Traci Anello

The Power in Food


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Holiday meal for one…Go all out!

So here we go again. It’s November first and that means time to think about the holiday meals. Spicy pumpkin dishes, savory sides, homemade crusty rolls and dessert are just the menu items you’ve waited all year for.

Here’s the thing. It’s just you. Is it worth it to do all of that cooking just for one person? Absolutely it is! There are so many reasons why too. Let’s start with the fact that you deserve this amazing meal. You’ve waited all year. You’ve worked hard. You’ve spent many nights eating a quick dish after you’ve gotten home late or if you’re a chef like me, you grab what you can when you can on the run. I’m pretty sure nurses live like this too. The advantage to creating your own dishes is that you get to make it exactly the way you like it. Do you like spicy food? Then turn up the heat! Are you living a plantbased lifestyle like me? Then off to the farmers market for all of your favorite vegetables and don’t forget the local honey. It’s all about you. Now here’s the thing, you can also make a plate for a friend you know is also alone. Maybe an elderly neighbor or the person working at the convenient store so every one else can enjoy the day with family. So what if you make a lot of food! You make individual meals and freeze them for the next month. Every day is a holiday when you pull one out of the freezer.

Just because you live alone doesn’t mean you have to pass up on the things you love, especially food. Think about your grandmother’s pie she made every year. Relive those memories. Bring her back to the table with you. Put every bit of love into what you make for yourself because food is powerful. Reach into the heart vault and remember how you felt when that piece of pie was served to you as a kid. Bring that feeling back for yourself. You earned it. You shopped, prepped, prepared and cleaned up after yourself. You finally used those good chef knives you bought. You sautéed, cooked, baked and served yourself. How did that feel?? Great, didn’t it?? Living alone does not mean being alone or feeling alone. It means making a meal and enjoying every bite. Cook that whole turkey. Make that spicy tofu with roasted vegetables and quinoa. Sauté that beautiful kale and mash those comforting potatoes. Today is your day.

Some people like to go out for a meal and that’s okay too. I know single friends that spend a couple of days at the food kitchen and what better way to feel the love than through the community.   There are so many ways to spend the holidays and enjoy every bit of it. Call your local church or food pantry and ask if they would like your company helping to prepare and serve the meal. I will guarantee you that if you do this and you start to talk to the people there, you will leave with a beautiful feel good story. Everyone has a story and nothing is better than sharing a meal with someone and listening to their story.

As you know by now if you’ve been reading my blogs, I have two cats that I refer to as ‘The Boys”. Every holiday includes them so there’s never really a time I dine alone. Ofcourse I make every meal a big deal by describing what they’re having and when dinner is ready. Include your fur babies or birds or whatever friends you have. Tell them how important they are to you especially if it’s just you and them. They want to hear it too. That unconditional love they give you every day, pay it back. They deserve it.

My point is, you’re not alone. You’re just cooking for one. That’s okay. Make it the best meal. Play some music. Buy that special bottle of wine. Call a loved one while you’re cooking. Enjoy the day. Every day can be a holiday meal when you live by yourself. The best part about making that wish before you pull the wishbone is you’re pretty much guaranteed it’s going to come true. How can it not? You have both sides. How cool is that?? That my friends is the power in food.

 


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Mamis Portland, Me

Portland, Maine is a haven for a variety of restaurants, food trucks and cafes. I’m always in search for good food, local food. Sometimes it happens by a search but more often it happens just by driving around Portland and something catches my eye. In the last couple of years I’ve been fortunate to discover not just one of the best food trucks I’ve ever eaten at but a restaurant to match.

I’m talking about  Mami’s Restaurant in Portland, Maine on 339 Fore Street and their Japanese Food truck. Just a couple of years ago I was leaving the Portland Farmers Market at Deering Park and headed over to Urban Farms Fermentory.  As I drove by Rising Tides, I saw a beautiful food truck. It was all black with a delicate drawing and the words “Mami” on the side. I was with my daughter, Ronni and we pulled in the parking lot without hesitation. The menu was intriguing. The Yokasoba noodles caught my attention first followed by the grilled  rice ball, the Yaki Onigiri. We each ordered the noodles and decided to share the rice ball. The customer service was very good. These people were obviously proud of their menu. When that happens, the meal already taste good and you haven’t gotten it yet. I couldn’t help but peak at the people around me to see what they were trying. The plates were colorful and every single person was focused on the food in front of them. Another great sign that this is going to be good.

Our name was called and when I went up to the truck, the person who helped us said,”Thanks guys! Enjoy!”. I love that!  As always with me (and get used to it if you eat out with me) the camera came out. This was a photo opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. The food looked and smelled incredible. It photographed just a well. The colors popped and the pure art of their presentation made it easy to take pictures.  As we dove in, the taste was like nothing I’ve ever had. It all worked. The flavors, textures and aromas were happily doing their thing all together. The only disappointing moment was when we realized we should have ordered two rice balls. They were crispy on the outside with beautiful fresh scallions and when you got inside, the filling just tasted like heaven. If heaven made grilled rice balls, this would be it followed by the Yakasoba noodles. This is real food. Before I even got up from the picnic table, I was following them on social media.

This year we saw some really good news. Mami’s opened a restaurant with the same delicious options from their truck. My daughter surprised me with a special lunch there. It was as good as our first meal with the Japanese Food Truck. The customer service was enjoyable and engaging. They are as proud of the menu they’re serving as we experienced from the truck.

Owners Austin and Hana know food, good food. I love local and supporting local business and the farmers they support. Their restaurant and food truck are at the top of my list when I want to have good local, fresh, well made good eats. It’s a whole experience from the moment you look at the menu to placing your order, receiving your meal to the pure enjoyment.  Food should be celebratory. Maimi’s  offered all of this. Visit their website: http://www.mamifoodtruck.com


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Living a Plant based lifestyle

Those of you who know me, know how celebratory I think food is. Those of you who haven’t met me yet will learn from me that it is just that,  celebratory.

My mission in life seems to be to discover ways that people can have the foods they miss because of dietary restrictions, self diagnosed allergies or just wanting to do nicer things for their bodies. This has been a life long process for me. I once opened a 100% gluten free café ahead of its time. There, people with gluten allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease, to name a few, could come in and have a full meal enjoying foods they thought they could never have again. It was a clean, peaceful, allergen free environment where food was enjoyed to its fullest without any fear of having tummy troubles later. My café was also dairy free and peanut free. It was a fun place and a creative place that most people referred to as “Anello’s Café” but to me it was my lab.

From there I started to research a more healthy alternative to reach a broader market. This brought me to experimenting with the “Elimination Diet”. For the record, I despise the term “diet” and prefer  “Lifestyle” but in this case, diet was appropriate. This “diet” consisted of no meat, dairy, eggs, sugar, gluten or alcohol. After one week I felt really good. The weight loss actually noticeable and my fatigue was turning into new found energy. I was on to something. The one thing I really enjoyed was eliminating the meat. Not eating cheese for me was like a life sentence. I went the entire month and really felt great. As time went on, I added a few things back in but meat and dairy were out for good. This “diet” was turning into a “lifestyle”. I began to research Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s China Study. I bought the book and watched his talks. My next step was to take his class at Cornell online and become certified in plant based nutrition. In the Spring of 1016, I did just that. It’s a wonderful course and the research was extensive. Rouxbe is a cooking school that offered a discount if you took this Cornell class. Rouxbe is a plant based school so I signed up. I highly recommend this course. The techniques and recipes will easily send you on your way to a nutritious lifestyle. You’ll learn how to cook a wide variety of grains and legumes as well as making delicious sauces and dressings from plants and plant products. You’ll learn correct knife cuts as well as the correct way to use a knife.  Check them out: http://www.rouxbe.com

Knowing how important food is to people, my chef background motivated me to learn a new way of cooking and eating. I was up for the challenge. Dr. Campbell’s son Tom is also a plant based doctor like his father. he explains how to reverse heart disease and diabetes and his documentary “Pure Plant Nation” explains it all. I highly recommend this film. His wife wrote a cookbook which is completely plant based. Her recipes are nothing short of amazing. I love reading about their family get togethers and how they all share this lifestyle.

My research then took me to Dr. Michael Greger. His vast knowledge and sense of humor were the beginning of a beautiful relationship with food. I purchased his book “How Not to Die”. It’s about nutrition, his “Daily Dozen”, what food does for you and the different illnesses it can help. He breaks food down into groups and explains how they work, why they work and the best way to consume them. He loves what he does and it shows. He also has his own pod casts which I love to listen to while I’m driving. The thing I love about this doctor is he gives you the information based on extensive research. The information is there. It’s up to you to you how and when you decide to use it. He’s not going any where. The information is there when you’re ready. his website is: http://www.NutritionFacts.org.

My best advice when thinking about trying a plant based lifestyle is to start out slow (unless you’re ready to commit 100%). I have done “lunch and learn” oncology talks.  My best piece of advice to someone who is just not ready to give it up is this: You don’t have to take it all out at once. If you’re eating 6oz of meat with your dinner, try 3oz of meat and double the volume of your vegetables. Then next time go down to 1 1/2oz of meat and a few more vegetables. Eventually you train your pallet to finally eliminate the meat all together. Then move on to the elimination of dairy. I felt my very best when I finally sent the cheese packing for good. I have never looked back on the casein train. Casein is that nasty protein that cause havoc in your digestive track.

Ready to give this a try? Add colors to your plate. Reach for the rainbow and try to add one of each color to your meals. There are a host of beautiful vegetables and fruits always at your local farmers market. I’ve been cooking for over 30 years and I can tell you I always find something new at the market. It’s a great way to meet your local farmers and they always have a wonderful way to enjoy their harvest. If cooking isn’t a strong point for you (yet), Indian, Japanese and Thai cuisine offer many plant based entrees that you can try first and then have fun recreating at home. There are many vegetarian restaurants and plant based as well opening up all over the country. They offer different ways to enjoy sandwiches, pastas and salads with a colorful boost. The internet is a host of recipes. You can learn how to make cheese spreads and sauces with cashews that are dairy free, nutritious and delicious. Once you see how easy this is, you’ll be making your own meals at home before you know it. I love making my own spreads and dressings. I know exactly what’s in them. You can also make them for friends and family to try. At my daughter’s wedding, I put out some plant based options and guests enjoyed them as much as the other choices. It opened up the group to talking about this way of enjoying food. recently at a cookout I made my sundried tomato and basil spread and the men were taking chips and dipping into it without realizing all it contained was sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, cashews, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, shallots, chopped red pepper and garlic. Honestly, they didn’t really care what it was. They just cared that it tasted good. Fair enough.

If you’re interested in giving this a try, visit the sites I’ve included or send me a message. One day at a time is the best approach. The food is rea, whole and wonderful. The people are supportive. The journey is definitely worth it.

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