Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whole60/Sugar Detox: Day 3

Whole60 with sugar detox has been going well so far, but it's still early. I've been eating leftovers, which is great for when I'm traveling to meet with people for my research or when I come home and don't want to wait to eat. The meals I've been eating are crockpot curry chicken, salmon with zucchini, chicken fajitas, & veggie eggwhite omelet (there is a little yolk in there but I'm still skeptical of the whole "yolks are good/not bad for you" thing... but that's a discussion for another time :P)  No real sugar cravings either, though walking by Starbucks on these cold wintery days in Chitown and a caramel macchiato sounds amazing, but it's been super easy to walk by without fighting the latte feeling (for now). People at CrossFit think I'm crazy for doing this for 60 days along with a sugar detox, but it's really not all THAT long, plus the strictest level of sugar detox (what I'm doing - level 3) is not too different from paleo, other than limited fruit and no starchy carbs unless you had a tough workout.  

I feel fine so far - it's a lot easier than I thought it would be considering all the sugar & fried stuff I ate these past few weeks, but again it's still early.  Workouts this week were challenging but good... On Monday's body-density holds, I won the "wall sit challenge" where the last person sitting wins. The advantage of being a runner/biker/triathlete is a strong lower body and thus I beat everyone, including all the boys!!!  I gave up after 5:06 min, which is over a minute longer than the last guy.  Not gonna lie, I felt pretty bad-@ss for the next hour :P 

Also, I did my first toes-to-bar today!!!!  After months of only doing knees-to-armpit, I decided hey why not and went for it!  Totally surprised myself by getting up there... just goes to show that good things happen when you push yourself.  Next up is doing unassisted pull-ups, handstands, and consistent double-unders in a row, but that's for another day. Then we did wall-walks, which definitely revealed my upperbody/shoulder weaknesses. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. Celebrating each victory as it comes :)

Onwards and upwards...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Enough is enough!

Ever feel like you're too accommodating, that you can't just say "no"?  You end up over-burdening yourself, doing things that you really don't want to do (or not at that particular time) and you make time for everyone and everything except yourself. Maybe you're like me and there comes a time when you just have to say "no". Today is that day. I find my sleep schedule disrupted, paleo-to-faleo eating (what was a "cheat" dinner with a friend became 2 which became lunch and then another lunch and then...), eating when I wasn't hungry, and sub-par workouts. 

The cure? 180-degree, cold turkey shift. To. Say. No. The plan?  Whole60 with sugar detox. I was originally going to do Whole40 for Lent (plus sugar detox) but then decided why wait when I can start taking control now? If someone wants to go out to eat, say no. If someone wants to meet up for something and I don't truly want to / have other important things to do instead (e.g. sleep, food prep, workout), say no. Want to slack off at the gym? Say no. Push myself no matter how lazy, tired, stressed, or whatever excuse I'll come up with... same goes for all the extra MetCon aerobic-based workouts where it's easy to go slower. I'm sick of not being able to Rx or even come close to Rx'ing a workout. Sure, some of the olympic weightlifting can be scaled, but why can't I do a single pull-up, dip, or continuous double-unders?  Time to get things back under control. So, tomorrow (Monday Jan 28) is Day 1. Control the flesh before it controls you, no excuses.

My "last supper" before the Whole60 is a lazy paleo version of chicken fajitas (lazy = no marinade or measuring anything) with tomato soup (lazy = canned tomatoes), then hot chocolate for dessert (lazy = pour a mix into hot water... yes I know the mix ain't paleo, but it's the last sweet thing I'll eat in 60 days so shoot me).  Yum!

1 lb chicken tenders (or chicken breast cut into strips)
2 bell peppers (I used 1 green & 1 yellow, but any color will work)
1 yellow onion, sliced
Poultry seasoning (or paprika, onion powder, s&p)
2 tbsp Coconut oil

1. Heat large skillet with coconut oil on medium. Sprinkle chicken with poultry seasoning then cook until done, about 4 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate.
2. While chicken is cooking, slice up your peppers & onion. When chicken is done, toss veggies into skillet and cook until done, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet and sprinkle in a few shakes of cumin & paprika (no need to measure anything - just use your judgment). Stir until everything is thoroughly combined.

15 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
10 oz coconut milk
1/2 c water
2 tsp garlic powder

...Toss everything in a sauce pan and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Easy peasy!  Lazy paleo (including crockpot - more recipes to come) will likely be my cooking mantra from now until... awhile :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paleo Pen Pals January 2013 - Basil Salmon with Garlic Zucchini Fries

It's time for the Paleo Pen Pals ingredient swap of the month! The group was created and coordinated by rockstar bloggers Brittanie of ThreeDietsOneDinner and Tarah of WhatIGather. The premise is that you are assigned a fellow paleoite, send them some ingredients, receive ingredients from them, and then you whip up a recipe.

My pen pal this month was Katherine, a college student in Boston but actually from NJ. I'm a (grad) student myself and originally from NJ as well, so that was a neat coincidence. Katherine sent me basil-infused olive oil and organic garlic salt. I never tried olive oil infused with anything before, so this was uncharted territory. After opening the bottle, the smell was HEAVENLY! Basil is one of my favorite kitchen smells... mmm! The basil adds a subtle flavor, which is awesome and I'll definitely be using it again in my future cooking. 

With these 2 awesome ingredients, I decided to make basil salmon with zucchini. Actually, I really wanted to make the salmon with asparagus, but apparently the produce shipment from California froze over. It's been subzero here in Chitown (it's as uncomfortable as it sounds), so a shipment freezing over was disappointing but not too surprising. Oh well, I went with my tried-and-true veggie staple, zucchini.

Basil Salmon and Garlic Zucchini  Fries

1 lb wild-caught salmon
1 tbsp basil-infused olive oil
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning 
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp onion powder

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Brush salmon with olive oil.
3. Sprinkle seasonings over salmon.
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until salmon flakes easily.
5. While salmon cooks, prepare the zucchini....

2 medium-sized zucchini, julienned (or otherwise cut into whatever shape you like)
2 tbsp basil-infused olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp of garlic salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (if you're not making the salmon first)
2. Place zucchini on a single-layer cookie sheet.
3. Pour olive oil, minced garlic, and garlic salt on the zucchini. Use your hands to combine everything.
4. Roast for 18 minutes, flip, then roast for 10 minutes.
5. Zucchini is done when there's a nice brown on all sides.

Note: Zucchini is a pretty moist veggie, so it doesn't have that same "crunch" as drier veggies (e.g. asparagus, sweet potato, carrot) but it's still roasted deliciousness :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Crockpot Time!!!

Cold winter days and long, tiring school days mean one thing: it's crockpot time!!! Love coming out of the cold to a hot meal waiting for me :) Plus, I'm usually hungry when I get home so it's nice to not have to cook when I walk in the door.

One of my favorite things to make is pulled pork. All you need to do is sprinkle some seasonings on the meat and you're good to go. I toss the whole spice rack in, but it's really the cumin, (smoked) paprika, and chipotle seasoning that make this pork. To make it complete, healthier and heartier, I add some veggies but one could certainly skip this. It's super easy and super delicious... why WOULDN'T you want to make it?! Don't say because it's the summer or hot wherever you are (totally jealous, by the way) because pulled pork is not just a winter thing, though I find that I crockpot more in the winter... #crockpottime

Crockpot Pulled Pork

1 yellow onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
3 lb pork roast
Chipotle seasoning
Smoked paprika (regular paprika would also work)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper
Pinch of ginger

1. Put sliced onion & pepper on the bottom of your crockpot.
2. Liberally season pork with all your spices then put on top on veggies.
3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Use two forks to shred the pork.
5. Serve with some jus from the crockpot. EAT UP!!!

 Note: For more of a BBQ taste, simply pour your BBQ sauce over the pork and let it slow cook together.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sleep is for the Weak

Or, at least that's what I tell myself when school/research/job apps keep me up at night.  We're in week 2 of winter quarter here and I feel like such a zombie... long days and just feeling fried all the time.  A few things I've noticed when I don't sleep:

-I'm cold
-I feel like eating even though I'm not hungry
-I crave junk food (fat/salt/grease, sugar)
-I cave in and get fat
-I'm cranky
-I'm lethargic
-My head hurts

After sleeping (on the weekends), all these things magically go away. Of course, none of this is rocket science and should come as no surprise. Adequate sleep is part of the whole9/paleo lifestyle but sometimes it's just so hard to get it in. When I give in to my cravings, this creates more cravings and I can no longer tell when I'm full. Yikes!! Of course, the monthly is partly to blame, but it's always MY choice what & how much to eat. Time to put this dragon in check... 

In other news, I started CrossFit again after a taking a break last fall. I knew I was going to start up again, but needed to give my body & mind a rest after all the training/racing last summer, plus dissertation, job market, and the marathon.  The break helped to renew my passion for CF, but this is definitely a long road ahead to get back to where I was last summer. I stayed somewhat active in the off-season, but coming back has been humbling haha The coaches and fellow athletes have been really supportive though, I definitely missed the camaraderie.

Finish dissertation + get a job + sleep + be fit again + slay the craving dragon = 2013 is off to rocky start! Never too late to make sure 2013 ends the right way... here we goooo!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Top Chef Winner - Food/Restaurant Review

For those of you familiar with cooking shows, Bravo's "Top Chef" is a cooking challenge where week after week chefs compete to be the last one standing. Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard opened up her own restaurant "Girl and the Goat" in Chicago's west loop neighborhood, then later opened "Little Goat" which is the diner counterpart. There's been a ton of local & national press, so perhaps you've heard of the main restaurant.  Her restaurants are ridiculously popular and you have to make reservations for Girl and the Goat like 3+ weeks ahead of time.  Little Goat doesn't do reservations, you just gotta show up. Instead of waiting for 3 weeks, a friend and I opted for the 'Little Goat'. We tried to get brunch after church and at 12:30pm, there was a 2 hour waiting time!!  The staff said the wait is similar during the week, except between 3-5pm. Sheesh. We put our name down then wandered around for a bit. We got a table after 1 hour & 20 min, so I guess that was good.

Ambiance was pleasant, a bit more than your greasy-spoon type of diner. It had a comfortable feeling and the brightly lit space was very welcoming. The menu had a lot of variety, what you'd expect at a diner... breakfast foods, sandwiches, burgers, salads, soup, entree-style stuff, breads, hot drinks, soda (or "pop" as it's called in the midwest :P) & a bar. Reasonable prices. After reading the reviews on Yelp, my friend and I decided to order and split a bowl of goat chili and a reuben sandwich. She also ordered coffee, which she didn't find particularly special. Towards the end of our meal, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard came out and walked around the restaurant. She stopped one table away from us and was talking to a couple about life. She looked petite and seemed like a very nice, wholesome girl next door type.

Never had goat before, so this was a new venture. It had a slightly game-y taste but the sauce and other fixings covered the true taste of goat. It was slightly sweet and the beans weren't too plentiful, so it didn't make me feel bad for not being 'strict paleo'. My only gripe with the chili is that it was pretty fatty (lots of thick orange liquid... it was really too much for that amount of chili... gross) and very salty. I went through at least 3 glasses of water. Overall though, it was a creative concoction and I'm glad I tried it. I probably wouldn't order it again.

The reuben sandwich is very popular and one of the things the place was known for (they also boast a top-notch bakery with fresh-baked goods every morning). I'm not a big fan of reuben in general, but I was willing to give this one a try. It was a very messy sandwich (not to mention the bread was drenched in oil) so I removed as much bread as I could and dug in with my fork & knife. For someone who doesn't eat reubens, this one was probably the best I ever had. Wouldn't order it again though. I'd try their other sandwiches or burgers instead. Overall, service was fine... except for when the bus boy took my plate and dropped the chili-laded fork on my brand-new sweater, then told me to bring in my dry cleaning receipt and they'd pay for it. At least the wait staff was knowledgeable.

Conclusion: variety of food, fun flavor combinations, comfortable atmosphere, and reasonably priced but very long waiting time (it'll likely be that way for a long time). I'd be willing to give it another try.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Shrimp Fra Diavolo & 2-Ingredient Banana "Ice Cream"

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end... no more sleeping in, "working" from home, shopping, cooking and eating homemade meals with family, or parents doing my laundry & paying for groceries. No sir, winter break is over and I am back in action here in Chitown. I flew back on Thursday and after unpacking, I went to the gym with my buddy Victoria. Considering that school hasn't even started yet, the gym was pretty PACKED!! Grrr. Not surprising I guess, the gym is always like that after the holidays. Suppose it'll all die down in about 3-4 weeks when school is back in action. We did about 40 minutes of ellipticals then some strength training. It was good, but I miss CrossFit. Hopefully starting CF back up again next week, presumably with more new year's resolution people. Joy.

I also did hot yoga (bikram - 26 postures in 90 minutes in 105 degrees w 40% humidity) for the first time in 4 months. It was not nearly as bad as I thought! Until I woke up the next day. You're supposed to feel some soreness after taking a break, so while this is totally normal, it's not the most pleasant thing either. It's more like an achy soreness rather than an "I just killed it at the gym and feel awesome!" soreness. They say you're supposed to go multiple days in a row to work off the soreness and get the body used to bikram... so I went again for the second day in a row (today). It was definitely harder than the first day but I made it through just fine. I was thinking of going again tomorrow, but I'm feeling really unmotivated. Instead, I'll probably run or something. Then get ready for the start of winter quarter at school. Joy.

One cure for feeling sore/tired is EATING! :)  I made shrimp fra diavolo, which was inspired by a dish my family ordered over the holidays. It was tasty, but loaded with carby pasta, salt, and oils. Thought I could make a better one, paleo style of course :)  Then STUPIDLY EASY two-ingredient, dairy-free banana "ice cream" to top it all off!

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
Salt & dried red pepper flakes
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
1 14.5-oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 c low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic so the more the merrier :))
A couple shakes each of dried oregano, parsley, & basil (or use fresh and chop)

1. Turn oven to 425 degrees F. Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the roots & seeds. Place squash face-down (skin up) on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 min or until squash is soft and easy to squeeze.
2. While spaghetti squash is baking, heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add shrimp, salt, & dried red pepper flakes and saute until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a large plate.
3. Pour 3 tbsp olive oil into pan. Add garlic & onions and saute until fragrant and onions are translucent, about 4-5 min. Add diced tomatoes, chicken broth, & herbs. Stir to combine and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
4. Add cooked shrimp and toss everything until evenly coated. Sample the creation and add more salt, red pepper, or herbs to taste.
5. Use a fork to shred the spaghetti squash into "noodles". Top with shrimp mixture.
6. Dig in!!


Banana Ice Cream

1 banana, cut into slices
1/4 c coconut milk (lite or full-fat, both work great)

1. Freeze banana slices for at least an hour, ideally longer.
2. Add banana slices & coconut milk to a blender or food processor. Whip it all up until desired consistency is reached.

NOTE: If bananas are too frozen, add more milk. Better to err on the side of caution and use less milk than more. You can always add more later. However, if you use more milk than necessary, you'll end up with a banana pudding which is actually quite tasty.

VARIATIONS: If you want to add some flavor, cinnamon/nutmeg could add some mild flavor. As for the bananas, the riper it is, the more sugar it has. My bananas were about to turn yellow but still had some light green. Tasted just fine, I didn't need it to be all spotty or brown or whatnot.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pumpkin French Toast with Blueberry Topping


Just because the holidays are over doesn't mean the wintery season is over.  One of my favorite seasonal ingredients is pumpkin! When I came across PaleOMG's recipe for pumpkin french toast, I knew I had to try it. The secret is to grind pumpkin seeds (pepitas) into flour. While waiting for the pumpkin bread to cool before turning it into french toast, my non-paleo parents couldn't wait and decided to sample the pumpkin bread. They absolutely LOVED it and after one bite, my dad said that it was better than my mother's pumpkin bread recipe and much fluffier :)

I wanted to make a fruity topping to complement the pumpkin, so I used blueberries. The topping was easy, delicious, and full of antioxidants.  In hindsight, I should have omitted the topping because the pumpkin was rich enough, or I should have saved the blueberries for something plain like coconut pancakes/waffles. This still tasted great though and there were no leftovers. Everyone licked their plates clean haha

Paleo Pumpkin French Toast with Warm Blueberry Topping

PUMPKIN BREAD (adapted from PaleOMG):
Serves: 4

1 c pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 c pumpkin puree
6 dried dates, pitted
1 egg, 4 egg whites
2 tbsp coconut flour
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Heat a medium sized pan over medium heat.  Melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil and roast pepitas on all sides until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
3. Add roasted pepitas to food processor and pulverize until they become a flour.
4. Add dates and puree.
5. Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.
6. Grease a 9.3x5.2 in bread pan with coconut oil. Pour in pumpkin batter and bake until cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.

1/4 c coconut milk
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp coconut oil

1. Heat griddle to medium heat.
2. When pumpkin bread has cooled, whisk coconut milk, egg whites, & cinnamon together. Slice bread into 1/2-1 inch french toast "sticks" and dip into egg mixture on both sides.
3. Melt coconut oil in griddle. Place french toast sticks on griddle, cook for 2-3 minutes per side.
4. Top french toast with blueberry topping (below), maple syrup, or grass-fed butter.

1.5 c frozen organic blueberries*

1. While you are making the pumpkin bread & french toast, put blueberries in colander to thaw.
2. Once thawed, place blueberries in a small pot on medium-low heat and simmer until juices come out and berries burst easily, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Serve on top of french toast.

*NOTE: If using fresh blueberries, add 1/4 c water to pot before simmering.