Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pumpkin and Sage "Risotto"

Can we just take a minute to drool over the title of this post alone?  Really any dish with any of those three words in it is a must-try for me, and let me tell you this meal did not disappoint!

I adapted this recipe from Fast Paleo, a really great website for menu inspiration.  Like I said, I'm addicted to cruising the web for recipes, and this site is always a jackpot.  And of course, you don't have to "eat paleo" to enjoy this food--paleo eats just include lots of protein and veggies cooked in healthy fat.  It's pretty hard for food to taste bad if it includes coconut milk, grass-fed butter, olive oil, or avocado.  People often ask me if it's hard to eat this way because I'm depriving myself of so many things, but truly the food I cook now is more decadent than anything I've made before, more consistently delicious, and I feel better than ever.  Truth.

OK, that's my soap box for the day.  On to the main show.

Eats

In case you can't tell, dinner last night was pretty freaking delicious.  And full of veggies.  So I didn't feel badly about going back for seconds.  And thirds.  Holy yum.  Here's how it went down:

Pumpkin and sage "risotto"
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, riced in food processor or grated
  • 1/2 cup stock of your choice
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 can (1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Fresh sage and nutmeg to taste, oil of choice for cooking
  • - See more at: http://fastpaleo.com/paleo-pumpkin-sage-risotto/#sthash.LuqXq32O.dpuf
    16oz your favorite sausage
    I onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 head of cauliflower, riced
    1/2c chicken stock
    1T tomato paste
    1 can (1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree
    2/3 cup coconut milk
    1T fresh sage
    1/4t fresh nutmeg
    s&p

    I riced my cauliflower in my blender: simply chop a fresh head of cauliflower in to large chunks and throw in the blender, then fill the blender to the top with water.  Pulse the contents until the cauliflower is the size of grains of rice (this took about 5 pulses for me).  Then drain the cauliflower in a colander for a few minutes.

    Brown your sausage over medium-high heat in a skillet (I used hot sausage).  Once browned, remove the sausage and set aside.  Keep the drippings in the pan and reduce heat to medium.  Saute your onion for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.  Then add the cauliflower, nutmeg, sage, stock, tomato paste, and s&p to taste.  Simmer covered for 10 minutes.
    Uncover and cook off any liquid that's still in the pan.
    Add the pumpkin and coconut milk, simmer covered for 5 minutes.
    Uncover and thicken to risotto-like creaminess, 5 – 10 minutes.

    Though this was more steps than I typically like to deal with, this ultimately was an extremely easy recipe to make and the end result was so similar to risotto--thick, creamy, and rich.  Plus, this is my first positive riced cauliflower experience!  My other experiments were fails, which I now attribute to not cooking the cauliflower enough in the end (I despise the taste of raw cauliflower).


    The Coach commented that this would be a perfect dish for a rainy day, since it's so warm and comforting and I totally agree.  Pretty much anything with pumpkin can be counted as a comfort food, right?  I really can't recommend this meal enough--I kind of want to make it again, like now...

    Workout

    I'm so pumped to be almost done with this program because I'm getting sick and tired of pushing myself so freaking hard!  Today was 4 rounds through the 100 rep workout, then 8 30/30 sprints on the treadmill maxing out at 10mph.  The sprints were doubly hard because the gentleman next to me had the ripest BO I've ever experienced.  Dear Mystery Stinker: please refrain from wearing a full on sweatsuit to the gym if you have a sweating/smelly issue, because when I am gulping for air I do not enjoy simultaneously gagging.  Thanks.

    *          *          *

     So this weekend marks the end of my Whole30 experience!  I'll probably do some sort of wrap up post if I can get my act together, but for now I will say that I'm enjoying the decrease in sugar cravings, and will also enjoy the alcohol I will be imbibing this weekend :) 
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, riced in food processor or grated
  • 1/2 cup stock of your choice
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 can (1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Fresh sage and nutmeg to taste, oil of choice for cooking
  • - See more at: http://fastpaleo.com/paleo-pumpkin-sage-risotto/#sthash.LuqXq32O.dpuf
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, riced in food processor or grated
  • 1/2 cup stock of your choice
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 can (1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Fresh sage and nutmeg to taste, oil of choice for cooking
  • - See more at: http://fastpaleo.com/paleo-pumpkin-sage-risotto/#sthash.LuqXq32O.dpuf

    Wednesday, February 27, 2013

    Filipino Adobo Chicken

    Happy hump day!  In these neck of the woods, we woke up to a delightful three inches of slushy snow.  Spring can't come fast enough...

    On that cheery note, here's a quick status update:

    Workout

    Yesterday I did the kettlebell complex I've been working on (swings, off-set squats, reverse lunge to high knee, rows, single-leg deadlifts, and foot-elevated shoulder taps), this time using a 16kg kettlebell.  Even though I only did the circuit three times through, increasing the weight to the 16 form the 12kg was enough to whoop my booty.  Unfortunately, I'm still rocking the early-to-work Tuesday/Wednesday deal so I just focused on getting in the battle ropes / rear-foot elevated split squats today.  Let me tell you, I am VERY excited to move on to a new program next week.  The Coach (correctly, of course) thought it would be a good idea to do lots of high intensity work this month to correspond to my Whole30 and maximize fat loss.  I think it's definitely working, but I also think I'm definitely ready to take a break from doing crazy hard work 5 days a week.

    Eats

    So eats this week so far have been spotty.  Last night I made a Thai beef skillet that was just meh.  It called for honey, which I obviously skipped, and I wonder if that would have made it better.  It wasn't bad, just not nearly as good as all of the other Asian dishes I've made recently.


    Monday night I made Filipino Adobo Chicken, and totally forgot to take a picture of it.  Woops.  It came out a bit salty, so next time I'll decrease the tamari to the amount listed below.  I made it with butternut squash mash: just squashed nuked in the microwave (per usual taking the expensive shortcut from the supermarket by buying it pre-cut), then mashed it up with some coconut milk and spices.  Here's how the chicken went:

    Filipino Adobo Chicken 
    Ingredients:
    1.5lb chicken thighs
    1/4c low sodium tamari (soy, aminos, etc)
    1/3c apple cider vinegar
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 jalapeno, chopped

    Heat a skillet to medium-high heat with a cooking fat, and brown your chicken with s&p.  While that's working itself out, mix together the remaining ingredients and add to the pan when the chicken is just shy of done.  Bring the sauce to a boil, then decrease to simmer for about 10 minutes until the chicken is done and the sauce has thickened.  This would be delicious served with any vegetable throw in, like broccoli, snap/snow peas, etc.  Yum!

    This recipe was definitely a keeper and I think it would be delicious as a stir fry with the veggies thrown in.

    Hope everyone's surviving the week so far, only 2 days left until the weekend!

    Monday, February 25, 2013

    Taco Casserole a.k.a. Tex Mex Shepherd's Pie

    Hello all!  It's Monday again, and in true Monday spirit, my workout this morning was ultra-lame.  I have an old stress fracture in my foot that bothers me every now and then, and upon waking this morning I recognized the familiar ache.  I decided to avoid too much weight-bearing at the gym, so I hopped on the recumbent bike for 30 minutes and caught up on my gossip mags (I had to dig around to find a reasonably current issue, since the first glossies I discovered were from 2008 and 2009).  As I've said before, I have an obsessive urge to complete the Coach's workout within the week, and given that I have 2 early days coming up, I'm short on time to finish it up.  So I mustered up my inner gym freak and did 8 30/30 sprints on a spin bike after my 30 minutes was up and clinched my sweaty mess gym status.  Victory!

    Eats

    While making last night's dinner, I realized that it seemed pretty familiar...because my taco casserole is really a Tex Mex version of last week's shepherd's pie.  Woops!  I usually try to make the meal requiring the most dishes Sunday night because I know the Coach will have ample time to clean the food processor or scrub baking racks :)  Thanks babe!  Anyway, despite being a repeat of sorts, last night's dinner was super yummy, I definitely recommend trying this one out!

    Taco casserole
    Filling ingredients:
     2lb ground beef
    1 onion, diced
    1 pepper, diced
    1 jalapeno, diced
    2 garlic cloves
    1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies
    2T chili powder
    2T cumin
    2T onion powder
    1T oregano
    1t paprika

    Topping ingredients:
    1lb carrots, steamed until very soft
    1T butter
    1 egg
    1t chili powder
    1t cumin
    1t onion powder
    1/2t salt

    Preheat oven to 350.  Heat a large oven-proof pan over medium-high heat and brown with s&p.  Once the meat is nearly done, add the onion, peppers, and garlic, plus more s&p.  Once translucent, add the tomatoes with their juice and all the spices, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.
    Meanwhile prepare the topping: throw your steamed carrots and the rest of the ingredients in to a food processor and mix until smooth.
    Once most of the liquid has evaporated from the filling, top with filling and put in the oven for 20 minutes until the top is brown.  Then, enjoy!


    So so so good!  The caramelized topping adds a nice sweet balance to the spicy and savory filling.  And it looks so pretty!  If you don't mind dealing with the food processor clean up (which I do mind, terribly--luckily the Coach doesn't), this is a must make!

    Hope everyone's week is off to a great start!  Yay for the last week of February!

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Coconut Butter Success!

    Good afternoon all!  I don't know about you, but I've had a pretty busy weekend.  Saturday and today included lots of running around but I got a lot accomplished, including a pretty sweet manicure yesterday that is still chip-free!  That's a miracle for me.  My body has been grateful to take the past 2 days off from the gym, and the laziness has continued in to the kitchen as my cooking this weekend has been limited to eggs for breakfast for the Coach and me, dressing up large salads, and reheating leftovers.  I don't include the deliciousness mentioned in the title of this post because it was SO EASY it barely constitutes cooking.  Enter: coconut butter.

    If you remember last week, I mentioned that I had gotten a sample of coconut butter from Fresh Market.  For a whopping $2.  For 2 tablespoons.  You read that right.  Obviously the larger jar is a better bargain but at more than 10 bucks a pop, still not a go for this cheapie.  I've seen all over Pinterest how easy it is to make your own coconut butter, and the local health food store sells shredded unsweetened coconut for $4.50/lb.  So I bought about 3/4lb, threw the whole mess in my food processor for 10 minutes, and the results were pretty awesome:






    When you first spoon it in to a container, the butter is really liquidy (I'm aware that's not a word), from being heated up during the mixing process.  I threw mine in the fridge to solidify because I was too excited to wait for the process to happen in the cupboard.  It solidified in about an hour in the fridge, and I'll be storing it at room-temp now (if you have more patience than I do, which is pretty much anyone over the age of 5, it will eventually solidify if you leave it at room temp).  Let me tell you, I can't believe how easy this was to make!  The texture is so creamy and the flavor so decadent, it tasted like it should have cost a lot of money.  I think next time I might throw some cocoa powder in to the mix, or maybe vanilla extract?  Almond extract?  The possibilities are endless...I kept waving the jar at the Coach I was so excited.

    Warning: I have a Cuisinart food processor and it got warm during the 10 minutes, but at no point was I worried.  If you have an older food processor I would just check it to make sure it's not having a panic attack during the transformation.

    What do I use coconut butter on?  My favorite part of the day is coming home from work and nuking nut butter and a chopped up banana, then topping with shredded coconut and chia seeds, so today I just subbed the coconut butter for its shredded counterpart and the results were dreamily good.  But this would be good with any fruit, drizzled over sweet potatoes, or as a dessert topping.  Or of course spread over toast or any other sinful pastry for a grainy treat.  I think you would have to heat it up to make it take on the consistency of a nut butter, because as is it really is solid and won't spread or mix in nicely.

    Whole30

    So I feel as though I should briefly touch on my Whole30 experience so far, since I did a Week 1 recap and then skipped Week 2.  I just finished up Week 3, and am now in the home stretch of my grain/sugar/dairy/legume-free detox.

    How do I feel?  Great.  I'm sleeping better, have more energy in the afternoons, and am no longer feverishly hunting for sweets at work.  The biggest change-up for me has been the no-sugar thing, since I had already eliminated all grains and most dairy from my diet prior to starting my Whole30.  I adjusted to milk-free coffee surprisingly quickly, and other than that I am only hurting for my protein shake, in the dairy department.  Legumes were easy too, as the only type I ate with any regularity was peanut butter so that was an easy swap.

    The sugar thing has been harder at times, especially when I'm in an environment when I normally gravitate towards sweet things, like buying candy at the movies or reaching for the corkscrew after work.  However, during this process I've realized that I'm the kind of person who can't just have one when it comes to sweets.  Saying no to all temptation is much easier than having 1 piece of chocolate and then knowing how delicious it is (because, come on it really is) and trying to say no to a second, third, and fourth.  When this is all said and done, I'll have to figure out a way to incorporate this sad but necessary truth in to my life.  I'm thinking of limiting sweets just to eating out, because I would be far too embarrassed to order more than one piece of cake at a restaurant.  Hopefully. 

    Anyone else trying to reign in their sweet tooth?  I still wish I had gone after my childhood dream of becoming an Oreo taste tester.  Clearly, this girl aims for the moon.

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Shepherd's Pie

    Happy weekend everyone!  I was up for about an hour in the middle of the night last night, so when I woke up this morning I had a silent argument with myself to decide if I should get my butt to the gym or stay in my warm cocoon (it's extra hard to get up early on those rare days when the Coach is still in bed).  However, I have an odd compulsion to do all 4 days of the Coach's program within one week, so fitness prevailed and off I schlepped to the gym.  I ended up having a great workout, but my body is beyond exhausted now.  I realized belatedly that I have now worked out intensely 7 days in a row.  Probably too much.  I'm really looking forward to taking this weekend off.

    Workout

    Since I skipped out on blogging last night due to my mounting frustration with my 5 year old Mac, I'll give a quick shout out to the 100-rep workout I did yesterday.   This is the same circuit I needed the Coach's motivational vocals for last week: 10 assisted chin ups > 10 push-ups > 10 jump squats > 10 inverted rows > 20 squats > 10 push-ups > 20 alternating lunges > 10 straight-leg sit-ups.  I think I definitely pushed myself to go faster than the first time I did this workout on my own, but I definitely have trouble reaching the intensity that I do when I have a one-on-one trainer.  I tried to make up for it with the jump rope / 12kg squat tabata at the end, and I was pleasantly surprised to conquer 6 rounds of each, twice through.

    Today's workout included 25lb squats + 40lb Romanian deadlift, 20 reps each x 4 sets as quickly as possible which immediately had my face dripping sweat.  This was followed by Valslide lunges (maxed at 24kg kettlebell today, woo gluts on fire), TRX face pulls, and side-planks.  Hard.  What was hardest was hauling booty for 7 30/30 sprints on the treadmill from 9.0-10.0mph.  Knowing that this was my last workout until Monday motivated me to push myself harder, but I have to say that that first sprint was rough and my mind was giving me a million excuses to quit.  What got me through?  The possibility of a cruise to the Bahamas in June and the swimwear I will eventually need to be sporting.  Pretty solid motivator right there.

    Eats

    So I made this meal Wednesday night since I knew the Coach would be home early and would be able to help with the clean-up (I've gotten pretty good at knowing when I will make a giant mess in the kitchen).  I just had the leftovers for dinner tonight, and let me tell you, it's just as good today as it was when I made it two days ago.  Holy yum.  This paleo version of shepherd's pie tastes so incredibly rich and flavorful, it might replace meatloaf as my go-to comfort food.  Well no, probably not, let's not get crazy.  But it is damn good.  As usual, I tweaked the recipe so here's my version:

    Shepherd's pie
    Ingredients:
    2lb ground beef
    2 onions, chopped
    5 carrots, chopped
    5 garlic cloves, chopped
    1T fresh rosemary
    1T fresh thyme
    1  small can (6 ounces) tomato paste
    2T balsamic vinegar
    2T low sodium tamari (aminos, soy, etc)
    1 head cauliflower
    1 egg
    1t dried oregano
    1T grass-fed butter
    salt and pepper

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a dutch oven or oven-proof high-sided pan over medium-high heat and brown your meat with s&p.  Once the meat is brown, add the onions, carrots, and garlic and saute until onions are translucent, add a little more s&p.  Add the herbs, tomato paste, balsamic, and tamari and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low until most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated.
    Meanwhile, prepare your cauliflower topping: chop up the cauliflower (I used frozen here because I find that when I chop fresh cauliflower I find bits of it all over my counters for days afterwards) and steam until very soft.  Throw in food processor with butter, 1 egg, s&p, and oregano and pulse until smooth.
    Once the residual liquid has evaporated in the pan, top the meat with the cauliflower mash and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is nicely browned.  Finished product:


    Came out pretty, right?  Most of what I make ends up looking like goop in a bowl because I usually make dishes that require a whole mess of ingredients to be stirred together.  It's nice to make something that looks as good as it tastes, plus making a paleo/Whole30 friendly meal that resembles its mainstream counterpart is pretty gratifying.  I can't recommend this meal enough: the tomato paste plus the balsamic give a savory tang to the dish, and the herbs really make it taste fresh.  I usually end up freezing my herbs (rosemary, thyme, or sage) if I have leftovers, and then just take out what I need on a given day.  They retain their flavor just fine in the freezer, and it's a good money savor because I rarely end up using the herbs before the go bad in the refrigerator.

    That's all I've got on this Friday night, hope you all have some fun weekend plans lined up!

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Cuban Food

    Happy hump day!  Half way through the week...who says working for the weekend is bad?

    Eats

    Before I made this meal, I don't know that I've had Cuban food before.  Turns out, it's pretty freakin' good!  I've made this Cuban Picadillo previously, but last time I topped it with pineapple salsa from Trader Joe's.  Good stuff, but this time I chose to change things up a bit and went with a roasted banana sweet potato mash inspired by this recipe.  It went down like this:

    Roasted banana sweet potato mash
    Ingredients:
    1 banana
    3 sweet potatoes
    1/4c coconut milk
    1/4t salt
    1/4t pumpkin pie spice

    Pre-heat oven to 350.  Put the potatoes on a sheet pan and roast for 45 minutes.  Then, add the banana (peeled) to the pan and roast for another 15 minutes.  Then throw everything in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and mash together.  I prefer to leave the skins on because I like the texture and there are a lot of great nutrients in there, but you could easily remove the skin prior to mashing.

    Cuban picadillo
    Ingredients:
    1lb ground beef
    1 onion, diced
    1 pepper, diced
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/3c raisins
    2T red wine vinegar
    6oz can tomato paste
    1/4c water
    1t cumin
    2t oregano
    salt and pepper to taste (I used cayenne)

    Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat, and brown your beef.  Once your beef is nearly cooked through, add the onion, pepper and garlic, s&p to taste.  When your onions are translucent, add the rest of the ingredients.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Done!



    Could the directions for each dish be any simpler?  I got the potatoes in the oven first, and they were done by the time the picadillo had simmered for 20 minutes.  Perfect timing.

    I thought the sweet potato mash was delicious.  The bananas added a wonderful caramelized flavor to the potatoes from being roasted in the onion, and the texture with the coconut milk was silky and flavorful.  The picadillo had a nice tang from the vinegar and the little bites of sweet from the raisins after they absorbed all the flavors during the low simmer was extra yummy.  I definitely recommend either dish, and putting them together is a perfect match!

    Workout

    Remember last week when I said that it's important to not use clamps to hold your weights in place when benching alone?  Glad I did that today, because I had a major gym fail.  Last week I benched 100lbs x 3, so today I went for 105 and maxed at 1 rep.  This was followed by the loudest bail out ever as I tilted the barbell to each side and dropped the weights off.  Not my proudest moment, but I'm definitely happy I went back for the next set and banged it out at a lower weight.  I also felt better after realizing the man next to me, outfitted in a turtleneck, jeans, and work boots, was only benching 80.  Is it just me who experiences these gym freaks?  Nice work, tough guy.


    I really love doing 1-leg squats and single leg deadlifts.  Single leg work is my jam.  I finished up this workout with 30/30 sprints on a spin bike.  By the last sprint I always feel completely and utterly spent, and yet I manage to hop off that bike fast as soon as my time is done.  I must save that one burst of energy to put as much distance between myself and the bike as possible.

    Hope everyone is having a good week so far, and that I'm not the only one who crushed (or got crushed by) some heavy weight at the gym!

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    Easy Squash, Sausage and Apple Skillet

    I am a big fan of easy meals.  Sometimes I like to be more creative and enjoy making a giant mess in the kitchen.  Other times, I regret my choice to cook an Asian meal with approximately 20 ingredients.  Last night, was another one of my simple, 1-pot dishes.  Few ingredients with a delicious result.

    Squash, Sausage, and Apple Skillet
    Ingredients:
    16oz sausage (I used hot sausage from a local company with only 5 natural ingredients, make sure to check out what's in there!)
    1 butternut squash, diced
    1 onion, diced
    1 apple, diced (I used a Cameo apple)
    salt and pepper

    First, steam your diced butternut squash in the microwave until it's almost done. I'm lazy and buy the pre-cut kind from the supermarket because that is one shortcut I'm willing to pay for.  Meanwhile, brown your sausage in a pan over medium-high heat.  Once it's cooked through, add the onion and some salt and pepper (not too much, you can adjust at the end), stir that around for about 5 minutes.  Next, add your apple and nearly-done squash, salt and pepper again (I like to add s&p a little bit at a time for each layer I add to the pan).  Lower the heat to medium, and cook for about 10 minutes until your veggies are cooked to your liking and the apple is soft.  Then eat!


    Very simple dish, and tasted deliciously slow-cooked considering it took less than 30 minutes to throw together, start to finish.  The Coach said it was very good, but admitted that given how flavorful the dishes I've recently made are, this one fell a bit short.  I kind of disagreed, because I thought that the limited ingredient list really allowed each flavor to shine through.  Definitely a make again, and a good dish to have in your back pocket when you have a busier schedule.

    Workout

    Week three of the Coach's current program and I'm finally feeling really confident with the high intensity workouts!  Took long enough.  Today I just did the battle ropes / rear-foot elevated split squat tabata (20 sec each exercise with a 10 sec rest in between, 6 rounds, twice through).  That complex is so rough that I feel that it's enough of a workout on its own, so I choose to do it without a lift, which is actually perfect when I only have enough time for a 30 min gym session.  Love those quick and dirty workouts where I get right down to it, get it done fast, and head to the locker room as a total sweaty mess.  Perfect.

     Stay tuned tomorrow because I have a DELICIOUS Cuban-inspired dish to share :)

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Fresh Market

    Happy Monday!  HAHA is there such a thing?  Actually, as far as Mondays go, this one went pretty well for me considering my commute to work was about half of what it usually is since schools are off this week.  A traffic-free drive really puts a better mood!

    Weekend

    Per usual, we had a pretty relaxing weekend.  The Coach wanted to get a workout in for the Russian Kettlebell certification he's doing, so we headed to MY gym Sunday morning.  I really love my gym for lots of reasons, one of them being because it's super relaxed--the Coach never has to pay a drop-in fee to come with me, mostly because almost every time he comes there's no one sitting at the desk when we check in.  However, it can be a little too chill at times, case in point: last weekend a small child was practicing punting a football by the dumbbells.  Bizarre.

    So while the Coach lifted up heavy things quickly, I opted for a treadmill walk/run workout from PB Fingers that looked like this:

    Those 30 second sprints at 10.0 were seriously tough.  I should say that I did not walk at 4.5 during the recovery between the sprints--I'm only 5'5" so that brisk pace is just a hair under a run for me so it's pretty uncomfortable.  4.0 felt just about right, and I did the whole workout at a 2.0 incline.  After this hardcore early morning workout, the Coach and I definitely felt we deserved something yummy.  Enter: Saati.


    The look of this place from the outside just reminded me of Zaftigs, one of our favorite breakfast spots in Boston, so I just felt compelled to give it a try.  The Coach was reluctant to abandon our beloved diner, but the risk definitely paid off in the end.  First of all, this place was empty when we got there at 10:30 which seemed like it could have been a bad omen but it was nice to have a quiet, relaxing breakfast without feeling the need to rush through our meal because there was a line out the door. 

    The Coach got a Philly cheesesteak omelet with home fries and toast (which he loved, not a crumb left over), and I ordered a veggie omelet which was full of peppers, onions, and squash (plus the waitress was nice enough to swap out the home fries/toast for bacon YUM).  I have to say, this is the best omelet I've ever had without cheese in it!  Seriously, so delicious I ate every drop on my plate.  Except the one strip of bacon I generously offered to my husband. 

    Right when we got the check, the Coach decided he wasn't quite done, and ordered some challah French toast for himself.  Surprise!  Luckily the coffee was good enough so that I didn't get agitated watching my husband gorge on carbs.

    I persuaded the Coach to stop at Fresh Market with me after breakfast, basically because I am my father's daughter and could spend hours wandering around a new supermarket, especially a health food store.  Has anyone been to one of these before?  It seemed like a Whole Foods, just smaller.  I probably could have spent an insane amount of money in there, between the fresh ground coffee (admission: we bought some tiramisu flavored coffee to try and it is just as good as it sounds), the grind your own nut butter, and the sick bulk candy section.  We managed to escape spending less than $20 on various random things, including coffee, salad dressing, and a sample of coconut butter.

    Did you know that coconut butter is one of the most delicious things ever?  Well it is.  It's also quite expensive but it turns out you can make your own by just dumping shredded, unsweetened coconut in the food processor and letting it work itself out for 10 minutes.  I will be trying this next weekend.  Stay tuned.

    Workout

    Back to the grind this morning!  My early AM workout looked like this:


    Doing any complex 5x through is hard for me, but the most challenging part of this workout was the swings and my quickly elevating concern that my grip strength would fail and the kettlebell would go sailing in to the mirror.  Luckily it didn't, but I did do the last two sets facing an open space just in case.


    Eats
    I admit it: I did not do much cooking this weekend.  At all.  So I'll share with you an old standby I made last week: buffalo chicken skillet.  I completely copied this meal from my sister-in-law Amanda, and usually make it once a month because it is that good.  Here's how it goes:

    Buffalo chicken skillet
    Ingredients:
    1lb ground chicken
    1 onion, chopped
    1 pepper, chopped
    3 carrots, chopped
    salt and pepper
    3/4c hot sauce (we like things very spicy, so scale back to 1/2c if you want to save your palate)
    1 bottle of beer (I used 1 can of chicken stock to be Whole30-friendly, but the flavor of beer really adds something nice to the dish)

    First, heat a skillet over medium-high and add a fat of your choice.  Then add the chicken and move it around until it's nicely browned.  Next add the veggies and let them sweat it out with salt and pepper to taste for about 5 minutes.  Lastly, add the hot sauce and beer (or stock) and lower to a simmer for 10 minutes, until veggies are to your desired consistency and the liquid is reduced by about half.






    I ate mine over salad greens and it was delicious.  This recipe is really flexible--add whatever veggies you like, and truly any liquid can sub for the beer (I've used tomato sauce which comes out very nicely too).  This is a favorite in our house, because it's full of flavor and a cinch to whip up.

    That's my catch-up post!  Hope everyone's week is off to a nice start!

    Saturday, February 16, 2013

    Some Sporty Jewels

    Remember those Valentine's Day gifts the Coach promised me?  Well one came Friday and the other one came today: 2 bracelets, one with kettlebell charms and the other from Fashletics with their slogan "Live, Love, Lift".  I'm pretty freakin' happy, because I mentioned to the Coach a while ago that I would love some sort of physical token to remind myself to try to lead a clean life, especially when I'm tempted by treats or feeling too lazy to go to the gym.  I love that he remembered I had said that, and provided me with not one but two options to fit my freakishly small wrists (the most svelte part of my body).


    So cute right?  I am so so so lucky that I have such a supportive husband, who is willing to train me on a Saturday morning when I'm having a blah lifting week and eat my sans-sugar desserts!  OK, enough gushing.  For now.

    Eats

    The Coach is pretty lucky too, because even though I wanted to make something special for Valentine's Day that was Whole30-friendly for myself, I also wanted to make sure it would be something he would love.  And he has a passion for all apple desserts.  Enter: sauteed apples.




    This recipe is from Paleo Comfort Foods, by Julie and Charles Mayfield.  It's super quick, and with only 4 ingredients it's a real cinch to throw together.  Plus your home will smell heavenly. 
    Sauteed apples
    Ingredients:
    3 apples, diced with skins on
    1 tablespoon butter
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 cup chopped pecans

    Start by bringing a skillet to medium-high heat, then toast your pecans for 3-4 minutes.  Next add butter to the pan, and once that's melted add apples and cinnamon.  Saute for 5-7 minutes until the apples are at your desired texture and serve.  

    The Coach thought there were raisins in there (there weren't), but I think that would be a yummy addition to add when you throw in your apples and cinnamon.  I got some vanilla ice cream to put on the Coach's, and drizzled some coconut milk on mine.  Tastes just like apple pie filling!  The Coach didn't want to part with his long enough for me to take a picture, hence the lap-picture above.  Oh well.

    Workout

    As I mentioned above, I was lucky enough to have the Coach train me today.  After my great lift Thursday, my muscles were screaming yesterday so I took the day off.  Since I struggled more this week with the high intensity stuff, I opted for a 1:1 sesh today for some extra motivation.  Which I received.  Loudly.  
    I did the 100 rep workout today, which included 10 band assisted chin-ups, 10 push-ups, 10 jump squats, 10 inverted rows, 20 squats, 10 more push-ups, 20 alternating lunges, and 10 straight-leg sit-ups, 3 times through.  Ouch.  My arms were shaking by the end, but I know without the Coach I wouldn't have pushed myself nearly so hard so I was very grateful he had time for me this morning.

    I followed the workout with a 12 minute metabolic finisher on my own: 20 sec jump rope, 10 sec rest, 20 sec 20lb goblet squat, 10 sec rest, 6 times through, 2 minute break, 6 more times through.  Definitely earned the Chipotle I'm considering getting for my dinner on the way to tonight's hockey game...

    That's all I have for now, hope everyone is having a great weekend!

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    Happy Valentine's Day!  Hope everyone felt as spoiled as I did today, coming home to this:


     The Coach is a pretty good man.  Also, he told me that I should be expecting a belated Valentine's package in the mail!  I usually hate surprises but I have to admit I'm pretty intrigued...

    Workout

    Finally, I had a full hour at the gym today!  Felt so good to be able to take my time with the workout.  I left the gym feeling pretty pumped because I benched 100lbs today!  That's a pretty big deal for me because I didn't have a spotter, and it's only 5lbs off from my PR (when I did have a spotter).  Once while doing dumbbell bench presses I pushed myself a bit too hard and lost control of the dumbbell on the way down --> definitely thought I broke a rib.  Not fun.  So after that I've always erred on the lighter said when benching on my own.  Safety tip: when benching alone, always skip the clamps that hold the plates on, because if you can't push the weight all the way up, you can tip the bar to one side and let the weights drop off, then do the same with the other side.  Of course I could always ask someone at my gym to spot me, but since I'm there so early in the morning there's only one staff member who is usually personal training.  And I refuse to ask the guy wearing the weight belt while doing shoulder presses, sorry.


    My butt is already sore from all the single-leg squats.  The drive to work tomorrow will be a joy.

    Eats

    The recipe I'm going to share with you today has earned one of the best reviews from the Coach so far, so I will warn you that if you make this, you might have a sudden influx of flowers from your significant other. 

    Paleo pepperoni pizza casserole.  I mean, do I really need to say more?  Anything with pepperoni and the suggestion of pizza is golden in my book.  One of the things I miss most since striving to eat more paleo, is pizza (not that I don't still indulge every now and then), so this is a pretty awesome sub.  I adapted this recipe from Tessa the Domestic Diva, including swapping out the spaghetti squash for frozen squash puree, since you know I simply can't deal with that monstrous vegetable.  Here's how it went down:

    Pepperoni pizza casserole
    Ingredients:
    1 pound ground beef
    1/3lb pepperoni
    1  onion, diced
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    salt to taste
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme
    8-10 basil leaves
    2 teaspoons oregano
    2 containers frozen squash puree, defrosted
    1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
    3 eggs

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    In a large pan over medium-high heat, saute the ground beef, pepperoni, onion, and garlic.  As the meat is cooking, add in the seasonings (once the meat is cooked, taste for seasoning and adjust as needed).
    In a large bowl, whisk the eggs then add in the pasta sauce.  Once incorporated, add in the meat mixture and mix to combine.  Pour the whole mess in to a casserole dish and cook for 30 minutes.
    Let the praise and gifts roll in!



    So delicious!  The pepperoni really makes this taste like pizza, and the squash ensures you have some veggies with every bite.  Plus the texture is really light from the eggs, with a nice sweet bite from the tomato sauce.  This is a real winner, especially if you have pizza-lovers in your house!

    Yay for it being almost Friday!  Hope everyone has some fun/relaxing weekend plans!


    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    General Crack Chicken

    Intriguing post title huh?  I will be getting to the life-changing, bone-shaking, mouth-watering  meal I made last night in a minute...

    Workout

    Do you ever have those days when you go to the gym and you're just not feeling it?  It happens to me every now and then, and it truly sucks because getting up at 5AM for a lame workout does not put a happy spin on my day.  I suppose I should be grateful that most of my gym sessions are balls-to-the-walls intense but leaving the gym Tuesday was a sad event after running out of time / wussing out of the tabata at the end.  I am not digging going in to work early twice a week because I refuse to get up earlier (anything before 5 is inhuman, sorry to the Coach who gets up at 4:15AM regularly), so I'm having to sacrifice my gym time.  Oh well, it's temporary!

    So since I skipped out on my "assignment" Tuesday, I went in this morning with the goal of doing the whole tabata, as prescribed on the Coach's program.  So that's 20 seconds on / 10 seconds off alternating between battle ropes and rear-foot elevated split squats 6 times through, twice.  Ouch.  This is the end result:


    It's probably hard to tell because of the dark shirt, but that is a serious full-body sweat right there.  As much as I hate these high intensity quick cardio sessions as they're happening, I know it's so worth it.  And I love how such a quick workout can be sooo intense.

    At the end of most lifts I do some kind of complex or circuit in an interval format like today's tabata, known as a metabolic finisher.  It's an efficient way to jack up your heart rate and work harder for less time and get the same burn as hanging out on the elliptical for a while.  A metabolic finisher also allows you to take advantage of EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, also known as the "afterburn".  This basically means that your body will burn more calories afterwards, plus studies have shown that lifting weights and high-intensity interval training show significantly greater EPOC and can burn more subcutaneous fat than steady-state cardio.  So that's obviously pretty cool.  I got a lot of this information from badass fitness coach Neghar Fonooni--check out her post for more info and tips: Cardio Sucks!

    Eats

    OK now on to the good stuff.  I have made this General Tso's Chicken recipe before, but I made some changes last night and changed the cooking style up a bit and let me tell you, it was serious.  The Coach asked me if I put crack in the sauce (I didn't, but will now call this General Crack Chicken).  Told you: serious.  It did not make nearly enough food as the Coach probably would have liked, but as he told me, "quality over quantity".  It went like this:

    General Crack Chicken
    Ingredients:
    1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, diced in to bite-sized pieces
    cooking fat
    1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)
    3 tablespoons low sodium tamari (aminos, soy, etc)
    1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
    1 tablespoon sunflower seed butter
    juice of 1 lime
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or sriracha if not limiting sugar)
    2 gloves garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon ginger, grated with microplane

    Heat cooking fat over medium-high heat in sauce pan, and saute chicken with salt and pepper.  Remember, don't move around the chicken too much--the more you let it stay put, the better it will sear and it will get a yummy brown crust.  While the chicken is cooking, get your sauce together in a separate bowl: mix together the tamari, vinegar, sunflower seed butter, lime, cayenne, garlic, and ginger (everything else except the coconut milk).  Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
    Next add the coconut milk to the pan and whisk it to get up the brown bits (it will bubble and sizzle).  Next add the sauce and whisk everything together and stir for about 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened.  Then just add in your chicken and mix together!  I steamed a bag of frozen broccoli and threw that in, but you could go with any vegetable you like.
     

    Seriously, you must try this.  The sauce is salty and sweet at the same time with a really nice depth of flavor, considering the whole thing takes about 20 minutes to throw together.  I might have caught the Coach licking the pan.  Maybe.

    Yay for us being halfway to the weekend!  We are enjoying some warmer temperatures in these parts (hit 40 today!) so I am getting excited that March is just around the bend...just a few more pesky weeks of Winter to survive until Spring!

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Meal Planning



    Oh man did I make something extra delicious last night!  The Coach and I have always been big fans of Chinese food and in the past few years he's turned me in to a Thai food-lover as well.  It's weird to think that when I met the Coach in college, I was one of the pickiest eaters out there and wouldn't go near anything spicy and the mere mention of bacon made me queasy.  Yeah, you read that right, I hated bacon for a very long time.  Then I grew up and realized that it might be the single best food ever.

    Anyway, last night I made a paleo version of pad Thai, adapted from The Clothes Make the Girl, one of my favorite paleo recipe sites.  Per usual I made some tweaks here and there, but the real secret to this dish is her "sunshine sauce", which I can see using as a topping for just about any protein/veggie combo for a quick stir fry.  A couple of things before I get to the recipe:

    First off, this recipe calls for cooked chicken which I didn't have so I quickly sauteed 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs in some olive oil with salt and pepper on med-high heat, making sure not to move them around too much so that they would develop a nice brown crust.

    Secondly, this recipe also uses spaghetti squash which I hate cooking.  I know it's the go-to for many paleo dishes but I just HATE cutting it in half.  I feel like I am simultaneously ruining my knife and risking severing one of my fingers.  I have used this easy microwaved spaghetti squash recipe from Nom Nom Paleo, which involves just cutting the squash in half, drizzling with olive oil then sprinkling with salt and pepper, and nuking cut side down for 8-12 minutes.  This cuts down on roasting time, but I still hate dealing with yucky innards and this does not eliminate the risk-taking slice job I still have to undertake.  My sister Nora suggested microwaving the whole squash first to soften it up enough to cut more easily but that just seems like a lot of work for something that for me often ends up in a big mush anyway.  Solution? A while back my mom gave me this nifty tool to julienne vegetables:

    http://traceelements.wordpress.com/whats-4-dinner/tracey%E2%80%99s-lemon-chicken-stir-fry-dinner/
    It's just like using a vegetable peeler but the end result is spaghetti-like strands that hold up much better than spaghetti squash to hearty sauces, in my opinion.  I don't remember where my mom got mine but if you Google "julienne peeler" you can find many options on Amazon and other sites.  I prefer using it with zucchini or carrots, but any semi-sturdy veg would do. 

    That being said, go ahead and use spaghetti squash if you're in to that.  I used 3 large (or 4 small) zucchinis julienned with my peeler instead, and steamed the strands in the microwave for 4 minutes.  Alright, back to the main show.

    Paleo Pad Thai
    Ingredients:
    1 batch sunshine sauce, see below
    3 large eggs
    2 teaspoons low sodium tamari (aminos, soy, etc)
    2 teaspoons plus 1 teaspoon cooking fat
    1 medium onion, thinly sliced
    1 cup snap peas, thinly sliced
    2 cups cooked spaghetti squash
    4 cooked chicken thighs, diced

    Add 2 teaspoons of cooking fat to a pan over medium heat (I used sesame oil to enhance the Asian flavor but olive or coconut oil would work just fine) and scramble the eggs with the tamari.  You want them just shy of done as you're going to add the eggs back to the main dish at the end where they'll cook a bit longer.  Once done, take the eggs out and set aside.

    Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan and increase the heat to med-high and add the diced onions and snap peas, saute for 2 minutes.  Then add the eggs, cooked chicken, and spaghetti squash (or julienned zucchini in my case) and mix to heat through for a few minutes.  While that's cooking, move on to the sauce...

    Sunshine sauce
    Ingredients:
    Juice of 1 lime
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    2 tablespoons tamari (aminos, soy, etc)
    1 tablespoon ginger (I buy ginger, peel it, freeze it, then grate it with a microplane right in to the bowl)
    1 teaspoon rice vinegar
    1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (I like Sunbutter; no sugar added, or you can add another nut butter of your choice)
    1/4 cup coconut milk

    Place everything in to a bowl and whisk it together, then add the sauce to your pan and reduce heat to medium.  Stir everything together and allow the flavors to mingle for a few minutes.  Voila!






    SO delicious!  The combination of sunflower butter and coconut milk makes this so creamy, it's very hard to stop eating it.  That picture above was of my first helping, unpictured is my second helping and the bites I kept stealing from the pan.  Holy yum, if you like Thai food then make this stat!


    *     *     *

    I thought it might be helpful to some of you to talk about how I meal plan for the week.  It's taken me a while to perfect this, but I now have a system that ensures I have a strategy for having healthy meals all week without any last-minute stress.

    I prefer to do one big shop over the weekends, and supplement as needed during the week with quick trips to the supermarket.  I rely heavily on my iPhone for all my menu planning--I have a bunch of categories in my bookmarks that include any recipe I find that I want to try (categories include Entrees, Sides, Soups, Crockpot, and Other).  Once I try a recipe, I either star it and move it to the top of the list, or delete it.  I probably have a dozen cookbooks but I find that I rarely use them and rely more on Pinterest, blogs, and cooking shows (and then searching for those recipes online) for inspiration.  The Coach will tell you that I'm a tad bit obsessed with looking up recipes.  Guilty as charged.

    Before I go to the supermarket, I decide what I'm going to cook each night.  I try to make meals that will make enough leftovers for the Coach to eat for lunch the next day, and I take in to account if we have dinner plans during the week or appointments that will make me less inclined to cook.  I usually anticipate cooking Sunday-Thursday, and wing it for the weekend, although I often end up cooking at least 1 weekend night too.  I write down what I'm going to make each night in the notes app on my phone:

     
    I really don't know what I would do without my iPhone, mostly because I literally have hundreds of recipes saved...anyway then I generate a shopping list based on what each recipe needs.  There are literally hundreds of grocery apps but I use and love ShopShop--it's free and easy, and allows you to keep multiple lists so I always have a Weekly List and a BJ's list going.  And no, I have no affiliation with that app, it's just the best one that I've found :)


    The best part of this app is that it will keep every item you've ever entered so after a while it's easy to make a list because you just have to select what you want.  You can also email or text the list so that you can send your husband to the store when you don't want to go, so that's obviously awesome.

    So that's how I do it!  Being this systematic might seem a bit intense, but I've found that this is what works best for me.  I always have a plan so I'm never stuck wondering what to make for dinner at 7PM.  It helps that I love to cook and my husband loves to eat, so we're a pretty good team.  Hope this is somewhat helpful to someone out there, and that I didn't scare anyone with my hyper-organized ways :)

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    Whole30 Week 1

    I had such a chill, relaxing weekend I'm pretty sad to see it end.  I really needed a couple of days of "nothing" and that's exactly what I got.  Even the Coach had a full day off today and enjoyed not 1, not 2, but 3 separate naps.  And he's already looking droopy-eyed...guess he needed time off even more than I did.

    So Saturday began my second week of Whole30, and I'm still going strong!  There haven't been too many temptations at work this week, and that's the site of my biggest indulgences so I'm hoping that once chocolate-filled Valentine's Day hits I'm able to resist.  As far as food at home, the only real changes have been no milk in my coffee, making my own salad dressing (quick balsamic/Dijon/olive oil), and deli meat after workouts instead of protein powder.  And of course no booze, so I'm having to find other ways to relax after tough days at work.

    I have found that I'm craving more fruit after dinner, but I've always wanted a sweet bite at the end of the day.  Usually I'll have a square of dark chocolate or I'll share an apple with the Coach, so this past week I've been doing the latter.  I definitely consumed a few too many pieces of fruit on my own this weekend, however, so this upcoming week I'm going to focus on curbing that.

    Hope Week 2 goes as well as Week 1!

    Workout

     Today was just a quick 30 min run/walk treadmill routine that looked like this:


    Of note, I watched someone fall off a treadmill at the gym today.  He landed in a very graceful semi-lunge position behind the treadmill, but I totally called this gym-fail as he was trying to take off his sweatshirt while running.  Seriously?  Just step off, it takes 5 seconds to whip that thing over your head.  As soon as I saw what he was doing I couldn't take my eyes off him.  It took about 2 minutes for him to de-thread each arm and then he left it around his neck and I figured he would end with the cape look, but then he went for the full removal and down he went.  He was OK, but I had to step off the treadmill for a moment to swallow my laughter.

    Hope everyone had a weekend full of relaxing moments like mine--have a good start to your week!

    Saturday, February 9, 2013

    Snowed In...Kinda

    Hope everyone out there is surviving Nemo!  I have lots of friends and family in CT, RI, MA, NY, and NJ so I hope that you all have or are close to having electricity back.  We were lucky in Clifton Park and got less than a foot so not much trouble up here.  So we weren't truly snowed in, but saying that gave me an excuse to be super lazy all day and not leave the house until 5PM to go to the supermarket.

    I was very excited to take a day off from the gym today, but in retrospect given my sloth-like day I will likely be bouncing off the walls any time now.  I usually take a day off during the week, and then make up for it with a cardio sesh on the weekends--my guilty pleasure is watching all the weekend warriors perform their bizarre routines from the comfort of my treadmill.  I see you over there Mr. One-Set-of-Bicep-Curls-Followed-by-2-Laps-Ambling-Around-the-Gym.  Definitely makes the time go by faster.  But the end of Season 1 of Girls just had such a strong grip on me, so my tush stayed firmly glued to the couch until I realized I should have something to show for myself when the Coach got home and trekked out for groceries.

    I did have a productive day in the kitchen, though!

    Eats

    First off, I realized we were out of leftovers for the Coach to bring to work today.  He didn't have to go in until noon so I cooked him lunch to bring, and had enough leftovers for us to eat the same meal for dinner tonight. The food: country captain / curry chicken (apparently this is a very popular dish in the South, where they refer to it as country captain, but it's really just curry chicken).


    This meal has been sitting in my bookmarks for a while, and I decided to just go ahead and make it.  I had to buy garam masala which freaked me out, since I've never really had Indian food and wasn't sure exactly what this spice tasted like.  However I recently discovered my love for curry powder, so I decided to just go for it.  Turns out, garam masala is just a mixture of other spices including cardamom, coriander, cumin, black pepper, and cinnamon; I like all of those so how bad could it be?  Turns out, not bad at all.  Actually, pretty freakin good!  I followed the recipe exactly, and also stirred in some steamed, diced butternut squash to up the veg content.


    The curry powder gave this dish such a pretty color and it made my kitchen smell heavenly.  This was definitely a meal outside my comfort zone, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it!  This picture demo's how we typically divide up our food: one smallish serving for me (I usually add some extra vegetable on the side, like some salad greens or shredded cabbage for some crunch) and 2 larger servings for the Coach--one for dinner and one for lunch the next day.

    I really like taking the time to make a nice breakfast on weekends.  I knew Friday night that there was a relaxing Saturday morning ahead so I made sure to have the ingredients for my favorite weekend brunch meal: Creole breakfast casserole.  Takes a little bit of time but makes enough for at least 4 hearty servings.  I like to reheat it the next day in a skillet with some butter and it tastes even better.  Here's how it goes:

    Ingredients:
    16oz sausage (we used breakfast sausage but whatever you like)
    1 green pepper, diced
    1 jalapeno, diced
    1 onion, diced
    8 eggs
    2 tablespoons hot sauce (add more per your heat tolerance, I added 4 tablespoons, bring it on!)
    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (glad I noticed that this contains sugar, for a Whole30-friendly option go for 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar + 1 1/2 tablespoons gluten free tamari/coconut aminos)

    Preheat oven to 350.  Brown the sausage in a large over-proof skillet, then add peppers and onions and saute until soft.
    Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, hot sauce, and Worcestershire (or Whole30 substitution).
    Add the eggs to the meat and veggies and stir quickly until everything is well combined then throw the whole mess in to the oven for 20-30 minutes until the eggs are set.

    End result:





    I'm really going to need to pretty-up where I take pictures of my food...anyway this casserole tastes delicious and is perfect a relaxing weekend breakfast.  Definitely one to try!

    Hope people have some fun post-blizzard plans that don't involve sore backs from all that shoveling!


    Friday, February 8, 2013

    One of my Faves

    IT'S FRIDAY!!!!!  I have to say, tonight was one of the harder nights being on Whole30 because I REALLY could have used a glass of wine after a very long week at work.  Sighhhh...I shouldn't complain because luckily I don't have to worry about schlepping in to work tomorrow in the snow and the Capital District is supposed to get less than a foot so I suppose I should be thankful.

    So I took a day off from blogging--I hope someone out there missed me.  I had a haircut appointment after work Thursday and wasn't home until 7.   Luckily I made a double batch of one of my favorite dinners Wednesday night and was able to slack off and throw leftovers in the microwave for dinner.  After eating I struggled to even stand up and help the Coach with the dishes so hopping on the computer to blog was definitely out.  There goes my short yet glorious streak womp womp. 

    Eats

    Did I mention this is one of my favorite meals?  Seriously, so easy and delicious!  I call these my "Unwrapped PF Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps", because I am far too lazy to deal with using lettuce leaves for wrappers.  I prefer direct fork->mouth transit, no work involved.  I adapted this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats but changed it up a bit to be Whole30 friendly.  Here's how it goes (this is the non-doubled recipe which makes about 4 servings):

    Ingredients:
    1lb ground chicken breast
    1 medium onion, diced
    salt & pepper, a dash of each
    2 large cloves garlic, minced
    1 inch nob fresh ginger, peeled & minced
    1 Tablespoon sesame oil (I don't love the taste of sesame oil so I go half/half here between sesame and olive oil)
    3 Tablespoons less sodium tamari (or coconut aminos, soy sauce, etc)
    2 Tablespoons coconut milk (if you don't have this or don't want to open a can just for a couple of tablespoons you could easily use broth or water) 
    1 Tablespoon sunflower butter
    1 Tablespoons rice vinegar
    1/2 Teaspoon cayenne (or 2 teaspoons of sriracha if you're not doing Whole30)

    Heat a large, non-stick skillet on high.  Add chicken, onion, salt & pepper, and cook until chicken is nearly done, stirring often to break up the meat.  Add in minced garlic and ginger, and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink.
    Meanwhile, combine sesame oil, tamari, coconut milk, sunflower butter, rice vinegar, and cayenne in to a separate bowl and whisk together.
    Once the chicken is cooked, add the sauce and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to medium-low for a couple of minutes to let the flavors meld.

    I top mine with some roughly chopped sugar snap peas, but you could easily add pretty much any veg or be adventurous and actually wrap these babies up in lettuce leaves.  Here's the finished product:






    Soooo yummy!  This is hands down one of my favorite meals to cook at home--it takes about 20 minutes start to finish, tastes SO similar to what you can get at Chinese restaurants, and is truly clean eating.  It's gotten rave reviews from everyone I've fed it to, so definitely try this one, it's a keeper!

    Workout

    I have officially finished Week 1 of the Coach's program.  All I have to say, is ouch.  Thursday's workout really did me in:


    That picture is quite blurry because I was shaking pretty hard after 30/30 bike sprints.  I am so not a runner but for whatever reason sprints on the treadmill are way more tolerable to me than going all out on the bike.  Weird.  My pecs are absolutely killing me today from bench--the Coach belatedly told me that I should have gone up in weight maxing out at the 3rd set and then going back down.  So the end of that story is that lifting my arms to hug the Coach goodbye this morning was seriously painful.  And just for the record, those are assisted chin-ups: still working on my grip strength to be able to do a big girl chin up.   Someday...

    Luckily today was more of a high-intensity circuit so even though I was gasping for breath by the end, my muscles had a break from heavy lifting.


    I did a tabata with jumping rope and 12kg squats but I'm super bummed because I ordered a jump rope off Amazon that was supposed to come this week and didn't!  All the jump ropes at my somewhat dilapidated gym are broken so I had to search to find one.  Oh well, kicked my booty all the same, even with the scavenger hunt for an intact rope.

    Hooray for a rest day tomorrow!  I'm beat.  Getting ready to watch Season 1 of Girls now, waiting for the Coach to come home from a game :)  Hope everyone stays safe in the snow!

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    Pineapple Jerk Chicken Bowl

    Hump day finally!  I'm obviously pretty pumped that we've rounded the bend of this week but I'm dreading this Nor'easter that's coming our way Friday.  When I lived in Boston, winter was no big deal because the T was 1 block from our apartment and never shut down in the snow (except for the above-ground tracks, then 6+ inches = snowshoe time).  Now that I live outside Albany and drive everywhere, I have to leave for work extra early when it snows to deal with scraping off my car and then sitting through an endlessly slow drive to work.  You would think they would be amazing at keeping the roads clear up here but they are not.  Sorry New York, you are not winning in the winter game.

    Moving on.

    Eats

    Last night's dinner was something new for me: pineapple jerk chicken, adapted from Health-Bent.  The Coach loves any dinner with pineapple thrown in the mix so I was excited to try this.  Here's how it went down:


    Ingredients:
    1 onion
    2 bell peppers, chopped
    1 20oz can crushed pineapple (tackle the real deal if you want, 1/2 a pineapple would be equivalent)
    1/4c pineapple juice
    1lb chicken thighs, cut in to bite-size pieces

    For the jerk seasoning:
    1 teaspoon ground allspice
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    salt and pepper, to taste
    juice of 1 lime

    In a bowl or zip-lock bag, combine the chicken with about most of the jerk seasoning and mix to combine.  Save about 1 teaspoon of the jerk seasoning.  Set aside to let the chicken marinate and come to room temperature.
    In a large saute pan, heat a few tablespoons of fat over medium heat.   Add in the onion, pineapple, and pineapple juice plus the teaspoon of jerk seasoning you spared from the chicken.  Occasionally stir things around until the onions look soft and pineapple has started to develop a caramelized color.  Add in the bell pepper and let that cook for a bit; not too long, as they’ll get mushy.  Once all the roughage is cooked, remove from the pan and set aside.
    Add a few more tablespoons of fat to the pan, and crank up the heat to medium-high.  Plop in the chicken.  Don’t touch it or move it around, you want to develop a nice brown crust on the outside of the chicken.  Once that’s happened, then, you’re allowed to flip it over to cook on the other side.
    Throw the veggies back in once the chicken is cooked and mix it all together.

    End result:





    So good.  And definitely something different than what I usually make.  The Coach initially said it was solid but not a favorite, but by the end he was licking his plate.  Literally.  We live in a classy place.

    In case you can't tell, I love 1-pot meals.  As does the Coach, because he's the one who does the dishes.  I cook, he cleans.  How lucky am I?  I used to make a big batch of marinated chicken thighs at the beginning of every week and then made a different vegetable each night, but that got boring after, say, a year.  I do, however, have a very delicious baked chicken recipe which has come in handy many times for me.  It goes like this: 2lb chicken thighs, 1/2c Dijon, 4 cloves minced garlic, 3/4t salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper all mixed together and marinated for minimally 1 hour but up to 24 hours, baked at 350 for 40 min.  Done.  Super moist and flavorful, plus most likely ingredients you already have at home.  Enjoy!

    Workout

    Today was another early day at work, and despite another round of proactive prep work last night, I ran low on time at the gym today.  Possibly because I had to stop for gas on my way there due to the blinking light that showed up on my dash at 5:45 this morning.  It was just as well because my muscles were screaming from my workout Tuesday--the rear deadlifts just about killed my hamstrings.  I decided on a quick treadmill workout from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life



    Because I was in a rush I did this for 20 minutes today but when we were in Texas last weekend I did this twice through at the hotel gym.  One round today had me red-faced and breathing hard but doubling up last week had me basically in a pool of sweat.  Just one disclaimer:  do not hold on to the treadmill while you're walking!  If you can't handle the speed/incline without holding on then it's too much for you and dial it down; if your hands are glued to the machine, you're ruining the tush-burning benefit of the incline.

    The Coach just got home so it's dinner time.  Thanks to every who's given me feedback and commented on the blog--keep it coming!

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Hit or Miss

    Welcome back everyone!  I'm happy to see people are responding so positively to the blog so far!  Please comment and let me know how I'm doing--if there's anything else you'd like to hear more or less about (although hopefully not less).

    For now let's get down to it.

    Workout

    I wake up at 5AM most weekdays and am at the gym by 6 (my sweatbox being conveniently less than 5 minutes away).  I am super pokey in the morning.  I like to make myself a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs and sip my coffee while watching the news.  Or trashy TV.  Today trashy TV won--hello Vanderpump Rules!  Anyone else?  Anyway my point is I like to take my time because I feel that when I have a rushed morning it kind of sets me up to be edgy all day.

    I had to go in early to work today and I knew I wanted to do day 2 of the Coach's program so I made sure to prep last night to make my morning easier and maximize gym time.  I packed my lunch and set up my gym bag last night to speed up my normally-slow morning ritual.  I was able to do this workout in exactly 30 minutes which would have been more exciting if my lungs weren't flirting with popping out of my chest after treadmill sprints.  Here's what I did:

    Looks easy right?  Not.  Plus sprinting all out for 30 seconds with only a 30 second rest is no joke.

    Eats

    Last night I made turkey tacos for dinner, per my sister Marji's recommendation.  I was pretty medium, although the Coached loved it.  Not everything is a hit I guess.  I'm just not a huge zucchini fan (totally a texture thing) and if something tells me it's going to taste like taco meat then I guess I just expect a "meatier" a.k.a. beefier flavor.  This might have been more my thing made with ground beef.  I followed that recipe exactly and topped it with some salsa.

     
    It did turn out pretty though, no?  I know this lukewarm review is making you just itch to cook this, but the Coach ate up every last drop so give it a try if you're curious!  I ended up not eating much of it though and was definitely searching for something to fill me up after this meal.  My go-to in times of culinary crisis?  A big salad.  Insert Seinfeld reference here.  Plus a large handful of pistachios.  Definitely not enough protein though, and I was hungrier than normal today so maybe that's why?

    One thing I've had to adjust to with Whole30 is giving up my salad dressing.  I love Maple Grove Citrus Vinaigrette but it has sugar in it so I've been just mixing olive oil, balsamic, and some Dijon for a quick dressing at lunch time.  I've been struggling for years to get the Coach to eat salad, and I only just discovered the secret to tricking him in to ingesting more greens: my own Dijon vinaigrette.  Here's what I do:

    Creamy Dijon Vinaigrette
    3T apple cider vinegar
    1T Dijon
    1 clove of garlic (I use 2 but that's because the Coach enjoys trying to keep the vampires away)
    salt and pepper
    1/2c olive oil
    Optional: Handful of basil, 8-10 leaves

    Whirl the first 4 ingredients in a blender.  Remove the inner lid of the blender and slowly add the olive oil.  Tada!  If you don't have a blender, just finely mince or grate your garlic with a microplane and slowly whisk in your olive oil.  If you want to add basil, put it in with first 4 ingredients in the blender, or chop it up if whisking the old-fashioned way.

    Warning: this is very flavorful and addictive.  It will go quickly.  Also, it tastes better if you let it sit in the fridge for an hour before eating.  This dressing does solidify slightly in the fridge after a couple of days but that's normal--just throw it in the microwave for 10 seconds and that should get things moving.  I double this recipe all the time and it stays good in the fridge for about a week.

    Dinner tonight was super delicious so stay tuned for the recipe tomorrow...here's a hint: pineapple was involved ;)

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    New Workout Program

    Wow I don't know about you but my Monday was loooong, and I don't even have the excuse of going to a wild Superbowl party as to why I'm so beat.  Once Beyonce had rocked out my fave Single Ladies and only half the dome had power, I was pretty much out.  It's just so hard to get excited when I don't really care who wins.  Maybe next year, Pats!

    Eats

     Those chili lime wings?  Seriously yum.  I  halved the recipe and otherwise followed it exactly except I skipped the fish sauce.  It was cool to be able to cook wings at home, since I always assumed I would have to use a deep fryer (which I don't have) or bread the wings first (which I don't do).  This was a nice baked option with tons of flavor but such a cinch to prepare, which the Coach is pretty pumped about since wings are one of his favorites.  The one thing I would do differently next time would be to set aside some of the marinade to use as a dip, maybe mixed with some coconut milk or pureed with avocado for a thicker texture.  Next time!

    Along side the wings I made sweet potato fries.  Not to brag or anything, but I make a mean fry (even without mayo as a dipper, it turns out).  Here's my foolproof recipe:

    Ingredients:
    3 sweet potatoes
    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    1 tablespoon of salt (seems like a lot I know but these are fries we're talking about)
    1 tablespoon of seasoning (my fave is pumpkin pie spice but you can use chili powder, curry powder, etc)
    Optional: 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (I used to do this, it really intensifies the sweetness and does have a better result but totally not necessary if you're trying to limit sugar or are doing Whole30 like me)

    Cooking:
    Preheat oven to 450.
    Chop up your pots however you like.  The easiest way for me is to cut one lengthwise wedge off the side of the potato approx 1/2-1" thick, then rotate the pot so that the flat side is against your board for stability, then cut another lengthwise wedge.  Keep rotating until you've cut the whole thing, then slice those wedges in to fries.  Best way to come out of your prep with all 10 fingers intact!
    Mix your fries with the oil, then your seasoning.
    Cook at 450 for 15 min, toss, then cook for 10-15 more until crispy on the outside and cooked through on the inside.

    End result:

    Good dinner.

    My crockpot buffalo chicken came out delish too.  It was also very easy to prepare (sensing a trend here?) and was simply 1/2c Frank's hot sauce, 1/4c apple cider vinegar, and 1/4c spicy brown mustard plus 6 chicken thighs cooked on high for 4 hours.  By accident I bought regular chicken thighs (as opposed to my typical boneless skinless) so I had to deal with that prior to shredding my chicken.  I prefer everything shredded if possible.  Is that weird?  Tasted very yummy with my lunch today.  Although I think almost anything with Frank's is pretty much the sh*t.

    Workout

    So as I've said before, I'm very lucky that the Coach writes me a new program each month with minimal nagging.  Today's workout was the first day of a new program (and the first lifting I've done in 1 1/2 weeks).  It was a serious killer and left me red in the face for a good 30 minutes after I finished.  Here's a peek:

    Cardio today was a tabata workout: 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated continuously for 4 minutes or 8 cycles.  The Coach's instructions were to actually do 6 minutes or 12 cycles, twice through with a rest in between.  I did battle ropes + 8 body-weight rear-foot elevated split squats each side, but only managed to do 8 cycles each time.  Sweaty.  Mess.

    Usually after I lift I immediately pound a protein shake.  My favorite is Mercola Pure Protein Powder in Vanilla.  It has whey from pasture-fed cows, chia seeds, and probiotics, plus the vanilla tastes like cake batter.  Need I say more?  However, on Whole30 protein powders are a no-no so today I had a few slices of Applegate Farms Roasted Turkey Breast (no chemical nitrates, antibiotics, or weird additives).  I go pretty hard at the gym so it's important to get some protein in my system right after I workout to speed up recovery.  However, I will NOT be keeping up the no-shake habit after this month is over--definitely missed my cake batter reward for a good workout.

    I'm off to get started on tonight's dinner!  Hope everyone survived Monday and that your week is off to a good start!

    Sunday, February 3, 2013

    Superbowl Sunday

    Happy Sunday everyone!  Hope every one's having a nice little weekend so far, anyone planning to watch the game tonight?  I'm still bitter about my beloved Tom and the Pats blowing it in the playoffs but I'm sure I'll be tuning in anyway.

    Eats

    This morning started off with a nice treat--the Coach and I went to our local diner for breakfast.  I generally make us breakfast on the weekends (not to brag but my scrambled eggs are pretty bangin') but the Coach was really pining for some indulgence so out we headed in to the early morning sunshine for some yummy bacon and surly service.  Why is it that diner waitresses always seem so annoyed?  And the fact that I always make my complicated order with a smile doesn't seem to help...

    For me:

    Scrambled eggs, bacon and a side of broccoli.  Unpictured, black coffee with a couple of ice cubes dropped in to make it palatable.  The hardest part of Whole30 so far is the no-milk-in-coffee situation.  I tried coconut milk (canned, the boxed stuff has carrageenan plus lots of other preservatives and yucky stuff) but I was only meh.  Watered-down black might not be very posh of me but it's better than decaf Debbie (<--cranky monster).

    For him: cheese and onion omelet, home fries, a whole mess of toast, plus a slice of French toast.  Oh to be a man...

    Lunch was a salad with leftover prosciutto and avocado, unpictured because we all know what a salad looks like right?  I had the nibbles later in the afternoon so enter my favorite afternoon snack ever: generous scoop of almond butter + banana + chia seeds + unsweetened shredded coconut nuked in to melty goodness.  Sounds and looks weird, tastes like the most decadent dessert.  Seriously, try it.

    I'm trying out a new crockpot recipe today: easy buffalo chicken to add to my lunch salad this week.  If it's good I'll post the link!  Currently I'm still mourning the demise of my old crockpot (given to me by my mom like 5 years ago).  The light lit up when I plugged it in today but after an hour I realized it wasn't heating up.  Oy.  So I ran out to Target and bought this cutie:


    Smaller than the last one which is clutch for our limited storage space.

    I'm currently marinating some chili lime wings from nomnompaleo.com for game-day dinner and will be cutting some sweet potato fries as an accompaniment.  Sad to see that my favorite fry dipper mayo (weird I know but don't knock it until you try it) is totally non-whole30 compliant.  I'm too lazy to make my own so I'm hoping these wings rock to make up for it!

    Workout

    I took this past week off from anything but easy cardio (read: sitting on a bike catching up on blogs on my phone).  I pushed myself hard with my lifts before the wedding in Texas we had last weekend and my muscles enjoyed the much-needed time off.

    Today I did one of my favorite treadmill walk/run from PB Fingers:


    40 minute treadmill workout
    Let me tell you, I was one sweaty-mess after this one.  It looks deceiving but those little bouts of running are a serious killer!  The Coach is making me a new program for tomorrow so I'm anticipating some screaming muscles come Tuesday.

    That's all I have for now!  Hope everyone has a fun Superbowl Sunday--I'm rooting for the Ravens just because they're an east coast team.  Who are you cheering for?