There is No Secret to Getting Fit

My Journey to Fitness

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Energy Bites (Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Raw)

Wow!  These little bites are amazing, and horribly addicting, so be sure to ration them!  I’ve come across bunches of cookie dough bite recipes, but most used flour or oats.  I wanted a grain-free version that didn’t scream “I have nuts!” and didn’t taste like a typical Lara Bar.  And frankly, I didn’t want them to just resemble cookie dough, I wanted them to taste just like cookie dough!  Tall order, but I think I delivered with this recipe.  They’re also kid approved!

These are vegan as long as you choose vegan chocolate chips such as Enjoy Life.  You can also just chop up your favorite dark chocolate instead of using chips. I used 1/2 cup in the recipe here, but it was a generous amount of chocolate.  1/3 cup would also work well.  You may find the baking soda an odd addition to the recipe, but it adds to the true cookie dough flavor so don’t leave it out.  You can substitute another 2 dates for the coconut sugar, but again, the coconut sugar gives it just the right flavor.  Trust me!

These are very easy to make and come together in about 10 minutes start to finish.  These are energy bites, but they taste like a treat for sure.  Just two of them is about a perfect 200-calorie clean food snack.


But don’t eat the whole batch at once!😉


Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites
via There is No Secret to Getting Fit

Makes approximately 2 dozen energy bites.
2 cups blanched almond flour  (Don’t substitute ground almonds for this one)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp coconut sugar
6 pitted medjool dates
2 tbsp coconut oil (Not melted.  Use refined for no coconut flavor.)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 to 1/2 c dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels, not the mini chips.)


Step 1:  Put all ingredients except the chocolate chips in your food processor.

Step 2:  Process until the “dough” starts to come together.  It will still look very crumbly.

Step 3:  Dump into a bowl and stir in the chocolate chips. (Don’t be temped to zoom them in the food processor.  The chips are best left whole)

Step 4:  Form into balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.  I used a cookie scoop to get uniform balls.

Step 5:  Pop into the freezer for an hour to set before storing.  Store in an airtight container either in fridge or freezer.

I enjoy these cold, but you can eat them at room temperature as soon as you make them.

Makes approximately 2 dozen energy bites.











There is No Secret to Getting Fit


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How I lost over 100 pounds, part 1: The Food

How I lost over 100 pounds


Yes, yes, I know I said there is no secret to getting fit.  And that’s true, it’s all about a healthy diet and exercise.  But it’s definitely not an easy point to arrive to.  I often get asked about how exactly I lost my weight, specifically, how did I change my diet.  Obviously I had to change the way I eat quite significantly to have lost the weight that I lost.  Of course it’s not just about the food, but I’ll talk more about exercise in another post.

So, here we go, the food… About 9 months into my weight loss journey, I finally realized that exercising a small amount each day and trying to reduce my portion sizes just wasn’t working to continue to take off the weight.  I had hit a plateau already and I was only about 20 pounds down.  I realized that if I wanted to get significant results, I needed to change my lifestyle drastically.  What I was eating and what I was doing for exercise worked for a few months, then stalled because I never actually changed my eating habits or took my exercise to the next level.

I arrived at the way I eat today over a gradual process of listening to my body and changing my food choices based on how I felt after eating certain foods.  I didn’t use a nutritionist, but I did read a lot about nutrition and “clean eating”.

First things first.  I had over 100 pounds to lose.  This was extremely daunting, especially considering I was NEVER fit, I was ALWAYS significantly overweight, from childhood through adulthood, and I was addicted to food. I made every excuse in the world to avoid changing my habits from “I’ll just go back to worse habits if I deprive myself” to “I really don’t eat all that unhealthy” to “If ‘Suzie’ is so fit, and she can eat junk food, then I should be able to do it too”.   I was convinced that there was an easy way that didn’t involve giving up sugar and treats on a daily basis and was minimal effort.

Finally, I was ready to give it a “real” try.  I was ready to admit that there’s no magic pill, no quick fix, no easy way, no secret.  This was all on me and I had to put the work in to get there.

The beginning of my diet overhaul was probably the most difficult.  I was used to eating dessert every night, I was used to eating processed foods, “diet” foods, and foods filled with hidden sugar.  My fist step with food was pretty drastic.  I completely eliminated white flour and processed white sugar.  I forced myself to skip dessert.  It was hard!  I craved the sugar, I was addicted to it.  Dessert had become an ingrained habit.  It took about 2 weeks before the massive sugar cravings went away, but I continued with no sugar or white flour in my diet because it was working!  Between this change in my diet and a significant increase in my exercise levels, I was consistently losing weight every week.

As the weight came off, I gradually started tweaking my diet.  In the beginning stages I was a little bit “afraid” of food.   I was afraid to let myself explore too many options, so I would typically eat the same limited foods and snacks every day.  At this point, I was still eating packaged protein bars almost daily, Kashi frozen meals, whole grain breads, crackers, pretzels and beans.  I still ate a good deal of foods that were “pre-measured” for me.  I knew I needed to get out of this tiny box of selections I backed myself into, so I started experimenting with different foods.  One of the first things I did was cut out the “safe” 200 calorie protein bars and I came up with little grab and go whole food snacks.  I always have an option with me while I am out and about.

After about two months of eating no sugar or white flour, I started noticing that I no longer really craved grains at all.  There were many days that I would go without adding any grains in my diet.  On days I had grains, I started to notice I didn’t feel great after eating them.  I naturally started steering away from grains.  After a bit of experimenting, I did find that oats do not affect me if I have them once in a while.  Quinoa and brown rice also seem to agree with me in small quantities, once in a while.  I generally don’t add these into my diet more than once or twice per week at most.  Another food sensitivity I became aware of was beans.  Every time I had beans, I would feel awful for up to 3 days after eating them.  Interestingly enough, my brother has found he has the same food sensitivities and reactions that I do and we hadn’t discussed it until we had both already figured it out for ourselves.  We are both able to have dairy (cheese, butter and ice cream), without adverse reactions, however, I still limit my dairy consumption to greek yogurt in my smoothies and some cheese in my recipes.

For those of you familiar with Paleo and Primal eating, you’ve caught on to where I am going with this.  Once I had realized on my own how different foods affected my body, I had started researching recipes and ideas for meals I could make.  Of course, that led me to Paleo and Primal eating websites and recipes.  All of the recipes I make are made with whole foods, that’s the #1 most important factor.  From there, they are typically grain-free and/or gluten-free, primal or paleo but sometimes with cheese.  I eat full fat versions of everything, nothing low fat or diet, and I eat lots of vegetables.

I do have people ask me if I recommend Paleo or Primal eating for weight loss.  My answer is, no.  I believe that everyone is different and every body reacts differently to different foods.  What I do recommend is shifting to a whole food, “clean” diet.  And from there you can start to experiment and see what foods make your body feel good and what foods you have a sensitivity to.  For some people this may mean eating a vegetarian diet, vegan, balanced diet with some whole grains, paleo, primal, or gluten-free.  There is no “one way” to eat, but getting rid of overly processed foods is a MUST!

Over the past 2 years I gradually tweaked what I eat and what I feed my family to be meals made from whole foods.  I don’t eat frozen boxed meals or “diet foods” any more, and I avoid anything overly processed.  Overly processed to me means more than 5 ingredients on the package, but typically I purchase packaged whole foods like bagged spinach or plain greek yogurt or other packaged goods with just one ingredient.  I enjoy cooking and coming up with new recipes using all whole food ingredients.

One of the things I find has made the difference in being able to lose the weight and stick with it, (versus the many, many yo-yo diets and failed attempts) is that I didn’t follow a diet plan.  I didn’t go on Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, I wasn’t counting calories, starving myself or trying weight loss pills.  I learned about white sugar and processed white flour addictions (which are in just about every overly processed food), and I eliminated those and LISTENED TO MY BODY.  I refined my diet to consist of the foods that make me feel good and I focus on my body’s hunger signals.  It sounds so simple, eat when you’re hungry, don’t over eat, make sure you aren’t snacking just because the food is there or because it’s “time to have a snack”.  Yes, though this concept is simple, really honing in and listening to your body takes time.  It’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger, and it’s easy to keep eating when something tastes good, even if you’ve had plenty to eat.  It’s also important not to eat until you’re full.  If you keep eating until you feel full, you’ve over eaten.

Anyone that’s binged before or over eaten knows that it’s almost an out of control feeling.  You start eating and you just can’t stop.  Eating triggers the desire for more food and your brain says “lets eat this fast so we can have the next thing”.  It’s something that’s extremely difficult to stop when you’re in the midst of a binge.

I came up with a list of some key things to help avoid binging and over-eating.

  1. Have a glass of water about 10 minutes before your meal.  This will speed along your brain’s hunger signal, which normally takes about 20 minutes.
  2. Plate your meals on smaller plates and use small bowls.  You will see a full plate of food and this helps make you feel like you’re not eating a smaller portion of food.
  3. Don’t leave food on the table in serving bowls.  This encourages “picking” at the leftovers and you may mindlessly plate more food.
  4. Load up on the veggies.  Your plate should be colorful and it should be loaded with fresh vegetables and a small amount of protein (and grains if you eat them).
  5. Once you have eaten and you begin to feel satisfied (not full), clear your plate away and quickly find something else to do.  In the beginning of your journey, you may need to remove yourself entirely from the kitchen until the urge to continue eating passes.  This may be 10-30 minutes.
  6. Brush your teeth/tongue!  Most people don’t want to eat right after they brush their teeth because not many foods taste good with the flavor of toothpaste in your mouth.  Brush your teeth and/or brush your tongue.  Brushing your teeth too often can be bad for your gums, so brushing your tongue also works!  You’ll be less likely to continue eating and, bonus, your breath with smell lovely!  Brushing your tongue when a craving hits can also help you get past the craving.
  7. Keep busy and avoid temptation.  Whether you’re a stay at home mom, you work from home, or in an office, steer clear of the kitchen and keep yourself busy.  Put snacks somewhere that they aren’t readily accessible, so you have to make a conscious decision as to when you actually need a snack.  It’s so easy to have that healthy snack ready and mindlessly eat it, rather than listen to your body and eat it when you’re actually hungry.  Boredom also leads to snacking, so get out of the house or make a plan of things you need to do.  If you need some relaxing time, try to avoid temptation by staying away from the kitchen.
  8. Eat at the table without distractions.  I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, but it’s true.  It’s so easy to mindlessly eat in front of the TV or while driving or reading.  Practice conscious eating.  Enjoy your food with no distractions, and take your time.  Eat with others if you can, too.  There’s nothing worse than realizing you just polished off an entire bag of chips or carton of ice cream and you barely even remember tasting it.
  9. If you have a time of day that you normally binge or find yourself over-snacking, make a conscious effort to drink a glass of water before this typical time or have a cup of hot tea.  Don’t try to replace your normal “go-to” junk food with a “diet” alternative.  It’s likely that your body is craving the snacks you normally choose because they have become a habit.  The best way to break a habit is to completely eliminate it rather than looking for an alternative.  (Don’t replace a sugary treat with a whole foods sweet alternative, because you’re still feeding that sugar craving.  Same goes with salty foods, chips, etc…)  It’s OK once in a while to enjoy these foods, but as an overweight person, it is so important to break the habit before introducing these trigger foods back into your diet.
  10. Finally, if you slip up or have a day that you’ve over-indulged, just forgive yourself and move forward!  No one is perfect and we all have days where we aren’t in tune with what our body needs and instead we fuel our emotions.  Recognize what’s happening and STOP it in its tracks before you spiral out of control.  Remind yourself that you’re in control of your own health and your weight loss success.  Don’t tell yourself you’ll get back on track tomorrow, start the moment you recognize what’s happening.  Start with a tall glass of water, followed by brushing your teeth/tongue.  Then pat yourself on the back and find something to occupy your time.  You’ve got this!  YOU’RE in control!

Remember, this is not a diet.  This is a way of eating that is a permanent lifestyle change.  Recently, I had started having a few extra “treats” and snacks here and there (read about it more here).  I eat all clean foods that I make from scratch, but I do make grain-free treats that are meant to be a “once in a while” thing.  An extra little treat here and there, then craving one at night started to become a habit.  My maintenance weight began to stay at the top of my normal fluctuation.  One day, I was making a treat to share with friends that I’d normally only ever have 1 of in a day, but I had quickly eaten 4 of them!  Thankfully, this was enough to remind me that my old habits can VERY easily come back if I start to be lax with my healthy habits.  It’s also a reminder that sugar is sugar.  Even though I am using natural sweeteners, it’s still sugar and I can easily get hooked on it and start to crave it if I have too much.  Once in a while is OK.  Every day, becoming a daily habit is not ok for me. I am happy to say that I am back on track and remembering to follow those tips I outlined above.

I often hear people say “I love food too much and life is too short not to enjoy good food”.  Well, I agree to a point.  I do enjoy good food.  Everything I eat is delicious, nourishing and satisfying.  I never feel deprived, but I do start to feel out of control when I let too many treats sneak back into my diet (sugar was my trigger!).  Sure, if I could eat ice cream and other treats every day and feel great and stay fit and healthy, I’d probably eat the ice cream and treats.  Unfortunately for me (and most of us), that’s just not the case.  I would rather enjoy my life being active, healthy, having fun with my kids, running, boxing, weight lifting, and doing all the things I couldn’t do when I was obese.  Life is too short not to make the most of it.  Life is too short to spend time feeling bad about unhealthy food choices I’ve made.  I wasn’t comfortable when I was overweight.  I was limited in the things I could do, limited in activities I could participate in, limited in so many things.  I’m not saying that overweight people can’t be happy, I was happy when I was overweight.  I wasn’t happy about my body or my health, but I was happy with the life I had made.  However, getting fit has improved my lifestyle and made my happy life more enjoyable.

More to come on my “secret” to getting fit, part 2:  exercise!

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Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Turkey Chili (Paleo, Gluten-Free)

One of the meals I miss since I no longer eat beans is chili.  It’s an easy weeknight meal to make, and is a nice comforting meal on a cold night.

I experimented with a few different variations of this recipe and came up with one that’s savory with a bit of sweetness.  The chili powder adds a slight kick, but not enough to consider it spicy.  If you prefer a more spicy chili, you can add some red pepper flakes.  We enjoy this one as is, and the kids gobble it up!  If you have family members or guests that do not follow a Paleo diet, you can serve this with some corn tortilla chips too.


Pumpkin Sweet Potato Chili

Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Turkey Chili
via There is No Secret to Getting Fit


1 tbsp coconut oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced  (any color works well, I like orange or red, but you can add green for a contrasting color)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb ground turkey
1 large sweet potato, diced
28 oz (about 3 cups) diced tomatoes
2 cups pureed pumpkin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice**
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
sea salt to taste

Step 1:  In a large pot or skillet, melt coconut oil.  Sauté onion and bell pepper until onion is translucent (season with a little s&p).  Add minced garlic and sauté another minute.
Step 2:  Add ground turkey, season with a little s&p and cook until no longer pink.
Step 3:  Add the tomatoes, pumpkin, chili powder, pumpkin pie spice and pepper.  Simmer covered for about 20 minutes, or until sweet potato is cooked through.
Step 4:  Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.

If you eat dairy, top with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese.

**Make your own pumpkin pie spice:  1 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp allspice

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Sweet & Tangy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Did you know that brussels sprouts were once rated the most hated vegetable in the US?  Yep, when I was growing up, I had only seen them boiled to a pulp, stinky and, well, gross.  But times have changed and brussels sprouts seem to be the big “come back” veggie of the year.  I’ve seen tons of recipes posted and they seem to pop up on lots of menus now too.  Here are some interesting facts about Brussels Sprouts for you to peruse as your sprouts cook.  Read quickly though, this recipe cooks up fast!

I was determined to like brussels sprouts since seeing them pop up on menus and in recipes online.  I’ve had them out at restaurants and enjoy them somewhat, but never really loved them until I was at the airport (of all places) and had them at a restaurant with bacon.  Bacon makes everything taste better!  I then set out to come up with a recipe that wasn’t too sweet, wasn’t overpowered by bacon, but was delicious.  After many attempts that resulted in just mediocre sprouts, I finally came up with the right combination of ingredients.  These are sweet, but not overly sweet and they have a nice tang and a crunch of bacon too.  You don’t have to roast them in the oven and they just take minutes on the stove.  They’re really rather easy and quick to make!  Depending on the size of my sprouts, I may halve them or quarter them or leave them whole if they are tiny.  If you like to keep your sprouts in tact, just halve them and don’t stir too much.  I don’t mind when my sprouts fall apart a bit though.

Join the brussels sprouts movement*! (*That’s not really a thing, but maybe it should be?) If you’ve been looking for a brussels sprouts recipe to make you love brussels sprouts, give this one a try and report back to me with what you thought!  This dish will be going on our Thanksgiving table this year!



Sweet & Tangy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon 
via There is No Secret to Getting Fit

4 thick slices of uncured bacon, diced
1 package (about 1 lb) brussels sprouts, washed and halved (remove any brown leaves and the bottom part of the stem)
Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


Step 1:  Using a large skillet or wide bottom pot, cook your diced bacon until crisp and browned. (You can add a tsp of coconut oil to prevent sticking, but you shouldn’t need it since the bacon will release fat.)  Remove bacon bits to a paper towel with a slotted spoon, reserving the bacon fat in the pan.
Note* It’s easiest to dice your bacon when it’s very cold, and I prefer this method to cooking bacon in strips and crumbling it.

Step 2:  Place your brussels sprouts in the pan with the bacon fat.  Season liberally with salt & pepper.  Cook on med/high covered for about 3 minutes, or until the bottoms are caramelized.  Toss and cook another 3 minutes, covered.  The sprouts should be just about cooked through and caramelized.

Step 3:  Add the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup (not the apple cider vinegar yet!).  Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 4:  Add the apple cider vinegar.  Toss and cook for about a minute.  Add additional s&p if needed.

Step 5:  Remove from heat and add in the bacon bits.  Toss and serve.


Step 1: Make the bacon bits


Step 2: Season and cook the brussels spouts in the bacon fat.


Step 3: Add the balsamic vinegar & maple syrup. Step 4: Add the apple cider vinegar just before removing from heat.


Step 5: Remove from heat, toss with bacon bits and serve!

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Apple Pie Pancakes (Paleo, Gluten-Free)

It all started with 2 eggs and a banana.  Or how about this… 2 eggs and a banana walked into an apple pie… no?

Anyway… When I came across the simple combination of 2 eggs and one banana to make a pancake “batter”, I started playing around with all sorts of versions of this simple, good for you pancake!  I posted the original version of these “everyday pancakes” here.  During APPLEMAGEDDON this fall (that’s when we all go crazy picking too many apples than we know what to do with so we have to come up with recipes to use them in like this one and this one)… wait, where was I? Oh yes, so I came up with recipes to use my apples in and this was a Sunday morning whim where I decided some warm apples would be super yummy in pancakes for the kids and the husband.  They eat grains and tolerate them well, so I made “real” pancakes with apples for them and I tossed some of the leftover apples in my pancakes.  They turned out fantastic!  I have since made them a few times and have even gotten lazy and just microwaved my apple instead of using a separate pan on the stove.  That worked well too, though it wasn’t quite as thick as it gets on the stove.  Do it on the stove for the full YUM factor.

As with the original version, you have to be patient and let them cook for a good 5 minutes on one side before flipping.  If they wobble and start to break when you try to flip, just wait another minute.  Make sure your pan is nicely oiled too and I find an electric skillet cooks these most evenly without burning.




Apple Pie Pancakes
Apple mixture:
1 small apple, diced (Gala or Golden Delicious work well)
2 tsp coconut oil
pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
splash of maple syrup

Pancake Batter:
2 eggs
1 banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of sea salt (optional)
1 tbsp coconut oil

Step 1:  Heat a small pan and melt coconut oil.  Add apples and salt.  Cover and let soften, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Step 2:  While your apple is cooking, mix pancake batter ingredients using a stick blender, blender or hand mixer until smooth.
Step 3:  Once apple is softened, add cinnamon, nutmeg and syrup.  Stir and let cook on high heat for a moment, until the juices  reduce and you have a nice thick apple mixture.
Step 4:  Heat electric skillet and melt coconut oil.  Pour the batter onto your heated skillet into 6 small pancakes.  You can either mix your apples into the batter OR you can make your pancakes and top with the apples before flipping.  Both methods work, but you do need to be very patient about flipping your pancakes.  They really need to firm up nice and golden underneath before flipping.  This may take up to 5 minutes, depending on how hot your skillet is.  Be sure to watch your pancakes and make sure they don’t burn!  Once flipped, cook until golden on the other side, about 1 minute.  Enjoy!  (These are delicious with no other toppings added.)

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Zucchini Pie with Spinach and Mushrooms (Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Meatless)

I came across a version of this recipe for crustless zucchini pie quite a while ago.  I modified it to be grain-free and gluten-free and added a little more flavor to it too.  I’ve made varying versions of it as a side dish, a main meal, for pot lucks and to bring to friends that are vegetarians.  It’s basically like a quiche, but there’s fewer eggs and cheese and a lot more flavor.  It’s such an easy recipe to change up too.  You can eliminate the mushrooms or spinach and add something else or just have a plain zucchini pie.  I’ve made many different combinations with this recipe.  You can also reduce the cheese even more or eliminate it all together if you don’t do dairy.   It’s such a great recipe for leftovers because it reheats nicely.  Plus, it’s something you can feel good about eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a side.  Awesome, huh?  I used to think that about ice cream too, but as it turns out, though ice cream is delicious any time of day, it doesn’t do wonders for the waistline!  Go figure.

My instructions tell you to combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet and so on.  You can do that, but to be honest, I usually just have a giant bowl, toss it all in and mix it up.  I do give the eggs a bit of a whisk first though.  Keep it simple!




Zucchini Pie with Spinach and Mushrooms
Via There is No Secret to Getting Fit

4 medium zucchini, shredded
1 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 package of mushrooms, washed and sliced
4 cups raw baby spinach
Sea Salt & Pepper

3 tbsp died parsley (or 1/4 c fresh chopped parsley)
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1/4 cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly shredded cheddar, monterey jack or a combo
2/3 c almond milk
1 tsp melted coconut oil
3 large eggs, whisked
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup (or less) freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 1:  Place zucchini and salt in cheese cloth (or clean tea towel).  Let sit at least 15 minutes before squeezing out all of the liquid.  Sometimes I squeeze it out, then go back to my prep work and squeeze one more time right before adding it.

Step 2:  Melt coconut oil in a skillet, sauté onion (season with s&p) until translucent, then place in a large bowl.  Sauté mushrooms (season with s&p) in the same pan, transfer to the bowl.  Finally, sauté the spinach (season with s&p) until wilted and set aside.

Step 3:  Combine the parsley, almond flour, baking powder and cheeses with the onion and mushrooms.  Add the milk, coconut oil, eggs, worcestershire sauce, S&P and combine.  Add the drained zucchini and spinach and mix until combined.

Step 4:  Pour mixture into a deep dish pie plate sprayed with olive oil (I use my Misto).  Top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees until completely set, about 60-70 minutes (knife will come out clean and the top will get golden brown).  Cover the top of your pie with parchment paper if the cheese is getting too brown.

Remove from oven and let cool about 5-10 minutes before cutting.


Step 1: Prep the zucchini.  10_29_13 477 10_29_13 479 10_29_13 480

Step 2:  Yes, I know, I didn’t take pictures of my sautéd onions, mushrooms and spinach. No worries, you got this!

Step 3:  Here you can see all of the ingredients mixed up in one bowl.  IMG_5854


Step 4:  This is the end result, out of the oven, sliced and plated up!  Yum, yum, EXTRA YUM!  (Did anyone get that reference?  Probably not, because you have to have kids and you have to read some pretty random books to have gotten that one.  It’s from a book called “Little Pea”.)
IMG_5856 IMG_5858 IMG_5861

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Pumpkin Pecan Spice Cookies with Chocolate Chips (Gluten Free with Paleo option)

I made these Pumpkin Pecan Caramel Bars to take to a friend recovering from surgery. We kept a few for ourselves, which everyone enjoyed!

My daughter was looking through a catalog for ideas on to dd to her Christmas wish list.  She came across some silly kids’  cooking set.  I told her, we have everything she needs to cook in our kitchen and she’s old enough to use it, so she can learn the right way using real cooking tools.  She quickly decided she wanted to make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Funny thing is that we have never made these before, so it was totally her idea! She’s been enjoying all of the pumpkin recipes we’ve been making with my many cups of frozen pumpkin puree!

My husband suggested making the bars I referenced above into cookies because they we really good. So I modified the recipe only very slightly and made cookies (no added date caramel, however you can add it if you like a sweeter cookie). The result is a big hit with everyone.  They’re soft and not overly sweet at all and have just the right combination of pumpkin, spices and chocolate chips.

PALEO NOTE*  As you know, I follow mostly Paleo with the occasional oats in my diet, but I can enjoy these (one or 2 on occasion) and have no issues. However, you can also make them Paleo by substituting 1 1/4 cups total almond flour plus 3 tbsp coconut flour for the oats. The cookies will need to cool completely to set up before removing from tray.

By the way, check out the site where I got the original recipe.  She’s vegan, but many of her recipes are quite versatile and she does have lots of gluten free, flourless and even paleo recipes.  I’ve even used some of her recipes as a base for a meat or chicken dish.


Pumpkin Pecan Spice Cookies with Chocolate Chips

1 cup gluten free rolled oats
1 cup raw pecans, plus ¼ cup reserved
1/4 cup Almond Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg

½ c mini chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Step 1:  In a food processor, grind up the pecans and oats into a slightly coarse flour.

Step 2:  Add remaining dry ingredients to the flour and pulse a few times to combine. Pulse in the extra ¼ cup pecans, keeping them course (or mix in chopped pecans). Transfer to a bowl.

Step 3:  In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and mix well.

Step 4:  Add wet to dry and mix until combined. Fold in mini chocolate chips.

Step 5:  Using a cookie scoop, drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees 15-18 minutes.

Makes about 40 cookies.

These should be stored in the fridge.  They will get a bit moist when stored.  You can eat them cold or pop in the toaster to get that “fresh from the oven” taste.  YUM!


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“How I Got Through Treadmill Running” and a potential downward spiral!

This morning marked the end of of a ritual.  Though I much prefer road running to treadmill running, I do still hop on the treadmill when kids are home or weather is awful.  When I first started “wogging” (walk/jogging), I would just listen to music with a fan pointed at me, hoping I wouldn’t become a sweaty mess.  Over time I worked up to running and eventually started outside running.  Once I was consistently running outside, I found it really hard to get back to treadmill running when it was my only option, so to pass the time I started watching “How I Met Your Mother”.  It was a great show to watch while running.  It was funny, I didn’t have to pay close attention to various plot lines and it passed the time.  I’d typically get in a little over 2 miles per episode (without commercials), and I’d usually run to between 2-3+ episodes at a time.

I’ve had the last 2 episodes left in my queue for a little while.  This morning, with kids off from school, I found myself doing a treadmill run to the last 2 episodes.  Please remind me not to watch the ending to a show I enjoy while running, especially with the chance that it will be an emotional one.  For the record, keeping your footing while running, and breathing, all while trying to hold back a sob is not easy!  Then, with another 20 minutes of running after the series ended, it was not ideal!  So in that last 20 minutes of silent running (well, as silent as it can be with 2 kids playing and asking me questions and trying to show me things and practicing piano), I found myself thinking about the number of hours I’d spent just running on the treadmill.  There were 208 episodes of the series at about 2 miles per episode is 416+ miles, and that’s just a fraction of my total running when you add in the outside running I do.

I’m still amazed at how far I’ve come, but I also get frustrated that I still haven’t lost that last bit of weight I’ve wanted to lose.  Lately, my normal 5 pound weight fluctuation has been staying at the upper end and I have been too liberal in letting myself have more of the sweet treats I test and make for kids and friends and my blog.  So about a week ago, I decided I needed to buckle down on my eating habits.  I recognized I was eating when I wasn’t hungry and snacking more often.  I am refocusing on being a more conscious eater.  I do eat clean about 95% of the time.  Most days it’s 100%.  For me, “eating clean” means making everything from scratch.  The only packaged ingredients I use have one ingredient (like packaged spinach or diced tomatoes).  BUT, there have been days lately that I have been more “snacky” and found myself wanting to eat more even after a meal.  An extra handful of nuts, an extra treat here and there… they add up to my weight creeping on the wrong side of my maintenance weight.

How does all this tie in with my treadmill run this morning?  Well, in that extra 20 “silent” minutes this morning, I was thinking about all those episodes and miles and hours of just running on the treadmill.  Then I thought about how hard I work out 6 days a week, between weight training, boxing and running, I burn a huge number of calories!  I had already started re-focusing on my eating habits, but I was thinking about writing this post and putting it out here to make myself accountable.  So, here it is.

I was also thinking about how crucial it is to have been able to stop myself from getting back into really bad habits and re-focus on my health and eating habits.  The old yo-yo dieter in me would have had a much more difficult time with it.  Sure, I could kick myself for not buckling down sooner and just focusing on those last few pounds (and for the record, it’s not so much a number as it is just a comfortable size for my frame), but I just need to look forward and set my goals and work towards them.

Set backs for many people can turn into binges, depression, hiding out, avoidance, and so many other things.  I remember for me, any time I was on the gaining end of a yo-yo, I’d think, well it’s just a few pounds, I can easily lose that again.  I’ll start tomorrow, or the next day or the next day… and more often than not, it took a long long time to get back on track.

Why is it so difficult for us to forgive ourselves and move forward?

Why do we instead “punish” ourselves by binging or hiding from the scale and mirrors and from confronting ourselves on it?

I’m not sure of the answer, but I can tell you that I am thankful to now be able to forgive myself and move forward.  Perhaps teaching classes and being a role model for others is part of the reason I am able to quickly get myself back on track?  Again, I am not sure exactly what the difference is.  I suppose it’s the same change of thinking I had to be able to lose the weight to start with.  I do recognize how difficult it can be, and I know that being able to pull yourself out of a potential downward spiral takes a tremendous amount of mental will power and effort!  I want my clients and others struggling to know that it’s not just you.  I’ve been there and though I am able to now pull myself out of the potential downward spiral, the possibility is still there.  The challenges, the temptations, the old habits… they are all still there.

The answer for me?  I just have to get out of my head with the “tomorrow is another day” mentality, buckle down and remember that I am responsible for my health.  I can’t let occasional treats turn into every day, more frequent treats, because it leads to my old bad habits.  No excuses.  That has been my motto to myself from the start of my journey.  Excuses don’t give me results, and they don’t make me feel any better about myself, they’re just there to try to “justify” my decisions to others.  Plateaus and speed bumps are inevitable, but moving forward from them is what matters.

My hope is to be able to reach others that are going through these downward spirals and help them get out and move forward. You’re not alone.  You’re not weak.  You just need to yell at that little voice giving you the excuses and telling you “tomorrow, or the next day.”.  Make yourself accountable.  Ask for help!  Set a goal.  It’s not easy.  It’s hard work, every day.  But I know if I could do it, YOU can too!  (Yes, YOU!)

Now… who is going to recommend a new series for me to watch while treadmill running?


Paleo Pumpkin Pie Bites with Spiced Coconut Whipped Cream

Paleo PPie Bites

My cravings for seasonal treats haven’t completely disappeared since I switched to a clean, whole foods, mostly Paleo diet.  Though I don’t crave super sweet, dense, rich desserts, I still have the occasional craving for seasonal treats like pumpkin pie.   I wanted the moist, creaminess of the pie filling, but in a stable enough form that you could still pick up without having a crust or tart shell.  These little babies are just that.  They’re super creamy and moist, but you can still pick them up (gently!) and pop one in your mouth.  I like to make most of my teats in bite size form because I am usually just craving a little taste of a treat, rather than wanting to indulge in a big serving.

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a great deal on pie pumpkins and have a huge amount of pumpkin puree frozen and ready to use at a moment’s notice!  I made a very similar version of this recipe about a month ago and my daughter was asking me to make it again.  I tweaked my recipe a bit and came up with something worthy of posting.

My pumpkin moment arrived last night.  Armed with my over-abundance of pumpkin that I pureed and froze conveniently in 1-cup measures, I set to work on this delicious little bite.  As I said, my 7 year old daughter is a huge pumpkin fan and absolutely loves these, and my non-pumpkin-loving husband really enjoys them too!  My 5 year old son thinks they look suspect and didn’t want to try them- yet.  We’ll get there with him!  ;)

Be sure to plan ahead a bit.  These are best eaten cold!


Paleo Pumpkin Pie Bites with Spiced Coconut Whipped Cream
Via There is No Secret to Getting Fit
Yields about 48 mini muffin sized bites


Pumpkin Pie Bites
2 cups pureed pumpkin (if you use a can, the ingredients should just say pumpkin)
1 very ripe banana
1 can full fat coconut milk
1/3 c maple syrup
1/3 c coconut sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 c almond flour
3 tbsp coconut flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Spiced Coconut Whipped Cream
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground ginger
pinch nutmeg


Step 1:  Using a blender, combine pumpkin and banana until smooth.  Add in remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and fully combined.  Let the batter sit for a few minutes.

Step 2:  While your batter is thickening up a bit, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line mini muffin tins with paper or foil liners or silicone liners and spray with nonstick spray (I use olive oil in my Misto).  (I think the paper liners at the best idea if you plan on sharing these.  Though they can be picked up, they aren’t super stable.  The paper liners make it easier to pick them up, share them and even pack as a snack.  You definitely need liners in your muffin tins or they will not come out cleanly, no matter how non-stick.)

Step 3:  Once your oven is preheated and your muffin tins are lined, give the batter a quick whirl around in your blender.  Batter will still be very thin!  Pour batter into the mini baking cups, filling to the top.

Step 4:  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Let cool on counter for about 10 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before removing from the tins. (The middle may sink a bit, but that’s just a convenient vessel for the whipped cream).  Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.  I store mine in layers with waxed paper or parchment paper between each layer.)

Step 5:  When you’re ready to serve these, make your whipped topping.  Open your refrigerated can of coconut milk.  Scoop out the solid cream on top of the can and discard the remaining water (or save it to use in a smoothie!).  Using a whisk attachment on your mixer, whip the coconut cream for about 5 minutes, until it looks fluffy.  Add in the maple syrup and spices and whip for another 30 seconds or so.

Step 6:  Put a dollop of the whipped cream on top of your pumpkin pie bite and pop it in your mouth.

OK, maybe for you it’s more like 2-3 bites to be “dainty” about it.  :)



Chicken Satay with Creamy Pumpkin Curry Sauce (Paleo/Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free)

Pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin!

Our local Whole Foods had an awesome deal on pie pumpkins, so I took advantage!  It’s so easy to make your own pumpkin puree!  Here’s my easy method:  cut your pumpkins in half, remove the stem and take out the seeds and pulp (save your seeds to make roasted pumpkin seeds!).  Roast the pumpkin halves face down at 400 degrees for about an hour or until the flesh is very soft.  Remove and let cool at least an hour.  The skin should separate from the pumpkin flesh as it cools.  Remove the flesh, puree’ and freeze in 1-cup portions.  I have found that a stick blender is the fastest and easiest way to puree the pumpkin, but a food processor works well too if you add the pumpkin in small batches.

Now, with all of this pumpkin on hand, I needed come up with some recipes to use.  When thinking about pumpkin recipes, sweet treats always come to mind, but I wanted to try it in a savory dish.  I’ve used the satay marinade many times with a peanut dipping sauce, so I decided to change it up and try out a pumpkin curry sauce.  The results were so delicious, even my husband loved it and he isn’t a fan of pumpkin.

I have also made the sauce recipe to top just plain grilled chicken and it’s still quite good, but cuts the prep time down since you don’t have to marinade the chicken or even do kabobs.

Yum, try this one soon!!

Chicken Satay with Creamy Pumpkin Curry Sauce

Chicken Satay Marinade
1 1/2 to 2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 cup full fat coconut milk (save the rest of the can for the pumpkin sauce)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Creamy Pumpkin Curry Sauce
2 tsp coconut oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you’d like an extra kick)
2/3 cup coconut milk (full fat makes a thicker and creamier sauce)
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
(Plus extra s&p to taste)


Step 1:  Combine marinade ingredients.  Toss the marinade with the chicken, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to 1 day.

Step 2:  Make the pumpkin sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt coconut oil.  Sauté onion with a little s&p until translucent.  Add red pepper flakes and sauté for an additional minute.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  (You can make the sauce while the chicken is on the grill or reheat when the chicken comes off the grill.)

Step 3:  Thread chicken onto skewers.  (I highly recommend these skewers!) Grill chicken using indirect cooking on the grill until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Step 4:  Toss chicken with pumpkin sauce or you can control the amount of sauce you use by spooning it over your chicken.  Serve over brown rice or riced cauliflower.



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