Sour Milk can be a good thing

How to Make your own yogurt
Without one of those stupid single task space eating appliances.

[Begin Scene]
[Enter Harry and Sally two friends conversing at the gym in between sets of squats]

Harry: Why make your own yogurt when there are plenty of perfectly good ones right around the corner at your neighborhood deli?

Sally: Well does your neighborhood deli have goats milk yogurt?

Harry: Maybe, never thought to look.  I don’t think I would like that though it sounds gross.

Sally:  really? Do you like goat cheese?

Harry: Oh yes! I love goat cheese.  I once had this delicious goat cheese medallion spring salad at Pietrosanto’s for brunch. It was quite lovely how the chef arranged the pieces to resemble a..

Sally:  [interrupting] yeah… Exactly. Goats milk yogurt tastes just like goat cheese.  In fact you can even make a creamy fresh goats cheese out of your yogurt once you do make it.  Making your own yogurt also gives you the power to choose where the milk is coming from if you care about that sort of thing.  Commercial yogurts also frequently use stabilizers, sweeteners, or other additives.  Making your own also let’s you customize flavor and texture and experiment to your heart’s content.

[End Scene]

I have a bit of an obsession with Greek yogurt. Anybody that knows me knows that. Love the stuff.  My favorite thing to do is to chop dried figs and sprinkle just a touch of stevia on top. Serve with toasted pecans or almonds. It makes for a convenient snack that is super high in protein. If your interested in all the health benefits afforded by yogurt check here.   It can usually even be tolerated by those that are lactose intolerant.

So without further ado here is how to make your own yogurt.

You can really do this with any type of milk, all that matters is the temperature control.  In this example I actually used powdered milk cause that’s what I had.

First scald the milk to 185°F.  This will kill any lingering bacteria.  While it is heating on your stove clean your containment vessel (I like this one because it makes me feel like a mad scientist with a chemistry flask).

Let cool to 120-130° then inoculate with 1/2 cup of your favorite store-bought yogurt containing active live culture (it should say something somewhere on the container about having live bacteria).  I used a couple scoops of Chiobani Greek yogurt because thats what I already had, but use whatever you think tastes good.  Whisk it in then pour into your containment vessel.

Secure a heating pad around the container and place in a cooler.  Try and keep the temperature around 120°F.  Any higher than 130°F and you will be committing bacterial genocide as you kill all the yogurt creating flora.  Any lower and the microorganisms get too lazy and don’t do their job.

After several hours (3 at least) or so it should have thickened and taste super awesome.  You can now consume as is, make a light salad dressing from it, salt it and strain it and use it like goat cheese.  Be creative here! I used mine to marinade meat in for this weeks Indian theme food. It also works nicely in place of sour cream like in a mashed cauliflower recipe.

There you have it, super easy, super simple.  If this seems to be still too much for you why not try making Keifer?  (Just sprinkle some Keifer starter in a jug of milk and leave out at room temp until slightly thickened and tart. The commercial starter will take care of the rest.) Couldn’t be easier.  Now go froth and ferment your milk products.

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7 Ways to Freshen Up Your Fowl

A guide to enlivening the commonplace, ordinary, and terribly boring chicken

Chicken brown rice and broccoli,
Chicken brown rice and broccoli,
Chicken spinach and broccoli,
Are you bored yet?
Chicken brown rice and broccoli,
Chicken spinach and broccoli.
Chicken brown rice and broccoli


If you feel like your dietary goals (weight loss in particular) are turning your meals into a broken record it’s time to change tracks!  Now I’m all for chicken breast and two servings of vegetables (sometimes a starch if it is post workout) but gosh I get tire of looking at my plate and having a peace symbol stare back at me all the time.  Protein, Veggie, Veggie can get so tiresome.

Now lets tackle the protein part of that equation first and get a fresh outlook on chicken:

chicken wrapped and stuffed

chicken wrapped with prosciutto and stuffed with skim milk mozzarella and roast red bell pepper

America loves chicken.  In fact the average American may eat more  than 66.5lbs of chicken annually (  more than beef, pork, or fish (about 4x the amount of fish actually).  But have you ever wondered why everything tastes like chicken?  Maybe it’s because the average white chicken meat has little discernible flavour of its own.  It’s an awesome source of lean complete protein and a favourite among the health conscious but  can be a bit lacking in the flavour department.  Some people solve this problem by breading and deep-frying it or perhaps drowning it in some kind of butter or cream sauce.  Though this can certainly produce some tasty morsels these kinds of foods are not exactly healthy and why go through all the trouble to make something that will ultimately lead me further from my goals.  No, instead we will focus our efforts towards preparations that not only please the palate but also bolster health, strengthen your immune system, decrease body fat, and bla bla bla all that other stuff nutritionists are trying to sell you on.


Let’s make some food that will both helps us achieve our goals and that we look forward to eating.  Make the process enjoyable and weigh loss/fitness will never feel like a chore.  So without further ado here are 7 ways you can both have your cake and eat it too (or pie… chicken pot pie as the case may be).

1. Shred it:
You can easily pre-cook large batches of chicken breast in your crockpot then shred with two forks.  Why would anyone want to do that?  Because once it is shredded it has the amazing ability to soak up sauces like a tangy yogurt sauce or salsa or buffalo sauce.  Be creative.  Put this on top of a bed of spinach nestled next to a dollop of sour cream (reduced-fat or fat-free please) for a wonderful salad.

2. Stuff it:
Make a stuffing by combining herbs, a little bit of no sugar added dried fruit (cherries work well), and a handful of ground nuts (almonds work well).  Slice a pocket in the side of the chicken and fill with a table-spoon of this stuffing. Sear the chicken to develop that wonderful crust and finish in the oven till the internal temp hits 160.  Try this in place of the usual chicken, brown rice, broccoli trifecta.

3. Stew it:
Chicken breast is an excellent candidate for a variety of wonderful stews.  Check out this post for an awesome Asian chicken and coconut soup.

4.Wrap it:
By wrapping the chicken breast with just a little bit of very thinly sliced prosciutto you can dramatically increase the flavour without adding too many unwanted calories.  A mediterranean cucumber and olive salad would make a beautiful anytime meal.

5.Cube it:
How about chicken kebabs? Dice the chicken breast into large cubes and skewer the meat.  I like to cook skewered veggies at the same time like bell pepper, cauliflower, red onion, etc.

6. Grind it
You can grind your own chicken breast in a food processor or buy  pre-ground (just make sure it is ground chicken breast and they didn’t add any junk to it). What to do once ground?  How about a chicken meatloaf, or chicken burgers, or chicken meatballs, or stuffed zucchini, taco salad, you name it!  Serve with mashed cauliflower and green beans.

7. Sous Vide it:
Say huh!?  Yeah, Sous Vide. It’s French that automatically makes it better in the food world right…?  Anyway, it means “under vacuum” and is all the rage in the professional kitchen and catering companies right now.  Why? Because it produces unparalleled results of tender, juicy, flavorful meat from the lowliest of cuts. How? you seal the chicken with whatever flavors you are using and cook it at a low temperature (145-150°F) water bath for a long time (3.5 hours) and it never overcooks and produces some pretty amazing results.  The flavours really intensify and you are left with a succulent, juicy, and tender chicken breast.  (I know, I know 145-150° isn’t safe for chicken you say, but it actually can be perfectly safe if it is HELD at this temperature for a prescribed time)  You’ll just have to stay tuned for this one as I cover more about the wonderful possibilities of cooking with a sous vide device.

chicken breast sous vide on salad

chicken breast sous vide on salad w/ lemon-yogurt salad dressing over a spinach and pistachio salad

I hope that was enough to whet your appetite.  Now ask yourself:

Do I feel like chicken tonight?

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Best of the West: Texas Caviar

How to get your black eyed peas on!  Lets get this started in here!

We got 9 different kinds of peppers goin on.  (and it aint too spicy either)

When I was a kid my mom used to make me eat at least one black eyed pea on New Years Day for good luck.  I never liked em very much, nor did I like cilantro.  It certainly is interesting how our palate and preferences change over time.  I absolutely LOVE cilantro now and it is probably my favorite fresh herb.  You can make a marvelous herb infused oil out of the stuff (or this bread) but that will have to wait for another post.  Now on to the TEXAS CAVIAR:

The Peppers:

2 dried ancho Chiles
4 dried guajillo chiles
2 dried Chile de arbol (more if you want it spicier)
black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp dried hatch pepper
1 can green chiles
2 jalepeños (more if you want it spicier)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper

Holy Toledo thats 9 different peppers! But trust me it’s not really spicy at all if you de-seed the peppers.

The other guys:

1 can white hominy
1 can black eyed peas
1 fist-full of chopped cilantro
1 cup corn kernels (frozen if it is out of season)
2 Tbsp flax seed oil
1 can chopped tomato (fresh would be better but tomato is way out of season right now and unripe tomatoes are a food crime as far as I am concerned)
salt to taste

Prep work:
Start out by snipping the stems off the dried chiles and getting the seeds out.  Then cut with your kitchen sheers into strips and then tiny squares (like your making a chile confetti).  Roast your peppers and remove skin then de-seed and cut to a large dice.  Remove stem, seeds (and their membrane) from the jalepeños and cut to a nice brunoise (that’s fancy french for a tiny uniform dice).  Drain and rinse hominy and peas.

The “cooking”:
combine all ingredients.  Seriously that’s it.  Taste it and adjust seasonings/ heat as needed.  Once you stash it in the fridge the flavors will meld and develop and the dried chiles will rehydrate.

You can serve it with chips like a salsa, put it on top of a salad with a little sour cream perhaps, or just eat it straight up with a spoon.  It’s dang good and double dang good for ya!

Wishing you health and happiness in 2012.

Eat well.


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Christmas is for Carbs

’tis the season to eat jelly rolls
I am not an all or nothing kind of guy.  I very much enjoy my cheat meals and they help keep me sane.  There is very little outcome difference between following a solid plan 90% of the time vs 100% of the time (if your preparing for an athletic event this does not apply to you, sorry).  So plan your 10% and enjoy it.  I know I did this holiday season.  Here are some of the photos I took of the baked goodness I prepared for my family this past holiday.  You will find bagels, focaccia, and cinnamon rolls (oh my!)

You can now see that not EVERYTHING I cook has to be healthy (although I was able to sneak some flax seeds on the bagels and some greens on the focaccia, good luck on the cinnamon buns).  

The last time I baked bread like this was about 4 years ago when my Grandmother was last in Houston.  That Christmas we baked bread together and made pasta and really enjoyed working together in the kitchen.  This year we were fortunate enough to have our Grandmother with us yet again to help celebrate Christmas.  I thought what better way to show my Grandmother how much I appreciate her than by baking the bread that she thought was so wonderful.  And so Christmas Bake Fest 2011 was born.  (I also built my own sous vide machine but that will have to wait for another post.)  Even though I hadn’t baked serious bread in some years, it came out splendidly.  My mother was all too happy to volunteer my baking (especially the cinnamon buns) as our new holiday tradition.
So if you know ahead of time that there are cheat meals coming (like Christmas 2012 for example and lets be honest New Years eve is just a week away) plan for them; enjoy them.  Then get back on task once they are over.  I am on the plane now and my next feeding is scheduled in about half an hour.  Christmas Bake Fest 2011 may be over but that doesn’t mean my food has to be bland and boring.  Luckily I packed some lean beef jerky (authentic TX smokehouse style of course!)  and a dried seaweed salad (stay tuned for the recipe).  As always if you need help figuring out what your 10% or your 90% should look like hit me up, I’d be happy to help.  Or just read a few of the recipes here on this blog most of them would fall under that 90% category.  Eat well!

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Strength and Conditioning Secrets for the Combat Athlete to the Everyday Athlete

 “You are not special. Your are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Look I realize that you are here expecting an article detailing how your needs, and that of a fighter are somehow unique and special.  In fact I originally wrote most of this article for a fighter preparing for a tournament. But despite what your mother may have told you or what commercials you may have seen on the TV, most athletes all require the same basic attributes scaled of course to their event intensity and duration.  (it should be clear that the energy/ metabolic needs of a line backer are far different from that of a ballerina).

But all sports require both strength, conditioning, and powerwork in varying dosages on some level.  Runners still need strength and power development if they ever want to be able to accelerate (particularly in the final portion of a race) and even power lifters benefit from a  base level of conditioning (which can speed recovery between sets).  The key is in knowing when to train what and how hard.  The general principals are simple however and quite universal:Prepare for your sport by practicing your particular sport (were talking skill acquisition here)
Establish a base level of strength
Increase power output
Develop required conditioning for said sport.

Even if it seems as though your conditioning is your limiting factor:  if you don’t have a deadline that is close at hand (like less than 8wks).  This should be your strategy.  If you have a competition or event sooner than 8 weeks then plan better next time jack ass (seriously if you are <8 wks out and you don’t know what you are doing, get your shit together). 

Strength takes longest to develop and should therefore be focused on first.  It also diminishes the slowest so a minimal amount of strength training will be required later on when conditioning is your primary to maintain it.  On the other side of the spectrum conditioning adaptations are relatively fast and diminish fairly quickly as well.  Power is in between the two but no less important (arguably more important as it is typically the expression of power that determines athletic success).

Notice how strength, power, and conditioning all take progressively less time to peak as you move down the list.  Which means that the time you spend in the gym training should look something like this:

These are the basics of block periodization. Where different attributes are given different emphasis within a given time frame. So get your priorities straight and train smart.  If you need help developing a sound plan, I am as always at your service.References:
Rippetoe, M. (2010). Practical Programming for Strength Training. Whichita Falls, TX: The Aasgaard Company
National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2008).Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (3rd ed.). Human Kinetics

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