Feb 28, 2010

A Greeky & Geeky Sunday

This morning I woke up before my alarm clock, a little before 9 AM. I love that feeling -- like I won a competition before I even got out of bed. I dragged myself to the kitchen and made a really simple, yet awesome bowl of oats:
In the bowl:
- 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/3 cup skim milk
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp brown sugar....ok more than that, I can't lie
- 1/2 sliced banana
- a few walnut pieces
- a spoonful of Smart Balance peanut butter

I ate breakfast in bed...again. I think it's one of my favorite things about the weekend. Slooowly getting out of bed, cooking my breakfast as fast as I can, and immediately jumping back into bed to enjoy it. Today's gym experience was much better than yesterday's. I did an awesome cardio sesh and then went into the man zone again to play on the machines. I love that I'm no longer afraid of the man zone. I get so much more done and am even closer to the hotties. I have zero shame at the gym. I drip sweat, I pick my wedgies, and I stare at the hotties. Whaaaaaat? At least I'm getting buff in the process!

When I got home, I created a kick-glutes tuna salad. 
- 1 6.4 oz packet of tuna
- 1 15 oz can of Great Northern beans
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
- salt & pepper

Again, another salad with no mayo. The garlic and dill make up for the flavor, and the lemon juice moistens it all. This tuna salad is packed with protein and fiber--my bf and other bf.  Here's the nutrition info for the entire recipe:

Calories 595
Fat 6.5g
Sodium 1950mg
Fiber 17.5g
Sugar 7g
Carbs 59
Protein 66.6g

So...divide that by 3 or 4, and you have a recipe that is low fat, low in calories, good source of fiber and awesome source of protein. And it just takes a few minutes to mix all the ingredients and scoop into your hungry mouth with a few pita chips. Speaking of pita chips, this would be delicious in a pita!

As I ate, I perused the new issue of Shape while listening to a cd that my lifetwin Heera sent me in the mail.

After Nicki Minaj rocked my face off, a special friend came over needing help editing his thousand page paper. Just kidding, it was 23 or so pages, but still! Since I'm the smartest person he knows at grammar, spelling, and also the prettiest, he chose me to review his masterpiece. Lucky me. All that reading made me hungry, so I grabbed a Greek yogurt that I hadn't tried before...FAGE CHERRY!!

Several people have seen me obsess over Oikos, and couldn't believe that I hadn't tried Fage. I guess the container intimidated me and I never wanted to cheat on Oikos. Today I did. And I liked it. A LOT.

As you can see, unlike Oikos, the topping/flavor is not yet mixed in. The container bends so you can drip it into your yogurt. Pretty freaking smart. I added a bit in, slowly at first, just in case I didn't like it.

As soon as it hit my lips, I dumped the rest of the cherry in. SO GOOD. At the end, I was saying I wish I had a tiny spatula to get every single droplet of cherry I possibly could. I don't even like cherry-flavored stuff, but this was perfect. I can't wait to try their other flavors.

After what felt like an entire day of editing a paper whose content I could barely comprehend, special friend went on his merry way, and I went to Whole Foods to pick up some groceries for the week. I bought gala apples, bananas, red D'anjou pears, oat bran, and two new Luna Bar flavors: Cookies 'n Cream Delight and Dulce de Leche. Can't wait to try both.

I started to feel hungry again as I passed by a middle-eastern restaurant, Ali Baba. I decided to go in to pick up a to-go menu, and ended up ordering some food.

I seriously only went in for Falafel (top left). Then I saw lentil soup and was like, oh crap, gimme some of that...cup or bowl? Oh god, give me the bowl. (Pita came with it, I swear). Then I was like "Do you guys have sides of grape leaves too?" The waitress responded, "Sure, we can do that!" Well, fluff, I'll take that too. WHO AM I? I figured I'd just eat a falafel, try the soup w/ pita bread, eat a couple grape leaves, and save the rest for tomorrow. And that's exactly what I did. God gave me self-control. 

Here are some close ups and descriptions according to their menu.
Falafel: patties of ground garbanzo beans and spices, deep fried:
that I dipped in my Lentil Soup: Made from hard beans. Topped with garlic and spices.
And served with warm, soft, pita bread:

And stuffed grape leaves on the side:
I enjoyed half of this deliciousness (yay for leftovers!) while watching the new Desperate Housewives and facebook chatting with my other favorite asian, Boding!!
(Megan, Nicole, me, Kaye, Boding)

Tomorrow is the 1st of March!! 
Looooooove the 1st of the month -- new beginnings :)

Ali Baba on Urbanspoon

Feb 27, 2010

¡Me gusta comer en Mozzo Deli!

A huge wine-o headache this morning made going to the gym really difficult. Before I left, I chugged a glass of milk, filled up my Camelbaby and nibbled on this aaawesome Luna Bar.
This flavor is perfect for breakfast -- sweet enough to wake you up, but not too much in the morning. And that bottom creamy layer is delish!

The gym was NOT fun today. 11 AM is must be Hippie Hour; I saw four or five women walking out of a "class" with no shoes on. GROSS!!! I hope I never pass out and fall into feet sweat puddles. I did 50 minutes of cardio and got the heck out of there. When I got home I ate one of my new favorite fruits:
So juicy.

Today I tutored Spanish for the first time since college. And old friend I grew up with is in Spanish 101 -- love that level's vocab: mochilas, escritorios, y pantalones. We met at Starbucks where I picked up a skinny caramel latte for $100, and then headed next door to my favorite deli in Mt. Pleasant:

I've been in love with this deli since it opened last Spring. I think B and I ate there on a weekly basis when it first opened. Their menu is HUGE. The owner, Shannon Campbell, is from Connecticut (!!) and clearly knows how to make a sandwich....or 50. There are over 30 different types of creative sandwiches on their menu, including the northern favorites Eggplant Parmesan and Meatball Parm. They also have 10 kinds of burgers, 7 kinds of salads, and a ton of fresh dishes in their display case. These vary daily, but I always happen to see the orzo feta salad, fruit salad, and potato salad. And just when you start feeling overwhelmed by your million choices written on the chalkboard menus...you turn your head a bit to the left and see a BREAKFAST MENU! Yep, you could really eat here all day long. Choices include breakfast sandwiches, omelets, french toast, bagels, croissants, muffins and danishes. 

Last Sunday when my Blackberry crashed, I went straight to Mozzo upon awakening to cure me of my depression. I got the Honey Slide - roasted turkey, crisp bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato & honey mayo....but no mayo for me. It was huge and tasted so fresh.

Today's lunch was The Roma - prosciutto, ham, provolone, tomato, balsamic vinegar & oil on a ciabatta roll. I asked for Mozzarella instead and it definitely made me feel like I was in Rome again...in Mt. Pleasant. 

What I love most about their sandwiches is that they don't skimp on anything and all their ingredients are matched so well. 

Other favorite sandwiches that I've had include the following:

  • Southern  Smoke - slow smoked seasoned pork shoulder, our own bbq sauce, cheddar cheese & grilled onions
  • Chicken  Caprese – marinated grilled chicken, basil pesto, asiago & sun dried tomatoes
  • Fusion - roasted turkey, Brie, chipotle raspberry sauce & field greens
  • Rachael - pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese & Russian dressing
  • Colorado  Roots - roasted turkey, cream cheese, bacon, guacamole & salsa w/lettuce & tomato
  • The  Driller - hot roast beef, muenster cheese, frizzled onions & dijonnaise ( frizzled onions are super thin cut, dredged in seasoned flour and quick fried)
  • Dig The Fig - prosciutto, grilled onions, asiago cheese & fig preserves (panini style is the way to go with this one!)
My favorite breakfast omelet is the Whitey - fresh spinach, onions, grilled turkey & Swiss w/ egg whites.

When I went up to pay, I mentally drooled at the baked goods and spotted something new: Heath Bar Cupcakes! I told the owner they looked amazing and he told me to eat one...The  South Carolina obesity rates popped into my oversized head and I sweetly told him "Nahhh, gotta behave!" But then he said "If I give you one, will you eat it?" My response: "HECK YES I WILL EAT IT! AND BLOG ABOUT IT TOO!"

It was a deal.

The cupcake was really moist! It was a good ole classic chocolate cupcake topped with vanilla frosting and Heath bar crumbles. 

If you haven't been to Mozzo yet, please do yourself a favor and GO GO GO! Go everyday. Fall in love with the restaurant, and to thank me, pick me up before your next visit. Thanks.

After we ate, we took advantage of their free wi-fi and studied some Espa├▒ol and then played with Garrett's webcam!! Hahahha I love those things!

Mozzo Deli & Caterer on Urbanspoon

Feb 24, 2010

Healthified Chicken Fingers & Fries


Seriously, put it down. With obesity rates as high as 30.6% of our population in South Carolina, we really need to be thinking about healthier food options. Ok, ok, I know Chick-fil-a has deliciously juicy nuggets and perfectly crisp waffles fries, but let's get our tummies and wallets in check whenever possible.

Making healthier choices can be difficult for a new dieter, but after a while it becomes a lifestyle. I never consider myself to be "dieting"; I am just conscious about the food choices I make. Chubby College Christina liked to dunk her nuggets in mayonnaise. Not a joke. Xtra Cute Xtina now likes to dip her nuggets in Chick-fil-a's fat free honey mustard sauce, or plain old ketchup! (Shocking, I know.) Let's review some changes I've made over the past five feeling great years:

Chubby Christina liked:
Xtra Cute Xtina loves:
Chocolate milk
Skim milk
Sugar in my coffee
Splenda or Agave syrup
Lucky Charms
Fiber One Original
Peaches n Cream oatmeal
Oat bran/rolled oats w/ real fruit!
Ranch dressing (gag, the word makes me nervous)
Balsamic vinegar
Yocrunch yogurt w/ m&ms
0% fat Oikos Greek yogurt
Peanut butter loaded w/ hydrogenated oils
Almond butter
Queso dip/French onion dip
Pints of Ben & Jerry’s
Small portions of gelato or sorbet
Flour tortillas
Corn tortillas
White bread
100% whole wheat bread
Better with Cheddar Hot dogs (also not a joke)
Chicken sausage
COOKIES, 4 at once, quite possibly 5

As you can see, there's always a healthier option out there. I didn't cut out the items in the first list all at once either. What makes this become a "lifestyle" is that that they should be  gradual changes. Don't throw yourself into an eating disorder trying to become healthy. And with the last item, cookies, or any special treat for that matter, moderation is key to maintaining your new lifestyle. Learning self-control was my biggest obstacle, but now I'm pretty damn good at having just one cookie, or 2 spoonfuls of gelato and realizing that I'm satisfied. And knowing that I eat healthy the majority of the time, I am also guilt-free. :)

Onto tonight's healthy dinner...Chicken Fingers and Fries
Option 1: Deep-fried chicken fingers and French fries with a side of fat-laden honey mustard dressing
Option 2: Baked pretzel-crusted chicken fingers and Baked sweet potato "fries" with a side of fat-free dill honey mustard sauce

Which is the correct choice?


Option 2!

Although this recipe was incredibly messy (or maybe I just have a problem), it was quite simple and fairly quick to make.

First I made the "fries": I cut 1 big mama sweet potato into small strips. I tossed the strips with olive oil, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. I preheated the oven to 400* and popped them in for 20 minutes. 
While those cooked, I cut up some chicken breasts into strips and nuggets and dipped them into an egg white wash. I then coated the chicken in crushed pretzel bits. After the sweet potato fries cooked for 20 minutes, I put the chicken in the oven and cooked both dishes for 15 more minutes. 
On the side I made a healthified honey mustard sauce. Typical honey mustard dressings found in restaurants will have mayonnaise as a base. PUKE! I'm still even sure how that makes sense. Honey mustard = honey + mustard. 
No need to add any fats!! I whisked together 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard + 2 tbsp of honey + 2 tbsp of fresh chopped dill. DELICIOSO.
...and real honey mustard:

All plated and ready to be destroyed:

And look at the awesome benefits in this meal (according to The Food Doctor):
Chicken, a protein
Nutrients: Vitamin A, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin K, sodium, potassium, magnesium
Benefits: Helps break up mucus during a cold. Mild antibiotic.

Sweet Potato, a vegetable
Nutrients: Calcium, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, phosphorous, beta-carotene
Benefits: Easily digestible, excellent for inflammation of the digestive tract, ulcers, and poor circulation. Detoxifying - bind to heavy metals and remove them from the body

Now where's my cookie?? ;)

Feb 17, 2010

Carbs, Carbs Everywhere

Last night while Santypants was on the phone with T-Mobile for a hundred hours, I prepped my morning breakfast: oats! It's been a while since I've had anything besides oat bran or Fiber One original, and oats were on my mind. I took an empty Oikos container and filled it with the following to soak overnight:
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
When I got to work, I added 1/2 of a banana, sliced. Then I stirred it all up and popped it in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes. I stirred after 1 1/2 minutes. It was soooo creamy. I've read about "overnight oats" plenty of times on Kath's blog, but have been sticking with my usual breakfasts. This is a great idea!
After it cooked, I topped the oats with a few dried cranberries, raisins, and a couple of milk chocolate chips! The melted chips make me soooo happy in the morning. I washed it all down with my usual 8 oz of skim milk! 
Later for lunch, I finished up the rest of the chicken salad with more spinach. I snacked on more grapes and an apple.

After work, I zoomed over to Target because I saw in their weekly sale ad that LUNA BARS are on sale! After tasting the peppermint cookie flavor yesterday, I needed MORE! I would much rather eat a Luna bar than a cookie, especially knowing it has actual health benefits. A box of six bars is on sale for $5.79 each, plus you  get an additional single bar FREE! The single bars are also on sale for $1.02. I got 2 boxes, 2 free single bars, and then I bought another one just because I couldn't resist. $12.60 for 15 bars = $.84 each! What a steal!
Dinner was soooooooo good: homemade pizza! This one came pretty close to beating the Prosciutto & Parrano pizza I made in September. Of couuuurse I sweetly asked the pizza man at Whole Foods to roll out the whole wheat dough for me. He looked at me funny this time, as if I hadn't asked him twice before. Maybe he just hates me. Anyway, I brushed the dough with a little bit of olive oil and added sliced mozzarella and Saint Agur gorgonzola.
Then I added a sliced D'Anjou pear...
A few slices of Prosciutto di Parma...

and stuck it in the oven for 15 minutes at 450*. When it was done baking, I topped it with toasted walnuts and drizzled it with honey! AHH!
With all that carb energy I had a dance party in my room with my two friends Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj!

Stop judging.

Chicken, Chicken Everywhere

Yesterday was my third training session. It wasn't as hard as last week but it was definitely another good work out. My abs hate my trainer, but this is probably a good thing. He told me I to add more protein to my diet, such as adding an an egg with my normal breakfast cereal/oats, and eating a half of can of tuna for lunch. That seemed boring to me, so I decided to make chicken salad. In my chicken salad I like fruit , nuts, and honey, but I despise mayonnaise. Then it occurred to me that I had a honey Oikos in my fridge....why not use that in place of mayonnaise? Greek yogurt has a good amount of protein, too!

I mixed together the following:
  • 1 can of chicken breast meat
  • 1/2 of a Gala apple, chopped into little cubes
  • 1/2 cup of grapes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup of walnut pieces
  • 1 container of Honey Oikos greek yogurt
  • freshly ground pepper
I had it for lunch on Tuesday over a bed of spinach:

I had to go to WF after work, and I was starving. I know that's a dangerous state to be in while grocery shopping, so I grabbed a Luna Bar to inhale while I picked up my stuff. This was a new flavor for me:

It was really tasty and I loved the hint of peppermint. It was as good as a cookie! I went to my training session at 7:30, then ran back to my house to meet my friend Santo. Santo is a fellow Blackberry user who recently ran over his phone with a golf cart. Nice job. I told him that I had an old Curve he could use in the meantime, and he was nice enough to bring me with Chickfila. This was going to be a special dinner, so I made sure I brought out the candle.
He brought my favorite salad, the Chargrilled Chicken & Fruit Salad, a Diet Lemonade (!!!)...and a lovely gift from his brother, Frankie. Frankie sells wine for a living, and thought it would be really nice to sent Santo over with one of his best wines. Really, it's a classy bottle. And pardon me for pronouncing it "Reunite"--Santo immediately corrected me saying, "No, no, Christina. It's ree-u-nee-tay." My bad.
This fine $5 Italian wine with an alcohol content of 8% will be saved for a very special occasion.

Feb 11, 2010

Cacio e Pepe

What will drinking 5 Camelbaks a day do to a small female? Make her have to tinkle in the middle of the night!  This happens almost every night now. So last night around 4 am, I woke up and my body didn't want move. That's right, Tuesday's training session finally hit me. I begged my body to go back to sleep, but it wasn't cooperating. I thought I'd have to roll out of my bed and crawl to the bathroom, but my legs are the only part of me that isn't sore! Thanks trainer dude, thanks so much.

That evening I tried to make a really simple pasta dish that I was obsessed with in Italy. While there, I ordered it at three different restaurants. The dish is called Cacio e Pepe, which translates to Cheese and Pepper. Besides the pasta, cheese and ground pepper are the only ingredients. The standard cheese for Cacio e Pepe is Pecorino Romano and using freshly ground peppercorns is suggested. And since I was going all out blowing money like I'm Lil Wayne, why not buy pasta that's double the price because it's imported from Italy? Whole Foods loves me and my bank account.

The dish is fairly simple to make. You grate the cheese beforehand, grind some pepper, and start cooking your pasta. After the pasta is done, you reserve some of the hot water (because it contains starch and salt), and then drain the pasta. You then put the pasta back in the pot, and stir in the grated cheese, pepper, and slowly add water until you reach a creamy consistency. 

Here are pictures of the Cacio e Pepe dishes I had in Italy.

First, at Trattoria Der Pallaro, Rome (the pasta on the right):

Second, at a small restaurant in the Trastevere area of Rome:

Third, at Ditarambo in Rome:

 And here's my version in Mt. Pleasant, SC:

Well....not so much. It wasn't bad for a first attempt, but it wasn't nearly as creamy as I wanted it to be. That should explain the massive amount of extra grated Pecorino on top. After reviewing my pictures from Italy, I'm starting to wonder if those cheaters used butter!

After the carb overload, I went to the gym for a 45 minute cardio sesh. I kind of hate myself for that right now because I'm so sore. Tonight should be a lot of fun. I'm going to whine/beg/plead with him to let me lay on the mat...and not move.

Feb 7, 2010

Page's Okra Grill, Mt. Pleasant, SC and a tribute to South Carolina

I woke up starving this morning! On the weekends, I'm very relaxed about what I eat. It's important to enjoy life to the fullest, and who wants to be dieting 7 days a week? Not me! Knowing that I got in 5 great work-out sessions this week, I was comfortable with eating a giant, naughty, southern breakfast. Nugget's bf Aaron suggested we go to Page's Okra Grill for brunch. I've passed by Page's many times on my way to Mozzo (amazing deli, btw), but never thought about trying it. My empty tummy was excited to go somewhere new! 

We walked right in and seated ourselves in a booth towards the back. The restaurant is decent-sized and very open. It was fairly crowded, but not overwhelming. It smelled so so good. A list of daily specials written on a chalkboard hung above the cash register at the front.

The breakfast menu has lots of options, including your typical eggs, pancakes, waffles, and french toast, but also includes breakfast with a low country flair. Entrees included country fried steak, shrimp & grits, crab cakes, and sausage with gravy. I chose one of their daily specials for the best of both worlds: an unsweetened tea, a shrimp & pimiento cheese omelet (!!) with a side of grits and a biscuit. They were nice enough to let me get all egg whites, but at this point, was that really helping me? Ha. 

The "super-healthy-during-the-week-Xtina" would have been just as pleased with their menu. Happy heart menu options include the no-carb breakfast (2 eggs & ham), organic cinnamon raisin toast, and a seasonal fruit plate. 

My already big eyes enlarged the size of Euro coins when my waitress put my food in front of me. The omelet was large and stuffed with four large shrimp. The pimiento cheese on top was very good, especially since the heat from the omelet warmed and melted it just a bit. The grits were, well, just grits. The biscuit, on the other hand, was one of the best I've ever had. It was perfectly soft but somewhat crumbly with a light, buttery flavor. 

Aaron ordered the breakfast casserole with home fries and toast. I took a bite of his casserole and thought it was pretty good, but it would have been better if it was fresh out of the oven. 

My biscuit and Aaron's toast: 

I was very pleased with my meal and would definitely go back. Next time I would try their Barefoot Contessa's french toast or their Alton Brown's chocolate waffle. As I walked out, I noticed they had several fresh cakes! I mentally drooled, then rushed out of the door with visions of the treadmill in my head. This whole breakfast experience got me feeling really  southern. I don't know what in the heck has happened to me over the past year or so, but I've gone soft for South Carolina. It's such a weird feeling. I grew up in Massachusetts until I was 13, and then my parents dragged me southward "for the weather." I'm a very resilient person, but until recently, I never really knew why I was still living here, aside from Auntie Kelly & family and my awesome friends. I've been proud to be from Massachusetts, even while dating you-know-who who once actually whispered to me "Shh, X, don't tell people you're a Yankee." But then things started changing...

I went to Nascar, 

became best friends with Tennessee-bred Jenna, 

half-liked watching Clemson football, 

held two guns,

caught crabs with my bare hands, 

played with raccoons, 

and watched my other best friend, Nikki, fall in love & get engaged to an incredible southern man, William:
She has since convinced me that Southern boys are the way to go. :) 

I'm happy to say that I really love living here. The people are unbelievably friendly, the weather is unpredictable but beautiful, and I live 5.9 miles from the beach. Yes, our  malls completely suck, but with online shopping, what does it matter? 

I officially love you South Carolina. 

Page's Okra Grill on Urbanspoon
*Nicole & William's engagement photos are the amazing work of Erin Sage.
*Be sure to check out Page's adorable website for additional information.