Feed Your Face: Thrive Market and Eating Evolved

Raise your hand if you like food.

*raises hand*

Now, raise your hand if you like food delivered to your door?

*Hand still raised*

Keep that hand up if you like that delivered food to actually save you money AND benefit other people?

*Both hands in the air*

Well, my friends, have I got something for you.

For the past year or so, I have been a member of Thrive Market, an online grocer of sorts, and I’m a little bit in love.

Thrive Market is a membership community that uses the power of direct buying to deliver the world’s best healthy food and natural products to our members at wholesale prices, and to sponsor free memberships for low-income American families.

Thrive is great because it gives me easy access to a lot of the typically more expensive paleo ingredients that I use in a lot of my cooking. AND Thrive not only ensures that the consumer pays less than retail, they also provide healthy food to low-income families. How great is that.

Here’s how their model works:

It’s seriously so great. I place an order probably once every two weeks, stocking up on baking ingredients like coconut flour, maple sugar, almond flour, or condiments like Sir Kensington’s Special Sauce (I’m obsessed with this right now) and snacks that are sometimes harder to find in my local grocery store. I save a few pennies on my purchase (yay for me!) and I feel good about how my dollar is giving back (yay community!).

Which leads me to my next rave this week: I generally follow a flexible dieting plan (not an official program, I just track my macros and food myself in MyFitnessPal). The flexible part of this plan is that I can still treat myself so long as at the end of the day, my macro profile remains balanced. Granted, I don’t take this to mean that I should go balls out on donuts or cookies all the time, but there are definitely days where based on what I’ve prepared and planned to eat, I can have some kind of treat.

A lot of times, I want that treat to be ice cream. But lately, I’ve been treating myself with Eating Evolved chocolate. Eating Evolved explains:

We have a guiding principle that influences every decision we make — Chocolate: It’s Food, Not Candy. When chocolate is done right, it’s a delicious, antioxidant-rich superfood — a far cry from the commoditized, sugar-filled milk chocolate candies that line supermarket shelves. It is this principle that also drives our simple mission, which is to be the go-to chocolate for health conscious consumers. We know what it’s like to have nothing suitable on the market, and we work hard to solve that problem every day.

It’s Food, Not Candy. DUDE. That’s like… probably one of the most profound things ever said about chocolate. Which makes me super happy, because there are few things in this world that I love more than chocolate. Like, maybe two things. Clay and cheese. But even cheese is a toss-up.

All of Eating Evolved’s products are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, refined sugar free and they are paleo and vegan, which is totally rad if you’re looking for a treat that is compliant with some kind of dietary plan.

They have a number of delicious snacks, but my favorite by far are their coconut butter cups. These dark chocolate cups filled with coconut butter are to dieeeee for. My favorite flavor is probably the caramel & sea salt, closely followed by the classic… but mint is right up there, too. I usually get a few packets of these with my Thrive Market order, toss them in my freezer, and bust one out for an after gym snack.

I can’t recommend Thrive or Eating Evolved enough. Big ups to both of these companies for fueling my workouts and my life – deliciously!

Review: Gainz Box

I don’t know about you, but I love subscription boxes. There’s just something fun about a box showing up on my doorstep with cool, curated stuff just for me. I’ve previously done Stride Box, I’m a frequent Stitch Fix-er, we currently subscribe to o the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Loot Crate, and I recently signed up to try gainz box.Gainz Box delivers a number of specially curated CrossFit and weightlifting products to your door – now, disclaimer, I don’t do CrossFit. I enjoy following CrossFit athletes and many of my workouts use elements, but I’ve never been to a box nor have I ever done a class. That said, I still felt like gainz box has products that were for me! I was thrilled to receive mine this week and was excited to see how the products could work in my gym life.

Each box could contain the following elements: apparel, supplements, equipment, snacks, collectibles, and since the boxes are curated by different experts each month, you also get a bit of their knowledge.

The February box was put together by Julian Alcaraz and Miranda Oldroyd – both well-known and seasoned CrossFit Games athletes. The products included are some of their favorites and the included write up gives you details about what’s included, as well as some discount codes if you want to buy more!

The first thing I pulled out of the box was WOD Welder hand cream. This moisturizer is supposed to increase the elasticity of your skin and help repair your callouses, ultimately protecting them from nasty rips and tears. I have some gnarly callouses from all of the barbell work I do, and I can tell you I need all the help I can get. Plus, it smells good and isn’t too heavy or greasy. That’s a win!

You guys. I love tea. A lot. I drink tea every day – usually hot, because it’s the easiest to make at work. But yeah, tea is great. I was super excited to see this in this box and I was even more excited to see that it was just that: tea – nothing extra added, tea and water. Paleo, no added sugar. I had this at work yesterday, and omg. It was awesome. I need to get my hands on more of these, because it’s starting to get warm in Virginia and iced tea is my jam. Gimme.

Also included? A shaker bottle. I probably have… six… seven shaker bottles? Clay and I use these daily, whether it’s for preworkout or protein shakes. One can never have too many. I threw this one in my gym bag, where it will probably live permanently, or get migrated to my office, so I have one there. 

Getting new workout clothes is maybe one of my favorite things ever – and this box had not only this v-neck tee from Wod Gear, it also included a pair of socks. I haven’t tried those yet (I’m picky about my socks), but I wore this shirt to the gym yesterday and it was great. Typically, I don’t wear sleeved shirts when I work out, but this one’s sleeves are short enough that I didn’t get too hot. It’s a nice add to my collection. All in all, I was really pleased with what I got this month. This box is a little pricey – for the month to month subscription it’s $32, but the value is great. You’re getting approximately $75 worth of gear for about half the cost. And with the coupon codes included as well? Yeah. I approve.

I’m going to keep my subscription for another month or two for sure – I’d like to see what other boxes look like and I definitely don’t mind getting some new swag in the process. I’ll say it again, you don’t have to be a crossfitter to subscribe to gainz box – honestly, I found everything in this box useful to me as someone who weight trains regularly. If you do, too, check it out! You’ll get some great products, and maybe you’ll be exposed to something you haven’t tried before.

 

Recipe Box: Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies

Bake. All. The. Cookies.

We all know I love to bake. I’ve been baking all summer, working on finding the perfect recipe for my wedding cake. I instituted #FridayBaking at my office, and often bake Pinterest finds in our office kitchen. So, it should be no surprise that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I end up baking A LOT of cookies.

This probably has something to do with the nostalgia that baking Christmas cookies carries. As a kid, I can remember enjoying many a cookie-baking day with my mom and my sisters, yelling “OVEN’S OPEN” any time we had to put a new batch in or take a done batch out. Frosting cookies with my Girl Scout Troop. I’ll be home for Christmas this year for the first time in five years, and my mom is already planning what cookies we’re going to make. I can’t wait.

ANYWAYS. When we were invited to a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner, I offered to make a side (Brussels Sprouts with Bacon), but I also decided that I would contribute a dessert. Typically at this time of year, I stick to some family favorites: peanut butter blossoms, candy cane cookies, pecan balls. But, I wanted to try something a little different.

Some Pinterest searching later, and I stumbled upon a recipe for gingerbread cookies from If You Give a Blonde a Kitchen. My interest was piqued. I love gingerbread, but somehow, it doesn’t make it’s way into my regular holiday cookie rotation. As I threw these cookies together, all of the spices and smells got me super stoked for more cookie baking and Christmasing with my family.

Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but still cool, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

  1. With an electric mixer (either hand or stand) stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and add the butter pieces. Mix at medium-low speed until the mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and, with the mixer running, gradually add the molasses and milk. Mix until the dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.
  2. Scrape the dough onto a work surface; divide it in half. Working with one portion at a time, shape the dough into two round disks. Cover them in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, refrigerate the dough 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and begin rolling the dough into balls, about 2-inches in diameter. Be careful not to overwork the dough as it will lose its chill and get too warm. Roll each dough ball in the granulated sugar until coated. Transfer ball to confectioners’ sugar and roll again until coated evenly. Place the coated dough balls 1-inch apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake the cookies until set in the centers, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake. Cool the cookies on the sheets 2 minutes, then remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

What are some of your favorite Christmas cookie recipes?

Recipe Box: Beef Stir Fry

Friends, today is a hard day. I don’t want to preach or soap box, but I needed to say that if you’re feelings are raw or your heart hurts or you’re feeling vulnerable this morning, know that you are not alone. I’m feeling that right alongside you – and I know that the best way to move forward is to take care of each other. We’ve all got each other, no matter our differences. We can heal.

I’m finding it hard to write with my usual sense of joviality today, but I do have a recipe to share, and it’s a good one and definitely hits the mark on the healthy/delicious scale. One of our go-to meals is stir fry, but its rare that we make it with anything but chicken. And if I’m being quite honest, I’m over all of the chicken. Too much chicken. All the time.

So, in meal planning for this week, we took a stroll through Costco and picked up a few cuts of meat that we don’t usually get, namely a massive amount of chuck roast. Which is perfect for throwing in the slow cooker and making things like Italian beefs, and, as it happens, stir fry.

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Ingredients:

Broccoli (4 cups, ish), chopped

Snow peas (a couple handfuls)

Whole red and yellow peppers, sliced

1 large white onion, diced

1.5 lb Chuck Roast

Salt

Pepper

Ginger (to taste)

Onion powder (to taste)

Cayenne (to taste)

Soy sauce

Teriyaki sauce

Sesame oil (JUST A LITTLE)

Kikkoman Stir Fry Sauce

Lime juice

Pull out your crock pot, tenderize that chuck roast to within an inch of it’s life. Seriously. Slice into inch cubes. Toss in the crock pot with soy sauce and teriyaki and a liiiiiittle bit of sesame oil. Also throw in your seasonings, to taste. Let that sit for… a few hours. Like, maybe four? Or five? Just let it ride for a while. When it’s broken down and falling apart, it’s ready.

When your meat is ready, get your veggies all chopped up. Throw them all in a wok (or sautee pan, whatever), on medium heat with olive oil covering the bottom. Add a few squirts of lime juice. Stir occasionally, making sure to evenly distribute oil and juice on all the veggies. Cook only until warm through – they should still be pretty crisp. Drop the meat on top, stir it up and feed your face.

You will have a BUNCH of foodz and in my house, that means leftovers, which are the best.

Recipe Box: Foodball Edition

When I sat down to write today, I really wanted to follow up on Jenn’s post about the Broncos and share my love of football too… but since I haven’t run a race in many months, I needed a different angle.

Enter food.

Of course.

Now that football season is in full swing and fantasy teams have been drafted, every Sunday at my house has become Foodball day. Clay and I spend Sunday mornings cooking and preparing snacks for the nearly ten people that pile on our couch starting at 1:00 to binge on beer, chili, chips and sports. (To be fair, I usually get a workout in on Sunday morning, so that the laziness of the rest of the day doesn’t catch up to me.)

foodball

He’s a Browns fan, but he humors me and cheers for the Packers, too.

The menu typically includes Clay’s Turkey Chili (which has no recipe… otherwise I’d share that with you today), Buffalo Chicken, guac, chips, some kind of dessert (last week I made Cleveland Brownies… get it?), pizza and other snacks. It ends up being quite a spread, but you need that kind of sustenance for 8+ hours of football viewing.

The chili is always a hit, but the sleeper favorite is the Buffalo Chicken. This shredded crockpot dish is a regular in our house because it’s so so so easy to make, and can be used in a lot of different ways. We like to put the shredded chicken on pizza, over salads, on a bun, in a wrap, or even eat it plain.

All you need is:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3-4)
  • Your favorite Buffalo sauce (we’ve used Frank’s and Wegmans brands and love both)
  • Ranch seasoning packet
  • Your crockpot. Duh.

Since we usually prepare our Buffalo Chicken for meal prep or parties, we typically use 4-5 chicken breasts, though you can just do 2-3. We usually go through a whole bottle of Buffalo sauce and a complete seasoning packet, but if you use less chicken, you just need enough sauce to coat and cover it a little. The seasoning can be cut in half, too.

Place your chicken boobs in the crock pot, cover with Buffalo sauce and Ranch seasoning, and cook on high for 4-6 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours. You can start checking it after about 4 hours to see if it’s cooked through and ready to shred. I shred it in the crock pot so the chicken can soak up more of the Buffalo sauce, and then I keep it on warm when we’re serving to a group. If it’s for meal prep, I’ll shred it, leave it to cool down a bit in the crockpot and then move it to tupperware and the fridge.

Serve with tortilla chips, rolls, wraps or on pizza!

What’s your favorite tailgating or football food?

Wedding Wellness Wednesday

You guys, I’m so sorry for all of the wedding-related things that have been falling out of my mouth (fingers? I don’t know. Whatever.) lately. This is supposed to be a fitness-ish blog, and I feel like I can only write so many posts about how I’m “going to the gym and lifting heavy things” every day. That probably gets boring.

Because I know I get bored doing it.

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But, it’s necessary for a lot of reasons. 

  1. Working out keeps me healthy. Duh.
  2. Working out keeps me in a good headspace – I feel better about myself when I’ve gone to the gym or gotten a good sweaty dance sesh in.
  3. I have to wear a fancy dress in 8 months and apparently there will be a lot of pictures taken of me in said dress and I really would like to look and feel good in those pictures.

So, for this week, you’re getting another #weddingwednesday post, but it’s also going to be a #wellnesswednesday post. HA! It counts.

Eight months feels like a long time, but it’s really not. Especially when you consider the fact that those eight months include: Thanksgiving (FOOD), Christmas (COOKIES), and my busiest time of the year at work, leading up to our annual conference. Stress and food. Lots of food. That eight months kind of feels like a lot of time to do a lot of nutritional damage and not a lot of time to fix it.

My goals? Not inflict so much of the damage, and really dial in my fitness so that the “damage” I do isn’t really damage at all.

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(grilled) chicken and (protein) waffles is totally healthy, right?

What does that mean?

For me, this means restructuring my workout schedule. In the past, I’ve written about having a pretty set lifting cycle, but the last couple of months have been a little more freeform. Clay and I were working out together a lot and we’d lift regularly, but during the summer, his work schedule gets pretty brutal, so I’ve been on my own, which has meant more flexibility in what I choose to do. It’s also meant I’ve lacked some of my motivation. Not having a gym buddy can be a bummer on the days that you’re just dragging and don’t want to go.

Now that Clay’s work schedule has calmed down a bit, we’re going to be getting back in our routine. I’ve found that in the last few months the balance of strength and cardio has been working well for me, so we’ll be keeping that as a basic blueprint, and adjusting our set/rep counts on strength days to achieve our individual goals. He wants to bulk up a bit and I want to cut body fat. I know that’s a totally vain reason, but hey, I’m being honest.

Go buy this right meow – so many good recipes, so easy, and its current 46% off on Amazon!

Having him around more regularly will also make our meal prep and planning easier, which I’m super excited about. I’m looking for new recipes to make and fit into our dinner rotation. I just picked up Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook and I’m super excited to make more things from it. Her blog, PaleOMG, is also a regular go-to for me for just about everythang. Recipes, workouts, fashion… this girl is hilarious and awesome.

I got distracted. ANYWAYS. Having a concrete reason and deadline to meet a goal makes working on that goal way more fun and makes finding the motivation a lot easier. I know that I’m already 75% of the way there, I just have to get that last 25% moving and shaking.

What are some of your motivational hurdles? What fitness goals are you working towards?

DIY Wedding: Cakes!

This time last year, I was blogging a lot about marathon training. And running. And lifting.

This year? There’s almost no running to speak of. I don’t have a race to train for and I’m enjoying finding all of the other ways my body can work – and trying to maintain a balance between work and extracurriculars and life.

I’m also knee-deep in wedding planning, which is proving to be a whole other adventure, let me tell you. A fun adventure, but definitely an adventure.

Because my fiance and I are trying to keep or wedding simple and small, and because we’re working with a very modest budget, we’ve decided to DIY a lot of it. Flowers, music, booze, desert, maybe even my dress. Fortunately, having a small wedding means that coordinating all of this won’t be terribly outrageous.

The thing I’m the most excited about DIY-ing though? The cake! I love to bake and while I had never made a wedding cake before, I felt pretty confident in my ability to figure it out. I’m no professional by a long shot, and I’m not even that well-versed in decorating, but I am preeeetttyyy good at following instructions and my Pinterest project success rate is super high.

In addition to baking a lot of cookies and bars and other treats, my primary preparation for this project has been to watch way too much of The Great British Baking Show (which is arguably the best show on television, and if you’re not watching it, what’s wrong with you?).

So, two weeks ago, while home alone for the weekend and having the kitchen to myself, I decided to get started. This is how much cake baking I haven’t done in recent years: I didn’t even own a cake pan. I went out and secured a couple cake pans and got to work.

So. Much. Butter. In. Here.

So. Much. Butter. In. Here.

This batter is so light and fluffy and YUM.

I started with a simple vanilla butter cake recipe, but I didn’t have the called-for cake flour, so I just forged ahead with AP flour and kept working. I also thought to myself “hey self, you’ve never tried to make fondant before, why not try now, since you have all of the ingredients.” I wish I’d thought to take pictures of THAT hot mess, because whoa. The mess was real. Melted marshmallows and powdered sugar literally everywhere in my kitchen. And then I threw together some vanilla buttercream frosting. The end result didn’t turn out half bad.

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The cake was slightly underbaked and a little bit more dense (thanks, AP flour), but the taste was great and everyone in my office who got to taste test enjoyed it.

For our second trial, I decided to play with flavors and still not worry too much about decorating or overall aesthetics. This time, I opted for some blueberry jam as the filling along with almond buttercream. No fondant this time and to keep it simple, I just did one size cake.

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I had actual cake flour this time around, so the crumb of this bake was a little looser, but the taste was just as good and stayed just as moist. The almond buttercream was a big hit and Clay (who famously doesn’t like cake) asked for an even bigger slice than the test one I gave him. He thought that there could be more blueberry – I tend to agree.

As the wedding gets closer, there will be more test bakes with a few more flavors and a greater attempt at decorating. Ultimately, I want a naked or semi-naked cake, so I’ll be working mostly with fruits and flowers to decorate. I’m still looking for other cake recipes, so if anyone has any reliable ones, I’d love to try them!