Roasted Eggplant Dip


I’ll be the first to admit it: I hate reading directions. I suspect it’s a matter of being right-brained, left-brained or something to that effect but I just am not good with reading directions and understanding them. I often times find them far too complicated because I tend to unintentionally overthink and overanalyze things and then get completely confused.

Roasted Eggplant Dip

I much prefer visuals like videos, pictures, or, best yet, someone to show me in person. It’s because of this that I feel that each time I go on a trip, I come back a better photographer.

Roasted Eggplant Dip

Due to my stubborn-ness in not wanting to read directions on how to use a camera, let alone my own camera, I find myself largely uninformed when it comes to how to use my little Canon Rebel. As a has-been Fine Arts student and person who uses photography on her own blog, I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know how to adjust the ISO on my camera (which becomes even more embarrassing once you realize that there’s simply a button for it).

Roasted Eggplant Dip

Each time I go on a trip I find myself taking lots of photos in various settings and invariably find myself in the company of someone who actually knows a lot about cameras and photography. This last trip, one on of my final days within LA I found myself at a bar, learning from a stranger all about the different manual settings and adjustments on my camera.

After coming back and organizing this dish, I found myself feeling more confident in my ability to photograph, but also more confident in my ability to control and deal with different settings and situations (oh hey there natural light).

Roasted Eggplant Dip

I am also excited because this dish was created from eggplants within my own garden! Before I left for LA I noticed that I had quite a few eggplants starting out and moving along in growth so it was wonderful to come back and find several that were all ready to pick and several more that would be ready before the week was done.

While earlier this season I had an extremely prolific garden of zucchini, there ended up being some bug issues and the zucchini and squash plants unfortunately died. The tomatoes have been extremely slow growing (I fear that we will have dozens ripen at the exact same time) and so there’s been a bit of a lag in home-grown produce. That’s why I’m so thrilled to see lots of eggplants popping up and growing merrily away! Have I mentioned I love eggplants– especially roasted ones?

Roasted Eggplant Dip

While this dish is loosely based on baba ganoush, it’s missing a key  element: garlic. Because of that, and the fact that I realize I know/ have very little first-hand experience with Middle Eastern cuisine, I will just describe this as a delicious roasted eggplant dip.

Roasted Eggplant Dip with Lemon Zest, Tahini and Sumac

Makes approximately 3 Cups

1 Medium Eggplant, or 3 Small (when you chop it later, you’ll want about 2.5 Cups)

Zest of 1 Lemon

1.5 TBSP Lemon Juice (about 1/2 of a lemon)

2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 TBSP Tahini

1/4 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Sumac

To Garnish:

Sumac, Toasted Sesame Seeds and Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Prick a few holes in the eggplant from various sides (I’ve had eggplants explode in the oven when I didn’t do this) and place on a baking sheet before tossing into the oven. Cook for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. The eggplant skin will likely be hard but the interior will be soft. Once it is cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool (it should deflate slightly during this time).

Once the eggplant has cooled, cut off the stem and the brown part at the base of the eggplant. Once removed, roughly chop the eggplant. For a smoother texture, toss in a food processor or blender briefly but don’t blend it completely – texture is nice in this dish!

Add the eggplant to a large bowl and mix in the lemon zest, juice, olive oil, tahini, salt and sumac. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

To serve, sprinkle some sumac and toasted sesame seeds on top and drizzle with olive oil.

I enjoy dipping this with red bell peppers but crackers, such as pita chips will also work well. Covered, it also keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Roasted Eggplant Dip

Venice Beach Boardwalk

LA Travels: Huntington Library, Neptune’s Net & Venice Beach

I’m finally back in Maryland! California and Los Angeles was a whirlwind of excitement and events including specific highlights like the BlogHer Conference, traveling to the Huntington Library, finding “biker joints” and taking public transportation to Venice Beach.

After flying back this past weekend, I admit that I spend most of it sleeping and taking it slowly at home as I worked on unpacking and reorganizing. Being Monday however, I’m back in action and I wanted to get this trip posted about before it got too late.

The Chinese Garden at Huntington Library

First off before BlogHer started on Thursday evening, I spent the day with a friend, visiting various tea spots in LA and then headed outwards to dim sum shops and the Huntington Library. Contrary to what the name might imply, the Huntington Library doesn’t just contain books; it also has a vast collection of artwork and several themed botanical gardens. As we were in a bit of a hurry however, we only traveled to two of them, the Japanese and Chinese gardens.

Lotus Flower at Huntington Library

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Hearst Castle

California Adventures (BlogHer16)

Driving up the 101 Sunday night, jetlagged and feeling like it was most definitely time for bed despite the fact that it was only 9pm I couldn’t help but feel that California is a bizarre place. As someone who grew up here, it shouldn’t seem so alien to me but after 16 years on the east coast, it is.

Hearst Castle Road

Hearst Castle Road

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Why a Positive Self-Image is Important and 5 Ways to Help Love Yourself More

Late last June I talked about the importance of body fat and the start of my new campaign #LoveMySizeLoveMyLife. Around that same time, I had come across old photos that had been backed up from my computer- specifically a set that I had taken of myself several years ago. In the pictures I was in a bathing suit and I remembered the reason I had taken them- not to proclaim how awesome I looked that summer but to take a “progress” photo so that I could later look back at all of my “flaws” to see if I had made any progress in “fixing” them. And let me tell you something- looking at those pictures, I looked great! At the time I didn’t realize it though- I was so focused on the little details that I couldn’t see the whole picture.

why a positive self image is so important and how love yourself more

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Jump on the scale immediately after waking up, check the number and then look at the mirror and scrutinize each and every little “imperfect” part.
This had become my regular morning routine (and I’ve heard from many others over the years that it’s a similar routine for them as well). It’s certainly not a positive way to start the day!

Sure, I knew I was healthy- eating well and exercising regularly however I still found ways to criticize my appearance. As someone who advocates the importance of being happy and healthy mentally and physically, I knew I needed to focus on pushing that critical voice aside. After finding those photos last month I’ve made it a personal goal to really focus more positively on myself. I don’t want to look back on old pictures later in life and see how amazing we all looked and know that at the time I was focused on the fact that I thought my thighs were too wide and my belly too round.

Anywho, the point of this- possibly overly personal- story is to encourage you to love yourself.

Having a positive body image of yourself is so important as it can substantially affect your mental and physical health. When you love yourself, you treat yourself better. Sure, everyone has good and bad days and may have moments of a low self-image, but having an overall positive outlook is imperative for overall happiness! These days I try not to stress it too much but here are some tips I’ve found that help with forming a more positive self-image.

1. Look at yourself as a whole person

Instead of looking and judging each individual part as a positive or a negative feature, look at yourself as a whole person and relish in how amazing you are!

2.Accept those compliments!

You know how we’ve been programmed to politely decline compliments from friends, family or colleagues? The whole “Thanks but…” or “Oh no, so and so is so much better”. Quit it! Now I’m not saying to be an ego-maniac but accept those compliments and say thank you!

3. Focus on what your body does for you

Instead of judging how it looks, let’s take a moment to appreciate all the wonderful things your body does for you each day. Are you breathing? Are you able to go for walks or lift weights? Run around, play with kids or enjoy time with friends and family? That’s all thanks to you and your amazing hard-working body- enjoy it!

4. Wear clothes that make you happy and comfortable

Chuck out all those clothes that are too big or too small. In my experience, clothes that are too small make me feel extra critical of myself whenever I check to see if they fit despite the fact that I know my body is different than it was years ago and clothes that are too big make me feel badly for thinking about how I used to be “XYZ” size. The past is the past- focus on loving yourself now and feeling amazing each day.

5. Remember: You are unique

This should be a well-known fact but sometimes it can still be hard to truly remember and internalize but yes, everyone is unique and every body is different. There’s no need to compare yourself to others- there isn’t one type that’s better than another. Everyone is amazing in their own way and enjoy what makes your different and spectacular.

In the end, life is about living. Please take a moment to love yourself today and live your life! If you have struggled with your self-image, tell me about it and let me know what has worked or hasn’t worked for you.


S'mores Cupcakes

S’mores Cupcakes from Rawsome Vegan Baking

Every summer I get lazy. Admittedly, I used to blame it on a lack of central AC within the apartment but now that I actually have central AC and find that I still don’t want to do anything…well yes, I’ll admit to being lazy. Or maybe it’s more about the fact that during the hot hot summer, there are so many delicious fruits and veggies that require so little cooking- if any at all.

In the beginning of summer I was swimming in strawberries, and now I’m galavanting through cantaloupes and melons.

The days go a little like this:

“I’m hungry…what’s there to eat?”
“Argh. There’s nothing to cook.”
“Oh look- there’s melon!”

Seriously, we probably go through a melon every 2 days or so. This is of course on top of eating bananas and the mangos Mr. C’s dad sent up from Florida.

S'mores Cupcakes

Sometimes though, fruit sugar just hasn’t cut it but I also haven’t had the patience or interest to really sit down and bake something. Recently, when perusing the freezer I was once again found myself being accosted by a bag of nuts hurling themselves from the overly stuffed shelves and that’s when it hit me (literally)- Emily von Euw!

I’ve linked to her blog, This Rawsome Vegan Life, several times in the past and when she came out with her first book, Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes, I ordered it immediately. Here’s the thing though, it’s been sitting on my shelves for at least a year now. Occasionally I pull it out to oggle at the beautiful photos, but I’ve never actually made anything from it.

S'mores Cupcakes

Even having had made several recipes from her page with huge success, when looking at the book, I told myself they were too simple. The ingredients too similar. There was no way they’d be that great. And, once again, I find myself feeling like an idiot because I was entirely wrong.

S'mores Cupcakes

Now mind you, my photos don’t even hold a candle to her amazing photography but trust me when I say these babies are goooood. I realized (again) that the recipes may appear simple and may appear similar but there are subtle nuances within each one that allows each recipe to be unique and delicious and it really hits the mark on whatever it’s emulating- in this case, s’mores.

S'mores Cupcakes

So basically, don’t make the same mistake I did. Give this recipe a try and the consider trying out some of her other delicious goodies. You’ll be glad you did- especially during the summer!

S’mores Cupcakes

Makes 6

Recipe very slightly adapted from Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes by Emile von Euw

1 Cup Oats
1 Cup Pitted Dates, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt

3 TBSP Cacao Powder
3 TBS Melted Coconut Oil
2 TBSP Agave
Pinch of Salt

Marshmallow Layer
1 Cup Raw Cashews
1/4 Cup Coconut Milk (I used rich, full-fat canned coconut milk)
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
2 TBSP Agave
Pinch of Salt

To Make the Crust: Process the oats in a food processor (I found mine couldn’t handle it and ended up using my Vitamix) until it is powdered. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until it becomes thick and even in consistency. Divide evenly between 6 muffin tins and press up around the sides. Stick in the fridge.

To Make the Chocolate: Mix all the ingredients together until smooth. Divide evenly amongst the 6 crusts.

To Make the Marshmallow Layer: Blend all the ingredients together until smooth and spread evenly on top of chocolate layers. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Keep refrigerated!

S'mores Cupcakes