A Day in the Life: Whole30 Cook-Up

I could have (and almost did) called this post “Meal Prep Saturday” – kind of like my Sunday Food Prep posts, but on Saturday. But I was looking for something that sounded a little more interesting, and then when I decided to essentially walk you through what my weekly cook-up looks like, the post sort of named itself.

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep final

This particular “edition” of my weekly food prep session is piggybacking off of my favorite paleo/whole30 blogger, Melissa Joulwan. She has a great series of posts on “Meal Planning” – and I only use that term loosely because she does, as well. It’s more a series of “Cook-ups”, where she walks you through the steps of a weekly cooking marathon that will leave you with a weeks worth of delicous, Whole30 approved food. It’s like my Sunday Food Prep sessions on steroids.

Anyway. I decided for this particular week to do something similar and walk you through what a typical weekend afternoon (Saturday or Sunday, it varies) looks like for me. I normally cook up enough protein to last us through a week’s worth of lunches, plus a few dinners; and then the Husband and I also usually meal plan the remaining dinners and write them out on the white board in our kitchen. This way we have plenty of pre-cooked items on hand, but because I do enjoy cooking it also gives us the flexibility to eat something that hasn’t been re-heated. Observe:

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep white board

Because our lunches typically consist of salads with protein, or protein and raw vegetables and maybe half a baked sweet potato, or leftovers from the previous night’s meal if it was large enough, there’s no need to add them to the white board. (Plus, I always run out of space!) This week, however, we’re working through some odd scheduling issues and so I wanted to make sure we had enough pre-cooked food on hand for the entire week.

To make food prep easier, Mel recommends making something in a slow-cooker, and some kind of stew or chili each week, in addition to basic proteins and a variety of vegetables and sauces. You’ll notice I’m not making many vegetables – starches aside, I typically prefer to cook them right before I eat them; or I eat them raw in the form of sliced veggies or salads. So without further ado, here’s what we’re making this week!

Turkey Ratatouille (omit wine)

Crockpot Cashew Chicken

Grilled Chicken Breasts

– Hard Boiled Eggs

– Turkey Meatballs

– Seasoned Ground Beef

– Beef and Veggie Frittata

– Roasted Spaghetti Squash

– Baked Sweet Potatoes

– Homemade Mayonnaise

– Spicy Green Dipping Sauce

The Plan:

The keys to successfully executing a weekly cook-up are time management and planning. One method is doing a continuous afternoon of work and knocking everything out at the same time.  My personal preference, however, is to plan my cook-up around the rest of my day. Let me explain. While none of the things I intend to make are particularly hard, some of them – like brined and grilled chicken breasts – require a few extra steps. So when I found myself with some extra time to kill before my Crossfit class because I woke up earlier than normal to see my Husband off to work, I hard boiled a bunch of eggs and got my chicken breasts brining so I could grill them later in the day. Getting these two items out of the way before my workout took less than thirty minutes and saves me that step later in the afternoon. Also thinking ahead, I set aside an egg and a lemon to make homemade mayonnaise later (it works best when they are at room temperature). Then I ate a banana and almond butter, finished off my last cup of coffee, and headed off to Crossfit!

Later on after a great workout, a post-workout meal, and a shower, I got down to the real work. This is where a little bit of planning comes in handy. The goal is to organize your cook-up into something that makes sense – get your prep work out of the way, then work smarter, not harder. If you’re making a crockpot meal or something that requires slow simmering on the oven, get those meals ready first so that you can leave them to cook on their own while you take care of something else, like grilling chicken breast or baking meatballs. Ready? Grab something to drink, put on some fun music, and let’s get started!

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep vegetables

1. Chop and peel all your vegetables – for me this included onion, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, and potatoes; as well as fresh ginger and garlic. I separated the vegetables into bowls based on what recipe it was for and when I needed it. I also prepped my spaghetti squash by cutting it in half and scooping out the insides, as well as wrapping two sweet potatoes in foil. Had my crockpot meal not required the oven (I needed to roast the cashews), I would have thrown the squash and potatoes in the oven to roast at this point.

2. Start on your slow simmer meal – I began to cook the vegetables and brown 1.5 pounds of turkey for the ratatouille, and while that was going I prepped the ingredients for my crockpot meal.

3. Once my ratatouille was simmering, I turned my full attention to the crockpot meal. And just a note: although the cashew chicken ended up tasting pretty good in the end, it was definitely a lot more involved than your standard crockpot meal (see step 1 re: cashews above), so I spent more time on this step than normal.

4. Once the cashews were roasted and added to my cashew chicken, I coated my spaghetti squash with oil and laid both halves face down on a baking sheet alongside my foil wrapped sweet potatoes, tossed them in a 375 degree oven, and set my phone timer for 45 minutes.

5. Next step – into a bowl I tossed the other 1.5 pounds of turkey (it was a 3 pound family pack from Wegmans) with fresh diced parsely and some italian spices and made up a bunch of turkey meatballs. They immediately went into the oven with the squash and potatoes, and I set the oven timer for 15 minutes, flipping the meatballs halfway through.

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep oven

6. Vegetable chopping take two – I completely forgot to set aside diced onion for my ground beef, as well as bell pepper and cherry tomatoes for the frittata.

7. Once I removed the meatballs from the oven and set them aside to cool, I heated up my cast iron skillet and set to work browning two pounds of ground beef with diced onion, fresh parsely, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

8. While your beef is browning, go ahead and check your spaghetti squash and potatoes. I took the squash out of the oven at about 45 minutes and left the potatoes in about 20 minutes longer.

9. After the beef was done, I used the same pan to saute some onion, bell pepper, cherry tomato halves, and fresh spinach. Then I tossed that into a glass baking dish, added about a third of my ground beef, and topped it off with ten beaten eggs. Into my already heated 350 degree oven for thirty minutes!

10. This was a good time to check my ratatouille and give it a good stir. In fact, after almost three hours of work it was also a good time for me to stop and eat a small bowl of ratatouille as a snack/small meal.

11. In between bites, I heated up the grill (it was perfect grilling weather!) and rinsed my brined chicken breasts. After coating them with a healthy dose of olive oil and Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute I added them to the grill, as well as the poblano peppers and red fresno chiles I needed for my spicy green aioli.

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep grill

12. After the frittata was done and the grilled chicken breasts were resting, I made mayonnaise and spicy green aioli. This required cleaning my food processor for the second and third time, which meant…

…I had every intention of cooking up a batch of oven roasted cauliflower rice, but I could not bring myself to clean the food processor one more time. Instead I cleaned my kitchen, which took just as long.

Whew! Now, take some time to pull out all the tupperware containers you own, because you’ll need them! I actually don’t have enough large tupperware containers, and so the ratatouille and the cashew chicken just ended up going straight into the refrigerator in their pots. Once we eat enough servings to get them down to a more manageable amount I’ll move them to smaller containers.

Pat yourself on the back for doing all that work! When it was all said and done I clocked in at just under four hours. If you’re really feeling froggy (I wasn’t), feel free to slice up some raw vegetables to have on hand for easy snacks during the week. I’ll do that, just later in the weekend. Also, don’t forget to keep a list of what’s in the fridge! (Mel’s idea, not mine!)

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep fridge

And there you go!

What are you eating this week?

Travel Workouts

A few months after starting Crossfit I had to travel internationally for work, where I didn’t have the luxury of attending regular crossfit clases. Additionally, my hotel was pretty limited on equipment and space, so I found myself having to get creative in coming up with travel workouts. Originally I thought I was going to be stuck doing treadmill workouts again, but two of my coaches helpfully sent me some links for travel WODs to save me the trouble of trying to come up with my own crossfit inspired workouts while away. Most of them incorporated body weight exercises and not much equipment, making it much easier for me to do a workout in my room if I chose. In any case, I thought I’d share a round-up of some of the workouts I did while away, in the chance you find yourself searching for workout ideas while on the road.

Workout One:

This workout I was able to do in my room, even with limited space. I warmed up by doing a few inchworm/spiderman stretches, followed by Frankenstein walks and two minutes of jumping rope. I started with double-unders, but out of deference for the people in the room below me, I switched to regular singles so I wasn’t jumping so hard. After I was nice and warm, I did a relatively short workout:

Tabata: Sit-Ups

Tabata; Hand Release Push-Ups


I’m not going to lie, the Sally Up about killed me, but I gritted my teeth and finished! And for those of you who are wondering, a tabata is simply four minutes of work, broken up into intervals of 20 seconds of work followed up 10 seconds of rest. Do that 8 times, and you’re done! I downloaded a timer app to my phone that includes a tabata timer, so I didn’t have to guess when to work and when to rest.

Workout Two:

This time I headed to the gym for my workout, and warmed up with inchworm/spidermans, squats, and a short jog around the perimeter of the gym. Then I did 30 Manmakers, alternating between 10 and 15 pound dumbbells. The link gives you an idea of what the manmaker should look like, except our gym adds a right and left lunge with an overhead press at the end:

-push-up, right arm renegade row

-push-up, left arm renegade row

-squat clean thruster

-right and leg lunge, with dumbbells held overhead in press position

This workout smoked me, but I felt awesome at the end.

Workout Three:

This ended up being a shorter workout, but effective:

5 rounds of:

– 10 push-ups

-15 sit-ups

– 20 squats

I finished with 2 minutes of jump rope – 30 seconds on, 15 seconds rest alternating singles and double-unders.

Workout Four:

5 rounds for time:

-10 high knee raises

– 15-sit-ups

– 10 goblet squats (20lb dumbbell)

Finished in 9:27

Not for time:

2 rounds of 15 burpees

Workout Five:

Benchmark WOD: Angie

It may sound crazy, but I actually did this workout – voluntarily. I didn’t come up with it on my own, there is no way I would have looked at this workout and said, “Oh, gee, I think I’d LOVE to do 400 reps of stuff while I’m away for work and on my own!” Yeah, not going to happen. However, I was chatting with the Husband and he shared that it was the WOD at our gym one day. At first I was relieved that I missed it, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to see if I could do it. Unfortunately, my only option for pull-ups was an assisted weight machine and I am notoriously bad at remembering how the machine works, so I ultimately ended up setting the weight too heavy, which meant my pull-ups were easier than they could have/should have been.Note to self for next time: it will definitely take longer to complete this when I do it with banded pull-ups!

100 pull-ups (scaled to 50)

100 push-ups (knees)

100 sit-ups

100 squats

I broke up my reps in sets of 10 and I finished each exercise completely before moving on to the next. Not surprisingly, the sit-ups were easiest for me. Surprisingly, the squats didn’t suck as bad as I thought they would have. I finished it 20:28.

Workout Six:

Cindy (5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats)

So the first time I ever did a version of Cindy was my first “official” Crossfit class. After going through a bunch of technique moves and stretches, we ended the workout with a 10 minute AMRAP of Cindy. It was, to sum up the workout in one word, HORRIBLE. I barely got through 3 rounds in 10 minutes, and they were awful, poorly executed rounds at that. I used bands for the pull-ups and still couldn’t complete 5 correctly. Our gym teaches tricep push-ups and I couldn’t even do them from my knees – I had to move to a box and I still struggled. The squats were the only thing that weren’t completely terrible, but I still struggled with my form. I left the class feeling frustrated, weak, and beaten down.

Fast forward to just under three months later. I decided to do the RX 20 min AMRAP of Cindy, using the assisted pull-up machine since I didn’t have bands. Having learned from the somewhat botched Angie workout, I initially set the pull-up machine for 70 pounds resistance, but switched to 60 after 3 rounds. I found this was a good weight to complete 5 pull-ups – it wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t absolutely struggling to finish 5. Also in a surprise twist, I did “real” push-ups! I’ve been slowly working my way up from doing push-ups on my knees to the full extended push-up, and I found I was able to do a set of 10 at a time.

I completed 11 full rounds, plus 1 additional pull-up!

Compared to the horrific 3 rounds I completed in 10 minutes three months ago, this is proof positive of some pretty awesome progress! I was smoked at the end of the workout, but I cannot stress enough how great I felt about it when I was finished.

When all was said and done, I only ended up working out about every third day. I could have done more; but on the other hand I could have done nothing, so I’m satisfied with what I did. The best part was that I felt confident about all the exercises I chose, I know I got a strong workout in each time (vice doing a lackluster treadmill run), and I felt good about the progress I made.

Looking for travel workout inspiration? Check out this downloadable PDF chock full of ideas! Need some more? Here you go!

Whole30 Apple Pie – Maybe?

I’m a little squirmy about labeling this “recipe” Whole30 because of a little thing Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (co-creators of The Whole30) call “Sex with your Pants on (SWYPO).” Basically, the principle of the Whole30 is to reset your body by not eating any grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, or sugar for 30 days. Most of these are pretty simple, with the exception of one: sugar. On the Whole30, you aren’t allowed any sugar at all – to include things like honey, agave nectar, etc. We all have that dreaded Sugar Dragon – you know the guy, that little sneak who may or may not send you down to the kitchen at 0200 for a couple spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s. “Slaying the Sugar Dragon” is one of the hardest things to do – whether you’re doing a Whole30 or not. I could go on and on about the negative effects of sugar – but I’ll spare you.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 apple pie2

For the full explanation of SWYPO, refer to this article. Essentially, it can be summed up like this. Eating something that resembles a junk food – even if it’s made with Whole30 approved or natural ingredients – can still sometimes serve as a junk food. For example, take a look at these recipes:

Raspberry Caramel Chocolate Cups

Paleo Nutella Mud Cake

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

It’s true that these recipes all include paleo approved ingredients, but it’s still junk food no matter how you slice it. And there’s nothing wrong with eating any of these treats as long as you realize that you’re still eating junk food, albeit a healthier version. If you eat something like this every night, chances are that you have not slayed your Sugar Dragon. You’re just being nicer to him.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 apple pie

However, the line between what is or is not SWYPO is fairly blurred, which Melissa Hartwig explains in this Instagram post:

Is this “apple pie snack mix” #SWYPO? TL;DR: This is one of those grey areas in which I demand that you take some personal responsibility. The long version:


Technically, this combination of foods is #Whole30 compliant. There may even be specific situations in which this snack mix is appropriate for your Whole30, like a kid’s birthday party or dessert for a special dinner. If you’ve done the Whole30 enough (and live Whole30-ish in between), you may find a conscious, deliberate choice like this during your program is actually fine, and won’t wake your Sugar Dragon.


But this is not most people, and likely not your context. Remember the Whole30 is about changing your habits and your emotional relationship with food. Including technically-approved-but-not-at-all-encouraged foods to satisfy your Sugar or Snack Dragon or fill an emotional hole during your program is not helping your cause.


So why am I not ruling this explicitly off-limits during the Whole30? Some of you think I’m just going soft, and that the “old Melissa” would have banned snacks like this outright. That may have been true. But I would have been wrong.


It’s not my job to dictate every nuance of your Whole30. I can’t do it for you, and I wouldn’t want to. There are grey areas in everything, including the Whole30. And it’s your job to step in where the official rules leave off, and decide what kind of an experience you want to have.


Do you want to feed your Sugar Dragon with technically compliant treats for 30 days because it makes the program easier? Then go do that… and own the consequences. Do you want me to tell you, “Don’t eat that, it’s not right for you, you know this?” If you tweet at me, I might… but you already know the answer. You’re all big boys and girls, and it’s not going soft to say, “Here are my recommendations; now it’s up to you as grown-up people to make the right decision.”


In summary, it’s YOUR program. OWN IT. #melissarants #toughlove #heavyonthelove

This recipe is from @popular_paleo, who has an excellent handle on both the Whole30 and her Sugar Dragon, gets that “context matters,” and encourages you to eat responsibly.


Well, that’s how I feel about this Apple Pie “recipe”. I’ve completed several successful Whole30’s and I don’t tend to have a huge sweet tooth in general, and so for me this is perfectly acceptable as a snack – it doesn’t send me screaming down the aisles of the grocery store for a Snickers bar, but it does satisfy me when I want a little something sweet. Plus, there isn’t any added sugar to it and as far as fruit goes, a green apple is one of your better options. Really the only reason I’m calling it Apple Pie is because that’s what the smell reminds me of.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 apple pie3

Whole30 “Apple Pie”


1 small green apple

1 lemon wedge



Core and slice your apple. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with lemon juice. To really experience the Apple Pie smell, add your apple slices to a ziplock baggie, squirt in the lemon and add your cinnamon, and then shake like crazy.