Pumpkin Butter Granola Bars

Though fall doesn’t officially begin until Tuesday, pumpkin is everywhere. I am not ashamed to admit I love all things pumpkin spiced, and these pumpkin butter granola bars are no exception.

Pumpkin Butter Granola Bars

I love that these granola bars are full of healthy ingredients, and are sweet enough without being too sweet. The layer of pumpkin butter in the middle of the bars makes them hit that perfect sweet spot. The pumpkin butter layer almost reminds me a little of fig newton, with a pumpkin spice twist! The nuts pack the bars with healthy fats and protein, resulting in a satisfying snack that will keep your hunger at bay.

Pumpkin Butter Granola Bars

Like all granola bars (and granola), this recipe is easy to whip together so that you always have these healthy snacks on hand.

Pumpkin Butter Granola Bars
Yields about 10 bars

Ingredients:
• 2 cups old-fashioned oats
• ¼ cup flour (GF flour will work too)
• ¼ cup wheat germ
• ¼ cup almonds (or any other nut)
• ¼ cup cashews (or any other nut)
• ¼ cup pepitas
• 1 tsp salt
• 4 tbsp. honey
• 2 tbsp. pumpkin butter + 6 tbsp. pumpkin butter (recipe here)
• 1 egg, beaten

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 325 and grease an 8×8 baking pan.
2) Chop up the nuts in a food processor.
3) Mix the oats, flour, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, pepitas, and salt in a large bowl.
4) Beat an egg and mix together the egg, honey, and 2 tbsp. of pumpkin butter.
5) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
6) Put about 2/3 of the mixture in a greased 8×8 baking pan and press down. Spread the remaining 6 tbsp. of pumpkin butter on top of the mixture, then place the remaining 1/3 of the mixture in an even layer on top.
7) Bake at 325 for about 25 minutes.
8) Let cool, slice into bars or squares, and enjoy!

Posted in Breakfast, Gluten-free, Recipes, Snacks | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Pure Barre Winston-Salem

Today started off with my latest fitness obsession: Pure Barre.

Pure Barre Winston Salem

I’ve been attending Pure Barre classes on average three times a week for the past month, and so far I love it! I took a few barre classes back in Houston, but never at a Pure Barre studio. I had been wanting to give Pure Barre a try for a while, so when we moved to Winston and I found out that there was a studio within five minutes of our house, I jumped right in and bought the new client package of unlimited classes for your first month for $99.

Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

Pure Barre is a 55 minute low impact group exercise class that uses small isometric movements to tone the entire body, focusing on what many women consider “problem areas” (arms, thighs, seat, abs). The classes all follow the same format, though the specific movements vary from class to class. Each class also uses the same equipment – a small pilates ball, a band, a mat, and weights ranging from 2-5 pounds. Every class starts with the same warm up and ends with the same cool down. In between, there is a section targeting the arms, the thighs, the seat, and the abs, with short stretching sessions in between each section. You work each muscle group to the point of fatigue, then stretch to create long lean muscle. The thigh section is always the hardest for me – I never imagined my muscles could burn and shake that much! Sometimes I have to stop and break for a few seconds because I can’t handle any more. The class is relatively easy to just jump in and follow if you’re a beginner (you’ll probably be confused a few times, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it). One piece of “must know” knowledge before you take your first class is that when they say small movements, they mean really small. Most movements that you make during class will be one inch, which can be difficult to grasp at first.

Reasons Why I love Pure Barre:
1) Pure Barre classes are low impact, making them more relaxing than a lot of group exercise classes. You will feel the burn and your muscles will shake, but you’ll rarely be out of breath. For me, Pure Barre classes are the perfect complement to my high impact running.
2) Pure Barre focuses on toning muscle areas that I tend to neglect, such as the core and gluteal muscles. If you’ve never taken a Pure Barre class, I can guarantee your abs and “seat” will hurt after your first class (or the next day).
3) I’m Type A. I love how the classes and instructors follow a strict format for each class so that you know what to expect, yet there is enough variation in the specific movements from class to class that you don’t get bored.
4) I don’t get drenched in sweat. While I always feel the need to eventually shower, I don’t need to wash my hair and can easily go run errands after without feeling disgusting.
5) Class flies by. Because you are concentrating so hard on making the tiny movements, the class goes by really quickly. It also allows you to “block out” the rest of the day and concentrate in the moment.
6) Results! Pure Barre claims that people see results in 10 classes, and they have many people backing up that claim, including myself. Visibly, Pure Barre has impacted my abs the most, but I know from the soreness I feel everywhere else that I will eventually see results all over.

I believe that combined with a healthy diet, and ideally some kind of cardio (running, biking, even walking), Pure Barre is a fast and effective way to tone your body. While I also recommend weight training at the gym, Pure Barre is a great supplement to that, or a good way to tone muscle if you are too intimidated by working with machines and free weights at the gym. I’m planning to continue taking Pure Barre classes twice a week throughout my half-marathon training this fall, in addition to one weekly weight training session at the gym.

I hope you give Pure Barre a try if there is a studio near you, I think you’ll glad you did!

And if you’re looking for more tips for Pure Barre beginners, check out Brittany’s post – lots of great advice, especially how crucial it is to wear leggings or capris (not shorts) and invest in a pair of “grippy socks”!

Posted in Fitness, Half-Marathon Training | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Elote (Mexican Street Corn)

Today I’m going to share a recipe that will change the way you eat corn. This is the most delicious way to serve corn.

Elote corn

Elote is a popular street food served all over Mexico, and in many places in the Southwest U.S. (Texas!). Despite living in Texas for nearly my entire life, I had never had Elote until Luke insisted on making it after having great success making it while visiting his brother in Vermont.

Elote is extremely easy to make. It consists of grilled corn, a sauce mixture that typically consists of mayonnaise, sour cream, Cotija chese (very similar to feta cheese), chile powder, garlic, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime on top. In true Caroline fashion, I changed the recipe up a bit to make it not only healthier, but also simpler. How? By replacing the mayonnaise and sour cream with greek yogurt.

Elote corn

We’ve made Elote many times this summer, and don’t plan to stop any time soon, despite the daylight hours dwindling. We served it at a big family get together and it was a huge hit. I can almost guarantee you will love it. I am not a corn fan at all – partially because I simply don’t love the flavor, and partially because I can’t bite corn off the cob due to problems with my front teeth. But I love Elote! Well actually, I technically love Esquites, which is Mexican Street Corn served off the cob.

Esquites

On or off the cob, this corn is delicious! You will not regret trying this recipe, and will probably never make corn the same again.

Elote (Mexican Street Corn)
Serves four.

Ingredients:
• 4 ears of shucked corn
• ½ cup greek yogurt
• ½ cup Cotija cheese (or Feta)
• ½ tsp chili powder
• 1 clove of garlic, minced
• 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
• 1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Directions:

1) Cook the corn. You can either do this on the grill or using the broiler in your oven. On the grill: turn the grill to a high heat. Lightly grease the corn with olive oil or butter and cook the corn for 10-20 minutes, turning every few minutes as needed, so that the corn is slightly charred, but not burned. The corn is ready when all sides are slightly charred. In the oven: preheat the broiler on high. Lightly grease the corn with olive oil or butter. Position the top shelf of the oven so that the corn is 2-4 inches from the top of the oven. Cook the corn for 15-20 minutes, turning frequently, until all sides of the corn darken (you may not be able to get the same char as you would using a grill).

2) In a small bowl, mix together the greek yogurt, cheese, chili powder, garlic and cilantro.

3) Spread 2-3 tablespoons of the sauce on the grilled corn, top with additional cheese, chili powder and cilantro, and serve. (You can also cut the corn kernels off the cob and mix the kernels with the sauce in a large bowl, making Esquites).

4) Enjoy!

Note – If you cannot find Cotija cheese, feta is a good substitute. Do not use queso fresco, as it is not as salty and does not result in a similar flavor.

*PS – The sauce for the corn is tasty on other foods as well. Whenever we make Elote, the sauce often finds its way onto whatever protein we are serving too. Feel free to experiment using it in other recipes!

Posted in Gluten-free, Mexican, Recipes, Sides | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Parmesan Garlic Edamame

Happy Friday! I hope your Labor Day weekend is off to good start. Luke and I are headed back to Raffaldini Vineyards tonight to enjoy their last summer evening of live jazz music. I wasn’t planning to blog a new recipe this morning, but this one was too good to wait any longer. These roasted edamame are the perfect blend of saltiness and cheesiness. I’ve made them the past two days in a row and they are all gone. They would be a great snack to serve at a Labor Day party this weekend or during a fall football game.

Parmesan Garlic Edamame

They are one of those snacks that is truly addictive. I bet you can’t have just one!

Parmesan Garlic Edamame

Thankfully, roasted edamame are a healthy snack. Edamame are full of protein, so they will actually satisfy your hunger and keep you full.

Parmesan Garlic Edamame

I’ve made roasted edamame many times. I don’t know how it has never occurred to me until now to make this combination of deliciousness. Maybe this is how everyone roasts edamame and I am just the last to jump on the bandwagon. Regardless, if you have never tried a similar recipe, I promise these will change the way you snack.

Parmesan Garlic Edamame

Parmesan Garlic Edamame
Serving size is questionable as they are addictive…try to share!

Ingredients:
• 1 12 oz bag of frozen edamame
• ½ cup grated parmesan reggiano
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 1.5 tsp garlic salt

Directions:
1) Take the edamame out of the bag and let them defrost in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour (you can skip this but they turn out better if you do it).
2) Preheat your oven to 350.
3) Rinse the edamame under warm water, pour them onto a towel and pat them dry as much as you can.
4) Toss the edamame in a bowl with the olive oil, parmesan, and garlic salt and lay them out on a baking sheet.
5) Bake them at 350 for 30-40 minutes, flipping every few minutes (I flipped after 10, 20, 27, and pulled them out at 33).
6) Let them cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

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

Vineyard Stomp 5K and Fall Running

Happy Monday! I started my day off with an 4.5 mile run as part of my half-marathon training. Yep, I’m running another half! I will be running the YMCA Mistletoe Half here in Winston-Salem on December 6th!
Mistletoe Run
This means I will not have to do long runs through the holiday season, whew! (This was a problem last spring). I chose this race because it gives me just enough time train in mostly nice fall weather, it incorporates Christmas (!!!), and there are few causes I would rather run for than childhood obesity. I’m excited to start training, but have quickly realized that running in Winston means learning to conquer many hills. I’ve already found great running paths on the Wake Forest campus right by our house, in addition to many others that are just a short run away.

Throughout my fall training, I will also be running a couple more 5K races through the vineyards!

Vineyard Stomp 5K

I ran my first race in North Carolina, the Vineyard Stomp 5K, this past weekend and had a blast. The course was the hardest I’ve ever run, but it was through the beautiful Round Peak Vineyards.

Round Peak Vineyards

I’d say about 70% of the course was uphill, and only 20% downhill! (The top female racer finished in about 29 minutes, just to give you an idea of how difficult it was!) There was a time when the trail went off into the woods where you truly could not run without falling. I had to actually grab on to a tree branch to pull myself up the trail at one point. But it was fun! And each finisher received a bottle of wine and a free wine tasting after finishing the race. Plus a great spread of food, including pizza! The organizers really put on a great race. Luckily, there are two more races in the series this fall and I am signed up for both. The next race is September 27th at Olde Mill Vineyards and the last race is October 25th at Grassy Creek Vineyard.

One of the best parts about these races is getting to explore new vineyards each time you race, and then spending the rest of the day visiting other vineyards in the area. Luke and I both enjoyed our wine tasting at Round Peak and the vineyard was beautiful. We plan on going back with Teddy, since they are super dog friendly too!

After my race, we drove about 15 minutes down to Shelton Vineyards. We liked our tastings at Shelton, but we thought the vineyard itself was a little over the top. The grounds were too manmade and groomed and we didn’t love the atmosphere. It wasn’t as friendly and relaxed as Round Peak. We may go back, but probably not too often.

We ended our mini vineyard tour at Raffaldini Vineyards. The Raffaldini Vineyard is absolutely gorgeous.

Raffaldini Vineyards

Pictures do not do it justice! Raffaldini focuses on dry Italian wines and we really enjoyed our tasting there, so much so that we became wine club members. We will definitely be returning many times, especially now that we get two free glasses of wine each time we visit!

All in all the Vineyard Stomp 5K was a great race and a fun way to start running in North Carolina. I can’t complain about running through the vineyards and then spending the day relaxing on the patio and taking in the views!

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

Hiking Pilot Mountain

Good morning from North Carolina! Luke and I are officially moved into our new house in Winston-Salem, where Luke is attending Wake Forest Law School. Although it rained for almost a week straight after we arrived, the sun finally came out this past weekend, and with it came a bit of cooler weather. The first nice morning we got, we headed to Pilot Mountain for a hike!

Pilot Moutain
Pilot Mountain is a stand alone mountain that is only about 25 minutes from downtown Winston (and only 20 from our house!). It makes for a great day trip for anyone in the area wanting to hike, or just drive up and take in the beautiful view. You park fairly close to the summit of the mountain (you cannot climb to the very top). From there, there are several overlooks with amazing views of North Carolina and Virginia.

Pilot Mountain Overlook 1

IMG_5308
There are a variety of trails that you can take from where you park. We decided to combine the 0.8 mile Jomeokee Trail and the 2.2 mile Ledge Springs Loop Trail. The two trails combined took us a little over an hour to hike. The Jomeokee Trail is rated as “moderate”. It circles the peak of Pilot Mountain. Other than a few steep steps (pictured below), the trail was an easy hike and would be great for families or older people with good balance.

Teddy Pilot Mountain
The Ledge Springs Loop Trail can be accessed from the Jomeokee trail (it turns off towards the beginning of the Jomeokee), as well as from the other side of the parking lot.

Pilot Mountain Ledge Springs
It was rated as “strenuous” and it was definitely a little difficult. There are some very steep and rocky portions and a lot of uphill climbing. I had to stop and catch my breath a few times, and even Teddy got tired towards the end!

We all enjoyed the hike and I’m sure we will be back many times to do it again. Here are more pictures to showcase the beauty of Pilot Mountain!

Pilot Mountain trail

Pilot Mountain trail

Pilot Mountain trail

Pilot Mountain trail

butterfly pilot mountain
If you are in the Winston-Salem area or will be visiting, I would highly recommend spending a couple hours on Pilot Mountain!

When you get to the park entrance, follow the signs to the summit, where you will reach a parking lot. The Jomeokee Trail is off to the left, past the Little Pinnacle Overlook. The Ledge Springs Loop trail can be reached from the Jomeokee Trail or from the opposite side of the parking lot (towards the picnic tables and climbing areas).

Posted in Fitness, Hikes, North Carolina | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Refreshing Watermelon Smoothie

Today I’m sharing another new favorite smoothie recipe – a refreshing watermelon smoothie!

Watermelon smoothie

Don’t you love the pretty pink color?!

When I first started seeing recipes for watermelon smoothies this summer, I was a little skeptical. First, I’m not a huge melon fan. Watermelon is the only melon I really enjoy. Second, the idea of watermelon in a smoothie just didn’t sound like it would work. Clearly, I eventually tried it and found a combination that I love! The strawberries add a little extra sweetness, the yogurt adds the perfect amount of creaminess to make it more like a smoothie and less like an icey drink, and the watermelon and ice make it very refreshing on a hot summer day.

Watermelon Smoothie

Watermelon Smoothie
Serves two.

Ingredients:
• 2.5 cups of watermelon (cubed)
• 1 cup strawberries (de-stemmed)
• ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
• 1 tbsp. honey
• 1 cup ice

Directions:
1) Place all of the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. With a Vitamix, start off on a low speed and gradually increase the speed.
2) Enjoy!

*Note – you can use vanilla greek yogurt instead of plain, just omit the honey.

Posted in Gluten-free, Recipes, Smoothies | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Orange Carrot Smoothie

Hello again! Life has been busy lately. In the last three months, I:

• Got married!

Wedding
Wedding 2
• Graduated with my Master of Public Health

MPH Graduation
• Became a Certified Personal trainer (through NASM)
• Became a Certified Health Education Specialist
• Went on my honeymoon to Istanbul and Santorini!

Istanbul
Santorini
• Moved out of my house in Houston and drove a Uhaul truck to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where my husband is going to Wake Forest Law School

And I’m flying back to Texas tonight after spending two weeks in New Hampshire and Maine. Whew!

I wanted to pop in and share a recipe I’ve repeated many times this summer, in large part due to the addition of a Vitamix to our kitchen (yes, they really are that good)! One of my favorite things to do with the Vitamix is mix up my usual green smoothies and use vegetables that I couldn’t necessarily throw into my old immersion blender smoothies. This smoothie is simple, refreshing, and gives you a good serving of both fruits and a veggie. It’s also a bright and summery color! With smoothies, nothing is too exact, so add more or less of any ingredient as you see fit. I hope you enjoy!

Carrot Orange Smoothie

Orange Carrot Smoothie
Serves two.

Ingredients:
• 2 large carrots, peeled
• 2 small oranges, peeled (and de-seeded if necessary)
• 1 banana
• 1 apple (I use pink lady)
• Approx. ½ cup of water or milk
• A few ice cubes

Directions:
1) Place all of the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. With a Vitamix, start off on a low speed and gradually increase the speed.
2) Enjoy!

Posted in Recipes, Smoothies, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

8 Lessons from a Second Half Marathon

This post is a little late, but better late than never! Last month, I completed my second half marathon and set a new personal record of 2:23:40!

Rhythm and Blues Half
I loosely followed the Disney Princess Half Marathon Training Program and ran with my usual walk/run method. I ended up running most of the race with a 4:1 run/walk ratio.

After running two half marathons, I’ve learned a few lessons:

1) Find a pace you’re comfortable with and stick with it as much as possible. For me, that’s usually a 3:1 or 4:1 run/walk ratio. For you, it might be a steady run. Test different methods out, and stick with what works! If you need to go off your pace for a few minutes or take a longer walking break during training, that’s perfectly fine.

2) Bad training is not necessarily indicative of a bad race! I had some of my worst long runs ever during my training for this second half marathon. I had multiple runs where I needed to sit down on the side of the path and take a break for a few minutes. Because of this, my goal for this half marathon was just to finish it, knowing that I likely wouldn’t PR or even finish close to my time from my previous half. Not the case! Train the best you can and on race day – don’t sell yourself short! I am so glad that I decided to at least try my 4:1 ratio and not settle for a slower pace on race day.

3) A training plan is just that – a plan. Sometimes you have to adjust your plans, and that’s okay. If you miss a scheduled long run, just run it as soon as you can fit it in. Even if it’s a week later. Being off schedule by a week or two will not ruin your training as long as you’re still running at least a couple of times each week.

4) Training through the holiday season is hard. I love to train in the winter because in Houston the weather is generally great for running in the winter months. But the holidays are often busy and involve going out of town. I thought I would be able to continue my training when I flew to New Hampshire for a week. Snow really got in my way! Most people also tend to eat more unhealthy foods during the holiday season, which can make it hard to wake up and run in the morning. I’d suggest planning for training interruptions if your training plan includes the month of December. If you get off schedule, just don’t give up!

asics gt2000

5) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My Asics GT 2170s successfully took me through my first half marathon. When I was long overdue for new running shoes, I figured, why not try something new? I fell in love with pretty turquoise and pink Mizunos and the running store told me my stride was great in them. Then I got shin splints. Luckily I ordered the shoes from an online running store that allows you to run in the shoes for up to 90 days and return them if you don’t like them. I ended up buying another pair that, yet again, did not work for me. Then I tried the successor to the 2170s, the Asics GT 2000s. Bingo! No problems. Sometimes, it’s even worth buying multiple pairs of a shoe that works for you in the case that they discontinue the model. When the GT 2000s went on sale in hot pink (my favorite color), I bought a second pair. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

6) Compression socks and compression capris work for recovery. Wearing compression socks while running does not work for me and makes my legs cramp up. But, wearing compression socks and capris after a long run helps my muscles recover so much faster. Every time I run more than 6 miles, I come home and put on my compression socks and CWX Stability Tights (or as Luke refers to them, my alien pants!). I often even wear them to bed. They work!

7) Long runs are almost never very fun, but there’s nothing better than knowing you just finished a long run. Long runs can make even the worst days better, because hey, you ran 10 miles that morning and that’s something to be proud of!

8) After you run your first half, you will feel incredibly accomplished but may think you will never run another. A few days (or hours) later you will likely change your mind!

If you have any questions about running a half for the first time or are more curious about my training, feel free to contact me or comment!

Posted in Running, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Pumpkin Butter Salmon – The Simplest Fall Recipe!

I’m back from my brief blogging hiatus (okay maybe not so brief!) to share with you my favorite new fall recipe. I’ll be posting a running update soon, but for now I wanted to start with the simplest recipe in my book this season!

It’s no secret that I love all things pumpkin, and pumpkin butter (recipe here) is a staple in my fridge all fall.

pumpkin butter

A couple months ago, I saw an intriguing salmon recipe that only included two ingredients: fruit jam and salmon. I thought it would either be horrible or surprisingly good, and it ended up being delicious. When pumpkin butter started making its rounds into everything in our kitchen, I thought – why not try it on salmon!

Pumpkin Butter Salmon

It may sounds strange, but the flavors combine perfectly. You just spread pumpkin butter on salmon and broil or bake it for a few minutes. You can’t get much simpler than that!

IMG_0618

Pumpkin Butter Salmon

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

• 3-4 tbsp. of pumpkin butter (adapt to your taste!)
• ¾ lb salmon
• salt to taste

Directions:

1. Spread the pumpkin butter evenly over the salmon.
2. Broil the salmon for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through (you can also bake it).
3. Enjoy!

Posted in Fish, Gluten-free, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments