Sunday, December 08, 2013

Paleo Salted Caramel Chocolate Bacon Bark

I think that every word in that title is awesome. Any one of those in a dessert is great and if you combine them, its like multiplying awesomness.  At my CrossFit box's holiday party, they were going to have a paleo recipe contest.  When I read this recipe on Civilized Caveman's blog, I knew it was the one I was going to make.

George, from Civilized Caveman, got a copy of The Paleo Chocolate Lover's Cookbook, and he shared the recipe on his blog.  My local library has 16 copies and one is on hold for me. I'm waiting with bated breath.

All in all, its pretty easy to make, but it does take some time to allow the chocolate and caramel to cool.  When I made a larger, second batch, I actually took advantage of the unusually cold weather we were having in Seattle to cool my caramel on the back porch!
My daughter helped me with these photos. The film strip doesn't do them justice.
Don't worry that the recipe has warnings to wear gloves, the coconut milk and sugar don't seem to get as hot as non-paleo caramel's cream and sugar, but do use a large enough pan.  I made a single batch in a 2 quart sauce pan and it does bubble up.  Do clear a bit of space in your fridge so that you can fit your chocolate to cool on a flat space.
Reading the recipe on my borrowed tablet on a Belkin Tablet Chef Stand!

Also, give it plenty of time to cook.  My first batch, I cooked a little hotter than my second batch and it came out much more like a sticky caramel candy, but it was harder to drizzle over the top of the chocolate.  My second batch, I simmered longer, but at a lower temperature, and it was a thick caramel sauce.

You'll see in one of my pictures, I wasn't using parchment paper, but some plastic wrap.  Make sure whatever layer you use covers the sides of your pan, don't just use a Silpat. The chocolate will leak under and stick to the pan and you won't get nice bark.
Bacon, bacon, bacon!
I also had one not-really-a-problem problem.  Both times, I had too much bacon.  I mean, too much bacon for my candy, but between my kids and I, we ate it right up.  Some problems, like high sales rates, are good problems to have.

The Paleo Salted Caramel Chocolate Bacon Bark was a hit at the party, even among the people that weren't all that into sweet and savory combined into one.  Alas, it was not the winning recipe of the night; that honor went to a Korean BBQ chicken recipe.  I'll admit it, it was really great chicken, cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of smokiness from the grill.

If you make it, let me know how it goes!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Paleo Sriracha Chicken Thighs

Yesterday for dinner, my 11 year old son and I made Sriracha Chicken Thighs.  I had seen this Orange Sriracha Chicken recipe on one of my favorite paleo recipe websites, Nom Nom Paleo, but didn't have half of the ingredients.  But I had a fresh orange and sriracha sauce so I decided to make something loosely based upon her recipe. And I had a hungry helper.
Heather takes the best pictures of food.
We made a simple, dual purpose sauce and marinade and baked the chicken.  Pretty easy and he got to continue to play Xbox during the time it took to warm up the oven and cook the chicken.

A few notes about this recipe.  Firstly, I used the convection setting on our oven. That contributed to the nicely browned and mostly crisp, chicken skin.  I cooked it skin side up first, then flipped it, and flipped it back again to finish it.  When the skin side was down, the skin got a little soggy and didn't quite crisp up the same when I finished it skin side up. So, start it skin side down or don't flip it at all.

Secondly, I used the marinade as part of my glaze.  I've been taught that this is not a good thing to do, because the marinade picks up beasties from the meat.  I figured that I was going to reduce the marinade that it would cook/kill them and I added a little water so that it would stay at a higher heat a little longer while reducing.  If that makes you uncomfortable, make more sauce than I show below and keep them separate.

I hadn't planned on turning this dinner into a post, but the comments on some of the photos were encouraging me to post a recipe, so here goes. Thanks for the encouragement!

Sriracha Chicken Thighs

10 minutes preparation, 20 - 30 minutes marination, 40 minutes cooking


Juice of one orange
Big squeeze of Sriracha, maybe a tablespoon or so
About 1/4 cup of finely diced red onion
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
Big teaspoon of honey
10 chicken thighs, skin on
Sesame seeds
Small amount of chopped parsley

  1. Turn on your oven to 400 degrees on Convection bake.  
  2. Prepare the sauce. Combine the orange juice, sriracha sauce, onion and salt and stir until combined.  Taste it and add some honey to take the edge off.  Or don't taste it and just add the honey, then taste it to see if its not too hot.
  3. Put the chicken thighs in a big ziploc bag with about half of the sauce to marinade. Let it marinate until your oven is up to temperature or you've played a few games of Call of Duty multiplayer.
  4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, maybe two of them depending upon the size of your thighs (the chicken thighs, silly). 
  5. Remove the thighs from the bag and arrange them on the baking sheets, skin side down. Give them some space so that they'll brown and not steam each other. Save the marinade for reduction, if you're going to do that.  Put them in the oven for 20 minutes. You'll flip them at that point.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, reduce the sauce in a small saucepan over pretty high heat.  If you're using saved marinade, add a little water, a little less than a 1/4 cup, so that it can boil for longer.  When the marinade part has reduced, add the remaining sauce and reduce it again.  Once it has been reduced, remove the sauce from heat and wait for the chickens. The sauce shouldn't be runny, but not as thick as a jam.
  7. After cooking the thighs for 20 minutes, flip them skin side up and cook them for another 15 minutes.  This should result in nicely browned skin.
  8. After the 15 minutes or when the chicken is pretty much cooked and the skin is nice and crisp, spread the sauce on your thighs (still the chicken thighs), on the skin side. Put them back in the oven for about 5 minutes to kind of turn the sauce into a glaze.
  9. When they're done or you're ready to eat, put the chicken thighs on a serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley and sesame seeds.
  10. Eat and enjoy!

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bring your tablet into the kitchen with a Tablet Chef Stand

I enjoy cooking and I enjoy technology.  Probably the only thing better than combing the two is cooking while hiking.  But I digress a little.

I'm a recipe clipper. I read several newspaper's cooking columns, I subscribe to Sunset magazine, a bunch of cooking newsletters and I follow some awesome cooking blogs. I've got 1,232 notes in my Recipe Notebook in Evernote, my largest notebook.

Almost always, I read the recipe I'm following on my phone.  I have a 3 inch ring binder with recipes printed out, but many times, I just go back to the website on my phone.

My phone usually has coconut oil smears and spices in the case.  I've even learned that drips of water (yes, dangerous) are read as a finger touch on my phone's screen.

I was given a Belkin Tablet Chef Stand + Stylus to use in the kitchen and an tablet to try out with it. It's pretty awesome, it holds the device two ways and the stylus helps keep my messy fingers off the phone. And to make it even better, it all wipes clean, maintaining its shiny finish.

It's great having my recipe from some of my favorite Paleo cooking blogs, like Nom Nom Paleo and PaleoOMG on a big, easily readable device, angled so that I can best see it while cooking.  An internet connected device is a great cooking tool, it ranks up there with my Santuko knife.

Paloe Pumpkin Pie Granola Parfaits from PaleOMG.
Another one of my foodie passions is coffee. I recently purchased an Aeropress and attended a workshop at Caffe Vita for different methods to brew coffee. There is a lot of science to the art of brewing, but brew time is an important factor.  My phone has become my kitchen timer and the stand works great for that!
Using my phone as a kitchen timer.
And with the right recipe, I'll even eat squash! 
Recipe clipped from a magazine photograph.
And if any of Santa's Elves are reading this, that Galaxy Note 8 in the pictures was a loaner. I don't actually have a tablet but AT&T offers $100 off any tablet with two-year service agreement. Hint, hint!

What are your favorite online recipe websites or cooking apps?

Disclaimer: While I've got to return the Galaxy Note Tablet, the stand was mine to keep for reviewing it in this post.  I think its pretty cool and wouldn't have written about it if I didn't really think that was cool.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Farm Fresh Brussels Sprouts

Fresh on the stalks. Did you know they grew this way?
I received some Brussels Sprouts from Farmstr and turned them into Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers and Lemony Browned Butter, a recipe I found on the Seattle Times All You Can Eat Blog.  Farmstr, a Seattle startup that connects local farmers and consumers.  It helps support sustainable farming and putting farm fresh food on people's table at reasonable prices.  When they offered my wife a box of Brussels, I was all over that as I love Brussels Sprouts. In fact, it got me into a Brussels Sprouts mood, so this is a two-fer of Brussels Sprouts.

I met Janelle, the Farmstr CEO, in front of my office in South Lake Union.  She drove there in an old half-ton Ford pick up truck, with the box of Brussels Sprouts in the back.  We were having a great chat about the benefits of paleo eating and what Farmstr had to offer and generally how cool the whole process was when the cops decided that they didn't like how she had parked and cut our exchange short.

That's how Farmstr works (minus the cops); farmers setup drop-off points and people reserve their eggs, grass fed beef or whatever is in season.  These sprouts came from Stanwood because the farmer's original, commercial buyer wanted Brussels in their store earlier than anticipated, so they needed a buyer once they were ripe.  And I lucked out.

One of the easiest way to cook Brussels Sprouts is roasting them.  Season, toss with your favorite oil and throw them in the oven.  You don't even have to turn them mid-way through, but it helps.

Brussels sprouts this way taste great, but they taste even better with a bit of acid. This recipe did it with both lemons and capers.  While the Brussels sprouts roasted, I browned some butter added capers and lemon juice and BOOM, insta-sauce.

I made meatloaf muffins and some pan fried sweet potatoes to accompany the Brussels Sprouts and had a nice, paleo meal for my family. With locally produced vegetables, from a farmer that I could actually meet and a farm I could actually visit, no less.

I had Brussels Sprouts on my mind.  After eating meatloaf with roasted Brussels Sprouts Friday night, I had planned Saturday's dinner to use more sprouts.  I had some delicata squash, a pork loin and was going to cream the Brussels Sprouts, but figure out how to do it Paleo.

But life got in the way and my daughter's swim meet went rather late.  Then Heather roasted some sprouts with sausage and used the last of the Farmstr sprouts.  I wasn't going to be stopped, though.  I got some sprouts at my grocery store, which cost $0.20 per pound more than the fresh sprouts from Stanwood, Washington.

I found this recipe on Saveur Magazine, Creamed Brussels Sprouts, and decided to give it a go.  The recipe calls for cream (hence the name), which alas is not paleo.  But coconut milk is!  So, I replaced the cream and sugar with a whole can of full fat coconut milk, and it worked great!

How do you like to eat Brussels Sprouts? Let me know in the comments.  I haven't even mentioned how good they are with bacon or better yet, pancetta.  If I had more sprouts, that would be my next way to prepare them.

Read more about Farmstr on their FAQ and if you're around Seattle, check out what they have to offer and if you like Brussels Sprouts, get some!

I wasn't compensated for this post, other than some Brussels Sprouts and its all my opinion.  I think Community Supported Agriculture is pretty cool and eating, clean, real food is good for you.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Baked Eggs in Avocados

A few weeks back was my 17th wedding anniversary.  Though our anniversary fell on Saturday, I planned on taking Friday off so I could spend some time with my wife (try it, its way better than working).  The night before, my wife got this text message from her sister.  It served as the inspiration for our anniversary breakfast the next day.

Baking eggs in an avocado is pretty simple. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and put an egg into the hollow of an avocado.  Depending upon the size of your egg and the size of the avocado seed, you might need to scoop some extra avocado out.  I didn't do that and lost quite a bit of egg white in the over flow.  But then you get to eat some avocado early, as a preview of whats to come.

Season with salt and pepper and bake the avocado for 20 to 25 minutes. I think that baked eggs are really good, but they take longer to cook than you think.  When it's done drizzle with your favorite hot sauce, I like the sriracha because its thicker and holds its shape.

The texture of the avocado didn't really change with baking, as sometimes warm mushy things can be weird to eat. With some bacon and coffee (and the obligatory glass of water), it makes a great breakfast! 

You can use an avocado as a little bowl for all kinds of things.  I sometimes will make tuna salad and fill the avocado.  Let me know what kinds of things you like to put in your avocados!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

HDMX Jam Classic Speaker Review

I remember getting my first radio. It was the one from my Dad's workshop, with blobs of plaster dripped on it and a rather out of place replacement power knob. But it started my enjoyment of music.

My second was a boom box. I split the purchase with my parents. It was pretty cool, with detachable speakers and a tape deck. I could record music off the radio to listen to whenever I wanted. I started buying music, my first cassette was a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts album.

When I graduated from high school, I bought a pretty nice Denon receiver, CD changer.  It came to me with college and yes, my room mate and I had two 100+ watt stereos in our small dorm room.

A few years after getting out of the army, I upgraded my receiver and added as sub-woofer to the mix. This receiver was 5.1, so we stepped up to the world of surround sound on our DVD player.

I enjoy my music and listening to it in the best possible way; I've replaced my iPhone ear buds with some some noise-isolating Klipsch headphones.

I've never really gotten into listening to music on my phone, the built-in speakers just don't do justice for the music. But as more music is available with services like Pandora and Spotify, I'm beginning to listen to music on my phone.  It's been nice, as I read at night in bed, my phone is there charging and I listen to some music.

AT&T generously provided my wife with a HMDX Jam Classic bluetooth speaker, which means I get to play with it too.
The small, rechargeable speaker connects to my phone via bluetooth and does have a mini-stereo jack so I can use my iPod, too.  No wires necessary makes it pretty convenient; I just walk in my room, turn on the speaker and it automatically connects.

I only read for about 30 minutes a night and I charge every other week or so.  The user's guide indicates that it has 4 hour battery life, and do I think that the battery would last for a day at the beach or for a picnic.

The sound quality is good, considering the size of the speakers.  I can't turn it up to 11, but it does get pretty loud. I enjoy music that has a good deal of bass, and though this speaker won't vibrate my pants, its a huge improvement over my phone's built in speaker.

Its a great speaker for a kid's room, they're bright and colorful and could pair it to a computer, phone or any other bluetooth capable device. Maybe it'll get your kid started on a path towards being an audiophile.

Just so you know, I wasn't compensated for this post, unless I get to keep the speakers, as they were really given to Heather to review. The post embodies my honest opinion.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Cooking with swag

Having recently attended the 2013 International Food Blogger's Conference, we came home with a great deal of swag, particularly small sized samples of gourmet and healthy food.  You might have seen Heather's picture of our counter.  Being local, which meant we drove home each night, many companies would push us to take their extras. And we sure did, didn't we?

Last weekend, with the onset of fall in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to make Pumpkin Spice Almond Butter Muffins, which I saw posted on Hybrid Athlete.  Not only were the muffins paleo and had fall flavors, the recipe called for ingredients which I had received as swag at the conference.

The honey, vanilla and cinnamon were all conference swag.

Manuka Doctor Honey - Manuka honey from New Zealand with supposed health benefits.  But what is really awesome about it is the flavor and consistency.  It's thick, not like runny corn syrup honey with a nice floral taste.  While I've cooked with it some, I've probably eaten just as much straight from a spoon.

Lagrima Vanilla - Lagrima Vanilla is a local, boutique vanilla producer. The vanilla is smooth, without that bite that comes from most commercial vanilla. They use Ugandan beans and manufacture just a few cities north of me. I hope to check out their production facility someday and share that adventure on my blog.

Yen Bai Cinnamon - Sahale Snacks has scoured the earth and found the best tasting cinnamon in the forests of Viet Nam.  It has a much brighter flavor than other cinnamons I've tasted, with spicy bite more like red hots.

The muffins were a nice treat to welcome fall. My kids snatched up four before I even had a chance to eat any. Luckily, I was able to save some for my breakfasts at work - the idea was to make breakfast for the week, but alas, after my kids, there were only enough for two breakfasts (with some nice leftover frittata).

Using a few tips I got during the food photography sessions with Andrew Scrivani (just go watch his blog for a few minutes), I took this picture for your enjoyment!

Eat clean and stay fit!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Paleo Cookies for Cavemen

My wife was lucky enough to get a sampling of Caveman Cookies and I was lucky enough to get to eat them.  We've been on a journey, changing the way we eat and workout, following the Paleo lifestyle.  Treats have changed as well.  Caveman Cookies are a gluten-free, all natural paleo cookie treat. 
The cookies were sweet and chewy, with subtle flavors. I was partial to the New World Cookie, with pumpkin and cranberries and the little bit of spice in the Rain Forest cookie.  Sadly, they don't have a chocolate chip cookie (made with dark chocolate to keep it paleo). Yet.  They've since added a hazelnut and carob based cookie which would be pretty nice to try.

These cookies are not crisp cookies, but soft and chewy. That's not something that everybody goes for, but I'm a chewy cookie kind of guy. A nice, chewy molasses cookie.

These are great cookies to keep around as snacks. I have two still in my messenger back, waiting for when I need a paleo treat.  But, keep in mind, its a paleo treat. That doesn't make it the same as a cookie with wheat flour, sugar and butter.  Save those for your cheat days and grab a Caveman cookie on the day that you want to be good, but still treat your self.

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post, other than cookies. I'll do a lot for cookies (like donate blood), but it'll still be ethical and honest.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Changing a timer switch with Dad

"Hey, do you want to get electrocuted," I yelled up the stairs.

Slightly interested, Kid 3 came down the stairs. I knew how to lure in an 11 year old.

"Let's do some electrical work. You always get electrocuted when you do electrical work."

I had to swap out the timer for the whole house fan.  It hasn't worked all summer and since summer is almost over (I actually hope it sticks around for a while), I really needed to get it changed.  It would  be a simple job, pull out the old one, wire cap the new one in and BOOM, the whole house fan would be on a timer.

He had a slight look of chagrin. "Okay, we can do it together, and it's best to turn off the electricity when you do electrical work."

So, he and I went out to the garage, I turned off the furnace circuit and he verified it (team work!) was off and we got started.  He removed the old face plate and loosened the switch from the box. I showed him to check for any contacts before pulling out the switch, but he pulled it out.

I removed the old wire caps and showed him how to put on new ones.  He got the wires spliced together and then screwed everything back in again.

Now we have a working timer on the whole house fan and he knows a bit about electrical work.

And I didn't even make a shock sound as he touched some bare piece of metal.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

International Food Blogger's Conference 2013

International Food Blogger Conference 2013 SeattleLater this month, I'm going to take a day off from work. Yep, a vacation day. I've been looking forward to this one for a while. The third weekend of September, Seattle is hosting the International Food Blogger's Conference. It's going to be three days of tasting, learning blog techniques and meeting other foodies!

The breakout sessions look to be pretty interesting.  I'm particularly looking forward to several of them. 

As my family has made the transition to living Paleo and eating clean, I've been taking many food photos on Instagram. I've been working on my food presentation because food that looks good tastes better.  Andrew Scrivani, from the New York Times, will be giving a food photography presentation. It looks to be pretty interesting and many people on the internet are excited about it too!

I'm a geek and a geek that likes to cook.  I've read about Sous Vide and how you can make a DIY sous vide cooker.  Combining science (and geeky science) with cooking is just awesome.  Scott Heimedinger is going to lead a breakout session on "everything you've ever wanted to know about cooking sous vide at home."  His title is Director of Applied Research at Modernist Cuisine, how cool is that? I'm hoping to learn a lot about this technique (and maybe hoping for some really cool swag like a sous vide machine).

I blog to keep my writing skills up, which does pay off.  But there will be a few breakout sessions on how to make your blog more effective and make a bigger impact.  I'm a fan of continual learning and self-improvement, so these sessions have made my list.  And when the presentation is made by a writer for the New York Times, I'm sure I can learn a thing or two (or three or four).

Through out all this, I'm looking forward to eating samples from interacting with brands I already know and love like Dry Soda, LaraBar, Chipotle and Bob's Red Mill.  It'll be neat to learn about Northern Divine, a caviar producer in British Columbia!

We're going to get to taste some of the great local Seattle food scene with tastings and even a dinner with a sampling menu from some excellent Seattle restaurants.  Send me to Cupcake Royale for dinner, please!

I hope I didn't make you drool on your keyboard, but you've got to agree, it looks like its going to be a fun few days.

If you're going to be at IFBC, let me know in the comments, maybe follow me on Twitter or add me to your IFBC list. I've got my IFBC list and I'd be happy to add you to it! I look forward to meeting other bloggers who love food like I do!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Row, row, row your boat

I'm pretty proud of my wife.

Yesterday, one of the workouts for the CrossFit games was to row a half-marathon. Yes, 13.1 mile or 21,097 meters.  A crazy distance. I would describe it as mind-numbing, as well as what it would do to your body parts.

Hearing about this workout and with her love of rowing, she decided that she was going to do the half-marathon row.  She started trying to convince me on Twitter that I should do it too.  And while I'm not opposed to doing it, I wasn't ready to do it yesterday afternoon.  I had already committed to my daughter to return her library and my overdue ones. Pretty important stuff, wouldn't you say?

When I got home from work, no one was there. I assumed that she had started her slog. So, I grabbed some protein powder and after returning the library books was on my way to Cascade CrossFit to cheer her on.

Go figure. She was so fast, she had already finished when I left the library.  One hour, 49 minutes.  Only 5 minutes behind the games competitors.  Pretty cool, isn't she?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Automating and securing your house with AT&T Digital Life

Have you ever left your house and only after a few miles away, started to wonder if you locked the front door? Lay there there in bed wondering if you (or your kids) remembered to close the garage door.  AT&T recently launched a new product, AT&T Digital Life, in 15 metropolitan areas that can help with these problems.  I recently got to see it in action at a home in Seattle.

While enjoying appetizers from Lark, the homeowner showed us how is house had been secured with Digital Life, from a camera and keypad lock on the front door, to automated lights in his backyard and living room, to a water alarm in his laundry room.

Just about everything in his house could be monitored and automated. At 7 PM, the lights in the living room turned on - twilight was setting in at that hour.  We were able to tilt and pan the camera in the downstairs to find where the dog was hanging out.

Through a web (or smartphone) application, we were able to review who walked up to his front door.  A novelty for a social gathering, we were able to see how fashionably late we were, but great to see who came to your door during the day. I'm lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where stealing mail or from open garages is the biggest crime, and this could help.  An Amazon package, could sit on my doorstep all day and Digital Life watches it, the motion activated camera turning on when my kid comes home and brings it in, or the nefarious thief comes by and snatches it from the front door.  I might not catch them in the act, but I'd get their smiling mug on camera.

On top of scheduled automation, there is even based automation. Your kid comes home after school, lets themselves in with their code on the keypad and you get an email letting you know they came home. Using the camera, you could see who they brought home and if they forgot to lock the door, you can do that from your smartphone or computer at work.

Many of us have timer thermostats, turning on just before you wake or come home, saving money not cooling or heating an empty home, but keeping it comfortable when you're there.  With Digital Life, you can adjust it remotely if you're coming home earlier, so its warm and inviting when you get home.  Weather in Seattle is always changing and a day that starts out cool can end up rather warm.  With Digital Life, you could reset your thermostat so your air conditioner kicks in, if you didn't set it just so before you left in the morning.

I've been awoken at 2 AM by the police just to let me know that my garage door was open. It happens all the time that my kids forget to close the garage door. With Digital Life, I could check it from my smart phone and from the comfort of my bed, close the garage door using my smart phone.  I could go as far as schedule an email of the door's status at 10 PM every night.

If you follow my wife on Instagram, you've probably seen our old dog, Sebbie. Most of the time, he lays in the family room, but he's old and sometimes his legs give out and he falls in the middle of the floor.  With the pan and tilt cameras, we could ensure that he hasn't fallen down. If he has, we could call a neighbor, unlock the door for them and lock it after they help him up. See what your pet would say.

I love the idea of being able to automate and remotely control things in my house, along with the sense of security that comes with a monitored alarm solution. The typical door and glass break sensors are available, though in a much smaller form factor.

I frequently shop for dinner on my way home from work and it would be really awesome if I could remotely pre-heat my oven as I leave the grocery store. But alas, that feature isn't available yet.

How would you use Digital Life to make your life simpler and safer? Learn more about AT&T Digital Life and let me know your favorite feature in the comments.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Besides yummy appetizers from Lark and Dry Soda, I was not compensated for this post. The opinions are all mine, as are the crazy ideas on how I'd be checking up on my kids!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Always Moving Forward - 10 Months of CrossFit

One of the foundations of CrossFit are named Work Outs of the Day (WOD). Some are purely benchmarks and some, Hero WODs, pay homage to those that have given their life in service to their country and community.  Cascade CrossFit does our benchmark WODs on Mondays.

This week, the Hero WOD JT was in our training.  This WOD honors Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2005, along with 16 other soldiers and sailors when their helicopter was shot down.  From

Taylor was part of a dedicated Naval Special Warfare team fighting the Taliban, a fundamentalist regime that a U.S.-led coalition knocked from power in Afghanistan in 2001, but has continued to conduct guerilla operations, particularly along the Pakistan border. Taylor worked to help ensure al Qaeda terrorists could not train in, nor launch strikes from Afghanistan since their lethal attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.Jeffrey Taylor enlisted in the Navy in 1994 and became a Hospital Corpsman. After graduating from BUD/S, Taylor was assigned to SEAL Team EIGHT, the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, and SEAL Team TEN. He deployed to Afghanistan in April 2005.
Jeffrey Taylor was one of 16 troops killed when a MH- 47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan on June 28, on a daring daylight mission to reinforce a four-man SEAL reconnaissance squad that had been ambushed in 8,000- foot mountainous terrain.
Taylor, seven other SEALs, and eight Army “Nightstalker” Commandos died in their heroic attempt to rescue their fellow SEALs. LT Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz fought on courageously, providing protective fire for a fourth squad member to escape, before they were killed in the fierce firefight by overwhelming Taliban forces.
A total of 11 SEALs died that day in the Global War against Terror. It was the biggest single loss of life for Naval Special Warfare forces since World War II. To a man, these SEALs embodied the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment, and took care of their teammates to the end.
Jeffrey Taylor is remembered with the greatest respect and gratitude by his fellow SEALs, the Navy, and our nation. is remembered with the greatest respect andgratitude by his fellow SEALs, the Navy, and our nation.
This WOD consists of
21 Handstand push-ups, Ring dips and Push-ups
then 15 Handstand push-ups, Ring dips and Push-ups
then 9 Handstand push-ups, Ring dips and Push-ups

Its pretty tough. Hero WODs are that way, paying homage to how tough hero are.  It was also my first benchmark WOD when I started CrossFit 10 months ago.

That first day, I remember thinking that this WOD was going to kill me and I just had to finish it.  I had to modify every exercise, pike push-ups instead of hand stand push ups, thick rubber bands on the ring dips, push ups on my knees.  It took me 23 minutes to get through it.

Sunday night, I saw it posted on the blog that our WOD the next day was JT.  I knew it was still going to kick my butt, but it was going to be exciting to see how my time has changed.  I've come along way since I started, but these are pretty tough exercises.  I can get up into a handstand and hold myself up, but no push up, about 1 in 4 attempts.  I still use a band for the ring dips, but its the smallest one we've got.

But it took me just under 17 minutes this time around.

Ten months of dedication to a CrossFit lifestyle is paying off.  Every (weekday) morning, I get up and head to Cascase CrossFit for the 6AM workout. I push myself everyday and I'm always moving forward.  I competed in the CrossFit Open, comparing my performance to other CrossFitters world-wide. There were olympic lifts I couldn't do, but there were also times when I put more weight over my head than ever before.  You won't see me in the CrossFit Games with these elite athletes, but you will see me pushing myself to be my best.  I'm competing with myself.

 What do you do to challenge your self?  Do something today that makes you better than yesterday.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Twitter is an awesome pick me up

Pardon the lack of formatting; I'm writing this from my phone. My afternoon at work was sort of cruddy, so I went on Twitter to post about pigeons and statutes and which one I felt like when I saw this Tweet:

Meagan (@meagwhit) tweeted at 3:21 PM on Tue, May 21, 2013: Some days Crossfit is really the only thing that keeps me going.

It brightened my afternoon. I do have a lot more going for me than just CrossFit,  but it was that reminder that made me focus on the good parts rather than the bad.

I've got a family that loves me, a warm house over my head, my health and more. I've got a full social calendar this week with my wife after work, so I've got plenty to look forward to each day.

When you're feeling like the statue, focus on the good parts of your day. Its that, "This too shall pass" truism.

Monday, May 20, 2013

FareStart Guest Chef Spectacular

The FareStart Guest Chef Spectacular is this Thursday, May 23rd.  FareStart is Seattle non-profit that provides job training and placement to homeless and disadvantaged people.  On a weekly basis, one of the many great Seattle chefs donate their time to help train the students.  Over six thousand people have been trained through Fare Start's programs over the last 21 years.

As a result, you've got a great restaurant, doing a great thing, with a variety of great chef's doing the planning.  Good food and doing a good thing, all rolled up into one.

The Guest Chef Spectacular will be a tasting event with over 20 chefs contributing.  There will be live music, espresso from Cafe Vita and ice cream from Snoqualmie Ice Cream.  Local wineries and distilleries will be participating as well.  I'm looking forward to samples from the burgeoning distilleries here in Washington.  It will be a great way to get tastes of the great food from Seattle.

Update 23 May 1pm  from
Tonight's Guest Chef Spectacular Has Been Cancelled 
During set-up for our Guest Chef Spectacular event at Showbox SoDo, a structural beam in the ceiling cracked. The building was evacuated safely and there were no injuries. Under the counsel of a structural engineer, the venue has been closed for the evening and we are cancelling the event. We will be issuing full refunds to all ticket holders and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We are happy to report that all food from the evening will be utilized for our shelter meal program and will be delivered to area homeless shelters and will not go to waste. We thank everyone for their understanding. Thank you.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Yesterday's leftovers make an awesome breakfast

Food by Beau, photo by Heather.
Yesterday for dinner, I made lettuce wrap tacos with honey ancho Chile  glazed sweet potatoes. I still cooked 3 pounds of lean ground beef even though we were one athlete down at our house.
I was pleased to see that their were leftovers and I planned on turning them into a nice scramble this morning.

As I was cleaning my espresso machine and cooking my eggs at the same time, I got a little side tracked and my scramble turned into more of an omelet.  Still quite delicious.

About a week ago, I was preparing breakfast in the office and one of my co-workers noticed I was eating Paleo. She wasn't paleo herself, but someone on her team was, so she recognized it. We started talking about it and the health gains I have made since I started and she asked me if I ever felt deprived or bored being limited to certain foods.

I don't feel limited at all. There are so many combinations that you can make. Take my taco dinner, for example. If it wasn't in lettuce leaves and all mixed together it would have been a hash,waiting for a nice tomatillo sauce to be poured on top.  The same ingredients make a great breakfast scramble, which saves a ton of time.

Paleo - not only am I healthier but it helps me save time (with a little advanced preparation).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Automation to stop texting and driving

I've been on a big kick to leverage automation in my life lately.  I've been using If This Then That as a way to trigger actions based upon events (primarily email I've received).  I wrote a script to download some reports every week, so I don't have to spend the time to do it.  I've spent the weekend working on a software project to monitor and respond to activity on a certain social network.  This post will go online on a schedule; I wrote it Sunday night. But more on these things later.

I also spend a lot of time on the road - not travelling, road warrior style, but commuting. However, my commute is pretty pleasant for two major reasons. First, it's not that long, just a little over 30 minutes and second, I ride a van pool.  While I do drive, I don't drive everyday, so I get a good break from the stress of the road.  However, when I'm a passenger, a day doesn't go by when I don't see someone talking or texting on their phone.  On average, there is a car crash once every 5 minutes due to a driver texting!

I've had the opportunity to use a Pantech Discover from AT&T, the first AT&T smartphone designed to help prevent texting while driving. It comes with the AT&T Drive Mode application, which automagically kicks in when the phone is moving faster than 25 mph.  When it is active, most apps are blocked, most callers are sent straight to voice mail and text messagers get an auto-reply message with out any notifications.  You can white list a few phone numbers (so that your spouse can call you) and you can allow a music and a navigation application.  Any other applications are met with a screen indicating that Drive Mode is active.

In my case, I'm a passenger a lot, so I've discovered that it is pretty easy to turn it off - simply hitting two on screen buttons.  But if you're driving, it makes you think that much more "Is it really that important to check my phone right now?"

When I'm driving, my phone sits in a cup holder and now, it just sits there silently. No temptations to answer it, no temptation to increase my risk of car crash 23 times!  The phone just does its thing automatically, one less thing to think about.  That is what I really love about automation - things just get taken care of.

As with any technology, there are a few watch outs.  My wife is more likely to text me than to call, which can be problematic if she wants me to pick up something to make for dinner on the way home from work - I won't know to check the message until I'm at home, already having driven past the grocery store.  She's on my white list, so I know that if the phone rings while I'm driving, its someone worth pulling over for.

Unless you manage that white list well, you are allowing the phone to make the decision for you, rather than see who is calling and decide if you're going to stop to take the call. I do like setting contact photos so I can quickly see who is calling and make a decision if I'm going to answer or not.  They can listen to my radio while I put in my headset and turn on blue tooth.

I have fairly good self-control, unless small pieces of chocolate, easy to pop in your mouth are involved, so its easy for me to just let the phone ring or beep that someone texted me.  I've got some personalized ring tones which make me grin, so its alright to listen to them.  But if you're someone with less self-control or a new teen driver, this automation is just one more decision point - is it worth it to answer the phone.  Its far better to have your phone remind you that it can wait, rather than the State Patrol telling you.

Over half the states have laws restricting or prohibiting the use of mobile phones and in some of them, its a primary offense that you can be pulled over for.  So even if you think you're a good enough driver and your reaction times aren't impaired (sounds a lot like a drunk driver argument, doesn't it?), you're still at risk.

Automation is meant to make your life simpler, so that things are taken care of and that you can be present in the moment.  And when you're behind the wheel, that is where your focus needs to be.
Ralley Team 2007
One of my Ralley Crew is now a driver himself!

I've been overall impressed by the Pantech Discover.  At only $49.99 in all AT&T channels, it's a great bargain. Its running Android 4.0 (which is a big step from Froyo on my old phone) and has a large, crisp 4.8" screen.  With the recent addition of LTE coverage in my area, I actually didn't realize that I wasn't on wifi at home for the first few days - its that fast.  Its processor is quick, so you can take care of everything you need to do and not try to squeeze it in while driving.  With the 12 Mega pixel camera and a battery that lasts me well into the evening, you'll be seeing more pictures of my dinners rather than just breakfasts!

Disclaimer: I received a phone as compensation for this post, but the opinions are mine.  Some of the factoids were provided by AT&T, so I had to do a little less research. But come on, we all know that driving distracted is dumb and  It Can Wait!

Monday, May 06, 2013

A few paleo living tips and tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks I've come across while making the transition to paleo-ish living.  It is a little harder to eat cleaner, but these are some things I've picked up along the way. Maybe they'll help make it easier for you.

Plan ahead

I go to a 6 AM CrossFit session and I want to get as much sleep as I possibly can.  So, every night, I layout my work out clothes at the end of my bed.  I choose my work clothes and pack them in my WOD bag (hopefully I remember shoes and underwear). My kids make fun of me for being like a little school boy, but I can get out of the house and be ready for the day (lunch is also made the night before) in less than 17 minutes.

But I also make my breakfasts for the week on Sunday afternoon.  Many paleo living bloggers cook for a full week of meals and vegetables. I'm not that far along yet, but I'll grill some chicken and fry some bacon and take some avocados in to the office for the week.  I dice the chicken and bacon and warm it in the microwave and serve with diced avocados.  Even vegetarians have commented that it looks like a good breakfast!

I keep it constantly varied by changing up the spices. I can make Asian, Thai, Mexican, Italian or Greek chicken all for breakfast with different spices and marinades.  I'm not going to get bored eating paleo and I don't feel like I'm missing anything!

Be Prepared

This one goes hand in hand with Plan Ahead.  There are days when the WOD was much harder and my lunch just seems that much smaller.  But I carry what I call Emergency Food in my messenger bag.  I've got a couple of Lara Bars (almost all of them are paleo -  the ones with chocolate chips have added sugar and some have peanuts) or Goodness Knows Bars (not paleo) in there.  Sometimes they slip to the bottom of my bag and get smushed a bit, but a smushed one still fills the hole in my tummy!

My favorites are the Coconut Cream Pie and Chocolate Coconut Chew, but the Key Lime is a nice bright twist some times.  And as I was checking out their website, I noticed that there is a Cappuccino flavor that is also paleo.  Why doesn't my grocery store carry this flavor!

There is a similarity to carrying Gold Fish crackers (really not paleo) for your young children and what I'm doing, but mine isn't so crummy. And I don't whine, contrary to the ending of the previous paragraph.

Sweet Potatoes

I've recently discovered how magical Sweet Potatoes are.  The orange ones, sometimes called yams, are the ones I'm talking about. The white sweet potatoes are even more starchy and fall on the paleo to be avoided list, but the orange ones are more acceptable, especially from an athletic perspective (less so if you're paleo trying to lose weight).

Sweet potatoes are a great source of carbs for back loading and preparing for a workout.  They make great french fries (and if baked, they can be paleo).  But I knew all those things already.

What I recently discovered is that they microwave super easy and can be made into cubed or smashed sweet potatoes in my office lunch.  When topped with some bacon, dried herbs or leftover sauce from something slow-cooked they taste even better.  Once at home, I even fried some crushed sage leaves in coconut oil for pure paleo goodness on top of the sweet potatoes.

Vanilla whey protein powder

Okay, so this one isn't strict paleo but it fits in with the primal or paleo for athletes life-style.  Protein powder is an easy way to get calories and protein, especially in that critical 30 minutes post working out.  And that stuff is expensive!  Its an item on a very short list that I think that we should buy at Costco, because it doesn't spoil and its definitely a buy in bulk item.

The problem with Costco is trying something the first time. The Cytosport Vanilla Whey Protein is way too sweet, and that opinion was shared by all of my family. So, this 6 pound bag of liquid cake batter sat in the pantry for almost 6 months.  As we ran out of the Chocolate flavor and hadn't yet made the time consuming trip to Costco (there is no such thing as a quick Costco run), I started to use the cloyingly sweet Vanilla Whey protein.

I prepare my water bottle (see Plan Ahead, above) the night before. I fill it with the powder and after working out the next morning, I add the water at my CrossFit box.  I got the wild idea to put some instant coffee in with the powder, thinking it might take an edge off the sweetness.  It was a home-run! While it wasn't an excellent coffee drink, it was way better than cake batter drink. It was kind of like a frappuchino, but one that I felt better about drinking.  The slight bitterness of the instant coffee countered the overly sweet powder and made it drinkable.

Do you follow a paleo/primal lifestyle?  Share some tips that help you get by in the comments!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A new place to Frolik in downtown Seattle

Thursday night, I was able to go to a pre-opening event for Frolik: Kitchen + Cocktails at the Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue.  I'm not one to hang out in hotel restaurants in my hometown, but I could easily envision a future happy hour here - great eats, excellent cocktails and some fun things to while hanging out.

For this event, the restaurant had more of a party atmosphere with passed appetizers and a DJ and lots of blue light.  But it was great, because we were able to sample so much from their menu.

There are plenty of small plates to just pop in your mouth.  The bacon wrapped dates with their savory, sweet taste and grape, goat cheese and pistachio bon-bons and little dishes of warmed, marinated olives all made for great snacks.
Executive Chef Shailu Salian came up with many other delicious dishes, for all aspects of your palate.  Roast rainbow carrots with braised greens with a honey yogurt sauce and roasted brussels sprouts with almonds were superb vegetable dishes that appealed to my paleo-ish lifestyle, but there was a lot of cheating going on this night.

The tiramisu was wonderful, with a subtle coffee taste and the lady fingers were so light and airy I almost thought that they were accidentally omitted at first.  Bacon makes everything better and then when you add to that bourbon and popcorn, you get a grown up caramel popcorn, but not one that is cloyingly sweet.

I'm not a fan of lamb chops, but the lamb with peach chipotle jam was excellently prepared.  It had just the right amount of red in the middle, still moist and tender. But I still don't like lamb, its just me.

There were still some kinks. The smoked salmon deviled eggs didn't quite deliver. I'm a sucker for anything with smoked salmon, but these ones seemed like the salmon was forgotten.  The spicy melon popsicle was flavorful, but there was no spicy.  I'm sure those will be found in the kitchen and added to their rightful places. The kitchen seemed calm and collected for a first night and I'm sure that will carry over.

He gives a nod to the locals and have charcuterie from Salumi and oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms.  It was great to try different oysters and really savor the nuances of their flavors. I've had oysters before, but never realized the variations.  The guys shucking oysters were quite knowledgeable and made it quite an experience.  The crab mac n cheese was a gooey treat, crunchy with bread crumbs on top, sweet with crab and buttery with Beecher's Cheese, with a hint of spice in the afterbite.

The cocktail menu has twists on the classic cocktails. I'm sure they can make a fruity drink, but chartreuse and maraschino are well represented in their drinks.  I'd never had a cocktail made with scotch, but the Scotch and Tell is a winner.  The smokiness of the scotch just gives it a wonderful taste that I've never had before.

On a warm sunny Seattle afternoon, the huge patio would be a great place to sit or play.  There is shuffle board, ping pong tables and a hug fire place. The heat lamps look like giant lamps and will take the edge off of the damp Seattle air, if its not so sunny.

Anybody can find something to eat, drink or enjoy at Frolik.  Happy Hour runs daily 4 - 10pm and starting in the summer, they'll be showing movies on the patio. I'll try to catch one this summer, with a Scotch and Tell in hand and popping bourbon bacon popcorn in my mouth!

The restaurant officially opened April 19th, so go check them out!
Frolik Kitchen + Cocktails
5th floor Red Lion Hotel
1415 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98101
(206) 971-8000

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hip cooks at Hipcooks

This week I attended a cooking class at Hipcooks Seattle, courtesy of Goodness Knows snack squares, with a few bloggers and social media people from around Seattle.  As my blog has humble traffic and my Facebook feed is mostly filled with updates on my CrossFit workouts, I was pretty honored to be in that bunch.  Plus, I was the only guy in the class, so lunch with a bunch of ladies always works out.

I have to be honest, it started out with two faux pas on my part.  First, I messed up the calendar and put the wrong location down.  Instead of going someplace about 5 blocks from my work - walkable - we took a 15 minute drive, paid $4 to park and then drove back.  Luckily, we were ahead of schedule and were only a few minutes late to lunch.  Obviously, I was still flustered about the wrong location and when I was introduced to our host, Jenni Hogan, the first thing that came out of my mouth was "Hello. You're tall."  We've got a big flat panel TV and I've seen her do the traffic many times, but even on our big TV, she didn't seem model tall.  Evidently, she used to be a rower and she was wearing tall heels. And she's also probably the first big media personality that I've met.  I wonder if I would have been able to fit both feet in my mouth if I had been as lucky as Whit to interview Scarlett Johannsen (in my research for this post, I learned she canceled but Whit interviewed Samuel Jackson instead!).

We participated in Hipcooks Healthy, Fresh and Zingy class, making two red pepper soups and a seared tuna with fresh mango cucumber salsa.  I was a little concerned heading to a cooking class given my paleo-ish eating.  But with a name like Healthy, Fresh and Zingy I had little to worry about, although there is photographic evidence of me holding bread, gently rubbing it with heads of garlic.
I didn't eat any! Photo by @unitedstatesofmotherhood
The Hipcooks class was fun and about just cooking with your senses. No measuring, kind of a tough one for me, just doing it all by feel.  I do like a recipe as a starting point, but after I become familiar with it, I do it by feel.

I learned a few awesome things too.  When roast peppers, I usually cut them into slices before hand.  I lose the liquor, the juices from inside the pepper, so I'll be roasting peppers whole and then cutting them into slices/strips.  Our salsa had lime zest in it and we discussed using leftover zest to make citrus sugars which would make a nice hostess give or rimmer for a cocktail. I'd be interested in trying to make lemon pepper, as we've been eating a lot of chicken lately. I even learned how to pour two soups in a bowl and keep them separated and make a ying-yang look (sorry, no photos).

I wasn't the only one who was learning things - two of the ladies don't cook and they've got photographic evidence of them making some pretty good food now. And now, their friends want Kat to make it for them.
We chatted and snacked on Goodness Knows squares. They're pretty good, not paleo, but small enough that the amount of non-paleo things is pretty negligible.  A cheat with some grains and sugars, but all in all still a good snack.  Since there are four bites in a package, I could even cheat-snack and not feel too bad about it.  Its not like its a whole slice of bread.  I really like the Very Cranberry one (the only one I've tried so far), but my kids and wife like them a lot.  Goodness Knows snack bars will have a place in my messenger bag as emergency snack food. They're currently only available in Portland, Seattle and Denver, but if you pester them on twitter, I bet you could find out when they're coming to you!

After our snack, we went back to class and made a super easy strawberry sorbet. I've made sorbet before, but it involved sugar syrups and mashed berries and my ice cream maker.  This was just frozen strawberries, some vanilla bean paste and a blender!  Throw them all together, blend till smooth and enjoy! I think that this could even be made as a one person snack, say for when a kid comes home from school on a hot summer day (if we ever get those in the Pacific NorthWest).

It was a great break from work to cook and meet and network with some cool people.  I got to meet Kerri's new baby, who was quite possibly the quietest baby I've ever met.  Hopefully, with help from Kristin and my nagging, Heather will move her blog to Wordpress.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Things are going alright

This morning, a little after 5:30 am, I was driving down the road and I thought to myself, "Things are going alright."  It was a strange thought to jump in my head at that hour, as I'd been up for less than 15 minutes and was on my way to CrossFit.

My health is great, probably best its been in a decade and my energy levels are up, probably both due in part to CrossFit and eating Paleo.  I can do pull-ups, something 6 months ago I was not able to do. I competed in the CrossFit Open (a topic for a separate post) and was pleased with my performance.

Work has been busy, but rewarding. Today's reward was a rather large stage gate approving a rather large project with a rather large capital expense and it went without a hitch (other than the negative guy who appears to be trying to waylay the project - but I can take him).

I've had recently been in touch with several friends, some with updates, some asking for advice. One buddy had to switch jobs unexpectedly, but did so pretty quickly, which was good.  I was able to provide another friend some advice for a project he's working on.  I've got a job and I'm helping other people.  Little things, yes, but they contribute to my satisfaction.

My family is healthy.  My kids are happy and enjoying their spring break.  My wife is kicking butt at CrossFit.  We've got some productive carpools so she doesn't have to drive all the kids to all their swim practices all the time.

Yeah, things are going alright.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Paleo Preparations for the Upcoming Week

The slow cooker is stewing Stupid Easy Paleo's Moroccan Chicken with homemade Ras el Hanout spices from Clothes Make the Girl for dinner tonight.  Next week's Paleo blueberry muffins from PaleOMG are baking in the oven and the chicken is already grilled.  All that remains to prepare for tomorrow is gather my clothes to change into after 6AM CrossFit tomorrow morning.  I'm able to get out of the house in under 17 minutes and start my day.

Eating Paleo requires some planning in advance, especially when head straight from CrossFit to work in the morning. Deep down inside, I'm a planner and that advanced planning and preparation appeals to me. I don't mind that I'm going to eat blueberry muffins, avocado and grilled Thai seasoned chicken tenders all week for breakfast. I do miss that there won't be bacon in there this week, but that's part of the reason I made muffins.

Here's to a new week!  Eat clean.