Friday, February 28, 2014

Food Friday: Bone Broth

Food Friday is my weekly homage to my favorite thing on Earth- FOOD!  I haven't always felt this way.  I used to view food as the enemy.  But no longer!  I love food- it helps me meet my performance goals, nourishes my body, and most importantly keeps me healthy so I can make a difference in this crazy world.  So every Friday I will be posting about one of my favorite foods.  It may be a plant or animal, single ingredient or recipe, or whatever I feel like (hey- it's my blog afterall).
If there is a particular food you would like me to talk about, recommend it in the comments! 

 Bone Broth

Have you heard of the book The 5 Love Languages?  If you haven't, it's about understanding how we receive love.  It may be touch, affirmation, etc.  But I'm here today to propose a 6th Love Language.  And that, my friends, is the language of Bone Broth.

Bone Broth is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can put in your body.  It will keep you nourished, strong, and healthy.  So if someone gave me a bouquet, basket, or little blue box full of Bone Broth, I would know that person loves me from the inside out.  And if I ever give you a Mason Jar full of this elixir...  Whoa.  You're in.

Seriously- these chickens are in Broth Love


Bone Broth is considered a traditional super food.  When you slow simmer bones to make broth, you're releasing the nutrients stored deep in the bone and connective tissue of an animal.  Those nutrients include:
  • Generous amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and silica
  • Chocked full of gelatin, which is a super supplement in and of itself:
    • Helps make protein more available to be absorbed by your body
    • Aids in digestion
    • Increases stomach acid which helps your body break down food and therefore absorb nutrients
  • Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine which are known to help with joint pain
  • Plenty of collagen which helps keep your hair, skin, nails, and joints healthy (PS- it's also said to help reduce cellulite!)
And, there's a reason why Grandma fed you chicken soup when you were sick!  Because of Bone Broth's mineral density, it has an anti inflammatory effect on the body which boosts the immune system!

I really try to get at least a cup of homemade broth in a few days a week.  If I'm feeling run down or stressed, I try to add it in every day as a preventative measure.


Ok, here is the catch.  When I'm talking about Bone Broth, I am NOT referring to the boxes of chicken stock at your local grocery store.  That stuff has a high probability of just being colored and flavored water.  So I encourage you to make your own!  It's cheaper, more nutrient dense, and tastes WAY better.  Plus- it's easy.

You can use leftover bones from a chicken or turkey carcass or go straight to your butcher and ask for soup bones.  


The great thing about making Bone Broth is that you really can't mess it up.  Toss some bones, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and water in a crock pot and let it cook.  If you want to add some veggies for added flavor or nutrients, chopped carrots, celery, or onion usually work best.  But they are not necessary.


Ok, I'm going to blow your mind.  A good Bone Broth should be left in the crock pot for no less than 12 hours, but can be left up to 24 hours.  This slow cooking will pull as many nutrients as possible from the bones.  If you have a good enough bones your broth will be gelatinous when it's cold (I've only been able to achieve this with grassfed beef bones).  This is the nutrient sweetspot.  

Seriously, how fun is that?  It's like a Jello Jiggler for nutrition geeks.


Like I said above, you really cannot mess up broth.  However, if it's the first time you've made it, there are a lot of broth recipes out on the interwebs.  My favorite one is from Diane over at 

Balanced Bites Bone Broth:

4 Quarts Filtered Water
1.5-2 lbs Beef Knuckle or Marrow Bones (or really, any bones/carcass will do)
The cloves from one whole head of fresh garlic, smashed
2 Tablespoons Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Place all the ingredients in a 6 Quart Crockpot and set to HIGH.  When the stock is boiling reduce the heat to low.  Cook anywhere from 12-24 hours.  The longer it cooks, the more gelatin rich it will become!  Turn off the crock pot and let it cool.  Strain the stock and discard what you skim off.  When the broth cools, you may have fat that separates at the top. You will want to skim and discard that fat.

You can store the Broth in the fridge or freeze it for later use (portion it out before you freeze it).  You can even freeze it in ice cube trays and thaw a little at a time (this is great to saute veggies in for added nutrients and flavor). 

You can drink it straight, but most people use it to replace store bought stock.  This will make a thicker and more flavorful broth than you would buy.  You can dilute your broth to your tastes- I like my soup a little stronger, so I usually do a 1:1 Borth/Water ratio, but many people perfer 1:2.

What do you think?  Do you make your own broth? What's your favorite recipe?

Monday, February 24, 2014

More than just Good Livin'

I wrote this last year for my previous blog, but never got around to editing it and getting it up (clllllassic Kelsey).  As we're gearing up for warmer weather and outdoor challenges, I would encourage everyone to put GORUCK on their list.  Side note, I swore I would NEVER do one again, but alas I'm signed up for one in June with some of the strongest people I know!  Heck yeah!!!

Who doesn't love the idea of 10-12 hours of "Good Livin'"?  That's what I thought when I first signed up for GORUCK.  I heard it was mostly mental and hey, I've done a tough mudder.  And a zombie run.  Plus, I don't know if you know this but I CrossFit.

Good Livin' is GORUCK's description of all of their challenge events.  So here is what our Good Livin' included: 13 miles of St. Louis terrain (some questionable) overnight while wet, cold, and hauling some form of weight.

GORUCK is not a race. The only way you win is if you finish as a group.  While trekking your city, you will complete a series of military-like training tasks.  All of this is done while wearing a ruck sack full of bricks, water, food, and dry clothes. 

The most important thing to understand about GORUCK is that while it's designed to physically and metally push you to every limit you have, you'll walk (or crawl) away stronger than you've ever been in your life.

GORUCK is lead by a Cadre who is former military, Special Ops to be specific.  I suspected (and still do) our Cadre, Jason, was a former CIA enforcer.  He did NOT mess around. All the Cadres have rules. And breaking a rule is not something anyone wants to do.

Our group, 15 total, started at the Arch grounds at 10pm one Saturday night last May.  Jason was right on time and had us line up in formation next to a duck pond.  His instructions were 'turn around and walk 5 feet into the pond.'  And our night started with an hour of PT in the pond (push-ups, mountain climbers, burpees, squats, etc)

PT in South City
I still remember the night vividly, but to spare everyone from a blow by blow playback, I'll  highlight my major lightbulb moments of the night:

1. There really is strength in numbers: We ran down by the riverfront past some suspiciously awkward activities.  I would not go near there in a million years by myself.  But hey, mess with me now.  

2. Duck ponds make you stronger: Here is how our experience with the duck pond played out:  Into the pond, back out, break a rule, back in.  Repeat. Several times.  I was positive I was going to catch a cold.  Or the Ebola virus.  Whatever.  But I finished the challenge and have yet to be checked into the hospital with a mysterious disease.

Crawl through sprinklers 10 hours in
3. Be willing to negotiate, but accept your limits when set: "You do not want to miss this time hack." When Jason would say those words, my soul would freeze.  Team checkpoints were a part of the challenge and the "time hack" was the time limit to get there.  While we could give input on the goal, the final say was Jason's.  Missing it usually meant some form of PT punishment (8 count push-ups, man-makers, etc).  But even though we missed some, we dug deep to hit others.  Life's lessons are often learned through consequences.

The group outside of the AB campus
4. Great leadership drives major accomplishments:  Enter the telephone pole.  Estimates put the weight anywhere between 700 and 1,000 lbs.  We had around 2 1/2 hours to move it 3 miles.  Our team leader managed his 14 peers not only to hit the time goal and keep the pole from touching the ground once, but also break through the biggest mental block of the challenge.  Picture the group 5 hours into the challenge: still cold from the duck pond and working through significant fatigue.  This is where no one would have blamed anyone for quitting, but everyone pushed through.

5. Never underestimate the power of dry socks: Your mom was right. That is all.

The group in the fountain across from Union Station.
6. There really is no 'I' in Team: I cannot lift a 1,000 lb telephone pole. I cannot carry six 70 lb sandbags at once.  But more importantly, I won't do PT in a duck pond, wade in a freezing cold fountain, climb walls, belly crawl through sprinklers, or sprint from one St. Louis landmark to another after 10 hours of insanity by myself.  But we did.  Maybe it's mob mentality...  Or maybe it was that we had a team of old and new friends pushing each person to be better with every step. A good team will get you through some pretty big stuff, but great team will help you crush your own demons.

Al Macinnis says "GORUCK, Eh?"

7. You can accomplish about 800x more work than you think you can: The last hour and a half of the challenge brought sprints from one landmark to another, mini challenges, and punishment for missing time hacks.  Every inch of my body was screaming.  Every step was a battle.  And I would love to tell a story about how I rose from the ashes with renewed strength.  Nope.  Not even close.  But I finished.  We all finished.  It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.  And when Jason congratulated us for finishing, I almost cried.

I will cherish my GORUCK patch For. Ev. Er.  

And a special shoutout to my GORUCK teammates and lifelong BFFs for being such an amazing group: Linda, Megan, Jim, Brian, Jason, Jason, Jake, Kyle, Allen, Kurt, Matt, Nick, Ben, and John. And thanks to Cadre Jason for making this experience the real deal.

I got what I thought I would get out of this- two killer blisters on my heels, a goose egg on my shin, and an open wound on my back from where bricks scraped.

But more importantly, I got a boost to my self esteem, a new found appreciation for members of our armed forces, and different perspective on the term "Good Livin'."  GORUCK boasts that they build better Americans.  I agree 100% with that.

Photos Courtesy of Cadre Jason


Friday, February 21, 2014

Food Friday: Kale

Food Friday is my weekly homage to my favorite thing on Earth- FOOD!  I haven't always felt this way.  I used to view food as the enemy.  But no longer!  I love food- it helps me meet my performance goals, nourishes my body, and most importantly keeps me healthy so I can make a difference in this crazy world.  So every Friday I will be posting about one of my favorite foods.  It may be a plant or animal, single ingredient or recipe, or whatever I feel like (hey- it's my blog afterall).
If there is a particular food you would like me to talk about, recommend it in the comments! 


Oh Kale, glorious Kale.

First of all, I feel like Kale is VERY polarizing.  I've seen Facebook commentary that it tastes like dirt.  According to Mitchell on Modern Family, "Kale is not ready to Anchor a meal."  And really, WWRST (What Would Ron Swanson Think).

For anyone who knows me, it's probably borderline shocking that my first Food Friday is about a vegetable.  But Kale is probably the one green that I legitimately love.

It's so versatile: you can eat it raw in a salad, cooked in a soup, sauteed in some (sourced) bacon fat with garlic, mixed in a hash, stuffed in some Pumpkins, or baked as a chip.  


And here is what Kale has to offer you:
  • Mega Rich is Vitamins A,D,E,K and C 
  • Chocked full of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory micronutrients  
  • Great source of Calcium (Anyone going dairy free will inevitably hear the phrase "But where will you get your calcium?"  You can tell them "KALE YO!")
  • Contains essential minerals like copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus  
  • Great source of Fiber (Again, if you're giving up whole grains see the Calcium comment above.)


Look for firm, deeply colored leaves.  I've only ever seen green Kale in my grocery store, but there are red and purple varieties as well.  And some more good news- Kale is cheap.  You can usually get one bunch of organic Kale for under $2.


Make sure you pull the leaves off the stems.  The stems can be really chewy but they are great for compost!  And as with any other veggie, rinse well before eating!


I think a lot of people in the health an wellness field would recommend eating Kale raw, but I have to disagree with that.  Cooking Kale will cause it to lose some of the nutrients, but if you do not have a full functioning digestive system (most people do not) digesting any raw plant can be difficult.  

I think you get the biggest bang for your buck using Kale in a soup.  Below is my very favorite Kale recipe where the Kale is cooked in the soup.  The soup will retain most of the good stuff lost in the heating process.  


Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup with Kale

This is my FAVORITE recipe with Kale.  If you're a fan of the Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden, this is pretty darn close!

*I saved the following as a picture.  You should be able to right click and "save as" to your personal recipe folder OR print directly from the picture.*

How do you feel about Kale?  Love it or hate it?  If you love it, what is your favorite way to eat it?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Open For Business

I was making perfectly beautiful breaded pork chops the other day and I was suddenly overwhelmed with memories of my Grandfather.

My Grandpa Suma...  Sigh.  He was one of the kindest people in the world, the type of person that would do anything for anyone.  He always had a smile on his face, even after raising 5 daughters.  His grandkids loved him.  His granddogs adored him. And he loved him some breaded pork chops (so much so that he would gnaw on the bones until all the gristle was gone and the bones were clean).

But I was overwhelmed because it was a painful reminder that he was taken from us earlier than he should have been.  Grandpa passed from complications from diabetes at 80 years old.  Now that may seem like a full and long life and you're probably right But what frustrates me is that he passed from a completely preventable and manageable illness.

Diet sodas, chemical sweeteners, low fat, hydrogenated inflammatory seed oils, and overly processed "food" were the recommendations of his doctors.

This is not uncommon- at the end of a long, twisted tale of food politics and money lie the health of millions of Americans:
  • Fat makes you fat
  • Meat will give you Heart Disease
  • Zero calories sweeteners are healthy
  • Eat Margarine instead of Butter
  • Lettuce might have Salmonella, so have a multivitamin instead
  • Calorie restriction is the best way to lose weight and be healthy
  • The American dream can only be achieved by working harder and longer hours than everyone else
Point of Clarification: This is not a "let's bash doctors" thing.  This is a "let's fundamentally challenge conventional wisdom and educate everyone regardless of title" thing.

I'm going to be quite honest friends.

This. Makes. Me. Furious.

Ok, deep breath.  1... 2... 3...

Here's what I'm going to do:

I'm going to do everything in my power to reverse this trend.  Welcome to Ignite. Nourish. Thrive. Health Coaching.  That's right friends, I'm live.  I'm taking my passion for using whole, real foods to fuel an optimal life and putting those eggs in one basket (pun intended).

What does this look like?  It looks like personally coaching people where they are, coming along side them, setting goals, and helping them understand how to make and implement long term health and lifestyle decisions based on eating whole, minimally processed, real foods that we as humans were designed to eat.

Goals may look different for each person.  It may look like fat loss, managing a chronic illness, or putting up a PR in the gym.

Honestly- the end goal is merely directional.  I believe real food helps us be the people we were meant to be.

I will be taking one-on-one or group clients effective immediately, virtual or in person.  If you are interested in working with me, please head to my website and fill out my contact form (also, find me on Facebook and Twitter @Optimize_Life).  And not to sound gimmicky, but hurry up because space will be extremely limited.

I will continue to blog (hopefully with more frequency) and be accessible.  But when it comes down to it, I want to work closely with people who are ready to commit and make changes.  And our world will  not be changed until people are educated and have personally experienced busting these myths themselves.  So if you're ready, or know someone who is....

Come On In, We're Open.