Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Jubilee Bars

[jubilee bars on plate photo]Merry Sweet-Tooth Friday!  It’s Christine here with another holiday dessert.  This week I made vegan jubilee bars, which are like miniature versions of the classic Christmas fruitcake.  But don’t freak out— fruitcake doesn’t have to live up to it’s rock-hard reputation— these are a soft and delightfully chewy combination of fruit, nuts, and chocolate.  They’re good for you too!

Happiness is a Warm Cookie

[christine and recipe photo]“Woe is me!  I made White Bean Blondies for this week’s post and they totally sucked!  Now what do I do?”  This was my cry on Wednesday evening while at my dad’s house.  My stepmom Margaret said she had an idea and pulled out an old yellowed newspaper clipping.  Her mom had originally cut out this article entitled Happiness is a Warm Cookie, and Margaret’s family has been baking with the recipes for years.

And even though the author Mrs. Roeder has a hairdo that is a bit old-fashioned, her advice is still pretty sound.  She writes “Don’t worry about cookies spoiling appetites and not being good for children.  Select recipes that use liberal amounts of cereals and fruits for ‘anytime’ snacking.”  It’s true— your desserts don’t have to be unhealthy!

In the spirit of her advice, I made some updates to the recipe that I’m sure Mrs. Roeder wouldn’t mind.  In the past, shortening made sense because of butter rations, but now that we know the harmful effects of trans fat, I figured canola oil would make a better choice.  And I updated to whole wheat pastry flour (in the recipe it calls for ‘flower’) and organic sugar.  For the eggs, I made flax eggs by mixing ground flax seed with water.

This recipe calls for finely chopped mixed candied fruit.  Those are the neon green cherries that may come to mind when you think of fruitcakes, but traditionally it also includes pineapple, citron, and orange peel.  At the natural market I found some maraschino cherries that are colored with fruit and vegetable juice instead of red dye. They are made by The Silver Palate and they are delicious!  A lot of times I can’t tell too much of a difference when eating natural products besides the peace of mind, but I really recommend these cherries- no bitter aftertaste at all!  To stay true to the traditional taste of the mixed candied fruit, I added a tablespoon each of dried orange and lemon peel.

Vegan Jubilee Bars


  • 2 tbsp flax seed, ground
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (or 1/2 tsp if using salted nuts)
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips (half a 12 oz bag)
  • 1 cup chopped mixed nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit

Optional garnish: extra powdered sugar and melted chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Grind the flax seeds and mix with the water, set aside to become gummy.  In the  meantime, if using dried orange and lemon peel, soak in maraschino cherry juice for a couple minutes.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  Combine the dates, chocolate chips, nuts, and candied fruit, set aside.

Beat the flax mixture with a whisk until about the consistency of eggs, then whisk in powdered sugar and oil.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Fold in fruit and nut mixture.  The batter here is very very thick, but work hard to fold the ingredients in evenly.

[jubilee bars on rack photo]

Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and spread batter into pan.  I had to wash my hands and actually press the batter in because it is so thick.  Bake for about 35 minutes, rotating around in the oven halfway through.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Quick, before anyone realizes these are healthy: dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with melted chocolate.

[jubilee bars in box photo]

I have to confess that since making these bars yesterday I’ve singlehandedly polished off about half of them!  They have an amazing old-fashioned Christmas taste from the combination of citrus, nuts, and chocolate.  I imagine them fitting right into a Victorian Christmas like in The Nutcracker Ballet.

I hope you give these healthy bars a try and help let fruitcake enjoy the spotlight that at one time it deserved!  Thanks to Margaret for the vintage recipe.  See you next Friday!

Until then, stay sweet!

xoxo Christine



SIGVARIS Athletic Recovery sock giveaway!

As predicted, I’ve been extremely busy getting ready for my oral qualifying exam on Friday.  So busy, in fact, that I haven’t even been able to get out for a run this week, and don’t see it happening until this weekend.  Oh well, they say a week off every once in a while is good for you.  So here you go, “they.”

I did write a new Running Shorts piece on barefoot running, so if my studying and lack of posts this week has you in NMA withdrawal — come on, humor me — you can read that one for a quick fix.

No Meat Athlete sightings!

A few readers sent me pictures of themselves in No Meat Athlete shirts after their turkey trots, which I always appreciate:

[sarah NMA photo]

[heather NMA photo]

That’s Sarah (top), a graduate student in communications at out San Diego State University, and Heather (bottom), from my home state of Maryland, whose race benefitted So Others Might Eat.  Doin’ good in an NMA shirt; can’t beat that with a stick!

Another cool NMA shirt story — Jose wore his in the California International Marathon and ran alongside running legend Bart Yasso long enough to show him his shirt!  Can you say “street cred”?  Apparently, Yasso is a vegetarian as well!

Shirts have been flying off the shelf recently, so fast that I’m having trouble keeping them in stock.  But I have two big shipments coming in, so though I can’t guarantee it, you should still be able to get them by Christmas if you order in the next few days.

SIGVARIS giveaway

[matt sigvaris photo]Since my 50K on Saturday was canceled, I didn’t get the chance to try out my new SIGVARIS Athletic Recovery socks afterward.  But I’m going to go ahead and do the giveaway nonetheless, with the review forthcoming.

So here’s the deal with SIGVARIS: they do a lot of serious, medical stuff with compression socks, so you know they’re legit.  The good news for us is they’ve recently gotten into this silly running business, so you, the NMA reader, have a chance to win a pair of their brand new Athletic Recovery socks.  And I have not one, but TWO pairs to give away!

[sigvaris recovery sock photo]SIGVARIS Athletic Recovery socks’ slogan is “because not all compression socks are created equal,” and their reasoning is that most compression socks don’t feature true graduated compression.  Looking at the sock, the fact that these truly are graduated is obvious; you can clearly see that it’s very narrow around the ankle, and GRADUALLY (that’s key, hence the caps) widens as it goes up the calf.  Theoretically, this is conducive to good bloodflow and faster recovery.  You can read more SIGVARIS features here.

So here’s how this will work.  I have two sizes to give away: size “A” is for Women’s shoe size 5-7; size “B” is for Women’s size 7.5-9.5 or Men’s size 6.5-8.5.  To enter, just leave a comment on this post.  And please choose A or B when you enter; no fair entering for both!

Get those entries in by next Monday (December 14), and I’ll randomly choose the winners early next week.  Remember: you have to specify A or B (not both), or you’ll be DQ’d!

And as always, I really appreciate links back to this post or tweets about the giveaway.  I don’t require them for entry, nor do they earn you extra points.  But they are really helpful to me, so if you’re a fan of these easy-entry giveaways, why not share the love?

Good luck!  Just imagine — this could be your leg!

[sigvaris athletic recovery sock photo]



50K… canceled!

As you can probably imagine, I was pretty bummed to find out on Thursday night that the Frozen Foot 50K that I was planning to run on Saturday was canceled, due to “unforeseen circumstances.”  Maybe the snow in the forecast played a part; I’m not sure if people do ultras in the snow. And it did actually snow, which (in my opinion) is fun.  And I know my dogs like it.

[snow dogs photo]

[linus snow photo]

So, looks like I’ll have to wait until January 2nd before I can officially call myself an ultrarunner.  On the bright side, the snow made us feel kind of Christmasy and wintery, so Erin and I stayed in and watched three consecutive TV movies Saturday night.  This kind of behavior, incidentally, is what you should look for if you ever suspect a Terminator has dispatched me and assumed my form — I usually hate watching movies and can rarely sit through one, let alone three.  But like I said, it was snowy.

To go along with the cozy winter theme of the day/night, we made this French onion soup from 1,000 Vegan Recipes:

[french onion soup photo]

We cheated a little by using real cheese instead of vegan parmesan, but still, this soup was far healthier than normal French onion soup with those floating globs of gruyere cheese that I find kind of gross anyway.  And that’s an Ezekiel sprouted-grain roll floating on top, rather than the sliced French bread that was called for in the recipe.

Beer disaster

Remember the beer I brewed last week?  Well, I came home the day after brewing to this lovely sight:

[beer disaster photo]

In trying to write a caption for this photo, I got as far as Oscar the Grouch and vomit before I made myself stop.  Apple, anyone?

What happened, if you’re interested, is this: yeast eat sugar to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.  While some of the carbon dioxide carbonates the beer, the rest must escape, through a valve in the top of the fermenter that prevents air from getting in.  Well, the valve clogged with foam, so I had to rig up a tube-and-bucket blowoff, which is actually not too uncommon.  But something went wrong; either the tube clogged or got a kink, and the carbon dioxide could only escape by blowing off the lid and causing Mount St. Helens in my kitchen.

The worst news is that the lid was probably open like this for a few hours, and it’s very easy for bacteria to spoil the beer if they have a chance to get in.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and in a few days I should have a pretty good idea of whether the beer will be any good or not.

Where’s the giveaway?

If you showed up expecting the SIGVARIS athletic recovery sock giveaway, fear not.  Since the 50K was canceled, I didn’t get a chance to try them out yet.  I’m hoping to get a run in tomorrow, then try them out and write the review/giveaway post.  So look for that one mid-week.

And a warning: I have my big oral qualifying exam to become an official Ph.D. candidate on Friday, so my posts (and running) will be spotty this week.  But after Friday, I’ll be on winter break and it’ll be more NMA than you can handle.

Enjoy your Monday!



Sweet-Tooth Friday: Baked Ornaments

[fruit photo 1]Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  It’s Christine here, and this week I’ve got a fun baking project that makes a great Christmas gift!  These glittery citrus and apple slices look so nice on a tree or formed together into a wreath.  Best of all, these ornaments are inexpensive and totally easy!

Making Spirits Bright

Making and receiving homemade gifts is my favorite part of the holidays.  I’m lucky because my whole family gets into it!  Over the years I’ve bottled up and gifted organic limoncello, homemade vegetable broth, and even marshmallow fluff.  Last year my dad made everyone homemade jars of barbecue sauce.  For my birthday, Matt made me some running mix cds and a batch of frozen gnochhi.  My mom is an awesome sewer- she’s made some lavish lounging pillows for Matt’s dogs, and this year I think I’ve convinced her to sew me some frilly aprons.  And Erin bakes and packages up the yummiest biscotti ever.

[dried fruit ornaments photo]I don’t want to come off too sappy, but the time and thought put into homemade gifts really does make them extra special.  If you haven’t made a gift by hand since that kindergarten macaroni necklace, fret not!  These decorations are pretty much fool proof.  I used edible glitter because that’s what I had on hand, but regular clear or opal glitter (not silver) will look nice too.

I baked the citrus pieces directly on the oven racks, but the apples needed more support to keep from curling, so those I placed on a smaller wire rack I usually use for cooling baked goods. When making the apple ornaments, I found that I could only get about 4 attractive slices from each apple that included the seeds. With the leftover apple, toss some chunks in cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.  Baking up the spiced apple chips makes a delicious snack and will smell amazing.

Dried Fruit Ornaments


  • assortment of apples, grapefruit, oranges, and lemons
  • bay leaves
  • mod podge or any decoupage glue
  • paint brush
  • hot glue gun
  • ribbon
  • glitter
  • sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, optional

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

Slice the fruits into 1/4 inch slices.  Lay on paper towels and pat dry as much as you can.  Use the leftover lemon ends and squeeze lemon juice over the apple slices to prevent browning.  Sprinkle extra apple pieces with spices.

Lay the citrus pieces directly on the oven rack and the apple pieces on a smaller wire rack.  Bake for 2 to 3 hours until dry and firm, but not blackened.  The apples and lemons will be done before the grapefruits and oranges.  Turn the pieces over at least once during baking to keep the sides even and flat.  The spiced apple pieces that you want to eat need much less time, just about an hour.

When the slices are cool, brush them with mod podge and sprinkle with glitter while the glue is still wet.  (Obviously, don’t eat anything you put glue and glitter on).  If you want you can glaze the backs too once the fronts are dry.  Brush the bay leaves with mod podge and dip in glitter.  Attach ribbon loops to the backs of the slices with the hot glue gun, and bows if you want.  Use the hot glue to attach the bay leaves to the fruit and add little tags on the back of the ornaments.

If you want to make a wreath, glue the glittered pieces either on a cardboard circle or an actual wreath base.

[dried fruit wreath photo]

I had a nice time making these and was really pleased with the professional results!  Plus it was so nice to have my home smelling Christmasy.  So skip those couple hours you otherwise would have spent at the mall and get down with your crafty self!  See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday for more holiday ideas!

[fruit in gift box photo]

xoxo Christine

P.S. Don’t tell my fam what I’m making this year!



How to start a revolution

Should you ever write a book that’s a self-proclaimed “fitness revolution,” here’s how you should promote it:

  1. Set up an alert for words in your book’s title, so that you know whenever a blog mentions your book (or another book whose title sounds like yours).
  2. Even if a mention is unrelated to your book, leave an out-of-context comment that contributes nothing but plugs your own book.
  3. Leave another comment insulting the blog author’s diet and that of many of the blog’s readers.

It appears that’s what Fred Hahn, author of The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution: The Slow Motion Exercise that Will Change Your Body in 30 Minutes a Week did on No Meat Athlete!  On my post reviewing Stu Mittleman’s Slow Burn, an unrelated book, Fred left us the following pair of most insightful comments:

You might like my book The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution. A shameless plug I know but if you’re looking to really burn fat and get fit with science based information and what to eat, try it.  (link removed)

Oh – and I hate to say it but if you stay off all meat for too long your health and lean mass will suffer. I say this because even without knowing you, I care. But if you’re eating fish and eggs you’ll be ok. Not optimal, but ok.

Thanks, Fred!  And it’s great to know that it’s because you care, not because you want to sell books.  I’ll get right on changing my diet, and the first thing I do after I start eating animals again will be to let Scott Jurek, arguably the world’s best ultramarathoner, and pro Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier know just what their socially-conscious diets are costing them — lean mass!  Who couldn’t use 10 or 20 more pounds of lean mass to haul around during the last few miles of a marathon or a 100-miler?  Just look at all the mass on the Kenyans who dominate the sport of distance running — they’re practically beasts!  And really, isn’t that what we’re all after, and certainly what my blog is all about?  It’s not about energy, endurance, fulfillment, or choosing not to eat animals, or eating in a manner that’s good for the planet.  It’s all about mass!  Lean, massive, mass!

If Fred’s book weren’t so revolutionary, I’d be tempted to disregard his advice.  But looking back on the course of modern fitness, I can really see two distinct periods: before this book I’ve never heard of came out, and after this book I’ve never heard of came out.  What are we waiting for?  Let’s all start eating animals and join “the revolution”!

In other news…

Only two days left until I run my first 50K!  My friend and Running Shorts co-contributor Megan asked me today if I was ready, and it kind of hit me that I really haven’t thought much about it.  Which is weird, considering 31 miles is five more than I’ve ever done at a time.  But somehow it seems so different.  Trail running has been so much fun and not at all stressful on my body.  It really feels like just another fun run with friends.  I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune after about 25 miles, but I just don’t anticipate this being some killer test of endurance.  The course is actually three loops of just over ten miles each, so if anything goes wrong, there’s always a bailout.  That might be contributing to the lack of stress I’m feeling about it.  On top of all that, I’m hitting an extremely busy two weeks or so of school, culminating in my oral qualifying exam next Friday, so a lot of my focus and energy has been on that, with running really far serving as a welcome reprieve.

So am I ready?  I have no reason to think otherwise; 20 miles last week was no problem.  I’m going to take it easy and just enjoy the trails and the company, and look forward to some warm soup and cold beer at the end.

I’ll be sure let you know how it goes, as well as how a new brand of athletic recovery socks called SIGVARIS works out afterward.  They sent me a pair to review, and not one, but two pairs to give away to you fine readers!  Look for the review and giveaway this weekend or early next week.



Tarahumara Pinole and Chia

In case you’re one of the six remaining runners on the planet who have yet to read Born to Run, allow me to explain.  The Tarahumara are “the running people” on which most of the book is based, a Mexican tribe of superathletes who run 50 or 100 miles at a time for pure enjoyment, seemingly without effort.

The Tarahumara diet is described in some small detail in the book, with repeated mention of two staples — pinole and chia seeds.  The author relates a few stories that ascribe almost magical, endurance-enhancing qualities to these simple foods.

Below are two basic recipes I experimented with.  

Pinole recipe

Pinole seems to describe any of a variety of forms of parched or roasted corn, ground into a flour and combined with water and some spices or sugar.  It can be made into a drink, an oatmeal-like paste, or baked to form a more-portable “cake.”  Here’s a recipe I made using regular cornmeal; you can change the proportions and spices to suit your taste.  If you don’t want to toast your own corn, you can get pinole at Amazon.com.  (Note: Masa harina is probably more authentic than cornmeal, since that corn has been treated with lime, the way the Tarahumara maize is.)


  • 1/2 cup cornmeal, ground as fine as possible
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar
  • chia seeds (optional)

Toast the cornmeal in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until it turns light brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl, mix in cinnamon, and sweetener or other spices, and desired amount of water (see below).

[raw cornmeal photo]

[toasted cornmeal photo]

You can add a lot of water to make a drink of it, but I found this kind of weird because the corn didn’t dissolve.  If you add just a few tablespoons of water instead and mix, you get an oatmeal-like consistency that can be eaten with a spoon, or even out of the palm of your hand on a run:

[pinole photo]

Alternatively, you can bake the paste at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes until it has the texture of a brownie.  This more portable form is better for carrying on a long run, and a good alternative to sugary energy gels.

[baked pinole photo]

Pinole, in the form of energy bars, waffles, and more

This tasted ok (not great), but I found it pretty inconvenient to actually bring along on a run. It was hard to keep the biscuit from crumbling, and really, who is going to make a paste in the palm of their hand on a run?

To make pinole more convenient (and the type of thing you could actually bring on a run without making a mess), I worked with a baker to come up with 15 new pinole and chia recipes, so that we could get pinole in the form of energy bars, waffles, muffins, hand pies, and other running food. The recipes turned out really well, and all of them tasted way better than these initial experiments with plain pinole did.

Click here to learn more about the project, Fuel Your Run with Pinole and Chia.

Chia fresca (iskiate) recipe

[chia seeds photo]

Chia seeds (yep, the same ones used in Chia Pets) have enjoyed a surge in popularity recently among health-foodies.   There are many purported benefits of chia seeds, and legends abound about chia seeds reviving struggling athletes or warriors, with small amounts sustaining men for long periods of time.

As for buying chia seeds, I usually get these, but sometimes I’ll get white chia.  White chia seeds, also called salba, are an heirloom variety, so they’re the closest thing you’ll get to what the runners and warriors in the all chia legends were eating.

Chia seeds have the interesting property that when they’re left in water for a few minutes, the water begins to gel.  Supposedly this is helpful in digestion.  Here’s a a recipe for chia fresca (also called iskiate), a popular drink made with chia seeds, water, and lemon or lime.


  • about 10 oz of water
  • 1 Tbsp dry chia seeds
  • a few teaspoons lemon or lime juice
  • honey or agave nectar, to taste (optional)

Stir the chia seeds into the water; let them sit for about five minutes.  Stir again, and let sit for as long as you like.  The more it sits, the more gel-like the seeds and water become.  Add citrus juice and sweetener to taste.

[chia fresca photo]

I found chia fresca to be a refreshing drink for the morning, and I swear I felt an energy boost from it.  (But the placebo effect can be strong with me, so try for yourself.) But I really don’t like the gel consistency in the drink. I now choose to get my chia in smoothies, like the strawberry-iskiate smoothie from Fuel Your Run with Pinole and Chia.


Note: Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links.



Slow Burn = slow read

[slow burn cover photo]

Slow Burn - a slow read

Well, I finally finished Stu Mittleman‘s book, Slow Burn.  I say “finally” because it became a bit of a chore.  It’s not that Stu’s message isn’t interesting — the idea that we can train our bodies to burn fat rather than sugar in order to run far longer than most of us realize is possible is certainly worth some exploration.  The problem is that the “how” can be summed up in just a few sentences, not an entire book.

The good

Stu’s message: we have a lot more energy available in the form of stored fat than we do in the form of sugar.  Fat-burning takes place when we exercise slowly and aerobically; sugar-burning happens when we’re exercising hard.  By doing most of our training at a very slow pace (heart rate less than about 75% of max) and consuming almost no sugar, especially not while running, we can train our bodies to burn fat longer and run farther.  (And Stu ran 1,000 miles in less than 12 days, so he should know!)

There are a few other positives, mostly the form of motivation.  For example, Stu contends that “the wall” is simply a construct invented by people trying to sell us sugary sports nutrition products, and if we don’t focus on it, we won’t hit it.

The bad

Stu did a great job of getting me pumped up to change my diet and training regimen to reach levels of endurance I’ve never dreamed of.  The problem: I’m still not sure what to do differently to achieve said endurance.  While a training plan is outlined, it’s pretty standard.  Lots of slow miles, a little bit of tempo running, and an interval workout here and there, all done with a heart monitor.  The diet is a little different in that there’s almost no sugar in it, not even much fruit.  But I was left wondering what to eat, if not sugar, during long runs.  The book is all running without sugar; is it crazy to expect that the guy might tell me what to eat (and how much, and how often) while I’m running?

The (very) ugly

There’s a weird, out-of-place section near the beginning of the book, about a harmlessly-named topic called “muscle testing.”  Some type of stretching or diagnostic test to determine fitness level, right?  Nope, far stupider.  It’s about holding a food in one hand while your friend presses down on your other arm and you try to resist their pushing.  If your muscles stay strong and you resist, congratulations — your body “wants” the food; eat up!  If your muscle weakens, it’s your body’s way of telling you through some weird telepathic powers that the food you’re holding is bad for you.

I’m trying to think of something funny to write about this, but I can’t.  I’m too pissed off at it.  To read about other angry people debunking it with statistics and this weird new thing called “science,” just Google “applied kinesiology muscle testing.”

So all in all, not a great book.  The ideas are intriguing, and I’ll certainly try to incorporate the fat-burning thing by weaning myself off sugar during and before runs.  But just read my post about when I saw Stu Mittleman speak, and you’ll get the gist of it.  Better yet, you’ll save 12 bucks, a few hours, and the embarrassment of having your spouse muscle-test you while you hold a biscotti and an avocado.  Sorry, Erin; it won’t happen again.

Last thing: I wrote more about Slow Burn on Running Shorts today; check that out if you’re interested.