J is for Judy

I met J is for Judy in nursing school. We were classmates. From the very first moment I met Judy she had me in stitches laughing. Judy is just one of those people that you just want to be around. If you could imagine doing a program in nine months that normally takes people two years you may start to understand the stress that nursing school had on us. Always overwhelmed, tired and annoyed at our program there was a lot to talk about. Judy had a way of taking these nuancies of nursing school and making them a laughing matter. Her frank honesty, slight cynicism  and humor made school a whole lot easier to get through.

After nursing school Judy moved to Las Vegas and I stayed in Virginia. Some how we both found CrossFit, Paleo and Blogs. I urge you to check out her blog J is for Judy. You won’t be disappointed. On her website you will find unique, easy and tasty Paleo recipes, adventures in CrossFit and product reviews. She also includes life adventures to include her experiences as a military wife, dog owner, and much more. Lastly, every week you have the mid-week mixer to look forward to. This is where she shows you how to make a completely new mixed drink using fresh ingredients. Um…how can you not check out her blog!! To entice you even more I often my find myself in a fit of silent giggles reading her blog. Her slight inappropriateness and blunt honesty won’t  disappoint. What are you waiting for go check it out for yourself: J is for Judy

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P.S. Her name isn’t really Judy 😉

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Chicken Poblano Chicken Chowder

Over the past weeks I have noticed a couple of things about myself. The first is that I am starting to enjoy cooking and the second is that I am becoming both a better and more opinionated chef. I know that I am enjoying cooking more because for one I do it more often. For the last five years, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to cook dinner 1 – 2 times a week. By the time it was on the “resolution” list for the fifth year….my husband would answer with a sarcastic “OK” and a little roll of the eyes knowing in his heart of hearts that he was going to be responsible for most if not all of the cooking duties. Now I regularly cook on my days off and want to cook. One of my main reasons for cooking is that I like variety….its the spice of life…..my husband on the other hand could probably eat the same meal everyday for the next 20 years. At some point I got tired of having tacos three times a week!! I also like knowing that all my food is fresh and nutritious. I know exactly what went into the food…..something that you will never know when you eat out.

Secondly I think I am finally becoming a better chef which means all of my years of watching Top Chef religiously is paying off!!! Yes!!!. I was never a bad cook. I could follow a recipe fine. Most of the food I would make came out relatively well but all I could do was follow the recipe. I would pretty much have a melt down if I was unable to repeat the recipe exactly….I mean like two year old on the floor….tears kinda meltdown…..embarrassing…um yes…Now a-days, not only are there no meltdowns if I forget an ingredient but I know how to sub for it on the fly. Lastly, if  a recipe didn’t come out well, I would blame myself. Not only do I not blame myself but I have ideas about how to make the recipe better in the future.

With that said…..I still look for relatively simple and short recipes. While I am enjoying cooking I do not want to spend all day doing it. This latest recipe Chicken Poblano Chicken Chowder was according to my husband “The best soup I have ever tasted”. The only drawbacks to the recipe was that the directions were kind of confusing and it took longer to cook then advertised.  Instead of using the “dutch oven” as suggested I just steamed the cauliflower and then used the frying pan for the bacon and chicken.

The recipe from the “Nourished” application states that prep time for this recipe was 15 minutes and cooking was only 40 minutes. Well that was a lie. All and all it took about 1.5hrs with two people cooking and chopping in the kitchen.  The recipes also fails to incorporate into the cooking time that the poblano peppers have to already be roasted. By the way it takes an hour to roast Poblano peppers in the oven. We didn’t have that kind of time so we just sautéed them in the skillet. Not perfect but it worked fine. Be sure to include the peppers though!! They really add to the flavor of the soup. Even though this soup takes longer then advertised it is well worth it and it is definitely one we would make again. I probably would choose to start cooking at like 430pm and not 6:00pm….whooops.

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Although my cooking has improved, my presentation has not….. It tasted just as good in a tupperware dish as it would have in a pretty bowl.

Paleo Challenge – Round 2

Let it be said before I start handing out advice that I have already failed Paleo challenge round two by conventional standards. I have “successfully” completed one whole30 challenge. I put successful in quotes because I was at the time a little lax with the “sugar” rule. Don’t get me wrong, I cut out a crap ton of sugar in that first challenge but I did allow almond butter, honey in my tea and a chai tea every now and then. Other then that it was no sugar and no dessert. I also did not incorporate as many vegetables as I would have liked. Regardless of these slight imperfections those thirty days were life changing for me!! I had increased energy, felt rested and just overall better.

After, the whole30 I kept many of the gains that I had a acquired. I was eating cleaner and with less sugar then I ever have, that was until I went to Hawaii. While I ate healthier in Hawaii then I would have in the past, the trip was still filled with frozen alcoholic drinks and desserts. After coming back from Hawaii despite my many efforts I kept slipping back into the jaws of the sugar monster. So naturally when my gym offered a Paleo challenge I jumped on board. I think that it is always easier to stick with something if there are other folks around you not only encouraging you but are “suffering” right along with you. I would have never it made it through the thirty days the first time around without my husband’s support. It also helped immensely that he did the thirty days with me. Every time, I wanted to sneak a piece of chocolate I would think of my husband. The same thing was true with the Paleo challenge at my gym. I actually didn’t even know which individuals from my gym were participating in the Paleo challenge. Just the fact that I knew other people were challenging themselves along side me was enough to increase both my motivation and discipline to myself.

If you are hell bent on making a change and sticking with it then I suggest finding someone else that wants to make a similar change as you. If not in person use the internet. Having someone else that you are accountable to will do wonders in moving you in the direction that you want.

When I embark on something new I always try to set goals for myself. My goals for this strict Paleo challenge was to in fact do absolutely no sugar and to incorporate as many vegetables as possible.

I was doing fantastic at first, I could tell by my crankiness for the first week without sugar…my husband could tell as well….haha. Everything was going as planned until I went out town and then I went out of town again and then again. This is where things fell apart for me. There were so many variables that were out of my control and I didn’t plan for any of them. Woops!!  Lesson learned. I know that in the future when I am traveling home that I need to bring health snacks. Rest stops have few if any Paleo friendly snacks. I also know that I have to have a meal plan when I get to my family in New Jersey especially if I arrive hungry after dinner hours and grocery store hours.  Failing to plan is planning to fail.

The ultimate down fall to this Paleo challenge was going to Portland. The town is know for being a foodie city. It was a conscious choice to break some rules….some not all. One of those was going to Voodoo Donuts.

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My husband holding the box of deliciousness!!

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Yum!!!

Apparently, you can not go to Portland without trying these donuts.  Also….I love hard cider and they just had so many choices that we don’t have on the east coast like cherry cider that I couldn’t resist!!! um amazing. I am not sure if I am ever going to be back to Portland so I wanted to make sure that I got the full experience. To be honest it was worth it!!! While I am out of the Paleo Challenge at my gym…..the weeks of clean eating up to the Portland trip have once again allowed me to easily pass up cupcakes and donuts. I am eating less sugary foods then I was eating before and more vegetables so I consider myself a winner. If you are searching for perfection you will always be sadly disappointed in yourself. Perfection is ever elusive. If you let your disappointment keep you from trying altogether then that is the only way you can really fail. If you celebrate your successes no matter how small then you will find over time you will achieve much more then you ever thought possible.

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Nourished!!

So my husband and I often fall into a cooking rut after finding a couple of new recipes that we love. This happens every couple of months mainly due to our schedules. Sometimes it is just easier to cook what you know then to try something new. I love all of the Paleo style websites that are out there and I have often searched them for a fun, new and tasty meals. To be honest there are so many awesome websites out there that I often find myself overwhelmed.  More then going online for recipes, I love to hold a cookbook in my hand. I like it better for picking out recipes as well as when Im cooking which is evident by the multitude of stains in the pages of my cookbooks.

I am not all old school though. When I grocery shop I put my grocery store list in my cell phone so that I dont have to carry any extra paper. This has been key to my cooking success because before this I would lose my list half way through my grocery store excursion thus requiring me to shop for ingredients from memory.

In an effort to make my life easier I am constantly looking for ways to cut corners and I think that I have found one. It is a Paleo app called “Nourished”.  The application is a conglomeration of Paleo recipes from multiple blogs. It was about $1.99 I believe to download. I love it because it is easy to use. I am pretty much technologically illiterate so if I say that it is easy to use anyone can do it.  I like it because it provides pretty pictures with every recipe!!! This makes it easy for me to find what I think looks tasty.  The pictures also helps me to determine if the recipe is going according to plan when cooking.

I like the fact that you can browse through the recipes and put them in your “cooking queue.” This allows me to quickly find the recipes that looked good in a snap. On each recipe page you have the option to add it to  your “cooked history” or “favorites”. You also have the option to share the recipe on facebook or twitter. Again, each of these features makes it easy to find the recipes that you like quickly so that when you are planning a meal you are not wasting time looking for recipes.

Each recipe provides you with a summary of the recipe such as length of time to cook, prepare, number of servings and if it contains eggs, nuts, etc. Every recipe that I have made has had easy to follow cooking steps. My favorite part about the application is that it has an ingredient list that can easily turn into a shopping list with a click of the button. This feature also allows you to free text additional ingredients that are not part of the recipe.

Another benefit to the application is that it comes with a list of resources that are “Paleo” friendly such as where one can buy prepared foods to grassfed “meat”. It also gives you the names of the bloggers that have contributed to the application. Each of them has a blog that you can explore for more recipes.

The only thing that I do not like about the application is that about half of the recipes are paleo treats. While these treats are obviously better for you then the sugar laden treats you find on the shelves of the grocery store I try my best to cook these treats as infrequently as possible. The application is updated routinely and I have noticed on these updates that more entrees and sides have been added.

So far I have made four recipes from this application and I have to tell you that they are my new favorites. They look good, taste delicious and are easy to make. In fact they look so scrumptious that many folks at work have asked me where I bought my meal. It was moment full of pride for someone that before this year cooked maybe twice a month to say…”I didnt buy it….I made it!!! ”

One of the recipes that I made and love is Chicken and Vegetable Lo Mein!! It is super easy and delicious. Be sure to get the “coconut aminos”. It is the soy substitute. It is an absolute must for any stir fry type meal. It can easily be found at Whole Foods in the oil or international aisle.

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It may not be restaurant worthy presentation but it sure was tasty. I added the eggplant to the recipe because I wanted to use it before it went bad. I always try to pack as much vegetables into a recipe as possible. Often times I run out of pan space for all the veggies that I want to incorporate. In that case when I go to reheat the left overs I will just sauté a little more of whatever vegetable the recipe calls for and then add it to the reheated meal. Not only am I getting more vegetables into my diet but it is more economical in such that I am using in this case the whole head of cabbage before it goes bad.

Adventures in Paleo Baking!!

So I have never been big into cooking and even less into baking. When I bake my husband says that it looks like a hurricane has blown through the kitchen. Up until now I have held off on making any Paleo treats because I am afraid that I wont be able to live without them!!. If you want to drool over some yummy looking Paleo treats check out taylormadeitpaleo. Her website is almost solely dedicated to Paleo Snacks and Treats!! I drool over her pictures on Instagram everyday!!

Anyways…this week was a special week as it was my husband’s birthday so I figured I would give this Paleo baking and maybe baking in general a try. I can’t remember ever baking a cake from scratch and I know for a fact that I have never made icing from scratch. I decided on the “Dark Chocolate Cake” and “Chocolate Frosting” from the book Make it Paleo. I was a little worried because I thought the cake was gonna tasted like dark chocolate and I prefer milk chocolate but the cake just taste like chocolately goodness!!

The recipe is super easy and super quick! I would recommend using the sifter for the coconut flour because it is a little clumpy.

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Yeah Cake!!! This cake is so moist! To be honest I could eat it without the frosting and be a happy girl! I cant say that about many cakes!!

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First time making homemade frosting!! Super yummy and very rich! A little goes a long way. The only bad thing about the frosting is that it doesn’t spread all that well. I am sure there is a secret to it but I was too hungry to try and figure it out!!

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Yum!!!

Butts, Boobs and Thighs…….

I have never been fat and I have never been what you call skinny either. I think that the correct terminolgoy to describe me would be “stocky” or “athletic”. Despite being an athlete and pretty fit for a large majority of my life my weight has always been a focus for me even from a young age. My goal to lose ten pounds has been on my new year’s resolution since I graduated college (always the same 10lbs). Part of this focus is because of the sport I chose to do as a child and the other is due to what society deems to be beautiful. The focus of society and my inability to find a great fitting pair of jeans is what caused me to loathe my muscular thighs throughout most of my life.

My focus on weight started early. Being a competitive gymnast wearing nothing but a leotard, how you look is often impressed upon as how strong you are. This unfortunately is the focus of many sports for example ice skating, ballet, and so forth. Some of this focus of physical looks is probably a reflection of societal values as to what is considered “beautiful and fit”

I remember at 10 years old my coach at the time basically telling me to lose a couple of pounds. Wanting to be a great gymnast I took this very seriously and focused on my diet. In high school the gym I went to weighed and calculated your body fat percentage on a regular basis. Despite being less then 10% body fat I was always “1 lb” over my “desired” weight. This infuriated me!! I used to work out on my off days from gymnastics which wasn’t more then two days a week since I was practicing five days a week for about four and a half hours each practice. Despite what I did with my diet and exercise I was always 1 lb over my “desired” weight according to whoever it was doing the measure.

This focus on food and looking a certain way carried on into adulthood to the point where I felt a little bit guilty each time I ate a tasty treat. Of course that didnt stop me from eating tasty treats. I have never had an eating disorder. In the past I just put too much focus on how I thought I should look and how much I should eat which I unfortunately think is an issue for many women and men. People internalize looking a certain way with a better life….happiness…etc…. As an adult after college I played with many diets and exercise routines. I tried to do a lot of cardio to “slenderize” my bulky muscle but I hate straight cardio!! Did I say I hate “just cardio” well I do a lot!!  It was like a game to try to get myself to go to the gym. Because I didn’t like what I was doing so I often didn’t go.  I also tried many diets to loose weight to no avail. The one that I stuck with the longest was “myfittnesspal” where you enter everything you eat and total up your calories for the day. The program had me on 1500 calories a day which I stuck to pretty often. Not only did I not lose more then a pound or too but I was always hungry, often lightheaded and always thinking about FOOD.

All of this changed though when i started the Whole30 and CrossFit. On the whole30 you are not supposed to weigh yourself but I did. I just wanted to see how I was doing…..but what I realized after the whole30 is how good the right foods make me feel. I don’t eat Paleo because I have to or because I am trying to loose weight but because I want to!! I feel better physically. I no longer feel guilty when I eat a treat because I know that 90% of the time what is going into my body is 100% good for me. I also do not crave the treats as much any more because I like what I am eating and it is satisfying…thank you FAT!!! I actually do not even weigh myself anymore nor do I have a desire to. This is a big accomplishment for someone that weighed themselves at least once a day. Between doing CrossFit and eating Paleo I know that I am doing right by my body and that is enough for me.

What I love about CrossFit is that when you walk into the gym you see women with butts, boobs and thighs!!! They have curves, they look like women and they are strong as hell. CrossFit has helped me to learn to focus on not going to workout to look a certain way but to become stronger, have fun and reach goals. My focus is no longer to to lose five pounds but to be able to strict press a 100lbs or be able to do a muscle up. I no longer loathe my muscular thighs but feel lucky to have them because that is what makes me strong on those olympic lifts.

Thanks to CrossFit and Paleo I am the most fit and happiest I have been in years and free of the nagging new year’s resolution to lose 10lbs

LOVE THESE PICS!!

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Herbs, Spice and Everything Nice!!

Up till about 6 months ago I thought that super healthy food meant super bland. In the past I had always wanted to eat healthy but what came to mind was grilled chicken (plain), brown rice and some frozen vegetable. Sounds appetizing right!! So of course when I was offered the choice between that rock star meal and something that would actually makes me salivate like pizza of course I am going to go with the pizza. Hence healthy eating was always saved for another day. This was also probably why my goal of losing 10lbs and looking fitter was one of my New Year’s Resolutions for I don’t know….5 years in a row…..BOOOO!!!! What I learned from Paleo and all the amazing Paleo food blogs out there is that super healthy food can taste super yummy!! One of the greatest contributors to making nutritious food…awesomely delicious is herbs and spices. Prior to Paleo we kept our spices in a tiny little cupboard and the only ones I ever really used were the salt and pepper. I am proud to announce that the spices now have an entire shelf in the pantry complete with spices that I can not even pronounce. If you are not sure how to incorporate spices into a meal checkout some of these Paleo blogs:

Paleo Nutritionist

PaleoOMG

Theclothesmakethegirl

Stupid Easy Paleo

Civilized Caveman

Having started cooking more and more I have noticed that buying fresh herbs from the grocery store is not only costly but I only use about half of what I buy for most recipes which means that a portion of the herbs I bought go unused. After careful thought and consideration I decided that maybe I would try my hand a growing my own herbs. For me this is a huge undertaking. I was not born with any shade of a green thumb. Throughout my life I have killed every green growing thing to ever enter my presence. I feel like the grim reaper of the plant world!! In fact in college my mom confiscated my cactus that I bought at a farmer’s market. She said that I wasn’t giving it proper care and it was dying!! I mean how hard is taking care of a cactus…..I mean those things live in the desert!!! They survive with minimal water. I have no idea how it was possible that I was killing it!! haha. Now that you can understand my plant killing background you can understand my joy and pride when I realized that not only did I not kill the herbs that I planted but I actually managed to grow them from seeds!!

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Look at all that green!!! I grew that!!

Can’t wait to use my own fresh herbs that I grew in super, healthy and flavorful meal!!!