Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where's Beckham

Can you find the cat in this picture?

There he is!

Spring Fever

One of the great things about living in NYC is there is always something to do and something new to see. Even somewhere like Central Park has places I haven't visited before. We walked way up to the Conservatory Garden at 106th St. I was hoping there would be lots of flowers and butterflies, but not quite yet.

The garden is well manicured and beautiful. When the trees and flowers are in bloom it will look awesome.

There were a few flowers starting to poke through the ground. The first signs of spring - warm weather can't come soon enough.

Week in Review (Wiicap)

I was supposed to get this done on Monday - but St. Patrick's Day got in the way.

I played Wii for the first time last Friday night, loved it! Bowling, tennis, and Tiger Woods golf - I rule. Well not exactly, but it was a blast. Can't wait for 'Dance Revolution' at Bex.

Something else new - we visited MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) last Friday night. From 4pm until closing at 8pm MoMA is free every Friday. It has an awesome collection including Jackson Pollock pieces, the Andy Warhol soup can paintings, Van Gogh's Starry Night, and some great Monet's. It reminded me of the Musee d'Orsay in Paris - a very specific collection that isn't as vast or overwhelming as the Met.

And what was Monday - my very first St. Patrick's Day in NYC. I was living here last year, but we had a wedding upstate and I missed the festivities. It was the 247th year of the St. Patrick's Day parade - I have never seen so many bagpipers in one place. Forget wearing green, it goes well beyond a simple green shirt - you need stickers, beads, hats, fake tattoos, buttons, and one of those big thick Irish wool sweaters to be part of the 'in' crowd. Firemen from all over the country come to NYC to celebrate and they are all in full dress. So many of the guys in the bars were either in uniform or wearing a kilt. Unfortunately one member of a drum core decided to start playing his drum in a bar, but other than that isolated incident it was a fun time.

Tonight I went to a lecture about pet obesity - bad news for our cats with curves. But if I'm getting toned they might as well too!

And if you have a few minutes check out this blog. Michael found it - good stuff:

Time for me to go make some basketball picks, any suggestions?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hair Raising

I just signed up to be a hair model for Bumble & Bumble University.

I saw the ad in Time Out New York, checked out the webpage, and filled out the application. We'll see if I make it through the application process. I'm not exactly sure what they look for in a hair model - I have hair, doesn't that qualify me as an adequate model?

I was thinking about hooking up with the Redken salon but I prefer Bumble & Bumble products - so they get first crack at playing with my tresses.

I'll keep you posted - I hope I get some great blowouts and maybe a fab new haircut out of this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March Madness Cookies

To help Michael generate interest for his March Madness tournament I made some special sugar cookies last night.

Note: These are not part of the healthy eating plan.

Taking a lesson from the Lisa McD playbook, I used gel food coloring to get the dough vibrant basketball orange. Considering how the color seemed to get on everything in the kitchen nothing is permanently orange. Part of the fun of cooking is making a big mess. By making the dough orange I didn't need to frost the cookies - a huge time saver. Seattle Karen recommended the coloring, she uses it for cake decorating. The hues are very vibrant and the gel is really easy to use. (I used Chefmaster Liqua-Gel in Sunset Orange #5036.)

I looked up some basketball pix on the Internet and then used melted chocolate in a piping bag with a small writing tip to make the lines.

My first tray of cookies had gloppy points where I started and stopped the piping. On the second tray I left enough room in between each cookie so I could start and stop the piping on the tray and not the cookie, this really cleaned up the lines.

I really wanted to make basketball orange fortune cookies with the fortune containing all in info to join in the tournament. Once I started looking at how to actually make fortune cookies I quickly changed my mind. You have to bake them in batches of 2-6 cookies because each one has be be shaped as it comes out of the oven. That is almost as crazy as applying dragees (decorative sugar balls) by tweezer!

9 Health Foods That Aren't!

As part of my continuing health series, here is another article from Men's Health. The text is from a book titled "Eat This, Not That".

I just ordered the book from Amazon. Happy Birthday Jason! (His b-day present theme is Mind/Body/Soul. He might not be happy about it, but I like to believe it's rather thoughtful.)

The authors of the bestselling new book “Eat This, Not That!” uncover the most misunderstood “health” foods in America.

If your New Year’s resolution consists of giving up pizza and cheeseburgers in favor of flaxseeds and rice cakes, it’s time to reconsider your strategy. In the hot bestselling book Eat This, Not That! co-authors David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding insist you don’t ever have to diet again. You can eat all of your favorite foods and still drop 10, 20, 30 pounds before the ball drops next December. To do so, though, you must be able to spot the many perilous nutritional traps that continue to plague health-conscious consumers every day. Seemingly nutritious packaged and prepared foods often abound with added sugars, preservatives, and dangerous, belt-breaking fats. To help you slim down in ’08, the Eat This, Not That! guys have identified the nine most punishing health ruses and replaced them with delicious alternatives that will keep you satisfied and give you all the purported nutritional benefits that many of our most beloved foods sadly do not.

1. Bran Muffin
420 calories
20 grams of fat

Eat this instead!
Ham, egg and cheese on an English muffin.
300 calories
12 grams of fat

Bran muffins are comprised of two things your body doesn't want in the morning: sugar and refined flour. Both will work to spike your blood sugar, which signals your body to start storing fat and sets you up for a mid-morning crash. And with only trace amounts of fiber, there's nothing healthy about this misunderstood muffin. The breakfast sandwich, on the other hand, is a surprisingly great way to start your day. Besides having fewer calories, fat, and carbs, it also offers about 20 grams of protein, which we really need in the morning to jumpstart our metabolism.

2. Chicken Caesar Salad
(Dinner-size portion)
900 calories
60 grams of fat

Eat this instead!
Grilled chicken on mixed greens
400 calories
20 grams of fat

Caesar salads suffer the consequences of two natural disasters: a flood of fatty dressing and a blizzard of Parmesan cheese and croutons. Even a Caesar side salad before a meal can cost you up to 500 calories. Skip the emperor treatment in favor of a simple grilled chicken breast tossed in a bed of mixed greens tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is a vast improvement over the treacherous Caesar dressing, and the absence of a Parmesan sea means that you'll save nearly entire meal's worth of calories by making this simple swap.

3. Tuna Melt
900 calories
50 grams of fat

Eat this instead!
Roast beef or ham sandwich
500 calories
15 grams of fat

Plain tuna out of the can is healthy; tuna doused in mayo, shrouded in melted cheese, and slicked with another layer of dressing is not. Both ham and roast beef are packed with protein and are super satisfying and surprisingly lean, which means you can eat the same size sandwich and save 400 calories and 35 grams of fat.

4. Chicken Wrap

700 calories
35 grams of fat

Eat this instead!
Grilled chicken sandwich
375 calories
15 grams of fat

The wrap itself is the real offender here, dense with fast-burning carbs and containing up to 400 calories. It's a tortilla shell pumped with a bunch of modified starch and fat. Plus the huge surface area means more room to slather dressing and pack in more cheese and meat than your typical sandwich. Definitely not a health food. A grilled chicken sandwich on a bun offers a great balance of fat, carbs, and protein, plus having a bun instead of a huge tortilla provides so much-need portion control. Bonus: Nix the mayo in favor of bbq sauce or salsa (which is the ultimate fat-free, low-cal condiment).

5. Turkey Burger
850 calories
50 grams of fat

Eat this instead!
7 oz sirloin steak
350 calories
20 grams of fat

People hear turkey and automatically think lean and healthy, but depending on the type of ground turkey and toppings used, one of these poultry patties can be every bit as fatty and caloric as a beef burger. Sirloin, on the other hand, is one of the leanest cuts of meat available, which makes for an incredibly satisfying, protein-enriched meal that will keep you feeling fuller, longer. Who wouldn't want to make this swap?

6. Fruit Smoothies
600 calories
120 grams of sugar

Drink this instead!
100% fruit smoothie
350 calories
75 grams of sugar

Many fruit smoothies contain added sugars and high fructose corn syrup, which means they're more milkshake than smoothie. The key here really is in the name: A 100% fruit smoothie made with plain yogurt instead of ice cream or sherbert will contain nearly half the calories and significantly less sugar, plus it will provide all of the vitamin and antioxidant capacity that a smoothie is supposed to have.

7. Granola Bar
200 calories
15 grams of sugar

Eat this instead!

1 oz cheddar cheese with Triscuits
150 calories
5 grams of sugar

Ever wonder what keeps a granola bar together? The makers of one of America’s favorite (and most misunderstood) snacks use mostly high-fructose corn syrup as their glue, which in turns quickly raises blood sugar and cancels out any of the potential benefits you might otherwise get from the oats. By switching over to good old-fashioned cheese and crackers, you swap out sugar and calories for protein and fiber. Talk about a great deal!

8. Pasta Salad
300 calories
20 grams of fat

Eat this instead!
Egg Salad
200 calories
14 grams of fat

When the main ingredient for a snack or a side is pasta, you’re asking for trouble. That’s because pasta is made from highly-refined flour, which means quick-burning carbs and a huge spike in blood sugar. Not only does it save you a hundred calories, but the egg salad replaces those troublesome carbs with healthy protein, which helps fill your belly faster and keeps your metabolic fires effectively stoked.

8. Yogurt with Fruit on the Bottom
190 calories
30 grams of sugar

Eat this instead!
Plain yogurt with fresh fruit mixed in
110 calories
15 grams of sugar

You wouldn’t start your morning with a can of Coke, would you? Then you should pass on these troublesome yogurt cups since they contain as much sugar as a soft drink. Almost all of that comes directly from the “fruit” is mostly high-fructose corn syrup. Yogurt and fruit can be a great way to start your day, but do it yourself by mixing a cup of nonfat plain yogurt with a half cup of mixed berries.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Americas 20 Highest Calorie Restaurant Meals

With the cruise (read lots of photos and swimsuits) on the horizon I've been all about healthy eating and going to the gym lately (well the last week, but you gotta start somewhere).

This list is from an e-mail sent to my by Mom O. I did a quick search and found the information is from a Men's Health article by Matt Goulding. Here is a link to original article:

I spot checked the information against the various restaurant websites and the numbers are accurate and really quite appalling.

Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips from McDonald's (5 pieces) with creamy ranch sauce

830 calories
55g fat (4.5g trans fat)
48g carbs

The only thing "premium" about these strips is the caloric price you pay. Add a large fries and regular soda and this seemingly innocuous chicken meal tops out at 1,710 calories.

Jamba Juice Chocolate Moo'd Power Smoothie (30 fl oz)

900 calories
10 g fat
183 g carbs (166 g sugar)

Jamba Juice calls it a smoothie; we call it a milk shake. In fact, this beverage contains more sugar than two pints of Ben and Jerry's Butter Pecan ice cream.
(KO: 900 calories and all of those carbs - WOW!)

Pepperidge Farm Roasted Chicken Pot Pie (whole pie)

1,020 calories
64 g fat
86 g carbs

The label may say this pie serves two, but who ever divided a small pot pie in half? Once you crack the crust, there will be no stopping.
Pick a Better Pie: Swanson's pot pie has just 400 calories.

Ruby Tuesday Bella Turkey Burger

1,145 calories
71 g fat
56 g carbs

We chose this burger for more than its calorie payload: Its name implies that it's healthy.

Chipotle Mexican Grilled Chicken Burrito

1,179 calories
7 g fat
125 g carbs
2,656 mg sodium

Despite a reputation for using healthy, fresh ingredients, Chipotle's menu is limited to king-size burritos, overstuffed tacos, and gigantic salads —all of which lead to a humongous waistline.
(KO: but they have such tasty guacamole.)

Macaroni Grill Double Macaroni 'n' Cheese

1,210 calories
62 g fat
3,450 mg sodium

It's like feeding your kid 1 1/2 boxes of Kraft mac 'n' cheese.
Your Best Option: The 390-calorie Grilled Chicken and Broccoli.

Quizno's Classic Italian

1370 calories
86 g fat
4490 mg sodium

A large homemade sandwich would more likely provide about 500 calories.
Cut the Calories: Isn't it obvious? Order a small — or save half for later.
(KO: Best commercial jingle ever, sing along 'we got a pepper bar')

On the Border Grande Taco Salad with Taco Beef

1,450 calories
102 g fat
78 g carbs
2,410 mg sodium

This isn't an anomaly: Five different On the Border salads on the menu contain more than 1,100 calories each.
The Salad for You: The Sizzling Chicken Fajita Salad supplies an acceptable 760 calories. But remember to choose a non caloric beverage, such as water or unsweetened iced tea.
(KO: they should pick a new name for the taco salad, it's always on the 'bad' food list - it brings other salads down.)

Carl's Jr. Double Six Dollar Burger
1,520 calories
111 g fat

Carl's brags about this, but also provides convenient nutrition info on its Web site —so ignorance is no excuse for eating it.
A Simple Solution: The Low Carb Six Dollar Burger has just 490 calories.

Lonestar 20 oz T-bone

1,540 calories
124 g fat

Add a baked potato and Lonestar's Signature Lettuce Wedge, and this is a 2,700-calorie blowout. Choose with Your Head: The golden rule of steak restaurants is this: Limit yourself to a 9-ouncer or smaller. After all, that's more than half a pound of meat. You won't walk away hungry.

Bob Evans Caramel Banana Pecan Cream Stacked and Stuffed Hotcakes

1,540 calories
77 g fat (9 g trans fat)
198 g carbs (109 g sugar)

Five Egg McMuffins yield the same caloric cost as these sugar-stuffed flapjacks.Order This Instead: The Western Omelet has 654 calories and 44 grams of protein.
(KO: These pancakes just sound like a big stomach ache.)

Chili's Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream

1,600 calories
78 g fat
215 g carbs

Would you eat a Big Mac for dessert? How about three? That's the calorie equivalent of this decadent dish. Clearly, Chili's customers get their money's worth.
Don't Overdo It: If you want dessert at Chili's, order one single-serving Sweet Shot; you'll cap your after-dinner intake at 310 calories.

P.F. Chang's Pork Lo Mein

1,820 calories
127 g fat
95 g carbs

The fat content in this dish alone provides more than 1,100 calories. And you'd have to eat almost five servings of pasta to match the number of carbohydrates it contains.
Now, do you really need five servings of pasta? Pick Another Noodle: P.F. Chang's Singapore Street Noodles will satisfy your craving with only 570 calories. Or try the Moo Goo Gai Pan or the Ginger Chicken & Broccoli, which have 660 calories each.

Chili's Honey Chipotle Crispers with Chipotle Sauce

2,040 calories
99 g fat
240 g carbs

"Crispers" refers to an extra-thick layer of bread crumbs that soaks up oil and adds unnecessary calories and carbs to these glorified chicken strips.
Switch Your Selection: Order the Chicken Fajita Pita: At 450 calories and 43 grams of protein, it's one of the healthiest entrees you'll find in a chain restaurant.
(KO: As an added bonus 'fajita pita' is way more fun to say.)

On the Border Dos XX Fish Tacos with Rice and Beans

2,100 calories
130 g fat
169 g carbs
4,750 mg sodium

Perhaps the most misleadingly named dish in America. A dozen crunchy tacos from Taco Bell will saddle you with fewer calories.
Lighten the Load: Ask for grilled fish, choose the corn tortillas instead of flour (they're lower in calories and higher in fiber), and swap out the carbohydrate-loaded rice for grilled vegetables.

Uno Chicago Grill Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza

2,310 calories
162 g fat
123 g carbs
4,470 mg sodium

Downing this "personal" pizza is equivalent to eating 18 slices of Domino's Crunchy Thin Crust cheese pizza.
Swap Your Slices: Switch to the Sausage Flatbread Pie and avert deep-dish disaster by nearly 1,500 calories.

Macaroni Grill Spaghetti and Meatballs with Meat Sauce

2,430 calories
128 g fat
207 g carbs
5,290 mg sodium

This meal satisfies your calorie requirements for an entire day.
Downsize the Devastation: Ask for a lunch portion of this dinner dish (or any pasta on the menu, for that matter), and request regular tomato sauce instead of meat sauce. You'll cut the calories in half.

On the Border Stacked Border Nachos

2,740 calories
166 g fat
191 g carbs
5,280 mg sodium

The only way you should ever consider eating these is if you're rolling with a crew of eight.

Turn away: You won't find a decent option on the appetizer menu. Instead, turn to the Chicken Tacos on the entee portion of the menu; at 250 calories a pop, they make as good a start to your meal as you can hope for.
(KO: You mean nachos are bad for me? But they are so cheesy and crunchy delicious.)

Chili's Awesome Blossom

2,710 calories
203 g fat
194 g carbs
6,360 mg sodium

Hard to believe that a single onion can wreak so much nutritional havoc, but batter and fry anything and serve it with a rich dipping sauce and you are bound to do some damage.
Start properly: At Chili's, take a detour to the "Sides" menu and try the Garlic & Lime Grilled Shrimp. 4 shrimp will only cost you 160 calories.

Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing

2,900 calories
182 g fat
240 g carbs

Even if you split this "starter" with three friends, you'll have downed a dinner's worth of calories before your entree arrives. Follow this up with a steak, sides, and a dessert and you could easily break the 3,500 calorie barrier.
Front-load: Start your meal with a protein-based dish that's not deep-fried. A high-protein starter helps diminish hunger without putting you into calorie overload. At Outback, that translates to either the Seared Ahi or the Shrimp on the Barbie.

KO: Now if this reading through this list doesn't make you want to eat some lean protein and hit the gym I don't know what will. Go out there and be healthy!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

When I Win the Lottery...

I'm going to take singing lesssons.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Brunch at Mesa Grill

Last Sunday we had brunch at Mesa Grill - I love Mesa Grill during restaurant week (except for Sophie's Chopped Salad), so I was dying to try the weekend brunch menu.

The food was fabulous; we both ate way too much. The prices were really reasonable compared to the dinner menu. It is a great way to experience Mesa Grill without making a huge dent in the bank account.

They start you off with a fabulous bread basket. It had both sweet and savory treats. On the sweet side there were squares of warm cranberry strudel - the cranberries added a little bit of tartness to the sweet bread and crumb topping. There were also small pineapple and macadamia nut biscuits, they were topped with a little bit of nuts and sugar to the top was just a little crunchy but the biscuit was soft inside. The savory bites included small jalapeno biscuits with a side of a sweet and spicy chile spread and a yellow and blue corn muffin. Of course I ate way too much bread - but it was all so good. Just like with restaurant week they start you off with a great bread basket.

There were so many choices between the appetizer and entree menu. The appetizer was actually a pretty easy choice for me, the goat cheese 'queso fundido' with blue corn chips. The queso was warm and bubbly with some chilies mixed in with the cheese. It was really similar to the amazing queso fundido at Tortilla Jo's in Downtown Disney - I should have just had that for my meal. But I ordered an entree too and kept the food train running. There were 3 entrees I was deciding between, I went with the Ranch Style Eggs Tostada. A big serving of fluffy scrambled eggs topped with white cheddar cheese and a drizzle of sour cream sitting on top of a crispy flour tortilla and ancho chile sauce. The sauce was spicy but not too hot; it had a great smoky flavor that was cooled down with the eggs and cheese. The crispy tortilla added some texture to the dish. On the side were some very good southwestern style home fries, while I did almost clean my plate I barely put a dent in the potatoes.

Michael started with the smoked salmon quesadilla. It was a traditional quesadilla topped with dill creama, smoked salmon, and salmon caviar. It sounds like a strange combo, but like everything else on the menu (except Sophie’s chopped salad) it really worked. For breakfast he had the Mesa Grill twist on ham and eggs – eggs scrambled with green onion, jalapeƱo, and goat cheese served with apricot mustard glazed ham steak and peppery buttermilk biscuits. I tried a bite of the ham and bite of the biscuits – both were exceptional. Michael’s meal came with a side of the southwestern home fries as well. We could have shared an appetizer or shared a meal - there was so much food on the table between the two of us.

As we were wrapping up our meal two girls sat down next to us. One had been to Mesa Grill before and one had not. The Mesa Grill veteran recommended, actually insisted, they start by sharing Sophie’s chopped salad! Apparently neither one decided to consult my blog before getting sucked in to this ordinary salad.

With no salad in our bellies, we left fat and happy and ready to hit the gym!

For the entire tasty brunch menu click the link below:

Chelsea Piers Driving Range

Last Friday we braved the freezing weather to hit golf balls at the Chelsea Piers driving range. It was the last night of special rates offered in the month of Feb, and I didn't want some snow and wind to keep me from missing out on a good deal.

You have probably seen this driving range on TV or in the movies - the golfers hit balls from boxes that are stacked on top of each other. It's an ingenious set up, allowing many people to hit golf balls in a relatively small space.

Instead of a bucket of balls you buy a card, like the one below. It is good for a certain amount of balls. Once you are in your heated stall, you put the card in the slot of a machine and the golf ball pops out of a hole in front of you. When you hit the ball, out pops another ball and they keep coming until you run out of credits or you pull your card.

I was hitting balls like crazy - both really fast and all over the place. Michael was much more careful with his shots. It's been a long time since I've hit a golf ball and I pretty much forget everything I'm supposed to do. I was getting a little better towards the end, but I need some practice before hitting any actual courses.

After dinner we hit up the brew pub next door and had a great beer and a good dinner and watched the snow fall. While we were protected from the elements while hitting balls, getting home wasn't so nice. By the time we got home we were covered in snow and freezing.

The night was a blast and I can't wait to go back.

Check out all the other stuff to do at Chelsea Piers:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

P.S. There was a celebrity on the plane

I can't believe I forgot to include this in my Miami blog!

Ted Allen was on our flight back to NYC Monday night. He must have been making his way home after the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. We did see the tents on the beach, but the tickets were either really pricey or sold out so we didn't take part in the Food and Wine Fest.

You might remember him from his endearing role as the Food Guy on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, as a guest judge on Iron Chef America and Top Chef, or maybe as a cookbook author. For more on Ted see this website:

I spotted him right away (of course I wanted to call Mel, but the dead phone battery was an issue). I kept a sharp eye on his activities while we were waiting to board (drank 2 beers, checked Blackberry, and worked on laptop). Once we boarded he was seated in first class, with my sight line gone my interested faded and I settled in to my book.