Spam Musubi

An incredibly popular Hawaiian snack and lunch treat is Spam Musubi (pronounced moo-soo-bee). The island delicacy consists of a slice of grilled of spam, on top of a block of rice that is wrapped with a strip of Nori (seaweed) in the tradition of Japanese omusubi.

Spam Musubi is eaten as a sandwich, usually served with soy sauce or Japanese mayonnaise, and can be found literally everywhere in Hawaii – including local fast food restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, school cafeterias, and even at the zoo.

Eating a Spam Musubi seems to serve as a rite of passage for newcomers anxious to attain “local” status.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and albacore tuna are excellent sources of protein, low in saturated fat and contain the most Omega-3 fatty acids of all the gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals.

Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids decrease triglyceride levels, slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaque, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk and reduce arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).

The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least two times per week.

Kirkland Signature 1/4 lb. All Beef Hot Dog

You’ve just finished your monthly shopping expedition to Costco. The 500 pallets of bulk items that you purchased inside are securely packed inside your family18-wheeler. You’re tired and you’re hungry. You reconnoiter the massive parking lot for any source of sustenance, but see nothing. Then, just as despair begins to take hold, you see them: the red and white Kirkland Signature umbrellas. It’s the Costco food court!

A quick meal at the food court of this American multinational retail leader may seem like a great idea at the time: convenient, flavorful, fair food-like items at exceptionally low-prices. The problem is that many of Costco’s tasty food court offerings come at a high calorie cost.

A great example of that is Costco’s most popular, signature food court item: the Kirkland Signature 1/4 lb. All Beef Hot Dog.

Priced at only $1.50 each, the dog is but one item in the Kirkland Signature line; Costco’s private trademarked label. Sold only by Costco at their website and warehouses, the name is derived from the location of the company’s original corporate headquarters, Kirkland, Washington.

Nutritionally, this quarter-pounder and bun come in at 570 calories – with 300 calories coming from fat.  Each delicious frank carries 33 grams of total fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of Trans fat, 80 mgs of cholesterol, 1750 mgs of sodium, 46 grams of carbs, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugar and 24 grams of protein.

Incidentally, each $1.50 hot dog comes with a refillable 20 ounce soda. Depending on your sugary beverage of choice, your one dog and drink pit-stop could add up to almost 1,000 calories.  

Clearman’s North Woods Inn

Southern California natives will tell you that there’s no better place to live than the Southland, and people from any other state will tell you that there’s no better place to visit and dream about living than So Cal.

But there’s more to us than our golden beaches and endless sunshine – we have some of the best food in the world.

An icon in Southern California dining since 1958 is the North Woods Inn of San Gabriel.


With peanut shells on the floor, and a warm, woodsy, snow-topped hunting lodge atmosphere that’s anything but stuffy, diners’ line up for lumber-jack sized portions; ample appetizers, enormous salads, and delicious dinner entrées that include juicy steaks and fresh local seafood.

Every North Woods meal starts out with bread and salad. But like everything else they do, Clearman’s has raised the “appetizer” bar to new, decadent heights. The first starter to hit the table is a bowl or two of roasted peanuts in the shell.

Bottomless baskets of their mouthwatering cheese bread arrive next, along with two huge bottomless bowls of salad that are served family style: their delectable blue cheese salad and their famous red cabbage salad.  And when it comes to the salads, in-the-know locals combine the two for a savory treat that you won’t find anywhere else.

Nutrition wise, North Wood’s hors d’oeuvres are pretty much what you might suspect:

  • One half-cup of the roasted shelled peanuts contain 166 calories, 14 grams of total fat, 230 mg of sodium, 187 mg of potassium and 2 grams of dietary fiber.
  • One cup of the blue-cheese salad has 97.5 calories, 4 grams of total fat, 208 mg of sodium, 63 mg of potassium and .25 gram of dietary fiber.
  • One cup of the red cabbage comes with 109 calories, 5 grams of total fat, 140 mg of sodium, 196 mg of potassium and 1.7 grams of dietary fiber.
  • 1 unbelievably flavorful slice  of the cheese bread carries 230 calories, 17 grams of total fat, 16 grams of carbs, 5 grams of protein and 1 gram of dietary fiber.

And just in case you’re wondering, in the decades that I have been visiting Clearman’s North Wood Inn with family and friends, I have never seen anyone eat just one half-cup of peanuts, one cup of salad, or one slice of cheese bread. Never. It just doesn’t happen.


Calorie Burn: SUP

The current form of Stand-Up Paddle Surfing and Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is an offshoot of surfing that originated in Hawaii in the 1940’s. Surfing legends Duke Kahanamoku, Leroy and Bobby Ah Choy and Dave Kalama began using this new style (then called Beach Board Surfing) as a way to stand on their boards during incoming swells.

Once it reached California in the early 2000’s, stand-up paddling formed four epicenters, each with its own fountainhead: Rick Thomas (San Diego), Ron House (Dana Point/San Clemente), Laird Hamilton (Malibu) and Bob Pearson (Santa Cruz). From there, the sport gained exponential popularity and California served as the catalyst for worldwide adoption.

By 2005, SUP began to diversify into variations that now include flat water paddling for outdoor recreation, fitness, or sightseeing, racing on lakes, large rivers and canals, surfing on ocean waves, paddling in river rapids (Whitewater SUP), Paddle Board Yoga and even fishing.

Calorie burns in one-hour SUP sessions:

  • SUP Surfing: if your runs are active, on average, you’ll burn 623 to 735 calories.
  • SUP Racing: your high-intensity race will burn 713 to 1,125 calories.
  • SUP Touring: by maintaining a speed of 3 mph, you can burn 615 to 708 calories.
  • SUP Yoga: with an energetic flow, you can burn anywhere from 416 to 540 calories.
  • Recreational Paddling: you can burn 305 to 430 calories leisurely paddling.

Calorie Burn: Beach Volleyball

Enjoying a friendly game of volleyball at your favorite beach on a beautiful sunny afternoon may not seem like an intense workout, but according to Harvard Medical School, beach volleyball is an excellent way to burn calories quickly.

A 155-pound person will burn 298 calories during a 30-minute game, while a 185-pound person will burn 133 calories. Should the game take a competitive turn, the same two individuals will burn an extra 45 to 50 calories each.

Dining Down-Range

In military slang, downrange is a term for being deployed overseas, usually in a war zone.

The first soldier ration was established by a Congressional Resolution during the Revolutionary War. It consisted of enough food to feed one man for one day – mostly beef, peas, and rice. During the Civil War, the military created self-contained kits that included canned meat, bread, coffee, sugar and salt.

Soldiers in the First World War were issued lightweight preserved meats that were either salted or dried.

At the beginning of World War II, a number of new field rations were introduced including the Mountain Ration and the Jungle Ration.

  • The Mountain Ration (or “M-Ration”) was specifically developed for use by U.S. troops operating in high-altitude or mountainous regions of the European Theater of Operations and included powdered soup and milk, canned meat and butter, cereal, chocolate, biscuits, compressed fruits, sugar, tea and coffee.
  • The Jungle Ration (or “J-Ration”) was designed for soldiers on extended missions in tropical regions. Originally based on foods carried by American civilians, such as geologists and engineers, prior to World War II, J-Rations were lightweight, ready-to-eat dry foods appealing to American palates such as dried beef, peaches, apricots, and dehydrated whole milk.


However, cost-cutting measures by Quartermaster Command officials during the latter part of World War II and the Korean War again saw the predominance of heavy canned C-Rations issued to troops, regardless of operating environment or mission.

  • The C-Ration (or Type C Ration) was an individual canned, pre-cooked, and prepared wet ration. It was intended to be issued to U.S. military land forces when fresh food (A-Ration) or packaged unprepared food (B-Ration) prepared in mess halls or field kitchens was not possible or not available, and when a survival ration (K-Ration or D-Ration) was insufficient. C-Rations consisted of three variations of the main course: meat and beans, meat and potato hash, or meat and vegetable stew. The C-Ration was, in general, not well liked by U.S. Army or Marine forces in World War II, who found the cans heavy and cumbersome, and the menu monotonous after a short period of exposure.

The K-Ration first saw use in 1942, when it was issued to U.S. Airborne troops on an experimental basis. But the K-ration was ultimately deemed inadequate in its caloric and vitamin content for soldiers fighting, digging, and marching in extreme conditions. K-Rations were composed of three units:

  • Breakfast Unit: canned veal, chopped ham, or eggs & biscuits, dextrose or malted milk tablet, dried fruit bar, pre-mixed oatmeal cereal, Halazone water purification tablets, instant coffee, and sugar (granulated, cubed, or compressed).
  • Lunch Unit: canned pork luncheon meat (Spam), canned processed American cheese, Swiss and American cheese, or bacon and cheese, biscuits, 15 Dextrose or malted milk tablets, five caramels, sugar (granulated, cubed, or compressed), one salt packet, and a powdered beverage packet (lemon, orange, or grape).
  • Dinner Unit: canned sausage, pork luncheon meat with carrot or apple, or beef and pork loaf, biscuits, a 2-ounce emergency chocolate bar, Tropical bar, or (in temperate climates) sweet chocolate bar, and a bouillon packet (cube or powder).

The Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) was the name of canned wet combat rations issued by the United States Armed Forces from 1958 to 1980; the MCI saw duty in Korea and Vietnam. Despite the new name, the MCI was still popularly referred to by the troops as “C-Rations”. The MCI was intended as a modest improvement over the earlier canned C-Ration, with the inclusion of additional menu items to reduce monotony and encourage adequate daily feeding and nutrition. The MCI consisted of a rectangular cardboard carton containing 1 small flat can, 1 large can, and two small cans containing a meat-based entrée, a bread item, and a dessert item.

Today, according to their web site, the U.S. Army says that MREs (Meals Ready-To-Eat) are the main operational food ration for the United States Armed Forces. Developed in 1980, the MRE is still the U.S. Army’s primary ration.

Generally, an MRE contains the following items:

  • Entrée – the main course, such as spaghetti or beef stew. Soldiers can choose from up to 24 entrees, and more than an additional 150 items in the MRE chain.
  • Side dish – rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc.
  • Cracker or bread.
  • Spread – peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread.
  • Dessert – cookies or pound cakes.
  • Candy – M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls.
  • Beverages – Gatorade-like mixes, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea. In 2006, “Beverage Bags” were introduced to the MRE, as service members began to depend more on hydration bladders than canteens, which denied them the use of the metal canteen cups for mixing powdered beverages. In addition to having measuring marks to indicate levels of liquid for precise measurement, they can be sealed and placed inside the flameless heater.
  • Hot sauce or seasoning – in some MREs.
  • Flameless Ration Heater – to heat the entrée.
  • Accessories – spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.

Each MRE provides an average of 1,250 calories (13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates) and one-third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals. A full day’s worth of meals would consist of three MREs. They are capable of withstanding parachute drops from 1,250 feet, and non-parachute drops of 100 feet. MRE packaging maintains a minimum shelf life of three and a half years at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or nine months at 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


Poke (Fish Salad)

Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is the Hawaiian word for “to section” or “to slice or cut”. It is also one of the many dishes in Hawaii that is representative of its history and culture; a mix of traditional Hawaiian technique and food with Japanese ingredients. Considered local “grind” (comfort food) to native Hawaiians, Poke is a centuries-old tradition; a classic Hawaiian pupu (appetizer or main course) dating as far back as the arrival of the first Hawaiians in the island chain.

Back then, Poke was a simple, filling meal. Scraps of raw fish cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated with sesame oil, shoyu (soy sauce), green onions; inamona (a seasoning mixture of toasted and chopped kukui nuts, or candlenuts), Limu (algae), and ‘alaea (a Hawaiian sea salt mixed with red volcanic clay).

As other cultures came to the islands, Poke changed. Easier access to deep-water fish saw aku (an oily tuna) and he’e (octopus) become the new “traditional” forms of the islands staple.

Modern Poke variations include sushi-grade yellowfin (ahi) tuna, raw salmon, various species of shellfish, and tofu. Each makes use of an array of ingredients and seasonings including seaweed, Roe (fish eggs), wasabi, dried or fresh chilies, toasted macadamia nut, Furikake (a dry Japanese seasoning that typically consists of a mixture of dried fish), sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, avocado, Japanese ponzu (citrus) sauce, teriyaki sauce, mushrooms, crispy onions, pickled jalapeno, sriracha sauce, cilantro, pineapple, cucumber, sugar and salt. These contemporary Poke dishes can be served alone or on top of a bed of white rice, pineapple, Sushi-meshi (seasoned rice) or red cabbage.

Nutrition values vary depending on the dish variation selected; a 4 ounce serving of ahi Poke with traditional ingredients has 150 calories, 5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 33 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbohydrates and 0.5 grams of dietary fiber. Ahi Poke also has 400 IU of vitamin A and several trace vitamins and minerals including vitamins B-12, C, D, iron, zinc, folate, magnesium, manganese, potassium and niacin.

Sourdough Bread

Since the California Gold Rush in 1849, sourdough bread has been an important part of the cuisine of San Francisco. Though this style of bread originated much further back in history, the unique starter used in San Francisco’s sourdough has become world famous for its intense sour flavors and dense texture, and is difficult to reproduce elsewhere in the world. The starter’s microorganisms can only thrive in the specific combination of conditions found in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sourdough bread was a favorite of the miners during the Gold Rush, who carried the starter with them as they dispersed across the state, bringing the delicious bread wherever they went. Sourdough bread has become so closely associated with San Francisco, that sourdough became a nickname for miners, and today the mascot of the football team, the San Francisco 49ers, is named Sourdough Sam.

San Francisco’s Boudin Bakery began baking sourdough bread way back in 1849, and using the same starter, has been in continuous production ever since.

This white bread has a chewy, crispy crust, and is the perfect pairing for many popular San Francisco soups, like clam chowder and cioppino, and can often be found hollowed out and shaped into a bowl in which to serve the soups.

Sandwiches, Burgers, & Fast Food

Southern California’s car culture and the population’s reliance on automobiles for transportation throughout California’s vast cities, has widely contributed to the popularity of the classic drive-in and modern drive-thru restaurants.

Famous restaurant chains such as McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, In-N-Out Burger, Carl’s Jr., Der Wienerschnitzel, Del Taco, Taco Bell, Panda Express, Original Tommy’s, Fatburger, and Bob’s Big Boy were all established in sunny Southern California .

Regional fast food menus differ throughout the state, generally depending on the ethnic composition of an area. In Southern California, smaller chains like The Hat feature hamburgers, Mexican food, chili fries, and pastrami.