Stick a Fork in Me

The end of a year is often time for reflection. For me, this has been both one of the best and worst years I’ve ever experienced. While I’m glad 2016 is over, I am grateful for so many of the opportunities that came my way and am looking forward to my future endeavors, both personally and professionally.

As a small business entrepreneur, it’s often difficult to separate out the work stuff from the life stuff. While I’m not big on resolutions, I will be taking into account the things that caused me the most stress over the past 12 months and diminishing those items that are within my control going forward.


To start, effective tomorrow, 12/23, I have promised myself a reprieve from social media until after the New Year. I am desperate for a brain break, but have also been feeling a lot of eye fatigue and recently became afflicted with “texting elbow” (it’s a thing), so it’s time for a physical and mental detachment to allow me to do some soul-searching and reprioritize what matters most to me.

Another reason why I’ll be offline starting tomorrow is to help my mom prepare our annual Christmas Eve dinner menu. I won’t be uploading pics of the spread until January, so, until then, I invite you to peruse through some of the holiday posts from my archives:

Come January, keep an eye on this site for so many fun things I have in the works for 2017, like one-week challenges, a four-week fast-track program, free book giveaways and promotions, the launch of my YouTube channel, and much, much more.

I wish all of you a very safe and happy holiday season. Eat well and be well. See you again in 2017!

Fishing for compliments

For the second year in a row, I shared kitchen duties with my mom for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner. My mom handled all the fish dishes (I’ve written about our Italian fish tradition previously here) and I was in charge of the rest, which included a variety of nutrient-dense, fancifully flavored, plant-based recipes. This year’s menu, like last year’s, combined old-world tradition with some new fusion fare:

  • Shrimp Cocktail (à la Costco)
  • Chard & White Bean Soup (I substituted sweet potatoes for new potatoes)
  • Wilted Greens Salad (I used plain, ol’ mesclun instead of mustard greens, but added Dijon to the dressing as a nod; I also threw in some chopped walnuts to add texture and offset the sweetness of the dressing)
  • Shrimp Scampi; Calamari en Brodo; Broiled Cod; and Linguine with King Crab legs (all recipes in Mom’s head)
  • Braised Kale and Carrot Stew (loosely inspired by this recipe)
  • Citrus Pound Cake w/Warm Citrus Salad (from the Dec ’14 issue of The Oprah Magazine)
  • Winter Warmer Cocktail (I don’t drink alcohol, but got everyone else nice and drunk on this)

I fare best when I eat vegetarian, but I don’t feel the need to make a show of it; I just like providing solidly healthful foods for people I love, especially when I know some of the day will include indulgences and sweets. Plus, it ensures that I’ll be getting my own fill of fruits and veggies…a true win-win.

What kind of foods do you eat and traditions do you follow for the holidays? Do you like to cook or share the cooking responsibilities with anyone in your family during special occasions? Feel free to post your comments below. I look forward to reading them!

Turkeys and dressings and pies…oh, my!

With the end of the year comes invitations to holiday parties and the potential to indulge on some not-so-great foods. Tempting as these are, overeating–especially the wrong foods–can not only leave you feeling sluggish, bloated, and upset with yourself, it can bring you steps closer to heart disease and other chronic illnesses. The next best party accessory to your sparkly bangles or your festive tie is a healthful-eating action plan.

Thanksgiving Table

Aromas may entice, but dark meat turkey with skin, fried onion casseroles, pecan pie, and egg nog are high in fat, calories, and sodium–even canned cranberry sauce carries four times the amount of sugar you should normally have in a day–especially if accompanied by seasonings, sauces, and biscuits. (Not to mention the possible food safety issues at these occasions, when meats and dairy items sit out for hours.) A simple serving of mashed potatoes will run you about 240 calories with 9 grams of fat and over 600 milligrams of sodium, which is nearly 25 percent of your daily recommended value. A handful of nuts comes in at 10 grams of fat, and that cozy cup of gingerbread latte will cost you 40 grams of sugar. You don’t have to cut out everything, but keep these numbers in mind before you approach the dining table.

On the days before and after a special event, make a conscious effort to eat nutritiously so that, if you do splurge a bit, you don’t suffer guilt (or stomachaches) later. Have a hearty breakfast the morning of your gathering, or a small snack—like whole grain pretzel sticks and peanut butter—a couple of hours before you head out. On your way to the venue, visualize your plate piled high with colorful and varied foods. At the very least, most functions will have salad fixings, so fill up first on the items that will give you the most nutrients, vitamins, and fiber, then reward yourself with a small portion of something decadent. After all, you are celebrating!

Consider the following:

  • Plan ahead. Call and ask the hosts what they’ll be serving the day of their event and ask if you can bring a side dish with you (a three-bean salad, baked kale chips, or carrot sticks and hummus) if there’s going to be nothing but fried foods and salty snacks.
  • Choose wisely. If the venue doesn’t allow for outside food, then make smart adjustments. Forgo the bread; select a leaner meat and omit the toppings; replace anything fried with salad. And always—always—eat off a plate.
  • Keep moving. Mingle, mingle, mingle. Take a lap around the buffet before every course. Engage in a dance or two. Each little burst of movement will keep your nibbling to a minimum, and your calories in check.

While you are out of your element, you can still be in control when it comes to your nutrition as long as you plan on being mindful before you even walk out the door. With a healthful eating strategy, you can successfully face that smorgasbord of harsh foods on the other side.

[A version of this article was written for, and first appeared in, on June 29, 2014.]

Image credit: iStock

La Festa dei Sette Pesci

I’m too full to make up a new post for today, so I’m recycling last year’s.  Going to lie down now.

As I scour my wardrobe looking for a pair of pants with an elasticized waist, I reminisce about Christmas Eves past at my parents’ house and the many family members who have gathered around their table enjoying my mother’s most favorite holiday ever (I can actually hear her snort-laughing over that right now).  Per the tradition of our province of L’Aquila in Abruzzo, Italy (and the tradition of many other parts of Italy), Christmas Eve means my mother will have spent an entire month shopping and poring over recipes for what is known as La Festa dei Sette Pesci (The Feast of the Seven Fishes) as part of the celebration of La Vigilia (The Vigil).  For me, it means I will have to ask politely for everyone at the table to please move the plate of eel far, far away from me.

Today also means about sixteen pounds worth of assorted holiday treats. By tomorrow, I believe I will be officially made out of chocolate…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Wishing my friends, family, and fellow bloggers a very safe and happy holiday!