Introducing #NOD’s!

Introducing #NOD’s!

Today’s #NOD: @MatthewCStamp

Today marks a very exciting day in human history – and by human history I mean my history, so really it just marks an exciting day for me.  Today I am officially making my second blog post ever! You may think that I am being a bit toolish by patting myself on the back for making two measly blog posts but there is actually some legitimate significance here.

I would be doing myself a serious disservice by ignoring the fact that I was in a severe depressive state not six months ago.  Just because I have more energy than I have had in nearly 10 years; just because my connection to the creative spirit is operating at a very high download speed; just because I feel invigorated and far from depressed as I write these words, does not mean that I should consider myself entirely healed.  For many people, like me, depression is a constant companion but it can be managed and it can be alleviated. Although I believe that the human mind and body have healing capabilities beyond our current understanding and may actually be able to rid itself of depression, I also think it is important to acknowledge that biochemistry plays a role here and you cannot “think your way out” of biochemistry.

So back to the significance of this blog post: If you struggle with depression I believe it is important to take small steps (like this).  Last night I observed something very interesting.  I noticed that thoughts of self-doubt were creeping into my brain like a nosy neighbor poking their head in your window saying, “Hey there buddy! You know you won’t be able to maintain this blog with any regularity right?  Yeah you couldn’t possibly come up with something interesting to write about every week, you should just quit. That way we’ll have more time to hang out.”

It is the fight against the slippery slope that is so very important to maintaining those pesky biochemistry levels.  Exercise, nutrition and getting the fuck out of your own head.  That’s why this, my glorious second blog post, is an occasion to be proud of.  Instead of defaulting to television and emotional eating I took the dog on a walk and sat down to pound out this little gem.  Without further adieu I give you the inaugural installment of NOD’s (Nuggets of Deliciousness):

NOD’s is intended to be a fun little installment where I share a Twitter post (or the like) and relate it to a little tip, factoid, recipe, etc.  I will likely fall short, on occasion, with providing you all with a lengthy introspective blog post about the human condition, but I think I can post NOD’s with some regularity. Geez, did you expect me to bare my soul on every post or something? Whatever!

Long story short: I will occasionally be posting random little caramelized nuggets of information that I think might be interesting or helpful.

DID YOU KNOW? The caramelized bits of food on the bottom of the pan after you cook something is most commonly referred to as the “fond” (You have to pronounce that like you are French, and sexually liberated). Fond means “background” in French but in the culinary world it means so much more.  I have also heard those delicious little morsels referred to as “suc” (French for juice), but my 2 minutes of Googling failed to come up with a definitive answer (and we all know that if you can’t find a definitive answer to something in 2 minutes then your original assumption is correct).  Maybe some of my “chefriends” (New word!) can weigh in. If you disagree with this factoid you can “suc it”!  The Wiki-Monster thinks it’s called suc though so click here to learn more about the wonders of deglazing.

That wasn’t the NOD, this is the NOD:

@MatthewCStamp posed a question:


In the case of Matt’s meal: it isn’t terrible by any stretch, but it is heavy on the starch; the Rice-A-Roni likely contains some preservatives that – while the FDA may give them a thumbs up – may be causing little issues with how your body functions and it is lacking a little nutritional balance. Even if the jury is still out on preservatives you simply do not need them, they provide no nutritional advantage, so why eat them?.  Let’s transform this meal using whole foods and eliminating a few carbohydrates.

Something Fishy

Fish is good for you, just accept it people!  I personally have some mysterious genetic predisposition that causes me to gag just a tad at the thought of eating fish but there is no denying that it is generally good for your health.   I would start off by suggesting that you look into buying some traceable, sustainably fished cod like this.

Preparing such fish is very simple: If frozen, thaw your filets and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Then squeeze about a quarter of a lemon on them (both sides), dust them with salt & pepper, brush them with oil and toss them in a 350° oven for about 13 minutes then turn the heat off and let them enjoy a nice 10 minute sauna.  Boom!  Deliciousness! (Breaded fish is not the devil but if you must have breaded fish you should try breading it yourself.  You can do this ahead of time and freeze them just like the one that Matt posted.

Like White On Rice

So Rice-A-Roni has vermicelli in it, which is a pasta. So you have the starch from the breaded fish, the starch from the long-grain white rice and the starch from the vermicelli. So instead of a box of rice and powder let’s step up our pilaf game:

Pick up a wild rice pilaf mixture or medley (bulk is best!) toast it in some oil or butter in a large, deep, “lidable” saute pan. Just like you would the Rice-A-Roni.  Toss in some vegetable, ideally fresh and organic but a frozen vegetable medley is perfectly acceptable.  Add about a teaspoon of each of the following: onion powder, garlic powder, ground thyme and ground pepper.  Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over it all (about a wedge worth) then cook and stir for a couple more minutes. Then add some veggie or chicken stock (2-1 ratio, liquid to rice), toss in a bay leaf, bring it to a boil, cover it and let it cook for 20 minutes. And I swear to god if you lift that lid before the 20 minutes is up I’m going to…well…you won’t like what I’m going to do that’s all.

Now you have added vegetables to your rice which means you actually eat less rice with your meal. You get a broader spectrum of nutrients from your rice and it really hasn’t caused you any inconvenience.

Couch Potatoes

So my official suggestion would be to nix the potatoes from this meal entirely.  The rice has covered your carbohydrates for this meal and adding more is just asking for your body to convert those simple sugars into fat while you watch your post-meal episode of The Biggest Loser.  Plus potatoes are poison! Don’t be alarmed now, you probably aren’t going to die but the fact remains that potatoes are the only member of the Nightshade family that humans actually eat and they can contain dangerous levels of glycoalkaloid. (Click here for a helpful list of foods that are technically poisonous)  The glyco-business aside, potatoes are also high in starches so they can make you sluggish if you’re body doesn’t have all the other nutrients and metabolism levels it needs to process everything.  Couch potato truly does have a double meaning.  If you must have the potatoes then toss them in some dried herbs and a touch of olive oil and roast them in a 400° oven for about 20-30 minutes.  You tend to use far less oil when you roast something as opposed to pan frying it.

However, I suggest you replace dem taters with some Brussel Sprouts or even this awesome new freak of nature on the market called Kale Sprouts. Just do the same thing, toss them in a little oil and seasoning, bake them at 400° for about 7-10 minutes (Brussel Sprouts may take longer) or until they start to get brown and crispy.  Transfer them back to your tossing bowl and drizzle some balsamic vinegar and honey over them and give them a nice toss.  A fairly liberal amount of salt also helps make these things pop! They are highly addictive, like French Fries!

Feeling Saucy

While a meal tailored to weight loss should probably omit this, I do think that fish would benefit from a nice White Wine Paprika Buerre Blanc But hey that’s just me. I don’t really subscribe to the “sacrifice everything you love” theory of healthy eating.  Diets don’t work! (More on this in a future blog post)

So there you have it. My official NOD to @MatthewCStamp has reached it’s conclusion.  If you want to get a NOD from The Enliven Guy then just head on over to the right side of this page to follow me on Twitter and then start tweeting at me, and I mean right at my face!  To see future NOD’s make sure to subscribe to my blog using the trusty old right side of this page again, and don’t forget to like, subscribe or just check in on my YouTube channel from time to time.  I won’t be as active on that to start out but there may be some pretty entertaining programming coming down the pipe at EnlivenTV.

Feel free to comment with any questions, comments, clarifications or clever trolling you might think of.  Thanks for reading.


Bigman: Or The Unexpected Virtue of Epithets

Bigman: Or The Unexpected Virtue of Epithets

This is Ryan’s second nomination and his first win in the category of “Best First Blog Post In, Like, The History of Blog Posts”.

Well here it is, my very first blog post.  I’m all grown up now…and at the young age of 36 no less.  Well maybe I’m not all the way grown up yet but I am certainly a “grown ass man” (pardon my french).

You can read a little bit more about me on my “Hello” page but long story short: I am a big man.  By this I mean that I am fat.  When I moved to Oakland in 2008 I was about 250 pounds, I ballooned up to about 270 then down to 240 and ultimately – at the height of my darkest hour of depression – I hit 290.  That’s when I decided it was time to take a hold of my life and focus on my health.  With this blog,  I aim to share my journey towards a healthy lifestyle with you and, if I’m lucky, provide you with a little information and a little inspiration to help you to health as well.  I will be posting videos, recipes, facts, photographs and downright witty prose as I set out to transform my life and my waistline.  I hope you will join me in my journey.

The Recipe Du Jour

“Beanwah Burgers” | Black Bean & Quinoa Veggie Patties

The Big Man

After living in Oakland for a while I began to notice that I had taken on a moniker.  It was usually used by the regulars.  The myriad of characters that either lived, hustled, or loitered on the streets just outside my little apartment on the southern border of the Temescal neighborhood.  They called me “Big Man”.

At first, when I was still a bit delusional about my ever-growing waistline, the name didn’t really sink in.  I never stopped to think about why I was Big Man.  Then one day it hit me: I wasn’t Big Man, because I looked strong or tough; I wasn’t Big Man because I was tall – I’m not tall; I wasn’t Big Man because I had a wide build; I was Big Man because of my belly; because of the girth, my god the girth!  That was a bit of a gut check for me.  I mean I knew I was overweight but I had developed this defense mechanism against the terrors of low self-esteem.  I walked around all day sucking my belly in and pretending my physique was better than it actually was.  It’s a very strange contradiction; I knew I was obese but I ignored it, because to face it was a truly awful prospect.

The more my Telegraph street tag got thrown around, the more it was pounded home: I am Big Man.  I am fat man.  I am gross.  I was committing suicide by diet.  Self-harm through nutritional neglect.  During my last year in Oakland my opinion of myself was about as high as a headstone.  I was digging my own grave with each pizza I pounded; with each order of dry fried ribs or each trip to the Carl’s Junior on the corner.

DID YOU KNOW?  On a recent list of The Top 30 Worst Foods in America the folks over at ranked a particular combo meal from Carl’s Junior at #1! That’s the worst meal in America folks.  Granted, there are a lot of these lists out there but when a meal weighs in at over 1800 calories with a whopping 92 grams of fat then it certainly deserves to be at the top of somebody’s scathing indictment of fast food in America.  And guess how much sodium it has?  150% of the daily recommended sodium intake in one meal! (Although the jury ist actually still out on sodium intake. More on that here.)  And that’s not the only “Carl’s Junk” that graces their menu, Carl’s Junior has some of the highest calorie combo meals amongst all the fast food giants. 

The physical effects of my poor diet and sedentary lifestyle were becoming more noticeable: dry, red, flaky skin in my t-zone. (Yes I just used the term t-zone. No I do not have a problem with “Metrosexuals” 🙂 ), very low energy, back pain, worsened allergies, poor digestion…and just an all around unhealthy feeling.  The interesting thing about the “unhealthy feeling” is that it sort of creeps up on you.  It is insidious in its tendency to blend in with your life.  You get used to it.  You start to accept that you just don’t have any energy…ever.  You start to adjust to the fact that you have to roll over like a beached whale just to get out of bed.  You don’t realize that you have slowly been tweaking the way you bend over to tie your shoes because your beast of a belly no longer allows you to tie your shoes like yo momma taught you. You’ve got to do this awkward sideways bend and sort of tie your shoes from the side.  (If you have a belly you know what I’m talking about. Pregnant ladies, can I get a “what! what!”? Fat people can I get a “shut the f@%k up”?)

I was lucky; eventually I snapped to and realized that if I did not make a change in my life then I was going to wither away in that smoke-stained room.  I was literally scared of dying in my room and rotting in there until someone finally decided to breach the walls of the “Big Man Cave”.  Forget about myself, I couldn’t do that to my Mother!

So here we are.  I’m almost 30 “el-bee’s” down from those two-hundred-ninety-peak-of-depression pounds and I have officially joined a local weight-loss contest here in my new home town of Apple Valley.  I am quite literally “in it to win it” and I’m starting with a bunch of beans.

The Recipe | Beanwah Burgers

The Gear

  • A Food Processor (very helpful but not entirely necessary)
  • A Big Ole Bowl
  • A Sheet Pan
  • Parchment Paper
  • A Pan / A Knife / An Oven
  • Hands (also helpful but not entirely necessary)

What’s In It?

  • 2 Cups Raw Black Beans (Soaked & boiled, cooking tips below)
  • 6 Medium (7”) Carrots (Minced or Pulsed)
  • 1 Cup Yellow Onion (Minced)
  • 1 Cup White or Yellow Corn (Chopped or Pulsed)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
  • 9 Mini Sweet Peppers (Diced)
  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Seeds (Roasted & Chopped)
  • 3 Cups Cooked Quinoa (Here’s some tips on Quinoa cooking)
  • 1/2 Cup Feta or Cotija Cheese (crumbled fine or pulsed)
  • 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2-3 Tblsp Olive Oil
  • Spices: 1/2 tsp Salt / 1 tsp Black Pepper / 1 tsp Chipotle Powder / 1 tsp Ground Oregano / 1 tsp Ground Cumin

Now What?

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Lay cooked beans onto a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.  Just so they start to get dry and crackly (a very technical culinary term).  While your beans are getting toasty you can saute your veggies over a medium-high heat.

Pulse the carrots in a food processor about 8-10 times then add the corn and pulse a few more times. Add the onions and peppers and saute for about 2 minutes.  Add the pulsed carrot/corn mixture to the pan along with the garlic, and spices and stir well, sauteing for another 3-5 minutes so the spices can warm up a bit and get all snuggly with the veggies.

After the toasty beans have cooled down a bit add them to a large bowl along with the Quinoa, Seeds – heck just through everything in the bowl together.  (Make sure nothing is too hot though because you don’t want to scramble them eggs.)

Mix everything together with your hands making sure to incorporate the eggs and breadcrumbs throughout.  Everything should start to come together nicely so you can form patties (kind of like a ground beef).   If it’s too gooey or too dry just add more bread crumbs or liquid accordingly. (You can use the liquid you used to cook the beans in if you want or some vegetable stock would be delicious too!)

Nick Knack Patty Whack

To make the patties I like to use a plastic lid like the ones from a tub of salsa or cottage cheese (about 4.5″ in diameter).  Wrap the lid in plastic wrap and begin pressing the Beanwah mixture into the lid so it fills it up and is just overflowing a bit. Then you can pop it out of the lid and mold it to your desired thickness and roundness. (This recipe yields about 12 patties because mine end up being pretty big, like a 1/3 pound burger, but you can make yours any size you like)

Everybody Chill

Now is the time to refrigerate or freeze your patties.  Either way you should let the burgers cool down and set up before throwing them on the grill or back in your pan.  To freeze them put them on a parchment lined baking sheet and toss them in the freezer for a quick cold blast (30 – 60 minutes) kind of like this.  Once they’ve got a solid chill, pack them up in a heavy-duty plastic bag with a piece of parchment between each patty.  Those buggers can stay in there for 3 months (maybe longer) just waiting for you to indulge in them.  Mmmmmmm….Beeeeeaaannwaahhhh. Refrigeration can be done in patty form or in the bowl but you should use em up within about 3-4 days.

Put Some Heat on Em

These burgers need a nice medium heat so they will cook through and not get to crusty on the outside. Nobody likes a crusty old son-of-a…Oh…sorry, got a little carried away there.  Brush them with oil, put them on the grill (about 6 minutes per side; cooking time depends on thickness) but keep an eye on them, and you might even want to baste them from time to time so they don’t get too dry.  They can also be heated on the stove-top with a little oil in a preheated pan.

Serve Em Up

Eat them how you want to eat them.  Personally I think they are best with all the classic burger veggies plus some avocado and some Chipotle mayo.  It’s also pretty difficult to go wrong by adding bacon or cheese but, you know, this blog is supposed to be about weight loss and fitness, and bacon and cheese tend to gang up and pick on health & fitness like the merciless, delicious bullies that they are.  But I’m not too big on food guilt.  Eat want you want, just make sure you eat nutrient dense, whole foods, lots of veggies and get plenty of exercise (and nothing in excess of course).  That’s the ticket if you ask me!  We’ll see how it works out for me.

Soak Them Puppies

You can certainly use canned black beans for this recipe (rinsed and drained), but why would you do that when you can make them from scratch!  Just remove any stones from your beans give them a quick rinse and soak them over night (6 hours minimum).  Then dump that soaking water into one of your plants and give them beans a quick shower.  Back in the pot they go with about an inch or two of water to spare.  You can go with plain, boiled, black beans or you can add a flavor profile of your choosing by adding a bouquet garni or a sachet.  For this recipe I added 1/4 of a large yellow onion, 3 or 4 crushed garlic cloves, two bay leaves, oregano leaves, black peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds (about 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp of each).  Roll it all up in some cheesecloth and toss it in the water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer with the lid cracked.  Check them for “doneness” at about 45 minutes but they could take over an hour (this is due to “sciency” stuff like barometric pressure and elevation and junk). You want them to have a little bit of texture to them, all mush is all bad. (You can still use them if they’re mushy but it may change your consistency a bit so I guess it’s not ALLLLL bad.)  Once they have reached the peak of beandom just drain them and you’re done.  You now have black beans that you can smash, fry, and re-fry, stuff into burros, make burgers from, pop into your mouth or throw at people. (TIP!! – Save your bean water for making a soup or a delicious black bean sauce. But beware, bean water can be farty.)

Well that’s it for this, the very first, Enliven Guy blog post.  I hope it has been enjoyable.  I encourage you to like it, share it, comment on it or whatever other crazy internet thing those whippersnappers can do with it these days. You can follow me on YouTube as well, if you are so inclined. As of right now the first video isn’t up yet. I’m  working on it though.  But hey, if you want to support my journey to health then please subscribe to my channel.  Thank you kindly. 🙂

Stay tuned for my next article: “The Belly Suck” coming to an interwebs near you.

Good health and good vibes to you all!  Thanks for reading.