A week of new foods: Day 3, chicken & waffles

While not as adventurous taste and texture wise as raw clams (YUCK!!!...still traumatized), this was a big challenge for me. Fried foods are no longer in my lifestyle vocabulary. I was a slave to them, and sugars, for many years. And I assure you that living off of fried food and sugar is not living at all. However, even though I have always been intrigued by it, I have never tried chicken and waffles. I've been to Roscoe's...didn't get the chicken and waffles. I've been to Home of Chicken & Waffles...didn't get the chicken and waffles. I think the combo of fried chicken with giant waffles and ladles of syrup frightened me, and made me remember the way I used to eat. 

Well this challenge is all about trying new things so I decided that this would be a great addition to the list. On my last morning visiting Portland, a friend and I perused the Saturday market and had planned on eating at one of the many food trucks or food vendors. No such luck. NONE of them offered a menu which I was comfortable and happy to order from. It was all just really questionable food, although seemingly undeserving of my usual questioning, so I declined and we headed towards the city center to find alternatives. 

This is how it usually happens: I'm somewhere new, have no idea what's available or in close proximity to me, yet I happen to stumble upon a restaurant which is exactly what I am looking for. And that morning was no different. I passed by Bijou Cafe and shamefully, I totally had a "judge a book by its cover" moment. It looked unexciting inside. But by the time I got to the end of the block and saw that the cafe was full of people and had a line in wait, I realized that that's a better indication of the quality inside. So, I turned around and went in. It lacks character and they played it safe with the interior design but the menu was sparkling and I soon learned that their philosophy is centered around "slow food" and that they source from local, sustainable, small family farms. Just what I like to hear. 

I WAS going to order an omelette. Then I WAS going to get the chorizo scramble. I was. Boring and predictable. But the special on the board kept calling me. It was a plate of fried chicken and cornmeal pancakes with spicy red pepper marmalade and honey butter. What?! That sounds amazing. So I was bold and ordered it. And I have to tell you I am grateful I did. The flavors in this dish were unreal. I mean mega delicious. And because it was gluten free and not your typical syrup soaked chicken and waffles...it was more savory and enjoyable. 

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I will admit that afterwards I was burping for about an hour or so...total grease burps and the number 1 reason I don't typically eat foods like this. But ask me if I regret it? 

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A week of new foods: Day 2, raw clams

I consider myself to be pretty adventurous when it comes to food. And, originally, I had planned this "Week of New Foods" to be all things that I cooked myself. But then I realized I could expand my horizons infinitely if I included foods prepared by others as well. Recently, my partner and I took a mini vacay to our favorite little town just an hour from our home, Guerneville. We usually splurge on a fancy dinner at Boon while we're there but there's a new restaurant in town now which caused quite a stir upon opening. It's called Seaside Metal and it's the sister restaurant to Bar Crudo in San Francisco. I haven't eaten there but have heard great things. 

My idea of fine dining includes foods which I cannot easily make at home. So, I rarely go out for soup or salad. I want the real deal. Fresh, sustainable, delicious, nutrient-packed seafood! Seaside Metal looked (and sounded) like it was just the place. 

My partner Miki suggested I try the uni as part of my challenge. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I have a thing about texture. And uni looks like it would send me straight to the toilet. I keep going back and forth about wanting to try it, but every time I see it, my decision is much more easily made. Hell no. So I went with something a little more familiar, and a whole lot more affordable: clams. Raw clams. That doesn't sound right but I was assured they have a "sweet, soft, pleasant taste" so I went for it.  

Thank GOD for the Gulf shrimp on the plate or else holy hell that just looks all kinds of disgusting. I didn't look at it too long. Or at least I tried not to. 

I made sure the....animal?...was separated from it's shell, squeezed a little lemon on it, and...

It took me AT LEAST 30 seconds to get it down. But it felt like an eternity. The texture, awful. The taste, horrendous. The experience, traumatizing. 

I'm proud of myself for trying it, but needless to say I will never eat raw clams again. To be fair, my experience had NOTHING to do with the restaurant. I loved everything about it and it instantly became our new favorite place to dine out. The food was INCREDIBLE!! I just don't think raw clams should be eaten unless you're stranded on a deserted island somewhere and you eat them for sheer survival. And even then, I would have issues. 

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Get Unplugged

So my vacation was ___(insert the most positively exuberant word in existence here)___. Truly. Traveling is a necessity in my life. I HAVE to go somewhere new with some kind of regularity. The world is such a beautiful and interesting place. Plus, I love people. People are amazing. And I'm always just blown away at how different cultures, customs, environments, governments, religions, opportunities, education systems, etc. can shape a person. It is incredible. I want to see it all. 

I've been to Germany several times before. And I've traveled around both western and eastern Europe a few times as well. This trip was unique for me because I have evolved so much since the last time I traveled there. It's only been 2 years but so much has happened in that time that I returned as a different person. More free-spirited, more open-minded, more tolerant, healthier inside and out, more positive, filled with love for myself and others, happier, and more relaxed and willing to let go. That's what made this trip so enjoyable.

Unexpectedly, I was without internet access for the time I was away. I fought it at first, but only for the first couple of days. I brought my cell phone with me every time I went out in the hopes of finding a store, cafe, train station, restaurant, or house with an open wifi network. I felt so distant and worried that I was missing out on something important. But I wasn't. Not through my phone or on the internet anyways. I was missing out on an opportunity to fully take in my experience. And almost instantaneously I realized that now I had the perfect chance to do something that I've been wanting to do for so long now but lacked the willpower to commit to it: get unplugged. 

Now, I've had vacations in remote areas and trips to the wilderness without my phone or internet access a bunch of times before. But not since I've seen my world and almost everyone in it make the shift from respectful, face-to-face, personal, meaningful conversation and communication to anonymous, impersonal, pointless jibber jabber via Facebook. I despise Facebook. I despise it's grasp on me and how it makes people feel badly about themselves and how it creates a space for people to say or do ugly things that they would normally never say or do and how it sucks the life out of you and how people are constantly posting the same things over and over again and how others post about things with no real significance and how everyone always talks about living their life yet they're on a constant Facebook stream. Facebook is not real life. Nor is it a proper means of meaningful connection to others. I do not want to know about my friend's lives through Facebook and vice versa. I actually had a GOOD friend recently tell me that she "just assumed everything was great" in my life because she follows me on Facebook when I asked her why we didn't talk more often. WHAT?! Do you realize how absurd this sounds? Most people do no post about the heartbreak, the disappointment...the darkness. They want you to see them as great, happy, achieving, unbreakable. They share the good, not the bad. It's a waste. 

When I returned to the states, I gave myself a day or so to get acclimated and then I made phone calls. I didn't announce it on Facebook. I called my family and I called my close friends. Normally, I would have switched my phone on immediately after landing, checked my email, logged on to Facebook and checked in at SFO with a message for the world like, "It's good to be home" even though I literally just touched down and haven't even stepped foot into my house yet. I just don't want that kind of life anymore. If it wasn't compulsory to have a personal page linked to a business page, I would have deleted my personal page long ago. 

But having 4 weeks of forced detachment was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I feel so free without Facebook, aside from my business page. That is where, I have to say, Facebook has been SORT OF a good thing. It has brought me many new clients and I love to read my personal messages from fans and followers. However, recently Facebook changed the reach potential for pages and now only about 10% of my followers actually see the content I am posting. Thank you Facebook, for implementing yet another way for me to waste my time. It's a damn shame! I refuse to pay for ads or to "boost" my post. That's horseshit. If something is free, it should be FREE. But there is, unfortunately, nothing free or freeing about Facebook...except when you're not on it.  

Since I've been home, I've managed to do all those "things around the house that there's never time for" with plenty of time to work, cook, maintain relationships, and LIVE my life. I'm talking about the kinds of tasks that you just find impossible to get to and therefore they have been on your to-do list for ages. I also deep cleaned my ENTIRE house from floorboards to ceilings and reorganized my closet and all storage compartments in the garage. I donated 5 bags of clothes, blankets, pillows, shoes, and 3 boxes of household goods and appliances. Because guess what, without being glued to the computer or television (I also didn't watch TV at all while I was away) you CAN actually get those things done. I probably spent less than the average person on my phone, tablet, computer, and TV and already this change has made a HUGE impact in my life. I can only imagine what it would do for you and others...

And now for some photos! 

 

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Eating clean...on vacation!

2014 will mark 2 years of committed "clean eating" for myself and my partner. And by committed I mean that we don't purchase processed foods for our household nor do we indulge in them as "treats" the same way we used to. Chips, bread, crackers, pre-made foods, packaged foods, frozen meals, refined sugars...none of that stuff belongs in our home anymore. Just to give you some brief background: when I decided to look into changing my diet to maximize weight loss results and improve my health, it naturally progressed towards the "Paleo" lifestyle. I knew absolutely nothing about it nor had I ever heard of it until about 3 years ago. Over the past 6 years or so, I've tried weight loss shakes, juicing, smoothies, protein supplements (powders, bars, etc), low calorie dieting, low fat dieting, low carb dieting, and any other fad you can think of. I counted points, tracked ounces, measured grams, and played with negative/positive calorie balance. Yup, I've done it all. But now that I just eat simple, real food...I don't have to do any of that anymore. 

Anyways, back to the topic. The one complaint I hear the most from clients is how difficult it is to stay on track while you're traveling. I don't find it difficult at all for the following reasons:

  1. I am committed to a healthy diet and lifestyle regardless of the season or occasion. 
  2. When I travel, I like to enjoy my time to the fullest without the possibility of gas, bloating, diarrhea...you get the picture. I will avoid it to the best of my ability and that starts with keeping my diet in check.
  3. Clean eating is a priority to me, not a choice. It has changed my life so drastically for the better that I can't think of a single valid excuse or reason that I should ever sacrifice it. Period.

When you make something a priority in your life, you do it and stick to it no matter what.

Ok, so given all of that, let's look at a recent example: my trip to Maui. I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that I put about 5 times more energy and time into planning, prepping, and packing my food for the trip than planning and packing clothes and personal items. I've been to Hawaii several times and know that it is, without a doubt, notably more expensive for almost everything...including food. Keep in mind I only spend about $500/month for 2 people to eat organic, pastured meats, local produce, etc. You could easily spend that much in just one week on food if you're on vacation. No thank you! I had recently read on a blog about coolers being allowed on airplanes so I thought, if the cooler can come on board, why not the food? Then came the research. I called, emailed, Googled, measured, and read my way to the answers and confirmation I needed. Now this is totally dependent on the airline, your point of origin, and your final destination but this is the general breakdown for flying from the U.S. Mainland to the Hawaiian islands on Hawaiian Airlines (HA): Yes, you can bring your own food with you in your baggage. Yes, you can bring a hard or soft cooler (no styrofoam) as checked baggage. Yes you can bring almost all produce as long as it's free of soil, disease, and pests (for the very few exceptions, see Dept of Ag website link below). Yes you can bring frozen meat. Yes you can bring any and all processed foods. 

Here are the resources I used that helped me the most during my research:

I asked VERY specific questions about each item I was planning on bringing and got written and verbal confirmation from representatives of these accredited sources that it was OK to bring those items. After I had the green light, it was time to pack!  

These are some of the smallest hard shell coolers I could find. None of them were within HA carry-on size limits. 

These are some of the smallest hard shell coolers I could find. None of them were within HA carry-on size limits. 

My initial idea was to just find a cooler that was within the carry-on size limit for HA and bring the food on the plane with me because I read about this on many travel blogs and forums. However, it turns out HA no longer allows coolers as carry-on items. GOOD THING I CALLED TO VERIFY!!! So then I thought, OK, I'll just bring the cooler as checked baggage. Wrong again! Well not technically but HA now charges $25 for your first checked bag. If my partner and I checked our own bags each way that would be $100 total in baggage fees. Again, no thank you! Great, OK so now I'm looking at trying to consolidate both of our belongings AND the cooler into 1 checked bag. It was definitely going to be a challenge but totally worth it. Plus, I love challenges! :) 

New plan: use a soft cooler. 

These are the food items I took with me in my checked bag (NOT in the soft cooler):

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  • coconut oil
  • spices
  • canned salmon
  • onions
  • sweet potatoes
  • tea
  • apples
  • avocados
  • nuts, seeds, and dried coconut (my homemade trail mix) 
  • steel cut oats
  • canned coconut milk

 

These are the food items I took with me in my checked bag with 2 ice packs (IN the soft cooler):

  • frozen ground turkey
  • frozen sliced ham
  • frozen chicken sausage
  • frozen chicken thighs

The food in my checked bag weighed nearly 35lb. I had only 15lb left for my personal belongings but when you're going to Hawaii, you pack lightly anyways. It worked out perfectly. I passed the Ag check upon arrival with flying colors. In fact, I declared everything I had with me that was fresh (all the fruits and vegetables) and just as I had learned before leaving, none of these items were cause for concern. They didn't even need to inspect anything. By the way, all of my food in my cooler was still completely frozen solid after 10 hours in transit. 

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At the airport, I picked up plastic forks, spoons, and knives from the food court as well as packets of mustard, hot chili sauce, and honey. I used the mustard as an ingredient in my tuna and salmon salads for lunches and the honey to add a touch of sweetness to my oatmeal. The chili sauce I didn't end up using because it had questionable ingredients but when I find something I can potentially use for FREE, I do not pass it up! 

 

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Our first (and only) lunch out we collected salsas, jalapeños, and fresh cilantro from the salsa bar at the restaurant we dined at. A few days later we returned to stock up a second time after purchasing an horchata so my partner didn't feel bad about it. Haha. I never feel badly about things like this. Never. 

 

When we arrived, we stopped at Costco and Down to Earth Natural Foods and got eggs, green beans, cauliflower, a 2lb bag of greens, bananas, zucchini, a few protein bars (Rise is the only brand I buy...and I can count on one hand how often I eat them in a year), and clementines. That cost us only $46 and was the only other food we purchased besides 3 meals dined out. The thing that saved us the MOST money was definitely bringing all the food with us from home. When we got to the studio we were staying at, I prepped as I always do at home. I cooked the oatmeal, make tuna and salmon salad with cilantro, mustard, and onions, marinated chicken with spices and mustard, and boiled the sweet potatoes. It took me just 1 hour. The best part about it was that I had my soft cooler and two freezer packs with me so that every day, I could pack our lunches and snacks and leave them in the car. It was wonderful. 

If I could do it all over again, I would. I plan on traveling like this for the rest of my life when possible. Both my partner and I actually lost weight while in Maui because of all the hiking, walking, swimming, and exploring we were doing. Had I not stayed committed to my lifestyle, I would have been another statistic traveling around blowing money and gaining weight. I prefer not to be a statistic. 

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