Thursday, May 19, 2011

Island Gumbo

Okay, technically it's not really "gumbo" in the traditional sense of the word.  But I just don't know what else to call it.  Maybe it's gumbo's cousin.

I threw this together one afternoon while frantically trying to assemble an after-school pre-ballet meal for Ballerina.  I just started tossing things in the pan as they occurred to me.  And it was amazing.  Last night, I made a big pot of it for dinner.  I love being able to eat until I'm full, don't you?

Island Gumbo
coconut oil
zucchini, sliced
carrots, sliced
onion, sliced
ONO salt (it's from Hawaii.  I'm almost out, so I guess I need to go back)
lime juice
coconut milk (full-fat)
chopped macadamias

Stir fry the shrimp in the coconut oil.  Add the veggies and seasoning.  Squeeze in lime juice and continue to cook until veggies are softened but not soggy.  Stir in coconut milk until heated through.  Serve with a sprinkle of macadamias.

Paleo Comfort Food

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate and other drugs

As promised, I've been experimenting with adding non-paleo foods back into our diet, slowly, the way one would while checking for allergies.  My first experiment was oats.  The half-batch of oatmeal cookies was delicious, but my intestines were quite unhappy with me for about three days.

Last Sunday, I made whole wheat bread.  I cannot describe the happy anticipation buzzing in the house as we waited for the loaves to finish baking.  Once done, we cut into a steaming loaf and slathered each thick slab with honey butter.  After devouring at least four enormous slices each, we sat around the table laughing.  Ballerina had the drunk least, what I imagine would be the drunk giggles, since none of us has ever been drunk.  We were totally high on bread, our drug of choice for the evening.  I even joked that Ballerina would have a bread-hangover in the morning.  We laughed even more at that.

Unfortunately, I was all too correct.  Ballerina awoke the next morning with no appetite, nausea and general sluggishness.  She said she felt "like poo".  My intestines rebelled for a good 48 hours.  Obviously, gobbling down an entire loaf of bread between three of us was a bit too indulgent.

I am the administrative assistant at the ballet school.  This week, I've been cleaning out cupboards and file drawers, getting everything in order for the end of this term and ready for summer workshops.  Thrown in among the newspaper clippings and photos and old playbills were a couple boxes of candy canes, a small tub of hot cocoa mix, and a half-eaten heart-shaped box of chocolates.  I decided my boss needed a container for edibles among the files and books.  As I continued organizing, she walked in and said, "Oh, let's not keep this stuff," and starting tossing out the candy and the chocolate.  She offered me the candy canes, but I told her I don't really eat much sugar anymore and candy doesn't have a home at our house.  In a few minutes, Ballerina's class was over, and she met me in my office.  I grabbed my purse and chucked the last of my garbage in the waste basket...and stared at the chocolates.  There they were, right on top.  Milk chocolate drizzled over dark chocolate, in all those lovely enticing shapes.  I am ashamed to admit, I nearly nabbed them.  Guilt washed over me.  I had almost pulled someone else's thrown away chocolates from the garbage can!  I looked at Ballerina, and she looked back at me.  She knew what I was thinking.  "Tell me not to grab these," I told her.  "Mom, let's go home.  You can have some mango-coconut paleo ice cream."  We got out of there.

Once home, we made dinner, ate, cleaned up, and I went on to other household chores.  Ballerina came to me and said she was having a strong chocolate craving.  It was then that I remembered a recipe I'd been wanting to try.  We pulled out the food processor and went to work.

Totally worth it.

1/2 c. walnuts
1/2 c. pecans
1/2 c. almonds
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
6 dates
small handful raisins
2 T. coconut oil
2 squares unsweetened chocolate

Whir everything together in food processor until mixture will hold its shape when scooped into small bon-bons.  Form into small balls and roll in unsweetened shredded coconut.  Refrigerate.  EAT.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Crabby Patties

My wound is healing nicely, thank you. :)  I took a rest day today, but I fully expect to be crushing a wod tomorrow.  Just no box jumps yet.  Okay, Superman?

Tonight I tried a new recipe.  And here's the shocker... even Actress would eat it.  True, she did drizzle on her favorite craptastic condiments (ketchup and sweet relish -- I told her to enjoy them while they last, because I'm not going to buy more), and turned her nose up at the lettuce.  But she ate it.  Three servings.

During dinner, Actress told me she wants to pack her own lunches from now on, instead of eating school lunch.  Then she went on to detail for me the kind of lunches she's been served at school.  Today was a corn dog with potato chips and a carton of cardboard-flavored milk.

I'm sorry, since when was that considered a nutritious meal?  Even if you follow the food pyramid style of nutrition concept, that lunch is rife with no-no's.  I just don't get it.

Anyhow, dinner.  It was just fun to say "Crabby Patties" every time someone asked, "what's for dinner tonight?"  I felt a little like Spongebob.

The recipe is at the end of the post.  Here's the process:

First, I drained the crab using my tuna press.  Since a can of crab meat is a bit deeper than a can of tuna, my tuna press wasn't able to adequately drain the meat.

So I dumped the contents of one partially drained can into another partially drained can, and used the tuna press to finish the draining process.

Two cans worth of crab in one can, partially drained.

Two cans worth of crab in one can, well drained.

After the crab was sufficiently drained, I mixed together all the ingredients.  I then used a medium-sized cookie scoop to make 12 patties, forming them with my hands.  These are fragile little things.  I tucked them into a plastic container, using plastic wrap under the patties and between each layer.

I melted coconut oil in my frying pan (I actually ended up adding about this much more coconut oil)...

...fried the patties on each side until they were golden...

...then served on a bed of iceberg lettuce, with sweet peppers and carrots and lemon wedges.

Crabby Patties
inspired by this recipe

Mix together:

4 6-oz cans crab meat, very well drained
¼ c. unsweetened finely shredded dried coconut
1/2 T. mixture of dill weed, basil, rosemary, bay leaves; ground in spice mill
¼ c. olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper

Shape into 12 patties, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Fry in coconut oil, drain on paper towels or a cooling rack.

Serve with lettuce, sweet peppers, and lemon wedges.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Box Jumps: 1, Wonder Woman: 0

Today's wod:

Warm up:  Ten 100m sprints

Wod: 5 min. AMRAP of 5 pushups and 7 box jumps, then rest one minute and repeat twice for a total of three sets

So, I felt a little silly at first, running at breakneck speed up and down my street.  Then, I imagined my neighbors peering out of their windows, perhaps thinking I'm training for some big deal track event.  And then I felt like a superstar, sprinting between Melody's mailbox and the mailbox at the end of the block, four houses away.

Then I grabbed my Crossfit abacus (a ziploc bag of milk-jug caps) and my timer, and headed to the backyard to do my wod.  I have to go to the backyard because I don't really have a box for box jumps.  I use the bench on my picnic table.  Here it is in the background of this picture (me as Coraline last Halloween):

I got myself all set up, and started the timer.  I cranked out 5 perfect pushups, then hopped up and did seven box jumps.  I pulled out a milk cap, then plopped back down to the ground and did 5 more pushups, feeling pretty proud of myself.  I was going to crush this wod.

I've been concentrating on form.  I wanted to improve my box jumps by not resting at the bottom, but springing right back up after hitting the ground.  This is what I was doing when I missed the bench and scraped my shin.  HARD.  I have never felt so completely incapacitated during a workout.  I looked at it -- it was white.  I knew I had a limited amount of time before I simply wouldn't care about walking.  I grabbed my milk caps, my timer, my little white board, and hobbled to the door, weeping and moaning the whole time.  Once inside, I dropped everything and grabbed an ice pack, wailing loudly.  I couldn't believe how much it hurt!  I sobbed like a toddler.

If you don't feel too squeamish about blood, keep scrolling down to see pictures.  Superman encouraged me to document my injury (encouraged = practically insisted I send him pictures).  I think it actually looks worse in the pictures than it does in real life.  I've had ice on it for over an hour, but now that it's off, the pain is starting to return.  Ibuprofen will be my friend today.

At least I had the good sense to shave my legs yesterday.  I wonder if any of my skin is hanging on the picnic bench. :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Cooking" Class

Actress is in 7th grade.  She recently told me what they'd learned to make in cooking class:  Marshmallow Stuffed Pillsbury Rolls and Ramen Stir Fry.

Are there more worthless foods?  This is what they've chosen to "teach" to the youth of America -- how to stuff their faces with non-nutritive garbage?  I will concede that perhaps there is an appropriate time to sample sweets, but to teach it in a class at school seems deplorably irresponsible to me.  I looked up the description of the class on the district website:

Beginning Foods          7-8 grades
Students will learn about nutrition and basic cooking.  Units on safety, sanitation, measuring, abbreviations, equivalents, equipment, cooking terms, microwaves, and manners will be covered.
I would be very interested to hear how they describe nutrition.  And basic cooking?  Can they at least attempt to teach these students some skills that will actually help them make worthwhile food for themselves?  Someday, these kids will be responsible for feeding their own families and all they'll know how to offer are drugs coated in drugs:  sugar-dipped cholesterol-spiking insulin flooders.  And don't even get me started on school lunch.

Sometimes the task seems too big.  Is it even possible to change the system that teaches our nation to be unhealthy and obese?  I feel completely paralyzed in the face of so much craziness.

And people wonder why we are facing an obesity epidemic.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Personal Force Field

Back in the 80's, my brother lived in Korea for two years.  He told me about the community bath houses there, where people simply surrounded themselves with imaginary walls to create needed privacy in a decidedly non-private environment.  Others respected these invisible boundaries.

Apparently, I haven't perfected the art of the invisible boundary.

As much as I dislike working out at the gym (well, actually, the local rec center -- but hey, the membership is really cheap, and I'm on a budget), I go twice a week so I can work with heavier weights than I have at home.  I was actually feeling pretty jazzed about my anticipated wod.  I launched into my warmup (5 mins running, 30 leg lifts on the roman chair, 1 min jumprope, stretch).  After I finished running, I walked over to the roman chair on a contraption that looks a little like this:

There was a man balancing himself on the side of the roman chair while he did leg curls.  When I hopped into position, he let go, wobbling as he did so.

"Nah, don't worry about it.  I can share," I said to him.  He immediately grasped the side of the arm-support again.  I started my leg-lifts, surrounding myself with my invisible boundaries.  When I got to about 21, Leg Curl Man started shouting, "Nice!  Way to go!  Nice!"  Okay, I thought.  I have my own personal cheerleader.  Well, everyone likes affirmation and encouragement.  Then, on about 26 (I was starting to really struggle as my core was getting fatigued), Leg Curl Man smiled and reached out and pushed my feet know, as if he's my personal trainer and he's welcome to "help" me with my workout.  Many thoughts ran through my brain in a split second, among them:

1.  My abs aren't so tired that I can't raise my leg up and administer a swift kick to your face.
2.  Do I know you?!?

I kept staring straight ahead, and said in a very strong voice, "DON'T."  He stopped immediately.

After I finished, I jumped down and grabbed my jumprope.  That's when the small talk started.

"I think I know you,"  he started.
"Yes, you look vaguely familiar," I conceded.  And it's true, he did look vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place where I'd seen him.  But I do a lot of local theater, and you meet all types.
"Actually, I think I know your husband," he continued.
"I'm divorced."
"Oh, well, who was your husband?"  Well, okay, maybe I met him in those days I was married.  At a work party or something.  Grand.  And for some reason, Girl Power though I may embody, I couldn't come up with a better response than simply telling him the name of my ex.  And, of course, he didn't know him.  He continued to talk at me:  did I know so-and-so?  Was I related to the whats-their-names from such-and-such?  I demurely shut down the nonsense and started jumproping.  When the minute was up, I started for the mat so I could stretch.  On my way to the back of the room, Leg Curl Man shouts after me,

"What makes you so tough?"

Someone, please, put that on a t-shirt.


"Cross training?"

"No, Crossfit."

"Is that like P90x?"

"No, it's better."

As soon as I got home, I had to call Superman to tell him about my encounter.  You know, I don't call it getting picked up on as much as I call it right-out annoying.  Who picks up on women at the rec center?  Good grief.

So, I think I need a series of workout t-shirts.  One should say "DON'T."  Maybe I need one like the t-shirt I gave to Superman for Christmas: "Private Property".  I'd love to hear your ideas.  Because these invisible walls don't seem to be thick enough to keep the vermin away, and no one has yet perfected the personal force field.  (That would have been so awesome, though.  Zap!  That'll teach you to touch me while I'm working out.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Plump Fiction

If you'd like to read the most fascinating book on the science of metabolism, please pick up a copy of Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes.  It has been both exciting and frustrating for me to read.  Exciting, because finally, I'm learning there is viable scientific study to back up the claim that calories-in-calories-out is a myth.  Yes, you read that right.  It is a myth.  As in, fiction.  It doesn't work, it isn't true, it's false.  Frustrating, because for my years as a heavy person (who was a child of heavy parents), there was no one who could teach me why I was fattening, and what I could do about it, other than starve myself.

There are many who will say (in fact, who do say, with religious vehemence) that Taubes' assertions are wrong, without bothering to learn the science.  They will hold on to the calories-in-calories-out nonsense in the face of countless studies and evidence to the contrary, because they simply want to believe it.  It seems right to them.  It is usually (maybe always) the naturally lean people who claim that "America needs to lose weight."  Nothing gets my dander up more.  Thank you, person-whose-body-is-predisposed-to-burn-fat-molecules.  You have never experienced the frustration of obesity, and yet you think you know the solution.  You have never attempted to "eat less and move more" in attempt to rid yourself of excess fat, only to find that it doesn't work.  Thank you for pointing out that fat people are fat.  What are you, some kind of bully? 

I can assure you, when you're heavy, you already know it better than anyone else.  You're the one who sees your naked fat in the mirror each day before you hop in the shower.  You're the one who struggles into clothes that either don't fit or make you feel frumpy.  You look in the mirror and loathe who you've become.  Your self-control over what you eat and how much you exercise seem to make no difference, especially as you see naturally lean people eat whatever they want and move as little as they like, and they still stay lean -- while at the same time, they extol their "virtues" to you and condemn your "sloth" and "gluttony".  You feel lost and alone and shamed because you can't get lean.   You don't need anyone to point out to you that you're fat.  You already know, and the confusion and guilt are nearly crippling.

Enter the science.  To put it in its simplest terms, insulin is responsible for how our bodies will use and store fuel.  When your insulin levels are high, especially if they remain elevated, it sends the message to the rest of your cells to store fat molecules (this is fascinatingly and thoroughly explained in Taubes' book).  Then, when (if) the insulin levels again decrease, your cells will release the fat and burn it for fuel.  What you eat has a direct effect on how much insulin you make, and for how long.  But even more enlightening, your genes and hormones (what you get from your parents, and this part is outside your control) determine how sensitive you are to that insulin.  Calories-in-calories-out is a deadly "solution" to the obesity problem, because it doesn't address the real factors at work that determine fat usage or storage.  The hormones and enzymes will essentially protect the fat in the body, and work to keep it, at the expense of the muscles and organs (this is why obese people tend to die of heart failure).  The only way to halt this fatal problem is to learn how to effectively work with the hormones and enzymes in your body to send a better message to the cells.

Fill your brain with knowledge.  And before you accuse a heavy person of not trying hard enough to lose weight, stop.  Just stop.  If you've never struggled with obesity, there's no way you can begin to understand how hard they're already trying.  They're failing because they don't have the correct solution.  And no amount of bullying from lean people is going to help them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stronger, Faster

I seem to remember there's some kind of Crossfit tagline:  stronger, faster, ....something.  So I googled it.  And here's what I found -- a bunch of variations on a theme --

Stronger, Faster, Fitter
Stronger, Faster, Bigger
Stronger, Faster, Quicker (not as redundant as it might seem)
Stronger, Faster, Healthier
Better, Stronger, Faster

and my personal favorite:
Older, Faster, Stronger

Well, whatever that third variable is, the stronger and faster part are definitely true.  I can vouch for it.  Here's proof.

Last October I did the following wod:

5 rounds for time
200m Run
15 dumbbell Thrusters @15lbs each hand
10 Lunges
5 Burpees

My time then was 25:16.  I'm not sure why it took me so long.  Maybe because after each 200m run (to the corner and back), I rounded to the backyard to finish each round in private.

Well, it's been seven months since that workout.  Today, I revisited it.  I did not take the pansy hiding-in-the-backyard approach.  I boldly ran up and down the street and did the rest of the wod on my front porch, in sight of all the neighbors (including my next-door friends with their toddlers and kid-cars and strollers and dog), burpees and all.

And I crushed my previous time.  13:08.

I called Superman with my results, but he was in a meeting.  So I left a message.  Which he couldn't check -- because he was in a meeting.  He pleaded for my time via text, so I sent it.  He texted back: Holy freak'n amazing! I almost cheered in my meeting!

A.  Yes, my boyfriend is that wonderful.  For real.
B.  Crossfit has definitely made me stronger, faster...better.  :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chile Lime Almonds

Last Christmas, Superman and I sampled Blue Diamond Chile Lime Almonds.  We couldn't stop eating them.  Spicy, limey, sweet.  Of course, they're loaded with sugar.  Since going Paleo, I've made it my mission to find as many delicious foods as I can, while at the same time limiting or eliminating the sugar in our diet.

As you know, I absolutely adore Mel's Sweet and Salty Spiced Nuts.  The only drawback is that the spices don't stick well to almonds, because they're a bit shy on the nooks and crannies.  Today, I tried a variation.  Fresh lime juice.  In advance, you're welcome.

Chile Lime Almonds

2 T. coconut oil
2 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 T. ground cumin
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 1/2 c. almonds
1/2 T. sugar (I might just try making it without this next time)
1 t. salt

Heat the oven to 300.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan.  Stir in the lime juice.  Continue heating as you add the cumin and cayenne pepper.  Stir everything together.  Then add the almonds and stir well to coat.  Sprinkle on the sugar (optional) and salt, and continue to stir until everything is well distributed.

Scrape everything out of the pan with a spatula onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.  The same warning applies as with the Spiced really won't be able to stop eating them.  Have a few, then lock them up!

"Until Fail"

This is a phrase with which I've only been familiar since starting Crossfit.  I guess it's a little like "shop til you drop", but you don't feel dead afterward.  You feel like you've given your all, and then you peel yourself off the floor, knowing you're a superhero, and set out to conquer the world.

And this morning, I accomplished it.

Superman has prescribed a series of back squats over the last few weeks.  We started with 20 back squats at 75 lbs, and increased the weight by 5 lbs for each semi-weekly gym trip.  (I do most of my wods at home.  There are many reasons, chief among them: no creepy people staring.)  The goal was to work up to my body weight.  Last week, I did all twenty, unbroken, at 110 lbs.  It was very difficult, but I did it.  Today I loaded up the bar for 115 lbs.  I decided to stand within the bottom of the rack, just in case I ran into trouble and needed to rack the weight.  By the tenth squat, I was really struggling.  I'm so glad the weight room was empty this morning, because I was that woman groaning and grunting in front of the mirror.  When I went down for the 18th squat, that was it.  I could not stand back up with the weight.  I'm so glad I was standing within the rack!  I just let go of the bar and stood up without it, feeling pretty danged proud of myself.  I did it!  I got really close to the prescribed 20 squats, and I did it "until fail".

Do you hear that music in the background?  Pretty sure that's the Wonder Woman theme song.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Loaves of lettuce?

Okay, really quick...

I've mentioned how Paleo is all about making different choices, right?  This afternoon, Ballerina concocted an absolutely delicious meal:  leftover ham rolled up in cabbage leaves.  I tried it with a slice of avocado.  Wow.  The ham is bold and flavorful, the cabbage is sweet and crunchy, the avocado is creamy and divine.  Way better than an insulin-spiking sandwich or a craptastic frozen burrito.  Sheesh!  Who needs bread?  In fact, I even accidentally referred to the head of lettuce in the fridge as a "loaf" of lettuce.

Yes, that's where we are.  Loaves of lettuce.  Welcome to our Paleo house.