Chipping Away and Fighting Inflammation

Anti Inflammatory Food PyramidIt’s Monday, and since I didn’t give you one last week, I do believe it’s time for a weight loss post. I have to confess to all of you: I came very close to falling off the wagon entirely last week. Like, fall off, tumble down a hill, and smack my face on a tree trunk. Why? Well, let’s see. A few weekends ago when I went on retreat, I pretty much resigned to the fact that I would abandon my healthy ways for a few days. And abandon it, I did. The problem with me (and maybe some of you can relate to this) is that when I start on a course of bad eating, it tends to snowball and gets very difficult for me to regain perspective. In the case of eating not so great foods, I get into the mentality of “well, I already ate this, so you might as well just go ahead and eat that,” which is a very dangerous mind set, but one I’ve never been able to help. My parents will tell you that even as a kid I never knew when to stop. It’s like I was born with a switch missing. Though I have gotten better over the years, it is still a very real battle for me. And this is partly because bad foods are addicting – they are easy, comforting, filling… who doesn’t want to eat them all the time?

After getting back from retreat I dove immediately back into bootcamp but the whole week I continued to struggle with my food choices. I think the real reason for the difficulty was because I lost sight of my goal. I was getting so comfortable with my slimmer body and all the wonderful comments from people that I began to lose sight of the bigger goal I had set for myself. It was just too easy to indulge in all those crappy foods and convince myself that I am content where I am, which is absolutely not true.

But, luckily, by the end of last week I was able to pull myself out of it. If you follow me on facebook, you may have seen my post on anti-inflammatory foods. Last week I was discussing my diet with my colon hydrotherapist and she was telling me that my breathing, my being prone to sinus infections, and my poor digestion are likely all connected. The culprit? Inflammation.  She pointed me in the direction of Dr. Andrew Weil’s webpage where I found the pyramid above. Some of the information I found unsurprising. For example, many of the foods that cause inflammation are also ones that cause digestive problems, i.e. white sugar, white flour, wheat, gluten, dairy products, meat. And then there were other things that totally blew my mind – apparently one should never eat raw mushrooms. Only cooked, and only Japanese – who knew!? If you click on the picture above it will bring you to the website where you can explore the pyramid in more detail, which I highly recommend. It was this new angle that helped bring me back on the right track. If this can help me feel better AND help me lose weight, why wouldn’t I want to give it my all? And that is what I’ll do. Besides, how will I really feel when I reach my 30th birthday and not be where I want to be? Not an option!

For numbers, I’m currently stuck at 207, but I am confident I’ll be seeing some serious progress this week. Tune in tomorrow for an anti-inflammatory stir fry that will make you excited to be healthy. Happy Monday and see you tomorrow!

Healthy Goodness in Eagle Rock

Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup Four CafeBeyond the 5 freeway towards Pasadena lies a mystical land called Eagle Rock. Charming, hipster, and increasingly trendy, it’s a fun little place filled with lots of unique little boutiques and restaurants that I always remember I’m dying to try when I drive through. This past week I got to one of them – Four Cafe on Colorado Blvd, a fully organic restaurant boasting seasonal dishes made from exclusively local-bought ingredients. Structured like many restaurants are in Los Angeles these days,  you order at the counter, pay, then take a number and your food is brought to you. I’m not sure how I feel about this apparent fad in restaurant dining, but I guess I don’t have much choice. Besides, I’m a big fan of the earth-toned decor in this place. Rustic wooden tables, earthy wall treatments, plenty of outdoor seating, and an absurdly friendly girl behind the counter who had thorough knowledge of everything she was selling and was more than happy to chat us up about it – big points there. Nothing more attractive than a place that is proud about what they serve.

Now when one hears that a restaurant is fully organic and local, it can often lead to thoughts of boredom and salad and… vegans. But such is not the case at Four Cafe. Yes, there is plenty to choose from if you’re a vegan or gluten free, but they also have items like the short rib grilled cheese made with braised short ribs, gruyere, onion, and horseradish, served on foccacia. My friend Kevin got this and was not at all disappointed. A quick peruse of yelp and you can find huge praise for their fish burger, house-made with fresh mahi mahi served on a brioche bun. My mouth waters just typing this. But on the day I visited I was not super hungry, so I opted for a bowl of soup. For those of you trying to watch your weight, soup is always a good go-to in restaurants, particularly when they are house made and vegan like they are here. Supremely earthy and satisfying with just enough wild rice to add a pop of texture. It warms you up and makes you feel good about yourself for making such a good decision. In fact I felt so good that I opted for one of their vegan gingersnap cookies. Moist, spicy, and absolutely delicious. I deserved it. On my list of things to try are the fish burger (of course) and the roasted veggie root salad, which comes with a chili mint dressing. Also – brown butter apple pop tarts!!! Mmmm.  I have to say, I love when a restaurant like this isn’t afraid to have some indulgent food along side all their vegan local wholesome creations. It shows they aren’t pretentious – they really want to attract everyone, which is really important for a starving artist. Sometimes I want vegan soup, and sometimes I want an apple pop tart.

I think what gets me about these “take-a-number” kind of places is that at the end of the day I don’t feel like I’m saving any money by not having to tip a waiter. My bowl of soup and cookie came to $10.36. Worth it, yes, but I know if I had gotten a full salad or sandwich I would have been well over $15, which is not really a starving artist friendly kind of lunch. But in this case I’m ok with it because for one I know the ingredients are of the highest quality, and for another I am getting a meal that I can feel really good about eating. Let’s face it, eating out healthy is not cheap, but a place like Four Cafe is your best bet for getting a good healthy bang for your buck.

So, if you find yourself in Eagle Rock in the mood for a meal you can feel really good about (or a short rib grilled cheese!!), then definitely give Four Cafe a try.

Four Cafe
2122 1/2 Colorado Blvd.
Eagle Rock, CA 90041
www.fourcafe.net

Click here to read my review on YELP

Hanging with Neptune

Neptune's NetSo I mentioned last week I was going on retreat with GMCLA in Malibu. Did you really think the starving artist would make a hike up the PCH into Malibu without indulging in some great seafood? No no. On Sunday morning two of my chorus friends and I were determined to get some beach time in before we headed back to real life, so we wandered out the camp ground, across the highway, and spent a bit of time basking in the glory of the alarmingly windy Malibu coast. Glorious. As we turned back we saw Neptune’s Net, a precious little beachside fish restaurant, staring at us from across the way. I had seen it on the way in (impossible to miss) and of course had been intrigued. We decided that even though the food at the campground had been quite good, it was worth at least a stop in to see what was going on.

Like any good beach-side seafood joint, Neptune’s Net is more of a shack than anything else. Plastic chairs and picnic tables outdoors, no-frills booths with self service on the inside, no shirts required, lots of motorcycles, colorful clientele, and real fresh-caught fish…. we must be on the beach. And we were. As if the atmosphere wasn’t enough, I looked at the menu and saw fish and chips for $9.95 – hesitation? no. Any quality seafood one can find for less than $10 is a treasure, but when I saw these fish and chips come out I was giddy. Why? The traditional/English way of doing fish and chips uses a thick batter, often made with beer, that coats the fish and creates a solid, crispy, cocoon-like shell around the fish. Where I’m from (Boston, baby!) we do the fish with a flour coating. It gives it a thin and crispy exterior – much lighter than a beer batter. Neptune’s Net makes it light and crispy. Not sure exactly what their breading is (not just simply flour), but whatever it was I looooovvvved it. Fresh fish, amazing crust. Took me home. Though I have to confess, their fries were a bit under cooked – gotta make ‘em crunchy, Neptune! I also tried the clam chowder, which was unfortunately way too thick to be taken seriously. My friend David went for shrimp tacos, which were excellent and served with a yogurt sauce reminiscent of Tzatziki: very fresh and very california. Malibu Coast Neptune's Net

Honestly, eating seafood at the beach on a day like this one? There’s just no way I wouldn’t be happy. But it definitely helps that Neptune’s Net is totally affordable, totally fresh, and totally rad. I can’t wait to come back up here with a car full of friends when I’m in need of a beach-and-seafood fix. Starving artist heaven!

Neptune’s Net
42505 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
www.neptunesnet.com

Click here to read my review on YELP

Quaint Thai in Silverlake

Vegetarian Spring RollsSome weeks ago, in the midst of the bitter Los Angeles winter (ha), my friend Sherri and I decided to combat the cold by seeking out some warm, soul filling Thai food. Sherri suggested an adorable little place in her neck of the woods called Leela Thai, a quaint little shack-of-a-place  on Silverlake Blvd that has an exterior brimming with foliage and quirk. The restaurant’s dining room is cozy, barely big enough for 20 people. Luckily the Los Angeles cold keeps the natives at home, so we were practically the only ones in there (which was admittedly still a little strange for a Friday night). It’s hard to get a read on the atmosphere with so few people in the place, but I can say that the family-run business absolutely felt that way with their warm and friendly staff. I was particularly enamored with their unique table dressings. Instead of just plain glass, they lined each table with handwritten notes, old polaroids, and various other memorabilia  from customers and family members. A very colorful touch to what would be an otherwise nondescript dining area.

As for food. We shared the vegetarian spring rolls, which were hot and delicious – easily could have railed through another order. I had their wonton soup, which was very well done and absolutely perfect for such a cold evening. For my entree I ordered a shrimp combo meal, which comes with rice (and allows you to add soup for only $2). Though tasty, it was not exactly what I was hoping for. A very scant portion of clumsily chopped vegetables and a few shrimp that really had to be combined with all the rice to make a substantial meal. However, a place that will serve brown rice without charging me extra for it always scores mega points in my book. Sherri got the pad thai, which they fouled up on the first pass by adding chicken (she is a vegetarian). The mistake was fixed quickly and with a smile – always a good thing. LeelaThai1

At the end of the day we were able to enjoy a meal with appetizers and soup for less than $30, which is never a bad thing for the always wallet-deficient starving artist. Though a quiet restaurant can be suspicious, it is always good for catch up and gossip, of which there was plenty. While I was not completely blown away by my experience here, I do look forward to returning when I’m in the mood for some cheap, decent thai food in a quaint and intimate setting.

Leela Thai
1737 Silverlake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
www.leelathaila.com

Click here to read this and other reviews on YELP

Purple Smoothie

Purple SmoothieDid you know that foods that are naturally purple (like blueberries or acai berries) are exceptionally high in antioxidants are therefore are super good for you? It’s true. Back in 2010 when I first began my weight loss journey, before I discovered juicing, I would have a purple smoothie every morning with a slice of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread. It is such a good breakfast. In fact I may just have to start doing it again.

Blend all of the ingredients below in a magic bullet or whatever blender system you have. I specify the Sambazon variety of acai berry juice because this is the brand they carry at Costco – it’s 2 bottles for $10, whereas one bottle will run you around $7 at Whole Foods. I also get all my frozen berries at Costco. Usually I buy one of their huge bags of frozen strawberries and either frozen blackberries or whatever berry blend they have available. It lasts for weeks and is such a good bang for your buck. As far as bananas go, the more ripe the better. If you like your smoothies extra thick and cold you can freeze the bananas once they’re ripe and add them to  your smoothie that way. At the end of the day, it’s your smoothie, so put in whatever you like – I’d love to hear your variations!

The Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup Sambazon acai berry juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 fresh or frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blackberries or blueberries
  • 1 large frozen strawberry
  • 1 generous squeeze of honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground flaxseed
  • pinch of old fashioned rolled oats
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt (optional)

Now I am not an advocate of protein powders and the like because at the end of the day they are super processed products that your body will have trouble digesting. However, if you must, this smoothie will be a perfect vehicle for that or any kind of powdered or liquid supplement you take.