Friday, January 27, 2017

You are what you eat...maybe


     Nutrition is a very simple subject made difficult by commercial diet plans and programs. We must understand that nutrition is made up of Macro & Micronutrients. The Macronutrients are called carbohydrates, proteins, fats and water. These are necessary for proper human body function. Any diet or weight loss program that dictates the elimination of any of the macronutrients should always be discarded. These programs are not concerned with overall health and definitely do not look to the long term.
Some general nutrition information that can be used to help design your food choices are as follows:
1 pound of “fat” = 3500 calories 
1% of body fat = 2.5 pounds of fat 
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories 

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

Now that you have a basic understanding of nutrition, I hope that you don’t fall prey to the myths and false programs that run rampant today. One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone looking to lose weight or manage their current weight is -
Beware the Guarantee!!

Programs that promise:

Lose twenty pounds in a week!

Drop excess fat off your waist without exercise!
Should be avoided at all cost.

We have heard statements like these so many times before. With every new diet

plan, diet pill, gimmick piece of equipment or wannabe fitness star we always hear of their guarantee. They promise you will reach your goals, lose some weight, lose some inches, get in shape, but only if you eat their foods, take their pills or follow their way of life. In all my years of fitness training (and I have a lot), I have never been able to dictate how a person’s body will change. The fact is, we cannot tell where and when you will lose weight. It is just not possible. There is something seriously wrong with these ten to twenty one day weight loss gimmicks. What are you giving up for these results? What is the sacrifice? What happens after the ten or twenty-one days? What do you do next? For drastic weight change in twenty-one days to occur, major caloric decrease is necessary. The human body was built to preserve life. It will not let itself fall below the critical line of caloric intake before it reverses gears and begins its self-preservation. It will store calories for future use. You essentially starve yourself. What is the critical line? Well that depends on the individual. Daily caloric needs differ from person to person and between men and women. It has to do with activity level, height, weight, sex and age. To calculate your daily caloric needs you need to know your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate: Amount of calories your body will burn at rest) & your activity lifestyle. Whether you are sedentary, active or moderately active will have an effect on the overall calculation.

To find your BMR you can use: 

EXAMPLE: A twenty-year old female weighing one hundred and ninety pounds, standing five feet three inches who is sedentary requires 2020.32 calories daily. In order to lose five pounds in twenty-one days, she would have to drop over eight hundred calories daily for twenty-one days straight. This is a combination of calorie restriction in foods and burning from exercise. The average training sessions will burn approximately four hundred to five hundred calories. She then has to reduce her caloric intake by three to four hundred calories. Doesn’t sound too difficult right? Let us not forget that we are talking about an over weight twenty year old who has never exercised before. She will have to be eased into routines and not have hell thrust upon her for a twenty-one day weight loss plan. So I ask again – What is the sacrifice to lose weight in such a short period of time? Other than the weight you will lose, because you will lose some weight? What has happened to your body on the inside? You can’t see the damage that crash diets and over strict exercise routines cause, but that doesn’t mean its not there. This country has become so fixated on losing weight, that we forget how to do it right. Fitness trainers have succumbed to the demands of extreme weight loss that they themselves have forgotten what is right anymore. Safety first. Always.

I decided to give you some simple tips that anyone can follow to help understand what exactly a weight loss or management program entails. 

Changing Eating Behaviors

Eating should be a pure experience. You should do nothing else well eating you should taste and enjoy every bite.
Always eat in the same place. Never eat when you're standing, in front of the TV, at the kitchen counter during cooking or lying in bed.
Follow an eating schedule. All meals and snacks should be preplanned at specific times. This way you don't have to think about what you're going to eat.
Never skip meals or snacks. Meal skipping may cause you to overeat at your next meal because your body will be hungry and your blood sugar will be low.
Know your cravings. If you want something creamy or sweet or salty don't talk yourself into something else, just eat it. if you don't go with your craving you just might end up eating more of something you didn't even want in the first place.
Try not to clean your plate. Always leave a little food on your plate after every meal and you will save tons of calories overtime.
Use smaller plates and bowls. This will help you to eat smaller portions of food.
Slow down your eating pace. Eating too fast limits the enjoyment of food. Remember it takes about 20 minutes for your body to realize that it is full.
Always eat your favorite foods first. This way you will stop eating if you are full.
Never take a second helping. Make one plate of food and after you are finished don't add anything else to your plate.
Store trigger foods out of sight. They will be too tempting to resist if they around all day.
Get rid of all your clothes that are too big. This way you will have nothing to wear if you start to gain weight.
Only eat when you are truly hungry. Ask yourself if you are really hungry or if you are just bored, stressed, tired, anxious, etc.

Portion Distortion
It can sometimes be difficult to estimate proper portion sizes. Here are some visuals that can help you eat less and lose weight!
Handful = 1-2 oz. Example: 1 oz. Nuts = 1 handful
Fist = 1 cup Example: Two servings of past or oatmeal
Palm = 3 oz. Example: a cooked serving of meat (not including your fingers)
Thumb = 1 oz. Example: a piece of cheese
1 Fruit serving = 1/2 cup canned or 1 medium fruit (about size of tennis ball)
1 meat, poultry or fish serving = 3 oz. (about size of a deck of cards)
1 Grain = 1 slice bread, presliced (about the size of a cassette tape) or 1/2 cup pasta (about the size of an adult woman’s palm stacked 1” high)
1 Dairy Serving = 8 ounces (the size of a container of individual yogurt)
1 vegetable serving = 1/2 cup cooked or canned vegetables (about 1/2 size of a baseball)
1 Fat serving = 1 teaspoon (about size of 4 stacked dimes)

Fabulous Fiber Facts & All About Water

Benefits of Fiber:
  • - High Fiber foods play a major role in your weight management program because they fill you up with little or no calories. Fiber expands in your stomach and gives you a greater sense of fullness. You can eat larger portions for fewer calories.
    - Fiber helps to prevent gastrointestinal disorders such as diverticulitis, hemorrhoids and constipation.
    - The recommended daily fiber intake for adults is 35 grams per day.
    - Eating plenty of fiber containing foods promotes proper bowel function.
    - Diets rich in fiber can help lower blood pressure, because the diet naturally becomes lower in fat and calories.
    - Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and improves blood sugar control in diabetes.

  • Ways to increase fiber:
  • -  Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • -  Choose high-fiber foods like berries, citrus fruits, oatmeal, beans, dark green vegetables, and wholegrain bread and cereal.
  • -  Keep bags of frozen vegetables in your freezer. Add to soups, sauces, casseroles and pasta dishes.
  • -  Serve fish, chicken, or lean meat over a “bed” of grilled zucchini, sauteed spinach, or sliced onions.
  • -  Snack on air-popped popcorn and dry roasted nuts and seeds.

     Planning what you need to eat before you exercise can help you maintain a high energy level during your workout. however this does not mean you should exercise on a full stomach because this can lead to both cramping and nausea. you should allow one to four hours for digestion depending on what and how much you have eaten.
If you work out first thing in the morning. You should eat something easily digestible 20 or 30 minutes before you exercise like a piece of fruit or yogurt or shake.
If you're working out later on in the day you should have a carbohydrate rich foods at least one hour before you workout such as whole wheat bread or crackers oatmeal fruit or energy bar These carbohydrates will be stored in your muscles as glycogen which will be used for fuel during your workout.

     Try not to consume simple carbohydrates before your workout such as honey candy or sugary drinks. They will not provide you with enough energy to get through your workout. Avoid any foods that contain a lot of fat because they are slow to digest and will only slow you down and make you feel sluggish during your workout.
Stay away from fast food hot dogs cookies cake ice cream french fries, chips and candy bars because they are all high in fat and will remain in the stomach for a long time.

Understanding nutrition labels
What do all these product label claims mean?
Low calorie- less than 40 calories per serving
Low-cholesterol- less than 20 mg of cholesterol and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving
Reduced fat- 25% less fat than the usual product
Good source of- provide at least 10% of the daily value of a particular vitamin or nutrients per serving
Calorie free- less than 5 calories per serving
Fat free/sugar free- less than half a gram of fat or sugar per serving
High in- provides 20% or more of the daily value of the specified nutrient per serving

High fiber- 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ingredients Should Tell A Story

    Good food starts with a story.  Why are you making it? Where did the inspiration come from? The food we make and eat conveys that story.  We pass this story through generations, each adding their own piece, making it theirs while still holding on to the original.  The ingredients for your meal are the foundations of that story.  Perhaps you use roasted red peppers because they remind you of a trip you took to Tuscany or always wanted to.  Maybe you want you use ginger or wasabi as an ode to Asian culture.  Regardless of your reasoning, it's your story.  That story will be passed to your children and their children and so forth and so on, each adding a chapter. It really is a story without end.  Many variations, but an endless family story

    Every tiny morsel of your food will let anyone eating it, including yourself, become aware of the influences you possess. You open yourself up to the criticism of others, allowing them into your world even just for a second or two. This isn't about being a professional chef in a fancy restaurant or a home cook making dinner on a weekday for yourself or family.  That experience of influence is shared throughout the culinary world. You can taste the passion.  You can smell the excitement. You can dine on the story! You have now become part of it.  You can eat at a 5 star restaurant and not know what it takes to make the food you are eating, but you can eat at a local, family run cafe and feel the history, the pain, the love, the community in everything that is served.  

"You can dine on the story!"

So how will you tell yours?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What’s your reason?

Motivation: the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.

Lots of people appear to be exercising in an attempt to stay young and to improve the quality of their life. In addition, judging from the looks of store windows, we’re in the midst of a fitness craze. Most department stores carry a wide variety of athletic sportswear, not only for the physical activity, but also for leisure and even work. More and more fitness clubs appear to be opening up as people try to get or stay in shape. But the fact is that most Americans do not regularly participate in physical activity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1996, 1999) despite the physiological and psychological benefits of exercise, including reduced tension and depression, increased self-esteem, lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, better weight control, and enhanced functioning of systems (metabolic, endocrine, and immune systems).

Reasons to Exercise
With much of the adult population either sedentary or not exercising enough to gain health benefits, the first problem that exercise and fitness professionals face is how to get these people to start exercising. People are motivated by different reasons, but a good place to start is to emphasize the diverse benefits of exercise (President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport, 1996). Along with getting started, the issue of maintenance is just as critical, because these individuals must continue to be physically active once started.

So what are some of the typical reasons for people to start an exercise program? (in no particular order)
- Weight Control
- Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular disease
- Reduction of Stress and Depression - Enjoyment
- Enhancement of Self-Esteem
- Opportunities to Socialize

Typical reasons for not exercising (in no particular order)
- Perceived lack of time
- Lack of energy
- Lack of motivation

Problem of Exercise Adherence
Once sedentary people have overcome inertia and started exercising, the next barrier they face has to do with continuing their exercise program. Evidently many people find it easier to start an exercise program than to stick with it: About 50% of participants drop out of an exercise programs within the first 6 months. Exercisers often have lapses in trying to adhere to exercise programs. A few reasons have been put forth as to why people have a problem with exercise adherence despite the fact that it is beneficial both physiologically and psychologically.

These include:
- The prescriptions are often based solely on fitness data,

ignoring people’s psychological readiness to exercise.
- Most exercise prescriptions are overly restrictive and are not optimal for enhancing motivation for regular exercise.
- Rigid exercise prescriptions based on principles of intensity, duration, and frequency are too challenging for many people, especially beginners.
- Traditional exercise prescription does not promote self- responsibility or empower people to make long-term behavior change.

However, Dishman and Buckworth (1997) noted that potential relapses may have a more limited impact if the individual plans and anticipates them, recognizes them as temporary impediments, and develops self-regulatory skills for preventing relapses to inactivity. Given that exercise programs have a high relapse rate, they are like dieting, smoking cessation, or decreasing alcohol consumption (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997). People intend to change a habit that negatively affects their health and well- being. In fact, fitness clubs traditionally have their highest new enrollments in January and February, when sedentary individuals feel charged by New Year’s resolutions to turn over a new leaf and get in shape.

Preventing a Relapse
Unfortunately when people start to exercise they often relapse into no exercise at all, or they exercise less frequently. Here are a couple of tips to help prevent a relapse.
- Expect and plan for lapses, such as scheduling alternative activities while on vacation. - Develop coping strategies to deal with high-risk situations ( e.g., relaxation training, time management, imagery).

- Replace “shoulds” with “wants” to provide more balance in your life. “Shoulds” put pressure and expectations on you.
- Use positive self-talk and imagery to avoid self-dialogues focusing on relapse
- Identify situations that put you at risk and attempt to avoid or plan for these settings. - Do not view a temporary relapse as catastrophic because this undermines confidence and willpower (e.g., if you didn’t exercise for an entire week, you are not a failure; just start again next week).

Determinants of Exercise Adherence
Determinants of exercise behavior fall into two (2) categories. 
1 - Personal factors
2 - Environmental factors

It should be noted that the determinants of exercise are not isolated variables; rather, they influence and are influenced by each other as they contribute to behavioral outcomes (King, Oman, Brassington, Bliwise, & Haskell, 1997).
For example: A person who values exercise and is self-motivated may be less influenced by the weather and thus more likely to exercise when it is cold or rainy than someone for whom fitness is less important and who needs more external motivation and support.

Personal Factors that may determine exercise adherence
There are three types of personal characteristics that may influence exercise adherence: - Demographic Variables
- Cognitive Variables
- Behaviors

Demographic Variables
Demographic variables traditionally have had a strong association with physical activity. Education, income, and socioeconomic status have all been consistently and positively related to physical activity. Meaning, people with higher incomes, more education, and higher occupational status are more likely to be physically active.

Cognitive and Personality Variables
Of the many cognitive variables available and tested, self- efficacy and self-motivation have been found to be the most consistent predictors of physical activity.
Self-efficacy is simply an individual’s belief that he/she can be successfully perform a desired behavior. Getting started in an exercise program, for example, is likely affected by the confidence one has in being able to perform the desired behavior (e.g., walking, running, aerobics) and keep the behavior going. Therefore, fitness professionals need to help people feel confident about their bodies through social support, encouragement, and tailoring of activities to meet their needs and abilities. Fitness Professionals also should provide beginning exercisers with a sense of success and competence in their exercise programs to enhance their desire to continue participation.

Self-motivation has also been consistently related to exercise adherence and has been found to distinguish adherents from dropouts across many settings, including fitness centers, preventative medicine clinics, corporate fitness gyms (Dishman & Sallis, 1994). Self-motivation may reflect self-regulatory skills, such as effective goal setting, self- monitoring of progress, and self-reinforcement, which are believed to be important in maintaining physical activity. Combined with other measures, self-motivation can predict adherence even more accurately. A cumulative body of evidence also supports the conclusion that beliefs about and expectations of benefits from exercise are associated with increased physical activity levels and adherence to structured physical activity programs among adults (e.g., Marcus, Pinto, Simkin, Audrain, & Taylor, 1994; Marcus et al., 2000). Fitness professionals need to inform people of the benefits of regular physical activity and give them ways to overcome perceived barriers.

Past participation in an exercise program is the most reliable predictor of current participation (Dishman & Sallis, 1994). Someone who has remained active in an organized program for 6 months is likely to be active a year or two later.

Early involvement in sport and physical activity should be encouraged, because there is a positive relation between childhood exercise and adult physical patterns

It isn’t just mere participation in school sports that will predict adult physical activity. Active children who receive parental encouragement for physical activity will be more active as adults than will children who are sedentary and do not receive parental support and encouragement.

Environmental Factors that may determine exercise adherence
Environmental factors can help or hinder regular participation in physical activity. These factors include the social environment (family and peers), the physical environment (weather, time pressures, and distance from facilities), and characteristics of the physical activity (intensity and duration of the exercise bout). Environments that promote increased activity-offering easily accessible facilities and removing real and perceived barriers to an exercise routine - are probably necessary for the successful maintenance of changes in exercise behavior.

For example: adherence to physical activity is higher when individuals live or work closer to a fitness club, receive support from their spouse for the activity, and can manage their time effectively.

Social Environment
Social support is a key aspect of one’s social environment, an such support from family and friends has consistently been linked to physical activity and adherence to structured exercise programs among adults (USDHHS, 1996).

Spousal support is critical to enhance adherence rates for people in exercise programs. Spouses should be involved in orientation sessions or in parallel exercise programs

Physical Environment
A convenient location is important for regular participation in community-based exercise programs. Both the perceived convenience and the actual proximity to home or work site are factors that consistently affect whether someone chooses to exercise and adheres to a supervised program (King, Blair, & Bild, 1992). The closer to a person’s home or work the exercise setting is, the greater the likelihood that the individual will begin and stay with a program. Besides the actual location of the physical activity is the climate or season, with activity levels lowest in winter and highest in summer.

Physical Activity Characteristics
The success of failure of exercise programs can depend on several structural factors. Some of the more important factors are the intensity, frequency, and duration of the exercise; whether the exercise is done in a group or alone; and qualities of the exercise leader. If the program is too intense, too frequent and requires too much time, a client will have a lower adherence to exercise programming.

Too hard, too fast will result in failure in program adherence.
Although group exercising generally produces higher levels of adherence than exercising alone, A tailored program to fit an individual’s needs and the constraints they feel can help adherence to a program.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

NYC Day Trip


 Just a short little day trip into NYC to get a great breakfast with the best travel companions I have.  This is what life is all about.  It's all about life so embrace it and go travel, eat, lift and just LIVE!

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Right Tools Make a Huge Difference

It isn't something new to talk about, but it is incredibly accurate to say that having the right tools for the job will make the end product fantastic. The kitchen is no different.  It isn't just about appliances, as those do help, but what I am talking about goes a bit more specific.  It will also vary from person to person as some individuals are just better with certain tools than others and that is all they need.

     When working in the kitchen, you need to have the appropriate pans to cook in.  If you use cheap, inexpensive pots and pans, you will get burnt and strangely flavored foods.  Cheap pans don't heat evenly and usually end up warping in the middle after only a few uses.  Spend the extra money and get yourself some quality cookware.  Your food will never be the same.

Next is your knife or knives depending on how special you think you are.  I know of a chef who does everything with only one knife, one type, one blade, nothing else.  You can get yourself a different blade to do almost every single task in the kitchen, but if you aren't a butcher or professional chef in your daily profession, you don't need half of the knives out there.  A good bread knife, cook's knife, and maybe just maybe a pairing knife is what the everyday or weekend culinary warrior will need to get the job done.  Price doesn't always dictate good quality.  I have spent $80 on a knife that needs to be sharpened everyday and just annoys the crap out of me and I have spent $20 on a knife that just kicks ass.  It also happens to be one of the name brand knives from a celebrity chef.  I didn't buy it because of the name on it, I bought it because of its shape.  It rocks nicely enabling me to cut everything smoothly.

      What do you feel comfortable with?

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Lifestyle Dynamic Journey - NYC Chelsea & West Village

New York City has so much to offer the discerning visitor. Little shops holding antique collections or even the strangest of gifts for a friend or loved one.  New York City is known for it’s hustle and bustle as well as a dingy appearance towards safety and warmth.  Although there are many downsides to NYC, one cannot ignore one of the greatest achievements NYC has - Food! The Chelsea and West Village areas of NYC are of no exception. 

Now I don’t make it practice to drag both of my sons to a dangerous place on a cold Saturday, with snow actually falling on us as we walk from our car that we parked for FREE.  Yes I found free parking on a side street just 1/2 block away from where I was about to enjoy one of the best lunches I have had in NYC.  

Enter Bareburger, 153 8th ave Between 17th & 18th streets.

I don’t know anywhere else that you can customize your burgers with great toppings as well as different choices of meat.  Bison, beef, Elk are all just examples of the protein choice as well as chicken.  Salads and sandwiches are options for those not interested in a burger.  For the little ones, they have cubby meals (get it cubby? as in Bear cub, that’s the logo, a bear) tiny little burgers, chicken fingers and more.  

All the food at Bareburger is organic.  Nothing processed here.  The flavor combinations are righteous in their offerings and will easily create a fan out of any burger enthusiast.  
One thing though, make sure to get plenty of napkins as these things are big and messy! 

The burgers at Bareburger aren’t for the calorie conscience individual(s).  They are designed for flavor not health.  If that is the case, you might consider taking a jolt over to the NYSC on 8th ave a block or two south.  Now New York Sports Club is a large chain gym in NY, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Boston.  They operate a few hundred locations amongst the 4 cities.  Now, the company has undergone some changes sine I last ran one of their fitness departments, but nevertheless it is a good place to just go in and get your workout on! They have up to date equipment and plenty of it.  Just don’t go at peak times as the cardio cops will come by and tell you to get off the treadmill if you go over 30 minutes.  

You can skip the gym if you want and take a walk.  The city is a great place to do just that.  Walking from 17th street, I would suggest heading south down 7th ave all the way to the west village.  Just a heads up, that is not a short walk.  7th Ave south has some great restaurants and stores to shop and stop at.  Anything from music records, jewelry, fish, to books, and psychics. 

You in the mood for a comedy show or live music? You have come to the right place.  The west village is inundated with venues to satisfy your laughter itch or let you get your audiogasm on with all types of live music.  Just take a walk down MacDougal Street near Washington Square park and you’ll see what I mean.  

A great store to stop at on Bleeker St is Murray’s Cheese Shop. Unless of course you are lactose intolerant then it isn’t the best store for you.  They have all types of cheese for all over.  The staff is very knowledgeable on the stock and can tell you what you need to know.  They sorta get you what you need, not just what you want.  It’s witchcraft I tell you.  Don’t expect to get low end products here, and with that comes the stiff price tag.  Be prepared to spend money if you decide to shop here.  Don’t know anything about cheese? They also have classes in the upstairs rooms that teach you all about cheese and how to pair it with wines.  Not a bad skill to know I must say.  

Murray's Cheese shop 254 Bleecker St.

If cheese isn’t your fancy and you are looking for something sweet, then one of the many many pastry shops in NYC will definitely be of use.  One I can say is fantastic is just down the road from Murray’s Cheese Shop, Rocco's Pastry shop.  It has an unassuming front, but once inside you can see why there is always a line.  There are a few tables in the front where you can fight for a seat, but if you are a pacifist at heart and don’t mind spending a few extra dollars, there is table seating with service in the back.  Great place to bring kids if you have them as there is something for everyone.  

So by now, you have gained some knowledge about NYC and some of its areas.  Be warned now, that isn't the half of it yet.  NYC has so much to offer, even places that haven't been in the spotlight (yet).  Everyday we find something new about this great city.  I honestly don't think I will be able to travel to and tell you about all of the places to go.  

It sure as hell will be fun and delicious to try! 

A membership is not required to do what I do.  Just have an open mind and an adventurous heart! Its all about Life, embrace it and GO!!

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The Wok isn’t Dirty I swear

Ever see a Chinese restaurant on TV and they show the cook making a ton of food in what looks like a really dirty wok? Or maybe you have a friend who is asian and owns one of them? Either way, it could be a bit daunting to see your food being tossed around in a not so clean kitchen tool.

The truth is, it is clean.  Very clean! It looks brown from countless gallons of oil being thrown in it while super hot. Asian food is full of flavor and color and what do you get when you combine all the colors of a spectrum? Blackish, brown - DARK you get Dark colors!!!

There is compounded flavors embedded in every inch of that wok.  Meals upon meals with varying flavors, acidity, spice and sweetness clinging to the sides like a mountain goat going for a stroll up a damn vertical!

That imbued flavor helps give specific tastes to food.  Sometimes that is why we can never duplicate a recipe we had at a local restaurant, simply because we have no idea what was cooked in it before.  

So next time you decide to eat out, don't judge the cleanliness by the color of the wok.  Be happy knowing you are about to get some great flavors in your food.  Just imagine the stories behind it! 

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Feijoada Fascination

Ever since my trip to Miami, I have been obsessed with cuban sandwiches and Feijoada.  Now, it isn't   a typical Miami dish, but Feijoada was sometime I fell into while eating at the Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach.  You can't get more touristy than eating at Sushi Samba in Miami Beach, however it was a fantastic choice.  I didn't even know how to pronounce it, but reading the description was enough get me salivating and wanting.

When I returned back to NY, I could easily head to the Sushi Samba location in NYC but I wanted to see if I could make it on my own.  It is a lot easier than you think.  It may not look incredibly pleasing, but taste it and you will be pleased.

What you'll need to make my version of Feijoada is simple:

- 1 can black beans
- 8 Sweet Italian Sausages
- Garlic
- Bay leaves
- Sofrito
- Lemon Juice
- Sour Orange

- Parsley or Cilantro

Mix ingredients together and let "stew" for about 2 hours on medium to low heat.  Add a side of rice, a slice of orange, and greens of your choice and enjoy.

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Philadelphia is more than Cheesesteaks & Art!

The city of brotherly love seems to be a bit of my focus as of late.  It isn't far from my residence and since having some family and friends present, it makes it a bit more of a second home to mine.  It is within a 3 hour drive (sometimes less if I'm feeling a wee bit like the fast and furious - RIP Paul Walker) so visiting Philadelphia isn't a big deal for me and my family.  

            I make it a habit when I visit the Philly that I get myself the staples - A really good cheesesteak and some great donuts. There is only one place I go for my donuts Bielers Bakery in Reading Terminal Market and only one place I go for my meat in a roll and that is Tony Luke's.  

           This trip was a bit different as we were bringing some parenting stuff to our pregnant cousin who lives in South Philly.  People usually equate south Philly to sports freaks and criminals.  The Sports freaks are pretty much a spot on description but criminal? not so much.  I mean it isn't the Beverly Hills of Philadelphia, but it is a suburb and it has some hidden gems within.
           One gem I speak is Nam Phuong Vietnamese Restaurant in South Philly.  If you have been reading my posts, you will know that I am partial to asian food.  I have had some fantastic Pho in Virginia and Long Island City (post coming soon) as well as any meal I have had in Flushing Queens and Chinatown in NYC.  We ordered family style eating for the 8 of us and let me say it didn't disappoint.  We stayed away from the traditional Pho this time and went for other types of plates.  We started off with a Lotus root salad that was a delight to the sense with a sweet scent, crunch of cracker it is served on and tang of the salad that gets you ready for everything next.

Lotus Root Salad

We ordered some plates for the table that consisted of fish, pork, meat and rice.  The flavors were incredibly good, satisfying any carnivore, but combined with vegetables will also satisfy any vegetarian as well.  To drink we had some typical soda for the boys as well as hot tea for the rest.  For those wanting something extra a french coffee with condensed milk did the ticket (not too mention keeping you up of the night).  One dish is a self made meal. You make your own spring rolls right there at the table.  You add some lettuce, pork, noodle and roll it in your own translucent wrap.  The dipping sauces are a plenty and you can make as many combinations as you can think of.

The meal was increasingly satisfying with a generous amount of take home to keep the feeling going.  Afterwards was an exploration in donuts but we will leave that for another day.  I'm full just going through this and my mouth is still watering for the Vietnamese cuisine I experienced not too long ago.

So Center City has more modern and fancy fancy places to go and eat, but explore the rest of Philly and you will experience what people do everyday simply because they love to do it!

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Pho where you least expect it!

Traveling via car from NY to Florida can yield some interesting food finds where you least expect it. For instance, stopping for lunch at what we seemingly thought would be another fast food romp unveiled a hidden gem in Dale City Virginia.

Pho Saigon! Although the name pretty much says what you'll be eating as well as where it's from, do not be fooled into thinking this is just another run of the mill American styled ethnic food. You know the kind that passes for "asian cuisine" because they tell us it is. Pho Saigon is the real deal and the flavors are outstanding. From the spicy beef Pho with mixed vegetables to the pork chop with rice and salad. Sweet, tangy and a bit of heat definitely makes the 1000 mile drive worth it. 

I can't wait to see what I find on the way back!

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California love!

To walk around in nothing but a t-shirt and jeans is a delight, especially when it is 18 degrees here in NY.  I visit family often in Los Angeles and usually do some of the tourist things.  You know - visiting Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Holllywood walk of fame. The best part of my trips is always the food.  Now, I haven't been there in a bit, but the last time I was there it didn't disappoint.  

 On one day my wife, son (now I have two boys by the way) and myself had lunch at a great Thai BBQ restaurant on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.  I cannot remember the name for the life of me, but from what I understand it is no longer there.  The food was perfectly prepared and delivered to our table within a reasonable time frame.  I ordered a spicy noodle dish that should have melted the roof of my mouth off, but instead was a very pleasant eating experience.  It was the perfect combination meat, flat noodle, broccoli and spices.  It was delicious.  Two large dishes and a generous portion of chicken satay only cost $35 before tip.  It was a great experience.  

 The next night we stayed in at my brother’s home in Sherman Oaks.  We decided to order in dinner.  There was a choice in food styles, but the consensus was Indian.  The order was placed for an Indian café, also on Ventura Blvd, called Bollywood Café.  Let me just say that again, the food was prepared perfectly.  There wasn’t and overpowering curry smell or taste in anything that was ordered.  The experience was one that has topped all restaurants in NYC.  Yes I said it.  Sometimes New York indian restaurants are about heat and spice, not so much flavor.  I hope that I get to change that by finding a comparable place back home in the city that never sleeps. 

 It was a short trip, only a few days, but we tried to make the most of it.  Finally, during my “tourist” activities, my wife wanted to go to the infamous Pink’s Hot Dogs.  Featured on Food Network, Pink’s Hot dogs was the be all end all of hot dog stands.  Now being a native New Yorker, I find it hard to believe that there is a city that has better hot dogs than my illustrious city.  From the Dirty Water Dogs to Gray’s Papaya, NYC is notorious for hot dogs (and pizza).  The end result was, Pink’s Hot dogs is highly overrated.  $10 for 2 hot dogs and a can of soda.  That is just wrong.  Not to mention it wasn’t that tasty.  Needless to say, I got that experience out of my system and will probably not venture there again.  Waiting on line for 15 minutes and to be disappointed is not really my cup of tea.  I think it is an experience everyone should have. I can now say that I had a Pink’s Hot dog.  Ok I said it.  Next!

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