Archive | August 2013

My Girl Z

I don’t really know how long Z and I have been friends and I’m not exactly sure how we formally met but I thought she was pretty cool and I love her sense humor.  She gets me.  One day we just started hanging out and the rest they say is history.

One thing I do know is that we are gym friends (although we no longer attend the same fitness facility).  Our circle of friends came together from a love of Zumba and while our Zumba crowd has thinned and I no longer teach, Z and I have remained friends through it all.

Now that you’ve got the background history on Z and I’s friendship, I wanted to tell you why I think she is pretty incredible.  Z might not think so herself, but I think she is pretty influential.  At least she’s influenced me.  Without telling anyone except for a small handful of us, Z decided to start the Whole30 program.  If you don’t know what that is, you need to read the book It Starts With Food.  It is a game changer.  Anyway, Z took it upon herself to just one day decide to take the plunge.  She had her mind right and was determined.  She cut out grain, dairy, seed and vegetable oils, corn, white potatoes, soy (and soy products), added preservatives, and all added sugar (natural or not).  If she came out with us to the movies, she brought Whole30 approved snacks.  If she came to dinner, she previewed the menu and determined what she could have or made arrangements with the kitchen.  She was dedicated and I admired that.

At work, coworkers tried to tempt her with food but she stayed firm which is one thing not many of us can really do when faced with free cookies, cupcakes, and chips.  But here is the thing with Whole30, if you “cheat,” you literally go all the way back to Day 1 and Z decided it wasn’t worth it.  So she simply just said no.  In the end, she lost 22.5 pounds in 30 days which is pretty incredible.  When she told all of us how good she was feeling and all the great things that came from the program, she inspired a group of us to give it a try.  Not only did she successfully complete her first Whole30 program, but she’s pretty much adopted this way of eating.  It’s a lifestyle now and a great one at that.

Z is a fabulous cook and I love having pitch-ins with her.  It’s truly motivating to have someone there for you as you embark on a similar health journey helping you with recipes and food ideas.  She has been great.  So thanks, Z!  This shout out goes to you!

Check out Z’s blog here.

Me and Z goofing at the mall

Me and Z goofing at the mall

Paleo Creamy Balsamic Dressing

This dressing literally came together in minutes.  The key is to have the mayo already made in your fridge.  I paired this dressing with a super simple grilled chicken salad.  My husband said, and I quote, “If all salads tasted this good I would eat them every day for lunch and dinner!”  And quite honestly, my husband is not a salad eater.  He is a meat, potatoes, pork tenderloin eating man from central Indiana.  So this was really saying something!

Super healthy and super good - a wicked combination!

Super healthy and super good – a wicked combination!

Grilled Chicken Salad
Chicken Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Olive Oil
Lawhorne’s All-Purpose Seasoning

Directions
Brush both sides of the chicken with olive oil and generously sprinkle the Lawhorne’s seasoning all over both sides of the chicken.  Grill for about 5-6 minutes or until the juices run clear.  Take it off the grill and cover with foil until ready to eat.

Salad Ingredients
Makes 2 salads
2 hearts of romaine, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 chicken thighs, sliced

Directions
Evenly distribute and arrange all of the ingredients on two plates.  Top with creamy balsamic dressing.

Creamy Balsamic Dressing
Ingredients
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Paleo Mayo
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
In a small bowl, crush the Italian seasonings with your fingers.  Add garlic and mayo.  Whisk together until well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Slowly whisk in balsamic vinegar until smooth.  Store in a container with a lid.  It’s good for about 5-7 days.

Paleo Mayo

This recipe doesn’t call for much, but what you need the most of is patience.  If your batch comes out a tad runny, no worries!  Use it to make a delicious, homemade, preservative-free, non-dairy, creamy salad dressing.  Yummy!

My very own batch of homemade mayo!  Came out perfect!

My very own batch of homemade mayo! Came out perfect!

Ingredients
1 large egg
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 1 cup of light olive oil (NOT EXTRA-VIRGIN!!!)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. 1. In a food processor, break the egg and add the lemon juice.  Put the lid on it and allow the egg and lemon juice to come to room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour (I told you that you needed patience!)
  2. When the egg and lemon juice are room temperature, add mustard, salt, and 1/4 cup of oil.  Blend on medium until all the ingredients are well combined.  Then very, very, very slowly begin pouring the rest of the olive oil into the blender.  You want the slowest, skinniest drizzle you can muster.  This will take about 2-3 minutes depending on your pour.
  3. When all of the oil is incorporated, you should have something that resembles traditional mayo but way better.
  4. Store in a container with a lid and mark the date.  Your mayo expires when your eggs do.

**Recipe taken from WellFed**

Paleo Taco Seasoning

Since giving up wheat, sugar, and all sorts of other processed things, I started looking for ways I can make my favorites at home… tacos and Mexican food being one of them.  In came the need to find a homemade taco seasoning that didn’t use wheat or cornstarch as a thickening agent.  I was surprised at how simple this recipe is and it makes a lot.  There is a nice kick to it and if you are making ground beef, simply add 2-3 tablespoons of the taco seasoning mix for each pound of ground beef you are cooking.  Add the seasonings and 1/4 cup of water and allow to simmer for roughly 5 minutes or so.  I would have put a picture in, but I’m running low.  I promise to add one as soon as I make another batch!

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons Cumin
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sweet Paprika
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Granulated Garlic Powder
2 Teaspoons dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional – I don’t like too spicy so I didn’t put it in)

Directions
Place everything in a container and shake it up.

Super easy and really cost efficient!  Enjoy!

Grilled Chicken and Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

As you probably are aware by now, I’m totally gluten-free and dairy-free.  I’m going on roughly a month and a half and I feel awesome.  I am sleeping through the night, I have energy throughout the day, and I literally have ZERO cravings for candy, chocolate, cookies, and the like.  It’s really crazy because I used to be the Queen of Cupcakes.  Last summer, I literally went to Gigi’s Cupcakes every week and probably tried everything on their menu at least twice.  They knew me by name.  During the school year, I couldn’t make it a day without popping one if not two Lindt chocolate truffles into my mouth by lunch time and who knows how many after that.  I had a secret stash in my desk that my students kept replenishing around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Teacher Appreciation Week.  But since I began eating clean, the cravings for these things have vanished.  Sure I smell a donut and think to myself, “Man, that sure does smell good.”  But then I remember how it made me feel and it just totally isn’t worth it.

But anyway, you aren’t here to read about my vanishing cravings, you are here to get a yummy recipe.  I promise I shall not disappoint!  As I was mentioning earlier, I have been on this clean-eating thing since July 1.  The only major thing that I’ve noticed is that I have to do a lot more cooking which means a lot more weekend prepping.  But let me reassure you that a few hours spent in the kitchen on Saturday or Sunday is well worth it mid-week when you are running late from work, you have to run the kids to and from practice, and you still need to get to the gym.  Dinner can literally be done in under 20 minutes if you do all the prepping beforehand.  Such is the case with this cauliflower fried “rice”.

On Saturday, I took an entire head of cauliflower and trimmed the florets away from the stems.  I put the florets in the food processor and pulsed them about 10-15 times until the cauliflower resembled pieces of rice.  It took me about 3 batches because I didn’t want to end up with mashed cauliflower.  Mashed cauliflower fried rice sounds nasty.  I put it all in a tupperware on Saturday and didn’t think about it again until Monday night.

Fast forward to Monday night.  I get home from school around 4 PM, my husband is still working, expense report needs to be done, and I need to balance the checkbook.  It is now 5:15PM.  I have to get my run in for the day and the dog needs to get walked.  Fast forward to 7 PM.  My husband is finishing up mowing the lawn and I’m getting ready to prep dinner.  Literally this meal is ready from start to finish in 20 minutes and that includes prep time.

The first thing you need to do is heat up the grill for about 10 minutes.  While that is going on, take 2.5 pounds of boneless, skinless, chicken thighs.  Place the chicken on a large baking sheet or platter smooth side up.  Then brush each chicken thigh with olive oil and generously sprinkled each one with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a touch of sweet paprika.  Then flip them over and repeat on the other side.

I like to put foil down for easy cleanup!

I like to put foil down for easy cleanup!

Set those aside.  Go to the refrigerator and take out the cauliflower you prepped a few days earlier and pop it into the microwave for roughly 2-4 minutes so it’s slightly heated through.  Trust me, you want to do this.  In a large saute pan, heat a teaspoon of coconut oil (olive oil works if you don’t have coconut oil).  Add 1/2 of a chopped onion to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.  Add to the pan 1/2 chopped zucchini.  (At this point in time, go ahead and put your chicken on the grill)  Turn up the heat on your saute pan to high, add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and let it melt.  Add all of your cauliflower and stir, stir, stir.  To that, while you are stirring, add 2 tablespoons of coconut aminos and some salt.  Keep stirring for about 3 minutes.  Boom – done.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

Don’t forget you have chicken on the grill, go ahead and flip those over and let them grill for another 3-4 minutes or until the juices run clear.  Bring the chicken inside and let them sit for a hot minute while you prep your “rice”.

So at this point your rice can be done, but if you like to be fancy you could sprinkle a little bit of sesame seed oil on top, toss in a few toasted sesame seeds for grins, and garnish with chopped green onions.  Top it off with 1 or 2 pieces of your grilled chicken and VOILA your meal is done!

This meal has plenty of options.  If you’d like (which I did) go ahead and beat 2 eggs with 2 teaspoons of coconut aminos.  Scramble them ahead of time and set aside.  After you add the cauliflower to your pan, mix those in at that time as well.  Don’t like zucchini? Steamed broccoli and sliced carrots also work well in this dish.  Don’t have a grill or don’t know how to use one?  No problem!  Heat your oven to 400 degrees and bake in a single layer for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear. (Of course that ups the time it takes for the meal to get on the table.)  Thawed frozen vegetable medleys would probably work in this too.  Whatever you choose – just make it work for you.

I ate it with one piece of chicken, my husband had 2.  Completely your choice.

I ate it with one piece of chicken, my husband had 2. Completely your choice.

Grilled Chicken Ingredients
2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt
pepper
garlic powder
sweet paprika

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” Ingredients
1 large head of cauliflower
2 large eggs (optional)
2 teaspoons of coconut aminos (for eggs)
2 tablespoons of coconut aminos
coconut oil for sautéing (or olive oil)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup fresh zucchini, chopped
2-3 scallions, dark green tops only, thinly sliced (optional)
2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil (optional)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Made enough for me to make 2 school lunches for the week, plus a ton of extra chicken to do other fun recipes with!

Made enough for me to make 2 school lunches for the week, plus a ton of extra chicken to do other fun recipes with!

**Recipe was adapted from the Well Fed cookbook by Melissa Joulwan**

Noblesville Fit Fest 5K

Saturday, August 17 started just like any other race day.  My alarm went off about an hour before I needed to leave.  I brushed my teeth, washed my face, put some tinted SPF on my face, pulled my hair back, and got my race gear on.  It was a brisk 48 degrees that morning, but just like a nice fall day (wait a minute… it’s August), it was scheduled to warm up a bit later on.  So I opted for my Nike capris, pink top, and long sleeve pull-over.  I checked the clock, 6:45 AM and we need to leave in 15 minutes in order to find parking, get to the packet pick-up table, get our race bibs, timing chips, and put the bag of goodies in the car all before the race starts.  Guess who was still sound asleep in bed?  That’s right, my husband.  I gently shook him on the shoulder to get him awake.  Meanwhile, I let the dog out and put food and water into his bowl so we could get out on time.  I have anxiety about being late…

Being an inaugural event, you never know what to expect, especially because the Noblesville Fit Fest wasn’t just offering a 5K, but also a Sprint Triathlon, Sprint Duathlon, Sprint Aquabike, Aquathon, and a Kids Aquathon as well.  That’s A LOT of races to manage in one event.  The race was located at Forest Park in Noblesville.  It is probably one of the prettiest parks I’ve been to in the area and it is HUGE.  It boasts a mini-golf area, carousel horses, skate park, playground equipment, baseball diamond (with bleachers), and a pool with a serious high dive.  I’m sure I’m missing quite a bit (like the beautiful surrounding nature) but you get the point.

The 5K was first up in the race events.  The course was simple, just running a straight path over the bridge and onto the trail.  Now let me just say that this was my kind of trail run.  Paved trail wide enough for 4 people across to run next to each other if they wanted to (although no one did) and all around you were beautiful trees, plants, and the river.  If I wasn’t running in the race, I would have definitely stopped to survey my surroundings.

It was also a fairly flat course so I made pretty good time.  My husband, the loving supportive man that he is, ran next to me the entire time… until we reached mile 2.  We came up on a little boy no more than 10 years-old (and that’s pushing it).  He was running his little heart out, speeding up, slowing down, not really having a specific pace in mind.  So naturally, I sped up and passed him as did my husband.  We kept our pace steady.  And wouldn’t you know that little kid sped up, passed us, and then slowed down again right in front of us.  Well, my husband didn’t think it was so cute anymore so he simply took off leaving both me and the kid in his dust.  Real nice, sweetheart, real nice.  So now I’m left trying to push myself to get around this kid.  My music on my phone wasn’t doing me any favors.  Every time I would get close to him, he would hear my music and speed up.  Not to mention this kid was running back and forth closing any kind of gap that I could possibly pass him with.  I was getting frustrated because I was also speeding up and slowing down so I didn’t trip over him.  I saw an opening and decided to go for it, I sped up ready to pass him on the left and wouldn’t you know the minute I started to gain on him, he started drifting that way.  Nope – sorry kid.  Not this time.  I put my hand out and touched his arm and said, “On your left.”  And that was it, I took off to put some space between us before I slowed back down to my comfortable pace.  That kid didn’t try to pass me again.  I was finally free.

My husband was no longer in sight… so I just keep trucking along picking off people to pass in front of me.  At this point, I’m pretty sure my lungs are ready to collapse because I’m seriously booking it.  And of course there is that pesky hill at the end… always a hill at the end.  I swear they plan it that way.  I round the bend and the finish line is in sight and I can hear people cheering, “Way to go, Joel!”  Joel?!  Who’s Joel?  I turn to look over my shoulder and I see this guy creeping up on me getting ready to pass me.  Well now my competitive side has kicked in and you better believe I’m not going to have someone pass me in the last 0.1 mile of the race.  I put my best sprint forward and cross the finish line where the fresh bananas and bottled water are calling my name.

I found my husband relaxing on a bench nearby.  He told me I did a good job.  I wanted to smack him because I ate a good dinner, went to bed early, and ate breakfast while he ate a crappy dinner, went to bed at 12:30 AM, and woke up 15 minutes before we had to leave with no breakfast and he STILL beat me.  Some things are just not fair.  It’s a good thing I love him!

He came in 3rd place in his age division while I placed 1st in mine.  Another PR set for me.  It is the first time I came in 1st place in my age division on any given race.  I’m pretty proud of that.  We collected our prizes and called it day.  All in all, it was a fun race, great scenery, and the race coordinators  did a great job.  I look forward to participating in it again next year.

Noblesville Fit Fest 5K Overall Place: 18/97 Age Division Place: 1/5 Average Pace: 8:05

Noblesville Fit Fest 5K
Overall Place: 18/97
Age Division Place: 1/5
Average Pace: 8:05

Paleo Dinner for 2 – Seared Sea Scallops

A handful of my friends have read It Starts With Food and have begun (or finished) their Whole30 plan. Talking to them, reading their blogs (which I will repost on my blog as soon as I get permission), looking at their instagram meal photos, and reading Facebook posts has inspired me to take a closer look at how I’m eating day-to-day. Naturally, I hopped onto Amazon and not only purchased It Starts With Food, but also Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat, and Paleo Slow Cooker. (My thought process was to give myself LOTS of choices when it comes to recipes.) My book has yet to come in the mail (but should be here soon), but since I’m already eating gluten-free and dairy-free, I figured why not eat clean most of the time now (I still am having difficulty giving up my non-dairy creamer and soy lattes) and then jump in whole-heartedly once my book arrives (and I have a chance to read it).

I’ve been on a big seafood kick lately. Maybe it is because I just got back from the shore where I dined on fresh oysters, clams, and crab legs all week. But either way, I just can’t seem to get enough of it (except fish…. I can’t seem to like any cooked fish except salmon). The other day I made jumbo tiger shrimp on the grill YUM!!! But a girl can only eat shrimp so often (who am I kidding, I could eat shrimp every day! sautéed, grilled, baked, stir-fried, in tacos… you get the picture). Actually, it is my husband who probably would get tired of eating shrimp every day so I went out on a limb and picked up a pound of jumbo sea scallops. I’ve never made scallops before, but you’ll never learn something new if you don’t try. The outcome was awesome! This meal is paleo friendly, Whole30 friendly, gluten-free, and dairy-free, and pescatarian friendly!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Makes 2-3 Servings
Why haven’t I thought of this before?! I always made baked sweet potatoes (which I find repulsive at best and usually choke down), frozen sweet potato fries (which tend to come out soggy), or candied sweet potatoes (think Thanksgiving and TONS of butter which I can no longer eat). My best friend was telling me how she loves to roast veggies and I thought, why don’t I do that? Sure, it takes a lot longer than nuking a baker in the microwave for 7 minutes, but the outcome is SO MUCH better! Plus it’s only 3 ingredients. Yes, I said that. 3 ingredients!

What you need:
2 sweet potatoes, washed, scrubbed, cut into 1-inch cubes
3-4 TBS Coconut Oil
Low-Sodium Salt, Sea Salt, or whatever salt you prefer

What you do:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the coconut oil in a glass baking dish (I used a smaller rectangular one, but I’m sure you can use anything you have on hand). If the oil is solid, place the baking dish in the oven for 3-5 minutes until oil is melted. Take it out and toss the sweet potatoes in the oil, making sure to evenly coat them. Sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. About halfway through give the potatoes a stir. They are done when the fork easily pierces through the potato. Trust me, they don’t need anything else!

Sautéed Green Beans
Makes 2-3 Servings
If you are anything like me, I get in vegetable ruts making the same thing over and over again (usually steamed broccoli or some type of yellow squash or zucchini). The fresh green beans looked promising, so I picked up 1/2 pound and brought them home. Again 4 ingredients, low maintenance, just how I like it!

What you need:
1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1 TBS coconut oil
Salt & Onion powder

What you do:
Heat up the oil in a medium sauce pan. Add green beans and season with salt and onion powder to taste. Cook until desired tenderness (some like it crunchy and some like it mushy). DONE! Super easy!

Sautéed Jumbo Sea Scallops
Makes 2 Servings
As I mentioned earlier, I love scallops but I never made them at home. I didn’t think I was skilled enough to make them or that I would over cook them. But after eating at Seasons 52 and a couple other places that keep things healthy and simple, I thought I can do that. And if I can do it, you can do it. The key is simplicity. A lot of times recipes have you adding all sorts of weird, exotic, and usually expensive ingredients that you will only use for that one recipe. Not this. Everything you need (other than the scallops) are probably already in your pantry.

What you need:
1 pound Jumbo Sea Scallops, not frozen
TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

What you do:
In a large saucepan heat up the oil on medium-high heat (not too high). Gently place the scallops around the pan so they are not crowded and it allows for even cooking time. While they are cooking, sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Cook for roughly 5 minutes, until the bottoms are a nice seared golden brown. If your scallops are browning before cooking, turn your heat down to medium. Flip your scallops over and season the other side of them. Cook the second side for another 5-6 minutes to get a nice golden brown top to your scallops.

Once your scallops are done, plate and serve warm. Delicious!

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