Thursday, April 28, 2011

DC Delights

Chai Cupcake
If you couldn't tell, the inspiration for my last two posts came from a couple recent trips to Washington, DC.  Being the foodies that we are, Ryan and I checked out some pretty good eats.  First up is Baked and Wired, a bakery/coffee house in George Town.  We were inspired to visit after watching DC Cupcakes, our original destination.  But several reviews on google said that B&W had bigger/better cupcakes, and they sell coffee.  B&W is only a few blocks away from Georgetown Cupcakes, but the ambiance if much different with it's wood floor, old leather couches, and chalkboard wall (which I took full advantage of).  During our first trip we visited in the afternoon during a rain storm.  Ryan had a cherry blossom and I had the Texas sheetcake which was just fabulously rich and chocolately.  On our second trip we tried the chai latte and vanilla latte cupcakes.  The only problem was that these were our breakfast.  After the sugar rush and caffeine buzz wore off we crashed hard.  Which is what happens when your used to decaf coffee and very little sugar in your diet.  None the less these cupcakes are incredible and worth every calorie and penny.  Light, fluffy, flavorful and would be delicious even without the creamy frosting.
Cranberry Ginger Scone

Another great place for baked goods and coffee....or wine is Northside Social in Arlington, VA.  Sorry, it's not exactly within walking distance of Arlington cemetery.  You'll have to take the orange line metro and get off in Clarendon if you want to sample their homemade scones, and perfectly brewed coffee.  At night the upstairs turns into a wine bar.  We were about to leave when they put out a tray of brownie samples.  I had a sample about 2 bites big and it was the richest, moistest brownie I have ever eaten.  This is no exaggeration, it practically melts in your mouth.  They also serve breakfast/lunch sandwiches, homemade granola, and oatmeal. Ryan went for wine one night and said they have a large selection from South America, but unfortunately the regular size glasses are quite pricey.

Also in Arlington is El Pollo Rico, a hole in the wall Peruvian restaurant.  They serve one thing, rotisserie chicken.  That's it; minus your sides of cole slaw and french fries or rice.  It may not look like much, but last year Men's Health Magazine voted it the best chicken restaurant in the united states.  It has also won numerous awards around DC.  There are about 4 large open rotisserie ovens that spin all day and late into the evening.  There is lots of cummin in the spice blend and the chicken stays moist even when eaten as leftovers.  Be careful of the hot sauce, they aren't kidding around.  I liked mixing the hot sauce with the mild sauce which we think is a combination of mayo and mustard.  If you go and the line looks long, don't worry you won't wait more than 10 minutes.
Vino on a Roof Top

Eating while traveling can get pricey, especially in a city like DC.  So sometimes it's good to find a grocery store and take advantage of their salad bar and pre-made soups/meals.  And if you're looking for a romantic evening, a bottle of wine from a grocery store will usually cost less than at restaurant.  As you can see, it was a little chilly, and we had to bundle up as we watched the sunset on the hotel roof top.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Travel Wise 2

Peanuts or Pretzels?
For the most part airport food is overpriced and overloaded with fat, calories, and weird shelf stabilizing ingredients.  Remember, a large portion of travel time is spent sitting and waiting so there is no need to eat a giant Cinnabon or slurp down an iced venti caramel mocha-chino.  Even-though beverages are no longer allowed through security, solid food is.  My friend Lucy flew with a single serving of Jiffy peanut-butter and several carrots covered in serran-wrap (to keep them from touching her shoes and clothes)  A small bag of cut up veggies would travel well too and take up very little space.  They could even be stored inside an extra pair of shoes in a carry on.  Avoiding the squish factor is important.  Soft vegetables such as zucchini and cucumber slices may get banged and bruised if kept in a bag instead of a container which will take up more space.  Bring your own granola/snack bars to keep yourself from being tempted by ice cream and cookies.  Most airports now sell items such as trail mix, clif bars, and fresh whole/cut up fruit.  However, you will spend a ridiculous amount on them, so go ahead and pack your own.  I spent $5 on a small plate of fresh broccoli and carrots with a small container of hummus from Starbucks in the Atlanta airport.  Packing my own would have saved me about $4.  

Flying will dehydrate you in a flash.  If traveling in the morning a cup of coffee is fine, but try to mix in some plain water as well.  When flying through several time zones avoid lots of caffeine in the afternoon/evening so you will be able to sleep that night. Again, you will probably be sitting for an extended period of time, so drinking excess calories in the form of juice, smoothies, and fancy flavored coffees is not advisable; especially for people trying to watch their weight or who have diabetes.  Besides, most of these will cost more than they are worth.  Try packing your favorite bags of tea and ask for a cup of hot water, this will set you back less than $1 and will help keep you hydrated.  If you want one of those flavored creations, bring a pack of hot cocoa mix and add it to a regular coffee, you'll save money and calories.

Even if the plane leaves at 7am, most travelers know to arrive 90minutes early in order to get through security.  Remember, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day.  Just because you are traveling, don't be sucked in by the doughnuts and greasy biscuit platters.  Instead, bring a container of your favorite high fiber cereal and purchase a low-fat milk carton.  For people who want eggs there is always the famous Egg McMuffin, make sure you order the original and not the sausage version.  Dunkin Donuts and Subway both offer egg/eggwhite sandwiches these days too.  The protein will keep you full, and the carbs will fuel you through lunch time.  The fruit and yogurt parfaits and bran muffins may look 'healthy' but for the most part they are giant sugar bombs with more calories than a small bowl of ice cream; so just say no.

Once on the plane stick with low calorie beverages when the stewardess comes around.  Water, hot tea, coffee and tomato juice.  If given the option skip the pretzels and cookies and opt for the peanuts.  They will give you a boost of protein and heart healthy fats.  If your flight is during meal time, make sure to have other snack options with you on the plane.  Again whole fruits and cut up veggies are great... as long as you haven't eaten them while waiting for the plane.  A PB&J or turkey sandwich from home packed in a ziplock will probably not offend anyone quite like the smell of a tuna sandwich might.  You may only be in the plane for a few hours, but please be considerate of your fellow passengers.  If the options are available in your terminal, purchase a 6" turkey sub loaded with veggies before take off and bring it on the plane with you.  It doesn't even have to fit in your carry on.  Small terminals may only have a few offerings, so stick with the basics.  A grilled chicken sandwich will almost always have fewer calories than fried, depending upon the type of bread used and how much cheese and mayo are slathered on.  Salads are another great option since they will keep you chewing longer and not leave you feeling sluggish like a burger and fries might.  Of course, many salads today come with extra helpings of cheese, bacon, and high fat salad dressings.  Be aware that all these fancy toppings add up and can doom an otherwise low calorie dish of lettuce and veggies.

Now sit back and enjoy the flight.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Travel Wise 1

Eat well no matter where the road may lead you.
Between Ryan's job and living in Georgia with the rest of our families in the midwest, I have learned a lot about eating healthy while traveling.  The biggest part of course is planning.  This step alone can take a while and many factors have to be considered.
1.  How are you traveling-plane, car, train, boat, in a group, or by yourself?
2.  How long will you be gone-6 hours, 2 days, 3 weeks?
3.  How much room do you have to pack food- lunch box, suit case, trunk of car?
4.  When you get to the destination what food will be available- gas station, 5 star restaurants, grocery store, or a family member's pantry?

Since most trips start in an automobile this post will discuss foods that travel well and can be eaten while driving.

Driving and eating can get a little treacherous.  Granted, it's best to avoid it by having a snack or meal prior to buckling up, but sometimes it cant be avoided.  In these instances it's best to have easy to handle foods around.  PB&J, turkey Sandwiches with lettuce, or hummus with cucumber slices work well.  These combinations are less likely to fall apart and drip messy gooo on your lap.  Make sure to use whole wheat bread for a boost of fiber; traveling can cause constipation.   Chicken, tuna, and egg salad have a tendency to mush out the corners and this can cause problems.  Not to mention that eating a tuna salad in the car will leave a fishy odor for several days.  Pack your sandwich in a small ziplock bag,  as you eat pull just enough sandwich out to take a few bites.  This will help prevent crumbs from sprinkling themselves all over your seat.  For longer trips don't be afraid to pack a cooler with lots of sandwich fixings.  Stopping at a rest area and making sandwiches gives you time to stand up and move around.  This will save money and calories when compared to puttering through a Wendy's or McDonalds.  It's also a great time for kids to run around and burn off some energy, making them much more pleasant travelers.  An added benefit is that many rest stops these days have walking paths and are sometimes at very scenic locations.

 Before leaving, cut up red and orange bell peppers and celery.  Pack these in a tupperware along with some baby carrots and cherry tomatoes.  These vegetables are easy to grab and munch on while driving and contain lots of vitamins/minerals/antioxidants/ and fiber.  In another tupperware store some grapes and cumquats or just throw an apple and banana in the seat next to you.  Avoid peaches and nectarines since you will end up with juice running down your hands and chin.

Chips, pretzels, and candy might be popular snacks, but remember they are highly processed foods and will probably leave you craving more.  Try making your own travel mix by combining almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, or any combination of nuts together with some dried fruit such as cherries, cranberries, pineapple, papaya, and banana.  Many grocery stores these days sell nuts and dried fruits in bulk bins so it's easy to make a combination with your favorites.  It may cost more up front than buying a 1# bag of trail mix($4-7),  buy buying in bulk allows you to control how many chocolate covered candies there are, as well as limit the amount of added salt and sugar found in most traditional trail mixes.

Be sure to keep your water bottle handy.  Sipping on h2o will keep you full, hydrated, and less likely to  purchase a large soda at a gas station.  If you need caffeine, stick with regular coffee and add 1-2 flavored creamers if needed.  The cappuccino machines and energy drinks are just flavored sugar water, so definitely avoid these if you are watching your weight or have diabetes.  Eating well while traveling doesn't have to be difficult, but it does take a little planning.  However, the reward is reaching your destination and not feeling bloated and exhausted from a bacon hamburger and large coke sugar rush.