Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The avocado may be my favorite wintertime fruit. It's creamy texture and fatty nutritional profile make it a perfect snack after a tough workout. It can be mixed with salsa or sour cream; tossed on chicken or eggs, and makes the perfect addition to any type of meat hearty salad.

100g of avocado yields a solid 14g of fat (2 SatFA, 10 MUFA, and 2 PUFA), 9g of CHO, and 2g PRO and provides 160 calories.

According to Jeffery Steingarten in The Man Who Ate Everything the avocado ripens only after you pick it. Apparently the avocado tree produces a chemical that inhibits ripening.  Now that my dreams of wandering around Peru in search of a perfect and lusciously ripe avocado enjoyed seconds after picking are shattered I can enjoy eating avocados all winter long without thought of how much better they could be. In fact, the 10 for $10.00 deal on avocados at my local grocery store now seems that much more fantastic.

Steingarten recommends the best way to store an avocado is refrigeration.....but only after first ripening the fruit at room temperature.  The flesh should feel firm, with a slight give to the pressure of a thumb. Then, and only then, is the avocado ready to be diced, mashed and mixed into a creamy guacamole.

 Beware of the overripe avocado or the avocado that has been prodded with too many thumbs, testing for ripeness. Its flesh will be bruised, browned and appear unappealing. Heating an avocado is not recommended. Want it on your pizza? Wait until the cheese is cool enough to slice with out falling off.....you know what I mean, and then place the avocado slices on top.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vegetable Seeds

On the way home after a sodden shuffle on slippery snow at White Rocks I had the sudden desire to swing by the local tavern and ponder the day away while draining a pint. I never made it. The forces from the local nursery were too strong. Bright lights and the smell of fresh potting soil beckoned with an almost audible whisper. Inside the greenhouse spring is peeking over the horizon in a taunting manner. My shuffle gained a little more bounce and I found myself assessing the many choices in the seed aisle. 

Unfortunately once I start picking out seed packets I can't stop.

Perhaps it's not so much that I like to buy seeds as the fact that I have many left over from last season and I don't have space for everything. My goal was to find a climbing zucchini plant: Tromboncino. This plant will save space, hopefully evade the boring beetle that devastates my zucchini plants every year, and still produce tasty zucchini. Alas, I did not find the elusive Troomboncino and will succumb to internet ordering and shipping and handling payments but I still ended up with some nice seeds that have me thinking of Spring.

Interestingly enough I heard on the radio that spring may come earlier for the gardener.  Check out this timely article before making any plant purchases for the year: plant zones moving north.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sweet Potatoes with Salsa

The absence of gluten grains (or pretty much any grain for that matter) in my diet for the month of January (save a cheat day or three) has led to the embracing of the sweet potato.  Today I cooked up a version of a recipe from a Jaques Pepin cookbook.

Peel and slice the sweet potatoes.

Lay them in the pan. Add a half cup of water and a chunck of butter and bring to a boil. When water begins to evaporate check potatoes for browning.

Flip to brown the opposite side.

Serve with a generous scoop of whatever salsa you have on hand. I think this was a Green Zebra tomato salsa circa 2010. It has a good vinegar kick. Add a fried egg and you've got a gluten-free recovery snack.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sweet Potatoes with Apples, Onions, and Bacon

I've been on a sweet potato kick recently. Baked sweet potato fries is my go to starch. The sweet potato is  nutrition laden carbohydrate that is gluten free and relatively inexpensive. To mix it up I found a recipe from Anne Burrell on foodnetwork.com. I first read about Anne in Bill Buford's book Heat.  She was/is a sous working under Mario Batali. Now, of course, she has a tv show, possibly a book or two, and is popping up under popular search engines with recipes for sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Hash - adapted from the Anne Burrell and the Food Network

2 Sweet Potato - diced 1/2"
4 Slices Bacon
2 Apples - peeled and sliced
1 Onion - halved and chopped

Roast sweet potatoes coated in olive oil at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes

I should have cut the sweet potatoes in half yet again.

Cook bacon. Reserve.

Saute onions until soft.

Add apples to the cooked onions. I used Arkansas Black because I had them in the fridge and they hold up to cooking well. 

 Return bacon to the pan

 Add sweet potatoes and cook until the outer edges crisp.
I poured off a little too much of the bacon fat. Either that or the dish could have used a splash of cider at the end of cooking to go with the apples and provide the sweet potatoes with some extra moisture.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snowy Run on the AT - Trindle Road to Center Point Knob

First tracks for the first snow fall of the year. 7:30am and not a soul in view.

The little creatures were out early and then back to bed apparently.

Crossing a horse pasture in the Cumberland Valley.

I don't know anything about tracks in snow. But this one followed the trail for a few hundred meters.

A field-stone wall from days past.
2,175 miles. Jennifer Phar Davis set the speed-hike record in 2011 by averaging almost 50 miles per day and completed the trek in 46 days 11 hours and 20 minutes. http://jenniferpharrdavis.tumblr.com/.  I can't fathom her resiliency and determination.

Classic Boiling Springs shot.

And again.

Finally a hill or two to climb.

Time to turn around. I wanted to keep running. The day was young. The snow was fresh and unspoiled. The trail beckoned.  Yet all out and back runs are easy going out.......it's the heading back that gets you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fresh Broccoli and Beef Salad with Sesame, Soy, Ginger Dressing

I first tasted a version of this salad at a cookout with college friends. It is simple, can be made in advance, and if you are not interested in prep work you can easily find the majority of the ingredients pre-chopped and ready to go.

My take on Newman's Own Asian Salad Dressing:

5 T. Rice Vinegar
1.5 T Soy Sauce
1 t. Sesame Oil
1 t. Lemon Juice
1 t. Siricha
1 T. Ginger - freshly grated
1 T. Horseradish
Olive Oil - wisk in enough to bring it together

Most any kind of steak will do but a Sous-Vided (is that a verb?) chuck roast is my go to standard. Cooked for 48 hours at 140 degrees, it is both tender and succulent. Slice it into thin, bite sized pieces and toss into a preheated saute pan to get some carmelization that is missing from the sous vide technique.

The beauty of the salad resides in the hardy vegetables. Broccoli, cabbage, red pepper, carrots, and radish all keep crisp for a few days in the fridge which makes this salad great for a take-along dish that will have enough bite to impress.

I could eat this every day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mustardy Barbecue Sauce

I don't like mustard. Really. A squiggle of mustard on a bratwurst or sausage does did not appeal to my tastebuds. Dipping the corner of a Philadelphia-Style soft pretzel into a clear plastic cup with mustard is sacrilege (perhaps my view is forever tarnished as i've read too much about gluten and rarely ever enjoy a quality bratwurst or pretzel.....enough already!)

But then I started to barbeque. I smoked a pork shoulder and made a classic red barbeque sauce. It was spicy and zesty and good. I pulled out my copy of the Professional Chef 8th edition and surprise, surprise one of the three barbeque sauce recipes was a North Carolina Eastern Low Country, think mustard, Sauce.

So I made it. And I liked it. The other day I made a similiar version of the same to sauce up a sous-vided pork shoulder. It is also good with red cabbage slaw or mixed with tomatillo salsa and poured onto any type of properly cooked protein. I'm sure it is fabulous on fresh pork sausage or even on the corner of a pretzel. Paleo or Primal eaters don't fear, I skipped the sugar.....this is also good on scrambled eggs and spinach!

 Loosley based on: The Professional Chef: Mustard Barbeque Sauce:

1T. Olive oil
1 Sweet onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
6-8 ounces of white vinegar
5 ounces total:
  • Whole grain mustard
  • Djon mustard
  • Spicy German mustard
Spices: Just enough
  • Caraway seed
  • Cumin seed
  • Coriander seed
  • Anise seed
  • Mustard seed
  • Salt and Pepper

Sweat the onions in the olive oil, add the garlic for a few minutes, throw in the spices until fragrant, pour in the vinegar and mustard, stir and cook to desired thickness. Add more vinegar if necessary. I like the sauce thick so i cook it longer than recommended. Also if you have a mortar and pestle it would be good to crush the seeds. The flavor burst when chomping onto whole coriander seeds is pretty intense. One is fine but two is over the top.

I believe I see some red pepper flakes in there as well. Feel free to experiment.

Turns out, I do like mustard after all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sharpen the Pencil Too Often and the Point Will Break

I've been reading Distance Running by Robert Lyden. He breaks down the training season into five categories: Base, Hill, Sharpening, Peak, and Post Season Recovery. If you believe traditional endurance training philosophies then you are probably deep into your base period right now. One word to describe the base period is: Quantity.

Quantity is not Long Slow Distance training. I prefer the term steady state training. Fatty acid training sounds even better, but may cause confusion. How much training you undertake depends on many factors such as training age, goal distance, and number of weeks until race day. But i'm getting ahead of myself.  I don't want to discuss base training so much as what happens if you skimp on your base training.

While skimming the book in its entirety I was captured by the following thought where Lyden is discussing the sharpening period: "The primary factor limiting how much quantity and quality can be assumed during the sharpening period is the aerobic ability and strength of an individual". How do you build aerobic ability and strength? With sufficient time and energy spent in Base and Hill Training.

Lyden continues, "Many are misled by the fact that when athletes begin to conduct sharpening workouts, their performances begin to improve dramatically". This is what we want: snappier legs, quicker turnover, faster pace. Yet far too often we are blinded by our improvements. Sharpening works well for the prepared athlete, perhaps so well that it may becomes the goal of every workout. Unforunately sharpening can only take an athlete so far. Again Lyden, "An athlete who enters the sharpening period with the aerobic ability to run a 4:10 mile can conduct sharpening work to realize that potential. No amount of sharpening work will enable the athlete to raise his aerobic ability sufficiently to realize a 4:00 mile."

The point: base training and hill training must be completed properly before sharpening. If not, no amount of sharpening will suffice to sufficiently enhance the aerobic system which is a necessity for continued improvement. Sharpening is the icing on the cake. Or better yet the bacon in the salad.

What is proper base training?  What is the best way to build the aerobic system? That's a topic for a different day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Something Sweet

Brilliant blue sky and crisp cold air inspired my spirit as I ventured North on the Appalachian Trail this morning. My planned turnaround point was route 850 in Perry County but as I crissed crossed the frozen field with the rising sun illuminating the golden yellow grass it was an easy choice to continue on, what was for me, virgin territory. The ridgeline beckoned and I gladly followed its call. Once I reached the top of Cove Mountain; the fact that I had 8.5 miles of trail behind me and a growling stomach that would not be alleviated due to the viscous effect of the 20 degree weather on my homemade energy gel, I came to my senses and turned around.

Later on in the afternoon, unable to reach satiety, I had an urge for something sweet. Seeing as i'm not eating gluten if at all possible chocolate came to mind. While i'm not normally a chocoholic (it's about as unnatural food as you can get) I do enjoy a light, airy chocolate mousse.

The following recipe is adapted from the CIA's book on Baking and Pastry and is not for the faint of heart.

Dark Chocolate Mousse
5oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4oz butter, chopped
3oz egg yolks
1/2 ounce glucose syrup - I used Steen's Cane Syrup and just eyeballed it (and yes I poured out too much)
6oz egg whites
3oz sugar - I screwed up making the Italian Meringue and ended up using 1/2 C. of powdered sugar (1/4 C. would have sufficed)

If you do not have a kitchen scale I suggest going to the grocery store and buying a box of chocolate pudding mix and a container of cool whip and mix it together because if you do not have a kitchen scale you will probably freak out by step three of the process.
 Yes, It is 62.5 degrees in my kitchen. Great for pie crust. Bad for bread.

Melting the chocolate and butter over simmering water.

More melting. Chocolate and butter can't be all bad.

Mixing the egg yolks and Steen's Cane Syrup.

Egg yolks and syrup over the makeshift double boiler with thermometer to assure pasteurization at 180 degrees (I don't know why I bother with the thermometer as I always cut the cooking time by 10-20 degrees as I don't want to come close to the risk of scrambled eggs.

Tempering the egg mixture with the chocolate mixture.

Egg, syrup, butter, and chocolate mixed and ready.

Second time on the egg whites after a royal screwup with the Italian Meringue. Instead i'm whipping the eggs to soft peaks with powdered sugar over the double boiler.

Folding the egg white combo with the chocolate combo.

Top with some pureed strawberries and you've got yourself a sweet recovery snack, albeit about 5 hours too late for proper recovery.

I wouldn't call this a true chocolate mousse. The final result was pleasant in terms of taste and lightness. The texture was not as airy as I like mousse but rather sticky like a warm chocolate marshmallow.  It was a bit sweet which is why I would only use 1/4 cup of powdered sugar......or attempt a proper Italian Meringue for next time (which may eliminate the sticky feel).

Either way I ate three and the fourth and final one is callling my name.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Corn Cakes

Corn. Corn on the cob. Creamed corn. Corn and lima beans. Corn syrup. The list could go on and on and on. I have shied away from corn recently but decided to give corn cakes a shot after finding masa harina (corn meal treated with lime) at the grocery. It was an impulse buy. As I type that I laugh. How many people buy corn flour on whim as if it were a creamy chocolate mousse or velvety red cupcake?

Corn cakes are quite simple:. Corn flour, corn kernels, course corn meal, baking powder, salt, water, almond milk, and honey. You could also mix in an egg if you wanted.

 Stir the dry, stir in the wet and then pour on the griddle. Despite their simplicity I screwed up as I was initially going to make corn tortillas. I mixed the corn meal and water only to have visions of fluffier corn cakes fill my head.

Despite the screw-up the batter came together after some aggressive mixing.

They turned out ok.

Corn Cake topped with Braised Red Cabbage, Pulled Pork, and Mustard BBQ Sauce