Food Lately, November Style

The last two weeks have been about cleaning up from the chaos of the previous few months, organizing everything within reach, and setting up for a solid start to 2016.

I’ve been doing a little more of a local and multi-source roundup for food stuffs lately, trying to both create and save a little change in the process.  Last weekend, however, with limited time and limited need, I hit up Whole Foods, my own personal Kryptonite.

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I’m going through a pretty serious chicken phase at the moment, trying to move away from the all too frequent steak indulge – both for a little reining in of my food expenses, and also for a little change up to get out of the repetitive meal rut that I’ve been in for a while.

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Whole chickens are totally my jam, so I kicked off the week  on Sunday with a little grill action; all the chicken, asparagus, and my favorite kale slaw [shredded kale, cabbage, green onion, carrots with bonus radishes and avocado dressed in fresh squeezed lime juice, olive oil and himalayan sea salt].  Dinner = Yum.

IMG_4031Tuesday night I took a different twist on one of my absolute favorite meals.

Salad was just a simple love [torn romaine, cherry tomato and slivered almond combo (avocado added as the finale) dressed in light olive oil and truffle salt].

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The main love of the meal (for me) was simmered ground beef and onion (with coconut oil), zucchini, and mushrooms, with spiraled sweet potato noodles added in for the last 5 minutes to soften and absorb the flavor.

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When I say I loved it, I think I’m actually not fully doing the meal justice since it was absolutely everything I wanted and nothing that I didn’t.  The red wine that accompanied it also didn’t hurt.

When I make the time to refocus in the kitchen to allow for creativity and  a little personal therapy, having time away from everything else that takes my attention, it is usually the best way to infuse energy back into all aspects of my being.

This weekend, which ‘thankfully’ started two days early, is a long awaited opportunity to get all of the things organized, strategies completed, and life organized as we march hard into December and the scheduling chaos that is before us.

Tomorrow we’re doing a b:MAD misfit toys paleo potluck hosted by part of the original tribe, so get pumped for the recap of what will undoubtedly be a crazy amazing holiday to remember.

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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.

Bonus Days, Planners, and Time in the Kitchen

There’s not much better than a rainy Sunday, unless of course if half way through the day you realize that it’s actually Saturday and for a moment feel like you’ve just won life.  In summary, this weekend is turning out perfectly, by accident.

As we close out September and welcome in fall, I’ve got a few mini goals that I’ve been working on to re-adjust and get the balance back in my life — relatively speaking.  The first of which is time organization with a side of pseudo inner peace.

Balancing all the businesses, the corporate grind, and all life things, has been a little more than a little challenging lately.  Throw in the added stress of all having different location anchors and travel schedules, my planner(s) transformed from being the source of my happiness and forward movement into an anxiety ridden scribble pad that I dreaded looking at.  To add insult to injury I managed to spill a coffee [directly] into my bag last month soaking both planners, so there was no denying that the end was near.  This week new hope was born in the form of a new Emily Ley Simplified [day] Planner.

fuel sweat grow: emily key simplified planner

fuel sweat grow: Emily Ley Planner

I’m pretty much in love with it, so here’s to hoping I can refrain from using my bag as a sink drain in 2016 and my planner and I can survive a full year of happiness before it’s retired for the 2017 version.

Since I’m still a few months out from being able to take pen-to-planner, I’m focusing on doing a few little things each day to help calm the chaos, and bring strength to the systems and structure that I’ve always relied on to get shit done.

The most important thing I’ve been missing lately is cooking + meal planning, both of which are coming back strong this fall — with a little Whole Damn Thing 80/20 action happening over the next few weeks and the real deal kicking off on January 3rd at MADcville and b:core.

Until then, I’ve been back at it on my own, filling in the gaps where I can, and taking the time out for a little culinary therapy and meal planning to bring me back, somewhat, to the center that I’ve been missing.  Breakfast is always where it’s at for me, and I’m an adult convert to over-easy eggs and loving it over my favorite kale slaw.

fuel sweat grow: eggs and kale slaw

I even had a little veggie meal earlier this week that is pretty far out of my typically zone, but my body was craving brown rice hard so I mixed it with some stir fried peppers and onions with a side of goodwood brewing‘s bourbon barrel stout, which was a killer combo.

fuel swat grow: veggie stir fry and stout

This week’s main goal is to finalize some of the month-end organization, and get solidly set for the month so I can shut down every night by 8:30 and read (non-work reading) until I fall asleep, which will hopefully be sometime around 9pm…but I’m willing to be flexible on that detail.  Thankfully my 10 year old life coach and boss lady is going to be squatting in the house for a few days and I’m counting on her to call me out on all the things I’m missing on — she’s got a real eye for inefficiencies.

So here’s to leveraging bonus days, planners, and time in the kitchen to make October the amazing month it can be all around.

Hello there Fall + Welcome Back

This summer was one of the most tiring, eventful, exciting, and overall chaotic seasons I’ve ever had, and the most amazing part is that we made it through and are welcoming fall with open arms and open doors at b:core.fuel sweat grow: bcore methods cvilleEach of the last four summers has been in some way consumed by the opening of a new business, all different and eventful in their own ways, so it’s not that I’m not used to the grind, it’s that this year the grind was just a little longer, a little more intense, and all the more personally consuming.  But, we sure made it.

This particular business was a labor of love because it not only lives and breathes part of my soul — from the colors to the studio vibe, and all the way down to the still-to-come features still up our sleeves — but  also because it is the space where it will all happen.  All the barre, cardio, shaking, breathing, lengthening, sweating and growing.  It’s where all the struggles, the successes, the laughter and inevitably some tears will happen – not only for our team(s), but also for the tribe that we have and will have in the future — and that’s what makes it all worth it, despite the challenges that come with it all.

fuel sweat grow: bcore methods cardio barre

I’m so in love with what we’re building, in love with this method, and so grateful for our amazing mentors and legendary leaders in the barre industry.  There is so much to share about the history, the development and foundational ‘why’ for everything we do and believe, and that’s what sets it apart that my heart fills every time I think about it.  We’ll be sharing all of it on the b:core blog, set to launch very soon, so stay tuned for that [yeah, we’ll let you know when to check it out, don’t worry].

fuel sweat grow: b:core barre method cville

Last weekend was my first visit back to Whole Foods in over a month thanks to the continuous chaos (pun intended, MAD ones) and the fact that I can oh-so-easily get all the tacos from our friends at Brazos.  It felt like coming home, finally, and I couldn’t be more excited to get back into the kitchen and back to some semblance of balance.

fuel sweat grow: whole foods groceries The first meal back in the home spot was simple, delicious, and exactly what I was needing: grilled chicken, asparagus, and my absolutely clutch cabbage, kale + green onion salad dressed topped with avocado and dressed with lime juice, olive oil and salt.

fuel sweat grow: sunday night dinnerSo here we are; back to the pseudo normalcy of fall, working our way out of the chaos and loving all the things that fuel us, both in body and mind.  I can’t wait to make all the new, love all the old [favorites] and live through this fall the only way I know how — in constant motion.

[Have you been to sweatIX with us? check out our new client specials at MADcville and b:core and get your sweat on.]

Fueling Up: Greens, Eggs + Sweet Potato Noodles

I’m not sure what’s in the air, or if it’s just the sheer fact that it’s cardio week at MADabolic, but I feel hungry all the time.  ALL the time.  I’m usually slow to start in the morning, not grabbing any real food until I’ve had ample time to get coffee, settle in, and assess the schedule for the day.  This week, I have one objective, and it’s to get food into my body.

While vacation is great in concept, any travel where there’s no kitchen is always challenging for me, so the last few months have been hit or miss for me.  My first destination when I got back into Charlottesville was to hit up the grocery store, and I did just that — hard.

Whole Foods here (and maybe everywhere?) has this awesome kale slaw in the juice / chopped veggie section that also has shredded cabbage, carrots, broccoli (sometimes) and green onion that I seriously can’t get enough of.  I’ve historically used it to make salad and sides for dinner, but it just so happened that I was craving it one morning, so I went hot with it.

Sautéed in some coconut oil ad seasoned with a little sea salt, my little green friends made a turn for the even more delicious, and perfectly accompanied my eggs.

fuel sweat grow: green eggs and bam

I’m calling this ‘green eggs and BAM’ because it was totally a power breakfast that I needed to get myself going. It’s going to quickly become clear that I was loving on kale this week, but I’m still not sick of it, so no apologies here.

The thing that really started my love affair with kale was it’s amazing relationship with all things citrus, and the fact that you can absolutely douse it in lemon/lime/orange juice based dressing and it didn’t become slimy or sad.  In fact, while it does soften (thankfully), it seriously takes on the flavor and tartness of the dressing, and that always makes everything more delicious.

This salad wasn’t anything particularly special; just kale, blueberries, cucumber, and some leftover grilled chicken to give it a little boost — but to be honest, it didn’t need anything else [the dressing was fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt sprinkled].  It stood just fine on it’s own, and was a great partner for my new favorite thing: sweet potato noodles.

fuel sweat grow: summer kale salad fuel sweat grow: kale salad and sweet potato noodles

I’ve long been loving on zoodles and spaghetti squash, but I never really took the time to dive hard into the sweet potato arena. I think this ignorance was in part because the first time I did 28 to Life I convinced myself that sweet potatoes were on the naughty list (I was later corrected….but not until much much later).  Recently I’ve been seeing more and more meals pop up on blogs, and also on MODpaleo’s menu that are centered around them, so I figured it was worth a shot.  And worth it, it most certainly was.

I sent those sweet P’s through the spiralizer and then sent them straight into a pan with some ghee (yeah, it’s butter folks, and it was delicious).  In case you can’t tell, just writing about this meal is making me hungry all over again, so I definitely recommend it.   I also recommend the (RED) meals on the MODpaleo menu, because they’re amazing too [and friends that use the code MadnessCville get 10% off their first order, so get after that…stat].

I did get after it again with the spiralizer again, with an awesome new thai cucumber noodle salad that I made last night, but that one is going to have to wait because it was too good to rush through.

fuel sweat grow: cucumber thai noodle salad

Now that I’m back to cooking and feeling a little more food-stable, I’m pretty excited to start playing around with some old favorite recipes and clean them up – at least as much as is reasonable.

I’ve got a goal to make one new recipe each week, minimum, and hopefully by the end of the year I’ll be rolling through a whole new cycle of favorites.  But who knows, if I stay hungry like this I’ll probably hit that full 52 new recipe marker a lot sooner than I projected.  If you’ve got any favorites of your own, shoot them over — I’m most definitely taking suggestions.

Running Behind + Pushing Forward

I’m running a few behind these days.  A few minutes, a few days, a few (hundred) emails — whatever the unit is, I’m not ahead of the game by any means.  When life rains, it most definitely pours, and while that’s not always as dark and negative as it sounds, it’s still a little extra weight on the shoulders, hours off of sleep, and mental gear shifting.

Life as of late has been largely on the road, in a perpetual state of travel; working the southeast circuit of all my jobs there’s been very little time to get settled and dig out.  While living like a gypsy isn’t necessarily my preferred way to live (at least not anymore…and ‘at my age’ which was a horrifying phrase to even have cross my mind), I’ve found that as long as I have a kitchen, I can find a way to soldier through.

fuel sweat grow: kitchen time

I just need a little base with the potential for the sanity check and cathartic rhythms that I can sometimes only get from a kitchen.  Even when I’m out of my own kitchen, familiar recipes, tastes, and ingredient control brings me a serious sense of comfort — and I’m pretty lucky in Charlotte to have friends / family that are open to trying my favored creations and at least pretend to make really awesome yummy noises.

fuel sweat grow: dinner in charlotte

In Charleston I was lucky enough to have had the foresight to buy a ton of MODpaleo meals to stock the new apartment, and finally have a setup that allows for at-home meals and a little more balance amidst the travel life.  But…. it’s still Charleston, so you better believe I do a little restaurant loving while I’m there, while still trying to hold true to the 80/20.  Last Saturday night brought dinner at SALT, a definite favorite, and this dish of gluten-free gnocchi, sautéed summer veggies, and chicken in a homemade pesto, which i honestly couldn’t have loved more.  It was a big change of pace from my usual orders, and I think that actually made all the difference.

fuel sweat grow: SALT at Station 22

Now that I’m finally back in Charlottesville for a short stint, there’s just shy of one-million things getting ready to happen all at once, but at least there is a purpose and a passion driving everything that’s on it’s way — now it’s just time to get excited.  If you’re excited, I’m excited, and that’s all it really takes to make all the beautiful things happen.

While there’s still so much from this weekend to catch up on — like volunteering at the Cops4Kids event with the Police Foundation, some MAD sweats, and little birthdays, today is about the Mothers, and the rest can wait until tomorrow.

fuel sweat grow: grit coffee mothers day flowers

So, here’s to an afternoon of productive recovery, of excitement building, and all the beautiful things that fill our days and lives – like all the moms, moms-to-be, and moms-in-spirit who are hopefully enjoying a day of celebration, of rest, and of certain appreciation.