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.

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The Whole Damn Thing: The Yes/NO List + Helpful Tips

We’re just about 5 days out from kicking off the Whole Damn Thing, so it’s time to talk details: yes/no foods, the ‘why’ behind each method, and a few of the starter how-to guides.  So here we go!

This week this really great article came out as a summarized guide to how to eat Paleo, Whole 30, or even less restrictive with a focus on ditching processed foods.  So here’s the quick and dirty guide on what you can and CANNOT have if you’re eating Paleo.

fuel sweat grow: how to eat Paleo

(source)

Now, if you’re hopping on the 28toLife train, and coming into 2015 guns blazing, you’re also going to ditch the Honey and Maple Syrup.  No sugar is no sugar, with the exception of fructose in some fruits, which should still be viewed in moderation.  You’ll notice when my full grocery and meal lists come out that my preferred shopping list is really heavy on some items, and really light on some others….that’s not by mistake.  We’re going for nutrient rich foods; lean meats (local/grassfed and grass finished), nutrient rich vegetables, antioxidant rich (lower sugar/fructose) fruits/berries, eggs….so many eggs, and some staple items to support creative meal creation.

The most important thing to remember is that you must read all ingredient labels.  Just even doing this exercise will change the way you look at food.   It’s not about calories or fat (processed foods labelled as gluten-free or fat-free typically have the highest sugar, carb, and chemical compositions and are worse for you can straight up butter or whole grain breads – unless you are celiac or truly gluten intolerant).  Look at the ingredient list, and if there are words you don’t know (or naughty words you do know like sugar or anything ending in -ate), put it down and run away.  Keswick Gourmet (pictured below) is honestly one of the only marinara/pasta sauces in a jar that you can find anywhere in town without added sugar, and happens to be made locally.  It’s at Whole Foods, thank goodness, and is one of the few things that will bridge the gap between eating clean and having convenience.

fuel sweat grow: keswick gourmet

The best things to do when shopping is shop local farmers markets, or, in a traditional grocery store shop the perimeter – produce, fruit, meat, eggs, and out!  And just for a little extra, check out this article on Superfoods that are healthier and more nutrient rich than the currently trend leading #kale.  It’s great that so many people are embracing kale’s deep leafy greens, but it’s not the King of the mountain when it comes to green Superfoods and nutrient density, so don’t feel like you need to load up on it unless you love it too.

Snacks are always the hardest, so we’ll do our best to put out some great snack options for eating at home, or taking on-the-go, but typically you’ll want to think within the boundaries of the basics and prepare some quick grab bags/containers.  Almond butter is a great dipping sauce for baby carrots, celery, apples, bananas…..the usual suspects that we’ve all known since childhood — just once again, opt for the fresh ground almond or cashew butters from Whole Foods or Trader Joes, and make sure you read the label….most nut-butters have added sugar.  If you’re looking for some approved vendors, from snacks and dressings to meat vendors, et all, check out this list that is Whole 30 approved, or as always, visit our friends from MODpaleo and enter the code ‘MadnessCville’ when you create your account to receive 10% off your first order (they make meals AND snacks).

fuel sweat grow: MODpaleo Pre-packaged meal delivery

As you get ready to stock up on some Staple Items, here’s a quick list of what you’ll need as serious basics, and my store preferences if you’re looking to shop around on price:

Coconut Milk: this will become a life-line of sorts, so stock up.  It’s $0.99/can at Trader Joes vs. $2.49 at Whole Foods, and when you’re buying cans 10 at a time it really adds up.

Almond Milk: this is expensive wherever you go, and most brands are on the naughty list thanks to added Sugars, so if you’re looking to save $ and do it right, buy raw (unsalted, non-roasted) almonds from Trader Joe’s and follow this guide to make your own.  It’s much easier and cheaper than you would think. [But if you’re in a jam and just need a latte, Milli Joe and GRIT Coffee both make their almond milk in-house and will steam it up right for you with a few shots of amazing espresso.  It’s worth the $4+ when you’re in a jam.]

Coconut Oil: Have at least 2 jars on hand at all times, you will use it more than you can imagine.  Trader Joe’s will be your best bet on price by $1-2/jar.

Coconut Flour: You don’t need a ton of this, it goes amazingly far.  You can find it at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and most other general grocery stores (Harris Teeter, Kroger), just check the back and make sure it’s pure coconut.

Cinnamon:  You’ll want to make sure you have ground cinnamon on hand for coffee, coconut milk mixes, etc.  Once you quit sugar, spices will taste so amazing that you’ll find yourself getting excited to try new combos for veggie stir-frys and meat rubs.

Vanilla Extract: another label hunter. We’re going for pure/organic (not the alcohol/chemical rich generic brands); you’ll want this for making coconut milk coffee creamer, smoothies, etc.

Grocery Lists divided into best-of stores (Whole Foods / Trader Joes and local favorites like Stock and The Organic Butcher for meat) are headed your way tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s a prep-post I put out prior to some of our clients doing the Whole30 earlier this year.  There’s a lot on the list, but I tend to find myself cooking for multiples, and the pre-making and packaging away leftovers habit has been known to save lives around here.

Until then, you know those cookies that have been eyeing you from the cabinet (or worse, the counter) every night?  Throw them out.  Let the wine linger a little longer so you don’t hate directly on 2014, and we’ll say g’bye after the ball has dropped….and remember, it’s only goodbye for now, you’ll be back at the end of the month.

Fueling the Extra Mile + The Longest Week of 2014

This last week, hour for hour, was without a doubt one of the longest of the year.  After last weekend’s marathon of holiday parties, a week of complete insanity and over-booked days of work and bid’ness was seriously cutting it close to my capacity limit.  But thankfully, like always, I somehow live to tell the tale (but in all honesty, I had an airborne for snack this afternoon and have been in my PJ’s since 2pm…so the candle may have burned a little too long).

Monday and Tuesday brought early morning sweats at MADabolic Cville, and a lot of end-of-day food prep to fuel incredible conversations, strategic planning, and serious contemplations about the broader concept of development with some of our favorite MAD ones.  Tuesday dinner was another zoodle + beef sauté, accompanied by one of my new favorite salad combo’s [romaine; shredded kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage; cucumbers; raspberries; slivered almonds] and Tessemae’s Zesty Ranch dressing. It’s winter love.

fuel sweat grow: beef zoodles and

Tuesday happened to also be our night to take dinner to two amazing new parents, Robin and Ryan (and sweet baby Arya), so I got to cook a little out of my usual zone since Ryan is a veg-eater, and Robin eats ‘anything’.

fuel sweat grow: spinach fettuccine and veggies

I made them one of my absolute favorite meals from my grain-loving days, and I have to say, if you’re going to have pasta and a bit of dairy, it’s definitely a killer option.  Zucchini and peppers sautéd in coconut oil, Trader Joe’s spinach and chive linguine, tossed in a greek yogurt and avocado blended ‘sauce.’  The veggies are seasoned with Trader Joe’s ‘everyday seasoning,’and can be done with gluten free pasta (or zoodles) if that’s your thing.  I added some grilled chicken thighs to Robins meat-favorable meal, and a cucumber and heirloom tomato salad with balsamic and olive oil to up the ante for Ryan as well.  All in all, a pretty solid tuesday night meal (I think, and yes, I had a little bit myself for old times sake…).

With a million things backing up on the to-do list and ‘real’ work pushing to the end of the year in a full sprint, most mornings begin like this to help me get through: egg and zucchini scramble with a post-MADabolic almond milk latte from Milli Joe.

fuel sweat grow: zucchini eggs and almond milk latte

This is the scene from Wednesday morning, the day of ‘all the things,’ and the last day I spent in Cville this week before taking off for more work+holiday mayhem in Charlotte.  While craziness has been the constant theme of the last few months, it’s all been worth it.  As work and 2014 finally slow down, and new everything begins to ramp up, the only true thing I know is that it always, always, pays off to push it to go the extra mile.

fuel sweat grow: the extra mile

The end of the week finished with more amazing friends, great food, holiday parties galore, and more than I can capture in these final sentences, that’s for sure.  You can expect to hear about all the adventures and new amazingness over the next few weeks.

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.

Returning to MADville + Real [Clean] Food

Last Monday was the official first day of business for MADabolic Charleston, and if you told me it was two months ago, I would believe you, 100%.  The last four weeks have included a ton of travel, way too many hoops to jump through, and a complete and total sense of chaos that is just beginning to settle.  Along with the MADness, there was lots of food — great food — and wine.

The great part of opening fitness concepts is that you typically get to workout a decent amount, but the restaurant hopping really took it’s toll on my energy and overall wellbeing.

Prior to leaving for Charlotte and Charleston I had committed, along with several of our clients in MADville, to kick of 28toLife this week.  While I always tend to teeter on the edge of a modified version, and typically try to eat 80/20, the detox from the last four weeks had me SO incredibly ready to get back into the full routine of planned eating.

On Wednesday night I hit up Trader Joes to get some of the most essential staples for survival.  I had gotten into the habit of making the quick trip to Whole Foods out of convenience, and forgot just how much more expensive it is — which will have to be a post of it’s own.

fuel sweat grow: trader joes grocery cart

So, starting back at the basics, here’s the note that I sent out to our small (but mighty) group of real food freedom eaters to kick off the next 28 days:

The Rules:
-no grains
-no dairy
-no sugar
-no alcohol
-no legumes (soy, beans, peanuts, etc)
Basically, nothing comes out of a box or package.  Below is my most standard grocery list for survival :
– Chicken (breasts or thighs)
– ground beef (or turkey / chicken)
– applegate farms chicken sausage
– yellow & purple onion
– zucchini / yellow squash
– red/orange/yellow bell pepped
– mushrooms
– cauliflower
– celery
– carrots
– spaghetti squash
– avocado (MANY)
– asparagus
– (local) Keswick Gourmet Marinara Sauce (this is the local option at Whole Foods — and they typically carry the most local brand in each market)
– kale
– romaine
– cucumbers
– broccoli slaw (only at Trader Joe’s)
– blueberries
– green apples (usually 6, but if i’m making the streusel recipe about a dozen+)
– bananas
– strawberries
– almond butter
– coconut oil
– sesame seed (or safflour) oil
– coconut oil
– coconut milk (light)
– eggs
– plantain chips (only at Trader Joes — NOT to be confused with banana chips)
– almonds (whole, slivered)
– sunflower seeds
-lemons
-limes
This isn’t totally exhaustive, but for the most part every recipe that I make that is an ‘everyday’ recipe includes these ingredients.  Every once in a while I’ll really branch out, but that’s if I’m trying to follow a recipe from someone else, or get a little creative.  When I do 28toLife everything else (for the most part) gets totally cleaned out and only the good stuff is left, and that makes it so much easier to pick the right things and really prep food.
The easiest thing to do is on a Sunday night (or any night really) make a big dinner with several sides and spend some extra time chopping things up (like zucchini or celery, etc) to have ready for cooking or snacks.  I’ll also usually roast a spaghetti squash or two on Sunday while I have time and will then have it ready in the fridge for meals that I don’t have a ton of time for during the week.
Here’s a post with our favorite quick breakfast option (Apple Streusel ‘Muffins’) which do require some time to make in advance, but are easily kept in the fridge or frozen
This Thai Chicken Stir-Fry is probably my favorite rainy-day or winter meal, but it’s still awesome in the summer with cauliflower rice OR over spaghetti squash. There are no exact measurements, but the feedback we’ve come up with is that adding a little more coconut milk for a thinner sauce is better than a really thick one.
This is by far my favorite meal and the best replacement for spaghetti and meatballs/meat sauce.  It keeps AMAZINGLY well as leftovers, so this is a great one to make in excess and pack up for lunches during the week.
And that’s where it begins.  Tomorrow morning, it begins with breakfast, and most likely the biggest Almond Milk Latte that Milli Joe can make.
Lets do this!

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

IMG_5746

 

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