Friday, June 29, 2012

Quick Recipe Roundup

I think the reason I enjoy cooking on the weekends so much more than during the week is twofold:
  1. On the weekends, I have the focus and assistance of my favorite sous-chef, the hubster. He makes cooking complex meals a breeze, if he can keep up.
  2. I have so much more time on the weekends to focus on every aspect of the meal and I don't feel rushed to get it done.
All in all, weekend cooking is just more enjoyable and less stressful. I get to experiment and discover new recipes. I find it therapeutic to have an involved baking or cooking session after a hard week at work, or in the gym. Hopefully that will all change since I started my new job this week. More on that later...

It all starts with breakfast...

Saturday's breakfast before heading to the gym needs to be filling, full of fiber, but nothing that will sit heavy in our stomachs while we motivate our butts to get in gear. Enter my new favorite item on our breakfast menu, my super special smoothie.

Nom Nom Smoothie
1 cup almond milk
1 cup spinach (packed)
1/2 banana (sliced)
2 tbsp almond butter
handful of blueberries
2 strawberries (cut in half)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp honey
  1. Put the ingredients in the blender, in order, and liquefy! 

Super simple, and super nom nom. Great for a quick breakfast before the gym, or before work in the morning. The Almond Milk and Almond Butter provide the protein, the spinach provides the fiber, and the fruits provide lots of vitamins while covering up the spinach. Seriously, you wouldn't know the spinach was there if it weren't green.

All of the nutrients are more quickly and easily absorbed by your body in the liquefied form as well, but you may not feel full for very long. I recommend following up with a mid-morning snack of raw nuts (I like a mixture of walnuts, almonds and cashews).

It continues with lunch...

One of my new favorite foods is avocado, in any form. Avocado has become its own food group in my eyes. I have been finding ways to incorporate it into almost every meal. I'm like the old lady in the Frank's Red Hot commercials, but with avocado. I put this ish on everything.

Now that we are full-speed ahead into the summer heat, a nice cold lunch is in order. Avocado, being the versatile fruit that it is (for real, y'all, it's a fruit), is the perfect ingredient for a cooling, summer lunch.

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
1 avocado (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1 pound of shrimp (cooked and cooled)
juice of 1 lime
cilantro to season
  1. Toss shrimp and avocado in a bowl. 
  2. Pour lime over mixture.
  3. Sprinkle with Cilantro.
  4. Toss to coat.

Tada! Super simple, and scrumptious for a summer day.

And now for your paleolithic pleasure...

One thing that people seem to be really fond of and unable to let go of is their pasta. Sure it may hold the cause for many modern day diseases that could very well put you in an early grave, but it's still delicious, and as addictive as cocaine (Don't believe me? Ask Dr. Oz).

My dad called me the other day and asked what I was making for dinner. "Spaghetti," I casually replied. **screeeeeeeech** "I thought you don't eat pasta anymore!" he shouted on the other end of the line.


Paleo Spaghetti with Mushroom Sauce 
2 zucchinis (cut julienne style)
1 lb ground (grass-fed) beef
1 can organic tomato puree (no sugar)
1 medium sweet onion (chopped)
5 sliced mushrooms (or more, whatever tickles your fancy)
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil (this is an estimate, I really just pour it on)
Italian herbs and spices to season (parsley, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, black pepper)
  1. Brown the meat with the onion and garlic in a large skillet.
  2. Place the zucchini in a separate skillet and pour olive oil over to lightly coat. Toss the zucchini until it becomes soft, like a limp noodle.
  3. Meanwhile, when the meat has cooked fully, add the tomato puree, mushrooms and spices to taste.
  4. When the noodles (by noodles, I of course mean zucchini) have softened, add them to the sauce and stir all to coat.
  5. Serve hot!
Hubby mentioned he was missing pasta, so I surprised him with this dish. He was not disappointed, and I'm fairly certain you won't be either!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

If You Can't Stand the Heat...

Everyone has heard the saying, "If you can't stand the heat, try, try again!" What?! Did I mess that up? Well I'm going with it.

Unless you live under a rock somewhere other than the East Coast, then you know the entire eastern seaboard has been under severe heat advisories and, in some cases, heat warnings during these first two days of summer. A reasonable person would heed these warnings and stay in their plush, air conditioned home.

That's me on Tuesday. I sweat. A lot.

However, nobody has ever accused me of being terribly reasonable, and, as a CrossFitter, I find it my duty to push my limits.

Well I found out what my limits were yesterday regarding the 100+ degree heat indices and I was a little disappointed in myself. But disappointment does not come without its lessons learned. And what kind of a blogger would I be if I did not share this wealth of knowledge in disappointment with my readers so you don't have to share the same disappointment.

Despite the extreme heat and my history of heat exhaustion, I decided to push through with my WOD at my regularly scheduled 5 pm class yesterday. I was feeling great after my warm-up. There was a breeze on the run and I was feeling confident. I did a few warm-up cleans to prepare for the WOD (The Chief), and found myself lifting my heaviest weight yet. The 78# cleans were a breeze once I worked out some technique issues. But I digress...

3...2...1... GO!

I pushed through my first two rounds of the WOD feeling strong, but going into the third heat (you like that pun?) I began to feel dizzy and even a little bit faint. I muscled through the cleans, nearly failing on the third, and struggled through my push-ups. It was the squats where I lost it.

Lesson 1: DO NOT CLOSE YOUR EYES: During my fourth squat, I closed my eyes for only a moment and was overwhelmed by the loss of one of my senses. My head was reeling trying to recover from the dehydration and from the loss of balance from closing my eyes.

Lesson 2: KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO: I still had nearly a minute left in my round after those squats but knew there was no point in pushing through. I made the decision to add that remaining 53 seconds to my minute of rest. This seemed like a brilliant idea and would have made my recovery much better if only...

Lesson 3: DO NOT SIT IN THE MIDDLE OF A WOD: Sitting down in the middle of the WOD is pretty much the equivalent of jumping on the bus that picks up stragglers when you aren't keeping pace at a race. It says, "I GIVE UP!" Your body, despite your best efforts to convince it, will not come back from that. I am convinced that if I had not sat down, I could have gotten through at least one more round, but at what cost?

Lesson 4: LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY: After the failed workout, and my subsequent return to what is considered normalcy by my standards, my trainer reminded me that everyone has their off days and that I had already done more than other people had done just by showing up. Take that, cherry pickers! Jk. It was encouraging in light of the fact that I was really kicking myself at this point. But had I pushed myself too far yesterday, and made myself sick, would I be as amped up to get back in the gym today or would I head home after work to curl up with my dog and hide under the covers in my bedroom with the AC cranking??

Hmm, I definitely see the appeal of the second option...
Getting back into the gym today will hopefully help me build up a tolerance for the heat, although it did come on rather quickly. I may push back to the 7pm class until this heat wave breaks. I am still undecided on that final point, but I have a few hours to make up my mind.

If you haven't already, please go like the new Fit For Life Wife fan page on Facebook. This gives me the opportunity to interact more with readers and to share on the go!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Simple Summer Supper -- Paleo Style

Happy Summer Solstice! Today the sun will be at the highest point in the sky, we will experience the longest sunshine-filled day of the year, and we enter into the summer season. When it comes to cooking, there's no better way to represent summer than by grilling.

Oh, how colorful!

Grilling is one of the easiest ways to create a simple, summer supper -- Paleo style! So grab your skewers, any number of (organic) vegetables, and your cage-free chicken, and let's get grilling.

These particular chicken kebabs feature onion, green and red bell peppers, squash, mushrooms and pineapple. Once the veggies are on the skewers, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle your spices. I use a blend of cumin, pepper and sea salt.

We marinate our meats in homemade marinades to avoid any preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, or any other additives we find not delightful. These chicken breasts were marinated in freshly squeezed lime juice, garlic, and cilantro.

Leave the skewers on the grill with the flames just licking at them (to give them a charred flavor) until the chicken is fully cooked. Depending on the desired texture of the squash, you may want to put them on the grill before the rest of the kebabs as they take a little longer to soften than the other veggies.

And voila! You've got a delicious, nutritious, summer meal that any caveperson would enjoy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not Dead Fred, and other fun tales!

And like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes... or something like that. This blog is more similarly aligned with "Not Dead Fred" from Monty Python's Spamalot. If you're still around, thank you for not removing me from your blog roll during my extended absence from writing.

It has been a busy month for me, and there are a lot of changes in my life. Mostly for the better, as far as I can see.

I told you mid-May about my husband and I embarking on a paleolithic adventure. The 30-Day Paleo Challenge has ended at our gym, and proven to be much easier than we originally thought it would be. I did not win the challenge officially among the contestants in the gym (I got a little crazy at a wedding towards the end of the challenge and gave up my running for third), but both my husband and I consider ourselves winners in that we have discovered this new, amazing and healthy lifestyle of living.

Shh... he's taking a nap because he is sleepy from eating wheat.
Never before have we had as much energy, confidence, and zest for life as we have this passed month. Not to mention, we tried to re-introduce some grains and high-fructose corn syrup into our diets over the weekend to clean out the house of non-paleo friendly foods, and well, the resulting digestive anomaly was enough to make the energizer bunny take a spill.

If you are unfamiliar with the paleo lifestyle and how to rid yourself of indigestion, acne, diabetes and other modern diseases, read this book. It will change your life.

The competitors in the challenge performed three baseline workouts prior to the start of the challenge to repeat upon completion and compare results. Here are my pre-paleo results:

Max Deadlift: 163 lbs
Mile Run: 8:31
Helen: 15:01;.75 pood Kettlebell, #4 & #1 Band on the Pull-ups

Here are my post-paleo results:
Max Deadlift: 173 lb (10# PR)
Mile Run: 7:50 (41 sec PR)
Helen: 15:09; .75 pood Kettlebell, #3 & #1 Band on the Pull-Ups

Check out that set-up!

As you can see, my strength and stamina have improved across the board over the last month. What's that? You say I did not improve on Helen? Tsk tsk. My time went up by eight seconds, but my power output actually increased. I still woefully use bands to assist in my pull-ups. Try as I might, my max effort pull-up still requires a #1 band, but I digress. I went down in resistance, but managed to keep a time about par to my pre-paleo workout, thus having a greater power output, and thus, improvement.

Not only have I seen changes in strength and energy, but I have gone down two pants sizes, making my closet seemingly bare. I purchased all new pants for work and a few skirts,  but unfortunately I'm that awkward height between petite and regular pants length where petite is too short, and regular is too long, so my pants are currently at the alterations shop.

Warning: Paleo is not kind on your wallet. Eating organic foods and grass-fed meats will cause you to have more energy, which will cause you to work out more often, which will cause you to build muscle and burn fat, which will cause you to look incredibly sexy naked, but terrible in all your clothes that are now too baggy for you, causing you to have to go on shopping sprees and check yourself out in the fitting room mirrors (purr you sexy kitten!), causing your credit card bill to be unbelievably high for the first month or so. Your husband may also experience a rise in sex drive when you bring home your new mini skirts that you bought for work. Just sayin'. TMI?! You'll get over it.

For anyone who thinks the paleo lifestyle is too difficult, I will say this: It is easily done if you make it a priority.

So many people tell me it's not possible with their busy lifestyle. I work full time and have a two hour commute daily and I seem to be doing just fine with it. I do not have kids, but I have a very needy dog who comes pretty darn close to having a child. He even talks back. Frequently.

Kutless puts it plainly in the song "What Faith Can Do": It doesn't matter what you've heard, impossible is not a word. It's just a reason for someone not to try.

If you try paleo, you will see the benefits and you will likely stick with it. My husband and I are now fully committed to living an 80/20 lifestyle, where we maintain 80% paleo diet but allow ourselves cheats and treats 20% of the time. I track all of my meals in BeyondTheWhiteboard to keep me honest. It's a really great tool for CrossFitters.

Speaking of that two hour commute, I have more good news. I got a new job. Locally. THANK THE GOOD LORD! I start Monday. Many blessings over this last month and so many exciting things coming in the future. Stay tuned!