My visitors are here…

That’s right, my sister and her boyfriend are visiting me in the Azores.  We have been very busy seeing the sights and having some great experiences.  I will be posting on their time here over the next few days.  Thanks everyone for your thoughts on my Thursday Thoughts.  I look forward to doing more of those.

When my sister and Chris first arrived we took it easy and headed to the beach area.
Then we stopped in this place called Mimos for some lunch.  My sister and I both ordered their version of a veggie burger and we both added egg on top.
Chris does eat meat, so he enjoyed a tosta mista, which is like a hot ham and cheese sandwich, but better because the ham is the European version of sliced ham, and the cheese is local.
I was pleased to see the new paint on the church in Praia.
I think it stands out so nicely now.
For dinner I took them to Buzius because I  knew my sister would enjoy the squid, which I had tried the week before.

Since Chris does eat meat, we had them actually bring the sausage to the table.  The servers know me, so they automatically do not bring meat.  When i have company i have to let them know it is OK to bring out.
My sister and I were more than happy to eat these olives.
Both my sister and I ordered the squid, but she got hers spicy and with tentacles.
Chris had the seafood cataplana, which is a special Portuguese preparation with a cream sauce.
There you have it…their first day on the island.  Plenty more to come, including pictures from our trip to another island in the Azores chain.

QUESTIONS:  What do you like to take your visitors to see when they visit your town?  Do you prefer cream sauces or tomato based sauces?  Did you do anything exciting over the weekend?

Happy first day of school if any of your teach of take classes!  I did have to go back to work today, but it was great to catch up with old friends and meet new people.

Another Saturday Night

As we were getting ready to head out to dinner last Saturday night, I was stopped by this precious dog who wanted to know why we were going to leave her alone.  No, just kidding, that is not really what happened, but she did try to prevent me from getting ready to go out to dinner with Ryan.  I took a picture of her and then went about my business.
We decided to try a restaurant that was new to us.  We have wanted to try it for a while, but didn't have a chance yet.  Then someone recommended it to me, so we had to try it out.  Finding it was not as easy as we thought.  In fact, we were way off, and over by the beach, when this place is all the way at the other end of the marina, and then in the part that wraps back around the port area, so it looks back on the city from out in the water.

We finally found it, of course I did have to call.  This restaurant is called Porto Das Pipas. 
The downstairs is more of a snack bar.  I think for a snack bar, it looks really nice inside.
The bartender pointed us in the direction of the upstairs for a full dinner service.
Sorry for the blurry picture of the upstairs dining room, but I was trying to take it quickly since the staff was approaching us to take us to a table.
We took a small table next to the window.  It had a beautiful ocean view.
The meal started with fresh bread...
fresh goat cheese and pimento sauce...
and cheese cubes, along with herbed butter.
All the starters were delicious, and eaten pretty quickly while we enjoyed our wine and the view.

For dinner, Ryan ordered a steak with an herb sauce.
I ordered the taglietelle with shrimp.  I made sure to ask in advance if the were beheaded and the server said yes.  In fact, this server knows us pretty well, even though we have never eaten here before.  He was our regular server at another restaurant for a while.  So on this night, we when sat down and he realized who were were, he impressed us with his memory of our likes and dislikes.  He was so good that he did not bring any sausage to the table for a starter and when I ordered dinner he made a joke about me and codfish, since I once had a piece that was too chewy and I sent it back.  He also told me I would like this pasta dish and I took the suggestion because that was one of the dishes I had my eye on.

When it was brought to the table, he came up first and told me it was coming and I was going to laugh at the plate.  He was right.  Look at this...
The pasta was coated in garlic and had tons of shrimp inside.  They cooked the dish inside foil.  It really kept the flavor in.  It was very good, and I was impressed with how many shrimp I was served given the inexpensive price.  In the US, I would have gotten 5-7 shrimp in a dish that cost about $14.
We passed up dessert, but we did enjoy a coffee before the walk back to the car.
How cute is the little cinnamon stick?
We had a nice walk back over to the beach side.  The sky was so clear and the moon was shining off the ocean.  It was hard to really capture the scene, but trust me, it was breathtaking.
By the time we were almost back to the car, we were ready for our favorite dessert...soft serve at Copa Cabana.  Sorry, no pictures of the soft serve because it starts to melt before I can get a good picture.  So, I had Ryan take a picture of me instead.
While we were enjoying the evening outside, we noticed some live music down the street.  We decided to check it out and found this guy playing guitar and singing in a near by courtyard cafe.
I was amazed by how many people were out after 11 pm enjoying the music.  They do not go out to dinner until much later in Europe so it really should not have been such a surprise.
QUESTION:  What are you doing this Saturday night?

Since my sister is in town, we have a lot going on, and I am a little behind in my posts.  I do plan to share all of the fun details of her visit once things settle down around here.

Thursday Thoughts: HFCS

It's Thursday, so that means it's time for Thursday thoughts.  If you did not catch my post last Thursday, I decided to start this new segment where I share my thoughts on a nutrition of health related topic, based on my observations and experience in practice, and when available, scientific evidence.

This week, I want to share my thoughts on a topic Ryan and I were discussing last week.  The first time this came up, I was living in Vegas still and having a conversation with another dietitian and the answer seemed very obvious to us as dietitians.  The issue I am I talking about is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and obesity.

Causation is very hard to prove, and most research looks at links, not causes.  For someone to say HFCS is the reason so many people are obese, is a huge overgeneralization.  There are too many factors missing from this equation.

But people still notice when they cut all HFCS from the diet, they lose weight, leading them to believe, this is the cause for obesity.  So let's look at some of the possible reasons for this.

1) Cutting anything out from the diet means you are more vigilant over what you put into your body.  As Ryan mentioned when we were discussing this, it forces you to have to read labels and watch what you eat.  You are more likely to eat less calories just because you are forced to make better food choices and review labels.  You are just more aware of what you are eating.

2) Along the lines of the first thought, it is almost like a fad diet in theory.  One item is eliminated, and it forces everything else to be monitored.  When monitoring intake, like on a fad diet, people are rigid in following guidelines, and they often are very into their new diet plan and overly excited at the start.  By cutting back on food intake in general, weight is lost.  The weight loss equation is energy in vs energy out and when in balance, weight is maintained.  So focusing on what you are eating, almost always lead to less caloric intake than usual.

3) Think about the foods that contain HFCS.  Not only are these high in added sugars, they are often high in fat as well, meaning calories add up quickly.  Eliminating HFCS almost immediately eliminates all sweets and junk foods.  The end result is a reduction in calories, which leads to weight loss.  By cutting out HFCS it will drastically alter the foods available for a person to consume on a daily basis, and many will be lower calorie options.

4) That brings me to my next point.  When someone is left to choose whole gains and produce more often, they are likely increasing their fiber intake too.  Chances are this is helping with satiety and keeping them feeling fuller for a longer period of time, thus contributing to less caloric intake for the day.

5) Could HFCS contribute to obesity?  Sure it can.  It does when coupled with excess calories for the day.  But, there is little evidence that eating a diet with less calories than you need, and that contains HFCS, a person will still be obese.  Just looking at HFCS is an error because there are too many other variables that are not accounted for.  There is more to the energy balance equation than just HFCS.  In fact, the body really can't distinguish between the kinds of sugar you eat.  The body does not realize if it is HFCS, honey, table sugar, lactose or fructose, although the body does have to digest them a little differently in order to obtain glucose from the molecules for energy use in the body.  As Dr. Willett write in his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, the structure of sucrose (table sugar) is a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule, and HFCS is glucose, with almost equal parts fructose, making the two molecules almost identical.  I am going to go with Dr. Willet on this one.  He is the leader in nutritional epidemiology research (yes, the field I wish to complete my PhD in one day).  Since the body is not going to differentiate, it is unlikely that HFCS is any worse than regular table sugar.  Everything in moderation.  Too much table sugar, too much HFCS, and too much of anything when it comes to calories will lead to weight gain.

 Well, there you have thoughts on HFCS as the cause for obesity.  Obesity is more complex than just one factor.  People caused the obesity epidemic.  Everyone has a choice, and unfortunately poor choices can be made when someone is not educated on the situation.  Poor choices by consumers, in my opinion, led to more undesirable products hitting the market.  The lack of knowledge led people to purchase these products, and while food companies and marketing firms may have "tricked" people, it was the consumers in the end who created a need for certain foods products, and things really got out of hand.  Again, I think mostly because of a lack of education, and asdly, companies took advantage of this.  i also think some food companies may not have really known how bad something would be for a person because they could not predict a lack of ability to monitor portion sizes consumed in one sitting. 

Nutrition science is a new science, dating back really only until the early 1900's, so it is still evolving and we are still learning and identifying components.  It would also help if the media promoted more truths and less fads, but I assume that is just more boring and we all know the mass media outlets are anything but boring. 

QUESTIONS: Have you heard people say before that they feel HFCS caused the obesity epidemic?  Or do you personally feel that HFCS is the cause for obesity?  Any topics you would like me to weigh in on for future installments of Thursday Thoughts?

Dinner Duty

Last week Ryan and I both had some good dinner ideas, so we took turns with dinner duty.

I was up first.  I had bought some eggplant, which I love, and decided I wanted some baked eggplant parmesan.  We had a ton of leftover pasta from 2 nights before and if it didn't get used, it was going to have to be tossed out.  It seemed perfect then as I could use the pasta for a side dish.

I baked my eggplant slices, with a little olive oil on top.
Then I layered then in a dish with some tomato sauce and cheese.
And in no time, I had dinner ready.
Like I said, we had tons of pasta, so it was great to be able to use it up and not have to throw it away.  Oh, if you think I was able to eat this much pasta, you are very wrong.  This is about 3 times the amount of pasta I was actually able to eat.
The next night, it was Ryan's turn for dinner duty.  He found this chicken sandwich recipe in Men's Health Magazine and made this with his mom when he was visiting her.  He brought the recipe home and was ready to make this for dinner.
If you are thinking that sounds strange because I don't eat chicken, you are 100% correct.  Even though I don't eat chicken, it does not mean Ryan can't still make it.  While he did all the prep for this dinner and the cooking, I made myself a Boca burger which I then used in place of the chicken.

First, he cut up some pineapple and the leftovers went in baggies, which makes it easy to pack for lunches.
The he sliced the red onions, which I could smell all the way across the room.
He managed to find some fresh rolls at the commissary.  Not sure how he did it since I tried a few days in a row and never found rolls in the bakery.  He must have better luck than me.
Ryan marinated the chicken in teryaki sauce.
Then it was time to grill them up.  He used the George Forman grill at his mom's, but then decided here to use the grill pan.
Like I said, I made mine with a Boca Burger.  I cooked it and then soaked it in some of the teryaki suace.
Then it was time to layer my burger.

First, the pineapple.
Second, the onion.
Third, the jalapenos.
Last step, place the top of the bun on my sandwich.
Here are Ryan's chicken sandwiches.  I love all the colors.  It was a great recipe and really easy to do.
QUESTIONS:  What was the last thing you cooked for dinner?  Do you and your spouse/roomie take turns planning meals?  What are your favorite sandwich/burger toppings?

Waffles, From Scratch

While waffles might seem like an easy From Scratch task, there is still something reawarding about nice, fresh waffles on a Sunday morning.

I will admit, we are still getting back into the routine after a summer filled with travel and overall business.  Plus, my sister and her boyfriend are coming to visit the island on Tuesday, so time is spent more on cleaning and getting ready.

I think what really sparked my interest in some waffles was the recent waffle recipe section in the Vegetarian Times.  Personally, the chocolate waffle and chocoalte sauce recipe looked awesome, but I was not able to convince Ryan that was a good idea for breakfast.

So, I went with the classic recipe.  My only problem was that I live in the middle of the Atlantic and sometimes finding ingredients that recipes created in the US, especially vegetarian items, can be very difficult.  Here is the recipe...
but we made a few modification.  First off, we drink milk and have some already, so I did not buy spy milk just for the recipe.  Next up, I will totally admit, I have no idea what powdered egg placer is, and I am sure I can't find it here.  Instead, I subbed the 1 cup soy milk and 2 tbs powdered egg placer with 1/2 cup fat free milk and 1 egg.  The last major issue was that this was supposed to be topped with fresh berries.  Earlier in the week I saw beautiful berries at the commissary.  Well, when I went on Saturday, almost all produce was sold out, including berries.  I am used to that, so I was not surprised.

To get started, we dissolved the yeast in warm water.  Then we had an A-HA moment and decided to make a double batch.  The reason was that the recipe claimed to make 6 waffles, and with the waffle iron, the first two are usually tossed out (or in our home, tossed to the dog). 
Then we added the yeast to the milk and eggs.
I dumped in the flour and other dry ingredients while Ryan whisked it all together.  Remember, part of the fun of the From Scratch Weekends, is that Ryan and I are in the kitchen together, working as a team.
Look at the good job Ryan did mixing up the batter.
I should also point out that we made this in advance on Saturday night because we knew we would not feel like it on Sunday morning.  I must admit, this made it so much more enjoyable to make from scratch waffles in the morning.

We do have a small waffle iron that Ryan bought me one year for Hanukah.  I thought it was funny because when I unwrapped the gift I told him it was so nice of him to get me a waffle iron to go with my personal waffle maker/chef.
The recipe called for the iron to be breushed with oil, but we always spray with Pam, and we saw no need to change that.
Here we go!  As usually, it makes a mess, so Ryan got smart and now puts foil underneath so the counter is not so covered in batter.
TA-DA!  Perfectly golden waffles!
Stackin' them up!
Since it was Sunday morning, I did not light the candles like I do for dinner, and if you notice, the tajine from Morocco has not found a home and rather remains on the kitchen table.  Here you have it, a classic Sunday morning meal of from scratch waffles.
My plate.  I had soggy breakfast foods, so I always dip in syrup and never pour it on.
They were delicious and really easy to make.  I am glad they turned out well (ok maybe a little dry), despite the substitutions.

QUESTIONS:  Do you ever makes waffles or pancakes from scratch?  Do you have a waffle iron at home?  What is your favorite Sunday morning meal?