Turn Your Body into a Furnace

Online fitness coach Zac Smith

Online fitness coach Zac Smith


I should have written this post sooner. But with my day job, my new eating plan and workout habits and trying to finish my third book in my Always series, I just didn’t have time. I think it’s best to see my four-week results so far.



I’m on the cusp of a lifestyle change. My mind is still struggling with some aspects of the program, but there’s not doubt if you give your 100% to it, the results will boggle your mind.

But let me back up a bit.

See that guy up there? That’s Zac Smith of Zac Smith Fitness, online coach and motivator extraordinaire. I first saw him on The Inked Boys Facebook feed and what caught my eyes were not the tattoos, but that this big guy was actually in the kitchen … cooking. Then I saw the egg white bag and wondered where I can get it. So, I forgot about Zac and then went hunting for where I could get those egg whites. Then I find out they’re a New Zealand brand. Then I thought: Wait, Is this guy not in the U.S. ? So after a few days I find out his name and that he is an online fitness coach.

Perfect timing, because my jumpstart in my previous post was in a process of stalling.

Now, if there’s someone who is doubtful about all this online stuff, it’s me. That’s why I waited to write this post. As I’ve said before I’m a trust and verify kind of gal. I’m thrilled with my four-week results. :D

So, what can I tell you about this eight-week program?

  • It is customized to fit your goals, body type and likes and dislikes in food. Be honest in the questionnaire portion of the sign up page. You don’t want to end up with food you hate on your meal plan.
  • There is a lot of food! A lot! But as you work through your program, you will find yourself getting hungrier and hungrier. I find this a good thing and was what appealed to me the most about this program. How can you not love a diet that actually makes you eat more? And it’s delicious! Next post, I’ll tell you about this mixed spice I got addicted to using. Actually, you can see it on the countertop of Zac’s kitchen right now. :)
  • It will need commitment and dedication. Funny thing is, results were quick in the first week and I can see every few days. Clothes starting to fit better, I’m getting more toned and I’m actually seeing muscles. This motivated me so much, I can’t wait to get out of bed at 5:30 am in the morning to workout and eager to see what progress I will make.
  • Zac is very responsive to questions. The turnaround time for me is usually less than 24-hours. Especially when you start overanalyzing the changes in your body, doubt will crop up and he is there to guide you.

As of this writing, I’m two pounds away from my goal weight. But I’m going to set new goals. Not necessarily to lose more weight, but to make this lifestyle change permanent and find ways not to lose the essence of who I am— a person who loves and appreciates good food. Also, I’m not stopping until I reach the aesthetic of the abs in my mind and at least build a decent booty. ;)

I want to come up with recipes that would work with the meal plan.  Zac, himself, is generous to share delicious recipes on his FB page like this one for protein pancakes. There are also ones included in the meal plan like his yummy Bolognese. Just the way he combines the items in your meal plan gives you much flexibility with flavors.

I’m in the midst of revamping my pantry and I’m so excited for this new chapter in my foodie life. Check out this leg of lamb filet I made recently. I’m still tweaking the recipe, but boy is it yummy!


So, what are you all waiting for? Go check out his page and know that the man knows what he is doing and talking about!

Website: Zac Smith Fitness

FB page: Zac Smith Fitness Facebook

Email: Zac@ZacSmithFitness.com


Losing My First Five Pounds

Salmon Salad

Baked salmon over greens, red quinoa, green salad with Ceasar dressing.

*** The results below are my personal experience. Please consult with your doctor before embarking on any weight loss plan. Everyone is different and foods will affect you differently.

For the past three years after I had shut down my baking business, I had led a very sedentary lifestyle. I worked part-time in computers, I wrote books, I read books and pretty much did nothing else. I was either on the couch with my nose in the iPad or in front of my Macbook.

I would occasionally go for a run to get off my butt, but it’s a half-hearted effort with no clear goal. I’d gone on a 7-day cabbage soup diet with the hubby. I lost 3 lbs and gained it back. The hubby lost 7 lbs and went on to lose 30 lbs in 8 months. So, that was his jumpstart; it wasn’t mine. He is now sporting an enviable six-pack, by the way, at 50 years-old.

Anyway, with working from home, I’m always in my sweatpants. I’ve developed a fear of my closet because what was lurking in there was becoming my enemy. Which one of my jeans are not going to fit me next or which shirt would be the victim of the dryer? This made me anti-social because I didn’t want to leave the house.

Anyway, a meltdown was in the stars. It happened one day in April this year when the hubby and I had a dinner to attend. He told me at last minute that it wasn’t a casual dinner party, and we had to dress up.

Uh, what?

This was two hours before we had to leave.

So I stalked into my closet and sure enough, nothing fit! I was pissed at the hubby, at myself, at the person who had to go have a dinner party when nothing of my clothes fit. Anyway, in the end, I resigned myself to my middle-aged self and my fate. But something happened at the party. I saw some women, a bit older than me, and I saw their jiggly arms. I told myself, oh my God, are my arms that way?

The very next day, I went for a run, came home and did some quick bicep and tricep workout. I also decided not to buy more soda and drink water instead. A change in eating habits needed to be planned, but with a trip to a wedding coming up, I decided to wait. A few days before leaving for the trip I clicked on a link when I was surfing CNN. I nearly kicked myself because it was one of those promoted stories, and usually they wanted to sell something. And they did, but the video was very informative about how a healthy liver was important to efficient weight loss.

That caught my attention.

When we get older, our liver becomes less and less efficient in its functions because of the years it worked to process nutrients received from the intestinal system and its detoxification of harmful chemicals from processed foods, medicine, and alcohol. It was also responsible for estrogen metabolism. With a whacked out balance of estrogen, the body will secrete more fat in the fat cells, especially around the belly. Chemical estrogen is everywhere—from plant, plastic bottles, scented candles—everywhere. There was a whole slew of other convincing evidence in the video, but I couldn’t remember it all.

Anyway, I was curious about the herbal supplement called LivLean, sold by Perfect Origins. I go to a herbalist and I’ve been on most of the major components of the supplement: Milk Thistle, N-Acetyl Cysteine and Alpha Lipoic Acid, which I’ve used to help with my blood sugar before. I will warn, though, that Milk Thistle has different effects on different people … I guess because it detoxifies the liver. For me, it makes me not crave wine. For the hubby, it made him pissy and not want alcohol either. :) This is a good thing because when the liver processes alcohol, it can do nothing else. That’s why there’s always a warning not to take alcohol when you’re on medication.

I don’t want to dwell on this. I’m not an expert on the topic. Suffice it to say I gave this supplement a chance to become a part of my plan. By this time, I’ve already consulted with my brother who in his mid-forties, went from overweight to running marathons all over the world. His advice—drop the simple carbs. Do not eat carbs especially late at night. I’m not a potato person, and I’ve survived not eating bread, but can I give up rice at least for the short term, or better, just reserve it for that cheat day?

Healthy Groceries

Healthy groceries * note I determined the pears were too sweet for my low carb

For two weeks this was my typical meal.

10:00 am – Overnight oatmeal ~ recipe adapted from Skinny Taste cookbook – my version at the end.

1:30 pm – Salad greens, as much as I want with a tablespoon of any dressing I wanted.

3 tbs red quinoa

1 whole boiled egg, plus one egg white

a sprinkling of feta cheese

After lunch I’ll have two pieces of dark chocolate.

At around 4:00 pm, I’ll be hungry so I’ll have around 10 pcs of raw almonds or walnuts

6:00 pm – Baked fish (I buy frozen wild cod and king salmon filets from Whole Foods)

Salad greens with choice of dressing

3 tbs red quinoa


If I was hungry before bed time, I ate two celery sticks. If I was hungry during the day I will eat nuts or egg whites.

* I drank a lot of water. Saturday is my designated cheat day and I’d eat a steak and rice. 

I lost five pounds in two weeks on this diet. I ran three miles—3x a week and walked two miles 3x a week with light weights in between and I mean really light in a fasted cardio—meaning I did my cardio upon waking up with no food. I did have coffee though. For the first two days, I had a headache and was cranky. I guess this was from carb withdrawal. I truly think the LivLean helped me during these times in managing my blood sugar levels and even my fat loss.

By the third week though, my runs became more difficult. It was like running on empty and then my weight inched up half-a-pound.

I panicked.

I know, I know, it could be muscle right or just a change in my body chemistry? But I was feeling kinda soft, not lean. The last thing I wanted was to lose muscle. I didn’t want to be on a restricted diet like this forever. We’ve all heard it before, if you eat very little, your body is going to go on starvation mode. Not what a foodie wants to hear. So I started to add sweet potato and lamb. The morning after I ate meat, the strength came back.

The problem was, I was getting tired of salad and fish and I’m trying to sustain my weight loss. I’d be happy to lose one pound a week. Slow but steady. But how?

I’d call this phase my jumpstart. If you’re curious about Milk Thistle, google it, but I’d advise to consult alternative health practitioners. If you have medical conditions like diabetes or are on medication, it’s best to consult your doctor. It would be great if he is open to supplements instead of just pumping you full of drugs to fix a symptom.

Again, this is my personal experience. Everyone’s physiology is different. But it’s good to look beyond the obvious of counting calories and figure out what’s keeping your body from shedding the fat.

Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats

Overnight Oatmeal 

adapted from Skinny Taste Cookbook

1/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp raw sugar

1.5 teaspoons chia seeds

A handful of blueberries

Put the above ingredients in a sealed container and shake. Store in refrigerator. The consistency is like pudding. I love it. Before eating, I add a tablespoon of almond butter on top, mix it in (it can’t really blend well) and then eat.

Other notables for my jumpstart plan which was starting to plateau by the third week.

* I did not purposely add the link for Perfect Origins because they already have a massive marketing campaign and I want to keep my experience personal. I paid for all my supplements.

  • I do not use artificial sweeteners. If I want to sweeten something, I will use raw sugar.
  • I use full fat cheese. Sometimes I grate parmesan on the evening salad
  • I use full fat salad dressing. Usually when it’s low fat they add sugar to make it more palatable.
  • For fish, wild cod and wild salmon are best. Avoid farm-raised fish.
  • I hate vegetables, but I found a brand called Organic Girl. Romaine lettuce is very filling for me. I buy them pre-washed and only the hearts. I take a scissor and cut it up. Easy peasy. I add arugula or other mixed spring greens.
  • Take Omega 3 and Multivitamin supplements. On a restricted diet, you are bound to lose some essential nutrients.
  • Moisturize! You don’t want to get all wrinkly when you lose all the fat. ;)

Next stage:

I was lucky enough to stumble upon an online fitness coach. I’m beginning my third week with him. The results, so far, are stellar and I will update this blog once I’ve verified that this is indeed a workable lifestyle change—probably in the next week or so.

At the start of my journey in early May, I had 13 pounds to lose. My next post will be about losing more fat and gaining lean muscle. I’ve lost an additional 3 pounds as of this writing with the help of my online coach. The challenge will be to blast through those last 5 pounds.


A New Direction


For the nth time, I’m resurrecting this blog. I think I’ve found a new purpose. I’ve recently had a wake-up call. Don’t worry, nothing life-threatening but it could be given my family history. I’m talking about letting the old excuse that if we get older there’s no recourse but to gain weight. Of course, there are those blessed with wicked genes, but for the rest of us ordinary mortals, the bulging of the waistline is a familiar fate.

I will tell my story soon. I think I’m going in the right direction in turning this around, but as with the same principle with which I’ve built this blog on, I will trust but verify.

So that’s what I’m doing, trusting and verifying. :)

I will say, it’s not easy. It’s taking discipline and careful planning, but that’s not the purpose of why I’m dusting off this blog. But I’ve found out interesting facts about why folks are resistant to weight loss as they get older and the science behind it is interesting. I’d like to use this blog to create tasty recipes going forward. They may be for losing weight, they may be for maintenance, and of course I’d have to include a tasty cheat-day recipe that wouldn’t make you feel guilty about having a cheat day.

For now, I’m documenting via Instagram for veron.perez. It’s different from my former kitchenmusings one. This one will include everything about life, food, and fitness including some selfies. I’ll try not to overshare. ;)

Canelé (Cannelés) test part 1




The first time I’ve tasted this pastry, I was in Paris. Gerard Mulot‘s pastry shop was a few blocks from the hotel. One bite past its crunchy shell into its custardy interior and this pastry had a fan for life; not to mention it was redolent with the scent of vanilla and the essence of rum. Except, it seemed to hard to find these outside Paris or big cities. For one thing, like macarons, they’re finicky to get right. As always, if you want food a certain way, you have to make it your damn self.

Anyway, this post from Chez Pim got me started on my canalé quest. I would say its partly successful with the silicone molds. The first batch (from the gray molds) tasted too eggy for me, and the second batch (red-orange) was almost right in texture and taste.

I just received my copper molds and can’t wait to get started using them. I will also try the recipe from Gerard Mulot’s baking book and see if it’s less eggy since he only uses yolks in his recipe.



Cross section. A bit too “eggy” in taste.


The white “butt” maybe because I didn’t cook them on wire racks and the heat didn’t properly transfer.



Results from the two different molds








LFM: Balkan Restaurant


Cold Appetizer Platter

Cold Appetizer Platter


I’ve kept to the West End for the past year or two and usually ate at home. Whenever hubby and I do go out, Balkan Restaurant, is often suggested. Most of the time though, we’ve just come off a meat fest at home of steaks or kebabs, so we’re guilty of having not gone here for a while. I’m so glad the place seems to be doing well — there was a steady stream of customers when we went there on a Friday night. They even recently renovated their interior.

Their charcuterie platter above is unpretentious, and there’s no other word except it’s damn tasty. I would be happy to have this as a meal with a loaf their lepinja bread.

However, it’ll be a sin not to order any of their grilled meats because they’re seasoned and grilled to perfection. The chicken has a hint of lemon, their ground beef is juicy, and all of them have that fire taste that probably come from a charcoal grill (I’m not certain of this).


Grilled meat platter


For the winter months when grilling is not possible and you crave this kind of food, Balkan is a good option. They specialize in Bosnian fare. Of course if you prefer hearty stews, they always have their Hungarian goulash.

Hubby ordered the sausage and bean special and he absolutely loved it. Simple and satisfying.


Sausage and Beans plate


Balkan Restaurant

8905 Patterson Avenue

Richmond, VA 23239

Closed Mondays


previous review here: http://kitchenmusings.com/2010/12/29/lfm-balkan-restaurant/






Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen NYC: Fully loaded ramen with fresh and dried seaweed, bamboo shoot, shredded pork etc.

I know, I haven’t posted in a while because nothing interested me for the longest time. I was tired of the RVA food scene because it’s always about the next new restaurant and then the ones I really liked started closing. Case in point, Rocoto Chicken. I realized I’m more of a purist rather than a fusion type cuisine eater. I know I probably need to go to a larger city or maybe keep to the Near West End where most of the Asian restaurants don’t give a damn about Americanizing their cuisine.

On a recent trip to NY, I made it my mission to find the best ramen place. I’ve already been to Momofuku. I’ve tried Ippudo  in HK and didn’t like it too much so I was hesitant to try their NYC branch. Then I find out my favorite yakitori place, Yakitori Totto opened Totto Ramen. I didn’t waste time hauling ass over there at the first chance I got. Fifteen minutes before opening for their lunch hour there was a already a very long line. You sign yourself up on their clipboard and it is a cash-only place. I could quite possibly say, the ramen was life-altering. I finally understood the hype of an awesome ramen. The broth, the noodles, the egg . . . everything came together to deliver that piece of Nirvana. I left the cramped restaurant sated and fulfilled in more ways than one.

Totto ramen bowl 1

Totto ramen bowl 1

I returned with the hubby on another evening and this time I was prepared and we were the first customers to be seated.



Returning to Richmond, I see on my Facebook feed that a ramen pop-up has come to RVA. These were from people I trusted to know good ramen, so I was very excited. I tried to keep my expectations level after coming from a ramen high in NYC, but I am happy to report that Shoryuken Ramen delivered a satisfying bowl of goodness. The broth was fantastic, the pork that came with it was better than Totto Ramen, the noodles were cooked right … although I detected a floury taste.

Shoryuken ramen bowl

Shoryuken ramen bowl

From my own ramen experiments, I’ve noticed this when I had coated the noodles with too much flour because the dough was damn sticky.

Edited 12-30-2014 – returned on 12/30, the flour taste was gone. Clean tasty al-dente noodles!

I would love to have more options like additional: seaweed, egg, meat and noodles. But I understand that being a pop-up, this can prove to be a challenge. I would love to see a brick and mortar location, hopefully with easy parking please and I don’t care if it’s in a strip mall.

Shoryuken Ramen pop-up

Monday and Tuesday, 5pm to 11pm

1213 Summit Avenue (@ Lunch and Supper space)

Ever wondered why Peter Chang opened in Walmart shopping center and Pho So 1 opened their second location where it was? I, for one, don’t want to worry about where to park when I want a quick bowl of ramen. Just some consideration when thinking of location and target clientele. ;)

Tribute to the Queen of all Daring Bakers, Lis


The world has lost a great person, I have lost a great friend. I have never met Lis in person, but we have exchanged countless of long, funny emails over the years. I first “met” Lis when the Daring Bakers was formed. And through the months and years we both laughed and exchanged emails about our baking triumphs and disasters. Lis was such a great writer, I told her she had some Bridget Jones feel going on in her writing.

Pictured above was the epic croissant challenge

She was such a staunch supporter when I decided to go full-time baking macarons and other little desserts. She was one of my test subjects when I tried shipping the macarons. She even had them for her wedding way back in 2008.

After both of us sort of fell off the blogging bandwagon, we found another common interest: True Blood! So we spent endless emails drooling over Eric and Alexander Skarsgaard and then bashing Bill Compton. And when Alcide showed up, well, we drooled all over him too.

Oh, Lis, I don’t think I ever told you, but I’ve finally watched Sons of Anarchy and you’re right, Charlie Hunnam is yummy.

And Lis was my biggest supporter when I told her I was writing a book. It was kind of funny how that went actually. Late last year, we were both exchanging emails about what books to read and I told her I’m writing my own book. So I sent her five chapters of a shitty first draft telling her I had no expectations of her reading it since it’s not her usual genre. She emailed me back and said she really liked what I had so far. So I think nothing of it and then a month later she emailed me again and asked: “Where’s the rest of the story?”

So I sat down and finished the manuscript and sent it to her. She said she loved it! Mind you this was an unedited final draft with all the horrendous grammatical errors and all. She became my beta-reader before I even knew what a beta reader was.


I’m so sad you won’t get to read Viktor and Marissa’s story (although I have a feeling you’ll be reading over my shoulder as I write). But know that I’m thinking of you when I write them. You were my cheerleader—always. And somehow I know that wherever you are you’ll continue to give me that little nudge when I’m stuck.

You sent me an email the day before you passed, and I was wishing I had responded immediately, but if you’re reading this right now, I agree with what was in that email too.

I‘ll always remember you as the sister of my heart.


Your Sis