Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip

24 May

Can you believe that before this past weekend, I had never been hiking?! This fact seemed to shock quite a few of my friends. After all, I’m a runner and a lifetime Girl Scout – week-long summer camp was a regular annual experience for me, but aside from walking from our tents to the mess hall, I’ve never been on a proper hike. Until now.

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Boy, have I been missing out! Our friends Adam and Jill invited Chris and myself to join them on a hiking day trip in Utica, IL. Sounded like it could be fun, so we were in. Starved Rock State Park is a 2.5 hour drive from Milwaukee, so we left early in the morning to arrive around 10:30am. Being the over-planner that I am, we had figured out all the food & drink, clothes, first aid and emergency supplies that we could possibly need for the day. I was tasked with making a pasta salad that could sit in the cooler all day, homemade trail mix, and some kind of granola bar or bite to replenish the carbs we’d quickly burn through.

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Once we walked up to the two “tourist” spots in the park – Starved Rock and Lover’s Leap, we had had enough of all the slow pokes, so we moved the car to a parking lot further away from the visitor’s center to do some real hiking.

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.comA quick lunch of sandwiches and fruit salad from Jill, my veggie pasta salad, chips, and perhaps a little something from Wisconsin (cheers!), we hiked out to see a few gorgeous canyons, complete with small waterfalls. The closer we got to the canyons, the cooler it became – a welcome relief from the hot, sunny 80+ degree day. The ground was pretty easy to walk on with a handful of muddy spots. The streams were what got me – too big to jump over (mostly) but too small to warrant turning around. Thankfully, Chris was really good at finding me the best places to cross where my shoes would become only slightly wet (they dried off quickly, too).

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

The views really were beautiful. Everything was bright green, we were relatively well-shaded, and the rocks of the canyons had this amazing layered yellow hue to them. Hiking to and from each canyon spot made us work up an appetite, so we stopped for a snack break before hitting the final, steepest trail. The granola bites I ended up making are filled with a tart roasted rhubarb puree. The crust is made up of ground oats, 7-grain cereal, coconut oil, peanut butter, flax, and cinnamon – definitely a hearty, compact snack! I wanted to make sure we were set with carbs, protein and fat, and I think I nailed it! These had to stay in the cooler and the perfect snack break.

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Our final trail of the day was the most challenging. The view up looked daunting. It was steep, and lacked a lot of footing. There is a wooden staircase built in for the steepest portion (which is also right next to a county road), but we had to manage the rest on our own. And it was well worth it! A few water stops later, and we were presented with a fantastic view of the river and surrounding park. I can see why people enjoy this! I can now say I’m one of them:)

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

The descent to the bottom of the trail was almost just as challenging, as we worked to avoid slipping and falling. When we returned to the car, I experienced the most wonderful feeling of taking off my shoes and socks! Haha, yeah, that felt great – I’m so glad I brought flip flops to change into and rest my feet.

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

We headed home, with a pit stop along the way for a bathroom and much-deserved cold beer, and finally reached Milwaukee again. I had so much fun, that the four of us are already working on our next hiking trip! In the meantime, I’m going to be making these roasted rhubarb granola bites pretty often. It’s a great way to use your rhubarb harvest, and is a much healthier snack than cake or pie. They’re easy to make, and can be frozen for enjoyment later on!

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites
Makes 12 bites

  • 3 C chopped rhubarb
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp creamy nut/seed butter of choice
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/3 C Maple
  • 3/4 C Oat flour
  • 1 C Bob’s grain cereal
  • 2 tbsp Flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking pan with foil and spray with PAM.

Spread chopped rhubarb on the baking sheet. Drizzle with honey. Roast for 25 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, to prevent burning.

Transfer rhubarb to a bowl and mix in the cornstarch. Use an immersion blender to puree the roasted rhubarb. Set aside. Note: leave the oven on!

In a medium bowl, melt together the nut butter and coconut oil. Mix in the maple syrup, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the oat flour, cereal and flaxseed meal until well-combined and hydrated.

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the crust mixture into each paper liner and pat down with the back of the spoon. There should be some crust mixture remaining.

Spoon in a scant tablespoon of the rhubarb puree. Finally, spoon about a teaspoon of the leftover crust on top of the rhubarb.

Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely in the tin. Transfer the tin to your fridge and let chill a few hours or overnight. This will help set it up.

Remove from tin and serve. Refrigerate leftovers up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Roasted Rhubarb Granola Bites + My First Hiking Trip | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Strawberries & Cream Breakfast Quinoa

18 May

Ok, it’s still not exactly warm here in Milwaukee, but by golly, I declare spring is here! The produce selection is gradually improving, the grass is greener than ever, and I hear birds singing all the time. All. The. Time.

And that means it’s time to start transitioning to chilled breakfast options! As much as I love a hot bowl of creamy oatmeal, the last thing I want upon waking up on a warm spring or summer day is a warm breakfast. The solution: overnight oats and quinoa!

Strawberries & Cream Breakfast Quinoa | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

The flavor and ingredient options are pretty darn endless. Creamy, fruity, nutty, spicy, you name it – they’re all delicious. And to incorporate the gorgeous strawberries that are popping up everywhere, I wanted to create a new version of breakfast quinoa. This bowl is packed with nutrients: protein, fiber, vitamin C, and omega-3. What’s better is that it’s packed with flavor and amazing texture. The strawberries and yogurt make for a perfect springtime breakfast, and the quinoa gives this dish a nice chew to contrast the creamy yogurt.

Strawberries & Cream Breakfast Quinoa | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Basically, you need to mix up a bowl of this deliciousness. Use leftover quinoa, or cook up a fresh batch. Make breakfast for one, or for your whole family – this keeps well in the fridge for a few days, so breakfast can be a stress-free meal you can actually enjoy!

Strawberries & Cream Breakfast Quinoa

Serves 1, can be doubled

  • 3/8 c cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal or chia seeds
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/2 c plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 strawberries, halved and sliced

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Mix in the wet ingredients. Stir in the sliced strawberries, reserving a few slices to garnish on top. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least four hours.

Let the quinoa sit out of the fridge a half hour before enjoying. Top with, pepitas, shredded coconut, nut butter and/or cacao nibs. This is even better enjoyed on your balcony or porch in the early sunshiny morning:)

Strawberries & Cream Breakfast Quinoa | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Roasted Poblano and Black Bean Enchiladas

17 May

Did you know it’s National Vegetarian Week? Twitter told me so! I’ve been vegetarian for more than two years now, so this requires nothing different for my eating habits, but I realize that it could be a daunting challenge for many Americans. Add to that the fact I’m in Wisconsin, where I swear every meal has to contain a meat product of some kind, and it’s easy to see why going vegetarian would be a difficult task for the masses.

NVW-Banner-V1

In the time since I’ve stopped eating meat, I’ve learned that it’s all about changing your frame of mind when it comes to menu planning, cooking, and even ordering out at restaurants. Many view vegetarianism as a diet of exclusion: one must exclude meat from their meals, leaving behind the boring side dishes to make up the bulk of your eats. While technically true, vegetarianism is so much more – it highlights the wonderful vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and dairy products that are abundant in every culture. It forces cooking creativity to impart flavor and interesting texture combinations. And it brings out the natural tastes of all ingredients within.

Roasted Poblano and Black Bean Enchiladas | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Whether you are willing to make one day per week vegetarian (i.e. Meatless Monday), go vegetarian for this week in May, or say “no thank you” to meat for good, I guarantee you’ll love this enchilada dish!

It’s packed with smoky flavor from the roasted poblanos, protein and fiber from the black beans, and good carbs from the tortillas and veggies overall. Homemade sauce rounds out this meal (because it really is super easy and you shouldn’t need to buy a can of sauce with tons of additives), and a bit of shredded cheese gives it the salty, creamy kick that goes oh so well on Mexican dishes. Oh, and it’ll be ready in 30 minutes, start to finish! Make this vegetarian, gluten-free dish for a quick weeknight meal and please the whole family, regardless your daily diet preferences. Make it vegan by choosing a dairy-free cheese, or skip it entirely.

Roasted Poblano and Black Bean Enchiladas

Serves 4

  • 3 large poblano peppers
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 12 6″ corn tortillas
  • 3 oz shredded cheese (I used Queso Quesadilla)

Enchilada Sauce

  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp hot sauce or hot pepper paste
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Begin by roasting the poblano peppers. If you have a gas stove, turn on one of your burners and, using a metal pair of tongs, roast the whole peppers until the skins blacken almost completely. If your stove is electric, use the broiler in your oven instead. Lay the whole peppers on a sheet pan and broil until the skins blacken.

Transfer the blackened peppers to a paper lunch bag and fold over the top. Let the peppers steam themselves for a few minutes. This will make it much easier to scrape off the skins.

Use a sharp knife to scrape off all the black bits. Cut open the peppers and scrape out the seeds; discard. Chop up the peppers.

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium-high. Saute the diced onion with the black beans and chopped poblano. Cook 5-7 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

While the vegetables cook, make the sauce. Dump all ingredients into your blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

To assemble:

Pour 1/4 of the enchilada sauce into a 9×13″ glass baking dish. Spread evenly over the bottom. Spoon about two tablespoons of the pepper and bean filling into a tortilla and roll up. Place seam-side down in the dish. Repeat with the rest of the 11 tortillas, placing each rolled enchilada next to the previous one, so they’re packed in well. Pour the rest of sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and cover the dish with foil.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve hot. Top with plain Greek yogurt, salsa, avocado, or cilantro.

Kings & Queens Half Marathon Recap + Vegan Quinoa Black Bean Salad

16 May

I ran my second half marathon this weekend! The Kings & Queens Half took place on Saturday in Pewaukee, WI. Despite it being mid-May, I don’t think the temperature surpassed 45 degrees, which made for quite the chilly run. Luckily, training had me running in colder weather, so I was relatively well-prepared, both physically and mentally.

My goal for this race was to improve my speed by one minute per mile. Not only did I achieve that goal, I blew right past it! Shaved 2.5 minutes off my pace, for a total of 33 minutes faster than last time:)

Kings & Queens Half Marathon Recap | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Hair flying in the breeze, or is it my speed?😉

The course was nice enough – plenty of hills punctuated the miles for several challenges along the way. Much of the course was on a bike path, so there was a huge lack of spectators and cheerleaders, something I very much missed. With no one cheering us on, I had to rely on my own motivations to push through the hills, the wind, the cold, the pain, and the miles in general.

The end was the best (duh!). I was about a quarter-mile away from the finish line when I finally saw it, and the crowd. With a blister on my toe and my thighs burning with each step, I took off as fast as I could! I spotted my boyfriend and parents, saw the professional photographers, and smiled wide and finished strong.

Kings & Queens Half Marathon Recap | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

I DID IT! WOO!

A volunteer donned me with a medal and handed me a rose, but all I wanted was that much-deserved banana and beer.

Kings & Queens Half Marathon Recap | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

I believe I told my mom, who took this pic: “either take the picture or shut up – I want a banana!” (sorry mom, I hope you understand!)

All of my running group friends had finished ahead of me, but waited at the end so we could snap a few photos together. I’m so thankful for that running group, for the motivation, friendship and community it provides me.

Kings & Queens Half Marathon Recap | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Running group buddies! It was nice to have friends to start out the gate with, and to see them when I finished:)

Kings & Queens Half Marathon Recap | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

We packed up and headed to brunch – just as hail started to roll in(!).

There has since been a lot of foam rolling, compression gear wearing, and relaxing, but all in all, I feel pretty great. I’ve already set my next half marathon time goal, and now just need to pick one & register! But before that happens, let’s get to the recipe:)

Vegan Quinoa Black Bean Salad | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

This salad is quick, easy, delicious, and full of protein and fiber. The raw vegetables lend a nice crunch, while the quinoa and black beans give it a nice chew. It’s perfect as a main or side dish, and makes a great take-along salad for picnics or potlucks. Let it refrigerate overnight to really soak in the flavors.

Vegan Quinoa Black Bean Salad
Serves 8

  • 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups cooked dry black beans)
  • 2 bell peppers, different colors, diced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp organic sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1/4 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp tarragon
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

If you haven’t already, cook and cool the quinoa. You’ll need about 1/2 cup of dry quinoa, cooked with 1 cup of salted water or vegetable stock.

In a large bowl, mix together quinoa, black beans, and diced vegetables. Stir well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Whisk in the sugar and spices. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to coat. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to eat. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge up to 5 days.

Vegan Quinoa Black Bean Salad | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Linking up with Running on Happy & The Fit Foodie Mama, and Confessions of a Mother Runner & A Whisk and Two Wands for #MeatlessMonday and Ilka’s Blog and Marathons & Motivation for Sunday Fitness & Food Linkup!

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Black Bean Pasta

11 May

It’s taper week for me! Yep, my half marathon is THIS SATURDAY and I’m super excited about it. Training has gone really well, my pace has drastically improved, and I FEEL good about it, both mentally and physically.

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Black Bean Pasta | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Had to snap a pic on my last long training run. 12 miles felt GOOD.

My taper week has been slightly derailed by poor weather — it was raining and gusty all day yesterday, so instead of my planned 2 mile pace run, I practiced yoga in my bedroom, followed by some much-needed foam rolling. I’m aiming to make up the miles tonight, and then plan to take it pretty easy on Thursday and Friday. I foresee a nice walk in my future and LOTS more foam rolling!

Part of taper week means an increase in the amount of calories I eat from carbs. And that means more pasta:) This recipe is easy, but I’ve made it so many times for dinner recently, that I had to share it with you.

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Black Bean Pasta | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Fresh cherry tomatoes are combined with black beans to roast in flavorful basil-infused olive oil, while pasta boils away on the stovetop. It’s a perfect combination of carbs, fiber, protein and fat, whether you’re tapering or just craving pasta!

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Black Bean Pasta

Serves 2

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed
  • 1 C black beans
  • 1 tbsp basil-infused olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz short pasta
  • Optional: shredded cheese to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a small sheet pan with aluminum foil and grease with cooking spray.

In a bowl, toss the tomatoes, black beans, olive oil and salt and pepper to coat evenly. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Roast at 400 for 20 minutes.

While the tomatoes roast, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, to al dente. Drain the cooked pasta and divide into two bowls.

Spoon the roasted tomatoes and black beans over the cooked pasta. Shred cheese on top, if desired. Enjoy hot.

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