Chocolate “ice cream” and trigger foods

Last week, I decided to challenge myself for the week and skip the chocolate chips at the grocery store. I’m happy to say I haven’t missed them too much.

It did lead to some other dessert experimenting, but some healthier alternatives.

Chocolate “ice cream”

and (non-chocolate) sweet potato date bars, inspired by an amazing Thunderbird Energetica bar I had.

This recipe needs more tweaking, but L and I are happy to keep taste testing to get it right! The batter is incredible.  Maybe it should be a pudding, rather than a bar.

Yesterday was super busy. It was L’s first day of “school”- she goes two mornings a week.  She was so excited!

She’s also a willing taste tester and fan of all this experimenting.

Pureed frozen bananas make a great healthy “ice cream” for dessert.  If you’re a chocolate lover, it’s even better with a little cocoa.

Chocolate “ice cream”  (print recipe)

  • 3 very ripe bananas, frozen in chunks
  • 2-3 tbsp cocoa powder (I like this one or raw cacao powder)
  • dash of vanilla
  • optional 1-2 tbsp honey
  • add-ins or toppings: coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles, or chocolate chips, if you have any!

Place frozen banana in the food processor and let it thaw slightly.  Blend well with cocoa powder (start with 2 tbsp and increase after tasting if you like a darker chocolate).  Taste.  Add optional honey or sweetener and top as desired.

So simple and so good!

Do you have any trigger foods that you can’t resist?

Also, go check out my guest post for Madeline on post-workout fueling!


A special interview and Summer Ratatouille

Yesterday was busy- it started with a 6:30 am spin class I was subbing, which is about the time I usually workout, but required a much earlier wake up. As much as I grumbled when my alarm went off, I loved getting that burst of energy first thing in the morning.

While L had her Tuesday morning class, I had the opportunity to interview Marshall Ulrich about his recent adventures.  He and a friend just completed the first circumnavigation of Death Valley National Park, about 425 miles and 40,000 feet of elevation gain in the heat of summer.  And all of this just 3 days after running his 18th Badwater Ultramarathon! (Badwater is a 135 mile race through Death Valley with temperatures up to 130 degrees!)

Marsh is also the author of Running on Empty, which I reviewed a few months ago.  He was incredibly down-to-earth, and I felt like we could have talked for hours. I took as many notes as I could and look forward to sharing what I learned from him soon.

School started here this past week, and it doesn’t change too much for us other than the extra traffic.  But it does remind me that summer is coming to a close.  I’m trying to use the remaining weeks to get our fill of summer produce before it’s gone. Here’s what we’re eating:

[Bfast: Yogurt, banana, oats & mila; Snack: 1/2 banana+ almond butter; Lunch: Eggplant Rataouille with white beans +polenta; Snack: (unpictured) plum + handful raisins+ almonds; Dinner: Laura’s Cauliflower pizza (yum!)+ Spinach salad with cukes, tomatoes + peppers; Snack: Rice “pudding” (leftover brown rice + almond milk+cinnamon)]

And what L’s been eating:

[Bfast: Yogurt+banana+granola; Lunch: pasta+avocado+cheese; squash; Dinner: Ratatouille; Snacks: goldfish (at school); small granola bar

Unfortunately, our easy-to-please toddler is finally taking a turn to the picky side.  She downs her breakfast, but has been picking at lunch and dinner lately.  She never used to leave food on her plate! It’s a strange transition, but I’m trusting that her body knows what she needs and I’m sure she’s getting enough.

It didn’t help that we made granola bars this afternoon, so she was counting on that being her dinner.  I heard myself say something I’ve never had to say before: that old, familiar “Let me see you eat two bites of your dinner and you can have dessert.”  I don’t want to start that battle! But we rarely have dessert, and these granola bars are actually a very healthy snack, so I played her game this time. And made a mental note to save any baking for after dinner!

I added the Ratatouille recipe to my Recipage… it’s so easy, and delicious!  If you’re looking for another way to use the last of summer’s eggplant, I recently added our favorite Mediterranean pasta recipe as well.

I’m linking up with Jenn at Peas and Crayons . Check it out for more What I ate Wednesday posts!

Runners, have you read “Running on Empty“?

Moms, did your kids go through phases of more and less pickiness?

Menu Planning Tips and Benefits

A big thank you to my friend Jill for sharing today about menu planning! We’re enjoying a few unplugged (and kid-free days) in the Finger Lakes region.  You can find Jill’s contact info at the bottom, and check out her blog if you don’t already follow her! She also hosts a fun Fitness Friday link up each week that I often participate in.

Are you a menu planner? Have you considered weekly menu planning and need a little push? Read on and you will realize how beneficial it can be to you and your family. Then, before you know it, you won’t be able to imagine starting your week without a plan.

Benefits of Menu Planning.Consider this, menu planning…

  1. Saves you time. You always have the ingredients you need so no weekday last minute trips to the store.
  2. Saves you money. When you have your menus planned out, you know exactly which ingredients you need to buy at the store. You have a list and you stick to that it while shopping and fewer impulse buys.
  3. Promotes healthy eating. When meals are planned out, you will usually end up with a more balanced, nutritious diet. You don’t have to run through a fast food lane, grab a processed food on the go, or skip meals.
  4. Reduces waste. Often, we buy foods at the grocery store, thinking we’ll use them for something, but they end up getting thrown out. If you’re sticking to the list, you’re not buying anything you won’t NEED for your planned meals.
  5. Saves on gas. No more emergency grocery runs = less driving = less gas money.
  6. Encourages family involvement. Everyone has input and everyone has a chance to request his or her favorites.
  7. Supports regular eating of meals together as a family. If left to the last minute, it can be very tempting to whip something up quickly for the kids and then another meal later for mom and dad.
  8. Takes into account life’s busier than usual times. Plan for the school activities, working late, and the unexpected and you’re less likely to make a trip through the drive thru or grab processed food on the go.
  9. Reduce stress. Enough said

Menu Planning Tips.What has made my menu planning a success?

  1. Make creating a weekly menu part of your routine. I write my weekly menu every Saturday for shopping on Sunday.
  2. Consider what ingredients you already have.
  3. Get family input.
  4. Plan for an on-your-own night.
  5. Make a list and stick to it when you’re shopping.
  6. Look at your calendar for the week before you start planning. Make note of busy evenings.
  7. Make lunches the day before.
  8. Cook on Sunday with leftovers in mind.
  9. Whether you’re using your computer or handwriting the menu use a menu template*. It helps make the planning more efficient and less time consuming.
  10. Use recipes that can be made ahead of time and reheated for a meal during the week.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me:

Blog: [Fitness Health and Happiness]
Twitter: @jillconyers
Facebook: Jill Fickling-Conyers
Facebook Page: [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Thank you Laura for allowing me to share with you today.

Do you plan weekly menus? Do you have menu-planning tips to share? Would you be interested in participating in a menu planning challenge?

* If you’re interested in a menu-planning template I would be happy to share mine. Leave a comment with your contact information and I will send you a template (or 2) to help get you started.

Check out more Summer Staples posts at Peas and Crayons!


Biking, Baking and Black Bean salad

It’s time for another round of What I ate Wednesday!  This month, we’re tying in fitness, something I usually do anyway, so I’m excited.  Let’s get started!

Biking: This month holds a new fitness challenge for me… my first triathlon! Eleven days to go.  I feel so lucky that my local blogging buddy Holly is letting me borrow her road bike- it. is. amazing.  I’m too nervous to race clipped in, so I walked it two blocks to the bike shop yesterday to get the pedals switched.  And then I couldn’t wait to take it for my first spin last night!

Wow!  I had no idea what I was missing- that 15 mile ride was the most fun I’ve had on a bike in years.  Now I just have to get comfortable with a little more speed outdoors and work up the nerve to grab my water bottle while riding… it’s a bit different from indoor spinning!

Baking: I was inspired by the six very ripe bananas on our counter top to do some healthified baking this week.  Lil helped me restock her banana “cookies” and then we used yogurt and applesauce to make an amazing chocolate chip banana bread.  In the chaos of baking with a 2 year old, I forgot to add any sugar and it was still delicious! I’ll share the recipe this week.

Black Bean Salad

Nothing says summer like sweet corn and fresh salads!  We’re having a BBQ with friends this afternoon, and I plan to bring this salad with us:

Black Bean and Corn Salad (print recipe)


  • 2 c. cooked black beans, or 1 15 oz can, rinsed and drained
  • 2 c. fresh steamed or frozen sweet corn
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, diced (optional)
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper


Combine salad ingredients (through cilantro). In a small bowl, combine oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss gently to mix.

Happy 4th of July! How are you spending the day?

Do you have a favorite summer salad?

Three healthy, homemade popsicles

We’re only a few days into summer officially, but Texas hit summer temperatures months ago.  One of our favorite ways to keep cool is with homemade popsicles, and we’ve been experimenting with some of our favorite flavors.

These are a much healthier alternative to store-bought varieties (you can even sneak spinach into the blueberry one!), and they are delicious, refreshing and more economical.

healthy, homemade popsiclesBlueberry, Watermelon and Orange Creamsicle

Blueberry:  Combine 1 c. plain yogurt, 1 banana, 1/2 c. frozen blueberries, 1/3 c. milk and 1 c.fresh spinach in a blender.  Pour into molds and freeze for 3-4 hours.

Watermelon: Combine 2 c. fresh watermelon and 1 apple (peeled or unpeeled).  Pour into molds and freeze for 3-4 hours.

Orange Creamsicle: Combine 1 c. plain or vanilla yogurt, 1/3 c. milk, 2 oranges and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Pour into molds and freeze for 3-4 hours.


  • Each makes enough for 3-4 popsicles, depending on size.  You can easily double the recipes to make more.
  • If you don’t have popsicle molds, you can use dixie cups with popsicle sticks.
  • Run the popsicles under warm water to remove the popsicle in one piece.

It’s also another What I ate Wednesday with Peas and Crayons!

Here’s what I was chowing on yesterday:

  • Breakfast: (center pic) Post-run protein smoothie and oats.
  • Lunch: (lower left) Chickpea curry and couscous
  • Dinner: (lower right) Mini-frittatas; homemade whole-grain bread
  • Snacks: Apple + choc chips; Blueberry Larabar; Coconut-date-nut balls; unpictured banana; carrots + hummus

Is it hot enough for popsicles where you are?

Do you have favorite flavors? Or other tricks for staying cool?

Two peanut sauces and wiaw

Did you know it’s National Running day today? Get out for a run if you can!


I’m over one week in, and the running streak is going well.  It’s pushing my 30 mile weeks to 33, which is a reasonable 10% increase, and my legs have been handling it so far.  I also mentioned last week that I had to tape myself teaching spin over the weekend to submit for a final review on my certification.  I’m happy to say it’s done and in the mail…here’s hoping it’s good enough!


Switching gears, it’s time for another What I ate Wednesday with Peas and Crayons:

Yesterday was an extra snack-y day for me…ironically, I realized at the end of the day that snacking was the WIAW theme for June.  It was mostly “sensible.”  Here’s a peak:

[Breakfast: Yogurt, granola bar crumbs from failed bars, and banana; Lunch: Leftover black beans with feta, carrots and hummus; Dinner: Gado gado (veggies and egg with peanut sauce) over quinoa; Snacks: a few of L’s roll-ups; dried fig; watermelon; and an unpictured granola bar; Dessert: Gooey garbanzo brownies]

After sharing my peanut-lime noodle lunch a few weeks ago, I had several requests for a recipe.  So I’m answering with two of our go-to peanut sauce dinner recipes. As it heats up, these are great options for tasty, healthy vegetarian meals that don’t use the oven!

Peanut Lime Noodles

  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. salsa, medium or hot
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • dash salt
  • 8 oz. soba, buckwheat noodles or angel hair pasta
  • diced cucumber, steamed broccoli, marinated tofu chunks, shredded carrot, steamed kale, etc.

For the peanut sauce, combine equal parts peanut butter and salsa.  Stir in lime juice, cumin and salt.  Cook the noodles according to package directions, and drain well.  Coat the noodles with the peanut dressing, then add tofu and veggies of your choice.

The peanut butter-salsa combination may sound odd, but it’s one of the easiest ways to make a peanut-lime sauce- and it’s really yummy!

The second recipe is a version of Indonesian Gado Gado, a vegetable salad covered with a peanut sauce .  You can add sliced hard-boiled eggs or grilled tofu for extra protein.  We like to eat ours over brown rice or quinoa.Simple Gado Gado

Simple Gado Gado   (Print recipe)

  • 1/2-1 c. vegetable broth or hot water
  • 1/3 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • hot sauce to taste
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5-6 c. total : steamed broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots or green beans
  • 4-6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • grilled tofu, optional
  • steamed brown rice

Combine the first 7 ingredients (peanut butter through salt) to make the peanut sauce.  Add enough broth or water to reach your desired consistency. Steam or prepare the vegetables of your choice, and boil eggs for 10 minutes.  Serve veggies over rice, top with sliced eggs and tofu, and pour peanut sauce over everything. Enjoy!

I made some changes to the recipe page: under the recipe tab, I added a “search recipe” option where you can bring up the recipe without viewing the entire accompanying post.

Okay, it’s time to figure out dinner… what are you having tonight? Are you planning to get a run in today?


Wiaw race fuel + Carrot-beet salad

Happy Wednesday again! I love how quickly Wednesday comes after a three-day weekend! I’m linking up again with Jenn at Peas and Crayons

This week, I thought I’d share race day eats, so here’s what Saturday looked like before and after the miserable 10k plus a few from our blueberry picking outing:

[Pre-race: whole wheat pita with banana, pb and chia; Post race: blueberry-yogurt-spinach smoothie; Lunch: couscous with chickpeas, tomato sauce and fresh parm; Snack: unpictured dark chocolate + almonds; Dinner: portabello burgers with feta, corn, beet-carrot salad, greens and watermelon; Dessert: cocoa-date-nut balls]

Race fuel: The morning of a race, I usually rely on a banana-nut butter combo of some sort.  The potassium in bananas can help prevent cramps and they digest easily, the carbs are good quick fuel, and the protein and fat in nut butter keeps me satisfied through runs up to about 10-13 miles. Here’s a helpful article on common fueling mistakes.

Summer salads: I love cold summer salads, and the carrot- red beet combo is one of my favorites.  It’s really easy and delicious!

Carrot Beet Salad (print recipe)

  • 3-4 carrots, shredded
  • 3-4 red beets, cooked, peeled and shredded
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • handful fresh parsley or cilantro

Combine carrots and cooled red beets in a bowl.  Mix the oil and lemon juice together, and pour over salad.  Add salt and pepper as desired, and top with parsley.  Enjoy!

(Shortcut- buy pre-cooked beets and shredded carrots to throw this together in no time!)

So I’d love to know… what’s the best thing you ate over Memorial day weekend?

Runners, what’s your typical pre-race fuel?


Tomato poached eggs

I’m still feeling good after Sunday’s race, and have been able to ease back into my normal routine with a recovery spin on Monday and a easy run yesterday in place of speed work.

I would love some training feedback: I’m debating how to handle this Saturday’s long run, as the following Saturday is a 5k race and also the weekend I was planning to do a 20 mile training run.  For you seasoned marathoners, does it make more sense to do the 20 this week, assuming I’m recovered enough? Or somehow combine the 5k and 20 miler on the same weekend? What would you do?

I have a new favorite recipe to share.  For dinner last night, we had a spinach salad and tomato-poached eggs with brown rice.  I love the tomato-egg combination, and have tried a variety of recipes for this family-friendly dish. It would be really good with sharp cheese and avocado as well.

Tomato Poached Eggs (print recipe)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional chili powder or crushed red pepper
  • 1 small can of diced tomatoes, or 2 cups prepared pasta sauce
  • 5 or 6 eggs

Heat oil in saucepan, and saute onion and peppers for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and spices, and sauce another few minutes.  Add tomatoes or sauce and simmer until nearly boiling.  Gently drop in eggs and cook covered 4-6 minutes, or until done.  Serve over rice or pasta, and sprinkle with fresh parsley or scallion.

This was just enough for the three of us.  Happy Wednesday!

Valentine’s day WIAW

Hope you all had a nice Valentine’s day! I enjoyed a lot of “why I love running” posts  I saw floating around.  I’m linking up again with Jen at WIAW:

We’ve never made a big deal out of Valentine’s day, but it is a little more fun with a toddler in the picture.  So we started our Valentine’s day off with heart-shaped eggs in toast, mine was topped with avocado and tomatoes.

We played at a friend’s house this morning and gave her one of L’s owl valentines that we made on Monday.  I’m not a crafty person, but they were easy and we were both happy with how they turned out…

For lunch, we had leftover beef borscht (see! we do eat some meat!) from beef cubes and beets that daddy and L picked up at the farmer’s market on Saturday.  The beets turned the whole stew purple for Valentine’s day…

While L napped, I had my snack, pb with raisins and dark chocolate chips on a brown rice cake:

After nap, we headed off to a cupcake-decorating party with some of L’s friends.  I was thankful that there were some mini-cupcake options, and let L decorate and eat one of those.  She wanted more treats, but I was able to distract her for the most part with strawberries.  :)

We got home and daddy had already started dinner… Honey-glazed salmon, grilled asparagus, sweet potatoes and brown rice.

After a quick interval run, I joined my husband to watch parenthood and eat our dessert, Kristin’s 3-ingredient fudge:

We don’t go all out on gifts, but I was happy to see these gorgeous flowers and a bar of dark chocolate.  L gave daddy one of her owl valentines, and I got him a magazine for fun reading, The Economist.  :)  Pretty romantic, huh?

We did set up a babysitter so we can go out Thursday night, when the restaurants aren’t ridiculously packed.

Did you do anything special yesterday? Have kids changed the way you think about Valentine’s day?

L’s lunch rotation and WIAW

Back to “school” this week! I thought we had years before worrying about school lunches, but L started a Mothers Day Out program this fall (two mornings a week), and eats lunch there with the other toddlers.

We are supposed to pack foods that they can feed themselves– no soup, yogurt, or other potential mess-making disasters.  At home, we often have dinner leftovers for lunch, and it can get messy.  It’s been a bit of a challenge to find healthy options that she likes, but here’s our typical rotation:

  • Hummus roll-up: whole grain tortilla, spread with hummus, and topped with shredded carrots, and cucumbers or zucchini  (This is her favorite! You can also replace the hummus with mashed avocado or cream cheese)
  • Cheese & mushroom quesadillas: sprinkle cheese and finely chopped mushrooms on tortilla, microwave briefly or heat on hot skillet
  • Finger food smorgasbord: small containers each of whole wheat pasta, avocado slices, cheese cubes, and tofu chunks
  • Nut-butter & banana (or strawberries) on ww bread, cut into shapes or as a tortilla roll-up
  • Green Smoothie & Granola bar: blueberry-banana-spinach-yogurt smoothie in a thermos, cheese cubes, and a granola bar

I usually add a small container of veggies (she loves cherry tomatoes or frozen peas) and fresh fruit (blueberries, grapes cut in half, or a 1/2 banana) to her lunch as well.

On a more personal eating note, I decided to participate in What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW) this week, so here’s what yesterday looked like for me, (although I apologize in advance for the less-than-appealing photos!)

Breakfast: Oatmeal with blueberries, ground flaxseed & cinnamon; coffee with milk; kiwi

Lunch: Sweet potato-black bean hash (leftovers), pineapple

Snack: banana with peanut butter + a handful of dark chocolate chips

Dinner: Salad with tomatoes, carrots, avocado, almonds and oil & vinegar; tahini-carrot-bulgher ‘burgers’ with hummus

Snack: apple

Observations: I eat a lot of fruit and nuts/nut butters. The accountability of sharing my food today helped me keep it pretty clean… and my 2012 goals helped me resist the leftover Christmas cookies in our freezer.  :)

Do you have to pack lunches for your kids, or yourself?  You can check out other WIAW posts at Peas and Crayons.