Uncategorized, What is FOOD?

Making a Mountain out of a Molehill.

Mountains Like Molehills
Image by liesforaliar via Flickr

I have reviewed a lot of diet menus lately and I have noticed that most serving sizes call for 4 ozs of protein (beef, chicken, fish or pork, etc).

Initially when affronted with the seemingly small serving size of 4 ozs, I felt gyped. Four ozs! That seems so small. In a world where we are conditioned that bigger is better, where mammoth sized burgers are the standard, where buckets of chicken and racks of ribs are the norm, 4 ounces seems so…well, puny.

However, if you are like me and like to eat mountains of food, the best way to do so may be the following. I have found that combining those few ounces of animal based protein with tons and tons of non starchy veggies makes an extremely filling, low carb, low-calorie and healthy meal.

First off, we have to figure out what four ounces looks like. Without getting involved with measuring cups, scales and the like, I’ll make it easy for you. Most meats, chicken, fish, etc. are sold by the pound. All you do is buy 1 lb of your whatever meat you want and take it home. Once you are home, simply lay it on a cutting board and cut it in half.  Then, take that half and cut that half in half again. Voila!  Four 4-ounce portions ready to cook. Don’t worry if it is not exact. The food police will not come and arrest you. Wrap the other 3 pieces up and freeze for another time.

Saute 1 pound (or more) of your favorite non starchy vegetable (broccoli, string beans, spinach, asparagus, etc) with a little garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, pepper etc. and add  your newly measured, sliced or cubed 4 ounces of protein and stir till cooked through.

Depending upon your taste, I like to add a tiny amount of chili paste, sesame oil, chopped onion, chopped celery, diced water chestnuts, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Consume the entire mountain of food – guilt free.

Making a mountain (of healthy yummy veggies) with a molehill (of your favorite meat) is the perfect way to eat till you are stuffed without feeling cheated.

Chow for now.

Uncategorized, What is FOOD?

Hungry for Hummus

Hummus
Image by kchbrown via Flickr

It could not have happened at a better time. I was rushing to the subway, eager to get home and eat a late lunch, when all of a sudden I noticed an eclectic group of people gathered on the sidewalk patiently waiting in line.

As the nosey New Yorker that I am, I figured it had to be something. It’s a well-known fact that New Yorker’s have become somewhat immune to most daily peculiarities that happen on our sidewalks. For a New Yorker to not only stop what they are doing, but also patiently wait on line, it had to be something pretty good.

At the head of the line was a red idling truck where 2 young women were busily giving away individual sized packages of Sabras Hummus and snack sized bags of Pita chips to everyone in line.

Yippee! Free food!!!

As mentioned in my past post “When Free Can Be Fattening,” I am always a sucker for a freebie. However in this case, this freebie was not only NOT fattening but relatively healthy and low carb. One tablespoon has only 3 carbs.

My plan was to just take the hummus and leave the chips. However by the time I reached the head of the line, these women clearly were weary of giving away their goodies and insisted that I take several packages of BOTH the hummus and the pita chips.

“But I really don’t want that many,” I weakly protested.

“Don’t worry” the young woman enthused. “Once you try it, you’ll want more.”

As I lumbered down the subway with my hands full of humus and pita chips, I reasoned that I would give the chips to my kids and eat my hummus with celery and carrot sticks.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, Hummus can also be spelled hamos, hommos, hommus, homos, houmous, hummos or humus. It is a very popular middle eastern dip made primarily from chickpeas. Chickpeas, or Garbanzo beans in Spanish, or Cece beans in Italy have been used in cooking for thousands of years. In fact, according to The Food Encyclopedia, garbanzo beans are one of the world’s oldest cultivated foods dating as far back as the Neolithic period  in what is now Sicily. During the Roman Empire, chickpeas were shipped in jars from Sicily to the rest of Italy. The middle eastern region is thought to have created Hummus hundreds of years before that by combining chickpeas with lemon juice or vinegar, tahini (sesame seed butter), garlic and olive oil.

Although the history of hummus is lengthy, this ancient dip did not become popular in the United States until the end of the 20th century. Its popularity has steadily increased over the years with a 2010 market research report indicating a 35% growth in hummus consumption over the past 21 months. Sales are reportedly reaching nearly $300 million.

It’s no wonder that Americans are getting “hungry for hummus.” Chickpeas, the main ingredient are rich in protein, fiber, folic acid, zinc and magnesium. Tahini, which is sesame seed butter has about 3 grams of protein per tablespoon along with fiber and mono saturated (the healthy kind) fats.

Try the recipe below and let me know if you are “hungry for hummus”

Roasted Garlic Hummus

  • 1/2 head of roasted garlic (see note below)
  • 1 can of drained chick peas
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of tahini
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Remove roasted garlic cloves from skins. Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serve with your favorite raw veggies.
*** How to roast garlic –  Cut off 1/4 inch of the raw garlic head. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil on top of exposed cloves. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
I like to eat my hummus with lots of raw veggies. Celery Sticks, carrots sticks, red bell pepper and zucchini slices are my favorite. Experiment with your favorite veggies.
Chow for now!
What is FOOD?

Spaghetti Sneak Attack

Plastic sample of spaghetti tomato sauce
Image via Wikipedia

As mentioned in my last post we are “stay-cationing” this Spring Break. In lieu of spending thousands of dollars on a family friendly get-away, we are using those funds to renovate our little beach house.

Since I have been on a cooking frenzy since starting the I Love FOOD Diet, I knew right away that I had to get a new stove. The former one we had –  an old 18″ cheapo electric model with raised electric black coils was certainly not going to make me a culinary master. Besides being super tiny (18 inches!), it took forever to heat, was extremely difficult to clean with those damn coils and on top of that would often blow a fuse.

I splurged on a new deluxe stove/oven. This full 30 inches model is super powerful, heats quickly, has a smooth glass cooktop for easy cleaning and is energy-efficient. Now, there is no excuse not to cook healthy, fresh and low carb meals.

Unfortunately I have yet to break it in as we are still waiting for the electrician to arrive and hook it up.

So, for the past few days, we have been forced to eat take-out food or dine-out every meal.

Although this may not sound like a major problem for most of you, the fact of the matter is that it is darn hard to manage your carb and calorie intake when someone else is doing the cooking. Further its just so tempting to steal a few french fries from your kids plate or dive into the bread basket that they serve at restaurants.

When you cook your own meals, you know exactly what you put in to the pot. You are in control of your portion size, the ingredients and the preparation. You can prepare healthy  low carb accoutrements to serve with your meal. When someone else is in the kitchen, the only thing you are responsible for is…. well, eating.

Such was my case the other night when we ate at the local Italian joint. The kids shared a freshly made thin crust pizza and I ordered a big platter of their special seafood platter. When queried about what exactly is in the special, the waitress enthusiastically described a large bowl full of fresh seafood, clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari and scungilli in a fresh tomato sauce.

Everything sounded great except the scungilli. I tried scungilli before and was never a big fan of this sea-snail. The consistency is a little too tough and chewy for my palate. I asked the server to “hold the scungilli” which they thankfully did.

The kid’s pizza came out first. Now I have a love/hate relationship with pizza. I love to eat, but I hate what it does to my figure. Usually I can exercise self-control when around the individual pre-sliced kind you can order at pizzerias in NYC. However, wood-fired, brick oven, fresh pizza pies are my nemesis. I find a hot, bubbly,  thin crust freshly baked pizza difficult  to resist. I preemptively told me kids, “Don’t let mommy steal any of your pizza,”. They happily obliged and quickly pulled the gorgeous fragrant pie over to their side of the table.

By the time my dish came out, I was ravenous. As described, heaping mounds of piping hot fresh seafood was blanketed in a lovely fresh tomato sauce. I tied the plastic bib that the restaurant provided around my neck and dug in. Everything was going well until I reached the lower 1/3 of the bowl. There, concealed by the shellfish was a lovely little pile of homemade spaghetti.

Uh oh. I said as I pointed to the offending carb laden pile.

“Well, you don’t have to eat it,” my husband said to my shell-shocked face.

“I know, but the waitress didn’t say there was going to be pasta,” I stammered, …”and ….the sauce is so good ….and its homemade pasta and…. its been soooo long.” Suddenly, before I realized it, I had greedily slurped a forkful of that delicious pasta into my mouth.

OMG! Its been so long since I had REAL semolina pasta. Having avoided pasta for so long, I completely forgot what it tasted like. And you know what? Its goooooooooooood! I slowly savored two more delicious mouthfuls and then passed the rest to my 9-year-old son. Those three generous forkfuls, along with the mountain of fresh seafood that I just consumed, was just what the doctor orderd. I was full. I was satiated. I was happy.

Its OK to cheat a little. In fact, since I had not eaten pasta in such a long time prior to last night made my little pas de deux with the noodles so much more special. Read my old post “Three Steps forward, Two Steps Back” for further explanation. You have to indulge at least a few times a week. This is the I Love FOOD Diet after all. 🙂

Chow for now!

Uncategorized, What is FOOD?

Is That a Pea in my Pod?

Stir-fried snow peas with prawns - Kao Gang
Image by avlxyz via Flickr

All my life, I have disliked green peas. Growing up, I always dreaded the ubiquitous “vegetable medley” favored at  so many school cafeterias. As a kid, I was not averse to plucking out each and every green pea from my Hungry Man Frozen Dinners lest accidentally consuming one of those green, mushy, mealy and slightly sweet little balls.

Because of my aversion to green peas I eschewed snow pea pods most of life assuming them to be the same dreaded vegetable… only bigger.

It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I finally tried a snow pea pod. I was at a chinese banquet and shrimp with snow pea pods was one of the entrees served. As the waiter ceremoniously served everyone at the table, I did not want to be the only one to say “hold the peas,” so I quietly accepted my fate. I reluctantly tried one snow pea pod.

Surprisingly enough, this snow pea pod did not taste like the green peas of my youth.

Crispy, crunchy and slightly sweet, these pea pods bared little resemblance to the mushy, mealy, overcooked, sweet green mush that I remember being force-fed as a child.

It ends up that although green peas and snow peas are in the same family, they are different foods.  Garden peas or green peas are the seeds that come from the flowering plant pod Pisum Sativum. The pod, round and firm in shape, is technically a fruit, as it has seeds (the peas). However, the peas themselves are considered to be a vegetable. These green peas need to be shelled before eating. The pod is not edible.

Snow peas on the other hand are flat and thin and are meant to be eaten whole. Each snow pea pod has 5 -7 seeds and are relatively flat in shape. The name “mangetout” (French for – eat all) can be applied to this legume and its sister pod, sugar snap peas as both the pod and the interior peas can be eaten.

Then there are the sugar snap peas that are sort of a combo of both. They have plump edible pods that are crispy and crunchy. They do not need to be shelled and can be eaten whole.

Buoyed by my recent interest in experimenting with different vegetables, I decided to cook snow peas pods for the first time.  Having never tried cooking anything remotely resembling a pea before, I did what I alway do and googled “how to cook snow peas pods“. It  seems it is pretty similar to cooking any fresh greens.

First you need to rinse the very well and trim off the woody tips of the snow pea pod. Sautee one small chopped onion, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1/2 tsp of chopped ginger in some olive oil in a hot skillet for 2 minutes. Then add the cleaned and trimmed snow pea pods into the pot. I added 2 tsp of soy sauce, a teeny bit of sesame oil and some black pepper. I stirred it around and covered the pan for another 2 minutes. Voila, thats it!

The result was a lovely low cal, low carb, crispy, crunchy and satisfying dish. A whole cup of snow peas pods only has less than 5 carbs!

Try eating some snow pea pods. I promise you they do not taste like green peas.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Spiderman Pushup

Spider-Girl
Image via Wikipedia

Is it me or is everybody talking about Spider Man lately? Every other day there seems to be some reference of our 8 legged friend in the news. From the troubling stories surrounding the beleaguered Broadway musical, to the casting of the new and fresh-faced actors for the 4th installment of the movie to NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg recently dressing up as our webbed hero at a recent Inner City Charity Function.

So, when my I heard Coach Emily instruct us all to “do the Spiderman Push-Up,” during the “Total Body Conditioning” class at Five Points the other day, I thought she was kidding.

What the heck is a Spider man Push up?”

Basically it is like a regular push up but WAY, WAY, WAY HARDER.

Although I am no expert on this contortionists move, I believe that you need to start in a regular push-up plank position, then balance your self on one leg, then take the other leg and slowly bend it up to your elbow, then bend your arms slowly lowering your body up and down…all the while keeping your body in alignment and your knee up to your elbow.

Now ” breathe….balance…bend”  coaxed Coach Emily in her sweet and disarming voice.

“Ok. I can do this.” I reasoned with myself. I breathed…I balanced…I fell on my face.

I tried again. I breathed..I bent..but I could not balance!

As I lay sprawled on my chest looking around to see if anyone else was having as hard of a time with this as me, I saw my neighbor, an adorable young woman in perfect physical shape do this “push-up”  successfully without even breaking a sweat.

This Spider Girl, saw my struggles and whispered to me reassuringly, “don’t worry, it gets easier,” as she proceeded to do several more reps of the Spider Man Pushup.

After two more unsuccessful tries, I gave up and decided that I would just hold the plank position, instead of risking any more physical injury to me or my neighbors.

Many attest that the push ups are one of the fastest and best ways to get fit. In the blog, http://www.pushups100.blogspot.com, the author  lists the incredible benefits that push ups can do. They include working your chest, hands, forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, traps, upper back, lower back, abs, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calf, feet, your core, your balance and your heart. They also can be done anytime, anywhere, you don’t need any special or expensive equipment, and you don’t need to spend hours at the gym to see results.

It is a well-known fact that soldiers in the military are ordered to “get down and do 20” if they are insubordinate to their superior officers. Instead of viewing these push up as punishment, they really should be saying ‘Thank you sir, may I have another. ”

As I am neither a soldier nor in the military, I will just keep trying to do these push ups and someday be just like Spider Girl.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Full Fat Baby!

Lasagna (song)
Image via Wikipedia

I was watching a good friend of mine prepare dinner for me the other night. I was telling him about the absolutely punishing “Total Body Conditioning” class I took that morning at my new home away from home, the Five Points Academy. I somehow managed to perch my still aching gluteus maximus at the counter, observing his culinary skills and trying not to comment on them. I am well aware that  no one likes a “butt- insky,” and kept my mouth shut even while I watched him precariously dice vegetables on an extremely wobbly cutting board. His reasoning why he had the cutting board cantilevered on a rolled up towel was that it would prevent “slippage”. I nodded obediently, gulping nervously as he nearly lost the tip of his pinky while chopping. I suppressed my motherly need to correct him and explain that the correct way to prevent the board from slipping is to unroll the towel, lay it flat on the counter and then place the board on top of the flattened towel.

As he knows that I am on the, I Love FOOD Diet, he courteously adhered to the low carb tenets of the diet and was making low carb lasagna. Instead of using lasagna noodles, he was using thinly sliced eggplant. Instead of deep-frying the eggplant with carb filled bread crumb, he coated the eggplant using fresh grated parmesan cheese and baked them till they were browned. Instead of using regular ricotta cheese, he was using fat-free ricotta cheese….with tons of more cheese added…..Huh?

As he was preparing the filling for the low carb lasagna, I watched him hand shred mounds of fresh parmesan cheese into the bowl of ricotta cheese.

Amused by this somewhat oxymoronic step, I commented, “I like how you add the fat back into the fat-free cheese.”

Full Fat Baby!” he proudly boasted

I thought he was just being ironic and laughed sipping on my cocktail.

He then went on to proselytize on how much he dislikes the fat-free/low-fat options and only goes for the full fat choices. “If you are going to eat, eat it. Don’t be a pu**y about it” he declared.

I nodded in agreement and mentioned that I must have misread the label on the tub of ricotta cheese that I saw him use.

He then whirled around his kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, grabbed the tub in question and ceremoniously presented the label to me. “See!” he said triumphantly. “FULL FAT” while pointing to the label.

I then tried to say as gently as possible “But sweetie, its says “Fat-Free Cheese”

To which the chef said “no it doesn’t, see it says it right there, FULL FAT, while pointing at the FAT-FREE label. “Oh” realizing his error, “You’re right”.

In an effort to capitalize on the publics perceived notion that “low-fat” and “fat-free” are healthier choices, big companies have developed all types of foods that they can slap a low-fat or fat-free label on.

However while these products may very well be fat-free, one needs to question what exactly has been added in its replacement. The fact of the matter is that many companies add bulking agents, fillers, salt, sugar, artificial flavor enhancers and all sorts of chemicals and agents to make the  “fat-free” versions taste like it has… well.. fat.

There is not enough long-term research data about the benefits of low-fat versus the full fat options however given the choice of a natural full-fat product or a fat-free option with tons of additives I would lean toward the former.

My advice would be to avoid the fat-free versions of anything and instead just eat less of the full-fat FRESH versions. Not only will you enjoy your food more but you will most likely be able to satisfy your appetite with less of it.

Applying Buddhas teaching of the Middle Path, “So these who follow the middle path which avoid the extreme of indulging one’s desires and opposite extreme of torturing ones mind and body unreasonably, will find happiness, peace of mind and Enlightenment. This is the fourth Noble Truth leading to the path to end suffering”

I don’t know if applying this wisdom to full fat cheese will help us end our suffering, however it can’t hurt.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Thai Kick Boxing (Muay Thai) – Kicks A**!!!

Muay Thai : Flying punch

When my husband first mentioned Thai Kick boxing lessons for our two young sons awhile back, I gave him the look of death. “Over my dead body”, I countered. There was no way in hell that I would let my two young boys be subjected to what I could only imagine would  be violent physical abuse. Frightening visions of Jean-Claude Van Damm from his 1989 cult movie “Kickboxer, bloody, shirtless and flying furiously across the room delivering “death blows’ to his opponents flashed through my mind.

Thai Kickboxing or Muay Thai is an ancient Thai martial arts dating back over 1000 years. Muay Thai has been practiced for centuries to build strength, endurance, self confidence and discipline. It’s also Thailand‘s national sport. Did I mention that a one hour class can burn up to anywhere from 600 to as high as 900 calories per hour!

A few months later, my husband brought it up again. “What are you crazy?” I snapped. “Why would you want to do that to our kids? What’s wrong with soccer or little league? Why Muay Thai?” I continued.

“But Jean-Luc (not his real name) and Colette (not her real name) take their son and they swear by it.” protested my husband. “They say it will great for our boys concentration, focus, discipline, etc”

“Nope” I replied definitively.  “Not gonna happen”

Well looks like 3 X is a charm because the 3rd time that he asked me again this year, I reluctantly acquiesced. It was only after many convincing assurances from my french friend Colette, that ” “zee keeedz will not beeee urt” and that “zey will luvvve eeeet.” did I let my husband to take our 2 boys to the Muay Thai lessons.

We negotiated a deal. If he agreed to take the boys to and from the classes himself, twice a week, then they could go. He had to assure me that I would have no involvement with that gym and that I would not have to sit there and witness my babies be pummeled.

When they all came home after the first lesson, I quickly flew over to my kids examining them head to toe for cuts, bruises, scratches or blood. “How was it?” I asked nervously.

“Great!” they both replied in unison.

“What do you mean, Great? Did they kick you? Did they hit you? Did they beat you up?” I quizzed them intensely, glowering at my husband for subjecting my babies to this possible physical harm.

“No, mom” said my oldest son with a roll of his 8-year-old tween eyes. “It was really FUN. We don’t actually hit each other. We use pads and gloves and just practice the moves.”

Ding: Round 1  goes to Thai Kickboxing.

The following weeks I asked the same questions and got the same responses. They came home happy, enthusiastic, and excited to show me there newly taught moves.

Finally after a month of lessons, my boys whined to me “Mom. Why don’t you ever come to watch us? Why is it always Dad?”

Alas, what to do when your two little angels guilt you into watching them do their dance of death.

Ding: Round 2 goes to Thai Kickboxing

I reluctantly agreed to take them to their Junior Muay Thai classes at the Five Points Academy. This unassuming, intimate, well equipped and spotlessly clean full-service gym located on the corner of Canal and Broadway was such a pleasant surprise. The Five Points Academy offers Junior Muay Thai classes for kids a couple of times of week but the main event is clearly for the adults. The staff is friendly, welcoming and attentive. The atmosphere is unlike the typical gym you find in NYC. There was no loud music blasting. There were no scantily clad posers. There was nary a fake tan, obvious plastic surgery, attention grabbing leotards or vulgar thongs you so often see at the more “glamorous gyms.” What I saw were small classes trained by professional, attentive and skilled coaches. What I also saw were serious-minded members who appreciated this type of “old school” atmosphere and them working their a**es off.

Fast forward 6 months. After succumbing to schlepping my boys weekly to Junior Muay Thai classes and watching the adults take a different class simultaneously (read my post, Kettlebell Kicked My A**), I decided that I would give it the old college try and try a Muay Thai class myself.

Now, I have taken my fair share of classes at various gyms in the past. I’ve tried Yoga (kept falling asleep during class), Pilates (not flexible enough) and various cardio classes (did I mention that I am also not very coordinated? I kept mixing up the combinations and banging into everybody), but nothing prepared me for Muay Thai. The entire 50 minute class were repetitions of prompted jabs, punches, upper cuts, hooks, front kicks, back kicks, roundhouse kicks and various combinations of the above, to your well protected and fully padded opponent. I have never worked out so hard, sweated so much and had as much fun in an exercise class in my entire life. I immediately signed up for a years membership.

Ding Ding Ding: Round 3 – Winner and Champion Muay Thai!

***If you are interested in getting a Kick A** workout in a non-threatening low-key atmosphere, I highly recommend checking out Five Points Academy. Tell them I sent you and they will give you your first trial class for free. Take it. You will be hooked like me. Check out their site at: http://www.academyfivepoints.com.

Chow for now!