Thursday, March 18, 2010

Adventure In Food

Finding a "good" place to eat is always an adventure for me. Just ask my friends, Nikki and Megan. I am passionate about the composition of my meals and about getting enough greens on my plate. I frown upon the neon signed fast food joints with their dollar menus. They are the nipple that feeds health problems. Even the chain restaurants mostly serve up far from nutritious foods. Our fast paced living has made it "conveniently" impossible to eat healthy without dishing out a lot of money for a clean meal. By "clean" I mean not processed. But this topic is for another blog.

If you want to eat clean better to simply make your meals at home and bring your lunch or dinner with you. But what if the temperatures reach 85 degrees and your homemade salad is wilting in the car. Well that can be a problem when you've been running errands all morning and by lunch time, hunger strikes. Usually, I am prepared for these situations with an apple and almonds. But yesterday, my body wanted something out of the ordinary.

I was exploring Riverside, where I work. A big town with lots of shopping centers and restaurants. After hours of window shopping and trying on running shoes, I wanted to eat. So, I drove down Tyler Street in search of something that would satisfy most of my adventurous cravings . There was no lack of places to eat. McDonald's, Jack In the Box, Wienerschnitzel, Del Taco and Ruby's nestled conveniently next to shops. "Uppier" chain restaurants like The Olive Garden, Cheese Cake Factory, P.F. Chang's enticed the hungry to flock to their doors.

I felt hopeless in finding an eatery that would make me feel good about myself. For a split second I considered The Olive Garden. They offer salad and soup, but I did not want that restaurant feel. And even though I had a paycheck now, I did not want to spend more than I had to. So, I kept driving, still hopeful of finding that something special. As the screaming signs of shops and fast-food joints dwindled to the open landscape, I saw that special place. A dinky little Mexican hole in the wall next to a massage parlor. I quickly took a left turn into the narrow parking area, avoiding some pot holes. As I stepped out of my truck and toward the Taqueria, I could smell something delicious cooking. I had a real good feeling about this place.

Inside the small Taqueria El Flaco, a family was huddled around a table eating their meal and speaking Spanish. There were no other customers. It was like I had stepped through a porthole into Mexico. A poster described in Spanish and English the foods offered. It even provided pictures. Another poster listed specials for each day of the week. Wednesday: Tortas $3.25. I approached the counter and a smiling, heavy set lady asked me what I would like to eat. I had never eaten a torta, and by looking at the picture I couldn't tell what was in it so I asked her to describe the ingredients for me.

In her Mexican accent she told me that it had refried beans, meat, avocado, lettuce, jalapeno, tomato, and mayo. This is a sandwich on a crusty white toasted bread, called a bolillo. Even though I was weary about eating bread, I liked the sound of the other ingredients so I thought I'd give this meal a try, after all this dish is popular throughout Mexico, and is also available anywhere with a large number of Mexican immigrants. I put down $3.25 and told her I'd like one Torta with chicken and no mayo. "Something to drink?" I drink water and completely avoid sodas. Just as I said, "no thanks", one of the young girls from the large family approached the counter pushing an empty foam cup toward the lady and said, "Hurchata". I watched her pour a light beige liquid into the cup and asked her what it was. Hurchata is a rice milk drink with cinnamon. It is served over ice. She told me that they make it from scratch and that other places sometimes use a powdered mix. Hmm? When in Mexico! I put down $1.65 for a foam cup of Hurchata. The first sip was heavenly. Such a delicate sweetness with a hint of cinnamon. I smiled as I slurped the goodness through a straw. I was really enjoying my food adventure.

When the Torta arrived, I knew I would not be able to eat the whole thing. It was a big sandwich cut in half with sauteed onions on the side. I tried picking up the sandwich but the bottom slice of bread was heavy with beans so i dug a fork into it. Delicious! A perfect marriage of spice and texture. All that was left of the Torta was an empty carcass of bread. I was satisfied and extremely happy with my experience at Taqueria El Flaco. I waved goodbye to the lady behind the counter and told her that I would be back again.

For less then $5, I had a deliciously satisfying meal brought to me in minutes, a home made traditional Mexican beverage, a friendly family atmosphere and a chance to travel to Mexico without leaving Riverside. You never know what goodness you will find if you only take a chance and travel that extra mile.

Taqueria El Flaco
4080 Tyler St.
Riverside, CA 92503

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Exercise 101

It is four weeks into my hip injury and I decided to step in front of the start line. I have a lot of work ahead of me to get back to the intensity that I used to work out with. Three months of CrossFit has made me into a powerful athlete, squatting 75 lbs, dead lifting 135, unassisted pull ups, boy push ups, running and rowing with great lung capacity, not to mention the beautiful sculpting of muscles under my skin, and that was only the beginning, until one day, I pushed myself a little too far during a "snatch" workout.

The first two weeks of my injury were very painful. I could not workout and every step I took pushed me further into weakness. Eventually, I sought help from Amanda, a medical masseuse, and she worked out a fistful of stubborn knots in my gluts and legs. After she loosened me up I was able to walk a few extra blocks around my neighborhood, but still with a pinching and nagging sensation in my right hip. To speed up recovery I upped my intake of fish oils (see note below), V-C, Calcium Magnesium, and Epsom salt baths.

I started loosing my hard earned muscle definition and lung capacity, not to mention my good spirit. I became grouchy and miserable. The fact that I had been unemployed for six months added to my misery. The "feel good" hormones generated through exercise were not readily available to me. My spirit and muscles needed help. After seeing Amanda, I was able to stretched and do basic yoga at home. I became determined to heal my hip and get myself back into the CrossFit box. Something good also was happening because Steve, my temp agency guy, called to give me a job assignment!

In my determination, I slapped on a few Lidocain medical patches, that my mother sent to me and I headed out the door for a hike in the hills. Up until that time I had not taken any pain medication but I was ready to try something that would help me "work through" the pain. And work through it I did! The patches dulled the pinching sensation in my hip even more and since the morning was sunny and beautiful and I had not been out in nature for quite some time, I decided to walk the hills of Hulda Crook for nearly two hours. The fresh air and the surrounding beauty of green and mountains were enough to anaesthetise the pain. Out there in the green hills and open blue sky, I felt alive again. Positively I thought, "It may take a few weeks more but I will get fully better and stronger again!"

"Some pain you can work though. Some pain, you just have to sit out and wait." After weeks of waiting, I have stepped over the start line and begun the long journey to regaining my strength, lung capacity and feel good hormones!

Note: Not all fish oils are created equal. Look for clinical grade 3500mg EPA:DHA, refined to remove mercury and heavy metals. If the label does not claim to have these things, you are simply wasting your money. Costco brand and grocery store store fish oils are not good choices because they don't give you the full benefits or a good fish oil. Fish oils aid in decreasing inflammation and healthy weight maintenance. I order from The company offers liquid fish oils in vanilla, chocolate, lemon, tangerine and mint. Personally, I love the vanilla, but dislike lemon and tangerine flavor.

PS. I believe that my hip injury was greatly due to not stretching enough after my workouts. And workout after workout, it caught up with me. What an interesting way for my body to give me this information. So don't let this happen to you! It is VITAL for recovery to stretch and take your fish oils!