November 2014 archive

Boston Market’s Sweet Potato Casserole {A Healthy Makeover}


Anyone ever have Boston Market’s Sweet Potato Casserole?
You know, the one with the delicious brown sugar oatmeal cookie crumble topping and melted marshmallows?
The one that’s 480 calories per serving? Yes, you heard me right. Almost 500 calories in ONE serving of this side dish. Can you say GUT BOMB? Ugh! Why does everything so good have to be so bad? Such is life, I guess!

I refuse to give up this comfort food, especially with Thanksgiving just around the corner. With a little brainstorming, determination, experimenting, and sprinkle of elbow grease, I was able to transform this traditionally fattening dish into a much lighter, BUTTER-FREE recipe that is sure to satisfy.

Some of the naughty ingredients in the traditional Boston Market Sweet Potato Casserole are:
+ 1/2 stick of butter
+ 1/2 cup brown sugar
+ 1/4 cup heavy cream
+ 1 cup brown sugar
+ 1 stick of butter
+ 2 cups mini marshmallows

That’s 1 1/2 sticks of butter, 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar, and heavy cream in ONE dish. Yikes, bikes! I’m not saying that this isn’t tasty because let’s be real here – anything with butter, sugar and cream in it is bound to be damn good but it ain’t the healthiest thing you could be putting into your body. Remember people, your body is a temple – worship it. Especially on Thanksgiving, because a healthy body, let alone a body in general is definitely something we should all be thankful for!

Now in my personal opinion, the ‘mallows aren’t so bad. I left them out this time but wouldn’t be opposed to using about 1/2 to 1 cup of them for Thanksgiving. Better yet, I’d make my own. This time around, however, I used chopped pecans to give it a lil extra something. Take a look at my improved recipe and compare the ingredients. Different huh? But I tell you the taste is almost identical. You’re still getting that same sweet flavor of the potatoes and the same crumbly, delightful topping that is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.


Healthy Makeover Recipe
+ 4-5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
+ 1/3 cup honey
+ 1 egg
+ 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
+ 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
+ 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
+ 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
+ 1/4-1/2 cup rolled oats (does NOT have to be quick-cooking)
+ 2 tablespoons all-purpose regular or GF flour
+ 1 teaspoon cinnamon
+ 1-2 tablespoons coconut sugar
+ 1/3 cup or so of roughly chopped pecans (FYI Williams Sonoma Veggie Chopper is amazing for chopping pecans. Yes, I am slightly obsessed with this kitchen toy.)

+ Preheat oven to 350°F
+ Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish with coconut oil
+ Fill a large pot with cubed sweet potatoes and water
+ Over high heat, bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender
+ Drain potatoes and transfer into a large bowl
+ Add honey. Trick of the trade: when adding honey, grease the measuring cup with canola or olive oil then add the honey. This will cause the honey to come right out without sticking.
+ Add egg, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, kosher salt
+ Mix with an electric mixer or food processor until smooth
+ Spread evenly onto prepared baking dish
+ Melt coconut oil in microwave (about 15-30 seconds)
+ Add rolled oats, flour, cinnamon, coconut sugar, and chopped pecans
+ Stir to combine and sprinkle topping over potatoes
+ Bake 45 minutes until hot and brown around the edges

Feel free to double this recipe if you’re expecting many guests for Thanksgiving. Just be sure to use a 9×13 baking dish instead of an 8 or 9in square dish. This recipe makes for great leftovers too! Also a good dessert alternative to pie or ice cream!

I am SO getting in the Thanksgiving spirit. Weeeeeeeeee!


^Photo by Noah Berg Photography

DIY Mini Concrete Succulent Planters


When it comes to having live plants in your home, succulents are where it’s at. I guess you could say I’m a sucker for succulents these days! 2014 has been a stressful year for me so I’ve been doing anything and everything to bring calm and balance to my crazy-ass world. Plants, particularly succulents in my case have brought a certain “feng shui” that I needed to my home. Call me hippy-dippy but the vibrant energy of succulents has had a positive effect on me and makes my living space feel lively and happy.

Succulents thrive in dry climates and sunshine. HELLO, dry-over-300-days-of-sunshine-state better known as Colorado – we’ve got it made!

And caring for these cuties is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Check it:

1. Water them once a week.
2. Keep them near a window or glass door to get ample sunlight.

Boom. Done. Are you convinced yet?

Now that I’m a grownup and bring living plants into my house, I was inclined to have these plants live in cute, visually pleasing pots. None of that cheap plastic Home Depot bullshit that they come in. But who wants to spend $20+ on a planter? Not this girl! Instead, I make super shabby chic concrete planter bowls.


+ Quikrete 5000
+ Water
+ Painter’s Bucket from Home Depot or similar multi-use container – so cheap!
+ Small/skinny garden shovel/spoon to mix concrete
+ Small plastic containers/Tupperware/Molds (I got mine from the dollar store)
+ Oranges (like the fruit)
+ Non-stick cooking spray like Pam or WD-40 (this item is crucial!)
+ Toothpick
+ Succulents of choice (mini ones can be found at Home Depot)
+ Succulent soil (can be found at Lowe’s)

+ Spray your molds and orange with non-stick cooking spray or WD-40.
+ Mix concrete and water in bucket. The amounts/ratios will depend on how many planters you make at once and how big they are.
+ Rule of thumb: the consistency should be the consistency of natural peanut or almond butter/cookie dough. Not slushy and definitely not runny. Not too wet and not too dry.
+ Fill the mold 1/2-3/4 then gently wedge orange in deep enough to form a bowl. It may take some twisting and turning. Be patient.
+ Tap the sides of the container to pop any air pockets and use the toothpick to poke any bubbles.
+ Repeat with any additional molds.
+ Place on a flat surface out of direct sunlight.
+ Wait 24 hours before getting your paws on ’em. 24 hours. Got it?
+ Carefully remove the concrete project from the molds.

Wasn’t that easy? You’ve now got yourself the cutest planter bowls in the history of ever.



Bye, Bye, Bingo Wings! Hello, Toned Arms!


Bin·go Wings
/biNGɡo/ /wiNGs/
The flabby, loose upper arm skin that has a field day when jostled, commonly seen in older women who have just won Bingo.

Bingo Announcer: “B-33”
Old Lady: “BINGO!”
::Waves Bingo card up in in the air, letting the flappy skin free to play::

The truth is, Bingo Wings are not exclusive to these old ladies. They don’t discriminate against younger women, or even men for that matter. If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled getting the back of your arms tight and firm. I’m happy to say that my regimented cardio routine and varied arm workouts have eliminated the jiggle. Arms, especially for women can be a total pain in the ass to exercise, but I promise with consistency, dedication and an open mind you’ll get there. Many, many moons ago I refused to wear anything that exposed my arms because I was self-conscious and didn’t feel confident. It was sad and totally depressing (and made dress shopping impossible). But I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I changed my lifestyle – made eating well and exercising a priority and over time I started to see positive changes.



If you know me at all, you know I’m a cardio bunny. I’m a runner but I do like to switch it up, keep the body guessing using the StairMaster (so good for the booty) and incline walking. My secret to working my arms during my cardio sessions is incorporating light weights into it – 2.5-5lbs is good. Hold the weights as you go and make sure it’s not too heavy where it’s uncomfortable and unsafe but not too light where you feel like you’re holding air. Make sure the dumbbells are the rubbery kind – no metal – so if you accidentally drop them you won’t break your toe. This is a great exercise if you’re strapped for time. Cardio and arms all at once, killing two birds with one stone!

Important to note: you cannot “spot treat.” In order to see results – in this case – sexy, sculpted arms – you need to lose overall body fat and build muscle. Combine these exercises below to your cardio routine and as always, eat clean. I do 3 or 4 sets of 10-12 repetitions. In between each arm rep I do reps of a different exercise. This is also known as a superset.
Tricep Dip – 12 reps
Sumo Squat with Lateral Raise – 12 reps
Tricep Dip – 12 reps
Sumo Squat with Lateral Raise – 12 reps
Tricep Dip – 12 reps
Sumo Squat with Lateral Raise – 12 reps
Tricep Dip – 12 reps
Sumo Squat with Lateral Raise – 12 reps

Oh, and don’t be afraid of heavier weights. The heavier you use, the more definition you’ll see.


^This guy is not afraid to lift heavy!

Alternating Front & Lateral Raises
+ Use plates or dumbbells (I use 2.5-3lbs)
+ Challenge yourself with balance – kneel onto a ball while performing this exercise
+ Sumo Squat Lateral Raise
+ Great exercise to sculpt shoulders
+ I do these against a wall for balance. If you don’t need the wall, by all means go for it! More power to you!
+ TRX Tricep Press
+ TRX Bicep Curl
+ Skull Crushers
Pull Ups / Assisted Pull Ups
Chin Ups / Assisted Chin Ups

Tricep Push Ups
Standing Bicep Curls
+ Challenge: stand on flat end of Bosu Ball and bicep curl to shoulder press
Bench Dips
+ Challenge: place a weighted plate on top of your thighs
Shoulder Press
+ Shoulder Press on Swiss Ball
Kettlebell/Dumbbell Curl Press into Lunge
Plank Variations
+ Plank Front Raise
+ Plank Drag with Towel
+ Plank Up-Downs on Bosu Ball

Muddling fruit for a cocktail or mocktail is a fantastic and fun alternative way to work those arms!


I wanna know – which arm workouts are your favorite? Anyone have kick ass exercises that I’m missing? Share please! xx

Oh, and don’t forget to consume some sort of protein after performing these exercises so your muscles can properly repair themselves. My faves right now are Fairlife Chocolate Milk and Plant Fusion Vanilla Bean Protein Powder.

{Please Note} I am not a health care professional or personal trainer. Always check with your physician prior to following any of my suggested workouts. These are exercises that have personally worked for me. 🙂

Weekly Goodies {& an easy weight loss tip!}


Weekends are for shopping. Every Sunday I venture out to Costco and Sprouts to get food for the week. While I’m very good at making lists and meal planning, it never fails that I make a couple of impulse purchases (so sue me). I’m not talking gum or breath mints (although I have made those purchases a handful of times), today I’m talking good quality snacks that when eaten in moderation, are completely guilt-free. One easy, fool-proof way I ensure I eat yummy snackies in moderation is using bowls! Sounds almost stupid it’s that simple, but it works like a charm. Use bowls that are small enough where you won’t be tempted to overfill it. Try your best to refrain from eating out of the bag, it’s too easy to lose track of how many chips or crackers or cookies you’ve consumed. I’ve lost LBs from making this simple adjustment. Yes, I know the barkTHINS are not in bowls, this was intentional for the photoshoot to show texture and detail.

barkTHINS (the Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut Almond variety). If you haven’t had barkTHINS before, let me tell you – you’re missing out, like you need to go out and buy some immediately if not sooner. barkTHINS are snacking chocolate – made with only Fair Trade Certified, non-GMO ingredients. For any chocolate lovers out there, this will be your go-to sweet snack. I’ve had the Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt and the Dark Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt. Both equally delicious, but the coconut variety is the tops. Thin, dark chocolate bark with little chunks of coconut and almond and a hint of sea salt… mmmmmmm. What I like about barkTHINS as opposed to traditional chocolate bark is that they are thin and easily breakable so you can portion out your snack without any hassle. These are also very reasonably priced. The price for a 16 oz. bag at Costco ranges from $8-$10. Think about how much one chocolate bar can cost at Whole Foods… just sayin.’

barkTHINS Goodie Facts
+ Fair Trade Chocolate: farmers are getting paid a fair price and invest in good agricultural practices
+ Non-GMO
+ No artificial ingredients, flavors, preservatives, or colors
+ 60-65% blend of cacao in all varieties
+ Gluten Free (all varieties except the pretzel)


Way Better Snacks Limited Edition Punkin Cranberry Corn Tortilla Chips
As I’m perusing the aisles for tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes for my zucchini lasagna, I came across these delightful little chips called Way Better Snacks. Now, this brand is not foreign to me, I have enjoyed many bags of chips from these guys. However, the flavor was foreign, because it’s a limited edition seasonal flavor. By this time I’m basically already sold but I knew I should read what the flavor was before tossing into the cart. “Oh My Sweet Punkin Cranberry” is what it’s called. Cute, right? I probably shouldn’t base my purchase decisions on the “cuteness” of the flavor name but come on, this is damn good. Totally touched the pumpkin-loving-can’t-even white girl in me. OK I’ve digressed. Back to the chips.


The ingredients in these guys are simple. My rule of thumb – the simpler, the better. And healthier.
+ Non GMO corn
+ Sunflower and/or safflower oil
+ Cranberries
+ Pumpkin
+ Organic sprouted flax seed
+ Organic sprouted quinoa
+ Raspberry
+ Pure sea salt

Sprouted ingredients allow the essential fatty acids, proteins, and minerals to come out of their little shell to work their magic on your digestive system to maintain a healthy body.

Way Better Snacks Goodie Facts
+ Gluten Free
+ Non-GMO
+ Vegan
+ Low sodium
+ No trans fats
+ No artificial colors
+ No artificial flavors


Happy snacking, ya’ll!


STOP Doing Crunches and Start Doing This


First and foremost, abs / flat tummies are made in the kitchen. Not in the gym. To get a flat/toned tummy, you HAVE to eat clean. If you consistently eat well and perform effective core exercises, I promise you’ll be in good hands.

I can’t tell you how many times I see people at the gym doing crunches. When I say crunches, I’m talking the typical laying-on-your-back-hands-behind-the-head kind. Seeing this drives me up a wall. It’s almost as annoying as guys that wear their sunglasses (Oakley-style) behind their head – like come on, it’s not doing anything for you >>> Just like crunches/sit ups!

To all you crunchaholics, crunches are useless. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I’m telling you this for your own good. If you’re dedicating time and energy into fitness, you deserve to actually see results. Take it from me, I used to be a cruncher back in the day, but luckily I’ve moved onto greener pastures thanks to my man Trey (certified strength and conditioning specialist/future physical therapist/and total stud) and my own personal experience, observation, and research.

No Crunches 1

^Yes, that’s me in my bathroom – don’t judge. Kidding, totally OK if you do!

Point blank: Crunches do more harm than good.
+ You know how they say to bend at the knees, not at the back when you’re lifting something heavy? When you’re doing a crunch, you’re repeatedly bending at the back (Doiiiii, ouch!)
+ They’re bad for your spine, wears out your discs
+ They promote poor posture (especially bad for those that work at a computer all day!)
+ They focus on only surface muscles, not the deep ones
+ They do not involve the whole body
+ They do not train your body to move better. Daily life activities require your muscles to work together, not in isolation

There are SO many better approaches for core training, people.

1. Stir the Pot / Roll Out <<< my go-to! 2. Walk Out
3. Jack Knife
4. Pike / Roll-Out <<< TOUGH! 5. Plank
1. Front Plank
2. Side Plank
3. Elevated Arm Plank
4. Elevated Leg Plank
(I bought my own TRX Suspension Trainer about a year ago and am obsessed. Expensive but pays for itself in a rock hard stomach! Worth it. Plus free shipping!)
1. Challenge yourself by standing on a Bosu Ball
1. Extended Bird Dogs are my fav
1. Windmills
2. Swings

Always remember to stabilize with your core by drawing your belly button to your spine. When practicing this, you’re activating your transverse abdominus, the “tire” wrapped around your core.

No Crunches3

Black Bean Avocado Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies

Hello, lover.

black bean avocado fudge brownies

I’m swooning as I’m writing this because these brownies are just too good. Remember the Sex and the City episode where Miranda made herself some cake with the Betty Crocker mix and kept stepping back into the kitchen for another bite…….. and another bite…….. aaaaand, another bite?

black bean avocado brownies

Yeah, that’s me with these brownies. And I have no shame in my game because they’re guilt- (and gluten) free:
+ No butter
+ No oil
+ No white sugar
+ No flour

You’re probably wondering, “how the hell do you get fudgy brownies without butter?!”

Two words my friends: Avocado and Black Beans.

Avocado on a salad or piece of toast is fantastic of course but have you ever considered incorporating it into baking to replace butter? This will lower the calorie count and provide more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber, protein, potassium, folate, and vitamin B, K, and E.

When baking, substitute half the amount of butter in the recipe for mashed avocado. One avocado yields about 3/4 cup (per 3/4 cup, avocados have over 300 fewer calories than butter… #winning!)

Black beans (rinsed, drained, and pureed) are a perfect replacement for flour. You’re not only getting protein, but this trick cuts up to 200 calories too.

Instead of using white or brown sugar I decided to go with coconut sugar which, for the record does not taste like coconuts. It’s got a really mild, sweet caramelized-maple flavor.

+ 1 15oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
+ 1/2 large ripe avocado
+ 1 egg
+ 2 egg whites
+ 1/2 cup coconut sugar
+ 2/3 cup of good cocoa powder
+ 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
+ 1/4 teaspoon salt
+ 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
+ 1/3 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
+ 2 tablespoons peanut butter, melted

+ Preheat oven to 350°F
+ Lightly grease an 8×8 baking pan
+ Add all ingredients to food processor besides choc chips and peanut butter
+ Process until smooth, batter will/should be thick
+ Fold in chocolate chips
+ Pour batter into pan
+ Microwave peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl until melted, 10-25 seconds
+ Pour melted peanut butter all around the prepared pan, use a toothpick or something similar and draw a bunch of swirls and circles
+ Bake for 35 minutes, or until a knife/toothpick comes out clean

Keep cool in fridge, they’re the best this way! Try adding nuts or heath bar bits, or even some peppermint extract – it’ll taste like a Thin Mint! Recipe inspo – Monique from Ambitious Kitchen xx

black bean avocado brownies

(Fresh) Beet Burgers {just like the Kitchen Next Door}

beet burgers

the BEET.

I don’t always pun in my posts but when I do, it makes my heart skip a beet.

Beet burgers. Many, many moons ago when I was college at CU *Boulder* (go Buffs) I mosey’d my way down Pearl Street and found myself at the Kitchen Next Door – an amazeballs restaurant founded in Boulder, considered a community bistro, built by craftsman, serving food and drink from like-minded farmers, ranchers and purveyors. KND is committed to environmentally-friendly practices, including composting, wind power, eco-friendly packaging and recycling used cooking oil. It soon became one of my go-to eateries, and the beet burger was my go-to item on the menu.

Naturally, I was inclined to replicate this vegetarian delight. And after a few tries, my determination paid off. That’s one of my favorite things about cooking – remembering a distinct flavor and testing different ingredients until you get it just right.

This recipe is not only tasty but it’s also superduper healthy! A burger that’s healthy – who would’a thunk it? Beets should be in all yall’s diet. Beets are a powerhouse nutrient loaded with vitamin C, fiber, potassium (healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (good for bones, liver, kidneys and pancreas). It’s even been said that beets can clear up dandruff (which I get during dry, Colorado winters), relieve constipation (we’ve all been there), lower blood pressure, and prevent varicose veins!

Note: you will need a food processor for this recipe; otherwise you can try blending or manually mashing – I have not tried those techniques, FYI.

+ 2 1/2 cups of roasted beets, cubed
+ 1 cup of onion, chopped
+ 1/2 cup celery, chopped
+ 1/2 cup carrot, chopped
+ 1/2 canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
+ 2 eggs
+ 1/2 teaspoon cumin (or more to taste)
+ 1/2 teaspoon paprika
+ salt and pepper to taste
+ 3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
+ Arugula or spinach
+ Onion (thinly sliced)
+ Feta or goat cheese

Roast the Beets
+ Preheat oven to 400°F
+ Slice beet leaves, leaving yourself enough to grip
+ Rinse and scrub the beets then individually wrap loosely in foil
+ Transfer wrapped beets to oven (you can place directly on oven rack) and roast for 50-60 minutes
+ Beets are done when a fork slides easily into the beet
+ Dice beets into cubes

+ Preheat the oven to 350°F
+ In a small pan over medium-high heat, saute onions, carrots and celery with a pinch of salt until veggies soften. Let cool for a few minutes
+ Add beets, sauteed veggies, chickpeas and eggs to the bowl of the food processor
+ Mix on low or high until well combined
+ Add cumin, paprika, salt and pepper to taste and mix well
+ While food processor is running, slowly add the breadcrumbs until thoroughly mixed
+ Consistency will be a bit wet but should form and hold a patty (won’t be so wet that it loses shape but not so dry that it’s crumbly)
+ Place parchment paper on two baking pans/cookie sheets
+ Use your hands to form patties and carefully place on each sheet
+ Bake until hot in the center, ensuring not to overly dry, about 20-30 minutes
+ Keep an eye out as they cook
+ While they’re cooking, caramelize the onions
+ When finished, top with caramelized onions, greens, and cheese

beet burgers

Feel free to include burger buns, but I find them flavorful enough where you don’t even need them!

I hope you’re as upBEET as I was after you try this recipe 🙂

Meet Dana Tomc [Badass Runner, Harvard Grad Student, & Total Babe]


Do you know anyone who’s run 704 consecutive days in a row? I do. And her name is Dana Tomc – of Dana Caroline Bakes (a delicious dessert blog). As if that’s not impressive enough, she’s also a graduate student at Harvard. And to top it off, she’s drop dead gorge – (jealous yet?)

It was a no-brainer to interview this dime piece because she’s the epitome of a balanced lifestyle. She balances her passions (running, baking, her fiancé, friends and family) with the craziness we call life. As a fellow runner, I was stoked to get the skinny on her experience, tips, and of course the gear she uses!


Miss Dana! Tell me about yourself:
Dana: I’m from Middletown, CT, received my undergraduate degree at U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2009 and now I’m currently working on my Masters in Statistics at Harvard University.

My blog is called Dana Caroline Bakes. I started blogging about two years ago just for fun. I have such a sweet tooth and so it’s mainly sweets… I like to think my love for sweets is balanced out by my love for running ☺.

My love for running goes way back to high school where I ran track and cross country. In undergrad I ran track, mostly mid-distance. After college, I just started doing 5ks and half marathons.

You ran for 500 days in a row. Amazing! What motivated you to do this?
Dana: I started my running streak after a random conversation with a stranger on the ferry. We started talking about fitness, which led to running. He then told me about his running streak and how on that day he had run somewhere around 400 days in a row. I’m used to setting a goal for a race or improving my time, but I really liked the thought of setting a goal of consistency. As of today, I will have run 704 consecutive days! It’s been great for me to plan each day to find the time to get a run in. If you’re curious about it, search the internet, there are runners that have gone over 40 years without missing a day of running – it’s pretty amazing.

Your pace time is impressive. How did you get so fast?
Thank you! It was nice once I took the pressure off myself. Once I realized I have nobody to answer to but myself, it made training and races more enjoyable and in turn I was able to focus on my own fitness goals.

I like that! I think many of us need to gain that same mentality. What would you say are some of the best running tips?
Dana: Some tips that work for me…
+ Get some running clothes you are comfortable in. If something doesn’t fit just right or those shorts keep riding up, it messes with your focus and you’ll become more fixated on that than your run.
+ Get a good running hat. I hate when the sun is in my eyes, and sunglasses always bounce around. Running hats are light, keep the sun out of your eyes, and keep your hair out of your face.
+ Hydrate during a long run. It can be challenging to figure out a good way to hydrate during a run and it’s absolutely necessary to perform at a high level. A few helpful hints:

  • Create a loop that goes by your house. To avoid the temptation to sit around before heading back out, try putting your water bottle in the mailbox…no need to go inside!
  • Bring some cash with you and make your loop go by a gas station.
  • Invest in a water bottle belt. If you know stopping at your house or gas station will make it harder for you to start back up again, this is a great alternative.

I get periodic side stitches when I run. Help! Do you have any remedies? How can I prevent these?!
Dana: Those are the worst! I find some temporary relief when I just pinch my side, where the stitch is. As far as prevention goes, try adjusting your breathing (taking deep breaths rather than short quick breaths).

What’s the best way to recover after a long run?

Dana: After a long run, I like to stretch out, foam roll, and ice (my shins/knees).

How many half and full marathons have you run?
Dana: I’ve run five half marathons and my goal is to run a full one in the near future.

Well, there’s not a doubt in my mind that you will make that happen! Which was your favorite half marathon one and why?
Dana: Definitely the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, DC that I ran earlier this year. The setting was amazing… running through the streets of the Capital and seeing all the famous monuments. The amount of spectators was incredible… you had people cheering for you the whole way!


Describe the training process for a half/full marathon. How do you prepare both physically and mentally?
Dana: I usually start training for a half about 2-3 months out. It really depends on what my starting point is, but I’ll run easy throughout the week (2-3 miles/day) and then a long run (7+ miles) on the weekend. I mainly structure my week like that simply because I don’t have time to run more than that during the week. I increase the long run by ½-1 mile a week. There are a lot of great training programs out there for people to follow. I base my training off of what works with my schedule.

When I’m training for a race, I mentally prepare myself all week for my long run on the weekend. I know what the weather is going to be like and dress appropriately, I hydrate the night before, I get a good night’s sleep, I eat a good breakfast. By mentally preparing, I feel excited and ready to go for a nice long run.

In addition to running, what do you do to stay fit?
Dana: In addition to running, I lift weights. I enjoy strength training, but I also believe it’s helped with my running/preventing injuries. Typically I strength train about four days a week. I usually do my run before lifting (I’m sure many people think I should be doing it in the reverse order) …but to me, my running is more important and I’d rather get in a good run. I think with any fitness program you just have to find what works for you.



^that stomach though (!!!)

What is your go-to strength training exercise?
Dana: My go to strength-training exercise… walking lunges. I put a bar on my back and pick a distance, and lunge there and back. I always feel it the next day… which I love because that means I worked hard!

What’s your favorite brand of running kicks and why?
Dana: Asics DS Trainers. I’ve been running in them for probably 10 years. They are light and easy to break in. I would recommend them to anyone! But I also say, once you find running sneaks you like, there’s no reason to look any further.

How do you juggle school and staying fit?
Dana: It’s been challenging to find the right balance and I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m never certain I’ll be able to come home and go for a run/go to the gym, so I go first thing in the morning to be certain I can get a workout in. To me, it’s important to make the time to get a sweat in because it’s stress-relieving and makes me more productive when I go back and hit the books.

You’ve got flawless skin. Give us the details on your skin care regimen?
Dana: Thanks! I am very consistent with washing my face first thing in the morning and before I go to bed I make sure all my make up is off. Right now I’m using Aveeno Positively Radiant cleanser and Clean & Clear Dual Action moisturizer. I also use BB cream which I love because it’s light and evens out my skin tone.

What is the beauty product you just can’t live without and why?
Dana: NARS Bronzer in Laguna. It’s the only beauty product I’ll splurge on. I use it everyday to give my face some color.

Favorite healthy snack?

Dana: Chobani Greek yogurt! I love the mango and steel cut oat (apple cinnamon) flavors.

Favorite Dana Caroline Bakes dessert recipe?
Dana: The Italian Rainbow Cake that I made for my sister’s birthday. We used to love going to the Italian bakery and bringing home Italian Rainbow cookies… the cake was reminiscent of our favorite cookie growing up… not to mention, it’s delicious!

Italian Rainbow Cake

+ Don’t forget to keep up with Dana on Insta!

Pumpkin Pancakes with Pecan Praline Sauce

Pumpkin Pancakes_Pecan Praline Sauce

OK guys, I know what you’re thinking:
“TWO pumpkin recipes in a row?! Basic overload!”

But it’s November, so I am fully embracing my basic-pumpkin-loving-literally-can’t-even self. So sue me. ‘Tis the season!

I have really long days at work – like really long. So come the weekend I get in total breakfast mode – full throttle (just like Charlie’s Angels 2).

It’s a lovely Saturday, I’m sha-sha-shakin’ – in complete pancake-baking zone adding ingredients left and right and as I’m heating the griddle I realize I am OUT OF MAPLE SYRUP.

NOOOOOOOOOOO! What ever am I to do?! Why, make pecan praline sauce of course! I start gathering my ingreds for this when it registers to me that praline sauce requires maple syrup ::total palm-slap-to-the-forehead-moment::

I had to get crafty. But I’m thrilled to say I successfully created this decadent sauce sans maple syrup. I’m warning you, these pancakes are GOOD. So good that you’ll have a very hard time stopping yourself from eating them all. I’m a firm believer in everything in moderation, so as long as you do something active and keep your body strong, you’re good to go. It feels great to go on a long morning run first thing then come home and reward yourself with these bad boys!

Pumpkin Pancakes_Pecan Praline Sauce2

Pancake Ingredients
+ 1 1/4 cup gluten-free or regular all-purpose flour
+ 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
+ 2 teaspoons baking powder
+ 1/4 teaspoon salt
+ 1 teaspoon cinnamon
+ 1 teaspoon (or so) pumpkin pie spice
+ 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
+ 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
+ 1 egg
+ 2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted/cooled) or canola oil
+ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pancakes_Pecan Praline Sauce3

Pecan Praline Sauce Ingredients
(Use your best judgment in terms of measurements. I eyeballed it.)
+ About 1 cup of pecans (chopped)
+ 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil
+ 1/2 cup or so of brown sugar
+ 1-2 tablespoons of gluten-free or regular all-purpose flour
+ 1/4-1/3 cup water
+ 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Pancake Directions
**Note: If you use brown sugar, whisk with other dry ingredients. If you use honey, whisk with wet ingredients. Do not use both. You don’t need them that sweet**
+ Heat griddle to medium-high heat. Lightly grease with coconut oil.
+ Whisk dry ingredients together (flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice) in a large bowl.
+ Whisk wet ingredients (almond milk, egg, pumpkin, coconut/canola oil, honey, and vanilla extract.
+ Scoop 1/4 cup size batter onto griddle and make sure to leave enough space between cakes to flip ’em.
+ Let cook through 2-3 minutes or until a nice golden brown. If you’re unsure, just use a spatula to lift and take a peek. Once ready flip and continue until all batter is used.

Pecan Praline Sauce Directions
+ First, chop your pecans. I use this nifty William’s Sonoma veggie chopper to chop mine – works like a charm!
+ Heat pecans and 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl or container for a few minutes. Keep a close eye out to ensure they don’t burn.
+ In a glass bowl heat remaining coconut oil until melted.
+ Whisk in brown sugar, flour, and water.
+ Cook for a few minutes in microwave until sugar is dissolved. Consistency should be syrupy.
+ Add in unsweetened vanilla almond milk and pecans. Stir.

Woohoo! Breakfast is served. Pancake recipe inspired by Maria & Josh of Two Peas & Their Pod, sauce recipe inspired by Rachel of Southern Fairytail.

Enamel plates from Best Made.