Healthy Cookie Dough Bites

I have always loved cookie dough more than cookies themselves. Growing up, I can remember having tubs of cookie dough at sleepovers and digging in with a spoon. I still eat a fair amount of dough when I bake cookies these days, even though I know it’s not the healthiest snack.

This past weekend I tried a new recipe that changed that challenged the nutrition value of cookie dough. Meet healthy cookie dough bites!

Healthy Cookie Dough Bites

Minimal ingredients, not too much sugar, and made with healthy nuts and oats. I was amazed how much they tasted like cookie dough.

Healthy Cookie Dough Bites

Besides the fact that it’s okay to be addicted to this kind of cookie dough, the best part of them is how easy and quick they are to make. They only take five to ten minutes and you can customize them with whatever you are desiring. In the mood for the classic chocolate chip? Fold in chocolate chips. Craving oatmeal raisin instead? Fold in raisins. The options are limitless!

Healthy Cookie Dough Bites
Yields approximately 10 balls

• 1 cup salted cashews
• 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 cup chocolate chips, raisins, or any other mix in

Directions:
1) Place cashews, oats, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until it reaches the consistency of a fine meal.
2) Add the maple syrup and vanilla and pulse until the mixture comes together and reaches a dough like consistency.
3) Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in chocolate chips or raisins.
4) Use your hands to roll the dough into balls and place in a parchment or wax paper lined container. You can eat them, refrigerate them, or freeze them at this point.
5) Enjoy!

Posted in Dessert, Gluten-free, Recipes, Snacks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Three Days in Lisbon

We spent three fabulous days in Lisbon on our Portugal trip. As with all the places we went, I wish we had an extra day or two, but three days was sufficient to see the main sights and get a good taste of Lisbon. One of my favorite parts about Lisbon was the wonderful views everywhere you went. It’s a city of hills (which will get to you when you’re walking around!) and has a beautiful river. The cobblestone streets and tiled buildings make it a charming place to visit.

Lisbon

Alfama Lisbon

Itinerary:

Friday: Church in Alfama, National Pantheon, Miradouro, Sao Jorge Castle
Saturday: Belem – Monestary, Padrão dos Descobrimentos (monument), Belem Tower; San Justia Lift (Lisbon)
Sunday: Sintra – Moorish Castle, Palacio de Pena, Cabo de Roca

Friday

Our flight arrived into Lisbon at 7:30AM. After getting our baggage, getting a European sim card for Luke’s phone (the BEST way to have internet while you are in Europe and not get lost, only $12 for a week of internet and free texting!), we hailed a cab from the airport ($25) and headed to our Airbnb in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon. Despite our jet lag, we decided to unpack a bit and go explore Lisbon.

Each morning we were there, we had breakfast and coffee at a wonderful little Pasteleria (Portuguese for cafe) in Alfama called Pastelaria Afama Doce.

Pastelaria Alfama Doce Lisbon

I was worried about what I would eat for breakfast in Portugal, as I’m not huge on sweet pastries, but to my delight they had delicious cheese and sausage pastries everywhere. We tried many varieties and had pastries from other cafes in Portugal, but this place was definitely our favorite. And I loved the coffee too! They served it like a latte and even without flavoring, it was delicious.

Portuguese Pastries

After breakfast, we set out to see a few main sights that were relatively nearby: the National Pantheon, a cool church, a miradouro, and the Sao Jorge Castle.

National Pantheon Lisbon

Miradouro Lisbon

Castlelo Sao Jorge Lisbon

We did a lot of walking that first day in Lisbon (13.62 miles!). After visiting all those sites, we walked over to Time out Mercado for lunch.

Time Out Mercado Lisbon

Though we enjoyed tasting a variety of dishes from all of the venues in the market, we would recommend going to a local restaurant for lunch instead. I think you get a better taste of Lisbon at the local restaurants.

After lunch, we walked back to our Airbnb for a little R&R. We took a quick nap before heading back out for a little more exploration and dinner.

Our dinner on Friday night in Lisbon was our favorite meal from the trip! We went took the ferry across the river to eat at Ponto Final.

Ponto Final Lisbon

They have tables on a little pier that extends into the river. When I found the place on TripAdvisor before we went, I was crossing my fingers we could get the last table on the pier. I made a reservation to sit outside, but wasn’t sure if we would be able to get THE table. We did!

Ponto Final Lisbon

It was the most perfect view of the bridge, Lisbon, and the sunset. The food and wine were great too. I ate entire fish (head, eyes, bones and all) for the first time!

Lisbon seafood

Lisbon seafood

Go to Ponto Final if you’re in Lisbon. It was the highlight meal of our trip and I know it will remain one of my favorite memories.

Saturday

Saturday we woke up and headed to Pastelaria Afama Doce for breakfast again. Then we walked to the National Pantheon to see the “famous” flea market and buy the Lisboa card for our trip to Belem. The flea market was a bit of a bust. It was basically a huge garage sale and didn’t really interest us.

We quickly set out to go buy the Lisboa card inside the National Pantheon. However, though they told us about the card there the day before, they didn’t sell the card there. We then went to multiple places trying to buy the card. Once we eventually got our hands on the Lisboa cards, it was almost noon. The tram going to Belem was very delayed, and eventually, we ended up hopping on a bus.

When we finally made it to Belem, we stopped at the famous Pasteis de Belem to get our Pastel de Nate!

Pastel de Nata Belem

It was delicious! Layered crispy shell with a not-too-sweet rich custard in the middle.

After eating our pastel de nate in a little park, we walked over to the Monestary.

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Belem Monestary

Then we stopped at the Padrao dos Descobrimentos statue before grabbing some lunch at a local cafe.

Padrao dos Descobrimentos Belem

We ended our trip to Belem at the Belem Tower.

Belem Tower Lisbon

By the time we got back to Lisbon, it was getting late. We didn’t have much time to go back to the hotel before our reservation for dinner at 100 Maneiras, and we happened to walk by the Sao Justia Lift. So we waited in line and made it to the top of the lift for some wonderful views just in time!

Santa Justa Lift Lisbon

Santa Justa Lift Lisbon

Then we headed to dinner at 100 Maneiras, where we had made a reservation after reading rave reviews and getting personal recommendations from a few friends. We enjoyed our dinner there, but it didn’t “wow” me quite as much as I’d hoped. Most dishes were tasty and beautiful, but we had better food at some of our other meals in Portugal. The pork belly and egg dish were our favorite courses.

100 Maneiras

100 Maneiras Lisbon

It’s a fun place to go as you get multiple little courses, but if you want a better taste of Portugal, I’d choose a more local restaurant such as Ponto Final.

Sunday

On Sunday, after breakfast at the same pasteleria near our apartment, we walked down to the train station and hopped on a train to Sintra. Our Lisboa card came in handy because we arrived at the station just as the next train did – we didn’t have to wait in line for tickets and were able to make that train!

Once we arrived in Sintra, we bought the bus pass and (after waiting a bit) headed over to the Moorish Castle.

Moorish Castle Sintra

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The castles in Sintra were very cool! It was a bit of a hike getting to the top of the castle, but the trip was worth it. From the top of the Moorish Castle you can see the Pena Palace.

Pena Palace Sintra

After we hiked up the Moorish Castle, we took the trail over to the Pena Palace. It was a bit of a hike again, but not too bad. There was a bus you could wait in line for (and pay for) that would drive you to the top, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re not comfortable with a mile or two hike.

The Pena Palace is straight out of a Disney movie! It’s very colorful and so fun! We were able to walk around inside too.

Pena Palace Sintra

Pena Palace Sintra

The two castles alone are definitely worth a day trip to Sintra. We were hoping to visit Quinta da Regaleira as well, but after both castles and lunch it was 4 PM. Since visiting Cabo de Roca was priority, we decided head over there after lunch and before we took the train back to Lisbon.

Cabo de Roca Portugal

Cabo de Roca is the Western most point in Europe and it was beautiful, though very windy! From Sintra, we took the 403 bus that ran every 30 minutes (an additional fee for this bus). We were able to hop off at Cabo de Roca and spend a bit walking around and admiring the beauty before hopping back on the bus. It was quick, but definitely a must if you go to Lisbon!

Cabo de Roca Portugal

We ended Sunday with a dinner at a local fado restaurant in our neighborhood. We had no idea there was fado that night, so it was a nice surprise. Lisbon is famous for fado music, but the Alfama area is where it all began. Luckily, we were able to end our trip to Lisbon with authentic fado in Alfama!

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A Week in Portugal: Lisbon, the Douro Valley, Porto, & Ericeira

We had a fabulous trip from Portugal and I am finally getting around to recapping our trip! Whenever we travel, especially internationally, I love to read blog recaps of the places where we are going. They’re so helpful in planning a realistic itinerary. After failing to recap our amazing honeymoon in Istanbul and Santorini from last May (which I still hope to do!), I wanted to recap our Portugal trip before I forget all of the fine details. This post will serve as an overview of our trip, and I’ll be posting more detailed recaps of each area we visited.

Douro Valley Portugal

After our honeymoon in Istanbul and Santorini last year, I realized that almost as much as traveling to awesome places, I love planning to travel to awesome places and the excitement and anticipation that comes with it. My Dad instilled in me my sense of adventure and desire to see the world. And I think I got my planning skills from my Mom (AKA the VRBO Queen before it was even a thing). I can spend hours and hours on TripAdvisor and reading travel blogs. So, instead of just a week of excitement of traveling, I actually get months of excitement from all the planning. Due to our love for traveling and my passion for planning, Luke and I decided to try to do a big trip every year. It may not always be international (Alaska and Hawaii are still on my “must go” list, as is Napa), but hopefully many trips will be overseas.

Why Portugal?

When it comes to choosing a destination, I love picking places with lots of culture, great food, and preferably a great wine scene. At this point in our lives, I also gravitate towards budget friendly destinations. Portugal fit all of the requirements! Our flight to Portugal, round trip from Boston, was $475 per person. To fly to Europe! Round trip! We are paying almost the same amount to fly to Arizona for my cousin’s wedding. In addition to that, we only spent about $450 on lodging for our entire week in Portugal. The food was very reasonable, though there were a few Michelin star restaurants you could splurge on if you wanted to, and you could get a good bottle of wine at dinner for under $10. One of my favorite glasses of wine from the trip was under a Euro. Portugal was absolutely gorgeous, had great food and wine, had friendly people who spoke English, and it was cheap! Take me back!

Ponto Final Restaurant

Itinerary

Day 1: Lisbon (arrived at our Airbnb at 9:30 AM)
Day 2: Lisbon (Belem)
Day 3: Sintra & Cabo de Roca (day trip from Lisbon)
Day 4: Douro Valley (drove from Lisbon and arrived at 2 PM)
Day 5: Douro Valley and Porto (arrived in Porto at 6 PM)
Day 6: Porto and Ericeira (arrived in Ericeira at 7 PM)
Day 7: Ericeira then flight back to the U.S (at 3:15 PM).

Cabo de Roca Portugal

Because we were flying into Lisbon, we knew we wanted to spend a few days there. People call it one of the “hidden gem” cities of Europe, and it truly is! I also knew I wanted to check out Portugal’s up and coming wine scene. The Douro Valley has been called the most beautiful wine region in the world, so I had to add it to our itinerary (despite the three hour drive North!). Since we were already up North, Porto seemed like an obvious stop after the Douro Valley. Then, because I didn’t want to risk driving over three hours the day of our flight back to the U.S., we added on another stop in a cute seaside village called Ericeira. This allowed us to get a taste of Portugal’s beautiful beaches without traveling all the way down to the Algarve.

Recommended Hotels

Lisbon: Airbnb (but no AC!)

Lisbon Tagus River

We enjoyed Teresa’s apartment and it was as we expected from the pictures on Airbnb. However, I want to warn anyone visiting from April-October that there is no air conditioning! Somehow, I missed this when I booked the apartment. Luckily, the highs only got to about 80 degrees fahrenheit, so it wasn’t too warm in the apartment, but we were a little uncomfortable sleeping at night without AC. It was the perfect size for the two of us and had a great view of the Tagus river.

The apartment was in the Alfama historic district. I am so glad I chose to stay in Alfama! It was close to most of the tourist destinations and we could walk everywhere. Alfama was very charming and beautiful place to walk around in.

Pinhao (Douro Valley): Quinta de la Rosa

IMG_2076

We really enjoyed out stay at Quinta de la Rosa. We stayed in the Sophia room that had a nice balcony with a sitting area that looked out onto the Douro River. We thought it was really cool to be in the older part of the hotel – like a room out of Downton Abbey! The bathroom was large and spacious, and the air conditioning worked well. The property itself was beautiful and we only wish we had stayed more than one night so we could explore the property more! There was a beautiful pool, many sitting areas and gorgeous gardens, and of course, the vineyards! Overall, we loved our stay and would recommend the hotel to friends. We did the 11 AM tour and tasting in the morning and enjoyed it. It was nice to sleep in, have a wonderful breakfast overlooking the Douro, and walk right over to our tour and tasting.

Quinta de la Rosa Portugal

Porto: 6only Guest House

6only Porto Portugal

We loved our stay at 6Only! It truly is one of the hidden gem hotels of Porto. Mariana (the owner) was very nice and very helpful. She gave us many tips and booked us a reservation for dinner at a wonderful restaurant. Our room (#1) was very spacious and had a nice bathroom and sitting area. It also had tons of windows with partial balconies. The high ceilings and decorative ceiling in the room gave it so much character! Breakfast was good and we loved the little details such as a welcome glass of port and apples and water in our room. The hotel was situated in a great area to walk to all of the tourist attractions. We had a very short but fabulous stay in Porto and would strongly recommend 6Only!

Ericeira: Hotel Vila Gale Ericeira

Vila Gale Ericeira

The hotel was a little old, but the view off our balcony was amazing. We loved being right on the water and a short walk into town. Ericeira is a quaint fishing village with lots of charm and great seafood. You can also easily walk to the beach if it’s warm enough to swim. Breakfast was fabulous! There were so many choices, including champagne to make mimosas, and we got to eat outside overlooking the ocean. Talk about a breakfast with a view! Our only complaint was our bed. It was two twin beds pushed together and they seemed to be covered in some kind of plastic under the sheets, which made the beds a little uncomfortable. Apparently they have some king beds, but not many. Other than that, we really enjoyed our stay and would recommend the hotel, especially for such a great price ($80!).

And that’s a wrap for my overview of our trip. It was an absolute blast and I would go back in a heart beat! If you have any questions about our itinerary or hotels, comment here or email me. I’m looking forward to recapping each city in future posts!

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Easy Banana Blender Muffins

My blog posts are few and between these days! I have quite a few recipes to share from the past few months, I just need to sit down and write them! It’s been a busy but fun spring over here.

We’ve had a mix of beautiful weather and rain here in Winston-Salem. Luckily, we had gorgeous weather for our one year anniversary a couple of weeks ago. We celebrated with a fun wine dinner at Raffaldini Vineyards.

Raffaldini Anniversary Dinner

Our anniversary weekend also coincided with another Pure Barre milestone. After completing my studio’s challenge of 21 classes in 31 days, I finally made it into the 100 club! I’m still loving Pure Barre, and I don’t think I’ll be switching up my routine any time soon.

Pure Barre 100 Club

As we’ve had a busy few months, I’ve been gravitating towards super simple and fast recipes. I wanted a healthy grab ‘n go snack to bring to work and desperately needed to use some browning bananas on the counter, so I found this recipe for banana muffins and decided to give it a try.

Banana Blender Muffins

These muffins could not have been easier to make! I loved that all I had to do was throw all my ingredients in a blender, blend, and pour. No dirty bowl or spoons! And the batter is so much easier to pour from a blender than a bowl. Simple, healthy ingredients make these muffins a perfect snack. You can customize them by stirring in chocolate chips, berries, nuts – whatever your heart desires! These muffins have become a new staple in our house. I hope you give them a try!

Easy Banana Blender Muffins
Yields 12 muffins.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup plain greek yogurt
• 2 ripe bananas
• 2 eggs
• 2 cups old-fashioned oats
• ¼ cup brown sugar or honey
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ¾ cup chocolate chips, nuts, or berries to stir in

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 400.
2) Grease a muffin pan and/or muffin liners.
3) Add all of the ingredients (except the chocolate chips, nuts, or berries) to a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.
4) Stir in your chocolate chips (or other mix in).
5) Pour the batter into the muffin pan (about ¾ full).
6) Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
7) Let cool for at least 10 minutes and enjoy!

Note: These keep for about a week, but can also be frozen and enjoyed later.

Posted in Fitness, Gluten-free, North Carolina, Recipes, Snacks | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Purre Barre “Bring on the Men” & Six Month Milestone

This week marked two important Pure Barre milestones: Luke’s first Pure Barre class and six months of Pure Barre for me! A couple more months and I will be a member of the “100 Club”.

Pure Barre

The “Bring on the Men” class that Luke and I attended was amazing. It was so much fun watching the guys experience a class. I was going to try not to laugh throughout the class, but a few seconds into the warm-up and I gave up. It was hilarious. We were just doing high knees and the boys tried so hard, but somehow failed. When the instructor cued our 90 second plank, Luke whispered to me, “that’s a long time!” I smiled. The boys continued pushing through the class and kept looking over at their significant others in wonder. The look on Luke’s face during some of the moves was priceless. He would look over at me with a look that read, “how in the world am I supposed to get into that position? and tuck?! and lift?! and lift again?!” We really have to work on his tuck for the next class…

I have to give it to all of the guys who came – they really did try! Major props to my husband for agreeing to come and giving it his all.

So, what did Luke think after his first class?

“It was hard and a real workout, but I definitely didn’t do a lot of the tucking and other moves right. I gave up many times when I couldn’t hold a position for more than few seconds, and made the mistake of using the 3 pound dumbells instead of the smaller ones. If you’re doing all the exercises correctly — or close enough — it’s all really hard. And two days later I still feel sore.” Truth.

Pure Barre

He didn’t seem quite as distraught from the experience as this guy, but he certainly has a better understanding of how hard Pure Barre actually is and why I enjoy it. Explaining what we do in class can be very difficult, and now he has a sense of what I’m doing night after night.

Six Month Update

As for a six month update… I still love Pure Barre for all the reasons I stated before. The only thing that has changed is that I sweat a lot more than I used to – probably because I’m finally doing most of the moves correctly! Whenever I feel like a move is easy, I listen to the instructor and look around the room. Usually, I’m not on my highest tippy toes or with my hips below the barre. An inch higher on my toes and I feel the burn.

Six months of Pure Barre has definitely toned my body. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I think I would do Pure Barre if only for the ab portion. My abs are more toned than they have ever been. As core strength is important for pretty much any exercise you are doing, Pure Barre is worth it just for strengthening my core so much.

I still struggle with spending so much on Pure Barre, but as my husband says, if you’re going to spend money on anything, fitness will pay off in the end. Luckily, because of my concurrent love for running, I never do Pure Barre more than three times a week. I tell myself this keeps the price slightly lower, knowing that otherwise, I would probably pay for unlimited classes.

In conclusion, my love for Pure Barre continues and I don’t see it stopping any time soon. I will continue to recommend it to anyone I know! And next time my studio offers a “Bring on the Men” class, count us in!

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Mistletoe Half Marathon Recap

On Saturday, I ran my third half marathon!

Mistletoe Half Marathon

My chip time was 2:27:20. When I saw the results, I realized that I was incredibly close to my half marathon PR of 2:25:43. I never imagined I would come close to a PR at this race, so I wasn’t really trying. Had I known how close I was, I would have pushed myself and PR’d this race! Oh well. I’m amazed that I came so close to a PR on an incredibly hilly course, as my current PR was a flat Houston race.

Overall, the race went very well and much better than I thought it would. I had been checking the weather forecast all week and the chance of rain kept getting higher and higher. When I woke up Saturday morning, it was raining and there was a 90% chance of rain all day. I almost didn’t race because of this, but I didn’t want to throw away all of my training just because of rain!

I spent Friday evening googling “running a half marathon in the rain” and reading everyone’s tips. The best tip I found was to wear a hat to keep rain from getting in your eyes – I was very glad I followed that one! I also wore a “breathable” rain jacket that I happened to have in my closet, but I ended up taking it off within the first two miles because I got too hot (it was about 40-45 degrees outside). Luckily, it only lightly rained for most of the race, with only a couple bursts of harder rain. I was wet at the finish line, but not drenched.

The run itself went pretty well. As I expected, the course was very hilly. The first couple of miles were hard and I wondered why in the world I was running 13.1 miles again. The subsequent miles, up until about mile 8 or 9, were fairly good. I mostly stuck to my 3:1 run:walk ratio that I had trained with, with a few longer walking breaks when I hit steep hills. After mile 9, I was starting to feel sore and tired. The last two miles were brutal because I got an intense pain (which I have since learned is probably piriformis syndrome). I have never gotten a pain like that while running, nevertheless run through a pain like that! Somehow I made it to the finish line. The pain worsened throughout Saturday – walking was very painful and I was limping. On Sunday, the pain had dissipated a bit, and was almost gone when I woke up on Monday. I thought time had healed my wound, but the pain came back after I went for a short run on Tuesday night. I may take a few days off and hope it heals for good!

I enjoyed the race course (except the hills). It was a nice running tour of Winston-Salem. I ran through some beautiful neighborhoods, in addition to some parts of the Wake Forest campus that I had never been to. I was also inspired by many of the other runners out on the course. There were some pretty old people out there giving me a run for my money! At the end of the race, I saw a girl hysterically crying out of happiness for finishing her first half. I wanted to go give her a hug and high five!

As always, I’m glad I accomplished my goal and ran this half marathon. Training wasn’t easy this time (it never is), but the end was worth the means! Even though I question why I am doing it throughout each mile of a half, a few minutes after finishing I begin to think about when I will run my next. I am going to continue trying to meet my personal goal of running a half every year for as long as my body allows me to!

Posted in Fitness, Half-Marathon Training, North Carolina, Running | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Maple & Sriracha Roasted Cashews

Yesterday I completed the last long run of my half marathon training! I love the timing of this half because it allows me to get all of my training done and enjoy Thanksgiving, and then have the race be over just in time for the hustle and bustle of Christmas season.

12 miles

Yesterdays’s run was hard. Really hard. I once thought that long runs get easier the longer you’ve been running. Nope. I had to fight for every mile today. I took a few breaks and somehow made it through 12 miles. I am so glad I am done with long training runs. Just two weeks until I add another half marathon to my belt!

Enough about running! Let’s get to this amazing recipe I have for y’all today. Lately, I’ve been searching for a salty snack in the afternoons and not finding anything that is both healthy and appealing in my pantry. When I feel like putting in the effort, I’ve been making my own popcorn. But, more often than not, I don’t have the patience to wait for the kernels to pop and I end up grabbing handfuls of goldfish.

I finally turned my oven on and created a healthy homemade snack that I love: Maple & Sriracha Roasted Cashews.

Maple & Sriracha Roasted Cashews

Just the right amount of sweetness, spiciness, and saltiness!

In general, I’m not a huge fan of nuts. While I’ve found that I really enjoy flavored cashews, they tend to be the most expensive nut at the store. There are some flavored cashews that are quite good, but they can become a pricey addiction. It’s much cheaper to buy a tub of cashews at Costco and make your own!

These roasted cashews are incredibly easy to make and come together in less than 20 minutes. The only tricky part is that the flavoring will stick to your pan if you don’t use a silpat mat or parchment paper.

Maple & Sriracha Roasted Cashews

Maple & Sriracha Roasted Cashews

Ingredients:
• 2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
• ¼ cup maple syrup (honey will work too)
• 1 tbsp. sriracha
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• ½ tsp grated ginger
• 2 tbsp. sesame seeds

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) In a large bowl, mix together the maple syrup, sriracha, olive oil and ginger.
3) Add the cashews and stir to coat.
4) Pour the cashews onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper.
5) Spread them in an even layer and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
6) Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
7) Let cool for at least 10 minutes and enjoy!

Posted in Asian, Fitness, Gluten-free, Half-Marathon Training, Recipes, Running, Snacks, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Favorite Running Gear

The end of my half marathon training is finally near! On Tuesday I made it into the double digits and ran 10.5 miles!

10.5 miles

It was a very humbling run, to say the least. The only thing that pushed me through it was knowing that I only had one more long run left after this one. I stopped and sat down a couple of times and took more walking breaks than I usually would, but I finished. I have to keep reminding myself that bad training is not necessarily indicative of a bad race. The idea of running 12 miles next weekend makes me cringe, but it will be worth it!

I realized while running yesterday that, though I’ve been running for a few years now, I’ve never written a post dedicated to my favorite running gear. I’ve tried out my fair share of gear, so I figure it’s time to let everyone in on my essentials!

Tops:

My tried and true running (and barre, yoga, basically everything) tank is the Lululemon Cool Racerback.

half marathon

Expensive? Yes. But these are truly my favorite tanks and work for everything. These tanks never ride up, and are nice and long. They also wick sweat away and have all those great technical running gear qualities. They come in tons of fun colors and go on sale often (I almost never buy them full price!).

My other favorite tank is the Athleta Chi Tank.

Vineyard Stomp 5K

The fabric of this tank is to die for. It is the softest, most comfortable fabric out there. The fabric is much lighter than the Lululemon Cool Racerback, so it is my go-to summer running tank top. I prefer to wear it with shorts, though I’m not sure I can explain why. I think if Athleta made a thicker and longer version, it might replace the Cool Racerback in my book.

I also love long sleeved pullovers from Athleta. I have the Fast Track Half Zip (which I got on sale for $30 I think), and another half zip that they don’t make any more.

Athleta Fast Track Half Zip

I have been going to Athleta more and more lately (over Lululemon) because they have the same great quality and the BEST return policy EVER. You can seriously return things that you’ve worn. I finally tested this out about a month ago and exchanged a pair of yoga pants that I had been wearing for months for a brand new pair in a smaller size. I couldn’t believe it! I love knowing that if I spend the money on a nice piece of workout gear and it doesn’t work for me when I take it for a spin, I can return it, no questions asked. I can’t tell you how many times I wear something new on a run, only to realize that it rides up or rubs in the wrong place. Athleta ROCKS!

My other favorite cooler weather tops are the GapFit Motion Long Sleeve Tees (they go on sale often too and are very similar to the Lululemon Run Swiftly Tees, but cheaper), and the Lululemon Define Jacket. Sadly, they no longer make the Define jacket, but the Forme Jacket is similar. My favorite feature of the jacket is the “cuffins” – AKA built in mittens for those runs when your hands warm up after the first mile or two.

Bottoms

My favorite shorts used to be Nike Tempos, but now I prefer Athleta’s Pulse Short (pictured with the orange Chi Tank above). They are cuter, very lightweight, have a nice sized zippered pocket, and the fabric helps tank tops not ride up. I wear these when the temperature is above 65-70.

In cooler weather, I love Athleta’s Relay Capri.

Athleta Relay Capri

These are a great length, are made out of a nice soft material, have ventilation in the knees, and have a great zippered pocket (that even fits my phone!). They also don’t ride up or sag. My only complaint with them is that they can be a little warm if the temperature is over 65, but I usually want to wear shorts then anyways.

I also like the Nike Filament capri, and wear the CW-X Stabilyx Tights for recovery after long runs.

I haven’t found a pair of long running tights that I love yet, but hopefully I will this winter, as they say it will be a cold one!

Shoes

I tried to test out different running shoes last year, but I learned that, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

asics gt2000

Asics GT-2000s work for me.

Accessories

Bras: As far as sports bras go, my go-to’s are the Moving Comfort Juno Bra and the Lululemon Energy Bra. Of the two, I prefer running in the Moving Comfort, but it’s very high cut and shows a little too much under a Cool Racerback.

Socks: You wouldn’t think socks make much of a difference, but they do! Many socks make my toes go numb while running. My tried and true running socks are the Brooks Essential Low Tab Running Socks. Recently, I tried Thorlos 84N socks out for the first time. They have very thick padding on the heel and sole of your foot, but somehow the thickness of the sock did not make my toes go numb. I wore them on my 10.5 mile run and was very comfortable!

Other must have accessories:
Garmin Forerunner 10 running watch
Armpocket Arm Band (fits my phone + anything else!)
Handana (for wiping sweat away on hot runs)
Nathan QuickDraw Plus water bottle
BIC Band headband
• FUEL! My new favorite long run fuel is Honey Stingers. They are tasty, super soft and easy to chew while running, and made of natural ingredients.
Compression Socks for recovery (I only wear them after long runs to help prevent sore muscles)

There you have it! All of my favorite running gear. While all you need is a pair of running shoes to run, the right running gear can make running more comfortable and more fun!

Posted in Fitness, Half-Marathon Training, Running | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Three Minute Microwave Banana Oatmeal

Happy Halloween! It’s going to be a bit chilly for trick-or-treaters tonight. Since this is our first Halloween in our new house, I’m not sure how many kids to expect, but hopefully we get a few!

Until this morning’s blast of coldness, the weather has been pretty perfect here lately – crisp mornings and beautiful cool afternoons. The trees are getting closer to peaking and I’ve been going on as many hikes and runs as possible!

Pilot Mountain NC

Pilot Mountain

9 mile run

Fall in NC

Salem Lake

Fall in NC

I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to these beautiful fall colors!

As the chilly mornings are becoming routine, I wanted to share my staple fall and winter breakfast with y’all: Three Minute Microwave Banana Oatmeal.

3 minute microwave banana oatmeal

It’s not the prettiest breakfast, but it’s healthy and delicious! I first read about microwaving old-fashioned oats to make amazing oatmeal over on Fannetastic Food. The concept is extremely simple. All you do is mash up a very ripe banana, add equal parts old-fashioned oats and milk of your choice, and microwave for three minutes, stirring half-way through. Then you add whatever you want to customize your oats. My favorite combination is adding a couple tablespoons of pumpkin butter and yogurt, a teaspoon of chia seeds, and a few dashes of cinnamon. Other great toppings and mix-ins are nut butters, fruit, raisins, honey, nuts, seeds, or even nutella or cocoa powder if you’re in a chocolate mood. The possibilities are endless! And these oats are truly so easy and quick to make – there’s no excuse not to have a healthy breakfast!

Three Minute Microwave Banana Oatmeal
Serves 1.

Ingredients:
• 1 ripe banana (the riper, the better!)
• ½ cup old-fashioned oats
• ½ cup of milk of your choice (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
• Toppings & mix-ins of your choice! (mine is 2 tbsp. pumpkin butter, 2 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt, 1 tsp chia seeds, a couple dashes of cinnamon)

Directions:
1) Slice your banana into small pieces. Place in a microwave safe bowl and mash it as much as you can.
2) Add the old-fashioned oats on top of the banana.
3) Add the milk on top of the oats.
4) Microwave for three minutes, stirring halfway through.
5) Stir in the toppings & mix-ins of your choice and enjoy!

Posted in Breakfast, Gluten-free, Hikes, North Carolina, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Apple and Fall Vegetables (Plus Lots of Fall Hiking!)

Happy Monday! We had a great fall & fun-filled weekend in North Carolina. First we drove to Asheville to enjoy the foliage, hiking and great food. I crossed “driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall” off my bucket list – and, yes, it was as pretty as people say!
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Blue Ridge Parkway

We hiked to gorgeous waterfalls at Dupont State Forest.

IMG_5869

IMG_5896

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High Falls Dupont State Forest

We also had delicious food (tacos from White Duck Taco below!), and my first ever flight of Kombucha at The Buchi Bar. Highly recommended!

White Duck Tacos Asheville
Buchi Bar Asheville

When we returned to Winston, we took off on another hike at Hanging Rock State Park.

Hanging Rock Summit

Then we successfully smoked our first brisket using our new Orion Cooker (thanks Lisa!).

Orion Cooker

And we ended the weekend with a trip to a local corn maze!

Corn Maze NC

The weather was crisp and perfect. We had a quintessential fall weekend!

And now let me introduce you to my favorite new fall recipe: Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Apple and Fall Vegetables.

Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Apple and Fall Vegetables

When I first saw this recipe on another food blog, I really wanted to try it out, but it looked a little complicated to make. I found that, besides all of the chopping, it came together fairly easily. The sweet apples and salty bacon balance out the rich flavor in the chicken, squash and sweet potato. And the smell while this is cooking… amazing! I’ve made this recipe twice in the last couple of weeks and it will definitely be a part of our regular rotation!

Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Apple and Fall Vegetables

Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Apple and Fall Vegetables
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
• 5 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on (about 1.5 lbs)
• salt to taste
• pepper to taste
• 3 Tablespoons butter, divided
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• ½ lb white mushrooms, sliced
• 3 slices of turkey bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
• 2 large sprigs of rosemary, plus more for garnish
• ½ cup red wine
• splash of chicken broth (optional, I just thought mine needed more liquid)
• 1 sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 2.5 cups butternut squash, peeled cut into 1-inch pieces
• 3 small apples, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions:
1) Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.
2) Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
3) Add the bacon, onions, mushrooms, garlic and rosemary sprigs to the pot and cook until onions are translucent.
4) Remove the bacon and vegetables from the pan and set aside.
5) Increase the heat to medium high and add two Tablespoons of butter to the pot. Brown the chicken on both sides.
6) Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
7) Pour off excess fat and deglaze the pan with the red wine.
8) Lower the heat to medium low and return the bacon, mushroom and onion mixture to the pot. Mix in the potatoes, squash, and apples. You can add a splash of chicken broth at this point, if necessary.
9) Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and cover. Cook on medium low for about 45 minutes until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through.
10) Remove the lid and brown the chicken directly under the broiler for a couple of minutes before serving.
11) Enjoy!

Posted in Chicken, Fitness, Gluten-free, Hikes, North Carolina, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment