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I love Summer! I love so many things about it, but there’s nothing quite like Autumn.

Mostly because it’s cool enough for me to cook some of my favorite foods again! The other day, I went to Trader Joe’s, and saw a beautiful spaghetti squash that was just waiting to be stuffed and roasted… so that’s what I did.

Now, it’s still pretty hot in the city, so I decided to combine one of my favorite refreshing dishes, a southwest salad, and stuff the spaghetti squash with it!

If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash yet, I can’t encourage you enough to give it a go! Not only is it amazing because it takes on whatever flavors you want, but it’s also pretty filling, and you will feel like you’re eating pasta!

Healthy and cheap! We all win!

However, this time there’s a little twist… I made two different recipes. Here’s what happened:

My friend and I do a podcast every Wednesday night. And again, we decided it was too hot to make the squash, so we just made the salad. Today, I only had enough left to stuff one half of the squash, so I improvised on the other half!

(CLICK HERE for the southwest salad recipe)

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What You Need (for southwest stuffed):

1 recipe of southwest salad

1 TBSP olive oil

1/2 TBSP garlic salt

What You Do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (to be honest, I just used my toaster oven. It creates so much less heat! But either will work)

Lightly coat exposed inner sides of the squash with olive oil (you may not need the entire 1 TBSP)

Put the unstuffed squash halves in the oven for 20 minutes

Add the southwest salad, along with some pepperjack, mozarella, or any other cheese you want, and cook for another 20-30 minutes

Using a fork, pull the spaghetti squash flesh out in spaghetti-like strings

Enjoy!

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What You Need (spicy cheesy spaghetti squash):

shredded pepperjack cheese

shredded mozarella cheese

1 TBSP chili pepper

1 TBSP dried basil (you can use fresh if you want)

1 TBSP dried oregano

1 tsp crushed dried red peppers

1 TBSP garlic salt (or salt and garlic powder… or just fresh minced garlic if you have it!)

1 TBSP olive oil

What You Do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Lightly coat exposed inner sides of the squash with olive oil (you may not need the entire 1 TBSP)

Sprinkle all of your spices on the exposed inner sides of the squash

Put the squash halves in the oven for 40-50 minutes

Using a fork, pull the spaghetti squash flesh out in spaghetti-like strings

Messiness – If you don’t have a good knife, then dealing with any squash is difficult. That said, I have a knife so dull that it fell right onto my foot, blade-down, and it didn’t even draw blood. And I still make spaghetti squash as often as I can.

Simplicity – SUPER simple. If you choose the southwest stuffed version, then that entire salad requires almost only canned ingredients, and the squash is just cutting, cleaning out, and baking. The other version only requires spices you probably already have. Easy peasy.

Budget – This time of year, you can find a good sized squash for anywhere between $1-3. Which is as much as a box of pasta, only way better for you. Also, the rest is just canned stuff that you may already have in your home.

Delicious Factor - I love this so much! It combines the flavors of summer with my favorite fall/winter vegetable. Also, who doesn’t love a healthier version of spaghetti?!

I often find that at times, out of curiosity comes judgement.

As a journalist, it’s my natural inclination to find out as much as possible about a person in as little time as possible. In doing this though, it’s sometimes hard to reserve judgement when it’s someone who is vastly different than I am.

I’ve found that this isn’t unusual and we all tend to do it here and there.

For example, you’re sitting down for drinks with a Hollywood starlet, who happens to still be a human being whether you like it or not. She’s just gotten out of rehab, but is sitting there drinking a gin and tonic. It’s very easy to assume that she likely has nothing of value to say, or that it will just be her putting on airs, and you know what, that may be the case. But why not reserve judgement, and just be curious about her life. What got her to this point? How does she really feel when she sees stories about herself in the tabloids? What’s her greatest fear (this question can tell you A LOT about a person)?

Now, not everyone is a troubled celeb, but everyone is an individual, with an individual personality and internal conflicts.

If you choose to be curious over judgmental, you’ll learn a lot about someone, but more importantly it will teach you to view everyone and everything the same. We’re all on an even playing field when it comes to being human, so we should treat each other like it.

Challenge yourself to ask lots of questions today, and to not judge any of the answers you find. You can ask other people, but make sure some of your inquiries are directed inward. If it’s hard to wake up in the morning, then why? Why is your after-work routine what it is? Are you a better person than you were yesterday?

My mom always told us, “Girls, when you get married, make sure it’s to a man who can say he’s sorry.”

That’s not to say she wanted us with complete screwups who were constantly apologizing for things, but there was a lot of veiled wisdom hidden in her words. Okay fine, maybe it wasn’t that veiled. The point is that “sorry” is a very powerful word.

When it comes to the business world, and actually almost any area of life, you’ll find that people don’t say ‘sorry’ for a couple reasons.

The first is that it admits fault, which a person who is trying to exert power can never admit. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boss, sister, partner, or child, when someone knows they are wrong, but says ‘sorry’ in every other way except actually saying the word ‘sorry’ (or ‘I apologize’) it’s because they don’t want to admit weakness, which in itself is a weakness.

The second thing that happens when a person won’t apologize is that by omitting weakness, it makes them feel more powerful. An intuitive person can see right through this and realize it for what it is: weakness masquerading as power.

However, I have found that in most instances when an apology is deemed necessary, it actually isn’t. A LOT of the time, friction is caused by a breakdown in communication, in which case no one is at fault, and no one needs to exert power, therefore belittling the other person.

For example, you and your partner are having dinner at home later. You tell he/she to pick up some butter. Well, your recipe for chocolate chip cookies called for unsalted butter and he/she brought salted butter. You’re not sure how this happened because you assumed EVERYONE knew that unsalted butter was what the recipe called for (duh!), and your partner literally just found out that there are two different types of butter.

Should you apologize because you didn’t specify? Or should he/she apologize for not knowing any better, or not asking?

No. No one owes anyone an apology. It’s just a breakdown in communication, and can be used as a moment to learn how to communicate better with each other, not to try and break each other down.

And in the end, your cookies may be a little saltier than you’d planned, but who cares?! You’re eating freshly baked chocolate chip cookies!

“Sorry” is definitely a powerful word, and because of that, we need to really ask ourselves when it’s a necessary one to use. Do you need an apology, or a better understanding of the situation moving forward?

It’s so amusing to me how the littlest thing, as well as the big ones, can get to us in ways that nothing else can.

An email that had an unfriendly tone; someone who cut you off on the freeway; a co-worker who walked past you and didn’t say hello; burnt toast.

Any of these things can throw off your day in unimaginable ways, and somehow, it’s our job to make sure that they don’t. But how is that even possible?!

Here’s this email, sitting in my inbox, waiting to be answered, and I’m SO annoyed! Or saying to myself, “When I see that co-worker at lunch, I’m not even going to say anything to him!” Then, you sit, stewing over the email and the rude coworker, which is only being made worse by the fact that you can still taste the burnt toast in your mouth and that you were five minutes late for work because of that asshole driver that cut you off.

Ever experienced any of these?

Again, I’m not a psychologist, but I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking, and I’ve realized something… I just don’t care anymore and I’m happier for it.

That annoyed email: How do I know something traumatic isn’t happening in the writer’s life? I don’t. But even if the writer’s life is peachy keen, I still shouldn’t let the tone affect me. It’s about what to bring to the office potluck for crying out loud, not insulting the way I make potato salad.

The bad driver: For all I know, the driver had a loved one in the hospital, or was going to get fired if he was late one more time. I can’t let someone else’s actions affect my reactions because it doesn’t actually matter to me.

The rude coworker: Hey, that person has to live with himself every day, and it takes a special kind of person to not say “Hello” back to someone who addressed them. Special in a not so positive way. But again, why does it matter to me? I felt like saying “Hello.” I shouldn’t expect anything back, because courtesy is just that. And if I’m not shown courtesy, it’s time to move along.

Here’s a real life example: I was walking through the McDonald’s parking lot one day, when two men passed me. One yelled, “Someone looks nice today.” I was in a hurry, and barely even registered that he was talking to me, and kept walking. So, he yells back much louder, “Hey bitch, when someone says something, you can at least say thanks.”

While that wasn’t very polite of me, it was also an unwanted advance, and he shouldn’t have been offended at my lack of response. It was my response that was going to dictate the level of happiness he got out of saying that. It had NOTHING to do with how good the comment would make me feel.

So, why are you saying ‘hello’ to your coworker? Are you doing it because you want someone to say ‘hello’ to you, or because you genuinely wanted to greet the person, regardless of his reaction?

The burnt toast: Well, there’s not much to be said there. Burnt toast is just this side of burnt popcorn on both the tolerable and the smelly scale. But to put it into perspective, a child somewhere is eating actual trash to survive, and another is eating nothing at all. Burnt toast will do just fine.

So, why do we care when things aren’t the way we hope they are, and why do we let it get to us?

The truth is, the answer doesn’t matter. Sure, we can get into a whole philosophical thing, but at the core, it doesn’t matter why things happen. All that matters, and all that we can control is how we react to situations.

With this in mind, I challenge you to be mindful about every reaction you have to things today. Good or bad. Just ask yourself why you feel some type of way when your favorite soda is sold out in the vending machine, or when your commute takes longer than usual. Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? And why are you feeling this emotion?

You’ll learn a lot about yourself in a short time.

You would think that being a writer for a living would mean that I can’t get enough of it, but that’s not always the case.

So many times I’ve wanted to sit down and write a blog worthy of your time, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was that I had to say.

Sure, I still love cooking (and eating!!!), and I fully intend to continue sharing recipes, because I know how many wonderful ones I’ve found online that I couldn’t live without at this point. But over the last year, some things have become increasingly clear to me.

First, I’ve become very focused on overall health. Not only physically, but mentally; forcing myself to carve out time to strengthen my mind as much as I have my body.

This goes along with the second thing that has become clear to me, which is that I spend a lot of time trying to cultivate a positive mindstate, often coming away from each week with little things I have learned, and practiced. Skills like learning to let things go, because we often allow them to weigh so heavily on us.

I’m not an expert or a doctor anything, but I’m a person on a journey. On this journey, I’ve met other people wandering in the Wilderness of Self-Discovery, and we have traded nuggets of wisdom that have helped make me my best self ever.

So, for those of you that have followed me for my love of art, or my cheap and easy recipes, the good news is that I don’t plan to change any of that. However, I do plan on trying to help you live the happiest life possible, the best way that I know: through example.

If you happen to know me in person, that probably terrifies you, because I’m definitely one of those people who, for some reason, attracts the oddest situations ever. But it makes for great learning and teaching moments that I look forward to sharing with you.

With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this: Let’s be better today than we were yesterday.

When I became a vegetarian over four years ago, there were certain foods that I never stopped missing, and pot pies was one of them. I’ve never been a good enough cook to even fathom making a pot pie from scratch (I had no idea they’re so easy!), and besides, a vegetarian one wouldn’t taste nearly as good as a regular chicken pot pie.

But then I found the semi-perfect recipe! I say semi-perfect because their recipe called for mushrooms and a puff pastry crust, but since I’m not a fan of fungi and am too lazy for the puff pastry + ramekin combo, some alterations were needed.

So, without further adieu…

Lazy Vegetarian Pot Pies (makes 2)

vegetarian pot pie

*** I made the poptarts out of extra pie crust dough. Frosting was whipped up out of almond milk and powdered sugar. You can find my recipe for poptarts HERE.

What You Need:
olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves (diced)
1 large shallot (diced)
1 carrot  (diced)
1 celery stalk (diced)
1 cup potatoes (small cubes)
2 rounded tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp almond milk (or whatever kind of cream/milk you have on-hand)
2 teaspoons fresh parsley (chopped)
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper, to taste
2 pre-made regular sized pie crusts (I used Pillsbury)
2 small pie tins

*** You can swap out any of the non-vegan, non-gluten-free ingredients for ones that are as well.

What You Do:
Preheat oven according to the pie crust package’s instructions

Sautee your veggies (minus the peas) in the oil until the shallot begin to look clear (about three minutes)

Add the potatoes, along with salt and pepper and cook for five more minutes, making sure to stir the potatoes so they don’t burn

Add the flour and make sure all the veggies are coated. Cook for a few minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and almond milk. Stir together and let simmer for five minutes until it thickens a bit.

Add the parsley and peas.

In your pie tins, line the bottom with the pre-made pie crusts. Then fashion a top from the remaining pie crust.

Add spoonfuls of your veggies and broth into the pie crust-lined tins, then cover with the pastry top.

Bake according to the pie crust package instructions.

Enjoy!

Messiness: Honestly, this is a lot less messy than you think it is. Aside from the chopping, you only need one pot to sautee + simmer. The pie tins are self-contained.

Simplicity: I remember watching my Grandma make pot pies when we’d come visit her. She’d shown me countless times how to do it, but I always lost attention because at some point, it seemed too advanced. Grandma was making this super tough thing look easy. Well, it turns out that it actually is just that easy!

Everything thickens up on it’s own, you really are just chopping and mixing, but you look like a pro!

Budget: The more people you make this for, the more economical it is. Sort of. Celery, carrots, peas, potatoes, parsley; these things are cheap and you get lots of them, which is nice. What gets pricey is the pre-made pie crust. Personally, my kitchen is TINY and there’s no room to roll out and prepare pie crust. However, if you do have room, pie crust is fairly inexpensive to make on your own, which would further cut down on the cost.

Delicious Factor: This is another one of those “A ha!” recipes that taste like home and you can’t believe they took you so long to discover. I live for summer, but these pot pies are making me anxious for fall!

wpid-IMAG0271_1.jpg

You know those times when eating healthy tastes so good that you think, why don’t I just always eat this way? That’s been where I’m at since trying this whole pseudo-Mediterranean diet.

I’ve made spaghetti squash a lot throughout the years, but this has been my favorite yet!

If you’re looking for a light substitute for spaghetti, I’d highly recommend trying this!

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

What You Need:

1 spaghetti squash

1/\3 C grape (or any small tomatoes) + 1/3 C grape (or any small tomatoes)

1 zucchini (sliced, cut into quarters)

1/2 TBSP olive oli + 2 TBSP olive oil

1 garlic clove, diced

1/2 TBSP fresh basil, chopped

2 TBSP fresh spinach

1/3 C onions, diced

1/3 C kalamata olives, halved

Feta (optional)

Salt and pepper

What You Do:

Cut and clean the spaghetti squash

Add the tomatoes, zucchini in the hollowed area and drizzle with with 1/2 TBSP olive oil

Cook at 400 degrees for 45ish min (until it starts browning)

While it’s cooking, heat up the oil, adding the onions and garlic

Once the onions are translucent, add the spinach, basil, and the rest of the tomatoes

Cook all ingredients in the oil over low-med head for about 7 min

Using a fork, scrape the “Spaghetti” out of the squash and put in a bowl; toss to get the zucchini and tomatoes mixed in

Pour the pan sauce over the squash and toss again

Add feta, salt, and pepper to taste

Messiness: I somehow find a way to make squashes the messiest, most complicated thing ever. So, for me, anything involving a squash is a mess, but if you’re normal, it’s not that bad!

Simplicity: This is actually something I dreamed up since I had all of the ingredients, minus the spaghetti squash on hand. Also, I find pan sauces to be one of the simplest ways to make yourself feel like you’re a cook!

Budget: Spaghetti squash are sort of in season, and if you already have the stuff in your house, then it’s cheap! Heck, even if you don’t, it’s still not terrible. AND once you have some of these ingredients, like the olive oil and olives, you’ll have them for awhile.

Delicious Factor: I love that it’s light and filling. The sauce has a lot of flavor to it, ,and the squash gets some of the juices from the zucchini and tomatoes that were cooked in it. In fact, you can halve your tomatoes before cooking them in the squash to give it a slightly more tomato-y flavor.

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