Once upon a time, I lived in the second-floor apartment of a 100+ year old house in Somerville, Massachusetts with the best boyfriend a girl could ask for. The walls of our apartment were covered in wallpaper — green flowers and pink flowers and geometric designs and crushed velvet stripes — yes, crushed velvet. This wallpaper was really something. So ‘something’ in fact, that I almost vetoed renting the apartment altogether. But alas — I gave in and it turned out to be one of the best 1.5 years of the first quarter century of my life (thank you, Peter, for finding the patience deeeeep within yourself to explain to me time and time again why I needed to look past the wallpaper and see the apartment’s real potential).
It was in this apartment that I finally had a kitchen I could really call my own; this is where I really fell in love with food. Let’s call the wallpaper my inspiration.
Of course, there was never enough counter space (never fear — we solved that problem by permanently “borrowing” a banquet table from my parents. forever classy, I know) and the swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room never really swung properly. In fact, you had to close the door to get to some of the counter space… regardless, it was mine (from a renter’s point of view, of course). Peter often worked late or spent weeknights practicing with his band, Moniker; as a result, I had a lot of ‘me’ time, which was spent primarily in the kitchen. It may not have always seemed like such a blessing but, in retrospect, I realize just how valuable all those quiet evenings actually were. It was during this time that I learned to use the oven for more than just baking; I took full advantage of the farmer’s markets in the area and spent countless hours reading food blogs and testing recipes. Let’s just say that Peter never had an empty stomach! As my #1 taste tester and recipe critic, he has been instrumental in the creation of many of my go-to recipes. He loves food just as much as I do, luckily.
After about a year and a half in our wallpapered wonder, we moved in with my family up in Peabody to try and save some money – which clearly had not been an option before, with rents in the Boston area sky-rocketing on the reg. So there we were – my parents, my brother, us and the dog – one big, happy family (or something like that)! Peter and I still had our own space, which was important – but our new ‘apartment’ was a actually just windowless basement that I liked to refer to as the laundromat or, more fondly, the wine cellar. Free rent and never having to fight for parking made that move one of our smartest financial decisions to date. The kitchen wasn’t exactly my own, but thankfully my mom allowed me full use whenever I pleased… as long as I promised to clean up whatever giant mess I inevitably made!
Living at home for four years and cooking for a bunch of people with very different likes, dislikes and dietary restrictions actually helped me to develop a cooking style that was truly my own. We hit all ends of the spectrum – my mom and I tend to eat pretty healthy (yet have a major sweet tooth that I’m certain we’ll never be able to kick), Peter is lactose-intolerant and all three
boys men agree that no meal is complete unless it has meat – and lots of it. That, on top of the fact that Peter & Michael alone could eat enough food to sustain a small army, makes for a very interesting cooking situation, to say the least!
So on top of all that, around the time that we moved to Peabody, my mom made a very drastic change in her diet. We always thought that we ate relatively ‘healthy’, but research was starting to expose the realities of what white bread, processed food and refined sugar really do to your body. After lots of research and tons of trial & error, my mom and I started to learn what it meant to eat clean, wholesome food. We cut back on processed foods dramatically and introduced a lot of new ingredients into our cooking: more whole grains and fruits and veggies; less red and processed meats, white breads and frozen meals.
My mom’s desire to change her nutrition habits quickly became my biggest inspiration in developing recipes that were nutritious and delicious, containing as little refined sugar and white flour as possible. I’ve become a master recipe modifier, as I like to call it – I can take (almost) any recipe and make the substitutions necessary to bump it up a few notches on the ‘healthy’ scale. I get a sick joy out of letting Peter rave about a new brownie recipe I’ve had him taste test, only to reveal later that I’ve managed to sneak zucchini or black beans into the recipe. He’s since learned to question everything that I make, for fear that I’ll have concealed quinoa or kale in it, his mortal enemies of the food world.
So fast forward almost five (!!!) years to 2016. Peter and I got married in September (!!!!), bought a three-family in East Boston and FINALLY moved out of my parent’s basement! Yup, you heard that right – we wake up to sunlight streaming in our windows every day. It’s like a dream come true! I have a kitchen that’s mine, all mine! …with even less counter space than we had in Somerville (#killingmeslowly). After what’s seemed like a lifetime of wedding planning and packing and moving, I’m back in the kitchen and ready to share my adventures with you.
I started this blog back in 2013 to share the recipes I’ve tried/modified with my friends and family – almost three years later, that’s still my goal. I’m always reading the food blogs that my brilliant (and imaginary) internet friends write, and constantly trying out all the delicious things that they’ve created. Here you’ll find a few originals of my own, scattered amidst recipes that I’ve found, tested and modified to be clean, simple and delicious. I aim to cook seasonally and use fresh ingredients, when possible. Though, don’t be surprised – an occasional mid-summer peppermint craving is entirely normal, and there is definitely a stash of ice cream in the house all year round.
I do hope you’ll stay and play awhile! There’s nothing more I love then suggestions from friends for recipes they’d love me to test and/or modify to fit their needs. I’m always open to ideas! Leave me a comment or shoot me an email — talbano873 (at) gmail (dot) com.
Happy eating, my friends!
FUN FACTS (as if I haven’t rambled on enough already)
– Without lists, my life would be in shambles [though, let’s get real — it sort of is, regardless]. To do lists, grocery lists, ‘crafts to make’ lists, shopping ‘must have in my life immediately’ lists, you name it. However, please note: if it’s not on a list, it ain’t gonna happen; in fact, chances are that I’m going to forget about it almost immediately.
– To say that I’m obsessed with Pinterest is an understatement. I honestly don’t remember how I functioned before it existed. It’s like, the world’s greatest invention. ever.
– From the moment I get up [6am-ish on weekdays] to the second I get in bed [midnight or so], I have to be doing something. It could be as meaningless as reorganizing a stack of food magazines that I’ve been wanting to look through so that they are in order of release date — if I’m not doing something even semi-productive, I get antsy. This is incredible annoying for my husband, family, friends, etc. It’s also probably annoying for my co-workers, when they come to my desk only to find me scouring Pinterest for that night’s dinner recipe. Hey, everyone needs a brain break every so often, right?
– According to my brother, I have approximately eight different laughs, each for a different situation and/or level of humor I take away.
– I love 90s music. In fact, I probably remember every lyric to every boy band pop song that came out during that decade. This is ironic because I hate 90% of pop music on the radio today (Peter, this is your fault). On that same note, this is probably one of the best websites ever created. ever.
– After almost thirty years, I FINALLY OWN A KITCHENAID, PEOPLE. I got the world’s best deal at Target (shout out to Mal for sending that shiz my way!) and am now the proud owner of a shiny new stand mixer in the most gorgeous shade of empire red and… I’m in love. I don’t know what took me so long! Although, I’ll be honest – there something incredibly therapeutic about mixing a batch of muffins by hand.
– I am the worst ‘best baker’ there is. Exact measurements? Eh… a shake or two from the salt shaker is about equal to a ¼ teaspoon. Patience? Never figured that one out. But don’t worry, it’s on my to-do list.