Holiday Season Food – Health Survival Thoughts

Bucket of Henry
Bucket of Henry

Each year the holiday season arrives and destroys our health goals. Well, we ALLOW it to destroy those goals, but since it happens EACH YEAR we just blame the holidays, because it’s easier. It’s become common to the point that it’s accepted and acknowledged, and we go along for the ride.

The New Year is a time for renewal. Promises to ourselves are made, Facebook posts made, and exercise programs started. How many of us actually believe ourselves? Do we believe that the next holiday season will be any different? How many of us actually fully recover from what we did to ourselves to get back to the next holiday season at least even? Most people arrive at each holiday season in worse shape than the previous one.

Many of us, during this time of the year, are engaged in work weight loss programs, renewed commitment to fitness, and generally promising ourselves that we won’t let what happens during the holidays happen again. A fair amount of us experience severe regret, agony, and something close to mild depression.

I am among this group.

A few years ago I had escaped this group and was on a very good path. Then early in January 2016 I suffered an injury that removed my ability to exercise. Exercise was my rocket that allowed me to counteract the gravity of food temptation. Without that rocket, I fell into the black hole.

This pattern of trying to do the right thing then blowing it during the holiday season is more common than we would like to think. I’m right there with you. I’ve contemplated this with myself over and over and though I’ve come up with a few strategies that help, but nothing that really has a significant impact. What I’ve recently done is go back to how I’ve achieved goals that are for other than eating and tried to apply them towards this quandary. Below is how I’m going approach it this time, this next holiday season.

Remember Your Pain: Write down what I (you) are going through NOW because of what you did THEN. Read that next year and decide if it was worth it. Take pictures. Strip down to bathing attire and document where you are now. Video? Sure. Talk to yourself in that video and let yourself know what you are experiencing NOW, because of THEN.
No Leftovers That Hurt: After an occasion, even if it is at your house, don’t keep leftovers that don’t allow you to recover. Turkey? Sure. Desserts? No, give them away, throw them out, or take them to work and let everybody else make bad decisions.

Trade Meals For Exercise: Say “OK this meal, which I’m going to eat because I’m just going to, is worth 5 extra hours of blah blah” and then make sure you get it done. Use your community and your “Thing”, both of which I’ll get to in a moment.
Prepare Your Body Before: Starting NOW, and at LEAST a few months before the holiday season, get to where you need to be with your body fat, fitness, and health in general. Not only will that give you a tad bit of leeway for the holidays you will be in a routine that you can get right back into.

Have Your Fitness Routine: This is similar to the above, but it is HUGE. If you are already into a routine, you can continue on it and minimize or erase the damage. This doesn’t give you license to go nuts and then fix it, but we know that no matter what those meals and occasions are going to occur, so let’s acknowledge it and deal with it.

Community/Support: By nature, we are social creatures. We also crave some sort of accountability; however slight it may be. You may be able to keep yourself accountable, but probably not enough. Having a community around you can help encourage you when you need it, create a bit of social pressure when done right, and generally keep you accountable. Make plans with your community to chat about your specific holiday event and also to make plans BEFORE the event to get together and do something healthy. Your community is not there just to make everything “all right” and pat you on the back, it’s there to help each other stay on course and to get BACK on course, if needed.
Have A “Thing” That You Do: Do you have hobbies? You may chuckle and say “Yes, if I had time”. As of now, you HAVE time and one of your hobbies is going to be some sort of healthy movement. Prior to my injury, and what I’m working back towards, I liked to ride my bike, do CrossFit, and hike. Those three things were among my “Thing” and I was interested I them, read about them, planned them, and generally treated them like something that I REALLY liked instead of a necessary evil. In fact, I DID enjoy them, to the point of talking about them so much I was irritating to those around me.

In summary, do something to remember your pain NOW as you approach the next holiday season. Prepare ahead by starting a sustainable health program, and surround yourself with a community of people who truly care about you and will encourage you before and after.

Mikey C. Chili Spaghetti

Sauté 1 ½ onions in olive oil.
Add 1 ½ lbs of ground beef
Several shakes of Joe’s Stuff and chili powder
Cook until meat is browned.
Add Big can (30 oz) of Brooks Mild chili beans
Add one 16 oz jar of salsa – we used private select (Kroger brand) new mexico green chili salsa
Add more chili powder and 2 beers
Bring to a light boil, add 16oz thin spaghetti, cook until done.

Pulled Pork – Smoked Pork Butt (Boston Butt)

This past Saturday on short notice (that day) I decided to make some pulled pork.  I didn’t have time to do extensive research or track down needed ingredients so I did a quick internet search and combined a few methods that I thought I could accomplish.  The pulled pork turned out very well and people liked it so I figured I’d capture it here for my future reference.

How Did I Decide What To Do?
I found the following two youtube videos and took some from each.

The Meat
Pulled pork can be made with several cuts of meat but I decided to go with Pork Butt, also known as Boston Butt.  This cut is actually from the front shoulder.  Why does it have the “butt” in the name?  Go HERE to find out.  I purchased the meat from Sam’s Club.  It isn’t as good as your high quality local butcher but it’s good enough for the time I had to get things together.  I would like to get a high quality chunk at some point and see what the real difference is.  From Sam’s Club I got a 17lb Pork Butt that was pre-cut into two parts, making them the desired 8lb (a bit more) each weight.

Generally when you put on a rub you do it the night before.  Some don’t but many do.  I didn’t have a “night before” so I did the best I could.  From watching the videos and some forum feedback I decided to go with an apple flavoring approach.  With that in mind I found some generic apple rub at Wal-Mart.  In the future I’ll get a different kind or even make my own but with time being my enemy I went with it.  Following one of the youtube videos I did the following:
– Trimmed off any excess fat and stray chunks of meat.  Follow the videos to see this.
– Sprinkle entire meat surface lightly with onion powder
– Sprinkle entire meat surface lightly with garlic powder
– Went “medium” on amount of applewood rub, making sure I got into all crevices.
– Told the pork what a good boy it was, covered it in plastic wrap and tossed it into the fridge.

The Injection
One of the videos injected the pork with a certain mixture.  Some on the internet are violently against this but I opted to go with it.  I did the injection right before I put the pork in the smoker.  Next time I should do it when I let it sit overnight in the fridge just to make sure it has time to travel through the meat.

How to inject is in one of the videos above.  The injection I used for two pork butts was:
– 4 cups water
– 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 Worcestershire sauce
– 4 Tablespoon Kosher Salt

Temperature and Time
When taking temperatures there are some basic rules but they vary when you use them.  For instance the internal temperature of the pork needs to get to 190 degrees.  This ensures the fat has broken down, which starts at an earlier temperature.  The “low and slow” method to get there generally means you allow the meat to arrive at the various temperature check-points over a long length of time to ensure the outside isn’t “too done” while the inside is “just right”.  Going low allows for the temperature to be more even through the meat, as best as can be done.

I smoked and then cooked the pork at 225lbs for a total of 13.5 hours.  Some smoke it at 225 degrees for about 4-5 hours then go lower for 8 hours (overnight while sleeping) then kick it back up to 225 degrees for as long as is needed to get to an internal temperature of 190 degrees.  Since I didn’t have overnight I went “slow and low as I could”.

Smoking and Cooking
As mentioned I smoked for a bit over applewood.  After my smoking time was done I again followed one of the above youtube videos and put the pork in foil and back over heat at 225 degrees.  The one thing I did differently is that I didn’t spray or mop the pork once an hour once it came off smoke.  Instead I just mixed some apple juice and apple cider vinegar and poured it into the foil and let it self-baste.  It worked out very well.  I forgot to mention that I put the foil in some disposable pans you buy at stores and then put the pork in the foil.  This guarded against leaks and making a massive mess.  Foil in pan with pork in foil with apple mix in foil.  Got it.  Check.

I could have put the pork back in the smoker but I trusted the temperature setting on the oven more.  I’ll have to get a good thermometer and see how the smoker is for future outings.  In the over at 225 degrees until I was one hour away from having to leave.  I did check the temperature to make sure I wasn’t over 190 degrees here and there.

Once I took the pork out of the oven I wrapped it all in a towel and put it in a cooler like in the above video.  The pork’s internal temperature will continue to rise and should get to about 200 degrees before serving.  Some let the pork sit for 2 hours before serving but I didn’t have that much time so off I went.

The big indication that things went well was when I got to my destination and took the pork out of the foil and sat it in the warmer.  By this point I had a  stomach ache worrying if it turned out.  I reached down and grabbed the bone in the pork butt and it fell right out.  Success!  If things go right the meat is tender enough and the connective tissue and fat has dissolved enough that it should easily slide out.  And it did.  I shredded the meat and tasted it.  It certainly had an apple flavor and it is up to the eater if they like that or not.

BBQ goes on the side.  Not in the pulled pork.  Each eater gets to decide if and how much BBQ sauce they want.  If you dump it in the pulled pork then you have decided for them.  Don’t do that.  Because I said so.

Overall in spike of lack of proper studying and time it went very well.  Well enough that I’m only going to tweak what I did.  Different rub, different injection, etc. but basically the same thought.

There you go.

I Like Peanut Butter – A Bit Too Much

One of my guilty pleasures is slicing up an apple and putting some peanut butter on it.  Most things in moderation are not going to kill your health efforts but I don’t like to just put a paper thin covering on the slices, I like to heap it on.  I know there is mega sugar, etc. but it’s one of the things I do to keep myself on track.

Until now.

Last night I have a large green and a small red apple.  Combined they were about 175 calories.  Then I went a bit wild with the peanut butter.  And by “wild” I mean “what I usually do”.

This morning I added it to my food journal (I sometimes do this, should do it more) for yesterday and it showed that the peanut butter was 950 calories!  I was stunned.  That much?  I went back and re-estimated how much I had, checked to see if it was a good entry into the food database, etc. and yes indeed I consumed 950 calories (or real close anyway) of peanut butter as a “snack” last night.

The first thing I thought of was what an idiot I am!  How much of my weight loss goals have I derailed because I didn’t pay attention to how much of that I was consuming?  Quite a bit!  NO MORE!

I know that 950 calories of peanut butter and 950 calories of the Mt. Dew I used to drink doesn’t have the same affect (effect?) on me.  I’ve eliminated the Mt. Dew and now I’m going to eliminate the peanut butter, or at least greatly restrict it.

Knowledge is power.  Lack of knowledge puts a snow shovel of peanut butter on my apples.

Pre, During, Post Cycle Ride Nutrition

This is a post to collect links I find useful to help prepare, complete and recover from larger rides.  What a larger ride to me and to you is may be different so hush it up.

Day Before
Plenty of water to make sure I am not thirsty when I get on the bike the next day.

Carbohydrate based dinner such as spaghetti.

Morning Of
Bagel with peanut butter.

Cycling Nutrition: Eating on the Bike – By kmurnane

Cycling Nutrition: Eating After the Ride – By kmurnane
Eating After the Ride Part 2 – By kmurnane

Smoking An Easter Ham – 2013

Easter morning I smoked a ham in my almost new Masterbuilt electric smoker.  This was my second time using it.

I cobbled together a simple method using about five other sites.  I took some of the consistent basics and went with that.

See the photos at the end to help get a visual of the steps.

The basic steps are:

  • Slather with mustard and coat with brown sugar.
  • Smoke for 2 hrs on 225 using apple (or other fruit) wood
  • Line pan with aluminum foil (see a photo below), spritz ham with pineapple juice, dump a bit more juice in the pan, and use more aluminum foil to loosely encase.  This allows for some self-basting.  Put under heat for 1 more hour.
  • Remove top layer of aluminum foil and apply more brown sugar.  Squirt well with pineapple juice but be careful to not spray too much or the saturated brown sugar will start to run off.  Using toothpicks, attach pineapple and cherries as desired.  Put back in smoker for 1 hour to create a nice glaze.
  • Rest your ham for 20-30 minutes because it’s had a tough day

I decided to use the above method as it seemed fairly full-proof (fool-proof?) and I didn’t want to mess up when the family was coming over.

The ham turned out to be very tasty and everybody enjoyed it.  Enough so that I would have to think twice before deviating from the basic method I used.

Typical time table:
4:00 am – Take ham out of fridge
6:00 am – Heat up smoker, prep ham
7:05 am – Put in for smoking
9:05 am – Take out
9:15 am – Put in for baste
10:15 am – Take out
10:30 am – Put in for glaze
11:30 am – Take out and let rest
12 – Serve

A few lessons learned:

  • Start the entire process 1 hour before you actually put the ham into the smoker.  This is mostly to allow the smoker to get to the correct temperature.  Additionally, you can then get the ham ready in a more relaxed manner.
  • Monitor the water and drip pan as the ham releases quite a bit of juice during the process.  I had an overflow issue before I figured this out
  • I left the smoker door open too long when I was messing around with things.  Too much heat was lost.  I need to be better prepared to minimize this
  • I need a small table near my smoker to do things on.  I had to use the top of the smoker and didn’t have enough room for my “stuff”.

Everything considered it was a successful smoke.  My Masterbuilt smoker makes things easy for a rookie like myself.

Back To Zero

My scheduled off-day was this past Sunday.  Got a new smoker and we tried it out with a vengeance.  Three different cuts of meat, side dishes, etc.  It was great.  The down side is that it took me three days to get back to a weight that I was before that day happened.  That means on an every 14 day off-day cycle I now have only three days to progress.  That is something to consider!

My next off-day is Easter Sunday.  If I can remember this lesson and reduce the “back to zero” time to two days then that is progress.  I suppose?

Just for fun…


Making Ribs In Smoker Tomorrow Morning

I got a smoker for my birthday.  Well actually I just wanted one and used my birthday as an excuse to get it.  Tomorrow is my scheduled cheat day, which I allow myself every 14 days.

I am making ribs and my buddy Mike Collins is making a tenderloin.  I know Mike is soaking the tenderloin in brine overnight.  As for me I’ll list below how I’m making the ribs.

I am basically following the 3-2-1 method of prep and cooking.  The full instructions can be found here:

The rub I am using is Grill Mates Sweet & Smokey.  Link is here:

Basically you put on a rub overnight then smoke for three hours, wrap in tin foil with no smoke for two hours, then just on the rack (no smoke) for the last hour or until done.  All this at a temperature of 225 degrees.  See the above link for more details.

Applying a mop during the smoking process is essential to keep things moist, especially something like ribs which can dry out.  I am using a very basic mop this first time.  The link to the mop is here:

When we put the items in the smoker we are going for a hike to exercise a bit and to enjoy the outdoors.  Also to work off some of the calories we are going to be eating later that day.

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