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Butternut Squash Soup

Few vegetables are as comforting and nutritious as butternut squash. It has a slightly more mellow taste than pumpkin, but just as much beta carotene and fiber. And they’re a little easier to bake – bonus!



Did you know in the Yogic tradition, the physical body is referred to as the food body? The ancient sage, Patanjali, considered the body to be the sheath or layer of life made of food that serves as our most intimate instrument for experiencing the physical world. Which begs the question: is that good or not-so-good news for you? A decade ago that would have been a sobering thought indeed because I existed pretty much on simple carbs and fat. That KFC I was so fond of? Skin only, thanks. And drive-thru meals were SuperSized, or there was gonna be trouble.

No surprise then, that negotiating the world around me was a laborious process. The foods I lived on yielded little vitality in return. Sure, they kept me and my restless, unhappy mind sated and ‘happy,’ but it satisfaction was fleeting and I always needed more. And there was never enough. In my cookbook/memoir “Clean Comfort,” I detail how I turned the ship around. Hint: it was not through dieting, but by paying attention to both body and soul. They’re intertwined and one’s not getting healthy without the other. And when I was able to release my grip on binge foods and other oral security blankets, the process of including healthier foods was a natural and unforced process. Food for both Thought and Body…

The latest vegetable-based soup in my repertoire is a perfect example of a dish that imparts both flavor and energy. Since I’m always looking for ways to make my vegetable intake smooth and creamy, I came up with this amazingly good, vitamin-rich soup. The batch below is sizeable, but don’t worry, it freezes beautifully so you’ll have a nice supply of healthy fast food on hand.

 

A worthy addition to the Food Body





Eggplant Meatballs

Among the highlights of the annual Wine and Dine for the Arts Festival in Albany, N.Y.,  was the grand tasting on Friday January 12. Just about every chef brought their A-Game and served some pretty amazing food. Some of the stand-outs were Provence’s feather-light truffled liver pate mousse, courtesy of chef Rachel Bozzella; Chef Ric Orlando of New World Bistro offered his addictive sticky and sweet short ribs; and the best arancini I’ve ever had was served by Nick Yusavage at the Pasta Pane booth. But the dish I most ardently wished to recreate at home was the intriguing Eggplant Meatballs, dreamed up by Jen Hewes, executive chef at The Point. These meatless meatballs were moist, aromatic, and oh-so-substantial.

The fact that I’m not the biggest fan of vegetables but adore eggplant sealed the deal…and besides, I could always use a few plant-based tricks up my sleeve. So, I gathered the courage to ask Chef Jen if she’d share her recipe and she complied, very willingly. Eggplant Meatballs is a recipe so delicious that it wouldn’t be right not to share it, so below is the magic formula.

Chef Jen was inspired to create meatless meatballs because she wanted a vegetarian appetizer on The Point’s menu that was enticing enough to be share-able. Trust me, these are. And since I’ve been eating gluten-free and cow-dairy-free for nine years, I’ve provided two versions. The recipe is a bit time-consuming, but don’t let that deter you. Eggplant Meatballs are a great reason to while away an afternoon at the stove on a cold winter day.      

 

Photo credit: Emily Culver, General Manager of The Point in Albany, N.Y.

             

Eggplant Meatballs

 – Chef Jen Hewes, The Point Restaurant, Albany, N.Y. 

 

4 large eggplants, peeled and diced

3 ounces fresh garlic, minced

1 cup light olive oil or grapeseed oil

4 ounces chopped fresh oregano

4 ounces fresh basil

2 ounces fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

4 eggs, well-beaten

3 cups Panko bread crumbs

2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

2 cups flour

 



Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350

In a large mixing bowl, combine the following: diced eggplant, salt and pepper, garlic and half-cup oil. Toss until eggplant is evenly coated with oil. Place on baking trays and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let it cool until almost room temperature and puree in batches in a food processor. In a large mixing bowl, combine pureed eggplant, eggs, oregano, basil, grated cheese, crushed red pepper, remaining oil, and the seasoned bread crumbs. Form into a large ball, then shape mixture into two-ounce balls. In a separate bowl, combine Panko, flour, and parsley. Roll the ‘meatballs’ individually in the flour mixture and refrigerate for 20 minutes. In a large frying pan or wok, heat remaining oil until shimmering. Fry until evenly cooked and golden on all sides. Place on paper towels to drain and keep warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.

 

 

The Gluten-Free & Cow-Dairy-Free Version of Eggplant Meatballs

Ingredients:

4 large eggplant, peeled and diced

3 ounces fresh garlic, minced

1 cup light olive oil or grapeseed oil, divided in half

4 ounces chopped fresh oregano

4 ounces fresh basil

2 ounces fresh parsley chopped

2 cups Peccorino Romano cheese, finely grated

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

4 eggs, well beaten

3 cups gluten-free Panko bread crumbs (or matzo meal)

2 cups seasoned gluten-free bread crumbs

2 cups of all-purpose gluten-free flour

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350

In a large mixing bowl, combine the following: diced eggplant, salt and pepper, garlic and half-cup oil. Toss until eggplant is evenly coated with oil. Place on baking trays and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let it cool until almost room temperature and puree in batches in a food processor. In a large mixing bowl, combine pureed eggplant, eggs, oregano, basil, grated cheese, crushed red pepper, remaining oil, and the seasoned bread crumbs. Form into a large ball, then shape mixture into two-ounce balls. In a separate bowl, combine Panko, flour, and parsley. Roll the ‘meatballs’ individually in the flour mixture and refrigerate for 20 minutes. In a large frying pan or wok, heat remaining oil until shimmering. Fry until evenly cooked and golden on all sides. Place on paper towels to drain and keep warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.

 

 

 

Thank You Disillusionment

Picture it …the 1985 and highly impressionable version of me in my sweetly naive ‘I’ve got life by the tail’ repose. Vital stats at the time: 100-lb. weightloss, check! Golden tan, check! Approval from the world, check! Self-esteem…M.I.A.

Fixing the external only is meaningless. Internally, I was unsatisfied, adrift, confused, and in utter shock that dropping the weight didn’t magically bestow happiness upon me as had been the implication. Backsliding, bewilderment, regaining the weight plus more, feeling like a royal screw-up, and diving back into destructive eating patterns were inevitable. How else could have I found the real way to health and balance? 

Unbeknownst to me, that fateful August afternoon, there were many lessons to be lived. As I let the cascade of compliments from everyone around me bounce off my inner-turmoil, I knew I had only just begun to tap into the Truth.

 

 

 

Appearances can be deceiving…

So You Think Lasting Weight-Loss Is All About Food?

“Is there anything you think would put you in danger of re-gaining the weight?” my good friend Doug asked me one afternoon back in 2011. For much of our lives we both fought the war with the scale, and he knew my history of being a chronic regainer. The answer I gave Doug was instantaneous. “Yes,” I said, leaning forward across the table at lunch that day. “Men.”

Seven years ago I was fresh off my most recent victory with said scale: 180 pounds lighter and enjoying an understandably new way of existing. Having learned much from all of my past weight loss ‘failures,’ I knew in precise terms what did not work for me, so there would be no more buying into quick-fix seductions from the diet industry. This time, I conquered obesity and binge-eating through a mosaic of solutions: self-help books, therapy, 12-step meetings, meditation classes, even a soul-searching stint in a food rehab. And when the wounds were properly salved, I was ready to take on the physical leg of my journey, finding a form of movement I clicked with (DDPYOGA) and taking the advice of a reputable nutritionist.

There’s no magical, easy life once the weight is gone, however. I still had to live with myself…and my hang-ups and fears. 25 years ago a painful break-up sent me reeling. Determined to never be hurt again, I dove head-first into regaining lost weight and hiding from the issues of intimacy. I hid with copious amounts of food and by half-heartedly agreeing to a new relationship where I knew I wouldn’t be fulfilled or happy, but hey, it was about hiding from the truth, so I was all-in. My body and soul paid the price. It was only after I was aroused from this self-inflicted coma 20 years later that I took a step back and admitted how profoundly unhappy I was. What, did you think lasting weight loss was all about calories in/calories out? If only it were that cut and dry.

But don’t be discouraged. Please don’t be discouraged. All it takes is a little bravery. Once you wade into the waters of honesty you’ll discover it’s not only not excruciating, it’s freeing. After a year or so of taking time to reconnect with myself again, it seemed like the right time to think about dating. I assumed that with the weight off, a roster of dashing men would somehow find me and commence courting. They didn’t. Friends suggested online dating. I said no way, it was for losers who couldn’t meet people on their own. Another year went by and I wasn’t meeting people on my own. Humbled, I joined a dating site, knowing it would be more than a viable way to meet a guy – would provide a golden ticket to face my fears and slay them once and for all.

Did I experience rejection? Of COURSE! Were some of my hopes dashed? Yup. Was there a healthy percentage of players? Affirmative. But a wise friend imparted some powerful wisdom to me at the beginning of my online search that stuck: something along the lines of ‘no one can make you unhappy but you.’ Sure, people can disappoint me, but it was incumbent on me to mind my side of the street, properly interpret the red flags, and not get carried away in my head. And believe me, I was getting fed up with some of the shenanigans from some of my suitors. Perhaps it was time for a break…I was approaching the six-month mark, and my patience was set to expire with my membership.

But, at the 11th hour, I grudgingly agreed to go one one more coffee date before checking out. January 11 is the day the walls came down, not because I was invested in a fantasy, but all the years of trial and error, learning and discerning, and rising again after each dust-up had taught me well. I sensed goodness in the man who sat across from me that morning of January 11, 2012, and as it always is, my gut was correct.

So, cheers to not only 6 years, but to surmounting obstacles and smashing down walls that keep us hidden. Risks are soul-enhancing, and disappointment is survivable. This I know for sure.

 

Proving everyday that food and intimacy are compatible….

 

 

 

Carb Cravings & Winter Go Together Like…

…well, I can think of a number of enticing combinations that I won’t tempt you by naming. So let’s just say the two seem to be made for one another. And with good reason: the colder, darker days set up the psychological desire for comfort. Add the double-whammy of those of us in colder climates being biologically programmed to eat more to literally have some added protection from the frigid temperatures and you have a recipe for fantasizing about breads, rice, biscuits, and pastas of every stripe.  And that’s exactly why I decided it was crucial for me to have a cache of healthy carb options stashed for the coming months. Complete elimination always backfires on me. And despite what some nutritional and weightloss schools of thought may have to say on the matter of carbs, I’ve found it best to have them in moderation…and make ’em healthy.

 

Don’t eliminate, UPGRADE. White Quinoa is a beautiful and delicious thing….

 

 

For the healthy carb round-up task, I sought the help of nutritionist and functional medicine expert Nancy Guberti, who makes a living advising people on the effects (good and bad) that food can have upon our bodies. Nancy works with clients around the globe, thanks to Skype. But if you want a crack at her expertise, there’s no better time than January to go for it. That’s when her annual online seminar, the Look and Feel Great Method begins.  You can also catch her January 3 at 9 p.m. EST on DDPRadio when she’s the special guest. In the meantime, enjoy her advice on healthy carbs and how to get the most out of them this winter:

 

Nancy Guberti

“There are plenty of ways to handle carb cravings,” explained Guberti. “The key is to make them healthy and know what each one does for your body. Here are my top favorites:

1. Baked organic apples with cinnamon or nutmeg –  Apples are healthy for you! They are high-fiber, anti-inflammatory, and offer phytonutrients in the apple pulp and skin. Research links consumption of apples with reduced risk of certain cancers, obesity, cardiovascular disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease and even diabetes.

2. Sliced sweet or purple potatoes or carrots – bake them on cookie sheet with a bit of light olive oil or grapeseed oil until slightly crisp. Sweet potatoes are excellent source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. They also contain potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus – pretty amazing!

3. Butternut squash soup – Scrape the baked squash into a blender or food processor, and toss in some cauliflower of peas or spinach…it’s creamy and dreamy all in one. Butternut squash contains fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice and anti-inflammatory . It provides significant amounts of potassium, and vitamin B6, which is essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems.

4. Baked zucchini slices with Organics minced onion on them to ‘bread’ them – The minced onion makes a crunchy coating when baked, so it’s a treat that tastes great and is nutritious at the same time. Zucchini is also anti-inflammatory, high in Vitamin C, Potassium, antioxidants, B Vitamins and helps digestion, heart health, maintains eye health and helps control diabetes. Did you know that 1 tablespoon of onion powder contains about 1 gram of dietary fiber and offers manganese, calcium and Vitamin C?

5. I love a medley of organic brown rice, carrots, broccoli florets and cauliflower sautéed in Braggs Coconut amnios (this tastes like soy sauce without the wheat or soy). Organic brown rice is anti-inflammatory, high in magnesium, and anti-inflammatory. Aside from being soy free and gluten free, coconut aminos is low glycemic index and packed with minerals, vitamin C, and B Vitamins. It’s high in amino acid, containing 17 different types.

6. Quinoa – It is versatile, filling, easy to cook, and loaded with nutrition. It’s one of the most protein-rich superfoods with an abundance of fiber (great for weight loss, digestion and regularity), it contains iron, lysine, magnesium, riboflavin/B2, and manganese.”

 

Thank you Nancy, and I couldn’t agree MORE about quinoa in particular!  Which brings me to one of my favorite recipes for it…hot cereal. To the naked eye, the top photo is an ordinary pot of white quinoa. Don’t be fooled. It’s much more than that. This pot of magic, ancient grain is soon to be alchemized into clean food favorites such as cream of quinoa hot cereal, quinoa pancakes, and quinoa tabouli. All are are heart healthy, Paleo, and delicious. And they don’t wreak havoc on my blood sugar and set off the domino-effect of inflammation, weight-gain (usually) and bloating (always) that ensues when I eat white carbs, even the gluten-free variety.

Check out Clean Comfort for Chocolate Quinoa Cake and Quinoa Tabouli recipes; and A Bowl of Comfort for my Quinoa Matzo Ball Soup recipe.

 

 

Not your Bubbe’s matzo ball…but give it a whirl!

 

 

 

Cream of Quinoa Cereal (Stacey’s riff on Cream of Wheat)

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked quinoa, warmed

1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk, warmed

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon coconut oil

sweetener of choice (I use a few drops of stevia)

Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a Vitamix or food processor and blitz until smooth. If cereal is too thick for your liking, add more milk. Serve immediately.

 

Sooo good for you in the morning…or whenever the urge to be comforted by carbs strikes.

This one is for Great Lakes Collagen: