All you followers have probably put together that I kind of like to spend time in the kitchen. I don't really sit in front of the food network for hours a day, or read up on cooking books and magazines. What I generally do is come up with some idea, or take someone else's idea, and then just try to figure it out. For the longest time cooking was something I did for just myself, then for myself and my girl, and while I always wanted to eat good tasting food, I knew it wasn't the end of the world if the dish came out a little wonky. And I've had pretty good success! I am a keep-it-simple type of cook who looks to very slight touches and additions to a classic ingredient to make it new.
I know at some point in my life that I will "retire" to a small restaurant or something of the sort. I just love creating things way too much to have it not be a part of my life. With that in mind, I have actually written up about 4 different ways to involve cooking as part of my life in a greater way than just cooking for me and the ones closest to me. And this weekend was the first step in breaking into that world! A couple weeks back my housemate Cullen proposed we whip up a dish and enjoy dinner together. He suggested stuffed peppers and my mind went wild with all the options of how to do this. A seasoned up some grass-fed ground beef, mixed in chopped bacon, and then cracked an egg over it at the end. Placed it all on top of a bed of sautéed spinach and some avocado and came up with this:
When Cullen posted it to Facebook and someone commented that they wish we would cook for them, it hit me that we should begin a little project. Cullen and I could host a fine-dining experience in the comfort of your own home with a group of your closest friends. We would cook up a 3-course, Paleo-friendly meal, pair each course with hand-selected wine, and ther you have it; the perfect evening! We needed to test it out.
So we invited our closest friends for a trial run. Dress to impress, bring nothing else but your hungry stomachs and the excitement of feasting on incredibly healthy, wonderfully tasting food! Yep, we really talked it up. Now all we had to do was follow through and not suck. We actually thought it'd be funny just to heat up a crappy pizza or something and play it like we really took the time to figure out the perfect meal, but that joke ran its course and we really did prepare something interesting.
Bacon-wrapped scallops with a kick of cayenne and an avocado-lime-tequilla paste
Broiled sirloin over cinnamon and spice mashed sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with a jalepeno glaze
(for our non-red meat eater I offered: pan-cooked chicken breast in coconut oil w/ specially prepared Brussels sprouts)
Warm almond butter-stuffed dates with a chilled strawberry and coconut oil topping
I cannot express how well all this went. To be totally honest, I would have spiced the sweet potatoes a tad more, but besides that, everything turned out freaking perfect. The wines were paired wonderfully. The guests had a night filled with awesome conversation and story-telling at the table. Cullen and I worked seamlessly in the kitchen together and everyone ate their fill and enjoyed each bite. I went to bed afterwards feeling this immense sense of accomplishment that I found something that I am truly passionate about in life. As you all know, I love to do things and share them with people with the hopes that I can motivate and inspire. I love health and learning all about new, fun ways to be healthy while living an exciting life. I love food and the effects it has on your life, inside and out. And I was able to share a passion of mine with a group of people, show them that extremely healthy food can taste wonderful, and walk away feeling like made some form of positive impact.
Cullen and I will be officially starting our journey into at-home fine-dining very, very soon. So if you live in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, are interested in the best ingredients and having a formal night with friends and/or family in the comfort of your own home; there is a new option in town for you!
Here's to following your passions!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Hello ladies and gents, I have a response post today from my last post. Yesterday I received an email from my sister who thanked me for the post and then went on a thoughtful little rant about how it's got to be easy for me to have the perspective I do because I am so enthralled in the lifestyle of health and fitness and am surrounded by so many people who agree with me. She has mentioned before that my posts sometimes go a little over her head because she just does not live in the world I do and sometimes can;t understand what the hell I'm talking about. All good points, and I do admit that sometimes I get a little caught up in my thoughts and just roll with them. Or, like I say a little too often: I geek out. So, today I'm going to answer the email my sister sent me and clear up some of my thoughts on how I write and what I hope to get across.
I talk a lot about figuring things out and making no excuses in the pursuit of health and fitness. But, the question raised was how can the "average" person do this when there is just no information around them to get rolling? Well, I have a double response to this, a tough one, and a little more helpful one.
The tough one is: use basic logic, ask questions, use books and the internet. Thinking you don't have enough info at hand, or that you are surrounded by people who don't support your needs in life are just more excuses. It's really not hard to figure out how to be a healthier person, you just have to be honest with yourself all the time. Saying you don't know how to eat better or exercise properly is like saying you can't find enough information to do a presentation on the Battle Of Gettysburg (I had a friend in college actually use that excuse..). There are literally hundreds of thousands of articles, websites, books, and people out there just foaming at the mouth to help you out. And if you are surrounded by people who inspire bad habits in you, well, they are nit good people to surround yourself with; and - and this is kind of harsh - you are being weak. If I have a friend who is begging me to go out drinking with him the night before a competition and I choose to go, it is completely my fault, not his, that I feel like crap during my event. I need to be strong in the way I want to live my life and make my choices accordingly. If I don't want to eat like crap, I shouldn't make life decisions that make me want to eat like crap (and surrounding yourself with people who are a negative influence is just plain stupid to be honest).
The helpful response here will offer some solutions, rather than shove it in your face like I enjoy doing here and there. I think the number one thing anyone can do when trying to make changes for the better is to to take some time and just think about it. Think about what you really want, what you'd be willing to give up, think about all the information you already know about what you are about to do. When you take this time, I think it'll be pretty eye-opening what you actually know about health and fitness (as in, you probably know a ton about it). There is so much information out there on all this stuff that it makes sense people would get overwhelmed and think they know nothing at all? Are fats bad? Isn't whole wheat bread good for you? How long on the elliptical is ideal? Isn't weightlifting only for getting big? Is diet soda better than normal soda?
To help answer all the questions you might have, try not to jump to conclusions because generally, the answer you come out with will be one that was forced on you through faulty information. For example: are exercise machines the best way to approach lifting weights? This is one of those questions I get all the time from people new to serious exercise and I have found that every single person knows the answer to it. All you need to do is take a little time to clear out all the slop that has been forced on us about health and fitness for so many years and in the end, we all know exactly what needs to be done. Ask yourself basic questions: does the human body move naturally, or sit in a single position naturally. When we move around outside, do we use our own body to stabilize and move in random and non-structured ways, or do we isolate single muscles and joints on a regular basis? The answer to these questions should be blatantly obvious. And, with those answers fresh ion your mind, go back and ask weather machines are best for you again. No way Jose!
We all know how to be healthy and fit. Be active naturally (get outside, lift things, run around, climb, play sports, etc), eat real food (not packaged, processed, fake stuff), sleep as much as you can, and smile often. It it NOT that hard to understand. Putting it to practice is pretty hard, sure, I'll admit that. But don't confuse your own lack of motivation with not knowing what to do. Again, I really never expect for the world to be filled with a bunch of super-elite athletes (hell, I'd be so far out of a job I probably vanish into thin air!); all I hope for is that people get their heads out of the asses and start making somewhat sensible choices.
I'll leave you all with one final thought. I have literally never, in my entire career as a trainer and coach, had a person tell me that getting a good workout in was difficult. Most of my clients and athletes, and people I talk to about this stuff with come up with the excuse: "I just don't know what to do!". I'll then throw a little something together and in the end they'll all say: "that was so simple, yet it was still worked!". Exactly people, this does not have to be complicated. And the second you start to overwhelm yourself with all the crazy things you think you are "supposed" to do, you lose track of all the things that should just come naturally to you. Eat good, be active. 'nuff said!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
For a bit over a week now I have been back on eating nice and clean. In doing so, my kitchen time has increased quite a bit and I have come up with a few fun creations. For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you might remember the old Courageous Meals posts I began doing back when I moved to California. Well, now that I'm back in the kitchen thinking up different creations, I thought I'd reintroduce a couple of those into my posting (the main thing is to just get back to regular posting!), This past week, while very good on the nutrition front, I've been completely out of the gym. I intentionally took a couple extra days off from training, then, got pretty sick and ended up taking the entire week off. I am super excited to get back onto the program this coming week, along with the new-found wonderful meal plan; I am expecting great things!
So, on to a few of the meals I came up with! First, at the start of this whole thing, I was strolling through Whole Foods picking up some essentials, and decided I'd just grab a few things, head back to the house and see what i could make! This ended up being a really fun time. I literally had a bag full of wonderful food, laid it all on the counter and let my imagination run wild, and came up with the following:
Chicken sausage and shrimp collard green wraps
I broiled some great chicken sausage (I learned from my good friend who worked at Whole Foods for a while that their personal sausages are in fact, organic, free-range ground chicken, spices and pork casing, that's it. Totally cool with that!). Heated up some pre-cooked shrimp, chopped up tomato's, onions and jalapenos and put the mess into a large collard green leaf. Wrapped it up and boom, there's your meal! It turned out to be unreal! After that, it was open season in my brain for coming up with some new things (new for me at least, I am pretty sure I have been beat to the punch with all my ideas long ago, but I just don't research this stuff enough, so, I like taking the credit!)
Steak tip over eggs w/ coconut wasabi and asparagus
My lack of grill is killing me, so, it was back to the broiler for the meat. To add to the fun, I cooked up a couple eggs over easy in a pan with coconut oil and steamed the asparagus. The kick to the meal was the wasabi. I found a great little powder at Whole Foods, added water and coconut oil and just like that, a slightly sweet, crazy spicy paste to throw on top of most meats! So damn good! Some great red meat meals led me to realize that I hadn't cooked up chicken in a while, so, I thought I'd try something great!
Bacon-wrapped chicken with Brussels sprouts
Yep, back to the broiler for this, again, this lack of grill is killing me! Either way, I wrapped up my 3-inch cuts of chicken with some thick cut bacon and threw it in the oven for a good 20 minutes. This was paired with halved Brussels sprouts cooked in coconut oil along with some almond slivers. Yet again, another awesome meal (Lindsey is the Brussels sprouts genius of the household by the way, it's great!). But what about a different style of dinner, like a soup you say?
Old Fashioned Chicken Soup
Cubed up a bunch of chicken, cut up carrots, celery, onion and butternut squash along with some finely chopped bacon, and threw the whole sh'bang into a pot with a mixture of chicken and vegetable broth and water. Simmered it for a good 25 minutes and we had a perfect soup for a cold Sunday night! But what about the sweet tooth? My plan and goals for the next few weeks is to avoid this sort of thing as to control my emotional desire for sugar in certain situations (...); but, yesterday Lindsey and I went to a Halloween party and we needed to bring something perfect!
Almond Butter Cups
This was the one that everyone on Facebook wanted to know all about! Go figure, right? You have all this wonderfully good, healthy food posted up, then you post of dessert and get bombarded with questions as to how to make it! Well, if you want to make a quick buck, start a dessert company I guess. Either way, it was super easy (time consuming and messy yes, but easy)! I'll give a little more detail on this one for you all then. And of course, you can expect a few super detailed Courageous Meals posts over the coming month. A note to make before all this: you can use any type of chocolate, depends your taste.
I bag semi-sweet dark chocolate pieces
1 bottle almond butter
Small paper muffin holder things
Put all the chocolate in a large bowl or plate, then place over a small pot with a little water in it. But it on the stove and bring the water to a boil. This will slowly melt the chocolate. As this is happening, take about a cup or two of almond butter into a bowl, add about a quarter cut coconut, 2 tbsp cinnamon and 1 tbsp nutmeg, mix it all up and set aside.
Once the chocolate is melted, let cool for a minute or two, then take about 2 tbsp and pour into the muffin holder things. Use the back of a spoon to coat the whole paper thing as best you can (this is the messy, time-consuming, annoying part). I made about 15 in my batch, just as a heads up. Once the paper things are all coated, set them in the fridge to harden up.
Once they are hardened up, add a couple tbsp of the almond butter mixture into each cup, then coat the top of it with another tbsp or two of chocolate (you may have to re-heat the stuff). Again, use the spoon to make sure the entire top is coated, then, if you want to be pretty about it, add a little swirl to the top to make it look professional! Pop in the fridge and about 15 minutes later you have the perfect Almond Butter Cup! You can make this as healthy or unhealthy as you want really. Mine were pretty damn good healthy for a dessert. No added sugar, just the smallest amount in the dark chocolate. The spices and coconut in the almond butter added a bit of a kick to the whole thing that o think really made these things that much better. Now I am really curious about making these with zero sugar. I'm sure they'll be nasty, but it's worth a try! Let me know how yours turn out!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
About a month ago I was brainstorming ways to justify a trip back to California when an idea hit me. What was the number one thing I enjoyed about being out there? Well, it was getting outside and exploring all the great natural areas, the mountains, the parks, and the beaches. Sometimes I would hike, other times run, or bike, or swim or whatever. There is always just so much to do out there! This got me thinking about how so many people miss out on experiencing the great outdoors because of so many different things: The simplicity of life in a climate-controlled office and house; the ease of finding food at restaurants. I wanted to find a fun and exciting way to re-introduce people to their roots.
It never fails, every time someone heads out into the wilderness, even if it’s just to sit around and do nothing, they become a little happier. There is something innately human about connecting with nature and it is this something that I hope to harness and allow people to experience. It’s not some extreme primal workshop or anything like that; just an organized weekend to show everyone just what is in his or her backyard. That living healthily and happily is as easy as playing around in nature and eating real, good food. And because so many of us have forgotten how to do all this thanks to cars, sidewalks, big houses, stores and on and on and on; I though I’d open up the doors for everyone to re-learn it all. It’s time to become HUMAN again!
Here’s what it’s going to look like:
Saturday, late morning we’ll meet we’ll all meet at a soon-to-be-announced location. Our minimal luggage will be stored in vans, extra food and drink in coolers and we’ll go over the weekend’s events. The early afternoon will consist of learning how to move throughout the wilderness. Now, this may seem a little childish at first thought, but have you ever tried to run through the actual woods? The athleticism needed to react to your surroundings is that of a professional football player trying to avoid getting crushed by multiple opponents. With that in mind, you’ll learn how to walk, run, crawl, climb, push, pull, jump, skip, and so much more. The idea is to feel completely comfortable in the most natural of settings.
After a couple hours of organized play, we’ll all break for some fuel and to relax for a bit. This is where the first of a few wonderful surprises will be offered out! We will be partnering up with one or more local farms to supply you all with the best of the best in terms of food. We’ll have top of the line, grass-fed meat, completely organic and free-range chicken and eggs, fresh, organic produce and fruit, and of course plenty of water. My close friends at Core Warrior will be around as well with the best protein bars on the planet for everyone to indulge in.
After our break, we’ll all get set up for a wooded throwdown of epic proportions! Using all the skills everyone just learned, we’ll set up for a friendly competition using tools only the greatest gym in the world: the great outdoors, can provide. Trails, hills, streams, rocks, logs, the list is only as long as your imagination, so, you’ll have to be prepared for anything!
With our bodies wonderfully burned out, we’ll pack up all the gear and begin to make our way to the evening location. We will either be on the beach for this, or at a campsite, depending on what I am able to secure in the coming weeks. Either way, we will most likely be hiking to this location with our gear. Once there, we’ll set up camp, start the fires and let the nighttime festivities begin. We’ll cut loose on another feast of wonderfully local food while we tell stories, sing songs and just enjoy the night air and good company. As the evening winds to an end, you’ll have your choice to sleep in a tent or, as will be strongly recommended depending on the weather, under the stars.
We’ll all be up bright and early the next morning to head out to the hazy beaches to hit a wake-you-up workout before yet another scrumptious feast for breakfast. After the gear is packed up, and all that bacon grease is licked of our fingers, we’ll then head to the waters edge for a couple hours of surfing the famous waves of Pacifica.
Right on. Now, if this does not sound the like the most perfect weekend in the world, I personally think there’s a little something wrong with you…! That being said, I am sure there are a ton of questions you would-be adventurers might have. If this is the case, ask away! I’ll be posting up all sorts of details on this thing in the coming weeks so most of them hopefully will be answered, but in any event, I am here to assist in any way. This is an event I am super crazy excited to host so I will be putting all my energy into making it the best possible experience for anyone and everyone! Registration is not open yet, but will be very shortly, so, until then, go on to Facebook and “Like” the page so you can constantly see all the new updates. I’ll also be throwing things up on the blog on a pretty regular basis as well.
Before you all bombard me with 100’s of crazy questions though, let me throw this out there: In the next couple days I will be posting the dates, times, meeting places, all locations, more details of the specific events and a whole bunch more. Also, things like what to bring and so on will be sent to anyone who signs up. This initial announcement/post is merely to get everyone pumped up for the idea! I know that the date is the most important thing for pretty much everyone, and I can tell you that it will either be the second or third weekend of October. I’ll post that up on the Facebook page tonight so you all can make sure that weekend is not double-booked!
Well there you have it folks! Stay closely tuned if you are interested in all this and please let me know if you have any questions at all!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Over the past few days I’ve let my eating slide a little bit. This has been largely due to my going through a few tough things that have left me feeling a little weak emotionally. Interestingly enough, it is only during these moments when I tend to allow myself to eat certain things. And these certain things include a large amount of sugar!
Now, it’s not uncommon in any way to be an emotional eater. In fact, it’s probably one of the most common issues with how people eat out there. You get very specific attachments to types of food throughout your life, and these become engrained in you forever. Unless you take the time (and incredibly difficult effort) to change them, they’ll only get stronger and stronger. So today, I want to share with you my weaknesses for food, why, and how I formed them, and my thoughts on how I can approach it all.
I have three very distinct memories from childhood in relation to food: first, it was when my grandmother would bring over sour cream latkes (if you don’t know what these are, just think white flour, egg and sour cream, pan fried, with sour cream on top… wowza!) and my brother and I would compete to see who could eat the most. They were about 3-4 inches by 3-4 inches, circular shaped, and I would consume 30+ in one sitting, no matter how much my stomach begged for forgiveness. Second, was when we were sick as very young children. My mother would allow us to have MacDonald’s breakfast after we visited the doctor. I remember loving it so much that I would longingly stare at those magical golden arches every time we drove by. That was the only time we were ever allowed to eat there. Third, was when I was in middle school and would go over to friends’ houses. They would have things like cookies, crackers, candy and other goodies stocked up, while we never had anything even resembling that at our house. I would just lose all control and go to town on their sugary and salty snacks. It was like I was storing it all in my belly for the few days I would have to eat fruit and veggies at home before I could get back to their house to eat more!
Looking back at these three memories, I can see something very interesting: desert food, and highly processed food, was so outlawed to me that it was like a super-gift each and every time I was allowed to have it. So what did this turn into as I grew older? Well, in high school, I found out that with more responsibility in when and what I ate, I seemed to gravitate towards finding these “outlawed” foods because now I had the ability to get them myself. And when I was able to drive, well, holy cow! MacDonald’s and me were inseparable. After baseball games I was known to get 3-4 burgers, super sized fries and soda, and then have an ice cream or apple pie thing. I would have that meal at least 4 times each and every week during the summer. Between games I would enjoy a large sandwich or burger, then wash it down with 8+ free-refilled soda, then pick up another soda, a couple gatorades and some snickers and chips to have during my next game. So yeah. I ate like crap. But I didn’t know any better. I knew my mom wouldn’t be the happiest camper about it all. But she wasn’t around to tell me NO, and I was a big boy who could make my own decisions!
Crap food was my reward for being free to make my own choices. When someone else made choices for me, I wasn’t allowed this stuff. So, of course the floodgates would open later in life. This reward soon expanded to become something that I psychologically needed to feel good. It’s a pretty cut and dry concept: if you reward yourself with something you enjoy, you’ll do more and more to receive said award. The only problem is, food is a necessity in life, and when you get hungry you are faced with a choice: either eat clean, healthy, good food; or, eat fake, unhealthy, crap food. And what happens when you don’t actually understand what the difference is? Well, you eat the food that you learned was the best tasting and gave you instant satisfaction. So, all of a sudden I’m a junior in college, stressed, confused, trying to have fun and allowing my emotions run how and what I ate. When I was happy, or doing good things, I would reward myself with “good” food. When I was sad or depressed, I would make myself feel better with the same “good” food. And that’s how it went until I was a whopping 245 pounds of not so solid, chubby wonderfulness!
Today my habits have changed drastically. The most important thing was learning first what food actually was (if it come directly from nature, it’s probably food). Next it was how to consume it intelligently enough to properly fuel my lifestyle. But the habits that I formed through 21 years of my life still haunt me, less and less each month, but still there nonetheless. Even tonight, as I returned home from training a client to finish up this post, I found myself overcome by my dark food habits. I was at Whole Foods picking up a few odds and ends for my cooking spree tomorrow. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been going through some emotionally difficult issues, and I could feel that overwhelming urge to calm my sadness and insecurities with what I grew up understanding would do so: sugar. And it didn’t help that one of my favorite bakeries; Sticky Fingers (just check out the site!) was selling cookies and brownies. So, I enjoyed a couple of each as I walked the 3 miles back to my house. Did I feel better? Hell yes I did! Did I help myself, and the growth I desire to be a better person? Not in any possible way. I gave in to something I know I honestly don’t want in my life. My stomach feels bloated and uncomfortable, my throat is clogged up, and my brain feels a little fuzzy. I don’t like that feeling. The few minutes of enjoyment was not worth the way I feel now, or the way I’ll feel in the morning.
I am still in the process of learning to overcome these emotional attachments that I’ve created in myself. I don’t have any definitive answers for you, and for that I am sorry. I am merely sharing this all with you to cause some form of thought within yourself. How do YOU see food? What are YOUR attachments and weaknesses? In my being able to be open and honest about my problems, I know I can pursue the things I want with a clearer mind. If I can share my struggles, and openly share the process I have for overcoming those struggles, I believe I can genuinely fix them from their absolute core. If you have a process, share it. If you don’t, be honest with yourself and learn to create and use one. If I didn’t have one I would still be an unhealthy fitness wannabe, right on the cusp on “getting it”.
True change can never happen if you don’t start from deep within.
I hope my ramblings inspire a little thought. And as always, I am here to bounce ideas off of, to discuss (even argue if need be), to answer questions, to help and to support.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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