Happy Friday, Challengers!

Whew! Did anyone else go a little overboard for their cheat meal? I am definitely guilty. I had my first experience at Daniel's Broiler yesterday, and judging by how much I ate, it should probably be my last experience as well.

I walked into the restaurant looking like this:

And walked out looking like this:

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. But I sure felt like that. You know what, though? It was all WORTH it. My Valentine is a pretty cool guy. Plus, he ate a steak that was 16 ounces more than mine. So I immediately felt better about myself. Especially when he finished and then picked up the bone and started gnawing on it.
Even though the cheat was definitely worth it, I was definitely looking for a cleanse of sorts to even out the indulgences. The thing I find that works best for me is having a meal replacement shake for breakfast and lunch, followed by a light snack in the afternoon and a challenge-friendly dinner. I have a few recipes for shakes I'd like to share with you. Feel free to comment with some of your favorites as well!

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

6-10 ice cubes
1/3 of a banana
2 tbsp pureed pumpkin
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 cup almond or coconut milk
dash of pumpkin pie spice & cinnamon

Green Coconut Supreme

6-10 ice cubes
2 tbsp shredded coconut
1/2 banana
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup almond or coconut milk

PB & J Smoothie

6-10 ice cubes
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup fresh strawberries chopped
1 tbsp peanut or almond butter
1 scoop vanilla or peanut butter protein powder
1 heaping tbsp oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon


6-10 ice cubes
1/2 banana
1 scoop Cookies n Cream protein powder
1 tbsp chocolate peanut butter or chocolate almond butter
1 cup almond or coconut milk

And to finish off today's post, here's one of our Challenge members, Joff, with someone you may have seen on this blog a time or two!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Okay so this is an URGENT message! Drop what you’re doing right now! I mean RIGHT. NOW. Are you at the grocery store? Drop that head of lettuce! Are you doing laundry? Drop those tighty-whities!  Are you juggling while riding a unicycle? Don’t drop that – because THAT is impressive.

Oh, you say you’re at work and can’t possible leave? Wrong!  Element 5 Casey to the rescue: a handy-dandy, very official note for your boss. I even included lines so you can personalize it and make it extra convincing. Just print it out, fill it in, wait until your boss goes to the restroom, throw it on her/his desk and run out of the office like a madman! **Please note: You will be unable to blame me in the event that you are, rightfully so, fired.
ANYWAY, why should you do all that? So you can go home and make THIS:
Yep, a quiche with a MEAT crust. I should warn that this is NOT Vegetarian-friendly meal. Sorry, my lovely plant lovers! I should also warn that portion control is important with this meal – but easily doable. Just slice yourself a reasonable amount and supplement your plate with some veggies to fill you up!

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this recipe. It is another genius concoction from my favorite Paleo Blog, PaleOMG.

Here’s my breakdown summary (because there should be a summary for EVERYTHING in life), complete with pictures of the dogs (are you sick of them, yet?) and Greg. If you’re not sick of him he’s available to rent for a few hours or several weeks. For free. (Just kidding, Greg. Kind of.)

By "arrange meat into crust in a pie-dish" I should probably say "force somebody else to arrange meat into crust in a pie-dish. It's not my fault - I just hate touching uncooked meat. Plus, Greg needs to earn his keep somehow.

This is where you add 2 cups of spinach but I forgot to document it. Mostly because I had a piranha trying to attack my spinach as I added it to the pan. 

Just a tip - throw in more than 2 cups of spinach if you like it! Two is plenty but I threw in 4 or 5 since spinach reduces quite a bit. When everything is cooked completely, remove from heat.

And that, my lovely fellow Challenge pals, is how to make a yummy, MEAT-tastic, Challenge-friendly meal. I hope you'll give it a try. My apologies if you're not  a huge meat fan - I will definitely write a post tomorrow about non-meat things so you don't miss out! 

Anyone else find some great recipes? I would LOVE to hear about it, try some, see some pictures, try some, get the recipe, or even try some.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Good afternoon, challengers! I hope everyone's week is off to a great start! Here's a few of my favorite Challenge-friendly eats from the past few days...
2 Zucchini (medium, halved lenghwise)
Olive oil cooking spray
¼ cup Onion (finely diced)
1 tsp Fresh garlic (minced)
¼ cup mushrooms (small diced)
¼ cup Tomato (finely diced)
¼ cup  Low-fat feta cheese
¼ cup Pecans (crushed)
1/2 cup Tomato sauce

Serves 1 large or 2 small.
Preheat the oven at 375°F. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a spoon and knife (if needed) remove all the white flesh (do not discard the skin or flesh). If the green skin breaks don’t worry. Preheat a large non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Lightly coat with spray and add the white zucchini flesh, onion, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté until onions are lightly browned and liquids have evaporated. Then remove from heat. Add tomato, feta cheese and pecans to the pan. Stuff the zucchini peel with the heated mixture. Reform the peel around the stuffing. Add to a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with warm tomato sauce.
Oh, you mean Onion Rings from Applebee's AREN'T Challenge friendly? Whoops. Alright, alright, maybe they were just for a cheat meal. Onion rings are my FAVORITE food....besides sushi, ice cream, macaroni and cheese...okay I like all food. Anyway, I took advantage of my cheat meal and had 4 onion rings (or 12, I don't know, my memory is foggy) and a small glass of wine. Didn't you know the cool thing to do is go to Applebee's at 4pm on a Thursday? (Seriously, though, they have a great Happy Hour and if you ask nicely enough they give you a coloring book).

Besides all of that yummy food, I wanted to talk quickly about something I've noticed a few challenge members have become frustrated with: the number on the scale. Yep, the dreaded number. For me, that number has always controlled my happiness - and I hate that it has that power. Here are two scenarios:

Scenario One: The number on the scale is higher than usual: My mood is immediately shot down. I must be doing everything wrong, I must be not pushing it hard enough during my workouts, I must not be as dedicated as everyone else, and I will just never see the number I want to. My clothes instantly feel tighter (even if they felt loose when I put them on), my hair looks bad, my car needs to be washed, it starts raining when I step outside, and every driver on the road is determined to cut me off. Even my dog looks at me like this:
"I am so disappointed in you, Mom"
Scenario Two: The number on the scale is lower than usual: My mood is immediately elevated! Everything is wonderful! My clothes are extremely loose and - is that a six pack I see? I've been kicking ass in my workouts and I am extremely determined! MY hair looks great, my car probably still needs to be washed, it is probably still raining (thanks, Seattle) but everything feels GLORIOUS! What a great start to the day!

I know, I tend to exaggerate. The main point here is that that silly number immediately and so easily affects my mood and my outlook on my progress. My simple solution: I stopped weighing myself. Now, I know we are on a challenge and need to track our progress, but I choose to limit my weigh-ins. I also choose to weigh myself on days where I know I've had a pretty solid few days of eating extremely compliant and keeping up with my workouts.

While I do agree it is necessary to track our progress and weight is definitely a way to do that, I know that seeing a number I don't want to will likely hurt my motivation instead of help it. I try, instead, to pay close attention the way clothes are fitting and to how I look in the mirror. Taking pictures also helps a lot - as long as you're sure to delete them off your phone before your 4-year-old nephew decides he's going to scroll through your entire photo gallery and then ask why you were wearing a bathing suit in your kitchen in February. All jokes aside, pictures can be very helpful in examining success -  so get your inner Victoria's Secret Angel on and take a few different angles once a week. Examine them after a few weeks and I guarantee you will notice changes.

Well - I'm off to go ice myself in a bath for 3 hours after today's workout. Rommel, I hate you today, but I know in a few weeks when I'm feeling even better than I already do, I'll love you for it! Really, you have been great during this challenge and are a huge reason for my motivation - so thank you!! I would also like a raise.

- Casey