I have to do this a lot –thinking fast. Mostly when I get myself in a jam because I am thinking slowly. Or not thinking at all.
I was behind a young couple at Starbucks today and ordered a grande, or medium, coffee (“grande”must be how they say “medium” in Seattle, where Starbucks started).
We were the only ones in the store but they took my name anyway which demonstrates the extra pains Starbucks takes to make sure no customer gets another customer’s coffee order. I sometimes think Starbucks is more careful about customers getting the right coffee order than some hospitals are about patients getting the right medical treatment. But the point is it didn’t appear like there was going to be any coffee order confusion involving our two orders.
But that is where my thinking slowly or not at all comes into play. I was in a hurry and when the Barista set out a small (or “tall” as they say in Seattle) coffee drink for pick up, I ran over and grabbed it and took it to the condiment stand. I opened the drink and saw caramel drizzle and frothed milk on top instead of plain coffee which is all I had ordered.
I looked up at the barista hoping she would have my back and take the blame but all she did was say in a judgemental tone, “That is not yours, sir.” Weird because I had just given her my first name but she still called me “sir.” Maybe they only use first names in relation to coffee orders in Seattle.
Anyway, I apologized to the Barista and quickly tried putting the lid back on. I looked at the couple who had been in line with me to see if they noticed. The man, a very tall and stout man, noticed. And said it was his. I had to think fast to smooth things over.
I smiled self-deprecatingly and said, “I promise I didn’t touch your drink. Just took the top off and glanced at it and put the top back on. Just think of me as an extra Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control.”
He laughed reluctantly and I exhaled impressed by my quick thinking to help smooth over an awkward situation.
But I could tell the guy hadn’t entirely let go of his irritation with me for opening his coffee drink. We both stood and waited in awkard silence for his girlfriend’s coffee or mine.
I thought to myself, “Caramel drizzle? That’s a pretty “girly drink” for such a husky and angry guy. He’s should be glad I didn’t out him to others about ordering such a foo-foo drink.” But he wasn’t having the same thought. I could tell.
Finally they handed me my coffee drink. Hand to hand. The Barista was leaving nothing to chance this time. I looked at the guy and said, “You can open it if you want? It’s the least I can do.” He smiled in a strained way and said, “I just might take you up on that.”
The thought of him opening my coffee drink bothered me. I realized now why it bothered him so much when I took the top off his drink. There was a pause. Then he just walked away and didn’t say anything as he left. I breathed a sigh of relief because I felt him touching my drink was somehow different from me touching his drink. More wrong and unacceptable somehow. But I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought that. Then it occurred to me. He was never willing to pretend to be a Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control. And I was.
Do you remember being stuck at the kids’ table for Thanksgiving dinner growing up? I do. There were always too many of us to all sit around one dinner table, so we had a secondary table off to the side, sometimes even in a separate room, to which the younger generation was relegated. I remember asking every year if I would be able to sit with the grownups. The conversation at their table ranged from sports to politics to family gossip, and whatever the topic it was always more animated and intense. I know why now: it’s because adults love to talk about the state of their world and how it should get better. But what an irony: those of us with the biggest stake in the future-the kids-were not even hearing the conversation. Back then, all I understood was that the main table was where the action seemed to be, and I wanted in.
These days, I do get to sit at some main tables, but I try to stay mindful of whose voices aren’t being heard there-particularly when they are young and presumed not to have anything to add. I feel this most acutely in the debates around education reform. We keep kids off to the side while the adults talk and talk and talk about how to improve student experience and outcomes. And there’s another similarity to Thanksgiving meals: a lot of loud conversation and not much action! The talk at the grownup table never stops, yet year after year the education system in the US continues to atrophy and our students fall further behind the global curve. Every 29 seconds in America another student gives up on school, adding up to nearly a million high school dropouts a year.
What if we put students at the center of the education innovation conversation? Could we get past our suspicion that they would make ignorant or irresponsible suggestions, and tap into what they know better than any of us: what works for them as learners? If we engaged kids in the problems facing schools, and gave them access to design tools, they might imagine a learning experience they would be more likely to engage in and commit to. What if we didn’t stick our youth at the kid’s table?
The notion of bringing kids into the conversation about what serves them best is beginning to take hold in various quarters. Ellen Galinsky did it in the midst of a cultural debate on whether children were better or worse off when their mothers entered the workforce. The audacious approach of her study became the title of her book Ask The Children. Architects who design the places where kids spend their time are doing more asking, too. Check out, for instance, these photos of the Erika-Mann Grundschule II in Amsterdam. “The school’s recently revamped environment is amazing,” wrote one commentator, “perhaps not surprisingly as it was designed by the kids themselves ….”
Read the rest of…
Saul Kaplan: The Kids’ Table
Korean food ran the gambit from the good, the bad and the downright ugly. On many occasions Korean cuisine surprised us, apparently South Koreans are better at more than kimchi. Who knew that South Korea makes the best fried chicken in the world? I feel that I am uniquely qualified to make a judgement on the best fried chicken in the world because I’ve tried my fair share due to my husband’s fried chicken addiction. He even believes his future is in fried chicken and beer. So, while I know your dying to hear about kimchi, let’s start with the ugly and work our way to the highlights. I want you to enjoy Korean cuisine, so I’ll end on a high note.
You will enjoy Korean food if you avoid two things; Lotteria and pig’s foot. Lotteria is South Korea’s answer to McDonald’s. Everything from the menu to the value meals is a mirror of McDonald’s offerings. While I’m not a huge fan of McDonald’s, we were told several times that we had to try Lotteria. We decided we didn’t have too much to lose as it is a fast and cheap food option. Little did we know that the similarities ended with the look alike menu. The cheeseburger we had tasted as if it had strawberry jam mixed with mayonnaise on it and I’m convinced the french fries we were served were made weeks ago. In short avoid Lotteria at all costs.
The pig’s foot should have been more obvious than Lotteria as something to steer clear of, some may even say that I deserved what I got when I decided to try this local delicacy. However, I am a firm believer in the old adage “when in Rome…” We had heard of the popularity of pig feet, but it wasn’t until we saw it prominently displayed by every vendor in Seoul’s Namdaeumun Market that we decided we had to try it. We hunted out the best pig foot we could find, not having any idea what you look for in a good pig foot. Because quite frankly “good pig foot” sounds like an oxymoron to me. However, even as I watched the woman we purchased our foot from working to dismember it in preparation for us to eat it I remained positive. When she set it in front of us it didn’t look too promising and then she gave us each a set of plastic gloves and my optimism started to fade. Anything too vile to touch with bare hands probably shouldn’t be eaten, but against my better judgement I put a gelatinous piece of foot in my mouth. It lived up to my worst nightmares, it was a fatty, Jell-O like texture and the taste was so bad I almost gagged trying to swallow it. Then and there the award for worst item imbibed on this trip was given to the pig’s trotters. We paid for our foot and passed on the remaining bits to the eager Koreans sitting next to us, laughing at our disgusted expressions.
Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: Korean Food: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly
It is January. You are out at night holiday shopping with your kids. It is cold and you are starving. You worked all day and rushed home to pick up the kids so you could go shopping. Traffic is awful. It is 9 pm at night and you have not eaten since your noon lunch break. You have screaming, hungry kids. You do not have protein powder because you left it at home and there is no where to get a Quest bar. What do you do?
The above happens all the time. It has happened to me (minus the kids) and I am sure it has happened to all of you. The options are stop somewhere and eat or not eat at all. I do not believe in starving yourself just because you forgot to prepare orange roughy and green beans. You need to eat. You also need something fast. Therefore you may need to stop at a “fast food” restaurant.
Now before I go any further, this newsletter needs to come with a disclaimer. I am not advocating eating fast food on a regular basis, nor am I encouraging anyone to eat food that could be classified as “non food.” If at all possible we should prepare our own food and eat organic products. However, I understand this is not practical all the time (as my lovely client likes to tell me). So…I have compiled a list of better options to eat at several popular fast food joints if you had to eat there. So lets start with some rules on fast food dining:
Rule 1: Be cautious of condiments
Some fast food restaurants add a lot of fat and excess calories to their foods via condiments. Say no to the mayo and ranch.
Rule 2: Do You Want Fries With That? No!
Beware of anything that is fried like onion rings and french fries. Substitute fruit or a salad if at all possible.
Rule 3: No Liquid Calories
Say no the regular coke and sprite. At least order a diet coke (not advocating just saying) or even better a bottle of water.
Side note: Chicken Nuggets are never made out of chicken…At McDonald’s it takes 38 ingredients to make 1. Food for thought.
So now what? What can I eat if I absolutely need to eat something and fast food is my only choice? Here is a list of “better” alternatives at popular fast food restaurants (again refer to the PSA above):
Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich
- 270 calories
- 3.5 grams fat
- 1 gram saturated fat
- 65 mg cholesterol
- 940 mg sodium
- 3 grams fiber
- 33 grams carbohydrate
- 28 grams protein
Wendy’s Ultimate Grill Sandwich
- 320 calories
- 7 grams fat
- 1.5 grams saturated fat
- 70 mg cholesterol
- 950 mg sodium
- 2 grams fiber
- 36 grams carbohydrate
- 28 grams protein
Taco Bell Fresco Style Bean Burrito
- 330 calories
- 7 grams fat
- 2.5 grams saturated fat
- 0 mg cholesterol
- 1,200 mg sodium
- 9 grams fiber
- 54 grams carbohydrate
- 12 grams protein
McDonalds Grilled Snack Wrap with Honey Mustard OR Grilled Snack Wrap with Chipotle BBQ Sauce. Each:
- 260 calories
- 8 grams fat
- 3.5 grams saturated fat
- 45 mg cholesterol
- 820 mg sodium
- 1 gram fiber
- 27 grams carbohydrate
- 18 grams protein
Arby’s Santa Fe Salad With Grilled Chicken — not including dressing
(includes cherry tomatoes, red onion, corn and black beans, cheddar, and lettuce)
- 283 calories
- 9 grams fat
- 4 grams saturated fat
- 72 mg cholesterol
- 521 mg sodium
- 6 grams fiber
- 21 grams carbohydrate
- 29 grams protein
KFC Oven Roasted Twister (without sauce)
- 330 calories
- 7 grams fat
- 2.5 grams saturated fat
- 50 mg cholesterol
- 1,120 mg sodium
- 3 grams fiber
- 39 grams carbohydrate
- 28 grams protein
Chipotle Naked Chicken Burrito: No tortilla, sour cream, cheese, or beans with salsa, light rice and lettuce.
- 390 calories
- 11 grams fat
- 3 grams saturated fat
- 125 mg cholesterol
- 935 mg sodium
- 3 grams fiber
- 39 grams carbohydrate
- 36 grams protein
So this gives you choices from popular fast food restaurants on where to eat if you ABSOLUTELY had too. Use this knowledge with care. This should only be used on an as need basis. Also, if you are going to eat at a fast food joint, make sure the next day’s meals are clean and nutritious. You lose a lot of nutritional value not preparing your own food, especially if it is not organic.
Let me know your thoughts! And if you like this edition please share on your Facebook page or forward it to a friend who may gain some wisdom from it.
One of the best books I have read on fitness and nutrition is entitled, “The 7 Principles of Fat Burning” by Eric Berg. This book documents how hormones truly affect our bodies and cause the resistance to lose body fat. It is a fascinating read that take the information that I will talk about today and expounds on it.
First things first, I am not an endocrinologist and I am not a registered dietitian. I like to think of myself as a problem solver, a MacGyver of sorts. Because in all reality that’s what we do as trainers, we solve problems with the knowledge base that we have, no matter how unconventional it is. With that said, there are a lot of theories out about how people lose and gain weight.
With the rise of obesity at an unparalleled high, people are trying to get healthy and lose body fat in record droves. From Atkins diets to the Zone diet, to the weird tropical fruit diet and my favorite the carrot stick and apple diet (holy cow!), people are trying to find the quickest way to lose weight. The fact is there is no easy way, if it were easy the obesity rates would not be where they are now. We would not be spending billions of dollars on medications that control weight related diseases. This is not an easy process by any stretch of the imagination. However when I look at weight loss books and these fad diets, I rarely see anything about a person’s hormones. When in fact it is your hormones that decide where and how much fat you store. That’s a fact. Throw the calories in vs calories out, out the window, your hormones are in the driver’s seat. Let’s take a look at them:
Fat Burning Hormones
Fat burning hormones are that will help you burn body fat,
Growth Hormone-released from the pituitary gland (brain), it travels down through and works in the liver. It has anabolic (building muscle) and lypolytic (losing fat) properties. A key function is building up collagen and cartilage. Without it your muscles fall apart. Stimulated by protein and intense exercise (not light exercise)
Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1)- made by the liver and triggered by growth hormone. Function is to give the body fuel between meals and does it through releasing stored sugar and fat. Stimulated when the stomach is empty.
Glucagon-raises blood sugar by tapping into the fat reserves. Helps control blood sugar between meals and is stimulated by dietary protein and intense exercise
Adrenaline- main hormone that releases fat from fat cells. Triggered by exercise.
Thyroid Hormones (T3 and T4)- speed up the metabolism, increase the size and number of mitochondria (that is a good thing)
Testosterone- stimulated by exercise and countered by estrogen. This is a good thing, even for the ladies (in small doses).
Fat Storing Hormones
Fat storing hormones are hormones that when present will cause the body to distribute fat to certain areas.
Estrogen- released from the ovaries of a woman but can also be converted from testosterone. Can also be found in meats we eat because it is the most common injected hormone into animals. The very presence will nullify all effects of the thyroid hormones that maintain your metabolism.
Insulin- Most anabolic hormone in the body but also is at its highest following a high carbohydrate meal. Can push fat into the fat cells causing an increase in body fat. The main culprit in Type 2 diabetes.
Cortisol- The nasty stress hormone. Your body does not understand types of stress, it only reacts and adapts to stress. Whether that be stress from work, home or mental, physical, when it is stressed it will release cortisol. This will affect your body composition.
OK. Now without getting so technical with you, let’s look how we can turn off the fat storing hormones and turn on the fat burning ones.
The 10 Fat-Burning Triggers
1. The Absence of Sugar
Sugar has the most impact on the metabolism because it causes the release of insulin and in the presence of insulin not only will fat be blocked from being used as a fuel but sugar will be converted to fat. To burn fat DON’T eat sugar. It doesn’t matter if its whole wheat or white bread these starches turn into sugar fairly rapidly. High fiber foods are acceptable because they slow the insulin response. Fruit: apples have a high sugar count but also high in fiber blunting the effects of insulin. Bananas, raisins, canned fruit; dried fruit have lower fiber and have a greater effect on insulin. When sugar is not consumed, glucagon is turned on. Sugar also decreases potassium in the body causing it to store more fat than sugar. Also excess sugar mixed with excess protein will impact insulin in a huge way.
Weight problems are often caused by a failing endocrine system (4 body types). Raw vegetables have qualities that aid in healing the body’s organs. High in fiber and low in sugar with healing properties. It is very common for people to have normal body fat but be 50-100 lbs over weight because of the fluid retention. This is why the BIA does not work properly on most people and why some can drop 20 lbs almost overnight. Potassium helps lower insulin and also needed to adequately hold protein in the body
A powerful fat burning trigger if not consumed in excess.
4. Essential Fatty Acids
Eating fat will help me burn fat? Yes it will! Eat foods high in Omega 3 such as salmon, tilapia, cashews and almonds. Your body needs these for proper brain function and hormone creation.
5. Skipping Meals, Reducing Calories or Letting Yourself get Hungry
When you skip meals or restrict calories your blood sugar decreases several hormones are released: cortisol which will turn the body’s tissues to sugar (muscle). Also creates cravings for nutrients it needs: sugar (sugary foods, high saturated fat foods). Here’s the rule EAT BEFORE YOU GET HUNGRY and NEVER SKIP A MEAL, ESPECIALLY BREAKFAST..
6. Gland Destroyers: Alcohol, Caffeine
Alcohol triggers insulin and also destroys the liver. 7 calories per gram for alcohol and most alcoholic beverages contain excess sugar or starches. Caffeine weakens the adrenal glands and liver and irritates the gallbladder. The liver has to detoxify the caffeine from the body causing it to weaken.
7. Water Retainers
A huge hidden source of being overweight is water weight!!!! Eating foods high in MSG will cause sodium retention and make one stay heavy. Artificial sweeteners (sugar alcohols, splenda, xyitol). Because they are sodium depleting this causes increased insulin and water weight. Counteract with potassium high foods (labels)
8. Exercise- DUH!!! High anaerobic exercise!!!!
Stress plays a huge part in the weight loss/gain game. When you become stressed your body releases cortisol and wants to use muscle tissue as fuel instead of body fat. This does the reverse of what resistance training would do, lowers your muscle tissue and increases your body fat percentage. Also some people tend to be emotional or nervous eaters, consuming more calories than is necessary.
when you sleep your body releases growth hormone. At its peak serum concentration, about 4 am, your body can now build muscle tissue and lose body fat. This is the period of time where your body changes. A vital part of losing weight is getting enough adequate sleep. Research suggests that you need 6-8 quality hours of sleep to take the benefit of the growth hormone spike.
To sum all this wonderful information up, I would suggest that if you are trying to lose weight you should pay close attention to the 10 items listed above. These nutritional/behavioral habits may allow you to burn more body fat, build more muscle and allow you to achieve the body of your dreams.
Nutrition is polarizing. Nutrition is not black and white. Nutrition can not and never should be the same for everyone. These statements are the reason we have so many diet books, nutritional questions and a population of people that have analysis by paralysis on trying to eat “healthy.”
As I have written before, not all proteins are created equal. Some contain more essential amino acids than others. To keep from rehashing old material click on the link above to read about the differences in proteins.
The biggest question I get is “How much protein should I take in?” This is a great question and one that has been researched for the past 50 years. The results may be slightly different but the one fact that stays the same is “it depends on your activity and level of intensity.” Meaning in order to know how much you should take in, you need to align your intake with your activity and how vigorous that activity is.
In a normal untrained person, the recommended protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). This recommendation is for sedentary people and only is a bare minimum to keep from protein degradation or the burning of muscle as fuel. In this example a 150 lbs person would take in 54 grams of protein per day. Obviously not enough to build muscle tissue.
For individuals participating in high intensity training, protein needs to go up to 1.4-2.0 g/kg (or around 0.64-0.9 g/lb) of body mass. In our 150 lbs example, this person would need to take in 95-135 grams of protein per day. A much more ideal percentage of protein.
Hold up there is more…
Beyond the basics of preventing deficiency and ensuring a baseline of protein synthesis, we may need even more protein in our diets for optimal functioning, including good immune function, metabolism, satiety, weight management and performance. In other words, we need a small amount of protein to survive, but we need a lot more to thrive.
We can only store so much protein at one time.So in order to optimally supply your body with much needed protein, you must eat it periodically throughout the day. Eating a 16 oz. steak and calling it a day, is not going to give you the overall effects that eating 5-6 servings of high protein foods will.
Can you eat too much protein? Possibly, but it would be hard. Protein can be converted to sugar and stored. However, it is an inefficient process and not one the body wants to undergo. Studies have shown that a high amount of protein intake (up to 1.2 grams per lb) has no health risks to the kidneys.
So which protein is best?
Research has shown that foods high in the essential amino acid, leucine, increase protein synthesis (breakdown of protein to be stored) higher than the other two essential amino acids. Foods high in leucine are spirulina, egg white, fish, poultry, and meat.
Take home points…
1. Shoot for at least half your body weight in grams of protein per day. If wanting to gain muscle increase to your body weight in grams.
2. If weight loss is a struggle, evaluate where and how much protein you are getting. Odds are it is not enough for your body weight and fitness goals.
3. Try to eat protein in every meal.
4. Choose whole foods over supplementation. However, choose supplementation over nothing at all.
5. Can’t stress this enough, if you want to get leaner you must consume more protein!
I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. What’s not to love? Food, family, and football are three of my favorite things. The prodromal smells of homemade cooking pervade the house which means turkey and pecan pie are only days away. Smiling is easy this week while making sure everything is perfect for the welcome cacophony of our kids and grandkids returning home to our empty nest for a holiday visit. Thanksgiving spirit warms the soul.
The best part of Thanksgiving is taking time to reflect on the things we’re most thankful for. It’s a strange tumultuous time and yet it seems as if there is more to be thankful for than usual. Perhaps it’s during trying times, with so many people suffering around us, that we are grateful for things we otherwise would take for granted. I am thankful for many things and thought if I shared them openly perhaps others would share what they are thankful for too. Who knows, maybe the Thanksgiving spirit will catch on.
Here are eleven things I am particularly thankful for:
1) A wife who is my best friend and the love of my life. I met her 40 years ago on December 7th, a day that will live on in infamy! She is a saint for tolerating this innovation junkie.
2) Three great children who despite our parenting have made us proud by becoming incredible young adults. They learned their lessons in irreverence well and are all exceeding my one expectation, to be interesting. (I should say four great children, including our son-in-law who makes us a better family and fires well on the aforementioned irreverence and interest dimensions.)
3) Incredible twin granddaughters, now three years old, who light up everything and everyone around them and give me incredible hope for the future. Being a ‘Papa’ is the best.
4) The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) team who keeps me young and continues to stick by me while I keep reinventing myself. I learn by hanging around them every day and I intend to stick by them. Together we are catalyzing an inspiring movement to transform our important social systems. I can’t believe we just celebrated our tenth anniversary together.
5) A growing network of smart and passionate people that remind me every day that social isn’t something you bolt on to the way your life currently works but an entirely new way of living. Connections seem an impersonal way to describe it. More like friends and fellow innovation travelers.
6) Living in a time when so much innovation is possible. We are blessed with the tools to enable purposeful networks to work on the real social system challenges of education, health care, and government. Transformation seems within our reach.
7) The temperament to thrive on steep learning curves and the confidence to realize how much I have to learn. The goal is to get better faster.
8) The blessing of time to write and for a network of innovators who encourage me to write more.
9) Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Google, and Apple for enabling this free agent to punch above his fight weight. Self-organizing is no longer an oxymoron.
10) Being surrounded by people with an incredible sense of humor who make me laugh every day.
11) The opportunity to do what I love and to love what I do. Passion really is the secret sauce.
Happy Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?
A Citizen’s Morning Weather and Trafffic Report (with a few more observations)
It’s quiet and cold outside. The city seems sleepy but eager (eager for something like a day of rest with a lot of good food — and a side of family time).
I only saw one car accident and it was’t really an accident. Just a flat tire. And a police car stopped to help.
There was a mid-sized car with antlers placed on the backseat windows and two men inside laughing about something that was probably nothing in particular.
A couple, probably in their 70’s, were getting gas. Both were outside the car helping pump gas and clear ice off the windshield. They appeared to be preparing for a long drive and got back on the road without incident.
The manager of the gas station seemed in an especially helpful and pleasant mood. The ATM machine inside worked fine and the pastries are fresh and taste good.
Stores are closed but hearts seem mostly open. People who normally wouldn’t speak to one another are saying hello as they pass. Hitchikers who are genuinely down on their luck are more likely to hitch a ride today.
A man parked at a Starbucks parking lot texted his wife to see if she wanted a coffee and she texted back that she was already in line at another Starbucks and could get him a coffee and meet him at home. He texted her back thanking her and added a capital “L” at the end of his text for “love.” And so did she.
All in all, it is a pretty good morning for a Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is an under-achiever as holidays go.
Halloween has costumes and all the candy you can eat. Easter has a magic bunny who travels the world leaving gift baskets for children. Heck, even Groundhog Day has Punxsutawney Phil who predicts future weather for the country.
Thanksgiving doesn’t offer up a magic turkey with a name like Phil or provide gift baskets with bunny shaped candy. We don’t even get to dress up in funny costumes.
For Thanksgiving we just dress in our nice cloths, spend time with family and give thanks for all the abudance we have in our lives.
That just doesn’t seem like enough. But maybe somehow in a weird way it really is. If we have the right attitude. And a turkey.
Starbucks new holiday special “Turkey and Gravy Latte” is surprisingly good.
Thanksgiving Dating Tips
27 years ago this week Rebecca and I had been dating for just over 6 months and Thanksgiving was just around the corner.
We were having dinner at a nice restaurant in Lexington and Rebecca told me one of the things she liked about dating me was going to nicer restaurants. She said with other guys she had dated every meal she ordered came with french fries.
I took that as a compliment and talked about how the Dinner Card I had bought was a good deal and then Rebecca segued into a new topic.
“So, do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?”
I answered reflexively, ” Yeah. Probably just the usual — go to my grandmother’s in Central City on Thursday and my Dad’s in Lexington on Friday. How about you? Any big Thanksgiving plans?”
Rebecca looked down and mumbled, “Nothing big. That’s for sure.” She stabbed hard at her entree before adding, “Just the usual, too, I guess.”
“What’s wrong? Do you not like your dinner?” I asked.
“It’s fine.” Rebecca answered.
“You want some of mine?” I offered. ” You sure something isn’t wrong with your dinner?”
Rebecca paused and explained, “My friends are having Thanksgiving together with their boyfriends.”
“Oh!” I exclaimed. “Are we at a point in our relationship where we are supposed to go to Thanksgiving dinners together? I didn’t know. I have never had a serious girlfriend for this long.”
Rebecca said, “I don’t know. I guess it depends on how serious they are.”
“Well, come on then! Go with me. Or I can go with you. Or whatever or however it is supposed to be done. Was just totally over my head. I didn’t know about the Thanksgiving dating rules but now that I do I want to get it right for sure!”
Rebecca said OK and her dinner seemed to taste a lot better after that.
And I learned a valuable dating lesson and my future wife learned to give an absent-minded boyfriend the benefit of the doubt when you really are convinced your absent-minded boyfriend is a good guy but genuinely clueless.
I am a very lucky man. And I am inviting Rebecca again this year –for the 27th year in a row– to spend Thanksgiving with me. And our family.
Thanksgiving is about more than just food. Family, gratitude, fighting over ancient resentments…it all plays a role. When a bunch of people (whether related or not) gather together over a holiday, there will be quirks. And possibly arguments. But, mercifully, there will always be food. Lots of delicious, button-popping food. And while life may be as unpredictable as your Aunt Suzy’s newest hair color, you can always depend on your favorite stuffing.
While I’m a big supporter of experimenting with food and beverages, there are times when tradition reigns supreme. It can be fun to try eccentric twists like apple cider risotto or curried carrots, but ultimately, many of us crave the classic sides that filled our childhood plates this time of year.
That’s why I turned to Kahlil Arnold, the chef of Arnold’s Country Kitchen based in Nashville, Tennessee, for several of his signature creations. Arnold’s is a mainstay of Nashville, known for its meat and three, country-style cooking and warm atmosphere. Patrons range from politicians and lawyers to construction workers, who return again and again for dishes like squash casserole and banana pudding.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, Kahlil shared recipes for several of his most beloved side dishes: southern greens, mac and cheese, and sweet potato casserole. If you prepare these for your gathering, get ready to become the family legend, the keeper of the Thanksgiving flame. Or at the very least, up for consideration of graduating from the kids’ table.
Arnold’s Southern Greens
2 pieces of applewood smoked bacon, chopped
3 tablespoons margarine or rendered bacon fat
1 turnip bulb, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 (8 to 12-ounce) ham hock
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
4 tablespoons ham base
6-10 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 pound collard greens, washed, stemmed and chopped
1 pound turnip greens, washed, stemmed and chopped
In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, add the margarine, onion, bacon and ham hock. Sauté until onions seem translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients with six cups of water, except the greens, and whisk together. Add the greens and cook on medium heat, partially covered until tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes-1 hour. If necessary, add more water. The longer you cook the greens down, the more flavor the greens will have. Taste to see if more salt and pepper is needed. When the greens and turnips are tender, it’s time to eat.
Arnold’s Mac & Cheese
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons margarine
2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups shredded American cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground mustard seed
2 cups of macaroni noodles
2 tablespoons of canola oil
Pinch of salt
8 cups water
In a medium pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 cups of noodles. Cook for 20 minutes, or until noodles swell and are soft. Drain in colander. Meanwhile in a double broiler, melt 2 tablespoons of margarine. When melted, stir in flour and cook for a few minutes until browned. Slowly add milk, whisking vigorously. Next add 2 cups of shredded cheese and stir until melted. Whisk in black pepper, mustard, and parmesan cheese. Taste, to see if a pinch of salt is needed. In a small casserole dish, add noodles and stir in cheese sauce. Sprinkle ½ cup of shredded cheese in top. Lightly sprinkle paprika on top. Put in preheated oven at 325 degrees. Cook for 30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling around edges.
Arnold’s Sweet Potato Casserole
6 pounds sweet potatoes
2-3 cups sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
For the pecan topping:
1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 cup chopped or whole pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
For the filling: Roast the sweet potatoes on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet for approximately one hour, or until tender. Cut the sweet potatoes in half and cool until able to touch. Peel and mash the sweet potatoes with a fork or potato masher. (This should yield approximately 8 cups.)
In a large bowl, combine the mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, cream, butter, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon the sweet potatoes into a lightly greased 2 quart – 4 quart casserole dish.
For the pecan topping: In a medium bowl combine the brown sugar and flour. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the butter into the brown sugar mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the pecan topping over the sweet potato mixture. Bake the casserole until the topping is golden brown and bubbling, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Cook’s Note: The sweet potato casserole can be assembled the day before and kept in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
This week has been a hard week.
As most of you know I have been planning my own studio for a long time and this week a lot of my hard work has come to fruition. I am very close to opening my own business, through hell and high water.
But what I learned about myself this week is it is easy to lose enthusiasm when going through hard times but you must persevere. Soon, my dream of having my own business will come true and for that I am thankful and enthusiastic. So why not talk about enthusiasm and the components of during Turkey Week?
So I went back into the archives and brought back this piece that I wrote three years ago for a magazine in Pittsburgh. It fully explains how I feel enthusiasm is created and how greatness can be pulled from us.
Give this a read and please have a Happy Thanksgiving (eat and drink responsibly). “There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.” I bet that got your attention.
So does enthusiasm really separate those that are mediocre and those that are great? Is it passion? Is it hard work? What is it? Well, let me rephrase the question; what separates those that get results and those that don’t?
I’ve pondered this since I started working out as skinny, 18 year old kid. Why did I get results and others didn’t? Why did some of my clients get results and others didn’t?
Here is the deal there are many attributes that separate the haves from the have not’s:
- Fun- those that get results do not look at working out like a chore. In their own way they make exercise fun. Whether they work with a trainer, take a group exercise class or just make their workouts enjoyable to them. If you enjoy something you will do it. Take it from me you can make exercise exciting and fun or dreadful and boring, you make that decision in between your ears.
- Attitude- those that get results have a great attitude. They don’t let minor setbacks deter them or keep them off track. They stay positive always and they encourage others to do the same. Remember, your mind if stronger than your body, if you feel a negative towards something odds are you won’t perform well. Conversely, if you take a positive approach the outcome will be much different.
- Hard work- Make no mistake about it getting results is hard work. It takes time and you must dig deep and be persistent. When you get to the gym you have to work hard. You never can skip workouts and you have to always make them count.
- Perseverance- there will always be obstacles. There will always be flat tires, babysitters can’t watch the kids and you have to stay late at work. The best look at obstacles like opportunities, conquering them towards becoming a better person. At all costs never, EVER give up. Keep moving!
There are more attributes that contribute to success in a gym setting but these four are what I commonly see in people that overcome the odds and shatter their own personal goals. Remember this, life is all about wins and losses; some days you win, some days you lose but as long as you learn from the mistakes and keep a level head on the wins you will be ok. Momentum is all you need to carry you to the finish line. Tell yourself 2015 will be the year of YOU. No more excuses, no more procrastination, no more obstacles. This is your life, you chose what you do with it. Choose wisely.