May’s Meal Delivery Calendar

April showers seem to be still with us in May, but at LEAST May has bought us…

The Dirt on Vegetable’s “4 x 4 Meal Delivery Calendar.”

Spring has sprung, which means summer is right around the corner. Are YOU ready?

screen shot may 2016

I want you to feel great in your shorts, bathing suits, and sundresses, so let me pitch in and help you towards that goal. Sign up for my meal delivery service here in Manhattan’s Financial District so you can get four meals a week that are designed to be consumed at your convenience during the week. These meals are perfect for either lunch at the office or for dinner after a long day’s work. We are already approaching week two, but it’s not too late to sign up!

Here is the cost break down for the rest of the month:

3-Week Program: $195

2-Week Program: $140

1-Week Program: $75

53b9ef5bc9d22a57ce000001-_x376

 

The meals are plant-based, health supportive, and SO delicious. It feels almost impossible to eat nutritious and tasty meals on a regular basis with our crazy, hectic schedules, but the meal plan will have you eating dishes that do not contain any refined carbs, sugars, dairy, and meat.

by maple gioga

You have more than enough on your plate (no pun intended), so let me plan your meals and help you live a healthier lifestyle.

Spinflower Soup

IMG_3536

I have been craving a soup that seems creamy, but doesn’t actually have any cream. You know what I mean? Like when you want to fit into your skinny jeans, but you don’t actually want to put in the effort of going outside, heading over to the gym, and then getting on the treadmill for 45 minutes. I was starting to think that my desire for a healthy soup that would taste unhealthy wasn’t going to be possible. My husband often tells me that I am a skinny girl on the outside with the thoughts of a very large (and in charge) person on the inside.

IMG_8304

Whenever my refrigerator is filled with produce that will go bad in a few days, my mind goes to combining all of these extra ingredients and making a scrumptious soup. This dish is easy to make a delicious lunch or light dinner. You can replace the cauliflower with broccoli rabe if you want a super green soup. I added the superfood spinach at the end to wilt.

IMG_8305

If you have an immersion blender, you are going to want to cook this soup in a nice, deep pot. Turn your heat way down, put your immersion blender all the way to the bottom of the pot, and stand back a little so you don’t get splattered. Then, just start whizzing that up and you have your healthy, vegan, no-cream creamy soup all ready to roll! If you do not have an immersion blender, you can just blend this soup in batches. I used my vitamix (a chef’s best friend) and the soup came to a perfect texture. My husband likes to add some grated parmesan cheese on top, which is over-the-top delicious, but I keep mine vegan and I love it just the same.

Spinflower Soup
Adapted mostly from Rachael Ray's Spinoccoli Soup
Author:
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter (omit butter and use more olive oil if vegan)
  • 2 leeks, whites and light green tops, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, small cubed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 10 ounces spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 handful basil, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add butter and melt; when it foams, add leeks and garlic, and stir 2 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower, sweet potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Raise heat to medium-high and cover to sweat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add stock and bring to boil. Wilt in the spinach, then throw in the shredded basil and then blend with an immersion blender or purée in batches in a vitamix, blender, or food processor. You can add a cup of water if soup is too thick. Adjust seasoning.

 

Cauliflower Pizza

The recipe that many of you have been asking for is finally on my site! This started out as a favorite for many of my gluten-free clients, but has grown a serious following to the general masses.

IMG_7696

Cauliflower pizza was not one of those dishes I made the first time around and thought, “Voila! My work here is done!” It took several times to get the crust texture to be just right. News flash: you can’t pick this pizza up with your hands. It’s definitely a fork-and-knife situation, which usually goes against my New-Yorker-pizza-folding ways, but remember, this is not an actual pizza. Nothing that isn’t actual cheese pizza with a doughy crust should be compared to pizza—those comparisons are always asking for disappointment.

IMG_7699

Cauliflower pizza is awesome in its own right. This recipe is a really great way to get your kids (and yourselves) to eat vegetables and to avoid eating an excess amount of gluten. Gluten isn’t the enemy for everyone, but I often get calls from clients (and cousins) who are concerned about their kids who are suffering from severe reactions to gluten. The allergy is real and it’s scary, but there are so many delicious recipes that it isn’t even a real sacrifice when it comes to flavor to give up gluten.

FullSizeRender

We put this recipe on our escort cards for our wedding!

 

Would I say this recipe is as easy to make as most of the recipes I post on my blog? No. But if you have a food processor or a vitamix, it’s worth getting in the kitchen and making this dish. It also holds up in the fridge well for days. My parents ate a cauliflower pizza that I had made three days earlier and they thought it was great! Let me inform you that my mother wouldn’t just say anything was delicious unless the dish made her mouth water.

IMG_7700

If you want to get your kids excited about the pizza, you can have them help you make the crust and top the pizza. My advice is to make sure you make your crust very thinned out and don’t go too heavy on the toppings. Just a light layer of sauce, cheese, basil, or whatever you want will do the trick.

 

Cauliflower Pizza
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, grated
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded and divided
  • ½ cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed (plus extra for topping)
  • 2 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce, homemade*
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Coarsely chop the cauliflower, place in food processor and blend until it is a fine rice-like texture.
  2. Wrap cauliflower up in cheesecloth or a dishtowel and wring out all of the excess water as much as possible.
  3. Place the cauliflower into a bowl. Add almond flour, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, ¼ cup mozzarella cheese, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, dried oregano, and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper. Next, add your eggs and mix with your hands.
  4. Once mixed together, use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your oiled parchment paper onto your hot pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown.
  5. Add sauce, remaining cheese, cherry tomatoes and a dash of crushed red pepper. Slide parchment with topped pizza back in the hot oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden. Add basil leaves on top while it is cooling. Enjoy!

 

Immunity Boosting Turmeric Elixer

IMG_4703

Happy New Year! Are my readers as desperate for an immune boosting detox as I am?

12359906704_84cb48d54c_k

For those of you who don’t feel you need a healthy detox, I am wondering how you survived the holidays; but for the rest of us who ate a little too much of the things we spend eleven-and-a-half months trying to avoid, it is time to make my turmeric elixir. Those who use turmeric swear by it, and I’m beginning to think that it might have magical powers. There has been plenty of buzz around this root for being an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, and it has many other exciting benefits. One of my clients who has arthritis started mixing turmeric into her smoothies every day. She started off as a skeptic, but now she says she feels noticeably healthier. Everyone I know who uses turmeric has a similar experience.

5630017256_d1b6b41230_o

I am a firm believe that the food we ingest can dictate the way we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. If we eat nutritious, plant-based, delicious foods on a regular basis our bodies will feel alive, energized, awake, light, and beautiful. As I mentioned before, consuming unhealthy foods on a regular basis makes our bodies feel lousy, lethargic, gross, heavy and bloated… think of that feeling on New Years Day when you are cataloging everything you ate and drank over the week prior.

IMG_5598

Keep your immune system boosted during these cold months by staying healthy this winter season and taking five minutes out of your day to make yourself this turmeric elixir to fight inflammation (the root of many diseases). Not to mention the fact that your skin will thank you as well. All you need is a couple ingredients and a blender, and you’re all set!

Here is a list of the ingredients and some of their benefits:

Coconut Water: Hydrating and contains electrolytes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium in their natural form.

Lemons: Cleansing, detoxifying, balances pH levels and acidity,  and is anti-aging.

Ginger: Aids in digestion, nausea, works as an anti inflammatory, boosts immunity, fresh tasting

Turmeric: Great for pain relief, works as an anti inflammatory, detoxifying, loaded in antioxidants, and a great medicinal healer

Cayenne Pepper (optional): I have a client who asks me to add a pinch of cayenne in her elixir to enhance digestion and also because she likes a bit of a kick in her drink, but it’s optional.

IMG_5982

4.0 from 1 reviews
Immunity Boosting Turmeric Elixer
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups of young coconut water
  • 4 inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled
  • 2 inch piece ginger, peeled
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Cayenne Pepper, dash (optional)
Instructions
  1. Blend the coconut water, turmeric, ginger, lemon juice, and cayenne.
  2. Can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.
Notes
If you can't find fresh turmeric and need to use the powdered turmeric, use about 1 tablespoon.

 

Polenta with Leeks, Peppers, and Asparagus

IMG_6746

I am Italian, but I never really grew up eating polenta. Pasta was a staple on my kitchen table and to this day, I have to resist my natural craving for wheat products. This addiction largely is a result from my mother’s daily macaroni pushing tendencies for the first 18 years of my life; I can hear her now saying “everyone always blames the mother.” It’s not your fault entirely, Ma. You prepared the best meals of all time… it’s just that now I am spending the rest of my life denying myself what I truly want on a daily basis – pasta.

IMG_2301

When I decided that I needed to cut back my gluten intake quite a bit, I realized that I should have an Italian middle ground dish to wean me off of my addiction. Enter polenta. Cornmeal is way sexier than it sounds. When you buy a tube of polenta, you can make dinner in a snap and load on all of the fresh, delicious vegetables that your heart desires. Polenta contains vitamin A and C and since polenta is gluten-free, it can pretty easily replace wheat-based meals. I am not making wheat out to be the enemy, but I do think that it’s important to have a lot of healthy variety in a diet.

IMG_0306

IMG_1819

This dish is incredibly easy to make and even though the vegetables require a few steps, you are getting so many different nutrients in one dish that tastes great for days. Yum! Easy, AND healthy! Sign us up, right??

IMG_0414

This recipe has a casserole feel and it is perfect to bring to dinner parties, serve for a girl’s-night-in, or to feed to your brother who is in denial about his serious allergies to gluten (he is the site’s editor-in-chief, so if this sentence does not get deleted, it will be a miracle). Serve this with a simple leafy green salad and sliced avocado… that’s what I do and we are always satisfied while also feeling very healthy.

IMG_6747

Polenta with Leeks, Peppers, and Asparagus
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, trimmed, halved, and chopped
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped and separate tips from the stem. Discard woody stem bottoms
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh thyme, divided
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 16-oz. tube prepared polenta, cut into 12 slices
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese (½ cup)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat oil in a dutch oven or ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Next, add bell pepper, chopped asparagus stems, 1 Tbs. thyme, and red pepper flakes; sauté 10 minutes. Stir in broth and garlic.
  3. Arrange polenta slices over leek mixture in dutch oven; top with crumbled goat cheese, remaining 1 Tbs. thyme, asparagus tips, and a touch more of crushed red pepper if  you wish. 
Bake 20 minutes, or until goat cheese softens.

Red Quinoa, Sweet Potato & Avocado Bowl

IMG_3186

I am amazed that we have gotten all of our wedding gifts to fit into our one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Many people have been in awe over the amount of kitchen supplies we received and the constant question that keeps being asked, “Where are you going to put everything?” is usually followed by this question, “Wouldn’t you guys just prefer getting cheddar (the green kind) as opposed to all of this STUFF?” Those people just don’t understand the purpose of wedding registries. They wonder, who could possibly need all that stuff?

IMG_3115

IMG_3116

I am here to tell you that the answer is “me.” Yes, to the Vitamix AND the Cuisinart Food Processor. Yipee to the half dozen Le Creuset pots and Staub grill pan. Hooray to the Breville Juicer, the Indian copper serving bowls, and the William-Sonoma monogrammed salt and pepper grinders. There is no shame in my game… I get pure joy out of having a fully stocked kitchen.

IMG_3195

I don’t blame my fellow New Yorkers who think I am crazy for outfitting my kitchen with all of these top-notch supplies. The amount of stuff we now own probably wouldn’t even fit very well in a space that was 4x the size of where I currently reside. I have learned that there are two different types of people in this world; the ones who love registries and the ones who don’t. Some of us have been fantasizing about our registries at places like Williams-Sonoma, West Elm, and Restoration Hardware longer than we have been dreaming about our actual wedding.

IMG_3180

When I was left to my own devices building our registry completely unmonitored by my former fiancé (now husband), I realized that I can peruse the Internet for hours because things like All-Clad pots and pans in all shapes and sizes truly excite me to my core. I am sure that a candied thermometer has never made the day of any registry nay-sayer.

Since I am a chef, I have had a lot of the cool crap that most pre nuptial people have been coveting for years like the Kitchen-Aid mixer and many of it’s appliances. I have owned knives that I consider some of my most prized possessions since I graduated from culinary school in 2011. My kitchen wasn’t in desperate need of an upgrade, but it has made cooking even more fun and I look cuter over my stovetop too (thanks Antropologie for making the CUTEST aprons and oven mits)!

IMG_3193

IMG_3194

Choosing a favorite appliance would be like picking a favorite child, but many of my readers know how much I love my Vitamix. We call it “the baby” here at the Broderson household and I use it very regularly. The baby comes out to play anytime I make this nut butter miso dressing. This concoction gets put on a multitude of different roasted veggies because it’s so delicious and in this food obsessed kitchen it is our version of crack.

IMG_3179

This recipe goes perfectly with my efforts to go to Pure Barre class 4-5x a week, which I am still maintaining post wedding. I forced myself to sign a 6 month contract so I didn’t try to get lazy. If you have anything green from edamame, to peas, or even a leafy green, you can throw that in here too and it will be delish. It is my belief that you can never have too many greens!

IMG_3207

 

Red Quinoa, Sweet Potato & Avocado Bowl
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For the bowl
  • 1 cup dried red quinoa
  • 1 to 2 sweet potatoes (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 1 large bundle cauliflower (about 1 pound)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse or kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 cup raw baby kale
  • 2 avocados, diced


  • For the nut butter miso dressing
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white or yellow miso
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1 teaspoon agave
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place quinoa in salted water on the stove and cook according to package directions.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Cut tops off cauliflower and separate into bite-sized florets.
  3. Toss sweet potatoes with 1 TBS olive oil, place on baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, until browning underneath. Flip and toss chunks around, then add cauliflower to the baking sheet, season again with salt and pepper, and roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, until cauliflower is lightly charred at edges and sweet potato is fully bronzed and tender. Toss chunks around one more time if it looks like they’re cooking unevenly.
  4. In a small skillet, toast sesame seeds until fragrant and then let cool.
  5. While vegetables roast, prepare the nut butter miso dressing: Combine everything in a vitamix and blend until very smooth, scraping down sides once. Taste and adjust ingredients if needed, but try to resist adding more sweet since the saltiness pairs wonderfully once added to the sweet potato.
  6. Assemble bowls: Scoop some red quinoa into each, then pile on the roasted sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and toss in the baby kale. Coat lightly with sesame-miso dressing and finish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced avocado. Serve with extra dressing on the side.

Tomato Series, Part 2: Lentil Caprese Salad

IMG_3008

Mozzarella and tomatoes arguably make for the most perfect food pairing of all time. I am sure when people think of two items that go best together, the first things that come to mind are pairings like peanut butter and jelly or ketchup on fries. Both are excellent food pairings, but a forkful of pillowy chunks of fresh mozzarella mixed with a ruby red tomato, especially on a hot summer day, cannot be beat. One bite and you’ll get a sweet blast followed by a wonderful tomato flavor.

IMG_3009

 

IMG_3010

My recipe is not a typical caprese because I have added things like lentils and vinegar. Truth be told, I like it even better this way because the lentils turn a classic appetizer into a main dish. Sometimes I even add in a dollop of pesto and mix that in if I have some sauce sitting in my fridge (as homemade pesto tends to be a main staple in my house). If I REALLY want to make it an entree, I add farro, barley, sorghum, or another health supportive grain and my work is done! I typically make it the way that I am posting below, but if you have any other ideas to make it delicious, let me know!

IMG_3011

IMG_3012

The tomato crop from my dad’s garden this summer has been the best in years! I hope all of you fellow green thumbs are having a great tomato season as well. We have picked HUNDREDS of tomatoes this August, which was the inspiration for my tomato series. I have bags of tomatoes covering all of my countertops and a freezer filled with jars of tomato sauce that we will delve into with delight on a cold wintery night many months from now.

IMG_2357

IMG_3014

IMG_3015

 

IMG_3016

 

This salad holds up well in the fridge for several days and makes a great lunch to pack for work!

 

Lentil Caprese Salad
Author:
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • ¾ cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lentils well, discarding any rocks or discolored lentils.
  2. Place lentils and 2 cups salted water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Turn to low heat and cover the pot. Cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add more water if they are drying out.
  3. Drain cooked lentils of any leftover water and let cool in a large bowl. Gently stir in the olive oil and vinegar.
  4. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Tomato Series, Part 1: Barley & Lentil Stuffed Eggplant

Hello, readers! I bet you are wondering where the heck have I been… And if you weren’t, I will tell you anyway. On Sunday, August 9th I married my fella of seven years. Tying the knot was everything I pictured it to be and even more. It truly was the best day of my life.

11863491_1008126992553195_3018424569331651182_n

All the planning and prepping was pretty time consuming, but I am back and better than ever with some new and awesome stuff.

Wedding planning and working to get slim and trim inspired me to prepare healthy meals ahead of time on Sundays or Mondays so I didn’t have to think about what I was going to eat when I would come home starving after a long day of work. It’s just so lovely when everything is all planned out for me by the earlier-in-the-week version of myself. She is typically a gal who starts her week off really well organized, goal oriented, and she’s very proactive about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I love when I get all of my ducks in a row on a Sunday or a Monday so that come Wednesday, when the week is in full swing and I become the “if my head wasn’t attached to my neck, I’d probably misplace it” version of myself, AT LEAST I don’t have to think of what I am going to eat because it’s already done! Pretty cool.

IMG_9531

Now my trick has been to think of healthy options that are also economical. Is this the year of weddings for anyone else? I have more than a handful of weddings this year (including my own) and that means bridal showers and bachelorette parties as well. If my bank account could talk it would already be saying things like “Excuse you??? Girl, you better take it easy.” That’s why I need to start coming up with recipes on a budget. I REALLY love perusing the produce department of a grocery store probably more than a healthy, normal amount, so I am trying to reel it in or at least buy just a LITTLE bit of this and that.

IMG_2935

This recipe essentially gives me everything I want from the stipulations that I already mentioned. It is really healthy, super delicious, affordable, and easy to make. Does it get better than that? No. It does not. That’s why I knew right away that I had to share it with my beloved readers. This is going to be our new end-of-summer go-to recipe. I am so excited for all of us because we are going to keep healthy AND have a scrumptious recipe at our fingertips at the same time. YAY VEGGIES AND HEALTHY GRAINS!

IMG_2941

IMG_2965

 

 

*IMPORTANT TIP: Make the barley and lentils ahead of time so you can make this dish in a pinch when you’re hungry! I usually make about 1.5 times the amount of lentils and barley that this recipe calls for and then use the leftover grains and legumes in other recipes for the week. 

Barley and Lentil Stuffed Eggplant with a Fresh Tomato Sauce
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • Roasted Eggplant, Barley and Lentils
  • 3 TBS olive oil, plus ⅛ cup
  • 3 small eggplant, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups barley, cooked
  • 1 cup green lentils, cooked
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Roasting Eggplant: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve eggplants lengthwise. Drizzle each half with ½ Tablespoon of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.Place the eggplant in the oven for 50 minutes to one hour.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and then add cooked lentils and cooked barley, cooking for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Take eggplant out of oven after fully roasted and scoop out the insides of the eggplant. You can cook up the eggplant insides in the pan that you cooked the garlic and lentils in and add that to the barley mix or you can save the eggplant to use at another time.

  4. To make tomato sauce:
  5. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  6. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Add the fresh tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally.
  8. Once it comes to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Add the basil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes longer.

  10. Assembly:
  11. Add barley and cooked lentils mixture to the pot of tomato sauce. Throw in the arugula and mix.
  12. Stuff eggplant with barley, lentil, arugula and tomato mixture.
  13. Enjoy!

 

Blueberry Pie + 29 Things I Learned at 29

702552_905874598046_1256051157_n

Tomorrow, I am turning 23 for the sixth time! I am just that talented. No, but in all seriousness, I have never been one to be afraid of getting older. Whenever someone complains about the clock turning I simply say, “it’s better than the alternative! You’re not dead!” Morbid? Yes. True? Absolutely. I am embracing getting closer to 30, dammit! It is one step closer to being old enough for it to be socially acceptable to sit at the table with my pants undone and say whatever comes to my mind out loud.

It’s easy to look back and wish that you had the opportunity to do some things in your late teens and early twenties all over again. For instance, maybe you would pick a more useful college major, or travel more. But I find that I actually have enjoyed being in my late twenties more than any of the other years before. I have learned a lot, but I know that there is still more that I will absorb along the way. So today, I provide you with a list of 29 things I’ve learned at 29 as well as a recipe for blueberry pie so that you can make it for your loves ones on their upcoming warm weather birthdays.

711512_906556596316_2099260089_n

  1. Go with your gut. It doesn’t matter if the people around you think you are a little nuts in the moment, I often find that if I go with my gut, I am grateful that I listened. I know myself better now than ever and I feel more secure to go with my instinct whatever the consequences may be afterwards. Sometime I would ignore my gut feeling in exchange for public acceptance, but I learned that it isn’t worth it in the long run. So now I go with my gut confidently when it comes to making big choices like where to live or small ones, like eating that delicious slice of NYC pizza. Sometimes, that slice is just worth the calories.
  1. Listen to your mother. I find that listening to my mother has rarely led me to go wrong. Mothers are wise, they are strong, and they have your best interest at heart. My mom is my hero and I admire her every single day. There is absolutely nothing like a mother’s love.

10383095_10100511369159097_6655753146811781051_n

  1. Listen to your dad. Dads know their stuff as well. My dad is pretty levelheaded and he has taught me to look at both sides of a story before drawing any conclusions. He has taught me that honesty is the best policy. He also has demonstrated the delicate balancing act of being a good parent and a best friend to your children.

559650_10100618930200907_4678048798392732474_n

  1. Love your body in all forms. There are times when I travel and return to the States a few pounds heavier. For instance, when I was 21 and living in Italy for almost five months, I ate pasta for lunch and dinner pretty much every day and came back looking like a stuffed sausage in my jeans. I was a bit chubby, but I was so happy. It was one of the best times of my entire life. When I got home, I ate super healthy and exercised regularly to get back to my normal weight, but in that phase of life, the pasta tasted like heaven on earth and I never laughed so hard in my life. I made some of my closest friends over a second helping of fresh mozzarella. Now that I am 29 and the lbs. don’t shed as easily, I am careful about what I eat, but I make sure that I love what I look like no matter what size I am. It is sexy to be confident in your own body.
  1. Forgiveness is crucial. Forgive people who aren’t even sorry. I know people who have been crushed by anger. I once heard someone very wise say, “being angry with someone is like taking poison and hoping that the other person dies.” Life is too short to hold onto anger. I make mistakes and I hope that people will forgive me, which is another reason why I find it important to forgive others. No one is perfect.
  1. Floss every day. My fiancé and Ellen DeGeneres have both taught me the importance of flossing and now I can’t believe that I haven’t been doing this my whole life. Your gums will stop bleeding after a few weeks and it will become second nature. Seriously, floss. It is really gross to not floss daily.
  1. It is okay to fail. Some of my greatest failures have turned into my greatest successes. Trying and failing is better than not trying at all. When it comes to my career I have pretty much said “yes” to everything, even if it was above my head, I figured it was a good opportunity to learn important things on the spot
  1. Let the people around you know how much you love them. I have never regretted showing my full hand when it comes to letting the people I care about know how much love I have for them. It is never too late to let people know what you feel!

224737_502808171978_1405_n

  1. Always have a book that you’re reading. I find I am happiest when I am reading for pleasure at all times. A good book will always win out to a TV show or a movie. I feel like I am smarter after I have my nose in a book that day.
  1. Roll with the punches. Plans will change. Life is not a fairytale. We don’t always have control over a situation, but we do have control over our attitude. I handle a situation much better now when things don’t go according to my plans than I did when I was younger. I thought that by now I would be on a stage in front of thousands of people or have my own television show… I don’t, yet… but I am really grateful for where my life is at in this moment. I love my fiancé, my family, my friends and my job. Best of all, everyone, including myself, has their health. The rest is just gravy.
  1. Spend time with your younger cousins and your nieces/nephews AND with the elderly. I have loved countless moments with my younger loved ones. I relish the ages when they still let me kiss them non-stop and I cherish the endless rounds of karaoke where we pretend to be Taylor Swift or The Little Mermaid. I love when they confide in me and ask for my advice. It is so humbling and so rewarding. You never can get that time back with your relatives when they are kids. Savor every moment. Also, I love old people. I love old people so much and maybe that’s partly because my mother says I was born as an old soul. Old people are much wiser and they are a gift. I lost all of my grandparents physically or mentally at too young of an age. I always envy those who still have their grandparents. Soak them in while you can because you will miss them very deeply when they are gone.


11009900_10100726376986687_1518149926722521873_n

  1. Learn how to cook. I might be biased since I am a chef, but learning how to cook is empowering. It is also rewarding, very useful, sexy, and a means to providing health to you, your family, and even strangers. Learning how to cook was one of the best things I ever did in my whole life.
  1. Vegetables are delicious and anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy. Eat vegetables whenever you get the chance and taste produce that you never thought you can ever enjoy.

IMG_7272

  1. You are never going to be able to make everyone happy. My wedding planner looked at me once and said, “You can’t make everyone happy. You’re not a jar of Nutella.” Truer words have never been spoken. Be honest, open, and do what makes you happy instead of always trying to please everyone else. I have wasted too much time worrying about what other people think. I learned that I have to just be myself and be okay with wherever the chips may fall.
  1. Never take a sibling for granted for one single second. Your relationship with your siblings is different than any other. Appreciate them every day. My brother is the coolest and I am pretty sure that he knows that I am his number one fan. When your parents are ill, or they are just driving you crazy, your brothers or sisters are the only ones who can truly understand what you are going through. Make sure that they always know that they are loved, sometimes it has to be tough love and sometimes it has to be gushy, as long as they know how much they are loved.

IMG_9500

  1. Run even when you don’t want to run. No one hates going for a jog more than I do. Ugh, I hate just thinking about it. I have to go lace up my sneakers today and I don’t want to at all, but once I do, I regret it 0% of the time. When you think you need to stop, just keep going. YOU CAN FINISH! Smile at strangers when you are running. It helps me when strangers give me a knowing smile.

IMG_8595

  1. When it comes to your love life, don’t kiss someone who doesn’t look at you like you are a delicious slice of chocolate cake. They aren’t worth your time. You are better than that. I would rather be with my friends any day over wasting my time in a romantic relationship that is mediocre at best. Finding love ain’t easy, but when you do it’s totally worth the wait. I did a lot of waiting around, but now I am grateful that I found my piece of chocolate cake.

unnamed-2

  1. Be a great hugger and have a solid handshake. Hug someone like you really mean it… Give your family, friends, and even strangers the full bear hug treatment. I have found that a good hug can really turn my entire day around. I have a friend from Texas named Sarah and we love to give each other a nice, long marathon-hug that lasts for what feels like is as long as 26.2 miles. It’s amazing. Also, nothing is worse than a clammy, dead fish handshake. Nothing. You know what I am talking about. Make sure your handshakes are firm without hurting someone. Also, if you are a guy, don’t do that thing where you flip your hand to be on top. That is so annoying.

71896_1601190920274_5958666_n

  1. Roast your own red peppers every single time. Do it. Just click here to learn how. It’s super easy and far superior to any store bought version.
  1. Call your family and friends. Enough with all the text messaging and emailing. Phone calls are the way to go and they bring you closer to your loved ones. I think back on the phone calls/Skype sessions I had with my Uncle Phil and they are some of my most treasured memories. A real conversation is good to balance out the texting and emails.

me and uncle phil

  1. Know that there is always room for improvement. Things that you think are 100% right might be proven wrong in 10 years from now. Be humble enough to accept that and always keep an open mind.
  1. Laugh hard and laugh often. Life isn’t always going to be easy. In fact, there are many times when it is going to downright suck. Be sure that you laugh as much as you possibly can.

10940634_10100668351859507_7244984563167298941_n

  1. Be patient. Don’t fly off the handle right away. Ugh, this one is not always easy for me, especially when someone is being very annoying. Sometimes, it is unintentional though and it’s good to be patient through the process. Except if someone doesn’t dress their baby properly in the wintertime while they themselves are bundled up in a hat, scarf, jacket, and mittens. Then, all bets are off.
  1. Fun doesn’t just happen on it’s own. You have to make it happen. Have dinner parties and get dressed up. There aren’t enough occasions to get fancy, so make them happen every now and again. I love putting on a dress, getting my hair and makeup done, and hitting the town. Often, we are all working so hard and lose track of finding some balance in our lives. Have a date night where you get dressed up and also throw themed parties.

IMG_7420

  1. Travel often and travel well if you can. Take trips with your friends. See the world. Experience other cultures. Walk as much as possible to soak it all up and live in the moment. Buy the bag in Monaco and eat the gelato in Florence. Traveling with people who crack you up is the very best way to travel. Shit gets crazy throughout traveling and you just have to be with someone who makes you laugh to get through the madness.

IMG_1081

  1. Don’t get a crazy haircut after a breakup. Don’t cut all of your hair off right after a guy breaks your heart. Wait at least six months before making any rash hair decisions.
  1. Live within your means. Have a savings account by the time you are 29 and make sure that it has more than $18. You don’t need that Burberry jacket, the Prada bag, or the luxury vehicle if it’s something that you can’t afford. Wait until you’re like 40 or 50 when you can afford that kind of stuff. That way, it can truly be appreciated without being a terrible financial burden. This makes me really excited to be 40 or 50 now!
  1. Pray every day. This one is the most important. Praise God and thank Him for everything that you’ve got. I have learned to turn to the Lord for guidance for I know that I am nothing without Him. Be humble and always crave to gain more knowledge about your faith. When you walk with God, you never walk alone.
  1. The world is unpredictable. Don’t get too bummed out when plans change because it’s inevitable. You will get hurt. Your heart will get broken. You will lose someone you love and there is no greater pain. Your car will break down and you may even develop an intolerance to gluten. That’s life. Accept it and just keep moving forward because with all of those hardships, life is still an incredible journey.

565330_905874608026_813054804_n

 

Blueberry Pie
Author:
Ingredients
  • Filling:
  • 9-inch pie crust
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 4 cups blueberries

  • Crumb Topping:
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup firm butter, very cold
  • ½ brown sugar (packed)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Then mix blueberries with your dry sugar/flour mixture.
  4. Place all topping ingredients in a food processor and blend.
  5. Put blueberry mixture into pie shell and then cover with topping. Place on a baking sheet that is covered with tin foil.
  6. Bake for 45-50 mins. If pie starts browning, use another piece of tin foil to cover pie while it’s baking to prevent the top from burning.

 

X’s and Oats Granola Recipe

IMG_8586

The Gift of Gourmet Granola + Engagement Party Pictures

This past weekend, my future in-laws hosted our engagement party in Sam’s hometown of Newton, MA and they invited some family and many of their friends to the celebration. I had very little responsibilities when it came to organizing this shindig until I volunteered to make the party favors. Even though I host my fair share of gatherings, the only party favor that I usually send my guests home with is a hangover, so coming up with an edible, cute, healthy, and fairly easy concept, was a bit of a challenge. I figured that as a personal chef, it would be a nice touch to make something for the guests that came straight from my kitchen.

IMG_8230

IMG_8578

My future in-laws really admire my attempts to be health conscious, even mentioning it in their speech on Sunday. So in an effort to stick to my health-supportive ways, I wanted to make sure that the edible favor wasn’t cookies, pies, or any sort of treat loaded with white sugar.

IMG_8579

IMG_8580

I was brainstorming with my business partner and we came up with making granola and having a tag made up that said “x’s and oats! Love Michele & Sam.” This recipe is AWESOME! I want to sprinkle it on my yogurt every single day. It is simple, but full of flavor and it’s super easy to make one batch (making enough for almost 100 people is another story, but it was worth the effort)! There are hints of vanilla, coconut, and cinnamon as well as chunks of crunchy almonds that balance the flavor of this yummy snack.

IMG_8577

IMG_8582

 

IMG_8581

There is no comparison… homemade granola tastes WAY better than the store bought brands and it’s way more economical to make at home. I went to the bulk section of Whole Foods and got all of my organic ingredients, which cut down the cost as apposed to buying each individual ingredient in packaged form. Make sure that you buy the big coconut flakes and pick the ones that are unsweetened. This will help keep down the sugar content and if you are using this recipe as a present like I did, you can still feel like you are giving the gift of healthy inspiration.

Your friends will thank you. So will your in laws. And your doormen.

IMG_8584

IMG_8583

X's and Oats Granola
Author:
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • 4 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 1.5 cups coconut flakes (the big ones)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. finely ground sea salt
  • ⅓ cup agave
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350°F.
  2. In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, whisk agave, oil, and vanilla together.
  3. In a large bowl combine oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon and sea salt.
  4. Pour oil and agave mixture over dry ingredients and stir very well to coat. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven and stir. Place back in oven but remove and stir every 5 minutes or so until the oats are golden brown ( total time is approx. 20-25 minutes).

 

IMG_8555

1 2 3 4 7