healthy goals

For just over a year I’ve tried to stick to a modified plant-based diet. Along the way, I ended up deciding to add back in small amount of fish and eggs (for protein and iron), but otherwise, I more or less committed to healthier plant-based eating habits. However, recent travel in Europe and general convenience led to me eat a bit more cheese than I’ve planned.

That said, I’m ready to start feeling better and eating better, so I have some new healthy goals! One way to help achieve a goal is to make your intensions know; build in some accountability. Which is why I’m sharing my goals with you all today.

Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima

Goal #1: Increase my iron and protein intake

How? Include at least one serving of iron and protein-rich food a day, along side vitamin C (to help absorb the iron)

Foods: tuna, salmon, spinach

Timeline + Measure: Feel noticeably more energized mid-day and during workouts by June 1st


Goal #2: Improve digestion

How? Include at least one serving of high fiber food a day. Drink ginger tea four time or more a week. Decrease cheese intake to one meal a day or less.

Foods: oatmeal, whole wheat bread, veggies

Timeline + Measure: Evening stomach issues occur less frequently by June 1st


What are your health goals?




This post is #38 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima.

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the freshest restaurant in amsterdam

Yesterday, my friends surprised me with the most fantastic brunch I have ever experienced. The Restaurant De Kas, which is situated outside Amsterdam’s bustling city center in a serene (but classy. Think: adorable frites stand and it’s own bird king.) park, serves the bounty of its onsite greenhouses on its every-changing menu. I could describe to you what exactly it was we ate, but no words will do the meal justice. Photographs might be second best to tasting the food for yourself…So “Eet smakelijk!”

Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 1 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 2 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 3 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 4 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 5 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 6 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 7 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 8 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 9 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 10 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 11 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 12 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 13 Restaurant De Kas Amsterdam #100DaysofMiaPrima 14

As if the day couldn’t get better, we stopped at a vegan gummy store before ending the day with a Narnia-inspired ballet. Not to mention the simple joy of sitting back– coffee in hand–and taking in the enchanting sites of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima Amsterdam #100daysofMiaPrima

Tot ziens!


This post is #31 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima.

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european brunch: vegan style!

Vegan Style European Brunch: recipes on #vegan #vegetarian #brunch #recipes

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

Ah, brunch. Truly the best meal of the day. Especially if you’re vegan. Because, frankly, anything goes! Breakfast food? Sure! Lunch food? Why not! Greens first thing in the morning? Go for it! Brunch in a vegan’s dream. Plus it’s a really good excuse to invite your friends over and chow down on all the excess Trader Joe’s groceries you bought the day before when you made the mistake of grocery shopping after a long run…

I like to think my brunches are European style because I fell in love with breakfast in Siena, Italy while filling up on Nutella croissants (still warm!), prosciutto, pecorino, and espresso. But to be honest, I think Americans do brunch best: lots of food, lots of friends, usually a hangover, and bottomless mimosas.

But for the days you want to stay in for the best meal of the weekend, I’ve put together a delicious vegan brunch menu. European inspired, American made, and to absolutely die for.

On the Menu:

Hazelnut latte with soy milk (sugar free!)

Baguette with assorted toppings: sugar free preserves, vegan butter, Dutch speculoos (In all fairness, I don’t know if speculoos is actually vegan, as the ingredients list is in Dutch! Sadly, I suspect it’s not.)

Local Pennsylvania organic apples

Fresh lemon mango cucumber water*

Sweet potato chips with homemade hummus*

Assorted veggie tofu scramble*

*Keep scrolling for the recipes below!


Lemon Mango Cucumber Water

Lemon Mango Cucumber Water

The idea is so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner! Add cut up cucumbers, lemon, and frozen mango to a pitcher of water, and suddenly you have a refreshingly healthy drink that actually makes you excited to drink more water.



  • 2 15 oz cans of chickpeas, drained
  • or 1 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed, soaked and cooked (I cook mine in the crock pot!)
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Salt and pepper
Mix the above in the food processor. Run it for a long time (about 6 minutes) to get it fluffy. Add more water if needed.
For a fun variation on the above recipe, use less water and add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Yum!


Tofu Scramble

  • 1-2 packages of tofu (1 package=one serving)
  • Assorted veggies, diced, cut, etc. I like to make this dish with any extra veggies from the week. It’s a great way to use up your extra produce in one dish!
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1-2 tbs soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sprouted grain toast (optional, of course! But the scramble is delectable with vegan butter and toast)

Wrap the blocks of tofu in a dry paper towel. Set on a smooth plate or cutting board and add weight on top. I sandwich my tofu between two cutting boards and stack my cookbooks on top. Whatever gets a decent amount of water out of the tofu, works! Let the tofu sit this way for ten minutes or so.

While waiting, heat the sesame oil on medium/high heat. When warm, add your veggies. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce. If the veggies are sticking to the pan, add water, a tablespoon or so at a time.

When the tofu is ready, crumble into the pan with the veggies. Stir and add your second tablespoon of soy sauce. Continue to cook until tofu is heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Any other vegan recipes you’d recommend for brunch?



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Savory Grilled Polenta Muffins (Vegan & Gluten Free!)

Guys, this is my first original recipe that I’m posting for you all! *Cheers*

I took inspiration from a recipe in Roberto Martin’s book, Vegan Cooking for Carnivores, which is one of my personal favorite vegan cookbooks. Roberto shares recipes that are easy to make and easy to understand, and in the case of this recipe, easy to modify and make your own.

Savory Grilled Polenta Muffins- so easy, so good!

Savory Grilled Polenta Muffins- so easy, so good!

Savory Grilled Polenta Muffins 

Vegan and gluten free!

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Wait Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes



Olive oil cooking spray

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups gluten free polenta or corn grits 

1 green bell pepper, minced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt to taste

black pepper to taste



Spray a muffin tin with the cooking spray and set aside.

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and add the polenta. Stir the polenta constantly until it begins to get thick (about 1-2 minutes). Add the minced pepper, olive oil, salt, and pepper and continue to stir until the polenta becomes very thick (about 3 minutes longer).

Scoop the polenta mixture into the muffin tin and smooth the tops of each muffin with a spoon. Set the muffins aside for at least 30 minutes to reset.

Gently pop the muffins out of the tin with a spoon and brush them lightly with olive oil.

Preheat a grill, grill pan, or, in my case, a non-stick skillet on hight heat.

Add the polenta muffins and grill for a couple minutes on each side, or until the muffins begin to brown.

Serve warm or refrigerate and enjoy as a cool summer afternoon snack.

Serves 8.

Let me know what you think of my first original recipe!




Savory Grilled Polenta Muffins- so easy, so good!

The FAQs of a New Vegan

FAQs of a New Vegan. For example, "What about ice cream?" and "Why? As in why would you do that?" on

I’ve been following a plant-based diet (think: vegan + limited refined sugar and processed foods) for a couple weeks now, and there are a few things I’ve learned. First of all, I feel a whole lot better already. My energy is up. I don’t rely on caffeine like I used to. Netflix marathons do not have to simultaneously accompany a candy binge after which I feel like total crap but for some reason still want to lie on my couch, drinking beer, and thinking sad guilty thoughts about my body/heath/exercise habits.

Second of all, friends and family have a lot of questions. That’s fair! They are concerned about my health and well-being. I’m not (yet?) a jaded vegan who thinks everyone is judging their nutritional habits. That said, I want to shed some light on the answers to some of those common questions. Maybe I can just start referring inquirers to this blog post. 😉

The FAQs of a New Vegan. on

Why? As in, why would you do that?

Because I am young and by today’s standards healthy. That is to say, I don’t have a disease, I’m not overweight, and I have no broken bones. But I do have anxiety, allergies (to, like, every plant ever), trouble sleeping, adult acne, neck problems, fatigue, and a strong urge to binge eat candy the moment I get home from work and set eyes on my couch (why does candy taste best when you eat ten servings of it!? I have a feeling there is a vey logical scientific answer to that one…).

In other words, I don’t feel healthy.

I exercise regularly (see: Pittsburgh Marathon, Here I Come!) and don’t smoke, so I figured a factor to my feelings of crappiness probably had to do a large part to what I was eating (and also to stress, but that is hurdle to discuss at another time).

So there you have it. It’s really quite simple. I’m eating plant-based because I am trying to feel, and be, the best version of myself.

Make sure you are getting enough protein!

Very good advice. But good advice for anyone. Before I became vegetarian (about six months ago), I would eat on average three turkey sandwiches a week. I didn’t really care for red meat, and I didn’t really know how to cook meat at home either. I also wasn’t consuming plant protein like nuts or beans or using protein powder.

Today, I am more careful than ever about ensuring I eat enough protein. In fact, I am sure I eat more now than I did before I was vegetarian! My energy level has gone up, and I feel like I’m getting more from workouts.

Bottom line is: just because you aren’t a vegetarian, doesn’t mean you are getting enough protein. And just because you are, doesn’t mean you’re not!

Healthy Cookie Dough Brownies

Cookie Dough Brownies from Yes, these are vegan. And yes, they are delicious.

But what about ice cream? And cheese?!

There may be nothing better than fresh Wisconsin cheese curds. But truth be told, I stopped craving cheese after I stopped eating it for about a week. All I did was avoid it. Seriously, I just didn’t buy any cheese at the grocery store, and I didn’t order dishes with cheese in it

when I went out. What kept my self-control strong was the disappearance of that fuzzy feeling I got in my head after a cheesy pizza or the bloated stomach after a grilled panini that I scarfed down at my cubicle.

And as for ice cream, I switched to coconut ice cream. Which is as good as is sounds! Yum!

Why are refined sugars so bad for you?

First of all, sugar doesn’t contain: nutrients, protein, healthy fats, or enzymes. So, from my perspective (as in, not a scientist), sugar sounds like empty calories. Which actually doesn’t sound that bad. I mean, sugar is clearly not good for you…but does that mean it’s bad for you?

The cincher for me is that sugar is addictive. I have sugar. Then I want more sugar. And more sugar. And eventually nothing else (honey, maple syrup, fruit)  tastes all that great because it’s, well, not as sweet and delicious as sugar (and now I’m going to get all fancy and give you a scientific source for what seems to be an obvious observation).

Other research suggests that refined sugar can cause also weight gain and poor sleep. Bummer.

What are you going to eat when you travel abroad?

For me, eating is a huge part of exploring another culture. I tried gelato in every major Italian city I visited. I ate margherita pizza in Naples. Tasted octopus in Southern Italy. Enjoyed cheese filled sausages in Bavaria. And fish and chips in London. Eating is part of the adventure. Since I don’t travel often, I’ve decided not to follow a strict plan-based diet while, say, visiting my expatriate twin sister in Amsterdam. I’m going to try my best (she already has some great vegetarian restaurants in mind!), but let myself experience the food of that culture. I’ll just try to stick to one stroopwafel…instead of ten.

The FAQs of a New Vegan. on


Eating out is going to suck.

Actually, no, it really hasn’t. Combining appetizers with salads or soups makes for a good option when visiting a less vegan-friendly

restaurant, but if you live in a city, my bet is you can find some pretty decent vegetarian places as well. That said, I’ve come to an understanding that compromises will be made. Non-whole wheat pasta at an Italian restaurant, for example, or a bit of cream in some tomato soup.

And the truth is, eating a vegan, plant-based diet hasn’t diminished any joy I get from eating (out, in, or otherwise). In fact, I think I enjoy food a whole lot more. Imagine discovering food that tastes wonderful and that you can eat without abandon or guilt to your heart’s  content (literally!).

Because nobody ever felt shitty after binge eating homemade sweet potato fries.

Thoughts? Recommendations? I know you got ’em, and I want to hear ’em!




Forks Over Knives by Gene Stone, T. Colin Campbell, and Caldwell B. Esselstyn

The Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever

No Meat Athlete

The Kind Life

Wellness Mama

The China Study

T.Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

Thrive Fitness by Brendan Brazier

Plant Based Diet Reading on miaprimcasa

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Vegetarian Pasta Dish in Just Ten Minutes

Adventures in Pittsburgh: The Strip District

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

To an outsider’s ear, the Strip District doesn’t exactly sound like a place you want to spend a lovely Sunday morning. Let alone a place you’d pick up a slew of produce at dirt cheap prices or stock up on bulk locally roasted coffee or admire beautiful art from local artists. But the Strip is just the place to go for that sort of adventure. For the first seven months of living in the city, I actively avoided going to the Strip. The traffic is awful. Parking is worse. And there are so. many. people.

But let me tell you, it’s worth every minute you spend stuck waiting for j-walking pedestrians or battling your fellow drivers for a just-barely-big-enough stretch of curb to park on.

Why exactly?

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District miaprimacasa.comAdventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

Firstly, because I bought a week’s worth of produce for $15. FIFTEEN DOLLARS! In the middle of the city! I even found daikon root. I still don’t really know what it is, but it was less than a dollar and tastes delicious in fried rice.

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

Secondly, because the Asian markets are numerous and well priced. I bought a jar of umeboshi plums for $6. The same sized jar costs about $9 at my local co-op. I did my shopping at the first place I found, which was a small Korean market with an extremely helpful owner who tolerated my request for lotus root. But I was told that Lotus is also a great Asian market (and presumably also has lotus root…).

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District miaprimacasa.comAdventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

Thirdly, because coffee. So much coffee! I even asked the guy behind the counter if I could buy one of their empty coffee sacks. Yes, yes I could. So I did. For $2, which means I now have the cheapest wall art ever.

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

And fourthly, because of the people. Ok, I know the vendors might be overly friendly because you have a wad of cash in your pocket, but trust me, I’ve seen vendors in northern Italy blatantly insult customers, so… I was satisfied. There was the bread guy who went into his (then closed) shop to find me olive oil. There was the Russian photographer who chatted with about being a Pittsburgh newcomer (“No matter what they say, you don’t have to be a Steelers fan.”), and whose beautiful photo of the city is now hanging in my living room.

With it’s fresh, affordable produce and Asian markets, the Strip District is a vegan’s dream. Toss in some quality coffee and some quality people, and you have a recipe for one of the best Sunday mornings you can find in this town.



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Lemon Mango Cucumber Water- Yum!

Lemon Mango Cucumber Water. Yum! on

The idea is so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner! Add cut up cucumbers, lemon, and frozen mango to a pitcher of water, and suddenly you have a refreshingly healthy drink that actually makes you excited to drink more water. Plus, every time I pour a glass I feel kind of fancy. 😉

Some other flavors I have in mind:

*Cucumber Mint

*Strawberry Lemon

*Blueberry Lemon Lime

*Honey Lemon with a hint of Green Tea

*Cucumber Watermelon

*Honey Lavender


What’s your favorite?




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Running Hard, Getting Healthy, and Going (Almost) Vegan

Adventures in Plant-Based Nutrition

My Plant-Based Nutrition Plan on

I’ve been a vegetarian (actually more of a pescetarian, really) for five months already. I originally toyed with the idea of switching to vegan and cutting out all animal products all together. But I was skeptical. Would that really improve me health? Would I have less energy? How would I be able to eat out? And what about the stigma around the word “vegan” itself?

Plus, I really, really love cheese.

And ice cream.

And more cheese.

But then I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, which introduced me to the plant-based diet. A plant-based diet is a bit different from veganism. Besides not eating animal products (including dairy, eggs, and meat), people following a plant-based diet also limit their oil, refined sugar, and refined carb intake. And this is what appealed to me the most. I’ve always had this nagging feeling that sugar and refined carbs might be contributing to my sluggishness, worsening allergies, and poor, sensitive skin.

I’ll admit it; I’m not ready to dive cold turkey into a plant-based diet. I still love and cook with olive oil (having an Italian family and living in Florence for a bit makes the idea of cutting out olive oil earth-shattering), and I’m hesitant to give up fish.

So instead, I’m giving myself the following easy guidelines to follow:

1. No meat (duh).

2. No dairy (including cheese and milk). For my coffee, I’ve switched to agave nectar for sweetening and soy milk.

3. No refined sugar.

4. Eat whole foods (veggies, grains, you get the idea).

5. Eat processed whole foods (crackers, pita bread, and cereal) sparingly.

6. Avoid adding oil when cooking and limit oil consumption to coconut and olive oil when possible.

7. Eat fish, but sparingly and buy the highest quality possible (think: wild salmon over canned tuna).

8. Make more of my own training food: protein bars, gels, sports drinks. I have a feeling this is going to save me some money as well!

9. When I travel (to say, Amsterdam to visit my sister), I’ll try my best to eat according to the plant-based diet, but enjoy the local food to its fullest. So yes, I’m going to eat stroopwafels. Just maybe not ten of them….

10. Try new things. Cook with new veggies and beans. Continue to try new ethnic restaurants with a new perspective. Use my crock pot more often. Buy more cook books. Experiment with my own version of recipes. Fall in love with food- real, whole, and delicious food.

11. Share my adventures and recipes in plan-based nutrition with you all on MiaPrimaCasa!

What do you think about my plant-based nutrition plan? Any suggestions or recommendations?

Plant Based Diet Reading on miaprimcasa

My Plant-Based Education Reading List:

Forks Over Knives by Gene Stone, T. Colin Campbell, and Caldwell B. Esselstyn

The Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever

No Meat Athlete

The Kind Life

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Running Hard, Getting Healthy, & Going (Almost) Vegan

Vegetarian Pasta Dish in Just Ten Minutes

The hardest part about trying to eat more vegetables is actually incorporating them into a weekday dinner. By the time I’m done with work and have finished my workout, I have little to no tolerance for cutting up veggies and doing anything with them, let alone sautéing them and adding them to (my usual) pasta. But then, Christmas came! And my ever clever little sister gifted me the wondrous Brieftons Spiral Splicer.

Briefton Spiral SlicerOh so realistic Photoshopped image courtesy of You get the idea though, right?

So this evening I boiled my usual whole wheat pasta, but instead of reaching for the boring can of tomato sauce, I spiral cut  a whole carrot and about 12% of a large cucumber (in literally 30 seconds). Feeling ambitious, I sauteed the veggies in olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper and added a quarter can of diced tomatoes to the mix. It took longer (9 minutes) for the pasta to cook than for me to prepare the veggies. Most certainly the healthiest meal I can think of that takes less than 10 minutes to make. And look how gorgeous it looks, too?

Vegatarian Pasta Recipe in Ten Minutes miaprimacasa.comVegetarian Pasta Dish: 1 cup whole wheat pasta, 1 carrot, a bit of a cucumber, a quarter can of diced tomatoes, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper