Thursday, 31 May 2012

Mustard & Rosemary Pork with Glazed Bok Choy









The inspiration for this recipe, oddly enough, originally came from a free "Our Compliments" magazine.  You know, the ones at the checkout that use recipes to pump up sales of their own brand of ingredients.  But hey, a little tweaking to make it paleo-friendly, and a fast, tasty pork dish was made! 

Ever eat bok choy?  It's a household favourite.  Taste-wise, it's somewhere in between spinach and celery.  The stems are very mild and stay a bit crunchy, the leaves hold a bit more of their shape than spinach--maybe more like swiss chard.  It's a mild green, great in stir-fries, and cheap year-round.  It's tougher, too--it doesn't wilt in your fridge after only 2 days the way spinach does.  So here we go:

Feeds 5-6
Takes about 1/2 hour

Ingredients;

Pork:

2 lbs boneless pork chops, about  1/2" thick (Mine were fat, so I butterflied them)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter, for sauteing
2 tbsp Dijon (I like to use spicy, grainy deli mustard instead)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary,  or 2 tsp dry rosemary
3 tbsp ground almond meal

Bok Choy:

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch bok choy
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest


Move your oven rack to its highest position and heat the broiler to high heat.  Mix almond meal with rosemary.  Butterfly your chops, if needed, and salt and pepper both sides.  In a skillet on medium-high, melt butter and brown pork chops on both sides until almost done.  Move to a baking sheet.  Spread mustard on the face-up side of the chops, then sprinkle with the almond meal and rosemary.  Broil until golden and finished cooking through.  Move to lowest rack in oven until bok choy is done.

Meantime, wash and chop your bok choy.  Chop your onions.  In a large skillet on medium heat, saute the onions, garlic and the stems of the bok choy until onions are translucent.  Add water and green leaves, cooking just until they begin to wilt.  Add honey, vinegar and lemon zest, stir and serve.

Skillet Sausage and Squash

I was going to call this one Spanish Sausage and Squash, but honestly, there's very little that is authentically Spanish in this recipe.  It IS, however, pure comfort food.  Stick-to-the-ribs food.  And sausage was on sale at the grocery store, not chorizo, but hot italian.  Now, if I put one more meal on the table with cauliflower this week, the kids were going to kill me, so I thought shredded squash was a better idea if I wanted to live through this week.  Besides, little secret, squash cooks down and its flavour completely disappears in tomato sauce.  If you have a sometimes orange-vegetable-adverse family like I do, this is one of those places to get it into them with minimal struggle.  Ok, this, and in chili.  Squash is awesome in chili.  And OMG, squash fries...  My parents are killing themselves laughing at me right now.  I HATED squash growing up.  I hated ALL orange vegetables except raw carrots and peppers.  I'm over that now.  Mostly.  Just don't feed me mashed squash or carrots.  Mashing them is a sin, and besides, it's just gross unless it's dessert food.

I googled "spanish spices" and apparently they include paprika, cayenne, oregano, and thyme, but then also cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and saffron.  Hmmm.  Where to begin, and what to include?  The answer?  Include whatever tastes good.  Throw the rules away.  When all else fails, return to rule #1 of paleo cooking; you take some meat, a veggie or two, throw it in a pan with some spices, and you eat it.  This recipe looks like a lot, but its not.  Its ready in a half hour.  There's just a lot of spices, and you can add or delete any that you don't like or don't have.  Maybe you have saffron.  I didn't.  That stuff is expensive.

Feeds 5-6
Ready in 1/2 hour

Ingredients:

2 lbs sausage, whatever kind you like
2 cloves garlic
1/3 spanish onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 c butternut squash, peeled, cored and shredded
2 (5 0z) cans tomato paste
1 1/2 c chicken broth
fat of choice for cooking
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chipotle
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Prep everything.  The food processor is your best friend.  Have all your veggies chopped and/or shredded.  Chop your sausage into bite-sized chunks.  Have your tomato paste open and waiting.  Measure out the chicken broth.  Pull out your spices.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat.  When hot, add cooking fat and saute onions and garlic until fragrant and onion is translucent, add green pepper and saute for another minute or two.  Add all other ingredients, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes until sausage is cooked through.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Spanish Chicken and Shrimp



Ok, I was a bit lazy the other night, and I have to say, nothing beats a dinner that you can have on the dinner table in a half hour or less.  This recipe was just that kind of simple.

So this is a variation on my Smokey Paprika Paella, the lazy version, and I have to say, I actually like this one even better than the original.  And its fast.  Can I say that enough?  Real fast.




Serves 5
About 1/2 hour total


Ingredients:



Sauce:

1/3 c EVOO
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil)
2 tsp fresh minced garlic
1 tsp dried cumin
1/2 tsp dried lemon zest or lemon peel
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp 2 tbsp lemon juice
1 5-oz can tomato paste

The Rest:

1 head cauliflower
1 1/2 lbs chicken
1/2 lb cooked shrimp
1/2 spanish onion
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
2 fresh tomatoes

Method:  

First, get everything ready; chop your chicken into bite-sized pieces, de-tail the shrimp and rice the cauliflower, chop your onions and tomatoes.  Next, blend all ingredients for the sauce in a blender (or a magic bullet).  Set sauce aside. 

Heat up 2 frypans.  In one, heat on med-high, add a bit of fat of choice, add chicken and onion and saute until chicken is cooked through and onion is translucent.  Add garlic and continue cooking for another minute until fragrant.  In other frypan, heat to med-high, add a pat of butter or ghee, and saute cauliflower just until it begins to soften and brown.  Do not overcook it. 


When chicken is no longer pink, add tomatoes and cook just until they begin to soften.  Add shrimp and sauce and heat through.  Serve over riced cauliflower.  This will have a bit of heat on its own, but if you like more heat, add sriracha sauce.  Enjoy!

The Humble Handstand

So, why am I doing handstands these days?

When was the last time you did a handstand?  Yea, until recently, me, too.  I read about handstand push-ups, and I thought, "Handstand, pphht.  I can do that."  Then I tried one.  A little bit scary for a second there, swinging all your weight over your head.  Especially if your weight is not the same as it was in childhood, when you last tried this.  My arms wobbled for a milli-second, not sure if they were going to hold my weight not.  But they did hold me.  And as I held that position, heels to the wall, every core muscle flexed and my spine curled and my ribs and chest pulled open and I thought, "holy crap--this is working EVERYTHING!"  Holding for the count of 20 seconds was challenging.  Holding it for 30 was damn near brutal.  And so I fell in love with the humble handstand.

Hmmm, sunburnt bellybutton.
I love functional bodyweight exercises.  I love the variability and creativity that comes with it.  Gone are the days of working out one muscle at a time--who has that kind of time>>  I want to work as much as I can, as fast as I can.  It's efficient.  I'm all for efficient.  Functional strength isn't about looking like a builder--its about having the muscles for quick bursts, sprints, to flee from danger when necessary and to have the strength for a sudden 2-hour tennis marathon or a 30km bike ride.  It gives you the strength for anything that comes up.

Bodyweight training is actually far safer and more sustainable for most people.  There is so much less potential for injury--first because you are only using the weight of your own body (and if you have bad form, your own body weight isn't such a big deal, but on a weight machine, bad form can cause a torn muscle, or worse), and secondly because you are working the whole range of muscles instead of working in 2 dimensions.  Remember, too, that fitness is not just strength; its balance, coordination, flexibility, speed, and endurance.  It's EVERYTHING.

Which brings me back to handstands.  They work everything.  They require balance, stability, upper-body strength (arms, shoulders, wrists, lats) and engage all the core muscles--front and back.  This particular exercise is also considered weight-bearing and therefore is good for the bones.

Yoga advocates are big on handstands and headstands.  Not just for all the muscles it engages, but because it increases blood flow to the brain which can reduce stress and anxiety, it can invigorate and energise. 

Handstands improve posture.  In order to do a free handstand, your whole body must be perfectly aligned, your spine must be perfectly stacked or you fall over.  It forces you to really focus on your posture.

Handstands are just plain fun.  They remind me of being a kid when I loved doing handstands.  As a kid, I also loved cartwheels--but beware the cartwheel--they engage groin muscles that haven't been used in forever, either.  They're just as fun as handstands, especially at work in an office building, but that's another story for another time....   Back to handstands!

Handstands are freakin' hard to hold for any length of time.  They are just plain challenging.  Who doesn't love a challenge? 

And they make the body look awesome.  Upside down awesome.  Because you never know who's going to see you upside down....



Ok, Steve took this one a bit early, so I cropped out the body part I don't want anyone staring at, but check out what it does to the abs!! 

But remember, folks, if you have high blood pressure, beware of this one!  If you haven't done a handstand in forever, take it slow.  Use a spotter.  Train fun, but train safely.

Maybe once I achieve my 100 push-up goal (and maybe then complete a 100-burpee challenge), I'll try working towards a handstand push-up.  Because you gotta have goals.  Ok, I need to have goals.  You just just watch, point, and laugh at me.  That's ok.  I'm happy to amuse you.








Sunday, 27 May 2012

ON THE MENU MY 27 - JN 2

There's a lot of good stuff on sale this week.  Mostly produce, mind you, but that's a good start in my opinion.  There must be a lot of stuff coming into season in south and central US, because there is nothing at all in season here yet.  Nary a farmer's market in sight for another month here....

Man, I hope I don't have another shopping week like last week.  C'mon $160??  Crazy.  But I did see Eye-of-Round roast on sale at Food Basics for $1.88/lb.  This is good.  I love ground beef, really I do, but its the only beef I think we've eaten for a month now.  Chicken Legs at No Frills for $1/lb--gonna have to stock up on those if there are any left in the store at all.  The sales at No Frills this weekend are insane-good, so I'm going out of my usual way to get all kinds of stuff there (including cauliflower @ $1!).  Berries are on sale everywhere, and I do love berries above all other fruit.

I've come up with a simple custard recipe that I'm going to experiment with for breakfasts this week, so hopefully those recipes will show up on the blog if they work out.  I find pack-and-go breakfasts the hardest meal of the day.  And eggs can get VERY repetitive after a while...

So here's what I'm thinking:

  • Smokey Paprika Chicken and Shrimp on Cauli-Rice  (a variation on my Paella recipe, here )
  • Ham and Cheese Quiche recipe here
  • 5-Spice Crockpot Pork on cabbage & green apples
  • Swedish Meatballs on mashed cauliflower recipe here
  • Spanish Sausage with squash recipe TBA
  • Crockpot Ropa Vieja with Cuban Style Rice recipe here
  • Bbq chicken with grilled veggies 
Alright, so I'm back from my day of shopping and I've spent $124.05 for the week's food.  That included two extra meals worth of chicken, an extra roast beef, and an extra pkg of sausages, all because the prices were good.

Gourmet Thin-Crust Pizza

Yes, I said thin crust, and you can eat it with your hands.

This is the best pizza crust I've made so far.  I've been searching for a pizza crust that feels like real crust, and most recipes for almond-flour crust DO feel right, but they all have a cup of cheese in the crust, then even more on top of the pizza, and while I do eat cheese, my lactose-intolerance means I can only eat small amounts of it.  So it there's going to be cheese on a pizza, I want it ONTOP of it.

The inspiration for this one came from "Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet" by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass.  I can't take all the credit on this one.  It took only some minor changes.  Here's what I did:

Feeds about 3-4

Crust:

2 c almond meal
2 eggs
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheet or pizza tray with parchment paper.  Mix all ingredients for pizza crust--it will have the consistency of cookie dough.  Gently press flat onto parchment.  This should make about a 14 inch round.  You could easily increase the almond meal, egg and oil to make this a monster pizza crust.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until set firm and edges have begun to brown.  Remove, and proceed as below.

Sausage-Topped Pizza:

Sauce:

1 5-oz can tomato paste
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
pinch salt
pinch hot pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Topping:

1 lb italian sausage
1/2 onion
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 c cheddar
2 tbs parmesan cheese

Brown meat, onions and spices in skillet until meat is cooked through.  Move oven rack to highest setting and turn on broiler.  Top pizza crust with sauce, parmesan, meat mixture, then cheddar, then place whole under broiler just until it begins to bubble and brown slightly.  Remove from oven.  It should slide right off the parchment for easier slicing.  Cut into 1/8ths and serve. 


The pizza dough is firm enough that you could actually top the whole thing before cooking the crust and the toppings will slightly cook into the base, making it a bit softer.  If you choose to do this, the oven needs to be set to 500 degrees, with the rack at it's lowest position, for about 10 minutes.  If you were using a cake pan for this and wanted a more deep-dish effect, this is the route to go, but you'll have to experiment alittle as I haven't tried it this way yet.





Monday, 21 May 2012

This Week's Rant


So, I have to share a story about an encounter I had this week.  And it is not about Paleo.

Alright, so I’ve been cranky lately.  Yea, cranky.  That’s the word I’m going with here.  Other words would offend people, and then the truth would be out there. 

Now, I’m not normally cranky.  (Oh, who am I kidding?)  I vacillate.  I’m unpredictable.  I’m either sunshine and roses, or cranky.  No in between.  Its a little frightening for my family.  I’m a scary person sometimes.  I’ve been known, on occasion, to threaten to kill my family just because they irritate me.  They know I don’t mean.  They don’t even bat an eyelash.  Because other than my hormonal week, I tend to be more of the sunshine variety personality.  I usually have a way of turning things around and seeing everything from an outside perspective.  But lately, not so much.

And the crankies have been going on and on for a few weeks now.

So this person I know (whom I will not identify) the other day pulls me aside.  She’s a bit younger than I am, not by too much, just a couple of years, really.  She says to me, “I went to the doctor the other day.  Turns out I’m beginning to show some signs of menopause.  So don’t worry.  I’m going through this, too.  We’re together on this one.”

Huh?  Uhhh, I’m not going through menopause.  No way, no how.  Do I look that bad lately?  Ok, I haven’t been getting along with my hair, but, really?  Really?  I mean, I love her to death, she was soooo trying to empathise and rationalise my cranky.  But....no.  Not the reason for my mood.  And the more I tried to say that, “no, that’s not it,”  She’d nod and say again, “It’s ok.  Really.  I’m with you.”

Uh, the crankies came when my husband got laid off and I became the sole income-earner of our household.  The crankies came when my bank account went so far into overdraft that a pay cheque would not dig me out.  The crankies came because we’ve been here before, many times lately, because being the breadwinner stresses me out, makes me worry about what happens if I lose my job, too, or if I get hurt or become unable to work, because I hate having this sole level of responsibility.  I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and I resent it. 

So, its not menopause.  That would make me even more cranky.  Uber-cranky.  I'm way too young for that.  Good thing it’s not that.  Thanks for listening and letting me rant.

Smokey Paprika Paella




Ok, so here's what inspired me to try to cook paella this week.  This lovely picture came in the Insider's Report flyer.  The Presidents Choice makes such awesome sauces.  They've been making them since the first Sechewan Peanut Sauce came out (and rocked my boxed-foods world way back when).  The caption stated it contained "pure olive oil, smoked paprika, cumin, chili peppers, lemon, garlic and fire-roasted tomatoes".  Oh, I could so make that.  Who doesn't love that flavour combo?  They had me at smoked paprika and cumin.  Heck, I'd poach fish in that combo.  But I didn't this time.  Because I was making paella.


Serves: 5
Time: about 1/2 hour
Sorry for the grainy shot, but this is the picture they stuck with it.  I chose to skip the green peas, you're welcome.  And I could have barbecued all of my ingredients, too, it would've looked this fabulous, but would it have tasted fabulous?  No, because the flavours would not have had time to "mingle."  So I didn't, and I spared both you and me a lot of time fussing around in the kitchen.  Sometimes they do this stuff to make a good photo without taste in mind.  I like simple and tasty, presentation isn't a priority for me.  So here's how it went down:
Ingredients:

Smokey Paprika Sauce

1/3 c EVOO
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil)
2 tsp fresh garlic
1 tsp dried cumin
1/2 tsp dried lemon zest or lemon peel
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp lemon juice
1 fresh tomato 5-oz can tomato paste

The Rest

1 lb boneless chicken (white or dark)
1/2 lb cooked shrimp
2 large tomatoes
1/3 large spanish onion
1/2 c shelled pistachios
1 red pepper*
1 head cauliflower

Ok, first throw all of the ingredients for the Smokey Paprika sauce into a blender--I used my magic bullet-- and just puree everything together.  Set aside.  **(see notes below on added uses)

Rice your cauliflower. Chop your tomatoes and onion.  Chop your chicken into bite-sized pieces (and if you buy your chicken skin on, make cracklin's in another frypan at the same time as you cook dinner to snack on while you cook....)

Alright, in a large skillet, brown chicken on all sides (chicken may still be a bit pink in the middle).    Add onions, cooking just until the onions begin to turn translucent.  Reduce heat and add cauliflower, red pepper, sauce and tomatoes.  Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until cauliflower begins to soften.  Add shrimp, stirring and allowing to heat through.  Remove from heat and add pistachios.  Eat!
   

Your sauce will be thicker and more red than mine is here; I used a fresh tomato in the sauce the first time around.  Using tomato paste will make for a far richer, fuller flavour and thicker sauce that coats the "rice".

This has a hint of heat to it already due to the cayenne, but feel free to add sriracha sauce if you're anything like me.  My family agreed this was a keeper recipe; they'd eat it again and again.  No one argued that it was too spicy, but no one else added extra heat, either.  Hmm.  Must be just me.

**You could throw this sauce into the fridge and it would stay fresh for weeks because of the olive oil base. This sauce would be very good on many things; fish, pork, ribs, sauteed okra...  On a lazy night, just stir-fry some chicken and shrimp with a couple of chopped tomatoes, add this sauce and serve it over top of steamed cauli-rice.
*I used a fresh red pepper because that's what I had.  If you have the time or happen to have one on-hand, use a roasted red pepper for a more intense sweet.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Way I WOD

Sometimes, I just don’t have time to get outside and have fun.  I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.  We all have lives beyond eating primally.  There’s a lot more to looking good in a bathing suit than just eating well, even if eating well does get you 80% there. 

Now, I’m not interested in Crossfit Competitions or being dead lift champion of anything.  But I AM 41 and finding that being thin just isn’t enough at this stage.  We need to work a little to look good now.  Looking good is a huge motivator, don’t underestimate it.  There are a million other good reasons to do weight-bearing exercises, including improved bone density, reduced injury and increased mobility later in life.  The fitter you are, the fitter you will remain.  I want to be the 70-year-old lady who jumps from airplanes and zip-lines in the Amazon.  But looking good in a bathing suit is on the top of the list for most of us. 

It’s not always easy to get in those weight-bearing exercises, is it?  Not with a 9-5 job, not with children, not with a house to clean and limited money for gym memberships and a million other reasons and excuses.

So lets talk a bit about what works for me, and what doesn’t—let’s talk excuses and motivation...

1.        Get Rid of Excuses.  Do you want to do this or not?  Do you want to have the hot body that makes everyone ask what you do/did to look so good?  Because nothing comes for free.  People are full of excuses, lord knows I am.  Lifting weight is tedious, repetitive and depressing.  Its hard.  I don’t develop muscle easily.  I don’t have the money for a gym membership.  Working out takes time away from my “me time” and my family.  I work a long day, and I commute.  I come home to food that needs cooking and a house that needs cleaning (I don’t have a maid, either).  See what I’m saying?  A million excuses.  Ditch the excuses.  We’ve already come this far, changing our diet and completely eschewing common wisdom and the food pyramid. 



2.       Find Your “Why”.  No one commits to anything without a good reason, or two or three good reasons.  Least of all me.  The reasons need to be personal for them to be meaningful.  I have a laundry list of things I want to accomplish; I want to be fit enough to run the Warrior Dash this summer without coming in last or feeling like I’m going to die.  I want to tone all my body parts as much as I can, because I don’t like how deflated my butt looks in a bikini or my “baby belly”.  I want a six-pack (I have a 4-pack at this point).  I want to be strong enough to do chin-ups/hand-stand push-ups (I could be the life of the party if I did).  I want to feel confident in my own skin.  I want clothes to fit properly, to effortlessly flatter my figure as opposed to “conceal my muffin top”.  I want to be fit and be able to keep up on those outings when I choose to spend the day rock climbing/SUPing/canoe tripping/zip-lining/obstacle course completing.  I want to be able to  do whatever I feel like doing and trying.  I don’t ever want to have to admit that I’m “not fit enough/strong enough/too old”.  These are huge motivators for me.  And don’t be embarrassed if your reasons are pure vanity.  I love it when people refer to me as the “cougar/hot soccer-mom/MILF.”  Vanity is the strongest motivator out there.



3.        Understand What you’re Committing To.  This is HUGE.  The concept of “get fit, lift heavy things” was just too vague for me.  It didn’t tell me how to go about anything.  So first, once I knew I wanted it, I had to learn what “it” needed to be.  Was I going to join a gym?  How much time did I have to commit?  How much/little could I do to see results?  How much results do I need to see to feel like I was making ground?  Break it down and be specific.  I used to be a gym rat.  I’ve learned from personal experience that the whole group motivation social event of gym attendance was not for me.  I didn’t enjoy the repetition of lifting weights or using fancy machinery, either.  But you know what?  Unless your motivation IS competition, you don’t really need any of that.  You don’t need a gym, you don’t need special equipment and you don’t need a lot of time. 



I made myself a promise when I started this.  I hate being in the basement for hours on end, I hate the boredom of staring at walls.  So I decided that I would only commit 3x/week to muscle work, and only 15 minutes each time.  You can commit to that.  It’s all you need.  If you see my FB WODs, 95% of them are timed to be 15 minutes and I only do them on alternating days.  But I push as hard as I can for those 15 minutes, and like I mentioned, I have a 4-pack, so it seems to be working. 


 

So, what do I do in those 15 minutes?  There are only 5 main movements that you really need to focus on: Squats, push-ups, pull-ups, overhead press and plank.  It is that simple.  How you go about each one is up to you.  I DO believe you should get a chin-up bar.  It is the only piece of equipment I use.  Sure, you could make do without it, but you have to get really creative finding things that will work.  You do not need weights for the overhead press.  That’s where handstands come in.  It’s ok to use the wall.  Just try to hold a wall-handstand for 20 seconds.  You’ll see.  It engages muscles you didn’t know you didn’t have.  Seriously.  But if you have high blood pressure, beware of this one. 



Now, I’m not always the most creative person.  Sometimes I am completely without inspiration whatsoever.  And I have a short attention span.  And I hate repetition.  So I need a little help now and then.  I have a few good sites that I go to for ideas and technical explanations of how to do certain moves.  All the crossfit websites have descriptions of WODs and their definitions, but they often call for machinery/equipment that I don’t have.  I like bodyweight moves.  Check out http://www.wodshop.org/ .  There is a bodyweight-only category, and you can keep hitting the button to generate a new WOD until you see something you like.  Sometimes I have to Google the moves it suggests.  Youtube is awesome for that.  I LOVE the facebook fan page Get-Fit-Naturally.  They post regular WODS that are pure bodyweight exercises, and they are challenging.  For a bit of creative ideas/outdoor WOD ideas, I like The Fitness Explorer and Nerd Fitness, both of whom post outdoor playground workout ideas.  Lately, I’ve been mixing up my own WODs to make sure I’m covering all the bases.  There are a million variations on how to do each muscle group move—like how squats can be squat-jacks or wide-outs (sumo-squat jacks) or can add pistol-kicks or side leg lifts, how planks can be superman planks, plank-jacks or side planks, etc.  The more variety you try, the more muscles you will work for that overall toned look.  





4.      Make it Fun.  I can’t do the same thing day after day.  Every day I strive to come with something new and interesting.  I add new reasons, new “why’s” all the time.  Right now, I’ve decided to work on the “100 push-up challenge”.  http://hundredpushups.com/index.html .  It mixes things up a bit, and adds a new level of difficulty for me.  I take advantage of when I have time and good weather and head out for a 30-km bike ride or a really long rollerblade or throw in a game of tennis, or go trail running with some really challenging hills.  Whatever you enjoy.  It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you like doing it.  Working out can’t always be fun, but it shouldn’t totally suck, either, or you wouldn’t want to do it anymore.  Go for variety, and push yourself hard.  You’ll be pretty proud of yourself afterwards.  I always am.


5.      Ignore the Scale.  This is the hardest thing for me.  I think a lot of us have trouble with this one.  I hate the scale.  It defeats me and makes me crabby all day long.  It taunts me. 

In the last couple of months, I have really upped my workouts in frequency and intensity, and I have not seen a single pound of difference on the scale.  I do have these interesting side-ab muscles now that add to my 4-pack, and I’m developing really sexy, defined arms, but no change on the scale.  I know I am building muscle and must therefore be losing fat, but it’s hard to stay motivated when the scale doesn’t budge.  So I stay away from the scale and remind myself that muscles are hungry even when not being used.  The more muscles you have, the more fat your body will burn even while sitting still.  My weight won’t bother me at all if I’m flashing people my soon-to-be six-pack abs.  I’m pretty sure it won’t bother anyone else either, if they’re seeing my six-pack abs. 

Have I missed anything?  This is the way it’s been working me for a while now, I’m happy with it.  And if I’m happy, I’m going to keep doing it.  But if I haven’t defined something clearly enough, or you just want more info on the basic moves, check this link out http://whole9life.com/2012/04/the-whole9-five-movement-series-part-3/ 

Also check out Mark’s Daily Apple.  He has a free downloadable fitness guide that goes over how to properly complete each of the 5 basic movements.
Not bad for 41, 2 c-sections and appendix surgery last year.  And still improving...

Remember, habits take time to build.  They are learned actions.  Nothing happens perfectly overnight so just keep trying.  If you lose your motivation, you just have to find another one (sometimes that takes time, too, so forgive yourself if that happens.  We all have stretches where we’re inactive).   It’s a good thing  to take a regular day off.  I take off one day every week.  Rest time is as important as working hard, and yard work can count as a WOD, if you are at all like me and tend to move around huge piles of dirt and uproot whole trees.  It’s all about intensity.  And perception.

And if all else fails, just follow my WODs.  Everyone needs to start somewhere.

On The Menu MY 20 - 26

On The Menu

Ok, based on what's on sale this week and what I already have in my fridge, here's what I'm thinking...

  • beef ribs with roasted carrot and asparagus rib recipe here
  • Cilantro-Lime Chicken with cabbage recipe TBA
  • pizza, ver III recipe TBA
  • paella recipe TBA
  • sloppy joes on squash fries recipe here
  • country comfort pie recipe here
  • indian chicken on bok choy and cauli-rice (never got to eat it last week)

  • ...and breakfast cookies for the girls
Total shopping for this week $168.52.   Uuuurgh, I hate when that happens. So, where did the money go?  Well, $9 worth of almond meal @ $11.50/lb, $4.60 worth of unshelled pistachios, coffee $15.49 (could only get my brand in the jumbo size this week), extra ground beef, extra chicken thighs, extra shrimp (they were all on sale only if you buy the 'club pack' size), ziplock freezer bags $5.49, no-name peanut butter for the girls $4.99.  Everything else was petty normal.  I guess next week we won't need a lot of meat is all.  I think its the almond meal and coffee that really did me in.  I'm trying to keep my grocery costs to around $120-$130/week.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Sweet Potato Cheeseburger Pizza--Ver II




Ok, so this is a variation on my Crazy Sweet Potato Cheeseburger Pizza, and I totally got it perfect this time.  First time was great, this time perfect.....And then my teen refused to eat another sweet potato--ever--again.  And as far as I'm concerned, paleo with teens is hard enough, heck, paleo for any unwilling party is challenging enough.  No need to shove foods they hate down their throats.  That is a war that cannot be won.  Instead, you gotta win them over with foods they love.  And my kid does not love sweet potato, so I'm going to have to take a break from them for a while.  So much for this idea.  S'alright.  Next week, I will try again with a different base (since this pizza top is too perfect for forget).  But for now, and for those of you who don't want to eat nuts or excessive cheese, or are just cauliflowered-out, this base is a great alternative.  Heck, this topping is so good that you could leave the cheese off altogether and it just becomes Hamburger Pizza.  So here's the recipe:

The Sauce:

1 5-oz can tomato paste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 tsp honey
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
splash of water, to thin down

Meat Mixture:

1 1/2 - 2 lbs ground beef
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 large spanish onion

Pizza Base:

3 large sweet potatoes
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 egg
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated


Chop and boil your sweet potatoes (don't bother peeling).  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  When sweet potato is soft, drain and  puree with other base ingredients.  Carefully roll out between 2 pieces of parchment paper and transfer to pie plate.  I didn't bother leaving the parchment under the base--I was using a perforated pizza pan, but it did stick to the pan.  You may want to leave the parchment under the base.  Bake for 17 minutes, until set and beginning to slightly brown on bottom.
Once pizza base is in the oven, brown your beef with all the meat mixture ingredients.  Mix up all your ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.  When base is set, remove from oven and turn oven up to broil, carefully moving the rack to its highest setting.  Spread the base with the sauce, top with meat mixture, top with cheese and broil until the cheese is melted and it begins to brown a bit.  Remove and let it sit for about 5 minutes (this helps loosen the base from the pan)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

ON THE MENU MY 13 - 19

On the Menu

Ok so this week the grocery list was short.  I'm all for short and cheap, but this time I think its because I simply left too many things off the list.  Sunday, I sent Steve to the Bulk Barn for almond meal--$10 worth, so that I could eat grain-free pancakes until I burst.  So, including that trip, the grocery total for this week is $119.16.  I DID have to buy almond butter--again.  I seem to have devoured a whole jar of it in a week.  And we picked up sausage meat even though its not on the menu, just because it was on sale, and we bought more ground beef than we needed for that same reason. 

So this week's sales included bone-in skin-on fresh thighs @ $2.99/lb, x-tra lean ground beef at $2.99/lb, omega-3 eggs @ $2.99, 2x 4-pk peppers for $5 and all berries @ 3/$5.  Due to the same ongoing budgetary constraints as last week, it is no longer good enough to find meat at less than $5/lb.  It must now be $3/lb or less.  It's a darn good thing that I love ground beef.

So here's the food plan for this week:
  • Pork-fried cauli-rice  recipe here
  • Enchilada Pie  recipe here
  • Blackened fish on mashed celeriac with fiddleheads  recipe here
  • Crazy Sweet Potato Cheeseburger Pizza  (will be altering my own recipe)
  • Lemon Chicken with broccoli and peppers  recipe here
  • Indian Chicken with Bok Choy and cauli-rice  recipe here

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Country Comfort Pie

 
I love ground beef.  It is by far the most economical cut of meat out there right now.  It is also the most versatile meat.

The inspiration for this one came, of all places, from Kraft Kitchen's What's Cooking.  I know.  Gasp.  Kraft is the ultimate evil.  They are the masters of "add this processed product to this processed product to feel like you've made your family a home-cooked meal".  So needless to say, this recipe has been altered and adapted.  All I was really searching for was simple, comforting, hearty and kid-friendly.  This is it.  And tasty.  Don't forget tasty.

Serve this out with a slotted spatula, as there will be extra liquid on the bottom.

Total: 1 h 25 m
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 680ml can tomato sauce (read labels; avoid cans with sugar added)
1 head cauliflower
2 tsp italian seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp and 2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cheddar cheese, divided (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine raw meat, 1/2 tomato sauce and all spices except 2 tsp oregano.  Pat into a greased 9" pie dish.  Bake, uncovered, for 1/2 hour.




Meantime, mix rest of oregano with rest of tomato sauce.  "Rice" your cauliflower in a food processor.  Mix the cauliflower into the sauce and oregano mixture.  Mix in half of the cheese.






After the 1/2 hour is up, remove from oven.  Spread the cauliflower mixture over the meat and cover with tinfoil.  Return to oven for another 35 minutes.  Uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese, return to oven for the last 10 minutes.

If the cheese is not browning at this point, turn on the broiler for a few minutes.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.



Monday, 7 May 2012

I AM a weekend WODier

I AM a weekend WODier.  

No fancy gear for us; just a bike, some shades, and a trail.
Sure, on weekdays I still workout. Sometimes I even manage a FOD (fun of the day) instead of a normal WOD. But weekends is where the real fun is at. Hours and hours of the great outdoors and enough open time to do what I please. Long hikes and trail runs and canoeing for hours; that kind of fun that you can only do when you have a whole day ahead of you.


I had a fabulous FOD this past weekend. The sun was shining, the air was warm, and spring has finally sprung. Got the pool opened. Got the house cleaned. Time to get outside for some fun!



The water's low and silty.  See the barely opened leaves in the trees?
So we took down our bikes for the first time this year, pumped up the tires, lubed all the moving parts, jumped onto them and headed north. Away from town, up country roads, across rural sideroads, down dirt roads where we ate dust clouds and shook with washboards on un-graded, winter-damaged road. Down forest paths, over wooded bridges where fishermen angled for trout (fishing season has opened). It was absolutely fabulous. I love my town. So much green space, so many great bike paths and trails.

Ostrich Ferns unfurling.  Beautiful.


Fiddleheads were up in the woods. The only sad part was cycling past all of the people who had hiked out into the woods to cut and harvest the wild ferns for their own eating. You’re not supposed to take the ferns from the woods. You cut down those fiddleheads, the fern's not going to send up new shoots again this year.  Nothing else will come up in its place. That is right up there with not digging up trilliums from the wild. It’s just wrong.  


All in all, the bike ride was 20 km. Those country roads went up or down, none of them level or straight. My thighs are feeling it now. But I’m grinning from ear to ear.  

I love the iron bridges on the woodland trails.  Very cool.
I AM a weekend WODier.  Are you?


Sunday, 6 May 2012

On the Menu MY 06-12

On the Menu
MY 06 - 12

So I thought I'd try to do things a bit differently this time.  My "This Week's Food" tab has gotten pretty long and unwieldy. 

So, due to some serious budgetary constraints, I'm going to blog not just this weeks' menu, but also my grocery list costs.  On sale this week:  bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs  @ $2/lb at the Superstore.  Also boneless sirloin pork chops at $2.99/lb.  Tilapia also on sale @ $3.00/400 gm (almost a pound).  So with that in mind....  the menu

  • Mustard Rosemary Pork Chops with glazed bok choy  recipe to follow
  • Country Comfort Pie recipe to follow
  • Souvlaki pork with homemade tatziki in tortilla wraps  recipe to follow
  • Coconut Curry Chicken  recipe to follow
  • Zoodles (made with sausage meat)  recipe here
  • Fish Almondine with squash fries  recipe to follow
Now, with the good prices on meat, we bought triple the pork we actually needed.  We bought double the chicken, too.  We already have a pound and a half of ground beef left in the freezer from last week, and a pound of sausage meat.  I always buy extra if the price is good.  I also bought double the frozen green beans, because they were 2 for $3. 


This weeks shopping.  Included a few odds and ends; krazy glue, magnesium tabs, coconut oil, soy sauce and curry paste.  Included a trip to the bulk barn to get more smoked paprika, whole cloves and tapioca flour.  The milk is for making yogurt.  Other than that, pretty normal fare; apples, bananas, blackberries, bok choy, zucchini, onions, squash, tomato sauces....  All told, $122.88.  That's all 3 grocery stops (Superstore, Sobeys, Bulk Barn).  Not a bad week at all.  Given that the national average is $135/week for a family of four, I'm pretty happy with that.  We have eggs in the fridge fif I want any breakfast, and leftovers for lunches.



Sloppy Joes & Squash fries


Alright, it's official.  We eat nothing but comfort food at my house.  Casseroles, stir-fries, foods covered in gravy and slathered in glaze and dipped in sauce.  It's teen-friendly food to the max.  Last night was Sloppy Joe night, because my daughter asked for it over a week ago so it was written onto the menu--and neither teen was even home to eat with us last night!  Did we change the plan?  No.  We make a menu and we stick to it.  Its called budgeting.  We are on a very tight budget, my friends, and we eat more ground beef than anyone else I know.  But, hey, I like ground beef.  It's easy on the braces.

I discovered this awesome secret when making the squash fries last night.  I was so totally excited to try it out.  You know how squash and sweet potato fries tend to scorch a bit when you've cooking them on a baking sheet in the oven?  I went out and bought a wire cooling rack, like the kind you use to cool cookies, that fit perfectly into the baking sheet.  I baked the fries on that cooling rack set ontop of the baking sheet.  Did not turn them once.  Check out how sexy they cooked up!  Man, were they ever delicious.  I know, I know, I'm a superhero for telling you all this.  But squash fries are my favorite food right now.  You may see them alot in the near future.  I'll try to avoid posting pics of myself eating them dipped in home made mayo and hot sauce.  I said I'll try.  Not sayin' I'll succeed.

Ok, onto the recipe.

Ingredients:

Fries:
1 whole butter nut squash
olive oil for coating

Sloppy Joes:
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 onion, finely chopped
5-oz can tomato paste
1/2 can water
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 tsp honey

Method:

Alright, heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and slice your squash into medium-sized fry shapes.  Toss them in a large bowl with a bit of olive oil to soat.  Lay the fries out on a cooling rach placed over a baking sheet so they are not touching.  Salt the fries.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes.  Don't even bother turning them.  Set them and forget them.






Now, get out a big frypan and heat it to med-high.  Brown up your beef and onions, breaking it up with a spatula, until it's no longer pink.  While this is cooking, mix all your other ingredients together in a small bowl.  When the meat is cooked through, reduce heat to low, add your sauce and stir it in to coat everything, then cover it and let it simmer until the fries are done.



Serve your meat over top of the fries.  Garnish with avocado (or cheese is you're a rebel).  This food is best eaten in front of a tv, for authentic "teen comfort food" if you're going for the whole experience.


And if you're the parent, and not the teen, and you've worked really hard in the yard all day long, the recommended wine pairing is beer (but only if you've really earned it).  This isn't sophisticated enough for wine.  I got my pool opened today, but I didn't own any beer.  Dang.  Well, dinner was delicious.  I added some hot sauce and I barely chewed mine.  It was that good.








Saturday, 5 May 2012

Tandoori Fish & Chips


This is a simple, fast  recipe for fish.  You can use 1 full cup of mayo instead of mixing yogurt and mayo together if you are avoiding all dairy, but most Indian recipes use yogurt because the enzymes in the yogurt actually penetrate the meats and act as marinade and tenderiser all at once.  With fish, tenderising doesn't matter, though.  You can use whatever mayo you have on hand.  To make this really, really special, saute a half onion in a bit of butter over very low heat for 20 minutes first, then puree the onion and add it to the fish glaze before smearing on fish and cooking.  I skipped that step this time, I often do when I just want something fast and easy, but it really does make it even more awesome when you have time for it.

If, like me, you want to serve this with chips, make all your chips first.  They taste just great cold.  You can find the recipe for Micro-Chips here.  The fish cooks in less than 10 minutes.

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup home made garlic-basil mayonnaise
1 tbsp curry paste
1 1/2- 2 lbs firm fish (I prefer tilapia or basa)

Mix yogurt, mayo and curry paste.  Set aside about 1/4 c to use as dip for your chips, if you're making chips to go with this.  Add a splash of hot sauce to the dip for extra zip.

Move oven rack to medium-high position.  Turn on broiler to high heat.  Thoroughly dry your fish on paper towels.  Brush a baking sheet with  some kind of oil to prevent sticking.  Lay out your fish on the baking sheet and smear the glaze all over the fish.  Place under broiler, keeping an eye on it, until it has begun to brown on top and flakes easily with a fork.

Its that easy.

Asian Pork & Cabbage

I always add hot sauce.  Always.  That s#@% goes with everything.

Serves 6
Takes about 1/2 hour

Meat:

2 lbs pork tenderloin
2 tbsp tapioca or arrowroot starch
1 tbsp soya sauce (or coconut aminos)

Veggies:

half large spanish onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh gingerroot, minced
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 sweet red/yellow/orange pepper, thinly sliced

Sauce:

3 tbsp chicken broth
3 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp curry paste
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp chili sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil
Light-tasting olive oil for frying

Cut up your pork into thin slices.  Salt and pepper the meat.  In a large bowl, mix tapioca starch, 1 tbsp soya sauce and 1 tbsp water together and stire in your sliced pork. While this sits in the "marinade", prep ALL your other ingredients. Slice the veggies, shred the cabbage, mix your sauce.  Heat your wok.

Add a splash of oil into the wok, and before it scorches, add some of your meat.  Cook meat in batches until seared on all sides, but still a bit pink in the middle.  Set aside.  Add onions to the wok and cook until they begin to turn translucent.  Add garlic and ginger for a minute.  Then add rest of veggies.  As soon as they become tender enough for your taste buds, add the pork back into the wok.  Add your sauce and continue to cook until sauce thickens and pork is no longer pink and warmed through.

Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil.  Taste and add more salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste, if necessary.