Saturday, May 10, 2014

Green Smoothie

I have a love-hate relationship with breakfast.

I love coffee. And breakfast food (all of them). And lingering at the breakfast table reading the news or blogs or Facebook. Sipping a second cup of coffee. The smell of bacon cooking. "Dippy" eggs. Day drinking (oh, that's brunch. but still...). You get it. I love it.

But I hate waking up early enough to eat a real breakfast on a school day. Especially in the Winter when my bed is so warm and the kitchen floor is so cold. So. For years, breakfast and I only really saw each other two days a week. And that's no way to treat something you love.

When I started living the basement-cubicle-life, I rekindled my romance with breakfast when I discovered my building cafeteria. Sure, it's powdered eggs and so-so pre-frozen sausage eaten in front of my computer screen. I mean nothing to write home about. But better than eating air, which is what I had been doing... Still, let's be honest, it was a poor substitute for a lover...

So I decided I needed something better. For my health and for my sanity. But it had to be quick and portable. Something that didn't require a lot of logistics in the morning, could be prepared after only a partial cup of coffee (so no chopping!), and could be carried from bedroom to bathroom and back while I completed my morning routine. So, basically, it had to be a liquid. Which meant it had to be a smoothie.

Thankfully, I have a Ninja Kitchen System. So I knew it would be a snap to get some nutrients into my body before 10 AM without so much burden that I quit trying after the first week. And spoiler alert: it really is super easy.

I started paying closer attention to my dairy consumption a few months back, after a particularly brutal allergic reaction. And I've always been leery of too much soy. So my first objective was to hunt down an egg-based protein powder. Surprisingly, GNC didn't have anything of note. So I grabbed this one at my local Whole Foods. I bought the smallest bag, in case it tasted like dirt, and was pleasantly surprised by how well it mixed up into the smoothies.

My second objective was to ensure I got enough fat. Over the Winter I ate a lot of fruit and potato, probably in an effort to self-soothe during the cold dark months. So with the changing weather, I'm prioritizing high-quality protein and healthy fats to get my body back to being fully fat-adapted (Summertime bodies in the Summertime, and all that). The natural choice for a healthy-fat-laced liquid is coconut milk. But if you want your smoothie to mix well, you need to thin it out with water (or use a carton coconut milk - but note: the carton kind is not Whole30 approved).

Then I started looking around for fruit and vegetables to make the smoothie taste like something but preferably not salad. My first attempt had 1/2 a banana (13 g. carbohydrates for those of you counting along at home) and a huge handful of spinach. The banana masked the spinach and I was filled with vitality all week.

My second version kept the 1/2 banana and added a 1/2 cup of raspberries. They're in season now so it seemed like a good option. The taste was great! At first, I left out the spinach because red + green = grayish brown and unappetizing. But there was no taste-based reason to skip out on the nutrients, so I added it back in.

My third attempt doubled down on fat-adaptatation by removing the 1/2 banana and replacing it with 1/2 an avocado. It was super tasty, like a creamy guacamole, but almost impossible to drink through a straw. So before weeks-end, I was back to banana.

After a few weeks of watching me post pictures of "baby UFO vomit" (thanks Terry) to my Facebook account, my little sister decided to jump on the smoothie train. LittleSister is allergic to banana so she had to be more creative. To date she's had great success with frozen blueberries, diced watermelon, and spinach. And when she runs out of fresh watermelon, she replaces it with shredded coconut (do I come from a brilliant family or what!?).

And that's that.

My abs are poppin', I have tons of energy, and the flavor combinations are basically endless. So, I can pretty-well see this basic formulation carrying me through the Summer.

What are your favorite smoothie flavors?

Green Smoothie

Yes. That is an Athleta bag as background.
I'm an equal-opportunity shopper when it comes to expensive workout attire.


4 ice cubes
1 scoop egg white protein
1 huge handful spinach
1/2 cup canned coconut milk + 1/2 cup water
      OR 1 cup carton coconut milk + 2 tablespoons coconut butter (for the fat)
Fruit of your choice (to the fill line)


Combine all ingredients in your blender (I use my Nutri Ninja cups because less dishes). Enjoy.
Makes 1 serving.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Frying Pan Steak

I recently spent 24 hours in Omaha. 

Although the weather is never beautiful (seriously, who actually wants to live there?), the food was wonderful and overall it was a very successful trip. Not least of which because I read a thought/action provoking book on my flight out. I only made it through the first half (so expect more to come) but I am already in deep.

I like to use my travel time for things that I cannot do otherwise. Sometimes it is gloriously-ridiculous little things like napping with a cup of coffee in my hand (the fact that I have never spilled is proof I have a vigilant guardian angel). Sometimes it is more important things like education and self-reflection. Sitting quietly among strangers engulfed in white noise is like a deprivation chamber (or more accurately like the long hours I've spent in the pool swimming lap after lap, alone with my thoughts) providing the space and time to puzzle through my life.

Last December, I used the cumulative 18 hours out and back to Honolulu to process the entirety of my relationship with CaveBoy. Beginning. Middle. And end. And I spent a few hours on a recent flight home from Texas mulling over a particularly sticky friendship situation. Taking that time allowed me to give the right response (understanding) instead of my instinctive first response ( and my friendship is better for it (mostly in that it still exists).

On the Texas trip I also read a book about high achievers and how they accomplish so much more than everyone else on Earth. I haven't had a ton of time for professional development (I've instead been in fake-it-til-you-make-it mode, crashing down my mentors' doors when things got to be too much) so I was interested in what this book could offer. Unfortunately it wasn't as insightful as it could have been - the authors seemed to have rushed their theme development - but I did take away a few useful nuggets.

So I was hopeful but skeptical when I opened my next book. This one was about goal setting. But in a new way. Instead of developing actionable, measurable goals with deadlines (that then become yet another to do list), this book asks you to first determine how you want to feel and then set goals that will accomplish the desired feeling. I cannot wait to apply this strategy at work and at play! I told you, I am only halfway into it but I am into it.

That probably is surprising for anyone who has ever found themselves in my basement cubicle. I am highly critical when my colleagues "bring their feelings to work." But what I mean by that is they take things personally. I find that most work-based disagreements aren't personal. And the sooner people realize that and stop indulging their bruised egos, the sooner we can find a solution. And I am all about moving quickly to a solution.

The truth is, I bring all my feelings to work. Without that constant gut-check, how would I know if I am doing the right things? Without my empathy and humility, how could I build a productive team? Without my passionate excitement how could I find creative solutions to hard problems? How could I know who to trust? Or when it is time for me to leave?

Answering that last question is really why the Omaha trip was so successful (and the food, of course the food). I've been getting a ton of attention for some of my projects and people have started to ask what I am going to do next. And not just people people but important people with name plates on their office doors. And I started to panic that I should be working on setting up The Next Thing. But after some reflection it became clear that I still have a ton of passionate excitement for where those projects are going, and a few ideas for new projects to similarly birth in my basement cubicle. Which means there is no need to move on just yet.

I celebrated this realization with a bacon garnished bloody Mary.

Hey! I arrived on a Sunday within reasonable
brunch hours. This was totally legit.

And followed it up with a ribeye as big as my head once my partner arrived.

Beer for scale.

Both were delicious, but not enough to overcome the horrible weather (still never-ever going to live there). And still not as good as my homemade bloody Marys (although I will add a bacon twist to my garnish bar) or Kia's Frying Pan Steaks. 

Frying Pan Steaks

If you squint you can see it, buried under all that salad.
And I was too hungry to remember to point the asparagus tops out - amateur move!


1 steak per person (I prefer ribeyes)
1 teaspoon olive oil per steak


Coat steaks with olive oil and season with steak seasoning on both sides. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Place steak into the hot pan. Sear both sides then cook until desired temperature. About 7 minutes per side for medium.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Carrot Fries

I learned this recipe on a recent trip to Texas. I had the wonderful-amazing-fantastic opportunity to travel back to Texas A&M for work. And because my management loves me (this quarter) they let me travel out early and spend the weekend with the Texas branch of my family. How cool is that?!

I spent 3 1/2 years in Aggieland advancing my education. And although that was the second-shortest residency of my #32! years (after the year+ I lived in Europe), I've adopted Texas as my home state. I grew up in Michigan, but hardly have any roots left up there. I completed undergrad in a sleepy Florida beach town (I loved!) that recommends itself more as a retirement destination. And now I'm in my grown-up-got-a-job home (which automatically disqualifies it as a "home state.")

Even without the process of elimination, Texas is amazing! The people are friendly, the sky is enormous, and it is home to a large percentage of my favorite people on Earth. I was so excited to go, I woke up at 3:15 on the morning of my flight!

My oldest brother Dave lives near Texas A&M and welcomed me back to Aggieland with a weekend full of delicious food and quality time with family. Dave picked me up at the airport and conveyed me directly to Freebirds (so much better than Chipotle). There we discussed our plans for the weekend and then headed to his house.

After we let our food settle for a little bit, it was time for an afternoon workout. Dave is a police officer and one of the strongest and fittest people I know. My sister-in-law Nicki is practically paleo, and both my nephews play multiple sports (including football - of course). So unlike most work trips, I knew I wouldn't struggle to keep up with my fitness.

Dave programmed a high rep metcon followed by a combatives circuit. We pushed through lunges, planks, crunches, etc, rested a few minutes and then Dave set up two punching bags in the driveway. We did three rounds of kicks, punches with a follow-up half SPEAR, and a run. The runner set the time. By the middle of the second round, my knuckles were bruised and swelling (I go hard!) and I had to switch to palm strikes. During the third round I switched to a full SPEAR (got to keep converting that flinch!).

On our cool down jog, Dave and I discussed personal defense readiness and my experiences this year coaching seminars around the city. I described a time last summer where I had to improvise my escape from an attacker who was sitting on my chest and throwing punches - because it came up in a Q&A and I hadn't practiced the scenario with my training partner. It was meant to be an explanation for how great the PDR system is - the fact that I was able to escape easily with no prior practice makes it more likely that I will survive a real attack.

My brother, ever my protector, instead took it as a sign that I needed more training (and he's right - training never stops). So we spent the next hour on the garage floor working through escapes with an attacker choking me, punching me, and otherwise trying to kill me. I was bruised and battered in the end. But that much safer for the effort. I told you! These are my favorite people!

By the time we were cleaned up, Nicki was home from work, and it was time to start the weekend. Which meant it was time to eat.

Texas is far and away one of the easiest places to keep up with a CaveGirl diet. The cuisine is meat-centered in the best way possible. And I enjoyed every bite of it.

We started the weekend with carnitas and skinny margaritas at Casa Rod.

Styrofoam cup for scale.

Then on Saturday, Dave's good friends hosted a crawfish boil.

Pre-boil crawfish battle. Entertainment for all ages.

The first pour. Soooooo delicious!

And before I left town, I ordered the biggest pile of BBQ I could find.

The other passengers are lucky I didn't stuff a second helping into my carry-on!

The only so-so meal I had the whole 5 days was a gross salad from McDonalds during a quick break from work. But it was still a better choice than the free pizza my employer provided...

AND! On the second trip to Casa Rod (I love that place, what can I say?) the waitress checked my ID and said, "wow! you look so super young!" #32!

But don't let the restaurant pics fool you! We didn't eat out for every meal. Nicki is an excellent cook, and Dave is a master on the grill. So I also ate a ton of delicious CaveSafe foods at their house, including Nicki's carrot fries. It makes so much sense I can't believe I didn't think of it myself! This recipe is a combo of what I learned from Nicki and suggestions my brilliant friend Aurelia made when I described it to her (aka a masterpiece).

Carrot Fries

Why, yes. That is a kale and bacon egg yolk scramble. Thank you for noticing!


1 lb carrots
1 egg white (or 1 tablespoon olive oil for vegan option)
2 teaspoons seasoning of choice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Coconut oil spray


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the carrots but do not peel them (it's annoying and besides most of the nutrients are in or just below the skin). Then cut them into thin fries.

In a large bowl, whisk egg white until it becomes frothy then stir in vinegar and 1 teaspoon seasoning (Nicki used cayenne pepper, I prefer BBQ seasoning, whatever floats your boat). Toss carrot fries in egg white mixture until they are evenly coated. Spray a large baking sheet with coconut oil. Arrange fries in an even layer. Sprinkle remaining seasoning over top. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn carrot fries and return to oven for another 15 minutes. Turn fries and return to oven until they reach desired doneness and crispiness (I put mine back in for 10 minutes and called good enough good enough). Makes 2 servings.