Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ (Vegetarian) Food for Thought

I was trying to find a gourmet vegetarian restaurant in Miami and that seems to be about as hard to find as the proverbial needle in the haystack. I was looking for best restaurants in Fort Collins, Colorado, for an upcoming road trip and a plethora of veggie options came up as the best places to eat. But in Miami? Not so much. Most, like The Last Carrot in the Grove, are earthy-crunchy hippie throwbacks. Other options, Italian or Middle Eastern, are not the point. Why can't someone in South Florida beautifully prepare and artistically present, vegetarian dishes that are delicious? I'm not even a vegetarian, but still.

   This made me think of the "Best restaurant in the world" (3 years running)- Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. While not vegetarian, per se, it is heavy on vegetarian options and is all about the local goodies, weather foraged or procured. This would be a great idea for South Florida, although of course, it would not be the same dishes. Instead of bread sticks in the shape of twigs, we could do them in the shape of palm fronds. And speaking of palms, with the wealth we have here, we could use every part- from heart to jelly. There are so many delicious exotic fruits we grow here- these could be utilized to full advantage. Sea weed, sea grapes, hibiscus- show us something creative with these items, normally forgotten in our tropical landscape for food sources. At Noma, they have a dish of live shrimp. Why couldn't we do that? And maybe little baby crabs (presented on a bed of seaweed), running around, waiting to be speared with a pointed sugar cane stick. OK, that sounds a little barbaric perhaps (hunger games, anyone?) but at Noma, how the food is cooked (eggs in straw) and presented (live shrimp in a mason jar), is of paramount importance.

   We have such a wealth of seafood here, but how many times do you see it creatively presented? This would be there chance, and no more mahi mahi please, unless you have an original way of preparing it. All food used should be organic, locally sourced and sustainable, whenever possible at my imaginary restaurant and the vibe would be tropical chic, kind of like the Raleigh Hotel. James Bond Caribbean, with bamboo, rattan, touches of black, relaxed vibe- very cool, very elegant, never cheesy. And I envision the chef to be part Euell Gibbons, part Ferran Adria, part the old Mango Gang. While I'm not a big fan of foams (I generally like my food to taste like food), touches of them in dishes are cool and keep it interesting. Here I have a photo of oysters from a recent trip to D.C. In my new restaurant, I can see one local oyster, beautifully presented, with some fish roe on top (or local caviar, if there is such a thing) and perhaps a vinegar (lychee or hibiscus?) dollop of foam to finish. I don't know exactly, I'm not a chef but anyone can feel free to use my idea. Just invite me to the opening!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Eat, Drink and Be Merry (While Traveling)

                                                      "Don't leave home without it."
 That was the tag line for an old American Express commercial. Two things I try to NEVER leave home without, especially when traveling, is a water bottle and a healthy snack. When I don't drink enough water, I get cranky, headache-y and lethargic. Come to think of it, these are the same symptoms I get when I get hungry, although not as bad. Humans can live without food for a while, but not without liquid. When traveling, I like to bring an empty water bottlewith me to fill once I pass security, and I love those little Ziploc snack bags that automatically portion controls your snack. I love almonds- but be careful with the amount you eat. While I used to gobble fist fulls, I've now controlled it to about 10 almonds per snack, which is about 70 calories. Sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst. If you drink a large glass of water and are still hungry, eat. Protein (like in nuts) quenches your hunger quicker and lasts longer than carbs. I was trying to find a quote I heard about eating enough to quiet hunger pangs, but not squelch them, but anyway, you get the idea.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Free Deals in the Land of the Free

   If you're looking for a vacation jam-packed with free attractions, you need look no farther than our Nation's Capitol, where I recently visited. The first trick to make your trip to D.C. budget-friendly is to find a reasonably-priced hotel. My sister was attending a work related event and found a hotel - The Capitol Hill Liason- for $159 a night, which I thought was a great deal, but, after looking around found even better deals ($99) on travel websites. Second trick, find a cheap airfare. After these two requirements are met, you are home free to a dirt cheap vacay in the land of the free. And free it is. All Smithsonian Museums (there are 17! ) are totally and completely free. I visited two- the U.S. Postal Museum and National Museum of the American Indian- that I had never seen before and, as a bonus, they have cafeterias that serve great food for a reasonable price. All monuments on the mall are free, as are Arlington Cemetery, the Pentagon, the White House Visitor Center, the National Archives and the Library of Congress.
   You can use the Metro to get around (it even takes you to and from the airport) for $9 for an all day pass, but we opted for the Big Bus Tour ($45 for 2 days) that stops at 60 different points of interest. Pitfalls you need to watch for, as you're watching your wallet are: stopping in for $13 lychee martinis, $4 (price-gouging) ice cream treats sold on the mall, taxis and anything at your hotel. We were there right after July 4th in record heat (107+), so it was hard to say no to anything cold and refreshing. Luckily, all the museums are air conditioned and our hotel had a rooftop pool, with free yoga in the morning and a container of  cool drinks in the lobby. I always try and take advantage of anything free a hotel offers, but this is the first one I've been to that offered free yoga- a great perk! So next time you find a cheap airfare and cheap hotel in D.C., get yee to the Nation's Capitol and enjoy all the free perks. As my son said, "It's not really free, we pay for it!" True, and all the more reason to take advantage.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Fishy Fridays

Nicoise Salad

   You know how people do "Meatless Mondays?" I am going to start doing "Fishy Fridays", Growing up Catholic, we were not supposed to eat meat on Fridays in Lent. Even though I'm not Catholic anymore, I liked the idea of eating fish on Fridays so much I'm going to try and make it a year long thing. Fish is a wonderful food for dieters, because most varieties are low in calories and fat and it has a lot of protein. We have always been told that fish is "Brain Food" and it turns out, they were right. A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh using 260 participants, showed that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week improved their brain health and cut the risk of developing memory problems or Alzheimer's disease.
   Yesterday (yes, I realize it was Thursday) I made a delicious Nicoise salad with tuna fish (in water), hard boiled eggs, green beans, cherry tomatoes, sliced onions, capers and romaine lettuce. I dressed it with a light dressing of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon olive oil, fresh thyme, oregano and basil leaves, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a small squirt of anchovy paste, salt and fresh ground pepper. It was the perfect summer salad. Put on a little Edith Piaf and imagine you're sitting seaside at an outdoor table in Nice. During the HcG diet, I had a hard time eating salads with no oil in the dressing; it was just simply depressing. Now, I read that eating salads with oil in the dressing, allows you to absorb more of the good nutrients the lettuce and veggies have to offer, than those without. Good news for me! I am also lucky in that I have a brother in law who is an excellent fisherman and keeps me supplied with plenty of fresh fish. When he gives me more than we can eat, I wrap individual sized portions in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and stick it in the freezer. Then, when I'm ready to eat, I take out as much as I need for dinner. Try to avoid farm raised fish, as they are often fed corn and do not offer all the health benefits of fish caught in the wild. Here's to Fishy Fridays!
Frozen Dolphin Filets

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day to all! I feel that this is especially appropriate and symbolic for me because this is the last day I will give myself the HcG shot and the last day of the 500 calorie a day diet! Yea!!!!!!!!!!!! I know I can't go too crazy with the yea, etc... because still limiting my daily calories to 1200, but that is much more do-able and I get to have a glass of wine, so yea again! I have now lost 12 pounds on this diet and am 117.8, as of today. I would like to lose 7 more pounds by the end of the summer, to get to 110. Anyway, as a parting gift I wanted to mention a couple recipes/ items I made in this low calorie phase of HcG that I will continue using.

Makings for Bruschetta
 Chopped tomatoes, with fresh basil and chopped garlic makes a delicious base for bruschetta with Melba toast crackers (20 calories each cracker). It can also be served over fish, a chicken breast or mixed in scrambled egg whites.

   I also made a lobster salad with leftover lobster the other day that included, chopped lobster, a little chopped red onion, a little chopped celery, a finely chopped green apple and half a lemon squeezed over it all. The soft lobster with the sweet crunchy green apple, was a very refreshing, clean taste.

   I made a rub for my chicken breast, because let's face it, plain chicken breasts can get BORING. I used garlic powder, onion powder. paprika, cumin, cinnamon and a little stevia to add some sweetness, rubbed it and let it sit overnight. You can vary the spices, according to your taste, as long as they don't have sugar in them. I love rubs because they really infuse meats with good flavor without adding many calories.

Chicken Breast with Rub

Another "trick" I've learned with this diet, is to have the veggie part of the meal ready to go, so all I have to do is cook the protein. To that end, I had steamed cabbage in the fridge, sliced cucumbers in vinegar and caramelized onions. So here's to "liberating" twelve nasty pounds of fat and here's to living in a country that is free where we can all pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness- whatever that means to each of us!
Sliced Cucumbers with Apple Cider Vinegar

Monday, July 2, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Hanging in There

Note to Self
I went to a tennis round robin the other day and not one person noticed I'd lost weight, except my partner, who didn't count because I'd already told her I was on this diet. I couldn't help but think "Really? I'm 5'2" and I've lost eight pounds, and no one notices?" To make matters worse, my partner who is the same height as me has lost weight and everybody noticed! She's lost more- twelve pounds- but still! So, I did get depressed, but then thought about it and remembered SOME people have noticed I lost weight- my husband, my sister, my daughter, my friend Susie, but most of all- ME!

With tennis friends at the Sony

I have noticed in my gut that there is less there, when I sleep on my side, there is not such a pooch and my face looks thinner. And, bottom line, I am doing this for me, no one else. Sick of feeling fat, sick of thinking about losing weight but not doing anything about it and, lastly, I refuse to go up another size- that is just admitting defeat. So, here I stand TEN pounds lighter than where I started, with five days left. Unfortunately, I have not lost the pound a day I was hoping for, more like a half a pound a day, but that's still good. I intend of staying on 1200 calories a day for the next three week phase to lose about five pounds more, and then we'll see. And I get to add in a glass of wine. That is Victory, in and of itself. Persistence, Perseverence, Sacrifice.