Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

Well, you know I just haaaaddd to make myself a special dessert to celebrate my half marathon :) Recently, I stumbled across this recipe for Reese’s Cheesecake Brownies–ummm, yes please! Naturally, I couldn’t wait to make my own skinnified version! Let me tell you, these babies do not taste one bit skinny! Luckily, I gave half the pan to Kara, otherwise things would be dangerous in my house right now!

Take gooey, fudgey, rich brownie and top it with creamy, peanut buttery cheesecake goodness and you get one of the most delicious desserts that’s ever come out of this kitchen! I wish I could share some of them with you right now. The only thing I love more than making delicious food is sharing it! And did I mention that the prep time took me about 10 minutes? So unbelievably easy, and guaranteed to be a huge hit.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

yield approx 30

For the brownie layer:

  • 1 box No Pudge brownie mix or TJ’s Reduced Guilt brownie mix
  • 1 6oz container Yoplait Light fat free red velvet yogurt

For the cheesecake layer:

  • 8oz fat free cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 box fat free, sugar free cheesecake pudding mix
  • 2/3 cup raw cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup PB & Co White Chocolate Wonderful
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups Sunspire chips (I used 1/4 cup chocolate, 1/2 cup white chocolate, but any combo would be good and they even have ones that are like m&m’s now!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9×13 baking pan well with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine brownie mix and yogurt. Spread in a thin layer to coat the bottom of your baking pan.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, Greek yogurt, pudding mix, sugar, sugar, and peanut butter together. Add almond milk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spread cheesecake mixture evenly over brownie mixture.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes until cheesecake layer is set in the center.
  7. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes, then transfer to refrigerator to cool completely.

Hellloooo, lover.

Is there any better nut butter for baking than White Chocolate Wonderful? If you find one, please send it this way.

Come closer, closer, like inside my stomach close.

The Day After

Oh my gosh, I still cannot get over what a whirlwind Sunday was, and the amazing kindness and support I felt from family, friends, and readers (oh my gosh it makes me feel like a real, legit blogger to say “readers”–sometimes I can’t believe anyone out there actually reads my little old blog :) ). Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart to everyone for recognizing my accomplishment, and making me feel so deserving of all of the celebrating that ensued!

By the time I got home Sunday evening, it was as if everything caught up with me all at once. That sickness I’d been fighting off, the toll 13 miles had taken on my legs, and the realization that this huge thing I had been focused on and training for was over. I crashed…hard. I hardly slept because I felt so sick and then woke up feeling fever-y and achy from head to toe. Not fun. I was determined to try to have a good day, because I had the day off, and honestly, I wanted to celebrate more! We had plans to meet Hank, Charlie and Hermano for breakfast, and so Hank kindly picked us all up and we headed to La Grande Orange.

On the way, there was this cuteness.

I don't know why, but dogs sticking their heads out of car windows always makes me smile, and never stops being cute. That little guy is having his day made right there!

I had heard of La Grande Orange, but never been there until I had a meeting there last week. Unfortunately, I had eaten at home before I left that time and as soon as I got there I regretted it! Not only was the place packed with cool nick knacks to buy, but every single thing coming from the kitchen looked delicious! They have breakfast, lunch sandwiches and salads, and even an attached pizza section! I did make sure to try something from their coffee station, and that’s when I was hooked. Sugar free almond soy latte. The best coffee I have had. In my life. Ever. You better believe that I made sure to order it again this time!

I got too excited and drank too much of it before this picture (I couldn't help myself), but it isn't just delicious, it's like a work of art! They make pretty leaves and designs in the foam which is perfectly steamed and thick, not bubbly!

The croque madame. It was delicious, but honestly, I probably would have actually enjoyed the oatrmeal I almost got even more. I just really like sweet breakfast!

The commuter sandwich. I kinda also wish I would have ordered this. Those english muffins look ridiculous!

Steve never orders breakfast food. He's so weird. But I must say, this sandwich was delicious!

After we ate, I convinced the boys to order from the coffee bar, and I’m pretty sure they fell as much in love with it as I did! It’s a good thing this place is a 20 minute drive, because not only was my latte almost $5, but a latte is also like 4x the calories on my nice little drip coffees topped with steamed soy at The Bux.

I felt bad, but after breakfast, all I wanted to do was go home and lay on the couch. I felt terrible, and I was more than a little grumpy about it. Poor Steve. Seriously, poor, poor, Steve–why does he put up with me?! I was in rare form for most of the afternoon. Crabby, complaining, and literally whining like a 3 year old that he couldn’t magically make me feel better and announcing that not making me better made him annoying. In case you haven’t at this point decided that I’m a lunatic and stopped reading my blog forever, let me openly admit that I don’t do sick well. Sick combined + sore + a little sad = I suck. I’m not proud of the fact that I am sometimes an a hole, but I aim for 99% a hole free behavior, and at least some of the time ;)

In an attempt to cure my sickness (or at least the mental part), Steve hung up my now 2 (!) race medals on either side of my new race bib holder that was an AMAZING holiday present from Hermano! Seriously. he totally rocked the present giving this year!

Now every single that comes into my home can see what I've done!! Not that I like to brag about myself or anything...

My first medal

My favorite (so far!) medal

I remember telling a friend of mine that I had never won anything before. So many people win awards in school, or lots of my friends have won voice competitions, or AriZoni awards, but not me. At the end of that summer, my friend Diane made me an award for being awesome at my job. It was one of the most sweet and thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me. That was in August of ’09 and you better believe I still have that baby! But now I have 2 medals for things that I accomplished on my very own. Sure, I didn’t win in the literal sense of the word (my sister in law asked if I won and I thought it was super cute :) ), but I did win in a figurative sense. I won the accomplishment, the satisfaction, the happiness, and the gains that have come in my life because of running. I’ve met new friends, been reunited with old friends, gained confidence, and found a healthy outlet for my hyper-focused brain, all while discovering that I am capable of more than I ever knew. Maybe some day race medals won’t be a huge deal to me, but right now, they actually mean a whole lot in this little world I live in :)

 
La Grande Orange Grocery on Urbanspoon

Celebrations and Such

How do you celebrate running your first half marathon? Well, with lots and lots of food and beer, obviously. ;) After the race, we headed over to Chompies for brunch. I figured I should celebrate with my people, you know. Actually, it was just one of the few breakfast places close to home with a full bar, and I LOVE their food! I enjoyed a fantastic celebratory brunch with my dad, Hermano, Hank, Charlie, my mom, Steve, Kara, Mona, Nicole, Carolyn and Lance. It was after noon by the time we got seated and breakfast had been at 5:30, so most of us were ready for some food! Although, my stomach never felt quite right yesterday and while I usually feel ravenous the day after a long run, I just felt kind of blech and not even that into food all day long which was a total bummer! Regardless, the company was fab and I was just happy to be out celebrating!

Team lava--these ladies totally rocked their relay! I am so proud of them and their awesome times and PRs!!!

Kara didn't even know she got a medal when she signed up--she was totally stoked about this added bonus!

I totally planned on ordering a celebratory glass of champagne, but ended up sticking with water, eating a whole wheat blueberry pancake with an egg and turkey sausage. No pictures of the food, but it was delicious as always. After we ate, Steve took some awesome post race photos for us!

Singles of everyone

Nicole

Carolyn

Kara

Obviously, I take my post race photos very seriously.

And lots of pictures of people together. I’m so descriptive.

Team lava!

Not very fast (except, you were), but pretty damn hot

Blog friends, turned super amazing real life friends!

Running buddies!!!

Hermano e Hermana

+ el padre

We went home after breakfast for some much needed relaxation, but before we knew it, it was time for food celebration part 2 at The Yard House! There must have been about 20 of us that got together to celebrate the run and drink delicious beer!

A yard of delicious dark, sweet beer!

Don't worry, I didn't drink both of those myself. Kara and I split them, although the second one was more like 80% her, 20% me. I was just ready for bed haha.

There is no doubt that January 15 2012 will go down as one of the happiest days in my life! It doesn’t get much better than big accomplishments and big celebration!

 

 

 

 

RnR AZ 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

Honestly, it’s hard to even know where to begin. Yesterday feels kind of like a blur. I got into bed the night before at about 10:00, finally kind of fell asleep after about 45 minutes, and then proceeded to wake up about every hour until my first alarm went off at 4:40 am. I had a “take your pill” alarm and a “yo b, get yo booty outta bed and run this half marathon” alarm, but I knew after the first one went off, there was no way I was falling back asleep, so I got up and started getting ready. I still felt about the same sick level as I had Friday and Saturday, but was grateful not to feel worse and knew that it would be annoying, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t push through.

Kara and Mona arrived at about 5:40, Kara and I drank some iced via (which was delicious and did everything I wanted it too—HOORAY! Why have I NOT been drinking coffee before my long runs until now???) and ate our pre-run breakfast of Ezekiel bread with sunflower butter and banana.

Just like what every other blogger out there eats. So yummy and almost always sits well and fuels well!

Then, we took some pictures and were on our way!

“Even though it is the butt crack of dawn and the sun is not up, I am really excited to run this half marathon!”

“We’re ready!!!!” Mona is sleepy. Good friends wake up at 5am to watch you cross the finish line :)

We got to the start/finish area of the race (loop course) pretty quickly and were amazed that traffic really wasn’t bad and we found parking immediately. After a quick stop at the porta potties, we made our way to the starting line just as they were setting up the corrals.

As soon as I saw this, I got a little emotional. I couldn’t believe after 3 1.2 months of training, this was finally it,

Pretty soon after we got there, we met up with Nicole and Carolyn.

Of course we had to take an action shot. You know, just getting warmed up ;) Ok friends, my face is flat out ridiculous–feel free to laugh at me!

Steve took a picture of my shoe with my time chip. I don’t know why.

Pretty soon, it was time to start heading to our corrals. I handed my sweat shirt off to Mona and Steve, wished Nicole and Carolyn good luck and set out to find lucky number 13. Steve headed over to the starting line and caught the first people to take off.

That guy in front was the frst to start and the first to finish in a ridiculous time of 1:02. Holy amazing.

He also got pictures of the dragon. You know the one that I passed later on in the race ;)

And he caught Nicole too. Of course, she had made a friend in her corral and was talking her ear off haha.

Go team lava, go!!!

We had to wait quite a while (almost half an hour) before finally starting due to delays with the light rail and just being back in such a high corral. I was so antsy! I kept saying to Kara “I want it to be my turn!!!” like a 5 year old. Finally, we were off and running through Mill Ave. It was a pretty neat area to start out, and I was really grateful for some new scenery. We saw Steve and Mona pretty quickly. Steve took a lot of pictures of me and I learned the lesson that I should never put my arms in the air for these pictures because I look about 40 lbs heavier than I am in most of them, but I figured I had to post one, so I picked the least unflattering of the bunch haha.

Awesome arm pit sweat and everything. Running is the most attractive sport ever.

From there, Kara and I just kept on truckin’. I was super annoyed by my ipod because I had spent all of this time putting my perfect playlist in the perfect order, but I couldn’t get the stupid thing not to shuffle. I messed with it for a while, and then just decided it was okay and I still liked all of my music, so it was fine. The day before at the expo, Kara and I had picked up these temporary tattoos that have your goal time on the bottom and where you need to be at each mile to reach that. They didn’t have a 2:20, so we grabbed the 2:15.

This was so unbelievably helpful. We took the first mile as a warm up at 10:24, and then every mile after was under the 10:18 needed to finish sub 2:15. I had told Kara she was in charge of making sure we started out slow, but honestly we were both too excited and I know that I was feeling really great, and so we didn’t go out speeding, but we went out with the intention of following the tattoos. We ran through Tempe, and pretty quickly got into Scottsdale. I was so excited that we had made it into a different city! My dad and Hermano were supposed to be in Scottsdale–my dad was all nostalgic about meeting me right in front of where my high school used to be–so I looked for them, but never ended up seeing them. I was a little bummed because I thought maybe I had just not seen them, but figured they’d understand and I’d see them at the finish. Turns out they had some directional confusion haha.

Before I knew it, we had reached the 10K mark and I still felt like we were passing people left and right! I love passing people. Is that bad? I definitely felt like the motivation to get in front of people pushed me to go faster. Just after the 10K mark, I took my first Gu. Not long after that, Kara and I lost each other. This race was packed from start to finish (my only maybe not so favorite thing about it) and I thought she was right behind me, but I turned around and she was gone. I kind of started to panic, and didn’t know what to do. Do I wait? Do I keep going? I slowed down a bit, but eventually I just went for it. I knew I’d see her at the finish and I was so grateful for being able to run the first half side by side, but I knew I just needed to focus on my goal at this point.

Right around this time, I saw a man in pink compression socks running the entire race backwards. I also so him run into a gate. It was pretty entertaining and took my mind off how quickly I was starting to feel tired. By the time I got to mile 8 marker, I was no longer feeling like I could run forever, and I started to wish for the finish line. It’s funny that the tattoo says “lucky mile 9″ because mile 9 was my least favorite of the entire race! I had to start taking walking breaks, I was exhausted and I just wanted to be done. I really hoped I wouldn’t have to walk during this race, but I got 8 miles without walking (except for water and Gatorade), and I knew I needed to take breaks if I was going to make it to the end. I was still right on track with my time goal though, so I just kept pushing and running hard so that my walking breaks didn’t kill my time.

Once I got to mile 10, it started to get real. I was going to finish this race. I was going to complete my first half marathon. I was exhausted, my feet hurt, and I wanted to lay down on the side of the road, but I was going to make it. Most of the end was even downhill!! Excellent choice, map people. Seriously, thank you. I took my second Gu and tried to soak up the energy from the crowd. One thing I will say, is there was so much crowd support! I don;t think I went through a single section where there weren’t people on the side lines cheering, and several people called me out by name which was awesome! Having a shirt with my name on it was more than worth it for that extra support!

Finally, I realized I was crossing the bridge back to the finish line. I saw the building I had pointed out to Kara when we arrived and said “When we see that, we’ll know we’re almost to the finish line!” and that’s when the emotions started, but even more than the emotional idea of finishing, I was so focused on my goal. I knew I had to keep pushing if I wanted to make this new goal of sub 2:15 (I’m so glad there was no 2:20 tattoo!!!!). I was meticulously checking my Garmin, and I knew it was possible, but I had to focus. Just before I got the mile 13 mark, Defying Gravity came on my ipod and I started to cry a little. “I’m through accepting limits cause someone says they’re so. Some things I cannot change, but ’til I try I’ll never know.” Seriously, it’s like the musical theatre kid’s anthem and the words are so fitting.

I crossed the finish line, stopped my Garmin and realized that now Proud Mary was playing and even with my stupid ipod shennanigans, I finished to it after all. And then I cried more, and took my medal and just kept walking, overcome with emotion. I took my phone out of my spibelt and it was ringing! I answered the phone and Bethany asked where I was and I said “I’M AT THE FINISH LINE!!!! I DID IT!!!!” She told me how proud of me she was. I can’t think of a better person to talk to right away than my best friend who has been there through the last 13 years of my life, has seen me at my very worst and understands just how far I’ve come.

Once I got off the phone with Bethany, it didn’t stop ringing! Hermano and my dad were trying to find me, then I had to meet up with Team Lava and Steve was at the finish line still trying to get pictures of Kara. I found myself a little area, sat down and just tried to stretch a little and soak it all in. Before I knew it Kara was right in front of me! I was so happy to see her!! I honestly don’t know if I could have done all of this without her.

Steve got some more super attractive photos of me just before the finish. Haha, it was like a series of unfortunate pictures, but here we go :)

I actually don’t hate this one!

That face! Hahahaha. “GET ME TO THE FINISH LINE!!!!!’

And he got one of Carolyn crossing too!

Whooo! Go team lava!

Okay, now the part you’ve all been waiting for (unless you’re my friend on facebook or follow me on twitter)….

OFFICIAL CHIP TIME: 2:13:58!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5K–31:47

10K–1:03:09

10 mile–1:42:18

Average pace–10:14

Although, according to my little garmin

My least favorite part of racing is when my Garmin tells me I’ve finished the distance, yet I’m not across the finish line!

My average pace was 10:07 ;) I like the sound of that much better!

Regardless, my goal was sub 2:20, and I beat it by 6 freaking minutes!!!!!! I had signed up for updates to go to some friends and family so they would know where I was in the course. Steve told me that when he got the final message that said 2:13:58 he even got a little emotional knowing I had beat my goal.

After I graduated college and got married, I thought all of my major life events were behind me at 26 years old. I felt like I already had my big moments, and there was a sense of sadness that came with that after our wedding. I’ll be honest, I am a person that thrives on making others proud and feeling supported by the important people in my life, and of course they always support me, but there are moments in life where you realize just how amazing your life and the people in it are.

Almost exactly 4 years ago, I reached my breaking point. Something shifted in my mind and I wish I could explain how it happened or why or pass that shift on to others I know who are struggling with the same issues I was and continue to struggle with. I knew I wanted to change, and I loved the feeling I got every time someone said “Wow, you’ve lost so much weight!” I knew I wanted needed to lose weight for my own health and well being. I never expected any of this. My waiver for the race had a spot at the bottom that said “signature of athlete” I looked at my friends and said “Who am I going to find to sign this? I need an athlete.” Me? An athlete? A runner? ME?!

I spent so many years of my life believing I couldn’t do things, believing I wasn’t good enough to perform, to run, to have friends, to be likable. So many years spent telling myself every reason why I couldn’t do things and living in too much fear to take risks and try. More than anything, I want every single person out there to know that you can do anything. And it is so freaking worth it to do the things that matter to you, that make you feel proud. Nothing worth accomplishing is easy, but good lord is it rewarding. In 3.5 months, I went from barely being able to run 3 miles, to running a half freaking marathon–A HALF MARATHON!!!!

The only time I can remember feeling this proud of myself is after I did my senior recital, but the best part is, this isn’t the last time I will feel this way. This is just the beginning of accomplishing new things, proving to myself that I am strong and capable, and crossing finish lines both literal and figurative.

Lastly, in the longest blog post ever. I want to say thank you to everyone for the amazing support I received during this process. All of the texts, comments on facebook, phone calls, and especially to Steve, Bethany, my dad, Hermano, and Mona for showing up at the race to support me, Nicole and Carolyn for making the whole experience amazing and all of your kind motivating words, and most especially Kara–you’re friendship has changed my life and I am so grateful to have you as my friend! I don’t know how I scored the most amazing people on the planet to all be my friends, but seriously every single congratulatory message I got meant so much to me and I am beyond grateful. I don’t know what I did to deserve all of you, but I do know that I am beyond grateful.

Carbo Loading Cooking Fail

After a long afternoon at the race expo, I invited Kara, Nicole and Carolyn over for a pre race carbolicious dinner. Or so I thought. You see, I’m not actually a real cook. I make simple food. I can make delicious healthier versions of most staple dishes. I can get creative and even create recipes with desserts, but there are some things I should not cook. Apparently, gnocchi is one of them. First of all, delicate foods that require a soft touch and attention to detail are not my thing, but the recipe looked easy enough to I told them I would make sweet potato gnocchi.

"Welcome to my house. I will obviously cook you delicious food. I write a blog about food and recipes so I promise I know how to cook!"

Confession, I was super nervous to cook for Nicole anyway. Have you checked out her blog?! She is AMAZING! Her food is ridiculous and beautiful and she could seriously have her own bakery if she wanted! Me? I just got into cooking because I wanted to eat cheese burgers, but not be fat :) Obviously, it wasn’t long before I got down on my knees and begged asked her nicely for a hand.

"Oh good job Nicole, you just cook dinner and I will pose for pictures and pretend like I made it."

I should have known the recipe was fishy when I got the 3 lbs of sweet potatoes it called for, but then had to measure out 3.5 cups and was left with more than twice as much leftover sweet potato puree! Good thing sweet potatoes are pretty much tied with cilantro for my favorite food!

We did have fun with the whole process of getting the gnocchis in the water.

First, transfered the dough to a bag without spilling it all on the floor. This was my biggest success of the night.

This was the fun part. Minus the 3rd degree burns from the splashing boiling water. Sorry about that Nicole. You are welcome to be my guest any time.

Obviously I couldn't leave all the dangerous gnocchi dropping to her. That's just rude. Don't worry mom, I wore long sleeves!

At one point it even appeared that dinner might be awesome.

Not too bad yet, right?

But then it turned into something more like sweet potato mush. Nicole tried to save the dish, but it was a goner.

"Can I PLEASE just mush it all together?!?!?!"

Nicole was very anti mush, but finally when I proved that the dish was beyond real salvation, she caved.

Mush.

Luckily, Steve grilled some seriously amazing chicken, and I didn’t have a total evening of failure.

Asparugus sprayed with olive oil + s&p baked at 400 for 20 minutes. A winner every time. Thanks for that, Heath!

And then there was this baby that I can’t wait to break into today!

Double chocolate peanut butter cheesecake brownies. I had to make Kara and myself a congratulations treat!

Luckily, the company was top notch and they all ate my weird sweet potato mush without complaint. Good friends, I tell ya. After dinner, we all called it a night pretty early because we all had early morning (4:40 for me!) wake up calls. I spent the next few minutes laying out everything I would need for the next morning.

Clothes, new sparkly green headband made by Nicole (LOVE IT!!!), spibelt, Gu, head phones, chapstick. Garmin and ipod were charging, and bib was in the car. Whoot.

Ready to not sleep :)