Archive | April, 2012

5 Reasons to Grill Everything!

30 Apr
teriyaki and pineapple chicken

Grilled chicken with teriyaki sauce and pineapple slices. Delectable.

It’s mid-morning on Monday and I’m still full from all of the BBQ we ate this weekend at my folks’ house a little over an hour’s drive from our home. I didn’t overeat. Everything was cooked beautifully on the grill. And now I’m reminded that BBQ can be incredibly filling. I know it’s technically spring, not summer, but we’re having such beautiful weather lately that it feels like summer already…or maybe that’s my sunburn talking.

While my mom’s husband grilled–he’s extremely talented at the grill–my mom, my husband, and I spent most of our time in the pool working up an appetite. When the weather turns warm like this, it’s impossible to not be outside running around, gardening, swimming, or just enjoying the sunshine. All of those activities require good food to keep you going and lots of water to keep you hydrated…between these gorgeous strawberry daiquiris, that is.

robert strawberry daiquiris

My mom's husband made these perfect strawberry daiquiris for us while we were lounging in the pool. Life is good these days!

[Side note: Most, if not all, diets and nutritionists will tell you to not drink alcohol when you want to lose weight because it’s nothing but “empty calories.” This is one of those diet rules I’m dropping–and I think it’s safe to say that Vita is with me on this one. First of all, pretty much anything in moderation isn’t going to affect long-term weight loss. Secondly, diet-related restrictions tend to bring out the rebel in us; and I want my diet choices to be things that I can maintain in the long-term (I know I’m not going to give up all alcohol forever). Thirdly, you can choose to have an alcoholic drink instead of a high-calorie snack and still be within a healthy daily calorie-intake amount. And finally, I know I was burning calories while swimming around so I’m not worried about the calories in a drink.]

Grilling is an excellent cooking method for several reasons, especially if you’re trying to lose weight without boring your taste buds. Here are my five reasons to grill everything:

1. Food tastes better outside. Haven’t you ever noticed how great food tastes at a picnic or in the backyard on a summer evening? Maybe it’s because all of the senses are heightened and stimulated by the outdoor environment. Whatever the reason, I know that those meals are special and worth repeating as often as possible.

2. Fat drains off. Regardless of how you like your meat cooked, grilling offers a way to drain off excess fat that other cooking methods can’t match. Think off all the fat that sits in your broiler or the oil that you put in a frying pan when you cook on the stove or even in the oven. Now think of how wonderful the grill smells as the fat burns off and your meal comes to the table perfectly cooked with those grill marks.

3. Total control. When you cook at home, you are in total control of what goes into the meal and into your body. When you grill, you are assured that your meat is cooked exactly the way you want it (I like mine extra well done) and that any sauces or marinades you use are in line with your personal tastes. I’ve had teriyaki chicken at restaurants that was just awful because they used a crappy marinade. Grilling also provides such a unique flavor on its own that you don’t need to rely on a lot of oil, salty seasonings, or additives because the right taste is seared in by the flames.

4. You can grill almost anything. Our weekend was filled with burgers, steaks, chicken, corn on the cob, and more, all cooked on the grill. It was so efficient and tasty. My mom and her husband use their grill all the time and we were more than happy to help this weekend. It kept us all outside enjoying the weather and each other’s company. Corn grilled in its husk is so delicious. My mom’s husband does a great job balancing and cooking everything to perfection. He even toasted the burger buns on the grill, which is an amazing flavor-enhancing touch! The only things we didn’t grill that we ate this weekend were the baked beans, veggie toppings for the burgers, and popcorn. (My mom’s husband even reheated some leftover pizza on the grill because it was efficient and made the crust nice and crispy without burning it.)

5. It’s budget-friendly. We felt so spoiled eating all those delectable, grilled meals because the cost of eating steak, giant burgers, and teriyaki chicken like that in a restaurant day and night would be way beyond our budget. Think of the cost of steak dinners for four people at your favorite steak restaurant (plus the gas to get there, the wait time, sales tax, and tip). Now, think of the four pack of steaks you can get at the grocery store, some potatoes, corn, and salad fixin’s, and the fun of grilling with the family. It’s an easy choice, in my opinion. Plus, clean up is easy too. There are no oily pans to scrub. Take care of your grill and it’ll take care of you.

The only non-healthy foods we ate were the macaroni salad, potato salad, and BBQ potato chips. However, I was so content and full with dinner that I didn’t have seconds and I didn’t have any dessert. I think that those choices, combined with the physical activity, balances out pretty well in my favor. I’m not worried about it. By the way, a perfect low-cal snack for a summery evening after BBQ is homemade popcorn! My mom pops the yummiest popcorn on the stove with just a little oil and some salt and it tastes better than anything you can get at the store (and it’s not bad for you).

Have a wonderful grilling season, everyone! What’s your favorite thing to grill? Let us know in the comments section.

–Michelle

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When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip!

27 Apr
Freak Nasty's Da Dip

Freak Nasty's "Da Dip" was a hit in the '90s (I remember dancing to it at my 8th grade dance!) and it's one of those catchy one-hit wonders that pops into my head every once in a while.

Happy Friday! It’s a sunny day, I’m hungry for a light lunch, and I’ve got Freak Nasty’s “Da Dip” stuck in my head! So, the only thing to do is make a dip for lunch (while grooving to the song, of course). I love making dips at home, especially since you control the amount of oil and salt in them compared with store-bought, preservative-filled dips. It’s a great way to have fun with health food when you’re trying to lose weight without getting bored.

My favorite kind of dip to make is hummus, but what I really love to do is use hummus as a base for a veggie dip. It’s super healthy, fun, and you can eat it with carrot sticks (or any other veggie stick), home-baked tortilla chips, pita, crackers, pretzels…pretty much whatever you want. Sometimes, I even use it as a spread on a sandwich.

Here’s my typical dip-making method (takes about 10 minutes):

1. What’s in the fridge and cupboard? I like to get creative with what we have around the kitchen, especially since we’re on a pretty strict budget. Today, for example, I have a can of garbanzo beans, one Roma tomato left, half a can of black olives, half a bag of baby spinach, feta, carrots, garlic, and balsamic vinaigrette. Other ingredients that can work great, which I don’t have right now, are bell pepper, cilantro, cream cheese, Parmesan, onion, various types of beans (bean dip is so yummy!), avocado, artichoke. The recipe changes depending on what you’re in the mood for and what you have to use. The point is to look at what’s available and concoct a flavor that will suit your personal tastes and cravings.

2. Making the dip.

  • In a small frying pan, simmer the sliced tomato, garlic, and spinach (or bell pepper and onion, if you’re using those) with just a teaspoon of canola oil (or olive oil) and a dash of salt and pepper. Sometimes I’ll add a different type of pepper or some cumin and thyme to further enhance the flavor. You just want to soften these ingredients so that the flavors mix well. You can also do this in the oven, but that can take longer than on the stove. [You also can add sesame seeds at this stage, which adds a subtle, earthy flavor that is so good.]
  • In a blender, combine the can of garbanzo beans (drained), black olives, and about a cup of spinach with two tablespoons of the vinaigrette and blend. Then add the heated mixture of tomato and garlic, etc., and blend again. Keep blending until you have a smooth hummus-veggie dip. Adjust the blending consistency and amount of ingredients to suit your taste (you may want to thin it a bit with water or vinaigrette, or add a little salt, or thicken it with some saltine crackers).

3. Serve. Eat it hot or cold, depending on your preference, with whatever you want to dip in it. I’m having mine with carrot sticks today. Enjoy knowing that it’s a super healthy snack that tastes great and is totally customized for you!

Have a great weekend!

–Michelle :)

Getting a Leg Up

26 Apr

I’m having severe pain from plantar fasciitis and a subsequent cortisone shot in my heel. Since I can hardly walk, I’m stuck in bed or on the couch feeling lame. To make the best of it, I set up my computer in the living room and pillows to prop my leg up, and then I used my awkward positioning to help me stretch throughout the day. Injuries can be a real setback when you’re trying to lose weight because your physical activity is limited. But movement of any kind is better than no movement at all, and stretching is the easiest way to maintain mobility. It also just feels good.

As long as I kept weight off my foot and didn’t overextend the nerves in my leg, I didn’t feel pain so much as discomfort and tingling. If I did anything to tweak the nerve in my heel, I’d yelp and wince in pain, so I was very careful.

Stretch #1

I sat in the middle of the couch with the long coffee table parallel to it in front of me. My injured foot was propped up on a pillow on the table to my far left. My normal leg was positioned the same way to my right. Slowly, I’d lean toward each side with my arm outstretched in front of me, toward my foot, or over my head. I’d relax back to take a break, then tuck in my tummy, sit up, and repeat. It helped take the pressure off my lower spine and loosen my shoulders, in addition to stretching my legs and arms.

Stretch #2

With my legs comfortably relaxed in front of me and my feet flat on the floor, I scooted up so I was sitting on the front edge of the couch where there was the most support. Then I straightened up, sucking my stomach in toward my lower back, and maintaining good posture. I stretched my arms out and slowly rotated to each side and then raised my arms above my head before relaxing down and repeating.

Beyond that, I couldn’t do much, and I had to take a lot of breaks (the best was my lunch break to eat some of Vita’s borsch!). But it did make me feel like less of a lump. Sitting around all day with an injury can add a lot of pressure to your back. Stretching in any form really helps, even in its mildest form.

–Michelle :)

Playtime and Friends Improve Weight Loss

25 Apr
Window view before take-off of Southwest planes.

Southwest Airlines' Spirit magazine's April 2012 issue included two articles--one about playtime and the other about weight loss camaraderie--that mirror our efforts with the Diet Drop project.

When my husband and I were flying back from New Jersey to LA, I couldn’t sleep or reach my book so I read the Southwest Airlines’ magazine, Spirit (April, 2012, issue). Two articles caught my attention and reflected some of the goals and philosophies we share on Diet Drop. The first article is, “It’s Called Play,” which, in a nutshell, states that playtime at any age is essential to a health and creative thinking; and the second is, “Dynamo, Mississippi,” which parallels our emphasis on companionship and how it can greatly increase long-term weight loss success. Read on for more insights and highlights from experts that mirror our efforts with Diet Drop.

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“The Best Ever!” Russian Borsch Soup Recipe

25 Apr

If you were to ask me to name three traditional Russian dishes I would say, without any hesitation, they are pelmeni, blini (blintz), and borsch. Pelmeni are a variation of dumplings and usually made with a meat inside; blintz are very thin pancakes and are exactly like french crepes or Brazilian panquecas. So  even though any Russian person would say that these two dishes are truly from Russian cuisine, there are still variations of it that can be found throughout the world. However no matter how hard you try to find any dish resembling borsch, I bet you, your search would give no results. Therefore, I can definitely say that borsch truly has a Russian origin and actually is made in Russia very often on an everyday basis.

So what is borsch? Continue reading

Skipping Dinner Experiment

24 Apr

I have been skipping dinner for two nights in a row now. The first was when Michelle and I had very late lunch together–you can read about our adventures in this post. And yesterday, my husband and I were running errands and stopped at our favorite Peruvian restaurant, which in fact Michelle suggested to us a long time ago, and ever since it’s been in our top five places to go! It wasn’t even 6 p.m. yet, therefore it constitutes as a late lunch in my book, rather than an early dinner. :)

Going through the evening without dinner wasn’t hard for me at all. I hadn’t even realized that I hadn’t eaten anything until it was almost time to go to sleep, and it made me feel really good. Kudos to me! It made me think whether I’d be able to go without dinner for a whole week. Perhaps the consistency of this habit will show some results. And since I have already accomplished two days, another five should be like a piece of cake. Or even better, like a piece of skipped cake! The trick is to eat somewhere in between five and six o’clock in the afternoon and keep myself busy in the evenings.

Wish me luck!

— Vita :)

PS: If you haven’t voted on our little poll about meat or seafood yet, go ahead and check it out here. We need your vote in order to create our own analysis of the results and post it later.

Thanks in advance! :)

Dropping the Jealousy

24 Apr

“What is she doing to look that good?” I asked myself. “And why don’t I look like that?”

It was a silly question asked only out of a twinge of jealousy.

green-eyed monster of jealousy

The green-eyed monster of jealousy can creep up on all of us sometime. (My cat as the jealousy monster, green with envy.)

There are a million reasons why she and I don’t look alike now, even if we did in college. We were both full-figured all through college and seemed like we always would be. Now, thanks to social networking, we keep in touch without staying close and I get to see all the reflection-in-the-mirror shots of how thin and smokin’ hot she looks now. And now I sound bitter. I am, of course, happy for her. And she really does look gorgeous and toned. But I want to lose that much weight too. And I don’t know what her diet or weight loss method has been. To be realistic though, whatever method she’s using may not work for me anyways. We all respond to different motivators and nutritional changes.

This sudden, fleeting feeling of jealousy is one of those inevitable things that can sabotage a weight loss plan.

Continue reading

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