Almond Butter Brownies

As runners, we thrive on schedules, routines, and predictability. We spend hours creating the perfect training plan, plotting out our workouts, and crunching the numbers. So what happens when you have a 9-mile run and a nagging ache on the same day? Let me tell you, it sucks.

My left calf started bugging me after my morning 6-miler on Tuesday. By the time I laced up for my afternoon run (I had a double planned), the ache had turned into a sharp pain. “$%^&ck!!”, I thought to myself. I’m entering the toughest 3 weeks of marathon training and now is so not the time for a roadblock. I knew I had to bail on my Wednesday morning run with Kelly and Nicole and instead held a pity party for myself all day long. I iced, I used arnica cream, I elevated, I even chose my bed over the elliptical trainer.

I know it’s not the end of the world to take a day off (in fact, I probably needed it!), but when something goes awry it illustrates how tenuous marathon training really is. It’s such a delicate dance between running enough miles and overtraining. Pushing through discomfort vs. knowing when to stop. Being a ravenous beast while still making good food choices. There are so many factors that can affect training and race day and to be honest, it’s exhausting trying to manage them all. That being said, I think this little calf strain came at a good time. Just as I was starting to get burnt out, I found myself thinking how much I actually enjoy waking up at 5:45am to run with friends, to bang out hill repeats on Thursday nights, to give up my weekends for long runs. The thought of those things being taken away from me due to injury made me very cranky indeed. The calf is feeling better today and I’m going to test it out this evening – if it feels better, great! If not, I’ll take another day off from running and return even hungrier for the road the next day. I’ll keep you posted.

My favorite cure for crankiness? An episode of Mad Men and a good dose of chocolate! As much as I love traditional desserts (extra butter, please!), it’s not a good idea to eat ultra-decadent stuff everyday. As a high mileage runner, I need to fuel my body with quality carbs, protein, and fat.

Following in the footsteps of my girls, Madeline and Kelly, I whipped up some healthy (vegan!) brownies.

Almond Butter Brownies (yields 16 brownies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (B-vitamins and fiber-ific)
  • 2 Tbs ground flax seed (omega 3’s thankyouverymuch)
  • 1 cup demerara sugar (or use granulated if that’s all you’ve got)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional – if you like it a lil spicy!)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (antioxidants, what what)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup almond butter (vitamin E! protein! fiber! healthy fat!)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups almond milk (low calorie)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (good for your soul)

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease a 8″ x 8″ pan
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside
  • In a medium bowl, mix almond milk, vanilla, and almond butter
  • Strir together wet and dry ingredients until combined, fold in chocolate chips
  • Pour into pan and bake for about 35 minutes (or until edges begin to pull away from the side of the pan). Yum!

 

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 brownie
 
Amount Per Serving
Calories 152
Calories from Fat 48
         
Total Fat 5.4g 
Saturated Fat 1.3g 
Cholesterol 1mg
Sodium  171mg 
Total Carbohydrates  25.5g          
Dietary Fiber 2.8g                                          
Sugars          10.3g
Protein            3.7g
 
Vitamin A 1%   Vitamin C  0%
Calcium     7%   Iron  10%
 
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

How do you deal with bumps in your training schedule? Do you get cranky when you have to take unscheduled rest days?

  • Ohh those brownies look SO good! Mad Men+chocolate=perfect night, I agree! I hate having to take a step back in my workouts, but it makes me feel better when I remind myself that it’s probably the best thing for my body.

  • Dude, I like seeing 10% of your daily iron in a brownie!

  • this sucks. i hope a couple days of rest is all you need! having just this morning spent my first 60 minutes back on my beloved yoga mat after my ankle is finally about 95% healed, i know how much it sucks not to be able to do what you love. but even moreso, how fabulous it feels to get back into it. fingers are crossed for you healing fast!

    also. seriously megan, these brownies sound insane! almond butter? chocolate? cayenne pepper? you know, my office is just down the street from you. 🙂

  • The brownies look amazing!!! I’m not a fan of things getting in the way of my training, but then I think about it and life happens, what are you going to do? I just press on because tomorrow is another day for new opportunities and achievements.

  • agreed: marathon training is SUCH a delicate dance! glad the calf is feeling better today and i hope you’re able to get out there. and i totally get cranky when taking an unscheduled rest day. or a regular rest day!

  • AR

    1. Mad Men and chocolate: you speak my language!!! 🙂

    2. I am going to try this recipe ASAP. Wow.

    3. Its amazing how you can go from dreading running one day to fearing that its all going to be derailed. I’ve found that if I think too much about making sure I do EVERY SINGLE RUN…I drive myself nuts.

    4. I hope you’re feeling better! Keep on icing.

  • ahhh those look so good. i need to make some ASAP. i had THE most decadent vegan chocolate cake for my bday in august and seriously i think about it all the time. the cake part of it looked a lot like your brownies so i’m guessing it was a similar (awesome) moist texture deliciousness 🙂 … okay where’s my cake. hehe.

    sorry about your calf! probably really a great idea to take a day off. i take lots of days off now, and it has been working in my favor. that was the trouble i had with marathon training- the over focus on mileage per week, i got way caught up in it and after the marathon i really didn’t want to run. and i believe that ice has magical powers. it has healed me so many times and now i use it as a preventative strategy. ice ice… baby 🙂

  • WANT. Like, really really want.

    Also, sorry about your calf 🙁
    Glad that you are listening to said calf and resting it though! Good for you – I know how hard that is to do!

  • Yum those brownies look good- I make PB ones but hsve never thought of using any other nut butter, even though I keep a good supply of various ones in the fridge!
    I hate missing a run (for work/ other stuff)- I get really antsy if I cant get outside in the fresh air. But I realise now that one missed run will not affect my training so I move on to the next one and dont try to cram them all in- learnt the hard way that it makes it worse in the long run to squash them all together.
    🙂

  • I often find when I read your blog that you’re answering a question I’ve recently been wanting to know the answer to, or dealing with something that I too have been dealing with ie. a minor injury right near the end of training – guess that means I was meant to be a reader of your blog!
    How do I deal with crankiness? I try to talk/vent it out, or I eat chocolate, lots of chocolate, or I watch One Tree Hill which is so cooky and crazy it makes me laugh! Yes, very much a guilty a pleasure 🙂

  • uhh, I know how it feels to have to change your routine, be it for a day or several months – it just sucks. but in the end, as we’ve all learned, taking time off rather than pushing through the pain makes the most sense. and baking these fabulous brownies? even more sensible. yum, gimme some pleeease?!

  • Oh my. You had me at almond butter… and then you started talking chocolate. Heck to the yes!

    “…it illustrates how tenuous marathon training really is. It’s such a delicate dance between running enough miles and overtraining. Pushing through discomfort vs. knowing when to stop…” — what an eloquent summation; you nailed this. Oof, it’s so challenging to know when to back off rather than train through pop-up pain like that. Sending anti-ache waves your way.

  • mm.. I can’t wait to try these!

  • Sorry about your calf, but glad it’s feeling a little better and at least it put things into perspective for you. I wish I was training for a big race this fall…I’m living vicariously through you!!

    I have all but 2 of these ingredients in my kitchen. I have to try these brownies, they sound & look amazing! Thank’s for the recipe!

  • Hell to the YES! These look SO good! I hate injuries, and I’m known to push myself too hard through them. I am never good at taking the rest I need. When I hurt my hip several weeks ago I actually listened to my body, took some time and saw a PT, and that is absolutely the only reason why I will be lining up to run on Sunday!

  • Glad your calf is feeling better! I think that twinges are pretty normal in the middle of a tough training cycle. Fingers crossed that it stays at bay!

    Great looking brownies, too!

  • Sue

    Great recipe! How many servings do you get out of the 8×8 pan? Glad you took some time off, everyone needs a break every once in a while Hope everything turns out to be ok!

  • Dude – I know any kind of ache and pain sucks at this point. But it’s just a tiny bump in the road! We missed you on Weds, but I think you were really smart taking a day off. I’m glad it’s feelin’ better!

    I get super crankypants with any sort of injury or training snafu, but I try to prepare myself for the possibility of it happening and how I would react, etc. since it has happened so much. No matter what, there’s always another race, you know?

    Must. make. more. brownies. this. weekend. mmmmm 🙂

  • I think most of it has been said but it’s good to listen to it now before it becomes an issue. I didn’t listen to my calf and it put me on the DL for a while.

    You don’t want to know me when I’m injured. That is all.

    Mmmm brownies 🙂 Excellent baking weather this week!

  • Trish

    Yum, I’ll be making these with Barney Butter this weekend, thanks!!

  • Vera

    Those brownies look so good! I’m planning to make them; although I’m considering swapping some of the sugar out and replacing it with apple sauce or mashed banana…I always feel guilty when I use so much sugar in a recipe…

    With the calorie count analysis, how many servings did you say the recipe yields?

    Thanks!

  • Erin

    My ART guy suggested arnica cream for my IT band- he said it would reduce bruising. Did you use it for pain relief as well? Where did you get it? What exactly does it do?

  • @Sue and @Vera – The recipe yields 16 brownies.

    @Erin – arnica cream contains “arnica montana”, a mountain plant related to the daisy family. It’s been used for centuries to alleviate bruising, swelling, and soreness. I usually buy mine from Whole Foods!

  • At the risk of being crass, you are entering the start of the “don’t f’it up” period of training. There’s not much more you can do to make your fitness better, but there are endless varieties of ways in which you can make it worse. So, rest and brownie consumption seem like excellent ways of fending off any [insert I-word]. We all have to do it, and you’re a smart cookie to rest before it’s a problem.

  • The brownies look so good! When smoething happens to my training schedule, I usualy get mad and depressed tat I can’t run. I always feel like aloser when I can’t get out there. Then, I remember, I need a break sometimes. Training 6 days a week can be tough on the body and my body tells me what I need if I’m not giving it to it.

  • I am the WORST at letting an injury heal! It’s beyond frustrating, I feel your pain. Those brownies look awesome, though! 🙂

  • Those brownies look fabulous! I hate when I have to take unscheduled rest days, especially when it’s because I have some form of injury. I know it’s better to rest up and heal though than risk injuring myself more! I hope you heal up soon 🙂

  • Erin

    Thanks for the info on the arnica cream- I have an exciting whole foods trip planned for tomorrow so I’ll pick some up! Hope your calf benefitted from your rest day and is feeling better!

  • Mmmm I am so making these but with peanut butter so my husband helps eat them!

  • Tried the brownies over the weekend, they looked so good. I made them with peanut butter though since I’m not a fan of almond butter, and they turned out DENSE and a bit drier than I would like. Don’t know if that’s a result of the PB switch or something else. Still pretty tasty, but definitely best with milk. I think if I were going to make them again I would up the amount of liquid.

    Good job on your 1/2!

  • @Annie – I thought my batch was a little dry also. Next time I would add 1/2 cup apple sauce, yogurt, or oil to moisten things up!