Monday, February 20, 2017

Get Beach Ready with a Low Carb High Fat Diet

My weight has yo-yo’ed a bit throughout my adult life. In my early twenties when my nights were filled with pints of calorie-laden beer and late night burritos as big as my head, I was a little heavier. Now that I have two kids and am always on the run, I don’t have time to sit down and actually eat so I tend to be a bit slimmer. Last year after spring break, I had an extra 8 pounds that I just couldn’t shed. I didn’t mind that much, but my clothes were a bit uncomfortable and well…I love my clothes too much to trade them in because of a week-long margarita binge.

Oh carbs. How I adore you. When my husband told me about a diet his doctor discussed with him, I kind of wanted to run away and cry. The diet consists of LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) food- No bread! No muffins! No yummy deliciousness that actually fills you up! I made sure to educate myself as completely as possible (this is the website that I used) and I gave it a whirl after much grumbling.

You know what? I lost 8 pounds in the month I committed to the diet. My husband? He has lost 55 pounds since he started in mid-July. It hasn't been easy- we were both hangry as hell for 4-6 weeks but it was the first diet either of us had tried that we saw lasting results from.

I don’t think this diet is for everyone, nor do I think it is the absolute healthiest diet out there. For my body, it did actually work to shed pounds that were stubbornly hanging on and helped me change the way I look food. Since then, I have consciously chosen foods that are lower in carbohydrates and kept off the weight without really trying.

The premise behind this diet is that you reduce the amount of carbs (including sugar and starches) and increase the quantity of foods high in natural fat. I love the fact that there aren’t any fake shakes, no fasting or calorie counting, and you can honestly eat until you feel full.

If you want to really burn fat you can try a ketogenic diet: consume a minimal amount of carbs per day and restrict protein to kick your body into ketosis. This is an extreme form of the LCHF diet, and your body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. This isn't for everyone, and I would highly recommend consulting your physician before trying any diet out. However, this is how my husband lost the majority of his weight.

Here are a few low carb, high-fat recipes I discovered for dinner that actually taste good!

Baked Chicken Breasts with Cream Cheese, Bacon and Feta

I found this recipe through Peapod- they actually have a meal kit you can order with all of the ingredients pre-measured. Unfortunately, it comes with potatoes on the side so I started making my own dish at home. Melt cream cheese with a little water in a dish in the microwave until soft, add cooked crumbled bacon and some feta cheese to the bowl and stir. Place on top of chicken breasts and bake.

Baked Salmon with Pesto Butter and Dill

If you have a Costco membership, this is a no-brainer. We buy this in the prepared food section and even my 5 year old loves it. I imagine it would be pretty simple to make at home as well- mix prepared pesto with butter, place on top of a salmon fillet, and add fresh dill; bake.

Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

Bet you didn't think I would include pasta on this list but I discovered a CARB FREE PASTA.

Every month, I get a delivery of 10-15 food items through Degustabox, a subscription box full of many new to the market or new to the US foods. In my February Degustabox I discovered Slendier, a carb-free, gluten-free noodle that is made from a vegetable called Konjac. I found that I really missed pasta, and was incredibly excited to give this a try! I am not a huge fan of zucchini noodles- the consistency is just a bit off for me.

I often find 2-3 items in my Degustabox every month that I purchase again- some of my favorites are parmesan cheese crisps called Cello Whisps (low carb!) and Chips Ahoy! Thins in Cinnamon Sugar- ummm....not low carb, but we all need something delicious to cheat with, and you NEED to try these if you like snickerdoodles or churros. They are my new favorite cookie- my dad and I polished off the bag together one night without realizing it. And he doesn't even like sweets.

For the Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo, I baked chicken breasts and sliced them, then whipped up a low carb Alfredo sauce with butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese. The Slendier noodles were easy to prepare since they are pre-cooked; they seriously took one minute.

If you want to try Degustabox, you can get your first for only $9.99. After your first month, it is only $19.99/month after and you receive 10-15 full-size products.

What you do think about the low carb high-fat diet? Any success? Any issues? I am curious to see if anyone else has tried it! If you do give it a shot, please consult your physician first because I am certainly not a nutritionist or physician myself!

Friday, February 17, 2017

#DateNight Food & Fashion: Siri Indian Restaurant

In the suburbs, there are many fantastic restaurants for #DateNight that are often overlooked because they aren't located in Chicago proper. I have found a few absolute gems, tucked into strip malls, hidden amongst chain restaurants, nestled into shopping centers, all just waiting to be discovered by foodies and descended upon en masse. 

I haven't had true Indian food since my days spent working on Michigan Avenue where we would scurry out of the office for a buffet lunch, only to scurry back stuffed and ready for a nap under our desks. A new authentic Indian restaurant has graced my current suburban stomping grounds- Siri Indian Restaurant in Wheeling, just 20 minutes from my home.

The outside of Siri is quite impressive, brilliantly lit; it reminds me of a lush spa resort in a faraway land. The interior is spacious and welcoming with original artwork gracing the walls, elegant chandeliers descending from the ceiling and crisp white tablecloths set with sparkling glassware. 

We started out with Vegetable Samosas, mini turnovers filled with peas and seasoned potatoes, fried to a golden brown. To drink, I had a Taj Mahal- mostly because I love the drawing on the label, but also because it is actually brewed in India. 

Their extensive menu contains 180 items, originating from both Northern and Southern parts of India. Four chefs are on staff at all times, each with particular specialties that they prepare from their own parts of India. 

For our main course, I ordered Chicken Tikka Masala- char-grilled chicken simmered with onions and bell peppers in a tomato cashew sauce. It was creamy, with a hint of spice and absolutely delicious. It was served with naan and fluffy white rice; we ordered the garlic cheese naan and also sampled the bullet naan which was topped with crushed chili. My date, one of my best friends and an Indian food enthusiast, had the Lamb Curry which was excellent as well. Their menu includes many vegetarian items, which makes Siri a perfect pick if you have a meat-averse person in your group.

Siri also has a lavish lunch buffet during the week in addition to catering options and private parties. 

Now, let's talk fashion!

I recently popped into my friend Borris Powell's studio for breakfast (donuts & bubbly), gossip, and of course to check out his FAshion lineup. Although his couture is to die for, his RTW is just as stunning and effortlessly versatile. He gave me a sneak peek at the new collection "The Darkness of Ash" that debuts on March 25th and I am saving my dollars for a piece of that action! 

I selected this stunning maxi gown with fabric from India to purchase, which of course I had to wear to Siri. This dress is everything- it can go from pool loungewear to red carpet stunner with some simple footwear and accessories. Stay tuned until next week to see the full length, and how I transition this dress from winter to spring to summer!

Thank you to Siri Indian Restaurant for having me!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Snow Cone Happy Hour

I absolutely adore snow cones. So much so that I made sure to have them for my son's first birthday party...and topped with margaritas of course (for the adults).

From my first Snoopy Snow Cone Machine when I was five to the vintage-looking one I purchased for impromptu summer parties, they are a unique twist to dessert or cocktail time. My biggest issue, though, has always been finding syrups that TASTE good and aren't filled with Red #40 and Yellow #5.

I recently hosted a segment on WCIU that focused on the One of a Kind Show, an event that offers the ultimate handcrafted shopping experience with over 600 vendors at their Holiday edition in Chicago. One of the items I presented was Jo Snow Syrups, a line of natural syrups and flavorings for snow cones, coffee, cocktails, sparkling water and more. I finally found my snow cone topping without exposing my guests to ingredients that miiiight glow in the dark.

Melissa Yen, the founder, invited me to her kitchen where she tests, creates and bottles her all-natural syrups and concoctions. We had a little Wednesday morning happy hour while creating some delicious drinks. Talk about a way to start the day! In addition to the syrups, she also creates flavor drops- no sugar, no calories, just pure flavor. I add it to my LaCroix and create new flavors. My fave is Strawberry Basil, but she also carries Mango Ginger, Pineapple Hop, Root Beer and Guava Coconut. This is a fantastic swap for calorie-heavy sodas.

Check out the concoctions we came up with for creating your own Snow Cone Happy Hour:

Rum Thai Coffee

Papa's Pilar Dark Rum + squeeze fresh lime + Jo Snow Thai Coffee Syrup (Ginger, coriander and cardamom with red pepper, almond extract and natural coconut)

Strawberry Basil Bubbly (not a snow cone, but hey...I would pour it over ice in a hot second!)

La Marca Prosecco + squeeze fresh orange juice + Strawberry Basil Flavor Drops (mint and orange garnish)

Cranberry Ginger Snow Cone Martini 

Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka, Ginger Syrup, squeeze of fresh orange juice

Melissa also provides SNOW CONE CATERING (I mean...does that sound like the best party idea ever?). This fabulous set-up can be either for kids or adults (you provide the booze), and she comes ready to mix up the fun. Also- she can create mini syrup bottles for guests to take home featuring the custom cocktail flavor that she helps you create. Party Favor with flavor.

The cocktail combinations are endless! Here are all of the flavors Melissa currently stocks:
Kugel in a Cup
Christmas in a Cup
Blueberry Jasmine
Classic Coffee flavors- Vanilla, Caramel, Hazelnut, Almond
Sass! Rootbeer
Cardamom Rose Water
Pumpkin Coconut
Fig Vanilla Black Pepper- my personal favorite
Ginger Ginger
Grapefruit Rosemary
Tangerine Lavender Honey
Thai Coffee
Strawberry Mint Balsamic

Thank you Melissa for having me! I can't wait to try them all!