Chayote Squash

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My interest in Chayote began when I discovered it between the Tatume and Yellow Squash. The price caught my eye since it was less than the Zucchini and I like a bargain. I am also adventurous in my search for tasty, nutritious and healthy food. Did I mention that I like squash? I remember my grandfather telling me that he didn’t care for squash because he ate so much of it during the depression.

Upon researching this “Green Pear”, one of many names as it is called, I discovered that it is nutritious and can be prepared many different ways. Chayote is a source of Vitamin C and amino acids, making it a healthy option. It is common in Mexican and South American culture. Chayote can be eaten raw, in salads and salsas, or cooked and added to many dishes as you would potato or any other root vegetable.

The entire plant is used in cooking, but it is the fruit itself that I am familiar with. From the outside, the shape is like a pear or avocado. The color of the flesh resembles Honeydew and is very firm. The peel can be eaten, although I find it a little tough. When cutting, a substance like Aloe seeps out, so I prefer to peel it under running water. Diced, one Chayote yields about two cups. The flavor reminds me of cucumber or melon, but very light. There is a single, flat seed inside, that I eat as well. It tastes like a fresh shelled pea with a nutty flavor.

This is a great substitute for white potatoes in soups, stews, or cooked as a side dish. I have found that it holds up to all day cooking in the crock pot, as opposed to potatoes. For a breakfast side dish, I dice one up with onion and garlic, and serve with eggs. Topped with tomato, cilantro and a sprinkling of fresh ground, smoked peppercorns,that I purchase from Spices Ltd. I like to mix the port and scotch brined, smoked peppercorns and buy many of my other spices from Spices Ltd. at North Market Spices in Columbus, Ohio.

The next time you see Chayote in the store, grab one and give it a shot.                             Infitness, Bob                              IMG_20140729_080910_607 (1)

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Sweet Potato Fries

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My family and friends thoroughly enjoy this blend of spices and the healthy benefit of using sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Not only is this a fantastic side dish, but a wonderful,IMG_20140721_193255_164 fitness food that you can snack on raw.

1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes

1/4 cup olive or coconut oil (coconut gives this an amazing flavor)

1/2 Tbsp dried Rosemary (crushed fine)

1/4 tsp Sea salt

1/2 tsp Sage

1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper flakes (optional for spicy heat)

1/4 tsp Chipotle flakes (optional for smoky spiciness)  I use both when I make this.

Large mixing bowl, nonstick or lined cookie sheet, measuring cup

A ‘do ahead tip’ would be to mix all the spices into the oil and let sit for an hour.

Wash the sweet potatoes and pat dry. Trim the ends, but do not skin the potato. Cut into 1/4″ slices, then cut into strips. Place strips into mixing bowl.

Combine all spices with the oil, mix together and pour over the strips.

 

Using gloves to protect yourself from the peppers; use a spoon, spatula, or utensil of your choice to toss strips until thoroughly  coated with oil mixture. Place strips on cookie sheet.

{ It is at this point that I sample many of the strips }

Preheat oven to 350 and bake on middle rack for 30 minutes. Check for desired tenderness. I then place under broiler for about 5 minutes to brown the edges.

Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients. Explore your taste buds! Enjoy!

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In fitness, Bob

Eat more to lose weight?

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 No I’m not crazy or selling some scientific designer drug, or even jumping on a band wagon for the latest herb fad. When most people hear the word diet, they usually think it means to eat less. This is why so many people are turned off when the word diet comes up. They instantly think starvation

Diet actually means the sum, (amount), of food consumed by a person or organism. When I say that you need to eat more, I am referring to eating more nutritiously. This would be a healthy diet. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your consumption of your daily intake. Doesn’t that sound better without the word diet

Too many people actually throw their body into a starvation mode and begin to store fat. You may think that makes no sense since starving would mean no food. Let me explain. Without the proper ratio of macro nutrients, (carbohydrate, protein, fat), and a consistent eating schedule, your brain will send a signal to turn your food into fat, so that it can use it as a fuel source later. If you don’t burn that fat reserve, it stays as a fatty deposit. 

Starting your day with a good breakfast, within an hour of rising, will provide you with fuel to burn and give you more energy. Eating a healthy midday snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner will keep your body fueled. White breads and sugars are usually the culprit for the crashes we feel. Then the brain craves more to bring back the feeling of satisfaction. This becomes a vicious circle and before you know it you’ve had too many sodas, sweets, processed meals, potato chips or whatever else your go to food is. 

Sometimes we get caught up in what others may think about us because we pack our lunch or eat healthy snacks. Well I don’t know about you, but I’m not doing it for what they think. This is about me. This is an investment in my life. I want to spend time enjoying life, family and whatever else comes at me. I enjoy having the energy to carry out my day, play with grand kids and yes, zip lining.

Isn’t it time you did this for you? Have an extra serving of vegetables and fruit throughout the day. Start using whole grain breads, and be mindful of what a portion is. Find some cargo rice or six grain rice for a change. Incorporate more lean protein into your diet and slowly increase your fiber and water consumption. The changes will occur. Getting fat or out of shape is a process and so is reversing it. March in place while reading your email or the paper or whatever you choose. Consult your doctor and begin an exercise program. Take your first step to changing your life for the better.  .                                              In fitness, Bob

Motivation and Inspiration: My First Ride

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IMG_20140712_073559_320-1IMG_20140713_163634 I have to share the experience that I participated in yesterday. An experience of sharing, victory, joy, triumph, camaraderie, motivation and inspiration.  I recently took up road biking as an addition to my workout routine. It gives me a chance to relive a childhood of bicycling and some excellent exercise as well. Last month on my 50th birthday, I decided to ride a mile for each year of my life. What an accomplishment I felt I had achieved. Little did I know where it would lead me. My wife brought home a flyer for a fund raising ride to battle Multiple Sclerosis. (MS). It gave an option of a 30, 50, or 95 mile ride. I thought the chance to raise funds to help others would be a great opportunity for me to give as well. The Central Ohio Challenge had a $150 dollar fund raising minimum and a participation fee. I raised $240 from friends and family and was thrilled to ride in the event. I paid my registration fee and signed up for the 50 mile ride thinking it was something I could achieve without a problem. The day of the ride came early, waking at 4:45 to prepare for a 6 am registration. I had loaded up on carbohydrates the night before and made sure that I stretched and was hydrated before the ride began. Riders were to be on the course no later than 8 am. My wife was to fly back into Columbus at about the same time as I would cross the finish line. Both of us upset that I could not pick her up, or her see me finish my first ride. About twenty minutes into the ride, I pedaled up alongside a young woman who was enjoying the ride as I was. I noticed her rear tire was pretty low and mentioned that I had a pump. At about that time her father had circled back to check on her progress. They had both lost a loved one to MS. While I was airing up her tire, dad was expressing his concern towards his daughters mileage goal in the ride. She told him that it didn’t matter when she finished, only that she did. I asked her how far she was riding and she said that she was going for the 95 miles. I told her  I had planned on riding the 50 but would ride the full 95 with her. We stuck by each other throughout the day as it grew warmer and the hills grew larger. There were a few times that my new friend had to push her bike up the steep climbs. I stayed by her side and could tell she was struggling. As we hit the 50 mile point, a support van came by and asked how we were doing. My friend admitted that she could not continue and apologized to me for quitting. I told her how proud I was that she made the 50 miles and gave it her all. I told her to go on up to the next stop, as her dad would probably be waiting for her. He was waiting and happy to see her. Her father and I were now the last riders to continue the race. He and I would now cross the finish line together, and his daughter would wait for us there. At this point, my wife would be able to watch me finish as well. This was a brutal ride, with the increasing heat, headwinds, and hills. My new partner was considering a van ride in as well. He and I left our last pit stop, fed, hydrated, and somewhat rested enough to continue. Thankfully, the last leg of the journey got easier and we kept pedaling. We had caught up to three other riders and I believe it gave us both an extra boost of determination. We stuck it out and approached the finish. We had done it. His family greeting him, and my wife greeting me, as we crossed the finish line. What a memorable day. The inspiration and motivation to drive on to achieve whatever our own goals are in life. Seeing riders that suffered from the effects of MS, support of the riders, and the friendships that developed. Sometimes our goals come to us at a moments notice, at other times we prepare for them. Whatever your goal, pursue it to your utmost. Continue to achieve what you want to pursue. Don’t let negativity deter you. Beginning your ride, journey, or task at hand begins with you. Push yourself as my two new friends and I pushed ourselves. It doesn’t have to be a bike ride, it is whatever your goals in life are. What would you do today if you knew you could not fail?

photo 1This is dedicated to my new friends from Hilliard and Cincinnati who gave it their all and accomplished their own milestones right beside me.    In fitness, Bob

Sweet Potato Hash Browns and Eggs; Spiced and Smoked

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IMG_20140710_083331_603 (1)This is a quick, simple and easy recipe to make. The sweet and smoky flavors mingle well together. Using sweet potato and coconut oil, add to the health benefits.

You will need 1 medium sweet potato, shredded (about 2 cups)    2 fresh eggs (You may substitute egg whites or low cholesterol egg substitute)    1 Tbs virgin coconut oil     Smoked paprika    Chipotle flakes or powder (optional if you like heat)   Sea salt (sprinkle sparingly to your preference)

Wash sweet potato, trim ends and pat dry, then shred. (I leave the skin on)  Heat oil in 9″ skillet over a medium low heat. Spread sweet potato across bottom of pan. When edges begin to brown, (about 5 minutes), turn hash browns.   Start your eggs in a separate pan. The hash browns and eggs should finish at about the same time.

Sprinkle the smoked paprika, chipotle and a dash of salt across the top, serve , and enjoy!

The smoked paprika has no heat or spice, yet lends a beautiful smoky flavor. The only spicy heat comes from the chipotle. This also adds to the smokiness.

I am a chili head and have to be cautious when making this. I like the burn!

In fitness, Bob

Hydration

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The recipe is at the end. But you’re not really going to skip through this are you?

What is hydration? In short it means the addition of water. What I am referring to is the process of providing an adequate amount of liquid to your bodies tissues. With muscle being 70% water, we don’t want to hold back on our water intake anymore than we want to starve the body of good fuel.

A water loss decrease of just 1 1/2 % will reduce muscle strength. Water is important. Proper digestion is benefited by hydration as well. Nutrients are absorbed faster and body waste is carried through the digestive tract quicker, with less time for nasty bacteria to harbor inside of us.

Dehydration, or the lack of water, will cause negative effects, or death in severe cases. Irritability, thirst, dry skin, decreased urination, headaches, sleepiness, constipation, dizziness, you get the idea. Cutting down on your coffee habit? Make sure you replace that liquid intake with water. This causes headaches.

I have heard people tell me that they don’t like to drink that much water because it causes too many bathroom breaks. See your doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying condition. I say take advantage of the the break and get some circulation. The mental clarity will help you focus better. Who wants you cranky and tired at work anyhow?

Okay, so hopefully you are starting to see that it’s beneficial to drink up. (Sorry guys, not last call)

Try to make a habit of replacing fluid output with fluid intake. If you wait until your body tells you you’re thirsty, you are already dehydrating. Another saying is that; if it touches your lips, take ten sips.

Sports drinks are good but they have a purpose. They too can be abused. Fruit juices count, just watch the sugars. Fruits are another great source of water. Watermelon, hence the name, is 90% water. this makes a great slush as well. Oranges, grapefruit, and melons should not be counted out either. Grapefruit is a very low Glycemic Index fruit too. Cucumbers, celery and tomatoes are good choices also. You can even try adding a sprig of mint, fruit or cucumber slices to your glass of water to make it more appealing.  I like a splash of lime.

Recipe time: Watermelon, cucumber & mint slush…..Mmmmmmmmmmmmm  

Do ahead tip: chill or freeze the watermelon  5-6 c seedless watermelon, 1 small cucumber peeled and cut into chunks, 2 Tbsp lime juice, 2-3 Tbsp honey or sweetener of your choice, and a sprig of mint.

Combine all ingredients in blender or processor until smooth. This will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days but I doubt you can leave it alone that long. The pulp is good for you, or you can process longer. Add a couple of coconut water ice cubes, or whatever you like to thin if desired.                    Drink up and hydrate friends!                                                         In fitness, Bob

Rampant Obesity

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My first soapbox that I’m going to jump up on should be a vegetable crate. (Pun intended) Greetings fitness fans, dieters and curious readers. In the process of setting this business up and designing my website, I was told that my blog or an article would be a great place to start conversation and chaos. Here you go.

I had just returned home from dropping off some business cards at a local business and watched a neighbor get out of her car with her two children. She is pregnant and the kids are about 1 1/2 and 3 years old. The thing that caught my eye was the fact that the littlest one was carrying his own bag of fast food. Mom had her’s and the drinks. I’m not saying this is an issue unless it sets up a lifelong routine of bad habits. Convenience isn’t always best.

I remember vividly, my father calling a radio station to recite the “Two all beef patties” jingle in under five seconds and what a treat it was to go out for burgers, ice cream or an occasional Sunday dinner. I am not against fast food or even buffets for that matter. I have done food challenges, but knew what it would take to work it off. Commitment! I still go out to eat and know that restaurants use bigger plates and portions to lure people back. It’s what the majority wants. (Pack up half and take it home for another meal). It bothers me to see a society of people that don’t go walk, ride a bike, throw a ball, have gym periods in school or exercise in general. You might say, “But I do walk”. Do you walk at a pace that increases your heart rate?

The American lifestyle of freedom to choose, has been coveted by many. Look around, we are a very diverse culture. Unfortunately for other countries now, the desire to become ‘Westernized’ is taking it’s toll. Some people are cashing in. A whole new line of clothing sizes with more X’s than there ever was, sturdier furniture, weight restrictions on rides, plane fees, and mobility scooter sales are through the roof.

I think my biggest struggle is with the acceptance of the epidemic. Children that are raised thinking that it is okay to have soda with each meal and in- between. The abuse of energy drinks, coffee style beverages for children, or sports drinks that may contain more sugar than anyone needs. I’ve heard in conversations that; it’s in our family genetics, or, my body traps fat in my abdomen, or I can’t get around like I used too. Some have true medical conditions that inhibit movement. Those are the majority of people that want to move. This is to the ones that choose not to find out what a single serving is, not the restaurant portion. To those that could use the stairs but won’t, or park as close as possible for whatever reason. It will take time and effort to achieve your goal. Keep pushing yourself!

If this makes you think about not eating in front of the TV, actually cooking a serving of fresh vegetables with your meal and going for a walk at a local park, then you are off to a great start. These are simple things to do that many don’t consider or have forgotten what it was like. Does a day of shopping at the mall or grocery store make your legs tired? Incorporate a little movement into your downtime. Are you afraid that doing air jump rope or running in place will make you look silly? The privacy of your own home is the place to begin. Then you can venture outside with pride.

In fitness, Bob