Mardi Gras means shrimp creole from My Fit Foods

I tried the shrimp creole, which was spiked with nice fat shrimp but tasted too spicy. Photo courtesy My Fit Foods
I tried the shrimp creole, which was spiked with nice fat shrimp but tasted too spicy. Photo courtesy My Fit Foods

 

I married a Cajun, and he knows how to cook. So when I rolled home last night toting two store-bought servings of shrimp creole tucked into my bike bag, he raised his eyebrows.

The folks at My Fit Foods contacted me a few days ago, asking me to stop by and taste test a couple of special Mardi Gras-themed entrees on their menu this week. I couldn’t resist.

I visited the location at 4200 North Lamar, where a steady stream of customers filed in to pick out pre-portioned meals from glass-fronted refrigerator cases. The menu features more than 60 options, and some of them taste better than others.

I just don’t get the fuss over lemon turkey, basically a scoop of seasoned ground turkey served over rice. But the herb roasted chicken and Ninja tenderloin are pretty dang good. And the nice part is you know whatever you get will be healthy, low calorie and balanced.

The store is promoting sausage and chicken gumbo and shrimp creole in honor of Mardi Gras next Tuesday. Photo courtesy My Fit Foods.
The store is promoting sausage and chicken gumbo and shrimp creole in honor of Mardi Gras next Tuesday. Photo courtesy My Fit Foods.

Mardi Gras is Tuesday, and to celebrate the store unveiled two meals – shrimp creole and chicken and sausage gumbo.

The verdict on the shrimp creole? Not bad, but a little too much zing, even for jalapeno-loving me. (This drives my husband crazy. Cajun food shouldn’t be buried in cayenne pepper, he says. It should be spicy, but not hot.) The thin, tomato-based sauce in My Fit Food’s offering made the whole dish a little soupier than the stew-like version I’ve had before, but the shrimp were fat and the overall flavor good.

Alas, it’s not cheap to eat at My Fit Foods. A full day’s supply of meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks – will set you back about $40 per day ($33 for small size). A three-day quick start costs $89 for regular or $75 for small size. A single serving of the shrimp creole costs $9.99.

My Fit Foods will offer the shrimp creole until March 24. The gumbo will stay on the menu permanently.

For more information go here.

Back on My Feet celebrates 3 years with fund-raising dinner

Back on My Feet helps people gain independence through a running program. Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman
Back on My Feet helps people gain independence through a running program. Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman

 

Three years ago, I spent a few months tagging along with and writing about the first group of runners in the new Austin branch of Back on My Feet, a non-profit program that helps people overcome homelessness through running.

Participants have to show up for early-morning runs in order to get training and support as they try to break free from homelessness. I focused on Lauren Reliford, who started running through the program, landed a job cleaning hotel rooms, and finally moved out of a shelter into her own apartment.

Lauren Reliford participates in an early morning run with Back on My Feet. Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman
Lauren Reliford participates in an early morning run with Back on My Feet. Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman

 

Since then, the program has helped 215 people in Austin. Of those, more than half have moved into independent housing and a quarter have started stable jobs.

This year Back on My Feet celebrates its third year in Austin, with a fund-raising bash at the JW Marriott, 110 East Second Street, starting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12.

The party includes a cocktail reception, hors d’oeuvres and silent and live auctions, as well as dinner. John Conley, race director of the Austin Marathon, will be honored for his contribution to Austin’s running community. (This year will mark his last as race director of the race.) A Back on My Feet member will also describe how his life has changed because of Back on My Feet.

What to wear? Cocktail attire with sneakers, of course, according to event organizers.

Tickets are $175 per person or $4,000 for a table. Proceeds will help Back on My Feet sustain and expand its programming. For more information go here.

Have you seen Thong Guy?

Happy Groundhog Day.

In many American cities, especially those where snow blows and pipes freeze, we celebrate by taking close note of what happens when a groundhog emerges from its burrow. If it sees its shadow, we’re staring at six more weeks of winter.

I snapped this photo of Thong Guy a few days before Christmas. Do you know him? Photo by Pam LeBlanc
I snapped this photo of Thong Guy a few days before Christmas. Do you know him? Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

 

In Texas, we do things differently. We let an armadillo do the work.

And here in Austin, we do things even more differently. Or at least I do.

I like to think of Thong Guy as Austin’s version of Punxsutawney Phil, the famous shadow-seeking groundhog. When you spot Thong Guy pedaling city streets wearing nothing but a tiny thong, you know spring beckons.

He revels in warm weather. But he’s elusive, too.

I snapped the above photograph of Thong Guy just days before Christmas this year, when temperatures rose to the 80s and he went for a breezy cruise down Barton Springs Road.

But Thong Guy disappeared before I could flag him down and request an interview, which is what I really wanted to do.

Thong Guy is part of what makes Austin proudly weird. People love him or they hate him, but they’re almost always curious about him.

So here’s the deal. Thong Guy, if you’re out there, can we talk?

Readers, who among you knows Thong Guy? Certainly someone does. Can you introduce us?

If you know him (and there may be more than one out there), please email me at pleblanc@statesman.com or call me at 512-445-3994.

Paralyzed triathlete Laurie Allen works out at YMCA

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Laurie Allen tests out a hand cycle machine at the Town Lake YMCA. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Laurie Allen tests out a hand cycle machine at the Town Lake YMCA. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

ustin triathlete Laurie Allen spent about two hours hoisting weights and trying out some specially-designed exercise equipment at the Town Lake YMCA this weekend.

“It’s like coming back home,” said Allen, who who was paralyzed in a fall last February.

Her husband Matt wheeled her chair up to a triceps machine, where she surprised even herself by doing a dozen repetitions.

“That’s just amazing. I can’t believe how well you’re doing,” he said, as a smile spread across his wife’s face.

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Matt Allen and Andrea Fisher assist as Laurie Allen tries out some weight training equipment at the Town Lake YMCA. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Since she doesn’t have any hand grip, Allen uses special gloves that can be strapped to handlebars, allowing her to use the machines. She worked her way through a set of lateral pull-downs with 24 pounds on the machine.

“It’s good to know I haven’t lost all my swimmer muscles,” she said, then headed to a hand cycling machine, where Andrea Fisher, who coached Allen to 10 Ironman triathlons before the accident, helped position her legs. Fisher is aquatics director of the Town Lake YMCA.

“Oh my gosh it’s awesome. It gets my heart rate up,” Allen said as she spun away. “The thing about this one is it moves my legs so it gets my circulation going.”

Allen had surgery just before Christmas that will allow her to catheterize herself, instead of relying on friends or family. She’s working full-time, and starts driving school in two weeks. She recently learned to transfer herself from the bed to her wheelchair unassisted – something most people with her injury can’t do.

But it’s been a slow process getting back to the level of exercise she’s used to. This weekend marked an important step.

“I think I’m going to be sore tomorrow,” Laurie said, wincing a bit after one grueling set.

“That’s good. That’s why we work out,” Fisher said.

Allen wrapped up the session with some time in a standing frame, which puts her in an upright position. That’s good for her circulation and helps slow osteoporosis.

Her goals for this year? More time at the gym. Driving herself to the grocery store. Learning to swim again. Travel.

“We’re over the ‘Oh my God’ how do we survive, to working on all the skills,” Matt Allen said.

She’s about to order a racing wheelchair and a hand cycle, in hopes she’ll be able to race again – and ultimately compete in a triathlon.

“At the end of the year I’d like to be as independent as I can be, and rely less and less on others,” she says.

Laurie Allen was paralyzed in a fall last February. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Laurie Allen was paralyzed in a fall last February. Photo by Pam LeBlanc