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Entries in Elana Iaciofano (12)


Elana's Food Journal - Transition Time

Transitions. These are the little places in between where life really happens. For example...what you do while waiting for a pot of water to boil; those quick moments of hurried conversation when you meet a friend on the street; brushing your teeth; walking to the coffee shop...the moments that set up the next event.

My transition Thursday (which happened to be yesterday from where I am writing this post) happened at a Baked Cafe on Church Street in TriBeCa. I had just come from a yoga class and needed a place to take a conference call, so I ducked into Baked and bought a juice. I had ten minutes before my call and immediately I wished I had brought my food (drawing) journal. But I sat at the bar table and drew on the notebook that I had, a lined composition variety.

It's often in these in-between moments that I recharge. These transitions really matter. They're not about filling time. They're an action area in which you prepare yourself for the next stage in life and take the steps necessary to set that up. How you use this time is hugely important.

This, of course, reminds of triathlon, which has two transition times — one after the swim that sets up the bike, and one after the bike to set up the run.

This year I've made a conscious decision to dial down the triathlon training and racing. But I've learned so much from it, that I feel like the analogy is relevant, at least in my life. When I was training, I never practiced transitions. I thought this was throw-away time and not significant enough to waste my energy on when I needed to run, bike and swim swim swim!!

But now, I find myself in a very transitional place (in life) and I realize that there is no throw away time, and these transitions are exactly where I should be putting my energy. If only, in life, like in triathlon, we had actual designated areas and moments to step into "transition" and have that be ok, part of the game. But in life, we just have to do it while we go about the rest of the race, seamlessly trying to integrate it into our daily routine, rush to work, push to the next adventure.

So I'm trying to enjoy my transition time. As in triathlon racing, I often find this time frustrating. I've just done something HUGE - I swam a mile! - and now I have to rip off this stupid wetsuit that feels like it's painted on, fumble with my helmet, and somehow get my feet in my bike shoes? Can't it all just HAPPEN for me? Where are my minions? Oh yeah....I don't have any. I would rush. Drop things. Once I think I lost 30 seconds (lots of time in tri speak) trying to buckle my helmet because my fingers weren't cooperating.

And this is how it is in life, too. You just did something big! Did you get a promotion? Perhaps a divorce? Or perhaps you've realized that your life calling is to drive a mobile pizza kitchen cross country teaching people about healthy, seasonal pizza cookery, throwing art and storytelling in there? 

Whoa. We just went over the edge a bit. Sorry. More on that later. 

But whatever it is. It's different than what came before. And then time you spend in between the two matters, so make it count. How have I been spending my transition time? Journaling. My "food journal" is a way for me to combine my love of art, cooking and writing. And it helps me see my thoughts, too.

Lately, I've felt like it's really going somewhere, creatively speaking. Where it's going, I do not know. But I've made a commitment to take the process slowly (or try to) and not get too caught up in the end game. It's about where I am at this moment (in my apartment at 6am); what I'm eating or drinking right now (really dark coffee with some coconut oil in it); what's happening around me (the radiator is hissing); and even how I'm translating that visually.

And slow can be ok. Even in racing. In my last race, when I fell spectacularly off my bike, I didn't know if I was going to run and finish the race. When I got to transition, I did everything so much more slowly. I put each shoe on one at a time, thoughtfully. I took a long drink of water and a deep breath. And then walked out of transition. When I got my times at the end of the race, I realized my transition wasn't any slower than they had been when I was steam-rolling through. 

So there.



Elana's Food Journal - The First Flip Through

So what is this food journal anyway? I addressed this briefly last time, I'll reiterate now: it's a grand experiment. For me, that I'm inflicting on you. But I feel like I'm onto something here. It's the beginning...of what, I'm not sure. I've been writing, drawing and photographing what I eat. Not to count calories but to keep track of something else - memories. Events, thoughts, dreams, smells, and yes, even recipes, that surround my daily encounters with food.

So I compiled the most recent pages (as I haven't been good about posting them one at a time) into a flip book, so you can see the progress, read my thoughts (literally) and experience the last few weeks through my eyes (and stomach).

Here are a few snippets, followed by a link to the full book.

I've been messing around a lot with bread. Over Christmas I made my own spelt flour bread and then made a brief, ridiculous movie about it. Here's the film:

I've been busting out the Instax camera with some regularity as well. The above photos were taken at a Taralucci & Vino on the Upper West Side with my friend Steve. We were trying to get a hold of the light. Quite literally. Steve was trying to get a hold of a cinnamon bun.

There's also been more pizza. So much pizza, I'm almost embarrassed to say. Wait. Scratch that. I'm PROUD to say there has been SO MUCH DANG PIZZA that it would horrify you. The above is one I created for a New Year's Eve Party.

And then there are the thoughts. Thoughts brough on by spending too much time in the kayak (my tiny apartment), reading too many articles about finding your "calling" in life, and easy access to Sharpie markers.

And then there are actual recipes. If you can follow this one, I'll make you more pesto.

This one I can't give you the recipe. I promised not to. And I keep my promises.

If you'd like to see the full, scroll down. I'd like for this to go somewhere... Where I don't know. But I'd like to add in more thoughts, actual recipes, and etc. I'm even starting to take this agenda out on my clients. I created a food journal for Colavita which I'll also post. 

Now how many girls let you ready their diary??


Elana's Food Journal - Leftover Pizza

Above pizza is from Emily's Pizza in Brooklyn.

Welcome to the first edition of ELANA'S FOOD JOURNAL (did you hear that echo?)!

This is very exciting folks. I'm starting a new series that I hope to keep up, New Year's Resolution-style. No! I actually intend to do it.

This is the place where food and art really collide in a slice (no pun intended even though there is pizza pictured above) of my life, through food. 

This journal really exists. It's mine. I record what I eat. But not in the usual way. It's not a laundry list, calorie counting smorgasbord of random things I have eaten throughout the day.

It's just a piece of my day, made memorable (or not) by what I ate. Maybe it was leftover pizza for breakfast, as shown above. Maybe it's going to be coffee and kale chips (bad combo, people...just sayin'). The doodles and art are also real. Done by me, as I see fit to work them around the food.

This journal will reflect:

My mood

My appetite

My relative energy for drawing/creativity.

Sometimes there will be recipes. Sometimes not. Sometimes I might not even say anything (wooohoooo - vacation for you!

You may ask, "What is the dang point, Elana?"

Well, I'll tell you. The point is that I'm constantly trying to think about how to be DIFFERENT with my food art and food stories. This project is an attempt at that. To really THINK about what it means to tell a story with food, using a literal analogy.

And if any of this seems ridiculous, first know that:

1. It is. Hooray!

2. I've had an amazing sinus infection for the past 4 days, so a lot of things seem like a good idea right now.

Finally, I'm posting these on my own little website that is currently under construction, but if you'd like to check that out, click here.


A Building Year with Tiramisu

Have you heard the phrase, "it's a building year"? This is sometimes applied to sports teams when they are rearranging their players because of trades, training up the rookies, and generally ironing out the kinks.

Recently this phrase was used to describe my current triathlon season. Injuries and health issues have forced me to have a different season that I wanted. Initially, I was not pleased with this description.

But time out for sports (and desserts), people. Isn't every year a building year? Is there a year when you stop and think, AH-HA! This is the one, the icing on the cake, the final layer...and after this...well, after this—what? There will be no improvements? I can just wait for the cool embrace of death?

Sorry to be blunt, but if that's the case, then I certainly hope every year is a building year.

Take for example, this tiramisu recipe. I created it for Triathlete Magazine as a healthy alternative to traditional tiramisu, which aside from being delicious, has very little nutritional value. This one does, however. It's packed with healthy proteins from almond flour, chia seeds and Greek yogurt.

But the best part of this tiramisu is the assembly. Don't be intimidated, it's a process. Layers of solid cake are stacked on top of squishy yogurt filling, unstable strawberries (anti-oxidants and vitamin C!), and rickety, toasted almonds.

Building it requires patience and a very steady hand. As soon as you place that strawberry on top, the whole thing veers to one side all Leaning Tower of Pisa-esque until—EGADS!—it's fallen over and the filling is smooshed all over the place.

This is especially awesome when you are trying to photograph it for a professional magazine. You can imagine the cursing. But don't, there might be children present.

As many times as I built it up, it fell over. I did finally get it to stand, clicked a few photos and then ate the whole thing. 

I can report that this tiramisu is just as good on it's side as standing straight up.

Which brings me me. This year it's felt like every time I stack up another layer, the whole apparatus comes tumbling down. But I think I can say this: Like the tiramisu, I'm just as good lying on my side (my bike several feet away) and cursing (again, don't imagine it) as I am standing up and on a podium (only the podiums in my mind this year...).

And so are you.

So raise a fork to building years, I hope we both continue to have them. And make this recipe for Healthy Tiramisu. You can follow the recipe below, but it would tickle me if you'd go check out the latest edition of Triathlete Magazine, page 88.


For the cake:

4 eggs, separated into 4 egg yolks and 4 egg whites

2 Tbsp lemon zest, packed

1/2 cup sugar, divided 1/4 cup and 1/4 cup

1 1/2 cup almond flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

½ cup almond milk

½ cup plain, non-fat greek yogurt

⅓ cup chia seeds

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar


For the crunchy almond layer:

¾ cup slivered almonds

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

pinch of salt



3 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder dissolved in 1/3 cup hot water

¼ cup cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder if you can’t find cacao)

1 pint strawberries, sliced

cacao nibs (optional)



First, bake the cake. I wanted a flat cake so that I could layer my tiramisu. To achieve this, I baked my cake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, so I could spread the batter thinly.

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line the bottom of a cookie sheet (preferably the kind that has sides) with parchment paper, and spray the paper with non-stick cooking spray, or grease with butter.

2 In a large bowl, stir together with a wooden spoon or whisk the egg yolks, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.

3 In a separate bowl, or a food processor, blend the almond flour and baking powder.  Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and beat until just smooth.

4 In a very clean bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer. When bubbles start to form, add a pinch of salt and the teaspoon of vinegar (these ingredients help the egg whites stay firm as you add sugar). As the egg whites begin to increase in volume, sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, a little at a time, as you continue to beat the eggs whites.  Beat until soft peaks form. It’s important to add the sugar a little at a time, as the sugar may cause the egg whites to fall.

5 With a rubber spatula, fold the beaten egg whites into the almond mixture a little at a time.  I started with a small amount of egg whites to loosen up the almond flour mixture, which can become firm. After this, you can add the egg whites in large scoops, folding to incorporate it all.

6 Pour the batter onto the prepared cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. The edges will turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. With a sharp knife, slice the cake into serving-size rectangles, and set aside. You can make the cake ahead and freeze it for up to a week. To do this, assemble the sliced cake into layers, placing a piece of parchment paper between each layer (the paper will help the layers not stick to each other). Wrap the sets of cake with foil and store in the freezer until ready to use.

Make the filling:

1. In a small bowl add the ⅓ cup chia seeds to ½ cup almond milk. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. You want the chia seeds to expand, creating a pudding-like consistency. (Note: you can keep this in the fridge for up to a week, stirring it into all kinds of things like oatmeal and smoothies, so feel free to make more!).

2. Once the chia seeds have expanded, add the 1 teaspoon almond extract and the tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar to the mixture and stir thoroughly.

3. Add in the ½ cup of greek yogurt, and stir to combine. Set aside (you can store this in the fridge as well).

Prepare the almonds:

1. In a skillet over medium heat, dissolve the brown sugar in the water. Add in the spices and the almonds and allow to simmer gently, stirring constantly.

2. When most of the water has absorbed, spread the almonds onto a piece of parchment paper and allow to cool and dry completely. The almonds will be sticky and they will stick together – this is ok! And tasty, too.


1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of instant coffee or espresso powder in ⅓ cup hot water.

2. Place one piece of cake on plate. With a pastry brush, brush the top of the cake with the coffee.

3. Place a few clusters of candied almonds on top of the cake.

4. Arrange some sliced strawberries on top of the almonds.

5. Spoon the chia seed/alomond milk/greek yogurt mixture on top of the strawberries and dust the cacao powder (I use a tea strainer loaded with cacao powder for a nice, even dusting).

6. Repeat! Challenge yourself to see how high you can stack them! Top with a few cacao nibs (optional) and a whole strawberry.


January – A Month in Review

It's been a fast and furious month, packed with all kinds of tasty treats. As we roll into February, we'd like to recap the most important John and Elana blog happenings.

First, we featured a seasonal pizza, that's perfect for warming up your winter kitchen: Kale and Roasted Carrot.

I (Elana) started organized triathlon practice once again and consequently became very hungry. So I made mini donuts...

...drank my breakfast in the shower...

...and even contributed a biscotti and rice ball recipe to Triathlete Magazine!

And then I had a nap.

When I woke up, John insisted we create a video prounciation guide for Italian food. We did this (view video here), and then promptly threw back some vino while watching LOST re-runs. I then snapped this photo of John's sociopathic freezer and forced him to drive me from Hoboken to the Upper West Side. This is why he is a good brother.

To balance things out, we began a new column, Farmer Fridays, written by my friend Meg. She runs a fantastic farm in New Jersey, Fresh and Fancy Farms. You should go. But if you can't, check out these two posts about roasted winter vegetables...

and fresh herb tea...

Finally, John and I came full circle and ended Some coal-fired pizza from Arturo's in the West Village, that is. While we made questionable use of the table's garlic powder, we gave Arturo's a Top Gun ranking in our overall system.

Extra points for the bathtub.

Onto February! And remember: