Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Frugal Gourmet (food, diet)

Back before the Food Network (and now the Cooking Channel), almost all the cooking shows on TV came on PBS. Of course we all know Martin Yan from Yan Can Cook, but I specifically remember a show that my mom watched a lot called The Frugal Gourmet. Looking at his wikipedia page, it seems that he knew what he was talking about, not just the Sandra Lee or Rachael Ray crap.

Some of my readers may have noticed a lack of restaurant review posts recently. That's because I, too, have become kind of a frugal gourmet. I began a new diet and exercise plan, and focused on making it wallet-friendly as work has been terrible of late. It's not just about eating rabbit food and spending less money to get less food. Rather, I try to keep the flavors going to avoid monotony, while not going all out at once because I want to be able to switch up and surprise the body, which tries very hard to avoid fluctuations.

Let's start with the weekday lunch. I eat a chicken kebab wrap 4 days a week during the work week.

I start with whole wheat roti from Tawa Foods, not far from where I live. $1.50 for 5 rotis. I didn't take a close up shot, but the rotis are definitely spiced and seasoned, meaning that they don't taste like cardboard after reheating, like many whole wheat pitas often do. Tawa Foods is an interesting little store. It's run by one guy who sells the packaged breads while three women are in the kitchen constantly making rotis and parathas. That's all they do every time I'm there. Constantly making bread and chatting. If the guy isn't in, they don't deal with customers. The flavored parathas go for $2 for 4. My guess is they do a wholesale business to the many nearby restaurants in addition to selling the retail packaged stuff.

Next is the chicken kebab at Kababish right around the corner from Tawa Foods. $1.50 each. There are many kebab places in the area, but I find this one the best at the price. It does get dry upon reheating in the oven, but to an acceptable degree. Of course actual pieces of chicken would be better (and healthier) than ground chicken meat, but it'd also be more expensive and probably not reheat as well.

Next is a package of pre-washed baby spinach from any supermarket. One box (5oz) will be split over 4 lunches so that I get some nutritious greens in.

All assembled after heating up the roti and the kebab in the oven and piling on the spinach. I don't actually fold it into a wrap that often, making it more of an oversized taco.

For dinner, I go to the Chinese supermarket on the same block as my gym, and get the steam table stuff of three choices over rice plus soup for $5. The photo above is a pretty good example of what I usually get. Two staples that I always get include the fried flounder/sole pieces cooked with celery in the upper left and the broccoli cooked with garlic in the upper right. The stuff in the middle will usually be a second protein that I choose from a rotation of meatless ma po tofu (above), chicken in black bean sauce (not fried), or brisket and tendon with daikon.

So that's what I've been eating and why I have no restaurants to report on of late. I do the above lunch and dinners (I tend not to eat breakfast) 4 times a week, with one day off to eat as I wish (within reason). On the weekends, I tend to also eat local food, and usually try to stay within a budget of $7 per meal. So one pho or bun at the nearby Vietnamese place or three tacos (suadero, lengua, oreja) from one of the local taco trucks.

I do still believe, however, that the fastest way to lose weight is with a low carb diet, so I've begun to add a low carb component recently. Two of the dinners are now substituted with salmon sashimi and broccoli.

I get the salmon from Citarella. They say it's safe to eat as is, and I trust them since they're a well regarded market. I know farmed Atlantic salmon is far from the healthiest fish I could eat, but it's cheaper at 1/3 the price of wild Pacific salmon. I ask for something from the belly and they cut it right from the belly of the fillets they have.

I take it home, rinse it, pat it dry with a paper towel, and cut it up like so. I pour some konbu flavored sashimi soy sauce over it and I get healthy, tasty salmon sashimi at home for far cheaper than at any sushi joint. The fish costs about $12/lb and they can also pack it with a small ice pack to keep it cool for the commute home.

I've been doing this for about a month and a half now, and while there's been a little plateauing, there certainly have been results and I'm not bored yet with the food options. I also allow a little flexibility, so I will go grab an extra taco any time I really want one.

1 comment :

donuts4dinner said...

Hey, awesome! I'm excited to see another food reviewer mention low-carbing. I eat low-carb whenever I'm not reviewing but let myself have whatever I want when I know I'm going to post about the restaurant. Not only is it a great way to lose weight, as you said, but it makes me physically feel better.