Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When it comes to weight loss, timing is everything

It doesn’t matter how late you eat it’s the calories in the entire day, right? Nope, sorry to say that’s another one of those weight-related rumors that can be filed in wouldn’t-that-be-nice along with “a calorie is a calorie” and “everything in moderation.” When it comes to weight loss, when you eat may be as important as what you eat and is often overlooked.

A friend sent me a link to an LA Times article “Nighttime fasting may foster weight loss”  that discusses a study recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism. Researchers at the Salk Institute placed mice on different eating regimens for 100 days. One group, fed a high-fat, high-calorie diet, could eat their food whenever they wanted. Another group was given only an 8-hour window to eat their food. The differences were staggering. The group with the unhealthy diet and no time restriction became obese and encountered a host of metabolic problems even though calories and fat were approximately the same as the “8-hour” group. Furthermore, the time-restricted high calorie group was almost as lean as the control group eating regular food after 100 days. Not only was the time-limited group better off than the grazing group, they almost fared as well as those eating a healthier diet.

If you’re starting to roll your eyes and thinking that this is one study and we’re not rodents, I hear you but this is not the first we’ve heard of this. A study from 2009 found that eating at times we should be resting leads to more weight gain than daytime eating. Just as we’ve come to accept that sleep plays a role in metabolism, we may now need to realize that our metabolic pathways and digestive system need sleep or at least rest. 

In terms of putting these findings to the test, I’m not sure we need 16 hours food free. Though not impossible, we could eat breakfast at 10am and dinner at 6pm, this can be a stretch. If you’re a nighttime nosher, try the 12 hour rule; whether it’s 7pm  to 7am or 8pm to 8am, try to keep 12 hours food free. And speaking of noshing, the nutrition content of our food generally decreases the later it gets. Work with the 12 hours, you’ll sleep more soundly, reflux will be less of an issue and you may be able to get away with a little more, if you eat it at the right time. 
What time do you generally eat dinner? Do you eat anything after? Do you intend to try the 12-hour rule? Maybe it's a good strategy post Memorial Day Weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Weekends: Don't Let Apps Make You Fat

Dark photo but had to include Rosa Mexicana guac for an army from Taste of Upper West Side
Nothing says “hello summer” like a golf umbrella (or in my case yesterday a broken umbrella mid-typhoon) but weather aside Memorial Day weekend, for many, is the unofficial start to summer. Nutritionally each season has its liabilities. Summertime means cocktail calories and barbeques possibly mitigated by the presence fantastic produce and outside time.  This week, I’ve been prepping clients for summer snags. In a session earlier in the week a client said “I’m pretty good with my meals it’s just the appetizers and pre-dinner munching that trips me up.” She’s not alone; a cheese plate has derailed many healthy weekends.  Here are my tips for managing an app-attack.

Be mono-appous- despite what you’ve heard happy hour is not the time to play the field at least when calories are at stake. Is it going to be shrimp cocktail, crudité or cheese? Whenever possible, commit to one item and be faithful. This is similar to the presnacktual agreement I mentioned before. The more items you taste the more total food you’ll consume.

If food-loyalty is a virtue you’re still working on, I’ve got you covered. For pupu platter eaters sticking to one food takes work and can initially feel like dietary Alcatraz. In that case, just plate it. Take a bread and butter plate or if plateless a cocktail napkin will suffice and serve yourself a few items. The nice thing about plating is that you see what you’re consuming. This comes in handy if you’re keeping a food journal or just when donning a swimsuit for the first time in months. And it's just one plate, no refills.

It’s easy to overdo it on hors d’oeuvres (a word I can never spell correctly), especially after a glass of wine. When you’re tempted to blow it…wait, wait, compensate. If you polished off the better part of a basket of chips- skip carbs at dinner. If you couldn’t resist mini meatballs or sliders, veg it up during mealtime.  Apps add up and the truth is if you went to town (it has happened to the best of us) you technically don’t need much after that. If that sounds a little Where the Wild Things Are I’m sorry but we’re all a lot older than Max and dinner skipping (after basically having dinner) isn’t the end of the world.

If you’re hosting, some favorite app ideas are
  • Olives- in NYC Citarella and Fresh Direct sell gigantic Cerignola olives that I adore.
  • Veggies and Interesting Dip- try Sweet Potato Hummus or a knock off on Canyon Ranches Peanut Butter Delight (1/4 cup any nut butter,  1 cup Greek Yogurt spice it up with cayenne or keep it sweet with cinnamon/vanilla or maple).
  • Nothing is better than guacamole but I serve it with shrimp instead of chips.
  • If you’re a regular reader you know my fondness for freshly popped popcorn and truffle salt (preferably together).
  • And if you’re feeling “cheesy” pair cubes of cheese with organic Hellfire Pepper Jelly- it’s spicy enough that it really satisfies you and spice helps with your metabolism.
What’s your appetizer strategy? Any of these tips sound worth trying? What are your favorite appetizers to eat or make?
Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Be Realistic, Give Your Kids Cheetos

I’ve mentioned Fooducate before. Via a supermarket app and blog, Fooducate exposes helps consumers and readers navigate today’s complicated food maze. In early May, I read a post from a fellow nutrition colleague entitled “My Kid Likes Junk Food and That’s OK” that may have had good intensions but rubbed me the wrong way. The gist of the post was that your kids are going to eat junk food due to media exposure and taste. You can serve quality at food home but you can’t compete with Lunchables’ millions of advertising dollars. Be realistic, you can’t live in a bubble (made of “flax and unrefined flour”) if you child wants Cheetos, so be it.

The timing of this post was interesting; I had just come from my 10-year-old's check up. At the end of the annual visit our pediatrician has my son leave the office and then discusses milestones for each age. I was told I was going to get questions about lots new subjects at this age. Dr R explained there were two things not to do when fielding questions. “If you’re asked if you’ve ever been drunk you don’t want to dismiss the question or glorify it." You don’t want to say, “how could you ask such a thing?” or “sure I have and you will too it’s fun.”  Rather, give a little information and move on.  If subtext of the first response is ignore it and it will go away, the second is from the school of “cool parenting”. I see both approaches when it comes to food and they don’t work in this domain either. Even those “cool parents” would think it wildly inappropriate for me to say “I know you’re going to get drunk in the future so here’s a shot of Patron.”

If the intent of “Cheetos are fine” advice is to put parents at ease, I am all for that. However, I think many parents swing way to far the other way in an effort not to be overly restrictive. This was my comment on the Fooducate site.
I like the idea that parents who are new to the healthy table shouldn't feel it's too late to make changes. However, I feel part of my boys' education is teaching them about food, ingredients and health. Though my kids have had Doritos, I don't need to buy them even "sometimes". My kids have tortilla chips or chips but they don't need preservatives, trans fats and food coloring to taste good. I've also worked with the grandparents and other family members suggesting alternatives to some of the things served. When approached without judgment, these substitutions have been well received. I get the "kids will have Oreos and soda in their lifetime" argument. I just feel that despite millions of dollars encouraging kids to eat Lunchables we still, as parents of young children, can have more influence.

I’m grateful to some fantastic companies: Purely Elizabeth, Stretch Island, Hint Water, Glow Gluten Free, Food Should Taste Good, Pirate Brands, Vigilant Eats and Pure Bar.  I’ve brought these foods for carpool, to my children’s sports teams and birthday parties. Treats and “fun” food can be a part of childhood. We just don’t have to do PR for soda or Doritos; they already have plenty.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in feeding kids a healthy diet? What do think of givings kids junk so that they don't feel restricted? Would you buy your children Lunchables if asked? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Deodorant Diaries

It’s beautiful in NYC this time of year. Central Park is lush and green after some recent rain, it’s finally warming up and with that many of us are coming to the realization that our deodorant may not be cutting it. I recently ran into my friend Julie who had just purchased a new natural deodorant and a conversation ensued about the effectiveness of these products. Julie is really funny and one of those people everyone falls in love with. I asked her to test drive a few products and report back. I wanted to know if it is possible to be natural and odor free. Here is Julie’s Deodorant Diary.
Julie and I (with elderflower martinis) at my jewelry party, she smelled great.
Over the past few years, I have been a faithful Foodtrainers blog reader. I can’t tell you how many times I have connected with the advice offered here. I am digging my E3 LIVE shot and, as of Mother’s Day, I am now the proud owner of my first juicer. Lauren is a dear friend who has helped me tackle major food issues. I now exercise regularly and really try to put good things in and on my body, so I am excited to share my quest for a natural deodorant here.

This subject is along the same lines as poop, sorry if you are squirming. About a year ago, I noticed that my current deodorant clearly wasn’t cutting it. Whether in a business meeting, social situation or an intimate setting, whenever I would get a good whiff of my underarm BAM it would hit me that something didn’t smell good, sadly that something was me. I am extremely picky about hygiene so for this to be happening to me was a challenge I was not going to back down from. 

First, I started with every toxic brand you can think of.  For the money I spent on this venture, I could be walking around with a fabulous handbag.  I tried Degree, Kiehls, Dove, Secret “Clinical Formula”, Mitchum and the list goes on. Aside from being ineffective, I realized how horrible these were for me ingredient-wise.  To add insult to odor, deodorant residue was on my clothes and I itched constantly; I didn’t even realize I was scratching myself at inappropriate times. My trips to Duane Reade were almost daily and the garbage filled with nasty brands and then my husband switched from a toxic deodorant to an au naturel one. He would say “why are you putting a death trap under your arms?” I don’t always listen to him but, out of desperation, this time I did.

 I was so excited to find this brand. I read about it and learned it was good for me.  It has no Parabens, Sulfates, Synthetic Dyes, or Phthalates. It's also aluminum free (Lauren informed me aluminum in antiperspirants  has potential links to both breast cancer and Alzheimer's). I dragged my 10-year-old daughter to Sephora and ended up with The Pure Vanilla/Lavender Scent. I’ve always been the person who wears something new out of the store but decided to wait to get home. Sure enough, we ran into Lauren and her boys across the street at Whole Foods. I shared my recent find and even whipped it out of my bag and said, “ smell it”.  Good friends can do these things.

The next day, I woke up and applied Lavanila before my Fly Wheel spin class.
It has a creamy texture, goes on easily and smells fresh. I came out of the class drenched. As I walked to Fairway, when no one was looking, I did the QWAPIT (Quick Whiff Armpit Inhale Test). Directions: head to the left, raise left arm ever so slightly so no one notices and inhale.  All things considered, I smelled quite delicious. I was in love with Lavanila. Our affair lasted for about a week and was great, no itching or scratching, and my clothes were thrilled not to have deo-hickies on them. But it was time to move on and see if there were other non-smelly fish in the deodorant sea.

This selection awoke my inner hippy.  The description reads, “Crystal Body Deodorant is made of 100% natural mineral salts which eliminate odor. It is fragrance free, non-staining, leaves no white residue and can be used by both men and women.” The directions say wet it before use. I wet the crystal and tried to apply it but the crystal dried out as I rolled it on. It felt as though I was rubbing a stone on my armpit. I wet it again and attempted the other side. There’s no girly, fresh smell. Undeterred, I went to work and didn’t notice any overpowering odor or itching.  That night, I had my annual mammogram. The nice technician put me in position and then it hit me.  I said to myself that can’t be me who smells like this; I did the QWAPIT and was mortified. My inner hippy had become an outer hippy and clearly this one is not for me. Dumped.

This is Certified Organic and there is a list of ingredients that are all recognizable. I decided to try it on a date night.  I rushed to get dressed, took the cap off and sprayed away.  I did the QWAPIT and was overwhelmed by the smell; I emailed Lauren that I smelled like a Christmas tree. The smell is Origin-y, this is not a “50 Shades” sexy scent.  I put on a silk blouse; silk is a fabric sure to test any deodorant. I will tell you that this works for body odor because the smell of the product is so overpowering that it would mask anything.  It was good but we just weren’t right for each other. This one is going to my husband.

For my last test, I bought Weleda Wild Rose Deodorant.  

I found it at Ricky’s lined up next to all my other flings. This is a pump spray that was hard to get used to and position correctly. I felt like I was spraying perfume under my arms. On my first QWAPIT, I was transported to the rose garden my Granny had in her back yard in St Simons Island, GA so I already had a sentimental connection to this spray (funny how scent can do that). The rose scent dissipated and I didn’t have BO or any overly rosey odor. This scent felt feminine and was one that I will definitely continue to use. I just packed it in my suitcase for a business trip.

If I had to rank my test results, it would pan out this way…
  1. Lavanila Laboritories –first overall for texture, scent and staying power.
  2. Weleda Rose Spray – a very close second.
  3. Origins Totally Pure Deodorant – scent is personal and this worked just not for me.
  4. Crystal Deodorant by Swanson --- YUCK!
For now, I am satisfied with my case study and I have two options that will keep me happy on all fronts. Until we meet again to tackle another fun challenge, keep up the QWAPIT! You can be natural and odor free. -Julie
Ever failed a QWAPIT? Do you use natural deodorant? Which brand?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Memorial Day Countdown, Secret Weapon Time

Each month, at Foodtrainers, we send out our Monthly Morsels newsletter.
With Memorial Day weekend a week from today, this month’s email focused on some of our favorite “secret weapons” as sometimes the old tricks just don’t do the trick, trust me I know.

Energy Boost

I talked about E3Live a while back but when I think of little extras that really make a difference, this tops the list.  E3Live improves workouts, energizes without making you feel speedy and we’re really excited to have it available. There’s something really fun about doing “shots” at the office, it brings back those Tulane days in a healthy way.

Appetite Suppressant and Legit Fat Burning

Not to worry there’s no dexatrim comeback we’re endorsing. Chia seeds and their tendency to swell in liquid make them a natural appetite suppressant. Cocochia combines chia seed with raw, organic coconut for a perfect yogurt or oatmeal topping. The lauric acid in coconut (one of the “good” saturated fats) improves fat metabolism. Take that muffin top (or as my client called it “brioche”).

Better than Bread

As summer approaches the breadbasket isn’t your friend. It really never has been. These gluten free crisp breads so the trick. Orgrans taste better than some other popular fiber crackers and are a great vehicle for avocado slices, hummus or sunflower butter.

Foodtrainers Favorite Sweetener

If you read this blog regularly you know my opinion of the blue, pink and yellow crap. In most cases, I’d say just opt for less sweet. While maple and honey have their place, in smoothies and drinks NuStevia really does the trick. This brand has done of the stevia aftertaste many people object to.

Bathing suit bundle
If the thought of disrobing has thrown you into a tizzy, we have a solution for that too. We put together a bathing suit bundle and to further subdue anxiety we're discounting it until Sunday.
Do you have any secret weapons or strategies pre summer? Have you tried any of my favorites mentioned above? Do you have any blue/pink or yellow packets in your life (be honest)?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Appearance or accomplishments, does it have to be one or the other?

Last week one of the major news stories was that that Hillary Clinton was photographed without makeup. At first it didn’t seen to matter that she was on a trip in Bangladesh where there has been weeks of strikes and violence. The photos spread like non-waterproof mascara. Then came the backlash pointing out the frivolity in Hilary’s “look” as major news. As I read this commentary the resounding message was that in 2012 appearance trumps accomplishments and looks shouldn’t matter…but they do.

Peggy Orenstein, author of Waiting for Daisy and Cinderella Ate My Daughter posted about the Hillary hubbub.
“Every choice a woman makes about her public presentation–how she dresses, how she wears her hair, whether she wears makeup and now whether she botoxes etc –makes a STATEMENT about who she is (as opposed to that statement being made by her actions, ideas, opinions etc) that is judged, scrutinized and held up for public consumption/discussion.”
Why must it be one or the other? Just because we take note of how someone looks does that mean we’re ignoring his or her “ideals and actions”? Isn’t communication part verbal and part non-verbal? Why does it have to be one or the other?

Orenstein goes on to compare the Clinton situation to a New York Times Magazine article exploring the concept of women being “marked.” The original article discusses men able to blend a bit more. Their hair, clothing, even shoes tend to be more similar. There isn’t a typical female hairstyle or singular way to dress. And so each choice a women makes can send a message and lay the groundwork for judgment.  I tweeted to Ms Orentstein
@peggyorenstein enjoyed that piece however some of what makes women "marked" also makes being female interesting and full of choices.
Sometimes women play both sides of the fence. Around the same time Hillary decided to forego foundation in other world news Perez Hilton tweeted @BethenyFrankel says "I’m not too thin". Say what you will about my curiosity but I clicked through and read “There are stories are everywhere that I'm too thin. When will the media see women for their accomplishments instead of their weight and appearance?" Is this question less valid coming from someone whose accomplishments were primarily building a company called Skinnygirl? Can you talk about skinniness and then downplay appearance?

I happen to work in an aesthetics-oriented business. My clients are women in all different professional spheres. Some will mention, “I’m up for a promotion and want to feel good” I see countless examples of the intersection between appearance and accomplishments. Hillary was asked about the photos by CNN and said
"I feel so relieved to be at the stage I’m at in my life right now. Because you know if I want to wear my glasses I’m wearing my glasses. If I want to wear my hair back I’m pulling my hair back. You know at some point it’s just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention." It definitely doesn’t deserve attention that should be focused on international relations and democracy abroad. However, I like that Hillary underscores the choices she has and don’t be surprised if you see her all glammed up in the next pictures that are circulated.
Do you think we focus more on how women look than what they do? Does it matter if it's an image-conscious person or a politician? Is it realistic to say looks shouldn't matter? Or are we going to "look" anyway?
Oh and Ms Orenstein and I exchanged a few tweets. Her hope was that women use these choices to positive ends versus judging other women and being negative.

Monday, May 14, 2012

So You Think You Can Steam Vegetables?

There are two things steamed vegetables need to contend with. First, there’s the misconception that they’re banal and tasteless. Second, not everyone knows how to properly steam vegetables thus perpetuating the humdrum reputation. I learned with the So You Think You Can Hard Boil Egg post's popularity that it’s dangerous to assume aptitude when it comes to cooking. Since we’re often alone, when cooking, it’s easy to do things in an inefficient or incorrect way for years. Every time I take a cooking class I realize this. So if you’re ending up with tasteless mush, you may be over steaming or under seasoning. Don't jump ship, the benefits of steaming vegetables are higher nutrient retention than many other cooking methods and a very versatile product.

I steam my vegetables in an All Clad steamer basket with a perforated bottom and lid.
realize that the lid isn't shown,  my lid is steel clear would be better
You can also use a bamboo steamer, here the vegetables are stacked. It's sort of the cooking equivalent of apartment living. I would suggest lining these baskets with parchment to avoid sticking.
Another option is the collapsible basket, they key here is to make sure the vegetables are above the water level and that the basket can be easily removed from the pot.

And you can steam in a pan with very little water, I do this with asparagus.
Despite my appliance addiction (Vitamix, juicer, Nespresso) I don’t see the need for a stand-alone steamed and while it’s also possible to microwave steam but I haven’t experimented with that method
Fill the pot with one to two inches of water. You don’t want the water to evaporate while steaming and burn your pot (good to check if steaming longer-cooking veggies). I start with filtered tap water. It's fun to experiment adding herbs such as thyme, rosemary to the water or throw in a chunk of peeled ginger, pickle juice, wine, citrus and citrus zest though not necessarily all at once. Let the water come to a boil at medium high heat before starting to steam the vegetables.
Fill the steamer with vegetables, you can stack even in a single basket but don’t over pack it.   Spring vegetables are so good right now you don’t need to sauté or roast them, steaming is perfect
Artichokes take 30 minutes or a few more.  Wash, slice off the top half-inch and use a kitchen scissors to snip any sharp points on the outer leaves.
Carrots, again I  am not a fan of baby carrots  12 minutes
Broccoli 5 to 7 minutes, for some reason cauliflower a drop longer
Sweet potatoes 7 minutes
String beans and sugar snap peas are pretty quick and take less than 5 minutes
Steam greens kale takes 5 to 7 minutes, softer greens like spinach are done in a few minutes.
If steaming more than 1 vegetable add carrots or artichokes or the ones that take longer first and quicker cookers later.

Vegetables are cooked when they are fork tender. Sprinkle vegetables with Himalayan salt  and if you’re eating right away toss with coconut oil, a sliver of pastured butter or chili oil. Otherwise, store extra vegetables and use in omelets, grain dishes, salads, purees or soups. Firmer vegetables like broccoli and snap peas are great for a snack.  With so many foods out there that are processed or  “too exciting”, sometimes basic, unadulterated ingredients are best. It's sort of the food equivalent of the white button down shirt. Even if you haven't worn a white button down in a while, it's always good to own one.
Do you steam vegetables at home? What method do you use? What are your favorite vegetables to steam? Ever tried an artichoke? Delicious.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Is One Workout Enough?

So this week I haven’t covered the most cerebral topics. Monday was Kelly, who loves Jelly Bellys, and her diet book, Wednesday highlighted nut milk delivery, which I’m pretty sure only happens in New York and today’s workout-related topic isn't going to vastly change your life. I promise to comment on the latest obesity predictions next week; I take that back, I don’t because I like these fun topics.

The NYT ran a story on a current NYC fitness trend. I can’t imagine why but six separate people emailed or tweeted me the link with a version of “maybe you should blog about this.” The “this” is the trend among women, the article stated it is a female phenomenon so I’m not stereotyping, to scurry from one intense workout class to another. Whether it’s barre, boot camp, spinning or running for many women one workout isn’t enough. The Times distinguished “this is different than the elliptical and then weights.” While that sounds somewhat elitist these exercise classes are each 45 to 60 minutes long and intense.

I consulted two of my favorite fitness professionals for their two cents on this trend. Kate Albarelli is the creator of the brutal, yet beneficial, barre class Figure 4 and Riley Nickols is a running/triathlete coach and owner of Mind Body Endurance. It did occur to me that this leaves us taking advice from a ballerina (you know their work ethic) and a 5-time ironman (which is technically an octuple workout). They both said that they many of their students or clients do double workouts but not every day. At Foodtrainers, if a client has been doing the same daily workout for years I will suggest one weekly “doubleheader” as we call it. This wouldn’t be something for someone new to exercise. Riley, in exercise-physiology speak, said “I do believe that adding in a double workout to your schedule can be a helpful way to make fitness gains and break through a "plateau".  The body is amazing at adapting to the stress you place upon it, so switching things up can have physiological and psychological benefits.”

There is also a limit and more exercise is not always best. I asked about the prevalence of the “triple threat” and Kate explained I have seen 3 classes for sure, however at that point, I start to wonder why. Not for everyone, but at a certain point, it becomes less about fitness and more about obsession and that can be dangerous.” It also becomes competitive, the article mentioned a woman who said “you see other people doing it” and “it’s a type A New York thing.”  I had a client come in who said “since when is one workout not enough?” And Riley clarified "I would suggest double workouts only on a few conditions for the recreational exerciser:  

  1. The individual has the availability in their schedule (that does not take away from family/work responsibilities) and the resources to devote to double workouts and 
  2. The individual views the double workouts as being enjoyable rather than an obligation.” We all know type A can be a nice way of saying neurotic.
I’ll often do a run before Figure 4 or yoga. It’s hard to go all out, ether I’ll do a quick run between dropping my children at school and class or I’ll do a good run and tack on a barre class as an extra. You only have so much gas in the tank and I never have as much to put into Figure 4 when I’ve pre-fatigued by legs. Kate concurred “If the student is really giving it all they have with one Figure 4, there is no need to do another right after.” It may come down to a question of quantity versus quality. And Riley mentioned the concept of periodizing workouts that he uses with his athletes “similarly to triathletes/runners, recreational exercises can also benefit from periodizing their workouts incorporating periods of higher training volume (e.g., double workouts) but also building in periods of rest and/or lower volume training."  

Many of my friends and colleagues have their favorite doubles. Sam, from Mom at the Barre a great fitness blog mentioned she does a Physique57/Refine Method double and also likes FlywheelSports/Physique. In her email about this she added “I met your friend Shari at As 1effect today, she was wearing a Foodtrainers t-shirt.” It’s a funny fitness world in NYC but nothing made me laugh more than this statement. A few friends were emailing about the workout article while trying to arrange meeting for a lunch or a workout. Everyone has busy schedules with dental visits and meetings and one friend said “I was thinking 8:30 Soul Cycle and 9:30 Figure 4 this Tuesday...because I have 11:30 acupuncture and 1:00 physical therapy.  Holy cow, I take a lot of maintenance!
So help me here, is this a NYC thing only? Do you do doubleheader workouts? How much do you think is too much? Any men want to confess to  double?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Foodtrainers Favorite Milk

For the most part, I’m not a fan of taxi TV.  On my way to or from work, after talking all day, I don’t want to hear anyone talking (and sorry drivers, I don’t want to talk to you either). I have approximately 7 precious minutes to chill before life’s soundtrack begins and so I generally hit the off button when the monitor automatically starts. One day though, a Lauren Glassberg segment was on. She does food and restaurant stories and was profiling a husband and wife team who produce artisanal nut milks. I entered the name in my Blackberry and placed an order as soon as I got to work because I’m compulsive like that.

The company is called OMilk. I love that Julie and Greg started it last summer while trying to get in “crazy shape” for their wedding.  I ordered their almond milk, cashew milk and a flavored milk I’ll tell you about in a bit. I received an email that my milk would be delivered Wednesday evening but completely forgot. Let’s just say Marc was more than a little confused when, during the Rangers playoff game, someone rang out doorbell and handed him some milk bottles.

The next morning I started experimenting. As much as I love dairy, I feel better when I limit it. I used the almond milk in a smoothie with hemp protein, avocado, frozen pineapple and fresh mint. I tried the cashew milk in a cappuccino. The one place most nut-milks do not cut it for me is in coffee and I must say this cashew milk is creamy stuff. These were nothing like the watery supermarket non-dairy milks I had tried. However, I didn’t try my favorite OMilk until Saturday. It was late afternoon and we had plans to go out that night. I poured a cup of this over ice for a little pick me up.

It was delicious. OMilk uses strong cold-brewed coffee, their almond milk and a touch of agave. I could see drinking a lot of it this summer. They also have Spicy Mexican Chocolate Almond Milk they concocted for Cinco de Mayo. OMilk is preservative free and available via delivery to the 5 boroughs, it’s also at Dean and Deluca and coming soon to Whole Foods Tribeca.

Coincidentally last week I received a Facebook message from an old camp friend. She had a nutrition question and randomly asked if I made my own almond milk. Sheepishly I admitted I hadn’t but was loving these local nut milks I had delivered.  She said:
Re: making almond milk. It's pretty cool to see the process you just soak 1 cup of almonds over night. Drain then purée in the blender with 2 cups water and whatever else you want (honey, dates, etc.) It turns white and frothy. Pour and press through a fine strainer. Voila. Almond milk! Try it once, then go back to your deliveries.
I would like to try my own one time but right now I'm fine outsourcing my milk to Julie and Greg.
Have you used almond or cashew milk? Every tried to make your own? Do you enjoy silence or do you prefer din and activity around you?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kelly Bensimon Can Make You Hot

For those of you with better taste in TV shows than I do, Kelly Bensimon was one of Bravo's Real Housewives of NYC. She’s probably best known for an episode, taped on a girls’ trip to the Caribbean, where she really appeared to have lost her marbles. I’m not talking tipsy or ditzy but full-blown seemingly mentally ill behavior for us all to see. That was a couple of years ago and now model Kelly, the original tanorexic, 

or as one commenter on a message board said, who looks like she rolled around in a bag of Cheetos, has a diet book.

What’s that? Is everyone’s a nutrition expert?
Not to worry, on page 1- yes I did waste $11.00 on the kindle book, Kelly clears it up. “I’m not a doctor or an expert of any kind. I’m just a mom who was a teenage competitive swimmer and a model who has lost 50 pounds twice.”
Let’s dissect. She’s not an expert of any kind  she’s a mom (there are many mothers, how is that relevant?) who was a teenage competitive swimmer (bragging trying to justify authorship with athleticism) and a model (because they’re known for stellar eating habits) who has lost 50 pounds twice (um pregnancy doesn’t count). It gets worse she adds Playboy to her resume and plays the pity card because she was never “one of those tiny, blonde girls who guys named their hamsters after” OK so I didn’t waste my $11, page one and Kelly the Kookoo Krispy is in full bloom…hamsters?

Exercise Advice
Kelly  defends her RHONY running in the streets of NYC habit. See, on the sidewalk “you can get snacked by a shopping bag, a stroller, an even an oversized purse. Sidewalks are really obstacle courses. Beware!” So we’ll avoid the oh-so-dangerous Fairway bag and get hit by a Fresh Direct truck, that will be HOT. And there’s a suggested playlist, for when you’re running in traffic, it includes “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver and “Beautiful People” by Chris Brown. And in case you think running down Broadway listening to “Beautiful People” will make you look tranny hot like Kelly, she cautions “unfortunately I can’t give you my legs but I can help you be the best you can be.” Kumbaya.

What doesn’t work
  Kelly turns reveals her tricks by first  clearing up what doesn’t work. There’s a long list but for a taste:
  • The tapeworm diet does work because “instead of making you thin, it makes you dead”. 
  • Eating nothing but an apple a day does not work (“though it does save you money”)
  • One I had never heard, though I think it’s part of the eating disorder Pica, “eating Kleenex to make you feel full does not work.”

If anyone reading this book needs this list, they need psychotherapy not a lunatic model taking you down diet memory road.

What works
Want to know what really works? Drumroll please. OK, Kelly discovered that “really eating is the key.” After that insight, Kelly transitions into a supermarket section and gets a little bossy. First “dress to look good when you hit the supermarket, if you look good you’ll feel good and buy food that’s food for you. No sweats.” I checked PubMed and couldn’t find studies showing that people who look good bought food that’s good for you. And do yoga pants count as sweats? If so, I clearly don’t look good when I shop. Next, Kelly says it’s not hot to snack while you shop.  So much for the motivational speak, I am not hot either. As someone who's genetically predisposed to snack while shopping, my mother said the doorman always knew her groceries because the baguette had the end torn off, I resent this.  Plus, Kelly insulted my mother too. Grrrrrr.

Here’s a sampling of the staples on Kelly’s suggested shopping list:
  1. Cornbread Mix- I love good cornbread but it’s not the next superfood.
  2. Organic Fruit Snacks- Kelly falls for the health halo, “fruit snacks” = candy
  3. Yogurt covered goji berries- someone should tell Kelly “fauxgurt” isn’t hot.
  4. Olives- olives may be little balls of fat, but they're full of health-promoting, omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acids as well as vitamin E and flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants. Plus, black olives have more iron than any other food and there is research to show that olives and olive oil may be effective in the prevention and treatment of arthritis, asthma, and some types of cancer. They also satisfy your need for salt and combat cravings. Aside from the “ball of fat” part someone needs to call the plagiarism department, I will bet my business on the fact that Kelly wouldn’t know a flavonoid if it hit her in her hallow head. Sorry if this sounds defensive, I like olives.
So this book is a total waste of time but like reality TV it’s the variety of time wasting that’s so unintelligent, self-serving and “off” it kind of sucks you in. I’m sure Kelly is proud of herself for writing a book (her 2nd actually) but Kelly I have advice for you, reading a book- that’s smokin' hot. And because I couldn’t resist
Circa 1983, her name is Lauren
Do you think anyone is justified in writing a diet book? Have you seen Kelly on RHONY? Do you like olives?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cooking Homework: Loose Tea

Had this in my purse, couldn't understand why clerk at Apple store looking at me funny
We’re a few month’s into cooking homework.  We’ve tackled orphaned appliances and dusty cookbooks. Last month, I encouraged bean soaking (sounds so sexy I know). As with most things food-related, I am taste motivated and I can say with certainty , in that department, soaked beats canned hands down. I cooked dried chickpeas and black beans shortly after the assignment in March. One little package yields a LOT of beans and though I had hopes of experimenting with other beans, there’s only so much hummus and huevos rancheros one family can eat. I pictured my kids in their future therapist’s office recounting their month of legumes. So it’s time to switch gears.

I like cooking tasks that are easy but often avoided. I also love tea. I have a tea kettle at work and one at home, tea is stashed in all my purses (see above) and  I travel with it. I’ve written about some of my favorite teas. More often than not these teas are in bags. I buy from good companies and seek out mesh teabags but always feel I’m drinking the tea-equivalent of boxed wine. Those who know tea, the tea connoisseurs or teas snobs drink loose tea.

I didn’t want to make a switch because it was “cool” or seemed more serious, I wanted to know why loose tea has a superior reputation. Sure enough, tea bags contain broken up pieces of tea leaves called fannings. Loose tea tends to be whole or larges pieces. The natural oils in tea leaves decrease when tea is in smaller pieces; this impacts the taste of your cup of tea. Fannings oxidize more which in green and white tea affects the catechin content. Assuming it’s fresh, lose tea generally has more taste and is better for you. If you’re ready let the tea out of the bag you’ll need:

1. Tea- find a shop or purveyor you like. I recently tried the teas from Bellocq in Brooklyn. I haven’t been to the tea atelier but love the teas I ordered.  You’ll need 1 to 1.5 tsp of tea per cup or 8 ounces of water.

2. Tea infuser or bags

Your tea will go in your tea infuser. Tea leaves, like people, need breathing room so if you’re purchasing one for the first time choose a larger size.

3. A small teapot ot or iced tea pitcher are optional but a lot of fun. I love this from Takeya.

I’ll check back with you after Memorial Day, steep well.
Did you do any soaking, how did it go? Are you a fellow tea freak? Bags or loose? Will you do your homework?