Wednesday, October 31, 2012

After the lights went out, plenty of anxious eating

With the power out, we cooked by lantern light.

A super storm hit North Jersey on Monday with powerful winds that cut down trees and power lines, shutting restaurants and supermarkets.

Suddenly, food became one of the few comforts in homes without lights or heat.

Grilled cheddar cheese and bacon for my teenage son. a carnivore.

I've been eating anxiously, allowing myself bread and other food that haven't been part of my diet for a couple of years.

In an effort to use what fresh food we have rather than throw it out, I ate three bowls of bran flakes in a row with lactose-free milk, then had a cup of cocoa with more of the milk.

Finally, this morning, I threw out the rest of the carton.

I cooked the last two organic eggs before they spoiled.

In an elevator at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center today, a doctor who had lost power in the storm bought a comforting slice of dark-chocolate layer cake she conceded she probably wouldn't eat in normal circumstances.

I had more bread today, making a cheese omelet sandwich for my wife and eating half of it.

On Tuesday, the day after we lost power, I made a canned fish salad sandwich on a large doughy roll I ate routinely when I was 40 pounds heavier.

I felt much better, then was flooded by guilt.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Exploring Wondee's vegetarian menu

Mock Duck Kraprow at Wondee's Fine Thai Food in Hackensack.

Fried rice with tofu, vegetables and fresh basil leaves.

The plan for dinner out on Saturday was to order everything from the vegetarian menu at one of our favorite restaurants, Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Nooodles in Hackensack.

It was a perfectly good plan, of course, until my meat-loving teenage son got wind of it.

So, that's how we ended up with both meat and vegetarian dishes on the table.

But my wife joined me in enjoying soup, salad, entree and fried rice -- all with vegetables, tofu or textured soy.

The dishes were mildly spicy and full of flavor and texture, but free of unhealthy animal fats. 

My wife raved about the meal, and both of us were stuffed. 

A full page of Wondee's menu is vegetarian.

We started with Thome Yum Vegetable Soup.

Four of us shared a vegetarian salad, Yom Rod Pedt, which substitutes crispy tofu for bits of duck with lettuce and fruit in a tasty dressing ($10).

My wife and I had Thome Yum Vegetable, a spicy vegetable soup ($3.50), but my son and mother-in-law ordered Geuw Nam, wonton soup with roast pork slices ($3.50).

We loved the Mock Duck Kraprow with chili, onion and sweet basil, especially the meaty texture of the faux duck ($12).

Our brightly flavored vegetable-and-tofu fried rice, Pad Kraprow, was $10.

My son and mother-in-law shared a special, Braised Pig's Shoulder, which came with white rice ($12). 

Crispy tofu stands in for duck in a delicious salad.

A spicy chili-garlic sauce brightened our entrees and fried rice.

Braised Pig's Shoulder with hard-boiled egg.

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 
296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700.

Parking in rear, BYO, no delivery. Closed Mondays.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weight-losing strategies that work for me

Mashed sweet potatoes stand in for fattening white potatoes at any meal.

Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. 

Brown rice, not white rice. 

No bread or toast at breakfast, but a bed of whole-wheat pasta for your eggs or egg-white omelet is perfectly fine and filling.

These are some of the strategies I've used to lose weight and keep it off since I gave up bread and pizza at the suggestion of a trainer at my old gym.

From a high of 228 pounds, I've reached a comfortable weight of under 185 pounds.

Organic eggs with manchego cheese and pesto over whole-wheat pasta.

It should go without saying that I don't eat dessert, unless it's ripe fruit with a great of piece cheese or an occasional sorbet.  

I've also stopped eating meat, meaning I can afford to eat a variety of full-fat, reduced-fat and skim-milk cheeses, and whole eggs

My overall cholesterol is about 140.

Seafood is a delight -- from Maine lobster to whole wild-caught fish to fillets flown here from Canada, Iceland and other countries.

I eat a lot of organic salad mix, tomatoes and cucumbers. I make canned fish salad with tuna, salmon and sardines, and eat it over salad, not in a sandwich. 

Kashi Trail Mix and and other bars allow me to skip lunch.

In the past, a snack would be cheese, smoked wild salmon, canned fish salad and other items, but I'd always eat them tucked inside Syrian pocket bread.

Now, I roll up slices of cheese and smoked salmon, dip them in mustard and eat them out of hand.

A spoonful of peanut or sodium-free almond butter is terrific followed by a spoonful of fig marmalade.

Fig marmalade goes beautifully with slices of manchego, a sheep's milk cheese from Spain. 

The almond butter is great over apple slices.

A spoonful of fig marmalade goes well with cheese.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

More changes at Costco Wholesale

Costco's Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Italy.

Editor's note: Today, I look at some new and old items at Costco, and report on a light lunch at the newly renovated Suburban Diner in Paramus.


The world's best-tasting organic salad mix now comes in a new package -- and at a new lower price when you buy it at Costco Wholesale.

Earthbound Farm has tweaked the packaging of its Organic Half & Half -- Spring Mix and Baby Spinach -- and Costco knocked 40 cents off the usual price of $4.99 for a 1-pound container.

How long that price of $4.59 lasts is anyone's guess: 

Costco's price for Earthbound Farm's organic salads goes up and down, but it's always a dollar or two cheaper than other stores. 

The new package is an improvement over the old, though when you open it, you're still left holding tear-away plastic that is a recycling challenge.

In the old package, it was sometimes difficult to find the separation between the clear-plastic cover and tub.

Now, the cover has two tabs that make the package easier to open.

What's the big deal? When you eat a bowl of this salad every day, you appreciate the improvement.

Of course, the salad is still pre-washed, so it goes right from the container to the bowl, ready to be dressed.

Balsamic vinegar

At home, I dress my organic salad with 100% Spanish extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Italy, and this week I saw a new bottle of the latter at the Hackensack Costco.

I don't know if this is a new product or just a new bottle and label. I tried Costco's balsamic vinegar a few years ago and found it much too sweet.

Since then, I've been buying this aged vinegar at Jerry's Gourmet and More in Englewood, and since a trip to Italy in 2010, I always buy a brand called Ponti, which I was served in restaurants in Milan and Venice.

Neither Costco's or Ponti's Balasamic Vinegar of Modena contain artificial color, but the latter is a better buy at $1.99 for a half-liter bottle.

Costco's balsamic is sold under the label of the store brand, Kirkland Signature.

This week, I also saw Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes, replacing the Del Monte product I bought at the warehouse store. 

Wyman's of Maine says wild blueberries are No. 1 in antioxidants.

In my freezer, I unearthed a package of fresh frozen wild blueberries from Costco that I bought I don't know how many weeks ago to replace Kirkland Signature Dried Blueberries, which contain a lot of added sugar.

I thawed some of the Wyman's of Maine Wild Blueberries, and used them in my cereal this morning.

It's no surprise they aren't as sweet as the dried blueberries. But they are sugar- and sodium-free -- just wild blueberries. 

At Costco on Tuesday, I picked up fresh wild-caught Pacific cod for dinner at $6.99 a pound, and served it with mashed sweet potatoes, skin and all, and an Earthbound Farm salad.

That night, I saw cod fillet for $21.99 a pound at a Food Emporium on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

A 2-pound package of those incomparable Sunset-brand Campari Tomatoes at Costco was $4.49, or $2.25 a pound, a lower price than at Fairway Market in Paramus.

Costco's Organic Brown Eggs with Manchego Cheese and Pesto, served with mashed sweet potatoes, skin and all. The sweet potatoes came from Trader Joe's.

Organic brown rice

This week, Della-brand Long Grain Organic Brown Rice reappeared at Costco.

In September, employees of the Hackensack Costco told me it had been discontinued, and I ordered another brand online at Amazon. com. 

The Suburban Diner in Paramus re-opened on Monday.

Route 17 diner reopens

The Suburban Diner in Paramus was crowded today with customers getting their first look at the newly renovated and expanded landmark on Route 17 north.

The diner, which re-opened Monday, has about 20 more seats and slightly higher prices. It now seats 230 people.

I ordered black coffee and split pea soup -- hold the croutons -- and got the biggest bowl of soup I've ever seen in a Greek diner. 

An unusually large bowl of soup was $3.10 at the Suburban Diner.

A cup of coffee with free refills was $1.80.

My friend had a Western Omelet Sandwich for $4.95, with coleslaw and a pickle, and a Diet Coke for $2.25.


Suburban Diner, 172 Route 17 north, Paramus; 201-261-2605.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beer is just what you need after a workout

An "ale house restaurant" has opened next to one of the biggest gyms in North Jersey.
A sign calls the bar-restaurant "a 'reel' great place to catch a good time."

If you work up a thirst working out, the 24 Hour Fitness in Paramus is one of the few gyms in New Jersey that gives you the option of slaking your thirst with beer or something harder.

Miller's N.J. Ale House was built next to the Route 4 gym, and its front door is only steps away from the entrance to 24 Hour Fitness, once a multi-plex movie theater.

The only good thing about the arrangement is that the two buildings aren't connected. Miller's Ale House opens at 11 a.m.

Valet parking signs and posts block a gym emergency exit.

Miller's N.J. Ale House has a raw bar and serves wild-caught mahi-mahi, but you could hardly call this a healthy place to eat.

The online menu lists salads, ribs, steaks and other items, but nothing appears to be organic and none of the meat is free of harmful animal antibiotics and growth hormones.

Typical are fried chicken wings, a Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich, fajitas, "sirloin" burgers, steaks and baby back ribs.

Who is responsible for the mixed message of a bar-restaurant next to a gym?

The two businesses are part of Bergen Town Center, the once dowdy mall that convinced Whole Foods Market that Paramus was a good place for one of the chain's biggest organic-food stores.

I called the mall's management office this morning for comment, but was told no one was available. I left a message.  

During construction, gym employees said a "sports bar" was being built next door.

Is that what Miller's N.J. Ale house is? "Ale house" suggests a a place stage-coach travelers stopped for refreshment in the 1700s.