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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?

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?

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?

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!

What is FOOD?

Inspired by Cheating (on my diet)

Shepards Pie & Strongbow
Image by herrea via Flickr

Dont you hate it when you finally decide to throw caution in to the wind and cheat on your diet, only to finally taste the food you were so coveting… and be sadly disappointed?

Such was the case this past Sunday when my husband and I haphazardly decided to go to the nearest Irish Pub to watch the 2nd half of the Jets versus Patriots game.

My two young sons were attending a birthday party at the space themed mega restaurant/arcade in Midtown,  MARS 2112. Unfortunately the party was exactly the same time as kick off.  As there were no TV‘s on “Mars”, waiting for them at the “Mars-bar” was out of the question. Luckily I remembered that the newly opened Bowlmor Lanes in Times Square has an AMAZING bar/restaurant, called appropriately enough “The Stadium”, featuring no less than 50 GIANT and I mean GIANT  wall-to-wall televisions all playing the New York Jets game. We were lucky to snag to seats at the bar and enjoyed the first half with a beverage or two.

Right before half time, I looked at my watch. Oh no. It was time to pick up the kids. My husband chided me saying, “there is no way that party is over. Those parties take at least 2 hours.”

I did not know whether he was saying this because it was true OR because he did not want to leave the wall to wall TV coverage of the football game. I insisted that we go as I did not want to leave the kids stranded in space, so I dragged him off his stool and we ran a few blocks north to MARS 2112.

Unfortunately, it seems that the party was on “Martian time” as when we arrived, the party had barely begun. The birthday cake was yet to be served and the 1/2 hour of included arcade time had yet to begin. Our generous hosts said, “come back in an hour minutes. The kids are having a great time.”

Since we were given another 1 hour reprieve, we ran across the street to “O”Looneys” (not real name) to take in the second half of the game.

By this time, I was hungry. I quickly scanned the menu and decided that today was the day I was going to cheat. I figured we were in an Irish pub, there is a GREAT  football game on TV and I LOVE pub grub. I proudly  informed the waitress that I was going to have the Shepard’s Pie and a pint of their best dark draft beer.

Shepard’s Pie or “Cottage pie” as it was called, up until 1870’s is a British or Irish mince meat pie with mashed potatoes baked on top. Creamy mashed potatoes on top of savory ground meat and veggies, baked until its bubbling hot is my idea of the perfect meal on a cold winter night.

By the time the food came, I was ravenous. I greedily grabbed my fork and dug in.

Well, either it has been so long since I actually ate mashed potatoes and therefore lost all taste for them or these mashed potatoes were powdered. This was one of the worst “shepherds pie” I ever had AND it was full of CARBS! . I glumly ate 1/2 of the oval-shaped meat and potato pie cursing myself for ordering it to begin with.

I decided right then that I was going to make a perfect low carb version of this savory comfort food the following day.

I LOVE FOOD DIET – Low Carb Shepard’s Pie

  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1/4 lb of bacon – chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 1 med onion – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • Head of cauliflower – cut up into florets and med size pieces
  • 1/4 cup of 1/2 and 1/2 or heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 3/4  cup of shredded cheese

Brown ground beef and chopped bacon until cooked through. Add chopped onion and garlic and tomato paste. Season with salt and black pepper. Drain excess fat and pour into a oven-proof baking dish.

Boil the cauliflower until tender. Drain throughly. Puree cauliflower adding the 1/2 and 1/2 and butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the mashed  cauliflower over the seasoned beef. Top the cauliflower with the remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Pair this with your favorite low carb beer.  🙂

Although the Shepard’s Pie at O’Looneys was pretty inedible at least it inspired me to create this delicious low carb recipe AND did I mention that the JETS won! 🙂

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

I LOVE FOOD DIET – Another 10%?

SKINNY GIRLS (for Illustration Friday)
Image by nerosunero via Flickr

I love food. I love everything about it – from the smells, to the taste, to the consistency, to the euphoria one feels after eating the perfect fois gras. Having successfully lost 10% of my pre-diet weight I am now going to try to do the impossible and lose ANOTHER 10% more.

Now for those of you who have recently seen me, you may think that I am being…well…a little crazy! As I have already achieved my weight goal, why would I possibly want torture myself  to lose even more weight???

Well, in fact the I LOVE FOOD DIET is far from torture and actually is quite fun. Further, in the interest of Science, not to mention my own dying curiosity, I really want to see how much weight I can lose on my own invention. Bottom line – I am putting my carb-free food where my mouth is and see how well this regime can work.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Decadence is Over-Rated

Vector image of the Nobel prize medal, annotated
Image via Wikipedia

I thought I had re-invented the wheel. I thought that I was in line for the Nobel Prize for figuring out a way to eat like a pig and still lose weight. My “Day of Decadence” (read that titled post for more info) was legitimate proof that stuffing and gorging yourself on fat-filled foods could actually result in significant weight loss. 

I was ready and pumped up for the following days food and fat fest.

The problem was, that I could not bear to eat another fat-filled snack. The thought of eating another cheese omelette and greasy fried sausage patty was just too much to bear. That delicious and juicy Rib Eye Steak was no longer appetizing. My body craved CARBS!

I ended up falling off the low carb wagon BIG TIME and inhaled a carb- filled,  low-fat scone AND a carb-filled, high- fat croissant for breakfast the next day. For lunch I ate a big bowl of high-carb but low-fat “Pho” (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) and for dinner I had a low-fat but high-carb dinner of Chicken and steak fajitas with rice and beans.

Well, the 2 pounds I had so quickly lost the other day reared its ugly head this morning.

Well, as the saying goes, when the tough get going, the going gets eating! I am determined to continue working on the I LOVE FOOD DIET and find the right combination of carb-laden and carb- free foods to make the weight loss stick.

Wish me luck. I will report my progress, if any, on Monday.

Chow for now!