Recover + Recharge: Holidays in Charlottesville

There have been years when the holidays have been hectic; lots of travel, gift hunting, and a million to-do’s that all collide with each other generating a little more stress than usual.  Since this year has been full of all things hectic (plenty of travel and to-do’s included), it was a nice change of pace to stay planted in Charlottesville, and take the time to recover, recharge, and settle fully into the warmth of a holiday at home.

With work winding down, I took a couple extra days off to do all of the things I love about living in such a locally driven town; exploring locally owned businesses, hand picking gifts, coffee with friends, and of course, one of my favorite treats: sweethaus cupcakes.

fuel sweat grow: sweethaus cupcakes

Tuesday night was filled with mini-cupcakes, great friends, and warm holiday spirit. This time the party was at HOME, which was a welcomed change from the crazy holiday party circuit that has dominated the last few weeks.  This year has been one with challenges, change, and so many amazing people, old friends and brand new, that make it impossible not to have an (over) full heart.

After a great night of celebrating, the 7am class at MADabolic Cville followed by 75 minutes of Rasa Yoga Lab / myofascial release at Opal Yoga with Mia paired up to be the perfect complement for a little extra recovery.

fuel sweat grow: Christmas Eve Opal Yoga

The more I put on myself, physically and mentally, a load that seems to increase by the year, the more important it has become to know what it needs to recover.  Years ago when I started exploring different practices, methods, and the balance of them, my main goal was to figure out the perfect compliments for my own body and lifestyle.  While that’s still the goal, over time I realized that there’s no ‘perfect’ forever combination, but there’s a definite formula for the intelligent pairings of building and releasing strength, stress, and space.  The formula forces self-education, intelligent pairings and cyclical change over time.

The combination of Mia’s class – the yoga (flow + yin) to warm the muscles, and the myofascial release with blocks and tennis (or lacrosse) balls to release – was exactly what I was needing this week, and allowed so much more of a mental release than hurried stretch or foam/PVC rolling on my own (pre or post sweat).

We found our post-sweat / post-release recovery bliss in an almond milk latte at Milli Joe, nerdish conversation about the body, fitness philosophies, and life’s evolutions – in both body and mind.  It was a great Wednesday out of the routine, and a sweet recharge to kick off the holiday.

I’m excited to get back to a little routine and structure tomorrow, but it will definitely be nice to have a few more days off from work to enjoy the easy balance before real life weighs back in.

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Welcoming November with Positivity + Cautious Optimism

November is here and I’m itching for some change.  Daylight savings ended this weekend and I wasted most of the extra hour thinking about time, and all of the things I daydream (usually when I’m fighting waking up in the morning) that I would do if I just had one extra hour to myself.  Usually those thoughts center around either getting up earlier to workout, or just sleeping later — something of a paradox really.

Even though the idea of actually gaining an hour has already burned off, I want to be more intentional about how I start my days off — not just through actual action, but also intention and approach.

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There’s something to choosing an intention for the day — a subtle focus and general goal for how to mentally approach the waking hours.  Life is way too fluid to be controlled, but there’s something pretty powerful about selecting the lens through which you view it and how it really does begin to shine through the other garbage that starts to pile on.  And maybe, just maybe, over time the garbage will decrease — either in reality, or perception.  At least that’s the goal.

One of the best parts of the day is when I get to check my personal email and the daily Truth Bomb’s from Danielle LaPorte — it’s such a guilty (or not so guilty, really) pleasure of mine….but I need to put the effort in to have my own.  My friends at Merch Colony are currently doing a daily gratitude challenge in preparation for Thanksgiving, so as I launch this new positive/daily intention, I’m going to err on the side of gratitude this month.  December can be focused on a little more positivity since I know I’ll need it once the temps dip below what is reasonable…in my opinion.

This morning, admittedly, I took about a 45 minute delay on being exceptionally positive as I got up to head to MADabolic Cville for the 6am class.  I’m not a super early person these days, so it’s always begrudgingly that I make the early morning classes.  The up-side is that once I’m in it, I love it.  After years of waking up way early for rowing I have a deep love/hate for pre-dawn movement, but my body is definitely conditioned to rise to the occasion, and by 7am I already feel accomplished, strong, and completely focused on the day ahead.

As I was making my (3rd) coffee of the morning (in the newly renovated kitchen that I will undoubtedly be sharing more about, and in, soon), I sunk deeper into an already positive mindset, with gratitude that I’m able to start of Monday so happily, so productively, and with such an amazing group of people.  Followed up by this view of the back yard and the water line of the Rivanna beyond the trees — and thus Monday began with gratitude and a warm mug of coffee in my hands.  Not too shabby.

fuel sweat grow: view from the kitchen window

On another positive note, I made my first full meal in the new kitchen this weekend, and it felt so great to have my favorite space back.

fuel sweat grow: fall squash and salad

fuel sweat grow: grilled pesto chicken

I’m really into late summer/fall style salads right now, and aside from the general add of some avocado, pesto chicken seemed like a solid path to cautiously embrace November.

So, I welcome you, November with positivity, a fully functioning kitchen, and the cautious optimism of someone with an extra hour to burn and anxious anticipation of the cold months I avoid all year.

Kitchen Therapy: Thai Chicken Stir-Style

I’ve been feeling pretty anxious and overly committed lately, so last weekend I made a very concerted effort to take time to do some of the things that too often get dropped from my schedule.  Aside from taking full advantage of the additional hour of sleep, I managed to squeeze in two massages (yep, two), a mani/pedi, and back to back trips to Home Goods.  That last one might not sound restful, but for me it’s damn near a spiritual experience for me these days.

And while all of those things were great, and definitely contributed to a few necessary zen moments, the most important thing I did for my overall well-being was an extended  (un-rushed) and completely unplanned full-cart adventure at Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joes

It had been a while since I strolled through TJ’s Isles, and it felt great to be back.  It’s so easy to fall into the routine of going to Whole Foods, and blindly adapting to the $250/trip sticker shock until it almost seems uncomfortable to spend less.

I held back at nothing — I bought enough meat, produce, and ‘extras,’ to last through the full week, and a few bottles of wine to make it (me) whole.

On Sunday night I roasted the chicken, cauliflower, and spaghetti squash — all which turned up in Monday’s meal of leftovers.  I also took some extra time on Sunday night to revisit the Apple Streusel (Egg) Muffin recipe, thanks to a special and fresh delivery of Granny Smith apples from Carter’s Mountain Orchard.

Apple Streusel

These are pretty easy to make, and this time just by switching to coconut oil spray (rather than trying to manually spread oil with a paper towel…) and letting the apples cool before mixing them with the eggs, the batch turned out just a little better.

With the fridge stocked full of groceries (and some pre-made daytime meals), I got to have a little fun with dinner this week.  Ingredients included:

  • Chicken Breasts
  • Red + yellow bell peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Mushrooms
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Almond Butter
  • (light) Coconut Milk
  • Sesame Seed Oil
  • Coconut Oil

vegetables for sauteing

And of course a glass of wine on the side, which is optional (just not if we’re going to be friends).

The idea for this meal was to make a (non-peanut) Thai Chicken Stir Fry.   And, if you ask me, it worked.

I started by (cutting up &) sautéing the chicken in some sesame oil.

stir fried chicken

Once it was a light golden brown I placed all the chicken on a plate, and threw the cauliflower (finely chopped) into the remaining oil to fry it up like rice.

cauliflower fried rice

 

Vegetables were next.  Cut in long slivers (where possible) and simmered in coconut oil to give it a sweet flavor, they cooked until they were tender

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Then came the ever-too-simple part that made all the difference in the world – I mixed almond butter and coconut milk in a little tupperware, and shook it until it blended into a nice sauce and poured it over the vegetables to finish.

non-peanut thai chicken stir fry

 

Despite being born out of zero planning, and mostly just a desire to use what was stocked in the fridge, I have to say this is one of the best meals I’ve cooked in the last six months…. humbly speaking of course.

thai chicken and rice dinner

 

There’s really nothing like taking time in the kitchen to create when things are getting a little too stressful and real — and if you do it up big enough, mass quantities of leftovers can also help to ease the burden of lunch-time hunger games.

Well, there’s nothing like it if you get to reap the benefit of eating it.  Spectating, apparently, isn’t the jam when you’re a hungry little bug….

Bug

Snow Days are to Be Celebrated, By Cooking.

This week Charlottesville (and certain randomly selected pockets of the east coast) got hit with a one day blizzard.  In 24 hours the skies dropped slightly over a foot of snow, effectively causing a state of emergency and shutting down the town.  Oh yeah, and 60K residents lost power for days.

While most of the city was wishing they had gone to the grocery store, living in unheated and dark houses with only candle light and pantry snacks, Bug had the best day of her life.

bug says

Despite a 3 hour break from heat and electricity, nothing super eventful disturbed what otherwise could have been termed as a perfect snow day.

I had managed to squeeze in a grocery run on Tuesday night around 10pm, immediately prior to (and a little during) the start of the storm.  The amazing thing about eating clean and only shopping the perimeter of the store (produce, meat, eggs + wine..yes, wine) is that most people freaking out over winter storms stock up on milk, bread, and snack foods, leaving fully stocked shelves where I was looking.  Had we lost power long term (like so many other Charlottesville residents) the food would have gone bad, but thankfully the outage was short lived and as soon as the power came back on food cooking commenced.  And it became a big production.

I started by sautéing zucchini with mushrooms and coconut oil.

snow day food: fuel sweat grow

Added some spaghetti squash that had been roasted in in the oven, and seasoned it all with the trader joes everyday seasoning and ground sea salt.

spaghetti squash: saute

[If I had it to do all over again, I would have drained the pan post-mushroom softening but pre-spaghetti squash adding.  Regardless, it tasted good, and was the perfect replacement for pasta.]

While that was cooking, I popped the asparagus (lightly drizzled with olive oil) into the oven to broil on high for less than 10 minutes, until they were tender but still slightly firm.

fuel sweat grow: asparagus

The salad for the meal was angel/thin cut cabbage, purple onion, slivered almonds, ground sea salt and pepper, mixed with white wine vinegar and olive oil.

cole slaw: fuel sweat grow

Add to that my favorite guacamole and flank steak, and we had enough food to ensure that we didn’t go hungry, should the power flicker back off.

fuel sweat grow: avocado
starting the guac. secret recipe not included.

Thankfully the power stayed on, but we were fueled up and ready to go, no matter what the weather brought our way.

fuel sweat grow: snow day meal

I considered for a moment doing a kettlebell and bodyweight circuit at home, but in the spirit of celebrating the snow day, I moved around the house getting myself organized and let that suffice as a workout.  Sometimes your body tells you when it’s time to rest, and sometimes the universe does.  When you live in the south, snow days are meant to be celebrated, and not taken for granted.

This Little Piggy Went to Market.

Some people look forward to Friday nights so they can hit the bars with their friends (I know this, because sometimes I am ‘some people’), but this week, I looked forward to a night of absolute nothingness, at the end of a long week.

So, instead of getting dressed and going out to a bar, I got in my sweats and made my way over to C’ville Market to re-stock my fridge for a weekend staycation.

fuel sweat grow - food blog
on Meade Rd, next to Belmont Pizza, in Charlottesville

I love the fact that we have such a locavore community here in Charlottesville, and this market is such a huge part of it.  I used to come here once a week to get my produce, but once my route changed and the City Market went out of season, I found myself (and the majority of my income) going to Whole Food or Trader Joes to get my groceries.  Well, yesterday that all changed, and I had the best time spending part of my friday evening picking out my eats of the next week.

amazing produce. rows of it. virginia grown.
amazing produce. rows of it. virginia grown.
my favorite section: zucchini, yellow squash + BEETS!
my favorite section: zucchini, yellow squash + BEETS!
grains, beans, gluten free flour, etc
grains, beans, gluten free flour, etc

This was such an exciting trip out that I almost couldn’t contain myself, and I certainly didn’t limit myself.

(I probably should have put this disclaimer at the beginning of the post: I’m a huge dork.  A huge food dork, and a I prefer cooking over going out to dinner, pretty much all the time.  I typically go out as the simple product of social obligation and the fact that I actually do like to talk to other humans.)

So brace yourselves, I’m about to throw a pretty proud moment your way in the form of numbers and quantities.  Since I’m not certain I could execute basic functions on a graphing calculator, I wouldn’t be too afraid of the math coming at you.  I don’t think it even qualifies as ‘math,’ persay.

Here it is: 1+1 = I got ALL of these groceries for under $100.

green beans, beets, brussels, cantaloupe, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash + baby spinach
green beans, beets, brussels, cantaloupe, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash + baby spinach
sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, 6 avocados, bella mushrooms
sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, 6 avocados, bella mushrooms
spinach fettuccini, pumpkin seeds, snack (nut) mixes & eggs
spinach fettuccini, pumpkin seeds, snack (nut) mixes & eggs
apples, pears, lemons, limes + chocolate covered mini pretzels (YES!)
apples, pears, lemons, limes + chocolate covered mini pretzels (YES!)

There is food in the house, and it is everywhere.  After I finished putting everything away, I un-puffed my chest, cranked down my sense of accomplishment and got down to business turning some of these newly stocked ingredients into a friday night dinner.

I was craving avocado (per usual), and really anything green, so I got creative and threw in a few additional colors to make it look more appealing.

Here’s what happened:

diced zucchini + carrots
started with diced zucchini + carrots
threw in red pepper, mushrooms + simmered in coconut oil
threw in red pepper, mushrooms + left simmering in coconut oil (stirring occasionally)
halved the fingerling potatoes
halved the fingerling potatoes + mixed around in ziplock w/warm coconut oil
mixed the potatoes around in a ziplock with warm coconut oil + then squirted lemon over top
then squirted lemon over top
added cajun spice, salt + Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning
added cajun spice, salt + Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning; put in the oven to broil
halved avocado w/side of tomato, cucumber, balsalmic vinegar + olive oil
halved avocado w/side of tomato, cucumber, balsalmic vinegar + olive oil
boiled brown rice spaghetti
boiled brown rice spaghetti

Once the pasta was finished, everything was ready to go, and what was going to be a small friday night meal turned into an awesome feast that will undoubtedly be eaten as leftovers for days.

brown rice pasta w/ zucchini, mushroom, red pepper + carrot blend mixed in
brown rice pasta w/ zucchini, mushroom, red pepper + carrot blend mixed in
avocado packed w/tomato + cucumber salsa
avocado packed w/tomato + cucumber salsa
roasted cajun fingerling potatoes
roasted cajun fingerling potatoes
Oh yeah, and there was steak! Pan seared, medium.
Oh yeah, and there was steak! Pan seared, medium.
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My plate was full, and it was good.

From beginning to end my friday night culinary adventure was a total theraputic energy boost, and fed whatever need I had for down time in the kitchen.

Plus, I got to spend time with my littlest sous chef, Bug!
Plus, I got to spend time with my littlest sous chef, Bug!

This was definitely one of my favorite meals to date, but that review is strongly linked to the extreme hunger and fatigue that I was feeling at the end of a long week.  If I were to make one change it would be for more protein, and I would have either added ground chicken to the pasta mix, or white kidney beans.  Otherwise, it served as great fuel to recover from the week and fuel up for my Saturday on the go.  Mission accomplished.