Gluten Free Zucchini Bread


It’s time to start using up the goodies from your garden….or if you’re like me, the excess veggies donated from other people’s gardens!

This paleo and celiac-friendly zucchini bread is another stolen and slightly altered recipe from the wonderful Ellie at Healthy Training. I found myself grabbing chunks of it for an on-the-go breakfast and the 2 loaves I made had disappeared in less than 3 days. It’s sweet enough to feel like dessert without any added processed sugars.

 zucchini bread



  • 1 cup grated zucchini, water squeezed out
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 ½ c almond flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ c chopped walnuts
  • ½ c craisins



  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease 2 small loaf pans with coconut oil.
  2. Combine almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl
  3. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, banana, honey, vanilla, and oil. Mix thoroughly, then mix in dry ingredients until combined.
  4. Fold in the craisins, zucchini, and walnuts. Spoon batter into the loaf pans, filling each one ¼ full.
  5. Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden and set (check the middle with a toothpick).



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Quick Countdown Workout




It was one of those days – I just couldn’t convince myself to go to the gym. I knew I wanted to be active but just didn’t feel like facing the treadmill lines and stinky mats.

On days like these I like to work my creative juices and come up with my own workout circuits to keep things interesting. Here’s what I decided to do tonight (while watching an episode of Jeopardy – Teacher’s Tournament in my basement ;)):




40 30

20 10




What do you to mix up your workout routine?



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Peru Travel Plans and a Change of Race Plans


 Peru Travel Plans!


About 2 years ago, Mike and I started talking about doing a trip to Peru. I have always wanted to hike to Machu Picchu. Mike has never been on an “Ashley Trip”, which made it an even more exciting adventure to plan.  Side note: an “Ashley Trip” consists of backpacks, hikes, bus rides, and hostels, as opposed to beaches, resorts, and free margaritas.

We quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to make it happen during the summer of 2012, as the cost for flights alone are astronomical. In an attempt to make our vacation a priority, we created a separate “vacation savings” account and set up automatic transfers to take $5 a day out of our checking account so it would continue to grow. This account is considered untouchable (with the exception of vacation expenses, of course). Any extra bonus cash has also been deposited into this account. At the end of April, we realized that our Peru dreams might actually become a reality – we had reached just over $3,000, almost enough to pay for our flights🙂

Let the planning begin – once we got the okay to take 2 weeks off at work, we bought our flights and started planning. Er…Ashley started planning and Mike said, “just tell me what clothes I need to buy”.

Fast forward to ONE WEEK before we begin our trip…

We’re about ready to go!  We will be spending 15 days in Peru starting late next week. Our general plan is as follows:

Days 1 – 3: Cusco

Day 4: Begin Machu Picchu hike – all day mountain biking

Day 5: Hike day 2 – also whitewater rafting

Day 6: Hike day 3 – also jungle ziplining

Day 7: Hike day 4 – arrive at Machu Picchu for sunrise and explore the ruins

Day 8: Train to Puno (on lake Titicaca) – called “one of the world’s greatest train journeys”.

Day 9: Boat trip on Lake Titicaca, spend the night with a local family on the floating island of Amantani

Day 10: Day 2 – boat trip on Lake Titicaca, visit Taquile island

Day 11: Bus to Arequipa, the 2nd largest city in Peru

Day 12: Free day to relax and explore Arequipa

Day 13: Hike the Colca Canyon, relax in local hot springs

Day 14: Colca Canyon day 2 – watch La Cruz del Condor

Day 15: Arequipa – Market tour and Peruvian Cooking Experience

Day 16: Back to the USA


Our trip sounds like it will be both incredibly amazingly awesome as well as exhausting. I am sure we will need a vacation from our vacation when we get home. I am just so pumped to share my love for real world travel with my husband – I hope he enjoys it as much as I do! I plan to keep a journal while we are there, so hopefully I’ll have some fun stories and photos to share with y’all when we return.


A change of race plans


On another note…I had hoped to complete an Olympic distance triathlon this summer. I even made myself accountable by writing about it here and here. Do you want the good news or the bad news first?  How about the good news?  Okay. I did complete an Olympic distance training schedule and actually feel much better about my swimming abilities than I did before I started training. I even completed a “practice” race where I did all three disciplines on the same morning (.93 mile swim, 25 mile bike ride, 6.2 mile run). I’m pretty confident that I would be able to complete the triathlon I was planning on doing without a problem. However (bad news), I’ve decided that doing my very first Olympic tri right after 2 weeks in Peru might not be the smartest idea. Granted, we will be very active while we are in South America. However, I won’t be following any semblance of a training plan and we will certainly not be following a diet that is conducive to staying in race shape. I would rather hold off on doing my first big triathlon until I know that I’ll be prepared. That said, I plan on looking into a race early next summer.

So…now you know. Hopefully you’re not too disappointed in me and we can still be friends.

I’m actually really happy to get back into lifting weights and other forms of exercise. I’ve been following a tri training plan since the beginning of April, so it’s nice to have the freedom to do what makes me happy on any given day. “Gorgeous day for a bike ride! Let’s do that!” Or, “It’s too damn hot to run outside. Screw that”.  I just need to be careful not to fall off the workout wagon after our trip or I’ll need to go back into schedule mode.


Wherever you are and whatever you’re up to, I hope you’re happy and that life is treating you well. Catch you on the flip side. Hasta Luego!

Categories: Fitness, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Patriotic Treats


 Wow. Summer is flying by even though it feels as though it has barely begun up here in the northern states. I’m doing my darndest to soak up every ounce of sunshine I can while it lasts. Lots of grilling, outdoor running/biking, and the occasional patio happy hour session.

Every year over the 4th of July holiday, we spend time with my fam up at their lake home in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. This year we were able to spend 4 full days relaxing and enjoying the perfect weather. The addition of the new “Relaxation Station” turned out to be one of the best ideas ever!

relaxation station 

Per the norm, there were LOTS of fireworks in our back yard, beergaritas, tons of grilling, and waaaaaay to much food. Our fun-filled weekend also included a 10k run, a Corvette joyride, mini donuts and Ferris wheel rides, rocking out to live music, and campfire guitar playing/singing. LOVE.




This year I decided to contribute to the sweet treats and for some reason felt the need to be patriotic. I also love me a good fruit pizza. This is super charming and can be whipped up in no time.

 4th of july fruit pizza


4th of July Fruit ‘Za

Roll of pre-made sugar cookie dough (16 oz)

1 container strawberries

½ cup blueberries

1 Hershey’s chocolate bar

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup granulated Splenda

8 oz cream cheese



  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Spread the sugar cookie dough over a cookie sheet. Ideally you’d have a small enough cookie sheet to cover the entire thing. As you can see, I did not.
  3. Bake cookie dough 10-13 minutes or until lightly golden.
  4. Soften cream cheese in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.
  5. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, Splenda, and sugar until smooth.
  6. Remove cookie from the oven and allow to cool before applying the frosting.
  7. Spread cream cheese frosting over the entire cookie.
  8. Cut strawberries into halves. Top your cookie with blueberries and strawberries, along with your Hershey’s chocolate for the flag pole.


How fun is that? Almost too cute to eat. Well maybe not – I think I had 4 pieces in about 5 minutes.



What’s your favorite holiday-themed dessert?

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Graniteman Triathlon

graniteman logo

It’s racing season!

Now that the lakes are finally thawed, triathlons are in full swing around Minnesota. I decided to forego the Buffalo Triathlon this year (which was my first tri ever last summer), since I’m a huge chicken and the water was FREEEZING. It’s worth mentioning the Buffalo Tri, however, as my rockstar buddy Jared WON the dang thing. First place, people!  So impressed by him.

buffalo tri - jared

The Graniteman is a series of 3 different triathlons in MN and is now in its 10th year. I managed to convince my sis-in-law to “try a tri” with me. She lives in St. Cloud, so the Graniteman was a logical choice. It’s fun to have someone to do these kinds of races with (and of course, to celebrate with and drink beer afterwards).

graniteman start

graniteman body marking

We have been getting some very serious storms this year and when my alarm went off at 5:15 AM the day of the race, it was raining cats and dogs with high winds and lightning. Not promising. But it looked like the severe weather was going to subside and the race was only delayed by ½ hour.

Swim – 1/3 mile : 13:18

The water temp in Lake George was a bit shocking, but with a wetsuit (albeit a sleeveless one), not too horrible. I managed to cut my foot on a rock right as I was running into the water, and ended up plucking rock chunks out of my cut foot later on that night. This was my very first open water swim of the season. I have been feeling much more confident in my swimming since I took a total immersion class at the YWCA this winter, however, the pool just can’t fully prepare you for the open water. Overall, I felt as though this swim went much more smoothly than the 2 other tris I did last summer. Baby steps, right?  It was also further than normal– 1/3 mile vs the standard 1/4 mile which is standard for a sprint distance triathlon.

T1 – 2:21

Out of the water and into the transition area. A bit sluggish in getting myself in order. Wetsuit off, goggles and cap off, feet wiped, socks & shoes on, helmet on, sunglasses on, hair in a ponytail, go. Looking like a drowned rat on a bike.

Bike – 15.? Miles: 53:28

The ride was out of St. Cloud and onto County Rd. 8 and back. The whole ride out was a gradual incline, which was a bit of a rough way to start (but would’ve been a much worse way to finish).  The way out was also against a pretty fierce wind. I struggled to stay above 15mph, until the turnaround – then the wind was at our backs and we were on a gradual decline the way back. I was able to stay between 19 and 22 mph pretty much the whole way back into town. My overall average speed was 17.6 mph.

They claim it was a 15 mile ride, but my bike computer (and their official course map) told me more like 15.5.  hmmmm…

T2 – 1:42

Switched into my new running shoes, grabbed a Gu, and headed out for the run. The transition area was pretty huge – quite some distance between the timing mats considering the number of participants. On a positive note, there was plenty of space for bikes and you weren’t running into people during transition.

Run – 3.1 Miles: 25:25

The run was pretty uneventful, and per the norm, my legs felt like they just wouldn’t move as fast as my brain was telling them to. I kept a pace of 8:46 per mile, which I’m content with. With about ¼ mile left to go, I spotted a girl up ahead with a “4” on her right calf (my age group) and decided there was no way I was going to let her beat me…. so I sped up and passed her about 2 minutes before crossing the finish. On the final stretch I started to sprint and was neck and neck with some guy – I looked at him and smiled and asked, “So… wanna race?”. We both sped up and sprinted across the finish line… Yep, I kicked his butt🙂

granteman finish

I finished the race in 1:36
– I’m happy with my results personally, but in the grand scheme of things, I got schooled. I think a lot of the “average joes” like me probably decided to bail on the race last-minute due to weather (there were over 100 no-shows)….leaving me to contend with the die-hards.  I missed placing in my age group by 2 minutes. There’s always next year!

graniteman results

This was a fun and well-supported race, and I actually liked that it was much smaller than the others I’ve done. I wouldn’t hesitate to do another Graniteman event in the future.

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The Value of a Training Schedule


finish line

The weather here in MN is FINALLY starting to warm up, although we have had about the rainiest spring in history (seriously, rain all but about 5 days out of the last 40…C’mon!!). With the warmer weather comes the all too short-lived patio season. After a long day of work, it’s so tempting to forego your planned workout in favor of a margarita and some sunshine with friends. “I’ll just do it tomorrow”, you say. Again, happy hour beckons.

As our motivation to exercise is inversely related to the presence of sunshine, now’s the time of year to keep yourself in check. If you’re one of those people that can wake up at 5AM and get your workout in, way to go (I’m giving you an air five right now). Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. Trust me, I’ve tried.

In discovering my interest for organized races like 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, duathlons, and triathlons in the past year or so, this time of year is characterized for me by a set training schedule for whatever event happens to be coming up next. I’m really not kidding – check out my recent tri training schedule that I’ve been carrying with me everywhere for the past 12 weeks:

 Tri Schedule

This is not to say that you have to follow the schedule to a “T” and never hang out with your friends on those rare, gorgeous, sunny days. I switch around my workouts regularly based on my plans for that week. but the mere fact that I HAVE the schedule to reference keeps me accountable. Sometimes I’ll get to the end of the week and have to make up those I missed on the weekends. And sometimes I miss one here or there entirely – but you know what? I certainly get more training in than if I were to just “wing it” and go workout when I felt motivated enough.

What do you want to achieve? There’s a training plan that can help you get there. These websites have easy-to-follow plans that can get you started and keep you driven to cross the finish line strong:

Whatever your fitness level, there’s sure to be an event in your area that can both challenge you and keep you in check this summer. Visit a race site like to find a fun event/race near you. The first step is to register – once you’re committed, you’re more likely to follow-through on your training plans. Yeah, there’s a time and a place for burgers on the grill, margaritas, and pool lounging…but it will be all that much sweeter after you rock your scheduled workout🙂


How do YOU stay motivated in the summer months?


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Grilled Portobello “Pizzas”


portobello pizzas

There’s something pretty fantastic about a warm summer night and the smell of charcoal in your back yard. I was in the mood to get a little creative last week so I stopped by the grocery store on my way home and picked out a few of my absolute fave ingredients.

These little “pizzas” keep things low-carb while still giving you a comfort food fix. They’re also a super simple weeknight grill meal that require hardly any prep time. Win!

Serves 2


4 large portobello mushroom caps

Organic garlic pizza sauce

Fresh basil

Sun-dried tomatoes

Goat cheese


1. Cut the stems off of your portobellos and scoop out the gills with a spoon.

2. Coat the outside of the mushrooms with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

3. Toss your bellas on the grill. Give them a couple of minutes to heat up but don’t wait too long or they will start to shrink up.

4. Spread on pizza sauce. Add fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and top with goat cheese.

5. Cook for 2-3 minutes covered or until goat cheese begins to melt.

6.  Remove from grill and enjoy!


These tasted absolutely fabulous. Maybe I’m a bit biased – I could seriously eat goat cheese off a piece of cardboard and think it was gourmet – but the hubs liked them too so that’s gotta say something.🙂  Next time I’d add some protein to make them a bit more filling. Cubed prosciutto or diced chicken would be tasty!


Do you ever make anything out of the ordinary on the grill?



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What’s really in that sweetener?


I have a teensy weensy obsession with coffee (as if you didn’t already know that from posts like this one and this one).

I also prefer that my coffee taste like a candy bar, so I tend to load it up with flavored creamers and fake sugar. Naughty. Although I do consider myself a bit of a health nut, I just can’t seem to break this habit and switch to black coffee. Bitter… icky…boring…ugh. Can’t do it.

My little cancer packet of choice has always been Sweet ‘N Low, as it tends to be the sweetest of the many brands in the “fake sugar” category. I wanted to fully understand my addiction, so I did a little research on the various artificial sweeteners and their effects.

  • The artificial sweetener in Sweet ‘N low is saccharine, which is an organic molecule created out of petroleum (whoa) and introduced in the early 20th century. In the ‘70’s, animal studies found that it caused cancer in several organs and a warning was added to the label. This warning has since been removed but the stigma remains that saccharine is not completely safe for consumption.
  • If you’re more of a NutraSweet or Equal fan, your artificial sweetener of choice is Aspartame, which is a combination of phenylalanine and aspartic acid with methanol (2 amino acids). The FDA has done a number of safety evaluations of Aspartame, and reports have come back free and clear. However, other studies have shown that this sweetener may be an “excitotoxin”, like MSG, which can cause brain damage.
  • Splenda, which is made from Sucralose, may seem to be the least offensive of these first 3 little artificial devils. Sucralose is essentially sugar which has been chemically refined so that our bodies are unable to metabolize it. Thus, it’s calorie-free. Sucralose is also 600 (!) times sweeter than regular sugar.
  • Finally, there’s stevia, which is a calorie free, herb-based sweetener. There’s nothing artificial about it, which immediately gives it a vote up in my book. A number of brands have popped up, including Truvia, Pure Via, Sweet Leaf, Steviva, etc. Stevia is safe for diabetics – it will not spike your insulin levels.


One tidbit I was already familiar with is the fact that many artificial sweeteners “trick” your body into thinking it’s getting sugar. According to, fatty tissues can perceive sweetness, and although artificial sweeteners have no calories, they can cause your metabolism to slow. This tricks your brain into eating even more calories, which will then be stored as fat. So that mid-afternoon Diet Coke may not be so harmless after all.


The Verdict

Reading up on the various types of artificial sweeteners was a real eye-opener form me. Ideally, we would be able to appreciate our coffee, tea, and baked goods without the aid of sugar or other sweeteners (right!). Unfortunately for many of us, the sweetness is what makes these foods and beverages enjoyable. That tasty morning coffee is one of my favorite reasons to get out of bed in the morning🙂

For me, it comes down to choosing the lesser of several “evils”. Given the many studies that have pronounced saccharine and aspartame unsafe, I decided to switch my daily sweetener to Stevia (or more specifically, Truvia brand). However, it’s important to read the labels carefully. Many brands contain additives (even Truvia is blended with erythritol – a sugar alcohol). If you’ve just gotta sweeten, pure Stevia would be ideal, along with other natural, unprocessed sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. I do feel better knowing that the first thing I put in my body every morning is not chemically processed. See ya later, Sweet ‘N Low.


What’s your favorite sweetener? 

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, More Eats | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Cinco “Du” Mayo Duathlon

cinco du mayo logo
Well, the first race of the season is officially in the books!

It has been a rough “spring” here in MN to say the least. 2 snowfalls in May…what? So, when the forecast was showing rain and temps in the lower 30’s for our Duathlon last Saturday, we shouldn’t have been surprised.

The Cinco “du” Mayo Duathlon is always held the weekend closest to Cinco de Mayo in Stillwater, MN. There are 2 courses to choose from – the long course, consisting of a 5k, 20 mile bike ride, followed by another 5k, or the short course – a 2 mile run, 10 mile bike, and another 2 mile run. For the 2nd year in a row, Mike and I decided to do the short course.

We woke up Saturday morning to a balmy 33 degrees and rain. Started the day off on the wrong foot when our bike rack broke while trying to mount it to the car. Somehow Mike was able to finagle it to function well enough and we were on our way. We arrived in Stillwater about 5 minutes before they were scheduled to close the transition area. Lucky for us, the race coordinators were pretty lax on the rules…probably on account of the nasty weather we all had to deal with.

 cinco du mayo mike and ash

Run leg #1: 16:06

It was so chilly, we were all jumping around trying to keep warm and just couldn’t wait for the race to start so we could heat up. I started out my personal blunders by failing to double-knot my right shoe, which came completely untied after the first ½ mile. I wasn’t about to stop in the middle of such a short run, so I just dealt with the loose shoe and hoped I wouldn’t fall flat on my face. I finished run leg #1 in 16:06, or 8:03/mile avg…a pretty decent clip for me.

T1: 2:17

This transition was a disaster. If I really cared about my time, I would’ve kicked myself for how poky I was being. The quick run had warmed me up enough to remove my bulky jacket. In doing that, my headphones and phone got stuck around my race belt and I spent far too much time untangling everything. Plus with the ground being wet from the rain, I spent entirely too long taking off my running shoes and hopping around on one foot like an idiot to get into my cycling shoes. I’m sure the spectators found it pretty entertaining.

Bike leg: 38:55

As soon as I crossed the mount line, I clicked in and started going, only to have my pant leg catch in my bike chain. Whoops. I had forgotten to put on my ankle strap (probably because you shouldn’t have to wear PANTS to a race in May!).  So I had to stop, click out, get off my bike, put down my kickstand, and attach my strap…then get back to it.

This bike course is considered “highly coveted” training grounds for triathletes, due to its many rolling hills. Man, they aren’t kidding. The cold temps, combined with the wind and the hills made for a tough ride. Over the short 10-mile course, we climbed almost 500 feet in elevation. And for some reason, it seemed as though what went up did NOT come down. It felt like we were climbing hills about 80% of the time.

I averaged about 15.5 mph on the course. I feel like I definitely could improve my speed here. I foresee hill training is in my future…

cinco du mayo bike photo

T2: 1:56

Another sluggish transition…although I did make sure to double-knot both of my shoes this time around!

Run leg #2: 16:42

Coming off such a hilly bike ride, my legs felt like lead for the first mile or so on the run course. This is another one of those things I really need to force myself to practice if I plan on doing an Olympic triathlon. It felt like my legs were independent of my body for the first 10 minutes, then I got my momentum back. 36 seconds longer than the first run, but still managed to average an 8:21 mile. I closed the gap with a super speedy girl in front of me (who I later met and found out is a marathon runner), but couldn’t manage to pass her and ended up literally crossing the finish 2 seconds behind her. I was thankful that I was trying to pace with this chica or I imagine my 2nd run would have been much slower.

My first “Win”

I ended up finishing the race in 1:15:53, which is about a minute slower than last year. But when the race results came in, I was surprised to read that I had actually WON my age category, and took 5th place overall female! Of the top 4 women, 3 of them were 35 and one was 48!  Looks like some things do get better with age.

I was pretty stoked to get my very first ever race “trophy” – an etched margarita glass – which we promptly filled with a celebratory margarita when we got home!

 cinco du mayo finish


This was a fun, laid-back event and a great start to the spring, despite the yucky weather. Plus, you can’t really go wrong with free tacos and post-race margaritas🙂

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Woah. Sorry guys, I have completely fallen off the map for the past month or so. Not to worry though. I’m still alive.  Let’s just say that both work and personal commitments have put blogging on the back burner. Typing away on my computer all day at work has left my creative juices pretty drained, leaving none left for you folks. In addition to a rough couple of months at work, I also began triathlon training again 5 weeks ago.

triathlon logo

On my New Year’s Resolution post, I decided to announce to the world that I plan on attempting an Olympic distance triathlon this year. I think that I failed to realize the accountability I would feel in making such a statement. I would hate for you guys to think I’m a failure, so I am going to pressure myself to do the dang thing and make you proud.


That being said, I am now working through an Olympic distance training program, which keeps me in the gym for 1 ½ – 2 hours almost every day (also contributing to my absence here on the blog). Swimming, biking, and running my butt off so that hopefully I won’t keel over when the time comes for the event.


Here’s my problem…I haven’t registered for an Olympic tri yet. I’m still a little worried about my abilities in the open water. And since the Minnesota winter has dragged on into early May, it looks like I won’t be hopping into the lakes anytime too soon. I do plan on participating in a sprint distance event at the end of June, so hopefully that will get me juiced up and boost my confidence about the longer distance.


I hope to use this blog as an outlet to document my progress and challenges along the way. In the meantime, thanks for sticking around. I expect to continue providing you with hours, or at least minutes, of quality entertainment in the form of recipes, race recaps, fitness tips, and random ridiculous musings.




Categories: Miscellaneous Musings | 1 Comment

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