Yes to Yummy

Black and White Cheesecake Bars (gluten-free + vegan)

April 12, 2016 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Hello everybody! I’m back from my hiatus! Rejoice!

I wish I could say that for the past seven weeks, I’ve been embarking on a journey of self-discovery on a remote island in Kiribati, or working on some fascinating underground project like all of these other food bloggers. Unfortunately, neither has been the case: I’ve been so busy with schoolwork and overwhelmed with the weight of teenage angst that I haven’t had much time to sit down and write out some recipes.

There are times in our lives when a lot of good stuff happens at once, and it’s a fantastic euphoria party 24/7 for days, weeks, sometimes even months. Then there are times in our lives when bad stuff keeps happening, and while it often makes no sense, it proliferates, and it just outright sucks. Then there are times in our lives which are neither, where you’re kinda like an amorphous blob of mashed potatoes drifting through the expanses of space and time.

That last one has basically been me since the beginning of 2016. It’s been such a potato time, I have no other way to describe it. Until the beginning of April (!!!), I had no idea where I was going to college, and the ambiguity of it all made me beyond anxious. As a second semester senior, I no longer need to put forth the same amount of energy into my present academic affairs, so school kinda feels like a waste a lot of days. I’ve never really had a cohesive group of friends (I’m a social jellyfish), and the unintentional cliquey-ness that goes hand-in-hand with senior year has made me feel kinda isolated from my peers. Nothing “bad” has happened to me, per say, but all of the waiting and monotonous repetition has been fatiguing, and I want nothing more than to go off to college.

“Soon enough!” all of my adult and older friends exclaim. I nod apathetically and think to myself, “Not soon enough.”

Well, at least I’m now on spring break, and I finally have some time to sleep and cook and just sit around and be a lump. I made my final college decision a couple of weeks ago, and this fall, I will be attending New York University to study Global Public Health and Food Studies. I couldn’t be more excited to explore one of the most fascinating cities in the world and meet people with all different ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, and life experiences. I’ll be taking classes like Food & Identity and Health and Society in a Global Context, both of which are so up my alley. So many thrilling adventures are about to play out, and all I have to do is wait. Ugh.

In the meantime, at least I have these cheesecake bars!

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I made these on a whim as I was stressing out about approximately 56,784 things. They wound up being delicious and lots of awesome people got to eat them, so that worked out well!

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Just look at these beauties. They’re simply marvelous.

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Another? You got it!

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DaYUMMMMMMMMMMMM!!! (That’s my new catchphrase. I invented it. You like it? No? Okay.)

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Black and White Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients

Prep Time 4 hr 15 min
Cooking Time 40 min
Total Time
Yield 12-16 bars

FOR THE CRUST:

1 cup of rolled oats, gluten-free if necessary

1 cup of nuts of choice (I recommend almonds or walnuts)

1/2 cup of cocoa powder

Generous pinch of salt

2 tablespoons of unrefined cane sugar

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

FOR THE FILLING:

1 cup of raw cashews, soaked in water overnight

1 cup of coconut cream

2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder

1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup of maple syrup

3 ounces of dark chocolate, melted

Directions

FOR THE CRUST:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8 x 8 square baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the oats, nuts, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar until coarse but well-combined, about 30 seconds to a minute. Pour in the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla, and pulse a few more times just to incorporate everything. Take a handful of the crust “dough” and see if it holds together when pinched: if it sticks, proceed. If not, add another teaspoon of oil at a time until it does.

Squish the crust into the prepared pan in a flat, even layer. Bake in the preheated over until hardened and beginning to slightly brown, about 20-25 minutes. Once baked, let cool while you make the filling.

FOR THE FILLING:

Put all of the ingredients (except the chocolate) in a high-speed blender and blend on high until completely creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust for sweetness and tangy-ness as necessary, adding more maple syrup or lemon juice if needed.

Pour out approximately 1/3 of the liquid ingredients into a bowl and add the melted chocolate. Stir to combine and set aside temporarily.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Once the crust is cool, add approximately half of the non-chocolate filling to the pan. Layer about half of the chocolate filling on top, then proceed with the other half of the non-chocolate filling and the other half of the chocolate filling on the very top. Using a duller knife or a few toothpicks, gently swirl the top to marble everything together. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll have a mess!

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges seem dry and almost start to change color. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least four hours (preferably overnight) before slicing and eating.


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Looking forward to sharing lots more recipes with y’all in the future, since I now finally have time to do so. 🙂


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Namaste.

February 23, 2016 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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(Shout-out to my amazing teacher Emily, who is not only one of the most gorgeous human beings on the planet both inside and out, but also knows me too well and has the best handwriting ever, as evidenced above, and is a great inspiration of mine! xoxo!!!)

At the end of every yoga class, I sit in silence at the top of my mat with my hands pressed in anjali mudra against my heart, feeling the energy of my past hour of practice wash over me in a calming inundation of good vibes. All of us in the room then bow our heads and say namaste, expressing our gratitude for our practice, our teacher, and our fellow yogis.

In Sanskrit, namaste literally translates to “I bow to you,” but depending on tradition, there are many ways to interpret such a loaded word. My personal favorite, though, is this: “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you”…because in this gesture, you are recognizing that both you AND those around you possess a wonderful radiance. Basically, you acknowledge that your entire world is steeped in light, and I think that’s a truly lovely philosophy.

Right now, I’m personally feeling very stuck, slinking through the quibbles and dabbles of adolescent life. I’m not in college yet, but I’m not really in high school, either: this is my last semester, and all of a sudden this pressure that’s been building up the past four years has dissipated into near apathy. I’ve been doing the same routine forever, it seems, and each day simultaneously seems to drag on yet blend seamlessly into the day before and the day afterwards. There are moments here and there where I feel a rush of excited adrenaline for the future pumping through my veins, but most of the time, I’m just sitting, staring into space, being here, wherever here is, and being completely aware of it.

But that is life. Life isn’t about the dazzling heights of milestones like graduating, winning an award, going on a fabulous vacation: life is about brushing your teeth twice a day, feeling up avocados in the grocery store on an early Tuesday evening, stepping in a pile of late February slosh that’s there for the sole purpose of ruining your shoes (pun intended).

Life is about the interactions of each passing “normal” day, and that can make people frustrated and upset, because a lot of days are so humdrum that they seem to stand as boring blobs of blah. Trust me. I get it. But lately, I’ve been trying my darndest to find sparkle and joy in the little moments, because if you shake up your perspective, at least one really awesome thing happens every day. And for me, saying namaste helps me get to that daily place of contentment, if not elation, because even if your circumstances aren’t the most exciting, the people around you always are, if you look closely enough.

So, how can you say namaste not only to yourself, but to the world every day?


1. Give other people chances.

So often, we make snap judgments about the people we meet, the people we interact with on a daily basis. We take others at face-value, because it allows us to filter and simplify our world without giving it much thought. We define people based on what they wear, who they hang out with, the gossip we hear about them through whispered rumors…and while these quick, very materialistic analyses enable us to nicely compartmentalize our worlds, it makes our scopes of human interaction quite narrow.

And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown really not to like this approach. I look at the relationships I have, and I’ve found that the ones that mean the most to me are where I’ve given another person a chance despite my first expectation of him or her. I once knew someone whom I thought I’d never be friends with, because my initial conception was that he was mean and wouldn’t like me. But then, I gave him a chance, and I quickly realized that this was one of the most intelligent, honest, loyal people I had ever met, someone I never would’ve known was there otherwise. Today, this amazing person is one of my best friends in the ENTIRE universe, all because I let the world and not my judgment define my reality. (He is also now screaming at me through his phone. Love you too boo!!! <3 )

This has been a common trope in my life, whether it’s been with a teacher or a peer or someone I’ve met at a coffee shop: people can shine a light on you that fills you with the most lovely warmth, if you give them the opportunity to shine that light. Put aside your expectations and walk through the world with an open heart, letting those around you show you and tell you what they’re really like.


2. Be curious about the light all around you.

People honestly ask the most boring, bland questions sometimes. “How is your day?” “How is work/school/family stuff?” “What do you think of this project?” Sometimes we don’t even ask questions and just make blanket statements to fill silence, meaningless observations about the weather or tidbits about other people. Yes, small talk has its place, but I personally believe that we all have the potential to enhance our conversations with so much more sentiment if we give it a whirl.

Last year when I was bored in my U.S. History class, I would take out my rainbow pens and sheets of lined paper and write questions that, if given the opportunity, I would ask to someone I was getting to know. I entitled these lists of inquisitions “Dates and Figs,” and by the end of the year, I had compiled a whopping 800+ unique questions in total. Some were on the sillier side, like, “If you were a rubber ducky, what would you look like?” and “What is your preferred length of sock?,” while others were deeper, such as, “Who in the world can you tell anything to?” and “What is your deepest insecurity?.” My goal was to make my questions as interesting as possible, because there’s so much to be curious about in the world.

What was once a distraction in class became my new philosophy about the world. Dates and Figs inspired me to be fearless when talking to others, peeling past seemingly simple outer barriers to reach the intricacy that I’ve found every individual possesses. Sometimes, you get to this layer of complexity on a first encounter; other times, you’ve got to continually dig before you tap the surface of someone’s heart. But the journey to discover the source of another person’s light is one of the most humbling, rewarding experiences, if you give it time.

I’ve realized that you don’t really see the light in other people by asking them how their assignments are going or where they’re headed for lunch. You see the light in other people by asking them what their favorite color is, whether they consider themselves introverts or extroverts, what their greatest passion is. Be bold with the inquiries you pose, because hey, what’s holding you back? Society? BAH, society! (This is such an Abby statement.) You’re going to understand and appreciate people way more and way better if you discover what really goes on inside, because that’s who people really are. Genuineness exists inside everyone if you give him or her the chance to reveal it, so go find it.


3. Recognize that everyone’s light is different, and differently expressed.

Okay, so I’m going to sidetrack for a minute, but I promise it’s still relevant. One thing I’ve been very into recently is Myers-Briggs types. In case you don’t know what those are, it’s a simplification of Jung’s Psychological Types, where Isabel Myers and Katharine Cook-Briggs established 16 different ways that people are and go about the world. While it’s not a perfect science, I personally love Myers-Briggs because the principles emphasize that people work and feel and process information differently, not wrongly. The goal of Myers-Briggs is to articulate that if we work towards understanding where and why we differ, we’ll be better able to form relationships and be successful in all types of environments. Introversion versus extroversion, intuition versus sensing, thinking versus feeling, perception versus judgment: all of these elements come together in various combinations to display that we each are composed of varying patterns of thought and interaction.

(By the way, I’m a hardcore INFJ, in case you’re wondering. You can read more about types here and here, and my favorite personality test can be found here. Let me know what you get!)

This, to me, relates to namaste because by saying that the divine light in me sees the divine light in you, we’re saying that while we understand that we might not be the same, we recognize that we can all find a place of mutual admiration and respect. And that’s pretty powerful…and something I’ve been trying really hard to practice lately.

Me personally, I’m a very emotional, intuitive person, and most of my passions and interactions are deeply rooted in feelings and ideas as opposed to facts and logic. My life is infused with creativity, and if I feel like my imagination is being stepped on, I get grumpy. Happy Abby is Abby writing about her day in her journal, having three hour conversations about human existence, and slaving away for days over a kitchen stove or a crafts project to bring a smile to another person’s face. So when I talk with someone who is grounded in the concrete, who prefers work to introspection, who may be less attuned to the world of emotion with which I’m so intertwined and more in line with the rational side of life, I often become puzzled or frustrated as I try to figure out how to connect.

But I’ve been steadily working towards always remembering that everyone thinks in a different way, and if everyone was the same, life would be painfully boring. Learning about how each person interprets the world is a fascinating experience, and I’ve grown to love picking people’s brains to best understand perceptions and ideas that aren’t like mine. Embracing all of these different kinds of light makes you a more thoughtful, sensitive person, and it not only brings you more friends to love, but also challenges you to reevaluate yourself and develop new ways of going about your life.

Flexibility is fantastic, so again, allow yourself to be open to the rainbow of ways in which people process the world. The best conversations and friendships arise from where you can find connection in similarities and differences, where you see light even if it’s not a type of light you’re familiar with. Let it shine, let it radiate. You won’t be sorry.


4. Remember that YOU have divine light, too!

Namaste has two parts: the divine light in ME and the divine light in YOU. You should always look outward, recognizing that everyone and everything in the world has beauty if you have a gentle enough perspective, but you should never forget that YOU are part of this beautiful world; therefore, you too possess a wonderful kind of beauty. It doesn’t make you narcissistic to see beauty in yourself. Really.

Sometimes I just want to go up to people and start shaking them, screaming, “I F**KING LOVE YOU!!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?!?!?!?!” (And, as my friends will tell you, I often do this, though usually I’m able to restrain myself from being too extreme.)  Yes, everyone has flaws, but it makes me sad and mad and frustrated when people are ashamed, when they can’t see how freaking fantastic they are. I wish I could convince everyone I know how much he or she deserves to love himself or herself for exactly who he or she is.

Please, do me a favor and even when you feel scared or lonely or hopeless, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is light within you, and other people want to see and feel and love that light. Just like you give others a chance, give yourself a chance, too. Understand that in life, you will make mistakes, you will feel uncomfortable, you will sense the quirks in your personality and you may squirm, but don’t let that stop you from loving yourself. You are strong, you are courageous, you are gorgeous and radiant and held by others and this life itself. Let your light shine, because you beam, and you ROCK.


To especially my loved ones reading this, thank you all for being the most wonderful people in the world. Thank you for letting me ask you personal questions. Thank you for listening to my babbling philosophical meanderings. Thank you for talking with me about everything, because I love talking to you about everything. Thank you for sharing your beautiful light with me, because I feel so grateful for the beautiful light you exude every. Single. Day.

Namaste. <3

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Linzer Heart Cookies (vegan + whole-wheat)

February 10, 2016 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Cookies! Shaped like hearts! Valentine’s Day! Much pep!

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I don’t get why people hate Valentine’s Day so much. Me personally, I love a holiday devoted exclusively to love. Yes, I think that love should be woven into each and every day in as many ways as you possibly can, but in my opinion, it’s lovely that there’s a holiday dedicated to telling other people how much you care about them.  We so often walk through the world with our hearts closed, fearing that others will judge us for how we feel or sifting through our own business so intensely that we isolate ourselves…so it’s nice to have a little push on the calendar reminding us to show some compassion.

I think the real problem lies in all of the unnecessary pressure we place upon ONE day. You know the drill: you’ve gotta express romantic love, and for some reason romantic love means buying flowers and going out for overpriced dinners and physically manifesting that your love is real, somehow. Are flowers and dinners nice? Yes, of course, but that is in no way how you have to express your care for another person.

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One of my favorite things about humanity as a whole is the plethora of ways in which we can all love each other. We frequently get frustrated that someone else isn’t loving us in the way we’d like, which I think is often more of misunderstanding. Instead of getting caught in the quibbles (this is my new favorite phrase, other than fartbag, which is a different story), I believe that it’s far more beneficial to meet those we love halfway, recognizing that while some of us are big on public, dramatic expressions of passion, others are more subdued and prefer little notes and quiet moments. Neither form of love is “wrong”…they’re just different for different people, and the intention behind both can be equally as strong.

Always love others for where they are, unconditionally. Empathize and learn how to understand. That’s my philosophy. Also hugs. Hugs are my favorite thing in the universe. Always hugs.

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At the same time, though, you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship in order to be loved and feel love. First of all, platonic love is freaking awesome, and it isn’t expressed enough, in my opinion. Write passionate love letters to your friends. Get them flowers and presents. Give them kisses and cuddles. I mean, if that’s not your style, I get it, but why on earth is it a “bad” thing to show your friends how much you love them?!  Gosh, society.

But as I fervently expressed in my last post, you don’t even need another person to feel love at a particular moment in time: you, yes you, can love yourself. And that’s not selfish: it’s freaking awesome! It’s something I am proud to practice, and I encourage you to practice it, too.

Last Saturday night, I wanted to get out of the house, but all of my friends were either in a theater production or attending a dance. So I decided, hey, why not take myself on a date?

So, I burned myself a cheesy mix CD featuring my favorite love songs, and drove the half an hour to my favorite pizza place. I asked for a table for one, opened up a book of poetry I brought, and just sat in the middle of a crowded restaurant, by myself yet perfectly content reading Walt Whitman and chowing down on those delicious layers of cheese and tomato sauce. Afterwards, I went to Carvel and got my favorite guilty pleasure: a vanilla and chocolate swirl soft serve cone, dipped in chocolate and covered with rainbow sprinkles. As I sat in my car, making a complete mess of myself while singing along to Ed Sheeran, I thought about how much fun I was having just being me, doing my own thing.

Love others with all of your heart and all you’ve got, but darnit, love yourself, too. Dating someone is fun, but dating yourself is fun, too.

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OKAY PHILOSOPHICAL TALK IS OVER FOR THE DAY. It’s time for cookies. FREAKING AMAZING COOKIES!!!

My mom’s favorite cookies are Linzer Hearts, so these go out to her especially. They’re really lovely: raspberry jam sandwiched between two soft, slightly crumbly, slightly crunchy, slightly chewy cookies, dusted in a little powdered sugar. Yes, they’re a decent amount of work with all of the rolling and such, but they are SO worth it!

Make these for someone you love this Valentine’s Day. Or make these for yourself, because you love yourself too, right?! 🙂

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Linzer Heart Cookies

Ingredients

Prep Time 2 hr
Cooking Time 10 min
Total Time 2 hr 10 min
Yield 12-15 sandwiched cookies

FOR THE COOKIES:

1 cup of oat flour

1 cup of whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup of blanched almond flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of organic palm shortening OR softened refined coconut oil

1 cup of organic cane sugar

1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder + 2 tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of almond extract

FOR THE RASPBERRY JAM:

1 12-ounce bag of frozen raspberries, slightly thawed

1/2 cup-2/3 cup of organic cane sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)

1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder + 3 tablespoons of water

Pinch of salt

Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

FOR THE COOKIES:

In a medium bowl, sift together the three flours and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the palm shortening with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides, and add the arrowroot/water mixture and extracts. Turn the mixer on low, then crank up to high and beat until everything is well-combined, about two minutes longer.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low just until no clumps remain. Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients and do the same. The dough should hold together pretty well in a firm-ish ball. If it feels too wet, add another tablespoon or two of whole wheat pastry flour.

Squish the dough together and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Pop in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight to firm up.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Liberally flour a clean rolling pin and counter space with flour. Cut the dough ball in half and roll one of the two halves out until it’s about 1/4-inch thick (approximately). (Put the other half in the fridge while you roll out the first one.) Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter lightly dipped in flour, cut out as many cookies as you can. Then, using a small circular cookie cutter (I actually used an apple corer), cut out a little circle in half of the cookies you cut. This will be so you can see the jam in the center once the cookies are assembled!

Place the cut cookies on the prepared baking sheets, squish the scraps together, and repeat the same process described above with the dough scraps and other half of dough.

Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 9 minutes, or until just beginning to brown around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to arrive at room temperature.

FOR THE FILLING:

Option one: you are a lazy potato and use store-bought raspberries preserves. I only judge you slightly.

Option two: YOU DO IT THE ABBY WAY.

Put the frozen raspberries in a saucepan with the sugar, pinch of salt, and lemon juice. Heat over medium and, using a spoon, smash those raspberries like they were somebody you detest. Once the raspberries have mostly broken down and released their juices, whisk together the arrowroot and water and drizzle the mixture into the raspberries. Whisk it quickly and reduce the heat down to low. Stir constantly until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and put in the fridge to cool completely.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Take a cookie that DOES NOT have a circle cut out in the center and spread about a tablespoon or two of the raspberry filling all over. Carefully place a cookie that DOES have a circle cut out in the center on top. Repeat until you have no cookies left.

Put the cookies in an tight container and let them hang out overnight, or at least 3-4 hours if you’re impatient. Eat within 3 days.


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(Thanks for listening to me chatter. I’ve been writing a lot, lately. 🙂 )

Much love to all! <3


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Treat. Yo. Self.

February 1, 2016 Leave your thoughts Print this page

TREAT-YO-SELF

TREAT. YO. SELF. Word. Words. Important words.

Okay, first of all, disclaimer: I am horrible at watching things. Once in a while I can do TED Talks or a Crash Course Astronomy video, but if I have to attentively look at something for more than five minutes, I get bored and automatically zone out, then go do something else if I’m at home. Binge-watching for me is maybe getting through two episodes of a show on Netflix. Yikes.

BUT. One of the only shows I absolutely adore is Parks and Rec, specifically because Leslie Knope is my spirit animal. (I too make intricate scrapbooks and mix CDs for my best friends. 🙂 ) Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because in one episode, Donna and Tom describe the idea of “Treat Yo Self Day,” where you get yourself massages and mimosas and fine leather goods because YOU DESERVE IT. Ben, who can be a notorious stick-in-the-mud, does not believe in the idea of “Treat Yo Self Day,” but is promptly dragged along in the shenanigans and eventually succumbs, buying himself a head-to-toe Batman suit.

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Am I suggesting that you go and buy yourself a batman suit? No, I mean, unless if you really want to. But what I am getting at here is that you, yes YOU, need to Treat. Yo. Self., and you need to Treat. Yo. Self. to self-love.

Treat Yo Self

In yoga recently, we’ve been talking a lot about compassion towards oneself, because it’s a hard thing to wrestle with. It’s a very human dilemma: how do we balance our individual happiness with that of others so we can love to the fullest while still maintaining our own sanity? That perfect midpoint is difficult to both find and sustain for an extended period of time, so we so often swing towards one extreme or the other. While there are people that devote so much time and energy to themselves exclusively that narcissism develops, I want to focus here on the other side of the spectrum: the people that devote so much time and energy to others that their own needs are lost in the kerfuffle.

Human beings are innately social creatures (even if you’re an introvert like me, cough). We want people to like us, we want to form meaningful connections with others, we want to be understood and held in this life. There’s nothing wrong with any of these desires: they’re perfectly healthy, normal feelings to crave. We feel that the more we help others, the more they will like us and give us the affection we so value and require. But when we are too focused on listening, understanding, and solving the problems of others all of the time, we forget ourselves, and this can be absolutely unhealthy.

A lot of my friends have been struggling with this lately, and what I want to tell them, and you, whoever you are, is that you are a beautiful person worthy of being treasured for everything you are, and while others will bestow affection onto you, you have the power to give yourself the love you so desire. Really. I promise.


It’s easy to get completely lost in the emotions of other people, because oftentimes, we really don’t like what we see in ourselves. Instead of confronting those feelings of internal insecurity head-on, we push them aside and divert our energy into keeping busy with activities or trying to help other people, to make them feel the happiness we are missing within ourselves.

And it’s a lovely thing, really, to be able to give someone else the hand he or she needs; in my opinion, there is nothing more gorgeous than genuine human connection. But at the same time, when you try to save others to avoid healing yourself, often in the hopes that someone will “fix” you in the process or in return, you’re not forming the best possible bonds with the people in your world.

Think of it this way: you and your soul and your body are a boat that bobs along with the ebb and flow of life. You have the capacity to carry others with you, too, and when you’re strong and healthy, you can bring those you love to shore or at least point them in a direction they need to go. And that’s AMAZING. But when you have holes in your hull, when your masts are worn out, when you really need to replace some of the boards, you can’t carry others with the same kind of security. Sure, you might be okay when the waters are clear and calm, but when a storm hits, those holes in your ship are going to be felt, and those on board are going to have a hard time hanging on. And you do not want that for those you love so dearly.


I think it is so important that we recognize the importance of keeping ourselves healthy in every way possible, because when you’re healthy, you really have the space and energy to help others become healthy. By health, yes, I mean physically nourishing yourself by eating well and sleeping and finding movement you enjoy, but I also mean spiritually and mentally nourishing yourself, too. And that’s a lot trickier than drinking a smoothie or going for a run.

We are stuck with ourselves for the rest of our lives. Whether that’s a fortunate or unfortunate circumstance is up to you: it’s a choice YOU have the power to make. I would strongly encourage you to love yourself, because even if I haven’t met you, I know that you are a wonderful person who has a secret talent, lofty dream, and a sincere smile that can brighten another person’s day. (And if I have met you, please feel free to reach out to me at any point and I will be happy to tell you what I love about you!)

It seems silly, but loving yourself can be hard. We’ve all been there, don’t deny it. But if you’re willing to put in energy, to sift through some figurative nasty shit, to really get to know yourself, you can do it. And if you love yourself first, you will be able to love other people in extraordinary ways. And to me, there’s nothing more amazing than having a life filled with love, love for both YOURSELF and those around you.


Well, how do you get there? It’s not easy, and it’s different for everyone, but I’m going to try my best to explain. Regardless, I want to encourage you to try, because as I’ve said, I’m 10000000% sure that you are a person worthy of being loved by both yourself and others.

I think the first thing you have to do is to get comfortable with yourself and your flaws. In our society, we fixate so much time and effort towards erasing our imperfections, which I think is misguided. Instead, I believe we should learn how to embrace what we don’t like and figure out how to work with it: a cooperative relationship, not a combative one. You’re never going to be perfect. No one is. So why not choose to be okay with this person you’ve been given, with this person you’re growing into? Recognize your good qualities, because they’re there, and it doesn’t make you a bad person for acknowledging them. YOU ARE AWESOME. Live it. Breathe it. Be it.

If there are things you don’t like about yourself (which I’m sure there are), look into yourself and sort out why you don’t like them. If you don’t like how you look, read this. The gist of it is that there is no such thing as a perfect body, so aim to feel your best instead of look a certain way. Also, “imperfections” to you can be incredibly cute to someone else. Trust me.

If you don’t like a certain thing you do, be it biting your nails or getting anxious about tests or delivering unconscious criticism, recognize that it’s there and ask yourself why, and how you can get to a place where it’s better. Have conversations with yourself. Chat with others. It may not come right away, but if you look, you can definitely find a way to sort it out. You’ve got this.


What comes next is finding where you can be this comfortable self. What makes you feel happy and good? You deserve to be doing those things, so long as they are positive towards all human beings.

For me, that’s where yoga really comes in. My friends all know this: if I don’t respond to your message right away, it’s because I’m busy chanting “om” with my kula or daring myself to try a crazy new backbend. When I unroll my mat on the heated floor (bless that heated floor), I know it’s me time. My practice is dealing with me and my feelings and my body and no one else’s. Yes, I am surrounded by other people that I care dearly about, but we’re all there for the same reason: to have time with ourselves in a safe, loving place.

Yoga is not a selfish practice; it’s quite the opposite. Yoga is all about cultivating peace and love with yourself first and foremost so you may sprinkle good energy into your community and onto your loved ones, and that’s not selfish in the slightest. You’ve gotta take care of yourself first, because taking care of yourself enables you to be at your most grounded and enlightened when dealing with the chaos of others and the universe in general. That’s why we keep coming back: to return to the present moment in ourselves so we may be present with others.

It doesn’t have to be yoga. Cooking and drawing and reading and writing all have the same effect, for me at least. You can take walks in nature. You can rollerskate. You can play the ukulele. You can crochet. You can sing, or dance, or act. You can paint yourself purple. You can build a doghouse. You can compose passionate sonnets. Whatever it is, find time for yourself every day where you can be yourself in doing something that you love. And do it for YOU and NO ONE ELSE. You can do that. Really.


I think the final step is surrounding yourself with people who help you sustain balance in your life. I believe that it is important to radiate love and kindness towards all human beings, regardless of how they treat you or what your opinions about them may be. We all have feelings, we all have hearts, we all have giggles and fears and crushes, and we must acknowledge and honor that wonderful fact about humanity. But how much love you give to others is subjective, because your love is beautiful, and it shouldn’t be put just anywhere.

If someone mistreats your love, you should invest your love elsewhere. Yes, we all go through difficult times in our lives, and in those moments, people may not be able to appreciate or reciprocate love because they’re working out their own crap. And it’s kind and special and lovely when you can be there unconditionally for someone you love during those times, because no one should ever feel alone in anything. But when someone time and time again is draining your love from you, it’s not selfish to put forth less love towards that relationship, be it platonic or romantic. Take care of yourself and transfer love to someone you really care about, someone who could really use it and appreciate it.

You have permission to take a deep breath and let go. It’s okay.


So, I know everybody is big on New Year’s resolutions, but since I actually missed the New Year this year (my best friend and I were too busy chattering away and when we looked up the countdown, it was counting up…oops), I would encourage you to make a Valentine’s Day resolution. (What even, Abby? You are an unusual potato.)

Your Valentine’s Day resolution is this: this February 14th, love the special people in your life, but LOVE. YOURSELF. And I will say it again…

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You are a fantastic person, and you are beautiful and people adore you. So give yourself that respect and care you deserve, because you ain’t gonna be able to treat others right if you don’t treat yo self first.

Remind yourself of this every day and night: you love and you are loved. <3

xoxo <3 <3,

Abby


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Sweet Potato and Sage Risotto

January 27, 2016 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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I MADE IT. I’M A SECOND SEMESTER SENIOR.

Basically, I have no idea what just happened to me? One minute I was walking through the door with my space cats backpack in August, and the next I was dragging myself out of school while wearing a Pusheen the Cat onesie and bright yellow sunglasses in January? Confusion?

A heavy snowstorm fell on my town the night after the last day of first semester, and when I awoke the next morning, the world was still, covered in a blanket of lovely white. I felt so peaceful watching the flakes fall from the sky, knowing that I had reached the stressful apex of my high school career and was about to giggle my face off on the ride down. With the heat cranked up and my fuzzy purple blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I took out a pencil and just…wrote. Wrote about everything I’ve felt, everything that’s taken place, everything I look forward to in the next few months. It was so nice to just breathe a sigh of relief, because the past five months have been insanely, insanely stressful at times.

On Sunday night, I decided to cook up this risotto after yoga class. And while it’s a delicious dish, I’ve come to realize that it’s more than that: RISOTTO IS A METAPHOR FOR MY LIFE. I know you are now groaning because I’m about to go off on a tangent, but BEAR WITH ME PLEASE, my English teacher this year doesn’t let me be creative and I need to let my imagination fly somewhere.

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The thing about risotto is that you have to stir it. CONSTANTLY. And it gets annoying at times and your arm starts to hurt and you start yelling at your spoon, but you keep going, because you will ruin that risotto if you stop. And just when you think your risotto is done, you take a bite and even after three additions of liquid, it’s still too al dente. But you keep on keeping on, stirring and tending to that risotto until it’s just perfect. And you eat it and cry because carbs are beautiful, especially on a winter night.

Right now, I’m in the transition: I’m stirring my own personal risotto, and it’s not done yet. I’m getting there, but it’s not ready. I’m still adding things, still adjusting the seasonings, still searching for a balance. I am a very impatient person when it comes to waiting for things, so I get anxious and frustrated and awkward at times, but I just keep going, because I know that a delicious future is ahead of me. And I just gotta breathe and get through it.

But hey, stirring can be fun. I can still sing and dance like a fool. I can still have a conversation with someone sitting across from me and laugh at how adorable that smile is. I can still do a spontaneous yoga pose, still think about the complexities of life, still be myself through all of this stirring. And that’s awesome.

Okay. My risotto metaphor is done now. You may now proceed with your life.

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This was one awesome risotto. I mean, sweet potatoes, fried sage, AND white wine?! Sign me up again. It was heavenly. Ugh. Now I’m hungry again.

So, make this risotto (possibly for me, cough, but wait, I can make this for myself hahahaha) and think deep thoughts about life and then just rejoice in delicious warm carbs. Good.

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Sweet Potato and Sage Risotto

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time 50 minutes, ish, I don't know, really
Total Time 1 hour, ish
Yield 4 servings

3 tablespoons of olive oil

8 large sage leaves

1 red onion, chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of arborio rice

1 cup of white wine

3 cups (approximately) of vegetable broth

Salt, to taste

A pinch of nutmeg

A pinch of smoked paprika

1 cup of roasted sweet potato puree

3/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

In the bottom of a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until glistening. Once hot, add the sage leaves, and fry until they are crispy and beginning to turn brown around the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the fried sage leaves to paper towels and set aside.

To the sage-infused olive oil in the Dutch oven or heavy pot, add the chopped red onion and saute with a pinch of salt until beginning to soften and turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute longer, then pour in the rice. Stir frequently for two minutes, then slowly pour in the white wine.

Bring everything to a bubble, then reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring continuously, until all of the wine has been dissolved. Once things start to look dry again, slowly pour in a cup of the vegetable broth and keep stirring frequently until the liquid is again absorbed. Keep repeating this process until the risotto is thick, creamy, and the rice is fairly (BUT NOT TOTALLY) soft when you take a bite.

Yes, you have to stir constantly. Use it as an excuse for why you didn’t do your AP Stats homework. And no, I don’t know how approximately long this is going to take, or how much liquid you’re gonna have to add. Risotto is one of those things where you sit back, relax, taste as you go, and you’ll know when it’s done. Trust me.

When you think the risotto is just about done, add the nutmeg, smoked paprika, roasted sweet potato puree, and salt to taste. Stir continuously to slightly thicken the risotto, about 3-4 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. (Hey buddy, go easy on the nutmeg! It can overpower easily!) When you’re satisfied, stir in the cheese and remove from the heat.

Serve immediately with the fried sage leaves on top. Please pour yourself a glass of wine, because I can’t yet. Thank you.


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Until next time, my loves. <3 <3 <3


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