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.

image

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!

image
 

image

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!

Continue reading