Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Side Dishes - Cause Yo' Chicken Needs a Friend

One thing I've been struggling with these last few weeks is trying to pick good sides for my proteins.  I don't want to get stuck in a salad rut, although I make some pretty bangin' salads (peppers, onions, gorgonzola, cilantro, tomatoes, green onions, avocados - solid).  I also don't want to eat too much of my contest prep food, as I'm really trying to save that for when I need to get ready for the stage.  Part of trying to be more "normal" is making side dishes that are still friendly to the old waistline, but are also not a heavily relied on staple for competitions.  So last night I did some cookin', and I made sweet potato fries (yes, I eat these in contest prep), asparagus (see previous comment), summer squash, and bok choy.  Technically the last 2 could be eaten, too, so I guess I failed!!  But I did incorporate more oils, whereas during prep I'd prepare with PAM or eliminate all together.  So here are my recipes and some pics.

Summer squash with garlic and bread crumbs: both on and off season: omit bread crumbs when prepping, although they really don't add that much in terms of cals; really close to a show they'd need to come out completely.  You can also do this same recipe with mushrooms since they also release liquid when you add head.  If I use mushrooms, I usually throw in a little fresh parsley.

2 zucchini
2 yellow summer squash
4 -5 cloves of garlic (yes, I'm a garlic whore), chopped
1 T olive or canola oil
1/4 c italian bread crumbs

Heat the oil in a skillet (I used cast iron - it's just my preference) and add the garlic.  Saute garlic for a few minutes, but don't burn it, otherwise it'll taste bitter.  Add the zucchini and the squash and  and cook until they become opaque.  Here's the trick: these veggies release water as they cook, and you'll actually want to cook them until they start to release some water.  Once they release water and are opaque, add your bread crumbs and turn off the heat.  Stir to combine everything and serve.  If you don't wait until the veggies release their water, the bread crumbs won't have anything to adhere to and your dish will suck.  Don't do that. 

Bok Choy: on or off season (in season, I would sub Pam for oil and soy will eventually have to come out if you sodium deplete)

3 heads baby bok choy, separated
5 cremini or shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 T shallots, chopped
1 t fresh grated ginger
1/2 c bean sprouts (the big ones)
1 green onion, chopped
1-2 T fresh chopped cilantro
1-2 T peanut or sesame oil
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 T soy sauce
1/2 c water

Heat the peanut/sesame oil until it's hot.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute or 2.  Add mushrooms and cook until they start to release water.  Once they do, add the bok choy and all remaining ingredients and cook until all the liquid evaporates.  Yum!

Grilled Asparagus: on or off season (in season, sub Pam for oil, and again soy will come out if you manipulate sodium)
2 bunches asparagus, ends cut (the thick asparagus work best under high heat - thin ones will burn and turn limp - that's what she said)
3 T balsamic vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil
1 T soy sauce

Mix all ingredients in a pyrex dish and marinate asparagus for about 30 minutes.  Heat a grill pan or grill on med-high eat and grill asparagus on each side for 3-4 mins, turning frequently.  The key is to arrange them in a single layer.  If you don't they won't cook well and they won't cook evenly.  Work in layers!

BPs Sweet Potato Fries: on or off season (can make a "sweet" version with just splenda and cinnamon and eat up through show day!!  If you manipulate salt, opt for the sweet.  But these can be eaten all during prep)
4-5 sweet potatoes, cut into fries (sometimes I do mine like beefsteak fries - nice thick wedges - other times I do shoestring fries)
cajun seasoning
garlic powder
onion powder
2 T olive oil

Spray cookie sheet w/non-stick spray and arrange fries in a single layer.  Spray w/additional Pam and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle on your spices and bake at 450 for 25 minutes.  Check them after 25 and cook an additional 15 minutes, if necessary.  The beefsteak wedges usually need more time, but the thin fries do not. 

Baked Polenta (on or off season: on season sub PAM for oil)

1 tube of polenta cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (I get mine from Trader Joes but my local grocery store also sells it)
2 T olive oil
Parsley, thyme, salt, pepper
2 T fresh grated parm cheese

Spray cookie sheet with Pam and arrange polenta cakes.  Drizzle over your olive oil and then add all of your spices.  Bake according to the package instructions.  When the polenta is done, sprinkle over your parmesan cheese.  The polenta should have a nice buttery, soft consistency. 

I make enough of all of these side dishes to last me for a few days, so I can mix and match them with chicken, fish, pork, turkey, steak, etc.  I change it up every single day.

I will try to upload more pics later, but I'm having major, major issues with all electronic devices at the moment........
Baked polenta

Asparagus, squash, fries!

Monday, March 28, 2011

BP Keeps It Real: A Rant on Competitions

Since I started blogging, several people have asked me why I'm taking a brief break from competing in 2011.  So, I think giving some background on myself and my competitive history/ideals might help to put my blog into perspective.  There's a reason that I think enjoying your food is a must.  And there's a reason that I think people should try to remain as "normal" as possible when competing.  I'm very passionate about health and nutrition, particularly in how they relate to competing. But my overall health and wellness will always, ALWAYS trump my ability to get to the stage; if I ever feel like I'm compromising my health to compete, I will NOT compete.  End of story.

I placed Top 5 at Jr. USAs last year which means I'm qualified to compete at the National level until the end of 2011.  My initial plan was to compete at Team U in July and then possibly Figure Nationals in Nov, but I decided to hold off on those shows.  My next show will likely be back at the state level, in either Sept or Oct.  A disclaimer: for those of you who may not know me well: I'm a tell it like it is girl.  I never mean to offend or make fun (well, maybe a little), so please don't take anything personally if you feel like it somehow applies to you, or if you partake in any of the things I mention below.  These are my personal reasons, and my personal opinions.  Don't read between the lines, as there will be NO shades of grey in this article. 

I absolutely loved my 1st show, and not because I won my class.  I loved my first show because of my prep, my trainer, and the girls with whom I trained.  I had an 8 week prep - yep - just 8 weeks.  During that time, I was well-fed: I ate lots of carbs and lots of calories, and never really had a "dry out" week.  I was drinking up to a full gallon of water up through show day, and didn't even see a diuretic.  I also didn't see a treadmill until about 3 weeks out from my show, and even then it was 20-30 mins of HIIT.  No steady-state, muscle-wasting cardio for this girl.  Most competitors have 12-16 week preps, sometimes MORE, which amazes me.  I've heard of some people prepping for 6 months.  Really??  If it takes you 1/2 a year, you're in the wrong damn sport.  I also know of some girls who do 2-3, sometimes MORE, hours of cardio a day.  WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?  Do you have any idea what you're doing to your body and to your metabolism when you do that crap???  I do realize that I have good genes and great conditioning due to my 18+ years of playing competitive sports.  I realize that I may not have to work as hard as others, but that's part of my point.  Why fight your body every step of the way?  I just don't understand............ANYWAY, back to why I love competing, and less on why people are batshit crazy.  I trained with 3 other girls, and the experience was so much fun.  Every Sunday we'd meet with Leigh Ann for an hour long ass-whoopin.'  Even though it hurt, it was fun.  We laughed, we joked, we swore, we summoned the lord a few times, and we busted our asses - TOGETHER.  I think because I played team sports for so many years, group training is perfect for me.  I thrive off of healthy competition (I'd always try to go faster than Melanie - she pushed me so freaking hard), and I thrive off of someone else telling me to suck it up and to push through it.  When I'd hear Christina say, "Cmon, BP, 1 more rep, CMON!!!!!!!" it would push me to squeeze out just 1 more.  Juuuuuuuuuuuust one.  And at the show itself, I roomed with Melanie, and I had all my girls backstage with me.  We ran around with our dirty Jan Tana feet, threw rice cakes at each other, calmed each other down backstage, and pointed and laughed at the girls who thought it was a good idea to pump legs before hitting the stage.  My triumph was their triumph, and vice versa.  Watching Melanie win overall in Fitness was the highlight of my day - in fact, it trumped placing first in my class.  It was such a positive experience, and looking back, I probably should have just started a long off season with LA, for a few reasons.  1) If it ain't broke, don't fix it, 2) I like food (hello, cheat days), 3) I would have had the opportunity to train with other girls.

For my 2nd show, I was flyin' solo.  I had no Christina, no Melanie, and no Rachel to cheer me on and to tell me to push.  I also had a 12 week prep (totally, totally unnecessary), which absolutely destroyed my will to live.  It was filled with hours of steady state cardio, minimal cals, and almost no carbs towards the end.  It started with 45 mins of daily cardio, 6 days/wk, which was barely tolerable.  Week after week after hellish week, cardio was added and calories/carbs were cut until I found myself at 2 hrs/day, 800 cals/day, carbs only at breakfast and PWO.  I would get dizzy when I'd stand up at work - I'd have to actually hold onto my desk to keep from passing out every time I got up to go to the bathroom.  I realize this is "industry standard," but I don't really give a damn about what most people do, because most people are frigging crazy and will do ANYTHING to get to the stage: fat burners, steroids, hours of cardio, minimal calories.  I find it hilarious that so many people claim they're so "healthy," yet they completely compromise their health when getting ready for a show.  Have we really lost sight of what's important that much?  Does the end justify the means?  I have some friends who'd say yes to that question and THAT is the logic that I find terrifying.  "Don't eat that white potato!  It has too much sugar in it!! But inject this Lasix into your ass before you go onstage."  Really????  In training for my 1st show, there were only a couple of days that I said, "I don't think I can do this."  For my 2nd show, starting at 6 weeks out, I said it every day.  EVERY DAY.  

In retrospect, perhaps show # 2 WAS the reality check that I needed.  I am lucky that I had a normal show prep for my 1st show, otherwise, I would have thought the standard 0 cals/0 carbs/85438340583490 hrs of daily cardio was NORMAL.  People wear their endless cardio like a badge of honor.  It's almost as if people think if you're not miserable, you're not prepping correctly.  Ugh.  ENOUGH!  I am not trying to be self-righteous or holier-than-thou, or condescending here.  I'm merely stating facts.  There IS another way.  Just because you haven't tried it and just because it's not industry standard does not mean it doesn't work.  I'm not calling your coach an idiot, or you (well, maybe you) - I'm just letting you know that there is another way to approach prep that doesn't completely compromise your health.  I care about my life AFTER I stop competing: I want to look like a woman (hello facial hair and bacne!), to be able to bear children, and not to have my metabolism come to a dead stop (do you like 40lb rebounds?).  Do others think about this?  Sometimes, I really question it based on their actions.  If you want to shave your face and your nipple hair for the rest of your life and be mistaken for a man when you answer the phone, go right ahead.  I prefer to remain smooth as a baby's butt with a flowery voice. 

So let's bring this full circle and discuss where I am currently.  After placing at Jr. USAs, I was so excited to enter an off season.  I didn't want to look at another treadmill or sweet potato for a long time.  I slowly gained weight (no rebound - I didn't use diuretics OR fat burners like my coach had wanted me to - at least I wasn't THAT dumb), and I switched trainers.  My new trainer and I worked really hard at adding lean, quality mass, and we did just that.  I'm up to close to 150 and I'm pretty lean, considering I'm 15lbs heavier than I was at this time last year.  Those are big improvements (no 'roids, HGH, or testosterone, thankyouverymuch), and I'm VERY pleased with my progress.  And I have no doubt that had I decided to compete at Team U that I would have done well.  I'm just not ready, mentally.  And that has nothing to do with my interactions and instruction from my trainer, either.  He's a cool guy: great personality, funny, personable, tell it like it is.  I'm just not ready upstairs.  And you can't coach that.  That needs to be something that comes from within each athlete.  So my trainer and I decided it would be best if I put things on hold until I'm ready.  A wise decision by both parties, me thinks.  I was tired of measuring literally every gram of food that I put into my mouth, and I was tired of not being able to cook myself dinner (see blog post #1 for more info on why I love this).  So, I've been eating "off plan" (hence the concept for this blog) and doing my own thing in the gym for the last 3 weeks, and I've been loving it.  I've been sprinting, doing MET workouts, lifting heavy on shoulders/back, teaching spin, eating turkey sandwiches and Bob Evans french toast, and I couldn't be any freaking happier.  My entire persona has changed - I have more energy, more pep in my step, and more purpose both for my PT clients and for my own workouts.  It's like a weight has been lifted, no pun intended.

So, will she?  Won't she?  I will be competing again, never fear.  But I'll be going back "home" as I call it:  I'll be training with LA, working out and competing at the state level with my gal pal Lauren, and I'll be competing in a few different federations, as well.  I need to go back to what was fun for me.  Would I like a pro card?  Sure, who wouldn't?  Am I willing to compromise my health and potentially my morals (that's a whole OTHER blog post) to get it?  Nah.  I'd rather have fun.  It's all about perspective; luckily, I have it. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


So, I don't know about the rest of you, but breakfast is far and away my fave meal of the day.  Savory, sweet, salty - you can mix them all together and create some magic.  Here are some of my favorite recipes and pics.

Ezekiel Bread French Toast (so simple, I'm embarrassed to post it).  Both on season and off season!
2 slices Ezekiel Bread (I use the plain, but the cinnamon raisin would probably be craaaazy good)
1 T skim milk (yes, just 1 T - trace cals!!)
2 egg whites
0.5 oz Torani sugar free vanilla syrup OR 1 t vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg
splenda (optional - I usually only use 1 packet)
fresh orange zest (this MAKES this recipe - do NOT omit this.  If you don't have an orange to zest, use orange extract).

Stir all ingredients, except the bread, in a pyrex dish until combined.  Soak both sides of the bread until all the moisture is absorbed.  I sometimes leave mine in the dish for a bit while I make some coffee.  Once coated, heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and get it relatively hot BEFORE you put the bread on it.  Brown on each side for a few minutes.  Top with blueberries and maple syrup (I use sugar free both on season and off).  You'll be amazed at how freaking good this tastes.  My good friend and fellow competitor, Lauren, recently made this, and her picture is at the bottom.

Chocolate banana protein pancakes: both on season and off season
1/2 a banana, mashed
1/2 scoop chocolate/banana protein powder (either flavor is fine - I actually buy the 2 flavors separately and then mix them together in a giant tub)
1t cocoa powder
1t baking powder
1/2 c oats
1-2 t sf/ff jello banana pudding mix (you could also use chocolate flavor, but I like my pancakes really banana-y with just a hint of chocolate)
1 packet of splenda
1 egg white, 2 whole eggs (you could use just egg whites if you wanted to fit your meal plan)
optional: capella flavor drops banana split flavor

pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a pyrex cup.  I actually put my batter in the fridge overnight to thicken up.  In the morning, I add some skim milk if it's too thick.  Heat a non-stick skillet to medium heat and add about 1/4 c - 1/2 c of the mixture at a time and spread them into circles with the back of a spoon.  When bubbles start to appear, flip over and continue to cook for another minute or 2.  Top with berries of choice and some sugar free syrup. 

You can modify this recipe in so many ways.  Amy Perez from Curls and Whey has tons of variations on this (check out her FB page - Curls and Whey) - you can sub any fruit for the banana.  I often use pumpkin and either make plain pumpkin pancakes or chocolate pumpkin pancakes.  It just depends on what I'm in the mood for in the morning!

BPs off season breakfast sammich/burrito:  off season only
1 whole wheat tortilla OR whole wheat English muffin, toasted
4 egg whites
2/3 c ground turkey sausage OR 2-3 slices turkey bacon
1 slice fat free cheese or grated fat free cheese

While the bread is toasting, I prepare the bacon and sausage per package instructions, and I also cook up my egg whites.  If making the burrito, I put about 1/2 my egg whites and 1/2 the sausage or 2 slices of turkey bacon in the middle of the wrap.  I top with a slice of ff cheese and zap it in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds.  I eat the remaining egg whites/turkey/sausage on the side.  For the English muffin, I top each 1/2 of the English muffin with eggs, bacon/sausage, and again top w/ff cheese and zap in the microwave.  It quite honestly tastes like a breakfast sandwich from McDonalds.  All of the taste, none of the guilt :)

Pancakes - nom, nom!!

Such a filling breakfast, all for only 260 cals

Just like the real thing - promise!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Beginning

This is one of my very first attempts at blogging.  The intent of this blog is to share with you my trials, tribulations, and foodgasms!  But first, a little background on yours truly.

My mother is a nutritionist and I have been cooking with Mama P since I could hold a spatula and say "chicken."  I love cooking - I love the artistry it requires, I love the presentation of food on a plate that somehow seems to make it look THAT much more delicious, and I love watching other people take pleasure in eating food that I have created.  It took me a few years after graduating from college to really hone my cooking skillz, but I turned into a pretty damn good cook.  Timing is everything with cooking: you have to know when to start boiling the water, tenderizing the meat, and cutting up vegetables so that everything is finished at exactly the same time.  Other than that, anyone can cook.  If you can read and follow directions, there is absolutely no reason that you can't be a good cook.  Practice makes perfect, just like everything else in life.  There is no excuse to not be able to cook delicious, nutritious meals for you and your family every night.  None.  Most of my meals are created in under 30 minutes.

Now some brief background on how I got into figure competitions.  I have been an athlete all my life: basketball, soccer, softball, track - I did it all.  I love sports, always have, always will, and I will always define myself as an athlete.  I played sports all the way through college, and after I graduated, I had absolutely no outlet for my competitive nature.  I trained for and ran a half marathon, but that didn't do the trick.  I was in the gym lifting and running every day, but I never had the physique that I thought I should for doing all that work.  I looked fine in a bikini and fit into my size 4 pants, but I didn't look like I wanted to.  I find muscles on women to be awesome, and incredibly sexy.  I get very excited about a delt taper on a chick - it means she's strong, in more ways than 1, and it means she's dedicated to her body and her health.  I never had nice delts, and I was tired of not looking fly in my tank tops.  A trainer at my gym, Leigh Ann, was an NPC fitness competitor, and SHE had some fly delts.  So...............I asked her to train me.  She agreed, and we made some magic within only about a month.  Seeing how well my body responded to a healthier diet and a different way of lifting, I decided to follow in her footsteps and throw my hat into the competition ring.  She beefed me up, ripped me up, and prepped me for my 1st show, and boy did I look good.  And I finally got my delt taper, with some nice stomach veins and a 6-pack, to boot.  I won my height class and felt like I had accomplished my goals. 

After placing 5th at Jr. USAs a few months later, I decided to enter my very 1st off season.  I packed on lots of muscle, but got a little lost along the way.  I started to struggle with the regimented nature of measuring out all the food that goes into your mouth, and I hadn't cooked myself dinner in over a year.  I really, really missed that.  So here I am, still in an off-season, but finally enjoying healthy food in a less-strict way.  I still eat VERY healthy about 6-7x/day, and I still weigh some things (because if I don't measure my PB, I will eat the entire jar), but I'm changing my menu every day, reaching for things that I haven't eaten in years, and I am in a much better place, mentally.

To give you an idea of what types of things I'm eating, here was today's healthy off-season menu:

Breakfast: 1 low carb whole wheat tortilla, 4 egg whites, 3 slices turkey bacon.  I made a delicious breakfast burrito and added some fat free cheddar.  It seriously tasted like a breakfast sammich from McDonalds.  And I had about 1/2 c blueberries on the side.  Because blueberries and BP go together like peas and carrots.

Snack: 1 scoop whey, 2 caramel corn rice cakes

Lunch: 1 arnolds multigrain sandwich thin, 1 slice reduced fat pepper jack cheese, 2oz deli turkey meat, tomato, red onion, lettuce with fat free mayo and mustard.  For "dessert" I had 1 c of greek yogurt with a little sugar free, fat free chocolate jello pudding mix stirred in.  It made it thick, like custard.  Heavenly, and very dessert-like.

Snack: apple w/ 2 T PB

Dinner: chicken chili topped w/ff cheddar and a little greek yogurt to sub for sour cream. 

All of that is about 1900-2000 cals.  Just reading about my breakfast sandwich is making me salivate. 

And here's my chicken chili recipe w/pics!!  This recipe was originally my mom's and is usually made with ground beef and sausage.  It's really freaking amazing with the beef, but very high fat, so I've made some changes to make it more "figure" friendly.  I'll be here all night, folks. 

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 grilled chicken breasts, grilled and pulled apart (can also use lean ground turkey)
black pepper
dijon mustard
red wine
lemon juice
chili powder
cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes
1 can tomato paste
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
black olives (optional)

Heat oil in a large pot.  Saute chopped onion until transparent.  Add grilled chicken or ground turkey, and brown for a few minutes.  If using the turkey, spoon off excess fat after browning.  Return pot to low heat and add all remaining ingredients.  Let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

I do not measure my spices EVER, so I don't have exact measurements for them.  I do tend to put in slightly  more dill, because it gives the chili a surprisingly amazing flavor.

Bon apetite!