03/5/14

A New Discovery – Paleo Cookies

So I mentioned in my previous post I was starting on the Paleo diet.  I can honestly say that after hearing this diet described to me I though it sounded worse than starting medications for diabetes.  I must now somewhat reluctantly admit that I was completely wrong.

While my diet for the last 45 years has been a matter of eating anything and everything that I wanted, I’m now paying the price.  There were days when I would have croissants and coffee for breakfast, along with delicious muffins or cupcakes.  Then I would eat a huge sandwich for lunch.   And top it all off with bread for dinner and some other sort of dessert.

As you might imagine I was never in particularly good shape.  The life of an artist can be invigorating, but at least in my case, it didn’t involve a great deal of physical activity.  And so I had become very, very soft.  In fact slovenly might even be a better word.  Yes slovenly.  Anyway…

The idea of cutting out all of my favorite foods and ingredients was to say the least intimidating.  But now that I’ve actually been on the diet for a couple of weeks, I’ve noticed some very interesting changes.

First and foremost, I’ve lost about 10 lbs.  But that’s not even the best part.  Because I’ve increased the amount of fats that I eat and reduced the amount of carbohydrates that I take in each day, I’m full practically all the time.  How has science been so completely wrong about this for the past 30 years?!?!?

I typically start my day with some eggs fried in butter.  Doesn’t that just sound like the typical restrictive breakfast.  I’ll usually have a couple pieces of bacon or sausage links as well.  That plus a cup of coffee.  Instead of non-dairy creamer, which evidently is just vegetable fats turned to powder, I use heavy cream.  Can you imagine?  I’d forgotten how good the flavor of real cream in coffee could be.

This breakfast is high in protein and fat, and it keeps me full for hours.  There are days when I’m still full well past lunch time.  This never happened when I was eating lots of bready foods for breakfast.

Lunch typically consists of some greens in a salad, maybe some chicken, turkey or other dark meat.  Again, dark meat is the key as it contains more fats and helps keep me feeling full longer.  Since I’m not consuming any bread or carbohydrates at lunch, my afternoon crash has completely disappeared.  I used to walk down to the neighborhood Starbucks religiously at 3:30 every single day.  I don’t even notice feeling tired in the afternoon any more.

Occasionally I will need a little snack in the afternoon.  One of my friends turned me on to a special little Paleo treat that she’s found.  Basically they’re cookies made without any of the usual high carb ingredients.  The company is called Gourmet Paleo, and they do amazing work with their paleo cookie selection.  They are the perfect treat when my sweet tooth is acting up.  They freeze really well so you can keep them around for a while.  And at $4 per cookie, you want to make them last.  Check them out at Gourmet-Paleo.com.  They even a have cranberry coconut paleo cookie recipe.

Dinner is typically pretty small for me now days.  I’ll generally have a couple types of vegetables along with some sort of fish.  Fish is something I’ve always enjoyed and may be the one part of my diet that I was actually doing right.

Finally, one of the biggest benefits I’ve noticed from the Paleo diet is how much better I sleep.  The difference is enormous.  I’m out like a light.  And in the morning I feel absolutely refreshed.  It’s truly been remarkable.

02/5/14

CrossFit Shoes Are a Big Part of Increasing Performance

So while I’m currently slowing down in terms of the amount of work I’m doing, based on the doctors orders I’m having to increase my overall level of activity.  At the same time, I’m also having to start on a new diet.

This all started because of a close flirtation with type II diabetes.  Evidently years of poor eating habits and drinking copious amounts of wine are finally catching up to me.

Doctors orders are that I’m to start on what is called the Paleo diet.  Thats Paleo as in Paleolithic, not Pal-eo as in ‘this is my pal’.  Evidently this diet is based on what our ancestors ate thousands of years ago before the integration of grains and legumes into our diet.

Essentially this means I’ll be cutting WAY back on the amount of carbohydrates I consume over the course of a day.  Can’t say I’m at all excited about this.  But evidently this is going to completely eliminate my mid-afternoon blood sugar crashes.  And hopefully this will in turn eliminate my need for a towering cup of coffee every afternoon.

One big plus is that this diet is actually higher in fat.  I enjoy fat.  In fact the post I did about duck confit revolves around fat.  Yum.  It also includes bacon.

Evidently the problems with associated with high fat foods has more to do with also including grains in your diet.  Grains cause inflammation, which in turn can cause blockages in your blood vessels and arteries.

Another feature of this diet is a rigorous exercise regimen.  Rather than going through the drudgery of a typical gym, my enlightened doctor has decided that I should enroll in what is called CrossFit.  Here’s a link their website if you’re at all interested in the torture to which I’m about to subject myself.

To be completely honest I’m terrified.  The workouts look herculean in nature.  But my doctor has assured me that it is infinitely customizable to your personal level of fitness.

All of the lifts are Olympic-style lifts involving such words as snatch and jerk.  :-)  Can’t help but smile at that.  The one word of advice that he did give me though was to get the best possible CrossFit shoes.  And according to the guide on this website, I’m getting the absolute best.  Reebok Nano’s.  Never owned a pair of Reeboks before.  Or a nano for that matter.

But enough rambling.  I’ve been assured that this drastic change in my lifestyle will not only improve my overall health, but will have me looking and feeling better in no time.  I guess only time will tell.

In the meantime I can look forward to jumping, sweating, and most likely cursing a great deal over the course of the coming weeks.  All the message boards I’ve read about beginners to Crossfit talk about a great deal of soreness.  I’m not terribly fond of soreness.  Guess I’ll need to look for some muscle soreness recovery supplements.

Wish me luck!

01/27/14

How To Get Your Knives Razor Sharp Every Time

As I mentioned in my first post, one of my passions in life is cooking. I have been blessed to be able to travel the world looking for inspiration for my work. As a result, I have been exposed to culinary delights from around the world. From street food in Shanghai to three star Michelin restaurants in Paris, there is very little that I don’t enjoy.

On a recent trip to Atlanta I got to visit a Vietnamese restaurant on the northeast side of town. Some friends of mine had told me about it while at a party on Thursday evening.

I’ve eaten at several extremely Vietnamese restaurants in the past, but this particular spot had a French-Vietnamese fusion menu that was absolutely amazing. The entree that I enjoyed most was a sweet and sour duck confit. It was both rich in flavor and lightly sweet. Truly amazing.

Of course I decided immediately that I could improve upon this dish in my own kitchen. I’ve always loved duck confit, but have never particularly enjoyed the bone in variety.

I was able to pick up a succulent duck at my local Whole Foods. And once I had it home began the preparation of the dish.

I had decided that I would carve the bird after cooking it, and roast it again in it’s own fat. At this point I ran into a bit of a problem.

Thanksgiving this year had been held at my house. I don’t typically do holiday dinner parties at my home, but this year I felt compelled to invite my closest friends and family to the house for an elaborate feast. As time was running low, I allowed my nephew to carve the bird with my detailed instructions. He did a wonderful job, but in the process made a mess of my prized carving knife.

As I went to use it on the duck, it felt as though it was as dull as a butter knife. No problem, I’ll simply whip out my handy electric knife sharpener. No sooner had I plugged it in than I heard a pop, and goodbye sharpener.

Finding a New Knife Sharpener

Duck forgotten, I immediately hopped online to look for a replacement. I was pleasantly surprised by how much sharpeners had changed since I last invested in one. I quickly found a site, Make it Sharp, that guided me to the perfect sharpener for my very extensive collection of kitchen knives.  They have everything from sharpening stones to full blown professional sharpening systems.

Within a few minutes it was ordered and I pounced back on the duck. I was able to use a paring knife to remove all of the meat. I placed it in a large ramekin with the skin and fat, covered it with foil, and cooked it low and slow. The addition of the fish sauce (the secret to the Vietnamese duck confit), was perfect.

I served it with roasted asparagus with a poached egg yolk and a bit of sea salt and truffles. Tres Magnifique!