I’m still recovering from the totally epic race this past weekend, the Lake Tahoe Relay. The first year we had a team together was 2007 and we have managed to do it almost every year since. The DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay is the oldest distance relay in the country and this was the 51st year. I hope that it continues on for a very long time, because it is by far one of my favorite races of the year.

So, what makes it so amazing? First of all, just being outside in Lake Tahoe is gorgeous no matter what the weather. But on top of that, running around the circumference of the Lake is a truly beautiful thing. Combine that with spending the day with amazingly supportive and inspirational people, and you have a recipe for a day that just can’t be beat.

A few of us at the start, bright and early!

A few of us at the start, bright and early!

The seven person relay starts at 7:00 am in South Lake Tahoe and travels the 72 miles around the Lake. With a team of seven, each team member runs about 10 miles, give or take a few. The legs range from downhill to flat to rolling to steady, long climbs. There is something for everyone. The leg that I have run year after year is leg #3, which travels from Spooner summit North to Incline Village. The net elevation change is a decline, which can leave your toes and shins screaming. Pretty sure I am going to lose a few toenails…I am hoping that they simmer down before my half marathon on Saturday (which is less than two days away now, eek). I ain’t got no time for soreness! Oh well. It was a great day and I averaged a 9:25 minute per mile pace, which is about 30 seconds faster per mile than I was aiming for.

I annoyed my teammates all day long and took video of our adventure around the Lake. Take a look for yourself and put this race on your list for future events. You won’t regret it!

I had my first big race of the season yesterday, The Lake Tahoe Relay! It was a very hot day for Lake Tahoe, with temperatures in the 80s, but I still managed to finish about :30/mile faster than my goal! I was fortunate enough to run with a team of inspiring and fun coworkers and friends, which made for a great day. Above is a picture of some of us above Emerald Bay. I captured our day on video and will be putting together a post for you with a race recap. Stay tuned and make sure to follow my blog to get notified when that is up.

Next weekend, I am looking forward to the Rock Tahoe Half Marathon and am going to be taking it pretty easy this week as far as training goes. I did the same last week to make sure that I was well-rested for two back-to-back weekends with races over 10 miles. I think my strategy is paying off and I felt pretty good going into yesterday’s race. Below is what last week looked like for training:

  • Monday 6/8 – Easy 6 mile run, 10:02/mile pace.
  • Tuesday 6/9 – 30 minute tempo run. I struggled with this one and really only did about 20 minutes at the pace I was hoping (9:00/mile).
  • Wednesday 6/10 – Rest day and dentist. Yay!
  • Thursday 6/11 – Easy 2.5 miles on the Flume trail with my pup.
  • Friday 6/12 – Rest day.
  • Saturday 6/13 – Race day! 10.3 miles at 9:25/mile pace.
  • Sunday 6/14 – Rest day. Pretty sore from the race so I took it easy with a relaxing day on the Lake paddle boarding.

Total running miles: 21.8 miles

Total paddling miles: 2 miles

Next week, I plan on having a similar schedule, although my run tomorrow will probably be only about 4 miles. I’m also planning on making sure to get adequate stretching and foam rolling. As much as I hate the foam roller, I know that it is a huge help in recovering and working knots out.

That’s the plan, hopefully all goes to schedule. Lucky me is schedule to report for jury duty tomorrow, so hopefully I am not sequestered somewhere. I am all about performing my civil duty, but it would be nice if they could plan that around your racing and work schedule. Geez. How inconsiderate.

What are some of the other ways you try to recover quickly from a race? Share any of your favorite home remedies in the comments.

Happy Friday! Are you ready for the weekend? Are you doing anything fun? Yes and yes, for me! There are only hours till the Lake Tahoe Relay and I have to say, I haven’t looked forward to a race this much in years, regular pre-race nerves aside. This will be the fifth time I have participated in this race, but I’ve missed out on it the past two years. Last year I was physically unable to do it. I was out of shape and dealing with some Achilles issues. Those are behind me and I have been working my butt off to get in shape over the past five months. It’s game time.

I’ve always loved running because it is about pushing yourself to be the best you can be, but when you have a team relying on you, there is even more motivation to perform at the highest level you can. I’m ready to tackle my 10 1/2 mile leg tomorrow and will definitely let you know how it goes. Hopefully well, because I have the Rock Tahoe Half Marathon next weekend. Hello racing season. It is nice to see you again!

With all this hard work and racing, I think I deserve a little treat. What’s a delicious little treat that makes me happy? Chocolate. Duh. Not only are these brownies decadent and delicious, but they are also much healthier than their refined grain and sugar cousins. These brownies won’t make you feel like garbage eating them and are extremely low in sugar and carbs. Enjoy this treat without feeling guilty, just try not to eat the whole pan.


IMG_0048Double-Chocolate Paleo Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup smooth almond butter (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (shake well before opening)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (or some other good quality chocolate chip, dairy is fine if you can tolerate it)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease an 8×8 glass baking pan with coconut oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine almond butter, coconut milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt. An electric mixer is best for this.
  4. Add cocoa powder, sugar, and 2/3 cup chocolate chips. Mix well.
  5. Pour into greased pan and top with nuts and leftover chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted and comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool before cutting…or at least try to let them cool before you dig in.

So simple and so delicious! What are some of your favorite treats when you have been working extra hard? Let me know in the comments.

IMG_0038

IMG_0043

A day like today is just calling for comfort food. It is raining in Lake Tahoe (which I absolutely love) and I had to go to my favorite place in the whole-wide world, the dentist. One of my goals for this year was to start going to the dentist again… I may or may not have gone like 8 years without going… Anyways, I am back on track and just had a little filling completed today. As much as I wish I never had to go to the dentist, I am learning in my “older” age how much dental health relates to your overall health. It wasn’t as bad as I remember 8 years ago and am glad to be getting things taken care of proactively. Anyways, fillings and rain made me really want some good ol’ comfort food. I also wanted something that could be put together in 30 minutes or less.

One of my favorite go-tos that fit this bill are zoodles. If you have never heard of zoodles before, your life is about to change forever. Forever, I tell you. Making zoodles is fun and a SUPER healthy alternative to traditional pasta. All you need is a spiralizer (here and here are some good ones) and zucchini, and boom, you have zoodles. There is so much you can do with zoodles. You can make shrimp scampi, serve with meatballs, top with meat sauce, or just enjoy with some butter, parmesan cheese, and pretend you are five again. For me, I love making zoodles with ground turkey and a combination of red and pesto sauces. There is something about the marriage between the tomato and pesto that is just a match made in heaven. Next time you are craving something comforting, give this recipe a try or get creative in the kitchen and come up with your own combination for zoodles. I promise, you won’t be sorry.


IMG_0029Zoodles with Pesto Ground Turkey

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (cremini or button)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nut pesto
  • 2 medium-large zucchini
  • 1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce (I can’t live without Kissino)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the coconut oil to a large pan over medium heat. After coconut oil has melted, add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté until soft and the mushrooms are starting to turn golden brown.
  2. Add your ground turkey to the pan and break up into small chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook until no longer pink in the center.
  3. While your turkey is cooking, spiralize your zucchini. Set aside.
  4. Add half of the pesto to the pan and incorporate with the turkey. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Remove the turkey mixture from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add the zoodles and red sauce to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes. You really don’t want to cook the zoodles too long. I prefer them barely cooked, so I really just cook them until heated through.
  6. Transfer your zoodles and red sauce to two plates. Top with your turkey and leftover pesto. I also like to garnish mine with some fresh cherry tomatoes.

That’s it! This is so easy, it probably shouldn’t even be a recipe. Let me know if you try it or what your favorite way to eat zoodles is. Get inspiralized!

IMG_0028

Beautiful morning paddling yesterday...until it started to rain.

Beautiful morning paddling yesterday…until it started to rain.

Only one week left till my first big race of the season! This time next week, I will have finished the Lake Tahoe Relay and looking forward to the Rock Tahoe Half Marathon the following weekend. I am a little nervous about back-to-back races, but I am feeling excited at the same time. I haven’t had a “big” race (over 5k) in two years and I love the feeling that comes with them. Butterflies at the start, determination in the middle, and accomplishment at the finish. There is truly nothing quite like it.

With some big weeks coming up, I decided to gear down a bit this week, or “taper,” as anyone training for a half marathon or longer refers to it. I was also feeling my hike to the top of Mt. Tallac till about Wednesday, so being nice to my body and not over stressing it was a must. That meant taking my mileage down slightly, but I was still working on speed to try and improve pace. Right now, my long runs have been in the 10:30 per mile range, and I really want to be under 10:00 on race day. Hopefully the interval run and pace run I did this week will help. So, here’s what my week looked like:

  • Monday 6/1 – It’s June! Holy crap. Where did the time go? Feeling pretty sore from a long run on Saturday and the summit hike on Sunday, I took today off from running and got a long walk in with the pup.
  • Tuesday 6/2 – Ditto.
  • Wednesday 6/3 – Ran on my favorite trail with my favorite little furry running buddy for National Running Day! It was an awesome run and we just had fun. Didn’t worry about pace or total mileage, but we got 3.25 miles in.
  • Thursday 6/4 – This was definitely a good, quality run. It consisted of a mile warm-up at about 10:30 pace, followed by 8 x 400 meter intervals. The intervals were at 9:00 per mile pace with 11:00 per mile pace recovery in-between. I love intervals and always have. My total mileage for the day was 5.36.
  • Friday 6/5 – Ran on the Flume trail again with the fur kid. Once again, didn’t worry about pace or total milage, but it was about 3.25 miles.
  • Saturday 6/6 – Today was a cross training day and I started it with an hour of spin class in the morning, followed by a couple of hours on the Lake paddle boarding. It was a beautiful day, until it started raining. We got off the Lake just in time.
  • Sunday 6/7 – 8.1 mile morning run at 10:43 pace. This was my last “long” run till my race next weekend. It’s all downhill from here!

Total running miles: 20.46

Total paddling miles: 2

Total spinning miles: 13.8

Next week, I’ll gear it down a little more leading up to the race. There is no point in going balls-out this time of year, only to get injured and be sidelined for the rest of the racing season. Train smarter, not harder. Right?! What are some ways you gear up, or down, leading up to a big race?

It seems like there is a national holiday for just about everything these days. National Brownie Day, National Leave Work Early Day (that was yesterday in case you missed it…I did), National Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Ball Point Pen Day (really?), the list goes on… However, one day that I can totally get behind is National Running Day, which happens to be today. Lucky you!

National Running Day was designated for all hardcore and wanna-be runners alike. So whether you are a newbie or a seasoned marathoner, get out there and run today! According to the Running Day website, it is also a day for “runners to join in by planning a run, spreading the running bug to a friend, signing up for a race, or setting a new goal.”

My favorite running partner and I mid-run. Selfie break!

Me and my favorite running partner. Mid-run selfie!

So, how am I going to celebrate this all-American holiday? BBQ and beer like every other ‘merican holiday, duh. Just kidding. I am going to go for a run with my favorite little furry running buddy, of course! It won’t be a long or fast run today (I am still really sore from my weekend long run and hike to the summit of Mt. Tallac), but it will be fun and I will enjoy every second of being able to do something that brings me so much happiness. Running is a privilege and I am just so grateful that I am able to do something that so many other people either cannot physically partake in or do not have the discipline to do.

If you are a runner, celebrate your passion and commitment to the sport today. Not everyone physically can or chooses to run and you should be proud of your bad ass self. Run today for someone who can’t. While you are out there, think about how lucky you are to be in the moment. Think about how much your mind and body thanks you for doing something for YOU. Think about how you are a better person because of this simple, no-frills required, primal sport called running. Think about what running goals you want to accomplish in the second half of the year. Runners are some of the most disciplined people I know and anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

Now, if you are not a runner and are thinking, ‘Whatever. I could do that. I just don’t want to.’ (like many ex-boyfriends have said to me over the years), today is a good day to just give it a try. Grab a friend (the two-legged or four-legged kind) and go for a run. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be fast. And it doesn’t have to be pretty. Just do me one favor, wake up tomorrow and the next day and the next day and do the same thing. Stick to it for two weeks minimum. Don’t just go for one run and say, “That sucked. I’m never doing that again.” Runners are not born overnight (okay, in Kenya they are) and it takes time and determination to get to a place where you will really enjoy it. Two weeks seems to be the amount of time it takes for things to begin to click. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Are you a runner or someone who aspires to be? What are you going to do for National Running Day to celebrate?

Mt. Tallac, or “Great Mountain” as translated in Washoe, is the highest peak closest to the shores of Lake Tahoe. It stands 9,735’ above sea level and this weekend I stood on the tippy top to make it just over 9,740’ for a second. The trail to reach the top is one of the most strenuous in the area, but the views are worth every burning step. Hello calves and hamstrings!

I have been lucky to call Lake Tahoe “home” for nearly 25 years and in all my time here, I have never tackled the mountain. The idea to take it on started like all great ideas do, sitting around and drinking a beer with friends. At first we had the really great idea to do it with our snowboards and ride down. I am glad that we realized that was a really bad idea when we had a clear conscious the next day. Although there are hardcore skiers and snowboarders that will hike the mountain with their gear to enjoy the crazy chutes and open bowls, it is no joke. A daypack with LOTS of water, some food, and a long sleeve shirt was more than enough to carry up the mountain on my back.

We left Incline Village on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe a little after 9:00 am and made it to the trailhead at 10:00. The trailhead is pretty easy to find and there is a decent amount of parking. If you are hiking in the popular summer months of June to August, make sure that you get there early to beat the crowds and the heat. Click here or here for more info. Also, when you get to the trailhead, you will have to fill out a permit to enter Desolation Wilderness. One form for each group is fine and I think they really only do it to keep track of all the people that get eaten by bears. Just kidding. Don’t be scared now.

From the trailhead, you might as well plan on sucking wind for the next 4.5 miles. Over that distance, you will climb 3,255’ to the summit. The first part of the trail is little more mellow, but still has an uphill pitch. It winds through a beautiful forest with some amazing views and then comes to the first of two lakes after 1.6 miles, Floating Island Lake. After that, there is more beautiful trail for 0.7 miles until you reach Cathedral Lake. Make sure to stop here, enjoy the view, and drink up. After this stop, you have 2.5 miles to the top.

The next section of the hike is pretty intense. There are also a lot of loose (and I mean, really loose) rocks to navigate, so be careful and don’t try this in your flip flops! Once you get up the steepest part of the mountain, you will reach the ridge top and follow it all the way to the summit. The ridge is beautiful and borders on Desolation Wilderness. There were some wildflowers starting to come up this time of year, but I can only imagine how breathtaking it is in peak season.

Once you reach the rocky summit, you will be rewarded with one of the most amazing views of Lake Tahoe I have ever seen. Views of Fallen Leaf Lake, Cascade Lake, and Emerald Bay add to the “wow” factor. We stayed up top for a couple of hours to enjoy the view, cheers a celebratory brew, and make friends with the chipmunks and yellow-bellied marmots. They are everywhere up there and so cute. Just don’t be tempted to feed them no matter how cute they are or what they tell you.

On the way back down, make sure to take your time. All the loose rock is an accident waiting to happen and you certainly don’t want it to be you. By the time you make the 4.5 mile trek downhill, your quads, knees, and toes will have never been happier to see your car. All-in-all, you can count on being reunited with your car in about 6-8 hours round trip.

I would recommend this hike for advanced hikers only. Although you can go out to one of the beautiful lakes and back, the main attraction here is really the summit. The trail is pretty well marked, so even if you are not familiar with the area, you should be able to follow along by paying attention to signs. Let me know if you get the chance to do it or have ever done it before. What are some of your other favorite hikes?

I just have to start off by saying that this was an amazing weekend! I hope that you all had great weekends, too and got to do something fun outside. In Tahoe, it was absolutely gorgeous this weekend, minus some high clouds, but I’ll take it. Yesterday, I got a good long run in the morning and then spent a few hours on the lake paddle boarding. Today, I did something that I have never done in the 25 years I have lived here. I summited Mt. Tallac. It was a challenge, but the views were worth it. I am putting together a video blog post for you on it, so make sure you subscribe to my blog in the right side of the page to see my adventure. In the meantime, the top image is of me on the highest point of the peak.

A well-earned brew at the top of Mt. Tallac.

A well-earned brew at the top of Mt. Tallac.

I can’t believe that there are less than two weeks left till my first big race of the season! Lots of fun things are going on and I am glad that I have spent the past four months really training to make sure that I am ready. This past week, I was really concentrating on quality runs (both speed and length). Here’s the week-end rewind:

  • Monday 5/25 – No work for Memorial Day. I took advantage of the day off and got a long run in the morning, since I skipped it over the previous weekend. 8.5 miles at 10:36 pace.
  • Tuesday 5/26 – It was a cool afternoon with some thunder clouds in the distance, so I decided to take my pup to my favorite trail for a fun 3.5 miles. Didn’t bring a watch with me, so I have no idea what my pace was.
  • Wednesday 5/27 – I had an appointment for torture in the afternoon (aka the dentist), so I ran in the morning before work on my treadmill. 30 minute tempo run at 4:30 am. Fun. Not.
  • Thursday 5/28 – Cross-training was a long paddle board session in the afternoon. I am totally obsessed with my new board. Being on the lake is amazing, and man, is it a killer workout for your arms, back, core, and legs.
  • Friday 5/29 – After hitting it pretty hard all week, I decided to take today off and gear up for the weekend.
  • Saturday 5/30 – Woke up early for a 12-miler. The temperature was perfect and I even ran into my boss, who was also on a run. We ran together for two miles and it was a great pick-me-up in the middle of my run (2 miles at 9:30 pace). The benefits of living in a small town… My final mileage was 11.7 miles at 10:36 pace (I have no idea how my pace was exactly the same as my run on Monday, weird). After my run, I went paddle boarding for a few hours.
  • Sunday 5/31 – Woke up and tackled Mt. Tallac. The total mileage was about 10 miles out-and-back with 3,000′ of elevation gain. I’ve included a picture of the amazing view here, but stay tuned for more to come. I’m just too tired tonight to get anything else together. What a day!

Total Running Miles: 26.7

Total Hiking Miles: 10

Total Paddling Miles: 6

I’m exhausted, but ready to tackle another week. What did you do this past week to feed your soul? What goals do you have for next week? One of my goals is more sleep. On that note, goodnight!

It’s the weekend! I don’t know about you, but short weeks after a long weekend are always rough. There is lots of work to be done, fewer days to cram it into, and everything just feels out of whack. I’m so looking forward to this weekend and spending some quality time outside. And the weather finally isn’t crap anymore!

Tomorrow I have 12 miles to run in the morning and paddle boarding after. Then on Sunday, some friends and I are hiking Mt. Tallac. So, what does that mean? Better fuel up! One of the things that has been the hardest for me while following a primal lifestyle, is trying to find good carb options to keep me fueled on my long runs. Grains, pasta, bread, and all the other traditional carb sources for runners are off the table. It has taken some adjusting, but I have finally found what works for me to keep me going, and doesn’t contribute to inflammation and make me feel like garbage. Enter, sweet potatoes. They are a great complex carbohydrate, have a low glycemic index, and are packed with vitamins. When I have lots of activity planned, I make sure that I eat at least one sweet potato a day. My favorite way to make them is cutting them into fries, tossing with olive oil and spices, and oven roasting. The result is a slightly sweet, salty, and deliciously nutritious side dish or snack.

I have gotten quite a few questions on how to make sweet potato fries. While they aren’t very hard to make, there are a few things that you want to make sure you do to get the best results. Here is a simple way to cook them up and a wonderful sauce to dip them in on the side. So, whether you have a super active day or just want a healthy alternative to regular fries, give these sweet potato fries a try.


IMG_9991Sweet Potato Fries with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

  • Sweet potatoes (generally one small per person)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and seasoning of choice (I love Arty’s Party Rub on these!)
  • 1/4 cup homemade mayo
  • 1 tablespoon Annie’s dijon
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon coconut aminos

Directions:

  1. Scrub the sweet potatoes but don’t peel them. There are a lot of nutrients in the skin and you don’t want to miss out on those!
  2. Cut the sweet potatoes into sticks 1/4 inch wide. I find, the smaller I cut the fries, the more evenly browned they get.
  3. Place the sweet potatoes into a large bowl of ice water and allow to sit for 1-2 hours. While you can skip this step (and I often do), it results in a wonderful texture that is slightly crisper.
  4. Drain the sweet potatoes from the water and toss in a large bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil per potato.
  5. Add seasoning (chili powder is great) and salt. I also like these with just salt as the seasoning.
  6. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. It is very important that the sweet potatoes do NOT touch. If they touch, they will steam and be soggy. No one wants soggy fries so take your time and line them up all neat and perfect.
  7. Bake at 400°F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
  8. While the sweet potatoes are baking, mix all remaining ingredients to make your sauce. Let chill in your fridge until the sweet potatoes are done.
  9. Dip the golden brown potatoes into your sauce and enjoy!

What are some of your favorite ways to cook sweet potatoes? Comment below and then go get outside this weekend!

Season with whatever you like, but I highly recommend Arty's Party Rub. See how you can get your hands on some.

Season with whatever you like, but I highly recommend Arty’s Party Rub. See how you can get your hands on some.

Take time and make sure that they are NOT touching. Don't just throw them on the pan.

Take time and make sure that they are NOT touching. Don’t just throw them on the pan.

Dip a little, or dip a lot.

Dip a little, or dip a lot.

john

One of my favorite heroes, my brother.

It’s Memorial Day and I would be totally remiss if I didn’t say thank you to all the service men and women who put their life on the line to protect our freedom. I have many friends and family that have served and I am proud to know each and every single one of them. They made the ultimate sacrifice and deserve more than one day a year to be recognized as heroes. I also want to give a big shout-out to my brother, John, who served for 10 years in the Air Force flying F-15s. After two tours of duty to Afghanistan and a couple of close calls (some of which he will never tell us, his family), he was able to walk away in one piece… for the most part. Some aren’t as lucky and I wish that they, their family, and friends know just how much I admire them. Thank you for everything.

Most have this day of remembrance off and if you do, you might be planning a BBQ like 99% of Americans. I absolutely love anything grilled, but let’s be honest, everything, and I mean everything, is better when it is topped with a delicious sauce. When that sauce is healthy…bonus! If you’re looking for a way to incorporate more greens into your diet, or you just want a delicious sauce that will be the star of your next BBQ, this chimichurri sauce is for you. This recipe is a spin on the traditional chimichurri sauce from Argentina and incorporates kale and lime. It is delicious on steak, chicken, shrimp, or whatever else your heart desires. So, fire up those grills and get this chimichurri sauce going to drown your grilled meat in love. Not to mention, it is just a really fun word to say. Say it with me. Chimichurri!


whole30-dinnerKale Chimichurri Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups packed flat leaf parsley
  • 1 cup packed baby kale
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh oregano leaves (they must be fresh!)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
  • Roughly 1 cup good olive oil (this is a no-cook sauce, so use extra virgin here)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except for the olive oil into a food processor (or a blender).
  2. Pulse until well combined.
  3. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the top of the food processor or blender while it is on. Once the sauce has come together and is the consistency you like, you know it is done.

Give this a try and let me know what you think. Is there anything else you like to put chimichurri on?

IMG_9840

SUP Sunday

It must be a weekend for cross training, because that is all I have been doing. I went to spin class yesterday morning and had an amazing workout. Then I ended up having to shuffle my 11 miler till tomorrow, so I took advantage of the beautiful day and went for a ride on my new paddle board. Paddle boarding has a rightful reputation as being a great all-around workout, but is especially good for your core and arms, which I can definitely afford to work on.

Another day in paradise.

Another day in paradise.

I landed on Wai SUP a couple of weeks ago and absolutely love it. Because of all the rain we have been getting, today was the first time I was finally able to get out on the water. The board is great. It is light weight, has a comfortable grip, is pretty (#1 priority, duh), AND to top it off, is locally made in Tahoe, which I love supporting.

Since I am new at all of this, I have to tell you that it is a little harder than it looks. Having been a snowboarder for the last 20 years, I thought that it would be a little easier. The first time I tried to stand up, I landed in the water. I am definitely no expert on the subject, in fact, I am a straight up amateur, but here are some of the things that I have found help keep me out of the water:

  • When you first get on your board, kneel and get some speed going before you stand up. The board is much more stable when it is in motion.
  • When you are transitioning from kneeling to standing, make sure to plant your feet wide and have them where you want them. It is difficult to move around on the paddle board after you are standing.
  • Engage you core and take long, full strokes to get the most stability and efficiency (and to work those abs).
  • Don’t look behind you. No matter what. If you are paddling with someone and they say something, don’t look behind you or you will end up in the water.
  • Keep your knees bent to absorb any waves and maintain balance.
  • Don’t lean backward or forward. Just don’t do it.

I have been wanting to buy a paddle board for a while and am so looking forward to a fun summer on the lake! It is great to work the parts of the body that runners can sometimes ignore, and to do it in a really fun way that doesn’t even seem like working out. There is just something so peaceful about being on the lake. Do you paddle? Any tips you have found for me?

As a side note, there are only three weeks left till my first big race of the season, the Lake Tahoe Relay. Eeeek! Do you have any first-of-the-season races creeping up on you?

Let me start off by saying, I am not a huge proponent of the run-walk. Because I ran competitively throughout high school, I come from the school of thought that there is NO walking in running. No walk breaks. No stopping to get a drink. No walking up hills. No stopping or slowing down. Period. If you walk at any point during your run, it is not a successful run. Not to mention, it can completely crush your momentum when you stop to walk.

That being said, I may be softening my edge in my older age. I did a run yesterday that made me start to rethink this whole run-walk thing. It may have just been because I had someone to run with (which never happens), or that it was slightly drizzling (which made it fun), or that I really did like the concept of the run-walk.

I knew at the beginning of the run that it would be more of a run-walk. My coworker I was running with is visiting from Florida, so I didn’t blame her for wanting to take some walk breaks. Going from sea level to 7,000 feet can be a little bit of a shock, to say the least. While I was excited to run with her, I didn’t think that I would get in a real workout by run-walking. Well, I could not have been more wrong! I couldn’t believe how sore I woke up this morning. Let me introduce you to what she calls, BOGO.

The Buy One, Get One, which is really B4GO (Buy Four, Get One), goes something like this. Run 1 mile and walk a quarter mile (or five minutes). By the time you have done four intervals of 1 mile running/quarter mile walking, you have run four miles and got an extra mile with walking (bonus!). Before I knew it, we had done 6 miles! Now that could be because there was a lot of good conversation and laughing, but it definitely felt like it made the time go by a little faster. In the moment, it also felt a lot easier. I felt like I could go forever. Suddenly, mileage wasn’t intimidating and hills were nothing to fear, because you knew that a walk break was right around the corner.

According to Jeff Galloway, almost everyone can finish a marathon with some training and following this method. My coworker has followed his programs before from anything from full marathons to 5Ks. She has also been incredibly successful, and uninjured, in doing so. While I might not incorporate walk breaks into most of my runs, I do think that it is a good alternative for those that might have physical reasons for not running the entire distance. This method takes the intimidation factor out for those wanting to get into running, those wishing to cover lots of distance with reduced stress on the body, and those wanting to take it a little easier on a recovery day.

If you have been wanting to lace up those running shoes and hit the road, this could be the perfect way to dip your toe in the water. Don’t be afraid to walk if you need to and even schedule intervals so you have a roadmap for success. Remember the BOGO or B4GO to get the most out runs and increase the mileage without even trying.

Do you run-walk? What do you think about taking walking breaks while you are running?

Before I get to the favorite recipe I have ever made, I have some exciting news. I crossed into the double digits this morning! I haven’t run over 10 miles in at least two years and breaking through that barrier was a huge accomplishment for me mentally and physically. Overall, the run went really well. I felt good, had a good mixture of hills and flat, and the last 4 miles I was running in a light drizzle, which was actually kind of fun. Good thing I got it in when I did. The skies just turned really dark and I think we’re in for a pretty good storm this afternoon.

I can’t believe that 3 months ago all I could do was run/walk 3 miles. I have gone from sucking some serious wind to getting my stride back and it feels so good. When you first start running again, it can be the most depressing thing ever, especially if you are someone who has a couple of marathons under your belt. After coming off my hiatus, there were many days where I felt like I would never be able to run over 3 miles. With one foot in front of the other day after day, I am finally starting to feel like a real runner again. Success comes to those who work their butts off for it! Don’t ever give up.

Now on to the fun stuff…melt in your mouth pulled pork! I can’t remember exactly how it came up, but last week I was speaking with a coworker about flavor combinations and pork with pineapple came up. They’re a match made in heaven and compliment each other so well. So, when I received a package from US Wellness Meats on Thursday with a delicious pork shoulder, I knew I had to find a way to make something delicious with pineapple. What I didn’t expect was how downright amazing it would turn out. I don’t think there is another way I will ever cook pork again. It is seriously that good.

The pork is braised in a delicious sauce that would be good on its own, but then when you add the pineapple BBQ sauce, it brings the pork to a whole new level. The BBQ sauce has the perfect amount of spicy, tangy, and sweet. This sauce would be good on chicken, too, so you might want to make up a double batch and keep it in the fridge to use all week.


IMG_0007Pulled Pork with Pineapple BBQ Sauce

Cooking time: 1 hour prep/active cooking, 8 hours in the crockpot

For the pork:

  • 3-4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/3 cup Annie’s dijon
  • 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos
  • salt and pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 diced pineapple, about 1 cup
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons dijon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoke paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon coconut vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Directions for the pork:

  1. Pull out your crockpot and line the bottom with your sliced onions and garlic. Add the pork on top of the onions and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  2. Mix the beef stock, dijon, maple syrup, and coconut aminos in a small bowl. Pour over the pork.
  3. Turn your crockpot on low and cook for 8 hours.
  4. At the end of 8 hours, remove the pork and place on a cutting board.
  5. Allow the pork to sit for about 10 minutes and then shred with a fork or finely slice with a knife.

Directions for the sauce:

  1. About an hour before the pork is done cooking in the crockpot, get started on the sauce.
  2. Add the extra virgin olive oil and shallot to a medium sauce pan. Cook on medium-high for about five minutes until it starts to soften.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add the pineapple and salt to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2-3 minutes while stirring regularly.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the vinegar, and stir to incorporate.
  6. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend on high till smooth (about 2 minutes).
  8. Add the sauce back to the sauce pan, stir in the vinegar, and taste for seasoning. At this point the sauce can stay warm on the stove until the pork is ready to be smothered in its love.
  9. Toss about 3/4 of the sauce with the shredded pork and serve the extra sauce on the side.

Baked sweet potato fries and coleslaw really round out this meal. The pork would also be good in egg foo young, salad, tacos…just about anything. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Saute the shallots and pineapple until soft and just starting to brown.

Saute the shallots and pineapple until soft and just starting to brown.

Blend the BBQ sauce until silky smooth.

Blend the BBQ sauce until silky smooth.

Toss the sauce with your pulled pork and then drown it in even more sauce.

Toss the sauce with your pulled pork and then drown it in even more sauce.

Serve with baked sweet potatoes and coleslaw for a perfect post-run meal.

Serve with baked sweet potatoes and coleslaw for a perfect post-run meal.

Golfing a few winters ago when we had no snow.

Golfing a few winters ago when we had no snow.

It wouldn’t be Mother’s Day if I didn’t take a moment to share with you how amazing my mom is. But, before I get to that, I have to share a story with you. I was looking out my window this morning, from which I can see the parking lot of the golf course. As I was looking out, I saw an older man and woman loading their golf clubs onto their cart. At first I thought, “How cute. He’s taking his wife golfing for Mother’s Day.” Then I noticed something about this man that filled my heart with inspiration. He only had a left arm. I began to watch him more intently as he took care in loading his bag onto the cart, putting his golf glove onto the only hand he had, closing the back hatch to the car, locking it, and then driving the cart to the starting area. I was overcome with emotion as I watched this entire orchestrated process. Long after he left, I found myself continuing to look out the window. I imagined the struggles of his every day life, if he was born that way or lost his arm in an accident, and how in the world he swings a club with one left arm. I struggle with two perfectly good arms! I wish I could have joined them for 18 holes to witness his strength and determination in action.

It is times like this that I realize just how lucky I am. Thank God I have never had a disease, serious illness, or anything worse than two broken wrists from snowboarding (not at the same time, thankfully). There are so many people in this world that are faced with adversity, yet still make the best of every minute they have. The person in my life who inspires me every single day is my mother. She is the prime example of how to make lemonade out of lemons. The past two years have been a roller coaster of diagnoses, chemo, radiation, drugs, tests, and surgery.  Through all of it, she has had the most amazing attitude, been an image of pure strength, and handled the whole thing with more grace than anyone could. Not only has my mom taught me a lot in these past two years, but throughout my whole life. It is hard to verbalize everything she has taught me, because that is practically everything I knowbut here are the top ten that come to mind:

  1. Cook with your heart.
  2. Prepare a green salad AND a vegetable with every dinner.
  3. Keep your head down and eye on the golf ball!
  4. Buy fresh cut flowers for the house, just “because.”
  5. Finish every dinner with something sweet.
  6. Garden and have houseplants for a nicer home.
  7. Life is more fun when you have dogs.
  8. Appreciate nature, get out in the sun, and explore the outdoors.
  9. Fight the good fight with grace and strength.
  10. Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.

I am so lucky to have the mom that I do, and I know that you probably feel the same way about your mom, too. Think about some of the things your mom has taught you.

Happy Mom’s Day!

It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow! If you are like most, you might be looking for some last minute ways to show your mom how much she means to you. Every year I struggle with this, because I know that there is absolutely nothing I could do to show my mom just how much I appreciate everything she has done for me and how much I love her. There are no words, no gifts, and no gestures that could do that justice. I know all that stuff doesn’t matter to parents and one day I will understand why. But if you are looking for a way to show your mom how much you care, one of the best things you can do is make something from the heart.

What says “I love you, Mom” more than a nutty, slightly sweet, healthy dessert? Let me know if you have any ideas. In the meantime, if you live close to your mom, or even if you don’t, get to making this delicious dessert that is sure to please. Even if you aren’t a natural born Julia Child, this recipe is super simple and will make you look like a rock star in the kitchen.


IMG_9986Pecan Berry-Pear Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 Bartlett pears, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • juice from one lemon
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 8 dried dates, pitted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, chilled
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350°F.
  2. Toss the pears, blueberries, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Place all other ingredients except pecans into a food processor and pulse until mixture represents bread crumbs. Add the pecans and pulse just a couple more times to incorporate. You want to keep some pecan chunks for good texture.
  4. Transfer your fruit to an 8×8 glass baking dish or individual ramekins.
  5. Sprinkle the nut topping on top of the fruit and press down slightly to form a crust.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until the top is a nice golden brown and fruit juice is bubbling up. Depending on how full your baking dish is, you might want to place a cookie sheet under the pan to save your over from fruit juice dripping down.
  7. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

The great thing about this recipe is that you can use any fruit combination that you like. Apples and raspberries, mixed berries, strawberry rhubarb, and the list goes on. Let me know what you come up with!

IMG_9985

I can’t believe this weekend is almost over. It has been a beautiful weekend in Tahoe and is definitely starting to feel like summer. So what is mandatory for a beautiful weekend and lazy (or not so lazy) days? Grilling, of course! This recipe is perfect for any occasion. It is slightly spicy and sweet, and when the skin gets crispy on the chicken, it makes a perfect combination. I wish that I could take credit for this recipe, but I found it online several years ago and have slightly modified it to my preferences since. It is a snap to put together and can be made with lots of different flavor combinations. For example, when I first started making this recipe, I could’t find mango jam anywhere, so I substituted it with apricot and it was just as delicious. Be creative and let your imagination go with lots of different modifications you could make with this recipe.

But, before we get to the recipe, let’s talk running. Last weekend, I struggled through my Sunday long run. I was hot, I had a side-stitch, my phone died (and with it, my GPS and music), and it was just a downright ugly run. I am happy to say though, that today’s long run could not have been any more different. I made sure that my GPS and music was charged the night before, I wore the right clothes for the beautiful weather, and I didn’t get any side-stiches. My run this morning was a beautiful 8 miles and I felt as good as I could pretty much the whole way. I finished my run with a sense of accomplishment and am really looking forward to getting into the double digits soon! Today was definitely a run that I was proud of. Looking back at how far I have come since the beginning of the year, when I could hardly run 2 miles without walking, I am feeling really good about where I am headed. My post about the first step still rings true, and I am so happy that I made that first step and stuck with it. One day at a time, and one foot in front of the other. I have a long ways to go, but I am a heck of a lot closer than I was 4 months ago. Hard work does pay off.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s get to grilling!


IMG_9973Mango Sriracha Glazed Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 2/3 cup mango jam (or whatever other flavor you think might be good)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha (I like Sky Valley by Organicville)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat up your grill on medium.
  2. Combine jam, green onions vinegar, and sriracha in a bowl. Set 1/4 cup of glaze aside for after the chicken is cooked.
  3. Brush both sides of the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brush one side of the chicken with the glaze.
  5. Place the chicken, glaze side down, on the grill and reduce heat to medium low. You don’t want to cook the chicken on a hot grill or the glaze will burn. This recipe is best cooked low and slow.
  6. After 10 minutes, brush glaze on the other side of the chicken and flip. Repeat this process every 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked thoroughly. Before you flip every time, glaze the chicken. Depending the heat of your grill this should take 40-50 minutes.
  7. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove and brush with the 1/4 cup glaze that you set aside at the beginning.
  8. This is the kind of chicken you eat with your fingers. So grab some paper towels and dig in!

Let me know if you try this recipe with any other variations and what you think. Happy grilling!

IMG_9970

IMG_9972

IMG_9973

When I was in San Diego last week, I had the most amazing short ribs at the restaurant, Urban Bar and Grill. I’m not usually a big short rib type person, but these looked great and I was not disappointed. They fell right off the bone and were covered in the most delicious sauce. Ever since I had those short ribs, I have been thinking about how to recreate the recipe at home.

Now, I’ve never cooked short ribs before, but I do have a love for my crockpot. I figured they would be a match made in heaven and did some research to see what others have learned. I found that searing the meat first is essential, a bed of veggies on the bottom adds flavor, and some sort of liquid helps keep the meat nice and tender. These are all things that are pretty commonsense to anyone that has ever cooked with a crockpot. From there, I let my imagination run wild and used some of my favorite flavor combinations. The result? What I think is a perfect balance of Eastern and Western flavors.

These ribs are super tender, fall right off the bone, and will leave you wanting seconds. The sauce, that is a combination of the veggies and liquid that cook in the crockpot, completes the ribs. Pull out your crockpot, go buy some grass-fed short ribs, and get cooking. The best part? On a busy work day, you can make this in the morning and the short ribs will do their thing all day long and be waiting to eat when you come home.


IMG_9967East Meets West Crockpot Short Ribs

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 3 pounds grass-fed bone on short ribs (about 1/2 – 3/4 pound per person)
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease or coconut oil for searing
  • Salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 celery stocks with tops on, cut into chunks
  • 3 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup Annie’s dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Start by pulling out your crockpot. Place the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and ginger in the bottom of the crockpot. Turn on low.
  2. Grab a cast iron or enameled cast iron pan (something heavy for even heating) and melt the bacon grease or coconut oil over medium-high heat. (Note: I think some fancy crockpots these days have a searing setting. If yours does, you can sear your meat in the crockpot first, remove, add the veggies, and then add the meat back in. My crockpot is treasured hand-me-down from my grandparents circa 1970, so I don’t have that option..)
  3. While the fat is melting, liberally salt the short ribs on all sides. This is your best chance to season the meat directly. Don’t skimp on salt! Place the short ribs in the heated pan and sear on each side until golden brown. You aren’t trying to cook the short ribs at this point. You just want to create a nice sear which will add flavor and seal in the juices.
  4. Once your meat is done searing, place it on top of the vegetable bed in your crockpot.
  5. Combine the beef broth, dijon, coconut aminos, and balsamic in a bowl and pour over your short ribs.
  6. Cover the crockpot and walk away. You want it to cook on low for 8 hours.
  7. When you come back after 8 hours, remove the short ribs and set on a plate.
  8. Remove the veggies from the crockpot and transfer to a blender with about 1/2 cup liquid. Discard the ginger. Blend the veggies with the liquid until smooth and then return to the crockpot. Mix with the remaining liquid in your crockpot to create the sauce.
  9. At this point, you can dig in if you are impatient like me. If you have a little more patience, add the short ribs back into the crockpot with the sauce and let simmer for a little while longer.

What are some of your favorite things to cook in a crockpot? Leave a comment and share!

Searing the short ribs creates a bit of smoke. Make sure to turn your hood fan on or get smoked out!

Searing the short ribs creates a bit of smoke. Make sure to turn your hood fan on or get smoked out!

Ribs hanging out on their bed of veg.

Ribs hanging out on their bed of veg.

Fall-off-the bone delicious.

Fall-off-the bone delicious.

"But Mom...! It's not THAT bad."

“But Mom…! It’s not THAT bad.”

No matter how much you prepare for a long run, or any length run for that matter, there are things that will inevitably happen that can throw you off course. Yesterday I set out for my Sunday “long” run (it was only 7 miles, but good for me in my current state of fitness) and there were so many times where I just wanted to throw in the towel and walk back to my car. I stuck with it and have to say that it wasn’t pretty, in fact it was downright ugly, but I did it. I am stronger because of it. I have more confidence because of it. So, what can put a kink in your stride and what do you do to keep on truckin’?

iPod/phone or GPS/watch dies mid-run. This is the most annoying thing, and yes, both happened to me during yesterday’s 7-miler. I hadn’t prepared the night before for my run and charged my iPod and Garmin like I should have. I figured, “no problem, I will just take my trusty iPhone 4S that is almost 3 years old…” I left the house with an 88% charge on my phone and was using it for my music and GPS (through RunKeeper), when it died before I even hit the three mile mark. Now I had a phone in my pocket that was worthless and ear buds that weren’t doing anything but driving me crazy. After cursing at my phone for a few minutes (how was I going to keep track of my pace now!?), I decided to use the opportunity to enjoy the run for what it was and not worry about my pace. I was also forced to run without music, which is something I usually only do on trails to be more in tune with my surroundings, and it was actually kind of nice to be left alone with my thoughts on the beautiful Sunday morning. I can’t say that I will chose to run like this often, but in the event your gadgets die, don’t let it kill your run. Look at it as an opportunity to run without being plugged into the modern world and enjoy the time to yourself.

You get a side-stitch that won’t go away. This can be so painful and distracting and also happened to me around mile 3 while I was cursing at my phone for dying. Luckily I have learned what works well for me and keeps me going. The trick that I always use to recover from a side-stitch is to breathe out HEAVILY (big burst of air, think blowing a whistle as hard as you can) when your opposite foot strikes the ground that the side-stitch is on. For example, if you have a right side-stitch, like I did, I would blow out forcefully every other time that my left foot hit the ground. Don’t worry about spraying spit everywhere as you do this. It’s inevitable. It is impossible to breathe out heavy like this every time, unless you are going really, really slow, so every other time, or every third time works well. Concentrate on bringing your breath into your belly and exhaling it all with one powerful force. I was back to my stride in about 5 minutes of doing this.

You over- (or under-) dressed for the weather. When I left the house at 10:00 am, it was 40°F. When I got back home at 11:20 am, it was 52°F. That 12° change can make all the difference in the world when it comes to being comfortable in your running gear. I thought that I would need a sweatshirt on my run, but then it got so hot that I was baking. Not thinking straight when I left the house, I failed to layer properly so I couldn’t shed the sweatshirt without risking being too cold in the tank top I had on underneath. This is one thing that I have learned time and again, but never seems to sink in. Take it from me, always layer (for warm or cold) and remember you can take off (or add) layers as needed. If you’re not prepared, then you are going to be incredibly uncomfortable and it can make for a struggle of a run.

There is literally a detour in your running route. This was the one thing that didn’t happen to me yesterday, but it did happen to me today on a 4-miler. Whether it is snow on the trail that makes it impassable without risking injury (my situation today), road construction, or a bear blocking your way (yes, this really did happen once), it is always good to have an alternative route mapped out in your mind before you head out on your run. When this does happen, I always sing in my head “Take the long way home“… gotta love Supertramp. I look at it as the universe telling me I need to get more miles in and just go with the flow. After all, we should just be happy that we are fortunate enough to run in the first place.

What are some of your least favorite detours that can sidetrack a run? What do you do to make the best of it? I would love to hear from you in the comments section.

It’s the weekend! …and my first day off in 12 very long days. As mentioned in my last post, this past weekend I was in San Diego for an annual industry meeting. It was a great meeting and it is always good spending time with coworkers that I don’t see on a regular basis. But let’s be honest, it’s nice to be home and relaxing for the first time in two weeks. The best part of coming home is always getting back to a routine, and puppy kisses aren’t too bad either.

I was a little surprised when I woke up this morning to see six inches of Sierra cement on the ground. The snow meant I probably wasn’t going to be doing anything outside today, but I did get a good spin class in this morning. At one point we were doing tabata intervals and I must have pushed my heart rate a little too hard because I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out. I got through it though and felt really good after class. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I’ll keep telling myself that anyways…

So with the snow outside and no chance of going hiking or to the beach, what’s a girl to do on a day like today? Bake of course! Since I was doing Whole30 for the past couple of months, I haven’t baked anything in a really long time. Today it just sounded right. It was then only a question of what to bake. I decided to bake something that brings me back to my childhood. When my parents would let me take over the kitchen and make a total mess when I was a little girl, there were two things that I used to make, lemon bars and snickerdoodles. Back then, I used to make them both from the classic Betty Crocker cookbook. I am pretty sure that every household in America has had one of those red cookbooks at some point. I still have mine and the pages are stained and falling out, but there is no way that I could ever part with it.

Since I try to completely avoid all refined sugar and grains these days, I needed to find a way to revamp one of my favorite recipes. I had just bought a bunch of lemons and decided that lemon bars would be the experiment of the day. I was a little surprised when these came out as good as they did. I only wish that I would have saved this recipe to make tomorrow, so I could bring the leftovers into work on Monday morning. Now, the deliciously tart, slightly sweet bars are just sitting in my fridge beckoning to me. These are seriously that good. If Betty Crocker was an actual person, she would be rolling over in her grave when I say this, but I think I prefer mine over her’s. Give them a try and let me know what you think.


Honey Lemon Bars with Blueberry Jam Swirl

IMG_9946Ingredients for the crust:

  • 1 cup finely ground almond flour
  • 3 tablespoons palm or vegetable shortening (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 yolk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour

Ingredients for blueberry jam:

  • 10 ounces of fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon

Directions:

  1. Start with making the blueberry jam. Rinse your blueberries and place them into a small saucepan. Mash the berries with a potato masher and then add the honey and lemon juice. Place over medium-high heat and allow to boil for about 10 minutes until it starts to thicken. Set aside.
  2. While the jam is cooking, you can start making the crust. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Combine all the crust ingredients in a large glass bowl and work it with a wooden spoon until it creates a dough. Depending on how thick your honey is, you may or may not want to warm it first over the stove to make it easier to incorporate.
  4. Grease the bottom of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with shortening and spread your dough in the bottom of the dish in an even layer. Pop it in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until slightly puffed up and lightly golden brown.
  5. While your crust is baking, get started on the filling. Whisk together all ingredients for the filling until well-combined. Once again, depending on the thickness of your honey, you may or may not want to warm it up first.
  6. After your crust has come out of the oven, let it rest for about 5 minutes before pouring on the filling. Letting it rest will allow the crust to sink in the middle and naturally create edges.
  7. Pour in the filling and then top with dollops of the blueberry jam and swirl it around with a toothpick to make pretty designs. The leftover jam can be stored in your fridge and used for everything from smoothies to just eating it with a spoon. It should last for a couple of weeks in your fridge.
  8. Place the baking dish back in the oven for about 15 more minutes until the center is set. Don’t worry if there is still a little bit of jiggle, it will solidify once you take it out of the oven. Let it rest on a wire rack for about 15 minutes and then cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.
  9. IMPORTANT: You must let this sit for about two hours in the fridge before serving. I couldn’t help it and tasted mine right out of the oven. It was still delicious, but after it sat in the fridge for a couple of hours it was amazing. If it’s just you, go ahead and dig into the warm lemon bars, but if you have guests to impress, believe me, be patient and let it rest.

That’s one of my favorite childhood sweet treats recreated to be healthy. What is one of your favorite childhood treats? It might just be the next thing that I try to recreate!

Honey Lemon Bars with Blueberry Jam Swirl

Honey Lemon Bars with Blueberry Jam Swirl

Well, that recipe name isn’t a mouthful or anything…

Do you eat bison on a regular basis? If not, you should. It is one of my favorite proteins.  Not only is it usually organic and grass-fed/grass finished, but it tastes amazing. The flavor profile is slightly gamey-ier than ground beef, but it almost has a subtle sweetness to it, which makes is great for burgers, chili, and bolognese. The nutritional profile is pretty amazing, too. First of all, because of the way it is raised, it is far less likely to have growth hormones or antibiotics injected into it. Additionally, bison has more protein and vitamins per pound when compared to beef. For those watching your waistlines, it also has less calories, fat, and cholesterol. You can read all about the other benefits here. And if you are looking for a great place to buy it from, I strongly recommend US Wellness Meats. An insulated box arrives at your doorstep a couple of days after ordering and the quality of all their products are absolutely amazing.

So, what could make delicious bison even better? Piled on top of sweet potato fries, of course! To me, this is the absolute perfect post-run meal…or a perfect meal anytime for that matter. The sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and good carbohydrates that don’t spike your blood sugar. Combined with the heart-healthy protein in bison, you have a match made in heaven. I may or may not be known to eat this chili cold by dipping sweet potato fries into it, while standing in front of the fridge. You will never know… But what you should know, is how amazing this recipe is. Try like I make it or add your own variations to spice it up.


IMG_9928Home on the Range Bison Chili Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients (seves 4):

  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stocks of celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of bacon fat (or you can use extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound ground bison
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoke paprika
  • 14 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of good balsamic (this ingredient makes this recipe, don’t skip it!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  2. Scrub your sweet potatoes and cut into fries about the size of your pinky finger. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the sweet potato fries on it in a single layer. This is very important. If the fries are not a single layer, they will not brown the way you want them to. It is probably necessary for you to use two baking sheets to do this.
  4. Bake the sweet potatoes for 25-35 minutes until golden brown. Check on them after about 20 minutes to see how they are coming along. Depending on how big your fries are, they may be done sooner.
  5. While the fries are baking, get your chili ready. Melt the bacon fat (or olive oil or coconut oil) in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Saute until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the ground bison to the vegetables and break it up with a wooden spoon. Stir regularly and continue to break up the lumps of meat until the bison is cooked through.
  7. Add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, and smoked paprika. Stir to combine.
  8. Add in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and balsamic.
  9. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer the chili for about 30 minutes. Check the chili for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  10. Your fries will probably be done a little before your chili, but let them hang out till the chili is ready and then smoother away.
  11. Add whatever other toppings to the chili that you would like. Avocado and green onions hit the spot for me.

Give this a try and let me know what you think. I also want to hear if you make any variations. There are thousands of different ways to cook chili, all of which are great!

Sweet potato fries ready to be smothered in deliciousness

Sweet potato fries ready to be smothered in deliciousness

Home on the Range Bison Chili

Home on the Range Bison Chili

Chili fries ready to be devoured

Chili fries ready to be devoured