Finding a sense of peace and contentment in her life by eating healthier and follow a menu of plant based of Vegan meals, Ashley Melillo began blogging while earning her graduate degree in school psychology.
Eating whole food helped Melillo deal with the anxiety and stress of her life. And she shares her food philosophy and the recipes she’s created not only on her blog, Blissful Basil, but also in her new cookbook, Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness (BenBella 2016; $21.95).
It’s not easy, says Melillo who also earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
“There are no quick fixes,” she says about incorporating both physical exercise and a wide variety of plant-based foods into our diet.
Indeed, one wholesome smoothie such as her Energizing Carrot Cake Smoothie, Get Glowing Strawberry Mango Chia Pudding or her Cheesy Herb or the Sun-Dried Tomato Good Morning Biscuits, won’t turn our lives upside down health-wise. But it’s all a step in the right direction to achieving physical, mental and emotional well-being.
“I think it’s tempting for many of us to want to think otherwise but it’s necessary to build up good habits,” she says. “It’s a matter of making small but good choices every day. It’s a way to taking care of all aspects of your health—cognitive and physical.”
Of course, as a psychologist, Melillo recognizes that it’s most difficult to make these changes at those times in our lives when we most need to do so.
“It’s when some of these emotions are most at their peak and when you feel almost too overwhelmed to try taking the steps to move forward, that’s when it’s the hardest,” she says. “But it’s the hardest things that push up forward and end up being the best things for us. But it’s important to make ourselves do so–to start chipping away at our anxiety or stress or depression. By taking that one step, often we can go on and take another and another and ultimately alleviate some of those overwhelming feelings.”
For Melillo, sticking with a whole foods plant-based diet doesn’t mean not allowing herself a little flexibility. But there are also other fixes too. Want something sweet? Try a vegan dessert such as her Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars, Enlivening Lemon Bars, Peanut Butter Cookies and Cosmically Fudgy Cacao Tahini Brownies. Hankering for a pizza? Melillo has a variety
of pizzas such as her White Pizza with Garlic Herb Oil, Mozzarella and Puffy Potato Crust.
“I think it’s important to have an element of self-compassion and understanding,” she says. “If you know you’re craving something that’s maybe not the thing that makes you feel greatest, but it just is what you’re feeling that you want to eat in that moment so like a vegan cookie or more processed vegan pizza something like that.”
Realizing that many people aren’t ready to go totally plant-based or Vegan or know much about, Melillo offers a glossary of terms, recipes for pantry items to keep on hand and helpful symbols—colored circle noting whether recipes are free of gluten, grain, soy, nut, oil, refined sugar and if they’re raw.
Melillo asked meat lovers to taste test the recipes in her book because she wanted them to be appealing not only for those already committed to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle but to all those who pick up her cookbook or read her blog.
“I really want everyone to love the recipes in this book,” she says.
What: Ashley Melillo talk and book signing
When: Thursday, February 16, 7:00 p.m.
Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL
FYI: (773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com