Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Brazil Recap: What I ate in Rio de Janeiro!

Okay, so it may have been over a month ago at this point, but I don't want to miss out on telling you guys about the delicious food I ate when I was on vacation in Rio.  I really, really enjoyed exploring the new cuisines and foods of Brazil.  It was so great to have ICT be able to recommend restaurants, foods, grocery stores, etc. in her neighborhood.  I would not have had such a great culinary experience if it weren't for her!

I tried so many new flavors and tastes in Rio, which was really exciting for me.  There were many tropical fruits that I wasn't familiar with or don't normally eat.  Mango, passion fruit, coconut, acai, and cashew fruit are just a few.  Did anybody else not know that cashew nuts came from a fruit that you can eat?  Was that just me?

One of the things that I loved about the food in Brazil is that it was healthy and fresh.  Most foreign countries I think rock at the "fresh" food thing but I loved that when you walk along the beach in Rio, the snacks you can purchase are really light.  Fresh cut up mango, corn on the cob, coconut water, frozen fruit-only popsicles, fresh blended fruit juices, and light puffed rice snacks.  All of which I ate, obviously.

After you drink the water, you can eat the flesh of the coconut.
Acai popsicle!
Mango, acai, and orange fresh juices!

Puffed rice snack. Light but delicious.

One of the neatest meal concepts that I got experience was the "pay by kilo" restaurants in Brazil.  Restaurants will have a full buffet of incredible food but different that the American "all you can eat" buffet varieties, in Rio, you pay for what you put on your plate.  I thought that was a really neat option because you can decide exactly how much you want to eat-- and, for indecisive eaters like myself, you can try a bite of everything if you want!  Which I did.  On multiple occasions.

One of the things that you see on my plate in the pictures is a traditional Brazilian dish called Feijoada.  It is a rice and bean dish, topped with a cooked grain type thing.  It was sooo delicious and I bought the ingredients to be able to try cooking it sometime here.  I am positive I will not be able to recreate this exactly but it was incredibly flavorful with lots of different textures and I just loved it.  

So we've covered snacks and meals in Brazil.  So the obvious next place to go is desserts.  Man, Brazil does things right with the chocolatey dessert I fell in love with: brigadeiros.  This gooey chocolately deliciousness is a consistency of maybe a thick peanut butter, then covered in one of my favorite things in the world, sprinkles.  I made it my mission to try brigadeiro whereever I saw it.  Which was sort of often... but hey, you only live once!  My favorite brigadeiro, which is in the bottom two pictures, was at the Parque Lage.  So yummy!

The recipes make it seem incredibly simple to cook, there is only a few different ingredients.  I've attempted once so far and it came out an utter failure.  I WILL try this again though.  It is too good not to!

Another area that Brazil really does it right is in the drink department.  In addition to trying brigadeiro all throughout Rio de Janeiro, I also tried as many different caipirinhas as I could!  A caipirinha is a cocktail made with an alcohol called cacha├ža and all different fresh fruits as well.  They were delicious!

Passion fruit.
Caju or cashew fruit.

In no particular order, I wanted to share a few other food items that I had in Brazil that I loved.  I seriously ate so well the entire time I was there.  Even the meals that we had in ICT's apartment for breakfast or dinner were incredible.  And you want to know the best part?  Even though every single thing in these photos I ate (every bit of)-- I lost weight while I was in Brazil!

Best.Host.Ever. Breakfast every morning at ICT's!
I cooked one night! Salad, marinated chicken, hummus and pita.
Not a caipirinha, but so much fresh fruit and a popsicle in this drink!
Big breakfast at Parque Lage!

I've gotta try the candies!
Guarana Zero -- my diet soda addiction in Brazil.

In the U.S. we have such problems with obesity and I love visiting other countries and learning about the ways they eat and comparing to how we do things here.  In the U.S. we have "all you can eat" buffets that encourage you to eat as much as you can and GIANT portions in restaurants that you feel pressured to eat because you've paid for it -- you've got to get your money's worth, right?  Where as in Brazil, you pay for only what you want to eat.  The fresh fruit snacks were the norm.  Not deep fried or processed snacks we do in the U.S.  And the Brazilians don't deprive themselves either -- do you see how rich and indulgent those brigadeiros are?  However, the portions are so small compared to the massive pieces of cake and sundaes you get when you order a dessert in the U.S.

Although I can't eat the delicious food I had in Rio de Janeiro every day, I can take some of these lessons with me back to the U.S.

1.  Only eat what you are hungry for.
2.  Snack healthy!  Fresh and unprocessed when I need a pick-me-up.
3.  Indulge -- in appropriate portions.

So, did I make you guys hungry yet?? :)  Hopefully I will share some of my culinary adventures in the future as I try to make some of the things I had in Brazil!

Monday, October 1, 2012

SCIENCE VIDEO: Why we overeat.

I get it and all, but sometimes the answer to the question, "Why do we overeat?" is because food tastes really, really freaking good.
  That is all.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall is chili time!

Okay, not my fault, chili does not photograph well.  But, seriously, who doesn't love a good bowl of chili when it is cold and rainy out? 

This Sunday as I watched football and hung around the house (laundry and such) I cooked up some delicious chili to eat throughout the week.  This dish is of the "semi-homemade" variety.  Although I'm not a big fan of Sandra Lee herself, I do quite a bit of her "semi-homemade" style of cooking.

I used a chili seasoning packet but otherwise just went on my own with what I decided to add to it.  I used extra lean ground beef, red kidney beans, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, corn, and minced onion. I love the crispness of the corn, the creaminess of the beans, and the all around deliciousness that is chili. 

Hope everyone is enjoying fall and all of your favorite fall foods!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My experience with Albany F.I.T. Boot Camp

I've been wanting to write this post for a while, and I finally managed to sit down and actually write it.

Last fall I started to think that I wanted to add something to my workout routine (that consisted of mainly just cardio) to build strength and tone my body.  I was concerned about trying to go about this on my own.  I've always known myself well enough to know that I need goals and a start and a finish to help me get through a workout.  If I go out to exercise without a start & finish already planned, I will work out for about 10 minutes and then think, "Whew! That was probably pretty good.  Time to rest."  This is why I like to run 5Ks and take classes such as spin.  Having a start and a finish already defined helps me to keep motivated.  And on top of that, I also don't know what the heck I'm doing when it comes to this stuff!

I thought about getting a personal trainer but was worried about the cost.  Then, a friend told me about F.I.T. Boot Camps.  She had been doing it with her husband for the past few months and loved it.  It seemed interesting and I decided to give it a shot.  Well, that was last fall and now, about 11 months later, I am still getting up at 5:00 a.m. three times a week to get my butt kicked by the trainers at the Albany F.I.T. Boot Camp!

On the ropes!  Something I'd only ever seen on The Biggest Loser before this class.
Kettle bell lifts. Ow.
When I started, we were working out outdoors at the Empire State Plaza.  As it got colder outside we moved to the Rensselaer Boys and Girls Club.  And as of the past few months, we've moved to the F.I.T. Boot Camp's brand new private facility on Fuller Road in Albany.  Although the new facility doesn't have the same fun as working out outdoors at Empire Plaza or require the sometimes creativity that we'd get with our workouts at the Boys and Girls Club -- it does have amazing equipment and LOTS of new times & class offerings.

So, with those logistics out of the way.  Let me say I LOVE this boot camp.  It really has been exactly what I needed in my workout.  It continually challenges me, it is fun, and I am not getting bored!  The trainers there are really great.  They provide the perfect amount of tough-ness and are always pushing me to do better.  They are understanding and helpful when you need it.  Despite it being an often PACKED class, I feel like I get one-on-one attention and the trainers have really gotten to know me and what I can do and want to do in the classes.

My trainer, James, holding me back while running with the bands.
Over the months I've brought a number of friends with me and everyone is always impressed with the workouts and the staff at F.I.T. Boot Camps.  The past couple months they've started to get more involved with promoting the classes and the facility using social media.  Given my line of work I find this incredibly smart and impressive.  It also provides me with these gems of photos on Facebook of myself working out.  I have had SO MANY friends from all over the country comment to me on these pictures.  Sometimes embarrassing, sometimes it makes me really proud.  Actually, mostly proud.  When I look at these pictures I feel the same way that I do when I look at the pictures from the sprint triathlon I did.  I'm proud of the accomplishments I've made over the past year.  I really love that I made the decision to start going to boot camp and am still enjoying every minute of it!  Well, maybe not enjoying every minute.  It is tough! :)

My birthday photo shoot is below.  You know I enjoy this if I even get up at 5:00 a.m. on my birthday :)  Happy weekend everyone!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Weekend Recap

Happy Labor Day everybody!! Can you believe it is September already?  The summer flew by for me but it has been a really great one.  Filled with lots of friends, family, travel, good food, and major accomplishments.  I hope that you all had a great Labor Day weekend relaxing and enjoying some of the beautiful weather we experienced.

I started the weekend with a much needed relaxing night at home on the couch on Friday.  Saturday morning I was up early to head home to Rhode Island for the evening to spend some time with my little [the word "little" used loosely] and mom.  J just moved into a great apartment on Federal Hill and I had a ton of fun exploring his neighborhood, enjoying some great food and drink, and just hanging out and having fun.

For a first apartment, I've got to admit, he has a great place.  Complete with an amazing balcony!

His place is right by Federal Hill which made it an easy walk to eat at Cassarino's and then pick up some pastries around the corner.  And can you believe those portions?  Believe it not, my mom and I split our meal.  What you see in front of the two of us is technically a 1/2 portion each.  Wow!

After dinner & dessert we walked to a bar called Congress Tavern and tried their fall special drink called a "Pumpkin Chuck" -- half Shipyard Pumpkin beer and half Woodchuck Cider, rimmed with caramel and cinnamon & sugar.  It was delicious!

After drinks we walked towards the river to check out Providence's signature, WaterFire.   I hadn't been to a WaterFire in ages and forgot how beautiful and enchanting it can be.  Too bad I was with my mom and brother and not on a romantic date :)

Despite being pretty exhausted, I managed to get a second wind and experience Providence nightlife as my brother sees it.  Complete with a pedicab ride, which was one of the more frightening experiences of my adult life...

After a great weekend at home hanging out with my brother and exploring Providence, I headed back to Albany on Sunday for a fun-filled, last-minute planned, summery day in Saratoga with one of my good friends.  I put in a few (unsuccessful) last bets at the race track, ate at Circus Cafe on Broadway, and then headed over to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to see Jason Mraz in concert!  We bought lawn seats, where we watched most of the show, but for the end were able to move up to the very front row!  In front of us was only the group of people that were seated in the "pit."  We had an amazing view and an incredible experience seeing Jason finish the show and Christina Perri coming out at the end to close the encore.

I capped off the Labor Day weekend with a relaxing day at Grafton Park hanging by the water and soaking in some final rays of sunshine for the summer!!  For dinner, I cooked up what I've been eating a lot of lately... a spinach & (fat free) cheese omelet -- made with 1 egg yolk & 3 whites.  Topped with a cut up tomato and some salsa on the side.  And I ate it in a location you can find me in a lot lately -- sitting out on my front porch :)

I hope everyone had a great weekend and summer.  I'll certainly miss the warm sunshine but looking forward to all the fun that Fall brings.  Those Pumpkin Chucks weren't too bad :)

I want to close this post with a very special congratulations to two of my best friends who each got engaged this past week.  I can't believe how grown up we're all getting but I honestly could not be happier for my two friends and their respective new fiances.  I hope these guys know how lucky they are :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lunchtime meeting eating.

Continuing my trend of eating during lunchtime meetings, I will share with you the salad I ate almost every day for lunch this week.  Filled with lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes fresh from a friend's garden, red onion, and avocado -- this was YUM.

I usually don't cut up my vegetables so small, but for this salad I tried to make it like a "chopped" salad which turned out so fun because I could get a bit of all the flavors in every bite.  I also don't usually eat fresh avocado in my salad and even just having a little in there made the salad so creamy and delicious.  I didn't use dressing -- just a bit of salt and pepper.

Excuse the awkward photo, I was trying to be sneaky so that my co-workers don't just think I'm annoying for eating during meetings but also because I take pictures of my food that I'm eating during meetings.  Nom, nom, nom...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Things to do and see in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Alright guys, so sorry to keep you on the edge of your seats waiting to hear about my trip to Brazil.  It was a busy week getting back and I had a little business to take care of called "celebrating my 26th birthday"-- woohoo!  [I will write about that later... I've got lots of catching up to do here...]

Anyways, here is my first recap of a few different ones that I want to write about Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  About the amazing beauty I saw and the amazing tastes I ate and the amazing host I had in Brazil.

To start, I'm going to tell you about some of the amazing things to see and do in the city of Rio.  And mind you, this isn't going to be a list of ALL the things to do.  And I can't really say that they are the BEST things to do in Rio, because there is SO much to do there that I wasn't able to do them all and then come back and rank them all for you (but trust me, I would if I could!)  However, I wanted to put together a list of some of my favorite things I did and some of the best "experiences" I had in Brazil.  AND, although I can't rightfully claim them as the "best" -- if I didn't find them totally amazing and cool and recommendation-worthy, well than I wouldn't be writing about them, now would I?

SO, let's talk things to do in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

1.)  Visit Christ the Redeamer!  It was amazing to me to be able to see in person, as it is such an iconic representation of the city of Rio de Janeiro.  Almost every picture you see of Rio somehow has Christ the Redeamer in the shot.  People associate the statue with the city.  It's like the Duomo in Florence or the Trevi Fountain in Rome.  Things that I had SO many photos of and heard about all the time.  When you're in a foreign city you can be walking around and sometimes, in the thick of it, the streets and the shops don't look too distinctive of the city you're in.  But then all of a sudden you turn a corner, see this iconic figure and remember all over again, "Holy Crap.  I'm in RIO!!"

And oh, the views are great from up there!

P.S.  I think it's funny to sometimes take pictures of tourists posing for pictures when I'm at these "iconic" spots as well.  I have great pictures of tourists in Pisa making the pose of "trying to hold up the leaning tower" -- with the tower nowhere in sight.  I did the same with people posing as Christ the Redeamer :)

2.  Take the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.  Granted, the cable car is really scary (assuming you're a wimp like me) but there is an amazing view at the top and some really fun statues that you can pose for pictures with.


3.  Have brunch at Parque Lage and spend some time exploring the gardens there.  Eating here for brunch came off of a recommendation from a couple of friends, one a "Carioca" (native from Rio de Janeiro), and one from Sao Paolo now living in Rio.  I didn't read about it in my guidebook and my the recommendation from my Brazilian friends came with the advice, "Go early!" & man -- they were not kidding!  This place was swamped with people waiting for tables.  However, you have a gorgeous view and lots to look at as you wait.

After you eat, you can check out the park there, which is like going on a little adventure hunt.  There is a small aquarium, castle, waterfall, and this is where I saw my first Brazilian monkeys!!! Just hanging in the trees.  Doing their thang.  No big deal.

The Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro are a lot more well known than this smaller park.  However, I actually preferred Parque Lage to the Botanical Gardens.  If you have the time, I would 100% recommend doing both.  They just had different feels.  Parque Lage I felt like I was on an exploration adventure. The Gardens were more of a relaxing "garden" walk experience.  Probably why they named it that...

4. Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl... go to Copacabana beach!  Although the song refers to a different place, I love that the beach is Copacabana Beach.  Take a picture of the sidewalks.  Check out the sand castles.  Enjoy the fact that you are at Copacabana Beach!!

4. Spend a day each at Ipanema Beach and Leblon Beach.  Because you're in Rio.  Why not go to the beach a lot?  Ipanema Beach and Leblon Beach are right next to one another, really just divided by a small canal.  I love the beaches in Rio because you can literally get ANYTHING you want.  Vendors walk up and down the beach selling everything that you could possibly want and need for a day at the beach.  Bathing suits, blankets, chairs, umbrellas, sunscreen, hats, snacks, water, beer, fresh mixed drinks, fresh coconut water, fresh fruit popsicles, etc.

And I actually enjoyed these beaches more than Copacabana for an actual "day at the beach."  First, things are a little cheaper at Leblon & Ipanema than at Copacabana.  Also, I am pretty sure that the way that the sun hits the buildings, the beach stay longer here.  There is also more sand & beach in general at these locations.  Lots of volleyball players and exercisers along the pier as well.  There is lots to look at and lots of space to hang out and share the beach with the TONS of other locals and tourists who spend their days at the beach!

5.  Walk along the road by the beach -- closed on Sundays!!  I thought of one of the really cool things about Rio is that every Sunday, one of the main roads closes down for walkers & bikers.  I think it says a lot about the laid back atmosphere of the city.  People enjoy their leisure time and weekends aren't for rushing around in your car and doing errands.  They are for going for long walks, being outdoors, and of course, the beach!

Bonus -- if you walk down the road by Ipanema Beach and then take a turn in by Post 8, away from the beach, you can visit the "Hippie Fair" open only on Sundays.  There is a neat outdoor market only open on Sundays as well.

6.  Okay, as even though you check out the Hippie Fair, you should also go to the evening artisan market by Copacabana Beach.  Unlike the Hippie Fair, everything here is made by local artists and vendors.  You can get incredibly beautiful and unique jewelry, artwork, and unique local crafts.  One of my favorite things was choosing the paintings I wanted as the artist was completing them -- before the paint even dried!  We did some damage at this market but every purchase was well worth it I think.

7.   Visit the Copacabana Fort.  While you're there, eat at Confeitaria Colombo.  This was a beautiful location with a great view of the Copacabana Beach.  I was lucky enough to be here around dusk and I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed sitting and having a beer and a piece of chocolate and enjoying watching the sun go down.  If you recreate exactly what I did and go there at the end of a long day to just relax, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

8.  Do something spontaneous!  While I was in Rio, walking around one evening I realized I was nearby the horse racing track of the city.  I decided to stop in and see if I could at least snap a picture.  Turns out that not only do they race the horses in the evening, I also walked into a Food & Wine exposition that was going on!  Although this wasn't in my plans for the evening, how could I turn up such an experience??  It ended up one of my favorite experiences AND the horse track has incredible views of Christ the Redeamer at night.

With that, I am going to sign off for the night... I hope you enjoyed my first recap of Rio.  So much more to come on this amazing vacation of mine!