My Vegetarian Modifications for Whole30

I’ve started a Whole30 diet vegetarian-style, and since modifications to the original Whole30 plan are required in order to make it vegetarian, I’m going to lay out my planned modifications on Day 1 and stick to them.

Here are the “rules” I am modifying:


The original Whole30 advocates meat and animal proteins as the primary sources. I have never eaten seafood and I no longer eat meat, so I will not be eating those on my vegetarian Whole30. For protein, I will eat organic eggs, tempeh, tofu, and Greek yogurt (see below).


The original plan says no dairy, but recommends pastured, organic, fermented dairy sources like yogurt or kefir for vegetarians. I will eat plain, unsweetened organic Greek yogurt for protein. I plan to avoid cheese, but will not consider it a failure if I change my mind. The plan also recommends whey protein powder, which I may use.


I will avoid gluten grains and vital wheat gluten, as recommended. Quinoa is listed as a possible option. I don’t plan to eat it though I won’t specifically avoid it. Quinoa is OK but I tend not to like it when I make it myself.


I plan to avoid legumes as recommended, though I will decide as I go when it comes to chickpeas. They’re a staple protein source in my salads and I don’t like getting so much of my protein from soy. If I decide to eat chickpeas, so be it. I’ll start out without them, and make them from scratch with soaking if I do add them.

Baked Goods & Smoothies

The plan does not allow for re-creation of baked goods, even with approved ingredients.”A pancake is still a pancake, regardless of the ingredients.” – It Starts With Food. Ummmm…. true. The word “pancake” describes a form and method of cooking where ingredients are formed into a cake that is often flipped in a pan. How does shaping an ingredient into a cake shape and flipping it in a pan make it evil? I completely disagree with the concept here. I will eat things shaped like cakes that have been flipped in pans, assuming they are made with approved ingredients.

The program also recommends against drinking smoothies. I will not be following these rules. I require portable breakfasts, as I eat breakfast in the car on my way to work most days, in the form of muffins or breakfast sandwiches or smoothies. This will not change. I will use approved ingredients to make them Whole30-compliant.



Another modification I plan to make is with regard to the start-over rule. If you slip up on the program, even accidentally, you’re supposed to re-start the 30 days. I won’t be doing that. I am a busy human. Busy humans are busy. Busy humans make mistakes. Busy humans don’t have time for ridiculous punishments for landing on the Whole30 naughty list. (See previous post; I really can’t stand the condescending attitude of the authors… but the premise of the program seems sound, so I’m trying it. Be forewarned: I will not be masking any snark). Bad vegetarian. Bad!


I plan to adhere to the rest of the rules (no sugar or sweeteners, no alcohol, no peanuts, no carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites). I will also refrain from weighing myself, taking measurements, or counting calories/macros, as recommended.

Those are my planned modifications! If I stick to this plan, I’ll consider it a success. If I change the plan along the way, so be it. My goal here is to get back to cooking and eating whole foods and kick the junk food. I have no gluten or dairy sensitivities, but will eliminate gluten and most dairy for the sake of experimentation. That’s not my primary objective, though.

Feel free to share your thoughts on Whole30!

I'm doing the Whole30

I’m Doing the Whole30 – Vegetarian

Yep, it’s the start of a new year, and I, like so many others, am once again jumping on the bandwagon to attempt to make some positive changes in my life this year. Initially, I was not planning to diet to kick off 2017. I’m at a point in my life where I accept that I will never maintain a size 6 (heck, I’m doing great when I can maintain a 14), and my focus now is on keeping my blood pressure in check and other health markers a-ok. What I eat has a lot to do with those things.

So I’m going to tackle a Whole30 (vegetarian style) and reset some of my eating habits. If I lose some weight, bonus.

If you’ve never heard of Whole30, it’s a whole foods based eating plan that eliminates wheat/gluten, sugar, and processed foods. It is paleo-ish but not low carb; the estimated macro breakdown is 35% fat, 40% carbohydrates, 25% protein – though the program specifically advises against counting calories and macronutrients. The idea is that you eliminate things that could be causing inflammation, sleep disturbances, etc, and once you’ve completed 30 days, you reintroduce various things slowly to determine how they impact your body, and develop  your future eating plan from there.

It sounds like a great plan, but I do have one bone to pick with the program. The book that kicks it all off is called “It Starts With Food.” The program heavily relies on animal protein (meat). They put forth some scientific evidence for their approach, which is fine, but a good 10% or more of the population doesn’t eat meat for a variety of reasons – medical, ethical, religious, etc. The book attempts to accommodate a vegetarian approach, but not before condescendingly pointing out that vegetarians are wrong (just read all the science we laid out for you!) and ethical vegetarians are wrong (just eat non-factory-farmed meat!) and… the attitude just doesn’t sit well with me. The authors repeatedly state that you can do Whole30 as a vegetarian, but you’re not REALLY doing Whole30. So, sure, you can follow along and pretend you’re doing our program, but you’re not really one of us. Just remember that; we’re smarter than you and healthier than you and you’ll never reap the full benefits of the program with your lowly vegetarian ways.

I’m only slightly exaggerating here! It’s so condescending that the first time I read the book, I decided NOT to do the program because, well, the authors seemed like jerks.

I changed my mind this year because a blogger that I follow, Jen at Peanut Butter Runner, is hosting a Whole30 Facebook group to kick off the new year. With a whole lot of people to bounce the experience off of, chances of success and enjoyment go up. And I would like to get back into cooking and eating more whole foods.

Since a vegetarian Whole30 requires modifications of the original Whole30 rules, I will be making some modifications. I plan to lay out my own “rules” at the outset and follow the plan that way. I’ll be sharing those modifications and some of my meals here on this blog, so stay tuned!

The official kickoff is Monday, Jan 9, 2017, so if you’re interested in joining this Whole30 group, check the link above! Happy new year!


After the Juice: 3 Weeks Later

I’m wrapping up my 3rd week post-juice. My plan was to eat vegan, cut out added sugar (no more than 6 tsp/24g per day, the recommendation for women), and kick the diet coke habit.

So far, so good! Jimmy John’s would probably disagree, as I went from eating there 5+ days a week to… none. I miss my daily chill-out sessions at JJ’s, but I’m fairly certain I’m eating healthier at home. I can’t seem to find any data on the added sugars in the #6 (I suspect there’s a bit extra in the bread and/or the avocado spread); it’s not on their nutrition labels. Comparing the lettuce wrap to the sub, and comparing the sub to a typical 8″ Italian sub roll, I’m fairly certain that one JJ’s sub would blow my whole added sugar allotment for the day. And the way my logic works, I enjoy the bread too much to go with a lettuce wrap, so if I can’t have it the way I love it, I won’t have it at all.

I’ve had a few bites of cheese on a couple occasions (when eating out), but kicking the sugar has been surprisingly easy, since I haven’t craved it (thanks to the juice plan). The biggest struggle has been, surprisingly, avoiding diet coke. I’m not explicitly avoiding caffeine, as I am still drinking tea, but I terribly miss the fizzy drink, and no substitutions have solved the cravings. I’m almost obsessed with it, and I’m fairly certain that I’m just going to cave and drink the occasional diet coke.

One unexpected benefit has been reduced food waste. In the past, I would go food shopping and buy produced based on things I thought I should have on hand to be well-stocked and ready-for-anything, but in reality, I threw away a lot of spoiled food. This time around, I’m picking one lunch and one dinner for each week. I shop specifically for those meals (and a few staples that I eat no matter what), and that’s it. I cook those meals on Sunday and then eat the leftovers all week. Every weekend, I go through my recipe stash and cookbooks and pick meals for the following week and do it all over again.

The first week after the juice, I made a walnut-lentil tacos and homemade cashew sour cream, and had tacos all week. They were surprisingly awesome, considering I really don’t like lentils.

The second week, I bought a pasta roller and tried my hand at homemade ravioli. My pasta skills need some work, but it turned out absolutely delicious – pumpkin sage ravioli. It was amazing and I was shocked that I was able to pull it off.

This week, I put together an old favorite (though I did skimp on the veggies and just doubled the spinach, out of laziness) – pesto veggie lasagna. I also burned half of my pine nuts when toasting them, and had to sub in a bunch of raw cashews. But it all turned out just fine and delicious (man I love pesto). I’ve been eating this with Tofurky Artisan Spinach Pesto sausages. They’re a little bit dry on their own (like most faux-meats) but they are very tasty, and the marinara in the lasagna solves the dryness issue.

My other new obsession is a waffle recipe from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, of Post Punk Kitchen fame. It’s the Sinfully Wholesome waffle recipe from her book Isa Does It, but the recipe is also in her PPK forums – Sinfully Wholesome Waffles. They’re waffle perfection. Hearty without being heavy, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and just right topped with fruit or maple syrup. One recipe makes 5-6 large waffles, and I’ve been having them for breakfast or lunch. Smoothies fill in the blanks.

I’m also glad to report that the 10 pounds I lost during the juice week was not a fluke. I’ve kept them off, and lost a few more. I’ve also started doing a class at the gym called Body Pump. I’m enjoying it, and so far, my elbow is tolerating it well. I’m going to keep on keeping on with baby steps so I don’t injure the elbow again, and see how it goes.

The only thing I haven’t done is kept up with juicing. I intended to have some juices from the plan a few days a week, but I haven’t done a good job at planning ahead for those to make sure I have the proper produce on hand. Room for improvement!

Now, I think it’s time for a waffle…


Green Smoothie

Super Juice Me!

Last week, I stumbled foggy-headed into another day of post-travel recovery and back-to-work shell shock. I’d been living on Jimmy John’s, pizza, and egg and cheese mcgriddles for two months or so. (That was literally all I was eating, with a few stops at the ice cream shop thrown in for good measure). I’d gained 15# as a result, at a time when I could already stand to lose 30. Junk food was getting expensive, not only to my budget, but to my waistline. Of course, I wasn’t exercising. (That last C25K post never materialized into anything consistent). My elbow had me out of commission for a lot of activities, so I just did none.

As the new school year started, though, I really wanted to get back into a routine. Sometimes, I do great things when left to my own devices, and sometimes, I self destruct. It’s been a challenging couple of years, and this summer, I came out the other side quite a bit worse for the wear. I needed to quit the junk food, first and foremost.

The thought of getting back to clean eating (read: prepping and cooking meals) was almost nauseating in itself – not the food, but the labor. I just didn’t feel like doing it. At the same time, the thought of another fast food meal was unbearable. I just felt awful all around.

Then, in my Facebook feed, an entry popped up from Jason Vale, the juice master. He had a documentary out called “SuperJuice Me!” I’m a fan of Jason Vale. I’ve done his 7 day juice plan a few times, usually around New Year’s Day when I need to (again) kick the junk food. I watched the documentary.

And I decided to do the SuperJuice Me! plan.

I debated just using the 7 day app of his that I already had, but (spoiler alert) I’m so glad I bought the new app, because he really has mastered some of these recipes. They’re much better in the new program.

But back to the miserable version of me. It was a Sunday. I went to the grocery store and bought 3 days worth of produce. I didn’t want to waste food and money if I didn’t stick it out.

Day 1 was fairly miserable, due to caffeine withdrawal. Headaches suck, and I believe that was the 3rd time I’ve gone through full on caffeine detox (maybe the 4th?) It’s the worst. Every time I go through it, I swear I will never get back on the diet coke bandwagon again. Again, I swear… ugh. Never again.

Day 2 was meh. I didn’t feel good but I didn’t feel bad. I wasn’t hungry but all I could think about was food I used to eat before I went vegetarian! The Mad Max burger from Outback Steakhouse… pepperoni pizza… this crazy cheeseburger at TGI Fridays that was a 3 cheese burger, PLUS a fried provolone patty of cheese… ridiculous things. Gross, really. I also had a bit of a pity-party meltdown in the evening, and watched a sad movie to indulge it.

Day 3 was the best day ever! Day 3 usually is. I felt great. On top of the world. Not hungry. Sleeping great. Feeling alert. No mid-afternoon sloth session. I also went back to the gym on Day 3, and tried my first Body Pump class. (I’m taking it slow so as not to re-injure my elbow). I will go back next week!

Day 4 was fine. Felt good. But I still had no desire to cook food, so the easiest solution was to stay on the juice plan. (Also, sore as hell from Body Pump!)

Day 5 was today. Felt great, slept great – according to my sleep app (which now has almost 3 years of data in it), I never sleep well at home. (Cats). I usually have to be on vacation with no cats around to get sleep quality of 90% or higher. But every single night on the juice plan, I’ve had excellent sleep quality. I used to blame the cats for my awful quality of sleep. Maybe I should have been blaming junk food all along.

Also today… it clicked. I’m ready to start cooking meals, and they’re going to be vegan.

It’s amazing how powerful and addictive sugar and dairy are. I’ve always sort of scoffed at the use of the word “addiction” with sugar or dairy, because it’s not like I ever felt like I was a junkie running around the grocery store begging for a hit of cheese. But the moment I realized that I’ve actually beat them both – it’s so crystal clear. I went through this the first time I went vegan for an extended period of time (about 6 months), and it’s both amazing and saddening. It’s sad because it’s so easy to slip back into eating them, and before you know it, you’re hooked again. In my case, I end up making all of the apologies to the cows and excuses that I need my Greek yogurt for protein. But those are just excuses, and this time around, it seems so obvious that they work in the body like addictive drugs. Maybe there is no such thing as just this one donut.

The amazing part is that it feels so good to be in absolute control of my own health and wellness – and because my body is feeling fully nourished, I’m actually optimistic instead of miserable! The difference is like night and day.

I have enough produce in the fridge to juice through Day 7. I’m going to finish through Day 7, and this weekend, I will meal plan and prep for next week, vegan again.

I really feel like if I can avoid sugar and dairy, I won’t even crave it. If I slip and fall down the cheese rabbit hole, it’s going to be hard to get back on track. Right now, the thought of dairy disgusts me, and the thought of all of the sugar in processed food makes me furious. Did you ever notice that sugar is the one entry on the nutrition label that doesn’t show its corresponding percentage of your daily allowance? Yeah, because half of the time it would be like, “203%” in one silly little serving of whatever frankenfood it is. The more I learned about the USDA and our food regulations (way back in good ol’ 2009 when I started learning about organics), the more I distrusted it all – and now as I look at sugar and processed foods, I’m mad all over again.

The last time I was fully vegan, a few years ago, I felt like I ate like a king. I can’t wait to recapture that feeling and love food again.

Photo credit:


C25K Day 1, Again

A few years ago, I used the “Couch to 5K” plan to learn how to run. It worked. I ran regularly for 3 years, finished a couple dozen 5K races, 1 half marathon (13.1mi), and 1 25K race (15.5mi).

Today, I started C25K all over again.

I’ve decided to start from the beginning and do the whole 9 week program, even though I could jog a mile straight through on the struggle bus today. The hills of Virginia stymied my running efforts in 2012. I’d like to keep myself off the struggle bus for as long as possible, in hopes of finding a way to love running again. The hills haven’t changed, so I’ve got to change myself.

The other part of this is that I’ve got to start eating at home more. I’m not a good cook, mostly because I have no idea what I’m doing. I have a massive collection of cookbooks and can follow recipes fairly well, but I have zero knowledge or intuition of what to do when a recipe isn’t working for my tastes. That tends to lead to a lot of waste and discouragement, and then I just throw in the towel and head out for a sandwich.

To help on that front, I’ve signed up for online cooking lessons through a program written by the author of one of my favorite books, Foodist. The “class” is called Foodist Kitchen, and it’s 30 days of daily exercises and lessons on how to cook without recipes. I’m hoping it will help me fill in the blanks and figure out how to make food work for me.

Here’s to getting back at it!

Detour by Shannon Kokoska

Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

I’m sad to report that I’m taking a break from Crossfit. I’ve had a nagging elbow injury that hasn’t improved (even after 2 months of rest), so it’s off to the doctors for MRIs and all that good stuff. The early diagnosis looks like probably tendonitis and a little arthritis in both elbows, and a partial tear on the left (the one that hasn’t gotten any better). So, more doctors, and a break from Crossfit.

I have “injured” my elbow twice since starting Crossfit. I didn’t consider either instance severe enough to label them injuries at the time, but apparently, they were. The first was my very first workout – the “try it for free” day, before I signed up. I did 40-some-odd push-ups that day (after not having done that many pushups, well, ever), and for 3 weeks after that, I could not do push-ups due to sharp pains in my elbow and bicep. The pain subsided, and once it did, I went back to including push-ups in my workouts. A couple months later, I had a great workout that included push-ups – one of the first workouts where I really felt strong, and I did great on the push-ups… and the next morning, I woke up to find my elbow had swollen to the size of a melon, and I couldn’t move my arm. That was about 4 months ago, and while the swelling subsided, I’ve had chronic pain in my elbow ever since. I can’t do push-ups, or lift anything heavy with that arm alone, or do any barbell move with a snatch grip, or unplug my hair dryer. I need to get it fixed.

Things don’t always go as planned. I hope to return to Crossfit. I love the barbell and I love the camaraderie. I hate the thought that my body might not be capable of doing all of the things I want to do in my mind.

For now, it’s back to running (and my ongoing struggle with my hatred of hills, which, in Virginia, are actually mountains).


Translating Crossfit’s Fitness

Before I started Crossfit, I did a lot of reading about it. One anecdote that came up over and over was how people would give up running or swimming or biking in favor of Crossfit, and then successfully complete a race in that sport with no specific training. I’ve read several tales of people running half marathons without training for the races – just doing Crossfit. They all seemed like tall tales to me.

I can’t speak to any long-distance efforts, but a couple of recent experiences are leading me to believe that those stories might be true after all.

I started Crossfit 4 months ago, in October. In the 3 months prior, I was a gluttonous lump on a log. And for the year or so before that, I was working out 3 times a week – running and swimming throughout 2013, but tapering to less intense things like long-distance walking by mid-2014 (5-9 mile walks). When I started Crossfit, I was completely out of shape in terms of strength and cardio endurance.

Until last week, I hadn’t done any workouts in the past 4 months outside of Crossfit. I’ve only recently started to feel a bit stronger and able to survive the metcon WODs. When snow buried me in for a few days and closed the gym, I got a bit stir crazy.

So I walked down to my apartment’s gym to go for a run. My plan was to run 1 minute, walk 1 minute, for a mile. I warmed up and then started to run, and much to my surprise, I felt pretty good. I ran the mile straight through. 13:29.

That was Feb 21, 2015. The last time I ran a mile was March 1, 2014. My pace a year ago? 14:07/mi.

I dug back a little deeper, since that March 1 run was a bit of a fluke, tucked into a bunch of weeks of swimming. What was my most recent pace, when I was running regularly?

I had to go back to the summer of 2013, when I was running mostly 2 and 3 milers. They paced like this:

Running pace data from the summer of 2013

Running pace data from the summer of 2013

My current 13:29/mi looked pretty spot on, compared to a year and a half ago when I was running regularly. Even more wild – I weighed 20-30 pounds less that summer than I do now.

Could Crossfit alone have given me back my running legs and lungs? It sure looks like it.

Today, I decided to go for a swim. Work prevented me from getting in my third Crossfit workout this week, and my ankle is a bit sore from a slip on ice in the parking lot a few days ago. I figured swimming would be less stressful on the ankle than running, so I headed to the pool.

My last swim was July 15, 2014 – more than 7 months ago.

I swam 1600 yards breaststroke today. That’s my typical swim distance, and it typically takes me about an hour. My pace today was 3:11/100yds – 56:01.

My pace last July? 3:20/100yds.

Last July, I was on-again, off-again with swimming. I swam 3x/week from November through March, took April off, swam in May, took June off, and swam in July. As I compared today’s pace to July, I got curious. How would today’s pace compare to the months when I was very consistently swimming?

I had to go back to December 2013 to find when I was doing breaststroke regularly, and here’s what it looked like:

Swimming pace data, winter 2013

Swimming pace data, winter 2013

3:08 to 3:30/100 yards. So today’s 3:11 pace over 56:01 looks to be on the fitter end of things!

All from Crossfit?

There’s really no other explanation, because that’s all I’ve been doing the past 4 months.

It feels really good to finally be (slowly) transitioning to the point where I don’t feel like I’m dying in every workout. Near-death, maybe! But my lungs are finally starting to catch up, and that’s opening up more options for me.

I love a lot of things about Crossfit – namely, the community, the barbell work, and overall intensity and efficiency of it. I do think, though, that I will continue to run and swim. I doubt I’ll do any more long-distance running (it’s just not an efficient use of my time as a slow-poke), but I’d like to get back into running 5Ks and 10Ks.

There are 2 things I miss about running and swimming, compared to Crossfit:

1) choosing my own music

2) the long, slow, less intense work that lets me zone out and think

I knew I’d miss the solitude (I really do enjoy working out alone), but I didn’t expect to miss the long slog! I wouldn’t give up Crossfit for either of those things, but I think I’ll find the best version of myself in some combination of them all.

I have to say – I’m still quite shocked by the numbers. I’m performing just as well at two cardio-centric sports with zero recent sport-specific training as I was when training them regularly, at a much lighter weight.

I’ve got Rocktown Crossfit to thank for that!


Peanut butter protein brownie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Brownie of the Gods

What do you get when you cross a five pound tub of protein powder with an impending 36-hour house arrest due to black ice and subzero temperatures?

A chocolate peanut butter protein brownie of the gods.

BOOMsauce!™ Rob

When I started Crossfit, I switched to whey protein powder (from my usual hemp). I wanted to cut back on the large quantities of fruit I was putting into my morning smoothies, and whey has always been my favorite tasting powder. (I try to avoid dairy/casein because I love my cow friends and hate the factory farming that brings dairy to my door, but it’s doggone hard to get enough protein without it unless I’m dedicated to cooking at home – which right now, I don’t have time for). I ordered a 5# tub of chocolate whey protein powder, and yowza! That’s a big tub of protein powder.

After eating too much cheesecake last weekend (and in the cheesecake-hangover week that followed), I’ve had cake-like things on my mind. So at lunch today, I found myself googling around for protein brownie recipes. Somebody has got to have figured this out by now, right? Well, unsurprisingly, there are quite a few recipes out there in the wild – but none of them looked quite like the brownie of my dreams. Most looked a bit dry.

So I took it upon myself to mash up a few different recipes. I also used this opportunity to try something I’ve wanted to test out for some time now – black beans in baked goods. (So, no, this recipe isn’t Paleo-friendly if you’re avoiding beans. It could be gluten free if you use gluten free oat flour or make your own oat flour from gluten free oats).

I am definitely not a natural in the kitchen, so I was fully prepared for this recipe to flop. Imagine my surprise when I took this gooey, peanut buttery, chocolatey amazingness out of the oven. It smelled so good and tasted amazing! It is truly not far off from the insane, sugary dessert of your dreams – minus most of the sugar. The macro profile is, dare I say, fantastic for a brownie, and it rivals my typical breakfast protein smoothie.

Some details on my version:

  • I used Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard protein powder in Chocolate.
  • I used homemade almond milk, unstrained. (For a full batch: 1 cup raw almonds, 4 cups water, 2 minutes in the Vitamix on high. Enjoy!) You could swap any dairy or non-dairy milk. My version is a little more caloric than commercial almond milk, but has 5x the protein and all of the nutrition of the whole nuts, with no chemicals or other junk.
  • I used a whole cup of peanut butter chips, because I am obsessed with peanut butter. A normal person would probably use 1/4 to 1/2 cup.
  • I used 2 tbsp agave, because the batter after 1 tbsp was just a little too bitter from the cocoa. These are not super-sweet – just a little sweet. You could opt to sweeten them with honey or stevia or whatever else you like – just be sure to adjust the amounts. (Stevia, for example, is a bit sweeter than agave, so you’d want to use less).
  • 1 cup of black beans is about 2/3 of a standard can (about 200g). I was tempted to use the whole can for convenience’s sake, but I was winging it as it was, so I didn’t want to get too frisky.
  • The coconut oil can probably be eliminated, but I wanted it in there, because – coconut oil. Don’t hate.
  • Most people could probably cut the pan into 12-15 smaller brownies, but I am not most people. Big honkin brownie get in mah belleh! I cut the pan into 9 good-sized brownies – big enough to be a quick breakfast or lunch (as opposed to snack-sized). (Besides, cutting an uneven balance of rows and columns into a square pan would not sit well with my obsessive-compulsive tendencies).
  • The can of black beans I used that expired 3 months ago tasted fine and hasn’t killed me yet.

Here are the nutrition facts, based on my version described above:

  • 20g protein, 29g carb (14g sugar, 4g fiber),  13g fat

Peanut butter protein brownie nutrition


Most similar recipes recommended storing these in the fridge, so I’ve put mine into an airtight container in the refrigerator – but they were definitely tasty warm and fresh from the oven.

The aftermath:

Empty plate

He gone!

Without further adieu, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Brownies

by Shelly Hokanson

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients (Serves 9-12)

    Dry Ingredients

    • 1 tbsp baking powder
    • 1/4 cup oat flour
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 cup whey protein powder (chocolate or vanilla)
    • 1 cup peanut butter chips (or less, if you’re less obsessed with pb)

    Wet Ingredients

    • 1 cup black beans (cooked and drained)
    • 1/3 cup almond milk (or other dairy or non-dairy milk)
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
    • 1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
    • 2 tbsp agave nectar (or other sweetener, to taste)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 tbsp coconut oil


    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8×8 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
    2. Whisk together all dry ingredients except for the peanut butter chips. Set aside.
    3. Melt coconut oil (about 30 seconds in the microwave).
    4. In a food processor or blender, mix the wet ingredients (including the melted coconut oil) until smooth, about 1 minute.
    5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry.
    6. Stir until well combined.
    7. Fold in peanut butter chips.
    8. Pour batter into baking pan.
    9. Bake for 22-26 minutes, or until top has set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
    10. Cool completely, then cut into 9-12 squares.


    Store covered in the refrigerator.

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    Goldfish photo by Benson Kua

    Clowns, Competitions, and Cheesecake

    Are you afraid of Ronald McDonald? I didn’t think I was, until I encountered this:

    Creepy Ronald at Superfit Games 2015

    All your gainz are belong to us.

    Creepy, right? I know. I shouldn’t have even brought it up. Let’s move on.

    This weekend, I took a road trip to Richmond, VA with my friend Sabrena for the SuperFit Games 2015 East Coast Championship.

    We rolled up to the most adorable house in Carytown – our home for the weekend. Sabrena secured it via AirBnB and it was as good as we could have imagined, if not better… except for ol’ Ronald McDonald in the kitchen. Did I mention how creepy that painting was? We covered it up immediately (well, after snapping a few pictures to use to terrify friends with).

    We weren’t competing in the SuperFit games; we were there to cheer on the nearly FIFTY Rocktown Crossfit athletes that were competing. #likearock It was an awesome spectator experience, and we got to see some of our Crossfit family podium and rock the house.

    I had never been to a Crossfit competition, but had watched the Crossfit Games on TV. The SuperFit Games were what I expected: loud, adrenalized, and awe-inspiring, to name a few attributes.What made it different from watching the official games on TV was that a majority of these people were everyday humans that could be working out next to me at the gym on any given day – but still so much more than everyday humans. There’s a certain level of commitment and fortitude required to compete in a series of grueling events like this, and a measure of selflessness, particularly in the team events. It’s impressive to watch, especially in such a large collective. I can appreciate these things watching a dozen fellow Crossfitters at my gym, but to see a convention floor full of like-minded people putting forth their best efforts in the name of functional fitness – it was pretty mind-blowing.

    The most popular question posed to me over the weekend was: “Are you going to sign up next year?!”

    Goldfish photo by Benson Kua

    Gosh. I don’t know! In my dreams, I’m fit enough and strong enough a year from now to compete and see where I stack up against my peers. But I’m so far from that now that I can’t really envision the reality of it. By age, I’d be in the Masters division (40+), but based on this year’s Masters RX workout, I can’t imagine any way that I’d be ready for that in a year. I’d be lucky to meet the qualifications for the scaled workouts, which don’t have a separate Masters option… and even if I can accomplish the minimum scaled requirements, there’s no way I’d compare favorably to all of the 20-somethings and 30-somethings crushing those workouts. So, I don’t really look at competitions as my realistic Crossfit future. I like competing in general, and would love to someday be in a position to be able to compete casually in Crossfit, but it’s not likely anytime soon, and may never happen. And that’s fine with me. It’ll be a bonus, if it ever happens.

    We rounded out the weekend by initiating a couple people to Cards Against Humanity while indulging in Oreo cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. One of the many things I appreciate about Rocktown Crossfit is that most members are not 24/7 Paleo tyrants. They can enjoy a slice of cheesecake every now and again.

    While you won’t see me on the competition floor anytime soon, you’ll see me back at Rocktown on Tuesday…. gotta work off that cheesecake.


    Goldfish photo by Benson Kua.


    Nothing Gold Can Stay by Thomas Hawk

    Nothing Gold Can Stay

    Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf,
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day
    Nothing gold can stay.

    Robert Frost

    Nine days after my 40th birthday, I attended my first Crossfit class.

    Eleven weeks and a day later, here I am, writing this post.

    My body is a special kind of tired. My calves are still sore from jumping rope on Tuesday. My left wrist feels creaky. I smell like menthol from the icy-hot patch on my back (though that has nothing to do with Crossfit… I sneezed funny this morning and tweaked a muscle in my back that gives me trouble a few times a year. I wish I was kidding).

    Some people might consider these to be reasons why I should quit Crossfit. On the contrary, these are the reasons why I absolutely must continue down this path.

    Eleven weeks and a day ago, I was motivated to join Crossfit for the same reasons I was motivated to start running half marathons in 2009. It was the same motivation that has gotten me up off the couch countless times in my adult life: fear of all of the negative health issues my body might succumb to if I continued to neglect my health and fitness. I have this vision of sitting in a doctor’s office receiving some sort of irreversible bad news that could have been prevented by eating clean and getting off the couch. What an awful reason to suffer a life-altering consequence – because I was too lazy to properly take care of myself.

    But as life ebbs and flows, so does my focus on health and fitness, and each time I came to find myself in a valley, that fear of the point of no return spurred me back into action.

    Crossfit has entered my life at a time when the calendar is slapping me in the face with truths that I’m not quite ready to embrace. I don’t have any issues with my health, but my spending on anti-aging serums and peels has grown exponentially in the past few years, and the snail’s pace at which I’m regaining previous fitness has been humbling, at best. I can still get away with dying my hair funky colors to avoid looking my age, but even my trusty Doc Martens are betraying the golden era of my youth. (As one of my undergrad students put it, “They’re like platform shoes from the 90’s!” Yes, dear. Yes they are).

    My first Crossfit workout destroyed my body but ignited my spirit. Subsequent workouts early on challenged me physically and made me face several fears head-on. The physical struggle was so fierce that it drowned out any and all voices in my head. In the past couple weeks, I’ve finally started to feel like I can do this. The downside of my body starting to catch up, though, is that it leaves me room to think.

    It’s not that thinking is bad. I’m definitely a natural born thinker. I love to absorb information, sort it out in my head, and analyze the heck out of it. I like to store bits and pieces of things just in case I ever need to know them. I enjoy diving into a topic that interests me and studying it from all different angles. I love data and statistics and trends. The act of learning Crossfit movements and philosophies plays very well into my affinities for thinking and learning.

    The conflict arises when the facts point to truths that can be a tough pill to swallow. I came upon an article last week that laid out plans for the next Crossfit Open competition. I am too far down the scaling totem pole to consider competing, but I was interested in learning the lay of the land for future reference. That’s when I learned that I would be in what’s called the “Masters Division” – the over-40 crowd. So, that’s it? Year #40 draws a line in the sand between youth and those still fighting to hang on. My first thought was, “How can that be me? I’m just getting started!”

    Well, I’m getting started at age 40. That’s the reality of the matter. Tough luck, kiddo.

    I read an interview with rocker Pat Benatar once. She was talking about her book, and how she didn’t want a perfect face, because her laugh lines and scars were badges to display proudly. I respect that, and more so marvel at it, because I’m just not there. I’m not ready to wear the life that I’ve lived, because I feel like I’m just getting started.

    It’s ironic to me that just as I reach a point in my life where I feel comfortable with who I am and confident in my work, my body becomes a traitor. Think about it. We finally gain the life skills and earn the wisdom of experience to tackle most days with grace and hard work – and in most cases, succeed – but that same grace and hard work applied in the gym will at some point forever offer diminishing returns. We all know this to be true even in our twenties, but I suppose some of us just think it will never happen to us.

    I know it is happening to me, against my will and much to my chagrin. I woke up this morning with no idea how I would make it through today’s workout. This week felt brutal, but I also felt like I had to show up and put in the work and let the chips fall where they may. So I went to the gym and set up for the workout:

    Every Minute on the Minute for 20 mins:

    3 power cleans
    3 front squats
    3 jerks

    My 1 rep max clean right now is 65#, and I’ve only done a few reps of jerks at 55# in strength training, but never in a workout. So I started this WOD with 40#, knowing that I’d probably end up stripping off the extra 5# and using just the bar. The first 5 or 6 rounds went well, and surprisingly, I was keeping pace with the rest of the class, finishing each round in about 30 seconds, and resting for 30 seconds. As the next 5 rounds progressed, I was getting slower at the reps, taking 35-40 seconds to complete them, and that wasn’t leaving me enough time to catch my breath before the next round started. In round 11, I was having trouble getting the bar overhead for the jerks, and after round 12, I knew I had to strip down to the bar (35#). That helped, but I still couldn’t get my heart rate under control.

    Rounds 14 and 15, I started 10 seconds into the minute because I couldn’t breathe, so the rest of the class was finishing all 3 sets while I was still in the middle of doing squats. I felt the workout getting away from me. I couldn’t keep up. I grunted my way through the jerks in round 15 and then set the bar down and looked at the clock. It was already time for round 16. This just wasn’t going to work.

    Coach Lauren told us up front that because this workout was scored by rounds missed, if we didn’t think we could get through all of the reps in a round, to just skip the round and take the breather, because either way, it would count against us. A month ago, I would have accepted at face value that the breather would very likely be part of my strategy. Today, though, as I’ve started to feel stronger approaching these workouts, I viewed it as a last resort – and damn, did it make me mad that I found myself in last-resort territory.

    I sat out round 16 and fought back tears. I was angry at my body. I just kept thinking, I show up. I work hard. I study. I practice. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing, and I still can’t get through this workout. It stung. I really thought that I would get my lungs and stamina back much faster. Last year and the year before, I was swimming miles and running half marathons. Just a couple months before starting Crossfit, I was doing 7, 8, 9 milers on the weekends with a combination of walking and running. 3 hours out on the trails – how could I not finish a 20 minute workout that let me rest half of the time?

    But that’s the reality of 40. Fitness is harder to gain and harder to hold on to than it was even a few years ago. I’ve never been a natural athlete, but it still hurts the ego.

    The clock marched on to round 17, and almost miraculously, that one minute of rest turned me into a whole new human. The remaining 4 rounds were hard, but I was able to knock them out on pace. I finished the workout with a score of 1, meltdown avoided.

    I know that the only way I’m going to succeed in this area of my life is to embrace my age and look at Masters status as a gift. Be glad that I wake up every day able to do these incredible things. Trust that I have the wisdom and the intimate familiarity with my body to avoid injury in the process. Know that I will, as a result, become stronger and more fit than at any other point in my life. I cannot let fear of disease be my primary motivation, as then I’m forever running away. Instead, I will embrace the pursuit of strength as my motivation, and continue to march headlong toward it.

    Nothing gold can stay, but there’s always another crack at dawn tomorrow.





    Photo by Thomas Hawk.