The Dumbbell Club

Check it out, I’m famous: This Workout Club Not For The Bleary-Eyed.

Last Friday, the lady at the front desk gave me a heads-up about there being a reporter from the local paper upstairs interviewing people.  My first thought was to hope he wasn’t taking pictures, as I head to the gym each morning having just rolled out of bed, but luckily, he wasn’t.  What he was doing was asking everyone questions about why the heck we get up so early to workout. 

Answers varied from ‘it’s the only time I can do it’ to ‘it makes me feel better all day long,’ but it was cool to have him there acknowledging our little club.  It really is the same group of people there every single morning, and it’s really nice to have been able to meet and bond with people over the last year that I’ve been going.  I’ve made some great friends, and I feel like I’m a part of something.  Everyone looks out for each other, and it’s a lot of fun.  When I was out for a few days a couple of weeks ago, people actually asked about me.  Does that happen at other gyms, at other times?  Doubt it. 

(The only thing is that we don’t actually call ourselves “The Dumbbell Club, but that’s reporting for you.)

This week’s workouts have been as tough as always, but I’ve gotten through them.  I wouldn’t have ever done 20 wall walks or carried 45-lb plates during my farmer’s carry on my own, but that’s the beauty of working out with a group.  They pushed me, I did it, and it was awesome. 


This week’s eats have been kind of a free-for-all.  I did prep some chicken and veggies on Sunday, but not nearly as much as I normally do, so I’ve been creating meals on the fly as I go.  The other day for lunch, I had a salad with lettuce, spinach, chicken, cucumbers, strawberries, sliced almonds, and balsamic vinegar, and it was awesome. 


And I guess I was on a salad kick (trying to use up what I have in the fridge) because the other night I made a Chipotle salad with lettuce, spinach, chicken, red peppers, habanero salsa, and a few tortilla chips on the side.  That habanero salsa is spiiiiiiiicy, but I love it. 


Last night, I had a weird craving for pasta… which was extra weird because I never crave pasta.  I really don’t even like pasta all that much, but I blame George for getting spaghetti this weekend.  It looked good, and I guess it stuck with me. 

I had some cooked chicken already in the fridge, so I decided to make one of my old favorites, with just a little twist.  (That post is wicked old and the picture is terrible; forgive me.)  I cooked some gluten-free spaghetti and heated up the chicken in a pan alongside some sliced red peppers.  Once everything was done, I threw it all in the frying pan with crushed tomatoes (basically tomato sauce without anything added), coconut milk, crushed red pepper, garlic, and basil. 

I used to use half and half or cream in this recipe, and it probably made it a little thicker, but coconut milk is a really great substitution if you’re trying to avoid dairy.  It’s still pretty thick, and doesn’t taste like coconut at all (which I’m glad about). 


And on this wonderful Wednesday, I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from this week:

The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists. It rewards people who get things done.

And whether it’s at work, in the gym, or in relationships, I strongly believe that’s true.  You can spend all your time and energy trying to figure out how to be perfect… or you can get things done.  No one’s perfect, and no matter how long you spend trying to be, it probably won’t work.  And in the end, you won’t gain anything from it either.  But if you get out out there and give it your best and get things done, you’ll undoubtedly reap the benefits. 

Just something to think about… Have a good one!

Spicy Chicken Drumsticks

Lately I’ve been trying to be a little more creative with meats.  Usually, I buy a huge pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a top round or flank steak, and maybe some pork chops, and I’m good for the week.  Sometimes I make things interesting with a few spices, but more often than not, I eat meat pretty plain.  Inevitably, that gets a little boring, so lately I’ve tried to expand my repertoire, and it’s been surprisingly easy. 

Last week, I picked up some chicken wings and tried my hand at my grandmother’s recipe, and they were delicious.  This week, I bought a package of chicken drumsticks (legs), and I wasn’t really sure what I’d do with them, but I figured I’d just wing it. (See what I did there?)

When it came time to make them, I raided my spice cabinet to see what I had.  And while I could probably stand to stock up on a few new spices, for what I had, these ended up being very tasty. 

First, I put the chicken legs in a bowl and poured in the spices: chili powder, rosemary, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder.  I’m not going to tell you how much of each I used because 1) I didn’t measure and 2) the amounts you want to use are probably different.  You will have to experiment and figure out how much of each you like; just know that it is a winning combination overall. 

After I rubbed all the spices into the chicken, I drizzled the legs with the juice from half of a lemon and popped them in the oven.  I baked them at 425*F for an hour, and for the last couple of minutes, I turned on the broiler. 


They got nice and crispy on the top, just the way I like it.  It was almost, almost like having a real grill.  (Almost.)


Along with the chicken, I also baked up some green beans.  I drizzled them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and they baked for just a few minutes less than the chicken.


With some fresh, sweet grapes to round things out, it was the perfect meal. 


Besides the cooking time, it only took me five minutes to get everything prepared, and it felt like a much more extravagant meal than that.

And the best part is that I still have leftovers that I plan on eating for lunch today.  I’ve said it before, but making extra at night is the way to go, people.  It’s pretty much the only way to go when you’re cooking for one, but it also allows you to have some pretty fancy lunches, which is guaranteed to spice up any old boring afternoon at work. 



Have a good one!

A Weekend To Myself

Once I realized that the weather wasn’t going to be all that great this weekend, I decided to make it a stay-at-home, relax, and get-things-done one, and that’s exactly what I did.

Friday afternoon, I met up with a friend for lunch, and we went to a new-to-me Japanese restaurant in town.  I wasn’t sure what to expect because I don’t like sushi, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I ordered the hibachi chicken at my friend’s recommendation, and it was one of the most delicious hibachi dishes I’ve had.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked, and it made me want to recreate it at home. 


After work, I hit the grocery store to get that done for the week, and then I spent the rest of the night relaxing.  There was once a time where I might’ve thought it lame to be at home on the couch on a Friday night, but after a long week of work, it was right where I wanted to be! 

And getting to bed early on a Friday night is even better when it means you’ve gotten a full night of good rest and can get up for a 6am Saturday workout feeling totally refreshed.  I guess we were the only ones feeling awake and energized so early though because our little group had the whole gym to ourselves! 


Saturdays at the gym are always a little more drawn out and less structured since I often have much more time to spend there, and this weekend was just that way.  I spent some time working on my snatch technique, overhead squats, and handstand pushups, and then I got in just a little bit of rowing before we started the WOD.  It was an especially tough one (I thought), with a 12-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible in 12 minutes) of thrusters and burpees. 

We started with three and three, then six and six, then nine and nine, and so on until the 12 minutes was up.  I started at the prescribed thrusters weight of 75# but stripped my bar down to 55# after the 12-rep round, and I ended up getting through the 18 thrusters before the clock ran out.  I was fine with it this time, but hopefully next time I won’t have to lose that extra weight! 


Once I got home from the gym, I decided to make a nice leisurely breakfast, since I didn’t really have anything else on the agenda for the day.  I’ll be sure to write up the whole recipe later this week, but let me tell you, these banana waffles topped with cinnamon apples definitely did not disappoint.  They were like the epitome of an October breakfast, and the only thing that could’ve made them any better would’ve been a dollop of whipped cream.


I’m not sure if it was the early wakeup call, the tough workout, the filling breakfast, or the cool, gloomy weather, but after breakfast, I laid down on the couch, and I didn’t wake up until two hours later.  I didn’t think I felt tired, but I guess a rainy morning with no plans will do that to you! 

Once I got myself together, I decided to do a little shopping and try to knock off some projects that are on my list.  I want to find a vanity, small dresser, or shelves that I can repurpose and use to store my makeup and jewelry in my bedroom, so I’ve been looking everywhere for the perfect piece.  I’ve looked at actual furniture stores, but new furniture really does nothing for me; I love the charm of old, rustic looking furniture, and I want to be able to make it look exactly how I want it to, like I did with my coffee tables and dresser. 

I’ve been stopping by the local consignment shops about every other week, and I haven’t found anything yet, but I’m sure I will if I’m patient.  They did have a couple of pieces that caught my eye, but the perfect piece just hasn’t jumped out at me yet. 


I also ran some other errands while I was out, one of which included stopping by the new Kohl’s to check it out.  When you live in a small town with no mall, the opening of a big new store is quite the ordeal, and I get that.  Since it opened a week ago though, I thought the hysteria would’ve calmed down by now – but I was wrong.  It was packed, and after a quick (really quick) lap around the store, I hightailed it out of there.  I’ve grown to sort of really hate crowds – especially when combined with shopping.

The rest of Saturday and pretty much the entirety of Sunday was spend lounging around my apartment, doing a few chores, cooking up a storm, and watching a million episodes of Army Wives on Netflix.  It feels good to have a weekend like that every once in a while, and the cold, rainy weather was exactly what I needed to not feel guilty about spending 90% of the weekend on the couch in my pajamas.  I love going out with friends and hanging with my family, but sometimes, I just need a weekend to myself at home in my sweats!

When it came time for dinner last night, I decided to bring back an old classic.  Remember when I used to make this pasta dinner at least once a week?  I was browsing through old bog posts and came across it and it looked delicious, so I decided to resurrect it. 

I started by chopping up some spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, and chicken (which I cooked earlier in the day), while the pasta cooked. 



I cooked up the red peppers first, then tossed in the rest of the ingredients, along with some olive oil, crushed red pepper, garlic, and basil. 


I let the whole thing cook for a little while on low while I did some dishes and got today’s lunch ready, and when it was all done, I garnished it with a little bit of shredded parmesan cheese.  I haven’t been as strict with my diet lately (pasta… parmesan cheese…) and I’ve been paying for it in the stomach aches/bloating department, but this meal may have been worth it.  It was totally delicious and definitely warmed my belly on a cool Sunday night! 


Now I’m thinking that it might be a good idea to take a trip down blog-memory lane and see what other old meals I can bring back into my life! 

What did you do this weekend? Anything fun?

What’s something that you haven’t made in a while that you should bring back?

Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

Last week, I made an amazing new recipe, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share it.  I’ve been in sort of a rut lately when it come to meals, and this broke me out with a bang.  Not only was it different, but it was fresh, easy, delicious, and easily customizable.  I love when I make things that I can then make again differently by just switching up the meats, veggies, or spices, and this is definitely one of those dishes. 


First, I cooked the proteins – chicken and eggs.  I cubed the chicken up into bite-sized pieces and fried the eggs up scrambled-style. 


Next, I cut up all the veggies to get them ready to cook.  This was one of those clean-out-the-fridge meals, where I used up whatever veggies were left in my fridge, so there really are endless possibilities.  I used broccoli, carrots, and red peppers, which are all fairly sturdy veggies, and they all held up really well.


Once the meats were done cooking, I tossed the veggies into the pan with some coconut oil and let them cook down for a while.  Knowing that I’d be reheating this meal as leftovers, I made sure to not cook the veggies down too much because I didn’t want them to be too soft/soggy later on, but let them cook as long as you need to to get them where you want them to be. 


Next, I put chunks of half a cauliflower into the food processor, chopped it until it looked like rice, and then tossed it into the hot pan with a little more coconut oil. 


I cooked the cauliflower until it just started to brown and then tossed all the veggies and meats back in, along with some coconut aminos (or soy sauce, if you use soy sauce), ground ginger, crushed red pepper (for heat), and garlic. 


I turned the heat to low, covered it, and let it simmer for about fifteen minutes stirring it every so often.  If you have a larger pan (or a wok), you could probably combine these steps, but I made due with what I had, and this method worked out just fine.   


I had this meal probably four times last week, and I never got tired of it.  The cauliflower doesn’t have quite the same heft as rice, but it does add dimension to a regular old chicken + veggies dish, giving it a whole new texture.  I went light on the coconut aminos because it can easily overpower the dish (as can soy sauce!), and as it cooked down and then later sat in the fridge, the flavors all blended together so well.  The difference in texture with the softer peppers and the crunchier broccoli was perfect, and it was light yet filling. 


Maybe next I’ll do an Italian version with some tomatoes and basil instead of carrots and ginger?  It was delicious, so you can bet there will be a next time. 

Give it a try and let me know what you think! 

Fall is Here!

It’s amazing how fast Fall creeps up on you.  Spring and Summer seem to take forever to get here, Winter often feels like it’s eight months long here in New England… but Fall is here and gone before you even know it.  It’s a shame too, because to me, it’s the most beautiful part of the year.  The weather is perfect, the colors on the trees are absolutely gorgeous, and there’s so much to do.  

I really need to get outside with my camera and snap some more foliage shots before it passes – and if you haven’t been to New England during the Fall, I would definitely encourage you to visit.  There are all kinds of farms near where I live, and I can’t wait to go apple picking, do some pumpkin carving, and perhaps most importantly, bake some Fall goodies.  My friend has been talking about this apple brownie recipe she has, and it sounds pretty perfect to me. 

Besides Fall desserts though, Fall meals are pretty delicious too.  In the Summer, I’m all about salads and grilled meats and veggies, but in the Fall, I love soups, hearty stews, and tender roasts from the oven.  I have this distinct memory of coming home from school one chilly Fall afternoon and my mom had a pot of beef stew cooking in the kitchen that smelled (and tasted) amazing.  Every time she cooks it, I still think of that day! 

Last weekend, when I was grocery shopping, I saw the roasts and immediately wanted to make one.  My mom’s roast beef, pot roasts, and beef stews are the best, but I try my best to match her from time to time.  (It doesn’t always work.)  I didn’t have a whole lot of veggies on hand, so I kept this pot roast pretty simple, but it still came out great.  First, I chopped up a couple potatoes, a few carrots, and a sweet onion.  I don’t eat white potatoes too often, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of pot roast.  Next time, I’m thinking of trying sweet potatoes, yams, jicama, turnips, or rutabaga.


I originally planned on using the crockpot my mom gave me to cook the roast, but when I plugged it in, it didn’t seem to get warm.  I was a little disappointed to have to throw that baby out, but it was a wedding gift for my parents from over 25 years ago, so I guess it lived a good life!

I ended up roasting it in the oven, and it was just as good.  I used a 1.5lb chuck shoulder roast, put it in a baking dish with the potatoes, carrots, and onions around it, poured about 1.5 cups of beef broth over it all, and baked it for about 2 hours at 350*F.  (Don’t quote me on that time and temperature though – it’s really just a guess.) 


DSC_0727Sometimes people think you have to use all those fancy seasoning packets (which are loaded with sodium) to flavor roasts and stews, but this was delicious without.  The natural flavor of the foods is more than enough!


When the weather gets cooler, I find myself spending more and more time inside (unfortunately), and besides cooking, that also means more time spent in the gym.  I’m thinking about joining the local CrossFit gym this Fall/Winter, but I’m still loving my workouts at the Y, and I won’t be giving those up anytime soon.  I’ve felt good and strong this week (despite a near-death experience where I had to bail out from underneath a 125# barbell during a push press), and it’s pretty exciting!

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Friday got here this week just about as fast as Fall did this year, but I’m sure glad it did!  I’m thinking about heading up to the lake to help my dad take the boat out of the water this weekend, but there also might be some of that aforementioned apple picking/baking in my future.  And maybe, just maybe… a few more pumpkin beers?

What are your favorite Fall activities/foods?


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