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.