How my Cream of Mushroom Soup Went Paleo to Complete my Thanksgiving and Save my Life

This Thanksgiving has lasted for what feels like forever, yet despite it being December, it’s still not over for my crew.  Apparently 2015 is for epic ‘Thanksgiving Never Say Die’ efforts [read: excuses] to keep the wine flowing until it’s appropriately close to the next Holiday, for eight crazy nights, to then ultimately transfer the blame onto an old fat man and his elves.  Whatever, long live all the holidays, I say.

The truly amazing thing about my Friends/Family-giving crew this year is that over the last two years it has, for the most part, not only evolved into a paleo/cleaneating lifestyle, but actually owns it like bosses…..and at this point, they probably do it better than us.

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After teaching barre at b:core bright and early on Thanksgiving morning, there was nothing more I wanted to do than exactly what happened next; park sprints with the dogs in the 70 degree weather and a full blown dinner with some of my favorite people.

There’s something to say about how food brings people together, and having a group that likes to eat the same way, testing new clean recipes with love and lots of flavor…well that’s pretty much the best possible holiday combination.

Now, I did an absolute garbage job of documenting the first (and probably most important phase) of my Turkey Day kitchen therapy, but thankfully the foundation of it all persisted through two more amazing meals this week.  And it all started with just seeing those green beans.

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I’m pretty obsessed with green bean casserole (alarmingly obsessed), so I didn’t want to forego my one true holiday love, just in the name of Paleo Thanksgiving.  So, like any innovative and desperate meal experimenter, I took to the internet to make my dreams come true.  And I found it, a paleo recipe for cream of mushroom soup that is surprisingly easy to make, and even more surprisingly delicious.

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So, as you’ll see above in my less than delicately organized plate, we had mashed yucca (or YUMMA!) at 12 o’clock; my butter lettuce with cherry tomatoes, almond slivers and truffle salt/olive oil dressing at 2pm; brussels sprouts and root vegetables at what looks like 5:30 and then my coveted, ever loving paleo green bean casserole with oven broiled onion topping (victory!) at 7pm, before filling the rest of the space up with Turkey and carnitas.  Yes, paleo carnitas.  Life was amazing, and when washed down with good wine and great conversation, there was nothing else I could have wanted in life.  Bonus: we were all wrapped up, home, and asleep by 8:30 – magical.

So, what’s the rest of the story?  Well, it all comes back to the cream of mushroom soup that I made with my very own hands and killer hand blender.  It didn’t just end with the green beans; a couple of days later it found it’s second home in a chicken, brussels sprouts, peppers, and brown rice bake that rocked my midweek world.

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The finished product was awesome, and was the perfect pairing for a romaine, tomato, avocado, almond sliver, radish, and tesse mae dressed salad.

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And just when I thought that perhaps the (mushroom) gravy train had possibly ended, I was lucky enough to get whatever horrible winter cold is circulating at the moment and found myself miserable, hungry, and desperate for a little cold weather therapy — so I made some.

Sauted onion, brussels sprouts and zucchini in a pot, followed by the remaining chicken/rice/veggie leftovers, all the rest of the cream of mushroom soup, a full liter of chicken stock, all came together to bring SO much happiness into an otherwise dreary evening of sick.

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Now, off to sleep because there are way too many amazing things happening this week (and that need to happen) to let this cold crush me.  So, in closing, paleo cream of mushroom soup is a real thing, it’s amazing, and it has already begun saving lives this holiday season.

 

 

 

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The Inexact Science of Business, Life + Pumpkin Muffins

When I bake, I typically use a recipe (or two) as a framework, but the actual mixing of the ingredients is usually more of an inexact science.  For the last few years, trying to eat and cook clean has led to a fair amount of substitution and modification – mostly through trial and error – to figure out what combinations do or don’t work.

It’s a lot like life and business (the business of life?); systems and framework are critical to the foundation, but the rest is somewhat of an inexact science – an art if you’re lucky – that either blends into something amazing, or something that warms your garbage.

I’ve been thinking about it all lately as I try to navigate the ebbs and flows of the different businesses, my day job, and all things life.  So, today, I decided to dive into the metaphorical, and fulfill a few of my core desires in the moment: pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and kitchen therapy.

Without naming names, there’s a coffee shop in town (cough:: Mudhouse) that in the fall makes amazing pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  I became addicted years ago when Mudhouse was the only real local coffee game in town, and I would buy them in pairs like a little muffin hoarder out of fear that they’d run out the next morning before I got there.  Over the last few years the debut date of the pumpkin muffin has been more and more delayed –probably for the best, since eating sugar-laden muffins two-by-two is not consistent with any of my life goals.  Regardless, I still think about them every fall as the weather turns crisp and just like the stroke of midnight, everything turns into a pumpkin.

So today I pulled up this recipe from paleOMG and decided to fall in love with a muffin that I can have a reasonably stable relationship with.

fuel swat grow: paleOMG pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Of course I had to make some modifications; in part due to ingredient preferences and availability, and in part due to my inability to painstakingly measure anything out exactly — that’s the art part for me; the outlet and liberation from following all the rules.

Modification #1: Date Paste subbed in to replace Maple Syrup.

fuel sweat grow: raw date paste

My main objective when cooking/eating clean is to eliminate most processed sugar, and leverage the flavor and sweetness of the natural sugars.  There are a number of different replacements out there, but dates are usually my go-to and were at top of mind this week after our friend Lisa geeked out over date paste to make what looked like some pretty amazing waffles this weekend.  Here’s a pretty basic and easy walk through from the chalkboard to get your sweet on without delay.

fuel sweat grow: date paste sugar supplementfuel sweat grow: date paste sugar supplement

Once I had the paste set and ready to go, it was out with the maple syrup and back to the muffins.

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

I ‘followed’ most of the rest of the instructions, pretty loosely, substituting in ‘pumpkin spice’ to replace the majority of the spices (except for cinnamon), eye balling most of the measurements, and multiplying the recipe by 2 (or maybe 2.5…who knows).

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Yeah, I went a little rogue, but we all survived, and 10 minutes later it was all in the oven ready to prove whether or not my ‘art’ of mixing works, or not.

fuel sweat grow: paleOMG paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

While I waited for the moment of truth, I checked back in with the recipe and blog to get a good vision of what they ‘should’ look like, you know, if my muffin babies were ever going to be brunch models.

fuel sweat grow: paleOMG paleo pumpkin muffinsSince I pretty much just used the recipe as a suggested guide for basic structure and context, I wasn’t counting on my muffins being anywhere near as photogenic as the ones in the recipe, but I don’t think they’re half bad (if I do say so myself).

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin muffins paleOMG Maybe I’m just having a proud parent moment, but outside of looking appealing enough, they also happen to taste AMAZING. I’m sure they’re not perfect, but I’m just saying, if they’re wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

[Disclaimer: if you’ve never had anything made with coconut flour before, the texture will likely seem odd at first, but once the taste sinks in, and you’ve had your first one, you’ll never turn back.  Just don’t freak out because it’s all in your head.]

They also apparently smelled pretty good, because this little diva begged incessantly before giving up to watch the rest of Harry Potter, in a full on pout, alone with her chipmunk.

fuel sweat grow: bug says pout

So, in short, I think what these pumpkin muffins are representing today is the reality life requires flexibility and modification.  There’s no one way to do anything, but if the basic systems aren’t there and the foundation is weak, it doesn’t really matter how you modify the rest.  It’s metaphorical, sure, but I really think there’s something to it.  The trick is having the patience to stay focused and committed to that core structure so that the modifications can just strengthen the goal.  I guess bells and whistles are nothing without wind.

And if that’s wrong, well, I gave it a reasonable shot, and whether the outcome is perfect or not, hopefully the modified version will still be tasty in it’s own right.

The ‘On the Go’ Chronicles: Food + Love Edition

Life, lately, has been on the go — to say the least. Work and travel are the two main constants, and my long-time skills of throwing together quick meals for ‘on the go’ (or more accurately ‘on the clock’) have been more useful than ever.  The days of hurriedly eating over the sink have been pushed aside by the days of eating at the computer and at a stop-and-go pace that supports conference calls, emails, and all the other distractions that dominate the day.

fuel sweat grow: food on the go

I have a ton going on at all of my jobs right now so that seems to be a dominant theme in my life, and something that I’m both trying to balance and desperately organize so I can breathe a little easier.  I think what I’m working towards is more of an impossible mirage than it really is an achievable goal, but that’s pretty fine by me.  Landing somewhere in the middle is still somewhere closer to fine, and that’s still progress.

On days when things are beyond crazy, it’s not that abnormal for my eating schedule to be off, so I’ll either need a little snack to make up for an off-schedule, or to help me power through the mid-afternoon yuck that is 3pm.  Recently this little tomato / chicken / avocado salad has been my go-to with a little balsamic glaze and a crank or two on the sea salt.

fuel sweat grow: on the go snack avocado salad

Since I’m typically a proponent of over-grilling (in quantity) meat to force the possibility of leftovers, this is particularly appealing to me.  The balsamic glaze part is a little newer to me – not in concept, but mostly in obsession.  I went Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things for Memorial Day and they happened to be grilling avocado and watermelon out front, and sampling them both with the glaze.  I’m nothing if not a sucker for a tasty sample, and moments later I had all three items planted in my cart, all before I even stepped foot in the store.

Which takes me to my next obsession of the moment, and an incredibly simple throw together salad if you have the ingredients in ‘prepped and ready’ mode in the fridge.

fuel sweat grow: watermelon arugula salad

I’ve always LOVED watermelon, so this watermelon + arugula salad is seriously the best thing of my life.  Slightly modified for a stricter 28toLife/Paleo approach, it’s just a bed of arugula tossed in olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, topped with watermelon chunks, blueberries and chopped mint (not pictured).  It’s freaking good, and if you want to add in a little extra with some cheese or other snacks on top, have at it.  I’m pretty sure it is beautiful no matter how it is dressed up.

This past week has spanned all three of my cities; Charlottesville, Charlotte, and Charleston – and in that order.  I barely had any time in Cville to settle in or even really unpack before I was heading right back to Charlotte — but this time, work was thankfully balanced out by celebrating some love, and a fairly normal weekend (for a change).

Friday night brought a sweet relief from the work week, and an even sweeter night at the Vanlandinham Estate celebrating two awesome people – Kelli + Graham.

fuel sweat grow: Kelli + Graham Wedding

I’m not really sure how to explain Kelli outside of just saying that she’s incredibly smart, loyal, honest and supportive friend that anyone could ask for. While it was once difficult to believe that anyone would be able to fully match up to all of her awesome, it’s clear that she’s found that match, that best partner, and (most importantly) absolute happiness with Graham, and that’s more than enough for me.

After weeks (months…years) of crazy, it was such a welcomed break to enjoy and be present at such a beautiful wedding, on what might have been the most beautiful night of the spring so far.

fuel sweat grow: Vanlandingham estate wedding

This week has reverted right back to the desk eating and hurried meal creation, but after taking a little break from it all and a little trip into someone else’s bliss, somehow it doesn’t seem so bad.

I’ve got more food, b:core, MADabolic, and general life updates coming at you in the next week(ish) so stay tuned, and of course, let me know if you’re around Charleston this weekend and want to get in on celebrating the 1st Birthday of MADcharleston — it’s on.

All Things Local: Fuel, Fitness + March Mindfulness

I LOVE weekends.  Since I don’t have as much flexibility during the weekdays with my regularly scheduled job, the weekends become my everything days, and I love it.  Our businesses are those of passion and people, so when I can look at my planner and see full days of exactly those two things, I’m pretty pumped.

This past week was so draining that Friday night was a mandatory night in –with Bold Rock Cider and Keswick Gourmet bringing some local Cville love into the mix. Dinner also included zoodles, skirt steak, spring salad, and some of my favorite [paleo] avocado deviled eggs.

fuel sweat grow: at home local dinner

There were definitely years in my life where friday nights out were a constant — but I’ve long since run out of steam for anything too involved (or past 9pm) — so something really comforting to me about being home, having a few friends over, and keeping things low key.  It also helps Saturday morning at MAD hurt a little less.

The Saturday 7:30am class at MAD brought a complete and total sweat-down at the first of a fully packed momentum day. Since my standard Milli Joe coffee run came later than usual at at 8:30am, almond milk lattes that gave us the fuel we needed.

fuel sweat grow: love and coffee

The rest of Saturday afternoon consisted of house chores, some business organization, mani/pedis, and a long awaited night out of the house with dinner at The Local.

Sunday was for community — and it hurt so good.  After a full night of rest, and a slow-ish morning that included adjusting to ‘springing forward,’ we went all #marchmindfulness and took up an invitation from Hannah, owner of the the most recently opened barre studio in Cville, barre[d.] for the 10:30am cardio barre class.

fuel sweat grow: barre[d.]

It was great to see so many faces, new and old, rolling in excited for the change-up.  After an hour of sweat and fatiguing with our new friends, we high tailed it over to MAD for a few meetings, Mia’s athletic recovery and release class and practice with our b:core team.

So, is that weird that we went to barre[d.] because we’re opening b:core soon? Not really — at least not to us, or anyone in the industry that understands the differences across the marketplace, or supports the fundamentals of community.  In the last 3 years I’ve taken nearly every barre class offered in most major markets, in studios big and small.  Knowing what all is out there, and understanding the nuances are for the foundations of each technique are just small pieces what feeds my development — and that hasn’t been specific to any one fitness niche, as will soon be very apparent.  This is actually not really that niche of a marketplace with over 20 dominant methods, and a multitude of others, all with different takes on the structure that Lotte Berk set out, and foundations in yoga and pilates.

The more I push forward my own learning and expertise in functional movement patterns, and the more certifications and trainings I get under my belt across all fitness modalities, the more exciting it is to see new methods popping up that respect similar fundamentals or introduce something completely different.  Of course each technique has their own spin, and none are the same, which is why we were SO excited to try out Hannah’s class and what she’s bringing to our community.  We loved experiencing such a different twist on barre, blended with her own approach on ballet cardio TABATA — so thanks for a great class, we’ll all be back to spread a little more local love soon!

Needless to say after cardio barre, yoga/myofascial release, and then more barre practice with the b:core team, my body was ready for some actual rest and recovery.  So what’s on this week’s agenda? We’re continuing our downtown district tour of our favorite women owned local studios in honor of International Women’s Day by hitting up TRU pilates, Hot Yoga Charlottesville, Opal Yoga, Integrity Pilates, and of course MAD.  We’re also kicking off the 5 day plan for lifestyle clean up – and really just a slight wine reduction, so it’s a big week for health and perfectly paired with some much needed spring weather.

Catching up on last week: fuel + barre

It’s been a while since I had a spare minute, so updates have been a little sparse, but believe me, good food has not.

Last week kicked off with a trip to the ER when Dar had kidney stones that presented like they might be appendicitis, or what she described as ‘an alien living inside’ of her (good thing that proved to be a misdiagnosis). The week ended (and the new one began) with the most intensive 5 day certification I’ve ever been to with our unbelievable team for the barre portion of our new studio concept in Charlottesville (b:core methods).  We were all trained by Exhale/Core Fusion co-founder Fred DeVito (who basically established Barre in the US with the Lotte Berk Method before creating Core Fusion — you’re welcome America), and it could not have been more exceptional.

fuel sweat grow: b:core core fusion training by exhale

I will be sharing a far more extensive history of the method, updates from the weekend and my recap of the experience in the next week or so, but in short, it was better than I could have hoped for from an truly educational, and functionally sound perspective.  Our teachers were all amazing right from the beginning, not only getting right into teaching like rock stars (seriously, all of them. rock stars) but also in how they embraced and dug into the kinesiology and anatomy sections, which was the most important part to Dar and I. Everyone got two manuals, one for the method and class structure (etc.) and a second THICK manual detailing out the ‘why’ behind each nuance, movement, and modification that has been developed and improved in line with physical therapists, professors, and doctors of varying specialties.  Twenty years of expertise, evolution, and technique all wrapped up into 5 long days of intensives.

It’s now four days later and I’m still applying new tidbits not only to how I think about barre on the whole, but also how I think about coaching and performing at MADabolic — and it’s already made a huge difference.

When I haven’t been at this training, at MAD, or you know, working at my day job, we’ve been (of course) working on another pretty exciting collaboration (or three) with some folks locally, and I can’t wait to announce all of them in the next month or so.  Lots of amazing things are about to unleash themselves in Charlottesville, and a few other choice locations.  I guess when it rains it pours, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Through all of the scurrying, training, and building, one thing has remained constant: good food.  We’ve been lucky to have the time and ability to stay in Cville rather than having to travel for training, and through that have had some amazing meals both at home and with friends.

Here are a few clean and awesome meals that helped to keep things in a ‘go’ status:

Grilled Flank Steak Fajita Wraps w/ fresh guacamole, that I believe may have been an offspring of this recipe from Paleo Kitchen, and happened to also be paired with the most amazing mexican cauliflower rice thanks to two of our awesome MAD members.

fuel sweat grow: paleo dinner club

This soup was a hybrid product, existing somewhere between the Whole Food’s Turkey Chili made paleo that Todd and Kiks made a few weeks ago, a general vegetable soup, and a basic dump in of everything left in the fridge.

Here’s what we had: sautéd onion with ground turkey, zucchini and yellow squash, kale, chicken stock, and mushrooms added to the boil.  The only spices added were garlic salt (from the grinder) and black pepper — and that’s all that it needed.

fuel sweat grow: chili soup

Monday night, at the end of our final training day, I decompressed with one of my favorite staple meals; flank steak, calciferous kale and green onion slaw (dressed in lime juice, olive oil + sea salt) with a side of avocado.

fuel sweat grow: sunday night dinner

This is definitely one of my favorite meal combo’s and have had it in several different iterations over the last few weeks, including last night again when we had two of our MADmen over for dinner + development.

fuel sweat grow: steak / salad

This weekend I’m looking forward to laying low, and I actually head to Charlotte on Sunday night for most of next week, but as we all know, a week in my office in charlotte = a full weekend day prepping meals and making sure I’m fully stocked for a week of work life imbalance.

Paleo Eats: Game Day Style

So, one of the hardest things about a real food / clean eating challenge can be the social aspect — especially if you’re not surrounded by people who share a similar lifestyle, or that support what you’re doing.  That’s usually the biggest fail point for anyone looking to make a lifestyle change — being surrounded by people and choices that counter the healthy habits they are trying to form.

The first time Dar and I completed 28toLife we were pretty much alone on our own island.  Friends would want to hang out and fear and panic would set in because we didn’t know how we could possibly make it through an outing where everyone else is eating and drinking whatever they wanted.

fuel sweat grow: all i need is food

The second time we went through the 28 days of garbage-free living was a little easier, and we had far greater understanding and appreciation for the lifestyle and how to find that place of complacency even when out of a controlled environment.  This third official time that we’ve completed the full 28 days was the best of all, not only because we had a pretty secure grasp on how to live in normal-ish society, but mostly because the community that surrounds us was a part of what we were doing, all inspired and motivated with the same healthy sense of purpose, and commitment to living a better cleaner life.  And it was awesome.

It’s February now and the ‘challenge’ is over, but the lifestyle remains, and so does the awesome community that came together over the last 28 days, and this weekend we proved it.  While Saturday brought Dar’s 49th (that’s not a typo) Birthday and a little bit of an off-the-wagon wine and beer indulgence (not to mention the most amazing ‘asparagus’ cake from Maliha Creations).

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Sunday re-directed itself back on track thanks to sleep, recovery, and the continued culinary expertise of Anita (the love behind Maliha Creations). So, instead of having a Sunday afternoon full of food that we just spent a month detoxing from, it seemed only fitting to re-create our favorite treats, paleo style.

Homemade salsa, to ensure no sugar; stuffed peppers (amazing); spaghetti [squash] + meatball nests, and a veggie ‘chip’ plate for scooping guacamole, all helped us kick off the game.

fuel sweat grow: paleo super bowl snacks

fuel sweat grow: paleo super bowl snacks I brought the guacamole deviled eggs (upper left corner above), which are easily my new favorite quick grab snacks to make.

Quick details:

Ingredients:

  • One Dozen Hard Boiled Eggs
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Sea Salt
  • Chili Powder
  • 1/2 LIme (sqeezed)
  •  Garlic Powder

The quick how-to:

  • Shell the eggs
  • Cut the egg in half with a sharp knife
  • [in a small bowl]: Combine egg yolks, avocado, sea salt, chili powder, garlic powder + lime juice
  • Mash all together (with fork or avocado masher)
  • Spoon filling into egg white
  • garnish with a light sprinkling of chili powder

All in all, while the weekend brought back wine and some dessert cheats, it all came back around in the end, and things went (relatively) back on track.  I’m actually so excited to do food prep tomorrow night for the rest of the week that I almost can’t contain it — and I probably won’t.