Saturday, September 10, 2011

Caribbean Seafood Stew by Everyday Paleo

Sarah over at Everyday Paleo has quite the following, and if you haven't checked out her website yet, DO IT. She comes up with some pretty original dishes. With three kids, she needs to stay on top of her game to keep them interested, and she does a fantastic job. Take a look at this recipe she posted yesterday (Mango Chicken Salad with Chipotle Mayo)... I'll be cooking this soon.

Tonight however, I tried her Caribbean Seafood Stew. I've been meaning to try more dishes with coconut milk. So far I've only been using it for smoothies, but I'd love to find other tasty ways to get more coconut in my life.

Her picture looks way better

The Good
Light dish
Very tender fish
Delicate coconut flavor

The Bad
A little bland

Overall - 2/5 Stars
This dish was a little underwhelming. I felt like it was missing an ingredient or two. The coconut milk gave the dish a great base, but it wasn't enough for me to enjoy this recipe. That being said her directions are spot on. We simmered the fish for 4 minutes and it came out perfectly tender.

Did you have a different experience with this dish? I'd love to hear what your opinion is.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies by Primal Palate

If there was one thing I missed most when I started eating paleo it was cereal. But if I had to choose second it would probably be cookies. My mom in notorious for baking up a storm when we have company over. We are over loaded with her delicious cookies, double fudge brownies, you name it. You weren't leaving until you had dessert.

Since I stopped eating grains, I've been trying to find a recipe to rival my mom's famous cookies. I stumbled on Primal Palate's blog earlier in the year, and I've made this recipe over five times since then. To me that's a lot. I typically don't repeat a recipe unless I really love it. And I love this one.

These cookies have a perfect chewy consistency, and the maple syrup adds a touch of flavor that hints of fresh pancakes. I strongly recommend you try these them.

This is my second batch with cocoa powder. My first batch was devoured. 

The Good
Coconut oil adds a nice touch
Great consistency
Quick to cook
LOVE the maple syrup taste

The Bad
Should have made more

Overall - 5/5 Stars
This is one of those recipes that you could pass of as the "real thing" with out having to say... "It's gluten-free, packed with protein". Unfortunately, I did tell my dad this. And he ate a whole batch of cookies in one sitting. I kid you not. I doubled the batch which made about 30 small cookies. My dad ate the 12 remaining cookies in one sitting!!!! Unbelievable.

I had to make a new batch, however this time I decided to add half a cup of cocoa powder. Which is why my cookies turned out dark. I also had to HIDE this batch from my dad. He said he liked the double chocolate goodness, but I think they were a little more dry than the batch with out the cocoa powder.

Either way, trying these cookies is a must. They are even better Elana's Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, and that in itself is a feat, because she makes some amazing recipes. Have you tried these yet? What do you think?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Seriously Tasty Meatloaf by Health-Bent

In spite of Meatless Mondays, I have for you a recipe that is full of meat. In fact, it contains ground pork, ground beef, and most importantly bacon. Now, I've never been a huge meatloaf fan, but since it's my dad's favorite dish I decided to give this paleo equivalent from Health-bent a try.

The Good
Seriously tasty (the title doesn't lie)
Seriously juicy

The Bad
Bacon wasn't crispy

Overall - 3/5
This is a solid recipe. I opted for jarred sauce to save time, and in total, it took a little over an hour to cook. The best part about this recipe is how juicy it stayed (even for a couple days after in the fridge). I definitely slathered it with ketchup, but this was a mighty fine meal. I gave it three stars because it didn't blow me away (perhaps because I never used to like meatloaf). However, my dad, a longtime meatloaf lover, was very pleased. If nothing else, I like this recipe because it breaks the boundaries a little with what we consider to be meatloaf. Using bacon on top, and then broiling it - genius! I'd like to use that idea for other recipes.

One complaint (and per usual this could be my fault) is that the bacon on top wasn't crispy. It was cooked, but almost soggy as if it had been cooked in the microwave. Perhaps I didn't leave the broiler on long enough, but I would have loved for the bacon to be crispy. That would have given it a contrast to the tender meatloaf below.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coconut Flour Pancakes by Primal Palate

While I do have a bowl of cereal every once in a while, pancakes are something I rarely eat. I hardly have time to whip up a batch before work, and if someone else cooks it's usually the pre-made crap. No offense Aunt Jemima. Yesterday, I got up a little earlier than usual and decided the time would be well spent indulging in some home-made paleo pancakes.

The Recipe

The Good
They look like pancakes
Don't stick to the pan

The Bad
Awful texture, almost sponge-like
Very bitter

Overall - 1/5
After many delicious meals I've prepared from Primal Palate, I found one that was disappointing. The flavor was very bitter, I believe there was too much nutmeg. And I would have preferred a chewier texture. These pancakes are very cake-like and spongy since the recipe calls for four eggs. I actually doubled the batch, thinking I would love it (which has been the case for all the other recipes I've made from Hayley and Bill), and I ended up throwing half of it away.

However, this was my first time cooking with coconut flour, and there was certainly an unusual flavor that I couldn't put my finger on. I would be surprised if I didn't like the flour since I love everything coconut (water, milk, oil, flakes). I'll have to try some more recipes that call for it to see if that was the reason I didn't like the pancakes. Of course, there is always the possibility that I screwed up the recipe somehow. The commenters on Hayley and Bill's website seemed to love it, but this is just one recipe of theirs I can't recommend. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fish and Chips by Pragmatic Paleo

Haddock was the only thawed meat in my fridge, but thanks to Wikipedia... "Haddock is a very popular food fish, sold fresh, smoked, frozen, dried, or to a small extent canned. Haddock, along with cod and plaice, is one of the most popular fish used in British fish and chips." Brilliant!

A quick Google search for "Paleo Fish and Chips" only turned up a couple results surprisingly. But this recipe from Pragmatic Paleo looked like a winner.

They may look like boring fish sticks,
but these things pack some flavor!

The Good:
Fantastic flavor thanks to the coconut oil and dill
Quick to make
Few ingredients

The Bad:
Not the most detailed directions
I wish I cooked more

Overall - 4/5
I will definitely cook these again. They were a snap to make, although following the directions was a little tricky. They say to finish the fish off in the oven, but don't tell you how long to put them in for. My fish was cooked after browning both sides, so I didn't want to risk over cooking them.

In terms of flavor they were great. They were light, crispy, and buttery. I initially thought I would be begging for ketchup (which we were out of), but they were good enough that I didn't even need any. Also, I probably added a little too much salt, but these little guys were a hit with the whole family. If you are looking for a simple and healthy fried fish recipe, look no further!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sirloin Steak with Garlic Butter by All Recipes

Sometimes the simplest of recipes are the best. This is certainly the case with the top sirloin steak I grilled last night. I snagged a top recipe from All Recipes and I had a delicious dinner in under 15 minutes. Let me give you the run down.

The Recipe

The Good
Under 15 minutes to make
Only 5 ingreadients (two are salt and pepper)
Melts in your mouth

The Bad

Overall - 4/5
This recipe is as simple as you can get (especially since it doesn't require marination), and it's tasty too . I must admit, I over cooked this, but it still believe 4 stars is fair. It has a great garlicky flavor with just enough salt and pepper to taste. Also, the melted butter was fantastic on top. I never tried that, but I will definitely be doing that again, whether I use this recipe or another one.

This steak is also great in salads - just slice it up and toss it in. It's fantastic. Definitely better than Alton Brown's recipie. Sorry Alton, your the man, but it's tough to compete with a recipe that calls for steak drenched in butter and garlic sauce.

On a side note I wish I would have taken RemaxRhonda's suggestion and added some mesquite flavor to it. That sounds amazing. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Low-Carb Cheesecake from Modern Paleo

I love cheesecake. As a kid it my favorite dessert. Nothing was better to finish a meal than a deliciously creamy slice of Cheesecake. I was also spoiled rotten by my Grandpa who had an award winning recipe in West Virginia. Although, I never understood why he loved to cook it and never wanted to eat it.

Since adopting a Paleo Diet, I've avoided dairy, but every now and again I'll have some cheese with a meal and I won't feel bad about it. I saw this recipe on Modern Paleo and I knew I had to try it.

There is much debate as to whether dairy is paleo or not. But when it comes to dessert, let's face it, sometimes you just want something tasty (it is still grain and legume free though).

The Recipe - Click Here

The Good

  • Quick - took me 15 minutes to prepare 
  • Uses basic ingredients - nothing I had to run to the store for
  • Aroma coming from the oven was intoxicating, reminded me of my childhood
  • Low sugar - I used 1/4C Honey (64g of sugar for the whole pie)
  • The crust is tasty! reminds me of this pumpkin pie crust
  • High protein - pretty good for a dessert 

The Bad

  • Took me an hour to cook at 375 (this is probably similar for most cheesecakes though)
  • You can tell it's low sugar
  • A little bland - could have used some spices (cinnamon ect)

Overall - 3/5 Stars
This is a solid cheesecake recipe. For those looking for a low-carb option, this is one I can recommend. It's not going to blow you away, but you won't be disappointed either. It has a solid texture and light crust. The cream cheese filling is the most dominant flavor here. But it finishes strong with the nuts from the crust (I used hazelnut). You might want to try putting in a tad more sugar than I did, and possible experimenting with some cinnamon to bring out the nuttiness of the crust.

Also, the smell of this cake was so alluring I coudn't wait for it to cool down. About 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven I was already digging in. To be fair, I did have some more today after letting the cake cool down overnight. Don't be surprised if you end up eating more than you intend to (this cake is very light).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Social Media Required

An Invasion of Privacy

I have been observing a trend that people want to reclaim some privacy that Facebook and other websites have seemingly taken. Spin offs like Google+,, and Path (now, ironically, part of Facebook) are all giving us options to be more selective with whom we share our online lives with. I'm glad we have options, because I stopped using Facebook about a year ago. It became more about making money with advertising and promotion than about sharing your life with friends.

While Facebook might not be high on my list there are plenty of social media websites that I use on a daily basis to connect and communicate with people. I have a Twitter page, YouTubeFlickr, you name it. All of these websites have options to reach out to people (hence the social part). But I am a strong believer in making an effort in relationships that matter. Texting and tweeting are okay for people I don't have a strong relationship with, but I want to have actual conversations with people I care about. That means a phone call.

When someone takes time out of their day for a phone call it is more personal than any text or tweet could ever be. On the extreme, My Grandma still sends me a handwritten letter in the mail, at least twice a year. Now that's personal. But for most of us a phone call is the new snail mail. Anecdotally, with the increasing popularity of texting, I've noticed people are more apt to text than to call. Sure, it's quick and effective. But when has building relationships ever been about those two words?

Building Relationships

Phone calls are one way to drive healthy and sustainable relationships. This was the core idea behind my Android App - Phone Tracks. Being two years out of college, I was having trouble keeping up with people from various social groups. I had friends from high school, friends from college, distant relatives, and various business contacts. To make matters worse, when using Facebook and Twitter my true friends often got lost in the crowd. My solution was to have a phone app that would keep track of a small group of people. That way I could focus on building relationships with people that matter.

Four months later, I published Phone Tracks to the Android market (sorry iPhone users). Simply put: You add five contacts, and the app remind you to call them and tell you how long it's been since you last spoke.

It can work for:
- Immediate/extended family members
- College/high school buddies
- New romantic interests
- Potential sales leads or financial donors
- Existing clients
- Or whoever you wish and have the digits for

Feedback Rocks

It has been an exciting journey to see this app go from conception to market. In the past few months, I have had the privilege of working with two very talented freelancers. One is a developer from Germany named Martin, and the other is a Designer from Romania named Mihai.

As Summer ends and Fall begins I want to continue improving this application. If you use it please give me some feedback: what did you like? what did you hate? or anything in between. If you have any suggestions at all please email I'd love to hear what you think.

Thanks for stopping by,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Supplement Sampler

A few month ago, Swanson's Vitamins, sent me a nice little package of products to try out. Now, that I have had time to properly test out everything I'd like to share my thoughts on them. Lets get right down to it:

Prior to using this blend of digestive enzyme I was using Now Food's Super Enzyme (as recommended by Robb Wolf). I was extremely satisfied with how that product made me feel. I tried to tell the difference between these two, but I couldn't. I had already been using Now Foods for a few months, so when I started using Garden of Life, the results were not as dramatic. When I started using a digestive enzyme (Now Foods) I felt like a totally different person. It felt like I was finally getting the nutrition I needed. For anyone who has digestive problems (see my story), or someone looking into Probiotics for gut health, this is the other side of the equation. I'd recommend the NOW Foods Super Enzyme, it works just as well (for me) and it is a lot cheaper.

The Very Finest Fish Oil

I have been taking fish oil for a couple years now. It's the supplement I take most regularly, since I stopped taking a multi-vitamin. I can notice a difference when I stop taking them. I feel generally happier and clear minded when I take fish oil, so I'm going to continue to do so. Most people who try it complain about one thing - the fish-burp. This really hasn't been a big problem for me. Yes it happens, but the benefits clearly out weight that negative. Plus there are ways to combat the issue - like these delicious lemon flavored capsules. When you burp it really tastes like lemon Starburst. For anyone looking to add this supplement to their diet but is worried about the burp - fear not, with this product. It is a little pricier than some fish oil. But Carlson's oil is sourced from a very unpolluted part of the world making it a premium oil. I'm a big fan of Carlson's and I've bought the big jug of 360 capsules before. Definitely recommended!

MethylCobalamin Cherry

I'm torn on this product. Initially I liked the rush of energy it gave me. But it makes me a little frenetic, and I feel a flushed in the face (like you would from a Niacin rush). I suppose it depends what you want to use this for. It certainly will give you a jolt, because it's the same vitamin that is in the now ubiquitous 5-Hour Energy. I took it at work a few times (I work in a cubicle), and it made me want to get up and run around. Unfortunately, my job does not allow that during working hours. So, I remained fidgety at my desk. This product CAN work if your goal is to give you a little kick in the butt to get your day started, but I would prefer to get my B12 from natural sources like meat or eggs. 

Melatonin Peppermint

I do not have a problem sleeping (usually). I bought a crappy window A/C unit so I could get my room to about 72 degrees every night. I also have black out curtains. That combined with proper diet, exercise, I'd say I sleep pretty well. But it's just so tempting to want more! Its human nature to demand better and better, so I tried these Melatonin Supplements. They were very effective at putting me to sleep. I slipped one under my tongue and was out in about 10 minutes, which is a little less than normal. It feels kind of like pain pills, where you are wrapped up in a weird fuzzy yet comfortable feeling. They definitely work, but in the morning I was waking up groggy. This is a similar problem to when I tried a magnesium supplement. Maybe it worked too well. Personally, I can not recommend this product, but my dad has had success using this to aid in sleep. Maybe I'll stick with the good old stand by, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Thanks again to Swanson for the samples, and props for having such an active twitter team. Anyone who hasn't checked out Swanson for Vitamins yet, you should. I've been buying from them for a few years, because they have great customer service, prices, and most importantly plenty of reviews (which is a huge deciding factor for me in any purchase). 

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Fond Farewell

"You never know how much you'll miss them until they are gone"

I have recently lost something very special in my life. Last night, at approximately 10 pm, my crock pot was destroyed. It was broken in two pieces, by the very person that loved it most - me. I was desperately trying to make a quick meal after getting home late, and I smashed two frozen pork ribs on the bottom of the pot. In an attempt to split the two pork ribs in half I instead split the crock pot in half. I stood for a few minutes in disbelief. What will I do with out a fresh batch of BBQ ribs for breakfast? Or a nice warm bowl of chili before I go to work?

I realized, that I never gave this device enough credit. With out a crock pot I would be unable to eat the way that I do. I don't have time to make amazing meals every day. But the crock pot does.

I don't understand why I was so intimidated by the crock pot before. It's painfully simple. One knob that you can turn on medium or high. Add your ingredients and wait the specified time. It's so simple. But better than that. It makes mouthwatering meals. The meat get insanely tender.

Here is a chili recipe that is ridiculously easy and delicious

1 lb ground meat
8oz can tomato sauce
8oz ounce jar of salsa

Add veggies if you want, but if you get a good salsa it will have veggies and spices. I used this a ton. At night time I would toss everything in the pot, turn it on, and in the morning I would have a delicious meal with no work on my part.

I suppose, I would just like everyone to know, who hasn't use a crock pot before, that they shouldn't be intimidated by it. It's fast, easy, and delicious. I have already purchased another one. But I wanted to give a shout out to my favorite cooking device of all time (sorry Magic Bullet).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You from the Future

I'd like you to join me in a small thought experiment. Allow your mind to drift to the future. Where do you see yourself in a few years?

What if you could talk to yourself? Would you even want to listen to what your future self had to say? I think most people would say yes.

Keep picturing yourself. What do you look like? Maybe a little like your mom or your dad? No - that's nonsense. Well, I just hope you've aged more gracefully than Joan Rivers (sorry Joan).

Continuing... What thoughts will you have? What questions do you wish you could ask your future-self?

Now, snap out of it!

I talk to my future-self almost every day (and no I'm not going crazy). I'm talking about my parents.

How many times have you heard this... "Oh my god, I'm turning into my dad/mom." No kidding. When you're younger you don't want to admit it, but do you have certain tendencies that you inherited from them like; personality traits, lifestyle habits and interests.

Through the years, I'm learning where I get certain habits from: my interest in health and fitness from my dad and my thirst for adventure from my mom. I've even caught myself saying things my parents would say. Has that ever happened to you?

If you can accept that you and your parents have similar tastes and preferences than is it that much of a stretch to think that they are an older version of you with more experiences? They are you from a different generation. They are shaped by different environmental pressures, but they still are as close as you can get to you.

Next time you have a difficult decision to make, and you wish you could see in the future and find the "right" answer, realize that you can ask your parents. And most are more than willing to give an opinion.

What does your future self think about that new business you want to start? The relationship you are in? The job you want to change? Do you care what they may or may not have to say?

They might not always be right, but they are very good at telling you what you don't want to hear. Be stubborn if you want, but I have learned to respect what my parents say because they are as much a part of me as I am them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Your Guide to Paleo Cooking

The blogosphere is filled with people who are passionate about their health, fitness and food. But in the niche segment of the paleo lifestyle, there are tons of brilliant and knowledgeable people contributing to a flourishing community. Everyone is here to interact, share and learn (with varying degrees of each). And while we may only know each other by our online personas this is the first time I have ever truly felt part of a tribe. Our common interests bond us, and being able to share my experiences and relate to others has peeked my interest in the field of health and nutrition. 

It’s great to talk about the more popular bloggers such as Mark Sisson or Robb Wolf, the latter of which got me turned on to the paleo diet. But the community has much more depth than that. As I dive deeper into this subculture, I am continuously finding everyday people doing spectacular things. Over the past few months I have been fortunate enough to interact some of these great people. 

One such blogger in the paleo community is Sébastien Noël over at Paleo Lifestyle Diet. Sébastien is a gifted writer, but where he really shines are his recipes. A few weeks ago, I was given a copy of his newly released eBook to review, and I must say that I am very impressed. I have a ton of cookbooks, but this was my first electronic cookbook. I was a little intimidated, because the PDF is 395 pages - that's a lot of recipes. I thought about going to staples to print out a copy, but a color copy of his recipe book would have been over $200 (c’mon staples).

Don’t Be Afraid of the eBook
Usually, while reading, I like things printed and in my hands, but having an online version makes the recipe book very searchable. It is easy to reference and browse recipes. I just typed in what food I had and the search showed me all the recipes containing my ingredient. In addition, Sébastien did a great job with the organization; the book is broken down by category and really well layed out. The design of the PDF is clean, easy to read, and aesthetically pleasing.

As far as taste goes, I'm not sure I could speak any higher of Sébastien. I made his Beanless Texas Style Chili that blows away Mark Sisson's Bison Chili. The great thing about his recipes is that they are simple. Most have less than 10 ingredients and he doesn't use anything that you'll have to find at an uber fancy grocery store. The combination of spices just work.

I also tried his Pork Chops with Apple and Onions and his Guacamole recipe both with success. But the one that really won over me over was his Baked Salmon with Asparagus and Roasted Beets. My mom made this the other night, and the salmon was so tasty my dad could not stop taking about it. The fish was so moist it almost melted in your mouth, and the asparagus was perfectly crispy. The beets came out a little undercooked, but the rest of the meal made up for that. I will definitely be cooking that again.

Just Try It
All in all, my family and I have loved cooking with Sébastien's recipes. He makes them very easy and approachable, but that doesn't mean they lack flavor. Check out his website where he has a ton of free recipes to try like Sweet Potato And Sausage Soup, Spicy Pulled Pork, Kale Chips, and a ton more. If you like what you see then take a look at his eBook where he compiles over 350 recipes, as well as cooking tips, a meal plan, and an herbs and spices guide (that is beautifully designed). Sébastien is doing great work over at his blog, so I am happy to recommend his recipes. They are simply delicious.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Go Barefoot in the Office

There are many benefits of barefoot running including: helping develop a natural gait (stride), strengthening muscles, tendons, and ligaments, improved balance, improved ground feel, and reducing injuries. But, as much as I would love to go barefoot all the time - most of us (including myself) have jobs that require us to wear shoes. But if you don't work from home (or have one heck of a hippy boss) there is still hope. The next best thing is a minimalist shoe. This is a shoe where the heel is thin enough so you can "feel" the ground, but thick enough to provide protection. An example would be Vibram's Five Finger shoes. They are minimalist in the sense that they have a 4mm sole, and yet they provide protection from modern surfaces (pavement, concrete). These work great but are pretty wacky looking.

When I'm at home, I love wearing my Vibram Five Finger Bikilas. I got them for running last June, and I will never go back to traditional running shoes again. They are fantastic, but they are also not work appropriate. Can you imagine Bill from accounting wearing a button-up, nice slacks, and some gorilla feet? They are eye catching, and while that's great for the track, or even the gym, it's not the kind of attention I want all the time.

Quest for a Classy Shoe
There must be other companies with similar shoes that I can wear to the office, yet, on first look, the options are limited and expensive. A company called Terra Plana has the most shoes with a couple of them bordering on being work-appropriate (Dharma and Oak for men). Yet, I think they are ugly, and if i'm paying $140 for shoes they better be pretty slick looking.

Is it too much to ask for a minimalist dress/work shoe that is both attractive and reasonably priced? It just may be too early in the product life cycle. These types of shoes are still in the hands of the fanatics and early adopters and have yet to hit mainstream. I can tell this from the reactions that I get when I wear my Bikilas to the gym. People have heard of them, but most of them have never even tried a pair on. Why not? Aren't you curious? Please don't tell me you're lumping them in the same category as those wacky Sketchers "Shape Ups"? Look at this ridiculous commercial.

Do it Yourself
After being disappointed by the lack of options for minimalist work shoes I decided to rip the soles right out of my dress shoes (disclosure: I've had these shoes for about 9 years, so I had no guilt what so ever). By removing the insoles I reduced the heel by around 3/4 of an inch. That's a considerable amount. I could tell right away when I stepped in the shoes. I felt like I was walking on the ground, and I noticed the height difference. They weren't nearly as comfortable as they used to be after years of molding, and the back of the shoe started digging into my heel. I wore these shoes to work for the past couple days, and I could tell it wasn't such a struggle to keep my posture in line. This was a fun experiment, but it was missing something.

Every shoe can be Minimalist
This got me thinking. What if we could design a heel insole that could mold to your foot, but would have a predisposition to be thin. Basically, what we would need is a replacement for the insole that we removed from our shoes. So, instead of limiting ourselves with the few and expensive choices available on the market, we could convert other shoes to mimic a minimalist feel. Granted, this will not work for shoes with heels, or some shoes where the insole is hard or impossible to remove. But I think there are a good number of shoes that have removable heels. You could just remove the heel as I did, but it is not very comfortable. I am thinking of an insole that would fill the gaps around the outsides of your feet, yet stay very thin. Ideally, they would also absorb some sweat, and maximize ground feel.

Now, I have no knowledge of shoe materials to know if this would actually work or not. But I think there is a market for it. This would open up the possibility of using a wider range of styles while still gaining the benefits of a minimalist shoe. It's just a different way of making money from the same paradoxical problem. Do we need shoes or insoles to become more barefoot? Normally no, but if your day is spent mostly in the office, I say yes.

Does anyone think this is even possible? Or do you know of any minimalist shoes that are attractive, and not overly expensive? Let me know, I would love to hear about that as well.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Sleep Aid that Works... Too Well

I'll Have What He Had
I don't know about you, but I tend to get giddy 
when trying new supplements. I suppose it's because I don't know what to expect until I try it. I'm not sure how my body will react. My body is the experiment, but I am also the scientist. I am the guinea pig and the administrator. I'll gladly put my body on the line for the sake of myself. Will it work? Will I feel anything? Any hardcore drug user would laugh at the thought of tinkering with your calcium levels, but that's exciting enough for me.

For this experiment, I decided to try Magnesium Citrate. It was recommended by Robb Wolf (author of The Paleo Solution) as a way to balance out your calcium and magnesium levels, and as an added bonus, it puts you to sleep faster than Diane Rehm reading you a bed time story. I found Natural Calm, by Terry Gillham in the supplement isles of Whole Foods. It was roughly twenty dollars for a container. I opted for the un-flavored variety.

Day 1
After twisting the cap, a burst of white powder fills the air. It smells citrusy. I want to know more. I measure one teaspoon and mix it into a glass of hot water. To my delight, it fizzles and cracks as the white powder diffuses into the water. Here is goes; I take a sip. Not too bad. It tastes like lemon tea. 

I sit back on my bed and continue to read more of "The Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy." As I turn the pages, I begin to feel eerily at ease. A slight numbing sensation envelopes my body. It's similar to the feeling of playing outside in the snow and then going inside to sip hot chocolate by the fire. It is oddly comforting, and initially I am enthralled by it. Success! I think to myself, and moments later I am passed out in my bed.

Day 2-14
I continued to use the product and my sleep was fantastic. I even wrote a post after waking up a 6am, which I never do, wide awake and ready for the day. But that day was an anomaly, and I could not repeat the success of waking up in the morning feeling so refreshed. Not only that, but I was beginning to feel a little more relaxed during the day. All day long. I am normally a low-key person. It takes a lot to get me excited, and this supplement was making me even more relaxed. I suppose I should have seen this coming. It does claim to be an anti-stress drink.

I welcome relaxation, especially when I am prone to anxiety, but this was too much. My mind felt slow. I was lethargic. Words were hard to find, and I just felt generally off. But my sleep was excellent. Was it worth sacrificing my waking life for quality time spent in the sheets? Heck no.

Ultimately I did not want that trade off. Magnesium supplement works - maybe too well - at relaxing your body and your mind. I would rather have marginally worse sleep and still have an active mind then vice versa. But all is fair in experimentation. My goal was to try it out. I wanted to know if it would work for me as it did for others. My results seem uncommon, and through research I was unable to find results like mine (where someone feels mentally dull as a result of Magnesium). But now you have at least one documented case.

This is not meant to scare you from trying it. I offer my findings, so that you may better inform yourself when looking to Magnesium as a sleep aid. I've tried a lot of different things to get better sleep, but the one that works the best: a pitch black room. I'd like to see GNC try to put that in a store.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review of Mark Sisson's Bison Chili

It's Game Time
Every winter, recipes for chili litter the internet. Teasing and taunting people to choose themas the recipe for a holiday or Super Bowl party. Chili is a crowd favorite, because it's so easy, and it's usually pretty cheap. The latest recipe taunting me was from Mark Sisson's “The Primal Blueprint Cookbook” and was simply named “Bison Chili”.

Mark runs a wildly popular blog about primal eating (similar to paleo), and this book was made from the contributions of his devoted readers. With food all-stars like bison, cocoa powder, and everyone’s favorite - bacon, I had high expectations for the recipe. I didn't mind the hour that it took to prepare. Nor did I mind the hour it simmered in the crockpot, because I thought it would be worth the wait. 

Missing the Mark 
This recipe let me down on multiple fronts: the carrots were still crunchy, the consistency was watery, and somehow the bacon was underwhelming. - I could hardly taste it. It smelled like a dish caught between a stew and a chili. Unable to choose a side it didn’t satisfy either craving. Also, the proportions were uneven for my taste. A surplus of meat overwhelmed the other ingredients. The carrots were sparse and overshadowed by mountains of ground bison; it was a vegetarian’s nightmare.

The worst part was not the disproportion of meat but was the combination of spices. In the cook book, he describes this chili as "not very spicy” – which is true. Although, bland is a more accurate adjective. The spices did not complement each other well. Paprika is a favorite spice of mine, and a trusty companion for chili, but the rest of the spices do nothing for the dish. Most of all, I am disappointed in the cocoa powder. It adds nothing to the complexity of the dish except a bitter after taste.

Cognitive Dissonance 
Don't get me wrong, I'll finish the 3lbs of chili that this recipe made, but I will not make it again. There are too many other good chili recipes to try. Even ones that aren't quite “paleo” can be altered. It's as simple as subtracting the beans from most recipes.

Did I choose the wrong cookbook this Christmas? I figured this book would keep my diet in check, but, I didn't want to sacrifice taste. Maybe I would be better off finding more recognized recipes and substituting. Maybe those physicians had it right when they chose this book as one of the worst cookbooks of 2010.

There are Always Alternatives
This was the first recipe I tried of his, so I can't be too harsh. After all, this blogger really seemed to like it, as did the reviewers on Amazon. Perhaps, there are other redeeming recipes in his book. I'll give it another shot, but this was not a good first impression. If that was my introduction to a paleo/primal meal, I would never be going back for seconds.

For a quick and tasty chili alternative try this one from it uses salsa as the tomato base, which is genius, so you don't have to chop a ton of vegetables. It’s simple, cheap, and delicious.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

If Willy Wonka Could Make Vegetables

Umpa, Lumpa, Dippity-dee
When I saw this striking vegetable in the supermarket, I wondered how it managed to hide from me all these years. Maybe it was more me hiding from them. But now that I am exploring vegetables these leafs screamed "Look at me!" I'm a sucker for color; I had to grab a bunch. But how should I prepare them?

I found a delicious and easy recipe for swiss chard from a YouTube channel called Hungry in Brooklyn. The video itself was nicely edited, and I would have believed it if she said this was a new web series for the cooking or travel channel.

In her video, Shea Hess talks to a Chef and a famer to find out some tips on this psychedelic vegetable. Here are a few things to know about swiss chard:

- It is pronounced CHard like Chocolate
- Leafy vegetable similar to spinach
- Member of the beet family
- Spring/fall are the best times to buy

Here is the recipe she used:

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Shallots and Garlic

Strip leaves from the rib (stem)
Cut off ends of rib
Cut the ribs into small 1/4in pieces
Chop 2 shallots
Chop 2 cloves of garlic
2 tbs of olive oil
1/4 cup of white wine
1 tbs of butter

Toss olive oil, Chard ribs, shallots, and garlic into pan
Add a little salt
Add the leafs of chard (blanch two minutes before hand)
Add white wine
Cook it down, so the alcohol evaporates
Add butter

The recipe was a little time consuming, only because she says you should blanch the vegetables to reduce bitterness and to prevent burning. Total time to cook was about 25 minutes, but the results were fantastic. Not only were the colors bright and vibrant, but it tasted phenomenal. The center rib from the chard gave the dish a crunchy dimension, and the leaves tasted like a wonderful shade of spinach.  

It was an excellent side dish to steak. The crispy outside of the steak and the crunchy ribs were a good pairing. Also, if you’re looking for a dish to give your dinner a little liveliness, then chard is the way to go. It looks like something out of the Willy Wonka factory, but it tastes so much better.

One thing to note if you are having company or want left overs: the leaves cook down a lot, and I was left wanting more. A whole bunch of chard easily boiled down to about two cups. This was fine for me, but if you’re having guests, or you want to have left overs I would recommend cooking two bunches. 

Check out more of Hungry in Brooklyn’s videos here:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mustard, the New Superfood?

Let Me Paint You a Picture
Imagine a typical American kitchen. An middle aged woman is stirring a pot, and she looks a bit concerned. Then a voice from off screen says, "Is that chili too boring? Why don't you spice it up with a little French's?" The scene changes to another woman making macaroni and cheese, "Spice it up with French's!" A third shot reveals yet another woman and her daughter looking at some plain chicken (apparently only women can cook). "It's even great in a marinade!" the voice says, and the family agrees as they smile at each other. We pan back over the family eating and laughing. Looks like French's really brought the family together and saved the day! Then, as the container of mustard flies around the room, the slogan is revealed: “Happy Starts Here.”

No, I didn't make this up. I wish I did. I saw this commercial last night while watching the Food Network. I instantly turned off the TV after that line. It reeks with a lack of imagination. The phrase falls flat despite the elaborate portrayal of mustard as the hero of tonight’s dinner. 

I am disgusted at marketers today. Can’t you come up with anything original? (and mustard on mac and cheese isn’t original, that just sounds nasty) Happiness? Really? If you think your happiness comes from mustard then I want to know what you think sadness comes from, purely out of curiosity. Toast? Lite-Brite? Justin Bieber

What is Your Happiness Worth?
Tying an emotion to a product is not a new concept. Even capitalizing on people wanting to be happy isn't new. Look at this list of slogans from

1) Coca Cola:  Open Happiness 
2) Lay's (a unit of Pepsico): The Happiness Exhibit 
3) Unilver: Share Happy 
4) Best Buy: Buyer Be Happy 
5) Ben & Jerry's: Scoop of Happiness 
6) City of Baltimore: Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore 
7) Nivea: a) Happy Sensation Lotion; and b) Touch of Happiness Body Wash 
8) Golden Coral: Help Yourself to Happiness 
9) French's Mustard: Happy Starts here 
10) Adidas: 2010 FIFA World Cup Soccer Ball is Named Jabulani (Share Happiness in Zulu) 
11) Rita's: a) Ice - Custard - Happiness; and b) What Flavor is Your Happiness? 
12) Hershey's Chocolate: Hershey's makes S'more happiness. 
13) Comcast: Happiness is Only a Power Button Away 
14) IHOP: Come Hungry, Leave Happy 
15) Edible Arrangements: Happiness is Always in Season 
16) HomeGoods: a) Be HomeGoods Happy; and b) Spread Happiness 

It bothered me when Coke came out with “Open Happiness” which is the most egotistical slogan I’ve heard to date. But when mustard is the source of our happiness, that's when I put my foot down. Companies are taking this too far. 

How can we possible expect to channel our happiness though a condiment? That's what they want. They want the association between their product and our emotions to be so strong that when we think about that swirling line of mustard on our hot dogs we'll think we've won the lottery. Maybe that's a bit strong. That would be a best case scenario. But this commercial doesn't even come close to that fantasy; it is horrible. The family is happy, and they really came together tonight, but let's not forget the hero of tonight’s dinner. The freaking mustard!

Maybe I'm Being a bit Harsh on French's.
After all, marketing a product as lame as mustard must difficult. I can see a team standing in an office huddled around a dry erase board, 

"And then, out of nowhere, the mustard flies out of the cabinet. And the parents are shocked, but not too shocked, because someone has rescued them from the drudgery of cooking."
OOOooo and AHHhhs fill the room
“Then what?” someone asks.
“Why then he'll fly around shooting magical lines of mustard all over the kitchen, and dinner will be saved because we smothered everything in mustard."
“You’re a genius.”
“I know, I know.”
"Should we give it a cape?" 
"Don’t be stupid.”

So, if not Happiness, What Then?
What would I associate mustard with? Well, I don't enjoy mustard so this might be difficult. But I'll give it a shot. Mustard isn't the hero that it's portrayed in this ridiculous commercial. It's more like a close friend (the one you ignore but is always there when you need them). It knows ketchup and you are best friends, and it doesn’t want to break you up, but it still wants your attention. Standing next to the mayonnaise and relish silently screaming “Try me, try me!” You finally opt for mustard, and a clique montage ensues.

When you win the first softball game for your work league, and ketchup is busy with the first basemen, mustard is there to dress your hot dog. When you’re sick you can turn mustard into a homemade sore throat relief, and when those pesky kids won't stop stealing the beer from your garage you can hit them with a mustard stink bomb. You high-five mustard. “That will teach them a lesson” Then you politely close the door on mustard as you and ketchup watch the rest of Gilmore Girls. Mustard waits patiently outside. It’s raining, but it doesn’t care. It knows someday you’ll be back for more of that spicy golden goodness. You look outside and close the blinds.

Could French’s Pull it Off?
Would they want to? Who knows? But they have a better chance at injecting a little humor than making their mustard the beloved savoir of all things dinner. As David Gianatasio for Ad Week puts it, "Sure, you're getting '40% more free,' but it's just mustard. How much can any one family consume? It's not like the stuff tastes good on cereal or swirled into coffee." Sorry French's, mustard is unlikely to overtake ketchup as the condiment of choice any time soon. But you might have better luck changing your marketing tactics, because happiness isn’t working for you.

Ps. Who’s your condiment best friend? Mine used to be a savory, bold sauce named B.B.Q.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Walk Like a Ninja for $30

In the wake of Vibram Five Fingers' (dare I say) popularity, there have been plenty of companies eager to jump on the minimalist footwear bandwagon. Big players like Nike and Mizuno were quick to get in the game, and just about everyone nowadays seems to have there own minimalist running shoe. But what's really nice to see are smaller companies giving it a go.

A Sneaky Design
Zem is a company based out of Miami, Florida that is crafting shoes primarily for indoor use (yoga, pilates). Their shoes are lightweight and give the user lots of flexibility, which is important when your bending yourself into a pretzel. What I like most about them are the looks. They are almost a cross between Adidas Sambas (a classic from my soccer days), and a ninja shoe (called "Tabi"). Most other shoes I have seen with the big toe split out look horribly awkward. Take a look at this website for proof. Yet, somehow the Zem's manage to look a little more "normal." Perhaps it's the neon colored stripes that decorate the side of the shoe, which offer a good distraction from the strange camel toe. Even with these playful colors, I would order the black with black stripes, because I don't want my feet to look like light up billboards. Don't get me wrong it's a clever marketing technique; it's just not my style. The Zem's are pretty slick, but I already have a pair of minimalist running shoes. Do I really need another pair?

Do You Really Need Another Pair of "Barefoot" Shoes?
My Bikilas cost $100 (20 less than my Saucony's - which I can't stand to wear), and I have worn them an insane amount more than any other running sneaker I've ever owned. They remind me of running barefoot as a kid; how I can tread softly and gracefully. They were definitely worth the money. In comparison, the Zem's are only $30, which is an interesting price point. As a small company, it's a good idea to differentiate themselves from Vibram, because competing head to head with them would be a challenge.

All in all, they look cool and the price is great, but I don't think I have a use for them. I do pilates occasionally, and I haven't done yoga since Fall. I would really only need them for running, and I have a great pair for that exact purpose. Zem's blog claims they have a running shoe, but I was unable to find it in their store. Even if I could find it, I would be concerned. How great can a running shoe be for $30? We are so conditioned to see running shoes anywhere from $80 and up how can Zem manage to seem credible at a $30 price point? They only way I see that they could compete for credibility in the running industry is to raise the price a little. But then they have to make sure they add value to the shoe, so customers don't feel ripped off. It's a delicate issue. Bottom line: they look like sweet ninja shoes, but I just don't have a use for them yet. If you do yoga or pilates consistently then you might want to check them out, but I have concerns about the durability and quality of a $30 running shoe.

One more thing, apologies if this comes of as harsh, but I hate when shoe companies don't provide enough angles of the product. How do they expect people to buy a shoe when the only see it from one side! Get a clue from Zappos. They have been doing it right for years, and now they just added videos to most of their shoes. Genius.

For further research on Zem's shoes look at:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I Killed the Perfectionist in Me

Practice Makes Perfect
I make mistakes (a lot of mistakes). But, back when I considered myself a perfectionist this was not the case. I avoided doing anything if I couldn't do it just right, and that prevented me from doing a lot. I know now that mistakes are just part of the learning process and the only way that you are going to have success. You need to fail to succeed. This sounds absurdly simple, and I'm sure you've heard it before, but are you using it to your full advantage?

This simple revelation means big things for anyone who wants to be successful. The more you do, the more practice you have at your specific skill, hobby, or career. And with more practice comes a greater likelihood of success. Just ask Malcolm Gladwell. In his book "Outliers" Malcolm talks about how people like Bill Gates and The Beatles got successful by practicing. How much practice you ask? Malcolm claims it takes about 10,000 hours or ten years to become a master. So, what does this mean? If your going to practice that much you better not be afraid to make mistakes, because your going to have a lot of them.

Another key component to success is having a growth mindset (instead of a fixed mindset). Micheal Richard does a wonderful job explaining the difference between the two mindsets in this article, but here is my take.

Which One Sounds More Like You?
A fixed mindset means that you believe that intelligence is static. People with this tendency believe that they are the way they are and that every challenge is an assessment of their skills. They will therefore tend to avoid challenges unless they know they will succeed. As a result they tend to plateau in their success, because they avoid hard tasks where the outcome is uncertain.

A growth mindset on the other hand, means that you believe intelligence is dynamic. People with this tendency believe that the brain is like a muscle and that you can train it to improve. They will therefore embrace challenges, because they will see it as a chance to grow. As a result they tend to reach higher levels of achievement.

My Experience
In my past, I had a fixed mindset. If I was going up against someone in an activity in which I was not good at (let's say basketball), I would be embarrassed, and I wouldn't want to participate. I saw it as an assessment of my skill. By not participating I was missing great opportunities to learn from people who were better than I was. But, after reading Brain Rules and Drive I saw the advantage of changing my mindset. From my experience, this simple switch in thinking has opened up a ton of doors for me. Now, I accept those challenges, and I see them as an opportunity to grow.

You don't have to be perfect, and challenges make you better as long as you are open to growth. These two ideas go hand in hand, with these ideas, you can strip down the barriers to achievement and reach your 2011 goals. This blog isn't perfect, but I'm improving, and that's my goal. Do you have any feedback for me? Any comments or criticism?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Treadmill to Forget the Pain

Why does everyone hate the treadmill? 
Every time I talk to someone about running on a treadmill, I get the same response, "I just don't get a good work out" or "I get too bored." Have you seen treadmills today? They come with over 300 channels and a remote! To be fair, before yesterday, I hadn't run on a treadmill in at least two years. The last time I was on a treadmill was probably back at UNC Charlotte's gym. This was back before I got excited about running, back before I purchased Born to Run or my favorite running shoes of all time - Vibram's Five Finger Bikilas. This was back when I was just working out because my loose college schedule allowed me to. I didn't run because I wanted to, I ran because I thought I should be. Now, I am used to running outside, with the beautiful scenery. I wondered how I would feel running a few miles on the treadmill.

Fatherly Advice on Running
I asked my dad, a fitness nut, his thoughts on the classic treadmill. His response, "From my experience I never get a good workout running on a treadmill. You sweat too much inside, so you feel like you are running harder than you really are." This is true to some degree, but I don't believe that he can't get a good work out (disclosure: my Dad is also not a runner. He is more into the mountain biking scene nowadays). Here's why I don't believe it: Treadmills run at a top speed ten miles an hour. Now, this might not be that fast, but keeping that pace is a six minute mile pace. I don't think I've ever run that fast before. Not only this, but treadmills also have the ability to incline the plane to simulate a hill. Now, if you can run a six minute mile on a 45 degree incline and you think that's a warm up, then you should probably start signing up for some races, because that is impressive. I on the other hand was content with a 7:15 mile pace.

Forget the Pain
My first treadmill experience in a while started off smoothly. I eased in at a 5mph pace to warm up, and then I slowly ramped up the speed. I immediately started to focus my attention forward as to not look like a fool on a treadmill. And what is in front of me? A nice little 8 or 10 inch TV screen. Sports Center - excellent. As, I was running, and watching TV I couldn't help but feel like a lab-rat. You know, the ones who are exercising in their wheels trying to get to the piece of cheese that is dangling just out of their grasp? I wonder if the rats know they are exercising. Maybe they forget; I forgot about running. Not enough to fall off the treadmill, but enough to forget that my body was working pretty hard. There is a strange disconnect between what your body is feeling and your mind is telling you while you run on a treadmill and watch the TV. Your mind says, "Mmm, TV time to relax." But your body is saying, "Hey, wait a minute whats going on? I shouldn't be moving." I think that a big reason for the TVs is so people forget that they are working out. We wouldn't want to feel pain now would we?

Nature's Winter Replacement
I felt it very odd, but it was something I could get used to. Running on the treadmill is NOT a replacement for being outside running through the crisp clean air, but when it's 10 degrees and snowing in Pennsylvania, I'll be just fine using the treadmill.

Ps. No blog about treadmills is complete without out OK Go's video (pictured above) - Link here