Thursday, January 25, 2007

Homemade Protein Bars

Recently I started my workout routine again. It has been slow going but I am determined to start the Ultimate Frisbee training season in better shape physically and mentally this year. I'm hardly an impact player on our team, and admittedly last year I was hardly a role player either but I am hoping to keep this pipe dream alive and hope to try for one more year of playing mixed club before moving along to the pastures of the masters division.

So I began doing the Crossfit warm up and workouts about three weeks ago. After a week of slow going, things started to pick up and I am now feeling like I'm getting back in shape a little. I need to work on the cardio big time and I also need to concentrate more on what I am putting into my body. I'm a big fan of protein and love the Zone bars. Last week I made a sideways remark about the price to Jen and said I should try to make my own...she called me on it and so I spent a little time surfing the net looking for homemade protein bar recipes.

I found two I liked and decided to use a combination of the ingredients they offered as a base for my own bars. I relied heavily on the directions provided by Alton Brown (Food Network) for mixing and cooking. From the base concoction you can go many directions. In my case, for this first attempt I decided on a "G.O.R.P." type recipe, adding fruit, nuts and chocolate chips. The bars turned out quite tasty and, by my rather rudimentary calculations, are high in protein as well.

I decided to list the recipe here. As I said, I just built off recipes readily available online, so you can feel free to take mine and make it your own. On my second batch, I took a huge shortcut and used Nature's Path Organic Granola with Flax and Pumpkin Seeds instead of the rolled oats and other base dry ingredients...bars were actually better but that is probably due to the added sweeteners in the pre-made granola.

Johnny O's Gob -o- Stuff Protein bars

1 cup whey or soy protein powder
1/2 cup brown rice flour
11/2 cups pulverized organic Rice Krispies
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup flax seed
1 cup crushed raw almonds
1/2 cup crushed pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup crushed pistachios
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup crushed chocolate chips

2 large whole eggs, beaten
1 package soft silken tofu
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unfiltered honey
1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice
2/3 cup natural peanut butter

Canola oil, for pan

Line the bottom of a 2 13 by 9-inch baking dishes(glass works best) with parchment paper and lightly coat with canola oil. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the tofu until smooth. Add the apple juice, brown sugar, eggs, and peanut butter, 1 at a time, and whisk to combine after each addition.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the protein powder, oats,flour, bran, rice krispies, salt, nuts and seeds. Set aside.
Coarsely chop the dried cherries and chocolate chips. Set aside.

Add the wet mixture to the protein powder mixture and stir well to combine. Fold in the dried fruit and chocolate (if you want to chop the nuts instead of crushing them, add them to the fruit/chocolate mixture to be folded in rather than the dry mix). Spread evenly in the prepared baking dishes and bake in the oven for 35 -40 minutes (Alton Brown recommends the internal temperature reach 205 degrees F). Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Johnny O's Best of

Each year I make a "Best of" compilation of the best new music I've come across issued that year. This annual tradition dates back a couple of decades to the days of cassette tapes when I'd trade my best of tapes with Pat Gallagher, a fellow Purdue student and the first person I knew who listened to The Replacements. Pat always seemed to be the man when it came to new music and I miss getting his compilations. In the past three or four years, I've been exchanging compilation CD's with Mark "Weed" Need, who happens to be the hippest law professor I've ever known and surely the hippest Indiana University has ever employed. Although Weed's compilations tend to lean heavily towards the genre, they are still fabulous gifts and lead me to broaden my musical horizons each year.
Alas, 2006 was not a banner year for me in the realm of discovering music. Not only did my spending priorities change from those of my single-man lifestyle, but there was a surprising absence of what I consider new and exciting in the world of music...or at least the part of that world I 'm exposed to.
Some exceptions I should mention:

1. Love Train - Wolfmother.
I was absolutely delighted by the Australian Rock power trio Wolmother's self-titled release. One reviewer claims this band was 30 years late to the rock party, with their hard-hitting beats and "psychodelic" tunes. Not sure I'd go that far, but they get my nod anyway
2. Seer Believer - The White Birch.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Wolfmother is the group The White Birch, another trio but this one hails from Norway. Their 2006 release is their 5th and earned rave reviews internationally, but longtime fans accused them of "moving to the mainstream" with one reviewer issuing this cautionary statement, "Just a word of caution out of the book of Coldplay: we all know what happens when emotional bands move to the center. Millions of records sold, marriages to supermodel actresses and windsurfing in New Zealand. Don't say we didn't warn you guys."
3. Black Swan - Thom Yorke.
What can I say, I love Radiohead. Someone said he should have called this album Kid B, although I wouldn't go that far. Many of the songs don't do it for me, but Black Swan, featuring the phrase, "This is F*cked Up", repeated over and over, gets in my head and won't leave. My message to Thom, keep creating, keep creating.
4. You Could Be Happy - Snow Patrol
I promise I am not selling out...really. Snow Patrol seems to me sometimes to be another one of those Best Buy created bands, although I know that striking generalization is not fair. But let's face it, there IS an awful lot of mass promotion going on in the box stores for this band. Having said that, I really like You Could Be happy. Haunting melody.
5. Paralyzed - Rock Kills Kid.
I seem to be reverting to Pop-Alternative with these last two selections, or maybe pretending I'm a 20-something, I don't know. What I do know is this song, the result of two years of being a squatter by the lead singer, is catchy and post-punkish in its own way.
6. Level - The Raconteurs.
From the early French, a raconteur is someone who tells a good story, in the case of The Raconteurs, it's a damn good story at that. White Stripes, yada, yada, yada...this side project gained steam and then took off.
7. Hey Now Now - Michael Franti & Spearhead.
I really could have chosen almost any song off of the 2006 release, Yell Fire! This is a solid disc perhaps enriched for me since I was fortunate enough to see Michael and friends perform live at the Wilma Theater here in Missoula. This was the best show I've seen in a very long time. He sings his mind and is a positive voice for peace in the world. Yell Fire Michael!
8. Think Long - Mates of State.
I'm pretty sure this song is included because of a very long solo drive I took to and from Salt Lake City this summer. I was on my way to play in an Ultimate tourney and spent some of the trip calling friends to tell them the news I was going to be a Dad...I played this song about 20 times in a row.
9. The W.A.N.D. - Flaming Lips.
Damn, these guys not only have staying power, but they keep getting better. I think this song puts the Lips back in my rotation, after a sad absence.
11. Put Your Records On (Acoustic) - Corrine Bailey Rae .
I'll admit it...I never heard of here before a recommendation from iTunes. What a beautiful voice! Makes me want to sit on a back porch with a group of friends, a guitar and the lovely Ms. Rae.
12. Could We - Cat Power
Charlyn "Chan" Marshall's 7th album is her best. Her minimalist sound, combined with backing from a group of Memphis musicians, is the perfect combination. I hope you agree.
13. Come Together?Dear Prudence/Cry Baby Cry - The Beatles
Love does it for me, not entirely but the recomposition is a nice round out to my Beatles collection.
14. It Beats 4 U - My Morning Jacket.
From the Live recording Okonokos, this song and Off the Record are strong live performances from a funky, wild crazy southern rock band. I'm in.

So that's it for CD1...I'll post more but before signing off I should mention that CD2 will contain many remastered releases, like The Clash, Neil Diamond, Ella Fitzgerald and Neil some new stuff from Pavement, Sonic Youth and more.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Bathtime for Liam

We know a couple of things already about Liam; he loves to take a bath and he loves to snuggle after a bath. He also loves to hear sounds like clucks and whistles and tongue blows. He is fascinated by his aqua mobile sent by Aunt Nancy.
Of course everyone thinks their baby is perfect and we're no exception. About a week ago, Liam decided to answer my repeated clucks with one of his own. Now he waits to hear a cluck and then will smile and cluck back. He is tracking and holding his head steady by himself. We think he's awfully advanced and suspect he will start talking any day now...or at least making sounds that I can pretend are words.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Deep Freeze

This morning it was -8 degrees (-22 Celsius) here in Missoula, which was nothing compared to the -30 in Butte and the -47 in West Yellowstone; in short Montana has been hit by a deep winter freeze. Despite the fact that it is too cold to enjoy many things outdoors, the sun is shining brightly into my kitchen window and I am enjoying looking out and over the house behind us into the Sapphire Mountains looming nearby.

I converted my old blog to the new Blogger platform yesterday, changing the layout in the process. during the conversion I was looking at some statistics and saw just how sharply the number of posts I make has dropped off, from almost daily to not even monthly I'll add that to my list of resolutions for the new year...that I will once again start posting regularly.

I thought I'd start by posting some of the highlights of my crazy 2006:

In 2006 I got almost 35 days of snowboarding in, including my first out of bounds experience. I enjoyed another season pass at Snowbowl and took my annual 4 day trip to Montana's answer to aspen, Big Sky.
In April I discovered my girlfriend and I were expecting. Lots of complicating circumstances, lots of anxiety but an overall feeling of joy and obligation ensued.
For the 4th year, I ran the Missoula ultimate leagues and we once again had a record number of players.
I traveled to Salt Lake in May for a men's Ultimate tournament, I hadn't played Open in a while, so it was fun and surprisingly I played decent enough to decide on playing another season.
I started training hard for the club Ultimate season in early June, only to be sidelined by an emergency Appendectomy. Despite this, I made the trip to Calgary with the Missoula team, where we finished 3rd. I also attended tourneys in Portland, Bozeman and Boise, all the while trying to grow my relationship with my girlfriend (as her belly was also growing).
In September our Ultimate team won the ID, UT, WY, MT section in Idaho Falls and qualified for the regional championships, where we then qualified for the national championships (as previously posted).
My girlfriend and I bought a home together in October.
On November 17, 2006 at about 6:00 PM, I proposed and she hour later she went into labor.
On November 18 (as previously posted) our son, Liam John Hays O'Connor was born...the first non-Hoosier O'Connor (from our clan anyway) since the late 1800's.
We hosted Thanksgiving for much of my family.
Liam got to visit Indiana over Christmas and we spent New Year's eve in a hot tub down the Bitterroot Valley watching fireworks go off under a cloudless, star-filled cold, cold sky.

Not a bad year.

Being a Dad, at this stage in life, and in the manner I did it, has some unique challenges. I must admit sometimes I feel like I am not myself, rather I am a zombie going through the motions of work, changing diapers, getting up 4-5 times a night and doing it all over again. But as all of you parents out there already know, one smile from Liam or observing him interact with his Mom or siblings, and every other care in the world melts away. It's a feeling I've been waiting for a long time to have and it makes up for all the "stuff" I am missing, like snowbaording, hanging out with my friends and teammates, working out, vegging out and spending time writing letters and emails.

Happy New Year.