Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday PM Snack - The Best Paleo Cookies Ever

Ahhh Saturday.  After a long week of long hours at my desk, I love Saturday.  This morning's workout was short but crushing (kettle bell swings and rowing, after rope climbs - 6 months ago, that would have seemed impossible!).  Now after a hot shower, a left-overs lunch, and a mini nap, I am settling in to watch the Olympics.

These athletes are amazing, and confident, and young, and seem to be having a blast!  It is inspiring and humbling to watch them perform at such a high level.  I had the same feeling a few weeks back when we watched the CrossFit Games.  My coach held a little gathering at the box to watch the games projected on the whiteboard.  To show my appreciation, I whipped together a double batch of The Best Paleo Cookies Ever.  They were a huge hit!

I got the recipe off of  If you are not already a member, I recommend joining.  There is a ton of information on there, dutifully categorized by the users. Sure, some people pin too hastily and you'll end up seeing a super-cute pair of pink stilettos in the "Fitness" category. But so what? Maybe those stilettos are inspiring someone to be fit!

This recipe, for The Best Paleo Cookies Ever, comes from a wonderful blog called Multiply Delicious.    The author calls them paleo-banana-chocolate-chip-cakies, but once you make them, you will understand why I changed the name, and added more chocolate chips. 

2 large ripe bananas, mashed
4 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons apple butter (I like Dutch Country Kettles sugar free)
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pinches of salt
2 1/2 cups almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill. Someday I will have a food processor to make my own)
1 bag mini chocolate chips. (Multiply Delicious recommends Enjoy Life but my WholeFoods doesn't carry that brand. So I used Ghirardelli - not exactly primal, but I'm doing my best.)

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix first 7 ingredients until smooth. Mix in almond flour until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. How easy is that?! Spray two baking sheets with coconut oil and portion out the dough. I two teaspoons (one to scoop and one to push) like my co-worker showed me. She has past experience working in a bakery, so this advice is legit. Makes about 36 cookies.

Aren't they cute?
Bake until tops are brown.  These cookies are soft, so don't expect them to "stand up" when you poke them. But they will become firmer as they bake. The real trick is to let them get dark but not burned.  Depending on cookie size, about 10-15 min.  Let them sit on the pan for about 10 minutes then  stack them into a storage container and refrigerate.  The cold helps them firm up for easy grabbing at a party.

And here is the nutritional breakdown: 

             Cal              Fat            Carb        Protein
Two Mashed Bananas 242 0.9 62.1 3
4 Tbsp Almond Butter 360 32 12 14
2 Tbsp Apple Butter 40 0 8 0
2.5 cups Almond Meal 1600 140 60 60
1 bag mini-chocolate chips 1330 85.5 190 19
Total 3572 258.4 332.1 96

Per Cookie





Not too bad, as long as you control yourself and only eat about 4 a day. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Paleo Spaghetti

CaveBoy bought me a kindle fire!  It's OK, you can be jealous.  Between the fire, my Mac, and the TV, I won't miss a minute of Olympic coverage.  Did you know the events are streaming live?  Thank you NBC. Now I don't have to wait for prime time coverage to watch swimming and I don't have to worry about NBC cutting over to men's gymnastics in the middle of women's synchronized springboard.  Sure I'm a CrossFitter now, but my first love is the pool. I swam competitively for 10 years and even played a little water polo. So, I love the Olympics, it is the only time water sports are shown on TV.

Sometimes I wonder how much more successful I would have been as a swimmer if I had given up grains back then; how much faster I would have recovered from our 3-hour-marathon-sessions in the pool if I wasn't so chronically inflamed by by diet.  It was the 90s, so we spent a lot of time "carbo-loading" before races.  We probably would have done much better if we had eaten primal spaghetti instead.

Last week, I made a huge batch of primal spaghetti for CaveBoy and I to eat for week-night dinners.  Everyone has their favorite meat sauce, and as long as you don't add sugar (don't laugh, there is sugar in a lot of bottled sauces, so I am sure somebody makes it that way...) a nice meat sauce is primal without any modifications.  Here is the sauce I made last week:

4 lb ground grass fed meat,
1/2 lb ground turkey breast (it was left over in my refrigerator and I didn't want it to go to waste),
1 large bunch of celery, diced
2 large yellow onions, diced
1/2 cup Pesto Diavolo (to add some spice - I only had 1/2 cup left in the jar, but like to use more)
1 small can tomato paste
1 large can diced tomatoes

Brown meat in a large pot, do not drain.  Add diced veggies and cook until tender. Add tomato products. Cover with a splatter screen and simmer for at least one hour. Add salt, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic, to taste. Makes 10 servings.

Here is the nutritional breakdown 

Cal Fat CarbFiber Protein
4 lb beef 3200 176 0 0 352
1/2lb turkey 240 2 0 0 56
Celery 132.6 1.43 24.7 13 5.72
2 Onions 211.8 0.52 50 6 5.2
1/2 c. Pesto 150 10 15 5 5
Tomato Paste 150 0 48 8 16
Diced Tomato 150 0 36 12 6
Total 4234.4 189.95 173.7 44 445.92







I used to determine the nutritional values of the ground beef and turkey, celery and onions. I then added that to the information on the packages of the tomato products to determine my total. I divided the totals by ten to determine the per serving nutritional information.  This is a pretty low calorie dinner, especially for CaveBoy, who eats a lot more than me, so I had to be sure to pack him an extra-large lunch.

For the pasta, I used spaghetti squash, which is super easy to prepare.  First, halve the squash (the long way) using a serrated knife.  Be careful. Spaghetti squash can be difficult to cut - like a pumpkin.  Then clean out the seeds and place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet. Add water to the pan, to about 1/3 the height of the pan lip (so not very much water).  Bake at 400 degrees until the flesh is soft when you poke the skin.  Use a fork to scrape the insides. It looks exactly like angel hair pasta!

Here is the nutritional information for two spaghetti squash:

Cal Fat Carb Fiber Protein
2 Squash 950.9 52.1 128.1 27.5 13.1
Serving 95.09 5.21 12.81 2.75 1.31

The meal was very tasty, but we found that we're just not "spaghetti people."  We ate it for two dinners and then got bored and portioned the left-overs into freezer bags for another day.  That has been the hardest part about planning ahead for the week. You have to want to eat the food five times.  Primal spaghetti is a family favorite, but CaveBoy and I can only eat it for two meals.  So, it is something I need to make and freeze, or make as a one-time meal on the weekend.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is CrossFit a verb? Pre- and Post-workout nutrition

Two posts in a row!? I know what you're thinking, how did I get so lucky? Well, I took a day off from work to hang out with CaveBoy because he has a policeman-schedule and his day off is today.  So, I had an amazing workout at the CrossFit box (and made a breakthrough at toes-to-bar) and then went to the pool. My day rocks! Now CaveBoy is taking a nap and the house is blessedly quiet. 

The CrossFit Games were recently held and (spoiler alert) the 2011 men's and women's champions were both re-crowned in 2012.  How would you like to be titled the Fittest Man/Woman on Earth two years in a row?!  Watching them compete made me think. Even though they are the Fittest on Earth, they didn't win every event. They still have their "goats," as my coach would call them, events where they struggle.  (Of course, their "struggle" is my best-day-ever-at-the-box-PR-paloza, but we're not taking about me right now.)  No matter how much you achieve in CrossFit, there is still room to improve. 

People call yoga a "practice" because even the masters have their off days, and have areas that need work.  I take the same approach to CrossFit.  It is something that I work at, that I plan for, that I try to improve upon every day.  If I am out of balance, or in the wrong head-space, it shows in the WOD--in my technique, in my time, in my ability to push heavy weight over my head--but if I am centered, and focused, I can achieve almost anything I set my mind to do.  And I have found that throwing 100 lbs of iron up over your head and then chucking it at the ground will alleviate any number of stresses and frustrations (just FYI) so it pays to be focused.

I like to workout in the morning.  I have the kind of unpredictable job that keeps me on my toes. It also often keeps me at the office far longer than I plan.  On any given day, once I step into my cubicle, I cannot be sure when I will step out again.  So, I have found that taking care of myself before the workday starts is the only way to stay consistent.  CaveBoy, on the other hand, has a shift-work schedule.  He starts later in the day, but still works out before heading to work, because everything (except WalMart) is closed when his day is done.

Because I workout so early (6AM!), I drink coffee and water before heading to the box, but don't eat.  I tried eating a little bit (one egg, a few nuts, etc) before the workout, but felt like I was going to need one of those big orange buckets after a few hard WODs (if you catch my drift), and decided to stick with coffee. CaveBoy works out at noon and has enough time to eat a full breakfast before his WOD.  After the workout, we both have a snack (mine at 715AM, his around 130PM), although his is much larger.  Then I take my time getting ready for work and drive in to the office, eating a real breakfast at my desk around 9 AM. 

Here is what our pre- and post-WOD nutrition looked like last week:

CaveBoy Meals         Cal        Fat   Carb       Protein
Breakfast 512 27.27 39.1
Lg Sweet Potato 162 0.27 37.3
Four Fried Eggs 350 27 1.8
Post-WOD Snack 462.9 40.82 8.3
Italian Sausage 285 30 1.5
2 Boiled Eggs 154 10.6 1.1
1/2 cup berries 23.9 0.22 5.7

CaveBoy's post-WOD snack.
For his breakfast, I pre-bake his sweet potatoes, and then he fries up four eggs.

CaveGirl Meals         Cal        Fat   Carb
Post-WOD Snack 154 10.6 1.1
2 Boild Eggs 154 10.6 1.1 12.5
Breakfast 236.8 14.14 3.1 25.42

Turkey Breast 48 0.4 0 11.2
2 Fried Eggs 175 13.5 0.9 12.5
Spinach 13.8 0.24 2.2

My Breakfast, eaten at my desk. Two scrambled eggs, spinach, and ground turkey.
CaveBoy eats a double-sized portion of this for his first lunch.
See, he eats a lot more than I do. But it's not a competition, right?

CaveBoy vs. CaveGirl

CaveBoy and I have opposite fitness goals.  Where I am looking to banish another 10 lbs of fat from my body, CaveBoy would love nothing more than to gain 25 lbs of lean muscle.  This means we slap high-fives for different reasons after jumping on the bathroom scale, and it means we have different nutritional needs.  We both follow the same primal diet, but he eats about twice as many calories as I do, every day, and needs more carbohydrates than my body can stand.

A good rule of thumb, that we follow, is to calculate 15x(your goal weight) to see how many calories you need. My goal weight is 130 lbs, which equates to 1950 calories per day. That's a lot of food! And I had to get used to eating so much when I first started following this nutritional plan.  Before now, I was following the eat less (about 1200 calories/day) exercise more, plan, to no avail.  I honestly felt like I was force-feeding myself the first few weeks, and had to ease into eating so many calories, by adding 200 calories per day, each week, until I felt more comfortable with the portions.

CaveBoy wants to gain weight, so even though he weighs about 180 lbs (equating to about 2700 calories per day) that's not sufficient for the amount of work he does at the gym - and out in the world as a police officer.  So, he has to eat much more.

Our daily break-out looks something like this:

CaveBoy: 3000-3500 calories, 50% fat, 20% carb, 30% protein
CaveGirl: ~1800 calories, 50% fat, 10% carb, 40% protein

I cook and portion all of our food for the work-week into grab-and-go containers; this sometimes requires mental gymnastics.  I try to prepare foods that we both like, can both eat for five meals, and that fit our needs.  CaveBoy requires bigger portions, and more carbohydrates, which translates into more meals and more sweet potatoes, every day.

For example, this past week looked like this:

A week of portioned breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.  Dinner was still on the stove.
I do big work on Sundays.

CaveBoy Meals              Cal              Fat            Carb        Protein
Breakfast 512.00 27.27 39.10 28.60
Post-WOD Snack 462.90 40.82 8.30 32.49
Lunch #1 479.00 29.16 4.00 53.60
Lunch #2 675.32 27.83 22.94 79.18
Dinner 518.53 24.21 30.18 45.90
Snack 360.00 20.00 46.00 6.00
             Cal                      Fat            Carb        Protein
Total 3007.75 169.29 150.52 245.78
Percent 0.50 0.20 0.30
CaveGirl Meals              Cal                 Fat            Carb        Protein
Post-WOD Snack 154.00 10.60 1.10 12.50
Breakfast 236.80 14.14 3.10 25.42
Lunch 640.32 27.83 14.94 78.18
Dinner 518.53 24.21 30.18 45.90
Snack 219.66 17.70 13.00 7.00
                          Cal              Fat             Carb        Protein
Total 1769.31 94.48 62.32 169.01
Percent 0.48 0.14 0.38

I use to calculate calories/fat/carb/protein and plan ahead for each week.  For example, this past week we ate spaghetti squash with meat sauce for dinner each night, so I calculated how much ground beef, ground turkey, and spaghetti squash I would need to purchase to meet our nutritional goals.  After a few weeks of using FitDay, it was easy to see that for a week of portion-controlled meals, I would need 5-6 lbs of meat for lunch and for dinner.  That translates into about a pound of meat per day, per person.  That's a lot of meat! 

I get strange looks a Whole Foods with a cart full of grassfed and free range meat, eggs, vegetables, and little else.  But, I don't care. The results speak for themselves. My weekly kombucha keeps up my cred with the raw-food/vegan crowd, and besides, I don't see them throwing heavy iron over their heads every day at the CrossFit box. So, they can judge me later.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Skinnier than Senior Year (of High School) aka My CrossFit/Paleo/Primal Story

Last October, my husband (CaveBoy) and I joined our local CrossFit gym.  We started training 5 days a week, unless work or travel got in the way.  We also started to modify our diet.  I had tried the diet in Tim Ferriss's Four Hour Body with promising results, and was intrigued by the nutritional guidance I was getting at the box.  Not wanting to drink a whole pitcher of cool-aid at once, I decided to do my homework and research the Paleo diet everyone else was following. I read Gary Taubes's Good Calories Bad Calories and it changed my life.

As I scientist, I was sickened by the shoddy research practices that led to the unsupported nutritional guidance we've been receiving from the government.  I had spent the past 10 years feeling like a total failure because my every effort to "eat less and exercise more" had been unsuccessful in generating weight loss.  I realized after reading Taubes's research that it wasn't how much I was eating, but what I was eating that prevented me from losing weight.  I had already eliminated sugar from my diet, years before, so it was clear that grains and legumes were the problem.  I stopped eating wheat, oats, corn, rice, beans etc this winter and the results have been amazing.

CaveGirl before CrossFit
This morning

Before starting CrossFit, I weighed 169.2 lbs and was about 32% body fat.  Today, I weigh 138.4 lbs, less than I weighed as a high school athlete.

I know I still have a lot to learn about CrossFit, nutrition, and feeding a family. So, I'm creating this space to share ideas, recipes, achievements and setbacks.