Did you know April 20th was a day recognized around the country as a very special day? It’s true! On 4/20, people around the country gather together to recognize National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day!
What better way to celebrate than with an HMR muffin! These won’t quite replicate the cake itself (but to be honest I have forgotten what that cake tastes like), however reading through a number of recipes and descriptors, I have crafted what I think is pretty darn tasty.
I have to thank one of my HMR Program classmates who mentioned making muffins with canned pineapple for the inspiration behind this recipe. (She also recommended what our class calls “The Rosé” – a double entree mixing the Penne and Alfredo – SO GOOD) I LOVE being inspired by my classmates – their stories and experiences motivate me going into rough weeks as I reflect on the lessons I have learned from them.
HMR Pineapple Muffins
- HMR Oatmeal packet
- HMR 70 Vanilla packet
- 8 ounce can of crushed pineapple in it’s own juice
- 1 tsp rum extract
- 1/2 tbsp baking powder
- 2 pumps Torani Sugar-Free Coconut Syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your baking tins. I use a silicone mini muffin tin which expedites cooking time while making it easy for quick release – I also use a quick spritz of cooking spray in the tin before filling it with batter – this also helps with release of the baked muffins.
Mix all of the ingredients together. Fill batter tins. It’s really that easy. The liquids from the pineapple, extract, and syrup are enough to moisten the batter. If you don’t like rum and coconut extract you could easily sub those out. I’m thinking the brown sugar syrup and vanilla extract might be nice as well. Or a brandy extract and a cherry syrup. I was going for a bit of tropical flair after being inspired by my classmate, but the possibilities are endless!
Bake for approximately 15 minutes until the tops of the muffins have browned. Then pop them out of the muffin tins to cool. Your baking time may vary based on oven calibration and muffin tins used.
I love being out in nature. However I am also a klutz of major proportions. My friends suggest I should be wrapped in bubble wrap considering how often I get injured. This combination makes for an interesting challenge when examining my joy of trail-running. I love running on trails, but I usually end up falling on trails. In fact, this was what led to my first DNF (did not finish) last August, when I injured myself before the mile 11 aid station at Pacific Coast Trail Runs The Ridge, the last trail race I attempted. And prior to The Ridge, I had only been running trails for fun and for training, with the exception of a few New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day races put on by Brazen Racing.
However, when I heard about Vacation Races Trailfest, being held just close enough to home to be an easy travel experience, and there was a contest to win an entry to one of the weekend’s races, I had to enter. Camping, yoga, speakers, AND trail runs? Sign me up! I had never heard about this event prior to a race ambassador’s post on Facebook and probably never would have been able to afford to sign-up by the time I found out (costs typically rise for race registration as you get closer to the event) – but luckily I won the entry and signed myself up for the Saturday race.
This event runs from Wednesday to Sunday, with registration on Wednesday, races on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and then checking out and heading home on Sunday. There were a variety of events scheduled throughout the week as well in addition to the runs, from yoga to speakers to massages! You could arrive at any point during the week, but I went straight after work to register and set-up my tent (I wanted to stake out a good spot) before I came back down to the valley for my HMR class. For those people who may not own a tent (or who just don’t want to travel with one and set it up), the festival offered free tents already set-up, or you could pay a small fee for a bed in a bunkhouse (or a little more for a private room). But I wanted to embrace the full trail experience, so I opted to do it all myself.
The registration fee also includes meals. Since I was signed up for Saturday’s run, my dinner on Friday and Saturday nights were included as well as breakfast on Saturday morning. I had brought most of my own food but did eat the steamed and fresh vegetables at dinner both nights as well as enjoyed the fresh fruit in the morning.
When I came back to the festival on Friday, I was admittedly nervous. I have some social anxiety, and showing up a couple days late and all alone to a community-oriented event had me a little on edge. But everyone was very friendly from Amanda, the race ambassador whom I had won the entry from, to the runners I met at the various meals and events.
On Friday night we got the opportunity to meet Sarah Lavender Smith as well as to hear her read from her new book “The Trail Runner’s Companion” – I bought a copy and have already started to read it – I’d recommend picking up a copy! She also answered questions from the audience about trail running, ultra running, injuries, and her own experiences. It was inspiring and grounding at the same time.
The next morning was the race itself, through Pescadero Creek County Park – a 13.7 mile adventure with an elevation gain of 2700 feet – looking at the elevation map, there was never going to be a real “flat” stretch.
The race had a rolling start (aka roll out of bed, roll down to the starting line, and start somewhere during this window of time) which made for a relaxing and fun feel at the starting line. It also meant there weren’t a couple hundred people all hitting the trail at once, a respectful way to treat the course itself and it also allowed runners to be spaced out as we sorted ourselves in the first mile or two before setting into the real climbs.
In talking to my running coach, I knew I was going out to have fun. This wasn’t a race for me, just a fun run and hike through the redwood trees. I would run when I could, walk when I needed to, and while I admittedly paid some attention to time (I didn’t want to miss a cut-off), I never really looked at my pacing outside of those mileage beeps on the Garmin letting me know my pace of the previous mile. In my head, I needed to keep it around a 20 minute mile to stay under any cut-off. In reality the race organizers knew this was the third day of racing for most of the participants and the course was kept open much longer, so I knew going into the race if I needed the extra time I could take it and so I didn’t speed myself up, I just played by feel.
Anyone who has been following my running journey probably already knows I was plagued with injuries in 2016 and 2017. I am a regular at my physical therapist’s office (shout-out to Garrett who is AMAZING), bringing him a new injury every few months. But suffering my concussion in November forced my whole body to rest, so while I was hesitant to flare old injuries like my Achilles tendinitis, I also was willing to take some risks I had been avoiding before, like running the inclines when I could instead of forcing myself to walk.
And there were a LOT of inclines! So I ran when I could and I walked when I needed to. And that mile 6 stretch to the aid station at 7.2 was all walking. I could hear the aid station long before I could see the top of the hill. And when I hit flat ground and started to run into the staging area for the aid station, a volunteer cheering looked at me and asked “Let me guess, mile 6?” and I laughed and nodded. I could only imagine what I looked like after that climb.
Speaking of aid stations, this aid station was FANTASTIC. The volunteers were so helpful, offering to fill water bottles while runners fueled, as well as any additional assistance runners needed. The fuel options could be described as a “spread” from the liquid fuel Gnarly to various snacks including fresh cut fruit as well as potatoes (with salt to dip them in!). I brought my own electrolyte I had trained with (Nuun) so a volunteer refilled my bottles with water while I ate two pieces of potato I dipped in salt. Seriously the best thing ever at the top of a mountain!
For anyone reading who is following the HMR program, these potatoes were fantastic! I also carried with me a variety of baby food pouches that were all fruits or fruits and sweet potato combinations (every pack had between 40 and 90 calories and 2g or less of fiber – most with only 1g). I had a baby food pouch about every 45 or so minutes (tucking the empty pouches back into my OrangeMud pack).
Then it was back down the mountain and into the woods again. Did I mention the mud and downed trees yet? It had rained on Wednesday night, and although the trails were drier than they had been in the previous days, there were still slick mud pits to get through and trees to climb over and under. It was a fun, but scary, obstacle course for the accident-prone runner. I had a few moments where I had to stop and evaluate the route to pick the best option given some of the communication limitations I am still experiencing between my brain, ears, and eyes after the concussion.
As I hit the portion of the trail that was the out-and-back, I knew the end was near. It was just up one more small climb and through camp to the finish line, where I teared up as my wooden carved medal was placed around my neck. This finish meant a lot to me. It meant I successfully navigated a trail without injury. My brain and body appeared to be functioning well. And I got past mental blocks that had hindered my ability to listen to my body. I enjoyed being out of the trail more than I could explain. And while my body isn’t conditioned enough yet to travel many more miles, my mind could have been out on those trails exploring for a lot longer.
The finish line at Trailfest included fresh fruit, sports drink, chocolate milk, and snack boxes full of healthy refueling options like nut butter and trail mix. I personally enjoyed a banana and an HMR chocolate shake for recovery before stretching and rolling and relaxing. I took advantage of the complimentary massage, I enjoyed some yoga, and I relaxed in the woods before packing up my belongings (I had responsibilities at home that prevented me from staying the final night).
The last activity I got the opportunity to enjoy during Trailfest was the final speaker, Dean Karnazes, an ultra marathoner who is local to the Bay Area but is known worldwide for the mileage he travels on his runs. He told us about his he started running on his 30th birthday, about the history of the marathon (interwoven with stories from his running experiences), and then answered questions from the audience. While I enjoyed that he likes to “run a marathon before breakfast” – it was some of his other responses that left me thinking. From his day-to-day routine (he doesn’t sit down) to his views on suffering (we have become so comfortable in our daily lives that we are miserable – find joy in the suffering), I made some mental notes on my own embracement of suffering and finding opportunities to get a little uncomfortable to improve myself (I am standing as I write this).
Overall, this weekend was a fantastic experience and one I hope to partake in again. While the initial fees were high, they included a lot – from camping to meals to a shirt AND a zippered hoodie, not to mention the race and the snacks and the medal (and if you completed all three races you also got a beautiful pocket knife). Well worth the price (plus you could bring friends and family to enjoy many of the weekend activities at no additional cost!). And if you volunteer at a Vacation Race event, you can earn credit toward their races (as can your friends and family – the credits are transferrable!) – which makes it an even more affordable experience.
Now to get back to my regularly scheduled training (I’m signed up to tackle The Ridge again!) while embracing the positive energy and lessons I gained from my experiences this weekend!
After struggling in Phase Two, especially while dealing with the aftermath of an abrupt medical emergency, I recognized I needed to get my weight management act together. More specifically, I needed to focus on practicing the healthy behaviors I had learned while in Phase One in 2013-2014 as well as introduce some new behaviors. I had only spent a few weeks in the Healthy Solutions transition between Decision Free and Phase Two, and I needed to work on my relationship with fruits and vegetables.
In January of 2018, I committed to following the Healthy Solutions Diet offered by HMR at Palo Alto Medical Clinic. 12+ weeks of HMR meal replacements and unlimited fruits and vegetables. More decisions that the faster weight loss program (Decision Free) but still effectively limited food choices and thus decreasing my decision anxiety about food.
After 11 weeks on the program, I have lost over 30lbs, all while embracing the “More is Better” philosophy to help me stay on the program. My minimum prescription each day is 3 HMR shakes (or soup or oatmeal), 2 HMR entrees, and 5 servings of produce (the program offers guidance on serving sizes) – however most days I have extra fruits and vegetables, and maybe an extra meal replacement or two (or three or four) to keep me full and away from temptation for minimal calories!
After some conversations with other HMR patients on social media, I am sharing my data for the first 11 weeks (I am in week 12) publicly because I have come to realize it helps shape the reality of this “More is Better” concept at HMR:
In a seven day week, my MR (meal replacements) minimum would be 35, as would my V/F (veggies and fruit), however you will notice I never eat “just the minimum” because it would not keep me full and thus I would faced increased temptation. And yet I have lost weight every week (and I peeked at my personal scale this morning at home and am feeling pretty awesome about this week as well!).
I have had struggles while I have been on Healthy Solutions. Making choices on going out to eat. Preparing for travel. Making sure I have a variety of options available to keep me full and away from temptation. But I have learned some valuable lessons too:
- If you don’t like a vegetable or entree, try a different preparation method. I rarely ate the chicken soup in Decision Free unless it was a cracker or savory muffin. However I have been making all sorts of soups in Healthy Solutions (and actually still haven’t made a cracker or savory muffin with the mix!).
- When in doubt, double the vegetables! This seems silly, why eat more than you had planned? Well you can usually sneak in an extra serving of vegetables when preparing a meal and while the calorie cost is minimal, the extra fullness can’t compare! When I add cauliflower rice to a chicken creole entree, I add two cups instead of one. Extra bulk. Extra fullness. And only 40 extra calories that is going to offset something higher calorie later!
- Always keep easy-prep produce around. You never know when you are going to have a bad day (or days), so having a couple go-to standards is always a good idea. Every week I make sure to order a couple of easy-prep items in my Imperfect Produce delivery (apples, carrots, baby tomatoes, citrus). But I also have a few standards in my freezer – riced cauliflower (awesome to mix into most entrees), frozen cherries (perfect for snacking), small frozen bananas (throw one in a shake or make an ice cream), and frozen mixed peppers or grilled asparagus (something fun that’s quick to prep and can change up an entree or be blended into a soup). Finally, I always keep an onion and either a potato or hard winter squash on hand. The onion can transform lots of things from entrees to soup to veggies. The potato or squash might take a little longer to prep but they are carbalicious treats that are a better choice than something out-of-the-box.
- Plan for more than you think you are going to eat. If it’s in my plan, I am not afraid to eat it and it’s already prepared and easy to grab. If I am not hungry, it can be stored for the next day when it’s the first thing on my list. For example, Monday was my first day back from Spring Break where my eating was less regimented. I also had a 5am OrangeTheory Fitness so I knew I’d be starting my day early and with a lot of activity (which can sometimes leave me hungry all morning). So my post-workout commuter breakfast was a blended 120 vanilla shake (with some PB2 and sugar-free salted caramel syrup from Torani) as well as a chicken soup blended up with my “green soup base” (which is really just whatever looks like is near it’s end in the produce bin getting simmered with broth and spices and blended into a greenish broth). Then my snack and lunch bag had: 1 cup of baby tomatoes, 2 cups of roasted broccoli, 1 cup of berries, a chicken creole cooked with peppers, 1 cup of cucumber-tomato-basil salad, a diet soda, a giant Contigo with herbal tea, and another giant Contigo with a 120 chocolate shake turned into a hot cocoa. When I got home from work, I still had the broccoli (which I snacked on while preparing dinner) and the tomatoes, which are back in the lunch bag this morning and will be my first snack of the morning.
Overall, I think Healthy Solutions has helped me to embrace fruits and vegetables as filling and delicious foods. I realized before that they could offset calories, but I never truly practiced incorporating them into my life, making them the main focus of snacks and meals instead of side dishes and afterthoughts. And while my weight loss has been slower on Healthy Solutions than on Decision Free, I do think spending more time in Healthy Solutions will help to prepare me for Phase Two. I wouldn’t trade the fast weight loss initially because I think Decision Free helped me reduce decision anxiety and find success and motivation in the HMR Program. It taught me invaluable lessons that I am not sure I personally could have found if I had started in Healthy Solutions.
But I was definitely in a rush to get to “normal foods” in Phase Two and forgot along the way the fruits and vegetables are the staple of the “normal foods” – a foundation that needs to be solidified in order for the house of weight maintenance to be steady when the earthquake called life might hit. And now my foundation is getting that strengthening it needs so that my weight management practices can be strong in the Phase Two world.
As Spring Break winds to a close, I’m back to prepping multiple grab-and-go meals for the week. I wanted to share this one because someone who reads my blog told me they don’t like cauliflower (what?!?) and was looking for fast ways to add vegetables into their diet.
This one is quick and cheap. So easy I can’t believe I haven’t shared it before!
This bag of fire roasted veggies from Trader Joe’s has no added oil and approximately five cups of veggies! So I throw the whole bag in a large hot frying pan and stir while it defrosts and starts to warm up.
I add in two HMR Program Chicken Creole entrees into the pan and sprinkle in my favorite Creole seasoning. Continue to stir for several minutes until all the flavors have come together.
I divide the mix into two half for two quick meals that are easy to reheat and contain 2.5 cups of veggies already cooked in!
A few weeks ago we had a homework assignment to combine the HMR Program chicken soup with an entree. This increases our fullness level which makes those calories last longer. Plus it’s delicious!
I’ve been doing this a fair amount after finding success with it during that homework assignment. This is one of the recipes I’ve been enjoying that helps up the fullness factor.
Creamy Penne and Meatball Soup
- HMR Chicken Soup
- HMR Penne and Meatball Entree
- Chicken bouillon cube
- Italian Herb Seasoning Blend (I use Penzey’s but feel free to sub in your own!)
- 1 cup of water
Microwave water and bouillon cube in a large bowl for 90 seconds. Whisk in soup packet and a couple dashes of Italian seasoning blend.
While you are whisking the broth, soup, and seasoning; microwave the Penne entree for one minute.
Whisk the entree into the soup and enjoy!