Recipe: No-Sugar-Added Pumpkin Spice Cookies

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Fall is just around the corner, and I couldn’t be more excited. Bring on crisp weather, colorful leaves, scary movies and all things pumpkin!

In celebration of the impending change of seasons, I bring to you this healthier take on a fall favorite: no-sugar-added cookies that are soft, chewy and not cloyingly sweet.

They sit squarely at the intersection of cookie-muffin-scone; the perfect accompaniment to your morning coffee, that upcoming tailgate, a random afternoon snack or simply tucked into a lunchbox with love.

Because it’s not fall without a little pumpkin in your life…right?

No-Sugar-Added Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 1 c butter, softened to room temp
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 15 oz can pureed pumpkin
  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 c chopped walnuts

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, mix all dry ingredients (flour, flaxseed, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices) until combined. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream butter with mixer and slowly add in other wet ingredients (eggs, vanilla, date paste and pumpkin). Mix until well blended.
  4. Slowly (1/2 to 1 cup at a time) add dry mixture to wet mixture, mixing until all of the dry mixture has been incorporated.
  5. Add walnuts into batter, and mix well.
  6. Drop by large tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper on baking sheets, and press gently with back of spoon to flatten slightly.
  7. Bake for 12 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden brown.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy immediately, and freeze leftovers to keep them fresh until needed.
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StitchFix Shipment No. 12 Review

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After keeping all five pieces from StitchFix no. 11 (read about it here), I knew the bar would be set pretty high for my next installment.

Although I haven’t been on a scale in a month or so, I was maybe six pounds up from my pre-pregnancy weight at the last check-in. So since I’m feeling almost back to my old self, I gave my stylist the go-ahead to experiment with trendier pieces (a la last Fix’s jumpsuit) as long as they were easy-wear and easy-care.

And even though I complained about getting more jeans last round, I actually requested a pair this time. My hope was to find a straight or legging-type fit to wear with tall boots, but when I opened the box there was no denim to be found. Go figure!

New to StitchFix? Read all about how it works here

So let’s take a peek at what did come in this month’s box…

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First up was the Coffeeshop Arion Cargo Jacket. I had also requested a cargo-type jacket, so this was exciting to unwrap.

The coat was super cozy with the shearling hood, but I wasn’t thrilled about the patches, particularly the California one. Sure, we’re proud to be one-time residents there, but it seemed a little loud for a jacket that’s supposed to be understated.

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Next was the Market & Spruce Brookline Mix Material Sweater. I could swear I was sent this top before (or something similar), although the deep plum color is perfect for fall and winter.

The back zipper detailing is nice, too; you can zip it open for a peek-a-boo of sheer fabric or zip it closed for a more fitted look. Either way, it’s a good wardrobe basic, plus I like the fact that it slopes down a bit in the back for extra coverage in the rear.

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Third was the Rails Ellson One Pocket Top. This one was love at first sight…until I saw the price tag.

I’m a sucker for a soft, fuzzy flannel, but I was able to get a similar Buffalo plaid shirt from the same brand from Saks Off 5th last year for around $50. It’s hard to justify playing $100 more for another red and black flannel, so I’d have to restrain myself with this one. Sigh.

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After that was the RD Style Lada Cowl Neck Sweater. I have a love/hate relationship with cowl necks: I love how they look on other people, but it seems like I can rarely pull them off myself.

I did like the chunky knit of this sweater, however, and the neck was large and comfy. Plus, the length would be perfect for pairing with boots and leggings.

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And last but not least was the Treme Knit Jacket from Evolution by Cyrus. With a straight cut and large print, it was out of my usual wheelhouse, but worth trying on to see how it looked.

The material is a super-soft knit and pretty dense, making this jacket ideal for those crisp days where you don’t need a heavy parka. I couldn’t help but want a little more shape to this, though, so I’d have to think about it…

So what did I end up keeping?

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Well, after consulting with my sister and husband — they both liked the plaid shirt…until I told them how much it cost — I ended up keeping only the cowl neck sweater.

It’s not the piece that first jumped out at me, but it’s just so snuggly and different from what’s already in my closet that it’s worth the gamble. Besides, my intention with this service is to go out on a limb with new looks, and this is about as risky as I feel like getting at the moment as a new mom, LOL.

My next fix is scheduled for late winter. I haven’t decided what to request, although I’m leaning toward asking for a bright palette to lighten things up after the next few dreary Portland months!

Want to try StitchFix? Use my referral link to fill out your style profile and get started.

Disclosure: This is *not* a sponsored post. I simply love the service and think it’s fun to share my experience. I pay for Stitch Fix on my own. If you sign up using my referral link, I’ll get a credit…so thanks in advance for fueling my next fix! 

October Goal Check-In

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The end of October is always a little bittersweet, isn’t it? As exciting as it is to really settle into fall and celebrate Halloween, now we’re suddenly barreling towards the holiday season and a brand new year is just around the corner.

And has anyone else seen all the holiday commercials already?! I’m the first to admit I’ll be cranking up the Christmas tunes before too long…but October 26 was just too soon to start seeing ads about Santa and stuffing stockings.

All that aside, I’m still focused on sticking loosely to my 2016 goals before setting new intentions for 2017. So here’s an update:

1. Health & Fitness: In terms of a typical week, I’m now trying to move at least four or five out of the seven days. With a baby’s schedule and Portland’s rainy season to factor in, this means taking whatever I can get whenever I can get it: Namely stroller jogs, treadmill runs, cross-training on the Nordic Track (yes, you read that correctly; it was left behind by the previous owners of our house), plus a smattering of free weights.

And as much as I miss the accountability of a training schedule, it’s been refreshing to exercise for general fitness for a change. If there’s a day where a workout just doesn’t work out, it’s a relief at the moment to be able to take it in stride versus fretting about getting behind schedule.

2. Training: Speaking of schedules…just last month I mentioned there wasn’t a race on the horizon, but that may soon change because I’m mulling over a potential spring marathon. It’d be a change of pace from my usual summer training cycles focusing on fall races, and this time I’m also considering working under the general guidance of a coach to train smart and stay healthy while ramping up mileage.

3. Community: Our 2016 Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season has officially ended, and we celebrated with our annual party at Title Nine Portland on October 24. In addition to a fantastic group of community members joining us this year, I’m proud to say that we also managed to raise nearly $3,000 for Breast Cancer Fund.

As for next year, we’ll be changing things up a bit, so stay tuned for details! We’re opening applications for team leaders for the 2017 season in early December, so if you’re interested in getting involved with a dynamic group of women who are making a difference in the Portland area, along with getting in some great workouts and making new friends, like our Facebook page for updates.

4. Career: This has been an area where I’ve been feeling reenergized as of late. First, Fit4Mom Cedar Mill hosted a very cool “Mindful Mamas” event this month where we worked out together and then sat down with a life coach to talk about time management and priorities. Lesson learned: Make sure what you’re spending your time on is truly aligned with your goals.

Second, I signed a new boutique fitness client in the Portland area, and we’ve been hard at work on messaging, positioning and PR planning. I love working with business owners who understand the importance of connecting — not only with clients to help them get fitter and feel healthier, but also with the community to give back. So inspiring!

5. Life: Finally, I need to do a whole in-depth post on the glory that is ‘sleep training.’ But for now, I’ll just say this: If you’re having any trouble getting your little one to sleep — whether it’s through at night or just for regular naps, it’s a total game-changer. I’d go as far as to say it’s the best baby-related investment we’ve made because it provides the confidence to do what you need to do to help everyone get some more zzz’s.

The woman we worked with was simply amazing (parents, ping me if you want an intro), particularly because she specializes in minimizing the amount of crying during the process. I had heard horror stories of people having to camp outside of baby’s door enduring hours of screaming, but our experience was quite different. We had a total of 12 minutes of crying in protest the first night before Wyatt slept 12 HOURS.

There’s a lot that goes into it — both in terms of preparation and consistency in order to develop new habits, plus (duh) you’ll still have the usual hiccups now and then — but, overall, it’s been nothing short of life-changing. Chronic sleep deprivation (seven months, in our case) can leave you in a pretty dark place, so it’s pure joy to finally come into the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ready or not, here we come: Are you excited for the final stretch of 2016?

Recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a sucker for anything pumpkin, regardless of the season. The same goes for chocolate, so it was love at first bite with these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

With just a few small tweaks, I made them a bit healthier (less sugar, some wheat flour) and even tastier — there’s nothing like a little salt in sweets.

They’re not your typical crispy-chewy cookie; the consistency is much softer and more moist. But they’re delicious and (somewhat) nutritious, thanks to the oats and pumpkin.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teastpoon salt
  • 1 15-oz can of pumpkin
  • 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions: 

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  2. Combine the flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl; stir into creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin.
  3. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-13 minutes or until lightly browned.
  5. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 4 dozen.
What do you think about pumpkin — worth the hype, or overrated?

StitchFix Shipment No. 11 Review

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After ending up with another pair of jeans from StitchFix no. 10 (read about it here), I had high hopes for my next shipment to include some more unique pieces for the upcoming season.

Shape-wise, I may not be back to my pre-baby fighting weight (breastfeeding isn’t always the miracle celebs claim it to be, just FYI), but I’m not too worried about it at this point; however, I am ready to get out of my mom-sweats and into some cute clothing for fall.

I didn’t give my stylist too much specific direction other than A) please don’t send any more polyester tops or jeans, and B) please do send some stuff that’s trendy yet mom-friendly — aka able to be washed when I inevitably get puked, pooped, peed or drooled upon.

New to StitchFix? Read all about how it works here

Let’s take a peek at what came in this month’s box, shall we?

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First up was the Kut from the Kloth Simmons Bootcut Jean ($88). Wait – WHAT?! Another pair of jeans?! This did not bode well. I started wondering if my stylist even read my requests…

Nevertheless, it’s hard to resist denim because it’s such a wardrobe staple, at least for me. And I did like the wash and fit of this pair, so they weren’t automatically ruled out.

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Next was the Market & Spruce Carlee Knit Jumpsuit ($78) and the Bancroft Dante Cut Out Metal Oval Layered Necklace ($32). Now we’re talkin’!

I love a good jumpsuit, but I’ve always just admired them on other women; usually they’re not as flattering on an athletic build. But this one is a soft jersey knit (read: feels like you’re wearing pajamas), which I knew would be tough to resist if it ended up actually fitting.

As for the necklace, I’m more of a dainty jewelry fan instead of large statement necklaces, which tend to overwhelm me. But I really liked how this worked with the jumpsuit. My stylist was slowly redeeming herself…

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After that was the Market & Spruce Benni Crossfront Knit Top ($48). My stylist included it because she said it’s a mom-friendly (aka easy-access, haha) top with a punch of color.

Again, I love cross-front tops…but they typically they don’t hang well on me. This one, however, fit like a glove and the color is awesome. It just might be a keeper!

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And last but not least was the Kut from the Cloth Benter Mixed Material Top ($58). Another easy-care top to throw on with jeans so I could feel somewhat pulled together when stepping out.

Totally my style + fun prints + super comfy materials = a win. Unless the fit was way off, this shirt and I were destined to be together.

So what did I end up keeping?

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Shocker — the whole box!

Although I wasn’t completely sold on the jeans and the necklace this round, I figured they’d be good basics to add into a fall wardrobe rotation. Plus there’s a 25% discount when you buy all five items, which worked out to a savings of $76.

I mean, that’s like getting one thing free, right? At least according to my shopping justification math…

The best part is that I’ve already worn three of the items: the jumpsuit and necklace out to anniversary dinner with Ben, and the cross-front top while wine tasting that same weekend. And as soon as the weather gets cooler, you can bet I’ll be busting out the floral top and jeans.

My next fix is scheduled for around the holidays and my well of wardrobe creativity is running dry at the moment, so I was hoping to pick your brains for inspiration. What should I request? Leave a comment below, and I’ll put your ideas in the next note to my stylist!

Want to try StitchFix? Use my referral link to fill out your style profile and get started.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I simply love the service and think it’s fun to share my experience. I pay for Stitch Fix on my own. If you sign up using my referral link, I’ll get a credit…so thanks in advance for fueling my next fix! 

Recipe: Full Belly’s Butternut Ragu Lasagna

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Combine fluctuating energy levels with the wintery mix of rain and darkness that’s descended upon the Pacific Northwest, and there’s only one option for dinner: comfort food.

And when it comes to this category, I’d argue that there’s not much that can compare to lasagna. It’s a one-dish meal that’s not only filling, but also extremely leftover-friendly.

This version also happens to be pretty pregnancy-friendly, as well. A solid square serves up an impressive amount of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and folate, all of which help with the growth and health of cells and tissues in the body (i.e. baby development!).

So whether you’re building a human this season or simply in search of a more nutrient-packed twist on the traditional family favorite, this recipe is well worth a try.

Butternut Ragu Lasagna

(recipe adapted from Full Belly: Good Eats for a Healthy Pregnancy)

Ingredients: 

For the Ragu:

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz ground turkey (I used 1 lb)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (I used garlic paste)
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard, cut into 1/-2-in pieces (I used 1 bag cut kale)
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-in cubes (I used 2 lb squash already peeled and cut)
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped (from about 4 sprigs)
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper (about 20 grinds)

For the Lasagna:

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 16 oz ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used a Parmesan/Romano blend)
  • 1.5 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided (I used 2 cups)
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 12 oz no-boil lasagna noodles (I used 8 oz; this may vary according to pan size)

Directions: 

  1. For the ragu, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepot over medium-high heat. Add turkey and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to break it up, until it’s no longer pink and just beginning to brown.
  2. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drizzle 1/4 cup water into pan and scrape any brown bits from bottom. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  3. Add chard and squash, stirring to incorporate all of the ingredients. Cover pot partially and let cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring once, or until chard wilts to half of it’s original volume and squash starts to soften slightly.
  4. Add the sage, thyme, tomatoes, salt and pepper, stir well, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer ragu uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the ragu is done, you’re ready to work on the lasagna! Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine egg, ricotta, Parmesan, 1 cup of the mozzarella, sage, thyme and black pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Put one heaping scoop of ragu at the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish. Set a single layer of noodles in the saucy bottom the pan. Drop several dollops of the ricotta mixture over the noodles (don’t worry about spreading; it’ll melt). Pour a heaping scoop of ragu over this layer and use back of ladle to spread it around.
  7. Repeat the layers — noodles, ricotta, ragu — until you reach nearly the top of the dish, ending with noodles. Top the last layer of noodles with the remaining ragu (no ricotta mixture) and the remaining mozzarella cheese.
  8. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 40-50 minutes or until noodles are tender. If you’d like the top layer of cheese to be a bit browned, remove the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking.
  9. Let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into pieces and serving.
What’s your favorite cold-weather comfort food?

November Goal Check-In

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It’s hard to believe that just a little over a month from now we’ll be talking 2016. But for the time being, I’m focused on closing out the current year on a high note with respect to the goals I’ve been tracking the past 11 months.

Of course, things have been evolving with Baby H on board, but I wanted to use this post to check back in on my original plans for 2015. It’s never too late to shift course — even with 30 days left in this final push — and there’s no time like the present to figure out how to make the most of the upcoming month.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

My original goal here was “quality over quantity” for the year, and I put it into practice this month while doing another round of travel. Long flights, time zone changes and family obligations meant that “training” had to be modified, which I used to view as a setback but now see as an opportunity to rest, recover and challenge by body in new ways (like keeping up with my toddler nephew in the snow!).

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Literally speaking, however, the “balance” theme has also been evolving to include learning how to use my new, ever-changing body. From knocking things off store shelves thanks to new dimensions to resorting to trial and error when it comes to which workouts work, it’s continuing to be a learning experience.

2. Training Smarter

My hope here was to experiment with my training repertoire to build on last season’s lessons rather than run myself into the ground doing things the same old way. I’ve been keeping up my functional fitness and cross training, but oddly enough it took getting pregnant to get me to finally slow my roll when it comes to doing one of my favorite activities: running.

All the massages, foam rolling, stretching, eating healthy and whatever other add-ons I’ve tried in the past weren’t helping to rid me of some lingering issues — namely plantar fasciitis and SI joint pain. So I’m trying to view these next few months of forced rest as something that will help me come back stronger next season.

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But just because regular runs are now off the table doesn’t mean that I can’t keep moving. On the contrary, I’ve been just as active as ever, delving into more baby-body-friendly classes, such as my MYMA Mama prenatal movement class, as well as the Mod-Mama class at Mod Physique, to help build those “mommy muscles” in anticipation of what’s to come this March.

3. Facing Fears

I declared 2014 as the year of #bikelove, but I wasn’t going to go so far as to use that same strong language for 2015 when it came to swimming. However, I’m happy to report that pregnancy has also been helping me out here; after months of talking about it, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and have been consistent with weekly swim workouts since week 20 of pregnancy!

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Of course, the purchase of a brand spankin’ new Coeur swimsuit to cover my growing curves helped. As did reading about all the benefits of swimming while pregnant.

Something that temporarily relieves me of the extra weight I’m carrying and can help keep side effects such as swelling and excess weight gain at bay? Sign me up.

4. Pushing Myself

Since I wasn’t in peak training mode going in, I knew that this pregnancy wouldn’t be a time to pursue that duathlon, next ultramarathon or century ride that I’d hoped this year would bring. But it hasn’t completely kept me from being competitive — even if my race-day game plans have gone from “Can I get a new personal record?” to “Can I run the whole way without walking?”

Case in point: Last weeks’ Corvallis Turkey Trot in which I opted to drop down to a 5k from my original 10k. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but I’m happy to report that I was able to jog the whole 3.1 miles, despite having to pull over several times to adjust that darn pregnancy support belt!

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And, yes, although I said I was done with races for the year…I am still toying with the idea of a holiday 5k. Just for fun, of course, and schedule permitting! But we shall see where December takes us; right now, I’m approaching things one day at a time.

5. Giving Back

Technically, this goal was met and exceeded for the year back in October — BOOM! — but since there was a lot of interest, we’ve been holding biweekly LUNA off-season workouts. The lovely Vanessa has graciously offered to lead them in my absence, but I hope to get out there soon to join the ladies and head up a hiking group while they hit the trails for a run.

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We’re also taking applications for next season’s team leaders (just a few spots remain!), so email me at tlcportlandrun (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested. All levels are welcome (walkers, runners), and if you want to see what we’re all about you can check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

How are your 2015 goals coming along?