Thursday, January 31, 2013

Week One Report

Well here we are, one week into my Crossfit/Whole 30 challenge. Things are generally as expected. I have a lot more energy, I'm sleeping better, I feel positive about the choices I'm making and motivated to stay on track as a result, I am really missing coffee (tea just doesn't cut it, sorry) and my body hurts like hell! I honestly don't know how I'm going to make it through the WOD today since I can barely move, but I've only got this Living Social for a month so I'm gonna' do it goshdarnit!

Anyway, I of course weighed myself before I started last week. I intended to take some measurements as well, but couldn't for the life of me find my tape measure. I did however, take some "before" photos. Time will tell if there will be after photos as well and/or whether they will ever be shared. Don't hold your breath. ;)

In the meantime, I am willing to share my weight loss progress. Mostly because it's good, lol. One week down and...

4 1/2 lbs down!

Or if you want to go Biggest Loser style, I lost 3% of my body weight this week (please don't do the math, it will just be embarrassing).

Not too shabby. I won't expect those kinds of numbers moving forward, but for now it's enough to keep my motivated!

What about you my fair readers? What are your goals to get or stay fit and are you making progress?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Meat or Vegetables?

I think it's a misnomer that eating paleo is all about eating meat. Sure, we paleo folks (yes, I'm going to include myself in that group for the time being) love our meat and we love to talk about eating meat, especially bacon. We also believe in cooking with animal fats provided they're from pastured animals (for the why on pastured, go here) along with other healthy fats like ghee, coconut oil, sunflower oil, red palm oil, evoo, etc. But if I sat around eating nothing but fatty meat and a bit of fruit and nuts I'd be on the fast track to Fattyville (well, I'm already kind of living there although I'd prefer to think on the outskirts and packing up my boxes, but I digress).

The other key component is vegetables. And this is where I am always looking for new and creative ideas, especially for ways to prepare vegetables that can be eaten as snacks either cold or quickly reheated in the microwave. Mel's Broccoli Salad is one of my favorites, but I had that last week and there are only so many cucumber slices and baby carrots one can eat so I headed to Trader Joe's in search of some other options. While I was there, I stocked up on a few other crucial items, grass-fed butter for making ghee:

and prosciutto for making prosciutto-wrapped frittata muffins:

I also grabbed a package of turkey kielbasa I hadn't seen before. I'm generally not a fan of the "imitation" poultry versions of sausage, but it's a bit tough to find sausages and cured meats that don't have added sugar and this didn't, so I snatched up a package for snacking:

And, I decided on balsamic-roasted vegetables for a snack this week. I already had sweet onions at home so I grabbed mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini:

This morning before I went to work, I washed and cut everything up, tossed it with evoo and s&p, and put it in a ziploc bag. When I got home, I covered a large baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil (heavy duty foil is your friend - if you don't have it, get some and save yourself some serious clean-up!), tossed the veggies with some aged balsamic and spread them on the baking sheet to roast:

I also decided to make the carrot salsa from Mark Sisson's Healthy Sauces, Dressings, & Toppings cookbook. I already had the ingredients at home so when I got home from work I set out to make it. Instead of shredding the carrots by hand however, I had a brainstorm and decided to use the food processor. First I used the chopping blade to finely chop 1/2 of a small red onion:

Then I swapped out the chopping blade for the shredding disc and shredded 4 large carrots:

I whisked together some lime juice, evoo, cumin, coriander, and salt in a bowl, then added the onions and carrots from the food processor and a handful of chopped cilantro:

Then I mixed it all up and stuck it in the fridge until dinner. Earlier that morning, along with chopping the veggies for roasting I had also prepped the marinade for Nom Nom Paleo's Damn Fine Chicken and tossed a bunch of chicken legs with it so I put them all in a 13 x 9" glass dish and poured the marinade over top:

The chicken went into the oven along with the tray of veggies and about 40 minutes later I had dinner:

But, more importantly, I have 2 delicious dishes that feel more like a treat than forcing down vegetables that I can reach for when I'm hankering for a snack!

By the way, damn fine is an understatement. For how simple it is, that chicken is delicious. You should go make it. Right now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The "Angie" (my intro to pull-ups)

Just thought I'd share a little video clip I took while waiting for my second Crossfit basics class to start:
Note the girl in the blue shorts doing pull-ups. She's taking breaks only because she's about half-way through doing 100 of them! And after she finished them, she went on to do 100 push-ups (from her toes in case you were wondering), 100 sit-ups, and 100 squats. And that is what is known as the "Angie".

Imagine my dismay when I saw our WOD (workout of the day) posted on the board: 1/2 Angie (meaning, in case you're not so hot at math, 50 pull-ups/push-ups/sit-ups/squats. Luckily the learning portion of our workout ran late so we "only" ended up having to do 25 each, yay me! :P My hope is that as a result I'll be able to use my arms when I go back again on Thursday. My raw and calloused hands are another story...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pork Quadfecta

If anyone thinks eating paleo is about deprivation you should take a look at my pre-dinner snack:

Country pate made by moi (well me and about 15 other people) at a paleo meet up event I went to at Stachowski's Market this weekend. Pork meat, fat, and liver all wrapped in a ton of bacon-y goodness and then baked once I got it home. We all chipped in - helping to put the meat through the grinder, pulling thyme off of its stalks, lining the loaf pans with bacon - while the owner, Jamie (incidentally a really hysterical Polish guy from Buffalo, NY) gave us tips on making great pate. "Make sure your meat stays cold." "Your liver should actually be frozen." "Grind your meat twice." "If it starts to get warm, put it in the fridge." "If you don't have time and it's separating and you have no other choice, put an egg in it. Otherwise, no egg!" and so on, accompanied by lots of gesticulation with his hands and, when the grinder started to back up, a few solid curse words. Here he is instructing us as the spices are mixed into the meat mixture:

Photo taken by felow paleo eater, Mark Gibson
After the individual loafs were all neatly tucked into their oven-safe saran wrap and labeled with our names and cooking temps, we learned how to truss and butterfly chickens and then we watched as Jamie broke down a side of pig from a nearby farm in VA. As he did that, one of his staff cooked up chicken schnitzel (seasoned instead of breaded just for us) that we had pounded into paillards and we were served that alongside braised red cabbage and potato pancakes for the grand finale. I'd be remiss to not also mention the huge array of charcuterie we feasted on upon our arrival - bresaola, prosciutto, salame, venison pate, and others I've forgotten the names of (all made in house with the exception of the prosciutto) - along with pickles, mostarda, and a huge variety of cooked up sausages.

If this is what paleo living is about, I can get on board!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Braised Coffee & Spice-Rubbed Beef Brisket

One of the reasons I'm not trying to reinvent the paleo blog wheel is because I tend to not be very creative or experimental in the kitchen. While over time I've become more adept in the kitchen and can make basic dishes (braises, sauces, and the like) without guidelines, when it comes to planning my weekly meals I tend to use recipes from my favorite blogs or cookbooks. One thing I can do fairly well though is to modify a recipe to make it paleo-friendly, as in the case of tonight's dinner, a braised beef brisket.

I've found eating healthfully (which to me at its very core means preparing and cooking whole, unprocessed foods for yourself) is much easier when I have less to do during the busy work week so every Sunday I tend to make one dish that will give me several meals worth of leftovers - a braised meat, a stew, something that can go in the crockpot, etc. This weekend I decided I wanted to tackle the Polyface brisket I've had in my freezer for about 6 months now. Unfortunately many of the typical recipes involve braising in beer or wine (normally okay, but not Whole 30 approved) and none of the paleo recipes were hitting the mark in terms of what I was thinking (coffee rub!) so I decided to modify this coffee-rubbed beef brisket with parsley couscous recipe from Serious Eats to make it Whole 30 friendly and use ingredients I had on hand. Here's what I did:

I mixed 3T Rogan Josh spice mix from the Savory Spice Shop with 2T ground Zeke's coffee and 1t salt and rubbed the trimmed 4 1/2 lb brisket with it and let it sit at room temp for a couple of hours (it was still a tiny bit frozen).

When I was ready to start the braise, I heated some sunflower oil in my deep stainless pan and seared the brisket on both sides. I then removed the brisket, added a touch more oil and sauteed 2 thinly sliced onions until soft. To the onions I added 4T organic tomato paste, 3T red wine vinegar, and a tiny amount (1t?) of molasses (no idea if molasses is Whole 30 approved, probably not, but I was trying to replace the ketchup and figured a tiny amount wouldn't hurt), 3 smashed gloves of garlic and the zest from one lemon.

I simmered that for a minute, then added 2c beef broth, 1 28 oz can Muir Glen organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and 2 bay leaves. Once the sauce was simmering, I added the brisket back in, making sure it was covered in sauce, covered the pan with a sheet of parchment paper and the lid and put it in the oven at 350 to braise for a few hours.

When it was done, I let it rest in the liquid while I made some cauliflower puree and roasted Bohemian brussels sprouts, then I sliced up the brisket and served it over the puree with a good dose of sauce. Here's what my plate looked like:
I am really pleased with how this dish turned out. I especially liked how the sweetness of the cauliflower puree (I pureed the steamed cauliflower with some diced sweet onion sauteed in butter ghee okay, it was butter) played with the umami flavors from the tomato-y sauce. 

Okay, confession. I accidentally had the oven set at 400 degrees for the first hour, but the brisket wasn't really any worse for the wear - maybe just a tad dry at the very ends. But, don't do what I did. Low and slow is the way to go. :)

Another blog?

I know, the last thing the internet needs is another poorly written blog, especially a paleo one. I have no intentions of trying to do what others have done so well already (with blogs like Nom Nom Paleo and The Clothes Make the Girl to name a couple of personal favorites), but I do love my food photography and talking paleo so I figured I'd spare my Facebook friends the long drawn out food posts and give myself a place to share my musings as I continue this paleo exploration.

And, while I don't "do" New Year's resolutions, I did tell myself that I would make working on my food photography (and hopefully putting an end to those underexposed, out of focus photos taken from my phone) a goal this year. What better way to motivate myself than a blog?

For those who might like to follow along, but have no idea what I'm talking about, here are a few links to get you started:

Primal lifestyle (the lifestyle I typically follow, or try to)
Paleo lifestyle (a slighty stricter version of primal)
Whole 30 (30 days of very strict paleo, which I am currently on day 4 of)
Crossfit (also known as the way to a strong, fit body; also known as pure torture)
Food photography: