Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Most Beautiful Spaces To...

My everyday life is important to me. I do my best to spend time in places that feed my soul. Where I shop, eat, workout, all of it, is very important to me. I choose places that make me feel like I am on vacation, even though I'm home.

Here are a few of my favorites:

...get a massage or facial
The Urban Muse Day Spa

Imagine walking into a room, dimly lit with candles, soothing music floating through the air. The space is warm, the walls dark wood, everything is incredibly peaceful and beautiful. This is the feeling in the treatment rooms at the Urban Muse.

When you walk in, you walk through an insanely eclectic and large shop. Selections feature everything from body products to jewelry, to cards and gifts; even home goods from Fish's Eddy. It's a cool shop with creative and well-crafted gifts. The spa treatments simply take it to a new level. I honestly cannot imagine going anywhere else for a massage or facial. I saw some great deals on group on, asked around about the services (and got good feedback) but, ultimately, I didn't buy them. The Muse has spoiled me.

There is a gorgeous relaxation room for before and after treatment, a place to sit and get your zen on. It's quiet, dark and inviting. There are healthy snacks out for the taking, water infused with lemons and cucumbers, assortments of tea. They even offer beautiful, warm bathrooms with beauty products for your use, and a gloriously large shower for guests to use before or after (or both) that seems like it should be in someones luxury home. When you undress, you are given the supremely plush robes to wear. Everything is spotless and top notch.

One of the many sculptures in the relaxation room at the Urban Muse.

Treatment rooms are similar. Candle lit, with quiet music playing, and some sort of diffuser that makes the room smell noticeably present without being overwhelming. Each clinician/therapist that I have experienced is professional and does wonderful work. I always leave wanting just a few. more. minutes.


...get your hair done
The Lounge Hair Studio

This longstanding, top of the line hair studio is breathtaking. The front wall of the studio is lined with long windows, allowing tons of natural light to come into the studio, and since it's located on the second floor, no one is peeking in the windows. As with the Urban Muse, the furnishings are gorgeous and dark, with rough brick walls. The waiting area has a to die for leather chaise, amongst other chairs, and the receptionist comes with an offer of coffee, tea, and water.

All of the stylists are on trend, and my most recent visit with a Level 1 stylist (via a groupon) was incredible. She paid attention to what I wanted to do with my hair and listened to what I needed, while guiding me with options for what I may think about doing in the future. You must visit. Call, ask for Gabby, and tell her I sent you. The experience, from beginning to end, is totally pampering. I highly suggest you do this for yourself. It may cost a little more that the factory style salons, but it's worth the money... you will not be disappointed.


...find your zen
Prana Yoga Center

My God, this place. I have to tell you, if I didn't do yoga, I might start just so that I could spend time in the space. The space is warm and beautiful, all dark wood floors, and beautiful Ganesha and interesting art and sculptures decorate the space. Walking in the door, you feel a strong sense of welcoming and well-being. There is a waterfall wall in the shop area, where they sell yoga mats, clothing, candles, skin care, MantraBand bracelets, and other wonderful things.

The studio is a large space that is sectioned off into two rooms (which is often opened to accommodate larger classes). They have many types of yoga classes, all being wonderful (my favorite being Christy Linson's Vinyasa Flow class), and I always leave feeling blessed. I've been to other studios to practice, but nothing even comes close to this studio space.


...dine out
Rails Steakhouse

This long awaited, heavily hyped restaurant does not disappoint.

Years in the making, Rail Steakhouse at Towaco Crossing is the best thing that's happened to Montville in a very, very long time (and Montville, truth be told, is a pretty awesome place on a bad day). The space is huge, and incredible to look at. Everything is made from beautiful, earthy elements. There are walls made of carved wood with loose logs sitting inside them. There's an enormous, two story thick log of wood through the center that must have been the trunk of a tree, and the main wall is made of gorgeous stone with open spots that have candles inside them. In addition, built into the wall, on both the first and second floor, are fireplaces. You can sit on leather couches by the fire, have a drink (or even dinner) and enjoy the warmth of the fireplace. The fireside wall has a high ceiling, so you are able to see up to the second fireplace, and part of the upstairs bar. Everything is eye candy.

A small, fantastic wall at Rails Steakhouse. The logs you see are loose. 

Seating is everywhere, and always taken. The buzz about Rails is so positive that you cannot get a reservation Thursday - Saturday until the end of March (so make your reservations now!) but the good news is that you can sit at the bar or on one of the many leather seats, and eat your meal. By the way, the bars are great (there are three floors, and each floor has a bar and a dining room). The lower bar has an exposed brick oven, where pizzas are made. There isn't a bad seat in the house.

There are many more places that I'd like to write about, but these are the most luxurious of them all. I have a short list of places that I like to visit, and these are on top. Give them a shot and, when you visit, tell them the Domestic Goddess sent you.



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mexican Egg White(ish) Muffin

I love nothing more than an egg white omelet. Egg whites are like a blank slate for the ingredients that go inside.

After seeing a recipe for egg muffins, shared by my friend and blogger (at The Jersey Momma) Debbie Zelasny, I decided to make some. Not being fond of the flavor of the yolk, I searched for some egg white recipes and found a few. Nearly all of them required at least a few yolks, and since I am not sure why (perhaps it has something to do with the ability to hold the muffin's shape), I decided to use a few in my recipe, as well.

Mostly every recipe allows for any type of vegetable you desire (some people cooked theirs first, others didn't), so I felt confident that I could take my favorite omelet and make it into a muffin.

Mexican Egg White(ish) muffin. 30 minutes from start to finish.

This recipe is as easy as making breakfast, provided that you have a muffin tin and some really good non-stick spray. Mine calls for cheese, three types of veggies, one type of herb, and eggs. I found that putting some of the cheese on the bottom of the muffin spots will create a solid floor for them, and then topping the veggies with the remaining cheese keeps the top from having veggies pop out. Also, be sure to dry out your vegetables, after rinsing them, with a paper towel. You do not want added moisture in your muffins.

Cheese on bottom, veggies, pour egg mixture over, then more cheese on top. Notice how much non-stick spray I put on the muffin tins. They popped out with ease. 

You must spray your tin very well with non-stick spray so that the muffins lift out easily. Do not skimp on spray.

When you fill these up, fill them to the top, and carefully move them to the oven (middle rack). Cooking times varied, but mine took about 25 minutes. When they are ready, they will almost look like popovers.

This is how they look when they are just about ready to come out of the oven. I let mine brown for a few more minutes, to get a nice golden color.

After I made these, I ate one, then put them on a plate, uncovered, in the freezer, for about 35 minutes (prevents sticking to one another). I then put them in a freezer zip lock and stored them in the freezer. When I want to eat one, I can just pop it in the microwave to warm it up.

Mexican Egg White(ish) Muffin
59 calories per muffin

12 eggs (whites only -- I cooked the yolks to give my dogs)
3 whole eggs
3/4 c Sargento Reduced Fat Four Cheese Mexican
1 small heirloom tomato
1 small green pepper
1/2 small white onion
handful of fresh cilantro
2 T 1% low fat organic milk (milk makes the muffins fluffy)

Preheat oven to 350*. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Dice pepper, tomato, and onion. Tear cilantro into small pieces.

Beat the eggs and egg whites together, along with the milk. Divide cheese in half.

Take one half of the cheese and distribute evenly into the 12 muffin spots in your tin. Scoop equal parts of the vegetables and cilantro and put over the cheese (should be about 2/3 full (not packed, but loose)), then pour the egg mixture over the top. Sprinkle remaining cheese across tops of the muffins.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until top is puffed up and golden. Let sit for a few minutes, then hand lift the muffins out of the tin. They are somewhat delicate, so using a utensil may damage them. If you sprayed the tins enough, they should release easily.





Wednesday, February 4, 2015

You vs. Food (Be A Winner)

Our society seems to constantly be battling with food. We do detoxes, cleanses, eat meal replacements, take supplements, eat fake foods that pretend to be healthy but are anything but whole. We ban certain foods and force ourselves to choke back others.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and last night, upon seeing an Instagram post by my friend, it really struck me that food is a big issue for many. My friend's post showed a plate filled with the following: spinach and tomatoes, cooked in oil and garlic, then tossed with feta; grilled cauliflower; and tofu. A comment below the photo asked "How can you possibly get full on that?"

I know how the commenter felt. I, too, once believed that I couldn't be satisfied without a plate full of something that seemed substantial, like steak or a plate of pasta. While the reality is that cauliflower on it's own will make you feel full, forgetting all the other fibrous (filling) veggies, it's more about what we are accustomed to seeing on our plate and how we register what we think is a full plate.

When we diet and we make food the enemy, it makes sense that eating clean would feel like an uphill battle. Saying no to something that doesn't make your body feel good (but your mind wants) feels like deprivation. But it should feel supportive. If your goal is to have more energy all day long, saying no to a caffeinated beverage seems contraindicated, when in truth, removing the caffeine and eating energy producing foods like oatmeal and bananas will provide energy naturally.

Changing the way you eat to be healthier and help your body perform in a more optimal manner is a good thing to do, but not by making those foods that do nothing more than satisfy the taste buds, bad. Sometimes a processed food full of sugar and artificial dyes is just the thing you desire, and there's nothing wrong with eating that (once in a while).

A friend of mine just embarked on a popular shake supplement to lose weight (because, she said, "it works"). You drink a shake for breakfast and lunch and have a "sensible" dinner. Well, maybe it works because you are calorie deprived, or maybe for other reasons of which I'm not aware, but it's a temporary fix. Eventually, the weight you lose in crash diets comes rolling back on. Diets don't work. For my friend, it's simply to kick start her healthy eating plan, but personally, I couldn't do it.

It's preferable to eat whole foods that nurture our bodies and provide nutrients to keep us strong and healthy. Our bodies are machines, and the better the stuff we put in, the better they will operate.

Tonight, as I made a modified copy of my friend's Instagram post (spinach, tomatoes, feta), I felt blessed to be able to eat such a tasty meal. My appetizer was a single serving of cottage cheese. Not because it will help me lose weight, but because it tastes good.

My favorite pizza slice. A grandma slice topped with spinach, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes from Roma Pizza.

And today's lunch? A slice of pizza topped with vegetables, followed by a small scoop of ice cream. No foods are off limits. I try to avoid processed sugar because, if nothing else, sugar feeds cancer. Still, a little scoop of ice cream on occasion isn't the worst thing.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Chicken Worth Pickin'?

Tonight's chicken special, mashed cauliflower, and asparagus.

I saw a recipe for Man-Pleasing Chicken last week. I wasn't sure how I felt about the name, but the recipe photos looked darn good. I thought I'd give it a try.

There are only five ingredients, if you don't count the salt and pepper, so you won't even need to hit the grocery store before you cook. I had all the ingredients, but forgot to pick some fresh rosemary from outside. Personally I missed it, as I have a love affair with rosemary, but the dish didn't. It held up just fine on it's own.

You'll need mustard, rice vinegar, pure maple syrup (don't use pancake syrup; it's mostly corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup -- there is zero maple syrup in it), and chicken. The recipe called for skinless chicken thighs, but I don't ever really eat chicken on the bone (unless it's fried, and at a fair), so I used boneless thin sliced chicken breast. I didn't have Dijon, so I used Kosciusko Spicy Brown Mustard, which made it less spicy (though I will be trying it with Dijon, after I go grocery shopping).

Here's everything you'll need to make this chicken.

I prepped it the night before, because I wanted to get to making it but already had other dinner plans. I mixed the sauce together and poured it all over the chicken, then put it into the fridge overnight, for a full 24 hours.

I cooked it for the recommended time, basting midway through, as suggested. It came out looking fabulous. It was well cooked, and still juicy. It tastes almost like barbeque sauce (that's the maple syrup), but also kind of like a hot dog (thanks to the spicy brown mustard). My fiancé and I both really enjoyed it; my 14 year old son was not as impressed. Then again, he's got a cold and was exhausted at dinner time... we will have to try again.

Cooked. A chicken worth pickin'.

I served this with my new favorite side, mashed cauliflower along with some asparagus, which was just perfect.


I've provided the link to the original recipe for you here, but have also typed it out (with my modifications) for you below. Enjoy.

A Chicken Worth Pickin'
Modified from the recipe, Man-Pleasing Chicken on wittyinthecity.com

1 1/2 lb. chicken breast
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1/3 c spicy brown mustard
1 T rice wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 450*F.

The original recipe calls for an 8 x 8 pan, but since I had boneless breasts, 1.5 lbs. worth of bird needed a bigger pan. So go ahead and use the pan that fits your chicken.

Blend the maple syrup, mustard, and rice wine vinegar into a sauce.

Line the pan with aluminum foil. (It makes clean up waaaay easier.) Pour a third of the sauce on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, then dredge through the sauce and place them in the foil lined pan. Pour remaining sauce all over the top of the chicken, coating well. Cook for the full 40 minutes at 450*, but take your chicken out of the oven after 20 minutes to spoon the sauce back over the top to keep it juicy and flavorful. 40 minutes seems like a lot for thin chicken breasts but since there is so much sauce, the chicken stays tender and doesn't dry out. And then you can rest assured your chicken is cooked.

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 allrecipes.com. 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
pepper
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.