12 March 2017

Em J's Cafe, Berwyn, PA Gluten Free and Vegetarian Friendly

I suppose I have known about Em J's in Berwyn, PA for some time now. I was always intrigued that they offered gluten free on their menu - including pancakes, waffles, bread, muffins, etc. but always worried about the potential contamination and their mixed reviews.

Some online reviewers would say, ...Em J's passed with flying colors - great food, service, and price!
Others would say, eh food was okay, the service stunk and price is not worth it.

Still, Em J's stuck in the back of my mind and when my sister suggested an all day breakfast place on a Saturday afternoon, I only knew of two Em J's and Nudy's and I knew without a doubt that Nudy's Cafe would be packed - so voted for Em J's.

It was a bit further than I had anticipated but parking was readily available and it was a straight drive down 30.

The owner himself greeted us upon arrival and helped squeeze two tables together for our 6 top.

We were placed right at the door on a very windy and cold winter day so I was anticipating freezing - BUT somehow or another, I was actually comfortable enough to take my coat off and all - which is rare for me in a restaurant.

Drinks were ordered first. I went with an herbal tea. I have to say, I was rather disappointed with the options of their herbal tea - but figured they likely don't serve nearly as much tea as they do coffee.

I had reviewed the menu over and over and over and over again - but after having just been contaminated earlier in the week and still feeling the repercussions, I was VERY nervous to order anything that I was not making for myself. Those darn lemon poppyseed pancakes were on special and I couldn't stop staring at them.

I let everyone else order first and then asked the waitress close to 100 questions on what gluten free products they had, their brand, what could be made gluten free and vegetarian ( I knew I wouldn't get away with vegan), and the questions went on and on. Thank the lord my waitress was very patient and didn't mind running back and forth from the kitchen.

On a whim, I ordered the lemon poppyseed pancakes but asked to omit the toppings.

A moment or two later and my stomach pains reminded me why I was nervous about ordering food I don't prepare for myself so I sort of sprinted off to the open-kitchen to cancel my order - while the Chef quickly eased my mind. Noting he was more than happy to clean all the utensils, pans, etc. and walk through the entire process with me and make any adjustments I needed. I apologized for being a bit difficult and he said, "No! I get it, you have to take care of you! But I am happy to help." His assurance and patience eased my mind and I left my order as-is.

The food was delivered not too much longer after our conversation. My dish was one of the first to come out and then came round two immediately after and for some reason, the last dish (which I believed to be the most simple plain eggs, toast, and sausage) came out closer to another 5 minutes. This is a big deal when everyone else is starving and staring at their plate waiting for the last one to come out.

I then requested some peanut butter, jam, syrup whatever toppings they had for my pancakes. The waitress brought out an array of options for me and informed me that she opened a new container of peanut butter and used a clean knife. THANK YOU!

The pancakes were fluffy, lemony, and pretty delicious. I do think that the 11.00 for two pancakes is a bit high!

What did the remainder of the table think? We had two orders for the special La Mancha Omelette and both were very pleased. We had a couple side orders of the sausage, which appeared to be a big hit. We had a burger, some pancakes, and eggs and everyone enjoyed their dishes and finished them clean.

Service was bit slower - we had to ask for coffee refills a couple of times and they forgot to bring butter and jam for everyone's toast.

We stayed just chatting with one another for a couple of hours so Em J's does a great job of creating a home-like atmosphere.

All in all, I do think Em J's was a bit expensive for breakfast. I do think the food was delicious. I do think it was gluten free friendly (just let them know it is for an allergy and they will clean everything) and I do think service was friendly, but a little slower - so I can see how during peak hours, others might think service is poor. Although, I wouldn't say poor because all of the servers were rather cheerful and happy to serve.

I will be back and bring more with me!






10 March 2017

Green Soul Vegan & Gluten Free Friendly

We have all heard my rants and raves about companies make accommodations for us allergy-free folks, and we are well aware that these accommodations are less expensive than their menu items, and yet they still up-charge us! 

In this case, I ran into the complete opposite issue and I was shocked and thrilled!

I called Green Soul, in Chestnut Hill, PA earlier in the day and explained some of my issues or concerns. The employee on staff noted that she would leave a note for the later shift and that I would have no problems upon arrival. 

I thought I was in for it because there was no note to be found. I started rediscussing what I was looking for and some of my concerns (Contamination, glute-free....) and the manager on staff, without hesitation, removed his gloves, washed his hands and started creating a simple steamed vegetable dish for me. It was he that brought my dish directly out to me when it was ready. 

The vegetables were served warm - which, I know this sounds simple, but most restaurants making this accommodation serve cold vegetables and was exactly what I was looking for. Now, for the cost, I was prepping myself for a $10.00+ veggie bowl, but the company charged me, get this, exactly as they should! I was charged about $.50 per item for a total of a little over $3.00. 

Green Soul, thank you! Not only did you provide an outlet for a gal like me to eat, it was affordable! 

I will certainly be back! My only suggestions, perhaps keep more whole vegetables for more steamed option son the menu (i.e. whole steamed sweet potato, pumpkin, etc.). 


06 March 2017

The Rachel Way - Gluten Free & Dairy Free Food Pantry

The Rachel Way is a gluten and dairy free food pantry in the Plymouth Meeting, PA area.

The pantry was established and is run solely by Heather, her family, and volunteers - and was established in 2014 after their daughter Rachel was diagnosed as gluten and dairy intolerant.

This pantry is an opportunity for the family to give back to others in need - because, let us be honest, not only is the diet change a bit overwhelming at first, it can also be costly. A loaf of gluten and dairy free bread can cost upwards of $6.00+. Peanut Butter and Jelly no longer looks so affordable!

While we all get caught up in ourselves and our own needs, it is always good to take a step back and remember that while we may not have a lot of extras, there are others that having even less and we need to share what we can.

I joined the board of The Rachel Way earlier this year and have taken an initiative to try and purchase an extra item or two when I am out shopping - I have been collecting for a little bit and finally decided to make the donation.

I know that others ask a lot from us, but I am going to add to that list and ask that if you have any extra food (shelf stable or produce) around - please consider donating it to someone in need, be it the Rachel Way or another food pantry!
I ask that you do NOT toss food that is "ugly" as it might still be a gem to someone else. For example, it drives me crazy to see people waste bananas because their color has changed. You can do so much with this banana:
1. Eat it
2. Freeze it
3. Bake with it
4. Heat it up with a little honey for a delicious treat.

In summary, I am just asking that we all take a moment to be a little less selfish and waste a little less.



“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” 







03 March 2017

Fiorino, East Falls Exclusive Cooking Class

Fiorino, in East Falls, PA is Franco Faggi's little baby. It is essentially a hole in the wall -tucked into the corner of Indian Queen Lane - to me, it resembles an older, more rustic home turned restaurant.

The restaurants strives for three turnovers per night and seats just under 25 comfortably. I am told reservations are a must, and at times, can be difficult to get.

Even more exclusive are Franco's BYOB cooking classes. The cooking classes are offered but only 5 times a year and maxes at 12 participants. The cost you ask? Just 10.00 per participant! No need to tell you how difficult it is to land a spot in Franco's cooking classes!

Well, I was lucky enough to land a spot and decided to roll with it, without even being aware if he could accommodate gluten free ( I do strive to be on the vegan side as well, but I can make acceptions from time to time).

When we got closer to the day - I called and spoke directly with Franco, he confirmed no problem at all - he would make all the necessary recommendations for a gluten-free experience.

I arrived early - I wanted to have the opportunity to walk around the area and get to know Franco one on one. Arriving around 8:30am, I had no problem with the street parking.

I walked in and Franco welcomed me! He quickly instructed me to get comfortable and serve myself the drink of choice (coffee, tea, water, etc.).

I spent a couple moments in silence before others arrived. It was beautiful. I enjoyed the sun-made rainbow on my table which was a product of the colored front windows.

As others began to trickle in, we all introduced ourselves and got ready for a morning of cooking some Italian classics!

The day's menu:
Penne alla Puttanesca
Eggplant Rollatini
Panna Cotta with fresh berries

Eggplant resting in salt
While Franco runs the show and adds in some educational details along the way (i.e. don't be afraid to use enough oil - this will help with more consistent cooking) he encourages student participant and tastings!

Franco was very attentive to gluten free needs and contamination.

Franco also ensured me that he always keeps gluten free pasta on hand so - for my gluten-free folks - fee free to visit anytime!

The kitchen is run by just Franco and two side-kicks. The front of the house is run by just two others - so the Fiorino family is a nice small family - with a passion to serve.

A quick snap-shot of Franco and I ready to start cooking!
 All in all, we started around 9:00am, had lunch around 12 noon and left around 2-2:30ish.

It was a magical day spent with someone who clearly lives a life of passion and enjoys sharing it with others!




The Final Product

This was one of the favorites








25 February 2017

Letting Go

While the past couple of years have brought us some mild winters, this year, well, this year has been a gift to some and curse to others. 

Here we are in Central Pennsylvania and at the end of February, we have yet to have an actual snow storm. The evenings have been mild and the day winds to a minimum. 

We have had but one "snow-fall" where we awoke to a tiny bit of snow on the ground and then later in the day it changed to rain and thunder. By dusk, the snow had disappeared as if it had never come to visit us. 

While many are enjoying the lack of winter weather, some are still hopeful for at least one good snow storm. 

I was born in a small town of New York where winters came as early as late September and the snow accumulated well past the Easter season. The first snow of the season was ceremonially christened with our traditional hot cocoa, marshmallows (holiday-oriented of course, I mean, you all remember these right? -They had pumpkins, Santas, Easter Bunnies, etc.) and the secret and most cherished ingredient - a hidden Hershey's Kiss at the bottom of the mug. 

Then quick bathroom breaks before mom stuffed all four us munchkins into our snowsuits! 

We would spend hours and hours playing in the snow - making forts, snowmen, sledding, and just having fun trying to walk around in the snow which had piled just as high as us. 

Our noses would turn a slight red and our toes and fingers would begin to feel numb before we would "allow" mom to call us in for the day and of course another cup of hot cocoa! 

It's memories like these ones that remind us that we all need to latch on to some child-like behaviors - ignorance to some things and joyous to others! 

More importantly, we need to live more free-like. Less anxiety. More hope. More love. 

For the past 5 or so years, I have made my parents a yearly scrapbook and each year it is stuffed with month-to-month adventures that we do together as a family. I think it helps my sisters see that despite noting how much they hate each other, they really do love one another.

This past Christmas was a hard one for my family. The baby sister decided to announce that she wanted nothing to do with our family - I think most of us have since been trying to respect her request. I don't think she realized how much it would trickle down through the family and how it divide us even more. 

I have always tried to stand in a more "middle-man" space and love each family member for who they are. We all have our flaws, but we also all come with our own set of beauty!

While we are almost 3 months into the year, I am finding I don't have as much material as I accustomed to for the family yearbook. 

I am finding that I no longer care or stress about trying to bring the family together and I quickly learned, it was me - it was me nagging them, it was me chasing them, it was me... and I can't drain myself trying to make something happen that others don't want - family or no family. 

And in this time, as I have learned to essentially treat my family as I would any other acquaintances - I have learned to focus more on myself. I have learned that I still love my family with all of my heart, but to essentially let them fly their own path. I have learned, in this world, it is you and you only. You need to think of you first, be brave, do the things you want to do and fly your own rhythm. 

With this, I am beginning to find my own peace, my own growth, and my own healing journey. 

I am smiling more - thank you :)

The past month has been a very transformative month for me. I have started to emerge from my cocoon a bit more. I am leaving my strictly- at-home yoga parctice and moving back to some studio time. It's good for me to get out and surround myself with others. 

When my anxiety kicks in - I say to its face: "GET OVER IT", and I move on. I am upping my game at work, letting go of some of my routines and just taking in some more fresh air. 

I have found that I have begun baking more - something I used to spend a great deal of time on and always enjoyed experimenting with new recipes and creating new masterpieces as well as failures. The failures always seemed to teach me more than the successes. 

Flourless Banana Bread
Ingredients
Bananas (6 overripe)
1/2 teaspoon Bake Soda  
Splash of vanilla 
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Toasted coconut
Handful of soaked and mashed dates 
1/2 teaspoon carob powder

Bake at 350 for almost an hour and then immediately set in the fridge to continue to settle for another 2-3 hours. 

Enjoy with some homemade jam, honey, nut butter - get creative! 

I prefer it served warm - but room temperature is just as good. 

Oh - and it freezes well! 

Here is to continued growth - 2017!

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." - Maya Angelou





 



 

23 February 2017

Returning to the Juice Merchant

I've been a little off-grid and actually had forgotten I had been to The Juice Merchant once before.

I was reminded of the cute little shop during the annual Mardi Gras Mummers Parade in Manayunk, PA.

Here we are in mid-to-end of February and the weather is peaking at closer to 60 and sunny here is PA! What better way to enjoy the beautiful gift than with some fresh pressed juice!

Planning a lunch meeting up on Sunday, a couple of options had been discussed, but the weather really moved everyone's vote to The Juice Merchant.

We walked into a confetti-filled floor (just a simple reminder of some of the glorious Mardi Gras festivities from the day before), hustle and bustle of students studying and the drums of the employees moving at the speed of light to keep up with the current demand.

Honestly, it was a magically beautiful day that their food specials just didn't even stand a chance. It was straight to a fresh pressed juice and a whip of some sort.

My lunch date went with the, what he refers to as the most popular item on the menu (later confirmed by The Juice Merchant employees as false accusations ;) ), Banana Rama Whip. The cafe was currently out of their granola topping and subbed some slivered almonds instead.

He seemed rather fascinated with the fact that you can turn fruit into such an enjoyable dessert-like dish! He also enjoyed the Twisted Apple Juice.

I went with the Acai Superfood whip (minus the toppings and substituted fresh orange juice for the milk).

Here is where I am reminded of the past visit - why is the Whip not consistent in delivery? Mine was served with a number of large ice cube chunks and not the smooth clean whips that I am used to preparing for myself. Perhaps it is the machines they use and the Vitamix really is a key component, or perhaps it is that the employees were busy and just trying to keep things moving - I'm not sure..but heck, it was a nice cool treat on a gorgeous day with great company.

I couldn't help but go with the Beet It fresh pressed juice. Beets, carrots, turmeric, pineapple, ginger - oh my!

Now, this was amazing and most definitely satisfied my need for a cool refreshment!






13 February 2017

Gluten Free Vegan 2 Ingredient Brownies

2 Ingredient Healthy Brownies

  • 3 Bananas
  • 1/4 cup Carob Powder
Simply cut up and mash the bananas. I actually tossed the banana coins into the microwave for a bit to soften them and make the mash a bit easier. 

Once mashed, I mixed in the Carob powder. 

Place in the over at 350 for about 20 minutes. 
The center may possibly still look a bit undercooked, but so long as the sides are firming up - you are good to go. 

Set in the fridge to continue to firm up - I would say an hour or two is all that is needed. 

These turned out fabulous! 

Next time, I will add in some coconut and almonds!





10 February 2017

Gluten Free and Vegan Cheesy Spaghetti Squash

Using my latest creation for my pumpkin vegan cheese - I followed everything to a "t" except, I used another winter squash variation.

I found that it did not settle the way the original recipe did.

Not sure why, but I am sure I will do some more experimenting.

Not wanting to waste, I figured, cheese sauce it is.

I plain roasted some spaghetti squash. Tossed a bed of fresh arugula down and coated it with my "cheese" sauce.

It was evident that it did not give that melty-cheese-like consistency I was hopeful for, but the flavor was enjoyable!

Just remember- experimenting is the only way to an answer a question you didn't once know. :)

06 February 2017

Life's Reflections

2017 has brought with it a lot of new beginnings. For some, it is hard getting past the fact that something you have grown used to, comfortable with,  or even hard-coded into your daily routine is closing so that another new opportunity may shine in its place.

"When one door closes, another one opens"

18 months ago, I may have been one of those people struggling with change. I would have become overwhelmed in changing my routine, I would have had panic attacks and I may have even run home and cried. It was a point in time for me when I was extremely vulnerable and lost. I had somehow allowed myself to succumb to others negativity and my health was, well declining. I had sat my parents and sisters down and opened up to them about my health and that I truly didn't know that my body would keep up with what I had in store for it. I still dreamt of being the "boss-lady", getting married, having a family, traveling the world, and simply put.... experiencing life! 

I was careful to articulate that it was NOT ME giving up, but my body was not keeping up with me. It was one of the most difficult and scary conversations I have ever had to have with my family - but I felt that honesty was needed at this point - despite feeling as if I was tearing their hearts out and then proceeding to stomp on it just for the fun of it. 

Since this point in time, I have spent a great deal of time:
1. By myself
2. Cleaning out and eliminating stuff from my life (old clothes, old collectibles, "stuff")
3. Removing negative people from my life
4. Rediscovering who I was, who I am, and who I want to be
5. Focusing on my health - that's right, I went the holistic, Ayurvedic, essential oil, yoga, breathing, sound healing route and I have to say.... get this.... it was the only thing that has shown me any type of positive progress! Why Can't America see the benefit of this health approach and start covering it under my expensive health insurance plan?
6. Reflecting on my childhood. Oddly enough, it had been a very long time since I was able to recall much from my childhood so I have been basking in the new memories that I have been gifted. 
7. Making time for "ME"
8. Finding ways to stress less often
9. Determining where my anxiety magically grew from?

Where I am today
1. By myself and 100% loving me. I am comfortable with "ME". Even though there are times when I feel guilty telling others "no" and thinking about me for that random moment that I do. 
2. Still cleaning out "stuff" and trying to learn from those minimalist experts ;)
3. Trying to find good people to add to my life
4. I am remembering who I was in the past, understanding that I am broken but on the way to recovery and I know that I am still a kick-ass awesome person and will continue to be in the future but instead of trying to mold myself into what I think I should be in the future, I am going to just unfold like a blossom and see what comes my way. I might catch some sunshine and flourish, or maybe a harsh winter will come and I will close my wings for a bit. Who knows? I do know, that regardless of what comes, I will never be defeated! I will keep a smile on my face and an open heart to myself and to everyone around me. 
5. Still focusing on my health - it will be a life long journey. 
I have started an at-home practice and I am loving it! The peace and joy that a candle-light morning practice provides for me, well it is my PEACE, my GRATITUDE, and my PRAYER. 
6. Sharing my family memories with all :)
7. Setting "ME" as a priority.
I have been reading more, coloring, and studying things of interest to me (unique aspects of yoga, breathing, acupuncture, ayurvedic.... ) 
8. Stressing less often 
9. Stomping anxiety down!

"When there is love, there is no fear. When there is fear, there is no love"

Where am I going?
1. Wherever the wind takes me

"Trust the light. face the darkness and live with the question."

Health really is a full circle of MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT. 
As I find myself healing in each component of the circle - I have these ah-ha moments of, that's where.... the anxiety.... the sadness... the fear... the FILL IN THE BLANK came from. It is amazing to watch myself heal and become the NICOLE FIAMINGO I knew and know to be! Strong, beautiful and bold - in my own way!

2. Spending time with my family

3. Getting back into cooking

Here are a few of my favorite things:


Caption: Little Miss Priss. Even Play clothes were dresses and skirts. Hair was always long and typically with a bow 


Caption: Rocking that Valentine's sweater and smiling from ear-to-ear




Caption: Having fun in the snow



Caption: I had just moved to a new city and Fran and I were ready to party!


Caption: Shopping, I remember loving to clothes shop. 


 
Caption: Nana and I both Alumni at Keystone College, La Plume PA





Caption: Dad's an amazing cook and people admire his delicious creations. So I share with you today, three of our most treasured family recipes - Dad's Thanksgiving Turkey, Baked Ziti, and Nesco Mac and Cheese. 


Caption: Papa and his little chickens cooking away!


"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." -Maya Angelou


31 January 2017

Gluten Free and Vegan Pumpkin Cheese

As my body starts to heal, I find that I am craving my old ways - reminiscing on the times when I would spend the entire day cooking new recipes (meals, bread, cakes, granola, you get the picture...)

Knowing that I am not back to my 100%-self, I do take it easy and sometimes get leery of new things  - How will my body handle it? Will I be sick for days and need time to recover? Will it be a win?

You don't know without taking changes, right? So, I have decided to take chances, just in baby-steps.

I have been craving cheese. I am going to blame the holidays - I watched everyone indulge in their Italian Antipasto plates filled with cheese. Omelets smothered in healthy doses of cheese - or was it the other way around, cheese topped with an egg, and pasta drenched in gooey melted cheeses! Oh my, hungry just thinking about it.

Why can't I, a gluten-free and vegan gal also enjoy my Italian heritage? I started doing what I do with anything, Google-searcing. I found a couple of articles noting I should use this stuff called agar-agar powder, as it would be my "glue" for the cheese. I hadn't had any experience with agar-agar in the past and was somewhat resisting the use of this ingredient due to the cost - almost $4.00 per ounce - YIKES!

I broke down, bought the agar-agar powder and started creating my own recipe.

I still had one last pumpkin left - so this would be my base. I figured the color would work perfectly!

INGREDIENTS
1. Pumpkin Puree
2. A tiny bit of water
3. Raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
4. Garlic
5. Rosemary, and whatever seasonings you wish
6. Tumeric
7. 1 tablespoon agar-agar powder

INSTRUCTIONS
I made the pumpkin puree.
Added the pumpkin and a tad bit of water to my Vitamix
Pureed on high for about 30 seconds
Added in the apple cider vinegar, agar-agar powder, and seasonings
Pureed on high for about a minute
Poured the batter into a silicone bread loaf
Let set in the fridge for about 3 hours
ENJOYED it!

Verdict, texture was "jelled" almost similar to cheddar and the taste is, well, as far as I can remember reminiscent of cheese :)



18 January 2017

Inside-Out Gluten Free And Vegan Spaghetti Squash Pot Pie

Okay - confession here - it really is not an inside out pot pie, because I have 100% omitted the crust aspect on this one BUT - it was still yummy!

It has been a very very long time since I have had a potpie, but the winter months are settling in and I am longing for old-time classic comfort foods, with my own health-twist.

I did a lot of google-searching for "vegan pot pie", "gluten free pot pie", "winter squash pot pie" and nothing came up that I wanted to even remotely base a recipe from so I took my basic knowledge of ingredients that would typically be captured in a pot pie: onion, garlic, vegetable broth, bay leaves, mushrooms, milk, celery, carrots, peas, butter, flour.... and figured I would eliminate those that I either don't have on hand or are currently not Nicole-Friendly.

Here is what I came out with.
1. I started a vegetable broth....ginger, star anise, cinnamon, vegetable scraps, ginger, garlic, spring onions and bay leaves.
2. I roasted my spaghetti squash with just a touch of fennel, garlic, and turmeric
3. I boiled some vegetables I had on hand with my homemade vegetable broth (I found carrots and celery)
4. I omitted flour and almond milk because I just didn't think it was working and topped my spaghetti squash with the vegetables.
5. Taste test, okay so it was missing the creamy, buttery, flaky, creamy aspects but oddly enough, it still resembled the pot pie taste.

Next time - I might get dangerous and go for the more traditional pot pie recipe.

16 January 2017

Star Anise & Turmeric Basmati Rice

Somedays you just don't give a damn about making dinner. You don't want to be bothered with standing over a stove or chopping and prepping vegetables or watching a pot of water to boil. I mean, it happens. We ALL have those days. Society wears us down.

We try to be "fit" and healthy so we get up at the crack of dawn to sneak in a workout. Then it's rushing through the gym shower and off to a busy day at work. When you finally get a moment to look up - you notice it is way past the time you wanted to leave the office. You quickly toss everything into your bag, telling yourself you will finish work later tonight. Leaving later than you wanted to, you are now stuck in traffic. Yippie! Finally, you have reached home, had to fight for parking and deal with the idiots that do not know how to park. In the house we go, now time to put todays' items away and pack up for yet another very early morning tomorrow.

In hopes to keep up with your routine, it is time for a daily oil massage (I have been using coconut oil with a touch of essential oils, jasmine, orange, tea tree...) then off to shower, breath work, and finally dinner time.

Blah! I'm not in the mood for anything I have in my fridge or cupboards - what's a gal to do? I despise calling for delivery because I have no idea what the heck is in their food, how it will effect me, and because it is EXPENSIVE!

I'm really not in the mood for a sink full of dishes.... hmmm thinking, searching.... and BOOM! A thought, I am going to use the rice cooker and just toss most everything into it and walk away!

I sprinkle in some turmeric, a couple star anise pods, and ginger. I add the water. Toss in the rice, plug that baby in and start prepping my protein aspect of the dish.

I had some tahini left, so I decided I would be super lazy and add in some dried fruit (I had white raisins and figs on hand) some fresh spring onions, sage and drizzle some tahini.

I quickly added the dried fruit to the rice cooker and waited until the light switched to warming-status.

I scooped out the rice, drizzled some tahini, honey, and fresh spring onions. YUM and just wanted I needed for a lazy dinner night.

Sorry for the crappy, dark, and not totally finished meal - I told you I was feeling lazy :)





15 January 2017

101 Pennsylvania Farm Show

It has become my tradition to make it every year to the PA Farm Show with my dad. We enjoy walking around looking at the animals - the baby chickens are always my favorite. I always find myself stuck to the observation glass as if I had never seen a baby chicken before. I mean, seriously, I am shaming myself here, no one would even know that I grew up on my father's self-proclaimed farm. For goodness sake, I can recall my twin hiding eggs in her side dresser draw with a heat lamp until they hatched, or until mom found them.

It's a time for dad and I just spend time together and enjoy some good food!

This year, we were blessed to join a very good family friend and her two little guys. I mean, the farm show is always more fun with kiddos!

They indulged in the free samples - I think the fresh soft pretzels were the favorite, enjoyed the baby cows, goats, and of course the bunnies!

Then we stopped to pick up some potato donuts for mom and the boys needed a famous Farm Show Milk Shake!

Lastly, we found ourselves mingling around the shows produce contests! I think I saw the largest sweet potato of all time! There was some vibrant lettuce, garlic, winter squash and much more!

If you have never been out to the PA Farm Show, I highly recommend it, no matter your age!



05 January 2017

Hot Apple Cider

Growing up, my parents would make a LARGE batch of locally warmed apple cider for every occasion - birthday's, Halloween, Thanksgiving and so on. I remember always looking forward to this special treat and find that I certain herbs recall this memory for me.

While I found a gallon of unused apple cider in my parent's fridge, I quickly grabbed it and started creating my own version.

Ingredients
1. 2 Mug fulls of apple cider
2. A sprinkle of cloves
3. Couple pieces of cinnamon sticks
4. A sprinkle of nutmeg
5. Star Anise pod
6. A piece of ginger
7. A tangerine (or two)
8. Some fresh cranberries

I added the cider into a stock pan, sprinkled in the nutmeg and then added the remaining ingredients into a tea ball and dropped it in. I allowed the mixture to slowly roast at minimum 30 minutes and then about 5 minutes before I was ready to consume, I added in the cranberries, covered and allowed the cranberries to pop open.

YUM YUM!

Besides it being a cup of delicious memories (or perhaps even better than the thing I remember) there are a number of health benefits to drinking spiced apple cider. It is a great digestive aid and very soathing to ones' digestive tract. And we all know what time of year it is........ flue season....drink some spiced apple cider to help wared off any signs on the flu!


03 January 2017

A Squash A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

I am still on a rather simple squash (easily digested and rather healing vegetable) meal plan.

Sometimes I get a little bored- but thankfully there is a wide variety of squash available at the local farmers' markets. Speaking of which- I really do make an effort to avoid grocery stores as I as much possible and try to rely on the local farmers' markets for as much as possible.

Today I struck with a very simple steamed zucchini and some sort of squash- taste more like a pumpkin to me so I don't think the farmer actually knew what it was (which I am finding more and more often).... the more squash I eat, the more dad and I educate ourselves on the wide variety available. We like to consider ourselves sort of "squash experts" now.

Anyhow, back to my lunch - I added some steamed veggies and lightly seasoned spaghetti squash topped with scallions and parsley.



While I reflect back on the year- I'm proud of myself. I have come a long way! I'm still not where I would like to be-  it I can give myself credit for a lot!

1. I have mainly stuck to the simple Doctor requested diet and I have made the most of it!
2. I exercise regularly
3. I've started reading again
4. I've forced upon myself "me time"- allowing myself to be comfortable in my own skin
5. I have removed some not so positive people and things from my life
6. I have revisited what is most important to me
7. I have decided to be happy

29 December 2016

Happy Holidays!

Everyone spends their holidays in different ways, but the important part is that we take the time to do something for others, ourselves, and to reflect on how we can do better for the coming year. 

While my family is a crazy loud Italian family, I love them with my entire heart, soul, body, mind.....
They may not always get along, they may be embarrassing at times, they may anger me at times - BUT I do love them and the holidays wouldn't be a success without them and their screaming. 

This year, I got a bit crafty ( I AM NEVER CRAFTY) but I knew they would appreciate it. So out came the crafts and my Pinterest account :)
I made table settings,

Decorated Mason Jars

Shower Bombs

Clementine Wreathes 




Oh, and my Nana's Favorite - rice pudding. Mom's traditional recipe is not the creamy rice pudding that I notice Nana always reaches for. After some research, dad and I were ready to mix and match recipes and see what we would come up with. We ended up tripling the below recipe.

 1 1/2 cups cooked basmati rice
2 cups milk
Sprinkle of salt
A couple of handfuls of golden raisins
1 egg (we used two duck eggs)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Sprinkle of cinnamon 

1. We cooked the rice in a rice cooker. 
2. Transfer the rice to the stove top with 1 1/2 (*2) cups milk and sprinkle of salt
3. We cooked until creamy about 15 minutes
4. We stirred in the remaining milk and added the golden raisins (keep in mind, they will plump up). 
5. We added the beaten eggs and white sugar - cooked for about 2 more minutes
6. Removed the saucepan from the heat and added in cinnamon, butter, and vanilla.

IT SMELLED SO GOOD and was extra creamy!