Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine

Forgive the pun-ny title, but I just couldn’t bring myself to come up with anything more creative to give you an update on how things have been going this past month.

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With the Dark Side Challenge about a month away, I’ve been keeping up with my training relatively well – only got sidelined with minor life-related issues twice so far, which isn’t too bad considering I never really stopped training after the Rebel Challenge in January. My weekly runs are hovering around the 11:00/mile pace and under, and even my long runs are strongly around 11:30ish.

Aside from running all the miles, I’ve also branched out this training cycle, and have tried things I never did before. Namely, taking a Barre class with my sis-in-law Meredith.

I’d heard of Barre before, and know that lots of celebrities swear by it – it was the kind of thing I read about and go “Hmm. That’s nice,” and move on. But when Mere suggested we try out a class at a shop not too far from where we both work, we went for it. And let me tell you – I now know why all those celebrities are in such good shape. Holy hell.

For those of you who haven’t tried this specific form of torture, it goes like this: you enter a small room lined with mirrors and a ballet barre with about 20 other women. A small, energetic woman then comes in, blasts music and starts barking orders that all the other women seem to already know, and you struggle – for the next 50 minutes – to keep up with these teeny tiny movements they’re doing with a tiny medicine ball, resistance bands, and a red yoga mat. You stand, you sit, you hover, you balance, you squat, you lunge, but here’s the kicker: all of these movements are done in TINY, TEENY INCREMENTS. At one point the instructor told us to “trace the outline of a quarter with your toes”.

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It doesn’t sound difficult, but I – and my fluttering, screaming thighs – assure you that it is extremely difficult. I specifically remember glancing over at Mere in the mirror at around the 15 minute mark, and we both looked like this guy at each other:

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It was intense.

BUT – having said that – we WILL be doing this again. It was an insanely good workout, and we both felt it help open up our hips and strengthen parts of our legs we never knew existed before. I’m all for trying new things, and this was no different!

Speaking of trying new things, I recently picked up a bunch of ice cream and snacks courtesy of the folks at Eat Enlightened – have you ever tried this stuff??

Their shtick is ice cream that’s low in sugar and higher in protein – think Halo Top – but it’s SO creamy and unbelievably delicious. I’ve already devoured the Peanut Butter Cup pint and gotten halfway through the Red Velvet, no shame in that game. They also sent me some of their Bean Crisps, which are a real game changer. I struggle with savory cravings and hate that my only options are chips or other semi-junk-y food that only take care of my taste buds but not my actual hunger. The crisps have 7g of protein per 100 calorie pack (!) and the flavors are awesome. In addition to the sea salt pack I already put away last night, they have sweet and savory flavors like wasabi, sweet cinnamon, sriracha, garlic & onion, and cocoa-dusted. Full disclosure, they sent me this stuff for free to review, but I’m not making it up when I say:  So much yum. 

How about you: How was your February? Have you tried Barre? Or Eat Enlightened snacks? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Friday Favorites: Fueling Edition

It’s been a while since I did a Friday Favorites, and while browsing through some of the recent pics in my phone, I noticed a trend: I take a lot of FOOD pictures. So for this edition of Friday Favorites I’m going to share my favorite (if not the most well-advised) running fuel!

Enduro Packs

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Now that the weather is creeping above 50 degrees, I sweat a LOT more. Like as soon as I start running I’m covered in a sheen. I never used to be a salty sweater, but in the past 2 years I’ve noticed a change in my body chemistry and find myself covered in dried salt even after shorter runs in warmer temps. Thankfully, EnduroPacks is there to help me replenish that salt and stay balanced. With no sugar or anything artificial, I spray this stuff right into my water when I’m done running and feel like a new person.

Pizza

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I never said I was perfect, OK? But hear me out: after a long run, I crave weird things depending on what my body is missing. And lately, those cravings all tend to focus on huge slices of veggie pizza loaded with every vegetable you can think of. Namely the veggie pizza from our local pizza joint, pictured above (along with a white broccoli slice, because I’m only human). I’m not saying that this is OK to eat every day, but sometimes you have to listen to your body and go for the stinkin pizza.

Avocados

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I. Love. Avocados. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here, but when I tell you that I could eat them at every meal, believe that. I’ve got an especially tasty recipe that involves fresh boiled shrimp, pico de gallo, avocado and chopped cilantro that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. My hubby and I have even considered moving to a warmer climate just so we could plant an avocado tree in our backyard and have them whenever we want. #obsessed.

How about you guys – do you have any favorite fuel? Share what you’ve been craving lately in the comments!

Springtime Update!

Oye. I can’t apologize enough for the break in blogging I’ve taken recently – I have good reason though! Work has been gearing up in anticipation of a big product launch and a lot of events that I’m managing, and I also came down with a nasty stomach bug that knocked me out for pretty much the last 4 days. BUT – I have been running, and happy, and all the things that you keep coming here to read about, so let’s recap the past two weeks with a LOT of pictures!

After my hooky day in the city, I had a pretty OK long run that weekend. It was definitely not the great 10 miler I had the week before, but I know exactly why that was the case: I had no water. 
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The time on the watch up there is a lie, because I stopped the watch each time I took a break to heave for breath and work the paste out of my mouth, which was about 4 times after mile 5, when I ran out of agua and the temps soared past 65.

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But, the weather was nice and I was able to finally wear my new Skirt Sports Happy Girl skirt in Psyched – a print that while sufficiently loud for my tastes, matches nearly everything I own!

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Want some Skirt gear of your own? Use code JRH20 at the new SkirtSports.com and get 20% off your order!

After that learning experience, I took on the next week of training with a little less intensity than I wanted. My first run of the week was banging, thanks to Mr. Kenny Loggins here (any Archer fans out there get why I was so stoked when this was the first song of my run??)
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But after that I did some biking on Wednesday to cross train, and Thursday was lost due to it being St. Patrick’s Day. I DO celebrate other high holy days aside from Christmas, you know.

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So does Sammy “I’ll Allow This” Gamgee

I also was super stoked to get my shipment from Swanson Health Products:

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Full disclosure – these folks reached out to offer me a gift card to order whatever I wanted in exchange for a shout out here, but after one order I can honestly say they’re freakin’ awesome!

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This chocolate bar I ordered from them: EVEN MORE awesome.

I’d never heard of them before, but once I took a look at their website I was sold. They’ve got everything you could possibly want: vitamins, snacks, cooking stuff, juices, you name it they’ve got it. And the prices are really more affordable than I expected too. I’m a big fan of the brown rice pasta pictured up there, and of course that amazing chocolate bar (the wrapper of which I had to fish out of the garbage for a picture because I ate it so fast). The Tart Cherry vitamins were also a great find – I’ve been meaning to try them out and thanks to their deal of the day I was able to get two bottles for the price of one! Give them a visit and let them know I sent you 😉

That weekend – yes, after skipping my second run of the week, bad runner – I took on 9 miles. And it was not very good.

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This is another case where the numbers lie – I carried a bottle of water with me and managed to get my hydration situation under control, but the last 4 miles were allll aboard the struggle bus thanks to skipping my second run. I just felt out of shape. You know what I mean. I managed to push through a much slower second half than first half while having flashbacks of horrible race experiences where I burned out too early and vowed to take on the next week with renewed intensity – but not after a pretty awesome weekend filled with hockey, BB-8, and Starbucks (Cherry Blossom Frappuccino, I love you)!

My first run that week was better – my usual 4 miles at a bit slower than I wanted, but still solid pacing. I swam on Wednesday for the first time in a while and remembered just how awesome swimming really is (thanks for coming with me, Kevin!), and then took on another 3 miles on Friday to break in my new Brooks Transcend 3’s.

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Saturday night I went out to a bachelorette party at Pinot’s Palette, where you can bring wine and snacks and paint a masterpiece – which was a stinkin blast!

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I did take it easy on the wine and snacks though, because I had a long run early the next morning before Easter festivities:

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And while the pacing on this looks slower compared to other long runs, I’m actually extremely proud of myself: the first 5 miles were excruciatingly slow thanks to a 2 am bedtime, and yes, SOME wine, at a total of 1:02. I told myself those whole 5 miles as I saw my pace hover around 12:15 that this run was about endurance, not pace. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. But after my gel at mile 5.5? I ran those last 5 miles in 56 minutes, baby! My final mile was even in the 10’s, I almost screamed. It was TOUGH, and took a lot of focus especially in that final mile or two when I just wanted to walk, but I did it and proved to myself that I could come back from a sucky start.

I vowed to look at training not as *just* training but as a way to build my confidence in long distances, and with each long run this cycle I’m learning something new and loving it. Nevermind the fact that I woke up late Sunday/early Monday with the stomach flu to end all stomach flu’s. Seriously, I was curled up on the bathroom floor at one point, crying and begging Jesus to take my pain away. He must have been super surprised to hear from me then, of all times.

BUT the plus side – if there is one – is the 4 days I had to take off to recover gave me time to heal from blisters, calf pain, and general soreness. I’m ready to rock a few miles tonight as a shakeout before Saturday’s 11K down in Atlantic City for the April Fool’s Race Series for sure! This race is about fun – coming off a bad illness like this I know I lost a lot of strength (I broke a sweat taking the stairs at work today), so I’m not going to push myself. It’s not worth it with my goal race coming up in May.

So that about does it for me, kids! How’s your training going? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Avoiding Confrontation, Sweating thru Christmas, and more…

First off: Happy Holidays everyone! With the yuletide madness, things have been quiet here on the blog but crazy in real life. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you all got to spend some time with people who make you happy, because isn’t that what it’s all about after all?

I promise to get some more posts up in the next few days (teaser: I ran a race dressed like a reindeer/elf!), but today I’ll sum up the highlights of the past few weeks:

1. I took a boot camp class and almost karate chopped a lady in the throat on purpose.

Allow me to explain. The boot camp was GREAT, but there was this one lady in the class who insisted on doing everything *better*. I’m sure you know the type: the one who’s done the class before and does all the moves before the instructor starts, exaggerates each motion, does jumping jacks and runs up and down the length of the room while the rest of the class takes a water break… WELL. In the beginning of the class, the instructor asked if anyone was new to class, so my workout buddy and I raised our hands. He welcomed us and told us to take some water or a breather when we needed it. Awesome. Class starts. It’s great! Sweat is pouring, the moves are challenging, but not so hard that I had to huff or puff or stop to catch my breath. 50 minutes later class is over, and as we’re packing the weights away, Miss Congeniality comes over to me and makes a big show of patting my shoulder and saying, “You survived your first boot camp! YAY!”

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“I run thirteen miles FOR FUN lady, so I suggest you take that patronizing hand OFF my shoulder before I bite it off and spit it out.” WAS WHAT I WANTED TO SAY. But didn’t. Instead I just smiled and nodded and added 15 minutes of angry abs to the end of my workout just to show her I can survive more than a 50 minute low-impact boot camp.

I know I may have been a little sensitive (Thanksgiving weight gain is a very real thing and bouncing around a room lined with mirrors isn’t the best self-esteem booster), but come on.

2. It’s been RIDICULOUSLY warm here in NJ. Like, 68-70 degrees some days, which means I get to run in shorts and tank tops past inflatable Santas on people’s lawns. It’s kinda weird.

3. I went swimming again! For the first time since my disastrous OWS during the One More Tri in September!

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The credit for this one goes to Workout Buddy Kevin (TM) once again – I was content to hang out and prepare for Christmas by eating cookies hand over fist, but Kevin, the voice of fitness-minded reason suggested we go for a swim at the gym. 300 meters later, I was back in love with swimming (in a pool, at least) and looking forward to adding it back into the workout rotation!

4. Christmas was a blast! In addition to fun stuff like a record player (so I can finally listen to my old record collection), Santa brought me a bunch of running swag that I’ve already started breaking in.

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How about you? Have your days been merry and bright lately? Dish in the comments!

Keep it Sassy, Keep it Classy, Keep it Real

When I started this blog, Imma be honest: I had NO idea what I was doing. All I wanted was to stop annoying the majority of my online friends who didn’t care about my running and fitness escapades, and a place to keep track of my training, vent my frustrations, and share more than just a few sentences in an Instagram photo caption.

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My friends’ faces after my 274th post about nailing a training run.

So I created the blog and created new Facebook and Twitter accounts to link to it, easy peasy. Seems like a win-win! But as time went on, I found that creating quality content for all these channels was hard, yo. By the time I get done with 9+ hours of writing and editing at my 9-5, the last thing I want to do is more writing. I’m tired. Hell, the last time I wasn’t tired was when Bush was in office. The FIRST Bush.

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Long story short, quality content is hard to create.

Fast forward to a month ago, when I attended a Content Marketing Class. In addition to some helpful tricks for my 9-5 gig (who paid to send me there!), I also picked up a few tips on shaping my social media strategy. If you’re blogging or tweeting or whatever solely for your own enjoyment, then by all means keep doing you. But if you’re interested in growing your own blog and social followings, these tips really struck me and I wanted to share them with you!

The first one? Keep it real. The most successful marketers (or bloggers, Instagrammers, etc) are genuine. They’ve found a unique way to tell their stories, whether it’s through humor or by being super smart or whatever. Think about it this way: when you’re looking for blogs to read (or people to follow on IG, Twitter, etc), what kind of stuff resonates with you most and makes you click the subscribe button? A quick re-telling of the same “Winter Running Motivation” article from Women’s Running Magazine that you’ve seen four other bloggers re-tell? Or an expletive-laced story about the time a runner got heckled by a passing motorist?

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with either of those posts – hell, I wrote both of them. I’ve learned it’s OK to publish content that will attract eyeballs simply because it’s a hot topic and people are searching for it. That’s organic traffic, and it’s a good thing. But to gain traction and connect with people, the key is to tell each story in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd.

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Go ahead, write one more blog post about the things that go through your head during a long run. But instead of using the same old “This is great/Is it over yet?” platitudes that the 12,539 articles about this topic use already, how about telling your story with GIFs?

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People will want to keep reading just to see how this GIF fits into a post about running 12 miles. I promise.

Similarly, this second tip is one that won’t fly with everyone, but I’ve found success on Instagram with it and think it’s worth mentioning: don’t be afraid to open up and switch things around a bit!  If you’re interested in growing a following, think about it in terms of making friends in real life: no one likes to hang out with the guy that ONLY talks about Star Trek 24/7 (no offense to you Trekkies, I’m part Trekkie myself). While people are coming to your blog or IG profile because you’re all about fitness or biking or running, it’s OK to open up a little and incorporate some other parts of your life into your content too. After all, it’s your feed.

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You DO have other things you enjoy besides lifting heavy things and putting them back down, yes? Well so do your readers! Show them you’re more than a one-trick pony. Post a pic of your dog. Blog about your latest vacation. Open up about those insecurities you have about your training. People appreciate that you have a life (just like them!) filled with kids and arguments and cupcakes and all that other stuff that can’t be measured with a scale or tracked with a Garmin.

I’m not saying turn your feed into the Dave-the-Doberman Show (no offense to Dave, he’s really a cute dog) – think 80% “brand” related content (running if you’re a runner, for example), and 20% cat pictures/artsy shots of your wine at happy hour/whatever else floats your boat. When you share more than your mile splits and WOD’s, I bet you’ll connect with more people than you think.

So how about it? Have you found any other tips that you’d like to share? Share in the comments!

Not Your Average Vacation

If you follow me on IG or Twitter or Facebook,  you probably noticed last week that my photos all had a distinctly “not-NJ-in-December” feel to them. That’s because we went on vacation – to Florida!

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I wanted to do something BIG to celebrate hubby’s landmark 40th birthday this past Tuesday, but he’s a more reserved kinda guy. So instead of planning a big party he’d muddle through while silently wishing for it to be over, I did some research and discovered a rocket launch happening in Florida around the same time as his birthday. So after some secret airfare stalking and finding an unbelievable deal, I presented the idea to him (instead of surprising him). Thankfully, he was super stoked! So we were off to Titusville, Florida to visit Kennedy Space Center and watch as Orbital ATK launched an Atlas V rocket loaded with supplies up to the International Space Station!

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This is going to be a picture-filled post, so if you get bored by sunshine & giant rockets, I apologize in advance.

This was Mike’s first airplane ride, but I was so proud of how he handled it.

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It was a little nerve-wracking being 30,000 feet in the air, but it was an smooth flight with virtually no turbulence and we landed a few hours later in Orlando happy, hungry, and tired.

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It was my first time renting a car so I felt super important (it’s the little things, guys), and we had a great time checking out the area around the hotel. As it turns out, the whole area is ALL ABOUT THE LAUNCH. Like, that’s all you see on every sign everywhere. Even the bars are space themed. Seriously, one was named Launch. I kid you not.

We checked in and met the folks that owned the hotel (SUPER sweet people who offered us restaurant tips and coupons for the best seafood ever, more on that later), and they invited us back to the lobby that night for cocoa and cookies and to meet Dr. Ken Kremer, who was in town to cover the launch. Cookies, cocoa, and a fellow science nerd to talk shop with? Sweet!

After settling in, we headed out for dinner at Dixie Crossroads, where I quickly learned that any aspirations of healthy eating I had before this moment were merely fantasies. Because, well, fried dough covered in powdered sugar, you guys.

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Seriously, this was the meal our first night, and every night was this big. I didn’t beat myself up though: while it looks decadent, I kept the fried things to a minimum, stuck with mostly broiled seafood for dinner and salads for lunch, maintained a pretty good 70/30 balance (except for the giant gluten free brownie I had on the last day, #sorrynotsorry), and my iPhone’s health tracker clocked us at about 5 walking miles each day, so I think it all evened out!

After dinner we returned to the hotel and met Dr. Kremer where he was discussing the rocket launch and showing off some of his amazing photography in the lobby. As it turns out, he’s a speaker, freelance science journalist, scientist and photographer based out of – get this – Princeton, NJ! We traveled more than a thousand miles and still run into Jersey folks, go figure. He’s a mega-smart guy whose articles and space exploration photography has shown up in NASA, National Geographic, NBC News, CBS, and more, and he was in town to cover the launch. We chatted about the various photos he had on display, got really into some space stuff, and called it a night.

Day 1 was the day of the launch, so we went to Kennedy Space Center to explore for the day, then boarded a bus out to the Banana Creek Viewing Area in the afternoon but (spoiler alert) it was scrubbed due to rain. No matter though – it was rescheduled for the next day and we still had an amazing time! Here’s Day 1 in photos:

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Rocket Selfie time

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There really is a person in there, I promise.

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Atlantis Robot Arm attack!

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They snapped this before putting us on the bus – too bad it didn’t happen IRL!

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Astronaut Brian Duffy – amazingly intelligent, easy going, and witty too!

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With the actual Atlantis shuttle

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Excitedly waiting in the drizzle for a rocket launch!

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But sadly being soaked by the downpour after the launch was scrubbed.

To drown our sorrows, we went to the Cracker Barrel (our first experience!) across the parking lot from our hotel and feasted. There are no pictures from that because our hands were covered in butter. But we did fall in love with the peg game and now can’t stop playing it!

Day 2 was clearer, but the WIND was very strong. Word from NASA was a 40% chance of the launch happening that night, but we were optimistic (and let’s be honest, we had nothing else to do) so we boarded the bus, took a little tour, and tooled around the Saturn V building then headed to the viewing area once more. Here’s Day 2 in pictures!

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Mike with an Apollo capsule.

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The view from under the fuel tank at the Atlantis building.

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Part of a beautiful tribute to the lives lost in the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. Truly moving.

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The Saturn V rocket on display.

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Hubby really got into the action 🙂

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The Vehicle Assembly Building

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Space Salad! No seriously, they grow some of the greens they use in the cafe’s salads hydroponically, just like they’re trying to do in space. SPACE SALAD!

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Panoramic shot of the Banana Creek Viewing Area before it got crowded.

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Our marriage summed up in one GoPro shot.

Spoiler alert #2: the rocket launch was scrubbed again, this time due to wind! It was still immensely cool to be at the viewing area again, this time with a smaller crowd, and to hear the live audio feed from NASA broadcasting on the PA system outside. I still get goosebumps when I watch the little video I took of the pre-flight systems check (and the cheer that erupted in the crowd when we got to hear those magic words: “You have permission to launch.”

I dare you not to cheer when you hear it 😉

After the second failed attempt, I won’t lie: I was bummed. That was our last shot at seeing it in person, and that made me sad. Mike was still super happy though, and that’s what matters. OK, he did, at one point, say through gritted teeth while we held our breath waiting for the launch, “Just press the button, send it up! A $100 million dollar rocket can’t handle a little wind??”, but that was it.

To turn the negative of missing the launch into a positive, I decided to take him out for an early birthday dinner at the restaurant our hotel manager recommended: Shiloh’s Steakhouse.

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Not pictured: his twin lobster tails and my gigantic sea scallops. Again, butter-covered hands.

It was so nice to hang out in the warm(er) weather with the river right there, eating seafood and laughing about wanting to waste the millions of dollars and take the chance by sending the rocket up even if it wasn’t ready. When we got back to the hotel we decided to bring our peg game (yes, we bought our own for $4) to the open air lobby for some play time, but stopped into the main lobby to see if Dr. Kremer was there – and lo and behold there he was, with his friend Klaus!

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We hung out in the lobby with Klaus and Dr. Kremer for another hour or so, drinking cocoa and eating cookies and talking about everything from rockets to Instagram to traveling. We even caught Ken on TV when the local news station did a bit about the scrubbed launch – they interviewed him about his thoughts and we were there to see the magic firsthand. It was pretty fun, to say the least 🙂

After saying our goodbyes, we hung out in the open air lobby and played our games for a bit, then Klaus stopped by again and we chatted for a bit, then we finally hit the hay.

Day 3 was a blur – we went back to the Space Center for a few hours, walked around and generally took our time looking at all of the things we breezed by earlier to get to other attractions. It was so nice, just strolling through the Rocket Garden in 75+ degrees and sun… even though we were headed for the airport at 5pm!

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I took a “run” on a space treadmill!

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Soaking up some last minute sun before our trip back to NJ

Finally we headed back to the airport to drop off our car, check in, and wing our way back to chilly NJ! It was a whirlwind 4 days that we’re still smiling about, even a week later.

If you’re looking for something fun to do that’s not the usual “sit on a beach and drink all day” vacation, I’d definitely recommend the Kennedy Space Center. It’s totally NOT just for kids – and even as a person who was previously only semi-interested in space stuff, I was riveted by some of the things I learned! No lie, I found myself going “Wow,” on multiple occasions, and learned so much about the space program in general and where it’s headed. It’s really fascinating stuff!

And if you go, definitely check out Dixie Crossroads restaurant. Just wear stretch pants.

Freekeh Foods Giveaway!

Hello all and happy Tuesday! I’m feeling slightly head-cold-y and miserable today, but rather than wallow in the ickiness I figured why not make others happy by hosting a little giveaway?

I was so stoked to score a few free packages of Freekeh Foods a few weeks ago – it’s a roasted grain that’s similar to quinoa, but lower in calories and higher in protein than brown rice, and it can be used in a variety of different dishes, too. Since I’m already fully on the quinoa bandwagon, I couldn’t wait to try it out in some different ways!IMG_9324

I started with the Rosemary Sage flavored freekeh and from the moment it started boiling, my mouth was watering. The scent was so delicious, it took over the whole kitchen. At one point I was a little worried – we had planned to serve it with marinated lemon pepper chicken, and I didn’t want the flavors to compete. But once it was ready (it took just about as long to cook as quinoa), I was relieved that the mild flavor was the perfect compliment. While it smelled heavenly, the spices and seasonings were really just a fragrant addition so the grain itself had just a hint of flavor. We added a pinch of sea salt and blew through two servings that night and two the next day during lunch (with the leftover chicken).

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Confession time: we ate the first batch I cooked so quickly that I forgot to take any pictures. Occasionally my husband and I turn into hungry, hungry hippos, what can I say? This pic above is from our second batch – I added some freekeh to my spring mix salad yesterday, but what you can’t see are the black beans and other yummy goodies underneath that mountain of deliciousness! It was just the right addition to give my salad a little protein boost. I’ve got another batch on deck for lunch today and can’t wait to see what’s on the menu in our office cafeteria. The great thing about this stuff is the mild flavor – it goes with almost anything.

Tomorrow I’ve got some big plans to cook up the last of my regular flavored freekeh to try out the absolutely delicious-sounding Warm Breakfast Freekeh. I’ve turned quinoa into a breakfast dish before by adding vanilla almond milk and cinnamon and raisins, and I can’t wait to do the same with this stuff!

And as if that’s not enough, they want me to spread the Freekeh Love by giving away a package for free to one of you beautiful people! Enter the giveaway here – it runs through 12AM on 8/19 – and get ready to fall in love!

My New Favorite Go-To Snacks

As if you couldn’t tell by my Instagram pics, Tweets, and the variety of posts I’ve written on the subject: I freakin’ love food.

But now that the weather is getting warmer and I’m forced to shed my winter running layers to exercise outdoors comfortably, those extra few pounds wobbling around my middle have got to go. To get rid of them though, I’ve got to fight my number one problem: night-time snacking.

spI swear there’s like a magnet in my body that draws me into the kitchen every night. And no matter how healthfully I’ve eaten all day, I sabotage myself by binging on whatever junk food we have lying around the house. My mind tricks me into thinking I’m hungry, but I don’t crave things that would actually satisfy that hunger like a banana or roasted chickpeas. No, I’d rather go for the Pirate Booty or the Chewy Chips Ahoy.

Frankly, it’s a problem I’ve battled on and off for years, and I’m slowly getting better. But while I don’t always win the battle, I’ve learned a few things about my body that I’ve turned into ammunition against the nighttime snack attack:

1. Eating sugar makes me crave more sugar. Other people may be different but this is 100% the case for me. As soon as I finish a Hershey’s Kiss, I want another one. And another and another until I wake up from a chocolate-induced coma, covered in little foil wrappers with a sugar crash headache. Not pretty. To fight the sugar-begets-sugar Monster, I rely on some not-so-sugary treats that feel like real indulgences. Lately, this means stocking up on my newest favorite Chobani Flip flavor: Chocolate Haze Craze.

yogurt

The Greek yogurt has extra protein to fill me up, and the chocolate chips/hazelnuts that you stir into it tastes seriously so much like Nutella you may find yourself licking the container (not like that’s ever happened to me…) It’s the perfect “dinner is over, this is my dessert” signal to my brain, and not SO sweet that I find myself craving more chocolate after I’m done.

2. I need to snack a little more throughout the day to stay satisfied. This means bringing more healthy choices in to the office with me, which means I need to do some prep work ahead of time. To make it easier on myself, I’ve been digging Wasa crisps – delicious, crunchy little flatbreads – with some good old Laughing Cow cheese.

cheeseBesides the yummy crispy/creamy combo, I think the fact that I’m adding stuff together to make a snack kind of tricks my stomach into thinking it’s getting a meal, which helps!

3. My tastesbuds equate super-flavor = super-satisfying, so I’ve branched out and experimented with flavors that I’m not really used to. For years I’ve shunned spicy things because I felt like it dulled my tastebuds and burned too much, but my Naturebox delivery this month included a bag of Jalapeno Cashews that I chomped RIGHT through in a week or two. Who knew?! I also love me some Blue Diamond Salt & Vinegar Almonds.

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I make it a point to always have a jar of these bad boys around: in the office, at home, hell, even in the car! See that little “Intense Taste!” sign on the package? It’s not kidding! After savoring a small handful one at a time, my mouth is coated in that familiar boardwalk-fries flavor and the craving to eat all the things has subsided thanks to the extra protein in the almonds. That’s a win-win to me!

So now that I’ve shared my favorite snacks, it’s time to share yours! Tell me: what are you snacking on? How do you fight the hungry monster?

Beef & Spinach Stir Fry Recipe

It’s been a while since my last recipe post, so I figured today I’d share my recipe for Beef & Spinach Stir Fry!

This is a dish I like to prepare when I’ve over-indulged and need a filling, healthy meal. It’s only got 4 ingredients, it’ll only take you about a half hour to prep, and you’re going to have a hard time saving any for leftovers, too 😉

89730d742fb811e39de022000a1f8db1_8Beef & Spinach Stir Fry

Ingredients:

  • 1lb of stew beef, trimmed and cubed
  • 2-3 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 package of baby spinach

(Note: The measurements here are enough for me and my husband to have 2 healthy servings the first night, and leaves at least 2 more for lunch or dinner the next day. If you’ve got a bigger family – or a bigger appetite! – feel free to adapt this recipe as needed.)

Directions:

Start by browning the sweet potatoes in your skillet over medium heat in a little bit of coconut oil. I like to season them a bit with some salt, but that’s just me. Cover and let them soften up a bit, but keep an eye on them and test to see how soft they are every 5-10 mins.

Once your potatoes are almost done doing their thing, transfer them to a plate and toss your beef in the same skillet to brown it up. This won’t take long.

After the meat is browned and the kitchen smells divine, toss the potatoes back in along with your tomatoes, and add your spinach one or two handfuls at a time. Continuously stir to mix it up nicely, and once the spinach is wilted, serve it up one big heaping spoonful at a time – and enjoy!

Jess Eats Happy: Paleo Crab Cakes

Last year I joined the Whole Life Challenge and had moderate success with it: I dropped about 14 lbs in 8 weeks! It was, however, a very restrictive diet. It was a good short-term kickstart I needed back into healthy eating and, but I prefer an “everything in moderation” diet. I can’t cut things out entirely, or else I feel deprived and end up bingeing.

But while it wasn’t a feasible long term diet for me, it did expose me to a whole new world of food! Having to cook compliant meals with almost no dairy, cheese, carbs, or sugars forced me to find alternative recipes, and also introduced me to some awesome new things that I was afraid to try (hello, almond flour!).

One recipe I discovered was these Paleo Crab Cakes. At first I was scared – I’d never cooked with crab *or* almond flour before. But after a week or two of “meat and sweet potatoes with TONS of veggies” meals, I was desperate for something different. So I snagged a recipe from a friend, adapted it to fit the challenge’s rules, tried it out a few times, and bingo! They’re messy to make, and might take a few tries to get them just right, but trust me when I say: you’re going to love these!

5dd176e82a2b11e3a0a822000a1fbd23_8Paleo Crab Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs minced crab meat (you can get it in cans in your grocery’s seafood dept.)
  • half one small onion, minced
  • 1 small pepper, minced
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Almond flour (or more as needed)
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Butter & Olive Oil for cooking

Directions:

In a pan with butter or oil, sautee the onions and pepper and throw in garlic at the end for a few seconds. Remove from heat and put into a bowl.

In another pan, heat up some butter and olive oil on medium heat, let the butter melt.Then add the almond flour a little bit at a time, stirring as you go to make a thick paste.Turn off the heat and let it cool for a bit.

Once it’s cool enough to work with your hands, in the same pan, add a spoonful of Old Bay seasoning to your paste, then slowly add everything else: crab, egg, and your onion/pepper/garlic mix. Mix everything together very well, and form into crab cakes. *This is where it can get messy: to keep things from sticking together and not to your hands, add almond flour as needed.

Once you’ve got some cakes ready, throw some butter or oil into your first pan (where you sauteed the onions and garlic) and set it to medium heat. Once it’s nice and hot, toss your crab cakes in and cook them on both sides, a few minutes on each side until their nice and brown.

They might fall apart, but that’s ok – just cook them to your liking and devour them! I usually serve mine with some arugula and a mustard vinaigrette dressing, but they’re great on their own or even as a side dish. Give them a try and let me know what you think!