Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday Pageants, Parties & Pancakes

HOW is it December 18th already? I feel like it was just Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t wait to get going all things Christmas and now it’s just a week away. Holy cow. I mean, remember when you were a kid and Christmas took FOREVER to get here? Now, it just flies by too fast. Anyway, we enjoyed quite the holiday-filled weekend. Here’s a little recap!


On Friday night, Mal and I had the pleasure of attending Quinn’s school’s rendition of the “Night Before Christmas.” He had such a blast signing and dancing with the other kids on stage.

He was a reindeer and the cutest one ever.

Post-pageant, I enjoyed quite the tasty Caulipower Margarita Pizza. Really, this is the best cauliflower pizza crust I’ve ever tried. Ok, well, their Three Cheese is the best flavor I’ve tried, but all of them are really good! Even Mal and Quinn will eat them.


Mal had “Saturday School” on Saturday morning, so it was just Quinn and me flying solo, but I lovvvvvee our Quinn and Mumma days so much. We started with CrossFit. I did a really tough partner workout while he played with friends.

Then, we took a quick stop at Coffee Shack for iced coffee and a donut.


Then, we made another stop at Trader Joe’s because we had nooooo food.

Finally, we went to soccer practice!

Later that night, Mal and I met up with a bunch of friends for dinner and drinks at Scarlet Oak Tavern – one of my favorite restaurants! 🙂

After dinner, we met up with the CrossFit crew at The Range (another favorite) for the Salt Shack holiday party. Good times!


Sunday morning kicked off with pancakes made by “Catboy.”

The rest of the day involved errands, meal prep, and playing around the house.

It was quite the nice weekend!

Questions of the Day

How was your weekend?

Are you ready for Christmas or is it coming too soon? 

Do you like cauliflower pizza crust? 

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Dear Mark: Carbs and Serum Saturated Fat, Fat and Polyphenols, and Avocado Oil for Searing

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. All three questions come from last week’s saturated fat post. First, I explore the true reason for increases in serum palmitic acid—too many carbs. Second, I investigate whether dairy or saturated fat affect polyphenol absorption, and whether it actually matters. And finally, I discuss the merits of avocado oil for high heat cooking and searing.

Let’s go:

You didn’t mention that the level of palmitic acid in serum is controlled by dietary carbohydrate – this has been known since 1955 if not earlier, and more recently demonstrated in humans by Jeff Volek’s team.

Thanks, George. Great post, by the way. Love your stuff.

I did mention that “the only time we get a huge influx of pure palmitic acid is when we eat too many carbohydrates and our liver converts the excess into palmitic acid.” That’s de novo lipogenesis, the creation of (saturated) fat from glucose. It occurs in people with overstocked liver glycogen who eat too many calories and carbs and don’t move enough. There’s nowhere for the glucose to go, since glycogen stores are full. Conversion into palmitic acid, a relatively stable energy source with unlimited storage capacity, is the only other option.

Indeed, as shown in your link, diets high in fat and low in carbs tend to either reduce or maintain saturated fat levels in the serum.  They definitely don’t increase it, which is the opposite of what most people would think. Eat saturated fat and it shows up in your blood. Right? Not necessarily. Jeff Volek’s team showed that as dietary carbohydrate increases, so do saturated fatty acids in the blood.

Dr. Barry Sears, PhD, who authored the Zone and has a background with MIT, etc., has stated since his first book that Saturated Fatty Acids are inflammatory. He recently stated on his website, “Saturated fats are pro-inflammatory compounds and will antagonize the benefits of the polyphenols.” ( September 2017) So, what is the bottom line from science?

I tracked that statement down to a message on Sears’ Twitter account where he links to an article on Well and Good about optimizing your coffee. It’s a decent article, with helpful tips on choosing the best beans and roasts for polyphenol maximization. The last tip is to add healthy fats but limit dairy, as “cream and milk actually lower the amount of polyphenols.”

Is that true? Does dairy (or saturated fat) lower polyphenol absorption?

A polyphenol-rich carob drink in a “milk matrix” was effective at lowering inflammation and improving bowel function and lipids. The milk might have blocked  some of the polyphenols—there was no dairy-free control group to compare—but even if that was true, enough obviously got through to elicit beneficial effects.

Another study compared olive polyphenol-enhanced yogurt to plain yogurt. Both yogurts helped subjects lose weight, reduce weight circumference, and lower blood pressure, but subjects who ate the polyphenol-enhanced yogurt had lower LDL and higher antioxidant levels. Clearly, the polyphenols were making it through.

Another study found that in a simulated gastric environment—artificial stomach—cheese was an excellent vehicle for green tea polyphenols, protecting their viability and biological activity.

There have been studies where the presence of dairy seems to inhibit the absorption of polyphenols, but that was due to the proteins, not the fat.

Cocoa polyphenols work just fine in the presence of milk protein, lowering oxidized LDL and increasing HDL.

Maybe it does. None of these were perfectly controlled environments. Perhaps polyphenols work well with saturated dairy fat, but they’d work even better without it. We just don’t know.

We must also remember that polyphenols don’t have to be absorbed to help us. They’re also very effective in the gut, killing pathogens and serving as prebiotic fuel for our gut bacteria. If we aren’t absorbing them, they spend more time in the gut where the magic happens.

I’m still drinking coffee with cream though. If you like it, so should you.

Hi Mark,

With respect to smoke point, is it safe to pan sear a steak using avocado oil?

Avocado oil has one of the highest smoke points. It’s a great combination of stable fats, mostly monounsaturated, and natural antioxidants like vitamin E and other polyphenols that combine to present a united front against heat damage and oxidation and make avocado oil a great choice for searing steaks.

Compared to olive oil, which is no slouch in the heat tolerance department, avocado oil matches up well. “The stability of avocado oil was similar to that of olive oil.”

Adding avocado oil (and olive oil) to pork burger patties increased the oxidative stability of the burgers when cooked.

Avocado oil offers extra protection against oxidative damage by improving your glutathione status, at least if you’re a rat.

As you might have guessed, I didn’t just start selling the stuff for the hell of it. Olive oil is great, but there are dozens of great products already established and it doesn’t taste very good in mayo. The weight of the evidence convinced me it was the oil to use in my products. ]

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and be sure to chime in below with your own thoughts, questions, comments and concerns.


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Weekend Getaway + Santa’s Twin

We had a wonderful weekend-before-Christmas! Merry, merry time.

On Friday night we went out to Thomas’s parents’ house for his dad’s birthday dinner. Love a roaring fire!

We had apps, wine and stir fry for dinner, all made by Thomas’s aunt!

We had Paradox Pastry cheesecake for dessert! It was huge, and we were sent home with a few large slices of leftovers – yum!

Friday night cozy:

Saturday jammie time!

Saturday morning T made us jalapeno omelets! He’s done this two or three times lately with chopped pickled jalapenos and cheese. The balance of spice and tart from the pickle is outstanding!

We walked Mazen down to Matt’s with Gus, and then packed up and headed out of town for the night.

Our first stop was T’s parents (again) to drop Gus off for the night. We stopped into Pippin Hill Farm for a glass of wine and a late lunch!

After a short wait, we lucked out with one of the hot spots on the porch with a view. Pippin Hill is the happenin’ place to be on a Saturday these days!

“A quick bite” turned into quite the decadent lunch spread! We had a kale caesar, a cheese plate…

And a Tzatziki + Burrata pizza! [omg]

Our next stop took us up north – but still in the area – to a hidden gem called the Cedar Spring Inn. A friend of mine recommended it, and we couldn’t have been happier with the accommodations. Sometimes you just need a night away from home minus the 5 hours of driving, amiright?

The inn is located up by our airport just a few miles off 29. The views are beautiful, and there is a lovely outdoor pool (that is heated April – October!) and a hot tub. It was a little too cold for swimming, but we did enjoy going in their SAUNA!! You guys know I love saunas <3

We went for a short hike around the property before getting in the sauna and then settling in for the night. Must go back when it’s warm!!

The inn has five rooms, and the decor is lovely. It was built in 2003, so everything is well appointed. We were in a newer wing in the World View room. We had a balcony, gas fireplace, and big jetted bathtub. The room was very spacious too.

Our view:

We hunkered down for the night and enjoyed some wine from the complimentary service over a game of Chickapig. I am mad at Thomas for beating me about 7 times in a row. I just can’t seem to break through!

Since we had such a big, late lunch, we just picked up a few snacks for dinner. We didn’t feel like going out, and there aren’t many nice restaurants nearby. We had sushi and crab dip from Fresh Market. Dinner of champions!

We found an old DVD – Sleeping With The Enemy starring a very young Julia Roberts – in the video library and enjoyed that with leftover cheesecake in bed! #perfection

Our stay included breakfast the next morning, and innkeepers Judy and Charles were wonderful hosts.

Poached pear with raspberry coulis:

This strawberry pecan bread was amazing! I could have eaten the crispy edges all day!

We had a choice of entrees (which they made from scratch in the kitchen behind us!) and T and I both tried the Goat Cheese, Spinach + Red Pepper Baked Eggs. They were SO good that I got the recipe from Judy to try to recreate soon. The goat cheese on top was perfection! Served with smoked salmon and sourdough toast.

I can’t say enough good things about this great getaway. If you’re in Virginia or DC and looking for a casual escape, this is your spot!

We hit up Whole Foods on the ride home (I loved that our drive home was only 20 minutes!). I went to the gym for a bit, play fort with Mazen, and assembled a lemon + artichoke version of my favorite Chicken and Bean Bake for dinner.

We went to ACAC Sunday evening for their annual Holiday Light Tour. This is all free for family members, and they had cookie decorating, crafts, a hot chocolate bar, and of course Santa. Mazen said it was “Santa’s twin” because we had seen a different one a week ago!

We went on a 30 minute bus ride around town to see some of the homes decorated with lights. It was a blast! (Check my Instastories this morning for a snippet of Thomas singing carols!)

Hope you guys had a great weekend. The countdown to Christmas begins!

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