Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chilled Cucumber-Greek Yogurt Soup

Today was my favorite kind of Sunday, started with a leisurely trip to my farmers market. In addition to a ton of other great produce (and of course the requisite bacon and eggs for breakfasts), I picked up a pile of cucumbers so that I could make a chilled cucumber soup I had at this year's Zoofari. The soup was made by one of my favorite DC restaurants where RJ Cooper is chef and owner, Rogue 24 and they just happened to be passing out recipe cards, win!

I modified the recipe a bit to make it more paleo friendly, but I should caution you that it's technically neither paleo nor primal due to Greek yogurt and a small amount of sugar respectively. If you don't mind the yogurt, you could probably sub honey in for the sugar in a slightly smaller quantity. Personally, I'm not gonna' stress about a small amount of refined sugar once in a blue moon, especially since with this recipe it comes out to significantly less than a tsp per serving. With that said, here's what you need:

8 English cucumbers or some equivalent (I used a mix of 2 varieties), peeled,seeded & roughly chopped
1 sweet onion, diced
1 T fresh dill (or 1 t dry)
1 7 oz container full fat Greek yogurt
4 T rice vinegar, split
2 T champagne vinegar, split
2 T sugar
1 T salt, salt & white pepper to taste

Chop the cucumber and onion and put in a bowl, toss with half of the vinegars, the sugar, and salt. Place in a colander over a bowl and let macerate for 2 hours.

Using a blender, add the cucumber-onion mix, pulse the machine to start to break down vegetables. Add the yogurt, remaining vinegars, and dill. Puree to emulsify completely. Adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper (I used some of the liquid that had drained through the colander in place of salt - taste it and use sparingly at first as it is very salty).

Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve and cool in the refrigerator before serving. The resulting soup is incredibly refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day with the coolness from the cucumber and the zippy acidity from the vinegars.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Asparagus with Butter & "Soy"

I have been eating asparagus like it's going out of style. Oh wait, that should probably read "like it's going out of season" (heh). You recall that dinner I made for my friend's 40th birthday? That night I made asparagus 2 ways, the Asparagus with Butter & Soy from (you'll be shocked) Cooking In the Moment and with my own creation, Asparagus with Fresh Maryland Lump Crab and Hollandaise:

Excuse the poorer than usual photography - it was dark and I didn't want to make my friend wait while I took 80 odd photos to get a single one I could edit and post on this blog :P
Aside: I used the Hollandaise recipe from the Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces cookbook, which has you use a blender to create the emulsion - genius!

In any event, when I made the soy & butter dish originally, I did follow the recipe exactly. Later in the week however, I took the opportunity to use the leftover asparagus to test out a paleo version and I dare say while it lacked a tiny bit of richness from the soy sauce (you could use wheat free soy or tamari if you're comfortable with that), it wasn't a huge difference and the dish was still outstanding.


Here's what I did:

First, I prepped my water for poaching an egg (I use a smaller saucepan with about 1/2-1 t of white vinegar per cup of water). Once the water was simmering, I blanched a bunch of trimmed asparagus in boiling water for about 30 sec (the few really thick stalks got dropped in about 45 seconds earlier), then drained them and set them aside.

While the asparagus were blanching, I heated some sunflower oil in my cast iron skillet over nearly high heat (high end of medium high). When it was piping hot, I dropped the asparagus in, shaking them around occasionally until all sides were blistered. At the same time, I dropped my egg into the simmering water to poach and set the timer for 3 minutes (it's easier to avoid breaking the egg if you crack it into a small bowl or cup, then slowly lower the bowl into the water. If you need to, swirl the water with a knife for a few seconds to get the egg white to form around the yolk after dropping it into the water).

When the egg white was firm I used a slotted spoon to pull the egg out of the water and set it aside. Then I added 1 T of coconut aminos to the pan with the asparagus and shook it until the liquid had evaporated. Finally I added about 2 T of ghee and tossed again until a sauce had formed. I plated the asparagus with the sauce, set the poached egg on top and ground fresh black pepper and sea salt over it.

There is very little more satisfying than cutting into your poached egg and seeing the still runny yolk pour out

The resulting dish is rich, salty, and full of umami flavor. Even though I've had this twice already in one week, it's going to be made again very soon!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rhubarb-Strawberry Sorbet

I've been taking advantage of the quickly fading spring weather by spending as much time as possible sitting on my deck in the evenings. Often this involves a cocktail, but sometimes a glass of seltzer with some bitters and a stack of cookbooks will do the trick.


As I took this photo, I thought about how well this group of cookbooks actually represents me, especially at this time of year when the seasonal markets and CSAs are starting back up and spring produce is abundant. I certainly feel blessed to live in a place where there is such a diversity of food and great access to organically farmed produce and sustainably raised meat!

In any event, on to today's spring produce turned tasty dish. My mom was in town this weekend and I had offered to make her dinner one night as a belated mother's day present. In preparation, I decided to use the leftover rhubarb and strawberries I had to make sorbet. I had already made a strawberry sorbet for my friend's birthday using the instructions from the Zuni Cafe cookbook (technically not paleo since I used plain old white sugar to make his). This time, I used a recipe from my favorite ice cream & sorbet source, David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop replacing the sugar with a lesser amount of honey.

Here's what I did:

I sliced up about 3/4 of a lb of rhubarb and put the slices into a medium saucepan with 2/3 c of water and 1/3 c of honey and simmered until the rhubarb was tender, then stuck it in the fridge to cool. While the rhubarb mixture cooled, I hulled and sliced about a quart of strawberries and put them in the blender, then added the rhubarb mixture, a pinch of kosher salt, & 1/2 t of lemon juice and pureed. Try tasting the puree both before and after you add the lemon juice if you've never done this before; it's amazing how much it brightens the flavors!

I let the puree chill overnight in the fridge, then put it in my ice cream maker the next day until the sorbet had thickened. One thing to note, your sorbet will still be fairly soft when you pull it out of the ice cream machine so plan to chill it in the freezer for a few hours before serving. Also worth noting that sorbet gets really hard in the freezer so you'll want to pull it out and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before scooping. This makes a fairly tart sorbet that showcases the rhubarb so add a bit more honey in the beginning if you want yours sweeter.

I served scoops of both the strawberry-rhubarb sorbet and the more intensely flavored and sweeter strawberry sorbet alongside paleo coconut macaroons from the baker at my market and my mom was in heaven:


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fresh Peas with Lettuce, Spring Onions, & Garlic

Today's dish is a modification of another one of my favorites from Andrea Reusing's Cooking In The Moment cookbook. Fresh peas are another one of springs delights (yes, I said delights) and the shelling can be enjoyable if you sit outside with a cocktail nearby (or in our technological age, you can just do it in front of the TV, which is what I did tonight :P).

Once you've shelled them, make this quick dish and serve it with your favorite protein. For my friend's birthday, I served it alongside grilled Pork Chops with a Rhubarb Cherry Sauce:


Here's what you need:
  • About 2 cups of shelled fresh peas (you can use frozen if you can't get fresh)
  • 1 small head of leaf lettuce washed, dried and torn into pieces
  • 2 very large or 4 medium spring onions
  • 1-2 medium cloves spring garlic depending on how much you like your garlic
  • 2 T ghee
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
Slice the white and light green parts of the spring onions into thin discs and saute them over medium-low heat in 1 T of ghee in a large pan. While they soften, mince your garlic cloves and when the spring onions are soft and beginning to caramelize, add the garlic and stir. After 1 minute, add your peas and a sprinkle of kosher salt and cook until tender (depending on size, somewhere between 3-6 minutes). Once the peas are soft, add the remaining tablespoon of ghee and remove from the heat. Toss the lettuce on top, sprinkle with salt & pepper and toss so that the lettuce wilts and the butter melts. Serve immediately.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Grilled Broccoli with Garlic & Anchovies

A friend of mine turned the Big 4-0 this Memorial Day so I offered to open some nice wine and make him dinner. In preparation, I bought up every spring vegetable and fruit that looked the slightest bit appealing at the market the day before figuring I'd sort out the rest of what I was making (asparagus had to be on the menu) once I got home.

I came home with strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, spring onions, peas, leaf lettuce, broccoli, leeks, and mushrooms, many of which were served in some form at dinner. I couldn't cook it all though and one thing that didn't get made until tonight was the broccoli.

One of the first cookbooks I reach for for inspiration when the farmers market is in full swing is Andrea Reusing's Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. Her cookbook epitomizes what I love - a few high quality ingredients cooked simply to make a beautiful dish, and her recipes never fail to produce delicious food.

So tonight I set to making the grilled broccoli with parsley, garlic, & anchovies from her cookbook, minus the parsley since that did not make it on to the gargantuan list of things I brought home. I cut the broccoli into long thin florets, tossed them with olive oil and put them on the grill. While they were grilling, I mixed together some anchovies, mashed garlic, lemon zest, and chile flakes. When the broccoli was done, I tossed it in the sauce and served:


The dish was delicious and packs a real flavor punch. Maybe not something to make for a hot date, but definitely something I'd serve to guests at a dinner party. I had it alongside a grilled ribeye and mushrooms and spring onions with balsamic that I cooked in foil packets on the grill.

Stay tuned, we have a lot more produce to get through and since I haven't blogged in over a week, I feel like I've got to make up for lost time! :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grilled This & That & This &...

Look, let me tell you how it's gonna' be. I bought a grill. I love grilled food. It's the right season for grilling. So I'm going to grill a lot of shit and post pictures of it here. You good with that? Okay then, read on...

I had in my head that I was going to make one of my favorite repeat spring dishes to use the spring onions and asparagus I scored at the farmer's market, but I changed my mind at the last minute and decided it would be a great idea to add a steak and grill it all, so that's what I did! But first, I stopped by my CSA farm earlier today to pick some strawberries and immediately knew that I wanted to have a spinach salad with them. I tossed the spinach and sliced strawberries with some shaved red onion, pecans, black pepper and balsamic vinaigrette:


After the salad, I got to grilling. If there is any one thing that is better than grilled meat, it may be grilled onions. The two together, well heaven:


I'm sure I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but if there is one thing I can do properly in the kitchen it's do justice to a good steak by cooking it the perfect medium rare. This particular steak is a ribeye I picked up at a "new" (really it's old, but I've only just discovered it) family owned meat market called Boarman's. The steak isn't local, or completely pastured, but it is from small family owned farms and cut in house and it was delicious.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Grilled Tequila Mahi Mahi & Asparagus

My farmer's market opened for the season last weekend, one of the things I look forward to all year, but I was in New Orleans so I wasn't able to attend and as a result, this past week was spent working my way through leftovers in the freezer. Which meant that this weekend, I HAD to get to the market. I was originally slated to pick up a new foster today, which is the day of my market, so I headed into the city yesterday to visit one of my favorite "special occasional" markets, the 14th & U Farmer's Market. And when I learned that I wouldn't be picking up my foster (he has some medical issues that require treatment so he's staying in PA for the time being), I went to my market this morning as well (yep, I'm a bit of a farmer's market junkie). Between the two, I managed to score some great stuff, including 2 spring essentials: asparagus and strawberries.

On my way home, I realized that I wanted nothing more than to grill that asparagus. Unfortunately, I don't (well, didn't) own a grill. That's technically due to the fact that it's against my condo regulations because it's a fire hazard, but I love the convenience and flavor you get from a grill so I stopped at Lowe's on my way home and picked up a new tabletop gas grill (don't judge me - my fire extinguisher was sitting next to the grill the entire time!).

I had some mahi mahi defrosted in my fridge that I had planned to serve with the asparagus and some mango salsa, but the grill changed things. I started searching for a good grilled mahi mahi recipe and came across this one from Alton Brown and knew immediately it was the winner.

For the most part, I followed the recipe for the marinade as outlined, mixing 1/4 cup each of freshly squeezed lime and orange juices and tequila (I used Quervo silver), diced red onion (1/2 c, or about 1/2 of a small onion), & minced jalapeno (1 T, or about 1 small pepper), but I did alter the sugar - using 1/8 c of coconut palm sugar in place of the 1/4 c of brown sugar.

The fish marinated for about 2 1/2 hours, after which I dried it and basted it with olive oil. The cleaned and trimmed asparagus got tossed with evoo and s&p as well and both got grilled. While they were grilling, I reduced the leftover marinade in a pot on the stove. Here are the fruits of my grilling labor:



Yeah, there's a reason the grill I bought was only $36. I'll have to learn to work around the hot spots. But bottom line, my dinner was simple and delicious, my two favorite things. Here's my plate:


My only regret? That there wasn't more of the "chutney" that resulted from reducing the marinade. I had less than 1 1/4 lbs of fish to start with (versus the 2 lbs the recipe calls for) so the liquid was more than sufficient for marinating, but next time I'll double it to have more sauce for the fish.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Placeholder Post

I just realized it's been a week since I posted. And sadly I've got nothing for you tonight except a note to say that I was in New Orleans eating the crap out of some food (and let's be honest, drinking the crap out of some wine and bourbon) and tomorrow I'm headed to the National Zoo for my annual day of volunteering and then attending their big fundraiser, Zoofari. I have some good pictures to share from my trip and will be back to cooking on Friday so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mexican Beef & Ginger Carrot Slaw

I'm a Nom Nom whore. There, I said it. But, with recipes like her Oven-Braised Mexican Beef how can I not be? This is yet another recipe that is SO simple, but results in seriously delicious food.  Have you looked at the recipe? No? Well, go look at it. Beef, a few things those of us with a well stocked kitchen have on hand (stock, fish sauce, garlic, onion, tomato paste), and a jar of salsa. Slice an onion, season the meat, and pretty much dump everything in your pot and then go do something else for 3 hours. You don't even need to brown the meat!! I realize I seem excessively enthusiastic about that, but browning meat is annoying, and messy, and time consuming, and drilled into your head as a necessary step if you read anything about cooking.

Anywho, I served it alongside her Slaw with Tangy Carrot Ginger Dressing (don't skip the slivered almonds unless you can't eat nuts as they really add something) and the result was delicious:


By the way, I did not edit that photo. Yes, there are still harsh shadows from the shit lighting situation in my kitchen, but somehow I did manage a decent exposure and the depth of field I wanted. I realize it's not the prettiest plate and Gourmet won't be calling me anytime soon to offer me a job, but this is progress.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Weekend Update

A really fun weekend meant not too much time to cook or blog (and still no working out, more on that in a later post). Friday evening was spent listening to live music with a friend and tasting the new releases at the winery where I work.


I loved the Asian Chicken Thigh recipe from Nom Nom so much that I made them again, this time with skin-on, bone-in thighs, which did work a bit better. I also made the Avocado Slaw from PaleOMG. The latter was tasty, but even after amping it up with some extra lime juice and red pepper flakes and adding chopped cilantro, we felt it needed something. Next time I will add some minced jalapeno.

Saturday was spent at my Crossfit Box for the Jason Anthony Santora Memorial WOD. All I will say is that this was an incredibly well run event supporting two great causes and it was a ton of fun to be back at the box with my fellow Crossfitters. After a day of volunteering (and admittedly some drinking) a few of us carried on the fun at a restaurant down the street.

Here I am proudly supporting my new tank (and sunburn) from the fundraiser for PT Monday morning:


Sunday was devoted to giving my dogs some much needed exercise and attention. We hit up one of our favorite local spots, the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge to hike and play in the water. Skye especially enjoyed her romps in the water chasing sticks with her bestie, Ty. Here she is striking her meerkat pose:


That didn't leave much in the way of time for food prep, plus I was pretty exhausted so I took a nap and ate leftovers. However, on the agenda for this week are Nom Nom's Mexican Beef and Ginger Carrot Slaw and Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa so stay tuned.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Maple Lard Pecan Scones

Scones. Damn if I don't love 'em, especially with a cup of coffee. So it's totally reasonable that when I came home to eat lunch after PT today, I also decided to "whip up" a batch of scones. The last time I made paleo scones I used almond flour, but I knew this time I wanted to use coconut flour so I went searching for a good recipe. Elana's Pantry is always one of the first places I look for pastry recipes and once again, she did not disappoint as I found this recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip Scones.

I made a few modifications and bam! Maple lard pecan scones:


You know what I learned today? Coconut flour gives baked goods a very light, airy texture. That's why the magic brownies were so light and cakey. And that's why these are less dense than your usual scone, although not so much to be muffin-like in texture.

So what modifications did I make? I subbed lard for the vegan shortening, 3 T of Grade B maple syrup in place of the honey (you could do 1 T more or less to suit your tastes), and 1/3 c of chopped toasted pecans in place of the chocolate chips. I used a 1/8 c measuring cup to portion out "mini-scones" and baked them for about 16 minutes.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Magic Brownies & Condiments (not at the same time!)

You remember these Magic Brownie Bars I mentioned earlier, right? So I ended up making them for the also aforementioned BBQ at my friend's house. And they were, well, magical. Seriously, putting a layer of macaroon on top of a brownie - pure genius!


This was my first time making a paleofied baked good where the cake was mostly dates. I found the process a little fussy, for lack of a better word, but now that I've done it, I think I can improve the process a bit. Most notably, I read a tip to soak the dates in hot water, then drain before food processing to make creating the paste easier. The surprising thing to me though was the texture. These have a very airy, cake-like texture. I was expecting something much more dense and "wet" and may have overcooked them a little as a result so next time I will shoot for a few minutes less. I will also melt the macaroon ingredients without the coconut first, then mix the coconut in once those are well blended the next time I make these. And, rest assured, there will be a next time!

On a totally separate note, what's a girl to do when she still can't workout and has nothing on the agenda for the evening? Getting caught up on the budget is probably the correct answer, but that didn't sound fun so instead I decided to take advantage of the fact that my blender-hating puppy was having a sleepover with her best bud and make condiments. I had a pound of ground beef that needed to be used up so last night I did everything to make a meatloaf except actually cooking it. I minced some onion and a little green apple in the food processor, then added an egg, s & p, and mixed that all into the meat, formed it into a loaf, wrapped it in saran wrap and stuck it in the fridge. A basic meatloaf like this just screams for Heinz ketchup (hello, Pittsburgh girl here). Unfortunately, even the "simple" Heinz that's made with actual sugar instead of HFCS is very high in sugars so tonight, while the meatloaf was cooking in the oven, I set to making my own paleo ketchup.

I started with a recipe from my Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings, and Toppings cookbook and played with it as I went. In the end, I think I managed to get the zippiness that's characteristic of Heinz, but not much else. Unfortunately unless I want to defeat the purpose and add a ton of sweetener (albeit "natural" sweetener), my ketchup just isn't going to taste as sweet. And using tomato paste was a bad call. It's just a totally different beast than the cooked down tomatoes that go into Heinz. What I created is passable, but don't be surprised when you see a blog post about barbeque sauce in the near future. :P



One condiment I do care more about making myself and am actually successful at is mayo. Store bought mayo is generally made with canola and/or soybean oils, which like commercially raised meats have an unhealthy ratio of omega-6's to omega-3's so while I will occasionally use store bought organic mayo for convenience I prefer to have homemade on hand. The things I think are key for successfully making mayo at home?

1. Mix a little bit of very cold water into your egg yolk and acid before you start adding the oil (a ratio of 1 t of water to 1 egg yolk should work).
2. When you add the oil, go SLOW at first. If you think you can't go any slower, go slower. Like one drop at a time slow.
3. When the emulsion starts to actually look like mayo (you'll see it start to lighten in color as it builds in volume, but it will still be yellow, then just when you think it's never going to happen, it will start to look creamy and lighten in color), you can go faster. I use a hand mixer and just pour a thin stream right in between the 2 beaters. When I start to see streams of oil appearing in the mayo, I'll stop pouring for a second and give the bowl a few good swirls with the beaters then go back to adding the oil.
4. Make a double batch. It doesn't seem to take any longer to get to #3 above whether you use 2 yolks or one so you might as well be efficient and make more rather than less. I use a ratio of 3/4 c of sunflower oil to 1 egg yolk.

So what do you guys think I should do with all of this ketchup & mayo?


Friday, April 26, 2013

Green Curry with Shrimp, Calamari, & Bay Scallops

I made this for dinner tonight:


1. It was so good (really, isn't all curry?), but very hot. Very, very...very hot. I "garnished" with a lot of extra coconut milk, which left it very very hot, but oh so delicious.

2. I am not sober enough to write a real post so it will remain a mystery how I actually made the curry.

3. Off-dry gewurztraminer and spicy thai curry are one of life's great pairings. Hence I had to take a crappy photo of the food and wine together:


Seriously, I need to do something about the lighting in my kitchen. Or quit my job and start cooking my dinner during daylight hours.

Oh, in case you're wondering, that's an Atwater Gewurztraminer from the Finger Lakes in NY. It feels apt that I'm drinking it tonight since I bought it last year during Grapehounds and am headed to GIG (Greyhounds in Gettysburg) tomorrow. Yes, greyhound people are nuts and travel to special events centered around their dogs, but before you judge, know that I have met, gotten drunk with, and become good friends with some of the coolest people at these events.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Asian Chicken Thighs & Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Two posts in one day, what?! If I were smart, I would post this later, but I'm stuffed full of delicious food so I have to share, right now! :P

My original plan was to make a seafood curry tonight, but it's tough to do that without curry paste so instead I set to making these Asian Chicken Thighs that were recently posted on Nom Nom Paleo. You know how much I love a Nom Nom recipe so it was only a matter of time. The marinade was so easy to whip up in the blender so I got the chicken marinating and then threw in a load of laundry and got the dogs walked. When I got back, the chicken went into the oven and I set to making the brussels sprouts to go with them.

I had originally intended to roast them in bacon fat since the oven was already on, but it's such a beautiful spring day that that just felt wrong (not that cooking with bacon fat can ever be wrong). Instead, I trimmed and washed a pound of brussels sprouts, then thinly sliced them into "discs". I heated some macademia nut oil in my cast iron skillet over medium high heat, then tossed the brussels sprouts in it and seasoned them with salt & pepper. I let them caramelize, stirring occasional until there were lots of nice crispy edges:


Then I turned the heat down a bit and added 1 T each of balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and a big handful of toasted pecans and cooked them until the liquid turned into a glaze:


Since I used boneless, skinless thighs instead of skin on as the recipe called for, the marinade was sticking a bit to the chicken so I moved the rack up and broiled the chicken for a few minutes on each side to crisp them up:

  

I served the chicken and brussels sprouts with a simple green salad:

The maple brussels sprouts were a nice change for me and this chicken marinade, like many of the recipes on the Nom Nom site is a total winner. There's no doubt these thighs will go into the regular rotation, but I can't wait to use it on chicken wings next!

21 Day Sugar Detox (FAIL!) & New Shoes!

Not being able to exercise sucks. Being in pain sucks more, but since eating well, drinking water and exercising are tied so closely together for me, not being able to do one makes the others more of a struggle. I told myself I was going to do a 21-day sugar detox while going through PT as a way to ensure my diet didn't go off of the rails and I didn't gain back the weight I lost. Since I'm already pretty strictly paleo, that meant cutting out fruit entirely, except for the occasional green apple or banana (yes, green banana, WTF?!), any chocolate, and any paleo treats that used sweeteners like honey or maple syrup and the biggie, alcohol.

The problem? My heart was never in it. I've eaten a lot less fruit and chocolate, but I've still had the occasional paleo treat and my share of alcohol. In fact, I had offered to make those coconut macaroons for an annual BBQ a friend is hosting this weekend, but I went browsing around Juli's PaleOMG site (BAD idea as she is the queen of paleofying baked goods) and found this recipe for Magic Brownie Bars.

Photo taken from PaleOMG's site

They're basically brownies with macaroons on top, brilliant! But, so not 21-day sugar detox approved. Oh well, f the 21-day sugar detox people. I'm just going to do my best until I'm injury free and then kick ass that much harder once I'm back in the gym.

Speaking of, I may not be Crossfitting at the moment, but that hasn't stopped me from buying Crossfit gear. More specifically, I bought the number one most crucial piece of gear you could buy: SHOES!

Navigating the world of Crossfit shoes can be a bit overwhelming and frankly there aren't many great articles (at least that I could find) online to help. There is a relatively limited list of companies who make shoes specifically for Crossfit - Reebok and Inov-8 are the big ones, although Merrell, New Balance, & Altra also make models - but you can get totally lost in the various different models. Add to that that most of the shoes aren't carried in retail shops so you'll have to try to get an idea of size and fit from online reviews before ordering.

Thankfully I have great coaches to guide me. If you don't yet, this article also gives a decent overview for beginners. And while I think this article is poorly written and does little to help you narrow down your choices, it does at least tell you what to look for in a Crossfit shoe. Probably what you need to know most if you're newer to or thinking about Crossfit is that the Reebok Nano's and the Inov-8 230's are all around solid shoes if you're getting started. If you're strong enough to climb ropes or think you might be before you're ready for another pair of shoes, you should probably consider the Inov-8 240's over the 230's as they have additional rope protection so your shoes don't get shredded.

I actually hadn't been planning on buying shoes right now. I knew I would eventually but it didn't make sense to spend the money when I'm not actually working out, except a fellow Crossfitter posted about a sale on Inov-8's on The Clymb that I couldn't pass up, so I am now the proud owner of this pair of Inov-8 230's:

I can't wait for them to get here so I can start wearing them. Since they're a minimalist shoe (less padding than I'm used to and a much smaller heel "drop") I'm hoping to start wearing them in PT to let my feet get used to them. Sadly the estimated delivery date is May 11-15. Come faster shoes!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Injury Post

I've been holding off on posting this until I was feeling a bit better in the hopes that less pain would make me less bitter and thus, less whiny. :P Being in constant pain, especially when it involves your back and abs, which you use for EVERYTHING is really no fun. I have a new found sympathy for people who live in chronic pain. I was miserable after a week of it, I can only imagine weeks or months or a lifetime.

In any event, here's the rundown. I mentioned that the chiropractor thought I'd strained my QL. Before I went to see him, it was a minor issue that was nearly resolved and like I mentioned in an earlier post, he was confident he'd be able to help me work the rest of it out in a few visits.

Unfortunately what happened was very different. I'll spare you the details; the short version is that after 3 visits I had to admit that he was not helping me in any way, but had in actuality turned a minor injury into something severe. I could not get out of bed in the morning, or sit or stand for any length of time, or walk my dogs without fear of the next time someone would pull on a leash causing a new wave of pain in my back. I didn't do myself any favors by going to Crossfit a couple of times in the midst of this either. Once I realized this, I went to see my doctor, who prescribed painkillers and sent me to my old friend Ian, the physical therapist.

I'm now a week into my PT appointments and while still in pain and on Rx painkillers, I'm much improved from where I was prior to those appointments. I still can't take a deep breath without pain (I really look forward to the day when I can!), but I can do things like open a door, pick up my purse, or change the station on the radio in my car without wincing from the pain. So what's actually wrong with me? An issue with a joint in my spine (inflammation & no mobility causing strain on my muscles), as well as a strained abdominal muscle and a subluxated (partially dislocated) rib. It's actually the latter that's causing me the most pain right now.

So obviously I haven't been to Crossfit for a while, and won't for at least a few more weeks. Right now, we are still focusing primarily on working out the issues and resting/icing so I am not supposed to exercise at all (nor have I wanted to). This feels like a huge setback to me after I worked so hard to get back into shape, but it's mostly frustrating because this shouldn't have happened. So what's the moral of this story? When in doubt, see a physical therapist. I would like nothing more than a redo on the last few weeks so that I could make the decision to see him when my back started bothering me. But, what's done is done and what's important is that I am slowly, but steadily feeling better each day.

If you've hung in this long, thanks for reading. Hopefully my next update will be a really positive one. Feel free to send me some good thoughts for exponential healing so I can get back to beating myself up asap!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fajitas!!!

I've been playing catch up with the cooking since between my mom's visit and being in a ton of pain I wasn't able to do much this weekend. Last night, I cooked up some shiitake-broccoli slaw stir fry to have for snacking for the rest of the week and whipped up an easy frittata with smoked bacon, onion, sun-dried tomato, & spinach for dinner:


Tonight I got a batch of chicken jerky going in the dehydrator (unfortunately for the dogs, not me) and a big batch of chicken & sausage cacciatore in the crockpot to have for lunches. Since I knew I'd have a lot to do tonight, I marinated a skirt steak in a mixture of olive oil, lime juice, crushed garlic, cumin, & chipotle chili powder and cut up some peppers and onions for fajitas before I went to bed last night. That meant tonight I just needed to sear the steak, then cook the veggies in the pan with the leftover marinade. Fajitas are one of my absolute favorite quick & easy meals. Just slice up the meat and serve with the veggies, sliced avocado, cilantro, & a lime wedge, yum!




Sunday, April 14, 2013

Coconut Lime Macaroons

I've been indulging in a bit too much chocolate lately, and dealing with some sugar cravings as a result. The other day in Wegman's I actually stopped to eyeball the various pastries and cookies (there's just something about food on display that calls to me!), but I forced myself to move on. Then I saw the containers of macaroons and thought, well at least those will be paleo. Not so much, they had flour in them.

What's a girl to do except make her own? Especially when you follow a link to a blog and this Coconut Lime Macaroon recipe from Comfy Belly happens to be the post of the day. So last night at the ridiculous hour of about 10:30 I set to making them. They were incredibly (dangerously?) simple to make and they are so good. I used the whites from 4 very large farm eggs and stuck to the lower 3T of honey and thought the consistency was perfect. Since I was torn about whether or not to dip them in dark chocolate, I decided to do half and half.

(Man, I wish I could take more photos in daylight!)
Unfortunately sometime today I think I decided to start a 21-day sugar detox tomorrow, which means I will eat what I can tonight, but the rest have to go. Who wants to help me finish off some macaroons? Get here fast! "What I can" may turn out to be a lot. :P

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chicken & Vegetable "Lo Mein"


On the menu tonight, Chicken & Vegetable Lo Mein from The Food Lover's Make It Paleo cookbook. You can find the recipe over here on The Food Lover's Kitchen (formerly The Food Lover's Primal Palate) website, but I recommend picking up a copy of the cookbook if you see it. The recipes are all fairly straightforward and simple, but it's nice to have a few paleo cookbooks to page through for inspiration, and everything I've made from this one has always been tasty. This recipe was no exception.

And, it has water chestnuts. I've loved water chestnuts since I was introduced to them in Chinese food as a kid. If you don't like 'em with their absolute lack of flavor yet satisfying crunch, we may have to stop being friends. In any event, all in all a satisfying, healthy dish, even if the name's a bit misleading (love the addition of the cabbage, but without the noodles there's no way you're convincing anyone this is anything more than a tasty stir-fry, sorry).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Samosa Breakfast Hash

I'm lucky in a few ways when it comes to paleo eating. One, I love to cook (duh). Two, I don't mind eating leftovers. For days. And, three, I could eat bacon & eggs for breakfast every day of the year. When I get bored, I switch from frying my eggs to scrambling them. Or sometimes I get really crazy and make an omelet.

But, for a lot of people, what to eat for breakfast when you've thrown out your boxes of cereal and packets of oatmeal is challenging. And if I'm being honest, I had been planning to take a brief break from bacon and cook up some sausage, except my farmer canceled last weekend's meat drop. So, it was timely that a friend posted this recipe for Samosa Breakfast Hash from Paleo Cupboard tonight! It was an easy decision to postpone the meal I had been planning and cook up a big batch of this hash instead. Of course, I had to make a few changes.

Since the recipe said the hash would freeze/reheat well, I decided to make a double batch so I could freeze some individual portions, but it turns out I didn't have enough curry powder for 2 lbs of meat (I used dark meat turkey) so I just used what I had (5 T) and left the other spices as they were called for in the recipe. I might up the cinnamon and ginger a touch next time, but I felt the flavor and heat were pretty spot on otherwise.

I also used green onions instead of regular onion and because I wanted something reminiscent of the peas that are usually in samosas, I defrosted some haricot verts and used my scissors to cut them into shorter pieces and added those. Lastly, I subbed in turnips for rutabaga because I thought they'd better emulate the potato.

I had the resulting hash for dinner with 2 fried eggs on top:


Delicious!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mobility

Here's a concept I was completely ignorant of prior to starting Crossfit:

Mobility.

I wish I hadn't been because I would have approached my return to exercise a bit differently. I did make an effort to very gradually increase my activity level since I started working out again last February, at first just swimming, then adding in cycling and later weight lifting, and eventually Crossfit. Still, there was a key component I was overlooking:

Mobility.

The large majority of us sit at our desks for a large percentage of our lives. I've been doing it for 14 years and up until February of last year, for quite a few years I was largely sedentary outside of the office as well. This leads to an incredible loss of, you guessed it:

Mobility.

I've suffered from tendonitis in my wrist off and on for about 10 years now and was in physical therapy a few years ago for a problem I was having with my trapezius, both from my poor posture at my desk. But when you're not particularly active, you may not have obvious injuries that would prompt seeking medical treatment. Instead, you may have poor range of motion or suffer aches and pains, but there's nothing like introducing intense exercise to draw attention to the misalignments and weaknesses in your body.

This article does a good job of summarizing a lot of my thoughts on this issue of late. Unfortunately, as stated in the article it's taken another injury (this time a strained QL muscle in my back) to get me to realize that a few things could have potentially addressed some of my ROM issues before I started working out so intensely, potentially allowing me to avoid these injuries rather than having them essentially identify my weaknesses.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. The main thing is that I'm educating myself now and have decided to make improving my mobility a priority. To that end, I'm doing a few things:

1. Seeing a chiropractor

As I mentioned, I strained my QL muscle so right now, the focus of my visits is on correcting that issue, but he felt confident we could address it in a few visits. His main concern is actually the poor ROM in my neck, which is not surprising so we're planning on 8-10 visits to work on improving that with maintenance visits TBD (probably 1-2/month) after that.

2. Mobility WODs

A link from one of my Crossfit coaches led me to this awesome site: Mobility WOD. There's a new mobility WOD for each day (I believe some repeat so you are able to guage your progress) for an entire year. Their original intent was to do the daily WODs for a year, but it looks like they are keeping it going. Bottom line, over 365 WODs geared solely toward improving your mobility. My goal, in order to be realistic, is to do one at least 3 days per week. I started with the first WOD today. It was tough - I had to break it up into 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 minute segments and there was no way I could have done it without holding onto something to hold myself up - but it got easier as I went and I felt good after doing it.

3. Active recovery - I'm lumping a bunch of stuff into this category. I bought a foam roller a while back (you can get this one for less than $30 on Amazon) that you can use to release tension and improve blood flow to sore or tight areas. I also did a little reading on Trigger Therapy and have been practicing that with a lacrosse ball at the gym or a tennis ball at home. And I'm focusing on rest days that involve easy swims or simple squats, sit-ups, push ups, and pull-ups followed by stretching at home to get blood flow to my sore areas.

None of this is specific to Crossfit. In fact, I hope I will inspire each and every one of you to think about where you may be lacking in mobility and do something to start addressing it. When I think about the fact that our bodies are built to support the lifestyle that our paleolithic ancestors lived and how far removed we are from that, I'm incredibly bummed that we're doing ourselves such a huge disservice. Remember this article I posted earlier from Chris Kresser? We are literally making ourselves sick by sitting around. So even if I just inspire you to get up from your desk a few times a day to walk around or stretch, I will consider this long ass post worthwhile. On that note, quit reading this and go take a walk or cop a squat for 10 minutes as in that first mobility WOD (report back if you do)!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sunday Cook Up Catch Up


No seriously, I also talk about paleo eating! Which is why I'm going to take this opportunity to share some paleo recipes and food photos I've been hoarding. First up is my Sunday cook up from two (yes, two!) weeks ago, this White Chicken Chili recipe from Cook's Illustrated that was passed on to me by the same friend who gave me that great pumpkin curry soup recipe.

I only needed to make a few adjustments to make it totally paleo. First, I used chicken thighs (breasts are fine, but I prefer the fattier dark meat) that I seared in sunflower oil (I still need to research this a bit more, but I think the general thinking is nut oils, while paleo aren't ideal for high heat cooking so you can use whatever paleo friendly oil/fat you'd like) and I used homemade chicken stock. Lastly, I replaced the beans with additional chicken, using about 3 1/2 pounds total.

For the most part I followed the instructions, but I simplified where I could. For instance, why waste time mincing the jalapenos yourself when you can just throw them in the food processor with the rest of the peppers? Overall, it was a simple process and the resulting chili was really tasty and filling. My only complaint, the heat was very subtle. Next time I will definitely add more jalapeno. I served the chili with fresh avocado and extra chopped cilantro (both a must in my opinion):


Last week's cook up was yet another variation on Nom Nom Paleo's Slow Cooker Cheater Pork Stew. I've made a stew using this recipe as a base 3 times now, never doing exactly what she says or the same thing twice. It's an incredibly easy and forgiving recipe - use whatever tougher/cheaper cut of meat, spice blend, and vegetables you have on hand and it will taste delicious every time. This time was probably the closest I've gotten to her original recipe, but I used beef chuck roast instead of pork shoulder and added quartered cremini mushrooms. In the past, I've used a different spice blend, chopped fresh tomatoes in place of the marinara and I haven't always included the cabbage. Seriously, when you're in a pinch, make this stew.

Finally, last night I knew I'd need a quick and easy recipe since I worked at the winery all day and I had a few things to use up in my fridge so I made a Sausage & Spinach Frittata using (again) a Nom Nom Paleo recipe as a base. I sliced and sauteed some mushroom & cognac turkey sausage from Three Little Pigs in a bit of bacon fat in my 10" cast iron pan. When the sausage was browned, I removed it and added some chopped onion to the fat in the pan. Once the onions were caramelized, I added several large handfuls of baby spinach and mixed it until wilted. While the meat & veg were cooking, I beat 6 XL eggs with a few tablespoons of heavy cream, salt, & pepper. Once the spinach was wilted, I added the egg mixture to the pan and let it cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the bottom was set, then I baked it for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Finally, I broiled it for a few minutes at the end to brown the top. Here's the resulting frittata:


I sliced it up and served it alongside a nice green salad. It was a surprisingly satisfying meal for how simple it was and the reheated leftovers were still delicious tonight. Frittatas are definitely going into my regular rotation.

There you have it my friends. 3 weeks of Sunday meals. Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to eat for the rest of the week!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Monthly Check In

Wouldn't it be great if muscle weighed the same amount as fat? Yeah, it does, and I'm an idiot for forgetting that until my coach kindly reminded me that a pound is a pound is a pound. What I meant was wouldn't it be great to be able to see our fat loss on the scale even while we build muscle? Because even though we are capable of understanding that we can be fitter and leaner without losing actual pounds, we've unfortunately all been programmed throughout our lives to care what the scale says.

I decided to switch to monthly instead of weekly check ins for that very reason as I didn't want to be discouraged if the number didn't change on the scale, despite feeling stronger or looking leaner. So imagine my reaction when I stepped on the scale yesterday and I still weigh the SAME THING as I did 4 weeks ago!

Thankfully I have my tape measure and body fat calipers to reassure me of the changes I see in the mirror. I've lost another 1/2" off of my waist and 3/4" off of my hips (ie. unhealthy abdominal fat). And, if you believe that I'm measuring correctly (or consistently measuring incorrectly), I've gone down another 2% in body fat.

I will admit I felt a brief twinge of disappointment when I stepped on the scale, but while I want to lose weight and look better, what's most important to me is simply that I'm meeting the goals I've set forth of clean paleo eating and Crossfitting and swimming regularly. If I continue with that as I have been, the rest will fall into place.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Crossfit Catch Up

Wow, I am seriously behind on my blogging; time to play a little catch up. Let's get the crap out of the way. Today was the first day I felt shitty about my performance at Crossfit. I've had plenty of days where things have been really hard and I've thought I was going to vomit or die or both, but today I felt like my body just wouldn't do what I wanted to. I was fatigued, sore, tight, my back is bothering me - it all added up to a crap workout. :( Which sucks, because I was excited to do this workout when it was posted last night. Oh well, them's the breaks. Nothing to do but get back in there tomorrow and go back to kicking ass!

On a more positive note, on Friday I completed my Foundations class and I went out with a bang. You all know I was really looking forward to repeating Fight Gone Bad to see how I had improved since I did that WOD 6 weeks ago. However, the big accomplishment turned out to be not how many additional reps I did, but the fact that I Rx'ed my first workout! This means I used the prescribed weights and didn't need to scale anything. Here's what I did:

3 rounds of AMRepsAP in 1 min each of:

Wall balls (14#)
Sumo Deadlift High Pull (55#)
Box Jumps (20") (yep, I am back to doing box jumps and my box actually had an extra inch, you know, for the record :P)
Push Press (55#)
Row for Calories
1 min rest before moving on to next round

My total score was 210. Last time my score was 259, but I scaled so I was using a 10# wall ball, 35# for the high pulls and presses, and a 12" box - laughable! (Although to be fair, I scaled the box jumps because I was freshly injured and they were exacerbating it.) In any event, I was pleased I was able to Rx the workout even though I'm already thinking about how I could have changed my strategy to do better. Thankfully I'll have a chance again in a few weeks. I use the term thankfully loosely though as this workout was much harder than I remembered. Like super hard.

So that makes me an official Crossfit girl (again). As if to ensure my street cred, yesterday's WOD included a ton of ring dips, which left me with 3 large bruises on my arms. And today's included a large number of pull-ups so my hands are ripped up again. Between that and how sore I am, I am feeling beaten, battered, and bruised. Yep, I'm officially a Crossfit Girl.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Meet Cindy

There's nothing like a sense of accomplishment to pull you out of your doldrums. I've been having something of a crappy week, but a little rundown with Cindy and I'm in a much better mood, mostly because of the sheer number of kipping pull-ups I was able to pull off without changing the band I was using. So meet Cindy:

AMRAP in 20m of:

5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Air squats

Looks pretty easy, right? Yeah, not so much. I honestly thought the pull-ups would be my downfall and I had 3 bands up on the bar in preparation for needing to switch from kipping with the lightest of the 3 to strict with the bands that carry more of your weight, but in the end, I completed all of my pull-ups kipping with the same band (woot!) and it was the push-ups that really killed me.

In the end, I did 12 rounds plus 1 pull-up. Because it looks so much more impressive when I list out the totals, that's:

61 pull-ups
120 push-ups
180 squats

I'm being redundant, but I'm really fricking excited about those pull-ups. Push-ups on the other hand, I'd prefer not to do any of those for a good while.

Yesterday's baseline WOD by the way was a 20 minute time trial running at the local track. I ran about 2 miles, nothing surprising there. So that just leaves Friday's WOD, Fight Gone Bad. Can't wait although I'm afraid soon instead I'll be saying "can't move", or at least can't move my arms!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Crossfit Total + 50 Burpees

So today was day 1 of our baseline WODs. Today we completed the Crossfit Total followed by 50 burpees for time. The Crossfit Total measures your "functional strength capacity" by summing the total of your best attempts at 3 lifts: the squat, the press, and the deadlift. It also gives me a really easy weigh to measure my progress when I repeat this workout 3 months from now. Here are my results:

Low Back Squat: 130
Push Press: 60
Deadlift: 205
--------------------------
Score: 395

Burpees took me 3:59.

I'm pretty sure I could have gone higher on the push press, but it took me a few reps to nail down my form and I got hung up on 60. On my third try, it suddenly came together and the 60 felt pretty easy, but at that point I was out of time. :(

Want to see where this puts me compared to other women? Check out this Crossfit Total Ranking Chart (I weigh closest to the 148 row in bodyweight).

In a crappy mood (nothing to do with Crossfit) so for once I've got nothing else to say. Enjoy my brevity for a change!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

13.3

It's Crossfit Games season. For anyone who doesn't know, the Crossfit Games are an annual competition that lead to the announcement of the World's Fittest Man and Woman (think the Olympics of Crossfit). They've been around since 2007, but have become more popular in recent years with Reebok's sponsorship and the increasing popularity of Crossfit. You can watch them, and some of the excitement leading up to them on ESPN.

The cool part is that while only a select few go to Regionals or on to the Games themselves anyone who does Crossfit can participate in the Open, which is what's happening right now. Workouts are announced each week and Crossfitters around the globe have their coaches watch and score them, or if you can't have a coach score you, you can submit your workout via video to confirm your score. There are not only individuals on the leaderboards each week, but gyms are also ranked using the scores of all of their members. There's a lot of excitement around it and it's a lot of fun.

This week the workout (13.3) happened to be one I'd done before so I decided to take another shot at it:

AMRAP in 12 min of:

150 Wall balls (20# ball - men/14# ball - women)
90 Double unders
30 Muscle-ups

You have to do them in order. If you finish (most people don't), then you start over again with the wall balls.

I am still not doing double unders because of my previous injury and clearly I can't do muscle-ups so my goal was just to get through the wall balls as quickly as I could and hopefully squeeze in some single unders. When I did the workout last time, I was injured so I couldn't do a full squat (was only going to parallel) and I was still using the scaled 10# ball (I just switched to the Rx weight in my WOD this past Wednesday). Hello, can you say not prepared for how difficult this would be?! I huffed and puffed my way through 127 wall balls, doing them in sets of 5-6 at a time with at times much longer rests in between than I would have liked. I'd love to do this one again in a few months to see what I can do then.

Want to see how it's really done? Check out this video of Sam Briggs doing her 13.3:



She is seriously amazing. Lots of talk of her placing this year in the Games, if not winning them (she came in 4th 2 years ago and had to pull herself out last year due to a fractured patella). I can't wait to watch and see.

In the meantime, I'm heading into my final week of Foundations at my new gym. I'll have another opportunity to gauge how much I've improved when we do Fight Gone Bad on Friday, a workout I did about 3 weeks into Crossfit at my old gym. I'm pretty pumped to see how I've improved in the past 6 weeks!

Friday, March 22, 2013

My CrossFit To Do List

I like amusing myself writing things on my dry-erase board. Lately the list of Crossfit skills I want to work on at home is growing so I thought I'd make myself a list I could reference easily when I was, you know, just sitting around wondering what I could do to cause myself some pain. 


Wondering what all of this stuff is? The first three are all core strengthening skills. Hollow rocks and L-sits, both moves that gymnasts must master, are particularly scary (ie. hard). There's a good article about them here. KTE is knees to elbows, relatively self-explanatory - hang from a pull-up bar and bring your knees to your elbows. I think I've discussed the pull-up ad nauseum. :P The last is handstand push-ups:



Some day I will be able to do at least 1 of each of these things. The knees to elbows are reasonably attainable and the pull-up hopefully isn't too far off, but the others, ay yi yi. Slow and steady wins the race!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

There's not all that much to post about when all I'm doing is Crossfit, work, more Crossfit, and eating leftovers. About the most exciting thing that's happened to me this week is that my new water bottles arrived:

 
Oh, and my resistance bands so I can work on my pull-ups. Yeah, exciting, right? So in the meantime, and lest you think I never screw up in the kitchen (admittedly it is rare :P), I thought I'd share a recipe fail from this weekend.

Someone got pizza in my head so I figured it was time to attempt a cauliflower pizza crust. I searched around a bit and settled on what I thought looked like a good option - mostly cauliflower, an egg, and a bit of almond flour. I mixed everything together and spread it out on the baking sheet. Anyone else nervous?


I baked it for the allotted time:


At this point I was feeling a little better about it, so I brushed some garlic and evoo on and then topped it with thinly sliced cremini mushrooms, asparagus and prosciutto. And because it was the weekend, I grated just a touch of parm on top as well, then I put it back in the oven:


Looks pretty good, right?

 

Yeah, unfortunately, not so much. The flavor wasn't terrible in and of itself, but the texture was a disaster. The outside edges were slightly burnt, but still only just barely crispy and the further you went inside, the softer the crust got. There was no way you could pick those slices up with your hands and eat them, no satisfying crunch of a thin crust, no pleasurable chew from a regular crust, it just did not work. So I squeezed the toppings from the whole pizza onto a few of the edge pieces and that was my dinner.

Have no fear, I have plans to try again with a recipe from Civilized Caveman that someone actually recommended to me. Satisfying paleo pizza will happen!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trying To Get That Kipping Pull-Up

In my eternal quest to get that unassisted kipping pull-up, I asked one of the coaches to take video of me attempting to do one after our workout so I could watch it and compare to the real thing to see where I was faltering. No idea why anyone would actually want to watch this, but if you'd like, have at it, just ignore my chubby belly hanging out:


This is a great video that outlines the steps to getting to a kipping pull-up. Anyone want to compare and tell me what they think I'm doing wrong?



I have a few ideas and some things to work on from the coach, but in the meantime I think my main focus is going to be on increasing my strength a bit more. Her suggestion: every time I walk under my new pull-up bar (ie. every time I walk in or out of my bedroom), I do a pull-up. For now, a "pull-up" means I jump up, try to hold myself for a second, then slowly lower myself down. Right now, I'm not even quite there - it's more of a jump up and try to prevent gravity from taking immediate effect. :P When my bands arrive, I'll be able to do sets of pull-ups with those as well, but I like her idea since it's tough to find time to do sets when you're already going to Crossfit 5 times a week!

Maybe we should place wagers on how long it takes me to get one. Over/under anyone? Set the line!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Zuni Roast Chicken

First things first, my pull up bar arrived today! Look at that. I am going to get strong and ripped...quick!!


It took about 5 minutes to put it together and get it hung up so I could test it:


Unfortunately I can't do much on it until the resistance bands I also ordered arrive. Also unfortunate, I thought I had measured everything I needed to properly, but it turns out my door frame is deeper than what it should be for this particular bar. So the bar is up there, but it's not completely flush on the ledge of the frame. It seems pretty stable, but I'll probably fall on my ass and hurt myself at some point. You heard it here first. :P

So when in doubt about what to make for dinner, roast a chicken! I generally try to keep a few birds in my freezer for times like this and my favorite method of cooking them is from the Zuni Cafe cookbook. The keys to success: salt in advance, high heat, and a dry bird. This time, about 30 minutes in, I added some root veg and flipped the bird to sit on top of them. By the time the chicken was done, the vegetables were soft and essentially confited in the fat/juices of the chicken:


Since I didn't want to roast yet another veg, I decided to make a favorite shredded brussels sprouts recipe, this Shaved Brussels Sprout and Shallot Saute from Epicurious. I sauteed the sliced shallots in ghee, then added the brussels sprouts. Using the shredding disc on your food processor makes it incredibly quick and simple:


Once they had cooked down, I added the lemon juice and toasted pine nuts and plated everything up:


Someone recently gave me a great tip. When you roast a chicken, roast 2 or 3. Same amount of time and effort, but you'll have plenty of leftovers to freeze or make into things like chicken salad. I only had one chicken left in my freezer, but that is definitely my plan next time!

Last, but not least, my current favorite paleo guy, Chris Kresser made it onto The Huffington Post. He wrote a great article on how sitting is affecting our health. The disappointing part is that even if you exercise, you're still putting yourself at an increased risk of health issues if you spend much of your day sitting (like me, hi). Check it out: How Sitting Too Much Is Making Us Sick and Fat - And What To Do About It.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lemon Pecan Mini-Scones

We're having a lazy day here today. I didn't get good sleep this week (time to reevaluate the coffee consumption again) so last night I kicked all of the animals out of bed and left the alarm turned off. When I finally rolled out of bed around 10 am, I decided it was a good day for a "big breakfast".

I much prefer savory food for breakfast. I'll take a plate of bacon and eggs over pancakes any day, but I admit that I do enjoy a nice pastry with a cup of coffee on occasion. In fact, my absolute favorite way to spend Sunday morning is to hit my local farmers market and while there, indulge in a cup of Zeke's coffee and a pastry from Stone Hearth bakery.

So this morning I decided I'd test out a new paleo muffin or scone recipe to have alongside my bacon and eggs. I searched around online a bit, but wasn't finding quite the inspiration I wanted. Since the lemon pecan scone is my most frequent choice at the market I decided to try my hand at making a paleo version of those. I chose this recipe for Cranberry Orange Scones from Elana's Pantry to work from and made some modifications. Here's my recipe:

Paleo Lemon Pecan Mini-Scones

2 c blanched almond flour (I used Honeyville)
1/4 t kosher salt
1 t baking soda

1/2 c chopped pecans

1 egg
2 T honey
2 t lemon zest
1 t lemon juice

I combined the almond flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, mixed well, then add the chopped pecans and mixed to distribute.
In a smaller bowl, I combined egg, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice and whisked well to incorporate the honey. The wet ingredients went into the dry and I kneaded the dough until everything was mixed well.
From there I followed her instructions to make the dough into scones and loaded them onto my parchment lined baking sheet:


I baked them for about 8 minutes and then let them sit in the oven with the door open and the oven turned off for another 5 minutes and then moved them to a rack to cool:



The resulting scone was pretty satisfying. I don't like my scones to be super dry and crumbly, nor do I want my scones to have the texture of a muffin like the "scones" at Starbucks do (if I wanted a muffin texture, I'd have a muffin!) and these seemed to really hit the mark somewhere in between.

I did have a non-paleo friend taste test them for me as well and he felt they were good and not obviously paleo, although he agreed that the lemon flavor was too subtle. Next time I will use a full tablespoon of lemon zest and I may also sprinkle some raw sugar on top before baking (I know, the horror, actual sugar! Hey, these are meant to be an occasional treat). I am also going to try baking them for a slightly longer time at 350 rather than the shorter time at 375 as I felt the edges got dark too quickly. All in all though, I would call these a success!