Monday, September 28, 2009

Cacao Nib Pork Chops

You may think i've gone off the deep end after you read this but I swear I'm sane. I have a thing for chocolate these days - darker the better. Chocolate doesn't GET darker than cacao nibs - they are just crushed raw cacao beans (which are actually seeds). Just for fun i bought some cacao beans because, geez, just sounded like a great snack food.
So here they are next to a quarter. I wouldn't buy them - they are "barely" edible. I just popped them in my mouth - there's a thin shell which didn't help the taste. If you peel them, they're better. I suppose if you covered them in chocolate like those almonds or coffee beans, they'd be the bomb. But these, um, crunchy bitterness.

BUT, that's just proof that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. So, why cook with this stuff? Well, if you google cacao and read up, you'd think it was a magic drug that hits you with magnesium, suppresses appetite, releases all kinds of feel-good chemicals in the brain (the "Bliss Chemical), blah blah blah - don't know if any of that is true. What i do know is that it imparts a rich, nutty, roasty, flavor to meats. So here's the recipe (I swear i've had these like 10 times now! - feeling so guilty not sharing! ) U can get cacao nibs at whole foods or online. They're pricey but we're not using that much.

Cacao Nib Chops with Butternut - enough for (2) 5 block meals

9 oz (final weight) boneless pork chops - trim all fat. 63gm P, 7gm F
4 tsp raw cacao nibs 8gm F, 4gm C
18 oz butternut squash - cubed 60gm C
2 Table Spoon Agave 32gm C
3 tsp Olive Oil 15gm F
1 egg 7gm P 5gm F
Couple handfuls of spinach - negligible C
Salt and Pepper to taste

Pound the chops out like this if you can.

Whip up an egg in a bowl, coat the chops, then sprinkle 1 tsp of cacao nibs on both sides like so...
I know! Looks funny. Go with me ;-)
Prepare the butternut squash and get 2 tsp of olive oil going in a pan. Get the butternut going first. After 5 minutes, put 1 tsp of olive oil in another pan and, once it's hot, get the chops going. Add the agave to the butternut towards the end and sprinkle with cinnamon (soooo good ). Everything should finish about the same time. Throw some raw spinach on the plate to make your mama proud. Put butternut over the spinach, add the chops and you're ready to chow! Let me say i've made these chops with all kinds of spices - don't do it. The nibs will get lost. Just light salt and pepper work best. Then you will appreciate the roasty chocolate taste.
Sorry I'm not done :-) If you're just here for the PZ meals, skip the rest. I've been working with some people on "diets" and watching all the new paleo foods come out - which is awesome. There's been so much misinformation in the US about diet - it's hideous really (read "Good Calories, Bad Calories"). Now we've got some brave souls giving us options in the right direction - albeit for a little moolah but this IS America. HOWEVER, I'm not quite happy with some of the statements/direction that seem to imply U just can't go wrong on a paleo diet. Well it depends on your goals. Let's just say you're a crossfitter (might be a few of you out there ;-) You need power:weight - in other words, lean and strong. Will you get there eating strictly paleo with no portion control? Would not work for me. Is it true that you can't get fat eating fat? Not according to my bodyfat tests when i was eating too many nuts (full paleo btw). Granted, you will be better off eating paleo but sorry, paleo tells you what to eat, not how much to eat. Even cavemen were out to gain fat for the winter and the survivors did a good job of it. That skill was passed on to us. So, what do you do? Paleo-Zone of course. Zone tells you how much to eat. Sorry i'm not done ;-) cuz there's a loop-hole in the zone - it's called "double fat, triple fat, you're getting fat" In Barry Sears book, he says "..Truly elite athletes should consume two fat blocks for every protein block. Therefore, their ratio of protein, carbohydrate, and fat blocks would be 1:1:2" He previously states a fat block is 1.5 gm. So, a 1X fat zone meal would be 30.8%P, 39.6%C, and 29.7%F a 2x fat meal meal would be 26.8%P, 34.4%C, and 38.8%F. A 3X fat meal would have 46% fat - who needs 3X fat? Athletes at the top of their game i would guess. So, what are you eating? Check the math - fat is 9 cal/gm, carbs are 4 cal per gram, proteins are 4 cal/gm. There are some marketed "paleo" foods out there with upwards of 56% of their calories from fat. These foods must be for Olympians!! Now i'm not a dietician, nutritionist, or any kind of health specialist and I won't take credit for any Paleo or Zone theories. I'm an engineer that read most of the books out there and knows how to follow instructions and be exact. E-mail me if you need any help perfecting your diet - assuming your goal is a high power:weight ratio. Steve "Paleo"


  1. Interesting. I wonder if there are gender differences in effects of dietary fat. I seem to do better eating a higher proportion of fat in my diet than Mike does. Happier and no problems with weight gain. Could be related to women having higher percent body fat than men. Any ideas?

  2. Hi Amy - i haven't read of gender differences that would justify changing zone proportions but certainly there are differences among people in how their bodies respond to carbohydrates and i would think those differences could warrant adjustments to the ratios. I think the tradeoff when you start displacing carbs and protein with fat involves minerals and nutrients so if i were following a relatively high fat / low cal diet, i might look into that. I would encrourage everyone to start with zone proportions and adjust until it "works" - because we ARE all different.

  3. Steve, wonderful recipe, wonderful post. Especially agree with you about the need for CrossFitters to get off their anti-Zone Paleo high horse and take the Zone half of the formulation "Paleo-Zone" seriously. It is simply not true that "you can eat as much as you want" on Paleo. Or at least, not if you're me. See, a big part of me WANTS to eat tons of food, but the Zone has taught me how to eat things in proper proportion, which not only helps control appetite, but also has other health related benefits like helping to control inflammation, speed recovery, etc., not to mention control body composition more precisely.

    I do have one persistent problem with the whole Zone block thing: Zone Fat blocks are sometimes called 1.5 g, sometimes 3 g, sometimes even 4 g, all in books by Sears.

    The original typological Zone arrangement of 30 % protein /40% carbs / 30% fat can only work as a 1 block / 1 block / 1 block arrangement if the fat blocks are 3 g.

    Otherwise, if they are 1.5 g, a 30 / 40 / 30 is actually 1 / 1 / 2, e.g. a so-called 2x fat scheme.

    It's not a problem for me... I just reckon all fat blocks as being 3 g of fat. I usually do eat a true 2x fat diet (which, if you do the math, comes out to be 24% protein / 31 % carbs / 46% fat.

    But anyway, after a while all this math makes my head spin. Got any solutions for us?

  4. Hi Mathew - 1st - I couldn't agree with you more! Thanks for your comment. We're on the same page for sure. However, i'm not sure about this:
    "The original typological Zone arrangement of 30 % protein /40% carbs / 30% fat can only work as a 1 block / 1 block / 1 block arrangement if the fat blocks are 3 g" If your protein "block" has fat in it, which they often do, then you just screwed up you 30:40:30 ratio. That's where Barry get's the 1.5 gm fat block. ** He assumes there's another 1.5 buried, on average, in your protein blocks.** My solution is to put it all in a spreadsheet which is first based on your protein needs, which then sets your carb needs (1:1) and then increase fats to the point that bodyfat stays constant(in my case) and lean body mass is slowly increasing. I really don't worry about "blocks". I'm counting grams and just doing the math like you are. Unfortunately that takes a lot of work and monitoring and people might think you're a little, um, whacked! ;-) Oh well! PZ or Bust!!!! Cheers, Steve

  5. Hmmmm... i gotta clarify a little further. You are correct in your statement if you select a protein block that has zero fat - like 2 egg whites. Then the fat block needs to be 3 gm for the "math" to work. However, if you select some red meat which has 1.5 gm of fat in addition to the protein, and you add your 1 block (3gm F) of fat and 1 block (9 gm) carbs, now you have a meal that is 7gm P, 4.5 gm fat, 9 gm carbs - which is not 30:30:40 Hope that's more clear for everyone. This is exactly why i count grams in a spreadsheeet - i don't like assumptions. I want to know EXACTLY what i did over a time period so when/if i need to adjust, it can be done accurately.

  6. Steve we are even more alike than I thought!

    Like you I actually don't use blocks. I use a spreadsheet and count grams of macronutrients using nutrititional data and not a "block chart."

    Later, I reconvert what I have done back into "blocks" only so I can talk to other Zoners about it (and so, you know, Robb Wolf can understand). My spreadsheet has a "blocks" section which lets me see, very quickly, what I've eaten and how it compares day to day.

    Maybe you've written about this elsewhere on your blog... but right now I'm trying to figure out just how much to eat, and in what proportions, to get my bodyfat to drop just a bit while my lean mass continues to improve, keeping my weight about constant.

    Lately, I have apparently mastered keeping everything status quo, but progress is slow.

  7. Geez I do the same thing Matt! Maybe we'll start a trend! I hope so... Gaining muscle while losing fat is a little more art than science and very individual. I know because i followed a "slam-dunk" recipe and it didn't quite work-out for me - and i was using the dunk test (hydrostatic body-comp regular checks) to evaluate my progress. Anyway, I'm gonna send you a personal e-mail on that one... cheers! Steve

  8. Hi Steve... I made these pork chops tonight! So good!!! Unfortunately I didn't have the butternut squash (I subbed sauteed spinach). I just happened to have all ingredients for pork chops and was over anxious! But man, I'll be making it again with the squash as I can just imagine how wonderful that pairing will be. LOVE your blog! I'm a recent blogger myself for the "eat this" site at CF Santa Cruz Central. Thanks for your great recipes, entertaining rants, and intelligent insight! :)

  9. Hi Kelly - I worked out a couple times at CFSCC a earlier this year - nice box with great people! Glad you liked the chops! (Cacao nibs left over from those cookies? right on!) But do try that butternut w/agave. U can also throw in some mango ( i know it sounds crazy ) and you'll think you're eating pie filling. ;-) I've seen your blog before but i just stopped by again - I like it! U can't go wrong with the ingredients in your cookie recipe!! Thanks again for your comments - means a lot from someone who has a similar passion. Eat Well! :-) Steve

  10. Steve, great blog, i kind of stumbled upon it! I've been following Kelly's and a few other for paleo cooking/baking!
    Chuck O

  11. hi steve ...
    it's great blog.
    very happy to find your blog.