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.

IMG_4135

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.

IMG_4026

 

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].

IMG_4171

 

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.

IMG_4167

IMG_4174

 

IMG_4181

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.

Advertisements

The ‘On the Go’ Chronicles: Food + Love Edition

Life, lately, has been on the go — to say the least. Work and travel are the two main constants, and my long-time skills of throwing together quick meals for ‘on the go’ (or more accurately ‘on the clock’) have been more useful than ever.  The days of hurriedly eating over the sink have been pushed aside by the days of eating at the computer and at a stop-and-go pace that supports conference calls, emails, and all the other distractions that dominate the day.

fuel sweat grow: food on the go

I have a ton going on at all of my jobs right now so that seems to be a dominant theme in my life, and something that I’m both trying to balance and desperately organize so I can breathe a little easier.  I think what I’m working towards is more of an impossible mirage than it really is an achievable goal, but that’s pretty fine by me.  Landing somewhere in the middle is still somewhere closer to fine, and that’s still progress.

On days when things are beyond crazy, it’s not that abnormal for my eating schedule to be off, so I’ll either need a little snack to make up for an off-schedule, or to help me power through the mid-afternoon yuck that is 3pm.  Recently this little tomato / chicken / avocado salad has been my go-to with a little balsamic glaze and a crank or two on the sea salt.

fuel sweat grow: on the go snack avocado salad

Since I’m typically a proponent of over-grilling (in quantity) meat to force the possibility of leftovers, this is particularly appealing to me.  The balsamic glaze part is a little newer to me – not in concept, but mostly in obsession.  I went Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things for Memorial Day and they happened to be grilling avocado and watermelon out front, and sampling them both with the glaze.  I’m nothing if not a sucker for a tasty sample, and moments later I had all three items planted in my cart, all before I even stepped foot in the store.

Which takes me to my next obsession of the moment, and an incredibly simple throw together salad if you have the ingredients in ‘prepped and ready’ mode in the fridge.

fuel sweat grow: watermelon arugula salad

I’ve always LOVED watermelon, so this watermelon + arugula salad is seriously the best thing of my life.  Slightly modified for a stricter 28toLife/Paleo approach, it’s just a bed of arugula tossed in olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, topped with watermelon chunks, blueberries and chopped mint (not pictured).  It’s freaking good, and if you want to add in a little extra with some cheese or other snacks on top, have at it.  I’m pretty sure it is beautiful no matter how it is dressed up.

This past week has spanned all three of my cities; Charlottesville, Charlotte, and Charleston – and in that order.  I barely had any time in Cville to settle in or even really unpack before I was heading right back to Charlotte — but this time, work was thankfully balanced out by celebrating some love, and a fairly normal weekend (for a change).

Friday night brought a sweet relief from the work week, and an even sweeter night at the Vanlandinham Estate celebrating two awesome people – Kelli + Graham.

fuel sweat grow: Kelli + Graham Wedding

I’m not really sure how to explain Kelli outside of just saying that she’s incredibly smart, loyal, honest and supportive friend that anyone could ask for. While it was once difficult to believe that anyone would be able to fully match up to all of her awesome, it’s clear that she’s found that match, that best partner, and (most importantly) absolute happiness with Graham, and that’s more than enough for me.

After weeks (months…years) of crazy, it was such a welcomed break to enjoy and be present at such a beautiful wedding, on what might have been the most beautiful night of the spring so far.

fuel sweat grow: Vanlandingham estate wedding

This week has reverted right back to the desk eating and hurried meal creation, but after taking a little break from it all and a little trip into someone else’s bliss, somehow it doesn’t seem so bad.

I’ve got more food, b:core, MADabolic, and general life updates coming at you in the next week(ish) so stay tuned, and of course, let me know if you’re around Charleston this weekend and want to get in on celebrating the 1st Birthday of MADcharleston — it’s on.

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.

By the Grace of Coffee, this MAD week is ON

I know that there are 7 full days in a week, but somehow it always seems to be Sunday night.

IMG_7115

That was the thought that led off this post when I started it late Sunday.  Now it’s late Tuesday, proving two things: another couple of days have slipped past, each closer to Sunday’s return, and I’m constantly up, working, organizing, and writing late at night.  C’est la vie, I suppose, because if I’ve learned anything in the last 30 odd (literally) years of my life, it’s that I function best when in constant motion…as long as I’ve got some sense of organization and structure bracing my schedule.

Which of course leads us to food.  When things are crazy, but still functional, it’s usually a sign that I’ve made time for grocery shopping and cleared some therapy time in the kitchen.  I’ve been in the habit lately of hitting two grocery spots for different items: trader joe’s for produce and the general staples (coconut milk, coconut oil, almond butter, etc) and Whole Foods for the rest (avocados, meat, eggs).  It’s 100% a cost thing for making the two stops, because that’s obviously the only thing that can trump the convenience of Whole Foods, but the difference is substantial.  That’s not to say, however, that I don’t still impulse buy at Whole Foods.  It happens all the time, lately with my new favorite salad add-on: microgreens.

fuel sweat grow: sunflower and basil microgreens

I’m a sampler.  If you offer me a sample and it looks like something I would possibly eat (greens, soup, chili…anything but fish) I’m going to try it.  A year or so ago that habit led me to discover Keswick Gourmet, which has since become a favorite cooking staple; so obviously I’m a target market of sorts.  Last week as I walked into Whole Foods there was a sample table with these microgreens (sunflower and basil) dressed with light olive oil and sea salt.  Um, yes please (I bought two).  I played around a little with it for dinner, added some almonds, and ultimately mixed it in with romaine, some cucumbers, and other ever-loving salad add-ons.

On the stovetop I sautéed 2lbs of ground beef with onion (in coconut oil) and mixed the zoodles/spiralized zucchini right in there to soften slightly and soak up all the flavor. There’s a chance this might be my new favorite quickie meal….but I could just be caught up in the moment.

fuel sweat grow: ground beef zoodlesThe full meal looked like this and was arguably just as good as lunch leftovers, so again, if you have time to make more than you can eat, do it.  You’ll be thankful later.

fuel sweat grow: micro green salad and ground beef zoodles

This was exactly the right way (for me) to start the week, a structural component that has contributed to a pretty packed and productive week –  so far.  The other main contributor has been getting myself up (by the grace of coffee) for the 6 or 7am classes at MAD three mornings a week so I can relax and work without a deadline or a super packed end of the day.  It has been everything.

So, what have we learned here?  Coffee + early morning MADness + all the sunflower basil microgreens you can handle = an amazing start to a grey winter week.

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.

Kale is King

After this summer I think that I’m going to designate Kale as it’s own food group.  It’s not just that it’s such a nutrient rich plant (or, you know, the most ‘in’ leaf right now; my excitement really revolves around the fact that it keeps so amazingly well marinated in dressing that other soggy and often slimy leftover salads just don’t stand a chance.

fuel sweat grow: kale saladIt’s the easy travel, prep in advance, versatile and vibrant solution to any big dinner and week of leftover lunches.  In a world where healthy and clean eating convenience is so hard to come by, Kale is King.

When I do have time, or at least some time, on week nights I like to keep things pretty simple.  The main objective is easy cooking, and lots of leftovers that lunch is ready to go for a few days and I’m not stuck in a morning, or lunchtime panic at work trying to find something that I can eat. (Add roasted cauliflower and chicken to any kale salad and you’ll be SO happy. promise.)

fuel sweat grow: grilled dinner

So far this week has continued to be sponsored by Kale for lunch (and a couple dinners too) with a little extra flair to keep the variety up.  The base, however, is the same with Kale marinated overnight in fresh squeezed lime, drizzled olive oil and kosher salt.

Today I ate my breakfast and lunch pretty much back to back, so I had some eggs scrambled with squash and steak as an appetizer which truthfully only made the whole experience better since my stomach had been talking to me through three hours of meetings.

fuel sweat grow: kale summer fruit salad

There’s just something about summer fruit that goes perfectly with the lime tartness of the dressing, and the tenderness of the kale leaves, combined with the crunch of sliced almonds seconds that perfection.   For those 10 minutes I was eating, this salad was everything.   I’m pretty much always eating lunch at my desk – or a desk – these days, so having bright happy colors and bold flavors really helps to create a happier experience and a little boost in my day.

fuel sweat grow: work lunch

This past weekend I actually tried my hand at cauliflower pizza crust for the first time, and I have to say, while I’ll definitely make some tweaks to the recipe next time, it was great.  Pizza without the grain, but all the fun of the crust — that’s what I’m talking about.

Since I don’t really eat a lot of cheese, or much dairy at all, these days, the whole thing was a pretty awesome treat, and paired with filet, salad, and some veggies, it was a brilliant Saturday night dinner despite really not feeling well at all (who started circulating this mid-summer cold? because we’re not friends).

I need to read a bit more on how to REALLY get all the moisture out of the cauliflower before mixing together all the dry ingredients.  Sounds easier than it seems, but you’d be amazed by how much moisture it holds in just the raw state without any steaming or added moisture.  As a disclaimer, it’s kind of a messy process (such is the nature of cauliflower in general) so I bypassed pictures for attempt #1, but I’ll be sure to share the whole experience next round.

The rest of the week has been a hodgepodge of leftover meals, a few quick grabs (big hugs to Foodiecall and CPK!).  I’ve got just about an hour left in Charlotte before I make my way back to Charlottesville to get ready for our 1 Year Anniversary Party, and assorted celebrations therein — and I could not be more excited.  It has been a long last month and I’m ready to spend a weekend full of nothingness in my favorite city.