Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rules of “The Diet”

This summer, I decided to start eating better, in the hopes of being able to squeeze into a too-small dress. I really didn’t think I would continue The Diet after the first wedding, but then I realized just how easy it was. The Diet turned out to be my summer project. I even started a Twitter account to help me stay on track.

Anyway, I’m not quite sure where the rules of The Diet came from, but I must say that I was certainly inspired by Ed Levine’s Serious Diet, chronicled on Serious Eats. Moderation seems like such a simple concept, and yet, it’s such a difficult idea to put into practice.

I had a couple of false starts to The Diet before I realized that it’s not about sticking to a regime at all—it’s about changing your lifestyle. As it went on, it just got easier, but the start was a little rough.

So enough rambling. I’m just going to list the rules of The Diet as they pop into my head.

1. Eat until you don’t feel hungry anymore, not until you feel full. The brain takes time to realize your stomach is full, so if you eat until you’re full, you’ve already eaten too much. Overeating is a natural gift in my family, so this part was difficult for me at first.

Homemade banh mi

2. Eat less meat, so you can fill up on vegetables. A proper serving size of meat is smaller than the palm of your hand. Plus, eating less meat means that I won’t feel lethargic and bloated after every meal.

Greens for banh xeo

3. Eat more vegetables. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I have become a vegetarian, but I have tried some vegetarian options (especially for lunch) that I normally turn my nose at. Vegetables are like magic foods. They fill you without weighing you down, provide you with nutrients and vitamins, and keep you regular!

4. Drink more water. I have never been able to drink the eight glasses of water/liquids a day, so I would mistake thirst for hunger. It sounds a little dumb, but it’s true. I still struggle with staying hydrated. Drinking more water also helps to fill the stomach, which prevents you from overeating. Now, I try to drink a full glass of water during my meals, giving my brain a chance to figure out that my stomach is filling up.

5. Eat less salt. Salt = water retention = bloat = bad when trying to squeeze into a dress.

Minced garlic and Thai bird chili peppers

Chokingly spicy kimchi

6. Eat flavourful foods. When I started eating more vegetables, I realized that the tastiest item is normally the protein. With less meat and subsequently less flavour, my palate started to get bored. I started crave stinky foods (onions, garlic, fermented anything!) and spicy foods. This ensured that I didn’t miss the smaller portions of meat as much.

7. Stick to The Diet. If The Diet doesn’t work out one day, I try to make it up in the next 24 hours. It instils a sense of discipline and accomplishment when I get myself back on The Diet.

Japanese green tea (matcha) ice cream

8. Eat what makes you happy. There’s really no point in starting a diet if you’re going to be miserable the entire time. You’ll just quit sooner, so I made sure to eat what want. I just ate less of it and less frequently. Then, these little treats become a luxury and a reward.

Of course, diet isn’t the only key to losing weight and feeling better. Exercise is probably the easiest way to lose weight. Once you start getting fit, your body naturally craves healthier foods. I’ve also started walking further to get my lunch (gotta work for it!) and taking the stairs. I am still working on trying to run in the morning, but I don’t think I’ll chronicle that in this blog, unless I start taking pictures of where I’ve been.

So that’s pretty much it for The Diet! It looks like a lot of work, but once you get in the habit of making better food choices, it’s pretty easy.


Monday, August 24, 2009

The End of Summer is Near

Hey everyone, sorry it's been so long since our last post. It's the end of the summer and Lucy and I are getting very busy.

I started moving into my new place earlier today. It's close to Humber College, which was what I was looking for, in a nice neighbourhood. I'm so excited to finally have my own place! Woot! I won't be settled until the end of the week, but it might take a bit longer to adjust if i decide to spend the rest of the summer back in Ottawa. We'll see what happens this week.

Lucy is busy with work. That not sound like much, but what you don't know is that she's been trying to cram two full time positions into one day. Okay, it's not that bad. She's trying to do her own work, but at the same time, cover for someone who has left for the summer. Not only that, but she has paper work to do on the side... ahem... (Thanks so much!)

But yes... I've been working on editing pictures on upcoming blog entries. You can see a few on my Flickr page. I promise that I will post at least two entries before the week ends - if I go back to Ottawa. If not, then there won't be any entries from me. You see, being the procrastinator I am, I totally forgot to burn the pictures we took during the summer and bring them over here. Genius...

Oh, one last thing before I forget. We'll be creating a facebook fan page for those who are into that soon. Look for it in the near future.

~ Christine

Monday, August 03, 2009

Lunches with Lucy: Tomato Vegetable Soup, Chicken Souvlaki Pita, Banh Mi, and Pasta Salad – June 1 to 5, 2009

I don’t remember much about these lunches, so I’ll just type my notes out.

~ * ~

Tomato Veggie Soup and Veggie Panini from Café Deluxe – June 1, 2009

On June 1st, I had just started with The Diet. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll write a separate post about the rules of The Diet. There’s a quick explanation here.

Anyway, needless to say, eating lunch downtown can be hard on anyone with a diet to stick to.

I started by eating more soup because soup is a great way to eat more vegetables in a non-boring way. I noticed that many soups are really salty, which is bad for The Diet.

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This soup, however, was almost perfect. It was salty and tangy without being too salty or tangy. The large chunks of vegetables were definitely filling. I totally inhaled this soup because it reminded me of my mum’s tomato vegetable soup.

I also ate a grilled vegetable and feta panini, but I didn’t take any pictures. This is one of my favourite sandwiches. It contains grilled zucchini and eggplant, red peppers, red onions, tomatoes, and feta cheese. If you’re lucky, your sandwich may be overflowing with feta because the amount you receive is wholly dependent on who made your sandwich.

The grilled veggies were mushy to the point of being creamy—not good. The sandwich was packed with herbs and seasonings (oregano and something else I can’t place), but it needed a smidge more salt. It did match well with the soup, which was a tad salty. The feta wasn’t evenly distributed throughout the panini, so some bites didn’t have cheese at all. Those bites were sad mouthfuls. In the end, I liked it, and I even wrote, “Mouth is happily stinky!”

This cost $7.86 with tax.

~ * ~

Pita Extreme (As I Like to Call It) – June 3, 2009

For some strange reason, I keep calling Extreme Pita “Pita Extreme.” Maybe working around Francophones has finally rubbed off on me, but I do end up sounding a little stupid when “Pita Extreme” slips out.

Anyway, convinced that soup will help me stick within The Diet, I had it again from Extreme Pita.

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I got a small cup of Italian wedding soup. The pasta was mushy, but that was to be expected. After all, it had been sitting in a vat all morning. The meatballs were flavourful and yummy, but the texture was too bouncy and ended up feeling overprocessed. The spinach didn’t taste like anything. It did make me feel like I was eating a little healthier, though. The soup itself wasn’t too salty, which surprised me. I inhaled this little cup of soup, too. When I looked at the Extreme Pita website, I found out that the soup is from Campbell’s. This explains its general deliciousness because I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE Campbell’s canned soups! That sounds gross, but I don’t care.

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As a little aside, Extreme Pita has a neat way of packaging their wraps. The paper is perforated halfway down, and you’re supposed to peel off the top half to access the pita, instead of taking it out of the wrapper and making a huge mess of things. The instructions are even printed on the napkins! I still managed to make a mess, but that was entirely caused by my slobbish manners rather than a lack of insructions.

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I ordered the most delicious-sounding thing on the menu: the chicken souvlaki wrap. I only found out later that day that it also happened to be the wrap that had the most calories. Oops!

The pita itself was half whole wheat and half white, which I thought was neat. It certainly didn’t affect the flavour much. The wrap was lukewarm by the time I ate it because the chicken heated up the toppings. That made it rather meh. I would have liked more feta to perk it up, but I always want more cheese.

The chicken got lost in all of the vegetables, and I barely tasted it at all. The generic black olives were boring. It’s supposed to be a Greek pita, so shouldn’t they use good, Greek olives? The tomatoes were flavourless gobs, and they probably should have been chopped instead of sliced. I had a lot of problems trying to bite through them without pulling the entire slice out of the wrap. I think part of the blandness of the wrap could be partially attributed to the dressing they used. It felt a little oily, which could have easily muted the other flavours in the pita.

I noticed afterwards that it wasn’t overly stinky. It’s a good thing for most people working in an office environment, but I was having problems with eating a lot bland food. I need some element of stinky or spicy or tangy in order to enjoy food within The Diet.

The soup was $1.49 and the wrap (small) was $5.49. It wasn’t bad for a lunch under $10, but I could have gotten better food for the same price elsewhere. Also, the cashier didn’t attempt to upsell me to a combo which also includes another snack item or drink. Normally, this doesn’t bother me, but when I realized later that afternoon that I could have gotten more value for my money, I was annoyed.

~ * ~

Vie Bella and Homemade Banh Mi – June 4, 2009

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I ordered a large cup of minestrone soup from Vie Bella, fully intent on eating within The Diet. It was chock full of vegetables: onions, celery, carrots, zucchini, green beans, corn, potato, wax beans, and peas. It was like eating a garden! It also had pasta which was mush. At the bottom of the cup, I found bits of ham. They were probably deli meat rinds. I normally don’t mind this, but if I were vegetarian, I would be pretty upset by this.

The soup itself was neither salty enough nor flavourful enough. It came off rather blah. It tasted healthier than the Italian wedding soup from Extreme Pita, but the Italian wedding soup tasted a lot better. The crackers made the soup awesome.

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I bought the pasta salad from Vie Bella on a whim. I knew I had a sandwich waiting for me, but I was really craving the pasta salad. When I brought it back to my desk, I didn’t intend on eating it. The soup wasn’t interesting to eat, so I had a few bites of the pasta salad. Before I knew it, the pasta salad was gone! Another oopsie. Apparently the pasta salad was good that day, except for the overdone fusili, but the cheese and olives made up for it. I was almost full at this point.

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The night before, we grilled some marinated chicken thighs for dinner. I used the leftovers to assemble an interpretation of a banh mi sandwich. I baked one of those half-baked, frozen baguettes from Costco, spread it with pepper pâté, cut up the chicken, and tossed in coleslaw and cilantro. I was surprised that it never occurred to me to make banh mi at home.

It didn’t taste quite the same as buying one from Toronto or Montréal, but it was still pretty damn good. Unfortunately, the large cup of soup and pasta salad completely filled me, so I only had a few bites. I left the sandwich in the fridge to eat for lunch the next day.

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To wash it all down, I bought a bottle of green tea ginger ale from Canada Dry. I really love this stuff! I love ginger ale to begin with, so adding a hit of green tea made it super DUPER awesome! I think I have this at least once a week because it’s so good. I like to add water to it after I’ve already finished half the bottle, to water down the carbonation. It’s such a pleasant, mellow soft drink.

In total, I spent $7.50 on my lunch. The pop was about $2.00 and the small container of pasta salad cost $2.85 before tax. These pricey items are definitely a treat thing because I can’t justify spending that much on such small items all the time.

~ * ~

Café Deluxe’s Blannnnnnnnnnnnnnnd Soup – June 5, 2009

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I still had the banh mi leftover from the day before, so I just grabbed a cup of soup. This time, I went to Café Deluxe for chicken noodle. The noodles were HUGE and were totally mush. The kind of mush that disintegrates in your mouth when it touches your tongue. The kind of mush that induces involuntary gagging.

The broth was flavourless and very greasy. It was also very hot, which definitely surprised me. I was upset because I burnt my tongue to shit for expensive, flavourless hot noodle water (Friends reference anyone?).

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I found tons of pre-ground black pepper swimming at the bottom of the bowl. This perplexed me. How could there be this much pepper, and yet STILL have no flavour whatsoever? I was not happy with this and wouldn’t order it again.

The soup cost $3.94. Ouch.

On a much happier note, I loved the banh mi, but no surprise there.

~ * ~

Café Deluxe
77 Metcalfe Street
(Albert and Metcalfe, facing the bus shelters)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 231-2226

Extreme Pita
108 Bank Street
(Bank and Albert)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 680-7483

Vie Bella
87 Sparks Street
(Between Metcalfe and Elgin)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 230-0666

Sunday, August 02, 2009

After-Dinner Snacks on Dalhousie: Shawarma and Bubble Tea – June 18, 2009

After our Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival volunteer orientation session, Christine and I were disappointed to see that the food vendors weren’t completely set up yet. Lame. We decided to head downtown for some quick snacks.

Since Kingston doesn’t have a shawarma place I enjoy, I was ready to sell my soul for a proper spicy-salty-sweet-spicy-savoury-sour-spicy wrap. Just thinking about it again makes my mouth water.


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We settled on getting something from Marroush, one of my favourite shawarma-eries in Ottawa. It’s a small place, strategically located to sate the hunger pangs of the drunk clubbers and bar-hoppers pouring out into the street after last call. Hordes of obnoxiously loud people descend upon these tiny little takeout shops. It’s scary. To avoid this scene, don’t go looking for food downtown after 1:30 AM if you’re sober. It can be a traumatizing experience.

Anyway, I digress. Christine and I went on a Thursday evening, past dinner time, so we had our shawarmas in about five minutes. No crowds to fight off, shout over, or shove over in order to get our food.

When the man behind the counter asked how I wanted my shawarma, I enthusiastically replied, “All-dressed!” But then he continued to ask me if I wanted each topping, which puzzled me.

“Onions?” “Yes, please!”

“Hummus?” “Yes, please!”

“Hot sauce?”

At this point, I was confused. “Yes, please! But why do you keep asking me if I want each topping after I asked for ‘all-dressed’?” I asked. “I like everything on my shawarma!”

“Because no one actually means ‘all-dressed.’ Once I start putting on the toppings, people start getting upset about hummus or hot sauce. No one ever wants the hot sauce,” he told me. “You’re the only person to ask for ‘all-dressed’ and then actually eat an ‘all-dressed’ shawarma.”

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We all laughed about it, but then we realized he wasn’t joking. Three or four more people came into Marroush (separately) while Christine and I were eating, and all of them ordered their shawarma “all-dressed.” Sure enough, while the man asked them if they wanted onions, hummus, and hot sauce, each customer modified their order. One of the orders were so particular that it totally defeated the purpose of ordering an all-dressed shawarma to begin with!

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Judging from this picture, I think my shawarma had pickled turnip (the hot pink stuff), pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, hummus, sweet sauce, and hot sauce. There might be something else, but I think that covers it. I just know that I like my shawarma all-dressed, with garlic and hot sauce. When I’m feeling frisky, I ask for sweet and hot sauce instead, which is what I had here.

This totally hit the spot. Hot pita from being in the sandwich press to heat it up, fresh toppings, lots of sauce and stink. I could have died then and there and would have been happy.

Christine customised her wrap, since she doesn’t like all of the toppings. I’ll have to wait for her feedback on it, if she remembers.

Bellies full of stinky, chicken-y goodness, we walked a little further down Dalhousie for some bubble tea from Bubblicity.

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I guess I was feeling pretty good that day because I didn’t order my favourite—large lychee iced green tea with pearls. Instead, I ordered a regular strawberry iced green tea with lychee jelly. It was interesting, but way too sweet. It would be nice on a hot summer day, biting into the lychee jelly, because the jelly doesn’t weigh you down the way boba (pearls) would.

Christine may have ordered the classic black tea latte with pearls, but it could have easily been an almond black tea latte. Ah, the pitfalls of posting about food almost two months after the fact.

This was one of the most successful food adventures we’ve had because we were happy with everything we ate. I guess it wasn’t really a food adventure since we visited places we’ve already been to, but sometimes, it’s just comforting to eat what we like, crave, and know what to expect. Who says routine has to be boring? I only wish things like shawarma and bubble tea were within The Diet....

~ * ~

Marroush International Shawarma
160 Rideau Street
(Rideau and Dalhousie)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 321-6990

Bubblicity Tea Shop
379 Dalhousie Street
(Dalhousie and Rideau)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 562-8388


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