Sinful Salads

Over the weekend, I had an eye-opening experience.  I went to Sweetgreen and I opted to make my own salad creation…at free will.  By “free will,” I mean that I added goat cheese, dried cranberries, and candied walnuts to the mix, 3 salad ingredients that could stand alone in their greatness

This delicious salad, mixed with some chicken, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, and balsamic vinaigrette, was the best treat that I enjoyed all weekend.  Though my weekend eats included a fried crab cake sandwich and multiple cookie sundaes, the custom-made salad stood above all the rest in terms of flavor, satisfaction, and satiety.

Such a statement might incur one to think I’ve lost my marbles, but I have my reasoning, so hear me out…

As a constant dieter, I’ve often fallen into the trap of choosing the lowest-calorie options to put in my salad.  It’s supposed to be a salad, anyways.  When I was on Weight Watchers, I realized that a salad can easily have as many points as a burger when you count the nuts, cheese, and dressing.  I can still remember choosing to make a salad during my Freshman year of college that contained only 5 points, but was topped with some putrid low-fat dressing and all veggies.

That salad sucked.

Part of mending my relationship with food is accepting these “big-ticket” items (candied walnuts, avocado, raisins, dried cranberries, goat cheese) and realizing that they’re both healthy and nutritious.  Trying to avoid avocado just seems ridiculous.  After all, if I had gone into Sweetgreen at age 12, I would’ve praised myself for eating a salad as a meal, and probably justified that with an even bigger dessert.

Bottom line: Salads are good for you, and places like Sweetgreen are made to make salads more enjoyable, not to torture us with temptation and guilt.  Next time you are in a custom salad line, don’t hold back.  Get that goat cheese, as it will probably keep you full longer anyways!

Mag’s obsession with MAGS

By the title of this post, you might think I am obsessed with myself.  But I’m not, I’m obsessed with MAGAZINES.  Even though many people think that print is dead, and companies have created advertisements like this one in order to encourage magazine reading, no one needs to encourage me to buy 7-8 different magz monthly.  The feel of a glossy, unread magazine in my hands is indescribable.  If I leave it in my bag all day, saving it for the gym, I fight the urge to page through and sneak a peek.  However, I read so many that I don’t think I retain much of the tips that I read, and many of them are really useful!  I’ve had an idea for a while now to write a blog post highlighting some of the most important tips that I plan on using, so I’m going to begin today with the September edition of Women’s Health

1. Hummus is the new peanut butter: It is packed with fiber and protein to keep you full and energized.

Even though hummus might not be as decadent, sweet, and sinful as peanut butter, I liked this comparison because of the emphasis on the nutrients.  Both peanut butter and hummus can be praised for their rib-sticking qualities (protein and fiber)–hummus with a few less calories and fat.  This analogy reminds me that hummus is not just a dip for crudites and pita chips, but a great spread on a sandwich to make the satiety last a little longer

2. Research finds that the most enjoyable bites we have are the first and the last, so if you really can’t pass up that decadent dessert-limit yourself to 3 bites and you will be satisfied

How many times have you looked at a cookie or cupcake and said “I’ll just have one bite,” only to end up eating the whole thing in one bite?  For me, lots of times.  I will definitely be practicing this tip with cake, ice cream, candy, and the like

3. Light beer is better than wine for weight loss! 

This fact is probably my favorite, for all the times I’ve watched skinny girls at the bar ordering cranberry and vodka-shooting me nasty looks for having a Miller Lite in hand.  Beer is better than wine for weight loss because the portion is controlled-most light bottles have between 90-130 calories, while a heavy hand of a bartender can leave you with more wine or liquor calories than you planned for.  Though it’s full of carbs, my new point should cover that worry…

4. Noodles are good for you. 

The low-carb craze is something I have never bought into: as long as your calories burned are greater than your calories eaten, you’re going to lose weight. Bottom line.  I love it when health magazines promote pasta, because it’s delicious and nutritious :)  And a plus that I discovered-soba noodles made of pure buckwheat flour are gluten free!

These are a few of the tips that I found most useful after paging through Women’s Health, and I hope you do too!

No place like home

Today has been magical since the moment I woke up and realized I was tucked into a down comforter, not simply lying on top of the sheets feeling sticky under layers of sweat.

Upon rubbing the sleepies out of my eyes, I noticed it was going to take more than two steps to reach the other end of my room. Success.

Oatmeal or toast?  I pondered my usual options…until I opened the fridge and was greeted by a breath of chilled air.  And it did not smell like overheated plastic.  Fresh cut berries and an array of clean foods brought a smile to my face.

I even felt good about the glass into which I poured my water.  I was sure that there were no mice in those cabinets the night before and I didn’t have to wonder if the chips were open because they provided a late night snack for me, or if they were a rodent’s dinner.

When I stepped outside, I gazed out on a canopy of trees, instead of dust, dumpsters, and construction workers.  I felt the air and decided it was hot for a second, but was delighted to discover I wasn’t dripping sweat from any part of my body after walking from my car to the front of the store.

I lied out at a pool surrounded by grass and felt no hesitation in dunking my head under, allowing the water to fill in my nostrils and brush by my lips without wishing I could reach for some Listerine.

And now, I blog from a leather chair and am amazed by the central air conditioning, ready to throw a sweatshirt on if it gets any cooler in the room.

This is going to be a good week.

I’m back, with a makeover!

I’m coming back to blogging because I feel like it.  I just miss writing.  When I am stressed, it really helps me to relax and gather my thoughts before I resort to public outburst or a mess of tears.  I journaled religiously throughout my life, but gave it up in college.  Much to my surprise, and sometimes chagrin, I noticed a difference after time.  I wasn’t in control of my emotions as I used to be, I felt like my thoughts couldn’t be gathered or organized on any one topic at all–not even those topics most close to my heart

I realized that I need to get it out in order to feel better, about anything!  I do this a lot with food journals and occasionally I just write about my emotions and my day, because I need to.  I have a google document that I’ve been keeping to myself, but I also read so many blogs, so I figured I’d give it another shot.  This time, I’m not aiming for readers, great pictures to post, or comments on every entry.  I just want to write.

Because it is still an issue I struggle with on a daily basis, I am committing to keeping a “healthy eating” focus on my blog, but I am not promising every post to be about food.  I don’t want to limit myself, rather just let myself de-stress and organize my often muddled brain in a fashion that has worked well for me in the past.  Though I am opening this “journal,” to the world, I am also freeing myself in sharing my thoughts and stories.  Sometimes I write in my journal and think-I need to share this with someone-so this will be my perfect venue!

I also want to elaborate slightly on my healthy eating focus, and explain more than “a diet to cure arthritis.”  Though I still struggle with joint pain/muscle aches, I won’t lie to you or myself that my only goal for eating healthy is to feel pain-free on my morning runs, because that wouldn’t be the truth.  Since I was a freshman in high school, I’ve counted calories and wondered what I could do to be “thinner.”  Throughout high school and college (thus far), I’ve been on diets and then back off of them…all the while messing myself up because I am a person who LOVES healthy food!  I was that weirdo who ate the sesame tofu at Whole Foods, not because it had less fat, but before I LOVE a well-prepared tofu dish!  Counting calories and trying to lose weight has made me lose sight of the healthy foods I love to eat for taste and pleasure, not just for a smaller waistline.  I am hoping to rediscover my love for healthy, un-processed foods, and hopefully, in the process, find relief from inflammation and fatigue.  “Munching to Mend,” therefore, takes on a new meaning…I will munch to mend the relationship with food that I’ve let fall by the wayside during the past couple of years.

And as for the new cupcake theme?  Well, I have an unpaid internship here in DC, so my paid job happens to be at Georgetown Cupcake.  As you may have already known, my sweet tooth is endless…so this has been both an incredible and dangerous summer job for me to have!  I do like the cupcakes, though, for how cute they are…hence the picture header :)  More to come on cupcakes for sure

This might as well be my bank statement

For the past couple weeks, I have been livin’ large by the foodie definition and dining at restaurants for a majority of my meals.  To highlight some of the best from the past 2 weeks:

–It all began with some pulled pork tacos, pork belly in a green mole sauce, chicken enchiladas, and “Huarache” from Distrito–definitely a new favorite restaurant, right down the block from my house, featuring eclectic, yet expensive, takes on various tapas, mixing Mexican and Spanish cuisine throughout.  Not only is the food “to die for” at this place, but the decor is colorful, bright, and two lucky diners have the option of sitting in an old fashioned car-turned-table

“Huarache” was a term that was new to me, but upon my waiter’s description of a “pizza type dish with a corn masa crust,” I knew I had to try it.  Distrito offers two types, Huarache de los Hongos (mushroom) and another with duck confit and cherry tequila preserves.  Lucky enough to try both, I’d definitely rate the duck and cherry one as the better of the two

Huarache de los Hongos

Huarache de los Hongos

Following this dinner, I had a great meal out on Valentine’s Day at La Scala.  All the way by Penn’s landing, and not a BYO, this place has never been considered in our typical search of Italian BYO restaurants in the area.  Big mistake it was to overlook such great cuisine, and I had a pappardelle with mushrooms, prosciutto, and peas…first time having pappardelle…as a big fan of thick “chow-fun” noodles, I savored every bite.

Papardelle=heaven

In honor of the Italian BYOs that I hold so near and dear to my heart, I visited three most recently that are local favorites amongst Penn kids.

First up, La Fontana della Cita (I don’t think many people know it by more than La Fontana, but for advertising purposes I suppose I will extend with the full nome Italiano) This place is always one of the first picks when my house is choosing a BYO to dine at, and it’s fine by me if we never go anywhere else because they have a risotto that is the bomb. dot. com. (SPM shoutout!) Risotto agli Scampi features grilled jumbo shrimp mixed amongst a bed of perfectly cooked, creamy risotto, all bathed in a pink cognac sauce.  Though I’ve never had risotto in a pink cream sauce, I didn’t doubt for one second it would be as tasty and rich as it actually was…

Not me in the yellow shirt...but I'd like it to be, right now...

Next on the BYOs came Salento–a very cool place, very close to Penn campus, with a very creepy waiter (a la Emilio in Mr. Deeds, anyone?)–this guy showed up here, there, and everywhere, answering questions that you didn’t even know he heard…as well as playing some jokes that you didn’t even think were meant to be jokes.  BUT it didn’t take away from the phenomenal fresh bread, mussels in red sauce to start, and gnocchi with pink sauce as an entree; ahh gnocchi, little pillows of heavenly dough to feed my carbohydrate obsession

LAST of the BYOs was a farewell to my best friend, Katie, who left for a semester at U. Queensland in Brisbane, Australia last Friday.  To send her off well, a bunch of us went to Bistro la Baia with a few key boxes of Franzia.  The best part of this meal?  With a 9 o’clock reservation, it was 9:30 before we heard the specials, and we were all getting a little antsy for bread.  Finally, someone took one for the team to ask when the bread would be delivered, since the pots of oil and vinegar placed 20 minutes prior were starting to make our stomachs scream in hunger.  When the reply: “It’s in the oven,” came, I thought to myself, NFW, they are slicing a baguette from yesterday morning and “toasting it” in the broiler…but boy was I wrong.  This bread was so soft, slightly underbaked but with a crisp outer shell encasing this hot goo of carbohydrate chaos.  I definitely filled up on 4-5 pieces before attempting my Orecchiette with Sundried Tomatoes and Shrimp; unbuttoning the pants on the way home=necessary.

Though I made it to Friday hoping to get a kickstart on some healthy eating and working out, this was not the case when Raquel came to stay with me.  Friday evening, despite making a delicious, but too healthy for the munchies, Kashi pizza with Megan, we decided a proper imbibing and noshing had to occur once Raquel’s bus arrived at 9:30.

For this, we went to the City Tap House, a fairly new restaurant on campus with 60 taps of various craft and international beers accompanied by slightly upscale food.  While my favorites on the menu include the mussels in white wine/butter broth with grilled focaccia slices, we decided to split a flatbread Parma pizza with sweet potato fries, enjoyed alongside some Original Sin Hard Apple Cider and Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Pizza with more lettuce than cheese is questionable...but still phenomenal

Saturday night was Jen’s 21st birthday celebration at Charles Plaza, a Chinese BYO in the China Town section of Philadelphia that allows you to bring kegs as your “BYO”.  You can only imagine the scene on a Saturday night in this small, family-owned restaurant that had one room of dining–enough only for our party of 50 and some Penn frat in the back.  Keg stands were done, all with the gracious approval of Charles (his name really is Charles-and he’s awesome), and after we sang to Jen, Charles hung a pearl necklace around her neck.  The 8-course meal served your Chinese food essentials–wonton soup, hot and sour soup, shrimp and beef dumplings, spring rolls, General Tso’s, fried rice, and lo mein, but they were exceptionally prepared and served family style, a great way to share around the table.  Such a hilarious experience combined with extraordinary Chinese food and a great 21st birthday for Jen

On Sunday morning, we showed Raquel one of the best (and only) brunch spots in University City, Marathon Grill.  I always get the same thing there, but as my good pal Megan pointed out, I am never less than 100% satisfied with my decision…it’s called simply, “Croissant sandwich,” but it is actually so much more…it is a huge croissant stuffed with egg, goat cheese, sliced granny apples, and applewood bacon.  Since I was indulging this weekend, I got a banana and granola smoothie on the side…it’s exquisite the way they blend the granola in, turns out to be like a banana milkshake

Picture doesn't even do this justice (or match up, but you get the point and I didn't have my camera)

After the plenty of hours that we spent on the couch digesting that one, Raquel and I finally got off our butts around 7 and headed to Bobby’s Burger Palace, because that place can never do you wrong.  We each got a Bobby Blue burger and a side of sweet potato fries.  Though messy, the Blue is top in my burger ratings nationwide

I’d like to say that was the end of my eating for the day, but it didn’t/couldn’t stop there with our plans to see a movie (No Strings Attached) later that evening.  Milk Duds, per usual, were my pick for that situation :)

If you’ve read through all of this, thanks for baring with me on one of the longest posts I have ever written.  It was fun to relive this eats, and though they aren’t necessarily “healthy,” it’s always important to indulge.  I’ll continue to feature some of my favorite eats as I continue to experience Philly primarily via my taste buds.

When my bank account hit dangerously close to cero most recently, this piece serves as my answer to the question, “Where’s all your money going, anyway? Are you doing drugs or something?!?!?”  If by drugs you mean luscious, gourmet food…then yes, consider me a full-fledged junkie.

Where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, and why I’m trying to start this blog AGAIN…

The past couple months have been busy, in more ways than just the academic realm.  Sure, it was a stress finishing up the semester and my exams and getting Christmas underway, but I also had a brief transformation of placing things in perspective and focusing on the things I care about vs. the things others may care about.  Not sure if you could call it a New Year’s Resolution, but besides the dieting, the exercise, the eating well, I had one goal in common this year…to do what I needed to do for myself, and to be my own person.  It’s a weird time, junior year in college, where you start to realize that you don’t need to be around “the group” every waking moment and sometimes what they’re doing or saying isn’t what’s best for you…I’m not going to say I’m perfect with this yet, but I’m at least giving it some conscious consideration as I’ve moved forward in second semester.  And I’ve gotta say, I’ve been a lot happier.

On the food news, my friend Caroline and I decided to start a New Years Resolution to cook more!  She is an avid cook and always whips up stuffed shells, lasagna, or homemade ravioli our house and her teammates.  Though I love to try a new recipe, I never give myself the time to do so when I am thinking about the homework I have to get done.  Cooking and eating well always falls by the wayside.  Though we haven’t stuck to our one new recipe a week, we have made some good ones so far including Vegetable Risotto with Grilled Lemon Shrimp consisting of peas, asparagus, carrots, and mushrooms (YUM!) and chicken fajitas.  Check out this yummy risotto..

It started off looking a lot like this soup, with so much chicken broth I started to doubt it would ever become a creamy risotto

But here’s the final product! Mouthwatering picture, I would love to remake this sometime, and it required no major recipe except the one on the box of risotto and the combination of whatever ingredients we could think of.  Definitely a recreation foreseen in the future.

So as for now, I’m going to do my best to keep up with this, not make any promises that it’ll be a daily thing, but regardless of who’s reading it, it’s definitely nice to get some words down once in a while!

Lastly, a big congrats to my two siblings who have welcomed the arrival of baby boys this winter!  Kate and Evan welcomed Caden John on 12.31.10 and Kevin and Rebecca welcomed Henry Ellsworth on 2.14.11.  So many holiday babies and so many little boy cousins!  Jack’s going to have to show them the ropes!

Foods that Fight Inflammation

I love magazines, and every month I have a bunch that I NEED to read the new issue of.  Women’s Health is one of those magazines, and this month’s has a really cool article called “The Enemy Inside You.”  It’s about chronic inflammation and its long term consequences

What I found even cooler is that they listed top inflammation fighting foods!  They mentioned omega-3 fatty acids, lots of fruits and vegetables, and salmon…wish I liked salmon…

“Tiny salmon…chasing that impossible dream”-Tom Green, Road Trip

But they also mentioned that exercising is one of the best ways to fight inflammation.  I think this could be the best gym inspiration ever :)