Sunday Funday

Hallelujah! I finally have a coveted Sunday off from work, and I can now enjoy it like a true Italian. As expected, my mom cooks a feast for champions including my siblings and of course, our matriarch, Grandma Soprano. Having a grandparent with that last name, I guess you could say we are the real deal. And whoever thinks Giada De Laurentiis is a true Italian or chef, for that matter, doesn't know a thing about the culture. 'Spe-geyyhht-iii' your ass out of here. Funny enough, my brother likes to cook a Giada recipe for my mom and her reaction is priceless. Once he drops the bomb, quicker than you can say 'motzah-reyll-ah', my mom is retracting all of her compliments. It gets her every time.

How in the hell am I supposed to keep a diet when I am at a Sunday dinner table. Frig, if I don't eat pasta, my grandma thinks I am anorexic. It's an insult if I don't eat everything, and by everything I mean two helpings of each dish. Since I told most of my family about my month long Paleo diet, I feel the pressure to stick to the hellish restrictions. No old school Italian thinks dieting is healthy, in fact, my mom has been telling me all month that I look pale, when in reality my skin hasn't seen sunlight since last summer. Casper the anorexic ghost. On some real talk though, I need a tan, STAT. 

So what's on the menu for Sunday dinners, you ask? Typically there is pasta, some type of protein (for us it is usually chicken, mostly because my family owns a poultry farm) salad and an additional veggie. If I am lucky, it is broccoli rabe. Get it quick, it always goes fast in our house. Our dinners aren't always the most traditional because my mom loves trying new recipes outside of Italian cuisine. Tonight, we had minestrone (an Italian vegetable soup usually made with rice) followed by a pork roast, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus and locally made sausages. Part of the excitement of coming home on Sunday's is the surprise of what's being served. When my grandma isn't there, anything is fair game, because you best believe Grandma Soprano isn't eating anything outside her nationality. After dinner, espresso is a must at Italian dinners and I am always summoned as a personal barista because I worked at a coffee shop years ago. They don't even have to ask anymore, I will forever be a Dunkin' Donuts employee to them.

Food brings people together, especially Italians. It is a culture that practically revolves around a dinner table. For us, the conversation usually includes embarrassing stories from our past, like the time I screamed for a towel while I was huddled over the toilet hacking my brains out after having the flu, mind you I was about 10 years old. This story never gets old with my family. We also do a lot of catching up with everyone's lives, since most of my siblings and I have moved out of the nest. The seating assignments are usually the same, with my dad at the head of the table with my grandma and mother's seat beside him. Every week, my dad has some story on how he can't comprehend things my generation does, or why there is oil on top of Teddie Peanut Butter. Like my dad always says, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Apparently, Skippy Peanut Butter is the only real peanut butter, because that is what he grew up using. "None of this chunky stuff," he says. I always try to snag the seat next to grandma, however, 1. because I love hearing her hilarious translations from American words and 2. it is furthest from the refrigerator so I don't have to fill up the water bottle every 5 minutes. I learned, real quick.

Sunday is a day for food and family, and apparently pets too. The family cat, appropriately named Furry, is like a dinner shark that circles the table crying for anyone to give her some bait. She can be such a feline bitch, because she will meow all night, staring up at you from your seat and when you finally give her some of your precious meal, she won't touch it. It has to be one of the few things she likes and must be small enough for her to eat effortlessly because god forbid she puts some energy into something other than catnip. She can only roam free when grandma isn't there because if not, all hell will break loose. "Ehh, whatsa matta with you?! No animals insides the house, you get the bacteria and that's no good" grandma would yell. And if you ignore Furry, she will jump up into any empty seat and meow until she gets her way. We should start setting a spot just for her because this happens way to often.

No matter the occasion, have it be good or bad, Sunday is a day to unwind and enjoy your family's company, plus some slamming food and of course, vino. As the week comes to an end, nothing is better than a home cooked meal with people you enjoy being around most. Regardless of any diet, this is a day to eat your emotions, which usually means a huge bowl of my favorite, spaghetti. By the way, it's pronounced exactly how it looks, say it with me Giada, SPA-GET-TI.


Paleo Diet: Week 2 Down

Call the Paleo police. I cheated on my diet.

You know what, as far as I am concerned, I deserved the massive mound of creamy ice cream goodness with brownie chunks and hot fudge because you know what, Newport Creamery (NPC) is the way to to do it if you were to cheat. (For those of you not from Rhode Island, NPC is the hop off for ice cream and Awful Awful's- a milkshake of sorts) It's good mood food. There is nothing worse than giving into the junk food urge and come to find out it was a shitty choice of cheating material, like the lame ass frozen yogurt place near my apartment. Yes, I cheated more than once, sound the alarms! 

The month is already coming to a close and my body has finally gotten used to the Paleo diet. Looking back, the first week was terrible. My stomach was going through withdrawals from dairy and gluten and I constantly felt hungry. By adding whole grains in my daily routine, it lessened my stomach grumbles. I was told that Ezekiel bread is one of the best out there for you, because it has sprouted whole grains without any flour. It isn't as bad as it sounds. There is nothing I hate more than dry, chalky diet food. This is a great alternative. It tastes like regular wheat bread, without any chunky, hard pieces like multi-grain bread, for example. The other day, I made baked eggs with Canadian bacon and a piece of the Ezekiel bread. In a baking ramekin I bought, I layered the ingredients and it came out of the oven piping hot, with everything I love in breakfast, all in one bite. This whole dieting thing is making me a more creative cook, and Jake loves it. Martha who?

I am an avid Trader Joe's fan/shopper. The deals are insane and it has unique organic items that you can't find in other grocery stores. Checking the receipt and seeing how many items I bought is the best part of my shopping adventure. Usually, I can get about 50 items for $110 which averages to about $2.20 per item. My recent trip, I got 27 items for $95. That is more than a dollar more an item. Damn. Dieting really is an investment in yourself. Now a days, fresh produce is more expensive than a Big Mac and McDonald's. No wonder why America has an obesity issue. (I will save that rant for another blog post)

Luckily, I have gotten another job at a restaurant, making double what I had at my previous job, so it is allowing me to continue my diet habits. One thing I wont miss, is being "that person" who orders food and has to modify every item in the dish. "No butter, no dressing, sauce on side, no starch, sub veggies." I hate waiting on people like that...and now I am one. Making food at home is the best way to go, I just love going out to eat so it is hard. May is almost here! However, I do plan on continuing to eat healthy after all of this. I will definitely introduce Greek yogurt and granola back into my diet again because it is my favorite breakfast, especially when I am going to my internship. It is perfect office food, no mess and a quick meal. 

My goal is just a handful of pounds away. The official end of my diet is April 30, and I hope to lose five more pounds. I haven't weighed under 150 since high school. If i could get to 149, I will be pumped because I want to accomplish something out of all of this. Setting goals and actually reaching them is a new thing to me, and I kind of like it. Easter. A time to praise God and stuff your face with chocolate for breakfast. Easter was fair game. I couldn't give up Cadbury eggs, so I only ate one...maybe two or three? I ate without any restriction although, I did keep in mind my portions and the diets regulations. I am proud of myself, but I still gained a couple pounds since I did my weekly weigh in at my gym yesterday. That's why now, I am putting the pedal to the metal, and am in full gear to reach my goal. No more cheating for me! I must resist NPC. I will stay far, far away... until May 1st.   

The Jungle Gym

#fitness #fitlife #fitworld #eatclean #stopwithallthefitnesshashtags

If you are a habitual fitness hash tagger, I hate you. Okay, maybe not hate, more like annoy. I get it, you are on the fitness kick, good for you but please, chill out with the million fitness hash tags on all of your Instagram "I want everyone to know I am at the gym" selfies. 

When the Average Girl Chronicles (aka me) goes to the gym, it is quite the experience. I voluntarily put myself in a sweaty, smelly weight room jungle filled of apes grunting and pounding their chest like it's their mating call. That's just the men. The frequent women gym-goers are a site to see. They stick out like sore thumbs, whereas I like to stay under the radar when I'm working out.

The beauty queens: These ladies are wearing more makeup than a Saturday night out, with their hair perfectly done in a styled pony tail. Seriously though, when I go to the gym I look like the hot mess express leaving the dysfunction junction (giving credit for that line to Julie from season 9 of Bad Girls Club, don't judge). My hair is a huge frizz ball. These broads have more neon colored Under Armour gear than any one should, and of course, they have many sneakers to match their outfit, or mood for that matter. When I see someone with bright red sneaks, I'm getting out of their way. 

The fitness freaks: Monkey see, monkey do. Funny enough, these type of women are usually lifting weights next to their buffed up babes. They pump each other up like its a Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. These are the ones probably hash tagging the shit out of their pictures on social media. I DON'T CARE THAT IT IS LEG DAY. Just do your peace and keep it moving....moving out of my way so I can bench my puny 60 pounds, if that. Wanna know a secret of mine? I sometimes move the pin to a larger weight on the machines so the person after me doesn't think I am that much of a wimp. #sorrynotsorry 

The liars: Take a step back and look around. You will see the girls on their phones for more time than they are squatting. Every so often they will look around to see if anyone is looking at them, catching on to their laziness. I call them liars because these girls (I say girls because they are usually younger) are tagging themselves on Facebook so it SEEMS as though they are active individuals.(insert NeNe Leaks voice here), girl please, go home and go for a run or something. You look foolish.
The chatty Cathys: This group usually includes middle aged women who seek a friendly face while at the gym, hey, I don't blame them. I personally would rather workout alone because I don't want to be at the gym longer than I have too. Even if there is the juiciest gossip, talk to me in an hour when I'm leaving. A lot of these women are regulars at a Zumba class. Good for you sistah! It's a great workout, especially with a buddy. I wish more of my friends went to my gym because I am a huge fan of Zumba. It is a great alternative to working out. Anyway, most of the time these women are chatting next to each other on the treadmills about what they will cook for dinner, or the latest on celebrity gossip, with a People Magazine in front of them. At least they are actually working out, just don't talk to me. Thanks :)

The in-between: This is where I fall. I know too little about too much. Between my boyfriend giving me tips on how to work out a muscle group, to getting showed up by women who lifts that one extra set than me, this is why I dread going to the gym. Dammit, that is why I find a far corner so no one comes next to me. Catch a hint! I'm alone for a reason. To be honest, I don't know a fraction of what I should, especially since I am trying to get in better shape. Constantly, I am looking up workout routines that I can use to my benefit. I have been using machines that I would have never thought to use because of its location. Location is everything in the gym. You don't want to be a sissy and stay in the unofficially designated "women's area" but when you go where the big boys are, you look out of place and confused, well at least me. Yes, I have a cute pair of running shoes and occasionally I go to the gym with a face of makeup ONLY because it was after my days work, but at least I am trying!

Integrating the gym into your schedule is a pain in the ass but don't let that stop you, ladies! Now that I am seeing results with the help from the Paleo diet, I actually get a wee-bit excited to workout. Find your motivation people. Peer pressure is inevitable at the gym because you don't want to look clueless, so you do (or at least I do) what other people are doing. My advice, workout next to a personal trainer or a well fit person, you learn a lot of great tips. I guess monkey see, monkey do goes for more than just men. 

Paleo Diet: Week 1 Down

Jeez, did I learn a lot in a week and a half. Not only is this Paleo diet an eyeopening experience, I have learned a boat load of nutritional information that I never knew existed. So here is what I got out of it.

Apparently, your body needs about 100 grams of carbohydrates a day for your brain to function properly. Without it, you will encounter mood swings, over heating and even dizziness. I like my brain to function as properly as it can, because I am already insane. With this diet, I am not consuming any carbohydrates. None. No rice, bread or gluten, for that matter. Now, instead of burning carbohydrates for energy, my body is essentially eating itself. My body is burning protein instead. I am burning my muscle that I am working so hard to gain, slaving away at the gym with free weights, next to body builders and women who can snap me in half. It is damn intimidating working out next to these people, which is why it is infuriating learning this diet is contradicting itself, literally. My boyfriend has told me he feels like his beloved muscles are shrinking. This explains it.

With all of the negative things that I have heard about the diet, I have decided to tweek it to make it more sustainable. Now, I am eating whole grains once a day. That can be a sandwich, or a bowl of Special K cereal, with almond milk (by the way, Almond Breeze is the best out there). Sticking true to Paleo may work for other people, but from my experience, it needs some reworking.

So far, I have made the most delicious meals that I think I ever have. Thanks to Pinterest, I have learned how to make homemade chocolate. YES, chocolate. This recipe is not only genius, but I have no guilt eating a ton of it. There are so many more recipes I want to try.

3 tablespoons of Coconut Oil
3 tablespoons of Almond Butter
4 tablespoons of dark chocolate, unsweetened cocoa power
2-3 tablespoons of agave or honey (depending on how sweet you want it)
Chopped up fruit or almonds

I added chopped up strawberries, raspberries and almonds which made it only that much better. I even tried putting it on bananas and freezing it. Oh yea, all you have to do is melt all the ingredients together on the stove top then put on a cookie sheet, and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Voila! No baking necessary. It is chocolaty goodness without any added sugar. Seriously though, you need to make this regardless if you are on the diet. I sure will.

Other things I made over the past week and a half included baked cod encrusted with olive tapenade and sun-dried tomatoes. This was so easy and packed with flavor. And get this, I made cauliflower fried rice. OH EM GEE. I used this as my "starch" for my coconut milk and curry chicken stew that I made in the crock pot, which I also found on, you guessed it, Pinterest. I even made a pinning board exclusively for Paleo recipes.
(check out my Pinterest for some of the recipes I found.)

After weighing myself at the gym, I lost 5 pounds. Damn, it is so nice seeing the weight come off. This is why I can't give up on the diet because it's working, whether I like that it or not. In words from The Little Engine That Could, "I think I can, I think I can". I won't cave in. I KNOW I can do this. A diet is what you make of it. Some things work for people so you need to design it in a way your body will accept it. For me, eating a small amount of whole grains will help my month long diet, without losing the precious muscle that I have so little of. Lets see what happens.

Until next week...