Orange Cranberry Almond Meal Muffins

Have you heard? After Thanksgiving, cranberry is the new pumpkin.

Oh and peppermint is the new sweet potato. Trust me, that’s coming too. I’m pretty obsessed with the chocolate peppermint combination, so it’s only a matter of time. But for now, I’m in cranberry land.

Let me just say, I’m usually pretty skeptical about any type of “muffin” that doesn’t include flour. I’m a girl who likes her bread. Thick, doughy, gluteny bread is a staple in my diet, and I’m not ashamed.

I had my reservations about just using almond meal. I thought they would come out dense and brick-like. I didn’t think there was any way I could have a perfect fluffy muffin with no flour.

Turns out, almond meal muffins are basically perfection. Soft, fluffy, hearty and filling! I hate when you try to eat a “muffin” for breakfast-and by muffin I mean a glorified cupcake that’s missing the frosting-and 5 minutes later you’re hungry again because you just ate the equivalent of a bowl of ice cream for breakfast. These muffins could actually serve as an on-the-go breakfast. That is, if you’re not me and don’t feel the overpowering urge to eat half your calories before noon.

I don’t know what it is, but I always wake up feeling like a ravenous beast. You know those people who skip breakfast? I DON’T GET IT!! So, you know, I’d probably pair one of these up with, like, half a dozen eggs, but if you’re a normal human, you could just grab one on your way out the door, and be good to go.

The sweet and tart orange and cranberry flavors meld perfectly with the hearty nutty flavor to make the perfect breakfast treat that you can share with just about anybody!

Orange Cranberry Almond Meal Muffins

yield 10-12 muffins

adapted from Bran Appetit

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 3 tbs corn starch
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together almond meal, corn starch, baking powder and salt. Stir in almond milk, honey/agave, orange juice and extracts until combined. Fold in dried cranberries.
  3. Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full. Bake for 20–25 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

 

Gingerbread Hot White Chocolate

So you know that moment when you have your first hot chocolate of the year? Like the real first one that doesn’t come from a powder? The kind that’s thick, creamy, rich, and decadent and makes you feel like a big jerk for not following the “don’t drink your calories rule”?

Oh yes, it happened.

LOOK AT THE STEAM!!!

I’m still real proud of my steam shots ;) Anyway, one of my favorite things to do this time of year is get in the car with a scalding hot cup of hot chocolate (I can’t stand when it gets cold!) and go look at Christmas lights. Steve and I go at least once a year. It’s tradition. Something about the combination of the lights, the mood in the air, and the delicious treat just makes me all kinds of happy.

Buuuuuut, I have a confession. I’ve never made hot chocolate that doesn’t come from a powder. I don’t know why. That crappy diet hot chocolate has 25 calories so I can shovel pounds of whipped cream on it, or something? I don’t know. It’s silly, because this hot chocolate is sososoSO good! It’s so thick and creamy that you would think it’s made with whole milk or cream!

It was the perfect night time treat, and it’s like one of those secretly healthier recipes. You know, the kind you can make for all the people in your life that talk crap about all your Greek yogurt and vegetables. You can give this to them, then get that secret satisfaction as they slurp it all up. Then, if you’re me, you’ll yell out all kinds of unnecessary comments like “HAH!! That was healthy! I fooled you! Take that suckerrrr!” I swear, I’m very mature.

Moral of the story? Make the hot chocolate. Act super immature when you fool all your friends and family into chugging down your lightened up dessert. ;)

 

Gingerbread Hot White Chocolate

yield 2 servings

  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 1/2 oz white chocolate
  • dash pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash cloves
  • dash nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small-medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until mixture is desired temperature and all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

**Note: You could also make this in the crockpot on low for 2 hours whisking occasionally.

PF Chang’s Marathon Training Week 2

And just like that, I’m back into peak marathon training. Somehow I only have 2 long distance runs left before it’s time to taper. This second section of training that I expected to take forrrrrrever seems to be flying by, and I can see definite improvements from the last time around! It’s nice because I’m no longer scared of these distances, so I can push myself more, and I’m seeing a pretty big difference in speed especially in my long runs. Sweet. Here’s how last week’s training went down:

Monday: Rest. This was the unintentionally real life becoming more important than exercise type of rest day. I planned to do something, but I had no idea what, and then life got busy and I didn’t stress myself out to try to fit it in. Most people have a hard time fitting their work outs into their lives; I sometimes have a hard time fitting my life around my workouts, and honestly, that just seems silly, so I took a real life day and got stuff done.

Tuesday: 6 mile run. My best friend Bethany is working really hard on her running and I am sosoSO proud of her! She wanted to tackle her first ever 6 mile run, so I ran with her and she ROCKED it! It’s so great to be able to run with her and watch her make so much progress!

Wednesday: 3.5 mile run. Easy run before physical therapy with Ashley. 10 min pace, then a whole like 5 minutes of abs that made me want to die. must.start.strength.training.

Thursday: Mesa Turkey Trot 10k. Check out the recap!

Friday: 8.5 mile bike. Easy ride to coffee with Steve.

Saturday: 17.17 mile run. This run started out tough. Nicole and I were both feeling slow and lethargic, and I watched our first few miles clock in ridiculously slow. I knew I wanted to beat my time for my last 17 miler, and I felt like finishing in less than 2:55 would be a nice bonus. I was a little worried about our first slow miles, but I know myself, and I know that’s just how my body works on long runs, and I really believe it’s for the best. I always start ridiculously slow and negative split the crap out of it, but I still always worry that I won’t have enough left in the tank to make up for it at the end. However, looking back at the splits from just 2 months ago, I can see a huge difference even in my slowest miles, and as always, we sped up. A lot. The plan called for the first minute of the final 10 miles to be at goal pace. This was a nice way to break up all of those miles at the end. We had something to focus on for a minute out of every mile that wasn’t “GOOD LORD HOW MUCH LONGER????” At first we were slightly speeding up to make these first minutes happen, but soon we were running faster than goal pace, and then we were confused–Do we speed up? Slow down? Run the same? Sing Call Me Maybe? 

We kind just kept doing our thing, and I finished 17.17 miles in 2:54:25 for an average pace of 10:09. That is pretty darn good for these slow legs! The end started feeling hard, and I was tired, but I felt so much better than after the first time. I was peppy and energized rather than lethargic and in pain. I also did a much better job of taking care of myself afterwards. Nicole and I got in her pool for an ice bath with our Dutch Bro’s, then stretched for quite a while. It made a world of difference!

Sunday: Rest. Necessary and fabulous.

Totals for the week:

Running: 32.95
Cycling: 8.5

Onward.

Tell me about your training!

 

Mesa Turkey Trot Race Recap

Last year, I started my Thanksgiving with my first ever double digit run. This year, if I wanted to start it with a PDR, I would have needed to run 21+ miles, and ummm, that wasn’t happening. So I decided to run the Mesa Turkey Trot with Nicole. Thanksgiving morning, we headed over at around 7:45. The race didn’t start until 9 which seemed really late to me. We got there, quickly registered (it was only $25!! I was a big fan of that!), and got in the seemingly endless porta potty line.

After a good 20 minutes of waiting in line, we headed over to the start. I was really excited because I’ve only run one other 10k before and it was almost a year ago, so a PR seemed like it was in the bag. Unfortunately, as we were waiting to start I was like “Hey, I’m not cold. Not even a little bit. That’s probably a bad sign…” You see, I’m more temperature sensitive than an Eskimo at the equator. If I don’t start a race with constant complaints about how cold I am, I know I’m not going to feel particularly great once I start running.

The plan was to run the first mile around half marathon pace, and then slowly negative split from there. We ran the first mile in 9:05 which was right on pace, but it felt way harder than it should have. I was sweating and feeling tired way earlier than I wanted to be, and after the first mile my stomach decided it was PISSED. I started having sharp stabbing in my stomach similar to what I felt during Pat’s Run. It was frustrating. Actually, it still is frustrating. To be honest, all of the pain and, um, issues I was having before my surgery really haven’t gotten any better, and maybe gotten worse? But that’s a story for an other day. I was feeling pretty miserable, and Nicole kept asking if I wanted to walk, but I was trying to be stubborn, and we ended up running the second mile around 8:50.

Unfortunately, I just kept feeling worse and around mile 3 I asked Nicole if we could stop to walk for a bit to give my stomach a chance to settle itself. It helped a little, but I ended up having to stop about every mile for the same reason. Needless to say, I was not having a great time. Not to mention, it started to feel like it was about a million degrees out. It wasn’t that hot of a day, but the sun just felt so intense, and it definitely wasn’t doing me any favors. Luckily, the last mile I miraculously started to feel a little better? Maybe it’s just that I knew I was almost done, but I got a serious second wind and remembered that I liked running. It also helped that Nicole stuck with me the whole way even though I was kind of a mess.

It’s funny, in the middle of the race I had been pretty certain that I had sucked it up so badly that I wasn’t even going to PR, but then somehow I crossed the finish line in 56:40? My PR was 59:58. Hmmmm…

Nicole looks super cute in her turkey hat. My face looks pretty awful, but I like that both of my feet are off the ground ;)

Oh hey, that’s better ;)

Wheeeee!

So it wasn’t actually a total bust. I’m happy to have a new PR, even if it wasn’t quite the goal I had in mind, and the whole thing kind of gave me a swift kick in the ass to get some things figured out. I don’t think that feeling sick so much of the time is normal, gallbladder or no gallbladder. I try to just keep a positive attitude about things, and figure that everyone deals with some sort of issues when it comes to running, I think I’ve been in denial a bit, and it’s not doing me any favors. Even in Shun the Sun where I ran really well, I didn’t feel great for the entire last half of the race. So I’m gonna work on some things diet wise (l’m trying to eat less fiber–I think my intake might be bordering on excessive, and playing around with when/how much coffee I drink), and make an appointment with my doctor.

On a more positive note, here’s a picture of Coach Susan basically winning the whole thing ;)

Skinnified Sunday: Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars

It’s the mooooost wonderful time of the year!

Okay, so the truth is I’ve been listening to 99.9 since the day after Thanksgiving when they first started playing Christmas music, and I made these babies long before Thanksgiving.

I just can’t even contain my excitement! When Target put up the first few holiday items back in October, everyone else scoffed while I got secretly giddy.

I am a sucker for the holiday season and I have no shame. The lights, the shopping for presents, the music, and of course, the amazing holiday flavors.

I swear, every time I step into Starbucks it’s like an exercise in self control. Between the salted caramel hot chocolate (my favorite), those freaking snow man cookies (I just love those guys!) and of course the cranberry bliss bars–a white chocolate chip blondie topped with cream cheese frosting and sweet dried cranberries? I diiiiiie.

White chocolate and cranberry go together like peanut butter and jelly. No, like peanut butter and chocolate! For a long time I thought I hated cranberries. BIG MISTAKE!

I made these delicious bars last year and they were a huge hit, but the pictures were, um….

Yeah….suffice it to say, they didn’t do the food justice ;) These are absolute perfection–the perfectly soft gooey blondie filled with while chocolate chips and the smooth and creamy white chocolate cream cheese frosting topped with the sweet and tart dried cranberries. Heaven.

I adapted this recipe from Recipe Girl’s Cranberry Bliss Bars.

My swaps:

  • Half recipe
  • Pumpkin puree or apple butter for butter (-fat, -saturate fat, -calories)
  • Egg substitute for eggs (-fat, -calories, -cholesterol)
  • Less brown sugar (-sugar, -calories)
  • White whole wheat flour for regular (+fiber, +protein)
  • Reduced fat cream cheese for regular (-fat, -calories)
  • Less white chocolate (-fat, -calories, -sugar)

 Skinnified Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars

yield 16 small bars or 8 large

Skinnified Cranberry Bliss Bars

For the blondie:

  • 6 tbs pumpkin puree or apple butter (I’ve tried both and they both work really well)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 2 tbs white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • dash salt
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

For the frosting:

  • 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ounces white chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2.  In a large bowl, combine pumpkin/apple butter, and brown sugar using a hand mixer.  Add egg substitute and vanilla.
  3.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder.
  4.  Add dry ingredients into wet mixture and mix until incorporated. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate.
  5.  Bake for 18-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, cool completely.
  6.  Using a hand mixer, combine cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar. Add in melted white chocolate. Spread cream cheese frosting across cooled bars and top with cranberries.