Sunday, September 16, 2012

My secret weapons for staying on track + guilt free recipe included!

So here I am, another 20 more days into the Jillian Michaels workout. I now have moved on into the Ripped in 30 program, which is divided into 4 weeks. In a way, it is pretty much like the 30 Day Shred, with variations on the movements that are not only harder, but also have more repetitions. While the first two weeks went all right (consider a couple of days until getting used to the movements for full strength workout), the third week, which is where I am now, is in my opinion, grueling hard. It puts enormous pressure on the legs, to the point that by the end of the workout, the muscles are ready to shut down in spasms.
One thing I realized though, is that I can't be a perfectionist and the important part is to do it and put the maximum effort into it. It works just the same, albeit a little slower.
I'm currently at 45.5 kg, from 49 kg. Again, doesn't seem like a whole lot, right? Well, it took me some time to wrap my head around the fact that numbers don't mean much when you are building this much muscle and you will with this workout. So ditch the scale and use a measuring tape instead, you'll be amazed! I already went down another size.

I thought I would share a couple of tips that have been helping me to stay on track and motivated (it takes more than good intentions to pull this off, we all know it!). So here is my secret troubleshooting list:

1. Coffee first thing in the morning is all the energy I need to get through workout.

2. Protein shake or bar right after the workout. Shower and then pick one of Jillian's breakfast and halve it (I already had between 120 and 200 calories in my shake or bar)

I use Syntrax Whey Shake Vanilla flavor. It has enough protein for my activity level and it's just 120 calories a scoop, it's very filling and if you add a little more than the 8oz (500 ml) of water, it actually isn't nauseatingly sweet. You can also thrown it in a blender with fruit and oat bran (no added sugar!) and you get a really healthy breakfast all in one. Don't use this as a meal substitute, unless it's very occasional... it just doesn't have enough nutrients. Oh, the price. Yes, it's not cheap, but it's an investment. You get more than 70 servings in a bag and it's a HUGE help. 

I always carry a protein bar when I'm out, in case I don't find a reasonable meal option. I specially like the EAS Myoplex bars. They have 190 calories, the taste is alright and they are really filling. Compared to other brands, which are usually cloyingly sweet like this one, it's my favorite option so far. Again, not cheap, but keep in mind that it is practically a meal and any way you go, it will be cheaper than eating out.

3. Motivation.  I tried to find myself a role model, someone that had more or less the same height as me to start with (at 1.48m, it would be weird to pick a super model). 
So who was it? 
To be honest, before I started the whole workout thing, I never even heard of her. But things shifted in my mind. While I once secretly wished to be skinny, now I want to be fit. I don't want to lose weight, I want to lose fat. And the difference between the two is so big, it changes the whole definition of shaping up. 
Jamie Eason is accessible enough to aspire to, specially when she's in her natural state, meaning, not posing in a tiny bikini for a magazine or insanely pumped for a bodybuilding competition. She seems to also have implants, if not, it looks odd at times and really not that hot. But she has those awe inspiring qualities that give me that extra motivation to workout and that's all I need.

And now for something completely different, here's a wonderful, protein packed inspiration for a weekend supper, after you worked hard all week. 
Instead of indulging in a big fat burger, pamper yourself to something with more style and less processing involved... this, my friends, is my dear husband's creation. A juicy tender piece of rib steak, topped with a good dash of Cointreau (citrus liquor) and freshly grated parmesan... it's so sinfully good, you'll think you're blowing your diet... think again!

Prime steak with Parmesan and Cointreau

(1.5 portion)

350g prime steak, cut thick.
extra virgin olive oil
Sel de Guérande
Freshly ground black pepper

Oil a cast iron skillet and heat it up on a large flame.
Once the skillet is hot, place your steak in the middle (so far, so good!)
Pour a spoonful of olive oil on top of the steak.
Let it sear for two to three minutes in order to get it medium-rare.
Add some ground black pepper and flip the steak over once a golden crust has formed at the bottom.
Sprinkle ground black pepper over the steak once again.
Let it cook for another couple of minutes, until the crust forms once more on the bottom side and remove the steak from the skillet.
Add a splash of Cointreau to the hot skillet to de-glaze and pour it immediately over the steak.
Generously grate Parmigiano over the hot steak and sprinkle with salt.
Eat immediately and without remorse.

Bon Appetit

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Simple, Honest to God DIET.

I was standing in front of the mirror. Oh misery.

A little over 2 months ago, I decided it was time to put a stop to my weight gain. After 3 kids, the whole thing was just getting out of hand... and it's so hard when you're a foodie like me. I had no idea whatsoever how to start and how I could stick some kind of weight loss plan into my day.

Another look down at my stomach. 
I deserved a good beating for letting it all go that way. Uhh... a punishment. That's what I needed. I remembered trying some type of workout exercise a few years ago and it was still fresh in my mind how hard that was and how I didn't really give it a fair try. Yep, it was Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I quickly looked it up on YouTube. So, all I needed was 20 minutes a day and a sensible diet, right? I took out my old, cat clawed camping mat and dug out a pair of dumbbells I got a good few years ago. They look surprisingly new. Oh, right, that's because I never used them.
I picked Level 1 and hit play.

I can't lie, it was intense, specially when I was so out of shape, but when it was done, it felt great. It's like a near death experience and coming out into the light after 20 minutes of vigorous pain.  I could actually feel my muscles clinging for dear life, trembling in terror. The last time I broke a sweat like that was when I dug out a  mango tree in my garden and that was no picnic. I was soaked in sweat. 
I was so sore the next day, I thought I'd take a break, but how could I get "shredded" in 30 days if I took breaks every time I was sore? So I did it again the next day and behold, the soreness was gone and the happy feeling was back. At least temporarily. That's what got me hooked... I couldn't stop anymore or I would feel like crap the entire day. Against my better judgment, I'll admit I never took even one day off, with no ill effects. My body was quickly getting used to that cycle of exercises and in a few weeks, I wouldn't feel any soreness at all.
I kept on strong for 3 weeks, which is more than I thought I could handle, telling myself it's just 20 minutes. I was really patting myself on the back by then, specially with 2 kids running around my mat and my toddler playing "under the bridge" when I did push ups and laying on my stomach when I did crunches. This new routine actually changed things around the house. It became a rule to let mommy have her "exercise time" every morning and even my 4 year old daughter started to join me in with the exercises, which is ohh so cute! Even my toddler gets on her back and tries to do crunches... with so much ease I must say. Flexible little monkeys!

The first change I felt in my body was in the legs and stomach, how they looked more toned. I'm not nearly getting into my old favorite jeans yet, but those that felt kind of tight around the waist are now too loose to wear.
It was time to take it up a notch and try Level 2 of the workout. I also looked up Jillian's recipes online and tried a few. While some of them are nice, I feel they rely far too much on processed food, like store bought tortillas, low fat processed products, jerky and specific brands that I don't have access to. But it's a good guide though. The punch line of the diet is, start cooking your own food. Keep it simple. You can't possibly have control of your calorie intake if you're not making it yourself. Even an innocent salad can undermine your efforts. Cutting down on the carbs is also a good idea. I don't know the science behind it, but take my word for it, your gut will thank you. You'll feel lighter, less bloated. You don't need more than a couple of handfuls of carbs a day, the rest should be lean protein, vegetables and fruit. If you follow Jillian's workout, you will be building muscle fast, which needs quite a bit of protein to build properly.
It's been 2 months now. I only lost 2 kilos, but while it might sound disappointing (don't we all love numbers?), my body actually build muscle like it never did before. best of all, I went down two full sizes.

So does it work? Yes, it does. No questions about it. 
But it works much faster on a reasonable meal plan (I hate the word "diet"!). Don't force yourself to eat disgusting stuff like quinoa... that thing is truly hellish. It smells terrible and looks like maggoty porridge. But there are a good few super foods out there that can make for a wonderful healthy, low calorie meal. In the next few posts, I'll share everything I've been learning from my experience. 

So get that mat and a couple of 1.5 kg (3 pound) neoprene covered dumbbells (you will be sweating profusely, better have a good grip on those) and hit Play!

Even my kids got the Jillian Michaels bug!

I'll be back soon with some tried and true recipes.

Feel free to message me with any questions, I'm no professional, but I'll do my best to help you get there! 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

MIZLALA by Meir Adoni

 (Picture by Dan Peretz)

My husband's recent 37th birthday was an excellent excuse for trying out Meir Adoni's new restaurant, Mizlala ("Eatery"), the little sister of the his very fancy flag restaurant, Catit. I googled the menu, just to get a preview. I will have to be honest and admit that middle eastern fare is not really my favorite and the menu seemed to be heavily influenced. Still, Meir never let us down, so I had to try to shut down my negative vibes, which all resonate with couscous, tajine and some form of roasted chicken and the overwhelming scent of cinnamon, curry and cumin.
I went ahead and made the reservation. And luckily, I was not disappointed.
The place in itself is very minimalist, with shades of grey, warm woods and crystal, all in good taste and a flare of Bauhaus. The entire restaurant is surrounded by wide, top to floor bare windows, that let you look at the rather dirty, graffiti covered, very South Tel Aviv'ish Nachalat Binyamin street. While it's not a pretty site, when you're inside shielded by a good beat and loads of sinful food, that eye sore is disturbingly charming. 
The menu is divided in 4 categories, plus desserts. It can be a bit confusing at first, but once you get a good look at the dishes and try some of them, it becomes quite clear what they were up to.
Number 1: bread, appetizers and other small dishes to get your saliva squirting in your mouth.
Number 2: Quick, super filling meals, ideal for midday business lunch (wish I knew!)
Number 3: Fish, seafood and meat dishes - light version
Number 4: Meat -the heavy stuff

Unknowingly, we ordered 7 different dishes (plus one on the house), plus 2 desserts.
We nearly died.

Lets see the spread:

White Sourdough Bread with Anise Seeds served with Pepper Aioli & Butter - we wanted more!!!

‘Zvia’s Cubana’, Mashed Grilled Tomatoes & Hot Green Pepper - light as air brioche, amazing.

Palestinian Tartar, Chopped Rump Steak, Crude Tehina, Pine Nuts, Yogurt, Broad Beans and Cumin - Intense flavors, I would have loved to pick on some sweetness, perhaps a few bits of dates here and there... how about a crushed honey candy?

“Boulangerie” Croissant, Calf Brain, Tomato Tabgha, Smoked Peppers and Eggplants, Potatoes - A whole meal, like the mother-load of all borrekas.

Seafood bisque with butter roasted bread and ceviche (not on the website menu)- salty, buttery deliciousness.

Seafood risotto (not on the website menu)- very very tasty... but the rice was undercooked. They took it back without a question and brought us another dish instead - I was more than happy!)

Charcoaled Sweetbreads, Jerusalem Artichoke, Roasted Mushrooms, Chestnuts -intense flavor bomb. By then, I was eating a lot slower and nearly feeling the food on my back teeth.

Exotic Soup, Coconut Milk, Passion Fruit, Piña Colada Sorbet - very refreshing. We needed that!

Cacao and Nuts Ice Cream Sandwich, Toffee Ice Cream and Chocolate Whip (on the house) - so yummy... and way to much at that point. We still ate most of it.

The only two things that nagged me bit, were the overpriced and not very impressive sangria with canned lychees (come on! That was 40 shekels a pop!) and the bread... what can I say... 4 small of slices of bread for 23 shekels... and so much sauce and butter to wipe off the plates. That can't be right. More bread please!

Overall, a great place for an evening out! I'm set on going back soon and... and do it all over again! ;-)




Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Plant - from Chicago to Israel?

As some of you might know, I'm a tree hugger at heart. Not the fanatical kind though. 
I believe that while it's useful (yet slightly naive) to think the world will be saved by recycling paper and bottles, only big ideas will ultimately make the difference. That's because, believe it or not, most of us, will never recycle enough to actually stop the ecological train wreck. I'll just throw numbers out there and assume that at least 50% of the people on the planet would have to give up their car in favor of a bicycle, before we can even talk about cutting carbon dioxide emissions. That's pretty gloom. There is no chance in hell that is ever going to happen, unless people are physically forced to do it and given a more ecological solution (not optional). So here's where I'm going with this rambling.
I recently stumbled upon news of an old meat packing plant in Chicago which was transformed into a self-sufficient (completely off the grid) plant. The concept is just brilliant and the thought of applying it at different scales and in different regions is extremely tempting.
Take a look at the video...

Now you can take a look at the website for more details on the original concept, here.

Inspired already?

I don't know about you, but this is music to my ears. I even wonder if it could be micro scaled in order to cater to smaller communities.
How about South Tel Aviv? 
If you have an interest in taking part of something really big, that will change your life and that of your community, come forward with your thoughts and ideas.

Have a wonderful weekend all! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Queques de Manteiga "Portuguese Butter Cakes"

While my kitchen is by most standards eye soring, if an Italian would step in he would know I got my priorities straight.  In this small corner of South Tel Aviv, where Turkish and mud coffee reigns supreme, I own a Bezzera Giulia

Frothed milk

Espresso shot from my Bezzera Giulia

Like all things Italian, it not only makes the best espresso I know, it's also beautiful and so shiny that everything else ugly in my kitchen magically vanishes.  But that deserves a post all of it's own. 
Today, I want to share with you a portuguese recipe for queques, which happen to go heavenly with a nice cup of coffee.

Queques are buttery muffin style cakes sold in every single coffee shop in Portugal. While some are just a mass of dough to eat and forget about, others belong to the realm of foodie heaven. This recipe comes straight from the worned out pages of a Teleculinaria from the 80s, which I'm sure rings a bell for many portuguese people, who would eagerly wait for the magazine to come out every month.
These delicious cakes were not made in a traditional wavy mold, but I'm sure you'll forgive me!
Lets just get to the recipe shall we... :-)

Queques de Manteiga

Queques de Manteiga 
"Portuguese Butter Cakes"

0.5 l milk
300 g salted butter
7 eggs
500 g of sugar
zest of a lemon or orange
1 shot of brandy
750 g of flour 
2 teaspoons of baking powder

In a small pan, bring the milk and butter a slow boil.
In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, zest and brandy.  While beating, slowly add the hot milk, the flour and baking powder. Cover the bater and keep in the fridge until the next day (you can skip this and make them straight away, but they won't taste the same). Turn on the oven at 180 degrees celcius. Fill 2/3 of  paper muffin cups with batter and bake for about 18 minutes, or until they are nice and golden. You can also sprinkle some granulated sugar or even dried coconut on top, before baking.
This recipe wields about 20 cakes.
I highly recommend using waxed muffin cups by the way. Because these cakes are really buttery, you won't end up with ugly butter-stained paper cups. I bought these here.


Queque de Manteiga