Saturday, September 24, 2011

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was my birthday.  Ballerina made me breakfast in bed:  Roasted Red Pepper Sausage, coconut milk scrambled eggs, carrot hashbrowns, cantaloupe chunks, and carrot juice served in a champagne flute.

A birthday is a good time to reflect on the year, on fitness goals, on emotional and spiritual progress.  I'm happy to say this has been such a good year.  I've learned so much.  And my birthday suit has never fit better.  When I looked in the mirror during ballet class, I kept thinking, "are those really MY legs?"  Thank you, Crossfit and Paleo.

For dinner, my girlfriends and I went to La Jolla Groves.  I chose the most paleo-friendly things on the menu, but I admit, I did splurge just a little.  It was my birthday, after all.  I did not partake of the offerings in the bread basket, but the waiter brought complimentary stuffed mushrooms (they had some breading and were filled with gorgonzola cheese) and I ate one.  I ordered mushroom soup (gluten free!) and Lemon Roasted Chicken, and asked for asparagus instead of mashed potatoes.  Because it was my birthday, the waiter brought dessert -- chocolate molten cake.  I'm not a cake girl, but when you add "chocolate" and "molten" to it, I admit it does persuade me.  I had a few bites, but left most of it for my girlfriends to enjoy on my behalf.

I made a new paleo cheesecake (I believe I shall call it "Coconut Dacquiri Cheesecake") for my birthday, so we left the restaurant after dinner to go back to my house and enjoy my creation.  When we got there, the house was dark and my daughter's car was gone.  I opened the door and noticed that the back porch lights had been left on and the back door was unlocked.  Oh great, I thought.  The house has been left open and all the kids are gone.  I walked to the back door and peeked through the blinds to assess the situation.  Standing on the back porch was Superman, dress shirt and tie, by a lovely fire in the firepit and a vase of roses on a little table.  I screamed and ripped the door open and jumped into his arms.  I kept touching his face, reeling, trying to believe he was really standing there in front of me.  He started talking, saying beautiful loving things, and the realization began to dawn on me -- he's proposing!  He pulled out a ring and put it on my finger, and asked me to marry him.  I said yes...then I said it again...and again...and again.  Then I climbed onto the roof (high heels and all) and shouted to the neighborhood.

Superman and I are getting married.  This was the best birthday EVER.

Oh, and the cheesecake was delicious.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall Bounty

Herb Crusted Chicken, zucchini, cantaloupe

Finding a place to set down my plate is tricky right now.  Our table is covered in peaches and our counters are accumulating tomatoes.  I'm so grateful!  Having great neighbors really cuts down on the food bill.

Besides, have you ever noticed how many fruit trees in your neighborhood go unpicked and underused?  Fruit falls and rots and no one benefits (except perhaps the bugs and birds).  When I'm in Superman's neck of the woods, I practically weep at the wasted citrus.  I can't grow citrus where I live, and it's such a shame to see it neglected.  I should form some sort of produce co-op -- a weekly swap meet, or something.  There's enough and to spare!  Let's share!
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This morning's WOD was one part easy, one part challenging and one part just plain hard.

50 Squats
20 Pull ups
10 Ring dips
35 Squats
15 Pull ups
8 Ring dips
20 Squats
10 Pull ups
5 Ring dips

I used a rubber tube (my old resistance bands -- one of my past fitness attempts, from about ten years ago) for assisted kipping pullups and assisted ring dips.  During my last set of pull-ups, the tube slipped off my foot and snapped all the way up to my crotch.  OUCH.  The ring dips were very difficult for me.  I don't think my rubber tube is helpful enough for those.  But I gave it my best shot.  Reviewing the video I took, I can see I still have some work to do.

I finished in 9:15.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin!

Today's post is all things pumpkin.  Generally, whenever I get a pumpkin or two, I cook and mash and freeze the squash so I can use it all year.  Since I still have several bags of pumpkin from last year, and it's almost pumpkin season again, I pulled a couple ziplocs from the deep freeze for yesterday's meals and dessert.

Chicken in Savory Pumpkin Sauce
inspired by this recipe

4 T. coconut oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 c. yellow tomatoes, skinned and diced
1/4 c. white wine (or substitute)
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. chicken broth
pepper
dried sage
fresh basil
1/2 c. coconut cream
2 large chicken breasts, diced
shredded zucchini

Saute onion and garlic in coconut oil.  In a large pot, stir together the tomatoes, wine, pumpkin, broth and spices/herbs.  Add the onion and garlic.  Simmer.  Using the saute pan, cook the chicken.  Puree the sauce, return it to the pot, then add the cooked chicken.  Melt a little more coconut oil in the saute pan and cook the shredded zucchini.  Stir the coconut cream into the sauce.  Serve the sauce over the shredded zucchini.  Very nice with cherry tomatoes.

For the sake of honesty and full disclosure and stuff, I just want to tell you that when you puree the sauce, you must be careful to not overfill your blender.  I was too confident, and as soon as I turned the blender on, the lid blew off and pumpkin sauce exploded everywhere.  My counters were loaded with gifted tomatoes and peaches, so the mess was, well, a big mess.  I screamed (full disclosure) and looked at the mess and screamed again.  My daughters came running in, certain I'd put my hand in the food processor.  They were fantastic, coming to my rescue, cleaning up the disaster.  I nearly swore, then censored myself, then almost cursed, and bit my tongue, then finally muttered dammit (more full disclosure) and thought it would make me feel better, but it really didn't.  I was going to be so amazing, multi-tasking dinner prep with dessert prep, but it got away from me.  The girls assured me they still thought I was pretty amazing.  When we sat down to dinner, I sheepishly said, "my throat hurts from screaming," and the girls smiled at me.

Coconut Pumpkin Squares
inspired by the Civilized Caveman (although I'm not sure how his turned out the color they did...as soon as I added the spices to mine, the brilliant orange pumpkin color was browned by the cinnamon)


1/2 Cup Coconut Flour
1 Tsp Baking powder

2 c. pureed pumpkin
1/4 Cup honey
3 Eggs
6 T. full fat coconut milk
¼ c. Coconut Oil, melted
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Allspice
1 Tsp Ground Cloves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the coconut flour with baking powder and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine all of your remaining ingredients and mix well.
Add your coconut flour and baking powder and mix well.
Line a 8x12 pan with parchment paper, or grease with coconut oil.
Add your batter to the pan.
Bake in your preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until the bars pass the toothpick test.
Cool down and cut into squares.

Peach Pumpkin Ice Cream
2 eggs
3 peaches, skinned and diced
1 c. pureed pumpkin
1 can full fat coconut milk
3 T. date powder
1 T. cinnamon
1/8 t. cloves
1/8 t. nutmeg

Mix everything in a blender until smooth.  Freeze according to ice cream maker instructions.

I loved the pumpkin squares.  They tasted like pumpkin pie.  The ice cream was good, but I would have liked the peaches to be a little sweeter.  Powdered dates are not a very strong source of sweetness.  I might add banana to this if I make it again.  I toasted some shredded coconut (in a dry frying pan) to top this dessert. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Herb Crusted Chicken

Leaving the windows open.  Feeling a crisp, gentle breeze wafting through the house.  Watching the neighbor kids tiptoe along the stone path through my flower garden while I stand at the sink peeling peaches.  Smelling the scent of cinnamon and apple drift from the crockpot.  This is the part of Fall I like best.
Spiced Apple Butternut Squash Soup

In honor of Autumn's approach, let me encourage you to try Spiced Apple Butternut Squash Soup and Herb Crusted Chicken.  I love the soup recipe, but instead of following the instructions, I just throw everything in the crockpot and then puree it at the end of the day.





I invented a really good salad dressing!
  Almond Balsamic Dressing
  creamy almond butter
  balsamic vinegar
  pineapple juice

  Mix and adjust to desired texture.  Pour over salad (or   chicken or pork or veggies).




Herb Crusted Chicken
Herb Crusted Chicken 
inspired by this recipe 

6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
olive oil
 
1 c. almond meal
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Using meat mallet (or sturdy rolling pin), pound chicken breasts in two gallon size ziploc bags to 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. Pour lemon juice over. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Remove chicken from bags and pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix almond meal, basil, rosemary, salt, and pepper in food processor, transfer to a plate. Brush chicken breasts on both sides with olive oil. Coat chicken on both sides with herb mixture. Place chicken on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until chicken is cooked through and coating is golden,  20-30 minutes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blasted Bench Jumps!

Does this look familiar?


Yes, I did it again.  Perhaps my body thought I should have matching battle scars.  Thankfully, I was wearing my shin guards this time, so I didn't open my leg as severely as last time.  There's still blood though.  I banged it pretty hard.

I woke after less-than-adequate sleep, but I was determined to complete today's wod, even though it was going to be pretty challenging for me:

4 rounds
100 feet walking lunges, 25# plate overhead
30 box jumps (bench jumps, actually)
20 wall ball shots, 10# ball
10 hand stand push ups (modified)

Those walking lunges really fatigued me.  I lunged down the rec center hallway and back, then set down my plate and started my jumps.  On jump #19, I missed.  I smacked my shin, HARD, then fell all the way to the floor.  I rolled back up again and figured I could shake it off and keep going, but the pain wouldn't go away.  I did a few ankle rotations, kept shaking out my leg, but it just hurt more.  I reached down to rub the area, and felt a huge lump already swelling up.  Okay, I thought, we're done here.  I put away my 25# plate, returned the 10# ball to the front desk, gathered up my stuff, and limped out to the car -- trying not to weep like a toddler.  Man, it hurt!  (Hm...I just realized, I left my piece of paper with my wod written on it taped to the wall in the hallway.  Oh well.)

I called Superman on my way home and let the tears fall.  I was in a lot of pain, and I was frustrated that I didn't even complete one full round of my wod.  And I'm not sure which of those things I hated more -- the agony of injury or the agony of being defeated by the bench again.

If it weren't for the shin guards, we would be replaying our event from four months ago.  Thank you, shin guards.  I believe they're red on the inside to keep the blood from showing so much.


See my skin there?
Not quite matching.

Four months after the infamous first bench jump incident.
Stupid.  That's how I feel about it.  I would very much like to not bang up my legs anymore.  It hurts, it's unattractive, and worst of all, it slows me down.  I'm a woman on the go!  I don't have time for pain!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fire Pit Experiments

Last night was "Fire Pit Night".  We'd been looking forward to it with much anticipation, mainly because of our star experiment.  See, since I knew we'd be cooking dinner over an open flame, I broke down and bought marshmallows for the non-Paleo girls in the family.  But Ballerina and I would want something, I reasoned.  Well, what's bite size and sweet that can be roasted on a skewer?  A banana.  But it will get soft and fall off the skewer, so what could be wrapped around it that would hold it together?  Preferably something that might shrink and get crispy as it cooks?  Ah!  Bacon!  I was feeling so very pleased with myself...until I googled my ingenious idea, and found it's already all over the internet.  Darn.  Well, so much for being original.

The skies were blue and clear as we walked home from church.  The temperatures have given way from sweltering-heat to pleasant, just right for sitting around a fire pit.  I changed out of my Sunday dress and built the fire.  Then I piled up a platter with our skewerable foods.


We couldn't wait for dessert to try our experiment (besides, it could be both appetizer and dessert, right?), so we started with those.






Ballerina was the smarty-pants who came up with securing her skewer with a rock.  She was multi-tasking (reading AP something-or-other while dinner cooked).  It wasn't quick to cook bacon over a fire, it turns out, but it was working.  My bacon shrank and squeezed off part of the banana, so I had to let it loose on my plate and return the rest to cook more.





They look pretty good.  I, however, do not enjoy "wiggly bacon".  I prefer mine quite cooked and crispy, thank you.  I started devising a better way to wrap the bacon around the bananas while we cooked the other courses of our dinner.


Just so you know...one bite of Roasted Pepper Sausage plus one bite of zucchini are a delicious combination.  Soon after this photo, Actress had mishaps of gigantic proportions, as everything fell off her skewer, she spilled food all over her lap, and her following attempt at shishkabobbing involved skewering her finger with a hot prong (which she had already burned while baking at her dad's house that morning).  Then the wind picked up from nowhere and blew grey clouds over us, stirring up the ashes of our fire all over Ballerina and her AP textbook.  We decided to move the party indoors.

I turned on the oven and broiled the remainder of our dinner (including another attempt at the bacon-bananas).





It was interesting.  I liked the flavor combination, but I could never get the bacon to cook to my desired done-ness.  And I was so excited to give you a gourmet dish to try.  *sigh*

Yes, I realize bacon is cured with sugar.  Yes, I do feel a little pin-prick of guilt that I haven't been as religious about absolutely-not-a-grain-of-sugar-during-the-challenge.  

----

This morning's wod was a longer effort.  I love those little 6 minute AMRAP's, but you can't have those all the time, I guess.  The following took me 20 minutes:

21-18-15-12-9
Power snatch 45#
jumping air squats
knees to elbows (which ended up being closer to knees-to-armpits or even knees-to-chest)

I wish I could grip that pullup bar better.  I hate the feeling of my skin folding over on itself at the pullup bar.  I wear gloves, but they're not snug enough, so I end up feeling the glove folded over instead of my skin (which hurts less, but is still annoying).

And I admit, sometimes I feel a little goofy power-snatching 45#, because it's just the barbell with no added weights.  I console myself by looking in the mirror at my awesome muscles while I'm tossing that bar over my head.  By the end of the wod, I was starting to feel confident in my technique.  Power snatch is no simple movement.

I did manage to convince the front desk girl to find me a piece of chalk.  I keep track of my rounds by making hash marks on the floor (remember, it's a converted racquetball court with that black spongy-ish gym-floor-covering), then I erase them when I'm done with the disinfectant spray and rags they supply for wiping your sweat off their cozy machines.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Soup Night

Partway into my first Paleo challenge, I despaired that my cookbook shelf was full of resources that would never again be useful to me.  All those recipes for foods that don't work for my body.  Last night, I realized with delight that I can modify the living daylights out of those recipes!  Show a little creativity, Julie!  So now I'm on a journey to delve into those cookbooks, changing up ingredients to suit my new lifestyle.  The recipes below are no-brainers (substituting coconut oil and coconut milk for butter and cream), but I plan to do some more in-depth experimentation, illustrating what can be substituted for body, flavor, texture.

I'm warning you ahead of time, the Fresh Tomato Soup was so good, people were fighting over it.  It was clearly the winner in the soup race yesterday.


Fresh Tomato Soup

6 T. coconut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ c. chicken stock
3 lb. chopped tomatoes
1 t. coarse salt
¼ t. pepper
1 c. fresh basil, loosely packed
½ c. coconut cream

Melt coconut oil, add onions and garlic.  Cook until onions are translucent.  Add chicken stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook until tomatoes are falling apart (5 minutes).  Stir in basil.  Remove from heat.  Let cool slightly and blend.  Return soup to saucepan.  Add coconut cream.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh basil.

***edit***
Know what goes great with a comfort food like Tomato Soup?  Cheese Crackers.  Try these from Nourish Bakery! They specialize in grain-free baked goods for your healthy lifestyle!


Curried Zucchini Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon curry powder
sea salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
red pepper flakes to taste           
4 small zucchini, diced
1 quart chicken stock

Heat the oil in a large pot. Stir in the onion, and season with curry powder and salt. Cook and stir until onion is tender. Add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Stir in zucchini, and cook until tender. Pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes.

Remove soup from heat. Puree.  Serve with a dollop of coconut cream.

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I was practicing my power snatch at the gym the other day, but I wasn't doing as well as when Superman was here.  I couldn't figure out what the difference was.  Why wasn't it feeling right?  After I got home, I reviewed the video Superman had taken that morning.  Ah!  At his recommendation, I had removed my sneakers that day, and it had made a world of difference.  Just that little bit of pitching forward from my running shoes got in the way of really great technique.  The trouble is, I'm not willing to do box jumps (or metal bench jumps, as is required by the dearth of equipment at my rec center) in my stocking feet.  So I'll have to deal during a wod.  But for pre-wod practice, I'm going to take my shoes off from now on.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Carrot Colada Ice Cream

I've been busy creating new recipes.  Some of them aren't ready to share yet, but once I've perfected them, you can bet they'll be posted here!  With pictures!

So, one day I was checking my stats, and I saw that someone found my site by googling "carrot colada".  And I thought, "hey, cool!"  I ran the idea past Lo and Peef, and received mixed reactions.  I made a carrot colada smoothie to test out the flavor combination, and it was gooooooood.  Truly.  When I told Superman, he was all for it.  Topped with jalapenos, of course.



Carrot Colada Ice Cream
1 c. carrot juice
2 bananas
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla
1 can full-fat coconut milk

Place all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth.  Pour into ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.  Drizzle Jalapeno Mojito Syrup and garnish with toasted unsweetened shredded coconut.

Jalapeno Mojito Syrup
inspired by this recipe

2 c. fresh mint leaves, well crushed
12 oz. can apple juice concentrate (100% juice), thawed
zest and juice of one lime
1 jalapeno, washed and stemmed (remove seeds for only the slightest hint of heat, leave seeds for noticeable heat)

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil for 3 minutes, turn off heat and cover.  Steep 15 minutes.  Strain.  Store in fridge.
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The syrup seems to develop more robust flavor overnight, so I recommend making it a day ahead.  Also, I didn't bruise the mint leaves much, and my syrup didn't have a very minty flavor.  Next time I'll give them a good beating!  I tried the jalapeno without the seeds, and even my tender sensitive mouth couldn't detect much heat at all.  I'm going to have to make it again, and experiment with keeping a few of the seeds.  You could also substitute white grape juice concentrate, but I really liked the flavor combination of the apple with the carrot.

Lo didn't think she could like an ice cream that had carrot in the title, so I told her it was Sunshine Colada ice cream.  After tasting it, she conceded that it was good, darnit.  I've actually come to the point where I prefer the texture of paleo ice cream.  The last time I had traditional ice cream, it felt foamy and thick and sticky and unpleasant to me.  Shoot.  You know this means I'm going to have to come up with a chocolate ice cream substitute now.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Morning Max

I finally had the chance yesterday to bring Superman to my "box", aka the rec center.  We spent a leisurely Saturday morning practicing movements, getting some much needed coaching.  Correct technique can make all the difference in the world!  I wish I could be getting that kind of training every day.

My two goals for the morning were to work on technique, and then to find my max on deadlift and bench press.  This was the first time I'd ever attempted to find my max on anything.  When I finished my max deadlift, I started crying.  Crying?  Yep.  I was surprised at my own emotional outburst.  Superman hugged me and I asked why I was weeping.  "Julie, you just lifted heavier weight than you've ever lifted in your life!"  I looked at the bar and solemnly said, "That's like lifting a person.  A person heavier than I am myself."

Max deadlift:  145 lbs.
Max bench press:  88 lbs.

video

Saturday morning wod:

15-12-9-6-3
power clean 70# (heavier than I've worked out with before!)
burpees

10:24

And then Superman and I flexed in the mirror together, admiring our muscles.

Chicken with Cherry Chutney


Sometimes it's surprising how easy it is to adapt a pre-Paleo recipe for our new lifestyle.  Chutney is sort of like a fruit-inspired salsa.  The main ingredient is usually fruit, cooked with vinegar and spices -- and generally a considerable amount of sugar.  The sugar adds brightness and glossiness, but we found the flavor is still quite enjoyable without it.

Cherry Chutney
inspired by this recipe


1 lb. dark, sweet cherries, pitted
3/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup of pineapple juice
1/2 white onion, chopped
1/4 cup of raisins
sprinkle ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp mustard seeds, ground in coffee grinder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Mix all of your ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and simmer the mixture for about 45 minutes, uncovered, until it starts to thicken.

While it simmers, cook chicken breasts, using your favorite method.  Spoon chutney over cooked chicken and talk in an uppity accent (I find simply saying the word "chutney" brings this out in me).

Onion Rings

I had a stroke of genius the other night.  I was making our lettuce-wrapped quarter pound hamburgers, pondering the fact that if boys lived at our house, I'd need to make at least four times as much food, when I suddenly wondered if I could make Paleo onion rings.

The answer is yes.  Actually, the answer is oooooooohhhhhhh yyyyyyyyessssssss!

Over dinner, Ballerina asked with delight, "why haven't we thought to do this before?!?"


Paleo Onion Rings
2 medium onions, thickly sliced
1 egg, beaten
shredded unsweetened coconut
coconut oil

Separate onion slices into rings.  Beat egg in a large bowl.  Heat coconut oil in a frying pan (enough oil to come to the halfway mark on your onion slices). Toss onion in the egg, then on a separate plate, coat in coconut.  Place onion rings in the frying pan, turning over once the first side is browned.  Serve alongside lettuce-wrapped hamburgers.