Thursday, June 20, 2013

Zucchini to Noodle

While I would like to believe I am really 75-80%  nutritionally"good" on a regular basis I never fail to learn that I can do much better than I do.  This first week of the six-weeks of "strict" paleo has been kicking my butt from here to next week.  It's funny because I'm not working out any harder, sleeping any less or drastically changing my diet, I didn't eat bread every day or drink sodas as part of being hydrated, I ate fairly clean (except for some grilled cheese binging last week, but that was abnormal) on a regular basis.   I am not doing a Whole30 per-say but I actually have been eating the same way without noticing it so reading the "stages" of Whole30 reminded me that I always feel a little tired, cranky, etc. when I start over.   I'm starting to feel the "I need a nap" phase a bit more strongly than I would like to admit but that's fine, it's almost the weekend.  I'll just have to refrain from trying to "paleo-ize" (and why it's bad when you're first getting rolling) everything that looks tasty on TV...come to think of it I think I'll steer clear of some of my favorite lazy-tv time (cooking channel anyone?) to avoid the temptation. 

In the meantime I'm looking forward to getting my meal planning for the week done and doing some prep, I might even be really nice and prep some food for a certain boyfriend who doesn't cook much for himself.  After coming home from the gym I was far too tired to want to make the Cinnamon Beef Stew (from Well Fed) that I had intended to make, it'll just have to wait till tomorrow.  Instead I cut the portions in this delicious Carbonara recipe down to suit dinner for myself.    I used one of my new favorite tools, a julienne peeler to cut some Farmhouse Delivery zucchini into "noodles" and tossed the Carbonara sauce over the top. 

While I don't do a lot of "paleo" noodles (too much work unless I can buy them) I do love turning squash, zucchini and sweet potatoes into noodle shape and sauteing them until they are the right texture to serve as a delivery vehicle for my favorite sauces.  Let's face it, all noodles do is deliver sauce to you...delicious amazing sauces, so who cares what the noodles are made of?  Veggie noodles just mean more veggies which is never a bad thing!

My two favorite tools for turning veggies into noodles are both finds (I admit I'm a bit of an addict when it comes to Amazon):

1. Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler

2. Spiral Veggie Slicer

The peeler does a bang up job with cucumbers and zucchini, the spiralizer (as we call it in my family) does a great job with everything but I have gone through one already because the plastic doesn't hold up well to repeated use with stubborn sweet potatoes.  I have thought about getting a really fancy metal one but for $23 I can't beat this, even if it only lasts a year.   Both of these are invaluable to me and help me turn random produce into a quick and easy dinner on a regular basis.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Up to the challenge

While I do try to live a "paleo" lifestyle I have been a bit more relaxed about it all for the last few months.  My sister and I have attempted not one, but two Whole30's that really were more like Whole5's...not exactly a giant success.   So when word came down that our gym would be doing a 6-week nutritional challenge I begrudgingly signed up.  Begrudgingly because it spans the height of lake/boat/pool/beach season and July 4, who wants to be the girl not enjoying a cocktail during those events?  Not I.  Despite all of that serious enthusiasm (insert sarcastic look here) I signed up anyway to give me the shove over the cliff back into a lifestyle that I know makes me feel good and perform well.    I did take a little bit of advantage of the impending challenge start date to enjoy some things I wouldn't be able to during that time, some vino, a grilled cheese and popcorn at the movies last night.  The grilled cheese might've been the worst idea in that list.  Heading into the week I planned a list of meals that will make life a little easier for me, they are all good for me and even better, I actually will want to eat the leftovers.

First on the list, left over Wild Boar Ragu (yes this was the vino on my pre-challenge list), originally I had it over zucchini "fettuccine" and tomorrow night it'll be over some spaghetti squash.

Wild Boar Ragu:
1 Lb Ground Wild Boar
8 pieces thick cut bacon, diced
1 8 oz Package Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
1 Medium Onion, Diced
1 Cup Diced Carrot
1 Cup Diced Celery
28oz Crushed Tomatoes
4 Cloves Garlic
1/4 Cup Dutch Processed Unsweet Cocoa
4 Bay Leaves
2 Springs Rosemary
1 Tsp Anchovy Paste (you won't even know it's in there)
1/2 cup chicken stock or red wine (*if you use chicken stock add 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar as well)

1. Mix ground boar and diced bacon, put in the bottom of a crockpot.  Cover the bottom completely with the meat mixture.
2. Sprinkle onion, carrot, celery over the meat mixture.
3. I used fresh tomatoes vs. canned since it's in season but either works well. Add tomato, garlic, cocoa, anchovy paste, salt and pepper and puree in a blender until it's relatively sauce-like. I prefer a little less smooth sauce but you can puree to your hearts content. Pour tomato/garlic mixture over the veggies.
4. Add  sliced mushrooms over sauce, then pour wine or stock + vinegar over the mushrooms and put the lid on it.
5.  Cook this on high for 1.5-2 hours or on low for 4-6 hours.

In addition to this I've got a handful of other easy but yummy recipes planned, a fajita recipe from the PaleOMG cookbook, Cinnamon Beef Stew from Well Fed a green bean salad with shrimp and grilled chicken with fresh tomato, bacon, leek sauce.  Hopefully between those and the breakfast "casserole" (a word I hate) I'll have plenty of options to keep me from wandering from the path this week.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thanks Adrenaline

It's the eve of the second attempt this spring at a "competition" for me...this one is much more for fun than the last one but being the type-A girl that I am the words sticking in the back of my head are "competition" and "crossfit" not "fun." Last time around I was so excited I couldn't help but be a little nervous.   In my past life nerves was a good thing for me, it usually fueled the competitor within and pushed me, what I learned at the last competition I entered is that those nerves fueled adrenaline and the adrenaline ran out real quick.  The last competition I did had three separate workouts, during the first one I very clearly remember hearing my boyfriend and my coach each screaming "slow down" over and over as I (apparently) flew through my first 21 deadlifts and burpees, somewhere around the next 15 deadlifts I felt like I'd lost the willpower to even pick my feet up, much less continue rolling through the remainder of that one workout (or two more!).   Let's just say Event 1 wasn't that great for me, not because I wasn't capable or ready for it but because I burned out faster than I even knew possible, thanks adrenaline.

This time I decided that I need to approach the whole thing differently, partly because I don't want to burn out quick this time around (I only get one workout to prove myself tomorrow) and partly because it's a partner workout and my partner is a grade-A badass who I would hate to disappoint.  So instead of spending most of my day today thinking about competition, considering what I need to do in the morning to be ready or even going to bed ridiculously early I decided I will treat tomorrow as a normal workout...none of this crazy build up to something that my nerves get in the way of, nothing to stress about, just another Saturday morning workout with friends.  No idea whether this will pay off or if I'll be knocked to smithereens by some burpees and wall balls tomorrow but I figure it can't be worse than burning out in the first five minutes either.     I don't know what I made for dinner before the last competition but it certainly wasn't this, so that's good too right?

Paleo Thai Shrimp Salad

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 seedless English cucumber (or 2 regular large cucumbers), sliced with a spiral veggie slicer or a julienne slicer
1-2 cups cooked shrimp
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1-2 tbsp Asian chili garlic sauce or dried chili flakes
1 big clove garlic
A handful of cilantro leaves
Sliced lime, extra cilantro and crushed cashews for garnish
1 small Thai chili and lettuce – optional

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, orange juice, lime juice, garlic, chili garlic sauce and chopped cilantro leaves, set it aside to blend flavors. The dressing should be the balance combination of salty, sweet, tart, and spicy, however, you can adjust it to your own preferred taste
2. In a large bowl, add cucumber, chopped celery, red onion, shredded carrot, and cooked shrimp - Pour the dressing over and mix well. Let stand to mingle the flavors for about 3 minutes before serving on chopped lettuce/cup with a sprinkle of toasted cashews and/or more Thai chili if you like it hot.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Two years and counting...

Five years ago I started writing about what I was cooking, regularly I searched out new and interesting things to cook and increasingly difficult methods of cooking.  I subscribed to many cooking magazines, blogs and read cookbooks for fun.   Two years ago my sister talked me into coming to Milestone Crossfit with her...somewhere among the wallballs, pushups, squats, burpees, pullups and olympic lifting my life shifted gears. I still love to cook, I still look for interesting and innovative ways to prepare the stuff I eat but my respite from the daily grind of the office is no longer cooking, its working hard to push myself beyond my comfort zone every night at Milestone.

June marks two years for me, in that time I have found myself cutting out grain (not 100% of the time, but a lot of the time), switching from cooking from the likes of Gourmet and Bon Appetit to PaleOMG, Health-Bent, NomNomPaleo, and Well Fed, drinking club soda at work happy hours, re-arranging my schedule to fit in workouts and spending more money on workout shoes than I do on heels.  What do I have to show for all this?  I can push 165#'s over my head, deadlift 325#s, do pull-ups, run a faster mile than I could as a kid, I don't have pain or aches where old injuries used to exist (other than the soreness that let's me know I did good work the day before) and I've made some amazing friends along the way.   No, I'm not always thrilled to drag myself out the door but getting there I feel happy and at home.  Yes, I do occasionally miss the simplicity of getting a sandwich for lunch when they are ordered in for the office, but when I decide to eat that sandwich I remember just how much I didn't love sandwiches to begin with.  On the whole, I have found that I am capable of so much more than I ever knew before June 2011 and I look forward to what two more years will bring.  
My sister conned us all, she got me and her fiancee and her soon to be brother-in-law and our mom involved.  It's become a family affair with us.  It is funny how the simple act of my sister asking me (ok, repeatedly asking) to go with her snowballed into so many of us doing it.  As I sat with her at the South Central Crossfit Regionals on Saturday watching some of the fittest people in this country do amazing things I realized just how much I owe her a major thanks.  Without her I'm very certain I'd be sitting on the sidelines thinking about how crazy all these "crossfit" people instead I'm one of them.  Not quite sure that's something I would ever have even wanted but I love what I have proven to myself thus far in this journey.

I still get all the random cooking magazines because I enjoy reading them, I obsessively watch Anthony Bourdain (both his new and old shows), read Chef biographies for fun and  I enjoy cooking way more than most normal people but on a day like today where I am frustrated and worn out after work there is nothing that leaves me feeling more accomplished than walking out of the gym after my workout. It doesn't matter that I still hate burpees (really, who likes them) or that I am a million miles from being what I would deem "good" at Crossfit, what does matter is that I feel satisfied leaving the gym knowing I accomplished more today than I did yesterday. 

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?