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!

What is FOOD?

How Do You Cook Short Ribs?

I was wandering aimlessly through the aisles of Whole Foods yesterday morning, looking for some inspiration for dinner that night.

When I asked my kids on the way to school in the morning, what they felt like for dinner, my 7-year-old paused, tilted his head in thought, and after about 30 seconds of “hummmmm, urrrrr, ummmms” piped hopefully, “Mom, make the big chicken“. “Yeah, mom,” added my 9 old hopefully, “Make the turkey-chicken.” For those of you who have read my earlier post, “Taste just like…Chicken?” they were referring to the local, all natural, organic, fresh chicken that they sell at our neighborhood farmers market. However, as the “chicken lady” only comes to the market on Saturdays which was still days away, looks like we were out of luck.

As I knew that I would be making a “Big Turkey-Chicken” on Saturday, I decided to steer clear of buying any poultry. I meandered through the seafood section and seriously eyed a slab of fresh cod filet. I changed my mind last-minute, as I was just not in the mood for seafood.

I steered my still-empty cart over to the meat department studying all the different cuts of meat in the showcase. Boneless Short Ribs – $7.99 lb. caught my eye. Positioned next to it lay another lovely pile of Bone-In Short Ribs for $6.99. I decided right then and there that I was going to make Short Ribs. The only problem was that I have never cooked this cut of meat before and had zero idea as to what to do with it.

“How do you cook short ribs?” I asked the man working behind the meat counter. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Well, it depends if you are cooking the boneless or the bone-in. He went on to elaborate that the boneless short ribs were heavily marbled and would be excellent simply pan seared and served like a steak. Motioning to the bone-in short ribs, he suggested to cook them slowly in a dutch oven or a slow cooker for several hours.

A lady beside me chimed in, “Actually, both would work well in a slow cooker. The bones give the dish a lot of flavor.”

Sold! I bought 1 lb of each and went home.

It’s been a while since I used my good old Crocker. After much trial and even more error with my crock pot, (read my previous post, “Making Peace with my Crocker” for explanation) I have finally mastered the fine art of crock pot cooking.

For those of you who have read my past rants over that ridiculously time-consuming and sloooooooow cooking apparatus, the key to crocking is to just let it sit and stew. Don’t do ANYTHING other than leave it alone the entire time your meal is cooking. Every time you lift the lid off the Crocker, you lose the equivalent of almost 1/2 hour of cooking heat. So, please learn from my mistakes and do not lift the lid every 1/2 hr (as I did with my first experience with the slow cooker). Don’t worry, the food will not run away.

This time, I knew what to do. I carefully unwrapped the short ribs from the brown butcher paper. I then seared the short ribs on all sides until brown and beautiful. many recipes call for dredging the ribs in flour, however as this is the I Love FOOD Diet and flour is a no-no, I skipped that recommendation. I then placed my freshly seared meat in the Crocker. In a separate bowl,  I mixed 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/3 cup of rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of hoisen sauce and 1/2 cup of red wine. I poured the dark liquid over the meat and topped it with 3 chopped scallions, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger and  2 carrots.  I then pushed the “low setting” button and pried myself away from the Crocker for the next 8 hours.

What came out was an utterly delicious, restaurant quality, rich and satisfying meal. I served the short ribs with roasted cauliflower and liberally poured the juices over the meat and the veggies. Yummy!  Finger lickin, lip smackin good. 🙂

Tip: If you want to thicken the sauce, simply puree the carrots and stir it in the crock pot with the juices.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

What is FOOD?

Will eat for food
Image by altemark via Flickr

What is FOOD? Seems like a silly question, right? Heck, we have been consuming food in one form or another since conception.

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the following is the definition of “food” (noun)

  • A material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrates or fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair and vital processes and to furnish energy
  • Nutriment in solid form
  • Something that nourishes, sustains or supplies

As the definition above clearly states that “food” is something, nourishing or sustains growth, what the heck is the rest of that stuff that we have been consuming? The fact of the matter is that a vast majority of “food” on the market today has little to no nutrients, are not nourishing, nor will sustain healthy growth. Our “food” has been hijacked. What was considered food centuries ago bares a slim resemblance to the overly processed, striped down “franken-foods” on the market today. The only “sustaining growth” from these “wanna-be foods” is the girth around our waistlines, not to mention the “sustaining growth” of obesity and obesity related diseases in Americans today.

I have developed my own definition of FOOD. After much trial and error, I had my Eureka moment last month and have busy researching and developing the new and improved ” I Love FOOD Diet”.

Although I am in the process of fine tuning it –  (Hey, Rome was not built in a day), the basic premise is that you can eat as much FOOD and only FOOD every day. Not only will you lose weight, you will look better, feel better, have more energy and basically improve your life and those around you as well. Sounds too good to be true? Well let me clarify:

The definition of FOOD on the I Love FOOD Diet is that it must be two of the following:

  • F – FRESH – fresh fruit, fresh veggies, fresh seafood, fresh meats, no preservatives, no additives
  • O – Organic – no pesticides, no hormones, no genetically modified pseudo-foods
  • O – Oxygen – If it needs oxygen for growth then you can eat it on the I Love FOOD Diet. Fruits and veggies need oxygen to grow, animals need oxygen to grow, all forms of seafood need oxygen (what do you think the O stands for in H2O?). What does NOT need oxygen is rice, pasta, sugar, flour and bread (in fact, oxygen causes bread to go stale and grow mold!)
  • D – Delicious – If it is delicious you will eat it. We encourage liberal use of seasoning, certain condiments, salt, olive oil and even some butter.

I have a lot more to work and research to do for this fabulous diet. I’ll have more to report next time. In the meantime, keep eating FOOD!

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Funky Smelling Pink Pee

Asparagus asparagus (can you do the fandango)
Image by itsjustanalias via Flickr

As I have recently become obsessed with eating tons of vegetables for dinner, I felt it necessary to mention an unusual side effect of consuming some fresh produce, specifically asparagus and my new favorite, beets (Read my post: Beet it, Just Beet it)

There is no delicate way to say it, so I’ll just spit it out. The fact of the matter is that asparagus makes your pee smell “funky.”

I am not the only one that has noticed this odiferous side effect. In fact over 3 centuries ago French writer, Louis Lemery wrote in his book, Treatise of All Sorts of Food (1702) that  “Asparagus causes a filthy and disagreeable smell in the urine”.

Marcel Proust wrote satirically in his legendary work “Swann’s Way,” that “Asparagus…transforms my chamber pot into a flask of perfume”

The reason? Asparagus has several sulfur-containing compounds. When digested, these compounds become similar to the chemicals that make skunks stink. Lovely!

So why punish my family by eating tons of asparagus. Well, beside the fact that my husband brought home 6 lbs (!) of them, (His reasoning –  the street vendor was closing his cart up and was practically giving them away), asparagus are full of vitamins and minerals and quite delicious.

Asparagus is very low in calories as one spear has less than 4 calories. They are also a great source of potassium, fiber, B6, folicin, thiamin, rutin (an antioxidant that strengthens capillary walls) and is also very low carb. One cup of plain cooked asparagus has only 3.5 carbs and only  .7 net carbs.

I was ready for the noxious effect of asparagus, however I was unprepared for the color of my urine the next day. Not only was my pee “funky” it was also pink!

OMG! I quickly checked the calendar. Nope, it was not that time of the month. Was I bleeding internally, did I have stomach ulcers, should I check myself into the hospital?

Luckily there were other “pink pee-ers” like me out there and were kind enough to post their experiences on the web.

According to the Associated Press, I could be suffering from a completely harmless condition called, “Beeturia“. Evidently I am one of the 14% of the population this condition affects. According to this article, Beeturia can either be genetic or it could be that I am deficient in iron. Without going into all the scientific details, basically, I should up my intake of iron. If I still see red, then I should just get used to pink pee as it is genetic and I am stuck with this mildly colorful effect.

Oh well. What can you do. Just don’t follow me in the bath room.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Shopping Frenzy

Mannequin with Jeans in Sannicolau Mare, Rumania
Image via Wikipedia

As Spring has (sort of)  sprung, I woke up with a bout of shopping fever. Well, in all honesty, being mistaken for PREGNANT (!) would jump start anybody to buy some new flattering clothes. After a quick inventory of  my closet, I decided that I had enough of the New York de rigour uniform of black colored clothing. I was going to buy COLOR.  I had a double mission that day, not only was I going to shop for new duds, I was going to buy cheerful-colorful-figure-flattering clothes! I was on a mission…a mission to shop….CHARGE!!!

My first stop was the GAP. Now, say what you will about the GAP, but the fact of the matter is that I LOVE their jeans. I own a fair amount of designer jeans, you know, the kind that retail for over $175 a pop. But at the end of the day, my GAP jeans are the most comfortable and fit me the best. I walked into the store and was struck by just how many styles of jeans the GAP offers. What to do? Should I go for the “Legging Jeans” or should I go for the “Real Straight”? What’s the difference between their “Perfect Boot” and their “Sexy Boot”? After popping in and out of the dressing room, asking my way too bored attendant, which style she liked better on me, I ended up with my “go-to jean” – The Always Skinny 1969 jeans in dark blue. I tried to take a walk on the wild side, but could not get my ass into them.

Invigorated after my new purchase, I continued my shopping spree and perused the boutiques along lower Fifth Ave. I popped in and out of several boutiques, stopping to try on a few things along the way.

Finally I made a pit stop at H&M. Most of the clothes on display were a little “too young” for my, ahem.. more mature age, however, out of the corner of my eye, I did notice a very familiar looking garment. Hmmm, why did this look so familiar? Any why did that look so familiar? It ends up that I was looking at the “capsule collection” that designer Alber Elbaz from Lanvin designed specifically for H&M. Pay dirt!

Now I have a unique relationship with Monsieur Elbaz. Shortly before he became the chief designer for Lanvin, he was the immediate successor to Yves Saint Laurent and was chief designer from 1998-2000. As I was sales and marketing director of  Yves Saint Laurent USA during that time, I worked side by side with Alber. The capsule collection that he designed for H&M had his signature style. In fact my “Egg Shaped Tweed YSL Coat – the one that kind of makes me look pregnant and was the catalyst of this whole shopping spree) was designed by Alber.  I could not believe my luck and soon was in a shopping FRENZY. I joyfully scooped up 3 new skirts, 2 new trousers and one top all from his collection. As much as I admired the “Egg-Shape Dress” and the “Egg Shaped blouses” he offered in the collection, I learned my lesson and steered clear of them.

I sailed downstairs to the cash register to pay for my newly acquired figure flattering purchases. Unfortunately I picked the wrong line. There were 3 busy cashier. I stood on the first line and then noticed that the one next to me was slightly shorter. So, I slid my self over and smugly waited, averting my eyes from the women on the first line. Well, it seems that the reason the second line was shorter than the others was because the cashier was in the process of doing a return. Now normally a return should not take that long, however because this was a BIG return, it needed to be authorized by a manager and that manager was MIA.

As the customers on the first line that were originally behind me were now already fully paid and out the door, I had yet to be rung up. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the manager showed up.  After re-examining each item that was to be returned, she eventually authorized the transaction. As I laid my purchases delicately on the counter, I reached my hand into my pocketbook, when I realized something was missing. I was missing my pocketbook!

Holy Sh**!!! I was in such a shopping frenzy that I inadvertently put my handbag down and left it somewhere! OMG. My iPhone, my wallet, my money, my credit cards, my work, my keys, my LIFE is in that bag!

I quickly traced my steps and dashed from the register upstairs to the dressing room. I ran to the escalator but ran to the wrong end. This escalator was going down. Flustered and panicked I ran around to the other end. This escalator was “out of service”. I quickly mounted up the immobile escalator stairs two at a time. Upon reaching the landing I headed to the sign that read “Dressing room”. However, upon approaching, I noticed that this dressing room looked slightly different that what I remembered. I immediately figured out that there were 2 dressing rooms on that floor, and that I was in the wrong one!

I ran to the other side of the store, breathless and panicked. Luck was on my side that day as my lovely but bored dressing room attendant saw me and said “I was trying to call you back but you were already gone.” I gave her a big hug and thanked her for holding my bag.

I calmly strolled back to the cashier, proudly yielding my credit card briefly explaining why I had just up and left. He smiled and added “And you were waiting for a long time too!”

My charges were complete, my clothes were packed and after gaining my composure, I started strolling out the door. That was until, the dreaded sensor alarm went off. I immediately looked around with the expression on my face that clearly read, “It’s not me!” The security guard approached me and asked to look through my bag. I acquiesced and handed over the bag. Luckily he found the culprit – a skirt that still had a sensor attached. After examining my receipt and verifying that I was not indeed a thief, he instructed me to go back to the register to have it removed.

“It’s me again” I cheerfully announced to the cashier, wielding my senso-ed skirt and receipt. “Oops sorry about that”, apologized the cashier. To which I just winked at him and said “No problem.”

Finally I came home and inspected my newly acquired purchases. After carefully laying them on my bed, I noticed that they all had something in common….they were ALL BLACK. There was nary a color among them, unless you count dark navy denim as a “color”. Oh well, you can take the girl out of the city….

At least I wont be mistaken for pregnant again!

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

But I am NOT Pregnant!

NYCSub 7 car exterior
Image via Wikipedia

Nothing says you need to go on a diet more than someone mistaking you for pregnant. Such was my case earlier today riding the number 6 train back home from Bloomingdale’s.

I did a little spring shopping and was carrying home 2 rather large shopping bags. Upon maneuvering myself on to the fairly crowded subway car, a very kind – but clearly short-sided gentleman, tapped me on the shoulder and motioned to me to take his seat.

I looked around and saw lots of other more people more deserving of the coveted seat and I graciously declined his kind offer. However, this man was determined that “I” was the chosen one and he gently nudged me into the chair. Befuddled by this unforseen act of chivalry, I declared “But, I am not pregnant!” As soon as that mildly defensive statement escaped my lips, several of my fellow passengers burst out laughing.

However, as this is NYC, normal “subway protocol” calls for complete disengagement of your fellow passengers and my neighbors quickly stifled their giggles and returned to their blank stares, ignoring everybody around them.

One older gentleman next to me, munching on a container of mixed nuts, removed one of his ear buds from his ear and said to me confidentially, “Thanks for sharing the laugh”.

“No problem dude”. I said, “Me and baby (motioning to my non-existent pregnant belly) are happy to please.”

As I KNOW I clearly do NOT look like I am expecting, the only thing I could think of was that my attire was somewhat “unflattering”. As this winter has seen extreme changes in temperature on a daily basis, I have taken to wearing several layers.

I had on a t-shirt, a sweater, a scarf, jeans and my Heavy Tweed Yves Saint Laurent “Egg Shaped” Coat.

Upon further reflection, I can see that although my coat is very fashionable and fabulous, I guess I can see how someone, not familiar with this chic shape, could mistake the wearer for having a bun in the oven. There is no definition around the waist. In fact there is no definition at all. Its shaped like an Egg – narrow on top and the bottom and widest in the middle.

I think I need to go shopping.

Chow for now!