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I have a few friends who don’t quite understand my love of food.

They don’t comprehend how when we’re out to dinner something delicious will stop me mid-conversation as I take a moment to be one with the dish.  How the camera roll on my iPhone is not filled with cute photos of my nephew, but instead is the keeper of a deep chronicle of the meals I’ve eaten.  How I can recall the exact meal we had at that restaurant when we first went there six years ago, but I cannot remember what I did at work yesterday.

Because of this, I have moments where I question why I’m friends with these people at all.

On the other extreme, I know people who try the latest, newest, hottest places, but are hyper critical of everything, as if they are the only authority on what tastes good.  These folks remind me of the self-proclaimed “foodies” who are now everywhere, the food groupies who think because they have had bone marrow and uni and octopus that now they breathe some kind of rarefied air.

I don’t fall into this category either.

This week I went to a meeting where early in the conversation the person I was talking to said she craved a piece of chocolate. Coincidentally, I’d brought two squares of chocolate with me, so I gave her one.  She proceeded to have an intense meditation with the square, unwrapping it and putting the square up to her nose, closing her eyes while she breathed in deeply and savored its aroma. Then she ate the square as if it were a four course meal, experiencing every single little bite. She had her extended moment, proclaimed that the chocolate was exactly what she wanted. And then our conversation about the business at hand continued.

I aspire to be that kind of food lover.

The truth is, I’m just a girl who loves to eat.  My earliest memories revolve around food: falling into the apartment when I was five and scattering Skittles everywhere, watching my mother make veal parmigiana—my favorite meal when I was eight years old, before I’d heard of political correctness—and bake a sour cream cinnamon swirl bundt cake with regularity, at ten eagerly anticipating the time when I was older so I could help make Thanksgiving dinner.

I will often plan my lunch while I’m eating my breakfast at my desk in the office.  If I’m running an errand in an unknown part of town, I will research the area for a restaurant I can try while I’m there. I just love food.

When I think of food I love, I dream of things like this extraordinary almond croissant from Petrossian…

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…and its airy, flaky, almond paste filled interior…

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I think of Christmas morning breakfast, where my parents and I make scrambled eggs with vegetables, cheese grits and freshly baked biscuits….

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…and of the equally delicious bowl of shrimp and grits (with a fried poached egg!) from Perilla.

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I’d want to hold onto the feeling that the most delicious French Toast I’ve ever had—from Blue Ribbon Bakery—gives me, in all of its fluffy, custardy, almost ethereal beauty.

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I’d salivate over the chicken meatball and arugula salad from Penelope in the Murray Hill section of New York, its mouth-wateringly juicy meat and the simplicity of the peppery greens dusted by a shower of pecorino cheese…

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…as well as the Sweet Corn and Lobster Agnolotti that I had at Balthazar in September, the epitome of a succulent seasonal summer meal.

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I’d want to recommend my favorite lobster roll in New York City from Ed’s Lobster Bar, perfectly dressed and housed in a buttery top-split roll, with no small part played by the supporting sides of perfectly crispy French fries and tangy house made pickles…

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…and the Truffled Egg Toast from ‘ino, its runny and vibrantly yellow yolk enriched by a drizzle of earthy truffle oil.

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Most of all, I’d pay mental homage to the chocolate chip cookie, crisp on the outside and soft, ooey, gooey on the inside. The most perfectly comforting comfort food of all.

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When I think of the food I love, I want to share it.  A delicious dish just elevates life into something grand, with more unexpected pleasures just a meal away.

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So what did you do with your long weekend?

I spent the last three days watching the Food Network. So much mouth-watering, inviting, inspirational food out there.

The problem was I was watching while I was on a cleanse.

A word of advice: if you ever decide to go on a 3-day cleanse, don’t spend the better part of the weekend watching the Food Network. Now, I’m a tough girl and for the most part I was fine…until the sticky toffee pudding segment. Then I just had to go to sleep.

But, I was doing something good for myself, so I kept going once I woke up. Plus, The Plan has you cleanse with food, which is highly logical, in my humble opinion.

The Plan, a new book by nutrition expert Lyn-Genet Recitas, is a revolutionary process of figuring out what foods work with your body chemistry. It operates on the theory that while certain foods may be “healthy” in a laboratory (like oatmeal, asparagus, turkey, and many others), they aren’t necessarily healthy for everyone. And, in fact may be the very foods that keep you overweight.

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It’s not a diet. It’s a plan designed to arm you with information on the foods that work best for you. It teaches you to listen to your body. You learn to stay away from foods that your body is “reactive” to, which leads to inflammation and weight gain. A morning weigh-in lets you know if you are reactive to a food or not.

I was a client of Lyn-Genet’s about a year and a half ago, and for a tune up again last summer, so I know that The Plan works. I looked and felt better than I had in years. What I love about the Plan is that you are encouraged to drink red wine and eat chocolate (even butter!) – as long as they work for you. Low-fat foods are discouraged, as they are harder to digest. Working with Lyn-Genet and her team was the first time I’d ever been encouraged to eat a handful of french fries when I went to a restaurant.

But the big, giant stress monster threw me off my game, and I stopped paying attention to what I was eating. In the last few months, I’ve felt more run down and exhausted than I ever remember feeling, so in the name of my self-care efforts, I decided to spend the weekend cleansing.

Lest this all sound like an infomercial…I also spent the weekend feeling like crap. I hadn’t felt bad in my previous detoxes, so this time took me by surprise.

But at least I got to eat.

Every morning starts with a 16 ounce glass of water and a liver supplement. The idea here is to support your liver, which will aid in moving the toxins out of  your system.

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Drinking enough water is also a key part of The Plan – you need to drink half your body weight every day.  When you drink enough water, you enable your organs to function properly. And when you don’t, your body hoards the water in your food, making it difficult to lose weight.

Day 1’s breakfast was a cup of flax granola cereal and a half a cup of blueberries. Coconut milk tops it all off. This granola is oat free (oats are one of the most high reactive foods). You can make your own, or you can it purchase from Columbia County Bread and Granola.

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Lunch was a carrot ginger soup—the superhero of The Plan. It’s got anti-inflammatory properties, so if you find yourself eating a food to which you are reactive, the next day you can have the soup for lunch and it helps to lessen the inflammation in the body. Sunflower seeds added vegetable protein. Protein is important to good health, and if you are looking to lose weight, eating enough is a necessity.

Supplementing the lunch was a salad of mixed greens, 1/2 pear and pumpkin seeds, and steamed broccoli drizzled with olive oil infused with orange zest.

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Dinner was a beautiful assortment of vegetables—kale, zucchini, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, carrots and onions—in a spicy coconut sauce. The coco sauce has spices that are good for digestion, including tumeric, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, with a little brown sugar thrown in for good measure. You could put a piece of wood in it and it would be delicious.

A carrot-beet salad, finished with a drizzle of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds rounded out the plate.

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After Day 3 of the cleanse, you move into the testing phase. Every other day, you add in another food to test. If you gain .5 to 2 pounds, your body doesn’t love the food and it had an inflammatory response. You should stay away from it for a while and retest a few months later. But if you lose weight, the food works for you.

Cheese, steak, bread….here I come.

But first, there’s a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate calling my name.

For more information on The Plan visit lyngenet.com or to purchase the book, visit amazon.com.

I was going to begin this post talking about how I grew up watching sports.

How particular moments in sports defined specific eras in my life. How #44 of the Yankees was my childhood hero. How the ’86 Mets filled an emotional hole for my brother and I when we first moved from a place that had started to finally feel like home.

But really, I just want to talk about food.

I love the food that goes along with sports, from hot dogs and sausages to cheese fries and cotton candy. I can remember hot chocolate from Yankee games of my youth, and I can still taste the chicken sausages that you could buy in the upper deck of Dodger Stadium.

And this quesadilla. I made it one year for the Super Bowl, even though I don’t really like football all that much. It wasn’t about the game so much – it was simply my dad and I eating a feast while a game was on the TV in the background.

This quesadilla makes me happy.

First, take some flour tortillas and your choice of cheese and bring them to room temperature.

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The cooking starts with a sauté of peppers and onions.

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Stir the vegetables occasionally and cook until they are soft and slightly caramelized, about 10-15 minutes.

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Spread some of the veggies on a tortilla….

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…then cover with a handful of cheese (and some cilantro, if you like).  Be careful not to put too much in the filling, as you don’t want it to ooze out during the cooking.

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Then top with another tortilla.

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Put the stuffed tortillas on a preheated, oiled griddle.  You want it to be hot enough to have a little sizzle when it hits the pan.

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If you are lucky enough to have  a press, then put it on top of the quesadilla.  It’s helpful in getting everything melted and crispy.  And if you don’t have one, you can use another pan or a plate to sit on the quesadilla.  Or just take a spatula and press every now and then.

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After about two minutes, check on the underside.  If it looks golden brown, then flip it and replace the press.

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When the other side is golden brown, take it out of the pan, cut into fourths (or eights), and eat the crispy, cheesy goodness.

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If you want to get fancy, have some guacamole, salsa and sour cream on hand for toppings.  Or, play the purist and eat it straight.

You may like it so much that you won’t even need a game as an excuse to make it.

 

A new year ushers in a symbolic beginning, an end to the 12 months past and whatever they have brought – the good, the delicious, the ugly and the unpalatable.

It also brings a ton of clichés and resolutions, only to be forgotten and broken tomorrow.  I prefer to take a rest from whatever life-induced (or party-induced, for many) haze I’m in, for a moment to think about who I want to show up as in the world.

I read this poem today on Facebook, of all places. It was posted by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, the book that inspired so many of us to live richer, deeper, more meaningful lives – or at least to begin the dream of one. This poem stirred up an impulse to be romantic about life, which I tend to be in my optimistic moments.

The difference here is that the romance is not with Prince Charming, or some other creature who will save you with their love. The romance here is with yourself.

After all, great journeys begin with an inner calling, and you can only hear that stirring if you are aware enough of your own inner longing.

LOVE AFTER LOVE, by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

For this year – all freshly untouched – may this be a beginning of starting where we are and finding love in that exact place.

May this year be the beginning of our feast on life.

That may be the best resolution of all.

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