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


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!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

MRI Results

I saw my ortho yesterday to review my MRI results. Great news! There is no sign of a stress fracture. There was some evidence of a bone bruise, but the MRI wasn't perfectly clear and it wasn't exactly where my pain had been. The doctor generally seemed unconcerned about it and felt the injury was likely muscular, which is what I thought all along and what I got confirmed by one of the coaches at my gym last night. "Oh yeah," she said, "We see that here. It's from jumping, like in double unders". Darn, where was that conversation 3 weeks ago before I wasted my time with multiple doctor's appointments and an MRI?

Bottom line is I've got the okay to start slowly reintroducing the "high impact" work. I've already been doing weighted squats so mainly this means box jumps and jumping rope. I'll admit I'm a bit terrified of setting myself back to square one, so I really will be taking it slowly, mostly leaving them out of my workouts and just doing an increasing number at home each day. I did do 35 box jumps in my workout today (on a very short softer box) and so far, so good!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Need Some Input

I've been a bit of a bad blogger. My job has been really stressful the last few weeks so between that and all of the work I did getting ready for dinner club, I needed a bit of a reprieve. I also started another Foundations program at a new Crossfit gym that meets 4 times a week so that will be taking up a good bit of my time as well. So in the meantime, a couple of questions for you.

First, the intent of my dinner club was only to make food that I could eat. It wasn't in any way an attempt to convince my friends that they should start eating paleo. I was still excited however when I got an email from one of my friends saying that he and his girlfriend were interested in trying it and would like some links to help them get started. So here's my first question for you:

Do you have websites that you love for meal planning purposes? I know of a couple, but since I tend to do most of my cooking pulling from various blogs that I like or just modifying recipes that I'm already familiar with, I don't have any personal experience using these types of sites. So if you do, could you please post the links in the comments section?

Also, I went on a bit of a pull-up bar search, but I really don't want to have to install a bar and I'm concerned that the ones that hang on your door frame won't support me during kipping pull-ups. I may just get the latter and settle on doing strict pull-ups at home just to work on strength building, but I wondered if anyone had a bar they particularly like?

Speaking of kipping pull-ups, I learned today that the band I've been using to assist me actually supports much less of my weight than I originally thought. So I may be much closer to my ultimate goal of completing one kipping pull-up without assistance than I thought. Pull-ups are on the agenda for Friday's class, so we'll see where I get then, when I haven't already done a full WOD beforehand. Let's hope!

By the way, because of dinner club I also needed a brief reprieve from the menu planning and cooking as well. So when I realized this morning that my leftovers had run out and I had nothing for dinner tonight, I quickly settled on something simple. I pulled a Polyface ribeye from my freezer to defrost and when I got home from Crossfit, I seasoned the steak and got a pot of greens on. At the last minute I seared the steak and nuked some frozen haricot verts with a bit of ghee. With minimal work, I had a great dinner:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Paleo Dinner Club

Well after a busy week of cleaning and food prep, I finally had my paleo dinner club last night. We always start dinner club with a cocktail. Since it wouldn't be particularly paleo-friendly to make a cocktail with simple syrup, I went for something boozy and close to my currently bourbon-loving heart and made a twist on a Red Hook. A Red Hook is a Manhattan with one of my favorite liquors, Luxardo maraschino added. I took it a little further by subbing in Campari for about a third of the sweet vermouth to give the drink more bitterness and added a few dashes of orange and a dash of Angostura bitters.

With some alcohol in our bellies we eagerly moved on to the first course, a charcuterie plate served with Cava:

That's the bacon jam from Zenbelly on the bottom, country pate from my "meat up" at Stachowski's above it, Against All Grain's raisin & rosemary crackers, homemade pickled onions, and sliced red pear and cornichons. Incidentally, I ended up making the crackers with both the finer almond flour and the courser meal just to see what others thought and the overwhelming consensus (other than me) was that the crackers with the finer flour were better, and tasted more like "real" crackers. Good thing I made both!

Our second course was the Brazilian seafood stew I posted about a few weeks ago, served with a sauvignon blanc. I made a slight modification this time and added about a cup of shrimp stock I made from the shrimp shells and was satisfied that it gave it a slight additional depth of flavor that I thought it had been missing earlier. I always forget one thing every dinner club, no matter how detailed of a list I write out for myself. This time I forgot the plantains until I was about to serve the stew, but I didn't miss them as much as I expected.

Our third course was my favorite, confited pork belly using Thomas Keller's recipe from Ad Hoc (you can read up on how to do it here) served with the caramelized turnips I recipe tested earlier in the week, a fennel, radicchio & citrus salad and a garnacha that at $10/bottle was not only a great pairing, but a steal (thank you I.M. Wine for the recommendation)!

I've always said that it's nearly impossible to screw up pork belly (unless you don't remove the skin and cook it until it's hard as a rock), but if you want to impress your guests, I highly recommend this preparation. And, I'm not gonna' lie, I've made and eaten a lot of pork belly in my time so my recommendation should count for something. If you don't have enough lard...well, if you don't have enough lard you should make some, but you can also confit the belly in olive oil. I recommend brining first regardless of how you prepare it. It's a simple step, but so worthwhile. The result of the entire process was a belly that was melt in your mouth tender and falling apart (the word unctuous comes to mind) with a perfectly crispy later of fat on top.

For dessert, I knew I wanted to make the Maple Bacon Coconut Ice Cream from Apron Strings that someone made for the paleo potluck I went to, but that I missed out on because I was doing my Whole 30. What I needed to go with it was a paleo chocolate cake recipe that would taste the same as any cake containing gluten and processed white sugar, but I was struggling to find one that I thought would be a total success. Until Michelle at Nom Nom blogged about a Zenbelly pop-up dinner she went to, that led me to this No Joke Dark Chocolate Cake recipe. Success! From the cake to the whipped filling (I did use grassfed cream for this layer) to the bittersweet ganache this cake was delicious and tasted like the real thing. And, for a non-baker, was really quite easy to make. I ended up cooking the batter in 2 8" round pans and baking for about 20 minutes. I wish I had a better photo of the entire cake, but guests were clamoring for dessert so I only got this crappy shot:

And here's the final dish with the ice cream:

Incidentally, and I can't believe I am going to say this, I think I would have preferred the ice cream without the bacon. It offers a really nice contrast in flavor, but we all found the bacon a bit chewy. It may have been the particular bacon I used though so I encourage you to try it.

And that's a wrap on my first officially paleo dinner club. The feedback seemed positive and I have some great leftovers to eat tonight so I'm going to call that a win-win!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Weekly Check-In

It's actually been 2 weeks since I checked in, and since my Whole 30 ended. My original intent was to continue to stay strict Whole 30 during the week and "regular" paleo on the weekends (aside from possibly an occasional dinner out). I've been successful with the paleo part (okay, okay, I had salad dressing a few times with sugar and bad oils and I ate a tiny bit of cheese and bread at the winery last weekend, but otherwise I've been on track). The Whole 30 part has also been close, but I'll admit to having a maple lard scone here and there and a lot of banana chips for snacking. But, all in all, I'm comfortable with how I'm progressing. The ultimate goal in the end is balance after all. I just wanted to tend toward the stricter side for a bit longer to get my gut issues back in check and to continue to boost my weight loss.

In any event, I weighed and measured myself this morning (didn't bother to last week given that I was coming off a very non-paleo weekend). No weight loss, but both my waist and hip measurements were down another inch! Further evidenced by the fact that I went down another belt buckle as well. And I continue to notice an increase in muscle mass that is evident not only in the mirror, but in what I'm able to do in Crossfit.

So I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I also hinted in an earlier post at the fact that the doctor (I saw an ortho last week) tenatively diagnosed me with a stress fracture in my tibia. I'm pleased to say that I've been pain free for a week now, while adding in some things like squats and lunges that would have been painful a week or two ago. I'm headed out in a couple of hours to get an MRI so I can know for sure so if you don't mind, please keep your fingers crossed that it was just the highly unusual muscle pull and not a stress fracture!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rosemary Raisin Crackers

Back around Christmas I was stocking up at Trader Joe's on horrifically unhealthy non-paleo snacks as I was about to get snowed in for a day or so and needed something in my stomach to go with the >=1 bottle of red wine I planned to drink. French onion dip and chips, a variety of cheeses, their pita crackers (which I am obsessed with, so good with some of their brie on top) and a cracker I had never encountered before, Trader Joe's Raisin Rosemary Crisps. The crackers were really good, especially with a bit of blue cheese on top. Alas, they're not so paleo-friendly.

So I was super excited when I came across this recipe from Against All Grain that was inspired by them. I decided they'd be the perfect accompaniment to the country pate and bacon jam I'm serving at my dinner club on Saturday so I set to making a test batch tonight. The original TJ's crackers have a consistency more like a melba toast than an actual cracker and while Against All Grain provides a second recipe using almond pulp that looks like it gets closer to that, I didn't feel like messing with making almond pulp on top of everything else. So, I decided to make a half batch of the ones using blanched flour, as well as a second half batch using the same recipe, but with Bob's Red Mill almond flour/meal, which is courser and still has the almond skins to see which one I liked better. By the way, I left the sunflower seeds out of both batches because I didn't have any.

Having now eaten a large number of crackers, I can say first that these crackers are incredibly easy to make (just toss a few ingredients in your food processor, pulse for a few seconds, roll out, cut and bake). They're also delicious and definitely have the flavor of the TJ's crackers. As for which one I liked better, they're both good and I think which you make depends on what you're looking for. The batch made with the blanched almond flour (I used Honeyville) was more like an actual cracker, with a very firm texture and a great snap when you broke them. No one would ever know those crackers didn't contain regular flour. The ones made with Bob's Red Mill were my preferred cracker though. They weren't as dense and had a better mouthfeel.

The latter didn't require any adjustments to the recipe, they just cooked a bit faster (I also ended up accidentally rolling them a bit thinner so that could have contributed) so I would keep a close eye on them and check them 5-7 minutes in. One other tip - when you roll them, make sure the edges aren't thinner than the rest or the crackers won't cook evenly.

And what's a recipe testing if you don't test the finished products together so I had to try both crackers with the bacon jam. It's a rough life!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Indian Curry Meatballs

I had a hankering for something Indian so I went searching the web for some inspiration. I initially thought I'd take a stab at making one of my favorite eggplant dishes, baingan bharta, but in the end I decided to do my own take on this Curried Meatball recipe from Everyday Paleo.

For the meatballs, I mixed together the following:

1 lb ground turkey (higher fat, not the lean 1% fat)
1 lb ground pork
1/2 c finely diced red onion
1/3 c finely diced, peeled apple (I used my food processor for both this and the onion)
1 egg
2 T curry powder (I used Trader Joe's)
1 t black pepper
~2 t kosher salt

After mixing the ingredients together really well, I scooped up the mixture in large rounded tablespoonfuls, formed them into meatballs and browned them in a nonstick pan with a little coconut oil in two batches:

Once the meatballs were done, I moved them to my 4 qt crockpot and added a little more coconut oil, 1/2 of a medium onion, diced and 1 t of crushed garlic to the pan. Once the aromatics had softened a bit, I added 2 T of curry powder and let that cook for about a minute. Then I added half of a can of tomato paste (about 2 1/2 T), 1 c of pork stock, a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, and a can of full fat coconut milk. Once everything was well blended and the sauce was simmering again, I poured it over the meatballs in the crockpot and set it on high:

You could also easily let the meatballs simmer in the sauce on the stovetop until cooked through, but I was multi-tasking and didn't know when I'd get around to actually eating. When I was ready for dinner, all I needed to do was make some cauliflower rice to serve the curry over. I removed the florets from the stem and rinsed them off, then processed them in my food processor in batches until they were the size of grains of rice:

Make sure you don't overstuff your food processor or you'll end up with mush on the bottom and whole florets on top. You really don't need to pulse long to get the size you need. It also helps to make sure the cauliflower is pretty dry. From there, I only needed to saute some diced shallot in a bit of coconut oil:

then add the "rice", cover and let it steam until it was soft with just a bit of bite left:

I plated the meatballs and sauce over the cauliflower rice in a bowl and that was dinner:

The best part of cauliflower rice, by the way...the fact that you can dig into a bowl of food that feels like a carby indulgence when really you're eating vegetables!

Thanks to my office being closed as a result of the "snow day" I also got my pork belly confited (in lard, how awesome is that?!) and there's a batch of Zenbelly's Bacon Jam in my oven as I type. I can't wait to try it on a bit of apple when it's done! Here's a photo of the belly before it went into the oven:

Even with all of that, I got a lot of work done. Yay for working at home and productive snow days! Did anyone else take advantage of the weather (or lack thereof) to get any cooking done?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Caramelized Turnips

A group of 7 of my friends and I have had a dinner club for many years now. Each month someone different hosts and at the end of each cycle we do a themed dinner where each person makes one small plate and pairs it with a wine. Saturday I'll be hosting again and this time, I've decided to serve an entirely paleo dinner! With Saturday quickly approaching, it was time to get down to some recipe testing. Typically I just use my friends as recipe testers, but in the case of this dish, I was going to be "paleofying" a regular recipe so I wanted to try it out first.

I was looking for a side dish to serve with the confited pork belly I'm making and stumbled across this recipe for Beef Cheek Confit with Caramelized Turnips and decided the turnips sounded like a great choice. So first I melted some fat (I used bacon fat, but you could use ghee or lard) in my cast iron pan over medium heat. While the pan got warm, I peeled and finely diced (about 1/4") 2 small-medium turnips and tossed them into the fat in the pan with a touch of kosher salt:

I cooked them, stirring occasionally until the turnips were nicely browned on all sides, then turned the heat down to medium low and added a large clove of crushed garlic. After the garlic cooked for a few minutes, I added a small amount (about 1/4 c) of pork stock (I will use the confit liquid when I make the dish on Saturday), 1 t of honey, and 1/2 t of coconut aminos and stirred to coat. Once the liquid had cooked a little and formed a glaze on the turnips, the dish was ready:

I plated them up with some leftover ribeye* and brussels sprouts that I had reheated and that was dinner:

The turnips were delicious - very tasty for very little effort. Now I just need to get the brine for the pork belly made and cooled so the belly can brine overnight. Tomorrow is supposed to be a snow day so I'm hoping to confit the pork while I work from home.

*Reheated steak, what? Here's my tip if you're a solo diner, or just want to have steak more than one night in a row. Cut your steak in half and sear both pieces. When the steaks have a nice sear, put one in the oven to finish cooking and immediately put the other in the fridge to cool. The following day, pull it out of the fridge a half an hour to an hour before you want to cook, then throw the steak in a hot oven and cook to your desire temperature (which I sincerely hope is medium rare :P).That way you only have to dirty a pan searing once instead of twice.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Checking out boxes

Sorry, couldn't help myself on the title. When I bought my Living Social for Crossfit Revamped, my plan was to just do the month of Crossfit to give my weight loss and fitness a boost and to finally see what all of the hype was about. I figured I would also pick up some stuff that I could work into my strength training, but never envisioned I'd be willing to spend the money to get a monthly membership. But, as you all know by now, I've drunk the Kool-Aid. I could wax poetic about all of the reasons why, but the bottom line is that I'm much stronger than I was 6 weeks ago. And I want to be even stronger. I want to have the strength to do a kipping pull-up without a resistance band. I want to have the flexibility to do a squat where my butt is practically on the floor. And I want to have the determination to do an Angie.

With that in mind, it's just a matter of figuring out the best place to continue working toward those goals. While I like Revamped, there seems to be a lot of variation in how Crossfit boxes are run and of course there's location and distance to consider so it seems smart to explore my options.

The obvious first choice to explore was the box closest to me, Crossfit Laurel. My overall impressions of the place from what I had seen and heard led me to think this wouldn't be the place for me and I almost didn't go. Thankfully I called this morning and had a surprisingly lengthy conversation with Curtis, one of the owners, who happens to also be an old neighbor of mine! Curtis was as nice as I remembered him and gave me a lot of info that got me thinking about what I should be looking for and what is or isn't important to me. After I've been to a few more places, I'll write a post about it because as awesome as Crossfit is, I think there are some things worth considering before you join a location.

Anyway, to get to the point, everyone that I met today was very welcoming and friendly (and patient addressing my many questions). One of the key differences here that really appeals to me is that part of their intro work with you is determining some baselines so you can gauge your progress later on. When I got to the end of my Whole 30, I realized that it was difficult for me to clearly illustrate to others how much I had improved. Baselines seem like a no brainer to me and I'm now wondering why that wasn't part of my on ramp program at Revamped. To get a better feel for this location, I did sign up for a 3 class pass and one of the things we'll do is get my max weights for a few key lifting moves, like the deadlift.

Today's WOD was the most basic of the benchmark WODs and aptly named "Baseline". Here's what I did in 7 min and 25 sec:

500m row
40 air squats
30 sit-ups
20 hand release push-ups
10 pull-ups

Not a particularly challenging workout for me in and of itself, but there were a few key accomplishments. One is that I've been doing my push-ups from my knees namely because when I started Crossfit, I couldn't do them any other way. As I've progressed I've continued to simply because we often do such a large number that to do them efficiently I felt I still needed to do them from my knees. Today I decided to challenge myself to doing them all from my toes. I had to take a couple of quick rests during the last 7 or so, but I did it with relatively little difficulty!

I've also been working on my kipping pull-ups. It was just last week that I finally got the technique (and had sufficient strength) to do 2 "chained" (ie. in a row), albeit with a resistance band. I decided to do all 10 with the same strength resistance band today, knowing I would certainly need to break them up. But again, I finished them with relative ease and I accomplished a sort of PR in that I was able to chain 4 pull-ups together!

Two lessons I've learned recently:
1. Don't underestimate myself.
2. Practice makes perfect. I have been practicing both kipping and strict pull-ups after each WOD pretty consistently for the last week and a half and it's certainly paid off. On Saturday, I started focusing on tricep work as well. Gotta' start getting that ring work in!

And on that note, I'm off to order myself a pull up bar! Anyone want to try the baseline WOD themselves? If so, post your time in the comment section when you're done and share what was easy or difficult. Make sure to check out the link to ensure that you're using proper technique and not "cheating" yourself on any of the movements.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Curried Butternut Squash Pork Soup

Yesterday I picked up a huge order from my favorite pork producer, Bill at Forest Fed. I'll spare you the lecture of how commercially raised pork is not only subpar in terms of nutritional value, but is probably the worst of the worst in terms of inhumane living conditions and just say that if you want the absolute best of the best in terms of heritage pork that is raised in an environmentally sustainable and humane way (these are the happiest of happy pigs right up until they get the axe so to speak), then Forest Fed is it. And it's the best tasting pork I've ever had. So I took advantage of Bill's monthly local drop and stocked up on shoulder, fresh belly, cured bacon, ground pork and sausage, and brats.

A friend was coming over for dinner that night and I remembered a curry soup my friend Christie had described that used ground sausage. Since I also had an open can of coconut milk that needed to be used up, also called for in the soup I figured it was a perfect choice.

Christie had given me some general guidelines for what she does, which I used as a starting point. Here's what I ended up doing:

I browned a pound of ground Italian sausage in a little bit of coconut oil until it had good color, then I added a can of full fat coconut milk, a can of organic butternut squash puree, a cup of homemade pork stock, and about a tablespoon of fish sauce. I had bought fresh ginger at the store, but it somehow didn't make it home with me, so I also added some crushed ginger from the jar I keep in my fridge for such emergencies. Once that was simmering nicely, I added one chopped yellow bell pepper, one chopped onion, and about 1/2-2/3 lb of quartered button mushrooms. I simmered the soup for about 15-20 minutes, seasoned it to taste, then served it with lime wedges.

Bad blogger that I am, I did not remember to take a photo, but it was a lovely, easy to prepare hearty soup and it paired nicely with a grenache blanc/albarino blend from Lone Madrone that I picked up on my trip to Paso Robles last spring. This time you don't have to take my word for it as my friend went back for seconds despite knowing we had another course to eat!

Tomorrow I'm dropping in on a class at the Crossfit box that's actually in my town. Incidentally it's owned by 2 brothers my age who used to be my next door neighbors so that's kind of fun. I get the impression that the space is pretty small and I may not love it, but I figure I need to check it out and see for myself. I'll report back tomorrow evening.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Another Day, Another Solo WOD

So my hope was to drop in on a class at another nearby Crossfit box today. I really like Crossfit Revamped, but it's not the most convenient in terms of distance/location and Revamped was closed all day today. Unfortunately the box in Silver Spring was holding their winter games and the other 2 locations were doing WODs that involved lots of things I can't do right now like double unders. (Have I mentioned my doctor thinks I have a stress fracture in my tibia? What, I left that out? Oops. :P)

So it was another day of working out on my own at my old gym. Here's what I did:

1500 m row & stretching to warm up

6 Rounds For Time of:
12 Wall balls (10 lbs)
9 kettlebell swings (35 lbs)
6 burpees

For practice: tricep dips & handstand push-ups

Yeah, you read that right. I voluntarily put burpees in my workout. It was a relatively small number so I figured I could manage and I'll be honest, they're getting "easier" for me. I also think it's time for me to move up to the 14 lb Rx weight on wall balls, but the 10 lb ball is the biggest my gym has. Still, it was a killer workout. 17 minutes and 40 seconds to finish all 6 rounds and I am SORE AS HECK!! But yay me, for seriously kicking my own ass, twice!

Friday, March 1, 2013

WODing Solo

I was looking for a photo on my computer today when I came across this:

Does anyone remember it? It's the banner I made as motivation for the blog I started the last time I wanted to get into shape. Damn, I was in good shape back when those were taken (ie. 5 years ago)!

Anywho, today my box was closing early because everyone is headed to the Arnold Classic (as in Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic) so I decided I'd WOD on my own at the gym by my office.

I warmed up with some good mornings, air squats, v-ups, and push ups. Then I decided to work on my chest press for the strength part of my workout. Remember a few posts ago when I said I hadn't done a good job of getting a baseline when I started Crossfit? Well it turns out that chest press was the strength workout on my first "real" day of Crossfit, after I completed the 4 basics classes. The format was 3-3-3-3-3-3. Anytime you see the x-x-x, you do x number of reps per set, adding weight between each set. That first time, I started with the lowest weight I could, the 35 lb women's bar and since I was unable to add weight each time, I repeated a few weights. In the end, I did 35-40-40-45-45 and I needed assistance on the last rep of the last set.

So today, when I discovered the lightest bar in my gym was 45 lbs I got worried, but I decided to give it a shot. The bar alone didn't feel all that bad so I lined up some small plates and got to work. When I was done, I had done 45-50-55-60-65-70 and I didn't feel I had maxed out so I asked someone to spot me and added another 5 lbs. I did need an assist on the last 2 reps at 75, but at that point it was all a bonus!

After that, I got down to the WOD. Here's what I did:

AMRoundsAP in 15 min of:
9 deadlifts (90 lbs)
12 hand release push-ups
15 push presses (40 lbs)
18 sit-ups

I managed 4 rounds minus 8 sit-ups (which I finished anyway) and I assure you, I worked just as hard as I would have at my box. (Does anyone else laugh every time I say "my box"? Yes, my sense of humor is sometimes childish). I finished up by working on my kipping pull-ups and then headed home. Tomorrow I plan to check out a new place since my box (heh) is completely closed. It will be interesting to see if the vibe is different!