Category Archives: My Favorite Things

Mind Blowing Barbacoa

BARBACOA

Totally simple to throw together in the morning, this barbacoa recipe is going to transform your Taco Tuesday’s forever. 

TOTAL TIME: 6 HOURS 20 MIN

PREP TIME: 20 MIN

COOK TIME: 6 – 8 HOURs

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs chuck roast (fat trimmed), cut into 2-inch chunks (or you can cheat and use pre-cut stew meat like I do)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped (or more to taste – I highly recommend more)
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ¼ cup pickled jalapeños chopped with juice
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup beef stock

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.   When beef is tender and falls apart easily, shred remaining chunks with a fork.

Remove the bay leaves.  Grab your favorite tortillas and load up the barbacoa.  Top with your favorite toppings (like slaw, radish, avocado, fresh jalapeños, cilantro…..I think you feel me).

If not using immediately, refrigerate the barbacoa beef with its juices in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Or freeze it for up to 3 months.

“Just tell your story.”

Over the course of the last couple of years, I have had several people tell me that they think Joy and I need to tour the country and speak to people.  Tell our story to the world.  Inspire others.

Well this morning I got the privilege of doing something I have always wanted to do, deliver a motivational speech to a group of folks who have no idea who I am.  Now, I am not in the public speaking business and don’t really have any intention of getting in it but I do know how to speak in front of people.  I do it all the time and I can assure you that unlike the majority of Americans, speaking in front of people is not my greatest fear.  In fact, I might be more comfortable with that type of conversation than a 1 on 1 with a new acquaintance.

So the question you should be asking right now is:

“How did this happen?  How did a group of sane individuals think of you to deliver a motivational message?” 

I know I have asked it a hundred times since I was first asked.

Well, from what I understand, it involved a lot of wine, someone who has an over inflated view of my ability to inspire, a low budget and the need to send some serious love to a group of leasing professional who have been working their tails off for the last year or so.

Enter:  Andrew Bowen – Motivational Speaker

So being dedicated to my craft, I was sure to have a couple of calls with the leaders of this group to find out what message they needed delivered to this team.   Through a lot of dialog that resembled a ping pong match:

Me:  “What message would you like me to deliver?”

Them: “I don’t know, what do you normally deliver?”

Me: “I normally deliver a sales pitch but I doubt that is the message you want.  I can put together anything for you.”

Them: “We just need them to be recharged.   Why don’t you just relate your story?”

And there it was….”your story”.

Those words came up time and time again over the course of the week or so we discussed the message we needed to delivery.  Just tell my story.

Do you have any idea how exposed you feel when the inspirational message is your own story?

What if they are not inspired?  Well it is your story so obviously you are un-inspirational.

What if they find no value in it?  Well obviously you are worthless.

What if they find it a waste of time?  That speaks for itself, you are a waste of time.

So for the last several weeks I have been going through “my story” in my head.  Rehashing it all over and over again so the delivery would be smooth this morning.   Rehashing it until I developed a theme.  “Life on the Line”

This morning came and I drove to the event, ready to share my story.

I shared stories about getting started in student housing

I shared stories about feeling overweight and listless

I shared about a black belt test gone wrong

I shared about breast cancer

I shared about learning from all of it and focusing our efforts on empowering others to live their healthiest lives

Was I inspirational?  I don’t know, you would have to ask the audience but I will say this, it felt great to own my own story.  So go ahead, go tell your story.

My Meal-prep Dirty Little Secret

So I can’t remember the last week that we actually ate all of the food I prepped on Sunday.  Invariably – life happens.

A teen’s event was not planned for.  A worship meeting goes long.  An opportunity to roll presents itself.  Something happens that prevents us from eating what is in the fridge and dictates that we are going to grab something from a restaurant somewhere.

Every.

          Single.

                      Week.

So when for the 3rd week in a row I was about to throw out baked sweet potatoes and chopped peppers, I decided to find a new way to utilize these staples of our week.

Enter:  Sweet Potato Bird’s Nests

These take a bit longer than I would like since the potatoes I use are already baked and take a while to crisp up like I like them but they are awesome.  I will definitely be making these regularly and for sure will do this with a sweet potato hash as well.   Video and the recipe are below.

See the Video Here

Ingredients:

  • Pre-baked sweet potato (each potato yields approximately 4 “nests”)
  • Pre-diced Red Onion
  • Pre-diced Red Pepper
  • Pre-diced Green Pepper
  • Pre-diced Jalepeno Pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray.
  3. In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and peppers and sauté until onion is translucent but peppers are still crisp.img_3452
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, mash the sweet potatoes. Add salt, pepper and sautéed vegetables and mix well.                                                          img_3450
  5. Transfer a spoonful of sweet potato mixture to each muffin mold. Press the mixture up against the mold until it is approximately ¼ inch thick leaving a cavity for the egg (to be added later).
  6. Bake for 20 minutes then remove from oven.
  7. Adjust the oven to broil (still at 400 degrees)
  8. Crack one egg for every sweet potato being baked. Add egg to the cavity created by the mold.
  9. Place muffin pan back in oven. For soft yolk eggs remove after 6 minutes.  For hard yolk eggs, remove after 12 minutes.

You have probably noticed that I did not give quantities of potatoes and peppers.   Because this recipe was conceived around leftovers, whatever you have left over will determine how much to use.  You can always cut up more peppers to meet your potato supplies (like I did when I created this one).

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The things you need to bring to Summit that you might not be thinking about.

So we all know that my day job keeps me on the road about 80% of the time (you didn’t think I named this blog after the movie did you?)  Well over the course of the last 15 years, I have identified a few key things to bring with me on trips like the one upcoming this week to Nashville.  For those of you who are not aware, this week 25,000 or so Team Beachbody coaches will gather for great learning, workouts, company updates and of course FUN!!!

While the lessons/guidance below is specifically targeted for the Beachbody audience, anyone who attends any conference can benefit from the lessons below.  So here we go, here are few things you can do now to make sure your experience this weekend is top notch!!!

Plan Ahead:

I cannot overemphasize the need for this in order to make the most of your time.  Look at your track and commitments.  Think about how you are going to get from place to place, outfit to outfit and get the “extras” like visiting The Core in.  If you have not been before, talk to the other coaches in your organization who have as to what was most impactful to them and prioritize.  Then plan on not only the session times but also the waiting time.  Trust me, you do not want to be showing up to anything last minute this week.

Make Single Servings:

If you are anything like me and Joy, you are not even going to consider making it through this weekend without Energize and Hydrate.  However those tubs take up a lot of room in a suitcase.  That is why I always make individual servings in small zip-lock bags before I head out.  The individual packets let me “dump and shake” without any mess to clean up or tub to lug around.  Anything that is left over just gets put back in the tub when I get home (actually for me, I just take it on my next trip).

Pack a……

Water Bottle (that doubles as a shaker bottle):

shaker bottle

This is probably the most important  thing you can remember.  It is going to be hot.  We are going to be working out.  There will be 25,000 of us running around.  The convention center will do their best to keep up with us but in my experience at large conferences, they rarely do.  If you have your own water bottle with you, you can always run to the fountain or restroom and fill up.  Bonus points if it has a built in filter.

Might I also recommend that it double as a shaker bottle?  That way you are only lugging one around with you and saving space in your luggage.

Dish washing soap

shampoo

This one just got added to the list this year.  Think about it, if you are going to use the same bottle for 4 days, you are probably going to want to wash it out.  There is no really good way to do that in a hotel room unless you bring your own dish washing soap.  Just grab a small travel bottle (the kind intended for shampoo, etc) and fill it on up.

Drawstring Backpack

cinch backpack

This is actually just under water bottle in order of importance for me.  With all the running around we are going to do at Summit, these are so handy.  Yes that Coach purse is beautiful but do you really want to bring it on to the streets of Nashville during the super workout?  Didn’t think so.

And guys, this goes double for you.  This fantastic little bag, that packs to nothing in a suitcase, will enable you to bring your phone, wallet, notebook, room key, etc without worry of them falling out of your pockets.  Something that has happened to me multiple times.

Small Wallet

You are not going to need your full wallet with you.  Especially during events like the Super Work Out.  Get a small wallet that will fit your ID, bank card, medical ID and a small amount of cash.  That way, God forbid, if something does happen, it is not your entire life that is missing.

Multi-plug Charger

multi

As someone who stays as many nights in hotels a year as he does at home, trust me on this one.  There are never enough plugs (at least handy ones) in a hotel room.  Now, if you are sharing a room, divide that under-abundance by at least 2.  This small little device is a life saver.

Bonus tip:  Carry it with you to the sessions.  That way, if you need to charge during the sessions, you can always offer to plug it in so multiple people can charge with you.  It is all about being neighborly!!!

Portable battery chargers

battery charger

These are not just for Pokemon Go!  You already know your phone is your life.  The last thing you want is to be leaving the Billy Idol concert (you did qualify, right?  No, its not too late!!), when you pull out your phone to call Uber just to realize it is dead.  Another example of where the weight and space they take up is totally worth it.

Costumes

SillyIdol

As a first time attendee you may be tempted to just “go check it out” rather than go full throttle in participation (I am referring to the 80’s party) – trust me, go full out.  When else as an adult do you get to play make believe like this anymore?

Large zip-lock storage bag

I am talking the storage bags that go under your bed, not 1 gallon freezer bags here.  Your workout clothes are not going to be smelling the most rosy by the time you pack up to head home.  And believe me, you don’t want your bag to be smelling like your workout clothes (have you tried fitting your suitcase into the washing machine before?).  Pack up all those smelly clothes into the bag, zip it up and then IMMEDIATELY UNPACK THEM WHEN YOU GET HOME.

Bonus Tip: Throw a dryer sheet in your suitcase before you leave home.

So there you go, my tips from a RoadWarrior on what you can pack to help you make the most of Nashville and Summit.  Now, this does not even scratch the surface of the things you should have already thought of (like a notebook for all the great ideas you going to glean) but I hope it will help with the more obscure.

Can’t wait to see you all in Nashville!!!  I will be the one in the Leopard Pants with Team #RisingPhoenix!!

Have Gi – Will Travel: Kaizen BJJ in Detroit, MI

I cannot tell you how excited I am to write this review.  When I first decided to start this series, my biggest fear was that the first review was going to be of a program that was sub-par.  Nothing could be further from sub-par than the experience I had while visiting Kaizen BJJ in Plymouth, MI.  I truly could not have asked for a better experience as a visitor.

Let’s start with the Instructor:  

Ali

For me, the vast majority of whether an experience is going to be good or not lies in the hands of the instructor.  When I visited Kaizen, I took a beginner’s Gi class that was led by a Purple Belt, Ali Makhlouf.  He ran a well-organized class that smoothly went from basic drills, to position specific techniques to rolling with specific intent to sparring.  He was sure to move through the class (about 20 students) to give individual attention and instruction to each student.  Great experience.

Ryan

Now the school is owned and run by 4th Degree Black Belt Ryan Fiorenzi, who was at the gym while I was there but not rolling that evening.   He provided me with the experience that impressed me the most while I was at Kaizen.  At one point when we were working butterfly sweeps, he was invested enough in me (an outsider) to call me by name and give me specific feedback that I could apply immediately.  If he shows that much interest in an outsider, who is there for only one class, a class he was not teaching no less….I can only imagine how much he helps his own full time students.

Next – The attitude towards outsiders:

I was not on the mat for more than 2 minutes before I had people coming up and introducing themselves to me.  I have done back to back classes at schools where no one talks to me other than if we are drilling together.  I felt completely welcomed, didn’t sense any animosity at all and really felt like this group was there to get better.  Loved it.

Culture – What am I getting into?

If you look on the www.kaizenbjj.com website, they preach that they train “Leaving your ego at the door”.  I can tell you they practice what they preach.  Remember, I took a white belt class.  During that class I rolled with 2 Blue Belts, a Purple Belt and a Brown Belt.  As the higher belt ranks came in before open mat, they were quick to work with the White Belts.  Not destroy them….work with them.  It was awesome.

Additionally, Kaizen BJJ focuses on real world Jujitsu, not tournament Jujitsu.  Everything they did had a self-defense bent.  Nothing against tournament BJJ but I prefer the more self-defense oriented approach.

Facilities:

The mat was huge, in great shape and clean.  For those interested,  the facility is dual purpose with not only the mat but also a CrossFit gym next door.  The only thing I would improve if they had the opportunity is to have a locker room.  I arrived straight from the airport and changed in the restroom.  Really not a big thing but if I get a magic wand, I am adding a locker room.

Overall Experience:

From my initial contact with the owner Ryan over email, to my arrival, to the training everything was handled with professionalism and efficiency.  I can honestly say that if I was relocated to Detroit, I would make the commute to make this my home gym.

Thanks to Ryan and everyone at Kaizen BJJ for a wonderful experience.  If you are in the Detroit area, I highly recommend you make a trip out there.

Have Gi – Will Travel

Welcome to my new series, Have Gi – Will Travel.   Let me warn you in advance that these posts really are for a very specialized audience.  The traveling martial artist.  More and more as I travel, I am contacting dojos in my destination cities to inquire about training at their facilities.  The good news is you are the beneficiary of my experiences.

This first episode of Have Gi – Will Travel will detail out the rules of the traveling martial artist.

Always disclose your purpose:

Every Martial Arts school that I have ever come in contact with has some type of “Hey – come try us out” special.   My goal is to train every chance I get, not to bilk the system.  If I like a school, you can be sure I will want to come back.  Thus, I will contact all schools in advance and not only ask permission to train but also if there are any appropriate mat fees.

My opinions are always my own:

I am not (currently) sponsored in any way.  I get nothing other than knowledge, comraderie and physical fitness from training with any of these folks.  There is no bias (other than my own) to my reviews.

Every opinion I share here, I also share on social media:

My goal is to promote martial arts and martial artists.  The reality is that reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Trip Adviser, etc. make a real difference in the success of these small businesses.  I am more than happy to share my opinion so they can gain exposure and in the end, more business.

I realize that different schools have different goals:

I lie much more on the martial than the art of martial arts.  With that said, I can learn from both the yin and the yang.  Especially with me, the school should not adjust to the pupil, the pupil should adjust to the master.

I will stay humble and open minded:

It is really easy to fall into the mindset that ‘X’ martial art is the best….or ‘Y’ technique does not work in real life.  While I will certainly focus on the arts that interest me the most (Karate, BJJ and Mui Tai) if I stumble across the occasional Kung Fu or Aikido class, I am not going to shy away.

So come along with me on my journey across the US and the Martial Arts scene.  The first few posts will be of my favorite schools across that country that have been generous enough to let me train with them.  From there, we will experience this journey together.

So you are thinking about starting martial arts? 10 things I wish I had known earlier in my journey.

So you (or maybe your spouse) are considering studying a martial art, congratulations!!  I can honestly say that the first day I bowed on to a mat legitimately changed my life and put me on a path I never expected to embark upon.

After more than a decade of training in multiple martial arts,  there are a few lessons that I’ve learned that would have been good to know before going all in.   If you are just getting started or considering a martial art, here are my top 10 things to expect that might not be so obvious.  If you are an experienced martial artist, I hope you agree and feel free to add-on in the comments.

Soap

1) This is not Fight Club.

The first rule of Fight Club may have been to never talk about Fight Club but if you really get bit by the martial arts bug, you will not be able to shut up about it.  My poor wife has heard more stories about spinning hook kicks, slip step-under counter hooks and triangle chokes than she knows what to do with.  Be sure to keep that in mind before you jump headlong into another story about how so and so did what and what.

do you want to do a workout

2) You will want to train – all the time.

I would train or teach all day every day if I could.  Perfection is impossible but the pursuit of perfection is available to all.  You’ll find yourself looking to attend multiple classes each week, participating in ‘open mat’ and looking for others to help you improve.   Trust me, it is completely addicting in all the right ways.

CT BB

3) Martial arts is a small, tight knit and supportive family.

For a long time I had the picture above from my son’s black belt test as the wallpaper on my computer.  He is landing a beautiful spinning hook kick and stopping his partner cold.  Now with my job, I am all over the country doing presentations and projecting my computer on big screens in multiple offices every week.  As soon as any martial artist saw the picture, there was an immediate connection.  Questions would immediately turn to his training, my training, rank, passion, training methods and goals.  Heck, I have even spared with some of my clients as I have traveled to their offices.

4) Your Laundry will never be in balance again.

Seriously people, this is an issue I was not anticipating and one my wife hates.   Think about it.  Gis are made from really thick cotton to avoid rips, tears, etc.  It is like having 3 towels in the wash that have to be on the same side of the washer.  Now imagine that in our house with 3 of us (14, 16 & 43) all actively training multiple sessions a week.  It just never stops and the washing machine continually sounds like a jackhammer.

5) There is a reason that martial artists say they “study” and “train”.

If you come across someone who says they  ‘do’ Jujitsu or karate or whatever, you have come across someone who really hasn’t evolved into a martial artist yet (and your belt rank has nothing to do with whether or not you are a martial artist).  To be successful in the martial arts, you really do have to study and train.  You have to study the techniques to understand their effectiveness and when to apply them.  You have to train your body to react to the opportunity without thinking.  I have spent hours on YouTube learning the principals of a technique (study) followed by hours on a mat applying them in an actual situation (train).  I stopped ‘doing’ karate a long time ago.

6) You will always be ‘hurt’.

I don’t remember the last day I was not sore somewhere.  Now please understand, I am not talking about being injured.  That happens pretty rarely in a well-run school environment – there is a difference between martial arts and fighting.  However being sore is routine and an important part of the martial arts lifestyle.  In fact, I have never been as sore as I was the day after my first Jujitsu session.  Soreness indicated weakness and weaknesses can be strengthened through studying and training.

triangle

7) You learn to embrace the suck.

Real progress is made when you put yourself in positions that are challenging to you and you work to improve.  I refer to this process as “suck training”.  As a beginner that may be continually letting your partner jab at you until you can slip the jab.  On the ground, let someone take your back and sink a choke in and then work your way out (this is not for your first day however).  You will fail a lot in these situations but that is the point.  Fail less tomorrow than you did today and fail in different ways than you failed previously.

black eye.jpg

8) People love black eyes – just not receiving them.

I get a black eye or two every year.  Even as a black belt, I occasionally forget to keep my hands up and my partner slips in a great technique or I simply fall the wrong way.  It is simply a part of the beautiful dance we are performing.  What cracks me up is how people outside of martial arts react.  They either want to know every detail and are fascinated by my participation or they are scared to death to ask anything and assume I have some type of sorted past or had a run in with the wrong kind of crowd.  I find both reactions hilarious.

9) Higher level belts practice offense by destroying lower level belts – just slowly.

A really good black belt can execute her techniques at full speed without hurting her partner.  She can also slow it down so that their partner can learn to feel what is going on without losing technique.  As a black belt, when I am sparing a lower belt, I am typically picking a single technique to focus on and do so in a way that will also teach them something (like keep your hands up!!)  Lesson here for beginners – you want to spar the black belts!!!

10) Lower level belts learn defense (aka survival) by being destroyed by higher level belts.

I will never forget the first time I countered a superman punch effectively.  I had been getting caught for weeks with the technique and it was driving me nuts.  In the round it happened in, I was clearly ‘losing’ the round but in my mind, I had won because my goal was to slip the superman punch and I had accomplished it.  If I had been sparing another brown belt at the time, they would not even be throwing that technique.  Lesson here for beginners – you want to spar the black belts!!

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11) Bonus for families that train together – what happens on the mat does not stay on the mat.

Nothing makes my wife more frustrated than when random grappling matches break out in the living room.  Or when someone ends up in a kimura on the couch.  Or when turning a corner someone eats a round kick to the face.  Our house is a virtual mine field of martial arts techniques and I absolutely love it.

I hope the list above gives you a little more insight into the journey you are embarking upon and welcome to the martial arts family.  The destination is absolutely worth the journey.  Oss!!