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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Again, I was only able to have one frozen entree today (lunchtime) since dinner is going to be Thai (Chris emailed me and told me he was treating me to dinner “just because”, which I find so sweet and endearing.) So for lunch, I chose Moosewood’s Organic Vegetarian Spicy Penne Puttanesca, which I had high hopes for considering I love the Moosewood cookbook so much.

Eh.

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Cost: $4.99 from Whole Foods (I think!)

Calories: 300 but I only ate half the dish, if that.

Verdict: Plain, boring, blah. Really little flavor…actually, NO flavor at all. Sorry Moosewood but you really disappointed me with this. I’ve already read bad reviews on Moosewood’s frozen mac ‘n cheese, so I’m not even going to bother trying that. NEXT!

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Do you ever have those days when you have a goal in mind but the day gets away from you and before you know it, you haven’t met that goal or plan? Today was like that for me. I woke up with the intention of completing day 5 of my frozen entree experiment but unfortunately, I was only able to have one frozen meal today rather than the two I originally planned for. So I guess today counts as a half experiment day.

Work was so busy that all I ate were random snacks with lots of creamy, salted almond butter from Trader Joe’s.

Breakfast = quick cooking oatmeal with almond butter

Lunch = sliced apple with almond butter

Snack = cup of FAGE yogurt and a giant spoonful of almond butter

Dinner (finally, here we go!) = Amy’s Indian Mattar Tofu (curried peas and tofu with rice and dal)

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Cost = $4.99 from Whole Foods

Calories = 290 for the entire meal (not bad!)

Verdict: Considering how much I love Indian food, I was in for a shocking surprise to see how much of a portion of Indian food one should really eat. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but the amount of curried peas and tofu was petite and the rice was under a cup I would say. These are definitely the right amount of portions, but when I think back to how much Indian food I usually eat, I had to shudder. This girl can definitely put down her food, and I would normally eat three to four times this amount if I had no sense of portion control. The taste was just OK….kind of bland and not one of the best meals I have tried from Amy’s. The rice was good and light but the tofu and peas didn’t have much punch to it. Oh well. I won’t be getting this again but Amy’s has so much variety, I’m eager to move on to the other stuff. I would give this 2 out of 5 stars.

Yesterday can’t be counted AT ALL for my week of frozen dinner experimentation. I was busy running errands all day and started the morning off having breakfast with Chris and a guest from out of town. Then I had a bachelorette party to go to but I had to be at the house by 5pm, so dinner consisted of little appetizers and sweets.

However, I plan on spending this whole week doing more reviews so I went to the market and picked up all sorts of frozen entrees that I will be eating this week. Ta-da!

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I’m trying to get my ass in shape by firming up and leaning out. I’m not fat or overweight by any means – I am probably 5 feet 7 and weigh 120 lbs although when it’s that time of month, I can easily put on 5 to 7 lbs of water weight. But I’m really looking to tone up! I have an apple body shape, meaning most of my weight is carried in my midsection but I have incredibly slim arms and legs. The upside is that I can disguise my belly nicely with skirts (to show my legs) and long tops and shirts. As long as my arms are exposed, people think I’m skinny but that’s not really the case. The downside of this body type is that since I can easily disguise my figure, I’m less inclined to workout hard since in the back of my head I think, “Oh well, with the proper clothing I can look skinny.”

NO NO NO. Not anymore! That’s the old me. The new me just wants to be healthy, toned, and balanced! So I’m sticking to my plan of doing “one active thing a day” and am aiming to keep this up for the rest of my life. That’s a big commitment, I know, but then again it’s not. Doing one active thing for me can be anything from a 45 minute walk after work to a 3 hour home cleaning event to a one hour dance fest. Just something that gets me off the couch and moving!

For cardio, I am dancing, walking, jogging, jump roping, and doing cardio kickboxing at home to one of my many workout DVDs. But for strength training, I’m saying bye bye to the bootcamp style workouts with weights and using four well known programs that I know will garner much success and results if used consistently: Physique 57, Core Fusion, Fluidity and Cardio Barre. All three of these programs are pretty similar – they combine yoga and pilates with dancer-type ballet bar workouts to yield long, leans muscles, good posture and extra core strength. Also, I have these as DVDs…I don’t go to the actual classes. For one thing, I don’t have the money to blow on classes (average is $25 per class) and secondly, I love to work out at home!! In the mornings, I roll out of bed and turn on a DVD and get my workout over with. At night, after dinner and before bed, I punch out a session and hit the shower. It’s so convenient and I don’t have to deal with other people, parking, bringing water bottles and towels, etc. I loathe gyms because they remind me of sweaty prisons with heavy machinery (although here in LA it’s more like a meat market-slash-model/actress fest while wealthy and thin soccer moms read US Weekly while chatting on cell phones on the treadmill). Below are my reviews so far as I have used all of these DVDs thus far:

PHYSIQUE 57

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Kelly Ripa swears by Physique 57 as her primary workout and there is a reason why. It kicks your ass. Literally! I just got the Physique 57 set of three DVDs in the mail two days ago but have already tried their 57 minute Full Body Workout and the 30 minute Express Workout (I still have to try the Arms and Abs workout later next week.) And boy, my legs and abs were SORE!! You go through some intense thigh and seat work (a nicer word for ass muscles) while holding onto a ballet bar or chair. Tons of squats, tiny pulses, and up-and-down moves while squeezing your heels together being balanced on your toes. OUCH! A fair amount of push ups, arm work with light and heavy weights, and some great moves using a light medicine playground ball (for example, keeping it between your thighs and squeezing it while shaking your hips to the left and the right. Did I mention this whole time you have to keep your heels touching together and stand at the top of your toes??) Oh, the pain. But it’s good pain. The instructor is kind of silly and goofy but she’s very motivating and says visual things like, “Squeeze the cellulite out!” Haha. Gotta love it. I heard classes are not only pricey but they only exist in NYC so the DVDs were the next best thing.

Physique 57 Rating: 8 out of 10 stars. I felt the burn. I like the energy. I love the music.

CORE FUSION

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The Core Fusion series is a specialty held at the Exhale Spa in NYC and LA. I first heard about it from a friend, who swore that in two months, her body became a whole different machine. She went from out of shape to toned, firm, taut and her figure completely changed. Her waist whittled down, her thighs became long and lean, her posture was amazing and because of that, she looked like she grew two inches! Awesome results. Well, there’s nothing better than word-of-mouth referrals so of course I had to get the DVDs.

I got the three Core Fusion series DVDs: Body Sculpt, Pilates Plus, and Thighs & Glutes. I have tried all except the Thighs & Glutes. Like Physique 57, the Core Fusion concept uses a blend of yoga, pilates, light weights and the ballet bar or chair. However, I feel like Physique 57 focuses more on thighs and butt and Core Fusion focuses more on…well, the core. While my thighs and glutes burned like crazy doing Physique 57, my abs are seriously on fire when I do Core Fusion. The great thing about the Core Fusion DVDs is that it is 50 minutes broken down into five 10-minute sets. So it doesn’t even seem like a long time! You get a male and female instructor (I think hubby and wife?!) and they are perfect at cueing and instructing you what to do. Calming music, zen envrionment, simple yet effective. I REALLY like this series a lot and can see why people would get such success following these DVDs along with a good diet and a nice blend of cardio on the side.

Core Fusion Rating: 9 out of 10 stars. I can feel my abs sculpting themselves when I do these moves. Love the breakdown of 5 sets (10 minutes per set) and I cannot wait for the Abs & Arms DVD to come out in December 2009!

FLUIDITY

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I got the Fluidity bar package as a gift and that’s actually how my love affair for ballet bar exercises began. This package came with three DVDs (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) as well as a playground ball and exercise bands. So it’s a complete package and well worth it since I use those bands for other strengthening moves like toning my arms and stretching my back. Excellent value. What I like about this program is that it utilizes the exercise bands, which can really lend alot to your strengthening and stretching routine. The instructor is not my favorite, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s her leotard thong that totally shows her butt lol or just the way she talks but she kind of gets on my nerves. However, she did say something that really stuck with me: as long as you strength train using your own body weight (yoga or pilates), your body will shape to how it’s naturally supposed to look. No bulkiness, no thick arms, no meat-head style muscles. Just long, lean, firm limbs. Other than that, the workout is just like Physique 57 and Core Fusion but not as intense with the ab work.

Fluidity Rating: 7 out of 10 stars (but only because of the packaging). Take away the bands and ball and bar, and I’d give it 6 out of 10.

CARDIO BARRE

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Cardio Barre is actually in Studio City, CA which is still quite far for me. But I first heard about this place when a male friend told me his girlfriend was taking the class there and “her butt literally got, like, three inches higher!!” Um hello, that’s all it took for me to buy this!

I actually really like the workout itself but cannot stand the male instructor. He’s just weird to me so I’d rather turn the sound off and blast music while following the moves on the screen. I like the Cardio Barre workout because it’s more cardio-based. It definitely gets my heart rate up way more than Physique 57, Core Fusion, or Fluidity. Also, you use weights in this program so if you enjoy utilizing 2 or 3-lb weights, then this is for you! Alot of stand-up style pilates, which is another favorite of mine.

Cardio Barre Rating: 8 out of 10. Gets your heart rate up and keeps it up. Good arm work for jiggly triceps!

Hi all, it’s Friday and Day 4 of my frozen foods/dinner/entree experiment. So many names to describe the pre-packed meals you find in the freezer aisle! Anyhoo, today I did something a little different. I only bought one frozen entree from Whole Foods but I used the serving tray (from one of my earlier meals, all washed and cleaned!) as a portion size container for a meal I made at home with leftover veggies (roasted bell pepper and carrots with salt and pepper) and served alongside 3 oz of Wildwood Aloha Baked tofu. Mind you, this experiment is more about portion size than anything else so using the serving tray counts as a freezer meal hopefully?? On to the food!

Breakfast = Nature’s Path Psyllium & Oatbran Cereal (I bought the cereal box because I’m planning on keeping it at work to have for breakfast next week)

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Cost: $4.39 at Whole Foods (though I’m sure I can find it cheaper elsewhere)

Calories: 90 cal per 2/3 cup (but I ate double the amount coz I was starving after my morning workout – more on that later – and was craving cereal.) I had it with 1/2 cup of unsweetened Whole Foods 365 brand soy milk and that was 35 cal. I don’t like alot of milk with my cereal…just enough to “wet” it and that’s it! Soggy cereal is yucky to me.

Mid-morning Snack = 3 oz Wildwood Aloha Baked Tofu and roasted veggies (I was still hungry! That’s what happens when I workout hehe)

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Cost: $3.99 for the tofu (divided into two 3-oz pieces)

Calories: 150 calories/3 oz of tofu. As for the veggies, um, I’m estimating 40 total?? I had about a cup and a half of roasted veggies with a dash of peanut satay sauce (that was like 20 cal)

Verdict: It was good but I added so much pepper to my veggies lol. Oh well. The tofu was sub-par. The flavor was bland and the texture was firm and almost rubbery – I felt like I was eating incredibly processed fake food, and even though the packaged tofu is a processed item, I feel like some taste less processed than others. Does that make sense at all or am I talking jibberish ๐Ÿ™‚ Reminded me of why I don’t buy marinated tofu anymore. Not really worth it.

Lunch = French Meadow Bakery Frozen Vegetarian Dal

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Cost: $5.99

Calories: 370 (this is not within the range I want for my meals so I only ate half, which makes it 185 cal)

Verdict: Disappointing! I had high hopes for this dish considering how much I loved French Meadow’s Cuban Veggies and Brown Rice but this was plain at best. Zero flavor and it looked like brown and green vomit with a slab of rice – ewwww. The rice was supposed to be basmati but it tasted like anything but. I don’t expect super quality when it comes to frozen entrees but I had such success with the Seeds of Change penne and some other dishes that I was bummed about this frozen entree. Oh well, I learned my lesson! That’s what this experiment is all about ๐Ÿ™‚

Dinner = Date night at Mama D’s in Manhattan Beach. I realize this is no frozen entree so I kind of cheated on the experiment today (sorry!) but how can I ignore date night and italian food? I’ll still give my review on the place, however, if you live anywhere near the South Bay or head down to the Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach neighborhood.

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Verdict: Well, about five years ago when I worked in the area, I got takeout dinner at Mama D’s all the time. Not because I loved the food, but because it was easy and right down the street. I always remembered it as being over-rated, especially because it got rave reviews from all the locals. Granted, it’s very cozy Italian inside and frequented by the local families but I wasn’t super keen on the food quality. You get your usual pasta dishes and appetizers from here, but none of them shine with superior flavor. The prices range anywhere from $12 to $30 for entrees, and for that price, I have gotten some really amazing Italian food elsewhere.

Onto the meal this evening. We got seated immediately, which came as a nice surprise since there’s usually a wait. It was Friday eve, too, at 8pm so I was shocked that there was zero line and a few empty tables inside. Bad economy, maybe? Once seated, we were delivered an olive oil/garlic dish to dip the bread in but there was no bread. “It will be out in a just a minute,” the waitress promised. After 15 minutes went by, still no bread but we noticed that the servers were bringing out fresh loaves to all the other tables. Hmmmm. Another 10 minutes ticked on (by this time we had placed our orders and we thought the waitress saw our olive oil dish sans bread but apparently not) and we finally flagged down the server and asked for bread. Out came what looked like warm foccacia rolls, which we dipped in the oil and savored. It was alright at best…nothing special. I’ve had better.

We started off with an appetizer of bruschetta. Out came what looked like Pizza Hut garlic bread with almost-melted cheese and a small ramekin of roasted garlic and tomatoes. BLAH. I could totally make this at home and for $6.99, I felt ripped off. Three pieces of bread total.

For our entrees, I got the Caesar Salad and Chris ordered a pasta dish with sauteed spinach and calamari. My salad was sad, weak, and other than a couple tasty croutons, nothing was special about it. I’ve had some pretty spectacular Caesar salads before and this was a disappointment. On the other hand, I really enjoyed Chris’ dish and was happy he was feeding me a couple bites of it (thanks, hon!) Midway through our meal, Chris asked for a water but the server forgot and never brought it out. We didn’t bother asking anymore because for a tiny restaurant that wasn’t full (by the way, our server probably only had 4 tables to serve), I found this to be terrible service and just kept thinking about how her tip was dwindling by the minute.

I think the best thing about the meal was dessert (haha), which was two soft, chewy, chocolate chip cookies still warm. Who knows if they were homemade or purchased at the market but they were good. Kind of sad that the highlight of the evening was the cookies!

Why did we come hear, you ask, if I already had an opinion about it? Chris had never been and wanted to try it but I learned something tonight: if I already know a place isn’t that good, don’t let your boyfriend “fall and learn”! Just give him your opinion and try to steer him to the next best thing….oh well. Live and learn, right?

Rating of Mama D’s: 4 out of 10 stars. I can make better Italian at home. In my microwave. OUCH.

Real quick, I want to mention that I’m not blindly snapping up any frozen entree that I come across. Frozen meals have such a bad reputation and there’s a reason why – there are quite a few lines that are chock full of sodium, preservatives, MSG, artificial ingredients, saturated fat and calories. I’m looking for light, healthy, lean, preferably organic frozen meals that have the following:

  1. 250-330 calories
  2. Less than 4 grams of saturated fat
  3. Between 500 and 800 milligrams of sodium
  4. At least 3-5 grams of fiber
  5. No MSG or artificial ingredients (meaning ingredients I can’t pronounce)
  6. LEAN meals – no labels with “Hungry Man” or “XXL” or “GIANT”

Mind you, sometimes I might not be around these guidelines but I’ll do my best. I may also be eating more carbs than usual since a lot of these frozen entrees revolve around a starch of some sort but again, the portions are so tiny it’s OK. Plus I have been working out more lately and am balancing it out with light salads dressed in lemon juice (no oil) and plenty of water. Balance, balance, balance! I’ll leave deprivation to my late teens and early twenties ๐Ÿ˜‰

Day 3 Breakfast = Trader Joe’s Rice, Bean & Cheese Burrito

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**Due to a broken camera, I couldn’t take a picture of the dish but pulled this image from heateatreview.com to show the size and portions. This is the chicken chile verde dish as opposed to my rice, beans & cheese.

Cost: $2.49 at Trader Joe’s

Calories: 260 (per burrito) Make note that there are TWO burritos, which equal 520 calories total for the whole package. Don’t fall into the trap of just eating frozen entrees without checking the serving size. Because this meal was basically two, I had one of the burritos for breakfast and the other one for lunch (served alongside another raw salad with carrots, greens and bell peppers.)

Verdict: I found this to be super satisfying. Remember, this dish came with TWO burritos but one serving only calls for ONE so I only had one for breakfast and then the other one for lunch. I also put Jalapeno Pepper Hot Sauce from Trader Joe’s on the burrito, which made for a spicy but ultra yummy meal. I felt like the spice also kept me satisfied longer…I’ve heard that before so maybe it’s all in my head. I would definitely purchase these again since they were cheap AND I had no problem with sodium content.

Day 3 Lunch = SAME AS BREAKFAST (see above) except served alongside a raw salad

Day 3 Dinner = Trader Joe’s Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

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Cost: $2.49 at Trader Joe’s (I think, I think! It was somewhere around there)

Calories: 150 calories for ONE enchilada (there were 2 in the box so the entire meal, which I had for dinner, was 300 calories total)

Verdict: Not as tasty as I had hoped. The inside was filled with spinach and corn and there wasn’t too much cheese, which contributed to the low calorie count. I even doused it with the hot sauce and the flavor was still sub par. I don’t think I will be getting this again unless I’m strapped for cash and time. But I love enchiladas so next time, I will try the Whole Kitchen brand (from Whole Foods) or Amy’s Organic.

Alright, before you start groaning and rolling your eyes and dismissing me, I’ll have you know that I’m no longer dedicating Pastries & Bacon to mainly high raw vegan foods. I’m taking a break (mentally and physically) from that lifestyle and going back to my roots: everything in moderation and doing what makes me happy, healthy, and balanced. Melissa from 2007/2008 is back and better than ever because this time, I’m incorporating healthier changes (like polishing off at least 62oz water everyday, having a green juice most mornings, eating a raw salad with every meal) while still having what I consider FUN with my food (that means a small cup of coffee in the morning, fatty brie or sharp parmesan with my pasta, etc).

So onto my experiment for the week: frozen entrees!! What this means is for the week, I’m going to leave my fridge COMPLETELY EMPTY and every morning, stop at the market on the way to work to pick up two frozen meals (one for lunch and one for dinner) plus a snack. The market is either Whole Foods or Trader Joes (both are right on my route to work so I’m not going out of my way at all). With each frozen meal, I am going to have a raw salad just to ensure I’m adding more nutrients and fill. Trust me, it’s not as unhealthy as you may think because I’m shopping smart when it comes to the frozen section, meaning I’m checking out the sodium, fat and fiber and protein content as well as the ingredients. No artificial crap for me although some processed ingredients might be scattered around here or there so please don’t judge.

Why am I doing this? Well for one, I’m just a wee tired of cooking and prepping meals. Need to take a break for a little bit. Spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my boyfriend, dog, friends, working out, being outside, gardening, etc etc. Face it, frozen entrees are convenient. No, I’m not lazy at all when it comes to cooking but a little convenience never hurt anyone ๐Ÿ™‚ Secondly, frozen entrees provide variety to your week – I mean, a different meal at every meal time! How awesome is that? I love variety so this is perfect. Third, instant portion control = instant calorie control. One of my downfalls is overeating and picking at leftovers and munching in the kitchen (see, I’m candid about my bad habits) so eating frozen entrees will definitely keep me from snacking since…there’s nothing left to snack on! And I don’t care if you eat raw, vegan, atkins, whatever…a calorie is a calorie. That’s math, plain and simple. Fourth, easy cleaning! We recycle so I’m very conscious about where the boxes will go…and I don’t have to slave away at the sink washing pan after pot after plate. YAY!

So here goes. I’m writing this a couple days in to my experiment so I’m playing catch up right now. Also, please note that my day includes some yogurt, fruit and other snacks so don’t be alarmed at the calorie count beneath each frozen entree – I’m eating MORE THAN THAT ๐Ÿ™‚

Day 1 Lunch = Seeds of Change Venetian Penne Marinara

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Cost: $5.49 (I think??) from Whole Foods

Calories: 300

Verdict: I like Seeds of Change because they use organic, real ingredients. Nothing processed, nothing fake. This was super super yummy but DANG! Those are some tiny portions!! The sad thing is that the portion size I got for the penne dish is really how much we should eat of pasta. This will for sure re-train my eye on gauging portion sizes (I like that!) I got real thirsty afterwards so the sodium content may have been a little too high for me. I chugged 50 oz of water after that so I felt alot better. I also added a giant raw salad on the side.

Day 1 Dinner = French Meadow Bakery Vegetarian Sweet ‘N Spicyย Cuban Style Veggies

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Cost: $5.99 from Whole Foods

Calories: 250

Verdict: SUPER SUPER filling and yummy. Came with brown rice and the mix of pineapple, veggies and a spicy sauce made it the perfect dish for dinner. I savored every bite and followed it up with a nice salad of greens, tomato, bell pepper and lemon juice. Not too shabby! Already planning on having it again for Day 2. And not thirsty at all either afterwards, meaning sodium content was good with my body.

Day 2 Lunch = Amy’s Organic Tofu Scramble

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Cost: $4.99 from Whole Foods

Calories: 320

Verdict: This consisted of tofu scrambled with organic vegetables with hash browned potatoes on the side – real good, actually!! I was craving something “breakfast-like” for lunch so this did the job. I had a giant raw salad with it, too. Good for those who don’t like eggs but can eat tofu. I try to limit my soy intake because I believe it leads to stomach issues for me but the tofu portions were so miniscule it was all good.

Day 2 Dinner = French Meadow Bakery Vegetarian Sweet ‘N Spicyย CubanStyle Veggies. AGAIN! Told you it was yummy!!