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!

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!

Romanian Sweet & Sour Soup

Aaaaand…we’re back to another soup recipe! But hey, it’s still winter, and I feel like I’d be letting you down if I didn’t supply you with plenty of warm, one-bowl-meal options. This recipe is from my third cookbook,  “A Bowl of Comfort: Soups, Dips, Sides, and Desserts – 44 Clean Reinventions.”  Since there’s nothing I like more than food served in a bowl, why not make an homage to it with a cache of clean recipes?

This soup recipe was given to me when I was a reporter for a daily newspaper in upstate New York back in the ’90s. As a food writer, it was my job to showcase our seemingly homogeneous community’s ethnic diversity through recipes from around the world. Viorica ‘Lily’ Dinu was a woman of remarkable character and one of the best cooks I’ve ever encountered. She baked like a trained pastry chef, churning out delectable cakes and mousses on instinct, no recipe required. And she also made unforgettable soups. One night a few weeks ago, while rifling through my recipe clippings, I came across Lily’s Romanian meatball soup recipe. Alas, all I had available was leftover ground beef. So I improvised, and the result was STILL delicious. As always, I subbed chevre for the sour cream called for. It works like a charm.

No-Carb Herbed Biscuits

I feel like I’ve been overloading you soup recipes lately. And while winter’s THE perfect time for a little comfort-in-a-bowl mania, there are other things we can be enjoying. In fact, there are other things that are actually perfect accompaniments to soup!

When I discovered these amazing biscuits via an Instagram account I follow, my knee-jerk skepticism whispered to me that keto (no simple carbs, no grains) biscuits that tasted good couldn’t possible exist in nature. WRONG! Thanks to the genius of Carrie Brown and her magnificent blog, “Life In The Sane Lane,” I have found biscuit and butter Nirvana.

There is much about the keto movement and way of life that I adore, specifically, low-carb & high-fat eating, which is just something that aligns with my personal tastes and preferences. I always encourage my readers and clients to take a food or nutritional philosophy which appeals to them and sculpt it to meet individual needs. In my case, I’m on permanent hiatus from cow dairy. And I’m not big on eating bacon on a semi-regular basis and definitely not a fan of cooking in its grease! No judgements here…to each their own. Where I’m headed with this soliloquy is, I’ve taken principals from the Keto and Paleo schools of thought and tailored it to a more DDPYOGA-friendly lifestyle.

Recipes calling for cheese get Manchego and Chevre, depending on the texture I’m going for. Sour cream gets 86’d for the vegan variety or chevre (soft goat cheese) and it works beautifully for me. Dairy from goat and sheep has a different enzyme combination from cow dairy and is much easier for me to digest. I don’t make cheese a primary protein source, but it makes one heck of a delicious accent in cooking, and these biscuits are a perfect example!

I’ve substituted my kind of cheese for the original cow dairy called for. And I’ve made these with chives, fresh oregano, even sage, and it all works beautifully. You can even skip the herbs entirely if you prefer.

This recipe takes some prep work but I think you’ll find it enjoyable, knowing in the back of your mind that the reward is a piping hot biscuit (preferably slathered in some good grass-fed butter).

These biscuits keep well in the refrigerator for up to 10 days and freeze wonderfully. Bon Appetit!

The raw material…

We are here to SHINE!

When I left binge-eating and the 345 pounds that went with it behind, so many people in my life were happy for me. Some were elated. Like me, they never thought they’d see the day that I was able to divest myself of the albatross of addiction, excess weight, and all that goes with it, including low self-esteem. While it’s a normal reaction for those close to me to be thrilled for my new life, I sensed unease in others.

Sad but true, some close friends and a few sundry acquaintances weren’t as over the moon as I about my new look and new life. It became a comfortable role for some, the ‘fat best friend’ with no romantic life to speak of…who’d go along for the ride and listen to all the scintillating details of her friends’ romantic adventures. So when the tables turned, guess what? So did heads…towards me. I went from being invisible to being noticed, in a way I never had before.  It was a strange feeling to me…and apparently to others.

This is the paradox of transformation. Even when it’s for the better, it is unsettling. For all parties. It’s a change. In my case, the change was tantamount to a death. The person I was in 2009 and prior no longer exists. She’s gone. And there’s consequence to that. Those that miss her have distanced themselves from the modern version of me.  I can’t say this didn’t leave me smarting and confused. But I was clear on one thing. No one, through manipulation, withdrawing their love, or via veiled digs will ever EVER budge me from where I am now: A Woman who is fully OK with her strengths, gifts, and beauty and am grateful to let them shine.

Who remembers the iconic scene in “The Sound of Music” when the wily baroness deftly slips Maria a crippling Mickey in the form of shaming her for catching Captain Von Trapp’s eye? Both actresses are outstanding and play out the psychological dynamics of their characters flawlessly. If there’s a baroness in your life…have a chat with her, or fire her as a friend. Go ahead, you’ll be fine. Just don’t let her or anyone put you in a corner. It’s about shining brightly, my friends.

Pssst…it’s what we’re here for! Pass it on….