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!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Get Smackalackin' Caramel Corn Tonight

While checking out the new magazine Naturally, Danny Seo, I read an article about Johnny Iuzzini and his choice to leave the restaurant business. He was tired of the grind, moved back to the Catskills, and decided that he is going to do things that feed his soul. One of those things is writing cookbooks. His second of which, Sugar Rush, has a killer recipe for a sweet and savory caramel corn. Folks, it's got chopped bacon in it. Whaaaaat?

The recipe
Now, I don't normally reach for sugar when I am snacking. I much prefer mozzarella or nachos to anything sweet. However, I've been looking for recipes for our wedding dessert table, something I can make in advance that will hold nice and be fun, and this seemed to fit the bill.

But first, I had to try it... and test it out on the family.

Important thing to note, the kosher salt (I used David's) and baking soda, help give the right texture to the caramel, so never omit it, and follow the instructions to the nose. I also used really good bacon from my local meat shop, Denville Meat Shop, and it definitely was the right choice. Don't skimp on your choice of bacon.

As I was making the recipe, I realized it was incomplete. It calls for two silpat lined baking sheets, but doesn't explain how, or when, to use them (and the photo in the magazine shows it on the silpat). The recipe just sort of ends prematurely.

I had to do a little research to find out how a caramel corn recipe is finished, and couldn't find Iuzzini's recipe online, so until my copy of Sugar Rush arrives (I desperately ordered it), I won't know for sure how he finishes the popcorn. But I can share what I did, which worked. It worked so well that the kids kept walking back to the kitchen for seconds, and thirds, and I, not normally a fan of caramel corn, was eating it by the fistful.

They didn't notice the bacon (you probably won't either), but having it in there just makes it a bit more special.

My final product, first time around.

I also didn't realize that {gasp} I was out of maple syrup (which is called for in the recipe), so I used a little extra corn syrup and that was just fine. I definitely missed the maple flavor, though, so I will be making it again, soon, to try and make it just a tad bit better. If you try it, let me know how yours turns out!

Johnny Iuzzini's Smack Caramel Corn
Source: Naturally, Danny Seo Winter 2015 magazine (from Johnny Iuzzini's Sugar Rush cookbook)

  • 8 slices bacon
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 1 ½ cups plain unsalted roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • ¾ c (packed) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ c pure maple syrup
  • ¼ c light corn syrup
  • 6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 T kosher salt
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 12 c popped popcorn

Preheat oven to 200*F. Line two baking sheets with silicon baking mats or parchment paper.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, turning several times, for 6 – 8 minutes, until very crisp and the fat is rendered. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour the bacon fat through a fine-mesh strainer into a heat proof bowl. Measure 3 T of the fat and reserve; discard the remaining fat or reserve for another use. Once the bacon has cooled, finely chop it and set it aside.

Spray a large stainless-steel bowl lightly with cooking spray, add the nuts to it, and put the bowl in the oven to warm. Spray two large spoons or rubber spatulas with cooking spray and set them aside.

I didn't have a bowl so I put them into a stainless pan and put that in the oven.
Put the granulated sugar, brown sugar, maple and corn syrups, butter, and reserved bacon fat into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan gently to mix the ingredients but DO NOT STIR. Cook, brushing the side of the pan down with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 290*.

I did medium heat and it took about 25 minutes. Next time, I'll go hotter.

Stir together the salt and baking soda, add them to the caramel, and remove the pan from the heat. Be careful, the caramel will form up; stir it with a wooden spoon until the mixture stops foaming. Remove the bowl from the oven and add the nuts to the caramel, stirring to combine. Put the popcorn and chopped bacon into the warm bowl and pour the caramel mixture over it; using the greased spoons, toss the popcorn quickly and keep tossing for about 1 minute, until it’s very evenly coated.

Do NOT do it this way! I had clumps. Spread the popcorn out on a flat sheet,
drizzle caramel, and toss with greased (clean) hands.

(My addition, per similar recipe research.) Pour onto baking sheets and warm for thirty minutes at 200, tossing every 15 mins.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Save Our Post Office

My home post office is undergoing changes. I'm not much into politics, so I can't speak with knowledge about the inner workings of why things happen, but it seems to me like the most important American institutions are undergoing cuts and changes (police, teachers, post offices).

I am a big proponent of keeping things the same for as long as possible. I know that we are all technologically inclined (not something that I am thrilled about), but some things really should remain as they are. For example, writing. More and more, schools aren't teaching cursive writing, which, to me, is astounding. People write thank you notes and birthday wishes via text and social media. Not only is this less personal, it's less permanent.

The amazing Mountain Lakes Post Office.
While visiting my town's post office today (a friendly, efficient place where everybody knows everybody), I was informed that our carriers will now be working out of a neighboring post office, Parsippany. There will be a few people at the clerk window, but that's it. This is devastating to me. Our mail is sorted through Newark. Less and less is happening at our post office, and soon, if things don't change, it will close.

What kind of America do you want? I want one with small towns and privately owned shops. I want spaces where people feel welcome and others know them by name, creating a sense of familiarity. I don't want more Target Greatlands; I don't want more malls. I want a life with daily interactions that matter, rather than generic checkouts. I want moments to remember. I want a paper trail.

I have letters that my grandparents have written, also cards and old postcards. These things show the character of the writer. Writing style is noted, penmanship, paper choice, all give a peek into the character of the writer. Postcards sent from a specific location show where the person has travelled. Yes, we all post our photos on Instagram/facebook/twitter (whatever), but how can we save those photos to show our grandchildren? Sending mail is imperative.

Had this been an email or a text, it never would have survived.

I asked the local postmaster who I could contact to let them know how much I love our post office and to tell them that I would like it to stay the way that it is, and the postmaster said that while it was fine to try, the wheels of change were already in motion.

I will try.

Please, if you care about writing, sending letters, and maintaining an American tradition, please start walking into your local post office to mail your letters. Buy your stamps at your local P.O. by walking up to the counter and making the transaction with a person (as opposed to buying online).  Write a note, letter, or card today and send it to a friend, via the USPS. (Feel free to send me a letter: Domestic Goddess Files, PO Box 243, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046)

And if you live in Mountain Lakes and would like to keep our post office alive and thriving, write a letter and let the district postmaster know how much our post office means to you. I know that you are busy, but taking 15 minutes out of your day to write to potentially save our post office is worth it, don't you think?

Send your letter to:
George Flood
USPS Northeast Area Communication Programs Specialist
21 Kilmer Road
Edison, NJ 08899

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

'Tis the Season for Saying No

The holiday season is one in which we get invited to parties, asked to volunteer at school, attend cookie swaps, and buy gifts for family, friends, co-workers (the list goes on). It's tough saying no to these sorts of festive (expected) events.

In an effort to remove stress from my life, I've decided to start saying no. (I'm not sure how yet, or to what, but it has been decided.) The seed was planted by my yoga teacher, Janice Molinari, last week, when she began our class with the practice of saying "no", something she said is uncommon in yoga (I think she said it's usually the yoga of yes) . She explained -- my translation may not be exact -- that saying no to some things of our choosing, gives us space to say yes to other, more important, soul feeding things. Saying no makes space in our life for the good things that are ahead, even if we have no idea what they are. At her workshop at Purple Om on Saturday, she spoke about reducing stress by creating healthy boundaries, one of which was getting enough sleep (there were others, but this has been particularly challenging for me). I decided that I would make a bedtime and value that boundary, regardless of what else might come up. 

The message came through again, last night, when another of my wonderful yoga teachers, Erika Sherger, spoke about aligning your outsides with your insides. She spoke of an accountant who had done yoga teacher training with her and, during training, she quit her job having realized it wasn't matching who she was anymore. This really began to resonate with me. The same message, twice, in as many weeks.

Processing this message with my friend, Tray (whom I attended these classes with, who has brought me back to yoga), she mentioned that she is making changes to her Christmas decorating schedule and shopping plan. She's taking care of herself while still getting things done; she's just doing them in a different way. To the old way, she's said no.

I am playing with where I will choose to say no, being mindful of what I'm choosing and why, and finding boundaries to support my yes choices. The task is something I've chosen not to take lightly, and will be thinking about over the coming weeks.

What might you say no to?