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!


No FOOD on the Road

Foto de una carretera en la cual se destacan a...
Image via Wikipedia

Ah, Spring Break. The time of year when school is closed for a glorious 10 days and I have the delightful privilege of entertaining my two young boys without driving me and my family crazy.

We decided that in lieu of spending thousands of dollars on the usual kid-centric vacation (i.e. Disneyland, Atlantis or Universal Studios) we would put that money toward fixing up our country house. The windows needed to be replaced, our deck had seen better days, our fence was rotting away and the interior of the house was in dire need of new paint job.

Being the complete control freak that I am, I was determined to source all the materials myself and buy the best quality materials at the lowest possible prices. This decision ended up saving me almost $2K, however nearly drove me bonkers and took me WAY off the I Love FOOD diet.

It’s a well know fact that FRESH food is hard to find along the myriad fast food eateries that line the highway. Most of what you will find at the local fast food joint is over-processed franken-foods that clearly do not qualify as F-O-O-D on the I Love FOOD Diet (please see my post What is FOOD? for further explanation.)

Running between the hardware store, the lumbar yard, the stone center, Lowes and 2 different Home Depots left me tired, cranky and hungry. I had no time to go home and prepare a healthy meal and no time to sit down at a proper restaurant.

I did what I would strongly recommend you all NOT to do. I did not plan in advance and ended up indulging on gas station junk food.

I knew that I would be schlepping from one home improvement store to another, my husband volunteered to stay home with kids. As I was sans enfants, I was free to start my expedition first thing in the morning. The first mistake of the day was that I skipped breakfast. My usual breakfast of 2 organic eggs and some protein was replaced with a bottle of Diet Coke.

I had a meeting with our contractor at noon and wanted to get all my ducks in a row, before then. I did not have the time nor inclination to cook breakfast for myself and just ran out the door with my bottle of soda in hand.

My 11:00 am, I was famished. I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things on my way home and was accosted by the most delicious smelling fried chicken. I reasoned that I would buy a few pieces to offer the contractor. On the way to our country house, the aroma wafting from my bucket of poultry was too irresistable to resist. I pulled over to the side of the road and devoured 3 chicken wings and 1 thigh….Sigh.

As I immediately regretted my carnivorous consumption of the carb and fat laden poultry, I vowed to eat properly the rest of the day. I skipped lunch as I already inhaled it in the car and proceeded to meet with the contractor, take measurements, visit a few more home improvement centers and scheduled several deliveries. By evening, I was spent.

I scanned the roadside restaurants searching for something to eat. I decided that I would try and tough it out and wait till I got back into the city to eat. I needed to refill my tank so I stopped by a roadside gas station. Upon entering the greasy smelling gas/convenience store, I was welcomed by a large grey cat. Red flag! The unusually hairy and questionably clean attendant did not strike me as a pet enthusiast. The only other reason to have a cat in such an establishment would be to ward off rodents!

I scanned the shelves looking for some sort of healthy snack and finally found a dusty old bag of mixed nuts. Nuts are a great source of protein and are naturally low carb. As I double checked that the bag was still hermetically sealed, I bought them plus another Diet Coke and quickly hightailed it out of there.

Now although nuts are indeed a great low carb snack, when they are honey roasted, and salted, the situation changes. As I was voraciously munching on my bag of nuts, I neglected to notice that this bag has 5 servings. So the 12 grams of carbs and the 160 calories that I thought I was eating was actually 60 grams of carbs and 800 calories, not to mention that copious amount of sodium that this bag contained.

By the time I got home, I was bloated, tired and slightly nauseous. I had not eaten anything remotely healthy all day and was definitely suffering. I ate some leftovers and crawled into bed.

The next morning… well lets just say, the scale was NOT kind to me. Even though I did not eat that much the previous day, the quality of the food was less than stellar.

The next time you are going to be on the road, don’t do what I did. Do yourself a favor and plan your meals ahead.

Chow for now.


When FREE Can be Fattening

Stop Hunger?
Image by Felix42 contra la censura via Flickr

Why is it that I lose all self-control when offered a freebie?

Perhaps this can be attributed to my “penny conscious-dollar foolish” parents who often cut Mc Donald’s coupons for their 2  for 1 Big Breakfast deals, paying the $1.99 on their way to a $100+++ per person golf game at their country club.

Or perhaps it’s because I live in NYC and the price of everything is so jacked up that when presented with an opportunity to save a few cents, I jump.

Or maybe its simply because I was hungry.

Whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is that when offered a freebie, I usually takie.

Such was the case, a week ago when I met some friends for dinner at Cipriani Wall Street.  One of my dinner companions was friends with the manager and she told us to ask for him upon arrival. Upon entering this overly styled (but in a good way) restaurant, we were offered complimentary flutes of their signature (but carb- filled) Bellini cocktail

Cold refreshing champagne with a healthy dollop of the most delicious fresh squeezed peach juice was too good to resist. Never mind that I was carb counting. It was free, it was good and I downed it. When the fine gentleman came around again offering to refresh our glasses, I surreptitiously accepted. At that point, I had already gone over the 50 grams of carbs a day I try to limit myself too and decided to “go crazy” and dig into the bread basket and sample some of their famous carb filled pasta. Although both bread and pasta are big no-no’s on the I LOVE FOOD DIET, I resolved to follow my own sage advice from my post “Three Steps forward, 2 steps back,” and dig in. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day.

The other day when I was walking home from dropping off the kids at school, I noticed a young woman eagerly handing out what looked like packaged candy. Having been down this road before and not wanting to be tempted by carb filled candy, I stealthy avoided her. However after overhearing her say to another passer by that they were “healthy snacks,” my curiousity was peaked. I slowed down my pace and was quickly ambushed by her coworker urging me to sample the freebie bar.

Healthy candy bar? Hmmmmm. let me see. I looked at the label. the 4 oz bar contained 230 calories and 36 gm of carbs. I should have dumped it right there and then, but I was hungry and it was FREE.

The first bite was good. Crunchy, sweet and nutty. The second and third bites were equally good. However after the 4th bite, the bar was almost gone and I was still hungry.

I cursed myself for having consumed that completely unnecessary breakfast bar. This freebie was going to cost me 40 minutes on the treadmill. 😦

The next time you are offered a freebie, just make sure it is low carb.

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?

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!

What is FOOD?

Here Chickie, Chickie, Chickpea

Roasted Chickpeas
Image by fritish via Flickr

I was rummaging through my parents kitchen cupboard looking for something to snack on. My mother, annoyed that I was invading her “sanctum” inquired “What the heck are you looking for? You just finished lunch. You’re snacking and eating all the time!” To which I retorted, “Well, HELLO??? I am on the I LOVE FOOD DIET after all.”

I was at my parents house in Florida this past week as my kids had their Winter Break and we all needed a break from the brutal NYC winter weather.

Unfortunately all my parents had in their cupboard was carb filled chips, pretzels and other “no’s no’s that would not suffice on the I LOVE FOOD DIET. Just as I was about to give up and delve in to the “Party Size” bag of Lays Potato Chips, I spotted a lonely and dusty can of Garbanzo Beans way in the back of the shelf.

Eureka! I hit the jackpot. I was going to make a batch of my delicious and nutritious spicy roasted chickpeas! I took out the baking tray from the toaster oven and wrapped it in aluminum foil (easy clean up!).

Then I opened my can o’beans. I drained the beans and then rinsed them in cold water. By doing this you remove the extra starches that ruminate in the canned liquid. I then patted my little golden nuggets with a paper towel and laid these little balls on the baking sheet. I drizzled the chickpeas with a little olive oil and then sprinkled the legumes with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder and a teeny bit of cayenne pepper. I popped these babies into the toaster oven at 450 degrees for about 30 -40 minutes until they were brown and crunchy.

Delicious, salty, crunchy and savory  with just a little kick from the cayenne, I munched on these poolside with a few light beers the rest of the day. Yum! 🙂

Chickpeas also known as  Garbanzo beans, Indian pea, Ceci beans or Bengal grams is an edible legume packed with protein. Chickpeas have a long history dating back thousands of years. In fact depictions of chickpeas have been found on pottery during the late Neolithic (3500 BC) period in what is now Greece.

Further, in their book, Domestication of Plants in the Early World, authors Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf cite evidence of drawings of chickpeas in a cave in Southern France dating as far back as 6790 BCE.

Chickpeas are chock full of zinc, folate, protein and fiber. While they do contain some carbohydrates  (approximately 70 grams for the can), it’s a whole lot less than the 227 grams of carbs, not to mention the huge amounts of fat, in the bag of potato chips I was about to devour.

As the saying goes, beans, beans, good for your heart….

Guiltless snacks. I love the I LOVE FOOD DIET!

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Low Carb Tapas at Boqueria

Bild:ForbysBoqueria.jpg Beschreibung: Mercat d...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ll admit it. I was bickering with my husband last week over something stupid when he called me to ask, “What do you want to do for Valentines day?”

“I don’t know, you decide”, I snapped.

That’s why when he called back a few hours later telling me he had made reservations at   “Go-Korea“, I was surprised and frankly touched.

Unlike me, my husband is NOT a fan of Korean food. So when he told me that he had made reservations at what I can only assume is a Korean restaurant, I was pretty shocked. “Looks like he is trying to make up with me and even went so far as to make a reservation at a Korean restaurant”, I thought triumphantly.

It wasnt until he came home and presented me with the printed prix fixe menu that I realized I was wrong. “What’s this?” I asked looking at the printed card stock. “It’s the menu for Valentines day” he responded. I looked at the menu, and there clearly printed on top was the name of the restaurant – Boqueria.

“This is not Korean food.” I stated the obvious.

“Who said we are going to Korean food?” he replied.

“You did. You said you made reservations at Go Korea“.

“Why would I make reservations for Korean food. he said. “I can’t stand Korean food.”

Big sigh. O.K.,  whatever. Boqueria it is.

Boqueria is an adorable, friendly, low-key restaurant downtown, where they serve Spanish style tapas (small plates). There are 2 outposts – one in Soho, and one in the Flatiron district. Although we live mere blocks away from the Soho location, my hubby made the reservation at the more cozy and intimate site on West 19th Street.

I can only assume that the restaurant is named in honor of the famous well-known open market in Barcelona, La Mercat de Sant Josef de la Boqueria or La Boqueria for short. The first mention of this open air market was in 1217 when a few tables were set up near the gates of the old city to sell meat. Over the centuries the market has grown to include fresh fish, fruits, vegetables and many other Catalonian specialties.

In wasnt until 1840, that an official structure was constructed in its current location near the Ramblas. La Boqueria remains a “must see” during any food lovers visit to Barcelona.

At Boqueria (the restaurant) they offered a 7 course OR 9 course Valentines tasting menu. We immediately opted for the 9 course degustation. “Most of the dishes are low-carb” my husband volunteered. And he was right. Almost all of the tapas on the menu were relatively low-carb save the carb laden tarta de chocolate with basil ice cream.

We started off with Bonito Tartar – finely chopped bonito tuna with mango and avocado.

Then we snacked on Pimientos de Padron – Heavenly roasted Shishito peppers with sea salt.

Next we had the most delectable Datiles y Beicon – Dates wrapped with bacon (bacon!:)) stuffed with Valdeon cheese and almonds

I’ll save you from discussing the rest of the 6 courses. All of them, except the grilled sea bass (overcooked) were delicious, delectable, finger licking and low carb! There was nary a noodle or grain of rice in site.  Further, there was no bread served. Each course was a delicious combination of protein, vegetables and savory accoutrements.

The other main draw here was the size of the dishes served. As the restaurant serves only tapas (small plates), tapas is what we ate. Even though we had 9 courses each, plus a small cheese platter, compliments of  the manager, each dish was just perfectly sized and proportioned.

The old me would have took one look at the mini portions and asked for a double, however the new I LOVE FOOD DIET me, was more than satisfied with a few savory delicious mouthfuls of each plate that passed before me.

I think I need to re-examine portion size in the I LOVE FOOD DIET.

Chow for now!