Yes, We Catan

With just one day left before my Whole30, I broke in to a bag of Paleonola I bought a couple of weeks ago.  Hopefully it keeps well in the fridge because it was D-E-L-I-S-H!  I had the “Original” flavor with blueberries and almond milk:
It’s the perfect mix of sweet, salty, chewy, and crunchy with just a hint of sweet from honey (which, incidentally, is what bans it from the Whole30…sadness).
We took a lazy day today and watched some movies, read, and went for a nice slow run with the Husky this afternoon.  She loves to run, and I love what happens after a run:
Lunch was a couple of “burritos” on coconut crepes with mustard, tomatoes, spinach, and eggs fried in olive oil.
Tonight we’re headed to our friends’ house to ring in the New Year in style…they’re laying out a great Paleo finger food buffet inspired by the Everyday Paleo cookbook, and we’re bringing the Prosecco and Settlers of Catan. 
Yes, we are that nerdy.

I’ll see you all tomorrow with a fancy-schmancy New Years’ dinner, but for now I leave you with the Quote of the Day:
“There’s respectable Fail-eo, like eating at Revel…there’s lame Fail-eo, like eating at Outback…and then there’s showering yourself in King Cobra, which is the lowest of the low.”

New Years Resolutions

Good morning!I should probably be getting a little nostalgic at the end of this year (the world is supposed to end sometime next December, right?) but the whirlwind that was 2011 I’m more excited than ever at the prospect of a fresh start.  I spent nine months of last year in Iraq, then came home and had to hit the ground running in pretty much every way imaginable–at work, at home, for my health, and to keep my sanity.  Nobody really thinks or wants to believe that coming home is so hard, and for some people it’s the hardest part.I’m not the most patient person in the world, which is why I had such a hard time at first when everything wasn’t perfect the second I stepped off the plane, but life is slowly returning to “normal” one day at a time.  With that being said, this New Years’ is more important to me at a personal level than ever before because I can officially put a lot of not-so-happy memories behind me and move forward into a very busy and exciting time with the ones I love the most.  (I won’t get into the details right now, but The Man and I have a lot of Big Thingson our plates this year!)I didn’t make any Resolutions last year because of where I was and the fact that I really didn’t have enough control over anything that was going on to make any substantial “changes.”  (Also, I was so bitter that I refused to either celebrate or acknowledge any holidays the entire year…don’t judge).  So this year, I have a list of goals for the coming year…some of which are probably a long time coming:

-Finish my Master’s degree
-Run another Spartan Race
-Take steps to live cleaner and more sustainably
-Take a real vacation
-Increase strength and meet my fitness goals
-Improve quality of recovery periods (PWO nutrition, stretching, etc)
-Expand my recipe collection and culinary repertoire
-Redecorate the house
-Unplug…make a point to read more, play more games, and have “family meals” and “quiet time”
-Spend more time with family



**The Man’s only resolution is to be less awesome because that’s the only thing he does to excess.

How about you?  Are you making any New Years’ Resolutions?

On that note, tomorrow is the first day of my Whole30!  Whether you’re going all out or are just trying to eat healthier in general, here is a quick roundup of Whole30-approved recipes to inspire this week’s meal plan:

Lemon Dill Salmon
Tasty Breakfast Egg Loaves
Bacon-Wrapped Sweet Potato Fries
Paleo Sausage Spaghetti Squash Bake
Sundried Tomato Pesto Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf Rounds
Bacon-Crusted Quiche (from yours truly!)
Fried Eggplant and Zucchini Noodle Lasagna

As if it weren’t enough with a vast majority of the Paleo blogoshpere taking part in or sponsoring some kind of New Years’ Paleo challenge or Whole30, Chowstalker is only accepting Whole30-approved recipes this month.  Get excited!  There are some extremely talented chefs out there, so a Whole30 might just be an excuse to get cooking and eat better than you every have before!

Rosemary Lamb Chops w/ Red Wine Reduction

Happy New Years’ Eve Eve!

As I mentioned earlier, I was brainstorming over some grass-fed lamb chops I picked up at Sprouts this morning.  Lamb is one of our favorites and it’s been a while…too long, if you ask me.  Yes, it’s a little on the pricey side, but so worth it.  It’s so flavorful and fatty all on it’s own and it’s no work at all to make a fantastic meal.

I’ve done lamb chops a million and one ways before, and if you’re totally at a loss you can’t go wrong pan-searing them in olive oil with salt and pepper.  However, given the fact that we’re still technically in the holiday season, I felt like going all out.  Although Julia Child doesn’t do it with lamb, she does a great deal of wine reduction sauces with other meats, so I figured why not?  In true Julia Child form, I opted to go the simple route and use plenty of butter and wine.  It came out absolutely delicious…melt-in-your-mouth tender and some terrific flavor in the sauce.  (There is a wonderful looking Cooked Wine Marinade on page 341 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking especially for lamb, but the methods I used for this recipe are loosely adapted from her Bercy Sauce on page 294)

2 Lamb Chops, about 8 oz each
3 T Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 T Rosemary
About 1 c. Dry Red Wine

Allow the lamb chops to come to room temperature and season with salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Melt 2 T butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Sear the chops on the skillet for about 3 minutes per side (I like mine rare, so 4 minutes would work for a more medium-rare to medium quality).  Remove the lamb and cover with foil.

For the sauce, add 1 T butter to the drippings.  When the butter has melted, add the red wine and allow it to reduce and thicken slightly.  Remove from heat and serve with the lamb.

On the side, I made some Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Today has been a busy one.  The Man and I got the car unpacked, gifts put away, Goodwill boxes filled, and more wedding invites out.  The house almost looks like grown-ups live here ;)

I also took The Husky on a well-deserved run for both of us.  Poor baby was cooped up with us on the long car ride to and from Virginia, and for a pup who was literally born to run, it was pure torture.  For me, it definitely shook some rust off.  I got two workouts in over the eight days we were gone, and even though I like to take vacations like this as a natural rest period, I needed it in a bad way.  We only went about 3.5 miles at a pretty slow pace–about 8:30/mi–but we both felt wonderful afterwards.

Sleepy puppy…and a kitty who thinks her tail is a toy…
See you tomorrow with some New Years Eve party ideas!

Thank God for Yoga Pants

Finally home after a wonderful Christmas and great time with my family.  The drive back was a little rough because we were hung-the-f**k-overreally tired after all the festivities, but we both had to be back at work to sign in by today.It’s good to be home, though, and we’re steadily getting back into a good routine.  The Man and I both had a relatively healthy holiday, but even for those in Paleo circles it’s entirely possible to put on a few pounds and veer off track.  While I feel infinitely better than I have after Christmases past, I still had my share of chocolate, nuts/nut butter/nut flour, sweeteners, and a little more than my fair share of wine and certainly didn’t work out much at all.  Thank God for yoga pants.We had almost nothing in the fridge or pantry when we got home, so this morning The Man and I went to The Monument for breakfast–eggs, bacon, and fruit for me and eggs Benedict (minus English muffin) and fruit for him–and then to Sprouts where we stocked up on all of our staples and some extra goodies to prep for our New Years’ Whole30.

This week’s grocery total:

$146.93

Not too bad if you consider we had nothing in the fridge except for half a head of garlic, a jar of applesauce, and 2 eggs.

Tonight I’ve got a great meal planned around some lamb chops and I’m still working on something good for New Years’ Day.  I wanted to come up with something rich and delicious but still Whole30-friendly.  Originally I had a great recipe for roast goose with a sausage and chestnut stuffing from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but quickly decided against it when I realized that the geese at Sprouts were upwards of $70 each.  Soooo…I need a little more time on that one ;)

During the Whole30, I’ll be posting all of my meals as a way to not only keep myself accountable, but also to provide some good meal ideas for anyone who’s joining me.  I’ve got some good recipes in the queue as well, and please, please, please feel free to offer up any of yours!  This is a great chance to not only make yourself feel better physically, but a way to reinforce nutritional habits that are better for you and more sustainable in the long run.

Luckily, the only things we eat regularly that are forbidden during the Whole30 are some dairy and red wine.  I’m also guilty of “Paleo-fying” a lot of dishes, so if I achieve nothing else next month I hope I’ll have a good chance to plan and execute some unique meals that aren’t built around my former unhealthy favorites.

Is anyone else doing a Whole30 to help ring in the New Year?

Holiday Haul

On our way back to Texas bright and early tomorrow and back to work on Friday (Noooooooooooo!).  I couldn’t have asked for a better time with my family since the next time we’ll be all together again won’t be until April for my wedding (eek!).On another note, the New Year is almost here and I’m already working on some recipes both from and inspired by two very special gifts I got from The Man and my parents:

The Man suggested I pull a Julie and Julia except try to make everything Paleo.  I sincerely doubt I’d survive an endeavor like that but there are some wonderful recipes in the book.  Despite the characterization of bread-and-cheese-heavy French food, it actually relies much more heavily on fresh meat, seafood, eggs, and vegetables.  Oh…and lots and lots of butter.

My folks also picked up Make it Paleo.  I’ve been earmarking away and can’t wait to get started.  I haven’t had anything I didn’t like from The Primal Palate–either food or food porn.  Expect me to be cooking up a storm as soon as we get home!

In honor of New Years’ resolutions, I’m also going to be posting plenty of Whole30-friendly recipes in January.  Who’s in?

Brunch of Champions

This morning my Mom laid out a pretty terrific array of food to snack on throughout the day as we get ready for Kucios dinner.  I had gone for a run earlier, so I was starving and loaded up on a single large bowl of roast turkey…my sister brought up a bunch from a free range crop down south…so, so good.

Mom laughed out lout as she remarked, “Wow, you like all that skin and dark meat, huh?  I guess that’s good…no one else eats it!”

“Yes, Mom, yes I do…it’s the best part!”

My parents are still a little suspect of this whole “Caveman Diet,” but they let me do my thing (probably because it’s easier than having to listen to me try to explain why grains/legumes/vegetable oils are the devil).  When it comes to holidays and family meals, no one seems to object to my eating off a plate piled high with nice, fatty cuts of meat…my parents are clean-your-plate kinds of folks who never give me a hard time unless they think I’m not eating.  Mom was completely scandalized when I told her I no longer ate bread but seems to have accepted it when she realized that she didn’t have to change up her menus much if I was coming home–Lithuanian cuisine is replete with fatty cuts of meat, root vegetables, sausage, butter, nuts and berries, leafy greens, and full-fat dairy.  Seriously, all I have to do at family functions is pass up the bread basket and the occasional side of macaroni salad.  Unless I actually open my yap and try to explain or get preachy (intentionally or not)–which in my humble opinion is NOT something to do at a holiday gathering–nobody will notice.

Obviously, everyone’s situation is going to be a little bit different.  If I had an Italian mother who put out a spread of pastas, for example, I’d probably be under a little more scrutiny for the choices I made at the table.  Unfortunately with all the inherent stress of the holiday season, too many people just add to it with anxiety over diet and body image.  That’s why I’d say if there was ever a time to cut yourself a break, it’s now.  Instead of beating yourself up for weeks for having a slice of pie or fresh poppy seed roll (*drool*), just chill.  You’ll probably be back home this time next week living your life, getting your Paleo and Crossfit on, and have some great memories that make you smile–or thankful that you made it out alive, depending.

Sit back, have a glass (or five) of wine, and remember that this only comes once a year.

Baking and Blisters

I’m bringing a tray of two different kinds of Paleo-friendly (and Man-approved!) cookies (Chocolate Chip Cookies and Thumbprint Cookies from Primal Palate)** up to my parents’ place for Christmas as well as a batch of my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins to share.

You know you want to smell my kitchen right now ;)

For the Chocolate Chip Cookies, I used agave nectar instead of maple syrup (the flavor isn’t as strong) and the Thumbprint Cookies are topped with melted white chocolate chips (just tossed bowlful with a little coconut oil in the microwave for 45 seconds).

We’ve both been running around like crazy people today trying to get everything ready for the big road trip–gift-wrapping, packing, cleaning…you name it.  I’m also doing some culinary prep work for the ride.  I have a loaf of Almond-Flax Bread baking away…

Before we go I’ll pre-slice it for easy access.  I got some nitrate-free organic ham for sandwiches and some apple butter and almond butter to spread on for a great breakfast or snack.  I also have a stash of Lara Bars, trail mix, apples, and oranges ready to go in the cooler.  “Traditional” square meals definitely go out the window when you’re road-tripping, but I’m making sure we can be as healthy as we can given the constraints.  I’d like to arrive with my digestive tract intact, thank you.

Tonight’s workout is one of those that looks like it won’t be too bad but still gives me the heebie-jeebies…

30-20-10

Wall Balls (20/14)
KB Swings (50/35)
Walking Lunge w/ KB

I know I tell this to myself every time, but I bet I can Rx this one (I’ll just have to accept that my time won’t be too terribly fast).  My lats and shoulders are still pretty sore from Monday, and the blisters on my hands are still open, so I’ll have to tape them up but only the kettlebell swings have the potential to be problematic, so we’ll see…

Dinner tonight is going to be…interesting.  We have so little in the house so I’m debating a couple of options.  More than likely we’ll be doing breakfast for dinner (we always have plenty of bacon and eggs laying around)…

**The original recipes for these cookies say to bake at 375 for 15 minutes.  The first batch of chocolate chip cookies came out a little crispy, so I just baked the rest at 350 for somewhere between 13 and 15 mins.  Ditto for the thumbprint cookies.

“Gift-Wrapped” Chicken & White Lion Baking Co. Dinner Rolls

Tonight’s dinner was some Southern-style comfort food with a simple but festive presentation…just some skin-on chicken thighs wrapped ribbon style with 2 slices of thick cut bacon.  (Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees).

The fat melted down and made a nice crispy skin with fork tender meat underneath.  Melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

On the side I served some garlic-mashed cauliflower…simply steam one head of cauliflower (chopped into florets) for 12 minutes, then combine in a food processor with 1 T butter, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, salt, and pepper until smooth.

Finally, I baked a batch of White Lion Baking Co. dinner rolls.  The mix is a combination of almond flour, baking soda, and salt.  I added some apple cider vinegar, butter, and coconut milk then popped them in the oven…voila!

The rolls were light and fluffy in a way that grain-free baked goods are not.  They have a hint of sweetness and no trace of the nuttiness that is so characteristic of almond meal.  Without wheat flour they are a bit heavier than traditional dinner rolls—more like a biscuit—but oh, so good when slathered with butter straight out of the oven.  The Man ate three before he realized he could add some honey, too…and then his eyes just rolled back in his head as he declared, “We’re making this a regular thing.”

I feel like I can’t say enough about White Lion.  First of all, I’m just so happy that there’s a successful baking business around that caters to the Paleo community across the country.  Second, it’s such a relief to have access to the convenience of a baking mix like I used to for parties and gifts.  I cannot wait until they’re able to ship ready-made baked goods!

X-Mas Minus Five

Another half-day at work complete with more chocolate for breakfast

The blisters on my palms are still pretty painful and nasty-looking.  Please, God, don’t let tomorrow’s WOD have any more pullups…

With Christmas only five days away (eek!!) and the end of a very eventful year just around the corner, a little chocolate is just what we all deserve, right?

After heading home I threw together a big salad with chicken, butternut squash, spinach, and grape tomatoes with the last of a batch of tahini salad dressing.

I’m really getting super excited to see my family and friends back home, so the rest of the afternoon is dedicated to the last of my Christmas shopping and gift-wrapping.  I got a stack of invites sent out yesterday, but if I have some time left over I wouldn’t mind addressing a few more envelopes…we’ve made some great progress but it feels like my address list never ends!

For dinner tonight I’m planning a healthy dose of (low-maintenance) comfort food, plus a batch of these babies…

Expect a review a little later!  LOVE these guys…

The rain is finally letting up, so hopefully we can break out the fire pit tonight, too!  It’s definitely cold enough, and a warm fire and glass (or five) of wine would make the perfect night in before the holiday craziness gets rolling ;)

Hamburger Hands

“Daniel” is actually the name of my very first boyfriend…and tonight was just like I was 16 again because he broke my heart into a bajillion pieces.

50 Pullups
400m Run
21 Thrusters (95/65)
800m Run
21 Thrusters (95/65)
400m Run
50 Pullups

I started out with the grandiose notion that I could Rx this one the whole way.  Silly girl…

I got 25 pullups in and realized if I was going to finish today I was going to have to use at least a skinny band, so I finished out the first set with the purple band.  The run was no biggie and let me shake my arms out a bit.

When I hit the thrusters, I got up to 15 at 65lbs and my hands started bleeding.  Apparently when you do that many pullups in a row followed by throwing a big heavy bar around a bunch of times it tends to rub the skin off.  I had tears in my eyes when Coach ran over and taped my hands for me so I could finish the set.  Again, the run was a nice break.

The second set I took it down to 60lbs.  Before you laugh and point at me for being a wussie…know that those 5 lbs made enough of a difference that I was able to finish the second set, albeit painfully and with my hand still bleeding under the tape.

The final set of pullups was pure torture.  I had to go up to a blue band for the last half, which was a blow to my ego but I very well could have been DNF without it.

Result:  28:18…partially Rx-ed

I started as RX-ed, but tonight was a swing and a miss.  I came home and after a very painful shower with my hands still cracked open and soaking up all the soap, I filled my belly with leftover chili to soothe my aching…everything…and washed it down with the last slice of chocolate pie.

Chocolate twice in one day?  Don’t you judge me.