Thursday, December 22, 2011

Concussions, Soccer, Crosby & General Wellness

I'm a Caps fan and always will be. I remember going to a Caps game for my 10 year old birthday. I remember getting a puck. I remember Caps vs. Penguins. Bondra. Hunter. Jagr. Lemieux.

And now its Ovechkin and Crosby. Or was.

And while I can't stand the Penguins. Or seeing Crosby win the Stanley Cup. Or seeing him score the winning goal for the Olympic gold. I feel bad for kid.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is becoming no joke. Once unknown and a "spotty" association with boxing, TBI is turning into a cacophony of unfortunate stories that are quickly manifesting within our more prominent sports. From an enigmatic Chris Henry to potential research showing mild TBI in heading a soccer ball, it's crazy.

I had a concussion from soccer in mid-September. Enjoyed a 2-night stay in the hospital. Ate the shit out of some red jello, chilled in MRI machines, and hoarded brownies. It's been almost 3 months now and I'm still not a 100%. I've had/have an ironic opportunity to get an insider's view into current TBI research; it's exciting to see dedication from national & international communities and organizations. Here's to progress.

This is not a post about food (unless you count the jello comment) but just a self-realization that sometimes unfortunate events are closer than they seem. Sometimes, the world goes up. Other times, the world goes down. The cyclical nature of those highs and lows are a natural occurrence - but it's merely how we deal with them in our everyday lives.

It's a amazing what happens when you re-frame your outlook. While I was staring down a possible prognosis (lets call it Prognosis E), instead of thinking about how much not drinking, not being active, limiting certain activities, taking Rxs, getting more lab tests would suck; I thought:

"Well shit, with these next 6 months I'm going to get into the best shape of my life."

And then Prognosis E wasn't scary or sad or negative. It was a challenge. Daunting yes, but a recognizable goal.

24 hours later - Prognosis E never manifested. Who knows if it was the positive thinking I had maintained. Or just a sign to tweak some things - I don't have to have Prognosis E to get in the best shape of my life.

So...why the eff not?  Going very gluten-lite, no coffee, grilling tons of wild caught salmon, cooking tons of kale and quinoa, real food, avoiding refined-sugar, actually going to sleep, actually drinking water.  We'll see what happens (and yes, I know those aren't tweaks, but tweaks are easier to fix than moving mountains, right?).

Pay attention to your body. Your health. Your wellness. And if you do happen to get leveled in the head, have headaches, light sensitivities, and double vision - get it checked out. Don't be stubborn.

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Third Date Cooking Poll: Should the meal include dessert?

If you search for "What to cook on a Third Date," you'll find answers on what to cook, when to cook, and how to cook. The answers are absolutely are all over the board - Legitimate questions. Basic questions. Stupid questions.

So, I figured I'd go straight to the source. As a result, I'm going to try and put together a Poll each Friday (Conveniently hash-tagged #PollFriday).

This week, I read a blog post about how this guy who was going to buy a chocolate mousse cake for his first dinner date with a girl. That...seems....a little aggressive. But I could be wrong.

So...a question for the women out there:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Determine your baseline cook time (you'll never overcook anything ever again)

8 Minutes.

My steak will be perfect in 8 minutes.

I can make a perfect steak every time.

How long does perfection take you?

I always start with 8 minutes when I'm cooking meat and seafood - I've established my baseline. I know that on any given Sunday, if I turn my cast-iron skillet to med-high, salt & pepper a 1.5"-ish steak, I will have a perfectly cooked, medium-temperature steak. I know this because I've done it over.  And over. And over again.

Once I know my 8 minutes, I can adjust the time and temperature based on thickness, cut, sear-age, and type of meat.
  • Thinner cuts will be shorter
  • Thicker cuts will take longer
  • Baking will take longer than pan-searing
  • Fish will take less time than meat
  • Using a lid will speed things up

Have a thicker cut of meat (like a Filet Mignon)? It's going to take longer. Science will tell you it'll take longer than your thinner NY Strip.  So, if its on the stove top the whole time, I would check the steak at about 10 minutes (with it probably being done around 12). If its in the oven, it will take longer since the cooking is less indirect.

Cooking a hearty fish fish like swordfish? says steaks should reach 160 degrees and seafood 145 degrees. Math will tell you (not science this time), it should *hopefully* take less time to reach 145 degrees than 160 degrees1. So if a 1" steak takes 8 minutes on my cast iron skillet, then a swordfish steak should probably take about 6-7 minutes.

Swordfish is a pretty freaking dense fish. While salmon is usually the same thickness, it's less dense and probably won't need as long as the swordfish. Catfish and tilapia are much thinner and will need even less time.  Haddock & snapper fall somewhere in between.

As you can see, once you find your baseline, you can easily give yourself guidelines for other proteins. This way, if you're at her house, or being spontaneous without looking at a cookbook, you can remember your "8 minutes" and go from there.  But remember, these are guidelines! Make sure you check your protein right around the time limit, cut a slice of it or check for firmness - No one likes overdone food.

Baseline Cheat Sheet 
(This is no means exact or validated to the nth degree. This is what I use as a guideline.)
  • 2" - 2.5" Filet Mignon: 15 minutes (5 minutes + 10 minutes oven)
  • 2" Chilean Sea Bass: 8-9 minutes
  • 1" - 1.5" NY Strip Steak: 7-8 minutes (Baseline)
  • Swordfish, Salmon: 7 minutes
  • Rockfish, Snapper, Haddock: 6-7 minutes
  • Tilapia, Catfish: 6 minutes
  • Rare Tuna: 3-4 minutes

1 Disclaimer: For beef and seafood, I rarely pay attention to cooking temperatures. I'll use a meat thermometer when baking a roast, or cooking chicken or turkey, but hardly ever for steak and seafood. My rational - whether its flawed or not - is that we eat sushi and beef tartare.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Look like a professional: Use freshly grated cheese

Even if you're boiling $2.95 Trader Joe's fresh ravioli pasta on a Sunday while watching football, grate some fresh Romano cheese.


You've just upped your credibility.

Now, you may be sitting on your couch, by yourself, watching the Redskins collapse, with a wall of bud lights protecting you from the sunlight, but don't you feel a little classier with that grated cheese on your 5-minute meal?

Think what it'll do when you're cooking for her on date night.

My Trader Joe's Ravioli
Skirt Steak Sandwich
$2.00 chunk of hard cheese (e.g. Romano, Parmesan) + $5.00 cheese grater = Step 2 towards cooking like a Food Network chef