Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Week Dining

It was mostly eat at home for the holidays, but we did manage a few memorable meals on the fly, and one family fine-dining experience.
Salad @ Nordstrom Bistro
Shopping with my brother two days before Christmas, we had lunch at the Nordstrom Bistro in Kenwood Mall. Tucked into the second floor of the store, it's easy to forget that it's there. This was only my second time to eat there, but we had good salads -- one with grilled shrimp and this Asian-accented chicken salad -- and you can get a decent glass of wine if you are so inclined.
Veggie Burger, J Alexander

Veg Plate: grilled artichokes, stuffed tomatoes, etc.
Another quick lunch was today with my friend Susan at J Alexander. (This place also has a respectable wine selection, but I didn't indulge today.) She had a veggie burger, and I went with a very good vegetable plate, which as I posted on Facebook had the benefit of being both delicious and (at least relatively) virtuous.
Our fine-dining meal was the night after Christmas at our neighborhood's star restaurant, La Poste. As usual, the best thing about the evening was the great wine selection and service. In the photos are my chicken entree and my husband's fish special--I forget the variety of fish.
La Poste Chicken

La Poste Fish Special

A splendid time was had by all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why it's so hard not to regain lost weight

The old term "yo-yo dieting" is probably familiar to all who struggle tokeep the pounds off. We put on some weight, go on a reducing diet (and lose weight, hooray), only to regain the pounds later.

There's a fascinating story on the New York Times website today headlined "The Fat Trap." Click here to read the whole article, which discusses research into why those lost pounds always return. Our bodies go into an altered state after we've successfully dieted, and actually fight hard to get back the fat we worked so hard to get rid of.

More evidence -- as if we needed it -- that life isn't fair.

An excerpt:
"For years, the advice to the overweight and obese has been that we simply need to eat less and exercise more. While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss long after dieting has stopped. This translates into a sobering reality: once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will probably stay fat."

That tells me that, among other things, parents and other caregivers need to work really hard to make sure that our children don't become overweight.

It also tells me to stay vigilant in my own battle of the bulge; I've never been obese and at most have been slightly overweight, if you go by the standard weight charts. (This is the result of decades of daily exercise and trying to eat well -- not because I have an especially forgiving genetic makeup or metabolism.)
The lengthy Times article will appear in the next Sunday magazine. It goes into a lot of detail about research into why and how fat people get and stay fat.  We learn about how the National Weight Control Registry tracks thousands of people who have been successful at maintaining significant weight loss. Says an official at the registry: "' We had two goals: to prove there were people who did, and to try to learn from them about what they do to achieve this long-term weight loss.' Anyone who has lost 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year is eligible to join the study, though the average member has lost 70 pounds and remained at that weight for six years."

What are these researchers finding out?

"There is no consistent pattern to how people in the registry lost weight — some did it on Weight Watchers, others with Jenny Craig, some by cutting carbs on the Atkins diet and a very small number lost weight through surgery. But their eating and exercise habits appear to reflect what researchers find in the lab: to lose weight and keep it off, a person must eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally. Registry members exercise about an hour or more each day — the average weight-loser puts in the equivalent of a four-mile daily walk, seven days a week. They get on a scale every day in order to keep their weight within a narrow range. They eat breakfast regularly. Most watch less than half as much television as the overall population. They eat the same foods and in the same patterns consistently each day and don’t “cheat” on weekends or holidays. They also appear to eat less than most people, with estimates ranging from 50 to 300 fewer daily calories."

I'll stop here. If you're interested in knowing more, go to the article, or read the magazine next Sunday.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More food, cocktails, and fun in NYC

Got to move on from the fabulous New York City adventure we had before Christmas, and focus on how to make 2012 a Healthy New Year.
But here are just a few more photos from the Big Apple.....
View from hotel room (Excelsior)
At Eataly

Cake at Fiorello's, near Lincoln Ctr

Antipasto plate @ Fiorello's

Fall Classic Cocktail @Gramercy Tavern

Antipasto bar at Fiorello's

Saturday, December 24, 2011

More good eats in New York City

Merry Christmas to all!
Our pre-Christmas trip to NYC included these wonderful dishes from Gramercy Tavern. Appetizers of beef carpaccio and melt-in-your-mouth smoked trout....
Beef carpaccio
Smoked trout
We also had a great cocktail with the apps, called Fall Classic: bourbon, apple cider, Calvados, thyme and lemon.

For my entree, I tried their lamb, which was amazing -- the plate included several different cuts of the lamb (in small pieces, thank goodness) and a bit of tasty lamb sausage as well.

Gramercy Lamb Entree
Christmas is upon us, and I have house guests and lots of cooking to do, so the rest of my NYC foodie adventures are still to come.........

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A few NYC foodie highlights

Guess I couldn't have been too unhealthy in food choices, because my bathroom scale today says that I didn't gain any weight living it up in wonderful, exciting Manhattan, NYC.
Fab breakfast at Nice Matin

We loved our hotel, the Excelsior on the Upper West Side. It's a half block from Central Park and faces the small park adjacent to the American Natural History Museum, where you catch the B or C train downtown. Some people say that's too far away from Midtown (it's at 81st), but its remove from the craziness is what we love. You can easily get to the touristy things but come home to a residential neighborhood at night. Our morning routine--coffee at arguably NYC's best cafe, Joe's the Art of Coffee, followed by breakfast at Nice Matin (in the Lucerne Hotel, on Columbus at 79th)--had us interacting with few tourists, and we made friends with a couple of New Yorkers who gave us great tips about where to eat and shop.
Joe's has several Manhattan locations

Without making this a super long post, here were our favorite foodie finds (aside from the aforementioned Joe's and Nice -- photos of them above, including my scrambled eggs with smoked salmon breakfast.

1. Dinner at Gramercy Tavern, one of Danny Meyer's flagship restaurants and a favorite of many Manhattanites. (No photo now, as I have temporarily misplaced my regular camera -- these are all from the cell phone camera) Everything about it -- ambiance, service, drinks and food -- was perfection.
Tacos at Red Cat in Chelsea
2. Lunch at Red Cat (amazing shrimp tacos, in photo) in Chelsea. The tacos melded flavors wondrously, and the Campari spritzer I ordered with it was a great accompaniment.
3. Dinner at Calle Ocho, adjacent to our hotel, was surprisingly good. My husband's "vegetable paella" (in photo) was excellent.
Veggie Paella

Once I retrieve my camera and download those pix, I'll post part 2.
Finally, the Christmas window displays in the city are always worth a detour. Our faves were in Bergdorf Goodman. Here is a photo of one of them.
Fanciful window display

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Did I say not always healthy? What an understatement!

We always try to make healthy choices when we eat out, and being in NYC should not be an exception. But it's such a rare treat for us to hit that great city, we sometimes feel the bonds of discipline slipping away when confronted with an interesting, totally-not-Cincinnati menu.
For instance, at Gramercy Tavern -- the culinary highlight of our 6 day/5 night New York adventure -- I succumbed to an amazing lamb dish recommended by our waiter.
Given that it is Christmas week, we have been away since last Weds., my brother arrives tomorrow for the duration of the holiday, need to get the house ready, etc. etc. etc., I may not be able to catch up on the blogging for awhile, at least not as fully as I would like.
Bear with me, dear readers!
This photo is of a marvelous, large canvas that hangs in the spectacular lobby of the Rose Theater (Jazz at Lincoln Center's venue) -- our favorite experience of the week in NY.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Healthy Foodie Holiday Survival Guide, Part 3: Fitness in Cold Weather

This dilemma stretches well past the holiday season: how do we stay fit when it's cold, dark and (worse) icy outdoors?
I am a dedicated exercise fanatic, and I'll bundle up and head outdoors even in the coldest weather. But I'm a complete coward about treading on ice. Since winter weather also brings out the cave-man instinct to eat more--storing up calories until the spring--we had better figure out how to burn off the hearty foods we're consuming. Here's my advice for all healthy foodies (including aspiring ones) to consider.

1. Get outdoors, even for short bursts. Put your exercise clothes out at night so first thing in the morning you can jump right into them and out the door. Fifteen minutes in the neighborhood makes a great start to your day. I'll go out saying to myself "just fifteen minutes" but once I've warmed up, that 15 stretches into 20, 30 or more. Do what your schedule will allow, and something is always better than nothing. Add a short walk at lunchtime and another one after work, and you're getting a decent amount total.
2. Join a gym, sign up for Jazzercise classes, get into mall walking -- in short, you do need a backup for times when outdoor exercise is just not an option. At least in Cincinnati (and probably elsewhere, too), fitness clubs over-expanded in the boom years before the crash of '08, and most are desperate for new customers. If the deal they offer you is too expensive, talk them down. It's really doable!
3. If all else fails, exercise inside your own house or apartment. Get free workout DVDs from the library or find exercise shows on cable television. This is not something I've ever had much interest in, but I know people who swear by their own private indoor workouts. A treadmill or elliptical trainer in the basement works for some folks, too.

Whatever you decide, make yourself a promise to get off your duff and shape up -- if in fact you're not already in the fitness habit. (If you are, bravo!)

I had a Jazzercise instructor  who used to motivate the class by saying if we work harder we can EAT MORE. She had us trained to call out those last two words in unison. I can think of no better reason to work fitness into my day than that very thing -- now I can EAT MORE. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Healthy Foodie Holiday Survival Guide -- Part 2 (Party Time)

Going to parties? Eating at restaurants? Family feasts to attend (and/or host)? Candy turning up from Santa? Too busy to exercise, too stressed to sleep enough? The list of challenges to our health over the next six weeks or so is very long indeed. What's a healthy foodie to do?

Let's start with the parties. If it's potluck (or even if it's not and you know the hosts well enough to bring a dish to add), my strategy is to bring something that is going to improve the health profile of the buffet table. I almost always bring a veggie dish because many parties would have no vegetables if it weren't for my contribution. The idea here is not to forego all holiday treats -- there'll be plenty of that -- but to make sure you can balance some of the high-calorie goodies with more nutritious dishes.

My veggie dishes are always appreciated and get eaten as fast as anything else on the table! I'm not saying bring cut up celery and carrots (not that there's anything wrong with that), but instead, use your imagination with winter veggies such as Brussels sprouts, acorn or butternut squash, or year-round favorites like broccoli or green beans. Just don't add cream of mushroom soup or other fat-laden ingredients.

What to go for at the buffet tables:
1. Crudites--Yes, the cut-up raw veggies, but without unhealthy dips. Weil suggests a yogurt dip, and I would add hummus as a good-for-you dip for veggies.
2. Mixed nuts -- Nuts are filling and very tasty; be careful not to go overboard though, since they are full of calories. Go for unsalted nuts if at all possible. You won't get as thirsty for more caloric beverages (why do you think bars put out bowls of salty snacks but to make you drink more?), and too much salt is not beneficial to your health.
3. Smoked salmon -- because of its high Omega-3 fatty acid content. It's tasty too, but of course also expensive. You won't be tempted to overeat this because there's probably not going to be a whole lot of it.
4. Grilled figs and blue cheese -- kind of an odd choice (who has access to fresh figs this deep into November?), but even dried figs are super for their vitamins and fiber along with "a little bit" of the cheese for calcium and protein. 
And to avoid:
Dips, cocktail franks and mini-meatballs, anything fried, and foie gras or other meat pates.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Healthy Foodie Holiday Survival Guide -- Part 1

Thanksgiving weekend has segued into prime shopping/decorating/socializing/travel time. We all run on overload for the next few weeks. How to avoid letting it overwhelm us? Here are a few ideas.

1. Give yourself a spending budget and stick to it. You don't have to get anal about it and make a list of how much you'll spend on each gift, decoration, party, etc. But do have an overall idea of what you can afford to spend this season so that the January bills don't land you in the dumps, emotionally as well as financially.

2. Don't expect too much from the holidays. Your family will probably not solve all its issues; peace on earth (or even in your household) probably won't come to pass. The TV ads showing blissful family reunions are just marketing--not what our real lives are or need to be.

3. Practice patience, kindness and understanding. You can become a little bit of Christmas cheer by cutting the other guys some slack. Make the effort--you'll reap emotional rewards.

4. Take care of yourself--eat right, exercise, minimize caffeine, don't drink too much  alcohol, and find at least a half hour per day to do nothing.

Friday, December 2, 2011

"A little purity between holiday binges"

I love that idea -- let's focus on good, basic, non-processed and simple foods between the big deals of Thanksgiving and the holidays to come.
A former chef at the Berkeley foodie mecca, Chez Panisse, has posted this cauliflower soup recipe that will be just the ticket. Cauliflower is at its peak season now -- vendors at our Findlay Market have lovely, home-grown heads this weekend -- and this recipe has a blessedly short ingredient list.
Give it a try, even if you have to get your ingredients at the supermarket!

Recipe: Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup
Serves 8

3 T olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large, fresh head cauliflower, broken into florets
Salt, to taste
5 1/2 cups water, divided
Olive oil and pepper, to taste


1.   Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sweat the onion in the olive oil over low heat without letting it brown for 15 minutes.
2.   Add the cauliflower, salt to taste, and 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat slightly, cover the pot tightly and stew the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender. Then add another 4 1/2 cups hot water, bring to a low simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes.

3.   Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender to a very smooth, creamy consistency. Let the soup stand for 20 minutes. In this time it will thicken slightly.

4.   Thin the soup with 1/2 cup hot water. Reheat the soup. Serve hot, drizzled with a thin stream of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.