The Mojo Search Is Off + My Grilling Favorites + Weight Loss “Journeys”

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Is it weird that this hand-me-down grill from my mom has brought my kitchen mojo back in a major way? I’m not exaggerating when I say we are using it at least 5 nights a week. NUTS. I wasn’t joking when I said that grill is my happy place!

Some of my favorite things to grill lately:

*Trader Joe’s Uncured All Beef Hot Dogs – Holy Crap you guys, these are the best hot dogs ever, hands down, end of story.

Speaking of Trader Joe’s – have you hopped on the frozen cauli rice craze yet? Our TJ’s has been sold out of it for weeks, and last night when I stopped in for some other groceries I spied the (tiny) bags in the freezer section and snatched up a few. I’m excited to see if it’s #worththehype

*Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip — OMG, tri tip in the oven is good, but tri-tip on the grill is WHERE IT’S AT! That rub recipe is just a great, classic seasoning to have on hand. It’s good on anything you want to grill.

*Grilled Salad – If you haven’t ever grilled your salad, it’s just one of those things you’ve got to try. It’s so fun, and tasty!

Anyway, that’s what we’ve been grubbing on. I am not unhappy about it. It’s amazing how easy it is to just enjoy meat + veg in the summer time. The abundance of produce, the smell of the grill — I’ve been looking forward to cooking dinner just about every night.

So I hear this week is The Girls Week. Thus far, Isabel: ✔️ #crossfit

And not to jinx it, but I may have gotten a little workout mojo back. I’ve worked out 5+ times in the last 3 weeks, and am on track to do the same this week. My sanity stays in tact so much more regularly when I am up and working out every morning.

I don’t know if it is the time of day, or if it is just the regularity of a consistent routine, but the other day Garrett told me that all this exercise has made me visibly mellowed. Ha! I think sometimes when I’m not in a good workout routine I start to act like a caged animal. (Don’t you wish you lived with me? heh :P I’m really selling it here.)

I know it’s kind of weird to call fitness a hobby, but man — I just really enjoy spending time getting stronger, and healthier. Call me crazy, but the pursuit of those things actually makes me happier. I need to start treating my fitness like I treat my career.

bosses don't cancel

Tangentially related (and still a little stuck in my craw) – I thought this article called “Let’s Stop Calling Weight Loss A Journey” was really thought provoking. Especially this part:

Still, I swore I’d never “let myself” get fat again. Like many people in our culture, I’d always regarded people who gained back the weight they’d lost as failures. After all, people who successfully lose weight are supposed to have made “permanent lifestyle changes” — which is a weight loss cliché, because it’s what we all claim we’re making when we embark on a diet. It’s what we all really believe we’re making. In reality, new exercise habits and subtle palate changes developed during a course of deliberate weight loss might last a lifetime (hooray!), but few among us can continue eating a highly restrictive diet — whether said restriction is focused on calories, carbs, fat, or whatever else is fashionable at the moment — for the rest of our natural lives.

After a couple of years, I started realizing I might not have as much choice in the matter as I imagined. The pounds started coming back, not because I sat on the couch eating cheeseburgers all day, but because I’d allowed myself to focus on things like my career and relationships instead of obsessing about my body all the time. I blamed myself for the regain, but I also didn’t seem to have the power to stop it.

Anyway, this topic is so interesting to me as someone who has lost weight and gained a lot of it back. I haven’t processed all my thoughts on the topic, or on this article, but I did find myself nodding through quite a bit of it and it has definitely struck a chord.

I’m just going to leave that link right here if you’re interested.

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What I Ate Wednesday: Whole 30 Edition

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The first week of Whole 30 I just went with a basic frittata. Frittatas are easy, portable (which is great during the work week), and can pack an awesome flavor/nutrient punch depending on what you put in them. This week I made mine with chorizo, onions, kale, black olives and spices. I thought I had the perfect combo and was totally excited to make it, then I popped it in the oven and promptly FORGOT TO SET THE TIMER.

More than an hour later Garrett asked me why the oven was on and I almost started crying! All of that work! All of those ingredients! Overcooked and unusable! (I am skeeved out by overcooked eggs.) But it turns out, this frittata might even taste BETTER overcooked. The kale edges got super crispy, and overall it was awesome!

Tonight's #whole30 dinner: Deconstructed Jambalaya. Spicy seasoned shrimp and andouille over cauliflower rice. I meant to make *actual* jambalaya in the crockpot today but I had too much going on. Figured this would be close enough in the end and would al

I’ve been on a little bit of a chorizo kick lately (clearly) and so I decided to try my hand a deconstructed Jambalaya. Shrimp and spices cooked in ghee mixed with chorizo and served over cauliflower dirty rice. IT WAS GREAT! So great we had it again a couple nights later. :)

C'MERE TACO SALAD! #whole30 #hollydoesdinner

There has also been taco salad because OF COURSE THERE’S BEEN TACO SALAD. This is me we are talking about. Can’t Stop/Won’t Stop.

Skipped chili in favor of some crunch today. ️Tuna salad MUST be crunchy, IMHO. #whole30

One of my favorite things I’ve been eating though has been tuna salad with pepper “chips.” I really like crunch with my tuna and sometimes celery isn’t enough. My favorite thing to have with tuna is some tamari rice crackers but obviously those are off limits. Desperate for MOAR CRUNCH the other day, I grabbed a pepper and sliced it into scoops. Totally worked!

Crunch 4EVA!

And that’s most of the highlights!

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Things I’m Thinking About AKA Bullets About Why We’re Doing A February Whole 30

Asian Pork Salads #yum #leftovers #hollydoesdinner

*We’re doing a February Whole 30. I know I told you that in the title, but you know — I thought I’d just reiterate for clarity. :)

*Well, a Whole 30+. We are going to start in February and go until March 9. What is March 9, you ask? Our engagement photos. And the second we set the date Garrett was like “Hey, let’s Whole 30!” ha! He says he feels chubby. He is NOT chubby.

*Upside though, is I like the idea of feeling bright eyed and being clear skinned in those photos and all, so I agreed. Knowing my luck I’ll still wake up the day of with a giant, visible blemish.

*Sidebar: Do you think there is a wedding planning gene? If so, mine clearly has a mutation. My mom said to me the other day that this wedding I am planning almost seemed like a second job. And YES, MOTHER YOU ARE CORRECT! It totally is! Except instead of getting paid I get to PAY OTHER PEOPLE. #grumble

*So, I know there are people out there who use Whole 30 as a diet (ahem, Garrett – YOU’RE BUSTED!) which is all controversial and stuff, but I promise you I am not doing that. What I am making no secret of doing though, is using the Whole 30 as a budgeting tool. We always spend SO MUCH LESS on groceries when we do a Whole 30 and since groceries are one of our biggest expenses it’s always something that shows a noticeable return. After making deposits on all sorts of wedding related crap and a MUCHO EXPENSIVO trip to the vet with Buster, February seemed like a GREAT time to just Whole 30 that shit up! YAY. More money to spend on a wedding! #grumblegrumble

*Tangentially related: I’m thinking about jumping on the What I Ate Wednesday bandwagon. I actually don’t think it is a bandwagon at all, but you know what I mean — sharing some everyday photos of what I’ve been eating. I like the idea for accountability (this is where people who don’t blog are like — YOU TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR FOOD? whut? WHY?) But also to inspire a little creativity in the kitchen.

*Oh! Oh! And this is my other reason for doing a Whole 30 — I find when I have parameters to work within, I am SO MUCH MORE creative. This makes me sound RULL SQUARE. But alas, it is true! Right now I’m in a bit of a cooking rut. We’re having good meals, but I’m not like, excited or jazzed about too many of them. It’s just kind of the Greatest Hits on repeat. I am someone who likes cooking to be a creative outlet and usually when I do a Whole 30 I get jazz-hands-obnoxious about recipes and trying new things. Also there’s the added bonus that about 15 days in even super boring/plain food tastes AMAZEBALLS (yeah, I just used that word) because my taste buds are back to normal.

*But let’s be honest, some weeks it is hard enough for me to even just get here and post bullet pointed lists of my thoughts. So to remember to be creative in the kitchen, take pictures and post them once a week may be a tad ambitious. We shall see.

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Anyone else doing a February Whole 30?

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What We’re Eating This Week: Freezer Food Ideas

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This week’s highlight: Blurry Football Selfie Celebrating the Buckeye win! WOOT!

Garrett was out of town last weekend and instead of relaxing and just enjoying my alone time I ran 900 million errands and cooked enough food for an entire town. Our freezer is overflowing. I have a tendency to do things like that when I have a long stretch of free time ahead of me, and then I get to Sunday night and I’m like “Wait what, I have to go back to work? BUT WHERE WAS MY BUBBLE BATHING AND COUCH LAYING TIME?”

It turns out this week has been (somewhat unexpectedly) busy, so even though I didn’t relax a ton this weekend I am so freaking happy to have so much ready to eat food in my fridge. I made some yummy stuff and thought I would share because most of them are good recipes for batch cooking and popping in the freezer or for just enjoying throughout the week – ALREADY COOKED!

***I made a batch of Mel’s Persian Spiced Winter Vegetable Soup and it might be the thing that made my kitchen smell the best all weekend! Onions, garlic and butternut squash softening in ghee is about the most blissful thing ever. And that’s before you add in all the spice deliciousness.
Persian Soup

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The only change I made was upping the Aleppo Pepper to 4 teaspoons because we are crazy people who love spicy/hot food. We ate this for dinner on Monday night with some crisped up kielbasa chunks on top to make it a meal. This recipe is a 10 and would freeze beautifully and we ate it while watching Ohio State trounce Oregon. Besides tasting good this soup might also be a good luck charm! :) (A few people have asked me why we Californians love Ohio State so much. It’s a family thing – this is Garrett’s grandpa’s brother so his family has a lot of OSU pride that has rubbed off on me.)

***I also had 4 lbs of stew meat on hand so I used half of it to make AndreAnna’s Asian Orange Beef. I’ve sung the praises of this recipe so many times (it’s an all time favorite of Garrett’s) and we usually either make cauliflower rice or roast cauliflower like we did last night because it pairs so well. I add an extra yellow onion to the simmer, use mandarin oranges in a jar from Costco as well as add a few Tablespoons of red pepper flakes because, again WE LOVE THE HEAT. It’s bomb diggity!

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***With the other 2 lbs of stew meat I tried a new (to me) recipe for Slow Cooker Garlic and Rosemary Beef Stew. I was stranded at home for a bit on Saturday because I had to wait for AAA to come replace my VERY DEAD battery in my car so while I was waiting I browned the meat and got it all crockpot ready.

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It was a quick assembly but when it was finished cooking it was a little bit…gray? The flavor was SUPER good though so I salvaged it by adding some Kitchen Boquet. I feel like the fact that I own (and occasionally use) this product is some sort of culinary crime, but we’re all friends here so I’m just going to tell you I sprinkled a few drops in and it turned my stew the perfect brown. I obviously prefer a stovetop/oven but desperate times, you know. Like I said, the flavor was great!

***Lastly, I made a completely unhealthy, completely comfort food dish which I know is just so not a “January” thing to do but I could not resist. On Christmas Eve my aunt makes this really delicious (completely non-paleo) lasagna that everyone just dies over. She sent me the recipe in the mail and I happened to grab the mail on my way to the grocery store on Sunday. When I opened the envelope, my impulsive nature reared its head and I was like “I’m making a gluten free version of this IMMEDIATELY.” And I did.
Lasagna

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I would actually call myself someone who DISLIKES lasagna. It’s just never all that great to me, but for some reason this lasagna recipe is life changing. Now I wouldn’t call it nutritious at all, but sometimes you just have to live a little. I gave some to Garrett in his lunch on Monday and right about noon he sent me this:
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*As the icing on the cake I baked this Ground Beef and Spinach Egg Casserole but I used pork because we had some on hand. Still delightful!

I also mixed up some smoked salmon salad with tons of celery and Sir Kensington’s Chipotle Mayo. Yeah, you need to run out and pick some of THAT up, lemme tell ya. I am also not a fan of mayonnaise (unless it’s homemade) so we rarely have it in our fridge but I picked this up on a whim at Whole Foods since Juli is always raving about it and I feel like it doesn’t even taste like mayonnaise. It’s more like a chipotle sauce and now I want it ON EVERYTHING. #WORTHTHEHYPE #AMAZEBALLSWITHSALMON

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So that’s a wintery little dose of the freezer food we’ve got cooking up lately.

What kind of hearty dishes are happening in your kitchen?

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#SundayPrep — What We’re Eating This Week

I posted a picture of my #SundayPrep on Instagram and a couple of you suggested I blog it. Not sure what to write about except what we’re eating, so here we go!

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Breakfasts in our house usually come in a box. Not the sexiest food styling, but it is what it is. :)
I have time to eat mine at home on most days but Garrett is out of the house by 6:45 so he needs to be able to take his with him.
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I prep them once on Sunday and then don’t give it another thought until I’m eating it. It’s nice. This week in Garrett’s boxes I put hashbrowns, chicken sausage, and two hard boiled eggs. That may sound fancy but it’s just about the simplest thing ever.

The chicken sausage is from Trader Joe’s, I cook it up all at once and then with the fat leftover in the pan I dump in potatoes, onions, peppers and spices. I make one pan of hashbrowns for him and split it into 5 containers. It doesn’t seem like much but it actually works out to the perfect little serving. Top it off with sausage and then slice up a couple of hard boiled eggs (which I also purchase those from Trader Joe’s because paying for the convenience of not having to peel hard boiled eggs has MADE MY LIFE!) and it’s a yummy little package.

Lunches are boxed up too (tupperware how I love thee) and this week I cooked up a batch of soup for myself (it’s a new recipe to me but it sounded easy and tasty) but there ended up being so much of it that I’m planning to serve it as a dinner as well one night after we go to the gym. Clearly I’m one of those people who can eat the same thing over and over and not get sick of it. I figure I’ll top it with cheese one day, avocado one day, olives another — that’ll spice it up enough for me.
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Dinners are going to be meat + veg. (Shocker! LOL)

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For the meat part, I did some marinating this week:
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Two of them came from Whole Foods – these are also new to me but they looked and sounded good:

*Saturday Night Steak Grill Sauce
– the name just called to me, what can I say? It’s basically a garlic and peppercorn marinade but the plan is to eat it on Friday because I DO WHAT I WANT.

*Sweet Hickory Chicken BBQ Sauce with Agave + Orange seemed like it could be good. Gluten free marinades that aren’t full of TONS of sugar are hard to find. This one, while certainly not sugar free seemed like a fun option.

And with the two strip loins I had leftover I decided to mix up this delicious little marinade that is always a crowd pleaser.

I tossed them in the sous vide for a couple of hours so they are perfectly cooked and just ready to sear off and eat on the night’s they are scheduled. I do stuff like this (or crockpot receipts) on night’s when we go to the gym because we won’t get home until after 6 and by the time we shower and all that I am usually not interested in cooking a fussy or time consuming meal, you know?

I know prepping once a week and meal planning sounds a little automated and regimented, but for the two of us — both working outside of the house full time — it’s mostly welcomed to always know there is at least something tasty and nutritious that is basically ready to eat in the fridge.

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Go-To recipes, convenience food, and par cooked meat/protein is what keeps our house going on the week nights. What do you do to eat healthily during the week? I’m always looking for new tips!

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Why I Sought Out A Nutritionist + My Caffeine Free Life (Part Two)

Before I get into THE AFTERMATH (and yes, it deserves all caps) or talk about some of the good coffee replacements I’ve found, I just wanted to make a quick disclaimer about yesterday’s post: I don’t thinking giving up caffeine is necessary for everyone. Coffee lovers out there, fret not :) I wasn’t trying to be alarmist and I don’t think drinking it makes you inherently unhealthier, but like most things — it all depends on what’s going on with YOUR body. Mine was not at all happy with it, so I stopped, and this is only my experience. Your mileage may vary.

So quitting coffee: I want to tell you it was no big deal, that I just swapped in some good herbal teas and all was well, but honestly the only way I can explain it is to say it was A DARK TIME. I have literally never felt so exhausted and depressed and I completely doubted why I was doing this. I remember having a conversation with my nutritionist fairly early on, totally pissed off and accusatory, and telling her that I didn’t think things were going to work — I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to make this change or if subjecting myself to such a shitty quality of life was worth it. I was DRAMATIC, y’all, and really not myself. And I felt a little freaked out. Like, life would forever be awful and exhausting and WAAAAAAH LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING WITHOUT COFFEE.

She reminded me that the body is always sending us signals and my test results (which I oversimplified in yesterday’s post) were clearly showing that my adrenals were taxed which was causing all sorts of other downstream problems. What I felt in those first couple of days was just how bad my caffeine habit was masking the signals my body was sending. Shortly after I started my adrenal protocol it felt like I was coming out of the dark. Little by little I am feeling better and I am feeling more clued into my body’s signals but I don’t think I would have kicked the habit if I didn’t have the encouragement and guidance of a “coach.” Those first few days were rough and I’m not sure I would have persisted without her promises that things would get better. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

In the meantime though, I needed a stand in. While I enjoyed the stimulant effects, I wasn’t only drinking coffee for the caffeine. Anyone who drinks it knows that it’s a comforting ritual and you can’t just substitute any old hot drink in a cup. I’ve done a lot of experimenting with herbal teas (Not all are not created equal!) and most of them don’t have the same robustness as coffee so you have to make sure you find ones that have a flavor that you like or give you an experience that replicates the comfort and decadence of that morning cup. Here are a couple I have really come to enjoy:

1) Yogi Tea Decaf Green Tea Kombucha

Decaf Green Tea Kombucha
This is a mild green tea that is not at all grassy and it as a really delicious! There is a lemongrass and plum-like flavor that is just so freaking tasty I can drink it all day. DELISH!

2)Teecino Dandelion Caramel Nut Coffee Alternative “Tee Bag”

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This is a fun substitute if you like a latte or a flavored coffee drink. While it’s great on it’s own, I’ve also found it to be a good base for a fun frou frou drink. Here’s a great recipe I’ve made, but you could easily just add a little cream and a few drops of stevia and it tastes SUPAH FANCY!

3)Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Herbal Tea

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Seriously run, DO NOT WALK, and pick up as many boxes of this as you can fit in your cart! Cinnamon, ginger, hibiscus, chamomile, chicory, orange peel and apple. It is autumn in a cup and it is AH-MAY-ZING!

4)Teavana Caramel Chai Rooibos

caramel chai
This is more of a dessert tea in my opinion, but it is so sweet, spicy and indulgent it had to make the list!

5)David’s Tea Earl Grey Rooibos with Bergamot Oil

earl grey rooibos
Strong, citrusy and with a little kick. This really tastes like TEA and not watered down herbs. LOVE!

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Honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. My herbal tea collection has grown and I don’t feel like my days lack a fun or comforting cup. I hope some day I can go back to enjoying coffee here and there in a more responsible way when my body is more in balance but right now it’s not in the cards so I’m doing what I can to make the best of my beverages. And it turns out, they’re still pretty tasty!

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Why I Sought Out A Nutritionist + My Caffeine Free Life (Part One)

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Ten weeks ago I stopped drinking coffee.

Just like that.

One day I had a cup and the next day I didn’t. The day after that I just kept telling myself don’t break the chain and now here it is three months later.

The only way I can think to describe the whole process is that it was as unceremonious as it was dramatic. Some of you will read that I’ve quit coffee and think “Oh cool” and some of you will probably feel The Panic creep up into your throat just considering what it would take to give up that morning cup. I was firmly in the latter camp, proclaiming that you would have to pry my coffee cup from my cold, dead hand — never being willing to deal with the consequences — and yet here we are.

The consequences are probably a good place to start since the most asked question I have gotten when mentioning that I’m no longer drinking coffee is a wide eyed “Why the hell would you want to do that?” Well, I got to a point where the consequences were outweighing the benefits — which in my experience is really the only reason anyone ever changes a behavior.

I mentioned that about 4 months ago I began seeing a Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist Practitioner. That is a lot of fancy words, right? What it means in real life is that I hired someone who could help me in a coaching capacity to help me tailor my diet and exercise to my body’s own needs. When I say coaching I don’t mean in a “Rah Rah! GO TEAM!” kind of way, but basically I wanted to work with someone on a regular basis who was a knowledgeable nutrition professional who could look at my individual situation at this particular time in my life and help design a nutrition and lifestyle protocol that would help me give my body the tools it needs to get me back on track to health.

Whoa that sounded pretty hippy dippy. But that basically sums it up. No way to de-hipp-ify that. Guess it is what it is. :)

The truth is my body has gone through a lot in the past few years. I’ve changed the way I eat, I’ve dropped a lot of weight, I took on a super stressful job change, I had lots of stressful life events go on, I’ve re-gained some weight and in the meantime life has gone on. Not a lot of homeostasis here on the health front, ya know? I have learned a lot about who I am and how how I deal with stress and how that affects my body. Some of the consequences of my poor stress management had me backsliding down this health hill that I worked so hard to get to the top of. Hiring this nutritionist was a tool that I really hoped could help me get back up on my feet again and start climbing.

To get a baseline she ran a battery of tests that I will probably talk about in another post but there were two major results that led me to kick my caffeine habit pretty quickly. The first: I was dealing with Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue. (More good info about all of that here, here and here if you are interested in taking a deeper dive.) I have so much to say about adrenal fatigue, but I can probably sum it up by saying: If you are a person who is ever tired, anxious, depressed or having hormone issues it is worth looking into.

So I was basically firing on all cylinders with no gas in the tank. Wait — am I trying to use a car analogy here. That is a terrible idea. I know nothing about cars. The bottom line is, I was artificially elevating my cortisol levels with coffee and this wasn’t helping solve the problem. In fact, it was probably contributing to it at that point. My nutritionist recommended that I cut out the caffeine so we could really get a baseline for how my body was functioning without all this artificially elevated cortisol, but I wasn’t on board at first. (Can ya blame me? LOL I mean frankly I was a little scared.) I sat on the idea for a week or so and then I got some more tests back.

The second motivator, and really what pushed me over the edge to just really deal with the consequences of life with no caffeine, was getting the results of a food sensitivities test. It was lots of good information and thankfully it wasn’t only bad news – I found out that me and dairy really get along quite well! GREEN LIGHT! WOOT! (Well except for cottage cheese, but really there’s no love loss there) But on the list of foods that were causing me some serious inflammatory response (RED LIGHT!) was among other things caffeine (in any form) and coffee (regular and/or decaf.) I was paying all of this money to have a professional take a serious, personalized interest in my specific symptoms, so how could I keep turning my nose up at the idea of removing one of the most obvious speed bumps in my pursuit to health.

UGH. THE TRUTH HURTS.

The day I got all of that info that I decided I was just going to have to give it a go and quit coffee. This post has gotten crazy long and I wasn’t really anticipating that so I think maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about the aftermath of getting rid of my daily cup of Joe and some of the awesome replacements I’ve found that keep me from feeling completely deprived. Sound good? Ok, great. Let’s do this again tomorrow. :)

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To Be Read // To Be Made

Books

I asked for book recommendations the other day and you guys totally came through. Thank you! So much good fodder for my library hold list! My To Be Read list is super long right now but my library queue was low. Then the other day I stopped by and there was a jackpot of awesome material available for checking out. I love when that happens! Here are a few that came home with me:

*Paris: The Novel by Edward Rutherford — I was thumbing through an old issue of People Magazine and Tim McGraw said this was the best book he read all year. Random, yes? Did I totally add it to my library hold list? Also yes.

*Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date by Katie Heaney — I keep hearing rumblings about this book and it was on the New Books shelf the other day so it came home with me. I always love a good story about a late bloomer. This could go so many ways.

*Lexicon by Max Barry — This is one of those “If you loved…” books and it’s being compared to Ready Player One which, obviously I did love, so I’m excited!

Pork Recipes

I’ve also been having fun scouring Pinterest for new recipes to try — I always find it exciting when I feel inspired to cook! I’m also have a bit of a Pork Moment (that sounded weird, but I can’t think of another way to describe it. Also, PORK HAS BEEN ON SALE, so there.)

Here are some of the recipes that have piqued my interest

*Pork Chili Verde — Because I love just about anything with Pork and Verde in the title. GUARANTEED.

*Sticky Balsamic Ribs — I’m intrigued by the balsamic addition, and also I LOVE LOVE LOVE cooking ribs low and slow on a cold, rainy day. It’s perfection!

*Southwest Chorizo Burgers — Chorizo is my love language, hands down. And I’m looking for the perfect flavored burger in which to incorporate it. I hope this is it (though I don’t have any venison, so I’ll definitely be using Grass Fed Beef.) Confession: I have a giant bag of sweet potato tots (TOTS!!!!) in my freezer so I’m thinking the two might be a match made in heaven.

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It’s supposed to rain over the next week so I’ll give you one guess as to what I’ll be doing! I anticipate lots of Instagram food photos. You’ve been warned. :) You cooking or reading anything fun?

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Celery Salad with Dates, Walnuts and Pecorino

Post Wod-A-Thon potluck @arcfit today and I am already excited to dig into the dish I'm bringing! #selfish

This weekend at the gym was the Annual ARCFit Wod-A-Thon which, as you may have seen in year’s past, involves some dressing up in costumes, some workouts and some general hijinks. Afterward comes my favorite part: THE BBQ + POTLUCK, duh. :)

I love a good pot luck, and have some go-to favorites I like to bring, but I am adding a new one to the list so I thought I would share it.

The recipe below is adapted from an old Food & Wine recipe and it is just perfect for cool weather gatherings or holidays. The prep time is practically nothing, and it can be made up to a day ahead.

I think you’re going to love it!

Celery Salad with Dates, Walnuts and Pecorino
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups walnuts, toasted at 350 for 8 minutes
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lbs of celery (roughly 1.5-2 bunches), thinly sliced (on the bias if you feel fancy!)
  • 1 cup dried pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
  • 3 ounces pecorino cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Instructions
  1. For the dressing: combine the shallot with the sherry vinegar. Whisk in both oils and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. For the salad: In a large bowl toss the toasted walnuts, celery, dates and pecorino. Add the dressing and toss. Serve at once.
  3. A note on storage: The salad and dressing can be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day. Store the walnuts in an airtight container and add to the salad just before serving.

 

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The Four Keys to The Perfect Cup of Coffee (Giveaway Closed)

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I know I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you’ve forgotten: Coffee is My Religion. I say that only slightly kidding. Working for a decade in the specialty coffee industry in a number of different roles can do that to a person. I’ve experimented with giving it up completely, but ultimately decided that there will always be space in my life for coffee. It’s just too good to give up! The end.

One of the things you learn early on when you work in coffee for so long are the 4 Steps to The Perfect Cup of Coffee:

*Proportion — No cup of coffee will taste good if you don’t have the right proportion of grinds to water. There are lots of opinions on what is the perfect amount (2TBS per cup is my preference) but if you have ever tasted watered down mud that someone has called coffee, then you understand how important proportion is. I like my cup to be able to double as rocket fuel. :)

*Water — Did you know that 80% of your coffee’s flavor comes from the water you use? Don’t believe me? Use a metallic tasting water. BLECH!!!! And then scrub your tongue raw because, um…NASTY! The quality of your water is important when you are trying to brew a good cup. I’m not talking Holy Water here, but something that doesn’t have a flavor — so the natural flavor of the beans can shine through.

*Grind — The way your coffee should be ground depends on how you are going to brew it. There is no one-size-fits-all grind. (If you take ANYTHING from this post, please take that!) The grind affects how fast or slow the water moves through the extraction process. With a quick/pressurized extraction (like say an espresso machine) you need a finer grind, but if you were going to brew in something more relaxed like a french press where the coffee and water get to marinate together for a few minutes, then a coarser grind will do. But let’s talk about the most important, shall we:

*Freshness/Bean Quality– Freshness is obvious — please don’t drink that coffee that has been ground up and sitting on the shelf at Home Goods for the last year, ok? But I want to talk a little bit more about quality because all coffee beans are not created equal. Something that A LOT of us Paleo folk talk about when discussing what we eat is buying the best quality food we can; food that is humanely raised. Grass fed beef, pastured chicken, sustainable seafood — you know that drill. But I think it’s also an important conversation to have when you think about the coffee you are drinking. Where did it come from? Who is buying it? How was it harvested?

FAIR TRADE MONTH

This October, Green Mountain Coffee® is celebrating Fair Trade Month through the “Great Coffee, Good Vibes, Choose Fair Trade” campaign. I was asked if I wanted to participate in it, and I happily, HAPPILY accepted the opportunity to talk about this topic because I think it is a label that you hear often, but might not really know what it means.

Here is some scoop:

Q: What is Fair Trade? A: Fair Trade is a global movement to help improve the lives of farmers and their families. It provides a fair price to coffee farmers, resulting in a great cup of coffee and a better quality of life in coffee-farming communities.

Q. How does Fair Trade Certified coffee benefit coffee farmers? A: Most family coffee farmers live in remote locations and lack access to credit, so they are vulnerable to middlemen who offer cash for their coffee at a fraction of its value. Fair Trade assures coffee farmers a fair price for unroasted, green coffee. Fair Trade also links farmers directly with coffee companies like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (“GMCR”), creating long-term sustainability.

Q: What makes Fair Trade Certified coffee high quality coffee? A: Through Fair Trade, farmers earn better incomes, allowing them to hold onto their land and invest in quality. This results in great coffee for consumers.

Q. Why is Green Mountain Coffee committed to Fair Trade? A: Fair Trade is one critical way that Green Mountain Coffee provides consumers high quality coffee while helping to ensure a better quality of life for coffee farmers and their communities.

THE GIVEAWAY

photo For part of that campaign I am hosting a fun giveaway that any coffee lovers among you will be interested in. Obviously, by purchasing Fair Trade Certified Green Mountain Coffee, you help coffee farmers receive a fair price for their beans, which means a great cup of coffee and a better quality of life in coffee-farming communities — and to bring more attention to the issue, this fall, award-winning musician Kelly Clarkson is teaming up with Green Mountain Coffee to share her experience visiting a coffee farm in Peru and the importance of Fair Trade. You can follow along with her adventures here .

In celebration of Fair Trade Month, Green Mountain Coffee is introducing Fair Trade Certified™ Three Continent Blend, which combines the flavors and aromas of three continents in one harmonious Extra Bold blend. You can enter below to win a Keurig® Brewing System and a Green Mountain Coffee® gift basket! If you are interested in entering, leave a comment letting me know: Are you a coffee drinker, and if so, would you consider buying fair trade coffee? 

*For more info on Fair Trade and Green Mountain Coffee go to www.ChooseFairTrade.com.

 

Sweepstakes Rules: No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 09/18/13-10/31/13.

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