A Long Strange Trip

I just returned from my two-week USAF Annual Tour in San Antonio. I didn’t tell many people where I was going, or said I was off to Fiesta, which was great despite questionable weather.

San Antonio is a lot like Tucson – similar vibe, similar mix of people, great food, more water (humidity and a river), and great pace of life. Tucson’s mountains are prettier, and San Antonio has more grass. We have San Xavier del Bac, they have the Alamo. Great margaritas and salsa in both places. It’s an easy transition.

I also really like my USAF job, which I won’t explain too much except to tell you what I was doing for the last two weeks. The Air Force issued guidance last fall disallowing CrossFit and other “extreme conditioning program” group classes in their fitness centers. Never mind that the Army and Marines have fully embraced CrossFit, and that over 30 AF bases have programs, not to mention scads of people doing P90X videos in a group; the physiologists have spoken, and the service is risk-averse. I collected a bunch of data that showed minimal injury rates and loads of results. In the end, I am not sure whether my work succeeded or not, but I learned a few interesting tidbits along the way.

1. Strength and work capacity trump aerobic capacity any day.

I don’t run much anymore. I used to run 25 miles per week, more in marathon training season, and I ran 5k in about 23:30 on average. I won the Sports Day 5k (for females, anyway) in 22:46 with no special running training, against dedicated runners. I say this not to brag (yeah!) but to point out the value of strength for all-out efforts, and that run was definitely all-out.

2. Many people focus on the wrong metrics.

The Air Force exercise physiologists tend to obsess over VO2 max as the holy grail of fitness. VO2 max measures aerobic capacity. At DNA, we know that work capacity is a better measure of fitness than VO2 max, which is why our benchmarks include plenty of strength – 5RM, 3RM, 1RM, and fun times like the DNA Total and Dave’s 5-5-1 (5 min snatch test / 5 min double unders / 1 mile run. ) I also don’t buy morbidity as a metric for health outcomes, but that’s another discussion.

3. The Air Force has a long way to go to close the loop on nutrition and fitness.

People like their junk food, and food is usually tied with religion and culture. Some people are religious about their food. Therefore, the fitness people tiptoe around the idea of suggesting changes to dietary habits. They are going out of their way to put the healthy foods up front in the dining halls and make it easier for Airmen to choose the salad over the burger, but the burger is still definitely there, and I don’t get the impression that the courage is present to flat out tell people that if they eat better, they will feel and perform better, and the opposite too (if you eat like sh*t…) I’m not saying that the other services have nailed this one either, but it’s an area for improvement.

4. The power of the group dynamic is real, but you have to try it to understand it.

The service just dumped $2m on Fitness on Request, which is a kiosk system with videos and a virtual instructor, who can’t correct, coach, or cheer you on. I’m interested to see how well it works. In the hurry to spend expiring money, somehow the customer demand got lost, particularly the crescendo of voices who want the community of a hard group workout – not a machine. The truth is hard to quantify, as noted by Glassman; others have written about the motivation of CrossFit, but bottom line is that some activities are most fun in a group, and people like to be with other people, especially when sharing suffering. The intangible magic behind group training at DNA and thousands of CrossFit affiliates, as well as martial art centers, sports teams, and military training facilities, and law enforcement academies drives us beyond our perceived limits, making us stronger and more confident as we encourage our suffer-mates to their own victories. Nobody seems to have a clue how to include this powerful factor in a business case spreadsheet, but it’s the not-so-secret to creating a strong organization and should not be ignored.

5. It’s much more fun and easy to work your tail off when you’re immersed in a subject about which you are passionate.


6. Never take good equipment for granted.

I ripped my thumb on some nasty pull up bars, swung and snatched kettlebells with polished stainless handles, and attempted to clean a non-Olympic (non-spinning) bar, before I found some decent ones to lift. We’re spoiled by having all the nice toys in one playroom.

7. Recess is awesome.

In talking with lots of AF people who use CrossFit and similar programs daily, I realized that we all love recess, and that an hour in the gym is happy time (well, mostly). I figured this out a while back and it led to a career change, but it’s amusing to recognize how many people still love to go play with their friends, even if it involves a lot of effort.

Anyway, it’s good to be back. I missed the DNA crew and was ready for a break. We’ll see what comes out of my two weeks of fun; I just hope that the “chair force” moves further down the fitness road and embraces group strength training, realizing that it’s not “extreme” – it’s “essential” for great quality of life and overall fitness.


DNA knows that teachers are overworked and underpaid, and many teachers put the kids first all year.  Summer is just around the corner, and we have a special package just for teachers. Want details? Visit dnapersonaltraining.com/summerschool  for the 411!

Tell teachers you know – share the link with them and get them on the road to elite fitness this summer!


Business Shout Out #1 and #2: Dehnert Dental, and Cinco de Mayo at El Cisne

dehnert bldg
Many of our clients own or work for great businesses, and we love to help clients, especially when they have a fun event planned. Shout out #1 today goes to Dehnert Dental, who can make your dental visit as fun as possible. People don’t usually think of a cleaning or filling as a fun event, but you get to see our awesome clients John, LeeAat, Tawnya, and Erica there, and they will take great care of you. They’re located just a mile from DNA, at 3945 E. Fort Lowell Rd., Suite #209 (upstairs near Rep. Barber’s office, but they were there first). You can also visit them on the web at http://www.dehnertdental.com/home.htm. Thanks to the Dehnert Dental crew for being fantastic clients!!

Shout out #2 is for George, who runs Mexican restaurant El Cisne, at Swan and Sunrise, when he’s not working on his pullups.  They are hosting a Cinco de Mayo celebration, complete with mariachi, Mexican beers, and the Patron Tequila team (um…cheat day!) on May 4th-5th! Get more info and register HERE, or stop by El Cisne for details. I recommend getting the shrimp or chicken topopo at lunch – delicious! Enjoy!


DNA’s Video Contest Winner

This video was created by our talented client Marcos Salazar, from concept to what you see here. Meet four of our clients and hear their stories!

It’s hard to believe, but DNA’s first birthday is right around the corner!! In light of our impending anniversary, we are hosting a VIDEO CONTEST for our fabulous clients.

If you are a closet Coppola (or Kubrick, for that matter) or just have fun with a camera and a video editor, you can create a clip and enter to win a month of Accelerated Custom Training – that’s a $499 value!


  • Create a short video (30 sec – 2 mins) that explains what DNA means to you, and how training with us has changed your life
  • Include before/after photos if you have them
  • Get comments from your friends – has your mom, boss/co-worker, mailman, grandson, etc. noticed your results and said something about it? Ask them to record it!
  • Titles and cool editing are allowed but not necessary
  • Keep the language and photos clean please! (Goes without saying, but ya know…)
  • Team videos are allowed. If a team of 2 or more people wins (max of 6), your A.C.T. sessions will be A.C.T.-S.P. sessions (semi-private – i.e., you’ll get to train together).

Videos will be judged by the staff on the basis of impact – a video that makes us all get excited, or teary-eyed, will get a great score. Winner may use the month of training, or may gift / donate it to someone else, or invite 1-2 other people to join in.

Most of all, have fun making your video!

Submission instructions will be posted here by the weekend (5 April). If you get going early and are really eager, you can email a link to your video to train@dnatucson.com and we will take a look. Thanks!!

Five Reasons to check out DNA Fit Club

You’ve seen the announcements on the board; you’ve heard people talking about it; are you still wondering what DNA Fit Club is? Sorry, it’s a secret, and we can’t share that information here. We must protect the innocent.

The Innocent.

On second thought, let’s expose them…

DNA Fit Club is our Extracurricular Activity. The DNA Family loves the gym, but we also like to go places and have fun together beyond our cozy little discomfort zone. Let’s explore five great reasons to check out the DNA Fit Club.

1. Moving in our BEAUTIFUL environment.

Tucson is gorgeous. Even Phoenix isn’t ugly. The Fit Club goes hiking, biking, running, camping, and exploring around our ruggedly beautiful corner of the planet. If you don’t already think that saguaro forests are incredible, join us for an attitude adjustment. Fresh air, sunshine, and plenty of hills to climb are ingredients for happiness.

2. Exploring the Tucson community.

Fit Club participates in local events, and checks out local restaurants afterward. You may well get to experience a side of Tucson that you haven’t seen yet, especially if you are new here, and you’ll meet new people.

3. Supporting causes that matter.

On Saturday, March 30, Fit Club will play in Race’n In the Sun, benefiting agencies that support local youth programs. We’ll check out the Cinco de Mayo 10k in May, which helps the Arizona Cancer Center and Cholla HS Graduates pursuing higher education. We are not a fundraising organization, but some of our events are chosen to support charities, particularly those that focus on helping children.

4. Trying new things. 

Some people have never gone for a hike…hard to believe, but it’s true. When was the last time you went backing and slept outside?  Fit Club chooses a wide variety of activities, and some will be brand new experiences for you. Have you ever tried a MUD RUN?? How about the Warrior Dash on April 13?

5. Having FUN!

FUN is a core value at DNA, and Fit Club is all about enjoying life.  Our events don’t involve pressure or competition – just camraderie and enjoyment of the moment. Doesn’t that sound like a refreshing change from the daily grind?

BONUS: Fit Club is FREE and open to all!!

Other than event costs (optional – you can enjoy Fit Club and only attend the activities without an entry fee), Fit Club is a bonus for DNA members, and a no-obligation free activity for non-members. That’s right – you can bring your dad, your buddy, your neighbor’s cute daughter…anyone can join Fit Club. If we are going mountain biking and you know your roommate has been interested in trying it, invite her to go along! Some events will have recommended age ranges and mobility restrictions (people with limitations may just be slower, or the terrain may be too challenging), but every event is open to anyone who is willing and able to try.

Ask any coach for more information, or just show up for our next event. We have several coming soon! The list below is incomplete and subject to change, so watch the board for updates.

  • March 30: Race’n in the Sun, Catalina HS, 8am
  • April 13: Warrior Dash, Florence, AZ (signup required)
  • April 20th weekend: hiking or camping, TBA
  • April 27th: Tactical Strength Challenge at Evolution Fitness (deadlift, max rep strict pullups, kettlebell snatch test – a fun, low-pressure competition, and you don’t have to be superman/woman to play)
  • May 5: Cinco de Mayo 10k

Balancing Act, Part 2: Listen Up, Buttercup! Chillax!

— Today’s post adapted from musings by Zee —



Are you a little OCD about training every day?

You know who you are…you feel guilty if you don’t get your butt in the gym for your workout, even though your shoulders are still sore from Monday. Your nutrition is not terrible, but you’re behind on some of your macros, and you feel draggy. You show up anyway and shove yourself through, only to wake up feeling even more beat up tomorrow.

Sound familiar? If so, you may be OVERTRAINED.

We see over training frequently in the Wide World of Sports. Elite athletes dial in their training to peak for specific races and competitions, but sometimes they miss and peak too early or late, meeting the competition in an overtrained state. Some near-pinnacle athletes train themselves into the ground trying to maintain top condition, to get to the top – and end up experiencing a performance decline instead. Even amateurs overtrain fairly regularly, especially those who drive through long workouts at 80% effort and end up injured.

Exercise triggers endorphins and positive psychological association, and we can get addicted. We may believe that a missed training day is a missed opportunity to get healthier and stronger. While consistency in following a training plan is the best route to serious gains, working out daily with no rest is rarely the best plan. Stressing the system, and then allowing it to recover, are the keys to building strength; while intensity is grand for triggering gains, recovery is required to take advantage of the effects of intensity, something like casting a line and then reeling in the fish. No reeling, no dinner…no rest, no performance gains.


Strenuous workouts damage tissue. Through proper nutrition and rest, our body repairs the micro tears caused by exercise, and we adapt and grow stronger. Unfortunately, life in the 21st century often gets in the way of proper nutrition and rest. Ironically, our abundant food supply makes nutrition challenging; planning is necessary to navigate the variety of foods available (often out of season), and convenient processed foods are packed with hidden toxins that erode health. Meanwhile, work, school, parenting responsibilities, housework, activities, etc. pack our schedules, leaving us stressed out, rushing around, and not sleeping enough. Aggravations include workplace stress (which is known to deplete your nutrients), skipping meals, alcohol, and even travel. All of these factors can lead to over training, which in turn can lead to injury. That’s why many pro athletes sleep a lot, especially after vigorous workouts. (Must be nice to get paid to sleep!)

Power nap!

Power nap!

Breaking strength barriers and reaching performance peaks requires adequate caloric and nutritional intake, and REST. At DNA, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are our major strength days, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are designated for active recovery through conditioning.  Some weeks are more intense than the others, and even the active recovery workouts may be too much work in between strength days. If you experience any of these symptoms, you probably need a DAY OFF, or more.

1. Loss of appetite
2. Not being able to sleep soundly
3. Feeling fatigued all day, on a regular basis
4. Illness (your immune system is generally weakened when overtrained)
5. Soreness, or persistent pain at a specific part/s of your body for more than a few days

After extra rest, if you are consistently following your nutrition plan as directed by our nutrition counselor (David) and are getting adequate sleep without experiencing any of the signs listed above, you may resume working out four or five days each week.

Your health and well-being are our top priority.  Your trainers at DNA are always here to help, and if we recommend extra recovery time, please take it! We promise that you will be glad that you did.

Also, please tell us if you feel injury starting. We do a lot of useful foam rolling and pain ball work, which helps to release tight muscles and ligaments. Joint pain is usually the result of a muscle imbalance – for example shoulders get pulled by tight pectoral muscles and/or lats, which may need extra stretching and/or development to balance them.

Listen to your body…it knows!

Champion...if you don't recognize him, you should. (Ask AJ about it)

Champion…if you don’t recognize him, you should. (Ask AJ about it)

Amazing Collie Flower

Amazing Collie Flower
Author: Anne
  • See below
  1. See below
Serving size: 1 whole medium sized head raw Calories: 146 Fat: 1.6 Carbohydrates: 29 Protein: 11

Our Food of the Month is cauliflower, which is a little unlikely given that it has to share March with Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, but so it goes.

Cauliflower is most fabulous because of its chameleon-like qualities, but let’s start with its nutritional profile. An entire head of cauliflower has about 210 calories, so in the unlikely event that you eat the whole thing, it won’t trash your nutrition for the day and you’ll get trace fat, about 45g of carbs (about half each of fiber and sugar), and 16g of complete protein in the deal. It delivers some vitamin C and traces of other macronutrients, and contains mostly water. Not everyone loves the flavor, but it’s mild and makes a good vehicle for dominant tastes like baba ghanouj (eggplant-based version of hummus, with garlic, tahini / sesame paste, salt, and lemon).

Like most “solid” veggies (others: broccoli, peppers, okra – the ones that aren’t leafy and floppy), cauliflower is awesome when roasted. Chop it up or buy florets, toss with olive oil and some garlic or garlic salt, and roast at 350′ for about 20 minutes to make a delicious side dish. You can notch it up a little like this with pine nuts (pricey!) if you’re feeling gourmet or if your mom is visiting.

Roasted Cauli


Now for the “chameleon” part of the story: cauliflower can stand in for mashed potatoes, rice, and even the flour in pizza crust, all of which come in handy if you are avoiding carbs or not having a training day. Really! In order of increasing complexity, here’s what I mean.

1. Cauli puree: steam cauliflower – chop it up, put it in a pot in or over a little water, and boil the water for about 20 minutes until the cauli gets tender (don’t let the water dry up). Carefully slide the tender cauli into the blender or food processor, and puree. You can add a little almond or coconut milk, oil, butter, garlic, chives or sliced green onions, or anything else you would normally put in mashed potatoes (did I mention garlic?). Cauli puree is great on its own, as a side dish, under grilled meats and fish as itself or with the faux-tato alias (faux-tato?? yep, it’s mine and you can’t have it), or as a topping for meat pies or stew.

Caramelized Diver Scallops, Cauliflower Puree, Capers, Almonds, Golden Raisins. Ommmmmm.

Caramelized Diver Scallops, Cauliflower Puree, Capers, Almonds, Golden Raisins. Ommmmmm.

2. Cauli rice: it’s pretty easy to turn cauli into rice if you have a food processor; it’s harder with a knife, but can be done. I use this blade:

calui blade

After chopping a head of cauli, shoving it through the food processor, and steaming it, I have this:

cauli rice raw

This riced cauli is ready for makeup. Let’s head east…it works great with Cajun food, in place of rice in jambalaya – especially under ample Tabasco sauce. The resulting dish is not as heavy as Mama’s jambalaya or gumbo. Much further east, you can sauté it with an egg and some soy sauce to make faux-ried rice. (Get it? foh-ryed? fried? Okay, I’ll stop.)

Tonight, we made slow cooker soy ginger chicken (thighs, soy sauce, ginger, carrots, and chopped onion in the slow cooker for 6 hours on low), and enjoyed it with stir-fried veggies on top of cauli rice. Bok choy – chopped and stir fried – works well with this too.

Blurry but delicious

Blurry but delicious


cauli rice

Saucy…after the chicken was gone.

 Of course, I hit it with Sriracha chili garlic sauce, but I put that stuff on everything these days.

 3. Cauli pizza crust: you can make wheat-free crusts with just egg, but cauli works a lot better. I’m a fan of both white pizzas and pizzas with loads of sauce. The recipe shown HERE gives you a set of instructions, and you can choose how you top it. Other DNA chefs have shared their cauli pizzas, which you can top with fresh chopped tomato (or sauce, but check for added sugar), grated parmesan and/or mozzarella (dairy splurge!), GARLIC, oregano / basil / Italian seasoning, and whatever else you like – mushrooms, sausage, pepper…BACON. If in doubt, bake at 350′ for 20 minutes. I find that baking the crust on its own first prepares it to take the toppings and crisp up a bit – less soggy.

Cauli Porn

Cauli Porn

Feel free to share your favorite cauliflower recipes here. If you’ve never tried it, you should!

Balancing Act, Part 1: BUT IT’S ONE LOUDER…

Welcome to the first of two articles about balancing your training. Achieving the right balance can be a challenge, because of psychology – motivation on one end, and guilt on the other. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  1. “Wow, that workout is going to suck, so I am going to stick with the 18lb kettlebell so that it doesn’t hurt so much.”
  2. “Holy cow, my Fran time is getting really fast! Beating my old PR is going to be hard!”
  3. “If I don’t work out six times this week, I will feel crummy and might backslide, so I must train today even though my shoulders are sore and I didn’t sleep all that well last night.”

Just showing up to the gym is an accomplishment for many people. Pushing out of your comfort zone may be another matter. If you find yourself taking it a little easy on a day when you don’t have a good reason to throttle back (such as having a cold, poor sleep, etc.), you may be cheating yourself out of valuable training. DNA training is effective because it’s efficient – short and challenging; if you take the challenge away, you can lose effectiveness.

How can you get over the motivation speed bump?

Ask yourself this question: what’s the worst thing that can happen if you go with a heavier weight or run a little faster?

The answer is probably that you might get more out of breath and have to slow down. That’s not exactly a terrible consequence; you still control the situation, and can always drop down a weight if you are really having trouble. Also, if you don’t know the difference between “good hurt” and “bad hurt” yet, it’s best to ask your trainer for guidance, to ensure that you are being challenged enough but not too much. (Good and bad are hard to describe and must be experienced, but in a nutshell, “good hurt” includes muscle fatigue and feels like “wow, this is hard,” whereas “bad hurt” involves lightheadedness and stabbing pain and is a clear sign to STOP.)

Next time you find yourself wanting to take it easy when you know you don’t need the break, just ask yourself what the worst thing that can happen will be, and then cowboy/cowgirl up.

Suppose you are at the other end of the spectrum: your training is going great, and you are feeling strong. You’re facing a benchmark workout and want to beat your PR, but you know it hurt last time. How can you improve?

“You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?”

You have two options: do the workout as prescribed and push harder, or turn it UP with Rx+. Turn that amp up to ELEVEN.

But it's one louder


My Helen PR is 9:32 Rx (that’s 3 rounds of 400m, 21 swings at 16kg, and 12 pullups). When Helen cropped up on the board this week, I decided to notch up the suck factor and do it with the 20kg bell. The result: 10:55, and wow, was it tough! I got a more intense workout and generated a lot more power in a slightly longer amount of time than I had before. I will probably stick with the higher weight in future, but it will be interesting to drop back down and see what happens.

If you’re a firebreather, feeling strong and looking for a challenge, give Rx+ a try. You may surprise yourself and will get great benefits.


Overdoing it

No, this guy is NOT our Rick.

Remember scenario #3 above? While pushing yourself at the right times is a great idea, overdoing it is entirely possible. We are seeing some injuries when people are pushing too much, and getting insufficient recovery, which may include insufficient nutrition to fuel the recovery. Next time, Zee will address the other side of the scale in balancing your training: recovery. Yes, you CAN overdo it, and no, you are not wimping out.

If in doubt, listen to your trainer!


Comfort Food for Cold Weather: Chili

We’ve had quite the cold snap lately, and cold weather means comfort food: soups, stews, and CHILI. The latter of these comes in all varieties, as seen at cook-offs everywhere. Maybe you prefer your grandma’s recipe. I can’t get past Cinci chili. I was stuck in Ohio for almost 2 years, and Cincinnati chili was my favorite part – the finely ground meat and touch of cinnamon and chocolate are irresistible. I also love Southwest heat, and fortunately, blending the two works!

Without further ado, here’s AJ’s “clean” Cinci-Mex Chili recipe.  You can spice this up with chili powder or finely diced peppers if desired. The recipe combines the Mexican mole flavor with Cincinnati style chili – go 5 ways if you like! (look it up if you don’t know what I mean by “5 ways”)

If you’re early in your nutrition plan, skip the spaghetti squash, and be aware that tomatoes have a lot of carbohydrate. Kidney beans are also not ideal – legumes, antinutrients….


  • 16 ounces chorizo sausage (nitrite-free, preferably; Mexican, not Spanish, which is hard sausage)
  • 1 yellow onion , diced
  • 1 1/4 cup tomato sauce, or pureed/strained tomato
  • 1 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, optional (LEGUME!! not ideal)
  1. Preheat oven to 400′.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Roast halved spaghetti squash at 400′ for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat stock pot on medium 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add chorizo and 1/2 c onions (and optional diced hot peppers to taste); cook 2-3 mins, stirring to crumble meat, or until onions soften.
  5. Combine chili powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cumin, then add to meat. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes.
  6. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, vanilla, and cider vinegar.
  7. Cook 8-10 mins or until chili thickens.
  8. OPTIONAL – Heat kidney beans (rinsed and drained) in a small pan.
  9. Scoop spaghetti squash into individual bowls with a fork.
  10. Top with heap of chili. Top with onions, kidney beans, and/or cheese, to taste. Add hot sauce if desired.
  11. Enjoy!!

Laissez les bons temps rouler! It’s Mardi Gras!

One of my favorite holidays is Mardi Gras. I met my husband at a Mardi Gras party (in my squadron, surrounded by fighter pilots, including my boss who was making hurricanes), and I just love the idea of an all-out city-wide no-rules party. In addition to beads (um, the beads are great but the associated activities aren’t really my thing) and the parades, the FOOD from the Big Easy is great – spicy comfort food…what’s not to love?

Well, the grains involved! Unfortunately, beignets are not in the nutrition plan, though the chicory coffee is still good to go. If you are eating rice, gumbo and jambalaya are still a go, without corn. If you aren’t eating rice, you can approximate with cauliflower rice. PaleOMG has a good recipe here for pork, shrimp, and chicken sausage gumbo. Note: they forgot the okra!


What about the legendary beverages of New Orleans, particularly Hurricanes? Alcohol is a toxin and it gets in front of the other macros in the digestion line, so if you’re going to drink, it’s a cheat day and don’t whine if your performance is off afterwards. Enjoy and don’t feel guilty (assuming you are not swilling passion fruit juice with rum on a regular basis!)

Another Mardi Gras favorite is the King Cake. You can read about King Cakes here – they are essentially huge cinnamon rolls, or other stuffed bread/cakes, with a plastic baby (or marble) hidden inside, iced with purple, green, and yellow frosting and sugar. King Cakes are also not in your macros! The story is that whoever finds the baby in their slice of King Cake gets good luck, or gets to buy the next King Cake, or gets to wash the dishes, depending who you ask.

Traditional King Cake, accessorized

While I do not pretend that “paleo” baked goods are anything that a caveman would have found or eaten – the concentrations of sugars, nuts, etc. are too high – most of the almond flour and coconut flour recipes on the web are at least made with real food. These “paleo” baked treats, including this one, are once-in-a-while indulgences for holidays and special occasions, not something you want to keep on hand all the time. Their advantage is that the absence of refined sugars and wheat flours makes them less offensive to your system, so you shouldn’t experience the same stomachache, headache, sugar rush, etc. that you might get from a conventional baked good, and your body should be able to process them more efficiently.

In this spirit, I present the following King Cake approximation recipe. It’s a vanilla cake, rather than a cinnamon roll (my cinnamon roll recipe has a lot of palm sugar in the filling),  and I baked in a marble instead of the plastic baby. Incidentally, I still have the baby from the 1999 Mardi Gras party where I met Rick. I guess it works! — AJ



Part 1: THE CAKE

Option A: Adapted from Perfect Vanilla Cake

Preheat oven to 350º

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (canned) or cream
  • 1 ½ T vanilla extract
  • 1 cup palm sugar (or other natural sweetener; 3/4 c agave or maple syrup will work, but are sugary) – I buy my palm sugar from Amazon
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • Scant 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 T cinnamon (or more if you like)
  • Stevia if more sweetness is desired

Note on sweetener amount: you can further reduce the sugar and use more stevia, but it’s better with at least a little of some type of real sugar, since sugar contributes to a good crumb texture. Stevia is a dried plant; Splenda and Sweet ‘n’ Low come from a lab, so we don’t recommend those.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, vanilla extract and palm sugar.

2. In a smaller bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, salt and baking soda.

3. Mix dry ingredients into wet with a handheld mixer. Add stevia to taste.

4. Grease a bundt pan or angel food pan (or other cake pan if you don’t have a round one with a hole in the middle) with melted coconut oil or butter, and pour in batter.

5. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out clean.

6. Cool for 1 hour.

You can bake a non-melting item like a glass marble into the cake, or push a plastic baby or other small trinket into the cake before turning it out of the pan, AFTER baking. No melted plastic babies, please…that’s a buzzkill.

Option B: make a cinnamon roll and connect the ends. Cinnamon roll recipe:

Dough: mix the first three ingredients, then mix in the rest. Roll into a long rectangle, about 1/4-1/2″ thick.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup ghee or coconut oil (melted)
  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Filling: mix 2 T melted ghee, butter, or coconut oil, 2 T cinnamon, and 3 T palm sugar. Spread all over the dough rectangle, and then carefully roll up the rectangle to make a long cinnamon roll snake. Connect the ends to make a donut shape, and bake for 25 mins in a 350′ oven.

Option A produces a more spongy, soft cake; option B is more authentic, but a little denser and less soft. Hey, I told you this recipe is an approximation!

Part 2: The Icing, adapted from Elana Amsterdam’s recipes – marshmallow frosting; you could also use her coconut cream frosting recipe (probably half of it, not the whole thing), but it’s a bit more work and requires a lot of some expensive ingredients.

  • 1/2 c agave nectar (high in fructose and not the best choice, but honey makes it too sickly sweet and the flavor is off – I tried it)
  • 2 egg whites
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the agave nectar to a boil, stirring frequently. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 4 to 8 minutes, watching constantly and stirring occasionally, until the agave darkens slightly from its original color.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Drizzle the agave slowly into the egg whites, whisking continuously until blended. Divide into 3 bowls, color one purple, one yellow, and one green, and ice the cooled cake.
  3. Surround with beads, masks, etc. and call your friends over to share!
AJ's King Cake, minus the beads and feathers

AJ’s King Cake, minus the beads and feathers


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