Curried Pork Lettuce Wraps – From 2012 Austin Parade of Homes Chef Night

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I was honored to be selected as one of the featured chefs for Austin’s 2012 Parade of Homes Chef Night at the PGM Design + Build home. PGM owner, Edgar Prats, and I later reunited on the He Said, She Said radio program. He’s been begging me ever since for he pork recipe I prepared that night. This curried pork is a test of patience, but well worth the wait to prepare. I originally served this as a one bite amuse-bouche at the event, but it’s especially delicious served wrapped in a crisp lettuce cup. The cool crunch is an awesome compliment to the sweet spice of the pork. I usually will buy an entire pork shoulder at a time (about 12-18 lbs). If entertaining, you can cook the entire shoulder or split the butt (upper part) from the picnic (lower part) and freeze one for a later use.

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Ingredients:
1 pork butt, bone in
1 sweet yellow onion, sliced 1/2″ thick
1 – 12 oz can coconut milk
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 stalk lemongrass, bruise with heel of knife
equal parts Penzey’s Sweet and Hot Curry Powder, about 4 Tbsp each mixed
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp coconut oil
1 head Boston lettuce

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Season butt completely with curry powder, then sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper.
3. In large Dutch oven, heat coconut oil over med-high heat.
4. Sear butt in oil on all sides until browned. Remove and set aside.
5. Add lime juice and coconut milk to Dutch oven to deglaze the pan.
6. Return butt to pan, add remaining ingredients except lettuce, cover and place in oven.
7. Once in oven, immediately reduce heat to 200 degrees F.
8. Cook for 4 hours, basting every 20-30 minutes.
9. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before shredding pork butt with fork.
10. Strain pan sauce and save it for remoistening pork if needed.
11. Serve in lettuce wraps by themselves or topped with fresh chiles, your favorite salsa, shredded cabbage or cilantro.

Note: This can also be made in a crockpot. Turn crockpot to high and allow to heat completely. Once this is done, sear the butt in a sauté pan. Transfer pork to crockpot and deglaze saute pan with lime juice and coconut milk as above then transfer sauce to crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook high for 4-6 hours or reduce heat to low once all ingredients are added and cook 8-10 hours.

Summertime Fitness – Hydration and Electrolytes

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With summer officially in full swing, it’s prime time to address hydration and specifically clear up some confusion about electrolytes; what they are, where they come from and America’s “drinking problem” of turning to sports drinks as a source. 

What are Electrolytes?

Chemically, electrolytes are either positively or negatively charged particles that, much like ends of a magnet, either attract or repel each other and other particles within the body. This quality helps regulate many processes, most importantly transport across cellular membranes.

Huh?

Let’s drop the science for a bit and drop some real life knowledge on what this means. Think of the last time you were out at the club. Most likely there was security at the door regulating who came in and how fast the line moved (membrane transport.) Once inside, additional staff patrol the floor helping maintain the cool in the club (homeostasis), as well as escorting out those who have had a little too much to drink and have worn out their welcome (metabolic wastes) and those who never should have been allowed to enter in the first place like the creep on the corner with the sunglasses yellin for more Jagah’bombs (free radicals and other foreign substances.) Frequently, the club will reach capacity and the rate new patrons are allowed to enter is strictly regulated and based on the frequency and volume of guests exiting. The club owners want enough guests in the club to ensure maximum profitability, but not so many that other guests or over crowded or that the club itself becomes unsafe. This is a perfect example of the sodium-potassium pumps that play a huge roll in homeostasis within the cells by ensuring that sufficient nutrients enter to maintain cellular function, but not allowing the cellular membrane to burst from excessive intracellular pressure.

The Sports Drink Dilemma…

Sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water and others typically are misbelieved to be the best source of electrolytes and rehydration. While they can work and even be recommended in extreme circumstances for athletes that perform at a very high intensity as well as emergency situations of dehydration and malnourishment, for the rest of us there is one answer to staying hydrated and rehydrating, WATER. First and foremost, like most other nutrients, if your diet and lifestyle are balanced, you are getting sufficient electrolytes from the foods you eat. To rehydrate, you simply need to drink more water, period.

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It is pretty common knowledge that Gatorade and Powerade are loaded with sugar and other nasties. But Vitamin Water is one of the most deliberately misleading products on the market. Reading the label you don’t have to look very far to see that sugar is the second ingredient listed. But wait, it only says it has 13 grams, is that so bad? Look again, that’s 13 grams per serving. At 2.5 servings per bottle that most people drink easily in one sitting, that’s 32.5 grams of sugar per bottle, right up there with many soft drinks. Keep reading and you see many of the same acidic ingredients that with the sugar contribute to tooth decay and other metabolic issues.

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Electrolytes in Food…

Sodium and chloride are found together in foods as NaCl (aka salt) and work mainly in the body as discussed above to maintain fluid balance and cellular function. Common foods containing sodium and chloride are beef, pork, cured meats like sardines, cheese, olives and other pickled items. If you are still eating processed foods, most are made with additional salt, like in the case of deli meats, chips and other snacks, nuts, butter, margarine, mayonnaise and many condiments.

Potassium is found in lots of fruits and veggies,  especially green leafy ones like spinach, turnip greens, collard greens and kale, the obvious favorite bananas, tomatoes, oranges, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes, prunes, raisins, peas and beans. Potassium also helps to regulate blood pressure and prevent bone loss and kidney stones as well as its work in cellular function.

Magnesium, like the others is found in green leafy veggies as well as nuts, legumes and tomatoes. This powerhouse electrolyte also supports bone and teeth development, nerve and muscle function and the activation of enzymes in the body thus supporting other necessary functions in the body.

Hungry for More?

Jump over to Motility Training for Tom Holland’s 6 HOT Tips for Cool Summer Workouts

Major Step in the Obesity Epidemic

The American Medical Association announced today that it will begin recognizing  obesity as a disease. A chronic disease has been defined by the National Institutes of Health as “the basis of the biomedical disease classification” including other diseases such as diabetes, asthma and depression. Until now, obesity has been viewed as a chronic illness, the “personal experience of living with the affliction that often accompanies chronic disease.” Because of this, obesity was not recognized by the health care field as a condition that “fit into a biomedical or administrative classification.”

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Obesity by the Numbers

America, by a huge margin, leads the world in obesity with 92,000,000 Americans with a BMI greater than 30%. Read that again, NINETY-TWO MILLION Americans are currently obese. 66% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight and 33% are obese according to United States Obesity Statistics as of May 2013.

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What Does the New Designation Mean?

Although the AMA is not the end-all-be-all regarding disease recognition legally,  their statement, “RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association recognize obesity as a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention,”  is huge as it will pave the way for further studies and legislation that may result in more weight management, nutrition, health and wellness treatments being recognized and covered by health care insurance and other programs.

 

There is still much work to be done such as standardizing means of identifying and defining what it means exactly to be obese as the classic BMI system contains some arbitrary classifications that don’t take into other factors such as metabolic conditions etc. I’ll definitely be following this one closely.

– Michael

 

Belly Up to the Wet Barre with Katrina Brock’s Great Water Workout

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You don’t have to be a prima ballerina to know that barre classes are a red-hot fitness trend right now! These easy-on-the-joints, low-impact workouts consistently delivers a muscle burn that’s anything but girly. Barre is a blend of ballet, Pilates, yoga, body-weight exercises and traditional calisthenics with varying degrees of cardio.  The benefits come from the combined challenge of highly controlled movements and lots (and lots) of reps – you’re guaranteed to get a solid workout packed with core and lower body focus.

With summer upon us and the blazing sun beating down, why go sweat it out in a studio when you can get the same great results in the pool? For years I’ve taught aquatic fitness classes in the pool and yoga, Pilates and barre on land and I thought – why not combine them all?  So I did just that, with a workout called Wet Barre.  Trust me, you’ll be way ahead of the curve with Wet Barre, because I specifically designed it to pair the benefits of barre with the built-in resistance of the water.  Did you know water resistance is 12x that of air?  Yes, indeed.  So an added benefit of the water is that there is virtually no need for resistance equipment (although using aqua gloves is an easy way to increase intensity should you want the added challenge).

For a full body blast while at the pool, I’ve put together a little sampler of some of my favorite Wet Barre moves for you to try.  Are you ready to get off that lounge chair and take the plunge?

Click for the full workout…

Chicken Enchilada Stew

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When I wake up to rainy days like today, only one thing sounds good. Soup. I had just enough time to throw this in the crock pot before heading to class, can’t wait for the amazing smell when I get home later, NOMS!

Ingredients:
2lbs chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, sliced very thin
4 Hatch green chiles, charred with torch or over stovetop burner, deseeded and chopped
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 (14oz) can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 (7 oz) can tomato sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
bunch of cilantro, to garnish
avocado, to garnish

Method:
1. Season chicken breasts with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Sear lightly in saute pan with coconut oil on both sides until they begin to brown. Don’t cook through completely.
2. Add chicken and all ingredients to crock pot on low for 8-10 hours or high for 6-8 hours.
3. After 6 hours remove chicken breasts and shred with a fork before returning to crock pot to finish cooking.
4. Garnish with fresh cilantro and diced avocado.
5. Enjoy!!!

Note: I make this typically in large batches. It can be eaten as more than just a soup. By straining the stock, the chicken and veggies are amazing in omelettes and on salads.

Tom Holland’s Motility Circuit

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Check out this great workout from my friends over at Motility Training. Tom Holland is a 21-time Ironman, author and national fitness celebrity. An exercise physiologist who has built his life and career on a commitment to helping people better their lives through fitness, Holland has encouraged and coached thousands of people to reach their fitness goals. He holds a BA in Communications from Boston College and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and Sports Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University.

THE MOTILITY TRAINING OUTDOOR CIRCUIT #1

Summer is right around the corner and this is a great time to mix things up by taking a few of your weekly workouts outside. This will serve to add variation to your program which we know is essential to overall fitness success, both mentally and physically.

You don’t need any equipment whatsoever to get in a quality full-body workout. By being creative you can hit all of your major muscle groups without lugging so much as a dumbbell. Remember, the most basic exercises are generally the most effective at altering your body composition.

The following is a great 45-minute program that combines both cardiovascular and strength training exercises into one workout. This is really fun to do with a friend or two at your local park.
Get the full workout here!

Faux-lafal… Yep, had to go there…

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Gotta keep with the theme for National Falafal Day with a paleo friendly version I worked up. These make a great side dish, salad topping, or by themselves with some tzatziki sauce. And for another twist on the traditional recipe, check out my good friend Chef Amy over at What Jew Wanna Eat.

Ingredients:

2 cup raw cauliflower, pureed in food processor
1 cup ground almonds or pecans
3 tbsp Penzey’s Greek Seasoning
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
4 large eggs
6 tbsp coconut flour
coconut oil, as needed for sautéing

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients well in a bowl.
2. Form mix into 3 inch patties.
3. Add and melt just enough coconut oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat to coat bottom of pan.
4. Sauté patties a few at a time. Flip when you begin seeing the sides brown.

National Falafal Day!!!

Ok, I realize it isn’t paleo traditionally, but in celebration of the holiday I had to make a stop at one of my favorite vegetarian spots today for lunch, Maoz at The Triangle 4700 Guadalupe.

Now, before I get any backlash, being made from chickpeas, falafal is not paleo. However, more important to me, it is gluten and grain-free. And for the uppity Austin foodies, yes Maoz is a franchise and not born in our backyard. But, they are locally owned and the owner has been there working and chatting with guests virtually every time I have been in. The service is incredibly friendly and their product is always very fresh.

My pick, the Maoz Salad Box every time. At 250 calories to start, you then have a topping bar of tons of fresh produce and homemade sauces to top it without feeling guilty. I definitely recommend checking them out!

Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity

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I get a lot of questions with regards to grain-free lifestyles and more specifically, gluten. To bakers, gluten is the magical agent that can be manipulated to bind their creations together and create a bold texture like in bagels and pretzels or subtly developed to create form and structure while allowing the product to flake apart like Grandma’s buttermilk biscuits. But to those afflicted with autoimmune conditions like Celiac disease or Crohne’s, the presence of gluten can be a very serious and even life threatening issue.

Gluten sensitivity includes a wide range of disorders from non-celiac gluten intolerance to celiac disease as a result of the body’s inability to properly process gluten from wheat as well as similar proteins in rye and barley (Stepniak et al. 2006). This sensitivity is a systemic autoimmune disease, or more simply, a disease in which exposure to gluten causes the immune system to attack and harm the body’s own tissues. It is important to note that all celiac disease is by definition, a form of gluten sensitivity or intolerance. However, gluten sensitivity itself is not a diagnosis of celiac disease. Many issues present themselves for sufferers of all levels of the disorder from ability and doctors’ willingness to diagnose, lack of education and established support systems, ease of lifestyle transition, cross-contamination during the production of products which would not naturally contain gluten and failure of regulatory bodies to establish specific guidelines for labeling of gluten-free products.

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Avocado, Citrus and Fennel Salad

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This is a great little salad I like to whip up when it starts warming up outside. The avocados are a no brainer as I always have them on hand and they go in just about everything I eat. A great vegetarian source of protein, avocados contain all 18 essential amino acids to form a complete protein. They are also a great source of high density lipoproteins (the good cholesterol) and have incredible anti-inflammatory properties. Combine the peppery spice of the arugula with the sweetness of the citrus and the fennel’s aroma and it’s a win.

For those who know me, my favorite things to make are soups and sauces, and that includes dressings. There really is no reason for anyone to visit the salad dressing aisle in the grocery store other than to get some ideas of a dressing to make at home themselves in a batch to use and also store for later.

One of the first ingredients to look at in our diets whether it be for weight management, performance or just simply to be healthy is where our fat comes from. Rather than get into too much science here, for now let’s just stick with the refined oils used in salad dressings. When oils are processed, their chemical structures are manipulated by manufacturers in order to increase shelf life, maximize smoke points for high-temp cooking and any number of other reasons. These alterations also increase the likelihood of oxidation of the oil and making them molecularity unstable and potentially becoming carcinogenic free radicals within the body. The list below are oils to avoid and those recommended. Keep in mind that we are only talking about for cold uses. I will spend significant time in another post discussing oils safe for cooking as many listed here like olive oil are very dangerous to cook with for the same oxidation concerns.

Oils to Avoid: Canola, Corn, Vegetable, Soybean, Grapeseed, Sunflower, Safflower, Rice Bran

Oils Recommended: Olive, Sesame, Nut (walnut, pecan, macadamia), Flaxseed, Avocado

Next time you’re at the store, pick up a bottle or two or ten. Read the labels and I challenge you to find many if any at all that do not contain these processed oils. Look especially close at those that advertise being “Made with Olive Oil.” Sure, the are technically made with some olive oil, but there are no guidelines set as to what percentage must be olive oil and what can be the other junk.

The Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette recipe below is a great example of what you can do yourself. The ratio of vinegar to oil is one that can be kept standard for you in other dressings so with that you can get creative and play with other flavors from fruits to berries, nuts and spices. This leaves you in control not only of the flavors you are in the mood for, but also the quality of ingredients you are putting into your body.

Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette
1/2 cup blood orange juice (may substitute orange, lime, yuzu or any citrus juice)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon organic local honey
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Salad
4 cups arugula, rinsed
1 whole avocado, peeled pitted and sliced 1/4″ thick
1 whole fennel bulb with frond, bulb sliced very thin with knife or mandoline, with sprigs reserved for garnish
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1 grapefruit, cut into supremes

1. Mix all vinaigrette ingredients except oil, salt and pepper into a bowl and whisk together or blend with a hand mixer.
2. Very slowly drizzle oil while continuing to whisk until an emulsification begins to develop. Oil may be added a little faster at this point. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Lay avocado slices across bottom of plate as a base for arugula.
4. Toss arugula, shaved fennel and red onion lightly with just enough vinaigrette to coat but not soak and wilt the leaves. Place on top of the arugula.
5. Garnish with supremes and fennel sprigs.
Note: for added protein, this salad goes GREAT with smoked salmon, ahi tuna or lump crab meat. Enjoy!!!