A Labor of Loving Myself

June 30, 2011

Three of the most common objections I get from others in regards to eating fresh, clean, whole foods is the time, money, and energy involved in going clean. I feel those objections are the very reason I stick to a clean eating lifestyle. For each of these, we must consider our R.O.I. – Return On Investment. Just how much bang are you getting for your buck? How does investing your time, money, and energy pay you back in the long run? If you are investing any of these into nutritionally void foods that accelerate the deterioration of your physical, mental, and spiritual self, that $1.00 menu just doesn’t seem to offer the same value. Who cares if you save $25.00 each trip to the grocery store if you end up spending $1,000,000 on your first month of cancer treatment?

You may be thinking to yourself: “Well, insurance will cover all except my co-pay for medical treatment…and there’s no proof that I’m going to get sick anyway.” With all the research out there to link our health to our food supply, is it really worth the gamble? To me, it certainly is not…not to mention the fact that there’s no guarantee that your insurance will cover your expenses, how much an illness will affect your premiums in the future, the physical and emotional stresses illness causes to not only you, but your loved ones, co-workers, clients, and others…and just how much are you already spending on medical insurances, prescription drugs, trips to the doctors office, taking leave from work or school for the illnesses inflected on you and your family? What if you invested your money on health Assurance instead of health Insurance? What if everything that we needed in order to regain and maintain optimum health was already provided for us, naturally, long before the invention of factories, food colorings, preservatives, flavor enhancing chemicals, carbonated beverages, and fast food restaurants? Could that be the reason that human beings survived for centuries before these inventions? Call me crazy—plenty of people have—however, I may be onto something!

So with all the modern conveniences, temptations, and “great deals”, how do I stay on-track with healthy eating? Well, developing habits that serve the life I desire to live has made all the difference. Despite my natural tendency to go with the flow through life with as little planning as possible, I have found that one of my most serving habits I’ve developed is planning my meals and snacks. Like my Nut Snack recipe I shared with you in my last blog, planning ahead to keep myself surrounded with quick, easy, healthy choices ensures my healthy lifestyle is a one of peace of mind and ease. Being able to think ahead to what meals my husband and I enjoy, and how I can make them as healthy, fresh, quick, and easy as possible, has allowed me to invest a focused portion of my time, money, and energy at the grocery store and in my kitchen, with a phenomenal return on my investment.

Since the first time I was inspired to make it, Veggie Lasagna has become one of my husband & I’s all time favorites for dinner! My beautiful, health-conscious soul sister, Kara, was my muse in venturing to create this fabulous meal in my kitchen. After having a delicious portion of a homemade vegetarian lasagna she created in her kitchen, I was intrigued to make my own. I asked her to share the recipe, and she informed me she didn’t use one. She simply through in some of her favorite veggies, legumes, and beans, tossed it in the oven, and viola! Deliciousness was served! Kara did not know it at that time, however she instantly granted me permission to make lasagna and to do it however I wanted. Thus, my household favorite was born (well, baked) and I grant you the same permission: as with all my recipes, take my suggestions create your own kitchen magic!

Compared to a “typical” lasagna recipe, there are a few changes I make to honor with my eating preferences. For starters, I choose to use a brown rice pasta noodle in place of the usual semolina or even a whole wheat pasta. I find that both wheat and white flour work against my health and lifestyle goals both physically and mentally. Flours and wheat (yes, even whole wheat) cause an inflammatory response in the human system, and I have found that 24-36 hours after consuming foods that contain either as ingredients, a mental fog rolls in and takes over my brain and my body. I get lethargic, find it difficult to stay focused and on-track with tasks, and I notice an increase of negative thoughts and mental chatter. Test this out for yourself and see if you notice a difference. I recommend removing them completely from your diet for a week or two, then add them in at one meal and track your emotions. Likely you will be just as surprised to make the connection as I was.

Another factor to typical lasagna recipes that do not match my desired eating choices is the large amounts of cheese used in lasagna. Despite what the TV, magazine, and billboard advertisements try to convince us of, dairy is NOT a health food-at least not they way we do it in our country. I could probably write an entire blog on the reasoning behind this, however I’ll just hit a few highlights here. First of all, despite the high level of calcium found in dairy, it is not a form our body can assimilate. Want proof? The U.S. leads the dairy consumption of the world…and we also lead the statistics on osteoporosis rates. You do the math. Secondly, in the U.S. it is legal to us substances such as growth hormones in cattle to keep them producing milk year round. Between these substances and the mass amounts of antibiotics used to regulate the health of the cattle, these are passed along to human consumers, wreaking havoc in our systems. Lastly, have you ever seen how and where most major dairy producing cattle are raised? Do a little research and you will quickly find your heartstrings being tugged at by the inhumane treatment of these animals. Do not be fooled by the illustrations on the labels of happy cows grazing in an open field next to a heartwarming red barn. They are drawings for a reason. The positive benefits to dairy are killed and eliminated by the processing regulations of our country, so I tend to go with less processed, more cultured cheeses such as feta and goat cheese. For my lasagna, I soften goat cheese to room temperature and mix it with feta to add to my dish. The taste and peace of mind are a winning combination. I use around 4 ounces of goat cheese, and 3 ounces of feta. Simply mix together until you have a combined, smooth texture. I will also use about 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella and some grated parmesan to simply top off my lasagna.

Every time I make my Veggie Lasagna, I use whatever fresh vegetables I have on hand. This almost always includes red onion, orange or yellow bell pepper, portabella mushrooms, and broccoli, and I’ve added green beans, brussel sprouts, kale, grape tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, and red swiss chard, too. Don’t be afraid to add leafy greens in lasagna. They are great & a clever way to get added nutrients. You can use as much or as little veggies as you would like. Once cut, my veggies usually total around 4-6 loose cups. Being an Irish girl from Apex, NC, who’s still leaning into her greatness in the kitchen, I utilize my 80/20 principle when it comes to the sauce for my lasagna. I have found a great, organic jarred roasted vegetable red pasta sauce at Whole Foods that I use. One day I’ll venture into homemade sauce, however for the time being, the jar satisfies my time, money, and energy allowances.

The first thing I do when I get in the kitchen is start the water to boil for cooking the noodles. This is by far the lengthiest pre-baking process. Once the water is heating on the stove top, I set the cheeses out the warm, and gather my veggies together. Now, it’s a simple process of cutting the vegetables to roughly the same size. I generally shoot for about 3/8 inch wide and 2 inches long. For greens like kale and swiss chard, I dice the leaves into roughly 3/8 inch strips or a more shredded consistency. Once the water is boiling, the noodles take about 12-15 minutes to cook through, then I rinse the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking process and remove the starch. Avoid overcooking the noodles. If they are too soft they become difficult to work with, as they tend to break apart.

Next, I set the oven to preheat to 350 degrees while I layer my ingredients. In a glass casserole dish, I spread a bit of sauce or spray a light coat of olive oil on the bottom. I start by laying three noodles side-by-side along the length of the dish, sprinkle a third of the mixed vegetables, topped with a third of the cheese mixture, and finally a third of the sauce. The cheese will be in little blobs, and that’s perfectly fine because it will spread with cooking. I repeat this procedure until all ingredients are used, with noodles as the final layer on top, with a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan as a finishing touch. I again utilize my favorite olive oil spray bottle to lightly coat a sheet of foil that I use to cover the dish, which minimizes the cheese from sticking to the foil. Lastly, I pop the dish in the oven for 30-45 minutes.

Although I view this dish as a labor of love, it is worth every effort. Often, due to the lengthy combined prep and baking process, I’ll make the lasagna in advance and place it in the frig until time to bake for dinner. Splitting up the prep and baking time allows an easy dinner cooking evening, though remember if you are taking the dish out from sitting in the frig for hours, you will need to increase the baking time. The way I make sure the dish is thoroughly cooked is by seeing the sauce bubbling through the glass at the bottom of the dish. It’s fine to pull it out and peek under the foil to check as well. You should see the sauce boiling and see a slight browning of the cheeses that top the lasagna. As an added bonus, the large portion of the final product will provide 4 nights of meals for my hubby and I, and is a great go-to-dish for company, especially those wary of vegetarian eating. The heartiness of all the fresh vegetables will leave even the most committed meat-eaters more than satisfied. A fresh salad of mixed greens or fresh green beans sautéed with shallots is a perfect compliment to this delectable meal.

 Just like everything worthwhile in life, a little planned effort of my time, money, and energy, pays me back ten-fold in the long run. A wise investment of my resources and taking a proactive approach to my health, eating, and over-all lifestyle brings peace and fulfillment to my body, mind, and my spirit. One of my mentors taught me if you think it’s hard, it’s hard; if you think it’s easy, it’s easy. What I used to view as a challenge—staying focused and on-track with my serving lifestyle choices—has become simple with a shift in my perspective, an increase in my self-value & self-love, and a little planning.

Remember:

  • Invest in health Assurance, not just health Insurance
  •  Planning ahead will keep you on track
  • Effort on the front end reap rewards on the back end
  • If you think it’s easy, it’s easy

I appreciate you taking the time to read my posting & I’ll be posting great new information, tips & tools weekly. If you have a recipe you’d like for me to try out & review, topics you’d like to hear about, or any other comments, feedback, or suggestions, kindly send me a message to AskCrissy@gmail.com and I will address the matter in a future blog posting. Be sure to subscribe to my Blog & YouTube Channel, visit my website regularly, and follow me on Facebook & Twitter, to stay plugged in to all of my offerings. As always, I wish you infinite love, blessings, peace, and joy as we take this journey together. I am blessed & honored to share my path with you.

Crissy

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One Response to “A Labor of Loving Myself”

  1. OmKara Ma said

    A Labor Of Loving Yourself is forever worth it! Thrilled to see you co-creating kitchen magic sister…..

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