A Gastronomic Tour of Pozzallo, Sicily


Every summer since I was a toddler, my family travels to a small, fisherman village called Pozzallo in Sicily, where my mom’s side of the family originally comes from.  And each year, all my cousins, grandparents, aunts/uncles – each from different countries – come together under one roof.  With narrow streets and the beautiful Mediterranean sea, it’s difficult not to fall in love with this Italian gem.  Aside from it’s unique and lovable appearance, Pozzallo inhabits some quirky (but equally lovable) residents.  From the man who howls every day at 12 o’clock on the “corso” (the main street of a town) to the two friendly fishermen brothers who dream of America, Pozzallo almost resembles a story book; the town howler, the adventurers, and so on.  Everyone knows each other and each others’ issues, which is both amazing as the community really comes together, but at the same time a little uncomfortable :).  As my mom likes to say, “There’s no word for ‘privacy’ in Italian.”  Considering everyone knows each other, it’s no surprise that the “Pozzallese”‘s  – as they’re called – routines tend to be in sync.  In the streets, you hear the light clanking of forks from eating a big plate of spaghetti that nonna prepared for.  This, I miss.

I can go on and on about the town, but now it’s time for the food.  Let’s go!

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A Day in New York City: Chelsea + Downtown

a day in Chelsea and Downtown

New York City is my favorite city in the world.  From the cultural food to the amazing architecture, I constantly find myself in awe of New York.  Recently, I went on a trip to the Chelsea neighborhood with my friends, and had an amazing time.  Later, after going another time with my mom, I knew I had to share the one day trip to Chelsea (and a little bit of Downtown too) with you all.  I hope you enjoy it!

First up, Chelsea Market: 

sweet green rice wrap

Just by walking to the Beyond Sushi area, I could tell that it was going to be delicious; there was a line of people struggling to decide which of the delicious foods they should order, and the sushi was made on-the-spot. Beyond Sushi innovatively transforms typical sushi by using veggies instead of fish, and low-starch content black rice instead of white rice.  Not only do they have sushi, but they have noodle salads, rice paper wraps – to only name a few.  I took their Sweet Bean rice wrap with “baby greens, green tea noodles, ponzu, asparagus, cilantro, parsley, black beans, seaweed salad, and roasted almonds.”  To say it was flavorful would be an understatement.  The flavors exploded in my mouth; between the crunch of the almonds, the coolness of the seaweed salad, and the odd but awesome green tea noodles, I was a happy girl 🙂 Plus, it was $6.25 – not bad for a vegan, vegetable-packed lunch.

l'arte del gelato sorbet

For dessert, L’Arte Del Gelato is the place to go.  For non-vegans, they have flavors that have bases of ingredients with roots from specific regions in Italy.  For example, they have Pistacchio Siciliano (Sicilian Pistachio), one of Sicily’s many agricultural specialities.  I took their Lime with Mint sorbet, along with their Raspberry sorbet.  All I can say is that I continue to dream about it.


Need a pick-me-up instead?  Chalait is a cute cafe in Chelsea Market.  I grabbed their Matcha Iced Latte which had their house-made sprouted almond/cashew milk and was lightly sweetened by dates.

artists and fleas

Right to the left of L’arte Del Gelato is Artists and Fleas.  Artists and Fleas is a cool, quaint store with individual artists selling their unique pieces (including gorgeous jewelry) in their booths.  It was really interesting to see some of artists decorate basic things with their artwork of funny and powerful messages.  There was one canvas pencil case that said “artsy fartsy” and one of my friends got a pin that said “nasty always.”  A couple booths sell dainty and delicate handmade jewelry that make you consider emptying your wallet to buy all of the pieces – yes, they’re that pretty.  Walking around the store (and in time), there are also several booths that offer vintage jewelry such as eclectic crystal brooches, and gold-chained jewelry from the 70s – which would seamlessly fit in in today’s fashion world.  Using my birthday money, I purchased a pink two-tone druzy ring and I am in love.  Artists and Fleas has the perfect balance of modern items with vintage, guaranteeing your captivation (and a few dollars!).

Now, hop onto the High Line:

The High Line is one of the coolest free places to go in New York.  Enjoy walking around and enjoying the view this city offers.  Oh – and if you didn’t have a chance to grab L’Arte Del Gelato in Chelsea Market, they have a stand on the High Line.

Next, the Whitney Museum of American Art:

whitney museum

As much as I love art, art museums tend to lose my interest.  The Whitney Museum was a pleasant exception.  Ranging from interactive art (think hammocks) to Alexander Calder’s structures, the Whitney has a quite different approach to the typical art museum experience.  It rarely has minimalist pieces (for example: one stripe going down a canvas), and while it displays famous artists’ work, it also displays lesser known ones such as Thomas Hart Benton.  Aside from the artwork, the Whitney Museum is free for people under 18. 🙂

This is where the Chelsea part of NYC ends, but if the weather allows, it’s nice to take a walk downtown.

Take a walk to Downton:

On your way downtown, enjoy the view of the Hudson River by walking along the pier.  If you’re in no rush, stop by a quaint, vintage cookbook shop called Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks.  Its shop is filled with cookbooks from decades ago – it’s a treat to look through.

Enjoy a dinner @ Nish Nush (40 min walk from Whitney Museum):


Gluten-free falafels aren’t easy to find, and when they are available, they don’t always taste amazing.  Nish Nush broke that stereotype.  Not only were they crunchy and falafel-like, but they were fresh and light.  My mom and I shared a side of falafel, hummus, and babaganoush, of which the falafel and hummus were out of this world.  Then, we divided their Green Falafel Salad that had mixed greens, cucumber, parsley, boiled egg, classic falafel and green tahini sauce.  It was refreshing and satisfying, especially considering our long walk.

falafel salad

On your way back, we took the way up through Greene Street, eventually reaching the Washington Square area.

Have a lovely day! 🙂 


Minty Matcha Protein Smoothie

Minty Matcha Protein Smoothie

Summer is all about relaxation and restoration.  With constant pool and beach activities – not to mention the crazy heat – a delicious and healthy treat is well deserved.  That’s why I’ve created this minty matcha protein smoothie.  Refreshing with its minty flavor, energizing with matcha, and satisfying with protein, this is the ideal smoothie to get you back on your feet (or chez, whichever one you prefer 🙂 ).

Minty Matcha Protein Smoothie

Let’s get to the nutrition:

  • Protein powder – By drinking this smoothie, you’re absorbing 22g of protein (depending on what protein powder you use).  Why is this important?  Well, the body uses protein to repair and also build tissues; this is useful for a post-workout snack.  In addition, protein helps fill you up, and stabilizes your blood sugar levels (preventing spikes in blood glucose).  My favorite protein powder at the moment is one from Garden of Life; it’s vanilla-y without being overly sweet and doesn’t taste like a bunch of weird, dehydrated vegetables.
  • Matcha Green Tea – This star ingredient is super high in antioxidants, and helps boost concentration, energy, and endurance.  In addition, drinking Matcha Green Tea has been shown to increase metabolism. It’s an amazing ingredient to use (and drink).
  • Banana – This fruit is a great source of potassium, which is important since your body loses potassium through your sweat during workouts.  If the potassium in your body is not replenished, it can lead to cramping.  To optimize a banana’s nutrients, try eating it an hour before exercise or after exercise to restore your body.
  • Peppermint Essential Oil (edible) – Peppermint is excellent for the digestive system as it reduces stomach aches and bloating.  It also gives you more energy (yay!), and relieves headaches as well as muscle pain.  It’s important to use an edible essential oil such as one from Young Living.  If you don’t have an edible peppermint essential oil, grab a handful of washed peppermint leaves, or as a last resort, peppermint extract (though it might not have as many benefits as the actual oil/leaves).

While you can enjoy this after a day at the beach (perhaps with some energy balls), this also pairs well with breakfast foods like sweet potato coconut waffles or even some granola.

I hope you enjoy this minty matcha protein smoothie as much as I have!

Minty Matcha Protein Smoothie
Recipe type: Drinks, Snacks
Cuisine: Gluten-free, Vegan, Refined Sugar-free
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop vegan protein powder
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ tsp matcha powder
  • one drop of edible peppermint essential oil
  • pinch of salt
  • Optional!
  • dash of vanilla beans
  1. In a high power blender, mix all the ingredients together until smooth.

P.S. Try using homemade raw almond milk for an even more wholesome drink.


Vegan Rolled Eggplant with Quinoa Filling

Inspired by the classic ingredients of Sicily, I decided it was about time I made a real savory dish. Don’t get me wrong – I love to bake, but this time, I wanted to challenge myself by incorporating Sicily’s produce with an enjoyable, and healthy twist.  What did I come up with?  Rolled eggplant with quinoa filling.  It’s simple, healthy, and maybe more importantly, chilled.  Continue reading

Eating Guide to Vienna


Vienna is full of wonderful delights in many ways.  Rich in exquisite art, music, and history, it’s not surprising that their foods fall on the same high level.  Going around the city, we stopped by some classic restaurants, and my family tried out some foods (with gluten and dairy), giving me the rating.  While a beautiful city, there aren’t necessarily that many gluten-free or vegan dedicated restaurants; their traditions (such as schnitzel) are deeply rooted in the city’s veins.  For this reason, I’ve drawn a list of classic Viennese restaurants and foods, as well as restaurants and foods that are gluten-free/vegan.

Before going into the restaurants, here are a couple of phrases you may find useful when ordering food:

  • Kann ich eine flasche wasser (mit gas) bitte? Can I have a bottle of water (with gas) please? 
  • Ich bin gluten-frei/milch-frei/vegan.  I am gluten-free/dairy-free-vegan.
  • Ich nehme ___ mit/ohne ___ bitte.  I’ll take ___  with/without ___ please.
  • Ein anderer, another
  • Danke, thank you

The Classics – Foods and Restaurants


In almost any bread bakery in Austria, you can grab a pretzel, or how it’s said in German, “brezel.” With sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, or just salt as my brother likes to take it, these pretzels are truly amazing.  Just imagine – crusty outside and fluffy inside.

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Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, NYC

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Shop @ 48 E 7th St, NYC

When ice cream pops into your head, aside from Summer, you’re probably thinking cream.  While Van Leeuwen’s Artisan Ice Cream offers dairy-jul ice creams, they also have amazing, out-of-this-world vegan ice cream.  Even better, they have flavors that are typically made of dairy-like salted caramel 🙂  Interested yet?

Board of current flavors

Van Leeuwen really caters to all the different types of foodies – from classic ice cream flavor people to more adventurous ones like Turmeric Palm Sugar Cookie, non-vegan or vegan, and glutenful or gluten-free – this is the place to go to satisfy everyone’s ice cream wants (or more appropriately, needs).  Plus, with an awesome list of toppings like Cacao Nibs and Vegan Whipped Cream, it’s a fun place to mix and match modern flavors and toppings to create the perfect ice cream.  Not feeling ice cream?  They have a small glass display of delicious desserts like Carrot Apple Muffin (gf + vegan) and Sugar Cookies.  Oh, and they have milkshakes too, and you can always take home a pint of ice cream!

Vegan Matcha Green Tea and Salted Caramel

After negotiating with myself to narrow it down to 2 flavors, I came to the decision to order the Vegan Matcha Green Tea and Salted Caramel.  I was blown away, the green tea was fresh and the salted caramel tasted like real caramel (think Häagen Dazs’s Dulce de Leche).  My brother ordered the Vegan Mint Chip, and my dad ordered the Chocolate Caramel Cookie Crunch (with dairy), that was apparently really good as well.

I was happy to learn that not only did Van Leeuwen have delicious ice cream, but that they make their ice cream with simple ingredients.  For example, their normal ice cream has a base of fresh milk and cream, cane sugar, and egg yolks; their vegan ice cream has a base of housemade cashew milk, organic coconut milk, organic extra virgin coconut oil, organic cane sugar, pure cocoa butter, and organic carob bean.

Check out their shops (and trucks) all around NYC and Brooklyn!

P.S.  It’s definitely a splurge, but worth every penny 🙂

Project Fabricland: Diva Inspiration

My mom and I

In January, I participated for the fifth time in Project Fabricland, a sewing competition, similar to Project Runway.  Each week, students meet for three hours to sew garments based on a theme.  This year, the theme was Divas.  This included style icons such as Marylin Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Cher, among others.  Sophia Loren has been my personal favorite icon in all aspects ever since I saw her in one of my favorite movies, Houseboat (1958).  In Houseboat, Loren plays a young Italian lady who helps a widower (Cary Grant) raise his three children; they end up forming a relationship after Grant sees Loren providing the care that his children so deeply craved, and being the charismatic person she is.  Like all Loren movies, she is feisty and an individual, and does not play a woman who falls at the needs of a man – she’s willing to through a slap here and there :).  After seeing her speak at an event, I was inspired by her honesty, boldness, humor, and dashing beauty, and therefore crafted a dress that I believe to capture who she is. Continue reading