Archive for August, 2015

Trail Guide to Reduced Fat

Posted: August 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

The cold months are the growing season for my belly and so I set my mind to the task of harvesting twenty five pounds of winter weight this Summer.  Though the size of my goal was bigger than normal, the size of my belly was typical  following the festive feasting months when my work consists of sitting in front of a computer drafting house plans. During the warmer months I venture out and get to build one or two plans and so it is easier to burn more calories than I stockpile.

Since I am not an “official diet” kind of a man, if there is such a thing, I figured I would wing it like I have had to often over the last 26 of my 56 years and just try to burn thousands more calories than I consumed. Losing weight is such a simple math equation on paper, and yet such a difficult problem to solve in reality.

Based upon an interesting discovery I made while contemplating my upcoming battle of the bulge, I decided to allow myself one meal a day. I also decided to only eat salads because they can be low in fat, healthy and the variety is endless. Furthermore, I love salads, as I do all dish types, and coincidentally I was asked to write a piece about healthful eating out and about in the Valley.

So as the heat turned up I began a three-month quest to find the best salad spots in the Valley. I was looking for intriguing original salad creations and I also paid close attention to how places handled their version of the Caesar salad, by far the most  common denominator of all salads and one of my personal favorites right up there next to the Chef with Thousand Island and the Cobb with Blue Cheese.

Salads, I discovered, are a stronghold of the local independents in their food fight with the national chains, which makes sense considering salads benefit from local freshness more than anything else on the menu. So while Applebee’s, Denny’s and the others could not compete in my Salad Bowl , the fast service chains were a different matter.

Not being a fast foodie, however, I devoted little time to the ambitious and affordable offering’s of McDonald’s and all the rest, but I did come away flavorably impressed with the Wendy’s lettuce lineup. Their Asian Chicken Salad was a worthy repast especially since it only induced into my system 380 calories before the tasty Thai vinaigrette dressing added a mere 45 more. I did not get any further than that tasty offering and another nummy number, their BBQ Ranch Chicken salad, but the rest of their long and varied line of salads on the menu board made it clear that Wendy takes her salads serious.

Panera Bread, which just opened on Indiana east of Sullivan is a fast growing franchise that specializes in healthy salads and sandwiches as well as fresh baked pastries and breads. I went opening day and was amazed at all the people there eager to try them out. I had a Thai Chicken salad that I could not eat fast enough until I hit the wall, making it through about 350 of its 460 calories.

One interesting place I checked out for this story was the salad bar in the deli section of the Rosauers at Sprague and University. In years past, great salad bars were featured in popular Valley restaurants like Chapter Eleven and the Sea Galley. Rosauer’s pay-by-the-ounce salad bar reminded me too much of those cherished but wilted salad memories and I piled up such a monster of a  makeshift Chef with Thousand Island into my large to-go container that I actually gained weight that day.

I decided quite early in my salad sojourn that if my one self-allotted meal per day was going to be a salad then I was going after the big game lurking on the menus of the Valley’s sit-down restaurants. The locals came through for me and it was happy hunting as I broke many  24-hour fasts while waging my war on weight during which I came up with this field guide for the trophy salad spots here in the Valley.

Max at the Mirabeau – Believe it or not, there is a $26 granddaddy of a salad lurking in the depths of this classy establishment’s menu. There resides a massive Crab Louie complete with fresh King Crab legs. It was a phenomenal meal  and if I were a $26-dinner kind of a guy, I would go there just to have it. But I am the kind of cheapskate who finds it hard to spend $26 for a hammer that I will put to good use for years. I never spend that much money on one fleeting dinner that is regularly long gone by 8 the next morning.

I went with the wife one hot afternoon and we sat out on what I believe might be the Valley’s nicest outdoor patio. Despite the fact that Elaine was in a fowl mood and chose a Thai chicken appetizer, and that I was getting very crabby, we had a nice dinner date. I went back a few days later in the name of research while Elaine was working and I had their WSU Cougar Gold and Apple salad for $8. While it was not the whopper of a salad the Crab Louie was, it hit the spot taste and cost wise.

      Charlie P’s– Though I often I eat at Charlie P’s, I never have salads because their white cream sauce for the seafood fettuccines and calizones and omelettes is so good I can’t bear to order anything else. But in the heat of my summer fight on fat, I went in to try a salad off the menu. I opted instead to go with a steak and shrimp salad the cook made up for the nightly dinner special that was so flavorful it almost made me cry. The moral being that everything that comes out of Charlie P’s kitchen is good.

The Liberty Lake Trinity- The only reason that I lump True Legends, Barlow’s, and Hay J’s together is because I consider Liberty Lake to be out of my Valley beat, but this little city is our sister in salads, especially seafood ones which appeals to me being a total sea foodie. The Biscayne Bay Shrimp salad at True Legends has ingredients – grilled  shrimp, pineapple and Mandarin oranges- that I never would have put together in my head but when I put them carefully together on a fork and then on into my mouth, I loved it.

If you have not been to Barlow’s stylish new digs next to Albertsons, their original Ocean Beauty salad with its sauteed prawns, fillet of salmon and tasty crab cake is a destination salad worth the drive. Hay J’s is well-known for its excellent recipes and their Seafood Cobb is another stellar example. Elaine, who always gives me reliable input on her intake when I am researching food stories said it was her favorite salad.

    Ambrosia- I place Ambrosia further up the list because they make my favorite salad which they proudly call the Ambrosia Salad. Like so many I tried during my tussle with the tummy, this salad is a unique rendition of a familiar salad type. I love their take on the candied-walnut, dried-cranberry, richly-flavored salad topped with  house-made raspberry vinaigrette. Elaine, who happens to waitress there, says they have a Beet Salad that customers rave about.

   Darcy’s- I cannot say enough good things about this place in regards to the salads they serve their fellow man. In my combat against calories, Darcy’s always gave me the ammo I needed for the day. Their Chicken Caesar is a solid hit and their one-of-a-kind Oriental Chicken, blanketed under a sinful layer of fresh bacon chunks, is an absolute grand slam of a salad. The kicker to dining at Darcy’s is that they opened about 3 years ago with great prices and have not touched them since. Their salads cost less than those at Panoni Bread, which had very up-to-date prices.

Obviously, this is a list but I did not enumerate it so far because I don’t like that there is a negative connotation to the lower numbers. Being a former owner, I am  a critic of local restaurants like Casanova was a critic of women. But I will say that my number one love for a salivating salad is the Iron Horse, several hands down.

During my quest for the best, I tried the Blackened Salmon Caesar at every place that put out this luxury model sedan of a salad. No place came within a length of the Horse where their version features a generous and richly seasoned slab of their house specialty grilled Salmon. They also have the Valley’s, if not the World’s, best Cobb salad. If you favor the flavor of Blue Cheese dressing and have never tried the Iron Horse’s chunky, homemade version, then you need to do yourself a solid and hit the Horse up for a Cobb.

All the fore mentioned places and meals were just a sampling of the dozens of salads I have been eating since mid May. Salads were my cavalry and infantry in the civil war waged between mind and stomach.  My belly, while relatively small in today’s world of Boone and Crockett bellies everywhere you look, was the sole casualty.

I am less of a nutritionist or dietitian than I am a food critic but I did discover my own diet that I might call the Craig’s Salad List Diet. In the Time magazine special addition that was on sale in grocery stores last Spring titled the Secrets of Living Longer there was a story on how humans should be eating.

We are built to eat just once a day. The modern luxury of three square meals has led to a very round America. I can now testify, after dropping the sought-after 25 pounds, that if you eat just one meal and make it a salad, you will lose weight. Now my challenge is to wage that perennial 3-pound-plus-then-minus skirmish on the 148 to 151  playing field where I have a clear line of vision to my belt buckle instead of the 170 to 173 arena where the belly always bullies over the belt.

 

More on my diet:

  Basically, my diet was a Spartan diet meaning I took in as few calories as I could manage each day before my one salad meal. This made the salad taste incredible  and it filled me up.
    When I am working on the job as a carpenter it seems very easy for me to not get hungry and I have always found it easy to skip breakfast and so most days I did not really think about eating until around two when I left the job site to go to the office. As soon as I jumped in my van I wanted a snack.
    Fortunately for me I can eat anything and like it. So for my diet and to this day my go-to snacks are baby carrots and dry cereal. Right next to my seat in my work van there is a box of either Wheaties or Honey Nut Cheerios which I am reaching into before I ever turn the ignition.
    I am so calorie conscious that I only eat cereal with 110 calories per cup, which there are plenty of but it is amazing how many have 120 or more. Rice and Corn Chex are two other 110’ers that I am partial to. Elaine swears that more cereal hits the floor than my mouth. I tell her that is another dieting trick since my hand and arm are working away but only half the amount into my mouth that my brain thinks it is supposed to be getting.
    Baby carrots are not as difficult to eat and not quite as tastey but they are a great bargain caloriewise. Nine of those little guys have a grand total of 35 calories and they are very cheap. I also drink a lot of V-8, or rather the cheap version of vegetable juice that all grocery stores sell. I love the stuff, it’s healthy, cheap, filling and most importantly, low-cal.
    I got into my Spartan Salad diet so much that when I hit my goal and the story’s deadline, I just kept going. When I got done to 143 pounds I figured I needed to start eating so that I wasn’t losing weight.
   Maintaining a constant weight is also a battle but now the battle is waged on a thinner field and I have mastered some good tactics. Fasting off two pounds is something I now know I can do at will and it is amazing how fast I can put on two pounds.
   The proof to my diet is in my Puddin’, or as everyone else calls her, Elaine. For months she watched me diet and could not believe her eyes. Finally, long after I was done, she secretly set her mind to trying my Spartan diet without the heavy emphasis on salads.
   She found her own ways to eat just one meal a day. For example she is big on Slim Fast, which I think has too many calories for what you get and is too expensive. But I am not complaining. When she lost her first five pounds she came out of the closet and admitted she was trying to follow my example.
   She said she was amazed at how easy it was once she put her mind to eating less.She was also amazed at how much everyone around her at work eats which is something you do notice when you give up the got-to-have-3-squares-a-day mindset.
  Now my little thing has lost another 5 pounds and is at her ideal weight she has only dreamed about for the past 10 years.

 

This Thai Chicken salad from the newly opened Panera Bread was more than I could fit into my reduced food storage space though I gave my all.

This Thai Chicken salad from the newly opened Panera Bread was more than I could fit into my reduced food storage space though I gave my all.

Elaine and I often split our salads as we did this Seafood Cobb at Hay J's which Elaine held in the highest regard saldly speaking.

Elaine and I often split our salads as we did  Hay J’s Seafood Cobb  which Elaine held in the highest regard saladly speaking.

Pat and Denny McDonald also split their salads like this steak and shrimp humdinger that I managed solo. They did confess that they normally stick to Charlie P's broasted chicken which they and many others claim to be Spokane's finest.

Pat and Denny McDonald also split their salads like this steak and shrimp humdinger that I managed solo. They did confess that they normally stick to Charlie P’s broasted chicken which they and many others claim to be Spokane’s finest. I wouldn’t know since I can’t get past the white sauce on his seafood dishes.

I completely maxed out at the Max with this Crab Louie. I highly recommend their patio especially during Happy Hour when appetizers like the one Elaine had are quite reasonable priced.

I completely maxed out at the Max with this Crab Louie. I highly recommend their patio especially during Happy Hour when appetizers like the one Elaine had are quite reasonable priced.

Barlow's aptly named Ocean Beauty salad is all that a sea food lover could ever hope for.

Barlow’s aptly named Ocean Beauty salad is all that a sea food lover could ever hope for.

Even when I went on an overnight backpacking trip, I stuck to my game plan and only ate one salad that I packed in on ice. A person gets hungrier than normal camping and so this rather wimpy Winco salad tasted like manna from heaven, which was much closer than normal at the altitude of 6,200 ft on Harrison lake at the head of the Pack River in Idaho.

Even when I went on an overnight backpacking trip, I stuck to my game plan and only ate one salad that I packed in on ice. A person gets hungrier than normal camping and so this rather wimpy Winco salad tasted like manna from heaven, which was much closer than normal at the altitude of 6,200 ft on Harrison Lake at the head of the Pack River in Idaho.

This Blackened Salmon Caesar rules like a mighty Romaine emperor over all other salads I sampled at great length.

Iron Horse’s Blackened Salmon Caesar rules like a mighty Romaine emperor over all other salads across the land.