Eating to lose weight on a road trip. Or not.

Never have I been so acutely aware of my food intake than when I embarked on a road trip this past week.

Suddenly, the safe monotony of my home kitchen was no longer available, and I had to be super careful on what to put in my mouth in order to be healthy and to hopefully continue the weight loss as I holiday’ed with the girls.

I normally eat lots of greens (spinach!), protein (chicken, beef, eggs, nuts, seeds), fruit (bananas, cherries, pineapple) with the occasional whole grains thrown in.  Peanut butter is my pre-workout go-to spread.  I also have protein, vitamin and veggie powders on hand to add to morning smoothies (such as GNC‘s veggie mix and Shakeology).

Sounds easy enough to re-create on the road, right? Wellllll…

I brought my blender with me (ha!) for the dual purpose of pina coladas and smoothies, but I only used it once.  I also brought all the ingredients for my current fav salad (spring mix, baby spinach, strawberries, kumquats, almonds, white onion and sweet onion dressing) but that never happened either.  Two bananas travelled more than 1,990 kms and through two international border crossings without being consumed.

So what did I eat? And drink?  (Or perhaps, what didn’t I drink??)

In Invermere, six of us girls stayed in a fantastic loft suite at the Copper Point Resort complete with a kitchen, living room and BBQ on the balcony.  Pre-10K-race, I managed a smoothie and granola bar but for the remainder of the weekend, it was all about sandwiches from the Kicking Horse Cafe (Wink!), delicious homemade guacamole with lots of garlic, cilantro and chunks of tomato (Melissa!) , and creamy, cheesy baked artichoke dip (Cara!) served with pita chips and Tostitos. Mmmm moderation.

Celebrating a birthday (Jill!) on the trip as well, the drinks were always topped up: vodka seemed to be the safest liquor choice there (~75 calories), although when we crashed a golf tourney party straight Jaeger was the only option (that’s 103 cals a shot, but I guess that doesn’t count if it comes back up….).

With stellar service and a delicious menu, Sunday brunch at the Eagle Ranch Clubhouse was amazing.  I started with the daily soup (a roasted potato and bacon with horseradish) followed by a Caesar salad (all while mooching a bit of fish n’chips from another plate…). And then it was on the road, heading stateside.  For all the driving we did, we didn’t have chips, pop, candy or other typical road snacks. Which was good!

From there on in, it was all about TRYING to keep it down to a dull roar.  Nothing was going to be as clean as eating straight spinach. Portion size became the name of the game as we made our way though Whitefish, Lakeside and Bigfork.  Wakeboard Wit ale at the Tamarack; grilled bacon & cheese sandwich at Spinnaker’s chased by Paralyzers made with huckleberry vodka; the massive rancher’s breakfast of eggs, ham, house-made English muffins and huckleberry jam, and potatoes (couldn’t finish it!) at the Pocketstone Cafe

Arriving for a three-day stay at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, we discovered the dining car to be an unexpected highlight. Chef J’s menu offered carefully crafted dishes using local meats, dairy and produce. We sampled as much as possible during our visit, and often shared our selections.

We didn’t ever have breakfast, but for lunch we tried the Monte Cristo (ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, French toast, huckleberry jam), the Chicken (grilled chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheddar cheese, roasted red pepper aioli) and the Vegetarian (roasted summer squash, zucchini, shiitake mushroom, olive tapenade, herbed goat spread, wheat bread) all with soup or salad. I loved the thick, rich tomato basil soup with wee oyster crackers.

For dinner, I think we started with the “Crostini & Tapanade” every single night (how can one refuse olive tapanade & goat cheese??);  and tried the grilled Caesar, the spinach salad, the buffalo à la bourguignon, the mushroom risotto and the summer vegetable ratatouille.  The only dessert we ordered was one huckleberry cobbler, to share, and then we drank a few different brews, margaritas (research for Project Margarita), and Montana Mules (local whiskey, ginger beer, etc).

After we left Essex, our drive looped along the outskirts of Glacier National Park, and then bent Northward once again.  Crossing the border, Banff became the final holiday destination, driving like mad to hit the 9:30 pm kitchen cutoff for the Bear Street Tavern where I happily indulged in my favourite pizza, the Big Bird (chicken, bacon, spinach, onions, goat cheese, mozzarella, pesto, pizza sauce) served up with honey & rosemary oil.

Wow – that was a lot of talk about food. (Mmmm food).

In the end, I did gain just under 2 lbs – sigh!!!  But I’m back at it now to work it off and streamline the food (and drink!) intake.

It was, of course, all worth it.

PS. If you are ever in Lakeside, MT, go to Spinnaker’s and Ashley will take care of you. She is amazing. Look for our #YEG dollah-dollah bill taped to the bar ceiling.

PPS. In Essex, MT, go to the Izaak Walton Inn’s dining car and make sure Mike is your server. He is knowledgeable, attentive and funny as hell.  Ask him to do the Linus dance for you. Tip him big.

PPPS.  If you decide to stay at Copper Point Resort in Invermere, BC, remember that while the rooms are still nice, the service (from F&B through to rooms) is on the downside of mediocre.  Don’t hope to be impressed.  The only top service in the hotel is at the spa – which is outsourced.

 

CRAFT Beer Market – nacho test: fail

For a bar that offers more than 100 kinds of beer on tap, starting with nachos was a given. Nachos are a gateway dish, a staple for most brewski-serving establishments, and when this item isn’t up to snuff you must seriously ponder the bar’s dedication to…well…humanity.

We landed at the bustling Craft Beer Market on a late Wednesday afternoon. Every table in the house was packed with suits getting in a drink before the commute home. With the option of a 45-minute wait for the dining room or squeezing in at the free-for-all that was the bar, we chose the latter.

Perched on bar stools with a fantastic view of every tap in the house – not to mention the spacious interior of the place – the barkeep informed us that all Alberta beer was $5 a pint, and wings were half price. Sold. Ordered up a Trad and a Capital City Lager, with nachos ($18) and wings ($13).

The nachos get A+ for presentation. It’s one of those platters – on a Big Rock keg top – marched out of the kitchen and held high by servers then placed with a flourish amidst excited expletives from customers who’d already downed a pint or two.

Upon closer inspection, however, the nachos only disappointed: about three handfuls of triangular white corn chips topped with chopped green onion, four slices of fresh jalapeño and some oddly melted cheese, with sour cream and a house-made chunky salsa on the side. Naked nachos, man. And to boot, the cheese was a little weird. Industrial orange cheddar mixed with something else, either baked too long or a bit off. Now, having said that, we did eat them. (Beer makes everything better.)

The barkeep insisted that the wings on “Wing Wednesday” were decent, being a good size as opposed to many other places that saved the tiny wings for cheap wing night. The only trick being that the Craft specialty wings were not half price, just the regular ones, ie. Hot. The wings were decent, but stay tuned for a follow up when we bring our wing expert, Garski, to suss it out.  So yes, we will return for more recon.

Craft’s take on food is “New North American Classic Cuisine” – which, according to the propaganda, means “an elevated and sophisticated twist on traditional comfort foods.” Once the drinks crowd had headed home, we saw much more food zooming out of the kitchen for those who’d come to eat. The portions were compact and colourful, using plenty of fresh ingredients. I just wish the nachos had been a little more substantial rather than being all about showmanship.

Overall, Craft is a fun place to drink and catch up with friends, and say, oh, plan a training program for a half marathon.  The beer will make you commit.

Sidenote I: A big holla goes out to Craft for its downtown hot spot. The cavernous venue fills to the brim with happy drinkers AND in the nicer weather there is a rooftop patio!

Sidenote II: The servers were chatty, friendly and very efficient, with solid product knowledge. The beer taps rotate so that if this becomes your local, then you won’t get bored by the offerings.

Sidenote III: The barkeep finished his shift and sat down a few seats over for his dinner. He chose the Mac & Cheese.

Celebrity sighting: We suspect one of the bartenders was on Big Brother Canada.

CRAFT Beer Market
10013-101A Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5J 0R6
(780) 424-BEER

edmonton.craftbeermarket.ca

Packrat Louie Kitchen & Bar‎ on Urbanspoon

Packrat Louie – skip the dinnertime entrées

Stay for the appetizers but skip the entrées. Packrat Louie is suffering an identity crisis on price point and wow factor when it comes to towing the line as a fine dining establishment for dinner.

Each appetizer was an absolute hit for our table of four. The jumbo Prawns Louie wrapped in proscuitto ($17), the Duck Carpaccio ($14), the Pan Seared Calamari ($13), and the panko-crusted Crab Cake ($13) – each artfully presented with a delightful balance of flavour and texture. My crab cake was a stocky little fellow with a crispy crust and rich blue crab filling, all adorned with crunchy pea shoots. Delicious and just enough to satisfy.

This is where we should have all stopped, had dessert and called it a night. Instead, we went on to our entrees which were disappointing after the tease of those dandy appetizers. We chose the Scallops & Prawns ($32), Rack of Venison ($40), Alberta Whitefish ($26) and the Arctic Char ($28). The food was simple and seasoned properly, but it lacked zing, zip, surprise, and “oh my God, you have to taste this!” For the price tag, I wanted to experience a total wow factor.

Packrat has a standard dessert menu of toffee, lemon, chocolate, carrot and a daily special crème brulée for $8 a piece. All nicely executed, with one stand alone worth mentioning: the Toblerone Chocolate Marquis topped by house-made sponge toffee. The dense mousse slab will melt the heart of chocolate lovers and is nicely chased by the lemon tart (but don’t bother with the shortbread crust on that one).

A step away from trendy Whyte Ave, Packrat wins with their fashionable brick walls and mandatory open kitchen concept. I thought the use of wine corks in décor had come and gone, but that’s easily forgivable. The hostesses are charming, the servers, satisfactory. The place is a bit drafty, especially if you’re seated alongside a window, and the weather happens to dip to -25 C. The kraft paper covering the more formal table cloths is a twist, and serves as receptacle for the dessert menu “stamp” the server brings at the end of the night.

Side note I: The zippy olive tapenade that came with my whitefish would have been a welcome offer with the bread basket over the typical garlic butter.

Side note II: Packrat’s pull away from fine dining includes the pizza section of their dinner menu. Granted, the pizzas are wood-fired and read absolutely scrumptiously on the menu, but if you arrived for “fine dining” for say, a dinner with your boss and clients – would you choose pizza? Perhaps this is their tagline claim of fine dining – redefined?

Side note III: Packrat’s servers and chefs are incredibly accommodating to substitutions and dietary requests. If you know their menu well you can switch up your side dishes for all of your favourites at the blink of an eye and with no extra costs.

Celebrity sighting: Jennifer Crosby from the morning news on Global Edmonton.

Curious as to the fine dining conundrum (it just doesn’t fit) I checked out their lunch menu online. There’s a menu that makes sense, and should be transferred – prices included – to dinner time. Wish I would’ve come for lunch instead.  End message, Packrat, don’t take yourself too seriously with your redefinition of fine.

Packrat Louie
10335 83 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 5C3
(780) 433-0123
http://www.PackratLouie.com

Packrat Louie Kitchen & Bar‎ on Urbanspoon

Reprise: Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie

Healthy smoothies, anytime

Healthy smoothies, anytime

A while back, when smoothies became my go-to solution for quick, healthy breakfasts and snacks, I posted about my favourite at the time: a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie.

In all it’s glory – rich chocolate creaminess, with the whisper of banana and hint of nuttiness.

What – bananas don’t whisper in your world??  You must listen more closely.

 

I never really follow a recipe. I tend to be more of on-the-fly kind of smoothie barista. Every day is different.

This time I decided to get it together and pen a quick how-to for future reference.

Assembly of champions

Assembly of champions

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1.5 to 2 cups of chocolate almond milk
2 bananas, peeled
1 tablespoon of peanut butter
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
1 scoop of protein powder, chocolate or vanilla

Place all ingredients into the blender and tah-dah! Smoothies awesomesauce. Add more or less almond milk, depending on the consistency you prefer. Ditto for using a frozen banana or adding ice to chill.  For extra nutty goodness, use crunchy peanut butter.

This smoothie travels well, too.  I tend to pour any extras into a mason jar and pop it into the fridge at work for a mid-morning snack.  Take it out, give it a shake and it’s good to go maintaining a creamy texture without the over-separation of ingredients.

Happy blending!

P.S. I’m not too particular about my protein powders.  Anyone have some good suggestions on a vanilla one?

Don’t think, just do

One of those weeks, just after you pledge yourself to a new fitness goal, and whammo!

Work gets in the way of life. Life gets in the way of plans.

Getting up at 0500 hrs to get to the gym only worked for two of five work days. My brain totally was a pain in the ass. If I allowed myself to THINK in the wee hours of the morning, I could talk myself into the snooze button, or the logic of “Gee, you seem tired. Maybe take a rest day.” {Note to self, there is no thinking permitted for February}  Of course, for each of the three days I missed, I pledged to get there in the evening for a class or spot of time on the treadmill. No go.

Dead of winter, 0500 hrs - do I really want to get out of bed??

Dead of winter, 0500 hrs – do I really want to get out of bed??

Missed supper twice due to staying late at work. Found myself ogling an old Chinese lady on the train who pulled out a Pop Tart from her bag and was nibbling it top down, making the silver wrapping crinkle. I suddenly wanted that refined fake crazy processed food. Mmmmm Pop Tart.

All shocking. Sigh.

But, good things did happen despite missing CRITICAL GYM TIME:

 

  • Internet whining due to lack of foundational garment support has resulted in a set of Champion sports bras materializing in my possession.  Thanks to the generosity of Ms. A. there shall be RUNNING this weekend on the treadmill.
  • Pineapple was the starring ingredient in this week’s smoothie set.  I picked up a ginormous bag of frozen pineapple at Costco and thoroughly enjoy the fresh flavour and the way this fruit thickens up a smoothie. Ingredients: Pineapple, OJ, vanilla almond milk, banana. Optional items: ice, yogurt and/or ginger.  Love the heat of the ginger with the freshness of the pineapple.
  • Got an email from my Spartan/mud run buddy, Ms. N. who wants to look at some spring and summer goals and wowza, we might have a good one.   Stay tuned.

It’s a new MONTH, peeps!   I will do a “last chance workout” at the gym, then weigh myself.  Let’s see if one month of … (well, I wouldn’t say trying hard, because despite my good intentions I certainly slacked right some good) … MODERATE EFFORT has made a difference.

Embracing routine

I loved being in the mountains, but I missed my little “health” routine.

Oh my gosh – words of a stodgy middle-aged person??

My 0600 hrs gym workouts. The ability to drink as much water as I need to without worrying about the midnight run to the outhouse. Having a choice about the food I was eating. (What a whiner I am…)

I feel super duper accomplished to have “done” Skoki in the winter on snowshoes.  I ache for the mountains on a regular basis, and it totally was amazing to be there for a long weekend.  But it wasn’t enough.  And now I need a new anchor – a new goal to shoot for. Am thinking about this now… must come up with a fresh, awesome, hard goal.  That requires training. Something short term, something long term.

In the mean time, excited to be back to my little routines, I made a different smoothie this morning.  It was a “Cake Batter Smoothie” with cottage cheese, vanilla almond milk, a scoop of vanilla protein powder, a few drops of almond extract, some vanilla extract, ice and a banana.  It wasn’t too bad, but it didn’t have anything on my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie

How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?  ~Anthony Robbins

Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie. Yes, it has sugar.

In December, when I was contemplating HOW TO CHANGE MY LIFE, I had these daily mini-goals in mind for my life in the kitchen:

  • Increase the amount of water I drink, truly making a conscious effort to drink whether I felt like it or not
  • Increase my “clean eating” and start moving away from processed food (anything in a box I have to THINK about before buying)
  • Increase my fruits & vegetables. More fruit! More dark coloured veg!
  • Decrease my carb intake a bit. Not completely remove carbs, but to take the amount I reduce and replace it with the point above – more fruit/veg
  • Decrease my sugar intake, which is soooo tricky because sugar seems to be hidden in everything!
  • Use my FitBit more efficiently – tracking all my food intake and my exercise to see the true balance between what I eat and what I burn
  • Alcohol… well, when the spirit moves you.  I’m making no promises there.

With the thought that I’ll lose weight in the kitchen and get fit in the gym, these little reminders have helped so far this month.  Sometime it’s a hugely conscious effort to get in those veggies, or keep drinking water.  And as for food in a box?  Wow.  I’m amazed how quickly my grocery bill jumps when I started adding in food in boxes and jars.  Sticking to fresh really is more cost efficient.

One of the things l like the most in the mornings is a smoothie to pack in fruit, veg, etc and drink that sucker down.  My favourite smoothie “treat” is a chocolate peanut butter smoothie (yes, I know, see the point above about trying to cut back on sugar….). I use Earth’s Own chocolate almond milk, a tablespoon of natural peanut butter, a frozen banana, and a bit of ice. So delicious! Sometimes I’ll throw in chia seeds or hemp, or even spinach, because seriously, you can’t taste the spinach at all. (Probably the 21 grams of sugar in the chocolate almond milk that solves that issue).

This week I’m going to freeze 7 sets of smoothie ingredients in easy-to-grab baggies at the beginning of the week so I just need to drop it in the blender, add my water, almond milk or juice and tah-dah – done! Because believe it or not, when I’m standing half awake in the kitchen at 0515 hrs trying to tell myself to eat something before the gym, foraging for fruit seems like a monumental task.

Smoothie tip: Keep a stash of peeled ripe bananas in the freezer as a fruit option / thickener to any smoothie.