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.

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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.

water

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

Chicken Enchilada Stew

chicken soup

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.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

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This has become one of my favorites, and a GREAT cure for those carb cravings. Thanks to Diane Sanfilippo at Balanced Bites

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350° F

Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, pure vanilla extract and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl. Sift in the coconut flour, sea salt, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice and stir until well combined. Gently fold in the cranberries. Add the butter or coconut oil last as they will solidify as they cool to room temp. In a muffin tin, scoop 1/4 cup of the batter into each lined muffin cup, and bake for 35-45 minutes. Enjoy!!! These are also GREAT to make in larger batches to freeze and thaw as needed.

Cucumber Ceviche Cups

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Ingredients
1 lb seafood, assorted as desired (fish, shrimp, shellfish, octopus, calamari), diced small
1 cup Lime Juice
1/8 cup Red Onion, minced
1/8 cup Cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
1/8 cup Roma Tomato, seeded and minced
1/2 cup Organic Tomato Juice
1 tbsp Hot Sauce, check label for unwanted additives
3 tbsp Cilantro, minced
Sea Salt, to taste
2 English Cucumber

Method
1. Dice seafood, this is best done when almost frozen for cleaner cuts
2. Add lime juice to seafood, mix, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
3. Remove seafood from refrigerator strain lime juice.
4. Add remaining ingredients except English cucumber, mix, season as desired with sea salt and refrigerate.
5. For cups, cut English cucumbers across the width. With a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the center but be careful not to leave the base intact.
6. When ready to serve, fill cups with seafood mixture.

Why We Eat…

I really want to spend some time in the next couple weeks looking at why we eat. Let’s forget about we eat because we are hungry, we eat to fuel our bodies, etc… Lets look at why we eat the way that we do and why we make the choices we do regarding what we eat. I touched on this on the He Said, She Said radio broadcast Thursday night, but lets get deeper. Let’s look at each stage of eating we find ourselves in.

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1. Eating for Pleasure

The 2 year-old in each of us. This is the eating which is immature and impulsive. It is the voice inside that says “I want… Gimme…” The drive is for instant gratification. Because this stage is not fueled by any physiological benefit, it is the most dangerous. It is fueled by emotional desires to maximize pleasures and minimize pains. Emotional eating. This is accomplished through junk food, sweets, snacks, pop/soda, coffee, and alcohol. Now, keep in mind, consuming these items does not always fall into the realm of this category that is entirely negative. Having a glass of wine with dinner or while spending time with friends is not what we are talking about. Neither is the occasional dessert. What we are talking about is uncontrolled excessive consumption. Eating for pleasure is not a stage that needs to be eliminated from our lifestyles. The key is discipline and making smarter, more evolved choices as we will look at later.

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2. Eating for Energy

This is where most of Americans find themselves. Eating for energy, or eating out of hunger as we more typically understand it, is a direct result of the typical American lifestyle. The average day for most consists of waking up eating a carbohydrate and sugar loaded breakfast (juices, cereals, grains, breads or baked goods) resulting in a insulin spike and elevated blood glucose levels. This quick boost gets you moving as you start the day. But, by mid-morning, blood sugar levels begin to drop along with energy levels and brain function. To compensate we turn to stimulants in coffee and energy drinks to pull us through, but these too lead us to the same result, a crash by lunchtime. If we have time to eat lunch, we don’t usually have time to wait for it. Judgement for the most part goes out the window in the options we consider. From fast to fast casual cuisine economy and quantity rule our decisions most times over quality. It becomes a vicious cycle day in day out as we try and find balance in the energy roller coaster. This is the stage we seek to eliminate. As mentioned, the pleasurable eating discussed in Stage 1 can be evolved with smarter more conscious choices. Stage 2 eating for energy is what reeks havoc on our blood sugar and hormones and results in the greatest threat to our health.

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3. Eating for Recovery

We find ourselves here as a result of Stages 1 and 2. These recoveries, AKA “diets”, are the measures we resort to in order to lose weight, gain weight, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, improve cardiovascular performance, reverse diabetes, lower risk of heart attack, etc etc etc… And, as numerous as the conditions are that we may be trying to counteract, there are at least as many recoveries/diets out there claiming to bring balance back to the chaos we’ve created within. Names like Paleo, Zone, Whole9, Atkins, Gracie, Weight Watchers and others come straight to mind. I’ll get into more on each of these individually in future posts. We will also look at some of the more drastic techniques like the Master Clense, carb cycling, water manipulation, tapeworm, yes, there is a tapeworm diet. These drastic options are the ones I would love to steer everyone from considering as they do not in any way resemble a diet that could or should be maintainable in the long run. We’ll discuss how these get results, but also why they can be very risky.

When we are speaking about recovery, the approved diets should be treated as just that, recovery.

Recovery is defined as:
– The act, process, duration, or an instance of recovering.
– A return to a normal condition.

Once we have removed and achieved homeostasis in our bodies again, it is important to then focus on an maintainable lifestyle that does not lead us back down the same path. Which leads us to Stage 4.

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4. Eating for Health
Eating for health is where many, even those of us within the Paleo community, disagree. While we are all in agreement on the issues of avoiding:
– Grains, especially gluten containing products
– Sugar, specifically refined sources
– Refined oils
– Inhumanely raised animals, farmed seafood and any animal protein sources containing additives such as hormones, colorings and fillers
– Soy products

There still remain some grey areas such as dairy and legumes.
– While dairy does have an inflammatory and insulin spiking effect on the body, it also has some amazing growth-promoting effects. In the case of a client with no history of autoimmune or inflammatory conditions who has trouble putting on or keeping on healthy weight, I would encourage keeping dairy a regular part of their diet provided it could be sourced from an organic, pasture-fed source.
– Legumes do have an inflammatory effect as well being a “musical fruit” producing gas and bloating which can lead to gastrointestinal distress. They are also a very rich source of minerals and fiber. The biggest problem with them lies in the fact that they contain phytochemicals that bond to these nutrients making them impossible to be absorbed by the body. Preparation methods such as soaking however can reduce these phytates considerably, but not completely.

So, where do I stand on eating for health? I believe that although we have all evolved essentially the same, we are all still affected differently as a result of individual differences in our genetic coding, individual deficiencies as a result of poor lifestyle choices or living conditions etc. For me, maintaining a paleo diet has given me the greatest benefit in health as well as performance. Does that mean that I don’t ever stray into the forbidden foods zone? Not at all. I love popcorn when I’m watching a movie. I just don’t eat it very often and when I do, it is organic kernels, popped on a stove (thank you dad for what was probably my first cooking lesson so many years ago) and flavored with organic butter, not the hydrogenated oil flavored crap in a bag or the stuff at the theater. The same is true for dairy and beer. I love cheese as much as I love a good IPA with hops that will punch you in the face. But these are not regular parts of my lifestyle. These are very rare occasions when enjoy these. This brings us back to Stage 1 again. Eating for pleasure can be ok, we just need discipline and evolved choices.

Once we have recovered from the chaos and brought balance back to our bodies, this is when we can start reintroducing some of these forbidden foods back into our lifestyles individually in order to see the effects. For me, going Paleo led to virtually all of my allergies (inflammation) disappearing; something I have battled my entire life. But, reintroducing any grains back into my diet results in them returning if there are even moderate levels of allergens in the air. This includes beer. Even having just a couple will cause me to wake up feeling like I dropped a kettle bell on my head if there is mold in the air so I limit this to very rare occasions and stick with a glass of red wine the rest of the time.

How do we get to Stage 4? I highly recommend reading It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig or The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. Commit 30 days to recovery and educate yourself on the “sciencey stuff” so that you can make informed choices for yourself when you look to reintroduce some of these foods back into your lifestyle. You may find that you don’t even miss any of those foods.

Please feel free to comment below, I’d love to hear about your experiences and answer your questions!