At the core I am a mom and wife. Growing up I had numerous interests, particularly dance, gymnastics and cheerleading but I was never one to study much. I didn’t aspire to “be anything” in particular when I grew up, other than a wife and mom, and I never in a millions years thought I would start a website (especially considering how un-techy I am!) or write a book (much less write five!)
I have loved both cooking and fitness for as long as I can remember but it wasn’t until after my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998 at the age of twenty-two that I started to become passionate about nutrition and healthy cooking. I went from baking cupcakes to making quinoa pilaf almost overnight. I was barely out of college when I started eating “super foods”, trekking through nutrition stores and making super food smoothies—- long before it was the trendy thing to do! I have spent the past 15 years researching anti-inflammatory nutrition with my husband and countless hours experimenting in the kitchen trying to concoct deliciously decadent “health food.” I believe my efforts have paid off tremendously. My multiple sclerosis has been in remission now for over a decade and I attribute my good health today to the nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet I have followed for all of these years. I have never needed to take any of the disease-modifying medications used to treat MS and in so many ways I am far healthier for having had to face a terrifying diagnosis at such a young age because I can’t imagine why I would have ever gotten “into nutrition” if it weren’t for being diagnosed with MS in the first place. As I approach my fortieth birthday, I think I am aging better because of good nutrition.
Unfortunately, dealing with MS has not been my only health crisis. In fact it has actually been the least of my worries. My biggest health challenge by far has been a congenital hip disorder called femoral retroversion that required two major surgeries after the birth of my son. Because of my ongoing orthopedic problems I had to radically modify my workouts and so I pulled from my fitness background (shortly after college I became an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist), to create a completely no-impact Full Fitness Fusion workout system that has kept me lean and strong for years without putting extra strain on my hip.
But today (knock on wood!), my health woes are behind me, my hip is good again and life is amazing. Beyond my family, food, fitness, cooking, nutrition, my books and this website I still have numerous additional interests—just not nearly enough free time to pursue them all! I am however lucky to still live in the same town I grew up in (North Palm Beach, Florida) and I still have the same group of friends I went to elementary and high school with. I love entertaining and getting together with them and more than anything I love spending time with my family.
Those of you who have read my first book, The Gold Coast Cure (HCI Books, 2005), know that I lost a dear high school friend, AJ Cotsalas, who also happened to have MS, to a suicide in 2003. I wrote that first book at AJ’s suggestion—he said if I ever managed to get the book published he would follow the “Ivy diet.” It took me about four years to finish the first book because I was home alone with my newborn son and Andy was in surgical residency. AJ had passed away before the first book ever got published, but the book was dedicated to him. I wrote the rest of the books and I run this website for people like AJ who are searching for help and hope and who don’t want to sacrifice living well and eating great food just because they happen to have a chronic illness. And of course Clean Cuisine is for everyone else who is lucky enough to be “well” but just want to look and feel even better!
- You are hosting a Clean Cuisine dinner party…what is on the menu? Hmmm….this is a tough question I am asking myself because we entertain a lot and yet I rarely serve the same thing on the menu more than once. At the time I am writing this we are just entering summer and so we have been entertaining a lot outside. The last thing I served at an outside BBQ was my dairy-free7 Layer Salad, watermelon & mint coolers (this is basically just super cold purred watermelon with fresh mint—amazing!), grilled red peppers, onions and corn, grilled snapper with fresh lemon-hemp dipping sauce and frozen key lime pie popsicles (I still need to type the recipe and share these because they were really good.)
- What is your favorite Clean Cuisine recipe? I am a sweet-treat lover and so hands down it has to be my Chocolate Cheesecake with Chocolate Frosting—no one would ever in a million years know that it has zero added sugar, no dairy and no flour. There isn’t one single empty calorie in the entire recipe and yet it tastes sinful. I am absolutely crazy for it.
- What is your favorite cookbook? Oh my gosh, this is another hard question I ask myself because I am a true cookbook junkie—I have an entire office closet of shelves filled to the brim with hundreds of cookbooks. I don’t always buy healthy cookbooks either because I am often more inspired by classic ones. Right now I am cooking back to basics with the Williams-Sonoma Simple Classics Cookbook.
- Favorite workout? I am always changing my workouts because I get super bored if I do the same thing over and over. Unless I am doing yoga (which I do at least once a week no matter what), it is always some sort of interval type training, strength workout. And I LOVE workout videos! These days I especially love ballet-inspired workouts, particularly the Ballet Beautiful workout DVDs.