Thanksgiving Menu 2010: Grateful for the bounty

Thanksgiving 2010 Menu

Nana's Whole Wheat Crescent Rolls
Nama's Armenian Pilaf
Mary's Free-Range Herb Roasted Turkey
Pomegranate-Pear Cranberry Sauce
Nana's Blueberry Pie
Vanilla Ice Cream

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it's a chance to celebrate two things I love: family and food. At the Gilmore Home, preparing the Thanksgiving feast is just as much fun as eating it because we all get together to prep and cook together. This year our table will be filled with our family, my parents, Ericlee's parents, my brother and sister-in-law and niece, a cousin and her baby and any of my hubby's students who are brave enough to join the party.

Our healthy journey over the last several years has meant seeking out and creating new healthy versions of Thankgiving faves. We've tackled our menu little by little, one dish at a time. Last year we ditched the traditional sweet potatoes with marshmallow sugar overload and added a Sweet Potatoes dish with Pomegranate & Mint. This year I'm serving up a new spin on sweet potatoes that I learned from my friend Sam Jessup at our church's "Taste of Friendship" event a few weeks ago. His Southwestern Roasted Sweet Potato Salad has a memorable Chipotle pepper kick. It's also a great addition because it can be made a few days ahead and still maintains that pop of flavor and healthy ingredients.

The biggest change or step we took this year was ordering a turkey through Whole Foods. Ericlee did a little research and found out that these cage-free birds are from a local Sanger family. Mary's Free Range Turkeys eat a vegetarian diet. They never have antibiotics or hormones. No preservatives are added to them. The little brochure explains, "Mary's Free Range Turkeys are raised the old fashioned way: with plenty of space. In the sunny San Joaquin Valley of California, the turkeys are humanely raised by allowing them to roam in a stress-free environment. With cleaner living quarters, a healthier and happier turkey is grown resulting in a wonderful taste." Sounded impressive to us. The cost was only $1.99/pound - We thought it would be much more.

Maybe you're like me and you're already skipping ahead to all the creative ideas you can employ with turkey after Thanksgiving. Here are some of my fave Thankgiving Leftovers options. This year I'm going to try out Turkey Mole - a recipe from my chef friend Willie Bezemer. I can hardly wait for the meal after Thanksgiving!

Leave us a comment. What's new or traditional on your menu this year? How are you using local ingredients to celebrate?


Budget Bites: Haitian Squash & Sauce Beans with Rice

This week's "budget bites" feature comes compliments of our Haitian friend, Peter Constantin. Peter is staying with us for a week and he wanted to cook us some Haitian regulars. The Haitians live on rice and beans and prepare it many different ways, depending on what's available. Rice and beans are amazing together because they are a "complete protein," which means they contain all 20 amino acids that are bodies need. 

Another of our favorite side dishes is this squash dish using chayote. Squash is is full of beta carotene (great antioxidant) and Vitamin C. Those are two germ-fighters we want in our diet, especially during cold season. 

Both of these dishes are packed with nutrients and inexpensive to eat. We like to eat Haitian food and remember to pray for our friends in Haiti. Find more Haitian recipes here.

Pwatann Militon (Squash cut in sauce)

2 chayote, peeled
6 cups of water (approximate)
2 garlic cloves
1 green onion stalk
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1. Boil water.
2. Meanwhile, peel to chayote and cut into match sticks.
3. Add chayote to water. Boil until tender. Strain leaving about 1 cup of water/liquid.
4. Smash green onions and garlic in mortar & pestel (or blender). Add to chayote mix.
5. Add thyme and tomato paste.
6. Simmer approximately 5 minutes in sauce.

Haitian Sauce Beans with Rice


2 cups pinto beans
4 cups water
4 whole cloves
2 stalks fresh thyme
3 stalks fresh parsley
1/4 green pepper

1. Boil 2 cups beans in 4 cups water.
2. Add 4 cloves and 2 teaspoons salt to boiling water for flavor.
3. Boil until tender (you can press together with your fingers). 
4. Set aside to cool.
5. Take 1/2 beans from the water and add to a blender. Blend until smooth.
6. Add back to the beans in water.
7. Quarter green pepper and add one quarter piece to sauce. Add thyme and parsley.
8. Boil an additional 10 minutes until sauce thickens slightly.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 stalk green onion
5 cups water
2 1/2 cups jasmine rice
2 teaspoons salt

1. Add olive oil to large pan. Break onion in half and saute in oil until fragrant.
2. Add 5 cups of water to pan. Bring to boil.
3. Meanwhile, rinse rice in a strainer under water. Add rice to boiling water.
4. Add salt.
5. Allow to boil until most of the water has evaporated. Then cover and lower temperature to simmer for approximately 20 minutes rice is fluffy.


Functional Fitness: Local moms' group tries new workout

On Thursday night, my hubby and I got another chance to share our passion for fitness and wellness with a group of local mamas. Our church hosts a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group twice a month and they invited us to speak and lead a workout for the 50-some moms who attend. We had the chance to speak at a different MOPS group last year and it was a lot of fun so we jumped on the opportunity.

As I shared with the moms on Thursday, my goal is always to be an encouragement to other women on the journey. It's so easy to get caught up in the world of comparing our bodies. Sometimes we set the bar so high that all we can ever achieve is failure. I know for myself that I need baby steps on this road to overall health and wellness. I also know that I want to honor God with my body. He created me; I want to embrace that. A good workout (even a short one) is a great stress relief for me. A workout helps me feel better about myself, and ensures I will be strong for the future for my kids and grandkids.

As a mom who has been through two pregnancies and births, I have experienced lots of changes in sizes and the shape of my body. During my first pregnancy, I gained more than 40 pounds and I had a rude awakening after the birth and those pounds didn't just melt away. I had the desire to exercise and get back in shape but my body had two months of recovery after a difficult birthing process so I couldn't exactly jump out there and start running or going to kickboxing classes again. I would stand in front of my closet and cry, knowing my pre-pregancy clothes were not going to fit for a long time - if ever. I went through a kind of depression that a lot of first-time mothers experience in that post partem period.

When my second daughter Giada was born almost 21 months ago, I knew I wanted to be a little more intentional about many things. I knew I wanted to eat healthier, drink more water and get more exercise during the pregnancy. After I had Giada, I begged my personal trainer hubby to help me come up with some workouts I could do at home in a short amount of time. Now with two kids (and providing childcare for two more) I knew I had to forego long cardio workouts. That's how we came up with the idea of the "Go, Mama Workout." At the time, my husband was really getting into CrossFit and the theory behind doing workouts that work on both strength and cardio at the same time. Ericlee used his knowledge of CrossFit and functional movements and wrote up a workout plan for me. I've been doing these workouts for almost two years now.

The basic idea is to make my workout "functional." In other words, I don't waste time trying to do exercises that aren't going to really benefit me as a mom. Why in the world would I sit on a machine at the gym and do a butterfly with my arms when that is something I will never do in real life. I'd rather do a squat, which is something I do every day when I pick up a baby. I want to learn how to do that properly and be strong so I don't injure myself.

On Thursday, Ericlee led the group of mamas in a basic 10-minute workout using some of the concepts of CrossFit. The great part of this workout is that no expensive equipment or gym membership is required. It's something you can do right at home. We had a lot of fun laughing together and spurring each other on to finish.

We did:
-5 pushups
-5 situps
-5 squats

We had to do it for 10 minutes straight without stopping but you could go at your own pace, depending on your level. Ericlee also offered some modifications for doing these basic movements. For example, pushups could be done against the wall, on your knees or traditional-style. Also, several pregnant mamas opted to do "dips" on a chair instead of pushups to avoid bumping their bellies on the floor.

Ten minutes doesn't sound to bad, eh? Try it. If you talk to any of my mama friends who worked it Thursday night you will hear testimony after testimony that this is a very intense workout. And that's my favorite part - it's short and intense. The reality is: I'm a busy mama. I don't have time for the 60-90 minute classes I used to take at the gym. (That doesn't include all the time it takes to pack up the kids and get them over there to the childcare and the money you pay each month.)

Wondering where to begin? Here are some tips Ericlee wrote up to keep in mind. You can create your own workouts or use some of ours for free. You might also want to read my initial blog on the Go, Mama Workout and check out the first workouts. If you like to take classes, Ericlee also coaches at Fresno's Speed Sports Performance/CrossFit Combat Fitness gym on Shaw and Cedar. (His Boot Camp class at 5:30 a.m. on Mondays costs $3 and you don't need a gym membership to participate.)

“Go Mama” Workout Tips:

• Keep the workout short and speedy so it combines cardio and strength training.

• Constantly change it up because your body adapts to a stimulus.

• Focus on the gymnastic exercises (body weight) first and then move to weight lifting exercises.

• All exercises can be done anywhere – you do not need expensive equipment.

• Plan to do the workout two days a week to start and work up to five days a week.

• Repetitions and rounds should always be different.

• Compete against yourself for motivation. (How long does it take or how many rounds can you finish?)

• Consider putting 2-3 gymnastics together and that could be your workout or add one from each of the following categories.

• Remember it is about intensity and duration. If you want it easier, then lower intensity and duration. If not, then raise it.

Mix and match the following exercises: You can pick two, three, or even four exercises.  You can pick all exercises from one category or one from each category (gymnastics, weights, cardio).  You can pick 3-5 rounds or how many rounds in 10-20 minutes.  Be creative everyday.




-Air squats




Weight lifting:

-Shoulder press

-Chest press

-Bicep Curl

-Tricep Extension


-Medicine ball


-Jumping Jacks


-Box jumps

-Jump Rope




For Example:
1.     How many rounds in 10 minutes
                        (G) Pushups x 5
                        (G) Situps x 10
                        (G) Squats x 15
                        (C) Jumping Jacks x 20
2.     Time 5 rounds
                        (G) Air Squats x 30
                        (W)Shoulder Press x 10
                        (C) Jump Rope x 50
3.     Time 3 rounds
                        (C) Burpees x 10           
                        (G) Dips x 20
                        (G) Situps x 30

Any questions? Leave a comment. We'd love to share more. If you're in Fresno, we might just start a "Go, Mama Workout" meet-up if there's enough interest. Kids would be welcome!


Chai Cheesecake wins 2nd place at the Big Fresno Fair

I always love entering the cooking contests at our Big Fresno Fair. It's a fun challenge to make something unique with the designated food product - not to mention a little extra dough if you win. This year I entered the Malt-O-Meal Creations contest. I thought it would be using something porridge-like Malt-o-Meal hot cereal we all grew up on. But the company is out to promote their cold cereals so I had to come up with a unique recipe using on of their cold cereals.

After visitng three local grocery stores, I finally checked the web site and found the cereals were sold at our local Walmart. I came home with a huge back of Honey Nut Scooters, which are similar to Honey Nut Cheerios or Honey Trader O's, which I prefer. Then I had to dream up something to make.The contest is judged on Creativity, Taste and Ease of Recipe.

I have to admit I let weeks go by. I was stumped. Then one day my friend Bev showed up at my house with a slice of cheesecake. We marveled at how inexpensive cheesecake is to make and how glorious and rich the result. I decided to rev up a cheesecake using the cereal in the crust. I knew this couldn't be just any cheesecake. It had to be different. I decided to employ one of my fave flavors - Chai Tea.

I'm a Chai lover. If you haven't had Chai, it's a tea using Indian-inspired spices. The word chai literally means tea. This tea feels very fall to me - full of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Everyone mixes their chai a little differently. I've noticed Chai is becoming all the rage in local cafes and even Jamba Juice serves a Chai-licious smoothie that's inspiring.

I made a couple of cheesecakes to perfect the crust and Chai filling mixture. Of course, I cut the sugar used in most cheesecake recipes in half. The following recipe was the result. My family and I had fun heading down to the Big Fresno Fair and watching the judging. Surprise, surprise - 100 percent of the entries were desserts. The judges did deliberate. 

They announced the winners and my "Chai Cheesecake with Honey Nut Crust" was awarded 2nd place and $50. I was very excited to stand next to Pearl, the first place winner. She was the sweetest old lady who was blind and had entered 20 other desserts in the fair as well. Her Raspberry Crunch Pie deserved first!

Chai Cheesecake  


4 cups cereal, crushed (I like Trader O's, Honey Nut Scooters or good old fashioned graham crackers will work too.)

½ cup butter, melted

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup organic sugar

4 cage-free large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ pint whipping cream

1 tablespoon honey


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Crush cereal in a ziplock bag with a mallet or in a food processor. They should look like coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in melted butter to coat cereal.

3. Press into the bottom of a greased (round) spring form or other cake pan and bake for 5 minutes to set. Remove from oven and cool.

4. Blend cream cheese and sugar with hand mixer. Add eggs one at a time and blend until mixture is smooth. Add vanilla, ginger, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon. Pour over crust.

5. Bake for one hour. Remove and cool. Chill at least one hour before slicing.

6. Whip cream and add honey. Spoon a dollop on top of cheesecake slices with a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Budget Bites: Love 'em Lentil Burgers

It's crunch time. We're in the process of selling our house and preparing for a year of serving in Haiti. My hubby is only working part-time for these few months. That means our budget is tight, tight, tight these days. I'm tempted to whine about it but I'll try the high road and make it into a food challenge. I'm starting a new occasional series on this blog called "Budget Bites," which features healthy, scrumptious foods that is cheap to make. I did something similar last fall when I took on the Great Pantry Challenge. I discovered lots of fun recipes just by scavenging through my own pantry. Only this time it will be individual recipes and the inspiration to possibly try out some new ingredients - not just your familiar staples.

A few months ago my hubby's cousins from Spain came to visit. I have a foodie friend in Maribel and she introduced me to some of her family's favorite eats including homemade Spanish Paella and Tapas (Spanish appetizers). On the simpler side, we also served up a lunch of lentil burgers together. I was shocked to watch her three kids and my two girls gobble these babies down.

What struck me later was how cheap these are to make and you still can have the "burger experience." Sign me up. If a "veggie burger" or anything "lentil" sounds blah to you, don't be a hater until you've tried these out. My carnivore soul was surprised. (Our family tries to eat vegetarian two to three times a week to save moolah and for health reasons but my Italian-Filipino upbringing still has me savoring my meat.) If you really want it to taste like a burger, skip the yogurt sauce and add your favorite condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayo or salsa.

We welcome all positive (and even negative!) feedback from our eaters!

Lentil Burgers

-2 cups dried lentils
-1 onion, chopped
-1 green pepper, chopped (You could substitute zucchini.)
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-2 red cherry peppers, finely diced (My mom had these in her garden and my hubby likes the extra kick that's not too overpowering for my kids. You could try out a jalapeno for more heat or red bell pepper for a sweeter taste.)
-2 teaspoons sea salt
-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
-3 cups panko breadcrumbs (Japanese-style breadcrumb sold in most stores that add an extra crunch when you're breading something or other whole wheat breadcrumbs will work)
-1/2 cup olive oil

-1 cucumber, thinly sliced
-1 tomato, sliced
-8 whole wheat pita bread pockets or whole wheat buns
-1 cup plain yogurt mixed with a few drops of lemon juice
-mint or basil leaves for garnish


1. Put lentils into a large mixing bowl. Cover with water & let soak for an hour or overnight. (They will grow in the bowl so make sure yours is big enough.)
2. Chop onion, green pepper, garlic and hot pepper.
3. When lentils are soft, mix with immersion hand blender or food processor. You want the mixture to be a very coarse paste, not runny like hummus.
4. Heat skillet and add 1/4-inch of olive oil.
5. Stir chopped vegetables and spices into the lentils.
6. Pour half of the breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl or dish. Spread out along the bottom of the bowl.
7. Form a "hamburger pattie" in your hands with the lentil mixture. Immediately press into the breadcrumbs. Use a spatula to flip in breadcrumbs and help you transfer the pattie into the sizzling olive oil. Saute until golden brown on both sides. Repeat with remaining lentil mixture.
8. Serve on a whole wheat pita bread or bun with slices of tomatoes and cucumber. Garnish with whole leaves of mint or basil and yogurt sauce.

Makes 12 burgers; Serves 6-8


Living out of the Garden: The Wonder of Eggplant

I planted late so our garden is ripe for the picking later than most in Fresno. My summer season veggies are officially ready now. Since we were traveling most of July and August I'm not complaining. In fact, I am marveling at the wonder of growing my own veggies. My first garden (as in my very own with no help from mama) started last winter with a few easy greens, some bok choy and some herbs. That's nothing compared to summer's bounty. Now we have cucumbers coming out of our ears, two varieties of eggplants, green peppers and several heirloom tomatoes that are not quite ripe but tantalizing me.

This week I'm on a hunt for new creative ways to eat eggplants.

Never had an eggplant? Suprisingly, they come in a lot of varieties. The classic eggplant are plump and a shiny deep purple color. Eggplant is a member of the potato family.

According to EatingWell.com, eggplant helps lower blood cholesterol levels. The deep purple skin contains anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, antioxidants that may play a role in heart health and improve brain function.

My all-time fave use of eggplant is a classic Italian recipe: Eggplant Parmigiana. Think thinly-sliced eggplant slathered in marinara sauce and topped with melty cheese. I grew up filling my belly with my grandma Sara's version of it. Three words: to die for. Unfortunately, my Grandma Sara can't cook anymore and she lives in Michigan so I'm on my own with an abundance of eggplants.

My go-to eggplant dish is to saute it with some onions and zucchini and incorporate it into an omelette. Top that baby with some fresh salsa and you are good to go.

Our cousin who lives in Spain roasts a whole eggplant along with other vegetables like red peppers and onions and then cuts them into strips for a Spanish tapa or appetizer. Just mix in some fresh garlic and drizzle with Spanish olive and voila!

For my Cooking Club one time we made this Eggplant Caprese Salad, which is easy to assemble and a lot of fun to make. The colorful stacks of thinly-sliced eggplant, tomatoes, basil and fresh mozarella oozing over the side make for impressive presentation. This is also primo on a sandwich. We grilled up some eggplant the other day, sliced some orange heirloom tomatoes from our garden and stacked on the cheese and basil. The result was an easy and elegant lunch.

Last night we made a vegetarian version of Moussaka. It's a Greek dish that showcases eggplant. It's a little involved to make because it includes a red sauce (with fresh tomatoes and cinnamon) and a cheesy white sauce on top of layers of eggplant. The aroma in the kitchen was divine. Definitely worth the extra time. And now I have new appreciation for the moussaka I've had in Chicago's Greektown. My Greek friend Mark used to take me to the Parthenon and we would order moussaka and other Greek delights. Opa!

Eggplant Parmesan inspired by Grandma Sara

-2 large eggplants
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt + more for sprinkling
-1/2 teaspoon oregano
-1/2 teaspoon basil
-2 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs (I love panko because they are crispy and light.)
-4 eggs, lightly beaten
-3/4 cup olive oil
-3 cups mozarella cheese, shredded
-1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
-4 cups marinara sauce (recipe follows)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Peel and slice eggplant 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 15 minutes. This helps take some of the initial bitterness out of the eggplant.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumbs by mixing in a shallow bowl with salt, garlic powder, oregano and basil.
4. Spray olive (or wipe with paper towel) onto 9x12 pan or casserole dish.
5. At this point, heat up or make the marinara sauce in a skillet.
6. In a separate skillet, heat up about 1/4 cup of olive oil.
7. Rinse salt off eggplant under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels.
8. Beat eggs in separate bowl and add parmesan cheese. Dip eggplant in egg mixture, then breadcrumb mixture and saute in olive oil until golden brown on both sides.
9. Spread one cup marinara sauce to the bottom of the pan. Layer eggplant on top. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozarella cheese and repeat. (This will feel like you are making a lasagna.)
10. Bake for approximately 30 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling slighlty in the bottom of the pan. Serve over pasta or with rice or bread.

Makes 8-10 servings.
A few other great recipes:
Garlic grilled eggplant & zucchini

What do you do with eggplant? Please share.


Berrylicious: Pick-your-own Berry Adventure

I'm a little giddy over berries these days. I guess it's because I've had the opportunity to pick my own berries twice in the last week and just getting out there in the field makes me appreciate these delectable treats all the more. On Thursday we went to Rancho Notso Grande Farms in Hanford with a group of six other families. The drive was just 30 minutes from our home in Fresno. Meilani and I enjoyed the view out the window as we passed so many Valley farms and ranches. We tried to guess the kinds of plants and trees along the route. 

When we arrived Farmer Jon gave a us a quick tour of his myriad of berries, including blueberries, olallieberries, boysenberries, tay berries, blackberries, raspberries and many special varieties within those categories. He explained they use organic practices for farming, which was great to hear since berries have one of the highest amounts of pesticides of any fruit. After we did a taste test on all of them, he handed out paper baskets and the kids and mamas and daddies went to work. We started out in the blueberries mostly because these had the least amount of stickers and thorns. The bushes are low so they were perfect for my 1-year-old Giada to pick and pack them in herself. Picture this: one ripe berry, one handful of sandy dirt. Two ripe berries, one handful of sandy dirt. Yeah, that kept her busy for a while.

Admittedly, blueberries are a bit of a pain to pick because you have to search out the ripe ones one by one. Blueberries are pretty small so plucking them off the branch of the bush one by one can take a while. I tried to find my own technique of running my fingers down the branch to get several at a time. Meilani, my 4-year-old, had more fun eating what was in my basket. But I'm glad it took a long time to pick these babies. What I learned was a new appreciation for the men and women who pick berries in our Valley. Sitting out there in the hot sun, trying to find the ripe berries and fill baskets is hard work. Next time I buy berries at the market or at the grocery store I will understand the value of this "natural candy" so much better.
For Father's Day Weeekend we drove over to the Central Coast with our good friends, the Schultzes. We discovered a hidden gem: Rutiz Family Farms. It turned out to be a little organic U-pick place just around the corner from the beach house where we were staying Arroyo Grande. They also are a CSA (if you live in that area) with great boxes of food for pick-up.
We had four adults and six girls in tow and we started out Saturday morning combing the rows for ripe strawberries. These organic berries were unbelievably sweet. You've got to understand: I grew up in Chicago eating not always ripe berries that needed sugar added on top. (Gasp!) Apparently the cool Coastal air and sandy soil is just perfect for a berry crop. We picked for about and hour and then brought our loads of baskets in for the weighing. Much to our surprise we had picked a lot! The good news was: the price turned out to be about $1.25 per basket of organic berries. Now that's an amazing deal!

I've been swooning over a sea of berry recipes. We made berry pancakes for Father's Day morning along with a berry smoothie for the daddies after their run. We also baked up a Berry Crisp with crunchy oatmeal topping. We adore Blueberry Muffins and Blueberry-Lemon Tarts for something a little more fancy. One of my most elegant and easy berry desserts is Puff pastry cut into squares and topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. Yum-o! (Picture below on the May Menus.) 

Tonight I'm trying out a recipe for Strawberry Tiramisu. This is a summer version of my all-time fave Italian dessert - Tiramisu. Fresh fruit is the main event for this dessert instead of the usual splash of coffee flavor. Should be berrylicious!

What's your favorite way to eat a berry? Please share.


Mediterranean Cooking Class: Healthy eats with fresh taste

For my birthday my hubby treated me to a Mediterranean Cooking Class hosted at our local Whole Foods. I have never taken an "official" cooking class so I was thrilled. My friend Yasmin (Right) signed up with me and we chose a Healthy Mediterranean class taught by Wafa Aranki (Left).

The menu included:
Lentil Soup
Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini
Fatoush Salad
Chicken Kabob

When we arrived at the class, which had about 15 other cooks in training, we got right to work. Wafa assigned me to the job of toasting the pita bread. Meanwhile, I spied on all the other jobs and took pictures so I could remember the steps of the recipes.

We started out with a Lentil Soup made distinct with the juice of a lemon and a whole lot of garlic.

-2 cups red lentils
-1 large onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-lemon, juiced
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1. Put the lentils in a large pot and cover with water. Boil.
2. Add onions.
3. Continue to boil approximately 45 minutes until lentils are soft. You may need to add more water to the pot if it evaporates quickly.
4. Add garlic, salt, cumin.
5. Use immersion blender or regular blender to mix soup to a creamy texture. Boil 5 more minutes.
6. Juice lemon and add to soup before serving.

Another group of cooks in training made this yogurt marinade for our chicken. Then they set it to grilling on a panini maker. Of course, a regular grill or George Foreman work just fine as well. I personally prefer the regular outdoor grill because the chicken maintains its juiciness.

Chicken Kabob

Marinade Ingredients:
-1 pound boneless chicken breast
-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
-1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-1 cup of plain yogurt
1. Combine marinade ingredients.
2. Trim fat from chicken and mix in marinade. Refrigerate 15 minutes or more.
3. Grill chicken 5-6 minutes.

Our menu also included grilled eggplant and zucchini with a marinade similar to the chicken. These are easy to prepare ahead and then just throw on the grill when you get home from a busy day.

Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini

-1 large eggplant
-2 large zucchini
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-1/2 teaspoon fresh basil
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 teaspoon sumac
-1 cup plain yogurt

1. Peel eggplant and slice 1/2-inch thick.
2. Cut zucchini in 1/2-inch thick slices.
3. Create marinade with salt, basil, garlic, sumac and plain yogurt.
4. Add vegetables to the marinade. Refrigerate 15 minutes or more.
5. Grill until tender.

Probably my favorite dish we learned to make was a Fatoush Salad - very popular in the Middle East. The blend of flavors in this salad is truly amazing. I also love the pita chips on top that provide a yummy crunch with each bite.
Fatoush Salad

-3 medium tomatoes, sliced
-1 medium onion, sliced
-1 bundle green onions, diced (approximately 1 cup)
-1/2 head of romaine lettuce (chopped)
-1 head of butter lettuce (chopped)
-5-6 radishes, sliced
-3 cucumbers, sliced
-1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
-1 cup mint, chopped
-1 jalapeno, diced (Optional)

-10 cloves garlic, minced
-2 tablespoons vinegar
-1/4 cup olive oil
-2 lemons, juiced
-1 tablespoon lemon zest
-1 1/2 teaspoons sea slat
-1 teaspoon sumac
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper

-2 pita breads, toasted and crumbled

1. Chop all vegetables and add to salad bowl
2. Combine ingredients for dressing.
3. Dress salad.
4. Sprinkle pita chips on top.


Recipe of the Week: Thai Beef Curry & Coconut Rice

This recipe was inspired by my friend Evelyn deGallery. At a recent talk I did for my Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group, I asked the audience to bring one recipe to share with the other mamas. Evelyn says this recipe is her kids' favorite dinner. I tweaked the recipe a little bit to simplify it. This dish is great for employing some of those fresh summer vegetables like peppers, fresh basil and onions.

If you don't have time for homemade curry sauce, you might try the Trader Joe's brand of red curry or yellow curry sauce. Both are mouth-wateringly good. If you are not using brown rice, use only two cups of liquid to cook every one cup of rice.

Thai Beef Curry

-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 onion, sliced
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
-2 steaks, thinly sliced
-2 organic red or yellow peppers, cut into 1-inch strips
-8-10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

-2 large cloves garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
-2 tablespoons fish sauce (available at Whole Foods or in the Asian section of grocery stores or R-N Asian market)
-1-2 teaspoon red curry paste (available at Whole Foods or in the Asian section of grocery stores or R-N Asian market)
-1/2 teaspoon cumin
-1 tablespoon honey
-1 cups organic coconut milk

1. Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a skillet. Add onions, ginger and garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add sliced steak and brown. Meanwhile, mix ingredients for sauce in a bowl.
3. When steaks are browned, add cut red peppers and torn basil leaves. Saute peppers with meat for 2-3 minutes.
4. Pour sauce mixture on top of beef and vegetables. Allow to simmer until sauce thickens slightly about 5-7 minutes.

Coconut Rice

-2 cups brown jasmine rice
-2 1/4 cups water
-2 cups coconut milk (usually 1 can)
-5 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
*rice cooker

1. Combine rice, water and coconut milk in rice cooker.
2. Cook in rice cooker (or on stovetop) as you normally would. Takes approximately 15 minutes.


May Menu Planner

The late Spring produce has hit the market, which means berries are in full force along with snap peas, asparagus, herbs like basil and oregano, and even some small zucchini. For Mother's Day we have a tradition of serving up a special lunch after church for the grandmas. This Sunday our feast will showcase some fresh strawberries and cherries from the farmer's market - not as dessert, but heaped on top of our main dish - Strawberry-Balsamic Chicken - and our salad. The Strawberry Salsa can be made ahead so firing up the grill on the chicken is all we have to do for that dish. Our advice: skip the long lines to take Mom out to eat and make a special meal at home. It saves money and everyone can help out!

Sunday - Mother's Day Lunch
Sparkling Pomegranate Juice
Mini Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tarts
Baby Greens Salad with Pecans and Cherries
Strawberry-Balsamic Grilled Chicken
Wheat Berry Salad
Chocolate Chip Cannoli

Mahi Mahi Green Enchiladas
Baby Greens, Black Olives, Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

Grilled Portabella Sandwiches
Tomato-Basil Bisque

Thai Curry Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas
Coconut Jasmine Rice

More-Please Meatloaf
Sweet Potato Fries with Spicy Avocado Sauce

Luscious Leftovers
Whole Wheat Blueberry Bars

Saturday - Paul's 30th Birthday Bash
Fondue Party
Dessert: Chocolate Dipped Strawberries & Cream Puffs

P.S. If any of these recipes look tempting to you, click on the link or leave us a comment and we can send them to you.


Recipe of the Week: Asparagus Lasagna

There's a short window of time each year when Asparagus takes center stage in the garden, at the farmer's market, and even in grocery stores. During this Asparagus time (usually March and April), I buy it weekly and try to incorporate it in as many meals as possible. These tender green stalks suddenly become the centerpiece.This year I'm buying my asparagus from Farmer & The Dale

I recently started reading a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. In the chapter, "Waiting for Asparagus," I learned that "the asparagus plant's life history sets it apart, giving it a special edge as the year's first major edible." It's actually a perennial and comes back year after year. I also learned asparagus is considered an aphrodisiac.

Pass the asparagus. Enough said on that.

I recently created this recipe for an Asparagus Lasagna. We were having my husband's workout buddy over for dinner. Andrew is pretty serious about Crossfit workouts and he helped train my hubby for his recent competition. Andrew is also trying out a vegetarian diet to see how effective it is for athletes. For me as the chef that meant trying to find something hearty and yummy. Of course, I threw in some other veggies too but asparagus hogged the real stage for our meal. Four servings later I realized asparagus could be the "hearty" I was after.

What are your favorite ways to serve Asparagus? Do you snap off the ends and saute it in olive oil? Arrange it in quiche or frittatas? Maybe you mix it in with pastas or couscous? We'd love to hear your suggestions. Leave us a comment.

Asparagus Lasagna


Marinara Sauce:
-2 15-oz. cans organic diced tomatoes (I buy this in bulk from Costco when tomatoes are not in season.)
-1 6-oz. can organic tomato paste
-1 small onion, diced
-2 large garlic cloves, minced
-1 teaspoon dried basil
-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-1 tablespoon honey

-1 package lasagna noodles
-1 16-oz. container ricotta cheese
-1 12-oz. package shredded mozarella cheese
-1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
-3 cups of other chopped organic vegetables (ideas: zucchini, summer squash, corn, butternut squash, spinach, carrots, etc.)

1. Make the marinara sauce first. Saute onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent and tender.
2. Saute garlic with onions until fragrant.
3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices.
4. Simmer approximately 10 minutes and begin chopping vegetables.
5. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Spoon about half a cup of sauce into the bottom of a 13x9x2 glass pan or rectangle cake pan. Place the first layer of noodles over that sauce. (You do not need to boil the noodles ahead of time.)
7. Spread 1/3 of remaining sauce over noodles.
8. Add about 1/3 of the ricotta cheese over the noodles in small spoonfuls.
9. Add 1/3 of asparagus and other vegetables over the noodles and cheese.
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of mozarella cheese on top.
11. Repeat steps 6-10 with two more layers. Top with extra mozarella cheese.
12. Cover with foil. Bake in oven for 1 hour. (I like to remove the foil for the last 10 minutes to let the cheese turn a golden brown color.


April Menu Plans

I love spring! From a culinary point of view, spring has gorgeous colors to add to your cooking and great options for healthy eating. Our family is crazy about spring asparagus and eagerly anticipates the first taste of sweet spring strawberries. We have come to love spring sweet peas and use fresh basil year round.

I'm sharing with you two weeks worth of Spring Menus to encourage you to plan ahead on your menus and shopping. Explore some new flavors this month! If you're interested in any of the recipes, please let us know. Please share if you have a fave meal that uses spring produce. We're always looking for new ideas.

Roast Beef with Spicy Tomato Parsley Sauce
Roasted Asparagus
Rice Pilaf
Lemon Cream Puffs

Monday - Creative Crockpots
Taco Soup
Tortilla Chips & Salsa
Green salad with corn and tomatoes

Tuesday - Vegetarian
Crunchy Peanut Pasta
with Sugar Snap Peas, Red Peppers & Carrots

South African Bobotie
Jasmine Rice

Asian Beef Short Ribs

Thai Chicken Pizza

Luscious Leftovers

Beef Strogonoff
served over Whole Wheat Rotini

Monday - Vegetarian
Caesar Salad
Asparagus Lasagna

Indian Butter Chicken
Basmati Rice
Garlic Naan

Small Group: Side Dish
Marsala Carrots

Pesto Penne with Chicken Sausage
Butter Beans
Honey-Whole Wheat Bread

Luscious Leftovers

Kale & Chicken Sausage Soup
Lemon-rosemary Biscuits
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp


A Crossfit Journey culminates: Ericlee competes in the sectionals

Ericlee lifts his max on the Clean & Jerk competition - 205 pounds.

The following is the final journal entry written by Ericlee Gilmore about his experience competing in the Northern California Crossfit Sectionals.
Mon., March 29

Now I am on the other side of this incredible journey that I started many years ago but specifically 12 weeks ago. Where do I begin? There was an athletic buzz as all the athletes signed in and then listened to Jason Khalipa give us the instructions of the day. It was a perfect day to perform in the sport of fitness. I watched the first heat go at 9am and then left to go and pick up my fan support (Dorina and the kids). We sat with Jon and Roxanna in the stands in this great Track and Field facility at Archbishop Mitty high school. I had a great warmup and was ready to go for my heat at 12:00. I saw other guests sitting on the infield to get a better picture of the athletes when they do the OH squats located on the apron of the infield. I motioned Dorina to come down and that was the best thing I could of done. It made the whole workout so much better.

Workout Of the Day (WOD) A - 6 minutes to run 800m and then perform as many reps as possible of 115lb overhead squats. I wore my new red FCA shirt that said “Warrior for Christ” and I was ready to do my very best for His glory. I had two judges who were great. I felt the love from them. On the run I could hear Meilani screaming for me the whole time. I finished in 2:56 and I lifted the bar at 3:15. I was a little behind in my plan. I wanted to be lifting the bar at 3:00. I did 20 reps in the first set like I wanted to. I rested the bar on my shoulder and went for 5 more. At that point it fell to the ground so I had to lift it back up and go again. I performed 5 more and it fell again. I had around 40-50 seconds left. I was at 30 and I wanted 10 more. So I decided to go for it without resting. I ended up dropping the bar with 5 seconds left on rep 37. So I finished with 36. I placed 3rd in my heat of 20 guys and was happy with my performance even though I really wanted an even 40. I had greatly improved from the two times I had practiced this workout. My place after all the heats was 59th out of 256. We then left to go eat lunch at Whole Foods and to get the kids out of the heat. The sun was quite hot. After taking a small nap at Dorina’s cousin’s house, we went back to the High school for the second workout of the day schedule for 4pm.

WOD B – 10 minutes to perform as many rounds as possible of 7 Thrusters (115lbs), 12 Kettlebell Swings (53lbs), 7 Chest-to-bar Pullups. I knew it was going to be tough. I was mentally prepared. What I did not know or prepare for was the standard of the kettlbe swings. The KB had to be completely bottoms up on the top of the swing. So I would guess that I had to do about 15-20 extra swings because I was not meeting the standard. Unlike my last judge, I felt no love from this female judge. I was hurting at that point and just had to fight through it. The worst part about it was that my fan support could not be next to me to cheer me on. The Pullup bars were in this secluded sand pit area that made it impossible for fans to watch. So instead of getting hung up on the pullups, I was super slow on the KBS. I had a plan of doing 5 or at least 4 plus some change but this day I could only manage 3 rounds plus 7 thrusters and 2 KBS. My total reps were 87. That placed me 227th out of 256. This workout by far made everyone in the competition look pathetic. My right hand had a nasty blister from the pull-ups. Afterwards I was discouraged and mad that I did not do better or at least have a chance to do better. If I was going to complain I would say that by having a different judge it would have been a different outcome. Andrew was watching and he felt like many of my kettlebell swings were good. Nothing you can do about it when you have volunteer judges and each one sees the movement differently. Some are very specific and picky while others are not. Maybe in the future they will be paid like a real official and they will have experience in doing each movement and what to look for in that movement. So now I was worried about even making it to Sunday for the last two workouts. My goal was to definitely make it to Sunday and be close to the top 20. I know knew that was out. This time I waited for Jon to go so I could cheer him on. I knew he would need it because it is such a hard workout. I challenged him to beat me. He came close but was five reps short. After having a wonderful home cooked pasta and meatball dinner, we went to bed. I did not find out about making it to Sunday until 11pm that night. They took the top 186 and I was 133rd. That was ridiculous. Many athletes were upset about not finding out sooner. I was just grateful that I made the cutoff. Jon, on the other hand did not make it. The next morning I had an oatmeal and fruit breakfast and I was ready for day 2. I reviewed the workout the night before and I was excited about it. I felt like I could excel in it. Plus it was on the field, which made it easier for Dorina and the girls to watch me. My goal for the day was to move up in the rankings to top 100.

Ericlee rows to the finish with his strict judge looking on.

WOD C – In 6 minutes perform max lift in the clean and jerk. Then immediately following, do the Chipper = 25 burpees, 100yd of lunges, 5 rounds of 15 reps of 40lb dumbbell push press and 100yds of farmers walk with dumbbells, 25 burpees, 500m row, run 450m around the track. I felt great in my warmup. I practiced 175lbs in the clean and jerk and was ready for more. On this day I wore my grey FCA shirt that says “Honor God with your Body”. Dorina and the kids and Jon too were right in front of me to cheer me on. I started with 165lb and then moved to 185lbs. I rested and then did 205lbs. I had about 2 minutes left so I then went up to 215lbs. I had it in the squat position but fell out of it. I tried it again and I had to bail out of it. Now looking back on it, I wish I went up only 5lbs in weight rather than 10lbs. But I was really happy with 205 because my goal was 200. My previous best was about 180lbs. I placed 137th out of 174. I flew through the burpees and my lunges were great. I was in the top ten out of 25 in the heat. I was the 25th athlete in the heat so I knew if I could beat a lot of them I could definitely move up in the rankings. Everything came to a screetching halt with the 15 reps of push press. For some reason they were very difficult for me. On top of that I had the exact same judge from the day before. She was picky on the presses and some did not count. I tried to do sets of 5 but it still took a long time. I ran the farmerswalk to save some time but still I was being left in the dust. I wish I had remembered to do a split jerk every time. That would have made a huge difference. I think I could have done all 15 in a row that way. My burpees were little slower this time around. I then got on the rower and Dorina and the kids were right there in front of me to cheer me on. I actually did it in 1:50 which is really good for being so tired. I wanted to catch one person on the run but he sped up at the same time I did. My final time was 23:53. I gave it my best. I think I beat about 5 athletes in that heat. I enjoyed the workout and I realized that I need more strength in my shoulders. I placed 147th out of 174. IT was a great way to end the competition. I loved how my family cheered me on the whole time. I know I made a difference for the Lord because three crossfitters commented on my shirt and how Crossfit definitely needs Jesus. Praise the Lord. Here are the final standings. I placed 151st out of 256. I did not move up in the standings but I did make it to day two, I did do my very best for his glory, and I did have some personal records in the process. If I ever do this competition again, I know that I must work on my upper body strength. If I could have done really well on one other event that would have placed me in the top 125 or even top 100. Overall it was a great experience. I am excited to put a book together with all the pictures and my journal.

A Crossfit Journey continues: Ericlee's quest for all around fitness

The following is Part Two of Ericlee's journal about his Crossfit journey. The original post explains more about the competition and Ericlee's initial thoughts about training for this highly-competitive event.

Tues., Feb 23

Last week finished with a bang. After doing something a little different, flipping a 650 lb tire, I went for a PR (personal record) in my squat. I could not flip it by myself but every time Andrew would put his hand under it, I could do it. It is amazing how flipping a huge tire can incorporate so many muscle groups – gluts, hamstrings, quads, lower back, shoulders, chest, biceps, and forearms. I still have that sticking point. I was able to squat 275 which is a 33lb improvement. The interval training on the rowing machine was a great changeup from our normal WODs. 20 minutes of 60sec on the rower and 60sec rest. The goal was 3500 but I only managed 3125 and Andrew accomplished 3250. To average only 12m less a minute than Andrew is great to see. I have come a long way on the rower. Since we did not make the 3500 mark we had to do 1 burpee for every 10m. Since I rested on Wed I decided to do a quick workout on Friday. After a quick warmup I did 100 burpees for time. Last time I did it in 7:52 and this time I did it in 6:25. On Saturday I finished my max with two more PR in the clean and deadlift. I increased my clean by 22lbs to 187 but I could not improve on the Jerk. In the dead I improved by 44lbs to 308. I was very excited. The WOD was Fran. 21-15-9 of Thrusters 95lbs and pullups. Last time my time was 8:39 and this time it was 5:42. A couple changes here and there and I know I can get it under 5 minutes. To say the least I was very happy. Andrew beat me by a minute.

This new week I ran 3.3 miles on Monday. I always run out of time because I need to warmup more. My time was 23:42 but I still need to train in the 22 range bracket.

Wed., Feb 24

I am learning that the more intense the workouts are the more rest I need. So after yesterday I did not wake up early today to run sprint intervals. I know I need that a lot. After doing Kelly yesterday, I need to get better running 400s. I felt like I had a break through yesterday with pullups and doing chest to bar. I changed my grip to pronation and it really helped me get up there to the bar. I also did the handwalks in 5 tries which is huge from the beginning when I was doing it in 12 tries. I still cannot practice dips or muscle ups because of my left shoulder rotator cuff. Now that Andrew can do a muscle up and excited to put into practice what new knowledge I have learned. My strength was a Snatch complex of power snatch to a heave snatch squat. I did 3x5 but really tweaked my left shoulder more. To step it up a little, I did double Unders between each set. We started with 30 – 40 – 60 Every time we messed up we had to do a burpee. I got on a roll and did 53 straight.

The WOD was Kelly and both Andrew and I were very tired from the strength workout. Kelly – 400m run, 30 box jumps (24in) 30 wall balls (20lbs) 5 rounds for time. Last time I did this WOD was 3-4 months ago and I did it in 29:09. This time we actually tied in 22:30. He would extend the lead with the run and I would catch him on the box jumps. I was very pleased.

Mon., Mar 1

On Thursday of last week I tried to do some cleans and Bench but my shoulder was still bothering me from the week before. So I just did some heavy front Squat and improved my max to 231. It has been fun to see how fast my max lifts have gone up. I know that it will be much harder to get that big of improvement but we will see. So I will max again in three weeks which is the week before the competition. The WOD on Thursday was Diane – 21,15,9 reps of 225# Deadlift and Handstand pushups. I did the pushups with the pad because I cannot go all the way down to the ground. I hope that gets better. My time was 10:16. I was shooting for under 10. It was cool to see how easy 225 DL I never let go of the bar for the reps of 21. Afterwards I did 100 Doubleunders to see if I could break my time from last time. I destroyed it by doing it in 1:36. My goal is to do it in under 60 seconds. Andrew did it in 1:10.

I rested on Friday and then on Saturday with my shoulder still bothering me, I lifted squats and deads. I did 225 squats 3x every 30 seconds for 10 rounds. Afterwards I played with Meilani and then hit the Deads. I was going for the 5 reps at every minute for 10 minutes. I started to high at 286. I did that for two rounds and then changed it to 275. I did another three rounds and then realized I was not going to finish in time so I cut it short. My WOD was easier because I could not do anything relating to my shoulder which includes pullups too. I did 5 rounds of 10x box jump burpees and lunges. On each round the lunges had to go a farther distance – 60ft, 120ft, 180ft, 240, 300ft was the last round.

Now we are starting the 9th week. I only have four weeks left. I hope to hit it hard these three weeks and then shut it down. I pray my shoulder is better. I wanted to run intervals on the track on Saturday but it was raining so I did it this morning instead. I did 2 sets of 3 laps. The first set I did it in 1:44, 1:43, 1:44. The rest was only 75 seconds. I rested about 3 minutes between the sets and then hit it hard again. I ran 1:43, 1:40, 1:39. I was satisfied with my performance. My calves are feeling it today. I still want to accomplish the following workouts before we go to the games. Grace – Helen – Filthy Fifty – Fight Gone Bad – Linda – DT – 400m – 5k – Max Pullups and pushups – Max all my lifts. I have about 11-13 workout days left. Since we are going to do some double workouts next week this should not be a problem to finish all of these workouts.

Wed., March 3

I had a great day in my strength area but in my WOD I fell short of my goal. After having so many successes, this is my first failure. So let me tell you about my strength gains. I did 5x5 of clean and jerk of 50k, 60k, 70k, 75k, 77.5k. It was tough but it gave me so much confidence when I do my max again. Every day I lift I gain more confidence. I superset that with bench which I did 6, 5, 6, 4, 3 of 60k, 70k, 75k, 80k, 80k. I know I will be ready to go when I can do my body weight 10x. Then I can finally perform the WOD “Linda." Since Andrew was not there I then attempted Helen again which is 400, 21xKB swings, 12 pullups for 3 rounds. I wanted to beat my time of 10:23 and even go under 10mintues. Well I thought I was making great progress but the last set slowed me down and I got 10:26. Once again my grip was shot because of the KB swings. No running this morning even thought I really wanted to but I slept instead.

Fri., March 5

Andrew returned and we had one butt-kicking workout. After practing the muscle-up, my confidence is growing to do one in the next two weeks. I do have to celebrate because yesterday was the first day that I did an official handstand pushup all by myself. That means my head touched the ground and I came back up. For my strength, I did front squats I did sets of 5, 5, 3, 3, 3 of 70k, 90k, 100k, and 105k the last two sets. Andrew had to help me but I got them done. I superset that with weighted pullusp. I should have been doing these all along. Oh well. I lifted about 15lbs 5 sets of 3. I know I will greatly improve in my pullups if I keep that up. Only three weeks to go. For the WOD we did the hero workout called “DT”. It is 155lb of three lifts. The reps were 12x deadlifts, 9x hang cleans, 6x jerk and 5 rounds total. I was doing good up until the 4th round. I finished my deadlift for my 5th round and all I had left was 9 hang cleans and 6 jerks. My time at that point was about 18:45 which is the time that Andrew finished. It took me about 10 minutes to do the rest. My grip was gone and my strength was done. I was hurting. I had about 5 reps total that I had to redo because I failed in the middle of the lift. Praise the Lord that I finished the workout in 28:54. I am very sore today. As soon as you increase the weight the intensity goes through the roof. That was the case today. By far the hardest was the 9 hang cleans. Since my max is only 190, lifting 155 that many times was just so hard for me. I then had to do it more than 9 so I could be ready for the Jerks. Every day I am getting better. Training for these crossfit games is by far the best challenge I have had. Training for triathlons was one thing but this is so much bigger because it includes so many other areas of fitness. I love it!!! The next two weeks will be my hardest weeks ever. Then I will taper off and rest during the last week so I can be super fresh.

Wed., March 10

This will be a long entry since I have done so many workouts this week. This will be my hardest week. I am half way through it. I wanted to know what double days feels like since that is what the competition will be like. First let me describe what we did to start the week on Sunday. Since I had a track meet on Saturday, I could not workout so instead we did the WOD on Sunday morning. 10 rounds of 400 run, 15 pushups, and 10 pullups. The goal was 30 minutes or less and I finished with 31:40. Andrew on the other hand did it in 26:30. Once again the 400s killed me since I was averageing about 1:55 a lap. Push hard and learn to overcome. I rested on Monday and then Tuesday came. We did Filthy Fifty again and it was a lot easier. Th goal was 20 minutes but I did it in 24:55 which was a 2 minute improvement and I beat Andrew by 2 minutes. So what is the Filthy Fifty. It is 50 reps of 10 exercises – Box Jumps (24”), Jumping pullups, Kettelbell Swings (16k) Lunges, Knees to Elbow while hanging on the bar, Push Press (45), GHM back extensions, Wall Ball (20), Burpees, and Double Unders. I can remember doing this workout for the first time last April and getting 34 minutes. I thought it was the hardest thing ever and I was soar for three days. Now I can do it 10 minutes faster and do another WOD an hour later. This WOD was taken from another Crossfit sectional back East. It was three rounds of 500m Row, 10x Clean Squat Press (135), 10 pullups. I did in 16+ minutes and Andrew did it in 14+ minutes. I was dead on the rowing. Once again I must push through that discomfort. Today was the second day of double workouts. I designed the first WOD and Andrew designed the second WOD. WOD 1 - 5 rounds of pulling a 20k sled 30yds followed by right arm snatches 45lbs and then pull sled back followed by left arm snatch 45lbs and then 400m run. First round is 5 times of up and back sled pulls with 10x snatches on each side followed by a 400. Next pull the sled 4x with 8x snatches. Then 3 times with 6x snatches. Then 2 times with 4x snaches. Finally 1 time with 2x snatches. After the first round, it went much faster. The first round took almost half of the total time. Once again I need to push my self to exhaustion. I need to be completely spent. My total time was 34:11 and Andrew beat me by 54 seconds. Afterwards I was not that tired. That is why I say I could go harder. I wonder if that is the difference between the last ten years. During the days of doing triathlons I could really push myself. I hope that comes back during the competition. After hour and 20 minutes we started the second WOD. The second WOD was 10 rounds of 1x Front Squat 190, 2x handstand pushups, 3x Deadlift 285, 4x Ring Dips, 5x strict pullups, run 100m. I wish we only did 5 rounds because it took too long. As it was I only did 8 rounds because it took 21+ minutes. Andrew destroyed me in this. He did 10 rounds in 20+ minutes. The only thing that was easy was the ring dips. My back was losing form in the front squats and deadlifts. I know I will feel that tomorrow.

Fri., March 12

Thursday was a sore day. I woke up with my lower back very tight. I knew that a good warmup was necessary. I happy to know that Andrew was sore too. After a great 35minute warmup with a 22lb vest on we could start our heavy lifting day. Back squats reps of 8, 8, 6, 6, 2, 2 with weight of 100k, 100k, 105k, 105k, 110k, 110k. I would have to say the hardest was the sets of 8. That was about 80% of max and it was tough. By the end I was toast. I did a superset with bench press. Same reps as the Squats. The weight was 60k, 60k, 70k, 75k, 80k, 80k. Somewhere in between the sets I did 3x8 of feet to bar. I need to do that more next week. Now that my legs are completely done, I perform the WOD which is Grace – 30 reps of Clean and Jerk 135lbs. My goal was under 5 minutes and maybe even closer to four minutes but not after that leg workout and definitely not after the double workout days. At about half way my muscles stopped working and I could not get the bar over my head. I had to rest and let that ATP come back to my muscles that needed it the most. At about 28 it happened again and I had to do the lift over again because I failed in that attempt. It will be great to do these WODs when I am fresh. I am going to rest today and Saturday and then Andrew and I will run a 5k hard at Woodward park. It is now just 15 days away.

Tues., March 16

The 5k run at Woodward park was super. It was a crisp cold morning with a beautiful sunrise. We ran a two mile warmup to show Andrew the course. I gave Andrew the watch because I knew he would be faster than me. I did not have a goal but I knew I wanted to be close to Andrew. At every marker, I could not hear Andrew yell out the time. After the race was over, I found out that the first mile was about 6:50. I think I ran really well considering that I did not have a watch, it was not a real race, and there were no encouraging fans. My time was 21:11 which is faster than the Turkey Trot back on Thanskgiving. Andrew ran a 20:28. I know in a real race I could make it hurt a lot more and run a minute faster. Next Sunday we will run 8x400 with 90 second rest. That will be the true test of my stamina.

Monday morning I did my max pushup test and I only did 43. I goal was 50. Afterwards I ran 2.2 miles just to get more running in for the day. I wish I had done this in my first week of training so I could see my improvement. Oh well.

Wed., March 17

Yesterday was another breakthrough day. Andrew and I visited Jon’s new Crossfit gym. Great place with roll up doors that really change the atmosphere of a gym. This week is max week. So I did the Crossfit Total which is back squat, shoulder press, and deadlift. I had a huge PR in each one. In the squat I did 305 which is a 30lb increase. In the shoulder press I did 125 which is an improvement because I do not know what I had before. Finally the deadlift. My goal in the deadlift was 350 and after lifting 315 without my full effort I was excited to go for it. With Andrew, Jon, and Roxanne watching, I lifted 350! I was pumped. So my total was 780. I have nothing to compare that to so that is a good start now. So if I do qualify then my goal will be 850. We then got everything ready to the WOD called “Fight Gone Bad”. There are five exercises – Wall Ball (20lbs); Sumo High Pulls (75lbs); Box Jumps (20in); Push Press (75lbs); Row (calories); that you perform as many reps as possible every 60 seconds. At the end of each round you can rest 60 seconds. Keep working for a total of three rounds. I started with the box jumps and went crazy. I did 44 in 60 seconds. There is no time to move to the next exercise. The clock continues to tick. Here is a chart that shows my results better.

Box Jump Press Row Wall Ball High Pull Total

Round 1 44 36 18 23 23 144

Round 2 36 30 14 20 18 118

Round 3 32 25 12 16 17 102

Total 112 91 44 59 58 364

Goal 40/120 30/100 14/45 20/60 20/60 385

The last two times I have done this WOD my scores have been 310 and 297. So I smashed my score by over 50 reps. Wow!!! My biggest flaw was that I tired out on the last round. I was ahead of Andrew by 10 reps going into the last round and he came back and beat me by three reps. That is why I must go hard on every exercise. That would have really made my day sweet. This morning I did a WOD at my house. 15 Thursters 40lb dumbells and run 500m which is around the block. My previous time was 12:51 and I wanted to break 12:00. I was on pace and then the last lap hit me. My final time was 12:05. BREAKING NEWS THE WODS HAVE BEEN POSTED FOR THE CROSSFIT SECTIONALS. WORKOUT A: RUN 800 AND MAX REP OVERHEAD SQUATS 115LBS – 6 MINUTES TOTAL. WORKOUT B: HOW MANY ROUNDS CAN YOU DO IN 10 MINUTES OF 7 THRUSTERS 115LBS, 12 KETTLEBELL SWINGS 53LBS, 7 PULLUPS. I COMPETE AGAINS 270 GUYS AT 12 NOON AND THEN 4PM. I AM EXCITED ABOUT THE WODS. I THINK THEY ARE REALLY GOOD FOR MY STRENGTHS. THERE ARE NO BOX JUMPS SO THEY ARE NOT PERFECT BUT I STILL LIKE THEM. I NEED TO BEAT 250 GUYS TO MAKE IT TO REGIONALS. WOW!

Fri., March 19

Yesterday we did Workout B from the sectionals. It was much harder than we had thought. We were disappointed that they were not more creative but it will still decide who is the most fit. I did 5 rounds + 2 kettelbell swings. Andrew did 6 rounds + 4 thrusters. My new strategy is to go hard the first set and then the second set split up the thursters into two sets. Rest 10 seconds and go again. Immediately hit the KB swings and then rest another 10 seconds before the pullups. I must do all 7 pullups every time. I do not want to break that up. I need a little more control so I do not die so much at the end. All these workouts are like a 400. You want to go out hard but if you go too fast then you will hit the wall in the race is over. But if you go out too slow then you have energy left over that was not used. I am relying on my Savior to show me the correct accuracy in that. We are going to do Workout A on Sunday morning. Once again it will give us a better strategy for the real games. Before doing the workout I tested in two more max – snatch and bench. Since I had not practiced snatches for over a month it remained the same at 132. But my bench went up again by 11lbs to 187. I was happy about that.

Mon., March 22 – 12 week

Can you believe it. It is the start of the 12th week. My long road of training is almost over. Well I guess it could continue if I am in the top 20. So my goal is to get that. I know that will mean five more weeks of training because the Regional games are not until May 8-9. After having a two day break of Friday and Saturday, I met up with Jon and Andrew on Sunday morning to do the WOD A that will be at the Sectional games. We have a six minute time limit to run 800m and then perform as many as possible of overhead squats at 115lbs. My strategy was to run the 800 in three minutes and then have three minutes to perform 40 OH squats. Well I did not get that many. I ran the 800 in about 3:05 but by the time got the bar in the right position to start squatting I am sure it was 3:15. I gradually did 15 to start. Then I rested on my back for about 10 seconds and went for another 5. On the fifth one my shoulder gave out so the bar actually slammed into my head and then fell to the ground. I picked it up again and did a few more before the timer was beeping. I had only completed 26. I was disappointed until I heard what Jon and Andrew got – 9 and 20. It is the first time that I have beaten Andrew in a lifting WOD. I am very excited. I am so glad we did this because now I have a better strategy. Eventhough Andrew ran faster than me, I still beat him on the reps. I was not tired so maybe I need to run faster to have more time for lifting. So I think I want to run in 2:45 so I can have the bar in position at 3 minutes and then have a full three minutes to get the job done. I want to squat as fast as I can too. I think I can get 20-25 in right away without resting. Then after that rest for 10 seconds after every 5 reps. So my goal is still 40-50 reps.

Today I did the 8x400 with 90sec rest around my block at home. I cut some of the block off so it was more like a 400. My times were 1:28, 1:28, 1:26, 1:25, 1:25, 1:25, 1:23, 1:20. I averaged 1:25 and my total time was 21:50. I did better than I thought which is always encouraging. My goal was to break 23minutes.

Thurs., March 25

On Tuesday Andrew and I did the WOD “B” again with chest to bar pullups instead. The rumor has been going around that instead of just pullups it will be chest to bar. So that definitely made it tougher. I was able to get 4 rounds in and 1 C2B pullup. Last time I did 5 rounds with 2 KB swings. So my goal for the Sectional games will be 5 rounds. I know that chest to bar will be difficult for everyone. I will trust the Lord that I will stay mentally in it the full 10 minutes. I will tell my coach to fix the bar when I drop it and to fix the KB when I drop it. I need reminders of time at 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minutes and 20 seconds. One extra rep will make the difference. For WOD “A” my goal is to get to the bar by 2:45 and then start squatting at 3 minutes. I practiced that last night. I snatched it up and did 20 the first round but I did not stay on my goal of 5 and rest. I had to drop the bar two times which takes up a lot of time. If I do drop it, I am going to clean it up and start again. I did 35 last night but I did not know when my time was up so I could of done more. At the same time, I felt like I did not go down low enough on every rep. My goal is still 40. I want my coach to tell my time at 2 minutes remaining, 1 minute remaining and 20 seconds remaining.

Today I am only going to warmup and work out some soreness in my hamstrings. I hope I can feel pain free come Saturday. May God be the glory in all I do this weekend. It has been an incredible journey.
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