Friday, October 30, 2015

3-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Almond Butter

Happy Friday and day-before-Halloween! It has been such a busy week so I'm looking forward to relaxing. We have grand plans to hang out a home with a few friends, passing out candy. I am excited to make Halloween treats for the day and dress up this year - our neighborhood is one of the most popular in Chicago to trick-or-treat, so we have to be festive.

If you need something easy and pumpkin-flavored to try for the holiday this weekend, look no further than this DIY recipe for 3-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Almond Butter.

There are so many versions of fancy peanut butter out there - white chocolate and cinnamon raisin swirl, to name a few. Almond butter seems to be missing out on the fancy flavors {besides Justin's of course}, and I haven't seen any version of pumpkin spice available for sale this year. Time to make your own! This is the easiest recipe, requiring less than 5 minutes and two kitchen tools - a fork and a bowl :)

The key is using fresh ground almond butter. You can obviously make your own almond butter at home too, but I prefer the 1 minute version - ground fresh at the grocery store. I used almond butter from Koepsel's in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin, picked up on our recent trip to Door County. My second favorite fresh ground version is from Mariano's. I also used Grade A pure maple syrup from Koepsel's, and it tastes and smells exactly like a sweet summer campfire - in the best way possible.

All you have to do is mash together fresh ground {unsweetened} almond butter, a few Tablespoons of pure maple syrup, and a few teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. Store in a covered jar and this will keep in the refrigerator for weeks. I found the cutest jar at HomeGoods for less than $3. Enjoy!

3-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Almond Butter
Yields: 1 and 1/2 cups

1 and 1/2 cups fresh ground {unsweetened} almond butter
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

How to~
*Add almond butter, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice to a bowl and mash with a fork until combined.
*Keep refrigerated.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Flourless Carrot Cake Oat Bars

This healthy recipe for Flourless Carrot Cake Oat Bars is perfect for a clean eating fall breakfast or snack.

Even though the blog world is knee-deep in pumpkin and apple recipes this month, there are plenty of other flavors that invoke fall feelings for me. One of my favorite indulgent desserts is carrot cake, and I think it's a top contender to be considered the next "it" fall flavor. Doesn't it make sense? Carrot cake includes warm spices, a healthy seasonal vegetable, and an orange huge. Carrots don't get enough attention!

Over the past month, I have sampled two delicious slices of carrot cake and I can't get either out of my mind. The first slice was shared a few weeks ago at Chop in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, after a fun family dinner following the Run Wild race. Chop's version is a two-layer cake with creamy icing and raisins. It's famous at the restaurant, and another diner told us we "had to order it" as we were waiting for our table. The cake didn't disappoint! K and I shared the second version of carrot cake last weekend after dinner at boltwood in Evanston. This was a more modern take on the dessert, served with mint leaves, real mint ice cream, and cream cheese frosting made with parsnips. Yes, parsnips. It was crazy delicious.

Hungry yet? Please excuse the shadow-y iPhone photo :)

After all of this cake love, I had to create a healthier version at home. The goal was to make something I would feel good about eating for breakfast, but tasty enough for a late night snack. These Flourless Carrot Cake Oat Bars turned out exactly as I imagined with the smell {and taste!} matching my favorite carrot cake flavors.

Traditional carrot cake includes shredded carrots, butter, eggs, sugar, pecans, raisins, and spices. I've seen recipes using only cinnamon, and versions with a mix of cinnamon and nutmeg. I decided to use both warm spices in these bars - old fashioned oats are combined with shredded carrots, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, chopped pecans, and unsweetened shredded coconut to bring out the cake flavors.

These healthy bars are sweetened with pure maple syrup - they are delicious both warm and at room temperature!

Flourless Carrot Cake Oat Bars
Yields: 8 bars

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

3 medium carrots {or 1 cup packed shredded carrots}
1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened almond butter
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoons chopped pecans
1 Tablespoon coconut flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

How to~
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Mix shredded carrots, egg, and maple syrup. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until just combined.
*Cover the bottom of a 9x5 shallow loaf pan with parchment paper. Evenly distribute the mixture and lightly pat it down with your hands.
*Bake for 25 minutes.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Slow Cooker Lemongrass Chicken

This easy recipe for Slow Cooker Lemongrass Chicken comes together quickly for dinner, served over cauliflower rice with extra cilantro.

Happy Friday! I can't believe we're soon rolling into the last full week of October, with daylight savings and the holidays just around the corner. It has been a crazy week with travel, with K and I in working in different states and many hours spent in the car {and awful traffic}. I made this recipe for Slow Cooker Lemongrass Chicken a few weeks ago, and I really wish I had it ready when I got home last night after 9:00.

Lemongrass is one of my favorite flavors, but I don't use it nearly often enough. I used three stalks in this recipe. The important thing to remember is you have to trim lemongrass before using it. The first time I made a lemongrass dish a few years ago, I didn't trim it well enough and K and I were picking lemongrass stalks out of our teeth for an hour after dinner. Whoops :) Food & Wine has a great description of how to trim the lemongrass stalk - read it before you make this dish! Here's the gist of it: you need to remove the outer leaves and chop up only the bulb for a recipe.

Lemongrass pairs deliciously with chicken. I also added apple cider vinegar, Chinese five spice, garlic, ginger and other tasty Asian-inspired flavors. Serve over regular or cauliflower rice with extra cilantro on top!

Slow Cooker Lemongrass Chicken
Yields: 4 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2.5 hours
Total time: 2.75 hours

14 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 stalks lemongrass {using only the bulbs; chopped}
1/2 cup chicken broth {hot}
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
4 cloves garlic {chopped}
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional: 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

How to~
*Add all ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 2 hours.
*Shred chicken with a fork and stir. Continue cooking on LOW for 30 minutes.
*Serve over cauliflower rice or regular rice.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Women's Health Run 10 Feed 10 Race Recap

I'm a few days late posting this, but I have a new race recap to share tonight for the Women's Health Run 10 Feed 10 10k race. The race was held last Saturday morning at Diversey Harbor in Chicago. Run 10 Feed 10 is a partnership with the FEED Foundation, a non-profit organization fighting hunger and malnutrition around the world. As part of each race registration, ten meals were donated to those going hungry in the local community. I posted a 10k training plan for this race in September.

It was a chilly, beautiful morning for a run, with not a cloud in the sky. I am definitely not used to running in cold yet; it was 39 and it felt absolutely freezing. I know my tone will change in a few months when it's much colder and 39 feels like summer :)

The morning started with a group warm-up hosted by ladies from Shred 415. Just a few light squats to get things going...

The race was fun, and we warmed up quickly! Close to 700 runners participated. The route was the same as last year, with the race starting in Lincoln Park near Diversey Harbor, continuing along the lakefront path north for the first three miles. We looped back south to finish near the same spot. Check out my 2014 race recap here.

I ran the 10k race with two friends, J and S. It wasn't my fastest time {especially with a bathroom break in the first mile - ha} but we had a great race!

My results:
Time~ 1:04:53
Pace~ 10:27/mile 

We finished the morning with a late breakfast at Baker Miller in Lincoln Square - my favorite local bakery. They have the best coffee and I highly recommend the egg biscuit sandwich!

{Disclosure: I was a member of the Chicago VIP Team for the RUN10 FEED10 10k race. I received one free race registration in exchange for participating in this race. All text and opinions are my own.}

Friday, October 16, 2015

15 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes: Savory

Good morning and happy Friday! Last week I posted a new roundup with 15 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes on the sweeter side. Today I'm focusing on savory ways to enjoy pumpkin - below are 15 amazing healthy recipes to try this weekend. A few recipes with a little bit of sweetness made their way in this roundup too, but I won't tell if you won't. :)

Check out these great healthy food, fitness and lifestyle blogs by clicking on the pumpkin recipe links below, and the direct link to each site. For more pumpkin recipe love, follow my Pumpkin board on Pinterest. Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Run Wild Race Recap: Quarter Marathon {Door County, Wisconsin}

I missed cheering for the Chicago Marathon runners on Sunday, but it was for good reason - I was up north in Door County {Wisconsin} for a long weekend, running the Run Wild Quarter Marathon race and visiting my favorite places on the peninsula before the villages slow down for the season. I'm working on a post with my favorite places to visit in Door County later this week, but first up is my race recap.

The Run Wild Quarter Marathon, 5k and Kids Fun Run is an annual race at Potawatomi State Park just outside Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. The 2015 race had 425 finishers, with the majority running the 5k. The Run Wild race benefits Friends of Potawatomi State Park. I love running smaller races! Packet pickup was a breeze {we picked up the morning of the race since it didn't start until 9:30 am} and the running crowd was super friendly.

The race was my first time visiting Potawatomi State Park so I wasn't sure what to expect with the trail or elevation. We met the sweetest older gentleman before the race, while studying the course map to get our bearings in the park. Saturday's race was his 20th time participating in the Run Wild! Our new running friend warned us about two big hills with reassurances that the tail end of the run would include a downhill slope.

The Quarter Marathon {6.55 miles} and 5k started together with a cowbell and fog horn {no joke}. The entire course was paved and we saw a majority of the beautiful park during the race, including tree canopy for most of the course. It wasn't quite peak color over the weekend {it's expected within the next week} but there were beautiful gold and orange leaves peaking out in enough places to remind you that October is almost halfway over.

The weather on Saturday was absolutely perfect for running - sunny, blue skies and temperatures in the 50s during the race. Hill #1 was in the first mile and it wasn't too bad. Hill #2 was higher and longer starting at mile 3.5, which was more painful but we powered through. I was surprised to even pass a handful of people on the way up. Once we were at the top, there were beautiful water views of Sturgeon Bay in Lake Michigan through the trees.

I was so happy we were done with hills after the second one - what goes up must come down! The course leveled off until mile 4.5, when the gentle downward slope began. We really picked up the pace at this point, and were able to shave ~20 seconds from our per mile average time in the last 2 miles. There were a few moments of steeper downgrade at the end and it was SO fun! I looked back at my pace on the route using the Nike+ app afterwards, and realized we ran sub-8 minute miles for parts of that section. I'm typically not a fast runner, but give me a few downhill slopes and gravity will speed things up quickly!

The results? We finished in 1:06:20 and 1:06:21, with K beating me by one second. He swears it was more like five, but chip timed results don't lie ;) Our average pace per mile was 10:03, which I'm happy with. I would have loved an average pace under 10, but I was fighting a cold this weekend so I'll take what I can get.

I loved traveling to Door County for this race and the course was beautiful - I highly recommend it!

Friday, October 9, 2015

15 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes: Sweet

I'm saving pumpkin recipes at lightening speed these days, pinning and bookmarking links to my recipes folder every day. October is the best month to collect fall recipes, and pumpkin is at the top of my list. I asked my fellow food and fitness bloggers to share their favorite healthier pumpkin recipes with me earlier this week, and the response was amazing! I have so many recipes to choose from that I'm breaking this into two posts. Today I'm sharing 15 of the best Healthy Pumpkin Recipes on the sweeter side, and I'll be back next Friday with another roundup focusing on savory ways to enjoy pumpkin.

This recipe roundup includes every sweet thing you can think of - from pumpkin cookies, to muffins, to homemade chocolate Oreos, to mini pumpkin pies! Check out these great healthy food, fitness and lifestyle blogs by clicking on the pumpkin recipe links below, and the direct link to each site. For more pumpkin recipe love, follow my Pumpkin board on Pinterest. Have a wonderful weekend!

I hope you enjoy these delicious sweet pumpkin recipes! What's your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin?