Monday, March 19, 2018

DNA Reveals: Does Vegetarian Diet & Exercise Work?

As a marathon runner, boot camp aficionado and cycling enthusiast, I have exercise covered.

And as a vegetarian, salad lover and creative home cook, I eat on the healthy spectrum.

But would my DNA tell a different story?

I tried the HomeDNA Healthy Weight genetic testing kit to find out.

I got a kit in the mail, with instructions on how to swab my cheek and send in a sample. In a couple of weeks, I got the results.

Healthy plant-based lunch
According to my DNA, my weight loss ability with diet and exercise is below average. Although my weight is in the low-normal range for my height, both of my parents were overweight, so this makes some sense.

My fat loss response to cardio was found to be low, a rather depressing insight. And my fitness response to cardio is below average. So maybe I really do need to run a marathon to get the same benefit those lucky high responders get from a one mile jog.

The test results recommended cardio workouts, which include walking, running, cycling and cardio machines. These are all part of my regular routine. The exercise plan it suggests recommends 300 minutes (that's 5 hours) of high intensity cardio per week.

Overnight oats; healthy breakfast 
It also suggested strength training: boot camp or circuit work, 3 times a week.

Vegetarian Diet

Although there was nowhere on the DNA kit to indicate my current food habits, the diet suggested is right in my wheelhouse. It said I should get my protein from plant-based sources such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and vegetables. Check, check, check.

For fats, I should go for plant foods - so perhaps my cheese habit could be reduced. And for cabs, a plant=based diet, high in complex carbohydrates. And avoid processed carbs like fries and chips. Which I mostly do anyway.

The results offer a 7 day diet plan, with few processed foods: steel cut oats or plain yogurt for breakfast, a salad with lentils for lunch, simple broiled fish with veggies for dinner, and fruit or nuts for a snack. Conspicuously missing: chocolate, alcohol, coffee. Well, I mostly have the diet right...

How I spent my weekend

Not a substitute for the doctor

If you get a low or below average level or response to a nutrient, the report recommends you speak to a doctor.

Coincidentally, my neurologist ran a blood test and found that my vitamin B12 is low. The Home DNA kit nailed that. I started on a supplement (that my doctor recommended).

My trainer agrees

Perform moderate to vigorous intensity cardiovascular exercise 5 or more days a week for minimum of 300 minutes per week. You can achieve greater results by lengthening the duration of moderate intensity cardio, focusing on endurance activities like biking or running.
Lift weights 3 days per week using weights that are heavy enough to challenge you at the end of each of 3 sets of 12 reps. 

Note: I received a complimentary genetic testing kit. I was not otherwise compensated.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mom Approved: Wubble Fulla Slime

The Wubble Fulla Slime is somewhat translucent; you can see your hand through it

Gross, slimy things are often loved by kids. When my girls were little, we even stayed at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort where there was a daily slime show. At home, they mixed up strange concoctions that they somehow found appealing.

But having all that slime in the house? Not so much fun for me.

Luckily, there is now Wubble Fulla Slime. This non sticky colorful slime ball comes in three sizes - huge, big and tiny. The balls make a satisfying splat when smacked to the ground, but they don't leave a residue.
Wubble Fulla Slime

Even better, from a mom point of view, Wubble Fulla Slime is soft, so you can pelt your little sister with it and it won't hurt. Not that I'm advocating violence. But kids do throw balls at each other, and one that is soft and squishy could keep the peace.

Wubble Fulla Slime has a sibling product, Wubble Fulla Marbles. Both of the new toys come with a warning that they should be used under adult supervision (likely so there is no repeat of the Tide pod challenge) but there was no age recommendation on the product sample that I got for review. Children who stick toys in their mouth should probably not be given this toy.
The dog prefers tennis balls to slime balls

The Wubble Fulla Slime stretches and snaps back into shape. You can squeeze it and press it and it will return to its original blob shape.

Wubble Fulla Slime and Wubble Fulla Marbles will be sold at Walgreens and Target - and Toys R Us, if it stays in business.

Note: This is a sponsored post. I was compensated for my review and received a product sample. Opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Traveling Like Royalty: the Presidential Suite at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District

Sunrise in SF; black out curtains helped us sleep, but jet lag woke us early

As a young traveler, I stayed in some decidedly sketchy places. There were dicey hostels, shady hotels, nights where we had such early flights that we camped out at the airport.

Biking over The Golden Gate Bridge
And this didn't necessarily end when I hit an - ahem -certain age. For my middle daughter's college graduation, the hotel we'd reserved months in advance lost our reservation and we would up at a flight motel, with strange stains on the sheets and s weird wet spot.

All this was the opposite of our luxe accommodations in the heart of San Francisco. We were staying in a complimentary media room, which can be anything from a basic room to an upgraded executive expanse.

The living room in our suite
The soaking tub, and shower next to it
The Hilton San Francisco Financial District laid out the red carpet with its Presidential Suite, a sprawling suite with a gigantic living room, a couple of balconies, a super comfy king sized bed and an unparalleled bathroom.

The incredible bathroom included a soaking tub that was near the bed, so you could look out on the city while you luxuriated in a bath, a separate glass enclosed shower with a rain head, a double sink room. And the piece de resistance, a toilet room with a $10,000 Toto throne. Er, toilet. This commode, which I first encountered at the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa, near San Diego, has a heated seat, bidet-like warm water sprays, dual flush and a self-cleaning feature.

If you stumble into the bathroom at some ungodly hour due to jet lag, there is no need to fumble for a light switch or the toilet seat cover. When the 'smart toilet' senses you, the seat automatically lifts up.
Fruit at breakfast in the executive lounge

Executive features

If a hedonistic toilet isn't your cup of tea, there's plenty more to love at this hotel. The executive lounge has daily breakfast, with hot entrees and plenty of choices. There was a variety of fruit, both whole fruit that you could take for a snack or cut up berries and melon.

There were also cereals, breads and pastries, and gluten free options. There was yogurt, cheese, meat, and a bowl of hard boiled eggs if you need protein to start the day.

Throughout the day, there was fruit, bars and drinks available, as long as you had a key card that granted you access. There were also evening snacks, but we were out both evenings.

If you get a room on an executive floor, or have elite Hilton status, you get access to the lounge.

Chinatown mural


The Hilton is right in Chinatown, and the Chinatown history tour that we took through Wok Wiz met in the lobby. We also walked down to the Ferry Building for an amazing meal at The Slanted Door.

The fitness center at the Hilton
The hotel has a small, well-equipped gym. We got our exercise biking over the Golden Gate Bridge and running, and walking, the hilly city.

Vegetarian spring rolls at The Slanted Door

Personal touch

Although the Hilton is quite large, the concierge greeted us every time we left or arrived. And our first night, we had a message waiting for us Warm chocolate chip cookies and milk could be sent up to the room, free of charge.

What a sweet intro to the city.

Note: I was a guest of Hilton and received a comp room. Opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Is it Possible to Love it More? Wahlburgers' Vegetarian Impossible Burger

The Impossibly delicious Impossible Burger

As plant based diets become more mainstream, the Impossible Foods vegetarian Impossible Burger makes inroads around the country.

The Upper East Side Wahlburgers

Vegetarian burgers for all

Wahlburgers, a Boston based burger chain, founded by the the Wahlberg brothers, just introduced the Impossible Burger at its New York City location.

To drink, the Wahlbrewski 
I had tried the Impossible Burger at another burger chain, so I was eager to see what the difference would be here.

At Wahlburgers, a secret sauce with a bit of sriracha automatically comes with your burger (you can request it to be left off). Also, the sauce, and lettuce and tomato, are below the patty, whether meat or vegetarian. The reason is that since your taste buds are on your tongue, the founding chef, Paul Wahlberg, wanted to get that sauce closest to your tasting source. [The other partners in the restaurant  are the actors and singers Donnie and Mark].

Walburgers also adds caramelized onions to the Impossible Burger, along with smoked cheddar. It's all on a delicious brioche bun.

The chain has each location make its sauces and pickles in house. The pickles were crisp and fresh tasting, and the spicy buffalo sauce added a nice kick to the burger. Many of the extra toppings (like the two mentioned) are free; some like avocado spread and extra cheese, cost $1 each.

Pick a sauce: the full line up at Wahlburgers
Tater tots and sweet potato tots go well with the burgers. We tried the macaroni salad, which reminded me of why I hated this dish as a child. If you like a mayo based salad with red onions and celery, this is for you.

For dessert, the grilled 'fluffanutta' will transport you to your childhood. White bread with peanut butter, banana, Nutella and fluff give you gooey sweet, salty, and more sweet, in every bite.
Tater tots, regular and sweet, with cheese dipping sauce

To drink

Wahlburgers partnered with Harpoon Brewery, also Boston based, for an unfiltered pale ale. The Wahlbrewski is on tap, along with a few other beers. There is a full bar, and if you like sweet drinks, adult milkshakes are offered.

Note: I was a guest of Wahlburgers at a media tasting (we tasted burgers, not media).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Best Burgers? Next Level Burger at Whole Foods 365

The Bleu BBQ burger

Gone are the days of the sad, uninspired veggie patty. Next Level Burger, a vegan burger chain, has drool worthy vegetarian burgers, dogs and shakes.

Apparently, the burgers are so convincing to meat eaters that you are warned when you order that the food is vegan. Our server was amused by our enthusiasm. Why, yes, this is why we were there.

100% plant based

Next Level Burger (NLB) calls itself "100% plant based" just in case you get confused by a menu item labeled "the animal." This is an over-the-top loaded burger. We had to keep reminding ourselves that the place is vegan.

NLB has a stand in the new Whole Foods Market 365 in Brooklyn. You order at the counter, take your number to a table, and food is quickly delivered.
Sausage bacon plant based burger

Good in your mouth

We shared a sausage bacon burger topped with cheddar and swiss dairy free cheese, egg-free mayo and mustard. It was juicy, messy, and utterly delicious.

We also had the bleu BBQ. an umami mushroom and quinoa patty with more tempeh bacon, BBQ sauce and a blue 'cheese.' Fantastic.

Both burgers had lettuce and tomato. You can add avocado, guacamole, grilled onions or mushrooms.

Baked 'fries'
The oven baked fries were tasty. There are also sweet potato fries or tater tots.

Good for the environment

Compostable plates are used, and only organic produce. You can certainly feel good about reducing your environmental footprint.

More to try

I will return for the chili, the chili dog, and the breakfast sandwiches. There are soy and coconut based shakes that sound pretty awesome. The only thing is, the calorie count is listed. The dark chocolate PB cup shake is enticing. But 1290 calories?

The Animal

This also gave me pause. It's two patties, tempeh bacon, fries, onions, cheese and sauce. And it's 1330 calories.  Maybe after y next half marathon. If I run like a beast, I can eat like a (vegan) one.

Vegetables and Laughs: Bond45

Bond 45 is incongruously located on 46th St. The website recognizes this oddity, writing "Yes, your wife is right. Bond 45 is now on West 46th Street."*

The antipasto platter
Nevertheless, when we arranged to go with a group of friend pre-theater, even my husband questioned my sanity. "Are you SURE it's on 46th Street?"  Well, yes.

The Italian restaurant is great for groups, and for eating before a Broadway show. There are pastas, pizzas and meat and fish entrees, of course. But we went for the vegetables.

Vegetables for non-vegetarians

Although our friends are meat eaters, they wanted something lighter before the show. Bond 45 has family style salads, like the large chopped salad platter we got. It had romaine, chickpeas, asparagus, roasted peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds, avocado and cheese. 

The vegetable antipasto bar had nine different choices. You can get a three vegetable plate as an entree, five to share, or all nine for a group. We choose the latter platter.

Our platter had pickled cauliflower, eggplant part, a vegetable tart, Brussels sprouts, roasted Romanesco broccoli, chickpeas and a large ball of burrata. We spread the burrata on the warm focaccia that came to the table. 

Don't miss the fried artichokes
We didn't need, but had to have, the fried artichokes with lemon aioli. It was delicious.

Cocktails, too

Bond 45 has a number of half bottles of wine and reasonably priced carafes. We went the cocktail route. The apparel spritz had a hit of passion fruit and the Vesper martini had great olives. My Manhattan and an absinthe spray, which may be my new breath freshener. 

Although the restaurant was packed with an after work, weekend crowd, we were able to get our food quickly and get to the theater in time. But we weren't rushed, and our waiter joked around with us. He also pointed out the nearby backstage crew from Hamilton.

Sadly, the show we saw was no comparison.

*Note: Of COURSE I was right!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hello, Old Friend: Greens Restaurant, SF

Winter sampler plate at Greens

Foodie friends supplied with with long lists of the hottest San Francisco restaurants, That was all well and good, but I had to return to an old friend, Greens.

There is a reason this temple of vegetarian cuisine has been enchanting vegans, omnivores and meat and three lovers since 1979. The food is amazing.

Greens & related cookbooks, from my collection
Having only eaten here once, in the late 1980s, I was due for a repeat visit. We cycled past Greens on our way to a bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and thanked the ride sharing apps that would later provide our transportation. The restaurant is past Ghiradheli Square, in Fort Mason.
Winter gratin, with sweet potato and butternut squash

We started with the winter sampler, which included lentils with feta, hummus, roasted cauliflower & carrots, pickled beets and muhammara. My husband said the lentils reminded him of something I make at home. I reminded him that I have a pile of Greens - related cookbooks.

Spinach and mushroom filo
Our friend agreed to share entrees, so we got three. It was hard to go wrong here. The butternut squash and sweet potato gratin had grilled polenta and a tomatillo sauce. Perfect for a winter night. Though it was 65 and sunny during the day.

We also shared the wild mushroom and spinach filo. There was a surprising bite of pistachio in the chickpeas. Well, maybe not surprising since it was listed on the menu. But you expect more chickpeas and then there's a nut. It was utterly delicious.

Greens pizza
The pizza with broccoli, feta and olives was ideal for sharing. But I probably could have eaten the whole thing.

Greens also makes a mean martini, with Botanist gin. The wine list, heavy on California wines, is reasonably priced.

I plan to return to California and Greens in less than 30 years. But if I do wait that long, I'm sure Greens will still be kicking it.