Friday, December 28, 2012

Kicking off 2013 with some luck

As 2012 comes to a close I start to plan for the last 'holiday season' meal, one that many people may not celebrate quite the same but it is definitely tradition in my family...New Years Day.  As as kid I grew to expect black eyed peas (gasp, not paleo!) every New Years Day and as an adult, regardless of my typical diet I expect them all the same.  I always knew it was for luck in the new year but didn't really know much else, I just kind of accepted that.  Because I'm a huge nerd when it comes to stuff like this I started digging to understand why they are considered good luck, one of my favorite lists of good/bad luck foods for the new year was here on Epicurious.  It just lists out legumes (again, paleo eaters gasp!) in general as luck around the world for a few reasons but here's the reason why we consider it so in the US:
"In the Southern United States, it's traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin' john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky."
Some of the other descriptions I found on the internet were a little less detailed, things like, "they look like coins" and so they are lucky...I'm not so sure I agree, black-eyed peas don't look like any coins in my pocket but oh well...they are clearly an agreed upon 'lucky' item.  So this year I'll make them the way I was taught, with a big old smoked ham hock.

New Years Day Black-Eyed Peas

24 oz Fresh Black-Eyed Peas
1 very large or two medium sized smoked ham hocks, or the bone-end of the Christmas Ham with some meat still attached
Salt & Pepper
1 clove minced garlic
2 onions, diced
1 can chopped, fire-roasted tomatoes
Springs of cilantro (optional but great for garnish)

Place black-eyed peas and ham in 8 quart pot. Add enough water to fill pot 3/4 full. Stir in diced onions, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic, add tomato. Bring all ingredients to boil. Cover the pot, and simmer on low heat for 1 to 1 1/2hours, or until the peas are tender. Garnish with cilantro.

We always start with fresh peas in our house, I think because it's something you can really always find in the south at this time of year but really they are the best way to start.   In addition to black eyed peas we always have some kind of greens, the basic idea being that greens symbolize money and wealth into the new year.   We'll be having some greens with our peas and the last (but probably my favorite part) key piece of our meal will be to have some pork.  Not only because I love pork in all of its incarnations but because pigs root forward as they move, symbolizing moving forward in the new year.  By the same token, Epicurious lists out some 'bad luck' protiens, lobster and chicken because these two move backwards...and who wants to go backwards in the next year?  We'll be indulging in a braised pork belly recipe based on Emeril's Asian Style Pork Belly.

What will you enjoy on New Years Day?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Get Local in the New Year

As I've mentioned in many posts, I'm a huge fan of farmers markets, locally produced goods and any opportunities to make getting those things a bit easier (ehem, my Farmhouse box being delivered to me).  Recently a new company reached out to me with yet another way to get easy access to locally produced produce, meats, etc., it's called CitySprout.   I have yet to try it but here's how it works, you log onto their website and join a 'community' in your area, once the community reaches critical mass and has enough members local food producers are alerted and can begin making offers for fresh food.  Then, as people accept/buy the offers the producers bring the items to you somewhere close by.   This can be anything from veggies to coffee to bakery goods to honey or grass-fed meats (just to name a few).

The part of the CitySprout mission that was interesting to me is this: "CitySprout was founded to help solve many of the problems currently facing U.S. agricultural production and food distribution. As CitySprout continues to grow and reach more and more communities, so does our ability to effect positive change on an economic, environmental, and social level."     Currently there isn't an active community near me so I started one (talk about grassroots!), we'll see how quickly it grows and what becomes available in my area.  Check it out yourself and see if you've got a community.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It starts with one step...again and again and again

Being healthy is a long journey filled with many steps in the right direction and some in the wrong direction.  I remind myself that it's a journey on a regular basis but also stumble often enough too.  In my quest to be stronger, faster and healthier I strive to fuel my body with wholesome, healthy foods and to challenge myself many nights a week at Milestone Crossfit. I've been on this path for a while now, a year and a half, and know it's not a destination, that it's a journey you constantly walk and a for me, someone who loves food and cooking it's also a fight.  It's a fight to do what I know is best, what makes me feel best and perform best vs. doing what is easy, comforting in times of stress or what just plain looks good. 

This summer I struggled a lot, not with any one thing but with it all.  I'm the type of person that throws themselves into the things they love so when I started Crossfit in 2011 and found out that I loved it, I embraced every facet of it and jumped in head first.   Going 90 to nothing for a year and a half is a little rough, I am the girl who doesn't move a workout unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e. I have to travel for work and must accommodate that schedule), I am the girl who can empty all the "bad" food from her pantry and have the strongest will and the strictest diet without turning back.  I am also the girl who takes on misstep and says, "eh, I'll get back on track on Monday" and maybe never does get back on track.  I think it would be an understatement to say I can get derailed, I think it's more like the train flips over, rolls down the embankment and never rights itself.  I didn't go completely nuts and start eating funnel cake for breakfast and stop working out...more like it was a gradual slide into seeing crackers in the pantry, bread on the counter and having some major apathy about my workouts.

Apathy (also called impassivity or perfunctoriness) is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation and passion.  Thanks Wikipedia, that about sums it up. I spent most of this summer with a very large amount of apathy, don't get me wrong this only applied to my life in crossfit and somewhat with nutrition.  I still enjoyed all the other things that make me tick, spent a lot of time with family, friends, my to do a little traveling and did some fun "Austin" things.  But at the end of my summer of apathy I started to really question what I was doing and why I was failing.  Yes, I know how obvious the answer to that is...failure was a direct result of my level of giving a damn.  But for some reason that didn't quite occur to me...I felt some need to assess whether what I was doing made sense and if I should continue down the path I had been on.   Then I read a blog post by someone I have major respect for, a blogger I love to read each day, PaleOMG. (If you are not familiar with Juli Bauer's blog RUN to get there!).  Juli writes for a few sites but on the Again Faster blog she posted something that really resonated with me.  To give you some context Juli is an amazing paleo blogger but she is also a Crossfit coach in Denver, CO and a competitor.  Her post called Creating My Crossfit is all about her struggle to feel as excited about Crossfit as she once had.  Seeing someone who has infinitely more skills, has dedicated herself to training others and is clearly committed to the healthy lifestyle struggle with a similar set of feelings made me think twice about abandoning my course.

It took me some time, thinking about it all, remembering why I got involved in this in the first place and realizing how stupid it would be to truly abandon something that has given me a new view of what I am capable of and a place that has introduced me to some of the best people I could ever meet.  I realize I am very hard on myself and that my apathy came in part from my struggle to meet my own expectations.   It is very hard to do something day in and day out only to feel like you are not measuring up to what you think you should be able to do.  Ironically, I actually reached some major milestones this summer, I managed to deadlift 300lbs+, I got my first kipping pullup and I set PRs (personal records) in nearly all of the other things we did (benchmarks, various lifts and even sprint/running related things).  Somehow I ignored all of that in favor of feeling like I hadn't done enough, like I wasn't able to do more and then getting angry and eventually apathetic.   All the stuff that makes me who I am, all of my personality quirks that make me good at my job and make me pretty decent at the hobbies I enjoy turned against me to some extent to make me hate something I loved because I felt like I wasn't good enough (according to the one important expert, me).  Wow, that's absurd.  After a summer of apathy and some over-thinking I realized the only way I was going to get anywhere was to ignore the part of me that constantly told me how I was failing to measure up.  Not so easy, believe me. 

Starting the week before Thanksgiving (told you it took me a long time to think through it all) I decided to throw myself back in.  About that time our coaches decided to beat us to a pulp so in addition to my renewed effort I was barely walking that week.  So here I go, a few weeks before New Years, my resolution is to not be so hard on myself.   Besides, my dedication to and love of Crossfit has been embraced by my family too (not gonna lie, my sister started this for all of us) but so much so that our Box even laughs about it...

So I guess the path of least resistance (and most to an extent) is to keep rolling and get back on track again.