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Winging It

14 Oct

Whew. What a whirlwind October has been. Between adjusting to a heavier workload at school, keeping up with kindergarten toing and froing, achieving my Tough Mudder goal (and recovering,) and maintaining a functioning household, I feel like I’m just sitting down to really rest today. I have, of course, been cooking, baking, eating, and snapping photos of food this whole time; so don’t think I forgot about you folks.

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I love trying new foods. It’s like an adventure and a challenge. I also encourage my daughter to love good food as much as I do. Strolling through the produce section in the grocery store, I asked my daughter to pick any vegetable- any at all. She scans the stands, her sharp eyes gleaming with the opportunity to choose. For that moment, she was in charge; and she took full advantage of her independence by ensuring she chose the right vegetable from the entire selection. Sure, I could’ve inhibited her by asking her to hurry; but I didn’t. I knew that every minute in the store was a minute later that dinner would be ready. But, I suppressed my own urge to make haste and waited. I answered her questions about what certain things are called, “that’s parsley, and that’s cilantro.” I nodded and smiled as I confirmed each label she put to the many familiar vegetables.

Then we reached the squashes. “Yes, that’s right. Butternut, spaghetti, zucchini, and yellow squash. Very good.” Suddenly she drove her hands into the pile of squashes and attempted to pull one out as she excitedly asked, “What’s this one?” After helping uncover the mystery, she lifted up the unknown squash and announced that this was what she wanted. She was mesmerized.

The sticker said the squash was a gold nugget squash. Instead of hesitating and going for the “safe, known” squashes, I happily put it in the cart. I’d never heard of it, but I have my dear friend Mr. Google. A few days later, I found myself in between meal plans- a rare occurrence. I had this weird squash sitting on my counter and had forgotten to take any meat out of the freezer. Sadly, this is one of those times that Google failed me. And by fail, I mean the first six results for “gold nugget squash paleo” were not sufficient to my needs. I know, a shame. So I decided to just wing it. I know squash. I know how it works. Most of the denser ones roast the same. What could I do with roasted unknown-tasting squash and no meat thawed? Frittata. I always have eggs on hand- when we reach a dozen, that’s considered running low. Frittata is so versatile that anything savory thrown in is bound to be good.

Even though I felt a bit like this:
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I had a determination to captivate my daughter with her chosen vegetable. And so onward I foraged.
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After slicing it open, I felt more at ease. It’s just like a butternut, pumpkin, or acorn squash. I got this. I was a little pressed for time and thought that peeling and cubing this cute little squash would expedite dinner. Ha. Nope. The peel/skin was much thicker and tougher than it appeared to be. Coconut oil face down, so be it.

Just in case the squash ended up being not very flavorful (which I hoped not, because then the name would be so misleading. You’d think something called gold nugget would be awesome, right?) I fried up some bacon to add to the frittata.

I hurriedly scooped the soft flesh out and added brussels sprouts and tomatoes to some of my ramekins. I left one without tomatoes for my tomato hating husband.
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And you know what? They turned great.

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It’s ok to wing it sometimes. You may surprise yourself with your genius. Have you ever tried something new without researching about it first? Ever have it turn out terrible? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Protein Times Three

23 Aug

I tore my hands doing pull ups this morning. Fortunately the little shallow tears are below my calluses and not on the calluses themselves. I try to maintain flat and smooth calluses by using a pumice stone at the end of every shower. I love working out with new people at JTS; especially when they tell me that I inspired them to keep going. It’s one of the best feelings to motivate others to do good for themselves.

So I’ve been working towards a goal of 20% body fat. This week I’ve stepped it up and have done a workout every morning, and let me tell you- extra training makes for an extra hungry and sleepy Chelsey. Eating to perform is important if I want to build muscle instead of burn it. Sleeping enough is also essential for recovery and building muscle. Sometimes I have a very short, mental struggle with whether I should be eating as much as I am. It’s hard to completely eradicate the “eat less to lose weight” mentality. That doesn’t work and I know it, but that doesn’t keep my hand from hesitating in front of the fridge handle. I’ll evaluate how my body feels every time I walk into the kitchen for food, and have a mental conversation that goes something like this: “Do I really need more food? Am I hungry or just bored? Yes, my body is definitely hungry if it’s audibly rumbling and feels like it’s an empty black hole. But I just ate two hours ago. But I did increase my dumbbell weight for all those snatches and cleans and presses this morning…But I don’t want to overeat! Protein or veggies isn’t going to make me gain body fat, it’s fine. Just eat something before my stomach implodes.”
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So yeah, I’ve done really well avoiding too many nuts and seeds, and have seen visible improvement in the last 10 or so days. I’ve also made a “challenge” for myself to not drink any alcohol for a month. It’s not too hard to do though, since I didn’t drink very much to begin with and every time I have a delicious, super sugary Angry Orchard, I can only drink half of it before I’m so bloated I couldn’t possibly put anything else into my stomach. I’m looking forward to the next time I do measurements to see what my body fat percentage is at.

For dinner, I made triple protein burgers and roasted carrots and zucchini. Instead of eating it with a fork in lieu of a bun, I use cabbage. While I love to eat cabbage, making beautiful cabbage wraps is flipping impossible sometimes.

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F you, cabbage!

Anyways, here’s how to do it- swearing or no.

Triple Protein Burgers 

1 lb ground meat. Beef, chicken, turkey, whatever floats your boat. Mine are beef.

4-5 garlic cloves

1/2 a medium onion

Bacon. Don’t get the cheap crappy stuff. Make respectable bacon choices.

Eggs

Tomato

Cabbage (or romaine or lettuce)

  1. Start by frying the bacon in the pan, set aside when they’re done.
  2. Throw garlic and onion into food processor, it’s faster and there are less tears. Or you can mince them by hand.
  3. Mix  the meat with the garlic and onions and add salt and pepper if that’s your thing.
  4. Make patties about 1/2 inch thick and cook in your pan of bacon fat over med-high. 4 minutes on one side, flip and cover. 3-4 minutes on the other side.
  5. While burgers are cooking, fry an egg for each burger, slice tomato, and carefully peel away the cabbage leaves to make a wrap.
  6. Stack the burger, bacon, egg and tomato onto your cabbage and devour.

Roasted Veggies

  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Chop carrots and zucchini. If you don’t like mushy zucchini, cut the pieces much larger than the carrots.
  3. Melt coconut oil and evenly cover the vegetables.
  4. Spread them onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake 15 minutes, flip/stir. Bake 10 more minutes or until done to your liking.
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There is no civilized way to eat a juicy burger wrapped in cabbage. It’s going to be messy and worth it.

Eat Your Veggies

17 Aug

For my family and I, eating veggies is a fairly high priority. It’s up there on the list with getting enough sleep, always speak kindly, and hold hands when you’re in a parking lot. We try to fill our plates with around half veggies.
One of my family’s favorite veggie groups is squash. Any squash, any time of year, we love them all. I could say “especially. ..” but then I’d end up naming them all. Squashes used to be a sideline ingredient before we made the switch to only-good-for-your-body food.** Now squash is spot light center stage as it has replaced things like spaghetti, lasagna, and even pizza.

I’m regularly reading paleo bloggers’ new recipes for new ways to enjoy this season’s squash. Thanks to Juli of Paleomg for this summer squash meatball casserole, I had a satisfying dinner that I was happy to watch my husband and five year old eat up and ask for more.

Ingredients (with my alterations)

2 tablespoons bacon fat
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 small zucchinis, shredded
2 small yellow squash, shredded
1 red onion, shredded
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Large handful of cherry/grape tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh parsley, roughly chopped

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Click here for the recipe.

If you have a shredding attachment on some sort of kitchen gadget, that will make prep a hundred times faster.
I served this dish with carrot fries.

**note- I don’t like to use the words “healthy food” because our modern day has competely mutilated the true meaning of the term. “Healthy” has been slapped on labels as a marketing ploy. If a “food product” has to convince you that it’s “healthy,” then it is likely not.

You know you’re a foodie when…

14 Aug

… you hurriedly run for your camera or phone when you cut open/pull out of the oven/plate some sort of edible beauty in hopes of capturing the real essence of its perfection.
Something so simple…

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…like a perfectly ripe fig making your busy schedule grind to a halt just so you can enjoy it fully with all your attention.
Or maybe it’s a new dish you labor over and aren’t hopeful for a good outcome; but then some miracle happens and it all comes together despite your doubts.

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Fish tacos in cauliflower tortillas

Or maybe it’s a dish you threw together and haven’t given a second thought to until the timer starts beeping; and out of the oven comes something that does more than just feed you- it satisfies and humbles some inner part of you,  bringing tranquility.

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Frittata with bacon, asparagus, peppers, and tomatoes.

Are you a foodie? Which is your favorite edible that gives you that warm harmony in your life?

Mongolian Beef

10 Aug

On Wednesday, I had a great workout at JTS as always. What was even greater about it this time was that my husband got to come with me. He’s been recovering from back surgeries for quite some time and is finally to the point where he can begin some serious steps back towards fitness. Having never attended a class, he was given (much needed) extra attention by the trainer, Steffany. I loved watching his attentiveness to her careful instruction on the proper dead lift form and her patience with his progress. It reminded me of when I started out so long ago and my complete cluelessness. If you’d asked me a year ago what a turkish getup was, I might have laughed and guessed it was some sort of outfit. Now I get a little excited when I see them written on the whiteboard.
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Turkish getups are one of my favorite movements because even though it’s slower paced, it gets a lot of body areas all in one movement. Way back in the beginning, I started with balancing a tennis ball to perfect the movement (my husband used his shoe.) Now, I’m up to using a 25 lb. kettlebell. I think this workout had a good balance of short rests throughout.

Later, we cooked dinner together. Chinese isn’t something that we have ever eaten (whether bought or cooked) very often. We love Mongolian beef, sesame chicken, sweet and sour pork, etc. I don’t love the price of eating out, nor the unknown oils and additives in a kitchen other than my own. Then of course the highly respectable Paleo Parents solved it all by posting this easy recipe. We had everything except the flank steak and green onions, so it was easily written into the meal plan. I’m glad I had my husband cooking with me, things went a lot smoother than they would have had I attempted it on my own.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. sirloin or flank steak, cut into 1/2″ by 1″ slices
1/4 C tapioca flour or arrowroot powder
1 C lard for frying plus 3 TBSP lard for sauteing (I used bacon fat, can also use coconut oil)
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 C coconut aminos
1/4 C water
1/4 C molasses
1/4 C palm sugar ( I used honey)
1/2 C green onions, chopped
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The sauce took it’s time thickening, but when it eventually did, it really thickened. It has great flavor but I would strongly suggest eating it over cauliflower rice as a neutral flavor to pair with it. Let me know what you think if you give it a try!