Lucky "Game" Day Chili

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This is me being a foodie rebel. 

The day before Thanksgiving and my recipe post has absolutely nothing to do with turduckens, or herbed-up gravy atop oyster cornbread stuffing, or whipped sweet potatoes smothered in bourbon, brown sugar and bacon, or even pumpkin ____________ [fill in the blank].

I figured at this point your threshold for Thanksgiving hoopla has been far surpassed. 

This recipe is for the weekend after Thanksgiving, when you'll be hard pressed to find a television in the house that isn't tuned into one of the big college football rivalry games - at least that's how we do it down south.  

It's the perfect hearty-yet-low-maintenance meal for a "chili" November day, and it's even made with "game" for game day.  See what I did there?? I'm such a cheese ball.   

Even better, assuming the old wives' tale holds true, the black eyed peas may bring your favorite team good luck and the collard greens just might give you the upper hand on your bets!

And if a day of sitting on the couch watching football sounds about as enticing to you as venturing out into the Black Friday mob madness does me, prep the ingredients and throw them in the crock pot before you go to bed on Friday night, set the crock pot to low Saturday morning, and let the football fanatics fend for themselves while you enjoy some Small Business Saturday shopping. 

The menfolk will be so appreciative of your sweet gesture they'll have to think twice about making a comment on the car full of shopping bags you make them carry into the house for you.  

Bribery at its finest.

I hope your Thanksgiving brings you an overly stuffed belly and a day full of quality time with your family and friends (or at least as much as you can stand).

Lucky "Game" Day Chili
Serves: Enough for an army
Prep Time:  45 minutes
Cook Time:  12 hours
Total Time:  All dang day (but worth it)

1 lb venison roast, cut into 1 inch pieces*
1 lb venison cube steak, cut into 1 inch pieces*
1 lb ground elk*
4 slices of bacon, chopped 
2 yellow onions, diced
2 jalapenos, diced finely
2 serrano peppers, diced finely
3 chipotle peppers in adobo, finely diced
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
2 red peppers, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and chopped
4 cups frozen black eyed peas, thawed
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
2 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained
1.5 ounces dark chocolate, crushed
1 bottle brown ale
1 cup coffee
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
2 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon oregano 
1 teaspoon paprika 
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

In the largest pot you can find (mine was 8 quarts) fry chopped bacon until crispy, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Remove bacon and set aside.  Leaving the bacon grease in the pot, brown the venison in batches over high heat, careful not to crowd the pan.  It took me about three rounds and six minutes per round.  Set aside venison aside with the bacon once browned.  Add the onion to the pot and saute for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the jalapenos, serranos, red pepper, chipotles and adobo sauce and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, ancho chili powder, salt, oregano, paprika, coriander, and cinnamon and cook for an addition 2 minutes. Add ground elk and cook til browned, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Add bacon and venison back to the pot.  At this point I transferred the meat and veggie mixture to a crock pot because I wanted it to cook all day while I was away from the house.  If you are going to be at the house to keep an eye on it, you can leave it in the pot you browned the meat in.   Add in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, brown ale, coffee, black eyed peas and collards and stir well.  Cover and allow to cook on medium low heat if you are finishing yours on the stove or high heat if you are finishing yours in the crock pot.  After about an hour, stir in dark chocolate.  Simmer for 12 hours.  Serve with cheese, sour cream, tortillas, saltines, or whatever else you have stashed in the pantry.  And ice cold beer... it's pretty darn spicy.   

*If game meat is not your thing, or you just don't have access to it, you can substitute the venison cube steak with beef cube steak, the venison roast with bottom round, and the ground elk with ground sirloin or round. 

Love Yourself First

Monday, November 25, 2013

Today's Motivation:

Via Pinterest

Even when you have to get out of your cozy bed at 3:20 in the morning to let your dog out in the freezing cold, and literally have to walk outside in said freezing cold in your skivvies (note to self: buy flannel jammies or at least a damn robe) to open the porch door because like and idiot you closed it before you went to bed to keep the robbers and boogeymen out and never quite go back to sleep before your hubby wakes you up at 4:45 to workout, put yourself first.  Workout.  At least get one thing in for you before you start your crazy day.

Today's Workout:

It was freaking cold this morning.  Freezing.  Literally.  We aren't used to that here in the southeastern US of A. 

And it's supposed to be 20 degrees warmer tomorrow.  Hmph.

Anywhos, because it was so cold, the warm up was critical.  We started with a 250 meter row, and quickly moved into lunges, v-situps, planks, leg raises, windmills, and various stretching.   First up in the main event - front squats.   Ick.  I pretty much through a fit and told Scott I was done with the front squats and it was back squats for me from here on out.

I'm such a brat.

He convinced me to stick it out through this training cycle.  I will likely throw 192 fits before the end of this.  See above.

The goal was to work up to 3 sets of 3 reps at 70%, 80%, and finally 90% for max reps (again, based on Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program).  After warming up with the bar, then 55 lbs and 65 lbs, I moved into work sets of 75 lbs, 85 lbs, and 95 lbs for max reps.   In between the squat warm up sets and work sets, I did 5 box jumps (20 inches) and 2 pull ups with a teeny tiny red band.

My least favorite - Front Squats

Next up, the hardest circuit ever.

The goal was 8 rounds of alternating between 8 goblet squats and 25 steps and weighted carries, with a prescribed weight of 50% of body weight.  I tried... not happening.  I went with a little over 40% of body weight.  The real kicker was that for each time you had to set the weights down, which you inevitably will unless you're a real bad ass, you have to do 5 burpees at the end of the circuit. 

I finished the 8 rounds with 50 pounds in hand resting 3 times, meaning 15 burpees.

I'm already sore.

Goblet Squat
Weighted Carry

Sleep time.

You Are Defined By Your Habits

Friday, November 22, 2013

Today's Motivation:

I'll admit it - I'm guilty.  If I followed my urges, I'd sleep in, skip workouts, eat bacon cheeseburgers on the daily, obviously followed with a side of crispy, peppery fries drenched in malt vinegar.  Yum.

But, in the back of my mind I know better.  I know that habits like that aren't going to get me where I want to be.  Hence why I make myself reinforce the good habits on a daily basis.

Today's Workout:

Bench Press

We started with the bench press.  The goal was again to work up to 85% of my max.  Mine looked like this:

       Bar (45 lbs) x 5
       55 lbs x 5
       60 lbs x 5
       67.5 lbs x 5 (75% of max)
       72 lbs x 5 (80% of max)
       76.5 lbs x 11 (85% of max for max reps)

We then moved into a skill circuit of push-ups.  I worked on the strict push-up and the ring push-ups for 3 sets of 5 reps.

We finished the workout with a 3 minute "as-many-reps-as-possible" burpee challenge.  

Fun, fun, fun.

I managed 30 reps in 3 minutes.  And then I thought I might die.

Burpee AMRAP Challenge - that's me in the black

Up close and personal mid-burpee

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend.  And can I get a "hell yeah" for the short holiday work week next week? 

Look for my Game Chili recipe this weekend (that I failed to post on Thursday because I'm a slacker).  Next week I will try my best to get back on schedule.  Life has been a little crazy as of late.

Sage and Pecan Pesto Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

This was so easy.  And tasty.  And fally. 

Is that even a word?  Can we just agree that it is?  Because it perfectly describes so many of my current favorite food stuffs. 

After being out of town for months (OK, it was really three weeks, but the workload I came back to made it feel like I had crawled in a hole for several months), my refrigerator was barren. Knowing I would not have time to go to the grocery store on the Sunday we returned, I'm grateful I had the foresight to stock the freezer so we would at least have enough food for this week.

Unfortunately, I failed to take into consideration the lack of dinner prep "flair".  The state of the fridge was abysmal - no fresh veggies, little dairy, no bacon.  

That last one about did me in.  Pork on pork is always a good idea.

I was forced to get creative with my meager cheese rations, the pantry, and the herb garden.

Turns out, something so simple as pecan sage pesto is ridiculously flavorful.  It is my new favorite thing; I'm kind of obsessed.  

I'm certain this favoritism will only last so long as I find something else to cook with bacon, but I'll run with it for now.  

P.S.  Obviously an 11th hour grocery run was made for brussels sprouts and bacon.  I just can't get on board with frozen veggies, and using the word brussels sprouts without bacon in this house is blasphemy.

P.P.S.  Guess who didn't get up to work out this morning?  Slacker.  My goal is now W, Th, and F this week.  Lord help me.  
Sage and Pecan Pesto Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Serves: 4-8**
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time:  25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

1 package of pork tenderloin (usually comes two to a package)
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 bunch of sage, stems removed
2 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup of pecan pieces
1/4 cup of EVOO
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of black pepper
Salt and Pepper for Seasoning
Kitchen Twine

**If you are serving 4 people or less and have two tenderloins, go ahead and prep both and freeze one for an easy dinner down the road.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a food processor or blender, combine Parmesan cheese, sage, garlic, pecans, EVOO, salt and pepper and process or blend until smooth.   Butterfly pork tenderloins (video here). Spread flattened, butterflied pork tenderloins with Sage and Pecan Pesto. Tightly roll up pork tenderloin and secure with kitchen twine, starting with middle and then the ends. If you are freezing one loin, tightly wrap it in saran wrap and then foil and freeze. 

Heat a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Add pork tenderloin and brown for 2 minutes per side. Move pan to oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.  Allow to rest 5 minutes before removing twine and slicing to serve.

The New Black

Monday, November 18, 2013

Today's Motivation:

Via Pinterest

Or, at the very least, you won't feel the need to wear nearly as much black.

Today's Workout:

Because it is unseasonably (at least it feels unseasonably) warm, we started this morning with a lap around the building before moving into a warm up if stretching, planks, push ups, etc.

Afterward, we moved into front squats.  The goal was to work up to 3 sets of 5 reps at 75%, 80%, and finally 85% for max reps (based on Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program, a training program Scott swears by).  Of course, I missed the boat and thought that we were supposed to simply work up to 85% and complete 3 sets at 85%.  Because I skipped  the 75% and 80% and went straight for 3 sets at 85%, I was only able to get to 8 reps on my max set.  Par for the course. 

We then moved into what I like to call a Killer Circuit - not exactly a walk in the park. 

Mt. Climbers
Good Mornings
It was a doozie.

Wish me luck, I am going to do my best to get up tomorrow in efforts to get on a M, T, Th, F workout schedule.  It sounds like torture.

Weekly Menu and Weekly Wrap-Up 11.17.13 - 11.23.13

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekly Menu

Sunday: Dinner at Mom's

Monday:  New York Strip with Whipped Bourbon Bacon Sweet Potatoes from How Sweet It Is (recipe here)

Tuesday: Wild Game Chili (recipe to come)

Wednesday:  Honey Dijon and Rosemary Chicken Thighs

Thursday: Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Preserves from the Pioneer Woman (recipe here)

Friday:  Children's Miracle Network "Songwriter's in the Round" Event 

Saturday:  Dinner with one of my FAVORITE new mommas at Chive Blossom!

Weekly Wrap-Up:

Lickin' our chops on Monday.

Marveling at my beautiful wedding shower cake from an amazingly talented co-worker on Tuesday.  

 Guilt trippin' on Wednesday.

Embarrassed to say... Christmas decor shopping on Thursday.

Clearing my head on Friday.

Watching a certain lazy someone relax on Saturday.

Every Day I'm Struggling

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Today's Motivation:

Today's Workout:

Switching things up a bit, we started today's workout with the rower.  The goal was to row the furthest distance as possible in 50 reps.  I managed 480ish meters, but felt like I was going to pass out afterwords.  Honestly, couldn't breathe, tight chest, light headed.

When I recovered, we moved into the stretching and warm up movements - mountain climbers, v sit-ups, leg raises, planks, etc. 

The overall goal at CF Vengeance this week is to set our max rep standards with the 8-6-3-1 rep format.  Monday was the front squat, Tuesday was the over head press and pullup and arm hang, but because I missed Tuesday and Wednesday is usually recovery, I did the overhead press and arm hang today.

First up, over head press. I warmed up with 5 reps each of the bar, then 50 lbs, and finally 55 lbs.  My work set looked like this:

           60 lbs x 8
           60 lbs x 6 (I attempted, but couldn't complete, 65 lbs for 6 reps)
           65 lbs x 3 
           70 lbs x 1

Overhead Press
Next up, arm hang.  I am not quite ready for unassisted pull ups (my weakness), so my challenge was 3 sets of hanging in the pull up position for as long as physically possible.  Yay. 

I manged 28 seconds, 22 seconds and 25 seconds.  Can we say room for improvement. 

I finished the morning with this quick circuit to get my heart rate up a bit:

KB Swing

Box Jumps

Pumpkin Butter Sage Pork Chops with Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash and Apple Hash

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm pretty sure this is the best thing I've ever made.

There's a good chance I have made a similar statement before, but I really mean it this time.

There's also the possibility that my opinions were skewed by the fact that we enjoyed this meal by the fire, on our honeymoon, after a great hike to Little Green Mountain, in a storybook-worthy cabin at the tip-top of a mountain, but I'd like to think it was just that damn good.

So we'll just go with the best meal ever classification for now, mm-kay.

Somehow, I managed to pull myself out of relaxation mode long enough to jot down the recipe and snap a few pictures.  I had a sinking suspicion I'd want to kick myself later if I didn't.  Anything that combines pumpkin butter, sage, two kinds of pig, and butternut squash is inevitably going to be phenomenal. 

Only problem was, the sun had set before I finished grilling the pork and I didn't have my trusty Lowel EGO Light light with me.

Have you ever tried to photograph food with a flash?  It isn't pretty.    

As they say, necessity breeds invention (or in this case, necessity will encourage you to use your brain).  I had Scott fuel the fire with a a cardboard box and paper bag, which gave me bright light long enough to get a picture of the end result.  

It's not perfect, but its one of the prettiest pictures from the whole dang honeymoon if you ask me. 

Pumpkin Butter Sage Pork Chops with Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash and Apple Hash
Serves: 4
Prep Time:  30 minutes
Cook Time:  30 minutes
Total Time:  1 hour

4 pork chops (I used 2 inch thick boneless)
1 butternut squash, diced
2 sweet potatoes, diced
1 apple, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 slices of bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
20 sage leaves, chopped and divided in half
10 sprigs of thyme 
1/2 cup of pumpkin butter
1/4 cup of whole grain mustard
Salt and Pepper

For brine:
4 cups of water
1/4 cup of salt
1/4 cup of sugar

In a large bowl or Ziploc Bag, combine 4 cups of water, 1/4 cup of salt, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 3 sprigs of thyme.  Add pork chops and allow to brine for at least 30 minutes up to 1 hour.   In a small bowl, combine pumpkin butter, mustard and 1/2 of the chopped sage.  Heat a skillet over medium low heat, add butter and onion and saute for 30 minutes until onion is caramelized.  In a large bowl, combine apples, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, caramelized onion, minced garlic, paprika, remaining chopped sage, and remaining thyme (removed from stem) with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well.  Spread onto a greased cookie sheet, top with chopped bacon and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 F for 30-45 minutes until browned.  Meanwhile, heat grill to medium high heat.  Remove pork chops from brine and season with salt and pepper.  Grill pork chops for 12 minutes total, flipping at the 3 minute mark.  Baste pork chops with pumpkin butter sauce on the last two flips (minutes 6 and 9).  Remove from grill and serve over Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash and Apple Hash. 

Summer Body

Monday, November 11, 2013

Today's Motivation:

As the holidays approach and we are faced with a never ending parade of caloric- overdose-opportunities, I try to keep in mind that I can't achieve my summer body ideal in two or three short months. Never-gonna-happnen.   Amidst oceans of mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato pie, peppermint mochas and Grandma's 200 dozen cookies (I'm not exaggerating), always remember moderation is key.  And, whatever you do, save the workout skips to a minimum.

Today's Workout:

Warm-up and stretching to start (jumping jacks, band pull-aparts, v sit-ups, leg raises, planks, etc.).  After, a quick circuit of one minute each of the following:

         - Rower
         - Push ups
         - TRX Rows 
         - Landmines

Next up, a heavy lifting circuit of front squats.  We were tasked with a series of 8-6-3-1, with the one rep set being a "technical" max rep.  I warmed up with bar, then 75 lbs, and 95 lbs. 

Now is the point at which I have to admit I over-shot; my goal was 105 lbs, 115 lbs, 120 lbs and 125 lbs in the 8-6-3-1, but I missed my 8th and 6th rep in the first two sets.   I did manage to get the 120 lbs x 3 and the 125 lbs x 1, but I probably should have dropped down in weight at some point.  Also, I will take Scott's advice and try the wrist straps next time.  My wrist flexibility in front squats is nothing to write home about, and I need to take it down a notch before I hurt myself.

Humility is not my biggest strength.

Front Squat

Finally, we went through this quick and dirty (read painful) painful metabolic conditioning circuit.

Wall Balls - Squat....
and throw.  Looks easy, not so much.

Jumping Lunges
Please ignore the pained facial expression.  For jumping lunges, you literally jump and land in a lunge.  This was mid-landing.  Looking for a bum workout?  Look no further.  You can see a video example here.

Spicy Chicken Cobb Sandwich

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So I told a big ole' fat lie in regards to that whole posting a few recipes while on the honeymoon bit. 

It's just that it was sooooo dang relaxing to have zero obligations. As in, I can't fathom having to open my laptop and attempt to use my brain, relaxing.  

Scott was lucky I actually pulled myself off the couch to get ready each day.

Consider this my olive branch.  I'm pretty sure it's the best sandwich I've ever made; inspired by the intense craving I was having for a (healthier) spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-a right before the wedding.

Did I mention it's topped with a rich, runny, perfectly over easy egg?  If you've never added an over easy egg to your sandwich or burger, you are seriously missing out.  Trust me.  Try it now.  It will instantly sky rocket any hum-drum sandwich or a boring old burger into a tweet-worthy culinary masterpiece.

With that I have to run.  I just got home.  I have yet to cook dinner.  I haven't even begun packing for Chicago.   Oh, and my house looks like a tornado ran through it.  

Anyone want to volunteer to come make me this sandwich, clean my house and pack for me?  I'll pay you in bacon.

Spicy Chicken Cobb Sandwich
Serves:  2
Prep Time:  30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time:  40 minutes

2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup of Frank's Red Hot Sauce 
2 eggs
2 slices of Pepper Jack cheese 
4 slices of bacon
1 tomato, sliced
6 leaves of Bibb lettuce
1 avocado sliced
4 slices of bread (I used Ezekiel)

For Brine:
2 cups of water
1/8 cup of salt

In a large bowl or Ziploc bag,  combine water and salt for brine.  Add chicken breasts and allow to soak in the fridge for 30 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.  Trust me, don't skip the brine.  It makes the chicken 352 times juicier.    Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium high heat, fry bacon, and slice tomato and avocado.  When 30 minutes brine time is up, remove chicken from brine, season with salt and pepper, and grill for 5 minutes per side (or until chicken reaches 160 F), basting with hot sauce periodically.  Remove chicken from grill, top with sliced Pepper Jack cheese and tent with foil.  Quickly fry two eggs over easy and toast bread.  Assemble sandwich by layering lettuce, spicy grilled chicken, eggs, bacon, avocado, and tomato on toast slathered with mayonnaise.   Attempt to take a bite without making a mess.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Today's Motivation:

How fitting. 

This saying resonates with me for a couple of reasons right now.  The obvious reason - Scott and I just made the most significant commitment two people can make to one another. But if you think about it, it's also applicable to nearly every positive endeavor in a person's lifetime. 

After two solid weeks of no real, structured workouts (a few hikes were thrown into the mix, but mostly it was relaxation to the max), this morning was ROUGH. Not to mention the fact that we had gotten used to sleeping 9+ hours a night on the honeymoon, only to be rudely jolted back into our six-hours-on-a-good-night reality.  Oh, and last night was not a "good night"; King got up 2:00 a.m. and then again at 2:30 a.m., and the carbon monoxide detector that has been on the fritz for the better part of a year due to our laziness started screeching at 3:00 a.m., and then the coffee started brewing on schedule at 3:45 a.m.  


Commitment is definitely a choice, and it doesn't always seem like the best choice when the alternative is sleep - make it anyway.

Today's Workout:

We started with a few minutes of jump rope, followed by a warmup of stretching, mountain climbers, planks, v-sit ups, downward dog, upward dog, etc.

We then moved onto front squats.  The goal was to find a weight heavy enough to be a good challenge, but realistic enough to complete a reverse ladder starting with 9 reps.   I warmed up with 4 sets of 5 reps of the bar (45 lbs), then 65 lbs, then 85 lbs, and finally 95 lbs.  

My work sets looked like this:
       100 lbs x 9
       105 lbs x 7 
       110 lbs x 4
       115 lbs x 2 (Front Squat PR!!  Wooohooo!)

Front Squat

We completed the workout with a Kettlebell Thruster and Toes to Bar Met-Con circuit.

Basically, squat...
into thrust.

And then from dead hang, to half way....
to toes-to-bar (aka: ripped-up hands). 

Does anyone else feel like it should be Friday already??

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