Balanced Bag Lunch Recap


We’ve just completed week 2 of balanced bag lunches and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been going very well and I’m slowly setting a system for myself. For example, during week 1, I came home from work and had about three hours to prepare the lunches before the pick-ups began. Making and baking the cookies took the longest amount of time, so this week I woke up a couple of hours earlier than I usually do to bake the cookies before work, then came home and did the cooking for the pick-ups. I like that half of my orders are from my co-workers (which I bring in with me the following morning), because if something goes wrong, i.e. not enough cookies, I have the rest of the night and the following morning to complete the orders. My favorite part is waking up around 4:45, making coffee, and having that peaceful, quiet time to myself to bake while my mind is clear. I think Roscoe likes it too because that means extra hang-out time before he’s left alone for the day.

My niece Mairead mixing her chocolate chip cookie ingredients this past weekend.
My niece Mairead mixing her chocolate chip cookie ingredients this past weekend.




Next week I’ll be selling my balanced bella treats at the annual Belle Harbor Yacht Club’s Holiday Boutique on Thursday, December 4. I’m super excited about it as it’s only my second time being a vendor, but I won’t be making lunches that week because of all the time I’ll need to bake for the event.  BB lunches will resume the following week, and as usual, pick-ups will be Wednesday night (December 10), and I’ll be bringing in the lunches for my co-workers on Thursday morning (December 11). Hopefully I’ll see some of you at the BHYC’s Holiday Boutique where there will be over 30 local vendors selling their beautifully crafted work, such as Fancy Things by Nancy and End of the A, as well as raffles and live music. I’ll be selling packaged goods such as my double chocolate chip cookies, fudgey bean brownies, granola, plus a few new recipes which I haven’t shared yet. Doors open at 6pm!


Why I Chose to Stop Eating Dairy

quote maya angelou

I’ve been wanting to share some information about dairy for a while now. I’ve been hesitant because I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching or trying to push my beliefs on anybody. But there is so much false propaganda out there about the health benefits of dairy, I just wanted to play devil’s advocate to give you some food for thought, no pun intended. I’ve included no pictures of the torture cows endure because I find that too difficult to look at, as I’m sure you do as well. Instead, I’ve added some pictures of cows in a more positive light, the ways in which I wish they could be able to live.

picture cow 2

A couple of years ago, Justin came home with a book that he thought I’d be interested in: MILK The Deadly Poison, by Robert Cohen. Now before reading this book, I had read some articles and books depicting dairy in a not-so-positive light. There was something different about this book though. Whether it was the tone or the information, I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is that I was so affected by it that it became the crux of me, my transition from vegetarianism to veganism.

picture cow

For 20 years now, thanks in large part to the Monsanto Company (responsible for genetically engineered seeds and agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology – basically the downfall of all agriculture), cows have been injected with a growth hormone known as recombinant bovine somatotropin, or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST or rBGH). This hormone enables cows to produce more milk; however, it also makes them sick causing mastitis – which is the inflammation of breast tissue – as well as cancer, according to Jane Heimlich, author of What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You.  Robert Cohen, in his book MILK The Deadly Poison, states that sixty percent of cows have leukemia (and considering this book was published in 1998, I’m assuming those numbers are higher today). rBST is banned in many countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and Argentina. A glass of milk contains fat (equivalent to three slices of bacon), cholesterol, antibiotics, bacteria, and pus, according to Heimlich. Yes, pus…

quote healthy

The amount of calcium needed to make your bones stronger can only be found in dairy is a complete myth, created, of course, by the dairy industry. One tablespoon of chia seeds contains more calcium than one glass of milk. No other species drinks another’s milk except for humans, and no other species consumes milk after the age of about two. According to Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat, “Cows don’t drink milk after calfhood, but they grow bones that fully support 800-pound weights and more. They do this by eating grass. Grass has calcium, and so does every other food plant: fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts.” Unfortunately, you won’t find much support or truth from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as they are  influenced by special interest groups and pharmaceutical companies who thrive from the sick in need of drugs.

quote cow

Just like other animals, cows are not meant to nurse for their entire lives, and with the addition of growth hormone injections, their udders drag on the floor as they walk causing constant torment and non-stop bleeding throughout their lives. According to nutrition expert John Pierre, “A cow’s udders can become unnaturally distended from being forced to produce thousands of extra gallons of milk per year, making them drag on the ground. Most concrete dairy lots are paved with piles of bacteria-laden manure. The fecal matter contaminates her udders, causing infections (mastitis), and is one of the reasons antibiotics are routinely administered to dairy cows.” This fact alone has stuck with me and is the main reason I’ve been able to so easily stay away from dairy. I’ve chosen not to include a picture of this as it’s too upsetting, but the photos are deeply dismaying and one look in their eyes depicts a lifetime of agonizing pain, mind-crippling fear, and a plea for an end to it all.

You may not realize how much dairy you’re eating and drinking because not everyone is a milk drinker, but Robert Cohen makes it easier to understand with a conversion chart. Some of these facts include:

  • It takes 21.2 pounds of milk to make one pound of butter
  • It takes 12 pounds of milk to make one pound of ice cream
  • It takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of hard cheese

picture ape vegan

Dairy causes clogged arteries, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. It increases the body’s level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which is a known cancer promoter. Dairy, especially cheese, contains a mind-boggling amount of chemicals. Methyl cellulose, a thickener used in processed cheeses, is also a chemical used in making adhesives and make-up. Sodium carboxymethyl, a stabilizer, is also used in paints and inks. Dairy causes inflammation throughout the body, resulting in acne, irritable bowel syndrome, as well as allergies, mucus, and sinus problems. There truly is an enormous amount of information out there, just google negative side effects of dairy, and a plethora of reading material awaits you.

picture seuss quote


Cohen, Robert. MILK The Deadly Poison. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Argus Publishing, Inc., 1998. Print.

Nestle, Marion. What to Eat. New York: North Point Press, 2006. Print.

Pierre, John. WHAT EVERY PARENT NEED TO KNOW – The Sour Facts About Dairy,

Trudeau, Kevin. Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. Elk Grove Village, Il: Alliance Publishing Group, Inc., 2004. Print.



Here’s What’s In This Week’s Balanced Bag Lunch…

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I’m so happy with all of the questions and orders regarding the balanced bag lunches that are starting this week. Here is the deal for this week:

  • 1 pint of quinoa and chickpeas drizzled with tahini mixed with avocado, tomato and chia seeds
  • 1 large, all natural and healthy chocolate chip cookie with walnuts
  • 1 bottle of water
  • The price is $10

Pick-up times are between 6-9pm Wednesday evenings (and for those of you amazing co-workers who are interested, I am bringing them to work Thursday morning).

I can omit any ingredient with notice.

Please place orders before noon on Wednesday afternoon.  Thanks so much for your interest.  I am super stoked about this, and please extend the balanced bag lunch idea to anyone who might be interested in ordering!  

Please message me or email me via the contact tab above for information regarding pick-up location, as well as any other questions you may have. Xo.

Lettuce Bowl (Plus Some Exciting News!)


I often get asked, “What do you eat if you don’t eat meat or dairy?” Well, I’m realizing now that I eat a lot of beans. Usually I eat them with rice or pasta, and most often with avocado, tomato, chia seeds, leafy greens, and so on.  I’ve started saving the cans that beans come in (for a project I’ll let you in on at a later date…), and I’m realizing now just how many beans I eat because my new can collection is getting a little ridiculous. Anyway, I digress. I’ve been noticing lately that I’ve really been eating a lot of carbs – rice, pasta, bagels… Though I’m not easing up on my brown rice, I love it too much, I am, however, trying to wean myself off of bagels. My little obsession started after I injured my foot in September – not that I didn’t always love bagels, because we’ve always been besties – but they were just so easy and, obviously, so delicious. But like any sugar, they’ve become addicting and I need to stop. What I’m trying to get at is that I came home from the gym yesterday and wanted to make a kind of sandwich, but instead of using bread, I decided to wrap my sauteed beans, avocado, and tomato in a refreshingly delectable lettuce wrap.  And it was scrumptious.  Although Iceberg lettuce doesn’t have nearly the nutritional value of other darker greens, I decided to go with it because of its durability, but I made sure it was organic.


Another question I get asked a lot is, “What do you want to accomplish with this blog?” And I truthfully answer, “I have no idea.” Because I don’t.  What I do know is that I love doing it: I love discussing health and nutrition; I love sharing information and introducing new recipes, and I love that balanced bella has been accepted among many and acquaintances will come up to me and share their ideas and opinions about it with me. Since I sold some of my treats at the local fall festival last month, a lot of people have asked/told me to sell more items since not everybody has the time/ingredients to make the recipes I post. So I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I’ve decided to create a “balanced bag lunch.” I’ll be cooking them on Wednesday afternoons and they’ll be available for pick-up that evening – perfect for the next day’s lunch (or just devouring it on your way home that evening…) For now, I’ll be making them on Wednesdays, and depending on its success, I’ll keep you posted about adding future pick-up days.  The lunches will vary from week to week and I’ll do my best to post what it will be at least a couple of days before pick-up. Usually it will entail a tupperware filled with a hearty soup, spaghetti squash with pesto, quinoa and vegetables, or another recipe I’ve posted about. I’m also going to be including a large cookie and a bottle of water. All items are vegan, healthy, and 100% delicious. Unfortunately it’s only available if you live here, in New York, but for those of you who don’t, I’ll keep you updated on the progress of “balanced bag lunches.” It’s beginning this Wednesday, so if this is something you’re interested in, please contact me via the contact tab at the top of this page or via email at or via Facebook messaging (Jaime Witkowski). If you’re not interested in ordering a lunch but you have further questions, please please please feel free to contact me regardless and I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. I’m very excited about this and I’ve put a lot of thought into it! Now, let’s get going with that lettuce bowl recipe…

Justin and me on a quick getaway weekend to Puerto Rico this past weekend.
Justin and me on a quick getaway weekend to Puerto Rico this past weekend.


  • Iceberg lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 package (8 oz) mushrooms of your choice, sliced
  • 1 can chickpeas (rinsed well)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • optional: salt
  • optional toppings: avocado, tomato, chia seeds


  1. In a large pan on medium/high heat, add oil.
  2. After one minute, or once the oil is heated, add the diced onion and mushrooms. Saute for about 3 minutes before adding the chickpeas.
  3. Lower the heat to low and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes to heat the chickpeas, and in the meantime, cut up your avocado and tomato and set aside your lettuce.
  4. Add the beans and company to your lettuce and enjoy!