Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Rose Bowl - My first trip to California

The California trip was great! It is good to be back in Iowa, even with 40 degrees colder weather. It was pretty disheartening to see Iowa get beaten so badly in the Rose Bowl but it was still a great season. I am pretty optimistic they can make a return trip next year if they get the bounces to go their way again. This was a big trip for me as it was my first time traveling solo. As a planner, it was also very much outside my comfort zone. After the first two nights, I really had no plan as to what I was going to do or where I was going to stay. I would essentially choose an activity or two to do that day based on my mood, then once it got about 2-3pm local time, I would log into AirBnb on my phone and see if there is a place nearby I could stay--in both cases, I got a sweet beach spot and was able to check in to the BnB within an hour.

Using AirBnb actually made the trip better. I don't mind hotels but the chance to meet new, local people and staying in some really sweet houses added another element of excitement to the trip.

Firsts for me:
Time in California
Time in Arizona (though I only stopped for a connecting flight)
Time booking my own flight
Renting a car
Using AirBnb (loved it)
Staying in
Taking a trip solo (outside the midwest)
Visiting the Rose Bowl
Having Peruvian Food
Getting crapped on by a bird

My trip spanned roughly 250 miles of driving over 5 days. This Google Map shows a rough outline of the places I stopped at.

Day 1:DSM to PHX to ONT then staying at my first ever AirBnb in Glendale.

It helped to run into a familiar face on the flights (blurry because I'm not good at selfies)

This is where I stayed for the first 2 nights - Glendale California which was about a 15 min drive to the Rose Bowl/

Day 2 - The Rose Bowl

This was the reason I came to California and was too excited to sleep the night before. Obviously, the game didn't go well but with amazing tailgating weather and an eye popping landscape of the stadium and mountain--it still made for great memories.

Me hanging out with Mexican Darth Vader before the game.

It took about 30 mins of standing in line just to get through the security line to get into the game.
Notice the beautiful landscape of mountains in the background. You pretty much see mountains in the background of everything in Cali.

The Swarm

Day 3: LA/Santa Monica
At this point, the rest of my trip was on a "whatever I feel like" basis. I knew I was going to drop in to a local Crossfit gym (Crossfit 818). Then I thought I would go see the Hollywood sign. I did those things and then I thought I should drive through Beverly Hills. I ended up stumbling across Rodeo Drive where I stopped and walked through the shopping area, it was pretty awesome to see.
Found an awesome outdoor mall in Glendale (Americana) before leaving for the Hollywood sign

I didn't know I was going to have to hike 1/2 mile uphill (after a few beers and Peruvian food) to get a good shot of the Hollywood sign but damnit I got it!

The houses of Beverly Hills:

Then off to Santa Monica:

Then my BnB for the 3rd night. This was a ridiculously nice house about 100 yards from Venice Beach.

Day 4: Beach Day

I explored Venice beach, which is a pretty lively place. It has tons of shops set up and there were a lot of people partaking in various activities. They have an outdoor gym (muscle beach), racquetball courts, basketball courts and plenty of trails.

Venice Beach in the morning

After exploring Venice, I swung by Long Beach just because it had the word beach in the name and Sublime always talked about it. I snapped a few pictures and then headed to Huntington Beach.

Alamitos beach in the LBC

Huntington Beach:
After seeing how active Venice beach was, I was expecting the same for the others beaches. This was not the case at Huntington. It was more low key and relaxed.

I then swung by Newport Beach & the Balboa Peninsula.

Newport beach. it was pretty chilly so nothing was going on at the beach
Across the water is Balboa Island which appears to have some very expensive houses on it.

Then back to Huntington beach where I stayed at my last AirBnb of the trip. The house was amazing and it was a 5 minute walk to Huntington Beach. My BnB host, Lisa, was super awesome. We even went out for food and drinks at one of her recommended places.

Day 5: Recovering and driving by to the Ontario airport

Day 5 was pretty uneventful because I had a terrible case of heartburn that kept me from sleeping well. I really didn't want to do much, and in all honestly, I was about ready to come home anyways. Driving around California for 4 days takes a lot out of you. I lounged at my BnB for most of the day. I drove through a few cities (Santa Ana and Irvine) that I wanted to see on my way to Ontario, which is where my 6am flight left the next day. I went to bed at 630pm PT because I was so beat from the night before.

Verdict: California is a pretty cool place, I can see why everyone wants to live there. Most of the stereotypes you here are pretty true. The traffic wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be, but I didn't travel as much during rush hour during the work week though. If Iowa goes to the Rose bowl again, I may go again...but only if the price is right. 80% of my trip cost was the plane & game ticket (not exaggerating, I actually tallied it up). But, it's just money and it was a great experience!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

End of 2 month Nutrition challenge

I finally finished my 2 month nutrition challenge on March 1st. For the first month, I had to participate in a strict Whole 30 challenge and then have a strict month of Paleo in February. Strict meaning no cheat meals and no alcohol. Miraculously, I was able to complete two months without cheating--despite multiple social drinking events and a party bus! There were some temptations early in the challenge but that temptation gradually went away!

Healthy eating, consisting of non-processed foods, was the missing link for me to reach my fitness goals. I'm finally a believer that nutrition really does matter...A LOT! For those of you interested in living a healthier lifestyle that haven't partaken in a Whole30, Paleo or other non-processed food lifestyles, I encourage you to try one. Jump head first into a "Whole30." For me (and I believe many others), a life before non-processed food diet was an "ignorance is bliss" situation. Once the foods I grew up with were taken out of my diet, I recognized how destructive those foods can be and how awesome natural foods are. If anyone wants help getting started, has questions, whatever...I'd be happy to help.

Healthy eating does cost a little bit more, and it requires more effort and a maybe a bit more time--but aren't YOU and YOUR health worth it? So despite spending more at the grocery store (maybe about $120-$140 total a week), I actually saved money overall. I should also mention that I actually got to eat MORE food...about 50% more calories than I was eating before so that figures into the higher grocery bills. The savings were from not buying alcohol and going out to eat less. Full disclosure....it was also winter and I hibernated more than I would have in the summer but saving $4 a beer at a bar or $15 on a meal--you'd be surprised on how much it adds up. So if your excuse to not eat healthy is because "it's more expensive" you're right and wrong. Groceries-wise, yes it's more expensive but if you indulge a lot in Des Moines's awesome restaurant/bar scene then you probably will end up saving yourself money; in the short term and long term (health wise). 

Maybe my results below will help convince you?

Date-        Weight & BF
10/27/14- 179 lbs 23.34% (Transitioning to Paleo)
01/04/15- 174 lbs 12.72% (After 10 Weeks of paleo w/ cheat meals)
03/01/14- 168 lbs   9.68% (After 2 month strict nutrition challenge)

Yes, I'm being braggy but the numbers do not lie! Proper nutrition in my lifestyle has by far improved my body composition more than just exercise alone and it did it quickly!

Nutrition is important. Yeah I've already driven that point home but it matters more than just in weight loss. There are many articles that explain the Paleo nutrition lifestyle, the justification of this lifestyle/diet is that our bodies haven't adapted to the processed foods we've only had for a very small % of human existence. This has led to bad stuff happening to the body--digestion problems, cancers, allergies just to name a few. So if you don't want to lose weight but want your body to run more efficiently or conquer some health problems you have, this may be your ticket.

After having several cheats post-nutrition challenge: I felt awful, I got a cold (which is was always rare for me), and my performance in the gym has sucked several days after! My plan is to continue the Paleo lifestyle. Sure, I'll incorporate a few meals here or there that aren't Paleo--oh and I'll have a beer here and there. I've experienced the benefits of the Paleo lifestyle and the downfalls of not practicing it so I'm very motivated to stick with it!

Food Porn/New Recipes since the last post:

  • Breakfasts:

Apple Cinnamon Maple Bacon Sweet Potato Hash Props to Molly Hansen (& Stupid Easy Paleo). This was super tasty--even though I used tablespoons for the cinnamon & syrup instead of teaspoons.
Sweetness, cinnamon(ess) and creaminess with the egg yolk. OH and Bacon!

Sweet Potato Paleo Pancakes (props to Justin & Angie Huitt)
Mine tasted fine but my attempt is not pictured because mine turned out pretty ugly.

  • SIDES:

Green Bean Casserole
This wasn't bad. I felt like it required a lot of butter (I used Ghee). I may try it again or the other 2 green bean casserole recipes I have stashed away

Mashed Sweet Potatoes Paleo
This seemed like a no brainer. Pretty easy to make and I already love sweet potatoes (and surprisingly not sick of them). My only beef with this recipe is that it seemed overly buttery from the ghee I used so I may reduce the butter a bit. I don't believe this was very sweet, much more on the savory side.

  • Dinners:

Buffalo Chicken and Sweet Potato Meatzza (PaleOMG)
This was realllly good! The seasoning combo on the chicken was so amazing that I remember what it tastes like now and I cooked this 3+ weeks ago. I actually used turkey instead of chicken since ground chicken was not available.

Paleo Tex Mex Casserole
Very good! I've made this recipe twice. I love this recipe since you can never have enough veggies (in my case, I can always use more) and this recipe features a ton of them--and they actually taste pretty good.

Italian Meatloaf (PaleOMG)
Add another delicious meatloaf recipe to your Paleo recipe book. This one tastes different than the other 36 meatloaf recipes I have. This could potentially be the easiest one even.

Leave a comment or suggest some recipe ideas. Have any questions on the Paleo lifestyle?

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Paleo Adventures

Well it's been a while since I've posted. Life be cray and blogging has dropped down the priority list. Quality over quantity, right?

A lot has changed in the last couple months. I began Crossfit 4 months ago and love it! (at Crossfit8035,check them out) I started the Paleo diet 10 weeks ago. You've probably heard of it but to sum it up, you eat like a caveman. You eat only things that were around during the Paleozoic era. So... no bread, grains or any type of processed food (trust your own research though). Obviously, that's a challenge in today's society but I took on the challenge and have adjusted surprisingly well!

Edited:Results after 10 weeks: Lost 5lbs, 10.7% Body fat and feel great! I can notice when I eat a processed food, how awful my body feels. I'm finally a believer in how much Nutrition REALLY matters.

Challenges for me:
  • Learning how to eat/enjoy vegetables. 
  • Bye cheese! 
  • Bye processed lunch meats!
  • Bye Fong's (except for cheat meals)
  • Less alcohol and selective drink choices (Tito's and soda water)
  • Spending even more time cooking and planning meals than I had before
  • Reading food labels and spending more $$$ on quality ingredients (coconut oil, grassfed beef, cage free eggs)

Challenges are just opportunities to succeed though!

Because.... why not?

Below is a collection of my favorite recipes/websites for the Paleo lifestyle. Please comment on any recommendations or questions you have:

Favorite Site: http://paleomg.com/  Simple recipes and funny commentary by my future wife

Favorite Store: Trader Joe's, reasonably priced for something located in West Des Moines (#burn).

Savory Breakfast Casserole
Breakfast Lasagna -Sweet, spicy and every taste in between-Highly recommend

Bacon with Pancakes...:
3-ingredient-simple-protein-pancakes :favorite pancake so far
Almond Flour Pancakes

Chicken Enchilada Bake
Enchilada Chicken Stew
Old Fashioned Slow Cooker Stew
Paleo Pizza -Really Good Crust!

Paleo Creamy Chicken Chili
Paleo Southwest Meatloaf
Meatza -A pizza where the crust is made of meat AKA meatloaf.
Buffalo Chicken Mini Meatloaf
Homemade Chicken Nuggets
Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders
Spaghetti Squash Pasta

Favorite Snacks: (EDIT: Dried fruit not recommended as much as regular fruit)
  • Dried Mango from Trader Joe's (holy crap this is good)
  • Organic Banana Chips
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Anything covered in homemade guacamole 
Biggest Fail: Okra and scrambled eggs (apparently Okra is slimy and gross?)

Obligatory Picture:
Here is an experiment and a win! Taco meat stuffed Acorn squash topped with guacamole:

First time having acorn squash but it won't be the last.
Hope you enjoyed! Follow the blog and post some feedback!
Happy Holidays/Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/New Year!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Savory Breakfast Casserole (Paleo)

I have the day off and I'm out of breakfast leftovers. I've been sick of the usual breakfast recipes so I looked for simple paleo breakfast recipes. This is what I found...

Looks slightly watery in middle but tasted great and wasn't watery at all.

It tastes so much better than it looks


I had to go with this recipe because I love casseroles and I had all the ingredients (except the onion). As you may know, I try to go as high protein and lower calorie as possible so this fit the bill. The seasoning combination was awesome--the Sriracha really makes this dish. It's very zesty bordering on overpowering with the Sriracha and pepper. The texture was very similar to egg puff muffins (you've made those by now, right?) with a slightly crispy edge but soft and eggy on the inside.  
Some items of note:
  • I used a cheese grater to shred the sweet potato--it worked really well.
  • I recommend using a wider dish as it took a little longer for the eggs to not be runny on top
  • I think my dish was more of a a 6x6 than the recommended one so I had to cook for an additional 25 minutes to make sure all the eggs were cooked (again, using a wider dish would probably help)
    • Be careful doing that though as I probably overcooked the edges leaving it in so much longer.
  • I used Jennie O breakfast turkey sausage instead of Chorizo
  • I used Crystal Farmer's liquid eggs instead of traditional eggs
Nutrition info:
Sausage (1lb): 550 Cals, 70g Protein
Eggs (12 servings): 360C, 60g Protein
Large Sweet potatio: 225C, 4g Protein

I split this up into 4 servings (284C, 33.5g Protein) instead of the recommended 6.

Any other Paleo breakfast recipes I should try?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Brat Pizza

When I have a day off, I like to cook for the next couple days. I didn't have much inspiration except that I didn't really want to heat up the house on an already warm day. I found a new type of Pizza Crust (Golden Home Ultra Thin Crust) at HyVee which had less calories and carbs than most crusts.

The crust I bought actually recommended grilling it so that fit my first criterion. Out of no where, I came up with trying to make a Brat Pizza...it's summer so you HAVE to have brats. That was an awesome idea. It kept the warm temps outside, cooked the pizza super fast (4-6 minutes) and made it perfectly crisp.

I came up with the recipe mostly on my own but I used a little bit of inspiration from this recipe. (I didn't see too many brat pizza recipes). Wisconsin-bratwurst-pizza/

Before the grill
Cooking the Brats:
I cooked a 5 pack of beer brats on the stove in a 12 oz beer, fresh garlic and some sliced onions (1/4th of an onion). Just boil the brats in the beer, garlic and onions and cover around 10 minutes; or longer if you want to get more flavor (Yup, I cooked beer brats in more beer). I know boiling brats doesn't give you the awesome color you get on the grill but my grill cooks hot and usually pops out a bunch of the juice (flavor). Plus, boiling allowed me to cook in beer, onions and garlic.

So decorate how you want. I used a can of pizza sauce, a bag of shredded cheddar cheese, a bag of shredded mozzarella, 1/4th of an onion sliced. I split all of that between the 3 crusts that came with the pizza. I decided I'd make a 3rd pizza that was a little different. I added ham and turkey pepperoni in addition to the brats and onions.

As you can see, I cut the brats in circles, added it with the other ingredients, and threw it on the grill (grill on super low). I grilled for about 2-3 minutes then rotated the pizza and then cooked for another 2-3 minutes. It came out evenly cooked and perfectly textured.

Beer, Brats ,Onion...Merica!

Meat Pizza! (Sorry, cannot figure out how to rotate the picture)

This turned out soooo awesome! The brats had awesome flavor, the crust was just the right crispiness and the cheese was just melty enough. I normally don't like uncooked onions so maybe they could have been cooked a little more. However, I used yellow onions and they cooked just enough to be a little sweet so they weren't bad.

I love meat but I actually recommend the Brat/Onion combo more. Brings out those flavors and the cheese more. Anyone have some other grilled pizza ideas? I plan to do this at least one more time this summer because the crust I bought was so good!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

HOQ - Grass Fed burger

As a health nut, and someone that is working towards eating less processed foods, I had to check out HOQ.


I had actually had been wanting to try grass fed beef so I had to go with the grass fed burger. It comes with root fries which reminded me of a mix of regular and sweet potato fries.

The setting is really nice as it sits in the East Village. Very modern and clean. We went on a Tuesday night so it wasn't too busy. All in all, it wasn't bad. You get a good sized burger but it still is $16 for the meal. I don't know how it compares with other grass fed beef burgers but it didn't taste as good as a normal burger. It was prepared well though, just lacked much flavor.

HOQ definitely seems to be a niche restaurant. Meaning, I would only go if my #1 priority was to eat this way. I do prefer to eat at local restaurants and value healthy eating--I just don't see myself choosing that restaurant over others. I love the idea, but the portions for most of their dishes are pretty small and it's pretty pricey. I do agree that eating healthy is an important priority and I hope they are successful.

What do you think of HOQ? What did you get?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Royal Mile - Potato Cake Benedict

Well Royal Mile, you found another reason for me to visit you...breakfast. As if you couldn't take enough money from me between drinks and dinner....now I have to stop by for breakfast on the weekend. Fine! I'll just sign my house over to you.


One of the first nice Saturday mornings of the year, I went for a bike ride to the Royal Mile for breakfast amongst friends. They've only had the breakfast menu out for a couple months but I have been eager to see what the breakfast is like. And yup, it's just as awesome as the rest of the food. I went with something unique, the Potato Cake Benedict.

Potato Cake Benedict:
Potato cake with chopped bacon, sliced cheese, 2 poached eggs, choice of sauce, Guinness braised potatoes, choice of toast.

It was really good. I've only had potato cakes a few times and these were probably the best I've ever had (though it helps to be smothered with some toppings like these). The texture is like a fried hashbrown on the outside and creamy mashed potato. Then throw some perfectly creamy eggs and sauce on it and you just won breakfast!

All and all, the breakfast is well presented (especially with real sunlight on the patio) and I can't find anything wrong with it. This was my first breakfast here so I need a few more before I can rank them amongst my other favorite breakfast places (Mullet's and the Farmer's Market). This dish, is a recommended try! I'll be back here soon!