Thursday, October 27, 2011

Broth and purée recipes

Cooking is not among my hobbies and, as anyone can see from the template menu, I strive for simplicity in the kitchen whenever possible. Here are two recipes that are as straightforward as they come and whose cooking help give each other flavor.

The reason why I am posting these recipes is because I have come across a sort of culinary quandary. The recipes for broth that I find online claim that bones must be boiled for 24~48 hours or even longer. Yet, everyone I have asked about this, from grannies to professional chefs, have told me that they have never heard of a broth recipe (or come across one in a cookbook) that requires such long cooking times. Aromas, I am told, are lost quickly and, in general, the reason to prolong cooking is to reduce the water content.

So, just to be clear, it is not my intention to settle a feud and, even less so, to start a discussion among connoisseurs. I have experimented for a few weeks and this is what I have come up with. It works for me; it might work for you.

Cooking time: ~3 1/2 hours.
Time in the kitchen: 1 hour tops.

Place in a tall pot a pig foot, a few chicken wings, a celery stick or two, some laurel leaves (also called bay leaves), salt to taste, and sufficient water to cover everything. My choice of these specific animal products is determined by what is easily available. If I had other choices (e.g. beef bones, etc), I would probably choose differently. Nonetheless, pig feet are quite gelatinous and the resulting broth is tasty.

Bring to boil, skim the surface a couple of times, and add additional (warm) water if the level drops too much. I leave the pot on the stove for 2 or 3 hours, depending on how convenient it is. If there is a substantial difference in flavor, it is lost on me.

Once boiled to satisfaction, throw away the bones and other solids, then strain the stock through a coffee/oil filter. A friend tells me she uses a paper towel as filter but when I tried, it ripped (my fault, I guess I am clumsy). The broth is not finished yet, though. We are going to get some flavor out of the vegetables for the purée.

Place in a tall pot a variety of mushrooms (maitake, shiitake, etc), pumpkin, spinach, cauliflower, onion, garlic, carrot, and the still-warm bone stock you had just made. Choose the amount of each that suits your fancy. The list of ingredients is also at your mercy. I buy what looks good and throw it in. Sometimes I also add zucchini, cabbage, eggplant, or whatever. In truth, I take advantage of the ingredient mêlée to sneak in some vegetables that I would not eat otherwise.

Boil for about 30 minutes or whatever time it takes for all vegetables to become soft. All paleo foodstuffs can be eaten raw, in any case. If you are in a hurry, cut into smaller pieces in order to speed up the cooking. Limiting the amount of boiling is the best way to preserve nutrients.

Once boiled to satisfaction, put the vegetables aside and strain the stock through a coffee/oil filter one more time. The broth is now finished. Use a blender to purée the vegetables until creamed. Add some broth to smooth the mix if you feel it is too thick.

All done. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

I make batches that last me for 4 to 6 days, a serving of each (broth and purée) a day. I like to do a quick reboil of a cup broth and then drop an egg in it for breakfast. The purée works best with a pat of butter and simply warmed in a microwave.

Hope it helps.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sprinting IV

It has been over three months since I have written a post on sprinting. This, however, does not imply that I have stopped doing sprints. On the contrary. I have continued to enjoy the activity and I have made significant improvements in form, strength, and speed.

Originally, I did sprints once a week (on a few occasions twice) in a set of about a dozen runs. A couple of months back, I decided to increase the amount of walking and to combine it with a sprinting component. The integration of walking and sprinting into one session is a time saver and amounts to a more well-rounded activity.

This is how it has worked out.

I go for a one-hour nature walk at least 3 or 4 times a week and never more than 6 times (weather permitting). As I posted previously (Kicking a ball ~ sprinting), I walk while kicking a ball ahead of me. In addition to being quite enjoyable, the innocent activity of playing with a ball has strengthened my ankles and lower trunk. An unexpected freebie.

My routine, then, is as follows. I warm up by walking for 30 minutes. The sprints consist of 40~50 strides each: 15~20 strides picking up speed, 15-20 strides running all out, and 5~10 strides slowing down to a stop. I walk slowly back. I do this 3 or 4 times depending on how exuberant I feel. Last, I cool off by walking another 30 minutes.

That said, here is a heads-up on strong kicks. This was an extremely fun experience that, I found, was better to give up. As I mentioned before (Kicking a ball ~ sprinting), delivering powerful kicks seems to stimulate muscle fatigue similar to that of sprinting. However, it is an explosive movement that demands a certain sophistication of skill. It is more complex that one would think (which, in turn, makes it quite an interesting exercise). And so, kicking the ball slightly off or throwing your leg carelessly is sufficient to hurt yourself. In my case, the "injuries" had not involved more than pulling a thigh muscle. Nonetheless, once "injured", sprinting was out of the question for a few days. Eventually I came to the decision to give up strong kicks and concentrate on sprinting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

IX H.I.T. report

It has been, perhaps, 6 or 7 weeks since my last H.I.T. report. I have done a workout a week except in one occasion when I did two. The recovery window remains appropriate and I don't think I should exercise more frequently than weekly.

One of my goals has been to find out my true limits poundage-wise in the "big 5" exercises. This should have taken me about a month but it ended up taking twice as long because the gym went through a complete reform recently. I was somewhat shocked to find out that the new machines, while seemingly identical, threw my numbers out of whack. For instance, I was forced to reduce my leg press weight to 60% and build back from there. All other exercises required tuning although not as much.

As an aside, I have a nagging feeling that the manufacturer of this equipment has cut corners and that the new machines are of inferior quality (comparatively speaking). I am not pleased with the change.

A second goal has been to work on injury-preventing form. I believe that this is coming along well. I am more self-aware and quicker to correct my posture. The intensity of the effort required still blinds me somewhat. I am learning, though, and that is progress.

My intention now is to do a small cycle. I plan on dropping a plate or two on each exercise and work from injure-preventing form to productive form. This means that I want to learn how to deliver more strength. In the process, I also want to further my practical understanding of biomechanics. Lowering the amount of weight will result in an increase in TUL's across the board. I am now doing 6-8 reps per exercise except the leg press where I can go +10 before positive failure. I am expecting to increase these numbers to the 14-20 rep range. Again, the objective is to free effort in order to concentrate on posture, motion, speed, extension, turn around, etc.

Actively engaging the torso while working out has yielded fantastic results in terms of overall strength. Visually, my appearance shows musculature that just two months ago was not there.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Template menu 0.5

Summer has come to an end and temperatures are slowly dropping. It is time to include some warm dishes in the template menu.

Oops, I have just noticed a small error. It has been months since I substituted the tomato in my lunch salad for a carrot.

  • Homemade bone and vegetable broth with an egg-drop.
  • ~200 grams of plain yogurt with a spoon of cocoa powder.

  • ~200 grams of beef or pork.
  • Salad: Lettuce, 1 carrot, 1 cucumber, 1 onion (sautéed with a tablespoon of butter), and 3 tablespoons of homemade mayonnaise as dressing.

  • Homemade vegetable purée (from pumpkin to exotic mushrooms and every wild thing in between).
  • 1 egg omelet.
  • ~200 grams of fish (pan-fried butter).

I mentioned a while back that I was going to do a "liquid diet" of sorts (read below for details, if interested). My intention was to drink nothing but juice once a week for three consecutive weeks. This was not possible due to unrelated circumstances. There were a couple of weeks when I could not get around to it and had to postpone to the following week. In all, it took 5 weeks, I think, to fit in the three juice days.

My liquid diet involved three meals a day. Each meal consisted of a liter of vegetable/fruit juice and a cup of walnuts. It worked better than I had expected and I was not hungry at all. This is interesting and might be related to the 36 hour fast. Also, I lost a little bit of weight and this was surprising considering the amount of fructose involved and high calorie content of walnuts.

So, there. I finished all the juice stored in the pantry and I don't think I will be doing this kind of thing again.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A little bit of perspective

I have no interest in educating the readers of this blog in any overt manner. In fact, I have deliberately avoided doing so. My sole intention is to record an experience, to detail a progress under a certain methodology and to do so with a certain degree of rigor. In sort, this blog is a spatter of breadcrumbs without the pretense of a notion of direction.

This is not to say that I am uninformed or that ignorance is acceptable when embarking on this kind of pursuit. The opposite is true. In my opinion, those wishing to invest time into any activity must acknowledge the responsibility of educating themselves properly. In other words, I am holding back in order to force you to understand that it falls on you to research these subjects.

Please consider the following.

I started studying nutrition and fitness approximately two years ago. I am an academic and I pursued these topics in the same systematic matter I pursue interests in my own field. My education in nutrition and fitness involved extensive reading, from academic papers to popular books. I also took advantage of the informational flotsam scattered in blogs, wikis, etc. Over time, I amassed large amounts of data and processed it as best I could.

About eight months ago, I came to the conclusion that a Paleo diet and a H.I.T. protocol were worth a shot. This was not the first time that I had put my findings into practice and it would not have been the first time results did not match expectations.

As it happens, this has been the most productive approach so far. Nothing that I found in my research ensured this outcome. Eventually, I had to self-experiment. Educating oneself on the subjects of nutrition and fitness is a never-ending process that holds no guarantees. There are no final words, no dogma or hidden truth, waiting to be discovered. These are not topics that can be resolved like a jigsaw puzzle. This is science and its concern is reality. The amount of complexity involved is, literally, astronomical.

Thus, I make no reference to academic papers or books. I offer no leads. I contend that forcing you to do the footwork will be more helpful to you than trying to tell you what to think. I have made one exception by making explicit reference (several times) to Body by Science. It is a good book but so are many others. Why recommend this one alone? There is no particular reason that would be meaningful to anyone but me.

Last, I cannot emphasize enough how important critical reading is. Never, ever, take for granted the (in)validity of a notion on account of its origins. Focus on what is being said, not on who is saying it. If you are unsure as to how to put this into practice, my advice is that you start by clearly distinguishing what you know from what you believe.