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Better than a Boyfriend Brownies & Thoughts on the NYC Marathon

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We have a special TREAT for you today. Our good friend Nichole is here to share her experiences from the New York City Marathon (where she ran a speedy 3:12 PR) and share her indulgent, but guilt-free post race treat - see the mouth-watering brownies above. 

Nichole lives and runs in Washington, DC and has spent many hours working in pastry kitchens. She is currently training and eating her way to the 2016 Boston Marathon. You can follow her journey on her blog, Nichole Runs DC

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Race Day Thoughts: 

Coming down that last stretch into Midtown, less than one mile from the finish line of the TCS NYC Marathon, the only words I had for myself were "Levain. Cookies." Over and over and over again those words were on repeat in my head. 

Okay, who am I kidding.... Those were the only words in my head the entire race. I was finally back in NYC! 

After dreaming about finishing a very strong marathon under 3:15, I was dreaming about standing in line outside of Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side. You can smell the sweet un-salted butter for blocks. 30 minute wait? One hour? Bring.It.On. 

I have a sweet tooth that a hummingbird would have a tough time competing with. If my body was more forgiving, I would only eat chocolate chip pancakes, french toast drowning in pure maple syrup, peanut butter everything: breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of my life. 

Race Day Preparation: 

My mileage leading into the 2015 TCS NYC Marathon was up to 75 miles a week. I tried to stay between 68-low 70 mile weeks for the 12 weeks I had leading into the race to really prepare. I made a weekly mileage schedule and did my best to stick to it. In addition to the miles, I would add in a few sets up pushups, dips and a lot of ab work on my stability ball. I didn't want to incorporate strength training just yet. I wanted to increase my mileage and use NYC as a great training run leading into Boston in April. 

There are so many pieces to the puzzle when you are preparing to compete. It doesn't matter what you are training for. You have to eat the best food for you. You have to sleep the amount necessary for YOU to train your best. You have to hydrate. You have to get to the gym and do the stretching, the strength training.

Doesn't everything taste better with a mocha??  

Doesn't everything taste better with a mocha??  

Depending on your training level of madness, some of this is its own full-time job. (Note that I haven't even mentioned the grocery shopping that goes into eating, the showering, brushing of hair after a run in the pouring rain, that full time job in the office that makes its way into your kitchen while cooking dinner because there is always something that needs your attention, reading every blog post from my favorite Wassners, etc.) Some of you have families that need your love. That is a world I have little exposure to, though I know that I can't even get a puppy because it would spend too much time away from me. 

Amidst the training, the full-time job, I have found that all is well in Nichole world when there is enough time for baking a delicious, sweet, decadent, incredibly heart-warming dish for myself and friends to enjoy after each successful week of training. Peanut butter brownies and iced mochas are the perfect amount of balance I need to be my best me. Would I run a few minutes faster if I ate 100% "clean" foods involving vegetables, fruit, lean meat, rice (I'm bored already)? Maybe. The verdict is still out... 

Don't think that I don't eat the healthy stuff too! Thank God for Athlete Food, they make even the best food for fuel exciting to make and enjoyable to eat! Whole Foods has also been cranking out bowls of Brussels sprouts roasted in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper that have been taking up shelves in my fridge. I am a sucker for their whole wheat naan as well. Aside from playing around with new recipes, my dinner of choice as of late has been toasted naan with daiya cheddar cheese, slices of avocado, heirloom tomato, grilled chicken and coated with Earth Balance mayo and hot sauce (my chipotle mayo combo.) Also, if you don't own himalayan salt, get some ASAP. It's a game changer. 

Post-Race Indulging: 

I crossed the finish line of the TCS NYC Marathon in 3:12:18. That is 7:21 per mile. Considering how anemic I was back in August and building back from a 9:30 mile pace, I am very happy with the progress! After an hour went by and the initial "Who runs 26.2 miles? Why would anyone ever get excited about that!?" I was already planning for things I would do differently for Boston in April 2016. I cannot wait to get TRAINING! But first, it was directly to the kitchen. There were brownies to be baked! 

I bring to you the best post-race guilt-free Heavenly Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

That's all for now. Thank you for reading!!

--Nichole


HEAVENLY PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE BITES

I used an 8X8 square baking dish. I covered it with aluminum foil and spread butter on the foil to keep from excess sticking. Preheat oven to 325 degree F. 

The Brownie: 

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4.5 ounces semi-sweet chopped chocolate 
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • a pint or two of salt 

Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave. Add the vanilla and eggs to the butter and chocolate. Fold until just mixed. Add all dry ingredients to the batter and stir together until just mixed. Layer half of the batter into the bottom of the baking dish. 

Middle Layer: (In a separate bowl) 

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoon powdered sugar 

Mix the peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar together. Add all of the mix to the top of the first layer of brownie in the pan.  Once you have added all of the peanut butter filling, add the rest of the brownie mix on top of it. It won't cover the top completely, but feel free to move it all around and get it somewhat mixed into the peanut butter filling. Once set, place in the oven for 23-25 minutes. I like to turn the pan after the first 12 minutes to bake it "evenly." 

Remove from the oven after a max of 25 minutes. The peanut butter will be bubbling and look like it needs more time. This is normal! Let it cool and it will solidify into one beautiful square after about 25 minutes. I usually head out for a run while it cools and get home to a brownie dish ready to be coated in ganache and devoured! 

Ganache: 

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • reese's peanut butter cups, roughly chopped, for topping
  • Note: If you are vegan, I am a big fan of this simple chocolate ganache recipe: 2/3 cup of dark chocolate chips (vegan choc. chips) 1 tbsp. coconut oil  in a bowl. Heat up for about 30-45 seconds until just melted. Add 1 tbsp. maple syrup or two depending on how sweet you like it. The syrup will make it thick so add slowly and stir. 

Pour the heavy cream into a sauce pan and heat up until almost boiling. Take off the heat and add the sweet chocolate, peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until mixed completely. Take the aluminum by its sides and pull out the brownies. Place on a flat surface and remove the aluminum foil. Place the brownies on a plate you plan to serve them on. Coat them with the yummy ganache and chopped Reeses to your liking! Fall into peanut butter heaven.... 

 

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