going out of business sale! e-cookbook only $.99!

Hi everyone! It's been so long! :)

I'm just checking in with you today to share the news that I'm giving you my ten [easy] italian recipes e-cookbook, packed with authentic, easy-to-make, tried and true recipes, for only $.99! If you haven't bought it, now's your chance to get it at a third of the price!

I've moved on from the blog since we last spoke (Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Certifications, and working on a Nutrition Certification!) so I wanted to just close this little fun chapter of my life with this sale.

Once you pay, I'll receive an e-mail from PayPal and I'll send you the link to download the book!

Thanks so much for your support and I hope you like the book! Readers have been buying it and giving great feedback so I think you'll love it!

Grazie and buon appetito!
 Marissa :)

a boot farewell

I've put this for way too long. My aunt said to me recently, "When are you going to announce that the blog is over? We're all sick of looking at the last post, the watermelon smoothies, you know!"

It's because deep down I don't want to admit it's over, but as you know, all good things must come to an end eventually. You can't force creativity or inspiration, and unfortunately this little space of mine on the internet was getting to feel just that way - forced. The reason for starting the blog in the first place was to document my adventures in Italy (in fact the original title was "adventures in the boot") but now I feel as if I've said all I needed to say, told you everything you needed to know about Barletta, about me and Manu, about the ladies on their balconies, about the markets, about Italian boys in speedos. 

I remember writing the first blog post six years ago. I was sitting in Manu's family apartment and feeling like I couldn't contain myself from the excitement. Everything was so new! So incredibly Italian and equal parts hilarious and mind-opening. No one was reading except my mom probably, and I would wake up every morning dying to write about what had happened the previous day. (Little did I know that six years later we'd be married and that apartment would have become our own!)

Things changed, as they are wont to do, and I started branching out to other topics. I even dabbled as a fashion blogger for a minute (which still boggles my mind seeing as how I'm literally the last person on this earth who cares about being fashionable - my friends can attest.) Then I just wrote what I felt, shared stories and little tidbits of life. I went through another metamorphosis (are we noticing a pattern here? I can't keep still mentally...) and I became a food blogger. Which I loved. But even that got old after a while.

Have I become jaded to life in Italy? To blogging? I don't think so, but I definitely feel a shift happening. Those who blog can tell you that it takes time and dedication and you need to really be in love with what you're doing for it to be sustainable.

So, what now? Well, I've thought about it long and hard and I've decided to start a new blog. (!!!)

You might have noticed that practically all of the recipes on here are healthy ones, and it didn't really occur to me at the time, but several Italian friends asked me for the recipes in Italian, or to translate the posts. Then when I started teaching Zumba four years ago, Italian friends asked me continuously for exercise advice and healthy food options. This hit me like a ton of bricks one day. Yes! An Italian blog geared towards health and fitness! The dialogue was already there and I know it's a sector that's really growing in Italy right now. It could also help stimulate growth in my fitness classes as well as help me branch out to others in the health community in Barletta. Because really, blogging all about community and conversation.

I recently began a new endeavor (as I always do) and I'm getting my personal trainer certification as well as group fitness and any others I can fit in this summer, and I'll be teaching more classes at the gym starting in September. This blog would really be a perfect fit to bring all of that together along with my love for sharing healthy recipes.

I have truly, truly, truly loved the relationships that writing the boot has brought about. I made friends that I will keep in touch with for life and even started seeing life in a different way thanks to it. It's very sad for me to say goodbye, but it's time. I will, of course, still keep you updated via Instagram and the boot will always be here for when you want to come back and read some old posts (some are really hilarious to re-visit, I have to admit) or save some recipes.

Goodbye blog friends, and THANK YOU for your support over these past six years. You have no idea how great it's been to have you here. Ciao for now before I start bawling!

P.S. If you understand Italian and are interested in the new blog I'll make sure to let you know when it's ready to launch!

watermelon smoothie

This new neighborhood of ours is a gem. In the time it takes to brew a pot of espresso, I can walk down to the beach. Stepping out of our front door and just footsteps away there is a butcher, a bread bakery, a supermarket, a dollar shop, a stand with fresh fish and my trusty greengrocer. Even Manu’s barber is right here on the street as well. He signals on our buzzer twice to tell Manu that he can come down for his bi-weekly cut because no one’s around. Now that’s service! 

Speaking of service, I feel like I’m “in” now with the family that owns the fruit and vegetable shop because they finally gave me a discount. That’s how you know in Italy. The matriarch of the family winked and threw some free carrots in my bag before I left last week. YES. Then yesterday as I picked up our usual basket for the week of apples, bananas, lettuce, strawberries, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, the woman said, “Bella, want to try this watermelon? I know it’s not “time” for it, but trust me, it’s delicious. Do you trust me?” Of course I did, she gave me free carrots. She got out a huge knife and sliced a pound out of the gigantic melon with ease. She wrapped it up and said, “Let me know tomorrow how it is.”

Well, she was right. This watermelon is killer juicy and sweet. Manu and I devoured it in a day and there was just enough left this morning to make something. I decided to smoothify it with some of our fresh mint - it’s still alive and even prospering, you guys! I had it post-workout and it was so refreshing and fast. 
Watermelon Smoothie 
(serves 1)
2 cups watermelon (remove all seeds)
a few sprigs fresh mint
plain yogurt, about a tablespoon (more if you prefer)
a squeeze of lime juice
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend away! Add an ice cube if you like it cold. Serve immediately. 

Have a great week, everyone. I’ve got to run downstairs and tell my fruit lady that she was right about the watermelon. Ciao! 

yogurt bark

Every year as summer approaches, Brittany and I try our best to get bikini-ready together, and this year we’ve been “checking in” to keep ourselves accountable with weekly emails about what we’ve been eating and the workouts we’ve been doing. It’s super motivational to do something like this with a friend and we both have learned a lot about our eating habits by seeing them written down.

Of course Britt is totally balanced and well-organized with her salads and good breakfasts and protein-packed dinners. But I, on the other hand, have to deal with Italian eating times (crazy.) and the dreaded CC’s: constant carbs (pasta, pizza, bread, focaccia etc.) 

Take this day for example:

breakfast: oatmeal, green tea w/ lemon
snack #1: 1/2 apple
lunch: whole wheat pasta with zucchini and ricotta
snack #2: almond milk, 2 dates and some almonds
snack #3: banana, rice cake with jam 
snack #4: 1/2 yogurt and apple 
-->this is what happens when you don't go out to dinner until 10, you eat snacks!!<-- p="">
dinner: piadina with prosciutto, fontina, lettuce, tomato, mocktail

See what I mean? It’s practically impossible to eat healthy here because they have their big lunch and then nothing until dinner which, if you go out, is never earlier than 10. I have been here for awhile but I still haven’t gotten used to that. I’ve tried having my American dinner early, but then when you go out you just end up eating again and defeating the purpose of your healthy dinner at home. 

So, the moral of this story is, I need snackage, and lots of it. Last night before drifting off I remembered I wanted to try this fun recipe for yogurt bark that I saw, and my friends, it’s going to be my savior now that I’m going to start needing summery snacks. It’s like having a mini, substantial, creamy popsicle! I can’t wait to try new flavor combos too; like coconut yogurt and chocolate chips! Or lemon zest and bits of strawberry, mmm…

Yogurt Bark
greek yogurt of your choice
toppings  like dried fruit, oats, granola, nuts, seeds, spices, chocolate chips, coconut, fruit, etc.
On a sheet pan covered with parchment, spray a bit of cooking spray so the yogurt doesn’t stick. Spread yogurt out about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle on your toppings. Freeze until set. Cut into squares and enjoy! Store remaining squares in the freezer. 
[I put raisins, oats, coconut and dates on mine]

Help me out with some good snack ideas if you've got some! :)

farro salad with roasted vegetables

We’re taking it back with today’s recipe - way back - to the ancients. Farro is a grain that has been eaten here in the fertile crescent for thousands of years, and Italians still eat it today, especially in salad form. It’s firm, yet chewy, nutty and rich. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a beach picnic staple for us this summer seeing as how Manu and I could not. stop. eating. it last night! It’s super fast to throw together too - while your farro is cooking, roast the vegetables. Toss together with lots of fresh herbs and you’ve got yourself a meal fit for an ancient! 
Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables
(based on this recipe, serves 4)
1 heaping cup farro (see here for a description)
1 zucchini, quartered and chopped
1 eggplant, cubed
1 red or yellow pepper, cubed
1 small red onion, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
handful fresh basil, parsley and mint
olive oil
salt + pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the farro according to package directions. For pearled, cover with about an inch of cold water in a saucepan and simmer about 20-30 minutes until the water is almost completely absorbed and farro is tender. When cooked, add the lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt. In the meantime, place chopped vegetables in a roasting pan with a good drizzle of olive oil (about 1-2 tbs) and 1 tsp salt. Roast for 30 minutes. Add vegetables to farro and toss in the chopped fresh herbs. Check seasonings and add more salt or pepper to taste. Serve room temperature.

Have you ever eaten farro before? It's pretty amazing to think that the Roman legions ate it too!

tropical pineapple coconut muffins

When you’ve been writing a blog for over five years, it’s easy to look back on old posts, recognize themes and realize what it is that you like, plain and simple.

This morning I was sitting here at the kitchen table eating my oatmeal and listening to the old ladies on the balconies opposite ours have their daily discussion of what the weather is like and what they’re cooking for lunch, when I thought, “I’m going to make muffins for the blog today! Yeah!” Like it was some revelation. But really, I’ve made a lot of muffins. Because I just like them. And I kept thinking about Harriet the Spy, when she’s making her tomato sandwich and says, “I know what I like, and I know that I like tomato.” (Random, I know, but Harriet has total staying power!)

I just like muffins, I guess.

These muffins are on the healthy side, because you know I like that, but feel free to substitute the whole wheat flour for entirely all-purpose, and the half honey and sugar for all sugar. You can also use buttermilk in place of the yogurt, which gives a great softness to the muffin. Experiment! 
Tropical Pineapple Coconut Muffins
(makes about 9 muffins)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 banana, mashed
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut flour or flakes
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. In another bowl, combine the banana, yogurt, egg, olive oil, honey, vanilla and coconut. Mix well. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Combine the ingredients quickly, stirring and folding and stop as soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth, and thick but quite moist. Fold in the fresh pineapple. Fill lined muffin cups almost to the top. Add a few more little chunks of pineapple and sprinkle coconut on top. Bake for about 20 minutes (about 30 minutes for larger muffins) or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before taking out of the tin.
Now I have some questions for you: What foods do you just like no matter what? (This is a long list for me.) And, did you watch Harriet the Spy as a kid? I think it's such an empowering movie for little girls! 

our living room progress

Just like the rest of our house, I knew exactly how I wanted the living room to feel, but had no clue how to execute it. I started with the couch: comfy, grey and with a chaise on one end. Which end, though? Then, I figured we should have a coffee table in front of it. What style, though? Next to the couch, a bookcase. And, you get the idea, what type of bookcase?

Considering the options in the Italian furniture shops - either super modern and cold or way too grandma - we settled on our one-stop shop: IKEA! Yes, you’d think these house posts were all sponsored by Ikea (I wish). Since Craigslist, second-hand shops and yard sales don’t exist here, we chose Ikea for general bang-for-your-buck and “American” style. In fact, everyone who comes to visit says immediately upon entering that it feels like an American house! 

Here’s a bit of living room progression for you:
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I’ll always remember this day. The Ikea furniture people were putting the kitchen together and other big pieces that we didn’t even attempt to assemble ourselves: wardrobe, bed, dining room table and couch. When I saw the couch in the space it finally felt like we had a house, eve though it was still so bare bones. My father-in-law was so excited and we spent the afternoon vacuuming up dust together and imagining how to arrange the rest of our future things. And now, it’s all coming together, even though there have been times when it felt like we were going to be living amongst construction forever!

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The next step will be to get a nicer system in place around the TV, with shelves and storage. Manu happens to be obsessed with the old stereo that's there now, even though we don't use 3/4 of what's in it (tape deck, cd player, radio...) but I surrender to his whims and that's what marriage is all about, am I right? I would also love to fill the whole wall with art, gallery style.

P.S. Check here for more house posts! And, how awesome is this, Ikea bought a wind farm to cover 165% of its electricity in the US! 

a new sunday tradition

I’ve told you about the magic of an Italian Sunday before, and I'm always trying to think of ways for you to experience it with me. The lounging. (The food!) The strolling. (The food!) It’s really all about relaxing with your loved ones, showing off your new threads in the piazza (believe it) and eating some of the best stuff on earth. That’s why I’ve started a new tradition - little 15-second Instagram videos of typical Sundays here in good ole’ Italia and I think they really capture the Sunday magic!

For those of you who don’t have Instagram, I thought I’d share the videos with you here, along with a little recap. Here's what the last three Sundays in Barletta looked like:

Isn't that last one with Giuseppe and Manu cheersing adorable? He is probably my favorite part of Sunday lunches, and keeps us all very entertained throughout all the courses. (He also wishes you a happy Palm Sunday, if you're wondering what he's saying to the camera in Italian.) This Sunday we had a fun Vespa ride to the piazza where Manu got a coffee and we chit chatted with friends in the sun until 1:30 when lunch started at Manu's parents house. We had pasta al forno which is baked penne with sauce, tiny meatballs and mozzarella. Then she made veal cutlets baked in the oven and swimming in veggies. Then we had fresh pineapple and strawberries with a side of gelato and then Cinzia made a tiramisu! It's decadent but we try to keep our portions on the smaller side - try being the operative word. :)

Hope you had a happy Sunday! Here's the link if you want to follow along directly on Instagram! 

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