Iron Works for 5/20/10, and the Easiest (and best!) Roasted Chicken You’ll Ever Make

The Rocky Mount YMCA — hey, it’s the place to be, especially at the ass-crack of dawn!  Today we have another workout from the Iron MetCon bag o’ tricks.  Here’s what went down:

barbell thrusters: 135 x 7, 7; 145 x 6, 6, 5
weighted, regular grip pull-ups: 45 x 7, 7, 7, 7, 6+ (stall)

Done as a superset, with minimum rest between sets.  Each rep completed an explosive a fashion as possible.  Bar returned to a full, legitimate rack position (high elbows, bar secure in the “rack”) prior to front squat descent.


high cable flyes (out of the lunge position): 60# x 10, 10, 8, 8
barbell good mornings: 135 x 10, 10, 10, 10

Again, performed as a superset, with very little rest between exercises.

The cable flye out of the full lunge position is one of the few cable-based exercises I really like.  The lunge position adds more of a full body element to an otherwise rather pedestrian movement.  The hands should travel an upward arc from approximately the level of the hips to the top of the head, with the elbows remaining slightly bent throughout.  For the good mornings: full descent (exaggerated, even — big, big glute/ham stretch), then explosive out of the hole.  Allow the back to round slightly, as we are, in fact, attempting to work the lower back with these as well as the glutes and hams.

Roasted Chicken, the Easy Way (how else would I make it?)

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First things first — get your hands on a good bird.  A good, locally-raised, truly free-range yard bird is a must.  Here’s where I get mine.  The difference in taste between free-range and “conventionally raised” (sad that “conventionally-raised” has come to mean what it has) is beyond description, and that difference alone is enough to make even a kitchen hack like me look like I know what the hell I’m doing with a pan and oven.

So the chicken I used here was approximately 3.5 pounds.  Rinse and dry ‘im off well.  You want the chicken to be thoroughly dry before sliding it in the oven, otherwise it’ll steam instead of roast, and that’ll not make for a nice crispy, brown skin.  Salt & pepper liberally, and stuff the cavity with rosemary and thyme — or whatever else you might choose (citrus of some sort, maybe).  Put it in a 450-degree oven and let it rip for 45 minutes or so.  Whatcha got on your hands after that is pure, chickenly heaven!

I put a small sweet potato in along with the chicken from the get-go, then about halfway though, I added the asparagus.  Both ended up slathered in chicken fat.  Out-of-this-world good!

Now That’s a Scramble!

The Paleo diet is such a sacrifice, right?  I mean, damn, what’s there to eat?  Well, here’s yet another meal I had to suffer through — some pay-off for spending a tough hour of intervals in the fixie saddle yesterday evening, huh?

That’s bacon and avocado on the side.  In the free-range egg scramble are mushrooms, spinach, cherry tomatoes and raw cheddar cheese.  In the glass we have some Rex-Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon.

This is truly a monk’s life of deprivation, I tell you.

Burnout? Overtraining? Not if You Cycle Exercises, Volume, and Intensity Properly

Here’s the deal: if you fail to rotate through a number of different exercise variations, and choose, instead, to continually hammer-away at a few specific exercises — the bench, squat and deadlift are, to a great detriment, rarely rotated out of a “serious” trainee’s program — you will eventually stagnate, regress and/or tumble into an overtrained state, both physically and psychologically.  Why can I go heavy and hard with very few down periods?  First, I continually rotate exercises and I continually juggle methods, volume and intensity.  This keeps me mentally, physically, and neurologically fresh, and able to push each and every rep to attain maximum power output relative to the exercise load I’m handling.  At 60% of 1RM, yes, the bar speed is actually blazing fast.  At 98% 1RM?  The bar speed is noticeably slower to be sure, however, the intent to move the bar as fast as possible is present — it’s a mental and neurological habit that must be incorporated and nurtured.

Some trainee’s will claim that their “big three” lifts will suffer if they don’t pound away at these lifts routinely.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And try telling that to Louie Simmons, and the rest of the Westside gang.  Ask them how often they actually perform a competition squat, deadlift or bench.  The short answer is rarely, and/or only at an actual competition.  They do, however, rotate through a plethora of similar exercises, performing max-effort lifts weekly in both the pressing motion and squat/pulling motion.  All this max-effort, balls-to-the-wall training results in a severely overtrained athlete, right?  Again, ask Louie how overtrained his athletes are, and how stymied each athlete’s progress is.  And before you think this applies only to powerlifters, think again — this is simply the application that the science has been applied to.  The science, is fact, is relevant across any discipline; all that must be tweaked are the discipline-specific applications.

One thing, though: don’t confuse strength and power development with the “10,000 hour” principle of skill acquisition; fine motor skills and “reflex”, or “do without doing” is an entirely different animal.

The Last Couple of Days Worth of Action:

Thursday evening: 40-minutes worth of intermittent-intensity fixie romping;  20-minutes on, break for library cruising (about 15 minutes), then 20-minutes on.

Friday morning iron works:

elevated feet ballistic push-ups: bodyweight x 5, each round.  Rebound fashion (i.e., “hot floor”, minimize hand-to-ground contact time).  Used as a set-up, or “prime”, for the press.

standing front press (minimal hip kick): 115 x 5; 135 x 4; 155 x 4; 175 x 2; 185 x 2; 190 x miss; 185 x 1, 1

pull-up bar muscle-up: bodyweight x 3, each round

8 total rounds of that, then a superset of:

dimel deadlifts: 135 x 20, 20, 20
flat DB triceps extensions (palms facing one another): 45 x 8, 8, 8

Very little rest time between movements, even with the heavy presses.  Total workout time was approximately 45 minutes.  I perform Dimel DL’s as a release-and-catch on the eccentric portion of the movement.  Not much load required in this movement; in fact, too much load will destroy the speed of the movement.  Find the sweet spot here between enough load and the maintenance of speed.

New Book in the Rotation

This one is a re-read of something I devoured many years ago, something that nudged me on to my own particular, spiritual path.  I’m curious to see how I relate to it now: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman.

What’s for Dinner?
Check this free-range egg scramble out: mushrooms, spinach, cherry tomatoes, raw, grass-fed cheese, all scrambled-up in a generous amount of bacon fat.  Yum-o!

This Ain’t Your Father’s Workout…

…Unless, of course, your father happens to be Dan John, Louie Simmons…or, heh… Keith Norris

Actually, this little gem went down yesterday morning (4/27/10).  A very busy day — complete with a dash out to the RDU airport to pick up Meesus TTP, among other things — prevented me from posting this in a more timely manner.

Anyway, here’s the workout:

wide stance box squat (just below parallel): 135 x 5; 185 x 5; 205 x 3, 3; 225 x 3, 3, 3 — explode off the box

weighted dips (all sets w/ black band, doubled): 45 x 7 sets of 4 (in a superset with box squats); then 45 x 5 sets of 3 (in a superset with DB snatches)

dual DB power snatch: 40 x 5; 50 x 4; 65 x 3, 3, 3

I finished-up with two sets of bodyweight GHR’s x 15 reps; “free-fall” negatives, catch/rebound with the body parallel to the ground, and explode back up.  Remember that in the GHR, we want to lessen the contribution of the lower back, and accentuate the contributions of the glutes/hams.  It’s essential, then to maintain a relatively rounded back and ensure to drive the torso all the way through until the thighs are perpendicular to the ground.

A few notes: The dual DB power snatch example video I’ve linked to shows an exaggerated kick/foot-stomp the likes of which I am not a fan, nor do I employ.  The foot stomp is supposed to be an Oly lift technique reminder (the “catch” foot positioning being wider than the “pull” positioning, therefore you should hear/feel your feet re-plant) that has somehow slipped into the personal training “lexicon”, so that now in gyms across the nation you’ll see people doing this exercise with feather-light weights, and stomping away as if they’re at a Riverdance audition.  Just don’t do it; if you can still jump like Tinkerbell in this movement, for Crissakes, grab heavier dumbbells.

The box squat: this is primarily a hip/glute/ham exercise — not a quad exercise.   To perform this movement properly, think of sitting back (waaaaay back) in a rolling office chair so that by the time your butt hits the seat, your knees are splayed wide (attempting to “spread the floor” with your feet, which are “torqued” into the ground) and your shins are at a slight angle back.  This is counter-intuitive to most, and a different movement (and set-up) altogether from the high-bar, Oly squat (or front squat, for that matter…or a RFESS).  Now from this position, you want to explode off of the box.  How?  Think once more of sitting in that office chair.  Now, with your shins at that “backward” angle we talked about earlier, pull yourself so that you roll forward.  Feel your glutes and hams engage?  Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for.  This is really a “squat” in name only, and maybe it would be better if the movement went by another name entirely.  The problem is, we hear the word “squat” and all of a sudden, all we can think of is the movement we learned when we were first introduced to the iron game.  Not that the old school squat is bad, it’s just not what we’re working today; another tool for another time.  Anyway, it takes a good while to get the technique of this movement properly ironed-out.  It is, however, well worth the time investment.

Anyone been to the Earth Fare grocery chain?  It’s kind of like a spiffier Whole Foods, and without the tattooed employees.  I dunno, maybe I like things a little grittier, but I if I had to choose between the two, I’d opt for Whole Foods.  The Earth Fare crew does make a fantastic variety of paleo-friendly chicken salad, though; an awesome tarragon kale, and roasted sweet potato/bell pepper side dish as well.   Kudos to the kitchen staff for those eats!

The Kitchen Klutz Stumbles Through Another Paleo Meal and, Commentary on the Atlantic’s Recent “Beating Obesity” Article

“The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.” – Socrates

Crock pot meals may, to the culinary artist, boarder on the unimaginative, but they sure are easy as all hell to throw together — and they’re not too bad in the taste department, either.  And hey, for those of us who’d rather play outside than spend much time in the kitchen, they’re a Godsend.

What we have here is a simple pork sausage (stuffed in stomach lining), a grass-fed chuck roast, carrots, celery, onions and beef broth.  Season the roast with a little brisket rub, set the crock on low and let it roll for approximately 10 hours.  How easy is that?

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Marc Ambinder Makes Fighting Obesity Personal

Well, this is certainly not a statistic to be proud of — as of 2010, the U.S. became the most overweight and obese developed country in the world.  Unfortunately, this comes as a shock to no one. Against this backdrop, we have journalist Marc Ambinder’s making the rounds as of late, following the recent publication of his article in The Atlantic (Beating Obesity), which documents his personal and on-going fight against obesity. It’s interesting stuff, to be sure, and touches on a few issues (Bariatric surgery, for one) that are bound to incite much indignation among the Paleo tribe.

NPR interviewed Marc Ambinder recently about the article, which appeared in the May issue of The Atlantic.  Also on hand was Dr. Arthur Frank, founder and co-director of The George Washington University Weight Management Program.  Both guests talk about the plight of America’s ever expanding waistline, Ambinder’s recent article, and the two field some interesting call-in questions as well.  It’s well worth the listen.

In Beating Obesity, Ambinder writes:

“…In short, even as the nation is convulsed by a political struggle to “reform” health care, no effort to contain its costs is likely to succeed if we can’t beat obesity…”

Hmmm.  Now I’m not prone to beating my own drum, but I’ve said before, in reference to the nation’s healthcare reform debate, that:

“…No system can be created that will not ultimately implode under the weight of a diseased citizenry…”

This, in my opinion, is a self-evident truth.  And this is the reason why, that, although we Paleo adherents may continue on merrily in our own happy and healthy, insular bubbles, we cannot fully escape the train wreck that is the pending American healthcare crisis.  One way or another, Paleo brethren, we’re all going to pay (taxation, loss of choice, etc.).  It’s in our best interest to remain fully engaged, even though we find ourselves more fully, each passing Paleo day, removed from the mainstream nutritional-supply and healthcare-provision system.

Also from the article was this little data tidbit that I found quite interesting:

“…[I]talian economists recently divided the number of calories consumed per day by the amount of time spent preparing food, they found that Americans consumed 42 percent more calories per minute of food-prep time than Europeans…”

Can you say “reliance upon processed foods”?  Yeow-zaa.  Holy insulin rush, Batman.

Oh yeah, and the “Soft American” article that Ambinder speaks to can be found here.   My, my; I wonder what ol’ Jack would think about the state of American youth (not to mention, adults), today.

But hey, it’s not all bad news out there.  Here’s a story on an innovative new initiative in Baltimore, which allows inner-city folks the opportunity to order groceries from the library, and have those groceries delivered to the library the following day.  Very cool.  Couple this with some good nutritional educational resources, and a little “want to” on the part of the participants, and this program may just become one positive piece of the complex, American, “nutritional turnaround” puzzle.  Small steps do add-up, whether in health, fitness or in education.

In health,


So Easy, Even a Kitchen Dolt Can Pull It Off

NPR covered an interesting story yesterday in relation to the Institute of Medicine‘s recommendation that the FDA seek some form of governmental regulation in regard to the salt content of processed foods.  From the NPR site:

“The Institute of Medicine issued a report Tuesday on reducing salt intake. They are recommending that Americans reduce their salt intake significantly, and that the FDA take the lead in leveling the playing field for food processors so that salt content can be systematically reduced over a period of years…”

And Ex-FDA Chief David Kessler’s take on the matter, here.  Mr. Kessler, you might recall, is also the author of “The End of Overeating“.

Both David Kessler and Dr. Robert Lustig (Sugar, the Bitter Truth) speak to the notion of food manufacturers designing of foods for the “optimal bliss point”; that is, purposely manipulating the salt and sugar (or, more commonly now, HFCS) content of a processed “food” so as to create a consumption hyper-drive effect in the unsuspecting gnosher.

Of course, the fail-safe answer here is to simply avoid any and all processed crap — a line that the Paleo tribe ascribes to.  However, as the healthcare/health concerns of our neighbors becomes more and more (due to taxation and shifts in governmental approach to healthcare; i.e., “reform”) our collective concern as well, we would be remiss to just stick our collective, Paleo heads in the sand on this issue.  I — and you, as a fellow Paleo “tribesman” — may not ever be personally affected by this issue, but you can better believe that our wallets will be.

And here’s a good bit of BBC reporting on vitamin D deficiency.  Not only is this an informative bit of reportage, but it’s done in that oh-so-cool English accent that makes a statement like…

“…unless, of course, you want a rickety child, a bended, knock-kneed, large-headed, pale and rickety article…”

…such an absolute auditory joy to behold.  Hat tip to Methuselah, at Pay Now, Live Later for the find.

As a correlative to the above mentioned BBC report, there’s this (Diet, Lifestyle, Poorly Predict Vitamin D Levels) from  Good thing you can have your own vitamin D levels measured relatively cheaply from ZRT Labs.

Tonight’s Paleo Chow

Another hit-and-run meal tonight.  What could be more simple than a sweet potato, a few sunny-side up eggs and a little bit of leftover pork sausage?  The baked sweet potato, by the way, makes for a great yoke-soppin’ medium.  Easy to make, but  damn friggin’ good.

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Heh, a funny aside: The best pork sausage in the south (in the world?  Some think so!) can be found approximately 5 miles from my humble abode here in beautiful eastern North Carolina.  How better to get there than on the trusty fixie?  And then?  Well, you guessed it — 6 pounds of sausage stuffed in the ol’ backpack 🙂  That quick, intense, 10-mile round trip huck makes the most fabulous sausage around taste even that much better!

Huck on!

Tracking Insulin Response?

I’ve often been asked, in various forms and fashions, why I don’t bother with tracking my insulin response to various consumption and/or activity inputs and events.  My response has always been, “what’s the point?”  The fact of the matter is that insulin will increase even following a strict Paleo meal — hell, insulin will increase in response to a tough workout.  Yes, insulin is the “mac daddy” hormone within the overall metabolic cascade, however, the modifying factor here is what that insulin is in the presence of, and this leads us back to what was consumed (or, maybe more importantly, what was not consumed).  In any event, Robb Wolf and Andy Deas cover this idea (among a slew of other topics) thoroughly in episode 23 of Robb and Andy’s Paleolithic Solution, podcast.

It’s my belief that one needs to track a questionable substance’s affect upon one’s body composition via a weeks-long n=1 assessment; tracking short term insulin response to that substance really isn’t going to give you very much practical information to work with.  Think dairy might be your bug-a-boo?  Cut it out for a while, and note how you respond.

Now I’m the biggest Paleo-geek there is, but the real-life, fact-of-the-matter is that we all have to function within the constraints of the real world.  Are you really going to tote a glucometer around for the rest of your natural-born days?  Look, I know that if I want to get ultra-cut, all I need to do to to eliminate my beer consumption (sad, but oh so true!), and up my sprint sessions.  No amount of glucometer-jockeying would have told me that — simple n=1 experimentation lead me to this conclusion.

By the way, huge hat tip to Brent Pottenger (the healthcare epistemocrat) for so deftly verbalizing and defining the n=1 concept as it applies to self-experimentation.

Another On-the-Fly, Paleo Chow Dinner –

One small sweet potato, one onion, a pound of grass-fed ground beef, olive oil, Tropical Traditions coconut cream concentrate, 1 can of coconut milk, raw butter, 1 packet (dry) Lipton mushroom onion soup.

Once again, I’m a piss-poor excuse for a gourmet; I’m sure as hell not going to starve, though, or cave to quick-fix, fast-food.  The above is what I happened to have on hand when I got home from work (among some other various items), so I set about an impromptu session in food bricolage.  Hat-tip x 2 to Brent for his ongoing commentary  honoring the Paleo bricoleur.

Anyway, nothing much, here: thin-cut and “stir fry” (in the olive oil, coconut cream and butter mix) the sweet spud; remove and set aside.  Same treatment to the onion, then add-in the ground beef and cook until about half done.  Pepper heavily.  Add-in the soup and coconut mix and simmer the concoction until ” all-the-way done”.  Ladled the meat-mix over the spud, and chowed-down.  Not too damn bad, if I do say so myself.  Note: the dry soup is not celiac-friendly, nor particularly Paleo-friendly, for that matter.  It is, in my opinion, one of those dose-relevant ingredients, though, and the amount used, relative to the meal, was negligible.

Some pics:

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4/13/10; In the Gym with a Strength-Speed Emphasis Plan and, Another On-the-Fly, Paleo Dinner

Cranked-out about an hour’s worth of mixed-intensity fixie riding yesterday evening (rode for a half-hour or so, hung-out at the coffee shop for a while, then hit another half-hour or so on the way home), just to keep the legs loose.  I’d put a tri-tip roast, celerity, and carrots into the crock pot prior to leaving for work that morning, so I had a nice Paleo meal waiting for me when I got home from the ride.

This morning’s workout was basic iron game fare — deadlifts and weighted dips.  Nothing fancy, here — simply basic movement patterns performed at a super-high intensity.

I lead-off each set of deads with box drop jumps (3 reps) as a CNS primer, and each set of weighted dips was preceded by a 3-rep primer of ballistic, bodyweight dips.   Here’s how it all shaped-up:

box drop jumps*: x 3 each round

Conventional deadlift (over/under grip): 225 x 5; 315 x 3; 365 x 3; 385 x 2, 2, 2

ballistic dips: x 3 each round

weighted dips: 45 x 5; 90 x 3; 100 x 3; 105 x 3, 3, 3

The deadlifts and dips were performed with an emphasis on speed of execution — there was nothing slow about any of the day’s movements, everything was geared toward targeting maximum power output.  I probably could have used a little more weight in the deadlifts without sacrificing any speed, however, since I’ve been sprinting and biking pretty hard lately, I decided to err on the side of being too light.

*Step off an 18″ box and, immediately upon landing, rebound over a 30″ box.  Emphasis on minimizing ground contact time.

On-the-Fly Paleo Chow:

Tonight’s dinner:

What do I call it?  Hell if I know.  Hot Italian beef sausage, stir fry beef, cubed lamb, fresh broccoli, olive oil, beef stock, cilantro…spices of various kinds…

I browned the meat and sausage, then threw in the rest of the ingredients and let that simmer for awhile.  Whatever you want to call it, it was pretty damn good.  And I’ve got plenty for leftovers.

Here’s an interesting commentary on Bart Hoebel’s (et al) recent HFCS study; a question/answer format that is rather illuminating.  As you can well imagine, much uproar over this study has come from HFCS-central, and its minions (another take, via the Huffington Post).  I won’t waste a whole lot of time on this; it’s needless, really.  Vet the evidence, and tell me if you’ll want to ever consume this crap again.  ‘Nuff said.

25 Miles in the Saddle, Sled Pulls, and Lamb — It’s What’s for Dinner

Began the day with 18+ miles of mixed-intensity, fixie riding, culminating at the Rocky Mount High School football field for some serious sled dragging.   A single-man tackling sled is a little too heavy to use for glute-dominant, goose-step pulls — which I would prefer, as this exercise more closely hits/resembles the at-speed sprinting (pawing) motion — but still, some very effective drive phase work can be done with a heavier implement.

Here’s what a single-man tackling sled looks like, courtesy of George at Coaching for Pizza.  Heh, not very Paleo, but a very cool site none the less.  Coaching football in Europe — what a trip that must be.

I used my gymnastic rings and straps for leads.  I have no way of quantifying how much or how many pulls I did, other than to say I did a friggin bunch — alternating between both forward and backward pulls — in approximately 30 yard bursts.

I followed the pull-fest up with a another 6+ miles in the saddle.  Got a nice workout, along with a little more sun on my pale self than I’d bargained for; ramping-up the ol’ vitamin D generator, I suppose.

Refueled from the day’s activities with some grilled lamb and a simple salad.

I also had another round of the leftover concoction from yesterday.   Notice that my carb intake, even during periods of extended exercise volume, is still pretty damn minimal.

Tomorrow will be a planned day off.  Maybe some light fixie riding out to the coffee shop to keep the legs loose, but noting more than that.

4/10/10; Today’s Workout, and Paleo Chow on the Fly

Actually, let’s back up just a moment and look at last night’s dinner.  Now remember, I absolutely LOVE to eat skillfully prepared, intricate and exquisite meals; thank goodness, then, for Meesus TTP’s kitchen skills, and for the talents of my favorite restaurant’s fine chefs.  Making such meals myself, though?  Meh, I’ve neither the time nor the inclination for that.  I can pull off a pretty good Paleo kitchen improv, though; case in point: after returning from an evening fixie spin, I found I had the following on hand (and not much else, by the way):

1 lb ground sausage
1 lb ground buffalo
1 large sweet onion
2 medium sweet potatoes

Hmmmm, what to do.  OK, so I sliced, seasoned, buttered and roasted roasted the sweet potatoes in the oven, chopped and sauteed the entire onion in a butter/coconut oil mix in a cast iron skillet.  Then, once the onion was done, I added the sausage and buffalo to the skillet mix (along with a sundry of spices…whatever looked like it might work), and cooked that until done.  The result?  A pretty damn good, on the fly meal — even it it wouldn’t win too many creative points.  So, waddaya think?  Am I Iron Chef material?  Heh…

OK, so flash forward to today, and today’s workout:

  • 30 minute intermittent-intensity fixie ride
  • barefooted sprints — 8 x 100 yds @ <13 secs/sprint, approx. 1 minute between runs.
  • 20 minute intermittent-intensity fixie ride

Then it was in the gym for the following:

  • clean grip low pull (out of the rack): 135 x 7; 225 x 5; 315 x 5; 365 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3,
  • elevated feet ballistic push-ups x 7 — or —
  • elevated feet medicine ball push-up x 6 each arm

So 7 total rounds here.  I alternated between “normal” dual-arm ballistic push-ups, and the medicine ball, single-arm variety.  The single-arm variety was done as explosively as possible while minimizing the contribution from the “off” arm.  Minimized hand-to-ground contact time on both varieties, maximized “air” time.  The bar was set just above the knee for the rack pulls.  Full triple extension (and up to full tip-toe), full shrug, and explosive on each rep.

Pretty good demonstration of med. ball push-ups here.  Now, I performed mine with feet elevated (about 18″), and I performed 6 reps with one arm, then shifted to the other for another 6.  Just another variant of this fine exercise.  One thing to keep in mind is to not let your hips sag while doing any manner of push-up — no saddle-back horse look-alikes aloud!

Another 15 minutes worth of fixie huckin’ to get home.  By this time I’ve been fasted for 18 hours; I won’t eat for another 2.  And when I do eat, it’s this:

Remember last night’s dinner?  Well, here’s part of the left overs —

Me thinks a couple of free-range eggs will go well to top that off; here’s the end product:

Check out those yokes!  By the way, the egg on the right is a duck egg.  This concoction doesn’t look like much, but it sure tasted good!