Friday, October 11, 2019

People ask me all the time why I do what I do. The easiest answer is “because food is love,” but there is so much more to it than that. Food tells us a story rich in history and for me, it is reminiscent of time when life was simple. Food can be a way we travel back to memories of our childhood, special events and sometimes all it takes is one bite to loosen up something within us that enchants our soul.
Growing up a “first gen” kid comes with stories you couldn’t make up if you tried. Funny moments of conversations getting lost in translation, watching the gentle juggle of families trying to balance “old world” traditions with “new world” style. Harnessing the culture that was left behind and building a life in the land of opportunity.
I never grew up dunking Oreos in my milk. I don’t even think I knew what an Oreo was until I saw the infamous “twist, lick, and dunk,” commercial on TV. My grandparents would take an out of the way ride to the Italian imports store to buy things like Nutella, Aranciata, and Stella Doro cookies, which at the time could not be found in a regular grocery store.
 The “S” cookies were always my favorite. I loved going on a scavenger hunt through the cabinets to find these simple, yet delicious confections and dunk them, knuckles deep into a glass of cold milk, and once I got older, into a hot espresso after Sunday dinner.
Opening the oven today and smelling those beautiful cookies reminded me of my grandmother. Her “perfume” consisted of scents of lemon zest, vanilla, almond, and anise. These cookies are my memories. They are my laughter, my tears, my skinned knees, and my elementary school plays. They are my warm hugs, by back seat road trips, and my favorite childhood songs. They are my home.
So why do I do what I do? Because how magical is it that a little sugar, some flour, eggs, and a swirl of a wooden spoon could be such a reminder of so much love.

"S" Cookie Recipe

For two dozen...
4 Eggs plus 1 for wash
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
Zest of 1-2 Lemons (to taste)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Cups Olive Oil
4 Cups Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix flour and baking powder and leave to the side.

In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil until well combined. Slowly fold in flour and baking powder, I do this in three stages. Your dough will be smooth and have a stiff texture but may still stick to your hands. (My personal tip, add a little oil to your hands for rolling and shaping).

Line your cookie sheet with foil. Start with a small handful of dough and roll into snake shape and form and "S" before placing onto the foil. Leave about an inch between each cookie as they will expand as they bake. 

Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

If you want to ice them, use that lemon that you zested and squeeze about 2 tablespoons of juice and combine with 1/2 Cup of confectioners sugar and whisk until smooth. Dunk cookies or brush on the icing. Don't be afraid to make them pretty with sprinkles or colored sugar. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I’ve been asked recently to write a blog post about the cost of buying healthy, whole foods versus processed or fast foods and I was shocked by the research that I found that it’s actually not that expensive on a day to day basis, but like anything else it will add up.
On a daily basis, a 2,000 calorie diet, broken down to price per calorie actually only averages $1.50 a day but for a family of four, that results in an increase of about $2,000 per year. That seems like a lot, I know, but look at the things we spend $1.50 on every day without hesitation- most drive-thru cups of coffee are at least $2.00 per cup.
I personally find that the biggest bang to my wallet is when I have to “double cook.”
Are my children going to eat my roasted vegetable quinoa salad, or stuffed eggplant? Probably not. Actually, that’s definitely a hard no. In a dream world maybe, and yes there are probably meals that will meet in the middle and we can all enjoy, but those are few and far between.
What seems to help out a lot is figuring out the best places to shop. The big-name grocery stores could carry hefty price tags but they also run more sales than stores like Super Walmart or Target. Smaller stores that require a little elbow grease like Aldi keep shopping prices low with their own store brand named items. They keep their employee costs down by having their shoppers bag their own groceries and ensure the customer return of their carts since you used a quarter to use one in the first place.
Also, my biggest tip would be to buy in season. You’re not going to buy a watermelon, in Connecticut, in October… well you can, I did, and it cost me $9.00 versus in July when they were $5.99. Also, my July watermelon was red and sweet, and my October watermelon was barely pink and resembled the taste of a cucumber. Why? Because it wasn’t in season.  Follow what’s fresh, look for corn, zucchini, plums and berries during the warmer months- apples, root vegetables, and winter squashes going into the colder months. Again, this is subjective to where you live.
Food prepping and meal sharing is always a good idea as well and can be a ton of fun.  Gather a small group of your friends, everyone pick a dish to cook for the week. Pack up enough for each of them to get one serving per family member and swap them! It’s like those chain letters from back in the 90s but with meals. Four friends means you and your family get five meals for the week since you’re included with your own meal.
I personally spend more money on groceries than I do on anything else and sometimes I just get annoyed, but there are ways to make it easier. It is going to take work, time, and a little creativity, but where there’s a will there’s way!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

When your body gets to your mind, self-love is tough to find.

We all have days that are harder than others. We stare in the mirror picking apart our bodies, change our clothes multiple times before leaving the house, think the most dreadful thoughts about ourselves that we wouldn’t dare speak out loud to our worst enemy. Remember how we’ve discussed that we are more than a number on a scale, we are also more than the “physical imperfections” we see in the mirror, although when we take in all of the things that make us amazing, those “physical imperfections” aren’t really imperfect at all.

Have you ever avoided things like social events, family outings, or even intimacy with your partner? I have. It all comes at a time when I can’t seem to find the love and appreciation for myself that I deserve, and that other people see in me. When I really take a big step back and evaluate my “why” the answer is always the same.

I get lost and I just don’t feel important. I’m willing to bet that when most of us push ourselves to the side, it’s for the same reason.

I get lost in the shuffle of a new school year or too many work projects or even just the mundane routine of everyday life. I am a natural born care giver and that comes with its own set of self-care rules. I tend to live by “well, if everyone else is taken care of and everyone else is happy, I am too,” but in all reality, that is just not always enough.

I’ve learned along the way that it is okay to ask for help and that help comes in many different forms.

Maybe the housework is overwhelming. It’s okay to ask your kids to fold some towels or help with dinner. Maybe you’re foregoing a little bit of fresh air or some quiet time because you’re always rushing home to meet your child off the bus or to sit behind a thousand and one cars in the pick-up line. Ask another mom friend to take a day when she gets the kids and another day when you get them. Help each other out, it takes a village, remember? Maybe what you need is a special night out with your partner or friends. A night to dress in any way that makes you feel like a beautiful human and not a yoga pant wearing coffee hound and enjoy a nice meal and some conversation that doesn’t sound like the background noise of the Disney channel.

This is my “why” and it may not be yours but most importantly, figure out what that is and then start to plan to fix it.

First make a list of things about yourself that you love. I know, I know, it sounds crazy but trust me, you’ll shock yourself. Someone asked me to do this about six months ago when I was in a pretty low spot and I’m pretty sure that not only did I have a few choice words for them on the phone, I flat out refused. I remember I went and laid on my bed, grumbled about how there would only be like, two things I could think of, and fell asleep. When I woke up, I decided to give it a shot. A real shot. I was so skeptical that I would think of anything of value that I wouldn’t even give this list its own piece of paper- I used the back of my electric bill envelope.

Well about forty-five minutes later, I was flipping that envelope in every direction trying to find more room. I thought of about sixty things I loved about me from finding joy in things like Christmas lights to holding tight to traditions that have been passed to me from my grandparents. Most importantly it helped me to remember that taking care of myself is important because I am important.

So, if you feel lost, it’s okay to take a day to aimlessly wander around, but after that, dig deep and figure out what it is that you need. Reach out to a friend, make that list, find your importance and make a plan to bring self-love back to your life.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Nothing feels more like Fall than walking around the apple orchard, picking baskets of all different varieties of apples and coming home to make a hot and steaming apple dessert.

Although I would never refuse any slice of apple pie to come my way, I make a horrible apple pie. It looks beautiful, like the cover of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine, but cut it open and I have hard crunchy apple soup. It’s just never been my thing.

Apple crisp though, now that’s a different story. Everyone around my table doesn’t even wait for it to cool. They scoop spoonfulls of piping hot apple crisp into their mouths, but I like to cool mine off with a scoop of really creamy vanilla ice cream.

I start out by measuring my servings by using one apple per person so in this case, five people, five apples, which should leave you a little for breakfast the next day unless you’re me and then you’ll have it for a late night snack.
                                    Walnut Oat Apple Crisp

                                    For the Apples:

                                5 Gala Apples, skinned and cut into cubes

                                4 Tablespoons of butter

                                5 Heaping Tablespoons of brown sugar, light or dark

                                1 Tablespoon of Cinnamon

                                Mix all together and put into a casserole dish

                                For the Walnut Oat Crumb:

                                2 Cups of old fashioned oats

                                1 Cup of brown sugar, light or dark

                                1 Cup of chopped walnuts

                                1 Tablespoon of cinnamon

                                1 Tablespoon of flour

                                1 Stick of cold butter, cubed

Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the mixture, or a fork if you don’t have one, but the easiest way is to pulse in a food processor.

Spread evenly over the apples and bake for 30 minutes on 350 degrees. Top with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or just eat it right from the casserole dish with the serving spoon… no judgment here!


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

If it does not serve you let it go, even if it’s hard.
How many of us have turned to self-abusive tendencies to deal with stress? Maybe we turn to things like over/under eating or exercising, loss of sleep, or another bad habit to keep our mind off the things that are hurting us, or to soothe the pain of the things we choose to repress.
Our emotional self begins to suffer which affects our physical self. We start to suffer from exhaustion, our skin breaks out, we gain/lose weight, we get jittery or irritable. We feel like we are losing control which makes us try to micromanage other aspects of our life.
Although it’s hard, the best thing we can do is build our best self by evaluating what separates the healthy from the unhealthy in our lives, and how we choose to respond.
Personally speaking, whenever I have dealt with situations that I felt were out of my control I turned to abusing my body with food restriction, purging, or over exercising.
I would spend days at a time, which turned to weeks, not eating. Punishing myself for a situation I didn’t want to deal with. It was easier to deal with the pain of an empty stomach or to kneel in front of the toilet and vomit up everything I ate than to deal with what was really hurting me. When I had a stressful situation my body shut down, I lost my feeling of hunger and I could stay awake for days at a time because that’s what I trained my body to do.
When we are in toxic friendships/relationships/situations, we will never be able to give ourselves what we need the most which is respect, admiration, and love.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to learn healthy coping skills and how to take back my life. Unfortunately, some of the damage I’ve done has had lingering effects. I have hurt up my metabolism and suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, however, I work on both of those to the best of my ability.
The best thing I could have done was to link up to a support system. I met other people like me and we leaned on one another to get us through the hard times. Using my past situation to help others healed me the most. I have never been in a better place than I am now.
I have recently been asked to form a support group of women in my town who face the same sorts of struggles every day. I feel honored every time someone reaches out and asks for help because taking that first step is scary.
I’ve worked a lot on body acceptance and positive body image. Of course, we all have our moody moments, but that’s life and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t.
What I’ve learned is that surrounding myself with the most genuine of people and doing the things that bring me the most joy has been the key. I cannot contain the happiness and then the rest of the self-care chips fall into place.
So, get out there today, take a look at life, take the things that aren’t serving you and “chuck it in the fuck-it bucket,” because in the end you goal is to build a happier and healthier you.
You have to transform today… it’s Tuesday, duh!

Monday, August 12, 2019

If you want to see someone, tell them. If you miss them, tell them. If they make you smile, tell them.

I always thought that the only way I could feel accomplished in anything I do is if I go at it alone. If I succeed with no one’s help or support, it would make me stronger.
Well, I was way wrong. You know what it made me? Lonely.
The importance of surrounding yourself with a strong Vibe Tribe is so important. We learn that none of our life issues are actually as scary as they seem when we have someone to hold our hand through the storm, and when we emerge, the feeling of strength is unparalleled. 
Call or text someone you care about today. Share a funny story, an old memory, or make a plan for coffee. 
Send a smile out to the world today, we need more of those.
Happy Monday!

Monday, August 5, 2019

There is so much more to life than being on a diet.

Have you ever gone to a picnic during the summer while on a “diet” and spent more time calculating numbers, scoping out the food options, and building complete anxiety over the fact that everything has mayonnaise and you can’t eat fucking mayonnaise because it’s too high in calories???

I have. I have done this at many events. I have foregone the cake or the cookie and not in a way that made me feel triumphant in my defeat of “bad choices,” but in a way that I felt like I was denying myself something I would really enjoy.

I have left events, been moody or antisocial, because my food anxiety (or if I gave in to the chocolate trifle layered with chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, whipped cream and crushed candy bars)  my food guilt has been too much to handle.

Before I learned that my whole body works best by being mindful and balanced, I tortured myself with food guilt.

I have spent so many nights either unable to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night over food guilt. Instead of watching a movie or reading a book I would lay in bed and try to take account of every single bite of food I put in my mouth. I would bite lip, cry, pray, and promise myself that I would do better the next day. Those nights were the ones that weren’t so bad. The worst ones where the nights when I would forget to count something in. A donut, a cupcake, a grilled cheese, something would wake me up from a deep sleep and shock me into reality that maybe my “good day” wasn’t really that good at all.

It took me a long time to learn balance and some days I still truly have none. I did this through connecting with others who have the same thoughts and feelings that I do about weight, body, and food and talking this out. We formed a ring of support; we have come up with plans and ideas. We have conference called one another in moments of food despair. Most importantly, we have softened each other’s hearts towards the feelings we have for ourselves.

Learning that there was life beyond the diet was incredible for me. Learning to listen to my body was a very slow process, but as I kept going it was easier than I thought. On days I’m tired, I go for a walk, on days I feel strong I go do a full body sweaty workout, when I’m hungry I eat, when I’m not then I don’t. Sometimes I’m satisfied with a half of a cookie, sometimes it takes three.

Go to the picnic, the party, or most importantly that first date you know you’re afraid to go on because you’re afraid to order dinner in front of him/her (yep, done that too… wonder what ever happened to those guys haha) because this is life, not a prison sentence we feel we need to serve to our bodies.

Laugh, smile, enjoy the moment and the company around you and eat the fucking cupcake.

Happy Motivational Monday!