A Gastronomic Tour of Pozzallo, Sicily

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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: 

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Eating Guide to Vienna

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

Pretzels

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

The Best of Smorgasburg, Prospect Park

Last week, my friends and I went on a foodie adventure to Smorgasburg in Prospect Park, an outdoor market full of small pop-up restaurant stands.

Walking in, Smorgasburg appears to be its own bustling metropolis centered purely on food from local vendors.  It was truly a wonderland; I talked to fellow food enthusiasts on line, met the chefs of the stands, and best of all, I had the chance to try out innovative food with my friends.  There are over 75 stands, each with their own unique menu.  Below, I’ve put together the 5 best stands (including dairy & gluten-full ones my friends enjoyed).

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Project Fabricland: Fairytale Inspiration

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My sewing teacher and me at Project Fabricland.

In January, I participated for the fourth time in Project Fabricland, a sewing competition.  Each week, students meet for three hours to sew garments based on a theme.  This year, the theme was Fairytales.  This included classic tales such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and lesser known ones such as The Gold Spinner.  Since Cinderella was my favorite as a child, I chose her,  adding a modern twist to the classic fairytale.  We’re all familiar with the Cinderella story and her happy-ever-after.  After marrying into royalty, one would think that a girl who went from rags to riches would deny her past – yet Cinderella never did this; she continued to be kind and hard working.  Inspired by Cinderella’s story, I sped it up to date: what would modern-day working Cinderella wear to her royal appointments?  Today, so many women work, and more than just mopping floors.  That’s when my idea was born.

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I quickly sketched a double breasted coat which I thought would look very professional, and what a princess today would wear – anywhere from a charity event, to picking up her children from school.  I also chose to make a coat because I wanted to challenge myself to make something I have never done before.  In previous years, I have sewn three dresses.  This was by far one of the hardest pieces I have ever done!  On my first day of class, I went through the fabric isles, and found a woven cotton blend fabric, light blue polyester lining, and navy buttons.  White is often a sign of purity, and blue represents loyalty and sincerity.  The navy blue buttons are a sign of royalty, and once unbuttoned, the lining is  the iconic light blue.  As I mentioned before, Cinderella never forgot about her past, and always keeps it a part of her, and therefore, I purposely put light blue on the inside because it reflects her continuous hard working, kind, and patient qualities.

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During my second and third classes, I cut out all my patterns, and by the fourth class I began sewing a muslin, the “prototype” of the coat.  Finally, by my fifth class, I began to sew the thirty pieces together.  I really wanted to take my time with this piece because I wanted it to truly be royalty worthy!  It was extremely difficult to work with the fabric, as it was always fraying, and it was extremely easy for the creamy fabric to get dirty.  It took about nine weeks until my coat began looking like a coat.  Finally, after 12 weeks of tedious work, I completed my coat.  I still had two steps to go, the judging and the fashion show.  At the judging, similar to Project Runway, there are three judges each with a background in the fashion industry who decide what place you will receive.  This year, we had a fashion designer who made dance outfits, an assistant director at Coach, and another designer who had her own bridal wear line.  They ask you a series of questions, as you present your garment and discuss your design board (featured two images above).

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Five days after the judging, there was the fashion show.  Thirty girls walk the runway to demonstrate their garment, as the head of Project Fabricland talks about your inspiration.  It is extremely interesting to see how everyone translated their fairytale to a garment after a lot of hard work.  This year, I was lucky to receive second place!

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Top left: My nonna and me. Bottom left: My mom and me.

 

Mars, Inc. to Remove all Artificial Colors from Food

As food consumers are evolving and becoming more aware of their health, Mars, Inc. (a food manufacturer ) decided to remove all artificial colors from their human food.  More than 50 products will be altered such as Skittles, M&Ms, and Snickers.

M&Ms and many more candies are about to face a major change

Although there are no pieces of evidence that artificial colors cause negative changes for humans, “consumers today are calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products,” says Mars, Inc..  The company is working hard to ensure that the colors of the beloved candies will be just as vibrant, and will be seeing changes over the course of five years.  The CEO of Mars, Grant F. Reid says, “Eliminating all artificial colors from our human food portfolio is a massive undertaking, and one that will take time and hard work to accomplish.”

Eliminating artificial colors from their foods was a hug step – let’s take a look at the ingredient list of one of Mars, Inc.’s products, M&Ms:

MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE, SKIM MILK, COCOA BUTTER, LACTOSE, MILKFAT, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), SUGAR, CORNSTARCH, LESS THAN 1% – CORN SYRUP, DEXTRIN, COLORING (INCLUDES BLUE 1 LAKE, YELLOW 6, RED 40, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, RED 40 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, BLUE 2), GUM ACACIA.
In just M&Ms, there are 9 artificial colors!  Although getting rid of 9 artificial colors is a major improvement, there are still artificial flavors left.  To begin, what even are artificial flavors, and what are they made of?
Artificial flavors are chemicals that come from inedible sources and are processed to taste like a certain flavor.  The flavor can be made from anything like petroleum (a mixture present in gasoline) to paper pulp.
In addition to the artificial flavors, there are also highly processed ingredients such as soy lecithin, and dextrin, and corn syrup.
To make soy lecithin, soybean oil is extracted from the raw soybeans using chemicals. Then,  water is mixed with the soy oil until the lecithin (mixture of phospholipids and oils) separates from the oil.  After, the lecithin is dried and is sometimes bleached using hydrogen peroxide.
Dextrin is a starch and is prepared by first heating and drying starch.  Then, it is treated with hydrochloric acid to produce a powder used for binding.

As many know, corn syrup  is a very bad ingredient that goes through an immense amount of processing – too much to write!  (If you are curious to learn about the manufacturing of corn syrup, visit this link: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Corn-Syrup.html)

Mars, Inc, has definitely proven that food corporations can change, but hopefully, sooner than later, they will go one healthier step forward, and eliminate their artificial flavors as well.

Works Consulted

“Corn Syrup.” How Corn Syrup Is Made. N.p., 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

Kresser, Chris. “Harmful or Harmless: Soy Lecithin.” Chris Kresser. N.p., 25 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

“Mars, Incorporated to Remove All Artificial Colors from Its Human Food Portfolio.” PR Newswire. Mars, Incorporated, 05 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.

“M&Ms Nutrition.” M&Ms. M&Ms, 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

“New Processing Technology for Dextrin Manufacturing.” Technifax (n.d.): n. pag. Little Ford. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

 

What are you Gifting this Holiday Season?

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‘Tis the season to be giving!  And no better way to start with those who don’t receive as many presents.

That is why I dedicated my past two Sundays to help out St. Joseph’s Giving Tree program.  All along, I thought that contributing my time to a charitable effort was benefiting the other side.  I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.  The care and attention that the staff lead by Maria Russo, that went into each personalized package was amazing – and amazingly moving.  The whole team worked together, and really tried to make a person’s gift as personable, practical, and pleasurable as possible for the recipient.  This was a tremendous growing experience to be inspired by this staff, and I am grateful.

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If you are able to help, please sign up using the following link:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f44a4a729a31-assist/.