Group fitness

Apple Streusel Cupcakes

I’ve been a bad blogger the last three weeks. I’d like to say it’s been an especially busy month, but that just isn’t true.

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The truth is, I’m no busier than usual, maybe even less busy. And I did continue baking and cooking while on hiatus. But for the last month or so, my focus has been on mind and body restoration.

My life has always been, Go, go, go. I’m a hard-wired, type-A girl. And then a couple months ago, I fell in love.

Or more precisely, I fell back in love. With BODYFLOW, that is.

I should back up a bit. For the better part of the last year, I’ve been in and out of pain in my hip and one side of my lower back. I finally broke down and went to see my ortho, which in turn led to about six weeks with a physical therapist. I discovered that my lower body was out of alignment, and some muscles were out of balance. I spent half the summer trying to realign, rebalance, and most importantly, relearn  — how to sit, how to sleep, how to get in a car…

As part of my journey, I started taking Les Mills BODYFLOW, a mind-body class that draws from the disciplines of Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates, about twice per week. I used to be a regular BODYFLOW participant before becoming a group fitness instructor. As instructors, we’re taught to be member-centric. While I don’t speak for every instructor, I do know that the busier I am, the less time I take for myself.

Anyway, I quickly remembered what the class meant to me as a member — recovery for my body, calm for my mind. We work on strength, but also flexibility, balance, grace, and calm. Aside from strength, none of these comes naturally to me, and that’s exactly why I need it in my life. In other countries, BODYFLOW is called BODYBALANCE, and balance is exactly what it provides.

When I found myself with the opportunity to attend an instructor training for BODYFLOW, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and continue my journey.  I spent the last two weeks preparing for the training, which I attended this weekend, and for the next couple of months I’ll work toward finishing my certification.

This has absolutely nothing to do with apple cupcakes, except to say that I just haven’t had time in the last two weeks to post. I promise — there are more recipes in the queue!

Anyway, you are going to love these cupcakes. It’s almost like coffee cake, and I’d venture to say it would make an awesome breakfast or brunch cupcake, perhaps without the galze. If you’re going for true cupcake, keep the glaze — just know that it’s going to make the cupcakes a lot sweeter.

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Apple Streusel Cupcakes

Adapted from Cooking Light

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons amaretto, or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup finely chopped apple

Streusel:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, chilled
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Optional Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons (or more) 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon almond liqueur

Preheat oven to 350°. Place muffin cup liners in 12 muffin cups.

Reserve one tablespoon of flour. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl beat together sugar, cream cheese, and butter with an electric mixer until well-blended. Add liqueur, vanilla, and egg; beat at medium speed until well-blended. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and milk, stirring until well-blended. In a measuring cup or bowl, toss together apple and remaining 1 tablespoon flour.

Add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until blended. Fold in apple mixture. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. (Note: you’ll think you have too much batter, but these don’t really rise like regular cupcakes or muffins.)

For streusel: Combine 2 tablespoons flour, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal; stir in almonds. Sprinkle streusel evenly over cupcakes. Bake at 350° for 27 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, and remove the cupcakes from pan.

For glaze: Combine powdered sugar, milk, and liqueur in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in additional milk if necessary. Drizzle glaze over cupcakes.

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Grilled Citrus Chicken, plus leftovers two ways

It’s launch week at Gold’s Gym Corporate locations, and life is getting all crazy!

Say what?

Background: In addition to moonlighting as a food blogger, I also teach several Les Mills group fitness classes. Every three months, we throw a party to introduce a new set of routines — new music and moves to freshen up your workout and challenge you. I love launch week for all the energy and excitement, even if I do tend to overextend myself a bit (ahem).

Our quarterly launches are a great reminder for me to be a conscious eater. The choices you make to fuel your body have a huge impact on your fitness and performance. As much as this girl loves her desserts and wine, they don’t get her through tough workouts. High-protein with lots of vegetables is where it’s at.

The problem? I don’t eat to live, I live to eat. More often than not, the thought of boneless, skinless chicken breast on top of a pile of limp lettuce leaves triggers my gag reflex. I can’t choke down the same food meal after meal. If it isn’t interesting, I will pick at it all morning, then head straight for the vending machine around 3. Like clockwork, I’ll hit a wall about 40 minutes into my workout. No bueno.

The good news: chicken — even boneless, skinless chicken breast — doesn’t have to be boring. Take this “recipe” from this month’s Bon Appetit for grilled citrus chicken: chicken, citrus, oil, salt, pepper. Bam! The flavor is bright, but not overpowering, and it’s versatile enough to get a girl with a short food attention span through several meals. Fresh off the grill, in a salad, as tacos or lettuce wraps, in a sandwich… I won’t have to worry about tossing any unused leftovers.

For example, today’s lunch:

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Skin-on, bone-in meat is best — it’s more flavorful and less likely to dry out. The citrus juices help prevent flare-ups from the fat as the meat cooks. You don’t have to eat the skin if that’s not your thing. If you prefer, you can use boneless and/or skinless breasts or thighs. No grill? Try a grill pan or cast-iron skillet.

I’ve included two “recipes” I have made this week for lunch leftovers. I’d love to hear your ideas, too!

I hope to see your smiling faces at the gym this week. But even more, I hope that no matter what you’re up to this week, you eat well. Cheers.

Photo credit:  Peden + Munk for Bon Appetit

Photo credit: Peden + Munk for Bon Appetit

Grilled Citrus Chicken

Adapted From Bon Appetit
Serves 4

1 chicken (3 1/2-4 lbs), cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons your favorite heat-friendly cooking oil (e.g., vegetable, coconut), divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 oranges and 2 lemons, cut in half, divided (try substituting limes!)

Prepare grill for medium heat. Rub chicken with 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken skin-side down, turning occasionally and squeezing the juice from 2 halves each oranges and lemons over the meat often. Cook until chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer reads 165° in the thickest part of the thigh, about 25–35 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush remaining citrus halves with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. During the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, grill the fruit, cut side down, until lightly charred.

Serve chicken with grilled citrus fruits for squeezing over.

Chicken Club Salad

For each serving:
2-3 cups Romaine or your favorite salad greens
4 oz. diced or shredded grilled citrus chicken meat
1 hard-boiled egg
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon, cooked & crumbled
1/2 avocado, sliced or diced (douse with lemon or lime juice if not eating immediately)

Chicken Berry Spinach Salad

For each serving:
2-3 cups baby spinach or your favorite salad greens
4 oz. diced or shredded grilled citrus chicken meat
1/2 cup seasonal berries
1 T. slivered almonds, toasted if desired