Tag Archives: Diet

Giveaway Winner and Random Sunday Musings

Hi Everyone! I hope all of you are enjoying the weekend – I definitely am! We were supposed to get horrible weather in the Bay Area this weekend – rain, freezing cold – even the potential of snow (which I have to admit would have been pretty cool). I’m not sure what happened – but it’s been nothing but sunny and gorgeous here (still chilly but nowhere near what the forecast was predicting!) And this sunny, springtime weather has put me in kind of a lazy, rambling mood. I’ve never done a post like this before – where there are multiple, unrelated foodie topics – so I figured I’d try it out today.

First off – I have to announce the winner from my Fearless Chocolate giveaway — Congratulations to Bobbie!!

Bobbie – your chocolates should be on their way soon. Thanks to all of you who entered! And just so you know – I’ll be launching my next awesome giveaway this Friday – so stay tuned 🙂

Now, on to my random musings for this Sunday. First – let’s talk about fast food oatmeal. It’s an interesting trend – but more and more fast food restaurants are adding oatmeal to their breakfast menus – the most recent addition coming from McDonald’s.


The most interesting thing about this newest oatmeal addition was the chatter and criticism over how unhealthy the oatmeal actually was. For those of you who haven’t seen Mark Bittman’s article: How to Make Oatmeal…Wrong – definitely check it out here. The sad thing is, he’s 100% right. Somehow, McDonald’s did manage to make oatmeal unhealthy, and I can’t begin to figure out why.

So let’s start with the basics – why is McDonald’s oatmeal unhealthy?

  1. Oatmeal really should be one ingredient: whole rolled oats (or steel cut oats). McDonald’s has SEVEN – and this is just in the base – not in the added ingredients! Oats is their #1 ingredient, but they also add weird things like: “food starch modified” — what IS that?? Other added ingredients include: “natural flavor,” “barley malt extract,” and “caramel color.” Honestly – I don’t know why you need to add color to oatmeal. That’s just bizarre.
  2. Oatmeal should have zero grams of sugar as a base: Of course, you can (and should) add natural sugars (like honey, or stevia, or agave) to oatmeal to sweeten it up, but as a base – it should have zero sugars. The “base” for McDonald’s has 14g sugar. And that’s BEFORE you add the sweetened dried fruit (which has another 15g sugar). Just fyi – if you add the dried fruit to your already sweetened McDonald’s oatmeal – you’ll end up with as much sugar as in a whole Snickers bar. Isn’t that crazy?
  3. Instead of adding creme to oatmeal, milk is a better option: Unfortunately, the McDonald’s oatmeal only gives you the option of adding creme – not milk. The creme has 20 calories – 15 of which come from fat.

So yes, all of this really sucks, and it’s disappointing that McDonald’s didn’t try harder to make a healthier oatmeal like other fast food restaurants (more details on that below). But – to give a balanced review – I have to call out a few things about McDonald’s oatmeal that are somewhat redeeming:

  1. The oatmeal “base” is made with rolled oats – which is still good for you (even with the added crap). Also – a decent size serving has only 190 calories, 2.5g fat, 3g fiber and 4g protein. That’s not bad compared to other fast food breakfast options out there. And I’ve heard you can order it without the brown sugar – which will cut down on the total sugar in the dish and will save you some calories.
  2. One of the toppings is diced fresh apples. This is a GREAT option to both sweeten the oatmeal and add an extra 1g fiber without any calories. If you just got the apples + oatmeal – your entire breakfast would be 200 calories, 4g fiber, and 4g protein. (It is weird to me that the apples have “calcium ascorbate” added – doesn’t seem necessary but at least they’re still fresh apples.) One thing is for certain – stay away from the “cranberry raisin blend” and “creme” toppings – those two will add a total of 90 calories – most of which comes from sugar and fat – totally unnecessary for your breakfast.

What really gets me about all this: if you are just a normal consumer who assumes oatmeal and the toppings that come with it are healthy – you could unknowingly walk into a breakfast that causes you a sugar high & crash every day: the 30g of sugar in the fully loaded oatmeal guarantees it. And while the total caloric count (oatmeal + all toppings) isn’t outrageous (it’s only 290 calories total) – the nutritional bang for your buck isn’t great. I just feel like unless you do research and know your nutritional labels inside & out – a company like McDonald’s could totally dupe customers by introducing a “pseudo healthy” product. Which is why I felt the need to post about it today. I guess you have to give them credit for “trying,” – but even in their efforts to try they kind of get it wrong.

The good news is: there are FOUR other great fast food oatmeal options out there that actually are healthy and don’t have random ingredients added.

First up – Starbucks

This has to be one of my favorite fast food oatmeals because: 1) Their “base” has 0g sugar, 140 calories and 4g fiber. It’s instant oatmeal – which isn’t ideal, but better than oatmeal with tons of sugar added. 2) All of their toppings come in 50-100 calories packs – and you can add as much as you like: I suggest adding the nuts for extra fiber/protein, and skipping most of the dried fruit which has 20g sugar (ridiculous).

Our next fast food oatmeal star – Jamba Juice

This oatmeal option is probably the best one – because it’s made with steel cut oats! And the “Plain Oatmeal with Brown Sugar” has only 4 ingredients: Steel cut oats, soymilk, and brown sugar crumble (which you can ask for on the side, or eliminated altogether). The steel cut oats base only has 220 calories, 5g fiber and 8g protein. The brown sugar crumble has 7g sugar and 40 calories (which isn’t too bad).

Two other good options: AuBonPain and Cosi’s

ABP’s small (8oz) oatmeal has 170 calories, 1g sugar, 4g fiber, and 6g protein – and only 2 ingredients: Water and Rolled Oats.

Cosi has steel cut oats as well! And their serving has 220 calories, 4g fiber, 5g protein and 3g sugar. They have a crazy list of toppings – some of which are super unhealthy (like the dried fruit or whipped cream) – but all of them come on the side. And they have two great healthy toppings – pistachios and strawberries.

So while the McDonald’s version is deceptively unhealthy, there are plenty of good fast food oatmeal options out there – which is good news! It is sad though that consumers have to do so much digging to get to the bottom of what’s actually in the food we buy.

Which brings me to my next topic: I was recently contacted by a site called Food Facts – whose mission it is to eliminate confusion about what’s actually IN the foods we eat, and create a centralized resource for all the food information you could want! Check out their site here, and a video overview here.

I really applaud the work they’re doing and was happy to partner with them on a few things (since our sites have very similar missions). I’d definitely recommend touring their site for any food related questions you have.

And as I move on to my last topic, I’m acutely aware that it’s midnight and I have to wake up early for work tomorrow. So, I feel like a very appropriate last topic is my issue with getting enough sleep every night. Do any of you feel like you don’t sleep enough during the work week? I’m the type of person that actually needs 8 hours of sleep every night. When I’m well rested, I will wake up every morning after 8 hours of sleep like clockwork. The only trouble is, during the week I get about 6-7 hours (usually closer to 7). While that’s not bad – I feel like that’s still not enough sleep for me, because I always feel like I’m making up for lost sleep on the weekends.

So as I sign off tonight – I’ll leave you with two questions: 1) How much sleep do you usually get every night? and 2) Do you have any tips for me to make my sleep schedule more regular?

And with that, I think it’s my cue to head to bed. Happy (early) Monday everyone!

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Tips for Eating Healthy on Thanksgiving: Enjoy the holiday without ruining your diet!

The holidays are always my favorite time of the year – you get to take time off work, spend more time with family and friends, and of course – there’s the amazing food that goes along with it! J But for many people, especially those watching their weight, Thanksgiving can be a real challenge. Most people think they have to deprive themselves if they’re going to stay on their diet come Thanksgiving. That’s a myth! You can totally enjoy the wonderful Thanksgiving treats without depriving yourself – if you follow my 10 Tips for healthy eating on Thanksgiving. Hope they are helpful!

1) Don’t go to the Thanksgiving dinner hungry – eat normally all day! A lot of people starve themselves all day to “make room” for Thanksgiving dinner. DON’T do that! You’ll end up overeating like crazy during dinner and you’ll do more damage. During the day, eat small, light meals that keep you feeling satisfied (like fruit and low fat cottage cheese, and egg white omelet, a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, etc.).

2) Plan out your portion sizes – don’t plan to go back for seconds and don’t eat like this is your last meal on earth! First of all, there are always leftovers – so if you couldn’t get enough of those mashed potatoes, you can always take a bit home and eat it the next day. Remember – for all the “goodies” – it’s all about portion control! One taste of pie will not ruin your diet, but three slices will.  So, to avoid the pitfalls, plan to eat all the goodies that you enjoy – just eat them in moderation. For example: fill your plate ¾ with veggies, lean meat, and salad. The remaining ¼ of the plate you can fill with the fun stuff (mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.). For dessert, I like to take tiny bite-sized portions of each of the options – that way I get to taste a little of everything but I don’t end up eating a 500 calorie slice of pecan pie!

3) Drink plenty of water, and stick to wine/beer over high-calorie cocktails. This one’s a no-brainer. What would you rather have – a 500 calorie cosmo, or a 500 calorie slice of pie? You do the math – to me, the dessert is more worth it J

4) Work out before the big meal! My husband and I usually like to go for a run on Thanksgiving morning. That way, even if we do overdo it a little bit, we have a couple hundred calories to play with on Thanksgiving day .

5) Turkey can be good for you! Just make sure you go skinless (takes away some of the fat/cholesterol), and make sure you go for the white meat – which is the best lean protein. And stick to a 4 oz portion (about the size of a deck of cards)

6) Veggies are definitely good for you Squashes, salad, green beans, potatoes – these are all are great side dishes that have tons of fiber and can fill up your plate without adding too many calories. BUT – sometimes these dishes can end up being calorie laden (e.g. mashed potatoes are usually made with butter & milk, green bean casserole is made with cream of mushroom soup, cheese, milk, and fried onions, and candied yams are loaded with cream, sugar, etc.) – so if you didn’t make the dish and you don’t know exactly how it was cooked, just eat a much smaller portion than you normally would.

7) If you are the Thanksgiving dinner chef, make healthy substitutions without losing any of the flavor! For example: For sweet potatoes, instead of cooking them with tons of sugar/cream, try sprinkling them with a tsp of honey and a bit of brown sugar, and bake them in the oven.  Make your own fresh cranberry sauce rather than using the high-sugar canned version. For stuffing, switch out white bread for whole wheat, or even substitute veggies for bread. For all recipes, substitute skim or 1% milk for whole milk or heavy cream, use light butter vs. regular butter, low fat cheese for regular cheese, 2 egg whites for one egg, low fat sour cream vs. regular… you get the picture J

8 ) Try going vegetarian! There are some really healthy, flavorful, Thanksgiving vegetarian dishes out there. Some of my favorite sources include: Cooking Light, Health.com, and the NY Times Food Section

9) If you do go “rogue” on Thanksgiving, restart your diet IMMEDIATELY the next day. Don’t use the fact that you went overboard one day as an excuse to completely ruin your diet. Create a plan for yourself to get back on track. Even if you ate 2000 calories during the Thanksgiving dinner, if you go back to eating healthy the next day, you won’t end up gaining 5 extra pounds from one meal.

10) Enjoy yourself! At the end of the day, Thanksgiving really is about being with friends and family and spending that time together. Don’t be so stressed out about the food that you aren’t able to enjoy the holiday! Stressing yourself out will only make you feel discouraged and will likely make you end up eating more. Just relax, and if you can’t remember all of these tips –just remember two things: Don’t go back for seconds and thirds, and eat everything in moderation! Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Saturday in SF & Dinner at The Plant Cafe!

This weekend, the weather was GORGEOUS, so my husband and I decided to take a trip to SF to see The Social Network (which yes, we STILL hadn’t seen yet) and have dinner at The Plant Cafe which is an all organic, healthy, veggie/vegan friendly restaurant in SF. I hadn’t eaten there before but I had heard good things, and on both fronts (the movie + the dinner) we were not disappointed! Since the weather was so nice, we decided to be green and take BART into the city. After a 45 min train ride, we arrived at Powell street!

I love how my husband uses a Yahoo backpack when neither of us work there (although I used to so I guess that’s his excuse 😛 ). Right after we got out of the station we came across these street performers who were doing some amazing things with popping & locking (and borderline contortion-ism)

We headed down Market Street to our first destination – The Metreon!

While my husband was buying tickets, I took pictures to entertain myself…

We saw the 4:40 show! And it was awesome. Really really interesting and entertaining movie – totally worth the crazy price of movie tickets these days. When we got out of the theater, the weather was still gorgeous! At times like these, I love SF at night. We walked to our dinner destination which was on the Embarcadero

SF at night really has a charm to it that no other city does

I love the Ferry Building!! 🙂 Soon after the Ferry Building, we made it to dinner

This restaurant had a wonderful, warm, organic, rustic feel to it. Because the weather was so nice (and they had heated lamps!) we decided to sit outside where we waited for my brother to join us for dinner.

We were sitting right next to the water at Pier 3! And we had awesome views from our table…

So after basking in the warmth of the heat lamps, and catching up with my brother a bit, we decided to order. Everything on the menu looked sooo good – it was hard to decide! But we finally settled on 3 different juices to try (this place has amazing, fresh squeezed, organic juices with inventive ingredients like kale and broccoli in them!), an appetizer, and 3 entrees. When our drinks came out we were really excited because they were so colorful!

My husband’s orange drink is the Immune Builder – carrot, apple, ginger and lemon

My green drink is the Good Start – it had kale, celery, broccoli, apple and ginger

My brother’s magenta drink is the Healthy Sunrise – carrot, beet, orange, apple and lemon

All three were absolutely amazing – you could tell that they literally just ground the ingredients to a pulp and made our juices – and that nothing else was added to them. All were super refreshing in their own ways, but if you like drinks on the sweeter side – my brother’s was probably the sweetest of the three. Now, on to our appetizer course!

We ordered the Grilled Flatbread with cumin carrots, pickled beets, garlic hummus and hung yogurt!

We were all hungry by this point, so of course we were excited to get our appetizer 🙂 It was the perfect way to start out the meal! The flatbread was warm and freshly baked, with the perfect balance of a crispy outside with a soft and fluffy inside. The dips were all different in their flavors – the yogurt was thick and creamy, reminded me of Greek Yogurt; the beets were slightly tart but the pickled flavor wasn’t overpowering, and the cumin carrots were really creamy and had a smoky flavor. But I think my favorite was the garlic hummus. It was spicy but not too hot, had the great garlic flavor running through each bite and was just a little chunky which made me think it was made from scratch!

For our entrees, we ordered: The California Plant Burger…

The burgers are house made from lentils, mushrooms, beets, cashews and bulgar wheat. The California version has avocado and white cheddar cheese added to it, and you have the option to get it served on whole wheat bread instead of the bun (which usually has more calories than 2 slices of bread!) It’s also topped with roasted onion, lettuce, tomato, and aioli (which I got on the side of course!) and served with roasted potatoes and mixed greens. The burger was spicy and full of flavor, and the meal overall was excellent – probably my favorite dish of the night!

Next up… Pumpkin Seed and Corn Meal Crusted Tempeh served with coconut mashed yam, sauteed seasonal vegetables, and avocado and tomatillo salsa verde!

I was really impressed with the Tempeh in this dish. Usually I don’t even like Tempeh – but this was cooked so perfectly and with the combination of the salsa verde + sweet potatoes in each bite – it was divine! The sweet potatoes were equally impressive – they were so creamy I could have sworn there was cream in them – but they were vegan so of course they didn’t have cream in them 🙂

My brother ordered the market fish of the day which was the halibut – it was served on a bed of kale with some sort of a lemon sauce underneath

I can’t speak to the flavors – but I think he was pretty happy with it…

And of course, we couldn’t leave without ordering dessert! We got the cranberry sorbet with pumpkin sandwich cookies – which were gluten free and vegan!

The sorbet was nice and tart, and provided a really great complement to the sweeter, soft, creamy cookies. It was a great, light way to round out our meal. Thanks Plant Cafe for a great meal – we’ll definitely be back again!

Needless to say, we were really happy and relaxed after we were done, and the weather was still super nice outside! So I had my brother take a picture of my husband and me with the pier in the background.

We felt like we were on vacation! All in all, it was the perfect day. Great food, wonderful company and amazing weather – we couldn’t have asked for anything more. 🙂

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Indian Inspired Dinner: Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji” with Lentil Stew!

Last night, I was really in the mood to COOK. Normally, I’m more of a 30 minute meal kind of girl (not to be channeling Rachael Ray) – but I really like to be efficient in the kitchen and have a one pot meal ready to eat soon after I’ve started cooking. But with the weather changing, and the days becoming a bit shorter, I just felt like taking some time to make a warming, spicy meal for our Sunday night dinner. I came across two recipes – one from VegetarianTimes.com and one from Cookingchannel.com, and thought they would go great together. Here are the links: Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji” and Lentil Pilaf Stew. Both of them turned out super flavorful and ended up being a really balanced meal (sweet potatoes have tons of antioxidants and fiber, and the lentils/rice combination made a complete protein!) My modifications to the recipes are below, enjoy!

Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji”

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (Note: I just used 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil – honestly you don’t need 2 Tbsp for this recipe! Omitting 1 Tbsp saves 120 calories 🙂 )
  • 1 onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (Note: This adds great flavor, but this is a LOT of coriander seeds – I think it was a bit much for me and my husband. Next time I’ll probably use half the amount)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

Directions

  1. Place the oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion and ginger and cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and salt and toast for 15 seconds and then add the tomatoes and sweet potatoes, and cook until they are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower and stir well to combine. Place a tight fitting lid on the pan and cook until the cauliflower is crisp- tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Lentil Pilaf Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and sorted (Note: I used the already cooked/steamed brown lentils from Trader Joe’s – cut down on the cooking time and still tasted great!)
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil (Again, I only used 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups) (I used red onion)
  • 2 large carrots, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup basmati rice (I actually used 1/4 cup of brown rice. The reason was – I wanted to make this more like a stew or “dal” so I wanted some of the liquid to remain in the pot instead of getting absorbed by the rice)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.)
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 14.5-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • cilantro for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. [If you are using dry lentils, follow this step. Otherwise start at step 2]. Bring lentils and 4 cups water to a boil in large pot or Dutch oven. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until lentils are firm-tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup cooking water (only reserve the water if you are planning on making a pilaf instead of the stew), and transfer lentils to bowl.
  2. Wipe out pot; heat oil over medium high. Sauté onion in oil 4 minutes, or until just golden.
  3. Add carrots and rice, and cook 3 minutes, or until rice is toasted and fragrant, stirring constantly.
  4. Add garlic, ginger and garam masala, and cook 1 minute more.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, broth, reserved lentil cooking water (omit this ingredient if you are making the stew) and lentils, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes, or until liquid is mostly absorbed and rice is tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper (mine didn’t need any additional salt or pepper). Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.
  7. [This step only applies if you’re making a pilaf] Fluff with fork , then spoon pilaf into shallow bowls, and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve hot.

Pictures!


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Rajma (or Indian Spiced Vegetarian Chili)!

I found this recipe for “Rajma” on FoodNetwork.com a while back, and decided to try it out this past weekend. For those of you new to Indian food, Rajma is basically a North Indian vegetarian dish consisting of red kidney beans in a thick curry with lots of Indian whole spices – it’s usually served with rice or naan. When made without tons of oil/butter/cream, Rajma is actually a super healthy one pot meal – think of it as vegetarian chili with lots of yummy Indian spices! This recipe is especially healthy because in addition to the kidney beans (which have tons of fiber, protein and are low in calories), there are tons of veggies to round out the meal as well. The recipe with my notes are below – it only took about an hour to make and that’s including cutting all the veggies, heating the naan and waiting for the curry to simmer and cook through!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (Note – I only used 1 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and it was enough. Save the extra 120 calories and only use 1 Tbsp!)
  • 1 cup minced onions (I used a red onion, and probably used more than a cup – I just used 1 small red onion and cut the whole thing)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I actually used 4 cloves for more taste/flavor)
  • 4 firm, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (Roma tomatoes work great here. Note: Make sure you use all the seeds and pulp from inside the tomato, it makes a great base for the curry!)
  • teaspoons minced gingerroot, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger (I ended up using closer to 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional) (I would highly recommend adding this in – gives the curry a nice kick without being too spicy!)
  • 2 cups drained kidney beans (19-ounce can)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the oil, onions and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, tomatoes, gingerroot, cumin seeds, Garam Masala, lemon pepper, and dried red pepper flakes, if desired, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the beans and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more. (Note – I ended up cooking it for 10 min) Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro (and then I let it heat through for 1-2 min)

Pictures!


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Great Snack: Two Easy Dips with Pita Chips!

So as most of you know, I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s 🙂 This past weekend when I was grocery shopping, I came across two dips that I thought would make a great snack: The Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus Dip, and The Masala Lentil Dip. I’ve had a bunch of different Trader Joe’s hummus dips before, but I had never tried the organic version. The organic version actually has better nutritional information than the regular version (20 fewer calories per serving, with the same amount of fiber & protein). And I’m pretty sure the Masala Lentil Dip is new because I hadn’t seen it before! (It also has good nutritional value – only 60 calories for 2 Tbsp, and a good amount of fiber & protein!)  Both were fabulous, and I served them with home made Pita Chips (recipe below). But you can also eat them with sliced veggies – e.g. carrot sticks, celery, broccoli, zucchini, etc., and you can also combine them with a cheese plate if you pick your cheeses wisely 🙂

Here’s the Organic Hummus Dip…

And here’s the Masala Lentil Dip…

And here’s the Pita Chips Recipe!!

Note: I like making Pita Chips at home rather than buying the pre-made, packaged version. Usually those have either added fats, preservatives, etc. to make them taste good – which end up adding more calories to the pita chips. Also, they’re usually not made with whole wheat pita bread, so you lose the added fiber and nutritional value there as well. It’s really easy to make pita chips at home – took less than 5 minutes!

Ingredients

  • Whole wheat pita bread
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt, pepper, other spices to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a grill pan or panini press over medium-high heat, spray with olive oil spray
  2. Put 1 whole wheat pita bread on the panini press, spray the top lightly with olive oil spray and close the panini press (if on a grill pan, flip the pita once the side that’s down is crispy and browned)
  3. Take the pita out once it’s crispy (like a chip!), season with salt/pepper/or your favorite spices to taste
  4. With a serrated bread knife, cut the whole pita into 8 equal wedges. Serve with dip!

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Evvia Restaurant, Palo Alto – A wonderful dining experience!

This weekend, my husband and I went to Evvia for dinner – a Greek inspired restaurant in the heart of the Silicon Valley. We had been to their sister restaurant in San Francisco – Kokkari – a bunch of times and loved it, but we had never tried Evvia before. As we walked down Emerson Street towards the restaurant, I was really excited – if Evvia was anything like Kokkari, I knew we’d be in for a treat. Luckily, they did not disappoint! The warmth of the restaurant was felt as soon as we walked in the door – which is helped by their rustic, wood decor and ambient lighting. Our waiter greeted us immediately, helped us in choosing two excellent wines and made recommendations that were helpful to us (as vegetarians). The service was prompt and efficient, but friendly – we never felt like we were being rushed. And the food was excellent! Below are the pictures from our meal and the dishes we ordered. If you’re ever in Palo Alto, I’d highly recommend checking out Evvia, especially if you like Greek food with a twist. Enjoy the photos!

We started our meal with a Green Lentil Vegetable Soup, garnished with olive oil. Super flavorful, hearty but still light enough that we were able to enjoy the rest of the meal! The restaurant also split the soup into two bowls for us since we were sharing it, which I thought was a nice touch.

We also ordered crispy zucchini cakes, served with cucumber & mint yogurt as an appetizer. They were perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside with the wonderful texture of shredded zucchini on the inside. The yogurt sauce was a perfect cooling accompaniment to the dish. I think this might have been my husband’s favorite meal of the night!

Oh, and did I mention the wine?? We ordered a glass of the Velio, Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie ’08; and a glass of the Alpha Estate, Axia, Amyndeon ’06 (a red wine similar to a Syrah). Both were excellent. Here’s my husband digging into the soup with the wine glasses on our table 🙂

For our entree, we had the herbed ravioli with heirloom cherry tomatoes, pesto, pine nuts & feta. Note – this dish looks small (only 4 pieces of ravioli) – but it’s actually super filling and very flavorful! For one person it’s definitely enough. For two people though… we were still hungry 🙂 So we ordered another dish – The Evvia Pita with caramelized onions, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, myzithra cheese & Greek basil. We really liked the pita – the sweetness of the onions and what tasted like a honey/wheat dough was balanced well with the saltiness of the olives and cheese. This was a great way to end our meal – the pita totally hit the spot and filled us up!

For dessert, we decided to try the Galaktoboureko, which is a traditional phyllo wrapped vanilla bean semolina custard with pistachio ice cream. It sounded a bit odd, but oh my GOD it was AMAZING. The perfect balance of flavors and a really unique dessert! Note – they also have a healthier dessert option which is the homemade Greek yogurt served with dried fruit, walnuts and honey on the side – which I ordered out of curiosity and that was really good too. But if you’re looking for a real DESSERT – try the Galaktoboureko – I promise you’ll love it 🙂

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