Bourbon Bacon Brownies

If the title doesn’t make you excited, I don’t even know what to tell you.

I have a friend who is vegan… and he decided to celebrate his birthday with a BBQ. A non-vegan barbecue. So naturally, if you are going to be un-vegan for the day, bacon is a necessity. I feel like bacon is the ultimate non-vegan food.

I love any excuse to make elaborate desserts. So naturally, I love it when people have birthdays and let me make treats for them. It’s really not too hard to make that happen. Plus, I have an office full of taste-testers again, so I can make all kinds of experiments and not be stuck eating it all myself, for better or worse. I am all for eating whatever, but “healthy” or not, a pan of brownies is still a pan of brownies. Usually sugar is involved and I think sugar is best in moderation. Bacon, on the other hand….

I based this recipe off of my current go-to for gluten free brownies that don’t taste like crumbly cardboard. They got a stamp of approval from gluten-eaters in my life, so I had to add that to the rotation. Plus I covered them in bacon – there’s no way that can end badly. The only change I made was omitting the vanilla extract and adding 1/8 cup of bourbon whiskey. They have a strong whiskey flavor, so if whiskey isn’t your thing, feel free to reduce the amount. Or omit entirely. Or use some other liquor – tequila, rum, Bailey’s, or Kahlua would be great in these!

Bacon Salted Caramel

3 strips bacon (I like Niman Ranch)
~1/2 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar (maple syrup might also be awesome here)
~1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk (from a can)
1/2 tsp sea salt

Chop up your bacon and cook in a small sauce pan for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add your brown sugar, coconut milk, and salt. Bring to a boil for a minute or two and then reduce the heat. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will thicken as it cooks and even more as it cools.

For a smoother texture and smaller bacon bits, I used my immersion blender to puree the caramel while the mixture was still warm. I didn’t make it silky-smooth because I still wanted that bite of bacon-y goodness.

 

An Ode to my Slow Cooker

I adore my slow cooker. It’s also a pressure cooker, but the slow cook function gets used way more often. It’s great for long days, it’s a nice way to avoid using the oven and heating up the house, and there are usually fewer dished to wash.

I’m not actually going to write an ode to my slow cooker. I’m not totally crazy. But it has been a life saver. I love coming home to dinner and there are few things as delicious as a slow-cooked roast or pulled pork.

I have this model. It was a birthday gift from my boyfriend and I don’t think he has ever gotten as much out of a gift that he bought for someone else.

Our lives will start getting more insane in a few weeks when school starts and I start my new big kid job and commute a little bit more. So it will be a lot more slow cooking and less time in the kitchen. Which is not a bad thing. I love being in the kitchen and cooking and being creative, but it’s also really nice to have those hours.

Here are my top 10 favorite slow cooker recipes that are always in rotation at my house:

  1. Braised Beef Ragu with Polenta
  2. Crockpot Pulled Pork 
  3. Crockpot Coffee Ancho Chile Short Ribs
  4. Lemon Pepper Chicken
  5. Honey Ginger Apple Shredded Pork
  6. Slow Cooker Pork with Noodles (I use tamari or coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce and sometimes chicken instead of pork)
  7. Crockpot Chicken with Thai Peanut Sauce (Vegetarian/Vegan option)
  8. Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs
  9. Jambalaya
  10. Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken

What is your favorite slow cooker recipe?

 

Things you learn when you start running

I have only been running for the last 5 years. Prior to that, I only ran if I absolutely had to. Sports practices, mainly. And I was definitely one of the slow ones. I still am one of the slow ones, but now I can run that slow for hours. My forte is a moderate pace for a long time. I’m sure I could get faster if I worked at it… but I don’t like it.

Anyway, I have spent a lot of time on the road in the last 5 years and I have learned a lot about exercise and myself and training and the cities I’ve lived in. I’ve learned important things and trivial things and everything in between.

And then there are things that you only learn when you are a runner:

1. Your own clothing can make you bleed. Seriously, chafing is a nightmare. If you have never heard of BodyGlide, I strongly suggest you look into it.

2. Toenails are overrated. But the people at my nail salon are awesome. I currently have an acrylic toenail to replace one that fell off. It looks real, my feet look slightly less horrible, and I think it is absolutely hilarious to have an acrylic toenail.

3. Some foods and exercise don’t mix. Some people can eat whatever they want before/while they run and it is totally fine. I am not one of those people. I’ll spare you the details.

4. The location of gas stations within a 10 mile radius. And parks with nice bathrooms.

5. Exactly one mile from your house in every direction.

6. Exact distances between arbitrary landmarks. “Hey, it’s only 2.7 miles from here to [insert random location here]!” “This intersection means I’m only 1.35 miles from home!” 

7. You also learn how many people actually have no idea how far a marathon is. I cringe every time someone asks me how long my marathon is. Well, you know, marathon distance. Or when people tell me their sister ran a 5K marathon. With her unicorn, because that exists too.

8.  You learn that you do, in fact, have a favorite flavor of gel. Montana Huckleberry for this girl.

9. How many muscles you use when you walk down the stairs. Because all of them hurt after a race. Especially when that race is a downhill marathon.

10. Weird things you do when you run – according to my latest race photos, my right thumb likes to stay in a “thumbs-up” position. I also like to think about food (imagine that!). For a long time, I only felt comfortable holding my water bottle in my left hand. My ipod always gets clipped to my left hip.

11. More than you ever wanted to know about your training partners – how happy or unhappy they are at 6:30 am, their bathroom habits, and their chafing problems, among others.
On the other hand, some of the best conversations I have had were on the run. I have rarely found better listeners than my running partners.

12. That you will have to learn to evade small (and large) animals. Cats, dogs, snakes, geese, prairie dogs, turkeys… normal things.

 

What totally random things have you learned on the road?

 

Joy

For the longest time, I thought that joy would be found in my “goal weight”. In a size 4 pair of jeans. In being “the hot friend”.

It never occurred to me that my joy would come with calloused hands and calloused feet, with missing toenails, bruises, scars, blood, sweat, and tears.

I never thought joy would be found on a rainy road in the middle of Boston.

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I never thought joy would look like pulling a lot of weight off the floor.

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I never thought joy would be the product of early mornings, two-a-days, long runs, and workouts that crushed my soul.

But these things continue to bring me joy. Maybe not in that exact moment, but they bring joy to my life as a whole. I have found that I am happiest out on the roads or in the gym. I continue to surprise myself with what I am capable of. I mentioned in my last post that I don’t always like doing these things, but I keep coming back because they help me feel like my best self.

I have fallen in love with my own strength. The more I train and the more I feel like an athlete, the less I care about what size my jeans are. Plus the fact that I lift means that they won’t fit right anyway. The more I learn who I am, the less power the scale has over my happiness.

I know my strength and that enables me to act confidently and to be bold, because I know what I can do. I know what I can endure. I am able to trust myself and take chances because I know that I can surprise myself.

I hope you find the same. I hope you find something that brings you joy. Something that makes you feel strong and powerful and bold. If not, keep looking. It might be in the most unexpected of places. But you’ll find it.

 

The Biggest Fitness Myths

I think there are 2 big myths when it comes to fitness.

1. Fitness is fun all of the time.

That is completely false. If you are having fun 100% of the time, you are probably not working hard enough to challenge yourself. Sometimes it really sucks. It hurts. It makes you want to throw up and cry at the same time.

If you try to avoid the hard work, your goals will always stay out of reach.

I love running. But I also hate it. It hurts and some days I don’t want to go do it and sometimes I sit on the side of the road and cry. But I always come back to it. Because there are moments where it makes me feel so alive and strong. Because it makes me feel limitless. Because I love being a runner and I love what running has done for my life. I don’t always like running, but I keep coming back to it because I love it.

2. Fitness is awful all of the time.

If you genuinely hate what you are doing, do something else!!! Seriously! There are so many ways to get in shape; I’m willing to bet that you can find one that makes you happy at least some of the time.

If you hate your gym time, it is so easy to make excuses to not make it happen. Suddenly you are really tired, and there’s this other thing that I’m sure you are supposed to do and I’m sure you’ll go tomorrow. Or you will come up with another excuse because you would rather do anything else.

So try something else! Try a couple group fitness classes. Get off the treadmill and run outside. Pick up some weights. Do Zumba. Experiment. You will probably find something that makes you feel alive and strong and you won’t always like it, but you will love it. And you will keep coming back to it. Because fitness is supposed to be fun.

At least most of the time.

Boredom and another Meal Plan

Almost one month ago today, I made the trek from Hopkinton to Boston on foot with 30,000 of my closest friends. I am realizing now that marathon training really did take up my whole life. I had a big goal and every choice I made was aimed at getting me closer. With the exception of a few nights where I drank entirely too much wine. Unless you want to call that carb-loading.

Marathon training meant my time was pretty much already accounted for. My training plan meant that I knew what I would be doing every morning, my diet plan meant I knew what, when, and how much I would be eating. Weekends meant long runs, Monday was a rest day, and I settled into a routine of working really hard.

Now I’m in this weird place of not training for anything and feeling kind of lazy and unmotivated. There is something so fulfilling about making progress towards a goal and I miss it. Working towards something so big is a ton of work and requires sacrifices, but I have always been proud of what I was doing. I have questioned my sanity more than twice, but working towards a big goal is something I really enjoy.

So the big question (still) is now what?! I have a couple random races scheduled in the next month and a half marathon on the docket for August. I can’t decide if I want to try to crush the half or not. I guess I don’t have to decide that for another couple of weeks.

I’m kicking around the idea of trying to get really strong. Spending my mornings and my afternoons in the gym picking up heavy things and putting them back down. But I am also the fastest I have ever been and I worry that prioritizing lifting right now will slow me down. Maybe a half in August and then spend the fall getting stronger? So many choices….

The one thing that hasn’t changed is trying to eat well. Here’s what’s on the agenda for this week:

Sunday: Game of Thrones party. I made some sweet potato fries. Apparently the secret to crispy fries is to give them a nice long soak first. I was not diligent about making sure they don’t touch each other… but they still turned out alright, just not as crispy as I might have hoped.

Monday: Lemon Chicken Breasts, Risotto, and Asparagus. We have had a weekend of dreary weather and risotto is one of my current favorite comfort foods. I ran out of arborio rice, so I used mostly arborio and some jasmine rice and it still turned out delicious.

I took a picture of this and only after we ate, I realized that I took a picture of the breast that I poked with the thermometer to make sure I wasn’t feeding us raw chicken. The juices started running out and long story short, it didn’t actually photograph well.

Tuesday: Tri-Tip. I use this recipe for inspiration. Most of the time I just throw together seasonings or a marinade, let it sit overnight and then off to the grill. I grill on high heat for 5 minutes per side, then turn the heat down to medium for ~10 minutes per side.

Wednesday: Copycat Red Robin Burgers from Paleo Parents. With chicken breasts, grilled pineapple, white rice, and broccoli.

Red Robin Recreation - copycat teriyaki Banzai Burgers as seen on Paleo Parents

Thursday: Super simple crockpot pulled pork. My recipe is pork loin + spices (whatever sounds good) + 1/4 cup water + crockpot. Let it hang out for 6-8 hours on low and enjoy.

Friday: We camped Friday night, so dinner was pan-fried chicken breasts and rice. We got a new campstove and it has 2 settings – off and Dante’s inferno. I’ll talk more about camp cooking next week. The trip was an adventure.

I got some awesome recipes in my inbox this week and I’m looking forward to trying them and sharing with you!

 

What I Fed Myself This Week

When I started this blog, I had high hopes that it would be a platform to share recipes that I developed myself. I love food, I love cooking, and being in the kitchen is my favorite way to get creative. It seemed like a great fit.

I learned that food styling and food photography are not my strong suit, botched recipes can get expensive, and it takes quite a bit of time and iterations to get a recipe dialed in enough to want to share it with the world.

I have a whole new respect for food bloggers. These days, my focus is running and Crossfit and meal planning, shopping, cooking, and eating takes up enough time as it is.

Most of what I cook is loosely based or “inspired by” the recipes I pick out.The ingredients are more like a suggestion or a framework to build off of. Unless you are baking. You should be reasonably precise with that or things will not go well for you. I’ve learned that the hard way more than twice.

But I realize that not everyone likes to meal plan. Not everyone knows where to start. We all have busy lives. It can be hard if you have never done it before.

So I wanted to start sharing what I am feeding myself – to share ideas with you, help you out if you are trying to cook at home more, or just to share some new recipes!

I use my slow cooker  and my grill religiously. Between the BF and I, we have a number of dietary considerations, so I typically rotate between broccoli, asparagus, and zucchini as our veggie side. Our carbohydrate/starch is typically rice (jasmine, sushi, arborio,etc.) or any variety of potato. Sometimes rice noodles. I’m working on incorporating quinoa. We eat simply and most of these meals require little prep time.

Sunday: Balsamic Braised Beef from the 21 Day Sugar Detox with Broccoli and Polenta

Monday: 30 Minute Cacciatore Chicken with Grilled Asparagus and Mashed Potatoes

Chicken Cacciatore

Tuesday: Filipino Style London Broil with Rice and Grilled Zucchini and Carrots

Wednesday: Ginger-Marinated Bulgogi-Style Chicken with Rice and Broccoli. This is one of my favorite marinades – I use some variant of it almost every week. I use tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce for a gluten free option.

Thursday: Carnitas Nachos. Because Cinco de Mayo. Pork Verde, Baked Tortilla Chips, and all the fixings (avocado, salsa, cilantro, tomato, green onion, mango).

Paleo Pork Verde on www.PopularPaleo.com

Friday: Another favorite of mine and a marinade that I use almost weekly. Balsamic Rosemary Steak with broccoli and roasted red potatoes.

Steak, potato, and mushroom kabobs are soaked in a flavorful balsamic rosemary marinade and grilled to perfection! This takes steak and potatoes to a whole new level! | LoveGrowsWild.com

Saturday will be an adventure. I may or may not cook something. We might go out. It’s too soon to tell. I’m sure it will be delicious.

 

Happy eating!!