Spring Beauties: fresh sliced Tomatoes

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Slice em, dice em or eat em whole.  Come spring time in Florida nothin’ beats a home grown tomato.  Excitement bubbled when I spotted these spring beauties at my local coop last weekend.  I cut one open as soon as I walked in the door.

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Simply cut with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper as a snack or side to your meal

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Or dressed with a little fresh parsley and olive oil.

Of course the ultimate just may be a BLT — tomato and bacon are just short of heaven.

Spring (c)Leaning

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Circa 2009. 2015 version? Yea baby and better than ever. . .

The ebb and flow of the seasons has more meaning and impact than just the weather. The foods we eat, the processes our bodies go through and our activities should all vary throughout the year in a harmonious fashion.

Over the years I’ve found a seasonal pattern in my life. The summer has always been my favorite time of the year. Bring on the heat! And I am not disappointed living in Florida. The summer is a time of weekends at the beach, workouts drenched in sweat and wearing limited clothing. I want to feel and look my leanest and the heat has me craving cooler and lighter foods.

Around the beginning of fall I crave the autumnal foods and start cooking my pumpkins, the weather turns colder, the holidays approach and I love curling up in my sweats. And I indulge “moderately” in home cooked comfort foods and desserts.

Come January it’s still cold and I’m still eating–having a fun and cozy winter. It’s also a new year and I want the clutter out of my life so I begin my ‘spring’ cleaning – at the box and at my house. Each room gets assigned a weekend – since that’s the only time I can work on it. It gets thoroughly cleaned, closets gone through and the useless and not used taken to Goodwill. Aaaaah, what a wondrous feeling to let go of that stuff. My target goal is to have it all completed by the first day of spring.

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With the box and house tidy and organized the question of whether I can still don a bikini at now age 55 begins to surface. The winter comfort foods eaten in amounts with a laissez faire attitude have had me accumulating some pounds. My training has been geared towards increased strength, muscle and performance during the fall and winter season but looking at myself naked in the mirror tells me it is all not muscle and that fat has got to go.

Plans for my spring lean out begin to take shape, pun intended. That generally begins around mid March – giving me plenty of time until bikini season starts. This year we’ve something a little different planned. . .

I competed recreationally in the Women’s Tri Fitness for over 10 years; that consisted of running a 160 yard military style obstacle course, fitness skills and a physique round. That journey helped me overcome many things, friendships were made and a sense of confidence in the ability to accomplish goals was created. A second knee injury found me giving up the hurdles at age 47; I can’t complain, I had a good run. While the physique component was never my favorite it was pretty cool to see yourself ripped if only for a short time.

Circa 2006

Circa 2006

One of our coaches and a few of the girls at the box were looking to do an upcoming event the Tampa Bay Classic on June 6, 2015. “Why don’t you do the Figure over 50?” they asked. I haven’t put on a posing suit in over 10 years—and at age 55?? Can it even be done?

They looked at me and basically said “WTF, what would you tell us? Of course it’s possible.” I really hate it when my words come back to haunt me. I gave it some consideration (a few months actually) and finally made the commitment. Why the hesitation? It’s a lot of work, time, effort and determination plus the full time running of the box keeps my plate full.

And at age 55—how will the body respond, it’s changed?  Is diet and exercise still enough?  This isn’t my usual ‘let’s lose 5-7 pounds for the summer’. This is a six pack effort. Wow, the answer is yes I’ll do it!!  And IMO the best way to make a commitment is to put it out there. Expose yourself and conquer. That’s what I’m doing.

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Wow, these pictures are frightening. But here they are. Follow us in this Lean Out Series as the girls of CF Jaguar prepare for a Figure & Bikini contest.

Let me preface this whole process by saying:

This is not normal nor necessary for health and well being; this is not sustainable, this is extreme and this is NOT for everyone. There are quite a few aspects to the process and it requires a lot of time, planning, commitment, hard work and the right mindset.  It can transform you or it can take you down.  It depends on the individual and their state of mind.  You must be ‘comfortable’ or ‘ok’ with putting yourself out there on stage and allowing people to judge you knowing it also highly subjective and to a degree political.  You must look far beyond your ‘placing’ to see the value.  Again, this is not for everyone but the experience can be invaluable and life changing for some.

This will be an ongoing series of our training, nutrition, stage preparation for the competition. Follow us in our journey. Next up – meet the Girls and why they made the commitment.

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Some things are perfect just the way they are.  I have not changed this recipe much in the 30 years I’ve been making it.  Every St. Patrick’s Day since my husband and I got together we’ve been having this classic dish for dinner with my parents.  Traditions are solid and this one I see no need to change. . .

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The Meat

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The Veggies.

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Key is to start with quality briskets.  Definitely worth the extra$.  Make sure they are nitrate and nitrite free.  Your brisket label should read something like this. . .”beef, water, sea salt, unrefined sugar, beet powder, garlic powder, flavoring, coated with bay leaves, mustard seed, allspice”.  There’s no need for chemicals or anything unnatural.  Man has been eating meat for centuries this way until about the last two.  Hmmm, that’s when health problems started to rise.

Check out what to look out for in many commercial brands by scrolling down and reading the ingredients found in a leading brand of corned beef brisket – Grobbel’s.   What you want to avoid or look out for are gluten, hydrolyzed corn protein, monosodium glutamate, soy, Sodium Erythrobate, Sodium Nitrate and vague suspect words such as “tenderizers, natural flavoring, curing,  preservatives etc”.  They have no place in your food.

It definitely costs more to buy the better quality meats but one way or the other you will pay long term.  We give up other things we want and make food quality a priority.  The damage is cumulative; at 55 and 66 my husband and I are in good health, medication free (aka toxic drug free) and while other things play a part, nutrition is huge and within everyone’s control.  Ooops, I got off on a tangent, back to the brisket. . .

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Take the brisket out of the bag and squeeze as much of the goodies out as you can

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Cover with nice cold filtered water; put a lid on it and cook at 300 degress for about 1 hour and a half

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Remove from oven and add in your potatoes, carrots and cabbages; adjust water if needed.  Place back in the oven and cook for 2-3 hours more or until fork slides out easily of the beef.

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And don’t forget the sauces:  creamy Dijon mustard or tangy horseradish

Recipe & Ingredients

2, 3-4# corned beef briskets (no crap added)
4-5 large Russet potatoes peeled or red potatoes (your preference)
4-5 carrots, cut in large pieces
1 head organic cabbage, quartered

Preparation

Take briskets out of package, place in large roaster squeezing as much spice and juice out of the packet as you can.  Cover briskets with cold filtered water and place in a cold oven.  Turn to 300 degrees and cook for 1 and 1/2 hours.

Remove brisket from oven and add in potatoes, carrots and cabbage.  Return to oven and cook for 2-3 hours longer or until fork slides easily out of the corned beef.

Allow to sit 10-15 minutes before slicing against the grain.  Serve with veggies and sauces

The Sauces:

Creamy Horseradish Sauce
2-3 tbs horseradish
1/3 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp lemon juice
sea salt to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl

Mustard Sauce
1/3 cup homemade mayo
2 tbs dijon mustard
1 tbs creme fraiche
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl

Enjoy and may the luck of the Irish be with you!

Easy Barbecue Sauce

Ever read the label of a conventional bottle of barbecue sauce?  It goes something like this. . .

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or this. . .

“Sugar, Water, Tomato Paste, Vinegar, Corn Sweetener, Salt, Modified Food Starch, Spices, Natural Hickory Smoke Flavor, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate [Preservative], Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Dehydrated Garlic and Onion, Guar gum”

Yea.  High fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and other questionable ingredients in a simple barbecue sauce?  Not.  This easy recipe takes less than 5 minutes to make and has been a family favorite for years.  And it’s versatile as it goes well with both chicken and pork.

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Grab a small to medium size bowl and dump in 1 cup organic ketchup (no crap added).  I like Muir Glen brand but there are other good brands out there.  Add the juice of choice; they’re both delicious.  Stir well to combine, add in remaining ingredients and mix well.  That’s it, ready to use!

Suggested uses:

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I made this yummy pork butt last weekend; after it cooled

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I removed excess fat, shredded it and tossed with the sauce along with some pan juices.

I love the pineapple juice flavor when I do pulled chicken on the grill–especially in the summertime.  Intermix them, get creative and add more or less mustard/vinegar depending on your taste preference.  Every time I make it’s just as delicious but a just little bit different.

And it will last about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Recipe & Ingredients

1 cup organic ketchup
1/2 cup organic apple or pineapple juice (should be cloudy looking)
1-2 tablespoons Dijon or yellow mustard (your preference)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Crystal hot sauce
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation

Put ketchup in small to medium bowl, add juice of choice and mix well.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  Taste for seasonings and adjust to suit yours.

Grilled Grouper with Jalapeno Tartar Sauce

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Living in Florida I am fortunate to have a year round supply of fresh local seafood and one of my favorites is grouper.  Whether black, gag, yellowmouth or red this is a very versatile fish and the taste is distinctive with a nice lobster and shrimp flavor due to the grouper’s diet of shellfish.

This is an especially simple meal to make–sure to impress both guests and family members alike.  You can make it in the oven but there’s no doubt the flavor is greatly enhanced on the grill.

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Prepare marinade as directed and place in Ziploc bad along with grouper.  Allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes max.

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Place in well oiled fish grill.  I used the reserved marinade and painted it on with a pastry brush.  After having my fish stick a few times along with the labor in cleaning a crusty grill I figured it was well worth the effort.

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Grill over direct high heat (lid closed) 4 minutes per side, flipping once.

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Yay no sticking!

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Your choice of sides; we had baked acorn squash and turnip greens sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

Recipe & Ingredients

For the fish
1 1/2 pounds fresh Florida gag grouper (any type will do)
1 cup sour orange juice (can use equal parts orange and lemon/lime juice)
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the sauce
1/3 cup homemade mayo
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon finely diced sweet pickles
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

Preparation

For the fish:
Prepare marinade; put garlic, onions, cilantro and jalapeno pepper in a food processor, process until finely chopped.  Add sour orange juice and pulse 1 or 2 times to blend. Slowly add in the olive oil with the processor running.  Add desired amount of salt and pepper and transfer to a Ziploc bag.  Add the grouper and marinate at room temperature for 30-45 minutes max.

Meanwhile prepare the grill.  If using a fish grill use some of the marinade mixture on the grill itself before adding the fish — this will prevent the fish from sticking and make clean up easier.  Grill over direct high heat 4 minutes per side, flipping once.

For the sauce:
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, taste for seasoning preference, adjust as desired and transfer to a serving dish.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

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It’s almost spring and here in Florida the weather is already starting to heat up.  When going through my freezer this past weekend I realized I still had two bags of pumpkin leftover from Thanksgiving!  Well, time to use it, I’m not overly fund of pumpkin dishes in June.  What to make?

The first thing that came to my mind was a nice, moist pumpkin bread.  For breakfast with a side of flesh or how  I prefer–as a dessert.  This was a spinoff or healthier remake from this Easy Pumpkin Bread recipe from King Arthur.  I’m gluten intolerant so everything I made is gluten free whether for my family or others.  We’re all better off without it and you honestly cannot tell the difference.  This recipe is sure to please and easy to make. . .

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In a large bowl, beat together the melted lard and coconut oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin and water.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and vanilla stirring to combine.  Stir in the nuts and coconut if using.

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If desired, sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of maple sugar per loaf

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Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 80 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.

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I made one with pecans only for the Jag and one with pecans and coconut (my fav).  Enjoy!

Recipe & Ingredients

1/2 cup rendered lard, melted
1/2 cup coconut oil (unrefined)
2 2/3 cup organic cane sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed pumpkin (can sub canned)
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups King Arthur Gluten Free multi purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans, optional
1 cup coconut flakes, optional
Maple sugar for sprinkling on top, optional

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour two, 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pans or two, 9″ x 5″ pans (use the smaller pans if you are making the plain version and the larger pans if you adding the coconut and nuts*).  Use the smaller pans if omitting pecans and coconut.

In a large bowl, beat together the melted lard and coconut oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin and water.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and vanilla stirring to combine.  Stir in the nuts and coconut if using.  To make one loaf with nuts/coconut, one loaf without, divide the batter in half.  Leave one plain and add 1/2 nuts and 1/2 cup coconut to the other.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans.  Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with maple sugar, if desired.  Bake the bread for 60 to 80 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean; and that same tester inserted about 1/2″ into the top of the loaf doesn’t encounter any totally unbaked batter.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool it completely on a wire rack.  To store, wrap it well in plastic wrap

*I only had two of the smaller pans and it worked okay with the add ins, just a fuller loaf.