Springing into Healthy: 21 Days of Clean Eating

I was invited to join a three-week clean eating challenge to jumpstart my healthy eating this spring by fellow blogger and holistic health coach Laura Pfeiffer. I’ve never done any formal ‘reset’ of my eating before, and in the past tended to avoid cutting out specific food groups because of my history with food restriction. Now I’m in a really good place with food, though –  we’re pretty much best buds. I thought taking part in the clean eating challenge would be a great way to allow me to learn why my body craves certain foods at different times, and to try ‘resetting’ my natural sweet tooth by eliminating sugar. I’m not totally cutting it, of course. But I’m going to avoid all artificial sweeteners, and limit natural sweeteners to those found in my favorite snacks like whole fruits. I don’t typically rely on sweeteners anyway – in fact, I can generally taste the sweet notes in baby carrots and cooked broccoli – but I think it’ll be a great refresher for my palate.

The first week of the challenge involves eliminating the following:

  • Sugar
  • Wheat
  • Fatty or processed meat
  • Cow’s milk
  • Processed foods

It won’t mean much in the way of changes for me other than sugar and milk. I don’t eat meat anyway (only fish and poultry) and I’m allergic to wheat! I eat a lot of yogurt, ice cream, and cheese, so that will definitely be tough. During the second week, dairy can be added back in. By the third week, the focus will be on making good choices most of the time while acknowledging cravings from time to time.


None of this for a few weeks...

None of this for a few weeks…

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New and Improved Renaissance Runner Girl

Happy Saturday, everybody! Hope you’re all getting out there to enjoy the glorious sunshine (well, if you’re in New York too, at least). This is shaping up to be a wonderful weekend. Not only is spring here, it feels like summer – 70 degrees in Central Park and I’m a happy camper!

There’s also some other exciting news, which you may know already if you’re reading this. I’ve officially made the move from WordPress.com to a self-hosted website. I’m ready to tackle the challenge of really making Renaissance Runner Girl my own space where I can share my recipes and running tips and general ramblings on life with all of you.

For new readers, I’d like to take this opportunity to say hello, and share a few of my favorite posts of the past several months for you to enjoy. I hope you’ll return and follow along with me on my new journey!

Banana-Maple-Oat Muffins (with peanut butter here!)

Banana-Maple-Oat Muffins (with peanut butter here!)






















































© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.



Liebster Award Q&A

Liebster Award Badge


One of the great things about the blogging community is the way in which it really is a community. When I started blogging in December, I was looking for a way to share my thoughts on running, recipes, and life in general with the world. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I also missed writing for fun about subjects I enjoy, and I realize now that’s a part of me I never want to give up again! On a related note, this past Saturday was my 20th day straight of blogging, unplanned by me but the creative juices had been flowing for the past few weeks. That probably won’t happen again, I’ll keep it to 4-5/week at the sweet spot for me. But part of the reason I kept writing was because people kept reading! Another thing I didn’t know was how all the bloggers out there (and there are many, many more than I ever imagined) who found their way to my little corner of the web would be so supportive of my blog, and would themselves have such creative content that I’d become a daily reader of theirs. There was so much to learn over the past few months, and every day is another surprise. Like last Friday, when I was nominated for a Liebster Award by Peppermint Girl. I’d never heard of it, but I think it’s a great way to encourage connections between bloggers. So, without further ado, on to her questions for me…


What inspires you the most in life?

My biggest inspiration in life is seeing other people doing what makes them happy. For a long time, I thought I had to be the best at one thing or another, whether it was what I really wanted or not. I struggled to pick one thing and define myself solely by it. Now I understand that I’m much happier and on my way to living a full life by doing lots of things that I enjoy, whether I’m awesome at them or just average. In fact, that’s how I came up with my blog title. A Renaissance Runner Girl likes to run – and cook gluten-free treats, and look at art, and hang out with friends and family, and ski in winter and swim in summer!

What time of day do you write the best content for your blog?

I write the best content either early in the morning, before I go out for a run, or mid-afternoon, when I’m done with schoolwork or my internship and ready for a change of pace. 

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Ode to Oats: Snickerdoodle Success

Happy Monday! Hope everyone’s week is off to a great start. I’m thankful the sun is shining, birds are singing, and spring is firmly in the air. While that means I’ll be munching on fresh fruits and veggies more than ever, I won’t be neglecting my oats anytime soon. I’ve shared the story of how I accidentally created my oatmeal cakes. These are a staple for me, usually eaten two or three or even four mornings each week! More in winter, a little less in summer. I still much prefer them to regular bowls of oatmeal because they’re more substantial, and it takes just as much effort to cook oatmeal on the stove when you factor in time spent standing over a pot, so why not have your cake and eat it too instead?

When I started blogging and reading other blogs, I discovered the phenomenon of so-called ‘overnight oats’ and literally hundreds of recipes. I tried a few of them, thinking that it combined oats with Greek yogurt, which I love, so it must be good. Truth be told, I was not blown away. The most promising combination basically tasted like those Chobani Oats yogurts, which is to say, oat-y yogurt. It was fine, but not what I was expecting. And overnight oats without yogurt did not float my boat, because I definitely prefer anything where oats are the dominant flavor to be served warm.

I’d also seen a few recipes for “growing” your oatmeal. I didn’t want to stand over the stove, so I ignored them. And then I found Chocolate Covered Katie’s voluminous oat trick. I gave it a try, and though my microwave is so touchy that I need to stand in front of it pushing start and stop for a few minutes, the whole cooking process takes about five minutes! However, though an awesome trick and one I am thankful to Katie for sharing, the resulting bowl of oats was a little too pudding-like for my taste. I stirred a little Greek yogurt in next time I tried, and that worked better for me. The third time, I hit the jackpot, by adding in some egg whites as well, and a bit of ground flaxseed. Together, these extra ingredients gave the oatmeal a slightly fluffier but more substantial consistency, and there was an extra punch of protein. I consume a bit more protein than average and can definitely feel it when I don’t have enough in the morning, so this was great.


Trying Katie's trick

Trying Katie’s trick


Finally, I discovered Peanut Butter Fingers, a blog I found because I was Googling to find deals on peanut butter (don’t ask, I’m a fiend, and I like peanut butter that happens to be a little bit pricier than average!) Julie’s recipe for egg white oatmeal provided the last tip I needed for a truly great bowl of oats. Her instructions included stirring every so often, which I had not thought to do when I reheated my oats the next morning after removing them from the fridge. So I ended up taking some ingredients and instructions from each recipe, and combining them to create the bowl that works best for my breakfast needs. There’s a saying about how all art builds on other art, and I think that’s true for cooking too – but I want to give credit where credit is due, so many thanks to both Katie and Julie! Below is the recipe for my Snickerdoodle Cloud Oatmeal Bowl. I wouldn’t have perfected it without them!


A cinnamon snickerdoodle cloud

A cinnamon cloud



1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats

Scrumptious snickerdoodle spoonful

Scrumptious snickerdoodle spoonful

1/2 cup milk of choice

1 cup water

1 egg white

2 Tbsp Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp flaxseed

1 Tbsp maple syrup

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar or other sweetener



1. Use Katie’s voluminous oat trick the night before by stirring together all the ingredients and microwaving in a large bowl or measuring cup. But my recipe includes some extra thickening ingredients, so you will only want to microwave for 3 minutes or so (depending on your microwave) and if it’s anything like mine, you’ll need to stop/start more often! Let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Leave the mixture in your fridge overnight.

3. The next morning, take out your oatmeal and microwave for 2 minutes, stopping halfway through to stir.

4. Sprinkle with extra cinnamon if desired. Enjoy!


Have you tried any tricks from other bloggers and stumbled upon a new favorite recipe? 




© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

‘Happiness is a warm puppy’

So said Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts. I am in complete agreement. My dog Sasha, a beautiful yellow Labrador, is the center of attention in our family, and in return she is loving, loyal, and always ready to snuggle. She is a consistent source of comfort and joy in our lives, and I don’t know what we’d do without her. So although I’ve shared a few photos of her before, I wanted to take today to give you a proper introduction!

A winter puppy

A winter puppy


Our first dog when I was growing up was Shayna, another yellow Labrador, who was a member of the family before my brother or I were even thought of. She was a wonderful dog, who definitely behaved according to her place as our predecessor, watching over us like a guardian who slept between the doors of our two bedrooms at night. Sadly, she passed away when I was in middle school. A few years later, we decided it was time to bring another puppy into our family, and Sasha was born on Valentine’s Day of 2006.




We got the call from the breeder while watching the figure skating competition of the Torino Winter Olympics. My mom and I both loved Sasha Cohen’s routines, and thus came our Sasha’s name! I like to joke that it was already in the cards. Shayna came first in our family, but before her, my parents’ respective dogs when they were younger were named Sparky and Socky. It was a totally unintentional tradition, but Sasha carried on the S initial.


Taking over the armchair in the library

Taking over the armchair in the library

She grew from the most adorable little puppy into one of the cutest adult dogs ever. It’s funny, but she seems to know her place in our family just like Shayna did – except her place is that of the baby, who came into a household with two teenagers and was doted on by everyone. And she still has a puppy face, even at age 9. When Sasha is in a room, she commands the attention of everyone present. She has her spot on a choice piece of furniture in every room of my childhood home, whether it’s right in the middle of your bed or on the center cushion of the living room couch.



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WIAW #4: From PB&J to Gourmet



Welcome to this week’s What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by Jenn at Peas and Crayons. This post features Monday’s eats. I think my PB&J cravings and insatiable appetite that day were the result of doing my first long run on Sunday since the NYC Half (I jogged to the start of the 10k, making it 8 miles and change). I’m always extra-hungry for a few days after one of those. In fact, after this morning’s November Project PR Day, I’m not sure my tummy is going to STOP growling! The sunrise was a beautiful way to usher in April…but now I need to make some breakfast to start my monthly eats off right. So without further ado…

Breakfast: I was really craving PB&J Monday morning. Before my run, I had a salted rice cake with a smear of Peanut Butter & Co Smooth Operator and some blueberry jam, topped with fresh blueberries. I did 5 miles in the sunshine in the park, just a nice and easy pace, and felt fabulous. Both my food and fitness for the wee hours seemed to be exactly what I needed. Then, when I got home, I mixed up a PB&J Oatmeal Cake and put it in the oven to bake while I showered and readied myself for the day. My stomach was already rumbling, so I had a peach Greek yogurt to tide me over. The oven timer couldn’t chime a moment too soon! I enjoyed my oatmeal cake with some more fresh blueberries and a crisp Pink Lady apple, and a mug of Green Mountain Wild Blueberry coffee. Scrump-diddly-umptious!











Lunch: An assortment of snacks to get me through a long afternoon of class and internship. As regular readers know, I tend to eat a lot of little things strung together during the day, bookended by a big breakfast and dinner, because I’m often on the go and dislike feeling weighed down (as I snack, my backpack gets lighter!) OR hungry (because for me, hungry = hangry). This day featured a salad of greens, cabbage, and carrots, with smoked sockeye salmon and feta cheese, topped with Annie’s honey mustard vinaigrette as my ‘lunch’ entree. I ate this with a side of baby carrots around 12:30. I ate the muffin around 2pm before leaving school for Lincoln Center, and had the apple and pretzels around 4pm while at my internship. Then I had a pre-dinner snack when I got home around 6pm and had to wait a bit for dinner as I was going out to eat with a friend. To tide me over for the hour, I had the yogurt – banana cream, with some kettle corn and blueberries crumbled in. 



My pack of snacks for the day





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Welcome to another round of WIAW! I’m here to share yesterday’s eats with all of you, and can’t wait to see what everyone else over at Peas and Crayons has been cooking up. I was on the go pretty much all day, so you’ll see a lot of snacks! I woke up in Connecticut, went to a doctor’s appointment, hopped on Metro North and got off for class in Morningside Heights, took the subway to my internship at Lincoln Center, walked home across Central Park to the Upper East Side for dinner, left again for a Junior League meeting, and got home for good around 9pm. During that time, I consumed a lot of my go-to snacks, actually triple-timing both Greek yogurts and apples. At least I branched out with the varieties – a Dannon Greek Strawberry Banana, Fage 2% Acai Blueberry, and Fairway 2% Plain for the Greek yogurts, and Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and Empire apples. And so, without further ado…

Strawberry banana yogurt + crispers

Strawberry banana yogurt + crispers


Breakfast: Today was a little snack-y, beginning with an early breakfast before an appointment in Connecticut. I had a Greek yogurt with some gluten-free Crispers (generic Crispix, sans barley malt) and a cup of decaf coffee, and an apple.



Brunch follows breakfast

Brunch follows breakfast


Brunch: After my appointment, I came home to eat, grab my stuff, and hop on a train back to Manhattan to head to an early afternoon class. I knew it might be my only real meal for awhile, so I whipped up a turkey cheddar omelette and had some salad with honey mustard dressing on the side (and another apple, yes). I also had a second cup of decaf coffee – a Dulce de Leche Cake Boss K-Cup.






On-the-go PB&J Yogurt


Early afternoon snack: While in class at school, I had a Fage 2% blueberry yogurt with a Peanut Butter Cup muffin crumbled in. I’ve mentioned before that I prefer mixing my own fruit, peanut butter, etc. into Greek yogurt, but these are great for when you’re on the go and don’t have that option! I packed the muffin, two yogurts, and the soy crisps pictured below and had them with me on the train.






A little like Dunkaroos!

Late afternoon snack: I found these mini rice cakes (or that’s what I thought they were) and decided to give them a try because I love anything apple cinnamon (like my Caramel Apple Cinnamuffins!) They turned out to be little crispy cakes made of soy protein, and made a decent little snack with a 2% Greek yogurt. I mixed some peanut butter into the yogurt and dipped the cakes in, a fun little treat to brighten my afternoon, during the two hours working at my internship that I squeezed in after class.






A simple salad to start

Dinner: Sometimes, even the most food-focused among us are in a rush and haven’t prepared anything ahead of time. I got home from my internship at 6pm and had exactly half an hour to cook and eat dinner before heading back out to a Junior League committee meeting at 7pm. So I turned to my freezer, where I try to keep a stash of a few frozen meals for times like this. I usually stick to some brands that I feel okay about eating – Amy’s, Evol, and Garden Lites to name a few. The meals are pricier than cooking, of course, but like I said, we all have crunch times! Tonight, I actually tried a new one, Udi’s Gluten Free Broccoli and Kale Lasagna.



Saved by Udis

Saved by the Udi’s bell

I’ve had Udi’s products before, but only recently saw their new line of frozen meals in stores near me. Since these boxed meals are never enough food to satisfy me, I try to add in whatever plain veggies and protein I have on hand in the fridge. Tonight, that meant frozen broccoli and cauliflower, and some plain cocktail shrimp. I tossed a few shrimp on a salad to eat while the meal was in the microwave, and then dug in. The meal appeared very “white” when cooked, which isn’t something I really like (colorful food is a must for both health and enjoyment in my book!) but I cut through the noodles and there were bright flecks of carrots and greens. It was pretty good – the cheese was a bit bland, but it hit the spot.



Blueberry sorbet with sprinkles

Blueberry sorbet with sprinkles


Then later, when I got home after my meeting, I had some blueberry sorbet with sprinkles for an evening snack, followed by an apple and some popcorn. I tend to eat most of my food between 8am and 8pm, but I’ve found it’s best to have a substantial snack if I eat dinner early and head out again – otherwise, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with my stomach growling!




An Empire apple and Skinny Pop

An Empire apple and Angie’s popcorn


I enjoyed my snacks while watching an episode of Friday Night Lights on Netflix. There’s barely anything left on television that I actually watch anymore – now that Parks and Rec is over (and sadly it seems like Hart of Dixie has followed suit) all my mindless entertainment comes from old favorites. It’s probably for the best – I don’t have much time to spend in front of a TV anyway!





© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Dinner with My Dad at Luc’s Cafe

Fairy lights make everything magical

Fairy lights make everything magical


One of the best parts of spring break was getting to spend quality time with my dog Sasha. Another was enjoying leisurely dinners with my dad (he would agree with this order – she’s got the whole family trained!) We share a love of art and history, and I probably got so interested in both because I grew up tagging along to galleries with him by day and watching documentaries on TV together late at night. One night, we decided to head over to Luc’s Cafe, a French brasserie close to Main Street that’s always bustling. The outdoor area is really pretty, with twinkly lights all around.





Bistro accoutrements

Bistro accoutrements


Inside there are photos all around of classic French scenes, and there’s a large map of France on the back wall. I like the decorations here because they blend in with the atmosphere, and aren’t too garish. Just enough to be quaint!






Mussels + frites

Mussels + frites

As the snow melts and hope springs eternal that winter is falling away, my dad figured it was his last chance to get a steaming mug of French onion soup and a toasty croque monsieur. I’m always happy to have mussels marinière. It combines one of my favorite seafoods, mussels, with a delicious white wine and garlic sauce – and a little butter, because everything tastes better with a little butter! My portion came with frites, of course, which were cut shoestring-style. Everything was quite tasty – I couldn’t partake in his dishes, of course, but he helped me polish off that giant vat of mussels!



Dark chocolate is heavenly

Dark chocolate is heavenly


We were a little full for dessert, but after heading home and taking an evening stroll in the neighborhood with Sasha, we each found room for a delectable piece of dark chocolate from Bridgewater Chocolates, another Connecticut institution. I went for a square of dark chocolate filled with sea salt and caramel. Yum!






All in all, it was a delicious meal and some great daddy-daughter time. What’s your favorite memory with you and your dad?




© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Lunch at Bailey’s Backyard

The restaurant

The restaurant


I met a good friend of mine for lunch yesterday, at a restaurant off our quaint Main Street called Bailey’s Backyard. I came here a lot growing up. They closed a couple of years ago, and when they reopened, the owners had altered the atmosphere and the menu, hopping on the farm-to-table bandwagon.






Lunch Menu

Lunch Menu


While I’m nostalgic for things that have changed since my childhood, the new menu is awesome. It incorporates a lot of local Connecticut and New England ingredients, in the excellent Sunday brunch, daily dinners, and as I found today, regular weekday lunches. I’m both gluten-free and nut-free, of course, which means I need to make alterations to a lot of dishes when dining out. My friend Taylor is also gluten-free, and she can’t eat eggs either. Luckily, although the menu includes lots of allergy-triggering items, the staff at Bailey’s is very helpful in letting you know where adjustments can be made. The chef even came out to introduce himself to us to see how we liked our lunches!



Seriously scrumptious side

Seriously scrumptious side


We decided to split a side to start. Originally, we were both eyeing the kale and Gruyere gratin, but unfortunately there was flour in that mix and they didn’t have a substitute. However, our choice of the roasted rainbow carrots with garlic butter and roasted marshmallow was simply scrumptious.





Scallops seared to perfection

Scallops seared to perfection


For our main courses, we both went with salads. Taylor had the Connecticut Kale Salad with grilled shrimp, and I went for the Spinach Salad with feta and onions and grilled scallops. Since I was allergic to the pistachio vinaigrette on the menu, the waiter suggested substituting the apricot dressing, which was a nice fruity addition.





A sweet treat like gooey smores

A sweet treat like gooey s’mores


We ended the meal with decaf coffee for me, and more iced tea for Taylor. I’m not going to lie, I may also have scraped every last bit of the blackened marshmallow cream off that carrot plate! It was so lovely to enjoy a relaxing lunch with a good friend. I’m making this last spring break count!







Where’s your favorite place for a girls’ lunch? Do you and your friends have any fun traditions?




© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.




Welcome to take two of What I Ate Wednesday! I’ll definitely be posting these the first Wednesday of every month, but since I’m blogging more and getting into the habit of photographing things (even the ones so delicious I don’t want to wait to taste them) I’ll do an extra round of WIAW every now and then. It’s so much fun to see what everyone else linking up at Peas and Crayons and Clean Eats Fast Feets is enjoying for their eats! This WIAW was prompted by a few things. First, the day documented here is the Tuesday after the NYC Half Marathon (even though it was Sunday, I was still in ‘eat all the food’ mode). Second, it was also the day that one of my very best friends in the world was scheduled to have her first child – and since she and her husband live on another continent, I spent a few hours waiting by Skype for some good news and snacking all the time! And third, it was during my law school spring break week so I had even more extra time to sit around and snack. (Also, this is officially my last spring break ever! Crazy.)


Greek yogurt with peanut butter, blueberry jam, a crumbled Peanut Butter Cuppin, and extra peanut butter!

A PB&J Crispy Cup!

Breakfast: I had the luxury of sleeping until 8:30 am (I’m on break, but I’m an early-to-bed and early-to-rise type. Anything past 9am is shocking these days!) I began my day with a mug of decaf Cake Boss Dulce de Leche coffee. Then I had a cherry Dannon Light n’ Fit Greek yogurt, with Barbara’s Brown Rice Crispies, fresh blueberries, and a little peanut butter mixed in. Basically, it was a peanut butter and jelly crispy cup of yogurt. I don’t typically go for the Greek yogurt that has fruit in it, as I prefer to mix in my own fresh fruit, but since I’m in Connecticut at my parents’ house, I get the benefit of a fridge full of Costco finds courtesy of my dad – like 24-packs of Dannon Greek fruit yogurts. I’m not complaining!



Today I took some fresh bananas and whipped up a new twist on my Banana-Maple-Oat Muffins, using one whole banana and a pouch of Gerber's pureed banana - they turned out so creamy and delicious!

A few little bites of heaven – this morning and this afternoon!

Mid-morning snack: For a few days after running a race, I never want to sit down to a huge meal. But I do want to eat little things constantly. I wasn’t in the mood for regular oatmeal (maybe it’s the vaguely springlike weather) so I decided to whip up a batch of muffins. We had a stash of Gerber’s squeezable banana packs because my mom and I thought they might make good on-the-go running snacks, but I don’t really like the taste. However, I thought they might work in muffins, so I used one whole banana and one pack of pureed banana in a twist on my Banana-Maple-Oat Muffins. They turned out creamy and delicious! I had two right from the pan.



A simple salad with fresh ingredients

My own twist on a Greek salad – the Frankly Fresh grape leaves are a great GF + vegan find!

Lunch: A bowl of romaine, carrots, and red cabbage, with Annie’s raspberry vinaigrette, feta cheese, a grape leaf, and grilled chicken. Both lunch and dinner today are totally courtesy of Costco ingredients. Some people might disparage big box stores (and they have for decades, considering how Tom Hanks talks about them in You’ve Got Mail) but it’s so much more cost-effective than a regular grocery store, ESPECIALLY for healthy whole foods. When I compare prices on, say, apples or lettuce, to those in a grocery store in NYC rather than in Connecticut, I cry a little inside. For example, a 3-lb (48 oz) bag of this Dole salad blend is $2.99 at Costco, whereas a 12 oz bag is $3.49 at an NYC Food Emporium or D’Agostino. Sigh. Moving on!



My pre-run snack smiled back at my today!

My snack smiled back at my today!


Afternoon snack: A couple more of those marvelous muffins, with fresh blueberries and a cup of decaf coffee.







My own delicious and nutritious "spaghetti and meatballs"

GF “spaghetti and meatballs”

Dinner: For my main course, I had a bowl of gluten-free, high-protein ‘spaghetti and meatballs’ made with this black bean spaghetti we found at Costco. It packs a wallop of protein and complex carbs and tastes great with sauce and cheese – definitely not like typical pasta, so don’t expect that, but if you like black beans, I’d recommend giving it a try! I tossed in some mirepoix (carrots, peas, corn, and green beans) and garlic and mozzarella chicken meatballs, and topped the whole thing with Parmesan cheese. Filling and delicious!



Sweet and snappy

Sweet and snappy


Dessert: I kept it simple with a bowl of Angie’s sweet and salty kettle corn and a Pink Lady apple (you must know I’d squeeze one in somewhere!) A sweet treat to end the day.






What was your favorite meal today? Are you a snacker or do you stick to three square meals a day?




© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.