Friday, November 27, 2009

Is it Possible to Calorie Count During the Holidays?

It's pretty easy to figure out the trend under scrutiny for this blog entry by the title, but if not, it is "Calorie Counting." A very popular trend out there in the world of staying fit, getting in shape, or shedding the pounds. Around 3,690,000 websites came up when googling "calorie count;" including sites for determining one's daily calorie intake or counting up each individual ingredient in your meals, snacks and drinks throughout the day.

Now I am by no means a skinny-minny, nor am I trying to be, but while I was training for the 1/2 Marathon it was incredibly important that I didn't try to run 7 miles on 1,000 calories or I was asking to pass out in pure embarrassment amongst the sportsbra-wearing/protien-shake toting athletes of the gym. So about 4 months ago I jumped on the bandwagon and began eating through my days by numbers. 

However, the beef I have with calories counting, no pun intended, but I like food. I enjoy eating and in fact once I am finished eating I am thinking about my next meal choice. I plan my days around what will be cooked and what meals will be spent eating out. My mouth begins salivating the moment the Food Network channel flips across the screen. And just like every other American I plan my social life around food. But if I were an avid calorie counter my numbers would put many bank deposits to shame. 

I don't know how the Kate Moss's of the world can handle their lack of food. Moss is again lighting up more than just the cameras with her most recent verbal throw-up: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." She probably doesn't care to calorie count because then that would require her to actually insert food into the dark hallows of her cavernous cheeks.

For example on a random day the Southern Style Chicken Breakfast Sandwich; 400 calories. Barbacoa Chipotle burrito bowl; 1230 calories Doritos; 250 calories Twix Bar; 560 Bottle of Dr. Pepper; 250 calories. That's 2690 calories and I haven't even had dinner which could add an additional 600 calories. 

But it is a hard battle between eating too little and eating too much. I feel like a wafe if I miss a meal and I feel like a walking lard bucket if I eat too much. So I have decided, as long as used in a healthy manner, calorie counting could be a good mathematical balance between eating enough and avoiding overeating.

I've decided to test out my eating habits on Turkey Day. Looking through multiple calorie calculators I have determined on an average day I should eat around 2200 calories to maintain my weight and around 1700 calories to lose weight. This is based on many different calculations; my age, weight, height, and activity rate. 

If this is what I should do on a daily basis I am obviously going to give myself a little breather room for Turkey day, but I thought it would be interesting to actually see how far over I am or how conscious I actually am of the food. (I am running a 4 miler the morning of to help establish a similar activity level for the rest of my daily caloric intake). 

So here goes:

The Turkey  - 450
Stuffing - 400
Mashed Potatoes - 350
Gravy - 300
Apple Pie (1 slice) - 400
Pecan Pie (1 slice) - 650
Dr. Pepper (2 cans) - 500
Broccoli Salad with Bacon - 350
Wine (2 glasses) - 600
Chocolate Covered Pretzels - 200
Chocolate Covered Bananas - 200
Rolls w/butter (2) - 600
Beer (2 bottles) - 320
Veggies and Ranch Dip - 400
That comes down to a total of ..........wait for it......wait for it.....5,720!!

In conclusion, I have decided counting calories is not very successful during the holidays. In fact, the thought that I was even going to keep track of what I was eating, threw me off a bit. It made me second guess what I was putting in my mouth and what the caloric repercussions would turn out to be. 

It looks like I probably should’ve run a marathon before the American day of food consumption and turkey comatoses.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Taking Leaf Peeping to New Heights

Walking around Boston to see the fall foliage: 

Taking a scenic drive through the hills of New England: 

Going on a hike through the woods and taking pictures: 

Stepping off a a platform, attached to a tree, zipping along suspended from a metal latch and dense wire 200 feet in the air, and checking out the fall foliage from above...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When in the Bronx...

When in the Bronx do as the Bronxzonians

I have found that New Yorkers do not like to eat at chain restaurants, in fact a sure-fire sign that you are either new to Manhattan or that you are a tourist is where you eat. As convenient, cheap and tasty as Chipotle might seem, if you take one step into that mexican fast food joint, it is like standing in a cage at a zoo under a sign that reads "NON-NEW YORKER." Instead, if you want to blend in and do as the New Yorkers, find the smallest, unassuming, hole in the wall joint for breakfast, brunch or lunch and dinner.

So, thanks to my producer and fellow camera crew, all New Yorkers I might add, we were in the Bronx for a shoot and instead of grabbing a quick Subway sandwich we decided to feast our taste buds on some local cuisine. Thanks to a Bronx native, we made our way to a tasty Puerto Rican restaurant on the corner of Jerome and Ginn Mill meticulously named for it's famed cuisine: Mofongo.

I like to try new things as much as the next person, but my bravery began slipping out the window when we walked in to find English as a second language, giant costume masks ominously protruding from the walls, life-sized mannequins snug in the corner adorned with traditional garb, and the dinning area complete with cork-board tables.

This was definitely going to be an experience and although I am no saint when it comes to eating healthy, I do have my limits especially if I am planning a 5 mile run after work. 5 miles doesn't come easy on fried fatty meats, but it looks like I was going to have to bare down and unbuckle.

The main entree if you didn't guess, is not so much the entree as the consistent side. The Puerto Ricans like to do things in backward fashion. Mofongo the main dish and protein the side dish.

The menu was like a scene from Forest Gump: Mofongo and steak, Mofongo and chicken, Mofongo and chicken chunks, Mofongo and friend chicken chunks, Mofongo and rotessire chicken. Mofongo and breaded chicken filet, Mofongo and shrimp, Mofongo and a seafood burrito, Monfongo and pork chops, Mofongo and spanish sausage, Mofongo and friend fish filet, Mofongo and crab meat, Mofongo and...

But what is Mofongo you ask?

Everything including the Kitchen Sink

"Mofongo is a popular Puerto Rican dish generally made from fried green plantains, although fried yuca or breadfruit are possible, which is mashed together with broth, garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings or bits of bacon. It is often filled with vegetables, chick, crab, shrimp, or beef and is often served with fried meat and chicken broth soup," according Wikipedia.

In other words, Mofongo is everything, the left overs, the extras, the additions from the special; Mofongo is a yellowish pile of mush in the middle of your plate.

This hybrid mash potatoes, if you will, was crunchy, mushy, and altogether interesting. But "don't forget the gravy," reminded our waitress. In other words, if you don't feel like you have clogged your arteries with something that has been fried and then fried again, don't forget to add the fatty liquids to the mix.  (I was going to have to run more than 5 miles to make a dent into this heavy intake.)

Thanks to my need to fit in and meet the New Yorker trend, I left the tiny restaurant 20lbs heavier, greasier than a garage monkey, and in a complete fried fatty comatose. I had been "Mofonoged".

I won't say I plan on adding it to my favorite food's list any time soon, however if someone believes they have a more tasty mixture of this Puerto Rican dish...I will try it. Again, when in New York avoid what you know is good for what you hope won't kill your insides.

However, if you feel you have the appetite and are so daring to attempt this exotic concoction check out the recipe for Mofongo, but remember there are several variations...

  1. Peel three to foantains under running water to make the process easier, and chop or slice them into small pieces.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan (1 ½ in.) or deep fryer to approximately 350 degrees or until crackling hot.
  3. Fry the plantain pieces for approximately four minutes. It is important that the plantains be cooked through but not hard. Keep in mind that they will be mashed to make the mofongo. Remove the plantains from the hot oil and place them on a paper towel to drain.
  4. Cook ¼ lb. of salted pork or bacon with a bit of salt in a separate pan. The point of this step is to liquefy the pork fat and crisp the meat.
  5. Add three to four minced cloves of garlic and 1 tbsp. of olive oil to the vegetable oil and pork. Saute the garlic and oil briefly to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor but not scorch the garlic or smoke up the olive oil. Overcooking garlic will make it bitter, and olive oil has a tendency to burn if left over high heat.
  6. Combine the plantains, oil, garlic and pork into a food processor or mixing bowl. Mash all of the ingredients together. Proceed carefully if using a food processor. Pulse the mixture until you reach the desired consistency because liquefied mofongo is not always appetizing.
  7. Form the mashed mixture into balls. Make the balls any size that fits your meal plans. This mofongo recipe usually feeds approximately three to four people.