Loaded Butternut Mac & Cheese

You know what I love about macaroni and cheese?

 

I mean aside from the fact that the combination of carbs and cheese  is pretty much the most amazing thing on earth.

I love that there are so many options.

This mac & cheese….ooooooomg. It’s filled with center cut bacon, caramelized onions, and crispy sweet apples for the most amazing and surprising flavor combination. I wish I could tell you it was my idea. It totally wasn’t. I took it from this awesome lady, and changed a few things around.

Steve claims to not like butternut squash, but he definitely helped himself to seconds of this dish! The thing about adding butternut squash/pumpkin/sweet potato to mac + cheese, is that is just adds some creaminess, fullness and a hint of sweetness. You can use less cheese, but still get a thick, creamy, cheesy sauce that feels like you are breaking every diet rule you’ve ever followed.

I love how all of the textures come together in this dish too. Creamy, silky cheese sauce with crunchy bacon, crispy apples and perfectly tender onions. Opposing flavors and textures = my favorite thing ever. This dish has both. Excellent.

Drrrrroooooool.

 

Loaded Butternut Mac & Cheese

yield 6 servings

adapted from Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Apples

  • 2 cups dry whole grain pasta (brown rice, whole wheat, etc.–I had rotini on hand, but macaroni or penne also hold cheesey sauce really well)
  • 1 cup butternut squash puree (I steamed chopped butternut squash and pureed it with my immersion blender, but you could buy canned, or even better, roast it first!)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 oz low fat cream cheese
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded 75% reduced fat cheddar cheese + extra for topping
  • 1 tablespoon light whipped butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 large crispy apple, chopped
  • 4 slices center cut bacon, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions, cover and cook on low-medium low for 30 min, tossing occasionally. When fully cooked, remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. In a large skillet over medium heat, whisk together butternut squash, wine, milk, and cream cheese. When combined, add in salt, then stir in cooked pasta.
  3. Add onions and apples to the pasta. Stir to combine and add a dash more milk if needed.
  4. Stir in cheddar cheese, then transfer to a n 8×8 cooking dish. Top with cooked bacon and a small handful of extra cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes until the top browns slightly. Serve immediately.

 

Hawaiian Macadamia Butter Cookies

Sometimes you make a cookie that you just don’t want to share with anyone.

 

Well, if you’re Heather, that is every cookie. I’m sorry Heather, but I will never stop teasing you no matter how good you get at sharing. My friend Heather used to have a sharing problem. She’s worked on it, and recently shared some amazing food with me in Seattle. I was so proud of her. My mom also has a sharing problem. If you ask for a bite of her ice cream, she goes all food aggression and practically growls at you like Clementine. Basically, that was me with these cookies.

Every once in a while, a recipe just turns out so perfect that you can’t wait to make it for every event for the rest of your life, and make double because half of it will never even make it out the front door.

I was really inspired by all of the food in Hawaii. I came home with a full out list. Some people relax on vacation. I wrote lists. And you know what, awesome things came out of it. I like lists.

So let’s discuss these magical cookies, shall we? They have every single food I loved in Hawaii: macadamia nuts, coconut and banana. Also, they have white chocolate, because how could you have those foods and NOT include white chocolate?! That sounds like a terrible idea. When I was little, I used to eat mass amounts of solid white chocolate. It was my favorite. I also don’t ever remember being a single digit size in elementary school. I’m sure there’s no correlation….

Not only are these babies stuffed with all good things that exist in the world, they are the perfect texture. It’s like they were made with real butter! Okay, so I will never stop believing that fat substitutes are awesome for baking, and that baked goods made with applesauce are still seriously delicious. However, they do not taste like butter. These do. I think it’s something about the oil/fat content of the macadamia butter. It works perfectly, and I love it so much more than a peanut butter cookie.

Soft, gooey and perfectly balanced. These are a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Make these cookies. Make them today. And tomorrow. And next week. Trust me.

 

 

Hawaiian Macadamia Butter Cookies

yield approx 1.5 dozen

  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1 medium extra ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 cup Roasted Macadamia Butter
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut (I found unsweetened low fat, but regular unsweetened is fine too)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the banana, macadamia butter and sugars. Beat until smooth. Add the egg substitute and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Fold in white chocolate chips and coconut.
  3. Using a small cookie scoop, drop dough onto lined cookie sheet. Use an extra piece of sprayed parchment paper to slightly flatten each dough ball.
  4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until just golden. Do not overbake. Let cookies stand on sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

AFC Half Marathon Race Recap

….Of sorts…

Really, I want to talk about what I learned during this race, because it was a whole lot. I went in with high expectations. Before my surgery in the spring, I had been training with one goal in mind: a sub 2:00 half marathon. I chose Seattle, I found a training plan, and I was working my butt off. In the middle of all that, I signed up for New York and started working with a coach for the first time. I knew that New York was the big far off goal, but Seattle was still my focus. Then I found out I needed surgery, and I was sidelined for almost 3 weeks. My first full run back after that was the day I would have been running RnR Seattle. I set my sights on AFC and decided it was going to be my race.

This was the same time our NYC training plan officially started, and it quickly became my focus. I almost forgot about AFC and my “big plans” until I got home. Then I didn’t really taper the way I normally would. In fact, I had my highest mileage running week ever. I had slowed way down on my training runs since arriving back in Phoenix and was starting to feel really doubtful about my abilities to meet my goal in this race. But then we went to San Diego and I remembered how much I wanted it and I posted all sorts of crap on facebook about how I was trying to break 2 hours, and I put all this pressure on myself to make other people proud.

Meanwhile, I tried to forget that on Saturday morning at 8am (the same time I’d be running the next day), I was hot just sitting outside. I tried to assure myself that since it was less hot than Phoenix, obviously I’d feel fantastic. Well, at 7am Sunday morning at the start line it was already nearing 80* with 70% humidity, and I thought “Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to be wearing any more clothing right now.” Most of my other races I started out freezing at the starting line, and that’s how I like it. I don’t do well in the heat, and I’ve always been a big freaking baby temperature sensitive.

I went out strong in the race, and was determined to do what I’d set out to do, regardless of any challenges. I started off with Stacey, ran the first 2 miles just over goal pace. They were hilly, but I still felt okay. I got into a groove at mile 3, then mile 4 started with a super awesome downhill. I lost Stacey near the beginning of it, and just tried to let it be fast without pushing too hard and overdoing it. I ran mile 4 in 7:58. It was my favorite. It was also my first sub 8 mile in a race ever. Miles 5-7 were right on track, but at the end of mile 6 we turned a corner, and all of the sudden the sun was just so strong, and all I could feel was heat, and it felt like it was a million degrees out. My body felt totally overheated, and the idea of even finishing seemed impossible.

From there it was pretty much just a crash and burn. I had killed my 10k PR, then finished the first half in less than an hour, and still managed to blow up so far above my previous PR that it was kind of embarrassing. Once I realized (around mile 9) that I had no hope left of even a PR, I backed off, and just tried to get through it. I didn’t 100% give up, but I lost most of my drive, and took way more walking breaks than were actually necessary. I finished in 2:12, which isn’t my worst, but isn’t anywhere near my best either.

I may or may not have cried in the car afterwards. I’m a little dramatic. I get it. And I know that it just wasn’t the right time, but it still sucks when you put your goals out there for the world to see, and then don’t meet them, ya know?  But I learned so so much. Let’s make a list of all the things I learned.

  • I should have one running related goal at a time. Maybe some people can have LOTS, but for me, if my goal is my first full marathon, I need to not worry about half marathon PRs. I’m going to run a full freaking marathon 13 months after beginning my running journey. I’m building up my mileage, and working harder than I ever have. It’s okay if I’m not where I want to be with other distances right at the moment. I’m working towards something bigger.
  • It’s okay to adjust your goals on race day. That doesn’t mean you’re giving up. Sometimes circumstances happen that are beyond your control, and some days you just don’t have it in you the way you imagined you would. It’s okay to step back and make some adjustments. If I don’t allow myself some flexibility, I will undoubtedly end up disappointed many more times.
  • Pacing is hard. Did I go out too fast? There was a downhill, and I had a goal, and the answer from me would still be I don’t think so. I blew up, but I still think under the right circumstances I could have done it, and I don’t think starting slower would have changed how I felt at the end. But seriously people, what do I know? Maybe if I had shuffled along at the beginning, I would have won the race (hahaha I’m so funny). I still really don’t get pacing.
  • I enjoyed racing so much more when I had no expectations. I haven’t really loved a race since The Lost Dutchman, and I went into that race with zero expectations. I wanted to not run it slower than PF Chang’s, and I took 9 minutes off my time on a more challenging course. I still don’t know how it happened, but my guesses would be a fast running partner and low expectations. I’ve had one run since them (my 10 mile time trial) where my brain was in the right place. Running is mental, but not just in the way that your mind tells you it hurts and to quit, but in the way that your mind focuses on the wrong things and convinces you that you can’t do it. I’d like to work on this.
  • Maybe I should be more particular about what goals I put out there for the world to see. Or maybe not? Maybe I should just learn to be okay with occasionally falling short. Maybe I need a reminder that the people in my life want me to succeed, and are not in fact waiting for me to fail so they can laugh at me. I’m not in 7th grade anymore, and although I have a strong argument that this may have been the case then, it certainly isn’t now.
  • Finishing is always an accomplishment. Does any runner actually believe that? I’d like to. I’m working on it. I think I used to.

In conclusion, I ran slow (garmin said I averaged 9:58), I had a temper tantrum, and I’ve mostly gotten over it. Now I’m trying to seem all smart like I know things. To prove I didn’t lay down on the side of the road and give up like I wanted to, here’s a couple of pictures of me pretending I didn’t hate life at the end.

Thank you Steve for making up for my crappy race by getting pictures with both of my feet off the ground, and my legs not looking fat or manly. I appreciate it ;)

AFC Weekend in San Diego

Last weekend, I set out for San Diego with Steve and Stacey for the AFC half marathon. It was a super short trip. We left Friday afternoon after work and were there for a total of maybe 40 hours. We still managed to have a pretty awesome and relaxing Saturday, though. We had a delicious breakfast in Hillcrest at Snooze.

We were able to sit outside and enjoy a little bit of nice weather (the rest of the trip was hot–lame), and pet some super cute puppies. San Diego is super dog friendly. I wish Phoenix was more like that. Anyway, the food at Snooze was amaaaaaazing. I pretty much wanted to order the entire menu, but I settled on an egg white omelete with tons of veggies and goat cheese.

It’s funny because I really tried to be healthy, but then I dug into that omelete and it was pretty much exploding with goat cheese. I tried to pretend for a little while that I was going to scrape most of the cheese to the side, but who am I kidding??? Goat cheese is pretty much my favorite food on earth and this omelete was ridiculously good. I also snagged a bite of Stacey’s oatmeal which was also delicious.

And Steve ended up with this monster

Because clearly food is best when it’s the size of your head.

After breakfast, we walked around Hillcrest for a bit before heading to the race expo.

LOOK!!! WE’RE RUNNING!!!

The expo looked huge on first glance, but ended up being not super exciting. I did buy a new bic band, and for the first time I found one that stays on my head! It’s a thicker one, so I think having more felt is good for my awkward shaped head ;) We ended up browsing the expo for about an hour, then heading out to Coronado Beach.

Check out my awesome tan line. Super cute. It’s in the shape of sports bras/running tanks. Shocking, right?

After the beach, we went back to the hotel for a bit before meeting Coach Susan and some of our teammates for dinner. You know what I don’t understand? The whole pre-race pasta party concept. You go to an Italian restaurant where you are served lame white carbs that do you no good by race time the next day. I’d rather do a pre-race loaf of seedy multi grain bread party. Everyone gets their own loaf, and you don’t have to slice it. You just get a huge side of fancy vinegars and herbs to dip it into. That is something I can get on board with. Anyway, apparently the rest of the world doesn’t share my sentiment, so we ate Italian food. It was alright. I don’t love Italian food these days.

The company was great though! I got to know a few of my teammates a little better (there were a few of us that went), and it was cool to be part of a group. I’ve never done a race while having a coach before. Susan gave us all presents that totally made me all emotional!

Best.Coach.Ever. It’s the small things :)

Me, Coach Susan & Stacey.

The rest of the weekend was spent running, and driving and eating cupcakes. That was my favorite part, obviously. The cupcakes, not the running or driving. Those things were not super fun. Back with more details on the running part soon.

NYC Marathon Training Week 10

Week 10–half way there! This was a huge week. We had our team fundraiser with a big silent auction, and I spent most of the week freaking out over preparing for it. Good thing I had a little lot of help from my friends! The event actually ended up going really well for me , and I am happy to say that once everything is entered in, I should be about half way to my goal! That means there’s still a lot of work to do, but I am starting to feel more confident that I can do this. All of it.

This week was tough for me. I don’t know what it is, but the day after a half marathon I always feel terrible. It doesn’t matter if I’ve done well, or if I’m frustrated with my time, I just feel completely wiped physically and emotionally. The emotional exhaustion just seemed to carry through the week. I honestly can’t be surprised. Most nights I don’t get home until after 9, and then I need time to wind down before I can fall asleep, and then I wake up between 4-5am most days, and it’s just not enough sleep. For the first time, I started to feel like the time commitment of my training was a burden, and I know I don’t *actually* feel that way, but between work, fundraising, training, and trying to not completely suck at being a wife/family member/friend, I just felt like something had to give. I’m hopefully with the stress of the auction behind me, this week will be better. Also, I have an incredibly supportive coach and teammates that are doing everything they can to help me reach my goal.

This week felt like the transition into real marathon training, if that makes sense? For the last 10 months, I’ve been perpetually training for multiple half marathons, and now I don’t have anything scheduled until NYC. Our long runs are getting longer (14 miles this week), and the entire commitment of a full marathon is slowly starting to sink in. It’s tough and it’s presenting unexpected challenges, but I like it. I didn’t sign up for a walk in the park. I signed up to challenge myself, and stretch my abilities in ways I never dreamed were possible.

So, all that said, here’s how it went this week:

Monday–12 mi bike ride. Nice and easy recovery ride with Nicole to get my muscles loosened up post AFC.

Tuesday–Linda’s Spin. Perfection, as always.

Wednesday–Speed work: 8 x 1min. Warm up, 1 min intervals @  6:58, 7:12, 7:21, 7:24, 7:25, 7:17, 7:11, 7:00. My legs were definitely still a little tired, but not too bad.

Thursday–6 mi run. Okay, so I kind of suck at the whole do 2 miles slow then the next 4 at moderate effort thing. I’m really good at the slow part, but then I just slowwwwwwlllllyyyy get faster each mile. I don’t really think that’s the point, but with the heat, I’m still trying to base it on effort. I don’t have it totally figured out yet. I ran with Nicole (who is awesome and slows down from her speedy ways to stick with me) and averaged just over a 10 min pace. I feel like I need to work a little harder on these.

Friday–12 mi bike ride. Ugghhh, this day was annoying. I rode in the 10 min of pouring rain, got picked up by Nicole just as it stopped, then we went back out to ride, but everything was muddy and gross. Ended up cutting it shorter than normal, but as always the company and breakfast/coffee parts were awesome :)

Saturday–14 mi run. Okay, so Friday was the team fundraiser, and I didn’t get home til well after 10. I tried to go straight to bed, but I was all wound up from the evening and it took me forever to fall asleep. I ended up getting between 4-5 hours of sleep, waking up at 4am, and almost convincing myself to go back to bed and just skip the run. It felt impossible, and I knew I had 4 hours of teaching to do right after that I wasn’t quite sure how I’d make it through. I’m not gonna lie, the run was tough, and the rest of the morning was too. However, tough is not impossible, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I didn’t feel great, and it wasn’t my best, but I also didn’t feel horrible, and it wasn’t my worst. I ran with Stacey the entire time, and we ran with Jo a lot which was super helpful, because when you run with someone you don’t know as well, there is more pressure to keep going, haha. I ended up finishing in about 2:26 with a 10:24 average pace. I got some serious runners high and decided that there was nothing in the world I couldn’t accomplish. Then I was so tired that I missed my exit going to the studio, and then stopped at a green light. I was a little weird all day long, but no one really seemed to mind ;)

Sunday–10 mi bike ride. Snail speed. Rode with my perfect husband. He has been so awesome, I could write an entire post about how I’m the luckiest woman alive.

So there you have it friends. Half way through marathon training. Also, I’m working on convincing my mom to come out to NYC to watch me cross the finish line, because at 27 years old, I still haven’t grown out of needing my parents approval when I accomplish things. Okay, let’s be honest, I still haven’t grown out of needing the entire world’s approval, because I thrive on positive reinforcement. ;)