disney 1/2 training: 10 miles

So it appears I took a little break from blogging this week. While many people were off and on an extended holiday, I was back at work on Tuesday and ended up having a very busy week. I was also coming down off a massive sugar high… getting a filling… and doing random time-sucking activities such as Pinterest and being around to let the furnace guy in to check out why our furnace was all of a sudden not quite working so great. I kept feeling a day behind at work, thinking it was the day prior each day so I was fairly unprepared for Friday to get here! I luckily (for relaxing purposes) have a three day weekend again, but then only two days of work and we’re off to FLORIDA for the Disney marathon! I really can’t believe it’s less than a week away…

This morning on my training plan was a 10 mile run. My first double digits! Sister decided to go 11 miles to finish out 2011, but I’ve decided I was definitely not ready for that. Plus, Sister also got a Garmin for Christmas and we ran together on Monday – my Nike+ on my iPod was around 10% off, meaning I was running 10% too little. I re-calibrated it so hopefully it’s a little closer to the actual distance and I really did go 10 miles today! Definitely feels like I did…

My weekly running this week was rough. I think a combination of my crappy sugar-filled diet over the weekend did not help matters, and I’ve been having this weird pulled muscle pain/knot under my right shoulder blade that will not go away. Needless to say, I did not have high expectations for this run. Running 10% more than I was used to on a 10 mile run that I’ve never run after two of the worst runs I have had all training long. Sounds like I’m ready for next week, huh?

Anyways, after not expecting much I didn’t end up doing too terrible. My shoulder was sore/tight through most of the run but it did seem marginally better post-run, so that’s a good sign that it’s not aggravated by it (I think it’s actually from a day-long coughing fit I had last week and has nothing to do with running). I decided to run out 3 1/2 miles and then come back and run another 3 mile loop. I would avoid some rolling hills this way and be fairly close to home at a few points if I needed to stop back for anything. I left at 9:15am and the weather was really sunny and in the 40’s – at least closer to Florida weather than it could have been! Overall my run went much better than Thursday’s 5 mile and finished with a 10:47 average – definitely not a speed demon, but as long as I can cross the start and finish line next week I’ll be happy!

I know I’ve already said it, but I can’t believe my first 1/2 marathon is a week away! Pretty sure I’m going to be a ball of nerves Friday night/Saturday morning, but being able to put on my finisher’s shirt and wear my Donald Duck medal will be worth it! One other thing… tomorrow is 2012?! Where did 2011 go? Yikes.

Happy New Years!

12 days of cookies: cocoa marshmallow

It’s official. It’s Christmas Eve. Is that hard to believe for anyone else? It seems like just yesterday I had the thought of making 12 different kinds of cookies for my blog, and here I am sharing the 12th recipe. And boy is it a good one.

I went back and forth with what the 12th cookie should be. I thought maybe peppermint bark, some other kind of candy, a chocolate chip cream cheese idea, I just couldn’t settle on what should be made.

Sister brought up the idea of making a Hot Cocoa cookie, but she wasn’t exactly sure how it should be executed. Later I learned she was thinking some sort of chocolate cookie with chunks of marshmallows in it, but my mind went somewhere entirely different. To Martha Stewart’s Cookie Cookbook yet again and to a recipe I didn’t think I would be able to make again. Chocolate-Malt Sandwich Cookies. Malt powder + gluten sensitivity? No go. Hot Cocoa + gluten sensitivity? Heck yes.

Cocoa Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies

  • 2c +2T gluten free bisquick
  • 1/2c cocoa powder
  • 1/4c hot cocoa mix (2 pouches)
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4c organic sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2t vanilla
  • 1/4c plain greek yogurt (or creme fraiche)
  • 3T hot water
  • 1 tub marshmallow fluff

1. Sift together all of the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.

2. Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

3. Add in the egg, vanilla, greek yogurt and hot water.

4. Once the wet mixture is all combined, gradually add in the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

5. You can either bake the dough right away, or refrigerate like I did. Once the dough was cool, roll it into balls and put on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

6. Bake in a 350′ oven for 10-12 minutes. The warmer the dough is, the more it will spread and the flatter cookies you will have, so it’s up to you and how you want yours to look!

6. Once cooked, take out of the oven rack and place on a cooling rack.

7. After the cookies are cooled completely, stuff each cookie with marshmallow fluff, or the filling of your choice! (chocolate ganache, buttercream frosting, cream cheese frosting…)

These taste like a cup of cocoa in a cookie. Just like we were going for.

Cookie sandwiches are the best.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

Luke 2:9-12
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

12 days of cookies: peanut blossoms

I seriously can’t believe it is only two days before Christmas… and not even full days! Christmas has come way too fast and before I know it, it’ll be the new year and I will be running in the Disney 1/2 marathon – only 2 weeks and a day away! Well, there’s still time for two more cookie recipes to round out the 12 days of cookies and you will be sure they do not disappoint.

Peanut blossoms have been a staple in my house at Christmas for as long as I can remember. I personally like the chocolate star topping the best – it is the perfect size and it is easy enough to get some chocolate in each and every bite. If you can’t find chocolate stars, then you can substitute kisses (might want to spring for the ones out of the wrappers!) or four Christmas-colored m&m’s on top. This recipe makes 7 dozen… which might seem like a lot, but they will be gone faster than you could imagine.

Peanut Blossoms

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (I used Skippy)
  • 1/2c brown sugar
  • 1/2c organic white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2t vanilla
  • 4T milk
  • 1 package gluten free bisquick
  • 2t xanthan gum
  • 2t baking soda
  • 1t salt
  • chocolate stars/kisses/m&m’s

1. Cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugars until all creamy (I cut the sugar quantity in this recipe in half – I couldn’t put in 2 cups of sugar!).

2. Add in the eggs and vanilla and milk. Mix to combine.

3. Put in the xanthan gum, baking soda and salt, and then gradually add in the bisquick. Doing your dry ingredients this way helps keep this to a one-bowl recipe!

4. Scoop the dough into balls (I used a small cookie scoop and then rolled into round balls). Roll into additional sugar to coat the outside of the dough.

5. Place on to a lined baking sheet, and bake in a 375′ preheated oven for 8 minutes.

6. Take out of the oven and place a chocolate star on the top of each one. Put back into the oven and bake for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and move to a cooling rack.

Once again, the gluten free bisquick makes this recipe just as good as the original… if not better because of the extra puffyness!

You can make this dough in advance and keep in the fridge for a couple days, but the balls are easier to roll when you make them right away. These cookies are also Santa approved ;).

Check back tomorrow for the 12th day of the 12 days of cookies! We’re trying out a new recipe tonight, so hopefully it turns out!!!

12 days of cookies: sugar cutouts

I can’t believe it. I was successful in making sugar cookie cutouts in one try. One batch. That’s all it took. I figured the first batch would turn out, but who knew if it would roll and bake properly or if I would end up with flattened, mis-shapened snowmen, or something equally as depressing such as cookies that turn to dust when you touch them… I was holding out a lot of hope, because I am a “cookie decorating snob“, and you obviously need a good base to work with when you’re decorating them .

At first I thought I might use the sugar cookie base from the peppermint sugar cookies, and that might have worked, but I knew the chocolate cutouts worked out so well that maybe I should use that recipe. So, I tweaked the chocolate cutouts to be non-chocolate, and there was definite happiness that day when they were successful! I made the dough the night before, and it looked promising, but dough can sometimes be deceiving. Luckily there was no deceit, just the best sugar cookie cutouts I have ever had, and there was hardly a noticeable difference between these and the ones I made last year with regular flour. Gluten free bisquick is the best… Is it too late to ask Santa for a lifetime’s supply?

Sugar Cutouts

  • ~4 1/4c gluten free Bisquick
  • 2t xanthan gum
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1t cream of tartar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2c organic sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1T vanilla
  • 1/2t almond extract

1. Whisk the bisquick, xanthan gum, salt and cream of tartar in a small bowl.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

3. Add in the eggs, vanilla and almond extract and mix until combined.

4. Add in the dry mixture a little at a time, mixing in between. If the dough still looks wet, you can add some additional flour.

5. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight.

6. The next day, take out a chuck of dough and kneed it in your hands a little bit to soften slightly. Once you can roll it, roll with a rolling pin to between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thickness (I used my Joseph Joseph adjustable rolling pin on 1/4″ and then flattened a little more to get the correct thickness).

7. Cut out with your desired cookie cutters and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

8. Place in the freezer for about 5 minutes to re-chill the rough after you have been working with it.

9. Bake in a preheated 350′ oven for 8-10 minutes. Do NOT overbake. They should NOT be brown whatsoever.

10. take out of the oven and allow to set up on the cookie sheet if they are too fragile. Then, move to a cooling rack and repeat the process with the remaining dough.

11. Once cooled, frost with a powdered sugar + butter + milk frosting and decorate as desired.

My favorite shapes include Grandma’s Christmas goose, this particular Christmas tree, snowmen, bells and stars. But feel free to use whatever cookie cutters you enjoy the most.

These make me so happy. Only three more days ’til Christmas!

12 days of cookies: peppermint brownies

Feel like another easy recipe that looks like it took forever to make? Thought so. Well, here you go :). Enjoy as we now only have four more wake ups ’til Christmas!

Peppermint Brownies

  • 1 box gluten free brownies, or your favorite brownie recipe (I used Trader Joe’s gluten free brownie mix and it was fantastic)
  • 1/2c chocolate chips
  • 1t peppermint extract
  • 1c chocolate chips
  • ~2T milk
  • 4 candy canes, crushed

1. Mix the brownies according to package directions, or your recipe. Add in the chocolate chips and peppermint extract to the batter before baking.

2. One the brownies have baked and cooled, melt the chocolate with the milk over a double boiler, or in the microwave.

3. Top the cooled brownies with the melted chocolate ganache topping and sprinkle with the crushed candy canes or peppermint candy.

4. Keep in the fridge. Once set up, cut into delightful triangle-shaped pieces.

I brought these to my work Christmas party and they were  a huge hit. Just can’t get enough chocolate + peppermint! Or peppermint + white chocolate.


12 days of cookies: gingerbread chocolate chunk

Isn’t it amazing how fast these days go before Christmas now that we’re no longer little anxious kiddos waiting for their Christmas loot? When I was younger, I think the entire month leading up to Christmas would just drag on forever. I wish I could go back to the days when this month went slowly! Being able to enjoy this time of year, seeing the Advent wreath lit up at church, looking forward to St. Nick coming to get my fill of chocolate and oranges, decorating my present for Baby Jesus to give him at our church’s Christmas program, buying and wonderfully wrapping presents for family and friends… Now it seems like just a rush to get things done! No time to sit down and enjoy the season anymore.

I think this month has been the fastest of them all because I’ve been working full time. This is the first December I haven’t been a student, gearing up for finals and Christmas break. I think mentally I am somehow waiting for finals to come to signal Christmastime – although it is quite nice to not have to study and have more time to bake cookies! So whether this time of year goes really quickly, or goes really slowly for you, finding time to relax and enjoy time with your family and friends with a nice plateful of cookies and a hot chocolate is about as good as it can get.

This recipe is another adaptation from the Martha Stewart Cookie Cookbook, and is actually on the cover of the cookbook! I thought it was strange having a gingerbread chocolate chunk be the featured image, but after taking a bite of my first batch I knew. Gingerbread + chocolate is just about the perfect combination, especially around the holidays. It might seem weird at first, but the flavors complement each other so well.

Gingerbread Chocolate Chunk

  • 1 cup gluten free oat flour
  • 3/4c sorghum flour
  • 3/4t xanthan gum
  • 1 1/4t ground ginger
  • 1t cinnamon
  • 1/4t cloves
  • 1/4t nutmeg
  • 1T cocoa powder
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2c organic brown sugar
  • 1/2c molasses
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1 1/2t boiling water
  • 7 oz (1/2 bag) semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1/4c granulated sugar, for rolling
1. Whisk together the flours, spices and cocoa powder.
2. Cream the butter and brown sugar together until pale and fluffy.
3. Add in the molasses and stir to combine.
4. In a separate, small, bowl, mix together the baking soda + boiling water. Mix in 1/2 of the flour into the butter + sugar mixture. Mix in the baking soda, and then add the rest of the flour.
5. Mix in the chocolate chunks and then turn dough out onto some plastic wrap. Wrap in a disk shape, and then place in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight. (Overnight is best, especially for gluten free cookies!)
6. Once the dough has sufficiently cooled, take out of the fridge and scoop into equal sized balls, I used a small cookie scoop for this. Once they were scooped, I rolled them in my hands and then rolled each ball in sugar. If the dough starts sticking to your hands, place the scooped balls back in the fridge/freezer until they set up.
7. Place the sugar-coated doughballs on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and place in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up again.
8. Bake in a preheated 325? oven  for 10-12 minutes. These are really fragile right off the pan, so let them set up for a few minutes once they are out of the oven before you try to move them. Allow to cool completely before putting away. But I would recommend eating a few first because the melted chocolate is oh-so-good.

Original recipe can be found here.

These are now a staple at Christmastime. I’m just happy that even though December is going fast and Christmas is sneaking up on me, I have still found time to make plenty of cookies and treats!

12 days of cookies: andes fudge

Can you believe it’s less than a week until Christmas? Most of yesterday was spent finishing up Christmas shopping for friends + family. I feel utterly unprepared this year for some reason. I only bought Sister’s present on Friday (and she’s still not totally done yet), but at least that made me over a week out at that point! It took me a long time to figure out what to get her, so I hope she ends up enjoying it! If not, I’ll just make her a huge batch of cookies… or fudge.

Whether you’re out running errands/Christmas shopping all day long, or come home after a long day at work, you can’t ask for much more than a nice plate of homemade fudge. Easy enough to make on the busiest of days, and so versatile for any flavor you wish to make. Here is one of my favorite adaptations, but many more are listed below.

Andes Fudge

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 bags semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1t vanilla
  • a few andes candies, either whole and chopped up, or the pieces

1. In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, warm up the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips.

2. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is creamed together. It might be a little stiff, so just power through.

3. Once everything is melted and mixed together, take off the heat and then stir in the vanilla.

4. Add in a sprinkling of the andes candies – the amount is up to you. I used roughly 1/4 of a bag.

5. Pour into a 9×9 pan, lined with wax paper. Top with additional andes and press into the top.

6. Refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight, and then cut into bite sized pieces.

I think these are the best straight from the fridge, but they have a more typical fudge consistency after they sit out for a little bit. Either way, this fudge will not be sitting around long.

I love mint + fudge together. The perfect combination.

Other perfect combinations?

  • Peanut butter chips + chocolate chips
  • White chocolate chips + peppermint andes
  • White chocolate chips + gluten free cream-filled cookies
  • Butterscotch chips + semisweet chocolate chips
  • Plain white chocolate
  • Plain dark chocolate (add sprinkles to make it festive!)
  • Really any mixing of two bags of chocolate chips, plus your desired topping for the day

Once you figure out the initial concept, the possibilities are endless!

Random side comment – did you know Andes are made by Tootsie? As in Tootsie rolls? So random. Happy Monday, and happy day 7 of the 12 days of cookiesfudge!

disney 1/2 training: 9 miles

I hope you guys don’t mind a brief break from the 12 days of cookies. We will resume tomorrow, but I wanted to keep up with my running recaps! Today on my half marathon training plan was a 10k – 6.2 miles. Well, I have been enjoying my long runs lately and my legs haven’t been real tired, so I thought that I would benefit more from another longer run to help with my confidence. I decided this on Tuesday, so I had plenty of time to chicken out if I wanted ;). Plus, if the weather turns to crap one of the next two weekends, I won’t be out a long run and thus feel incredibly unprepared for 13.1. The forecast was in the 20’s (definitely an improvement from 11° last week!), so it seemed like a good thing.

Well, I woke up this morning at 7am to our first accumulating snowfall of the season – seriously?! Luckily it was like a 1/4 of an inch (if that), so just enough to make it look like a coating of powder. It was in the 20’s, just like it was supposed to be and at least there wasn’t any hidden ice anywhere! In the morning I had my coffee (with my FAVORITE Mint Chocolate Coconut Milk – not sure what I’m going to do without it!), as well as two rice cakes with PB2. I sat around for a bit and then headed out at 8:39am (what would I do without Nike+? I had zero idea what time I left without looking). I tried to wear more clothing than last week’s freezing run, and ended up a little too over prepared with too many layers… oh well, maybe one day I’ll learn haha.

I felt slow the entire run and like I was working hard, and I didn’t have any sense of what pace I was running until the end. I think part of why it seemed like I was working so hard was that I was pretty sweaty and couldn’t easily shed any layers. My gloves were off, but it’s so annoying to carry them with you the entire way! I took a few shorter walking breaks throughout the run, but took a longer one at the 4 1/2 mile mark to take my Chocolate Clif Shot – I absolutely LOVE these things! I bought 7 of them at the store last night and they probably thought I was crazy.

After that point I felt loads more energized and the last half went much quicker, even though I was fairly consistent pace wise throughout. I really didn’t think I was going an average of 10:09 per mile… my iPod must need some calibration or the snow was helping me slide along or something. I think I also do better taking short walking breaks, because it makes me feel like I can go faster during the running portion since I know walking is there as an option whenever I end up needing it.

Once I got home, Sister was in a very pissy mood and I made her sign up for a full marathon. It’s amazing what I can talk people into. I should have been a lawyer. One of the best things about running 9 miles is the fact I burned roughly 1,059 calories. Definitely had some room for extra cookies today, but my appetite has been weird. I’ve felt really full all day and haven’t really had that much to eat compared to normal – not sure if it’s the running (abs hurting), or all the sugar from this week finally catching up to me! Oh well, my appetite will probably be back with a vengeance tomorrow and there will be no stopping me from devouring our new cookie creations :). Just have to be sure to snap some pictures first!

12 days of cookies: chocolate cutouts

Remember yesterday when I said I was procrastinating making sugar cutouts? Well, I was holding out on you. I did successfully make gluten free cutouts, only not typical sugar cutouts. For the last few years chocolate cutouts have been a staple at Christmastime, and this year could be no different. Gluten or no gluten. In the wonderful Martha Stewart Cookie Cookbook, there is a recipe for Chocolate Cutouts and it is delectable. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out using gluten free bisquick, but hey – it was worth a shot.

Well, I must say that these surpassed my expectation. I think they turned out even better than the ones I used to make with flour. They were the perfect thickness (although I have to thank my wonderful Joseph Joseph adjustable rolling pin for the perfect 1/4″ dough!). And I must admit the reindeer adaptation is just about the cutest thing ever!

Chocolate Cutouts

  • 1 1/2c gluten free Bisquick
  • 1/2c + 2T cocoa powder (Trader Joe’s is the best!)
  • 3/4t xanthan gum
  • 1/8t salt
  • 1/4t cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2c powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2t vanilla

1. Sift the cocoa powder into a bowl with the gluten free bisquick, salt and cinnamon.

2. Beat the butter and powdered sugar together until pale and fluffy.

3. Add in the egg and vanilla.

4. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet until it is all incorporated. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for a couple of hours (up to a couple of days – if you’re baking a lot, it’s nice to get the doughs all ready before hand and then just bake away on the same day!).

5. Once the dough is chilled, take out of the fridge and separate into smaller, more manageable pieces. Dust your rolling surface and rolling pin with cocoa powder and roll to 1/4″ thickness.

6. Cut into desired shapes. In my case, mittens, snowmen and hearts. I’ve never used the heart cookie cutter before, but when I saw it I envisioned a reindeer! Luckily they turned out and didn’t look creepy ;).

7. Bake in a 350′ oven for 8-10 minutes, until set but not overbaked. Take out and allow to cool on the cookie sheets and then move to cooling racks.

8. Decorate with frosting and sprinkles, or just eat as-is. You really can’t go wrong with this recipe!

The reindeers are decorated with Snyder’s gluten free pretzel sticks, a colored white chocolate chip, and some eyes from a specialty baking store. Regular chocolate chips for the eyes will probably work too, but we had these laying around and I couldn’t resist!

Easy Chocolate Frosting

  • powdered sugar
  • sifted cocoa powder
  • a dab of softened butter
  • milk to moisten

1. Combine all ingredients and mix until a semi-thick consistency. There’s no exact measurements. Obviously the more cocoa powder you add, the darker chocolate flavor and color you will get. You want it thin enough to spread, but thick enough to not fall off – this one was spot-on!

The 12 days of cookies just keep getting better and better ;).