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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Scenery + Serenity: Coming and Going in my Everything Place

This is what it looks like to drive through Virginia.  The beauty of this state in and of itself is something to behold, but for me, in my life of constant transit, it’s so much more than that.

fuel sweat grow: charlottesville virginia

When I drive through Virginia, whether I’m en-route to Charlotte, or heading back into Charlottesville, there is a distinct serenity that I get from the scenery — and probably also the fact that it’s the only time I get completely to myself, without having to be in any particular place, or being chained to a computer.  With that being said, while I revel in the space and time to myself whether I’m coming or going, there is the distinct feeling of letting go of whatever might be weighing me down when I drive into the Charlottesville city limits.  This place is my everything place.

Last Friday as I drove in after spending the week in Charlotte there was more than just a sense of calm — there was an immense amount of anticipation since this weekend was packed full of goodness.  Just a few short hours after rolling into Cville, it was time for the Tom Tom Founders Fest (fall edition) Block Party at the McGuffy Art center; an event that we ( MADabolic Cville ) were sponsors for.  So, as you can imagine, the troops were out dressed in some MAD gear, chatting up friends and strangers, giving away our beer tickets liberally.  And it was awesome.

fuel sweat grow: MADabolic Cville at Tom Tom Founders Fest

From what I gather there were over 6,000 people there, which is a tremendous amount of people to have anywhere in Charlottesville at any given time (well anytime that isn’t Friday’s After 5).

Saturday kicked off with some of my favorite people at MADabolic Cville on what turned into one of the last lingering days of summer weather in the beginning of fall.  And let’s be honest – this was all made possible by the caffeine I imbibed first thing in the morning to start the engines.  I can’t tell you HOW much I miss my (house made) almond milk lattes from Milli Joe when I’m out of town.

fuel sweat grow: milli joe almond milk latte

After class while we were waiting on a call with our western business partners, Dar and I hit up Brazo’s Tacos pop-up shop that is running out of our building for 60 days in the Al Dente space from 7am – 2pm.  And let me tell you — it’s GOOD.   Great local ingredients, and a build your own basic template so you can eat as clean as you want (we went with eggs, bacon, avocado and eggs, steak, avocado, and they were killer).

fuel sweat grow: brazes pop up taco shop

There was just enough time post-lunch to get cleaned up and head over to Scott Stadium for a little UVa v. Kent State action….and a big fat W.

fuel sweat grow: Virginia Football ( UVA )

Post-game Saturday was mostly an exercise in unwinding and getting back on track with life.  Some strategic planning, but mostly couching and cooking good food, which is what has been missing from my life lately.

Sunday brought some more culinary goodness for breakfast (scrambled eggs with ZOODLES!) and a long walk downtown to shake out some of the soreness and overall tension that my body has been carrying.

fuel sweat grow: scrambled eggs and zoodles

Following some time up at MAD, some of our kickball crew hit up the UVa Baseball game v. Towson, to cap off a full weekend of Virginia Sports lovin’.

fuel sweat grow: virginia baseball

This week is a de-loading and re-loading week from end to end, from it being #MADcardioweek, all the way to my own sweat schedule that is touting more yoga/stretch than I’ve given to my body in a long time.  It’s also time for some major fall organization, and strategy implementation for ALL my jobs, setting a solid new schedule for some work/life balance.  Pretty exciting stuff if you’re a dork like me.

While I’m not getting the time and serenity of a several hour drive through the Virginia country side this week, I’m just happy to find some security and balance in the chaos of home.  There’s something to that, and I can’t imagine life any other way.