Here we go again…

Digital_Artwork_Neanderthal_Caveman_Fast_Food_Graffiti_Banksy_76094_detail_thumb

Hi folks,

Do you remember back in March when I did a Paleo Challenge with my gym?  Well, I’m doing a new one with my new gym.  Because I’m stupid like that.  Also, they made it all official-like, with pre- and post-challenge measurements and benchmarks.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for that measurable data.

Also, I really needed something to get me to eat better.  As usual, it’s not that my diet was inherently bad (I wasn’t living off Whataburger and Dunkin Doughnuts or anything), but that I was just being sloppy.  The admin at work had a giant jar of peanut butter filled pretzels, and hey, what’s four or five of those 6 or 7 times a day?  Probably around 500 calories.  When it comes to limiting snacks like that, my ability to refuse is very much all or nothing.  Either I’m going to eat as much of that crap as I want, or I’m not going to eat any of it.  But it’s really more fun to eat ALL the bad things.

I also figured that as long as I’m going to do this challenge, I might as well take advantage of it and get as much data as I can.  So I went and got a BodPod reading to measure my body composition.  I started the challenge at 221.3 lbs and 19.7% body fat. And for the benchmark WOD (see below), I got 2 rounds + 15 push-ups.

Paper Street Crossfit Paleo Challenge Benchmark WOD
20 minute AMRAP
400 m run
40 air squats
30 ab-mat sit-ups
20 push-ups
10 pull-ups

Got to love the air-squat/running combination.  Also, let me take this time to re-iterate how much I hate push-ups.

This challenge has been set up pretty thoroughly, with points earned for healthy eating, sleep, water consumed, supplements (provided by PurePharma), daily WOD plus a few extras.  For example, there is a weekly “Skill WOD” which can earn you an extra point.  Last week it was 50 burpees in less than 5 minutes (barf) and this week it was 2000 m row in less than 9 minutes (+2 if under 8).

Out of all of these, the sleep has been the hardest.  We go to the 5 am class, so we get up around 4:35, meaning that we have an 8:35 pm bedtime.  It’s really fun explaining that to your friends.  On the other hand, it’s been awesome actually getting enough sleep.  I don’t feel nearly as desperate on the weekend to log a few extra hours.

I look forward to seeing the results, and hopefully I will post a few good workouts or recipes here before it’s over.  Until next time.

Don’t you just hate it when virtue has its rewards?

Howdy folks,

Back after another long break.  I’m really not very good at this whole blogging thing.  It’s been pretty rough with everything that’s been going on.  But since my project at work is now largely behind me, I should hopefully be able to spend a bit more time here.

As you might have read in the last post, I took part in a Paleo Food Challenge along with a bunch of people from Village Crossfit.  As I predicted, it wasn’t fun a lot of the time, but I have to say, I was pretty surprised at the results.

I’ll be honest, during that period, I was not very good about making working out a priority.  I was traveling a lot, and I didn’t get my act together to sign up again at Crossfit Mobile (partially because I started working a midnight-noon shift that didn’t jive real well with their class schedule).  Regardless, I should have done more.  However, I was pretty good about sticking to the diet rules.

I think I should probably take this opportunity to share my personal philosophy on paleo.  I figure I follow it about 90%.  I skip the processed food, the cereals, the grains, the dairy, etcetera.  However, I will still use a condiment like ketchup or mustard, and I don’t insist on organic, free range meat.  While I’d believe that eating grass-fed beef is probably better for you, I also would like to spend some of my free time NOT at the grocery store.  Also, when I would go out to eat (as I did a fair amount while working out-of-state), I just could not bring myself to be the guy asking the waitress if the salad dressing contained any canola oil.

Anyway, at the end of this challenge, despite the reduced gym schedule and less healthy food, I still lost 10 pounds.  I couldn’t believe it when I stepped on the scale.  And while I was happy to see that result, I was also a little disappointed.  I guess I was hoping that all this healthy eating was a load of hooey, and that it wouldn’t really make a difference.  Wrong.  Also, when I went on a little binge afterwards (burger, shake, queso, mmmm), my body let me know that it didn’t appreciate the sudden change.

paleo tree

Bonus poster my wife saw at her doctor’s office.  Intense!

So I think that from here on out, I’m going to try to maintain the paleo lifestyle 5-6 days a week.  I may have a beer after a rough Wednesday at work, and I might go to a Thursday happy hour, but I am going to try to maintain the gains I’ve realized.  And to keep me honest, I went and got a body composition test so I can check in a month or two to see if I can still improve.  I’m a huge nerd, so having numbers that I can through into a spreadsheet and create graphs is a huge bonus for me.  Oh, and I’ve also signed up for 5 days a week at the gym for the month of May.  I’m sure it’s gonna hurt, but let’s see where I end up June 1st.

Cheers!

 

This is not gonna be fun…

Today marks day one of a forty day paleo challenge.  I cannot express how excited I am.  Because I’m not.  My favorite food is pizza, and based on the prohibition of flour and cheese imposed by paleo, I can have a pile of pizza sauce with veggies.  Woohoo.

To be clear, while I plan on following the spirit of paleo, I am not going to follow it to the letter.  My meat will not be organic, grass-fed creatures who were hunted down with sharpened sticks.  Nor am I going to seek out condiments (think ketchup, mustard, etc) that contain nothing but organic veggies and the sweat of angels.  But I am going to avoid grains, dairy, sugar and as much processed food as possible.

I am doing this because while I am pretty good about staying active, my diet is lacking in discipline.  I love pasta, rice, cookies, cheese, pizza, milkshakes, fried food, etc…  Done well, it’s delicious (and let’s face it, mediocre pizza is still pretty good).  But I’ve wondered if I could get better gains if I paired working out (currently a mix of running and Crossfit) with a seriously planned diet.  There’s a certain amount of vanity here, I’ll admit.  I think of the statements “bodies are built in the kitchen, not the gym” and that “gains are 80% diet based” and the like, and while I don’t quite believe it, what’s the harm in looking into it.

A bunch of the other people at Village Crossfit have also bought into this challenge, so hopefully the group as a whole will help keep me honest.  Also, there’s the 1 mile run + 50 burpee penalty for cheating.  So here’s hoping I’ll see some results in April.

Summer Cooking – Grilled Pork Loin Chops

Hello all,

I wish I could say that my absence is due to the fact that I was called away to perform a functionality audit of a top secret facility housing dinosaurs, but that’s just not the case.  Anyway, I’m back!

One thing that I miss here at my new digs is easy access to a grill.  I love grilling.  The food is incredibly varied, and I do believe there is something satisfying about the nature of cooking food over flame.  It’s very caveman.  I also love that there are no dishes to clean, and how in the summer, it keep excess heat from inside your home.  I grew up grilling year round, and it would always confuse when people thought it was odd that I was out grilling chicken or steak while it was snowing.  You just have to be a little more vigilant in how you rest the meat, but otherwise it’s no different than cooking on the 4th of July.  To be honest, when I moved to my first apartment after college, I was kind of stumped on how to do a simple preparation of chicken without a grill.

Anyway, here in Houston, I am not allowed to have a grill on my apartment’s deck.  Some fire code nonsense.  There are several charcoal grills scattered around the complex however, so I’ve been using those.  Now, I’m sure there are plenty of grill aficionados out there that will disagree with me on this, but I have to say: charcoal is stupid.

I don’t like charcoal.  I don’t like the time it takes to prepare it, I don’t like maintaining the fire, and I dislike the lack of control.  Gas/propane is so much easier, and quite frankly, I see no difference in the taste.  Now, if we are talking barbecue (which I learned in college here in Texas is something VERY different from grilling), I see the logic of charcoal (sort of). But at that point, you are cooking with the smoke, not from the heat of the combustible fuel, but I digress.  Some people out there will say that it’s just because I lack the skill to prepare and maintain a multi level fire, and that charcoal is just as good or better than gas for all things grilling.  Perhaps I do lack the skill.  Or perhaps I just want to be able to walk outside, turn some knobs and hit a button, and be rewarded with controllable heat that I don’t have to shovel around like a 19th century stoker.  But in any case, I’m dealing with it, although as you can tell from the rant above, not exactly gracefully.

Summer Cooking - Grill KitThis is my grilling kit.  I throw everything I can into a big Tupperware container to make it easier to haul things to the grill.  At any given time, it has charcoal, newspaper, chimney starter (not pictured) and lighter inside.  And then there is enough room to throw in any meal-specific items like tongs, spatula, the food itself (little Tupperware containers are your friends) and, of course, beer.  Beer just tastes better with flame nearby.

Summer Cooking - Chimney StarterHere’s my chimney starter.  Great invention.  If you are forced to grill with charcoal, I’d recommend coughing up the $20 to get one.  It makes the process a lot easier.  Basically you fill the thing with charcoal (I like the natural lump charcoal because I think it starts faster and lacks the chemical tang of Kingsford, although I must admit I smile every time I smell said tang in the air at the beginning of summer), stuff newspaper in the bottom cavity (it works better if you spritz the newspaper with cooking oil – Thanks Alton Brown!), and light the newspaper.  You should have usable heat in about 15 minutes.

 

Summer Cooking - Chimney Starter LitOooo….fire…..

Shake out the coals and arrange as you see fit.  Be careful not to burn yourself.  I’ve singed off more hair than I care to remember.

I did one of my Costco runs today to restock my freeze.  I get a bunch of steak, chicken, pork and whatever else looks good, and then I spend an hour or so cleaning and prepping all of it.  It’s a pain to trim the fat off 5-10 steaks, and then 4 pork tenderloin, and then a dozen lamb chops, and then blah blah blah… but it’s worth it.  All I have to do is grab the item out of the freezer, put it in the fridge, and 24-36 hours I have a thawed piece ready for cooking that I don’t have to bother with trimming or portioning on a weeknight.

Anyway, I picked up some pork loin chops.  These are pretty lean, and they have a reputation for drying out quickly, so I decided to go for a quick brine to try to infuse some more moisture.  To be honest, the amount of time they were in the brine (about 90 minutes) is probably not enough to really give them an infusion, but alas, I failed to plan appropriately.  It’s been a long week.  Here’s what went into it

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup watered down bourbon (this can be found the morning after you’ve had friends over when you didn’t feel like cleaning up the night before)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

I’d recommend upping all the spices (but not the salt).  It imparted some flavor, but it needed a good deal more.  Mix it all up in a container big enough to hold it and the meat you plan to brine.  Add the meat, and let brine for 1-24 hours.

Summer Cooking - Brining

For the cooking, I went 5 minutes per side over direct heat on the grill, then 5 minutes on indirect heat, and then a 5 minute rest for 20 minutes totally.  I would give you a low-med-high setting for the heat but alas, charcoal doesn’t come with settings.

Summer Cooking - Loin ChopsGrilling away over indeterminate heat.

Summer Cooking - BeerI cannot stress enough that beer makes grilling better.  In fact, it makes damn near everything better.

The pork was nice and juicy, but as I mentioned before, needed more assertive flavors.  It probably would have benefitted from some more acidic components as well.  I’ll know for next time.

I hope to be updating a bit more frequently, and to hopefully guilt myself into writing another post, tune in tomorrow for a grilled dessert!

 

 

Back to Basics: Oven Roasted Chicken

Hi folks,

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and I wish I could blame it entirely on Hurricane Sandy, but alas, that’s only part of it.  A week without power does put a damper on computer usage, but then with Thanksgiving, a work trip and a pyscotically hectic life over the last month, and this sort of fell by the wayside.  But I’m back!

Anyway, the recipe I’m showcasing here is what I like to call “Wifey Chicken”.  The original recipe (found here) calls this “Engagement Chicken”, but by the time my wife made it for me, we were already married, hence: “Wifey Chicken”.  It even has its own Wikipedia entree.  That’s how you know it’s legit.

This is a pretty basic recipe, but it’s undeniably delicious.  First you wash and season the chicken, and pour lemon juice over and inside it:
P1020603Then you stuff it with a couple of lemons and throw it in the oven.
P1020624While it bakes, I suggest prepping some vegitables.  We’re currently following the “paleolithic diet” for a couple of weeks to make up for a somewhat glutenous Thanksgiving week, but it’s also very good with potatoes or risotto.
P1020625Anyway, I find the chicken’s cooking time to not really match the recipes, but once the temperature hits 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, it’s probably done.  While it rests, I’d recommend making a gravy, because who doesn’t like gravy?

I started by browning the giblets:
P1020609And then simmering them in the pan drippings.  I seasoned it with salt, pepper, nature’s seasoning and gravy master.  Then just mix in some flour and your done!
P1020628And then you end up with this:

P1020641A nice homey meal, that tastes especially good with the cold weather of the season.

Banh Mi Meatballs

Hello readers,

I have a bit of a confession to make.  In the week since the Newport Half-marathon, I’ve sort of fallen off the fitness wagon.  I fell into that “I just worked really hard!  I deserve this time off/delicious food/sugary beverage” hole.  It happens.  I know it did after the Colorado Tough Mudder, and I think it really hurt my running.  So I’m taking this opportunity to hop back on the wagon, and hopefully by doing so publicly, I’ll stick to it better.

And so here we go with a healthy Vietnamese-style sandwich!  Going through some back issues of “Bon Appetit”, I ran across a bunch of meatball recipes.  My wife is a huge fan of the Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich, so when she saw this recipe, she demanded we make it.

In the interests of health, we substituted ground turkey for the ground pork, and used light mayonnaise, but otherwise, it’s a pretty healthy.  And I really like the contrast of the sweet pickled vegetables against the savory meatballs.  It also adds a nice crunch to each bite.

I started with the veggies, since they need about an hour to pickle:

It called for shredding the carrots and daikon (I used regular radishes, and I think it worked fine), but I really hate cleaning the grater, so I just did a little extra knife work.  The amount of sugar in the pickle surprised me, and it definitely results in a sweet taste, but it really works in the finished product.

The meatballs come together like you’d expect.  One thing I’d like emphasise is that as much fun as it is to really squish all the ingredients together, you want to handle the meat as gently as possible.  Use your hands and a motion almost like you would when folding in baking ingredients.  When it comes to forming the meatballs, bring the meat together by cupping it with your fingers instead of your palms.  This will result to a lighter meatball.  Of course, if a dense meatball is more your thing (and no judgement there), go nuts and really pack it together.

The downside of making these lighter meatballs is that they are more prone to breaking apart when cooking.  But this can be addressed with a different technique in turning them.  Instead of using tongs, grab a pair of spoons and use them to gently scoop the meatballs from the cooking surface and turn them.  It also allows you to make sure you get nice browning on all sides when you cook them on the range-top.

Once you’ve cooked all the meatballs, the sandwiches come together pretty fast.  You scoop out a channel in the bread so the ingredients stay in place better.  Put a layer of the spicy mayo on the bread, put down some cilantro, add the meatballs (I would also recommend cutting the meatballs in half so they are less likely to roll away from you), top with the veggies, and cap it  off with the other half of the bread.  Then you get this:

Fairly quick and healthy, and tasty to boot.  Enjoy!