Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Italian Dinner Party

Last weekend we celebrated my wife's birthday.  While we were in Italy for our honeymoon, after a few glasses of wine, Robin mentioned that we should have an Italian themed dinner for her birthday and call it "Aged to Perfection."  I didn't mention it after the discussion, but I tucked that idea into my back pocket and decided to do this - surprise style - for her birthday.  I started with an Evite, and I made sure to only invite people that Robin can really be relaxed around, since I knew a surprise party was already out of her comfort zone.  Here's the invitation:

Here's the menu:

Appetizer: Bruschetta + Caprese Salad Bites
Pasta Course: Gnocchi with meat sauce + Gnocchi with pesto
Entree: Two homemade pizzas (1 with pancetta + mozzarella, 1 margarita)
Dessert: Tiramisu

On Friday night (with the student organization I advise having their meeting in my living room), I made two batches of pizza dough, homemade roasted tomato pizza sauce, and tiramisu.  I was most nervous about the tiramisu because baking involves, well science, and I get nervous about getting the measurements, timing, pans, etc. correct.

 Making the custard using a double boiler for the first time ever.

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, and oregano fresh out of the oven.  I just blended it all up and it was a delicious pizza sauce.  The recipe is here.

On Saturday, our friend (and my Beachbody coach), Heather, took Robin out for a day of fun (AKA get her out of the house while I cook), and Heather's wife, Nicole came over to be my amazing and lovely sous chef.   We first got the house ready by figuring out to set a table for 9 when we had 8 plates, 8 wine glasses, 8 placemats, etc. etc. We ended up giving Robin the "special" sets of everything (i.e. the mismatched).  It worked out. :)

 Gnocchi life.  This isn't even a quarter of it.

 Best sous chef ever (she's also proof of how great Focus T25 is - she's so fit!)

 The "special" table setting with the Birthday Cake Candle

The Table

The cooking process actually went really well and the timing of everything worked out so that I had washed all of the flour off of my face and changed out of my pajamas before people arrived - phew!  We all drank prosecco and passed out the appetizers to start the night out.

Mini Caprese Salad Bites (from the recipe here)

After everyone sat at the table and we transitioned to some red wine, we served the pasta course.

 Homemade Gnocchi with meat sauce

Homemade Gnocchi with pesto (thank you Terry Hagen for the pasta-making lessons!)

I made two pizzas for the entree.  This is my second time making homemade pizza, and I love the recipe from Elise Blaha Cripe - The Only Pizza Dough Recipe You Will Ever Need (as well as all of the things on her blog - check it out!).

 Here is the pancetta and mozzarella version.  I really like using ciliegine which is just small cherry size balls of mozzarella cheese.  

 I love this picture - such an adorable couple.

Here's what we could salvage for pictures of the margarita pizza. It went fast.

For dessert we had the tiramisu I made on Friday night.  My friend, Amanda, who was our food photographer for the evening may have had a few too many glasses of Chianti Classico by then, because we somehow have no photos of the dessert.  Here is the delicious recipe I  used:

Here is a link to my Pinterest Board for the event in case you want other ideas:

We had so much fun with this themed birthday dinner, and with how little stress was actually involved, I definitely want to do it again.  Maybe a dinner that is on the food plan, but still delicious for next time?  Any ideas?


Friday, September 11, 2015

21 Day Fix versus 21 Day Fix Extreme + A Day in the Life (Because who doesn't want pictures!?)

This month Robin and I started 21 Day Fix Extreme after two very successful cycles with 21 Day Fix.  The food plan is the exact same except you aren't "allowed" any treats.  We didn't use any of the treats during the regular 21 Day Fix except for special occasions, so that meant basically meant the same food plan for us.

With a meal plan in place, we started the workouts.  This is definitely where the difference comes in to play. The workouts are HARD! Like, burning out your muscles so much that you can't pump the shampoo bottle in your post-workout shower.  The schedule looks like this:

Monday: PLYO Fix Extreme
Tuesday: Upper Fix Extreme
Wednesday: Pilates Extreme (which we substitute for soccer)
Thursday: Lower Fix Extreme
Friday: Cardio Fix Extreme
Saturday: Dirty 30 Extreme
Sunday: Yoga Fix Extreme

It follows a similar setup to the standard 21 Day Fix, but the biggest difference is that there is very little rest in between each workout as you go through the 30 minutes.  I've been doing lots of modifications and doing the best I can.  It is hard, but good.  I don't want it to seem like I don't  like the program.  I definitely do!  I was getting slightly bored with the sameness of 21 Day Fix after two cycles, so it is nice to jolt myself with these intense workouts.

We're in week 2, and it has been more manageable than last week.  More to come on the success with this program!

Ok, and on to the food pictures!

 Breakfast: 2 eggs with salsa + avocado

 Lunch: Leftover steak fajitas (from Fixate) over couscous with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top

Dinner: Clean and simple.  Grilled chicken with southwest seasoning (from the 21 Day Fix booklet) with steamed broccoli and A1 sauce.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Treat Week (AKA How NOT to Maintain your Weight Loss)

After completing our second round of 21 Day Fix, Robin & I took a week long break before starting 21 Day Fix Extreme yesterday.  I'm learning that the hardest part about this journey will not be the weight loss but the maintaining.  I only gained back 3 lbs. last week (most of which I think was salt-focused; I was already down 1.5 lbs today),  but I also gained a lot of perspective about how hard maintaining weight loss will be.  I drank beer, ate pasta, pizza, Taco Bell, Red Robin, and Thai food without abandon, and my only exercise was soccer. Autumn's dvds, my running plans, and my dog's leash all sat awaiting my laziness to end.  Thankfully it was only a week.

I now know that I need to start planning for maintenance long before I get to that point.  My hope is so stay a bit more controlled after this 21 day cycle, since I don't know what is next after this. I will definitely need a plan.

I also feel no guilt about last week.  It was a treat week.  I've worked really hard since July 5th, so I earned a week to do what I wanted.  Here are some delicious pictures to prove it.

 Cooking with my friend's dad, Terry Hagen (the owner of Bravo! Restaurant and Cafe)

 Chicken & Waffles at Arcadia Brewing Co. after soccer on Wednesday with a Jaw Jacker Pumpkin Ale (not pictured)

These pictures are both from Nonla, the new Vietnamese restaurant in Mattawan, Mi.

(As always, lots of the photo credit goes to my lovely wife, Robin)

More to come on 21 Day Fix Extreme after we complete our first week.  Yesterday was Plyo Fix Extreme - basically super intense leg day.

**Want to know more about 21 Day Fix or how to get connected with the program?  Let me know!  I can be reached at or through comments on the blog!**