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

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!

What is FOOD?

Spiderman Pushup

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?

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!