Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What You Didn't See On The News

My city's NBC affiliate did a wonderful job in profiling my transformation from fat to fit, underscoring the importance of change needing to occur from the inside out.  However, they left out a crucial element to my story:  the name of the 'long-distance mentor' who helped me out of the hole.  So here it is, officially: 


I've got a great story, there's no doubt. But in between this

and this

There was this:

No one makes it out of the hole of addiction and destructive behavior on their own.  I tried various diets, gurus, self-help books, and over-the-counter bottles of speed on and off, for 20-plus years. My turning point was finding Diamond Dallas Page via a Carnie Wilson TV appearance in January 2009. He helped transform Carnie, and I knew in my gut whatever he did with her would work for me.

I don't mean to imply that all it takes is the magic guru or mentor to make everything all better.  That's just more dieting-mentality-delusion.  Dallas was very up front about it being a total lifestyle change from the inside out. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy but is there in spades with support if he knows you're owning the changes and taking them seriously.

I was ready to finally come clean about the reasons I drugged myself with food.  And therefore ready to take his suggestions about eating clean and healthy and tailor them into something that felt natural enough to live with long-term.  Giving up gluten and cow dairy have changed my body like nothing else.  I was also ready to get off the chaise lounge and pop Dallas's YRG DVD's into the VCR.  Even at 345 pounds I was able to modify the moves he created of mixed martial arts, resistance training, and cardio to align with my ability at the time.   http://www.yrgfitness.com/

During that first year especially, he and Terri Lange (his first YRG pupil) guided me through the choppy waters of withdrawals from the foods I'd become addicted to over the years.  Without their guidance, I would not have had the focus or the information to make it out of the woods. 

Since that is the core thread of truth in my transformation story, I feel compelled to let the world know what got clipped in the editing room last week:  There would be no dramatic 'woman loses 170-pounds' story without Diamond Dallas Page.  Period.  I brought willingness to the table, he provided the YRG to strengthen my body, a clean way of eating to heal my body, and the emotional rocket fuel to get me to believe it was indeed possible at a point in my life where I'd lost all hope. 

You're the man DDP...and you always will be.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It Is Possible

...or as I also like to say...
never, EVER, EVER
give up on yourself:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hungry For The Truth: G-Free For The Holidays

Hungry For The Truth: G-Free For The Holidays: "Just in time for Christmas party season, here it is, a little collection of recipes that prove you don't have to chuck the clean eating whil..."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

G-Free For The Holidays

Just in time for Christmas party season, here it is, a little collection of recipes that prove you don't have to chuck the clean eating whilst hopping the party circuit.  As some of you know, I have fired 170 pounds from my life and going gluten-and cow-dairy-free is a big reason why it happened.  When I gave up those two things, my life and body changed amazingly. But the best part is I did not have to compromise flavor and pleasure.  It's totally possible.  So here's to living it up and loving life.


I can't take credit for this masterpiece.  This is how Pavlova is served at Balthazar in New York

This elegant dessert made of baked egg whites (merengue) is light and divine.  Traditional recipes call for it to be slathered in whipped cream.  I either top with fresh fruit or use a vegan whipped cream.

3 egg whites
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 275. Grease a cookie sheet, line it with parchment paper and sprinkle a little water over paper.

In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in water, then mix in cornstarch, vanilla, vinegar and salt.

Pour entire meringue mixture onto the center of the pan. Pavlova will spread as it bakes.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave Pavlova in the oven until cold. Turn upside-down onto plate and top with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Chocolate-Covered Marshmallows

So pretty, I almost didn't want to dip 'em

Works in progress as the single-dipping dries...

et voila!  Double-dipped chocolate-marshmallow bliss

Whenever I'm in New York, I stop by the Gourmet Garage to load up on sugar-free marshmallows from France.  The fact that they're white and pastel-pink makes them even more alluring.  Got the idea a few days ago to dunk them in a chocolate ganache.  Perfect as a party favor when going out this season or to serve guests.  The recipe below is for one...had a sweet-tooth craving today...what can I say?  Enlarge recipe as needed.  This one has no sugar or dairy - Enjoy!

1 square (1 oz.) bitter (baking) chocolate
3-4 TBS. almond or coconut milk
4 marshmallows (organic or sugar-free)

In small saucepan, heat chocolate and milk, whisking regularly to keep it from lumping. When chocolate is thoroughly blended with the milk, remove from heat and whisk again.  Dunk and coat marshmallows one at a time and place on a plate. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Remove from refrigerator and dunk again (also known in the candy-making biz as double-dipping). Place on plate and refrigerate or leave at room temperature.  Chocolate will solidify on its own, one way or another.

Charlotte Berwind's Baked Brie

My friend Charlotte is like most caterer's I know:   As big-hearted as she is talented.  What is it about that profession attracting only stellar souls?  Just saw Charlotte's baked brie recipe on her blog and I'm totally revamping this to fit my gluten- and dairy-free preferences.  I know, you're wondering how baked brie could possibly be dairy-free?  You can exhale...as far as I know there is no soy version of brie on the market...yet.  When I say dairy-free I mean cow-dairy free and last year, dicovered a superb goat brie available in my hometown.  In other words, if it's found in Glens Falls, N.Y. (land of the no Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco, the list goes on) you can find it anywhere!

Diamond Dallas Page (the fitness guru who helped me fire 170 pounds) urged me to get off cow dairy and gluten and I'm eternally grateful.  There were some roadbumps at first...afterall, I HAD become a little addicted.  Now I don't even miss either.  When I do occasionally eat cheddar or American, it tastes positively weird.

The goat brie I use is made by Woolwich Dairy.  If you can find a goat brie at your farmers market, even better:

Now, follow the Divine Ms. Berwind's recipe below, substituting goat brie and g-free bread...and prepare for some gastronomic fireworks:


Thank You Charlotte!

Stuffed Mushrooms

Photo: Joan K. Lentini

This is an appetizer that traditionally calls for copious amounts of breadcrumbs. I don’t use them in this recipe, although I could, because there are g-free breadcrumbs on the market (or you can make your own). I wanted the flavor of the Peccorino (a sheep’s milk cheese that tastes very similar to Parmesan) to come through. Plus, fewer ingredients is always simpler…and who doesn’t want that this time of year?

1 large package of large mushrooms, suitable for stuffing (20-24), washed and stemmed
1 pound ground sweet sausage
½ cup pre-shredded Peccorino cheese
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Light (not extra virgin) olive oil or grape seed oil for frying

Roughly chop or dice the mushroom stems. In a medium skillet, cook sausage and chopped stems over medium heat, crumbling with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks. Drain thoroughly and put cooked meat mixture in a large mixing bowl.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Using same skillet, place over medium heat and pour in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Take washed mushroom caps and sauté them on both sides till lightly browned. You may have to do this in batches if all mushrooms don’t fit in the pan at once.
While mushrooms are browning, add the cheese and herbs to the sausage and mix thoroughly. When mushrooms are browned, place them in a rectangular baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Using a spoon, fill each mushroom with sausage mixture. If there’s leftover filling, refrigerate in airtight container. It’s great in omelets or tacos. Bake mushrooms at 325 for 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Note: there is no salt in this recipe because the Peccorino cheese is extremely pungent…adding salt would overdo it.

The following is one of my favorite dessert recipes that I’ve adapted to suit my personal taste - as in using less sugar that is called for. (I find most baking recipes are too heavy-handed with it). No matter who tries this chocolate-wonder dessert, they invariably end up clamoring for more…and for the recipe. I discovered this symphonic overture for Flourless Chocolate Cake on one of my favorite recipe sites of all time: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/ . Karina Allrich truly is a Goddess and has made me one ecstatic gluten-free gastronome.

Here’s the link to Karina’s recipe:


© Gluten-Free Goddess
For my version of her recipe, I substituted baking (bitter) chocolate for regular dark (Belgian) chocolate. Bitter chocolate + light and dark sugar = ecstasy! So herewith is my version of Karina's recipe for:

Flourless Chocolate Cake

16 ounces baking (bitter) chocolate (two eight-ounce boxes)
1 cup organic brown sugar (light or dark)
½ cup organic sugar
1 cup hot espresso or very strong coffee
2 sticks room-temperature unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 large organic free-range eggs at room temperature, blended until smooth with a hand beater or immersion blender
1 tablespoon vanilla (bourbon vanilla if you have it)
Preheat oven to 350

I’ve mixed the ingredients two ways: Karina’s food processor method and stovetop method below:
In a large saucepan, melt butter and chocolate together over medium heat, whisking occasionally. When chocolate is mostly dissolved into the butter, gradually whisk in sugars, alternating with hot coffee. Turn heat off and keep whisking. At this point, the chocolate batter may get alarmingly dense and thick, don't panic! Just keep whisking as best you can. (The addition of the eggs will make everything OK) When mixture is completely smooth, add eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
Spray a spring form (cheesecake) pan with olive oil cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the pan with foil to safeguard any leaks. Pour chocolate cake mixture into pan. Optional: place cake pan in a square baking dish filled with a few inches of water. Bake for 30-50 minutes. I’ve found the cake is done after about 30 minutes, baked on the bottom rack. Check after 30 minutes to assess if you need more time. Cake should be firm in the center and be slightly pulling away from the edges of the pan. Don’t over bake or the cake will be dry and chalky. A few cracks on the surface are OK. Baking in a water bath will help keep it moist.
Cool covered for 30 to 60 minutes before refrigerating. May be served chilled or at room temperature. Crown vegan whipped cream (based from soy, coconut milk, or cashews).

Chex Mix
Photo: Joan K. Lentini

 This perennial Christmas party favorite is inherently gluten-free (if you skip the Wheat Chex and Cheerios). If you really want to keep it real, there are g-free pretzels and g-free cereals out there that mimic Cheerios. Otherwise, this simple version works beautifully and no one realizes it’s a g-free delicacy. The recipe is deliberately gigantic. This can be refrigerated and brought out in batches for different occasions throughout the season.

1 box Rice Chex
1 box Corn Chex
1-½ cups chopped walnuts
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoon seasoned salt or Adobo
1 TBS. Sweet paprika
½ TBS. Sage
1 teaspoon white pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Melt butter in saucepan over medium low heat until melted and bubbly. Add salt, paprika, sage, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Turn heat off and leave on burner. Pour cereal into two separate large baking pans and spread out evenly. Divide the walnuts into two portions, sprinkling each portion into each tray of cereal. Using a small ladle, evenly drizzle melted butter over the cereal until it’s as evenly coated as possible. Lift trays and gently toss cereal to sift and distribute then place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before serving or storing in airtight containers.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Everyone Should Be This Lucky

On the right hand column on this blog, you’ll notice three categories. I decided to break the contents of my ongoing journey down into three major aspects of the human experience…and to underscore that paying attention to only one usually results in imbalance.

The question I’m asked most frequently regarding dropping 170 pounds is ‘what do you eat?’ Sometimes people demand to know my food intake to the letter in hopes that the weight will melt off, and so will the problems. I’ve been at this a long time and have learned the solution is a multifaceted one: food choices, physical exertion, feeling the feelings, finding things other than French fries to center me and make me feel calm.

There’s no one answer and it’s truly a mosaic, and one of the most important jeweled elements of it are relationships. Specifically, choosing healthy ones. This has been a work in progress for 20+ years. Getting good at it has progressed in tandem with my rising self esteem.

Having a life in balance means having relationships that are affirming and nurturing. As author and motivational Marc Mero is fond of saying:  'Friends are like elevators...they either take you up or take you down"

I make it a point to surround myself with people who are respectful, supportive, honest, and who genuinely wish me well. I may not live in the country’s most affluent zip code, but where my personal (and business...they count just as much) relationships are concerned, I’m one Wealthy Woman.

Case in point: my friend Sally Longo. She has a heart of solid gold and also happens to be a caterer with formidable culinary skills. A major score for me is being invited to one of her parties, or just a simple girlfriends dinner. Sally knows I eat gluten-free and although I’m fine with bringing g-free options along for the ride when I'm invited to dinner, she doesn’t give it a second thought to create a sumptuous, g-free meal fit for a pair of food-loving Queens. Now how great a friend is that?

The dinner below that Sally created one winter evening had me fanning myself in delight. Every ingredient was sublime…from the crispy planks of bacon in the spinach salad and the velvety mashed rutabaga, to the meatloaf that oozed steaming rivulets of tamarind glaze (chef Suvir Saran’s gorgeous recipe http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/030734150X/smallfarms-20 ).

Sally is also a cookbook author and her fantastic collection of recipes from her 20 years as a caterer can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Aunt-Sallys-Adirondack-Kitchen-Cookbook/dp/1604028645 .

So here’s to beautifully set tables, food made with Love, and the thoughtfulness of friends!

One of Sally's salad's...fully loaded

Chef and cookbook author Suvir Saran's famous Tamarind-Glazed Meatloaf

How creative is this?  Mashed rutabega - surprisingly delicious and slightly sweet

Dessert was g-free cake. At first it was frosting-free, then Sally had a lightbulb moment and returned from her basement warehouse with a giant jar of Nutella. It was the perfect, creamy touch.

The artist and her masterpieces...including the table setting

Sally and I sharing a laugh at a catered book signing with Kim Sunee, author of the best-selling memoir, "Trail of Crumbs." (www.kimsunee.com )

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving: G-Free, Dairy-Free, and Pain-Free...I Swear

A little double-entendre with the pain-free promise:  The recipes below are good enough to serve to anyone.  They contain texture, body, flavor, and yes, fat.  And without the f-word, food has no flavor. Now who wants that at Thanksgiving?  Thank GOD the fat-free revolution died a quiet death sometime in the 90's.  What a disaster.

Maybe your holiday guests are on board with gluten and dairy-free dining. Maybe they're not at all. It's up to you if you want to reveal the secret:  the menu below is clean as a whistle. So you can indulge, go back for more than one plate, pile it high. and you won't be horizontal when dinner's over.  That was always my post-Thanksgiving position...and there was no choice involved.  My poor, abused stomach.  It wasn't just battered from quantity, but all the offensive substances it found so difficult to digest, namely gluten and milk products.  I have a sympathetic memory as I write this, of the dull throb in my gut.  It lasted for hours after a holiday meal.  Hours.  Not anymore.  Last year was my first test. I made it a gluten-free and milkless celebration.  And guess what?  Afterwards, I felt like dancing all night.  This year I probably will.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone ♥

The first recipe is from the one and only Angella Cole, personal trainer, extraordinary baker and cook, nutrition consultant, and author of the forthcoming "My Picky Eaters" cookbook which will be packed with gluten- and dairy-free recipes for kids and adults.  In the meantime, visit http://www.mypickyeaters.com/ .








Mashed Potatoes

Inherently g-free, you can make mashed potatoes dairy-free by using the following instead of milk: room-temperature chevre, chicken or vegetable stock, rice, almond, coconut, or soymilk.

1 five-pound bag of potatoes *
2 6 oz. logs of room temperature chevre (goat cheese) *
A cup or so of chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Earth Balance Margarine or Extra Virgin Olive oil

* I avoid boiling vegetables the traditional way because they turn to mush and the vitamins leech into the water.  Instead, I either steam them by placing a bamboo steamer in the bottom of the stockpot or using a small amount of water. I also leave potatoes unpeeled – more fiber. Who can’t use a little of that on Thanksgiving?
* If you’re not using chevre (which makes the mashed potatoes wonderfully full-bodied and tangy), use 1-2 cups of heated stock or milk to thin the potatoes. Amount will vary depending on preferred consistency.

Wash potatoes and cut into chunks (quarter if potatoes are small). Add two inches of purified water to a large stockpot. Place bamboo steamer in the pan and add cut potatoes. If you don’t have a steamer, pour about 2 inches of purified water into the pot and then add potatoes. Bring water to a boil and then turn heat back to medium and steam for 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender.
Remove from pot carefully (there will be lots of steam) and place in large mixing bowl or casserole dish. If there’s a little excess water, leave it in. Add first log of chevre and mash with electric hand beater or with a potato masher until blended. Then add second log. You may need to add warm stock or milk if it’s too thick. Add the salt, pepper, Earth Balance, or Olive Oil to taste and serve immediately or cover to keep warm.

Gluten-Free Gravy

2 cups chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock
½ cup pan drippings from the turkey
½ cup rice flour
Coconut or Almond Milk

Heat stock and drippings in a medium saucepan over medium high heat till bubbling. With wire whisk, beat vigorously while sprinkling flour in gradually. Don’t add all at once because you may not need it all. Continue to whisk as it thickens until it reaches desired consistency. Note: if you use pan drippings, you won’t need to add fat or salt. If no drippings are available or you want to keep it vegan, add Earth Balance or Olive Oil to give it more body.

Cranberry Sauce Without White Sugar

This is one of the easiest and healthiest ways I’ve ever known to make cranberry sauce. You’ll definitely get your Vitamin C allotment for the day with this recipe:


Broccoli Puree

If you like your broccoli the traditional way, go right ahead. The texture of cruciferous vegetables has always turned me off, so I found a more appealing way to get it down the hatch:
1 bag frozen broccoli
½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
Earth Balance Margarine or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt to taste

In a large saucepan, bring stock to a boil and add broccoli. Simmer covered over medium heat for 10 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove from heat; add margarine or olive oil and salt. Puree using an immersion blender or electric hand mixer. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately or cover and keep warm till ready to serve.


Another item that’s inherently gluten-free. Of course, there are recipes available on the cornmeal container, but here is one of my personal favorites. Love Karina Allrich’s version for its exotic touches of cinnamon, nutmeg, and bourbon vanilla.

Gluten-Free Stuffing

Yes Virginia, a really delicious gluten-free stuffing is absolutely do-able. Sure it costs significantly more, but it’s worth the price of a loaf of gluten-free bread. And I’m down 12 sizes, so...fair trade.


Escalloped Corn

Found this recipe through the friend of a Facebook friend. Thank You Tiajuana Anderson Neel! I amended some ingredients to make it dairy-free….but it’s still appropriately decadent for Thanksgiving.

1 cup cornmeal
2 TBS. Sugar or Agave
½ tsp. salt
2 cans drained whole kernel corn or 16 oz. frozen corn
8 ounces of tofu sour cream or goat yogurt, room temperature
1 stick butter, or Earth Balance, softened to room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350
Place cornmeal, sugar, corn, sour cream, and butter in large mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, mix vigorously until smooth. Crack eggs into small bowl and whip with a fork or whisk until very blended. Add to corn mixture. Spray a casserole dish with olive oil cooking spray and add corn mixture. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until set.

Tofu Chocolate Mousse
This is a lovely ending to a meal – particularly a heavy one. It’s the perfect hit of chocolate sweetness, minus the fat-laden heaviness of cake, pie, or traditional mousse.

Sesame Wafers

Another light option. You won’t have to force these light, crispy cookies down the hatch. Serve plain or with ice cream made of coconut or almond milk. This recipe was given to me by Lisa Hall of Bolton Landing, N.Y. They were a major hit at a lakeside reception at the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum in June and I knew HFFT readers would appreciate their uniqueness.

2 cups brown sugar
¾ cup butter or Earth Balance, softened
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Sorghum or Rice Flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sesame seeds
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Toast sesame seeds in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop until golden brown. Cream the butter and sugar together, add beaten egg. Sift flour with salt and baking powder, stir into butter mixture. Add vanilla and sesame seeds. Drop by ½ teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 8 minutes. Allow to cool for one minute before removing from sheet. Makes about 100.

(Lisa finds that the thin, cheap cookie sheets work the best for this recipe. The insulated type makes the wafers puff up.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I'm co-hosting YRG Radio tonight at 9 p.m. with the one and only Diamond Dallas Page, the fitness ninja who helped me drop-kick 170 pounds (and a lot of emotional baggage) out of my life. Call in or log online to listen - and ask questions! (347) 994-1216.

9 p.m. EST - see you there ♥



Monday, November 8, 2010

Requiem For A Premature Winter

...well it's not really a requieum, but a last-minute dessert I whipped together today in an attempt to ward off the despair that mounted with the sleet as it clicked against my window. The dessert involved baked apples...more on that in a minute.  I made the baked-apple-choice after grappling with the idea of downing a gluten-free cupcake (piled high with tufts of butter cream frosting, it's one of my favorite occasional indulgences). The problem was, I just had a gluten-free cupcake yesterday.  Usually when I give in to the desire that's the end of it for a while, and weeks go by until another cupcake craving comes a knocking.  I knew the 'just do it' voice in my head urging me to reach for another one in less than a 24-hour span was the perfect barometer that I was feeling a little off. 

The thing about emotional eating is it's not always rooted in crisis or high drama. Today, feeling bummed about the lousy weather was enough of an impetus to have me contemplating relief via my tastebuds. And that's not always a bad thing...it's actually a healthy and human thing to do.  I just know myself and my limits and could see things insideously creeping out of control if I didn't do a little negotiating. Yeah, I was hungry...and I wanted something sweet.  But it was so freakin' cold and bleak out, I realized the overriding sensation I wanted to experience was warmth. So I preheated the oven to 325 and proceeded to assemble the following:

Two small apples, sliced and cored
Two tablespoons of homemade cranberry sauce (see previous blog for recipe)
A small handful of dried apricots

Layer in baking dish as follows:  apricots (they will be so plump and juicy when it's over you won't believe it!); apples; cranberry sauce. Bake for 30 minutes. 

One very important ingredient:  a Cazuela.  There's something magical about these baking dishes. The fact that they're lead and chemical free is a big plus. They're also made from clay harvested from riverbanks in the south of Spain.  It all makes for a constitution that affords flawless baking.  Mine looks like nothing more than a terra cotta plate...the kind that go underneath terra cotta planters to catch excess water.  Its plainness is deceptive. It comes with no lid, yet everything I've ever baked in it is fork-tender and moist.  Don't go looking for Cazuela's at Wal-Mart.  Try import or specialty stores. Mine come from Hamada Egyptian Bazaar in Saratoga Springs.  They come in varying sizes. Give the owner Mohamed a shout...he will hook you UP!  http://www.hamadaegyptianbazaar.com/info.html .

If you decide to take up the art of Cazuela-baking, let me know how it goes. In the meantime, Bon Appetit!  And please excuse the photo quality. Took them circa 5 p.m. today and daylight was long gone.  Here's to baking away the winter blues...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Joys of Honey

Hmmmm...I don't know whether to Thank or Spank the fellow who turned me on to the pleasures of Truffle Honey this week. Its taste is both electric and indescribable. If you have a weak neck, be careful, because it will be snapping back in ecstasy...guaranteed.

I think there's no end to the ways Truffle Honey can be enjoyed, but it's definitely not gonna be wasted in a cup of tea. This morning's breakfast:  Sheep's Milk Ricotta, two corn crackers, and a couple of heaping spoons of the most wondrous nectar I've ever tasted. 
Truly, it's a complete part of a Sensual Breakfast.
Remind me to let the FDA know...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing

Saw this intriguing recipe on an online video from a raw chef.  Now I forget the guy's name, but he was Australian, and had a gorgeous, spotless white kitchen with little boxes of herbs and wheat grass growing on the counters.

This recipe is an approximation and I added my own spin, like Bragg's Amino Acid instead of soy sauce or tamari. Also, I'm not of the 100% raw school of thought, but more of a part-time participant.  My Ayurvedic constitution is Kapha, which means an intense preference for foods warm and cooked, but every now and then, my system seems to demand something green and rough.  What better than kale to fit that bill?

Prepping kale is a little time-consuming, but worth it.  After rinsing, you may find it hard to get all the water off its curly leaves. Liberal amounts of patting and squeezing with a towel are required because you don't want a water-logged salad. Unless you're having a crowd for dinner, a bunch of kale goes pretty far and will keep in the refrigerator up to a week...not having excess water weighing it down will help the preservation.

Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing
1 bunch of kale, washed, dried and torn or chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 TBS. Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1/2 TBS. Agave

Place washed and chopped kale in a large mixing bowl. In small mixing bowl, whisk tahini, lemon juice, liquid aminos, and agave until smooth.  Pour dressing over kale and mix thoroughly for a few minutes before serving. Kale is sturdy and can take being 'dressed' and stored for up to a week.  Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ayurveda: Get Glowing!

Ever since reading Deepak Chopra's "Perfect Weight" all those years ago, Ayurveda has been part of my healing. It's a book filled with sound wisdom instead of gimmicky promises, so it didn't sell well. Ayurveda is the antithesis of our culture's pharmaceutically obsessed belief that all we need are some little pills to make everything go away. Here's a list of some fascinating and pretty simple guidelines for better health and well being. I don't do them all, but give it my best shot. There...I just admitted to being a part-time food combiner. Check it out and see if any resonate with you.

The following tips are from Vaishāli, author of "You Are What You Love®" and "Wisdom Rising" http://tinyurl.com/WisdomRising

Sometimes learning just a few simple tips for more conscious living can make the most useful and positive changes in our lives. To that end, listed below are a thirteen understated yet profound tips for improving the quality of one’s health as well as assisting in that perennial task of getting an edge up on anti-aging and weight management.

1. Walking after you eat
Walking is actually a very powerful digestive aid. The Eastern Indian system of self-healing called Ayurveda advocates for “the journey of a 1,000 steps” after consuming food. The walk doesn’t have to be long; it just needs to be embarked upon after mealtime. So if you have a dog, take your fur-covered friend for a once around the block. Your pet will be grateful, and it will serve as a post-digestive gift to yourself. If you can’t walk, massaging the feet relaxes the body and strengthens the digestive system. There are many reflexology points on the foot that connect with our internal organs, thus bringing immediate benefit and support.

2. Waking up at 6am and exercising gets you the best return for your workout investment
This is especially helpful if you are large framed and prone to gaining weight easily. In Ayurveda, different times of the day have different qualities of energy. For most corpulent people, getting up early in the morning is absolutely the hardest most unpleasant task of the day, because the energy influence of 6-10am has a heavy, sedentary quality. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, overweight people will actually gain more weight the longer they sleep in past 6am, as this is when their metabolism is the most sluggish and energy conserving. Getting up at 6 a.m. and working out counterbalances that natural slowing down, lethargic, weight gaining tendency. It puts one’s metabolism in fat burning mode rather than fat accumulation mode. If you are going to bite the bullet and work out routinely, getting up early and starting it first thing is the smartest way to maximize your benefits.

3. The body likes a temperature of 98.6 degrees, because the organs in the body function best at this temperature
As a matter of fact the body can even function well hotter than that, like when we get an infection and the body turns up the heat. But it does not like to get colder. Internalizing cold food and liquids stuns the organs by forcing them to run colder than they are designed to function. Think of the stomach as a pot that sits on your stove. You want there to be a consistent flame under that pot so that everything you put into it gets cooked thoroughly.
Refrigerators and ice machines are fairly new advents in the history of humankind. Our bodies have not historically evolved into ingesting cold foods and liquids. In addition to adverse effects on organ function, there are emotional repercussions from internalized lower temperatures as well. Ingesting cold cuisine shocks the stomach and spleen/pancreas, which in turn creates an emotional backlash of worry and anxiety. The habit of eating cold foods and drinking iced beverages may be behind your waking up at 4am worrying about various issues in your life. Another point to consider is that when the internal organs get colder, that will cause a slowing down of the digestive system and its calorie burning efficiency, thus increasing weight gain from whatever is consumed. Consuming cold food and beverages literally freezes weight in the body, stunts the digestive system and promotes the release of cold-related emotions such as stress and worry. Drinking warm liquids and avoiding cold foods will assist you in gaining less weight as well as processing and releasing toxic emotions. So, if you have to have that ice cream sundae or root beer float, make sure you have a hot beverage that you sip frequently, giving your body a chance to warm up and recover before overwhelming the internal organs by lowering their preferred inner temperature.

4. Food combining is a topic that gets very little attention
Most people will go out of their way to buy and prepare an organic and nutritious meal. But if the foods are combined incorrectly the internal results can be disastrously unhealthy. There are many food-combining rules that can be refined indefinitely and endlessly, making them too rigid and hard to follow. For the sake of simplicity we will focus on some elementary points.

Do not combine fruits with grains, meats or vegetables. Fruits are mostly water and take about an hour to digest. Grains, meats and vegetable matter takes about three times longer. So when fruits are combined with these slower digesting foods, they will putrefy within the digestive tract. This means that even if you eat organic cereal with organic milk, and throw on some organic fruit, the whole thing will become a toxic mess in the body.

Fruits have their own food-combining rules as well. Citrus fruits should not be combined with non-citrus fruits. Melons and strawberries should be eaten by themselves and never mixed with anything else. That means that strawberries and bananas may taste great together, but your body will not benefit from the combination. Melons and strawberries go in the “eat them alone, or leave them alone” category. Ayurveda calls mangoes the “Queen of fruits,” and mangoes are immune to the rule of fruit combining. According to Ayurveda the mango is the only fruit that can be combined with other foods and not become toxic. So enjoy that mango lassie with a guilt-free conscious. Ayurveda calls asparagus the “King of Vegetables,” and says if you are going to eat only one veggie, make it asparagus. It is a deeply detoxifying and nutrient enriched food. Asparagus is a pricy vegetable, but if you treat food as medicine, this is one dish well worth considering.

The bottom line when in doubt about food combining: eating a kosher diet will always ensure the healthiest dietary combinations. (A kosher diet follows Ayurveda food combining.)

5. Eating root vegetables heals, supports and sustains the root chakra
All root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, etc. are medicine for the body’s root chakra energy system. The root chakra is an energy center located on the pelvic floor. It is all about supporting life and survival on the most basic of levels. Especially during times of extreme stress, when the body is under pressure, think of root vegetables as your first wave of medicine for the root chakra.

6. Laughing before eating relaxes and opens the gall bladder duct
Eating during a sales meeting, while emotionally upset or in the company of people you do not like or trust will cause the gall bladder duct to constrict and narrow. When stressed or emotionally compromised this tiny duct between the liver and the gall bladder can be the first part of the digestive system to contract and the last to relax. If you have a history of gall bladder challenges, laughing and lightening up can be your best digestive aid.

7. Better Posture
Everyone wants better posture, but forcing that result by tightening the back muscles is not the best way to achieve that goal. A more efficient way to achieve better posture is to lift up from the sternum, which expands the chest naturally, instead of tightening the back muscles. Then turn the thumbs outwards and back when you stand or walk. This will gently rotate the shoulders back and correct slouched posture without over correcting.

8. Ayurveda suggests that any organ that is exposed to the air needs oiling on a daily basis
Edgar Cayce also agrees with Ayurveda in suggested there is value in placing a few drops of organic castor oil in each eye just before going to bed. By the time you wake up the body will have completely absorbed the oil and your vision will be clear and refreshed. Beyond lubrication, another advantage to castor oil in the eyes is that it supports the liver. According to the Eastern systems of self-healing the eyes are connected to the liver. When the body is forming in the uterus the eyes and liver develop at the same time from similar tissue. When the liver is ill, such as with some forms of hepatitis, the eyes will become a discolored yellow. So whether or not the eyes are windows to the Soul, they are definitely a window to the health of the liver. When we stare into a computer or television screen for long periods of time or spend too much time in the sun, the eyes can overheat the liver energetically. Castor oil, when applied externally, is energetically cooling and will literally pull the excess heat out of the liver and the eyes. When castor oil is taken internally it is heating, that is why taking a spoonful or two of castor oil will inspire a bodily waste evacuation.
There is an Ayurvedic oil especially designed for the nose. It is called “Nasya” oil. This oil is to be used in the morning and evening. One lays on a bed or floor with the nostrils pointing upwards. Then 5-7 drops are placed in each nostril and inhaled deeply, driving the oil back up into the nasal cavity. In addition to lubricating the nasal passageways, inhaling this oil does wonders for clearing up allergies to animal fur and various forms of pollen. It also helps to ease shoulder and neck tension and stress.

There are several types of oil specifically for the hair, scalp and detoxifying the brain. Brahmi and Bhringaraj are the most popular. Ayurveda describes the head as actually having a type of energetic vent system. These oils enter the vents and lubricate not only the hair shaft and scalp but also the brain itself. These oils can be used individually or in a formula of half and half that can be mixed and combined to get the full spectrum of oilation benefits.
Ayurveda suggests that the movement of life itself is drying to the body. Since the skin is the body’s largest organ and has the most exposure to the elements, oiling the body head to toe before showering is recommended as one of the top three daily routines for a long and healthy life. Once in the shower do not soap the oil off. Allow the water to drive the oil deeper into the skin, and then towel dry as normal. The body is designed to clean itself from the inside out. Using the typical soap and water shower protocol will dry the top layer of the skin which compromises the body’s natural cleaning from the inside out. Oiling the skin supports the body in cleansing itself from the deeper tissues outwards. The type of oil that one would use would depend on the body type of the person in question and their proclivity for imbalance. Almond oil is one of the few oils that can be used by nearly every person, although for best results, one should consult an Ayurvedic practitioner for an exact determination.

9. Getting to bed between 9 and 9:30 p.m. will provide a better quality of sleep
Our bodies go through natural cycles daily and nightly. The body is designed to begin to slow down at night in preparation for sleep. This why it is best to stop eating after 7pm, as the digestive system is slowing down as well. When going to bed with enough time to drift off to sleep before 10pm the body will be primed for the best recuperative rest. After 10pm the fire in the mind will start to rise and become more active. If you are awake and doing things, you will most likely experience that second wind and find yourself possessed by the need to just get that perennial “one more thing” done. Needless to say, as most people have already noticed from personal experience, the more active the mind, the more difficult it is to fall asleep.

10. Menstruation wisdom
This tip is just for women. Avoid a strenuous workout the first 3 to 4 days of your menstrual cycle. The menstruation process is one of the more profound ways the female body detoxifies. Working out is all about building the body up; detoxing is about supporting the body in releasing. These are widely divergent activities. When you exercise during the menstrual cycle you are telling the body to both build up and let go. Energetically this is very confusing to the body’s natural intelligence. Also avoid bodywork such as deep tissue massage or Rolfing above the waist. The energy flow of the body changes during menstruation. Bleeding, from an Eastern perspective, is a fire event, and fire naturally rises. This upwards energy flow is not ideal during the menstrual cycle so the body naturally shifts the energy to flow downwards for this localized fire event. Endometriosis, from the Eastern perspective, is caused by the fire energy flowing back upwards, instead of flowing downwards during the menstrual cycle, thus taking the endometrial tissue with it. When a woman engages in any activity that brings the body’s energy attention upwards, it is in direct conflict with the body’s natural downward shift of energy flow during menstruation. This downward energy movement is designed to help purge the toxic blood down, out and away from the body. Women prone to endometriosis need to be especially carefully in preserving this natural downward energy flow and not confuse the body by directing energy upwards. This means even avoiding the upwardly inhaling the nasal oil in addition to any energy work done around the head. Foot reflexology and bodywork downwards along the legs is fine, since it will encourage a downward movement of energy.

11. A tongue scraper is a simple and low cost health feature
At night while we sleep one of the many things the body is doing involves detoxifying. All of the body’s internal organs are connected to the tongue. This is why Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine practitioners ask to see the tongue. From examining the shape, color, pits, dents or other topical features, a good alternative health practitioner can discern a great deal of information about the overall health of the body.

In the morning after waking up the best way to start the day before eating and drinking is to use the tongue scraper. Start as far back as is comfortable and bring the tongue scraper forward. All the discolored material that is scraped off the tongue are toxins the body has taken the time during the night to bring up through the internal organs and push out through the tongue. Using a tongue scraper is also a very effective way to make changes in your diet, by seeing directly the next morning what your body is discarding on the tongue as toxic and non-useable. The tongue can be lightly scraped until the residue is no longer appearing on the scraper. Usually this is about 10 times. Then clean the tongue scraper as you would your toothbrush

12. Swishing sesame oil in the mouth for ten minutes will enhance dental hygiene
Statistically India is the country with the highest number of diagnosed cases of diabetes. Yet it has the lowest cases of dental decay. Swishing organic sesame oil in the mouth for ten minutes has been a time-honored way of improving oral health. This can be done while watching television, reading, washing dishes or any activity that does not also involve talking. This only needs to be done once a day, and is best to do before bed, as it will also help keep the mouth from drying out while sleeping. A dry mouth will encourage the growth of bacteria. The magic number is ten full minutes, and then spit the oil out. Do not swallow.

13. CCF tea is the ultimate beverage for a long and healthy life
Take equal amounts of organic cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Boil for 3-5 minutes, then strain out the seeds. According to Ayurveda this tea formula has long been valued as the best tonic for what ails you. The combination of seeds is a great digestive aid as well as internally cleansing. There is a saying in Ayurveda that nothing bad can happen to you if drink enough CCF tea. Freshly sliced ginger can also be added and boiled with the seeds to add a fire balancing digestive quality. The tea by itself is slightly bland so honey and lemon can also be added to make the taste more interesting.

Summary: When making changes in your diet and lifestyle it is also best to start out with what is easy and simple. Making changes gradually is the best way to ensure that you can incorporate beneficial habits routinely as well as keep your life balanced by not overwhelming yourself with too many changes too quickly.
Also remember that food is your first wave of medicine. When you are grocery shopping for yourself and family, if what you are throwing into your shopping cart is not useful as medicine to the body, don’t buy it.

These tips are designed to be a simple, quick and easy way to bring some profound improvements to the quality of your life with the least amount of effort. Remember, radiant health and a balanced lifestyle start and build on itself with every conscious choice you make.

Vaishali is the author of Wisdom Rising http://tinyurl.com/WisdomRising and You Are What You Love http://tinyurl.com/Your-Are-Love . She is a columnist for the Huffington Post and an international health & wellness speaker who has appeared on The Dr. Oz Radio Show and Oprah.com. Vaishali learned to transform her life from the threat of two terminal disease diagnoses, domestic abuse and financial devastation. Completely recovered, she shares her wisdom @ www.purplev.com/mediakit or email press@purplev.com To see Vaishali live in-person click here: http://conta.cc/cHzvg0


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back In White

I hope you'll pardon the immodesty, but I consider this to be tantamount to humans landing on the moon.

Why? Because for more than 20 years I wore nothing but black, head to toe. It was my magic eraser...or so I thought. It was my tool for vanishing into the void and disappearing and pretending that I wasn't who I was physically.

Remember that immortal whack job Burt (played by the late, Brilliant Richard Mulligan) from the 70's sit-com Soap? Whenever Burt had a little too much reality for one day, he'd decide to become 'invisible' by suddenly snapping his fingers and declaring, "That's it, I'm not here!"  Burt was so good at being delusional he convinced himself that simply snapping his fingers could vaporize his physicality.  I relate. It's what I believed black would do for my size, which I spent a lot of time and energy ignoring. I got so good at being dishonest with myself, I almost had me fooled about adoring the color black...until last week when, for the first time since childhood, I donned a color of an entirely different vibration.

Yes, it felt etheric. Yes, I felt like a brand new person. And yes...it was worth all the effort. ♥

Oh, and for those new to the blog, here's basically how I did it.  The short version is, I gave up the following:

 1.  Self-Loathing
 2.  Gluten
 3.  Cow Dairy

And I added:

 1.  Generous amounts of Self-Love
 2.  Liberal doses of movement (http://www.yrgfitness.com/)
 3.  A cache of supportive people in my inner circle (note:  this may cause you to do a little long overdue house-cleaning, but you're worth it, so go for it)

...For more complete details, catch up on past posts

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Getting Ready for The Ultimate Risk

The unconscious mind never fails to amaze me with the breadth of its power. Its moves are far more rapid than a ninja's and its precision infinitely sharper than any laser. And I know, even without awareness, that its powerful stealth drives me. So I’m writing this more as an open letter to that vast, unseen, and ferociously powerful part of my being that drives the bus.

Unconscious, when you read this letter, perhaps we can make a little peace. Like the truce we’ve happily settled into where food is concerned. After years of negotiating, we no longer drug ourselves with it. Because of our collaboration, I’ve drop kicked lots of emotional baggage out of my life and the ensuing 170 pounds that went with it.

But like most complex situations in life, I find myself wielding the weight of a mighty sword with two distinct edges. What do I mean? The good news: I have my life back. The bad news: I have my life back. And now that the realm of food addiction is relatively smooth sailing, I feel the next challenge approaching in the distance…and one I’ve made every effort to avoid these past two decades: men. Actually that’s not entirely true. I didn’t avoid men completely; I did time in a 20-year relationship. What I really avoided was Love. Somewhere in that vast unseen mystery that is 90 percent of my mind, I equate it with pain.

I’ve only been in Love once in my life. There were lots of mini-infatuations along the way…and then, one deep and dizzying, hurling-through-a-distant-galaxy kind of Love where ticking watches and calendar time cease to exist.

Years before he and I met, a tea leaf reader predicted our liaison and its potentcy, reciting his first initial, describing his physical appearance, and announcing the time of year we would meet. She even saw that he’d be wearing a flowing wool muffler around his neck…all this from a clump of wet tea leaves. But sure enough, it came to pass one bitter cold night on a college campus in February.

I don’t have time or energy for the full script, but it was exhilarating, intense, and consumed every part of me. We both dove in full throttle. And I would have done pretty much anything he asked of me, including move to his country, learn his language, and adopt his religion. Only he never asked. Our liaison was also short, less than a year. And he ended it suddenly, with no real explanation. A few months later he transferred to a school on the west coast. To say I was devastated doesn’t come close.

Truly, I put all my eggs in a single basket with him…and he dropped it. And you can imagine what happened with the eggs. A real, ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put me back together again’ scenario. So I died. Went about killing the sexy identity I crafted via Weight Watchers and daily aerobics. I also offed the ivy-league student on the rise, and the traveling adventurer. I ate whatever I wanted with enough frequency that the weight came back and I didn’t have to feel a damn thing. I dropped out of the shiny, prestigious school, and moved back to the town where I grew up and never left.

Since I didn’t like being hurt, the unconscious swung dutifully into action. Did I mention that it operates in the most literal of senses? For example, Attractive=Incoming Men= Pain. The new operating instructions from below deck came loud and clear: Comforting Food=Numbed Feelings+Walls of Fat to Keep Men Away=Safety.

22 years after losing at Love, I rose out of the ashes in a way I never thought I would. There was the repetition of the glorious transformation of another triple-digit weight drop and all the ooohs and aaahs that come with it. No false modesty here, I Love being complimented. But it’s in perspective now and definitely not my daily bread. There were the joys of a shrinking waistline and burgeoning wardrobe…in a rainbow of colors I hadn’t worn since childhood. And eventually, men started looking again. That alone took some adjusting to. I knew I'd better get OK with it or risk another downslide.  And since I really do like dressing in color, I've decided downsliding is not an option this time.

I realize there may come a time when a guy decides to do more than look. Everyone’s asking me if the D-word has started and if not when??? The truth is I don’t know when…I’ve got mixed feelings because I’ve never been adept at it, never did it in high school. It’s always struck me as a forced and painfully hollow ritual. I suppose I’ll know when something feels right. I’m in no hurry. I’ve learned from watching others try and skip the post-break-up grieving process by frantically seeking out a warm body and making huge messes in the interim. Then again, I didn’t work this hard to end up living a monastic existence either. The funny thing is, I’m learning that I don’t need the weight to keep men away. Perhaps the unconscious still senses danger and is emitting a silent but shrill ‘Get the F*ck Away From Me’ vibe I’m not even aware of….sneaky little unconscious….let’s agree to work on that, OK?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spontaneous Moments of Joy

...they come to me more frequently now than ever.  And here's who and what I have to thank for it:  Dallas Page and YRG (http://www.yrgfitness.com/), my role model Terri Lange, eliminating gluten and cow dairy, eating mindfully, feeling the feelings, long-distance walking, pumping iron a few times a week, and a good old-fashioned lightening bolt of Divine Intervention that got the ball rolling in the first place back in January 2009.

Today as I drove to belly dance class in my new and very compact car that I couldn’t have wedged myself into two years ago, I was struck by how amazing I felt. In a span of seconds came the awareness of the fortitude of my skeletal system, the fact that my abdomen is actually concave now, and of course…the elevated energy levels that come from physical activity and clean eating.

The fruits of my labor are my new normal now, but at 3:05 p.m. today I was really thunderstruck at how good balance feels. There is nothing that’s better than having the body, mind, and spirit aligned and humming.

It’s astounding what a generous a payback the YRG lifestyle yields. People who know my story (which includes regaining 100 pounds twice in my life) know I have a strict rule against being strict. My experience is that it’s a set up for a prison break, and prison breaks for me mean dividing my time between the potato chip aisle of the supermarket or the KFC drive thru.

I can’t say enough about the benefits of eliminating the poisons of gluten and cow dairy. In a month I’ll be 46…and I look and feel exponentially better than I did at age 20 or 18 or 16. I even look better than the two occasions in my 20’s when I lost 100 pounds. Must have had something to do with the fact that they were nothing more than white-knuckle episodes of excruciating and prolonged dieting. I was miserable and it showed, and not surprisingly, the unnatural state could not be sustained. I couldn’t wait for the arrival of the inevitable moment: a precision-executed swan dive off the wagon that would have made an Olympic diving coach proud.

And about that non-strictness policy…two nights ago I thoroughly enjoyed a fried chicken dinner (on the side was kale instead of butter-infused mashed potatoes and biscuits), the week before that when I was really feeling ready to enjoy it (this was not a moment of feeling-avoidance) I ate a g-free cupcake that was crowned with a thick, gorgeous butter cream frosting. The process of ingesting that cupcake was slow, deliberate, and liberating. These were things I used to binge eat in shame when I was ‘bad,’ or would declare banished forever when I was ‘good.’ And while I’ve made the choice to largely eliminate cow dairy, I start my day the way I have for the past 15 years: with a steaming double espresso splashed with light cream and a little honey. As I realized early on this time around: it’s not about eliminating pleasure, but managing my misuse of it.

I still get lots of pleasure from food. More, actually, than all my years of binge eating, because I’m actually paying attention when I eat now. Last night, I was up well past midnight making a triple-batch of gluten-free zucchini bread. It’s glorious. People who’ve tried it have no clue it’s gluten-free and absolutely swoon over it. I promise to post the recipe soon.

Tomorrow I’m heading due west to a family reunion near Buffalo. It’s a long drive, but I’m packing the bread for the legions of curious relatives who’ve been asking me via e-mail how I manage to survive not eating wheat.

It’s a small offering and only a tiny part of the puzzle, but I’m hoping that a moist slice of perfectly sweetened, homemade bread and the visual of my completely transformed body and spirit may be enough to convince them that change can and does happen – with minimal suffering.


August 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Making It Stick

Question I just received from a fellow-Truth-Seeker:  how easy is it for me to eat gluten- and dairy-free?  Answer:  it gets easier with time.

There was no shortcut for me...I simply did it through good old-fashioned reinforcement through repetition until it became a way of life.  Didn’t make all changes up front because it would have been too overwhelming.  Introduced new foods and let go of destructive ones gradually in order of importance. First to go were my primary binge foods, then I pared back from there.  There was a time when I considered cream cheese to be a food group unto itself. I subsisted on it...and basically wore the consequences.  I still adore cheese, but nowadays,  you can find me sinking my teeth into a pale yellow wedge of Manchester (www.considerbardwellfarm.com/cheese.html ) or a snowy white wheel of White Lily (www.sweetspringfarm.com/ourproducts.html).

I feel so amazing now that I'm gluten and dairy free I'm rarely tempted to re-enter those realms again. There are so many satisfying and viable alternatives for cheese, bread, cake, and flatbread that don't involve gluten or cow-dairy that I tell you truthfully there's no suffering involved.  Yeah, there are little things that could be quibbled over, like the texture of most g-free bread is a little different, but I'm down 163 pounds.  Call me annoyingly optimistic, but I deem that a fair trade.

I do eat cheese very occasionally. The trick I've learned is to make sure it's gorgeous and artistic and worth the deviation AND that I really want it, and I'm not using it to fill a hole or alleviate stress.

And then...I proceed to enjoy it without an ounce of recrimination.

Here's to eating with Joy & Awareness!


Jeffery Bowers, master cheese-maker at Sweet Spring Farm in Cossayuna, N.Y. putting the final touches on a new batch of White Lily, an outrageously good soft-ripened goat cheese.

Forensic evidence that cream cheese was never meant to be a primary protein source 

Clean eating:  The benefits are undeniable 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

An Early (Raspberry) Season

Since Raspberry season has come early this year, I’m wasting no time. Picked three pounds on Sunday at Gardenworks Farm in Salem, N.Y. (http://www.gardenworksfarm.com/)  . That’s only the beginning…anyone familiar with my love of raspberries knows I’m only in the embryonic stages of full seasonal exploitation.

Upon arrival home from Gardenworks, I let out an audible cry of despair after realizing the freezer was completely overloaded (mostly with g-free products I buy on sale and stash). Once raspberries are picked, it’s a pretty quick countdown to spoilage, so I got to work. My cousin, Alice, who picked with me, made jam.  Since I've never ventured into jam-making territory, I chose to play to my strengths.

The following is one of my favorite dessert recipes that I’ve adapted to suit my personal taste (as in, using less sugar that is called for; I find most baking recipes are too heavy-handed with it). No matter who tries this chocolate wonder-dessert, they invariably end up clamoring for more…and for the recipe. And they’re usually moaning too loudly to hear me mention that it’s a dessert that falls in line with my gluten-free way of eating. I discovered this symphonic overture for Flourless Chocolate Cake on one of my favorite recipe sites of all time: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/ . Karina Allrich truly is a Goddess and has made me one ecstatic gluten-free gastronome.

Here’s the link to Karina’s recipe…try it, by all means:
© Gluten-Free Goddess

For my version of her recipe, I substituted baking (bitter) chocolate for regular dark (Belgian) chocolate. Bitter chocolate + light and dark sugar = ecstasy! So herewith is Stacey's Version of Karina's Recipe For:

Flourless Chocolate Cake Crowned with Local Raspberries

16 ounces baking (bitter) chocolate (two eight-ounce boxes)

1 cup organic brown sugar (light or dark)

½ cup organic sugar

1 cup hot espresso or very strong coffee

2 sticks room-temperature unsalted butter

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

8 large organic free-range eggs at room temperature, blended until smooth with a hand beater or immersion blender

1 tablespoon vanilla (bourbon vanilla if you have it)

Preheat oven to 350

I’ve mixed the ingredients two ways: Karina’s food processor method and stovetop method below:

In a large saucepan, melt butter and chocolate together over medium heat, whisking occasionally. When chocolate is mostly dissolved into the butter, gradually whisk in sugars, alternating with hot coffee. Turn heat off and keep whisking. At this point, the chocolate batter may get alarmingly dense and thick, don't panic! Just keep whisking as best you can. (The addition of the eggs will make everything OK) When mixture is completely smooth, add eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Spray a spring form (cheesecake) pan with olive oil cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the pan with foil to safeguard any leaks. Pour chocolate cake mixture into pan. Optional: place cake pan in a square baking dish filled with a few inches of water. Bake for 30-50 minutes. I’ve found the cake is done after about 30 minutes, baked on the bottom rack. Check after 30 minutes to assess if you need more time. Cake should be firm in the center and be slightly pulling away from the edges of the pan. Don’t over bake or the cake will be dry and chalky. A few cracks on the surface are OK. Baking in a water bath will help keep it moister.
Cool covered for 30 to 60 minutes before refrigerating. May be served chilled or at room temperature. Top with fresh raspberries. The tartness of the berries is a nice contrast to the dense sweetness of the cake. Bon Appetit!

Fruits of my labor

My friend Mary, who's not g-free, but ADORES this cake!

The next raspberry recipe is much easier – no baking required. Just a blender:

Raspberry Smoothie

12 ounces almond milk

1 cup raspberries

1-2 scoops protein powder (my favorite: Jay Robb’s Vanilla Egg White Protein Powder http://www.jayrobb.com/cat_proteinEggVan_12.asp)

2 tsp. Agave syrup (raspberries can be a little tart)

1 tsp. vanilla

Blend and enjoy thoroughly.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The French Fry Alternative

My salt tooth, though legendary, has been tamed in recent months.  I still get the occasional craving for glistening, hot French fries showered in salt and if I'm at an exceptionally good restaurant, like Balthazar, I'll dig in. http://www.balthazarny.com/menus/brunch.pdf .

Sometimes when a salt craving hits, I'll channel it into something relatively tame like rice crackers with olive tapenade (recipe to be posted at a later date), or those amazing Rice Works creations. Made of brown rice, the Sea Salt is the closest thing I've ever gotten to Fritos while maintaining my equilibrium and the Sweet Chili are a dead ringer for Doritos http://www.riceworkssnacks.com/flavors_USA.html .

During squash blossom season, however, I shelve the above options, unearth my large cast iron skillet and have a ball.  There's nothing quite like a fried squash blossom.  It's flavor is delicate but distinctive. The nutritional content remains a mystery to me but I'm guessing their orange color has to mean there's some significant beta carotene involved...and maybe a little fiber. I've never had the patience to stuff them so I simply dunk the squash blossoms in gluten-free batter and lay each one down in a sizzling bath of hot grapeseed oil (best for frying because of its high smoking point).  In no time they're crisp and ready to eat...but not before the requisite shower of salt.  Hey, I have a salt tooth....what did you expect?

Fried Squash Blossoms

12 squash blossoms
Grapeseed or light olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 cup gluten-free flour (rice, tapioca, chick pea, etc.)
1/2 tsp. garlic or onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 can seltzer

Heat oil on medium heat in skillet. In medium mixing bowl blend dry ingredients well. Add seltzer a little at a time, whisking thoroughly with wire whisk until flour turns to a pancake batter-like consistency...perhaps a little thinner. (Squash blossoms are very delicate and won't tolerate a heavy batter).  Dip blossoms in batter one at a time and coat thoroughly before placing in pan (oil should be heated enough that they sizzle when placed in the pan). Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until crisp. Set cooked blossoms aside on a plate or keep warm in a toaster oven until ready to serve.

Bon Appetit!

I think I channeled Scavullo on this shoot.  They were so gorgeoous I couldn't stop clicking.
And does it need to be said?  They're WAY better than French fries ♥