Saturday, June 30, 2012

You Can Dukan Fast Food: Chipotle!

Can you be on the Dukan Diet and eat at Fast Food places? Yes you can! We all know life is unpredictable and to be able to stick to a diet on busy days is quite difficult, unless you are super organized. I am not! so more than once I have found myself going late to somewhere, starving and with no "dukan diet approved" food on hand. So the inevitable fast food place lunch or dinner happens, more often that I would like to admit. However, the fact that I eat at fast food places have not stopped me from losing 55 lbs with this diet - How? well you just have to make the right choices.

I thought that it would be nice to do a series of posts about what those choices are. I will highlight one restaurant at a time and will let you know what to eat at that restaurant so you can continue on your way to losing weight.

Today I will tell you what to eat at Chipotle, my favorite fast food place so far! I truly love this place. Not only they have good fresh food, but I like the service and experience. I do enjoy being able to choose what goes inside your plate vs. having a standard plate serve to you.

Photo from
The safe choice at Chipotle is the Salad Bowl. It is delicious and you can do it without the carbohydrates. When it is your turn on the queue all you need to order is a salad bowl, no rice, no beans and no salad dressing. You can have everything else! Chipotle has a nice calculator on their website in where you can see the nutritional facts of your choices.

Here is what I normally choose:
  • Salad Bowl - lettuce
  • Carnitas
  • Tomato salad
  • Mild Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Cheese
This plate is huge and only has 450 calories, 12 g carbs (from vegetables not grains) and an amazing 40 g of protein!

So next time you are out and hungry and want to eat out, do not hesitate, get your salad at Chipotle and be guilt free!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Scannone Challenge: Pork Shoulder in a Creamy Mustard Sauce

This is the first recipe from my Scannone Challenge. I like pork so I chose this one to be the first recipe to simplify and Ducanize (make lower in carbs and fat). I also had a small portion of pork shoulder on my freezer. That helped too!

The original recipe from Scannone is wonderful, mustard really brings out the flavor in pork. Cooking pork shoulder takes a while so I could not do much to reduce the cooking time. I did reduce the prep time by shortening the marinating process and made some changes to reduce fat content, like replacing cream for Greek yogurt on the sauce.

  • 1.5 lbs Pork Shoulder
  • 2 tbsp Vinegar
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 tbsp Worcester Sauce
  • 1/4 tsp Oregano
  • 1 Laurel Leaf
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup of Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 tbsp Gulden's Brown Mustard
  • 2 tbsp Greek Yogurt


Pre heat oven to 400F

Make an adobo by blending the vinegar, onion, garlic, worcester sauce, oregano, salt and pepper in a mixer. Pour the mix and the laurel leaf over the pork shoulder, rub it with your hands. With a knife, make small incisions on the meat and with your fingers push the adobo into the holes.  Let it rest for 5 minutes.

Spray an oven proof dish like Pyrex, put your pork in the middle with all the adobo and cover with aluminum foil. Place in the oven. The pork should cook 30 minutes for every pound, so for this recipe I need to cook the pork for 1.5 hours.

Cook the pork covered for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, make sure that the sauce does not dry too much. Add a little water if it does and baste the pork with its juices every 15 minutes or so. At this time, take the pork out of the oven and put the juices in a bowl. Take the pork back into the oven and raise the temperature to 450F it will stay there for the rest of the cooking time to get a nice browning on the outside. 

Strain the juices from the pork into a pan, add the chicken stock (you can make stock with water and a stock cube) and cook until boiling. Turn off the heat and stir the yogurt and mustard. Season to taste with salt a pepper.

Serve the pork by slicing it and pouring sauce over it.

This was a very delicious dish, the pork was nice and tender, melting in your mouth.The sauce was creamy and well seasoned, I did not miss the cream at all.

I hope you enjoy it too!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Meeting Juan Muñoz Oca: Head Winemaker - Columbia Crest Wineries

With Juan Muñoz Oca - Head Winemaker Columbia Crest Winery
People often ask me why do I bother to have a blog and why do I love it so much. Well, last Tuesday was the perfect example of a day that shows everybody some of the reasons why I love blogging. I was cordially invited by Columbia Crest Wineries to have a wine tasting at Urban Union in Chicago and to meet their Head Winemaker: Juan Muñoz Oca. See? that is how lucky I am and why it is so cool to have a blog!

I am not going to fool anybody here by pretending to know a thing about wine. I know that I like sweet wines, my favorites are Rieslings and Moscatos, and I have been to quite a few Winery tours to understand the wine making process from a very high level. However, it is one of my life's desires to become more knowledgeable about wine, so when I got the invitation to dine and meet Juan Muñoz Oca, the Head Winemaker of Columbia Crest - one of the largest wineries in the Northwest, I did not hesitate for a second.

I got to my dinner a little bit late, thanks to the wonderful street parking system in Chicago. I was so embarrassed, but Juan made me feel at home straight away. I was seated next to him and immediately started talking like we have known each other for a while - It must be a Latino thing!

I quickly got caught up with the wine tasting and the fantastic food that was served, and as the first wine was poured into my glass, my conversation with Juan took a very interesting tone. I have learned so much in one evening about wines - I am so grateful.

Juan was born in Argentina and when he speaks Spanish you can hear that wonderful accent. I told him about my first ever memories of grapes at my uncle Guillermo's house in Venezuela. In his backyard, he had the most amazing gazebo with four amazing grape vines climbing up to it, forming a canopy that  shaded the space and made it the coolest place to hang out in the Terracotta patio. When in season, huge    bundles of purple grapes will hang from the roof, and we could just picked them with our bare hands and eat them right there and then. Juan explained to me how those grapes were most likely Red Globe grapes and how he also shares memories of grape covered gazebos at his grandfather's house. He grew up visiting his grandfather who was also on the wine industry - he was the cellar master of a winery in Argentina.

Another thing in common we have is that we are both married to English speaking partners and have 2 American kids. We struggle to get them to learn Spanish, so we spent some time sharing stories and ideas on how to ensure our kids grow up bilingual! But, let's go back to wine!

The most amazing thing I learned last Tuesday was about the experience of tasting wine. Juan explained to me how I should grab my wine glass, give it a little twirl, close my eyes, put the glass close to my nose and inhale the wonderful aroma. He told me to keep my mind open and let the wine aroma form an image in my mind. The experience was amazing. I could smell the sweetness and tartness, the wood, the smokiness... so many different scents that I never knew I could experienced. Once you have formed that wonderful image in your mind, you can then taste the wine to complete the picture. I have never experienced wine just quite like this. Thank you Juan!

I asked Juan to let me know, in simple language about what his job is like and what does a Head Winemaker do? Let me tell you, it ranks out there as one of the most wonderful jobs I have ever heard of. You are in close contact with nature and you get to play with wine! He is in charge of tending the vineyards,  choosing how to best take care of the grapes, from watering to fertilizing, to the most important decision, when to harvest the grapes so they are at the right point of ripeness to make delicious wines. Then, he takes care of the fermenting process and making the wines themselves. Finally, he makes the magic happen by finding the perfect combination of different grape wines to make amazing Merlot, Chardonnay and so on. It is like making your own wine cocktails. It is a big responsibility, the winery's reputation rests in his hands, and in his mastery and knowledge of wine to make the next award winning combination.

Juan started working at Columbia Crest about 10 years ago and was made Head Winemaker last year -  a wonderful accomplishment for such a young guy. Columbia Crest is an outstanding winery on Washington State. They are recognized for crafting wines that are approachable, affordable and consistently over deliver in quality. I got the chance to try 4 of their wines and can tell you that for a sweet wine lover like me, I actually enjoyed every single one of them!

Wine #1:  Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay - 2010

We tried this wine paired with two Nova Scotia oysters baked to perfection with bacon, arugula and a Parmesan sauce. If you know me, you will know I love oysters, so this was heaven on two little shells for me. The wine was magnificent, the aromas were fruity and slightly sweet, something I did not expect from my preconceived image of a chardonnay -I think I may expand my white wine repertoire!

Wine #2: Horse Heaven Hills - Le Chevaux Red Wine - 2010

We tried this wine paired with a delicate and slightly spicy BBQ pulled pork with a mustard sauce. This wine from the 3H series was so delicious. It was slightly woody and sweet but not too much. I love smelling the red wine, it had so much more to offer that the white - somehow I realized I have been missing so much by sticking with whites and not trying some good red wines out there. Juan recommended I try 14 Hands - Hot to Trot Red Blend - I can't wait! Le Chevaux is a blend of different types of red.

Wine #3: Horse Heaven Hills - Cabernet Sauvignon - 2010

We tried this wine paired with a flank steak au poivre and a caramelized baked shallot that was to die for. That shallot was one of the most enjoyable bites of the whole dinner for me. This wine scared me at first - just when I heard the name, I immediately went to my "this is the dry red wine I will not like" state of mind. How wrong was I?  Very! The smell of this wine exploded in my head and gave me a sense of warmth that was very enjoyable. It was more woody than wine #2 but richer and more delicious to taste.

Wine #4: Columbia Crest - Moscato - 2011

We tried this wine paired with the most delicious and unique selection of desserts! I knew this was going to be my favorite wine and so did Juan. The moscato was brilliantly sweet, just perfect, not too acidic, not too sticky and wonderfully made with no carbonation. I was hooked on this - I honestly wanted to finish that bottle all by myself -no sharing on this one. I will be buying this Moscato regularly!

I know you are curious about the desserts, so here is what they were:

Sticky Date Pudding

Goat Cheese Cake

Smore's with salted caramel ice cream (best ice cream I have tasted in a long time)

Chocolate Hazelnut delight! that tasted like a Ferrero Rocher and so much more.

All in all, I hope you are convinced blogging is not a bad idea after all!

I wanted to thank Columbia Crest, their wonderful PR agency and most of all Juan Muñoz Oca for a fantastic evening!

Salud! or as they will say around here: Cheers!

My Scannone Challenge: Simplify and Dukanize Traditional Venezuelan Cuisine - Caracas Style!

Armando Scannone is to Venezuelan Cuisine as Julia Childs is to French American Cuisine. His "Mi cocina" (My kitchen) recipe book, is considered by many a Venezuelan Cuisine bible. It contains a vast array of traditional Venezuelan dishes cooked Caracas style.

I got my red book as it is sometimes affectionately called by many Venezuelan cooks in 1995 - the year I left Venezuela to study abroad. It was given to me by a good friend of my mother's who wanted me to keep my traditions and passed them along to everyone I met in my travels. Since that day, the book has been always close to me. I use it more as a reference book vs. a book to follow recipes to the letter. Why? well because, although his dishes turn out perfectly delicious all the time, I always find that his methods are complicated and take a long time and in general the dishes are not suited for losing weight!

I have set myself a challenge to simplify and dukanize (make them low/zero carb) some of his recipes, so I can get more delicious Venezuelan dishes to my diet. I am planning to reduce as much as possible their cooking times as well as replace all starches and carbs with dukan approved alternatives.

Now I would love to do a Julie and Julia idea and cook a recipe a day, but I need to be realistic with my time and will strive or 2 to 3 recipes a week. I will choose a good variety of proteins and vegetables, and I will also listen to your suggestions. If there is a dish you like just let me know in a comment and I will try to make it for you.

So who is Armando Scannone anyway?

Armando Scannone - Picture from
Mr. Scannone was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1922. An accomplished engineer, he enjoyed eating when young and started compiling a list of his mothers recipes into a leaflet that he printed and shared with his relatives. He then got interested in Venezuelan cuisine and continued to compile, test and perfect Venezuelan recipes, Caracas style as that was why he was more familiar with. He printed the red book in 1982, followed by the blue book in 1994. Apparently there is also a lighter cooking Green book- I have not had the pleasure to read that yet! Mr Scannone, founded the Gastronomy Academy of Venezuela.

Tonight, I am making my first recipe: Pork Shoulder with a Creamy Mustard Sauce. Keep an eye on the blog for the recipe!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Win a coupon for 30% off Zumba Gear!!

Photo from

Do you like Zumba? I do not seem to get enough of it right now. I LOVE it!!!! If you do, you have probably noticed the cool zumba gear that most trainers use. Do you know that you can buy it online? Well I have 10 coupons for 30% off your entire purchase and I am giving you the chance to get them for free! you just need to join my giveaway to participate!

In order to get an entry you need to follow these rules:

Mandatory - Leave a comment with your e-mail for each one of the activities below:
  • Tell me what section of my blog you like the most
  • Follow my blog (click on "join this site" button on the right side of the blog) -
  • Like my facebook page

Note: The coupons expire on June 30st - so I am choosing the 10 winners on June 25!! Good luck! I will need be e-mailing you the code that night, so please remember to let me know your e-mail so I can contact you - if I do not have your e-mail I will have to choose another winner.

I got the coupons a while back as part of a Houseparty promotion and forgot all about them. I just found them yesterday and wanted to share them with you!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Easiest, Healthiest and Yummiest Strawberry Banana Shake Ever!

My son loves fruit shakes, his favorite is strawberry banana. He is not a very good eater, so I always try to take advantage of what he likes. I set up to make a recipe that was as healthy as possible so he could get the flavor he likes and I could get as much nutrition as possible into him.

So here is my supercharged, super nutritious and absolutely delicious Strawberry Banana Shake.

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup of frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup of organic 2% Milk
  • 3 tbsp of fat free Greek yogurt
  • 2 scoops of sugar free whey protein powder - Vanilla


Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until nice and smooth. Serve and enjoy!!

You can do this with only strawberries or with any other fruit combination you like! The trick is to get some good frozen fruits as it gives the coldness and almost ice cream consistency to the shake. If you use ice, the shakes waters down and it is not as delicious or creamy. If you are concerned that frozen fruits are not as good as fresh fruit, no problem! Get your fresh fruit, wash it, cut it into pieces, freeze it in ziplock bags and then use it!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dukan Diet Tolerated Foods List

If you want to stay in the Dukan Diet for a long time and benefit from the wonderful weight loss that comes with it, then you NEED to pay attention to this list. The foods mentioned here not only will make your diet more tolerable but it will add a lot of flavor and texture to your recipes.

Please note you should NOT use tolerated foods during your attack phase or during any stagnation periods in where your weight loss has plateaued temporarily. But otherwise, you are free to go!

What are tolerated foods? This is a list of ingredients that you can use in moderation that although are not 100% allowed on the diet it will not affect your weight loss significantly. On the contrary, in my opinion, they actually help you by allowing you more variety of foods and flavors that will keep you on the diet for longer!

So here is the list of some of the official ones (taken from Dukan itself) and the not official ones (tried and proved by me)

Official list - only 2 choices a day:
  • Corn Starch: 1 tbsp a day (useful to thicken soups or sauces)
  • 100% Cocoa powder: 1 tsp a day - to make hot chocolate and desserts
  • Low fat cheese: No more than 30gr a day and no more than 6% fat
  • Red or White Wine: 30ml a day to cook with
  • Non fat cream: 1 tbsp a day
  • Wheat bran: 1 tbsp a day - good for bread recipes
  • Goji berries: 1 tbsp on PP days, 2 tbsp on PV days
  • Fat Free, Sugar Free Fruit yogurt: One a day
  • Soy Milk: 150ml a day
  • Rhubarb: 100gr a day

Non Official List:
  • Roasted Seaweed - Laver: It is crunchy and yummy - good when you crave snacks
  • PAM cooking spray - I like the Organic Olive Oil one
  • 90% cocoa chocolate: 1 small square - only when you are desperate!
I hope this is helpful to you and that it makes your diet days a little more easy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Zaggora Hot Pants Challenge Results: Amazing!

Day 1 Picture - hot pants size M

The challenge is over and oh! I am so pleased with the results. This pants are sooo amazing. They look great, they feel great, they made my skin softer and they are shaping me back to my old self. The one that was able, and often wore shorts and mini skirts. The one that was so comfortable with my own body.

So thank you! Zaggora Hot Pants for giving me the opportunity to wear these wonderful pants! 

The results are out, I have finished my 2 week challenge. Let me remind you what the challenge was about:

The Promise: Loose up to 2 pants sizes in 2 weeks!

How: By wearing your Zaggora Hot Pants to do exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week for 2 weeks.

What did I do?: For 2 weeks I wore my hot pants and reported my progress on my Facebook page

My Results:
Measurements: Lost a total of 6.1 inches overall and 7 lbs of weight - Including 6 lbs that I had just put on the week before during a vacation!
  • Waist: From 31" to 29" 6'
  • Hips: From 40" 12' to 38" 6'
  • Upper arms: Stay the same at 10" 10'
  • Bust: From 37"to 36"
  • Thighs: From 23" 6' to 23"
  • Calf: From 15" to 14" 6'
  • Pant size: 8 to 10 to 6
I even went from the hot pants in size M to size S!!

I am so happy that I will continue to permanently wear the hot pants while exercising!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Easiest Homemade Yogurt for the Summer: Make it in 1 minute, then let it grow!!

I have been making my own homemade yogurt for a while but I have never seen a recipe as easy as this one! I was visiting some friends from Macedonia and one of them asked me to try this wonderful yogurt/kefir concoction that he has just made - Oh was it delicious! naturally sweet and smooth and slightly effervescent - yes effervescent.

The only thing is that it can only be made here in the summer (you can make it year round if you live in a place with 80F temperature).

This recipe takes less than a minute to prepare, then you need to wait overnight for the yogurt live cultures to multiply.


  • 1 liter of milk (I used 1% Organic for a low fat version)
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt (or any plain unsweetened yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup of plain unsweetened Kefir


Put all ingredients is a jar with a tight lid. Shake until well combine. Leave in a warm place (80F)  for 12 to 24 hours (I left mine in the garage overnight). And you are done! 

I told you it was easy! Enjoy!

Note: To accelerate it even farther you can warm the milk a little - do not let it build just warm - you should be able to put your finger in and not get burned.

For a recipe to make yogurt in the winter click here - not as quick but it works!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Flour-less Oat Bran Red Velvet Cupcakes: Dukan Approved

I keep getting invited to birthday parties and tempted by cakes ad cupcakes. So I have decided to experiment and do a cupcake that is allow on the Dukan Diet. My favorite cake is Red Velvet and it happens to be one that can be easily adapted to the Dukan diet using some of the tolerated items that are allowed daily.

So here is my version of a Red Velvet Cupcake - it is nice a moist - and although not 100% like a Red Velvet made with flour and sugar, it is a great option to consider in a low carb diet!

Ingredients - Makes 6 cupcakes:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp water
  • 6 tbsp Oat Bran
  • 2 tbsp Wheat Bran
  • 4 tsp cocoa (100% cocoa no sugar added)
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 or 3 packs of Stevia (3 gr) or more to taste 
  • 4 tbsp Fat free Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp low fat milk
  • 2 tbsp butter (optional if you are doing the diet strictly)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Red food coloring

  • 1 pack of reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • Stevia to taste


Pre heat the oven at 350F.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks.

Put the whites in a mixer with the 2 tsp of a water and mix until the whites are stiff - set apart.

In the meantime mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Beat the butter in the mixer and add the egg yolks, yogurt and vanilla, slowly add the egg whites and the dry ingredients, add red coloring until you get the desire color (slightly pink)

Spray a cupcake pan with PAM and add batter to the top of each cupcake whole (this cupcakes do not rise).

Put in the oven for 20 minutes. Insert a knife inside a cupcake, if it comes out clean they are done. If not bake for 2 more minutes and test again.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let dry in a rack while making the frosting.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese, vanilla extract and Stevia until light and fluffy.

Once the cupcakes are cold, put the frosting on top - you can use a knife or pipe it.


Note: I want to remind you again that this are close to a Red Velvet cupcake - I still find that sweeteners leave a little bitter aftertaste, but it is a small price to pay to be able to have my cake and eat it!

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