Friday, May 15, 2015

Catching Flights and Counting Calories

I’m feeling (and looking) so good these days, that I had to share. So, this post isn’t about one special culinary experience that I’ve had, but it is about how I’m embracing a healthy jet-setting, lifestyle and still indulging in the alllll the things I love.

Unless you’re super human or have super human metabolism, chances are that you’ve had to “watch your weight” at some point in your life—by choice or by force.  Welp, that’s me.  I am currently on attempt number 234 at being healthily happy. Except this time I’m 32, travel weekly for work, and had alarming numbers at my most recent physical exam.  So, saying I had to “get it together” would be an understatement.

I repeatedly asked myself, “How do I lose weight, lower my cholesterol, and decrease my blood pressure while eating what I want?!  I love food (only the good kind!). Traveling weekly forces me to eat out four days a week (at someone else’s expense). I vehemently despise working out.  I will come up with any excuse to avoid it.  One day while sitting around, I had an epiphany!  The answer was surprisingly simple!  Below I have listed 5 key things that are helping me achieve the life I want!

1.      MOTIVATION   Sure, its hard some days. But one thing you need is a spark.  This could range from anything to a health scare,  too-tight clothing,  a less than desirable photo, being sick and tired of being uncomfortable, or someone who’s tired of seeing you be sick and tired and encourages you to do something about it. Lucky for me, I had all of the above.  So, it was easy for me to get serious once and for all.  After the results start rolling in, it’ll be all the motivation you need.

2.      PLAN   Nowadays there are so many gimmicks and seemingly easy ways out that it can be hard to decide what’s best for you. I’ve found over the years that the quick fixes and near starvation tactics are just not sustainable.   A couple of times they left me worse off than when I started. So I did some research and decided that the tried-and-true “eat healthy AND work out consistently” method was the way to go. I’ve done both independently and clearly…

3.      ACTION   As I mentioned, fitness is not my forte. I’d rather watch television, or cook, or, hell, pull my teeth one by one, than workout. I also hate to workout in front of people. The act of getting dressed and going to the gym pains me. And what the heck am I even supposed to do once I get there?!  One day, a friend mentioned!  The founders are a couple that has hundreds of workout videos FREE on YouTube for all levels of fitness—little to no equipment needed.  Moreover, they have programs that you can purchase for under $10 that actually tell you what to do everyday. Finally, I was out of workout excuses. It’s the best thing I’ve tried yet, as far as working-out goes. I’m dedicated to 5 times a week now, even if it’s merely 20 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training.  Dare I say, it can be fun at times! [And there's an app!]

4.      EAT   No really, Eat! I make a point not to eat anything that is lacking in taste and to still incorporate the restaurants and food that I love. I’m not compromising on that, and I shouldn’t have to. The app MyFitnessPal is my favorite food tracker. Tracking what I eat helps me stay conscious and make better choices whenever possible. I look at menus of every restaurant before I go and research and pick what I’m going to eat. The airports can be tricky, but there’s a better choice EVERYWHERE you go. For example, who doesn’t love Chipotle?  Instead of a brown rice chicken bowl with every single topping, I get a chicken salad with black beans, fajita veggies, tomatoes and corn. It tastes juuuust as good and it’s less than over half the calories. And I still get my Chipotle fix.

MyFintnesspal (.com or app)

5.      INDULDGE   Cheat days? Don’t do it! You won’t want to anyway after you’ve done all that working out and your pants are too big. Cheat item in a small proportion? Go for it! Alcohol is loaded with calories. I’ve tried abstaining but it’s not for me. So I steer clear of the mixed drinks, and if I do have one it’s a skinny Margarita (sugar free mixer) or Jack and coke zero, etc.  There’s a certain time of the month where chocolate and sweets are not optional. But now instead of cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory, I have a glass of dark chocolate almond milk or, my favorite, Dole frozen chocolate covered bananas. The point is, if you’ve got to have it, have it in moderation.

Currently, I feel like I’m on the right track.  After exercising for 10 weeks, losing 15+ pounds, moving down a dress size and a half, and stalking Pinterest for healthy recipes, I realize that I’m hardly an expert. However, I’ve found something that works for me—and there’s something that will work for you too. The best part: I still get to travel the world and have my culinary adventures. Til next time, may you be encouraged.  Stay fine my foodies!!!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Local Eats: Bhojanic

Having been off work for what seems like forever, I've been able to explore around Atlanta a little bit. Why not make it fun and try out a few new places? So that's exactly what I've been doing. That and trying out new things to cook, but that's a whole other discussion. For whatever reason, I've been in the mood for ethnic cuisine.

There's a list of things to do and try in my phone (because lists make the world go 'round) and Bhojanic was on it. I'd seen it featured in various publications around the city, even winning several awards. And y'all already know how I feel about Indian food. Nestled in the bustling Lenox Square Mall area is a small, but bright, "homestyle Indian" restaurant. I always kid and say, "You know an ethnic restaurant is good if you see that ethnicity patronizing." There is, however, some truth to that and from the looks of things, I was in the right place.

Bhojanic Indian- Lenox Square, Atlanta

The menu was astonishing. "I'll have one of everything!", I wanted to say. It all sounded so good. I definitely had to pick something that gave me a little of this and a little of that. So I went with Thalis (Traditional Indian Combo Platter): The Bhojanic (1 meat and 2 vegetables). Out of the choices for the day, I chose Lamb Curry with Saag paneer (creamed spinach with Indian cheese) and Bhindi Masala (Sautéed Okra with caramelized onions). All Thalis were served with Rice Pullao, Chapati (whole wheat flat bread), Raita (cucumber yogurt sauce), Papadam (crispy lentil cracker) and a side salad of the day--a little of this. We also ordered the Tandoori Chicken Wings to share because you can never have too much good food--a little of that.

The Bhojanic Thalis and Tandoori Chicken Wings

Yes, yes, and yes! The presentation was overwhelmingly gorgeous, if food can be. The plump Tandoori Chicken Wings were golden orange and charred in all the right places. And the combo platter was served on a large metal cafeteria style tray but the food was a far cry from an ordinary cafeteria. There was a heap of rice and equal amounts of everything they had promised. We dug in! And by "dug in" I mean all but licked the plate. Every morsel was bursting with classic, vibrant Indian flavors. Each item seemed carefully thought of and hand crafted. There was appropriately no skimping in the spice department either, so good thing we ordered a Mango Lassie mid-way through. Plus, the Indians sitting near us swore by it.

Tandoori Chicken Wings

Bhindi Masala (Sauteed Okra and Caramelized Onions)

Saag paneer (Creamed Spinach with Indian Cheese)

Curry Lamb

Mango Lassie

A happy dance was definitely in order. I almost forgot that I wasn't in India at a grandmother's dinning room table, but on a patio in Buckhead on the first day of spring. My first time at Bhojanic most certainly will not be my last. It's already been promoted to "Favorite Indian Food Within Reach"! See you in the near future Bhojanic.

Check them out at

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Rooftop View from Hilton Dubai Creek

Never mind the fifteen (plus) hour flight; it was totally worth it. Dubai, in and of itself, should be considered the eighth wonder of the world. It's a burrito of sorts. Every topping imaginable: big city vibes, desert safaris, beach life, authentic cultural flare and new world innovations. There's no way this place was lacking in the food department. 


What do you do when you land in a time zone ten hours different than yours and you're wide awake? Eat, of course. Just behind my first hotel, located in Deira along the creek side, was a restaurant that was still bright and busy despite the quiet, night-stricken streets. Grand Abu Shakra--This must be like their "Waffle House" I immediately thought walking through the packed parking lot. Later, I'd find I was right. I spotted many more locations and they were always open, no matter the time. "Lord, please let them have chicken!", I prayed on the way inside. 

Menu from Grand Abu Shakra

My prayers were answered. They had chicken (or fowl as they referred to it) and everything else imaginable. The menu was so diverse that we decided to live on the wild side and, with the help of the order clerk, chose a lamb sandwich. It came with a side of Mukalal, or pickled vegetables, commonly served with Lebanese and Arabic food. Very similar to our Giardiniera. Not bad for a nearly-midnight snack. So far, so good!

Lamb sandwich, Grand Abu Shakra


After visiting the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) the morning of day two, we headed over to the highly recommended gold and spice souks. It was definitely a sight to behold. We'd decided the gold souk was nothing short of a big scam early on in the venture, but the spice souk was something to behold. It went on and on with bends of fresh spices and rooms of busy hagglers. I chose a guy that wasn't occupied and filled my bags, talking him down more than fifty percent of his asking price as I had learned to do from my pre-trip research. I felt proud of myself. Now I just have to figure out what the heck to do with whole dried lemon.

Display at the Spice Souks

Spices I purchased (12 o'clock; clockwise): Saffron Pistachios, Turmeric, Curry, Allspice, Dried Whole Limons, Whole Nutmeg, Cardamen, Dried Roses, Vanilla Bean (hidden)

Let's just say it was an experience that worked up an appetite. Deep into the winding alleyways we happened upon a local eatery, name unknown. Entree photos displayed outside like an American Chinese restaurant lured us inside. We'll just order what looked like a chicken kabob to be safe. Not! The waiter just kept saying, "Only chicken sauce!" Oooookay. After going to have a look at the chef through the windows, we just went for it.  

Entree Display


Creations for the day
Win again! It was served with savory rice and a fresh salad with tomatoes, cucumber, onion and limes. Later, we'd learn those items were additional. But who cared, 'cause "Chicken (in) Sauce" was where it was! It was marvelous. The chicken was rough chopped and simmered in fragrant spices to perfection. It even packed a spicy punch, so the salad was a great accompaniment. We cleaned our plates and waddled out of there to check-out the traditional Abra rides along the creek.


A day of overly-packed tourist attractions, taxi rides, jet lag and a much needed nap left us feeling accomplished. Up next, a taste of the night life. We picked some club claiming to have a hip-hop vibe. "Be here by 10:30pm", claimed the club manager over the phone. Of course the club was not yet open when we arrived and we were directed to a club that was open on the backside of the Fairmont Hotel, Cavalli Club. Yes, THE Cavalli. The dresscode required heels which we were not wearing, so the only way in was to order dinner. Some how we'd forgotten to eat, so yes please!

Cavilli Club interior

Talk about Fancy-Schmancy! This place was decked to the nines with interior designs that no photo could possibly capture... right down to the custom, gold plated Cavalli flatware and massive crystal chandeliers. Excusez-moi! Prices lived-up to the atmosphere, but it's all about the experience, right? Right. And it sure upped the ante when they brought out a complimentary Pea Gazpacho Shooter pre-meal and custom porcelain cloches (googled that one!) covering the main courses.

Porcelain Cloche at Cavalli

Because we planned to partake in a few libations, we went with pasta dishes. Seafood fregola for me and lamb risotto for her. Don't think I didn't realize how amazing the lamb risotto sounded. But I consider ordering the same thing a cardinal sin when you're dining with someone close to you. Translation: What's mine's is yours and whats your is mine's! Luckily, I did not regret my decision. The fregola (short chopped pasta) was cooked textbook al dente with a luscious creamy sauce. Chunks of scallops, octopus, calamari (squid) and shrimp were so abundant that I reluctantly had to leave some behind. Coming up for air from my creamy goodness, I tasted the risotto. Mmm-mmm. Definitely the best I've ever had. It melted in my mouth and the lamb was perfectly medium rare, as it should be. I could've eaten 10 pounds of it. But I didn't since we were being forced to order dessert (two course dining policy).

Fregola con frutti di mare, Cavalli Club
(Fegola with mix seafood)

Risotto al timo, agnello e salsa al mirto, Cavalli Club
(Thyme risotto with lamb fillet and Mirto sauce)

Well, if I must...Crepes Suzette Flambe table-side it is! I want the whole shebang. The crepes were fluffy and tasty, but we were too full to enjoy them. Or perhaps neither of us were fans of the orange flavor. Nevertheless I was very pleased with the Cavalli experience and I totally see why this guy was alllll over Dubai--from Cavalli vodka to Cavalli Caffe (2 Fs) to Cavalli, Cavalli Junior and Cavalli Gym stores. Clearly he is THE man. Hats off!

Flambe in Progress

Day 3

A really late night, led to a really early morning. As in up at 6:30 to be chaffered to our desert tour over an hour away. After sand dunning, sand surfing and riding camels with a side of jet lag there was no way we were venturing too far from our hotel before the epic nap that was about to ensue. So we just walked right behind the hotel to a restaurant we recalled passing by a few times, Samaya.  


Sleepy was an understatement so we ordered to go, as to be as close to the bed as possible at last bite. Chicken Shawarma for her and, one of my favorite entrees to order, Chicken Curry for me. While the shawarma was promising, the curry was on point! We gobbled it down. I was pretty stuffed mid-way through but I just couldn't stop my self. It felt wrong to leave any in that bowl. So I didn't. I order curry at practically any restaurant-- Chinese, Jamaican, Asian Fusion, Seafood, wherever--and this definitely will go down as one of the best.

Chicken Shawarma & Chicken Curry, Samaya

A three hour nap and one mid-day very loud public prayer call later, we decided to continue our adventure. As far as malls go, theirs cover it all. We'd already been to The Dubai Mall since it is attached to the Burj Khalifa but we hadn't experienced the world's largest water show. So after heading to the marina, riding a ferry and walking around The Marina Mall we headed back to The Dubai Mall. Someone had recommended we try Nando's, a Portuguese chicken spot, and there was one in the mall so we sat down to rest our weary feet and waited on our order. And waited. And waited. I'm almost positive they went to fetch the cockerel from Portugal. Oh, but when it came in all of it's charred goodness...a whole chicken smothered in Hot Pere-Peri sauce (even though we thought we ordered half herbed lemon). I had chosen hot because I love spicy food and usually hot doesn't really mean spicy in America. Tuh, the Portuguese mean what they say. Our lips were on fire and there was nothing the corn on the cob, potato wedges, rice or mini can of Fanta could do to save us. Nando's is a go, but next time I'll order Medium ("Hits the spot without scolding your tonsils") rather than Hot ("Highly combustible- proceed with caution"). <= Their words, not mine's.

Nando's Peri Peri Chicken

Afterwards, our quest to visit a few stores we hadn't had a chance to on our previous visit lead us past Bateel, described as "a delicious world of deluxe chocolates, delectable dates, superb pastries and a vast selection of gourmet foods and gifts".  I did a double take as we passed by because I'd never seen quite the display. I knew it was a thing around these parts, but this put it into to true perspective and I had to have a photo. According to the counter clerk, we also had to have a taste and he handed us each a sample. One pistachio stuffed and one almond stuffed fig. I'll admit I didn't want it, but my lips were still a little tingly and I'm a advocate of trying new things so I took it and scurried away. We both nibbled at the gooey but crunchy pieces before finding the nearest trashcan. There! We'd had stuffed dried fruit. Next!

Dried Figs, Dates and Apricots at Bateel

Stuffed Dried Fruit, Bateel

DAY 4/5

The plan was to take a private taxi over to Abu Dhabi mostly to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in all of its supposed glory. But if I'm being honest, I was more excited to go to Abu Dhabi to confirm rather or not it was everything Sex and the City 2 had made it seem. Let's just say I'm pretty sure Sex and the City 2 was NOT filmed in Abu Dhabi. There were buildings, nothing like in Dubai, and attractions here and there, but mostly dust. Surely a fine city, but most definitely anticlimactic. My disappointment quickly faded away when we pulled up to our resort, The St. Regis, Abu Dhabi. I can still hear the choir sing from what seemed like the gates of heaven opening, "Ahhhhhhhhhhh". This place was magnificent! I've visited all but 12 United States and a myriad of other places and I'm going to go ahead and say this is the BEST hotel stay I have ever experienced.

St. Regis, Abu Dhabi

After taking in the the Grand Mosque, we were due for a little relaxation. We had tired ourselves out with adventure. We were greeted in our room by a beautiful decadent fruit tray. Plums, pears, kiwi, oranges, apples, clementine, persimmons, cherries, bananas and what I'd later find out were mangosteens and horned melons (Thanks mom!). Perfect snacks for the rest of the evening.

In-room Fruit Tray

Soaking up the beach until sundown, the energy to find food escaped us and a nap turned into sleep. Still not adjusted 4 days later, we woke up at 4 am starving! Fruit snacks were no longer cutting it. No fear, room service was 24 hours. It was fast and fancy.

Room Service

And it was good! A mile high stacked chicken club and crispy fries. Listen! Toasted fresh bread, crisp lettuce and veggies, juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon, chargrilled chicken breast and slivers of ham. Good thing we had shared. This would hold me down until official breakfast for sure. And I couldn't wait if this was their version of a nighttime snack.

Chicken Club Sandwich

Breakfast was free of charge at all three of our hotels (Thank you consultant life hotel status), but the others where nothing to write home about. The St. Regis however laid out the red carpet. The Terrace on the Corniche, their all day dining, morphed into a mega buffet for breakfast. They had me a curried goat, but that didn't stop me from partaking in the fresh squeezed juices, egg station, potato hash, grilled veggies, turkey bacon and copious amounts of croissants and Nutella. It just didn't seem fair we were leaving paradise so soon.

Breakfast Buffet, St. Regis Abu Dhabi


We were back in Dubai, taking our daily trip to Starbucks. Coffee and, on the flip side, melatonin had become a part of our daily regimen. At least we could still take advantage of the beach at our next hotel's beachside Bliss Lounge. We took the opportunity to relax more and have something familiar, chicken wings. Ten didn't seem like enough, so we ended up with 20. A good chuckle was in order when they showed up. They got the job done.

Bliss Beachside Cafe, Sheraton Jemriah Beach

Chicken Wangs!

We explored The Walk at Jemeirah Beach and experienced Dubai Canvas, a 3D art festival along the beach. It felt good to roam without an agenda. We ended up at our best mall yet, The Mall of Emirates, and managed to avoid dinner yet again. We found ourselves with repeat late night hunger pangs. Perhaps we were growing homesick because we ended up at KFC eating more chicken. More good chicken, nonetheless.


Last full day! And we planned to go out with a bang, starting with an awesome helicopter tour over Dubai with aerial views of the skyline, Burj Khalifa, Burj Arab, The Palm, Atlantis, the marina and world islands. Friday is sacred to Muslims. Everyone is off of work and post-Mosque Friday brunch is a tradition shared by all. We wanted in! So after the ride, we headed over to Jemeirah Beach Hotel to 360. The location right underneath the Burj Arab was breathtaking. We had been attempting to get near that place our entire trip and there we were.  

Friday Brunch at 360, overlooking Burj Arab

The Champagne brunch was inexplicable. But I'll try! First, a smorgasbord of seafood appetizers--fried calamari, sushi, maki, lobster tails, mussels, clams, shrimp and scallop skewers and plates of various seafood salads. Holy Moly, take me now! But wait, there's food firing from the kitchen as well. A choice of Hot and Sour Soup followed by a Dim Sum medley was blowing me overboard. The main course of Crispy Asian Salmon, Peanut Chicken Satay and Lamb Shank in a cajun sauce just sealed the deal. I was happy the DJ was belting out soulful tunes because nothing pairs better with great cuisine than good music. A surprise custardy goodness with home-made ice cream, beam me up! 360 was everything. Dubai had out done itself.

Part of the Buffet at 360 Friday Brunch

From-The-Kitchen menu at 360 Friday Brunch

Dim Sum, 360

Main Course, 360

Surprise Dessert, 360

Unlimited champagne brunch turned into rooftop day party, turned into to evening night cap! It's safe to say we enjoyed ourselves. One AppleMint Hookah and one delicious cream frosting covered surprise chocolate cake later, our trip seemed to have the perfect ending.

Post-Brunch Sparkling wine on 360 Rooftop

Second Surprise Desert, 360


We still had plenty of time before our flight day 7. We checked out the Dubai Miracle Gardens and explored the Walk at Jemeirah Beach some more. It seemed like a good idea to have a good meal before the 17 hour flight since you never know what your going to get with those airplane meals. We settled on a place I had gawked over on our last walk, curry of course! House of Curry to be exact.  

House of Curry, Jemeirah Beach Walk- Dubai

In Arabic

This area of the world does cuisine right. India is no exception. And House of Curry represents well. The vegetable Pakora was some of the best I've ever had and the Chicken Tikka Masala was a perfect blend of cashew and curry tomato sauce. But the tandoori lamb chops were to die for! It was if Dubai was saying, "Wait! I'm not done yet!" And I was more than happy to listen.

Pakora, House of Curry

Chicken Tikka Masala & Tandoori Lamp Chops

DAY 7/8

Bring it on 17 hour plane ride. Ahhh, plane food. I'll have the chicken and mashed potatoes, she'll have the shrimp and rice. Hold the sides, run the vodka. At least we wouldn't starve. My only thanks to the waffles with cherry compote was their indication that were almost finally home. 

Chicken & Gravy w/ Mashed Potatoes, Delta Economy Comfort

Coconut Shrimp and Rice, Delta Economy Comfort

Waffles with Cherry Compote, Delta Economy Comfort

Alas I bid goodbye. An experience I shall forever hold close to my heart. Thanks for the adventure Dubai. As expected, your culinary melting pot did not disappoint. I greatly appreciate it.
Til next time!