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“Spaghetti” w/ Kale & Garlic Meatballs

Everyone loves pasta. There are so many things you can do with it and it’s always so warm and comforting to eat. However, it is definitely not something I can eat every day, especially when I struggle with anxiety. Pasta is on the “Bad Foods” list for anxiety, so finding some alternatives to traditional flour based pasta is the trick! Now, that does not mean you can never eat pasta. That’s would be a pretty sad life to live, right? So save that traditional pasta for special occasions or treat yourself to it a couple of times per month. Maybe choose a whole wheat or whole grain pasta over white pasta. Whole grains are fantastic at controlling blood sugar and anxiety spikes. You can have your pasta and eat it too if you are smart about the decisions you are making! Controlling your anxiety and learning to live with it on a day-to-day basis is all about balance.

Now, that does not mean you can never eat pasta. That’s would be a pretty sad life to live, right? So save that traditional pasta for special occasions or treat yourself to it a couple of times per month. Maybe choose a whole wheat or whole grain pasta over white pasta. Whole grains are fantastic at controlling blood sugar and anxiety spikes. You can have your pasta and eat it too if you are smart about the decisions you are making! Controlling your anxiety and learning to live with it on a day-to-day basis is all about balance. Find a balance that works for you.

So, when it’s not one of those special doughy pasta eating days, we must look for satisfying pasta alternatives. You can enjoy making and eating so many amazing pasta sauces with spaghetti squash “pasta.” This tomato sauce is spicy, garlicky, and so rich. Paired with cheesy garlic and kale meatballs that will melt in your mouth, you will absolutely not miss the traditional pasta!

Spaghetti squash is a yellow squash that has stringy, spaghetti-like flesh. When it’s cooked you scrape out the insides and you’re left with spaghetti strands that act just like traditional spaghetti! Personally, I am in love with it and for my everyday pasta cravings, it works like a charm. It also has tons of health benefits and is a great anxiety-fighting food…but more about that at the end of this post 🙂

The Recipe

Prepare the spaghetti squash first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out all of those squash guts. Take a large spoon and scrape the seeds and guts out and discard.

Place the halves on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place the halves cut-side down and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. The best way to tell if the squash is cooked properly is to stick a knife in the skin and into the flesh. If the knife slides in and it feels tender, it is done. You can also take a fork and test a little spot on the inside of the squash. You want to strands to be cooked and tender, but to also have a little crunch left so it’s not too mushy.

Let the squash cool enough so you can handle it safely without burning your fingers. Take the fork and gently scrape the strands away from the skin and separate the strands a bit so you have nice “spaghetti” and no large clumps of squash stuck together. Set aside.

Now, it is time to make the meatballs! Yummm. In a medium sized bowl, add your bread crumbs, salt, pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, water, parmesan cheese and mix well. Adding water to meatballs sounds really weird, I know. But trust me, this is the secret ingredients to making your meatballs super soft, moist, and tender. It’s my Italian grandma’s trick, and boy oh boy does it make the softest meatballs EVER.

Add in the ground beef and finely chopped kale and mix into bread crumb mixture. Make sure you mix until everything is just incorporated. If you mix too much you risk making the meatballs too tough, and we don’t want that. If you feel like the meat mixture is too dry, try adding another tablespoon or 2 of water.

Roll into 7 meatballs.

Heat a pan with a drizzle of olive oil on medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all side so you get a nice golden crust. Take off heat and set aside.

Sauce time is now beginning….

In a deep pan/pot, add a drizzle of olive oil and add remaining garlic (3 minced cloves), red pepper flake, and dried thyme. This will really develop all of those flavors and will perfume the sauce. Cook for about 1-2 minutes, but don’t let the garlic burn or the sauce will become bitter.

Add the can of tomato sauce, and salt and pepper to taste if your tomato sauce doesn’t already have seasoning. I used Earth Fare organic tomato sauce, which is already seasoned deliciously. If you find your tomato is too tangy, you can add a small drizzle of honey, or another kind sweetener, to take away some of that bite! It works perfectly.

Add your meatballs into the simmering tomato sauce, cover with a lid, and simmer for at least 25 minutes. All the flavors are going to cook together, intensify, and the meatballs will become super soft and tender.

***TIP: If you can let the sauce simmer for 30-45 minutes, even better! You’ll end up with a richer, more reduced sauce.

Serve sauce and meatballs over your roasted spaghetti squash and top with a generous sprinkle of parm!

For my boyfriend, Garrett, I made him regular spaghetti because he isn’t a fan of the squash. I took a small scoop of pasta and added it to my squash, so I was able to get a small amount of regular pasta to make me feel like I was treating myself a bit. This is a really awesome way to let yourself eat a little bit of regular pasta, but not too much. Trust me, you belly and anxiety will thank you.

Trust me, you belly and anxiety will thank you.

Anxiety-Fighting Ingredients

  • Spaghetti squash: This delicious squash is high in vitamin B6, which is great for anxiety. It has the ability to increase serotonin levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety. It also has vitamin C – which elevates mood. Read more about anxiety and vitamin C here.
  • Kale: Oh, kale. It shows up in so many of my recipes, as you can see. Again, leafy greens are rich in folate, which helps to regulate your body’s mood. It also has a lot of vitamin C as well.
  • Garlic: Helps reduce fatigue and stress within the body. Anxiety exhausts our bodies and garlic can give the body a much-needed boost to help fight feelings of anxiety.
Print Recipe
Serves: 2 Cooking Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • -------------------------------
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup kale
  • 2 tablespoons romano/parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • --------------------------------
  • I 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • Olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon thyme

Instructions

1

Prepare the spaghetti squash first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2

Cut the squash in half, lengthwise.

3

Lay on a baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

4

Place halves cut-side down and roast in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. *

5

Let cool. Once cool, take a fork and gently scrape strands away from the skin.

6

Next prepare meatballs.

7

In a medium sized bowl, add your bread crumbs, salt, pepper, minced garlic cloves, water, parmesan cheese and mix well.

8

Add ground beef and finely chopped kale and mix together. **

9

Roll into 7 meatballs.

10

Heat a pan with a drizzle of olive oil on medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all side so you get a nice golden crust. Take off heat and set aside.

11

Now, prepare the tomato sauce.

12

Take the 3 leftover minced garlic cloves, and add to a pan with olive oil, dried thyme, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes.

13

Pour in the can of tomato sauce. Add salt and pepper if needed. ***

14

Simmer sauce with the browned meatballs for at least 25 minutes. But if you have time to simmer it for 30-45 minutes, the better the flavors will be.

Notes

* To test doneness, poke flesh/skin with a knife, and if it is tender it's done. ** Don't overwork the meat too much or you'll end up with a tougher meatball. We want these to be soft and "fluffy." *** If your tomato is too tangy, add a small drizzle of honey or other sweetener. This will take some of the edge off.

 

Mindfulness Practice/ Other Anxiety Tips/ Uncategorized

The Art of Mindfulness: Retrain Your Mind

When you have anxiety your mind is always cluttered with a million different thoughts at any given time. Sometimes the thoughts are fleeting, triggered by something you saw on the news or as you scrolled through your Facebook feed – that article about a deadly car crash has you marveling in fear that can happen to you or a family member, right? But often, anxiety sufferers have the same fears, worries, and scary thoughts on a day-to-day basis for long periods of time.

We become so tangled in our own minds and thought patterns we find it a never-ending battle to free ourselves from the dark and dismal nooks and crannies of our mind. Anxiety becomes a habit and we all know that habits can be extremely difficult to break.

So, what can YOU do to help gain some control back over your own mind? When you break anxiety and anxious thoughts down to its core, it’s your own mind creating these terrifying and uncomfortable thoughts. It’s not your fault that you created these thoughts, but one must take responsibility for letting those thoughts control them. Once you admit your own mind is feeding the anxiety, you take back your power and realize you have complete and total control over your mind.

In this post, we will explore what mindfulness is, how it will help your anxiety, the basic beginner steps to practicing mindfulness, and how it will retrain your brain.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being, well…mindful! But what does that mean exactly? An anxious mind wanders all over the place, uncontrollably. The mind has absolutely nothing to tether itself to when you don’t give it something productive and healthy to focus on. When you’re floating around outer space with your deepest and darkest fears and you’re not living in the here and now, your anxiety will spiral out of control.

To combat this issue, practice the art of being mindful. That means turning total focus on the present. What are you doing right now? Reading this blog post of course. How are you sitting and how does sitting feel? Are you comfortable? Do you feel any aches? How do the words look on the screen? Is your computer screen bright? These are all things you would never take note of unless you are being mindful and living fully immersed in the present.

Why is Mindfulness Helpful?

Mindfulness is so helpful for people who deal with anxiety disorder for 2 reasons:

1) It helps train your brain/mind that it has the ability to focus on something other than anxious thoughts
2) It distracts your mind from those anxious thoughts instantly so you can give your poor head a break from all that worrying you do!

Is Mindfulness Easy?

It’s very important to remember practicing mindfulness will likely be quite challenging in the beginning. It’s not something you are going to master and excel at in the first day. You have to retrain your mind and that is going to take some practice, consistency, and dedication.

When you first begin practicing you may find it hard to remain focused on being fully present and stopping your mind from wandering, and that’s normal and okay! Be patient and gentle with yourself, always softly bringing your attention back to the present. Don’t judge yourself when you fall off course or you struggle to keep your mind focused on the present. Mindfulness is less about stopping bad and anxious thoughts, and MORE about letting those bad thoughts come and go without judgment and dwelling on them for too long.

If you are dedicated and consistent with your daily mindfulness practice, you will see results and it will become easier. I promise. This may feel like a big undertaking as you sit here and read this for the first time, but take baby steps and don’t let yourself become overwhelmed. Remember…always be gentle and patience with your mind because you owe it that ☺

Your 1st Steps to Practicing Mindfulness:

1) Start with small “sessions” at any time throughout the day. Maybe you will start with once a day, or maybe you want to take a crack at it in the morning, afternoon and night. Do as much as you feel comfortable. Try to be mindful for 5 seconds at a time, if you can do more, awesome if you can only do 2 seconds, still amazing! Everything is an opportunity to be mindful. Practice while typing, walking, cleaning, cooking, watching TV, listening to music, etc.
2) Slowly build up how long you can successfully immerse yourself in the present. For instance, maybe you will add 5 seconds onto your time every week. Building gradually we help train that mind of yours without feeling too overwhelmed.
3) When you are feeling comfortable with your mindfulness practice try and incorporate the practice into the moments when your anxiety starts flying high and you begin to lose your mind. Stop, take a deep breath and focus on the immediate world around you. Where you are, how your breath feels, what you can see, feel, and taste. Ground yourself in the present so your anxious mind can remind itself it is in the here and now, and not in tomorrow, 3 months from now, or worrying about something that will probably not ever happen.

Suggestions for How to be Mindful:

• When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed lay there for a minute or two. How do you feel? How does your body feel? Are your eyes heavy or dry? Do you have a taste in your mouth?
• When taking a shower, how does the water feeling running down your skin? What is the temperature and how does it make you feel? How does the water feel when it hits your body? Are you calm?
• Sweeping or vacuuming the floors, cleaning tables and counters, etc. – notice what sounds you hear when you’re sweeping, notice the dirt pile up as you sweep it into the dustpan, what does it look and feel like when you wipe down a table or counter? Notice every movement you make, notice the rhythm you feel in your body when cleaning.
• When idle, notice all of the sounds, smells, touch sensations around you. Let everything in the space come to you, feel everything with all of your being and senses.
• When working out, notice how the muscles feel when you’re lifting weights or running. Imagine those muscles contracting and getting bigger and stronger. How does your entire body feel? Does anything hurt or feel uncomfortable? How is your breathing pattern? Are you out of breath or comfortable with your breath? What are the people around you doing? Feel the sweat all over your body. Enjoy the sensations of your body in movement and pushing itself. Appreciate your body.
• Go for a walk. Feel the sunshine on your skin. Hear all of the sounds around you. Smell everything that comes to you. Notice how it feels when your feet hit the ground. Count the houses or the trees that you pass.