Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why Kashi isn't as "Heart-Healthy" as you Think

1-2 cups Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal
1-2 cups of Milk (usually 1%)
Handful of Walnuts
Mix and Enjoy

This is what my breakfast looked like nine times out of ten for the past decade or more. I grew up eating a lot of cereal as a kid, and I continued into adult hood. I remember having so many boxes of cereal that my brother and I would build cereal fortresses (even though we were sitting besides each other). Then we would spend the next half an hour or more reading the boxes, doing crossword puzzles and finishing mazes. We turned it cereal into an event!

For me, cereal at breakfast was as traditional as a lasagna on Thanksgiving (c'mon - were Italian). I didn't just eat it for breakfast though, because it was equally as good as a snack, post work out meal, or even dinner if I didn't feel like cooking. It's so easy to prepare, and you can feel good about eating it because it's healthy, right?

That's what I thought, until I read Robb Wolf's book "The Paleo Solution." His book is based on what our hunter/gatherer ancestors used to eat BEFORE the advent of agriculture. Numerous studies show the effect of grains, dairy, and legumes as being gut irritants, and that once these foods were adapted into our diet they had a profound effect on the health of our ancestors. I'd like to point you to a great article written by Robb who explains the idea much better than I can.

NorCal Nutrition: Are We Crazy?

All this to say that I haven't had a bowl of cereal for a month and a half (as long as I've been on the paleo diet). I don't really crave it anymore, but sometimes I do wish breakfast was easy again. No more cereal, and no more shakes. Cooking isn't hard; it's just time consuming. But, the positives definitely out way the negatives, and I know that I am putting excellent fuel into my body, so I can look, feel and perform at my best.

Also, here is a great review of Robb's book at the blog Modern Paleo.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Know Thy Fishmonger

I failed. Not once but twice. Both times I over cooked my tuna steaks, and they turned out horrible. Cooking salmon seems to be easy enough - especially with the skin on. You just toss it in the pan with some oil over medium heat. Then I usually flip it over for a minute or so and presto! Delicious. Tuna - not so much.

The tuna steak is interesting because it bridges the gap between surf and turf (sort of), giving non-red-meat eaters something to be excited about. Typically the tuna that I eat comes in a can, and most of it tastes and smells like cat food. Enter Tonno. This is tuna packed in olive oil and a little salt and is downright delicious. When I lived in Charlotte, I found it at Harris Teeter, but I have been unable to find Tonno at our local Giant. I might have to venture over to Wegmens to find it. That place has everything you could ever want. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could live there - permanently.

This is great if you are on the go or need to make a quick meal, but what if you have more time? What did I do wrong? Did I need to marinate it? Obviously, I needed to cook it less, but how much less? How pink can you leave it?

After a little digging these seem to be consistent tips for cooking your best tuna steak:

  1. Make sure your fish is pink and has a firm flesh. (thinking back, my tuna was more of a gray then pink - gross)
  2. Buy the steak the day you intend to cook it, or put in fridge overnight. Do not freeze the steak. (I had it in my fridge for 4 days, but to be fair I don't think it was fresh to begin with. Sorry Giant)
  3. Marinate over night for best flavor (I should have done this)
  4. Use salt and pepper to taste (Check)
  5. Put heat source on high (Check)
  6. Sear both sides for 3-5 minutes. Do not cover. (Perhaps over cooked by a few minutes, plus I covered it. Now, I'm breaking rules left and right)
  7. Allow it to cook 1/4in on each side, still rare in middle is fine. (Definitely not still rare when I was done)

So, now that I have some tips I'm going to go back to the grocery store to give this another shot. Do you have any favorite tuna steak recipes? Here are two that look uber tasty and paleo-friendly too.

Recipe 1: Blackened Tuna Steaks with Mango Salsa
Recipe 2: Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna Steak

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 32 - The End of My Paleo Challenge

I'm done. I can start eating what ever I want now. My 30 day Paleo Challenge is over! But what do I want to do. This experiment certainly had its highs and lows. Do I want to continue? Let's see if I can organize my thoughts on this.

The Good

  • Eating more vegetables
  • Cooking more
  • Better performance in hockey and workouts
  • Eating 3 meals instead of 5 per day 
  • More involved in the food chain (farmers market)
  • Noticeably better looking skin
  • Overall feeling of limberness

The Bad

  • Consistently feel lower level of energy than before
  • Bad breath is more common
  • More expensive than mostly grain based diet

The Ugly

  • I still miss cereal !!!

Overall, I am very impressed with the effect that eating this way has had on my body. I am going to continue to use it as a blueprint for my nutrition and just tweak with some of the variables. Perhaps, I have to add in more carbohydrates because I feel a lack of energy.

All in all there are not a lot of downside to this approach to nutrition. Have you tried the 30-day challenge yet? If not, give it a shot. It's not too late to make it your New Years Resolution. As for me, it's time to decide my cheat meal, so I can see how the grains, dairy and legumes will affect my body now that my gut has healed. Mmmm, I'm thinking either Captain Crunch or a nice PBJ should do the trick.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

7 Quick Cooking Tips from a Noob

Cooking is an art, and like most art it takes time to craft and master. On my exciting return to cooking, thanks to the paleo-diet, I have learned a few things that I would like to share.

  1. Lemon makes just about any meat or vegetable tasty - I have tried squeezing fresh lemon on anything from fish to broccoli to parsnips. I'm guessing limes, oranges and other citrus fruits will work just as well.
  2. Steaming vegetables is SO easy - This is definitely my new favorite method of cooking veggies.
  3. Balsamic reduction sounds a lot more complex then it is - It's very easy and adds a rich and slightly sweet flavor to your dish. Here is a good discussion on CHOW.
  4. Having the right equipment helps - No need to go overboard, but you need the basics. Right not I'm using my skillet to cover the top to my pans when I steam. Probably time to invest in some basic kitchen ware.
  5. Learn useful tips from the Food Network and Cooking Channel - I don't watch a lot of TV, but I do have 10-15 minutes while I'm eating. The Cooking Channel has really grow on me recently. I feel they have a lot more helpful shows, where as the Food Network still has shows like Unwrapped. No offense Mark Summers, but I liked you better on Double Dare.
  6. Fresh is better than frozen - This is true with nearly everything. Frozen veggies just don't taste as good as the fresh ones. I know this is pretty standard advice, and some times we need to take shortcuts in cooking, but from now on I'm going to try to limit my frozen vegetables.
  7. Find a good mentor - Having a friend who is also interested in cooking making it all the more enjoyable. Especially, when they can steer you in the right direction when it comes to new food, spices to use, cooking methods ect. Don't have a friend that likes to cook? That's what number 5 is for.
Those were just some quick tips that I've learned recently. I have had some successful meals and definitely some busts, but I'm loving getting back into it. Isn't that what it's all about? Have any other tips for beginner chefs? Feel free to add a comment.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 29 - Better than a glass of warm milk

Okay, I had to make a post about this. I love Peter Gillham's natural calm magnesium supplement. It tastes slightly citrusy, but it's not off-putting. I simply mix it with water and take it before I go to bed. It really does help me relax, since I can never seem to get off the computer an hour before bed like your supposed to.

I actually look forward to taking this supplement, because I can tell a difference. Not only can I tell within a few minutes that it is making me relaxed, but I also feel refreshed in the morning. Not the jump-out-of-bed awake I somehow experienced in my first post about Natural Calm, but I generally feel pretty great with about 7-8 hours of sleep plus natural calm.

Conclusion: I've been very happy with this supplement in only a week or so of use. I still have a month's supply or more, so I'll continue to test, but the initial results are great. Anyone looking to relax or wind down before bed would certainly benefit from a few scoops of Natural Calm.

ps. I got the unflavored one, but judging by the taste of this the raspberry one is probably pretty tasty as well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 26 - The Vegetable that sounds like a Japanese game show

To continue my momentum of cooking new veggies, I will try my hand at the mighty Daikon! Yes, part of the radish family, - this root vegetable looks like a big white carrot. I couldn't find a whole lot of recipes online (CHOW failed me), so I decided just to slice it (1/4in thick) and toss on some olive oil, salt, pepper, and various spices. This seems to work pretty well for most vegetables. Then, I put the sliced Daikon in a cooking dish in the oven at 450 for 30 minutes. I'll check on it from there.

To go with the Daikon, I some Morrocan spiced Lamb sausage that I bought at the farmers market yesterday. I'm not sure how I'm going to pull it all together, but I don't need anything elaborate since I'm cooking for myself.

Other things to note since I've been paleo:

  1. My appreciation for vegetables has skyrocketed
  2. I have definitely adjusted to the low carb approach (I still have cravings, but my stomach isn't growling all the time)
  3. My appreciation for cooking increased (I really enjoy the time I spend preparing my food, which is how it should be - before I would just toss a meal together as quick as possible)
  4. My performance has been really good in regards to hockey, running, and strength training
  5. I love only eating 3 meals. I feel a little more sane when it comes to food now (maybe not from an outside perspective)

All in all, this experiment has forever changed the way that I interact with food, and I'm not sure I want to go back to the way I was doing it before. I have seen and experienced a lot that has convinced me that this might be a better way of living/eating. Of course eating more veggies is helpful, but how about the other stuff?

I have 3 or so more days and then I will start to re-introduce the grains, dairy, and legumes one at a time to see how they effect my body. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 24 - I made 'em extra schloppy for ya!

I have been cooking up a storm recently. My latest creation was sloppy joes on a bed of purple cabbage and slices of avocado. The sloppy joes were fantastic, and it makes me feel better that I am starting to cook a lot more foods. When I was eating mostly grains, I always felt like I was just preparing something. It was always rice this, or sandwich that, in order to get the number of carbs I needed. But now I am actually cooking things. Other meals/foods I recently tried:

Artichoke - and so ends my successful run at cooking new vegetables - those are hard to eat/cook!
Brussels sprouts - I actually liked these! What does that mean?? Was this my first time eating them?
Asparagus - this was easy to cook, in the steamer
Sirloin steak - courtesy of Alton Brown this was delicious
Balsamic reduction - WHY did I not know how easy and tasty this was. I just tossed some mushrooms/onions/garlic with some balsamic vinegar and it was soooo good

Also, I am very much looking forward to the Farmers Market. I need to get there earlier this time though. 12 o clock isn't going to cut it if I want my choice of meats and eggs!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 22 - Rise and SHINE

Did I just wake up at 6am and not go back to sleep? Yes, this feels weird, but it also feels great. Today marks one of the very, very few times where I am waking up and ready to go. I feel refreshed!

So, I didn't wait until the end of my 30 days to try all the supplements. I tried Peter Gillham's Natural Calm last night. I mixed a teaspoon with hot water and sipped on it before bed. I immediately felt a little more at ease, just kind of in a read-for-bed mood. So, I read a little bit of my fiction book of choice (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), and then got ready for bed.

I felt like I was tossing around a lot last night. I felt pretty restless like my body wanted to get up, so I figured it was around 7:30 8 o clock. Nope, it was 6am. But I felt ready to get up and go, I did not even feel like trying to go back to sleep. I did go to bed at 10:30 though, and 7.5 hours of sleep does me pretty well, but even still. Usually, when I go to bed earlier I just end up sleeping for longer especially without an alarm clock. Perhaps, that means my cortisol levels are good (high in morning and low at night).

Either way, I'll need more testing to see how I do in the long run, but the first night's sleep using the magnesium supplement was a success!