how to practice mindfulness with your pet

Undeniably the cutest way to practice mindfulness.

Pets do so much for us. They're our playmate, cuddle buddy and best friend, but they also help us practice mindfulness by being a constant reminder to live in the moment. My cat, Honey, doesn't obsess over the future or ruminate on the past. When she accidentally rolls off the bed in the midst of a major relaxation stretch, she looks adorably embarrassed for an instant before moving on.

If you watch your dog get belly scratches or cat pounce on a feather toy, it's obvious that nothing is going on in their minds beside the present moment. They're not participating in negative self-talk or running through their to-do list for the day. They're fully focused on what's currently going on.

Animals are constantly in, what neuroscientists call, direct mode, which means they're paying attention to their senses rather than narrative mode, where the focus is on planning, daydreaming and ruminating. Although there's nothing wrong with the narrative mode, which can actually be very helpful at times, you don't want to limit yourself to only experiencing the world through that network.

When you're in direct mode, several more areas of your brain are activated. You're not thinking about the past, future, yourself or other people, instead you're taking in the experience from your senses. The more you can practice being in direct mode, the less imprisoned you are by your past and expectations with more opportunities to enjoy each moment.

Not only are our pets excellent role models of this but they also provide so many perfect opportunities, that you wouldn't want to waste caught up in thought, to practice mindfulness. Next time you're petting your cat, pay attention to how soft her fur feels, listen to her purr and notice how sweet and happy she looks. When you play fetch with your dog, notice the sound he makes bounding through the grass and how proud and joyful he looks returning the ball to you. In these simple moments, our fur babies give us the happiest experiences to be fully present in while being the cutest reminders to be mindful.

If you missed the first two posts in the mindfulness series, check them out here and here

perfect oil-free hummus

You could literally eat this stuff with a spoon.

And I do. Often.

One of my favorite random questions to ask people is what their three favorite dips, condiments or spreads are. For me, hummus is up there with guacamole and almond butter.

I'm honestly a total hummus addict. I created this recipe because it allows me to indulge without overdoing it on fat or calories (this hummus is only 40 calories for two tablespoons compared to 70 for typical hummus). Although olive oil is a healthy fat, it's still important to eat it in moderation, which sort of goes out the window for me when it comes to hummus, so having the perfect recipe for an oil-free version is a necessity.

I'm not exaggerating when I say this is the most perfect hummus either. It's creamy with a hint of lemon and a touch of spice from the paprika; you won't miss the olive oil one bit.

I also love how beautifully it compliments almost any other flavor. I've been mixing it with a bit of orange juice to make a salad dressing, dipping roasted sweet potato in it (from here), having it with raw veggies, stiring it into rice and pasta, and of course eating it with the aforementioned spoon.

This is a great kitchen staple, super healthy (tons of protein and fiber from the chickpeas), and keeps well in an air-tight container in the fridge. I suspect anyone who tries it will become a hummus addict too.

Ingredients (40 calories for 2 tablespoons):
- 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- Juice of two lemons
- 5 tablespoons vegetable broth
- Paprika for garnish

- Add everything besides the vegetable broth to a food processor and blend, drizzling in the vegetable broth while it blends until smooth (about 3 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.

cheesy, better-than-potatoes cauliflower purée

Mashed potatoes are one of my all time favorite foods so I don't take this title lightly.

You would never guess a bit of coconut milk, vegan butter, vegan cheese, and garlic would transform cauliflower into something so creamy and delicious you would consider replacing mashed potatoes with it, but it does. Not only does this simple recipe have just five ingredients, it also takes about 10 minutes to make.

As you can see from this and this recipe for zucchini noodles, I'm a fan of veggies masquerading as carbs and that's another reason I love this dish. It's not that I think eating carbs is bad, or even follow a low carb diet, it's just that it's so easy to fall into the carb trap when you follow a plant-based diet and I love finding ways to avoid that. Since there are less food groups to work with, carbs often seem like the answer for adding satisfying volume to meals, making it easy to go overboard with them. However, with all their vitamins and minerals, making vegetables the star of meals is what actually makes you feel good.

With this Cauliflower Purée, you get the both of best worlds because it tastes like a decadent bowl of creamy mashed potatoes, but contains all the benefits of a veggie superfood. Just one serving of cauliflower provides 77% of your daily recommended Vitamin C. The cruciferous vegetable also contains sulforaphane, which has been shown to kill cancer stem cells and also supports blood pressure and kidney health.

Although cauliflower lacks a dark leafy green color, it's still a nutritional powerhouse and yet tastes incredibly indulgent in this recipe. Delicious + healthy = the best combination.

Ingredients (serves 2):
- 24 oz cauliflower florets (or two bags of cauliflower from Trader Joe's)
- 1/2 cup low fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese (found at Whole Foods)
- 1 tablespoon Earth Balance
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

- Steam cauliflower (if you buy the florets from TJ's they can steam in the microwave in the bag).
- Add all ingredients to a food processor and process for a few minutes until smooth, scraping down the sides as you go if needed. Season with salt and pepper.

zucchini spaghetti with lentil marinara & cashew parmesan

Feeling inspiralized.

As you might have noticed from this post, I'm totally in love with my spiralizer, and this dish proves I have good reason to be.

Eating light for dinner in the winter can be especially challenging. After a long day of work, all I want to do is eat something warm, comforting and filling while relaxing at home. It's hard to find a meal that fills this criteria but is still healthy and doesn't make me feel weighed down.

This Zucchini Spaghetti meets all of the above, which is why it's become one of my favorite weeknight dinners. There's so much veggie goodness, it's almost like eating a salad, but you still get the comfort element from the warm, rich marinara sauce and the lentils, which are full of protein and fiber, will completely fill you up.

I'm the first to admit that cooking period on a weeknight can be challenging, so it's totally fair to just use store-bought marinara sauce to make this dish if you're not feeling up to making your own. Honestly, that's what I end up doing more often than not because this meal literally takes less than 10 minutes to throw together if you go that route. Although, if you do have an extra 15 minutes to spare, make the sauce. It's worth it.

One thing you do not have permission to skimp on is the Cashew Parmesan. This. Stuff. Is. So. Good.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I put this parmesan on everything from soup to salad to avocado toast to rice to oatmeal. Everything. It's so easy and is perfect for making in big batches because it keeps in the pantry for a few weeks so feel free to double or triple the recipe below.

If you visit S & S regularly, you've probably noticed that I reference Trader Joe's products and sizing in a lot in my recipes. That's because I buy 90% of my groceries there. I love the experience and prices at TJ's, but one thing I find challenging is their nuts. They only sell them in bulk bags, which is awesome in the sense that you get a lot for a relatively low price, but can be difficult when trying to  figure out how to use that many before they get stale.

This parmesan is the perfect remedy for that. Just throw the cashews in your food processor with the nutritional yeast and a bit of garlic powder and it you've got something so delicious it definitely won't stick around long enough to go bad.

Ingredients (serves 2 with sauce leftover):
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 zucchini, spiralized
- 1 cup cooked lentils
- 1 tablespoon fresh julienne basil (for garnish)

For the Marinara:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 cup white wine (I like Pino Grigio)
- 1 28oz can diced tomatoes (purée if you'd like a smooth sauce)
- 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

For the Cashew Parmesan:
- 1 cup roasted & salted cashews (do not use raw)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt

- To make the sauce: heat olive oil in a large skillet (do not use a pot). Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the white wine and cook on high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, pepper. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.

- To make the Cashew Parmesan: while the sauce is simmering, add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until mostly smooth with some small cashew pieces remaining.

- Heat olive oil in a skillet, add zucchini and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the lentils and desired amount of sauce and cook another 3 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil and Cashew Parmesan.

how to practice mindfulness through healthy eating

So what does healthy eating have to do with mindfulness?

I recently came across an episode on one of my favorite podcasts, Lady Lovin', about mindfulness where a meditation expert mentioned, "Your body is the gateway to peace of mind." This simple statement really resonated with me because I'd never thought about how greatly our bodies influence the way we think.

It works like this: your mind asks your body, "Is everything alright?" If your body responds that everything is good, your mind will have peaceful thoughts that reflect a peaceful body. But if your body is unbalanced for any reason, your mind will mirror that and have negative thoughts or be generally unfocused, preventing you from being a peaceful, mindful person. In order to improve your thoughts, you need to focus on how your body is feeling first, correcting any negativity there before you can alter your mind. 

Creating balance in your body means something different for everyone, whether it's taking more moments to breath, getting outside, or eating better. Once you've done whatever it is that your body needs, you can then start to change the way you think. 

I found this incredibly helpful because so often if I'm feeling negative or distracted, I'll just beat myself up, which never ends up helping. Knowing that there's a connection between my body and the way I think brought to light that I have to put in the work to make myself feel better physically before I can be a more mindful and content person. To me, this means eating healthy food and staying active. 

With this in mind, I've made a considerable effort for the past few weeks to eat more nurturing food. Resisting tempting, unhealthy foods has definitely been difficult, but after just the first full day, I noticed that my thoughts were more positive and less cloudy. 

Often, the goal of eating healthier is to reach a certain body type. Changing the way you eat to improve your thoughts is a new target that I find much more motivating because I see immediate results in the way I feel instead of waiting for the numbers to change on the scale. 

As we begin February and New Year's resolutions start to fade, it's important to remember that taking care of your body leads to a variety of benefits, that don't only include the way you look. 

To catch up on my first post in the Mindfulness Series on meditation, head over here.

roasted broccoli with nutritional yeast

So this is technically a side dish, but fair warning you might end up eating it all as the main part of your meal.

When I decided to post this recipe, I asked my boyfriend if I should pair the broccoli with a grain or some beans to make it into a full meal, but he felt strongly that the beauty of this broccoli is in its simplicity, and I couldn't agree more.

Just the right amount of olive oil, a dash of nutritional yeast, and ample time in the oven transforms this broccoli into crispy, rich, cheesy amazingness that's highly addictive. If you're wondering what nutritional yeast is, head over to this post for baked mac and cheese to find out. On second thought, this roasted broccoli would be the perfect accompaniment to the mac and cheese, so head over to this post anyway to put together your next delicious dinner.

Although this dish feels indulgent, it's still very nurturing. Broccoli is high in fiber, protein, and is a powerful antioxidant rich in Vitamin C that protects against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, and even fights skin damage and reduces wrinkles. People often think of oranges or lemons when they think of Vitmain C, but broccoli actually provides 81 miligrams in just one cup, which is more than you need in an entire day. Broccoli is also extremely high in sulphoraphane, which is currently being extensively studied for its ability to fight cancer.

So basically, there's a reason your parents tricked you into eating broccoli when you were little by telling you they were mini trees and you were a dinosaur...No? Just me? It's because it's super healthy and this recipe is the most delicious way to prepare it. No coercement necessary.

Ingredients (serves 2):
- 12 oz broccoli florets (or 1 full bag of organic broccoli from TJ's)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place broccoli on a baking sheet and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and one tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Mix together with a spatula to evenly coat broccoli in oil and nutritional yeast. Spread broccoli back into an even layer.

- Drizzle broccoli with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and then sprinkle on the remaining tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Roast in the oven for about 15 - 20 min (do not stir midway) until slightly blackened and crispy, but still tender. Enjoy immediately.

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