My Weight Loss Journey: Episode 1

It’s been a minute since I stepped foot in a gym. I’ve taken the decision to relocate back to Beirut back in January, and April marked my last month in Dubai. Back then I was committed to indoor cycling, practically since October… The changes weren’t drastic, but yet again, depression, living alone, not having the time or energy to cook properly played a major part against me achieving my goal.

My goal which was not only to lose weight, but to tone. Finally, tone. I’ve been through this weight loss journey since the age of 21… Hustling, battling against it. Every. Single. Day.

On September 2012 I started dropping from 130Kgs (almost 290pounds) to 80Kgs. The diet was harsh but fast. But harsh. It was just what I needed for a confidence boost to go through my most critical “what-the-fuck-is-going-on-in-my-life” years. The twenties.

I had to graduate, get a real job, dress like a fucking “cool” guy. You know… Nothing out of the norms. I’ve never been anything but “normal” anyway.

It happened. I dropped those 50kgs. I looked fine. Fine enough to walk straight, look up and pretend like I have everything figured out. LOL! LOL at the fact that I thought this would last. Of course it didn’t. I moved to Dubai, and this is when weight gain caught back on track, like it never fucking left.

Anyway, this is not a novel, nor a depressed adult’s diary. I’m just laying down the thoughts that lead me to take F45 Challenge. It’s been a week. And MAAAAAAAAN do I feel good.

F45 Challenge is an 8-week fat loss program, designed to give life-changing results.

Phase 1, designed for 2 weeks goes like this:

The first phase of the 8-week Challenge focuses on bringing your diet back to basics. Here, you remove gluten, refined sugar, high fructose fruits, and temporarily, red meat, dairy and caffeine.

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Meals are packed with lean white meat, fish and plant-based proteins, fibrous vegetables, and gluten-free grains. But since my diet was previously high in caffeine, I was feeling fatigued all through these first two weeks as my body needed to adapt to its elimination, as well as the calorie deficit. On the upside, half-way through this phase I started noticing exciting changes as my body responded to the increase in high-intensity physical activity from the 6-times-a-week F45 sessions coupled with the challenge meal plans.

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The supportive F45 team has also assembled a pool of nutrition experts to develop the meal plans and recipes provided in this ecosystem to help lazy fucks like me achieve their goals. Which is what I’m currently on: 5 meals a day, 3 mains and 2 snacks.

The goal is to lose 15 kilos of fat and gain 4 kilos of muscles. A lengthy journey, but hell to the yes doable.

This was episode 1 of 4, see you next week for episode 2.

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Does the world need another book about Italian food?

These emails between Anthony Bourdain and Matt Goulding show how Tony felt about telling the story of Italy, its food and the people who make them—and how the world actually needed that “extra” book about Italian food.

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Dear Tony,

I’m in a tough spot. Of all the people I know, I’m guessing you’re the one who will best appreciate my predicament. I write to you from Savigno, just outside Bologna, a town surrounded by sweet pignoletto vines and truffle-studded forests. Today is Easter, a day of liberation for the Italians, and splayed before me are the bones of half a dozen courses: ragù streaks, gnawed lamb ribs, pistachio dust. My blood runs with a mix of rendered pork fat and bitter spirits, six months in the underbelly of Italy’s food world hitting me down to the marrow. But it’s not my lipid profile I worry about; it’s the table full of grandmas and couples and new friends around me. Let me explain.

When I first left New York in 2010 in search of a new start, I set my coordinates for Emilia Romagna. There I would find a hilltop town, not unlike Savigno, powered by egg-rich pastas and slow-simmered sauces and single women with a penchant for lost Americans. Only a stopover in Barcelona and a fateful cerveza with a young Catalan I now call my wife kept me from my al dente destiny.

Granted, my vision was far from original. Most of the world dreams of Italy—of the pinup landscape porn, the cumulus clouds of cappuccino foam, the meals that stretch on like radioactive sunsets. It was those same dreams that drove me back here, that have me itching to capture this magic on the page. But lately, I’ve been having nightmares about Italy. Nightmares about what the Italians will think about another foreigner’s take on their traditions.

Nightmares about getting it wrong—about mistaking parmesan for pecorino, pancetta for guanciale, spaghettini for spaghettoni. I don’t mean nightmares in the figurative sense; I mean nightmares in the cold-sweat-and-sleepless-nights sense.

Nobody takes food more seriously than the Italians. I’ve seen family feuds break out over pasta shapes and grape varietals. No doubt you’ve been caught in the crossfire before. But these aren’t the petty beefs of food snobs—these cut to the core of what it means to be Italian. More than anywhere else in the world, food carries the full weight of Italy’s heritage: the pains and joys of its history, the depth of its ingenuity. Politicians are corrupt, democracy is fragile, borders are porous, but la cucina italiana is eternal.

At the end of the day, these are the people I want to surround myself with—the type that won’t hesitate to spit in my vino if I ask for parmesan with my spaghetti alle vongole. But they are also the ones I fear I will inevitably disappoint.

Does the world need another book about Italian food?

Am I walking into a trap?

Yours,
Matt

***

Dear Matt,

The path you have chosen is indeed fraught with peril. The overwhelming instinct of ItaloPhiles like you and I is to romanticize, over sentimentalize and generally follow the well-worn tradition of soft-edged food porn when writing about Italy.

What is charming to us is often a frustration and even an affliction to Italians. The same political and cultural paralysis that keeps this beautiful collection of city states “real” also traps its citizens in a reality that often approaches the tragically surreal.

But one can be forgiven, I hope, for finding great joy, even epiphany in a bowl of pasta vongole (though not with cheese), a bottle of rustic wine, the simple things that seem the birthright of the average Italian.

Careening through Rome, late at night in a taxi, half-swacked on negronis, listening to Mina, remains magic. To lay eyes on a bowl of cacio e pepe, a plate of trippa, agnolotti, urchins in season, porchetta… that’s some powerful shit.

The mysteries of Italian parking, slang, law enforcement, hand gestures, dress, family relationships, superstitions, dialectal differences, slang, physical contact are unknowable yet enticing in that unknowability.

I’m still trying to figure it all out. It sounds like you are, too.

Tony

***

Ciao Tony,

I will leave the mysteries of law enforcement and hand gestures to the locals, though I’ve been on the receiving end of both throughout my time here. But I have been trying to solve a few mysteries of the kitchen, namely what makes Italian food so damn delicious.

A wise man in Kyoto once told me: Western cuisine is about addition; Japanese cuisine is about subtraction. But I think he overlooked a kinship between Japanese and Italian cooking—both built around exquisite product, both guided by a type of magical math best described as addition by subtraction: 3- 1 = 4.

And like Japanese cuisine, Italian food is driven by a set of rules and beliefs established over hundreds if not thousands of years, and embraced by a citizenry that largely rejects the notion of people fucking with their food. But Italian cuisine is not a statue in a museum; it’s not some intractable monument to the past. It lives and breathes and bleeds like any good culture does.

I thought I could come here, eat a ton of tagliatelle, soak my bones in vino, and pay gentle tribute to the traditions of this wondrous place. I thought I would write a book about nonna, but everywhere I turn, I find granddaughters and grandsons writing the next chapter in their family history: three young brothers in Puglia expanding the essence of mozzarella and burrata in a deeply conservative culinary corner of Italy; a father-daughter team in the Piedmont who cast off the yoke of Barolo’s staid history to produce some of the most poetic and controversial wines in the world; a class of next-generation pizzaioli in Naples wood-firing a path to a new understanding of the planet’s most popular food.

In the end, it’s not a book about grandmas and their sacred family recipes (though they have a few delicious cameos); it’s a book about a wave of cooks, farmers, bakers, shepherds, young and old, trying to negotiate the weight of the past with the possibilities of the future.

I know how you feel about Italian cuisine. I know you don’t want some young hotshot turning pasta carbonara into performance art. You don’t want your cappuccino with condescension.

I’m with you. But after a few hundred meals here, I’m starting to see just how important this chapter is in the story of Italian cuisine, and I think it might make a worthy addition to this little series we have working.

What do you think?

Saluti,
Matt

***

Matt,

My response to you–and this sort of improvisation, innovation, expansion on traditional Italian regional specialties is entirely emotional—is a blind, unthinking, instinctive hostility. I hate it. I hate the thought. I am a curmudgeon when it comes to all things Italian.

I do not doubt—in fact I know and have experienced—delicious new takes on pizza, even that beloved carbonara. It is possible. It is, I guess, only right, that new generations of Italian chefs are flexing their creative minds and their skills in the interest of moving things forward.

But I hate the idea in a way that only a non-Italian, newly besotted with an overly romantic view of that country can be. Italians complain that their country doesn’t work, that it is stuck, mired in the corruption and incompetence and antiquated attitudes of another time—that nothing ever changes. Which is exactly what I love in so many ways about the country. That state of paralysis. If it worked, it would change. And I don’t want it to change.

I go to a place in Rome every time I’m there. And there’s another place in Turin. The waiters are the same as they were twenty years ago. The owner who buzzes you in the locked door is the same. The menu is tiny (when there is one) and that never changes either. Simple. Unpretentious. Handmade pastas, a few simple sauces. Polpette. Constant. A true friend.

To me, after 30 years of cooking, of garnishing, of torturing and manipulating food into being pretty enough or “interesting” enough to sell to an ever fickle dining public, another two decades of experiencing every type of culinary genius or frippery, there is deep, deep satisfaction and joy in food made with enough confidence and love to take three or four good ingredients, cook them right, and dump them unceremoniously on a plate. Better yet if the cook feels good enough about the food to serve it with a rough, not particularly good local wine.

That makes me happy.

You are right, there is something almost Japanese about Italian food at its best. But Italian food is much, much more emotional. One should experience it like a child, never like a critic, never analytically.

I am hopelessly compromised on this issue.

It is personal for me.

I cannot be trusted.

But I am right.

Still, if you ignore my advice and write this book anyway, I’ll read it. If it’s good, I might even publish it.

Good luck,
Tony

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3-Ingredient Cran-Brie Bites

Flaky puff pastry, creamy brie and tart cranberries—that’s all you need to pull together these fancy appetizers. We guarantee no one will believe you when you tell them how easy they are to make.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package (17 1/4 oz) frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 lb Brie cheese
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce (purchased or homemade)

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the sheets into approximately 3 inch x 3 inch squares. Press each square into a muffin cavity.

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  • Cube the cheese – about a 3/4 inch cube for each (you may have a little cheese left over). Place a cube of brie in the center of each puff pastry square. Top the brie with a small dollop (about 2 tsp) of cranberry sauce.

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  • Bake about 10 minutes or until puff pastry corners are toasted lightly brown.

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  • Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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These yummy bites might look fancy, but don’t let that fool you. (Definitely let it fool your friends, though.) I fell in love with these little Cranberry Brie Bites appetizers this fall when a friend brought them to our bi-monthly gourmet club. And when I said that I swooned, I meant that I tucked into more than my fair share. In fact, I can’t be sure anyone else actually had any. Melty cheese makes me a bit weak in the knees – the addition of a little fruit, the puff pastry and that’s about all I need. (Dinner, schminner! Where’s the Sauvignon Blanc!) Once I learned how easy Cranberry Brie Bites were to make, I wanted to share them with you! I was a bit intimidated by the puff pastry, having never worked with it before. This recipe requires no additional rolling (I don’t know about you, but the rolling pin is my nemesis . . .). Just thaw the frozen puff pastry, and cut with a pizza cutter. Easy! Allow these golden bites of brie cool for a few minutes before serving and devour!

 

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This recipe was first featured on Tablespoon.

 

 

#SLYTHERINPRIDE: The Magical Weight-Shredding Potion

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU?

Well, you could just start with this.

#SlytherinPride is my secret cleansing potion, to wash off all the holidays’ calorie excess… Wanna get on it? Check how you can do it below.

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This recipe was perfected with Bosch MES4000GB Juicer, now available during the Dubai Shopping Festival.

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BURGER BOMBARDA: Dubai’s Finest Buns

Four months into 2018, and I bet all your “New Year, New Me” hogwash has gone to waste. If not, LEAVE THIS PAGE RIGHT NOW. I mean it.

Yes, Dubai is awash with buns, patties and pickles, with everyone from street food stalls to full-service joints getting in on the burger action.

So without further ado, here are, according to my palate, belly fat, and my featured reviewer Giordana Attilio aka Georgette, Dubai’s finest burgers, sliders and buns.

1- THE COUNTER – MAKE YOUR OWN: Nothing feels like casual dining more than a burger built based on your peculiar taste buds. The Counter makes it easier for you to indulge in burgers more often with even more options for a specialized meal on different days. “Anything off the trolley dears? I’ll take the lot.”

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2- CLASSIC BURGER JOINT – BEST FRIES: And what is a list of best burgers if those salty crisp golden fingers aren’t included? Classic Burger Joint needs no introduction for their glorious fries with the special spices. A particular standing ovation for the free refill!

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3- INDIE DIFC : From the same stable that brought us IRIS, this chill-out lounge might not be an obvious place to go looking for a burger. But INDIE defies all rights and wrongs with its uproariously good burger.

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4- GOURMET BURGER KITCHEN: Look at it. Just look at it and read later. A juicy burger that’s just as knock-your-socks off as ever. Can you feel my agony yet? Thank you.

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5- THE GRAMERCY DIFC – WAGYU BURGER: The Gramercy boys pride themselves on using the best homemade 100% Wagyu beef. Top that with onion relish, aioli, provolone cheese *swallows* and some gherkins. My heart might have skipped a beat just remembering The Gramercy’s Wagyu Burger’s taste.

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6- DIRT – A VEGAN OPTION: Whether you have taken the life commitment of a vegetarian/vegan, you are still entitled to the goodness of a burger. DIRT leaves no-one behind; DIRT’s burgers form the healthiest of all burger options.

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7- PARKER’S: One patty is great, two patties of Wagyu beef are a party of pleasure. Invite cheddar, jalapeño, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and a bit of caramelized onions on top, you get a creation of culinary holiness. Oh, and one more thing, do you have the key?

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8- SALT: The all-time American combination is in town, and you must try it. Salt offers the meat of the year; Wagyu beef embraced by a butter bun and a choice of Lotus, Vanilla, or Strawberry shakes. Move away ice cream man, SALT’s food truck is the new badass on the streets. Oh yeah, and if one is not enough? Get them in double.

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9- BRUNSWICK SPORTS CLUB: You’d wish you were stabbed in the heart just like this burger, in a good way though. Looks enchanting, don’t you agree? Brunswick Sports Club’s best seller burger is their newly introduced, Return of the Mac! Truffle oil, mac n cheese and a hefty portion of beef bacon!  Close your eyes and feel that juice running down your fingers; that’s how you know you’ve got a serial filler.


10- THE SLIDER CORNER – THE SUMMER SLIDER: Excuse me as I eat my laptop while looking at this marvelous sight. Have your choice of beef, chicken, prawns, or lobster, but whatever the weather, The Slider Corner will make sure to uplift your day and morals with their burgers.

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12- FIVE GUYS: Step away from the drama and let those Five Guys’ cheeseburgers fill your soul with happiness and satisfaction. Oh, and grab their famous Milkshake for an extra stash of glee for later on.

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The omnipresence of burgers in Dubai is getting a little haughty; and YES, I’ve (almost) seen about every version of them by today – but this does nothing to tarnish their intrinsic lusciousness, F*CK IT.

I hope you enjoyed your stroll down my selection of the city’s finest buns.

Follow Georgette.

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For Crust’s Sake, Harry!

Once you realize that pie dough isn’t the only option for the foundation of your pie, the number of potential crust-and-filling combos multiplies endlessly! The hardest part (of course) is deciding what pairing to choose. 

Chocolate, Caramel and Waffle Cone Ice Cream Pie

This easy-to-make frozen pie will remind you of a favorite ice cream truck treat. Plus, it’s a great way to use those inevitably broken ice cream cones at the bottom of the box.


Easy Berries-and-Cream Pie

You’ll think the crust for this super-simple pie is a mistake, but trust us. Letting the puff pastry rise and then gently patting it down makes for an easy instant crust. Layer your favorite fruit preserves or jam under the creamy filling for an extra sweet surprise.


Key Lime Pie with Butter Cracker Crust

We were pleasantly surprised that salty, buttery crackers worked just as well as graham crackers for this Floridian custard pie. This crust would also take nicely to a filling of peanut butter mousse or pudding.


Milk Chocolate Pudding Pie with Brownie Crust

Calling all chocolate lovers: We made a crust that tastes exactly like a brownie and then filled it with milk chocolate pudding. Not a fan of pudding skin? Just cover the pie when you chill it.


Article extracted from Food Network
Photos by Renee Comet.

Hogsmeade Smells Beautiful & it Ain’t the Butterbeer

As we near the end of Lent season, the buzz of Easter fills the air.
For that occasion, there’s a highly calorific yet utterly delectable sweet concoction you can almost smell everywhere; on the streets, at home, next to your desk at work. The infamous maamoul.

These Lebanese Filled Cookies are a Middle Eastern creation, served typically for special happenings such as Pascha, Easter and national religious holidays.

The Levantine sweets are known to be made with three traditional fillings including walnut, pistachio and date, each formed in a specific designed wooden mold which usually serves the purpose of letting you know what the filling inside is.

Lurpak, every chef and household’s favorite brand is gracing us this year with a new collection of spreadable and sprayable butters to make your whole maamoul making experience, a smoother one!

Check them out here, and stay tuned for the end result in a few weeks.

The Shogun X Alchemist Dzou Yen

It was late 2015, the Shogun had gleamed in the sunlight as he set out with a full crew, a long list of fresh catches, and a hull full of merchandise for the Chinese colonies that winter.

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He had his share of surprises when he landed on the bays of Shanghai. He knew, only then, that a new future lies ahead of him.

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Introducing the Shogun Chinese Menu: #FromKyotoToShanghai