Category Archives: Food and Drink

See Michelle Cook

My cooking was at it’s healthiest (and my weight at it’s lowest, ironically) when I lived in Hoboken, NJ and attended the Institute For Integrative Nutrition. But looking back I’m realizing that I had 2 friends that were into healthy cooking at the time as well.  Anja, my Danish friend, only used fresh, organic ingredients, cooked from scratch and was pretty much appalled by the convenience foods of the American diet.  Michelle was less appalled by Americans (she’s Canadian for God’s sake).  She just happened to be a fitness, cooking, and health food junkie.  She worked out.  She cooked tofu.  She had a strange obsession with hot peppers. She put zucchini in her chocolate cake recipe.  But most importantly, she was the first health nut I had ever met that didn’t necessarily hug trees while wearing a lot of clothes made of hemp.

Fast forward 10 years and I’m feeling strangely drawn to healthy cooking again. After returning to work and allowing my wifely and motherly cooking duties to seriously slide, I’m pulling out old recipes, making longer grocery lists and revisiting my healthier ways.  Hmm…I can’t help but wonder if it’s because I’ve recently reconnected with Michelle who’s now living in Australia.  Besides emailing one another, I’ve been reading her cooking blog and it’s as if we’re hanging out again – she just happens to be living on the other side of the planet instead of in the apartment building next door.

So was it the school or Michelle that got my ass in shape back then?  Who knows?  What I do know is that she’s wonderfully adept at updating recipes and making them as healthy as possible.  Since healthy eating will be on everyone’s mind in about 10 days, check out her blog for lots of great recipe ideas and wonderful food photos. But before before heading over to her corner of the blogosphere, I thought you all might like to get to know my friend Michelle a little better.

LBP:  When did you start your blog?
MP:  I started my blog a little over a year ago after my husband finally convinced me that this would be a fun way to make my own personalized cookbook.    I was worried about starting one because I am in no way a writer but over the year I’ve really come to enjoy just focusing on food and adding a bit of quirky family stories every once in a while.

Are the recipes from other cookbooks or ones you’ve adapted yourself?
To be honest, I was once a huge cookbook collector and would read them like one would a novel but since we began to travel more and more I donated most of them and my favorites are now sitting in a storage warehouse in Quebec.    I try to create my own recipes but many are certainly adapted from memories of cooking shows and books that I’ve read.   I will often just “healthify” every day recipes but if I use an original I do always give credit where credit is due.   It’s also fun to give a shout out to other bloggers when you try out their ideas.  It’s a respect thing.

Do you have a favorite cookbook you return to often?
I love Janet and Greta PodleskiEat Shrink and Be Merry along with Crazy Plates are probably my favorite cookbooks. They’re fun to read and the recipes are simple every day meals made a little healthier which is basically what I try to do.  I don’t like to make dishes that are too complicated.  Instead I try to encourage people to stay away from foods you didn’t make yourself.  Frozen, prepared meals, take out and restaurant food are the biggest problems today as far as I’m concerned.

Do you really lay in bed thinking about food / cooking?
You have no idea!  Just the other night I had to finally get up and watch television so that I could stop dreaming about dates.  I was doing a blog on a new date butter recipe and it was all I could think about.   I try to get a blog out at least 6 days a week so I am constantly thinking about new food ideas.   Thank God thinking about food is calorie free or I’d be in trouble!

Would you rather cook or bake?
Bake hands down.  I get a weird pleasure out of watching a cake rise, especially one that is full of healthier substitutions.  Baking bread to me is like an art and I am still surprised each time it works!  I have two teenage girls. Baking is therapeutic 🙂

Would you rather cook or work out?
That’s an easy one!  I cook because I love it.  I work out because I have to.  Like probably 90% of people, I don’t really enjoy spending an hour in a stinky gym with grunting monkeys trying to suck in my stomach but I do enjoy the mood enhancing effects exercising has on me.   Leaving the gym and feeling fit is a definite high.

Since you’re into fitness…
To lose weight do you think it’s a 50/50 split between food and nutrition?  Or is the stuff you eat more important than the calories you burn?
Food is 80-90% for the average person. I have seen and trained women who bust their butts in the gym every day (far more than me) and never lose a pound or change their body shape.  The simple reason is that they consume more calories than they work off and often those calories come from low nutrient dense foods as well as alcohol.  People will often maintain their weight and fitness levels for years and train like an athlete simply because they refuse to change their diets.    I think that’s a huge waste of time in a gym.  I would rather eat a healthy diet and exercise as little as possible.

I ask because I know a lot of people that lose weight without exercising, just by dramatically changing their diet.  But I’ve yet to meet a WOMAN that loses weight from dramatically changing her exercise.  Men on the other hand seem to be able to do either and lose weight.
Yes, sadly it is true that men can drop their doughnut a day habit and lose 10 lbs in the first week while we lucky ladies hold on to our muffin tops for dear life!  But here’s the thing, although it is clearly easier for men to drop weight quicker, it is just as hard for them to maintain that loss if they don’t eventually change their diets and add exercise.  As we get older the combination of the two become more and more important since our calorie needs get lower and lower. I see women lower their calories each year to maintain their weight until they are consuming 900-1200 calories a day.  These low numbers mean that they are missing out on important nutrients in their diets, bone saving exercise and the simple pleasure of eating.  Food and exercise go hand in hand for both men and women even if one plays a bigger role.

Tell me about the nutrition counseling you offer.
I offer 1:1 daily monitoring through an online food journal.  I watch what you eat each day because you record everything on this website.  In doing that you are able to see exactly what you consume and I then recommend changes and let you know where you should actually be with the macro numbers (fat, carbs, protein, etc.)  I also send nutrition information for you to read  regularly and use my blog to direct you to recipes

This is something that only works for people really willing to take the time to search a data base and log every single thing they eat and drink every day for at least the month.   It’s a bit time consuming at the beginning but I know for a fact that seeing and being honest with a food journal is very eye opening for people.  I have a client right now down 85lbs in 6 months.  He’s under 300lbs for the first time since he was in his 20s and he is now 51.  I sound like an infomercial 😦  I just really believe in the journaling process.

Thanks Michelle!  I’ve eaten Michelle’s food and made many of her recipes – they are always tasty and easy to make.  If you want to overhaul your diet or would like to work with Michelle, check out her blog, See Michelle Cook.  Happy Eating!

5 Guys

MSNBC spent a day following around President Obama which included a burger run to Five Guys.  When I first moved to the DC area, I was thrilled to discover Five Guys, a burger joint that other fast food places should emulate:

  • They only sell hamburgers, hot dogs and fries.  No McRib sandwiches or breakfast burrito jazz at this joint. And you won’t need 15 minutes squinting to read the menu and decide what you want to order once you get there.  You simply ask yourself, “Do I want a hamburger or a hot dog and do I want fries with that?” Pretty simple.  
  • There are no freezers inside a Five Guys.  Everything is fresh.  
  • All toppings are free.  
  • There are only two sizes available:  Small and Large.  Although the large is WAY too big, the small is just right, so order a small burger for your kid AND yourself.  

Five Guys has been Zagat survey rated since 2001 and has earned the Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best Burger” award since 1991. In 2003 Five Guys expanded nationwide, so you might have one in your backyard.  If you don’t, find one the next time you’re in or around the nation’s capital.

Five Guys is a friendly reminder that the KISS concept, Keep It Simple, Stupid, is always the way to go.  Focus on one thing and do that one thing well.

Time To Lower The Drinking Age?

Former President Emeritus, John M. McCardell Jr. of Middlebury College, started Choose Responsibility, a non-profit organization founded in 2007 to reopen the debate regarding the United State’s 21-year-old legal drinking age requirement.

Choose Responsibility supports a series of changes to treat 18, 19, and 20 year-olds as the young adults the law otherwise says they are. Current drinking laws infantilize young adults. We should not be surprised, then, by infantile behavior from otherwise responsible adults.

Likewise in 2008, the Amethyst Initiative, made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States was also born,  Their mission is to:

…call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.

In 1984 the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by Congress which required that states prohibit the public purchase and/or consumption of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21 or lose 10% of their federal highway funding dollars.

I agree that after 25 years, enough time has passed to bring this issue back into the public forum for debate, which is all that these organizations want to do.

I also agree that the drinking age should be lowered.  Why?

Because as a society we have been successful in demonizing drinking and driving which has kept not only young adults, but all of us safer. That will never change.  It will always be uncool to drink and drive, whether you’re 80 or 18.

Because I don’t know a young adult not drinking due to the law that requires them to wait until they’re 21.  They simply drink in secret and when they get lucky either due to fake ID’s or entrance to a fraternity party, they drink in excess.

Because if an 18-year-old is adult enough to sign contracts, have their name and picture reported in the paper, die for their country, get married without parental consent and be in charge of their medical treatment, they are adult enough to drink a beer.

Because as a parent, I want to teach my girls how to drink responsibly the same way I’ll teach them how to drive safely.  Sending them off to college to learn how to drink from other co-eds scares me a hell of a lot more than giving them access to alcohol at a younger age.

Because it works in other parts of the world.

Recent research published by the World Health Organization found that in many European countries where the drinking age is 18 or younger (and often not enforced), 15 and 16 year-old teens have more drinking occasions per month, but fewer occasions of dangerous intoxication than their American counterparts. In many southern European countries roughly one in ten of all drinking occasions results in intoxication, while in the United States almost half of all drinking occasions result in intoxication. In these countries the introduction of alcohol typically comes from parents. In the United States, where the drinking age is 21, parents are not legally afforded that opportunity, and as a result initiation to alcohol consumption is not responsibly controlled. ~ Choose Responsibility

I’m a big believer in setting up children to succeed.  Sending them off to independent lives without the tools needed to drink responsibly, is unfair at best and irresponsible at worst.

So I agree.  Lets reopen this dialogue.  And if drinking legally at the age of 18 means a few more sin taxes to pay for all these promises by our government – so be it.

The Pesky Pink Patch

I love the blogosphere, especially when it teaches me something new.

If you have a teenage daughter, well scratch that. If you know anyone that tends to perk up when they see an ad for a weight loss product – so that would mean, basically everyone with ovaries – head on over to The Blog That Ate Manhattan and learn more about the pink patch and why it shouldn’t be advertised on places like My Space.

Then after you’ve told everyone that has ovaries, sit down your daughters and teach them about bullshit advertising, that they can’t always believe everything that they read, billions are spent on worthless weight loss products, etc, etc., and so forth.

Crunch Time

It’s crunch time, folks. Time for sucking it up and getting it done. Time for keeping your head down and working hard until you scratch everything off that list. You know – decorate tree, fix strand of broken lights on outside porch, bake cookies, send cards, RSVP to holiday parties, figure out what to buy Aunt Carol – shit like that.

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You are getting close to the crossroads. Close to the moment of truth when you need to decide what shit you’re going to do as planned and how you’re going to improvise on the fly. More importantly you must give yourself permission to abandon plan A and focus instead on plan B.

If you are a slacker, this is a no brainer. But abandoning plan A if you happen to be type A, well, that can get a little ugly. Since some of you will need a little help, here are my holiday slacker tips for you. and your official permission slip to slack as needed. But before I proceed, allow me to be clear. If you look forward to baking Christmas cookies all year, then by all means bake away. I’m not suggesting that you abandon your holiday traditions and fun. I’m suggesting that you abandon that which you do out of joyless, obligation and drudgery. I’m suggesting that you make an honest assessment of your mental capabilities and then decide how to best handle things. If screaming at your kids while baking those damn Christmas cut out cookies for that fat, shit-head, Santa only to bitch and moan while you clean up the mess is what ends up happening every year, it’s time to start a new tradition. Buy the cookies and use the time you saved to have a drink and relax for God’s sake.

So in honor of this, I give you…Drum Roll Please….My Holiday Slacker/Time Saver/Sanity Inducing Tips:

Gift Cards: Buy them all at the same grocery store and you’ll save gas along with time.

Bakery Items: Notice I didn’t say, processed baked goods. I’m talking about actual pastries and treats baked by real people that enjoy baking. Either pick up items at the local church holiday bake sale (like I’m going to do next weekend) or buy from the local bakery or do a cookie exchange. Just don’t stress out over baking if it’s really not your thing.

Email Greetings: There are so many online and digital options for sending a greeting. Yet most of us still kill a tree, spend the money on a stamp, get a picture processed and developed, and spend hours addressing envelopes. Certainly you may feel the need to send actual cards to your business associates, but for your close friends or the folks you only contact yearly at this time, send an email greeting, attach some photos and move on.

Agree On A No Gifts Policy: A few years ago my friends and I all decided to stop exchanging gifts and instead spend that money on a diner out, a girl’s night having a few drinks or a coffee at Starbucks after the holidays. This also applies to birthdays and our kid’s birthdays.

Santa Can Be A Non Wrapper: Growing up Santa didn’t wrap because he was too busy. So I kept that tradition and learned that kids don’t care, they just want the loot. One year I put every gift in one of those GIANT holiday garbage bags. My kids thought it was cool to have a sack just like Santa as they pulled out each gift one by one.

Dare To Dream A New Dream: Last year I hosted a holiday coffee. I really enjoyed it and thought I’d make it my yearly tradition. But this year, I’m only free to throw one on Friday, December 21st and not sure if I want to host it so close to Christmas. That’ll be a crazy day for people and even though I specifically told folks last year not to bring anything – most of them still brought something. So although I host it as a “stop by and grab a bagel/coffee on your way to run your last minute holiday errands” it ends up becoming one more thing for folks to plan for, get a gift for, etc. It hit me this week that I could always throw a general winter coffee – for no particular reason at all – when no one is stressed out and if not tied to a particular holiday, no one will feel the need to bring a gift.

People Mean What They Say: If they say no gifts, they mean it. Don’t bring anything. Instead, invite them over at a later date and tell them not to bring something. This isn’t rocket science. Listen when people tell you what they want.

When People Ask To Help, Let Them: Likewise, when someone asks if they can bring a dish and you could use the help because you’re short on time or money – SAY YES! If you’re a control freak, then be specific when you say yes so that you can get exactly what you need.

Alright people. I know that I’m forgetting something. What are your tips for a sane holiday season?

Vegas Part Two

After spending a weekend in Vegas I’m curious about something. Who was the jackass a few years back that thought a family-friendly marketing plan for the town nicknamed Sin City was a good idea? Not ever being there, I thought that perhaps they had cleaned up the place similar to how Times Square changed in New York. But then they changed the marketing plan back and Vegas once again became the place where you went to embrace your alter-ego. Where your Dr. Jekyll meets your Mr. Hyde. After spending four days there, I’m positive that this change was a brilliant idea.

For example here we are before Margaritaville:

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And After:

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No, the camera wasn’t shaking. We were really that blurry in real life, although I would like to point out to past readers of this blog that at the start of the evening, my earrings matched. In my defense, I’d like to publicly say that drinks with straws should be banned. They go down too easy. You end up slurping not sipping and if you mix that with not enough food, well, you know the shit’s going to get ugly. We had gone to Vegas to celebrate our friend, Jim’s 40th birthday. His lovely wife Christina threw him a party at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville located in the Flamingo hotel. The margarita’s were free. I had a few too many. That’s probably where my problems started.

We left the party and hit the casino. After watching my husband gamble for a few minutes I decided to take off and find me my lucky slot machine. I believe it’s after I sit down that the 4 large margarita’s that I sucked back hit me. I was smart enough to gather my things and stop gambling – just not smart enough to find my husband. Thank God for cell phones. I believe the conversation went something like this:

Linda: Gary. Holy Shit. I’m Drunk!

Gary: No kidding!

Linda: And I’m lost.

Gary: What do you mean?

Linda: I can’t find you! I keep walking in circles but I can’t find you.

Gary: Just sit down. Okay, now tell me, what can you see?

Linda: I see slot machines.

Gary: No shit Linda, we’re in a casino. What else do you see?

Linda: I see a sign that says…wait a minute…let me focus on it…wait a minute…Oh yea, it says RESTROOMS.

Gary: Anything else?

Linda: Every thing’s blurry. You’ve got to find me. I know, I’ll yell MARCO and you yell POLO!

Gary: Just keep talking. Don’t hang up the phone. Holy shit, I see you….DAMN!

And then it just goes down hill from there. Crossing the street, waiting in the cab line, falling asleep in the cab, getting back to the room in heels – you get the picture.

So to recap:

Before Vegas:

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After Vegas:

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Keep that in mind before you book your trip.

 

In Between

The week between Christmas and New Years is always weird.  There’s the general post-Christmas let down.  Your house is trashed.  Either you’re returning from a trip or regrouping after your guests leave.  You’ve eaten like a pig for a few days and have crappy leftovers littering your refrigerator.  You’re picking at a 5-day-old nut roll and wondering why you’re so bloated that your stomach is stretching from here to Toledo, OH.

You’re out of sorts and need to get back on schedule.  Yet your scheduled is screwed up because the kids are off school and you or your spouse or both of you are on vacation.  Routines are in flux.  The flow is interupted, big time. 

Then by the time you get your shit together again, New Year’s Day rolls around only to find you literally and figureatively hung over a piece of pork swimming in sauerkraut.   Your stomach is bloated again.  Your house is trashed again.  You get the idea.

To deal with my post holiday carb detox, I’ve been to yoga twice and it’s helped a lot, but I’m still in need of more tweaking.  I think I need to eat a shit-load of vegetables today.  Something green.  Something that came from the earth and not from the inside of a bag of white flour.   This is why is processed carbs are satanic.  The feeling that they create can drive a person mad.

That being said, one of the reasons for my post-Christmas food fog is below.  Grandma DelBene’s gnocchi recipe is definitely worth the hassle.  Enjoy!

GrandmadelbenetoddlerGrandma DelBene’s Potato Gnocchi Recipe

5 cups of flour
1 egg
2 cooked servings of instant mashed potatoes (buy the brand you like and follow the directions on the box).
¼ tsp salt
1/2 cup of water (reserve for later)

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  • Pour flour in large bowl or in the middle of a very large workspace like a kitchen island.
  • Prepare instant mashed potatoes as directed on package and add salt.
  • When potatoes are cooked and cooled to warm add the egg and mix together.
  • Combine mixture with flour a little a time, adding a little water at a time. You might not need all the water.  If it is too sticky add more flour. 
  • Form a ball and cover for about 30-45 minutes.
  • Re-work the dough adding a little flour if needed until soft like bread dough. 
  • When dough is smooth, divide into 2 balls, keeping one covered
  • Slice the ball of dough like a roast then roll slices into long “snakes”.
  • Cutting

  • Sprinkle each "snake" with flour then slice into small pieces, about the size of your thumb.
  • Don’t make them too big or they wont cook through and will be doughy when you eat them.
  • Spread gnocchi’s out on a floured cookie sheet so they don’t stick together.
  • You can place the sheet in the freezer until you are ready to cook them. If you want to freeze the gnocchi’s for another day, place in freezer bags and sprinkle with flour.
  • Readytoboil

  • Cook in boiling water until they ‘float’. Stay at the stove and watch them. Don’t overcook. Don’t leave the stove. Gnocchi’s cook quicker then regular pasta.
  • Serve with your favorite sauce.

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Makes enough for 4 people

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