French Apple Cake

French Apple Cake

Oh man. This week has been crazy. It’s the first real week that I’ve been back into calorie counting, and I just started a new strength training program as well. It hurts to reach to brush my hair, sneeze, walk, and pretty much exist. It’s a great sore feeling, because I like knowing that there’s actual muscle somewhere in there, but oh man, it’s aggravating! :-P

While the exercise is going well, I’m finding it much more difficult to stay within my calorie counts. Since I ate with no guilt for a few months, I can’t explain how hard it is to knock down the cravings. I’ve had a few good victories this week, though. Example: I went to a training seminar at work, and the instructor brought two large king cakes for the class to enjoy. Oh my gosh…the king cake smelled so good, and my coworkers totally dug in. I kept thinking…what’s one piece? One small piece won’t do anything, right? But then I told myself that I’ve stayed within my calories this whole week, and ruining it over king cake isn’t worth it. I had a granola bar in my purse for a snack (thank goodness), and had that instead.

Small victories. That’s what weight loss is all about, right? One meal at a time…one day at a time.

I got hit with the baking bug this week, too. I figured this would be a big test for my willpower, so I decided to bake with some Opal Apples that I just received in the mail. Usually, I go to town on snacking on these because it’s just an easy way to get fruit in (not to mention, they’re especially killer with a little chocolate spread or peanut butter). :-P However, I decided to give these a try with baking, and they worked wonderfully! As far as the recipe goes, this very simple to throw together (the peeling of the apples took the longest), and the resulting cake reminded me a lot of a rum cake from around the holidays with a ton of apples thrown in….just awesome! I had a small sliver, and it was worth every darn calorie. :-) I have to admit, I was proud of myself for not cutting a large slice and just going to town….it was just delicious!

Disclosure: I was sent a shipment of Opal Apples at no cost to me as a brand ambassador for Opal Apples. 

French Apple Cake
Source: Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 large apples
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. dark rum
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Grease or butter an 8-9″ springform pan, and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set this aside.
  3. Peel the apples, and core them. Cut the apples into 1-2 inch chunks.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs well for a minute or so until they’re foamy. Add in the sugar, and whisk the mixture for another minute, being sure everything is mixed well. Whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Then, whisk in half of the flour, and once that’s just mixed, add half of the melted butter. Repeat this one more time, stirring gently after each addition, ensuring that the batter is smooth. Add the apples to the batter, and fold them in gently with a spatula or spoon, making sure that all of the fruit is coated with the batter.
  5. Add the batter/apples to the greased springform pan, and gently move it around with a spatula to get the cake to an even height. Place the baking sheet/springform pan in the oven, and bake the cake for 50-60 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on the top and when the knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
  6. Gently run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake, and open the springform pan to expose the cake. Pull the cake out of the springform, and place it on the cooling rack to finish cooling. Serve the cake slightly warm or at room temperature. The cake with keep for about 2 days, very loosely covered at room temperature.

10 Things I Learned About Half Marathons

It’s been a while since I’ve gone for a run. In fact, confession time. I haven’t gone for a legitimate run since the half marathon. I had a bout of sickness that took me over a week to get over, and then I jumped into strength training. However, it feels like that race was yesterday. I don’t remember much of the pain…I just remember the finish line. I guess that’s why people say you’ll get bitten by the running bug. You just remember those high moments. :-)

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However, I did learn quite a few things while training and during the race that I thought I’d share with y’all.

I have to insert this in this post, because half marathons (heck, running at all) is a huge deal.

DISCLAIMER: Now, of course before you start any type of workout program, it’s best to check with your doctor. I’m not a doctor…just some random blogger. Seriously, check with your doctor before taking on a workout program, especially if you have had injuries or you’re overweight. Running can be hard on your body, so you want to make sure you don’t make anything worse or hurt yourself…period! Also, these are tips from what I personally encountered. Everyone is different…you might not go through any of this (lucky). :-)

Mile 3

1. It’s going to be SUPER mental.

So many people told me this, and they were all right. Running long distances becomes a mental game. After mile 1, I surely didn’t think I had 12.1 more in me on race day. However, I took it one mile at a time. It was especially rough once I passed the 10 mile marker, since that was my longest distance in training. I kept saying to myself, but you did a personal best! You don’t have to hobble 3 more miles..but I somehow shut my brain up and finished it! :-)

2. You might get sick after. Like seriously…

I came down with bronchitis TWO DAYS after the half marathon. I was 100% on top of the world on Sunday, and then I slowly declined by Tuesday. I thought something was wrong with me, but apparently this can happen. When you’re exercising for such a long period of time, your immune system takes a bit of a dip, so I apparently was supposed to take vitamins, avoid exposure to a bunch of people and just become a hermit. Um…nope…that didn’t happen at all (Oops!). I seriously had NO idea about this…lesson learned.

3. Body Glide is my BFF (sorry real life BFF, I still love you).

It’s no secret that I’m a large gal. With that, things rub/chafe. In fact, it wasn’t until the 10 mile run that I learned about sports bra chafing. Yeah, that’s a thing and it’s PAINFUL. Worse than thunder thigh chafing. My good running friend recommended that I purchase Body Glide and put it everywhere. That stuff is wonderful.

4. Cotton is the enemy.

This goes with chafing. Cotton stinks…cotton clothes, cotton socks, cotton anything. Whenever I wore cotton anything during training runs, there was blisters/chafing. I love cotton for everyday clothing, but never again for workouts.

5. There’s this thing called a wall.

Yeah, that infamous wall happened for me at the bridge (around mile 11). I was thinking there’s NO WAY there’s 2 miles left in me. You just have to keep on, keeping on (unless you injured yourself, of course). Blast music. Count trees. Check out cool gear on marathoners who are running past you (some running shirts had hilarious phrases on them).

6. Always bring fuel.

Don’t depend on the race course to have what you need. Bring the fuel that you know and are used to. The last thing you want are stomach issues on the course. I had a pocket full of Gu Chomps (which I used for quite a few long runs previously) for the race. :-) I did pick up a free Gu at mile 8, just in case I needed a boost in the end, but I never used it.

7. Hydrate!

There’s a bit of a balance here. I wanted to stay hydrated, but I didn’t want to over-hydrate (it’s really dangerous to do that from articles I read). For me, I took a small swig of Powerade and a small swig of water every 2 miles. It worked for me, and I never needed the port-o-potties.

8. Full night of sleep before the race? I wish!

For me, I am a worry worm. I kept having nightmares before the race, and the night before was no exception! I think I got 4 hours of sleep the night before, but thankfully the afternoon before, I took an epic nap. :-) Carb loading = running fuel + a need to nap!

9. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just finishing is awesome.

I did this the whole race. I’d look across the lake and saw the first place runners passing mile 10 while I was pushing through mile 3/4. I felt sort of defeated when I saw that, but my friend reminded me that we were still doing this and finishing the race, no matter the time, is still doing the same distance everyone else did. We all finished the same race. :-)

10. Runners are friendly.

This blew my mind. I don’t know…maybe it stems from old school P.E. days of being called Shamu by kids, and constantly being last picked on teams ::cue tiny violins::. Whatever. :-P I just always felt like I was in the way when it comes to working out. I’d rather be invisible (I battle this at the gym all the time), because I don’t like knowing that people are watching me struggle. However, at the race, marathoners….FAST marathoners at that, took a second to pat me on the back and tell me “Good Job!” when I hit the wall. I needed that so badly. Also, throughout the race, we sort of kept up with the same people and we’d have conversations while having walk breaks (yes, I took walk breaks…many of them…I’m not ashamed).

Now, I’m sure there’s more….but those are the top 10 that stuck out to me. :-) If you’ve done a race before, what’s something that you learned?

A Bunch of Randoms

It has been quite an odd week in Louisiana. It has snowed twice within a week, and I’m just a tad bit tired of the cold weather. Remind me that I said this when it’s 110 degrees outside in a few short months.

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1. I became THAT runner. My car now has a 13.1 on it. As cheesy as it is, I think I earned it. :-)

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2. I’m falling more and more in love with Trader Joe’s lately. These chocolate covered powerberries are amazing. OMG..and they’re healthy, right? So I can feel no guilt at all for eating the entire bag over the course of three days? Great!

Also, my addiction to their dried mango is nothing short of ridiculous.

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3. Here’s evidence of the snow. This was just the start of when the snow started last night, and I couldn’t help but take a picture of the paw prints. It took Millie a little while to understand what this snow stuff was, but after a while, she was running through it like crazy. :-)

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4. This tank top just gets me. OMG. I just had to get it for my upcoming 10K, and while it’s a little tight right now, I think I’ll be OK in a few weeks for the race. Weight loss motivation? I’m gonna wear the heck out of this in the summer for my runs. :-)

5. I’m completely loving this song. I mean, it’s probably because Idina is singing it. I need to babysit someone’s child so I can watch this movie in the theater without being judged. I haven’t been this excited about an animated movie since “Princess and the Frog”! I just love Disney. :-)

Cruisin’ with Carnival

Carnival Cruise - 12/2013

Back in December, my husband and I took a cruise out of New Orleans in the Western Caribbean (Montego Bay, Jamaica…Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands…Cozumel, Mexico) through Carnival Cruise Lines. While we took this same cruise last year, we were excited to go on the Carnival Sunshine, since the ship was recently renovated. We were much more excited, especially, after spending a few hours aboard the Sunshine for the naming ceremony.

We went the week before Christmas, and while many people think that’s a tad bit crazy, I absolutely loved it! It was awesome to come home a couple of days before Christmas absolutely refreshed and stress free, especially since we were hosting my husband’s family for Christmas. There’s nothing to worry about when you don’t have a house to clean or any food to prep! :-)

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We booked an aft balcony room, which is quickly becoming a favorite room type of ours. Aft balcony rooms are in the back of the boat, and it’s usually super quiet/serene, since it’s far from the parties/restaurants on the boat. We loved sitting out on our balcony every afternoon (or almost every afternoon, since I nap like a champ) and just snapping pictures. Sunsets are SO fun to photograph. :-)

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Also, the night sky. When you’re in the middle of nowhere, the moon looks especially amazing. This was as we were leaving Jamaica. The water absolutely sparkled under the moonlight…it was so serene and lovely. I stink at photographing it, though…none of my photos did this view any justice.

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Also, when I cruise, I eat. I’m sorry, but I threw calorie counting out the window. Warm chocolate melting cake was a must…a MUST. I also loved the dinner-time entertainment, as silly as it was. I’m a sucker for that stuff. :-)

As far as workouts go, I will admit that I did still train for my half on the cruise ship. Thankfully, the gym wasn’t crowded at all for my long run, so I had no worries about being asked to leave the treadmill for the 30 minute limit that is set for peak times. I ran 5.5 miles, which for me, on a treadmill, was a feat in itself. Sadly, no other runs happened on the cruise, but I was happy that I got the long run in!

Carnival Cruise 12/2013

We also regularly enjoyed the Punchliner Comedy shows every evening after dinner. We loved the adult comedy shows, and some of the comedians on the ship had me laughing so hard that it felt like I had an ab workout that night. Hilarious!

Carnival Cruise 12/2013

And, after everything was over, it was always nice to come back to our room at night to see our towel animal of the evening. Our room stewards absolutely rocked, and they had such a funny sense of humor…I mean, how cute is a towel monkey hanging from the ceiling?

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Also, this guy. He looks like he’s saying, “How YOU doin’?”

I could go on and on about things on the ship, but I definitely want to talk about what we did while the ship was in port. In Jamaica, we didn’t book an excursion, because we just wanted to shop (hi, cheap rum!) and have a relaxing day in the port. We had a busy day ahead of us in Cayman anyway….or so we thought.

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We were super excited about our day in Cayman, because we booked an excursion with the stingrays. We packed our day bag (which we got at the naming ceremony…thanks Carnival!), and went out to the tender boat. We booked something called “Faster to the Fun” through Carnival, which was especially awesome for tender days. Not only do you get VIP check-in, you also automatically get on the next tender boat, no matter when you go downstairs. We felt pretty fancy getting escorted to the tender boat, and not having to wait at all. :-)

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Here was the view of the Sunshine as the tender boat was pulling in to the island. Isn’t the water just gorgeous?

Now, here’s where the bummer came in. That day when we got off the ship, we were told that all stingray excursions were cancelled, due to high winds on that side of the island. Huge bummer. We were really looking forward to the excursion, but we understood that safety was a priority, and even if we did go, we were told that the stingrays don’t go in shallow water when the tides are like that. So, it would have been a waste of money. Ah well…

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So, when life throws you coconuts, drink coconut water? Ok, maybe that saying goes a little differently, but this cart kind of made my day. How much more island-y can you get? :-)

Even though our excursion was cancelled, we didn’t want to waste our day on the island, so we ended up taking a driving tour of the island, and learned some interesting facts about Grand Cayman. Did you know that they don’t elect their governor? Great Britain just sends one every 4 years. They also only pay property taxes ONCE. We joked about moving here once we win the lottery. :-P Hey, they have a Popeye’s…I could survive.

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The next day, we were in Cozumel. Our excursion in Cozumel was a Mexican Cooking Class at a resort. OMG…this beach…

Carnival Cruise 12/2013

My husband and I walked away from the beach for a while to take the cooking class, and it involved making an appetizer, an entree and dessert. What I enjoyed about this class is that these were dishes that I’ve never made before, like caramelized plantains with chocolate tequila sauce (OMG) and seared grouper with vegetables and tamarind sauce. It was insanely good, and the coconut rum/pineapple drinks that the bartender would bring made the class even sweeter. :-P My only issue is that the room was a tad stuffy with 20 burners going on, but they finally let us open the windows to let the breeze through the room. Whew!

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While we didn’t get to do everything we wanted, I have to say that we had a great time, and we’ll definitely cruise again. We’re already looking into another Carnival cruise, but this time, I definitely want to check out different locations in the Caribbean. :-)

Disclosure: We paid for our cruise, “Faster to the Fun” and our excursions, but Carnival did provide me with some complimentary WiFi time on the ship in exchange for a blog post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta with Chicken

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Thanks so much for your comments in my blogiversary post! It seems like quite a few of you would love more ideas for healthier dinners, and I’m happy to oblige! I’ve been meaning to get back into meal planning, and so here’s the start of more savory dishes on this blog. :-)

This recipe is part of a virtual cooking party that Jessica of My Baking Heart is hosting, along with the folks at Stonyfield Yogurt. Ever since I started my weight loss journey, I’ve been slowly, but surely paying more attention to what I’m eating. One of my biggest struggles is with snacking, so I try to keep our fridge full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is actually one of the easiest snacks for me, since I can just grab a container and go to town. Some fruits are grab and eat, too, but I find that greek yogurt is filling (seriously, check out how much protein is in greek yogurt!) and takes care of my sweet tooth. I recently noticed that Stonyfield has a greek yogurt line, and gave it a try. It was absolutely tasty, and a bonus–it’s organic!

I’ve recently become more aware of organic foods, and one thing that I found interesting is the difference between “natural” and “organic” on food labels (this is with the exception of meats). I always thought natural was a good thing, but not necessarily. For example, foods that may contain pesticides, growth hormones or GMO can still be labeled as “natural”, but it cannot be labeled as “organic”. It’s really interesting — here’s an infographic about it.

Besides just grabbing a container of yogurt to have as a snack, I really like using greek yogurt in my cooking and baking. Personally, I really don’t like mayonnaise. If a recipe calls for mayonnaise, I usually can replace it with plain greek yogurt (hello, chicken salad!). I also use it in baking, and I’ve noticed it works especially well in quick breads/muffins. This recipe uses greek yogurt to make pesto into a creamy sauce, and it works beautifully. The greek yogurt addition to the spinach pesto makes it seem more like a pesto alfredo sauce (without the added cream/butter). I decided to add some grilled chicken to the pasta, and it made for the perfect weeknight dinner. If you wanted, you could even make the spinach yogurt pesto sauce in advance (up to 3 days), and all you would need to do is grill the chicken and boil the pasta. Easy peasy!

Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta with Chicken
Source: adapted from My Baking Heart

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 oz. organic Italian dressing
  • Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain Stonyfield Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. organic whole wheat pasta

Directions:

  1. Marinate the chicken in the Italian dressing for 2-4 hours.
  2. Once the chicken has marinated, sprinkle Cajun seasoning over both sides of the chicken breasts. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Place 1 tbsp. canola oil in a cast iron skillet or grill pan, and wipe the oil with a paper towel to evenly distribute the oil over the surface of the pan. Preheat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat, until hot. Gently place the chicken on the cast iron skillet, and sear the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side. Using oven mitts, place foil over the cast iron pan and then place the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked all the way through.
  4. While the chicken is cooking in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to temperature, make the spinach yogurt pesto sauce. Place the garlic, spinach, basil, pine nuts, lemon juice & zest in the bowl of a food processor or blender and chop the mixture until everything is finely chopped. You may have to stop to scrape down the bowl a couple of times. Once the mixture is finely chopped, allow the processor or blender to run on low, and slowly add in the olive oil. Pour the mixture into a small bowl, and add in the Parmesan cheese and yogurt. Season the pesto with salt and pepper. Cover the pesto with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  5. By now, the pot of water should be boiling. Add in your pasta, and cook the pasta until al dente (following the directions on the box for your specific pasta). Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Then, drain the pasta and return the pasta to the pot, tossing in the pesto sauce. If the pasta appears to be too dry, add in the reserved pasta water, 1 tbsp. at a time.
  6. To serve, place some pesto pasta on a plate, slice up 1/2 of a chicken breast and place that on top. Garnish the dish with either some lemon zest or Parmesan cheese. (Serves 6.)

Since this is a virtual cooking party, there are 5 other bloggers who made this dish as well, putting their own unique spins on the recipe. Don’t they all sound delicious?

My Baking Heart – Garlicky Shrimp & Pasta with Spinach Yogurt Pesto
Kasey’s Kitchen – Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta over Chicken Milanese
Apple a Day – Penne with Spinach Yogurt Pesto, White Beans & Tomatoes
Mrs. Regueiro’s Plate – Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta with Sausages
Sunny Side Up – Chicken and Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta

Also, it wouldn’t be much of a party without something fun for you guys, right?

The generous folks at Stonyfield want to offer one lucky reader of The Nifty Foodie a case of their yogurt and a cookbook!

It’s a giveaway prize that would definitely get me excited about cooking with yogurt (or hey, I wouldn’t blame you if you want the yogurt to snack on…have you seen the new Cafe Latte flavor? I feel like I NEED to find it in my store to try it!)

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: This giveaway is sponsored by Stonyfield and is open to readers in the continental US only. Entries will be accepted until February 4th at 12:00am (central standard time). Winner will be emailed (make sure you leave an email address in the form), and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

DISCLOSURE: Stonyfield supplied me with free products in exchange for a post in the Virtual Cooking Party, as well as the prize being offered in the giveaway. All opinions are 100% my own.

Apple Cider Caramels

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Happy Friday! Today is a snow day out here in Louisiana, believe it or not. I’m sure some of you up north are rolling your eyes right now, but we’re not at all equipped for snow or ice, so schools and some businesses shut down. I think there were 38 car accidents this morning, according to the news, and some of our interstates are shut down. It’s a mess! I was hoping to do some grocery shopping this afternoon, but I’m not sure if that’s gonna happen. :-\

Since I’m in the mood for something indulgent today (ahh gloomy weather), I thought I’d share these caramels with you. I made them for the holidays (for gifts), and completely forgot about them until I went through my SD card this week! I was pretty skeptical that these wouldn’t turn out well. First of all, I’m not good with candy (I always either overcook or undercook them), and also, because these caramels aren’t made the standard way. However, I should always trust Deb of Smitten Kitchen….these caramels were delicious, and they turned out perfectly! They were like apple pie in caramel form, and I couldn’t stop eating them haha! It was the one treat I just kept snacking on, actually. No willpower when it comes to these. Also, another bonus besides having a ton of caramel candies? Your house will smell fantastic after making these!

Apple Cider Caramels
Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. flaky  sea salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Place the apple cider in a 3-4 quart saucepan, and boil it over high heat for about 35-45 minutes (stirring occasionally), until it has reduced to about 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume and turns into a dark, thick syrup.
  2. While the cider is boiling, prepare an 8×8 inch square pan by fully lining the bottom and sides of the pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper. Set the pan aside. Then, stir together the cinnamon and flaky salt in a small bowl or dish.
  3. Once the apple cider has reduced, remove it from the heat and add in the butter, sugars and heavy cream. Stir the mixture well, and place the pan over medium-high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side. Allow the mixture to boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, which will take about 5 minutes.
  4. Once the mixture reaches temperature, immediately remove the caramel from heat and add the cinnamon/flaky salt mixture. Stir well to distribute the cinnamon/flaky salt mixture evenly. Then immediately pour the caramel into the prepared 8×8 pan. Let the caramel cool in the pan fully, for about 2 hours, until it’s firm.
  5. Once the caramel has cooled enough, use the parchment paper to move the block of caramel to a cutting board. Add oil to a pizza cutter or knife, and cut the caramels into 1″ squares (being sure to oil your knife/cutter as often as necessary, since the caramel is very sticky). Wrap each 1″ square into a 4″ square of wax paper, and twist the sides to close. Keep them stored in an airtight container (they’re good for about two weeks, according to the cookbook…I have no idea from experience because they were probably consumed within a couple of days).

 

Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro & Eat Fit NOLA

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A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by Copeland’s PR Manager to check out Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro’s new Eat Fit NOLA menu. Since I’m a big fan of healthier eating, I was excited about sampling some of their offerings.

Since I’m from Louisiana, I’m used to food that is definitely full of flavor. However, what makes that flavor is usually going to break a diet. Unless of course, you order a side salad and a bland grilled chicken breast. Copeland’s and Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro are restaurants that I’m very familiar with for offering food full of flavor, but whenever my husband and I go, we know it’s going to be a splurge day. I mean, check out this last restaurant review I did for them. (OMG, right?!) You just can’t enjoy Copeland’s without breaking diet….until now.

Molly Kimball, a dietician with Ochsner Health Systems, along with her team, came up with Eat Fit NOLA. This is a partnership where local restaurants offer dishes that comply with certain dietary standards (highlighted below). Because they follow these standards, you know you will be enjoying food that is not only low in calories, but is also lower in sodium, fats and sugar. Copeland’s & Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro are among the first to roll out a new menu, featuring Eat Fit NOLA choices.

Entree Standards:

  • less than 600 calories
  • less than 800 mg sodium
  • less than 10% of calories from animal-based saturated fat
  • 0 grams trans fats
  • no white, refined starches
  • less than 5 grams (1 tsp.) of added sugar (honey, agave, sugar, etc.)

Kids Entree Standards:

  • less than 300 calories
  • less than 400 mg sodium
  • less than 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • less than 10% of calories from animal-based saturated fat
  • 0 grams trans fats
  • no white, refined starches
  • less than 5 grams (1 tsp.) of added sugar (honey, agave, sugar, etc.)

Yes, that’s right. There’s even kid menu options for Eat Fit NOLA…no more fried foods & french fries as your only choices for your kids. They can eat healthier just like the adults. :-)

Now, with these standards, I will admit that I was skeptical. I knew that it wouldn’t be too hard to meet caloric expectations (a ton of restaurants offer calorie friendly choices), but the other standards were much more complicated. I mean, a can of cajun seasoning is mostly salt! We love our salt down here. :-) However, in speaking to the chefs that developed this menu, they mentioned that they had to use multiple techniques to get the most flavor (naturally) out of the ingredients vs. just adding seasoning to the ingredients. They definitely didn’t want to sacrifice flavor in these dishes (since it’s a Louisiana based restaurant), and it’s evident that they put a good bit of research into developing these recipes for the Eat Fit NOLA menu.

Another thing I was skeptical about was portion size. I thought we’d end up with a dessert-sized plate for the entree. They were actually pretty generous, and served on normal sized plates!

One of the first things we tried was their Bistro Tacos (pictured above). The order came with two normal sized tacos on corn tortillas (just wanted to clarify that these are NOT mini tacos). You can choose any two proteins (out of chicken, shrimp, steak & fish), and we had the chicken and steak tacos. I loved the fruity salsa with the tacos…it was such a wonderful combination, and the meats were so flavorful.

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Next, we tried the Seabream with Herbed Lump Crabmeat. The fish filet on this was HUGE. I was shocked that all of this met the standards. The fish was so flavorful, and the vegetables below complimented the dish perfectly.

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I was excited about this dish, because I’m such a pasta gal. This is their Seared Salmon & Shiitake, which was served over a decent portion of whole wheat pasta. I usually don’t go for fish with pasta, but this was a wonderful dish!

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This is their Salmon Cobb Salad. This salad was HUGE. I was constantly surprised by the portions of fish. These were large pieces of fish, and it was a normal Cobb salad with hard boiled egg and bacon. It was delicious!

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Here was the huge shocker of the evening….a margarita made the Eat Fit NOLA menu. This is a Ginger Margarita, and I absolutely loved it. It had a hint of heat from the ginger, and tasted just like your typical margarita (you would never know this is a diet-friendly drink!). I was honestly shocked that this met the standards…I could have sipped on these all day. :-)

If you’d like to give this menu a try, this special menu is in every Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro nation-wide. Copeland’s (a different restaurant) also has their own Eat Fit NOLA menu, which features entrees like Garlic Shrimp Seabream, Tuscan Chicken Pasta, Fresh Fish & Crab Claws (over pasta) & they also have the Salmon Cobb Salad (pictured above)..to name a few. :-)

Also, every Wednesday in February is “Heart Healthy Hump Day”, which means 10% of the proceeds from those who order off of the Eat Fit NOLA menu goes to the American Heart Association!

If you’d like to try any of these great menu items, now is the time to go. This full menu is only available for a limited time. In May, the most popular dishes from the Eat Fit NOLA menu will become a part of the PERMANENT menu for Copeland’s and Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro, though. So, the Eat Fit NOLA movement is here to stay! :-)

Another thing I wanted to mention is the new Lagniappe card that both Copeland’s & Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro offers. If you’re a fan of these restaurants, this is something worth looking into. You pay $10 for a Lagniappe card & you automatically get $15 loaded on the card once you register it. Then, along with receiving information about deals/offers, you will also accumulate points for every dollar that you spend. 300 points = $25 reward. More information is available here.

FTC disclosure: My meal was covered by the restaurant, in exchange for an honest review. As always, the opinions expressed are 100% my own.

The Louisiana Marathon (The Half) Recap

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Um. Y’all? As of late Sunday morning, I became a half marathoner, thanks to The Louisiana Marathon (The Half)!

I’m sure many of you knew just how nervous I was about this race. My last run was terrible…..9.4 miles and my pace was embarrassing. I thought for sure I’d get swept. For sure.

I had various dreams the week of the race, proving how random and crazy my subconscious is. Here’s two that I can still remember:

  • One was about how they closed the course for 2 hours to allow Mike the Tiger (LSU’s mascot) to go for his morning walk on the campus streets. I remember being at mile 9 and feeling great…then we got a text 2 hours later that we had 30 minutes left to finish the race or you’d get no medal.
  • Another was about how I ended up waking up on time, but I just couldn’t get moving (hate those dreams). By the time I started to leave the house, it was 6:50 and the race was going to start at 7!

Crazy, stupid dreams. None of them ended with me in a medal. :-\ It was really messing with me, mentally.

Also, at the expo on Friday, I wore BOOTS. Stupid stupid stupid. I ended up with some blisters on my feet, and I texted my friend hoping that it wasn’t a bad sign. Don’t wear boots (no matter how comfy you think they are) to an expo. ::sigh::

Saturday night, I laid out everything that I would need on race day, so I could just wake up, eat my banana with PB, get dressed and be done. It’s a tip that I’ve read on blogs, and I’m so glad I did. One less thing to worry about!

On Sunday, my husband and I went downtown, found a great parking spot, and I slowly worked my way to the starting line with him. My husband was SO awesome for going with me at 5:30am. I saw a few friends who were also doing the half, and before we all knew it, it was time to line up for the start. My old college roommate, Sarah, generously offered to run the whole race with me. She wasn’t looking to PR (thank goodness), and since this was her 10th half marathon, I was relieved to have someone with me who has done this rodeo before. :-)

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The half marathon basically went from downtown Baton Rouge, to LSU campus and back. At least that’s what I told myself to make 13.1 miles seem less daunting. :-)

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Photo credit: Bing Maps (through Garmin Connect)

I’m going to admit right now that mile 1 was terrible. TERRIBLE. I think that mile 1 for me is one of the hardest miles to run in any training run/race. Everything is screaming at me to stop now, and my pace was looking terrible. I seriously thought…well, that’s it. I’m gonna end up swept after mile 1. That smile below is relief…SWEET relief. I hate mile 1 forever and ever. (Trust me, I’m not alone…google it. Mile 1 stinks.)

Mile 1
Photo Credit: My friend, Sarah

Mile 2 wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the darn overpass that we had to run on. That bridge killed me for the 5K last year, so I was ready for it. My strategy was to walk the up and run the down. :-) It worked out OK for me, since I didn’t feel too too bad afterwards. Just in case, though, I ended up eating a couple of Gu Chomps, and downing some Powerade at the water station (I did this every 2 miles).

Once mile 3 hit, I was sort of in the zone. I was making great time (for me, that is), and my muscles were no longer in pain. Look at that cheesy ol’ grin! 5k down, 10 to go! I also saw a good friend in college who made a sign for me! Definitely a pepper upper!

I felt like this until about mile 7.

Mile 3
Photo Credit: My friend, Sarah

At mile 7, my left ankle was super sore. I have ankle issues from an old injury in high school, so I have to wear shoes with more support. They usually do the trick, but I think running the roads with those potholes in the Garden District finally caught up to me. Thankfully, my best friend came to see me at this point, and we talked a good bit, while walking of course.

At mile 8, my feet started to rub. Even though I used Body Glide, and tied my shoes on tightly, I felt the pain in my heels. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty when those shoes came off.

As you can see here, I’m running in place for the mile 9 marker. I reached a point where if I stopped, I had a feeling things were going to cramp. So, no stopping!

Mile 9
Photo Credit: My friend, Sarah

Mile 9 & 10 were pretty rough, but what kept me going is that after mile 10, we were going to meet up with the marathoners, which was SO inspiring. Also, after mile 10, like my friend Sarah said, would be the longest distance I’ve ever done! Just after mile 10, I saw my college friend again who made another sign for me! I mean c’mon…the support was AWESOME.

At mile 11, I saw my best friend one last time for a quick high five and hug (sorry it was probably so sweaty!). Right after, I used the last burst of energy I had before facing the same overpass. Once the bridge came, I was really dragging. It burnt out my muscles, and I didn’t think I had anything left in me.

Thankfully, at that point, the marathon and half marathon course merged until the finish, so I ended up running near some of the faster marathoners. I thought they would give me funny looks since I was really hobbling the next couple of miles, but quite a few of them slowed down to pat me on the back, told me I was doing a great job and encouraged me to keep going. (I definitely told them great job as well….because 26.2 miles…holy moly!)

At mile 12, I was still a tired, limpy mess. Right after the bridge, there were some ladies with coke & king cake for the runners. I didn’t think much of it, but my friend Sarah insisted that a tiny bit of coke would give me a quick jolt to finish.

Oh man, my left ankle was sore again, and my feet were on fire. At one point, my foot started feeling like pins and needles (which I kind of appreciated). It was the LONGEST MILE EVER. I guess this was my wall. Sarah kept encouraging me (thank goodness) and we joked with a few cops to just drop us off at the finish festival haha! There were also a ton of race finishers walking to their cars who were so encouraging! I also saw another friend and her husband who had finished the half earlier but stuck around to cheer on friends who were still doing the half/full, and they gave me a quick high five before I turned that last corner to the finish. :-)

We turned the last corner to where I could see the finish line before mile 13, and my friend Sarah said I HAD to run in for the finish. So, I sprinted (at least in my head I sprinted haha). NO IDEA where that came from….maybe the coke did the trick? LOL! Seriously….but I ran as hard and as fast as I could for the finish line!

I just teared up and smiled. (hopefully there’s no picture of that ugly mess haha) I was in disbelief. I took a water, banana and chocolate milk and thanked Sarah for being there for me  that day. I really didn’t think I had 13 in me after mile 1. She reminded me that I needed to go get my medal (oops!), so we picked up our medals and took our pictures.

halfmarathonfinish
Photo Credit: My friend, Sarah

Here’s the Garmin break-down of things. You can definitely see that mile 12-13 was the worst. :-\ Also, for 13 til the finish, I forgot to turn off my Garmin at first, so the time isn’t super accurate. My official chip time was 3:39.

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Here’s my new medal next to the 5K medal that I earned last year in the same race series. It’s a reminder that the human body is an amazing thing. Truly amazing. Back when I weighed 298 lbs., I had no idea my body was capable of a half marathon. No idea.

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Now, the big question. Will I do it again? I think I want to, but it would definitely have to be at a lighter weight. I really loved how the half marathon varied from a 5K. At random points, we’d all talk to one another about our running journeys, and there was a small group of us who sort of stuck together. It felt like a small community that morning. :-) I really liked it!

I will also admit that this race was perfectly organized. I loved how gorgeous the race course is, and everything in my experience went off without a hitch. Thanks to the organizers and the multiple volunteers who made The Louisiana Marathon possible!

Also, a huge thanks to:

  • my husband Joey, who sent me encouraging texts every mile and dealt with my complaints during training
  • my family for their supportive calls/texts
  • my friend Sarah, for running the entire half with me and dealing with my weak points…there were a lot of them
  • my friend Jenna for being there during those tough mile points and just being the most amazing best friend a gal could ever ask for!
  • my friend Melanie, who constantly dealt with my half marathon questions and doubts haha!
  • other friends who made signs or gave me a high five during the race
  • my food blogger friends, especially Kristen, Katrina & Sarah for their guidance, texts, FB messages, etc.
  • you guys!! Oh man….your comments/tweets/emails have been amazing! Y’all are just so kind!
  • and…..last but not least, those random strangers who had no idea who I was, but knew I needed a pat on the back or a “You Can Do It!” after mile 11.

(I hope I didn’t forget anyone…)

I will never forget this race. Ever.

DISCLAIMER: Now, of course before you start any type of workout program, it’s best to check with your doctor. I’m not a doctor…just some random blogger. Seriously, check with your doctor before taking on a workout program, especially if you have had injuries or you’re overweight. Running can be hard on your body, so you want to make sure you don’t make anything worse or hurt yourself…period!

Happy Gotcha Day, Millie!

Four years ago today, we picked up a sweet Border Collie mix named Amelia from a local organization that helps the parish shelter. :-) She got the name from her foster family, because she was the explorer of the litter. We just call her Millie, for short. It rolls off the tongue easier when she’s chewing on a sock or something…

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::cue the awws::

I’m sorry, but she was an adorable little pup.

It’s so crazy to think she’s our age in dog years. She has calmed down quite a bit since her puppy days of ripping pants, socks and shirts to herd me around the house, but there are some nights where she’ll randomly start nudging my calves if she wants me to sit down. Her herding instincts will never go away, I guess. I’m halfway tempted to let her go in a field of random farm animals and see her herding instincts go wild.

Millie 5/12/2010

Since we’ve moved to the new neighborhood, I’ve discovered that Millie loves kids. She’s so good with them, even if they’re petting her a little roughly or pulling her ears or tail. The kids are toddlers, so they don’t mean it…to them, those rough pets and ear pulls are affectionate, and she gets SO excited over it. I’m pretty confident that if we have kids, she’s going to be wonderful around them. :-)

Happy Halloween!

I mean, how can you not walk up to her and want to pet her like crazy when she’s wearing a pumpkin stem hat? Poor thing…I’m a terrible puppy mom lol!

She’s also awesome around other dogs. This is my family’s dog, Dixie, and she’s gonna be 14 this year. They’ve had a couple of fun play sessions in the past, but I’m not sure if Dixie can take Millie’s energy anymore. :( However, every time Millie sees a yellow lab somewhere or hears “Dixie”, she goes crazy! I love how great her memory is…such a smart dog. :-)

I look up to my elders. Literally.

Happy Gotcha Day, Millie! Here’s to many more Gotcha Days together. :-)

Blood Orange Sangria & 6 Years of Blogging

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This is the time of the year where I eat a ridiculous amount of citrus fruits. Mother Nature was very smart to allow citrus to grow during the cold season, because I eat about 2-3 satsumas or oranges every day to avoid catching whatever tends to go around. At about 30-50 calories each, it’s also a wonderful snack option for me in my calorie counting.

I’ve always been curious about blood oranges, because they are such a gorgeous ruby red color on the inside. The lovely folks at Frieda’s Produce, who I met at PMA back in August, sent me a bag of these oranges to try since the holidays were approaching. Since it was the holiday season, I knew I had to make something boozy. A sangria sounded perfect since I could prepare it the night before, and just bring it over for my family’s party. Super simple!

I ended up adding some blood orange juice to this simple red sangria recipe, as well as a few sliced oranges in the pitcher. It really made for a nice presentation, and I have to admit that the orange slices leftover after the sangria was gone was pretty darn delicious.

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This is just a great drink to bring over for a celebration. Like I mentioned before, it’s easy to throw together and it’s so cute to fill a glass with sangria and add in a few fruit slices. It just makes for a nice presentation, and it’s super fun.

Blood Orange Sangria
Source: adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of fruity red wine (I used Chianti)
  • 4 oz. brandy
  • juice of 2 blood oranges
  • 3 oz. simple syrup
  • 3 blood oranges, sliced

Directions:

  1. In a pitcher, combine the red wine, brandy, blood orange juice & simple syrup. Stir until well-combined. Add in the orange slices, and place the sangria in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours, or overnight to chill it well.
  2. Serve the sangria chilled. Enjoy!

Since this drink puts me in a celebrating mood, I figured it would be perfect to share with y’all today. Today is my 6 year blogiversary! I can’t believe that it’s been 6 years since I blogged about turkey meatballs, diet coke chicken & biscotti (forgive the pictures). From the bottom of my heart, thank you for every comment, email and tweet. I love getting to know y’all, and I completely appreciate your support, especially lately with my weight loss journey and my upcoming half marathon!

As a thank you, I want to offer you guys a giveaway! One lucky reader will have a choice between a gift card to Target or Amazon.com (e-gift card sent via email)!

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To enter the giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: This giveaway is is open to readers in the continental US only. Entries will be accepted until January 23rd at 12:00am (central standard time). Winner will be emailed (make sure you leave an email address in the form), and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. The winner will be sent an e-gift card for either Target or Amazon (winner’s choice).

Disclosure: The blood oranges were sent at no cost to me by Frieda’s Produce. The gift card giveaway is provided by The Nifty Foodie.