Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where I've Been Lately

First, thank you to all of you who have shown up to read my blog entries lately! It's been a great joy to write again and post for all you who are interested.

Second, sorry for the absence lately. I coach track & field at my school (1 coach, 27 athletes, many events), and the season is in full swing. So my focus has shifted to the season. But that does not mean I haven't been planning some posts. So here are my plans:

1) 52 Pick-Up Challenge Posts--carnitas, turnips, and other yummies!
2) Book Reviews: The Paleo Coach and The Primal Connection
3) Other Random-ness & a Giveaway

So, keep your eyes peeled! More is coming soon...

Friday, March 15, 2013

52 Pick-Up Challenge: Week #5

*This series of Friday posts is inspired by the blog entry--52 Pick-Up Paleo Style by Amy Kubal via robbwolf.com. Each post is based on this premise that Dietary Ruts = Kitchen Boredom -> Healthy Eating FAIL! So each week, I plan to share with you one meal from the previous week that I tried and enjoyed to help me stave off the boredom in my weekly meal plan.

Whew! This has been a week of stress. It started out so peacefully with talks of reducing stressors by sleeping well and taking naps, but life at work blew up in my face. Life as a public-school teacher sometimes reaches these points which is why we celebrate Fridays so much. In fact, I am willing to put money down to bet that the motto “Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF)” originated from a teacher. 

For a little more insight on one stressor, just check out this article from the Chicago Tribune. Why? Who knew censorship was still alive & well? What were they thinking? Must we really start hiding or locking up our books in order to protect their freedom to read freely? I am glad I work for a principal in this school district that is level-headed and willing to protect that same freedom.

To relieve my stress, this weekend is going to be filled with a nice daytime date with my wife and cooking. And in the spirit of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I am going with a green theme in this week’s 52 Pick-Up Paleo Style. No new foods, just creativity to keep things alive and well in the kitchen.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rock-a-Bye Baby: Celebrating National Napping Day

Happy National Napping Day! What a great way to put a cap on last week’s National Sleep Awareness Week 2013! Oh, you didn’t know about these fabulous “celebrations?” Neither did I until I saw peeps tweet it on our social medias. And now that I know about them, I want to turn out the lights and catch a few Z’s underneath my desk at work (I have a feeling this might be frowned upon; what a shame).

So why do we need National Napping Day & National Sleep Awareness Week? Most of us have grown up being told that hard work brings about success. Some have heard the Biblical proverb, “If you love sleep, you will end in poverty. Keep your eyes open, and there will be plenty to eat (NLT Prov. 20:13). Others are wrapped up in being in the know about everything, that when it comes to sleep, they say,

You can fill in the blank.

But here are two findings when it comes to the typical practice of sleep in our modern society:
  • 10% of adolescents sleep only five hours and 23% sleep only six hours on an average school night. The recommended amount of sleep for teens is 8.5 to 9.25 hours per night (National Sleep Foundation)
  • The average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. The recommendation for adults is 7 to 9 hours (NSF)
So what’s the big deal? Many of us can attest to why this is a big deal if we take a moment to reflect on how we are feeling at this moment. Some of us are saying, “Now’s a great time to go get another (insert a caffeinated beverage).” Some of us are blaming Mondays for the feeling we have. And a few of us forgot exactly what we were supposed to be doing right now instead of reading another blogger rambling on about sleep. These feelings can often be traced back to two things: what we ate & how we slept recently.

So what should we do? Sleep more. That advice is not going to help you make a change, but what else is there to say. Turn out the lights for 10-15 minutes and take a snooze. Turn off this computer, smartphone, or tablet, and shut your eyes for a few minutes. Turn off the TV at 9:30 (in the middle of your favorite show) and put your pajamas on. Put that caffeinated beverage down & drink water for the rest of the day so your body is ready for sleep at night. Go exercise a little.

Why? There are multiple benefits to getting adequate sleep. Personally, adequate sleep and a short shut-eye lowers my blood pressure. I can quickly tell if I am short on sleep, and it all begins with my blood pressure. Other benefits are well-documented—alertness, improved memory, productivity, creativity, lifted spirits, and less stress. All those things sound AWESOME! 

So what should we do now? Recognize and celebrate a belated National Sleep Awareness Week and National Napping Day! Go get some shut-eye…

Further Enjoyable Resources:

Friday, March 8, 2013

52 Pick-Up Challenge: Week #4

*This series of Friday posts is inspired by the blog entry--52 Pick-Up Paleo Style by Amy Kubal via robbwolf.com. Each post is based on this premise that Dietary Ruts = Kitchen Boredom -> Healthy Eating FAIL! So each week, I plan to share with you one meal from the previous week that I tried and enjoyed to help me stave off the boredom in my weekly meal plan.

Ah, the humble tomatillo...what art thou? Art thou a tomato?  ¿Por qué llevas esas hojas? Why must I char you along with this jalapeño? You are so intriguing; therefore, I am making you part of my 52 Pick-Up Paleo Style. So I fired up my slow-cooker, fired up my cast-iron skillet, and got to work with this recipe from Sarah Fragoso at Everyday Paleo. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Books, Books, More Books

Don't you just hate it when you reserve a few books at the library with the hopes that they will come one-at-a-time for casual reading, and then they all come at the same time. So now you have to rush through them because there is no way you'll be able to renew them since they are such popular books. Well, here they come...

*Good thing I read the NYTimes article by Michael Moss. Perhaps I can skip this one...

And to top it all off, this came in the mail yesterday...
Embedded image permalink 
Leave a comment: Which one would you start with? Which one piques your interest?

And then come the cookbooks.

Monday, March 4, 2013

White Powder & Rocks

No, I am not talking about illicit drugs. I'm talking about sugar. Though sugar is not illegal like the white powder & rocks you may have assumed I was talking about, it is amazingly as addictive.

Amy Kubal (@AmykRd) calls it "crack." Dallas & Melissa Hartwig (@whole9life) call sugar a "demon" that "bombs" your weakened gut system. Dr. Robert Lustig acknowledges that "sugar is as addictive as cocaine" because of it's dopamine-enducing euphoric effect (NY Daily News report by Lindsay Goldwert). And the tidal-wave of evidence against sugar consumption threatens to sweep us away. Some just stand there amazed at the sight and feel powerless against it. Others try moving to higher ground to escape the overwhelming flood.

And it's hard to escape! It comes in many forms and seems to be in everything. Just pick up a package of anything, read the ingredients, and you are bound to come across sugar in one form or another:
-The Demonized High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
-Cane Sugar
-Apple Juice Concentrate

And even when we pick up a "healthier" choice, sometimes we lean toward the things with concentrated sugars--the "sugar rocks": Raisins, Dried Cranberries, and Dates (yes, I have my occasional date with dates in our pantry...shocking!)

All of this adds up to an average American consumption of "a third of a pound of sugar every day--130 pounds a year" (Goldwert). Amazing!

So what do we do if we want to escape this sweet tidal wave? There are options, but each one requires self-control, sacrifice, and hard work. But if you are not afraid of these three things, there is a high likelihood that you can save yourself from being swept away. Here are a few options:

1) Hardcore, Cold Turkey: Get it out of your house; yes, throw that hard-earned money into the garbage. Go to the grocery store and read labels. Stay on the out-skirts of the store. Buy meat, veggies, nuts, & fruit that fill you up on the nutrients that matter most.

2) Detox: There are programs out there that work on the philosophy that it takes a minimum of 21 days to break bad habits and establish better ones. That's why there are successful programs like the Whole30 & the 21-Day Sugar Detox. Another reason these work for some people is because of the power of the collective: when a group of people act together, it is easier to accomplish the goal. In fact, today marks the beginning of the 21DSD hosted by Diane Sanfillipo (@balancedbites). If action is in your plans today, check out the program here or by clicking on the 21DSD to the right.

3) The Gradual Ween: Decrease your intake of sugars slowly over time with the hopes of eliminating a large chunk of it by a certain time. Some think this works, others do not. Some see it as a gentler way of learning a new habit; others see it as a crutch. The main point here is that you have to find out what works for you.

So in the name of establishing a healthier lifestyle, consider moving to higher ground to escape the flood of the sugar tidal wave. I went pretty hardcore, cold turkey after being diagnosed with high blood pressure. Every day that I look in the mirror, I see the benefits of this choice. And if you'd like to know more about my progress, read about it on this post ("Progress").

Sugar-Related Resources:
It Starts With Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig
Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfillipo
The 21-Day Sugar Detox: Bust Sugar & Carb Cravings Naturally by Diane Sanfillipo (Advance Order)

Friday, March 1, 2013

52 Pick-Up Challenge: Week #3

*This series of Friday posts is inspired by the blog entry--52 Pick-Up Paleo Style by Amy Kubal via robbwolf.com. Each post is based on this premise that Dietary Ruts = Kitchen Boredom -> Healthy Eating FAIL! So each week, I plan to share with you one meal from the previous week that I tried and enjoyed to help me stave off the boredom in my weekly meal plan.

I have come across some weird food-stories this week. Soil Soup was the one the piqued my interest the most. Did you know a Tokyo chef, Toshio Tanabe, has a whole tasting menu that features soil as an ingredient? I suppose I shouldn’t judge it before I’ve tried it, but I don’t think it will be featured here any time soon.

And who missed the story of horse meat in IKEA’s meatballs? But I digress…

This past week was full of new recipes, so I had a hard time narrowing my choice down for this week’s 52 Pick-Up post. But I finally decided to share a semi-“paleo,” grain-free, & gluten-free recipe that our family is bound to repeat for special occasions. And since it is my wife’s birthday tomorrow, I figured I would share her requested meal for our Family Movie Night tonight. 

This recipe comes from one of my favorite blogs, The Domestic Man. His food photography is wonderfully mouth-watering. Please visit his blog & realize that he receives all the credit for this recipe. I just followed directions.

Recipe #3 of 52: Cast Iron Skillet Grain and Gluten Free Pizza (Modified Recipe)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Caveman Feast: E-Cookbook Review

Happy February 28th! Tomorrow is the beginning of meteorological Spring, but many of you are still feeling very winter-ish. Here in Chicago, we have finally experienced winter. Some of you in the Northeast have been constantly digging out from winter's mess for two months. Perhaps we should all become snow-birds and move to Florida. I hear there's plenty of cheap housing around Fort Myers (Cape Coral, anyone?).

Spring puts me in the mood to break out and try something new. And if you are familiar with my blog, you know I have recently had a revelation; many of my posts focus on this simple philosophy:

Ruts = Boredom -> FAILURE!

I often tie this to food choices or workouts. And today is no different. So how do you stay away from falling into ruts? Find something that forces you to be varied in your approach. When it comes to fitness, many of you know that CrossFit is based on variation to keep your body "guessing." And for many, it works. If you have recently completed the Whole30 program, I hope you have also discovered their semi-varied strength program, 603PTP. In fact, I'm going back to that in March to get ready for the Tough Mudder in May.

What else forces me to stay out of ruts...especially in the kitchen? Cookbooks! I love a good cookbook, and I have mentioned before that I have learned to enjoy the kitchen during the past 4 months of following a "paleo"-type lifestyle (No, I am not wearing animal skins and living in a cave; although, that sounds like an fun adventure). I have discovered some treasures: Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook, Well Fed, Practical Paleo, Eat Like a Dinosaur, & The Caveman Feast.

After buying these, my wife and I have had wonderful moments menu planning while flipping the pages (paper & virtual) to find new ways of staying out of the meal-time "ruts." One of my favorites to look at and flip through is George Bryant & Abel James' e-cookbook, The Caveman Feast. In fact, it was the first e-cookbook that I took a risk buying. I did not know if I would enjoy cooking from my iPad mini. I thought, "expensive electronics next to stove & range is not a good idea." But I am surprised by how much I like it and use it in the kitchen.

If you want to know more about George & Abel, you can find their stories, podcasts, and creations at these two websites: The Civilized Caveman and Fat Burning Man.

But The Caveman Feast is a simple compilation of all these things. Three specific things stand out that make me advocate for this cookbook & I believe every cookbook should have:

#1: Variety - The authors provide about 45 beef entrees, 10 pork entrees, 20 chicken entrees, 5 seafood entrees, and 20 breakfast ideas. And if that's not enough, they provide recipes for sides, veggies, rubs, dressings, and sauces to mix things up even more. And dare I skip the desserts? Can you say, "More than 40 grain-free desserts?" In fact, this is my go-to source for dessert ideas like Chocolate Bacon Bites. Yes, the authors are bacon-minded...a very good thing in my book.

#2: Beautiful Pictures - Every good cookbook should have pictures of their food that inspires you to make that same yummy-ness in your own kitchen. Who wouldn't want to go home and make these Blueberry Espresso Brownies tonight? Or wake up tomorrow morning and make this Simple Sweet Scramble? Needless to say, the pictures inspire me to cook.
*Photos courtesy of CivilizedCaveman.com
#3: Simple Ingredients & Instructions - In order to make these foods, I need clear instructions that don't have me throwing dishes all over the kitchen (which I tend to do anyway). Each recipe is complete with straight-forward preparation & cooking instructions.

So here's my sales-pitch (something I'm not very good at). All this can be yours today for $19.95 . But before you buy it, please make sure you have something to read it on (preferably an e-reader with a color screen like an iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone or Kindle Fire). A laptop or desktop computer will work also, but I doubt your desktop is on your kitchen counter. All you have to do is follow this link. (In full disclosure, yes, I do get a little kick back for referring you, and your help is greatly appreciated). Thanks!

Monday, February 25, 2013

"My School Farted..."

I have never had such a unique day in my profession as a Chicago teacher, and my faith in today’s youth at my school has been redeemed. Just as students were walking into school today, the hallways started to smell like gas. The fire department was called in, and the administration went into emergency-plan mode. About a third of the students (including mine) were directed to the Catholic church about two blocks away. We sat there for about two and a half hours waiting for the all-clear to re-enter the building. Meanwhile, I had very understanding & patient conversations with students who were in a very uncomfortable situation. To each of those students, I applaud you. Great job staying level-headed! You broke the mold today! Many people have lost faith in our urban youth recently (for very valid reasons), but they reminded me that the public image is not always the correct image. In the end, we found out that the school released a gas bubble. Yep, my school farted.

This weekend was unique too. I was a cookin’ fool. I whipped up four tasty foods, and I am having a hard time figuring out which one to highlight in this upcoming Friday’s 52 Pick-Up Paleo Edition blog post. So I need your help. Here is a picture of each kitchen creation…

The yummy foods include:
1) Upper-Left: Beef with Broccoli & Cashews
2) Upper-Right: Paleo Pizza
3) Lower-Left: Chocolate Bacon Almond Butter Bananas
4) Lower-Right: Cod with Coconut Slaw

Help me by choosing one you'd like to see featured this Friday in my 52 Pick-Up Paleo Style Blog Post. Simply leave a comment below saying which one looks most interesting to you. Thanks!

Lastly, I am trying to sell as many copies of this great ecookbook by George Bryant, The Caveman Feast. It is currently on sale for $19.95 until Thursday, February 28th In fact, the Chocolate Bacon Almond Butter Bananas are straight from Bryant’s imagination. So you can imagine all the other goodness that must be in his cookbook. Please click on the image of The Caveman Feast below to learn more & order your copy (+ goodies)!

If you need any more motivation to order a copy, just look at this cutie ready to munch on those lovely Chocolate Bacon Almond Butter Bananas! My daughter loved them!
 Click Here to Get 200 Paleo Recipes

Friday, February 22, 2013

52 Pick-Up Challenge: Week #2

*This series of Friday posts is inspired by the blog entry--52 Pick-Up Paleo Style by Amy Kubal via robbwolf.com. Each post is based on this premise that Dietary Ruts = Kitchen Boredom -> Healthy Eating FAIL! So each week, I plan to share with you one meal from the previous week that I tried and enjoyed to help me stave off the boredom in my weekly meal plan.
One of the most interesting lessons I’ve learned over the past few months of eating a “Paleo-ized diet” is how prominent sugars are in the modern American diet. You’ve probably heard about the evils of high fructose corn syrup and the lack of anything positive from processed white sugar. So when someone wants a “healthy sugar” (is there such a thing?), they often turn to honey and maple syrup. They’re natural, right? So when I saw this recipe on PaleOMG’s blog while suffering a sweet-tooth attack, I knew I had to try it.

Recipe #2 of 52: Maple Blueberry Bacon Breakfast Carnitas with Fried Egg (Modified Recipe)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Enormous Hump Day

Oi! It’s Hump Day, and the hump I have to get over today seems enormous!

#1: I’m tired. Of course this is my fault for getting sucked into Downton Abbey and staying up late to get to the Season 3 finale. I’m averaging about 1 hour of sleep less than I was used to because the writers keep dragging these episodes into the 2 hour range. But the good news is that I am almost caught up with the rest of the world with the DA storyline.

#2: I’m stressed. The honeymoon period is officially over in my classroom. My freshmen are starting to act very sophomoric! Ain’t nobody got time for that! And if any of you are reading this, understand that I push high expectations because your growth is my greatest concern & passion.

So I have decided to share a few links that I think will help me get over this hump. Please support these sites by visiting them, subscribing to them, buying from them, and paying it forward by sharing them with your posse of peeps.

1)      Bulletproof Coffee! You’ve all heard of lattes, espresso, cappuccinos, and other yummy hot beverages, but have you ever heard of butter in your coffee? The Paleo Mama put this idea in my head with this blog post: I Just Put Butter In My Coffee. And I must do this to get me over this hump.

2)      Bacon! I had the right ingredients to make a yummy bacon-y dish yesterday morning that I will highlight on Friday. But to get me over the hump today, I am looking forward to Baconfest Chicago 2013! The tickets go on sale at NOON (CST) today! Get yours here sold out in 41 minutes! The wonderful thing is the amount of money raised to support The GreaterChicago Food Depository ($50,000 last year).

1)       The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” by Michael Moss (Author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us): I know many documentaries are out talking about the food industry and the impact on our health. But this book excites me! It’s already on hold for me at the local CPL branch.

2)      RewireYour Brain for Positivity and Happiness Using the Tetris Effect” by Walter Chen: I’m not sure what caught my attention most…Tetris or the amazing brain!

3)      Biblical Proverbs: My wife and I are reading through Proverbs. One Bible proverb chapter a day for 31 days. “Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.” (Prov. 1:5)

I know these are helping me get over the hump of a difficult week. I hope they help you too! Thanks for reading and sharing!