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New Breakfast Recipe: Short and Unsweetened

My relationship with carbs has been quite the patchwork of mood swings over the past decade. In January, it will be 10 years that i stepped out in faith and followed the cues Life was suddenly giving me to make slow and steady changes toward better health.

Step 1: shelve the binge-eating and processed foods. This is a huge step in and of itself but I felt ready. And I also knew, after a lifetime of dieting and being hard on myself what NOT to do. So in the beginning this was my only rule. I didn’t place restrictions on quantity or calorie-counting, or writing my food down the day before – all of which drove me nuts.

Step 2: Going gluten-and dairy-free. This was at the advice of my mentor, Diamond Dallas Page, creator of DDPYOGA, the physical part of the equation that helped me regain my strength and physical grace (it was there all along…it only needed to be uncovered).  The second step was a big one and it was taken at about month 3 of my journey. Very important detail because when I take on too many changes too soon, it backfires. I wasn’t in a race and I didn’t want overwhelm, only permanent change I could LIVE with.

Step 3: Becoming acquainted with the gluten-free and cow-dairy-free lifestyle. This was actually fun, because I had some pretty delicious times with cupcakes, cookies, baguettes, bagels…..you get the picture. But I was younger and my metabolism could take it. I didn’t over eat them though, even though I easily COULD. Being mindful of quantity and when I’ve had enough was a skill that developed over time, and the one underlying rule I still live by is no binge-eating. And when I want to eat more than my body needs I simply take it as a sign the waters are troubled and it’s time to do within.

Step 4: Keeping the weight off. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade thanks to following the formula laid out in Step 3. Which isn’t to say I’m a robot or fitness model whose weight never fluctuates. It has and it does. Which brings me to….

Step 5: Menopause. And all its attendant symptoms, including (cue the music from the shower scene in “Psycho”) WEIGHT GAIN! Yes it has happened, 30 pounds have come back, uninvited. The pasta dinners I could burn off with a longer work or harder workout don’t get incinerated like they once did. Because of this, carbs became the enemy – banished until further notice! But this wasn’t livable. I wasn’t happy and neither was my body. Which brings me to…

Step 6: Renegotiating with carbs. Let’s face it, I love ’em. They’re creamy, comforting, and nourishing…if you choose a healthy one. After listening to my body carefully and talking it over (dialoging with your body as you would a close friend is something I do and recommend to my clients, it’s a great way to glean information, as well as repair the damage from all the years I berated it), I decided adding healthy carbs back in the equation was in order. I welcomed brown basmati rice, quinoa, potatoes (red and purple in particular) to the stove with open arms. Even if some of the menopause weight is here to stay, so what? I should deprive myself of healthy food? I don’t think so.  I don’t eat carbs daily, but several times a week for sure. And here’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy a bowl of comforting carbs – hot cereal. Sure, there are plenty of gluten-free hot cereals out there, try ’em all if you like!  But as you know, I love not only cooking, but alchemizing food with my Vitamix. There’s a little labor involved with this one, but remember, labor in the kitchen usually translates into something that’s less processed and better for you in the long run. Make a big batch and have it for the week, or freeze part of it. Cream of Brown Rice Cereal is a blank canvas so jazz it up with shredded coconut, hemp hearts, dried fruit, pumpkin pie spice…whatever!  The point is to enjoy both the process and the eating. Yes, we are allowed to ENJOY our food – what a concept!



 

 

Cream of Brown Rice Cereal

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked brown rice (I love brown basmati rice)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)

1 teaspoon vanilla

dash of cinnamon (optional)

Sweetener of choice (I eat it unsweetened, but if you want to add maple syrup or honey, go for it)

Instructions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Scrape into a small ceramic baking dish with a lid and bake for about 20 minutes at 300. May also be cooked on the stovetop but it has to be stirred frequently or it’ll burn. Serve and enjoy. You are FUELED for the morning.

 

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

 

 

Don’t eliminate, UPGRADE. White Quinoa is a beautiful and delicious thing….And can be alchemized into hot cereal.



Ode to Spring: Vegan Lemon Cheesecake

I wait all year for spring: the time of physical and spiritual renewal when the earth reawakens and bursts into life-affirming Technicolor activity, holidays commemorate freedom and resurrection, and the cooking turns gleefully celebratory.

As soon as the last lilac has ceased blooming and its mystical fragrance is no more, I begin pining for the spring equinox once again. 

 

Which is hardly to say I don’t enjoy the rest of the year, but you get the picture. There’s no place like spring.

 

Bill and I celebrate both Passover and Easter, and in mapping out the week’s details of Matzo Ball Soup on Friday and Eggs Benedict with Homemade Corned Beef Hash on Sunday, we noticed a gap in the dessert section of the holiday menu. Since we’d both been craving cheesecake it was decided. I’d do a rite-of-spring riff on the dairy-free cheesecakes I’ve been making for the past 9 years since distancing myself from cow dairy and dropping 180 pounds in the process.

 

Viva La Dairy-free Difference!

 

What’s more fresh on the palate than a citrusy current of fresh lemon…especially when conducted via a slice of creamy cheesecake? You see where I’m going with this, and I hope you give this dairy-free version a try. Bill’s not on the dairy-free bandwagon and he pounded the counter with approval this morning after his first bite. Yes, we had cheesecake for breakfast…but the fact is, this is so full of nutrition vs. the empty calories of traditional cheesecake, it’s a Divine way to begin the day! Oh, and double-bonus…it’s a no-bake recipe…kinda (see directions).

Here’s to Freedom from Bondage from the foods that your body doesn’t deserve. Happy Easter, Blessed Pesach.

 



 

 



The Joy of Blueberry Picking

 

 

Anyone who has ever done it knows that picking blueberries in a sunny field on a beautiful mid-summer’s afternoon is good for the soul. But since those days only occur during a short window at a very specific time of the year, it’s best to embrace the opportunity with both arms and squeeze hard, so to speak. There’s something infinitely satisfying about A) being immersed in nature; B) harvesting your own food; and C) embarking on an activity that’s so absorbing, your focus on it becomes a meditation. I’m not the most disciplined meditator, as much as a fan as I am of its benefits. Sitting still for 20 minutes is a chore for me, but picking blueberries is NOT.

This may seem like torture to some of you, as yet another Nor’Easter bears down on some of the country. Spring isn’t exactly rolling out the welcome mat for us at this point, so summer seems especially distant. Think of this post as more of a ‘something to look forward to’ seed to be planted now and enjoyed later.

 

A bucket full of Joy!

Picking blueberries has become a cherished summer ritual, not the least of which has to do with the beautiful health benefits they possess. I love eating fresh blueberries on their own, in smoothies, coconut yogurt, and in baking.  When fresh blueberries are no where to be found, I rely on frozen!  They don’t have the plumpness and physical beauty of their fresh counterparts, but they are perfect in smoothies and baking. Case in point: muffins! One of my all-time favorite indulgences.

One of the easiest ways to whip a batch up is with a gluten-free box mix. Simply dump in desired amount of berries to the mix and you have a masterpiece on your hands.  Or, if you’re looking for a from-scratch recipe, here’s my favorite Paleo version:

 

 

One of my favorite indulgences…that’s loaded with antioxidants!

 

 

 

 

Paleo Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups almond flour (or flour of choice)

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup coconut palm sugar

4 eggs, room temperature

¼ cup coconut oil, melted or softened to room temperature

1 cup coconut milk (full-fat from the can)

1 tablespoon vanilla

2-3 cups fresh or frozen berries (thawed if using frozen)

 

Batter up!

 

 

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375. Place all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and sift-blend with wire whisk. In a food processor, add eggs, vanilla and coconut milk. Pulse mixture until smooth. Pour liquid from food processor into the mixing bowl. Add coconut oil and blend thoroughly with wire whisk or wooden spoon. Add blueberries and mix thoroughly. It’s OK if some burst and ‘bleed.’ Spray two muffin tins (12 each) with non-stick cooking spray, or use paper muffin cups in the tins. Pour batter into each cup, filling about 3/4 full.  Bake for 25-30 minutes on the oven’s center rack. Turn oven off and let sit for 10 minutes in cooling oven. Remove from oven and serve while still warm. Muffins may be refrigerated for up to a week, and they also freeze well.

 

 

Worth every bit of effort…

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh or frozen, blueberries make a beautiful breakfast parfait. See “Clean Comfort” for the recipe.

 

Kale-Potato Soup

Oh, my…Old Man Winter is certainly digging his heels firmly into the frozen and snow-covered earth this month and doesn’t want to be evicted by the Spring faeries. Much as I’d love for the faeries to take over instantaneously, the reality is, in much of the country, the weather will be ranging from chilly to frigid. And what better way to counteract that than with a steaming, colorful bowl of homemade soup.

As a fan of Paleo cooking, I’m quite enamored with potatoes of every variety. They’re grounding, nourishing, and just plain comforting and good-tasting. As a fan of maintaining my 180-pound weight loss and my overall good health, I choose to be careful and particular how I prepare potatoes. Their danger-factor can increase significantly if fried or bathed in butter. This soup is a way to enjoy their velvety goodness with minimal processing or pesky excess of fat.

Kale for me has been another matter. I don’t love it as ardently as I do the potato, but I find ways to consume it that are enjoyable. Soups are one of my favorite ways because the simmering and blitzing in the Vitamix transmutes their tangly, rough texture into something user-friendly. The result is a smooth, fabulous, and nutritious salad in a bowl – Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, washed and de-stemmed

2 pounds potatoes, washed and cut in chunks (I like Yukon gold, but use whatever variety you prefer)

1 head celery, washed and cut into 3-4 inch sticks

4 quarts chicken stock

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 head garlic * peeled

3 large Vidalia onions, sliced into thick rings

For an extra kick, reserve 3-4 cloves from the head of garlic and use it raw.

Light olive oil or grapeseed oil for baking

 

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350

Heat stock in a large stockpot on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and add potatoes, kale, and celery. Turn heat down to medium, cover, and let simmer until potatoes are fork-tender (at least 20 minutes).

While soup is simmering, pour enough oil on a shallow baking sheet (with sides) to generously cover the bottom of the pan. Place onion rings and garlic cloves in the pan, distribute evenly, and bake for 20-30 minutes, until they just begin to brown.

When potatoes are done, remove from heat and let sit covered until the onions and garlic are done. Scrape onions, garlic, and remaining oil in the baking pan into the stockpot. Add raw garlic cloves (if you desire), fennel, coriander, and cumin to the pot. Stir with a large wooden spoon to blend all ingredients.

Blend soup in batches in a Vitamix or blender. Return to the stove and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly warm. Serve immediately. Makes a great appetizer or light dinner. Soup also freezes well.

 



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



This one is for Great Lakes Collagen: