Category Archives: 3-Eat

EAT: Weird and Wonderful Avocados

Photo by: Jiggs Images

The avocado is a weird and wonderful fruit. The weirdness starts with the name. Sometimes called the butter pear or alligator pear, the name avocado comes from the Nahuatl or Aztecan word ahuacatl. Ahuacatl means testicle, an obvious reference to the shape of the fruit. Ahuacatl can be combined to form compound words like Ahuacamolli (guacamole), avocado (or testicle) soup.

The avocado is a natural anachronism. It appears to have co-evolved with animals that are now extinct. The large size of the fruit and pit indicate that avocados developed as a food source for mega-fauna, such as giant ground sloths. These giant mammals would eat the fruit and disperse the undigested seed in their dung.

Courtesy of Mark Bittman, we have an easier method for peeling and removing the pit of an avocado. Score the avocado lengthwise, all the way around. Grab the two halves of the avocado in either hand, and twist them in opposite directions. Pull the avocado apart. The pit will be lodged in one half. Tap the pit with your knife, just hard enough to embed the edge in the pit. Use the knife to pull out or dislodge the pit. Once the pit is removed, use a spoon to scoop the fruit out of the two halves, leaving the tough alligator skin behind.

Although avocados are at their peak in the Spring and Summer, they are often shipped before they are fully ripe. Growers and retailers expect the avocado to ripen en route and while sitting in produce bins. This means that the avocados at your local grocery store may not be ready to be eaten right away.

There are a few tricks that can help you speed ripen your avocados. I put apples in the bottom of a fruit basket and set my avocados on top of them. Apples release ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process. If you need the process to run faster, set your fruit basket in the sun. The heat will speed the release of the gas and step up the ripening process. You can also place your avocados in a paper bag with some apples. The paper bag traps the ethylene gas, leading to faster ripening times.

You will want to use your ripe avocados right away, because they have a tendency to transition from ripe to rotten quickly. In keeping with the weird and wonderful theme, here are three unexpected ways that you can use ripe avocados and a few honorable mentions for future experiments.

As a meat substitute: The best known use of avocados as a meat substitute is in the California roll, where avocado substitutes for raw tuna to create a one-off sushi roll.

Photo by: lorenia


In vegetarian chile, avocado can be added before serving to provide a meaty quality to the dish. Note, you don’t want to simmer the avocado with the chile, as this will change its consistency. Rather, add fresh cubed avocado to the bowl and pour the chile over it.

As a pudding: Avocado pudding has quickly become my favorite pre-workout fuel. @CastleGrok and lots of other paleo / primal people that I follow on twitter love this stuff.

Photo by: Lin Pernille


There are various recipes. This is my version. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients, proportions, etc.

Ingredients:

1 avocado

1 banana

½ pint of whipping cream

½ teaspoon of vanilla

3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa

¾ teaspoon of cinnamon

Method: Place ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend to the desired consistency (add cream as necessary). Spoon from blender to serving bowls. Cover and refrigerate. As an extra treat, you can add shredded coconut and dark chocolate chips.

As a smoothie: If there is no avocado pudding in the fridge (it goes fast), here is an easy to make smoothie that is pure rocket fuel.

Photo by: Rsms


Ingredients:

1 avocado

½ cup (or more) frozen raspberries

1 cup orange juice

Method: Place ingredients in a blender. Blend to the desired consistency (add more orange juice as necessary).

The utility of the avocado may be the one thing that paleo / primal eaters and vegans agree on. So, here are two honorable mentions, one from each camp.

Photo by: Evil Erin

Paleo / Primal honorable mention: @RogerDeRok‘s concept for a breakfast grenade. One avocado peeled and pitted. One peeled hard-boiled egg. Remove the white from the egg and place the yolk in the space left by the pit of the avocado. Reassemble the avocado and wrap / serve with bacon.

Vegan honorable mention: Vegan Explosion’s avocado pie has lemon lime flavor, cheese cake consistency, graham cracker crust, and chocolate sauce. What’s not to like.

The fun does not have to stop in the kitchen, as avocado’s also make great pets. Meet Patricia – Taryn’s pet avocado plant.

At first, working with avocados may seem a little weird, but they are a wonderful super-food (for detailed nutrition information, you should click here) and are easily incorporated into multiple creative food projects.

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

Vegetarian Chili

Tropical Snowboard Mix and Other Recipes From the Twitterverse

DIY Greek Style Yogurt

EAT: Vegetarian Chili

Castle Grok who is alternately trying to kill himself with massive amounts of training (triathlon) or work, recently decided to veer off of his primal eating style and experiment with a vegan diet.  He is going vegan for a short period of time (4-6 weeks), then plans to reintroduce meats, but only high quality meats (mostly game that he has hunted himself).

Meet Castle Grok

This n=1 experiment has been going on for a couple of weeks and he has made some interesting discoveries: Honestly, I’m amazed at how well my joints are doing despite being off the fish oils. They’re better than ever.  Set a new record on my short bike loop today on legs I beat on all weekend. This experience has been a little humbling in that regard. It’s hard to admit.

Inspired by his recent meals which have included lots of beans, I decided to make vegetarian chili.  When Castle Grok asked me to share my recipe, I decided to post it here for y’all (it’s chile – right) to experiment with.

Ingredients:

Beans – 4 cans: garbanzo, kidney, black, and pinto…you can substitute or add your favorites.  I like black eyed peas as a substitute for pinto beans.  Also, if you have more time, you can soak dry beans for a more healthy choice.

Tomatoes – 24 to 28 ounces: lots of options here.  You can use stewed whole tomatoes and crush them by hand, you can use tomato sauce, or salsa (I used salsa).  Again, for a more healthy choice, prep your own tomatoes, sauce, or salsa.

2 onions: peeled, sliced, and sautéed.

5 cloves of garlic – peeled, crushed, diced, and sautéed.

1 dried chile pepper.

1 handful of diced black olives.

Herbs and spice: oregano, allspice, ancho chile powder – Mix and match according to your tastes.

1 avocado.

Preparation:

This is one of many recipes where I find an alternate use for my rice cooker.  Rinse beans in a colander and add to the rice cooker.  Add tomatoes (crushed, sauce, or salsa).  Add onions and garlic.  Crush the dried chile pepper (I use my trusty rock for this) and add.  Add olives.  Stir ingredients together.  Add herbs and spice.  Stir again.  Set rice cooker to cook.  When the rice cooker switches from cook to warm, check and stir the chili.  If you want to cook it some more, check the level of the liquid, add water if needed, and set to cook.  Otherwise, you can leave the chili in the rice cooker on warm, until you are ready to eat.  Just before serving the chili, peel the avocado, remove the pit, and cube.  Add the avocado to the bowls you will serve the chili in.  Ladle chili into bowls and over avocado.

Of course, this is chili, so you can experiment with the ingredients, method of preparation, and serving style.  For example, I made home fries, used them as a bottom layer, added the avocado, ladled on the chili, and topped with grated cheddar cheese (adding cheese means its not vegan…so, Castle Grok will have to leave that off).  The real secret of this recipe is using a rice cooker, which makes cooking and clean up a cinch.  What are the secret tricks that make your chili special?

Thanks to Castle Grok for sharing his experiments and his experiences and for asking about my chili.  I hope he likes it.  To find out more about Castle Grok, you should visit his video and web log at Castle Grok: Chronicles of a Modern Caveman.

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

Flipping Switches and Turning Dials

Do Nutrition Labels Increase Food Cravings

Blanch Those Veggies

EAT: The Underground Guide to Eating Right

Photo by: Darwin Bell

This post started out as a tongue in cheek comment at Matt Stone’s blog – 180 Degree Health.  It’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves and our fascination with finding the perfect diet is a never-ending source of humor.  For a few giggles, just stroll through the health/diet/nutrition section of your local book store and read the titles.

On the other hand, it seems that a well-marketed diet book is guaranteed to make money, no matter how nutty the premise.  There must be a formula for these books something like: (1) evocative title, (2) reference to some science based hypothesis (without mention of conflicting data), and (3) the mostly true story of someone overcoming great odds and terrible health to punch out on the other side as a super human or at least as a super-model.

My diet book idea came to me after reading Food for Thought?, a fascinating article from UC Santa Cruz’s Science Notes 2009.  The article explores the work of anthropologists researching the hypothesis that buried vegetables fueled one of the greatest leaps in our evolution: the growth of larger, smarter brains.  I bet, you can guess where I am heading with this…a pop-diet that advocates eating primarily foods that come from underground.

Catchy title:  The Underground Guide to Eating Right!  (Not Skinny Bitch or South Beach, but catchy enough).  Easy to understand science based premise (as long as you ignore the alternative hypothesis that meat may have provided the necessary additional calories, or that cooking vegetables allowed for more efficient digestion, thereby unlocking access to more calories, or that some combination of meat, cooked vegetables, and underground storage organs -no kidding that’s what these fun loving anthropologists call things like potatoes and yams- supplied more calories).  Check.  Now all we need is a testimonial from someone willing to subsist for 6 to 12 months on nothing but food that can be dug out of the ground…

In the meantime, here are some kitchen tips, recipes, and links to help get you started with the Underground Guide to Eating Right!

Onions and Garlic:

How to Avoid Crying When Chopping Onions: I used to dread peeling and chopping onions until I read this post at Lifehacker.  Cutting out the tear gas grenade really works.

How to Smash Garlic: For the paleo-lifestyle folks – My favorite kitchen utensil is a rock.  I use it almost every day to smash garlic.  Then, if I need smaller pieces, I cross-cut the garlic with a knife.

Photo by: Darwin Bell

Beets: The Zen to Fitness post 8 Great Foods You Are Probably Missing got me motivated to cook more beets.  But, beets can be messy.  Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian gave me an easy less messy way to prepare beets.  Individually wrap your beets in tin foil.  Place them in a baking pan or on a baking sheet and bake for 40-45m at 400.  When the beets are cooked, slice and serve or save for later and slice, then heat up in a skillet with some olive oil or butter.  Also, beets are a doubly good deal, because you get the tops, which are delicious, when chopped and sautéed with butter and garlic.

Carrots: Summer Tomato’s links of the week, led me to a recipe for Roasted Baby Carrots, with Chile, Mint and Orange Glaze at The Bitten Word.  If you never thought of spicy and carrots going together, think again, this recipe rocks!

Sweet Potatoes: Are a breakfast staple here in Korea and, right now, they are in season.  Preparation is very simple: poke a few holes in them, wrap in foil, bake at 400 for 1 hour.  They stay warm in the foil until you are ready to eat them.  If you want to be more creative, Zen to Fitness recommends trying them mashed with berries, drizzled with coconut oil, and topped with cinnamon.

Good Old Regular Potatoes: Here is a simple, but versatile recipe for potatoes.  Boil them until they soften, drain, cube, and skillet fry with onions.  I use butter, but  Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal, prefers to use bacon fat.  Another alternative  is to add fresh rosemary and serve with dinner instead of breakfast.

Well, that should get the ball rolling…I can’t wait to see what it’s like to be the head of my very own pop-diet empire…Coming Soon – I’m On A Boat: The Underground Guide to Cooking At Sea.

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

EAT: Do Nutrition Labels Increase Food Cravings

EAT: Blanch Those Veggies

EAT: Nootropics

 

Tropical Snowboard Mix and Other Recipes From the Twitterverse

I recently got serious about exploring Twitter and it was like turning on a fire hose of information.

Image by: grebenru

Along with all of the information, there are lots of helpful people.

So helpful in fact, that I am going to let them help me write this post!  These are recipes that have been provided by or inspired by people I am following on Twitter.

Max / NU_FiT has been very generous in helping me out on Twitter.  He also posted a recipe for home-made organic ketchup and is responsible for the 9 Feb 2010 workout.

Chris B / Zen to Fitness inspired me to find an easy way to cook beets: wrap them in foil and bake at 400 for 45 minutes.  Set them aside.  Whenever you are ready to eat them, just slice them up and heat them in a skillet.  I also chopped, then pan fried the greens with butter and garlic.

Matt Stone / 180 Degree Health provided a knife skills video that changed the way I hold a knife, while slicing and dicing.  He also went on about macadamia nuts.  Meanwhile, Zen to Fitness and CastleGrok were putting up very positive posts about coconut and coconut flakes.  In the end, they all helped inspire this recipe for Tropical Snowboard Mix: banana chips, coconut flakes, cashews, macadamias, and dark chocolate chips.

Speaking of Castle Grok his frequent posts about coconut milk led to two great experiments.  One, I modified my green smoothie recipe.  I added half a can of coconut milk and subtracted an equal amount of orange juice.  So now, the recipe is: frozen spinach, frozen mango chunks, half a can of coconut milk and just enough orange juice to blend it all smooth.  Two, he linked to this awesome recipe for scrambled eggs/dessert using coconut milk.  I made it using my rice cooker to steam the eggs, which made them nice and fluffy.  I sprinkled them with cinnamon and topped it all off with strawberries.

Twitter is swarming with talented creative people sharing tons of information, hints, and tips.  I have been exposed to great ideas relating to work, exercise, and food.  Experiments have followed and as you can see the results have been positive.  Many thanks to NU_FiT, Zen To Fitness, 180 Degree Health, and Castle Grok!

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

EAT: DIY Greek Style Yogurt

EAT: Super Oatmeal

EAT: Mango in Coconut Milk

Do Nutrition Labels Increase Food Cravings?

 

Photo by: joelogon

On June 13, 1966, Miranda v. Arizona was decided by the United States Supreme Court.  And, television changed forever.  Since that date, American police dramas have used the line: You have the right to remain silent…as the universal mechanism for signalling  that the police have got their man.

Miranda was a 5-4 decision.  It was a controversial decision.  Law enforcement officials denounced Miranda as undermining the efficiency of the police and warned that it would contribute to an increase in crime.

But, in practice, Miranda had no such effect.  Instead, reading suspects their Miranda warnings lent a sense of legitimacy to subsequent police questioning.  And, rather than assert their rights, suspects routinely waived them and made statements against their own interests.

Also in 1966, the United States government mandated that all cigarette packages display  the warning, Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health. Since then, warning labels on cigarettes have grown larger and become more explicit.  With these labels from Australia likely winning the prize for greatest shock value.  Yet, despite these warnings, smoking is not a marginalized business.  Worldwide, 5,763 billion cigarettes are sold annually, which works out to about 15 billion daily, and roughly 10 million per minute.

Photos by: foboat

In chapter 1 of his book buy-OLOGY, Martin Lindstrom discusses studies in the new field of neuromarketing.  In these studies, brain activity is monitored and recorded as consumers are exposed to products, brands, advertisements, and in one study cigarette warning labels.  For this particular study, smokers were asked to complete a questionnaire about cigarette warnings.  Unsurprisingly, smokers indicated that they felt that warning labels had a deterrent effect, causing them to smoke less.   Next, the same volunteers underwent MRI scanning.  During their brain scans, images of cigarette warnings were presented to the volunteers.  The results…cigarette warnings did nothing to decrease activity in the areas of the brain associated with cravings.  Rather, the results showed that exposure to the warning labels actually stimulated activity in the nucleus accumbens, affectionately known as the craving spot.  In the end, these results indicated that cigarette warning labels do nothing to deter smoking, instead they tend to instigate cravings for cigarettes.

In the United States, pursuant to the 1990 Nutrition Labelling and Education Act, the now ubiquitous nutrition facts label was mandated for most food products.  It seems apparent enough that over the last 20 years nutrition facts labels have done nothing to deter folks from eating non-nutritious foods.  My hypothesis is that like Miranda and tobacco warnings, nutrition facts labels tend to legitimize food products and to stimulate cravings for them.

For example, without the nutrition facts label, you know that ice cream is not a healthy snack.  If, while strolling through the grocery store, you innocently pick up a carton of ice cream to read the nutrition facts label and see how bad it really is, then any latent craving for ice cream is going to spring to life and become a strong force in subsequent decision making.   At this point, the probability of buying a carton of ice cream has dramatically increased.  You may not buy the first carton of ice cream that you picked up, but the search for a carton with more appealing numbers on its nutrition facts label has likely started.  In the end, you may go home with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, but the probability that you are going home with some sort of frozen treat is nearly inevitable.  Which may be why, grocery stores and the manufacturers of food products are always exhorting you to compare labels.  Once you start comparing labels, the question of whether you will buy something or not is likely settled, now it is only a question of what you will buy.

The best comment I have read on this topic is that you should not buy food products that come in packages and require a nutrition facts label.  Other than that annoying sticker, there is not much to read on the side of an apple.  On a more practical note, if you are undecided about whether you actually want to buy a food product or not, make up your mind before you pick it up and read the label, because once you pick it up, not buying is no longer an option.

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

EAT: Nootropics

EXERCISE: How To Set Goals to Meet Your Fitness and Performance Objectives

EXERCISE: The Importance of Rituals

Also SEE:

Tom Naughton’s Post: More Calorie Counting Nonsense

NY Times Well Blog: Six Meaningless Claims on Food Labels

EAT: Super Oatmeal

*I have sung the praises of oatmeal on this blog before and Steve kicked in a great summer time recipe using fresh strawberries and cold milk.   But, with the weather turning a little chillier, if your activities take you out of doors, you will want to fuel up with some super oatmeal.  This video clip from Stack TV will get you started, making a fast, delicious, nutrient packed breakfast for you or your hockey / snowboarding  / soccer playing little buddies.

*Oatmeal really lends itself to being creative.  Lately, I have been loving it with mashed banana, blueberries, shredded coconut, dark cocoa, butter, and honey.

Q: What do you add to make your oatmeal super?  Share your best oatmeal tips, ingredients, etc. in the comments section.

Squash – Fall Colors While You Eat

ButternutAutumn

Brilliant colors surround the city.  Shades of yellow, gold, orange, red and brown explode against a background of clear blue sky.  The dark evergreens stand out on the hills.  The air is crisp.

Photo by: judywross

During fall, along with the scenery, our foods change.  This fact is muted by the modern grocery store, where most products are available all of the time.  But, for those wanting to experiment with natural eating strategies, eating what is in season is a good place to start and fall foods bring nutrition and color to your plate.

Fall Food

Apples, pumpkin, cranberries, all present distinctive fall colors and flavors.  But, squash…the humble squash…offers an amazing variety of color, texture, and flavor.  Squash exhibits this same variety in its nutritional value as well.  Squash is a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.  Plus, the orange and yellow pigments of squash signal the presence of carotenoids.

Acorn Squash

This autumn, as you focus on eating what is in season, don’t forget to experiment with squash.

Photo by: shaferlens

If you are already a squash expert, please leave a comment with your favorite recipe, preparation tips, and serving suggestions.  If you need a place to start with squash, try this colorful and tasty experiment.

Squash with Mushrooms, Walnuts, and Feta

Ingredients:

—Butternut Squash

—Butter

—Salt and Pepper

—Button mushrooms

—Walnuts

—Feta cheese

Directions:

—Peel and cube the butternut squash.  Place in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and continue to boil until the squash is soft enough to mash.  Drain water.  Add butter, salt, and pepper.  Mash squash and other ingredients.

—Meanwhile, clean and slice the button mushrooms.  Warm the mushrooms in a frying pan to release their moisture and strengthen their flavor.  Then add mushrooms to squash.

—Place squash  / mushroom mix in a shallow baking pan.  Crumble feta cheese over top and cover with walnuts.  Bake at 350 until feta is soft and walnuts are toasted.