my favorite ingredients.

extra-virgin olive oil garden tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes

trust

kosher salt

crushed red pepper flakes

eggs

sunday mornings

love

farmers' markets

train rides

planning

spontaneity

laughing until my stomach hurts

feeling confident enough not to wear make-up

madagascar vanilla extract

patience

vulnerability

crunchy fall leaves

family

simple syrup

a good barolo

hugs

italy

italian

italian film

being asked for restaurant recommendations

almond milk

baking

making people happy with my food

learning

teaching

passion

nerdiness

good lighting

laying in bed long after I have woken up

taking 11 photos of the same piece of pie just to get the perfect shot

taking one blurry iPhone photo simply to capture the memory

new york bagels

eye glasses

the feeling after a run

billy joel

lox

copper river salmon

bon appetit magazine

spending too much money on good food

culinary adventures

a sharp knife

mortar and pestle

dutch oven

the smell of freshly baked bread

cast-iron skillet

eating out of the skillet

pancakes

breakfast in bed

hip hop

dancing in a club in heels

dancing in my room

the color red

small spoons

greek yogurt

honey

being decisive

ice cream

frozen yogurt

slush

black raspberry ice cream with rainbow sprinkles

not being ashamed to order rainbow sprinkles

gummies

leaving my comfort zone

peanut butter

almond butter

butter butter (salted or unsalted)

when the cake releases from the pan

strawberry jam

mason jars

crushed ice

letting go

saying "i love you"

apologizing

licking the spoon

raw cookie dough

cookie dough ice cream

bubble baths

stuffed zucchini flowers

summer dresses

the beach

the first step into the sand after a long winter

coffee shops

making to-do lists

grocery lists

swimming

salty skin

freckles

reusable bags

meeting new people

san marzano tomatoes

dog ears flapping in the wind

dog kisses

silpats

frozen grapes

moleskine planners

cold brew coffee

black tea with milk and honey

oysters with horseradish and tabasco

roasted chicken

chia seeds

homemade pasta

orecchiette

black truffles

grilled cheese

eggplant

crisp fall apples (preferably fuji)

cider donuts

chocolate-glazed donuts

forgiveness

shortening

homemade pie crust

bananas

grade b maple syrup

bedtime snacks

oatmeal

good cinnamon

s'mores

having someone you can trust to tell you when you have something on your face/in your teeth

blueberry pancakes

kale chips

sweet potatoes

roasted rosemary potatoes

slicing into a whole watermelon and finding that it is perfectly ripe

whole body sneezes

fresh basil

dried oregano

pumpkin bread

pumpkin coffee

pumpkin patches

apple picking

eating fruit off of the tree

just one more episode

holding hands

toasted english muffins

asking questions

asking for help

not having all the answers

and being okay with that.

My happy place.

Last summer, while in Paris, I arose at sunrise to take the Metro to the outskirts of the city because I had read of a boulangerie that made a pain au chocolat ET BANANA.  I initially tried to remember the directions to my oasis that I had memorized just before bed the night before.  However, the sound of my heart beating in my ears quickly pounded the way out of my mind.  So after whipping out my big ol' map of Paris and drawing the attention of the Parisian locals, I found my oasis. IMG_2931

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I swiftly purchased the delicate pastry, found a wooden bench on which to plop down and hopefully slow my heart rate, and proceeded to savor it's chards of butter-laced pastry and gooey, just-warmed banana chocolate filling.  All the while, tears were streaming down my face.  Needless to say, it was a rather sublime experience.

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Once the final bite had melted on my tongue and I had come to, I looked up to see a sheek and beautiful French couple, perfectly golden croissants in hand, staring at me.  While part of me thinks that they most likely thought that I was just a crazy American girl, the other part of believes that they understood what I was experiencing.  I was in my happy place.  The place where the entire experience of eating a particular food, whether it be a humble bowl of handmade pasta, a perfectly briny oyster, or that first lick of gelato in my favorite gelateria in Florence.  Those moments of culinary bliss consistently ignite that gastronomic giddiness that sets my foodie soul on fire.

I will forever savor that moment sitting outside of the blessed boulangerie in Paris.  I will use that wondrous pastry as my standard for all other confections, I have found a bakery whose breads and pastries never cease to impress me.  That place is PB Boulangerie, a bakery and bistro owned and run by two authentic, classically-trained French pastry chefs.  Their breads and pastries are phenomenal.   There is always a line snaking out the door, which ultimately peaks my anticipation even more.  This past weekend I returned to the beloved bakery for the first time this season.  Immediately I felt the warm feeling in my chest develop and the ridiculous, yet genuine, gleeful smile spread across my face as I entered the store.  And while I am no expert on French pastries, I can safely say that they produce quite possibly the most delicious pain au chocolat this side of the Atlantic.

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IMG_5359While a trip to Paris is not in my immediate future, my happy place is only a bite away.

Buon appetito (bon appétit)!

Girl

 

How to be a smart snacker.

Here's a lil' article I wrote for my internship that I thought that my fan(s) would appreciate! Healthy snacking in a nutshell

-Great pick-me-up during the day that can help to get you through that late afternoon slump

-Maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is important especially for people with diabetes

-Prevents you from overeating at your next meal by making sure you don’t get too hungry

-Helps to manage weight and may be beneficial for those trying to lose weight

-Opportunity to eat important food groups and provides you with valuable nutrients

Tips for smart snacking

- Aim for 1-2 snacks per day

- Keep snacks to 200 calories or less

-Make sure to eat something every 3-4 hours

-Incorporate a bit of protein, healthy fat, and fiber-rich carbohydrates in every snack to maximize satiety

-Keep a container of healthy snack options in your car, locker, or purse to have on hand when hunger strikes

-Think ahead.  If you know you will be out for a few hours between meals, bring a piece of fruit or some nuts

Tasty, easy, and healthy snack ideas

-Slice of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter

-Hard-boiled egg with an orange

-Non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt with granola

-Packet of plain, instant oatmeal cooked with mini-box of raisins and a dash of cinnamon

-Fresh veggies (carrots, celery, and grape tomatoes) with low-fat ranch dressing

-Handful of almonds with a banana

-Whole-wheat pita pocket with hummus

-Smoothie with non-fat or low-fat milk, frozen strawberries, and banana

-Whole-wheat crackers with low-fat string cheese

-Apple slices with peanut butter

-Homemade trail mix with a combination of your favorite nuts, cereal, and dried fruit

-Non-fat or low-fat cottage cheese with fresh pineapple cubes

Remember:

-Avoid snacking while watching TV, reading, or driving to avoid mindless eating

-Avoid processed snacks that are low in fiber and high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium.  They may initially satisfy you but they can actually make you more tired by causing a quick spike in blood sugar followed by a sudden drop

With these tips and ideas, healthy snacking can be an easy, fun part of any busy lifestyle!

 

HAPPY FRIDAY, Y'ALL!  I hope your weekend is filled with snacks and sunshine!

Reflections.

I know that January 1st was about two weeks ago now, but it seems like the excitement of a new year is just now starting to seep into my veins.  I am feeling refreshed, energized, hopeful, and downright happy!  I am also feeling rather pensive about the past year.  Hear me out. 2012- what a bloody mad and fabulous year.  I am both ecstatic yet hesitant to see it go.  It was a year of amazing growth for me.  Despite some personal bumps in the road, each of those bumps presented me with a lesson and ultimately strengthen me.  And for that, I will look back fondly on 2012.

It was the year I graduated from college.

It was the year I had the opportunity to see the person I never want to be again.

It was the year I learned first-hand the excruciating initial sting of heartbreak.

But it was also the year I learned that time heals.

It was the year I officially began the journey to the coveted RD and took one really big step closer to my long-time goals.

It was the year I met more wonderful people and made more amazing friends than I can count.

It was the year I discovered what it feels like to have the blood and warmth rush back into my heart even when I swore I'd never feel anything again.

Above all, it was the year I learned to let go and to finally just bask in the glory of being a 20-something year-old for a while.  

While I would be lying if I said that everyday is filled with rainbows and butterflies, I can safely say that I feel more confident, loved, and alive today than I ever have.  And I have 2012 to thank for that.

Given the fact that I could never have predicted how much the past year would change me and my life, I won't deny the fact that I greet 2013 with some trepidation.  But it is evident that I have survived and am a better person because of it.  Therefore, I am looking forward to the near future and I welcome the mystery with open arms.

Cheers to a new year and a fresh start!

Lessons.

I believed that I would not be able to travel this summer for a number of reasons.  However, I just recently realized that only thing standing between me and a flight was myself.  I kept telling myself that travel just wasn't in the cards in spite of the fact that I woke up every day and went to sleep every night with an insatiable craving for the unknown.  The more I grow and become self-aware, the more I realize that I need to learn how to distinguish the opinions and beliefs of others from my own.  And it was that realization that I found the courage to make my own travel plans, to carve out my own path.

While I could wax philosophical for hours about my recent epiphanies, let's just say that if I had not listened to my heart I would have never had the experience of a lifetime.

Travel never ceases to amaze me and to not only teach me about the world outside my bubble, but also an infinite amount about myself.  Although I would love to share everything I learned on this trip, here are a few lessons that I recently discovered somewhere between London, Paris, and Barcelona.

Lesson #1: When a French man with a moped says that he has an extra helmet, don't you dare bat an eyelash.  You strap on that helmet and brace yourself.  I will never forget the rush of cold on my teeth as the wind brushed past the smile plastered on my face because I could not stop grinning or the glamorous glow of the Louvre at night.

Lesson #2:  Order one of each flavor of the best macarons in Paris (Pierre Herme IMHO).  Immediately eat a couple and save the rest for dinner.  Macarons > Chicken.

Lesson #3: Speaking of food...I always say I travel through my stomach.  And when you visit 3 different countries in a matter of 12 days, throw all caution to the wind and just eat anything and everything.  Life is too short not to experience your first Parisian baguette or flaky British scone at tea time because it's not "Paleo-friendly."

Lesson #4: Don't hesitate to take an absurd amount of pictures.  In fifty years it won't matter who was watching me take a goofy picture, I'll just be happy that I have tangible evidence that I climbed the Eiffel Tower, for example.

Lesson #5:  Don't be afraid to wander.  Having traveled to Europe several times now, I have developed a desire for being independent that makes mothers shudder.  I truly believe that travel is best when shared with others.  However, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to navigate a new, foreign city with solely your brain and two feet.  I love having the freedom of exploring a random side street if I want to or being able to discover a market at my leisure.  As long as you remain conscious of your surroundings and recognize your limits, the most beautiful discoveries happen when you put down the map and trust your intuition.  You never know what you might find.

Lesson #6:  Make friends.  I am a born introvert.  And as much as I love being to do/see/eat exactly what I want, I have learned that travel is the sweetest when shared with others.  There is something about the being on the road that ignites a fire in me to meet new people. The friends I make when traveling never cease to amaze me.  Maybe its the common thread of a passion for travel that we share.  Or maybe its the intoxicating excitement of the unknown that makes everyone just a bit more friendly and outgoing.  Whatever it is, it is truly special to meet people that you would not have otherwise met if you had not made the brave choice to travel and to make memories together, even though you may not see them again any time soon.  Experiences shared overseas are not easily forgotten.

Lesson #7:  My appetite for travel is insatiable.  This whirlwind trip made it clear to me that I am a born traveler.  I am happiest with a plane ticket in my hand and my bum in an economy seat.  The smell of a new city when I step out of the airport and into unknown territory is one of top five favorite things in the world.  I have only been in the States for five days and already I can feel the burning in my heart for travel beginning again.  Wherever my travels lead me to next, I know that my passion for adventure will continue to flicker even as reality sets in and the memories of my recent trip begin to fade around the edges.

"You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself." -Ella Maillart

wanderlust.

So once again, wanderlust has gotten the best of me.  In two days I shall set off on an impromptu trip to London, Paris, & Barcelona. I am excited to explore two completely new countries (England and France) and to re-visit Spain with new eyes and perspective.  The trip is a mere 12 days so I need to make the most of my time.  My goals are to be present in every moment, go with the flow, and remain curious and passionate.  Obviously my major focus is to explore these cities with not only mouth, but also eyes and mind, wide open.  I have a bucket list of things to do and see in each city so I shall use those as my rough guide.

My relentless desire to travel this summer despite my perfectly comfortable life here has made me realize that I was born to travel.  As much as I am a creature of habit, I also cannot sit still for long without being filled with a yearning for adventure.  While I truly have no idea what the future holds for me, I certainly know that travel must be a part of it.  I feel most alive when I am "on the road."

Here's to another adventure with Ms. Wanderlust.

Cheerio!  Au revoir!  Hasta Luego!

never too simple.

I pride myself on being Italian.  I live a life complete with the classic large, close family, loud aunts, uncles, and parents, all with friends who bring us jugs of homemade wine and dozens of tomato plants in the summer. But above all, I pride myself on growing up constantly surrounded by good, wholesome, delicious food.  While I will never miss a Sunday dinner/the chance to eat my aunt's handmade ravioli, I never really had the quintessential Italian cuisine upbringing.  While I would have liked to spend Saturday afternoons in the kitchen with my grandparents, learning the secrets of their sauce or how to properly make meatballs, they all passed away before I had that chance.  It is unfortunate because I hear that my grandfather was a major "foodie" (long before that term was even coined) who enjoyed spending his weekends making homemade vanilla ice cream, root beer, and beef stew.  However, I like to think his culinary gene was passed onto me.  I channel him every time I heat up oil in a pan.

Although I don't have those memories of spending a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen with my elders, I do have my mother and my aunt, both of whom ignited my passion for cooking, yet in different ways.  Nevertheless, both taught me about the importance of simplicity.  Just because a recipe only has a handful of ingredients, doesn't mean that it's not as delicious as its more complex counterpart.

So today I am feeling inspired to share one of the first family recipes that I learned by heart: pizza sauce.  While simplicity is key in Italian cuisine, it should not be so simple that one must only open a jar of pre-made tomato sauce to add to their pre-made pizza crust, if they are in the mood for a pizza.  As I have stated before, pizza is my favorite thing to make.  I love the gradual process of assembling all the ingredients (dough, sauce, cheese, toppings) while my pizza stone slowly warms in the oven, all of which is proceeded by the construction of the pizza which must be assembled swiftly and shoved back into the oven, so as to ensure that the oven temperature remains as high as possible.

Although toppings usually receive all the attention when the topic of pizza comes up, I believe that the power of a good sauce that offers just enough flavor, but not too much so as to overpower the entire pie, should never be underestimated.  So on that note, here is my family's coveted recipe for a delicious pizza sauce

"If-simple-is-wrong-I-don't-want-to-be-right" Pizza Sauce

Makes enough for 2-3 pizzas, depending on size.  

Ingredients

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1 28-oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

dried basil, dried mint, dried parsley, dried oregano, 1 generous pinch of each

crushed red pepper flakes, 1 generous pinch

3-4 fresh basil leaves

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions

1.  Heat olive oil in a medium sautee pan over medium heat

2.  Add garlic clove and sautee for 30 seconds- 1 minute, or until golden and fragrant (DON'T BURN IT)

3.  Add crushed tomatoes (careful, oil may splatter a bit) and stir with a wooden spoon several times

4.  Add dried herbs and red pepper flakes, stir to combine

5.  Bring everything to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer

6.  Add fresh basil leaves, salt, and pepper, to taste

7.  Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until sauce is reduced and thickened

8.  A few minutes before the sauce is done, taste it, and add more salt and pepper, if needed

9.  Turn off heat and allow to sit for at least five more minutes to allow the flavors to meld

Side note: I love having leftover sauce to dip my pizza crust in!

Writing this recipe has me itching to flee to the kitchen and make about fifty pizzas.  Alas, I am studying for my last round of undergrad finals.  But I definitely know the first thing I am going to do when I am done to celebrate!

Until then, buon appetito!

 

Things I am currently loving.

I have been feeling extra grateful lately.  So I figured I would share the things that bring a smile to my face on the regular. hip-hop yoga

My relationship with fitness goes through phases.  I fluctuate from "I walk to the grocery store and dance in my room to Britney several times per week.  GOOD ENOUGH." to "OMG I love exercise/endorphins/sweating/a tight booty."  I am currently in the latter phase.  And to be honest, I have never felt better.

I have discovered that I have exercise ADD and so I enjoy exercise that keeps me on my toes. So, my current exercise regimen is a lovely combination of fast-paced workouts that make me sweat/whisper expletives under my breath (And Zumba.  Always, Zumba).  Also, I need  good music to motivate me to move my body.  Hip-hop (vinyasa-style) yoga is the best of both worlds.  PLUS who doesn't love doing a good downward dog to "Super Bass"???  NOBODY, that's who.

2% pineapple chobani

If someone were to ask me what my favorite fruit/fruit flavoring is, I would probably say strawberry, blueberry, banana, coconut and several other fruity babies before I even thought of pineapple.  I am NOT a pineapple girl.  Sure, I ate about 16 pounds of it prior to my wisdom teeth extraction, that fateful spring break.*  However, Chobani has made me a pineapple convert.  While none of their flavors every really disappoint me, the first time I licked the lid of this bad boy, I knew I had found my greek yogurt soulmate.  Plus, I love that it's 2%. Low-fat (not non-fat) dairy for the win!

*pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that tenderize meat, is said to reduce the risk of swelling after you get your big ol' wisdom teeth yanked from your mouth.

pure barre

HOLY MUSCLES.  In addition to my yoga/zumba "regimen," I have recently added this barre-based exercise routine with a serious cult-following.  At first I thought to myself, "I did ballet for like 13 years.  I doubt this will be that hard."  BOY WAS I WRONG.  I would describe Pure Barre as a fast-paced pilates class that makes your triceps, biceps, quads, inner thighs, calves, booty, and abs burn like Dante's Inferno.  All in a matter of 55 minutes while wearing socks with grippies on the bottom.  PERFECT.

saturday mornings

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So I can devour a French Toast Muffin from 3 Little Figs, a lovely little bakery/cafe just outside of Davis Square.  There are so many good things on the menu that I plan to return every Saturday for the rest.of.my.life

kombucha

I can't really explain it, but I just love the way it makes my body feel.  This honey-ginger kombucha from Whole Foods is particularly dynamite.

friends (old & new)

Never before have I been so grateful for friendship/aware of the importance of it in my life.

Gayle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdPdiQNWDeY

Anyone who snorts Kashi Go Lean! Crunch cereal for breakfast has my respect.  Gayle Waters-Waters is no exception.   My dear friend introduced me to this life-changing YouTube series and ever since I have been incessantly quoting these glorious videos and giggling to myself in class thinking about Gayle's 250 lb. treasure chest of couscous.

WATCH THIS NOW AND FALL IN LOVE!

cooking (again)

pineapple upside-down cake

irish soda bread

For some reason, I took a little hiatus from the kitchen.  But Julia got her groove back and I am once again whipping out the Cuisinart stand mixer and pizza stone like there's no tomorrow.

this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92XD7d-tqRg

it just makes me happy!

HAPPY THURSDAY, Y'ALL!  Life is beautiful.

That time of the [day].

Given that it's that universally dreaded day of "losing an hour" I figured it would be appropriate to reveal my deep, dark secret. I'm a morning person.  I adore everything about the morning: the quiet, the lighting, and just knowing that I am one of the few with open eyes at that moment.

I am also my most productive in the morning (caffeine does indeed play a major role).

One of my favorite things to do lately is to wake up nice and early, eat breakfast, get dressed/pretty, grab a prime seat at one of my two favorite coffee shops near school, order a cafe au lait, and read blogs/do work before I have to jet off to classes.  This time is just so special to me and it allows me to get a great start on my day.

Even on weekends I jump out of bed to make a special breakfast (i.e. oatmeal or pancakes), read, listen to music, and possibly go to a dance class or for a walk.

While I am realizing that it is difficult to find the words to accurately express my love of mornings, here are some images of my most recent, favorite mornings.

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And with that, I wish you the happiest of Sunday mornings!

Scenes from SF: Part 2.

While many people were stumbling home after yet another New Year's Eve, I was hopping into a rent-a-car.  Destination: Napa.

They say the way you spend the first day of the new year will set the tone for the rest of the year.  Given the wonderful New Year's Day I had, I sure hope "they" are right.

Buzzed.

I have a love-hate relationship with coffee. Love: With the change of seasons comes an excitement of coffee's different forms: a hot, soul-warming cup o' joe in the colder months and an perfectly chilled iced coffee during the dog days of summer.

Hate: If I don't have a cup of coffee within two hours of waking, I will have an annoying, whole-body headache the rest of the day.  And for the mornings when I am simply not craving coffee, this is quite the hassle.

So I decided that rather than curse my addiction, I shall embrace it!  Boston has a plethora of hip coffee shops that appeal to the caffeine zombies in all of us.  I decided to do some research on the city's favorites while fending off that horrid headache.

1.  Hazelnut Latte- Thinking Cup, Tremont Street

Seeing that Thinking Cup is  the number one cafe in Boston (according to Boston Magazine), I had to try it out.  While I have been known to order a hazelnut iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts in the summer, this takes hazelnut to an entirely new level.  The flavor is pure hazelnut; certainly not from a pump bottle.  In fact, I think there are actually ground hazelnuts in this beverage because it has a rather gritty texture.  Don't worry though- it's very subtle and enjoyable.

2.  "Atticus Finch"- Voltage Coffee & Art, Kendall Square

Atticus Finch?  Although I'm not sure how this latte is related to "To Kill a Mockingbird," the vanilla and burnt sugar flavor of this latte was truly delicious.  The one thing that I remember most about this latte was its strength.  I drank this in about 10 minutes and 30 seconds later my legs were bouncing and I was getting lots of work done.  I liked it.  I liked it a lot!

3. Crema Latte- Honey and cinnamon- Crema Cafe, Harvard Square

When I saw this drink on the specials menu and ordered it, the cashier said that it was her favorite beverage on the menu.  Given the dozens of items on the menu, I thought that that was a pretty significant comment.  While I typically only put honey in my tea, this was one of the most unique coffee drinks that I discovered along my caffeinated journey.  I was a little apprehensive that the coffee would overpower the honey, but both flavors were certainly discernible.  They created

It was a chilly, yet beautiful, Sunday morning and I remember sipping on my latte, letting the caffeine settle in, and feeling that all was right with the world.

So if you're in the Boston area and you find yourself with a throbbing caffeine headache or are just normal and want a nice cup of coffee, please check out any of these spots.  They're real gems!

P.S. Stay tuned for Part II