Changes in my athletic endeavors

As the CEO of the World’s Healthiest Beverage company, the father of 2, husband to a beautiful, wonderful woman, and owner of my own body, fitness is a very, very important part of my life. I revel in the fact that our beet kvass can help virtually any athlete accomplish more through the vasodilation benefits of beets as well as naturally occurring probiotics, and I use my own kvass religiously in the constant quest for a stronger, healthier, and more enjoyable body.

Of course, this benefit of our products has led us here at Zukay to greatly explore the opportunities to reach out to all who enjoy athletic endeavors at any level of activity. The LA Lakers use our products regularly to enhance their endurance, and we know of many triathletes, wrestlers, runners, and others both pro and amateur who use our products regularly. But the one thing that kept popping out to us was CrossFit. Because of the very tight relationship between the Paleo diet movement and CrossFit, which actively pushes Paleo as a food lifestyle, there were already many CrossFitters who were using our products, and many more who were extremely interested in our message. As someone who was into “fitness” and had several methods of achieving it (Ashtanga Yoga, Sprinting, Barefoot Hiking, and some Strongman High Intensity Circuit Training), I figured it was time to check it out for myself. So, our man Zac here set us up as charter members of a brand new box close to our plant in Boyertown, PA (www.crossfitfidelity.com) , and a love affair was born.

Before I say why I have fallen in love with CrossFit, I’ll acknowledge there are many vociferous haters out there, some of whom who have done it, and some who haven’t. It’s a human-based activity, and like such, is not perfect, and is certainly not perfect for everyone (or everyone’s goals). It, like most things, is dependent on the skill and care of those in charge, and is also dependent on the participant as well. Baseball, golf, NASCAR, football, soccer, and synchronized swimming all have their detractors and lovers as well. If you love it, you love it, and if you don’t, you don’t. I just preach respect for all who take the time and energy to devote into a love they have that takes nothing away from anyone else.

That all being said, I’ve fallen in love with many, many aspects of Crossfit. I’m constantly enamored with the genius of the random schedule, the fun of having no idea what the next day’s workout will bring, and the challenge of doing things I never did before or didn’t think I could do. Yesterday, I climbed up a rope with no legs for the first time since I was in junior high. Yeah, that felt pretty awesome. I also jumped rope faster and longer than I thought possible, and I still have so far to go. I’ve always been scared of freeweights – I don’t know why, but they were always intimidating. Now, I relish the next opportunity to do deadlifts, snatches, squats (even overhead squats!), cleans, jerks, and presses. LOVE IT. My body fat has decreased more so than any time since I was 23 (I’m 41), and my strength is increasing in almost every way. I know I’m not likely to be a bodybuilder or an Olympic weightlifter, but my body feels better than it has since I was in high school. It’s like a complete rebirth. I also love the fact that the workouts, while super-intense, are generally short enough to allow for a super quick recovery so I can workout many times per week. And if I feel too rough to workout, I just don’t go. I’m in it for the long haul, not to prove anything on any given day.

What about all the other great stuff I was doing before? Well, I do sorely miss Ashtanga Yoga, and over the next few months I’ll be trying to figure out how to add that back in to my schedule. My flexibility, while fine by CrossFit standards, is less than I’m used to, mainly because I haven’t done yoga since I started CrossFit 4 months ago. The windsprints? They became too easy. I used to kill myself to do 6 sets of 30 second on/90 second rest intervals, and now I can do 8 with ease. It’s a nice filler if I can’t do a WOD, and I would like to add them into my WOD’s, and I do miss them too, but I don’t know if I’m really missing something important for my mind and body like I am with yoga. The strongman circuit stuff? I really miss the camaraderie with the guys I used to work out with, and there’s no way I would have been able to get into CrossFit at the level I’m at without it. But those guys are beasts, and I wasn’t – the hour to 90 minutes workouts were killing me, and I was starting to get injured and break down. I wasn’t losing weight or gaining aerobic and anaerobic capacity at the rate I am now. Part of that was that I had a hard time doing the workout more than once a week, while the CrossFit workouts enable me to bounce back for 4-5 WOD’s per week with no problem. It was perfect for our local high school wrestlers, football players, and the insanely impressive guys who’ve been doing this forever. Bless them all and all thanks for really being the impetus to get me in better shape – but CrossFit just works better for me, personally. That all being said, I do miss flipping tires on a regular basis :( Tire flipping rocks.

So, we’re definitely going to be doing more as a company with CrossFit athletes and boxes all over the country. We still love and completely respect all athletic endeavors and styles, and will always reach out to athletes everywhere. They are all valid and wonderful, and keep their practitioners fit through their activities and the magnificent competitive spirit that is at the heart of the human soul. But I wanted to send out my own little bit of love for this growing and awesome fitness regime!

To your health!

Scott

You need to try our new Fruit Kvasses!

Our vegetable kvass, to say the least, has become the heart of our endeavors here at Zukay. I fondly refer to them as “The World’s Healthiest Beverages”, and I’m not kidding. Not even a bit (with, of course, the caveat that clean, pure water is one of the most necessary elements of life). While I occasionally get the wry glance of “that’s a big claim” from people not in the know, I fall back on this – we take raw, organic vegetables (local whenever possible) and naturally lacto-ferment them with wild cultures. The fermentation is magical – changing sugars into lactic acid to preserve the entire beverage raw with all the nutrients intact, so there’s NO glycemic index – and turns the drinks into probiotics. It’s not infrequent for me to revel in the awesomeness of the process. We sure as heck didn’t invent it, but our goal at Zukay has always been to make these insanely healthy products approachable to EVERYONE. Because who doesn’t need raw, probiotic, veggie nutrition with no sugar?

But there’s always been the “but, the taste requires a lot of getting used to”. I guess so. Not for me, and not for a lot of people, but I’ve always been on the fringe of what’s acceptable. I’m the guy who gobbles down capers and eats anchovies and sardines by the tin, and sweet has never, ever been an important part of my palate. I like tart, strong things, and our kvasses are, by and large, tart, strong things. We’ve done our best to make them palatable to as many people as possible (which has meant that we’ve occasionally made enemies with people who want them as tart and strong as possible), but at the end of the day there’s this – I ferment raw, organic vegetables and juice them. There’s just no way of getting around that. I’m proud of the taste and purity of our products, but they’re never going to taste like Coke.

So, it was a challenge we put upon ourselves a few years ago to develop much more mainstream tasting kvasses, with the promise that whatever our solution was, our ingredients would only contain raw, organic plants and would only be preserved through the same lacto-fermentation means our current vegetable kvasses are made by. It hasn’t been easy – lacto-fermentation and our society’s taste buds don’t meet eye to eye. But by combining the best raw, organic fruit and vegetable mixes together, we think we’ve made a pretty impressive quantum leap – raw, fruity, ridiculously low sugar, and probiotic drinks with a nice chunk of vegetable nutrition. While they’re not super sweet, they’re much more “drinkable” and “thirst-quenching” than our beloved veggie kvasses.

So, Scott, are you backing away from the veggie kvasses? Heck no. Not in any way whatsoever. If you’re looking for the strongest, most functional vegetable nutritional punch, the veggie kvasses are still the way to go. Nothing’s changed there (even though the bottles will very soon). Want the most greens? Drink Super Green. Want the ultimate raw beet nutrition? Drink Beet or Beet Ginger. Want an awesome immune booster? Drink Super Root.

But I will admit, when I’m thirsty, the Green Ginger Brew and the Melon Loves Mint are my new go to’s. I find new ways to incorporate them in my diet, and, well, I just love them. They’re like a new child – the parents will always find a way to open their hearts to the new arrival without losing any love for the ones whom they have loved since day one. So, enjoy, and revel in the fact that in this world of awfully unhealthy beverage and food choices that surround us in virtually every venue we find ourselves in, there’s a new, unique, and awesome option that makes it just a little easier to satisfy yourself and truly make your body healthy.

To your health!

Scott

Awesome Summer Ferments!

It’s that awesome time of year when the garden is going crazy with almost every vegetable (well, assuming that you weeded well in June – I’ve had plenty of barren July’s due to poor weeding habits). It gets to a point where it can get almost overwhelming – there’s no way you can eat fresh everything that’s ripe right now, and some stuff just doesn’t lend itself well to freezing – especially carrots and beets, both of which lose so much of their charm in the blanching process. Perfect time for a few magnificent, tasty summer ferments!

I had the pleasure this past weekend of a day to myself, so I made a couple awesome ferments, which I wanted to share with you. Enjoy, and please feel free to play around with the recipes here – fermentation is all about experimentation!

 

ferm

 

Fermented Dilly Green Beans

Fresh green beans (at least a pound)

2 tbsp fresh dill (or 1 tsp dry)

2 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dry)

2 tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dry)

1 med clove garlic, diced

1 tbsp sea salt (I prefer Celtic brand)

2-3 ounces Zukay Veggie Medley, or fresh raw sauerkraut juice, or a yogurt culture like Yo’Gourmet if you don’t require vegan cultures

Well water, or some other non-chlorinated water

Quart Ball jar

Take the tops off of the green beans, break them into 1-1 ½ “ pieces, and toss into the Ball Jar. Fill the Ball Jar to about 1 inch below the top. Add the salt, dill, basil, oregano, and diced garlic into the jar. Add the Zukay Veggie Medley (or other culture), and then add the well water until the beans are covered. Cap off, shake well, and let sit in an area at room temperature, preferably out of the sun. By room temperature, I suggest no less than 65, and no more than 105 (so be careful of fermenting in attics, etc). A higher temperature will make for a faster fermentation, but I think a fermentation at 70-80F gives a better flavor. In any case, I like my green beans to ferment for AT LEAST 3 weeks, if not 6 – but I like the fermentation to soften them up a bit and get a good deep flavor going. They should be perfectly preserved after 3-5 days, though they’ll taste too much like raw beans for my taste. Refrigerate when fermentation is done.

 

Fermented Beet Sticks

2 medium fresh beets, red or golden (but not both! The red beets will turn the golden ones red)

2 tbsp fresh dill (or 1 tsp dry) – optional (but tasty)

1 tbsp sea salt (I prefer Celtic brand)

2-3 ounces Zukay Veggie Medley, or fresh raw sauerkraut juice, or a yogurt culture like Yo’Gourmet if you don’t require vegan cultures

Well water, or some other non-chlorinated water

Quart Ball jar

Wash the beets, but don’t skin them. Slice them about 1/8” thick, and julienne the medallions. Fill up the Ball Jar to about 1 inch below the top. Add the salt and dill (if you’re a dill addict) into the jar. Add the Zukay Veggie Medley (or other culture), and then add the well water until the beans are covered. Cap off, shake well, and let sit in an area at room temperature, preferably out of the sun. Again, by room temperature, I suggest no less than 65, and no more than 105 (so be careful of fermenting in attics, etc) – but beets are funny in fermentation. I really do suggest trying to keep them at 70-80, because beets can turn off, and I’m not sure why. In any case, I like my beets to ferment for AT LEAST 1 weeks, maybe up to 3. Beets reach their perfect taste earlier than other ferments do. Make sure you save the liquid – even though I sell Beet Kvass, may as well drink your own! Refrigerate when fermentation is done.

This one is great for kids and parties. Not everyone loves beets – which is a shame, but for those that do, this will be PERFECT – with or without dill!

 

Fermented Garlic Carrot Sticks

Approximately 1 pound fresh carrots

2 med clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 tbsp sea salt (I prefer Celtic brand)

2-3 ounces Zukay Veggie Medley, or fresh raw sauerkraut juice, or a yogurt culture like Yo’Gourmet if you don’t require vegan cultures

Well water, or some other non-chlorinated water

Quart Ball jar

Cut the carrots into 2-3 inch long chunks, and julienne from there (or, as I prefer, slice the carrots at a 45 degree angle, about 1/8” thick), and toss into the Ball Jar. Fill the Ball Jar to about 1 inch below the top. Add the salt, and diced garlic into the jar. Add the Zukay Veggie Medley (or other culture), and then add the well water until the beans are covered. Cap off, shake well, and let sit in an area at room temperature, preferably out of the sun. By room temperature, I suggest no less than 65, and no more than 105 (so be careful of fermenting in attics, etc). I like this ferment  to ferment for AT LEAST 6 weeks, as I really don’t like the “raw carrot” flavor. If you like the flavor of raw carrots, ferment for less – they should be perfectly preserved in 3-5 days.

Other awesome tips for this ferment to experiment with:

  1. Thinly slice 1-2 raw jalapenos to make it spicy
  2. Onion also works well along side the carrots. Long thin onion strips do the best in my opinion.
  3. Grate some raw ginger (1-2 oz) to give it a nice zing – though I personally am not a fan of ginger and garlic together
  4. Again, dill is always welcome in a ferment. Dill is welcome in almost anything, in my estimation.

Have fun with these, and I’ll have another post soon about more great summer and early fall ferments!

 

 

Becoming a “Health-Foodist”

I was reminded a bit of my path as a “health-foodist” today by an old friend, who commented on a Zukay facebook post. It was a funny comment basically about my penchant for eating “weeds” from my lawn and garden – all very, very accurate, and taken well in the humor it was meant.  But then I realized – though a healthy, all natural, and paleo/re-wilding/back to nature diet is an every day, no big deal occurrence for me now, when this friend and I knew each other well back at Penn State, he would have NO clue I would live like that now.

So, to all those who follow me and/or my company, who have met me recently, or are one of those very special folks who have known me for a long time, here’s my dirty laundry – I was, for a very long time, a very poor eater. In college, I would always be found:

  • With a beer in my hand, generally Yuengling, and at least on weekends, usually drunk
  • With a cigarette in the other hand (if I didn’t have two beers J)
  • Eating wings, usually from the Sub Shop, and on weekends, from the grill off of Pugh Street.
  • Eating pizza, generally from Brothers (hated Canyon’s, even though it was close)
  • Eating subs with whatever in it from the Sub Shop
  • Drinking  kool-aid for hydration (affectionately referred to as Bug Juice)
  • Often eating fried chicken at Roy Rogers

That won’t come as any surprise to those who knew me when J

I was no better than most, and definitely worse than some. I was, in 3 words, your “common college student”, and honestly, I didn’t change much over next several years.

So, why am I saying this now?

One, because I’m hungry, and while I won’t get any, fried chicken sounds great right now J

Two, because anyone, anywhere, for any reason, can change the way they eat and change their relationship with food and their body. I’m pretty sure if you asked my college friends who was most likely to be a health foodist when they got older, I would have garnered few, if any, votes. It wasn’t that I was unhealthy – just, for a few years, uninterested. Little by little, eating healthy became something that got on my mind more and more, but it really wasn’t until about 10 years ago – 9 years after college – that the health benefits of my diet started to become a driving part of my life. And even then, it still has taken many bumps and bruises, hours and hours of research, setbacks, and triumphs, to get to where I am – and I am hardly perfect (though I don’t know if there is such a thing).

I’m not here to preach about what you should and shouldn’t eat. Diets are politicized today, and there are almost as many “food theories” as there are opinions. You want my opinion? No processed foods. Start there. Make that the basis of your start to a healthier food lifestyle. Like I tell my 7 year old son for wrestling, the effort to learn and improve is the heart of this. Explore and have fun with it as your path opens up in front of you. And always remember – those of us who either espouse a direction or have a company that sells health foods were sometimes heavy smoking, heavy drinking, wing eating kids who walked the same path as well. The change is out there for all of us, and no one owns a path or is holier than thou. Enjoy your own path, and to your health!

Springtime = Garden Time!

I am sitting out in the sun writing this, after a very long and dreary (though fun and eventful!) winter. I do love the winter, but nothing beats the warmth of the sun beating down on a beautiful April day, and here in Pennsylvania, we can’t take these days for granted –

Springtime for me means two things – gardening and gathering, two of my greatest outdoor loves. This post is about gardening – my post on gathering is almost done as well!

Gardening, especially the springtime, is an almost religious experience for me. After spending 6 months primarily indoors, watching over a grey/brown landscape, I furiously expend my pent up energy on my 6 well-loved (though not always well-weeded) double-dug garden beds, where I grow everything my family needs for the year (or at least attempt to). I’m so jealous of those of you who live in warmer climates that can grow more tropical/citrusy things, but I do my best to make my little Eastern PA garden sing with the following:

Beets, Carrots, Chard, Spinach, Bok Choy, Broccoli Rabe, Bush Beans, Romaine Lettuce, Arugula, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes (purple), Okra, Onions (usually yellow), Shallots, Broccoli, Kale, Cabbage (Green and Red), Collards, Cukes, Zukes, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, and, if I’m feeling lucky, a melon or two (though I rarely have luck with those). I planted 2 fig trees last year and got my first fig, which I’m super excited about, especially as they seem to have survived the winter well, and I’ll finally be putting some asparagus into the ground this year as well. My mouth is watering as I type this –

fiiggg

So, it got me to thinking – what do I love most about gardening? What do you love most about gardening? Here’s a few things I thought of – feel free to comment and add your own!

  1. Time out in the sun – Vitamin D is soooo important, and as long as you don’t burn to a crisp (I got lucky with that), there’s no better way to get your full share than some time in the sun WITHOUT sunscreen. The spring is especially important, especially here in the north, as us snow people have gone months without a natural sun-filled Vitamin D shot.

  2. Getting my hands dirty! No, I’m not 7 (though I am lucky enough to have one of them), but I love the primal feeling of dirt on my hands, and I LOVE the fact that I am intermingling with tons of bacteria. Seriously? Well, I ferment things for a living, so what would you expect? But seriously, did you know naturally occurring soil bacteria , many of which are very probiotic, have even been found to enhance your mood? Sun + good bugs = happy gardeners!

  3. Getting my workout in for free – Some days in the garden are harder than others, but the early days where I till by hand are certainly the hardest, and help take off my “winter coat” of a few extra pounds that my body still feels an Ice Age need to throw on me. I do have some good “work” workouts during the winter, but not nearly as much as the warm months – and my body appreciates it.

  4. Instant shopping in my backyard – nothing is cooler than asking my wife what she wants for dinner, and walking outside and getting it.

  5. Barefooting – I’m a huge barefooting nut, and I pretty much discard shoes from April – November, There’s a bunch of benefits associated with barefooting (here, here and here), and gardening gives me HOURS of it.

  6. Connecting with your ancestors – I’m a huge paleo guy as well, and I believe being Paleo is as much about your mindset and actions as it is about your diet. Gardening is such an awesome way to reconnect with seasonality, the natural cycle of birth and death, and doing activities our ancestors have done for countless generations. I strongly believe our almost complete separation from nature and traditional living has contributed many, many negative aspects in our mental, physical and spiritual lives, and gardening is one way to get back that reconnection.

  7. Teaching your kids about nature – Having a working garden is the ultimate laboratory to teach your children about birth and death, chemistry, symbiotic relationships between the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and so many other things. It gives them a sense of responsibility for living things, and rewards them for a job well done. My kids get so excited every spring for the start of the garden, and while I haven’t fully sold them on the amount of work needed, it’s as much a part of their life as our refrigerator.

  8. It’s cheap! I can set up my garden for less than $200 per year, and if I can actually weed it often enough, can feed our family for the year, saving about 90-95% off my yearly vegetable bill. If I were extra diligent and saved all my seeds, I could probably knock that close to zero (someday).  I like to think of it as my own personal mortgage reduction plan with benefits –

What do you love about gardening? What have I missed?