A Sweet Summer Pick: Juice and Freeze!

Watermelon is a summertime favorite and is always welcome at any gathering, but finding the perfect one can be tricky. When shopping for a ripe and ready melon, some key features to consider are: color, weight, and shape. Typically, you want to reach for one that has a deep green color because the riper the melon, the darker the green will be. Examine it for a yellow or white spot–this is also known as the “ground spot,” which is the area that the melon used as its bum during growth. A yellow ground spot indicates that the melon is ready to be enjoyed, whereas a white spot indicates that it was picked prematurely, and no spot=no good. If you lift the melon, it should be heavy for its size, which is predictive of how juicy it will be; maybe the best way to tell is to compare it to another of similar size. Also try to avoid deformed watermelons because an odd shape could mean that it had inconsistent growth conditions, ultimately compromising its quality. As for drumming on the melon…if someone could describe this sound test in a comment below, I would be so very appreciative! I’ve never been able to draw a meaningful correlation between the potential of a watermelon and its musical thuds!

Once you’ve picked your perfect watermelon, you can serve it in three different forms at your next summer party!

Cubed
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Here I’ve cubed and served it in its pure form. So simple, and so good!

Juiced
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Then I took some chunks for juicing. Because watermelon is over 90% water, it is a wonderful fruit to juice. If you want to spike it for adult-only festivities, rum, vodka and gin are great options for concocting a gluten free cocktail.

Frozen: (Watermelon Granita pictured with a scoop of homemade Pinkberry)

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Take the remains from the juicing process and freeze it into a granita!

Boil a 1:1 mixture of water and sugar to make a ½ cup of simple syrup.
Combine your simple syrup with about 3 cups of watermelon remains.
Squeeze a ½ lemon or lime into the mixture.
Place your mixture in the freezer.
Fluff your mixture every hour to get the right granita consistency.

Optional: Add a small amount of Triple Sec or Grand Marnier to prevent overfreezing your granita!

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Music for Monday

I don’t always use background music when I work or study. But when I do, it’s usually instrumental so that I can still hear my own thoughts.  Hope these tunes help keep your spirits high as you reflect on your weekend and plan for a productive week!

1. Never Mess With Sunday Yppah

2. Intro The xx

3. Forest Gump (Feather Theme)

4. Life/Universe Detektivbrian

5. Struggle for Pleasure Wim Mertens

6. Primavera Ludovico Einaudi

7. For Mom Buckethead

8. Angry Birds London Philharmonic Orchestra

9. Sunshine Adagio in D Minor The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

10. Long Life (Instrumental Remix) Bonobo

11. Minor Swing Django Reinhardt

12. Eskimo Kiss Years of Rice and Salt

13. The Letter that Never Came Thomas Newman

14. The Creative Part Kate Simko

15. Happiness (Instrumental) The Foreign Exchange

Listen to Music for Monday on Spotify!

The Traveling Gym

Chances are good that you’ve heard your body could use some exercise every day. But for those who are busy globe trotters or regular business travelers, finding time to exercise can be challenging, and a gym may not always be accessible. Although many great workout routines are now more focused on using your own body weight, packing your suitcase with some light equipment may be a good idea if you’re not sure what might meet you at your next destination.

Two of my favorite light-weight pieces are the jump rope and these Gliders.

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The jump rope is a great cardio alternative to the treadmill, and can get your heart rate up pretty quickly. Certainly a rope made of any material could do, but a light-weight plastic one (like the one pictured) may be the best option for your suitcase.

Gliders are round disks that help reduce friction, and are great for doing variations of the mountain climber. To do the basic mountain climber, place each foot on the Gliders, assume the push-up/plank position, and shuffle your feet like you’re scaling the floor by tucking your knee to your chest. This exercise targets the abdominals while building core strength and agility. Although Gliders aren’t completely necessary, they can help you climb faster, making your work out more efficient. This exercise is best on a tiled bathroom floor, since most hotel rooms are carpeted.

And of course don’t forget to stay hydrated and wipe off your sweat!

Morning Buzz: Summer’s Perfect Cup

Many of us share the common morning ritual of sipping on a cup of coffee to help start our day…and what a great ritual it is! The benefits of coffee are ample—from increasing your rate of metabolism…to enhancing performance and focus, it is no wonder that coffee has become a staple in our society. I mean…there’s more than um…10,000 Starbucks, 6,000 Dunkin Donuts, just over 200 locations of Peet’s, and a countless number of wonderful independent mom and pop cafés!

Because this drink is so deeply ingrained in our culture, the process of brewing coffee is often considered a form of art. There are a variety of techniques and many methods to yield a great cup—traditional dripping, French pressing, stovetop pressurizing are only a few at the tip of the iceberg! With the rising temperatures this season, colder versions of coffee are becoming more popular; if you are trying to save a buck (or four) this summer, I recommend cold-brewing your coffee at home.

Cold brewing coffee is a slower process, where you mix cold water with ground coffee and let it steep in your fridge overnight. Here, I used Adagio’s ingenuiTEA for the process, but you can easily achieve the same results by making the mix in any glass jar and filtering with a regular coffee filter.

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The taste is milder and smoother than a hot cup, and this is because less alkaloids are extracted. This also means that your end product will be less acidic and much easier on the stomach. Cold brewing is an especially good option for people who avoid coffee because of stomach cramps or excessive jitteriness…and if you like this method because of its milder effects, you can still have it hot when the weather cools down! Just use more grounds and less water in the steeping process; end product will be a thicker and stronger coffee syrup, which you can later dilute with hot water.

Wishing you all a fabulous and productive Thursday! Cheers!!!

Minimalist Living

This was recently on exhibit at MOMA in New York. It touched me because it reminded me of how components of a complex life could still be compartmentalized. I thought it was a beautiful piece.

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Along the same vein, this egg house was designed by Daihai Fei in 2010. The Chinese designer actually lived in it for two months… and yeah… I don’t know where he showered. But the concept is awesome!

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Thinking within the box, here is a cat house I once designed out of cardboard. 🙂 The cat was happy, and I probably had too much fun doing it…

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For the Love of Ice Cream!

Because flour is a great binding agent and an excellent food thickener, it is not uncommon to find gluten lurking in many unsuspected food products…even ice cream! So if you have a serious intolerance, it is always better to speak up and ask for the gluten free menu than to quietly suffer the consequences later.

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I am in love with Ben and Jerry’s gluten free menu because you can’t possibly feel shortchanged with the ample GF options. I also believe that most scoop shops will do half scoops of two different flavors for the decisionally challenged! Among my favorites are Chunky Monkey, Phish Food and Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz! What are yours?

A shout out to my friends in the northern aspects of the country: Free Greek Frozen Yogurt for y’all if you feel like tweeting (@benjerrystruck) and chasing the Ben and Jerry’s truck! For those who are geographically limited, check out my post on home-made frozen yogurt!

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GF Review: Mac Fail.

Please don’t judge…but before taking the gluten free vow, Kraft’s Easy Mac was one of my guilty pleasures. In attempt to find a substitute for the naughty comfort snack, I tried Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Rice Pasta and Cheddar. Although the end product looked similar, the taste was completely off. I also had to modify the recipe to get the right consistency in the sauce (i.e. allow the soupy mess to sit around and coagulate like a giant blood clot) and the texture of the pasta was expectedly distracting. Well, unless I find a better GF option, it’s hasta-la-vista to easy styled macaroni and cheese!

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Worth mention is the biggest joke on the back of the box.

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Mac Face #1= hilarious LIAR. Mac Face #2 = speaks the truth.

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Medical Prescription: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins that can be produced in the body, but it can also be absorbed via dietary measures. If your gut is in good condition, foods like salmon, egg yolks, and milk are some great ways to give yourself a dietary boost of this fat soluble vitamin. Alternatively, one of the easiest methods of staving deficiency is to simply kiss the sun….think: human photosynthesis! It works like this: UV rays convert a type of cholesterol that is found in skin into something called Vitamin D3. The D3 form then gets processed further by your liver, then kidneys, into an active form of vitamin D called calcitriol. The most popular role of this vitamin is linked to calcium levels and bone health maintenance. However, less know that vitamin D also plays an important role in taming the immune system, which has likely gone haywire in people who can’t tolerate gluten. For these people, sunlight plus supplements may be the solution.

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Coming from California, getting enough sun was never an issue…because back on the best coast…getting sun just happens. It wasn’t until I started paying attention to the quality of my skin that I realized: no sun + gluten intolerance = zilch Vitamin D. I had to do something about it.

As with all things in life, balance is key. Too much sun invites skin cancer, and although it is rare to have too much vitamin D supplementation, toxic levels can lead to damage of the kidneys. So how do you approach this balancing act of risks and benefits? Before slathering on goops of anti-UV, allow 10-15 minutes for the sun to do its thang so that you don’t have to pop these ginormous pills…but if you do decide to supplement, make sure you aren’t overdoing it, and as always, let your doc in on the plan so that vitamin D levels can be monitored properly!

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Study Break: Conversation Starters

When I’m not cramming biochem pathways or reading about mucor, I like to dive into the minds of great people. Tom Plate’s artful interviews make me feel as though I’ve participated in the rendez-vous, unraveling the deepest thoughts of the greatest leaders in the pacific. Understanding them helps me understand their country, the culture they serve and their personal passions. I absolutely loved being transported to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for quick study breaks, and can’t wait to find myself at the next destination…

Until then…mechanisms of action!

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