The "Easy" Way

I am an extravagant girl. I will admit that for sure. My dad used to tease me and tell me that I'd better find a really wealthy man to put up with my shenanigans. You could put three items in front of me (without pricetags), ask me which one I liked the best and undoubtedly, everytime, I would choose the most expensive. Though I have exorbitant taste, I also have a hard time letting go of money. Once you give it to me, I just want to keep it. In order to pay my bills, I have to mentally prepare for the task, pour myself a glass of wine, and take many a deep breath so that my eyes don't well up with tears everytime I hit the "submit payment" button.

I was having one of those "submit payment" days and decided that, no matter what, I would NOT go to Whole Foods and spend MORE money on things I may or may not eat. Nor would I go and purchase weird and off the wall ingredients for that lone dish I would probably only make once in my life. No. I was going to use whatever I had, no matter how obscure, to feed myself that night. No matter how long I had to labor to make it work. Unfortunately for me, I noticed that it was going to take a bit of brainstorming to make what I had in the refrigerator work for me. Whole Foods was starting to softly call my name.

So I was faced with a link of Bratwurst that would finish off the package, yogurt, some leftover pork stock from my pork and bean fiasco (another time, another post), chicken stock, leftover capellini, half a tomato, frozen spinach, tortilla chips, a cucumber, colby cheese and an orange. Thrilling choices, wouldn't you say? I also had the benefit of kitchen staples (eggs, butter, milk, flour, herbs) that could carry me through. So I took inventory, poured a glass of Rose (this meal would have to compliment that too, I suppose) and sat down to create my masterpiece. My FREE masterpiece.

I was a little chilly that day, so I thought maybe a soup would be nice. I'll use the pork stock? I went to check it out again and noticed that it was totally congealed. Wonderful. So I suppose the chicken stock would be a better choice. I was kind of over the capellini after eating it for two days, so that got eliminated. I wasn't all too keen on a spinach soup with cucumber. I was kind of hungry and didn't think a broth would cut it. The only meat in the fridge was that lone sausage. Do you know how much fat and sodium is in a link of bratwurst? I won't tell you, you don't want to know. Trust. Then the lightbulb went off. I even found a way to use that congealed pork stock.

A while back, I'd seen an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain (one of my favourite shows) and I think he was in Shanghai. His guide took him to a breakfast spot where soup dumplings were being served. I watched as the cooks made the dumplings and watched as the guide instructed Anthony on how to eat his without getting burned. I remembered that they explained how they got the soup in that little bitty dumpling and realized I could do the exact same in my kitchen at home. The secret was gelatin. The pork stock becomes like a gelatin when simmered for a long time and when it cools, it's almost solid. It looks like the same congealed mess that graced my refrigerator shelf. You can combine the gelatin with the pork and since it's solid, you can fill your dumplings quite easily. When they are warmed, the pork gelatin becomes liquid again and the soup is encased in the dumpling. It wasn't too difficult and I impressed myself so that I had to brag to everyone I knew that I had made homemade Xiao Long Bao, like it was an everyday thing.

I made pasta from an egg and flour in the proper Italian way. I know it sounds brutal, but it's really not that hard. It takes about 5-7 minutes to make the pasta dough and 10 minutes to press it out (I totally "borrowed" my mom's pasta machine). Once you press it out all you have to do is cut it into squares. I took the casing off of the bratwurst sausage and placed a small bit of pork in the center of each pasta square. I topped it off with a bit of the gelatinous pork stock then wrapped it up (albeit crudely) in the shape of a dumpling. I boiled the dumplings until they floated to the top and steamed the frozen spinach. Done and done! Place the spinach at the bottom of a bowl, place the dumplings on top. Add a bit of soy sauce (this step can be eliminated if you are really following the rules) and pour warmed chicken stock into the bowl Garnish with scallions and serve. Viola! The broth is soothing, the spinach refreshing and the soup dumplings burst in your mouth. Delicious.

p.s. I used the rest of the sausage for taco salad later that night :)

What you'll need:

Bratwurst sausage: 1 link
Spinach (frozen or fresh)
Pork stock gelatin (I made my own, but you can substitute a consomme with gelatin)
Chicken stock

The Deal:
(per serving)
Calories: 223; Fat: 9.5g; Protein: 13.6g; Carbs: 20g


I'm a Rainbow Too!

Every year, I end up on a beach on various parts of the island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten. Every year, I end up on my back with the hot sun burning my skin, grooving on a slight buzz, fantasizing a simple, barefoot, sundrenched existence with a bit of sand at the nape of my neck, a guitar and a Heineken. Every year, I question why I live in a big city (at least when I lived in Manhattan) when I could live right there, on the beach, teaching myself French.

Robert wonders the same thing. Robert is a familiar face that hangs at Brice Paradise
in SXM. You'll catch him at the bar with an El Presidente or fishing out in the waters just off Baie Orientale. I don't know him very well, but he always remembers me. He too, wonders why I choose the life of a big, dirty city. I imagine that he lives his life the way they say Bob Marley used to. I read somewhere that Bob used to wake up at some ridiculous hour, like 5am. You know, one of those random hours that's not inappropriately early, but entirely abnormal. He'd take a run on the beach, probably for miles and pick a banana on the way. He'd fish for lunch, lighting a spliff while wood burned atop the flames of a crudely built fire (wait, I think I made that part up). Robert fishes for lunch. He fishes for a lovely snapper and fires up the crude grill that's on the sand just beyond Brice's main shack. The grill looks like it may fall apart at any moment and you can't believe such a delightful meal will come from such a clear and obvious hazard. He doesn't need much, just the fish, a bit of olive oil, a bit of butter, and frankly, whatever else is around.

I don't think I've ever had a grilled whole fish the way I have it in St. Martin. It's always grilled to perfection and tastes just like the sea. Brice opens a Heineken for me while we all pick apart our fish; our toes in the sand.

There is something so simple and honest about that lonely fish on a raw grill. It always made me long for that kind of instictive self reliance. Fearless participation in my own self sustinance. The ability to get down in there, use what you've got to create a wonderfully simple and delicious meal.

Every year (at least until the new airport was built) I stand in line in a little yellow and green shack waiting for my flight back to the mainland. Every year I feel nostalgic and already eager for the next year's visit. Thinking about all the things I didn't get to do or people I didn't get to see.

But mostly I'm content. The trip was worthwhile. I ran on the beach, picked a banana and fished for lunch. Then I think, I wonder if I can grab a Heineken before I board the plane?

Here in D.C., I don't have waters to fish from, so I head to The Wharf down on Maine street in Southwest. One of the last open air fish markets in the country, the seafood is fresh and the atmosphere is honest and real. Cesar tells me to come on Wednesdays and Fridays when the fish is right off the boat and there are a ton of choices. Shark? For real?

Whole Red Snapper (serves 2)

What you'll need:

fresh whole red snapper
olive oil
onion (i like a sweet red)
lemon thyme
black pepper
cayenne pepper
lemon slices

Open your cleaned whole fish and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne. Tuck a few thinly sliced red onion and sprigs of lemon thyme inside the cavity and place a few small pats of butter atop, then close the fish gently. Slash the fish along its body for even cooking. Prepare your grill and ignite your coals. Brush the grill lightly with olive oil and place the snapper on the grill. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes then uncover and cook for another 5 minutes. Flip the fish and follow the same instructions for the second side. Plate and serve with a few grilled plaintains, rice and beans, or cole slaw.

The Deal:
Calories: 363; Fat: 10.7g; Carbs: 3.4g; Protein: 59.8g


Soul Food

After an emotionally and physically heavy holiday, my body and soul needed a good cleansing. My dear and highly enlightened friend Alexis mentioned that she was detoxing with a cleanse that wasn’t your typical lemonade and cayenne fast. It was a simple combination of liquids that gave you lifeforce energies in the well touted green drink and simple vegetable broth. Special teas and hot water with lemon that naturally rinse the body clean of toxins and act as natural diuretics were also in the mix.

I was eager to try just about anything as my mind was starting to feel cluttered, not to mention the inbox on my desk was starting to overflow as well. Cluttered space, cluttered mind? I needed a total overhaul. Total and complete organization. Organized space, organized mind.

So after a divinely chocolate brunch at Coco Sala celebrating Alexis’ 28th year, I drove straight to the market and stocked up on the fruits and vegetables I would need to embark on this week’s cleanse. Alexis usually does a cleanse every Monday, but I was in need of some major scrubbing, so mine would last five days.

Grocery List

for your Green Drink:

Swiss Chard



Sprouts (I chose alfalfa)

for your Broth:





Herbs: Parsely, Rosemary, Thyme, herbs de provence

I prepared the broth the way I would any broth. I grabbed my stock pot and roughly chopped the onion (I used a large red one), celery and carrot and sauteed it all in a bit of olive oil. I crushed the garlic cloves and threw them in as well. In went the rosemary, thyme and a sprinkle of herbs de provence. I added a little salt and ground black pepper and let the vegetables soften. None of this was measured, so if you're embarking, just eyeball it all. Once the onions were translucent, I filled my pot to the top with ice cold water, turned the burner down to medium low and let it simmer until about 2am. Considering I started when Gossip Girl came on, I’d say the broth was simmering for a good 6 hours.

Before bed, I prepared for the day ahead with a mug of hot lemon water (diuretic, ding ding ding!)

The next morning I was ready to begin. As I got out my juicer and rinsed off the dust, I became aware of how long it had been out of commission. I decided to juice all the ingredients separately, so I could see what colours I would get out of the fresh ingredients. The apple juice was a delicate apricot in colour, the cucumber a bright and lively leaf green, while the disappointment in the group was the chard. By no surpirise, it came out brown because, well that’s what you get when you mix complimentary colours. The gorgeous red streaks in combination with the dark green of the leaves created a colour more suitable for a suede skirt, (I say that because I have one in that exact shade).

I had been a bit skeptical that I would enjoy juiced swiss chard, but in combination with the apples and cucumbers, as it turned out, the green drink was delicious! I had just fallen back in love with my juicer.

The Deal: serving size: this recipe will yield about 6-8oz. of juice Calories: 77; Fat: .1g; Protein: 1.4g; Carbs: 12.4g

I strained my broth and stored them in pitchers in the fridge. So convenient for me to grab a cup, sprinkle on some green onion and go.

The Deal: serving size: 8oz; Calories: 15; Fat: 0; Carbs: 3g

While washing my juicer and silently patting myself on the back for being so good to my body, I noticed that I was rinsing out quite a bit of pulp. Since I’m trying to adopt some, albeit not all, elements of macrobiotics, I decided that I couldn’t let it go to waste. That’s still a lot of nutrients, is it not? Nutrients that should have gone into my body based on this idea of whole foods. I didn’t want to make anything boring, like a cream of whatever soup, although after the cleanse that could be an option. I wanted to make something that would keep until my “Life as a Better Me” kickoff week allowed solid foods. Part of me, I can’t lie, wanted to be a little bad too. Everything is okay in moderation, right? Isn’t that what this is all about?

It’s no fun being bad unless you’ve got a girlfriend who’ll join you. So as a thank you to Alexis for suggesting the path to follow, I’ve made her a little care package. Charlotte cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. A little bit of good and a little bit of bad, all wrapped up with a bow.


The Rules

First and foremost, let me preface that I am not medically trained and am in no way qualified to tell you what is best for your health and your body. I can only tell you what I've learned and what works, through experience consulting a nutritionist, in order to lose weight. As with any weight loss regimen, you should consult your doctor before you begin.

disclaimer translation: if you fall out in the street because you were following my rules;
so not my fault.

With that said, let me give you a little insight as to what you're getting yourself into... nutritional boot camp. There is no other way to put it. Some of the rules are non negotiable and those were the ones I found most challenging. For example, no snacking. Umm, what?? Isn't that supposed to be the new way of eating? Grazing? 5-6 small meals a day? I've heard that religion over and over, but this particular regimen isn't having it.

Prior to my meeting with Don Roberto, I'd gotten my hands on his rule booklet. I obviously can't reprint it here (no time for lawsuits), but after a once over, my heart started to sink. This looked completely boring and totally limited. Immediately, I saw myself eating the same boring breakfast, discontent over my tasteless lunch, and envious at what my dinner date was ordering at the new hot bistro one can't hide from in NYC. I suppose that was why it was so hard to follow in the first place.

At my first consultation, the Don put me at ease. I asked him about rules #2 and #6. "Can I use one of the eggs raw, one of the bread slices as breadcrumbs, mix with scallions, parsley, and salmon, brown it up and have a salmon croquette?"

"Of course."

I also took a few tips from that ancient book published in the 90s called The Zone. Remember that one? The one Jennifer Aniston swore by, the one that prompted her to eat a Cobb Salad every single day on the set of Friends for however many years? It has some pretty good points and, to be honest, Jennifer doesn't look half bad. The ratio thing is what taught me the most because it made the most sense. The ratio was roughly 30/30/40. 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbs. To me it meant that if you balance your daily intake of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, no matter the amount of calories you consume, the overall effect is beneficial. That your body would have enough of each component to function at a productive rate. The trick is getting the most bang for your calorie while decreasing total daily caloric intake in order for your body to burn off more than it consumes. All the while taking into account personal tastes and preferences. That is the only challenge.

The Zone is fabulous overall ratio and balance, but there are other components to what we consume that aid or inhibit us from reaching our desired goal. Number one is sodium intake. It's absolutely amazing how bloated we all are. Salt might be the single most effective way to flavour a dish, however, one sprinkle from your salt shaker is enough sodium for the entire day. How do we get around this? Getting our sodium straight from the food instead of our shaker, counteracting natural sodium intake with natural diuretics, and using more herbs and spices. Salt is an easy way out. Talk to me about cayenne, cumin, chilies and cilantro.

We all know candy is the worst and the calories are totally useless, but sugar is in so many things not typically expected. There are, like, 12 grams of sugar in skim milk. Seriously? It's just everywhere and all it does is turn into fat. Ice cream for dessert every night? Say goodbye to your bikini. Fruit clearly has a lot of natural sugar, but aren't we all supposed to get a little fresh fruit into our diet? Absolumont, rock out on strawberries when they're in season. It's awesome for your hair. Keep the fruit intake to a minimum and when integrating into your diet, have it in the morning. That way, you have all day to work it off.

Eat everything in its entirety. Basically, throw out your peeler. Every flower is innately perfect. So is every leaf, root, and fruit. All nutrients that a zucchini has to give is in the meat and in the skin. Every green carrot top has something to offer. The skin of the apple is the core of its gift. You get it.

Fiber is one that has always eluded me... I am quite honestly still trying to work out how to incorporate it into my daily routine without drinking some freaky shake. I do favour black beans and limas, so perhaps you'll see a few recipes now and again.

I've created recipes (in accordance to Don Roberto's rules) that are "Zone compliant", easy on the sodium/sugar intake, and as whole as possible. As far as what you might want to accomplish on your own, see my recommendations below:

1. Take a multivitamin daily
2. Add a co-enzyme Q10 to that as well.. start with 50mg, one capsule per day.
3. Restrict fruit consumption to breakfast and lunch.
4. Animal protein should be as far from the mammal makeup as possible. First choice: fish; second: chicken and turkey; third: red meat.
5. Ease up on the bread... pita is underrated and has a lot more to offer. Keep this intake equal to one sandwich per day. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, I don't care, but just one serving (2 slices per day). This includes croutons, tortillas, and everything that could remotely be associated to bread products. Use your judgement as per portion, but do not exceed the equivalent of 2 slices.
6. An omelet a day if you want, but I would use those eggs in other dishes as well. Omelets are for brunch anyway. 2 eggs a day is your limit. Use at your discretion.
7. Pasta or Rice three times weekly. That's liberal.
8. No chinese food
9. No soy sauce (I cheat sometimes, admittedly, then berate myself after, so try to stay away)
10. No soda, diet soda, fruit "drinks" or anything of the sort
11. Limited alcohol consumption (limited to me, is a glass of vino with lunch and dinner, thank you)

Know your limits and react accordingly. I am not telling you to restrict completely, I'm just advising you to be mindful of what you ultimately choose. If you have a dense lunch, ease up on dinner. You have a breakfast sandwich, have a salad for lunch. Balance out your cravings and make them work for you.


That Skinny Little Bitch

What do I want? Honestly? I want to lose 10 pounds. I want to maintain a healthy, whole, sustainable diet without succumbing to total gastronomic boredom and I kind of want to do it while not totally destroying the earth or my body in the process. I want to be That Skinny Little Bitch. It's almost a compliment. You know the girl and you SO want to be her. That fabulous girl you see wherever, in an elevator, getting out of a cab, wherever... looking totally radiant, glowing and completely sexy without even trying. I worked with one at Calvin Klein. I can't remember her name, but I can see her face clearly. Her jeans looked perfect on her because she was no pilates slacker, her hair was shiny because she ate that "good fat', you know, the same stuff that keeps your skin looking healthy and clear? Anyway, yeah, I want to be her. I want someone to look at me and whisper to her friend, "Look at that girl! She's flawless and it's not botox, gastro OR lipo.... that skinny little bitch!"

This is what I mean:

"I want to lose 10 pounds"

I am kind of over turning on the Today Show and seeing the lastest "expert" talk about the newest thing in weight loss or optimum health. Even more so the look of complete shock and disbelief when you tell someone that in reality, there is no magic pill or surgical procedure. We all know the answer, we just don't want to do it because it's boring and we're lazy. There is nothing divinely delicious about tofu and brown rice, I'm sorry. I really wish there were... I really wish it tasted like my grandmothers mac and cheese, but it doesn't. I really wish I were the kind of girl that could go totally macrobiotic and start meditating and all that, but I'm just not. I know because I tried. I fell off with a bacon, egg and cheese after a night when Suede (now defunct NYC nightclub) was still cool. I am the girl who likes the butter. I am all about a properly indulgent gastronomic experience complete with barrels and barrels of wine. You may have noticed that I have used that word twice. Gastronomic. Now three times. I want you to know that I am serious. That food, wine, and culture are all very important to the culinary experience. It's no joshing matter. There is no reason we have to commit to boring diets and odd consumption methods in order to keep trim, so I am determined to bridge Julia Child with the infamous Diet Doctor of Manhattan, whom I'll call The Godfather, because, well.... he's that scary.

"I want to maintain a healthy, whole, and sustainable diet without succumbing to total gastronomic boredom"

The Godfather. If you are privileged enough to be able to book an appointment, I can be pretty confident that when I see you six weeks later, you'll have dropped a cool 15 to 20. A combination of consistency, ratio (perhaps a few pills) and sheer fear (disappointed Dons are never fun) and voila! Manhattan chic! The first time I came across "The Rules" (a little diet booklet of do's and don't's), I thought, well shoot, I don't need to go to a doctor to follow these strict rules. If I follow these do's and don't's for a week, I'll drop the weight anyway, it's so matter of fact! Strict it was, and it soon became crystal clear that I would need additional assistance in following "The Rules" as I was quickly becoming BFF with Chico, the pizza delivery guy from La Pizzeria. We were having a nightly affair.

I made my appointment with The Godfather on the heels of my new hobby, gourmet cooking. French Creole cooking to be specific, thus I was quite liberal with the cream and butter. I was convinced that it was going off the pill that had forced me to buy a size 28 Citizens, but deep down, I knew better. It was the Creoles. So when I reviewed "The Rules" with Don Roberto, I realized that half the groceries I had bought the night before would go to waste.

So I started to play. Play with the ingredients I was permitted. It became a game and I was convinced that I could maneuver these rules to my liking and forever omit the lunch of cottage cheese, whole wheat toast and tomatoes.

I came up with some good recipes and managed to drop a cool 17 pounds in the six weeks following. Not bad. Until that one night when I found myself back at Suede with a bacon, egg and cheese and Gatorade in hand the next morning....

"I want to do it all while not totally destroying the earth or my body in the process"

OK, I know I said earlier that I wasn't the macrobiotic type, but to be quite honest, some of the theories and practices totally make sense. I read the books, most of them by Kushi, and threw myself in, headfirst, into this glorious world of optimum health and glowing skin. The respect for what is put into the body and the reasons why is undeniably understandable. However, I can only take so much seaweed in my diet. Plus, I'm a bit of a meat eater and I like it. Look, we have 7 carnivorous teeth in our skulls, so clearly we are equipped to ravage the meat.

I'd like to support local farmers instead of corporate conglomerates and try to eat what's in season. I'd like to eat whole vegetables and fruits, never taking from them what I want and discarding the rest. I'd like to only ingest ingredients that my body can process (it knows what butter is... it has no idea about Country Crock, so I'll pass, thank you). I want to start eating well and eating green whilst treating my body like the shrine it is and all that good shizz...

With perhaps a little Gratin Dauphinois and Chatenauf du Pape every once in a while...

So. I invite you to get back on the wagon with me. Play along if you like. Trot alongside as I try to balance Aveline Kushi and Paula Deen. While I live by my "modified rules", the ones that keep you slim and your tastebuds in good spirits.