Hey Kid, Go Ahead and Eat the Carbs. You’re Going To Need a Little Glycogen: Nutrition Beyond the Crossfit Ethos.

20170102_094655For a few years, I ate only nuts and seeds, all sorts of meat, some vegetables, wine and that was about it. I was always hungry and I was not very lean, but I was fit and it was ok. A feeling of rabid hunger was with me all the time. And I still was not very lean.  It felt like deprivation, and was simply making me crazy on the inside.

The problem was, as an athletic person, I did not understand how running on low glycogen stores was inhibiting my abilities. I did not understand the needs of my skeletal muscles, and what they recruit during a high intensity workout session. These particular muscles can store about 300-400 mg of glycogen, which is recruited when you engage in a high intensity workout, so why wouldn’t you want it to be there, ready for use?  Without those stores in place, you are vulnerable to a catabolic breakdown which involves your muscles consuming themselves for fuel. And yes, there are many arguments for a ketogenic diet, but it just was not working for me. Plus I like my giant assed muscles. Sue me.

I am a shitty amateur weightlifter who runs around like a maniac and tries to be as explosive and as strong as possible. Maybe you are like me. And  you might want to eat some carbohydrates. You’ll feel better, sleep through the night, have fluffy dreams and you won’t be as hungry. I don’t know how many carbs you should eat, but maybe you should start thinking about 3-5 grams per kilo of lean body mass.

So here is an hour you can spend on Sundays and set yourself up for 4 days of tasty lunches. You can substitute brown rice for farro, to make it gluten free. Conversely, if you want less fat, you can lower the feta amount but that will also lower the protein.

Farro with Cannellini Beans, Chicken, Asparagus and Feta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Macros/Serving: P 49 | F 11| C 43. Fiber is 5 grams per serving

The recipe for cooking the farro comes from Charlie Bird restaurant in NYC. Cooking it in vinegar will cause a pungent aroma in your home, so if you prefer use broth. But the vinegar deeply flavors the grains and eliminates the need for a ton of seasoning when you are done.

Ingredients

  • 180 grams dry farro (If using brown rice for gluten free, it will change the macros slightly: P 47 | F11 | C 45 and 6 Grams of Fiber)
  • 12 ml olive oil
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained. (Or make your own. You will need 244 grams cooked beans.)
  • 600 grams raw chicken breast, cut into thin slices
  • 211 grams of asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 112 grams feta cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp spice blend of your choice (I used piri piri)
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions

  1. Season the chicken breast with the spice blend and salt and pepper. Use half the olive oil and sautée in a non-stick pan until it is cooked through. You may need to do this is 2 batches depending on the size of your pan.
  2. Bring to a boil the apple cider vinegar and 2 cups of water. Add the farro and bay leaves. Lower to a simmer, stirring now and again, until all the liquid has been absorbed. You need n0t cover the pan. This will take 30+ minutes.
  3. Season the asparagus with salt and pepper, Sauté in remaining oil until tender.
  4. Divide the farro, cannellini beans, chicken, and asparagus equally among four sealable containers. Top each with 28 grams of feta.

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Boeuf à la Mode: Macro-friendly? Oui oui!

stew-finishedThree weeks ago, I started working with a pretty awesome nutrition program called Working Against Gravity. I had been on the wait list for several months. They focus on macronutrient ratios and find a formula that is unique to your body composition. I had run into some frustration with nutrition; while I always ate pretty healthfully and was somewhat mindful, I also wanted to get a little more lean. It seemed like the right time, a time to really focus on what the heck I was putting in my maw. I have learned a few astonishing things:

Primarily, I have been under-eating for years. My calories went up nearly 500/day and I have lost weight (about 6 pounds). I was not eating enough protein or fats. And I was not getting enough carbohydrates from food, and getting way too many from wine.

This is a bit of a shift from “food = pleasure” to “food = fuel”. But I don’t think it is at the expense of flavor or of practicing the craft of cooking, which I really enjoy. So if I told you the classic French dish Boeuf à la Mode could have macros like this: 25 grams fat/31 grams carbohydrates/80 grams protein PER BIG SERVING– would you believe me?  Believe me, it’s real.

What the hell on earth is Boeuf à la Mode? Fancy French for good old pot roast, but I like to cut the meat into chunks rather than cook it whole. I neither use butter, nor flour to thicken the stew. These are unnecessary in my opinion, because the dish is already rich enough.

 

Here is what you will need. Note, this is a 2 day process, but pretty much only 30 minutes of hands on cooking time. This makes 3 servings. Got a smaller appetite? Make it four servings: (1 serving= 19 grams fat/22 grams carbohydrates/60 grams protein)

1 kilogram (2.25 lbs) beef stew meat**

265 grams (9.5 ounces) small red potatoes

3 carrots peeled,then diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1/2 large white onion, diced

500 ml (2 cups) dry red or white wine, your choice

500 ml (2 cups) de-fatted chicken or beef broth

1 tbs. anchovy filets

1 tbs. tomato paste

50 ml (1.6 ounces) Cognac, or bourbon

1 tsp. red wine vinegar (for finishing)

Salt and pepper

**It is important to note that in this recipe I used an arm roast. This is less fatty than some other parts of the chuck. I weighed it raw and trimmed some of the fat. If you use a different cut it may affect your macros, especially in the fat department. In France, try the collier or basses côtes, in England the clod.

  1. Day One: In a large plastic bag, put in all the vegetables. Cut the beef into small cubes (if purchased whole),  and season with salt and pepper (be generous- about 2 tsp. of each) and then throw into the bag on top of the vegetables. Pour in the wine, seal the bag and stick it in the fridge. I put the bag in a small baking dish to reduce the chances of leaking.
  2. Day 2: Preheat your oven to 350° F (180° C or gas mark 4). Drain the meat and vegetables from the wine, reserving the liquid. Separate the meat from the vegetables and dry with paper towel. Pour the reserved liquid in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes and skim off any scum.
  3. While the wine is reducing, pour one tbs. of olive oil into the sauté pan and cook the meat. This should be in one layer. If your pan is small, do two batches. Brown the meat on all sides and place it in an ovenproof pot that has a tight fitting lid.
  4.  Clean and slice the red potatoes in half. Add the other tbs. of olive oil to the sauté pan and cook the onions, celery, carrots and potatoes on medium heat. After ten minutes add the tomato paste, anchovy and cognac. Stir this around and scrape all the bits from the bottom of the pan (this is called the fond and baby it’s where the flavor lives). Add this to the meat, add the reduced wine and the broth. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 1.5-2 hours, checking around the 1 hour mark for tenderness and broth level. You may or may not need to add broth depending on your oven. Don’t add too much, maybe another 125 ml (1/2 cup).
  5. Add the tsp. of vinegar to the pot and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

A note about alcohol and macros. I am learning that the body processes alcohol in a very special, super fatty way, which is disconcerting and sad when you want to drink all the wine all the time. I calculated the macros for the amount of alcohol used in this dish (counting all as carbohydrates which equaled 170 grams) and  took 5% of that number, adding it to the total for each serving (about 3 grams extra of carbohydrate). Cooking alcohol for 2 hours will cause 95% of the alcohol to burn off according to this government study.

 

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The Chicken Nugget, Redux.

Although I do not harbor any real nostalgia for the chicken nugget, you have to admire an industrial food culture that is able to scrape the remains of bones from a slaughtered animal, combine this with trimmings, glue it together in the shape of a dinosaur, cover it with wheat and market it as a healthy way to deliver protein into a child’s body.*

However, faced daily with the task of delivering a certain amount of protein (often in the form of chicken, or eggs) into my adult body, I thought I would play around with a chicken nugget concept.

Honestly, I thought this was going to be a hot mess. But to my surprise, these turned out to be ridiculously tasty! I fed them to two athletic kids in their 20s, a friend who had just had a baby, and my husband, all of whom approved.

I will admit these are not a crunchy or crispy nugget. But they are glorious cold and really extra glorious when dipped in a little ketchup. And when you see the nutrition stats, you will know that you can absolutely afford the few extra carbohydrate grams a dip of ketchup will bring. These are gluten free and paleo-friendly if you do not partake of the ketchup. They are super portable too- you could sneak a few in a small tupperware in your purse or backpack.

Here are your macros! I compared them to a popular brand of frozen nuggets that you keep in the freezer and bake at home.

Tyson VS. Shebnation 

90 gram serving (5 Tyson Nuggets/5 Shebnation Nuggets)

Tyson Fat: 17 grams–Shebnation Fat: 11.5 Grams

Tyson Carbohydrates: 15 Grams–Shebnation  Carbohydrates: 4.32 (#boom)

Tyson Protein: 17 Grams–Shebnation Protein: 30 Grams (#mikedrop)

 

nuggetsingredients

You will need a few things:

1.25 pounds of chicken cut into .75 ounce pieces. (567 grams of chicken, cut in 21 gram pieces. (I used a scale to weigh these. I had to trim a few pieces, and ended up with 4 ounces (114 grams) of extra raw chicken which I simply reserved and cooked for another lunch).

3/4 cup (84 grams) of finely ground almond meal. (This is what boosts the protein. If you use a different flour you may not get as much protein per nugget).

2 Tbsp spices of your choice. I highly recommend 1 Tbsp each of mild chile powder and herbs de provence, which is simply a nice blend of dried green herbs and lavender. Dried oregano or a nice Italian blend would work nicely too.

Egg whites. 50 grams or 3 large egg whites.

Salt and Pepper.

A parchment lined baking sheet. Tin foil ok too!

 

nuggetsbreadingstation
Before the whisking. See how many spices?
  • Pre-heat your oven to 400 ° F/ 200 °C or Gas Mark 6
  • Dry your chicken breasts thoroughly with paper towel, then utilizing a food scale cut them into 3/4 ounce (21 grams) pieces. It’s ok if they are not perfect. But try to be close.
  • Fill a small tray or bowl with the egg whites. If you are separating egg whites rather than using boxed egg whites, whip them up a bit. (For this recipe I actually prefer the boxed egg whites and I usually have them on hand for an easy source of low-fat protein.)
  • Mix with a whisk, the almond meal, the two spices plus 1.5 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper. I cannot urge you enough, at this stage to SEASON THE ALMOND FLOUR AGGRESSIVELY. Do not be afraid. You want this dry mixture to be bursting with flavor. There should be no need to season a nugget after it is baked.  If you are unsure, taste a tiny bit of the flour. It should be zippy and full of flavor. Please tell me it is zippy and full of flavor. Otherwise, season a little more.
  • Place all the chicken pieces into the egg whites. Let them hang out for about 15 minutes. Have a goddamned glass of wine. You know I did. Please have some wine.
  • Three nuggets at a time, put the egg-white soaked chicken pieces into the flour mixture. Roll them around, thoroughly dredging them. If you put more than three at a time, the almond flour will become too soggy.
  • Once they are coated, put the tray in the oven. After 12 minutes, turn the nuggets over. Bake for 24 minutes.
Nuggetsbreaded
Ready to cook.
Nuggetsandketchup
Cold and ready to dip!

*In the interest of fairness, Tyson does issue this “position statement” regarding just how much mechanically separated meat may or may not be in their products. However, if you make these yourself, and use chicken breast, you will know exactly how much mechanically separated chicken will be in your nuggets: none.

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A Simple Portuguese Soup. 30 Grams of Protein Per Serving. Yeah, You Heard Me.

Caldo verde

Ladies- we are not eating enough protein. If you think you are because you had an egg and then some chicken at lunch, think again. Try and consume .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, daily. Even if you are tiny, this will be a challenge.  So you gotta get sneaky about it.

I present to you, the above soup, courtesy of the Minho region of northern Portugal. This is called Caldo Verde (green soup), very Iberian and ridiculously simple.

Here is what you will need:

4 well flavored chicken sausages (I used these.)

200 grams of potato (7 ounces)

170 grams cooked chicken (6 ounces-use up leftovers you might have hanging about- don’t you always have chicken on hand?).

1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed (here is a quick video showing you how) and then roughly chopped

1 leek diced cleaned of its grit (here is a painfully awkward French gentleman with a very odd beard  choice showing you how). If you are leek-averse, use a medium onion.

8 cups chicken or turkey stock

1 Tbsp paprika

Salt and pepper.

  1. Sautée the diced leek in 1 Tbsp olive oil, with salt and pepper, about 8 minutes. You’ll want to use a nice soup pot that will easily accommodate the 8 cups of broth you will be adding.
  2.  Peel the potatoes and cut in small chunks.
  3. Add potatoes and paprika to the pot, sautée for another minute, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are quite cooked and beginning to break apart, about 30 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 375°F/190° C (Gas Mark 5). Cut the sausages into small rounds, and roast on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes, until browned.This provides a nice texture. I find boiled sausages to be a little watery. No-one likes a watery sausage.
  5. Using a potato masher, mash up the potatoes in the soup until they are no longer recognizable as potatoes. Be violent if you wish, but do not splash boiling soup on yourself!
  6. Add the raw kale and cooked  chicken to the soup. Simmer for another 30 minutes. This will allow the kale to break down and the potatoes will thicken the soup and give it a more velvety texture.
  7. Add the cooked sausages. Taste then season with salt and pepper. It’s finished!

Macros (Per serving-I calculated this pot of soup as 4 servings)

30.5 grams Protein/19 grams Carbohydrate/9 Grams Fat/4 Grams Fiber

 

 

 

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Hanging Out With The O.O.W.G., Shelling Some Damned Beans.

Once a year these cranberry beans (a.k.a. borlotti beans) come into season in Chicago. You need to hit the farmer’s market early, otherwise the pile will be thoroughly ravaged by the ancient yet robust Romanian and Bulgarian women who covet these beans. My Turkish Father, the Original Old World Gangster, starts hounding me about these beans in mid-July. Of course, he would rather I fight these tenacious ladies with my protein laden muscles. The OOWG keeps his hands clean- I do the dirty work. Even though I don’t even eat beans.

I got him 2 pound of beans and he made barbunya. (You can replace the carrots with potato if you want to do this OOWG style, otherwise the recipe is perfect). Don’t worry, it will not fit in any macro/paleo scheme. You poach these things in a shit load of olive oil, with tomatoes, garlic, onion, potato and tomatoes. They magically become creamy and and light, despite the fact that I think about .25L of olive oil is employed.

I will say this. You can make this with dried beans but nothing is as wonderful as fresh. That’s why we only make it once a year. It’s a thing in shebnation.

Lastly, if you were planning to schedule a colonic, might I gently suggest trying a serving of barbunya instead? You might be surprised at its cleansing properties.

DSC_0007
Pods.
DSC_0011
Mediterranean hands in their 10th decade.
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Meatball Madness. No Breadcrumbs Need Apply.

It may seem trivial, given the state of world affairs, but for a few years now I have been fretting about meatballs.

Anyone who has tried to cook a grain free meatball has probably, like I have, cooked a limp, liquid filled blob, unappealing and soggy. A myriad of attempts at grain free meatballs always resulted in them breaking apart in the pan during the initial searing, then oozing and generally looking terrible once in the oven to finish. I have tried several remedies: cooked rice (ugh the texture), gluten-free bread crumbs (wet and nope), almond flour (dense and ineffective), coconut flour (again dense, and imparts too much coconut-y flavor) and eggs (too much liquidity, despite their binding nature). All without success.

There is a solution and it’s so simple and cheap it’s kinda stupid.

Bakingsodabest
Not just for the litter box anymore!

Can you believe this? If you add 2 Tsp to 1 pound of ground chicken or turkey (454 grams), or 2.5 Tsp to 1 pound of fattier meat (beef, veal, pork- 454 grams) it will bind those fuckers up like no one’s business, imparting no flavor whatsoever.

Let’s cook some meatballs!!!!!

 

Basic Meatball Recipe:

1 pound (454 grams) ground meat

Baking soda (2 tsp for lean meats like chicken or turkey or fish, 2.5 tsp for fattier meats like beef, pork, duck or sausage).

2-3 Tbsp Aromatics: Minced Garlic, Shallots, or 4 Minced Scallions

2 Tbsp acid (vinegar or citrus like lime or lemon- very important as you must activate the baking soda)

3 Tbsp Fresh Herbs (your choice)

1-2 Tbsp Dried Herbs (again go crazy)

2 Tbsp Umami like flavor: Tomato paste, mustard, chipotle, parmesan cheese (or 1 Tbsp fish sauce, soy or tamari sauce)

1 Tbsp Oil (olive, sesame, coconut–your choice)

Salt & Pepper 

Throw everything atop the meat. Mix well with your hands. If you are squeamish (I am) use disposable latex gloves or a spoon.

This next bit is important. Because it is not advisable to eat raw meat to check the seasoning, you will throw a small piece onto a hot skillet and cook it. Adjust and re-cook a small piece if necessary. It is very hard to season a meatball once it has been cooked. Once it is to your taste, form into balls, and chill in the fridge, uncovered for a half an hour, or covered in plastic wrap for 24 hours. You will then sear your meatballs in a pan with a little olive oil, and place on a lined baking sheet which you will place in an oven pre-heated to 375 F (Gas Mark 5 or 190 C.) until they are cooked through (10-15 minutes).

Now, utilizing the master recipe above, let’s appropriate some flavors from various ethnic cuisines and go meatball kookoo!

MexicanMBIngredients
Hecho en Mexico!!!!!

You want a goddamned Mexican Meatball to go with a margarita? OK. Garlic powder, oregano, chile powder & cumin. Chipotle, cilantro, lime & olive oil.

ThaiMBmix
Thai Village!

Sriracha, sesame oil, fish sauce , minced garlic, minced ginger, chopped cilantro, lime juice, scallions.

ItalianMBIngredients
Under the Tuscan Sun!

Olive oil, lemon,tomato sauce, 20 pitted & chopped olives, grated garlic, shallot, and chopped basil. If you eat cheese here is a parmesan opportunity.

FrenchMBIngredients
Oui Oui Frenchie!

Shallot, tomato paste  1 cup chopped &cooked mushrooms, dijon mustard, lemon juice, parsley and thyme.

MBCooking
Admire the firmness during the searing.
MBCooked
Look how well they hold their shape when baked.

So there you are, a shebnation solution to one of the world’s biggest problems.

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