Friday, January 30, 2015

A Fake-fredo Recipe You'll Love (Thank you, Kate)

When I start something new, I go whole hog. I'm not the type to dip my toe in the water, I jump, then see how the water feels. It would make sense then, that the same holds for my new view of nutrition.

After my last blog post, I received a very cool healthy recipe for an Alfredo sauce from my foodie friend, Kate McArdle. Kate and I both have an intense love of cheese (and, bacon), so when she offered this fake-fredo sauce recipe, I knew it had to be worth trying. 

Kate introduced the recipe to me like this, "I've made this so many times.  Apparently the tiny bit of water (8 cups) you use to boil the pasta makes the water extra starchy and when you mix the cheese into the hot, starchy pasta water, it makes a really creamy sauce without all the butter and cream.  I've used Parmesan cheese more often then not (because I ALWAYS have some) and it tastes like Alfredo sauce without the insane dairy fat overload... It is SO simple - I think you will really like it! I've also thrown steamed broccoli into it - amazing.  Give it a try!" 

If that doesn't sell it, what could?

The recipe that Kate sent me, Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper (Cacio e Pepe), was one that she found in the cookbook, The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011. It seemed great as is, but I didn't have the 2T heavy cream that the recipe called for (just not in my fridge, crazy right?) so I replaced it with 1T Philadelphia cream cheese, and 1T Organic Greek yogurt. It works. I bet cottage cheese would be a great replacement, too - it's saltier.  I was running low on Pecorino Romano, so I blended it with the Grated Parmesan I had in the fridge. I also chose to pair my Alfredo sauce with brown rice pasta, but you can use any type of pasta you'd like.

I added spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and red pepper flakes to mine, after I plated it. I highly recommend trying these additions. The flavors just pop, and it adds a little more nutrition to this already awesome meal.

Here's Kate's recipe with my modifications. I call it Fake-fredo Sauce.  If you make it without the veggie additions, this is what it looks like:

A fabulously, fine Fake-fredo sauce.
My uber-cool son likes the pasta. He's just too chill to show it.

DG's Fake-fredo Sauce
326 calories for the entire sauce recipe 

Modified version of the recipe Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2011
  • 4 oz Pecorino Romano, fresh grated fine, plus extra for serving
  • 1 lb your choice of pasta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon organic Greek yogurt (plain)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive-oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper 

Add the grated cheese to a medium heatproof bowl. Set a colander over a large heatproof bowl. Set both aside.

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the spaghetti and the salt, and cook, stirring frequently, according to package directions until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta into the colander (still set over the large bowl – you want to capture and pasta cooking water because you’ll be reserving some). Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water to a measuring cup (put a bit more aside, in case you need to thin sauce; discard the rest). Put the pasta in the now empty bowl.

A little at a time, whisk 1 cup of the pasta cooking water into the grated cheese. Once it’s completely incorporated, add the cream cheese and yogurt, olive oil and pepper. Whisk until combined (I used a fork) – the sauce should be mostly smooth. If the sauce seems too thick, add more water; too thin, add more grated cheese. 

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, a little at a time, tossing to coat. Once you’ve added all of the sauce, let the pasta rest for about 1 minute, tossing it frequently. Serve garnished with extra grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

You can also add steamed spinach, broccoli, fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes. It's all a matter of taste.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fantastic Mashed Cauli

On the path to wellness, I've learned that certain foods just don't agree with me. White bread. I eat it and feel like I've gained 40 lbs. Other foods agree with me, but aren't necessarily healthy. Garlic mashed potatoes, for example. Butter, cream cheese, more butter, and a pound of potatoes. So when my beautiful friend Amie shared a recipe for garlic mashed (wait for it) cauliflower *gasp*, I thought I'd give it a try. I mean, how bad could it be?

Those that know me well will attest to the fact that veggies are my thing. I'll eat spinach, kale, asparagus, peppers, pretty much anything other than mushrooms, before I will reach for a piece of fruit. I love cauliflower, but mashed? Hmmmm...

I decided to make it for dinner tonight, along with grilled chicken and asparagus. Let me tell you, this was ridiculously easy to make, has little in it (other than cauliflower -- points for healthy veggies), and tastes ah-maaaaazing. Truthfully. My fiancé, Dave, is a big fan of classic garlic mashed potatoes, and even he loved it.

The original recipe, Garlic Mashed Cauliflower, is from Since I don't have a food processor (mine broke) which was called for, I hand-mashed the cauliflower, then put it in a blender. After it broke down to the consistency I wanted, I scooped most of the cauliflower out, and then put the garlic and oil in to blend it into the cauliflower.

I also chose, in advance, to swap out cream cheese and replaced it with low fat sour cream, which made the consistency more watery, like grits, not thick mashed potatoes -- take note -- but has less fat and sodium. I also added a little applewood smoked salt to mine. Dave added horseradish to his, a teaspoon worth for a 1/2 cup of mashed, and he said it was an excellent addition. I think next time, I will do it without the grated cheese, add a little more sour cream (or perhaps 1/2 tsp of cream cheese, in addition to the sour cream, to thicken it up), and mix in some fresh cilantro.

I invite you to try it out, modify if you'd like, and let me know what you think.

Garlic Mashed What?!

1 head organic cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black
1/2 teaspoon applewood smoked salt (optional)
1 tablespoon reduced-fat sour cream

Put cauliflower in a pot with water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

While it's cooking, put extra virgin olive oil and smashed garlic clove in a pan and cook until softened.

Drain cauliflower, put it in a bowl, and hand mash it. If you have a food processor, put the cauliflower in, half at a time, and blend until you reach the desired consistency. Put a small amount into the blender, along with the garlic and olive oil until fully incorporated. Add back to cauliflower bowl.

Add grated cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix well. Serves 4.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Finding My Way Home (My Body, My Temple)

I can tell you the exact moment that my health status changed. I made one bad decision, just one, yet that event sparked a string of health events that led me to where I am now. Stay with me.

Everything you do, trust me, everything, has an impact on your health. Life's chain of events line up and create a path, and while you can look back and see where it started, you can't always go back and fix it.

In 2005, I dated someone unhealthy. It was just a few months long relationship, but it's negative effects changed seemingly everything in my body. I began, at age 36 (just one year later), the early stages of menopause. I had no idea. I had just become a certified personal trainer, and was working out daily. I noticed small changes with my cycle, but didn't think much of it. I was taking spin classes, lifting weights, eating clean. I felt great, and in a good pair of jeans, I was a size 4. I was the mother of a pre-schooler, and newly (well, 2 years) divorced. When my son went to school, I went to the gym. When he went to his dad's, I went to the gym. I was committed, and thin/strong, but didn't see it. My self-esteem was in the toilet.

And then I met a new man.

He seemed nice enough and, after having been single for close to a year, I thought he would be a fun date. Without getting into the endless details of the relationship (that's not what this post is about), I found myself in a relationship that was unsatisfying, unfulfilling, and emotionally toxic. But wanting to be anything-but-single, I stayed, fell in love with his kids, ex-wife, and family, and tried to make the best of it. As time passed, it became more and more degrading, and while from the outside things looked successful, I was filled with loathing. I was constantly being marginalized, put down, disrespected. I swallowed it all, thinking perhaps he was right about me. I began drinking daily, two or three beers, or a vodka on the rocks. I stopped going to the gym.

I was a few years in, and menopause was in full swing. The process made me nearly anemic, so working out was tough. I started to fall into a state of melancholy. I'd eat burgers and fries while sitting at the local pub, and throw back a few Stellas. This took a toll on my health.

In 2010, I had a bout of vertigo and tinnitus that has caused me substantial hearing loss in my right ear. While docs were trying to figure out how to get rid of what they think may have been an ear infection, I was put on steroids which didn't fix the ear, but did a bang up job of destroying my immune system, gained me 10 lbs., and brought on a case of shingles that wrapped from the back of my head to my right ear.

My body was screaming for peace. I knew I needed to make a change, but felt too beaten down to do anything. It took me a year; a year of hot flashes and waking up feeling intense dread day after day (thinking I was crazy, although now realizing I wasn't), to get my act together and make a change. I woke up from my dark haze, broke up with the jackass, and started to get my act together.

These things take time, you know. The effects of negativity, I assure you, wreak havoc on your body. I gained 35 lbs. and was not exercising for years. Frankly, I was too embarrassed to do anything. After some single time, meeting someone new (he's wonderful), blood pressure that was over 120/70 (for the first time ever) along with high cholesterol and triglycerides (for the first time ever), I knew change was imperative. But it took another six months for me to get serious.

During that time, my best friend (who had lost 60 lbs by eating healthy and exercising), convinced me to do yoga with her. She asked me, truth be told, to join her, for a year, until I finally agreed. It was a start. But the food, oh, the food. I just couldn't figure it out. I know better, I was trained to know better, but somehow, I couldn't do it alone.

I was told to try Isagenix (starve, drink shakes, and lose weight quick), do a green tea detox, or just eat no bread. But fad diets aren't my thing, so I did nothing. Food, my friends, plays a huge part in every aspect of health.

While I'd like to say that my a ha moment was a number on the scale or a bad photo (or series of photos) of myself, it wasn't. It was when a nutritionist came into my house and told me that I had control. She sat with me and talked to me about what I was eating, showed me a serving size, and spoke to me about what I had been doing. She told me that I was able to take my body back. Daily, she sent me reminders and motivational messages to stay on track. I write "sent", but should have written "sends" because I have just begun on this journey.

My confidence, along with my very supportive fiancé, has gotten me back to the gym. The first day back, it clicked. It felt good. Though I felt like the girl who didn't belong at the gym, instead of the old me who knew where every weight was racked, I kept going. And in the first two weeks, I saw and felt a notable difference.

Since then, and it's only been 23 days, I've been keeping busy. I've begun trying new workouts -- Buti Yoga, Inform Fitness -- and have revisited some favorites -- classic strength training, hatha yoga, and treadmill incline walks. It feels good to be back in my body again.

While I can't undo (at least not that I am yet aware of) the physical changes like the hearing loss and the menopause (it's over!), I can reclaim my body. And that is a really good feeling.

If you take anything away from this post, let it be this. Everything effects your health. Leave toxic relationships. Stay away from fad diets (they don't work). Take pride in yourself. And always, always, keep searching for methods that support your body and your spirit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

KITCHEN TEST (TRY MY VERSION): Perez Hilton's Vegan, Gluten-Free Oat-Banana-Applesauce Squares

Tiffany's Healthy Squares. Make them tonight!

I'm always up for a new healthy dessert recipe. I like eating whole foods and, when it's time for dessert, I prefer to go to a local bakery or to bake my own. I don't like preservatives, added corn syrup, food coloring; many of the the things that go into packaged desserts.

I saw this recipe floating around facebook (an eggless, flourless, vegan, no added sugar recipe). It immediately interested me, but I wanted to make a couple of changes. I have a sensitivity to almonds, so I used cashew milk instead of almond (I am sure that you could use soy or rice milk, if you have a nut-free diet). I love raisins, but not in baked goods, so I omitted the raisins, and when I saw it looking so bland, I threw in 1 T chocolate chips (these are, however, not vegan but you can get vegan carob chips and use those). 

The original recipe, by Perez Hilton.

This recipe is, in a word, fantastic. The squares are sweet, but not too sweet, and have a nice gooey texture to them. I put the recipe into the app MyFitnessPal and divided it by 9, finding that the recipe has only 153 healthy calories a square. My 14 year old son even enjoyed it. I've shared my version of the recipe with you, below. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Here's everything you'll need.

Tiffany's (Take on Perez Hilton's) Healthy Squares
3 mashed bananas (ripe)
1/3 cup unsweetened, organic apple sauce (one single cup of apple sauce is just slightly over 1/3 c)
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup cashew milk
1 T chocolate chips
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon

Mix well.

Spray 8" x 8" pan with nonstick spray and spread mixture evenly. Bake at 350* for 15 - 20 minutes. Cut into 9 slices. Enjoy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Getting a Tooth Pulled? Read This. (a positive experience)

When it comes to dental work, I am a total baby. Even the thought of a cleaning make me weak in the knees. So when I was told that I needed to have a tooth extracted, I was less than happy. I got a second opinion. Same diagnosis.

I was scared.

My favorite endodontist referred me (with glowing reviews) to an oral surgeon. Swore he was the best. Friends who went to him said the same thing. I figured I'd meet him for a consultation.

This particular man was, hmmmm..., less than professional from the start. I went in, told him I was nervous about the extraction and didn't want to be put under. His response, "Your not gonna make this easy for me, are you?" Er, bad reply, doc. Rather than put me at ease, he proceeded (for 20 minutes) to try and talk me into it, saying patients that don't get knocked out have been "thrashing" and "flailing" (his words) in the chair, even "grabbing at his arms". I wondered, if he's so great, why are his patients having such a strong negative response?

He continued to try and convince me, and when I told him that I had friends who'd had extractions with just novocaine, he began asking who. "Give me names" he said. He couldn't recall the names I'd provided because he "sees so many people". Next, he said "I'm gonna break the law here and look at their files to see if they went under" and proceeded to do just that. My son was with me, and we both looked at each other, puzzled. Why did he want to knock me out so badly? He said "Yup, she had it," and so on.

In the end, I booked an appointment with him, mostly to just get out of there, and as we walked out of the office he said, "Don't eat 6 hours before, just in case you need to be knocked out." Ick.

I called my mother to tell her about my experience and her response was, "Why don't you go to Dr. Dimaira? She's great." I had had a procedure done by her once before, years ago, and it was a cake walk. So I called and scheduled the extraction. And today, my tooth was pulled. The following is a breakdown of my positive experience.

Smile. Everything is gonna be alright.

Dr. Dimaira is a calm, confident professional. I needed my molar (a big one) removed. I was nervous and expressed that, but she was very relaxed and easily calmed my fears. The novocaine that usually numbs my throat and bothers me, was super. It only numbed the area being worked on. She had nice music playing, and told me, as she went, what she was doing. I felt nothing. I knew what was going on, but was so relaxed that, rather than bracing myself for the actually pulling, I tried to imagine what was happening. My head was still (I expected shaking and pulling), and she sang while she was doing it. I didn't feel pressure or anything, but when the tooth released, I felt a gentle detachment. I can only describe it as yes. It felt accomplished.

I was so relaxed that I almost fell asleep. Before I knew it, the bone graph was done, and stitches were being put in. I watched as the string came up and went down into my mouth. It was almost hypnotic. All that worry for nothing. The whole thing was almost meditative.

Post extraction, with all the novocaine worn off, I have no pain or discomfort whatsoever. So great. I am very impressed with her.

If you are getting a tooth extracted, I highly suggest finding a calm, caring professional to do your extraction. I want you all to know that you do not need to get knocked out. Why take a medical risk for a super quick and routine procedure? It honestly was no big deal. And if you live in or near Morris County, NJ, go see Dr. Dimaira in Montville. She is the absolute best!