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Throw Back Thursday!

Throw Back Thursday!

This photo was taken while I was on a religious youth trip (Lutheran, ELCA – “Dancing at the Crossroads”) in St. Louis, Missouri.

At this point I was broaching my heaviest weight in high school: I was at least 190 pounds in this photo. I remember being very upset just before this picture, as I had struggled to keep up at volunteer event that day. My weight made it challenging for me to run around and hustle the way the organizers needed me to in order to keep everything running smoothly.

I started to distance myself in pictures by this age (this snapshot is actually part of a larger photo of our group – I snuck off to the side to try to avoid the central focus) and I really noticed my weight was impacting the quality of my life.

These TBT photos help to remind me of the girl that I was and the woman I became as a result of taking control of my health, my fitness, and my life. A good reminder of the past helps to keep your focus on the present!

Bon appetit, my friends!
~ Tori

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Throw Back Thursday!

Throw Back Thursday!

A velvet dress! Boy, that dates me, doesn’t it?

This photo was taken at my Confirmation ceremony (Lutheran, ELCA) back when I was 15 years old.

At this time, I was probably teetering between 180-185 lbs and wearing between a size 18 and a size 20.

I was my heaviest between the ages of 15-17, reaching my max of 214 pounds at the end of my junior year of high school.

I hang on to these photos to remind myself of how far I’ve come and the never-ending journey I am on to be healthy, fit, and happy.

Bon appetit, my friends!
~ Tori

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Track Shack Ladies 5k – Saturday, 2.1.2014

Track Shack Ladies 5k - Saturday, 2.1.2014

Bright and early on Saturday morning, I ran a 5k as part of the Track Shack Winter Series and to follow through with my New Year’s Resolution to get out of the GYM and back to the outdoors!

It was a cool, humid morning and a scenic route through Mead Gardens made the run unusually easy. In fact, I set a PR of 28:14, the fastest time I’ve ever recorded – and that’s counting treadmill runs!

I took this picture immediately post-race (I tried to capture the massive crowd at the finish line behind me) because I wanted to remember this moment: how PROUD I felt of myself for setting a goal (get outdoors & run under a 29 minute 5k) and achieving it.

As my fellow yo-yos will likely attest, it’s easy to forget the successes you have on your journey to fitness, but oh-so-easy to linger on your setbacks and failures. To help remind myself of how far I’ve come, I’m making a conscious effort to take photos (even if they have to be the baneful selfies, like this one), just to ensure that I can’t deny myself the joy of this memory.

My next run is coming up on February 15th: The Run Around the Pines! It’s the best course in Winter Park as it’s flat, scenic, and not overly crowded. My goal is to break the 28:00 minute mark! Wish me luck!

Bon appetit and happy journey, my friends!

~ Tori

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Product Review: MaraNatha Caramel Almond Spread

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Looking for an alternative to peanut butter (aka, the Reese’s peanut butter cups I was inhaling prior to the New Year), I scoured the shelves of the local Publix for something new and different from the plain almond butter I’ve been living on. Bless my lucky stars, I stumbled across this hidden gem: MaraNatha Caramel Almond spread. It was approximately $7 for the jar – a bit steep – but I decided to give it a try.

WARNING: This is NOT Paleo!

I didn’t realize until I got the jar home that it contained both soy and milk derivatives – two things you’re encouraged to avoid on the Paleo/Caveman diet. However, given the fact that I’d paid so much for the jar and was curious about the flavor, I decided to count it as my “cheat” and dig in for a spoonful.

DearSWEETLordBabyJesus.

This stuff is AMAZING. Crack-in-a-jar.

It has a rich, buttery, and sweet flavor that hits your tongue in a foodgastic explosion of taste. It’s more of a butterscotch flavor than caramel but I assure you that I mean that in a complimentary way: it’s decadent. The texture is much like normal almond butter, only it had a creamier (more sinful) residue on the tongue.

A serving consists of two tablespoons packing a whopping 190 calories, 14g fat (4g saturated), 13g carbs (11g of which are from sugar – yipes!), and only 4g of protein.

Fortunately, the flavor is very strong, so I was able to use less of it and still get a satisfying experience. The label on the package actually suggests using it on cake, so I probably should have been prepared for the ambrosial experience. Who needs cake when you have this stuff?

Confession: I ate 1/3rd of the jar the first day.

I had to hide it from myself to avoid eating more. It’s so good, it’s bad.

So, for those of you looking for a heavenly sweet treat (and not worried about the extra sugars/lack of protein), I would strongly suggest picking up a jar of this stuff. But make sure you have a sturdy padlock to put on the cabinet you store it in because I promise you it’ll be a Herculean feat to stop yourself from eating it all once you taste it.

On that note, bon appetit!

~ Tori

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Paleo Mexican Casserole!

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I had a hardcore craving for Mexican food last night. I mean HARDCORE. I was salivating at the thought of refried beans, queso, and crunchy tacos.

Unfortunately, we’re just a week or so into the New Year and I am NOT going to give in that easily. Feeling creative, I decided to experiment in the kitchen and concoct my own Paleo Mexican Casserole with the ingredients I had on hand.

I’m telling you… this baby tasted even better than it looked. Holy cow. It was spicy and decadent and 100% grain free. And, amazingly, it was simple to make. Grab your grocery list, baby, I’m about to lay it all out for you!

Fake-Polenta Crust:

  • 1 cup coarse almond flour.
  • 2 whole eggs.
  • 2 tbsp dried onion flakes.
  • 1/4 cup water.
  • 1 tbsp chili powder.
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro.
  • 1 tbsp baking powder.
  • Dash of sea salt.

Mexican Veggies:

  • 1 large zucchini, chopped.
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced small.
  • 1 container of mushrooms, chopped.
  • 1 whole yellow pepper, thinly sliced.
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.
  • 4 tbsp chili powder.
  • 1/4 cup water.

Taco Meeeeeaaaaaat:

  • 1 pound lean (93/7) ground beef.
  • 1 cup spicy salsa (or mild, if you’re wimpy).
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder.
  • 2 tbsp chili powder (noticing a trend here, I bet).

Optional Ingredients (you’ll see when to use these):

  • 1 cup Daiya cheddar cheese alternative. (Or real cheese if you’re a Dairy-Paleo person)
  • 1 cup Daiya mozzarella cheese alternative. (Or real cheese if you’re a Dairy-Paleo person)
  • 2 cups salsa.
  • Fresh cilantro (for garnish).
  • Fresh jalapeno (for garnish).
  • Fresh sliced avocado (for all humans, everywhere, to be eaten in copious amounts with all meals).
  • 1/2 cup So Delicious Plain Coconut yogurt. (Or sour cream, if you’re a Dairy-Paleo person)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While it’s heating, combine ingredients for the fake polenta crust. I know some people recommend sifting, combining dry then wet, etc. Look, I’m a simple girl who likes to eat. I just throw things into a bowl and mix. I made this recipe up on a whim and it worked. Trust me. Just combine the flour, water, eggs, baking powder, and seasoning into a bowl and mix thoroughly. It should look like thick pancake batter.

On a greased casserole dish (I used those disposable 9″ x 13″ cake pans because I hate clean up), pour the batter evenly to coat the surface of the pan. It should make a thin layer, but there should be enough to fully cover the bottom.

Place in oven (while still preheating) so it starts to cook. You’ll want to precook this a bit so it gets nice and crunchy. The preheating time is perfect!

Meanwhile, I used two pans to individually cook the veggies and meat. To be honest, you could likely saute all of the ingredients together, but I had this craving for layers (think the layered tostada dish at your favorite Mexican restaurant – yum!), so I cooked the veggies and meat separately. Plus, this allowed me cook off the excess moisture from the veggies (onions get moist, friends!) and keep the meat saucy.

Whatever you decide to do, cook the ground beef all the way through (no pink left) and make sure your veggies are nice and tender. Should be roughly 6-8 minutes on medium-high heat.

When the oven BEEEEEEEPS to let you know it’s preheated (should be about 7-10 minutes, depending on how fancy schmancy your kitchen appliances are), pull the “polenta” crust out of the oven for layering. It should look like half-cooked cookie dough: safe to eat but still squishy. If it’s a little closer to done, don’t stress – the moisture from the ingredients will keep it from overcooking.

I layered the VEGGIES first, creating an even (but thick) layer across the crust. Since the crust was still slightly undercooked, the veggies sank into it – perfect visual effect! I then tossed a light layer of Daiya (non-dairy, non-soy cheese) on top, followed by a thin layer of spicy salsa. On top of the salsa, I layered the cooked ground beef, followed by another layer of salsa and then more cheese.

I popped the dish into the oven for about 15 minutes (at 400) and was thrilled by the finished product. The crust puffed up and fully encased the casserole and it was easy to slice and serve.

Per my calculations, the entire dish (which was pretty huge) was between 2,800-3,000 calories (based on my ingredients; subject to change if you use higher fat meat or real dairy cheese) and made EIGHT generous servings at roughly 360-380 calories each. I topped each slice of the casserole with a few slices of avocado (30-45 calories), fresh sliced jalapenos (negligible calories), green onions (about 5 calories), and a single dollop of plain coconut yogurt (about 25 calories).

So, for about 450 calories, I had a gigantic, Paleo-friendly Mexican casserole that even my husband, Carlos (yes, he’s Mexican!), found delicious.

There you have it, my friends.

Bon appetit!

~ Tori

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Tangible Success!

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OK, I know I have a tendency to stress out over the scale and that my weight naturally fluctuates as a result of being a woman, not due to sporadic efforts on my part.

With that in mind, I try to measure my success based on meeting certain goals.

In this case, it was a pair of size four jeans.

While a little snug (they are skinny jeans, after all), I am formally wearing size four jeans at both Express and Old Navy. I’m a solid five at Target and I only wear a six in Lucky Brand due to my wider hips (they don’t seem to like those bones for some reason). Even at the infamous Forever 21, I’m wearing their size 26-27 jeans and their dresses (mostly) in a small.

Regardless of what the scale says this Wednesday, I feel like I’m seeing success (finally).

And seeing is believing!

Bon appetit, my friends!

Tori

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Paleo Italiano Chicken Burgers!

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Today’s lunch!

As I mentioned yesterday, I did quite a bit of prep-cooking for the week to help me get back on track. One of the meals I made ahead of time were these Paleo Italiano Chicken Burgers! Super simple and perfect for reheating during the week.

Super Simple Ingredients:

  • 1 lb organic ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup diced, sun dried tomatoes
  • 5 button mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped, fresh basil (dried basil works, as well, but the flavor isn’t as intense)
  • 1/3 cup of Daiya mozzarella cheese alternative
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 raw egg
  • 2-4 tbsp tapioca flour

Easy-Peasy Prep:

  • Combine all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and kneed together. The egg and flour will help the chicken, which is always more moist than beef, stick together and form patties. I start with 2 tbsp of flour and increase, as necessary, if my patties aren’t holding together.
  • This makes four generous patties, which you can keep thick (juicier!) or flatten out for quick cooking.

My husband threw these on the grill (medium heat) for about five minutes each side. They came out PERFECT!

I’m having one of these patties (roughly 275 calories) along with leftover boiled Brussels Sprouts for lunch today at work!

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

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TexMex Paleo Burger Recipe

I’ve been awful with my diet recently, mainly because I haven’t been prepping and planning my meals the way I normally do. As a result, my weight has crept up a bit and I’ve decided to host an intervention for myself – I’m planning out recipes for the week.

Since I always have a craving for greasy Mexican food, I decided to create a simple recipe that includes all of the flavors I love but is quick to throw together and doesn’t require cooking effort beyond throwing it on the grill.

I introduce – the TexMex Paleo Burger!

They even look beautiful raw!

They even look beautiful raw!

Super Simple Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs extra lean ground beef. (Grass-fed, if you’re strict Paleo)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 tbsp chili powder (less if you don’t like it spicy)
  • 6 button mushrooms, chopped small
  • 4 tbsp dried onion flakes
  • 1 raw egg
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour (coconut flour works, as well, but you may need to add a tiny bit of water)
  • 1/3 cup of Daiya (non-dairy, non-soy) cheese alternative. I used sharp cheddar, but they have a Pepper Jack version that would be great, too!

Simple Preparation:

In a giant mixing bowl, start with your ground beef. In my case, I add all of the spices and mushrooms first, then hand mix by folding it together on itself a few times. Once that’s formed into a very thick mix, I add the cheese, raw egg, and tapioca flour. This helps it all to stick together and form solid patties.

As you can see, I form very generous-sized patties – each is probably 7-8 ounces.

The BEST WAY to cook a burger is always going to be on the grill: about 5 minutes on each side with this thickness if you’re cooking it on a medium heat. If you must pan fry, keep the temperature low so that they cook all the way through.

Personally, I like making my burgers at least 4-6 hours before I plan to cook them, as I think the flavor intensifies as they sit in the fridge. Also, letting them chill in the fridge seems to help them hold when cooked. If they hit the grill at room temperature, they seem more likely to break apart.

The finished product!

The finished product!

I’ll be posting more recipes this week, as I’m spending my Sunday prepping for a week of healthy, clean, Paleo eating!

On that note, bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

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Halloween Success… sort of.

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For Halloween this year, I decided to go outside of my normal costume safety realm (aka, face paint) and indulge in a sexy costume for my friend’s annual shindig.

I bought my costume with fear and hesitation, unsure if I could really go through with wearing glorified lingerie and calling myself a superhero.

I compromised with myself by purchasing a skirt and knee-high socks, hoping that the more secondary skin I could cover, the less nervous I would be about a flash of midriff, a healthy serving of cleavage, and an uncomfortable display of thigh.

For anyone that struggles with yo-yo dieting, you know that “goal outfits” are both inspiration and a taunting reminder from the back of your closet.

In the weeks leading up to the party, I stared at the little red corset and wondered how I would close it around my ever-fluctuating waistline. That little ruffle skirt mocked me from the moth-ball ridden trenches, telling me it would flutter in all the wrong places.

Despite several weeks of candy-munching between salads, I managed to hold a steady 133 on party day and asked my husband to help me suit up and take my rightful place as Batman’s sidekick.

I’m glad I did.

Even if I wasn’t 100% happy with the tone of my arms, the softness of my tummy, or the jiggle of my upper thighs, I knew that years of work led up to me wearing that costume.

I felt good.

I felt confident.

I felt like a superhero (sidekick).

So, even if my body still isn’t exactly where I want it to be, I call that a success. I earned that cape, buddy.

Bon appetit, my friends, and keep working toward your goals!

– Tori

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Calf Machine: 400 pounds!

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OK, my shoes may look dorky as all get out, but these bulky little calves just did the MAXIMUM on the calf press EIGHT times!

Yes, you read that correctly: I just did eight calf raises of 400 pounds!

When I finished, utterly pooped, I got a high-five from a trainer that had been watching from across the gym.

Strength > skinny.

Hell yeah!

~ Tori