Melissa Costello

Author Archives: Melissa Costello

Coconut Basil Stir Fry over Quinoa

The thing I love about stir fry is the light, fresh rainbow of nutrient packed veggies. You can use any combination of fresh veggies you want!!! Buy whatever delights are in season, chop them up and throw em together in a large beautiful wok! Here is the combo I like to use, feel free to add and take away any veggies you want


  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp, freshly grated ginger
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 TBL Coconut oil, or Sesame Oil
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, de-seeded and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 pkg mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, halved and sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut in small florets
  • 1 bunch scallions, white parts, sliced thin
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked

Coconut Basil Sauce

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 TBL Tamari, Low Sodium
  • 1 TBL light roast Peanut Butter, or Raw Almond Butter
  • 1 TBL Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 c. veggie broth
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat, add ginger and saute for a minute. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until juices release. Add remaining veggies in layers. Cover and steam veggies until tender. While veggies are steaming, place all sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until well combined. Pour sauce over stir fry, as much or as little as you like, cover and simmer for about 3 minutes. Serve over nutty, protein packed quinoa and you have a perfect meal with a leafy green side salad.

Raw Vegan Chocolate “Pudding”


  • Meat from 2 young thai coconuts
  • Water from one young thai coconut
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours & drained
  • 1/4 c. raw cacao powder
    (you can add more if you like it more chocolaty)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from a vanilla bean
  • 1/4 c. agave nectar or maple syrup

Open coconuts (carefully) with a cleaver or sharp serrated knife and scrape out meat. Place all ingredients in a blender except coconut water. Add coconut water just to barely cover ingredients, you can always add more later if too thick.  Blend until creamy smooth. If pudding is too thin, add more cashews. Enjoy with fresh berries!!

Baked Ziti with Spinach & Cashew Cheese


  • 1 lb Tinkyada Brown Rice Ziti or Penne, cooked al dente
  • 2 c. Cashew Cheese (recipe below)
  • 1 cup organic, frozen chopped Spinach thawed
  • Mel’s Zesty Marinara Sauce
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 c. shitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 TBL Tamari
  • 1 TBL Balsamic Vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ½ can tomato paste
  • 2 -28oz cans Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. Agave Nectar (leave out for cleanse or add 1 tsp xylitol)
  • 2 TBL Fresh basil, chopped

In a stock pot heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion, garlic & mushrooms until soft & caramelized. Add thyme & oregano and stir to incorporate to release the herbs. Add crushed tomatoes & tomato paste. Reduce heat and simmer 20-30

minutes. Add tamari, agave & balsamic vinegar & stir well. Simmer 5-10 minutes more. Season with salt & pepper and top with fresh basil.



  • 2 cups cashews, soaked for 4 hours & drained
  • Filtered water
  • 2 TBL Nutritional yeast flakes
  • sea salt & pepper to taste

Place soaked cashews in a blender cup with just enough water to barely cover. Blend until very smooth. Add nutritional yeast and blend. This mixture should be fairly thick, so if it’s too thin, add some more cashews. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Pour into a bowl and add spinach. Stir well to incorporate

Preheat oven to 400.

To Assemble:

Place cooked Ziti noodles in large bowl. Ladle in marinara sauce until well covered. Stir to coat. If you like more sauce, add more. Add 1 cup cashew cheese & spinach mixture and stir to incorporate. You can always add more if you want more. Pour into baking dish and ladle sauce on top to cover.  Sprinkle with additional nutritional yeast flakes. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes until heated through. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. MANGIA!!

Curried Kale with Caramelized Shallots

Kale, is one of nature’s super foods. Enjoy it raw, sauteed, juiced or made into Kale chips. I like to use the heartier Dino Kale for this tangy yet subtlety sweet recipe that will give you a new found love for this healthy & nutritious super food!



  • 3 Shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TBL Coconut Oil
  • 1 TBL Curry Powder
  • 1 TBL Agave Nectar
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bunch Kale (about 4 oz) stems removed and chopped into large pieces
  • 2 TBL Tamari, Braggs or Nama Shoyu
  • 2 TBL Water

Heat oil over medium heat, add shallots and sauté until dark brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Stir in curry powder, agave and lemon juice.  Add kale, soy sauce and water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until kale is still chewy but tender. Do not overcook. Serve over Quinoa or Brown Rice!

Raw Kale Salad with Miso Dressing


  • 1 or 2 heads kale, any variety (I like Curly Kale for this salad)
  • 1/4 cup dried Organic cranberries
  • 1/4 cup Pine nuts
  • Extra Virgin First Cold-Pressed Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Miso Dressing (see recipe below)

Strip kale of stems, tear into small pieces and soak in a bowl for a minute or two to get rid of any sand or dirt. Drain kale and using a salad spinner, spin the kale dry. Place kale in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a dash of sea salt. Massage kale with your hands for a few minutes until it softens. This helps the kale become easier to digest.

Add cranberries & pinenuts and toss with Miso Dressing.


  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 tbl dijon mustard
  • 1 tbl white sweet miso
  • 1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 3 TBL Olive oil
  • Blend in a Magic Bullet or shake well to mix.


The Vegan Movement is Hot, Hot, Hot..Jump on board!

It seems everywhere I turn these days that Veganism is being touted by celebs, firefighters, triathletes, scientists and more. There are books flying off the shelves about how to eat more of a plant-based diet and how to live longer, lower you cholesterol, get off drugs and be the healthiest you can be by doing so. You know what I say??? Halleluah! It’s about time…And this is not only because I am a Vegan chef and believe in eating clean, but because of the amazing opportunity for America and many other countries to live longer, healthier and happier lives, not to mention saving our dear animal friends.

This is truly a very important time in history where we can turn our obese, fat-ridden, cholesterol ridden, heart-disease ridden society around and really make a difference with our health and the planet. And, I’m sure it’s no secret anymore that the animal/meat/dairy industry is responsible for the most pollution on the earth right now, not to mention the unethical treatment that happens to our fellow animal friends. If you haven’t read the chapter on meat in Rory Freedman’s, “Skinny Bitch” book, I highly recommend it. I don’t have to give you all the statistics. You can pretty much look anywhere on the internet and find that grim and sobering information.

So on a lighter note, I want to share a glimpse of my day today and how this all ties in together.
I had such a synergistic and life-changing experience. I went to meet a dear friend and fellow vegan (BTW, we were friends before I knew she was a vegan) at a tea house today in Hollywood, calledT Salon. I rolled up upon this amazing new tea house when I was on my way to an event and trepsing through Hollywood looking for a parking spot, which all of us So-Cal residents know is not easy to do. I was so ecstatic when I saw that this beautifully painted tea house with it’s smart and simple stainless sign, had opened up right next to one of my favorite Veg restaurants, M Cafe. I had visited this same tea house in NYC many years back and LOVED IT! And now, here it is right in my very own town!

Anyway, to get back to the synergistic part of the story, I recommended to my friend that we meet at this funky, cool, new spot because they have vegan food, desserts and amazing tea. 250 different types of tea to be exact. I arrived a bit early and ordered my tea while I talked to the lovely woman at the register who took my order. This woman is so friendly and lively and shows interest in other people’s lives, and I mean GENUINE interest. Not the usual half-assed, laxadasical customer service you get here in LA, but true and heartfelt. The reason I know this is because I told with her that I was a Vegan chef, after she asked and then she proceeded to ask me many more questions about my business and what I do. I talked to her about the many vegan desserts they offer there at the tea house, that all look amazing, but in my book, are not the healthiest because even though they are vegan, they are still made with white flour and white sugar. Yes, you can be vegan and still be somewhat unhealthy, but I’ll save that for another blog post. After our conversation, she prompted that I should meet the owner of the tea house and drop off some of my very own gluten free, refined sugar free goodies for the Salon to try and possibly sell. I told her I would be honored and I went about my business of catching up with my friend and sipping some delicious Dark Roast Yerba Mate tea with almond milk and a bit of Agave nectar.

Ten minutes later, the friendly T salon lady introduced me to another fellow vegan customer in the Salon who happened to be a writer for the Huffington Post. We shared our stories about becoming Vegans and how it has changed our lives and how amazing we feel. Ms. Huffington post told me she has only been Vegan for 5 months after partaking in a cleanse and decided she felt better off the meat, than on it. She also expressed that she hasn’t told her father and that in her culture, it’s taboo NOT to eat meat and she was fearful of her father’s reaction, even though she is doing something good for herself and the planet. Kind of ironic isn’t it??

Shortly after that, Ms T Salon came back to our table and handed me the phone saying she was talking to the owner of the Tea house and she wanted to talk to me about making Vegan desserts and soups for their lovely tea house. I was ecstatic. I set up a time to bring in some samples of my healthy fare and felt blessed for being in the “right” place at the “right” time.

Afterward, again, my dear friend and I went about our business talking about how ecstatic we are to live in LA, own our own businesses and are able to spend a Friday morning sipping tea and meeting fellow vegans, randomly.

Another 10 minutes passes and Ms T Salon brings a gentleman over to meet us, who is, guess what? a fellow vegan. I know at this point you might think I was getting annoyed, but to me it was a sign that we all attract who we are, what we do and how we act, so I went with the flow and knew that these people were in front of me out of divine guidance. We chatted up with the gentleman and I asked him if he knew some of the other vegans in our circle and he did. He looked familiar to me and I realized that I had seen his photo on Facebook, as he is a friend of one of my friends, who is an amazing Macrobiotic Chef here in LA as well, Christy Morgan, The Blissful Chef. 

The point of this story is that, not only is Veganism becoming more recognized in the public eye, I mean even Oprah recently had book author, Michael Pollan on her show (Ominvore’s Dilemma & In Defense of Food) along with Vegan Celeb, Alicia Silverstone, whose new book “the Kind Diet” is all the rage these days, but there is a whole community available to us in this day and age to change the way we eat, get healthier and change the state of the planet.

Will Tuttle, former monk and long-time Vegan’s book, The World Peace Diet touts that we have been disconnected from our food since we were children and we never really understood how the meat we eat got from farm to our plate and what happens in between. As children, we weren’t really given the choice, we just had hot dogs cut up and thrown on our high-chair trays without even KNOWING what we were eating. Again, I don’t need to share all the gory details, and unless you have your head buried in the sand, I’m sure you have heard faint whisperings of the unethical treatment of animals and how the meat industry pollutes our earth and the consumption of meat and dairy can cause all kinds of dis-ease in the body.

Yes, I know, you think I am preaching…well, maybe I am. But the bottom line is that now is the time for us to wake up! Now is the time to take charge of our health. Things are changing, but WE – YOU need to be a part of that change. It’s not enough to sit back anymore and pretend we don’t know what’s happening to these animals and the damage that is being done to the earth, on top of what damage we do to ourselves and our health.

If we continue to go the way we are going, our life span is going to get shorter, not longer. Studies are now showing that with the obesity epidemic rising the way it is, that we are going to die much sooner than we think, not to mention what is happening to the planet with all the pollution from the meat industry.

Who really thinks that all this natural disaster is just Mother Nature doing her thing? Or does anyone think that the HUMAN RACE has anything to do with it??? Hmm…I wonder.

So, what will you do to make a difference? Give up meat 1 day a week..or maybe two? Check out Meatless Mondays. Fill your plate with 80% veggies instead of 80% meat ad 20% veggies?? What will you do? Or will you just sit back and hope it gets better??? And if you are one of those people who think you need Animal protein to build muscle, get energy and stay alive, I highly suggest you read T. Colin Campbell’s latest book, The China Study or Vegan Triathlete,Brendan Brazier’s book, Thrive. You might just change the way you think..and that’s a start!

Tony Horton’s Fave Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is a favorite of many of my clients, including Tony Horton. I include Cardamom in these which is is a sexy scented spice that aids in digestion and speeding up the metabolism! If you don’t like it, leave it out! But I guarantee you will!



  • 2 c. Spelt or Oat Flour
  • 3/4 c. Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 c. chopped Walnuts (optional)
  • 1 c. Grain Sweetened Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 3/4 tsp. Baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Cardamom
  • 2/3 c. Agave Nectar
  • 2/3 c. Coconut Oil, melted
  • 2 TBL Almond Milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Place dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Combine wet ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together. Add wet mixture to dry and stir together with a wooden spoon until combined. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Place by the tablespoon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack.


A few people have asked me to write about my experience with Missy Costello’s 30 day cleanse and even though I am not technically done with the cleanse until Feb 2nd, I thought I would share my thoughts now. I am pretty much on autopilot and short of someone tackling me and shoving a Snickers bar in my mouth, I will finish the next 5 days with no cheats. (Brian don’t get any ideas, I am pretty sure I can out run you since doing Insanity).

One of the first questions people asked me is why? Why would I subject myself to 30 days with no alcohol, sugar, caffeine, animal products (including, fish, eggs, dairy) and gluten. Well contrary to what some believe, I didn’t do it to lose weight. Actually, I remained very cognizant of my daily food intake to prevent weight loss since I am on the lean side right now. There were however, others in our group, which consisted of about 20 people, who wanted to and have lost weight. I chose to do this for a few reasons. First of all, I have wanted to get off coffee for a while. I have been been a two, sometimes three cupper a day for the past 20 years and have tried to eliminate it before. With the exception of my 3 pregnancies, I have been unsuccessful. Second of all, I also was getting a little too attached to my Clif bars. Since I spend a lot of time taxiing my kids around town, I had gotten into this rut of grabbing a bar (or two) on my way out the door. Add a protein shake in there, and I realized that I was eating 2 bars and a shake a day and not enough whole foods. When I did eat “real food”, I made good choices (or so I thought) but I was getting lazy and turning to more convenience foods that weren’t the best choices.

So when my good friend Kit told me she was doing this cleanse, I figured this was my chance to try to be successful. I had someone to suffer through this process with. I spend a lot of time working on the outside of my body, it was time to take care of the inside. Oh, another big reason I decided to do this was really to see if I could – I love a good challenge!!

I won’t lie to you, the first 5-6 days were HORRIBLE! Because I also used Splenda in my coffee, when I gave up both cold turkey, I had a splitting headache for 6 days and was very lethargic. Around 4 pm every day I would start counting the hours until I could go to bed. In the past, that would have been enough for me to throw in the towel but I approached it like I approached my first round of P90X – one day at a time. One day turned into two, then three and FINALLY by day seven, I started to feel like myself again. Not only that, I was starting to get more energy in the morning. I was waking up before my alarm and by the time I put my feet on the floor, I was wide awake and ready to hit the ground running. No more standing in front of the coffee maker, patiently drumming my fingers saying……”hurry up already”.

As for the food, this was a challenge mainly because I am a remedial cook at best. I don’t really enjoy cooking either but I knew I had to cook because otherwise I would not eat. We weren’t allowed ANY processed food with the exception of an occasional Larabar but they had 18 grams of sugar (from dates) and we were trying to keep the sugar intake below 5 grams. I saved them for my big big cravings and when I traveled to Philly.

So once again, I approached it like I approach my fitness. I planned out all my meals for the entire week and made big batches of food that I could easily heat up or grab and eat in the car. After about 10 days, any cravings for sugar completely disappeared and for me, getting off of sugar was much easier than coffee. I made and tried a lot of foods I had only heard about before and spent time in aisles at Whole Foods I had never ventured into. It was quite an experience watching me shop there. Sometimes, I wasn’t even sure I was pronouncing the food correctly and a couple of times, when the very helpful associates pointed me in the right direction, I actually looked at the food and said “really?”. I think the big test for me was day 11 when my daughter asked if I would make her chocolate chip cookies, which are my biggest downfall. In the past, I would easily pop a few spoonfuls of cookie dough in my mouth while baking but I wasn’t even remotely tempted.

The key to my success here was support. I got it from many angles. My husband and children fully supported my efforts. There were also 19 others doing this with me. We had an email thread and everyone was sharing successes, struggles and recipes galore. I always tell people the reason I was so successful with P90X was due to the message boards. This felt very much the same. I especially am thankful for the support of my friend Kit Horton Caldicott. There were days at the beginning where we were emailing each other 5 times a day and I know that a few times both of us may have slipped had it not been for a two sentence encouraging text or email from each other.

I feel amazing on this cleanse. I have more energy, sleep better, I have less bloating (and all things relating to that), clearer sinuses and skin. I usually get bad eczema on my arms in the winter but so far nothing. Someone in my spin class told me my eyes seemed brighter. Not sure what that means, but heck I’ll take it!!!

One of the best lessons I have learned is that when you are out to eat and want your food cooked a certain way, you simply need to ask. When we were in Philly, I was with 4 of the healthiest eaters I know and we hardly ever ordered something directly off the menu (and it only took California Pizza Kitchen two tries to get Mark Brigg’s lunch correct – lol!). Sunday night I went to a 40th birthday dinner at a Country Club and I knew they had a pre-ordered meal so I called the host and asked if they could just give me a salad loaded with grilled veggies. The chef got on the phone with my friend and he was so accommodating. I won’t be “afraid” to ask for what I want again.

Another question I often get is what about your family. Even though, my family didn’t eat what I was eating, they definitely ate more veggies and fruits over the last month. I tried to incorporate my diet with theirs as much as I could. My daughter actually said my cooking has gotten better which isn’t saying much but it’s a start. I am hoping to incorporate more of the many awesome recipes we got into the family meals. I will not force it on them but plan on taking baby steps to get them to eat more whole foods as well.

So what happens on day 31. Well I know I will not go back to coffee, except maybe an occasional decaf. I just don’t need it anymore and don’t want to go through that detox ever again. I also will not go back to dairy. I now use Almond milk in my shakes and oatmeal and really love the taste. Add a little Agave Nectar and you don’t even realize what your missing. I will probably add back fish and chicken as I do miss them but probably not red meat. I am not a drinker so alcohol is not really an issue but I will probably have an occasional drink when the need arises – 😉 That leaves gluten and sugar. I am going to do my best to keep those to a minimum. My cravings have all but disappeared and I feel so much better having not eaten them for the past month.

Is this or any cleanse for you? Well that’s a decision only you can make. I liked it because there were no pills or potions – just good clean food. I can’t tell you how many people say to me “I COULD NEVER EVER DO THAT”. I initially thought that as welll but once I committed to doing this, I surrounded myself with like-minded people, made a plan, used a journal to write down my food and just took it one day at a time. If you are struggling with your nutrition or feel like you need a jump start, I highly recommend cutting out some or all of the aforementioned foods and see how you feel.

I wasn’t striving for perfection, just progress. I walk away from this mentally stronger. I am really proud of myself for succeeding here. It wasn’t easy but it was so worth it. I am so glad I have created new eating habits and have gotten a great education on what eating healthy REALLY means. Thanks so much Missy! Your guidance through this month has kept us all motivated and focused. You ROCK!!

February 1st is in a few days – I can’t think of a better time to take on a new challenge. I teach a boot camp and am starting a 30 day nutritional and fitness challenge with them on that date. I know that this was a radical change in my diet but I needed that kind of shakeup, again sort of like starting P90X. I do think that even making some of these changes will drastically improve how you feel. If you want to make real change, you got to get into that uncomfortable zone. These past 30 days have definitely been that. My adviceis to find a buddy, make a plan, and get started. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Check out Missy’s website at Check out some of her other guides (she blogs at HMHB), like her most recent on the best crib mattress.

For me, my next challenge will be to put on 10 lbs of muscle. I have the fitness programs and now the nutritional knowledge to make that happen. Game on people!!

In health and happiness,

Spicy Edamame Dip


  • 1 pkg. frozen shelled Organic Edamame garlic cloves
  • 1-1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground corainder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 TBL EV Olive Oil
  • 1/4 c fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 c fresh chopped cilantro

Cook edamame according to package directions. Drain but reserve 1/3 cup of the water and set aside.

In a food processor add all ingredients but the olive oil, reserve water and lime juice. Puree until combined. Add olive oil & lime juice and puree more, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently.  Keep motor running and add reserve water slowly until you get a smooth consistency. You may not need to use all the water.

Serve with Pita Crisps or Mary’s Gone Crackers!

Holiday Table Worthy Veggie Meatloaf


  • 3/4 c. Tomato Paste 3 TBL Tamari, divided
  • 1 TBL dark agave nectar
  • ½ tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 TBL plus 2 tsp garlic, minced and divided
  • ¼ c. olive oil, divided
  • 1 c. onion, chopped & divided
  • 1 c. Portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • ½ c. celery, diced
  • ½ c. carrot, finely diced
  • ¾ tsp. sea salt
  • ¾ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ c. cooked brown rice
  • 2 c. cooked French lentils
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBL Arrowroot powder
  • ¾ c. gluten free/wheat free breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Cook lentils and brown rice per package directions. Set aside to cool (these can be prepared the day before and stored in the refrigerator overnight)

3. In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, 2 TBL tamari, agave, liquid smoke & 1 TBL garlic. Set aside

4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 TBl olive oil and ½ cup onions. Saute for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté for 7 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the remaining 2 TBL of olive oil to skillet and sauté the celery, carrots, remaining garlic, salt and pepper over low heat. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until veggies are tender.

5. In a food processor, pulse the rice and lentils 10 times. Transfer to a large blow. In the food processor, pulse cooked veggies, Worcestershire sauce, remaining TBL tamari, mustard, arrowroot and 1/3 cup of tomato mixture 10 times. Add to rice & lentil mixture. Fold in reserved sautéed mushrooms & onions, breadcrumbs and ½ cup raw chopped onion. 6. Press half of the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and spread with half of the tomato topping. Then, press the rest of the mixture into the pan, and coat with remaining tomato topping. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes until top is brown. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving.