Eat This Now: Plate lunch with Island Chicken at Da Luau

Click here to read about my love of Island Chicken at Da Luau Hawaiian Grill (Foothill Ranch and Irvine) at OC Weekly’s Stick A Fork In It.

Killer Shrimp: If you can’t stand the heat …

My best friend Clint and his girlfriend Diana visited SoCal this weekend for the first time in several years. I love when he comes down because we usually go on a tour of his favorite L.A. and O.C. eats. There’s a stop at Morton’s for a burger and a little Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle action. And on this trip, I took it upon myself to introduce him to Break of Dawn.

But one place we’ve left off the rotation for some time is Killer Shrimp, a Marina del Rey/Studio City joint that slings spicy bowls of broth teeming with succulent shrimp. In the last few years the locations closed, seemingly for good. Clint had heard through the grapevine the Marina del Rey location had reopened and a little Google action confirmed the good news.

After a few years away, an old favorite has returned. Continue reading

I’m joining OC Weekly’s Stick A Fork In It blog!

If you follow my Facebook page, you would have seen that a couple of days ago I posted about some exciting news to come.

And now it’s official. I’m headed back into the world of Orange County food blogging, this time with the crew from OC Weekly’s awesome Stick A Fork In It blog. The thing I miss most about working at The Reg is the food stuff, so needless to say, I’m excited to do it again–and especially so with such a talented group of food writers.

That being said, nothing changes here. My primary goal is to lose weight and get all sexy by the big 3-0 in October. But, I still eat meals out, and it would be a shame not to write about them. I asked to join Stick A Fork In It because there was no place I’d rather be writing about great local eats. And I’m honored that they’ve taken me in.

My first post should run sometime next week, and will likely be about my undying love for the Hawaiian plate lunch. I’ll post links to my stories there on this blog too, but until that first post, here’s a link to the post introducing me to their readers.

Back on track … and going strong

Today marks the start of my sixth week in the gym. I’m lifting weights, hitting cardio and still eating healthy.

I didn’t want to go too long without weighing in, so here it is. At the end of December I was about 240, so this is a sign that the work I’m putting in is, uh, working.

I’m back on track … and going strong.

I started this blog in Nov. 2010 weighing 258 lbs. Today I weigh 232.3. That’s a total loss of 25.7 lbs.

At this point, hitting the 30 lb.-loss mark isn’t even on my radar. I’m gunning for 40 before Coachella in mid-April.

Week 30, Meal 1: Mean green enchiladas

She’s gonna get pissed when I write this, but oh well. Wifey Nadia has some weird hang-ups about her Mexican food. She hates enchiladas because of the red sauce and can’t stand fajitas because of the seasoning. Both dishes are delicious to me, so her disdain for them baffles me.

She had a small panic attack when I told her we were having enchiladas for the first meal back, but I flipped  the script on her, like: “Boo. Chill. They’re salsa verde enchiladas.”

It’s true; she does prefer green sauce to red, though she still seemed a bit skeptical about Week 30, Meal 1: Black bean and spinach enchiladas verde. When it came time to eat, she couldn’t stop telling me how good these were.

And I agree. I’m a fan of black beans and cumin, and they work perfectly here. The smokiness of the cumin mingles with spice from ancho chile powder and a salsa packed with some sizzle from poblano and jalapeno peppers (and if you need more heat, add serranos or more jalapenos). I took one bite in the kitchen after taking the photo above and by the time I actually sat down at the table, I had already finished one enchilada. They look a mess in the pic, but I cracked those open to show you the delicious, meat-free goodies within.

Follow the jump for the recipe and the step-by-step.

Continue reading

Menu 30: Veggin’ out

I’m back in the kitchen this week after a long time away from Chef Brian’s menus, and while I have been cooking blog repeats and simple meals at home, I’m definitely glad to be back in the Fat Dude kitchen.

Chef Brian wrote this menu some time ago, meant as a way to get me back into healthy eating after I let my waistline go to hell for the last couple of months of 2011.

But, as it turns out, I don’t need a kick start because I’ve been hitting the gym since the beginning of the year. And now that I have an exercise routine down, it’s time to get the knives out once again. Here’s what’s cooking for Menu 30: Veggin’ out:

Week 30, Meal 1: Black bean and spinach enchiladas verde

Week 30, Meal 2: Veggie-tofu stir fry with umeboshi plum vinegar soy sauce

Week 30, Meal 3: Vegetarian paella

As always, each recipe makes 2 servings, though you might have some leftovers with these recipes. But when has that ever been a bad thing? Follow the link the shopping list. Continue reading

Eating healthy and exercising: Tackle one and then the other

I’m starting to feel like I did the first time I lost significant weight and it’s great.

I’m in between my fifth and sixth weeks of regularly going to the gym and I’m at the place where instead of dreading the visit, I dread something happening that would make me miss my workout. It’s been since 2004 that I’ve felt like this and I’m so excited to be here again.

I just wrapped up my first week of strength training, hitting the gym on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday for weights (and 20 minutes of cardio after) and on Saturday for just cardio. I’m also walking 40 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays (25 minutes in the morning, then 15 minutes on break at work) and taking 15 minute walks on Monday, Wednesday and Friday as well.

It used to be that bicep curls involved me picking up and putting down the remote and “walking” meant from my recliner to the fridge, but there’s something to this lifting weights thing. It makes me feel like a man. A STRONG MAN. You know, caveman shit.

I’m happy to have finally added exercise to my diet, because it’s so integral to weight loss.

The basic weight loss formula is exercise (cardio and strength training to start) + healthy eating (portion control, elimination/moderation of foods that will kill you). Both in 2004 and now, it seems the easiest way to get through the beginning of a weight loss attempt is to tackle one and then the other.

It took more than a year, but I’ve noticed–especially lately, and especially since adding exercise into the mix and killing my sweet tooth with portion-controlled trail mixes instead of cake and ice cream–that I have the food thing under control now.

While I’m just starting with the exercise, I can already see this being the next step, and exactly what I needed to get me out of the 230s, where I’ve been stuck for about a year.

And since I’m starting to feel like I’ve tackled both healthy eating and working out, I’m going to put it all together this week and get back in the kitchen to make Chef Brian’s delicious dishes. We’ll kick it back off with a trio of vegetarian recipes including enchiladas, paella and stir fry. The menu will go up this week and maybe we’ll get a dish on the blog too. I’m not going to rush, but I will get it done.

Onward and downward!

Quick review: “The Men’s Health Big Book of Food and Nutrition”

I’m a serial browser and an occasional reader, so with the vast number of pages I’ve quickly-flipped through running through my mind, I can hastily say that “The Men’s Health Big Book of Food and Nutrition” is the most essential book to weight loss I’ve come across yet.

Let me take a step back for one second. If I’m in a slump and feel like my diet is derailing, the first thing I immediately do to get back on track is calorie count. I’ve had stretches where I’ve logged every bite for months, and times where it’s only takes a few days of scrutiny to right the ship. But the most frustrating part of using a calorie counter (Calorie King and My Fitness Pal in my experience) is the ease of finding natural ingredients.

What I always wanted was a calorie counter that easily allowed me to build and store the stats of recipes I make at home. I can’t stand that these weight loss programs are faster at letting me know a Whopper with cheese contains 760 calories, 47 grams of fat and 1,450 mg of sodium. I already knew that was bad for me. How ’bout you help me figure out how good the food I’m making at home is?

And that’s where the “Big Book” excels–as a tool for those who have beat the fast food addiction and want to know more about what’s good for them.

What got me to purchase the book initially is the nearly 200-page pictionary of common fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, grains, dairy, cheeses, oils, fats, spices, etc. You’ll learn the proper serving size, nutritional information and health benefits of a variety of foods. Because I weigh my food when cooking and serve on smaller plates to maintain portion size, knowing the proper serving sizes and their make-up has become key to maintaining portion control.

I was introduced to new ingredients and learned a ton of awesome tips and tricks to grocery shopping and kitchen work. (Ex: “Some poultry producers inject solutions into chicken breasts to make them juicier and more flavorful … but the tradeoff from plumping is a huge increase in sodium content”; “Eating grapefruit three times a day (or 8 oz. of fresh-squeezed juice three times a day) leads to significant weight loss … subjects dropped pounds even though they hadn’t deliberately altered any other part of their diet.”)

Guide aside, my other favorite part of the book is a glossary of food additives that describes the effects of messed up stuff like “hydrogenated vegetable oil,” “modified food starch” and “Yellow #6.”

For those just starting on the path to healthy eating and weight loss, the book also offers a handful of other essential chapters: the E-A-T-S nutritional plan (Eliminate added sugars; Add quality proteins; Trade starch for produce and whole grains; Stop fearing natural fat); a guide to getting started in the kitchen; and the “100 healthiest meals on the planet,” including wild mushroom pizza, summer clam chowder and chicken and pineapple sandwiches.

Check out one of those recipes, a moist and flavorful beef meatloaf, that my homeboy Kevin recently cooked for his blog Diet Accomplice.

If you’re struggling with weight loss, I suggest tackling the nutritional element before moving on to the physical element. If you don’t know where to start, I would definitely suggest you start with this book.

All I really want for my birthday is shoulder blades

I’ve written a couple of times about the first time I lost significant weight, back in 2004. At the end of that summer, I spent three weeks with my mom in Northern California. She had this indoor smokeless grill contraption and all I ate was “grilled” chicken and beef kabobs off that thing. By the time I came back to Orange County, I had dropped a few pounds and decided to keep going. From August to October of that year I went from 239 to 202 by working out six days a week with a friend.

As my body started to slim down, I noticed all the fat on my back had started melting away to reveal … shoulder blades! Well, what would have been shoulder blades had I lost more weight.

Unfortunately, that never happened. The stress of working in a college newsroom, then the OC Register newsroom, plus meeting and moving in with Nadia, taking care of my mom throughout her battle with cancer and then becoming a food writer at the paper, provided all the distraction I needed to balloon back up.

I remember being at the doctor’s office and weighing in at 267 lbs. I kept thinking about how close that was to 300 lbs., and how shameful it was that I’d made it to 202 only to take it all back and then some.

In hindsight, had I dedicated a portion of my time to fitness, I likely would have been able to maintain. But just because I was able to work off the weight doesn’t mean I had a true understanding of health and fitness and I think that in itself is the whole reason I was unable to maintain.

Now, nearly eight years later, I’m wondering how it took me so long to get back to this place–the mindset needed to strength train. On second thought, forget wondering why, I’m just glad to be here. I’ve set a target date for slimming down to mid-October when I turn 30, and truthfully, all I really want for my birthday is shoulder blades.

And I’m going to do it this time. I started exercising on Jan. 3. In the past month I’ve managed to walk 40-60 minutes each weekday, plus make it to the gym three times per week for 20 minutes on the elliptical machine. Mid-month I started adding machines for abs and trunk muscles, front, sides and back.

With January in the bag, I’m going to continue with the plan I laid out and start strength training using machines. I know there are different schools of thought on weight machines vs. free weights, but while I’m starting to build muscle I’m going to use the machines. By the beginning of summer I hope to move on to free weights.

I used the Google machine to find results on strength training for beginners, with the best results coming from about.com.

Here’s my February workout plan, found on the website:

  1. Warmup
  2. Squat (or leg press)
  3. Bench press (or chest press)
  4. Deadlift
  5. Crunch
  6. Seated cable row
  7. Triceps pushdown
  8. Lat Pulldown
  9. Overhead press
  10. Biceps curl
  11. Cool down, stretch

I walk to the gym and stretch when I get home, so numbers 1 and 11 are taken care of already. Everything in between is pretty simple to start with and each exercise provides a way to build major and minor muscle groups in a broad way. In future months my routines will be whole workouts of one muscle group, with multiple exercises for the targeted area.

But I gotta start somewhere, and this it where it all begins.

Resources:

About.com: Before you begin that  first weights session

About.com: Burn more fat–Secrets of exercise physiology

About.com: Basic strength and muscle weight training program

Week 29, Meal 3: Salsa verde grilled chicken, roasted beet and goat cheese salad

Week 29, Meal 3: Grilled chicken tossed in pistachio and herb salsa verde over arugula salad with roasted beets, goat cheese and lemon vinaigrette

(Yield: 2 servings)

Chicken
12 oz. chicken breast, butterflied
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 T tarragon, chopped
1/2 T parsley, chopped
1/2 T chives, thinly sliced
1/4 c pistachios, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 lemon, juiced

Salad
5 oz. wild arugula
6 baby beets, different colors if possible
salt and pepper, as needed
1 t olive oil
1 oz. chevre goat cheese Dressing
1 lemon, juiced
1 T vegetable or grapeseed oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss beets with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a rack in a small roasting pan, with enough water in the pan to cover the bottom of it. Cover the pan with foil and roast the beets for 30-40 minutes, until easily pierced with a pairing knife.

Remove from the oven and, using paper towels, rub the outer  skin and stem off. Cut beet pieces into wedges.

2. In a Magic Bullet or blender, mix the lemon juice and oil to make the vinaigrette. Reserve.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, shallot, tarragon, parsley, chives, pistachios and olive oil. Reserve.

4. Preheat your grill to high. When ready to grill, cook chicken until cooked through, 3-5 minutes per side. When chicken is cooked through, slice  into strips and toss with the salsa verde. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Mix the arugula and beets  in a bowl and dress with vinaigrette.

To plate: Lay the greens out thin over the whole plate, as  opposed to a mound  in the middle. Disperse the beets evenly. Top with half of the chicken and sprinkle each salad with 1/2 oz. of goat cheese.

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