Sunday, April 28, 2013 0 comments

Paleo-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

Even though I don't really eat strict paleo (I love cheese and ketchup too much), I tried my hand at baking with paleo ingredients for the first time last Friday! I made some paleo-style chocolate chip cookies for a CrossFit friend's birthday, based on my friend Olivia's recipe - you can find the original recipe on her blog, Olivia's Palate. To make the cookies paleo style, I used almond meal, coconut oil and maple syrup instead of the flour, butter and sugar found in a traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe. The cookies didn't quite have the chewy consistency of my favorite Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies, but overall they still tasted great!

My first batch of paleo chocolate chip cookies cooling off. 
**Note: if you don't know what the word "paleo" means, I highly recommend taking a glance at "The Beginner's Guide to the Paleo Diet" for a quick and easy breakdown. 

Here are the ingredients that you'll need:
  • 3 cups of almond meal or almond flour (I used almond meal from Sprouts)
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil (I just bought the Trader Joe's brand)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups or 12oz of chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe's organic semi sweet chocolate chips, which I considered to be paleo but some people may be stricter about this)

This recipe made about 3 dozen small cookies, about 2 inches in diameter.

Cookie ingredients. 
To make the cookies:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F before you start mixing anything. 
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla. Note: I prefer to mix all the wet ingredients together, then add the dry ingredients. But the order of the ingredients really doesn't matter that much as long as you can get everything mixed together to form a cohesive cookie dough. 
3. Next, add in the salt and baking soda. 
4. Gradually mix in the almond flour until the mixture forms a batter. 

Almond meal has a different consistency than regular flour.
5. Measure out roughly 1/2 cup of the coconut oil. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so it will need to be melted before you can add it to the batter. I simply melted my coconut oil by putting it in the microwave in a ceramic cup for about 1 minute, but I suppose you could also melt it on low heat in a saucepan on the stove. The coconut oil will turn clear when it is melted, and then you can measure out 1/2 cup of melted coconut oil and add to your cookie dough mixture. 

Solid coconut oil at room temperature looks suspiciously like lard, but it melts easily into a clear oil. 
6. Stir in the chocolate chips and mix the batter until it forms a sticky dough. 

This cookie dough turned out a lot stickier than I thought, perhaps next time I'll add a little more almond meal or less coconut oil. 
7. Spoon balls of cookie dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about an inch apart. I prefer smaller cookies, so I used about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie and flattened the dough a little bit into a circular shape. 

Don't forget to flatten the dough a little or the cookies will be too chunky. 
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the cookies turn golden brown at the edges. Remove the cookies carefully from the cookie sheet (as they may crumble if they haven't baked long enough) and let them cool before serving. My cookies didn't expand as much as I expected, but they were still tasty! 

Fresh out of the oven! You can see the grainier texture of the almond meal. 
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 0 comments

San Francisco Coastal Hike with the Georgia Tech Northern California Alumni

Last Saturday, I met up with a group of Georgia Tech alumni from the Northern California region to hike along the coast and headlands of San Francisco.  This hike took us about 5 hours because we walked fairly slow and stopped quite a while for lunch. But it was a great day to be hiking - we got extremely lucky, because the weather happened to be bright and sunny (as opposed to SF's normal fog and wind).

Our hiking group at "Land's End" with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  
Our hiking route from Ocean Beach to the Marina (map courtesy of Google Maps). 
We started off the hike at the intersection of Great Highway and Fulton Street, in Ocean Beach. I had never been to this part of SF before, so I was pleasantly reminded of Southern California's beach scene with the stores and cute houses. There weren't that many people hanging out on the beach, maybe because its still too cold to swim in the water. However, there were surfers braving the waves in their wetsuits.

Sitting on the ledge at Ocean Beach. 
I just thought it was interesting that the riptide warning sign included Chinese, Spanish and Russian. 
The view as we headed up the hill from the beach. 
After Ocean Beach, we hiked along the Sutro Baths upper trail to Land's End. And when I say hiked, I mean that we walked along the sidewalk paths and on staircases that have been built into the trail.

Near Point Lobos.
Going up!
The Land's End part of the hike was my favorite, because it took us right down to the water. It was a lot rockier than I expected, but it was beautiful! There were some logs strewn across the beach area, so I assume people come and sit on them from time to time to have quiet waterfront picnics.

View of the rocky coast from the trail. 
Jeff leading the way with all of his legit hiking gear. 
The little beach area. 
Rocks and rocks on rocks. 
From the Land's End trail, we went up to the Eagle's Point labyrinth. I'm not really sure what the labyrinth part was, but the view of the Golden Gate bridge from there was gorgeous (so that is where we took a bunch of group photos). It was also a little scary because there was no guard rail or anything to prevent you from falling off the edge off the cliff into the bay.

Getting closer to the bridge!
Dolphins in the water :)
Evan, me, Laura and Jeff. 
After walking up through the Sea Cliffs neighborhood and past China Beach Park, we stopped to eat lunch near Baker Beach on Battery Chamberlin Road. The houses in the Sea Cliffs area are all huge mansions worth millions of dollars for their view of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

View of Sea Cliffs from where we ate lunch. 
A group photo with one of the old cannons. I'm not sure why there are a bunch of cannons right on the beach.
After lunch, we walked up the Battery to Bluffs Trail and the Coastal Trail to the Presidio area. Most of this walk was uphill, and there was a lot of poison oak along the way (so we avoided going off the trail). We ended up at Battery Godfrey in Fort Scott, which is basically next to Golden Gate Bridge.

Walking down the Coastal Trail. 
View from the Battery to Bluffs Trail.
Dove Loop. 
Once we got to the Golden Gate Bridge, our group started splitting up because some people wanted to walk across the bridge. The rest of us continued down to the Marina area, and then we went to go eat another late lunch because we were hungry again!

Sailboats passing underneath the bridge. 
Ankur showing the map of our hike (we actually started further left of what is show in that map).  
The Golden Gate Bridge! 
I had a lot of fun hiking through San Francisco's coastline with the Georgia Tech alumni group! Its always interesting to meet other alums, mostly because we all work at cool places now - 3 of the alums work at Google!  We all enjoyed swapping stories about dining hall food, our old Calculus TA's and some intense CS classes that we took while there. I'm proud to be a Ramblin' Wreck :)

Reppin' my GT gear at the Golden Gate Bridge!
Post-hike recovery food: a hotdog with relish on a toasted flat french baguette with curly fries!  I know its not Paleo, but it tasted great and I figured that I earned it with all that hiking haha. 
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 0 comments

Passing the 90 Day Mark at CrossFit Pleasanton, Power Yoga and Open Workout 13.4

Last week, I successfully finished my first 90 days of CrossFit at CrossFit Pleasanton! Its been great - my strength and fitness has come a long way from where I was in December and I've made some awesome friends along the way. I still weigh exactly the same and look about the same, but I also haven't made that many changes to what I eat (meaning that I haven't switched to a Paleo diet). And I still haven't bought any Lulu workout clothes yet, but I did buy myself some Olympic lifting shoes!

with the 8:30 class last Wednesday!
However, I've gone from not being able to do any pull-ups in the On Ramp beginner class to completing 72 kipping pull-ups during a 12 minute workout! I've hit a couple new PRs (personal records) in Olympic lifts that I never did during college such as the snatch, overhead squat, and clean & jerk. I also ripped the skin of my hand open pretty badly during that workout with all the pull-ups, but luckily my friend Sally helped me clean it up with Neo-to-Go and a sweet Princess bandaid.

The disgusting skin tear in my hand and after Sally fixed it up!
Last week, we did the CrossFit Open workout 13.4, which was a couplet of two different movements: the clean and jerk and a gymnastics-like exercise called Toes-To-Bar. Here is the workout:

As many reps as possible in 7 minutes. 
The prescribed weight for women was 95 lbs, and I had never done the clean and jerk during a regular workout before. But what I found was that the weight was actually okay, even though it was heavier than I thought it would be for me. I got through the workout with 27 reps, which isn't a lot but I finished all 9 clean and jerks in the round with just seconds to go and the weight was a little of a challenge for me. Photo credits to CC.

Starting the clean from the floor. 
Push jerk to put the weight overhead. 
The kipping swing. 
Getting my toes up to the bar. 
The past two weeks, we've had active recovery on Wednesdays with a Power Yoga class! Our instructor is Mark Alexander and his classes are grounded in the styles of Ashtanga, Power and Vinyasa flow. We've been focusing on building strength and flexiblity through different poses and even working on our handstands! I've taken a number of different yoga classes before, including the Bikram hot yoga, and this has been different from any of the other classes so far. It has also been challenging for me to maintain my balance right after a regular CrossFit workout, but I love yoga!

Crescent pose. 
Christina in the half moon pose.
Paul and Megan doing the Twisting Crow balance (this is one that I just fell over in).
Megan and I trying to stabilize our handstands - the goal is to get our feet off the wall into a freestanding handstand. 
Christina doing a handstand for the very first time! 
I'm sad to say that this week will be my last week of attending the 8:30 class at CFP, but I'm really excited to be starting work at a new job next week! I'm going to have to commute to/from San Francisco every day, but that just means I'll have to hit up the early morning CrossFit classes... good thing I'm a morning person : )
Thursday, March 21, 2013 2 comments

DIY: How to Paint Your Reebok CrossFit Shoes

Since I've started CrossFit a few months ago, I've been dying to get some olympic lifting shoes. While they are expensive, they provide much needed stability while doing olympic lifts like the overhead squat or snatch. I researched the different brands online and read through many forums where people debated their classic Adidas powerlifting shoes vs. Nike Romaleos etc. What I learned was that there are advantages to having a stiff sole for powerlifting, and that Adidas shoes have been around the competitive weightlifting scene forever.
Nike Romaleos 2 (photo courtesy of strengthrx.com)
A competitive power lifter with Adidas shoes, in a deep squat stance (photo credit)
But in the end, the coaches at CrossFit Pleasanton (CFP) convinced me to just get the Reebok Oly Lifters because these shoes have the most flexibility in the soles and at the toe. A lot of CrossFit workouts aren't pure olympic lifting sessions - we do a lot of other movements mixed in, such as box jumps, pull-ups, burpees, jump roping, etc. I've never been a huge fan of Reebok, but I love my shoes so far... but felt they were a little boring.
Stock photo from Reebok.com
You can order custom Reebok shoes from Reebok's website, but they cost $180 plus tax and shipping. I bought my shoes for $135 from CFP. I did a little research on the internet, and learned that leather paint costs only about $4 per bottle so I figured I could just paint my shoes myself to brighten them up. I ordered a 4oz bottle of Angelus leather paint in Light Blue and Angelus Matte finisher from Dharma Trading's website and bought the rest of the supplies I needed at Walmart for $16. 4 ounces actually turned out to be way too much paint, I should have just bought the 1oz bottle and saved myself a few bucks.

*Note: some of the DIY websites that I read used other paints like nail polish or just regular acrylic paint, but I chose to buy the Angelus leather paint because the paint needs to be flexible with the shoe's movements. There would be no point in going through all the work to paint my shoes, only to have the paint flake or chip off while I'm working out.

These were the shoes that I designed on the Reebok website, to model what my shoes would look like when finished. 
My actual Reebok oly lifter shoes, after being painted... the color doesn't quite match but I'm still happy with how they turned out! 
You will need:
  • Acetone for removing existing coatings (available at any hardware store or about $6 in the home improvement section of Walmart) - nail polish remover NOT recommended.
  • Angelus Leather Paint (available at many online craft suppliers. I bought mine from Dharma Trading Company)
  • Q-tips
  • Old dish rag or old towel
  • Painter's Masking Tape (Quality matters - I used 3M blue painter's tape)
  • Paint brushes (Synthetic is fine, I recommend using an angled brush for increased accuracy)
  • Your shoes
  • (optional) Angelus Acrylic Finisher or Angelus Duller
Shoes and painting supplies. 
Step 1

Prep the leather by removing existing polish and coatings with acetone. You should remove the shoelaces from the shoes (if your shoes have shoelaces). If you don't prep your shoes thoroughly, the paint may not adhere to the leather very well and all your work will go to waste. Use the blue painter's tape to tape off any areas that you don't want to paint, and then rub the acetone over the shoe with a dish rag. You can use the q-tips for hard to reach areas, such as around shoelace loops.  Don't forget to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands while you do this. I would recommend doing this outside (or in a well-ventilated area) because acetone smells terrible. Also, be aware of where the acetone might drip - it will take the paint finish off from your floor if you're doing this inside the house.

I put the blue painter's tape over the Reebok logo and the tongue of the shoes before I prepped them . 
Step 2

Paint the leather portion of your shoe with your Angelus paints. Some websites recommended thinning down the paint, but I just used the paint straight from the bottle. I painted 2 coats on my shoes while using a hairdryer to help the paint dry in between coats (most of the websites recommended 2-3 coats). Some general painting tips: if you are painting multiple colors, start with the lightest color first. If you are painting a lighter color on a dark background, you'll probably need to "prime" the area first with white paint. Don't worry about dripping paint onto the sole, you can always fix it afterward by dabbing a bit of acetone on it with a q-tip. Remove the blue painter's tape while the paint is still wet, this will allow the paint to run a little at the edges into a smooth line.

After 1 coat of paint - you can see how the paint is still uneven and where the brush strokes are.  Remember that multiple thinner coats are better than a single thick coat!
Done with 2 coats!
The results after peeling off the blue painter's tape. 
Step 3

The last step is to seal the paint on your shoes with an Angelus Acrylic Finisher for a gloss or matte finish. All you have to do is dab the finisher onto your dry shoes with a clean dish towel. You can also buff your shoes with a soft cloth or pantyhose, if you want a glossier finish. According to Dharma Trading's website, Angelus paints naturally have a semi-gloss finish. I bought an Angelus Matte Finisher because I wanted to protect the painted leather from scuffing up in the gym. The finisher is supposed to provide a flexible, waterproof coat on top of the paint. Allow the shoes to dry completely for 24 hours before you wear them.

My finished DIY Reebok oly lifter shoes! 
You'd never know that I painted them if I didn't tell you :)
If you'd like to read more about how to paint leather shoes, here is the most useful instruction list that I read and the best YouTube video that I watched.  
 
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