Salted Caramel Mocha Cookies

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I’ll never forget the year Starbucks released their Salted Caramel Signature Hot Chocolate. It was simultaneously the best and worst holiday season ever. It didn’t take long for this perfect flavor combination to become a near every day occurrence in my life.

Did I mention I was living in northern Idaho at the time? It was cold, and nothing says comfort from the cold like a warm, rich, delicious drink. Except maybe a warm soft and chewy chocolate cookie filled with gooey caramel and topped with coarse sea salt. I knew as soon as my amazing friend Nicole shared some of her amazing caramels with me, that I wanted needed to make these cookies.

Do you feel comforted yet? Once upon a time I used to be the comforting one. I was the one everyone went to when they had a bad day, and I would listen and give tons of advice that I probably had no business giving because I was kind of a hot mess myself, but I was, like, 20 years old and thought I knew everything. You know how it goes. I had (ummm, wait…I still have…) a special “heart to heart” pillow. That’s a little embarrassing. You hold it while you cry then I feed you words that magically fix everything, and at the same time put an end to world hunger. I know, I am so cool.

These days however, I’m painfully aware that I know basically nothing, and so instead of pretending to be smart, I shove cookies in people’s face and call it “my way of showing I care”. Somehow, I think people prefer this.

I may not be a master with words, but I have to say, I am pretty much a master of soft, gooey cookies. I mess up a lot of things in the kitchen (including ending up with things that are kind-of-not-really-at-all-baked on a regular basis…), but I always have soft cookies, and these cookies are like biting into a dark chocolate mocha brownie, finding surprise caramel on the inside, and then getting the hint of salt that cuts through the sugar to provide perfect balance.

I wish I could solve all your problems by shoveling them into your mouth right at this moment. Keep me in mind for the next time, though…   Salted Caramel Mocha Cookies yield 20 cookies

  • 1/2 tbsp espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup Dutch process or Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup + 2 tbs white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup apple butter
  • 2/3 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 10 caramels, halved
  • 2-3 tbs mini dark chocolate chips
  • coarse sea salt for topping (such as fleur de sel)
Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking powder and flour. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together apple butter, sugar, vanilla and egg until well combined. Beat in dry ingredients. Cover dough and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350. Form dough into 1″ balls. Press 1/2 caramel into the center of each ball and roll dough around until it is covering it completely, then place on lined baking sheet. Gently press a pinch of mini dark chocolate chips onto the top of each dough ball, then top with a pinch of salt.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes until the edges have set and cookies pull easily off of the baking sheet. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

Skinnified Sunday: Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars

Skinnified Cranberry Bliss Bars via Ari's Menu

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.

 

Skinnified Sunday: Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Skinnified Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes via Ari's Menu

Every day is a pumpkin day in the blog world this time of year. Luckily (for me, maybe not for you), I am obsessed with pumpkin. I buy canned pumpkin year round, and eat it almost every day. Weird? Well, yes….I am, but pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors, plus it has tons of health benefits and is a great substitute for oil in baked goods!

I confess, I’ve already started adding pumpkin to my coffee drinks, and cheating on my beloved Dutch Bros with Starbucks because I know *exactly* how I like my flavor pumps at Starbucks and I prefer their pumpkin syrup…

You know what, though? These cupcakes are, like, 5 billion times better than either version. That’s an exact number based on factual evidence. Like surveys, and stuff. Things that people with grown up jobs do to test things. If it were me, they would each do an audition, which I guess they kinda did. The cupcakes get the lead fair and square.

The pumpkin makes them perfectly fluffy and soft, while also adding the perfect fall flavor. And don’t even get me started on my serious love for ground cloves. Ummm, best spice ever maybe??? I love me some cumin, but lately I cannot get enough of the cloves. In my yogurt, in my cupcakes, straight out of the little shaker…

Combine that with cinnamon and nutmeg, and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Brushing the coffee on after they’ve been cooked makes a huge difference. It keeps them soft, and brings out a bold coffee flavor that usually gets lost during baking. You can also control your coffee intensity. I sit there and brush those things over and over and OVER because I have a mild ridiculous wallet blowing obsession with my little caffeinated friend, but if you feel less in love with coffee, you can use less. Just never, ever tell me about it. I can’t handle it.

This is actually not the first go around for these bad boys. They first made their appearance on the blog about a year ago, and they looked a little like this.

Womp womp.

Oh the things you learn in a year. I’m still not an excellent cupcake froster, not like this girl, but I’ve certainly learned a thing or two.

The original recipe for these muffins (which includes all the smart brushing with the coffee, and all that goodness) comes from one of my very favorite recipe blogs Annie’s Eats.

Original recipe

My Swaps:

  • Half the recipe (-temptation)
  • White whole wheat flour for all purpose flour (+fiber, +protein)
  • Apple sauce for oil (-fat, -calories)
  • Egg substitute (ie: egg beaters, liquid egg whites, flax egg, or corn starch egg) for whole eggs (-fat, -calories, -cholesterol)
  • Lighter cream cheese frosting for whipped cream (-fat, -calories)
  • Caramel sauce (-fat, -calories, -sugar)

Skinnified Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

yield 1 dozen

  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tbs espresso powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee or espresso for brushing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Set aside.
  2. In a mixer if you have one (if not you can use a hand mixer or your muscles!) combine pumpkin, sugars, and applesauce. Add egg substitute, followed by dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
  3. Fill lined muffin tin 3/4 full with batter and bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Pierce each cupcake 2-3 times with a fork, then brush with coffee. Wait 2-3 minutes, then brush again.
  5. Cool completely on wire racks and then top with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting.

 

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8oz package reducated fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In an large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in honey and vanilla. Top cupcakes, or store in the refrigerator.

 

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

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Hello from Ashland, OR! Tons of exciting things happening right now! Yesterday, I left Phoenix for the next 7 weeks. I’m on a little bit of a vacation for the next few days visiting my friend Mandie, then teaching/directing/choreographing in Portland, then off to Maui for my (late) honeymoon. Whew. Can you imagine packing for that many things at once? It was a little ridiculous. Even Clementine thought so.

“Mom. I think you’re forgetting something. If you don’t pack me, who will run circles around your neck and nibble on your nose all summer? Huhhhh???”

It’s definitely going to be a challenge to be away from Steve for the next 6 weeks. Before I left, he took me on the best date ever. This guy. He is amazing. It started out with my first trip ever to the baking supply store!

Then dinner at Bandera.

They have the bessssst cornbread!

Yummmmm.

Baking store and bread? Clearly, he know the way to my heart. ;)

I arrived in Ashland late last night, and pretty much went straight to bed. I can’t stay with Mandie because she has a cat, but she put me up in a super cute hotel down town! It kind of reminds me of a fancier hostel. There’s a shared bathroom, but private rooms, and the rooms are super cute and homey looking.

I woke up bright and early this morning. Of course. Why would my body ever possibly let me sleep in? Actually, it wasn’t bad, though. I looked at my phone, and it read 52 degrees, and I looked outside and saw clouds, and felt a beautiful breeze. I couldn’t wait to get outside, get my workout in, and explore the city! Today is the first official day of my marathon training. I had high hopes that my body would be like “OMG marathon training!! ALL BETTER!! Run all you want, Ari!” You can call me silly, but I prefer idealistic ;)

The truth is, running still hurts. Almost immediately. But it’s okay. I had surgery less than 2 weeks ago, and as much as I would love to wear a cape and stuff, I’m not super woman. The good news is it’s so early that this won’t set me back, and the mileage is really low, so I can walk my training plan until I’m back to normal. I actually forgot how great walking can be! I walked around downtown Ashland before finding Lithia Park that Mandie had mentioned to me when we drove in last night.

This park was absolutely gorgeous!! I really wished I had brought my camera with me, and not just my phone. I will definitely have to go back before I leave. I did manage to capture a bit of it on the android, though.

This beautiful creek runs all the way through the park, and there are tons of benches, and places to sit, as well as little paths down to the water. If I lived here, I would be here every day. The road started off paved, then turned into a trail.

I just kept walking, and let myself kind of get lost in there. I had been so excited to get out this morning, I hadn’t even thought to grab my ipod, and I ended up being really glad to be out there without it, and just be with nature. I saw lots of other walkers, a few runners (jealous face), and even some people doing yoga! Everyone was super friendly. In fact, I am kind of obsessed with this town. If I never make it back to Phoenix, you know why…

I have this thing for water. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the desert.

And the coolest part? I saw DEER!!!!!

I was walking by, and I heard rustling. The next thing I knew I was 3 feet away from these deer, staring them in the face. They weren’t the least bit frightened of me. How cool!!! Speaking of, I don’t know if I ever mentioned the time Nicole and I went on a driving adventure in Tempe, and saw a zebra in someone’s back yard?

Not quite as cool as the deer, but definitely interesting, haha. Can you imagine owning a zebra? Anyway, now I’m sitting at Starbucks enjoying some hot coffee.

Ohhh, how I’ve missed you. Grande bold coffee, 2 pumps sf mocha, 1 pump sf caramel, steamed soy.

Also, I have some really exciting news! A couple of weeks ago, I finally did something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, and I applied to be a FitFluential ambassador. I never thought in a million years that I would be accepted, but last night I received an email inviting me to join the team, and I am BEYOND thrilled!!! What an amazing opportunity to be a part of a community I value so highly with other bloggers that I admire. I am a lucky gal!

 

Barrio Cafe

This is my super awesome friend Amelia who married us. She makes good faces, :)

When I told people that I was having a birthday dinner with my Starbucks friends, I definitely got some odd looks. I mean, everyone knows I have a coffee problem, but maybe they didn’t know they extent ;) The truth is, I’m just a chatty person and I like to meet new people, so after 3 years of seeing the same baristas almost every day, having one of them officiate my wedding, and running a half marathon with an other, this group has become pretty important in my life.

I gave Kara a list of a few restaurants I’ve been wanting to try, and left the rest up to her. We ended up going to Barrio Cafe. As soon as we arrived, it was like love at first sight! It has a tiny, hole in the wall feel. There was live music, and the whole atmosphere seemed really authentic! There was a pretty significant wait, but we all sat outside and chatted, and the food definitely was worth the wait!

In addition to the Starbucks group, Nicole, Lance and Carolyn were also able to join us. It ended up being the perfect group! When we first sat down, we immediately ordered margaritas and took lots of pictures.

This is my super awesome friend Amelia who married us. She makes good faces, :)

Carolyn

Mona

Kara

Nicole & Lance

Charlie

I was a little surprised when the salsa came out with a bread basket instead of chips, but it was delicious!

The margaritas were also pretty amazing. Nice and tequila-y, and not super sweet. I hate a marg that tastes like sour mix!

We ordered the guacamole–they make it table side, and oh my gosh, it was absolutely incredible!!

I was totally skeptical of the pomegranite seeds because I usually don't like pomegranites, but it was such a perfect flavor combination! I must try putting fruit in my guac!

And look, we did end up getting chips also! But bread and salsa is a surprisingly delicious combination.

Then the food came and everything looked incredible.

Enchiliadas

Tacos--I had a little bit of food envy when these babies came out!

Steve and I split this steak dish that came in a sweet and spicy sauce with bleu cheese on top. It was ridiculously good. The steak was crunchy and slightly charred on the outside, while perfectly tender on the inside! YUM!

Every single item I tasted was absolutely delicious. I must admit, I was a little surprised at the prices when I first opened the menu, but the flavors were all unique and well worth the price.

After our dinner, we had cookie bar cake made by yours truly :)

And we resumed our photo session…

They even have a super awesome graffiti wall that we had fun in front of!

Me + Starbucks group

Oh no! Someone killed Carolyn! And apparently, rolled her over afterwards...

At least she looks happy about it.

Oh good! She came back to life! Hey Steve, I don't appreciate this whole from below angle that makes me look like I'm expecting. Let's work on that.

Okay, you picked me up, we're good again ;)

And then Nicole suggested we practice our jumping pictures….

Clearly, I don't need any practice.

We regularly pose for White Girls Can't Jump Weekly.

This was just one of those nights where everything is pretty much perfect. Perfect company, food and atmosphere. I was also super in love with our waitress who was hilarious and even tried a piece of the cookie bar cake! Ohhhh, and the band even sang me happy birthday! Pretty much, if you live in Phoenix and haven’t been to Barrio Cafe, that needs to change immediately. And if you’re ever visiting from out of town (like if your name is Mac and you will be here in a month), you cannot leave Phoenix without eating at the best Mexican restaurant I have ever been to.

Special thanks to Kara for organizing such an incredible night, and everyone who made the last couple of weeks super special for me :)

 

 

Barrio Cafe on Urbanspoon

Running is Like Dancing

Check out that foam!! That is not a latte, and not even technically a misto (a misto is 1/3-1/2 milk). Tall casi cielo with 2 pumps sf caramel, 1 pump toffee nut and topped with steamed soy in a mug. Heaven.

Well, running is kind of like pirouettes (turns), I feel. I remember watching the amazing, beautiful dancers who could do 6 pirouettes and make it looks like nothing while I tried over and over to land a triple. I also remember how the guys could start and all of the sudden be able to do so many tricks and turns, but with that super fast growth, they lacked the control that others had learned over the years. I remember one saying “Today I discovered I can do a triple pirouette, but I can’t do a single.” I didn’t really get it. How is that possible?!?! I’ll trade you! I want to turn lots of pretty turns!!! I never did end up being much of a turner, but I did, over time, discover the balance of power necessary to complete one turn vs 2 or on a great day 3.

Today, as I was running, I kept feeling the desire to go faster, push harder, give more power. I only really wanted to be able to run the two middle miles at a 9:10 average pace, and I wanted that to feel comfortable. I ended up with 9:01 and 8:43 and it was not comfortable. I mean, 8:43 is really awesome for me, but that was not the goal. I was thinking about it during my cool down and realized that learning how much power my body needs to keep a certain pace is a learning experience. I am still so new at all of this and I don’t know what 9:10 feels like, or how much effort that requires, or how to keep the same amount of effort consistently.

I actually found the whole realization really exciting because I’m a huge nerd I learned something new about myself as a runner. I made a discovery that went beyond I can run XX miles! In case you didn’t notice, I am all about self discovery, learning about myself and figuring out how to make myself all around a better person, so any time I can make self discovery is exciting to me.

While we’re on the topics of discoveries (Kelly Q would be so proud if she read this post!), I made an even bigger one this morning. Sometimes, life is hard. Okay, I promise that’s not the discovery. But seriously, sometimes things happen in life that actually are the “big things”, and they are things we have no control over, and often seem unfair and never ending. So often in life, it is important to look at the big picture, but sometimes the big picture can be overwhelming. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is look at what you can do right now. Tackle one small individual goal that can make things even a little bit better. Then try to tackle an other.

There are some things going on in life at the moment that are out of my control. I know that in the end everything will be okay, but the moment you get bad news, it can seem completely helpless, as if there is nothing you can do, but I realized that, although there is nothing I can do that will fix the problem, there is  a lot I can do that can change this moment, and that is not only comforting, but makes me feel powerful and not quite so helpless.

Is there a point to this whole story? Well, this afternoon I talked this all through with one of my best friends, and she said some of the nicest things ever, and made me cry in the middle of Starbucks (thanks Lisa!),  but I figured that maybe if this small discovery meant something to me, and helped me feel a little better, it could help someone else too, and that is really the reason I do this whole blog thing in the first place. Because I hope it will help someone else.

And lastly, because this post needs a picture and because I need to help you people discovery something else that is AMAZING, please take my advice, head to the nearest Starbucks and order the Casi Cielo. It is the most delicious brewed coffee you will ever taste in your life and they don’t usually keep it around very long. Seriously. You will thank me later!

Check out that foam!! That is not a latte, and not even technically a misto (a misto is 1/3-1/2 milk). Tall casi cielo with 2 pumps sf caramel, 1 pump toffee nut and topped with steamed soy in a mug. Heaven.

PS: I have been considering adding a “How to Order at Starbucks” page to the blog. Thoughts?

What is one thing you discovered recently? Big, small, or silly–it all counts!

 

Charlie’s Birthday

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The tradition of Starbucks birthdays continues!

Last night we went out to celebrate Charlie’s birthday at Abuelo’s.

Birthday boy!

It actually ended up being, for me, the perfect group. Kara, Charlie, Eddie, Steve and me. I tend to do better in smaller group settings. Large groups give me anxiety and I get shy and I feel like I don’t know who to talk to or what conversation to listen to. I often have to force myself to go to things where there are large groups and people I don’t know, but last night was easy, fun and really chill which was exactly what I needed! They also had skinny margaritas on the menu which made me super happy! I love margaritas, but I can never justify the calories of a full sugar one. Skinny margs are the way to go, and honestly, I think they taste better–I like to taste my tequila!

I had never been to Abuelo’s, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The food was soooo delicious! The portions looked huge so Kara and I decided to split a seafood dish

While Charlie ordered for the entire country of Ethiopia

Everything was delicious, but the bites I stole of Charlie’s spinach and cheese enchilada were definitely my favorite! With so much food, we all kind of ended up sharing everything which is my favorite way to do it! I can never decide on just one thing, I like to try lots of things!

And of course I brought Charlie’s green tea cupcakes for dessert.

They were a huge hit!

Don't worry Eddie, you can thank me later for posting this awesome picture of you.

I had a fabulous time spending time with some of my favorites!

Dear Steve: I do not really love this angle. But at least you did not give me a double chin. Thank you for that.

Jello Arms

I LOVE the Starbucks holiday cookies and this one comes on a stick! Isn't he cute??

Hello friends! I woke up this morning with some angry achilles tendons. Normally, I don’t run consecutive days in a row, and this week, I ran 3 in a row, and didn’t ice as much as I should have. I woke up wanting to run so that I could avoid strength training (which used to be my fav, but now I would rather do just about anything else…except row!), but as I hobbled out of bed, I knew that I needed to do something else. Okay tendons, I get it. I will not run 3 days in a row anymore, now can you chill the heck out please and not f up my program? That’d be great, thanks.

I know some people can run way more often than me and be fine. I also know that I will take myself out of commission if I don’t do what is best for my body, so I am listening. So after an hour of sitting around lazily, I finally made it over to the gym for an upper body strength training session which I will now attempt to actually put into words. Don’t judge my lack of terminology, or my wimpy arms. I’m hoping posting the weight amounts will motivate me to work a little harder and get strong again! ;)

Superset 1 (3 sets): Pushups (body weight) and incline chest press (30 lbs)

Superset 2 (3 sets): Skull crushers (20 lb bar) and bicep concentration curl (15 lb dumbell)

Circuit (3 sets): 3 point shoulder press (5 lbs dumbells), bicep curls (10 lb dumbells), and overhead tricep press (20 lb dumbell)

Lat pull (3 sets) @ 65 lbs

Reverse V up on exercise ball (3 sets)

 

By the time I left, my arms felt like jello. I am recommitting myself to AT LEAST 1 day of serious strength training per week. My body needs it. After my work out, I walked over to the Bux for my coffee

And then I got so excited when I saw this!!!

I LOVE the Starbucks holiday cookies and this one comes on a stick! Isn't he cute??

Well, I quickly changed my tune, because you know what is not cute? A 400 calorie cookie.

Sorry snowman, you are just not worth it.

As I sipped my coffee, I got to chat with Kara about our final weeks of training for PF Chang’s. Can you believe we are already mapping out the end of training??? I seriously can’t. But, I feel ready for it. I kind of wish I was doing the Vegas 1/2 on the strip this weekend. I think I could do it now if I had to, but deep down I am grateful for the extra time and ability to up my mileage a bit before the actual race. I know I will feel more comfortable knowing I’ve run 12 miles, than if I did it after 10. I need to go in with no doubts. And of course my original goal was just to finish, and now I have a time goal in my brain. Arg. It’s not a fast one by any means, but it’s there and I do NOT plan on sharing because I don’t want it to be my focus. I really do just want to finish my first big race.

Kara and I also had a chance to map out our work outs for the rest of the week and I am happy to say that my week is looking pretty legit.

Sunday: short run

Monday: speed run

Tuesday: strength training

Wednesday: run…we shall see how long and how fast it ends up–it’s Kara’s first run back from injury! Hooray!!

Thursday: spin

Fri: off

Sat: long run

I like having a plan. I like even more planning with someone else because it holds me accountable. Okay, I’m off to work. Have a great day friends!

 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

All that cuteness must be tiring.

CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!

At least, at Starbucks it is. You can imagine my excitement when I walked in to get my coffee yesterday afternoon and all of this was happening!

"Look at me. I'm making Christmas happen. I am essentially responsible for bringing you Christmas. You're welcome."

Christmas tumblers!!

And decorations!

It all just makes me soooo happy! I know, I know, I’m a total sucker for this time of year. Before I left for Starbucks, I put Winnie and Clem outside and for a total change, they decided to be super cute.

All that cuteness must be tiring.

I also had not been able to get roasted sweet potatoes off my mind since I kept reading about them on Carrots N Cake, so I made some for myself and they were oh so delicious.

Misting of olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. 400 for approx 30 minutes. Yum

And then later in the day, this happened

An apple slicer apparently doesn't stand a chance against the honey crisp!

I seriously just looked at the apple so confused for a good minute before deciding I had to figure out how to salvage it because it was the last honey crisp in my house and they are so delicious!

In other news, I have accomplished pretty much nothing exercise wise since Saturday. I feel just barely better than yesterday, so I’m just trying to wait it out and not make myself sicker. I’m planning to hopefully do a short run tomorrow, but at the very least be back to spin on Thursday, I have a long run with Nicole on Friday (YAY!!!) and the Undy 5000 with Nicole, Mariel and *hopefully* Kara if her ankle is back to normal on Saturday!

And lastly, I can’t talk about exactly what it is yet, but our family did get some pretty fantastic and exciting news yesterday!! I can’t wait to be able to actually share it when it all becomes official! :) Have a good day everyone!

Ari’s Epic Day Off

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Ok, listen, a day off might not sound super epic to you, but after almost 2 months straight of working every single day, I had been dreaming of this day and planning this day for weeks! When I got sick on Monday, I started to fear for the worst, and imagined myself spending my one day laying at home with a blanket on the couch. That may actually sound like a nice day to some of you (minus the sick part) but I am not a girl who likes to lay on the couch! Luckily, by the time I left rehearsal Thursday evening, I could see that things were looking up!

My day started the way every day off should, with pancakes!

Whole wheat oatmeal blueberry pancakes. With a side of yum.

 

Actually, it started even before that. My alarm went off at 6:15–yes I am crazy, I accept this and I headed out for my first run since MONDAY. Oy! My original plan for the week had my long run on Thursday so that Friday would be completely off from everything, but Kara got injured and I got sick and no long run happened. In fact 2 days of no exercise other than physical therapy and a few step touches happened, and I was not feeling like letting an other one go by. So I got up early to get it done and out of the way so I could get on with my day.

Not too shabby, right?

 

Hooray!! I ran! Check me out!! Oh, and no double chins please! Ohhhh and about those holes in my arm pits...I'm a starving artists.

"Okay, now take a shot of me in action!" So realistic. I used Stanislovsky technique to portray the character of "Ari running" College education=money well spent.

So theeennnn, the pancakes finally came. I asked Steve “Should we make breakfast here or go out?” He replied “So I know today is all about you, but it’s also about me in that I don’t want to clean anything.” That meant we were going out, because in this house the cook doesn’t do dishes! Well, more like in this house I don’t do dishes. Anyway, we went out to The Good Egg for some pancakes!

Steve got pancakes too!

Obviously, coffee was the next stop

Grande bold coffee, 1 pump sf mocha, 2 pumps sf vanilla, 1 pump sf peppermint, steamed soy. Just order it, who cares what looks of judgement you receive?

I really really need a new mani. Or at least to remove the remaining orange polish from my fingers…

After coffee we were on a holiday shopping mission! Gifts for other people, decorations for us! We spent the day at some of my very favorite stores. First up was Hobby Lobby. Other than the time I thought I was going to die in the Hobby Lobby which is a story for an other day (short version is overreaction to undercover cop leads to people screaming that someone has a gun at the front of the store and Kara and I being escorted through the back–yikes!), it is always one of my favorite places to be. If there is one near you and you haven’t been, go immediately. Like, right now.

Usually about half the store is on sale for 50% off. I think everything we bought was actually half off and look at that cart full of stuff! They have tons of knick knacky type things (PS: How does one spell knick knack? nick nack? I have no idea.)

Steve: "Act like you're gonna eat it!"

As well as crafty type things and lots of home decor. The entire time we were there I just kept saying to Steve over and over “This is the best day!!” I mean I could go to Hobby Lobby any morning before work on my own, but it’s just not the same as having a day with no schedules where you can do fun things with your favorite person on Earth!

Next on the list of favorite places (in case you didn’t anticipate this one)

Because it is so much better than Walmart, and K-Mart---let's not even go there about that one!

They have some super cute holiday puppy outfits right now, including PET PAJAMAS!!!!

"Why do I have to be in the picture? It's about the pajamas!" "Because I said so!" "FINE!"

Can’t you just picture Clementine in those little PJs!

"I'm cute on my own. I don't need pajamas."

I know I’ve said it about a zillion times, but I just really want this flamingo!

"If I'm going to take this picture, you have to pet the flamingo"

"WAAIIITT!!! I want to pose like it too!"

They also have a ton of other shiny decorations I want to put up outside the house.

Presents!!! My favorite!!!

And doesn't this little guy just put you in the holiday spirit?!

And then I saw the one thing I could not live without. I did not get to buy my beloved flamingo, but I simply could not leave the store without purchasing this.

"Buy me Ari!!! I am a kitchenaid mixer ornament and I just happen to be the exact same color as your own kitchenaid mixer. You cannot leave this store without me. I belong on your tree!!"

Heather, can you believe it?!?!?!!

After spending way too much money at Target and Hobby Lobby, we headed up to the Biltmore to meet Lisa and Ashleigh for lunch at Paradise Bakery. Let me just say that ever since Paradise Bakery got bought out and changed their menu, it is not nearly as good. I still love the tomato soup, but the sandwiches are not my fav anymore. They got rid of the delicious veggie one with the roasted red peppers and havarti cheese. Boo. But the soup and the cookies are still delicious.

Look, the guy drew a cute little smiley face in Steve’s soup with the sour cream garnish!

"I am a happy soup"

I ate mine with half a grilled cheese sandwich, but the soup was definitely the best part! That and the two bites I took of my m&m cookie. Yes, I took 2 bites and threw it away. I REALLY wanted those 2 bites. I did not, however, want an entire 4oo calorie cookie.

After lunch, we shopped around a little more, I got some necessary things done at the Apple store (bought a warranty for my mac book and got my broken ipod replaced). Then I went into Lulelemon and drooled over work out clothes I can’t afford. Steve found this on the outside of the store, which is so me it’s not even funny

Thank you Lululemon for reading my mind. After we finished shopping at the Biltmore, we said goodbye to Lisa and Ashleigh and headed back to our side of town to meet my mom, Hank and Charlie for coffee.

Not only is coffee more delicious in a mug, but did you know you get a 10 cent discount?

I always worry about making fun of my Jewishness on the blog for fear of offending someone, but I do think it’s funny that

1) I’m Jewish and care about getting a 10 cent discount.

2) This post has been almost entirely about Christmas.

After coffee we picked up dinner and beer. Yes, every single meal I ate yesterday came from a restaurant, and I am okay with that. Beer from Whole Foods (so many of my favorite places in one day!) and dinner from Chipotle.

It looks almost homemade if you put it in a real bowl!

When I get take out from Chipotle, I always wait and use my own fat free sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and lower fat/calorie cheese at home. That way I still get them, but not the full fat versions that I don’t want! I got a bowl with a little brown rice, a little pinto beans, fajita veggies, steak (same nutritionally as their chicken. I looked it up), lettuce, pico and medium salsa. Topped at home with fat free sour cream and goat cheddar. Yummmmm.

Then we watched caught up on some of our fav tv shows and brought out the beer!

"I have 2 beers! One in each hand!" :)

We did the mix and match at whole foods. I ended up only trying a few sips of the ones we opened because I didn’t want to mess up my getting better with too much alcohol.

After we finished eating, I decided I needed a lounging on the couch after my epic day off outfit.

"Mom, you embarrass me with all your 80s clothes. I wasn't even born when those were popular."

 

"Mom, you're so weird."

I almost wore my onesie, but leg warmers won.

Honestly, I just had the most amazing day, and although I wish I could have like 5 more days off, I feel slightly rejuvenated and just really happy that I got to spend some quality time with Steve and that I have such an amazing husband who will go along with whatever I want to do to make me feel special and ensure that my day off is absolutely perfect!

Have a great weekend everyone–hope you all enjoy your time off this weekend as much as I enjoyed yesterday! :D

Skinnified Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

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Hi friends, remember those delicious Peppermint White Mocha Cupcakes? You should, they were posted yesterday! ;) Well of course I couldn’t choose between regular mocha and white mocha, so what’s a girl to do, but make both!

Mocha Cupcakes from Gimme Some Oven

My Swaps:

  • Whole wheat pastry flour for all purpose (+fiber, +protein)
  • Red fat buttermilk for whole milk (-fat, -calories)
  • Unsweetened applesauce for butter (-fat, -calories)
  • Sugar/Splenda blend for sugar (-sugar, -calories)
  • 2 egg whites for 1 egg  (-fat, -calories, -cholesterol)
  • + Starbucks via, vanilla and peppermint extract (+yum)

Skinnified Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

yield 32 mini cupcakes

  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 packets Starbucks via
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup red fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature + more for brushing
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 2 tbs Splenda
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 32 mini muffin tins and spray liners.
2. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In an electric mixer, combine applesauce, sugars, and extracts. Add egg whites one at a time.
4. In a separate bowl, combine coffee and buttermilk.
5. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk mixture to sugar and applesauce, starting and ending with flour mixture (1/3ish of dry, 1/2 of wet, 1/3ish of dry, 1/2 of wet, rest of dry). Mix until combined, scraping down sides of bowl when necessary.
6. Fill muffin tins 3/4 to top and bake for 18-22 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
7. Using a toothpick, poke several holes in each cupcake and brush with coffee.
8. Cool completely, frost with peppermint cream cheese frosting!

Enjoy, friends! PS: Check out my new up to date Who’s Who and Recipe tabs!

Skinnified Sunday: Peppermint White Mocha Cupcakes

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Hi friends! I have been waiting for Starbucks’ official Christmas launch to make the cupcakes that have been on my mind since October! I would just like to say that with all the promoting I do, Starbucks should sponsor this blog or something haha. Hey there Starbucks execs…want to pay me to turn your delicious drinks into healthier baked goods? Let’s make that happen. I woke up yesterday bright and early (shocker…the idea of sleeping in is completely lost on me) and ready to bake!

Let’s pretend those extra laugh lines up there are just because it was early and my skin wasn’t quite awake yet. Oh well, at least they’re not frown lines. Anyway, moving on! Steve and I headed over to the bux to get some fresh coffee and via for the cupcakes and some coffee for ourselves. My recent order now that it’s cold outside: Grande bold coffee, 1 pump sf mocha, 1 pump sf peppermint, 2 pumps sf vanilla, steamed soy. Not a misto–that is like half milk, just with soy milk that is steamed and foamy. Tastes just like a peppermint mocha! Delicious. You have to get over the embarrassment of a complicated order, but it’s worth it ;)

We came home and got right to the baking, while Winnie and Clem got right to their business: being cute.

“Mom, where are my cupcakes?”

Clementine lately has been really into humping Winston. She really wants to be the boss these days and it always cracks us up because he is so much bigger than her!

Winston is just like “yeah, okay, do what you want. I’m still the boss around here.”

Okaaayyyy, onto the cupcakes!

White Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes from Cake on the Brain

Skinnified Peppermint White Mocha Cupcakes

yield 36 mini cupcakes

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup Splenda
  • 1 1/2 packets Starbucks via (or any instant coffee)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 oz grain sweetened white chocolate + 36 chips
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee, + extra for brushing
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350,  line 36 mini muffin tins and spray inside liners (otherwise they will stick).
2. In mixer, combine flour, sugar, Splenda, via and salt.
3. Melt chocolate with coffee. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Add melted chocolate mixture to flour mixture and mix lightly.
5. Add yogurt, vanilla, peppermint, baking soda and egg whites and beat for 2 minutes.
6. Fill muffin tins 1/2 way to top, place 1 white chocolate chip in center, then fill up until they are 3/4 full (I pour it all into a freezer bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner).
7. Bake for 24 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
8. Using a toothpick, poke several holes in each cupcake and brush with coffee.
9. Cool completely and frost with peppermint cream cheese frosting.

Original Frosting

from Gimme Some Oven

  • 8 oz. (1 brick) cream cheese, softened
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar (depending on the thickness you’d like)
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

My Swaps:

  • Low fat cream cheese for regular (-fat, -calories)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar for 3-4 (-sugar, -calories)
  • 2 tbs light whipped butter for 4 regular (-fat, -calories)

Skinnified Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

yield frosting for 40-50 mini cupcakes

  • 8 oz. (1 brick) reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbs light whipped butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Directions:

1. Beat cream cheese, butter and extracts.
2. Slowly add powdered sugar, scraping down sides of bowl when necessary.
3. Transfer to freezer bag (or pastry bag if you’re fancy), cut small hole in the corner of the bag and frost!

C is for Clementine, W for Winston, S for Steve and A for Ari! Steve didn’t figure that one out right away ;) and the heart is for love–duhhh! Yeah, I’m a cheeseball

Oh yeah, top with sprinkles! It makes it more fun! Pink for peppermint, brown for chocolate. I am so original ;)

They were soooo yummy! We had to take them immediately to our friends at the Bux and my mom so that our whole kitchen didn’t look like this

I also made regular peppermint mocha ones which I loved ALMOST as much. I just love white chocolate. Recipe coming soon. And before the season if over, you know there will be gingerbread latte (prob my fav Starbucks drink!), eggnog latte and caramel brulee latte treats coming your way. Stay tuned friends!