Monday, March 30, 2009

What's going on next door?

Next door at the member's only site, we have a couple or three interesting discussions going on.

MG on dropping 70 pounds in six month and SM on muscle confusion (here).

LS on how she got hooked on yoga (here).

And LS again on why she still does push ups, long after her last APRT/APFT (here).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tomorrow's weather has been cancelled due to lack of interest

Last weekend it was in the 70s. Sunburned my melon eating lunch on a park bench. Then three days later, we got a foot of snow, with temps in the teens.
Today's high: 67°, and not a cloud in the sky.
Which means tomorrow... you guessed it — back to the 30s with snow on the way.
Hold on to your hat... can't tell you whether that hat is a wool ski mask or a sun bonnet, but you'll need something on your noggin, one way or the other.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy International Waffle Day!

Of course, we don't celebrate it here in the US. We have our own US Waffle Day, in August.

Here at the Training Table, though, we believe is celebrating all food-related occasions as often as possible, so we'll be observing both. Maple syrup is required, whipped cream totally optional.

Mental Health Break: Food, Up Close and Personal

The Well ran a quick diversion from gloom and doom stories about what's killing us all to share the photography of Satre Stuelke, a 44 year old former art professor and current medical school student. Well, not quite photography, as these images were taken with a CT scanner. Mr. Stuelke says his goal was to get us all to “think about how things are constructed" by scanning common, household items. And you don't get any more common than food.

Here's a box of McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. "They are so beautiful with their breading," Mr. Stuelke said. "The box design is truly elegant as well."

Read the Well article here.

See the slideshow here.

And see the entire collection here at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Road to Recovery

Everyone's feeling a bit better around here these days. Not sure if the bugs ran their course, if the doc's Rx worked, or if all we needed was a little sun and fresh air. We got plenty of the latter this past weekend. Loaded up the all-terrain BOB stroller and went for a hike, had a picnic lunch outside, and took the Z Monster to my favorite store slash playground, the big REI in downtown Denver.

As we've mentioned before, Z Man is a climber. And he's become quite scientific about it. He sees every chair, ottoman, bench, or step as his own personal mini-Everest, awaiting his conquest. Most kid's first words are along the lines of dad, ball, mom, juice, or the like, but I'm pretty sure that Z's first sentence, upon getting to the top of a bookcase, will be a proud and defiant "Because it was there."

The funny thing is watching him think about his next move, like an alpinist laying out the pitches that it will take to reach a summit. He plays with hand-holds, foot-holds, leverage, and friction, testing out a hold by applying a little bit more weight on it before he goes for it. And then sometimes, when he can't figure out a move, he just grabs as high as he can and pulls, grunts, strains with all his might to get up.

On Saturday we took him to REI (dividend time!), and the first thing we did was show him the little kiddie play area. Not really interested in that. He looked at it a bit but lost interest quickly, preferring to run free amongst the racks and shelves and aisles. (Yes, he's running now. Not just walking too fast in that out-of-control way that little kids run, but a legitimate run. Took him about two weeks of walking before he started picking up his knees and sprinting.)

He's too small for the climbing wall, but up in the hiking boot department, REI has a fake boulder pile, designed so one can test out a pair of hiking boots on undulating terrain to make sure they are going to fit just right. At most stores, this sizing tool is a three or four feet across, but at the flagship REI, it's about 12' x 12'. And Z. ran all over that thing like a little monkey. Up one side, down the other, over the steps, down the ledge, all over the place.

But what really scared us was when he walked up to a bay window with a sill about chest-high to him. The window had a little bench under it, and he needed to get up there to look out at the park. So he looked at it for a second, centered himself, and then placed both hands on the ledge and leaned forward. It didn't look like he had a prayer of mantling up this obstacle, but as he leaned forward, he piked in the middle and started searching the wall with his toe. Somehow he found a crack in the tile, and he got enough of his toe in there to inch up, just barely enough to throw his center of gravity over the top, allowing him to push up onto the bench. His move reminded me of the shelf on the Indoor Obstacle Course, a memory which causes an involuntary hack and brings back images of me falling off the balance beam over and over. (See the 1:52 mark here.)

Once he was on the bench, you could see the pride in his accomplishment. He ran around on this three-foot long space like Rocky at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But then he quickly got back to business, looking out the window, pointing at cars and making the vroom vroom noise that little boys instinctively make, and laughing like a hyena. After a couple of minutes, I picked him up and returned him to terra firma, but flat ground obviously doesn't appeal to him. Up he went, using the exact same move as the last time, only this time without having to think about it or test out any of the holds. Hands on the bench, lean forward, plant toe, lift, mantle, and then up on his feet.

I guess if you have a little climber in the family, there are worst places to live than a state with some 50-odd 14ers. There's a rock climbing club in our high school, so he will have sufficient opportunities to channel this enthusiasm as he gets older. I was just hoping to have a few more years before I had to worry about yet another way he can fall down and go boom.

Get out there!

A story I can relate to over at NPR this morning:

Report: Most Americans Don't Get Enough Vitamin D

  • Morning Edition, March 24, 2009 · Three out of every four Americans are deficient in vitamin D. That's a big increase, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
How do you get Vitamin D? Well, there's milk (fortified, that is), and salmon and other oily fish. But it seems that we get most of our Vit D from the sun. From getting outside.

I have my own personal story with Mr. Sun. Any time we've lived somewhere known for it's overcast days, I can feel the effects almost immediately. Living in a neighborhood surrounded by 70 foot Georgia pines, where the sun didn't break the tree line until around ten each morning... that really got to me. Moving from Hawaii to Missouri nearly killed me. And now, most recently, just one year in sunny (maybe too sunny) Colorado has been a rebirth for me.

This past winter, I became a dad for the first time, and the whole experience has been wonderful. And yet, because of the new obligations, I'm not getting outside enough. Not walking the dogs, not skiing, not riding my bike. And I had been feeling the effects. So this weekend we made a conscious effort to spend as much time outside as we could. We took the Z Man for a hike, pushing the BOB stroller around one of the easier mountain bike trails. We spent time outside at the local park. Ate lunch outside, and tried to replenish the Vitamin D stores. And come Monday, we all felt so much better.

When the weather turns to crap, especially in the winter, you may have the convenience of a treadmill, a gym in the basement, or maybe a living room floor big enough to do yoga. Those are all good things. But we all still need to get outside, get some fresh air, and gets some sun on our face.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pneumonia, Bronchitis, Infections, oh my!

It’s been a rough couple or three weeks around here. Z. celebrated his first birthday by going to the doctor and learning he’s going to need tubes to stop the ear infections. Just what every kid wants: a pony, a Hot Wheels track, and minor outpatient surgery.

We’ve all been fighting one bug or another. M. had bronchitis and maybe still does. For over a week I put up with no sleep, a hacking cough, and a sinus headache that felt like Tiger Woods was teeing off with my melon, before going to a doctor and finding out I had pneumonia. And Z’s temperature has been jumping up and down like a ten year old full of Mountain Dew on a trampoline.

Even the four legged critters are getting in on the act. Molly can barely bend her back legs these days and walks around like Freddy G. Sanford, Zo’ hasn’t kept a meal down properly in ages, and one of the cats has been leaving little prezzies all over the basement floor. (We’re always thankful for small favors: Zo’s accidents have all been in the garage and the cats are doing all of their damage on the concrete slab floor of the unfinished basement. So it could be so much worse.)

The specific ailments and general malaise put a bit of a damper on Z’s first birthday, so we decided to celebrate it a couple of times. On his actual birthday, he had doctor’s appointments and some other matters to attend to, so by the time he got home he barely had time to blow out the singular candle on his birthday cupcake. But as gifted and talented as young Z’ster is, we’re pretty sure he can’t read a calendar yet, so we decided to spring a second, more formal shindig for him the following weekend, over at M’s folks’ place in Nebraska.

I don’t think Z. knows from birthdays. He has no preconceptions of Chuckie Cheese or rented clowns or pony rides, and we’d like to keep it that way for a while. Give the boy a couple of other kids to play with, some good food, and a yard full of dogs, and he’s happy as a clam.

He’s been to Nebraska four times now, and he has the routine down: sleep for two hours on the drive there, run around like a maniac playing with the other kids, stuff face full of food, then sleep for a couple of hours on the way home. He seems to be a pretty good traveler; he even slept through the blue light special when someone’s lead foot got away from him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Free, cheap, and professional grade training support

Here’s what I know about fitness: the same thing doesn’t work for everyone.

It’s like Curly said in City Slickers, you gotta find your one thing. Stick with that, and everything else falls in place. But figuring out that one thing, the thing that works for you, aye, there’s the rub.

When it comes to tracking your workouts, folks tend to fall into one of two camps. There are the folks who weigh their food and time every workout and produce reams of spreadsheets to analyze. And then there are the folks who just go with the flow, who run until they get tired, who do what feels right.

For instance, some folks will use an iPod so that they get lost in their run or ride. They use calming music for their LSD runs or long rides so that the miles just disappear, or uptempo music to up the intensity of a workout. Other folks swear that listening to music is counter-productive because it blocks the signals from your body, that you need to be fully aware of the pain and effort that you are experiencing in order to benefit from it.

I say, to each his own. Figure out what works for you and go for it.

Along those lines, some people need data in order to improve. They need to know the exact mileage, pace, elevation gain, and the like so that can put a number next to the feeling. You intuitively “know” what a work out felt like, but what does it mean? You could subjectively give that run a 7 on your personal intensity scale, but what exactly does that 7 look like? Can you put numbers up against that feeling?

If you fall into the more analytical group, then life couldn’t be easier for you today. There are dozens of ways to track your runs or rides, and you can spend as much or as little as you want in taking full advantage of the technology that is out there. And if you don’t want to spend a single dime, there are

For starters, if you’re trying to use your REI dividend check or feel the need to personally jump-start the economy through frivolous spending, you have a lot of choices out there. Just about every GPS out there comes with fitness software so that you can plot your route onto a map as well as determining elevation gain, total distance, pace, maximum pace, and anything else you can think of.

If you want this kind of data, there are a couple of things to consider. First of all, do you really need to see the route on a map? If the answer is no, then you can save a lot of money by opting for a GPS with fewer features. By extracting the processor that converts GPS data into a map location, manufacturers can provide most of the features in a smaller, lighter, cheaper package. You won’t get a map, but you will still get mileage, pace, and sometimes elevation gain. Nike offers this package in their Nike+ series, which consists of a footpod that fits into the insole of certain models of Nike running shoes. The Nike+ pod talks to your iPod and your computer, so you can see your data on the iPod screen while you’re running or wait to download it until you get home.

Garmin also makes several models of wristwatch-based GPS units, some selling for as little as $99, that give you everything you can imagine except for the actual map of your route. The Garmin watches use the ANT+ wireless sensor interoperability platform, the industry standard these days for getting different computers to talk to each other. ANT+ allows your watch to serve as the tactical operations center, receiving data from a GPS footpod (which clips to your shoe laces), a heart-rate monitor, and, for cycling applications, wheel speed sensors and power meters. The Garmins also use ANT+ to wirelessly download your run or ride to your computer, so you can sit back and enjoy your recovery meal while your run downloads without even having to take off your watch.

If you do want to see your run or your ride on a map, then you still have quite a few choices. If money is no object, then one of Garmin’s many GPS units could by right for you. The $299 Forerunner 405 looks like a typical sports watch but is as powerful as that unit sitting on your car’s dashboard. It will track time, mileage, pace, heart rate, calories burned, and can even provide you with a Virtual Partner to run against. When you get home, you wave it at your computer and the run is downloaded, plotted, mapped, and analyzed. For cyclists there is the even more powerful Edge series, which does all of the above as well as providing a full-color map display. You can plot a course ahead of time and then just follow the arrows while you ride, or use the GPS to find the nearest Starbucks when it’s time for a break.

The technology options are quite nearly endless for the consumer willing to pull out the plastic, who wants to help stimulate the economy single-handedly. But what about us cheapskates out there, those of us so tight we’ll squeeze a dollar until the eagle hollers? Turns out there are a couple of free or nearly free options out there as well.

You can assemble a do-it-yourself package for running or cycling at Velo Routes. Velo Routes is based on Google’s Maps, making it quite user friendly. You input a route, then time yourself on that route, and Velo Routes will tell you your pace and elevation gain. While Velo Routes was made for cyclists (hence the elevation gain feature), it works just as well for runners. Of course, you could do the same thing with Google Maps, but Velo Routes adds the ability to save and track runs/rides, to find other runs/rides in your area, to compare times with other runners/cyclists, and to develop cue sheets for your run or ride.

Another program that does about the same thing is Map My Fitness. Map My Fitness is broken down into five very similar sites, focusing on running, cycling, hiking, walking, or triathletes/multi-sporters. Map My Fitness is basically Google Maps on steroids. It lets you plot a route, save it, share it, find the routes of other users, generate a training log, and analyze your workout data. Map My Fitness would be cool enough by itself, but if you own an iPhone, then you are really in luck. Using the iPhone application, the whole thing now becomes hands-free. Your iPhone tracks your run or ride, you download the data to your Map My Fitness folder, and without plotting a single point or typing in anything, you have a complete breakdown of your workout.

So pick your poison. Free, free-ish, cheap, or professional grade. Your pick, according to what works for you.

Now go forth and do great things.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Simul-blogging: Something Fishy

From our companion site:

It is common knowledge that the amount of Omega-3 acids in fish make them a good source of lean protein. However, there are many issues with commonly eaten seafoods in the way they are caught and the amount of mercury and other harmful toxins food in many fish. Two recent Sundance movies “The Cove” and the “End of the Line” highlighted some of these issues along with “The Cold Hard Truth About Fish” in the Dec 08/Jan09 Issue of Adventure Magazine. So in keeping with the mantra of “eat low on the food chain”, here is a simple pasta recipe as we near the end of the week, and time and energy are waning.

10 + cloves of garlic sliced
olive oil
cherry tomatoes sliced in half
2 cans of flat anchovies
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley
1 lb penne or rigatoni pasta

Lightly brown garlic in oil, add anchovies. Stir regularly to facilitate the anchovies breaking up to a semi-paste consistency. Add tomatoes. Stir and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Mangia!

Capers might be a nice addition as well.

Recipe compliments of Diane Bracey ‘80

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What NOT to eat for breakfast

Bill Maher, on Dunkin Donuts new breakfast offering, the Waffle Breakfast Sandwich:

Bacon, egg, and cheese between two waffles isn't breakfast, it's a suicide attempt. This is Dunkin' Donuts' new waffle sandwich. You could wait in line for yours or, if you're in a hurry, just snatch the pistol from the cop sitting at the counter and shoot yourself in the head.

Scramble the first word, and you get Unkind Donuts.

Awesome Easy Veggie Wrap

From Donna McAleer, over on our sister-site:

Only have 5 minutes to make your next meal. Throw together the ingredients below and the result is a tasty and relatively healthy wrap.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a little
Romaine lettuce, chopped
Ceasar dressing - a few tablespoons
Onions, chopped - a few tablespoons
Mushrooms, sliced — a bunch — any kind–regular, shitake, portabello, etc
Parmesan cheese, shaved
Tortillas or Wraps (personally like the Spinach ones)

Saute sliced mushrooms and chopped onions in olive oil. Toss romaine lettuce with Ceasar dressing. Pile lettuce on top of a warm wrap, add the mushroom-onion mix, generously sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Roll, wrap and eat.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tomato Soup on a slow Saturday

Everyone's sick here... head colds, coughs, runny noses.

So it looks as though we'll be spending this sunny day in bed or on the couch.

Fortunately, I made a quick and easy tomato soup (with grilled cheese on the side, of course, because you can't have tomato soup without grilled cheese) so we have lunch already made, if nothing else.

Z-Man will need something else, as he made clear to us by going through the cookbooks and bringing to our attention the things he wanted to try.

The soup is too easy... just the thing when no one really feels like cooking.

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 28-ounce can diced fire-roasted
tomatoes, drained
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup half-and-half or heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup garlic or cheese croutons, for serving

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in flour for 1 minute. Add broth, tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar. Bring to a boil. Partially cover and cook over moderate heat until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Puree half of the soup in a blender or immerse a hand blender into the saucepan and pulse for a few minutes. Return to pot and add the half-and-half or cream and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and swirl in an additional 2 tablespoons of butter if desired.

Serve with croutons. Makes an excellent accompaniment for our Crispy Crab Cakes (page 8, Great Tastes available as a free PDF download).

Slow Saturday

Everyone's sick here... head colds, coughs, runny noses.

So it looks as though we'll be spending this sunny day in bed or on the couch.

Fortunately, I made a quick and easy tomato soup (with grilled cheese on the side, of course, because you can't have tomato soup without grilled cheese) so we have lunch already made, if nothing else.

Z-Man will need something else, as he made clear to us by going through the cookbooks and bringing to our attention the things he wanted to try.

Slideshow: Little Chef

The soup is too easy... just the thing when no one really feels like cooking. Recipe here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Highlights

Long week and I'm out of ideas, so here are some highlights from elsewhere.

A few recipes:

And general stories about food or about thinking about food or about thinking about thinking.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pancakes: Quick and Easy or Supercharged

If you have premixed pancake batter in your fridge, drop and give me 50 pushups. That stuff is loaded with preservatives and stabilizers and doesn't taste good in the first place.

If you have a box of premixed pancake powder in the pantry, you only owe me 20 pushups, plus another 20 flutterkicks. Same problem as above, plus you're paying way too much for something you can make yourself in about three seconds.

A running theme here has been slowing it down, but slowing it down doesn't have to mean that it takes forever to get ready. And if you forgot to make the french toast the night before, then it's never too late to whip up an alternative to cold cereal and Saturday morning cartoons.

Basic pancakes are super-easy, and my version ups the fiber and protein and makes a great pre-race or pre-workout meal as well as an excellent recovery meal.

For basic pancakes, just remember the number two. You need 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of milk, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter or oil. Throw in a dash of salt and, if you want, a tablespoon of sugar (or brown sugar, or agave nectar, or honey), and you have pancakes for a family of four. (What? Step by step instructions? Come on... they're pancakes! Mix the dry, mix the wet, mix the wet into the dry, and fire up the griddle.)

These are super easy, and taste so much better than anything you're ever going to get out of a jug or a box. Add some mashed bananas, blueberries (fresh or frozen), or anything else that strikes your fancy.

But here's the really cool thing: it takes about two more minutes to take these from pancakes that taste good to pancakes that taste great and are great for you.

The first trick: substitute one cup of whole wheat flour for one cup of the white flour. That single step takes your protein from about 4 grams per serving to 5.5 grams, and your fiber jumps from zero to 5 grams. If you have a couple more minutes, you can grind up some oats in your coffee bean grinder or food processor and make a cup of oat flour. That gives you about 6-7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. (Mix the one cup of oat flour with the one cup of white flour, and throw a mini-scoop of whole oats in to the batter — presentation counts, after all.)

The second trick: add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of almonds to the mix by chopping them in your grinder, processor, or hand-chopper. About ten whacks with the hand-chopper gives you almond powder that nearly disappears into the flour, but still gives the batter a little bit of nutty texture. Take it down further and you'll loose the texture completely for lightly, fluffy pancakes. And almonds are nutritional powerhouses, giving you an extra 3-4 grams of fiber per serving, plus protein, calcium, and Vitamin E.

So here you go: the Training Table's Super-charged Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs (or 3 egg whites, if you're watching your cholesterol)
2 Tbs melted butter or oil
2 cups milk or 1 cup milk, 1 cup buttermilk

1/4 to 1/2 cup ground almonds, chopped finely with a hand-chopper or food processor

One cup blueberries

Back from Nebraska... for a day or two...

So we're back from Nebraska but we're heading back again on Tuesday. Saturday's get-together was to celebrate D's 50th birthday (going to keep the names anonymous to protect the innocent). It was a surprise party, and they pulled it off with flying colors, although she claims she had suspicions that something was up. (Don't they always say that?)

But despite everyone's best efforts at frivolous merriment, there was a cloud hanging over us all. One of M's cousins was killed the day before in a car accident. They had been in the same grade and lived pretty close to each other and were best friends growing up. They hadn't seen much of each other since graduation, but they had caught up at last year's reunion.

So that was weighing heavily on everyone's mind as they cut the cake and sang a very off-key version of "Happy Birthday."

I'm still drinking from the fire hydrant on this whole parenting gig, but I learned one thing this weekend: sometimes it's good to have silly, carefree, out of control kids around to take your mind off of things. Z. just wanted to run around with the other kids and play with everyone else's toys and stuff his face with ham, roast beef, potato salad, green beans, and whatever else he could get his grubby mitts on. He just wanted to play in the yard and watch the dogs run around. And watching him do his thing, without a care in the world, was pretty good therapy for the rest of us.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Economy and our Pantries

Interesting piece on how the economy is affecting haute cuisine.

Food Magazines Begin to Consider Cooks’ Budgets

Bon App├ętit, too, is altering its mix. “We encouraged our readers to still indulge; have caviar, but try Carolina rainbow trout caviar; instead of beef tenderloin, make an eye of round beef roast,” Barbara Fairchild, the magazine’s editor in chief, said by e-mail.

And for those of us who were already living on Carolina rainbow caviar, what are we supposed to downgrade to?

Quote of the Week

Mark Bittman, on his new book, Food Matters.

“I have no interest in helping people becoming chefs. I have an interest in 50 percent of the people in America knowing how to cook. And whether they cook like chefs or not, I don’t care. It’s probably better if they don’t. It would be better if they cook like me, which is adequately.”