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26 to 27, day 1

16 May

Day 1 of 26 to 27 went pretty well, and was definitely interesting! Although I don’t necessarily believe that counting calories/macros are 100% needed, I’m going to post all meals eaten over the next 26 days, as well as the calorie counts and macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein). I usually track on a daily basis, but I’m posting them for accountability and to be able to better reflect at the end of the challenge.

Breakfast was eaten around 10:30, and was really simple. I waited too long to eat, and was starving! I had a bunch of mini bell peppers we picked up at Sam’s Club over the weekend, along with a cottage cheese cup, a few water crackers and a couple of Morningstar veggie sausage links. I love the Morningstar maple sausage patties, but the links just didn’t do it for me – the texture was completely off! I ate everything but one link, along with 4 cups of water. Breakfast came out to 238 calories, 32g of carbs, 5g of fat and 17g of protein.

I’m not sure if it was too light or I waited to long to eat, but breakfast didn’t hold me over at all! At 12:15, I had a double chocolate dream VitaTop, vanilla Greek yogurt, raspberry-pomegranate preserves and sprinkled with a dash of ground flax and slivered almonds. Post-photo, everything was mixed together and immediately consumed. Snack 1 was 258 calories, 47g of carbohydrates, 4g of fat and 16g of protein.

Several loads of laundry later, I realized that it was time for lunch. At 3, I helped Ev pan-sear some cornmeal-crusted Gardein fillets, and wrapped them in whole grain tortillas with a sprinkling of vintage cheddar and some spicy brown mustard. Served with a few Doritos on the side, I took a bite and had my second food fail of the day. There was just something…off….about the taste. Gardein as a whole just isn’t for me, I think, which is a shame. Super high in protein, low in carbs and fat, but I’ve only found one of their products that I can stomach. By 3:30, I was sitting down to another wrap, this one filled with refried jalapeno-black beans, a sprinkling of vintage white cheddar and some raw asparagus on a whole-grain tortilla. Much better! Lunch (including the sample of the Gardein wrap) was 265 calories, 31g of carbs, 10g of fat, and 18g of protein.

After what felt like a ton of delays, we were finally heading down the road for our night out on the town. While E refueled my car, I refueled my body with a tea I received as a (free) sample this morning – orange, passion fruit and jasmine green tea from Lipton. I usually dislike green tea, but this was awesome, tasted like Froot Loops, and brought me 3 glasses closer to my daily water goal. Win all around!

We made really good time on the drive, so we had dinner around 6:30 at one of our favourites – Tricky Fish. They use mostly free-range, organic and local ingredients, and their tofu tacos are killer. I was craving a sandwich, and ordered the free-range chicken breast sandwich with salad as my side.

Killer! The bun was soft and bready, the chicken perfectly cooked, and the veggies were so fresh. I topped my sandwich with spicy mustard and a little cocktail sauce, dressed the salad with lemon juice, malt vinegar, chipotle Tabasco sauce and a bit of Newman’s Own ranch dressing to cut the heat. Best meal of the day, hands down, by far. I also had 2 more glasses of water at the restaurant. Dinner was a total of 493 calories, 47g of carbs, 15g of fat and 39g of protein.

We had a little time to kill, so E played photographer, and we had an impromptu photo shoot. Professional model, right here!

We headed down to the Clay Center, and got ready to see David Copperfield. E was a professional magician in his early years, and Copperfield is one of his idols. It was my first time, and E’s 7th at least! We had amazing seats (3rd row, center), and it was absolutely incredible. Copperfield still has it, and is hysterical – gotta love a guy that can make you laugh. The highlight was sitting behind Gov. Joe Manchin and his family – I met them during the GMA remote at the Kitchen, and have an official photograph of me crying on his shoulder. I know how to keep my cool, apparently! Thankfully, no tears were shed last night, much to E’s relief.

We came home a little late, but I decided to whip up a quick snack since we were both pretty hungry. I ordered a bunch of different protein powder samples a few weeks ago, and decided to try one out. I made up a quick shake, using nonfat milk, ice, cinnamon and BSN Lean Dessert Fresh Cinnamon Roll protein powder. After seeing it on Janetha’s blog, I’ve been dying to try it. It took a couple of sips to get used to, but it’s actually really good! The whey aftertaste is minimal, and it has a good texture without being gritty. Snack #2’s totals were 204 calories, 20g of carbs, 3g of fat and 24g of protein.

Why do I look so nefarious?!?!

The daily totals were 1458 calories, 176g of carbohydrates, 37g of fat and 114g of protein, or a ratio 47.3%, 22.1%, 30.6%. Not bad at all! Feeling really satisfied and hydrated, thanks to the 9 glasses of water I drank. Onto day 2!

big night out, take two

31 May

Last night we headed out on the town to go to opening weekend of a new restaurant: Rosendale’s Modern Bistro. Although Rosendale’s opened a couple of years ago, Chef Richard Rosendale switched things up this past year, putting the formal, white-gloved service restaurant upstairs, and making the downstairs into the Modern Bistro. Getting back to basics with custom dining, the bistro is a more social experience, with moderately-priced dishes that are simple yet complex, and perfect for sharing. In light of the economy, Rosendale’s Modern Bistro is music to a foodie’s ear.

We’d made reservations in advance, and I’m glad we did – they were bustling! As we waited for our table to be ready, we were greeted by Vince, who offered to make us something special from the bar. More than a bartender, Vince wowed us with what he prepared – we had to track him down and make him give up the ingredients. My drink, on the left, included Creme de Cassis, orange Vodka, Triple Sec, a splash of cranberry juice and a squeeze of lemon. E’s drink, on the right, has (from what I remember!) Rye, Elderflower Liqueur and fresh lemon juice. I’m usually a lightweight, but these were so good that I had 2, along with a couple of sips of Malbec later in the evening.


Palates open and bellies growling, we were happy to see our appetizers and get dinner started! I didn’t want anything heavy or cloying, so I chose the Ham and Melon Skewers, composed of watermelon topped with prosciutto, which sat atop a reduced sherry vinegar syrup. Salty, cool and sweet, this was a perfect way to start off.


I normally don’t mention E’s meals too much, but I’ll make an exception. E chose the White Truffle Popcorn as his starter, and after I tried a piece, I was hooked. Tossed in butter, sea salt and truffle oil, it was reminiscent of the escargots in garlic sauce that I grew up with. Then again, I have a really strange palate, so maybe it’s just me.

We also had some really fresh bread, which was just how we like it; soft on the inside with a crisp crust, and sliced somewhat thin.


It was served with butter that was sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt and black pepper, which enhanced the butter’s creaminess and flavor.


When it came to mains, Chef Rosendale had me at “braise”. I ordered the Olive Braised Lamb Shank, which was described as “traditional braise, rosemary, natural sauce”. The lamb was perfectly tender, and the flavor was deep and complex. The meat fell off the bone, and was somehow tender and luscious at the same time, making it the perfect comfort food.


Since the menu was sharing-friendly, E and I split several sides. I normally hate sharing, but this weekend has been really fun – why limit yourself to one dish when you can try two?

The definite star of the meal were the French Beans with smoked honey, toasted almonds and tangerines. Absolutely magical, the beans were perfectly tender and the honey was smoky-sweet, with a slight bacon undertone. The almonds and tangerines rounded out the dish fabulously, adding just the right amount of crunch and acidity. Complex yet simple, this was a must-try.


I love ketchup, to the point that I was shipped two giant bottles of Canadian ketchup to tide me over last year. The sweet potato fries were so good that I didn’t even want the ketchup, as good as it was.


I loved that the Steamed Asparagus was subtle. Flavored with Hawaiian sea salt and lemon oil, they had a slight crisp left to them, and tasted just like they should. Simple works, and I wish more chefs would understand that the way Chef Rosendale does.


We were lucky enough to have the chef take a moment away from his busy kitchen and come to our table. It was especially great for E – in high school, he was at the Greenbrier in the middle of a culinary competition, and needed to crack a coconut and be able to use the shell, meat and water for various dishes, but had no idea how. In a world of hurt, E spent dinner preparing himself to crack the coconut using (sterilized) machinist tools his shop teacher had brought along. Thankfully, the then-sous-chef came over to his table, bringing over a chef’s knife and coconuts, and taught him how to do the cracking.

You may recognize Chef Rosendale from numerous specials shown on Food Network, and was the youngest member of Culinary Team USA and the captain of the team in 2008. He’s also a certified ice carver, the youngest chef to be on active status for the Certified Master Chef exam, and an all-around nice guy.

We had a hard time choosing a dessert to share, but finally decided on the Lemon Curd, which also had ginger ice cream, toasted meringue and crushed berries. Refreshing, tart, crunchy, sweet and soft, it was a great ending to a wonderful evening.


We were also brought out a teeny bit of creamy tapioca to try. Olivia (our server) was right – this was just like Grandma’s, only better.


Check out the tiny spoons, especially compared to a sugar cube!

In all honesty, it has never taken me this long to write a review, let alone post it. Having worked in several restaurants and eaten in many others, I’m pretty critical. I kept waiting to find a flaw, but I couldn’t. Dinner at Rosendale’s Modern Bistro was, in all honesty, the best meal of the year, and one of the best of my life. The food was fantastic, and had a price point that allowed us to spoil ourselves, and try some of everything. The staff was amazing – after we were done, Olivia apologized for being so short-staffed. Apparently, there were only 3 servers that night handling a full restaurant, and we never even noticed. We must have had every single one of them at our table at one point or another, and not only were they friendly, attentive and fun to be around, but they genuinely seemed happy to be there, even with all the stresses of opening weekend. The blog actually came up in conversation, and Olivia even wrote down the URL and later invited me to a girls-only brunch the next time I was in town. So Olivia, if you’re reading, thanks for an amazing time, say hi to the rest of the crew for us, and give yourself a huge pat on the back for all of your hard work.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for a restaurant to survive, never mind thrive. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing Rosendale’s for many years to come.

102

15 May

Apparently I hit 100 posts yesterday and didn’t even notice.
I wish I had made some kind of fanfare, but I’m not really a fanfare kind of gal. I don’t like birthday cakes because of the singing, I can’t take compliments very well, and I panic when I’m the center of attention.

I’m growing as I’m shrinking, or at least trying to, so happy freaking 100th to me.
It’s a learning process, people!

Now onto the food!
Today was the first day of easing back into ‘normal’ life after a week off and also having my mom in town, so we were kind of all over the place. Thanks to Mom, I got to start off my day with an amazing, fresh Montreal pumpernickel bagel, half spread with Smart Balance with Flax and half spread with the greatest butter known to man, a.k.a almond butter. I’m absolutely addicted to the stuff, and so far, MaraNatha Natural is my drug of choice.

Went to the gym and did an awesome workout. It just felt nice to be back, youknowwhatimean? I never thought I’d say this, but man, not working out was killing me, along with Mr. Sickey. I can’t imagine how I never got into the gym before. Well, no, that’s a lie, I do know – I never wanted to get into the gym before. Amazing what just a few months can do, huh?

I was pretty hungry after the gym but was running off to an almost-forgotten doctor’s appointment, so I grabbed some almonds to tide me over for 55 calories. By the time we were done, Mom and I were in the mood for food! With the beautiful weather we’ve been having, fresh seafood seemed like the perfect choice so we headed over to Jewel City, a local gem.

I grabbed a few of Mom’s fried pickle chips and a clam strip. Fried food is definitely not the healthiest option, but it was nice to have to munch on – you’ve got to try a fried pickle once in your life!

I decided to live on the edge, so I got the daily special – SHARK! It was pretty darn good, perfectly grilled and really meaty. One of my favorite things about Jewel City is that they don’t add any animal products or grease to their vegetable sides, making them healthier and just as tasty! I had the fish (aside from a bite to the mom), a hush puppy, the collard greens and half of the potato salad, along with the juice from the lemon. Super satisfying, the entire meal comes in at about 583 calories.

For dinner, we were invited to the park for a grilled picnic by the show‘s staff. I was a little worried about what we’d be eating, but I shouldn’t have been! It was really nice to have so much fresh food available, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

My plate, with jerk grilled chicken, a couple of whole wheat pita wedges, cilantro hummus, tabbouleh, fresh pineapple salsa, cucumber and red onion salad and grilled asparagus, zucchini, squash and red peppers. I wasn’t a fan of the tabbouleh or cucumber salad, but I ate everything else, aside from a small piece of chicken to Mom. It’s so much fun being able to share meat with her!

I also had dessert:
A little piece of angel food cake with fresh strawberries and (I’m assuming) Cool Whip. This wasn’t more than 3 or 4 bites, but it was the perfect size, and was so summery. Including dessert, dinner clocked in at about 452 calories.

That means the grand total for the day is 1358. I have a little wiggle room left, but since I’m not hungry, I won’t use it! I’m glad I avoided the healthy food trap – like so many others, I tend to overeat on ‘healthy’ foods. The healthier it is, the worse I get. I’m really proud of dinner especially; no bites off anyone’s plate, no nibbles on the side, and no seconds!

Do you fall into the trap? How do you deal with buffet-style meals?

P.S. check out Junghwa’s giveaway!

A Simple Supper

20 Dec

It’s secret that I love Penzey’s (also known as Spice Heaven) – their spices and herbs cover the 3 ‘F’s: they’re incredibly fresh, flavorful and frugal. Yup, I said it: frugal. I mail-order, so I do pay shipping, which puts a slight damper on things, but going by weight alone, Penzey’s is actually cheaper than the supermarket brands. I also like that you can order spices in different sizes, they have a wide variety (most spices come in different types and from different sources), and you can purchase in both jars and bags.

My favourite spice is a blend called Mural of Flavor. It’s composed of shallots, onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, basil, coriander, lemon peel, citric acid, black pepper, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, and orange peel – a little eclectic, just like me. I like that it’s salt-free, and it’s perfect in everything, adding that little bit of je ne sais quoi. I know this because I do add it to literally everything, which is now a running joke in our house – just ask E.

One day, when I was looking around Penzey’s site, I noticed they had recipes listed, and, upon searching, found Pasta with Asparagus and Feta. A vegetarian meal that’s quick, fairly healthy and satisfying; who could ask for more? Me. That’s who. And, by golly, I got it. The key component to this sauceless dish? Mural of Flavor! Yup, it’s pretty much perfect. Including boiling the pasta, this dish took about 10 minutes from start to finish, and is incredibly delicious and satisfying, but not heavy. I served this with roasted zucchini, and E and I both loved it. If you’re not an asparagus fan, it would be delicious with zucchini, cauliflower or even green beans, and if you don’t have Mural of Flavor (which you should!), you can use any salt-free spice blend you enjoy.

Pasta with Asparagus and Feta

Found on Penzey’s Spices
Serves 4

  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. pasta
  • 2 teaspoons Mural of Flavor (or other salt-free seasoning blend)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt (optional) and pepper, to taste
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and keep warm.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and brown the onion and garlic for about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add asparagus and seasoning and saute for 2 more minutes.
  4. Stir in the warm pasta, and sprinkle the top with feta cheese.
  5. Cover the pan, turn off the heat and let stand for 5-10 minutes. The asparagus will have a little crunch to it, depending on how long you let it sit.

Daalicious!

23 Oct

Since E and I were both under the weather, no household chores were getting done. I was way too sick to clean the house top to bottom, so I did some tidying up. It didn’t really help, but it did make me realize that if I just laid in bed all day, I would never feel better.

I decided to beat this into submission! I wasn’t up to cooking a full meal, so I asked E to stop on his way home from work to pick up some Naan and basmati rice from our favorite Indian restaurant, and I made some roasted asparagus and some spicy lentil daal to accompany it.
This turned out really hearty, earthy and delicious, and was definitely what we needed!


Spicy Lentil Daal
Adapted from 28 Cooks
makes 4 servings

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 T ginger paste
  • 2 t Balti seasoning*
  • 1/2 t crushed chili flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup eggplant, cubed
  • 1 cup summer squash, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 T fresh cilantro, minced
  • 3/4 t kosher salt
  1. Heat olive oil in large pan.
  2. Add onion, ginger, Balti seasoning, crushed red pepper, and garlic.
  3. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add in eggplant, summer squash and tomatoes (drained, reserving liquid) to pan, and stir. Saute for 1 minute.
  4. Add tomato juice, water, and lentils. Bring to a boil, stirring well.
  5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
  6. Stir in peas, and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Taste for salt, and add in more if necessary.
  8. Serve over basmati rice.


Roasted Asparagus

  • 2 1/2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed
  • about 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 T lemon pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Lightly drizzle or spray a baking sheet with half of the olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle with seasoning, and redrizzle or spray with the remaining olive oil.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes.


*can be substituted with curry powder of your choice, or with 1 t turmeric and 1 t cumin seed