Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bring it on 2014!

I'm a big fan of lists.  I get this twinge of satisfaction when I can cross something of that I've accomplished.  I'm not looking at this as a list of resolutions for 2014, but rather a list of goals that I'm determined to accomplish in the upcoming year.  While some goals are a bit loftier than others, I think each one is something I have the ability to attain in the coming year.

Reflecting back on the goals I had set for myself last year, I feel pretty good about where the year ended up.  I ran my first half marathon (and lived to tell about it), found a new love in CrossFit which has helped me regain the athlete that was lying dormant inside me and realigned the way I look at food completely.  James pointed out the other day, if two years ago, you would have told me I'd have given up wine for weightlifting, I would have laughed uncontrollably.  While wine isn't completely off the menu in our household, the amount consumed has drastically dropped as our workouts have increased.  It's definitely funny how your priorities realign over time.

Now, without further adieu, my official goal list for 2014:
  • Run at least three obstacle course races (Diva Dash, Spartan Race & Tough Mudder) 
  • Compete in one CrossFit competition outside my gym 
  • Break my 5k PR
  • Fix my lifting technique and increase my clean, jerk and snatch PRs by 10%
  • Deadlift 250+ lbs
  • Link 5 kipping pull ups together 
  • Launch Primal Kitchen (more on that soon as well) 
  • Preform a minimum of 15 minutes of mobility training per day 
  • Reduce my credit card debt by at least half 
  • Out preform the past two years in client billing for my job 
  • Read at least 10 books 
  • Volunteer for at least 3 Cooking Matters programs 
  • Write a minimum of 10 insightful blog posts per month 

Monday, December 9, 2013

200 Posts and We're Still Kicking!

Two and a half years, two hundred posts and I'm still here... that's gotta count for something, right?  It's funny going back and looking at my early posts in comparison to what I share now.  My lifestyle has completely pulled a 180 and I couldn't be happier for it.  It's made me ponder as to wether or not "The Tipsy Cupcake" needs a full overhaul.  Although it's a question I keep going back to, I feel there is some value to where I started this whole project.  A piece of me, if you will.  So for the time being, even though I'm far less tipsy and eat significantly fewer cupcakes than I did two and a half years ago, we're going to keep plugging away, staying true to our roots here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Happy December Everyone!

Well, first and foremost, I hope you all had a wonderful, healthy and happy holiday this past week.  I'm a huge fan of Thanksgiving - a holiday based around family, food and football - winner.  I can hardly believe that it's already December!

This past weekend was a great chance to catch up on some much needed rest from the gym - which I know I need more of but always managed to avoid.  The gym being closed however, kind of forced me to take a breather.  James and I incorporated mobility training and a body weight met-con on Friday but for the most part, I relished in four days without picking up a barbell.  As a result, I felt pretty solid kicking off my week.  

Our kitchen has been re-paleo-ized after the holiday and purged of tempting cheat foods.  We're trying to look at the holiday season as a few scattered, special days without rules governing our eating as opposed to a full blow season on binging.  I feel better when I eat well and I can honestly say I'll enjoy the holidays more if I'm not bloated and dealing with stomach discomfort.  

I'd love to hear some tips from our readers regarding their best tips for staying on track over the holidays.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oops, I Did It Again...

You know that saying that lightning doesn't strike twice?  Yeah, I'm calling shenanigans on that one.  Most people that know me have heard the comical story of my first 5k... I decided to pace myself with some random woman in front of me who low and behold, was out for a morning jog and not running the 5k.  I realized this about a mile off course when she ran up her driveway.  Funny story and I'm sure I'm not the only person in the history of the world that this has happened to.  The question is, how many people can say they've managed to do this twice?

This morning, our gym ran the Wolf Hollow 5k in Nashua, which was run congruently with a half marathon.  Guess who made a wrong turn and ended up on the half marathon course... yup, this girl.  I was running with Nike+ on my phone, thankfully, and when I hit mile 3.5, I figured something was a little off.  By the time I was able to get back to civilization (the course was a trail run, naturally), I managed to clock about five miles.  Normally a five mile run isn't that big of a deal if I go in mentally prepared for it, however the 20 degree weather wasn't really helping matters.

On a high note, according to Nike+, I PR-ed my 1k and 5k times in the process.  Woot.  (My enthusiasm is still being smothered but the fact that I am freezing).

I think I'm going to stick to races that are clearly defined or I'm going to get outfitted with a GPS tracking device and request a police escort next time around.  Maybe it's my subconscious telling me that road races really just aren't my thing?  It's not possible to run off course on a Tough Mudder, right?  Maybe I should just stick to lifting heavy things...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Belly up to the Barre!

This past Sunday, I attended my second Blog & Tweet NH event at Strength in Balance, New Hampshire's first barre fitness program.  As this was a completely new experience for me and honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect going in.  After doing a little research and learning that barre is a compilation on yoga, pilates and dance moves, I anticipated something flowing and moderately paced.  I was wrong.

The studio, located at 100 Factory Street, is an unassuming space in a converted mill building with high ceilings, 10 foot windows and original hard wood floors.  There's a certain charm to a space like this that I find incredibly captivating.  Coupled with the warm greeting I revived from instructor Becki Somers upon arrival, I was really excited to give this a try!

We were each given a designated space along the barre, a yoga mat, a small inflatable ball and a set of two pound weights.  By the end of the first segment, those two pound weights felt like they each weight about twenty.

I could definitely see the origins of the movements coming from yoga and ballet, but the pace of the class was far from relaxed.  The soundtrack for the class was also a lot more upbeat than I had anticipated, a combination of contemporary pop and hip hop music.  While not necessarily being what I had anticipated going in, I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun the class was.

Becki was one of the most upbeat, energetic fitness professional I've encountered and she really did a great job tailoring the class to meet the ability of her students while still offering a challenge.

Now, being a CrossFit athlete, I will openly admit I've scoffed at cardio-style worked outs thinking that in order to get a great burn, I needed a 150+ pound barbell lying across my back.  Please note this as my proclamation that I was wrong.  This class seriously kicked my booty!  I can certainly see the value of adding a program like this to my cross training to help improve balance and flexibility, coupled with CrossFit.

If you're interested in giving barre classes a try, the full schedule is available on their website.  The studio offers three variations on Barre including:
  • Booty Barre (a fast paced, calorie burring, cardio workout)
  • Barre Toning (a resistance training class) 
  • Ballerobica (a hybrid of the two using ballet training to lengthen muscles and help tone)
They offer a no-commitment, $12 per class option and your first class is free! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Morning Motivation

I have always been one of those people who likes to use Monday's as a reset button.  If I'm starting a new fitness program, eating plan or project, Monday's have always been a good jumping off point in my mind.  You get a new chance every week so if something doesn't go as planned, it's not like you're looking at something with the magnitude of a New Year's Resolution.

While I'm not kickstarting anything big this Monday, I did need a healthy dose of motivation to get my week off on the right foot.  Friday and Saturday were a bit rough, food-wise, and I'm taking today as an opportunity to put it behind me and get back on track.  Lunch packed, meal prep for the week done and no room for excuses.  Boom.

My goals for the week... focus as much as I can on work, as my industry looses some momentum going into the holiday season and I need some good momentum going in, get my butt back on the primal bandwagon and find a balance that lets me keep momentum in my workouts while still recovering.  Back to that stupid rest thing... I really need to work on that.

What's motivating you this week?  Try to kick it off with some positive goals to help avoid that classic case of "The Mondays."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ahi Tuna Poke Salad

After a long weekend filled with social gatherings, catching up with old friends and the beginnings of holiday shopping, I wanted an easy dinner option last night.  Despite my love of cooking, I do have days where the idea of turning on the stove is just off putting.  Also, taking climate into account, with the onset of winter in New England, my window for chilled dinner options is a mere crack from closing until spring.  I figured I'd make the most of it while I could.

On Sunday, I had picked up a block of Saku tuna while shopping at H Mart.  (Sidebar, if you have an H Mart near you and haven't gone, you should correct that immediately.  They're the largest Asian market company in the US and their meat, fish and produce departments are phenomenal.)  If you've ever had seared tuna that came in a perfect rectangle while dining out, that's Saku.  It's a great product  and incredibly versatile when eaten fresh.  The standard, go-to preparation in our house is to crust it in black pepper and toasted sesame seeds and just lightly sear each side, but I wanted to do something a little different.  Instead, I opted for a Hawaiian-inspired poke which was full of flavor and had fantastic texture.  It gave us a light, protein-filled dinner option that was ready in about 15 minutes - no stove required.  The other bonus is, poke is a dish you can totally "dress up" if you're having company.  Serve it in a martini glass with a few strips of nori on top and you're sure to impress.

Saku Block Tuna Poke

1 lb block of fresh Saku tuna
3 tablespoons coconut aminos (if you're not eating paleo, you can substitute soy sauce or tamari)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon pineapple juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon mirin or rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of black sesame seeds
3 teaspoons chopped green onion

- Cube tuna with a sharp knife into 1 cm blocks
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together all liquid ingredients, salt and pepper
- Add cubed tuna and gently stir in sesame seeds and green onion
- Allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes or until tuna begins to darken in color from the marinade
- Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for a maximum of 2 days

Friday, November 8, 2013

To Lizzy...

For the past three years, it's hard to think about you without thinking about much I miss you.  This year, I want to try an approach things a little differently.  Not having you here sucks and there's nothing that's ever going to change that; you were, are and always will be one of the most important people in my life and to have you taken from us hurts like nothing else I've ever felt.

What I want to focus on however, is how thankful I am.  I'm thankful for the seven years you were a part of my life and the impact you made on me that will never fade.  I'm thankful that I got to meet the little sister I never had growing up.  With that, I'm thankful for all of the challenges we lived through in our friendship because I think that was part of why I think of you as a sister.  Our relationship wasn't perfect but I loved you unconditionally and would have done anything for you.  I'm thankful for each and every memory I have of you and how precious those are to me. 

I remember meeting you and having this instant connection, almost like we were supposed to be friends.  I remember the summer we lived together and all of our nights at Evelyn's and the Cowesett Inn.  I remember coming home to visit when I lived in North Carolina and you being a huge part of what convinced me to move back to Boston.  I remember the Thanksgiving dinner party you threw four years ago and the overwhelming feeling of joy I felt that day.  I remember going out on Saint Patrick's Day and both of us realizing that we were so much older than we thought.  I remember the last time I spoke to you, and despite how sick you were, I could tell how good you were doing.  You had just moved into your new apartment and I was so happy for you.  I can wish a thousand times over that I had tried harder to convince you to come out that night, despite illness, so that I could have seen you one more time but wishing won't change that.  Instead, I'm going to choose be grateful that I got to talk to you that night and in our last conversation, I knew how well you were doing and that you were happy.  

While I still miss you more than anything, I'm choosing to focus on the seven years we had together, instead of three since you've been gone.  I know you're here with me all the time and thinking of you is such a huge inspiration whenever I'm facing a challenge.  For that, I want to thank you.  Without even knowing it, you've pushed me to achieve things I never thought I could.  I love you so much and you hold a place in my heart forever.  XoXo

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My First Rx Benchmark and The Superhero Unleashed Challenge

Today was a pretty exciting day for me.  This morning, I completed my first Rx or "prescribed" benchmark workout.  For all of my non-CrossFit readers, a benchmark is one of 21 workouts, named after women used to assess your level of fitness.  Some are exclusively body weight movements (pull-ups, push-ups, squats and the like) while others include kettle and barbells that come along with a "prescribed" weight for men and for women.  This weight can of course be scaled back to match your ability, which is what I've always done... until today.

This morning, our workout of the day was Grace - 30 clean and jerks with a prescribed weight of 95 lbs (women).  The first time I completed Grace, I scaled it to 65 lbs and completed it in around 4 1/2 minutes, a pretty respectable time.  This was a few months after I had started CrossFit and I was quite satisfied with the result.  Today, I approached the workout from a completely different angle.  I didn't give a damn how long it took me to complete it, I am capable of cleaning and jerking 95 lbs and I was going to completed it at the prescribed weight.  Well, it took me over ten minutes, but I did it.

The level of satisfaction I got today, despite the fact that I added six minutes to my time, far surpassed how I felt when I first completed it.  Up until today, my personal record for a clean and jerk was 95 lbs.  As in, that was my one rep maximum and I just did 30 of them.  I'm starting to learn that the biggest limit I'm facing is my own mind.  I'm not saying I can go twirl a barbell like a baton if I put my mind to it, but I am saying I can probably lift heavier weight than I have been.  Challenge... accepted!

Today was also the second day of the 21-Day Superhero Unleashed Challenge and I must say, compared to the Whole 30, this is a piece of cake.  Each day, you have the opportunity to earn up to six points.  Points are awarded for (1) no sugar, (2) no refined carbs, (3) no alcohol, (4) taking a fish oil supplement, (5) movement and mobility training and (6) executing a daily tip that's emailed to you.  This tip can range from a workout to writing out a list of things that stress you out.  Points are recorded daily with a posted leader board.  James has agreed to try this challenge with me as well and being that he's allowed his daily latte, as long as it's unsweetened, I have a good amount of faith he'll be able to stick with it.  

The think I really like is that it's based on positive reinforcement as opposed to hard and fast rules.  For example, Saturday, we have plans to meet up with friends to celebrate a birthday and knowing that I can have a cocktail or a glass of wine without feeling like I'm "cheating" is a bit step.  I can decide to sacrifice a point for that day and my program is still on track.  

I'm really excited to see how this challenge pans out over the next three weeks.  I'm trying to keep the mentality set up by my Whole 30, in a more "real world" structure and I think this is a great step in the right direction.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

So I've Decided I Like This Challenge Thing...

I like structure.  Even if my structure is self-imposed, it helps me function.  For context, anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm a little bit OCD when it comes to organization.  I was the kid who alphabetized her CD's within separate categories and would twitch a little bit when one was out of place.  In many ways, that's bled into my adult life and made me someone who operates better with some level of guidelines.

The Whole 30 worked for me because it laid out a finite set of rules to follow; the downside being that I don't want to beat myself up for the rest of my life for wanting a piece of cheese.  I could easily turn a Whole 30 into a Whole 365 but when rules are laid out for me, I tend to approach them in an all or nothing mentality.  Eventually, that's going to crash and burn on me.  I've decided that I want to find a happy medium where I can live by these principals that I've adapted into my life over the past month, but find a way to give myself leeway to indulge without feeling like I've derailed myself.

Enter, Emily Schromm's 21-Day Superhero Unleashed Challenge.  It's a paleo/CrossFit challenge based around positive reinforcement for good choices, rather than rigid rules.  You make a good choice, you get a point.  I like points, no matter how arbitrary they may be; that might be the competitive nature in me coming out.  Either way, it seems like it could be a good stepping stone to keep me on track after my Whole 30, while giving a little wiggle room if I decide to have a glass of wine one night after work.  I think it could be a win/win.  I've also gotten James to commit to this as well - we'll see how that goes.

While I'm not planning a full 21-day blog diary, I will keep you updated as to how the challenge is going.  If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, it starts on Wednesday, November 6th and runs until the day before Thanksgiving.  Along with the challenge, you get daily videos from Emily, who is kind of a CrossFit badass.

Unleashed Fitness
Unleash Your Inner Superhero!

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

As part of our weekly meal prep, I wanted to do something using some of the 10 pounds of freshly ground sausage we have in our freezer right now.  Now when I say freshly ground, it's about as fresh as you can get - the pig was raised behind our gym over the past eight months.

Among the countless things I love about our CrossFit gym, it's a community of people who promote the idea of eating locally sourced, high quality food.  Through our gym, we've bought half a pig (yielding around a hundred and sixty pounds of pork), a share of a cow (around 35 pounds of beef) and participated in a CSA vegetable share, saving me lots of farmer's market trips.  Needless to say, our freezer is jam packed (and we haven't even picked up the cow yet) and we don't have to buy much in the way of meat this winter.  I've also been pretty good about freezing the excess of our veggies so we're fully stocked up on fresh kale, swiss chard and zucchini as well.  Yay for feeling prepared!

Back to the sausage.  It's amazingly delicious.  We've been sautéing it up with eggs for breakfast most mornings but I wanted to give it a little more panache.  We had gotten an acorn squash the previous week from our CSA, so low and behold, my Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash was conceived.

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 medium sized acorn squash, sliced lengthwise and seeded
1/2 lb loose sausage
1 cup swiss chard leaves, finely chopped
1/3 white onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 small gala or fuji apple, peeled and chopped
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup almond flour
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon sea salt, divided
6-7 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a baking dish, lay acorn squash, cut side up, brush with coconut oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg
- Bake for 45 minutes
- Saute your sausage until thoroughly cooked
- Add diced onion, celery, apple, garlic, swiss chard and sage, cooking until onions are translucent
- In a mixing bowl, add almond flour to the beaten egg and whisk until combined
- Add the cooked sausage mixture to the egg and mix until well incorporated
- Stuff sausage mixture in to the squash, cover with tin foil and return to the oven for 20 minutes

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Life Post Whole 30 & Paleo Breakfast Bread

So I know there's a lot of debate around "paleo" baked goods.  I kind of agree with the mentality that if you're not going to eat the real thing, stop half-assing it, however this past week being off the Whole 30 has been even more eye opening than the actual 30 day program.

Reintroducing sugars, gluten and dairy to my diet has been a lot more uncomfortable than I thought, with gluten being my biggest issue.  Now I'm not saying that I have celiac or that I'm gluten intolerant, but there's definitely an issue with the way my body processes it.  It's actually making me wonder why I was ever okay with feeling this way before.  The sugar reintroduction has been mild - mostly honey or stevia in small amounts.  I honestly haven't felt the impulse to make things incredibly sweet.  Dairy has also been limited.  I'm still drinking my coffee black without issue, but I've added plain greek yogurt and cheese back in and haven't noticed much change.  I'm trying to keep my intake limited to once per day at most and haven't noticed much change in the way I feel.

This brings me to today's brunch - fresh farmer's market eggs, ground sausage from "our pig" and paleo breakfast bread.  I wanted something baked to enjoy with my brunch but honestly had no desire to feel like I was being gutted.  I've tried making paleo breakfast breads in the past and there's been a little bit of trial and error to get to my final recipe, but I'm really happy with the outcome.  If you're looking for a sweeter bread, you can double the honey and stevia amounts without altering the texture.

Paleo Breakfast Bread

1/2 cup almond butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon stevia
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 tablespoon flax meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Nonstick coconut oil spray

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- In a mixing bowl, combine almond butter, eggs, honey, stevia and vanilla and whip util fluffy using a hand mixer
- Add in dry ingredient and mix on low speed until smooth and well incorporated
- Spray a mini loaf pan* with coconut oil spray and spoon batter into the pan
- Bake for 18-22 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and remove it cleanly
- Remove bread from the pan immediately and allow 5-10 minutes to cool
- Serve warm with honey butter or fruit preserves

*You can double the recipe for a full size loaf pan

Friday, November 1, 2013

Roasted Asparagus & Avocado Soup

So this past week, I made my first batch of bone broth.  If you read anything about paleo nutrition, bone broth is one of their staples - an inexpensive, nutrient dense protein source with tons of applications.  I figured it was time to jump on the broth bandwagon and make a batch of my own.

After a few days of sipping straight broth, I decided it was time to find a new application.  Not to dis broth, but well, it was time to make things a bit more interesting.  This past week, we got some fantastic late season asparagus and I wanted to work that in to some interesting new recipes as well.  Still trying to keep within the Whole 30 guidelines, I didn't want to use dairy if I didn't need to and thought avocado would add a nice textural element.  The result?  A creamy, rich bisque-like soup that's satisfying and nutrient dense.

Bone Broth

3-4 lbs of bones (beef marrow bones and chicken feet are the most highly recommended in my reading)
1/2 white onion
3 ribs of celery
2 medium sized carrots
1 sprig of rosemary
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/8 cup of kosher salt
Any leftover vegetable scraps you may have from cooking
Enough water to fill your crockpot

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Roast bones on a rimmed baking sheet for 35-40 minutes
- Roughly chop vegetables
- Place bone in a large crockpot and add vegetables, herbs, salt and water
- Turn on low and simmer for 3 days (yes, 3 days)
- Strain the broth to remove all solids
- Using a gravy separator, skim off any fat that rises up to the top layer
- Store in glass containers in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks

Roasted Asparagus & Avocado Soup

12-15 spears of fresh asparagus
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups bone broth
1 avocado
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons sea salt
5-6 grinds of freshly cracked pepper

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Toss asparagus spears, garlic and olive oil together and roast for 10-12 minutes
- Heat bone broth in a small sauce pan until warm (not boiling)
- In a high powered blender, combine all ingredients and mix on high speed until a creamy constancy is achieved

Pumpkin Kisses

Last night, we celebrated Halloween with the wonderful people of [OCN] CrossFit in a grueling, yet incredibly fun team workout fully decked out in costume.  Although the workout was followed by a borage of snacks and beverages, it was definitely a different way to celebrate the holiday from past years.  Two years ago, if you would have told me I'd be more excited about deadlifts, handstand pushups and burpees than keg stands and flip cup, I'd probably have laughed pretty hard.

When trying to figure out what to contribute to the post workout buffet, I wanted to keep with the Halloween theme and coming off of my Whole 30, I wanted to try and keep it as close to paleo as possible.  I opted for my snack staple of sliced apples with pumpkin almond butter, pumpkin Whole 30 granola and a new creation - pumpkin kisses.  Fluffy, crisp little puffs with a subtle sweetness and a distinct pumpkin pie flavor.

With regard to coming off the Whole 30, I didn't pay enough attention to the reintroduction instructions and caused myself a good deal of unnecessary pain.  The slice of pizza and beer and a half I ate last night after the workout ripped my stomach apart in ways I'm not going to describe in an effort to prevent over sharing.  We'll just leave it as, it was unpleasant.  Very unpleasant.  Today, I'm going through our pantry and refrigerator and fully purging anything that isn't going to make us feel good.  What's the point of eating something that causes me to curl into the fetal position, wrenching in pain?  Is the few moments of gratification from eating worth the aftereffects?  For me, I don't think so.  When we started the Whole 30, we tossed a good deal of junk and stored what we were ready to part with in a box downstairs.  Well, I'm ready to part with it.

Pumpkin Kisses

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon of creme of tartar or arrowroot starch
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar

- Preheat oven to 200 degrees
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- In a stand mixer, beat egg whites and creme of tartar/arrowroot starch on high until stiff peaks form
- Add in pie spice, cardamon and vanilla and whip for an additional 30 seconds
- Slowly add in coconut sugar and turn down your mixer to low speed
- Turn off the mixer and gently fold in the pumpkin
- Transfer your egg white mixture to a piping bag with a large fluted tip
- Pipe your "kisses" across the parchment paper, leaving about 1/4 inch between each one to account for spreading
- Bake for one hour
- Turn off your oven and crack the door, leaving the kisses in the oven to cool completely
- Carefully lift kisses off the parchment paper using an offset metal spatula
- Store in an airtight container, free of all moisture, for up to a week

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pilates & More with Elina the Trainer

Tucked in the back of one of Manchester's historic mill buildings on Commercial Street, is a bright, sunny room adorned with pink curtains and Hello Kitty wall art.  Here, Elina Davis uses her years of dance and fitness experience to train her clients in both fundamental and contemporary Pilates methods.

I've done several Pilates classes over the years and I must say, Elina's energy and engaging personality are unmatched by any instructor I've ever worked with.  She brings a great deal of enthusiasm to what she does, making the class enjoyable for all skill levels from beginner to advanced, keeping the atmosphere light and entertaining.

I joined the Blog & Tweet New Hampshire networking group for an introduction class with Elina this week.  Throughout the 45 minutes, she focused primarily on standard Pilates movements, while adding in elements of martial arts and ballet, making the style her own.  She offers a wide variety of classes ranging from rehabilitation, focusing on range of motion work to Bandilates, an intermediate level workout with a strong emphasis on resistance training.  

Her schedule is diverse with both mid-afternoon and evening classes six days per week in addition to private training sessions.  

Check out the studio out at http://www.pilates-and-more.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ElinaTheTrainer for more information.  

I MADE IT!!! - Day 30

While I'm not going to pretend that the past 30 days have been a picnic (heck, there's evidence to prove otherwise), this experience on the whole as been overwhelmingly positive.  I feel fantastic, I enjoy the food that I've been eating and contrary to the belief I had going in, I don't feel limited or deprived.   Am I going to live by the strict, Whole 30 guidelines for the rest of my life?  No, but I do have every intention of maintaining a predominantly paleo lifestyle post challenge.

In the past 30 days, I've learned to like unsweetened coffee, lived without dairy products (something I never thought was possible for me), lost over 8 lbs and nearly 2 inches from my waist and developed habits that I think can be beneficial to anyone looking to live even a slightly more healthy lifestyle.  Small things like prepping our meals so we have healthy options during the week and packing my lunches have really made this so much easier.  As much as I love to cook, after a long workday and CrossFit, I'm not always looking to prepare something from scratch.  Again, just small things I want to take with me beyond my Whole 30.

Will I do another Whole 30?  Absolutely.  I think it's a great way to "reset," particularly after things like holidays or vacations where your choices may not be the most on track.  For the month of November (pre Thanksgiving anyway), I wanted to try and challenge myself in a slightly different way and registered for the Unleashed Fitness 21-day Superhero Challenge, hosted by Emily Schromm (CrossFit badass of MTV's The Challenge fame).  It's a slightly different approach where you score points for making positive choices vs. limiting your options.   The challenge also comes with daily videos to help inspire you, keep you on track and give you some workout options you can preform at home with minimal equipment.

All in all, I'm so glad I choose to challenge myself to complete the Whole 30.  There were certainly some bumps along the way, but the overall experience has been overwhelmingly positive.  If you're thinking about trying your own Whole 30 or if you just like free stuff, enter to win a Whole 30 prize pack here.

Thank you all so much for following me through this experience and helping me hold myself accountable.  :-)

Monday, October 28, 2013

The End is Near (and I'm not ecstatic) - Day 29

So with two days left, I expected to be overjoyed at the idea of compete freedom in my eating choices upon me.  Surprisingly, not so much.  James suggested we order pizza on Wednesday to celebrate the conclusion of the program and honestly, I'm not feeling it.  I actually have very little desire to diverge from the program.  Not to say I'm never going to eat pizza again, but it's definitely something I'll save for rare occasions.

Once thing I've definitely reevaluated is the need for sugar (meaning any sweetener) in my life.  I've learned to enjoy my coffee unsweetened, left the maple syrup out of my paleo granola recipe and generally accepted that I just don't need everything to be sweet.  It's amazing how much more I notice the sweetness levels in foods when you remove added sugars from your diet.  Again, another practice I have full intention of maintaining post Whole 30.

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Granola

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup cashew pieces
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup hulled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped dates
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 300 degrees
- Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until well coated
- Lay mixture out in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet
- Bake for 12-15 minutes
- Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to one week
- Eat dry as a snack or serve with coconut milk as a cereal

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Reflections & Salt Cured Tomatoes - Day 28

Today I started my meal prep for the week and kind of had a little 'a ha' moment.  Even though I'm done with the program as of Tuesday, I have no desire to stop my meal planning or gorge myself on pizza and ice cream on Wednesday.  I think that's kind of the point, so yay, go me!  

This week's meal prep included herbed lamb burgers with sautéed mushrooms and onions, carved roasted chicken, baked spaghetti squash, gravlax (cured salmon), bison stuffed bell peppers, baharat spiced pumpkin bisque and salt cured tomatoes.  In listening to the Girls Gone WOD podcast this week, they were interviewing Will White, the owner of Caveman Cafeteria, a paleo food truck & meal prep service in Denver.  There was talk of salt cured tomatoes and how incredible they are so I was prompted to do a little research and see what all the fuss was about.  I had picked up some gorgeous tomatoes at the farmers market yesterday and figured this seemed like a pretty good application and rendered my own recipe.  They're definitely salty (as are most things you cure with salt) but when dressed properly, they were pretty fantastic little bursts of bright, tomato-y freshness.  When you salt cure anything, you're stripping out the water, which in turn concentrates the flavor - pretty fabulous.  

Salt Cured Tomatoes

4-6 fresh, ripe roma* tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely ground kosher salt 
4-5 fresh bass leaves, chiffonade (cut into thin ribbons)
3 cups fresh arugula 
1 tablespoon high quality olive oil
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar 
4-5 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper 

- On a rimmed baking sheet, spread 1/4 cup of kosher salt evenly across the bottom
- Slice you tomatoes using a serrated knife into 1/2 inch slices 
- Lay your slices out on your baking sheet and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of salt across the tops
- Allow the tomatoes to cure for 30-45 minutes at room temperature 
- Remove the slices from the pool of liquid at the bottom of the pan
- Gently rinse your tomato slices
- Serve atop arugula, lightly dressed with vinegar, oil, basil and pepper 
- You can also store you tomatoes in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days 

*I used romas, however use whichever type is the freshest and readily available locally 

Happy Halloween [Party] - Day 27

The closer I get to the end of this program, the harder social gatherings become.  Tonight we went to a friend's halloween party and I'm not going to lie, it was a variable cornucopia of temptation - buffalo chicken dip, cake pops, cocktails and the like.  So far, I've been good about going in prepared with my own snacks, but tonight, I just didn't give it enough forethought.  I did however bring my kombucha in lieu of cocktails and quite enjoyed my libations.  All in all, we had a really good time and I managed to stick to my plan, but I did learn a lesson - I need to to into these things better prepared, be it bringing snacks with me or eating beforehand.  Lesson learned and we push onward!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Meh... - Day 26

Today was a bit rough.  I know I'm so close to the end, but I'm still entitled to an off day.  I didn't eat well.  I mean, I didn't go off plan, but I didn't eat nearly the amount of protein I have been and I felt the consequences at the gym tonight.  The metcon was hard... 4 rounds, 3 minutes per round: run 400 meters, 5 overhead squats, 5 power cleans, 8 chest to bar pushups - the number of seconds you finish under 3 minutes is your score (or deduct the number of seconds you go over).  It was a partner workout, so you had 3 minutes of rest between sets but don't let that fool you, it was a hard 12 minutes of work.  It would have been challenging regardless, but the lack of protein certainly contributed.  Lesson learned.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The End is in Sight & Turkey Schnitzel - Day 25

Schnitzel is such a fun word, I wish it had more applications in daily vocabulary.  Technically, it's referencing a German style of meat preparation where meat is pounded out thinly, breaded and fried, but it just has such a fun way of rolling off your tongue.  As part of my weekly meal prep, I've been making almond crusted chicken fingers and this week, James suggested mixing things up with some turkey tenderloins.  Enter the plan for schnitzel.  Also, it just plays in the whole seasonality of October - yay Germans!  

Turkey Schnitzel

1 lb turkey tenderloins
1 egg
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup of almond meal
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2 teaspoons dried parsley 
1 teaspoon paprika 
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
9-10 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper 
Coconut oil for frying

- Using a meat tenderizer, pound out your turkey loins until they are an even thickness throughout, around 1/8 of an inch thick
- In a bowl, whisk together your egg, mustard and half the salt 
- Marinate your turkey for 10 minutes in the egg mixture
- In a paper bag, combine almond meal, flax and spices; shake well 
- Toss turkey loins into the paper bag, one at a time, shaking vigorously to coat
- Heat your coconut oil in a large skillet 
- Cook each tenderloin for 3-4 minutes on each side or until crispy and golden brown
- Serve with mustard aioli and lemon wedges 

Mustard Aioli

1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped 
1 teaspoon tarragon, finely chopped 
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6-7 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper 

- In a blender, combine mustard, egg yolk, vinegar, shallot and seasonings
- Combine on low speed for 20 seconds
- While the blender is still running, drizzle the oil into the mixture and continue to blend for 30 seconds
- Add more oil to adjust consistency to desired thickness  

In other news, I'm approaching the final five days of my Whole 30.  While a part of me is excited to return to the freedom to eat whatever I want, another piece of me is almost a little afraid to do so.  While the plan has been strict, I've managed to stick to it because that's what the rules say I'm supposed to do. I think it's going to be a bigger challenge for me to maintain his way of eating without the imposed rigidity.  Not saying I won't be able to manage, it's just going to be a bit harder, that's all.  We'll see... and like I mentioned in a prior entry, I promise periodic updates as to how life is going post Whole 30.  

If you're considering your own Whole 30, would like to learn a bit more about what it's all about or just like free stuff, check out our latest giveaway here: http://bit.ly/1fWpnwo 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hoping to Inspire - Day 24

So despite the ups and downs I've experienced over the past 24 days, I really do consider this to be a fantastic experience.  Overall, I feel healthier, cleaner (if that makes any sense) and stronger than I did prior to the program.  With six days left, I really do have the intention of maintaining this after the fact - and I promise periodic updates to hold myself accountable.  With our box's 2014 Winter Games, the CrossFit Open and committing to a 2014 Tough Mudder all on the calendar for the next six months, the last thing I intend to do is undo the progress I've made.  Will I stick to it with the 100% level of commitment I've committed to for thirty days?  Probably not, but I will commit to making better choices overall.

With that being said, I would love the opportunity to inspire my readers to try their own Whole 30.  I'm hosting a giveaway to win a Whole 30 Prep Pack.  Check it out here: http://bit.ly/1fWpnw0 and you can enter daily for a chance to win your own hardcover copy of "It Starts With Food," an EZ Freeze Bento Box Lunch container to help with meal prep and a Primal Kitchen Snack Pack filled with Whole 30 approved treats.  Check it out.  Who doesn't like free stuff?

Feeling Like Me Again - Day 23

So I no longer feel like I've been beaten with a large stick, which I'm considering to be a step in the right direction.  I took Monday off from CrossFit and cardio workouts and focused solely on mobility work and foam rolling.  Today, we had a snatch technique workshop that while tiring, was more rooted in movement and form that really gave me another day to regroup and recover.  While I'm not going to take a full week off (that's just craziness), I'm committing to myself to take it easier and focus on not overtraining so that I can be back at my peak.

Today was one of the easier days when it came to eating.  No weird, overwhelming cravings or desire to eat everything in sight.  I had a bit more sugar that I have been eating (in the form of grapes and a banana) and had a slight headache in the afternoon - not sure if they're related but it's something I want to keep an eye on.  I think the sugar reduction has been the most beneficial component for me on the Whole 30.  Being someone who's always been prone to migraines and has struggled with weight, it's something I've known I had to cut back on for sometime but just haven't made the active commitment to doing so.

I've been really starting to think about how I want the Whole 30 to carry over past day 30 into my everyday choices.  While I know I won't look at the stringent rules as something I need to follow day in and day out, I do want to try and maintain the general principals when making choices in the future.  Maybe we cut our weekly pizza to once a month and I think about ordering sashimi instead of maki rolls when we go out for Japanese food... little things.  When it comes to packing my lunches for work, I have no desire to go back to Special K bars and want to generally try and keep the Whole 30 principals in mind.  We'll see how it goes, but I think the first step is to go in with good intentions and a plan.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Accepting the Need to Rest - Day 22

So I sucked it up and took a full rest day today.  I ate my protein, I foam rolled, did my mobility exercises - go me!  I'm not going to lie and say it was an easy thing to do because it wasn't, but I did it (and I needed it).  I know it's a mind game - I'm fully aware the I'm not a failure for not going to the gym for a day and my week is not ruined, it's just a mental hurdle I need to work through.

The hardest part was honestly being home while James was working out because it gave me the opportunity to think about all of the foods that I can't have.  I'm a big fan of distraction when it comes to committing to things.  If I'm not constantly preoccupied with something, it's much easier to stick with a plan.  Idle time when I'm home along has definitely proved the hardest for me.  On the upside, the end is truly in sight and I can already feel the rush of accomplishment when I finish.  Just 8 days to go!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Did I Get Hit by a Bus in my Sleep? - Day 21

So after an exhilarating win by the Red Sox last night, I had the joy of waking myself up at 5:30am on a Sunday morning and spending 2+ hours in the car traveling down to Rhode Island for a Color Run 5k.  Sometimes, I question what I was thinking when I signed up for these things - the best answer I can muster up is that I wasn't.  Don't get me wrong, it's always great to see some of my friends from Bryant and oddly enough, 3.1 miles isn't an intimidating distance for me at this point by any means, but being pelted with handfuls of colored corn starch (not paleo may I add) early in the morning just wasn't fun for me.  I also learned that I have a pretty bad sensitivity to red dye as I was covered in hives anywhere that had been hit with pink or orange powder.

With regard to my eating, it really wasn't that challenging of a day.  I made my protein "salad" (a pouch of tuna, 2 hard boiled eggs, 1/2 avocado, 1 tablespoon chopped onions, 2 tablespoons chopped celery and 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar) the night before and ate that on the way down and enjoyed a pumpkin pie Larabar prior to running.  No major challenges.

After getting home however and realizing how sore and worn out I felt, I did start thinking.  The Whole 30 may be causing me to overtrain.  I couldn't think of the last time I had taken a legitimate rest day.  The biggest component to me staying on track has been keeping myself occupied as to not think about the foods that I'm not supposed to be eating - one of the easiest ways to do that has been going to the gym.  Pre-Whole 30, I would say I was averaging 3-4 days of Cross Fit and 2-3 days of cardio or other activity (often overlapping, i.e. I would go for a run or a swim on my lunch break and then go to Cross Fit after work).  Looking at the last 2 weeks, I've been to Cross Fit 5 and 6 times respectively and averaged 4 cardio sessions each week - hence resulting in me feeling like I participated in an MMA fight over the weekend.

Rest days have always played mind games with me.  I feel like when I take a day off, I'm skipping out on a workout or being lazy.  The truth is, I'm afraid of falling back into the sedentary lifestyle I was sucked into for so many years.  I know one day of not going to the gym is not a gateway to becoming a couch potato, but being completely candid, it can leave me feeling like I failed that day.  From a logical perspective, I know rest days are healthy, positive and necessary but from an emotional standpoint, I'm copping out.  It's a hurdle I need to figure out the best way to overcome.  Like most things, recognizing an issue is typically the first piece of the puzzle.

I'm thinking I have a hot date with a foam roller at lunch time today.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Entering the Home Stretch - Day 20

So I'm really glad that today was a better day with regard to controlling cravings because it was also riddled with temptation.

We started the day by having some friends from the gym over for brunch.  They're also in the middle of a Whole 30 and we thought it would be fun to have them over and celebrate the 2/3 of the way milestone.  It's also nice to be around other people that understand the challenges of the roller coaster you've been on.  We enjoyed corned beef & sweet potato hash, smoked bacon, over easy eggs, sautéed kale, seared bananas and fresh fruit salad.  Not half bad for a Whole 30 spread, eh?

Afterwards, we went to help out the gym at the Hudson Pumpkinfest.  They were spreading the bug of Cross Fit with some work out demos, rowing races and PR ladders.  It was actually a really fun afternoon and possibly one of the last gorgeous days to be outside that we can expect this year.  The downside?  Pumpkinfest is a fair - fried foods galore, cotton candy, food trucks serving poutine, deep fried PB&J and kettle corn.  Not to mention the bowl of Reeses pumpkins and Snickers bars sitting on the table all day.  It was challenging, and had I been dealing with the cravings I was having on Friday, I'm not completely convinced that I could have had the willpower to withstand.  Like I've said before, being surrounded by people who are supportive and encouraging really does help!  Thanks everyone for keeping me on track, wether or not you know it - you've all been a huge part in this being successful.

On an unrelated note, go Red Sox!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Eat All the Things (part 2) - Day 19

So remember how in yesterday's recap I talked about not being hungry all day?  Yeah... that wasn't the case today.  All day, I felt like I was within millimeters of breaking.  I wanted chocolate, potato chips, pizza, ice cream, crackers - you name it.  If I can't have it, I wanted it.

I don't normally crave sugar.  I'm not going to say I don't enjoy desserts, but given the choice, salty, fried and crunchy will nearly always win.  Today, I may have killed someone for a cupcake if the option was presented to me.  The hardest part?  One of the Whole 30 fundamentals is not giving in to the "sugar monster."  Things like dates and Lara Bars are approved, but you're not supposed to eat them to kill a sugar craving because to your brain, there's no difference between a bag of dates and a bag of gummy bears.  The idea is to train yourself that you're in control of your cravings and they don't control you.  I feel like I deserve a point because I didn't give in, despite how bad I wanted to.  Go me!

Even though I didn't cave, I'm not going to downplay how challenging today was.  I had a hard time not devouring every piece of food in the house, paleo or not.  I may have overeaten a bit and given in to snacking, but I stayed to the approved list, so there's that.  Sometimes, I'm willing to accept that it's about winning little battles.

Head Down, Trudge On - Day 18

I feel like the past few days have been bar none, the hardest portion of this whole program.  It's not even that I'm craving forbidden foods, it's more that I just feel drained and depleted.  Today, I wasn't hungry for the majority of the day.  I kind of had to force myself to eat honestly and I know that didn't help my energy levels or my performance at tonight's WOD (which felt far more challenging that I had anticipated).

With regard to what I'm eating, I'm really enjoying everything.  I have yet to eat something I didn't want to or had to "force down." Honestly, I'm also not missing cheese as much as I had anticipated either (for those of you unaware, cheese is my favorite food of all time).  I'm also still sleeping significantly better than I was prior to the Whole 30, leaving me with no solid explanation of why I feel so drained and worn down.  Thoughts?  I'd love to have some input if anyone has experienced something similar before on either a Whole 30 or similar plan.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Little Sluggish - Day 17

On the roller coaster of the Whole 30, today was definitely a valley, not a peak.  All day, there was a certain fatigue that I just couldn't shake.  I was more than satisfied after each of my meals, it just felt like no matter how full I was, I just couldn't up my energy.

Our workout was challenging at the gym tonight and afterwards, I had that nauseous feeling you get when you try and workout on an empty stomach, but I had eaten about an hour beforehand, making it even more uncomfortable.   I had gotten a decent night of sleep prior, I had eaten well but I just couldn't shake the fatigue.  Honestly, it was a little frustrating.  I know there can be set backs at any point but it's  kind of annoying when I'm putting in so much effort to stick with this plan and then I feel like I was beaten with a stick.  I'm over the halfway hump, which I'm pretty proud of and just hoping this feeling will pass quickly.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I'm Still Awful at Volleyball - Day 16

I'm about to date myself with this reference, but when we have volleyball games at the gym, I feel a little like Daria (for those of you not in the know, you should google the MTV cartoon circa 1999 an indulge yourself in an episode on youtube).  Recreational volleyball is a skill set I never perfected in junior high gym class and unfortunately, it followed me into adulthood - who knew?  On the upside, being picked last in seventh grade was a traumatic experience that I would have given anything to avoid whereas being picked last now is at least something I can own and be okay with.   

Unfortunately, no amount of protein in my diet will ever improve my ability to hit a ball over a net.  C'est la vie.  Aside from spending two hours flailing around a volleyball court, today went pretty darn well.  I'm over the halfway hump and still going strong.  I'm also down a total of 8 lbs from the first day of the program.  Again, I'm fully aware that weigh loss is a byproduct, not a driving force behind the Whole 30, but I'm still excited to be shedding some of the weight that's been hanging on despite my workouts.  

I've been trying to focus on keeping my sugar intake as low as I can, which is much easier when your primary source is fruit, with some success.  I'm excited to finish out these last two weeks strong and make the most of every day.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Half Way Mark - Day 15

So I've officially survived half of the Whole 30 program without cheating.  Wahoo!  I will say I'm pretty proud of myself.  While I'm not planning on extending it to a Whole 60, I do still have every intention of maintaining this way of eating after the program.  One of my initial goals was to "reset" my approach to food going into the holiday season and be able to feel good about making better choices and I think that's definitely in the cards.

I'm not saying I'll never eat a cupcake again, but I will think about how that cupcake is going to make me feel after eating it - not just the instant gratification of shoving it in my face.  I am curious how it's going to feel to integrate things like gluten and dairy back into my diet in 15 days, but for the time being, it's a moot point.

Short version of the story, I still feel like I'm going strong and can easily finish out the next two weeks without issue.  I spent a good part of my day at home yesterday meal prepping for the week and when we have a refrigerator full of delicious proteins, fruits and vegetables, it really does make this so much simpler to stick to.

I'd also like to thank everyone for the overwhelming words of encouragement and support over the past two weeks.  It's really been appreciated knowing that I've got people standing behind me in this endeavor.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Really Kick Ass Steak - Day 14

So despite the fact that I was able to stick to the Whole 30 guidelines yesterday, my calorie intake was still on the higher side and I wanted to make sure I wasn't undoing all of the progress I've made so far on the weight loss front.  Sunday is traditionally our grocery shopping day and errand day and I made sure to watch my calorie intake throughout the day.  We also had some friends over for dinner and I wanted to make something that they'd also enjoy, despite not being on the Whole 30.

One thing I remembered reading from the Whole 9 Life website before I began this endeavor was that yes, 100% cacao is allowed on the plan but to treat it as a spice or a seasoning.  I tossed some cacao nibs, Kona coffee beans, cumin, paprika and a mole seasoning blend into a spice grinder to created a course rub for some fantastic looking rib eyes.  It formed this amazing crust that complimented the earthiness of the meat.  The fat marbled into the meat melted in the cast iron skillet to help caramelize the crust adding a texture to the mouthfeel that was seriously incredible.

It's been kind of cool to step outside of my comfort zone with flavors and food preparation.  I think I had put myself in a little bit of a rut and cutting aspects out of my diet has really helped me find new ways to coax out flavors and textures.

Excited for the Columbus Day holiday tomorrow so I can spend some time prepping food for the week!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Yes, I Can Still Live My Life - Day 13

So I managed to stick to the Whole 30 today, despite meeting a friend for lunch at a bar, having dinner at one of my favorite restaurants and going to a baseball game.  If that's not a day that proves that this isn't impossible, I don't know what is.

I met my friend Ben for lunch at The Peddler's Daughter, an Irish bar in Nashua, NH.  Yes, it's a bar, but they have a scratch kitchen which I must say, made this a lot easier.  I had their Breakfast Burger (8oz of beef, applewood smoked bacon, sliced tomato and a sunny side up farm egg) without the bun and cheese and enjoyed every protein-laden bite.  I know it wasn't grass-fed beef, but for bar food, I'd be happy eating it even if I wasn't Whole 30-ing.

For dinner, James and I went to Barcelona Wine Bar in Brookline, MA.  I'm a huge advocate of any good tapas restaurant and the fact that Barcelona is one of my clients doesn't hurt.  I was actually a little more intimidated going in than I was with lunch, but I really tried to keep to the idea that my end goal is worth so much more than the immediate gratification of any one food.  We found six mouth watering, decadent options subsisting of meat and vegetables, void of gluten, dairy and added sugars.  I opted for a club soda in lieu of my go-to glass of Rioja, which I'm not going to pretend was half as good, but it's okay.  We had an incredible meal out, were able to enjoy each other's company and I didn't have to compromise my goals.  Yay, winner!

We ended the evening at Fenway park, which included a baseball game that I'm not going to talk about because then you'll be reading my rant about poor umpiring skills and let's be honest, you didn't ask for that.  I brought my own strawberry infused seltzer water and a chia seed kombucha and honestly, enjoyed both more than any $8 beer I've had there in the past.  I may have had to explain with kombucha is to the woman checking my purse, but I'm such an advocate of the sealed beverages rule at the park.

All in all, I really managed to live my life, eat out and still maintain the goal I set for myself.  I'd call it a pretty successful (and enjoyable) day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Go Me! - Day 12

So being a Friday, today was another work from home day for me and after last week, I went in with a lot less apprehension.  I would certainly deem it a successful day.  I didn't really think about snacking, I ate when I was hungry and I ate what I was supposed to eat.

I've always been kind of a boredom eater.  I don't really eat because I'm stressed, I eat because I have nothing else to do... or because I'm watching a movie and I'm "supposed" to have a snack... or because I'm at a social gathering and well, there's food there.  You get the idea.  Twelve days into this program, I think the biggest takeaway I'm hoping for is to be able to separate hunger from cravings.  I'd like to overall be more conscious of my choices when all is said and done.  I'm thinking that's something reasonable to hope for.

I also managed to increase my back squat PR by 15 lbs and my bench press PR by 5 lbs tonight - gains that I'm pretty pleased with.  I know it's obviously not all attributed to eating better but it certainly can't be hurting!

Screw You Pintrest - Day 11

Lesson learned - looking at Pintrest while on the Whole 30 is not a great idea.  While eating rotisserie chicken and sautéed kale, I don't want to know how to make double chocolate peanut butter fudge cream cheese brownies and cheesy twice baked potato skins.  I just don't.  It really is a giant photo album of foods that I can't (and honestly in many ways, don't want to) eat right now and looking at it just put me in a bad place mentally.

I will be boycotting the social media site for the next 19 days in hopes of refocusing my energy on all of the positive things I'm doing.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the endless collection of recipes, craft ideas and decorating ideas but we're taking a little time apart.

Aside from that, today actually went pretty well.  I felt a bit more back on track without the intense cravings and hunger pains.  I took a rest day from my workouts because I've had some pretty intense soreness in my lower back and hips and just felt a day off may be the best course of action.  Friday, we're attempting PR's (personal records) at the gym and I'm hoping a day off will help me add a few extra pounds.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eat All The Things - Day 10

So, today was a day of being ravenously hungry from the moment I woke up.  So much for not eating enough calories.  When I'm ready to eat my lunch at 9:30am, I know there's something a little off of the norm going on.

This is the first time I've stuck with an eating plan and kept in 100% clean for more than a week in quite some time.  Prior to the Whole 30, I was a classic case of someone who could keep to a plan Monday through Thursday without question.  Friday would roll around and I'd get a bit more lax with my choices and by the time the weekend hit, eating clean was out the door.  I know I'm only 1/3 of the way through the program at this point, but I'm still feeling a certain level of accomplishment for sticking with it.  However the fact still remains, I want to eat everything in sight.

On the upside, I'm craving foods that I should be eating.  For example, right now, I really want a bit bowl of spinach and a ribeye smothered in mushrooms and onions.  I suppose I'll take that over wanting a Snickers bar.

It's definitely strange having to adjust to challenges later in the program than I had initially anticipated.  I went into this expecting the first week to feel like complete hell and quite frankly, I felt like a million bucks.  I think I started to shift my expectations at that point and just began to subconsciously assume this whole 30 day ride would be a piece of cake.  I'm certainly experiencing my own hurdles and I think it's completely normal for everyone to feel different when making substantial changes to their intake.  I went in expecting a "textbook" experience and I'm really starting to realize that my body is very much an individual and this journey is going to be unique.  The way I'm looking at it, I'll continue to face obstacles as they're presented and keep moving forward - 20 days to go.

And for the record, I made it until 11am before devouring my lunch.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Okay, Today Was a Bit of a Challenge - Day 9

Nine days in and I'm going to be honest, today was a little tough.  Most of the day was fine - I packed my lunch, stuck to my plan and was moving along issue free.   When I got home from the gym, I was solo for dinner (James is traveling for work) and sautéed some fresh kale in a bit of truffle oil and topped it with an over easy egg and half an avocado.  As I was loading the dishwasher, the sugar monster hit.  The first time in nine days I've really had to deal with a sugar craving.

It would have been so easy to indulge in a piece of chocolate and no one would be the wiser.  I'm going to be honest, it was incredibly tempting.  It also prompted a bit of an internal conversation in my head; yes, that's a relatively common occurrence for me.  When I told myself that my end goals of succeeding on this program were more important to me than the immediate gratification of eating a pieces of chocolate, I realized that I've made something resembling progress.  Two weeks ago, the chocolate would have won.  Tonight, I made a cup of tea, turned off the kitchen light and went to go cheer on the Red Sox.  Amber - 1, Chocolate - 0.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Am I Eating Enough? - Day 8

So along with the Whole 30, I've been continuing to track my daily food intake and exercise in My Fitness Pal.  I know that counting calories isn't a key component on the Whole 30 plan, but it's a tool I've been using for over a year now with some success.  I like holding myself accountable and seeing what types of choices I'm making.  One of the biggest observations I can infer after the past week, I'm eating a lot of food, but no where near the calories I was eating before starting the program.  When you replace gluten-y carbs and added sugars with green vegetables and fruits, you maintain fullness without adding extra calories.  I've actually been struggling to meet my calorie goals so I can stay on top of my workouts.

I am however completely obsessed with the pumpkin almond butter I made yesterday.  If I would have made it pre-Whole 30, I would have added a sweetener without even thinking twice about it.  Not only does it not need one, I think it may be better without it.  If you haven't tried making it yet, get on that.  You won't be sorry.

I'm also a hug fan of Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride tea.  I know it's a bit early to be thinking of sleigh rides, but it's never a bad time for a vanilla infused herbal tea.  It's also caffeine free and makes a great evening treat.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pumpkin Almond Butter - Day 7

So today marks a a full week of Whole 30 and honestly, I feel fantastic.  I'm really proud of myself for sticking with this and I'm feeling the benefits at this point.  I'm excited to see how my workouts go this week - not necessarily looking for monumental improvement, but an increase in stamina shouldn't be too much to ask for.

I've planned out our meals for the week and prepped all of my proteins to ensure options.  Even having a plan, there are always times that frankly, I just don't feel like what's on the menu.  That being said, for me at least, having choices has been key.  This week's protein choices: hard boiled eggs, dill crusted smoked salmon, carved rotisserie chicken, almond crusted chicken tenderloins, and mini horseradish burgers.  I've also got frozen tilapia ready to go as an easy to cook mid-week dinner option as well.  I really do believe in the idea of "planning to succeed is rooted in succeeding to plan."  Maybe it's because I'm a little OCD on my organization, but it works for me - therefore, I'm going to roll with it.

Along with prepping my protein for the week, I made a completely Whole 30 approved treat that I'm pretty darn excited about.  I was listening to the Girls Gone WOD podcast yesterday (If you haven't listened to them, you should.  The hosts, Claire and Joy are hilarious and make a long car ride feel like you're hanging out with a couple of girlfriends talking about CrossFit) and they mentioned that Nikki's Coconut Butter (also an incredible find) was making a Pumpkin Spiced Donut flavor for fall.  If I weren't driving, I may have crumbled to my knees in excitement.  Unfortunately, I can try it until November because it's sweetened with maple syrup.  Boo.  In lieu, I've decided to create my own concoction within the Whole 30 guidelines (and order a jar for next month).  Check it out, it's ridiculously easy and incredibly delicious - just make sure you're storing it in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Almond Butter 
2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin (canned will also work)
1/2 of raw ginger, grated
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

- Puree all ingredients on high speed in a food processor until well incorporated and at your desired consistency.  I prefer a smoother butter but you can blend it to a slightly chunky consistency as well.
- Store refrigerated and stir before using for best results.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Tiny Cheat - Day 6

So when you read the Whole 30, one thing they preach is that you're not supposed to step on a scale at all during the program.  The program is about fostering a healthier mentality, not weight loss.  While it's a natural byproduct of cutting out sugars and grains, dropping pounds isn't what you're supposed to focus on.

Up until today, I've done a good job walking past the scale every morning without even thinking about stepping on it.  This morning however curiosity got the best of me unfortunately.  I did however get to have a small, personal celebration because I busted through that weight loss plateau I've been sitting on for over six months.  Down almost 4 pounds in 6 days, yay for progress!

For lunch, I met up with my friend Jill and her fabulous daughters, Evelyn and Audrey, presenting the temptation of restaurant dining.  Once again, I can tell you how much I appreciate having supportive friends around me.  We opted for lunch at Legal Seafood - oysters, grilled mahi mahi with lemon chive butter, bacon braised brussels sprouts and seaweed salad.  It was delicious, decadent and completely within the guidelines of what I'm supposed to be eating.

Lunch was also followed by a trip to Whole Foods... otherwise known as my happy place.  All in all, a good day.

Social Challenges - Day 5

So, today was my first work from home day since beginning the Whole 30.  On the surface, that may not seem like much, but when I go into the office, I pack a cooler with all my meals preplanned and portioned out.  Working from home allows me full access to my kitchen, riddling the day with decision making and necessary will power.  Prior to eating breakfast, I set up a meal plan for myself for the day and outlined when and what I was going to eat.  While I'm always open to adjusting to satisfy actual hunger (trying to separate ACTUAL hunger from cravings is still something I'm working on), having a plan made it a little less stressful.

This evening was our monthly girls night at the gym - a post workout gathering of board games, pizza, potato chips and beer.  Despite being on the Whole 30, I still like being social and approached the evening with a plan.  I brought with me, a well packed bento box of spinach salad with rotisserie chicken and strawberry infused balsamic dressing, a hard boiled egg, broccoli & sunflower seed salad and fresh raspberries dusted with 100% raw cacao powder coupled with a cherry chia seed kombucha.  Brining a substantial meal made of components I could be excited about helped me resist the temptation of pizza, which may be my primary achilles heel.  I'll be the first person to admit that being around people eating things you're avoiding is a challenge, but it's not insurmountable.  I will throw out there that it does help being surrounded by a group of really supportive people who understand your goals and I'm really grateful to have a group of friends that not only don't push me to cheat on the program but help keep me in check even if I wanted to.  Keep focused and remind yourself of why you made the commitment in the first place and keep moving forward.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The First Temptation - Day 4

So all in all, I'm still going strong.  I feel great, I'm sleeping well, my workouts are aren't feeling sluggish - this kind of rocks.  I was however, presented with my first temptation challenge, if you will.  We held our weekly staff meeting at the Cask & Vine, a cute little wine and craft beer bar in Derry, NH.  This was my first time in a restaurant since starting the Whole 30 and I was surrounded by my coworkers drinking glasses of rioja and valpolicella.  For those of you who don't know me, I'm a wine lover, cork dork if you will, and obscure Spanish and Italian wines hold a special place in my heart.  Coincidentally, that's what everyone chose to drink.  I held strong with my lemon water and stuck to my guns.

Then came the pumpkin streusel.  Pumpkin streusel - crispy, slightly salty phyllo dough wrapped around a pumpkin creme fraiche filling with a sweet pumpkin reduction.  Yes, it looked good.  Really good.  Heck, it smelled better than it looked.

It kind of prompted an internal conversation of why I wanted to do the Whole 30 in the first place.  The long and the short of it, my end goals were more important to me than the immediate gratification of biting through crunchy phyllo dough.  I committed to this program to so see how far an I can push myself.  To break though this weight loss plateau (I have a sneaking suspicion that pull ups get easier as you get lighter) and really see what I'm capable of physically.  Unfortunately, the pumpkin streusel special at Cask & Vine may not be there when I complete the Whole 30, but I've been known to recreate a dish or two on my own.  That may just have to go on the list...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

So Where's This "Hangover"? - Day 3

Everything I've read about the Whole 30, the breakdown on the Whole 9 Life website, countless blogs of other people accounts and the It Stats with Food book, all pointed to the first few days of the program being a hellacious bout of flu-like symptoms wherein you wake up feeling like you've downed a fifth of tequila in your sleep.  Currently, I'm considering myself quite lucky because well, I feel great.  

I have never been a great sleeper.  I'm someone who wakes up on average, 3 to 4 times per night.  Last night, was one of the first complete nights of sleep I've had in months.  While it still took me a while to drift off initially (completely common for me - I consider the insomnia a residual effect of working restaurant swing shifts for most of my adult life), once I was out, I was down for the count.  You know when you have that night of sleep where you wake up in the same exact position you fell asleep in?  No tossing, turning and thrashing blankets around... last night was one of those nights.

While I'm sure that I'm going to encounter my own challenges on this program, I'm pretty happy that I'm not feeling the "hangover" stage so many people have talked about.  So far, all is well in Whole 30 land and I'm moving ahead strong and focused.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This Isn't So Bad - Day 2

So far, I don't have a lot of complaints about the Whole 30.  Yes, it's been an adjustment, but all in all, it doesn't seem so bad.  I knew from day one that my biggest challenge was going to be giving up dairy and so far, I'm not missing it that severely (I anticipate that getting worse the deeper in I get).

I have noticed that when you don't eat anything with added sugar, things that are naturally sweet really do stand out.  My nectarine yesterday may as well have been a bag of gummy bears, which is actually kind of cool.  I've never been someone who craved sweets, salty, fried foods have always been my weak spot, but when you cut out all of the sugar in your diet, it certainly becomes more noticeable.

I am also completely obsessed with kombucha.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, it's a fermented tea beverage that takes on a tangy, apple-cider-vinegary quality.  The Synergy brand varieties are all only sweetened with 100% fruit juice and they're absolutely delicious, pending you're okay with a beverage that's a bit on the tart side.  They also have incredible probiotic qualities that help with digestion and detoxification and at 30 calories per serving, you're not breaking the caloric bank.  I'm thinking one of my next projects is learning how to make my own.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Embarking on a New Journey - Day 1

So yesterday marked the first day of the Whole 30 Challenge James and I have decided to commit to for the month of October.  We've both been on a sort of plateau for about three months now.  After a lot of initial progress, we've both stalled at loosing weight and body fat, as well as improving athletic performance.  In short, we've been trying to out run and out lift our diet.  Not to say we eat poorly - compared to the average American, our diet is immaculate, there's just definitely room for improvement.    Enter the Whole 30.

If you haven't read It Starts With Food, you really should consider it.  It's foundations are in the paleo diet, but it has a lot of merit for anyone who leads an active lifestyle.  While the program is a bit extreme, the way the authors breakdown the "science-y stuff", as they call it, helps us average humans understand the way our bodies (and our brains) respond to certain foods without having a degree to biochemistry.

The foundation of the program is to eliminate all processed foods, added sugars and gluten from your diet.  The biggest transition from a paleo-friendly diet being that now all forms of sugar (with the exception of fruit) are off limits - no honey, no maple syrup, no agave, no stevia, nada.  The general idea being, even though our bodies process these sweeteners differently, we still perceive them as sugar in our minds.  One of the goals of the Whole 30 is to change your perception of foods and ultimately, why you're choosing to consume them.

Over the next 30 days, you get to come on our journey with us.  I'll share some of our meal prepping ideas, recipes and just overall feedback on how the program is going for us. While it may or may not inspire you to attempt your own Whole 30 experience, I hope it at least helps you think a little bit more in-depth about what you're eating everyday.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Creative Craving Cures: Buffalo Cauliflower Poppers

In an effort to find a way that James might consider giving cauliflower a chance, I decided that any vegetable roasted in spicy, garlic-y, buttery sauce was probably my best chance.  It's basically taking everything that's wonderful about a buffalo wing and applying it a slightly more nutritious vehicle.   Not that I'm knocking wings - I love a good buffalo wing and always will - so much so that I think transposing it's best qualities might convince my significant other to give cauliflower a second chance.  We shall see...

Buffalo Cauliflower Poppers

1 head cauliflower, cleaned and cut into 3/4" bites
1/3 cup all purpose flour (or gluten free)
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon worcestershire saue
3/4 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle
2 teaspoons kosher salt
7-8 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
Cooking spray or olive oil in a Misto sprayer

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Beat your egg until it's fluffy and well incorporated
- Lightly coat the cauliflower in the beaten egg
- Combine flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chipotle, salt and pepper
- Toss cauliflower in the flour mixture and lay the pieces on a baking sheet
- Spray the cauliflower with cooking spray (or olive oil)
- Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown
- Whisk together hot sauce, worcestershire, vinegar and butter
- Once baked, toss the cauliflower in the sauce and return to the baking sheet
- Bake for 10-15 minutes
- Serve hot (no pun intended) or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Apple Cranberry Braised Short Ribs

This is one of my standby, 'guests are coming over tonight but I don't have a ton of time to stand over the stove because I have a million other things to do before they get here' recipes.  It's hearty, rich and delicious with the right balance of freshness from the apples and cranberries.  Short ribs in general just scream fall to me and this recipe plays up some other seasonal flavors and ingredients that make a great compliment.  Personally, I'd pair it with a side of spice-roasted butternut squash and a simple fresh green salad.  Throw in a smokey, Argentinian malbec and you've got a dinner that you're sure to remember.

Apple Cranberry Braised Short Ribs

2 lbs of beef short rib
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 small gala apple, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary

- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees
- In a cast iron skillet, melt your coconut oil and brown your short ribs on all sides
- Evenly salt your short ribs
- Add beef stock, cranberry juice, cranberries, apples, vinegar, rosemary and bay leaf to the pan
- The liquid should cover about 1/3 of the meat, if not, adjust with additional beef stock or water
- Cover tightly with a pot lid or tinfoil
- Braise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone
- Remove the rosemary and bay leaf
- Strain the liquid onto a small sauce pan and reduce by 1/2 the volume to form a glaze
- Serve with 1 tablespoon of the liquid over each portion of short rib

Spice Roasted Butternut Squash

The perfect seasonal side dish, in my humble opinion...

Spice Roasted Butternut Squash

1 medium sized butternut, peeled and cubed into 1/2" pieces
1 tablespoon maple syrup 
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped 
1/4 cup pine nuts 
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cardamom 
6-7 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
- In a plastic bag, combine butternut, maple syrup, pine nuts, sage and spices and toss until evenly coated 
- Spread into a single layer across the bottom of a roasting pan 
- Roast for 20-25 minutes or until squash is fork tender but still firm
- Serve warm or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator