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.

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The Whole Damn Thing II: The 5 Day Plan

Today was a long day, that’s for certain, but the little sunlight that managed to peek between the snowstorms made it all worth it. I can’t begin to express how desperate I am for a little boost of vitamin D, but since that looks like it’s not totally here to stay, I’m going to boost the best way I know how: the fuel + sweat 5 day plan.

fuel sweat grow: the whole damn thing

In January we launched The Whole Damn Thing with our Charlottesville MADabolic community and had upwards of 90 awesome friends participate.  We’re not particular about what your preferred path is, but generally speaking our group did either Paleo, Whole 30, or 28toLife, and said buh-bye to processed foods, refined sugars, and in most cases also alcohol for a full month.  It’s definitely a commitment, but with so much support it passed much faster than I think we all thought.

Now, a month after completion, I’m ready for a different commitment – in the form of a 5-day plan – to keep the lifestyle strong, and my energy boosted, but without such strict restrictions and the ability to let loose on the weekends just enough to explore all of our local offerings.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.46.56 PM

Like some of the clean eating plans out there that base themselves on points or rewards, this allows some ‘cheat-ish’ days where strict eating isn’t the focus.  The focus here is on keeping the foundation strong the majority of the time, to maintain a strong and healthy balance.  Personally, prepping on Sunday and going straight through until thursday night with clean home cooking is my preferred mode, allowing Friday and Saturday for going out and living a little harder.  Outside of the natural social flows that support this schedule, I tend to be more active on the weekends when time isn’t quite as difficult to come by.

So, want to know when we’re kicking this off?  Sunday if you live in my house, but Sunday March 22nd, 4pm, at MADabolic if you want to get in on The Whole Damn Potluck, round II.  

The last potluck was amazing and there are only a few rules:

1. Bring a copy of your recipe

2. list what plan it is compliant to (paleo, whole 30, 28tolife…vegan…whatever)

3. bring serving utensils for your dish, please!

4. join the Facebook group and get in on the conversation/meal posting (okay, so it’s not really mandatory, and it’s a private group so your other friends won’t know you’re ‘one of those people.’)

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.

The Whole Damn Lifestyle: Beyond the Trend

Today was day 28.  The final day of the hard push, and just another day further along in sustaining a lifestyle that slowly starts to feel ordinary.  I think the whole point of developing a lifestyle is to create habits that become the standard of ‘normalcy,’ or the standardization of the typical — but that’s not really what we’re going for here.

I don’t think there’s anything ‘typical’ about what our community has accomplished.  The words that come to mind are more like extraordinary…incredible…committed…supportive….and most of all inspiring.  Everyone began this challenge for different reasons and from different places.  The changes to each of our routines has been different, our new routines continue with difference, and our outcomes could not be any less standardized. There’s no single or exact outcome, but it doesn’t matter.  From where we stand now, different is still nothing short of amazing.  I’m so proud of everyone who participated, and everyone who supported this community shift.  The impact has been far larger than we ever could have imagined, and has truly created a lifestyle movement that’s beyond any trendy hype, and simply based in honest results that are changing lives for the healthier.

fuel sweat grow: the whole damn thing

I think if there is one big moral that I’d hope is apparent to everyone who participated, and I want to integrate into the understanding of anyone who didn’t (but is still listening), it’s that it isn’t really about weight loss or even fitting better into clothes.  It’s about giving yourself better odds and living a whole (full) damn life. The rest is just a bonus. The chemicals, sugars, and horrible additives that exist in processed foods aren’t just pushing forward obesity in this country, it’s actually killing us.  It’s killing active, ‘toned,’ people who didn’t realize what it was doing to their body internally and how it was triggering disease and illness.  It’s so easy to throw around the concept of a healthy ‘lifestyle’ these days – and it’s a trend that had lost meaning to me for a while.  It’s easy to preach a healthy lifestyle, to grasp at inclusion and community through vocabulary and hype, but without living it you’re doing yourself a disservice.  You’re a high performance sports care and you’re putting low-octane gas in your tank expecting to win — it doesn’t matter how good you look on the outside, none of that matters if your engine is clogged.  You also aren’t going to be able to go if you don’t put in any gas at all.

It’s too easy in our culture to get calorie and fat obsessed, but that’s the least of our worries.  Cut the crap out of your diet, learn where your foods come from, and clean it up, And if you have any questions, we’ve got about 85 folks who just participated (probably more) in a month of cleaning out our own engines, and it’s looking like it’s going to be an amazing year.  So, let me step off of the soap box for just a moment and re-iterate just how inspired I am by our community and all of the amazing meals, strategies, connections, and support that they brought to the table for this challenge.  I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished, and even more excited at the visible shift I’m seeing define such amazing new lifestyles.   Thank you all for sharing it with me.

Potluck: Complete.

The Whole Damn Potluck happened this afternoon at MADabolic Cville, and it was magnificent.

fuel sweat grow: WholeDamnPotluck paleo potluck

For my main dish I brought my favorite spaghetti squash bolognese, made with 2lbs of ground beef (no zucchini, yellow squash or carrots this time) white mushrooms, and a jar of Keswick Gourmet marinara – all to top some fresh spaghetti squash.

fuel sweat grow: meat and mushroom bolognese

Since I was already in a prepping place, I threw together some fresh guacamole with 3 large avocados (diced purple onion is optional, and I omitted this time), chili powder, ground sea salt, and lemon juice, all mashed up.

So, that’s what I brought, and it was fine.  But it pales in comparison to the amazing spread of Whole30, 28toLife, and Paleo foods that the 70+ dinner guests brought to make this first kick off even more amazing than we imagined.

fuel sweat grow: TheWholeDamnThing Paleo Potluck

fuel sweat grow: thewholedamnthing paleo potluck

So, first of all, all of the food was amazing.  Truly amazing, delicious, and incredibly diverse, which was so exciting.  When starting something that feels or presents as ‘restrictive,’ it can be so easy to feel like that means no options, but the potluck proved just the opposite – which was exactly what we were hoping for.  The best part is that we could do this once a week for the next 4 (or 12?) weeks and likely not repeat meals because that’s how much option and diversity really does exist within the parameters.  It’s about getting clean food, and good fueling nutrients into your body, eliminating the garbage — that still leaves a lot of room for flavor, creative food combinations, and yummy yummy goodness.

So what’s the real point? Thank you.  A big huge thank you to all who came out and didn’t just ‘participate’ in the potluck, but actually embraced it with seriously creative thought, intention, and commitment to make it the awesome community event that it was.  That’s the point.  It’s so much easier to approach a challenge with a little extra strength in numbers, and you blew us completely away.  You’re awesome + it’s so on.

We’ve got all the recipes and will be putting them together in a little ‘first potluck’ recipe book, so stay tuned for that tomorrow or Tuesday.  In the meantime, congratulations, you’re really doing The Whole Damn Thing.

fuel sweat grow: the whole damn thing

The Rules: Paleo, Potluck + The Whole Damn Thing

It’s prep time my friends.  With The Whole Damn Thing ‘officially’ kicking off on Sunday at MADabolic Cville, it’s time to talk about the rules.

fuel sweat grow: the whole damn thing

1. Whole 30 allows meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

Key points:
* Protein every meal
* 3 meals per day, pre-workout, post-workout
* Limit fruit to 1 or 2 serving if fat loss is a goal
* two cups of different veggies every meal
* Limit nuts to 1-2 oz if fat loss is a goal
* Beverages are coffee, tea, mineral water. Unsweetened.

[more information available on the website]

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2. 28toLife allows meat, fish, vegetables, low sugar fruits, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, refined sugar, and alcohol.

fuel sweat grow: 28tolife real food freedom

Key points: 

* Food pairing: protein, natural carbohydrate (i.e. vegetables), and healthy fats
* Limit high sugar fruits, opt for lower sugar dark berries
* Sweet potatoes ARE allowed, but in moderation, and preferably within an hour after working out / intense intervals….
* No corn!
* Beverages are coffee, tea, mineral water. Unsweetened.

[books with full details available for sale at MADabolic Cville]

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3. Paleoallows for grass-fed/finished meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts & seeds, and healthy oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut); it excludes cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt, refined vegetable oils.

Key points: 

* The goal is to create a diet high in the beneficial nutrients (soluble fiber, antioxidant vitamins, phytochemicals, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbohydrates) that promote good health.
* The key is in eliminating foods containing nutrients (refined sugars, grains, transaturated fats, salt, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and processed foods) that are key factors in weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health problems.
[check out website for more information on the FAQ’s and specifics]

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Again, the common foundation of all of these methods is eliminating all processed foods, and reading all the labels on the basic items (coconut milk, almond butter, marinara, etc) that are allowed but are frequently packed with added sugars and chemicals if you don’t check the ingredients on the label. The basic allowances are lean meats (preferably grass-fed / grass-finished / local), fish/seafood, vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, nuts and healthy oils.

For the Whole Damn Potluck on Sunday, here’s what you need to remember:

– Bring an entree, salad, snack, or treat of your choice, fitting within the nutritional guidelines of at least one of the preferred plans above (please leave a comment on the Facebook Event with what you are bringing so we can keep track in one spot)

– With your entree, include a sign/index card with the following information: Name of Dish, ingredients, which plan it falls under (or ALL), recipe + cooking instructions, and source of recipe (if applicable)

– Since there will likely be leftover food, feel free to bring an extra container or two to take or share leftovers home for an even more solid start to the week.

Most of all, enjoy.  Even if it’s far from your norm, try to enjoy the routine, the organization, and the preparation.  Appreciate the struggles and what they’re telling you about what your body is detoxing from.  Love all the good fuel, and clean nutrition that you’re putting into your body, and (after you’ve passed through the sugar-quitting phase) notice the difference each day in your energy levels, focus, and performance — in whatever it is that you are passionate about.  That’s the whole point — to nourish your body and self up to the same quality/standards that you expect it to return to you day in and day out.  If you fuel yourself with garbage, that’s about what you can expect it to give back to you.

Next up is a list of some of my favorite blogs, recipes and resources for creative (or just plain delicious) meal ideas to shake things up a bit, and also shed some light on how diverse the options really are for creating your favorite flavors without sacrificing quality of food.  There are so many truly amazing resources out there, and work-arounds for all your favorite meals/flavors, so don’t panic yet.fuel sweat grow: 28tolife real food freedom

[source]

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