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 )