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A Sweet Epiphany

I think Life was trying to tell me something when I had an epiphany about sugar-free maple syrup last week and then had a serendipitous encounter with one of the best maple syrup facilities in the state. The epiphany: I don’t enjoy eating sugar-free maple syrup and no longer want to do it. And I definitely find the list of ingredients unappealing.

 

Natural, Delicious, Golden-Glory

 

For years, I’ve been ignoring the voice that’s been seeking my attention, the one that lets me know she’s unhappy and wants things to be different. I know the syrup debate seems small on the surface, but it’s a microcosm of the macro:  denying myself pleasure. It’s the chess game I play daily, corralling the binge-eater inside me who doesn’t want any rules, making her sit at the table with the more rational side of me while we negotiate a plan that doesn’t feel like a diet, includes good-tasting foods, covers some nutritional bases, while also ensuring I don’t eat past the point of fullness into a food-coma (America’s No. 1 form of escapism).  Sometimes without knowing it, I can veer too far in one direction and dismiss the ‘I’m unhappy’ signals as the binge-eater wanting to be indulged. I gave it much thought with the maple syrup and realized this is not the case. I simply enjoy the aroma, flavor, and texture of real maple syrup and detest that of sugar-free. It’s my truth. And furthermore…I tend to embrace that which comes from the #earth as a beneficial friend to the body, not a foe. So I decided it was time. Time to let the real back into my life.

 

The flavor and enjoyment are incomparable.

 

This doesn’t align with many of the low-sugar philosophies out there and by no means am I getting back on the white stuff. But when I want a pancake, or a waffle, or some sweetness in my oatmeal, this is what I’m using. And when I’m baking or making homemade chocolate, I’ll be using raw honey. Both have nutritional properties. Both taste delicious. And I’m choosing to take back some pleasure and enjoy it. In moderation. Just wanted to share that. It’s my truth and I hope it helps. There’s no greater gift than being true to yourself. It’s the ultimate #kindness. Meeting adjourned.

 

 

 

The happiness that comes from allowing without judgement.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower Power! Let’s hear it for this amazing, unassuming, cruciferous vegetable that’s no longer just for steaming and stir-frying. It roasts beautifully, is brilliant in mimicking cream soups and mashed potatoes, and its latest incarnation is in the form of a low-carb, high-fiber pizza crust.

Cauliflower is the star, which means no gluten-hangover!

 

When I first heard of this trend I was skeptical. How could it possibly possess the crispness of a pizza crust, let alone taste good? The secret lies in the addition of generous amounts of shredded cheese, which, when heated properly, melds the minced cauliflower into an aromatic, delicious, and crispy crust.
Forgive me for being a wet blanket, but even when using a cauliflower crust, the pizza won’t be necessarily low-calorie. The crust is already chock full of cheese and most people count it as one of their favorite toppings. Back in my eating days, my regular phone calls to Dominos always included an ‘extra cheese’ admonition, in addition to the other salty goods such as sausage, pepperoni, olives, and meatballs.
The beauty of this cleaner, more nutritionally dense pizza crust is, you can make it as low-key or decadent an affair as you’d like. I’m a huge fan of Mediterranean vegetables so I tend to load mine with olives, olive tapenade (recipe in my first cookbook Clean Comfort), roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and lots of fresh oregano.  If you’re feeling carnivorous or vegetarian, adjust your topping list accordingly.

The balanced adult has traded olive tapenade for the binge-eater’s fluorescent-orange pepperoni discs

Like a lot of cleaned up versions of classic comfort foods, there’s some effort involved with this. Effort that I’ll gladly expend because of how much better (and infinitely more energetic) I feel after eating this. Ah, the days of lying half-awake on the couch in front of the TV after devouring an entire takeout pizza…how I don’t miss them.
Give me the sweet taste of freedom…ANYDAY!

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.

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).