Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Treats

How is everyone's holiday season going so far? Things over here are going well.  I am prepping for a young one's pre-school Christmas party tomorrow and signed up to bring in wrapped treats.  I wanted to bring something in that was both a treat but somewhat healthy as we all know how many goodies we get this time of year.  So, I bought some whole grain pretzel sticks, melted some chocolate chips with a little bit of coconut oil, dipped them and then sprinkled some "snow" or unsweetened coconut on top.  I thought they came out good until.....I remembered the "no hard pretzels" guideline for pre-school snacks.  D'oh.

I don't know what even made me think of it but it would have been helpful had I thought of it before they were all done and wrapped.  C'est la vie!  Although I had to kick in a plan B for my little one's event, I do think these would make a good snack for older kids if you are looking for an idea.

Plan B?  Well, I had stumbled on this recipe for Soft Ginger Cookies over at Pennies and Pancakes yesterday coincidentally and I was tight on time but whipped up 1/3 of a batch and they came out great.  Yes, there is regular flour and sugar but they are made from scratch without any chemicals or preservatives and it turns out that Blackstrap Molasses is a good source of iron, calcium and potassium.  The sign up for wrapped treats is saved.  Thanks to Pennies and Pancakes because these came together really quickly and taste great.

 On the running front, I had gained some momentum with my half-marathon training.  In 4-5 weeks of training, I only missed one scheduled run and I was up to 7.6 miles for my long run and keeping weekly mileage of just under 20 miles per week.  The last 2 weeks were sort of a bust though.  The husband had to travel for work for a couple of weeks and I kept up with some running the first week, but the second week was filled with fevers, colds, very little sleep and all those lovely things that little ones get hit with this time of year while work is still busy for mom.  I only ran once this week.  Oh well...there really was nothing more I could have done but I will be back at it this week!  Hopefully, I do not feel the blip in training too badly!  I have about 9-10 weeks left until half marathon #1 of the year. I can do it. I can do it.

How do you handle training blips?  Are you ready for the holidays?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

There's What in the Cupcakes???

Beets.  Yes, there are beets in the cupcakes.  As you may recall from my ideas about what to do with all that summer share produce, beets have been a tricky one for me.  First, I don't like them....or rather, I used to not like them.  Second, I find them terribly messy to prepare.  Yes, the color is beautiful but I don't need it all over my hands, the dish towels etc.  I can barely keep up with the cleaning as is.  Lastly, I am the only person in my house who will even attempt to eat beets.  I have failed in all persuasion attempts to the four year old about the beautiful purple vegetable. 

Despite all of this anti-beet talk, I keep reading and learning about how incredible they are for you.  They are high in vitamins and minerals, cleanse the body, purify the blood and even contribute to increased energy and help prevent cancer.  So, I really wanted to like beets.  I put a peeled and washed beet into one of my green smoothies and it was fine...I could get a hint of beet taste but nothing overwhelming.  Then, I read this recipe on Food Babe about beet French fries so I whipped a batch of those up- I enjoyed them and will definitely do it again.  The family has still not joined me with the beets as of this recipe though.

Then there is the recipe that takes the cake...no pun intended.  While reading one of my weekly farm newsletters, I stumbled across a recipe for beet chocolate cake.  Hmmm....never heard of such a thing.  Weeks later, I decided to check out Pinterest for some ideas and sure enough, beets and chocolate seem to be like two peas in a pod.  I gave it a try with this recipe here.  I made a substitution of olive oil for the vegetable oil.  I also would suggest, in the spirit of trying to add more nutritional value to the recipe (if that's what you are going for), to swap out the flour for a white whole wheat flour and swap in some honey or maple syrup for the sugar.  I just didn't have any of these things on hand at the time (except the olive oil) and I had a pile of beets to use.  As for the beets, I washed them, trimmed the ends off and roasted them in a foil covered baking dish for about an hour.  After they cooled, I used a knife to peel the skins off and then pureed them in my Vitamix with a tiny bit of water added.  The result....quite tasty if you ask me!  I don't taste the beets...just chocolate cake! Yes, this recipe has sugar and should be enjoyed as a treat but it's a nice way to use a vegetable and hide it on the little ones.  Ok, I may have washed one down as a quick breakfast one day this week but I was in a rush.  I just got this week's farm share basket and guess what?  There are beets and I am prepared this time!

On the running front, I am finishing out week 3 of my 16 week half marathon training plan.  So far so good.  My "long" run is up to 6 miles.  Although still chugging along significantly slower than pre-pregnancy, it feels great to see some miles start to add up and feel like a runner.  I have been splitting my runs between the gym treadmill or outside early in the mornings.  I like running outside, but I am not a fan of needing a head lamp.  Even though the lamp provides visibility, I feel like I still can't distinguish uneven pavement very well and just don't feel too graceful on the feet.  Anyone else have this issue or is it just me? It's probably just me!  The trusty treadmill is at the gym for me once the icy roads settle in, which is great but I just need to factor in the car warm up time and 7'ish minutes ride there and back.  20'ish minutes is a lot of time in the mornings!

Anyone like running with a head lamp?  Would you prefer to run with a head lamp over the treadmill or vice versa?

Have a great week!
Saturday, November 9, 2013

Should We Talk About This?

Should we talk about this?  You know, the famous "What's Your Excuse?" photo that went viral over recent weeks.  I have been thinking about this photo off and on for several days and here is my humble opinion.  Let's talk....


 At first, my reaction to the photo was not good.  As a mother of two girls, my gut interpretation of the image was that it sends a message that this is what women should look like and I don't want my girls growing up with that focus.  We all come in different shapes and sizes.  We all have different strengths.  After years of participating in running events, swimming events and triathlons, I have seen amazing athletes in every shape and size. Some athletes are lean and toned.  Some athletes are not.  Some athletes are tall.  Some athletes are short.  You get the picture.  Regardless of these differences, we are all athletes.  As someone who muddled through the teenage years with a lot of body image issues, I don't want my girls growing up with those thoughts. 

Behind my gut reaction, there was a piece of me applauding Ms. Kang for her no nonsense, get it done type attitude.  I once heard a quote something like "If it's important you will find a way.  If it's not you will find an excuse."  I try to remember those words to remind myself to control what I can control when it comes to setting the priorities of my life.  Truthfully, I need a little boot in the you know what sometimes when it comes to my fitness goals.  There are days when the alarm goes off at "it's too early" o'clock in the morning and I have been up at night with a sick little one, need to be on my game at work all day and there is a real need to sleep a little more instead of getting out for that run then.  But, guess what?  There are also days when the alarm goes off and every reason why I should not get out of bed seems logical, convincing and compelling but it's garbage.  I am making excuses and Ms. Maria Kang's photo then seems simply like an inspiring reminder to stay focused on my individual fitness goals.  It's a call to challenge myself and be honest about what I really can and can not get done each day.  There will be times in my life when my fitness goals will not and can not be where they are in the present day priority pecking order.  That's ok, but Ms. Kang's photo also reminds me that I set those priorities.  I won't set my workout time as a higher priority than family or going to work (and I am not implying that she does either) but I can certainly prioritize it over TV....internet surfing....and maybe even the dishes (who wants to do those anyway?).

One of my favorite books that I often revisit is "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and It's All Small Stuff."  One chapter of this book discusses the concept of seeing the innocence in everyone's behavior when something feels offensive.  This chapter pulled together my conclusion on Ms. Kang's photo.  Yes, it struck a nerve.  I personally would not have chosen the word "excuse," but that's just me.  I know there are moms out there that have circumstances beyond their control that prevent them from being able to even consider making time for themselves a priority and I understand why many felt Ms. Kang's approach is harsh.  That said, I believe her intentions were truly to be inspirational, not bullying or shaming.   After reading some of her statements and media coverage, I think she truly believes in trying to motivate others to make their health and fitness a priority and is not trying to put forward a message that every lady out there needs to look similar to her.  And let's face it, who couldn't use some inspiration from a highly motivated person every now and then, right?

Motherhood can be tough enough.  We all don't say the perfect thing at the right time in the perfect way. I think we should try to see the good intentions of inspiration and be supportive of all moms, including Maria Kang....maybe I will get out for another run this week after all!

Have a great week! 
Saturday, October 26, 2013

Registered. Registered.

It's not a typo.  I registered for not one but two events.  I have been going back and forth about what I should take on.  Should I train for 5ks to allow for effective workouts in less time because of the time crunch I'm feeling?  Should I take the plunge and go longer?

Drum roll....

I registered for two half-marathons.  I couldn't help myself.  There is nothing better than the feeling after a long run.  There is no such thing as a bad day at work when you can say to yourself all day long "I ran 10 miles this morning."  I know that 5K training would be better for my schedule and I could definitely use speed work and strength work, which I am much more likely to fit in while training for 5Ks, but I just love that long run....I'm not looking for a marathon long run right now, but hitting double digits might be just what I need.

The first race is the Half at the Hamptons in February 2014.  This race is 17 weeks away and I have decided that my race approach for this event is all about building mileage.  No time goal.  Get back to longer runs, rebuild my fitness and have some fun.  I am going to follow a 16 week beginner half marathon plan that has four training runs per week with a long run each week building up to 12 miles.

My second event is Boston's Run To Remember.  This race happens to be in my favorite city and on the lovely Memorial Day weekend.  I have watched my better half run this race the last two years and I have had my eye on it....it's time!  I understand it's a pretty flat course, highly motivating...and in Boston so sign me up.  My approach for this event is going to be different.  There are 13 weeks between the two races and I have a time goal in mind.  Four years ago, I ran the Providence Half-Marathon when my first bundle was just over ten months old.  For that race, I followed the FIRST Training Plan from "Run Less Run Faster" based on my finishing time for a 5K I did right before I started training.  I crossed the finish line in 2:06.  I want to break 2:00.  I know 6 minutes is a lot to take off a half-marathon, but I think it's doable.  The 5K time that my training was based on was significantly slower than what I was running right before my pregnancy, the Providence Half Marathon was really my first event post-pregnancy that I fully trained for and bundle #2 will be almost 11 months old when this race rolls around.  I don't have a specific training plan in mind yet for this race- I can't think that far ahead!  I will see how training goes for event #1 and then go from there, but I do welcome any suggestions!

There you have it.  I'm excited to have some events and goals on the calendar.  I'm a little nervous with the winter training and not having treadmill access at the gym on the weekends with work schedules, but I will figure it out.  It will be done!

Any races coming up?  Have a great week.
Saturday, September 28, 2013

Loving Fall

 
This is my favorite time of year hands down and we are just a few short days away from my favorite month.  Don't get me wrong- I love a summer beach day, but October's sweater and rosy cheek weather is ah-mazing.  I love the fall fashion.  I love the fall running weather.  I love the fall food.  I love the fall brews. I love the fall coffee. It's all good. 

Like most fall enthusiasts, we headed out for some apple picking a couple weekends ago and of course that brings on some baking and some "oh I need to do something with all of these apples quick" moments.   Once again, thank you to my Vitamix.  I am not a fan of peeling apples.  I was looking at my bag of apples standing in the kitchen one day this week and just decided to wash them, chop them, throw them in and see what happens.  Apple puree in moments!  So, I call this my Lazy Lady's Apple Sauce.

Lazy Lady's Apple Sauce
8-10 apples
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/2 cup brown sugar (optional- or substitute maple syrup)
 
Wash and chop apples into small chunks.  Place in Vitamix or other high powered blender (I had to process my apples in 2-3 batches).  Turn onto low, use the tamper to press the apples into the blender and blend until desired consistency.  Pour apple puree into a crock pot.  Add sugar or other sweetener(optional) and cinnamon stick.  Set on high for one hour and stir occasionally.  Reduce heat to low for an additional hour and stir occasionally.  Let cool and store in a jar or container in the fridge.  As a bonus, this recipe also makes your house smell incredible- no candle required!
 
After I made this, I then searched the internet and my Vitamix books for other recommendations (I should have done that first!).  Vitamix calls for a recipe of adding some lemon juice to the apples while blending and skips the crock pot/sweetener step, which could make for an even quicker version, especially for those who do not want added sweetener.
 
My next fall favorite with my applesauce on hand is overnight oats!  Have you guys heard of these recipes?  A friend of mine told me about overnight oats and then I also came across a bunch of great recipes for them over at My Whole Food Life.  You have to check them out because they are super easy, make a great breakfast on busy mornings or a mid-morning snack at work, taste great and pack some nutrition while keeping you full. 
 
As usual, I never have all of the exact ingredients on hand so I substitute.  There are a ton of varieties you can make once you get going.  Here is a quick base recipe for you to create any of your own flavors or be inspired by the amazing varieties from bloggers such as My Whole Food Life.
 
Overnight Oats Base
1/2 cup oatmeal of your choice
1/2 cup milk of your choice
1-2 Tbs Flavoring
1-2 Tbs Nutritional boost
Fruit
 
I generally use unsweetened vanilla almond milk for my milk choice.  For flavoring, I have used unsweetened cocoa, peanut butter and unsweetened coconut for a decadent version that rivals a dessert and I imagine is similar to these Almond Butter Overnight Oats.  I also used my apple sauce as flavoring for this week's breakfasts and my oatmeal tasted like apple crisp.  For a nutritional boost, you can add things such as flax meal, chia seeds, whey protein powder or wheat germ.  Mix the oats, milk, flavoring and nutritional boost into a jar or container and store in the fridge overnight.  Then you can eat the recipe cold or heat it up the next morning, top with your fresh fruit and enjoy!  I highly recommend sliced banana on the version with unsweetened cocoa, peanut butter and unsweetened coconut- dee-licious.
 
Now that I have rambled on about food, I have a quick running update.  This week was great-  I am on track for a 12-14 mile week with a couple strength workouts in between.  Baby girl had her first spin in the jogging stroller this week too!  I have a couple of 5Ks in mind to get back out there- more on those another time.
 
How was your week?
Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just go with the flow...

I get busy and then I feel like I fall off track.  It's a vicious cycle.  These past few weeks have been great and busy.  I tackled the transition back to work from maternity leave- go me!  I felt like I had a few hiccups but overall it all went well.  The wee one tackled the transition out of her co-sleeper and into her own room- go baby! And then my mileage tanked with all of that commotion. There was not a whole lot to "tank" from, but it had taken a decent amount of work to get up to my 12 miles per week after not running at all through the second half of my pregnancy. It took pretty much all of my 12 weeks of maternity leave to be able to tackle some of the hills on even the short 2-3 mile runs, but I was making progress and happy about it.

I have been back to work for 3 weeks now and the running has dropped to 2-3 runs per week of 2-2.5 miles each with a circuit or two in between running days.  My head was spinning as to when else I can squeeze more mileage in and I was obsessing over my pace when running to the point of frustration.  My better half and I have different days off from work so we can't trade off the kiddos on the weekend days and night feedings are still in effect- our oldest bundle was sleeping through the night by now but #2 has her own plan and she is sticking to it!  I started feeling stressed about it and decided to stop my insanity.  I remembered this awesome quote from a fantastic book, Born to Run:

“Ask nothing from your running, and you'll get more than you ever imagined!”
~Christopher MacDougall

Source
 
Those words are exactly what I need to remember right now.  I too often take my hobby, outlet & "me-time" activity and turn it into stress when I fall short of my expectations.  I love structured training plans and working towards a goal like a particular race or finishing time, but it's just not that time for me right now and that's ok.  I'm going to enjoy running! I am going to get as many running endorphins as I can, let the rest go, soak in the fall air and see where it takes me.  I just got back this morning from an early and quiet 3 miles.  I was able to arrange the feeding and work departure schedules to squeeze something in at 6.  I love early morning runs.  Hooray!

Oh- My boss likes my new philosophy...

 
 She's the cutest, right?

Do you ever feel like you need to throw in "the plan" & just run for fun or go with the flow of your fitness endeavors?

Have a great week!
 
 
 
 
Sunday, August 25, 2013

What to do with all of those vegetables and running update!

 
This is our second year with a summer share from a local farm.  I love committing to a share, but I have not been as crafty as I thought I would be about preserving and/or using everything this year as it has been a little busy with the newborn.  Our farm sends out a weekly electronic newsletter with tips and ideas to get the most of your share and the most recent one referenced ideas for those that might be feeling overwhelmed with how much is coming in the recent weekly baskets.  Phew- I'm not the only one! So, although it is still a work in progress, here are some of the tips that have worked for us:

Greens: In the beginning of the season, there were so many greens! Spinach, kale, lettuce, bok choy etc.  I think my husband would have thrown a salad at me if I made one more.  I used as many as possible in green smoothies with frozen and/or fresh fruit.  I found that spinach is perfect in green smoothies- I don't even taste it.  I can only taste the fruit.  Kale & lettuce flavors stood out more in my breakfast drink but it used the stuff up once the house was on a salad strike.

Beets: I am not a huge fan of beets.  I have tried pickling them in the past, which works to preserve them if you like beets.  In my case I just ended up with jars of beets sitting around the house for too long.  This year, I followed a simple recipe from the farm to make beet chips.  Thinly slice the beets, toss them in olive oil and salt and put them on a parchment lined baking sheet and in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I learned a lesson the hard way to watch them carefully, especially if sliced by hand and not evenly sliced.  Some of mine burned really bad in one batch and were not tasty for eating!

Herbs: Pesto freezes really well.  I used up my basil by making up a batch of pesto and scooping it into ice cube trays, top each cube with some olive oil, freeze and then store in a freezer bag.  Other fresh herbs such as cilantro and parsley came with instructions from the farm that we could cut them up, wrap in foil and then place the foil packets in a freezer bag or container for use later on.  Done and Done!

Cucumbers: Holy cucumbers!  Those things must grow like weeds because we have a lot of them.  I do not have a pressure canner but I found a recipe that gave processing time for the pickle jars to be submerged in boiling water.  We had fresh dill and garlic from the farm, stuffed some into the bottom of the jar, sliced cucumbers on top and then poured a mixture of boiled water, pickling salt and vinegar on top before sealing.  We just opened our first jar this week and I have to admit that they taste pretty good. 

Zucchini and Squash:  These vegetables also come in an abundance.  We use as many as possible in stir fry dinners and they are also a perfect vegetable for roasting.  I also love zucchini and squash for baking.  It is easy to find zucchini bread recipes out there or you can try these Lemon Zest Zucchini Muffins and make an extra batch for the freezer.  Baking and freezing is great because the day will come when I don't want to bake something or don't have time and it's awesome to have something ready to go.  If you don't feel like baking right now, that's ok too.  I used a mini-chopper (a food processor would work great- I have not invested in one of those yet) to shred and my Vitamix to puree squash and zucchini for future baking.  I just put the puree or shredded vegetables into freezer bags and into the freezer.

Tomatoes: I found this recipe for quick marinara sauce using the Vitamix and it inspired me to make a quick tomato sauce with what I had on hand to go into the freezer.  The Vitamix seriously pulverized quartered tomatoes in seconds.  I modified the recipe by adding a bunch of basil leaves that I needed to use, red wine vinegar and probably way too much garlic, but it tastes great- I think!  I would recommend adding some tomato paste to the mixture to thicken the sauce once it is out of the blender and simmering on the stove.  I haven't found the perfect ratio of it just yet though.  One batch was too runny for my taste and another just tasted of too much tomato paste.  I am still working on it, but I now have sauce in freezer bags and in the freezer for later use.

Green Onions: I saw something on the internet about being able to keep your green onions growing in a sunny window sill for use in cooking....I was skeptical, but it works!  Mine are sitting in mason jar on the kitchen window sill and they keep growing.  I just keep a small amount of water in the bottom of the jar.  Need onions? Just grab the kitchen shears and snip some off to throw into anything!

Share: Last but not least, sharing is always fun! Bring some of those good veggies to family and friends.  Who doesn't love that?

Next year I hope to make even more out of the share!

On the running front, I am still hovering around 11 miles per week, which is ok.  I edged out my "long" run from 3 miles to 3.5 miles this week.  This week also included my first post partum run where I felt strong at the end! Woohoo.  I was a bit disappointed when I looked at my pace once I finished as it had felt faster, but that's ok.  Hills that were bringing me to a walk a few weeks ago are being conquered so there must be progress!

Any tips for using up the summer produce?  Do you ever have a run that feels awesome and then you learn it was slower than you thought?

Have a great week!
Sunday, August 4, 2013

On Asking for Help....

I am terrible at asking for help, but over the last couple of weeks I learned that really good things can happen if I speak up and ask for it on occasion.  I don't know what my hesitation is.  I would not expect anyone else to not ask for help.  In fact, I like it when friends and family ask for my help.  Who wouldn't want close friends and family that trust you enough to ask for your help? So, what is my problem? I. Don't. Know. 

This all starts with a few weeks of regular newborn schedules....no sleep, a lot of feedings, diaper changes etc.  I learned quickly that the whole "rest when the baby rests" doesn't really work on the second little bundle because you also need and want time with the big sister....and the laundry I guess :)  Before I continue, I feel compelled to clarify that my kids are healthy.  I am the luckiest girl in the world to have two beautiful girls and I am in no way trying to complain, say that I have things tough or have the world's busiest schedule. I don't- far from it and I know this.  I personally know women with 3, 4 and even 9 kids.  My own grandmother had 15!!!! I know friends that have beautiful children with serious health complications. I know how lucky I am and never want to forget it.  Phew.  I feel better now that I said that.

That said, I was feeling a little burned out.  It turns out that our second little girl is not quite as laid back and calm as our first.  She cries and screams a lot....way more than usual baby fussiness.  I have been to the doctor and thankfully nothing is wrong.  She's just "colicky," which as explained to me by the doc, is something babies usually grow out of by 3-4 months old.  As any mom would know, it breaks your heart to hear your little one scream endlessly.  Sometimes a car ride would help, sometimes not.  Often, a walk in the stroller would help.  Sometimes it wouldn't.  I felt guilty about leaving her with anyone else, even Dad, even for a few minutes.  I have wonderful family that kept asking if I needed anything....did I need to get out for a walk on my own or go read a book for a while? (seriously, wonderful family).  9 out of 10 times I said no.  I felt like I couldn't justify needing anything.  There are people who need food.  People who need healthcare, medicine and a roof over their head.  Who am I to complain about needing anything?

Then about a week ago shortly after my husband got home from work and at the end of one of the newbie's crying spells, a crystal clear sentence came to my head.  "I need 30 minutes of child free exercise time...everyday."    I was hesitant to say it out loud.  I felt like a bit of a spoiled brat, but I said it anyway.  His reaction? "Well, yeah." As in, like "D'uh." Total agreement. I told you I have wonderful family!  Done. Supported.  Awesome.

Since that conversation I have taken that time almost everyday.  My running mileage is creeping up from only 4 weekly miles a couple of weeks ago to about 10 miles this week, which were made up of 2-3 mile runs, and some strength circuits.  The baby still cries...a lot, but endorphins do wonderful things for my mind set.  That is one of the many things I love about running.  My 30 minutes will creep up too as sleep schedules iron out, feedings space out more and I tackle the transition back to work.  She is only two months old this week....and already 2 months old this week :) 

So, I feel that there is really nothing special about this story.  I am not doing anything of merit here, but I wanted to throw it out there because I know so many wonderful people who juggle a lot for their families, friends, co-workers, employment etc. and the thought of asking for time for themselves doesn't even enter their mind.   Or if it does, they likely feel selfish for it.  Well, I learned over the last couple of weeks that it isn't selfish.  I am a better mom, wife, friend and person just by logging a few sweaty miles.  I handle things better.  I smile more.  I let more roll off my back when things get a little crazy.  The weeding and laundry might never get done but it's ok.  I think my kids are better off with my glow of endorphins!

Have a great week.  And please, ask for some time for yourself! Read a book, get a glass of wine, go for a run...whatever it is- it's important!
Friday, July 26, 2013

Lemon Zest Zucchini Muffins & Quick Mileage Update

We took a quick trip to see family at the beach for a couple of days.  Our 4 year old had a ball with her cousins and the wee baby seemed to take to the ocean air and napped like a champ during the day after a walk in the sea breeze....maybe we need to move to the ocean? Ha.  Night time sleeping is still a struggle but all in time I guess.

In preparation for our trip, I put together a batch of muffins for breakfast and snacks.  I had zucchini from our farm share that needed to be used up and I am always game for a recipe that hides vegetables for the kiddies.  These were easy to throw together and quite tasty with a hot cup of coffee...especially while listening to the ocean.

Lemon Zest Zucchini Muffins
Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
 
Wet Ingredients
1- 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
2 eggs
3/4 cups honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
zest of 1 lemon
 
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin pan.  Shred or process zucchini in a food processor until finely shredded.  Mix all wet ingredients together and zest the lemon into the wet ingredients.  Mix again.  Stir together all of the dry ingredients.  Add dry to wet and mix thoroughly. Scoop into the muffin tin (I use an ice cream scooper).  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a knife comes out of the muffins clean and tops are slightly golden.  Let cool in the muffin tin before removing and enjoy!
 
 
  And on the running front I bumped up my mileage from the whopping 4.1 miles last week to 7 miles this week! We are heading in the right direction! 
Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Running," a Mild Case of Amnesia & Ice Cream!

Time is flying by!  I can't believe we are creeping up on the end of July and my new little girl is already 5 weeks old.  Overall, things are going well.  Baby is growing healthfully.  The big sister is having a great summer and I am getting into the swing of things of being mom to 2.

One of the things I looked forward to for me is my return to running.  While pregnant, I only kept up jogging until about 22 weeks and then kept cardio to the elliptical, walking and spinning.  I know ladies who kept up running right until delivery, which I think is awesome.  It just wasn't comfortable for me between a high heart rate and a lot of pressure from the growing baby.  I also had not been running as regularly as usual when I found out I was pregnant.  As delivery got closer, I was constantly day dreaming about running again.  My vision was that of a mom going out jogging in between feedings. I would be up to 4 or 5 runs per week of 3 miles each by now with strength workouts in between.  I would be glowing with endorphins and relaxed.  This is where my mild case of amnesia comes in....how did I forget so much about a newborn in just four years??

I forgot that the estimate of feedings every 2 hours does not mean that one has 2 hours of free time once a feeding is finished (what was I thinking?).  Newborns feed more often than every 2 hours, especially in the first month.  When I have gone out for a jog, I have jogged for 15-20 minutes, returned home, taken a disgustingly quick shower and the baby is past ready for a feeding right then and there- not 2 hours after the last feeding.  Or there are the times when feedings just blend into each other :) I knew there would be little sleep, but I guess I forgot exactly how that feels after a few weeks.  And I guess my husband still has his regular work schedule to contend with. What do you mean you have to go to work right now?  I just got the baby down, the big sister is happy and fed- I can go for a jog NOW and only NOW.  I laugh.  Ok, I may have cried at least once too, but all of the important things are going well, which is what counts. I may have given out more TV time and nutella sandwiches to the big sister over the last few weeks than any mom would want to admit, but the kiddos are healthy and we got our first smile this week from bundle #2, which makes everything in the world just right...at least for a moment :)

My weekly mileage last week was 4.1! Woo hoo....Not the 12'ish miles I thought it would be and I know 4 miles is many runners' warm up/cool down of one of their weekly workouts, but I get out there when I can and am striving for more mileage each week. Pace? Slow but I am concentrating more on time out there at this point.  As for the strength workouts, I do better squeezing those in as I can just drop to the floor with my weights and calisthenics for 15 minutes at a time without having to worry about timing childcare etc.  And boy do I need a crash course in pushups!  Every little bit helps, right?

Moving onto summer fun, the recent heat waves bring about cravings for one of my biggest weaknesses: ice cream!  I love ice cream but do not love the paragraph of ingredients on the back of most brands of ice cream available.  I have been following sites like 100 Days of Real Food, My Whole Food Life and Food Babe and they all have posts of recipes of their own ice cream.  I finally took the plunge with a recent birthday gift and bought my very own ice cream machine and it was worth it! 
Source
Except mine is in red!
 
This thing is dangerous....a house with no ice cream to be tempted by can have fresh ice cream galore within 15-20 minutes.  Seriously, it's awesome.  Get one if you don't have one.  Oh the recipes to come up with.  So far, I have made a simple vanilla ice cream and my favorite is this recipe over at the Detoxinista.  This was my first use of coconut milk and it made this chocolate ice cream heavenly and rich.  Confession: It did not last as long as it should have in our freezer and I can't blame family.
 
So there you have it.  Any home made ice cream tips for me?  Tips for short workouts that are effective?  Have a great week.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy Feet

There are these feet....happily decked out in my new Brooks running sneakers.
 But more importantly, there are these feet!
 Bundle #2 came along last week healthy and happy (except when hungry, wet or tired of course) and it's a girl!  Another beautiful little girl- all 8lbs 9oz of her joined us 1 day after my due date.  It is safe to say that she was not premature based upon her birth weight.  Bundle #1 is super excited to have a little sister.  In fact, she was saying all along that she wanted a sister...so much to the point that I kind of started to worry how she would react if it was a boy.  It all worked out!

Everything is going well and as expected after the arrival of a new little one.  Not much sleep but it's temporary (or so I try to tell myself repeatedly).  Delivery recovery is going pretty much by the book thankfully.  I felt like I had been hit by a truck the day of and first few days afterwards, but things are looking up.  In fact, I stepped out for my first post partum jog yesterday on day #9.  I only covered a mile and paced myself super slow with the dog, but it just felt good to break a sweat and get out there with my new sneakers and thoughts of the miles to come :)

Yesterday I got a little bit ambitious in the kitchen during the wee one's snooze.  I know everyone says to rest when baby does, but I am horrible at sleeping during the day...especially when the sun is out.  I have so much respect for people who work nights!  Anyway, I was inspired by this recipe for a quick snack to keep ready in the fridge.  These also highlight my love for all things chocolate, unsweetened coconut and peanut butter.  They also require zero, yes zero, baking.  How can you not enjoy?  I threw in some chia seeds also, even though the recipe did not call for them, just for an extra something.  Here they are...give them a try- they are super easy to make and well worth it!

 
Do you have any suggestions for resuming fitness post partum?
 
Have a great week!
Monday, May 27, 2013

To the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Lovers of the World.....

I am always on the hunt for recipes that can accommodate my sweet tooth but not leave me full of guilt and processed garbage.  Today, I scrambled through my pantry and came up with my version of some chocolate, peanut butter squares.  They were super easy.  You can substitute different ingredients and they took care of my sweet cravings, which are tough to beat. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares
For the crust:
4 cups Trader Joes Whole Grain "Cheerios"
(I am sure you could substitute whole wheat pretzels, crackers or even nuts of your choice)
3 Tbs butter
 
For the middle:
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
2 tbs coconut oil
 
For the chocolate topping:
2 cups chocolate chips of your choice
1/2 cup milk of your choice (I used organic chocolate soy milk)
Unsweetened coconut (optional)
 
Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper (If you would prefer thicker squares, you can use a smaller, square baking dish).  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the crust by processing the dry cereal in a food processor or high speed blender until crumbs.  Melt butter.  Mix crumbs and butter together in a bowl.  Press into baking dish and bake in oven for 7-10 minutes just to set the crust. 
 
While the crust is setting, melt the peanut butter, honey and coconut oil in a small pot on the stove top.  Once crust is ready, pour and spread the peanut butter mixture over the entire crust.  Next, melt the chocolate chips and milk in a pot on the stove top and pour and spread over the entire crust and peanut butter mixture.  Throw some unsweetened coconut flakes on top of the chocolate mixture (optional) and place the entire pan in the freezer for approximately 1 hour or until set.  Once set, cut into squares and enjoy!  Store in the fridge and restrain yourself from eating the batch in one day.
 
 
Sunday, May 26, 2013

Random Updates

A few random updates:  I am just returning from a beautiful weekend in the wonderful city of Boston- I love that place.  The weather was definitely not Memorial Day weekend like, but that's ok.  My husband ran a 1/2 marathon and killed his PR by 12 minutes- awesome.  We also celebrated my birthday with some fantastic pizza in the North End- also awesome! 

I did a lot of walking this weekend, sort of hoping it would jump start me into labor- it does not appear to have worked as of yet! 38 weeks! Contractions start....then stop. One of these days they will stick! I'm ready...or as ready as one can be.  I am looking forward to meeting this little person.

At home, the garden is started but it's been a bumpy start to the season.  Huge swings in temperatures around here have brought plants out only for them to be rushed back in...or forgotten to be rushed back in (oops).  Spinach, green onions (from re-sprouting my onions from the grocery store!), tomatoes, green beans and potatoes have been started.  I do not have a green thumb, but I'm hopeful for this season!

Our CSA starts in just a few weeks....I am looking forward to it!  The meat we have been buying from a local farm has been working out well....I even made homemade potstickers with the ground pork and they came out both delicious and guy approved. One of these days I will get around to posting the recipe I used.

So, that's it for now! Hopefully, I will have a new bundle to update you on in the coming weeks and some success stories from the garden.  Until then, have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.  Thank you to all those who have served!   

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Meat and Muffins

We took a trip out to the farm last week!  The farm where I have signed up for a produce CSA announced a partnership with a local meat farm.  Locally and humanely raised meat can be ordered ahead of time each week and a delivery will be left one evening a week with Spring produce shares.  I didn't sign up for a spring share, but I will be heading that way once a week come summer anyway and finding a local, healthier source of meat was something on my "want to do" list for a while now.  I sent an email to the farm owners to ask for more information and they sent me a response and told me to come up to see the farm anytime.  So, we took a road trip!

The farm is located just outside of Dublin, New Hampshire, which is such a cute town that I had never been through before.  Myself and the little one headed that way on a nice, sunny, spring day- I think we have finally kicked winter to the curb!  When we got there, I foolishly left my camera in the car.  I was kicking myself because there were some very adorable photo opportunities with pigs, piglets, sheep, baby lamb, cows and chickens.  The owners, Craig and Sarah, were on site, took us around to all of the animals, talked openly about their farm practices and walked us through how and where everything is stored and available in their on site farm store.  The coolest part was being told directly by the owners that we were welcome to stop up anytime and see the farm and animals.  My mind flashed back to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (great book if you have not read it yet) where Pollan talked about a veil of secrecy over parts of the processing of the steer he was trying to follow to someone's table.  In contrast, this farm felt welcoming and transparent. 
Mayfair Farm
Before we left, we stopped at the on site store and purchased Italian sausages, a whole chicken, a bottom round roast and ground pork.  The Italian sausages were delicious....I cooked those up with some whole wheat pasta, sauce and veggies.  We also had a roast beef dinner.  The meat was definitely tasty, but truthfully I have never cooked a bottom round roast before and I think I may need a lesson or two!  The chicken is on deck for dinner this evening and I just found a recipe for homemade pot stickers for the ground pork.  I am excited about this find and look forward to ordering more fresh food!

Onto this lovely Sunday morning, a craving for donuts hit our house again.  So, the little one and I followed this recipe for a Sunday morning baked good.  I am really starting to like spelt flour.  I modified the recipe slightly by cutting out 1/2 the sugar.  I am sure you could substitute honey or maple syrup if you prefer.  I also made a quick chocolate glaze because there is always room for more chocolate.  I melted 2-3 tsp of coconut oil with a small amount of chocolate chips.  Once smooth, I just drizzled on the tops of the muffins.  Done. Yum.

On the pregnancy fitness front, I have resigned to walking, light weights and stretching/yoga at this point.  Between some busy work schedules right now and the third trimester wakefulness during the night, it's all I am fitting in.  This baby is also much lower than bundle #1.  Many people have told me that they think I am going to go early- I won't be upset if they are right! Although, I better finish up my nesting if that is the case.  I tried some "bursts" of jogging on a recent walk and as much as I want to run, it ain't happening! Baby is just too low. 5'ish weeks left until the due date so I will just keep moving as much as I can until then and then look forward to getting back to some running mileage.  My other half just signed up for his first marathon, which I am really excited about.  I have visions of family vacations and endurance event destinations!

Anyone else have end of pregnancy fitness tips?  Tips for cooking beef?

Have a great week!
Sunday, April 21, 2013

An AMAZING Milkshake!

Since getting my Vitamix, I have seen numerous recipes and ideas for ice cream using frozen bananas instead of cream & sugar.  Honestly, I was skeptical.  I figured it would beat a craving but taste like a healthy alternative to a total chocoholic like me.  My little one loves chocolate milkshakes and I picked up a carton of chocolate almond milk recently at the grocery store when she began asking for chocolate milk and it appeared to be the healthiest option at the store.  Milkshakes were just the thing we needed on a recent warm afternoon and this was so easy and delicious!

Chocolate Milkshake
(makes 2 servings)
~2 bananas
~2 cups chocolate almond milk
~2 tbs peanut butter
 
Cut the banana into chunks, place into a covered Tupperware or freezer bag and place into the freezer until frozen.  Pour 2 cups of chocolate almond milk into the blender, remove bananas from the freezer and add to the blender.  Add peanut butter.  Secure the lid and turn the blender onto low.  Use the tamper, if necessary, to push the frozen bananas down towards the blades to be blended.  Turn to high until you get the desired consistency.  This took only seconds with the Vitamix.  Pour and enjoy!
 
 
This shake was seriously amazing.  I think it rivaled a Friendly's Frappe and the frozen bananas added just the right amount of sweetness and thickness to the shake without any junk.  You can polish off the whole thing without a shred of guilt. I have seen posts on other blogs such as My Whole Food Life recently with information as to how to make your own almond milk, which I am sure would kick the health factor up a notch.  I may give that a try sometime.  I am definitely going to stockpile bananas in the freezer to make different flavors of this banana based shake all summer long....just wait until berries are out in season!  I bet this recipe could be frozen into popsicle molds too....ideas!
 
Have a safe and wonderful week!
 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring, Is That You?

It was Easter.  There was still snow on the ground, but Easter was here!  This is not a health food picture here, but on special occasions I love to enjoy a home made dessert from scratch.  I dusted off an old baking book I picked up at a flea market years ago and got to baking. 
The cake I made is called a Bonnie Butter Cake (I told you this is not a health food shot!).  Basically, a vanilla cake with fresh whipped cream filling, vanilla buttercream frosting but none of the chemicals found in most commercially processed desserts :)  That's what I love about baking- I can pronounce and recognize all of the ingredients...butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, sugar etc.  There isn't the time to do it for every occasion but it's great when I can.  One problem I seem to keep running into since switching from baking from pre-packaged cake mixes to baking from scratch is that the cake seems dense.  I used to use whole wheat flour for these desserts and I thought that was the problem.  This time around I bought an organic all-purpose flour but I still felt like the cake was dense.  Hmmmm......I need to figure this one out!  Any ideas?

Also, I am sure you have been hearing about the recent petition and attention on Kraft foods to remove chemical food dyes from their products.  There was a recent food investigation by Food Babe that revealed that European countries have banned many of such chemicals and large companies, such as Kraft, make their products for the European markets without these harmful additives.  Note the Cadbury mini-eggs on the cake.  My folks recently returned from a trip to see family in Ireland and our house was spoiled with some imported Cadbury mini-eggs.  When I looked at the ingredients, I noticed that the coloring comes from beetroot and paprika!  I bought a bag from a grocery store here in the U.S. and the coloring is from chemical dyes....argh.   Can we please get this right??

Since Easter, we have seen signs of spring!  Although I am sure we are off to a late start, we finally got going on seedlings for our garden this year.  We have plans for corn, tomatoes, spinach, green beans, potatoes and some herbs. 
Standing proudly next to her seedlings....
We have some rearranging in the yard to do in order to keep the chickens from pulling up the seeds!  They are cute, but it was very frustrating last year when I came home to my herbs all pulled up and a flock of chickens "dirt and sun bathing" in my raised garden boxes.

Speaking of the chickens, their strike is over! Woohoo!  Despite using a heat lamp and extending daylight with artificial light all winter, they just were not producing.   My husband began talking about chicken stew.  There was a temporary stop on the strike and we collected one or two eggs (I swear they heard him), but then it quickly resumed again.  I pleaded to give it until spring and see what happens.  Warmer temperatures over the last week or so and another cleaning of the coop seems to have done the trick! They are back in business.

Even with plans for the garden in the works here, I decided to go back to a local farm and also sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share.  We bought one 2 years ago, but last year I decided to try to use farmers' markets instead.  The share worked out better for us as our local market is really small.  We plan on taking our first shot at preserving/canning if our garden produces well this year and there is an abundance of produce from the share.

And....in addition to veggies, I also just connected with a farm about a meat share.  I am very excited about this.  It has been on my "want to do" list for a while.  I will be taking a trip out to the farm soon and have some more news hopefully! 

On the fitness front, the last 2 weeks have been a bust.  I caught the viral chest cold/cough that everyone seems to be sharing and couldn't shake it.  I never get chest colds...I'm spoiled, but this one knocked me down pretty good. Not being able to take anything due to expecting didn't help, but I'm feeling back to myself this weekend and looking forward to getting back to some cardio.  32 weeks along! Almost. There.

Any spring plans or progress going on for you?

Have a great week and good luck to all those Boston Marathoners out there!  I know some runners in this year's race and I can't wait to hear about their experience!
Saturday, March 30, 2013

Veggie Stuffed Peppers

I stumbled across a beautiful picture on Pinterest of veggies, quinoa and feta stuffed peppers.  They looked delicious!  On a recent Sunday, I took advantage of extra time in the kitchen to whip up my own version based on ingredients I had on hand (which is never a match to any recipe I find!) and enjoyed a lunch in peace and quiet while my little one napped.  This recipe was easy and tailored for messy cooks such as myself :)  It is also a recipe where you don't have to worry about exact measurements.  Like garlic? Add more.  Hate cilantro? Don't use it.  Vegan?  Ditch the cheese.  Want meat? Add some! There are so many variations that could be delicious, but here is what worked for me:  
 
Veggie Stuffed Peppers
(makes 3 servings)
~1 chopped tomato
~1-2 generous handfuls of spinach
~1 cup of canned (rinsed) or cooked black beans
~1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa or a combination of both
~1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
~1 clove of garlic or 1 tsp minced garlic (you can add more if you love your garlic)
~1 generous shake of dried cilantro flakes (hopefully fresh cilantro once this winter kicks it!)
~2 tsp cumin
~olive oil to grease a skillet
~3 bell peppers
 
Slice the tops off of the 3 bell peppers and remove the cores and seeds.  Set aside.  Generously coat a deep skillet or cast iron pan with olive oil and heat on medium heat.  Once heated, add the garlic.  Let the garlic simmer for 1-2 minutes and then add the chopped tomato and spinach.  Stir the vegetables so they evenly cook and get coated with the garlic and olive oil.  The tomatoes will soften and the spinach will significantly reduce in volume.  Add the black beans and stir.  Add the cilantro and cumin and stir some more (there will be a lot of stirring here!).  Add the cooked rice and/or quinoa and stir to mix completely with the vegetables.  Add 2/3 of the cheddar cheese and mix with the beans, rice/quinoa and vegetables.  Once completely mixed, remove from the heat. 
 
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spoon 1/3 of the rice/quinoa, beans and veggie mix into each of your 3 bell peppers.  Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the remaining 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese.  Lightly grease a shallow baking pan with olive oil.  Place the stuffed peppers into the pan and put the tops of the bell pepper back onto the pepper.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Serve with some organic white or blue corn tortilla chips and enjoy!  Filling, tasty & healthy!   
 
Served with sour cream and chunks of avocado!
I love adding spinach to stir fry dishes.  First,  spinach can go bad pretty quickly in the fridge so it is a great way to make sure you use it every week without hitting salad overload.  Spinach also drastically reduces in volume when cooked so it is easy to sneak that veggie into a recipe for an additional nutrition boost! 
 
As for quinoa and brown rice, I usually use a combination of the two.  One tip I find super helpful is to cook a big pot of the quinoa/brown rice combo when I am home and store it in the fridge so that there are healthy grains ready to go all week!  I have seen this tip many times over at Fannetastic Food in her amazing recipes and it truly does work.  On a rushed evening, I can quickly stir fry veggies, chicken and spices (such as Curry- yummy!) and serve over the rice/quinoa.  On a rushed morning, I can throw some rice/quinoa on top of a salad or in a wheat wrap with some veggies and Voila! Lunch!  I love tips like that...the trick is just staying organized with them!  Sometimes, the organization can be a challenge!   

Have a great Easter weekend! Plenty of cooking, baking and gathering to be going on over here this weekend!
 
 
Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Peanut Butter Muffins

Well, winter does not seem to be kicking it around here.  Despite the fact that we are officially into spring, the ground is still covered with snow and the forecast predicts potentially more of it on Tuesday. Boo.  I have spring fever.  Next weekend will be Easter....so much for a spring egg hunt!

Here is a healthy but tasty comfort food recipe for a quiet morning with a cup of coffee....if you get any of those mornings! And yes, it's chocolate!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Peanut Butter Muffins
Wet Ingredients
~2/3 cup peanut butter
~1 mashed banana (you could add another if you need to get rid of some bananas!)
~1/2 cup honey
~2 tsp vanilla extract
~2/3 cup milk of your choice

Dry Ingredients
~2 cups white whole wheat flour
~1/4 cup coconut flour (you can use all white whole wheat flour if you do not have coconut flour)
~1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
~2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
~1/2 tsp baking soda
~1/2 tsp salt
~1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix all of the wet ingredients with a mixer.  Add dry ingredients, except chocolate chips, and mix thoroughly.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Spray a muffin tin and/or use muffin liners.  I used an ice cream scoop to evenly spoon out 12 muffins into the tin.  Place into the oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.  Bake for 19-21 minutes or until a knife comes out of the muffins clean.  Let cool in the pan for at least 10-15 minutes before removing.  Enjoy with a cup of coffee or cold glass of milk!
 
 
My 3 year old said these were dee-licious! That never gets old.....
 
And congratulations to all those runners out there who had great races over the St. Paddy's Day weekend....I saw some amazing PR's on the race reports! I am still trucking along on the elliptical and spinning bike....11 weeks to go until baby #2 arrives!
 
Have a great week!
 
Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's my favorite holiday of the year! Although I will not be enjoying a festive ale or lager this year, we started our day with St. Paddy's Day Green Pancakes over here.  They don't quite fill my heart like a full Irish breakfast, but they are a delicious, festive and a healthy start to the day.  This recipe is a modification of our Sweet Pea Pancakes recipe that quickly became a staple over here.

St. Patrick's Day Green Pancakes
~1 cup milk
~generous handful of kale or spinach
~1 mashed banana
~1/2 cup whole wheat flour
~1/2 cup oats
~1 egg
~1 tsp vanilla extract
~cinnamon to preference
~chocolate chips to preference
In a blender, puree the kale or spinach and milk (you can add greens until you get the color you want).  Mix the dry ingredients (except chocolate chips).  Add the egg, mashed banana and vanilla.  Mix in 3/4 of the milk/greens puree thoroughly.  I did not need to use the last 1/4 of the puree, but you can add if you prefer a less thick pancake.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Heat a skillet with your choice of oil.  Cook on each side and serve with pure maple syrup.  That's it!  This recipe made enough to feed me and two 3 year olds hungry after a sleep over!
The green would be so much prettier in natural light, but my little one gets up too early!
Saturday, March 16, 2013

Doughnuts and Random Things

I have to give an internet shout out to two recipes that I have fallen in love with.  The first is Chocolate Covered Katie's Homemade Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.  I have actually never been a die hard doughnut fan.  I usually gravitate towards muffins, which can be even worse, despite the unexplained "healthier" connotation the word "muffin" brings. That said, it is quite relaxing on a weekend morning to sit with a fresh baked good and a cup of coffee.  The problem is that I am not so sure that most doughnuts or other "baked goods" that can be purchased would qualify as a "fresh baked good."  I stumbled across one of Food Babe's older posts "Sabotaged at Starbucks" this week.  I could not get the quote "The reduced fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake has over 75 ingredients..." out of my head.  75?  What possible 75 things could be in that cake?  Silly me, I thought the recipe would have such things as eggs, milk, butter, flour, sugar and cinnamon.   I have caved to such things on the run or given in to the doughnut at work for that quick energy pick me up....only to come crashing down and not feel so great afterwards.  Well, this recipe is bliss to satisfy that craving for a sweet, fresh baked something and not feel gross afterwards. 

The first time I made it, I did not have spelt flour or any healthy sweetener substitute so I went forward with the all purpose flour and sugar.  I don't yet have a donut pan so I threw the batter into mini bundt pans and they still came out great.

Delicious!
I made them again this weekend.  This time I used spelt flour and substituted maple syrup for the sugar.  I baked them as "donut muffins" and then topped them with the amazing second new recipe that I found.  This one is from My Whole Food Life and I used the chocolate glaze from her pumpkin donuts recipe.  It is so simple- a small amount of chocolate chips of your choice melted with milk of your choice (I only used approx. 1/4-1/3 cup for my small batch of doughnuts).  Fantastic...simple....no nasty ingredients.  Note: I am also going to need to try that pumpkin donut recipe at some point. 

The only mistake I made was not being patient to let them cool in the pan before removing because I was hungry :)  One of them fell apart so lesson learned!  Wait...they are worth waiting for.  Once I got the glaze on them, I popped them into the freezer for a few minutes to set and done.  The recipe made 6.

Definitely worth a few minutes baking...
Other random things I am loving this week include the avocado, my Vitamix blender and the elliptical trainer.  I used to stay away from avocados because of the reported fat content.  I'm learning differently now and loving them.  More on that another time.  My Vitamix blender is Ah-mazing.  I am starting each day with a handful of fruit and veggie servings thanks to this easy green smoothie recipe that I have gravitated towards:

Green Smoothie
~1 cup water
~2 generous handfuls organic spinach
~1 scoop organic wheat grass powder
~A generous heap of frozen berries
~1/2-1 banana or orange or apple
 
Throw into the Vitamix, turn on low and use the tamper to make sure the produce gets to the blades.  Blend until desired consistency (takes less than 30 seconds every time).  Enjoy!
 
I am sure there are tons of other healthy things that can go into a green smoothie and would love to hear any recipes you want to share!
 
Lastly, the elliptical trainer.  It's my favorite pregnant workout.  I have a spinning bike at home, which is my most used equipment just because of its convenience.  Although a good workout and it keeps the body moving, I psychologically like to see some miles add up and the spinning bike I have does not measure distance.  I'm sure there is something I could buy to set the bike up with mileage measurement, but I've always done my spinning workouts just based on time and I think that works fine and do not want to invest more money in it.  In contrast, the elliptical gives me that quasi-running feel without the bouncing belly and elevated heart rate so I am loving it and comfortably complete 3-4.5 miles per workout.  3rd trimester starts this weekend :)  Where does time go?
 
This weekend some friends of mine are participating in a local St. Paddy's Day 5 mile road race.  Good luck to everyone!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lemon Coconut "Shortbread" Cookies

I did not realize how much I love unsweetened coconut.  It all started with this granola recipe from 100 Days of Real Food.  Since that first batch, I have been adding unsweetened coconut to breads, muffins, cookies and even pancakes.  It is delicious and adds the taste of a treat without a bunch of nasty stuff to go with it. 

This week, I played around with a couple different types of flours that I do not usually have on hand.  I have been seeing many different recipes with spelt flour, almond flour, coconut flour etc. and my baking has pretty much been reserved to regular all purpose flour or whole wheat flour.  So, I geared up for a baking experiment.  The final product came out with a thick shortbread like texture that is nice to enjoy with a cup of tea...and the hint of lemon flavor is refreshing during what I hope are these last days of winter!

Lemon Coconut "Shortbread" Cookies
~1/3 cup coconut oil
~1/3 cup honey
~2 tsp vanilla extract
~1/3 cup organic milk (you could substitute your own choice of milk)
~zest of 1 lemon
~1 cup spelt flour
~1/3 cup coconut flour
~1/3 cup oats
~1/2 tsp baking soda
~1/2 tsp baking powder
~pinch of salt
~3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
*this recipe made 18 cookies

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix honey, coconut oil and vanilla extract with electric mixer until blended smoothly.  Add milk.  Zest 1 lemon into the wet ingredients and mix again. 

Coconut Oil, Honey & Vanilla "Creamed" Together

Add dry ingredients (except coconut) and mix until well incorporated (batter will be thick).  Fold in coconut.

Drop by rounded spoon or melon baller onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Use a fork to press down the cookie.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Brew a cup of tea and enjoy!

 
 
I plugged the recipe into the My Fitness Pal app and came up with a calorie count of 108 calories per cookie.  For my next batch, I am going to modify the recipe a little bit and use orange zest and add some dark chocolate chips for that heavenly orange and chocolate combination!
 
And yes, this truly was a baking experiment. I had to work on this recipe a couple of times to get these cookies.  Just to prove it and maybe give you a giggle, please see this photo of my baking follies:
 
It's a good thing I like baking because my first recipe was a flop!
 
As we all gear up for another busy week, let's try to go with the flow, squeeze in those workouts that make us happy and remember this:
 
Funny cartoon I came across this week & had to share!
 
 
Have a great week!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hello QVC!

Honestly, I have never shopped on QVC or any other home shopping network....until about 2 weeks ago.  As you may be aware, I have been working to incorporate more green smoothies into my daily diet.  I'm trying to squeeze in as much healthy produce as possible for myself and this little bundle that is still growing, kicking and tumbling inside of me right now.  I'm in love with the promises of increased energy and glowing skin that I read others credit to their commitment to veggie intake.  That said, I have had my eyes on a Vitamix blender for a while.  Health blogs galore rave about them.  A good friend of mine has one and swears by it.  It is pricy and an investment, but I figured I would get to it after some planning and buy one....eventually.  Until then, I was committed to using the blender that was a welcomed hand me down from my parents when I was living away in college well over a decade ago.  Who cares that it barely shreds spinach and it feels like ingesting flakes with a fish-food like texture as you gulp the veggie goodness down, right?

So that was my plan....until my good friend the Vitamix owner sent me a text one Sunday morning noting that Vitamix was the "Deal of the Day" on QVC.  She said that she had never seen a deal this good and this girl did her research when she bought her magical blender.  I check the link out and there was considerable savings....and they were throwing in the dry container with it...free shipping....and I had a $50 credit from my bank card (I guess I am still rationalizing)....and then they throw these words in of "3 or 5 easy payments."  QVC people are smart.  After a few quick questions by text to my friend to confirm my commitment to the product, the deal was done and processed within less than minutes.  QVC made it way too easy.

Several days later, this beauty arrived on my door step:

Except mine is in red!
I have only had the blender for less than a week.  I am not yet organized enough to share recipes, but I can say that this thing pulverizes fruits and vegetables.  Green smoothies are fast and delicious.  I have also made my first batch of "soft serve ice cream" using frozen bananas instead of milk or cream...more on that another time for sure as I practice these recipes!

On the fitness front, this week was pretty slow due to some extra work commitments. I only squeezed in a few short spinning sessions. I also seem to be having these random blood pressure drops that go away once I sit down, but they leave me feeling uneasy so I have tried to rest up a little extra this weekend.  Anyone else experience such pregnancy weirdness? 

Anyway, I wish you a good week.  I'm going to avoid QVC in case there are any other "Deals of the Day" that catch my eye....they just make it too easy!