Feb 282013

I read a lot about commitment on BJJ posts.  I see a lot of inspiring posts and posters suggesting that excellence is about prioritizing and that if you want to be successful, you figure out a way to make it happen.

I’m not going to lie.  That makes me feel kind of bad, because over the last several months (really, over a year), I’ve had a terrible time getting things together.  Many weeks, it’s just the three kids and me at home, as my wife travels frequently for work.  Two kids in high school and a pre-schooler keeps me on my toes.  My older kids are great.  They would be more than happy watching their younger sister for me while I go to class.   And the truth is, I don’t want to be THAT guy… the guy that comes to mind when people think about committing to training.  Or the guy who comes to mind when people talk about how many people disappear before they get to black belt.

But here’s what goes through my mind.  It’s very practical.  First, what’s for dinner?  My kids can cook, but that doesn’t mean that they will, and Lily will end up eating Mac n’Cheese or something like that for dinner.  The second, is the home work done?  Finally, after many other questions I get to the meat of the issue, which is where the parental guilt thing kicks in.  I don’t like the idea of my older kids raising my youngest.  It’s not their job, and I don’t think it’s fair.  This isn’t to say that I don’t leave them in charge.  I do, often.  It’s that, once it’s institutionalized, it’s becomes a primary role, instead of support.  If that makes any sense at all.

All of that said, Coach Bing said, “Bring Lily down to the school.  She’ll be fine.”  And I think we’re going to give that a shot.  I miss training regularly and I enjoy it when I go.  But, man, juggling my other obligations is rough.  I actually had every intention of packing Lily in the car and heading to class Wednesday, but found out after I got home that my son had a band concert that night.  He’s a great communicator, like all teenage boys.  So, class starts at 5:30 pm and I found out at about 4:45 pm that he had to be at the school in his tuxedo at 6:30 pm.  And he hadn’t eaten dinner, nor had he done his homework.

So, Friday…  the goal will be to pack Lily in the car and head to class.  We’ll see if I can make that happen.  I think I can… I think I can.

Other news:  Smoothie for today:

  • 1 1/2 bananas (Lily ate the other half)
  • 1 pear
  • 1 cup (about) of frozen fruit (strawberries/blueberries/blackberries)
  • 1 tbsp Hemp Protein
  • 1 tbsp flax seed
  • about 2 cups of broccoli
  • 2 hands full of spinach and arugula
  • almond milk (unsweetened and unflavored)

Turned out great.  The berries turned it from a bright green to a kind of purple color, but the taste is good.  The arugula actually gives it a kind of butter flavor which I like, but might be a matter of taste.

Feb 272013

Anyone own a blender/juicer?  If so, give me some recipes.  A few months ago, for my 42nd birthday, I got a blender.  I wanted the Vitamix, but it was out of my price range at the time, so we ended  up getting a Ninja Kitchen System from Costco, which is about 1/3rd the price.

The Ninja system worked just fine for most kinds of smoothies and shakes, but there were limitations.  Most of had to do with texture.  I would try and add broccoli, for example, to a smoothie and it just wouldn’t get smooth.  The little tips would feel like fish roe as I drank it.  Yuck!  So, I didn’t do any more broccoli.  I ran into several similar problems.  Mostly, it worked great… but man, I just wanted my shake liquified.  That’s the look I was going for.

So, a few weeks ago, I picked up a Vitamix and it hasn’t disappointed.  I’ll do a side by side review soon, so that those who are on the fence can make an informed decision.

Really, I’m just interested in how you guys who already have blenders use them.  Do you make a smoothie every day?  Meal replacement?  Post workout shakes?

I’ve really found the mixer great for work days.  I make a big jug of what I’ve just started calling “sludge,” which I drink pretty much all day long.  I have a smaller lunch and then am not hungry until dinner time.  I haven’t really given thought to how many calories or other nutritional stats the sludge has, but I’m pretty sure it’s good for me based on the ingredients.  If anything, the sugar from the fruit is something I could back off on a little.

Typically, my sludge is made like this:

  • 1/2 cup or so of Coconut Water
  • 1/2 cup of Almond Milk (unsweetened and unflavored)
  • Small handfull of green grapes
  • half of a banana
  • a spoonful of flax seed
  • a heaping spoonful of Hemp protein
  • 2 big hands full of spinach or some other green
  • an apple
  • a cup or so of frozen fruit, usually a  Strawberry / Mango / Papaya / Pineapple mix from Costco

Blend that sucker until it’s smooth and drink it all day.

I will sometimes add tomatoes or some other veggie that is in danger of going to waste.

So, any tips?  Any recipes?  Help a guy out.




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