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Paleo Lemon Custard

Like me, this Paleo, kind-of-keto dessert doesn’t fit into a category. It’s gluten-free and cow-dairy-free to be sure, but I’m not sure it’s entirely Keto or Paleo because of the sugar it contains, minimal as it is. Sometimes a sweetness compromise is necessary because I’m not a major fan of Stevia, though I’ve tried and TRIED to like it. This refreshing dessert has a richness-from-within quality. It’s warm, comforting, and contains a generous amount of fat. You really don’t need to top it with anything, though Chef Bill admits to spritzing it with a bit of canned whipped cream. And the dessert can easily be made kosher for Passover by using margarine or coconut oil instead of the butter.

 

The deliciously tart foundation…

 

The Wild Ride of Life Continues

What a wild ride it’s been. As these photos illustrate, I like food. Who doesn’t? Did I like it more than the average kid? Who knows. It could have been a molotov cocktail of genetics and being born at a time when the fast food age was dawning. Unearthing the origins aren’t as important as what happened: hardcore dieting by age 10. Followed by an infinity wheel of hell that spun me into vertigo. For the next 35 years it would be either deprivation and gluttony. Nothing in the middle.

From Day 1…

And there was nothing out there powerful enough to make it stop.

You’d think the pain of being bullied at school would have been enough. Or having to sneak into the boy’s department of Sears to buy my clothes. Or gaining back 100 pounds after uncountable consecutive Weight Watcher meetings. Or stepping on the scale and buckling with shock as I look down and see the red arrow point to 305.

You would think one of these would sufficiently entice reformation.

But the truth is, there’s not enough motivation in the world, negative or positive, to change the behavioral blueprint of someone who targets food with the determination of a missile seeking the nearest heated object.

What do we do with that primal desire implanted in all of us to seek pleasure and avoid pain? Mother Nature’s most foolproof survival skill has become an Achilles heel in the age of instant gratification, whether it’s credit cards, cocaine, or crème de menthe brownies.

This newspaper reporter NAILED it!

 

For most of my life I’ve been dancing with desire. On the surface, it appeared to be a desire for food, but food is only the mask my desire wears on the occasion that it wants the things I never new I was truly longing for: Love, a sense of belonging, self-acceptance, and balance. The core of my story is how seeking a high from food has run me ragged, or rather, how my desire to feel better than I did an hour ago, or 10 minutes ago runs me ragged, how I struggled with the cycle for decades, and lived with monumental weight gain, residual bigotry, and self-hatred, until I finally found a way out.

What sets my story apart from other Cinderella weight-loss transformations is mine occurred from the inside out. Though it runs counter to the logic of the (inherently corrupt) diet industry, showering myself with acceptance, empathy, and patience proved to be the Holy Grail of lasting peace and meaningful change.

That’s the Truth. And that’s what I’m committed to exploring. Wanna come?

 

 

 

Still LOVE food…only now with more awareness

 

…and balance

Lasagna Bianca

Like many of you, I adore a good plate of lasagna. It’s a beautifully textured comfort food and just plain tastes good. Unlike many of you, the thrill of a steaming tray of lasagna being pulled from the oven is NOT a childhood memory for me. Growing up on Betty Crocker casserole recipes in a waspy household, I did not discover the joys of this layered pasta dish until well into my 20’s. Once I had my first forkful, however, there was no turning back.

The way it ooozed creamy ricotta was positively hedonistic! And then there was that melted layer of mozzarella that lay over the top like a lead canopy, rivulets of melted fat drizzling over the pungent marinara sauce that enveloped it all. And holding the fortress together was PASTA in long starchy ribbons that buttressed every layer of meat or cheese, as the case may be. Since it was labor-intensive, some of my favorites were the frozen varieties during my eating days. And since there was never enough of a cheese canopy for my liking, I always made sure to have an auxiliary bag of shredded mozz at the ready.

Ahhh the days of numbing my feelings with food. How I don’t miss them. Yeah the stuff tasted good. But it kept me in an existential coma: one that included rock-bottom energy levels and moods that vacillated between momentary highs from the food and a baseline miserable irritability that everyone around me had to live with.

Those days are gone, and so is my affiliation with traditional lasagna. I’ve cleaned up both my coping mechanisms and list of ingredients considerably. Including the employment of eggplant slices instead of gluten-free pasta.  Be my guest if you prefer the pasta but I conserve carbs wherever and whenever I can.

Like the original version, this lasagna is labor-intensive, but oh-so-worth-it! As Chef Bill and I crafted this one evening, it just seemed to lend itself to creamy white Bianca, which, in Italian cuisine parlance, simply means omitting the marinara and letting the cheese shine on its own. There are three kinds here: Chevre (soft goat) in place of ricotta; shredded Manchego (filling in for the mozzarella); and Peccorino (a dead-ringer for Parmesan).

 

 

 

This particular version is for 1 or 2, and fits nicely in a bread loaf pan. After you do a test run and it turns out the whole family likes it, by all means, double it and expand it out to its rightful home – a great big lasagna tray, as my friend who was raised in Little Italy used to say.

Buon Appetito!

 

Creamy bechamel, before baking…



Black Bean and Beef Chili

Black Bean and Beef Chili

 

Gone are the days when I’d airdrop white appendages of sour cream onto a bowl of chili. And if it wasn’t sour cream, I’d rain down full fists of shredded cheese, enough to create an inch-deep puddle of orange melted cheddar. I’m not arguing with the flavor factor of adding such dairy accessories chili, I just didn’t feel particularly vital afterwards and anyone who knows my life story knows…eating this way (and it was a way of life) got me to 345 pounds.

Wake-up calls like being on one’s way to 400 pounds tend to shake things up a little. I knew change was in order and on the horizon. I knew I would never go on another diet again. And I knew it was crucial to both enact some boundaries while retaining a baseline minimal sense of freedom. Feeling confined and punished doesn’t bode well for one’s dignity. So instead, I began examining food choices. This was done through research, common sense, listening to my body, and reaching out to others who experienced long-term success in transforming their habits and keeping weight off.

If you think’s it’s an absolute kill-joy move to eat chili without sour cream or melted cheese, you’re entitled to that. But don’t say it with conviction until you’ve tried a cleaner rendition. Sure I’d love to slather my chili with sour cream, but I’d like to maintain my weight and keep my energy levels high. I love that I feel satisfied and not sluggish after a bowl of this. And I’m no avoider of fat. To the contrary! I just make sure it’s good fat that aides in keeping my body humming. One of my favorite additions, besides a squirt of Siracha, is a colorful collage of avocado slices on top. So much more photogenic and graceful than dairy…and so yummy!

 

Color AND Flavor!

Color AND Flavor!

 

Ingredients:

 

3 cans of black beans, liquid drained OR:

1 bag of black beans, soaked, cooked, and softened but still al dente

2 pounds grass-fed ground beef

2 jars of pearl onions, juice included

6 large carrots, peeled, cut in chunks, and blitzed in a food processor

3 32-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes

1½ cups beef stock

3 tablespoons cumin

3 tablespoons chili powder (NOT cayenne)

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon Frank’s hot sauce

 

Instructions:

Cook beef in a large skillet. Drain fat and set aside. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, heat the crushed tomatoes and beef stock. When that is just bubbly and simmering, add the cooked beef and all other ingredients. If desired, thicken with a bit of tomato paste. If you prefer a thinner chili, add more beef stock. Let all ingredients simmer together uncovered on low heat for approximately one hour. Stir occasionally.

 

Crisp and flavorful pearl onions make all the difference. No dairy needed when you've got enticing veggies...

Crisp and flavorful pearl onions make all the difference. No dairy needed when you’ve got enticing veggies…

 

 

 

Lentil Vegetable Soup

Lentil Vegetable Soup

While it’s still winter, let me share with you one of the easiest and most delicious ways I can think of to eat copious amounts of vegetables – enjoyably! The key is transformation of texture, and it’s done via a Vitamix or good blender. As some of you know, I’m not an ardent veggie-lover by nature. I can get a few salads down when the weather’s warm and I’m in the mood, but in general, the taste and texture of vegetables is a turn off. There, I said it.

However, when slow-simmered vegetables such as carrots, onions, and celery are blitzed into a broth, the result is a rich and colorful base for soup. And one that is chemical-free and loaded with nutrients. If that’s not a win-win, I dunno what is!

C’mon, would you really want to eat a bowl of this?

Hold tight…the mess is about to get velvety!