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.

Gratitude, Vegetables + Love: Featuring Zoodles [ Day 7 of #23to30 ]

The last 5 years have taught me more than I can fully communicate in the #23to30 chronicles, but these three concepts have proven to be critically important day to day.  When one is missing, the whole day is off balance.70b009db8decb19162818bffee458eea

I’ve always been a vegetable lover – growing up my dad had to have a backyard garden – we ate fresh food, we learned to like all food (mostly) and fast food was not something that came around often.  My mom did have a thing for Dairy Queen, but we all try not to talk about it.

I truly grew up thinking that salad made with home grown produce, and whole wheat pasta sautéd in olive oil with pine nuts, arugula and sun dried tomatoes was a typical tuesday night dinner for all families.  Add avocado? Obviously.   That’s how I learned to cook (and eat); watching my dad cook, acting as his sous chef, and being second in command to conduct the evening assessment of refrigerator contents to determine what meals are actually possible (aka Fridge Disposal Meals).  When my dad would travel I was automatically promoted to head chef, a scenario which my mom was both intrigued and terrified by; but outside of a few small and thankfully contained kitchen fires, I steadily honed my craft.

As an adult I can honestly say that things have only gotten worse, which of course really means exponentially better.  My love for locally grown and organic food has become more obsessive, I live in a town that is focused on locally sourced foods and culinary uniqueness, and I have slowly (but certainly) become more compulsive about cooking and eating clean and delicious food.  That being said, it should come as no surprise that Zoodlers and spiralizers are one of the greatest things to happen to me in the last decade.

fuel sweat grow: zoodles  Anyone who has peeled or sliced zucchini into ribbons knows, these kitchen toys have completely changed the game.  Lately I’ve been loving zoodles sautéed in coconut oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and ultimately topped with browned ground beef and sautéed peppers, carrots, and mushrooms.

fuel sweat grow: zoodles and ground beef

I love this as another grain free option, in addition to spaghetti squash, to create and replicate meals.  Obviously it’s an amazing pasta replacement, but it also works as an amazing addition to scrambled eggs (like below), fajitas, and pretty much anywhere you might want to mix in some greens.fuel sweat grow: scrambled eggs and zoodles

You can definitely expect a series of zoodle heavy recipes to come out of the winter months, so get excited.  You’ll be zoodling before you know it.

While I never really lost touch with my love for vegetables and ‘fridge disposal meals,’ it wasn’t until the last few years that I’ve really focused on creating more in a clean and grain free arena.  The first few months were a little scary, and I missed the meals that I was so used to, but slowly I figured out how to recreate them; how to work with different ingredients, pair different ingredients, and create more flavorful and exciting meals than I ever had before.

This is going to be the winter of amazing meals and I’m inviting you all to dinner, one way or another – so join me with plenty of gratitude, vegetables, and love.