Smoked Salmon Snow Peas

Smokes Salmon Snow Peas

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Trader Joe’s? Roughly 3000 times you say? Well, brace yourself, here’s yet another reason why TJ’s is my favorite starving artist go-to. I love me some smoked salmon. In heaven I will eat a toasted bagel with cream cheese and lox every single day of eternity. Unfortunately, back in the mortal realm, smoked salmon is one of those pricey pay day items that requires a paycheck and some serious convincing. At least that’s what I thought until I discovered Trader Joe’s smoked sockeye salmon in a single pack for $4.99. At around 100 calories for the entire pack, it’s small enough to eat as the star of one’s dinner, but big enough that you could stretch it out for a tray of appetizers for a few friends.

For me I would just eat it straight from the package for an afternoon snack or throw it into some scrambled eggs for a light and protein-filled dinner. As an appetizer my default would be to reach for the Carr’s table water crackers, Philadelphia cream cheese, and capers… but I am far more conscious of my health these days and am always looking for ways to snack without too much danger (i.e. dairy and wheat). So, when I discovered that I had a bag of snow peas (also from TJ’s) in my fridge I thought, yes: crunch, flavor, nutrition, zero guilt, done. I simply took one or two peas and wrapped them in one of the thinly sliced pieces of fish. Cheap elegance. Now of course you very well could smear some cream cheese on these bad boys and no one would be upset. Or you could skip the cream cheese and dip them into soy sauce just like sushi…. or both…. mmmm….. And the good news is if you have more than a few friends to feed, it’s only $5 to buy a second pack. How could you go wrong? This is all yet more evidence that Trader Joe’s is likely a front for human trafficking or giant drug empire, but it’s so fantastic and affordable that we’re all just not questioning it.

Any other quick healthy snack ideas out there?

**Disclaimer: TJ’s is notorious for randomly not having items for indiscriminate spans of time (at least at the location near me). I’ve definitely gone for weeks without seeing the single, but it always comes back. The price may also go as high as $5.99 – still a bargain in my book.

And yet another beginning….

I was searching through my computer for something last week and somehow or another came across this old photo of myself. Well, not that old actually; 2008 or 9. I was in my apartment in NYC. Lord knows why I took it. Probably for some dating website (shudder). Honestly it stopped me in my tracks – like being smacked in the face. I was probably around 270 pounds. Today the scale reads 211. The difference is shocking, even for me. Truth be told I’d forgotten. I have been so focused on where I want to be and how much further I want to go that I completely forgot how far I’ve come. When I saw that picture, for a brief moment I remembered what it was like to have all that extra weight on my body – I actually felt it. I’m getting chills just typing this.

I wanted to share this with you all because I think it’s important for all of us to take a moment and remember where we’ve come from, whatever our journey might be (weight, addiction, career, etc). And, even more importantly, we have to use these moments to empower ourselves. If we’ve come this far, just think of how much further we are capable of going. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that all the speed bumps and potholes we encounter are actually lava-filled canyons or craggy unsurpassable mountains. No. We are not Frodo. This is not Mordor. We can handle it.

This was my first week back at boot camp. This time it’s at night, 6pm Mon – Thurs, 1030am Saturday. A MUCH more suitable timeline for me. Because of my new job (more on that soon) I haven’t exercised in months. Time to get serious. Stay tuned.

Happy weekend!

Deep Breath

Scale for BootcampHello, friends. Yes, I am still here and I still have much to share. Today, I want to update you on my journey of weight loss. Many of you had been following this vein of my blog with great interest back when I was in the thick of bootcamp, battling through numbers and frustration as I slowly crept towards my goal. Since then a lot has transpired….

When we last left off, I was approaching the end of my 10 week stint and had dropped down to 205 pounds. If you remember, my goal was to get below 200 pounds before my 30th birthday, April 24. Back in January/February, such a goal seemed like it would be a no brainer – in fact, I projected I would far exceed it. Did this happen? No. The lowest I saw my scale was 202, which occurred in the second week of April. At the time I was excited for boot camp to end. No more being held to a 6am start time, free to make my own work out schedule… But within two days of finishing boot camp I reverted back to my old ways. It was quite alarming – like a recovered alcoholic slipping back into the drink after years of sobriety. Now granted, I had planned to have a week of indulgence for my birthday, but let’s face it: it wasn’t my birthday week yet. And even if it was, it was still way too much.

Though I knew I was going really overboard, I just sort of let it happen. I’ve been here before: I wanted to remind myself how terrible I feel when I eat in such extreme excess. Let myself spiral downward until I feel so awful that I finally just snap out of it. The last weekend in April I was on the scoring stage with Thomas Newman at Fox. They keep a huge array of food out for the musicians – a cornucopia of empty carbohydrates and self-loathing. For two of my three days there this included an entire table devoted to Porto’s Bakery. I ate cookie after cookie after cookie and then went to the green room for the lunch buffet. When I used the alcohol analogy earlier, I wasn’t exaggerating – it is that level of addiction. Clearly not the food table’s fault.

By the time the first week of May rolled around, all the birthday hubbub was over; the cakes gone, the candies and treats cleared out. As I began to get back in touch with my life, I realized that (at least at that point in time) I was unable to take control of myself, therefore I needed a structure. I needed to regain a focused effort on a goal. I needed boot camp. Though I convinced myself I was ready for a break, in truth I was not even close. My ultimate goal was to be in the 180s and at 202, I still had a ways to go.

So, on Thursday May 2, I was back on the bike at 6am… and it felt amazing. In my last stint I wrote about many times where I felt frustrated. As much as I was working hard, I was also allowing myself to give in to poor states of mind: “oh it’s just sometimes impossible for me to get in at 6am” and “this diet is not really sustainable” etc etc. This time around, I am in a state of zen. I don’t think about the time, I don’t think about the food that I am eating or want to eat or wish I was eating. I just simply do it. Who cares if it’s early? Who cares if I hit a few road blocks? The time away from bootcamp was so necessary: it taught me that not only is intense exercise good for me, it makes me a better me. In many ways, I need it. And I am grateful that the ladies at RPM are affording me the opportunity to go at it once again.

On Thursday I was 214 pounds. This morning, 6 days later, I was 209. A good start. Just need to keep it going. Deep breath…

New Tactics

Seasoned Blanched VeggiesSo I’ve been stuck at the same weight for a few weeks now. You’ve all heard about my struggles against digestion, which still remain an issue and certainly don’t help, but there’s something else at work here. I noticed lately that I’ve been finding myself rather hungry/ravenous during the day and as such I’ve resorted to snacking on stuff I have in my apartment that aren’t meant for snacking. For example I always have chocolate chips and pecans on hand to bake. I’ve never had a problem avoiding them…. until last week. Daily visits to my chocolate chip box have been occurring, which may not SEEM like a big deal, but if I’ve learned anything on this whole journey, it is that the smallest of decisions are the ones that really add up in the end.

Since snacking is not conducive to my compulsive eating style, I no longer keep snack-like items in the house that could warrant a code red devouring situation. For example, I love Trader Joe’s “Simply Almonds, Cashews, and Cranberries” trail mix. And in the proper dosage, such a snack would not be a big deal. But let’s be serious, I will eat half the back without even batting an eye. Also, not only are nuts easy to overeat, but they’re not easy to digest, which make them doubly bad news for me. As I make all these efforts to streamline my intake, I came to realize that all of this narrowing down has cause one simple problem: I’m not eating enough! Juice in the morning, a salad for lunch, and often little or no dinner. No good! Therefore what I need is a way to not only supplement my meals, but to also allow me to eat in between meals without completely sabotaging the day’s efforts. The solution? Vegetables. My thought process was this: if I just cook a massive quantity of vegetables and have them in the fridge, not only can I eat them whenever I need to squelch my hunger, but I can also use them for dinner.

So here’s what I did. First, I bought a mess of vegetables: a bag of broccoli florets, a bag of baby carrots, a bundle of asparagus, and a package of sugar snap peas. I got a pot of water on the stove, brought it to a boil, added lots of salt, then I began to blanch the vegetables in stages. First broccoli, then carrots, etc. Once they were just a little bit soft I removed them from the water with a spider into a large plastic container, then added the next vegetable to the pot. Once the cooked veggies were in the container, I hit them right away (while they’re still nice and hot) with some Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and a good swirl of olive oil and toss them around. I did this for every vegetable as I added them to the container. Once cooled down I just stored them in the fridge – they last for at least a week.

Now you could of course just eat them as is, hell you could even eat them cold for a snack. But, you can use them in a variety of other ways too. My favorite thing to do is serve them with a grilled Salmon burger from Costco. Have you tried the salmon burgers? They are AMAZING. I would just heat up the veggies, cook the burger, throw them in a bowl with some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and bam, delicious satisfying dinner. You could do this with virtually any protein. You can also eat them with any cooked grains like quinoa or brown rice. Toss them with sauteed cherry tomatoes and feta cheese for a fresh treat. Or even have them with scrambled eggs and your favorite hot sauce. mmm!

How has it worked? Well, not only have I been more satisfied, but the weight has started coming off again. Last week when I started this I was at 207. This past week I got down to 202. Not too shabby. The other secret? Don’t eat after 6pm. This was something they really drove home in Bootcamp,  but I’ve only really begun to see what a huge difference it makes over the past week. Yay healthiness!

No-More-Flaming Stir Fry

No More Flaming Stir FrySo you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been putting up a lot of recipe posts these days. And you’re probably getting sick of hearing about weight loss and bootcamp and self-discovery and health trends and blah blah – where’s the FOOD? The truth is that being in such a goal-focused state, I’m eating a lot of the same things on a daily basis. You’ve read about my juice, you’ve seen my purple smoothie, and you’ve hopefully by now tried my curried roasted veggie and coconut soup. For me, routine is a way of keeping me on track: I find good things that I love to eat and I stick with them. It works for me. Once I reach my goals and summer arrives, no doubt things here at the starving artist will shift. But for now, we’re sticking with good clean eats.

Today, finally, I have a new recipe for you. This stir fry was inspired my new quest to fight inflammation. You heard me mention this yesterday, but some of you may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Chronic inflammation is a condition that has been identified as the root of many serious medical problems including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. It is also directly linked to smaller ailments like, oh I don’t know, POOR DIGESTION, asthma, and can even be the source of persistant sinus infections – all of which I suffer from. What causes inflammation? Poor diet. GASP!! Shocking? No. Specifically: wheat, gluten, dairy products, meat, white sugar, processed/packaged/prepared foods, and alcohol to name a few. It’s serious business, kids.

Click the link below for the recipe:

No More Flaming Stir Fry (Recipe PDF)

And here are the main things to notice:

  • Soy Sauce Replacement. We all love putting soy sauce in stir fry. I have a gallon jug of Kikkoman in my fridge. But guess what? Soy sauce is not gluten free. It’s true! Look at the bottle. There are gluten free and raw brands you can find at Whole Foods, but personally I love Bragg’s Liquid Aminos – it’s pure, packed with protein, not fermented, not heated, gluten free, alcohol free, and preservative free. Give it a try. You’ll love it.
  • Turmeric. Did you know turmeric is a superfood? Neither did I, until I started researching and came across this fantastic article. A member of the ginger family, not only is turmeric widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it is now being discovered that its chief active nutrient, curcumin, can actually fight cancer, not to mention dozens of everyday ailments. The point: use it!!
  • Brown Rice. I know many people are not fans of brown rice, but that’s usually because they are not buying the right kind, nor are they cooking it properly. Go for short grain brown rice (find it in bulk at Whole Foods) and bake it, don’t cook it on the stovetop. For more detail and the recipe, check out this blog post of mine. Brown rice is gluten free and definitely on the anti-inflammatory list. Just be sure to use modest quantities. Notice there is just a sprinkling in the picture.
  • Coconut Oil. I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy this at Trader Joe’s for a while now. Not only does it have great flavor, it is heart-healthy and has many health benefits. You should avoid vegetable oil at all costs and stick to cold pressed extra virgin olive oil or other organic unrefined nut oils like coconut, walnut, and even avocado (though they are all really expensive).  TJ’s has very affordable cold pressed olive oil.
  • Garlic, ginger, shitake mushrooms, broccoli, onion, Sriracha (chili peppers). All are super anti-inflammatory foods! Yes!
  • Eggs are yummy, but beware you should only eat them 2 times per week, lest they could become a source of inflammation. Pay attention to your body and how you feel when you eat them. I really wanted egg in my stir fry, so that’s what happened. :-)

Hope you enjoy as much as I do. What do you think about all this anti-flammatory talk? Share your thoughts. And let me know how you like the recipe!!

Here are more resources to check out:

Seven Spices/Foods that Could Save Your Life
Anti-Inflammatory Pyramid and Diet
Know Your Cruciferous Vegetables!