Shopping the Perimeter + Beginning The Whole Damn Thing

I’m both completely prepared and completely unprepared to return back to my ‘real’ job tomorrow, so I’m pretty happy that we’re closing out the break with the Whole Damn Potluck, so many of my favorite people, and a goal to keep the balance and organization going strong as reality slaps me directly in the face (beginning at the 6am MAD class tomorrow).

While I do typically function best when my schedule is packed and the chaos forces stricter organization and structure in my life, there was something so beautiful about not having my normal work stress dominating my days, allowing me to crank out some major progress on 2015 goals and all of the loose ends that needed to be aligned.  I’m in a great place with all of the moving parts now, so mission accomplished, but it definitely reminded me about the value of the 100% focus when multi-tasking isn’t realistic.  Next vacation I’m hoping to actually take ‘off’….but I’ve already seen what I believe the future to be, and it’s not that, so chest la vie I suppose.

As part of our local Charlottesville crew (rolling 79 strong!) heads into tackling real food and The Whole Damn Thing, I’m going to close out my prep posts with the basic and staple items that are typically found on my grocery list (perimeter shopping + staple isle items), split out by either price or quality to land on the specific lists for either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  Small disclaimer here — while it’s not included in the graphic, if you’re only low on meat, I highly suggest making a local stop at JM Stock Provisions on Main, or The Organic Butcher in Main St. Market, because you’re going to get some seriously awesome local quality and attention there.  Stock also has some grocery basics if your need is just basic produce and eggs, so at the very least stop in and say hey – they’re MAD friendly, and you know we love to support our community members and their businesses.

So here goes it:

fuel sweat grow: trader joes grocery list #thewholedamnthing fuel sweat grow: Whole Foods Grocery List #thewholedamnthing

Last night was a night in, wrapping up some details, doing strategic planning/biz development (my favorite, of course) and putting a few more ducks in a row, so cooking was a welcomed interruption.  (To be honest, I also had a 90 minute massage – 2nd this week – at 3pm, so I wasn’t suffering to terribly.  2015 whole wellness is my favorite goal.)

On Friday night I made taco salad – which basically is just ground beef, sautéed with zucchini, yellow squash, and orange/yellow peppers, seasoned with chili powder and ground salt over salad.  It’s one of my favorite quick meals in the world, and if you make enough of the beef (I usually make albs at a time) you’ve got some killer leftovers for the next few days.  Since that is exactly what happened, last night I re-heated some of the leftover beef and used it for early-evening lettuce wraps.

fuel sweat grow: taco salad lettuce wrap

Whole Foods has some pretty great local hydroponic butter lettuce (in the last fridge of the produce section near the Tessemae Salad dressing) that is amazing for lettuce wrapping.  You can also totally make little boats out of romaine stalks, but I was looking for a little wrap action.

fuel sweat grow: taco salad lettuce wrap #thewholedamnthing

I was actually a little hasty in my production and presentation of this tiny little flavor bombs because I had gone slightly longer than I should have between meals…but regardless, they hit the spot and bridged the gap between lunch and dinner.

Dinner consisted of another huge salad, which bug supervised so she could be the first on the scene for any ‘droppings’.

fuel sweat grow: #thewholedamnthing

The rest of dinner was one of my favorites: steak and roasted cauliflower (with a side of zucchini sautéed in coconut oil with Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning.

fuel sweat grow: #thewholedamnthing dinner

All in all it was a pretty solid Saturday — beginning with MADness and ending with kitchen therapy + a solid at-home meal.

Can’t wait to see all the potluck food tonight, share ideas, and taste everything that sounded so good on the group page.  Life in Charlottesville in 2015 it definitely starting off right.

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6 Basic Tips for Starting (& Living) a Real Food Lifestyle

Time to say hello to 2015; and hello to the possibility that this will be the best year of your life.  For those of you prepping (with me) for The Whole Damn Thing, it’s almost GO time!  While the prep and the weight of the ‘commitment’ itself can seem pretty intimidating as it approaches, I assure you, it will not be as bad as you think, and you will feel better than you can even imagine.

I’m going to say this now, but it might not mean anything until we’re closing out January (so don’t worry, I’ll repeat it): the real purpose, and the actual value, of this whole challenge has less to do with these next 28-30 days than may be apparent amidst the current build up.  The value is in the lifestyle change; the forming of habits and the conscious choice making of what food we buy, and where we buy it; the self-education that happens within the process; and most importantly, how we choose fuel our bodies to be strong and healthy.

So, lets get started with the basics.

1. Make meal plans, grocery lists, and buy what you need for the week.  Without food ready to cook, life will be tough.

2. Make time to prep in bulk (I typically recommend Sundays, just because that seems to work best for me and my crazy weekday schedule). If you’re planning two meals with spaghetti squash, make it in advance — if you’re using zoodles/spiralized zucchini, get them ready.  Seriously, whatever you can chop, prep, and store, do it in one effort.  You’ll thank yourself later.

Fuel Sweat Grow: Saturday meals, spaghetti squash

3.  If you’re a meat eater, buy it in bulk (or on sale when you can) and freeze it.  Whole Foods will frequently have sales on staple meat items (ground beef and chicken of all varieties).   You’ll save money and time if you take advantage of those opportunities, and you’ll be so thankful when you have backup ready if you’re ever in a pinch.

Fuel Sweat Grow: rib eyes

4.  Plan for leftover mix + match.  Leftover meat added to a simple salad makes for a great on the go meal; roasted cauliflower makes an awesome addition to scrambled eggs; brussel sprout hash is good in/on/with everything (just saying).

fuel

5.  Don’t leave the house without food.  Seriously.  There’s nothing worse than hunger panic, so don’t set yourself up failure.  Prep in advance, take food with you, and keep some emergency snacks with you at all times (nuts, fruit, etc).

6.  Take it one day at a time.  Like anything else all you can really do is deal with what you can control in the moment — everything else is a waste of energy.  Just focus on the plan for ‘today’ and keep the momentum going.

I actually started today (and yesterday if you choose not to count the end-of-2014 celebratory wine), so I can tell you with certainty that the future isn’t so bad.  I did a good amount of shopping, for meat anyhow, at Whole Foods yesterday and got away with making meals with what was left in the fridge, but I’ll be heading out to Trader Joe’s tomorrow to finish up the list, and get the meal plans cranking for the rest of the week.  Again, the work load is heavy on the front end, but it definitely pays off in the long run.

I’m already feeling more accomplished in 2015 so here’s to continuing in that direction!

Embracing the Holidays: Ingredients, Blended Families & Presence

One might think that I would be the person that would have all of my holiday decorations up on December 1st, ready to be #homegoodshappy for a full month.  Well, it would be a logical thought, at least a passing one, and if it were any other year you would have been spot on, but not in 2014. No sir.  This has been the year of maxing out capacity and managing the build of the permanent fixtures in life – letting go of the seasonal.  I’m currently neck deep in things-to-be-done, some critical, some deeply passionate, and some so trivial that it can be hard to want to give any time or energy to them.  As the Holidays barreled closer, and more of the i-want-to-do’s began to shine through in my schedule, I decided to make a choice – and it made my week.  Joy over stress; value over waste; community over self; and presence over presents.

On Wednesday night it was cookie baking night in the neighborhood with some of the dearest friends in the world, and the kids that help to glue us together as the most untraditional and amazing blended family we could hope for.

fuel sweat grow: cookie swap / #myblendedfamily

fuel sweat grow: cookie swap / my blended family

It’s just Love.  A whole lot of love, laughter, dancing…..and sugar.  But whatever, life’s about living, and these moments don’t just come around every day.

I’ll spare you all the finished product because some of those happy little snow/gingerbread men didn’t fare well through the decorating phase, but we still managed to have the best time.

fuel sweat grow: sugar cookies / cookie swap

The whole sugary crew made their debut at Thursday night’s cookie swap at Paradox Pastry with our friends from Our Local Commons, and they got to live out their holiday destiny bringing joy…or something…to other peoples lives.

So leaving Paradox on a high, followed by an AWESOME dinner – that I will post more about later- at the new spot on Main St., Oakhart Social where Dar and I ran into multiple awesome MADabolic Cville clients …and soon-to-be clients… I was fully inspired.  The holiday spirit is alive and well within me, and this weekend it took over in the form of our MAD client Holiday Happy Hour, so many Holiday Parties, and ultimately an afternoon of full out holiday nesting and (paleo) comfort food making (more to come on this).

fuel sweat grow: holiday paleo comfort foods

It’s time to let the year unwind, and while I know that it’s going to have to crank back up pretty damn hard as soon as the ’14 fades out and ’15 busts in, I’m going to just enjoy the moment(s) for a while, and appreciate the people that keep me going all year long when I’m definitely spread way too thin.

Clean, Home Cooked December Life + the ‘Dar Salad’

This is what life has been looking like recently, and it’s working for me so far.
fuel sweat grow: goals and paleo

I’ve been cooking a lot more recently than I had for a while.  Travel, moves, construction, and chaos had all contributed to a major shift out of the kitchen, and what felt like a prolonged restaurant lifestyle.  While meal prep and eating clean is significantly more challenging when I’m working in Charlotte, I have to say, if you want to eat clean (out) in Charlottesville, it’s not that challenging.  It’s counter intuitive that such a small city would have such a huge selection of locally sourced / farm to table options, but we’re terribly lucky with the restaurant scene in Charlottesville and all that it offers.

For the last two+ years Citizen Burger Bar has been the local go-to for the MAD crew, and Dar and my absolute survival during all 28toLife and Whole 30 challenges (not to mention just life in general).

fuel sweat grow: Citizens Burger Bar

While I love the concept in general, and the staff are all pretty awesome, the real big hook in the beginning (and what keeps us coming back) has been their amazing flexibility in creating custom orders for both burgers and salads. Oh, and their locally sourced foods, because that’s pretty sweet.  At some point Dar created her own standard, clean/paleo salad that she literally never waivers from (unless she’s making the essentially same thing but just as a burger).  The order goes as follows: House Salad; hold the bacon, croutons and cheese; light onion; add avocado, blueberries, chicken or local beef; oil and vinegar on the side.  Every. Damn. Time.  While my order began as similar, I’ve varied over time, adding different things, switching salad bases, and occasionally throwing in sweet potato fries into the delicious mix.

Tonight, upon entering the restaurant (fondly referred to as CBB), we were immediately greeted with the news that the new staff for the soon-to-open Clarendon, VA location was fully trained today in Charlottesville on how to enter the ‘Dar Salad’ into the system.  Oh, and did I mention, it’s being added to the menu? We’re working on a co-branded name, obviously, and I’m not certain on the exact delivery date for the item on the official menus, but if you’re up for a paleo friendly, MAD women approved meal, just tell them that’s what you want – ‘the Dar Salad.’ It will likely also be an announcement in MAD for the rest of time, because it’s Dar’s little playhouse, and when in Rome….you know.

As for what’s happening in the home kitchen? A bunch, so here are just a few snap shots of some of the late fall salads, and comfort dinners that have finally made their way back into my life.

fuel sweat grow: late fall salad

fuel sweat grow: fall salad

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

I haven’t had time to fully go through my new Paleo Parents book, Real Life Paleo, but it’s on my joy list for the weekend.  I’m so excited to spend some quality time planning some fun new meals for December, and totally geeking out over new ingredient combinations.

This is the first month in a year and a half that I’m probably not going to be traveling, and I already know that January, February and March are going to be insane, so I’m committed to appreciating these sweet moments of home bliss.  Winter, this is your chance to get on my good side; it’s a really fortunate thing that you come equipped with blankets and warm beverages because those are two of my biggest weak spots.

MODpaleo + Paleo Parents: BOTH COMING TO CVILLE!

Over the last few months I’ve been all up in MODpaleo’s grill….pretty literally.  Aside from making sure they catered meals at my office in Charlotte (their home base), I’ve also been talking up their upcoming delivery option for our folks at MADabolic Cville (or really any friends in Charlottesville or Virginia).  So here’s the big announcement(s): THE WAIT IS FINALLY OVER!  Meal delivery is here and you can get some special love and treatment right here through this link (aka, the portal to paleo).

fuel sweat grow: modpaleo

I’m so excited about this, not only for my own life convenience (I too like to take days off from cooking), but also for the lives of all of my favorite MADville friends.

So, folks, go here and order up.  I promise that you’ll be happy that you did.  Efficiency finally meets convenience for a whole lot of clean, delicious eating without having to shop, cook, or clean.

So, while I have your attention and we’re all fueled up on the thought of clean fuel, paleo meals and being amazing, here’s announcement #2 – and it’s a big one.

Paleo Parents (bloggers, authors, and also…well, real live paleo-living parents) are bringing The Paleo View Book Signing Tour to Charlottesville, and we’re hosting the event at MADabolic Cville.

fuel sweat grow: Paleo Parents Book Tour

We’re pretty pumped to have them in Charlottesville (not to mention our own happy little piece of ‘ville), and hope that you will all come out to join us for this amazing night.  Come on out, buy their book, and get it signed right there by the authors — and then, hey, maybe we can all go up to Citizen’s Burger Bar (CBB) and grab a bite.  Why not dream big?

MODpaleo: Clean, Convenient Fuel

Remember earlier this summer when our friends from MODpaleo came out to our Grand Opening Party at MAD Charleston for a little ‘MEAT & GREET’ to let our clients taste test their delicious paleo meals? Well, we’re actually their pick up location in Mt. Pleasant, which is awesome, and since July I’ve been pumping hard (from my social media perch) to make sure that their food is in ALL of my favorite places.

fuel sweat grow: modpaleo

In addition to putting a hard push on them to bring their clean eats to Charlottesville, I somehow managed to score them as a breakfast vendor in my office in Charlotte so I’ve got some amazing healthy options when I’m there.  It’s all about convenience and quality in our industry, and when the right options are there it’s not hard to make good choices and maintain positive momentum knowing that you’ve been fueling your body to sustain an active lifestyle.  Day 8 of #23to30: quality of life comes from the quality of your surroundings -know what you need and what makes you feel whole and surround yourself with it.

Two weeks ago when I was working in Charlotte you better believe that I was in the office early on Wednesday morning to get my breakfast on with MODpaleo in our super pantry, and it was killer.  [Egg baked in a sweet potato, herbed chicken patty with fresh pesto on top.]

fuel sweat grow: MODpaleo Breakfast

This meal sold out completely by 8am, and not only tasted amazing, it kept me full well past lunch time.  In a job and world where I rarely have a down moment or a regularly scheduled anything, having MODpaleo at the office was an absolute life saver.  So, naturally, this breakfast just re-lit my hard march to get their pre-packaged meals to Charlottesville so I can spend a few less days doing meal prep and planning and just let them do it for me.  And then low and behold, I saw this on instagram:

fuel sweat grow: MODpaleo Virginia

You better believe this made my day.  Happy, clean, fresh fuel made for convenience and overall goodness – I’m in.  For everyone who has been nagging asking frequently for made to order clean meals….well here’s your best shot.  Check out their website and the weekly menu posted and get your orders in — they even have veggie options people.

Amber + Carter, sounds like it’s time to get your Cville on and get this full-blown show rolling.  We’re ready for you in MADville.  Next goal: shipping meals to me on all my trips.  Just saying…