What is FOOD?

Spaghetti Sneak Attack

Plastic sample of spaghetti tomato sauce
Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chow for now!

Uncategorized, What is FOOD?

Is That a Pea in my Pod?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chow for now!


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?

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?

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!