bean dip had already been claimed by other party-goers.  And since I figured salsa might be a little overkill, I decided to check out a few of my other favorite bloggers to see what ideas that might have.

Enter: Chocolate-Covered Katie to the rescue!

After reviewing several of Katie's recipes, I quickly decided upon her "Healthy Cookie Dough Dip."  Truth be told, I figured that any recipe that has over 1,000 comments must be delicious...not to mention, reader (and eater) approved!

It took be less than 5 minutes to whip this dip together, and I would be lying if I said I haven't been dipping my greedy little fingers in it all afternoon long.  I am going to pick up some graham crackers to go along with it.  I think the crunch of the crackers and the creaminess of the dip will work great together!

Now, I'm off to teach an "All Levels Flow" class at Yoga Life, and then over to the friends' house to kick off the summer Olympics!

Next time - a smoothie recipe that is refreshing and cool for those hot and humid summer days!

Question(S) of the Day:

Are you going to watch the opening ceremony to the Olympics?!
What is your favorite dip recipe?

Ally and Bo

July 25, 2012

Tahini, Molasses, and Honey Snack Bread

L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore

Love is all that I can give to you
Love is more than just a game for two
Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don't break it
Love was made for me and you 

OK, so I'm kind of in love with this Middle Eastern snack.  In fact, I might have eaten it at least once a day for the last four days straight...

...and force fed it to my husband (he ended up really liking it)...

...and am already planning the next time I can eat it...


...you're right...

...I might have a problem.

But just look at that delicious, drippy goodness.  Honestly, how could you say no?!  So, what exactly IS this snack I keep showing you salivating pictures of?!  

This traditional Turkish dish of tahini and molasses is great to eat on cold winter days.  It gives energy and is very filling.  My mother used to say to me, "if you have it every morning you will never feel the cold."  Tahini does not have any cholesterol, contains B vitamins, and significant amounts of protein.  Molasses is a good source of energy and carbohydrates because of its high sugar content.  It is ideal for daily doses of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.  Plus, it contains lots of minerals. (Source)

Tahini, Molasses, and Honey Snack Bread
Serves 1

1/2 English Muffin (or bread of choice)
1/2T tahini
1/2tsp blackstrap molasses
1/2tsp honey

  • Toast the English Muffin to your liking.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together the molasses and honey with a fork.
  • Once the bread is toasted, add a thin layer of tahini to the bread.
  • Drizzle the molasses/honey mixture over the tahini.
  • Eat immediately while the bread is still warm and the toppings are ooey, gooey, and delicious!

While doing my search for nutritional information on tahini and molasses I ran across this recipe for Molasses with Tahini Soft-Serve.  Seriously, now I can eat this combination in ice cream form?!  Tonight's dessert can't come fast enough!

Question of the Day:

What are some of your favorite, quick, and healthy snacks?!

Ally and Bo

July 23, 2012

Vegetable Stuffed Bell Peppers

Yesterday's dinner was so delicious that I can't wait to share it with you!  Like, seriously, I can't wait to share it with you...so I don't even want to waste time by typing too much of an introduction.

Instead, I'll just let this photo speak for itself!

From my experience, it seems like bell peppers are usually stuffed with some combination of rice, meat, and/or beans.  Rarely have I seen a recipe that stuffs them with the bounty of summer produce.  Well, wait no longer, because that recipe is here!  I decided to stuff my big, beautiful, bell peppers with summer's best: kale, carrots; and of course, a little cheese.  The result was spectacularly light, flavorful, and a perfect way to round out your dinner plate!

Vegetable Stuffed Bell Peppers
Serves 2

1 green bell pepper, cut in half with core and seeds removed
1 large stem of kale, torn into bite-size pieces
1 medium carrot, shredded
2 garlic cloves, minced
2oz. shredded mozzarella (or Daiya cheese), divided in half
1T nutritional yeast
1/2T lemonjuice
large pinch of salt
small pinch of pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Mix the kale, carrot, garlic, half of the mozzarella, yeast, lemonjuice, salt, and pepper together in a small mixing bowl.
  • Spoon the vegetable mixture into the bell pepper halves, and pack tightly.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and place the remaining 1oz. of mozzarella on top of the bell peppers (1/2oz. over each pepper).
  • Broil on high for 5 minutes.
  • Cool for 3-5 minutes.
  • For a balanced dinner, serve alongside your protein and carbohydrate of choice.

As you can see in all of these pictures, I served our stuffed beauties alongside "Rosemary and Thyme Roasted New Potatoes" and ground turkey (for Bo, of course...I had tofu!).  To make the potatoes, simply:
  • quarter 8-10 small new potatoes;
  • toss them in 1-2T EVOO, 1tsp dried rosemary, and 1/2 tsp thyme;
  • roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes; and
  • WA-LA(!) you're done!

Truth be told, I hesitate to even call that a recipe because it is SO. simple.  Call it what you will; but give it a try.  Those new potatoes were exceptionally good...especially alongside the veggie-rific stuffed bell peppers!

I'm loving the natural light that was flooding in through our breakfast nook window!  Even without my cameras flash, I feel like I was able to capture the texture and color of the peppers.  It takes some planning to cook - and photograph - my recipes while the sun is still high in the sky (believe it or not, I cooked this dinner at 2:00 in the afternoon just so that I could get some good pictures), but I think it is worth it!

Next up - I just discovered a traditional Middle Eastern snack that I have been loving for breakfast (and snacks!) lately.  It's simple, easy, delicious, and uses ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.  Need to liven up your snack routine?  Well check back tomorrow for this unique new menu item!

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite "stuffed" food?!  It can be anything from cannoli to manicotti to an omelet; but whatever it is, tell me all about it in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

July 22, 2012

Pratipaksha Bhavanam and Affirmations

Do you always think positive thoughts?

Do you always tell yourself that you are loved and accepted?

Do you think that you are beautiful?

If you answered "YES" to one, or more, of the questions above then you are better (or perhaps simply more evolved) than me.  

And you know what?! 

I'm OK with that because I know that I am on my own journey to self-love and self-acceptance; and I accept where I am today.

Besides, I have a couple of tools that continue to help me down the path towards a more healthy and happy mind.  Again, if you answered "YES" to one, or more, of the questions above, you might not need to read this post.  Therefore, you have my permission to leave. 


If you struggle to keep positive thoughts in your mind, if you are striving to have more self-love and self-acceptance in your life, if you have a hard time accepting that you are beautiful, then perhaps - just maybe - (I hope) you might find this post enlightening.

Tool #1: Pratipaksha Bhavanam

According to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (2:33, to be exact)

When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of.  This is Pratipaksha Bhavanam.


As YogaLia over at Yoga Community explained, "this, essentially, is yoga's version of The Secret. If you're thinking negative thoughts...stop doing that.  And choose some positive ones, instead."  In fact, the whole pratipaksha bhavanam thing is pretty simple: if you change your thoughts, then - without even trying - you will change your mood, and once we change our moods, then our whole outlook on life changes too!  Suddenly the same people, the same situations, the same things that drove us absolutely bonkers before is OK - perhaps even beautiful, charming, and nice.
By cultivating an opposite or positive thought when we are in the throes of emotional turbulence, we pave the way for self-healing.  Patanjali is simply asking us to replace anger with compassion, violent thoughts with peaceful ones, hate with love, and even to replace our general feelings of tension and stress with a sense of relaxation and contentment. (Source)
This is, of course, incredibly easier said than done.  In reality, the practice of pratipaksha bhavanam might require me/you/us to remove ourselves from unhealthy and harmful situations, giving me/you/us the time and space to feel safe, comfortable, and calm.  It is only then that we can put the situation into perspective, and begin to cultivate a more healthy and positive thoughtful approach. (Source)

So, yes, what I am saying is that there really is something to that ol' parable about "the power of positive thinking."  When it comes to the thoughts in our mind, we always have two choices; why not choose the positive?!

Tool #2: Affirmations

Sometimes, when I can't depend on myself to come up with a positive and uplifting thought on my own, I call upon an affirmation.  Although this affirmation could simply be a popular uplifting quote or saying (i.e. Be the change you wish to see in the world - Mahatma Ghandi, etc.), I am particularly drawn to songs and chants.

Don't let me fool you - I DO NOT have a good voice.  

Regardless, that doesn't stop me from singing songs/chants like this one:

I am the light of my soul.
I am beautiful.
I am bountiful.
I am bliss.
I am.
I am.

On days when ED is really trying hard to breakdown my walls, I find the "light of my soul" song to be really empowering.  If I can remember - for long enough - that I am beautiful, I am bliss, and I have a light in my soul that deserves to be protected and shared, then I can outrun the darkness of ED.

Another one of my ALL. TIME. FAVORITE. chants is Om Namah Shivayah (rough translation: "I bow to God" or "I honor the God within").  According to "The Ancient Power of Sanskrit Mantra and Ceremony: Volume I" by Thomas Ashley-Farrand:
[Although] this mantra has no direct translation, the sounds relate directly to the principles which govern each of the first five chakras on the spine...Earth, water, fire, air, ether.

Here's a version by Krishna Das that I love!  Something about his voice reminds me of Johnny Cash...I just love its earthy quality.

Next time - I promise that we will return to a recipe post.  I know it has been a while.  I have been busy in the kitchen, but other posts have simply risen to the top!

Question of the Day:

Do you use affirmations in your life?  If so, which ones, and what do they mean to you?!  I am always looking for new affirmations to work into my own repertoire. :)

Ally and Bo

July 19, 2012

Book Review: Chasing Redbird

For the past few days I have been reading "a harrowing, thrilling, feminist historical novel" by Alice Hoffman entitled The Dovekeepers.  Hoffman's book is so passionately magical that I am trying to read it slowly, savoring every page, and enjoying her narrative voice (THANK YOU to the dear friend that sent me the book!).  Without a doubt, there will be a review of The Dovekeepers on the ABC blog.  However, you will have to wait until I finish the book first!

In the meantime, I recently paused - for less than 24 hours, mind you - to read Chasing Redbird.  Written by Newberry Medal-winning author Sharon Creech, Chasing Redbird is commonly found on middle and high school English curricula.  I'm not sure how, but Creech's book never made its way onto any of my teachers' lesson plans; and as a result, I never got around to reading it.

It was only recently, when I was reading a friend of an acquaintance's blog, that the book was mentioned as a "life-long favorite" and "must-read."  In fact, this particular blogger said that she re-reads Chasing Redbird at least once a year!

"Heck," I thought, "if a book is good enough to read once a year, I must be missing out.
I have to read this book...NOW!"

So, what did I do?  

I immediately set down The Dovekeepers (besides, it would make it last longer if I took a little break from it), and drove off to the library.  Thankfully, Chasing Redbird was available.

Less than 24 hours later I had read Creech's 261-page book from cover to cover.

While I can't say that Chasing Redbird is a "life-long favorite" or a book that I will read "at least once a year," I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Although a quick read (honestly, what would you expect from a book geared towards 12-17 year olds?), it was definitely a fun and enjoyable read.  Moreover, I think that Chasing Redbird contains wonderful life-long lessons about grief, loss, and finding one's place in the world.



Zinny Taylor: Explorer

It started out as an ordinary summer.  But the minute thirteen year-old Zinny discovered the old, overgrown trail that ran through the woods behind her family's house, she realized that things were about to change.

Right from the start, Zinny knew that uncovering the trail would be more than just a summer project.  It was her chance to finally make people notice her, and to have a place she could call her very own.  But more than that, Zinny knew that the trail somehow held the key to all kinds of questions.  And that the only way to understand her family, her Aunt Jessie's death, and herself, was to find out where it went.

From Newberry Medal-winning author Sharon Creech comes an intricately woven tale of a young girl who sets out in search of her place in the world - and discovers i tin her own backyard.


While researching for this post, I ran across the author's website.  In it, Creech offers insight into her writing experience:
As I was writing [Chasing Redbird], I was vaguely aware that the trail was working on many levels.  Not only was it a real, literal train in the woods, but it also seemed to mirror the trails we all follow in our lives (Which way should we go?  What should we do?) and also to mirror the writing process (Which way will this story turn? Why can't I see where it's going?). (Source)


After reading Chasing Redbird I realized something...while there are some books that call out to be read, dissected, and then reviewed, there are others that are meant to simply be enjoyed.  Maybe that is why I am finding it a bit difficult to review Creech's book.

I just want to enjoy it.

In the end, I came to appreciate that although Creech took on the difficult topics of death, grief, identity seeking, and finding one's role in a large (and complicated) family, she did so in a way that was - ultimately - accessible to young readers.  Although I, myself, am not a young reader; I did gain something from its reading, and would certainly recommend this book to my own future children.  

Zinny teaches us that, sometimes, the best medicine is to explore the unknown.  

That "unknown" might materialize in the form of an undiscovered trail, like it did for Zinny; or it might take the form of unknown emotions, fears, and/or dreams.  Whatever the "unknown" is, Zinny empowers her readers to take a chance, take a leap, and explore it! 

Favorite Quotes:

"Life is a bowl of spaghetti...every now and then you get a meatball.  Sometimes it's a good meatball, and sometimes it's a bad meatball." (Source)

"Sometimes it seems too crowded on our side, and you don't know who you are.  You feel like everybody's spaghetti is all tangled in one pot...I discovered an old trial, overgrown with grass and weeds.  I knew instantly that it was mine and mine alone.  What I didn't know was how long or how hard it would be to uncover the whole thing, or that it would turn into such an obsession...the trail was just like the spaghetti of me and my family...it took a heap of doing to untangle it." (Source)

Question of the Day:

Was there ever a book that you feel like you totally forgot to read as a child, that you went back and read as an adult?  Did you like the book...or did you just think it was childish and overrated?

Whatever your story is, tell me all about your experience in the "Comment" section below.  

Ally and Bo

July 17, 2012

A Few of My Favorite (Summer) Things: Part II

As I suspected in this post, as the summer has progressed I have thought of more "favorite things" to share with you here on the ABC blog.  Just remember:

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

(1) Abundant fresh produce!

So far this summer I have used fresh produce to make:

Check out my Recipage to see all of my produce-incorporated creations!

Apples and peaches and bananas...OH MY!

Potatoes and honeydew and squash...OH MY!

(2) Watching Lola grow

By this time next year, Lola will be fully grown...which, if I'm completely honest with myself, makes me sort of sad.  :(

For now (at least), she is still growing; and it is exactly for that reason that I have added her to my list of summer favorites.  At just a couple of days over six months old, she weighs in at 49.7 pounds(!), and is more energetic and fun than ever.  Now that she is fully poddy-trained, crate-trained, and house-broken, Bo and I feel like we can really enjoy her.  She has such a loving and silly personality, and she makes us laugh out loud several times a day.

We hit the jackpot with Lola...she is truly one of a kind.

(3) Holidays, Parties, and Friends!

As you might remember, we had a HUGE party at our house on July 4th!  But it's not only on July 4th that we get together to cookout, relax, and have some fun in the sun!  NO - our group of friends gets together at least twice a month to eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy the summer months!

Needless to say, we are very blessed in the friends department!

(4) Summer Blockbusters

I have one word, and one word only, for you on this topic: BATMAN.


Need I say more?!  

I didn't think so...
Sidenote: Bo and I recently saw Moonrise Kingdom and LOVED it!  If you appreciate well-acted - albeit slightly quirky - films, then don't miss out on this one!
(5) The Sights and Sounds of Childhood

Here in Orange Park, FL, we live one block away from a middle school, in a very family-oriented and child-friendly neighborhood.  As a result, while school is out during the summer, children are constantly riding their bikes in the streets, playing basketball in their driveways, and walking to and from the local stores.

I don't know about you, but seeing children laughing and playing together during summer break reminds me of all the laughter and fun that I enjoyed in my own childhood.  As an adult, I may still be working my normal hours throughout June, July, and August, but something about the smile on my 10 year-old neighbors face as she rides her bike with "no hands" brings a little a LOT of joy into my day!

Question of the Day:

What are some MORE of YOUR favorite things about summer?!

Ally and Bo

July 16, 2012

Things That Make Me Feel Pretty

My body has seen a lot of changes in its 28 (almost 29 - EEK!) years.  Whether as a result of puberty, a thyroid imbalance, ED, etc. (honestly, this list could go on and on), my body has had seen more than its fair share of ups and downs.  Needless to say:

I don't always wake up feeling gorgeous.  

My clothes don't always fit the way I want them to.

I don't always appreciate the way my body looks naked.




BUT, today's post isn't about feeling unattractive, frustrated, or unappreciative.  


Today's post is about things that make me feel pretty...

(taking my cue from Natalie Wood in Westside Story)

...like a perfectly-fitting bra.


For the first decade or so that I wore a bra I wore the wrong size.  Heck, even when I worked at Victoria's Secret as a "Bra Specialist" for two and a half years I wore the wrong size.  Truth be told, up until a couple of years ago, I thought that bras came in about four size categories:
  1. 34B (because honestly, doesn't practically every woman think she wears a 34B?);
  2. wireless/training bras;
  3. padded/fake bras; and
  4. bras that are so large I could fit my entire head in a single cup!
It was only about a year ago that I was properly sized (Thank you Neiman Marcus!) as a 32D.  Needless to say, I was shocked!  First of all, at the time, I didn't event know that they made such a size; and second of all, I certainly didn't think that I would fit into a "32" anything!  But whaddya know, the Neiman Marcus bra lady really knew what she was talking about; and since then, I haven't looked back.

I only own two bras in my size (heck, those babies are expensive!), but every time I put one of them on I feel special, sexy - and yes, if I'm honest - just a little bit pretty.

Isn't that the truth?!

Another thing that makes me feel pretty is a little white dress (LWD).  

I know, I know, everyone is always raving over the importance of the LBD (little black dress); but, truth be told, black just isn't my thing.  Without a doubt, I would prefer to wear white over black any day of the week!

I found this pretty thing at my local Plato's Closet for just $6.00!

Let's see:
  • Broad enough straps to wear a perfectly-fitted bra: CHECK!
  • Feminine details: CHECK!
  • Defined (but comfortable) waist: CHECK!
  • Classy and cute length: CHECK!
  • Can be dressed up or down: CHECK!

What more could a girl ask for in a dress?!

And just in case my LWD is dirty, I still feel pretty in almost any cute and comfortable sundress (No black please!)!

Question of the Day:

So, tell me(!), what makes YOU feel pretty?!

Ally and Bo

July 15, 2012

Dill Potato and Pea Salad

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, Bo and I spent our Saturday afternoon (and early evening) at an a pool party!  The host asked me to bring something that I could eat, since hamburgers, hot dogs, and their respective fixings were to be the main course.  Consequently, I decided to bring something filling (so that I wouldn't be stuck eating watermelon and chips the whole afternoon), but also crowd-pleasing.

Enter: potato salad.

Before I go on, I feel like I need to acknowledge that - YES - I am aware that I have already posted two potato salad recipes on this blog; and - NO - I am not addicted to this summer picnic favorite (OK, maybe just a little bit, but it's nothing to worry about!).  It just so happens that:

  • potatoes are delicious;
  • almost everybody loves them; and
  • there are practically endless ways to dress it up in a salad! 
If you're like me, and you love the taste of dill, then this is the potato salad for you!  Baby new potatoes really make this salad something special; but if you don't have them on hand, Russet or Idaho would work in a pinch.  The peas give it a sweet crunch, and the dill brightens everything up!  Kid-tested and mother-approved Meat-eater tested and vegan approved, this salad will leave everyone satisfied!

Dill Potato and Pea Salad
Serves 6-8

8 medium (red) New Potatoes, cubed, boiled, and drained
can of green peas, drained and rinsed (or frozen)
4 scallions, diced
1/4C veganaise (or mayonnaise)
1/2T apple cider vinegar
1/2T lemonjuice
1T water
1 tsp dried dill weed
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

  • While the cubed potatoes are boiling, place the peas and scallions into a large salad bowl.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together the veganaise, apple cider vinegar, lemonjuice, water, dried dill week, salt, and pepper until it reaches a smooth consistency.
  • Once the potatoes are fork-tender, drain them.
  • Toss the potatoes into the salad bowl with the peas and scallions.
  • Pour over the dressing,
  • Toss to coat.
  • Refrigerate until cool.
  • Serve alongside your favorite summer "fixins"!

If you still haven't had enough potato salad, feel free to check out my other two recipes:
  1. Green Chile Potato Salad; and
  2. Honey Dijon Potato Salad.
Next time - musings on "things that make me - and YOU - feel pretty"!

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite variation of potato salad?  Feel free to share it with me in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

July 13, 2012

The Secret to Restaurant-Quality Homemade Hummus that NO ONE Tells You

Picture this:

Bo and I are sitting in a Mediterranean restaurant - starving - when the waitress walks over and delivers our appetizer: hummus with pita bread.  We both grab a triangle of pita, dip deeply into the traditional bean dip, and then utter a sigh of intense satisfaction at the perfect creaminess and rich flavor.  Now this is hummus!

And then, inevitably, I get pissed off.

Because I seriously love hummus, and it sincerely irritates me that, for some completely unknown reason, I cannot seem to recreate this seemingly simple dip at home.  I mean, honestly, how hard should it be to blend a few ingredients together in my food processor?!  I use the same ingredients that every recipe tells me to.  I use the same proportions that every restaurant chef has instructed me to; and yet it is never. the. same.!

(Insert exasperation here!)

Well today, I offer hope to all of the exasperated-homemade-hummus-makers of the world; and that hope comes in the humble form of a single phrase: 


I have no idea why no recipe mentions this small little fact (actually, I think that it is a conspiracy, contrived by the Mediterranean restaurants of the world, against all at-home cooks that wish to recreate this traditional dish in the comfort of their own kitchen), but it will seriously turn your hummus-making-world upside down!  By simply cooking the beans the texture is smoother and the flavor is more robust (and, yet, simultaneously more delicate).  

Seriously, this one. little. change. will instantly turn your so-so hummus into restaurant quality!

Traditional Hummus
Serves 8-10

1 can garbanzo beans: drained, rinsed, and cooked (see below for more detail)
scant 1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
6T lemonjuice
1/3C tahini
2-4T leftover cooking liquid (or water)
EVOO, for garnish

  • Place the drained and rinsed garbanzo beans into a medium saucepan.
  • Barely cover with water, bring to a low boil, and then reduce to simmer for 45-55 minutes.
    • Note: You should be fine, but make sure that all of the water doesn't evaporate out of the pan, leaving the beans to burn.  There should always be a shallow level of water in the pan.
  • Once the beans have cooked and softened, immediately place them into the food processor with the salt, paprika, lemonjuice, and tahini.
  • Process the mixture on low.
  • As the mixture is processing, add in 2-4T of the leftover cooking liquid (or water).
  • Increase the processing speed to medium - or high - for one minute.
  • Transfer the hummus to a medium Tupperware container.
  • Serve chilled and garnished with EVOO alongside crudites, crackers, etc.

As a bit of a side-note, I prefer to garnish the hummus with EVOO right before I serve my hummus.  I have found that, if I add the EVOO beforehand, it hardens in the refrigerator and doesn't taste as good (not to mention the texture, which is similar to solidified bacon grease...not exactly appetizing).  You certainly don't have to do this, but I thought I would pass along the suggestion just in case!

As a side-note: the next time you make my "Cheesy" Hummus, Salsa Hummus, Roasted Red Pepper and Cilantro Hummus, or Avocado Hummus make sure to COOK THE BEANS!

Tomorrow we're off to a pool party!  Hopefully I will remember my camera and have a fun weekend post to share with you next time.

Question of the Day:

Do you have any "secret tricks" in the kitchen?!  If so, I would love for you to share one (or two) in the "Comments" below!

Ally and Bo

July 12, 2012

Vanilla Coconut Overnight Oats with Homemade Peach Compote

Breakfast is - without a doubt - my favorite meal of the day.  

Truth be told, I am one of those people that wakes up seriously hungry (no joke, my tummy is growling the moment I roll out of bed)! Maybe that's why I love overnight oats so much.  As if you couldn't already tell from my Recipage, I make a practically endless variety of this breakfast favorite, including (but certainly not limited to):

Counting today's post, the ABC blog will include a complete dozen oatmeal recipes!  Needless to say, if you like a filling/flavorful/fun breakfast, this is the blog for you!

Today's overnight oats recipe is slightly different - and a bit more summery- than my other oatmeal recipes, because it includes Homemade Peach Compote.  If you aren't a fan of peaches, you could easily switch things up by using blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, pears, etc. instead.  I don't know about you, but I have always loved recipes that can be "cook's choice"!

So, what are we waiting for?!

Oh, right...you need the recipe first, huh?!

Vanilla Coconut Overnight Oats
Serves 1

1/2 C oats
pinch salt
2-3 packets of stevia (or 2-3 tsp sugar)
1/2 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or milk of your choice)
1 1/4 C water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp coconut extract

  • Place the oats, salt, and stevia in a small saucepan.
  • Mix together.
  • Add the milk, water, vanilla, and coconut extracts.
  • Bring to a low boil; and then immediately reduce the heat to low.
  • Simmer for five minutes.
  • Pour into a Tupperware container, and refrigerate overnight.
  • Loosen with a small amount of milk in the morning.
  • Serve warm, or cold, depending upon preference (I'm weird and like mine cold...especially during the summer!).

Homemade Peach Compote
Serves 2-3

1 large peach, finely diced
1 packet of stevia
4T water
1T maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4T cornstarch

  • Place the diced peach, stevia, water, maple syrup, and vanilla into a small saucepan.
  • Bring to a medium boil, and then immediately reduce the heat to low.
  • Using a potato masher - or large fork - to mash the peaches until a gel-like consistency forms.
  • Stir in the cornstarch and whisk vigorously to remove all lumps.
  • Continue simmering for five minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.
  • Pour into a small jelly jar and refrigerate to cool.
  • Serve as you would any fruit compote or jam (i.e. on toast, mixed into oatmeal, etc.).

In the morning, after loosening up the oats with a small amount of almond milk, I added a couple of dollops of soy yogurt, and 2-3 T of the Homemade Peach Compote right onto the top of my oats.  After a few bites, I ended up mixing the yogurt and compote into the oats; and I'm not exaggerating when I say that this was the best. bowl. of. oats. I have EVER had the pleasure of eating!


Next up - The secret to restaurant-quality hummus that NO ONE tells you!  If you love hummus, come back tomorrow for the big reveal!

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite flavor of jam/jelly/compote/fruit spread?  Mine would either be peach of blueberry!

Ally and Bo

July 10, 2012

Summer Vegetable Soup

ANNOUNCEMENT: Today I am a "Guest Blogger" over at Nutrition in a peanut shell!  Katie writes an awesome blog, and while she is on vacation she invited me to keep her readers company.  I am super duper honored to be filling Katie's shoes for the day.  So go ahead, click on over and see what I had to share?!
As much as I love to roast vegetables, sometimes I like a little "change of pace."  Even though the Florida temperatures have been scorching for the past few days weeks months,  last night I was actually craving - of all things - soup.

So, I decided to do a little bit of research on some of my favorite blogs and ended up settling on Ashley's recipe for "Very Veggie Soup."  Quite the creative maven in the kitchen, Ashley also comes up with budget-friendly recipes that use ingredients that almost everyone has lying around in their kitchen (i.e. no fancy coconut flours, rice syrups, and xantham gums there!).  With that said, I did make a few alterations to Ashley's recipe.

  • instead of 75oz. of broth, I used 6 cups (we prefer a chunkier soups);
  • in place of the broccoli and mushrooms I used cauliflower and zucchini (those were the vegetables I had on hand);
  • I reduced the oil to 1T;
  • I added several herbs including parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper (In my opinion, the more herbs the merrier!);
  • I added 1/2 package of whole wheat fettuccine noodles; and
  • I didn't add any additional protein (I didn't have anything on hand that would have worked very well).

It might seem a bit strange to you, but Bo and I enjoyed eating this soup chilled, with a large salad on the side.  Filled with vegetables, noodles, and herb-enriched flavor, this soup is summer in a bowl!  For extra protein, feel free to add diced chicken, sausage, quinoa, or garbanzo beans.

Summer Vegetable Soup
Serves 4

6 C vegetable broth
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 package whole wheat fettuccine
1/4C low-sodium soy sauce
1T honey
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

  • Bring the broth to a low boil.
  • Add the carrots, celery, onion, cauliflower, and zucchini.
  • Cook for five minutes.
  • Add the EVOO, soy sauce, honey, paprika, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add the noodles and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.
  • Serve warm, or chilled, accordingly to preference.

Next time - I'll share the secret behind my homemade peach jam (no canning required!).  If you like fruit, jams, and compotes you won't want to miss this!

Question of the Day:

Do you still eat soup in the summertime...gazpacho anyone?!

Ally and Bo

July 9, 2012


*WARNING: This post may contain certain "triggers."  Therefore, if you have a history of an eating disorder, and are easily triggered, please read with caution.*

I have mixed feelings about writing this post.  Usually this blog is pretty upbeat (not that this post is going to be a sob-story or anything), filled with delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes, and sprinkled with a book review, yoga post, or story about life in the Navy here and there.  So, even though I have had the desire to write today's post for quite a while, I haven't, because - quite frankly - I wasn't sure that the ABC blog was the right forum for me to spill my guts.

You see, today's post is about failure.  

Specifically, failure in relation to my body image.

(I warned you.  Not necessarily the fun and uplifting post you are used to!)

But don't go just yet...why don't you stay and read a while?  Maybe, just maybe, my ramblings on failure will mean something to you.  Maybe not.  In any case, why not take a chance and read on?!

I struggled with an eating disorder, in some form or another, from 1999-2009.  ED (my not so endearing term for my eating disorder) originally manifested in the form of bulimia.  Then he took a vacation for a while, and when he returned he was stronger, smarter, and in the form of anorexia.  I am 5'6" tall, and at rock-bottom I weighed 103 pounds.


Not. healthy.

To be honest, at that weight, I wasn't even sure I looked good.  All of my "girly bits" were gone, the fashion that I loved didn't look good on my shapeless body, I was freezing cold all the time, my hair was falling out, and I was quite moody (i.e. bit*hy) - not to mention that I was miserable and falling apart from the inside out.

So why didn't I break up with ED sooner?  

Because, the truth is, my relationship with ED had nothing to do with weight, and everything to do with control and self-worth.


You see, in my mind, I had to be perfect to be loved.  I had to prove that I was worthy of the love and acceptance of others.  To me, outside of God and my mother, the concept of unconditional love was just too good to be true.  I mean really, with my limp hair and round face and soft tummy and fake front tooth, etc. etc. etc. - who would love me?!

So here I am, three years into my recovery, the strongest I've been in my entire life (thanks to yoga), the healthiest I've been since age 14 (both physically and emotionally), 137 pounds (WOW - did I really just type that?!), not completely in love with my feminine shape; and as I was driving to teach a yoga class a couple of days ago I had a realization.

I feel like a failure.

Not all the time.  Not in relation to my job.  Certainly not in relation to my marriage.  But undoubtedly - in more moments that I would care to admit - in relationship to my body.

And this failure is complicated, because on the one hand I feel like I have failed at being "thin," and on the other hand I feel like I have failed at learning to love my healthy, new, woman's body.  

And then I feel even more like a failure because I can't seem to win.


The truth is that I somehow want both, and the even harder truth is that I'm not sure that's possible.  Although I certainly struggle to embrace my new size 6/8 body, I also know that this is sort of my bodies natural "baseline."  When I eat a balance diet and exercise 4/5 times a week, this is where my body lands: like it or not (sometimes I like it, most of the time - for now, at least - I am struggling to accept it).

And then the competitive perfectionist steps in and tries to tell me that I've given up too easily (Have I?).  That the only reason that I have the body that I do is because I am too lazy to buckle down and change it (Really?).  That I know what to do, I just need to stop making all these "healthy" excuses and do it!

And countless others.

Who, every day, in their own special ways, tell me/call me/remind me/look me straight in the eyes and say that:

I. am. perfect.

I. am. enough.

I. am. loved.

And that makes me want to cry, because the truth is, three years into recovery, I still don't believe it.  I believe it about others.  I can love others unconditionally until the cows come home.  But for some unfortunate and insane reason I still haven't gotten it through my thick skull that:

I. am. worthy.


So, here I am, writing about failure; and to be honest, I am enough of a realist to know that it would be fake and superficial of me to wrap this post up with a pretty pink bow and call it a day.  That's not the reality of where I am, and I'm OK with that.  Instead, I will acknowledge that:

  • I am three years into my recovery.
  • I wake up, every day, and I decide to be healthy.
  • I walk onto my yoga mat and I consciously work on accepting myself, so that I can better accept others.
  • I eat three, healthy, well-balanced, nutritionally-rich meals every day.
  • I tell my husband he is loved at least once a day...and then I try to tell myself the same thing.
  • I am fighting.
  • I won't give up.

And finally, even though he is the constant, unwelcome, solicitor in my life, 
I will not open the door to ED ever again.

And if for nothing else, for that I am not a failure.  

For that I am a champion.


Next up - we return to the wonderful world of recipes!  Summer vegetable soup anyone?!

Question of the Day:

Do you ever feel like a failure?  If so, what do you do to remind yourself that you are a champion?!

Ally and Bo