Runger: The Struggle Is Real

Why did no one ever tell me about real runger? I admit, I should have known that marathon training would require significantly more sustenance to keep me going, and fueling is always really important when training for any athletic endeavor.  But I am hungry. ALL. THE. TIME.  Don’t get me wrong, I love food, and I especially love good, nutritious, and well-balanced food.  I am simply not used to eating this much food out of necessity.  I have been doing a lot of research recently to understand what I should be doing to manage my hunger and ensure I am still fueling properly and thoughtfully.  It is true, I did indulge in a donut last week, but otherwise I am really trying to maintain and healthy balance between good carbs, fueling proteins, healthy fats, and lots of fruits and veggies.  I have to accept the fact, however, that marathon training isn’t designed for weight loss. Maintenance, sure, but not weight loss.  At least I will be toned all over!

No really, I feel like I am always hungry.
No really, I feel like I am always hungry.

In my quest for runger enlightenment, I stumbled upon Amanda Brooks’ blog “Run to the Finish,” in which her “Ultimate Guide to Managing Marathon Hunger” has been a huge life-saver and healthy reminder.  In it she provides her top 10 tips for managing marathon training hunger, which is exactly what I was needing.  I’ll list them below, but please check out her post – it’s hugely helpful!

  1. Amanda recommends refueling immediately after a run with a recovery drink. I am a huge fan of green smoothies, so this has been a really useful reminder for me that I need to intake my smoothie sooner. If you haven’t heard of “Simple Green Smoothies,” you should check them out now.  They have tons of free recipes on their site and through social media, and their book is outstanding.  The book provides smoothies for all different purposes, including recovery.
  2. The post-workout meal should include a slightly higher amount of protein,
    Did I mention that these GF oat muffins are also great with Perfect Fit?
    Did I mention that these GF oat muffins are also great with Perfect Fit?

    whether through eggs, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas/hummus, etc. One of my favorites is cooking an egg and preparing half a cup of Love Grown Foods’ Simply Pure Super Oats, which incorporates quinoa and chia seeds.  I also sometimes top the oatmeal instead with a banana, half cup of blueberries and 5 strawberries, or you could even mix in your favorite nut butter.  I also love smoothies with Tone It Up’s Perfect Fit Protein, a great plant-based vegan protein powder.

  3. I am going to quote Amanda here, “Don’t fear fats”! And it’s true, but choose healthy and hearty saturated fats, like coconut oil in smoothies or when making eggs (which also helps enhance your energy levels) or avocados, also in smoothies or with lunch or dinner.  I am going to try this shrimp and avocado salad tonight for dinner, so you know that other half of avocado is going in my morning smoothie tomorrow!
  4. Do not wait too long to eat after your run, because this can lead to overeating. There are some days where I will grab a big bottle of water and make my recovery meal right after I return so I don’t get too rungry. Amanda also mentions incorporating 2-3 snacks throughout the day, so in essence you’re eating about 5 or so “meals” on a daily basis as needed.  Often I will go for bananas with nut butter, carrots and hummus, or a smaller green smoothie.
  5. Carbs are friends, not foes, as long as incorporated properly. Complex carbohydrates are the key, which you can get from veggies and whole grains.  Quinoa and oats are some of my favorite things, and even in baking I am turning to whole wheat and gluten-free flours, like oat flour.  Amanda provides useful links to carbo-load correctly, so it’s worth checking out.
  6. Controlling your sugars is essential. Although last week’s chocolate frosted donut was a real treat, I was aware that it was not adding any value to how I fuel my body.  Sugar has a sneaky way of making you feel hungry even if you aren’t, which can cause overeating.  When you’re already consuming more calories than normal, this is a very slippery slope you want to avoid.
  7. What else can I say? Sleep is so imperative for everything, really, and even more so when training. This is definitely an area of improvement for me.  Sleep can help balance your metabolism as well as give you the recharge your body so needs after intensive athletic exercise.  The standard 7-8 hours fall somewhat short when training for a marathon, and really we should be aiming for 9-10 hours.  My goal for the next 2 months – more sleep!
  8. Focus on the nutrients in food as much as the food itself. Fresh fruits and veggies are a runner’s friend. I know we all fuel differently before a race, and I admit that I cannot eat anything that is more challenging to digest (like raw foods), but the recovery benefits are incredible.  It is recommended to have about 5 -7 services of fruits and veggies a day. Thankfully I love green smoothies and probably should have stock in Chiquita bananas for as many as I consume daily…
  9. Electrolytes provide the power you need to carry on, and running causes us to sweat them out. Lack of electrolytes can cause fatigue and cramps, which no runner wants to experience during or after a run.  NUUN hydration provides fabulous tablets that dissolve easily in water, do not include sugars, and provide a great natural boost of electrolytes.  Post-run coconut water is another wonderful and natural way to replenish your body with electrolytes.
  10. I love Amanda’s last recommendation the best: “listen to your body.” If you are in tune with what your body is telling you, you’ll refuel properly and timely, avoiding the snowball effect of incredible insatiable hunger, overeating, or not eating enough.  She also recommends to drink water before refueling. You may just be dehydrated rather than craving more calories.
giphy
Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. Source

These are definitely some of the guidelines and recommendations I am going to hold

Saturday's 10K is a great local race on a nice flat course.
Saturday’s 10K is a great local race on a nice flat course.

onto for the next 9 weeks of my training plan.  On a side note, last week’s training went incredibly well!  I ran more than normal because the hubs and I had the Lucky Laces 10K (finished in 59:36, 9:36/mile!) on Saturday and a long run planned for Sunday.  Thankfully it was a good warm-up for Sunday’s run.  We completed 16.15 miles on Sunday in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 19 seconds.  It is great knowing I can run that far and under a 10 minute/mile pace!  Here’s hoping 10 more miles won’t bog me down too much…

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday 3/7/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday 3/8/16 Yoga Sculpt 4 mile run
Wednesday 3/9/16 N/A 3.55 mile run
Thursday 3/10/16 Zumba N/A
Friday 3/11/16 N/A 3.55 mile run
Saturday 3/12/16 TIU Bikini Arms 6.27 mile run
Sunday 3/13/16 N/A 16.15 mile run
Lucky Laces 10K was a success - nice, easy miles to prep for Sunday!
Lucky Laces 10K was a success – nice, easy miles to prep for Sunday!

I gave myself a nice running break yesterday, but I will be back at it this afternoon, with 17 miles planned for this weekend – eek!

What recommendations do you have for fueling during marathon training?  Anyone else experience some major runger?  How is your training plan going?

For the Love of Love, Food, Running… and my Puppy

This is a big month for the ones I love.  Not only is it the month of Valentine’s Day, of which I have always enjoyed (I am one of those major saps, and have been lucky enough to have the very best Valentine eight years running), but it’s also the birthday month of the hubs, my best friend, and my puppy!  Big news, my pup, Rocco, is officially a real dog as of yesterday – he is two years old.  I have already made a promise to myself that he will forever be called “Rocco the Puppy,” aka “Rocco T. Yaco,” aka “Mister Taco.”  Nothing will change the view I have of my one and only perfect pup.  But I digress…

Who wouldn't want kisses from this sweet pup?
Who wouldn’t want kisses from this sweet pup?

Along with all the love flowing through me this month, I am amping up my training for the continuation of half marathon season.  Thankfully Denver has been absurdly mild this winter so far, and

Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.
Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.

the past few weekends, well except last Sunday, have boasted temps in the 50s and 60s, with some days reaching near 70!  It’s been ideal weekend running weather, and I am so grateful.  With this in mind, I completed the last two 5ks for the Denver Race Series.  On Super Bowl Sunday, I strapped on my Yak Trax (which have been the unsung heroes of my winter running routine), bundled up, and hit the roads of Wash Park the morning after a decent snow storm.  Of course all the snow melted within the next few days, but it was a gorgeous winter wonderland run nonetheless.  This past weekend, the hubby decided to join me for the Valentine’s Day 5K: Love on the Run.  It seemed so appropriate that he was there!  It was a stunningly gorgeous day and I was so happy to have the chance to run around Wash Park with him.  After the race, we did another 2.1 miles to round off at 5.2 miles.  We’re trying to pile on the miles each weekend as we near the March 1st That Dam Half Marathon.  When the weather is nearly 70 degrees, there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of it!

The month of January was a bit of a blur, after the death of my grandmother, preparing for and performing at her memorial, and making some big shifts at work.  I have been more than happy to welcome this next month and hope the year improves from here.  I know the old adage that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, but you surely hope you don’t have cuts on your hands and you have some sugar to make the lemonade sweet.  In other words, 2015 got off to a rocky start, so I could do with a sweet, lovely transition…

On a high note, the hubs and I have not only been running quite a bit more, but we’ve been trying out great eateries around the Denver metro area.  Denver really is an up-and-coming foodie fantasy land, so it makes sense that I run so I can eat.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all, really?  Given that the hub’s birthday was last week, we went to TWO restaurants in honor of his last year in his 20s.  First we dined at our favorite steak house, Del Frisco’s.  Although a chain steak house, it’s a constant delight.  We have found a favorite waitress, know the menu like the back of our hands, and always order the Del’s Delight dessert at the end.  In every way, we always have the perfect meal.

The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.
The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.

The second restaurant we tried out with our foodie Friday friends, Scott and Danielle.  Naturally we dined on Friday at a restaurant I have often overlooked, but pass by nearly daily: Ocean Prime.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t Colorado a land-locked state?”  Well, yes… unless California, Nevada and Utah suddenly erode into the Pacific Ocean, we are still situated rather more in the middle of the country, albeit the west.  However, you’ve got to love the ease of moving fresh food quickly around the country, and there are some sensational seafood restaurants in Denver.  Ocean Prime did not disappoint.

Last week, as a pre-Valentine’s day dinner, the hubs and I trekked across town to the infamous Beast+Bottle restaurant, whose philosophy of utilizing the whole

Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.
Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.

animal (and vegetable/fruit for that matter) provides a most delicious experience.  We had previously gone for brunch with our dear friends, Peter and Ade, but decided this would give us the delectable dinner we’d been craving.  The past few years we had picked a new place to dine on Valentine’s Day and were constantly disappointed – by the service, the small portions, and the hurried atmosphere that stole the show of savoring a great dining experience.  This year we decided not to go out on Valentine’s Day but instead something before and after.  With that said, this was one of the BEST meals we’ve enjoyed in a LONG time.  I had the pork special, the hubs enjoyed the lamb special, we split a flatbread, and gorged on amazing desserts.  Need I say more, homemade strawberry Klondike bar.  Whoa.

What can I say, I like things in martini glasses.  "Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus" cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
What can I say, I like things in martini glasses. “Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus” cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
Perfect day to run with the one I love!
Perfect day to run with the one I love!

For Valentine’s Day itself, I think my hubby and I have a new tradition.  In November I registered for the Resolution Race series in City Park, and one of the races includes Le Cours de L’Amour (aka, the Course of Love).  Needless to say, my hubby was happy to join me on this one.  We ran really well together, finishing in just under 1:02 with a 9:58 pace.  This race is much like the Lucky Laces (which is part of the same series) 10K I completed last year.  It is 2 laps of a 5K through City Park, which is quite lovely, with some great views of the mountains in the distance, and a trail that hits exactly at a mile high.  The day was stunning, with a high of 65 degrees, a light breeze and wonderful morning sun.  After the race, the ladies were handed a pink rose rather than a medal.

Yup, Valentine's Day threw up all over me.
Yup, Valentine’s Day threw up all over me.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc.  Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc. Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.

Finally on Sunday, with winter storms looming, we went for a 4 mile run.  We wanted to go further, but the snow storm brought on some fearsome icy gusts of wind that made it quite a challenge.  2015-02-15 15.58.55With a few more miles logged for the weekend, we donned our Sunday best and headed for the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver for a picturesque and perfect afternoon tea.  We were completely spoiled during our holiday in England and Scotland.  We enjoyed 3 afternoon teas whilst there, including the Pump Room in Bath, a Parliament tea along the Thames, and a Homecoming tea at the Edinburgh Castle.  This was our first afternoon tea since returning to the states in September, and it was just the perfect way to end a busy and eventful two weeks.  All I know is there is nothing better than exploring new places to eat, new races to run, and new adventures with my husband.  I am one lucky gal.

Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
If you haven't been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up.  The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.
If you haven’t been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up. The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.

Dining (and Wining) Around the World: The Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I finally got to tell you about the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, but I almost forgot the entire reason that race exists: the Epcot Showcase of Nations Food and Wine Festival!  Each fall, Disney hosts an expansive Food and Wine festival, in which the Showcase of Nations is transformed with additional food stands for numerous other countries.  In total, there are 36 countries/regions represented.  Given it is Friday and a time for favorites, I am going to list off my favorite items from the festival, and some items that were worth a bite, but not quite as memorable.  Thank goodness I took pictures of the menus, because we had so many good nibbles and sips it’d be hard to remember them all! 2014-FW-Festival-Guide-MAP-AND-MARKETPLACES-2014-page-0011.  The Spicy Hand Roll from Japan: Japan did not hold back in creating a delicious and rather large hand roll that took numerous bites to finish.  This roll included both tuna and salmon and a delicious, lick-your-fingers-when-it’s-done-it’s-so-tasty Kazan Volcano sauce.  Both Mrs. BakeNBurn and I ordered this and I could have had another and called it a meal.

2.  Given I am Greek and spent this past weekend making my Nicolau family baklava, I have to go with Greece’s spanakopita! My mother, I think, makes the best

Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach... I love my roots.
Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach… I love my roots.

version (she makes a spanakopita crustard, aka pie, which will knock your socks off), but these delicate triangles had just the right balance of cheesey gooeyness and spinach.

3.  Speaking of cheese, I have to follow-up number two with the griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and I really wanted to lick the paper tray when I was finished.

4.  Moving on to good ol’ America, and in keeping with my love of cheese, I have to say that the American lobster macaroni and cheese (or pasta alfredo as they attempted to market it) was delectable. The hubs and I savored every last bite of this mac ‘n’ cheese – because what’s better than pasta, cheese, butter and lobster?  I also had their carrot cake, which was tasty, but not overly exceptional.

Canada was pretty darn tasty!
Canada was pretty darn tasty!

5.  Canada did a great job with their “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce. Although the filet was a little overcooked and tough, the sauce was delicious and not overpowering.

6.  Je aime la France! As one should expect, I focused on some bubbly and dessert in France. It’s really what I most enjoy about French dining – Champagne, pastries, and all things dessert.  The sea salt caramel crème brulee was quite a tasty treat, although could have used more sea salt to balance the caramel.  The sparkling pomegranate Kir Royale, however, whet my palate with perfection!

Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.
Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.

7.  Having recently visited Scotland, which someday I will share with you, I had been craving a local dessert called Cranachan. This dessert is traditionally served

Where's my Scotch?
Where’s my Scotch?

as whisky (or Scotch to us Americans) soaked raspberries, layered with whipped cream and toasted oats.  It is DELICIOUS.  This version, sad to say, did not live up to my memories from Whiski, a fabulous whisky bar and eatery along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.  The raspberries weren’t soaked in whisky at all, so the hubs and I also ordered a sample of Scotch to pour into it.  Good, but still not quite right.

This about sums up Edinburgh...
This about sums up Edinburgh…
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!

8.  Danke Deutschland! The Riesling samplers were awesome.  Both Samantha and I spent some time in Germany, being the military brats we are, so of course we had to pop over to Germany.  We were torn between the beer or the Riesling flight, but we went with the wine.  It was delicious.  We both liked number 2 the best, but I had a preference for the third, and Samantha for the first, so we split them perfectly and enjoyed each tasty sip!

It's appropriate to just drink in Germany...
It’s appropriate to just drink in Germany…

9.  The hubs loves himself some duck, so we stopped in China for the Beijing Roasted Duck in Hoisin Sauce, which was almost sticky bun style. I took a nibble and it was awesome, so this one I wish I had saved more room to eat in entirety.

10.  We stopped in Mexico, even though we would later dine at La Hacienda, so the hubs could get his tequila flight and I could try the mango-strawberry 2014-11-09 16.41.40margarita. The tequila flight was decent and the margarita too sweet.  If you go to the San Angel Inn restaurant in Epcot, you pick varying quality levels for your tequila flight, which is a much better option.

11.  Of course an offering of Prosecco in Italy was a delight, and really a tradition whenever in the World Showcase!

12.  And finally, who would I be, the Anglophile I am, if I didn’t get a hard cider from England?  Alas, it was not Bulmer’s, but I do enjoy the occasional Strongbow as well!

Ciders and beers in hand!
Ciders and beers in hand!

Sadly I wasn’t able to get to everything.  Our stomachs just wouldn’t allow it.  The next time I go, I would recommend either a true whole day in Epcot (starting at 11am when the booths open) and break it up with some of the other activities’ Epcot has to offer (maybe not Mission Space, unless you really do want to lose your lunch to fit in more food…).  We were able to see Captain EO (any Michael Jackson fan NEEDS to see this MJ meets Star Wars movie music spectacular – directed by George Lucas and everything!).  It’s one of the hubby’s favs, so of course we had to educate Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn.  We also rode Soarin’, Spaceship Earth (LOVE it, always a favorite thanks to the narration of Dame Judy Dench), and Living with the Land.  We, of course, closed the day with one of my favorite firework shows, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  I mean, I may have the CD soundtrack and know all the words to the song… You know… Overall, it was the perfect way to end our Disney trip with such incredible friends.

Can't wait to go back!
Can’t wait to go back!

Isn’t the Epcot Food and Wine Festival the best excuse an adult could have to drink around the world?  Which nation looks the best to you?  Aren’t you impressed we stayed awake to eat and drink that long?

Waiting for Wine and Dine and Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Wednesday world!  It’s post-election day, which means I am a happy camper because now the campaign ads are finally over.  Unless you’re Louisiana… which stinks.  But not here in Colorado, at least.  Hooray!  Otherwise, I am also excited that it’s Wednesday because that means I leave TOMORROW for Disney World with the hubs to meet up with our friends Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon and the renowned Food and Wine Festival in Epcot!

We all will arrive in Orlando late Thursday evening, but with enough time to rest up for a full day on Friday!  Friday morning we will be heading out to the Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, where we will pick up our bibs, tech shirts and other goodies.  After that we’ll head out to the Magic Kingdom for a full day of fun and festivities.  On the docket are riding Buzz Lighyear’s Space Ranger Spin, tackling Space Mountain, and making our way through Pirates of the Caribbean.  One of the elements I am most excited for that day is finally dining at Be Our Guest inside the Beast’s castle!!  Ever since my last visit in February I have been longing to dine there, and we finally got the chance!  That night is the first night of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which should be a blast given all the rides, treats and shows that will occur throughout the night.  It should be a phenomenally incredible first day in Disney.

There will be too much fun to be had!
There will be too much fun to be had!

Saturday is race day, so we plan to rest as much as possible during the day, and fuel up as needed.  I envision lounging by

So excited to run another race with this crew!
So excited to run another race with this crew!

the pool and an afternoon doze session.  That evening we’ll head out to the race area at around 6:15pm.  The race actually begins at 10:00pm, and we’re all starting in corral H, so we will have a bit of time to wait, but this way we’re there and won’t be in a rush.  This race will differ from the Princess Half Marathon as it goes through three parks, including Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and ends in Epcot.  Because it’s all at night, the parks will be lit up (especially the Osborne Family Lights in Hollywood Studios!), and Christmas decorations will adorn the entire facility.  Disney does an incredible job keeping the runners entertained en route, even between the parks, with characters, music, and the ChEAR squad, so I doubt there will be a dull moment along the way.  After the race, there’s a huge finish line party, with food, drinks and lots of fun to be had.  Although it’ll be around 1:00am in the morning, I think we’ll make the most of it before heading back to the resort.

On Sunday we will make our way to Epcot to indulge in the Epcot International Food and Wine festival around the showcase of nations.  This part I am particularly excited for given my foodie nature.  Dozens of countries (beyond those typically represented) will have booths set up with local flavors and national delicacies.  I am SO excited to taste my way around the world, and I am sure the boys are excited to drink around the world too!

Sadly on Monday we depart, but not until later in the day to allow for a lazy morning.  We’ll probably get a bit breakfast, lounge by the pool a bit more, pack up, and head to the airport.  All in all, I am so excited for this little getaway and racecation with the hubs and our dearest friends!

But before I head out on my magical adventure, I still have work and a fun fall-themed potluck with another advising office on campus to look forward to.  In the spirit of the season, our two offices decided to have a chili cook-off!  A few of my coworker made variations of chili, others brought in sides and fixings, and I, of course, brought dessert!  I didn’t want to make my go-to pumpkin bread as I brought that to our last potluck, but knew I still wanted to bake with pumpkin.  So I hopped on the internet and searched for chewy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Thankfully it brought me to one of my favorite baking bloggers, Sally’s Baking Addiction.  I previously made her birthday cake blondies, which were a HUGE hit with the hubs and my office, so I thought I would give her cookies a try.  I am a big fan of chewy cookies as well, as chocolate chip cookies should be, so I wanted something similar that wouldn’t end up cakey or crunchy.

As Sally explained, pumpkins are primarily water, and typically watery cookie batters produce cakey cookies.  To avoid this, the recipe calls for melted butter, which helps to glue the ingredients together (rather than make the batter fluffy), and remove the eggs as the pumpkin will act as an adhesive and moistening agent.  So without further ado, Sally’s Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients2014-11-04 19.11.10

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup light or dark brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons pumpkin puree (I used the rest in another of Sally’s amazing recipes!)

1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour (I used Hungarian High Altitude Flour)

¼ teaspoon salt

My other Sally's creation of the night!  Lightened-up Pumpkin Bars!
My other Sally’s creation of the night! Lightened-up Pumpkin Bars!

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 and ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus some extra to add to the cookies after removing them from the oven)

Directions

Melt the butter over the stove or in a microwave safe bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Add the vanilla and pumpkin until smooth. Set the wet ingredients aside.

2014-11-04 19.30.11In a larger bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and, if you’d like, a ¼ teaspoon of cloves (I typically do not use cloves, due to family preference). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a rubber spatula. The dough will form into a ball and be fairly soft.  Fold in ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. It may be difficult to incorporate them evenly, but work them through as best you can. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes, or up to 3 days. Chilling is mandatory.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll the dough into balls, about 1 ½ Tablespoons of dough each. Press down on the dough balls and flatten them because the cookies will only slightly spread in the oven. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will look very soft and underbaked, but trust me, this is how you want them so they’ll remain nice and chewy. Any extra time in the oven will cause them to dry out and become hard.  Remove from the oven and press a few more chocolate chips onto the tops, if desired.  If you find that your cookies didn’t spread much at all, flatten them out when you take them out of the oven.

Make sure to press down the dough as they will not spread much in the oven.
Make sure to press down the dough as they will not spread much in the oven.
Look at those beautiful golden chewy cookies!
Look at those beautiful golden chewy cookies!

Allow the cookies to cool for at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack.  The more cooling time they have, they chewier they are!   Store the cookies in an airtight container and they should last up to a week.  Enjoy!

2014-11-04 20.50.25
Too good for words.

Have you ever been to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival?  What did you think?  What was your favorite dish or nation?  Are you as obsessed as I am with all things pumpkin?

Making the Most of It: Pre-Trip Festivities!

Another amazing Colorado weekend in the books.  With my trip to the United Kingdom a matter of FOUR days away, I am trying to make the most of my last week in Colorado before we leave.  Over the weekend, other than prepping for our impending travels, the hubs and I were busy hosting the in-laws for a delectable home cooked meal, getting in some miles in preparation for our fall races, and I met up with some local sorority sisters for a hike and an unexpected adventure.

Saturday started off with a nice five mile run with the hubs, followed by necessary errands to prepare for our trip.  With all of the changes we have made in our diet and regular exercise routine, my hubby has lost quite a bit of weight.  It was definitely time, possibly overdue, to get him some new duds to show off his svelte figure.  Obviously we want to look our best abroad, and London is a classy city, so it was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of updating his wardrobe.  Besides, I love shopping for him… there’s something so enjoyable about dressing men!

That evening we hosted my in-laws for a home cooked meal as a thank you for taking care of our adorable pup, Rocco, while we’re away.  We’ve

I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss my puppy boy!
I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss my puppy boy!

had our puppy for just over a year and have never left him for more than 4 days.  This is going to be a big switch for us, and I can already tell I am going to have separation anxiety.  Luckily my in-laws also have a Chihuahua who is our pup’s best friend in the whole world.  Something tells me this will be a vacation for Rocco too.  On the menu for the evening was a delicious cheese plate with Manchego and Pecorino cheeses, rosemary olive oil crisps and crostini from Whole Foods, and black seedless grapes.  With this in mind, the hubs and I decided to go Italian.

We prepared homemade pork meatballs, which we seasoned ourselves, freshly made creamy polenta (my first time making it!), and topped with homemade San Marzano tomato sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano and arugula.  I am a bad blogger and didn’t take a picture of the awesomeness.  The recipe was based off of a dish I used to order at my favorite little Italian restaurant in Boulder, Radda Trattoria.  The hubs and I were so spoiled because this restaurant was just across the street from our townhome, so it became a restaurant staple.  The meal is called Polpette e Polenta, and is too delicious for words.  Without fail, this was always what I ordered.  It’s also this restaurant where I first had a Martini Basilico, which my hubby has beautifully been able to recreate at home (YAY!).  We finished the meal with my mother-in-law’s homemade peach bourbon upside down cake.  Overall, it was a phenomenal meal.

Another perfect day for a hike!
Another perfect day for a hike!

The next morning I met up with two local sorority sister for a Sunday morning hike.  We drove west towards Morrison, the same place I had hike the weekend before, but this time we went to a trail on the opposite side of Red Rocks amphitheater.  The trailhead, Mt. Falcon, takes two paths.  One, the Castle Trail, is mountain biker friendly, so a number of adventurists passed us on the trail, impressively navigating the terrain on bike.  At the first summit, you can see beautiful vistas of the valley below and the Denver skyline in the distance.  Although we decided not to go to the top of Mt. Falcon, for timing reasons, we took the Turkey Trot trail around the back side of the foothill, which allowed for amazing views and a gorgeous woodsy atmosphere.

My hiking buddies, Kaitlin and Christie!
My hiking buddies, Kaitlin and Christie!
The Turkey Trot trail took us through some beautiful woodsy paths.
The Turkey Trot trail took us through some beautiful woodsy paths.
Love these views!
Love these views!
We found Red Rocks!
We found Red Rocks!

After hiking, we drove to downtown Golden for lunch.  We sat on the back patio of the Buffalo Rose bar and grill, and quickly realized we were in the middle of the USA Pro Challenge cycling race.  The main street of Golden was lined with spectators trying to catch a glimpse.  I’d never seen a cycling race in person, so when the hordes of cyclists passed a dizzying speeds, followed closely by pace cars, I was pretty excited.

Definitely an unexpected surprise for our day!
Definitely an unexpected surprise for our day!  Source

Shortly afterwards we tried to leave Golden, and realized the city was shut down for the race.  We managed to cross into the entrance to the Coors factory, and the guard at the gate allowed us to drive through their property

Fort Keg, it's a pretty formidable structure.
Fort Keg, it’s a pretty formidable structure.

to get back to the highway.  Having done the Coors factory tour four times now, I had absolutely no idea how HUGE the factory is.  We drove for quite some time through service roads connecting the facility together, interspersed with Coors’ own railway system.  It was impressive.  Then we saw the castle of kegs, and that was incredible.  I doubt they were full (that would not live up to the Coors cold-brewed standard), but it definitely made me wonder how much beer could fill all of them…  It was in every way a memorable day!

Yeah, not sure we really should have been allowed back here... oh well!
Yeah, not sure we really should have been allowed back here… oh well!
The sunsets along my run are always so beautiful!
The sunsets along my run are always so beautiful!

This week, interspersed with packing, I have jam-packed in fun events and last-minute get-togethers.  Yesterday I fit in a 5K run in preparation for the Esprit de She 10K this Thursday.  The sunset was stunning, and the weather perfection (finally).  Hello 65º!  I hope Thursday night has similar weather.  Tonight, after Zumba, I am stopping by the Esprit de She Packet Pickup Party at the Athleta shop in Denver’s Cherry Creek area.  Not only can I get my bib, but as a participant we also get 20% off in store, snacks, giveaways and more.  Yes please!  Tomorrow evening I will be going to the Squeaky Bean with my friend Danielle for pre-trip cocktails.  The Squeaky Bean boasts one of the best professional mixologists in Denver, so the drinks are fabulous.  Finally, Thursday I will be running the Esprit de She with my friend Christie, and cannot wait for the post-race festivities.

Have a great week everyone – make every day an adventure!

How did you make the most of your last summer weekend?  Do you know how much beer could fill all of those kegs?  What are you looking forward to this week?

High Altitude Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcakes

Try saying that ten times fast!   This recipe, I must admit, is pretty fantastic.  Although I am not allergic to gluten, I have wanted to dabble in gluten free baking for some time.  I have had plenty of great gluten free baked goods (along with numerous not so good gluten free baked goods), so I wanted to put my pastry skills to the test.  Personally I feel these cupcakes were a huge success, especially given that my seven-person work team consumed 10 of them in a matter of 5 hours.  Not too shabby!

This recipe is pretty fabulous... just sayin...
This recipe is pretty fabulous… just sayin…

While I am truly appreciating the effects of this cleanse, I will be very happy to bake again.  Baking is my happy place, my stress reliever and my favorite hobby.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as creating something from scratch – combining just the right elements to produce a treat so mouthwatering and delectable – and watching others enjoy the end result.  That is why I love baking.

It was time, then, to push myself a bit further and work with ingredients I have not utilized before.  Conquering, or at least adjusting to, high altitude baking was one major feat.  Now gluten free!  I am a huge fan of red velvet cupcakes.  A HUGE fan.  The hubs isn’t so keen, which I cannot possibly understand (I think it might have to do with the cream cheese frosting, which is absolutely insane as cream cheese frosting is epically amazing).  With this in mind, I made these cupcakes for my coworkers.  With the move a few days away, I wanted to show them my gratitude in making the transition that much smoother.  I think they got the message, and if not, they got a belly full of yummy goodness instead.  Same thing, right?

So without further ado, my very own gluten free red velvet cupcakes (with help from a number of great sources)!

High Altitude Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcakes (If you would like the same recipe – remember to use the Gluten Free Cake Flour – for sea level baking, both recipes are provided here!)

Ingredients

For the Gluten Free Cake Flour:

3 cups brown rice flour (this needs to be fine ground)

1 cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)

½ cup tapioca flour

1 ¼ teaspoons xanthan gum (can also use guar gum)

For the Cupcakes:

The color is surprisingly rich - and the batter very tasty!
The color is surprisingly rich – and the batter very tasty!

1 ¼ cup Gluten Free Cake Flour

2/3 cup baker’s sugar

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large egg

¾ cup vegetable oil

½ buttermilk (I used heavy cream)

1 teaspoon red food coloring (Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors are also gluten free!)

1 teaspoon vanilla (I use Penzeys Double Strength Vanilla Extract)

1 teaspoon White Vinegar

¾ teaspoon baking powder

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese (I used light cream cheese)

Seriously though, who doesn't love cream cheese frosting?
Seriously though, who doesn’t love cream cheese frosting?

8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

I know it looks like a lot of work, but it is completely worth the effort!  Start by creating your cake flour.  Sift the brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and xanthan gum in a small bowl, and combine thoroughly.  You will want to store this in an airtight container or Ziploc bag for future use, and you will utilize 1 ¼ cup for the cupcake recipe.

Now let’s start on the cupcakes.  Whip together the sugar, eggs, and oil with an electric mixer or beater until combined, but do not over whip (especially for high altitude).  Alternate adding the dry ingredients, except the baking powder, with the wet ingredients, except the vinegar.  Once the batter is smooth, add the red gel food coloring.  Combine together the vinegar and baking powder and mix for 10 seconds, then pour this mixture into the batter and mix for another 10 seconds.

Make sure to make them even so they cook evenly.
Make sure to make them even so they cook evenly.

Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, fill a pre-lined cupcake pan about ¾ of the way full.  Bake at 375º F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Make sure to allow the cupcakes to cool completely before icing them.

For the frosting, combine the room temperature cream cheese and butter together in a bowl using an electric beater until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add the confectioners’ sugar gradually, ½ cup at a time, until no lumps are visible, and then incorporate the vanilla until just combined.  Spoon into a piping bag or ice using an icing spatula.  I added a bit of food coloring to the frosting just for fun! Enjoy!

Although they sunk slightly, they were so moist and delicious inside!
Although they sunk slightly, they were so moist and delicious inside!
Pretty yellow cream cheese frosting flowers!
Pretty yellow cream cheese frosting flowers!
SO good... I am looking forward to a sweet treat post-cleanse...
SO good… I am looking forward to a sweet treat post-cleanse…

Have you dabbled in gluten free baking?  What did you think?  How did it go?  What are your favorite kind of cupcakes?

 

Cleansing Does Not Mean Deprivation

When I first heard the concept of cleansing, I couldn’t help but picture a face wash commercial with women splashing water in their faces in slow motion.  I quickly learned it is much more than that, nor does it necessarily have anything to do with facial cleaning.  I attended a product party in April for the company Arbonne, initially a Swiss company that moved to the US in 1980 and promotes Vegan-based products for skincare, hair, sun protection, cosmetics, fragrances, and nutrition.  I have been using some of their makeup products for a little over a month and I am quite pleased.  However I wasn’t sure about the cleanse process.  A dear friend of mine had completed the month-long cleanse, and knowing she was not trying to sell me the products, honestly said she felt a noticeable difference afterwards.  So why not give it a go, and see how I feel?  It’s only a month after all.

Why do they look so happy?  This isn't exactly effective...
Why do they look so happy? This isn’t exactly effective… Source

So why cleanse?  This process helps to reduce certain food groups to, in essence, help cleanse and clean your digestive system.  It alleviates the stresses certain food items have on our body.  There are many food items that

Lunch on the cleanse: homemade fajitas, avacado, corn tortillas, and watermelon!
Lunch on the cleanse: homemade fajitas, avacado, corn tortillas, and watermelon!

humans were never meant to eat, dairy being one of them (sadly… who doesn’t love a delicious bowl of ice cream?), so this process helps to give your body a break and regain balance.  The food groups that are eliminated during this cleanse include the following: gluten/wheat products, dairy, coffee/caffeine, yeast, refined sugar, alcohol, vinegar, soy, artificial sweeteners, food coloring/dye, non-organic corn and artificial/processed foods.  It sounds like a lot, but still leaves an amazing amount of options.  Thankfully the hubs and I really like, nay, LOVE, fresh food and consume a vast amount of organic fruits and veggies throughout the week, don’t consume much sugar or caffeine, and only have cocktails and wine on the weekends.  It’s been more of lifestyle shift rather than a food withdrawal.

Who wouldn't love to start their day with a delicious smoothie?
Who wouldn’t love to start their day with a delicious smoothie?

This cleanse has been a switch in my day-to-day norm.  The products I have incorporated are from Arbonne’s Essentials collection.  Rather than oatmeal or cereal with fruit for breakfast, I wake up a bit earlier and make a smoothie with tons of fruit and spinach, as well as a touch of almond milk, two scoops of Arbonne’s Vanilla Protein Powder (using pea, cranberry and rice protein), and one scoop of Arbonne’s Fiber Powder.  I’d never been one for protein shakes, but these turn out delicious with enough fruit.  I also notice I stay full through much of the morning thanks to the fiber, and then have cherries or a peach as a snack until lunch.  As a sweet treat, Arbonne has Vegan Lemon Fit Chews and Energy Fizz Sticks in Citrus and Pomegranate to mix into water (or Starbucks’ Passion Iced Tea – yum!).  The cleanse also includes a 7 day colon cleanse which I have not yet started.  All in all, I am already pleased – I feel lighter, more energetic, and have lost a few pounds in the process.  Plus it gives me an excuse to make more smoothies, and boy do I love smoothies.

What I like about this cleanse is that it can be easily done with or without the products, and is easy to incorporate into everyday life.  There comes a moment in the month-long process that you find yourself saying, “I don’t want that,” rather than “I can’t have that.”  Although I allow for flexibility on Saturday and Sunday – I do love a good glass of wine, and being married to a novice mixologist is a huge plus – I don’t feel the need to indulge quite as much.  The biggest lesson I have learned, both through this process and in talking to others, is that this cannot be the only means of health.  It’s not a quick fix.  If you want overall health, you need to balance diet with exercise.  I am not one to crash diet and rely solely on food for weight loss.  True health requires both!

I obviously have a Whole Foods organic produce section problem...
I obviously have a Whole Foods organic produce section problem… All cleanse friendly!

If you’d like to learn more about the process, the products, or both, please feel free to contact me.  Below I have listed the reason why we eliminate certain food groups during the cleanse, courtesy of Louisa Nickel!

What exactly am I cleansing/detoxing? If I already feel great; do I need this program? Everything is affected in our body by what we eat. You are cleansing and detoxifying everything on this program. Your body will naturally clean out what needs to be cleaned first and then go down the list of what takes priority. Your body knows that and will naturally do that itself. We all need an opportunity to refocus on our health, and making changes to your diet over 30 days will show you in the end what it really did for you: increased energy, weight loss, mental clarity, improved digestion, etc.

Why not vinegar? Vinegar has a pH that affects our gut. During the 30 days you want to make your gut as healthy as possible. Vinegar is fuel for the critters in our body that are not good and want to multiply while we are trying to kill them during those 30 days: bacteria, etc. The exception is Apple Cider vinegar. A healthy gut absorbs nutrients best, and absorbing nutrients increases our metabolism which helps us lose weight.

Why not coffee? Coffee is an inflammatory substance on the gut and bowel. It is also a laxative. If you have coffee every morning your body has learned to rely on that to help you have a BM. With eating right your body will learn to relieve itself.

Why not soy? Soy products are not ideal for nutrition. Processed soy affects you hormonally, it doesn’t matter if you are a male or female. It is an allergen and we omit it during this program. Also, more than 90% of soy is genetically modified (GM) in the US, so if it’s not certified organic soy, it’s GM.

Why not corn/non-organic corn? As with soy, more than 90% of corn is GM in the US. If you already have a bent towards yeast, breads, and pasta, do not do corn. For people who want to get their sugar and carb cravings under control, you should not do corn. If you do, purchase certified organic corn.

What if you don’t want to eliminate certain items like coffee or alcohol? Eliminating foods is about goals and results. The more restrictive and closer to the guidelines of the program, the better your results. ANY improvement in overall nutrition will yield results, so you can choose your level of commitment. You choose the route that will lead you toward permanent change. Some people need to do one or two small changes at a time, which is still progress. You’re still reducing the toxic load on your body. All or nothing is NOT the purpose of the program.

 

Have you ever tried a cleanse – was it through a company or on your own?  Was it effective – how did you feel afterwards?  How do you find digestive balance – are there any items you’ve removed from your diet, either permanently or temporarily?