Wednesday, December 25, 2013

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Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours: I hope you have a great holiday celebrating with those you love and stuffing your face with those foods you love.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

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Pretzel Chocolate Chip Bars

This is my third post this month. Woo hoo! I've been off from school for almost three weeks and I'm starting to get back to what life was like before the craziness of this past semester. The biggest lesson I learned was that I needed to organize my life a little better by prioritizing and cutting back on things. I was doing too much and was spread too thin. I guess the best way to put it is that I made myself too available and had a lot of trouble with saying no. Not a good thing when you are going to be a therapist and part of your job is to dive into the lives of others and help them come up with more effective boundaries! Next semester will be different and I think I have done a better job at consolidating things so I'm hoping that these small changes will have big effects at home. I'm sure the girls will love having me around more and will love having me be less distracted all the time.

To celebrate the end of the semester and the little bit of downtime I have before school starts again, I made these Pretzel Chocolate Chip Bars. I found this recipe after doing a quick "pretzel chocolate chip cookies" search and I am never letting it go. The sweetness, saltiness, crunchiness, really just everything about this recipe was great. I'm a chocolate chip cookie lover by nature so my expectations for these bars were a little high and I am happy they did not disappoint. I had to keep these hidden from the girls just so that I didn't have to share.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Bars
Source: Just A Taste
Yields: 16 bars

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, divided
1 cup crushed salted pretzels, divided
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over two sides. Coat with cooking spray.

In a large bowl using a hand mixer, mix together the melted butter and the sugars until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined

Slowly mix in the flour and salt just until incorporated. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of crushed pretzels.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top before sprinkling the remaining 1/2 cup of crushed pretzels on top.

Bake for about 30 until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the cookie bars from the oven and allow them to cool completely in the pan. Once cooled, remove the cookies using the parchment paper overhang.

While the cookie bars are cooling, melt the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips with the vegetable oil in in the microwave, heating for 20 seconds at a time until melted.

Drizzle the cookie bars with the melted chocolate and allow them to cool until the melted chocolate hardens. (I poured the chocolate into a ziplock bag and piped them onto the bars)

Cut the cookie bars into 16 squares. Serve and enjoy!
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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Late for the Holidays: Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

I started my Christmas shopping last Friday. This is a first for me. I am usually very on top of things and done with all of my holiday shopping the first week of December. Considering the first week of December coincided with the end of the semester and the finishing of some of my programs at my internship site, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I am this behind. The worst part is that I am so stumped when it comes to what to get people. Last year I made this Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix and handed it out to the teachers at Cati's school and I'm doing the same this year. Except, I'm thinking I will be handing these out to family and friends with a note attached that says "IOU a more thought out, personalized gift."

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
Source: Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Yields 20 servings

3 cups nonfat dry milk powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1½ cups cocoa powder
1½ cups chopped milk chocolate chips (or any other variety of chocolate)
¼ teaspoon salt

Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl. Working in two batches, pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the chocolate is finely ground. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

To make hot cocoa, put 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup of hot milk. Top with whipped cream or miniature marshmallows.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

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Fun & Fit: November

How is it December already? November was such a great month in the fitness department that I'm sad to see it go. December, however, will probably be just as awesome with a mud run (The Challenge) I'm doing with my friends and Alex and half marathon #6 (Live Ultimate). I honestly can't get enough of all these races!

In November, I participated in DIVAS 5K. This wasn't a race for time as I was doing it with my girls (and the new stroller) and with two of my friends who were new to running. The race was fun and a great first race for my friends because of all the cheering and goodies given away. We left that race with  crowns, boas, and pretty medals. And Cati was happy there was no color thrown her way ;)

I also participated in the Fort Myers Beach Half Marathon and got myself a personal record. I ran that race not thinking about time, ran how I felt, enjoyed myself all 13.1 miles, and scored a 2:09:47 time. I was so happy! My only goal for this race was to beat my best time of 2:23 from my half in March, then as the miles went by and I saw that I was running faster than I thought or felt, I really pounded out the last 5K of that race. I ran 1:30-:30 intervals the whole time and am proof that running intervals does speed you up. My first half marathon in January 2013 was done in 2:30:06 so the Fort Myers Beach Half was an improvement of 20 minutes. I'm a believer!

Registration for my virtual race opened up and thanks to all those that registered in November, I was able to donate $260 to Give Kids The World. The best part about this virtual race has been running the distance with friends who have signed up. I seriously love the running community and am so glad to be a part of it. For more information, visit the Facebook event page or sign up on Active.

Lastly, November was dedicated to yoga, increasing flexibility, and tackling head- and handstands. I love how yoga makes me feel and I think that has also contributed to my improvement with my running.

I'm already thinking about what fitness goals I want to set for myself for 2014. I know I want to do more races, including a full marathon, and I need to think of something epic and memorable for my 30th birthday!
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