San Francisco at Christmas and Holiday Foods

I’m back for another little holiday themed recap!

To be honest….I think one reason I’m struggling to feel like Christmas is just 2 days away is that I haven’t had a ton of holiday food, and I haven’t done any sort of Blogmas/12 Days of Christmas/Blogiversary!

I have one more Christmas-y adventure to catch you guys up on, as well as fitness and food things!

Yesterday, my family went into San Francisco to check out the Union Square Christmas tree and see the holiday kittens at Macy’s. I had originally thought that when I saw the kittens (up for adoption), it would be feasible for me to get one! However, Jackson is more than enough <3


Also, I don’t know if I posted a picture of our tree yet, but it’s especially pretty this year! My parents went through our plethora of ornaments and picked out all the best (breakable) ones. Pretty bold move on their part with a new kitten!

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On Friday, after a 35 degree-unheated Crossfit workout, we headed into San Francisco, starting at the big mall. We ate lunch at the food court, and I got a big kale salad with butternut squash, apple, pumpkin seeds, chicken, and a maple curry vinaigrette.


For dessert, I had a piece of GF cinnamon coffee cake that tasted like the inside of a cinnamon roll, and a few bites of my dad’s mousses.

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We shopped around a tiny bit before walking over to Union Square, first to see the Macy’s kittens!

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So cute!

Then, we walked over to the big tree in Union Square.

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We hung around there for a bit before deciding we wanted to grab a beer. I looked up nearby breweries, and we ended up at Thirsty Bear, which was also a tapas place with a delicious looking menu. We shared a flight of all their beers, as well as some samples of their holiday brews (including a lager with nutmeg).


After our flight, my dad and I split the Panda Bear, a lager made with cacao nibs and vanilla. It was served with TCHO chocolate, which paired perfectly! It was really interesting because it was definitely a chocolatey beer, but it wasn’t a dark beer!

We finally headed home and ate dinner and relaxed until I went to a Christmas party with my friends! My friend’s house was decorated beautifully. They also had a white elephant exchange, but for snacks, which I thought was a great idea! It was also another great excuse to bust out my Christmas sweater! I’ve gotten lots of use out of it this year!

In terms of fitness this week, it’s been a mixture of Crossfit and spin. It’s nice being back at my home Crossfit, but Monday and Tuesday’s workout had my entire body hurting. Monday was 100 pull ups+100 wall balls. 2 days later, I could not straighten my arms! But I did 100 pull ups without ripping my hands, which was sort of a miracle. I was really happy with my workout; I was able to hold onto sets of 4 or 5 most of the way through the 100, only dropping to sets of 2-3 by the very end.

Then, Tuesday morning was 5 rounds of 20 power snatches and 50 double unders. Plus, we did 100 hollow rocks as part of the strength for the day (that crushed my abs). Thankfully, my double unders, which had been elusive over the preceding months, decided to return.

I’ve also been walking Chloe. We walked a couple of times with my friend and her dog (he’s gotten so big now!), and a couple of times solo with a podcast.

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In terms of food over break, here are a couple of fun things:


Sort of open faced sloppy joes with ground turkey. Bread on the bottom, lettuce leaf on top. Plus some amazing roasted brussels sprouts. We drizzled them with truffle aged balsamic and it was absurd. I planned this meatier dinner for the night after 100 pull ups!


Cooking Light’s Miso Ginger Noodle Bowls. I found these while flipping through the magazine!


Crustless vegetable quiche (filled with broccoli, peppers, mozzarella, and feta), roasted asparagus with truffle salt, and GF baguette with olive oil and that amazing balsamic.


GF molasses ginger cookies from the GF bakery in the city. So delicious! Also pieces of this See’s toffee bar. These remind me of my childhood; we used to sell them as a band fundraiser in middle school (I played the violin), and I haven’t had one in years! Most toffee has nuts, but these don’t!


And finally, open faced turkey and havarti sandwiches with persimmon on top, broiled. Green beans with a lemon dill seasoning blend on the side.

And finally:

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Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate. Of course with whipped cream. I got it with nonfat milk, so I guess it’s a compromise!

I don’t expect to post again before Christmas, so I hope everyone has a fabulous holiday!


Holiday Festivities

Hello! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season! I wanted to catch up on my holiday adventures!

First, we’re going to step it back to just before finals week. I actually drove home the weekend before finals to go to my dad’s company Christmas party.


I’ve never missed one, and I decided it would be a good break from school and studying, plus it would allow me to spend a day studying with my kitty at home! (And I re-listened to a lecture on the drive back.)

Of course, there was good food!




And cheesecake:


The next day, I baked peppermint bark muffins with a gluten free muffin mix I had lying around, plus Ghiradelli peppermint bark chips and chocolate chips.


The next Christmas festivities occurred right after finals. I knew I was going to want to celebrate the semester, so I scheduled my annual Christmas cooking making with my best friends from high school.

Another bonus? One of my friends has a new kitten!

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Here’s our handiwork!

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Saturday night, my family and I went to a Dickens Christmas Fair. It was really cool! It was exactly what it sounds like. Lots of people were dressed up. There was food, things to buy, and performances going on.

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We were there kind of late so a lot of the food was gone. I had a baked potato and steamed vegetables.

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And a GF cookie.

Sunday, it was time for the Santa Run! It’s an afternoon race so it’s always awkward working out meals. I made my shortcut ginger butternut squash soup.


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We got super lucky! The weather was absolutely beautiful! Some years it’s been cold and/or rainy!

I was not super confident going into this race. My ankle is still bad (and likely will be for the foreseeable future). But I couldn’t miss this race!

I went out at a decently fast pace the first two miles, but sort of jogged the last mile. Unfortunately, eating gluten in Christmas cookies a few nights before had be feeling sick in the following days. Oh well, lesson learned!

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Not too bad of a time, all things considered!


Embarrassingly, I actually re-rolled my bad ankle within the last .1 mile, but since my ankle issues are weirder than just a role, I don’t think it made any lasting difference thankfully!

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At the finish line, we grabbed snacks (chicken tamale for me) and explored Christmas at the Park. Apparently the 600 Christmas trees there this year was a Guinness World Record!

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I actually ended up pulling off a third place in my age group!

After exploring the festivities, we grabbed beers at a place we’ve stood outside in past years because they had heat lamps and it was freezing!


On the way home, we stopped in Palo Alto to see lights on a famous street that apparently has been decorating since the 1940s! It was pretty cool! The decorations seemed like they were from another era—a lot of wooden figures.

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While in Palo Alto, we stopped at Sweetgreen. I got a salad with burssels sprouts and a delicious cranberry vinaigrette.


Later in the week, my mom and I went to the Ferry Building in San Francisco.


We stopped at Mariposa for lunch, a gluten free bakery. I had a turkey sandwich, and we split some muffins (the pumpkin chocolate chip is my favorite!)

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We also tried a couple of gourmet chocolates: Rose chocolate and burnt caramel.

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This post is getting super long, so I’ll save the remaining festivities, but I’ll leave you with some of my favorite kitten pictures of the week!

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Blogmas Day 15: Homemade Eggnog, Cranberry Bread, CSA Box

10 days my friends!

Before we get into the meat of this post, I’m trying my best to get festive up around here! I finally broke out my Bath and Body Works peppermint twist spray (I think I’ve actually had this since freshman year of high school…), and I got my first red cup!


I’ve been using festive plates for my avocado toast.


And bundled up in giant scarves.


We had to take her to the vet due to some eye stuff (minor infection), and this is how she rides in the car…

Check out this picture from the St. Louis Zoo that my coworker sent me. It’s crazy, and really hard for me to imagine it like that!


I wish I could say my workouts have been particularly festive, but going to spin classes and Crossfit here does make me feel like it is the holidays, since when I was in college I would only go to these places when I was home for the holidays.

In Crossfit, we’re still going strong with our 20 rep sets. Tuesday, we did Fran, and it was my first time Rxing it. (21-15-9 thrusters at 65# and pull ups). Then, that evening, I went to a spin class because it was one of my favorite teachers. I woke up Wednesday morning with my legs feeling rough. I still went to Crossfit (lots of back squats), but spent the rest of the day taking it easy on my legs, and refueling with lots of festive food.

You see, we recently started getting a CSA box. I mentioned this before, but we got talked into it when I was getting my Turkey Trot bib. It’s awesome because it comes right to your door, and you get to customize what you want in it. Since we have 100000 persimmons right now, I figured we would want mostly veggies. However, I did decide to keep the cranberries. Because Christmas. There’s really only one thing to do with them, right?

Make my favorite Cranberry Orange Bread. I made this recipe numerous times last year, all the way through February, or whenever cranberries become hard to find. It’s healthy, but the texture is still soft. I love that it only calls for 1/2 cup of sugar. Until you add chocolate chips, of course.

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Sadly, they all sunk to the bottom. Which creates a very interesting pure chocolate crust. There are worse things in life.


I actually froze most of the loaf. My current favorite dessert is eating quick breads with Halo Top.


(A different cranberry orange bread from the other night.)

But of course I had to do a taste test.

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On the topic of our CSA box…what else have we been making? The other night we made smashed potatoes from the purple potatoes. Roasted in the oven, then smashed and brushed with garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper, and sprinkled with parmesan, and then put back in the oven. (We had them with chicken cooked in meyer lemon artichoke simmer sauce over spinach.)


We based Wednesday night’s dinner around our new box finds as well. We made kale chips out of the kale—massaged in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, baked for a little over 10 minutes at 400.

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For the main course, we had eggs and a butternut squash dish. The recipe for this honey garlic roasted butternut squash came with our CSA box. It had some balsamic in there too, and was topped with feta. Plus a baby avocado toast on the side.


I ate a festive dessert while making a festive dessert. I nibbled on peppermint bark before trying my hand at some eggnog.


I used this recipe for low fat eggnog. I wanted to try and make a healthier eggnog, and my family generally likes light eggnog better anyway (the regular stuff is too thick.) I reduced the sugar in the recipe to only 1/4 cup, down from 1/3. I also added a dash of cinnamon.

Cooking on the stove:


This has cornstarch to give it a little thickness.

I’m not really sure what happened when cooking. The recipe said once the egg was in, cook for about 8 minutes, or until it starts to thicken. It started to thicken after less than 5 minutes, and was a little chunky. It was basically separated custard. Ugh. But it tasted good.

My mom suggested we put it in the blender, and that did wonders! Despite the rocky start, it actually came out well.

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And hey, it tasted good! Delicious warm as well!

And on that note, enjoy my babes:

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Are you an eggnog person?


Blogmas Day 3: Pumpkin Gingerbread

Welcome back to Blogmas! I hope you’re enjoying reading these posts, because I’m certainly having a blast making them. It forces creativity and a little more special effort to be put into each post, and having new content helps keep things fresh around here. As I type this up today, I’m cuddling under a blanket with my trusty sidekick.


I brought him here, oh, 4-5 hours ago, to help me read microbiology and he has not moved. During that time, I’ve done reading, eaten lunch, made this recipe, and walked the dog. He’s still snoozing. No shame.

Today’s recipe is another idea that popped into my head while walking around the zoo and dreaming of the holidays. My FAVORITE healthy pumpkin bread recipe ever doesn’t actually call for any spices, so I usually add a ton of pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon to make pumpkin bread. But I thought, huh, why not make this into gingerbread? And just add gingerbread spices? I don’t have the original source of the recipe since it’s a print out from many years ago, but I adapted it to make delicious pumpkin gingerbread.


This loaf has a warm flavor that just feels like the holidays. Even though we have yet to get a tree or put up decorations, when that sweet, molasses-ginger scent fills the house, I know it’s December!


This recipe also packs a bit of a nutritional punch: it’s filled with Vitamin A from pumpkin, lots of important minerals from molasses (iron, calcium, magnesium, and more), and it isn’t a sugar bomb.

Pumpkin Gingerbread



2 1/4 c flour (I used GF but this recipe works well with half whole wheat and half white)

1/2 T baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 t salt

1 large egg

1 egg white

1 can of pumpkin (about 1.5 c)

1/4 c oil (I used avocado but you could use any type of vegetable oil)

1/2 c molasses

1/4 c packed brown sugar

1 t vanilla

2 t ginger

1/4 t nutmeg

1/8 t cloves

1 t cinnamon

powder sugar for dusting (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk all dry ingredients besides the sugar together in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in wet ingredients until well blended.
  4. Pour batter into a tinfoil-lined loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until done.
  6. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Enjoy!


*Extra points if you have a holiday-themed plate.



WIAW and How Do You Approach the Holidays?

We’re coming right up on the holiday season. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re either interested in your health and fitness, or you’re my parents.

For those interested in health, the holidays can be a tumultuous time. There are conflicting tensions between the desire to maintain physical health while still enjoying holiday foods and festivities.


I knew in the past this has been an issue for me. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the holidays. I love the traditions, the food, the special events. But I also value my health. In the past, this tension would make me crazy, anxious, and angry around the holidays. I was always trying to avoid sugar, resist the goodies. But I would be miserable and feel like I was missing out. And I would inevitably give in and eat all the foods anyways, eat a ton of them, and feel terrible.


By the time the actual day of Christmas rolled around, I would be a mess. And every year around the holidays I would gain weight.

Last year was the first holiday season in many years that this didn’t happen. It was partly because I was still so sick then with my chronic stomach issue. I physically couldn’t go crazy eating things without my body turning on me. But that changed my perspective, because I appreciated what I could and did eat more. I think that experience, plus some maturity and changes in values, has shifted how I look at food and the holidays. That being said, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how to stay “healthy” throughout the holidays. (Note the quotations).


  1. Don’t think of it as “surviving the holidays.” Think about “enjoying the holidays.” I know it’s easier said than done, but the holidays are not about dieting and resisting delicious food, they’re about family, traditions, and joy.
  2. Similarly, I really don’t recommend trying to avoid all the holidays foods. In my experience, that leaves me miserable and craving them even more. Life’s too short to not enjoy eggnog, or a Christmas morning mimosa, or your Grandma’s special homemade pie. Letting go of that restrictive mentality isn’t easy, but it’s freeing.
  3. Trust your body. Don’t stress the changes. Here’s the deal. No one is going to wake up every single day weighing precisely the same amount. So many factors go into play. We see these stats everywhere: “Americans gain an average of 5 pounds every holiday season.” Here’s the deal. I guarantee that is not 5 pounds of pure fat. Carbohydrates hold 4x their weight in water. If you eat a lot of sugar or bread products over the holidays, your body will retain water. But guess what? That will disappear when you return to your normal routine. I finally started trusting my body. If I eat a big, delicious meal and lots of sugar, I realize that I might gain some weight but I don’t freak out because a) it’s not that serious and b) I trust that when things return to normal my body will too.


All those were more ways to mentally approach the holidays. While I definitely preach enjoying everything, I also want to make it a priority this holiday season to still feel good so I can fully enjoy everything. So I do want to talk about some ways to do that as well.

  1. Maintain your normal routine as much as possible when not at events. Go to holiday parties on the weekends, have a good time, and enjoy good food, but eating cake and cookies at a party on the weekend doesn’t mean you have to say “screw it” and eat junk all week. Stick to your normal workouts, eat your normal meals. I guarantee you will feel better.
  2. Make some healthy holiday treats. Some healthy swaps you won’t even notice. If you’re making gingerbread, why not look for a lower sugar recipe? If you’re making your own treats, why not make some healthier ones to have on hand? I personally plan on making some healthier treats that I don’t feel bad about enjoying on a regular basis. That way I never feel like I’m missing out on anything (And check back here for some recipes!)
  3. Get physical. No matter what I’m eating, I always feel 100x better when I get some exercise in.
  4. Start some new fit traditions. One of my favorite traditions that my family and I started doing was the Santa Run. It’s a 5k that finished at Christmas in the Park, a little Christmas village in downtown San Jose. It gets us in the holiday spirit! Last year on Christmas day, my family started our morning with a dog walk/run along the bay, followed by festive drinks, and it was an absolutely beautiful morning. Plus, Chloe got to join in! Take a night walk to look at lights (especially if you live in CA like I do and it’s not freezing!) Not every holiday tradition has to revolve around food.


Those are my thoughts for how to approach the holidays. Trust your body, and just think about trying to feel your best to enjoy the season. Again, it’s not that serious.


On that note, let’s finally dive into WIAW, Jenn‘s baby! Now that I’m home, my food is a little bit more interesting so I want to share it more!



My new favorite pre-workout food is Cheerios. I don’t even know what time zone I’m on right now, but I had plenty of time before morning Crossfit to eat! I had a bowl of pumpkin spice Cheerios. (We ordered a few boxes online from Target because they were getting hard to find!)


I did some technique work on snatches. I used 65# for a complex of a power snatch, overhead squat, and full snatch. Then we worked on bar muscles ups (LOL). I practiced some turnovers (assisted) and worked on negative pull ups. The WOD was a 7 min AMRAP of 5 power cleans and 10 toes to bar. I have toes to bar, but the coach and me do knees to elbow instead so I could really focus on getting into a good position that should later help me string together toes to bar. It was a lot more shoulder intensive the way he had me doing them! I used 85 for the cleans.


I had the same breakfast most days in St. Louis and I’m finally sick of it. I discovered some chocolate KIND granola in the pantry, so I centered my breakfast on that. I made a yogurt with with Fage 2% a little bit of maple syrup, and cocoa powder. Topped with granola and crunchy Sunbutter. I had jumbo blueberries on the side.



I had more leftover lemon chicken rice soup, with added spinach. I also seasoned it with thyme lemon bay sea salt, and topped it with feta. On the side are leftover roasted shaved brussels with truffle salt.



I had another sea salt chocolate bar from 88 Acres (more info here) as well as a Medjol date, since it had been so long since I had one strangely enough. So good!

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I also nibbled on some Cranberry Orange bread while cutting up some slices for the freezer.

Dinner Part 1:

I volunteered to sub a 7:30pm spin class this evening which is a super awkward time for me, especially since I’m still sort of on St. Louis time. I decided to eat a light dinner pretty early.

Trader Joe’s GF cornbread with a little whipped butter.


And a small bowl of butternut squash and chicken soup.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to come to a spin class that late, the week of Thanksgiving. Since it’s at the university, most people are gone for break. Luckily, I had a few people, and had a blast! It’s different teaching here, and it’s good to be back.

The rest of the evening didn’t go as planned. I drive an older car, and it can be pretty finicky. I had a lot of issues with the engine when I first started driving it a few years ago, but since then it has been fine. It didn’t appreciate not being driven too much while I was gone, it turns out. It took a while to start driving there, and when I got in to drive home after spin, the engine started shaking like crazy and then just died. Thereby stranding me 25 minutes from home. The worst thing was I was able to get out of my parking spot before it died, so I was directly blocking in a few cars. I called Triple A to get it towed, and my mom came and picked me up. Thankfully the process was relatively painless all things considered, and I’m grateful I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot and it didn’t die on the highway. That being said, I don’t have a good feeling about what may be wrong with it.

When my mom and I drove off around 9:30, we were both on the exact same wavelength: froyo. When I had mono freshman year of college, I ate mass quantities of froyo so I still remembered more or less what places were open until 10! We stopped at Yumi Yogurt, which is pretty big in my area. I got a butterscotch flavor burst with mini m&ms. Sadly, aesthetics were sacrificed in favor of more toppings but this was delicious, and the perfect post-workout refuel!


While it’s never fun watching your car get towed, I’m thankful the situation wasn’t worse. A

And on that note….

How do you approach the holidays?