i think i love every food on this list.

21 07 2008

From Men’s Health (via HuffPo):

Did you know there are more than 15 types of saturated fat? And despite the fact that they’ve been damned as a whole by nutrition experts for decades, some of them are actually heart healthy. That’s good news, since high-fat foods are often the tastiest.

But a bad reputation is hard to shake. And though saturated fat is the most obvious example of a bad food gone good, it’s not the only one. I’ve run the numbers and scoured the research to determine which vilified foods have been unjustly convicted. The result: six snacks and drinks that deserve an immediate pardon.


WHY YOU THINK THEY’RE BAD: These puffy snacks are literally cut from pigskin. Then they’re deep-fried.

WHY THEY’RE NOT: A 1-ounce serving contains zero carbohydrates, 17 grams (g) of protein,
and 9 g fat. That’s nine times the protein and less fat than you’ll find in a serving of carb-packed potato chips. Even better, 43 percent of a pork rind’s fat is unsaturated, and most of that is oleic acid–the same healthy fat found in olive oil. Another 13 percent of its fat content is stearic acid, a type of saturated fat that’s considered harmless, because it doesn’t raise cholesterol levels.

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EAT THIS: J&J Critters Microwave Pork Rinds ($6.50 for a 10-ounce container; http://www.microwaveporkrinds.com). Because the rinds are cooked and puffed in a microwave instead of deep-fried, each serving contains only 4 g fat–meaning they’re lower in calories and less greasy than regular pork rinds.


WHY YOU THINK IT’S BAD: It has little nutritional value and is the reason we need the term “beer belly.”

WHY IT’S NOT: In a study of more than 18,000 men, Harvard scientists discovered that those who had an average of two drinks every day, 5 to 7 days a week, had the lowest risk of heart attack. And researchers at the University of Buffalo found that men who consume that same daily amount have lower levels of abdominal fat than those who drink only once or twice every 2 weeks but down more than four drinks each time.

DRINK THIS: Pinot noir. It contains more disease-fighting antioxidants than any other type of alcoholic beverage. Look for a Santa Barbara County pinot noir that’s a 2002 to 2004 vintage; those are generally recognized as the top wine-producing years for this finicky grape. We like the 2003 Foley, best in show at the San Francisco International Wine Festival (foleywines.com).


WHY YOU THINK IT’S BAD: It’s unhealthy meat that’s loaded with preservatives.

WHY IT’S NOT: Beef jerky is high in protein and doesn’t raise your level of insulin–a hormone that signals your body to store fat. That makes it an ideal between-meals snack, especially when you’re trying to lose weight. And while some beef-jerky brands are packed with high-sodium ingredients, such as MSG and sodium nitrate, chemical-free products are available. If you have high blood pressure, check the label for brands that are made from all-natural ingredients, which reduce the total sodium content.

EAT THIS: Gourmet Natural Beef Jerky (available at americangrassfedbeef.com). It has no preservatives and is made from lean, grass-fed beef. Research shows that, unlike grain-fed products, grass-fed beef contains the same healthy omega-3 fats found in fish.


WHY YOU THINK IT’S BAD: You know 90 percent of its calories are derived from fat, at least half of which is saturated.

WHY IT’S NOT: The percentage of fat is high, but the total amount isn’t. Consider that a serving of sour cream is 2 tablespoons. That provides just 52 calories–half the amount that’s in a single tablespoon of mayonnaise–and less saturated fat than you’d get from drinking a 12-ounce glass of 2 percent reduced-fat milk.

EAT THIS: Full-fat sour cream. Unless you actually prefer the taste of light or fat-free products (and who does?), opt for the classic version; it tastes richer, and the fat will help keep you full longer.


WHY YOU THINK IT’S BAD: Ounce for ounce, coconut contains more saturated fat than butter does. As a result, health experts have warned that it will clog your arteries.

WHY IT’S NOT: Even though coconut is packed with saturated fat, it appears to have a beneficial effect on heart-disease risk factors. One reason: More than 50 percent of its saturated-fat content is lauric acid. A recent analysis of 60 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that even though lauric acid raises LDL (bad) cholesterol, it boosts HDL (good) cholesterol even more. Overall, this means it decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease. The rest of the saturated fat is almost entirely composed of “medium-chain” fatty acids, which have little or no effect on cholesterol levels.

EAT THIS: Shredded, unsweetened coconut. Have a handful as an anytime snack, straight from the bag. (Don’t gorge; it’s still high in calories.) It’ll be filling, and won’t spike your blood sugar.


WHY YOU THINK THEY’RE BAD: They’re high in both sugar and fat.

WHY THEY’RE NOT: Cocoa is rich in flavonoids–the same heart-healthy compounds found in red wine and green tea. Its most potent form is dark chocolate. In a recent study, Greek researchers found that consuming dark chocolate containing 100 milligrams (mg) of flavonoids relaxes your blood vessels, improving bloodflow to your heart. What about the fat? It’s mostly stearic and oleic acids.

EAT THIS: CocoaVia chocolate bars. Each 100-calorie bar is guaranteed to contain 100 mg flavonoids. As an added benefit, the chocolate has been beefed up with phytosterols, compounds that have been shown to help reduce cholesterol. Find the bars at many Wal-Mart stores, or online at cocoavia.com.

Previously published at Menshealth.com.


it’s time for another adventure.

21 07 2008

this time we’re gonna rock it out in morocco.  ten days of heat-heat-heat and eat-eat-eat.

the itinerary is simple — marrakesh, essaouira, somewhere in the atlas, fez, meknes/volubilis, casablanca.  the hotels are booked, the tickets are bought.

time’s a-tickin’. . .

i think i ate an endangered species.

3 01 2008

that porky-tasting fish that we bought at the market, had cooked up three different ways and devoured ravenously? if indeed it was the giant mekong catfish, i think i might have eaten a creature off the endangered species list.

the giant mekong catfish is one of the largest (if not the largest) species of freshwater fish. it’s come under threat because of overfishing, declining water quality, damming, you name it. the numbers of the fish are dwindling.

the largest one ever found was reeled in by a thai fisherman. weighing in at almost 650 lbs., the villagers tried to keep it alive, but it died. so they ate it.

can’t say i blame ’em.

bad haiku at 4:30 am.

3 01 2008

4:30, jetlag.
and i have to go to work.
today will be rough. 

from the golden triangle to chiang mai to koh samui.

29 12 2007

posting has been tricky for the past few days. . .

first off, i really haven’t had much of a free moment. secondly, it’s been a little wacky with slow internet speeds. ok, so maybe i was frustrated with the new flickr uploader which took 3x the time to upload my photographs — and dropped quite a few of them. so i stopped messing with the computer. oh, yeah. that and my harddrive is out of space, so posting more pics is truly impossible now.

here’s the rundown of what’s been going down since my last posting:

1) we learned how to drive elephants like mahouts

2) we crossed the friendship bridge from thailand into sop ruak in burma

3) we learned that the making offerings burmese blessings at the temple is a little different from making offerings at thai temples

4) we went to a hilltribe camp in burma, home to both karen and akha tribespeople, and it was not unlike going to a touristy native american reservation, so really quite depressing

5) we realized that for all of the commerce over the friendship bridge, sop ruak has better goods and really should be much richer

6) we had an amazing first christmas eve dinner at the elephant camp. more on this later when i can post pics

7) we drove (ok, so we rode) the 4 hour roadtrip from the golden triangle to chiang mai, with a pit stop at the modern white temple — modernist, buddhist art with craziness like pics of the wtc going down and the matrix painted on the walls of the main temple

8)in chiang mai, we explored the 4 main wats — doi suthep in the mountains, and the 3 in the old town

9) we had a blast browsing all of the thai crafts in the sankampang road area of chiang mai

10) we had one of our best meals in thailand at a restaurant across the street from the celadon factory on sankampang road — wish i knew the name of the restaurant (i have it written in thai)

11) we capped off the day with a dinner in the kalare night bazaar

12) from chiang mai, on to koh samui where we are now. i’ll have to post about the hilariousness that was our first hotel — talk about a disaster first encounter with the kind of beach tourists you really want to avoid (but it was only for one night)

so that’s the past few days in a nutshell. i keep meaning to write a post on the food, which i’ll need to do once i have all my pics up and running on flicker.

hilltribe children, local market, monk’s blessings, opium history and snake whiskey!

24 12 2007

the title pretty much sums up our second day in the golden triangle.darin, our guide, took us by private boat up the ruak river so that we could see where it meets the mekong river. if we’re facing south, burma is behind us to the north with laos to our east, thailand to our west.IMG_6370.jpgcruising up the ruak river

it’s a little bizarre seeing the three countries converge. the golden triangle was named for the opium, or “black gold,” that was produced and trafficked from thailand and burma to the rest of the world. opium production and sale was legal in thailand until the 50’s when it was outlawed. copious amounts are still produced in thailand today — the bulk of the world’s opium comes from afghanistan and burma.today, the golden triangle is still a place of beauty, but it’s also a place where thais flock to go to the casino. the casino is called the win-win club, and it’s located right across the ruak river. not far from the statue of the buddha of the golden triangle is a parking lot and immigration control for thai citizens that want to gamble away their hard-earned money in burma. casinos are illegal in thailand, but there are rumors that the owners of the win-win club are actually thai.

IMG_6394.jpgbuddha of the golden triangle


the win-win clubthe casino should probably be called the “lose-lose club.”

we got off the boat and took a local song thaew. a song thaew is very much like a jitney. if you’re neither thai nor filipino, that probably won’t mean much to you. it’s basically an open air van with benches inside that are normally crammed with people. the song thaew drove us all the way up to the top of a hill to the golden triangle overlook.

IMG_6395.jpginside a song thaew

IMG_6400.jpggolden triangle overlook

there were young hill tribe girls singing. for about 100 baht, the girls will sing a song to the tune of “20 baht each girl for photo” in english, french, spanish, chinese, thai, japanese. the money helps pay for their education.

IMG_6412.jpghill tribe girls

we hopped in a tuk tuk and went off to the local market. this is probably the cleanest wet market i’ve ever been to. fish and meat were being sold and sliced on site. of course there were flies here and there (to be expected), but i was amazed at how fresh the meat, fish and produce looked.

IMG_6435.jpgfresh produce

a huge fish sitting in a tub caught our eye. darin told us it was giant mekong catfish and that its meat is full of omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s oilier. she also told us that it’s fattier and not unlike pork. porky-tasting fish? and the camp chef will cook it for us? sold! we bought a kilo. more on the meal later.

IMG_6463.jpggiant mekong catfish

brian ended up buying some barbecued pope’s nose as a snack — all of the barbecue looked really good. there were skewers with impaled chicken gizzards, kidneys, and hearts, as well as the meat. i contemplated buying the roasted chicken legs. claws still intact!

IMG_6442.jpgpope’s nose barbecue!

IMG_6444.jpgchicken legs

IMG_6461.jpgfrog legs, anyone?

from the market, we got back into the tuk tuk to the temple. there were young kids playing traditional thai music for school money. inside the temple, we did a proper buddhist blessing with the lighting of the candle, incense sticks, and the offering of the flowers. a monk also blessed us and gave us a string to tie around our wrists. right for men, left for women.



funny observation: as the monk was saying his prayer for us, a fly was buzzing around his foot. the monk slapped at his foot to swat the fly as he said the prayer.

after the temple, it was time to go back to the camp for lunch.the chef took our fish and prepared it three ways:

1) soup with lemongrass and chili base


2) boiled, served with a side of chili sauce


3) sautéed with fish sauce and green peppercorns


the sautée with the green peppercorns was my favorite. the fish tasted more meaty. the skin of the fish was thicker, and slightly chewy, but not as rubbery as shark skin. i ended up eating more than brian.

after lunch, it was time for a trip to the hall of opium. the museum was built in honor of the queen mother who was dedicated to reforesting of poppy fields in the region. her goal was to educate about the history and the impact of opium production in thailand, as well as educate and find new employment for poppy farmers.we learned a lot of information, not just about the history of opium in thailand and china, but some fun tidbits about the u.s./cia involvement funding the drug trade globally. fun factoid: benjamin franklin was addicted to opium.

after all of the education, it was time for drinks!

brian decided to sample the local tipple: snake whiskey! the local people make whiskey from rice. i’m guessing that the chinese belief in the strength of animals being transferred to people if their consumed/drank is at work here — the hill tribe people are descendents of chinese settlers who migrated from china into burma, thailand, laos, and vietnam. so they make the liquor, throw in a cobra either biting its tail or another smaller snake, some herbs (probably ginseng).

cobra in the snake whiskey

brian tried it first. i decided to join him for the second shot. it’s not awful. the bitter aftertaste is most likely from the herbs, not the snake.emboldened by his two snake whiskey shots, brian decided to try another version of the whiskey. this one had an even bigger snake inside. it was too much snake for one man.

snake whiskey

so ended our second day in the golden triangle. more pics posted on flickr.

the golden triangle: roughing it.

21 12 2007

we’ve left the crowds, the chaos and the pollution of bangkok for the serene beauty of the golden triangle.

chiang rai is an hour long flight to the north of bangkok. our camp is about an hour and a half away in the golden triangle — an hour and twenty by car then we got on a beautiful teak longtail boat that took us up the ruak river to our campsite. burma is literally a sneeze away!




we arrived at the landing for the bar and restaurant where we were greeted with fresh coconut water and presented with our itinerary for the four days that we’re here.



fresh coconut water

after lunch, the camp guide took us on a tour of the campgrounds. the camp is in a bamboo forest — fifteen tents are nestled into the hillside; many of them have pretty views of the river. since we’re not really in deep jungle, we don’t have to worry about poisonous snakes or wild cats, bears, dogs, wolves, etc.

our tent is tent 15: the elephant tent. we’re actually right next to the elephant camp. our patio looks down into the elephants’ pool and the trails.

tent 15






as you can tell from the pics, life is rough. i’m not sure how we’re going to survive. . .