Cooking It Forward: Sunday Meal Creation

It appears that winter might finally be on the way out, but not before it gifted me with a sweet viral strain of mono that has me sidelined for a bit.   I’ve been under the weather for a while, so I’m glad to at least know what is dragging my body down, and I’m staying up on my chiro appointment to keep my immune system functioning.

That being said, my appetite has been either fully blown or completely absent, sometimes for days.  So, when I have the energy and desire to cook, I cook.  For hours.

Last Sunday I was feeling particularly inspired because my full-room closet was being constructed (oh yes, there will be a post full of pictures to follow), so I went to the market first thing to grab the weeks necessary ingredients.  Once I had the groceries, it was game on.

The first creations I set out to make were some (clean) egg streusel ‘muffins’ that our friend Becky had sent over to me.  I’m not sure how exactly they came about, but Dar had been talking about them for a week straight, and since multi-step recipes are not exactly her thing, I obviously inherited the task of experimenting.  So, here are the directions from the recipe, along with some of my own commentary since I’m not a strict recipe follower, by any stretch of the imagination.

ingredients:

  • 3 large green apples, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (approximately 2 cups) – peeled if you like
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil (to make it dairy-free), melted
  • 3 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 

2. Peel & Chop 3 granny smith apples into 1/2″ pieces

green apples

2.  Simmer diced apple pieces in a saucepan with 3 tbsp (warm) water, and 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon.  Now, if I were to do this again, I’d be chopping those little guys up a bit smaller, because it took forever for them to cook down.  Also, I added about 6 additional tablespoons of warm water because it kept boiling off.  Other than that, it all worked out pretty well.

apple sauce

Simmer the apples down (stirring occasionally) until they apples are soft and the consistency of chunky apple sauce.  It also says to let it cool before combining with the dry mix part (that’s next!), which I was far too impatient to do, so I can tell you from experience, even if it’s still warm, you’re good to go with mixing it all together.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, butter, coconut milk, coconut flour, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Add the cooled apples, reserving 1/4 cup for a garnish.

This part was pretty simple, but I’ll just say, if you’re going to substitute out the butter for coconut oil (that’s what I did) just make sure you melt it first to keep things simple, and again, moderately cooled apple mix-in is kosher, so just get after it.

Here’s how they looked coming out of the oven:

apple streusel muffins

When they came out of the oven I let them cool for a bit, and then they went directly to my face.  And they were good.

I packed [most of] them away and popped them in the fridge so they’d be easy grab and go breakfast items during the week, and got started on project #2: dinner(s) for the week.

When I lived in Philly I didn’t have an outdoor grill, so I got pretty used to broiling vegetables in the oven.  Now that I have an awesome outdoor grill accessible I’m trying to be better about grilling more than just meat, so I made good on that promise to myself with some cauliflower and brussel sprouts drizzled with olive oil, everyday seasoning from Trader Joe’s and fresh ground sea salt.  Last minute I jammed an additional row of zucchini in there to give it some more green.

grilled veggies

Along side the veggies, there was of course a steak from Wolf Creek Organic Farm here in Charlottesville.

steak

We had a few cuts including a skirt steak that we hadn’t had before that were tossed onto the grill, and in the spirit of ‘cooking it forward’ for the week, I thawed some ground beef for another round of the spaghetti squash bolognese we also made the week before.

wolf creek ground beef

That being said, here’s how everything turned out:

The spaghetti squash bolognese was exactly right.  I had finally found a couple of larger squash at Whole Foods (so I didn’t have to roast 5 of the baby ones again), and the ground beef and turkey bacon really made the sauce more flavorful and soaked right into the squash strands.

spaghetti squash bolognese

The veggies and meat were awesome, and lasted for several meals during the week thanks to the over abundance of food this ‘meal’ yielded.

grilled veggies

wolf creek farms steak

When all was said and done, this was dinner:

dinner plate

The 28 day challenge was still in full swing during this meal creation, and was around the time that we stopped realizing that there were no carbs or additives in our food.  Of course that is not to say we forgot about coffee creamer and wine, but for the most part, we adapted to the food part and continued to be filled up by meals.

Dar and I will both, independently, be writing our own recaps of the 28 to life challenge in the coming days.  Our experiences differed somewhat based on our difference in food preferences and overall experience, which mostly differed only due to my decreasing appetite over the last few weeks thanks to this awesome illness.  Either way, it was a worthwhile challenge, and will definitely be modified and incorporated into our everyday eating habits.

We’ve obviously got lots of updates coming your way in the next few days from the past week, and have a number of exciting updates to share in the next few days so stay tuned for the skinny on all of that.  Until then, enjoy the beautiful SPRING weather!

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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.

salad

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.

IMG_5040

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.

Quick and Clean Weekday Meal

Since the middle of the week brought temperatures (and snow) that kept winter alive and well, the menu took a warmer and more comforting turn to match it.

broccoli slaw

The broccoli slaw that had been looking to fulfill it’s dinner time destiny was finally put to use, and the remainder of the leftover spaghetti squash was turned into a stove top mix-turepiece.

meat + squash

The broccoli slaw was cooked with coconut oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Pretty simple, and pretty darn good.  The spaghetti squash was added into a ground beef mixture with zucchini, yellow squash and the remainder of the mushrooms in the fridge, seasoned with everyday seasoning and a little extra sea salt.

The meal was lightened up just a little with a cucumber + avocado salad topped with salt, pepper, balsamic and olive oil.

fuel sweat grow - food blog

This meal was absurdly simple to make, and since the spaghetti squash was pre-roasted, start to finish time was about 20 minutes, max.

During weeks when things are undoubtedly going to be crazy and schedule times seem to be pretty obscure, I always like to spend time on Sunday or Monday prepping extra staple food items to keep in the fridge for easy grabbing and meal prep.  Recently I helped Dar pack 4 days worth of pre-planned meals for her trip to PA for her FMS certification, and the planning helped her get through days 3-7 of the challenge without being hungry.

Stay tuned for Sunday updates on meals, meal prep, menu planning, and kitchen organization.  It takes a village people.  And with that being said, I’ll leave you with a sweet pic of my sous chef, Bug, who could not be more exhausted by all of the kitchen time.

sleepy bug

Energy Refuel: meals + sweats

Day 2 & 3 of 28 were the roughest of all.  I was craving everything that I couldn’t have and nothing that I could.  The amazing thing is that most of the meals are not that far off from how we normally eat, so it was really the little things and the sweetness of coffee and wine that I kept coming back to.

By dinner I was ready to create some meal alternatives for the rest of the week.  I started by heating up the stores of remaining roasted spaghetti squash.

spaghetti squash

I was feeling a little maxed out on the veggie/ground turkey mix, so I mixed zucchini in with free range ground turkey and made little meatballs that popped into the oven at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  When I was at Whole Foods I read every tomato sauce label and determined that there was only one jar that had no added sugars or cheeses, and it was the 365 brand.

365 pasta sauce

When the meatballs were done I put them in a pot with the pasta sauce to absorb some of the juices and nutrients.

clean meatball sauce

Then served it all over the spaghetti squash.  I like to actually cut up the meatballs to mix it all together so there’s a little bit of everything in each bite, but to each his own when it comes to food.

turkey meatball squash

Since I was trying to knock out more meals for the rest of the week, and was pretty certain I didn’t want to eat this same thing for days, the cooking continued.

asparagus

Broiled asparagus and a flank steak from Whole Foods completed the meal, and created a good amount of leftovers that spread out over the next couple of days.

fuel sweat steak

So now we’re on day 5, and energy levels are starting to surpass the previous ‘normal.’

Quick sweat update for the week:

Monday I ran and did a small circuit of wall balls, kettle bell swings, goblet squats and break dancers (3 rounds of 25 each), which was pretty challenging during my 3pm energy dip, and then taught two Pure Barre Classes.

Tuesday i took a rest day to recover, and hit up a class at Opal in the early afternoon to try and bring some relief to my screaming back pain.  Big thanks to Kiki for an awesome stretch ( & flow).

Wednesday I got up for Dar’s bootcamp at 6:45am and then taught two classes in the morning at PB, which left me at an energy low until I had a snack of avocado and some almonds and berries (not all together).

Thursday + Friday have both become involuntary rest days for me since I’ve been benched due to an ultimate war with my lower back.  Thursday I made it into the doctor and have since had several appointments, a couple of procedures, and a new plan for back health which began immediately.  More to share on that soon since it blended right in to the 28 day challenge.

Day 1 of Real Food Freedom

Captain’s log: Day 1.

The 28 day challenge began for us on Monday.  Cutting out the few ‘food’ ingredients that were off plan wasn’t the challenge (well, not really), it was the loss of half and half in my coffee and any potential thought of a glass of wine that nearly brought me down in hour 1, of day 1.

Cristina recommends adding coconut milk, pumpkin spice and cinnamon to coffee to give it a little kick, but in that most desperate first hour I was unable to comprehend anything other than having my full on creamer, so I went without coffee.  That was my first major mistake of the week, and I paid for it fully around 3pm.

On the ‘good news’ side of this report, Whole Foods Cville had a flash sale on ground beef (85%) from 12pm – 6pm on Monday, pricing it at $3.49/lb.  Since a good majority of my daily food intake is coming from meat this month, the sale created a near hysterical reaction that caused me to drive to whole foods within the first hour of the sale.  Remember, I had no coffee.  Panic was a natural response, and so was this next meal.

beef + veggies : day 1 of 28

Sunday had been a plan ahead day for meals, so thankfully I already had roasted two spaghetti squash, and they were ready to go in the fridge.

spaghetti squash

The meat and the spaghetti squash were awesome together – I just added a little salt and pepper to season, and lunch/dinner was born.

At 3pm when my complete caffeine depravation hit me I went to the extreme of  blending coffee with ice, coconut milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, blueberries and strawberries with a half handful of almonds to bring myself back into the realm of sanity, but that’s a story for another time.  Until then, here’s what it looked like:

clean smoothie

I’m not sure if it was mental, or if just the flavor of the cocoa and coconut milk, plus fruit sugars, were enough to quiet the screams of my sugar withdrawal, but something did it.

So here come the questions for you – what are your favorite juice/smoothie/vitamx blends?  We’re loving the experimentation, from these cocoa based, to the super green, so tell us what you’ve got going on in your kichen!

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.