Monthly Archives: February 2012

Details and Housekeeping

Hello everyone!
Today is one of those days where I have a bunch of little things to share with you that don’t warrant their own long post, but deserve some time here on the ole website.  Updates, reminders, and bits of information coming at you!

1. Remember last week when I shared my adventures with making my own raw sauerkraut?  Well, it’s been fermenting in one of my cabinets for a little over two weeks and I gave it a bit of a taste test.  OOOOOH-WEEEE!  It’s SPICY SPICY!  And tasty too.  But not quite there yet.  I’m going to give it another week and then try it again.

I purposefully made it spicy (with two jalapenos including seeds) and then made another, larger batch without any jalapenos in it.  That way, I can have a super spicy kraut, mix the two and have a medium spicy kraut, or just eat the plain for a not-at-all spicy kraut.

2. I just finished writing up the newsletter for March and I hope you are subscribed because this month I have THREE great offers in there that you don’t want to miss.  Not to give anything away, but you’ll have the chance to win a dinner, get a discount on health coaching, and get some free First Comes Health swag.  You’ll have to subscribe and wait until the newsletter appears in your inbox on March 1 for more info than that.  Do it!

3. For those of you who aren’t subscribed to my newsletter yet (tsk! tsk!), you missed my big announcement from last month, I now have a First Comes Health store!  Did you notice the “store” link at the top of the page there?  Click away to see the first three shirt designs, plus all the colors and fits you can order.  Right now there are t-shirts available, but look for more merchandise and additional designs being released soon.  I’m thinking summer tank top season is coming up, right?  And who doesn’t want a moisture wicking shirt to wear while running?  Oh the ideas are endless.  Tell everyone how much you love being healthy with a First Comes Health t-shirt.

4. Now is the time to start thinking about signing up for a CSA — community supported agriculture.  For those who don’t know what this is, it’s a chance for you to support a farm that is local to you, a chance to get a weekly (sometimes biweekly depending on your subscription) delivery of top quality farm fresh produce and other products, and it’s your chance to get experimental with your food.  Most CSAs run for about 20 weeks and start in the springtime.  You’ll get a portion of produce delivered to a location near you (usually someone’s house) where you’ll go and pick up your share of whatever is fresh on the farm that week.  Generally you do not get to choose what you get, but the farmer(s) will give you a rough idea of what is in season at any particular time.  You eat what you get!  It’s as fresh as you can get, you’ll be eating seasonally (the healthiest way to go!), and oftentimes the goods are organic.  CSA programs vary widely from farm to farm, but this is the basic idea.  Check out this website to find a CSA near you.  I encourage you to browse farm websites and call those who participate.  Ask questions about share sizes and delivery days.  Ask what might be included in the harvest this year.  Find a drop-off location that works for you.  And most importantly, enjoy the beautiful bounty that you get each week!  Don’t delay, though.  Farms sell out of shares and you don’t want to be left out this spring and summer!

5. As always, don’t forget to connect with me over on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll be back on Thursday with a check in with my 2012 Goals Project participants!  Since the beginning of February someone new has joined the challenge.  I can’t wait to share everyone’s successes with you.

Metrics

Yesterday was a big day at my gym.  In CrossFit speak, the WOD was 1-1-1-1-1 max DL and saw many PRs.  In regular English, the workout of the day was five chances to do the heaviest deadlift you could do.  People definitely rose to the occasion and there were many personal records set!  Even I set a personal best with a 168 pound deadlift.  Maybe.  I’m not really sure.  I think I did anyway.

There is no mystery in the fact that I did lift 168 pounds.  That happened.  But I’m not completely sure it was my best effort to date.  Why?  Because I (stupidly) don’t keep track of my workouts and my progress.

That’s got to change.  How will I know if I’m improving?  How will I know what my weaknesses are?  How will I know if I’m inching towards any goals if I don’t have a way to measure my progress?

There are many ways to record and measure your progress and the way you choose to do it will depend on what your workouts consist of and what your goals are.  Regardless of what kind of workout you do, it is important to track your progress. Let’s talk about different metrics.

In my health coaching practice I get a lot of people inquiring about my services whose primary goals are to lose weight.  They have weighed themselves on a scale, received a number, and want to reduce that number.  Weight is definitely a metric, but probably not the best metric by which you can measure your progress.

But wait, isn’t that pretty much the exact opposite of what you’ve always thought?  Isn’t weight the best way to show weight loss progress?  Isn’t weight plus height and body mass index the best way to show how healthy you are or if you’re overweight or even obese?

In short, yes, no, and no.

Because muscle has less volume than fat, the same amount by weight takes up less room in your body.  Check out this graphic:

The orange tangerines represent a pound of muscle.  The yellow grapefruits represent a pound of fat.  Each set of fruits represents the same weight, but each set takes up less space.

Now take a look at this photo:

(Source)

The version of this woman on the left is akin to three grapefruits.  The version on the right is akin to the three tangerines.  Her weight is the same, but the amount of space she takes up (read: her dress or pants size) is drastically different.  Click here to read all about this woman’s transformation and how she figuratively went from grapefruits to tangerines.

So you see, the scale and your weight is a metric you can use to measure weight loss, but it isn’t really the best way to see how far you’ve come.  The scale can be a useful tool if you have a large amount of weight to lose and want to see how much you’ve shed, but it isn’t the most accurate or reliable way to measure progress especially if you are near a healthy weight to begin with.

Ok, so what are some reliable metrics?  How can you keep track of how well you’re doing and how quickly you are progressing.

If your goal is “weight loss”- and I’m putting that in quotation marks because as we saw above, you might not actually lose weight – taking your measurements is a great place to start.  It is difficult (coordination wise) to do yourself, so enlist a friend or a personal trainer to help you.  Here are some instructions for women and men on how and where to measure yourself.  As you can see in the photos above, while this woman didn’t lose any weight, her measurements certainly changed!

Keeping a workout log is also an excellent way to measure your progression.  If I had been diligent in doing this, I might know for sure if my 168 pound deadlift was actually a personal best or if I fell short.  No matter what kind of workout you do (and you DO workout, don’t you?!) it is very wise to catalog what you did, how you felt, track your times and weights, and record any intangible variables that you think might be important.  Here is a list of valuable metrics to know about workout performance that you might want to record in your workout log:

  • Speed — Timing yourself doing a particular workout each time you do it and seeing how your speed differs each time will let you know if you are indeed getting faster or not.  Run a mile and time yourself.  After a week, month, year of training, run the same mile and time yourself again.  How did you time change?
  • Strength — Shame on me for NOT doing this, but recording how much weight you can lift in a particular way (deadlift, overhead press, etc.) can give you an idea of how your strength is improving.  If I had recorded my deadlift from 6 months ago I would have known if I had improved and by how much.
  • Endurance — Writing down how you feel after a workout can show you how much endurance you have to complete the task.  If after that first one mile run you feel like your lungs are on fire and your heart was going to beat out of your chest, then knowing how fantastic you feel one month later is valuable to know.  You can see based on your log entries that over time you have improved your endurance.
  • Sleep — This falls under the aforementioned “intangible” category.  Our sleep patterns, how soundly we sleep, how we feel when we wake up, and how tired or energized we feel during the day can clue us in to how well our bodies are recovering.
  • Food — Logging what you eat and when can be an essential tool in determining how your body reacts to different fuel in relation to your workouts.  You ate a bowl of sugary cereal and a bagel for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, and a pasta dinner and you’re wondering why you feel sluggish and heavy at the gym the next day? Maybe you can pick up some clues from your diet.  Of course I’m being extreme here to make my point, but you get my perspective.  What you eat can help or hinder your workout performance and you’ll want to know what works for you and what doesn’t.

I learned my own lesson last night when I had no idea if I had improved or not and I hope you take this lesson to heart too.  Logging, cataloging, and making notes on your health, wellness, and fitness doesn’t have to be complicated or laborious.  Just a few sentences in a notebook after each meal and workout.  Have a trusted friend take your measurements.  If you’re faithful to a healthy lifestyle you’ll see results in no time and you want to have something tangible to brag about, right?

Share in the comments or on Facebook your strategies tracking your progress.  What metrics do you use to keep yourself motivated and on the right track?

 

 

What Will It Take?

When I’m in social situations with people I’ve just met, I inevitably get asked, “So what do you do?”  When I tell people I’m a holistic health coach that usually inspires more than a few questions.  What does that mean? What do you actually do? Why did you go into this?  I love talking about my job, so it’s always a pleasure.

But something that many people have said to me has me thinking.  When I say that many of my clients are trying to lose weight and learn to eat right nearly everyone says something to the effect of, “Oh! I need you!” or “I could use some help with that!”  I’m always happy to answer questions and talk casually about health and wellness, but I can’t help but wonder why so many people say this.

Sure, we have an obesity epidemic in this country.  I know that regardless of actual weight or body composition, nearly a third of American women are currently “on a diet”.  I am not wondering about what the motivation is for saying these things, I’m wondering why there are so many people who do.  Why do so many people say they want to be healthier, but the statistics show that most people aren’t actually achieving it?

My question is this: Where is your tipping point?

The tagline at the top of every page on this website, on my business cards, and on my t-shirts is “Make the choice to make a change”. I love that because to live a healthy lifestyle, to be well, to feel good inside and out, to get fit requires making daily – maybe even hourly – choices to change what you were doing to something else that will take you closer to your goal.  One has to consciously choose to change habits and mindset.

I find that when I’m talking to people, whether I’m in the aforementioned social situation or chatting with prospective clients, nearly everyone wants the final result – weight loss, increased energy, improved overall health, a greater feeling of contentment and happiness, self-acceptance, etc., but few are actively in pursuit of these things.  What is it going to take to inspire change?

I heard someone say one time that most people are miserable with their own state of being, but not miserable enough to do anything about it.  If this is true, just how much misery, or even discomfort or dissatisfaction, are YOU willing to put up with in your own life before you decide to make changes?  Why is it human nature to wait until we’ve reached the point of misery before we do something?

In working with my clients I have found that nearly every one of them has reached a point where they can’t stand “X” anymore.  Everyone’s “X” has been different – weight, various health problems, etc. I always ask why they waited so long to call me.  Why did they put up with this issue for as long as they did when they could have sought relief months or years before?

I know that everyone has his or her own tipping point, that instant when feeling bad just got unbearable and the prospect of making changes seemed less uncomfortable or unbearable than enduring one’s own X factor any longer.  I am just urging you to reassess where that tipping point is.  Nobody has to put up with negative feelings and physical discomfort when there are ways to change the situation.

So, I’m asking you to give these questions some thought.  Write your answers down on a piece of paper with the date at the top so you can see your responses and use them at a later date for inspiration to change your circumstance.

  • What do I want to change about my life?
  • What are the things or forces in my current circumstance that make me unhappy?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being mildly disgruntled and 10 being abject misery), how badly do I feel about these things?
  • How many things did you rank with 5 or more?
  • What are the factors in my current life situation that are keeping me from making changes towards a healthier lifestyle?
  • Among the factors listed above, which are out of my control to change?
  • Among the factors listed above, which are within my control to change?
  • What can I do today to make one simple change towards a healthier lifestyle?
  • Do I need help with making changes in my life?
  • What resources do I have available to me that can help me change things that make me unhappy?

Writing these responses down isn’t just meaningless busywork.  I’m asking you to give these ten questions some serious thought and meditation.  Take a few hours or days to think about each answer.  Hopefully after careful reflection you’ll start to see very clearly all of the forces and circumstances that are keeping you from feeling healthy, strong, capable, and looking your best.

If you find the above exercise to be difficult to complete, give yourself time to truly be honest about the responses.  Shining a light on what makes you sad can be a uncomfortable or even painful prospect.  Don’t rush.

Contact me if you feel you’re stuck or want someone to who will listen to your responses without judgement.

We all possess the power to change our circumstances for the better.  Waiting until you can’t stand the negativity anymore before you enact change doesn’t have to be an option.

Make the choice to make a change.

Recipe: Raw Sauerkraut

We all have our vices and predilections.  For some it’s coffee and for many it’s sweet things.  For me, it’s tangy, salty, spicy, savory.  Salt and vinegar chips win every single time over anything sweet.  Sadly, they don’t have a place in my way of eating, but if I could munch on anything with impunity, I’d always choose salt and vinegar chips.  Or barbecue chips.  They’re in a solid second place.

Anyway, imagine my utter delight when my friend, Diane of Balanced Bites posted her recipe for homemade raw sauerkraut.  It’s tangy, spicy, salty, and savory.  Plus it’s just doggone good for you and isn’t anywhere near the junk food nightmare that potato chips are.  It’s healthy AND entertains all of my taste preferences! What does the sports world call a hole in one slam dunk touchdown grand slam?  They ought to call it spicy raw sauerkraut because for me, it’s that kind of food victory.  I have been interested in trying this since I went to the kraut school last fall!

First of all, I recognize that making one’s own sauerkraut might be jumping into the deep end of food geekdom.  Many of you might be struggling with just figuring out what to pack for lunch every day or how to fit a healthy breakfast into your life, so doing something like this seems frivolous and weird.

I will accept that perhaps it is weird, but frivolous? No.  Allow me to explain…..

You see, we all have bacteria living inside of our digestive systems that are good and wonderful and help us to break down the food we eat into useable fuel for our cells.  They keep us regular, they keep us healthy, and they protect us from harmful bacteria, and form the foundation of our immune system.  You may have heard of the generic term “probiotics” in reference to these good bacteria that live inside us.  A probiotic is a bacteria that produces beneficial results for its host.  Yes, you are host to trillions of bacteria (Sometimes referred to as “gut flora”. Pretty, no?).  They live inside you and do a lot of your body’s dirty work.  This is good!  They’re in constant battle with harmful bacteria for control of your guts and your health.  Think of them as little soldiers who need the right conditions and constant reinforcement in order to win their battle.

Sadly, the Standard American Diet, which is rife with processed foods, toxins, and preservatives, do not create an environment inside of us that keeps these wonderful little bacteria alive.  Most people eat little to no fermented foods (some yogurts, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, kraut, etc.) and so the little soldiers who live in our guts who are trying their darndest to protect us are having to fight in conditions that are hazardous to their health.  Many die and are not replaced leaving the host (you!) vulnerable to diarrhea, sickness, and a compromised immune system.  This is bad.

This is why I am presenting you with this recipe for raw fermented sauerkraut.  It is an extremely easy recipe that yields something delicious and more importantly, it’s a food that will keep the fighting conditions just right for your beautiful gut flora to thrive.  Plus eating this kraut regularly (just a little bit a day!) will ply your insides with the bacterial reinforcements they regularly need.  And, it bears repeating that it is scrumptious.

Balanced Bites Raw Fermented Spicy Sauerkraut

1 large cabbage
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers (I used two, but I like things spicy spicy!  Use with caution)
2 medium sized carrots
2 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon of unrefined sea salt (I used a little more than 1 T in this batch)

Cut the cabbage into thin shreds.  You can do this by hand, with a food processor, or with a mandoline like I did.  PLEASE NOTE: I am wearing a protective metal glove in this photo.  It is because I learned the hard way that a mandoline is an EXTREMELY SHARP device that can cut you very very very very badly.  I received this mandoline as a gift two years ago and injured myself very very badly the very first time I used it.  I let it sit in my cupboard unused for two years because it terrified me.  USE HAND PROTECTION!  Use the guard that comes with the mandoline or use a clam shucking metal glove like I do.  They’re available any any kitchen supply store.   You are going to see TV chefs using mandolines without hand protection.  DO NOT FOLLOW THEIR EXAMPLE!!!!!!!  Protect yourself.

Anyway, after shredding the cabbage, put it in a large glass or ceramic (not metal) bowl and sprinkle it with the salt.  This is where you’re going to get your (clean!) hands into things.  Mash, massage, pound, rub, macerate, squish, etc. the cabbage and the salt.  Try not to break up the pieces (you don’t want pulp), but also do not be too delicate.  You will notice that the cabbage will go from stiff and crispy to watery, crispy, but softened.  This is what you want. Keep doing this until all of your cabbage is the crispy/soft/watery consistency and you have a significant amount of water that has come out of the cabbage.  Enough to cover it.

While you’re doing that, put the jalapeno(s) directly on your gas stove burner and char the heck out of it.  If you don’t have a gas stove (I don’t), use your electric oven’s broiler.  With either method, turn the pepper frequently so it will get charred and blackened evenly on all sides.  When it is blistery and done, rinse under cold water and peel off the skin.  Chop finely.  If you want your kraut to be extra spicy, use the seeds.  If you want your kraut to have only a hint of spice, discard the seeds.  Truth be told, the pepper is completely optional if you don’t want any spice at all.  If that’s your style, skip this step completely.

In a food processor or on a box grater, shred up the carrots and garlic.  I used my food processor’s shred blade and just whizzed the carrots and garlic up together.  Add them to your watery cabbage and give them the mash and pound treatment.  They will yield more water too.

If you’re using the jalapeno, add it to the cabbage, carrot, garlic mix and toss thoroughly.

At this point you are going to need some large glass jars or ceramic crocks. One gallon glass jars are ideal, although I used a one quart for this demonstration because I just made a small batch.  Did I mention clean?  Make sure the jars very very clean.

Pack the cabbage into the jars, being careful to include the water that has run off.  And when I say pack it in there, I mean pack it down.  You want the jar to be filled with cabbage and the water run off to be above the cabbage level.  Put a large uncut cabbage leaf on top of the shredded cabbage, let the water rise above that, and weigh the cabbage down with a shot glass, small bowl, or ceramic pie weights.

Put the jars in a cool, dark place.  The darkness is key!  They cannot be sitting out in the open and in the light.  I keep mine in a kitchen cupboard that I rarely open.  Check on the kraut every day or so to make certain that the water level remains above the cabbage.  This is imperative.  The fermentation of your vegetables happens below the surface of the water.  Should anything poke out above the water level, remove it.

Taste test your kraut after two weeks.  It should be tangy and yummy, but probably could use more time.  Three weeks seems to be an optimal ferment time, but taste your kraut after two in order to determine what suits your taste.

You’ll notice that my jar isn’t your normal glass jar. This is a quart jar from Pickl-It and is designed just for fermenting foods.  Let me stress this: Having specialty equipment like this is completely unnecessary for making quality sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables.  I read about these jars and decided to give a small one a shot.  You do NOT have to buy anything more complicated than a few glass jars.  I also am not at all affiliated with Pickl-It.  Their jars were recommended to me and I decided to give one a try at my own expense.

Now, according to my kraut guru, Diane, you can switch this recipe up in many different ways and experiment with many different flavors.  The procedure is going to be the same but try her variations:

  • Plain raw sauerkraut: use just cabbage and salt.
  • Traditional raw sauerkraut: use cabbage, salt and caraway seeds (about 1Tbsp for this recipe).
  • Sweet and tangy sauerkraut: use red cabbage, salt, raisins or currants, cinnamon and fennel seeds.
  • Seasonal fall sauerkraut: use cabbage, salt, green apples, sliced fennel and leeks.

Who is up for this challenge?  It’s not really as challenge as it is an exercise in patience.  Sure, the preparation of the cabbage takes about an hour but the three weeks of waiting to indulge in your delicious, probiotic-laden, gut flora lovin’ kraut is the hard part.

Who are my readers who are sauerkraut making veterans?  Have variations and tips to share?  Add them to the comments or over on Facebook!

Recipes: A Valentine's Day Love Feast

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!  I am a firm believer that this day does not have to be exclusively about romantic love, but love of all varieties – of family, friends, pets, and of course one of my fondest loves, FOOD.

You, dear reader, are in for a treat today.  Diane at LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering has designed a very special menu for you lovers out there.  Three FAB courses of food that will soften the grumpiest heart.  Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew, followed by Baby Greens wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinaigrette, and Osso Buco alla Milanese.   Didn’t I tell you?  This menu is no joke!  Let’s get started!

I’ll give you each recipe in the order in which it ought to be served, but I recommend doing things in this order:  Start the osso buco and get it to the point where it is braising, then make the stew.  After you and your guest(s) finish eating the stew, prepare and serve the greens and dressing.  By the time all of that happens, the osso buco will be ready to eat.

Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew – serves 6

8 ounces of snapper filets
8 ounces of uncooked shrimp
1 29-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
14 ounces of chicken broth (homemade rules, but prepared is fine too)
12 ounces of beer or non-alcoholic beer
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup green pepper, chopped

Cut fish and shrimp into 1-inch pieces.

In a four-quart Dutch oven or large saucepan combine undrained tomatoes, chicken broth, and non-alcoholic beer.  Bring to a boil.  Add carrots, onion, chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic.  Return to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer on low about 15 minutes or until carrots are nearly tender.

Add red snapper, shrimp, and green pepper and return to boiling.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer gently for 3 to 5 minutes or until red snapper flakes with a fork and shrimp turn pink.  Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

This is a light stew that has a LOT of incredible flavor and goodness.  It’s not a thick, heavy dish that you might think of when you hear the word “stew”.  It makes an excellent first course, but it also makes a great light lunch to go with a green salad.  The snapper and shrimp are hearty enough fishes to maintain their shape after cooking and will not break up.

Baby Greens Wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinaigrette — serves 6

1 package of baby greens
6 slices of prosciutto – If you are having someone slice the prosciutto fresh for you, ask that it be slightly thicker than normal.  You don’t want thick hearty slices, but you also don’t want paper thin ones either.
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed blood orange juice
6 tablespoons of blood orange infused olive oil – This is worth looking for and buying in a specialty market.
6 blood orange sections
Salt to taste

Cut each slice of prosciutto in half lengthwise or diagonally, depending on the fat marbling.  You want to ensure that each slice is a good mixture of meat and fat.
Place a handful of baby greens on one end of each prosciutto piece and roll up, making 12 bundles.

Whisk together blood orange juice and white balsamic vinegar until well-combined.  Add olive oil and whisk until emulsified.
Place two bundles on each of six serving plates and drizzle with vinaigrette.  Add a blood orange section to each plate and serve.

I had never had a salad like this until Diane treated us to this ingenious way of serving.  It’s brilliant!  A great way to add a little flair to your dish without being complicated at all.  Impress your Valentine with your culinary prowess without getting complicated or intricate.

Osso Buco alla Milanese – serves 6

3 1/2 pounds of veal shanks cut into 1 inch sections – Do what Diane does and have your butcher take care of this for you.  If you don’t have a relationship with your butcher yet, make friends with him or her.  They’ll look after you and give you the best cuts of meat that come into the market.
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for dredging – If you’re gluten free, use gluten free Bisquik.  If you’re grain free, use coconut flour.  If you’re opposed to that, skip this step but know that the dredging will thicken the braising liquid into a lovely sauce later on.  If you skip it, your sauce may be a bit thin.
1/4 cup of olive oil
3/4 cup of chopped onion
1/4 cup of chopped carrots
1/4 cup of chopped celery
1 cup of white wine
1 cup of chopped tomato (fresh!)
3 cups of brown stock or beef broth (homemade is best!)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 cloves of garlic

Generously season the veal shanks on all sides with salt and pepper.  Dredge lightly in flour, shake off the excess.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven (preferably cast iron).  Brown the shanks on both sides until golden (you may to do this in batches).  When you do this step, make sure the Dutch oven is on HIGH heat.  This isn’t the time to get shy about a hot pan.  Having it on high heat will ensure proper browning and give you a nice crust on the outside of the shanks.  This is what you want.

Remove the shanks from the Dutch oven, reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the wine, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, thyme and garlic.  Stir to combine.

Place the seared shanks back into the Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  Adjust seasonings and serve.  Our osso buco was served with some roasted asparagus too!

As you can tell the shanks Diane got were positively huge so she used one shank for two people.  Depending on the size of your shanks and the size of your appetite, you might use one shank per person. Also, an optional step that Diane took was to tie each shank around with kitchen string.  This helped to keep the shape.  Just remove the string before serving.

You might have noticed that all of the recipes above serve six people.  This is because when Diane prepared this meal she did so not only for herself and her husband, Jim, but also for me, Dude, and our dear friends Lynsey and Patrick.  It was not only a celebration of Valentine’s Day with some great couples, but also a celebration of Lynsey’s birthday (which is today!) Happy birthday, my friend!

I am wishing all of you a very happy day filled with love.  Everyday is a day to love one another, but take some time to let someone know just how special they are to you.  If you cook this meal, they’ll definitely know that you care!  Enjoy!!

Printable versions of LadyFingers’ recipes:
Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew
Baby Greens Wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinagrette
Osso Buco alla Milanese

2012 Goals Project - January Review

Time is flying by in this new year! We’re in to February already which means those of us who made goals at the beginning of last month are already a month closer to achieving them. Go us!

This first post of the month for the remainder of the year is going to be a check in with everyone who has decided to participate in the Goals Project. And just a reminder, anyone can join in at any time. It doesn’t matter if you set a goal for yourself on January 1 or February 1 or whatever. If you’d like to take part and publicly declare your goals and check in each month, then just drop me an email and you’re in. The only requirement is that you let us know each month how you are progressing.

So, let’s get to it!

Kelly F.

  • Complete a 30-day Paleo challenge — This is going better than expected (due to some great friends and all their help). I have lost 9 1/2 lbs so far and feel great. I haven’t cheated (except to have a celebratory drink for a friend’s engagement). Only 11 more days to go. The most encouraging news about participating in this challenge for me has been realizing that I can do it and am planning on keeping it up long after the challenge is over (at least 80/20).
  • Un-banded pull-ups — UGH….still plucking away and trying not to get discouraged. I just don’t understand why I can’t get my chin over that bar. grrrrr.
  • Buy dream car –Just saving and going to wait til later in the calendar year to find best available deal.

Shannon H.

  • Run 1300 miles over the course of a year — January has been a pretty good start. I am now officially registered for the Columbus Marathon on October 21 (I registered the day registration opened!) I ran 95 miles in January (HUGE contrast to last January when I ran 5 miles the entire month!) That pus me at 1205 miles to go. I picked this particular goal because 2010 and most of 2011 I felit like I slacked off a lot and didn’t train enough for my races. Last summer while I was training for the Air Force half marathon, something clicked, and all of a sudden running wasn’t something I HAD to do, it was something that I wanted to do and I think about it all the time. This change in mindset was evidenced by the fact that I achieved a 12 minute PR (personal record) in the race! Since then, I am have managed to keep the momentum going, which is why I felt that 2012 was my year to tackle the marathon (not to mention I am turning 30 this year!)
    I have a pretty busy race schedule this spring, so that makes it easy to keep moving. Having a race (or races) schedule on your calendar is great motivation! I’m currently training for a 15 mile race on February 25, which will be my longest distance EVER, and then I have a 10 mile race on March 10, the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on March 18. I’m looking for another half marathon PR there! Then of course Pittsburgh on May 6!
  • Complete first marathon — See above.

Ann M.

  • Graduate from nursing school with a great GPA and get a job and apartment in the Philadelphia area. — Expected in May
  • Exercise regularly – maybe incorporating spinning and/or running into routine. — I started a Couch to 5k program and I’m finishing up week 2! I know that I like to run – but I’m terrible at it. So, this program starts you out super slow and you feel good about yourself and you feel like you’re the best runner in the world, and therefore, you keep at it! It’s great. When I’m not running I’m at the gym. Time and budget are always my worst enemies. So, I stopped “half-assing” workouts. If I have the time to get one in, I’m going all out and making it worth while. I’ve been working out about 5 days a week, 3 of which are runs.
    Cycling classes have gone by the wayside – the gym doesn’t hold classes when I’m available. I have lots of plans (yoga, pilates, cycling) for my post-student life!
  • Keep cooking! Started cooking in 2011 and loves it. No more frozen meals, no more junk food! – I’ve been cooking up a storm. Thursday has become my cooking day. I find 1-2 new recipes a week (1 for dinners, 1 for lunches) and make them on Thursday and I typically have enough food to make it through the weekend without having to cook much more. I LOVE to cook – I can’t believe I didn’t start this sooner. I actually clogged my kitchen sink from all the veggies I peeled last week.. oops. This week I’m making honey mustard and garlic chicken and butternut squash/quinoa soup :). I don’t mind spending a little extra money on ingredients if they will feed me for 5 days! I’ve also been drinking less pop! Basically, only 1 or 2 a week (which is down from about 3 a day…)

Diane D.

  • Get LadyFingers listed as a “Preferred Caterer” at 5 or more Pittsburgh venues — I am working on my first venue, but it is harder than anticipated breaking into an established group of caterers with whom the venue is satisfied. The fact that I have a quality product seems to be irrelevant. I may need better strategy.
  • Provide catering to 15 new customers — I did a private dinner party for a new customer in January, have three new customers booked in February and hve three more booked through June. Good progress here.
  • Improve online exposure – improving search engine placement by 50%, doubling Facebook “likes”, and doubling Twitter followers — Google has once again changed SEO criteria and I don’t know how to improve my placement. I need professional advice but do have the budge for it. This may need to be shelved. Facebook likes were at 49 and are now at 60. My goal is 98. Twitter follwers were at 60 and are now at 64. My goal is 120.
  • Keep shoulder and knee healthy while increasing CrossFit work output– I’m doing really well on this so far. I am making a conscious effort at every workout to adjust my weight so that I can do maximum output with low risk of injury. This means that I am keeping my pride from interfering and am doing less weight than most of the crowd, but in the past 10 workouts I have finished with the best time or most reps 5 times (in my session). That means my intensity is high without sacrificing my broken-down body parts.
  • Return to running by Spring — Too soon to start (cold weather, darkness, and slippery streets are a recipe for disaster for my knee – not excuses – see above.)
  • Return to push-ups and burpees by April . — I can push up but can’t lower due to shoulder pain. I am practicing push-ups on my bed three times per week where I push up and then just flop down face-first. I will keep doing this until I can lower without pain.
  • One un-banded pull-up by July 1 — I did 1-1-1-1-1-1 reps with orange band and was close on several attempts (Jill’s note: the orange band is the lightest band that supports the least amount of one’s body weight when doing pull-ups. This means Diane is very close to an un-banded pull-up!) I am practicing the following each day during the 3-round CrossFit Confluence warm-up: green band 10 reps in first round, blue band 10 reps in second round, orange band attempt in third round.
  • 200+ pound deadlift –CrossFit Confluence has not programmed 1-rep maximum deadlift since I set this goal, but I am looking forward to it!
  • 100 pounds overhead — CrossFit Confluence has not programmed 1-rep maximum overhead since I set this goal, but I am looking forward to it!
  • Cut out ALL sugar that has crept back into diet — A struggle!! I have been providing bite-sized desserts to many customers recently and to not taste the product can be professional suicide. But once I taste something sweet, I have increased desire for sugar later.
  • Use sunscreen, especially in the garden and while driving convertible –I researched sunscreens online. The best are prohibitively expensive ($45 to $55). I may opt for light-weight long sleeves and sunscreen on face, ears, and neck only. Still considering. I already wear a hat in the garden and car 100% of the time.

Jaci Y.

  • Be more aware of moods and energy. Don’t let negativity bring good feelings down — Being aware of moods and energy has been, and will probably always be constant work. I have been trying to focus on more of what my body is trying to tell me. This has helped me a great deal with knowing when I need to take a break, rest, eat or just slow down and take things in.
  • Focus on positive side of life — This is primarily and issue at my office. The good thing is that I am extremely busy right now to even pay attention to any of, let any of it get to me and its allowed me to get things done and focus on my work. I have been able to block most of it out and am very glad for that. I have made a conscious effort to surround myself with positive reminders to make sure I stay focused on not letting anything get to me. One thing that has helped is that this year at Christmas I gave my sister, cousin and myself a box of blank cards so that we are forced to send each other notes instead of emails or texts. My sister sent the first one and it was a quote: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, thus creating a chain of quotes being sent back and forth between the three of us. I have a couple hung up around my desk and get excited when I see a colorful envelope in the mail from one of them!
  • Fitness (a new addition to Jaci’s goals!) — Kipping pull ups without a band – I have done 2 so far!!! I achieved that one last Wednesday and one on Monday. This happened earlier that I expected…I think myself doubt had blocked me somewhat on thinking it would take me longer to get one. Other goals to work on in 2012: Climbing the rope, being able to do a real box jump not a stacked weighted one, getting a better time on some exercises that I have already done (gotta love the inter competition with myself), challenging myself with being able to up my weights during some exercises (I’d like to be able to deadlift 200lbs by the end of the year, just to name one.)

Megan G.

I’ve never lifted weights in my life, but it seems to be really effective. I’m only lifting once a week, but I think it makes the biggest difference to my body. In January, I missed one workout but other than that, I ran 4 days a week. I run about 9 1/2 minute miles, and I’m only running about 2 miles and then do the bike or the rowing machine. This doesn’t seem like a lot to me, so that’s why I think the weights are the most effective change I’ve made.
I’ve been mostly eating food out of my kitchen. I’m still working locally, and not having to travel more than 24 hours at a time for work, so that certainly helps. I’ve lost some weight, but I think I’ve lost volume even more.
Brian R.
  • Run the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon — I’ve gotten off to a slow start with running regularly, so I’m way behind on being prepared for this. It’s been tough to overcome the ‘I don’t wanna because it’s cold outside’ excuse that is so easy to make, plus there have been a lot of distractions. Starting in February I’m planning to simply make an appointment with myself. After all, I keep haircuts and meetings with my boss on my calendar. Why not running?
  • Reach a CrossFit Total of 800 (Translation right here) — I have no idea if I’m making progress towards this goal or not since I never came up with an effective way of either working towards the goal nor measuring progress. Now that I’ve figured out that this is a problem, the challenge for me is to come up with a plan.
  • Pack lunch for work everyday — My wife has done a great job of preparing lunches for me, but that isn’t going to cover every single meal. While it’s awesome to have help for a goal like this, this week I’m going to make some changes to ensure that I’m able to accomplish smart meal planning with or without help.
  • Write 45,000 words — 2700 words since the start of the year, although on three different projects. I can do better, but I’m off to a good start. The key here has been to eliminate distractions and to eliminate the ‘I need to plan for how I’m going to do this’ mentality. Some things I just have to shut up and do, and this is one of them.

Jill C. (that’s me!)

  • Un-banded pull-ups — After the holidays I wasn’t even sure if I could still do a pull-up WITH the band. Of course I could, but it was rough. I haven’t done enough pull-ups this past month to improve on this. After reading Diane’s strategy for working her way up to un-banded pull-ups, I am going to try that strategy starting this month.
  • Yoga — I met this goal and went to yoga twice this month with plans to go back many more times. It was more physically challenging than I remember it being and I love that! I’ve been going to hot (not Bikram) yoga and being in that room is fantastic! Being that warm and sweaty does wonders for my mood. Plus, the relaxing, mind-clearing meditation at the end of each class is sorely needed in my life. I love it.
  • Pittsburgh half marathon — I have not been running much at all. I’m calling January a running fail for me. But February is a new month and I have running plans for the rest of the week, which is a start. I think I need to take running a day at a time. Just plan on the very next run and quit letting the prospect of a zillion miles ahead intimidate me.
  • Add new dinners to our rotation by making 30 new recipes this year — I did very well with this one too. I made three new-to-me dinners from a cookbook I bought at the beginning of the month. Some were fantastic, some needed a bit of tweaking to suit my tastes.
  • More and better photos for the blog — I’m going to give myself a plus and a minus on this one. I have been using my camera more and adding more photos where appropriate, but I haven’t quite made it a habit yet. This post doesn’t have any photos in it, and it should. I need to push myself on this more.
  • More services for clients and potential clients — This is a somewhat behind the scenes goal, meaning I am the only one so far who knows that progress is being made. Nothing is ready to share quite yet, but I promise that things are in the works. How’s that for cryptic?

I have to say that I am so incredibly EXCITED for all of these participants! Look at all everyone has accomplished in ONE MONTH! We’ve got some momentum behind us and I cannot wait to see what February will bring.

Who is going to join us? Who wants to add their goals to this list? Leave me a list (or one thing!) in the comments of what you’d like added next month and you too can brag about your achievements on the Internet.