Tuesday, November 25, 2014

{What Will Ate} Apricot Oat Cakes

Healthy snacking is just as important for our little people as it is for us! I like to keep a variety of things on hand for Will to snack on. These little oat cakes are made with wholesome ingredients and are perfect for tiny hands. Will has been snacking on these this week and loves them. They also make a great pre or post run snack for me which is even better. I omitted the butter and used organic butter infused olive oil from Pour Olive which was a genius and much healthier swap. 

This recipe is another gem from my favorite baby cookbook, Cooking For Baby. The apricots are so delicious, but you could really mix in any of your favorite dried fruits. The coconut adds to the substance and texture of the cakes, so I wouldn't leave that out. If you do, just add two extra tablespoons of oats. 

Apricot Oak Cakes
recipe from Cooking for Baby

Coconut oil cooking spray
Organic old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. finely chopped dried apricots
2 Tbsp. shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup water, heated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray with oil.

In a mixing bowl, combine oats, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Make a small well in the center and add the olive oil and honey. Using a rubber spatula, combine until all oats are coated. Mix in apricots and coconut.

Heat 1 cup of water on the stove until just before it begins to boil. Add hot water to the oat mixture 2 Tablespoons at a time, stirring after each addition with a rubber spatula. Oats will become wet and sticky. With wet hands, mix oat dough one final time. The dough will be sticky, but not firm. 

Using two large spoons, scoop and drop dough onto baking sheets. Shape into 2-inch round flat cakes. Bake oatcakes until edges turn golden brown and centers are firm and not sticky, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Store oatcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beer Tasting with Noda Brewing Company

Last night, we had the pleasure of attending a beer tasting hosted by our best family friends and one of my favorite local breweries, Noda Brewing Company. These beers are some of the best to order when we go out to our favorite local spots. Most recently, Noda's pumpkin beer, Gordgeous, stole my heart. I had it served with a cinnamon and brown sugared rim and can't get enough.

Last night's tasting featured six of Noda's beers, all paired with different cheeses and chocolates. I've done plenty of wine tastings but never a beer tasting. This was so much fun and I learned so much about the different beers that we tried as well as beer in general. My favorite? A chocolate coconut porter called Coco Loco. Over the past couple of years, I have grown to love darker beers so I am not surprised that this was my favorite! The actual Coco Loco that we tasted had just been canned two days prior!

If you're local, check out Noda Brewing at local restaurants, retail spots like Whole Foods or Fresh Market and take a trip to the brewery! Skip the shopping on Black Friday and drink beer instead! Noda's Christmas brew, Santa Baby, debuts at noon.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friendsgiving, Volume 3

If you are not celebrating Friendsgiving, you are missing out. In a big way. 

It is one of my favorite traditions and although this was the third year that our close group of friends celebrated together, this is the first year that Mark and I were able to join- with little Will in tow! He was our official mascot. 

I love, love, love this tradition and it is a true blessing to have such wonderful people in our lives. 

Our meal this year was stellar and everyone contributed something delicious. Our meal was complete with perfectly smoked turkey breast, sausage stuffing, butternut squash mac and cheese and plenty of other deliciously different sides. We even had a signature cocktail and plenty of Pumpking!

I made a batch of my favorite cranberry sauce, and this incredible Brussels Sprouts Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing from the Thanksgiving issue of Southern Living. If you like brussels sprouts, MAKE THIS SALAD. And if you don't like them...well...make it anyways. I'm convinced that if you don't like brussels sprouts, you just haven't had them prepared in a tasty way. This salad is sure to shake up your Thanksgiving table.

It was a wonderful afternoon spent with so many of our favorite people. Cheers to the holidays, cheers to 2014 and cheers to friends who feel like family. 

Similar Recipe Links:

Autumn Cocktail (try this Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail)
Butternut Squash + Apple Soup (this Apple- Butternut Squash soup from Martha looks yummy and with the addition of a jalapeno, has a little spice!)
Sausage Stuffing (this Spinach, Fennel + Sausage Stuffing with Toasted Brioche looks divine!)
Roasted Potatoes (this Crispy Potato Roast is gorgeous and delicious. Again, thanks Martha)
Kale Salad (try this Kale + Pomegranate Salad)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cranberry Sauce with Lemon + Orange

Cranberry sauce has always been one of my favorite parts of our Thanksgiving meal. I always reserve a little spot right next to my turkey and although those two are supposed to be eaten together, I prefer to eat my cranberry sauce by itself, straight from a spoon. In fact, when I was in college, my dad would send me back to school with a couple of containers to hold me over until Christmas break! I can't get enough of this stuff. Just this morning, I mixed a tablespoon into Will's plain Greek yogurt and he was in love, too! 

This recipe comes from my family's kitchen (thanks, Dad) and is simple and delicious. This is my very favorite kind of cranberry sauce! The best part is the ever so thin slices of orange and lemon rind that are sweet and citrusy after being cooked in the sauce. I could eat a whole bowl of the sweet, cranberry flavored orange and lemon rind all by themselves. Double the recipe to keep this brightly flavored cranberry sauce on hand throughout the entire holiday season! 

Cranberry Sauce with Lemon + Orange

4 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 sliced lemon
1 sliced orange
1.5 cups water

In a large, heavy bottom pot on medium heat, combine water, white sugar and brown sugar. When mixture is warm and sugars begin to dissolve, add cranberries, lemons and oranges. The cranberries will begin to pop and the sauce will start to bubble. Let the sauce simmer for 20-30 minutes (the longer it cooks, the thicker it will become once it's chilled), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cover. Store in airtight glass containers in the refrigerator. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Trick or Treat 2014!

Say hello to our little mini marathoner! It was the perfect costume for our little guy to sport on Halloween as we kicked off our marathon/half marathon weekend. We practiced wearing the sweat band all around the house during Halloween week to prep for the big day! 

Our neighborhood has the best little Halloween parade every year and Will cruised in his wagon as we walked along the streets. 

Hope everyone had a happy, happy Halloween! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

{What Will Ate} Vanilla Cinnamon Oatmeal

When the weather starts to get cool, I love to add oatmeal to my breakfast rotation. It's warm and nutritious and the flavor possibilities are endless. Old Fashioned Oats are my favorite and are worth the extra cooking time. 

This is the best and easiest oatmeal recipe for your littles! The oats cook in a bath of vanilla and cinnamon, giving it a sweet bite! Will loves this in the morning. It's quite a messy breakfast now that he particularly enjoys feeding himself from a spoon, but the kid has to learn some way, right!? I love to mix in fresh or frozen berries, applesauce or any other homemade fruit purees that I have on hand. 

One bowl for baby and one for mommy. Perfect to share with your pint sized breakfast date!

Vanilla Cinnamon Oatmeal
recipe from Cooking for Baby

2 cups water
1 cup organic old fashioned oats
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan on high heat, add water, cinnamon and vanilla. Bring to a boil.  Add the oats and turn the heat down to medium low. Once the oatmeal warms back up to a boil and starts to simmer, place a cover on top and remove from the burner. Let sit for 15 minutes. Serve with fresh fruit or any other flavor add ins that your baby loves. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thirteen Point Fun

Race weekend in Raleigh is officially in the books and I can now say that I've run 13.1 miles. Running my first half marathon was an incredible experience! I cannot fully put into words the excitement and energy that we all felt on race day as we made our way to the starting line.

When we stepped out of our hotel at 6am on race day it was cold. Really cold. I started to rethink my decision to wear shorts but there was no turning back now! As we arrived on NC State's campus, the sky was clear and the sun was rising. It was so beautiful! We were so lucky to have a big group there with us to cheer us on. My parents, my grandma, Mark's parents, Danica's husband Bryan and even my little sister's boyfriend made a surprise appearance all the way from Florida State! The surprise of the day for us, though, was seeing our amazing neighbors cheering us on! We had no clue that they hopped in their car at 3am to be there to see us start and finish. They are the best! Will was in good hands while we ran. 

As the starting time approached and we all lined up, it was terrifying and exciting. Mark went ahead of us and the girls stayed together. Before we knew it, we were off! The sun higher in the sky at this point and the view was beautiful. The trees were all shades of Fall loveliness and leaves were crunching beneath our feet. Despite the winter chill in the air, it was the perfect fall day!

We started off slow and steady, which was key. I always say that longer runs require finding your happy pace and settling in for the long haul. The miles seemed to go by so quickly. Running with friends is always better and it helped that we could encourage each other along the way. We pointed out the mile markers as we passed each one. The course was very hilly, but not much more than what I'm used to running around Charlotte. I purposefully chose hilly routes when I was training and I really think this helped to my advantage. 

By the time we hit mile five, we started to split up. Andi and Danica were cruising ahead and Natalie close behind them. Bryce and I stopped for a bathroom break and then kept going. Around mile six or seven, we passed the 2:30 pacer, which we were trying to do. The race volunteers and spectators were wonderful! Everyone was cheering so loud and the signs were hilarious. I wish I would have taken pictures of some of my favorites because I'm still laughing thinking about them. "If you haven't pooped your pants yet, you're winning". Need I say more. 

Bryce and I remained running buddies throughout the rest of the race. We kept a steady pace and cheered louder at each mile marker. We saw our families around miles eight and nine and this was a huge source of encouragement! Will was snoozing away in his stroller and I waved my hands in the air like a crazy person. As we approached mile ten, the end was truly in sight. This was my favorite mile marker and a lady standing there said "you've been waiting for this one all morning!" We knew at that point that there was only a 5k to go!

We looped around at mile eleven and passed Andi and Danica and then Natalie. We high fived and we were all smiling so big. Though I was starting to get tired, I never felt like I was struggling and I started to amp up the pace. Once we passed mile twelve, we could seriously hear the finish line. By the time we hit 12.5 we could see it and it was the best feeling ever. We ran straight downhill the last half mile and at the bottom of the hill, my family and everyone was there cheering and my eyes got watery. Bryce and I sped through to the finish and threw our hands up in the air when we crossed that line. Our official chip time was 2:18 and after factoring in a five minute bathroom break, we are technically claiming 2:13 which I'm super proud of! My goal was to finish under 2:30 so coming in well under that felt great.

We found the rest of the lovies and huddled up as we anxiously awaited Mark the marathoner to finish his 26.2! It was freezing but we were huddled up together and still had the finish line glow. 

As marathoners crossed the finish line, more and more excitement built up. Danica predicted that Mark would come in around 3:48. We kept checking his status and pace online and looking up at the hill towards the finish line for his orange zip up! When we finally saw him, we were screaming. We ran to the median and all high fived him as he finished his final .2 miles. It was more emotional than I thought it would be! He crossed the finish line at approximately 3:48...just like my marathon veteran sister knew that he would. 

This was, without a doubt, one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. It feels so good to work towards a goal and dive in 100%. I may still be riding the race day high, but there will definitely be more half marathons in my future.

Cheers to Team Lovie!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

#TeamLovie26: Weeks Nine + Ten

Before I post a full race recap from Raleigh this past weekend, it wouldn't be right to leave out the last two weeks of my training. Weeks nine and ten were honestly great. As I tapered my miles and focused on race day, so much excitement built up and I couldn't wait to get to Raleigh for the big day. I continued to focus on miles, not minutes, and kept a good pace with each run. 

My final long weekend run was six miles and it was easily one of the best runs during my training. My legs felt stronger than ever and I felt ready to conquer the race the following weekend. After so many miles and ten weeks of training, I felt such a sense of accomplishment! During the full ten weeks, I only missed one run due to running my ten miler on Sunday and using Monday to rest. Not too bad! 

13 miles (3.22 miles, 9:54)Rest3 miles (3.28 miles, 9:38Rest3 miles (4.00 miles, 9:38)Rest4 miles (3.26 miles, 9:36)13.76
23 miles (3.23 miles, 9:57)Rest4 miles (4.17 miles, 9:49)Rest3 miles (3.11 miles, 9:08)5 miles (5.02 miles, 9:04)Rest15.53
33 miles (rest-sick day)3. 12 miles (9:34)4 miles (5.27 miles, 9:35)Rest3 miles (3.26 miles, 9:28)6 miles (6.26 miles, 9:48)Rest17.91
43 miles (3.29 miles, 9:32)Rest5 miles (5.15 miles, 9:41)3 miles (3.07 miles, 9:46)Rest7 miles (7.15 miles, 10:00)Rest18.66
53 miles (3.25 miles, 9:20)Rest5 miles (5.24 miles, 9:35)Rest3 miles (3.10 miles, 9:24)8 miles (8.18 miles, 9:53)19.77
64 miles (4.01 miles, 10:00)Rest5 miles (5.03 miles, 10:08)4 miles (4.07 miles, 10:29)Rest9 miles (9.24 miles, 10:53)Rest22.35
74 miles (4.14 miles, 9:59)Rest6 miles (6.08 miles, 9:47)4 miles (4.09 miles, 9:49)RestRest10 miles (10.91 miles, 10:18)25.22
8RestRest5 miles (5 miles, 9:13)4 miles (4.16 miles, 9:31)Rest8 miles (8.39 miles, 10:14)Rest17.55
93 miles (3.12 miles, 9:54)Rest4 miles (4.26 miles, 9:27)Rest3 miles (3.11 miles, 9:37)Rest6 Miles (6.60 miles, 9:32)17.09
10Rest3 miles (3.01 miles, 9:49)Rest3 miles (3.20 miles, 9:38)RestRest13.1 miles19.31

The very last run of my training plan was extra special because Danica was here and we got to run together! We pumped each other up and couldn't stop talking about how great it was going to be to run the half marathon with our team of lovies! And...just like that...half marathon training is complete! Next up, a full race recap!