Eggs-quisite! Egg Recipes

28 03 2013

5730-Chicken_Or_The_Egg

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Apparently, they’ve finally cracked it (ha!): it’s the egg.

But that’s beside the point.

For me, eggs beat chickens, most of the time – in the culinary sense, anyway. They’re easy to whip up. Cheap. Versatile. Nutritious. And did I mention delicious?

In one humble little egg, you will find: a lot of high quality protein, all 9 essential amino acids, choline to keep your brain happy, lutein and zeaxanthin for healthy eyes and selenium, which is to prevent cancer, though the jury is still out on that one.

Eggs really are a smart fuel, as Mark over at Mark’s Daily Apple explains.

Microwave poached egg on toast.

Microwave poached egg on toast.

 

Here are some of my favourite egg recipes. What are yours? Please do share!

Super Easy 1 Minute Poached Egg (Crack an egg into a bowl. Add 1/3 cup of water. Microwave on HIGH for 60-70 seconds. Done.)

Egg-in-a-Hole (Cut a hole out of your slice of bread. Lightly butter it. Slap it buttered-side down on the skillet. Place a little butter in the hole. Wait for it to sizzle. Crack in egg. Cook for about 60-90 seconds. Flip. Wait. Dig in!)

Chinese Style Steamed Eggs

Chinese Steamed Egg Pudding

Lunch on a recent day: pasta with fried eggs.

Lunch on a recent day: pasta with fried eggs.

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs (a.k.a. poor man’s spaghetti)

Egg and Tomato Stir-Fry

Egg and Bitter Gourd Stir-Fry

The super versatile poached egg makes its appearance everywhere! Here, eggplant and tomato sauce pasta, topped with the almighty microwave poached egg.

Egg and Char Siu Pork Stir-Fry (Slice up char siu. Cut up some scallions. Beat up some eggs. Heat up oil in skillet. Tip in scallions and cook for a while. Then tip in char siu. Now pour in your eggs. Swirl. Serve!)

Bacon and Egg Stuffed Eggplant

Super Easy Microwave Oats Muffin 

 

Bonus: How to Scramble Eggs Inside Their Shell 

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The Quest for Flexibility

25 03 2013

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Here are two linear equations.

Flexibility + Range of Motion = Running Economy

Running Economy + Cardiovascular & Muscular Fitness = Faster Times

Some people can effortlessly slide into splits, then twist and contort their bodies into all kinds of bizarre looking positions. Others find it hard to even touch their toes. And yet we are all made of the same stuff: muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, fluids.

My question is not why, but how: how can we maximise the full potential of our bodies to achieve greater flexibility and range of motion, with which comes higher running economy and consequently, faster times?

MY SCENARIO

I am a runner, clocking 80-100K per week.

My flexibility leaves much to be desired. I often wake up with very tight hips. My shoulders have a poor range of motion due to stiffness: they often swing side-to-side when I run, a complete waste of energy because I want to be propelling myself forward, not sideways.

I have been building yoga into my training program, practicing it at least twice a week, but have felt no significant improvements in my flexibility or mobility. The return on investment (return = greater running economy; investment = time) has been low.

There has to be a better way.

MY APPROACH

I don’t believe in the single Magic Bullet. Our bodies are complex organisms with an infinite number of variables. To get our bodies to respond, we need to talk to it in its language: the multi-pronged language of diversity.

My approach is therefore a diverse and varied one, and my flexibility program includes all of the following:

  • Old school stretching
  • Yoga
  • Active Isolated Stretching (AIS)
  • Foam roller
  • Ballistic stretching…Martial Arts included!
  • Massage
  • Cross training
  • Posture
  • and the almighty REST and RECOVERY

OLD SCHOOL STRETCHING

Old school static stretching

Old school static stretching

The oh-so-prevalent static stretches. We’ve probably all seen one of these diagrams at some point in our athletic lives. Easy, quick and simple to perform – but not the most efficient way to build flexibility, particularly if used in isolation.

YOGA

warrior1-2-3

Warriors One, Two and Three – great for leg strength.

Yoga definitely helps to develop flexibility – no doubt about it. It hasn’t, however, achieved for me enough improvement in flexibility to significantly boost my running efficiency. The problem, I think, is that a lot of yoga postures are static. This poses two problems. One, you can easily overexert and overstretch yourself. Two, some postures are too hard to perform and you end up getting stiffer by forcing hard to get into the posture.

half-moon-pose

Half Moon Pose. Good for balance, and you really need to work your ankle. After my ankle sprain, I found this pose to be a great rehabilitative exercise.

On the upside, yoga does give quite a well-rounded approach in itself. I personally love the Half-Moon Pose – it’s great for balance and leg strength, particularly around the ankle. The Warrior Poses really work the legs. The Frog Pose is great for stiff hips (primarily the adductors), and although it may look a little awkward, I actually sometimes sit in the pose with a good book and just let the stretch sink in…

Oh, and the Sun Salutation combines strength, cardio and flexibility all into one.

Sun Salutation Pose Sequence

But still, yoga alone has not been enough for me.

ACTIVE ISOLATED STRETCHING (AIS)

I love Active Isolated Stretching. In a nutshell: ever done a whole load of stretching, only to feel tighter the next day? I have. Want to know why? Because a lot of our muscles work in antagonistic pairs – while one contracts, the other relaxes. So you could be stretching one muscle, but at the same time, contracting – and hence, tightening – another. With AIS, each stretch lasts no longer than two seconds, and taps into reciprocal antagonistic muscle contraction to activate and isolate muscles, so that the opposing tension that inevitably comes with static stretching is altogether avoided.

Here’s a good introductory video to AIS.

And here are some links to various AIS exercises that you can try.

Shoulder elevation stretch

Rotator cuff stretch & strengthening

Hip adductor and groin stretch

Hip flexor stretch

Opening the hamstrings

Back relief

FOAM ROLLER

tri42_a

Over at Runner’s World, the humble foam roller is deemed “(almost) Magical” – and I would agree. Think of the foam roller as a DIY sports massage, without the hefty price tag. They can stretch out muscles and tendons, but more importantly, help to get rid of pesky muscle knots that can accrue from extensive use. Foam rolling also increases blood flow and circulation, speeding up recovery. Read more about it here.

BALLISTIC STRETCHING

What does a ball do? Bounce.

So what is ballistic stretching? Well, you bounce a little to get a limb into an extended range of motion, over and above what it would ordinarily have been able to achieve statically. Think bouncing up and down to touch your toes.

I used to do a bit of kungfu, and that included a lot of ballistic stretching. Front kicks. Side kicks. Sweeps. My range of motion improved, but often I would feel stiff afterwards because I had overstretched.

Here I am, a couple of years back, practicing a few kicks. Notice all the ballistic movements involved.

There are dangers, of course, most prominently the risk of jerking too sharply and straining – or worse, tearing – something.

MASSAGE

After a hard workout or a race, my teammates like to massage each other. One of us would lie down, while the other, taking on the role as a masseur, carefully steps onto our hamstrings, glutes and back. The masseur may use their ankles to press down and add pressure, or shake their legs to give a vibrating motion, and really flushing out the stiff soreness out of our muscles. It feels really, really good.

Of course, this is a pretty delicate procedure. Experience and care is required. But with a bit of practice, buddying up and getting a massage from a teammate is not a bad idea at all.

CROSS TRAINING

Body_planes-1We runners run forwards. We are pretty uni-directional. We stay on one plane.

But, as you can see from the diagram on the left, we are anatomically designed to move in three planes: the sagittal, coronal and transverse.

What we want to do is make sure that no plane is neglected. If underused, muscles largely responsible for the neglected plane of movement will become weak and unconditioned, piling on a disproportional amount of stress on a limited number of muscles and increasing the likelihood of injury. Yikes.

This page lays out the case for multi-planar training quite nicely.

Doing a range of different sports that encourage multi-directional movement will probably go a long way to make our bodies more resilient, agile, injury-free and happy.

My cross-training sports of choice: badminton, golf, tennis, parkour, football and basketball.

POSTURE

Sitting-Kills-preview

Are you sitting in a chair right this moment? Get up! That chair is your enemy! Sitting is killing you!

That might be exaggerating it a bit, but the hard facts damning:

  • As soon as you sit, the activity of enzymes that break fat down plunge by 90%
  • As soon as you sit, electrical activity in your leg muscles completely shut off. As a runner, you don’t want your legs shut off, do you?
  • After 2 hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops 20%

And, if you think about it, did we homo sapiens really evolve to spend long hours sitting in a chair? Probably not.

Anatomically, sitting does not seem to me to be the most natural position for our bodies to take. And if we consistently force our body into such an unnatural posture for much of the day, can we really expect to be able to maximise our body’s physical potentials on the running track? Probably not.

REST AND RECOVERY

Train hard. Rest hard. That just about sums it up.

SO…

For me, I’ll be building all of the above into my weekly flexibility program. The human body gives infinitely many signals and, I think, responds to infinitely many stimuli. And to converse with your body, you’ve got to speak its lingo: diversity and variety.





This Is Why I Like Food

22 06 2012

Homemade wholewheat naan with a chickpea burger patty and some mixed salad.

If my Instagram feed feed can tell you anything about myself, it’s probably this: I like food, and I sure have photos (lots of them) to prove it!

I’ve never paid much attention to food until recently. It used to be just something to fill me up, to fuel me up for the day. Now, though, food is increasingly growing in importance, meaning and significance. Why?

FOOD AS A BASIC NEED

Most obviously, we need food – it’s essential for survival. And as an athlete, I need to make sure that I’m eating enough of the right foods to ensure optimum performance. But at the same time, food is so much more than a provider of life and energy.

Study snack: apples!

FOOD AS A CELEBRATION

Food, more than just a physiological necessity, is an art, an enjoyment, a celebration and a way of life. Behind every bite lies thousands and thousands of years of history: conflict and friendship, leisure and toil, creation and destruction.

In fact, the world was for a long time divided into three major empires based on the three main staple foods, wheat, rice and maize. What separated people even more was the sauce or spice they added: olive oil in the Mediterranean, soya in China, chilli in Mexico, butter in northern Europe, a whole range of aromas in India. Different cultures cook food differently, but culinary all progress has been dependent on the assimilation of foreign food and condiments. (Source: An Intimate History of Humanity by Theordore Zeldin)

Food at once distinguishes but also unites.

Image courtesy of Kevin Van Aelst.

Food is so important in so many different senses, and that is why I want to take control over what, how, when and where I eat. This is what attracts me to cooking. I don’t like eating out in restaurants because when I do, I give up control over what I eat. It is a loss of freedom in the culinary sense.

Party time!

FOOD AS THE SELF

Food is also an expression of identity. More often than not, we eat to satisfy hunger. But as Theodore Zeldin points out in An Intimate History of Humanity, hunger is often satisfied without full awareness for what it is one is hungry for. Making sense of why we eat what we eat can tell us more than just about our taste in food. It also reveals how far we are interested by new sorts of pleasure, or innovation and creativity, or whether we are willing risk takers.

Gastronomy, Zeldin notes, is not just self-indulgence nor self-exploration, but also the exploration of the whole of nature.

Fork and spoons have probably done more to reconcile people who cannot agree than guns and bombs ever did.” – Theodore Zeldin

Chicken meatballs and tomato sauce…total improvisation!

FOOD AS MORALITY

Every bite I take is also an ethical choice. Should I eat meat? Organic, free range, factory farmed or I-don’t-care? Genetically modified, imported, homegrown? In season or out of season? Behind all culinary decisions is a complex web of principles, values and ethics. Whether we pay attention to this web is of course another matter.

I’ve decided that it is worth thinking about, and that’s why I’ve been reading more about food. At first the reading was merely taking infinite pleasure out of various food blogs: mouth watering photos (otherwise known as food porn), attractive recipes, interesting debates about different diets etc. Now, though, I also want to know more about the food industry, and what my food means for the world. On the reading list now:

  • Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer finished reading
  • In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan
  • The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason
  • Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie

The food I eat is part of who I am. I want to make sure that my food decisions are made properly, that I make a decision for the right reasons.

Couscous salad

SO THAT’S WHY I LIKE FOOD.

Food as a basic need. Food as a celebration. Food as the self. Food as morality.

And as I keep moving, as I continue on my culinary journey, I’m sure I’ll find ever more reasons to like this thing we call ‘food’.

Do you like food? Why, or why not?

Fluffy scrambled eggs as a pre-workout snack.





Running: Interval Training #2

28 06 2011

Here’s another good interval training program that I do at the track.

Warm-up:

  • 1200m jog
  • stretch

Technique Work

  • A series of running drills on a stretch of flat ground around 60-70m long. Run out with technique, run back with normal strides but pay special emphasis on the particular technique. Drills include:
  • Back kicks/butt kicks
  • High knees
  • Kick outs
  • Single legged hops
  • Lunges
  • Low walking
  • …and the list goes on.

Main set:

Cool-down:

  • 400m walk, barefoot
  •  stretch

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Running: Interval & Fartlek training

23 06 2011

Round the bend!

Not too intense of a work out today, but a good combination of speed and endurance.

Warm-up:

  • 1200m jog
  • stretch

Technique Work

  • A series of running drills on a stretch of flat ground around 60-70m long. Run out with technique, run back with normal strides but pay special emphasis on the particular technique. Drills include:
  • Back kicks/butt kicks
  • High knees
  • Kick outs
  • Single legged hops
  • Lunges
  • Low walking
  • …and the list goes on.

Main set:

1st lap: 400m moderate pace

2nd lap: 100m sprint, 100m moderate, 100m sprint, 100m moderate

3rd lap: 200m sprint, 200 moderate

4th lap: 300m sprint , 100 moderate

5th lap: 400m sprint

  • 30 crunches, 30 dive bomber push-ups  , 50 back raises,  20 tricep dips
  • 10 x 50m sprints, with a 50m jog recovery in between each
  • 20 minute fartlek (speed play). Mine consisted of fast paced 400m laps, interspersed with stairs and slower paced runs. You can adjust your routine depending on the available terrain and your fitness level.

Cool-down:

  • 400m walk, barefoot
  •  stretch

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Stand Up, Sit Down.

19 06 2011

Problem:  As my work load has steadily increased over the past two years, I’ve found myself sitting more. As my sitting time increased, I felt increasingly restless and craving movement.

Solution: Ditching the chair (mostly) and standing up while working.

I started this practice of standing even before the large number of studies came out about the dangers of sitting (see infographic here), so it wasn’t for reasons of health/weight loss that led me to this habit. It was more a frustration and annoyance with being on my butt the whole time, and feeling very fidgety because I couldn’t move.

Some of my standing up methods include putting my laptop on a stack of thick hardcover books, and writing on a little bookcase that comes up to my chest.

I’ve been working while standing for over a year now and here are some observed results:

  • I’m more productive. Because sitting made me feel restless, I started to fidget with my fingers, spin my pen, drum on the table and so forth – all of which made me lose my concentration. Standing up, though, put an end to my restlessness. Now I’m fully concentrated 99% of the time and can do more with less time.
  • I think better. For some reason, I can never think quite as well sitting down as standing up.
  • I’m happier because I’m not stuck to the chair on my butt.

This isn’t to say that the method is perfect.

  • Standing does get a little tiring. To take the pressure off my feet I’ll shift my weight between my right and left legs by swaying my hips a little. Of course, I’ll also sit down and work like that for a while before switching back to standing when I feel restless again!
  • Stiff neck and lower back. This is especially true with writing while standing, but I think it is more to do with the surface being too low. It’s not a big problem though – doing a handstand or the wheel pose instantly relieves all my stiffness, not to mention giving me a boost in energy.
  • When I get tired of both sitting and standing, I walk. Granted, this only works with reading but it’s wonderful anyway. All I have to do is take my book, slowly waltz up and down the room/corridor, and feel totally refreshed.

Bottom line: mix it up. Sit, stand, walk…after all nothing is good in excess.

 

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Running: Interval Training #1

17 06 2011

Ready, get set, go!

Last night’s running session was hard, slightly painful, but very fulfilling. It’s training sessions like these that I will remember – sessions where I pushed myself and know that I got something out of it.

This workout is great for improving your pace and stride frequency.

Warm-up:

  • 1200m jog
  • stretch
  • 600m jog.

Main set:

  • run all @ about 80% effort.
  •  The idea isn’t to go all out, but to run at a pace that you can keep for 5-10k, and to finish the program feeling like you can still go on running. 
  • 5 x 300m, 80m walk recovery in between each repetition.
  • 20 seated leg tucks, 20 dive bomber push-ups  , 20 supermans , 10 burpees.
  • The following set is the ‘pyramid workout’ consisting of two parts: 1) the running component; 2) the muscular endurance/body weight training component
  1. 400m.  20 seated leg tucks, 20 dive bomber push-ups  , 20 supermans , 10 burpees.
  2. 800m.  30 seated leg tucks, 30 dive bomber push-ups  , 30 supermans , 15 burpees.
  3. 1200m. 40 seated leg tucks, 40 dive bomber push-ups  , 40 supermans , 20 burpees.
  4. 800m.  30 seated leg tucks, 30 dive bomber push-ups  , 30 supermans , 15 burpees.
  5. 400m.  20 seated leg tucks, 20 dive bomber push-ups  , 20 supermans , 10 burpees.

Cool-down:

  • 400m walk, barefoot
  •  stretch

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