Avocado…the Fattest Fruit of All

A recent conversation prompted me to write about one of the best, nutrient dense and fattest fruits of all- Avocado. With 31 grams of fat per medium avocado, they are an exception among the fruit family. How can this be good for me, you ask? That is exactly what prompted me to write this post.

I felt in love with avocados many years ago when I came to live in America. In Poland avocados back then were almost unknown, now they are in every major supermarket.

The taste of a ripe avocado is a fiesta for your taste buds. Like nothing you had before, incomparable deliciousness.

Avocados are a “superfood” that EVERYONE should include in their diet. Most people do not realize the benefits of them nor have any idea how to eat them. Some also got brainwashed thinking that fat is your enemy, so they exclude avocados on purpose, „to maintain healthy weight”. I can not even begin to tell you how many times someone said” You eat avocados on a daily basis?!!?What about all the fat content?!?!!?”

Well, there needs to be a better education in regards to nutrition because an average person does not realize, that we actually need fat to absorb all the necessary nutrients and vitamins such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein. Without fat our body and all the processes are out of balance! And let me assure you, most people actually are seriously deficient in healthful fats. Avocados are a prime example of an excellent source of healthy, raw fat and provide many essential health-boosting nutrients including fiber, potassium , vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid.

Please do not worry about your weight, you are not going to gain any eating avocados. They in fact are proven to help loose weight especially in the abdomen area.

Here in Mexico they are a staple. They have been eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner for ages and people never had problems with obesity and diabetes, until soda and junk food were promoted.

My family have been eating them for many years now and „unfortunately” we are all addicted:-) Both my children have been eating avocados since they were 7 months old, in fact it was their first solid food shortly followed by banana. We eat it as guacamole, cubed in a soup, spread on bread with sardines, in a salad, mixed in a smoothie or simply by a spoonful with a squeeze of lime juice.

Avocados tend to be expensive so as a tip I can tell you that you do not need to buy it organic. Their thick skin protects them from pesticide buildup, you only eat the meat anyways. In Mexico the vendors always ask „Para hoy o para manana”, which means „for today or for tomorrow”. The difference is the ripeness of the fruit. „Para hoy” means that it is very soft to the touch and needs to be used as quickly as possible. Avocado „Para manana”is firm and can be used within few days. They ripen very well in room temperature so be sure to leave them out of the fridge.

Within the next few days I will be posting recipes using avocados ranging from deserts to drinks so please be sure to check them out………often:-)

Chocolate and Nut Trufles

A recent visit at a local natural foods store prompted me to develop this recipe. They had samples of their dark chocolate trufles that basicly tasted like haven. Yes, delicious and healthy at the same time made my brain produce endorfines and let me feel overwelmingly happy. We all know that feeling , right? That is why we keep eating chocolate untill the last square:-)

They are not only easy to make but also nutrient dense so you do not have to feel guilty when you eat them. The reason for making nuts the main ingredient is that my son is not a big protein eater so I need to smuggle them in whenever I can.

  • 1 cup of almondes
  • 1 cup of pecans
  • 2 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (melted)
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinamon
  • 3 tablespoons of raw cacao
  • Shreded coconut

Put first five ingredients and half of the cacao into the food processor and let combine well untill it forms a sticky paste. Roll into small ball and dust with cocoa or coconut. If you like things sweet just add more honey. Keep them in the fridge or even freezer like I do. They just taste better when chilled and thaw within minutes. Delicioso!!!!Enjoy.

 

The Atrocities of Mexican Cuisine

With this article I am probably going to gross everyone out and I will have to forget all the kisses and hugs that I used to get from people.

Many times, I’ve said that I will try everything once. This also pertains to food. Mexico, with its varied cuisine has really a lot to offer. There are still parts of the country, where nothing is wasted: skin, brains, organs… they eat it all with salsa and a great big smile on their faces… 🙂

I have eaten organ meats before, I am used to it… not a big deal. Livers, harts, lungs, kidneys, tongues were on my menu since I was a kid. I will not lie, if I say that I actually love it! Every time I go back to Poland, my main dish request to my mom is turkey heart goulash. What can I say, my mom is the best cook in the world and I am going to take her heart goulash over a 5 star restaurant meal any time. Delicious!!!

So here they are, the most unusuall foods that I have never eaten before I came here…to Mexico:

Chicharon

I love saying that word, It makes me smile every time. It simply is pigs skin fried to perfection, so that it becomes a very krisp chip. They eat it with salsa or guacamole and it is delicious. We had it the first week in Mexico, everyone loved it but when the kids found out what it was, they stoped eating it 🙂 Especially Nadia…

Medula Soup

One of the best things I ate in my entire life. This soup is a tradition in some parts of this country. Medula means bone marrow, so it simply is a bone marrow soup. They use the leg bones to make it because it has a lot of marrow. You can buy them at every butcher, add some veggies, tomatoes and simmer on a low flame. It is haven in your mouth.

Tacos de Sesos

Tacos de Sesos
Tacos de Sesos

That is not my favourite but I tried it only once so maybe it was just poory prepared. These tacos are filled with pigs brain and fried afterwards. None of my family mambers was brave enough to try…I wonder why? Anyway, I will have to give it another try.

Mole de Pollo

Mole in Mexico is like a burger in the USA, pizza in Italy and croissant in France. I can not even begin to tell you how great it tastes. There are so many types because the ingredients list is long, that it would probably take me a lifetime to try them all. It is a meticoulous mix of dried chili (poblanos, ancho, passija), spices (corriander, anise, sesame seeds, cinamon etc), dried fruits (raisins) and of course the queen Chocolate. The perfect combination. Then you put in shreded chicken and voila… Fiesta is ready!!! It is also very versatile, because you can eat it with tortillas, rice, potatoes or just by itself. 🙂

Tacos de Tripitas

This dish has taken us by a complete surprise. One sunny afternoon me and the kids went to a pool party where these delicious tacos were served. We ate everything with great appetite to later find out that the tacos were filled with tripe. I guess the guts of a pig, cow, sheep, or goats taste pretty good when fried and served with salsa. 🙂

Paletas de Frutas con Chile

Ice Cream with Chili Powder
Alex working on his ice cream with chili powder

Let me tell you that it was quite overwhelming at first to find out that the Mexicans eat everything with chili and lime juice… even deserts. Yes, and as crazy as it sounds, it tastes awesome! There are many palleterias around town, where you can buy frozen bars on a stick made entirely of pure fruit and natural juice sprinkled generously with chili. My favorite is mango and apples. It never even crossed my mind to spice up my fruit before but it is genius! Robert and Nadia are on the fence but me and Alex are sold. My son even asked me to buy him chili powder, so that he can put it on all his food. Now I am just waiting to see if he puts it on cakes too… 🙂 Our Mexican friends call his “Niño Mexicano con pelos blancos” (i.e. Mexican boy with blond hair).

The Mexican cuisine continues to surprise me every day. It is so rich and delicious, that I recently told someone curious, that I do not miss Polish food at all. It spoils me with its flavors, versatility, ingredients that are fresh and unusual. If you still did not get it reading between the lines, I am in love with Mexican cuisine!!! But the best thing above all is that in this country, the poor men’s diet still consists of fresh, unprocessed, hand made from scratch, traditional foods.

Buen provecho everyone, I hope I did not spoil your apetite!!!

Communism is Good… for Your Eyes

Recently, a friend of mine asked to share my opinion on the subject of LASIK surgery. He was the one who convinced me to do it, now he’s persuading yet another friend to follow path. Instead of responding directly, I though I would share my experiences in this blog, hoping that it might be of help and interest also to other people. I had my surgery done couple of years ago. That’s recent enough to remember most of it’s details and far enough to be able to judge it’s outcome. Since everyone’s situation is different, I think it’s worth explaining my particular case.

I wasn’t Always Blind as a Bat.

In fact, for the first twenty years of my life I enjoyed a very good eyesight. Actually so excellent,  I frequently hit the bulls eye at our school’s shooting range. Yes, you read it right. Our high school, just as about any other in Poland under the communist regime, had a shooting range and all students were trained to handle a sports rifle. For no particular reason, of course…

Growing up in the 80’s, I didn’t have many opportunities to screw up my vision. Neither had my friends. With just one or two public TV channels,  transmitting mostly yet another communist party congress or some agricultural training materials, we didn’t have many incentives to stay in front of the tube. Reading was a decent alternative, but since the books available in bookstores and libraries were carefully selected by the almighty censors, there were only so many exciting titles worth reading by flashlight under bed covers. Therefore, for lack of better alternatives…

We Played Outside.

There weren’t that many cars around, so we turned almost every parking lot into football (soccer) fields. At the time, most residential areas had carpet beaters (not sure if that’s the right word for “trzepak”), which made excellent goals. Since playgrounds were rare, they also doubled as jungle gyms and regular hang-out spots for the youth in our neighborhood. Since all the media were equally not trustworthy, our parents weren’t that scared of the world and let us play outside all days long. Completely unsupervised. Or at least so we thought… Playing ball, riding bikes and running around, the streets were full of kids and always busy. Even though the steel plants in our city were polluting at intense rate, we still got plenty of vitamin “D”, growing up reasonably healthy and ignorantly happy.

Then Came the Changes.

In the mid 80’s, the first TV gaming systems started popping-up. Remember the two lines on each side of the screen and a dot traveling across? The “tennis” games didn’t really take off, but some of our more fortunate friends, with relatives in West Germany got their first ZX Spectrum and Atari 800XL computers. Bootleggers stared making fortunes, the streets deserted, Russian “color” (predominantly red) TVs found their purpose and we were all staring at their bleak displays for hours.

My first computer was a Commodore C16, with a whooping 16kb RAM and a very limited supply of games. It’s ROM based operating system had a build in interpreter of of the powerful programming language called… Basic.

This is When I Became a Geek.

Since I heaven’t had too many games, I spent hours developing simple code to draw circles or other figures on the tiny screen of a  Russian black and white TV set. Within a year or so, the C16 got replaced with a C64 and the small black&white TV got replaced with a small color TV. Then came another upgrade, then another. By the end of the 80’s I was the happiest owner of an Amiga computer attached to… a small color TV set.

It wasn’t until mid 90’s that I got my first proper monitor. And even that was a small, 14 inch CRT. At that time, I also started noticing that my eyesight is becoming weaker and weaker. At some point I had to admit that…

I Became a Road Hazard.

Not seeing clearly, I started to have difficulties. It didn’t matter in most daily life situations, but being young and reckless I liked to drive rather dynamically. Not seeing clearly the road in front of me started to be scary. Especially for my passengers. In 1998 it was time to finally admit that my “geekiness” ruined my vision. It was time to…

Put on the Eye Glasses

My shortsightedness has been confirmed with a -1.5 dioptres prescription. Suddenly, with a pair of thin rim glasses my emanated IQ increased by some 20%, but my life quality decreased by significantly more.

It took a lot of time, until I learned how to handle such delicate instruments. The glasses were always scratched and dirty, the rims crooked, the case misplaced, etc… Frankly, I’m not sure, I ever got used to them. The aesthetics weren’t really the biggest problem. Not being a sports freak, but averagely active young person nonetheless, I mostly suffered from…

Significantly Limited Range of Activities

Wearing corrective eye glasses, it’s difficult to play sports, swim or even run. In the winters, I remember walking into bars or on a hot summer day leaving air conditioned building  and completely loosing vision for few minutes, waiting for the glasses to de-fog. Many times I felt asleep with my glasses on, only to wake up to a knocked out eyepiece and mangled up rims. I could only ride my motorcycle in a full face helmet or using special, prescription goggles. Not to mention that…

Eyeglasses Costed a Fortune

Until I found the websites that sell decent quality Designer Eyeware for Less!, I used to spend several hundred dollars every year. My eyesight was worsening, so I needed upgrades. I mishandled my glasses, so I needed repairs. I kept loosing those damn things and I needed replacements. As much as the eye glasses were uncomfortable…

I Never Got to Use Corrective Lenses

Somehow, the idea of putting foreign objects into my eyes, didn’t feel very appealing. Plus, the cost of prescription lenses also seemed prohibitive. Yes, I’m cheap- just ask my wife…

Finally, few years ago, I heard about LASIK, commonly known as laser eye surgery. It is a procedure that aims to reshape corneas to sharpen vision. I won’t go over the details of the surgery, for I’m really not qualified to do so. Let me just say that it took me few years before I decided to get my eyes resharpened. As most people, I was mostly concerned with the…

Risks of LASIK eye surgery

Not that I heard about many problems, but the sole idea of aiming a laser beam at one of  your most precious organs and burning a hole in it, wasn’t that attractive. Only after I spoke to a few friends of mine, who had the procedure done, I started contemplating it for real. It was November 2009 and instead of eating fat turkey celebrating Thanksgiving, we took off for couple of weeks in Jamaica. I spent the time educating myself about the risks and benefits of LASIK surgery and upon return to the US, I finally contacted the suggested eye clinic in Rochester. I won’t mention it’s name, as I believe there is already enough ads on this blog. If you’re interested, please contact me, and I’ll send the contact info.

Laser Eye Surgery Financing

The initial examination took place early in December 2009. If it wasn’t for the doctor’s  busy schedule, I think, I would have been done within 4 or 6 weeks. It’s the time needed to prepare eyes using all kinds of eye drops for the LASIK surgery. Instead, I had to wait until later part of January of 2010. That gave me bit of time to work out the finances.

Even though the prices of LASIK eye surgeries dropped significantly in the last 10 years, I think they are still quite expensive. Especially when you see what’s involved. I decided to do the surgery in the US, but some of my colleagues at work took trips to Canada where the same procedure was just half the price. I know, you can also do it in south of the border, but many people won’t even consider to travel to Mexico. Even if that exact same LASIK procedure is considerably cheaper there.

In the US, the insurance won’t cover the eye surgery. Most doctor’s offices will however offer some kind of financing. Couple that with your medical FSA and you can work a pretty sweet deal for you. If you schedule the LASIK procedure at the beginning of the year, your FSA give you a de-facto 12 month, interest free financing.

Oh, an one more thing. If you plan on parting your ways with your current employer, do it in January and you will get a free LASIK surgery! How to do it? Declare appropriate FSA contributions the previous year, use FSA to pay for the surgery and quit your job right after the laser eye procedure. Most employers will have to cover the difference… Obviously that’s one of the things they don’t wont you to know. Not to mention, that it’s only suitable for people with more relaxed moral values…

The LASIK procedure

The laser eye surgery is actually a very short one. In my case it only took 45 minutes, of which 30 were waiting and preparation (i.e. tons of eye drops and Valium to keep you steady). Each eye takes about 5 minutes of gluing, adjusting and reinforcing and only about 10 seconds of actual eye surgery. It may sound a bit scary, and it feels a bit weird, but in fact there is nothing to worry about. If the tests are positive and you’re a suitable candidate for LASIK surgery, a very detailed computer model of your eyes will be developed through a series of examinations. That program will guide the laser beam to open the flap in your outer cornea and reshape it’s inner surface according to the model, then to close it back. I’m over simplifying and not being very exact here, but if you’re interested in the details, you can always investigate the subject for yourself.

In my case, it took longer to drive to and back from the clinic, then the LASIK laser eye procedure itself. Obviously I couldn’t drive back myself, so be sure to have a drive at hand to take you home. I got a pair of nice goggles to wear for the next 24 hours and a nice t-shirt with a teasing “Guess what I’m not wearing?” in front and the clinics logo on the back. Pretty damn steep for the $2,600 I paid…

I spent the next few hours in bed, stuffed with yet another dose of Valium. Obviously I didn’t complain – good night (or even afternoon) sleep is always welcome. The next morning I was back to work, except… no glasses!

Feedback After the Laser Eye Surgery

My vision improved almost immediately. Already leaving the clinic, I knew the procedure was successful. Even though blurry and foggy at first, I could already see objects that were off limits before. Within the first 12 hours after surgery, my vision was completely restored. The only side effect, which continued for several weeks was an extreme dryness of my eyes, forcing me to apply eye drops every couple of hours during the day. After few weeks even that went away and I could enjoy a perfect 20/15 vision ever since.

The Official Patient's Sourcebook on LASIK SurgeryIn fact, I wish, I educated myself and decided on the procedure much earlier. The results are amazing. My eye sight has not deteriorated after the surgery. What’s most important though, I can now enjoy all the activities that were previously either off limits or too complicated to perform with eye glasses.

I hope this personal account of a healed patient will be of value to anyone who considers a LASIK surgery. The results are definitely worth the effort. Obviously this post does not cover even a small fraction of the information required by anyone who’s serious about taking this step. Recently, I stumbled upon a book titled The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on LASIK Surgery, which promises the following:

This book has been created for patients who have decided to make education and research an integral part of the treatment process. Although it also gives information useful to doctors, caregivers and other health professionals, it tells patients where and how to look for information covering virtually all topics related to lasik surgery (also Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis; LASIK eye surgery), from the essentials to the most advanced areas of research. The title of this book includes the word official. This reflects the fact that the sourcebook draws from public, academic, government, and peer-reviewed research. Selected readings from various agencies are reproduced to give you some of the latest official information available to date on lasik surgery. Given patients’ increasing sophistication in using the Internet, abundant references to reliable Internet-based resources are provided throughout this sourcebook. Where possible, guidance is provided on how to obtain free-of-charge, primary research results as well as more detailed information via the Internet. E-book and electronic versions of this sourcebook are fully interactive with each of the Internet sites mentioned (clicking on a hyperlink automatically opens your browser to the site indicated). Hard-copy users of this sourcebook can type cited Web addresses directly into their browsers to obtain access to the corresponding sites. In addition to extensive references accessible via the Internet, chapters include glossaries of technical or uncommon terms.

Even though it might seem a little off topic, without my eyes being fixed, the whole Sabbatical road trip would be much less enjoyable and life more complicated. By the way, here’s a link to a blog post about the LASIK eye surgery I wrote the day after the procedure. It’s a fresh, first hand relation,  but it’s only in Polish… Sorry!

Coffee Grounds Body Scrub

What can you do with used coffee grounds besides using them in your garden as a fertilizer? You can also use it as a scrub for your body. Here is what you need:

  • used coffee grounds
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil or coconut oil
  • a bowl

Combine all the ingredients and massage your body under the shower after you washed yourself with soap. Finish your shower with cold water. This will additionally tighten your skin leaving it smooth and plump. Then dry your skin with a towel and moisturize. Repeat every week and you will notice the results very quickly. It is a bit messy but well worth it. It is also very cheap, in fact it is free. Caffeine is widely used in cosmetology due to its positive effects on skin. Coffee grounds scrub has been used for ages in Indonesia then introduced in western countries where you have to pay big bucks for it at SPA’s.

I have been doing it for years back at home but now on the road it came in even more handy since the space in our van is very limited:-)

The Benefits of Oregano Oil

I have already mentioned oregano oil in previous post but my recent experience prompted me to dedicate it a separate one.

I recently advised my friend to take some oregano oil for her cold. She was really upset because her and her husband were coming down with a cold, while in the process of scheduling a surgary for their son. Difficult situation since if they got him sick, the surgery would have to be called off …again. She took my advice and bought probably a year worth of supply:-) They took it religiously and got better pretty quickly.

Oregano oil is very powerful natural antibiotic that can be used internally and externally. The best thing about is that it is natural and you can not develop immunity to it. It has to be diluted because it is very strong!!!!! I use a teaspoon of olive oil and two drops of oregano oil for me and only one drop for my kids. Make sure you have a piece of fruit ready to eat right after you drink the oils because the taste is nasty and very strong.

So try it! It might be worth it!

Stay Healthy on the Road

Since we’ve made the decision to wander around the world for a while, my biggest concern has been our health and well being. How were we going to deal with sickness on the road? Where were we going to find a good doctor in a new place? What if we had an emergency… Where are we to go? All these questions were spinning through my head until I got dizzy.

There was not much left to do, but to get ready. I got on my favorite websites, visited my naturopath, doctor Evelyn Asher and realized that prevention is the best way to go. I knew that most common diseases start in your gut, so healthy intestines are key in fighting off all kinds of bacteria and viruses. Evelyn assured me that maintaining a healthy, whole, real, made from scratch foods diet was crucial.

At home, it was easy to get all the unprocessed, raw, locally grown, mostly organic foods. But on the road, it was a whole new ball game. Many times we walked out of a store with empty hands, because everything was processed, chemically altered, genetically modified and out of a box. However, thanks to Robert’s love of back roads, we were able to find products at small food stands in the country. It was mostly produce, but also locally grown meats, honey, and raw dairy products.

Along the way, we have been on a constant lookout for “edible” foods, feeling like modern day hunters in the overly processed and plastic world. When we found a good store, I would buy more to keep us going for the next day or so, but not more, since all we had was a portable cooler.

In addition, all of us went on probiotics and fish oil supplements. Not just any. There are a lot of expensive and worthless products, but there are a few good and inexpensive ones too (we use Primal Defense and Nordic Naturals). I put it in smoothies for my children and they never know the difference.

We also packed some essential oils, like oregano and eucalyptus. The first one is a natural antibiotic that you can not develop resistance to, and the second is a great natural and DEET free bug repellent.

You may say, that it is expensive, too much hustle, time consuming… Yes, it is all of those things, but the rewards are tangible. If it was not for the ticks that bit Nadia or a recent 2 day fever for Alex, my kids would have made a year without any kind of health issue. How is that for a saving on copay’s at the doctors offices! Yes a year… That is a great result for a travelling child, sleeping in different places, eating new foods, being exposed to all kinds of germs and regularly going to school in Mexico.

Writing this post, I have probably jinks-ted myself and now we are all going to get sick, 😉 but here it is, I’ve said it. To me it is worth every penny and every minute, it is my long term commitment to let food be my medicine so cheers and let’s raise our glasses… Mine is filled with jugo verde! 🙂

Fitness on the go, how I stay in shape while travelling.

Most of my adult life life I have been working out on my own. I say most, because I divide my life into two eras: „before kids” and „after kids”. „Before kids”, I am not even sure if I was an adult… maybe just on paper :-).

Anyway, belonging to a gym or taking regular classes are pretty darn tough when you have a family. Who has time for that, right!!!! Time gets a totally different meaning, you wonder how much more can you do with 5 minutes and sleeping for prescribed 8 hours is not an option anymore.

I could not get through all that if I did not excercise, I swear. Fitness to me is means of producing energy. Without it I would be sleepy, lethargic, tired and I would certainly not be able to keep up with my kids, who are NEVER EVER tired.

I was wondering, how I was going to fit it into my schedule while driving for few hours every other day, sleeping in tents and not being able to take any props with me (except for my bicycle and strech band).

Well, when you want something you can become pretty creative. Here is what I did before we got to San Miguel. I woke up an hour before the rest of the crew and went for a run or rode my bike. It was a great experience because we stayed mostely in National Parks, so I got to enjoy the beautiful sceneries and nature. My favourite was Hunting Island beach, the hard sand was perfect for both, running and cycling and the view of the endless ocean was very calming for my mind. Cardio is great but strengh is also escential. I created something that I call playground fitness. I would take my kids to the playground and instead of sitting on a bench just watching them play I would workout… not for long maybe 20 minutes. I started with jogging 5 times around the playground, then I would alternate between pullups on the mankey bars, pushups and tricept dips on a bench. I did few rounds and I was done for the day. The most challenging where pullups, but I started with one and gradually was able to do more. Old school excercises, but they make wonders for your body, mind and the strengh that you gain is unbelivable.

Now in San Miguel de Allende (SMA), I have much more freedom. Since we stay in one place and in a APPARTMENT I got to be much more creative and change it up a little.

I still run in the mornings. I walk my kids to school and then jog back home. It is pretty challenging since most roads here are cobblestones but on the other hand balancing on it sculpts your ass in a way you never thought was possible 🙂 I also have my favorite P90X on my laptop, so I do it 2 or 3 times a week. You need weights for that, so I made my own from gallon water jugs. I also jump rope on the rooftop terrace of our house when I do laundry.

Since we have been staying here for a while, I was able to take some yoga classes, but I am still searching for the perfect one. Either the time, the teacher or the style does not work for me. Today I tried kundalini yoga and I am positive it is not the right fit… too calm for my personality and I do not own an animal fur rug that they used as a mats 🙂

It all would not be possible if I was working full time. I would have to limit my workouts or get up at 4:30 am like Jen H does:-) I am very grateful to be a SaHM (stay at home mom), even on the go, take care of myself and what is even more important set an example for my children.