DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

 

You know what is not easy? Taking pictures of flour.

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

 

I know, I know….food blogger problems…

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

There have always been a lot of recipes that I pass up on making because I reallllly don’t like to use white flour. It’s a weird thing. I don’t freak out if someone else makes something with it, but I just really prefer to use whole grains, especially when I’m creating things for Ari’s Menu.

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

 

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but it always seems silly to buy an entire container of something I know I’ll only use once. In fact, I only really buy two flours: whole wheat pastry, and white whole wheat, but you know what? I would package this up and buy it in a heart beat!

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

 

I’ve never seen whole wheat cake flour in the grocery store, so I decided to get creative, and make my own. There are a lot of tutorials out there that teach you how to make your own cake flour, so I used to same concept, and just used whole wheat pastry in place of all purpose. You could probably do the same thing with white whole wheat flour as well, I’d imagine, and even plain old wheat, although it would probably bake a bit denser.

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

 

As soon as I made this, I used it to whip up a batch of cookies. Very special cookies. They came out amazing, so I’d say the flour was a big success! They baked up fluffy, and cake-like (which is perfect for these cookies). Creating the cake flour took me all of an extra 2 minutes in the process, so I would highly recommend giving it a try next time you find a recipe that calls for cake flour–here’s an easy way to healthy it up in minutes.

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

 

 

DIY Whole Wheat Cake Flour

yield 1 cup

  • 1 cup minus 2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Measure out 1 level cup of whole wheat cake flour and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Remove 2 tbsp of flour and replace with 2 tbsp cornstarch. Lightly whisk together. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container just as you would any other flour.

Best of 2012

bakedchickenwaffles-8

This has been an incredible year for my little blog. This time last year, I had my first day with over 100 visitors, and I was thrilled! Since then, I’ve gotten a little better with the camera and in the kitchen, and I have put out a lost of posts and recipes that I am really proud of. I love seeing what posts you guys love most. So here are your favorite recipes of 2012!

10. Gluten-Free Cannoli Bars

9. Spinach Artichoke Mac & Cheese

8. Salted Chocolate Cookie Butter Cups (vegan)

7. Cookie Butter Brownie Bars

6. Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

5. Skinnified Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

4. Skinnified “Fettuccine” Alfredo (gluten-free)

3. Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cup Cupcakes

2. Cake Batter Dip

annnndddd dun duh duh dunnnnnn

1. Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad

I have to say, I was pretty surprised by #1! I mean, I LOVE that recipe, and I literally make it all the time, but for some reason, I didn’t think you guys would love it as much as I do. However, it was the clear winner, and it has inspired an other awesome dish that is sitting in my fridge, and will be coming your way very soon. ;)

I also wanted to share my  favorites from the year. Ummm, that’s hard. I truly do love every recipe I share. If I don’t love it, I’m not going to tell you to make it. That’s silly. But there are definitely some that stand out to me, so in no particular order, here are my 10 favorites. Some of them are repeats because you guys have great taste! ;)

Okay, I fibbed. That was 11, but I just really loved them!

YOUR TURN!! Tell me your favorite recipes of the year–from my blog, your blog, anyone’s blog, ANYWHERE! :) Feel free to leave links to some of yours and hopefully get some love on your favorites!

Spaghetti Squash Boats

Spaghetti Squash Boats #glutenfree

Spaghetti Squash Boats #glutenfree

 

I have a confession. I kind of secretly dislike all of those “Get Back On Track After The Holidays” posts that go up. I know, I know…. And the thing is, I know that the best way to get back to feeling great after a period of eating less than great is to fill up on good healthy food and remind myself that contrary to recent events, I do actually love vegetables.

Spaghetti Squash Boats #glutenfree

 

It just seems so….cliche. However, I know there’s always this big “problem” of WHAT DO WE EAT BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEARS??? Family is in town, you’re sick of leftovers, and every restaurant in town seems to have a two hour wait.

Spaghetti Squash Boats #glutenfree

 

*Insert mandatory cliche about how this dish will help you stay healthy during the holidays*

Spaghetti Squash Boats #glutenfree

 

Okay, but seriously, how can your family not enjoy these super cute spaghetti squash boats??? Everyone gets their own individual “boat”, and it looks so much fancier than it actually is! In fact, the only real time spent on this recipe is the time it takes to roast the squash. Then you just whip up a quick meat sauce, and you’re good to go! That leaves you with less time in the kitchen, and more time to relax and spend time with the people in your life.

Spaghetti Squash Boats #glutenfree

 

Ever since I discovered spaghetti squash, I almost never go back to real pasta. It’s probably my favorite discovery in healthy cooking. I mean let’s be real here, we eat pasta to get to the sauce. No one orders plain spaghetti with no sauce. The pasta is merely the vehicle, and this squash is, in my opinion, a MORE delicious vehicle. It may not take the place of a gnocchi or ravioli,  but when it comes to noodles, I find it more delicious, and as someone who loves to eat, I love the fact that I can load my plate up and still feel great afterwards! It’s the perfect way to sneak in veggies.

Spaghetti Squash Boats #glutenfree

 

I used a spicy meat sauce, although you could use regular if you don’t like spicy, and loaded it up into each squash, then topped each boat with a little mozzarella cheese that I broiled until brown and crispy–just how I like my cheese! I served it up to a group of friends, and there was not a single bite left at the end of the evening. If you’re on the fence about the pasta swap, trust me, this is the way to try it!

 

Spaghetti Squash Boats

yield 4 servings

  • 2 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 20 oz 99% lean ground turkey breast (you can also use the 93-94% or 96% lean ground beef)
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried basil
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper (more or less depending on desired spiciness), optional
  • 1 cup freshly grated part skim mozzarella cheese (you can use pre-grated if necessary)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Slice spaghetti squash length wise and scrape out the seeds. Rub 1/4 tbsp olive oil into squash half and season with salt and pepper. Place spaghetti squash face down in a large baking dish and bake for 40-60 min. When squash is done, middle will be tender and pull apart easily.
  2. In a large pan, sautee onion and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat until fragrant. Add ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper and cook until browned. Add crushed tomato and remaining spices. When sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat to a simmer until thickened (about 3-4 minutes).
  3. When spaghetti squash is fully cooked, flip in the baking dish so that it is now skin side down. Evenly divide sauce between each squash half. Top each “boat” with 1/4 cup cheese. Turn oven to broil, and cook for an other 2 minutes, until cheese is browned and bubbling. This happens very quickly–make sure to watch closely, otherwise it can burn easily.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies #vegan

OOOOMMMMMGGGGG it’s 3 days until Christmas!!!!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies #vegan

The other day I was teasing Nicole about being backed up on her recipe posting. “Are you even going to be able to post everything by Christmas???” I asked her. She responded with “I have to post every day.”

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies #vegan

 

It was so funny until I started counting and realized that I do too…

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies #vegan

You see, I may have gotten a little overzealous in my holiday baking this year. I’ve just been so excited! I didn’t realize how many holiday themed recipes I had to share with you until just now! Either that, or I’ve been in denial that it’s actually Christmastime, not just the time I like to call “Christmastime” that begins on Veteran’s Day…

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies #vegan

 

Perhaps instead of spending my time blogging I should be out, you know, buying presents for the 700 people still on my list. But I already did all the hard work on the recipes. This is just like doing the wrapping, which I LOVE…obviously.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies #vegan

 

Actually, I wish I had 2 dozen more of these cookies to use for gift wrapping fuel right now. Sally always tells me I should use cookies for “fuel” and I’m beginning to think she’s onto something. How much more fun is sitting on the floor in a mess of wrapping paper, dollar store tape, and puppy hair when you have spicy, cinnamony chocolate cookies stuffed with melty, oozy chile dark chocolate to keep you warm and energized??

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies #vegan

 

These cookies will keep you warm and cozy even if you live in a place that actually has winter. Pinky promise. And if the dough didn’t have enough bold spices, I’ve topped them off with a dusting of cinnamon powdered sugar for even more cinnamon sweetness. You will absolutely love with the way the cayenne and cinnamon pair with the sweet, rich dark chocolate. So much love.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies #vegan

 

And if you love it as much as I do, I have to give some love to some of the best cookies I’ve eaten. Ever. Oooooomg, make both batches at once and you will be so happy.

 

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

yield approx 2.5 dozen

  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pinch black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 5 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3-1/2 chile dark chocolate bar, chopped into fairly large chunks (big enough so that each cookie only needs 1, small enough that a 1″ cookie dough ball can cover it completely)

For the powdered sugar topping:

  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, espresso powder, baking powder, salt, and peppers. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together melted chocolate, sugar, apple butter, almond milk and vanilla, Slowly mix in dry ingredients until well combined. Cover dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes (this is optional, but recommended).
  3. Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 large baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper. Roll chilled dough into 1″ dough balls then press a chunk of chile dark chocolate in the center and re-roll the dough so it is covering the chocolate completely and drop onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes until set. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and cinnamon, then lightly dust cookies with mixture.

 

Cookie Butter Puppy Chow

Cookie Butter Puppy Chow

Do you call it puppy chow or muddy buddies?

Cookie Butter Puppy Chow

 

I call it delicious.

Cookie Butter Puppy Chow

 

If you’re not familiar, first of all I’m so sorry, you’ve been missing out. Puppy chow is usually Chex cereal mixed with chocolate and peanut butter and then covered with powdered sugar. It’s one of those perfectly simple snacky desserts that takes about 5 minutes to make, and is always a hit. I’ve been making it for years since before I knew how to cook or bake, and I always find myself reaching back into the container to sneak more out.

Cookie Butter Puppy Chow

 

One of the great things about puppy chow is that the possibilities are endless. I used to think I was “fancy” when I would add white chocolate. Back in the day, that’s what I considered “being creative”. I guess you could say that even before I knew what I was doing, I always wanted to change things up and add my own flair. I just can’t help it.

Cookie Butter Puppy Chow

 

This recipe isn’t what you’d call innovative, or let’s be honest….healthy, BUT  it is sososo yummy, and a perfect foodie gift to give to all of your friends, family, after school theatre teacher (they like presents too! ;) ), or you know, yourself. I used TJ’s speculoos cookie butter, but you could also use Biscoff spread. The perfectly sweet spread pairs perfectly to create a mix with hints of cinnamon and ginger flavors to give you some extra holiday spirit.

Cookie Butter Puppy Chow

 

 

Cookie Butter Puppy Chow

  • 2/3 cup cookie butter or Biscoff spread
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (or dark chocolate chips, or cinnamon chips, or butterscotch chips…)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 9 cups Corn Chex cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cookie butter, coconut oil and chocolate chips until fully melted and combined, stirring constantly. Slowly stir in cereal, mixing gently until cereal is fully coated.
  2. Transfer to a large trash bag or paper bag and pour in powdered sugar. For lack of a better term, shake the heck out of it! Just keep shaking it around (make sure the top is fully sealed! ;) ) until everything has come together. Lay out to cool on parchment paper, then store in an airtight container.

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies #vegan #glutenfree

The other night I had dinner at my mom’s house. As I’ve gotten older, she tells me more and more funny stories about my childhood. I don’t know why growing up we didn’t seem to talk about it much, but now one of my favorite things is listening to her tell stories about me when I was little. Maybe it’s because I just reallllly like to talk about myself? It’s my favorite topic in case you haven’t noticed. ;)

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies #vegan #glutenfree

 

Food is probably second. Or running. It’s a close call. I’m sure this is a shocking revelation considering my content.

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies #vegan #glutenfree

 

Anyway, my mom was talking about about teaching me to ride a bike. I reminded her that my friend’s dad had to teach me, and she admitted that things like that were never her strength. Apparently teaching me to cross the street was about her limit. She said she told me to “look both ways”, and so every time I crossed the street I would just look back and forth, back and forth, all the way across. Like a penguin.

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies #vegan #glutenfree

 

What can I say? I’m special. She did say that she was never a baby person, but that when my brother and I came out, it changed all of that. I was perfect, but he cried all the time. I mean, at least that’s what I heard when she told the story. He was fussy, and I wasn’t, but then she says “You just really liked to eat.”

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies #vegan #glutenfree

 

At which point Steve and I both cracked up laughing because, well…DUH! You guys, I never stood a chance!

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies #vegan #glutenfree

 

She said every time she would walk in the room, I’d think it was time for lunch. I seriously laughed so hard because I don’t think it’s ever stopped. I spend all day daydreaming about food–what I can make, what I can eat, how far I’m going to have to run so that I can eat more….

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies #vegan #glutenfree

 

But you know what? I’m kind of okay with it. It is my ridiculous obsession with food that brings you lovely treats like these cookies, and trust me, you don’t want to live in a world where these cookies do not exist. They are so soft and fluffy, in fact, I still cannot get over the perfect texture almond meal brings to baked goods. They’re perfectly delicate, and not at all heavy or the bad kind of chewy that makes you NEED the glass of milk instead of just enjoying it on the side….you know what I mean. They are just perfect with the hint or Irish cream in the flavor and the bold stand out dark chocolate chunks. And they are sososo easy! I mixed everything together in one bowl! I love a good small prep time with minimal dishes dessert. They are like a perfect gem. You know, kind of like me ;)

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies #vegan #glutenfree

 

Except, we all know I’m not delicate, and I really hope I wouldn’t be considered “chewy” either. That would be weird.

 

Almond Meal Baileys Chocolate Chunk Cookies

yield about 15 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup vegan “baileys”
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz dark dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together almond meal, baking soda, cornstarch, brown sugar and salt. Add Baileys and vanilla and mix until well combined. Fold in dark chocolate.
  3. Use a small cookie scoop to drop onto prepared baking pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Truffle Stuffed Candy Cane Cookies

Truffle Stuffed Candy Cane Cookies

Everyone has their holiday candy of choice.

Truffle Stuffed Candy Cane Cookies

I’m not usually a candy person. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if it includes sugar, I almost always enjoy it, but candy is certainly not my dessert of choice. If it isn’t frozen or baked, it’s usually pretty easy for me to pass up. For me, candy is a topping or an ingredient, not a dessert. It goes on top of my fro yo, or in this case, inside of my cookie.

Truffle Stuffed Candy Cane Cookies

Have I ever told you about birthdays in my family? I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that they have always been a big deal. The other day I was talking with some friends about how our families are big on celebrations and my friend Lauran said “If we could, my family would celebrate Tuesday!” Well, that pretty much sums up my dad. Birthdays, half birthdays, quarter birhdays, 5/16 of a century birthdays. You think I’m joking. He never fails to remind me juuuust how close to 30 I’m getting by giving me fractional decade updates. Thanks dad. Being 7/8 of my way to 30 or whatever the last number you gave me is really something I want to celebrate.

Truffle Stuffed Candy Cane Cookies

Leading up to my mom’s birthday last year, he kept emailing her daily count downs. They haven’t been married for about 26 years. My family is…well, different. Those after school specials about there being “more than one way to have a family” must have been made special for me and my cooky family.

Truffle Stuffed Candy Cane Cookies

 

So….I made these for my dad. For his half birthday, because that’s something we celebrate. I always make my incredibly Jewish father Christmas themed half birthday desserts because his half birthday is December 1st, and that time of year, all I want to cook with is eggnog and candy canes. Best daughter ever.

Truffle Stuffed Candy Cane Cookies

Oh, but about candies (tangent much?), my holiday candy is the Lindt truffle. Pretty much any flavor, any time; always has been. When I was a kid, my dad would always buy them for me this time of year, and I’ve even gotten Steve’s family hooked on them! One of my students must have read my mind and given me a whole bag as a part of my secret santa present, and they were not doing me any favors by sitting there taunting me, so into the cookies they went, and the rest is history.

According to Hermano, these are “the best cookies I’ve ever made”. This was after he told me my lentil soup was “not his favorite soup”, so at least we know he’s being honest. To be fair, I loved the lentil soup, but nothing can really compare to a perfectly chewy cookie with pieces of crunchy candy cane stuffed with a rich, delicious Lindt chocolate truffle that melts into the cookie, and then perfectly into your mouth at first bite. The cookies are ridiculous.

 

Truffle Stuffed Candy Cane Cookies

yield 9 huge cookies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbs white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup light whipped cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbsp turbinado sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 tbsp egg substitute (an egg white would work too)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 candy canes, crushed
  • 9 Lindt truffles, frozen (any flavor–they’re all good, but I used milk chocolate)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugars. Add almond milk, egg substitute and vanilla bean paste and beat until combined. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture and beat until combined. Stir in crushed candy canes. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper. Cover each frozen truffle completely with chilled cookie dough and roll into a ball, then place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes (they are big cookies, it takes a while), turning half way through, until the edges are browned and cookies are completely set. Let stand for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cook completely.

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies with Eggnog Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling {Vegan}

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies with Eggnog Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling #vegan

Longest title ever?

I’m officially in a holiday cookie induced sugar coma and I may never come out. I mean, I’m beginning to wonder what I will do with my life once it’s December 26th? Will I have to go back to normal recipes??? THE HORROR!!

Can we talk about the whole concept of “seasonal” foods??? I mean, it’s bad enough that honeycrisp apples only exist for like 3 weeks out of the year, but eggnog and ginger exist YEAR ROUND my friends. So does peppermint. Why do we have to pretend it is only excited in the winter time?? I want to drink eggnog from the carton in July with no shame. You may ask for world peace. I ask for eggnog in July. I fail to see the difference.

I don’t really understand the idea that if you only have something once in a while, it’s supposed to be more special or something? I guess they call that moderation. I don’t have it.

And before you judge me, let me tell you, once you taste these whoopie pies, you won’t have it either. I was a little unsure how the eggnog flavor would go with the chocolate. Oooooooomg. Why have we not been eating chocolate eggnog every day for our entire lives????? Okay, blah blah blah, heart disease… Whatever. It’s amazing.

Whoopie pies are only, like, my favorite thing ever. They’re up there with cilantro and fro yo. Is it cake? Is it a cookie? What is that delicious filling??? Oh, it’s just a freaking WHOOPIE PIE. Soft and cake-like gingerbread cookie stuffed with rich dark chocolate and eggnog that is so delicious you’ll want to lick the crumbs off your silpat. Not that I did anything like that….

 

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies with Eggnog Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling

yield one dozen large whoopie pies

For the cookie/cake (adapted from Damn Delicious)

  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tbs white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling:
  • 2 oz dark chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp rum extract
  • 2 tbs soy nog

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch. In a large bowl, beat together applesauce, brown sugar and molasses. Beat in half of the dry ingredients to the applesauce mixture, followed by the almond milk, apple cider vinegar and vanilla. Beat in remaining half of the dry ingredients.
  3. Using a small-medium cookie scoop, drop batter onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the filling, place all ingredients in a small microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir well. If chocolate if not completely melted after stirring, continue to heat for 15 second increments until stirring melts it completely. Allow mixture to cool at room temperature or in the fridge until it has thickened and is no longer runny (about 15 minutes in the fridge, or 20 at room temp). Do not keep it in the fridge too long, or it will harden.
  5. Spread filling over 1/2 of the cookies/cakes (whatever you want to call the gingerbread part…), then top with an other cookie/cake.

PF Chang’s Marathon Training Week 5

IMG_20121214_165027

I have so much to tell you. First of all, I’ve just discovered that my running mileage for 2012 is currently sitting at 925 miles. I’d secretly kind of had the goal of getting to 1,000, but I didn’t really put much thought into it, because honestly, I just didn’t think I would. I don’t do very well with a ton of mileage, so I just tried to follow my plan, and keep this little goal in the back of my mind….Until it got so close that I can taste it! Now I have to do it, right??? I mean, I don’t plan on being stupid and killing myself this close to the marathon if something hurts, but it definitely gives me a little added motivational push when I’ve been struggling a bit mentally.

Also, I *think* I’m getting closer to figuring out my fueling/stomach issues. It’s kind of a constant battle for me. Almost any food before a run can cause a lot of unpleasantness with no gallbladder, but I’m not a person who can do a long run on gu alone. I’ve always eaten Ezekiel bread with nut butter and sometimes a banana before a run since, like, forever. I never thought that was the culprit because back in the day it worked great, but I started to think about the fiber of the bread and the fat of the nut butter. My body can’t process fats as well now, and let’s just say I don’t think my body needs any added fiber in my life ever. So for my long run this week, I bought a white flour bagel and put pumpkin butter on top. My stomach felt the best it has felt in a loooooong time. I was so happy!!! I had to make one stop in the first mile, and then had no issues for 18 whole miles!! This is a big deal in my world, friends.

However, I still get hungry–like stomach growling hungry–and feel somewhat depleted around 15 miles even with fueling often. I’m not sure how to fix that other than maybe playing with my meal the night before and trying to bulk it up? I always make sure to eat a decent amount of carbs at dinner, but maybe I need more? If anyone has any brilliant advice on the subject, I’d love to hear it! Anyway, here’s how last week went down:

Monday: 5 mile run. I was having a realllll hard time getting motivated for this run, but I got out there, and of course as soon as I did, it felt great! I set my garmin to a screen where I couldn’t see my pace, and just cruised at what felt comfortable, which ended up averaging in at 9:40. That is not my usual “easy” pace. I was pretty stoked about it.

Tuesday: Off.

Wednesday: “Track” and strength training. At PT I ended up doing all sorts of crap–one legged dead lifts on the bosu ball, abs, triceps, this thing where I threw a ball at the wall…I was sore for like 3 days, and I felt like a total wimp, but at least I strength trained a little! That afternoon I met up with Stacey to do our scheduled track work out. We met up in the early afternoon, and it was about 72* which is perfect for a picnic, but it felt warm (at least to me) to run in. It wasn’t an easy run, but we still rocked it. We did a short warm up then 1 mile @ 9:03, 1200 @ 8:28, 800 @ 7:55, then 3×400 @ 7:16, 6:56, 6:43, then a short cool down. I kind of wanted to die, but in a good way?

Thursday: Off.

Friday: 18 mile run. You know, I kind of thought the long runs would be easier this time around. Turns out….they’re not. BUT I’m faster this time around. A lot faster. My last 18 mile run took me 3 hours and 8 minutes, and I shaved 7 minutes and 26 seconds per mile off of that this time around! This run was amazing, and hard, and fun all at the same time! Nicole and I both started out feeling a little rough. Her ankle was bugging her, and I woke up with a stabbing pain in my hip (I’ve had it before, and it’s not from running, and it always goes away so I wasn’t worried, just annoyed). We had to stop and stretch a few times in the first few miles, and we kinda decided to let it be what it was going to be, not stress, and enjoy the scenery.

Look at this house!!! We thought their decorations were so cool that we stopped to take pictures. Is it Halloween?? Is it Christmas??? Who knows, but it's awesome!

Look at this house!!! We thought their decorations were so cool that we stopped to take pictures. Is it Halloween?? Is it Christmas??? Who knows, but it’s awesome!

IMAG0992

"Nicole, why is their Christmas so scary???"

“Nicole, why is their Christmas so scary???”

"Don't worry Ari, I'll protect you! Super Nicole to the rescue!"

“Don’t worry Ari, I’ll protect you! Super Nicole to the rescue!”

We took a totally new route which took us through Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix and it was gorgeous, and a great way to change things up! Also, fall running is my nice.

IMG_20121214_165027 By the end, we had both totally surprised ourselves, and I ran my fastest long run of marathon training ever with an average pace of 10:02. Granted, we definitely took our share of breaks, so I don’t know how accurately that represents where I am pace wise, but it sure felt great to see such an awesome time! And then there was well earned chocolate milk/coffee with chocolate milk per usual.

IMAG0997

I was dreaming of you too, Dutch Bros…

Saturday: Off.

Sunday: 3 mile run. That 925 lit a fire, plus I figured 3 work outs this week wasn’t really great, so I ran to my mom’s house for dinner. 3 nice and easy miles averaging a 9:37 pace, and then there was food, so that was good.

Tell me something awesome. I don’t care what it is, or what subject it’s about. I would just like to hear awesome things. :)

Hot Chocolate 15k Race Recap

IMG957543

This is a weird race to write about. I ran 9.3 miles. I raced 3 of them. I really did enjoy myself, and I actually felt pretty proud of myself at the end, but I haven’t been sure exactly what to say about the whole experience.

The boring stuff: Hot Chocolate had a shakey start from what I read about their first race, but they’ve totally gotten their act together. The race was well organized, and even though the course was borrrrrrrrring, I would definitely do it again.

Okay, so Nicole and I had been planning to run together. Neither of us had ever run a 15k before, but I was really excited and had pace plans all mapped out in my head thinking this would the perfect opportunity to practice pacing for a sub 2 half, and really, I’m always excited to race with Nicole. She’s faster than me and she pushes me, and most importantly, we always laugh–at 5am, when it’s hard, at at the end of mile 18, we never stop laughing.

IMG956779

Right as the race was about to start, we found Stacey, got into our corral and we were off. This part was annoying. When I signed up, I had predicted my pace would be around a 9 min/mile. We were in the second corral which scared the crap out of me, but literally for the first 1/2 mile, it was so congested, and everyone was going so slowly that I couldn’t get anywhere near my goal pace. Wahhhh. I was that girl weaving around, and Nicole and Stacey followed me. Apparently I was on a mission that morning! We finally got our own space, got our pace down, and completed the first mile in 9:10–right on target. Unfortunately, Nicole had an injury that had started bugging her a couple of days before, and she was not feeling great. She told me she was going to walk for a bit (which this girl NEVER does, and how I knew something was wrong), and I slowed right down with her. She stuck with me during the turkey trot when I was having major stomach issues, and there was no way I was going to leave her. Stacey stuck with us too, and my goals very quickly changed to being with my friends–there are plenty of other races.

We walked for a bit, then tried to run again, but it was obvious Nicole was hurting, so we stopped and I told her I wasn’t going anywhere until she turned around. The marathon is a month away, and no 15k is worth risking your first marathon if you’re in pain. As soon as Stacey and I started to run again, I immediately felt totally guilty. Why was I still running??? I should have stopped and turned around with her. One of my best friends was struggling, and I turned and kept running. I felt like crap about it, and considered turning around about 100 times, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find her, and I was just conflicted, so I kept going. Of course she didn’t expect me to stay with her, and I wouldn’t have wanted someone to stop with me, but I just wished I would have stuck with her.

Anyway, I kept running with Stacey, and I just couldn’t get my head back in the game. I felt guilty, I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal of 1:25, I just wasn’t pushing, and kinda just wanted to be done. There was pretty much no crowd support, and the course just kept going baaaaack and forth in the same area over and over. I wasn’t into it. I thought about taking, like, a billion walking breaks, and not because I was tired, but because I just didn’t feel like running. When Stacey stopped to use the bathroom, I stuck around to wait for her mostly because it was nice to get to run with her again, but also a little because I thought I might totally give up if I was alone.

Then, at mile 7 I got the hell over it I guess, and decided I was ready to race. Better late than never? I ran the last 2 miles at 8:55, then 8:30, and finished with Stacey at 1:30:23. Considering I had been stopped for about 4 minutes of that, I was actually really excited. I realized that although my heart wasn’t into it for 6 out of the 9 miles, I still did pretty darn well, and this just means my next 15k will basically be an automatic PR ;)

IMG957543

 

DIY Mint Chocolate Baileys Irish Cream {Vegan}

baileys-4

It’s true.

Remember when I told you I had some awesome things coming your way? TADAAAA!!!!

I’ve always been a sweet and creamy alcohol girl. White russians, chocolate martinis, pretty much anything with heavy cream, and I was set. What can I say? I’ve just always loved dessert. I want dessert for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and of course…DESSERT! ;)

Something about this time of year makes me crave those special dessert drinks just a liiiittttttle more. I want to curl up by a fire with a mug full of Baileys hot chocolate, or take it with me in the car to go see all the lights. It’s like the month of December takes a magnifying glass to my already enormous sweet tooth, and ya know what? I’m not going to be one of those people who tells you how to “make it through the holidays without splurging”. No. The holidays are not a time to “make it through”; they are a time to enjoy and celebrate, and you know “be merry”.

Let me tell you, if you are someone who loves Irish cream, or creamy drinks in general, you will share my love for this concoction. It’s thick and creamy, but you can taste the alcohol, and you know I’m a girl who needs to taste the alcohol. I don’t like a weak drink, and this certainly is no exception! In fact, if you like your alcohol to be more hidden in the flavor, you might want to consider reducing the whisky a smidge, but for me, it was absolute perfection.

 

DIY Mint Chocolate Baileys Irish Cream 

adapted from The Marvelous Misadventures of a Foodie

  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Irish whiskey
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 tbs light chocolate syrup
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
Directions:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Store refrigerated in an airtight contain for up to 2 weeks.

 

 

 

Brown Sugar Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

sweetenedcondensedmilk-4

Would you like to know how many recipes I look at and think “OMG I WANT TO LICK THE SCREEN I NEED TO MAKE THAT!!!” then see that they call for sweetened condensed milk, decide they must be the most unhealthy thing in the world, and there is no way to modify it, so I click my little x and move on.

Too many. So, I made my own. Duh.

I have to say, I’m a little obsessed with the coconut in general right now. I love the sweet flakes for baking, the oil for practically anything, and the milk is proving to be everything I could ever want to use it for, and more!

It takes a little bit of time and attention on the stove top, but this thick, sweet, and almost syrupy (without being too sweet, if that makes sense?) sweetened condensed milk is nothing short of a cooking miracle! And ya know, it’s Chanukah (I will always and forever spell it the CH way, so that I can pronounce it as such), which is all about miracles, so I thought I’d share with you mine. It’s not quite as cool as a light that lasts for 8 days, but I mean, I really love food, so I found it pretty darn exciting.

Obviously, this is only the beginning for this coconut milk. You couldn’t possibly think I made just the coconut milk without special things to use it for, right??

Let’s just say, there’s lots of fun treats in store. ;)

 

Brown Sugar Sweetened Condensed Milk

adapted from Side of Sneakers

  • 2 cans full fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Heat coconut milk and brown sugar together in a medium sized pot over medium heat whisking constantly until mixture thickens and reduces to about 1/2-2/3 of original. This takes about 30 minutes. When milk is finished, it will coat the back of a spoon as seen in the above pictures. Let cool, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.