Archives for christmas

Apple Pie with Cinnamon Swirl Crust

For Thanksgiving a few years ago, I offered to do the pies, and cranberry chutney. As part of my duties, I was determined to create an over-the-top, unique apple pie that was also vegan. I wanted to figure out a way to combine apple pie with cinnamon roll cookies.

I know, right!?

Not only did it sound fantastic, I thought it would look really cool too! I pulled it off and it’s so good, I wanted to share it again this holiday season. Sure, this pie crust takes a little more time, but you can make it ahead of time and just bake it the morning of Thanksgiving. Have fun with it!


Apple Pie Filling for 9″ pie:
1/3 c. organic sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
~ 10 cups of thinly sliced and peeled apples (pink lady or granny smith work best)
(Depending on size, the amount of apples varies. If they are small 9 apples, if they are large about 5.)

  1. Peel and thinly slice the apples. Toss in sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Crust Ingredients for 9″ pie:
2 1/2 c. organic, sprouted spelt flour (can also use gluten-free)
pinch of salt (optional)
1 c. Earth Balance buttery sticks, frozen
1/2 c. very cold water
Cinnamon, as much or as little as you want
2-3 TBSP organic white sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F

Making the Dough

  1. Shave the frozen buttery sticks on a cheese grater, into a bowl
  2. Sprinkle the flour (and salt if using) over the grated buttery sticks. Toss with a fork to coat butter, with flour. Smash down with fork to combine.
  3. Add the 1/2 c. COLD water, and using your hands, smash and knead to combine into a buttery dough ball. (The goal is to still have chunks of butter, not to combine it all until mushy.)
  4. Flatten dough ball and coat with flour and place on a floured surface. Roll out dough until it is about 1/4″ thick.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
  6. Cut the rolled out dough in half, down the middle, to get the top and bottom crusts.
  7. Roll each half as tight as you can.
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut the cinnamon roll/crust slices about 1/4″ thick for each roll. Keep the two rolls separate to ensure you have enough for both the top and bottom of the pie.


Forming the Crust Bottom

  1. Starting in the center of a 9″ pie dish, place a single slice of cinnamon swirl dough. Forming a flower pattern almost, place up to 10 more swirls around the center slice, ensuring the edges are close and touching. Gently push down and flatten into dish. Continue adding slices until you cover the whole pie dish.
  2. Make sure there are no holes, or the pie filling will ooze through and cause sticking when you slice and remove after baking. Once the entire bottom and sides of the pie dish are covered, add sugar and cinnamon coated apples.

Forming the Crust Top

  1. For the top crust. Tape a pice of parchment paper to your counter, or hold it down with weights so it doesn’t curl. Lay all the slices in a flat, circular layer, with edges slightly overlapping — similar to the bottom crust.
  2. Again, using your hand flatten the pieces into one another. To really flatten and roll it out, place another piece of parchment paper on top of slices. Using a rolling pin, roll over the slices, until they start to meld together and make the crust large enough to cover the pie. The rolled out slices should be about 1/4″ thick or thinner.
  3. Once it is sized correctly. Use the parchment paper that is taped to the counter to help you lift the rolled slices off the counter and quickly flip onto the apple topping.
  4. Pinch the edges of the top layer together with the edges of the bottom layer.
  5. Cut holes in the top layer to vent for steam.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes. Be sure to watch the crust closely so it doesn’t get too brown. (NOTE: If you make this ahead of time, cover it with foil before refrigerating. Once you are ready to bake it, let it sit on the counter for about an hour to bake, OR place in the oven while you preheat it. This will allow it to warm up a little before baking.)
  7. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving, if you can. 🙂



Below is a slideshow, if you prefer visuals with your instructions. It was fun and easy, just takes a little time. 🙂

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Heart Rate Training Update

The title of this should be, “Heart Rate Training Update… and a whole bunch of TMI.” I’ve been struggling to find the words and feelings and just all around reason for my heart rate training taking a total dive off a cliff. Then today, all the pieces suddenly fell into place and it was all so obvious. I just needed to make sense of it myself before I could try and explain it here. Instead of getting TOO long-winded and FAR too detailed about it, I’m going to break it down into chunks, since it was a series of events, not just one. These will explain why I stopped heart rate training, and really almost stopped running completely this year.



For those of you who don’t know, half way through 2015 I started heart rate training. I got my VO2 max test done (as shown above) and was running almost every day. It was slow progress, but it seemed to be working. The heart palpitations I thought were related to my running, were mostly gone. Things were going well.

We went on vacation to Oahu for 10 days, I took a nice break from running — only ran once — came home and I was right back at it.


Can you scratch that?

Then WHAM, one day I realized I was itchy in all my hot spots; where the undergarment on the running shorts hits my hip flexor, behind my knees and even on the tops of my thighs and elbow creases. Fast forward through a MONTH LONG battle with an ALL OUT body skin rash… well, ok, I’ll share a bit more about it. It never reached my face or toes, but it sure hit everywhere else. It was as if I had pissed off the ecosystem of my body and it was majorly rebelling. MAJORLY.

Every day was a mental struggle.

I’m not one to use conventional medicine unless absolutely necessary (think almost dying or can’t breath). But I WAS seeing a NMD and I DID cave about 2.5 weeks in and take Benadryl for 2 days — and it really didn’t do anything but make me feel very drugged out and somewhat sleepy.

I had stopped running completely after about a week of believing that running could help it move through my body faster. I came to the grim realization this wasn’t going anywhere quickly, and running only made it worse. I felt like my sweat was burning me, and the heat only made everything more uncomfortable. So I just worked my at-home job, became a hermit, watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls on Netflix and tried to remain positive, while my body worked out this mess.


This whole skin battle started on Oct. 2nd and it wasn’t until Oct. 31st (yep, Halloween) that I FINALLY was able to make it through the day without scratching my skin off. Coincidentally I was volunteering at Javelina Jundred (a 100 mile race on Halloween), so it helped to be preoccupied out in the cool desert. Below is what I wore to volunteer, I was Rainbow Brite. 🙂 You can still see some bumps on my right thigh. 🙁


So, this was the first life event that brought my heart rate training to a screeching halt.

While I was itching and scratching each day, I kept thinking my daily running and daily showers (sometimes 2 a day) contributed to a major imbalance in my skin and body. I was releasing heat like crazy when I was at my acupuncture appointments and I just felt in my gut it was from overdoing it with my training. Again! However, I was still registered for two races, and I wasn’t quite ready to give up completely on running, I just knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing during the summer. So 6 days a week of running was off the table.

By the time I hit my first race in early December, my fitness had already started to decline. I couldn’t tell if it was the heart rate training that was to blame or the 3 weeks off from running, or a combo of both. Finishing that 13.1 miles felt like I was back to 3 years ago when I had sore hip flexors and had to fight with everything I had in the last half. You would think with running as much as I did all summer, I would have gained some strength!


My friend Jeremy and I after the Tucson Half Marathon

After that race, weekly running continued, especially since my skin was back to normal; I was running 2-3 days a week. I still monitored my heart rate, but I wasn’t following any sort of plan and wasn’t trying to stick to any zones.

For the Love of Family

Soon it was Christmas, and along came my entire family, from all over the country! I am the youngest of 5 and every sibling was here with each and every one of their children (with the exception of ONE).


My parents were here, Aunt, Uncle, cousin and her husband and son!


It was 4 days of chaotic, stressful, bliss – I even went on a trail run with my sister, 3 nieces, and my niece’s boyfriend. They BLEW ME AWAY. We did 5.5 trail miles and it was such a fantastic feeling! Proud aunt and sister moment for sure.


And then, everyone was gone and I was alone on the couch with Mr. Zucchini Runner, watching TV, back to our normal, quiet life… and I burst into tears. I missed my family.

And not only did I miss my existing family, but I missed our family we haven’t been able to start yet.

We had a good, long talk. It was time to get serious — REAL serious — about starting our family and to get back on the TTC train. In April of 2015, shortly after my “Inside” post, I had a very spiritual moment after a 4 day juice cleanse, where I felt at peace with not having a child. For about 6 months I was not concerned about trying to conceive. But in January, everything changed. I’m not getting any younger and being around my family made me realize that I wasn’t actually OK with just accepting my childless fate. I — WE — were going to try everything we could to get pregnant naturally.*

True Loss

Then, the only “child” each of us had ever known — the only other member of our tiny but super close family, got sick.


It took a couple appointments and medications to finally diagnose what our Rocco boy had — but when we found out it was advanced dilated cardiomyopathy — we knew what choice had to be made.


On vacation, July 2015. Mr. ZR captured one of the moments between Rocco and I. I loved giving him a hard time. 🙂

You see, Rocco had already been fighting aspergillosis since the early summer of 2012. He needed daily medication to keep him alive and keep the fungus in his spine at bay. That medication and illness had already declined his quality of life from the once great athlete of a dog, to a sore old pup who got tired and stiff playing 2 tosses of fetch.


So we knew the time would come where we would need to say goodbye to him sooner than we’d like. We had talked about it many, many times; the signs we would look for, how long we would wait and even how and where we would lay him to rest. It certainly didn’t make it any easier though, when that reality was upon us. I balled my eyes out for 3 days. On the 4th day, I woke up and felt better — for some miraculous reason — but life was not the same. Mr. ZR and Rocco were a package deal on day 1, so Rocco had been intertwined in my life as long as Mr. ZR had. Eight long years. Our whole relationship has revolved around that pup, especially the years he was sick. And it was strange, even though on that 4th day I awoke and didn’t start crying immediately, the things I used to find joy in, I really no longer cared about. Running being at the top of the list. I had no desire to run, at all. I didn’t run for 3+ weeks after Rocco passed. For the next 2 months I was adjusting to life without Rocco — still crying at least once a day, and still feeling a huge hole in our lives. Oh yeah, and my heart palpitations were the absolute worst they had ever been. STRESS. Stress was the culprit – not necessarily my running.

I remember being on the phone with my mom one night and talking and crying about Rocco and the stress and anxiety I was feeling and somehow the conversation flowed to the feeling I had on the couch, back in January. ‘I wanted to start my own family.’ I had been so wrapped up in the grief of Rocco, I had completely forgotten about the talk on the couch.


New Priority

By May I had an appointment with a NMD who specialized in fertility, and so did Mr. ZR. We both got NEW blood work done, started supplements, weekly acupuncture and I started and learned fertility self-massage on my abdomen. We already had a good routine of morning workouts going, and our main focus was on overall health and stress reduction. Going the natural route takes about 3 months for things to start to shift in the body. I still didn’t feel like running was serving me well, so I BARELY ran all summer — all year really. According to Strava I’ve run 200 miles in 2016. I’ve run that in 2 months in the past (2015). It didn’t hit me until I went on a trail run with a group of friends and I was HURTIN’ so bad — I started to do the math in my head and realized I WASN’T really running anymore and that I couldn’t just pick up and do a 6.5 mile trail run!


But for the first time ever, I was totally OK with it. Running has not been my priority. Getting my body as healthy as it can be to grow a baby has been my priority. For a long, LONG time I told myself running wasn’t hurting anything in regards to my fertility so I just kept running. But I reached a point this year, where I was willing to try any means necessary (again, naturally) to balance my body and ensure I’ve done everything I feel comfortable doing. Since running didn’t seem to be serving me anymore, it just made sense for it to take a back seat.

So that is my story behind why my heart rate training fell off the face of the earth. I’ve said before that this blog is as much for me as it is for you, and I felt like I needed to document and share these events. The good news is, since July I have somehow managed to convince Mr. ZR to run WITH me through the neighborhood a couple times a week — we’re talkin’ less than 2 miles and at an easy, conversational pace. That amount of running feels good to me and I’m happy to have the company.


I also registered for Phoenix Half Marathon (Feb. ’17) a week after I completed this year’s 2016 race.

After completing the 2016 Phoenix Half Marathon

After completing the 2016 Phoenix Half Marathon, it was one of my slower times, for sure. I was on the struggle bus for this one.

So I have that to look forward to and train for, even if I end up walking half the course. I really enjoy that local race and have participated every year since it started… it would feel strange to sit on the sidelines. No matter where I am in life, running will always have a place.

The Good News

Mr. ZR and I have completed a second round of blood work since starting the natural fertility treatment path and BOTH of our numbers greatly improved! We feel very settled into a routine of yoga, meditation (for me), light runs, good nutrition, supported by herbal supplements that work with our bodies and amazing positive support from our doctor. We both remain hopeful, despite the odds, that we will have a child someday. Stranger things have happened, and I’ve seen first hand what the power of belief can accomplish. 🙂


*As a side note to anyone who may be reading this, and having the same struggle. Feel free to email me and ask questions, reach out just to chat, whatever. It is such a touchy topic in our society and it’s so hard to find others in similar situations who are willing to talk about it. If you are like me, you have seen countless friends and family members have successful pregnancies and beautiful babies; and while you are overjoyed for them it still always stings and reminds you of what you are struggling with — it can be a very lonely place to be. I also found an amazing site called and visit it frequently. I’ve signed up for their email list and visit the “Success Stories” section when I’m having a crappy day. Hethir, the creator of the site, also does weekly Periscope videos which I find to be very uplifting and hopeful. She posts some of them on their YouTube channel as well.

Do you have any questions for me about today’s post? Feel free to contact me personally or comment below! I always love hearing from people.