Stuffed Kabocha squash

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I threw together a meal yesterday that I was sure my wife and I would enjoy. Filling, healthy, nutritious and well balanced, all in one dish.
The Kabocha squash, has a sweet, nutty flavor, much like a chestnut. It is rich in beta carotene, with iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin c, folic acid and B vitamins.

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I began by precooking some rice. I prefer Thai Red Cargo rice for the nutty flavor and texture. Next I made my stuffing mixture. One small apple, finely diced, 1 cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and lightly seasoned it with allspice, ground ginger and cinnamon. I halved the squash, scooped out the seeds, and filled it with my stuffing mixture.

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I placed the stuffed squash halves on a foil lined sheet, gave them a comfy foil tent to keep them moist, and put them in the preheated oven for 45 minutes at 400°.
I sprinkled a little, (1/2t), brown sugar over each half and served them. These turned out wonderful! The skin of the Kabocha is edible as well. Next time I will add some chopped dates to the mixture.

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In fitness, Bob

Be a Star, or, you are what you eat

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IMG_20150120_103442_794  The Starfruit, or carambola, is an interesting looking fruit, that when sliced, reveals a star shaped cross section. This is a fruit that I had never tried for whatever reason. My wife picked up a couple the other day, so I did what came natural, I googled it.

Starfruit grows on the Averrhoa carambola tree and is native to Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. It is also cultivated in Latin America, Carribean and parts of the United States.

The fruit is usually 2-6 inches long, yellow when ripe, and the entire fruit is edible. The seeds can be discarded, however I found them to have quite a nutty flavor. When serving, the brown ridges may be trimmed, but it is more for presentation. The top, or end that grew from the tree, is also trimmed off.

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It is at this point that you can slice the starfruit into either thin or thick slices for serving. The entire fruit can be used for juice as well. Children will love the shape of this snack as a finger food, or you can serve it atop a salad, suspended in jello, pudding, relishes or jellies.

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Apple, pear, grape and citrus would be the best description of flavor for the starfruit. There are sour varieties that are generally the smaller fruit, but typically the sweeter variety are found at the grocers. These will ripen after picked, but the sugar content will not increase.

Starfruit are rich in potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants. Antimicrobial and antioxidant properties exist as well. Like the grapefruit, check with your doctor or druggist, to see if there are any contraindications with prescription medicines. If you have kidney problems, the oxalic acid content may be an issue as well.

IMG_20150120_105111_366 No matter how you choose to use it, this is a must try. Be a star!

In fitness, Bob

Finger Food

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My wife and I don’t do the mini tacos, stuffed mushrooms, breaded zucchini or other mini finger food treats that some people enjoy. We also chose not to go out.
So anyhow, we stayed in after picking up clam, octopus, salmon, tuna, scallops and a spicy tuna roll.
I sliced those babies up and we devoured them. Sushi, home style for 2015.
Happy New Year, be safe and healthy.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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IMG_20141030_084415_447  Happy Halloween to all! This season is full of the smell of leaves, candy apples, goblin cookies, popcorn balls and yes pumpkin.

We went to the farmer’s market last weekend to brouse through the squash, end of season tomatoes, apples and of course pumpkin. As is tradition, my stepson is allowed to pick the largest pumpkin he can carry, to be carved. This years choice was beautiful.

After the carving was finished, a fine job by the way, I was given the task of preparing the seeds for roasting. After separating the seeds from the pulp, I rinsed and drained them, and then soaked them overnight in salt water.

IMG_20141030_085336_208  This morning I drained them, spread them out on a cookie sheet, sprinkled them with ginger, wasabi powder and a little sugar and gave them a stir to coat evenly. Then into the oven at `200 for at least 2 hours.

IMG_20141030_083914_718  I have got to tell you that the smell of the ginger wafting through the house is fabulous! My father always preferred using Lowery’s Season Salt. Most people prefer just salt, and you can choose what you like. Maybe pumpkin pie spice would be appropriate? Some cinnamon and brown sugar perhaps?

Pumpkin seeds are a source of phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, and copper. There are also small amounts of zinc and iron as well as Vitamin E. Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are also a good source of protein. Nutritionally, seeds are a great addition to the diet.

However you choose to enjoy them, they are a part of the fall season, with a healthy benefit.

In fitness, Bob

Weight Loss Plateaus

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Have you ever started a diet or weight loss plan, only to hit a plateau or hump that you just couldn’t get over? Were the goals that you set for yourself reachable in the time frame you allotted? Did you find yourself cheating occasionally or skipping workout days.

Some of you may know that in order to lose weight you must expend, or use, more calories than you take in. You will need to workout a little more to get rid of the extra weight that you have put on as well.

When beginning an exercise routine, most people experience their best results, however the body adapts to the exercise routine and is no longer challenged the way it was before. If all you monitor is the scale, you may not even see the results. This is due to the fact that you are burning fat and losing mass. You may even see an increase in your weight because you are building muscle. This new muscle growth will help you achieve the results you want.

You must hold yourself accountable with every bite you take. If you consider how much movement is required to burn the food energy you ingest, you may achieve greater results. This is not to say that you should starve yourself either. In a starvation mode, your body will adjust by storing the food it takes in as fat, so that it does not burn it as fuel. You will actually begin to lose muscle mass.

Try to keep an honest journal of what you consume and how you were feeling at the time you ate it. Were you angry, happy, with other people or alone? Condiments and drinks will add to your intake of “invisible” calories quickly. I love eggs, but at 70 calories each or 17 for the white only, sometimes I sacrifice a yolk or two. This helps my cholesterol as well.

Change up your workout routine. As I said, the body will become accustomed to the exercise, and your nutrition needs will change. Do you fidget? Maybe you should. Movement uses energy. Sing to yourself and tap your foot, or get up for a quick walk to a friends cubicle, the restroom even if you don’t need to use it, just start moving more. And if you increase your water intake, (hint hint), you will have the need to get up and move.

Don’t fall for for rapid weight loss pills, gimmicks, machines, or diets of whoever is famous at the time. If you do not make this a lifestyle change, then you won’t have a life changing event. Consider hiring a Certified Personal Trainer that will help guide you through your journey. Stay motivated, accept that you may have setbacks, and overcome them.                                                                          In fitness, Bob

Breakfast Matters

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IMG_20140710_083331_603 (1)                                    Do you ever skip breakfast or grab something from a fast food place, only to be left unsatisfied or feeling ready for a nap within a few hours? You have heard it before and probably more than you wanted to. Breakfast matters! The fact is that your body needs fuel to recover from the nights rest you had and to prepare you to start your day. A good plan is to have some form of breakfast within a minimum of two hours after waking and preferably within the first thirty minutes.

You don’t want your body to start going into a starvation mode and eating muscle. When you start skipping meals, your brain tells your body to store food as fat as part of a self preservation strategy. Breakfast need not be elaborate, a certain percentage of your daily intake, (depending on your activity level or timing for a workout), or standard breakfast menu fare. Leftovers are fine as long as you have a healthy blend of macro nutrients. Just a hard boiled egg, banana or handful of trail mix first thing will give you an edge before you finish your breakfast.

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I recently discovered refrigerator oatmeal, or summer porridge as it is called. I stumbled upon it through theyummylife.com and am glad I did. The fact that oatmeal helps keep cholesterol levels in check and keeps you feeling fuller longer due to a high satiety level are bonuses.

Using a one pint canning jar with a plastic screw on lid or similar container makes this portable as well. These can be packed to work for breakfast, midday snack or a lunch alternative. The variations are limited only to your taste.

The use of steel cut oatmeal instead of rolled oats is a texture preference for me.  I add chia seed to these recipes since discovering that they are an excellent source of fiber, protein and omega 3 fatty acids, even more so than flax seed. Another healthy addition is PB2. This is powdered peanut butter without all the extra fats and sugar. I also sprinkle in ground cinnamon to help regulate blood sugar. (Grapefruit and sweet potato are good breakfast choices for low sugar spikes as well)

The first recipe I tried uses 3/4 c almond milk, 1/4 c steel cut oats (quick cook), 2 Tbs chia seed, 2 Tbs PB2, 1/2 banana (quartered), 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1 Tbs agave (or sweetener of your choice). Simply pour the milk into your jar, add the banana, oats, seeds, sweetener and shake. Put the lid on and refrigerate overnight. You can stir the fruit in after refrigeration if you prefer or even add more.

The other variation I have tried uses Qi’a seed, (chia, buckwheat, hemp), oatmeal, walnuts, pure maple syrup, almond milk and cinnamon. This one came out moister than I liked, but I think it was due to the lesser amount of chia seed. Chia expands to 16x it’s size. Next time I will cut the almond milk back 1/4 c.

For this recipe I mixed 3/4 c almond milk, 1/4 c steel cut oats, 2 Tbs chopped walnuts, 2 Tbs Qi’a seed mix, 2 Tbs pure maple syrup, and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon in the pint jar, shook and set in the fridge overnight. The flavor of this one was outstanding as a cold cereal. I like banana, however this one edged it out.

Try adding in some yogurt, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds or a couple tablespoons of your favorite protein powder to switch it up. The key point is to start your day off fueled up. Pair this up with just five minutes of exercise and see what a difference it makes in your day. You will think clearer and feel less stressed.

In fitness, Bob

Good food

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IMG_20140710_083331_603 (1) I started my morning off with 2 farm fresh eggs, (not store bought), 4 ozs. white chicken, 2 Tbsp. green chiles, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. I also had a pink grapefruit and a protein shake. This is not my daily a.m. meal however.

I was reading a post from fellow blogger Kelly Toups about living close to Whole Foods and thought I would share a similar story. Living in the “Cowtown” of Columbus, Ohio, I am fortunate to be able to drive ten minutes to the country. Fresh produce, fruit, eggs and other offerings are an easy find for me.

IMG_20140925_092024_015 My wife and I enjoy going to farmers markets, and scouting out bargains. Last weekend we scored on seconds, (blemished), of Honey Crisp apples, sweet corn, cabbage, and tomatoes. The apples don’t last the way I go through them but we can, vacuum pack and freeze, or dry whatever we possibly can. IMG_20140925_092907_855 It is interesting and sad to hear negative comments about blemished food that is perfectly good, nutritious and marked down significantly. Some people are turned off to think corn may have a worm or fruit might be bruised. I don’t know about you, but I carry a couple of my own battle scars. We however have no problem enjoying the bounty that fall has to offer. I came upon a miss-sized mushroom order once at a produce outlet and my wife and I learned how to can mushrooms. Not only did we save a bunch of money but we learned something.

I hope you have an opportunity to visit a road side stand or farmers market and pick up your own choices of fresh food. The flavor is accentuated when you become more involved in the process and accomplishment of designing your meal around your purchase.

In fitness, Bob

Chili Cook Off 2014

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IMAG0911As promised, I have an update on the Ohio regional competition that I competed in this past weekend. The event was spread out over three days and included participants from the International Chili Society, non- profits such as the VFW, (who won an award by the way), and an amateur division that I was a entrant in.

IMG_20140826_102037_261Two years ago I first participated in this event sponsored by CaJohn’s Fiery Foods of Westerville, Ohio and took 1st place in the five state regional, amateur division. I had never been in a competition like this before and was unsure of what to expect. It was a fun time and I am met alot of great people. There were vendors of all sorts, a car show, activities for the kids, and of course a huge supply of various types of chili to be sampled. On the first day of this event, I entered a Chili Verde, which is green chili. Judging for the amateur division was done by peoples choice. You would purchase a tasting kit and cast your vote for your favorites. I walked away that day with 1st place! What an experience!

The following year, my step-father was in the hospital and I was unable to attend. I continued to make my chili occasionally for my family and holiday functions. My instructor at Dynamic Self Defense in New Albany, Ohio cannot get enough of this and requests it often, especially for belt testing at Christmas.

When asked if I would be participating in this years event, I said yes. I make a pretty mean red chili that won 1st at a Limited Brands, chili competition a few years ago, but I prefer to make the green for this event. Having lived in the Southwest for many years, I grew very fond of Southwestern food. A good Chili Relleno and Tacos Al Pastor are two of my favorites. By the way, I placed 3rd in the amateur division this year.

As promised, here is my recipe. I have omitted a few ingredients, but this is delicious just the same. I use pork because it is traditional. You may substitute with chicken however.

IMG_20140821_091706_604I begin by removing the outer husk from about 20 Lg. tomatillos, cutting them in half and placing them face down on a cookie sheet in the oven until slightly blackened. Then I put them in the processor and puree, along with the juice. Put the puree in a crock pot or soup pot. Next I roast, peel, and remove the seeds from  20 Poblano peppers and puree them also. Don’t forget to wear gloves. The peppers and tomatillos do not have to be roasted. You can cut them in small pieces and boil the mixture down. Any green chili will work but I prefer the Poblano. Add 1 Qt chicken broth to the puree. Some of the contestants prefer to use homemade chicken stock but I think it overpowers the pork. Bring this to a low boil and then reduce to simmer.

For the meat, I use 5# of pork stew meat that I trim well. Cut the pork into small 1/2 ” cubes, roll in corn flour and brown. Add in 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 diced jalapeno’s, 5 cloves diced garlic and 1 chopped Lg. white onion. when the onions have softened, add to the chili.                                                                                                                       Next we add the seasonings. 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin, 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander, 1/2 Tbsp ground oregano, 1/2 Tbsp fresh cracked pepper, 1/4 tsp ancho powder, 1/2 tsp chipotle flakes and 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro. If you do not like the slightly sour flavor, try adding some brown sugar. I suggest 1 Tbsp. Add salt to your preference. This needs to cook all day and I let mine simmer for three days before I take it to judging. The flavors change so much over time. It is fun to taste and adjust the finished result. I especially enjoy this over eggs. Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_20140826_075806_491Feel free to use your imagination with this and add additional spice, some serrano for more heat, or even potato. Chili Verde can be a main dish or served as a topping over burritos, eggs, you name it. If you have any questions regarding this recipe or if I have forgotten to explain something, please contact me.

As is most of the food that I eat, this is a healthy recipe that is nutritious!   In fitness, Bob

Chili Cook Off (chili verde that is)

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IMG_20140819_154206_415It is time for the chili cook off in Westerville, Ohio again. I was unable to attend last years event due to an illness in the family. The year before that, I went home with 1st place in the Ohio Regional amateur division. This was open to five states! It was truly an unforgettable experience to be a part of. This year’s contest will be at the Iron Pony.

The contest brings in amateurs such as myself, professionals from the ICS, (International Chili Society), local chefs, and professionals from surrounding fire departments and law enforcement. The public has the opportunity to purchase a tasting kit, which includes a score card for their favorite chili in different divisions. There are also vendors that sell chili seasonings, hot peppers of all types, clothing, pepper earrings, and just about any thing else you can imagine.

Since the amateur division judging is this weekend, I made the grocery run to my favorite Mexican market today for my staples. About 5 lbs. of pork stew meat, 20 Poblano chilies, 20 large tomatillos, fresh cilantro, and a few jalapenos. The rest of my ingredients I already have. Garlic, onion, chipotle flakes, Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, white pepper, brown sugar, chicken broth, olive oil, and masa (corn flour) for thickening.

The most time consuming task, and what I believe makes my chili verde stand out, is the fact that I roast my Poblanos and tomatillos before I peel and puree them. This is also what makes this chili green. Green in Spanish is verde. It is quite difficult to get the same amount of spicy heat in each batch, due to the fact that the heat levels are never the same in the peppers. I also like the flavor best after three days of simmering. The flavors change so much over the course of each day,  it is a challenge to leave enough for judging. Occasionally I get carried away with the heat and not everyone can enjoy the fire it leaves.

I will follow this post up with a detailed recipe and pictures after the event. If I have left your mouth watering and searching for green chili, then we are on the same quest.   In fitness, Bob

Soup is Simple

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IMAG0912I received a phone call this morning to inform me that my patio door would be replaced this week. This is great news! The bad news is that I also discovered the manager of the complex I live in is sick today.  She sounded pretty bummed about feeling ill, but looks forward to being a test subject for my recipes. Being the kind of guy that loves to throw stuff together on the fly, I made her a bowl of soup.

I grabbed a small sauce pan and melted a little butter in it, tossed in some fresh minced garlic and onions, and browned them. Next I poured in a cup of low sodium chicken broth and brought it to a boil.

While that continued to simmer, I peeled and cut thin slices of carrot and Chayote squash and added them to the broth. I only used half of the carrot and half of the squash. You can substitute sweet potato for the squash. I then cut a Portabello mushroom and tossed it in. There was some leftover Red Cargo Rice in the refrigerator as well, so I threw in about 1/3 cup.

The seasonings were unmeasured, but were a sprinkle of cumin, coriander, sea salt, thyme and powdered ginger. I contemplated a dash of brown sugar but felt it was not needed. If I had a little chicken leftover, I would have added that also.

She was showing a property when I left it on her desk, but I am confident it will pick up her spirits. Many people overlook the simplicity and speed in making a pot of soup. Don’t be mistaken, I make a chili verde that simmers for three days. Not everything needs to be complex or drawn out.

Just like exercise, begin with a base and build from there. Once you know the basics and begin to gain confidence in your progress, you can add to your routine and increase your self worth. There is no need to make food or exercise any more complex or time consuming than you want it to be.         In fitness, Bob