Welcome to Kitchn's series My Superpowered Morning, where we show you how interesting people use their morning routine to help them fuel the rest of the day.
Ali Maffucci, the passionate force behind the Inspiralized veggie noodle movement, has a lot more than zoodles on her plate these days. In addition to regularly blogging to keep up with her homegrown spiralizing community, she's a first-time mom to 7-month-old Luca and she also just released her third cookbook — Inspiralized & Beyond — last month. As if that wasn't enough, this latest cookbook is the very first time that Ali is breaking out of her mold, adding some non-spiralized recipes to the mix, to truly reflect how she eats day to day.
We caught up with Ali to talk about her "new normal" morning routine, why she's glad she never listened to the very first book editor she spoke to, and how she gets it all done.
You quit your corporate job in 2013 and the very next day started blogging about spiralizing — where does that drive come from?
I definitely had a huge passion when I found out about spiralizing; I became obsessed with it (as silly as that sounds). That passion is what's driving me to this day. I really believe that spiralizing is a great way to eat healthfully.
I'm also very influenced by role models in my family: My father is an entrepreneur, my grandfather was an entrepreneur, my mother's father was an entrepreneur, and my husband is an entrepreneur. I've seen so many people in my life do it, so I just knew I could make it work!
Our son's name is Luca Leo Cerda. When we were picking his middle name, I thought You know what would be really cool? If we made his initials LLC, because Lu and I both own LLCs. I'm also a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan, so subconsciously maybe that's how it came about!
Your third cookbook, Inspiralized & Beyond, just came out in May. When do you find is the best time for writing?
I would say the best time for me to write is first thing in the morning. When I was writing the book, I wouldn't even look at my email or social media before I accomplished a certain amount of work. I'm big into time-blocking when I need to accomplish big projects. You can't do anything else — not even checking your email or phone. It really helps keep you on track. I use Google calendar to time-block my whole day — it's simple. And I color code like crazy!
What are you most excited about with this new book?
I am excited because it's a reflection of how I've eaten all along. Obviously I don't eat spiralized 100 percent of the time. Whenever I would post something like a smoothie bowl or quinoa bowl for lunch on Instagram, people would ask for the recipe. But I initially wanted to stay true to being the ultimate resource for spiralizing and didn't want to muddy it. I would always get DMs or messages and I almost felt like I was shorting my audience.
So this book is a total reflection of the way that I eat — sometimes spiralized, and sometimes not. It has the same theme, though, of making vegetables taste good and finding healthier ways to make your favorite dishes using veggies. I definitely flexed my creative muscles in this book more than ever.
So, what does your typical morning routine look like?
I had a baby seven months ago, so it definitely looks different. Basically on a typical morning, the baby wakes up at 6 a.m. My husband and I will go into the nursery, grab Luca, and bring him into bed. I'll nurse him and we'll play for 30 minutes. I love that time — it's just the three of us.
At 6:30 a.m. I get out of bed, wash up, and get my day started. I usually have hot water with lemon, and then coffee. Then I sit down and look at my to-do list for the day. I go through the day and make my priority lists. I believe in scheduling your priorities, not prioritizing your schedule.
At 7:30 a.m. I make breakfast for the three of us. We are doing something called baby-led weaning, so Luca actually eats the same thing we do. This morning we had Greek yogurt bowls with coconut and peanut butter and banana. Then my husband walks out the door around 8 a.m.. Luca goes down for his first nap and that's around the time that my nanny arrives and when my official work day starts.
You accomplish so much in that amount of time!
You learn to be very resourceful and time-savvy when you're a mom.
Thoughts on the snooze button?
Our alarm clock is the baby! We don't even have an alarm clock anymore. I guess the baby monitor is the new alarm clock for us.
What did your mornings used to look like when they were more about you?
I used to wake up and get ready differently. I used to get ready as if I were actually going into an office, so I would do my hair and put on a bit of makeup (which was actually just brow gel and under-eye concealer!). I would take more time to respond to social media messages and have a more lazy morning. I never liked my mornings to be super scheduled because that would be too stressful.
I also used to always do one thing for me. It would only take 20 to 30 minutes, and it would be something simple like sorting through a drawer to make me feel more organized during the day. It sounds really odd, but I used to do that every day and it would just calm me for the day! Now mornings are definitely more regimented because I have such a small amount of time to get more done.
Before the baby, I would wake up at 6 a.m. and work out every day, so that is probably the biggest change.
What type of workout?
I love spinning. I actually have a Peloton bike in my apartment in Jersey City. I would say that that's the biggest difference. Now that the nanny comes, I've been trying to get my workout in from 8:30 to 9 a.m.. It makes me feel really great and rejuvenated for the day and it gives me energy.
Are you a coffee person?
I do the same thing with my coffee every day. My husband used to work next to Brooklyn Coffee Roasters. His office location changed, but we still buy their beans online and grind them ourselves. I just put almond milk in it. Because I'm nursing I just have one cup — maybe two if it's a really bad day.
Do you have any life-saving morning tricks?
Give yourself 10 minutes to look at your to-do list. Before I did this regularly, I found that I would spend an hour just trying to start my day. Now I've found that setting 10 minutes aside to schedule my day out helps me save so much time.
How would you describe your mornings in one word?
Teamwork! It's definitely collaborative. My husband and I tradeoff in half-hour blocks so we are both able to accomplish what we need to on time. Even though I don't work in corporate America anymore, I still treat my day as if I do and my husband respects that.
Do you have a go-to breakfast?
I make a lot of oats! Since I'm nursing, oats are really good for lactation, so I have oatmeal with nut butter and blueberries and bananas, or smashed raspberries, blueberries, and nut butter for a PB&J oatmeal bowl. My son really loves banana muffins too. I make them with banana, flaxseed, and eggs. Only three ingredients!
What's your favorite breakfast food to spiralize?
I love to make sheet-pan eggs — there's a recipe for it in my new cookbook. You put eggs in a sheet pan and then spiralize veggies and throw them in. Once you bake it, you can cut the eggs into little squares and serve them with English muffins or toast. I love Kite Hill almond cream cheese with this meal. It's a vegan cream cheese made of almonds and it helps make an amazingly healthy breakfast sandwich.
Are there any breakfast trends you're totally over?
I hate to say this, but avocado toast! I'll still enjoy avocado toast, but it has to be something special. I won't do just a piece of toast with avocado on it anymore. In my book, I have something called potato toast; it's a sliced russet potato round with mashed green pea and avocado on top. And then I top it with an egg and some radishes. That's the avocado toast I will do!
What do you think the "next big thing" is in unexpected food swaps?
I think replacing wonton or spring roll wrappers with veggies is going to be big. I have a recipe in my new book for a zucchini pork dumpling and it's shaped just like a dumpling.
Nowadays, home cooks can buy fresh or frozen spiralized veggies right in the grocery store, when just a few years ago that wasn't the case! What has it been like for you to see the spiralizing movement become so mainstream?
It's really, really incredible! I smile every time I see them in a grocery store, frozen section, or magazine. When I first started Inspiralized I knew I wanted to write a cookbook. I took my idea to a book editor and he said that spiralizing was too niche and would never appeal to the masses or go very far. He just shot it down completely, so now whenever I see it I am so glad I didn't stop there when he gave me that advice! If I had listened to the book editor, I wouldn't be where I am today.