Thursday, December 12, 2013

Required Reading - This Week's Links

Links. Lynx. Get it?
This morning I came across two articles that I think are worth sharing. In my day job, I work in marketing, branding, strategic communications, websites, and the like. In my night job(s), I work with food and in the fitness industry. It's a bizarre thing to see my day job industry doing strange things to my night (read: passion) jobs.

Gaining Ground 
As an assistant to a chef (and as an intelligent consumer of food), I really value the quality of food, the thoughtfulness by which each ingredient was raised, harvested, and chosen. Too often, we don't stop to think about how this food was made, where it came from, and what it SHOULD cost. I know I talk a hot second about making affordable meals, and I still believe it is possible with quality ingredients; but I want to be clear that there is a fine line between cheap food and affordable food. Cheap food is just that - cheap. Affordable food requires thoughtfulness on seasonality, locality, and planning. The reality is that a burger shouldn't cost a dollar. It just shouldn't.

To that end, here is an article written by Forrest Prichard called "How TV Has Made Us Stupid About Farming" which is worth a read. I mentioned Forrest's book in my gift guide for paleo lovers. I strongly recommend reading that book and seeing what it takes to have a farm...and why it's so important to continue and increase our support of local farms.

This recent article by Forrest talks about the intersection of my two worlds: marketing and food/health. My day job doesn't do very polite things to the farming industry and I'm ashamed to have fallen into the trap of making the very stupid assumption that farming is "simple." Some of my family members farm and I can assure you that it is neither simple nor easy.


On the other end of the news, CNN is reporting that FDA hopes to curb antibiotic use on farms. Reading the story made me flash back to when I wrote white papers and fact sheets for the FDA regarding contaminated lining of cow's stomachs in milk...and what percentages were acceptable (oh my god, hold me, how gross is that thought??)

Chadd teases me because I say that I won't eat eggs from birds that aren't organic, free range and all of that nonsense because I don't want the egg from a chicken that is forced to eat filth (which can include itself and other [live] chickens). If I made a loaf of bread from garbage and some random stuff I found sitting around, with a couple ounces of human flesh thrown in, would you eat it? No. Neither would I. Please apply this concept to the food you do eat.

I certainly hope the changes the FDA is enacting move toward making our food more clean...and that larger operations don't find a way to work around this.


Finally, this was passed around my office today. When a 102-Year Old Lady Talks Like This, You Can't Believe Your Ears. What a joy is she?? My own grandmother is currently very sick and it's sitting heavily on my mind. When I watched this video this morning, it made me a little teary. Her humor, excitement for life, and above all HER FITNESS LEVEL, HELLO, are inspiring. 


What did I miss in the media this week?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Weekly Menu and Grocery Haul

Chadd and I braved the snow storm on Sunday night to go to Costco and Safeway. I wish we had the receipt from Costco, but we spent about $210 and came home with:

- 2 pound of salmon ($20)
- 5 tilapia filets ($15)
- 6, 1.5-2lb bags of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (5 thighs per bag) ($22)
- 10 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts ($20)
- 4 pounds ground beef ($18)
- 7 1/2 dozen eggs ($8)
- Giant tub of coconut oil ($15)
- 14 Fuji apples ($8)
- 14 Gala apples ($6)
- 2 gallons milk (for Chadd only)
- Heavy cream (for Chadd)
- Large bottle of sea salt ($5)
- Toilet paper

So, if we're talking paleo, our Costco bill came out to: $190

We took everything home, divvied up the meat into meal-sized portions and put most of it in the freezer. This should last us for the next month, at least.

I'm aiming to price out each of our meals, but I failed to impart this to no receipt. I've given rough estimates of cost to the above.

For Safeway, we came home with:

Unsweetened applesauce: $2.50
Walnuts: $4
No sugar added apple juice: $1.67
Slivered almonds (to make almond flour): $6.79
8 packs of frozen veggies: $15
Bacon: $7
Duck (this was a special treat for us): $14
1.5 pounds beef for stew: $5.25
1.5 mixed ground beef, veal, and pork: $4.50
1 pound ground veal: $5
1.5 pound ground lamb: $7.60
2 pounds frozen shrimp: $17
.9 pounds asparagus: $3.50
1.25 broccoli - $1.89
2.3 pounds grapes $4.5
2 bunches parsley - $2.98
Celery - $2.38
Strawberries - $4

Total: $105

When we go to Safeway, I spend about a half hour before hand going through the Safeway app and choosing the coupons on it. I'm sure it's a total scam, trying to get info, but doing that and reading the weekly circular in that app saved us a total of: $68.46. That's a lot of money!

Tonight, I spent a lot of time cooking for the rest of the week. I made paleo tomato soup (which, honestly, isn't amazing, I need to work more on the recipe) as well as carnitas, which will probably appear in some lunches, snacks, and dinner.

My week got a little changed up with the snowstorm and our work schedules, so here is what wound up happening for our weekly meals:

Sunday night: Taj Mahal Chicken (Well Fed 2) with cauliflower
Monday lunch: Taj Mahal Chicken leftovers
Monday dinner: Hill Country (BBQ!)
Tuesday lunch: Taj Mahal leftovers
Tuesday dinner: rosemary lemon salmon and asparagus
Wednesday lunch: Tomato soup
Wednesday dinner: Carnitas (Paleo Slow Cooke)
Thursday lunch: Carnitas
Thursday dinner: Beef stew
Friday lunch: Carnitas, tomato soup, or beef stew
Friday dinner: Chicken with the leftover curry sauce from meatballs and the curry earlier in the week
Saturday: Pork tenderloin

The biggest tip for going to the store and shopping is to plan out at least 2 weeks of meals. I bought all of our protein based on about 20 meals that I looked at and would plan to make. The only thing that takes weekly trips (for us) is produce, so I probably head to the grocery at least once a week for veggies and fruit. Save money by purchasing things in season - not because you want them.

The last thing is to make sure you make enough the night before  to have leftovers. It'll save you time more than anything else.

In other news...

My workout schedule looks like this:
Monday - Off
Tuesday - Spin and Yoga
Wednesday - Track
Thursday - Swim
Friday - Swim
Saturday - 6 mile run
Sunday - 1.5 hours on the bike

This is my second week back to training, so I'm already feeling a little bit of a time crunch just having the stress of needing to make sure I get home in time to work out, or go to bed early enough to wake up to train.

Annnnnd speaking of. Time to go to bed.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gear Report - Pearl Izumi

Full Disclosure: Earlier this year, I met a Pearl Izumi rep when we were both working at an expo. After chatting, he asked if I'd be interested in joining "Team Pearl" and testing out some gear. Of course, because PI is basically the gold standard of gear, I said yes. I received a pair of trail shoes, running shorts, a team running tech shirt, and a light weight team jacket for free. They did not require or request that I blog or talk about their gear - simply wear it when I worked out and raced if I liked it. I like it. Here is my review.


Road - EM N2
I met Jesse when I went to test out a pair of the EM project shoes at the expo. After Brooks changed the top box of the Pure Project, I set out to see if I could find something to replace them. At first fit, the EM felt a tiny bit heavier, but more stable. It's still a very light shoe. Bonus points for having crazy colors. When I reorder my shoes, I'll be getting these:

They fit true to size (I wear 10.5 because of my big fit and orthopedic inserts). If you are looking for a suitable replacement for the Brooks Pure Flows, this is a pretty good alternative. 

Brooks PureFlow, 8.4 ounces for a 10.5
Pearl Izumi EM N2 Road, 9.4 ounces for a 10.5

Trail - EM N2
I am not a trail runner. I have done precisely one trail race. It took me over an hour to do a 5 mile trail race. My normal five mile pace is somewhere in the low 40s. THAT BAD. But, Jesse shipped me these shoes and the suggestion to give them a shot on some of the off road portions of Ragnar. Prior to that race, I took these bad boys out for a test run around Rock Creek:

Mine are badass green and steel. The first thing I noticed in this shoe was the gripiness. Maybe it's in my mind, but the shoe felt very stable (something I need these days for my ankle). I liked them enough on my trial 5 miles that I took them to Vegas. I wore them for the entirety of the race (30.4 miles) and really appreciated the extra cushion in the shoe, which a lot of the light weight shoes tend to not have.

Pearl Izumi EM N2, 10.2 ounces

Shorts - Y Fly Split Short
I hate wearing shorts to run. I just do. I am a capri kinda girl. But when I tried these on, I was hooked. When these are dirty, they go right back into the wash so I can wear them again. I'll be buying these in bulk. They hit right on my thigh and have a nice range of motion, so I never feel like they're pulling when I run.
I love them so much that if you drop by my house on a random night of the week, you will likely see me wearing this and a sweatshirt in the kitchen. 

Jacket - W Infinity Jacket
I seem to be a connoisseur of running jackets. I have a ton of them. This fit the bill for something between a long sleeve running shirt and a heavier, technical jacket. It's VERY light weight - think of this as the "tissue tee" of running jackets.

It was great for the bizarre weather in Vegas (hot, cold, hot cold, coldish hot). 

Shirt - I can't remember what this is, honestly. I left it at my folks' house in Atlanta since I didn't need yet another short sleeve tech shirt and I'd be back in a couple of weeks. Chadd says I look good in it, but since I prefer to work out in looser shirts, I've only taken it for a spin once. Can't give you an honest review on a product I haven't really used. 

So. There you have it. If you're in the market, check out some of the Pearl Izumi gear. They did not give me the long cycling pants, long running pants, or capri cycle pants I have from them and I have no problem telling you that I love them.

Just a reminder on the full disclosure: They gave me some of this stuff for free (shirt, jacket, shorts and trail shoes). I was never required to talk about their stuff on my blog. They did not pay me for this post. They did not pay me to be an ambassador. If I don't like a product, I will either blast it on this blog, or I won't talk about it. So. There ya go.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gift Guide: 11 Perfect Gifts for Ragnar Runners

Earlier this week, I wrote a gift guide for Paleo and Whole30 folks, so to close out the week, I figured I'd make another gift guide for Ragnar Runners. If someone in your gift giving circle has taken the plunge and signed up for Ragnar, this list encompasses at least part of what they want and need for race weekend.

  1. Wee Flasher (LED Light) ($10)- When we were at the Adirondacks race, a Scotsman was a volunteer and called our LED lights a wee flasher. The name stuck. I stayed with the Nathan brand gear here because this is the one I use (though mine is pink). So far, I've not been disappointed with them.
  2. Hand Held Water ($19.35) - Again, another Nathan item. I think they must have bought all of the space on the running stores around me, since that's where I've picked up most of this gear. I really like this specific hand held. It stores my keys easily. If you want something that also holds a phone, I recommend another one of their hand held series which has a pocket for that.
  3. Cards Against Humanity ($25) - If you've played Apples to Apples, just imagine that game with horrific cards. Definitely Rated-R and definitely a must have for those down times with your team (even better for playing around a 6 pack after the race is over).
  4. Oozeki Isostrength Lite (29.95) - I LOVE this. I cannot remember where I bought it - some expo, I know that much. This is a great tool because it is very compact, but allows for active and isolated stretching, which I really need for my ankle and IT band. Your runner will LOVE this and so will their team.
  5. Sleeping Bag ($51.22) - Do NOT grab that old sleeping bag taking up space in the closet. That will not help anyone in the van. Bulky items are to be disposed of. Instead, invest in a compact sleeping bag like the one pictured here. I've enjoyed my Lafuma and it packs down to about the size of a loaf of bread.
  6. Headlamp ($29.95) - Though Ragnar only requires 2 headlamps per van, I always encourage my teammates to have their own. It doubles wonderfully at night as a porta-potty light and is generally helpful after dark. After testing a couple, I prefer the Petzl brand lamps.
  7. Nuun ($29.95 for a pack of 4 tubes) - Nuun is critical on our team. I don't like to drink sports drinks with sugar in them - they make me phlegmy (yum!). Nuun does not add sugar (they use stevia) and it's been the best hydration resource I've found.
  8. Foam Roller ($38.95) - Most runners already have a foam roller, but if when you add travel, it's time to grab a smaller option. One of my teammates has this model and we all love it. Since it's hollow, you can stuff it with whatever clothes you bring with you to save space.
  9. BioFreeze ($14.53 for two) - Move over Icy Hot. I much prefer BioFreeze and use this as a topical pain killer right before my third leg (insert Ragnar appropriate joke here).
  10. Scott James Jewelry ($35) - Scott James created a line of jewelry for Ragnar that I absolutely love. I have the Ragnar mountain charm and the ring pictured above. For the Ragnar fanatic in your life, this gift will have a lot of meaning. The jewelry is quality, even for the low cost. You can also put together a necklace with charms for each of the locations they have run.
  11. Reflective Vest ($27)- Each runner is required to wear a vest after dark - whether you are actually running or not. Since you spend a lot of time in this (and it's pretty important), I recommend getting a comfortable one. Again, after a lot of trial and error, I've found that my go-to is a Nathan series vest.
  12. Metal Hanger ($55) - I finally caved and bought this for myself. I'm really pleased with the decision. I've raced 11 Ragnars and many of those have earned me a double metal (or two or three). It's sturdy construction and comes in silver, black, and orange.

Ragnar runners....what did I miss?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Race Report: TXU Energy Turkey Trot 10k

It's hard to believe that a week ago, I was in the middle of drinking champagne and eating pie with my family. How I wish I were back there...

In any case, to earn my turkey this year, I decided to register for the TXU Energy Turkey Trot 10k in Houston.

I was a little apprehensive about registering for a race in another city with a bunch of different schedules to contend with, but my dad and brother both promised to find a way to get me there, so, registration was a go.

Packet Pick Up
PPU makes or breaks a race. If they handle packet pick up well, then chances are that the race will be well organized. I know this from my days with Color Run. Regardless, I went over to Luke's Locker (hello awesome), got my packet in less than 5 minutes, picked up some KT tape, body glide, and the obviously necessary: 

Grade: A+

Race Day
Man, it was COLD. Granted, I am always a little grumpy on cold running mornings, so I knew I just had to suck it up. Parking looked like it could have sucked, but we grabbed a spot just on the other side of the highway (God Bless Texas for highways being on bridges so you can walk under them)

Despite the cold, it was a gorgeous day. People were drifting toward the start line. I got into the gate and had a couple of minutes to tie my shoes, chat with the other very friendly Texans (you think runners are friendly? Try Texan Runners. SUPER friendly) and when the gun went off, I had about a minute before I crossed the mats.

The Race
You could choose a few options - 10k, non competitive (not timed), 10k competitive, 5k non and competitive, and a kids' fun run, which I believe was a mile. 

I really enjoyed my run. My ankle hurt a little, but nothing that the KT tape couldn't handle. I hit my first mile somewhere in the 8:20s and felt really good. I knew that my biggest problem was going to be keeping gas in the tank. I haven't raced a lot this year and I've gotten back in the bad habit of flooring it across the mats. 

One moment that he stuck with me was around mile 4 - it was quiet, most of the supporters were closer to the start/finish line - I looked up and saw a river of runners in front of me. It was just enough people that we could all run our own course, but large enough that the chorus of footsteps sounded like rain. That is one of my favorite sounds in the world. It was just cold enough that as we all exhaled, our breath turned into small clouds. The view from my run was peaceful. I felt incredibly thankful in that moment to be among them.

Post Race
Will met me at the finish line. It made me warm and fuzzy to see my brother there waiting for me. We ran through the finish line festival so I could have a banana and get yet another free water bottle. Mom and Dad had coffee brewing and FOOD so we stopped by Grandjoy's house so I could refuel.

My grandmother's cat has a coat. No joke. We were both freezing.


If you don't want to squint, here are the stats:
  • Finish time: 51:50
  • 1st 5k Pace: 8:29
  • 2nd 5k Pace: 8:13 (NEGATIVE SPLITS!)
  • Overall Pace: 8:21

Yes. My real name is Amelia.


I like ending on a high note, so I'll list the meh stuff first:
  1. Etiquette. As is the case with most Turkey Trots, there's a little lack of etiquette. A few walkers were up front at the start line, so there was a bottleneck. Are you going to walk the first mile? Move back.
  2. Water, water everywhere...but...While there were a TON of water stations (I think 5 in total??), there were a few times where there weren't enough volunteers to actually hand out the water.
  3. Meh Finish Line Festival. The finish line festival had bananas and a bunch of other sugary snacks. I just wanted a granola bar that wasn't made of chocolate chips, but the banana was good.
    1. Just for the race directors - there wasn't much thought about having the runners actually go through the festival, so I imagine that many of the vendors and sponsors felt a little miffed. There were a bunch of activities for the kids, so if that's your speed, have at it!

  1. It was a beautiful course. Maybe it's just me, but I loved running down Post Oak and seeing the Transco (now Williams) building RIGHT THERE. I kinda wish DC had big buildings after seeing this.

2. There were a lot of water stops. I really do like having water frequently, so this was nice.
3. I liked the shirts. There's a huge movement to get away from long sleeve, cotton shirts...but I really do like them. I use them as post run, pre shower gear. 

4. The people. I am a Texan. I love my people. Being around them, chatty, friendly, happy...I was in heaven.
5. The crowd was just right. Enough people to have energy, not too many people to be crowded and irritating.

If you find yourself in Houston on Thanksgiving, give it a go. It's a great race to do before the cooking craziness starts. Even the cons weren't really cons, just preferences.

Grade: A

How was your Turkey Trot?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Life and Times of an Athlete on a Budget

Oh December. Nothing like holiday travel, parties to host, shopping, and year-end sales to make you think about money. I recently got a better handle on my budget by working with a personal financial planner at LearnVest. I felt kind of like an idiot for waiting so long to find a financial planner. Strangely, I'm really excited about everything we talked about. As I expected, I'm better off than many people who made a lot of poor financial decisions....and I could also BE a lot better. Talk about new years resolutions...

A little backstory... I didn't sign up for Ironman Florida this year because it was just too expensive (and there are too many variables in my life for 2014 to be sure that I could train appropriately) and because of my ankle issues. When Jeff looked at my spending, he said I needed to cut back on extras. You know, dinner out or "wow, x person would love that! I'll buy it!" but, when we started tallying up other areas of my life for discretionary spending, we realized that my fitness budget is outrageous.

I offered up a challenge he could "task" me with - cut out the majority of my fitness spending. No gym membership, no box membership, no regular active release therapy, no regular yoga...nothing, if it didn't fit into my weekly "discretionary spending" - which brings me to about $80 a month. I'm not including the cost of my coach in this $80, so keep that in mind - my coaching budget was something I was unwilling to budge on. I was willing to cut our cable to make that happen.

I figured that there are certainly ways to do most of my training without paying for it. This makes *me* accountable for stretching, for pacing, for pushing myself, instead of relying on something or someone else.

Here is how I intend to do it.

1) Running. This is free. Get off the treadmill and go outside.

2) Biking. With a bike (derp), this is also free. As it gets colder, instead of opting for the spin bikes at my former gym, I'll use my trainer, even if it is a demon piece of crap. If any millionaires trainer making companies out there would like to sponsor me, I will sing the praises of your bike trainer product if you give me one. I'm looking at you CycleOps. I'll shill for a product I want/need/use.

3) Swimming. Thankfully, DC has indoor, free to residents pools. Time to fall in love with my swim cap hair again.

4) Body weight exercises. I want to pick up heavy things. I want to be encouraged by my coaches. I want to be with other people who almost kind of like burpees. But I can't afford the $190/month. I just can't. At best, I can afford a drop in class here and there. For now, I'll use my trainer brain and do body exercises. I am always interested in these "30 day challenge" workouts. So, to structure my workouts, I'll be using these:
Last night, I ripped out this:
10 rounds of:
- 30 second planks
- 20 sit ups (I wound up doing variations to keep from going insane)
- 10 leg lifts
- 5 pushups (low because my shoulder is still unhappy)
- 10 lunges on either side
- 15 squats

That totals to:
- 5 minutes of planks
- 200 sit ups or variations
- 100 leg lifts
- 50 push ups
- 100 lunges on either side
- 150 squats

Honestly...not a bad workout and my cats were excited to try and screw up my workout whenever possible.

5) Yoga. Because my ankle seems to do a lot better with yoga, this is where the majority of my budget will likely go. I am going to go once a week and then practice on my own at home and really invest my time with my foam roller, the stick, and active stretching band. 

We'll see how this goes and if I can actually work out as well as I did before without a strong budget for the gym.

Anyone else scaling back on fitness expenses while ramping up on workouts? I need your tips. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gift Guide for Paleo and Whole30 Lovers

It's that time of year. Temperatures dropping. Christmas trees filling windows...bloggers shilling.

It's my first annual, Diets Are Crap gift guide! Today's gift guide is a rough iteration of my recent Whole30 resources post, but a little more paleo friendly.

Note: I'm not popular enough to even be asked to shill, so take this post for what it is worth (free and unsponsored love of products).

Gift Guide for Paleo and Whole30 Lovers

1. A Good Set of Knives ($149.95) - I have a set of J.A. Henckles that I like a lot. I don't know if they are the exact set I have here, but your paleo loved one needs a good set of knives. 

2. A Good Slow Cooker ($39.99)- My slow cooker is no where near as fancy as this one, but a slow cooker with a temperature reader and timer for under $40? Sign me up. This Hamilton Beach model is pretty solid. My brother has used it frequently with great results. 

3. MEAT. (Variable) - I'm *almost* kidding here. If you have done a Whole30, you'll know that it is nearly impossible to find bacon without sugar. US Wellness Meats answered the call for sugarless bacon and a host of other grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free, and sustainable farming practice sustained protein. I haven't tried them yet - but they are on my 2014 must-try list. I hear nothing but wonderful things about them and if Whole9's folks are good with them, they're good with me. Go with a gift card wrapped in bacon.

4. Julienne Peeler ($8.21) - I have been skittish about making any type of "noodle" out of veggies because it seemed like such a hassle. I finally picked up a julienne peeler and was fascinated and enthralled by the results. I should have taken photos. I haven't tried other models, but why bother - this one is fabulous from Zyliss

5. Cuisinart Prep Plus Food Processor - 9 Cup ($126.65) - If you do not have one of these, just go ahead and put this in your Prime, overnight shipping basket on Amazon. I use mine probably daily, if not twice daily. This is the best for making mayo, sauces, pie crusts, making almond flour (yup, you can do that), creating pestos....the list goes on. Just go get one.

6. Paleo Magazine ($29.95 for 6 issues) - This is on this list because I am dying to subscribe. That, and Melissa from Well Fed (see #7) is a guest writer. 

7. Well Fed 2 ($16.73) - If you don't have Well Fed, the original, then, add that to the list, but if your paleo loved one has been paleo for any length of time, they probably already have Well Fed. This is an excellent Whole30 and Paleo resource. Delicious, name it, it's here.

8. Gaining Ground ($12.88) - I had the opportunity to meet Forrest when I was at my farmer's market a few months back. I bought the book and let it sit on the shelf for way too long. Forrest is a local DC area farmer who believes in sustainable farmer and really lead the movement here in DC. I finished the book in a matter of hours. It's well written, incredibly passionate, and just a fantastic read for anyone who cares about where their food comes from. You can buy it on Amazon.

9. Nom Nom Paleo ($22.14) - I haven't paged through this book yet isn't released! However, Michelle is publishing this on December 17th, so just in time for those last minute gifts. If you want a sneak peak of the cookbook, check out her blog

10. Ninja Blender System ($99.9) - There are a variety of Ninja blenders with different attachments. I bought this system for my brother for his birthday at the recommendation of my chef-friend, who said this would stand up against a Vitamix for literally a third of the cost (sometimes, a 5th of the cost!). I think this was something like what I bought for Will. Just make sure it's a Ninja. You may find if you get the set that comes with a smaller bowl, you'll not need a food processor.'

11. The Stick ($27.45) - This is basically the best/worst tool for any person with any type of activity in their life. Chances are, if your gift receiver is paleo, they are also active. My crossfit box had about 5 of these laying around. I have two at home. My Ragnar team travels with several. It's worth it's weight (and more) in gold. Experience self myofascial release with this stick

I've just had a request for a Gift Guide for the Paleo, stay tuned for that later in the week!

What am I missing above? I need to fill out my own Christmas list!

Just a reminder: one one paid me or asked me to post any of the above. These are products I like, I've used, I've wanted or gifted. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Whole30 Warm Up - Week 1 Menu

Ok, I just talked about doing the Whole30 warm up as the year heads to the end. I got home a few hours ago, poured a glass of wine (haven't started the warm up yet!) and emptied the contents of my fridge and freezer. There was some stuff that REALLY needed to go in there, so out it went.

I was left with a random assortment of stuff and instead of head to the grocery, tired and hungry, I figured I may as well clean out everything we have and plan to start fresh when Chadd gets home.

A note on this week's menu. One of the things that I hear all the time is that paleo and Whole30 is expensive...and that is true, it certainly can be. After this week, I'll be creating weekly menus based on a budget and what is in season and fresh in stores and at the market. What you WILL see this week is how to reuse meals for leftovers and not have wasted food (something we have struggled with)

Here's what our menu looks like this week!

Week One: Clean out the fridge, freezer, and pantry!

Day 1:
Monday Breakfast: Pumpkin Pancakes* (Practical Paleo)
Monday Lunch: Salmon Cakes (Well Fed 2)
Monday Dinner: Pork and Veal Bolognese over spaghetti squash (modified from Practical Paleo)

Day 2:
Tuesday Breakfast: Pumpkin Pancakes
Tuesday Lunch: Salmon Cakes
Tuesday Dinner: Bolognese

Day 3:
Wednesday Breakfast: Pumpkin Pancakes or Egg Cups (Primal Cravings)
Wednesday Lunch: Bolognese
Wednesday Dinner: Lamb Meatballs (Well Fed)

Day 4:
Thursday Breakfast: Pumpkin Pancakes or Egg Cups
Thursday Lunch: Lamb meatballs
Thursday Dinner: Pork Carnitas (Paleo Slow Cooker)

Day 5:
Friday Breakfast: Pumpkin Pancakes
Friday Lunch: Carnitas
Friday Dinner: Beef Stew

Day 6:
Saturday Breakfast: Egg Cups
Saturday Lunch: Leftovers
Saturday Dinner: Pork Tenderloin

Day 7:
Sunday Breakfast: Egg Cups
Sunday Lunch: Leftovers
Sunday Dinner: Pork Ribs

2014 Whole30 Warm Up

As I drove along with my parents on day 2 of a fourteen hour road trip with delicious food stops including oysters (paleo!) and beignets (...not so much), I decided it's time to capitalize on the holiday dread of weight gain and sluggishness, missed workouts and tight pants to start a Whole30 warm up.

Whole9 themselves just posted a great blog entry on why it's not a great idea to start Whole30 during the holidays. You can read it here: Thinking about a Holiday Whole30? Think Again.

I'd like to do a blogger carnival/internet/twitter Whole30 group starting on January 2 (yes, the 2nd). Meaning, full on Whole30.

Here are my initial thoughts on the holiday Whole30 warm up and why I personally will be doing it. There's nothing worse than doing a bang up job during the year with your diet and exercise, only to let the cold and holidays throw you off track. Whole9 writes this suggestion:
Try interspersing days of Whole30 in between special holiday occasions. The more you remember how good you feel when you eat healthy, the easier it will be to pass on those things that aren’t special.
Perfect! So, I'm going to be Whole30 at home. Holiday parties, if there is something I can't pass up? Ok, I'll give it a modified shot. When my mom makes the Rommel Family Trifle for Christmas? Pass me a plate. But, with the stress and chaos of the holiday surrounding me, I'm choosing to use Whole30 as the element that centers me.

I come home tonight around 6 - if I have the energy, I'm heading out to the grocery that evening to pick up all my supplies for the week of cooking. Chadd doesn't come home until Tuesday night, so Monday is the cook-a-palooza.

Coming up shortly...Week 1's menu, recently revamped after reviewing my freezer.

Am I totally nuts for doing this during the holidays? Time will tell. If you are interested in doing the warm up or the January 2nd strict Whole30, tell me!

Paleo and Whole30 Must Haves and Resources

This Thanksgiving, I attempted to make a full day of meals for my family that were Whole30 friendly so I could demonstrate just how GOOD this food is. While I was going through my grandmother's kitchen, I suddenly realized just how many unique ingredients have become staples in our kitchen at home.

So, if you are doing the Whole30 warm up or strict Whole30 with me, or looking to grab the essentials for when you're traveling to visit and cook in new and strange kitchens, I recommend the following:

  • Almond Butter
  • Almond Flour*
  • Arrowroot Powder*
  • Canned Pineapple 
  • Cayenne*
  • Chili Powder*
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut Aminos
  • Coconut Flour
  • Coconut Milk*
  • Coconut Oil*
  • Cumin*
  • Diced Tomatos (canned)
  • Paprika*
  • Red pepper flakes*
  • Rice Wine Vinegar 
  • Sea Salt*
  • Tomato paste (canned)
  • Tomato sauce (canned)

Fresh Produce:
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Jalapenos
  • Onions
  • Shallots
  • Tomatos

  • Chicken Breasts (boneless skinless)
  • Chicken Thighs
  • Eggs
  • Ground Beef
  • Ground Lamb
  • Ground Pork

  • Crockpot
  • Food Processor
  • Good Knives
  • Julienne Peeler

  • Elana's Pantry
  • Every Day Paleo
  • Nom Nom Paleo**
  • Practical Paleo
  • Primal Cravings
  • Well Fed
  • Well Fed 2
* If you don't want to fill your pantry with all of these items, at least get these. 
** This isn't out yet (I am COUNTING down the days to December 17th) but I am sure it will be amazing

If you're looking to make your family's Christmas shopping easier for you - you can send them this collection. If it looks sparse now, don't worry, I add to it every day. These are books and products I use daily and am not paid or encouraged to endorse. I just like them. 

If you eat paleo or Whole30, what are your must haves? 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Whole30 Resources

When Victoria did Whole30, I was FULL of skepticism...not that it would work, but that it was possible for someone who is no where near as dedicated as she is.

Amazingly, it wasn't hard. Once I made the decision, I only once or twice had the "ugh why I am doing this" feeling. Looking like this at the end was 100% worth it:

That red dress is tiny. I am wearing a slip under it, btw. And no, not spanx.

What I really DID love was all of the cooking. I recognize that I may be alone in loving cooking at night, but to me, there is nothing more wonderful than coming home, having nothing else on my plate to deal with, and spending time making a beautiful dinner. This is my recent, brag-worthy meal:

Seared halibut with broccoli, mango salsa, cauli-rice, and paleo aioli 

I am already a pretty good cook, at least, I like to think so. I've come a long way from making a too-lemony steak and only having about 2-3 staple dishes. Even better, I've gotten much faster in the kitchen. A good dinner doesn't take 2+ hours, and a quick dinner is sometimes the best food I can make. But even for those of you who are not yet amazing chefs, I think you'll find all of this to be pretty easy.

I rely on a few different cookbooks for inspiration. If you are interested in going Whole30, you should pick up the following resources:

If you follow that link, you can can a free 30 page PDF of the book. You can also check out the other recipes that Melissa has written. I love love love her cookbook and have made some of these dishes several times. Most of them reheat very well and make excellent lunches.

This cookbook has produced some of the best recipes (most notably the bacon quiche, the apple dessert, and the chicken "gumbo.") Again, very very easy. 

I've just gotten into this book and I already love it. I've had a miss or two, but some of the recipes are real winners.

My parents gave me this cookbook for Christmas and it is probably my most cherished cookbook. I have hoards of notes in it. This book convinced my that paleo was a) practical (ha) and b) delicious.

I'm still gathering and testing paleo cookbooks, so if you have one, please let me know!

Pantry Staples:
The stranger side of going paleo meant introducing new foods to my pantry as staples...things I figured I would NEVER use again. Wrong. 

1) Spices. I had a pretty serious stock of the normal spices, but halfway through Whole30, I found myself walking down to Georgetown to pick up almost $100 of spices from the Spice and Tea Exchange. I strongly recommend buying spices in bulk from a vendor like this (Central Market offers spices in bulk, which is very unfair for those of us living outside of Texas). 

Here are a few of the things I go through on a weekly basis:
- Cumin
- Paprika
- Chili Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Cinnamon
- Ginger
- Nutmeg
- Corriander

2) Non-Wheat Flours. I really like something sort of sweet after dinner. I love quiche. I want to bread things. Enter these new flours:
- Coconut flour
- Almond flour
- Potato flour

3) Coconut milk. This goes in so many things - from sauces and marinades to coconut whipped cream to...frankly, just eating the coconut fat out of the can. I have at least 4-6 cans of it at any time. Pro-tip: the blue can (I think goya?) SUCKS. Not nearly enough fat. Stick with the trader joes or whole foods brand.

4) Coconut oil. We'll never use butter or vegetable oil ever again. Seriously. Just go buy a jar at costco. It's all I cook with.

5) Produce. I go through onions, shallots, green onions, red onions, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach like no tomorrow. Onions especially. They seem to be the base in almost everything I make. I have also been buying an untold amount of cilantro and parsley. For fruit, we're a little light since we try to stay away from sugar in most forms, but we try to eat seasonally - berries and apples right now. And PEACHES.

6) MEAT. Just...go buy all of it. I go to Costco for things like pork tenderloin and ground beef, as well as chicken. I get sausage at WholeFoods, as well as lamb, ground bison (delicious), bacon, steak and fish. The better the quality, the better the result. Btw, please stop freezing your steak. Do not make the mistake I made.

A brief note on the "expense" of paleo. First, you need to be buying high quality food. Go organic (even if only for the dirty dozen), buy free range, antibiotic free, and vegetarian-fed protein. Do you want to eat a chicken that hasn't moved and has sat around only eating another bird's shit until their next grain serving? No? Me either.

I am not a vegetarian thanks. But I do believe in the sanctity of living things. I do my best to honor the animal that I am eating by choosing protein from providers that treat animals well. It's cheap to treat things poorly. It is expensive to care for the life of this earth. Do your part. 

Also - I KNOW it is more expensive in some cases. But if you bought a really nice car that required premium fuel, but you only fueled it with cheap gas....what do you expect would happen? Your body is a pretty expensive car. Fuel it with the good stuff.

And finally. If you cook in bulk, buy intelligently and seasonally, you'll probably come out on top.

Going back around on Whole30 a week from today when I get home from Colorado! Do it with me.

I used to write a blog - last month recap

And I wish I still did. Maybe with the pairing down of other things in my life, I can take some more time to work on this little outlet.

Here is your brief recap:

1) I did finish Whole30. I even have half of a week three blog post written. I loved it and I'm going back to it right after Ragnar Colorado. We're modified paleo in our house right now, but not nearly strict enough to make me feel good. I lost 12 pounds on Whole30. I highly recommend you give it a shot.

2) I am injured. My left ankle has been cranky on and off since February. When I was being very easy on training, doing yoga, and going to ART on the regular, I was not in pain. Clearly, I haven't been doing any of that, minus being easy on training. My shoulder pain has now moved to my LEFT shoulder. It has been a lot more painful than my right shoulder was, but seemed to have loosened up a little over the past weekend.

3) I quit training. For now. Sometimes, you have to work through a mental block. Other times, you have to take a break. Training wasn't fun anymore. I didn't WANT to race. Or train. The idea of getting into the pool made me irritable. I wrote Coach an email and we agreed to take the rest of the year off so I could start again in January fresh. I'm about a month in from that email...and I STILL don't want to train. I have faith I'll go back to it...but before January.

4) I quit teaching. The Y is both a wonderful and a hard place to work. My class, for 6 years, has been a joy to teach, but at the end, it was too hard to get back from work on time to teach without stress. I was getting subs at least twice a month...and that's just not fair to my participants. The Y made it super easy for me to quit with some bad attitude on their behalf.

5) I worked at the Color Run this weekend. And that will be a whole other post. Because it was amazing.

Oh, ps. I'm doing Ragnar Colorado on no training in 2 days.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Whole 30 - Week 2

Whole30 - Week 2

My week one ended with a bad car accident. Car totaled, pain pills for neck issues kind of bad accident. But a few things came of this:

1) I am more grateful than ever to be alive and with all functional limbs (minus the toe I bruised up pretty badly)
2) I am overwhelmed by the love of my friends. I had no less than 6 offers from people to pick me up on the side of the GW Parkway.
3) I need a new car.

Day 8 (Tuesday)

This was a ROUGH day. I woke up in a lot of pain, tired and hungover from the pain killers and muscle relaxers. As a result, I had a Lara bar for breakfast, half heartedly ate some more eggplant leftovers between what would be breakfast and lunch, and some veggies, I think. I don't actually remember and I'm writing this on Wednesday.

I got in bed when I got home and was like...eff it. Beer and pizza me. But I did not. Instead, I got up and made indian spiced hamburgers on portabello mushroom "buns."

Breakfast: Lara bar
Lunch: leftover eggplant, squash
Dinner: hamburger on portabello mushrooms

Day 9 (Wednesday)

Another crazy day, but this time I managed breakfast...but not lunch. I swear to you all, I never want to eat eggplant again and I can already tell the biggest problem I will face with this diet is getting sick of whatever it is that I'm eating. Note to self: make leftovers, but not THAT many leftovers.

The real challenge came when it was time for dinner. Tomorrow is a holiday. Chadd and I haven't spent a lot of time together lately, so off we went to Lauriol for dinner. Normally? Chips and salsa forever and bring on the cheese enchiladas and a margarita. Tonight? Yeah, that's not happening.

Breakfast: eggplant strata
Lunch: skipped, I know I know, though I did sneak in an apple and almond butter
Dinner: fried plantains, guacamole, chicken and steak fajita meat and grilled veggies

Day 10 (Thursday)

I feared this day. Well, feared is a strong word, but I was apprehensive about getting through the 4th easily. What is more American than a beer and a burger? Originally, Chadd's dad's family was coming in, but that changed at the last minute, so we were without plans. I am seriously burning out on food. I need to get the energy and motivation to make new foods. Not working out due to the car accident has been a real bummer, too. I just feel irritated and listless.

Chadd did drag my butt to the pool down the street and after an easy 500m, my neck felt better than it did going in, so that was a win.

Breakfast: More sleep for breakfast!
Lunch: Eggplant strata (so help me God I never want to eat this ever again)
Snack: apple and almond butter
Dinner: Stirfry with chicken and veggies and spaghetti squash

Day 11 (Friday)

Yesterday was ridiculous. I wanted to punch someone for a milk shake. I guess we're in that realm of weird cravings. I wanted everything sweet. ANYTHING. Milk. I wanted a huge glass of milk. I don't remember the last time I drank milk straight. Friday, not so bad. I had to be up early to meet with Geico to get my claim check, I still struggle with getting up early enough for breakfast.

The hardest part of today was working with Danny and not being able to test much of the food we made. I did eat a lot of steamed veggies and proscuitto.

Breakfast: Egg, leftover veggies
Lunch: leftover stir fry
Dinner: veggies, proscuitto

Day 12 (Saturday)

I made some rookie mistakes today. As in. I forgot to plan. Totally, 100% spaced out. I got up, made a late breakfast (more eggs) and then off we went to test drive cars. Out of the city. Away from anything but fast food. Cue dangerous hangry music. After fussing around at CarMax (fail), we wound up grabbing food at a place where I could, not even kidding, only order a chicken breast with tomato and lettuce. And an unsweet tea. And fruit. I was not happy. But I tried to calm the hangry monster inside and quickly ate my gross lunch. I celebrated making it through this with some cashews and sparkling water before we went and looked at more cars.

On the fun side, on the way back into the city, we stopped at Whole Foods and I spent an obscene amount of time with the butcher playing "what is in that sausage." #TWSS

Breakfast: Eggs, veggies
Lunch: grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, fruit cup
Dinner: grilled salmon with green beans and spaghetti squash

Day 13 (Sunday)

Brunch brunch brunch. Every self respecting DC girl enjoys a good brunch. I happen to love brunch, but really hate that it can lend itself to wasting the day with day drinking. I decided it was wise to try brunch at a location that would probably accomodate my odd needs. Chef Geoff's, it was.

I warned the waiter in advance, who very nicely, asked if I had allergies or was just special. Just special, I assured him, as I took out my ziplock container of whipped coconut milk that I spooned into my coffee. Very special.

Brunch: Just egg omelet (really more like a flat mix of egg and egg) over oil sauteed onions, peppers, and spinach. Fruit plate, avocado, and sweet potato. Plus more fruit. Bless our waiter.
Dinner: Chicken with artichoke hearts, capers and lemon, broccoli, and spaghetti squash

Day 14 (Monday)

Today felt like a normal day. I got up, had a left over burger thing and portabello mushroom. This did not seem odd to me. Lunch was normal. I found myself distinctly NOT thinking about the Whole30. Breaking news: I have learned to enjoy black coffee. Old news: I'm addicted to Whole Foods. It's blissful picking up produce and meat there.

Breakfast: Leftover indian burger
Lunch: Lamb meatballs in sauce, spaghetti squash, peach, nuts
Dinner: Grilled flank steak, asparagus, onions and mushrooms, sweet potato, berries with whipped coconut cream

Week Wrap Up:

After the first week, I knew this week (and next) would be the hardest, simply because the excitement would have worn off and it would be harder to avoid "normal" life with the 4th, friends in town, etc. But the week went better than expected. By the end of it, Whole30 felt very doable and I'm pretty certain we'll be sticking to a modified version of it (read: I won't freak out when there is sugar in my bacon).

- I feel good. Even post accident, I feel GOOD
- The sleep is black and dreamless and I don't have insomnia or wake up unable to sleep again
- I've never trimmed down this fast - ever. Ever ever.
- Saving money. I know that a lot of people disagree and say they spent MORE going paleo. Maybe we just ate out a lot...

- I can't measure my athletic performance since I can't do anything aerobic
- When you have unexpected plans and you
- Sorry, there is SUGAR in bacon?? Surely you jest.
- The whole foods employees are about to restrict me from accessing the building
- Sometimes, the idea of having to cook for a half day to prep for the week is overwhelming, but once I get started, it's pretty nice and relaxing

Half way!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Whole30 - Week 1

If you follow me on Twitter, you've heard about my insomnia and probably gotten the idea that I'm constantly in hyper-drive. Correct. Never before have I had an issue sleeping though, so when my inability to sleep began to collide with my hyper-drive, I did some serious thinking about what may cause it all. I'm sure you all have your theories (you do too much! you're over involved! you need to learn to rest!) and frankly, you may be right - but it's never affected my sleep before. Your opinions are now invalid.

I also know that my eating/drinking has been decidedly "off season." Victoria had recently completed the Whole30 and had positive things to say about it. I did some googling and some contemplating, and decided that when I got home from Ragnar Wasatch Back, I would dedicate myself to being all about what I eat.

Here is Week 1, brought to you by snark and sugar cravings:

Day 0:
Any type of elimination/restrictive diet really does require some research and planning. I'd spent the week or two before reading It Starts With Food, which is basically a much more in-depth Practical Paleo (another of my favorite resources). I also bought the Well Fed cookbook, which is right beside some of my other favorite cookbooks...and that's saying something. I made a quick outline of what I'd be eating for the week and made a grocery list.

Liz and I met up at Safeway and stocked up to cook. That night, I tripled up on the Italian sausage/spinach and pepper and started brining chicken breasts for Tuesday night. I went to be apprehensive, but excited.

Day 1 (Tuesday):
This day was pretty easy.

Breakfast: 2 eggs, spinach, raspberries, almonds
Lunch: Leftover spinach/sausage/peppers, spaghetti squash, apple, nuts
Dinner: Chicken breasts with a Moroccan dipping sauce, spaghetti squash

I did really want a beer when I finished teaching, and the thought of making it 30 days without having a glass of wine after a rough day suddenly felt reallllly overwhelming (yikes.) I considered looking up AA (mostly joking).

Day 2 (Wednesday):
Still some cases. Chadd and I had a lunch snafu which wound up leaving me with the same thing for lunch and dinner on Wednesday. I had to work after track practice, so I brought my food. Let me tell you, when I was still dragging ass from Ragnar last weekend, this was a challenge - to not grab a diet coke or dress my coffee up in a manner that doesn't suck.

Breakfast: 2 eggs, green beans, strawberries, almonds
Lunch: Leftovers from Monday (sausage mix), apple, nuts
Pre workout meal: Lara bar (carefully checked to be whole30 compliant - the blueberry bars are fine!)
Dinner: Leftovers from Monday

Day 3 (Thursday):
The first shock of today was that I woke up HUNGRY. I NEEDED breakfast and RIGHT NOW. Once I ate, the other hard parts of the day included avoiding an ice cream party at the office (right around 3:30 - when my sugar cravings have been hitting, curse you, goodbye parties) and watching a friend drink a beer over dinner (I swear, sparkling water is the exact same!)

I do continue to love cooking and pushing myself to try new flavors. It's a welcome relief that these new recipes are healthy and delicious. I don't feel stifled cooking.

Breakfast: 2 eggs, raw spinach
Lunch: Leftovers from Tuesday night
Dinner: Olives, almonds, moroccan lamb meatballs, spaghetti squash, cocoa roasted cauliflower
Dessert: berries with coconut milk "whipped cream" (highly recommend)

Day 4 (Friday):
Highs and lows.

Highs - I found out that if you over sleep and are running late, you can definitely microwave fried eggs, smother them in hot sauce, and put beside tomatoes and avocados and be the envy of the office. Leftover meatballs are also amazing after sitting in their sauce all night.

Lows - The office ice cream surfaced again, as did peanut m&m's, right about the time my sugar cravings hit (which are, apparently, getting stronger). I still hate black coffee. And the office broke out champagne at the end of the day to celebrate a big contract win. I find myself really battling sugar cravings - I've tried to get myself to cheat at least once a day "it's only 1 m&m...." but it isn't. So far, I've stayed strong. Planning things blows. I'm already worried about going to a wedding in two weeks out of town...and I know I'm going to be the biggest party pooper for the next month while I avoid bars, etc.

Breakfast: 2 eggs, avocado, tomatoes
Lunch: left over thursday dinner, strawberries, almonds
Dinner: shepherds' pie, olives, nuts

Day 5 (Saturday):
Another mixed bag, but generally looking up.

This was a bizarre day because it was my first brick workout on this diet. I wasn't meeting up with anyone, so even though I hit snooze a time or two longer than I should have, I made time to eat breakfast. I also packed two lara bars with me for nutrition on the bike, since I can't rely on gu packs or nuun. I decided to do 11 (yes, ELEVEN) loops of Hains Point instead of an out and back, in case there were terrible issues during my ride. Thankfully, no issues. In fact, after my first warm up loop, I felt great. My speed was a little slower than usual, but I expected to be missing some power. The run in the heat was no problem, minus some ankle twinges that required stretching around mile 2.5.

The hardest part of today was actually later when I went to a golf match up at Congressional. By the time the rounds finished, I was starving and there wasn't much I could do about it. It was VERY difficult to not swing by somewhere and pick up dinner. Thankfully, I'd thought about marinading shrimp and doing a quick grill for them and heating up left over veggies. Dinner in 10 minutes. While I was doing my best to keep my hangry under control, I had a handful of nuts and some olives with a bottle of sparkling water and I leveled out.

It's also hard to be unable to *really* go out on the weekends. I'm sure I *could* go out for dinner, but frankly, after a billion special requests, I'd be better off in my own kitchen, making a final product I know I'll enjoy.

That said...oysters are on the table 100%.

Breakfast: 2 eggs, broccoli, tomatoes
Lunch: leftover meatballs, spinach, strawberries
Snack: olives and nuts
Dinner: Grilled lime/ginger/garlic/pepper shrimp, broccoli

Day 6 (Sunday):


The best part of living in Dupont may be the Sunday farmer's market. Amanda and I got together to scour the market for veggies for the week. I picked up some fruit, as well, since the peaches and sour cherries were too good to pass up.

This was the first time I actually found myself getting emotional, though. In the evening, I was ALL tears. Everything set me off. Trying to chalk this up to the diet and not stress going into the week.

Breakfast: Sleep (yes, sleep for breakfast)
Lunch: Sour cherries, peach, eggplant strata
Dinner: pork tenderloin, broccoli, half a sweet potato
Post dinner "desert": apple with almond butter

The better part of today was that I woke up, looked in the mirror and saw myself in "fighting condition" staring back at me. Not poofy, not in off season. That was the best reward yet.

Day 7 (Monday):

Well shit. What do I say about today. Things started off fine with a normal breakfast and then I got into a bad car accident. Still waiting on the assessment, but likely, I'm in the market for a new car. Danny was my super hero today and came to pick me up on the side of the GW Parkway...and offered me a brownie. Y'all. Danny's brownies are legendary. And boy, if seeing my beat up car spewing out radiator fluid didn't make me want one with my coffee (which survived impact!) But I said no.

I resisted eating a pizza for dinner, grabbing a bottle of wine, and planning my imminent move to a remote part of the country where all I have to do is feed a chicken once a day. I did get in bed at 8:30 and read Texas Monthly while I cried, however.

Breakfast: 2 eggs, spinach, raspberries
Lunch: Eggplant strata, nuts, peach
Dinner: shepherds pie, squash

Week 2 starts today

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

#EnduranceFoodies: Grilled Baby Bok Choy with Italian Sausage

Welcome back to #miacooks. I've been busy a lot and so #miacooks has gotten tired - not because I haven't been cooking, but because I've been repeating a lot of my favorite recipes. When the Endurance Foodie Challenge group invited me to participate, I was stoked. Time to try something new!

This is baby bok choy!

And it is the key ingredient of the Endurance Foodie Challenge this month! I haven't cooked with bok choy so I was looking for an excuse to give it a shot. Our famers market had it in spades about a month ago, so picking them up was no big deal.

I decided to avoid the asian flavors that people usually use bok choy for, and went for a grilled hearty salad of sorts. It doesn't hurt that the second challenge ingredient was fennel seeds.

I love a good grilled salad, so I chopped the bok choy in half and coated with some olive oil and seasoned with garlic powder, seasoned salt, pepper, and paprika.

We don't have a grill beyond the George Foreman in our tiny condo, so I fired that up and did about 3 minutes on each side (I know you don't have to flip anything in the foreman, but I do anyway.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I grabbed some pork sausage from the market (no additives! free range! no hormones!), diced up some bell peppers and onions and sauteed all of it. I prefer to saute the veggies first in a tiny bit of olive oil, put those aside, then cook the sausage and drain the excess fat from it, then combine until fully cooked.

To hit the fennel seed requirement, I added my favorite spice blend from Practical Paleo, which is the following:

1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp ground sage
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1/4 tsp white pepper or 1 tsp black pepper
2 tsps dried parsley

I actually have all of the practical paleo spice blends pre-made in little tupperware containers. They're great for adding a kick of flavor to whatever you're making.

I love me some greens and try to shove them into anything I'm making, so I took some spinach that was beginning to peak, chopped it up, did a quick saute/wilt and threw that into the mix.

Here's the final "stuffing" for the bok choy:

Now, all you have to do is throw that over the bok choy and boom. Summer dinner!

Whoops! Forgot to mention...if you're interested in more recipes (and blogs much better than mine) check out the following:

Courtenay (Will be posting on

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Get a Sportz Job

So. You want a sportz job.

Most you probably don't know this, but I didn't. 

I grew up wanting to be many things, the list is painfully bizarre, ranging from writer to actor to publisher to stock broker to archeologist to accountant to god knows what else. But one thing I never mentioned was working in sportz.

When I was in middle school, I started a baking "company." I  baked a variety of goods, then dragged them around my neighborhood. I took cookie orders around holidays. I had honest to goodness business cards, care of my dad (they were seriously awesome, thanks again, Dad!)

The boring story of my life is how I wound up in communications and marketing strategy. The more interesting one is how I wound up working in in sportz.

After several years of teaching a variety of fitness classes, I wound up in love with running, but burning out in teaching and being a trainer. I theorized on new gyms - what that would look like - where fitness was the focus - not money. But, I knew I didn't have the capital for the overhead and I knew no savvy investor would trust a young 20 something with little to no gym management experience. Then, I built a race, down to the logo, obstacle design, and began on the cost analysis. That one is still simmering on the back burner of my mind, but I'm off track.

So you want a sportz job. Here are a few things you should know:

1) Work for free.

I know a couple people who have stumbled into a job with a major race organization literally by accident, but most people with sportz jobs have worked their tails (and fingernails) off to get them, and here's the important part: they worked for free.

If you really believe in what a race is selling, volunteer for them. There are only three things that can come of that:
a) You will appreciate the race and it's core team
b) You will decide that this is not a job you want
c) You will have a better candidate to work with the organization

1b) Work for free - happily.

God help you if you complain about the work you're volunteering to do with the same mouth you're professing to love the organization. Seen it.

I'll humble brag and use myself as an example: when I worked as a major exchange manager for Ragnar DC, I had the mud pit field. Our generators were delivered to the wrong field (several miles away) and it was about 11pm when we started work. By the time the first 50 teams showed up, we were already losing shoes in the mud, and my tutu was dirty. I pushed 11 (ELEVEN!!!) vans out of the mud. We had to call AAA for a tow truck for another one. The coffee percolators stopped working, everything started to stink the way a bog does after a rain...But you know what? I was all smiles. You know why? Because I was working for my dream company. I was a part of the most amazing race experience and if I was a raving bitch, how would that affect people who were tired, muddy, and exhausted and PAYING for the experience?

I went home after our shift ended. Thanked each of my volunteers profusely. Then I cleaned myself up and went to the finish line to see where I could help out. Which leads me to...

1c) Work for free [happily] and add value.

Anyone can stuff flyers into a bag. My relationship with Ragnar started not when I became an Ambassador, but before, when I needed to find a way to fulfill our volunteer requirement for DC. I helped stuff all the goodie bags for DC before I'd even done the Ragnar. I saw a better way to get the bags done faster. I redirected other volunteers and Kent, the then-race director, now good friend, saw it.

The next year, I worked SWAT (muddy story above) and when I went to the finish line, I saw that things were getting hectic, so I jumped in where I could and made a better system for getting runners their gear, checking in safety flags, and cleaning the finish line. I proved I could add value, even when no one asked me to. 

2) Networking isn't just for corporate America

While volunteering at an expo for Ragnar one weekend, I struck up a conversation with some of the staff who was in town from race HQ. I didn't even drop hints. After having proven that I could work hard and happily (for free), I told him that I was willing to do anything to work for Ragnar, even learn to drive a truck, would he keep me in mind if something opened up in his department? Could I have his email address?

The next time a different staff member was in town, I went out of my way to meet up with them briefly and talk shop. That was the staff member who alerted me to a posting for a position in the company.

It didn't hurt that I'd tried to meet every race director at each event I did. I thanked them, asked them questions that were on my mind, and continued to be a brand ambassador - all for free, all happily.

I went through the interview process with Ragnar for a position that wound up not working out due to some organizational changes, but I had the chance to speak with everyone from the CMO to the CEO to the founder of the race while I was out there. The CEO called me the other week just to check in. When the part time position in DC opened, I was the first person they called (at least, I hope I was!).

I will admit, I was heart broken when I didn't get the dream job with them. But I didn't send a horrible email to them. I didn't burn my bridges because even though I didn't get the job, I still believed in the race, the experience, and couldn't turn my back on the one thing I love more than anything.

2a) Networking happens all the time

So, maybe you don't volunteer with a race. Maybe you just enjoy racing and find yourself at expos and events frequently. Do you know what makes my day when I'm working an expo? When someone stops to talk to me about working for Ragnar. If you're curious, start a conversation with someone at a booth, get their information, follow up.

I wound up as an ambassador for Pearl Izumi not because I am an amazing athlete (hint: I'm not), but because I'm passionate about my sportz, passionate about the community, and because I've networked myself into becoming a connector/influencer (oh my god, I hope so, because they think so).

Talk to people. Be passionate. Ask if you can help. In an industry in constant need of a set of hands, you will be surprised how well connected you can become.

3) Dream Bigger

When I met C.J., we were both ambassadors for Ragnar. We'd talked here and there, but at some point, god knows how, we wound up talking about improving the sportz community. I should really give C.J. all the credit here - he's a man of HUGE ideas. When he approached me about a business idea (now called The FitBase), I was interested. I went to a few meetings, but when push came to shove, most of our initial interested team couldn't see the big picture. But I saw the opportunity to take over the operations side (cue being a little a lot OCD and my project managent background).

Now, a few months later, we're in the initial stages of launching FitBase. I couldn't be more proud of our team and more excited about the future of our company. At our launch party last night, all I could think about was how amazing it was that we'd gotten this far and so soon.

Sportz is an industry rife with opportunity for change. If you can dream it up, start talking to people, get advice, share ideas, then roll up your sleeves and push vans out of the mud.