What’s For Lunch? UPC’s Bento-Boxes


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UPC’s Salad Bento Boxes

I’ve shared pictures of my lunch salads before, but today’s post is somewhat special. My wife and I making a concerted effort to remove unnecessary plastic from our lives. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the biggest one is an attempt to reduce our impact on the world. I’m a firm believer in the “Golden Rule” and my wife recently pointed out to me that I really should be working hard to use as much re-usable materials as possible, since that’s ultimately the best application of the “Golden Rule” in regards to my impact on the environment. She’s right, of course, and I didn’t need any convincing. The plastic containers that I had been using previously would often last me months before being replaced. But they’re still plastic. So we made the shift to glass for out refrigerator items, and we just picked up several of the Smart Planet “Meal Kits” that are made entirely from silicone.

These are awesome for a couple of reasons, in my book: they’re durable, they’re light, they’ll last until we don’t like the colors anymore, and they collapse once you’re done with them to take up less space. And, of course, most importantly, they’re not ugly. Which makes it easier for me to share my lunch recipes with you!

I may make this “Bento Box Lunch” a whole separate category, if you all end up think it’s a hit. Be sure to read the “Questions” at the end to help me figure out whether this should be a regular thing, or if I should just keep in in the 3-meal rotation that I have going now.

Today’s UPC Salad Bento Box; What you’ll need:

  • 1 Serving of UPC’s Salad Eggs
  • 1 Serving of Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms (instructions below)
  • 1 Double-Serving Tossed Salad (any great lunch-salad will do; instructions for pictured salad below)
    UPC’s Salad Eggs:
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Organic Yellow Zucchini, chopped (obviously green zucchinis will work too!)
  • 2 Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
    Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms:
  • 2 medium Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup Crimini Mushrooms, quartered (chopped large)
  • 4 sprigs Organic Rosemary, Rosemary pulled off the sprig and chopped
  • Optional: Add copped Celery for additional flavor and green.
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil (for extra credit: use bacon grease!)
    Tossed Salad
  • 1 large Organic Avocado, chopped
  • 1 medium Organic Cucumber
  • 2 cups UPC’s Pulled Pork (alternately, sliced ham or bacon)
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 3 cups Organic Arugula, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2 (Breakfast and Lunch, depending on your meal sizes)
Cook and Prep time: About 1 hour

1. Start the UPC’s Salad Eggs. I’m going to skip the instructions for this, since they’re well documented in the linked post.

2. In a small pot, add the carrots first, then the mushrooms, rosemary, and coconut oil. Cover, and cook on high for 1 minute. After 1 minute, turn down to medium-low, and leave covered, stirring every 3-4 minutes while you prepare the rest of the Bento-Box.

3. Tend the UPC’s Salad Eggs, continuing to follow the directions in the post.

4. Turn off the carrots and mushrooms after about 12 minutes of cook time.

5. Add the chopped arugula (or your favorite salad greens) and basil to a mixing bowl. On top, add the avocado, cucumber and pulled pork. Then spread the olive oil evenly over the salad and mix carefully (I mix with my bare hands; yes I wash them first).

Serve each meal portion in to a separate section of your Bento Box, and enjoy!

Questions:

  • What are your thoughts on a full-meal post from time to time?
  • Do you like the idea of the lunch Bento-Box format?
  • Would you like to see more hot-meal components, or cold-meal components?
  • What do you bring for your own breakfast and lunch?

What’s For Breakfast? Salad Eggs


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UPC’s Salad Eggs

The weather here in the NYC area was idyllic over the weekend. It was stunningly beautiful all day Saturday and all day Sunday! I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better weekend! Not only was the weather excellent, but it couldn’t have possibly been a better test for my first ever New York Road Runners race as UPC. I know, I have done a few posts on working out, and you all know that I love running as a part of my exercise regimen, but most of you didn’t realize that I like to test myself on occasion, to see what is “the best that I can do” at that point in time. You’re all also well aware that I’m training for a 1-mile race in one month; but this is a little bit early for that post, right? Well, as much as I love racing, I haven’t participated in a race in nearly a year now. I’ll write another post today (that’s right, you get two posts today!!) to discuss the race, share some pictures, and give you all a training update on how I’m doing, and what my results from this weekend indicate to me with regards to my training and preparedness for the 1-mile race, which is my ultimate goal. So, since I’m not going to tell you about the race itself, let me spend a few words talking about testing in general.

I am a big fan of testing. Of course, I am not referring to the testing that you go through as a  normal part of training. I don’t mean “can I get an 11th rep?” when I talk about testing. What I’m talking about is the kind of testing that happens best under the umbrella of competition, though it’s possible to host your own version of a testing cycle. This kind of testing is when you save up your energy for a few days, or longer, so that you can push yourself to the absolute maximum of your capacity. You sleep, eat, rest, and train differently leading up to testing day, making sure that your capacity on that day is the absolute best that it can be. What you’re looking for is where the bar is for you, under optimal conditions, at this point in your physical fitness. Again, competition is not the only way to test yourself. But they’re set up specifically for that purpose; there’s usually a monetary cost to participate. While this is ostensibly to cover time and materials to make the testing possible, from my perspective what this is really for is to ensure that the athletes take the competition seriously. There is often a prize associated with success; though some of the time a prize is awarded to all participants (in most cases, I am ok with this). And competition in general always draws crowds. People like to see peak performance; it’s exciting.
All of these factors lead an athlete to build up that day to be different from any other day. As I mentioned above, because of the testing aspect of the day, athletes change their patterns leading up to the day. They reduce their training, otherwise called “tapering”. They eat differently. Some athletes eat more of one food group, and less of another. Sometimes there is more eating. Sometimes there is less eating. Often runners do something called “Carb loading” in the hopes that they’ll increase their total glycogen stores in their muscles and liver. Many wrestlers and boxers reduce their total food and water intake in order to make their weight class goals. They sleep differently. Often athletes operate on a reduced sleep schedule in order to get their training in around their other required daily activities (school/classwork, work, etc). Where the “taper” before the test day, they will emphasize getting enough sleep so their body is fully rested.
All of these things add up to an optimized athlete. And while I don’t necessarily agree with all of these activities, or with the fact that they are needed to begin with, these are a part of the testing cycle for regularly competitive athletes. I do love the testing cycle. I’ve been a competitive athlete for as long as I can remember, and I honestly don’t want to discontinue the testing cycle in my life. As one activity becomes less prevalent in my life, I replace that activity with another; and usually I seek out a way to test myself in that activity. Testing, when done right, is as important to me as the training. And in it’s own way, the testing is every bit as valuable.

But, there are many athletes who don’t do their testing the right way, as defined by me. Sometimes they carry the stress of the testing on their shoulders. Some of the time they like testing too much, and do it too often. Frequently I see athletes who don’t give their testing the kind of respect that it deserves, and they set themselves up for injury.
So here’s my stand on testing / competition: Do your testing infrequently enough, and with enough focus, that you get the best results you possibly can, you enjoy it, and you don’t set yourself up unnecessarily for injury. I know that’s a tall order; testing can be addictive! But it’s important to keep your competition days in perspective. These are intended to be tests of your ability. Make them infrequent enough that you can approach them with optimal performance in mind. And be sure to schedule a reasonable recovery so that any amount of injury that your body sustained during the testing it can heal from properly before you resume your full training regime.

SaladEggs2

UPC’s Salad Eggs; what you’ll need:

  • 4 Top-Quality Eggs (See here for egg recommendations)
  • 2 Organic Carrots, sliced
  • 1 Organic Yellow Squash, sliced (Zucchini works too)
  • 1 bunch Fresh Organic Basil, chopped
  • (Optional) 6 Crimini Mushrooms, quartered
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep time: 15 minutes

1. Add the vegetables and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to a pan and cook on medium heat, covered.
Note: Be sure to allot appropriate time for whatever side dish you’re preparing with the salad eggs. If you’re using bacon, as I did in the picture, it can be prepared in a second pan in the same amount of cook time as listed above by cooking it on medium-high heat, covered.

2. Stir the vegetables once every minute for 5 minutes.

3. After 5 minutes of cook time, shake the pan to make sure the vegetables are evenly spread out on the base of the pan and sprinkle your salt and pepper over the vegetables.

4. Turn the heat up to high. Wait for a moment and then crack the four eggs directly over the vegetables.
Note: Some people prefer to pre-mix the eggs and pour them in to the pan fully mixed. I prefer to mix them in the pan – this is a stylistic choice, and doesn’t appear to make much difference either way for scrambled eggs; though there can be a big difference for omelets or frittatas.

5. Stir the eggs and vegetables vigorously as the pan continues to heat up, making sure the egg yolks and egg whites are mixed thoroughly.

6. Just before the eggs reach your desired consistency, turn the heat off and let the eggs finish cooking using just the heat of the pan.
Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you enjoy testing / competition?
  • When is the last time you really tested yourself?
  • What kinds of competitions are the most fun for you?
  • What is your preparation ritual for your testing / competition?
  • Do you make changes in your normal daily rituals when testing / competitions are coming?

The Egg Project – Handsome Brook Farm Organic Pasture Raised


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Handsome Brook Farm Organic Pasture Raised

In my recent trip to Whole Foods looking for some top-quality pastured soy-free eggs, I stumbled across Handsome Brook Farm Eggs. Handsome Brook Farm only does one kind of eggs, as far as I can tell, and they try to keep them at the highest quality possible. I was quite impressed with their literature, and what they do for their hens while they’re producing. These look like they’ll be about as good as you can get, without growing them yourself! Here is a summary of what I can see, and why I like what I see:

HandsomeBrookFarm-OrganicPastureRaisedEggs-Packaging

  1. They only raise these eggs. I like this a lot because I find that quality is often the result of intense focus. The more focused a producer can be, the higher capacity for quality they are liable to have. And, of course, realized quality is bound by capacity, right? In other words, you have to focus on your product to produce something of value!
  2. They are 100% pastured, and their feed is grain-supplemented with organic grains. I am not excited that they’re being given grain supplements for their feed, but I recognize that without any bug-attractions, there is going to be a shortage of bugs pretty quickly when you unleash chickens on a field. Good bug attractions would be: cattle, horses, pigs, etc. to create something that the bugs would want to come to the farm and eat. That, of course, brings tons of bugs around to feed the chickens! Anyway, back from my digression, I recognize that without a mulch-disciplinary farm, there won’t be any cattle to attract bugs, and so the chickens simply won’t have enough bugs to feed on. They’ll need their feed supplemented somehow. And since it’s 100% grain, I know that there’s no soy, which is a huge win! In my egg-book, soy is worse than grains.
  3. They’ve taken the time to earn all of the various certifications that there are for top-quality eggs. Now, if you’re buying from your local farmer, this may be a detractor, since those certifications are expensive, and you can personally inspect the farmer’s operations. But if you’re buying commercial (which is what the Egg Project focuses on), then you’ll need to know that someone is inspecting the farm; even if it’s not actually you. Also, the fact that they have more than one certification means that they’re proud of their work (at least, that’s what I hope it means…) and proud farmers produce better products.

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites?

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The viscosity of the whites was noticeable. I was quite impressed with how thick and viscous the egg whites were. This indicates that the hens were given an ample source of protein for the egg-production process, and it means that the protein in the whites will be abundant for anyone eating it. This is good.
The egg yolk was not as impressive as the egg whites. It was most certainly better than the “Cage Free Organic” eggs that I occasionally buy from Trader Joe’s, which has a dull yellow egg, the same as most basic commercial egg operations. This egg had a bright yellow color, verging on orange. This indicates that the chickens are eating some grass. Based on the color of the yolk and the viscosity of the egg whites.
My guess is that the “supplementary feed” that the chickens are getting actually turns out to be their primary source of calories, but the feed is scattered in grass, and the hens are hunting it and pecking it up as though it’s bugs. This is why there’s some color in the yolks, because there is some grass in their diets. Unfortunately, as we well know from our own human-food experiments, grains are addictive, so unless the farmer is highly perceptive and is only giving the hens just enough supplemental feed to fill out their dietary needs after they’ve been hunting bugs and grass all day, they’ll just choose all the grains being given to them instead of hunting for bugs. Of course, this is just my guess.

HandsomeBrookFarm-OrganicPastureRaisedEggs-FryPoached-Inside

Strangely, the yolk showed more of the bright orange coloring after being cooked than before. This is a new concept for me, and something I’ll have to begin to research to understand better. I really don’t have enough experience with this in order to be able to render an updated guess on their nutrition based on my thoughts above.
My piqued interest aside: the flavor of the yolk was as exceptional as the cooked coloring would suggest. I was pleased with a well rounded flavor, not the dry, boring flavor that I am more used to from other commercial options. This is a tasty egg, and I enjoyed eating it!

HandsomeBrookFarm-OrganicPastureRaisedEggs-InsidePackaging

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

This is a striking 6-checks! I don’t really expect to see this, ever. It’s possible that I should add a seventh category, though I honestly don’t expect anyone ever to be able to complete it. If I did, it would either be: “No supplemental feed” or “Grain-free feed”. If I used “Grain-Free Feed” then there is a chance that some farmers out there would qualify, though again that would be a surprise. It’s perfectly possible to supplement chicken feed with alfalfa (particularly because many farmers use alfalfa as a rotation crop for their fields), as well as pea-shoots, and any other rotational nitrogen-producing crop. But since that’s expensive, and few farmers are even aware of the idea of “premium” feed for chickens, I don’t expect to be seeing that any time soon. When I encounter it, I’ll add that category at that time.

What’s For Breakfast? Paleo Chocolate-Bar Omelet


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UPC’s Paleo Chocolate Bar Omelet

I’m a very playful guy. I love to run, jump, spin… There are few things in the world that are more gratifying to me than attempting something, and failing. Don’t ask me why, I don’t really have a good answer; though I am certain that it’s related to my “muchness” as Johnny Depp so adroitly described Alice’s childlike wonder and fearlessness in Alice In Wonderland. But landing flat on my butt in green grass under a blue sky after an awesome attempt at something both exciting and stupid is precisely what I envision when I think of “what would I rather be doing right now?” Except when I’m blogging, of course. This, much to my surprise and delight, has not turned out to be me, rubbing my butt as I stand up off the grass and attempt to figure out how to do it right the next time.

My playfulness translates in to the kitchen as well. I like to play with ingredients, experiment, and actually just being playful in general. I’m a very playful guy, and I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t want to spend time being playful. Being playful in the kitchen is somewhat more challenging; there are rules in there, sharp instruments and objects, dangerous surfaces… But my playfulness will not be overcome!
I’ve been spending a lot of time experimenting with cocoa nibs recently. They’re a touchy flavor, and so I’ve been hesitant with them for a long time. Now I look back and wonder “what took me so long?” As touchy a flavor as they are in the raw, they turn out to be amazingly adept at blending their savory chocolate goodness with just about anything I’ve managed to throw their way!

UPC’s Paleo Chocolate Bar Omelet; What you’ll need:

  • 4 eggs (Use the good stuff if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons Cocoa Nibs
  • 2 tablespoons Shredded Coconut
  • 1 Baked Sweet Plantain, chopped (prepare your Baked Maduros ahead of time)
  • 3 tablespoons Coconut Oil

Serves: 2
Prep and Cook time: 40 minutes

1. In a pot, add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, the cocoa nibs, and the chopped maduros. Cook on medium-low heat, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

2. Add the shredded coconut to the pot, and continue to cook while you make the omelet. Continue to stir regularly.

3. Heat up the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in an omelet pan on medium-high heat.

4. Pour the eggs in to the pan and cook, covered, for 2-3 minutes.

5. When the eggs are about 2/3 cooked, or about 2-3 minutes after adding them to the omelet pan, pour the cocoa nibs, shredded coconut, and sweet plantain mixture on to one side of the omelet. Continue to cook, covered, until the omelet is fully cooked through.

6. Serve, and enjoy!

The Egg Project – Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Ameraucana Eggs


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UPC’s The Egg Project

My wife recently asked me to reconsider an analysis of the eggs that are available commercially. I’ve spent more than a few lines on my blog griping about the food that chickens are fed, and how I’m generally dissatisfied with both the chicken and egg quality available, mostly again based on the food that their given. When we went Paleo 3+ years ago, I did an exhaustive analysis of the commercially available eggs, and concluded that I could either not eat the eggs, or eat eggs from soy-fed chickens. At that time, I didn’t have any soy-free egg source available to me. Thankfully, the market is constantly changing, and there are now some reliable sources of pastured eggs which give us some really high quality protein and fats! So I decided to accept my wife’s request, and share with you all the results of my re-analysis of the commercially available eggs in the market place. Here are my basics:

1. Chickens are omnivores, like all birds. “The early bird get’s the worm” should be an important part of our understanding of what chickens should be eating. A chicken which has no live animal protein source in it’s diet is not a healthy bird. I am putting that in bold to be perfectly clear about my stance on this. When you see “All vegetarian feed” on chicken and egg labels, that is not a good thing! Chickens need to feed on bugs, just like every other bird!

2. Just like all other animals, soy and whole grains are not quality feed for chickens. They do better with it than cows, but it’s still not quality feed. So in order to satisfy me that the eggs I am getting are truly top-quality, I need to see that the chickens are being fed no soy, and no grains. There are plenty of other commercially available (not as cheap, obviously) food sources to supplement the bugs, beetles, worms, and grubs that they can forage in a farm-yard. Good examples: sprouts, non-grain seeds, berries and nuts, possibly even an apple from time to time.

3. Cage free is an absolute requirement for me. While there may be no option with regards to food, and I’ll simply have to make some “allowances” and just report to you all my findings, I will not make any allowances on Cage Free. There are options available, and there’s no need for cages at all. Chickens will roost naturally, and don’t need to be kept on their roost forcibly.

Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs; Ameruacana Eggs

PeteAndGerrysEggs-InPackage

I found Pete and Gerry’s eggs while looking around at the options in Whole Foods Market. Pete and Gerry’s has several different options on the shelves, and I ended up purchasing two of them. Today’s post looks at one of their options that they call Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs. These are very interesting eggs! As you can see from the picture above, the coloring of the eggs is slightly green, which was fascinating considering the current egg market, which is dominated by either completely white or completely brown eggs. These greenish eggs really caught my attention, and I am very glad that they did. Variability like that in eggs indicates to me that the farmers raising those eggs have some appreciation for their animals and the product of their farm. This is a good thing!

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites

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This is a huge indicator that the chickens were given regular access to pasture. The carotene in the grass that they eat while searching for bugs and seeds comes out in the bright orange color that you can see in this egg. It’s a huge sign that the animal is a healthy animal, and that it has ample room to roam as needed to get both proper exercise and proper nutrition (bugs and grass).
It’s hard to actually “see” the viscosity of the egg whites. I will do the best I can to show that when I show my eggs; but I am not sure how yet… In the mean time, I suppose I’ll just have to say that I was satisfied with the viscosity of the eggs. It wasn’t strikingly thick, but it also wasn’t thin and runny, like most commercial eggs are. So I found this to be a satisfying level of thickness and viscosity.

PeteAndGerrysEggs-FryPoachedEgg-Inside

As you can see from the cooked picture, that coloring perpetuates through the cooking of the egg, and the end result is both a delicious egg, and a really stunningly good looking one! In fact, this is one of the best tasting eggs that I’ve had since I was a child, and lived in rural Vermont where there were only farm-raised eggs available.

PeteAndGerrysEggs-FryPoachedEggs

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

These eggs get a shining check-mark for each of the first 5 of my criteria. Checking out their site thoroughly, I can’t find anywhere which promises soy-free feed. As I stated above in the critique of the eggs, the eggs were delicious, and the yolks were a bright orange, which indicates that they eat plenty of grass. Further, the whites were thick and viscous, so the chickens clearly had some live protein in their diet.