Winter Relapse Comfort Food

When I lived in Philadelphia, under the great foodie reign of Stephen Starr, I had some of the greatest restaurants (arguably in the country) within a stone’s throw from my apartment.  At one of his restaurants, Continental, there is a chopped salad on the menu that is so simple, yet so absurdly delicious, that I still think about it.

Sunday, which marked day 14 of the challenge, was also the day that we decided we needed to add more dynamic ingredients to our meal plan, and one of the first menu items was, of course, a chopped salad.

The Continental salad was a mix of chopped romaine, tomato, red onion, feta, chicken in a red wine vinaigrette.  Since several of those ingredients were on the ‘no-no’ list, things were improvised, and some ‘crunch’ was added to liven up the experience a bit.  In the bowl we’ve got: chopped romaine, tomato, red pepper, celery, avocado and sliced almonds.


The salad was a perfect compliment to the burst of spring-like weather we experienced last weekend, and sort of a last supper for the premature spring (is it really premature if it is overdue?).  Snuggling up to the salad we had flank steak from Wolf creek Farm, here in Charlottesville, and a side of broccoli slaw sautéd in coconut oil with a pinch of coarse sea salt.


This week brought yet another round of heavy wet snow, so in complimentary fashion the meals took on a more comforting cold weather appeal.

spaghetti squash

Of course there was spaghetti squash.  It’s such a great comforting base for so many meals, and just completes the snowy winter feel of the week.

To top it off, I took some of the remaining ground beef I had frozen after the insane deal day at Whole Foods, browned it with yellow onion, and added in some uncured turkey bacon and the whole foods pasta sauce (the only one with no added sugars).

clean bolognese sauce

This was by far my favorite meal by far.  In fact, this might be one of my favorite meals, ever, and it was even better as a leftover lunch.

spaghetti squash bolognese

To stay true to the carb, protein, fat balance, and my need for green in every meal, the spaghetti squash bolognese was served along side a tomato, cucumber and avocado salad drizzled with balsamic and light olive oil.  It was perfection.

dinner: fuel sweat grow

When you get excited thinking about the next day leftovers before you finish the first round of the meal, you know it’s a winner.  Even Tank gave it his seal of approval, and with a grill like that you know he doesn’t mess around.

sir tanksalot

We’re now 16 days into the challenge and this week’s meals have been the best of all, so I’m thinking we’re just approaching some of the most inspired and diverse meals of the month.

Cville Runs + Training Tips

Hey all, it’s Vanessa your ‘run ambassador!’ In the spirit of pending (hopefully…) spring weather, it’s time to talk running in Charlottesville!

Charlottesville is a running town. On a sunny spring (or summer, fall, or winter) day you can spot at least 4 runners on your way from the corner to the downtown mall. Are they training for something? Maybe, maybe not. If they are, there’s a good chance it’s the Charlottesville Ten Miler. An iconic Cville race, it runs from John Paul Jones Arena, through UVa grounds, into downtown neighborhoods and on the mall, and back to Uhall. With over 1500 runners, the ten miler is the go-to spring running event in this town.

Vanessa Runs

The first year I ran the ten miler, it poured. I mean, serious, serious, rain. There was even a guy running in a speedo. I remember mile 5, attempting to run up the hill of Lexington Ave, thinking to myself, I will NEVER do this again. Except I did, every single year after that. I look forward to the ten miler now, trying to beat last year’s time, waving to the spectators, tackling the tough hills around Scott Stadium. It’s like a high school reunion with sweat and blisters instead of bad music and too much booze.

This year, I rocked the ten miler. New PR, placed 3rd in my age group, and felt great as I finished. I felt mentally and physically prepared, and the light drizzle at the beginning of the race was just enough nostalgia from my first year to pump me up and get me going. I encourage everyone who wants to claim to be a charlottesvillian to partake in the Cville Ten Miler once.  It’s a rite of passage, and just as important to this town’s culture as Bodo’s Bagels and Fridays After Five.

Thinking about running next year? Here are my top 3 tips:

1. Train with hills – don’t spend your time on the treadmill with a zero incline. There’s always one more hill to conquer on this course, so spend your training tackling some incline.
2. Don’t go out too fast – I actually bought a watch this year to make sure my adrenaline didn’t push me to a 6 minute first mile, and it paid off when I was able to bring it in strong at the end.
3. Ditch the headphones – Think of it as a happy hour, there’s historic Cville sites along the way, people to talk to, bands playing, and of course, the pink ladies cheering you on by the stadium. Soak it all in.

Check out the Charlottesville Ten Miler, and if you’re feeling ambitious, check out the Charlottesville Marathon and Half Marathon (it’s April 6th, so you can get involved THIS year at a water or cheer station along the course).

Happy Running!

Intervals + Sweat Must Haves.

We’ve been pretty heavy on the fuel, and light on the sweats on here for a while, so here are a few workouts you can do at home or at the gym.

fuel sweat grow kettle bells

Dar Bootcamp

You’re working for 5 minutes, resting for 90 seconds, and then repeating the circuit another 4 times for 5 rounds total, adding up to 25 minutes of active work time.

Dar’s bootcamper’s did this first workout last week and all sent her messages following class about how much they loved it, followed by choice words of ‘appreciation’ from their bodies.  The key with this type of interval style circuit is to keep a competitive pace, but be consistent.  There’s no race against time, or rep competition, so find weights and speeds that are appropriate for you to challenge yourself but maintain your form.

If you’re doing the workout in a group, just split across the different stations, but maintain the order regardless of where you start – the program is set up and designed specifically to avoid the overuse and over fatigue of the same muscle groups.

I’m a junkie for this type of workout and love anything that keeps me moving with strength components, but a strong cardio base.  My three basic rules for a great sweat session are: 1) no barbells.  that’s a strength workout, and just another injury waiting to happen.  2) 20 minute working minimum of consistent work, but a full heart beating range of 20-55 minutes.  3) music.  LOUD music, absolutely no techno.

We’re running through another circuit today with a more functional focus with more intense cardio intervals.  Full sweat update to follow with the chosen playlist to keep us moving.



Quick and Clean Weekday Meal

Since the middle of the week brought temperatures (and snow) that kept winter alive and well, the menu took a warmer and more comforting turn to match it.

broccoli slaw

The broccoli slaw that had been looking to fulfill it’s dinner time destiny was finally put to use, and the remainder of the leftover spaghetti squash was turned into a stove top mix-turepiece.

meat + squash

The broccoli slaw was cooked with coconut oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Pretty simple, and pretty darn good.  The spaghetti squash was added into a ground beef mixture with zucchini, yellow squash and the remainder of the mushrooms in the fridge, seasoned with everyday seasoning and a little extra sea salt.

The meal was lightened up just a little with a cucumber + avocado salad topped with salt, pepper, balsamic and olive oil.

fuel sweat grow - food blog

This meal was absurdly simple to make, and since the spaghetti squash was pre-roasted, start to finish time was about 20 minutes, max.

During weeks when things are undoubtedly going to be crazy and schedule times seem to be pretty obscure, I always like to spend time on Sunday or Monday prepping extra staple food items to keep in the fridge for easy grabbing and meal prep.  Recently I helped Dar pack 4 days worth of pre-planned meals for her trip to PA for her FMS certification, and the planning helped her get through days 3-7 of the challenge without being hungry.

Stay tuned for Sunday updates on meals, meal prep, menu planning, and kitchen organization.  It takes a village people.  And with that being said, I’ll leave you with a sweet pic of my sous chef, Bug, who could not be more exhausted by all of the kitchen time.

sleepy bug

Morning Fuel + Clean Eat Options

If there’s one thing that I cherish in the morning, it’s coffee.  Hot freakin’ coffee, usually with creamer and a sugar in the raw.  Well, per the 28 day Challenge rules, creamer (along with all dairy) is out.  It took me about two fully pained days to really evolve my despair into a solution: americano w/cinnamon (and/or cocoa).  This little treat managed to propel me through days 6-10 with little feeling of depravation and a new appreciation for the flavor.  Coconut milk is also an optional additive, but that would almost ruin the beauty of the americano.

americano + flavor

In addition to the morning coffee struggle, breakfast has been the biggest challenge for me.  I’m typically not huge on breakfast and take a little time to work up my hunger so it’s been a challenge (for lack of better words) for me to create breakfast options that are on plan and appealing to me during early mornings.  Here are a few of my favorites:

eggs con bacon

Ingredients + directions:

1/2 cup Zucchini + yellow squash: sautéd in coconut oil w/Trader Joe’s ‘everyday seasoning’

3 eggs + 2 egg whites: scrambled in with squash

Applegate turkey bacon: cooked separately (FSG recommends cooking it ALL & keeping extra in fridge for easy adding)

Scramble all together. Serves 2 (hungry bears)

egg scramble w/ real foods

I love eggs, so variations of this are increasingly common around here in the morning, but for the days that I’m still questionable on the real morning food front I will go with a smoothie.  I’ve shared  some of these VitaMix favorites in previous posts, but this week in an attempt to use up some strawberries, I took a different direction.

real strawberry smoothie

We’re going to call this the ‘thank god strawberries are on plan’ smoothie.  It has helped to subside any screams for sugar, and tastes awesome.

Ingredients: (all added into the VitaMix & blended)

10 Ice cubes

1 cup water

1 cup (light) coconut milk

8 medium strawberries

1 (frozen) banana

2 table spoons of fresh ground almond butter

All in all, this week has been pretty good in the morning fuel selection so far, and has helped us to push through an overload of work and ‘to-do-right NOW’s.’

Anyone else have any must-try clean breakfast options? This weekend is looking like a clean slate of prep days, and I’d love to play around with any recipes you have! We’ve got some pretty exciting plans coming up and would love to have your input included!

Functional Movement Screen (FMS) Certification + A weekend in PA

Coach Dar here!  This past weekend, I spent almost 3 days in Pennsylvania attending the Functional Movement Certification.  New to the Mid-Atlantic region, I enjoyed that 5 hour drive as I had no clue how close I live to Northern Virginia, Washington, Baltimore and Philly!  This little town of CVille, is surrounded by some of the best Metropolitan areas of the country.

map of charlottesville to New York

I’ve been looking forward to this certification for over a year now.  It’s just one more thing as a coach and trainer to aid me in working with clients.  In a nutshell – the FMS is comprised of 7 basic fundamental movement patterns, that expose a person’s dysfunction, pain or Both!  Here’s the thing I find most interesting;  we all can perform a wide variety of activities, yet, we are unable to efficiently perform these movements in the screen.  If you score poorly on the screen you most likely are using compensatory movement patterns during regular activities.

FMS squat

So, who cares?  You should care, because compensation leads to sub-optimal movement patterns being reinforced, leading to poor biomechanics and the big kicker: this can contribute to  a future injury.

Just hit me up at if you would like to have a complimentary screen performed on your movement patterns.