Welcome to Fall: Comfort Food + Charlottesville Weekends

It’s fall.  It’s a leaves changing, crisp air breathing, college football kind of fall, and I’m so in love with it.

fuel sweat grow: pumpkins and fall

I love warm weather just as much as the next winter-fearing southern transplant, but there’s some naturally ignorant draw to the changing of the seasons that fools my body and mind into thinking that there will be a favorable outcome, or at least a perpetual new reality where life is all hot-chocolate, boots, and pumpkin everything.  And listen, if there’s a world like that somewhere, please send me the coordinates.  I’ll be there….fully engulfed corduroys, a turtleneck and tall boots – because that’s my jam.

This past weekend, despite Saturday being unreasonably hot, was a beautiful first full September weekend in Charlottesville.  Football, the downtown mall, long sleeves and my first hot chocolate provided the perfect lead in to what I’m hoping will be a little calmer season than the last.

Sunday, outside of just football and the steep break in the weather from Saturday, was the perfect day of balance and organization.  The morning included my favorite Sunday activities – coffee, breakfast, and strolling the downtown mall, and in the process, seeing this sweet little love note on the door of Mudhouse downtown. [MUD + MAD = <3].

fuel sweat grow: charlottesville mudhouse downtown

Early afternoon kicked off at Citizen’s Burger Bar in tandem with the 1pm NFL kick off, and was followed up by a nap, a trip to HomeGoods and Whole Foods, and then an evening of food prep glory.  It was perfect.

For this week in food, a few things went into production to prevent any meal driven panics, starting my favorite Spaghetti Squash Bolognese. As far as clean eating goes, it’s one of the best cold weather comfort foods you can imagine, and might be even better reheated (so make a LOT and pre-package lunches for the week if you can).

The squash was already roasted, so I took some ground beef from Whole Foods, simmered with squash (zucchini and yellow), and then added in the ‘spaghetti’.  The sauce was my favorite (at least favorite store bought), Keswick Gourmet, made locally in Charlottesville.

fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash marinara

fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash bolognese

While this was happening on the stovetop, SO much more was happening all around it to make my new favorite pack and go snacks, including chopping, grilling, and even more stove-topping.  The result: amazing spring rolls.

fuel sweat grow: hand rolled spring rolls

I made a batch of these last weekend in Maine with my Aunt, and immediately got all of the necessary ingredients to bring them back to my everyday life.  Stay tuned for the full scope update with recipe options and process.  I’m obsessed.

I guess the cliffs notes version of all the above is: welcome fall, you’re beautiful.  The rest of the week is promising to be pretty awesome as well with the cool air sticking around, amazing sweats, happy hours, live music, and food throughout.

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.