Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition

Clark, Nancy. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 5th Ed. Champaigne, IL: Human Kinetics, 2013.

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook is jam-packed with all sorts of information, including eating disorders (anorexia & bulemia), which is something I didn’t encounter with other nutrition-for-athletes books I have read. While a great deal of the information is useful I also felt there was a great deal of repetition and common sense “fillers” that took up space (like her comment on plastic water bottles which has nothing to do with sports or nutrition, just her opinion). I enjoyed the clean and well organized chapters but didn’t try any of the recipes in the back. Although I initially borrowed this from a library, this is the kind of book I would buy to keep on my personal library shelves in order to refer back to it again and again.

Reason read: the Toronto Half Marathon is less than a week away. Talk about getting some last minute advice!

Book trivia: while most of the illustrations are interesting and well-meaning, some are downright goofy.


New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition

Fitzgerald, Matt. The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition: a Cutting-Edge Plan to Fuel Your Body Beyond “the Wall.” Boston: Da Capo Press, 2013.

Reason read: So. I have this little run of 13.1 miles in Toronto in less than two weeks. I’m just now thinking I should research nutrition for this jaunt.

As much as I love books that are designed to make me a better anything my eyes glaze over when the information becomes too out-of-my-league. Take, for example Fitzgerald’s recommendation that runners should know “basic” information: body weight and V02 max. I can jump on a scale and figure out BMI, weight, fat % and bone density… but V02 max? I’m a middle-aged housewife just looking for a little more information on nutrition for runners. Obviously, The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition is for consumers who are much more hardcore about running than I am! But having said all that, there was a plethora of take-away information that I could (and probably will) use. Pre-race nutrition was especially helpful, as was the nutrition training plans and the chart of diet quality guidelines.

Author fact: Fitzgerald has written a few other books about running, nutrition and the like.

Book trivia: Kara Goucher, two-time Olympian, wrote the foreword for New Rules. Ryan Hall, also an Olympian, endorsed the book as well.


Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee

Craughwell, Thomas J. Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Heming Introduced French Cuisine to America. Quirk Books, 2012.

How I would love to step back in time and follow Thomas Jefferson around! I just find him to be such an interesting character. I definitely agree that he is the most cerebral of our founding fathers. Despite Benjamin Franklin’s eye for invention I find  that Thomas Jefferson was more downright curious. He wanted to learn all that he could about the world around him.

But, enough of that. Onto the book review: This was a disappointment. I honestly expected the subject matter to match the title of the book on several different points. For starters, the obvious one – food (specifically bringing French cuisine to America). I didn’t see enough supporting evidence to believe that it was Thomas Jefferson who actually introduced the cuisine to America. Only a small handful of recipes prove that recipes like macaroni and cheese were introduced. Then there is the subject of James Heming. James Heming might have been the one who did all the work – taking the culinary classes, practicing the recipes at Jefferson’s elaborate dinner parties, and training the next cook to take his place so that he might experience freedom, but it is on Jefferson Craughwell focuses the most. Even then the focus isn’t primarily on his bringing French cuisine to America, it was on everything else.

 


Invitation to Indian Cooking

Jaffrey, Madhur. An Invitation to Indian Cooking. New Jersey: Ecco Press, 1999.

I have to start off by saying I love Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks. I own several and all of them are well-organized and beautifully illustrated (or have gorgeous photographs).

An Invitation to Indian Cooking might have been a more accurate title had it included the subtitle Getting to Know Indian Cuisines and Ingredients because Jaffrey not only invites you into the world of Indian cuisine she also includes history lessons and ingredient explanations in addition to recipes. While her tone is conversational I found it to be a little didactic at times. Her claims that Americans, on the whole, don’t know what well-prepared rice tastes like is one such example. Another drawback to An Invitation to Indian Cooking is its out-of-date information. Basmati rice, Jaffrey recommends, is readily available at specialty stores. That may have been true in 1973 when her first cookbook was published, but I expected the reprint to have some updated information. I also find it hard to believe that out of 50 states only 12 have stores that carry authentic Indian ingredients.
But, having said all that, I love the recipes Jaffrey includes in her first cookbook. I like her attention to detail and her comparisons between American and Indian products. For example, Jaffrey points out that American chicken is more tender than chicken purchased in India, therefore traditional Indian cooking techniques would not work well on an American-raised bird.

“The chicken available in American markets is so tender that it begins to fall apart well before it can go through the several stages required in most Indian recipes” (p 86).

If you are ambitious enough to make several Indian recipes at the same time Jaffrey includes a series of different menus to try.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust  in the chapter called, “India: a Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125).


Caught with You

I caught up with an old friend recently. Hunched over humongous burritos we hurled hilarious stories at each other. Catching up on each other lives, getting caught in the laughter. How is it possible I let weeks and weeks turn into months before seeing this person, I don’t know. I couldn’t get over how hard I laughed (to the point of tears) or how easily we bantered.
“What do you mean ‘winking at you?'” I asked, astonished.
“I mean, wink, wink. Couldn’t miss it. It happened on four different occasions”  came the reply.
“Really?!?”
“Really.”
“Winking? Not something caught in the eye?”
“No.”
“Not a nervous twitch?”
“No.”
“Not punctuating a funny story?”
“Not even talking.”
“Huh. Winking… At you.”
“Yes. Winking.”
“Your best friend’s spouse was winking. At You.”
“Yes.”
“How bizarre.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Okay. Here’s what you do: wink back.”

I’m bold to suggest such a thing. Flirting with trouble. Wink back? Yes. We sat over big burritos until our bellies were full. Watching the rain whip sideways we let it go. We had nowhere to be. Bring On the Rain. I was happy to be caught just to catch up.


Too Good to Keep

I don’t care what anyone says. Summer officially started this weekend. To hell with the calendar. I’m ignoring the meteorologists, too. Summer wasn’t summer until the sun came out for more than an hour. For the first time in weeks I was able to weed the garden and the walk without dodging raindrops. I finally took up those giant prehistoric looks growths growing along side the driveway. I tackled the ground cover problem, too. Redistributing the gravel that has slid down the hill. This is Hilltop, after all. I moved rocks until my sun-bared arms ached. It felt good. I got in the pool for the second time this season and actually took a few strokes for the first time. Maybe I’ll learn to swim for real. It felt amazing. We got more of the back of the house painted. The gutter guys came. Progress is progressing.
Inspired by the weather I decided on a grill dinner. Pork marinated in lime, garlic, cilantro, and cumin. But, that wasn’t the best part of the mean meal. The salsa/salad was. Try this for yourself – play with the ingredients and measurements:

  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • grape tomatoes
  • grilled corn
  • red onion
  • avocado
  • jalapeno
  • cilantro
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • champagne vinegar
  • sea salt
  • tri-colored fresh cracked pepper

Throw everything into a big bowl and let marinate for a few hours. Any ingredient can be left out or substituted for something else. Think about it – red beans instead of black, how about rice? Vidalia instead of red onion, scotch bonnet instead of jalapeno, red wine vinegar instead of champagne…these switches aren’t a stretch, but the options are limitless. Then, to really blow your mind, there is texture. Mince everything small and you have a blended salsa, puree it and you have a killer sauce for grilled chicken. Leave it super chunky and sprinkle it with tortilla chips and you have a great side salad. Add lettuce and grilled beef (sliced paper thin) and there’s a whole meal. I love meals like this.

This weekend felt like a holiday. We worked around the house and enjoyed the sun. Grilled on the deck and savored sweet cherries for dessert. Danced around the living room to Coldplay drums. Later, from our living room window we paused a movie to take in the second fireworks display of the holiday. Bedtime brought a book to bed with me. But, before long my eyes grew too heavy. Sleep came easy. A perfect ending to a perfect day to good to keep.


Christmas Spirit in a Cookie

c is for cookie

Typically, baking is not my bag. Hand me a jalpeno and I’m a much happier girl. Pie plates, measuring spoons, and proofing are just words I can’t be bothered with. Call it the Christmas spirit (or just plain crazy), but this year is just a little different. It all started with a resourceful review and a rug remnant. There are some people in my work life who have just gone above and beyond to keep my sanity. I owe them something – nothing short of my soul – for making my life just a little easier. So, I decided to bake cookies. Everyone loves a cookie, right? Never one to take the easy road I decided against plain old chocolate chip and ended up with:

  • mint chocolate chunk (2 dozen)
  • peanut butter chocolate chunk (2 dozen)
  • butterscotch (1 dozen)
  • butterscotch with almonds (1 dozen)
  • oatmeal with tuaca soaked raisins (2 dozen)
  • cinnamon chocolate chunk (2 dozen)…and finally…
  • plain old chocolate chip (2 dozen)

Luckily, I had really good company for this cookie quest – otherwise I would have gone insane. She and kisa sampled as I went, making sure my baking was on par with yummy. I could have easily gotten off track with the measuring with all the gabbing we needed to do! Here’s a teaser for an upcoming blog – I started the cookie quest on Saturday night because Sunday was another house hunting day. We were to visit the twin of the house I fell in love with in August! More on that later!

But, for now let me say I’m still not a baker. But, I have to admit – there was something very warm and homey about the smell of cookies baking in the oven; there was something very simple and childlike about being able to lick the big wooden spoon caked with dough; there was something very comforting and personal about creating something from scratch to say thank you.

Happiness is a fresh baked mint chocolate chip chunk cookie.