Food and Mood: Pasta Is Love in a Bowl

This post is part of the Food and Mood series. Today’s author is Megan Alpert, welcome Megan!


Denver has so many amazing restaurants and one of my favorite local

spots is The Cherry Tomato in Park Hill. Delicious food and a cozy

ambiance make for a romantic date night or even a fun night out with the

family. The restaurant also holds a special place in my heart, as it was

where I navigated my first hostess job and delighted in the warm, savory

minestrone soup and scrumptious fettuccine Alfredo.

For almost twenty years, owner and chef, Tom Felise, has featured his

signature creation, Pasta Felise, which is a dreamy dish of bowtie pasta

with chicken, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and sweet green peas

dancing in a creamy white wine basil pesto sauce – how about that for

making your heart jump!

A few months ago, I attempted to recreate this masterpiece and am happy

to share my version of “Pasta Felise.” When I want to make my sweeties

feel special or when I get nostalgic for the taste of my twenties, I turn to

this dish. Enjoy!

Here is what you need. Wow, I feel fancy setting up this display like I am

the Pioneer Woman – love her recipes!

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3 Tablespoons olive oil separated

1 Tablespoon butter

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breast (3-4 in a pack)

1 lb bowtie noodles (cook according to pasta instructions)

Basil Pesto (recipe below)

1 1/2 cup white wine – I like Sauvignon Blanc

1 package ready to eat julienne cut sun dried tomatoes

1 can of artichoke hearts (more if you want!)

1 cup of frozen green peas

3/4 cup of heavy cream

Salt and Pepper

Basil Pesto:

3 – 4 large bunch of fresh basil (about 3 cups basil leaves with stems)

4 cloves of garlic

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

Serves 4-6

First, let’s prep the chicken. I cut the breasts into two inch pieces and salt

and pepper both sides.

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Next, cook the pasta according to the package and you can set it aside for


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Then, heat about 2 Tbsp of oil with 1 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet on

medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until brown and just done (about 8

minutes). The mixture of olive oil and butter gives the chicken a nice brown


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While the chicken cooks, you can make the Pesto.

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I cut the very end of the stems off but use the rest of the basil – stem and

all – as it provides great flavor.

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Add the basil, garlic, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese to a food processor and pulse until

coarse. Then add the olive oil and pulse until smooth. So fresh and so easy!

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By now, the chicken should be nice and brown and you will want to set it aside

and lightly tent with foil for later.

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Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.

Next, add the beautiful pesto that you made and heat until fragrant (about 2


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Then add the white wine and simmer for 5 minutes.

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Now, add the sun-dried tomatoes – lovely color!

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Then, the artichokes…

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Finally, add the peas. If using frozen, I sometime just add them in straight from

the freezer. I can only imagine how good this would taste in the summer with

peas from the farmers market!

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Stir and simmer for 5 – 7 minutes until bubbly.

As a last touch, lower the heat and add the heavy cream.

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Stir and cook for just a few minutes longer.

Your last step is to mix the beautiful sauce with the cooked noodles and serve

with shredded Parmesan. Love in a bowl!!

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Megan Alpert is a recruiter at Accenture focused on finding top talent for the Marketing & Communications team. Megan lives in Denver with her husband and two sons and her passions include sports, yoga, music, travel and cooking.  One of her priorities and great joys in life is to cook and enjoy dinners with family and friends.

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Election Stress: When Politics Make You Want to Scream

I don’t care who you are or where you live: no American is immune to election stress.  Even when we want to escape the coverage of the candidates, the caucuses, the primaries – it’s next to impossible to do so! And the really frustrating thing? It’s not even close to being over (or reaching its peak, for that matter).

Way back in 2012 I wrote a post about Pre-Election Stress Disorder.*  Remember 2012? We thought we had it rough then! Fast forward 4 years and here we are in the midst of the nastiest presidential race in my memory (and I’m not that young).

I was recently interviewed by the Huffington Post about how to cope with election stress this time around.  The tone is a little silly and tongue-in-cheek, but I think the issue is real.  Constant election coverage, and the often negative banter of folks on ALL sides can have an impact of mental health.  In the article, I offer a bunch of ideas about how to cope when you notice your stress level rising.  My favorite? Check it out:

Remind yourself of the good.

A little compassion goes a long way. Research shows that generosity is cyclical: Kindness makes you happier, and happiness makes you kind. Try to engage in that behavior when you’re stressed about the negativity of the news. Volunteer at a local charity, like an animal shelter or a food bank.

“There are still a lot of wonderful things happening in the world and people making positive change,” Smith said. “That’s hard to remember when candidates rip each other apart, so actively remind yourself of that.”

Read the entire article over at Huffington Post Lifestyle.




Making Changes During Lent

Ready to make some behavioral changes in your life? Lent might be a good time to give it a try!

Ready to make some behavioral changes in your life? Lent might be a good time to give it a try!

Lent started last week, so I’m a little behind the ball, but I wanted to write a quick post about it anyway.  For those who don’t know, Lent is a period in the Christian calendar between Ash Wednesday and Easter (40 days excluding Sundays, to be exact).   I’m not an expert in theology or religion, so I’m not going to talk about the religious significance of Lent.  But as a mental health expert, I am going to focus on the practice of “giving something up” for Lent.

Whether you are religious or not, Lent is the perfect time to take a look at our lives and make some adjustments.

Here’s the deal: Most of us think about how we want to live healthier, more frugally, more whatever around the 1st of the year.  We turn these vague notions about healthier living into New Year’s resolutions – even though we know they probably won’t stick.  Do you even remember yours?  New Year’s resolutions don’t typically work because:

  • They are often too vague and general – i.e., “eat healthier” or “save more”
  • There is no specific time frame – the entirety of 2016 is just too broad
  • They are made on the heels of what is often the most indulgent time of the year – “You mean I can’t eat dessert after breakfast, lunch and dinner?” or “I really have to go back to work?” – The drastic change is just too much

But Lent gives us the perfect situation in which to make changes to our lives:

  • The things we “give up” are typically really specific – i.e., soda pop, Facebook or frozen yogurt (yes, these are all things I have given up over the years)
  • The 40+ day time frame is perfect for successful behavior change: It’s not so long that it drags out, but it is long enough to form new habits and routines
  • It comes at a great time of year when there isn’t much else going on – not too many distractions

What are you giving up this year?

Sexuality Through the Lifespan

Calling all local (Northern Colorado and Denver Metro) readers! On Thursday February 25th I will be participating in a FREE event aimed at helping women learn about sexuality throughout the lifespan.

A conversation about sex that goes beyond 50 Shades of Grey and bikini-ready bodies.

The event will be held at the Erie Community Center at 6pm.  Dr. Gloria Oberbeck will be our keynote speaker.  Bring your mom, sister and friends!

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Beans for Breakfast: Stay Energized All Day

This post is part of the series, Food and Mood.  Today’s guest is Kelly Behling.  Welcome, Kelly!

Last week I officially graduated to my second trimester of pregnancy!  After several months of barely being able to tolerate the sight of most foods (except for, Wendy’s, fried chicken, and the occasional smoothie), I celebrated feeling normal again by making one of my very favorite breakfasts of beans and rice.

Beans and rice for breakfast?  While this is not a particularly novel approach to breakfast in many parts of the world, it’s not how most of us here start our day.  Several years ago when I first tried the recipe, I was a bit skeptical (and my husband was downright incredulous), but now we look forward to them as an actual treat!  The greens and green onions give the bowl a little zing and the beans, rice, and avocado keep you energized and satisfied throughout the morning.  And because I feel so awesome after breakfast, I find that I make healthier food choices throughout the day.

The best part is that the recipe is so simple, you can do numerous variations on the main theme based on whatever you have in your fridge and pantry!

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Canned beans (try pink, pinto, garbanzo, or black)
Cooked brown or wild rice
Chopped fresh greens (our favorite is arugula, but you could also try Napa cabbage, romaine, or butter lettuce)
Chopped green onions
Smashed avocado with salt, pepper, and lime

Other garnishes:
Grape tomatoes

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About the author:
Kelly is an engineer who lives with her husband and her cat, Meatball, in Arvada, CO.  She is always seeking the simplest, fastest way to make a healthy, home-cooked meal so she can spend her free time crafting, reading, and preparing for the little one coming in May 2016!

Everything You Were Afraid To Ask About Therapy

There are a lot of misconceptions about therapy out there.

  • It’s only for “crazy people”
  • Psychologists can change their patients’ personalities
  • It lasts forever
  • It costs a fortune
  • Psychologists themselves are either perfect, or total “nut-jobs”

I recently had the opportunity to weigh in on a couple of these – and many more – myths about therapy.  The article turned out awesome, informative and fun to read.  Here are a couple of my quotes:

They’re not here to tell you if you should call off your marriage or quit your job. “The real job of therapy is to get to know yourself better and change the way you’re thinking, the way you’re behaving, or the way you’re understanding the world,” says Smith. “The process of therapy is not to give good give advice.”


“Sometimes I think people hesitate to embark on therapy because they feel like ‘If I go once I’m going to be sucked in for 10 years, three times a week,’ and it feels like this huge decision,” says Smith. But the length and frequency of therapy is very individual. It can be a one-time deal, a few months of sessions, or longer depending on what you’re going through and what you’re looking to accomplish.

To read the article in its entirety, check it out on Buzzfeed.


Easy, Fun Holiday Treats For Little Hands

It’s so easy to over-do it on the sweets this time of year.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sweets, but I don’t always LOVE the way they make me feel.  And I definitely don’t LOVE the effect too much sugar has on my already-hyped-up kids.

Luckily, Produce for Kids has come to the rescue again!  This year, they are again offering a free holiday cookbook – filled with lots of kid-friendly meals and snacks.  Check out the full guide here.

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I showed my kids the beautiful cookbook and they picked out these little snacks to try:

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I’ll give you one guess why they chose these:

Yep, the marshmallows.  They are all suckers for those things!

Anyway, here’s how it went down:

I got all the ingredients ready:

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The kids chose an ingredient (notice which was most popular!):

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Put them on the skewers:

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And TA-DA! our after-school snack was ready!

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It didn’t look quite like the example.  We couldn’t quite figure out why.  But, they were yummy, easy and fun.  Best of all my kids ate a lot of fruit (along with some extra marshmallows, of course).

Happy Holidays!

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For more holiday food ideas, be sure to check out Produce for Kids.






Squash, Comfort and the Holidays

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest author is Dr. Bridget Engel.  Welcome, Dr. Engel!

I love Thanksgiving! There is something really special about getting together and celebrating a cozy day and all that we have to be grateful for, without the pressure and sometimes chaos that other holidays may involve. Plus, I love fall food, especially Thanksgiving food with all the fixins’. Sometimes, I wish they weren’t all so heavy and filling though. That is why I’ve started adding in a nice green salad with butternut squash that goes great with the turkey, and with the leftovers!

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Oh the sweet nuttiness and bright, cheery color of a Butternut Squash! However, one of my first feelings I experience when making Butternut Squash Salad is frustration. I find cutting squash to be difficult and tedious, even if our knives have been recently sharpened. But keep reading; its worth it. I’ve found that using a peeler sometimes works better when trimming the skin of a squash. Once I get that off, then my twin girls can help, and they love to be in the kitchen together.

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Cut up the squash in chunks and then toss lightly in extra virgin olive oil. For a whole squash, I use 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with two teaspoons rosemary. If you like a garlic flavor on your salad, you can add it a bit of that now too.

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Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, at 375 degrees, stirring half way through. I like my squash to be a little bit caramelized, so sometimes I flip again and put the pan back in the oven for five more minutes or so.

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By now, I am usually feeling cozy and content. I love the smell and color of squash, and I feel good that I’m providing something healthy for my family. Squash of course, has vitamin C but also lots of vitamin A and B. There is no doubt that squash has good fiber, plus potassium!

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I’ve played around with a variety of vinaigrette dressings for this salad, and the good thing is that you can do what sounds best to you. I usually cut up and puree some fresh, juicy tangerines. Remember to pull the seeds out first. Those little buggers sometimes have three or four seeds! I think the citrus flavor is what makes this salad light and refreshing, alongside your mashed potatoes or stuffing.

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Puree those in a blender, adding in one teaspoon of fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of olive oil. Sometimes I add in a pinch of sugar or a half teaspoon of lemon juice to make it more sweet or more tart.

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Before you blend, try to get as much of the skin and the white stuff (what’s that called?) out so that you can get a nice smooth texture. You may need to blend for three to four minutes.

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Gently top warm squash on a bed of spinach, and then sprinkle with dried cranberries and freshly grated pepper. Sometimes I also add kale, or the fall flavors of nuts and seeds too to vary the texture a bit. I’ve always used dried cranberries, but I wonder how fresh cranberries would taste. Or add in some fresh cranberries to your tangerine vinaigrette! Butternut Squash Salad, alongside friends and family, makes me feel joyful and happy for the holidays. I am always excited for the weekend after Thanksgiving too because leftover squash makes for some delicious little salads for lunch.

When You’re Afraid to Take Your Kids to School

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…or go to the movies

…or go to the mall

…or go the the holiday parade

Sadly, many of us are questioning our time in large crowds these days.  What seems like a constant barrage of terrifying reports of shootings has all of us scared.  While we know that the vast majority of us will be safe as we go about our day-to-day routines, it can be easy to wonder:

What if my family is the next one to experience violence?

Calming our nerves (and the nerves of our kids) can be tough, but it’s possible.  Here’s how:

Keep doing what we’re already doing.  Most of us have some pretty good stress-management strategies on board already.  Knitting, praying, walking, talking with friends  – these are all examples of ways to cope with stress.  The key is to keep using them now that we need them most.

Turn off the TV already.  It’s easy to overdo it when it comes to media coverage of current events.  Normally that’s OK, but when it comes to difficult, distressing stories less is more.  Learn the basics then turn it off.

Help someone else.  We know that volunteering helps our community, but what we sometimes forget is that it’s good for our mental health, too.  There are about a million opportunities to give our time and resources this time of year, making finding volunteer options as easy way to cope with the stress of the news.

Want more ideas about how to cope with violence in the news? Check out this helpful article over at APA.