Substitution. That is the name of the game. There are certain foods that I love too much! So, I know that if I make them, I would devour the contents all by myself and then lick the bowl clean! My great-grandmother came from Sicily and she created "magic" in her kitchen. I loved to stand by her side and watch her in action. She could whip up feasts in moments and she loved to have my sister and I over for a bite. The problem was, my sister would literally take just a bite and then I would eat her bite along with mine. I have so many wonderful memories of my family sitting at her long table literally piled high with food. Laughing, sharing and loving each other, all centered around a meal in her house. To this day, when I eat some of my favorite Italian dishes, they need to be colossal in size, reminding me of her love for food and us. That is why on the show, I said, "I love big, I live big and I ate big."
Like my grandmother, I have a spice for life...garlic in particular! I suppose, that is the fabric that I am made of. I love life, I love to eat, I live big, I have a lot of energy for the things that I am passionate about. Strangely, I have a passion for pasta, pizza and lasagna. These foods still have to be BIG in order for me to feel satisfied. It is a bit of a combination of appetite and soul satisfaction. You already know that I substitute the noodles with spaghetti squash for my pasta marinara dishes. I do not use that yummy squash for any other pasta dish really, just the ones that need to be BIG.
As for the other dishes, I found a bit of my own "magic" in a zucchini. Instead of making lasagna with oodles of noodles, I make my sauce with spinach, garlic, onions, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and lean turkey meat. Then, I layer slices of zucchini, instead of lasagna noodles. After that step, I mix in a separate bowl a container of fat-free cottage cheese and stir in raw crushed garlic, basil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Then, more for effect, I sprinkle a tofu cheese on top. The soy-based cheese has just enough flavor to make the dish taste and look complete. A traditional lasagna would have cheese bubbling on the top and crispiness at the edges; but, one of Dr. Oz's foods to avoid is saturated fat, and I avoid it like the plague. Tofu cheese, on the other hand, is filled with protein and is low in fat and calories, allowing me to still eat BIG amounts of this lasagna without it making ME big! This lasagna is sure to be a hit among even the toughest of critics!
My pizza on the other hand may take a little stretching of your imagination! So, let's expand our thinking together now! You see, I used to be able to eat an entire pizza myself. If the whole pizza was not consumed entirely by me, than I would polish it off for breakfast. I now make French bread pizza using what I like to call "zucchini boats." First, I dig around my produce department for the largest zucchinis I can find and when I do, I know I'm in for a pizza treat! I then cut the zucchini in half and scoop out the seeds. By doing that, it creates a hollow cavern or “boat.” Next, I load up all sorts of goodies inside. First, the pizza sauce, then all of the fixings that you can dream up. Finally, top your pizza with the vegetable cheese or a low-fat mozzarella and bake in your oven at 450 degrees. Pizza with no guilt! For me, these dishes have memories attached to them, and eating them makes me think of the wonderful times with family as a child. Now, I get an even bigger sense of satisfaction by eating them with my family because they are so healthy. Creating memories with Dan and Benaiah while eating healthy allows us to eat big and LOVE BIG!