Deconstructed Cottage Pie for the Slow-cooker

My awesome Crock-Pot

My awesome Crock-Pot

Last weekend I ordered gluten-free Cottage Pie at The Common Man. That was where I found the inspiration for this article. It was really yummy, hearty, and warm. I wanted to try my own interpretation of it, but didn’t have a ton of time on my hands, so I thew all the ingredients in the crockpot. Voila! It was awesome.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:

2-3 lbs of ground meat. I used 2lbs 85% lean grass-fed beef + 1lb 94% lean ground turkey
6-8 small red potatoes, chopped into even, bite-size pieces
6+ carrots, sliced into rounds or chunks
6+ stalks celery, sliced into chunks
1 package baby bella mushrooms
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 cup beef or veggie stock (not absolutely necessary, but made for a nice broth at the bottom)
4 TBSP Kerry Gold garlic & herb butter
Pinch dried rosemary and thyme
1 tsp each garlic and onion powder
salt & pepper to taste

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:

  1. Add all the veggies plus garlic to your crockpot first.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all meat with spices and salt and pepper and tomato paste. (This is optional. You can just throw it all into the crockpot if you want, but this way will lead to better-incorporated ingredients).
  3. Add a couple table spoons (slices) or butter into your veggies.
  4. Add meat on top of veggies.
  5. Add remaining butter to the top over your overflowing crockpot.
  6. Cook on high for about 5 hours or until veggies are soft.

NOTES:

  • Use a large crockpot. If you have a smaller one, cut back on the meat by 1 lb and use a few less potatoes
  • The meal was very rich. If you’re sensitive to a lot of fat, use leaner meats. Don’t omit the garlic and herb butter unless you absolutely have to because it adds a richness and depth of flavor.
  • I served this over rice for some added carbs.
  • Great for leftovers!

Food Hygiene

Huh? Food hygiene? Does that mean to wash my veggies and fruits and be careful when handling raw meats? Well, yes, I suppose it could mean that. But that would be more like food safety in my opinion.

Food hygiene is essentially having and showing love and value for our food. It’s creating practices around preparing, cooking, and eating our food to allow us to have the most positive food experience we can have. Paying attention to our food hygiene leads to better digestion and absorption of the foods we eat, therefore leading to happier bellies and better health. It also helps create more value and understanding around our food choices and helps us appreciate what food does for our bodies. It can also help us to slow down for a moment in our busy and over-scheduled days.

A meal cooked with LOVE. Fish tacos.

A meal cooked with LOVE. Fish tacos.

Some examples of good food hygiene practices are:

  • Putting your fork down and chewing thoroughly after each bite.
  • Not drinking water immediately before, during, or immediately after eating. Wait 20 minutes. Drinking too much liquid while eating can disrupt digestion.
  • Preparing a meal with a loved one and enjoying the process.
  • Eating without external stimulants like your phone, the TV, or a tablet in front of you.
  • Heating up your lunch in a pan on the stove and serving it on a plate instead of microwaving it and eating out of Tupperware.
  • Eating your larger meals of the day during times when you are more relaxed and not rushed and saving your snacks for the times you are on the go or working.

I know the list can seem challenging, especially with a busy lifestyle. If you can pick one of these points and try it three times this week you will be making progress. Gradually add in more of these habits as you go. You might also find that you feel better after you’ve eaten. Consistent food hygiene practices can keep us feeling satisfied, develop healthy relationships with our food, and help us to get the most nutrition from the foods we eat.

If you have questions, let me know!
Coach Ash

Enjoy a treat now and then too!

Enjoy a treat now and then too!

Please Eat Your Protein

Do you know what protein is? Protein is one of the three macronutrients. The other two are fat and carbohydrate. Consuming enough protein is extremely important, especially for people who are athletic or lead an active lifestyle. Essentially protein is the building blocks of muscle. You need protein to repair muscle, maintain muscle, and grow more muscle. If you want to change your body composition and be lean and muscular you need to eat protein. Protein has other crucial functions in our bodies, but we won’t get too scientific right now.

PROTEIN!

PROTEIN!

How much protein should you eat? It depends. It depends on your height, weight, body composition and goals, so everyone’s protein needs will be different. However, no matter what that number is for you, you need to eat it. If you are relatively lean your protein intake should be somewhere around 1g per pound of body weight. You shouldn’t need to eat over 1g/lb BW unless you want to bulk up. Another way to estimate protein intake is to figure out your body weight in kilograms by dividing your body weight by 2.2. If you’re unsure, I can help you figure this out. Here’s an example.

Example: 150lb Female 150lbs/2.2 = 68kg
68kg x 2 = 136g of protein per day

Once you know how much protein you need to eat, you have to figure out how much protein is in the foods you love. Here is a list of some popular foods and their protein content:

Boneless skinless chicken breast (4oz.): 26g
94% Lean ground turkey (4oz): 22g
Filet mignon steak (5oz): 40g
Salmon filet (4oz): 22g
Eggs (3whole eggs): 21g
Liquid egg whites (1/2 cup): 15g
Canned tuna (1 can): 41g
Al Freso chicken sausage (2 sausages): 30g
Natural Peanut butter (2 Tbsp): 8g (PB is mostly fat though, with 16g per 2 Tbsp)
Greek Yogurt (Plain, 8oz): 22g
Whey protein powder (Game Plan, 1 scoop): 24g

Getting in your daily protein can be challenging for some, especially if you’re a bigger person who needs a lot more. If you’ve discovered that you’re not eating as much protein as you should be, I would not advise you to go out and eat alllll the protein the next day. You’d likely feel extremely full and even sick. But I would tell you to work your way up over the course of a few weeks. Protein helps to keep you feeling full and that’s another reason why it’s so important to be eating it with every meal and snack.

Example: Here’s what the 150lb woman in the example above would eat on a daily basis in order to get all of her protein in. She’s very active and does strength and conditioning type workouts 5 days a week. 

Breakfast: 2 whole eggs plus 1/2 cup eggs white scrambled (36g protein)
Snack: 5oz Greek yogurt (12g protein)
Lunch: 5oz ground turkey (28g protein)
Post-workout shake: 1 scoop whey protein (24g)
Dinner: 6oz pan sauteed chicken breast (40g protein)
GRAND TOTAL = 140g protein

**A great website for nutritional information is http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition

How do you know what 4, 6, or 8 ounces looks like? The most accurate way to figure this out is to actually weigh your portions before you cook them. That way you’re not guessing. You can buy a food scale for about $20. Weighing protein doesn’t mean you have to do it forever, but it’s a great way to learn about portioning. After you do it for a while eyeballing your portions becomes easy. Use it as a learning tool, but don’t be a slave to your food scale.

If weighing and measuring isn’t your thing there are some general guidelines for protein portions. A decent serving for a female is about the size and thickness of her palm, or a palm and a half she’s active or an athlete. For men a serving size is about the size and thickness of two palms. Since people are all shapes and sizes, it’s sometimes difficult to accurately prescribe based on hand size.

When I help people with their nutrition the number one thing I encounter is people not eating enough protein. If your goal is to lose weight, gain muscle, put on weight, lean out, get stronger, get toned, look better naked, recover better, get huge, make gainzzz…(the list could go on), you MUST eat enough protein.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!
See you around the gym,
Coach Ash

There's a big hunk of steak on my fork.

There’s a big hunk of steak on my fork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This information is for educational purposes and not meant to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Autumn Cookies

These cookies are a yummy treat. With the holiday season just around the corner I have begun to think up some new recipes. This one was created with a brand new special little person in mind, born about a month ago, and coming into New Hampshire at such a beautiful time – autumn. They are gluten free and dairy free because I used no butter and the chocolate chips are Enjoy Life. Enjoy the cookies and the season!

I'm a decent baker, but I'm not that great at taking food pics.

I’m a decent baker, but I’m not that great at taking food pics.

Ingredients:

2 c. gluten free baking mix
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c. Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
1/2 c. organic dried cranberries

1/2 c. coconut palm sugar
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 c. coconut oil (melted)
2 eggs
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small bowl blend all dry ingredients
  3. In a larger mixing bowl thoroughly combine all wet ingredients with a whisk
  4. Stir dry into wet until well-incorporated
  5. Using a spoon, drop batter onto a non-stick baking sheet or use parchment paper
  6. Bake for 9 minutes
  7. Let cool and enjoy
Hoping a different angle would improve the situation. Not really.

Hoping a different angle would improve the situation. Not really.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Thighs with Coconut Milk and Veggies

With the chilly fall weather upon us the slow-cooker has been making its way back onto the counter quite frequently. For my birthday I received a brand new Crock-pot that is

My awesome Crock-Pot

My awesome Crock-Pot

literally like the Cadillac of slow-cookers. Thank you, 9am ladies! I had a bunch of ingredients that I needed to use, so I thought I would just throw them all in to make a spicy-chicken-butternut-curry type dish. As I type this blog post I am eating a bowl and it is hitting the spot for sure. The texture is awesome. It’s almost like a creamy chicken stew with some heat, but it’s still very sweet from the coconut milk, carrots, and butternut. Sometimes experiments are the best meals. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Family-size package of boneless chicken thighs, ~10 thighs
1 butternut squash (I am lazy and buy the halves that are already peeled)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
5-6 Carrots
1 Lime
Cilantro
Salt & Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Ground Ginger

Optional Spices to add some HEAT:
Red pepper flakes
Cayenne pepper

Instructions:

  1. Process chicken thighs, trimming off excess fat. I take the big hunks off. Place in slow cooker.
  2. Pour coconut milk over chicken.
  3. Add spices: 1 tsp each of salt, garlic powder, onion powder. Black pepper to taste. Dash of ground ginger.
  4. If you want spicy…sprinkle of red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper.
  5. Add the juice of one lime.
  6. Add about 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or whole leaves. They wilt down well.
  7. Chop butternut into uniform sized pieces and toss in the pot.
  8. Peel and slice carrots and add those.
  9. Turn your slow-cooker on high for about 4 hours, or on low for 6+ hours. Mix everything up a couple of times throughout if able. Chicken should shred and some of the butternut should melt into the coconut milk to form a creamy broth.

Goals. What are you capable of?

On Monday, September 22, The Fort CrossFit kicks off its first ever Goal Setting & Achievement Challenge. If you’ve read my blog you might have notice past posts about Paleo Challenges. There was a time in my career that I advocated for this type of challenge. I saw people achieve great results. Individual who desired to feel better and lose weight were usually the ones who benefited most from such challenges. However, I always had some hang-ups about paleo challenges, but chose not to voice my opinions for a while.

PROTEIN!

PROTEIN!

In my years of studying nutrition and helping people make changes in their diets and lifestyles I realized that the one-size-fits-all format of a traditional paleo challenge is not the best way to do things. Sure, these kinds of challenges push (force?) people to make better choices, but I’m not sure people being pushed into those choices is the best way to go about things. If someone has to be pushed it means that she or he is resistant to begin with, which means that she or he might not actually be ready to make changes. When the challenge ends, this type of person does a 180 and all the progress goes away.

I have also noticed that people begin feeling guilty or like they have failed if they begin to eat things that are not “paleo”. Although not all foods are created equal and there are some products out there that I would not even consider food, we should not feel guilty for eating; for satisfying our primal need to survive. I mean, yes, if we free fall into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every night there could be an issue, but indulging on occasion should not be cause for alarm and should not conjure feelings of decreased self-worth. And while I wholeheartedly believe that eating quality, clean, fresh foods should be the hallmark of our diets, a completely strict paleo-approach may not be the best fit for everyone. There are many factors that play into a person’s dietary needs and therefore what each person eats on a daily basis is highly variable.

There had to be a better way to get the same feel of a challenge; something that brings the community together but also gives people the chance to commit to something that maybe they have thought about without quite knowing where to start. I also wanted to make something that would be more individualized and give people a chance to be educated and learn about themselves. Hence the Goal Setting & Achievement Challenge. Believe me, I tried to think of a better, more engaging name, but I had to keep it simple and just roll with it. If you have a better idea for a name, let me know for next year!

A nice meal out. Bunless burger, with bacon and some cheese. Fries and ketchup! And...a margarita. Yum.

A nice meal out. Bunless burger, with bacon and some cheese. Fries and ketchup! Yum.

So the Goal Challenge was set in motion. I am psyched that we have so much participation throughout the gym. Members have done a fantastic job of thinking through their goals and consulting with coaches to make up plans to achieve those goals. There is still time to think through goals. Even if you don’t have things set in stone you can still participate! If you are participating in the challenge – and even if you’re not – here at some things to keep in mind:

  • Write it down! Write something down every day that has to do with your goals. Write down all the steps that you are planning to take on that day to help you move closer to achieving those goals.
  • It’s a journey. Goals take time. Even Phase 1, which is 6 weeks in duration, is a very short period of time. Make sure you are thinking realistically about your goals and what you can accomplish in a given amount of time.
  • Get by with a little help from your friends. Request the help of family and friends. Inform them of what you are trying to achieve. Ask for their support, but be specific in telling them how they can help you. Other people cannot read your mind.
  • Challenge yourself. This is a challenge for a reason. Your goals should stretch you a little bit and make you feel uncomfortable. They should be realistic and eventually you should be able to achieve them, but the process should cost something. What will you sacrifice to reach your goals?
  • You are resilient. If for some reason you have a misstep during the challenge know that you can get back up and turn it around. Know that you are strong enough to get back up when you fall down. When you wake up tomorrow it is a new day and a completely new opportunity to be positive and forge ahead.
A nice meal IN. Fish tacos.

A nice meal IN. Fish tacos.

On a personal level, I have never actually set a goal and achieved it. Crazy, I know. At one point in college I had gained about 10 extra pounds that I really didn’t need to be carrying around, so I went on a mission to lose that weight and I did. That was about the only time that I was close to setting and achieving a goal. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I set goals every day. Each day I plan what time I will get my training in and I stick to that plan by working out at the time I choose. I also plan meals for the week and cook them on days when I have a couple hours of free time. Although these are tiny things in the scheme of life, they all play in to keeping me healthy…which is the greatest goal of all. During this challenge I am truly looking forward to putting my mind to something, putting in the work, and achieving something that I really want to do. And I’ll get by with a little help from my friends…

Support is a key to achieving goals.

Support is a key to achieving goals.

Rely on those you are closest to.

Rely on those you are closest to.

It’s Not About the Silly Number!

In the fitness industry there are so many misconceptions. There’s the “women will get bulky if they lift weights”, the “I need to get rid of this little patch of fat”, and the “fat will make you fat” – just to name a few. These misconceptions somehow evolve throughout time and make their way into our conventional wisdom. Anyone who actually knows something about human physiology, anatomy  and the science of exercise and nutrition can easily disprove these beliefs and support their reasoning with sound science, but it takes someone with an open mind to actually listen and heed advice. As a fitness professional it’s frustrating to constantly see this misinformation permeate society; we see it on the covers of magazines, in the news, and, unfortunately, coming out of fitness institutions and from the mouths of so-called “experts”.

These myths confuse the hell out of us; the ones trying to fight the good fight; exercising and eating all the right things. But are we really eating the right things? Are we really getting the most out of our time at the gym?

This post is intended for everyone; guys and ladies. Most of the time when I hear “I’m afraid I will look like a freak if I lift heavy weights” it’s coming from the mouth of a female. If I ever hear a guy say that he thinks women should not lift or that they look “manly” if they are well-muscled, then he is just not worth my time and I will stop listening. I’m not kidding. Being muscular and strong is how we keep our bodies functioning like they should; preventing injury, decrepitude, and frailty.

I’ve now been on my CrossFit/Paleo journey for over three years. It’s been an amazing and rewarding journey and a huge learning process. I want to share a little bit about the journey, in order to help change your minds about some of these misconceptions and distorted ideas that float around in the fitness business. I hope you enjoy the photos as well.

Scale weight: About 150lbs

This picture was taken at the beginning of a 30-day Paleo Challenge in 2011. Before the challenge I was eating about 75-80% Paleo; I couldn’t commit 100%. I was still drinking alcohol on a consistent basis and eating Paleo baked goods often. Partying on the weekends takes a huge toll on the body composition and training schedule. That November challenge set me up for totally committing to this way of eating; the absence of grains, dairy, legumes, and added sugar became my “normal”. I’ve never looked back.

These photos were taken at the beginning of a Spring 2012 Paleo Challenge. The differences in my body composition after a winter of CrossFit and clean eating are apparent. During this challenge I leaned out a lot. I don’t have an after photo unfortunately. There was a problem, though. I wasn’t eating enough carbohydrate to support my activity level. I was getting all of my carbs from vegetables like kale, broccoli and asparagus, which isn’t a bad thing, but it just wasn’t enough for the amount of work I was doing in the gym and for my active job as a trainer. I found myself becoming annoyed really easily and I felt fatigued a lot of the time. In the mirror I saw the results I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable because I was miserable. You can read about my food intake back then HERE.

I thought it might just be sugar withdrawal that was making me feel so shitty, but when I began reading more about carb intake and read Sweet Potato Power, I saw the light. I tracked my daily carb intake and it was not nearly enough. I added a sweet potato to my daily food intake and it was amazing. I was hesitant because I though the dense, starchy carb source wouldn’t allow me to stay as lean as I wanted, but then the opposite happened. I actually leaned out more! The best part was that I was also a lot happier. Sweet potatoes and squash are now essential to my life, haha. Sweet potato is definitely the food that I could never live without.

 

 Scale Weight: 155lbs

The above photo was taken at the beginning of my January Whole30. Since September 17th, 2012 when I embarked on a 60-day challenge I have eaten very strict Paleo; the cleanest I’ve ever been, with the exception of Christmas. I ate a lot of Paleo cookies over the holidays and enjoyed a few adult beverages. It tasted good but I felt like crap and felt bloated and swollen from the sugar and booze. I felt slow in the gym. It took me about a week and a half to completely recover from this mini-bender.

I included my weight in each of these photos to show that the number on the scale is kind of a silly thing to pay a lot of attention to. I weigh more now than I did two years ago, but I look much different; better, in my humble opinion. I am smaller now than I was back then, when I weighed less. Isn’t that strange?! I think it’s awesome. But how does this happen? Muscle is denser than body fat. So if you look at a five-pound piece of muscle it will take up less space than a five-pound piece of fat. As a result of training and clean eating, I have built muscle and reduced the amount of fat on my body. So my scale weight has increased because of the muscle, but I am smaller because I lost fat. Don’t fret if the number on the scale isn’t moving like you thought it would. In fact, put the scale in the basement or dark closet and use it sparingly, if at all. A much better way to track progress is to take measurements with a tape measure (hips, waist, chest, legs, arms) and to take before and after photos like I’ve done here. Also, gauge changes in your body by how your clothes feel. Tight jeans don’t lie!

Same weight, fat vs. muscle. Ever notice how sweet potatoes kind of look like muscles?

 

The next series of photos are a few of my lady CrossFit friends. They all train hard and eat clean. To me they are beautiful, fit, strong women. They are nowhere near “bulky” or “manly”.

Dana drags the 135# sled. She works part-time and is a full-time wife and the mom of two little cuties.

Brittany does shoulder taps. She works full-time and is also a part-time fashionista.

             

Ilda with a gorgeous clean and beautiful smile. She is a full-time student, studying medicine at Dartmouth.

My hope is that post is enlightening for my readers. If you already knew all of this, then it serves as reinforcement. If you’re still skeptical I would be happy to have a chat with you. Experiment with the food you are putting into your body; change it up if it’s not working for you. Ask a good coach for some advice if you’re not performing, looking, or feeling as good as you know you could. Most of all, give your body the time it needs to change. Change does not happen overnight. We must be patient and remain focused on our goals in the gym and outside of the gym.

Special thanks to Dana, Brittany, and Ilda for graciously agreeing to let me use their photos for this post. Thank you to my amazing chiropractors, Drs. Matt and Whitney Swiesz for repairing my posture over the past year and half. It’s very noticeable in those photos! Finally, thank you to my coaches and mentors who have helped me along this path – the entire way: My little(BIG) bro, Ky-Guy, Mike Molloy, and Rob Austin.

Please let me know what you’re thinking about this. Go forth and lift big!

 

Call It What You Will

Nutrition. It’s a very touchy subject. It’s one of those topics, like politics or religion, that you try to avoid on holidays. I don’t really love getting into how bad wheat is for you while everyone is huddled around the mountain of Christmas cookies, lovingly baked by some lovely person. I’m just not a fan of those awkward conversations. I try to be as non-judgmental as possible. People are allowed their opinions and I am okay with that. It doesn’t mean I agree, but I don’t lose sleep. People get pretty defensive if you tread on their food choices, especially if it’s not the “best” food choice one could be making. In general, people know what’s “good” for them and what’s “not-so-good” for them. But that’s about where the knowledge ends.


What really irks me is when others pass judgement about they way that I eat, without really knowing how I eat or why I do it. In the past two weeks that have been two examples of this. I don’t want to get into gory details, but the gist went something like this…

One does not need to go to the extreme of a Paleo Diet. I recommend a diet of fruits and vegetables and lean meats, low in processed foods. 

Hmmmm. That sounds an awful lot like the Paleo Diet to me! And by the way, a cardiologist said this. Call it what you will; clean eating, Paleo, Caveman, whatever…for the most part we are all on the same page. The main goal is to not eat the crap with ingredients that you can’t pronounce! Reducing or eliminating processed grains and sugar is important whether you eat Paleo or not. Eat some white rice here and there? Sure. Go out and have some chips and salsa? Go for it. The goal is to make the best choices we can, most of the time. If you’re a grown-ass person, you can choose what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. But if you completely disregard the importance of nutrition and diet, there will eventually be consequences. You are not a genetic anomaly, it will catch up with you.

As someone who is concerned with what you eat, here are my tips for getting through the holidays:

  • Enjoy yourself. If you know that you will be a complete Grinch unless you get one of your grandmother’s famous cookies, eat one! Conversely, if you know that sugar makes you depressed and gluten makes you achy, avoid them!


  • Beware the slippery slope. If you know that eating cookies will derail you completely and cause you to do more damage than good, it’s probably best to avoid the cookies.


  • Bring something. If you are going to a holiday party or gathering, bring something you know you can eat, guilt-free.


  • Make a plan. Go into events and gatherings with a game plan. Whether it’s a 2-drink limit, or a 3-cookie limit, create boundaries for yourself and stick to them.


  • Water rule. Drink a glass of water or seltzer water between each alcoholic drink. This will keep you hydrated and feeling full.


  • Don’t feel compelled to justify why you eat the way you do. If someone asks you why you aren’t eating something, throw it back to them and ask them why they are eating it.


  • Avoid debating food choices with friends and family. It’s the holidays, let it go. Take comfort and pride in knowing that you are doing the very best you can.

  • Attempt to focus on the experience and not the eating. Although holiday gatherings tend to revolve around food, and food is an important part of tradition, make it a goal to focus on the people there. Make it a point to check in with everyone you’re with; spend more time flapping your lips and less time chewing.
  • Note: There’s lots of debate about what a “clean” diet really is. In my opinion, these debates are a waste of time. Try this: eat filet minion, asparagus, and sweet potato one night. The next night eat a bowl of pasta with alfredo sauce with some breadsticks on the side. Compare how you felt when you woke up in the morning, and how you slept during the night? 

60 Days

My experience this year…
I was on the fence about signing up for the Lurong Paleo Challenge this year. I honestly didn’t really think I needed it. But, then I took some more time to think about things and realized that the small changes the challenge would force me to me were the ones I needed the most. 
#1) I needed to stop drinking margaritas on the weekends
#2) I needed to stop with the dark chocolate and paleo treats every day
#3) I need to feel better and detox 
#4) I needed to do this with others for support 
Ding, ding, ding, I signed up once again. 

My results were not as dramatic as last year, but I was kind of expecting that. I trained harder than ever over the last year and have put on muscle which I was determined NOT to lose. I ate more than I was eating last year which allowed for a more demanding training schedule. I even set some PRs during this time. 

I am happy that I participated in the challenge again this year. It really helped to reinforce that small changes make a big difference. It helped me to evaluate my goals as a CrossFit athlete and allowed me to once again feel healthy; like a machine running on optimal fuel. I feel great at the end of 60 days. It went by really fast. 

My favorite part of the challenge this year was no about me, though. I had a much better time watching others make changes and succeed and helping them along the way if they needed it. If you participated in the challenge, and saw it through until the very end, you should be proud of yourself. There were some amazing accomplishments at The Fort CrossFit which were a result of people eating better. No doubt in my mind.

My plan for the weeks to come is to continue to eat clean and train hard. I had a little bit of chocolate and it was delicious, of course. I have been reminded of how much better life is when I run on clean fuel and I will try to remember that at the holiday gatherings where I am faced with the cookie buffets and seemingly endless stash of wine bottles.

Here are the pictures from this year.


Beginning to the halfway point…


                            

Day 1 – Day 30: My face was so puffy!
Day 1 – Day 30
Day 1 – Day 30: This one just about says it all.
Final Results…
Day 1 – Day 60: I can finally wear my pink PR shorts again. YES!
Day 1 – Day 60
                            
Day 1 – Day 60
Let’s keep going.
Do the shopping and prep….…Create the meals…
…and see the results.

Paleo-Friendly Chicken Parm

I think it’s really important to learn how to cook. We should all know how to prepare basic meals that can feed us and the ones we love. I good recipe will provide you with the instruction you need to put something yummy on the table. Many people ask me where I find my recipes. Most of the time I don’t have a good answer because I don’t really use recipes. I mostly use Google, Pinterest, or the few cookbooks I own to gain inspiration for something I am wanting to eat.

This week I was in the mood for comfort food. Chicken parm! I knew that this dish would be more labor intensive than others, so I must warn you about that. I had a good 2 hours on my hands, which is rare, but was plenty of time to prepare this meal. The ingredients aren’t complicated, it’s really just the chicken that takes time. I usually do not document the ingredients or process, but I did it this time. The finished product was too damn good to not share. I apologize for the lack of photos. I was too busy eating. If you have questions, please ask!

PALEO-FRIENDLY CHICKEN PARM
          Recipe feeds 2 adults, with some leftovers
          A bit labor intensive, so plan accordingly. Perhaps do some prep ahead. Prepping the chicken cutlets and roasting the spaghetti squash ahead would save time.
INGREDIENTS:
1.      4 BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS
2.      2 EGGS
3.      ~2 CUPS ALMOND MEAL
4.      1 TABLESPOON GARLIC POWDER
5.      1 ½ TEASPOON SALT
6.      1 LARGE SPAGHETTI SQUASH
7.      1 JAR BOVE’S MARINARA SAUCE OR HOMEMASE PASTA SAUCE
8.      DRIED PARSLEY (OR FRESH)
9.      OLIVE OIL
INSTRUCTIONS:
Roast Spaghetti Squash
1.      Preheat oven to get your spaghetti squash roasting. 375 degrees.
2.      Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for ~30 minutes, flesh-side down on baking sheet.
Prepare Chicken Cutlets
3.      Begin heating a large sauté pan at medium heat. Add cooking oil of choice. I used olive oil.
4.      Trim chicken of visible fat and other undesirable parts.
5.      Cut into smaller pieces, pound them out with mallet. If you don’t have a mallet you can use a rolling pin, or you can butterfly the chicken. The idea is to have thin cutlets.
6.      Crack 2 eggs into a shallow dish and beat with a fork.
7.      Pour 2 cups of almond meal onto a plate, add about 1TBSP garlic powder and 1 ½ tsp salt. Mix.
8.      Make an “assembly line” next to the heated sauté pan: almond meal, egg, chicken cutlets. Grab another plate for cooked chicken.
Pan Fry the Chicken Cutlets
9.      Dip cutlets into the egg and let the excess drip off, coat both sides in the almond meals, place in pan. The cutlets should sizzle. If they don’t your pan is not hot enough.
10.  Saute the cutlets for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip.  Chicken should feel firm to the touch, not squishy – that’s how you know it’s cooked. You can also do the slice test.
Assemble
11.  Once cooked, remove spaghetti squash from the oven. You should be able to pull the strands easily with a fork.
12.  Scrape out the spaghetti stands into a large casserole dish. Pour some of the jarred sauce over the squash.
13.  Place your chicken cutlets over the squash and scrape crispy almond meal from the sauté pan and add to dish. Pour remaining sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle dried (or fresh) parsley over top.

14.  Return entire casserole dish to a 200 degree oven for about 15 minutes.