Pumpkin Season!

Happy Wednesday! I hope everyone’s week is off to a great start! I just finished up week 14 of marathon training for Chicago and I’m well into week 15-PEAK WEEK! After this week is over, the mileage starts to decrease before the big day is here. I’m very excited and only a little bit nervous ;-)
Here’s how week 14 went down:
Monday: Barre Class
Tuesday: 5 miles @ 9:10 + core work
Wednesday: 9 miles @ 9:50. Had some Garmin issues along with rainy & windy weather, but I powered through and figured out what went wrong at the end.
Thursday: 5 miles @ 9:10 + core & stretching
Friday: Barre class/stretch
Saturday: 18 miles @ 10:05. Played around with my pace for the marathon. Ended the last mile going uphill. Muy mal planning on my part. Weather was slightly cooler than what is normal for this time of year, but I refused to put away the shorts just yet.
photoSunday: Brunch with the family/rest day/took lots of naps and it was glorious.
On Sunday, I was feeling domestic. With last week’s cooler temps, I thought it would be the perfect time to whip up some baked goods. I had a counter full of zucchini and a cupboard full of canned pumpkin. Put the two together and I present to you, Paleo Pumpkin Zucchini Bread. It turned out so good (and made our house smell like Fall), that the whole loaf pan was gone with in two days. Oopsy whoopsy. I will be making another batch, experimenting with another type of almond flour. Maybe it will be done in time for a special house guest next weekend? ;-)  I’d like to find an almond flour that works well in baked goods and doesn’t make my bread/muffins too “soggy”. It was good, but a little bit more “soggy” (as I hate the word moist!) than I would’ve liked. The pumpkin could’ve been the culprit too.
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Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cup blanched almond flour
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup shredded & zucchini
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix dry ingredients (first 4) in a small bowl. Set aside
3. Shred unpeeled zucchini and blot with a paper towel to squeeze out excess moisture
4. Beat 3 eggs in a larger bowl. Place the remaining ingredients (except zucchini) in the bowl, then mix on medium for about 2 minutes until all ingredients are combined. Add the zucchini and beat again just enough to incorporate.
5. Slowly add the dry ingredients with the mixer running, until all of the flour mixture has been mixed in.
6. Spoon the batter into a loaf pan. You can also make muffins.
7. Bake for about 50-60 minutes until the middle is set and a toothpick comes out clean.
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Question of the day: What is your favorite pumpkin flavored thing to eat/drink/make? I also love pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting :-) My fave!

Easy Peasy Campfire Meal

When I was younger, I recall camping being a time to eat all the snacks that weren’t normally in our house. This included things like wrapped Hostess snacks, chips, and all other “unhealthy” treats. Dinners usually consisted of hot dogs, brats or burgers on the grill. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burger or brat on a campfire, but this year I wanted to mix things up a little bit and balance out our meals between the s’mores & strawberry ice cream. Some healthy snacks I packed were grapes, strawberries, hummus & pita chips. The not so healthy: all the accoutraments for s’mores, cookies, crackers,  and Trader Joe’s Chicago mix popcorn {warning: if you purchase this, you will eat the whole bag, to say there are 4 servings in there is absurd ;-) }.

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Spaghetti Squash Bake

Happy Tuesday! How was everyone’s weekend?  Ours started out really good and then ended kind of a low note…my strep throat returned and a busted tail light :-/ Womp womp!  Hubs accidentally backed my car into his…the worst kind of accident. But luckily, everyone is okay.  Easy (but pricey) fix.
fenderbenderI started feeling kind of crappy on Sunday when I woke up, but pressed forward with baking cookies with my little darling.
IMG_2530After that adventure and cleaning up the kitchen, I was exhausted and could feel my throat starting to swell up.  I called my doc to call in another round of antibiotics, so hopefully this round will do the trick.  I have a half marathon to run this weekend and I want to go into it feeling 100%.
To continue on with celebrating National Nutrition Month, I want to share an amazing recipe using spaghetti squash in place of pasta.
Both pasta and spaghetti squash have their own nutritional benefits.  For example, pasta is a better source of folate, where as eating spaghetti squash will provide you with more antioxidants.  Both are low in fat, but if you’re watching your carbs, spaghetti squash would be the better choice.  There are 7 grams of carbs in spaghetti squash compared to pasta’s 31 grams of carbs.  And calories? 1 serving of pasta (and let’s face it, most of us are consuming more than the recommended amount) packs in 158 calories, while spaghetti squash contains 27 calories. (source)   Overall,l if you’re trying to eat low (complex) carbs, low-fat, gluten-free or whole, unprocessed foods, I would say that spaghetti squash is the way to go.
Last week I made this delicious number.
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I cut 1 spaghetti squash in half (lengthwise), brushed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven at 400 for about 45 minutes.  While that was baking in the oven, I cooked up some italian chicken sausage, spinach, and pasta sauce.  Once the spaghetti squash was out of the oven, I took a fork and “fluffed” up the “noodles”.
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Then spooned the chicken sausage mixture over top and then added a sprinkle of goat cheese crumbles.  And voilà! Dinner :-)
What’s your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash? I used to scoop it out onto a plate and eat it like spaghetti, but I found this way to be much more appetizing and EASY!

Asian Chicken Salad

Happy Tuesday!  How was everyone’s weekend?  Ours was pretty busy over here, with drill and the last of our work holiday parties plus taking care of a sick kiddo.  Let’s just say, I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Last week, I was on a mission to use up some of the pantry items I’ve had on hand for awhile.  There were a lot of random meals being made and at one point, I said to hubs as we sat down to dinner, “I have no idea how this is going to taste, but all these things sounded like a really good idea.”  And it was.  I did, however, make one meal that I knew would be a for sure winner.

Every time we have a big family gathering, my grandma makes this Oriental Salad and it’s always a hit.  The salad is made with a pack of ramen noodles and you use the flavor packet as part of the dressing.  It’s amazing.  I would like to experiment with making the dressing completely from scratch one of these days just because I know how much sodium is in that little flavor packet.  If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears!  To serve as a main meal, I cut up two chicken breasts into bite size pieces and sautéed them in sesame oil and black pepper.  The chicken definitely added some staying power to the salad.

IMG_2488Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb bag angel fine cole slaw
  • 1 pack oriental flavored ramen noodle
  • 1/2 c diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 c honey roasted sesame sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c roasted almonds sliced

Dressing

  • 1 flavor pack that comes with noodles
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 c oil

In a large bowl, mix up all of the salad ingredients.  Crush the ramen noodles up for garnish if you want to.  It adds a nice crunch to the salad.  In a separate smaller bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and stir.  Mix well into the salad.  Add in the chicken.  There you have it!  A salad packed with flavor that has some staying power.  Win win!

This week, my meals are well-planned out but my workouts are kind of all over the place, but I’m getting it done!  Here’s what’s on the agenda for this week:

Monday: PF Chang’s Asian Lettuce Wraps (thumbs up!) + Interval Barre & Running 3 miles

Tuesday: Runner’s World Meatloaf  (sooo good!) + foam rolling & stretching

Wednesday: leftovers + barre bee

Thursday: Jerk shrimp stir-fry + my Air Force PT Test!! (I’m anxious to see how all the push-ups in barre have helped me!)

Friday: Mexi night + Barre & running maybe?

I’ve been putting my Runner’s World cookbook to use!  I have yet to make a disappointing recipe from it and can’t wait to try out some of the desserts.  It was one of the most useful birthday presents that I received last year.

Question of the night:  What’s your favorite recipe book?  I could always add more to my collection!  My favorite would have to be a gift from my grandma.  One year for Christmas, she made up books for all of the women in my family of all of her best recipes.  It’s a cookbook I will keep forever!

Leftover Turkey Soup

Hi guys!  I’m so so grateful that I have Mondays off.  Our weekend was so jam-packed, it was nice to play catch up today-a day full of running errands, working out and cleaning.  This morning, I met up with a friend for a gym date.  I got there a little early and did 30 minutes of light cardio on the elliptical.  She met me afterward and we did a killer lower body workout.  It’s so much better doing resistance training workouts with friends!

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Thanksgiving Recipes 2013

Happy Holiday weekend!  Anyone score any great black friday deals?!  This is the first year I partook in the madness that is black Friday/Thanksgiving night shopping and I nearly got run over at Kohls’ for the last Shark steam mop.  On Friday, hubs and I enjoyed a much leisurely shopping experience at Home Depot where we got a great deal on a dishwasher. Ours broke a few months ago and we’ve kind of put it on the back burner until now.  Dishes aren’t too bad in our house since it’s just the two of us and the munchkin, but it’s nice that we will now have options.

This was my second year hosting Thanksgiving, but a first in our new house.  Overall, everything went fairly well.  We had a few misjudgments about the turkey, but having a double oven really helped out with things.  I don’t think I will ever be without one ever again.

With Madelyn being dairy-free, this year posed some new challenges, substitutions and lots of finger crossing.  I wanted her to be able to eat anything on the table.  Our first dairy-free Thanksgiving was a HIT!!  Everyone raved about my sweet potatoes and had some requests for the recipe, so here it is!
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Dairy Free(gluten free) Soul Sweet Potato Casserole (Serves 15)
Ingredients

  • 8 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups of coconut cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups pecans chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted dairy-free butter (I used Earth’s Balance)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 and place potatoes on baking rack.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.  When the potatoes are finished, place on a big cutting board and let them cool. Once they’re cool, cut all of the sweet potatoes down the center and scrape out the inside.  Place the insides of the sweet potatoes into a very large mixing bowl.  Increase the oven temperature to 400.

Next, add in the sugar, coconut cream, eggs, vanilla and salt.  MASH the mixture up with a potato masher until all ingredients are combined and somewhat lumpy.  Spread the sweet potato mixture into a square or oval baking dish.  In a separate bowl, mash the brown sugar, pecans, flour and butter with a fork until thoroughly mixed through.  Sprinkle the crumbly mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Bake it until the top is golden brown, about (45 minutes).

The next dairy-free dish I made was dessert.  Hubs requested a traditional pumpkin pie so I made that with dairy.  But for Madelyn and anyone else who wanted some, I made dairy-free pumpkin pecan pie bars.  They turned out really good, and I will definitely make them again.  I preferred this pumpkin pie filling over the traditional actually and couldn’t even tell that it was dairy-free. Coconut milk and cream is a great substitute for pumpkin desserts.

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DF & GF Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares (Serves 12)
Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used C4C)
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 can (15oz) pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup pecans chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • soy whipped cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar and butter into a small bowl.  With a hand mixer, beat at low speed for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is crumbly.  Take the mixture and press on the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 baking pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

Next, combine the maple syrup, pumpkin, coconut milk, eggs and pumpkin pie spice in a larger mixing bowl.  Beat at a medium speed for 2 minutes and pour over crust.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Combine the pecans and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a smaller mixing bowl.  After the 20 minutes is up, sprinkle pecan topping over filling.  Continue to bake for about 20 minutes.  Cool completely in pan.  Cut into 12 bars and serve with whipped cream.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend and spending quality time with family and friends.  Today, we ventured off to Sprecher Brewery for a tour with Madelyn :-) She did surprisingly well and was a hit amongst our group.  I’m off to watch some Christmas movies on the couch with Larry.  Have a great rest of the weekend!

Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s that time of year.  Cold salads are out and soup and comfort food is in.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it really hard to get my daily serving of vegetables when the temps start to drop.  The last thing I want when it’s 20 degrees is a salad.  Enter soup.    This last week, I wanted to try my hand at making chicken noodle soup from scratch-broth and all.  I found a few recipes, pieced together a few things and learned some cost-saving tips along the way :-)
The first thing that all the recipes called for was a whole chicken.  I ventured to the butcher section of Whole Foods to pick myself up a chicken and was stumped? Fryer chicken or roasting chicken? Where was the soup chicken??  So I asked the butcher which one to use.  He said that if I wanted more of a meaty soup to get the roaster chicken.  As I sat there and pondered if I wanted meaty soup or not, a nice lady over heard me talking to the butcher about my plans for this chicken and she offered another alternative: chicken backs.  She told me that she normally gets chicken backs and then will buy chicken breasts (bone-in and with the skin) to add in some more meat.  You can get some meat off of the chicken back but you’re buying them mostly for their bone.  The cost of the chicken backs and breast was about $8 as opposed to $15 for a whole chicken that I didn’t even need.  We had plenty of meat for the soup.
After you’ve decided what kind of chicken you want for your soup, next up is the broth: the heart of a good soup.  Place your chicken in an 8qt stock pot and fill with enough water to cover the chicken.  Then, add in onion, garlic, the leafy part of the celery, salt and pepper.  Boil for about 2 hours. The meat should be tender and falling off the bone by then.
IMG_2294After the two hours is up, remove the chicken from pot, place on a cutting board, and remove all the meat from the bones.
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Place the meat in a separate pot (I used a 6qt pot) and throw the bones and skin away.  Strain the broth with a fine mesh strainer into the new pot (the 6qt).  Add in egg noodles, carrots, celery, parsnips, salt, pepper, and any other desired vegetables.  Cook until the vegetables are tender and the noodles are done :-)   Serve and enjoy!!
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Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken or chicken parts with bone and skin
  • 1 large white onion sliced up
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 stalks of celery plus the leafy parts for broth
  • 2 parsnips chopped up
  • 4 carrots peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • egg noodles broken up into smaller pieces
  • chopped parsley
  • water

I’m off to bundle up for a 5k that Larry and I are doing this afternoon.  It’s going to be a fast one since it’s 20 degrees out!  Motivation to hurry up and get inside :-)

What fun plans do you have this weekend?