Dec 172009

I came to some conclusions and made some decisions.   A few weeks back, I mentioned that I was going to work with a chiropractor that I trust.  Dr. Sean trains with us at my school and were it not for him, I would likely never consider chiropractic care as a viable option.  The only problem is that his office is deep in Tacoma.  So, while Dr. Sean would be my first choice, I’ve had to figure out how I can get the attention I need somewhere a little closer to home.

Fortunately, another guy at the school whom I’ve known for years recommended his chiropractor, who has an office much closer to my house, about halfway between where I live and the BJJ school.  I went to see him for the first time on Tuesday and my initial reaction was very positive.  

There were some definite things he did that I liked.  First, he was extremely cautious.  The first day, he didn’t do any kind of an adjustment.  Instead, he did some tests along the lines of, “Do this.  Does that hurt?  Any tingling or numbness?  Okay.  Do this.  Pain?”   He also took some x-rays and requested my MRI that was done a few years back from the hospital. 

Second, he did a lot of explaining.  He described my symptoms back to me, a good way to let me know that he’d been listening and understood what I was saying.  He then told me some common causes for my issues and explained how he works.  And then he sent me home no worse off than when I came in. 

All in all, a very good start.  I went in the next day, yesterday, to take a look at the x-rays and talk in more detail about what is going on, and he then did an adjustment.

Turns out I’m suffering from disc degeneration in my L5 vertebrae.  If you’d like to know more about it, here’s a nifty, interactive video I found.  The intarweb is awesome and the narrator even sounds like the guy who did the voiceover for the films we watched in biology class in school.  If you’re getting the impression that this isn’t entirely good news, you’re right.  It’s not.  As the chiropractor said yesterday, once the disc is gone, you can’t get it back.   According to the doc, I’m not at phase 2 yet, but I’m also well past phase 1… somewhere between the two.

What I need to do now, according to my new chiropractor, is keep what I have for as long as I can.  I am not anxious to find any kind of surgical solution to this problem for many reasons (although if you ask me when I’m suffering from muscle spasms, sciatica and the subsequent sleep deprivation, I’d agree to just about anything if you promised to make the pain stop).   A combination of everything I’ve been doing, plus regular chiropractic care, according to this chiropractor, will help maintain what disc I have left, help stabilize everything and keep me functioning as well as possible.  He said that this might mean never having surgery or maybe putting it off for 30 years… as opposed to 10 as I progress into phase II degeneration and on toward phase III.

So, not altogether good news.  I appreciate that he didn’t blow smoke up my behind.  He admitted that I might experience blow outs in my back… it’s just the nature of the beast.  Where my disc should be nice and puffy, my L5 disc is about a 1/4 of where it should be. 

In spite of all that, I went to class and had a good time.  I was a little sore toward the end of class, but after a little ice on the lower back and a good dinner, I felt great by bedtime.

Apr 192008

Part of being healthy is eating well. Part of being alive in the world right now is having less time to prepare meals. Stupid world.

As I mentioned in my first installment of Steve Cooks, I’m looking for good, healthy alternatives to store bought protein bars. I started with a reasonably good recipe, but wasn’t happy with the taste. It was too sweet for me, and a little bland. Not bad, by any means, but not great. So, I’m working on other recipes.

This go around, I started with a recipe from the UK. A very nice lady named Lou who trains in Kung Fu and more recently MMA posted her recipe for flapjacks. Now, here’s the funny part. Brits don’t speak English either. Turns out, if you’ve spent any amount of time corresponding with Brits, they talk funny, and any comments they make about Americans butchering the Queen’s English must be made tongue firmly in cheek. Case in point, flapjack. Any American understands that a flapjack is a big pancake. Seriously. EVERYBODY knows this. Sheesh! Turns out, in the UK, a flapjack is like a big cookie bar or something.

Here’s her original recipe:

125g butter
300g oats
3 tbsps honey
50g raisins/sultanas
140g brown sugar
50g sesame seeds
50g sunflower seeds
flax seeds (I sprinkle them on top)

Heat the butter,sugar and honey in a pan. When melted,add the other ingredients and place in a baking tray.Cook at 180C for about 15 minutes.

The first difficulty I ran into was conversion. I don’t speak metric. So, imagine my surprise when I started converting the recipe above into a scale that I understand. Holy moly! We’re talking over a stick of butter. Dayum!

I made a batch of these and I have to say, they’re DELICIOUS. But, they don’t do the job if I’m trying to put together a protein bar. If you look, there’s very little protein in this recipe at all. They tasted awesome, and if the intent is to have something that will stick to the ribs, the oats in this will do that job well.

Here’s what I did. Using Lou’s recipe as a base, I made some substitutions for ingredients that I have on hand, are better suited for a lower carb/higher protein bar or I just like better.

After doing some conversions, and some substitutions for ingredients that I prefer, I ended up with something like this:

Oatmeal Flapjacks a la Steve

1 Cup natural applesauce (substitute for the shortening/butter)
1 Cup applejuice (to add a little more liquid to the mix)
3 Cups rolled oats
1/4 Cup dried cherries
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
2 tbs flax seeds (ground)
4 scoops chocolate protein mix
3 tbs agave nectar

I mixed the dry ingredients up in one bowl and the wet in another, then mixed them all together and baked them in a 9×13 pan at 325F for 40 minutes.

I ended up with 12 bars. According to my math, they have about 211 calories each, 22g carbs and 12g protein per bar. Not too bad, although I’d like to reverse the carbs to protein. I substituted Natural Applesauce for the Butter in the original recipe. I also switched cherries for the raisins, just because I had them on hand.

The other main substitution was to use Agave Nectar in lieu of honey. Agave Nectar is delicious and can be used as a substitute for any kind of sugar, honey or other sweetener. I heard about it from a friend who is a vegan. I guess vegans love it because it’s good and isn’t an animal derivative like honey. All I know is that it’s good in just about anything, including oatmeal.

I added some of the protein mix, as well, to provide some needed protein to the recipe.

The bars are delicious, in my opinion. They’re thin, almost like an oatmeal cookie, crunchy on the outside and chewy inside. They’re also quite sweet, but it’s not the maple syrup sweetness of my last bars. These are, again, more like a cookie. Still, they could be less sweet and just as tasty.

I really like this recipe and plan to tweak it. I want to bump up the protein content in the cookie, and reduce some of the carbs. As I said, if I could get 15 grams of Protein and around 10 or so grams of Carbs per bar, I’d be happy. I’m not too worried about these carbs as they are mostly derived from the Rolled Oats, but it’s the carbs from the brown sugar, agave nectar and other sugars that I’d like to minimize.

So, next time I make this, I’m going to add some protein from whey concentrate, reduce the amount of brown sugar to 1/4 cup, and back off of the agave nectar a little as well. I’m also going to use dried cranberries instead of cherries. This will help reduce the sugar amount, as well, but still provide a little texture.

Finally, the plate shot with the garnish is for Linda. My kids read your comments on my last recipe and gave me all sorts of hell for not considering presentation. My daughter said (I kid you not), “You know, Dad. Presentation is half the meal.”

Ratings (out of 5 stars):

Texture: *****
Flavor: ****
Ease of Prep: ****
Nutrition: ***

Overall: ****

If you give these a try or have any other suggestions, leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

 Posted by at 11:39 am
Apr 152008

Welcome to a new feature on my training blog: Steve Cooks. I enjoy cooking. I’m a much better cook than baker, though. I’ve been told that it’s because I tend to make things up as I go. I have no problem adding more of things I like and less of things I don’t. I also watch way too much Food Network for my own good.

My criteria for a good recipe is simple. It must be easy, delicious and relatively good for me (and the family). Right now, I’m working on finding a good protein/breakfast bar recipe. I eat at least one every day, sometimes two. After class if I’m hungry, in the morning between breakfast and lunch… second breakfast or elevensies, if you will. I try to avoid any unnecessary sugars and if you’ve looked at all at the breakfast/protein bar selection, you know that this isn’t so easy to do. Most protein bars are little better than a snickers bar. Both are covered in chocolate and both satisfy.

I kind of like the Organic Food Bars, specifically the Omega and the Active Greens. What I like about these bars is that everything in them is recognizable as food: fruits, nuts and oils. What I don’t like is that they’re about $2.50 per bar.

My first foray into the protein bar world is a simple recipe I found through Google. I said, “Google. How do I make my own protein bar?” Then I pressed the “I feel lucky” button and VOILA!

How to Make Your Own Protein Bar:

I made a few changes from the website instructions.

  • 3 1/2 Cups Oats (the recipe calls for quick oats, but I hate those. I used regular rolled oats)
  • 1 1/2 Cups powdered non-fat milk
  • 4 scoops low carb chocolate protein powder (I used Designer Whey: Double Chocolate Flavor)
  • 1 Cup pure Maple Syrup
  • 2 Egg Whites, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Orange Juice (I used pulp free)
  • 1 tspn Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Cup natural Applesauce.

I mixed the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another, then added the wet to the dry and baked them at 325F for about 30 minutes, til they passed the toothpick test.

After letting them cool in the pan and then cutting them up, I ended up with something that looks like this:

Overall, these weren’t bad, but are actually on the sweet side for me. I don’t have a real sweet tooth, but these were pretty tasty. You can really taste the syrup. If I were to make this again, I’d try a vanilla protein mix, rather than the chocolate.

In this picture, I think you can get a better sense of the texture.
I liked this part of it. It wasn’t gooey or slimy. The texture was firm, not too sticky and kind of like a very dense biscuit.

Overall, I would call this a successful recipe. I’m not sure if I would make it again, because it’s a little sweet for my taste. I’m going to be on the look out for something less sugary for my next installment.

Ratings (out of 5 stars):

Texture: ****
Flavor: **
Ease of Prep: ****
Overall: *** 1/2

 Posted by at 6:30 pm