Sunday, October 31, 2010

Unprocessed October

It was about a month and a half ago that I stumbled upon Eating Rules' blog and his request for people to pledge an entire month of Unprocessed Food. The rule was that if the product contains ingredients that you would not use in your own kitchen, then don't eat it. When I suggested to Marshall that we try this out, a look of pure fear came across his face. His response was, "Lucky Charms is unprocessed, right?"

When I posted it up on Twitter, my friends Shaw_Girl, Mazzie, and Essone10 were very supportive. I thought about what I ate on a regular basis and thought about whether I could commit. My weight has been an issue all of my life and fad diets have come and gone with no good, healthy results. I didn't want this unprocessed month to be something I did for just a month and for it to become something I resented. I actually wanted to learn something from this. Did I think I could do this without slipping up? No, I honestly did not think I could and that is why I didn't sign the petition. But I did participate by changing some things. Here is what I did different in this last month:

1. Read Labels - I started reading labels every time I went to the grocery store. It is amazing how many chemicals there are in food products now and days. For something as simple as bread, there could be up to 20 different ingredients listed that I didn't recognize. The more I read and the more challenging it was for me to find something with ingredients I recognized, it made me want to eat clean that much more. It was pretty much impossible for me to buy any candy that was not sold in a health store because all the ones sold at CVS had loads of preservatives and chemicals in them.

2. Shopped at Trader Joes and Whole Foods more - It was a lot easier for me to find products with no preservatives at these two grocery stores. Especially Trader Joes because their products tend to be a lot cheaper than Whole Foods. Marshall and I like to have turkey taco nights and so we found taco shells, salsa and seasonings at Trader Joes that were preservative free and were delicious. It was much simpler for us to shop at these places because they make an effort to stock good, healthy products.

3. Drank more tea - I probably drank over 100 cups of tea in this last month and I think this is something that I will do more of forever. I love tea now. It all started when I decided that I wanted to drink something with zero calories and had some taste to it. I used to stock my office up with Crystal Light or diet sodas but since I was avoiding chemicals, pretty much all sodas were not acceptable. (Marshall did make me a homemade soda once with some concord grape juice that he made a syrup out of and then added homemade seltzer water that was amazing.) So I turned to tea. Now I love it with a passion. After dinner, I brew a cup of herbal tea and enjoy it while I am winding down. At work, I brew about 3-5 cups a day to drink as I typed away. Tea is just so comforting to me now and makes me feel great. I don't even miss soda.

4. Made breakfast most mornings - I try to make sure I eat breakfast every morning and this month, I made a big effort to have good things available. My first choice was steel-cut oatmeal that I would mix with fresh apples or dried fruit, nuts, and a little half and half. I'm always satisfied when I eat oatmeal in the morning that sometimes, I'm not even hungry for lunch. When I don't have time for oatmeal, I turned to dry cereal. This was tough. Cereals have a lot of sugar and other unnatural ingredients in them. The closest thing I could find that was healthy and delicious was Kashi's Autumn Wheat. My friend Shaw_Girl made her own granola for this unprocessed month. I will have to give that a try next time.

5. Made my first cake (sort of) from scratch - At the beginning of the month, I wanted to make fresh bread from scratch. I never got around to it but I at least attempted at making cupcakes from scratch. For my friend Jason's house warming party, I made red velvet cupcakes. It was the first time ever that I made cake without using a box mix. was a total fail. There were multiple things that happened that ended up making the cake taste like baking soda. In the end, I used a box mix but my first attempt made me realize it really is not that hard to do. I just need to find a good recipe.

Did I lose any weight? No, but I feel so much better than I did a month ago. I can say for sure that I feel less fatigue and feel more alert. I used to remember walking to the metro in the morning and feeling like I could barely lift my legs. It feels different now. It is not like I used to sit around eating potato chips and drinking soda all day but obviously some of the things I was putting in my body was not good. I am glad I participated in this challenge because I found foods I enjoy eating and feel great about eating. Cheetos will always be a part of my life but from now on, only on rare occasions.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

DC Food Blogger Happy Hour - November 6 - Northside Social


It was about a year ago that my co-worker Claire told me that she was going to a new wine bar in Arlington. She came in the next day to rave about the atmosphere and delicious sandwiches she ate there. It was only a month ago that I got to check it out for the first time. I met Claire there for a cup of coffee and was impressed right when I walked in. There is a fine line for coffee shops that try to be comfortable and not look corporate. In an attempt to be comfortable, they tend to just come off looking dingy. This is not the case with Northside Social. There is an abundance of seating inside and outside with couches and love seats in the back room. The service is friendly and quick. The coffee is solid and I appreciate that there are free refills when drinking your coffee there. The baked goods are good. I enjoyed a chocolate pumpkin muffin with toasted pumpkin seeds on top. I brought home some baked goods. My boyfriend and I shared a gluten-free peanut butter cookie which was good. Unfortunately, the bf found the apple turnover to have a gummy-like filling which was not appetizing.

The wine bar can be found upstairs and again, I have to compliment the decor. The wood used for the counters is a plain, unstained wood but they are cut and sanded well. A large mirror hangs above the bar which gives the space a much airier feel. The space is so comfortable and the unstained wood lightens the feel of the bar making it feel very clean; clean and comfortable. My two friends and I shared the full crostini platter that was more than filling for all of us. Toasted bread slices are topped with a variety of toppings: smoked trout and wasabi crème fraise, shallots mixed in goat cheese, chicken liver pate, and many more. It came with a small arugula salad with pickled vegetables which is a perfect to eat with the heavy crostinis. We also tasted an autumn salad of frisse, roasted beets, walnuts, and goat cheese. It was scrumptious.

Being a drinking light-weight, I appreciated that the wines could be ordered in 3 oz portions. I was able to order a drink without wasting half of it because I was afraid to walk home more tipsy than I already was.

With people trying to watch budget, Northside Social is a solution for those who still want or need to have a nice night out. The food is good and there is not a fear of over-spending here. The portions are filling and the price is just right.

Brunch at Liberty Tavern

Brunch Review

Here is a link to the Yelp Review.

Liberty Tavern has a buffet brunch that I would consider better than most buffets I have seen in the DC area. The scrambled eggs seemed to be made of fresh eggs and were not left in the chaffing dish long enough to get that yellow-crusted look that eggs get when left in heat for too long. The bacon was applewood bacon and tasted good. You have a choice of ordering from the buffet or ordering items a la carte. The buffet is $18 and all you can eat. Here are some of the highlights:

-Smoked salmon - they had a great platter that included crème fraise, red onions, capers, and crostinis. I could have made a delightful plate full of smoked salmon and would have been happy. It was good quality smoked salmon. This was worth the $18 alone.

-Roasted meats - They had roast lamb, roast pork and roast turkey with accompanying gravies and au jus. The lamb was moist and delicious.

-Potato Cauliflower Gratin - Simply delicious.

-Dessert table - They had a simple but satisfying dessert table with dark chocolate and white chocolate bark, macrons, chocolate chip cookies, and a variety of other candies. The main buffet table also had cranberry scones.

-Good Coffee - My date ordered coffee and got a big French Press full of good coffee that he shared with me. It is my opinion that coffee should always be included in the price of a brunch buffet but this coffee was very good and so I didn't mind it that much.

-Hot Apple Cider - The hot apple cider was sweet and tasted like Fall. A nice touch to this brunch in the month of October.


-Biscuits and Gravy - The biscuits were described as fluffy on the menu. They were not fluffy. They were dense and not enjoyable to eat. The gravy was the biggest disappointment. It basically tasted like cream and flour mixed together with absolutely no seasoning. It was such a disappointment.

-Caesar Salad - I think the general rule for buffets should be that the salad should never be pre-mixed. No one wants to eat a soggy salad. Simply place the dressing and croutons on the side of the salad and allow the diner to assemble it themselves and we all will be happy.

Please note that the brunch menu on the website is not exactly what you will get at the restaurant. It is only a sample of the menu.

It was an enjoyable brunch over all. The service was attentive and good. The food on the buffet table was regularly replenished. For any buffet, this is probably one of the most important part of the service.

Liberty Tavern
3195 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201