BELLA ON HER 28TH BIRTHDAY / RECIPE: MASSAGED KALE SALAD WITH ROASTED CHICKPEAS IN A MISO-TAHINI DRESSING, September, 2015, Manhattan, NY

I turned twenty-eight this month. I’m now officially in my late twenties (even though twenty-seven totally qualifies as late twenties) so it’s time to get my shit together. On September 5th, my actual birthday, I wrote an Instagram post (you should probably follow me) listing all the goals I want to accomplish in the coming year and asked my friends and (handful of random) followers to help to keep me focused.

Here, once again, is the long-winded birthday message I posted on the gram:

“Hey world! Today I turn 28 and here are some things I’d like to accomplish in the coming year. I want to remain healthy, for my business to continue to profit and then some, to write/blog more frequently (at least once a week), to grow my blog/etsy/instagram/general social media presence, to write a cook book (okay maybe more of a long term goal), to commit myself to eating a balanced diet and an overall healthy lifestyle, to work out at least four days a week but aim for six, to go some place I’ve never been before, particularly abroad, to face my fears, to love, be loved and be happy.”

It’s been two plus weeks and I haven’t exactly hit the ground running towards accomplishing these goals. But hey, it’s a marathon not a sprint! In the past three weeks I’ve moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, attended two destination weddings, gone through a torrent of emotional turmoil (which I’m not going to share with you because bloggers need keep some things private, right?), and sneaking a lot of crappy food. On top of that I haven’t worked on an embroidery project in over a month, which may have something to do with the fact that my life is in boxes. On the plus side I HAVE joined Class Pass (which is awesome) and started taking Pilates, yoga and barre classes frequently, though I’ve yet to meet my 4X/week goal. Maybe that will happen this week? I remain optimistic. I went on a super hard hike on my birthday and climbed an eight story (maybe I’m exaggerating) moon tower even though I’m completely afraid of heights. I already faced a fear! I have managed, on most days, to have a smoothie and/or a salad for at least one if not two of my meals. I have also booked several parties and special events at my restaurant that will definitely bring in extra revenue and more than likely a new batch of returning slash regular customers.

And I even very impromptu-ly (I know that’s not a word and I don’t care Mom) bought tickets to Hawaii for TWO WEEKS! I can’t remember the last time I went anywhere for two whole weeks, let alone paradise! If you’ve spoken to me at all in the past three months you’d have heard that Hawaii’s been calling my name; so many omens have crossed my winding path, omens pointing to the far west. (mostly, I got really into the Hawaii Five-O reboot on Netflix.) Even though I’ve been to Hawaii before, twice, I haven’t been Oahu, aka Hawaii Five-O Land, and because I’ve always wanted to go there it still counts as a place I’ve never been. And hey, I will have visited Hawaii AND Alaska in one year! That’s pretty cool.

So yea, I’m chugging along at my own pace trying to become the best version of myself. And part of that is eating right! Today I’m sharing a recipe for a healthy, filling and crazy delicious massaged kale salad. This recipe is based on the kale salad I had in Miami at 27, the restaurant inside the very hip (I hate using that word, but actually) Freehand Hostel, which is not actually a hostel, more like a fancy hotel with bunk beds. My friends and I were all little wary of ordering yet another kale salad but the miso-tahini dressing really piqued our interest so we ordered one for the table.

Oh boy did we make the right decision! The vigor of the kale harmonized beautifully with the crunch of the chickpeas and radishes, and the addictive delicious dressing made this a perfect salad. I’m pretty sure I licked the bowl. As soon as I got home I tried to recreate it, added some extra veggies, took away the fennel (not that I don’t LOVE fennel), and I gotta say, I think my version is just as good, if not better.

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MASSAGED KALE SALAD WITH ROASTED CHICKPEAS, RADISHES, GRAPE TOMATOES AND CUCUMBERS IN A MISO-TAHINI DRESSING

There are a lot of steps to this salad and I wanted to make a couple of notes on the prep. First, make sure you properly massage the kale – the last time I made the salad I rushed my massaging because my mama had to get to an appointment – and without the deep massage the kale was too fibrous and the salad fell a little flat. Second, the salty roasted chickpeas provide an alternative for the crouton crunch factor. After roasting the chickpeas make sure to use them while they’re still hot, as they’re crunchiest right out of the oven. After about thirty minutes or so they get a little chewier, still tasty, but for this recipe it’s all about the crunch. Next, though the recipe calls for half a can of chickpeas I like to roast them all and save the other half for a healthy snack. Finally, I’ve added one small hack for the dressing; the original recipe calls for tahini, a thick paste made of ground sesame seeds. In its place I use the tahini-based Annie’s Goddess dressing, which is much easier to work with and store than pure tahini and provides the same flavor.

Between the massaging, chopping, mixing the homemade dressing and roasting the chickpeas, this salad takes time – and timing – to prepare, but it’s so totally worth it. It’s robust enough for a filling lunch, or serve it as a colorful, crunchy accompaniment for chicken paillard or grilled steak and tada! you have a full on meal.

Serving size: Full meal for 2, side dish for 4-6.

Ingredients:

DRESSING

1/3 Cup Annie’s Goddess Dressing
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup warm water

salt and pepper

PREP
***A jar with a lid or better yet a mini mixer like a magic bullet or small Cuisinart will make preparation a lot easier. If you lack both, some strong whisking will do the trick

1. in a small bowl mix together the warm water and miso paste until the miso is dissolved. add into a jar (or whatever you may have) with lemon juice, and goddess dressing and shake until emulsified

2. add salt and pepper to taste

SALAD INGREDIENTS

Kale (I like Russian curly kale, you can use whichever kale you prefer or find at the market)

1/2 15 oz can Chickpeas

1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped

3 radishes, chopped

1/2 cup cherry, grape or sun gold tomatoes, sliced in half

olive oil

salt and pepper

CHICKPEAS

1. pre heat oven to 400° F

2. rinse chickpeas and thoroughly dry them with a kitchen clothe, until dry to the touch (this will take a little while)***they won’t get crunchy if they aren’t completely dry

3. place chickpeas on a cookie sheet and smother with olive oil and a generous helping of salt. iodized or kosher works best.

4. cook for 25-30 minutes until gold brown and crunchy

THE REST

1. first things first you gotta massage that kale! there are hundreds of great instructions on the internet, here’s a good one. make sure you work it hard! remove the ribs of the leaves and rip into bite size pieces

2. add chopped radishes, cucumbers and tomatoes

3. throw in hot crunchy chick peas

4. dress to your liking (I ilke a lot of dressing) but try adding half of the dressing, mix and taste to see if you need more.

5. add GOOD flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper and ENJOY!

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GET A HOBBY: EMBROIDERY / PARTY GIRL GOODS, August, 2015, Brooklyn, NY

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I’ve always been pretty artistic and crafty. In lower school, when I struggled with learning disabilities, I always received glowing reviews from my art teachers. They were especially taken with a series of “back of the head” portraits I drew of my classmates in the fourth grade. Seeing a passion develop my mother bought me water colors and acrylics and I soon begged her to invest in oils. I began taking painting lessons and made a few decent pieces but as soon as puberty hit I kind of forgot about my hobby. In high school I was so focused on modern dancing (which is so LOL to think about now) I only took one art class. At some point I picked up knitting but I was never very good, I don’t think I ever even finished a scarf. By the time I got to college I had all but forgotten about creating, other than crafts for theme parties and costumes (DUH).

Sometime during college I developed an urge to learn to needle point – mostly so I could make a pillow that said “Please Use the Ashtrays” (I collect vintage glass ashtrays, even though I’ve never been a cigarette smoker). I always talked about teaching myself but was hindered by the price of supplies and my habit of not finishing projects. Then about a year ago I needed some “Restroom” signs for my restaurant and after finding nothing I liked on Etsy I thought FUCK IT I’m going to teach myself needlepointing and make myself some restroom signs! After some quick googling, I realized needle pointing or cross stitch was a little too tedious for my ADD and decided regular embroidery was the way to go. I went to my favorite store, Michaels, spent $60 on supplies and one how to book and got to stitching.

Like most crafty things I picked it up pretty easily. I started to embroider while watching TV or riding the subway, rather than stare at my phone all the time. I made restroom signs, all of my dogs names in script, loral bouquets and  eventually started making presents for my friends and family. Then this past March, inspired by one of my best friend Lily’s save the date, card stock with vintage match books with all but two matches pulled out which read “We’re a perfect math!”. I played off the card and made this little matchbook with two perfect matches. It was one of their favorite engagement gifts and she urged me to start selling them and other stitched items. SO “The Perfect Match”,  which has become somewhat of a signature designs, and my Etsy store PartyGirlGoods were born!

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you my store was a total success right off the bat (it still isn’t). I first sold at a Brooklyn crafts market, which wasn’t the greatest experience. But it forced me to make enough inventory to stock my store with more than just the match books! I stitched glittery fish, naked ladies, tools and even collaborated with a good friend and artist Zuzu Snyder on really cool looking succulents. I’ve slowly but surely been stocking up my Etsy store and have made a handful of sales. In June Refinery29 even listed one of our succulents as a “25 Items Under-$30 Made For Brightening Up Your Apartment” which gave my store tons of traffic and a bunch of new followers. I am in no way internet famous or raking in the dough but let me tell you it feels so good to be making things! (And to have friends, random people and a website I love like things I’ve made) I love coming up with quirky ideas and making them come to life. I love thinking of thoughtful presents for friends and creating pieces they can keep forever. This is especially true for wedding and engagement gifts – it feels so good to give from the heart and not off the registry. (If you don’t want a gift from the heart, tough cookies cause I’m broke). It’s a very similar feeling as the joy I get from cooking – planning, executing, creating- it’s just a little more permanent.

I leave you with this advice – start making things! Wether it’s cooking, drawing, woodworking, tie dying! If you have the latent urge to create but have been ignoring it because you are too busy or too poor, trust me, you’re not! And an initial investment is worth it if it’s going to make you happy. I know it did for me.

IT’S ME AGAIN / RECIPE: GRINGA-ASIAN CUCUMBER, CARROT AND BELL PEPPER SLAW, July, 2015, Brooklyn, NY

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The hardest part about blogging is to continue to keep blogging. Owning my own restaurant, starting a fledgeling Esty business (future post about this soon!), and what I like to think of as, you know, a life, I don’t find much time to write new posts. Also, as the boyfriend always reminds me, I’m lazy. I often spend my one day off a week snuggling with my puppy, watching bad television (in particular USA shows “characters welcome!”), trying to recharge for the coming week. It’s not like I haven’t thought about blogging, I have several to-do lists and notes on future blog posts that I just never crossed off. So it’s time to stop writing about to-dos and just do!

I really like blogging, not just to share but also to document my experiences and interests! My future self loves going back-  remembering the fun times, good food and (what I hope are) pretty pictures. I have a couple of recent trips (New Orleans, Miami) I can’t wait to post about as well as several weddings and adventures (ALASKA) coming up! Future me would totally be missing out if I didn’t write about these experiences and I hope future you guys will like them too!

Much like blogging, the hardest part about eating healthy is to continue to eat healthy. I don’t really want to get too into my health issues in this post, but now that it’s been over 5 months (!) since my surgery, I haven’t been the best at sticking to the Party Girl Plan. Vacations, especially those to food destinations like NOLA, really take a toll on my eating habits (YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE). Moreover, SUMMER, takes a toll on eating habits! All I want is hot dogs, pizza, cheese fries (though I have yet to eat any) and ice cream!  Even with the (more) occasional cheat, I try to keep my regular diet on the healthier side. Lots of juices and non-dairy smoothies, lots of veggies and humanly raised meat. Yes it is somewhat expensive to eat this way, but I put my money where my mouth is, and my tummy and I are happier because of it.

Today I’m sharing a recipe for my go-to healthy slaw! I’ve been eating a lot of grain bowls recently – usually brown rice or quinoa topped with lots of veggies and  a marinated protein. I often make these gringa-Asian inspired, with sriracha roasted broccoli, garlic soy bok choy and edamame. I will make a sesame-miso-ginger dressing to top it all off but in this hot weather, if I’m in the mood for something lighter, this slaw is the perfect condiment. It also makes a great side salad. It’s tangy, crispy and super refreshing. I’ve made it dozens of times and it never fails to please!

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Gringa-Asian Cucumber, Carrot and Bell Pepper Slaw

INGREDIENTS

1 large carrot, julienne (cut into little strips)

1 large cucumber, julienne

1 small to medium bell pepper, I prefer yellow or orange, never green, julienne

1 bunch scallions, finely chopped, whites and greens

1 tbs salt

6 tbs rice vinegar

2 tbs sesame oil

sprinkle of sesame seeds — to your liking!

DIRECTIONS

1. place chopped carrots, cucumbers and pepper into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. mix and let sit for 5 minutes.

2. drizzle with rice vinegar and sesame oil and toss

3. add chopped scallion, mix and refriderate covered for at least a half hour.

4. when ready to serve, sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with cilantro (if that’s your thing)

***This recipe makes enough for six grain bowl toppings or two large salads.

***Slaw will keep in the fridge for one to two days, depending on how fresh your veggies are!

Here are some recent photos just for fun!!

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2 MONTHS POST SURGERY – THE PARTY GIRL PLAN / RECIPE: CHOPPED BABY KALE SALAD WITH CHILI CUMIN CHICKEN, April 2015, Brooklyn, NY

It has officially been two months since my surgery! The swelling and intense pain are almost entirely gone – I still have cramps and the occasional bad day if I push my body too hard. My surgeon says the procedure went flawlessly. He removed all the lesions, but, like cancer, endometriosis cannot be cured. Without treatment I’m succeptible to a relapse at any time. Because hormone therapy is the only medical option to stop the disease from coming back I just went through some tough decisions that I’m going to discuss on the blog today.

My surgeon recommended another hormonal IUD. This option involves the least amount of hormones because it is centralized right where the disease occurs. As I briefly discussed in my last endometriosis post – having the previous IUD inserted was the most painful experience of my life, arguably worse than the surgery itself. I was not keen on going through that again. But it was better than the other options. Hormone replacement pills (not birth control pills) would mean three times as many hormones and would almost definitely make me gain weight (way to play my vanity card, Doctor!). Hormone shots or a progesterone implant were too permanent – I couldn’t remove either if my body didn’t react well to the dosage. My surgeon was super gung-ho about the Mirena IUD and explained that my last one was situated low in my uterus and was rubbing against all the endometrial scar tissue that just happened to be clustered in the same place. This was why not only the insertion process but the entire month with the IUD were so incredibly painful. He guaranteed an easier sonogram-assisted insertion this time so he could actually see that it was in the right part of my uterus.  I still wasn’t convinced.

The boyfriend grew up in a homeopathic home – no vaccines, no over-the-counter medicines- and he is one of the healthiest and strongest people I know. When deciding what my next steps should be in this healing process I turned to his parents, specifically his father, Theo, for advice. Theo is a massage therapist, juice enthusiast, reike master, and a genuinely awesome, extremely healthy man. When I was first diagnosed with endometriosis Theo found this homeopathic website forum for women with the disease. There were a handful of cases where women had completely cured themselves of the disease by going on a diet similar to the cancer diet (no meat, no legumes, no sugar, no alcohol, no fun), alongside a juicing, supplement and yoga regiment. While these stories were incredible and inspiring, to be honest, I didn’t know if I could give up one of my greatest loves – FOOD – to cure this disease. Many of the stories were from women with stage-four endometriosis, whose only option after numerous surgeries was a hysterectomy. I’m still in my 20s, I love meat, cheese, pastries and BOOZE. I knew I couldn’t follow a strict enough diet to actually cure my disease.

Then I spoke to a family friend, Halina, who is a gynecological-endocrinologist, i.e. a fertility doctor. I mentioned my interest in a homeopathic remedy. I told her I wanted to find the cause of my disease – stress, diet, lack of sleep, and she chortled. Endometriosis doesn’t have a root cause, she told me, I couldn’t cure it with diet and exercise alone. If I didn’t intervene soon with hormone therapy I ran a high risk of reoccurrence that would lead to more surgery and, even more frightening, a very real possibility of future infertility. My chat with Halina ultimately led to my decision to get another IUD, along with a new diet and lifestyle. My surgeon kept his promise about the second insertion; it wasn’t anywhere near as painful as the first. All I needed was one day off and a couple days in stretchy pants to recover. It’s been five weeks now and I’ve had some pain, (nothing compared to pre surgery cramps) and am hopeful for my future. Now I can focus on my new “diet” and general lifestyle changes!

When I was first trying to decide which healthy lifestyle path to take I looked at two popular diets – Paleo and the Whole 30. My bar manager, Megan, had been Paleo for a month, was feeling amazing and lost 13 lbs (which I didn’t even think she needed to loose). Another girlfriend of mine and one of my blogger crushes, Elsie from A Beautiful Mess, had similar experiences with the Whole 30 diet. Both intrigued me but neither would work for me as a sustainable eating plan. No condiments, dairy, whole grains, or alcohol ever?! I could do that for 30 days but what about the rest of my life? I wasn’t doing this to lose weight, I was doing this to get heathy. I had to find a way to eat well without depriving myself. And so I created my own diet plan pretty much based off  Michael Pollan‘s book In Defense of Food whose motto is  “Eat Food. Mostly Greens. Not Too Much. I’ve cut almost all processed foods from my diet – no flour, nothing from a box, only whole grains, little to no dairy (and mostly goats’ milk products)) and whenever possible organic/antibiotic free/free range. I allow myself organic condiments such as tamari/soy sauce, sesame oil, miso paste, vinegar, raw honey and maple syrup. Over the past two weeks I cut all carbs  (just to see if I could) and it went extremely well – though I found myself missing quinoa and my Ezekial bread avocado toasts. I’ve still been drinking alcohol (almost always in moderation, minus a couple fun nights). I’ve cheated a couple time – at a friend’s engagement party I had a tiny little pig in a blanket or a bite of the boyfriend’s Philly cheese steak – but always small amounts and I have never felt guilty.

What I like about my non-diet diet plan, or if you will, The Party Girl Plan, is that it’s easy, sustainable, and allows me to continue eating foods I love. I don’t feel deprived, hungry and have almost entirely lost my cravings for rich foods and sugar! This coming from a girl who would eat a bowl of pasta and day and at least one package of sour candy in bed every night (with the boyfriend…) I feel healthier, stronger, and so far I’ve lost 10 LBS, plus my bowel movements are incredible! If you’re looking to change your diet, this is a great place to start.

In addition to eating well, I’ve started to move my body more. After lying in bed three months straight it feels so good to take walks and be on my feet. I’m not allowed to lift anything heavy or run yet so I’ve started practicing yoga, which I always thought I hated. BIG THANKS to my girlfriend Karla, who, along with our friend Ashley, runs Sync Studios, a Yoga and Cycling Studio in Williamsburg. Ashley has taken time out of her own busy schedule to do privates with me until I get my strength up. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be confident enough to take classes. And when I’m feeling super strong the boyfriend and I want to do Insanity (we’ll see if that actually happens!).

From now on I’m going to try and share recipes that are Party Girl Plan friendly! Below I’m sharing a recipe for a super filling chopped baby kale salad that has been a staple of mine these past two months. Feel free to switch out the butternut squash for any other type of squash or sweet potatoes – also if pistachios are a little too expensive (I steal them from my parents’ house)(Sorry parents!) pepitas work well too. And one last shout-out before I share; the chicken in the salad is inspired by a fellow Fieldston Alum/food blogger/healthy eater Pheobe Lapine, from Feed Me Pheobe. My good friend Lily turned me on to her blog and it has so many yummy healthy recipes (my favorite is her Carrot-Ginger dressing!) you should definitely check it out.

ALSO special thanks to the boyfriend for taking these fun photos of me and Misses Loretta the dog on his new camera I got him for his birthday. Clearly it was a present for both of us!

Chopped Baby Kale Salad with Chili-Cumin Chicken, Roasted Butternut Squash, Pistachios, Chia and Hemp seeds in a Miso-Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette (What?!)

INGREDIENTS

For the Chicken:

1 chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp salt

tbs coconut oil

For the Salad:

about 2 cups baby kale

1/4 butter nut squash, roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper at 375° for 30 minutes

2 tbs pistachio nuts

1 tbs hemp seed

1 tbs chia seed

1 tsp really good flaky salt

For the dressing:

1 1/2 tbs melted coconut oil

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

1 small shallot, minced

1 tsp white miso

1 tsp maple syrup

PREP

1. cover chopped chicken in chili, cumin and salt and let sit for a couple of minutes. Heat pan and cover with coconut oil. Throw in spiced chicken and cook through, about 8 minutes, making sure you flip those little guys to get a nice brown on all sides.

2. while chicken is cooking make dressing, I recommend doing so in a jar, as it emulsifies the ingredients best. throw in shallot, oils, vinegar, miso, and maple syrup. shake vigorously and taste to make sure it’s just sweet enough!

3.to assemble salad- roughly chopped (I know, it’s already baby kale, but things taste better chopped, trust me), top with butternut squash, cooked chicken, pistachios, seeds and salt. drizzle over dressing (it’s rich you don’t need to much) ENJOY!

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LOS ANGELES, October, 2014, Los Angeles, California

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The boyfriend and I went to LA in October. My little sister had just started her Freshman year at USC and the boyfriend has an office in LA so can work there any time. Plus he’d never really been and we have tons of friends to visit there. My mom, stepdad Robert (but we don’t really use terms like “step” and “half” in my family, as I’ve written about in earlier blog posts) and other little sister Sofia also flew out. The boyfriend and I stayed in Silver Lake with our good friend Tyler (you may remember from “My Week With Tyler” post). We saw a lot of friends, went to USC a couple times, including a football game (woah is USC different different than Oberlin)(Also you can’t drink at college football games and all people do is complain about how they can’t drink), I spent some  quality time with the fam and we all ate way too much (I mean, what else are you supposed to do on vacation?!). We even got to borrow our family friend’s JEEP CONVERTIBLE, so I was in full fledged “Clueless” mode (I may or may not have played “Kids in America” every time we got in the car)(and then dressed up as Cher Horowitz two weeks later for Halloween). My parent’s stayed with my Aunt Barbara in Studio CIty and she threw an early birthday BBQ for Robert and I invited all my friends. Studio City is technically the Valley so I had the chance to use the phrase “Looks like we’re going to the Val party”, which I said way too many times.  It was a fun trip and instead of giving you an entire run down here are some things I did/liked:

Mohawk Bend: This “vegan” restaurant was our first stop when we landed, still intoxicated after the plane ride. I say “vegan” because the menu has a plethora of “non-vegan” options, which they clearly mark “NV” (really). We got over the “LA-ness” of the place when we realized they had over 70 California beers on tap and the food was really good. Just try to forget that you’re eating veganaise and no matter what anyone tells you the “Buffalo Colliflower” does not taste like chicken wings.

The Real Inn: Our family friends who loaned us the Jeep recommended this place. By the way their names are Christine and Scott and they are awesome and have a awesome house in Laurel Canyon. Across the street from the beach in Malibu, right off PCH, this place is a fried food paradise. It’s an old school fisherman’s hub right by the Malibu trailer park and a defunct motel. I had chicken fingers because I don’t eat anything that swims, and even though they had a strong taste of fried shrimp, it still rocked. Definitely not the Malibu hot spot you think of but my favorite kind of place.

Lyft: Sure they have these cabs in NYC and Chicago but I really loved using it in LA. Anyone with a (newish) car and drivers license can drive so you meet a whole cast of characters while hitching pretty affordable rides. Plus it’s a great alternative to Uber and there less than ethical practices. (Literally too many links about this to post just one)

Sqirl: Everyone I know is obsessed with this place so I had to try it. Located in Silverlake, it’s a little lunch place that was apparently famous for its jams is constantly packed, serving strong coffee and fresh organic food. I had yummy shac\kshuka but should have ordered more bread. It was good, we tried to go again but the line was too long.

LACMA (LA County Museum of Art): I felt a little silly going to a museum in LA when I never take time to go to the amazing museums all over my own city but the boyfriend and Tyler were working and I felt like being a tourist (plus the Getty was closed). They have a very cool permanent collection of modernist: Picasso, Miro, Warhol, etc… as well as some interesting installations. My favorite was a light installation by James Turrell that made you feel like you were being abducted by aliens.

Waze: This app is the shit. It’s like google maps + twitter. It never lead me wrong and saved the boyfriend and I from countless fights driving around LA. Once again, this app is available all over, but people are super active on it in LA and is super helpful in such a driving heavy city.

Bottega Louie: My baby sister (the USC Freshman) wanted to go here. It was over the top but super delicious. Bonus points for every blogger ever posting photos of their beautiful desserts. Also pink himalayan sea salt shakers on every table. Plus every blogger and there mother LOVES this place.

Native: All week long I was trying to find a dress to wear to my friend’s wedding the following weekend and I stumbled into this place and found the perfect one! Right across the street from the Celebrity Center (Scientology is weird) in Franklin Heights, this little boutique is super cute and has great prices. They also gave the boyfriend and me beers while I tried on dresses.

Korean BBQ: For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the restaurant we went to and neither can Tyler. He says to look up “All you can eat Korean” on Yelp and this will be the top place. We gathered a bunch of boys and my one girlfriend and we ate all that we could plus some. I was beefed over on the plane ride home the next day.

Playa Provisions: It was my last day in the LA and we still hadn’t been to the beach so we decided to go on the way to LAX. Tyler took us to this adorable restaurant in Playa Del Carmen, everything homemade, organic and beautiful. Just across from the beach and 15 minutes away from the airport. It was the perfect goodbye meal.

We also took a little nudey photo shoot with Tyler and I may have posted a photos from it. But don’t worry, it’s super tame.

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WHERE IN THE WORLS IS PARTY GIRLS PERSPECTIVE?! / RECIPE: BALSAMIC BRAISED LAMB SHANKS, March, 2015, Brooklyn, NY,

As many of you may have noticed (or at least my best friend Sarina did) I haven’t posted a single entry on Party Girl since NOVEMBER. I apologize to the handful of people who read my blog and hopefully enjoyed it every week. But first and foremost I apologize to myself, because I love this blog and the outlet of creativity is grants me. I created this space for myself, to inspire me to cook (my most favorite thing to do), socialize, share and write more. However, I let my own personal issues and pain hinder me from writing (and even cooking!). When life was too painful  to be at the restaurant, I found it selfish to come home and recipe test, let alone spend the 12+ hours it takes for me to finish a post (still rifled with spelling and grammatical errors, I know). I would like to take this opportunity to explain why I fell of the face of the blogosphere and explore the future of not only this blog but my personal health and wellness.

***Warning I will be discussing “feminine” issues such as periods and lady parts below, this will not be graphic but if you’re a wimp and can’t handle that I suggest just skipping to the yummy recipe and photos at the end!

As long as I can remember I have bad menstrual cramps. As I reached my mid twenties (when I was 24 was when it really got bad) these annoying cramps started to become debilitating. The first day or two of my period I would be unable to stand let a lone go to work, lying in bed with my hot water bottle and begging my parents for some sort of painkiller because nothing over the counter worked. About a year ago, at the urging of my father, I started looking into possible causes of this pain. Fibroids? Cysts? Endometriosis? There were a bevy of treatable and non treatable diseases which could be causing the pain. But then again it could just be that I had bad cramps. I made an appointment with my sister’s gyno and the nurse practitioner gave me a clean bill of health. She recommended birth control, specifically an IUD, to help alleviate the pain. I don’t want to get too into this, but I DESPISE birth control in almost any form (not condoms though – as RV’s mom told us freshman year of college “wrap it up!)”. Since I was 16 I have been on and off numerous types of the pill and the Nuva Ring, all of which made me crazy hormonal and not the regular happy go lucky girl I like to believe I am. Furthermore, I am at a high risk for breast cancer as my mother was diagnosed before the age of 50 (and survived without losing a single strand of her beautiful blonde hair). Long story short, I refused the IUD and figured it wouldn’t be the worst thing to live in pain one day every month.

Flash forward to this past November. The pain started 10 DAYS before my period even started and lasted for my entire cycle. At that point my sister (the unofficial family doctor who was just accepted in TUFTS MEDICAL SCHOOL) was convinced me there was something wrong. She just happened to be seeing our gyno, the wonderful and super awesome Dr. Deborah Ottenheimer (if you live in NYC go see this woman or just her practice, she is rad), explained what was going on with me and got me an appointment the very next day. Dr. Ottenheimer once again suggested an IUD, which she and literally every other medical professional agreed would be my best bet to alleviate the pain. For the time being she prescribed me Vicodin and I scheduled an appointment for two weeks later and was ready for the easy fix! Oh BOY was I wrong! The insertion itself was literally the most painful thing I have ever experienced, I almost threw up waiting for the cab ride home. The  intense pain subsided but for the next two weeks I had  constant cramps. I couldn’t work out, I couldn’t lift anything, I could barely be on my feet long enough to help with the dinner rush at the restaurant. At this point, my doctor realized there could be something seriously wrong and recommended a pelvic pain specialist, Dr. Kenneth Levey, at Pelvic Pain New York.

Before I met with Dr. Levey I had to fill out a twenty page history form, then there was another 10 page form when I arrived at this office an hour early (as instructed) rating levels and types of pain in different areas. After about thirty minutes speaking and a quick (spectrum free!) examination, Dr. Levey diagnosed me with a early stage of endometriosis and suggested surgery as soon as possible. (What is Endometriosis? I’m still now expert but it’s basically scar tissue in your uterus that can attach itself to other organs an causes CRAZY pain)(If you’re interested in more information check out the link or leave questions in the comments!) In some cases it can cause infertility. It’s somewhat scary but extremely treatable (I’ve been trying to keep my mind off possible fertility issues because it just stresses me out). He noted my history of growing pain and my lack of relief from birth control as red lights for the disease. We schedule surgery three weeks later and after a two week recovery I’m back at work and going forward with my life! I still have to treat the disease – just because it is removed does not stop it from coming back- and am starting some hormone treatments in the coming week. If you guys are at all interested in my post surgery medical life I’d be more than happy to share but for now I think that’s enough on my medical issues.

The reason I am sharing this all with you is that this disease and all the pain, suffering and recovery has brought me to a turning point in my life – I am 27 years old (relatively) healthy girl and I need to take advantage of that! Lying around for almost three months in constant pain and then another two weeks high on Percocet made me value life and what I do with it. I didn’t have the strength to go to work most days, let alone cook elaborate meals, host parties and then blog about it! I hardly left my apartment, saw friends rarely, never went to events but watched a lot of bad television. Now that I’m on the road to recovery, I want to spend the rest of my twenties (and hopefully 30s, 40s and so on) doing things that I love! And that includes this blog! For almost four months I have let pain hinder my work life, my personal life and my hobbies. This blog makes me happy because it is an outlet for me to be creative and share thing I enjoy.

The moral of  this big serious post, there are going to be some changes in my life and on this blog. Being sick, figuring out what was wrong, needing surgery and the recovering was a wake up call to start living a healthier and more active life. And I want to reflect this new lifestyle in this blog. I am eating healthier – so far I’ve cut all all processed food, eating only grain free and organic meat, whole grains, no refined sugars and dairy free as much as possible. (It’s been a month and I’ve only caved to one tiny canoli – but I’m Italian so I pretty much couldn’t resist) I’m trying to live a more organized, active and social life, and hopefully soon when my body has fully healed, work out more (I already had a private yoga session last week)! I also dyed my hair back to brown and cut my bangs back to start feeling more like myself!  Furthermore, I want to spend more time doing things that I enjoy doing! Specifically, pursuing creative outlets (other than cooking) like my dorky crafts, passion for braiding and cross stitching. And I want to share these things with you! I want to post more often about more things and I hope you will enjoy them!

So to sum this all up, I’m sorry I was gone, I’m happy to be back and I hope any other ladies out there experiencing similar pain and confusion may read this post and go get some help. I thought I was super healthy with bad menstrual cramps for over two years and boy am I am glad I finally got help! Please leave any questions, support or concerns in the comment section – I’d love to start hearing from you (whoever you are!)

And just because I’ve been gone so long I’m sharing an original recipe for balsamic braised lamb shanks! Not the healthiest dish (seeing that there’s all that yummy brown sugar I’m no longer eating) but it’s a DELICIOUS recipe, that’s perfect for these last cold nights!

Serves 4(ish)

INGREDIENTS

4 small-sh lamb shanks

2 celery ribs, finely chopped

3 small carrots, finely chopped

2 small onions, finely chopped

2 cups red wine

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbs flour

1 tbs butter

2 tbs brown sugar

1 cup beef broth

1 bay leaf

1 bunch of thyme, tied together with twine

salt & pepper

1 stick butter, melted (You can use less if you like but why?)

PREP

1. Preheat oven to 350. Liberally season lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Melt butter in large dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown lamb shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes all together. Transfer lamb shanks to a plate

2. Add chopped carrots, onions and celery (aka your mirepoix if you wanna get fancy) to dutch oven and sautee, stirring occasionally, until onions are brown , about 6 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined, 2-3 minutes.

3. Stir in wine, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, then add lamb shanks with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes.

4. Add all herbs to pot. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

5. In a large bowl lightly mix together cornbread, pancetta, chopped sage and half of the melted butter.

6. Cook until lamb shanks are tender, 2–2 1/2 hours.

TIP

Serve with mashed potatoes. Really, whenever you braise something, it should be served with mashed potatoes.

You can transfer shanks to a serving dish and strain braising liquid and serve on the side. Or serve it “rustic” aka lazy style in your dutch oven and let everyone dig in!

AND JUST BECAUSE I WAS GONE SO LONG – HERE’S WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO LATELY SLASH SOME NOT TOO GROSS SURGERY PHOTOS

GIRLS WEEKEND SLASH “FRIENDSGIVING” / RECIPE: PANCETTA SAGE CORNBREAD STUFFING, November, 2014, Quogue, New York

This past weekend my besties and I had a long overdue girls weekend. Back in our care free early twenties we would take girl trips all the time – rotating between friends and friends of friends country homes during winter but mostly summer for weekends away. In August we’d always go to Alie’s beach house, Memorial Day was usually the Hamptons, we’d spend cold winter nights in the Hudson Valley or go admire the changing leaves in the Catskills during peak fall. We’d always drink, take silly photos, play bored games, craft and cook a lot! Sadly, these girls trips have dwindled due to the fact the fact that we’re all GROWING UP and have significantly less free time. In the past year alone my friends have: produced television series and an award winning film, sold out two art shows, started business school, published books and one has traveled around the world at least three times. We are also spread across four different cities on three different continents. Add boyfriends and pets (ok just Misses Loretta) to that – getting together is difficult and rare! We try to do monthly (more like bi-monthly) brunches but when one of our expats returned home for a two months stint, it was clear a girls weekend was required!

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