So the advice generally given is to enjoy the Thanksgiving meal and the next day get back to your usual eating habits and exercise routine. But what if you get sick the day after??? I’ve been sleeping away 70% of the last 2 days with exercise maxing out at walking to the kitchen or bathroom. I feel like a sloth.

Being laid up has given me some time to think  though. I’ve always been curious about how food affects our bodies, health, and weight.  And, I think its interesting how many of my friends live by certain “food rules” such as low carb and fat free. The funny thing is all of these woman are stick thin, so obviously it works for them. I’m not stick thin, its not my body type, however, I’m curious to see how a low carb and non-fat lifestyle would affect how I feel and how I look.  So I’ve decided to become a guinea pig and try both of these lifestyles for a month and see how it affects my energy levels, my work outs, and my weight.

For the first month (December), I am going to follow Weight Watchers because the program keeps fat in check due to the high points assigned to foods like peanut butter. The alternative way to adhere to a low fat diet would be to keep fat intake under a certain percentage of my total calories, but that is way too much math to compute on a daily basis.

For the second month (January), I am going to do the induction period of South Beach and then continue to follow phase 2.

During both of these trials, I’ll keep track of how I feel and my body’s reaction to limiting certain foods. I think the first program will be much easier than the first, as I love carbohydrates. I know that experimenting like this sounds hypocritical to my general approach of eating healthfully and listening to your body – but its only 2 months of my life and I think it will teach me a lot about how my body reacts to certain food groups.

Ok – happy experimenting to me (as soon as I stop being sick)!

I’m addicted to Trader Joe’s on the whole, but I recently picked something up at TJ’s and now there is a I-need-a-handful-every-time-I-pass-by-the-kitchen problem. Let me present to you the culprit:

They seem innocent enough – 15 cookies for 110 calories and low in fat. But, 15 cats (I mean cookies) can become 30 or 45 pretty easily and it seems pretty silly to waste that many calories on something that provides no nutritional value.

I think this is a common occurrence for snacks. The serving size just doesn’t equal the amount you need to be satisfied – think about pita chips, M&M’s, etc. Rather than throwing away the tub, I am controlling the behavior by:

  • No handfuls – take a small cup or plastic bag and count out 15 cookies
  • Limit myself to one serving size a day

Does anyone else have advice for a snack that is addicting? Or would you just throw the tub away?

 

Magazine recipe junky, that is what I am. However, I hate clutter, so magazines are quickly discarded with only the pages remaining of the recipes I want to make at some point. There’s a huge stack of pages stuffed in a drawer and I always feel relief when I finally make something. I saw the recipe for Orange Glazed Salmon in Cooking Light a few months ago under the week night dinner category. I knew this would be good, but honestly, this is one of the best recipes I’ve ever made from Cooking Light.

Orange Glazed Salmon with Red Bliss Potatoes and Spinach

The recipe was meant for 4 people, but since I’m only cooking for 2 people, here’s the modified recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4  (6-ounce) salmon fillets (1 inch thick) 4 ounce piece and 6 ounce piece (the BF needs a slightly bigger portion)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  tablespoons  minced shallots 3/4 tbsp shallots
  • 1/4  cup  dry white wine 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (didn’t have wine)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  chopped fresh rosemary (love rosemary didn’t reduce)
  • 3/4  cup  fresh orange juice juice from 1 orange
  • 1  tablespoon  maple syrup 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
Directions can be found here.
Red Bliss Potatoes
2 small potatoes
sea salt
rosemary
olive oil spray
Cut potatoes into similar 1 inch pieces, spray, sprinkle, and roast for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
Spinach
1 full bag
olive oil spray
garlic salt
Spray pan, on medium heat, cook spinach until wilted.
Everything came together in about 30 minutes. I threw the potatoes in first, then focused on the fish, and when that was almost prepared, I started the spinach. The salmon had great flavor- combination of orange, rosemary, and balsamic worked great together. I actually like this flavor combination more than the white wine alternative. Despite the gourmet sounding name, this qualifies as a quick week night dinner. Yummy!

From the sound of the title, I probably sound like a sports fan. I’m not. I know nothing about football, baseball, or basketball. I am incredibly annoying when sports are on TV because I either a) fidget b) ask questions. So when a friend of mine decided to host a game day party, I offered to prepare the food (much more entertaining). The idea of making game day food healthy is a side project that I am interested in (which unfortunately is on hold, but learn more here and here). It was a good deal on both ends- my friend had the equivalent of a caterer and I got to use the guests as guinea pigs. As many of you already know, sometimes healthyfying a recipe works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you need a little butter or cream to make something work and its a matter of figuring out how little will still bring a yummy result. So here we have Game Day Appetizers.

#1 Butternut Squash Dip

I loosely followed the recipe found at Framed. I kept the quantity of butternut squash, onions, and garlic the same and I sprayed with olive oil spray. Once I was working in the food processor, I did not add any additional olive oil and I substituted 3 tbsp of sour cream for about 1/2 cup of non-fat greek yogurt. I used a tiny bit of cayenne, some cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and was pretty generous with the salt. The key is to keep tasting as you puree so you don’t go to heavy on the salt.

The dip was a success. Most people love squash and this dip was a unique way to eat squash. I would recommend making this for any party.

#2 Cheeseburger-in-one-bite Skewers

Well, they are adorable. I’ll give them that much credit. And, they have potential. But this is an example of when cutting out too much fat goes wrong. I used about 2lbs of 0% fat ground turkey and mixed that with about 1/3 cup of bbq sauce and an array of meat/poultry spices because I knew from past experience the flavor had to come from somewhere and it wasn’t going to be the turkey itself. After kneading the meat, I broke it into quarter sized meatballs and to grill them used cooking spray. Pretty disastrous. There just wasn’t enough fat for the meat not to glue itself to the pan. I cooked them about 80% of the way and then stuck in the oven on broil. After about 2 minutes on each side, I topped each meatball with a small slice of cheese (again using 0% fat cheddar). After the meat and cheese cooled, I stuck on a toothpick with red onion, half a cheery tomato, and a pickle. I personally think these would have been significantly better with 93% turkey, but despite my disappointment, all 45 skewers were eaten. Moral of the story – make these, they are cute, use some fat.

#3 Mushroom and Thyme Phyllo Wraps

I love working with Phyllo dough and a variety of mushrooms seasoned with 1 thyme and rosemary is delicious, so the two came together. To make this chop up a variety of mushrooms, spray with olive oil, and on medium heat, cook mushrooms (about 5 cups) with salt (to taste), thyme (1 tsp), and rosemary (1/2 tsp) until everything is soft and fragrant. Drain the mushrooms using a strainer to avoid getting the phyllo dough soaked through. Take 4 phyllo sheets per roll and spray lightly with olive oil between each sheet. Take about 1/4 of mixture and lay at the bottom of the sheet. Roll up the mixture and cut into 4 to 5 pieces per roll. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until phyllo starts to golden.

Delicious! If you are ok with adding a little more calories sprinkle mixture with Parmesan cheese before baking. You could make this dish with anything wrapped inside: artichoke and spinach, chicken and sundried tomatoes, etc.

#4 Mexican Phyllo Tarts

Did I mention I liked working with Phyllo? Another super easy recipe. 1 can of black beans and 1 can of corn (low sodium and strained with water). Mix with 1/2 can of medium salsa, 3 tbsp chopped cilantro, and 1/2 red onion finely chopped. Drain for extra liquid to avoid soaking through phyllo cups. Take mixture and fill phyllo cups (they are so easy to work with, the day you are going to use them you take them out of the freezer, and 3 hours later they are ready to use). Just like the rolls above, you could fill these with anything. I chose the mexican filling to replace the typically unhealthy nachos you find on game day.

#5 BBQ Chicken Pizza

This healthy version of BBQ pizza is so good that you get the taste you want out of pizza with none of the unhealthy fat. One person commented that if there was a way to get this pizza in a NYC pizzeria, he would be getting it everyday. Recipe can be found at my on-hold-project.

Please share any ideas you have for healthy appetizers. I’m already looking for something new!

Week nights are busy. By the time I finish work, commute, go to the gym, run errands, and just deal with life, I don’t have time for an elaborate dinner. What I do have time for is something quick, easy, inexpensive, healthy, and tasty. And, lets be honest weekends tend to be splurg-y so weekdays are a good time to be healthy so it all balances out. Here’s my weeknight dinners from last week complete with shopping list, ingredients, and directions. Not that you even need the directions, its that easy…

Italian Sausage, Spinach, Mushrooms, and Whole Wheat Pasta

sausage and pasta

This is a simple one dish recipe that takes about 20 minutes. Its got tons of flavor and is perfect for a colder, rainy day b/c of its heartiness. Here’s the short ingredient list:

  • TJ’s chicken and roasted red pepper sausage, peel off casing and break into chunks (used 3 for 2 people)
  • 2 cups mushrooms (presliced to save time)
  • bag of spinach (prewashed to save time)
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • garlic and italian spices
  • 1 cup uncooked whole wheat pasta.

Boil water and add pasta. Use a little olive oil and garlic to get things fragrant, add mushrooms and when they are almost done add in chicken sausage, spinach, and spices of your choice. When everything is done mix in tomato sauce to add liquid. I will definitely make this again.

Chicken, Mixed Veggies and Brown Rice

chicken and veggies

This took 20 minutes from start to finish and I had help from my good friend, Trader Joe’s. All 4 ingredients were picked up at TJs and throw into a one pan wonder:

  • grilled chicken
  • frozen mixed veggie bag
  • sesame soy ginger vinaigrette
  • brown rice

Chop the chicken into chunks, grill it until almost done, throw in veggies, when everything is almost done, add about 1/2 cup of marinate. Pop already prepared rice into microwave for 60 seconds. DONE. I enjoyed the marinade, the dish had flavor and was filling, but I’m not sure I would make this very often – its just not very exciting 😦

Shrimp tacos and Lettuce Cups

shrimp and veggies

Mexican food is the best solution to a quick dinner. So easy.

  • whole wheat wraps
  • shrimp
  • salsa
  • tomatoes
  • avocado
  • red onion
  • lettuce leaves

Chop up all veggies (or buy prechopped), mix in with salsa. Grill shrimp using a spice that has a kick. I used cooking spray and then sprinkled taco seasoning. Broil wraps, throw it all in and your are good to go. To save on calories, I usually eat one real deal taco and then switch to wrapping the veggies and protein in a lettuce wrap. I would also make this again.

Next week for Easy Weeknight Dinners:

  • Orange Glazed Salmon with Red Bliss Potatoes and Spinach
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash

Sometimes we plan meals and sometimes they just happen. Before heading to San Francisco I reached out to a few bloggers to get recommendations as well as doing some online research. Tartine Bakery kept coming up but I kind of figured that there were enough amazing bakeries in NYC to not need to scope out one in California. To my surprise, when our Sunday brunch plans fell through due to a very long wait, our San Francisco local took us around the corner…TO TARTINE BAKERY. Blind, dumb luck. And, the best part – I was with enough people to try 4 things. Everything was tasty, well made, and fattening. This is a splurge and the ingredients might be all natural, but low in fat, they are not. Good thing we walked about 12,000 steps after this meal (according to my pedometer).

Standing in line, I was confronted with beautiful desserts and pastries. Since these rich, specialty items are atypical for me, I wanted it all!

tartine collageHere’s what we went with:

Treat #1 (my choice): Tomato and Spinach Quiche made with Creme Fraiche

  • Perfection. The crust was perfect, the eggs were creamier than any I had ever eaten.

kiche

Treat #2: double pain au chocolat (Chocolate Croissant)

  • As good as a European pastry. There were many layers of dough, something that is hard to find in most American bakeries. Not too buttery or sweet.

choc croissant

Treat #3: gougère (savory pastry with  gruyere, thyme and pepper)

  • Don’t the ingredients just sound harmonious? Delicious.

savory

Treat #4: Banana Cream Tart (Flaky pastry coated in dark chocolate with caramel, pastry cream, and lightly sweetened cream)

  • Took a very small but but could see the potential. Fresh chunks of banana, delicate cream, and somewhere in there some sweet caramel.

very sweet banana

To put things very simply:

too beautiful

 

During my West Coast adventure, I got to do something new in the kitchen. Homemade Pasta! I’ve never had access to a pasta maker and making pasta sounds intimidating. Luckily, my friend’s boyfriend is boy wonder in the kitchen and offered to guide me through the process.Surprisingly, there’s nothing terrible difficult about making pasta, its just time consuming (about 2 hours from start to finish).

finished

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups Super Fine “OO” Wheat Flourflour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of salt

Step-by-Step Guide: Butternut Squash Ravioli

1. In a large bowl, mix the 2 flours together. Push flour to the sides and create a hollow space in the center.

flour and eggs

2. Break the eggs into the hollow center and use fork to scramble yolk and egg whites. Then start to pull flour into the liquid until there is no more liquid to absorb flour. At this point, get your hands dirty and start kneading the dough. You may need to add water for additional moisture. We ended up having to add almost 1/4 cup of water.

3. Eventually you will have a ball of dough. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for about 40 minutes.

ball

4. While dough is resting, you need to roast the butternut squash. Peel skin and cut into 1 in squares, pop in the oven for about 30 minutes, remove when you can pierce squash with a fork. In a food processor, break up 1 tbsp of butter (room temperature), 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch of salt, and the roasted butternut cubes. Blend until you have a semi-chunky puree.

5. Unwrap ball of dough and break into 4 parts. Sprinkle surface with flour, and use a rolling pin to roll out each part; keep the other parts in plastic wrap so they do not dry out. After rolling out a piece, set the pasta maker on the first (widest) setting – 1.

6. Run flattened dough through the machine. Fold in half, and run through again (kind of like feeding an old school fax machine). Change setting to 2 (slightly thinner). Run dough through, fold in half, run through again. Repeat these steps until you run through the 5th setting. The dough will be thin and long at this point. Repeat this with all 4 parts of dough.

dough machine

7. With all 4 pieces of dough laying on countertop, take 2 pieces and cut off ends to make them equal in size.

8. On one of the sheets space out teaspoon sized dallops of butternut squash mixture (you will have a lot of mixture left over, but its delicious and you can some for the sauce and save the rest for a dip with pita chips). Leave enough room between each dallop that you will be able to have edges on each ravioli. We were able to fit 8 to 10 on each sheet.

dallops

9. Cover with other sheet, and press together. Then take butt of a knife and draw lines for each ravioli. Then cut.

raviolis10. Boil huge pot of salted water and drop your 18-20 raviolis into the boiling water. Should take less than 10 minutes to cook.

11. Meanwhile, in a small pot, take 2 tbsp of butter and fry sage. You will end up with a sage infused butter, but remove the leaves. Add 3/4 cup of the butternut squash mixture and 1/4 cup of heavy cream and heat until it becomes a liquid.

sauce

12. Drain the ravioli and you are done! Serve 3 to 5 raviolis per plate and drip with sage butternut squash cream. Serve with a light salad: field greens with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Yummy…

 

 

After another leisurely workout (sigh, why can’t I have more free time?), I hopped on the Ferry in Oakland. The ferry was to drop me off directly at the Ferry Building in San Francisco where I was to navigate through a huge farmer’s market. Being the planner that I am, I had a light breakfast so I could enjoy all of the samples 🙂

The weather was sunny and 60 and I was overwhelmed by the many colors, smells, and variety of samples. Overwhelmed in a good way though. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but all I can say is, I was thoroughly impressed and wish some of the unique aspects of this farmer’s market could be brought back to the ones I frequent in the east.

produce collage

I’ve never seen the Buddha’s Hand (fruit ?) before, and I should have purchased just to try. Oh well, maybe I will encounter the Buddha again. I also loved the wide variety of peppers. We’re so used to seeing green and overpaying for red and yellow, that its surprise to see so many other varieties.

In addition to the produce, there were dips galore. Sweet, Salty, Fatty, Healthy…and of course samples of all. Here’s some of my favorite tastes from the day:

dips collage

Its a really good thing for my wallet that you can no longer bring liquids on board a flight because I was tempted by many of the oils and dips. All of the pictures above were taken at the stalls set up outside of the Ferry Building. Inside of the building are culinary supply stores, coffee shops, and permanent vendors and restaurants. I am a bread lover and had been looking forward to trying Acme Bread, so I headed inside to find their bakery.

acme

After contemplating for the length of the time waiting in line (about 10 minutes), I decided to do an ACME bread tasting:

  • one sweet: Pumpkin roll with walnuts, fresh cranberries, yellow raisins
  • one traditional: sourdough french baguette
  • one salty: rosemary whole wheat roll

bread tasting

A sat on a bench looking out to the water, sipping my Pete’s coffee while doing a bread tasting. What a life! The sourdough was nothing extraordinary, the pumpkin bread was like a delicious pastry; the fresh cranberries instead of dried, were mushy and flavorful. But, it was the rosemary that I couldn’t get over. Seriously, one of the most delicious breads I have ever tried. The rosemary flavor was so distinct and the crusty of the outside versus soft of the inside was perfect. I quickly fed the leftovers to the surrounding birds and threw the rest away, because seriously I could have consumed all 3 pieces in their entirety.

I spent a short time exploring San Francisco before heading back to the East Bay to do a quick stop at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market. After the Ferry Building, though, Berkeley’s was tiny in comparison. It had about half of the same vendors as the Ferry Building, but more of a local feel. A few people were playing the banjo and singing folk (no, I’m not kidding) and there were mostly college students and families with small kids. I tasted a few varieties of pears and decided to take a break on the sampling and get something that resembled more of a meal. I went with a trying something from a raw food stand in the spirit of my surroundings.

Raw pumpkin and shitake mushroom lasagna

lasagna

Pretty huh? It was light, healthy, and delicious. If I was going to try to deconstruct the dish, I would say, the bottom layer was some sort of ground cashew base, the pumpkin was sweetened and pureed and mixed with freshly diced vegetables like cucumbers, and then sprinkled with kale, mushrooms, and tomatoes. I’m going to look into recreating something like this at home.

Needless to say all of the tasting overwhelmed my stomach because the rest of the night was spent on the couch with a tummy ache. All in the name of research…

After passing out at 9pm (12am on the east coast in my defense), I was up  by 6am on Friday. After enjoying a luxurious workout and not having to hurry for the first time in weeks, we got ourselves together to visit Muir Woods. Unfortunately for us, it was pouring, so we hiked under umbrellas. The Redwoods were still beautiful; monstrously sized trees that date back to 1100, pretty inspiring. Imagine living here and coming to hike any weekend you wanted…an annual pass is $20.

redwoods

After the hike we were drenched and needed hot showers and food, and a bit of relaxation. Later in the day I was taken to a grocery store called Berkeley Bowl. This was Whole Foods on crack, but without the commercial feel; similar to a really large co-op. Here’s the things that impressed me most:

greens

Mixed Green Selection

mushrooms

Loose mushroom varieties

granola

Bulk Bins - this is just the granola

I love NYC and my grocery selection there, but this is just the definition of fresh and healthy. When the choices are this good, I just don’t see how someone could want fast food.

Gary Farrell Vineyard

Long weekends are the best, especially when you’re exploring a place that’s so in tune with your own philosophy. I’m visiting a good friend from NYU that recently moved to Oakland, CA from NYC. My friend is a true New Yorker, she’s complained of the bagels, pizza, no smoking policies, and the suburban sprawl. But, together we’re exploring the good things this area has to offer…wine, fresh produce, and a slower pace. A much slower pace. Here’s a recap of our first day:

We headed up to northern part of Sonoma and started our wine tasting at Gary Farrell. Like I said, the pace is a bit slow, so we ended up staying there for over an hour. The winery doesn’t own their own land, rather they purchase grapes from various vineyards so we were able to go through 6 varietals (including chardonnay, 3 pinot noirs, merlot, and a zin). Since we were there on a Thursday, the crowds were non-existent and the ambiance was calm. The decor reminds me of a nice ski lodge with huge windows overlooking the vineyard.

merlot_gary farrell

After the 9 different tastes, our stomachs got the best of us and we headed South for the downtown Healdsburg area. At this point it was raining pretty hard, but Healdsburg is adorable. Its a quaint little town, no chains, and lots of open kitchens and tasting rooms. We had been hoping to lunch at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen but to our surprise its only open Fri-Sun. We settled on Zin, a restaurant that describes itself as:

American Cuisine with a fresh approach to classic dishes and a comforting home-cooked appeal. By taking the best local ingredients, some of which are grown on our own Eastside Farm, and supplementing them with Artisan products from other parts of the country, such as stone ground grits from Falls Mill in Tennessee, we have crafted a unique version of American Home Cooking.

Starter– Heirloom Apple Salad with Radicchio & Romaine, Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese and Spicy Toasted Walnuts in Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

zin_salad

Main: Split the Slow Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket with Spicy Texas Sauce, Rancho Beans, Cucumber & Red Onion Salad, Pickles and Pickled Peppers

zin_pork

The restaurant was freezing and the salad did nothing to warm me up. The apples were overpowering, and it felt like it would be a more appropriate dessert for a hot summer day than a starter on a rainy fall day. The slow smoked BBQ beef was good, but nothing jaw dropping. It was warm and filled my belly. Oh, and we did a zinfandel flight with lunch…

After lunch, we headed South and stopped at the Gloria Ferrer sparking wine house. At this point we were pretty tasted-out, so each ordered a glass of sparkling and perched outside. The rain finally stopped and we saw an impressive, full rainbow. The view from Gloria Ferrer was beautiful in general; it captured all the stereotypical elements of rolling hills, vineyards, wild flowers, into one panoramic shot.

gloria

After Gloria Ferrer, we negotiated through a lot of traffic, stopped at the Whole Foods in Berkeley, and made dinner with our purchases. The Whole Foods was like any other, but I loved how many bulk bins they had…this picture only captures about half of them!

bins

For dinner we made a pecan and panko crusted halibut with a sweet potato mash and spinach. I ate every last bite and fell asleep by 9pm.

dinner

Its Friday morning now and we are heading for our next adventure: see the Redwoods, beach, Golden Gate Bridge.

Is there anything I shouldn’t miss while I’m out here?