Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mixing Business with Extreme Pleasure

(My frozen mustache)
Finally I'm sitting back at my desk in my own house in Austin, TX. January 8th I left Austin to go train in Clearwater, FL with Randy Reese. We arrived to amazingly cold weather along with a very warm welcome by the man himself, Randy. In my mind, Randy is undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches in the world. Last January was my first trip to train with Randy and the experience with Randy’s was so great that I had to go back for more. He gave me a lot more. Over the course of the three weeks I was down there with him he royally whooped my butt in the pool. He had one main goal, to make me cry, he failed miserably. However he definitely made me feel like I'd been put in a grinder.

One of the big inspirations of going to FL was to give my mind some new scenery. Training day in and day out in the same facility can get old sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I love Texas, the Texas swimming program, my coaches and my life in Austin but the truth is sometimes I need a refresher. From the moment I got down to FL I was racing new people, swimming new sets, driving new roads and having new conversations. The intent worked, I was very happy getting a change of pace.

After my training trip in FL I traveled to Colorado Springs. USA Swimming is based there and they asked me to come up in order to sit in front of a panel and answer questions. Travel to beautiful Colorado Springs and answer questions? Sure I'll do it...what an easy and honoring task! My stay was wonderful in CO. There was an option to stay at the Olympic Training Center or in a hotel but luckily I have some great friends there that I stayed with. We had a wonderful time catching up and also went to a delightful dinner.

While up in Colorado I was asked to talk to a swim team in the area. I happily accepted. One of the things I truly enjoy and am deeply honored to do is talk to kids. It's truly incredible and no doubt I'm very fortunate to have people take my words as meaningful. The kids are always happy to learn and never cease to entertain...we even got an eight year old girl to sing Jingle Bells!
The trip finished off with an unforgettable highlight...snowboarding in Breckenridge. The plan was to mix business with some extreme pleasure. Success! It had been since 1997 that I'd snowboarded on a mountain in Colorado. Eight of us trekked out to Breck to enjoy the sunny skies, loose powdery snow and great company. The morning of the trip I woke up naturally at 5am. Many many many mornings I've arisen at 5am and never once that I can remember was I this happy to be awake. On the car ride to Breck I could barely contain myself. The other people in the car were like, "Dude we're not even there yet." No matter, I was pumped. The day ended up being perfect. One of my huge dreams is to one day have a place out at a ski resort in Colorado! What a magnificent trip. However, it feels great to finally be home. (Our crew at the top of Imperial Bowl)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Food Fact: What is a Calorie?

You’re a world class athlete so how many calories do you eat a day? Have you heard how many calories Michael Phelps eats per day? Isn’t it all about calories calories calories? Yeah yeah we’ve all heard the jibber jabber about calories but who really knows what a calorie is? Do you know what a calorie is? For a long time I had no idea. You’d think that with how often the word calorie is used in our society that everyone would know the exact origin and definition, but many people simply don’t. Herein lies the beauty of the Friday Food Fact. I’m here to help y’all out (that is if you don’t already know the answer).

So here’s the skinny:

In the simplest view a calorie is a unit of energy and was first defined by professor Nicholas Clement in 1824. The term began to enter French and English dictionaries around the time of 1840s. There are two basic definitions of calories. First is the Kilogram calorie that is the amount of energy it takes to raise the water temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. Second there is the gram calorie that is the amount of energy it takes to raise one gram of water by one degree Celsius. In terms of food and nutrition, the Kilogram calorie is used and is simply referred to as Calorie. Gram calories were commonly used in chemistry and physics.

How does this relate to us? Whenever we eat something we are receiving some type of calorie from it. The calories can either be packed with nutrients such as if we eat a sweet potato, or they could be empty calories such as drinking a soda. Empty calories provide us with no other nutritional benefit and should be limited in our diets. As our body digests food we convert the substance we ate into usable energy. As I’m sure you can already assume, the more we use our muscles and exercise, the more calories we burn. The US Department of Health and Human Services states that in order to lose a pound of weight we need to burn or cut back 3,500 calories. Conversely eat 3,500 calories extra and you gain a pound.

We’ve all heard about counting calories. Personally I’ve always found this to be both a pain in the butt as well as pretty impractical. It’s very difficult to constantly monitor and keep track of exactly how much we eat. I believe that when you eat healthy you don’t have to worry quite as much about the quantity of calories you’re consuming. When it comes to the amount, I always go by what my body tells me to do. We all know what it feels like to be full. I simply don’t let myself get to that point. I eat until I feel good and am about 80% full and then stop. You can always come back later and have a little more if you need it. Don’t overeat, don’t be filled to the brim. Try not to get to the point when you feel like you’re going to explode. That's just gross!

If you want to count calories and that works for you I totally encourage you to do so. In reality the best way to do things is to find eating habits that are comfortable to you and help you achieve your goals. Remember, you can live a better life through better nutrition.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Talent? Is There Such a Thing? Ducasse Doesn't Think So

Afraid of getting in the kitchen? Think you don't have any talent in the world of burners, ovens and sharp utensils? World renowned chef, Alain Ducasse says he doesn't really believe in talent. Looks like you're in luck...

Click the following link to read the insightful words of one of the world's greatest culinary minds. My guess is that you'll get some encouragement too!

"Alain Ducasse Doesn't Believe in Talent"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Food Fact: Buffalo aka Bison

Food: Buffalo aka Bison

History: American Bison is also commonly known as American Buffalo. The term buffalo dates back to 1635 while the term bison is a bit more current as it was first recorded in 1774. The American buffalo is only a distant cousin of the true buffaloes which are the Asian Water Buffalo and the African Buffalo. These large creatures can weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds. Plains Indians originally hunted the American buffalo for literally every part of their body and captured them by either driving them into a corral or over a cliff.

Nutritional Benefit: Bison is about the most lean meat you can find. The fat content of bison is lower than skinless chicken breasts, salmon, beef, pork and ostrich. In addition to the fat content being lower, so is its level of cholesterol. Looking to build some muscle? Bison is loaded with protein. In addition it is a great source of both vitamin B12 and iron, which will help our body's build oxygen-carrying red blood cells while also keeping them strong.

Ways to Cook: In my kitchen I try to have bison as often as I can when I'm having some type of meat...and why wouldn't I considering the data you've just read??? Bison is a great substitute for beef and can be used somewhat interchangeably in most recipes. However there are some things you should know first. Cook the meat 'low and slow'. Buffalo has a lower fat content so the meat is much less insulated in it's cooking process and will cook much faster. Try using lower temperatures and be VERY careful not to overcook it. If you plan on using the same cooking temperature and time as you would for beef you will have a tough piece of might as well be a buffalo chip aka buffalo dung aka buffalo poop aka buffalo droppings. Make sure not to let the meat dry out by letting it sit in the air for too long before cooking as this will also make the cook time faster and give you a less than desirable finished product. I love using ground buffalo for tacos and in tomato sauces. If I'm craving a steak or something of that nature I like to marinate a bison steak in some olive oil, pepper, garlic and rosemary...grill that baby up and you are well on your way to a great meal:)

Click here to watch me cook up a delicious Bison NY Strip Steak on 'Wisconsin Foodie'!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Training in Clearwater

Training and spending time here in Florida with Randy Reese has been wonderful. I got off to a great start doing a lot of pulley-work in the water. Pulleys are when you swim against resistance with a rope attached to your waist. This is very difficult work and puts a lot of strain on your body. Seeing as how I was not used to doing so much training with pulleys I hurt my triceps after a few days. I got really excited and inspired by everything Randy was having us do and I probably went a bit overboard. The past week I've been kicking mostly and rehabbing my triceps. It frustrates me to no end having to deal with injuries. I was raised to be a worker by my family and by the coaches I've trained with. I am a worker. When I am unable to train to the utmost capacity I deem necessary, I become very dissatisfied. The past week has been a bit of a struggle but my triceps are getting much much better now. I'm confident this next week of training is going to be much more satisfying. Check back again during the week for more updates.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Food Fact: Quinoa

Food: Quinoa

History: Quinoa originated from the Andean region of South America. In this area it has been a cultivated and eaten food for 6,000 years. The Incas thought the crop was sacred and referred to it as chisaya mama, aka the mother of all grains. However, Quinoa is actually the seed of the Chenopodium plant.

Nutritional Benefit: This small seed is packed with protein and is great for vegans and vegetarians. Quinoa has high values of dietary fiber which is good for our digestive system and is also high in magnesium and iron. For those of you who have problems with're in luck because Quinoa is gluten-free.

Ways to Cook: On the outside of Quinoa is an invisible coating called a sapopin. This coating is bitter in taste and by soaking it in water you will remove it. Most store bought Quinoa will have this coating removed already so all you need to do is rinse the Quinoa in a strainer. A soapy looking residue will come off when rinsed. Just as Quinoa makes a great substitute for rice or couscous, you will cook it much the same way. I use two parts water to one part Quinoa. Add all of it in a pot and bring to a boil. Once you get a boil going, cover the pot and simmer it for about 10-15 minutes so excess water is taken out. You will know the Quinoa is done when it turns a bit of a translucent color and the germ of the seed forms a ring around the outside.

One thing I do to really boost the flavor when cooking it is to cook using a stock such as vegetable or chicken. When cooking is finished you can sprinkle your favorite spices over the top or simply add it to something else on the menu. I love adding Quinoa to salads and bean dishes. My friend Matt Lowe likes mixing Quinoa with salsa, corn, and black beans...give it a try! Below are a couple videos of people cooking with Quinoa.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Next Read...'Food Rules'

For the past year I've completely dedicated my reading list to food books. Before then I'd read books on food as well but I decided to completely immerse myself in them last year and learn as much as I possibly could. A great writer my Dad turned me on to is Michael Pollan. He's been a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, an executive editor for Harper's Magazine as well as having written books including 'In Defense of Food' and 'The Omnivore's Dilemma'. Pollan has recently released a new book which I plan on putting on my reading list called 'Food Rules: An Eater's Manual'. Check out this New York Times article about him and his new book...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Food Fact: Lentils

I've had a request for here they are.

Food: Lentils
History: Part of the legume family. Humans have been cultivating lentils since ancient times. They originated in central Asia. Ancient Rome used to import entire shiploads of lentils from Egypt. Lentils have been part of staple diets for centuries.
Nutritional Benefit: Great source of vegetable protein. Like many other legumes, lentils are high in dietary fiber and folate, which makes them heart healthy.
Best Ways to Cook: Lentils do not need to be soaked like beans as they will soften in about 30 minutes of boiling water. Adding acidic substances such as lemon juice or tomatoes will greatly increase the cooking time so if the recipe calls for acidic items add them at the end or after the cooking process. If you are boiling the lentils in water you want a three to one ratio of water to lentils.

I'm honestly not a very avid Lentil cooker so I can't specifically tell you any way that I've had unbelievable success in cooking them. Remember that this is an ongoing learning process for me too:) I've included some links to a few lentil recipes that I think look good and plan on trying myself.

Egyptian Lentil Stew
Indian Dhal
Lentil Salad with Tomato and Dill

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

'Stumbled' on the 20 Most Incredible Edibles

If you ever wonder what foods are the down right healthiest to eat then you're in luck. Recently I've been perusing a website called I've made my settings so the site pulls up information regarding sports and food...two of my favorite topics. While 'stumbling' this morning I came across a helpful little article.

The 20 Most Incredible Edibles...check it out and you will be well on your way to advancing your healthfood knowledge

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Meaty Monday Madness & TipsyTexan

Meaty Monday Madness surely was a Meaty Monday Madness. Several weeks back I met a guy named Zack who is an owner and chef of a restaurant here in Austin. As I do with most people, we got to talking and soon thereafter the conversation lead to food and cooking. Sometimes I wish there was a secret camera watching me so I could go back and watch how ridiculously excited I get by simply talking to people about food, among other things. Zack had some great stories about his days being a chef and I had a few of my own from stages I had done in New York and Italy (I felt like one of the was sweeeet). When I was about to leave he pulled out a card from his wallet and invited me to a dinner he has the first Monday of every month called Meaty Monday Madness. Essentially it is a huge meeting of chefs, and their friends, at Zack's house that involves different types of home-smoked meats and tons of chef prepared side dishes. He didn't need to ask me twice...I was going!
On the menu last night was a smoked rib-roast, ham, and turkey. There was fresh black eyed peas, corn pudding, mac & cheese, bread and cheeses, homemade cookies, butternut squash soup etc. Also at the party was a guy I know named David who owns a business here in Austin called TipsyTexan. He bartended the event with a classic holiday drink from the 1800's called a Tom & Jerry as well as other drinks one of which included hand squeezed grapefruit juice from a friend's farm in Louisiana. Zack and David definitely know what they're doing. I had an incredible time and got to meet a bunch of great new people, chefs included (I asked them many food questions haha). Wow was the food and drink tasty too...Yum

Monday, January 4, 2010

Home Cookin' for a Hungry Crowd

Last night I made a huge family dinner for the entire sophomore class of the University of Texas swim team. Imagine having 12 hungry swimmers over to your house for're going to need a LOT of food. The menu was four homemade trays of lasagna and six loafs of garlic bread. The lasagna included hot Italian sausage, onion, Riccotta cheese, Mozzerrella cheese, eggplant, roasted peppers and of course tomato was a delicious meal. Just a little tid bit, I made all of the noodles in the lasagna myself! BAM:) Oh yeah and the garlic on the bread was freshly roasted and schmeared on by hand when it was still warm and gooey, undoubtedly the best way to do it. Needless to say we had plenty of food and the guys totally loved it. Too bad y'all are not a member of the freshman class because I'm having them over for dinner on Wednesday night.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Friday Food Fact: Sweet Potatoes

In comes the new year and along with it a new addition to the 'Food & Water' blog, the 'Friday Food Fact'. As many of y'all know one of my big goals is to help people live a better life through better nutrition. In order for us to become healthier and eat better we must first know what foods are good for us to eat and how they will help us. I'm always searching for new and interesting information about food and nutrition so if you come across something helpful please post it on the blog so we can all learn together. Remember to check back every Friday for a new 'Friday Food Fact'.

I couldn't think of a food more fitting to start with than a Sweet Potato. I absolutely love these things and eat them like crazy. You might also be interested to know that Usain Bold, the fastest man in the World and Olympic Champion, credits his speed to the Jamaican Sweet up baby!Food: Sweet Potato
History: Researchers have found Sweet Potato relics in Peruvian caves dating back as far as 10,000 years but the Sweet Potato wasn't introduced to Europe until 1492 when Christopher Columbus brought it back from the New World.
Nutritional Benefit: High in vitamin C, vitamin A, and provide powerful antioxidants. Sweet Potatoes contain about twice the dietary fiber of the ordinary Russet potato.
Ways to Cook: I personally love to simply bake them whole in the oven and eat them plain. Dang they are good. The longer they bake the sweeter they seem to become. Steaming is supposed to keep the maximum nutrients in the food while it cooks but I never think it tastes as good that way. Another great preparation is to chop the potato into cubes, place it in the oven with some chopped Rosemary, wait for the pieces to become tender....BAM now that's a good side dish! It's also easy and works great to interchange Sweet Potatoes for regular baking potatoes in many recipes.

I'd love to hear what y'all think of my new addition of the 'Friday Food Fact'. Also please share any recipes or thoughts you may have on each particular Food Fact. Remember, eating healthy is not hard and tastes just have to make the choice to do it.

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