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Paleo Plum Cake

Thanks to being 50-something and being gifted by Mother Nature with a brand new metabolism, I decided a few months ago to give the desserts a rest. Even the clean ones. Yikes! It wasn’t easy, nor was it was not intended to be a permanent break (the never-again rule always backfires, remember?). Last week, after bringing home a delightful bounty of local plums from the farmers market, I found myself wondering how they might taste baked. The pondering coincided with yet another clean-out of the old magazine stack. I had more than a year’s worth of a particular food magazine from the year 2013. I had to admit, I’d never made good on my promise to eventually read them all. But before shipping them off to my library for resale, I quickly leafed through them all. And hence my discovery of the intriguing and delicious Plum Cake.

I wasn’t surprised when I learned Szilvas Pite traces its roots to Hungary. Eastern Europeans have long appropriated fruit (especially cling-fruit) for their baking recipes and the results are invariably delicious. Back in my eating days, I’ve loved my share of peach dumplings and prune danishes, and ditto for berry danishes and tarts of every stripe and dimension. But I’d never before heard of a plum cake and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make it over into a paleo version and end the self-imposed dessert exile in my kitchen.

 

 

Bubbly fruit is FRAGRANT fruit!

 

If you live in the Hudson Valley region of New York state, make a beeline to Don Baker Farm in Hudson where the most arrestingly good plums, apples, pears, and peaches are grown. Plums tend to have two ripening states: rock hard and about-to-be mush. Once they pass the latter stage it’s all over so don’t hesitate to a) have a raw plum feast or b) get a few ingredients together and start baking!

Below is the Hungarian recipe which I made Paleo and low-sugar. It’s simple, delicious, and gloriously nutritious. Yes, Virginia, this one does good things for you body, and I promise the family will love it too. If they think it’s too dull on its own, a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is a lovely finishing touch. In my case, I made it coconut whipped cream. Two pieces were my brunch yesterday. It was a just-sweet-enough dessert reunion…and when it was over, I was ready to take on the day.

 



Practicing What I Preach

Ladies & Gentleman, I have an announcement to make: menopause is LOSING! It took 3 months of unmitigated grit, and now the tunic I purchased as incentive and could barely get over my head in April FITS! 

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 This unavoidable passage has been a humbling Life Lesson in so many ways, not the least of which has been hand-delivering the need for me to check my pride and ego at the door.

Just when I thought I’d be coasting at my goal range, menopause and all its attendant symptoms barged into my life like a noisy, unwelcome freight train…carrying an extra-wide caboose in tow. I laughed at the first few pounds: “Ha-ha-ha, I can just metabolize it away with more cardio!” Thousands of steps later and not an iota of change, I became alarmed. So I swung into action. My friends who had already completed the fire-walk warned me about the girdle of fat around the middle that is impervious to exercise and calorie-cutting. I thought they were being drama queens – it made no biological sense. But let me tell you. Menopause is one tough opponent.

And after a series of doubling down, getting discouraged and giving up, then doubling down and getting discouraged again, I realized it’s best to not treat this unavoidable process like an enemy. There’s some anthropological reason that it occurs, I can’t stop it, but I can manage it as best I can. And I had to reach into my tool box and really work at practicing what I’m preaching. I began to focus more on loving my body and listening to it than making it work overtime. I increased the positive self-talk and Gratitude aimed at my beautiful body for all it does for me. And I consulted with a professional. It has taken well over a year to get a handle on this situation and I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of functional medicine specialist & nutritionist Nancy Guberti.

Releasing the menopause weight also required me saying Hasta La Vista to white carbs, reassessing portions, eliminating food at least 2 hours before bedtime, regular DDPYOGA workouts, 3-5 mile walks and a bit of weight-lifting for the calorie-burning muscle to remain intact. For the first time since the train roared in, I feel encouraged & hopeful. It is work to be sure. And menopause is also a mild challenge compared to the burdens others are dealing with. I completely understand that. I also effuse gratitude that my weight loss transformation occurred well before my 50’s. Can you imagine what I’d look and feel like with my former habits going at full speed? I shudder to think.

So after I write this, I’ll finish my lemon water, lace up my walking shoes and get to work. The rest of the day will be spent getting work done, listening to my body, learning to live with less food, staying hydrated, and yes…having some fun. An essential element to transformation and recovery.  I’m staying strong, hanging in, and going the distance!

 

From discouragement to triumph!

Watermelon & Feta Salad

Sweet and sour. Sweet and sour. Or sweet and salty. It’s one of my favorite flavor symphonies, evoking two polarities that complement one another in spite of opposite qualities.

 

And because of this, it’s one of those wild occasions where I suspend my ‘fruit in the morning on its own” rule and dive into this beautiful composition of a summer salad!

 

With the profusion of mint in our yard, a recent visit to Costco where a motherlode of sheep’s milk feta was acquired, and a perfectly ripe watermelon, I’d be foolish not to let these three beautiful ingredients intermingle.

 

If you don’t have a yard full of mint, it’s easily acquired at farmers markets and even supermarkets this time of year. And if you haven’t already, invest in a mezzaluna knife, the wood-handled curved knife that is THE best and easiest way to chop herbs by hand. Mezzalunas slice herbs into neat little strips, cutting each leaf open to allow flavor to exude without crushing it. Learned it on Nigella Lawson’s cooking show years ago and it changed the way I use herbs. My mezzaluna was bought in Little Italy years ago, but they can be found at specialty shops and online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Maple Coconut Ice Cream Cake

Is your freezer a source of comfort or temptation? One of the biggest set ups for me is having things in the house, on the property which tempt and trigger me. Even as I got my emotional demons under control, I had to admit that keeping ice cream and potato chips on premises is NOT a good idea. So I plan. And bake. And concoct things that taste good and are good for me; not merely taste good.  I make a batch of this, cut it in squares, and keep it in the freezer for when a craving strikes.

This ice cream cake is absolutely delicious and full of healthy ingredients and free of refined sugar!  It’s a bit of a labor-intensive undertaking but I promise it’s worth the effort. You will be dazzled!  And you’ll feel nourished after eating this…You can’t get that feeling from the supermarket freezer case. And just in time for the Fourth of July! Happy Independence Day everyone.

 

 

Step away from the ice cream aisle!



Working Harder…Outshining the Detractors

Picture it: New York City, March of 2000. There I am in the Hearst Building, otherwise known as the beehive of American magazine publishing. Clutching my reporter’s notebook and a brand-new pen, I stride into the marbled lobby, all 330 pounds of me. I’m coiffed, immaculately accessorized, city-chic in all-black, and I’m heading into the offices of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Not the offices of Cosmo, but you get the picture…

 

 

That’s right. Cosmo. The home of wispy-thin cover models and pages of sage monthly sex tips on ‘how to make your hot sex life even hotter!’ Deep stuff sells. And Cosmo is certainly proof of that. For anyone who doesn’t know, Cosmopolitan is all about women aspiring to be FAB-U-LUUUS. And that starts with looking flawless.

 

Did I mention that my destination on the 37th floor was the inner lair of this shrine to female perfection? Yes, I was about 200 pounds over the acceptable weight limit by Cosmo-standards, but the other truth at play in this scenario is, after a lifetime of berating myself, I’d decided I’d had enough. So why not embrace the polaric opposite of wispy-thin and not simply accept myself, but CELEBRATE who I am in all it’s glory? I’m bigger than most women, so what? Is that a reason to cower in shame? For years I believed it was. Then one day I realized how ridiculous that was. I put the car of my mind chatter in reverse and did a 180. That sort of “Chappy Chutzpah” is how I got the gig to interview the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Which is why on that magical day 17 years ago, I was being escorted by a polite assistant to Kate White’s corner office for what turned out to be a voluptuous and very interesting interview…for both parties.

 

There’s something about being looked at as handicapped or less-than that makes one want, or perhaps need to try harder, do better, achieve greater heights. I knew full well that I was judged by my appearance. Lazy, less-than-competent, dull-minded were some of the misconceptions people put on me because of my largeness. So, (and this turned out to be a gift) I had to work a little harder than the average reporter. I did whatever it took to prove that a fat woman can be searingly insightful. Also intelligent. Also hard working. And quick on her feet.

 

“Stacey, I want to tell you something,” Kate White said when our 3 hours was up and she walked me back to the elevator. “This is the best interview I’ve ever had. You asked great questions….better than The Today Show, which I was just on.” I stood there stunned, elated, and grateful. Ms. White was not only a gracious interview subject, she freely gave praise and credit when it was due. I thanked her profusely and as she waved goodbye, she made a promise to send off a note of praise to my boss. Which she did. But he ended up hiding it from me. And that’s another show, Oprah, but my ensuing verbal scuffle with the boss was just another glowingly-won battle in the war I waged to repair my self-esteem and stick up for myself in a world that said I wasn’t worth a heck of a lot.

 

I share all this with you to make a point: The diet industry misses the mark in ways that are too numerous to enumerate. But one of them is this: manipulating calories and losing weight won’t cause a life-changing breakthrough for most people. For emotional eaters and escape artists like myself, focusing on getting the weight off is putting the cart before the horse. It was a far more urgent matter for me to address the non-existent self-esteem and start buttressing it from the subterranean on up. And that place happened to be at a weight that exceeded most NFL linebackers. So what? I didn’t murder anyone, or steal money, or hurt someone’s children. In my estimation, those are the three valid reasons for bearing shame. Weight just isn’t in that category and it never should have been to begin with.

 

On the way to the theater in Williamstown, Mass. Always accessorized. Always.

 

Many of you who have read my cookbook-memoir “Clean Comfort” know the denouement of my life story. I continue on as a 300-pound woman for nearly 20 years. One snowy day in January 2009, life gives me a series of wake-up calls. I’m ready to listen. And back up that listening with taking sane and measured action on the wake-up calls. In the process, I give 180 pounds the pink slip.

 

I didn’t just wake up one day and decided this should happen. It took years of steady work, healing my wounds, and honoring myself in a world that said I had no right to be honored. These are the brass tacks of transformation. They have nothing to do with sweating at a gym or adhering to a particular food plan. Those are simply ancillary mechanics that aid with the calories in-calories out equation.

 

Solid change from within is what it takes for an emotional eater to spring herself from the hamster wheel. And that requires all those wonderful intangibles most weight loss gurus don’t go near because, well, it simply isn’t profitable for them. But that’s the good news-bad news moral of the story. The answers are within you. And only you can decide that the time has finally come to believe in yourself.

 

Oh yes, and PS, it’s going to feel really weird at first. Please don’t let that deter you.