Hello to all! My name is Alexandra (friends often call me Alli) and I want to start by saying I am so very happy to be a part of such a wonderful blog that celebrates strong and thoughtful women.
I am 26, live in Escondido, California and will soon be celebrating my second wedding anniversary. I try to do everything with passion and enthusiasm. I rarely feel indifferent about anything. I tend to be rather opinionated and encourage people with differing views to have thoughtful and intelligent discussions- you never know who will open your mind to new ways of looking at something! My husband and I have an incredible relationship where we never stop laughing, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a little obsessed with him. Our 3.5-year-old Corgi mix, Winnie, is an absolute terror that takes every opportunity to remind us she’s too good for us, but with a face as completely adorable as hers (I’m pretty confident she could be a superstar in the world of dog modelling) she’s hard to stay mad at. I enjoy reading when I can find the time, and LOVE David Sedaris essays, if that’s any indication to you of my sort of humor. I consider myself an old soul, and seeing as though my favorite hobby is napping, it’s really no surprise that I am often accused of being an 80-year-old grandmother trapped in a slightly younger body.
Currently I am getting my masters in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism and in a perfect world would one day be an arts writer. While my day job of being the scheduling manager of a caregiver agency is vastly different than what I one day hope to be doing, I enjoy working for a small family run company that truly believes there’s a difference to be made in the lives of the often forgotten elderly population. It also affords me a lot of free time (mainly for my naps) and allows me to nurture my constant desire to learn and try new things. I am a sucker for reality television, love documentaries, I’m obsessed with succulents and I wholeheartedly believe that traveling is the absolute number one way to make yourself a more understanding and well-rounded person.
One thing I am actually not too proud of is my complete lack of motivation to work out, and the fact that I am always looking to fad diets for a quick fix. I have tried everything from Weight Watchers to the Scarsdale Diet, but the one sort of diet/lifestyle that I have found success with, is the Paleo Diet. For those of you who are not familiar, the Paleo Diet or, Caveman Diet as it is often called, aims to eliminate food-linked diseases and problems and hopes to get its followers down to the bare bones eating that is similar to what humans ate during the Paleolithic era. Most vegetables are okay, fruits are a go, and meats. No grains, dairy, processed foods or sugars, added hormones and basically nothing altered or created by humans. While it is very restricting and quite difficult to really stick to, it is absolutely the only thing that has worked for me. When I stick to the diet, even just on weekdays, I see weight loss, my migraines go away, I sleep better, and I have a lot more energy.
Now, as anyone like me (meaning, with the willpower of a squirrel at a nut factory) knows, sticking to a diet no matter how motivated you may be, is not always easy. The two most difficult aspects of this diet were 1) cutting out pasta and 2) making sure my husband was on the same page because, to be frank, I am without any self-control and far too weak to do it on my own. The latter issue takes some creativity. I find that just saying words like “diet” and “healthy” cause my husband’s mind to immediately shut off. He associates words like that with cardboard tasting sugar substitutes and boring bland food. Plus, he knows how caught up I can get in fad dieting and seems to know not to invest too much time in my whims. One of the best ways to combat this issue is to do it in small doses. Instead of going from one side of the spectrum where I am eating Olive Garden and pizza every night to the other side where it’s all bland dressing free salads, I try to take dishes where only one or two aspects are unhealthy and make small changes. This makes it less overt to my husband and also makes for a more realistic attempt at a lifestyle change.
This brings me back to pasta. For the most part, many pasta dishes you make at home aren’t too unhealthy. You normally have the pasta, some veggies and/or meat, and a sauce. Take a traditional spaghetti and bolognaise- in this case, the only real unhealthy part, is the pasta. Gluten always makes me feel off and slow, but I am one step away from being considered a pasta addict, so all my cravings were for dishes like Carbonara and Alfredo. Then, one day, by the grace of God, I was introduced to one of the greatest inventions known to mankind… the spiralizer. With a beautiful creation like this that can turn nearly any vegetable into a noodle, the (faux) pastabilities are endless! I am happy to share with you my go-to recipe that we have at least once or twice a week. This recipe is delicious, easy to change and play around with, and offers a very healthy meal with very few calories. This dish can even be made without using the stove and, since you don’t have to cook any pasta, you have the small added bonus of not wasting the water to boil said pasta in. If you won’t try it for yourself, try it to help the drought!
Simply start with either squash or zucchini. I prefer the latter. If you are just cooking for 2, then one should be enough, but if you have kids or guests, then go for maybe two or three squash and/or zucchini. They do sell small hand spiralizers but I have a larger one, so you simply suction the bottom to your counter, choose the right blade to get you the correct shape, and turn the handle. It’s really that easy. It’s also very inexpensive- the devise cost all of about $20 on Amazon and can be used to spiralizer or mandolin anything you can fit in it. After spiraling the whole vegetable, I rip the “noodles” up a bit, or else you can get stuck with a dozen very long strips. I enjoy the slight crunch they have, it tastes fresh and the texture is nice. If you prefer your pasta much softer, you can simply toss these in a pan for a couple minutes with some olive oil to soften them up. Everything you add is your choice, so I say get creative! Sometimes we add some shrimp sauteed with garlic and crushed red pepper, but in an effort to stick more with what my husband prefers, I baked off some boneless skinless chicken thighs. While not truly Paleo, I chose to marinate these beforehand in Trader Joe’s Soyaki, which is pretty amazing and adds wonderful taste to poultry. It also tastes great (and saves time) if you just add some shredded rotisserie chicken to the “noodles” as well. If you’re looking for an easy meal to take for lunch, you can just throw these “noodles” in a tupperware container with some sliced fresh veggies and be done with it. For dinner, I like to just cook some chopped onions and tomatoes in a small pan with some olive oil and garlic and then toss everything together in a bowl afterwards. It really takes just about 15 minutes from set-up to clean-up and is exponentially healthier than true pasta. Plus, if you have children, I promise they will be thoroughly entertained and excited to help you spiralize the vegetables.
I hope you will all give this a try, and add some creativity to your meals in an attempt to mix things up and add a healthier spin on some of your old favorites!
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Photos of recipe shot by Alli
Photos of Alli shot by Natalia Cruz