Kitchen Adventures || Mexican Gumbo

So, to be completely honest, I really didn’t know what this was going to be when I started cooking, but I’m thrilled with the result. This was very much an effort to make a quick, easy, nutritious, and filling meal for dinner on a weeknight. I just started chopping and dumping things in a pot and this is what came out! Mexican Gumbo is about the best “name” I could come up with, but if you make it and think of something better to call it, let me know!

The whole thing took less than 45 minutes for me. Using a rotisserie chicken saved some time and effort, but you could just as easily cook some chicken breast or thighs if you wanted. Enjoy y’all!

INGREDIENTS

Olive Oil for cooking
1 bell pepper – any color – diced
1/2 onion – diced
3 cloves garlic – minced
1 jalapeno – remove seeds and ribs – diced
1 7 oz can diced green chilis
1 14.5 oz can fired roasted diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans black beans – drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup rice
2 lbs (approximately) cooked shredded chicken – I just used a rotisserie chicken and shredded it up in the pot!
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 TBS chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
salt & pepper to taste

To top
Avocado
Green Onions
Sliced jalapeno
Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Tortilla Chips

INSTRUCTIONS

If you aren’t using a rotisserie chicken, cook your chicken and shred to go into the pot later.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, jalapeno, and onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, green chiles, black beans and all the spices. Stir to combine well. Cook for about a minute or until fragrant. Next, add the broth. Bring the mixture to a low boil and add the rice. Add the shredded chicken and stir to mix all of the ingredients well. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the rice has cooked.

It should be a pretty thick mixture, but if you prefer it to be a bit thinner you can add some more broth. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as desired.

Serve it up with avocado, jalapeno, greek yogurt, cheese, whatever you like!  Tortilla chips give a nice little crunch!

Kitchen Adventures || Venison Meatloaf

Dinner is served!

Salad or meatloaf ingredients?

Will you look at that gorgeous color?!

Baking pan set up
All done!

Whoever decided meatloaf and meatballs needed breadcrumbs… I disagree. They claim it’s a “binding agent” but in myexperience, the egg does a fine job of that and using vegetables gives it a lovely texture and keeps it moist! There is nothing worse than a brick of dried out meatloaf.. This is also a great opportunity to sneak in some extra veggies if you have a hard time with that! I outlined a couple of options for cooking in the instructions so do what you’re comfortable with.

As for the pre-cooked ingredients…. Is that not gorgeous! That basically looks like a salad before it gets mixed up with the meat and MY GOD that venison is beautiful! You know you’re getting really good quality meat when it has that beautiful rich color.

A little bit of planning needs to go into this because of the baking time, but it really is a very simple weeknight meal that will yield enough leftovers for lunch the next couple of days. We had this with an Italian salad and some green beans… dang we ate a lot of veggies!

Ok, enjoy guys!

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs Venison (Obviously I used Force of Nature because I’m obsessed)
1/2 medium yellow onion – finely diced
1 rib celery – finely diced
1 large carrot – grated
1 small zucchini – grated
1/2 cup kale tightly packed – stems removed and finely chopped
1 small bell pepper – any color – finely diced
2 large cloves garlic – minced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 large eggs
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP brown mustard
1 tsp pink salt1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dry rubbed sage

For the glaze
1/2 cup ketchup
1 TBSP Worcestershire
2 TBSP coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350. Wash, chop/mince/grate all the vegetables. In a large bowl, gently break up the venison being careful not to overwork the meat. This is important in keeping it from getting tough when it’s cooked. (This goes for all meats in meatloaf/meatballs)

In a separate bowl, mix all of the rest of the meatloaf ingredients until well combined. I started by mixing all of the vegetables first and then added the seasoning and wet ingredients. Once all of that is combined, add the desired amount to the bowl with your venison. I like my meatloaf to be totally packed, but that’s up to you. You still want it to somewhat hold together.

You have a couple of options for how to cook this. I have taken to just forming a “loaf” and cooking it on a baking sheet. I have found it cooks faster and I can drain any excess liquid or fat very easily. If you want to stick to a traditional loaf pan though, that is totally acceptable.

Mix the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl until well combined. Using about 1/3 of the glaze, spread a thin layer over the top (and sides if using the baking sheet method). Reserve the rest to serve with the meatloaf once it’s done. Baking times will vary depending on your method. For a baking sheet/pan about an hour should do it. It may take just a bit longer in a loaf pan or glass dish, but shouldn’t take more than 1:15. You can use meat thermometer to check the internal temp if you’re unsure.

Because I like to drain the extra fat/liquid, I checked it about 45 min in and drained it and then finished out the last 15 min.

That’s it guys. This packs in so much flavor, a ton of great veggies, and is super simple to make. Enjoy!

Kitchen Adventures || Lasagna Soup

So, between a wedding and the Super Bowl last weekend I got some meal prepping done, but not enough to get us through the week and I had NO idea what I was going to post of this week’s Kitchen Adventures. We had another lovely week with a 30 degree drop which changed what I wanted to eat. I meal prepped lighter things like taco salad for earlier in the week, but today had me wanting something warm and hearty.

This afternoon, lasagna popped in my head… It’s been a really long time since I’ve made lasagna…  I like it, but I wasn’t really in the mood to do all the work to make it AND I wasn’t sure I really wanted all that cheese and pasta. I also thought about making another batch of some version of veggie soup… then…. Lasagna Soup came into my mind.

Y’all…. This is such a great alternate if you like lasagna. It’s not nearly as heavy. YOU control how much cheese goes in. I’m not a HUGE fan of the texture of ricotta so this was great because I could add just a little to my soup to get the creaminess and the flavor without going overboard! You also have the option of using a grain free or veggie based pasta if you like!

Anyway, this was quick to make and so insanely delicious. Enjoy!

Lasagna Soup

INGREDIENTS

1 LB Italian Sausage – I used FON Wild Boar and seasoned with Italian Seasoning
8-12 oz of pasta – I used a small penne veggie pasta
1-2 TBSP Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic – minced
½ yellow onion – diced
4 TBSP tomato paste
6 cups chicken broth
(1) 28 oz (or 2 14.5 oz) cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 cup mozzarella
Fresh basil – chiffonade
½ cup grated Parmesan
8 oz whole milk ricotta
Salt & Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and open the cans first because this recipe moves pretty quickly so you’ll want to have everything ready to go.

In one pot, start some water to boil. Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the box. Drain and set aside. A little al dente is good for this because you’ll be adding it to a hot soup.

While the water is heating for the pasta, heat a tbsp of olive oil a large pot (as always, I used my enameled cast iron Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the meat – if using the Force of Nature Wild Boar, add 2 TBSP Italian Seasoning and brown, crumbling as it cooks.

Once browned, drain any excess fat or add more olive oil as needed and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until the onions begin to soften. Next, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Then, add the tomato paste and continuously stir for another minute.

Add the broth, bay leaves, tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and season with salt & pepper to taste. Bring the whole mixture to a boil, then stir, reduce to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until it begins to thicken.

While the soup is working, mix the ricotta, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl and set aside. Chop the basil and shred the mozzarella (or open the bag… 😉 )

Finally, add the pasta and stir well! Serve in a giant bowl (or a normal sized bowl…) and top with a dollop of the ricotta mixture, shredded mozzarella, and basil. Enjoy.

February Athlete of the Month || Denise Valdez!

Each month we spotlight a different CFA athlete who stands out and shows just how awesome they are. What is it that makes up an Athlete of the Month? It may not be the person that finishes the fastest, Rx’s every WOD, or gets a PR every time they walk in the gym. Although we love and celebrate when those things happen, the Athlete of the Month is made up of much more than physical ability. This person shows up, gives their best every time, and then gives a little more. They are hungry to learn and always ready to do the work. They support their fellow classmates and encourage them to reach their goals. This athlete embodies what we believe the CrossFit Austin Community should be about.

Our February Athlete of the Month is Denise Valdez! Denise is one of our OGs! She’s been with CFA since February of 2012 which is appropriate for her to be AOM in her “gymiversary” month! Denise is one of the sweetest people we know and you can guarantee she has a smile and a ‘hello’ for everyone who walks through the doors. Both she and her husband George show their daughter Danica a great example of taking care of your health and we love to have sweet families like their’s training together! Denise exemplifies so many of the qualities we look for in an AOM and has found a place both in our hearts and in our community. Denise, the CFA Team is proud to honor you as our February Athlete of the Month and as an awesome part of this team. Thanks for your all your hard work and we look forward to seeing all you accomplish in the years to come! Congratulations!

State your Name and/or Nickname please:
Denise, Dee Dee, or D
 
Words to live by?
“Win in the mind.”- Mark Divine, former Navy Seal
Fight Through.
There is always someone out there who has it worse.
 
What is your fitness background?
In middle school I played a few sports and in high school I was in the marching band(if you consider that a sport). Pre mommy-hood, I trained for sprint triathlons and half marathons.
 
How long have you been CrossFitting?
I started CrossFit in February 2012.
 
Take us back to your first day of CrossFit… How did you feel? How do you compare it to workouts today?
George and I hit a plateau at the “global gym” and decided that we needed a new challenge. So we looked into CrossFit and CFA showed up in our search. The day of our 1-on-1 session was a Saturday. I remember being nervous and excited. Before our session began, we had the chance to spectate the athletes working out to “Fight Gone Bad”. It looked intense and was rather intimidating. I almost hit the ground running, but I have ”No Ragrets” joining CFA. (“Not even one single letter.”) -We’re the Millers, 2013.
The WODs today are still a challenge and just as intense.
What’s your favorite part of CrossFit Austin?
My favorite part of CrossFit Austin is definitely the community. We have the best Coaches who strive to make us a better version of ourselves.
The Members. I know I can always count on ya’ll for motivation, a smile, good laughs, and Thirsty Thursday. Great friendships grow here.
 
Current Training Goals/PRs?
When it comes to upper body strength, I’ve always been a light weight. I want to be able to lift heavier weight and continue to get better overall in all skills(DU, HSPU, unassisted PU, etc.)
I also want to get back into training for races, eventually making my way back to a half marathon. In April, I plan on running the Longhorn Run.
 
What advice do you have for folks just starting out in CrossFit?
Quality first. Quantity will follow.
No matter how tough the workout gets, just keep moving and fight through.
And have fun.
What is your cheat meal go to?
Definitely a burger or pizza.
 
How do you use your fitness outside of the gym?
As Danica gets older, she is more active and I need to be able to keep up with her. At work, I sometimes have to transfer a patient from their wheelchair to my operatory chair. And for fun, fitness comes in handy for adventure hikes.
 
Tell us about a moment you felt most proud of yourself during a workout.
June 2019, MURPH. I thought I was going to only do a third of MURPH. I ended up doing a half MURPH.
 
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your fitness journey?
In November 2017, I was set back having been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I gave myself only one option. Overcome UC.
Each workout is always a challenge. I remind myself that it’s ok if the new me is slower. I tell myself to push a little harder to a capacity that my body will allow. Working out really helps me to feel accomplished physically and mentally.
 
If you could create a WOD and name it for yourself, what would it be?
“New Hope” for Time
5 Burpees
5 Deadlifts
5 American KB swings
400 m Weighted Tire Drag
10 Burpees
10 Deadlifts
10 American KB swings
200 m Weighted Tire Drag
15 Burpees
15 Deadlifts
15 American KB swings
100 m Weighted Tire Drag
 
What keeps you going on the days you don’t feel like it?
Mental fortitude. Sometimes I’ll get off to a slow start. Once I start moving, I have to just keep moving, and finish strong. Danica and George are my reason, therefore, I will not let this condition dictate my life.
 
What are your hobbies, interests and/or talents outside of CrossFit?
I enjoy the outdoors(camping and hiking), Longhorn Football, and lately trying new restaurants. I’ve also dabbled a little in photography.
 
Tell us something we don’t know about you…
I love Barbra Streisand.
They’re, their, you’re, your…when it is not used correctly, it irks me.
I make a pretty tasty arroz con pollo.
 
Leave the fine folks of CrossFit Austin with some parting words…
I am humbly honored to be AOM.
I love that I have the opportunity to be under the tutelage of amazing coaches and get to work out amongst positive and influential athletes. CFA is CFAmily.

Kitchen Adventures || Bourbon Cider Meatballs

Happy Wednesday! Meatballs have kind of become a staple for me because the base is so simple and you can get really creative with the flavors/sauces/etc… I also love making meatballs because you can sneak all kinds of goodies inside. I pretty much always have some kind of vegetable hidden inside them… cauliflower, carrots, zucchini… As long as its fine enough to roll nicely in with the meat, you can put just about any veggie inside them. This recipe actually has cauliflower AND apples inside the meatball!

This one is VERY easy and turned out so tasty that I ate 3 of them before Tim even made it home for dinner… This is something I would even consider taking as an appetizer or something for a potluck or a party or something, but last night I paired these with some roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato tots.

Also… my meat’balls’ almost never end up round haha! Maybe yours will be a little prettier than mine.

Give them a shot!

INGREDIENTS
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 large egg
1 medium apple – finely grated and pressed
1/4 cup (1 medium) shallot – finely minced
1/4 cup riced cauliflower
2 TBSP raw apple cider (don’t get “spiced” cider if you can help it)
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pink salt
Thinly sliced green onions to top

For the sauce
1 cup raw apple cider
2 TBSP low sodium soy or coconut aminos
2 TBSP bourbon or whiskey of your choice – this is optional, but it does really change the flavor
2 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp arrowroot powder mixed equally with cold water to dissolve (may use tapioca starch or cornstarch)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400. Using a grater, grate the apple and using a cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel, squeeze the excess liquid out of the shavings. In a large bowl, add the apple, egg, shallot, cauliflower, cider, vinegar, mustard and seasoning. Mix well until combined. Add the ground turkey and mix until combined, but be careful not to over mix the meat. If it is too wet, you can add a little more cauliflower.

Mold into balls and place on a lined cookie sheet. I think I got 14-15 (1) inch meatballs. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked through and slightly golden.

While the meatballs are cooking make your sauce. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, mix all of the sauce ingredients except the arrowroot powder mixture. Bring the mixture to a light boil. Lower the heat to low-medium and slowly, while continuously whisking, add the arrowroot mixture to the sauce. Continue whisking over low-medium heat until the sauce thickens. If it becomes too thick you can add a little water or cider.

Once the meatballs are done, you can add them directly to the saucepan to coat. Serve with thinly sliced green onion sprinkled on top and enjoy!

I went to a Wimhof workshop…Here’s what I learned || Coach Heidi

TL/DR: Wim Hof breathing techniques and cold training are definitely worth checking out for recovery and building grit.

I don’t like the cold. Let me say it again, loud and clear: I DO NOT LIKE THE COLD. I often joke that I’m Thai, and I grew up in Houston, Texas; therefore I’m built for hot, sweaty, humid weather. So, when I started hearing about this crazy Dutch guy named Wim Hof years ago, I thought, “Yeah, that’s cool, but I’ll never, ever do that.” Fast forward a few years, and there I was, voluntarily signing up for an in-person workshop.

 

Who: Wim Hof is probably best known for his extreme-cold adventures, like swimming underneath the ice, running half-marathons barefoot in the snow, and hanging out in tubs full of ice on the regular. They call him “The Iceman” for good reason. 

 

What: The Wim Hof Method includes the pillars of cold therapy, breathing, and commitment. I attended an in-person workshop the second weekend in January with nearly 40 other people at a Bikram Yoga studio in East Austin. It was led by Elizabeth Lee, a Level 3 Instructor, who was playful, professional, and best of all, practical. 

 

Why: While the WHM is still met with some skepticism, it claims to relieve symptoms of several diseases due to its effects on one’s physiology. However, within athletic circles, the touted benefits are improved recovery, increased sports performance, more energy, and a boosted immune system, among others.

 

Before attending this workshop, I watched the Vice documentary about Wim Hof so I’d have some idea of what to expect. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know that some footage seems a little over-the-top. Nevertheless, I decided to have an open mind about it and to give it a solid effort. After all, why pay money for an in-person workshop if I’m just going to act like a grumpy skeptic the entire time? 

 

The first portion of the workshop was on breathing. We jumped right into the practical application of it, and while I know a bit about breathwork and practice frequently, I’d never gone as far as this. We laid on the floor, and we deepened and sped up our breath for 10-15 minutes, and before I knew it, my hands started to curl up (T-Rex style), my face was going numb, and I felt my entire body start to buzz. It was nuts. In my head, all I could think was WTF, since I genuinely couldn’t believe that focused breathwork could make you feel so… well, high. Wim, being the character that he is, says that’s energy moving through your body and “getting the s*** out.” The lack of scientific explanation (hyperoxygenation) is probably one reason his methods are met with skepticism from many, but I’m touchy-feely enough to be okay with the layman’s version!

 

Then, segueing off of that breathing exercise, we started playing with “power breaths” and holds. Holds are when you take a big breath in, let it out, and hold there for as long as you can before having to take the next breath. We did a baseline measurement, and I got to 20 seconds before wanting to take another breath. To be fair, I was trying to do what felt natural without turning myself blue. We followed that with the breathing exercises and took three more measured holds, and I ended at 1:42, 1:51, 1:46. Again, all I could think was WTF.

Then came the part that had made me the most anxious in the week leading up to the workshop: the ice bath. We preceded it with 20 minutes in horse stance to get ourselves revved up and warmed up for the 32-degree ice-water (yes, they measured the temp exactly). I won’t drag this part out, but it was… really freaking cold (duh). If you want a good laugh, just watch the video of me freaking out and struggling to breathe for the first minute, and then eventually surrendering to it. I never got my arms into the pool because the bottom was slippery, and I was just trying to keep myself upright. In any case, once I’d settled in, it wasn’t so bad. I was totally invigorated and proud coming out of the tub, having toughed it out for a full two minutes. I even danced through the water a few more times to celebrate with my classmates!

 

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/WWlQgrSpOeA

 

The Takeaways: The big question coming out of this workshop is what I would do with what I learned. I am definitely going to learn more about the breathing exercises and their supposed benefits, so stay tuned for that. I’m still not fully certain how or why I should be creating a daily practice for this. As for the ice bath, I am 100% going to incorporate that into my recovery routine. There’s a reason athletes do ice plunges regularly! For me personally, the mental toughness is just as important as the physical recovery. The cold training will never be fun or easy for me, but I can almost guarantee it’ll be worth it. As a CrossFitter, I also know that doing hard things is almost always easier with friends, so be on the lookout for community cold-plunge days at CrossFit Austin!

 

Further Reading: The Way of the Iceman by Wim Hof and Koen De Jong and What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney are both on the bookshelf in the office at CrossFit Austin!

Kitchen Adventures || Lentil Falafel Bowls

Definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone this week! Mine and Tim’s favorite food truck is a place on East 6th called Halal Time and they make the BEST Falafels. Mine don’t even hold a candle to those, but they did actually come out falafel like this time! I tried once before to make falafel and it was a big fail. Not because they didn’t taste good… they were just a big mushy mess… This time, consistency was on point! I think traditionally, falafel is made from chickpeas, but this version uses lentils and herbs. I’m sure you could do the same thing with chickpeas, but since I was doing roasted chickpeas in the bowl I wanted to use another source.

While the falafel was my big win for this recipe, they are not the only thing in this bowl. It’s packed full of colorful veggies with rich flavors and all topped with a zingy yogurt sauce. If you’re looking for a tasty, filling meatless option, here ya go! This recipe made 4 large bowls for us this week.

 

INGREDIENTS
For the falafel
1 cup (large handful) fresh parsley – leaves and stems
1 cup (large handful) fresh cilantro – leaves and stems
2 cups cooked lentils – slightly undercooked is better for consistency
1 TBSP olive oil
1 jalapeno – seeds optional for more spice
2 cloves of garlic
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1-2 TBSP flour of your choice – best would likely be almond or cassava

For the bowls
6-8 carrots – peeled and sliced into
1 small red onion – cut into thick slices
1 head cauliflower – cut into florets
2-3 beets – washed
2 cans chickpeas – drained, rinsed, and dried
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive oil and coconut oil for roasting
Optional – 2 cups cooked quinoa to bulk up the bowls if you prefer

For the sauce
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic – minced
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 tsp fresh dill
pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Cook your lentils and if you’re using it, quinoa and set aside to cool. Remember, a little under is better for the lentils.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. All the veggies for this recipe are roasted and timing will be the most important part to be able to load your bowls easily at the end. Wash and trim the tops and tails off the beets. Coat in coconut oil and roast until fork tender (about 30 min depending on size). Carrots – wash, peel and cut into thin sticks. Coat in olive oil and roast for 20-25 minutes. Onion – peeled and sliced into thick slices – coat in olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes. Cauliflower – cut into floret – coat in olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes. Keep the seasoning simple with a little sea salt and black pepper!

For the chickpeas – drain, rinse, and lay them out on a layer of paper towels. Pat dry prior to roasting. This will help them crisp up a bit! Then, you guessed it – coat in olive oil and roast on a lined cookie sheet for about 20 minutes. Once finished, combine curry powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt and toss the chickpeas in the seasoning.

For the falafels – In a food processor, add all of the falafel ingredients except the flour and pulse until well combined. A little at a time, add the flour and pulse until the mixture becomes thick enough that it sticks together and can be handled and molded. To make things cleaner and easier, I used a greased mini muffin tin for mine and it was FANTASTIC. You can also mold them into balls and place them on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let them cool before messing with them so they don’t lose their structure.

For the sauce – combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl or jar. Cover and refrigerate and drizzle on after you’ve reheated your bowl.

Once everything is done, divide evenly amongst 4 bowls. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat!

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