Monthly Archives: February 2011

GS Bite: Beerwenches, Pilsner and wienerschnitzel…oh my!

Ok ok…I know what you’re all thinking…Austrian food?  How could that possibly be healthy??  Usually when I think of Austrian food, I think of fried schnitzel, heavy stews, and beer.  Lots and lots of beer.  Not exactly figure-friendly foods.  So when I first heard about the restaurant, “Edi and the Wolf”, in the East Village, I had my doubts.  But, having heard good things – I decided to check out the menu online and keep an open mind.  And I was pleasantly surprised!

So this past weekend, D and I went on a little double date with our college buddy, J and his date, C.  The restaurant looks like you’ve entered into some Austrian lodge high in the mountains after a day of snowshoeing.  Big wooden tables and rustic decor cover the walls and the lighting is dim and warm.  Or as the village voice would say, “Think farmhouse tavern meets crazy grandma’s attic”.

After enjoying a delicious glass of Gruner Veitliner (German white wine) while the boys drank Pilsner from giant mugs, we decided to order a bunch of different plates and share.  Sharing is a great way to enjoy a bunch of different dishes, while still keeping portions relatively small.  Plus, I think it makes the meal a lot more fun and social – not just a meal, but a shared experience (and isn’t that what dining out is about anyways??).  We ordered a couple starters including a pickled vegetable/sauerkraut dish, “Alsatian flatbreads” – basically a very thin slice of pizza with a nutty cheese on top and figs — which was a definite highlight, and ribs (I didn’t enjoy these but they smelled delicious).  D and I shared a pan-seared seabass on a bed of squash and sunchokes and I asked for a plate of brussels sprouts on the side to get some more greens in (and I can’t resist my sprouts!).  The meal was surprisingly delicious and light – perfect for a night out on the town!

I Love My Heart

Let me share with you a little story.

“In January of 2004, I received a diagnosis that changed my life. I was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease that in my case attacked my kidneys and brain. Due to the intensity of the initial “flare up” of the disease, I became renal insufficient and eventually faced kidney failure. Amazingly, through great medicine, wonderful family and friends, and an enormous amount of support, I became stronger and healthier and miraculously, my kidneys partially regenerated. I no longer depend on dialysis and by regulating my diet, I depend on fewer medications.

Seven years later, I work as a full-time food writer (isn’t that ironic!) and I live a full and utterly enjoyable life. My dietary restrictions have transformed into a real passion for food and I hope to be able to pass along my favorite finds to others facing similar dietary challenges. Be creative, be friendly, and be full!”

Pretty inspiring right??  That awesome chic is my cousin (who we will call J).  In order to stay healthy, her body requires that she subsist on a low-sodium diet.  Instead of despairing for her tastebuds — she decided to rejoice it, and became an amazing low-sodium chef-extraordinaire!  This is her blog.  So when J asked me to create a low-sodium recipe to celebrate February being National Heart Health Month, I jumped at the opportunity.  And now I bring you……..

PISTACHIO and CARDAMOM COOKIES

recipe adapted from The Skinny Bitch Cookbook

Ok…I’m pretty damned proud of myself, because not only are these little suckers DELICIOUS, they are also low-sodium, vegan, and healthy!  Pistachios are particularly great for your heart — studies have showed that consumption of these little green orbs of deliciousness are linked with a reduction in total cholesterol levels and a decrease in LDL (or bad) cholesterol and some studies have even linked pistachio consumption with lower blood pressure!  So without further ado (drumroll please):

Makes about 25-30 cookies:

1/2 cup Earth balance butter

3/4  cup Vegan cane sugar (available at natural food store/whole foods)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

1/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts

2 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Directions:

Using an electric mixer, beat the Earth Balance and the sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and beat until blended.  Stirin milk, lemon zest, and pistachios.  Stir in the flour and cardamom.  Mix to form a soft dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and pop in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove the dough from the fridge and make tablespoon size dough balls.  Place the dough balls on a greased cookie sheet.  Flatten the dough little with your finger and bake about 13 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Remove from the oven an dlet sit on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack.

Enjoy with some ginger tea (my personal favorite).

Love your heart.  Love your life.  And as my dear cousin J would say…CHOW ON!

Gotham Skinny decodes: Foods for workouts

Here’s the scenario.  You’re late, you’re running to the gym, you haven’t eaten in several hours because you’ve been running around all day.  Midway through cardio, you feel like you’re close to keeling over because you’re so hungry.  Your workout ends up sucking because you have no energy, and then you get home and inhale everything in the fridge.

Ok so we’ve all been there.  Bad planning and a crazy schedule all converge to create a not-so-fun situation.  So here’s the scoop on how to fuel your workouts and eat to build lean muscle.  Meals before and after workout should contain some sort of high-quality carbohydrate and a lean source of protein.

Also, another insanely important piece is HYDRATE, hydrate, hydrate.  Keeping yourself hydrated prior to workouts (about 16 oz of water before you workout) and during (about 4 to 8 oz every 20 minutes) and after (18-24 oz in the hour after you workout) helps flush out the toxins you build up in your system while you workout.  If you get bored of just plain water, try squirting in a little lemon or lime juice or drink seltzer, which hydrates in the same way, but is a little more exciting.

For the Early Birds:

If you’re getting up at the crack of dawn to workout, try to squeeze in a little food beforehand (if you can stomach it – and some people can’t at an early hour).  Try something easily digestible — a banana, a piece of wheat toast with a little peanut or almond butter, or a small yogurt.  The important thing is to make sure you eat something afterwards to replenish your system and give you energy for the rest of the day.  This is where I would put your traditional breakfast — things like oatmeal with blueberries and slivered almonds, an egg white omelette with whole wheat toast, or an english muffin with cream cheese and tomato.  You get the idea.

For the Lunch-Break Warriors:

If you’re a mid-day kind of person, it’s not so critical that you eat something beforehand (unless you’re starving of course), assuming you’ve had some sort of breakfast meal today.  Eating a mid-morning snack such as a piece of fruit or some whole wheat crackers with string cheese should hold you over until you get back to your desk for your post-workout lunch.

The important thing is WHAT you eat AFTER you workout.  Good lunch ideas are: A turkey sandwich with a little avocado on whole wheat bread, a spinach salad with chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers (any raw veg really) — beans are great for post-workout because they are high in both good carbs and protein, or a heartier soup with a small whole grain roll.

For the Evening Athletes:

For those of you who are working out in the late afternoon and evening, snacking strategically is more important here.  It’s the end of the day, and your energy is probably lower, so having a snack an hour or two before you workout can provide a much-needed boost and prevent you from being ravenous later.  Some great snacks include: an apple with 1 or 2 tbsp of natural almond butter, low-fat string cheese with some whole wheat crackers (try kashi brand), carrots and celery with hummus, greek yogurt with fruit, or a small bowl of oatmeal.

After your workout, make sure you try to within the hour, because that’s when your muscles are most receptive to the nutrients you will consume.  Again, a mix of protein and carbohydrates will help to repair your muscles and help you make the most of your workout.  My perfect evening post-workout meal is roasted salmon with sautéed spinach and brown rice.  Salmon is packed with protein and also a great source of omega-3 fats, which are good for your heart, smoothes your skin, hair and nails, and will keep you satiated.

Here’s to rockin it in your next workout session!

Working Girl/Boy Manifesto

One of the issues that commonly comes up in the nutrition world is the work-life balance.  Yes – it would be ideal if we could workout 2 hours a day, eat 3 home-cooked meals and well-rounded snacks, avoid the candy jar and liquor cabinet.  But would it be fun?  Heck no!  And is it realistic or sustainable in our busy world?  Absolutely not.  But guess what the good news is?  You don’t have to be a saint all the time to look great — you just have to have a few good tricks up your sleeves for when things get a little tricky.

Case in point: one of my girlfriends works at Credit Suisse doing campus recruitment.  As part of her job she has to travel a lot and often has cocktails and other events to attend.  And believe me, I know as well as anyone that when you have a couple of glasses of wine, those spring rolls look increasingly delicious.  Here are some tips to staying healthy on the fly and navigating the cocktail hour:

When you’re traveling:

  • Your best defense is a good offense!  When I know I’m taking a trip, I make sure to pack a ton of healthy snacks with me, and not just because D needs to be fed at 2 hour intervals or else he becomes cranky.  Things like instant oatmeal (you can get hot water anywhere!), raw almonds/cashews/walnuts, natural granola bars (Luna/Larabars/flavor and fiber bars), bags of carrots and celery, or apples.  All of these things are pretty portable and can make good breakfasts, snacks or even mini-meals.
  • Check out your hotel beforehand.  A lot of hotels are offering fitness rooms these days – and if I have the option of booking a hotel, I always make sure there is some kind of workout facility either in it or nearby.  You can also call the hotel beforehand and ask if there are any good trails in the area for running or walking.  Trying to sneak in even 30 minutes of exercise during the day can help stoke your metabolism and keep you energized for a long workday.

At Cocktail Hour:

  • Spoil your appetite beforehand.  Have a little snack – a handful of nuts, a couple of whole wheat crackers with hummus, an apple, and make sure to do it no more than an hour before your event.  Going into any event STARVING is the worst idea ever.  Not only are you setting yourself up to make bad choices, any alcohol you drink will go straight to your head, making matters worse.
  • Alternate alcohol with water or seltzer and keep a drink in your hand at all times.  I know this seems very old-ladyish, but seriously it is the best advice I have ever received and I’m passing it on to you.  Not only does this make you less likely to get hammered (and that’s not very professional is it?), it keeps one hand busy and away from the snacks.  If you keep your hand holding a cup you just can’t reach for that much food right?
  • Navigate the hors d’oeuvres.  If the cocktail hour is where you’ll be eating dinner (and this happens from time to time), scan the menu and fill your plate first with vegetables and lean proteins (crudité, shrimp, grilled veggies, chicken skewers) — basically the healthy stuff.  Then pick one or two small items that look special and delicious and you simply can’t pass up.  For example – I was at a cocktail party recently and the sushi looked particularly amazing — I filled my plate up with a couple pieces of sashimi, a couple rolls and some veggies.  Later on I had half of a small peking duck pancake that D said was amazing.

With a little planning, travel and work don’t have to sidetrack your health goals and you can stay fit and fabulous, no matter where your life takes you!

Gotham Skinny RANT

Ok guys.  So I usually don’t try to be preachy to people about being healthy, because:

A.  It’s just silly and you should never make someone “feel bad” about their lifestyle.

and

B.  It just ain’t my style.

So you know that something has got to be really annoying to make me feel like I need to resort to this measure.  But I just have to say SOMETHING.

So back to my story.  This morning I get to the elevator after heading back from the gym.  Of course I am sweaty and gross and really feel like taking a shower ASAP.  I get in the elevator, press my floor, and then a perfectly healthy, normal looking guy presses floor number 2.  2!!!  And of course the elevator isn’t working properly so we’re stuck on 2 for an eternity while I’m trying my best to control my inadvertent eye rolling and foot-tapping.

I guess the reason I feel so annoyed is because of the fact that this guy was completely healthy, wasn’t laden down with bags or children or dogs, didn’t have any disabilities, and yet still couldn’t walk up one flight of stairs.  One flight!  Beyond being a huge pet peeve of mine, it just doesn’t make  any sense.

So much research exists which supports the idea that little changes — whether it be taking a couple of flights of stairs to your office every day, using skim milk instead of half and half in your coffee, or using whole wheat bread instead of sourdough for your turkey sandwich, make such a HUGE difference in terms of your overall health.  It’s not about weight loss (although some of these changes certainly help), it’s about living longer, stronger and happier lives.

So here’s a little challenge — and I’m going do it with you.  For the rest of the week, whenever you have the option to take the elevator, if you’re going lower than 5 flights, take the stairs.  If you have to get somewhere and it’s less than 10 blocks, walk (do not subway or cab) — and no, wearing heels is NOT an excuse (I’ve used that one too many times to count).  And tell your friends, coworkers, parents, significant others, etc.. to join you!  It’s going to take a little getting used to at first (I’m sure D will lovingly remind me about it on Saturday night), but I challenge you to try making these little changes and see how you feel.  You might surprise yourself.