Hi, my name is Anne Campbell and I am a busyaholic.
While some happily read books and find contentment in the quiet and contemplative, I thrive in the hustle. Between the endless joy I get from my color-coordinated iCal chock-full of plans to blocking out my freetime on my calendar, suffice it to say that the stay-at-home-orders have been a particular challenge.
Since Covid-19 changed everything, my big plans and overly scheduled days have been replaced by an empty calendar and small moments of triumph.
These days, I look for the glimmer of light that peeks through an otherwise monochromatic day: scheduled Zoom classes from Austin’s Peach House Pilates and Mod Fitness, early morning downdogs with yogi Kate Waitzkin and neighborhood strolls with Brene’s new podcast in my airpods. My everyday routine also includes multiple trips to the kitchen in an aimless search for the perfect snack. To keep myself in check and to ensure that snack-time doesn’t quickly spiral into I-just-ate-an-entire-bag-of-chips time, I make it a goal to keep healthy options like nut butters and fresh fruits and veggies on hand.
And for those times when I’m too hungry for carrots but too lazy to break out the blender, I love Splendid Spoon’s nurturing and nutrient-dense vegan smoothies and soups that are ready to go in the fridge.
Splendid Spoon was founded by Nicole Centeno in 2013 in New York City, and it has quickly become a kitchen staple for many busy people who aren’t willing to sacrifice taste – or nutrition. We recently caught up with with Nicole to get the dish on her vegan soup company, what NYC spot she can’t wait to return to when the quarantine is lifted, and how she’s handling all of this with a newborn baby.
Tell us how Splendid Spoon was born.
I went to culinary school at the French Culinary Institute in NYC, and I studied the biochemistry of our diets — but still struggled to maintain a balanced one for myself. I was totally over-indexed on low-nutrient convenience food and lacked the foods that are best for energy, immunity and longevity (ie. fruits and vegetables.) It wasn’t because I lacked the knowledge or know-how; it was because I didn’t have the time to prepare flavorful plant-based meals. I thought, if I can’t achieve a healthy balance in my diet, then it must be a struggle for lots of people.
At what point in your life did you begin eating a vegan diet?
I grew up in New England with a younger sister and a mixed ethnicity – my mom is white and my dad is Filipino. At a young age I started to see the world through food experiences — eating rice and sinigang (a Filipino stew) at my grandparents’ table, picking strawberries with my nana and cousins to make jam, learning how to make my grand-aunt’s quohog chowder. Food and mealtimes showed me my family’s history and were always an opportunity to connect, share and laugh. Many people mistakenly think that I’m 100% vegan but actually I aim for a 80/20 plant-based diet. I created my plant-based food business because I struggled to get my daily dose of fruits and vegetables when I was pregnant with my first son. I wanted to achieve more balance in my diet without sacrificing varied food experiences. I love creating food that is easy, delicious and yes, vegan.
Tell us how becoming a mother changed you.
When I was pregnant for the first time, I was trying to pivot my career out of the media/publishing space (I had been working at Conde Nast) and into food. I was running a pop-up, taking catering gigs, teaching cooking classes… you name it. If it was a job related to preparing food, I was game for it. Understandably, I was pretty busy and I found myself eating more and more processed food – snacks at the cafe, takeout, restaurant meals. My energy levels were dictated by how much coffee I drank. I had anxiety and aches and pains. My college major was biology, so I knew just how important it was to be eating a whole-food diet, especially while pregnant, and I attributed my ailments to my poor eating habits. Splendid Spoon was born out of this need — I wanted to build up to a more balanced and healthy life, and I started with just one plant-based meal every day.
So really, becoming a mom was the catalyst for Splendid Spoon – and it changed my entire life’s trajectory for the better.
What are some of your favorite tried-and-true recipes that you like to cook for yourself and for your family?
I had a big sweet tooth during my third pregnancy, and I love utilizing easy recipes as math exercises with my two older kids (hello, homeschool – it’s great to turn the kitchen into a classroom!) These sweeter recipes from some of our Splendid Spoon ambassadors are great.
I also love a hearty stew. Splendid Spoon’s Carrot Lentil Curry comes from a recipe that I often make when I’m feeling under the weather – the combination of sweet, spicy and earthy flavors is a real cure-all. It also makes a fantastic base for entertaining. Add a fluffy bowl of jasmine rice, or even top with something more indulgent like lamb chops and it’s a great dinner party meal.
What is the hardest part of juggling work and motherhood?
It’s mostly mental – managing my guilt is the biggest obstacle. This was most pronounced in the early days of Splendid Spoon as I struggled to get a business off the ground while learning how to be a mom to a newborn — I felt like I was always letting someone down. That feeling has circled back in this current Coronavirus environment. I’m wearing many hats: sheltering-in-place mode with a newborn and two older kids who need homeschool. Simultaneously, I’m in all-hands-on-deck mode with the business as we navigate changing consumer behaviors and a fragile economy. What I try to tell myself is — I’ve chosen to have a very full life and while that means I need to manage more trade-offs and hard decisions, it’s also part of who I am and what makes me, me. I’m grateful for the support of my husband, my family and my team who collaborate with me, give me honest feedback and make my very full life possible.
What soups, bowls and smoothies are you craving right now from Splendid Spoon as you stay home with your newborn baby?
I’m obsessed with our Sweet Potato Quinoa bowl. It has a lemony tahini dressing and shiitake mushrooms. I typically have half a bowl of that alongside one of our Strawberry Goji smoothies for lunch. The strawberry goji has this awesome sweet-tart flavor with a hint of cinnamon, so it’s both refreshing and satisfying. Then around three or four o’clock in the afternoon, I reach for one of our lighter soups, such as the Garden Minestrone or Zucchini Puttanesca. Without them, I’d definitely opt for something a whole lot less healthy like chips and dip or a spoonful of Nutella!
Any tips for women out there trying to live healthier lifestyles but are also on-the-go, 24/7 (when not stuck at home, of course)?
My biggest advice is aim for habits, not quick-fixes — strive to improve one small thing and stick with that for a few weeks to really make it last. For busy people like myself, it’s really easy to default to the unhealthy stuff like packaged snacks, so finding easy and healthy alternatives is key. Maybe it’s a clean breakfast oatmeal or smoothie you can eat at your desk, or a pre-made crudite with hummus to replace your afternoon cookie — changing even one pattern for good will be a huge benefit in the long run. Every additional serving of fresh fruits and veggies decreases your risk for cardiovascular disease by 4%, so it really does add up!
We know you aren’t eating out right now… but when you do, what will be your first meal out, and where?
Four Horsemen in Williamsburg, for sure. With several glasses of natural wine.
How about your fave online workout videos right now?
I am just past the three week mark since Charlotte was born and for the first time I really followed my midwives’ advice to stay super low key these first few weeks. Here is what my team is doing (we have a #SplendidWorkouts channel on Slack to keep everyone motivated), and what I plan to get into soon: Sky Ting with Jess (Jess is one of our faves at the Williamsburg Sky Ting and I can’t wait to get an in-person with her again!), P.Volve, and the Obe dance hiit class.
Splendid Spoon just donated over $10,000 in food to help those medical workers on the front lines of the pandemic. What can each one of us do to help in our own communities?
If you are healthy, and have the means, helping out in your own way is an amazing opportunity to connect with your community and make a difference in people’s lives. The people who are at the front lines need better medical supplies and access to quick and healthy food. If you are someone with more time on your hands during shelter-in, connect with your local Facebook communities or create an email thread with your neighbors and friends to find the best ways to make financial donations or food donations. Maybe you have a friend who can sew medical masks and she needs your help setting up a go-fund me page to get supplies. Trying times are fertile ground for collaboration and creativity!
At Splendid Spoon we have also set up a way to give boxes of our food to healthcare workers. Our Hero Smoothie Box is an at-cost box, meaning Splendid Spoon does not make any profit. We hope this makes it easier for more of you to give.
What should we all be eating right now to keep our immunity up?
Anything packed with vitamin C or zinc. Our bodies cannot store those substances and they are critical for immune function.
Garlic and other alliums (onions, chives, leeks) are great as well because they support white blood cell functions. My favorite Splendid Spoon meals with these nutrition profiles are the Lentil Kale, the Moroccan Lentil, the Ikarian Stew, the Lemon and Wild Rice bowl, the Green Matcha smoothie, Strawberry Goji smoothie, Blueberry Acai smoothie, and of course the Wellness Shot!
My favorite immunity recipe right now is actually a vodka sauce (recipe below!) loaded with tomatoes and garlic – so it’s high in vitamin C and allicin (the component in garlic that converts to sulfur-containing compounds and supports those white blood cells).
- 1 Small onion, diced
- 1 Celery rib, diced
- 3 Garlic cloves, diced
- Olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- Vodka or Grappa
- 1 Can whole tomatoes
- 1/2 Cup heavy cream (or to make it vegan, cashew cream)
- Pasta of your choice
- Fresh basil
- In a nice big puddle of olive oil, sauté onion, celery and garlic until soft
- Add in tomato paste and stir.
- Add vodka or grappa and stir to evaporate the alcohol.
- Add 2 heaping teaspoons of salt with entire can of whole tomatoes, smashing them to break apart.
- Simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Purée the mixture.
- Add in heavy cream (or cashew cream) and stir.
- Taste & salt as needed.
- Toss with pasta over the heat just before the pasta is al dente.
- Add freshly torn basil and a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy!