When I moved in with my boyfriend from my sixth-floor walk-up to an elevator building in Jersey City, I started packing on the pounds. I found myself embarrassingly too lazy to head up to my buildings’ roof-top gym and instead of cooking like I once did in my miniature kitchen, I was constantly being persuaded to order food despite finally having a normal-sized oven. That’s when I joined a boot camp and committed to working out again. I saw my body begin to transform, but I needed to improve my diet to fuel my workouts and further boost my weight loss. Being Italian and loving pasta there were just certain foods I couldn’t give up. That’s where Inspiralized comes in. Fellow Jersey City-resident, Ali Maffucci’s blog was inspired by her love of pasta, her Italian heritage, and a vegetable slicing tool (or as my boyfriend calls it, a vegetable torture device). As Ali proves on her blog (www.inspiralized.com) and in her forthcoming cook book, Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables Into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals, due out in March, you can easily transform your favorite calorie-heavy meals into delicious vegetable-based ones. Ali’s blog largely focuses on dinners: zucchini noodles, sweet potato rice, butternut squash fettuccini, and the list goes on. She even uses some more uncommon veggies like taro, celeriac, and jicama. The cookbook, while containing plenty of beginner recipes involving noodles, also has ideas for breakfasts, snacks, casseroles, and desserts too. I sat down with Ali in Jersey City bright and early to talk about the Inspiralized life. But before I get to what Ali had to say, let’s cut right to the chase with 5 reasons to read.
5 reasons to read:
- These recipes are easy to follow and don’t take much time to prepare or cook. Once you have a spiralizing tool, you’ll be ready to jump right in. No training needed.
- You can spiralize for any occasion. Need an easy and healthy app to bring to a dinner party? No problem. Quick dinner after a long commute? You’re covered! Need to satisfy a carb-craving? Easy!
- Ali’s recipes will inspire you to try new things and create your own. Recipes like Blueberry Sweet Potato Waffles, Spicy Butternut Squash Nachos, Jicama-Stuffed Peppers, and Sweet Potato Carbonara will convince you—the sky is the limit when it comes to spiralizing!
- These recipes are perfect for someone trying to eat a diet high in vegetables whether for weight-loss, dietary restrictions, or overall healthfulness.
- The cookbook contains helpful tips and how-to’s, but if you just can’t get enough spiralizing, Ali’s blog and youtube site (and Instagram account) will keep you in the know, with new recipes, tips, and even fitspo.
Chatting with Ali Maffucci:
Skyline Book Reviews: I had some bad experiences with butternut squash. It’s a new vegetable to me. You have so many tips that are really helpful on your blog and in the book. What do you think is the hardest vegetable to spiralize?
Ali Maffucci: There are different types of tough. There’s the tough where it’s tough to prep and butternut squash goes in that category. There’s tough to peel and then there is tough to spiralize. The ones that are tough to spiralize tend to be obviously the heavier, larger vegetables like a butternut squash. I always find the jicama is actually the most difficult to spiralize or a rutabaga and jicama. Because rutabaga and jicama are large, bulbous vegetables and you rarely find them small. I always find it hard, you have to use a lot of exertion to crank the handle, so I find rutabaga and jicama’s tough. But celeriac is really tough to peel and butternut squash obviously. So I tend to, again, on Sundays or Mondays, I peel all my vegetables so that when I’m cooking throughout the week I’m not discouraged.
SBR: That’s a good idea, to prep everything ahead of time.
AM: Just like everyone meal plans, if you want to eat an Inspiralized diet I always recommend, because I get these emails a lot, prep all your noodles on Sunday, it will last you until Thursday or Friday before you need to chuck them. Then every time you come home you have fresh pasta ready to make.
SBR: I’m also bad at cutting and chopping. I just got a knife set so I think that will help a lot, but how did you get better at the technical skills of cooking? I know you’re not a trained chef.
AM: No, I google and youtube a lot. The modern chef is now trained on google. And youtube is a part of google so I can say that broadly. I recently bought a book from America’s Test Kitchen that has been really helpful. I love to learn, I’m a pretty nerdy person. Obviously this is my career and I want to learn as much as possible about it. One of my favorite chefs, he always has fun videos about how to cook the perfect steak and things like that. I try to learn something new every day. And obviously the more you mince garlic the better you are going to get at it. So it’s all repetition and the more comfortable you are, the more confident you are in the kitchen, which is important. I remember when I first started cooking I read a recipe and it said something about reducing a sauce and I’m like what the heck was that, so I googled it. How to reduce a sauce. And I will never forget how to reduce a sauce now because I googled it and read it. Helpful. And I call my mom a lot and my grandparents.
SBR: I love frozen grapes. You introduced me to them. That is such a great secret. Are there any other sweet treats you rely on to supplement healthy eating?
AM: Well, my newest thing is peeled grapes, which I don’t do it that often but sometimes I will sit and literally with a peeler I will peel a grape. And it tastes exponentially better, the consistency, than regular grapes which is really weird and it’s time consuming to peel and it can seem silly but it makes it so much more enjoyable. I love Nourish snacks. They are really good. They come in little packs. It is actually made by Joy Bauer, she is the nutritionist for The Today Show and she launched her own line of healthy snacks. She’s got like 50 different flavors. It’s crazy. One is called Granny Smith and it’s got walnuts and cinnamon roasted apples. I really love her snacks. I actually make chocolate smoothies, like kale chocolate smoothies at night sometimes. It’s like a milk shake but I’ll use chocolate protein powder. It’s not like you need protein at night, you don’t really need protein before you go to bed, but it’s better than having a chocolate milk shake. And sometimes you don’t get all your protein during the day. But I love making chocolate milk shakes with Aloha, they make amazing vegan, non-GMO preservative-free shake mix. So I’ll do half a packet with ice, some almond milk, kale and you’ve got a sweet treat. It’s really good.
SBR: I really like that your book has breakfasts, snack, casseroles—more than just the noodles or the rice. What’s the next big spiralized thing that you’re excited about?
AM: There’s a recipe in [my book] for sushi. I don’t know if you saw that one. I think that getting more, I don’t want to say complicated that’s a bad word, but getting more advanced with your spiralizing—like once you get comfortable with making pasta that’s when I go onto the rice, and I was like rice is the next best thing. And then I made my buns obviously like, but I think that finding your favorite indulgent foods and finding a way somehow to inspiralize them. Like sushi, you wouldn’t really think to make spiralized sushi. But that sort of next level, that’s what I’m really working on. Trying to think really deeply about how can you make healthier versions of those classic favorites that don’t look like pasta. Like sushi doesn’t look like pasta. So things like that I’m trying to work on right now.
SBR: I want to try the waffles.
AM: Exactly, waffles. Same kind of thing…Those are the things I think people are going to end up getting more excited about, or the next wave. Everyone knows they can make their own pastas, everyone has their own preferences, they’re not looking for as many recipes. You don’t want to eat pasta everyday. So what now can we make?
SBR: I made the Pesto Spaghetti with Heirloom Grape Tomatoes and the Sweet Potato Carbonara. They were so good. Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
AM: Honestly, there are times when pretty much every week, I make something and I’m like this is my favorite recipe. So it changes all the time. But If I have to say, what’s my go-to I would say it’s my Bikini Bolognese. You can make it vegan by using tofu or you can use quinoa as a replacement so it can be a little versatile. It’s light but it fills you up and it’s classic inspiralized. It’s a really heavy pasta normally, a meat sauce, but it’s light but you don’t taste like you’re eating something light. And that’s the whole insprialized spiel. And I’ll use a little extra parmesean if I’m feeling like it. But that’s my favorite probably. And it’s easy.
SBR: So now that you have a cookbook what’s your next goal?
AM: Well, I’m always focused on growing my readership and I really want to connect with moms next. It’s a really quick way to not only prep food, but cook food and way quicker than pasta. And most moms are like I’m just going to make some buttered pasta and that takes like 30 minutes. You can make a pesto and it takes 10-15 minutes once you get comfortable. I really want to connect with them.
Order Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals