A Fast Italian Sandwich As Easy (and Tasty) As Pie

easy italian sandwich

I’m going to be honest here… sometimes I’m super motivated to cook and look for recipes that challenge my culinary skills, maybe use a new ingredient, or an old ingredient in a new way. But then there are other times where I really want something tasty and homemade, but have absolutely no desire to spend more than 10 minutes in the kitchen. Enter this recipe.

easy italian sandwichWith a little help from the store… well, actually a lot of help from the store, this delicious Italian inspired sandwich is super easy, super delicious, super affordable, super pretty, and super quick! Hands on time is about 10 minutes. You can do that. If I could last night, you can tonight.

I usually have about 90% of these ingredients already in my pantry and fridge pretty much all the time. The only time really spent doing actually work is when you’re making the focaccia (using store bought dough and an awesome recipe from The Kitchn) and slicing the cheese (or you can buy it already sliced).

So enough of me blabbering, after all you’re hungry and want your sandwich now.

easy italian sandwich
A Work of Art in Under 10 minutes!

Tasty Italian Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches
1 Store bought pizza dough
1 tablespoon of flour
4 Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
4 Roasted Red Peppers (from a jar)
4 Slices eggplant, uncooked
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or 1 tablespoon fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh baby arugula (or spinach)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. While it’s preheating, take the room temperature dough and spread it out over a sheet pan. You can use some flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands (and the sheet pan) and make it a little easier to work with. Basically just use your fingertips to spread it out. “Finger holes” are encouraged. Once it’s spread out across the sheet pan, drizzle with olive, Italian seasoning or fresh Rosemary (I actually used both), red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper. Then use those hands and have some fun with your food, spreading it out to every inch of the focaccia.

Once that’s all set, lower the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F and cook the Focaccia for about 15-20 minutes. Take a peak at 15 minutes because you want it crispy but still a little fluffy on top.

While the focaccia is cooking, take the sliced eggplant (about 1/2 inch thick) and fry in some olive oil on the stove until golden brown on both sides.

Once the focaccia is golden brown, remove from the oven, and cut it into equal size squares.

Now it’s time to assemble the sandwich. One layer focaccia, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, layer with mozzarella, arugula, eggplant, roasted red pepper, top with some flaky sea salt, then finish with the focaccia bread.

Now bite in.

See I told you it wasn’t hard, but it’s so delicious!!!! Worth every 10 minutes!

As always “Bee” Well,

Melissa

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Meditation On Staying Strong and Showing Weakness

international womens day

Happy International Women’s Day! As a woman, I can name so many women in my life, both past and present, who have affected me and made me into who I am today. There are women that I was close with, those who only came in my life for a fraction of a second, those I’m still connected with, and those that I’ve never met, however they all share a common demoninator and it’s the fact that I will forever be thankful of the bond between us.

meditationMost women (and a lot of men too), tend to feel like they have to “do it all” and “be it all” for their friends, family, and work. However, it’s when we constantly think that “having it all” is what we want, to lose site of what “it all” actually means to us.

Is it a new car?
A new house?
A clean house?
An aspiring career?
Successful kids?
Being able to work 10 hours, take care of the kids, cook dinner (in the spotless kitchen), all while folding laundry and looking like you’re about to step onto the red carpet?

Whatever it is, it’s days like this (that also coincide with the New Moon) that I take a step back and do a little self assessment because if we don’t look inward at our true self then we tend our self worth goes down.

We begin to think that our weaknesses are just that, weaknesses, things that should be avoided, taken down, hidden. But, admitting our weaknesses only show us that we are strong and by turning the attention inward, we become self aware of who we are, who we want to become, and why we want to go there. So think first:

What is my version of “having it all” and is it really what I want?

true self meditationIt’s so easy to get caught up in what we perceive as being “it all” whether it’s from society, our family, or our friends. Our own personal image can get clouded by other people’s ideas of what “it all” actually is.

On this new moon, a time when we need to reconnect with ourselves and reaffirm what we are looking for. It’s a time when our thoughts can become scattered if we don’t focus and take the time and energy to turn inward. It’s also a time when we may beat ourselves down a little bit, feeling lethargic, apathetic, and just down. That’s ok if you’re looking at it with an honest eye and instead of continuing the self beat down, focus on the truth in your comments and see where you can make changes that will help you move forward towards your true self.

true self meditationThis is an easy meditation that anyone could use to help focus on their true self while also opening (which isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are embracing what the universe is offering us). Do it for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or 40 minutes. Just make some time for yourself. I hope you realize that your strength comes from what you perceive as your weaknesses.

international womens dayFind a comfortable seat. You can sit in easy seat or sukhasana on the floor or on a pillow or bolster. Just find a place where your spine can reach towards the sky while your tailbone grounds down to Mother Earth. Allow space to open between each vertebre of the spine while it helps you lengthen your torso. Roll the shoulders up to the ears on an inhale through the nose and then exhale out the mouth as you bring your shoulders back and down.

Come into your natural breath. Focusing on the breath going in and out through the nostrils. Allow any thoughts or feelings to just float by. Don’t get discouraged if there are a number of thoughts, instead just allow them to move on without becoming attached to them.

Now that you’ve centered yourself, begin to deepen the breath and on an inhale chant (internally or externally) “I am” and on the exhale chant (internally or externally) “strong.” Continue for as many breaths as calls to you.

meditationNext follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “kind.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “love.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “enough.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “me.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “Sat” on the inhale and “Nam” on the exhale meaning “I am truth.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Finish the meditation by coming back to your breath and bowing to your inner light.

Wishing you love and light.

As always, “bee well,”
Melissa

Monday March Madness: Enticing Enchilidas

weeknight meals

If you’ve ever had a case of the Mondays, and really who hasn’t, this recipe is sure to beat ’em. Nothing says fun quite like eating a Mexican inspired feast on a Monday night (or really any night of the week). And since it’s one of my favorite months for sports (March Madness!), why not get a little crazy and go big to watch some of your favorite college basketball teams play their hardest.

weeknight mealsFor a night like tonight, I’m making a dish that will raise the heat in hopes that my alma mater, the Monmouth University Hawks, win their game and make it to the big dance. It’s my Enticing Enchiladas.

weeknight mealsI know what you’re thinking. It’s Monday, I don’t have time to make enchiladas! I’m going to be exhausted. I haven’t gone food shopping. There’s too many activities going on. Why don’t we just order in pizza…

Stop right there!

weeknight mealsThis recipe, just like most of my recipes, pack the flavor, but not the time to make it! You’re family will be singing “Ole!” by the end of the night and you’ll feel like a million bucks because not only is it easy, it’s cheap, cheerful, and good for you too!

weeknight meals

Enticing Enchiladas
Serves 4-6 (Depending on how hungry you are!)

2 large or 3 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
1 chicken breast, roasted and shredded (optional)
1 handful cilantro
1 jar of your favorite salsa (or feel free to make your own and puree it)
1/2 cup black beans (rinsed and drained if from a can)
8 corn or flour tortillas
1/4 pound monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 jalapeno
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped into bite size pieces, stems separate
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, zest removed and juice
sour cream (optional)
Cojita Cheese (optional for serving)
Sliced Avocados
Hot Sauce

Turn the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder. Roast for 15-20 minutes until golden. Combine with the chicken (if using), pepper, black beans, chopped cilantro, and lime zest. Taste for salt and pepper.

Take a baking dish and spread an even layer of your favorite salsa on the bottom. On a gas flame or in a dry skillet, heat up the tortillas until pliable, then fill with 1-2 spoonfuls of the sweet potato mixture. Carefully roll up, placing seam side down in the baking dish. Continue until the baking dish is full.

weeknight mealsTop with the rest of the salsa and monterey jack cheese. Pop in the oven at 425 for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.

While the enchiladas are cooking, put a skillet over medium high heat. Place a drizzle of olive oil in the pan with the cumin and then add the stems of the swiss chard. Let cook (without stirring so it gets a char on it) for a few minutes, then add the leaves of the swiss chard. Toss with salt and pepper and cook until you see some charring on the leaves (only a few minutes). Take off the heat and squeeze the lime juice over top.

Serve the swiss chard side and enchiladas with avocados, Cojita cheese, some hot sauce, and sour cream for a full fiesta!

Enjoy and GO HAWKS!

weeknight meals

Video: Yoga for Tight Upper Back

yoga for upper back

yoga for upper backSitting at your desk for too long? What about sitting in traffic? Yea, it sucks! And your back doesn’t like it either. Hence the society that we live in where we’re all hunched over and complaining of chronic and upper back pain. I’ve heard your call (including my own back) and wanted to share a quick yoga routine for a tight upper back.

Unfortunately, a tight upper back can lead to a number of issues including headaches, a collapsed chest (and therefore a collapsed heart), and poor posture (which is both a cause and an effect). By relaxing and strengthening the muscles in our upper back, shoulders, and neck we will be able to improve our posture, open the chest, and relieve sore muscles.

You can do it sitting in your chair at work, on the couch, on a mat, wherever and it takes less than 5 minutes! Let me know what you think and what issues you’d like to see focused on in the future. I’ll be sure to get them live for you so that we can all lead a happier life, which includes a happy and healthy body!

Enjoy!

Craving Pasta, but not the Carbs? Try This…

no carb vegetarian pasta

Raise your hand if you’ve bought a spiralizer… (raises hand). After watching a cooking show and being mesmerized on how easy it was to create beautiful little ribbons with just a simple twist, I was hooked. I envisioned a million ways that I would use this tiny little contraption that I bought for just $12. In my eyes, at that point, I had just reached a new level of healthy cuisine.

no carb vegetarian pastaOh how wrong I was. Have you ever bought something, put it in a draw, only to never let it see the light of day? (Raises hand.) My genius little spiralizer got pushed to the back of the drawer. Catching up with my mandolin and extra large bamboo steamer. That is… until I decided to take action and bring it into my cooking rotation. What I made with it isn’t life changing per se, you already known you can spiralize your veggies, but because it’s so simple, delicious, healthy, vegetarian, light on the hips, and appealing to all tastes – especially those looking for a big bowl of pasta – I had to share.

no carb vegetarian pastaThis recipe is packed with vegetables – I mean packed. You’ll feel so great eating it that when you go for that bite of ice cream for dessert, you’ll enjoy every last bite – no regrets! (Just don’t eat the whole pint, unless you’ve had a really crappy day – then go for it!) I also did a little variation on your normal basil pesto. I had some fresh spinach leaves in the fridge that were about to go bad, so I turned my spinach into a pesto. Delicious!

no carb vegetarian pastaI served my pasta with a quinoa stuffed pepper where I added some of the spinach pesto into the quinoa then baked the peppers with mozzarella cheese on top. Just a suggestion!

no carb vegetarian pastaOh and a side note, if you have dogs, save the leftover “knubs” of veggies for them. My one dog got a kick out of it. He played with it for a few minutes and then gobbled it down. Everyone loves their veggies!

vegetarian pasta

Pesto Veggie Pasta

no carb vegetarian pastaFor the Pesto:
1 cup Fresh Organic Spinach
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (plus more for garnishing)
Olive Oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

For the Pasta:
4-6 Zucchini and Yellow Squash (Using both creates a really vibrant plate)
3 Carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the pesto, combine everything but the olive oil in a food processor until chunky. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor runs until you get a nice chunky consistency. Taste for salt and pepper.

no carb vegetarian pastaFor the pasta – time to get your spiralizing arm in gear (it’s a workout!) Spiralize all the zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. Once you have the ribbons, heat a non stick pan to about medium heat, add the olive oil, and saute the ribbons until slightly tender (about 5 minutes).

While still in the pan, add the pesto by tablespoon until you reach a level where the “noodles” are coated with the pesto. Grate some extra Parmigiano Reggiano over the top, maybe sprinkle a few more red pepper flakes over top and I’m telling you, you’ve got a winner!

Entering the Year of the Fire Monkey

year of the fire monkey

If you watched Superbowl 50 last night, you might have been weirdly intrigued by the “Puppy, monkey, baby” commercial. Honestly, I can’t remember what the commercial was actually selling, but the combination of the three very cute entities rolled up into one was disturbing, fascinating, and hilarious. However, that’s not my point.

year of fire monkeyToday, February 8, 2016 marks the Chinese Lunar New Year, moving from the year of the Sheep, a Yin and Wood year, to the year of the Monkey, which also happens to be a fire year. What does this all mean? Keep reading below and find out what all this “monkey business” is about!

 

Welcoming the Year of Fire

First, let’s get a little hold on what a “fire year” versus a “wood year” actually means. According to Chinese Astrologer and Doctor of Chinese Medicine Narrye Caldwell, a wood year focuses on growing your intuition, breaking through barriers, growing, and becoming enthused by new or old projects. We may have spent the past two years growing our vision, seeking our goals, but have been unable to move forward in an educated way. This is partly due to wood’s lack of wisdom and refinement, leading us to become unstable or reckless.

year of the fire monkey“Fire qi is the full expression of Wood’s vision. Fire brings forth the rose, lays the paint on the canvas, and gives voice to the song that’s been forming in the depths of your heart,” said Caldwell.

Feng Shui expert Karen Abler Carrasco also explains how wood is introspective, focusing on a vision that luckily for us, will now be put ablaze by the fire year!

Combined with the flaming intensity of fire and the foundation we set for our intention during the wood years, we will be able to manifest our dreams into reality. During this year, understand that fire, just like that in nature, is difficult to control, but when are able to allow the fire to burn bright while also keeping the flames from burning the edges, it will continue to burn brighter and brighter as the heat intensified.

year of fire monkey

The Explosive Energy of the Fire Monkey

year of fire monkeyNow what about the monkey? Known as being one of the most intelligent signs of the Chinese Zodiac, the monkey is clever, resourceful, and adventurous, but can also be selfish, unpredictable, and erratic. My favorite characteristic of the monkey is it’s magical qualities. It has a way of turning chaos into magic and transformation, testing your ability to stay calm during times of upheaval while you grab a hold of the possibilities that arise.

“But remember—on the other side of chaos is magic and transformation. Be brave and keep your sense of humor; never forget that there’s spiritual gold at the end of the tale,” said Shelly Wu.

During the year, make sure you engage your senses with creative energy both externally and internally. Nourish your body and mind with activities that both inspire you such as writing, drawing, dancing, singing, playing, and ground you such as practicing yoga, meditation, and gardening. It’s also important to balance your food, lowering the inflammation inducing ingredients because our fire energy is already strong. (Check out this recipe A Summer Grain Salad).

My Intentions For This Year

year of the fire monkeyNow that we understand a bit about what’s coming, it’s time to turn inward and see where we would like to go. This is the time to take charge, delve into your dreams and allow them to take shape. For me, I’m going to focus on what makes me happy: sharing my love and passion of yoga, meditation, healthy eating, nourishing the body and soul, and writing. One step in front of the other or as Dory in Finding Nemo said… “Just keep swimming.”

Use your intuition that you’ve nourished throughout 2014 and 2015 and allow them to take shape within the fire. We’ve come this far, we’ve created our vision, and now it’s time to take hold of it and move forward. Remember to use your intuition and knowledge and you step on the path towards illumination. It’s your time to shine and the best way to shine is when you’re being true to yourself while sharing it with others.

As always, “Bee” Well,

Melissa

Recipe: A Summer Grain Salad in the Middle of Winter

quinoa salad recipe

It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean that my taste buds are craving bright, fresh, and bold flavors – basically summer flavors. As much as I love the soups, stews, and pastas of winter, I’m also in love with grain salads that are the perfect meal, side dish, or snack.

quinoa salad recipeMy obsession with citrus continues with this salad that is packed with summer ingredients. Normally, I wouldn’t advocate eating outside of the season – we all know that things tend to taste better when they actually grow relatively around the same time that you’re consuming it – however, sometimes you have to make an exception!

My Summer Grain Salad is the perfect antidote to those winter blues (and pounds!) And be prepared to make extra! The last few times I’ve made this recipe, I just threw it all together in a tupperware container so I could grab a bite (or two) or a bowl in a flash.

This recipe is also super, super, super simple. I mean, you can basically put this together in your sleep!

quinoa salad recipeSummer Grain Salad in the Middle of Winter

2 cups Quinoa, rinsed
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1 Avocado, diced
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 limes, with zest removed
2 tablespoons jalapeno olive oil (or plain, then just add chopped jalapenos!)
1 tablespoon jalapeno infused white vinegar (or white vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pan, add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, cayenne pepper, cumin, and rinsed quinoa. Toast until fragrant on medium heat. Then add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is fluffy.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Add in the quinoa when finished (no need to let cool, it will help wilt the spinach ever so slightly) and then dig in.

Seriously simple… Simply delicious… Enjoy!