Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gluten Free Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls

Despite my best efforts at self-medicating with sleep, exercise, and gallons of green tea, I haven't been able to kick the cold I caught over the weekend. So, of course, I decided to comfort myself by making cookies. And just in case I ended up eating all of them while lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself, I decided to make them healthy. I kid, I kid, I have way too much self control for that. Most of the time.

(Image Source)
Anyways, cold-medicine induced rambling aside, here's what I came up with. I was inspired by Two Peas and Their Pod's Gluten-Free Vegan Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I wanted mine to be a little lower calorie and didn't need them to be vegan.

Gluten Free Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls


Calories: 92 | Fat: 4 g | Cholest: 0 mg | Sodium: 68 mg | Carbs: 14 g | Fiber: 2 g | Sugars: 4 g | Protein: 2 g 

1 1/2 cups gluten free oats
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 very ripe bananas
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix together dry ingredients 
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas until smooth
Mix the rest of the wet ingredients with the bananas, then mix in the dry ingredients
Fold in the chocolate chunks
Form into 16 balls
Bake for 15 minutes or until firm in the middle

These cookies are satisfyingly sweet and substantial, despite being low-sugar and under 100 calories. Oh, and the main reason I made these ball-shaped is because for some reason I could only find one cookie sheet and didn't have room to smush them into discs. Feel free to make yours in a more traditional cookie shape, just be sure to keep an eye on them in the oven since they'll probably cook faster.

Q: Anyone have any good cold remedies? Or any favorite foods for when you're feeling especially crappy?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Meal Prep Monday - Meatloaf Muffins and Squash

Oh Monday. Why are you so rough? I had a pretty busy/physically tiring weekend. Played in two flag football playoff games Saturday (lost in the second round. boo) and then played in a late night 4s volleyball tournament from 7pm to 4:30am (lost in the semis. double boo). Got to bed around 5:30, woke up at 12:30 on Sunday with a cold and my muscles reminding me I'm too old to pull stunts like this, and really did not want to drag my self to the grocery store and into the kitchen to meal prep. I came very close to scraping the whole thing and lying on the couch with a jug of VitaCoco and all my NatureBox snacks for the rest of the day. #keepinitreal. (But not so real it goes wrong. Anyone else remember this?)

(Image Source)
But I have a super busy week ahead and not a lot of healthy freezer/pantry options, so I knew if I didn't do my meal prep I would end up eating a lot of bad food. Plus the bf very nicely offered to do the grocery run for me. So, after he got back with this week's haul, I put my big girl pants on and got in the kitchen. Didn't have the energy to do anything too exciting, but I'm proud I just got it done!


I really liked last week's pumpkin overnight oats, so I saved my limited mental energy and just made a few more batches.


Since I already made the easiest meal prep protein ever (slow cooker shredded chicken) last week, I went with turkey meatloaf muffins, which are a close second. I used Skinny Taste's Meatloaf Cupcakes as a base and mostly followed the muffin part of her recipe with a few small substitutions (adding in chopped garlic, a little more chopped onion, and using one slice of sprouted wheat bread instead of bread crumbs) but couldn't muster the energy to make mine as cute and fancy by making a mashed potato frosting. Maybe one day!


There was some leftover barley from the awesome pumpkin chili I made a few weeks ago, so I boiled that up for the week's starchy side. In addition to the zucchini and squash I had on the list, the bf surprised me by coming home with some cubed butternut squash (my favorite!) so I roasted it in the oven with a little salt and pepper with the other squash, so easy and so delicious!


It's hard to even think about working out right now, but I know I need to stay on track. Here's the plan:

Monday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #19, Rec League Volleyball
Tuesday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #20
Wednesday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #21
Thursday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #22Coed Rec League Volleyball
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Volleyball Tournament
Sunday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #23

Friday, October 25, 2013

NatureBox Review

Happy Friday! What better way to end the week than with some snacks? As I've mentioned before, I love snacks, and have some favorites. So what could possibly be better than my favorite healthy snacks? Almost nothing, except margaritas new yummy snacks delivered to your door!

NatureBox is a subscription service that delivers a box of delivering high quality, healthy snacks direct to your door very month. According to their website, NatureBox works to help you "eat healthier without needing to change your eating habits" and focuses on snacking because  "the average American eats almost 25% of their calories from snacking". Makes sense to me, since if you'd ever seen my MyFitnessPal food diary, you'd know that number can get up over 40% for me. 

All NatureBox's snacks are nutritionist approved and minimally processed with no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors. All of this sounds great, but how do they taste? Only one way to find that out, so ordered my first box a few weeks ago and it showed up on my doorstep (ok, at my building's front desk but close enough) this week.

So, what's in the box?

Each NatureBox contains 5-20 packs of 5 different snacks. Since I am super cheap, I picked the least expensive option the "Deluxe Package" which comes with 1 pack each of 5 different snacks for $19.95 a month. And, thanks to some googling, I got $10 off my first box, so the entire box was just under $10. Score! Here's what was in my box 

Roasted Kettle Kernels: This may have been my favorite snack in the box. The bf called these "healthy corn nuts" which is a pretty accurate description. Crunchy, salty, and a little sweet, these are great by the handful. I also tried them on a salad for lunch and they added a nice crunch to the meal. The only downside might be that they are a little TOO easy to eat. We finished this bag the first day we received our box.

Vanilla Macaroon Granola: This was, surprisingly, my least favorite snack. Macaroon flavored granola sounds amazing, but it was way too sweet for me. I think it would be good in a dessert (the back of the bag suggests using it as a topping for apple crisp which sounds yummy) but its just not what I'm typically looking for in a snack.

Pistachio Power Clusters: These were much more up my alley in terms of a sweet crunchy snack. Each little square is packed with almonds, cashew, and pistachios and is surprisingly substantial. These would definitely make a great pre- or post-gym snack.

Masa Crisps: These were a close second to the kettle kernels for me. The flax seed gives these chips a nice nutty flavor and a lot of substance. The only downside is that the chips themselves are quite small, which makes dipping difficult. The small size was, however, quite convenient for eating them with the Mexican-inspired skillet hash I had for dinner.

Cherry Berry Bonanza: I also really liked these dried cranberry, cherry, and blueberry combo. The texture was great, still chewy and moist without being too sticky, and they weren't overly sweet. 

Peanut Butter Nom Noms: In addition to my five snacks, my box also came with a surprise gift, which I loved, and not just because I love free gifts! These mini peanut butter cookies are soft and chewy, and sweet in an unexpectedly complex way. My only gripe is that a serving size is only one cookie. Who ever eats ONE cookie, especially when they are mini? 

Bottom Line

I was really satisfied with the quality and taste of the snacks in my first NatureBox and am looking forward to trying more new snacks. The only downside is the extreme amount of willpower not finishing off all of these snacks at once is taking. We'll have to see whether this service makes me snack better, or just snack more. It is easy to stop your subscription at any time, so I can easily stop cancel my order if it gets out of hand. Of course, that would also require the willpower to say no to a whole box of snacks...

Want to try NatureBox for yourself? Get 50% off your first NatureBox (and get me some snack credit too!) by ordering here.

Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with NatureBox and I paid the whole $10 for the box myself. If you sign up for NatureBox with the link above, we'll both get discounts on our boxes. You can then get your own links to get discounts for your friends and credit for yourself. Or just send all your friends my link if you want to get me more free snacks :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Workout Wednesday - Sportrock Climbing Center Basic Skills Class

In my ongoing effort to be able to do ONE pull-up before the Spartan Race in March, I tried indoor rock climbing for the first time over the weekend. 

As you can probably tell by my inability to do pull-ups or get more than 2 feet off the floor in beginner silks, I have almost no upper body strength. So rock climbing is kind of scary for me. It's not so much the heights that scare me, it's more the very real possibility of abject embarrassment. But, in the spirit of facing my fears, breaking boundaries, leaning in, etc. that this blog is all about, I signed up for Sportrock Climbing Center's Basic Skills Class with the bf and his friend.

(Image Source)
Sportrock Climbing Centers are rock climbing gyms that specialize in all types of rock climbing. The gym provides climbing instruction for all levels, including for complete beginners, and also offers yoga and other group fitness classes. The Basic Skills class covers the essential skills needed to climb at a Sportrock facility and successful completion of the class allows you to use Sportrock facilities without the aid of an instructor. 

The Class

We had a little trouble finding the gym (FYI, Google Maps is totally wrong about the location of Sportrock Alexandria) and arrived about 15 minutes late. Check in at the front desk was fast and easy. After completing a waiver form on an iPad (there were 3 of them so there was minimal waiting) we were issued climbing shoes, which are thin and flexible and reminded me of water shoes. Then we headed over to a small section of wall with our instructor and 6 other beginning climbers where the rest of the gear we needed, including harnesses, carabiners, and of course top anchored ropes, was waiting for us.

The class began with instructions on how to tie basic climbing knots, putting on your harness, and setting up both to climb and belay. We also learned the safety checks you should do along each step of the way, and practiced our set up and safety checks several times. Next, we practiced belaying with a partner on the ground, feeding our partners slack as if they were climbing, "catching" them while they tried to surprise us by putting all their weight on the rope, and slowly lowering our partner from a standing position to the floor in a kind of rope-assisted trust fall.  After the on-the-ground practice, we completed supervised climbs in groups of three with one climber, one belayer, and one back up belayer. 

After the instructor verified our ability to belay safely, we were able to keep climbing on our own as long as we wanted after the class finished, provided we climbed in groups of three. Climbing routes are labeled with the level of difficulty and have handholds and sometimes footholds helpfully marked with different-colored tape. Our group ended up staying for another hour and a half after the class ended, doing our best to complete different levels of routes.  


Instruction: Getting into a climbing harness and making sure your equipment is set up correctly is complicated and really important to get right, seeing as how it has to support you while you are hanging hundreds of feet in the air. Everything was explained clearly, the instructor was great at going around and checking technique, and we had lots of chances to practice set up and all the necessary safety checks. This repetition, as well as the belaying practice exercises, made me very comfortable and confident with actually being on the wall.

Difficulty: As I mentioned, I have a serious lack of upper body and grip strength, so climbing was definitely challenging for me. Climbing (especially if done correctly) is also a great total body workout as you have to use your legs, core, and flexibility to make it to the top. It was also a surprisingly challenging mental workout, as figuring out how to get to the top using only the indicated handholds required a degree of planning and strategy that was often beyond my ability. But despite the fact that I was pretty bad at climbing in general, Sportrock's wide variety of climbing route height and difficulty still let me experience some success. I even made it to the top of the wall a couple times!

Variety: There are over 18,000 square feet of climbing walls at the Alexandria Sportrock location and the gym's climbing routes are changed every 6 to 8 weeks. The sheer number of routes available, as well as the wide variety in difficulty level, height, type of handhold and foothold, etc. makes it hard to imagine ever getting bored of your Sportrock climbing workout.

Price: The Beginner Skills class was $30 and included gear rental. Since a day pass for non members is normally $18 and gear rental is $11, 2 hours of instruction followed by as much climbing as you want with all gear included is a pretty good deal.


Down Time: Changing roles from climber to belayer to back-up belayer takes a considerable amount of time. Having to work in teams of three, since Sportrock requires climbers to use a backup belayer until you pass the belaying test, meant there was a lot of down time. This may have been a good thing, however, since it gave my puny muscles much needed recovery time.

Membership Cost: A monthly membership at Sportrock costs $85 a month with a $49 initiation fee, which is pretty steep. You do get a lot with membership, and I understand that it must be a very expensive facility to run. Still, I don't think there's any way I'd be able to use the facility enough to justify the cost.

Bottom Line

The Sportrock Basic Skills class was a great and thorough introduction to indoor rock climbing in an amazing facility. I enjoyed climbing and it was definitely a challenging total mind/body workout. There's no way I'll go enough to justify the cost of a membership, but I definitely plan on going back (maybe once a month) and maybe trying another class or two.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Meal Prep Monday - Pumpkin Oats and Slow Cooker Chicken

Happy Monday! I had a pretty busy weekend, so after a couple weeks of slightly more involved (for me anyways) meal prep cooking, I'm back to my usual lazy quick and easy method.


Are you sick of pumpkin yet? I sure hope not, because I plan on staying on the pumpkin bandwagon until Christmas. In that spirit, here's another pumpkin overnight oats recipe:

Pumpkin Overnight Oats


Calories: 373 | Fat: 8 g | Cholest: 0 mg | Sodium: 190 mg | Carbs: 50 g | Fiber: 10 g | Sugars: 22 g | Protein: 23 g

1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup non fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup unsweetend applesauce
6 tbsp egg whites
2 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tbsp cinnamon

Mix ingredients in a mason jar.Refrigerate overnight and then eat!


I made my slow cooker shredded chicken again this week. This is the easiest meal prep protein recipe ever. Just dump 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts into the slow cooker, add some spices (I like Mrs. Dash), cover with chicken broth, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.


Have you tried delicata squash yet? I saw it for the first time at Harris Teeter and picked it up on a whim. After chopping it up and baking it in the oven for 20 minutes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper it was delicious! Creamy and rich like butternut squash, but so much easier since you don't have to peel it. 

I also roasted a spaghetti squash and baked the seeds from both squashes. For some reason, I used to think only pumpkin seeds were good for eating. False. All squash seeds are delicious oven-roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.


Monday: Fitness Blender Workout #13; Rec league volleyball
Tuesday: Fitness Blender Workout #14
Wednesday: Fitness Blender Workout #15
Thursday: Fitness Blender Workout #16; Coed rec league volleyball
Friday: Fitness Blender Workout #17
Saturday: Flag football playoffs, Late night volleyball 4s tournament
Sunday: Fitness Blender Workout #18

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Workout Wednesday - My First 5K

Happy Wednesday! As you know if you've seen my blog, Instagram, or Twitter recently (because I've been making a huge deal out of it) I ran my first 5K on Saturday. And, true to form, I am finally writing about it four days later!

(Image Source)
I know (now) that a 5K is only 3.1 miles and a lot of amazing/crazy bloggers run over 8 times that far in marathons. Is my 5K completion 8 times less awesome? Maybe. But, this was my first race! Of any kind! Ever! Unless I ran one in my childhood and it was so traumatic that I blocked it out. So prepare for way too much detail about how it went.

The Race

Saturday's race was the Anthem Great Pumpkin 5K held in Reston, Virginia around Reston Town Center shopping complex. We weren't able to make Friday's pre-race packet pickup, and I was sure race-day registration would be a madhouse. So I convinced the bf (who I dragged with me) and my friend Deanne (who started this whole thing) to get to the site an hour and 15 minutes before the scheduled start time. Turns out we were among the first arrivals and it only took about 10 minutes to pick up our bibs, leaving plenty of time for great pre-race photo ops!

After depositing our free pumpkin t-shirt in the car, testing out the new Lincoln's automated parking system (to earn a $25 gift card!), and generally killing time, we took a short warm up jog and finally headed to the start line. Race organizers had the line-up organized in order of speed, and we ultimately settled on the last/slowest runners slot.

There were over 500 runners, which seemed like a lot, but I guess is still a small race. It was pretty crowded, but the DJ kept things organized until it was time to start running, signaled by the sound of an Alpenhorn (it was also Oktoberfest).

It was a little cold and had rained the past few days, so I was worried about running in a downpour. The course was a little wet, but the rain thankfully held off. I was also worried about pacing myself (I was worried about everything) so I ran with MapMyRun on my phone giving me auditory cues on pace and distance every two minutes.

When I googled the race route, it looked pretty flat. It didn't feel flat, though, and the steepest hill was right before the finish line. Boo. Other than the last hill, the course was pretty pleasant. Not super scenic, but I was concentrating really hard and didn't notice.


My goal was to finish under 30 minutes, which doesn't seem ambitious but I'd never hit that during real, outside, non-treadmill running. I also told the bf I'd run with him, which I knew might mean running a little slower than I wanted since he'd run exactly twice pre-race.

I felt pretty good through the first mile running at my goal pace and staying together. A little before mile 2, the steady climb kind of wore on the bf and I pulled ahead a little. At mile 2, I felt like I was going to have a lot left at the end of the race if I didn't speed up. Plus, there was a woman next to me who reminded me of my mom who I started unconsciously racing. And she was beating me. So I took off and left him. Bad girlfriend. On the last hill, I could see the finish sign and sped up to beat as many people as possible across the line.

I ended up finishing just under 29 minutes, a whole minute faster than my goal time! But, I didn't feel like passing out after finishing, which means I probably could have run faster. All in all, still pretty pleased with my performance for my first race.

Final Thoughts

I really didn't hate running the race as much as I thought I would. Running in general is still not my favorite form of exercise, but putting a finish line and other racers in front of me brought out my competitive side. Running past people was really fun and felt like victory, even though I still finished up in 224th place. Plus it helped that there was a lot of food after. And beer. Did I mention that it was also Reston Oktberfest?

So are there more races in my future? Am I a runner now? I don't know! Excuse me while I have a mini quarter-life fitness-identity-crisis.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Meal Prep Monday - More Pumpkin Muffins and Black Bean Burgers

Happy Columbus Day! Kind of a weird holiday to celebrate, but I'm pretty happy to have the day off work anyway.

(Image Source)
Since I knew I didn't have to work today, I put off a lot of picture taking and blog post writing until this morning. So today's blog post is up a little later than usual. Sorry! I know the anticipation must have been killing you :)


Something about the terrible cold and rainy weather we are having just makes me want to bake things. I usually like to find a recipe to use as a starting point, just so I know that whatever I make will at least work to the point of the batter not exploding or something. But when I was googling to find a close approximation of what I wanted to use to make these muffins, I couldn't find anything. So I am going to call this my first almost completely original baked goods recipe. And, surprisingly, it actually made delicious muffins!  

Gluten Free Pumpkin Apple Quinoa Muffins

(one muffin)

Calories: 132 | Fat: 6 g | Cholest: 11 mg | Sodium: 82 mg | Carbs: 17 g | Fiber: 4 g | Sugars: 6 g | Protein: 4 g

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup gluten free steel cut oats 
2 tbsp coconut flour
4 tbsp chia seeds
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
6 tbsp egg whites
1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup raisins
1 small apple, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix dry ingredients
Mix in wet ingredients, then fold in raisins and grated apples
Pour batter evenly into greased muffin tins
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until the center of muffins is firm
Makes 18 muffins

These muffins are a little more dense and filling than last week's recipe. The quinoa gives the muffins a nice nutty flavor, and the shredded apple also adds a little more sweetness. I think I still prefer last week's recipe, but this is a nice change-up and is, of course, still really good warm with melt-y nut butter. But really, what isn't?


I still have some of Skinny Taste's Skinny Italian Spinach Meatballs left from last week, so I decided against making any more meat this week. Instead, I prepped a batch of The Lean Green Bean's Sweet Potato Quinoa Black Bean Burgers

I managed to follow the recipe almost exactly for once, just leaving out the cranberries (because I forgot to buy some) and subbing coconut flour for chickpea flour. They were a little crumbly and a few fell apart, probably because of the coconut flour substitution. Still tasty though! But quinoa burgers are usually tasty, despite what Bud Light would have us believe...


The BF made stew last week we had a bunch of left over potatoes, so I chopped and baked those with a little olive oil and Mrs Dash. I also boiled some broccoli and made extra quinoa for quick weeknight sides.


I have been seriously slacking on the Fitness Blender 4 Week Fat Loss Program for Busy People so I decided to redo Week 2 and try to really follow the rest of the calendar.

Monday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #8, 2 rec league volleyball games
Tuesday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #9
Wednesday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #10
Thursday: Fitness Blender Workout Plan #11, coed rec league volleyball
Friday: Workout Plan #12
Saturday: Flag Football
Sunday: Rest

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Little Friday Motivation

Can't believe that my first 5K is tomorrow! Since I'm a extremely slow novice runner, I'm not really worrying about hitting a certain time or anything. But I am pretty worried about embarrassing myself. So here's a little motivation from around the web to help me and all you crazy race runners out there get to the finish line.

(Image Source)
Food is always a good motivator.

(Image Source)
 So is beer.

(Image Source)
 Shame works too.

(Image Source)
And, if all else fails, there's always Ryan Gosling.

(Image Source)
Q: Have you run a 5K? Or something longer!?! Any tips for a first-timer?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday - Meal Prep Meals

Happy Wednesday! This week is just flying by and my first 5k is getting scarily close. When writing today's post, I realized that while I've been pretty good at documenting my meal prep ideas, I've been terrible at sharing what I actually eat during the week (except on Instagram). So here's a look at my favorite ways to eat some typical meal-prepped foods.

Shredded Chicken

Pretty much can't get any easier than making shredded chicken in the slow cooker and you know I like easy so I make this a lot. It's also really versatile and I'm sure you could make a lot of super complicated recipes using this as a base. I'm pretty lazy though, so this is how I normally eat it.

On top of salad. This one had smashed avocado and quinoa:

Mixed with cottage cheese, shredded zucchini, and garlic and served with veggies:

Stuffed in a sweet potato and topped with hummus:

Marinated Baked Tempeh

For one of my meatless meal preps, I baked and marinated tempeh for my main protein. Maybe because tempeh was a new ingredient for me, or because the bf was out of town and I had some time to kill, but I was more creative using this meal prep than normal.

In a giant miracle noodle bowl with lots of veggies:

In a salad with sweet potatoes and topped with a little apple cider vinegar:

In these awesome tempeh hand rolls:

Turkey Meatballs or Muffins

The turkey meatballs and turkey meatloaf muffins I've made are yummy eaten whole, but are also really great to crumble up and use in other recipes.

Served with spaghetti squash for lightened up but still delicious comfort food:

Instead of ground beef in a skinny and delicious shepherd's pie:

 Making a meal out of kale, sweet potato, and white bean soup:

Q: What are you eating this week?