Thin Mint Fudge

Thin Mints

It’s rare we take a recipe in it’s entirety from another website. This batch of Thin Mint Freezer Fudge caused us to make an exception. After exchanging emails with Brandi of The Vegan 8 she’s allowed us to post this recipe on our page. Please make sure you check out The Vegan 8 when you’re finished here. The website is spectacular.

Heather made these brownies and took the photos. She also ate…

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The Vegan In Season


Traveling tests you in a variety of ways.  

It tests your patience… As you wait in the TSA line, as you wait to board your flight, as you wait for your baggage. And don’t even bring up delays, for weather, mechanical issues, etc.  

It tests your energy levels…  6am flights, red-eyes, non-stop work, stresses associated with work, bad sleep due to abnormal environments.

It tests your nutritional discipline… Late nights, early mornings, not as many restaurants open, airport food, snacks at the arenas, team meals, late nights with friends.

My performance “on the road” is measured by statistics. The most important being wins and losses.  I have to be at my best and can’t allow distractions to get the best of me.

During the WNBA season, we travel to 11 other cities.  In the Eastern Conference, they are Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, and Washington, DC.  In the Western Conference, they are Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Antonio, Seattle, and Tulsa.  

There’s a few things I do every single road trip:

  • Research the location of our hotel prior to our trip.  I like to know what are my food options within walking distance or a short cab ride.  
  • Research the location of the arena and the late night restaurant options because we often eat post game meals around 10:30 or 11pm due to our night games.
  • I always bring healthy snacks from home and buy fresh fruits and vegetables upon arrival to the city.  
  • I bring my water jug with me on every trip as well.  I take it through TSA at the airport empty and then fill it on the other side.  Water, coconut water, fresh vegetable juice, or fruit/vegetable smoothies, are the only beverages I consume.  

This is the beginning of a series of travel blogs to chronicle my successes and failures at finding healthy Vegan food (and on game days healthy Raw Vegan fare). Check back daily for updates on what I find and how I perform. Check the Sun schedule, if I’m coming to your city, tell me where to eat. 

Marathon Training IV - “SLOW DOWN!”

By Heather Millbach and  Damien Barling 

Mica is great at checking in on how training is progressing for Damien and I. Even though his goals are very different then ours we are all going to be facing the same obstacle in six weeks. Here is how our last conversation went:

“What distance did you guys run today?”
“11 miles. It was supposed to be 10 but Damien got lost.” (Not really… but he accidentally added a little onto the run.)
“Pace?”
“Umm… 8:39?”
“What? Why so fast? What is wrong with you two?”

Mica then went on to describe how research shows that when we run these training runs too fast, we increase our risk of injury and more importantly training at that speed adds no additional benefits. Long runs, which could be anything over 8 miles, are supposed to build stamina and train your body to economically metabolize fat. If you run too fast your burning sugar and glycogen. He mentioned how important it was for us to stay below our aerobic threshold during training.

Huh… right, okay, yeah! That makes perfect sense.

Now, Mica is not the first marathon veteran to scold us about some of our training paces. As mentioned in an earlier entry, Heather and I are competitive, we love to work hard, and this whole “slow down” thing has been a bit difficult for us. And while this is my third marathon, it’s the first time I’ve actually trained for one.

Yes… This will be his first marathon TRAINING experience despite the fact that he has 2 full marathons and one half under his belt. When he said this to me I literally had to resist the urge to slap him. Seriously? Who does that?

On a long flight to Denver, where my mind wondered aimlessly for four and half hours, I began wondering, “What is our actual goal?”

Heather would tell you it’s her first marathon and she just wants to finish. She’s gonna finish and she’s gonna finish with a great time. Next she might tell you, it’s to finish under four hours because thats a goal I set. But that’s a goal I set a long time ago, before the disaster in New York. Should that still be my goal just because I haven’t achieved it yet? What if I feel like I can do better then 3 hours and 59 minutes? What about 3:50? Or 3:45?

Finishing this marathon is truly my first priority. When Damien decided to run another marathon (I think he decided this while sitting in a freezing cold ice bath 35 mins after the Disney Marathon) he wanted to get in under four hours. I am hoping if I train well enough I might be able to get us there in that time. However, for me just getting to the start on race day is going to be a big deal. Baby Steps…all 26.2 miles of them.

Perhaps I’ll change my tune a bit after our first of two 20 milers on Easter Sunday. Perhaps I need to listen to people who are clearly smarter then me. Perhaps I need to swallow my competitive spirit and just yell at Heather to slow down! Perhaps I should just accept that no matter how brilliantly we run miles 1-20, 20-26.2 are going to be different. Different in a way that is very difficult to prepare for. Perhaps I should’ve just let Heather slap me?

Yep, I think I owe you one. :)

Marathon Training III - “Are we there yet?”

By Heather Millbach (in bold) and Damien Barling 

Believe it or not, I did learn a few things running the New York. The most important? Water stations don’t work for me. I was spilling far more then I was drinking. Whatever water or Gatorade that didn’t land on my shirt landed on my shoes. I also learned the energy station at mile 18 is useless. By mile 18 my body was dead, my mind just refused to accept it. 18 miles, nearly 3 hours in, my body was depleted of everything. A small pack of chemically enhanced “energy” gu wasn’t going to help. Of course, I didn’t realize that until after I sucked the whole thing down. I was certain my pain would be gone and I’d glide to the finish. Instead, I began looking around for a private spot to throw up (for the record, there is none. If you’re going to throw up at the NYC Marathon, everyone is going to watch. Thankfully I didn’t).

When Heather and I began training for Providence I was borderline insistent she get a hydration belt. I had gotten one prior to Disney and found it extremely helpful. I loaded four 10oz bottles with coconut water and BCAA’s. And while I refuse to drink Gatorade or any chemically made sports drink, I stuck with the gu. Hypocritically? Yes, but I knew having those calories worked for me. I would take one every 40 minutes during the half on Saturday and the full on Sunday.

Damien said I had to get the belt. You know, the funny looking thing with little bottles all around it?

I resisted. I ignored. He made me do it. 

Now, Super Mica, who is fast enough to slow down, eat a bag of pretzels, chug some water and STILL keep his pace refers to Damien and I as the “Wonder Twins” with our matching belts.  

Then came the brilliant idea for homemade gu. I decided that despite my strong aversion to gu, it’s a texture thing, I would humor him. During our 14 mile run he said with excitement, “Time for gu!” 

I tried really hard not to gag…

Okay, so the homemade gu didn’t go well. We’d figure something out before the 16 miler. Which just happened to come the day after my first 5K race. Heather and I would run together, along with Mica, and 4 of her 5 kids.

St. Patrick’s Day is when our hometown has a small but very popular 5K called the O’Niantic. I had shared my goal with Damien and Kara of wanting to attempt to get my 5K time down to 22 minutes. Kara and I had done some interval training in the previous months that had helped with speed and I was hoping to get close. It wasn’t really my day. I didn’t feel great but we got very close with 22:40 (2:22 faster than last years time, thank you Kara!), Damien ran his very first 5K, Mica crushed his personal record with 20:16, and my kids made me prouder than ever! Awesome Day.

The excitement of the race was short lived as we had to prepare for our 16 -mile training run the next day. Heather would try out her new hydration belt and we would try out our new and improved Super Food Energy Bites. No more chemical gu. No more gu period. We took the most popular recipe on the site and redesigned it to include specific super foods that we thought would energize us through long runs.

The belt was not nearly as bad as I thought. At mile 13 I noticed that I had emptied all but one of the bottles and I was feeling good. We packed our little Angry Bird Bites that Damien made in the pouch and it worked out well. Much better then his attempt at homemade gu.

The run moved along pretty well. We battled some vicious hills but never slowed down too much. We both started feeling it right around mile 12.The unfortunate part about this route I developed is that we had to run past our end destination. When we got to the corner near the apartment the Nike GPS watch had just hit 13 miles. The way I figured, we needed to run another 1.3 before we could turn around and head home.

 Seriously, not even two minutes later, Heather says, “Are we at 14 yet?”

I know we’re both hurting so my response was simple, “No Heather. Not yet.”

“Well how far are we?”

I didn’t want to look. I knew it was bad.

“13.2”

Nobody likes to run past their house on a long run. It is so hard to keep going. That day was no exception. It was as if we ran straight into a wall. I was hurting and worse yet, I had learned to read Damien’s mannerisms and knew he was too. I began to whine like one of my kids, “are we there yet?” Finally, we got to the spot to turn around and head back to the house and I nudged Damien to cross the road,

"Nope, don’t wanna. Don’t care if I get hit by a car. Just keep running."

Vegan Energy Bites - The Super Food Remix

Unlike the original energy bites, we roll these ones very small. These were designed to take on training runs and training sessions. Kara utilizes these during her long training days.

Do not be afraid of the funny green color. The spirulina is undetectable. (Heather refers to these as Angry Bird Bites) 

Ingredients:

2 cups pitted dates

1/4 cup agave syrup

1/4 cup natural raw almond butter

1/2 cup of Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, goji berries, bee pollen, and raw nuts

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut

2 tbsp of Spirulina

Optional - 2 tbls of raw chocolate 

1. Combine dates, agave, and almond butter in food processor. Mix on medium until all ingredients are well blended.

2.Add remaining ingredients and pulse until nuts and seeds are finely chopped but not pureed!

3. Roll the mixture into small 1/2 inch balls and place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for two hours and they are ready to eat. Tip: The longer they chill, the better they taste. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. 

Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and bee pollen are terrific sources of natural energy (as are dates). Goji berries are loaded with micronutrients. Spirulina is a plant-based complete protein, considered by some the ultimate super food.

(Option – If you own a dehydrator, throw these mini bites in for about 4 hours. It removes a great deal of moisture and keeps them from getting extremely sticky when out of the fridge)

Marathon Training II - “Real Mature, Damien”

Heather and I have built a pretty strong friendship over the last year and some change. Our families have become very close. We’re both similar in that we don’t tell people much about what we’re thinking or what we feel. We don’t “let people in”. Yet, we tell each other everything. I knew how disappointed she was that she didn’t get to run that marathon. Despite a perfectly logical reason, she took that as a personal failure.

Completing the training but never running the marathon was tough for me to accept. The question, “Have you ever run a marathon?” was like nails on a chalkboard. Sharing the story was even worse but when I told Damien the story after he ran NYC he simply replied, “You’ll run one someday.” 

I nodded in agreement but in truth it was something that I decided to remove from the bucket list. I had tried and failed, that was that.

When I agreed to run the Providence Marathon I knew I’d get Heather to run it with me. There was no way I was going to run it with Mica. I can’t keep up. I had a slight fear he’d cross the finish line, forget I was there, and be on I-95 feeling like he forgot something.

Hahaha… Mica would never do that!

I knew Heather and I could keep the same pace. We could train together. When the offer for the training program came, I knew she’d run with me. 

Wait…You did?

I peppered her with questions about training and why she wouldn’t run.

Right after the Disney Marathon Damien decided he needed to try again. He’d run another marathon with a better time. Mica was in the process of getting back to training for his first marathon in years. I suggested they try this one together. THEY try this one. Despite Damien’s joking on why I wouldn’t run I had zero intention of attempting another marathon. I dodged his questions and was happy when he dropped the subject (or so, I thought).

Finally, I made it pretty simple.

“Heather, you’re running this marathon”, I said.

“No I’m not”, she responded.

I think it was more like, “NO. I. Am. NOT.”

 “How do you know this training program works? You can’t offer a training program you’ve never used.”

 “Mica’s done it.” 

 “Mica’s not normal. Listen, you’re doing this training with me and you’re running the marathon with me.”

 “No”, she barked back.

Actually I said, “NOT a chance. That is NOT happening.”

“Then I’m not doing it either.”

What?? Nice… real mature.

So, he pulled that card. If I didn’t agree to run he wouldn’t run? 

Motivation comes in all forms and manipulation was one of them that day. Damien was pulling out all the stops and wasn’t taking no for an answer. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach just discussing the idea and I knew that feeling well. It was fear. I don’t back down often and the idea that this had so much control over me bothered me. I started to pick apart my reasons for not trying and later that day when Damien said, “So, you’re running the marathon!” I could hear the triumph in his statement. 

Clearly, the decision had been made already. ”Yeah, I guess I am.” 

Needless to say, having the attitude of a 10 year old worked. She agreed to run and the next day we went out for our first day of training.

That day called for an easy 7-mile run. We decided to hit the trail and run near the water. The day was perfect. Then came Monday. The recovery run. From what I understand, with my limited knowledge, a recovery run is designed to, well, recovery. Recover from the previous days run. Nice, slow, and relaxed.

Anyone who has ever trained with Heather and myself knows we are extremely competitive people.

Who me? Okay… maybe just a little.

Nice, slow, and relaxed? We ran 4 miles at a 7:55 pace. Not lighting the ground on fire, but not exactly slow either. Apparently, neither one of us wanted to be the one to slow down, so we just kept running. It wasn’t the last time.

The following Sunday called for a 14 miler. I won’t go into detail about how I let Heather plan the route. Nor will we discuss how we got lost. Twice. I’ll again focus on the Monday recovery run. 4 miles at 7:51 per. Not only did we learn nothing, we actually got dumber.

Damien isn’t from Connecticut. I was just showing him around. Twice. And speak for yourself, Barling. I was just seeing if you could keep up!

Anyone want to guess what happened the next week after a particular easy 9 mile Sunday? Anyone? Anyone? 7 miles at 7:46 per.

I have no good excuse here… nothing. My favorite part of this was immediately following the run we told Kara about the speed problem. She said, “Why did you run so fast? Damien, you’re not a good pacer.” Hahaha…yep, it’s his fault.

Good Lord!

(Part III highlights, homemade gu, Damien’s first 5K, Heather’s fastest, and “are we at 14 yet?”)

Marathon Training PT I - The Commitment and the Plan

By Damien Barling and Heather Millbach

(Heather’s sections are bolded) 

Let me set the scene…

Super Bowl Sunday. Food is out. Tofu buffalo bites, pita chips and guacamole, cookies, vegan magic bars, and Daiya cheese pizza.

I’m about two All-Natural Vanilla Crème Soda’s and several vegan cookies deep when Mica, Heathers husband, mentions he can’t run in the marathon he had planned for because of a previous commitment. Kara, with her Macbook never far away says, “Oh, lets find one near by you guys can do”. Plural. Guys! Hmmm…

“Providence May 6th”, she says.

Heather chimes in, “You should do it.”

A quick look at Mica, “If that works for you I’m in.”

It worked. Now we’re committed.

The thing about Mica you have to understand is, he run’s. Nonstop. He doesn’t worry about ice baths, massages, recovery shakes, or in race nutrition. He wakes up, puts his shoes on, and runs! The end. Rest days? No. He just runs.

Me? I’ve only been running for a year. Not even that. I may not even be considered a “runner” yet. I’ve run two and half marathons and didn’t train for any of them.

Now, when I say train, I mean I didn’t follow a program, I didn’t do long runs, short runs, recovery runs, or tempo runs. I just ran when I felt like it. I learned a lot between my first marathon in NYC and my second one at Disney. I figured that was enough to get me through Providence.

After a particularly crappy 10 mile run a few days after my sugar drunk commitment, Heather had heard enough of my whining. 

“I hate running.”

Those were the words Damien used during that post run conversation.

I responded, “No… you don’t. You hate running long runs every so often without training.”

I used a phrase he had used with me just a few days earlier when I had become frustrated during weight training, “It’s a process. Enjoy the process.”  

I knew the marathon training process well. I had watched Mica go through it 4 times before. We joke about the training being intense and time consuming but in truth, marathon training can seem like a job. It’s no joke.

I had a little experience of my own with this exhausting form of training. I had been preparing for my first marathon a little over a year ago. My last long run on the schedule was a local half marathon, one week before tapering would begin. During the eighth mile, we were running at an 8-minute pace (easy for Mica) and I felt my knee give out. I was completely devastated. I walked to the finish line. I left my pride at mile 8. I knew there was no chance I could run the marathon in 3 weeks.

The next few weeks I went from doctor to doctor until I found out my knee pain was not due to over-training or lack of cartilage in my knee, as one doctor suspected. Instead, we learned the problem stemmed from Lyme Disease. The training had masked the flu-like symptoms and fatigue that are telling signs of the sickness. It all made sense when my doctor told me that Lyme arthritis tends to be something that comes on very suddenly. Often in a large joint and almost overnight. Antibiotics fixed me but did nothing for my pride. The disappointment I felt for failing to reach my goal was still very present.

So, with the experience of training for a marathon and a resource like “Super Mica” on hand I offered to help Damien with a training schedule. He seemed happy with the offer, “You give me a schedule and I will stick to it.”

I had her!!! Right there. I had her.

(Part II highlights – Heather realizes my plan, the beginning of training, and a recovery run gone horribly wrong)