Friday, May 27, 2016

4 Chicago Summer Fitness Ideas + Discount for Sweatworking Week

Happy Friday! The weather finally shaped up this week with temperatures above 80. Just like that, it's summer in Chicago. Typical Midwest since it was 45 degrees just two weekends ago. Now that the temps are heating up, I have summer workouts on my mind. There are so many fantastic summer fitness events in the city - this is a short list of four that are at the top of my list. Links are provided below for more information / to sign up.

1 ~ Free 1 Mile and 5k Races in City Parks

The Chicago Park District and the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) debuted a new community initiative this year, to inspire people to get outdoors and run in local city parks. The event series is called Go Run. From May 21 to July 9, free 1 mile and 5k races are available in one of three city parks at 9:00 am on Saturdays: Humboldt Park, Washington Park, and Warren Park. Participants can run, walk, or volunteer. The running course is located entirely within each park.

 {Humboldt Park - image via Curbed Chicago}

Click here to sign up and see the schedule. Participants can also sign up the morning of a run, between 8:15 and 8:45 am {before the 9:00 am start time}.

2 ~ Sweatworking Week

My friend Jeana is the founder of a Sweat Life in Chicago, and Sweatworking is her company's monthly fitness event series. Jeana is taking this event up a notch this summer with a full week of Sweatworking classes, running from June 6 to June 12. There will be three classes offered per day during Sweatworking week, ranging from barre, volleyball, yoga, to conditioning classes. Something for everyone!

 {Image via a Sweat Life}

The regular cost per ticket is $60, which gives you unlimited access to the Sweatworking classes offered that week {attendees will need to sign up for each class}. Find more information on the amazing class options here.

a Sweat Life kindly offered a $10 discount to readers - click here to sign up for the $50 reduced rate.

3 ~ Millennium Park Summer Workouts

The City of Chicago offers free outdoor summer workouts downtown in Millennium Park on Wednesday mornings {7:30 am} and Saturday mornings {four sessions from 7 to 11 am}. Classes begin on June 1, and run through September 3. There are a variety of options led by different fitness instructors, including Zumba, yoga, pilates, and more.

Click here to review the summer schedule. Classes are located on the Great Lawn at Millennium Park: 201 E. Randolph Street.

4 ~ Bastille Day 5k and 8k Race

My favorite summer race in Chicago is the Bastille Day run, held each year in July. I have finished the 8k race twice over the past few years, and it's on my list to make it a third this summer. The 2016 Bastille Day race will be held on Thursday, July 14 in the early evening {7:15 pm for the 5k and 7:30 pm for the 8k}. This annual race commemorates the French Revolution which began with the storming of the Bastille, the Paris medieval fortress and prison, in 1789. This year's race is the 35th annual event, and participants are encouraged to dress up in a French theme and/or channeling the colors of the French flag - blue, white, and red.

{My friend J and I at last year's Bastille Day race}

Click here for registration and more information about the race. The Bastille Day race is located in Lincoln Park {Cannon Drive & Fullerton Avenue}.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Bars

This recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Bars is perfect for spring, with a hazelnut and cashew crust.

It's officially rhubarb season and the plant in my yard is finally big enough to harvest a few stalks. My mom gave K and I this plant when we moved two years ago, and it's growing out of control this year. Over the past week it has grown to two feet tall with all of the rain!

We harvested a few stalks today, and I had to make a recipe as soon as possible. Strawberries happened to be deliciously ripe at the grocery store this morning too.

I thought about making healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins for breakfast options this week, but decided my first rhubarb stalks deserved to be used in an official dessert. My mom texted me a few ideas, including an old school Rhubarb Custard recipe from the 1940s. I added strawberries and made a few modifications including reducing the sugar in half, and the bars turned out soo good!

I started by making a vegan crust, with raw hazelnuts, cashew meal, maple syrup, and almond milk. You can also substitute almond flour for cashew meal, or make a standard butter + flour crust. Both would make delicious custard bars. I pre-baked the crust for 20 minutes before adding the custard filling.

The custard itself only includes a few ingredients - eggs, vanilla, sugar, strawberries, rhubarb, and a bit of flour as a binder. I finally had a reason to use this special vanilla bean paste that I picked up over the holidays this year. Any vanilla extract will work in the custard filling.

The vibrant pink and green from the strawberries and rhubarb screams spring, doesn't it?

Pre baking:

Post baking:

The entire house smelled delicious while these bars were in the oven! I love this lightly sweet take on a strawberry rhubarb dessert.

Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Bars can be enjoyed either warm or cold. I just finished a chilled bar while writing this post. Whipped cream or ice cream would make a delicious topping too.

Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Bars
Yields: 8 bars

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes


1 cup raw hazelnuts
1 cup cashew meal {may substitute almond flour}
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup almond milk

2 Tablespoons flour
4 large eggs
4 stalks rhubarb, chopped
1 cup strawberries, chopped {I used 6 large strawberries}
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

How to~
*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
*Add the crust ingredients in a food processor - hazelnuts, cashew meal, maple syrup and almond milk. Process until all ingredients are combined.
*Press the crust mixture evenly into a 9x9 baking dish. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, until lightly brown on the edges.
*While the crust is baking, chop the strawberries and rhubarb stalks into small pieces.
*Whisk 4 eggs until combined. Add the rest of the custard ingredients and mix well - flour, salt, vanilla, chopped strawberries, and rhubarb.
*Add the custard on top of the pre-baked crust.
*Bake for 30 minutes.
*Let the bars cool slightly before cutting. Keep the leftover bars refrigerated.

{Adapted from Just a Pinch's recipe for Rhubarb Custard Bars}

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mini Baked Banana Chocolate Donuts

What better time than Sunday morning to talk about donuts? I actually made these last Sunday before a long bike ride, and I wish I had a few leftover this weekend. This recipe for Mini Baked Banana Chocolate Donuts is easy and includes only a handful of healthy ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry. My mini donuts contain no refined sugar or flour, and are sweetened with pure maple syrup.

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These are also flourless, by using oat flour made from old fashioned oats. I love using oat flour as a substitute! A few weeks ago I posted Flourless Carrot Cake Muffins using oat flour. This method works just as well for donuts.

I used the Wilton Nonstick 12-Cavity Mini Donut Pan to create these donuts that I bought last year. One thing to note is these donuts are small, so working with the batter is messy. To fix this I poured the batter into a Ziploc bag and cut one corner, using it to put the batter in the pan.

I topped the donuts with a healthy "frosting" - made with vanilla yogurt and unsweetened cocoa powder. Plus sprinkles - obviously the best part.

Mini Banana Chocolate Donuts
Yields: 14 donuts

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 13 minutes
Total time: 23 minutes

1 cup old fashioned oats {ground into a flour}
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Optional toppings~
2 Tablespoons vanilla yogurt {I used Siggi}
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

How to~
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Grind old fashioned oats in a food processor until you get a "flour" texture.
*Mix dry ingredients - oat flour, cocoa powder, coconut flakes, baking powder, and salt.
*Mix wet ingredients in a stand mixer - mashed banana, egg, maple syrup, almond milk, and vanilla extract.
*Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients; mix until combined.
*Slowly add batter to a mini donut pan. I poured my batter into a Ziploc bag and cut one corner, to make this easier.
*Bake for 13 minutes.
*Optional toppings: Whisk together vanilla yogurt and unsweetened cocoa powder. Spread onto each donut and top with sprinkles.
*If you add the yogurt "frosting", keep the leftover donuts refrigerated.

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