Monthly Archives: September 2012

Recipes: A Special Dinner for Special Guests

Last month when I posted the LadyFingers recipes I hinted a little bit that we were hosting a few special guests in September.  Well, last Friday night we were really sneaky and had a LadyFingers/First Comes Health dinner and didn’t tell a single soul about it.  No Twitter contest, no hyped Facebook posts.  We just had a really great dinner with some cool people.
So, who were our special guests?

Hayley Mason and Bill Staley from the Food Lovers’ Kitchen!
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been buddies with these guys for a while now and I can’t think of a better way to spend time with friends than to cook and eat with them.  We thought it would be fun to invite some awesome people/Internet luminaries to share in a very special menu.  We had a great time in the kitchen talking about food, wine, being Paleo, and their upcoming wedding.  And then we sat down for dinner to a tailor-made feast.  Diane didn’t disappoint!  Three courses that were not only delish, but looked fab too.
Let’s get to the recipes!
Hard-Boiled Quail Eggs with Tapenade Trio – serves 6
12 quail eggs
10 Kalamata olives
10 large green olives
10 large pink olives
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Place quail eggs in a pot and cover with water.  Heat on high just until water comes to a boil.  Remove pot from heat and allow eggs to stand for 7 minutes. Carefully transfer eggs to an ice bath to cool.
Pit olives as necessary.
Using one type of olive at a time, place olives in a mini food processor.  Add 1 teaspoon olive oil and process until finely chopped.  Add additional olive oil if mixture is too dry.  Transfer olive mixture to a bowl.
Stir in 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley to each olive mixture.  Add a third teaspoon depending on quantity of olive mixture.
Remove the quail eggs from the ice bath and carefully peel.
Slice each egg lengthwise and place 4 halves on each serving plate.
Place a small mound of each olive mixture between egg halves and serve.

Jill’s note: This is, by far, the most visually striking dish we’ve ever prepared.  And uniquely yummy too!  It’s worth it to find some quail eggs in your area.  In preparation for this dish Diane and I thought we would have to span the globe to find quail eggs.  Turns out they were readily available at our local Asian supermarket.  We were a bit intimidated by them at first, but we practiced a few hard boiling methods and settled on the one described above, and there was nothing to be afraid of.  Easy!  And they make for a really special plate.
Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil – serves 6
1 bunch fresh chives
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme
8 plum tomatoes, finely diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
For Chive Oil:
Rinse fresh chives and shake to remove water.  Pat dry with a paper towel.
Place chives in a blender, reserving 6 chives for garnish.
Add ¾ cup olive oil to the blender.  Cover and puree until smooth, adding more olive oil if necessary.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour chive puree into the sieve.
Using the back of a spoon or a pestle, swirl puree around the bottom of the sieve until oil has been strained into the bowl and pulp remains in the sieve.  Discard pulp.
Transfer chive oil to a squeeze bottle and set aside.
For Spaghetti Squash:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the squash lengthwise and place cut-side down in a glass baking dish.  Fill the dish with ½-inch hot water and tightly cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 45 minutes.
Carefully remove the foil and turn the squash halves over.  Using potholders, re-cover the dish with the foil.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Allow the squash to cool until it can be easily handled.
Using a spoon, remove the seeds and discard.  Using a fork, remove the squash strands and place in a bowl.
Refrigerate the squash until well chilled.
To Assemble:
Place a ring mold on each serving plate.
Spoon ¼ – ½ cup spaghetti squash into each ring mold and tamp down.
Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon finely minced thyme over the squash layer.
Toss diced tomatoes with just enough olive oil to coat lightly and then spoon ½ cup tomatoes into the mold atop the thyme layer.  Gently tamp down.
Using the squeeze bottle, squirt a ring of chive oil around the outside of the mold.
Carefully remove the molds, garnish with reserved chives and serve.

Poached Duck Breast Rolls – serves 6
2 large fresh duck breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
dash of allspice
Place a large pot of water over high heat.  Bring to a boil.
Pound duck breasts flat and trim each breast piece to roughly form a rectangle.  Season with salt and pepper and allspice.
Place two 15-inch pieces of plastic wrap on a flat work surface.
Tightly roll each duck breast lengthwise into a cylinder and place on long edge of plastic wrap.  Keeping breast rolled tightly, roll in plastic wrap.  Take one end of plastic wrap and twist tightly against breast roll.  Take the other end and twist tightly in the opposite direction.  Tie twisted ends together to secure rolls.
Place breast rolls in pot with boiling water and poach for 7-8 minutes for medium-rare.
Remove breasts from boiling water and let cool briefly.  Remove plastic wrap and cut each breast into three sections.
Spoon sauce of choice onto serving plate, top each with duck breast section and serve.
Raspberry and Red Wine Puree – serves 6
4 packages raspberries
4 ½ tablespoons red wine
Rinse and gently pat raspberries dry.
Place raspberries in a blender, reserving 18 berries for garnish.
Add 4 ½ tablespoons red wine to the blender.  Cover and puree until smooth.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour raspberry puree into the sieve.
Using the back of a spoon, swirl puree around the bottom of the sieve until liquid has been strained into the bowl and seeds remain in the sieve.  Discard seeds.
Serve raspberry sauce with meat or poultry, using reserved raspberries as garnish.
Variations: Substitute orange juice for red wine for an alcohol-free puree, or substitute pure maple syrup for a sweeter puree.

Maple-Roasted Parsnip “Fries” – serves 6
6-8 medium parsnips
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cover large baking sheet with non-stick foil.
Peel parsnips and cut into 4-inch “fries”.
Place parsnip fries in a large bowl and toss with olive oil.  Add maple syrup and toss again until evenly coated.
Spread parsnip fries on prepared baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes.
Turn fries and roast for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until fries are tender and maple syrup is caramelized.
Serve immediately.

This is a slightly more complicated menu with some more complicated techniques than Diane and I usually provide.  Some of the ingredients aren’t always readily available at the run-of-the-mill supermarket, but they are definitely worth seeking out.  I encourage you to give these recipes a try the next time you have a special occasion!  Duck isn’t a meat that is typically eaten regularly in the American household, but it’s so gosh darned delicious and easy to prepare that it ought to be!  Branch out and try something new and be brave!
Very special thanks to Hayley and Bill for being our special guests.  They took some beee-yooooo-tiful photos of the meal which put our little iPhone shots to shame!  Ha.
In the coming weeks I will be announcing a all new LadyFingers/First Comes Health contest. Stay tuned for this because the very special prize is something you do NOT want to miss!
As always, printable versions of this month’s recipes:
Hard-Boiled Quail Eggs with Tapenade Trio
Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil
Poached Duck Breast Rolls
Raspberry and Red Wine Puree
Maple-Roasted Parsnip Fries 

Ankle Update

Well, it’s been a while since I mentioned my little ankle problem.  At least I hope it’s been a while.  I tried not to always talk about it or mention it on Facebook all the time because, well, who wants to hear someone whine about their injuries all the time?  I don’t.  Anyway, allow me to recap and then I’ll tell you how it’s been going lately.  More importantly though, I hope to also share what I’ve learned from this whole experience.
First of all, on June 6 – two days before Dude and I were to leave for vacation! – I sprained my ankle.  At the time, I thought it was merely a painful ankle roll and it would be healed and recovered after a day or two.  Uh… no.  Take a look back at this post to see a day after photo and read about just how bad it was immediately after.
Remember this picture?  This was the day after it happened, and had not even yet begun to give me problems.

I went on vacation and really took it easy.  Or as easily as I could on a vacation where hikes and other adventures were planned.  I didn’t hike, but I did walk on it.  I kept it wrapped at all times and just did my best to not let it get me down or ruin our vacation.
A week after the injury it wasn’t getting any better.  My spirits were low because while I was bummed that taking it easy on vacation and not working out were definitely on my agenda, I thought it would have improved by this point.  I was OK with changing my lifestyle for a week or two, but it was becoming obvious that this was much more than a little minor thing that would sideline me for a few days.
Here’s what it looked like a week after:

In case you don’t recognize one when you see it, that is a genuine cankle.
Ok, so upon my return to Pittsburgh I thought it wise to see a doctor and get a professional’s take on the situation.  I was extremely fortunate to get an appointment with Dr. Mares at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.  Let me say right now that obviously I am getting nothing from them to say nice things.  They don’t comp medical treatment in exchange for flattering blog posts (although, wouldn’t it be great?!).  The people there, Dr. Mares in particular, were positively fantastic.  The facility is beautiful, the staff is courteous, kind, and helpful.  And best of all, there seems to be no such thing as waiting in the waiting room for extended periods of time.  I have been there many times since early this summer and have never had to wait more than 2 or 3 minutes.  Unheard of!  Another cool thing about going there was that I felt like a legit athlete.  Ha.  I mean, professional sports stars go there to get patched back up so I figured if I’m going there, I too must be an honest to goodness athlete!  Maybe not, but I felt that way in my mind.

Anyway, my diagnosis was a chipped bone and some severe ligament strains.  I was given a home physical therapy treatment and some exercise bands and told to be faithful to the program.  And I was.
It was all I could think about each day.  I could walk around, but I couldn’t do all the things I was used to doing.  No CrossFit, no running.  I did go to Pilates because I wasn’t using my foot like I would be with my other activities.  I was so thankful to be able to do something.   I have mentioned before that I am a weak, slow runner and after doing the half marathon, I was actually kind of proud of how my endurance had built up and how strong I seemed to be getting.  I became kind of preoccupied with how that was all going down the drain. I knew I would have to start from the beginning again, not only because of my injury, but because I would have lost all that I had gained endurance wise.  This is why I started swimming.  I had to do something to keep myself going.
Six weeks later Dr. Mares was pleased with my progress for the most part, but I had developed some tendinitis because of my changed gait and compensation for the weak, injured ankle.  It was at this point that I started to get a bit discouraged.  I did not want injuries and ailments to pile up faster than I could recover from them!  Boo!  I requested some in-person physical therapy to get me back on track.
Enter Steve.

Honestly, I should have given this post the title “An Ode to Steve” because I give him all the credit for helping me get back to my old self again.  While Dr. Mares is a very good doctor and was at once patient, kind, stern, and realistic with me, Steve has been the hands-on guy to has spent the last several weeks reassuring me, answering my crazy questions, allaying my concerns, and most importantly, challenging me in the right ways to get my ankle back in shape.  A more kind, patient, knowledgeable physical therapist you will not find.  I’d be hobbling around crying like a discouraged jerk probably on the brink of divorce by now if it weren’t for Steve.  He literally got me back on my feet.
So, here I am  Just shy of 15 weeks since it happened and I am extremely (!!!!!!) happy to report that I am really starting to get back to normal now.  I just visited Dr. Mares last Friday and he declared me healed.  He said I could resume any activities I want.  Can I repeat that? He used the word “healed” and the phrase “resume activity”.  Awww yeah.  I’m going to finish out the month with Steve and from there I’ll be on my own.
And the best part of all this is that this past Saturday I ran my first post-injury 5k and didn’t do so badly!  34 minutes is hardly a brag-worthy time, but I was rather pleased with myself after I crossed the finish.
Now that I’ve had a chance to type all this out and see how far I’ve come in 15 weeks, I’ve also had a chance to really think about what this experience has taught me.  Everything is a learning experience, and I know I’m not the only person out there who has ever been sidelined with an injury or other setback.  Hopefully you can learn from my experience too.
Acceptance – I know that in the above paragraphs I kind of glossed over the physical pain that resulted from this.  To be completely frank, it still hurts now and again and according to Steve, it might very well hurt periodically for another nine months or year or even the rest of my life.  I did some damage to my body and given the severity of it, my age, and the nature of injuries like this I will always have to be extra careful because it will be weaker than my other ankle.  That is a truth that is kind of hard to hear.  I am 38 years old and this is the first time I’ve ever had an injury that may not ever recover 100%.  I may not be able to do another half marathon and I may not ever be able to run as quickly as I did.  I just have to keep working on it, be cautious, and hope for the best.
Patience – Let’s be honest, I have precious little of it.  When this first happened, I wanted it to heal immediately.  I wanted some kind of magic balm to rub on it that would give me a new ankle.  When that didn’t materialize and when it didn’t heal in a day or a week, I had to learn to be patient.  It’s been 15 weeks and I’m still learning to be patient.  The body takes time to fix itself and no matter what we wish for, giving it the time it needs to do its job is all we can do.  This has been a tough one for me! Did you notice I described both Dr. Mares and Steve as patient?  It’s a good thing they are, because I’m having a hard time.  I’m improving though!
Compliance – I did what the professionals told me to do.  Period.  I can’t stress this enough as one of the keys to my recovery.  When I was told to rest, I rested.  When I was told to wear supportive shoes everyday all day long, I did it.  When I was told to get orthotic inserts for my running shoes, I got them.  When I was told to exercise my ankle every single day, I did.  I figured that I’m not hurting anyone but myself if I didn’t follow instructions.  If I wanted to get back to CrossFit and to running, being lazy about rehabilitating my ankle wasn’t going to get me there.  I had to work hard and do what I was told.  Listen to the pros!
Determination – Throughout this whole ordeal I admit there were discouraging days.  I still have them and I anticipate a few in my future.  But I have to stay focused on my goal to be able to do the things I used to do.  I keep that in mind to this day.  I want to be able to run more races.  I want to be able to do box-jumps and double unders again.  I can’t lose my determination or focus.  I’ll get there!
Clean eating – I didn’t let this injury give me an excuse to let the rest of my health and wellness plans fly out the window.  In fact, after hurting my ankle it was more important than ever to stay on top of my eating for a few reasons. First and foremost, in order to avoid unwanted weight gain I had to change the amount I was eating because I wasn’t as active.  However more important than that, was that clean eating meant a more smooth recovery.  If my body was going to repair itself, I wanted to make sure that it was getting the very best fuel to do it.  What do you think my body used to repair my ligaments and heal my strained tendons?  The good stuff from the food I ate.  It would have been unrealistic of me to expect a full recovery and a like-new ankle if I had given my body junk food to use.  Who wants a house built with shoddy materials, termite ridden beams, and rusty nails and screws?  Nobody, of course.  I was extra vigilant about my diet for the last 15 weeks so my body would have the best resources I could give it to rebuild my ankle.
So, there you have it.  My life for the past 15 weeks.  I am curious to know how others out there have recovered from injuries and setbacks.  I am anxious to hear about the lessons you’ve learned along the way.  Have we learned the same things?  How did acceptance, patience, compliance, determination, and clean eating play a role in your recovery?  Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.

2012 Goals Project - Focus on Bill

This is quite an exciting post for me to share with you.  Bill’s enthusiasm and energy are downright infectious!  Read all about him and his story below and I know you won’t be able to help but be inspired.

Goals — All my life I have had them.  Many I have never achieved!  But that is the beauty of it.  If we do not have goals, we can never fail, but more importantly, we can never succeed!
When Jill asked me if I would like to participate in the 2012 Goals Program with her, I saw it as a great opportunity to get myself refocused.  Five years ago, I looked at myself in the mirror and really did not like what I saw.  I had always been athletic, keeping myself active through sports and activities.  But somewhere along the way I got lazy.  I ballooned to a record 270 pounds.  I was appalled!  So, I joined Weight Watchers and found a solution for me.  Long story short – I lost 50 pounds and once again felt great about myself.

I maintained fairly well for a few years, but slowly fell into old habits again.  By the end of 2011 I was back up to 247 pounds.  Then I heard about Jill’s Goals program!  Just what I needed.  Only this time, I did not just want to follow a diet – this gave me an opportunity to really think about lifestyle and setting multiple goals that would keep me on the path.  Hence, not just “lose weight”, but MONITOR MY WEIGHT CONSISTENTLY.  And then I thought about what else I could do to complement this goal.  WALK, WALK, WALK.  Obvious!!  TONE THE UPPER BODY.  Heck yes!  FAMILY, FAMILY, FAMILY.  We have a great one, so why not use them as motivation to do the things necessary to give me the best chance of being around with and for them for a long time!!

And then came two more goals that my wonderful wife has been so patiently (most of the time!) trying to instill in me for 38 years.  FLOSS REGULARLY, and STOP NAIL BITING.  I honestly chose those two for her, but knowing full well they are so much more important than most people realize.
So – How’s it going Bill??  We all know how hard it is to stay motivated.  What keeps me going is the fact that I know these are things I must focus on in my life.  Having to report on Jill’s website each month certainly is a motivating factor!  But if I truly did not have the ability to motivate myself from within, I would surely fail.  This does not mean I have been fully successful.  I HATE TO FLOSS!!!  Hurts my fingers!  I LOVE TO OVEREAT!!  Call me a glutton!!  I do love to hike though, so that one has been fairly easy!!  As for the fingernails, probably my hardest one if you can believe it!  But I do have extra motivation for this one – my beautiful daughter is getting married next June 1, and I WILL HAVE GREAT FINGERNAILS FOR THAT OCCASION!!

This program has been a real godsend for me.  When I fall off the wagon regarding any of my goals, I am so much more motivated to get back up, knowing that I have made a commitment publicly, and need to stay focused on reporting my successes AND my failures!!  But more importantly, I know I set these goals for myself for all the right reasons for me and my family!!

Keep it going, Bill!  Best of luck as you pursue your goals throughout the rest of 2012!

2012 Goals Project - August Review

Sorry for the absence there, folks!  Sadly the old blog takes a back seat when all kinds of things are happening in real life.  Good things!
We’re headed into the last quarter of the year and the Goals Project participants are not wavering in their commitment!  Let’s see how August treated everyone….
Kelly F.

  • Non banded pull-ups – Since I took a good month off from Crossfit to rest my back this has probably regressed.  Finally listening to the Doctor and going to PT so hopefully we can get back on track.  There are still a few months left to accomplish this.
  • 30-day Paleo Challenge – Since this has been accomplished have turned my focus to losing 2 dress sizes or 20lbs before the end of the year. I started in earnest two weeks ago and will weigh-in every two weeks.  This has been going slower than I thought but keep pressing on.
  • Rx’d Crossfit workout – Accomplished. Since Crossfit is on hold for a bit I have enrolled in a running 101 class and doing the Couch to 5K program – we are starting week six.

Shannon H.
August was the most difficult month yet. My left hip was sore after my long run (12 mi) on the 4th and I didn’t think anything of it since I always have some soreness after long runs. I should also note that I am pretty bad at making sure I stretch adequately after runs, but I do 2 hours of yoga a week so I figure it evens out 🙂 Anyway over the next couple of days the pain in my hip got progressively worse, especially following runs. I was able to get through it, but by the next Sunday, it hurt even to walk. At that point I was forced to take a few days rest but still tried to get some of my runs in, with significant pain. After that week’s first run on Tuesday, I knew I had to take the rest of the week off. I was still hoping to be able to do my long run but since by Friday it still hurt to walk, I knew I had to skip it. Once the long run was skipped, if I waited until my next scheduled run, that would be 6 full days of not running. The longest I have ever not run (except for the week after the marathon) in over 2 years. I told myself that if it wasn’t better by the next Tuesday, it was time to call the doctor.
Anyway, it was slightly better after the 6 days of rest and ice and Aleve, but my run on Tuesday still hurt and I had to cut it short, so I called UPMC Sports Medicine as soon as they opened that day. I was able to get an appt for that Thurs. Later that afternoon, I remembered that I had heard KT tape could help and Fleet Feet just happened to post something on their Facebook page about it so I went out and picked some up that night. I was willing to try anything at that point! I watched the instructional video and my husband helped me put the tape on my hip and I set my alarm for my run the next morning. It was shockingly great! The tape allowed me to run with very minimal discomfort! Definitely not the pain that I was feeling before. I ran again on Thursday morning before the doctor appt with zero pain.
At the doctor’s office I learned that my problem was an extremely tight IT band in my hip area. He gave me some stretches to do and recommended taking it easy for a little while, plus the ice and foam rolling that I have been doing already. He said I could still run but to cut back the mileage and to stop if it aggravated the IT band too much. Luckily with the tape it doesn’t aggravate it at all. So I have been doing the stretches and taping up my hip for runs and it’s going fine. I can still feel the tightness in my hip but it’s getting better. I think my problem this time around is I have not been cross training as much. Time to go back to the gym! I start back next week. Fingers crossed for a better Sept and cooler weather!
August mileage: 89 miles. Sounds so low compared to what I’m used to! That puts me at 869 mi for the year. 431 to go!
Ann M.

Not unlike the rest of 2012, August has been a crazy, crazy month! I started my new job and I’m jumping between two different houses until I can get my own apartment. Eating well and exercising has taken a backseat to “just survive!” But, I have to say that I don’t think I’m doing a terrible job. When I have the time I’ve been running and I make sure I pack healthy lunches and snacks each day. My situation isn’t optimal at the moment, but I’m making the best of it!
A friend of mine recently told me that I was her “idol” when it came to eating well and exercising, so even though I don’t feel like I’m doing a great job – other people think I am!
I’m still hoping to complete a Whole30 between now and the end of the year. I’m also hoping to take advantage of everything Pittsburgh has to offer – running trials, biking trials, etc. I just need to get used to this whole “real world” “adult” thing first.
Diane D.
Diane suffered an injury to her eye this past month and has been under a doctor’s care.  She told me that she’s set aside all of her goals and replaced them with a new one – don’t go blind!  Hopefully she’ll be back to her regular routine soon.
Brian R.
  • Reach a CrossFit Total of 800  – I’m not aware of my progress this month because I didn’t track anything, but I did some good work on back squats and deadlifts.  I feel good about things, and I’m looking forward to using this goal as a focus for the month of September.
  • Pack lunch for work everyday – Awesome progress this month. As a matter of fact, I’m having a hard time remembering if I failed at all during the month of August.  My wife and I made a big change in the way we do meal planning, and while it did have its challenges it also set me up very nicely to have something planned for lunch every single day.
  • Write 45,000 words – I was feeling pretty stagnant in this area, so sought some inspiration through work and through my wife regarding how to direct my thinking.  As a result I put down a full chapter on a new project and am preparing a query for a publisher.  Things feel great here, and I think the reason is that I’ve set aside some things that were frustrating me and I reduced my attention to a single objective.
Bill R.
Summer has been good to me.  I have been keeping up on all my goals — save one — I gained about 10 pounds from July to early August.  SO — I got serious and started counting my Weight Watcher points again and in 2 weeks, I was able to lose 11 pounds!!  I found myself nervous-eating-binging in June and July.  Lesson learned — stay focused!!  I am going to refocus now and try top lose another 10 by the end of September.
Matt C.
Received good news that was a direct result of my new workout regimen … During a biometric screening at work (done to get a discount on my health insurance), the doc said that my numbers are perfect and I’ve gained eight pounds since the last weigh in!!! Not sure if people can notice it by looking, but it’s nice to hear.
Jill C. (that’s me!)
Like in months past I have put aside all my goals to focus on recovering from my ankle injury, and I’m happy to report that I am seeing slow but steady improvement.  I was allowed to start back to running in August and do so very very slowly, both in speed and in intensity.  My physical therapist, Steve, (who you’ll hear more about next week) has been really great and patient with me.  He seems to understand how important it is to me to get back to my old routine.
I’ve returned to CrossFit and will hopefully restart my efforts to get a pull-up!  Maybe I’ll have something to report in the September review.
A little late, but that’s the August of 2012.  Some stumbles and some setbacks, but some good successes too.
If you are interested in joining us, it is never too late to set a goal and work towards it! Send me an email with the thing(s) you’d like to tackle in 2012 and you’ll join the ranks of these fine folks.  That’s all it takes.  It doesn’t matter WHEN you start pursuing your goals, it just matters that you DO start.