Boston Marathon – Boston, MA (April 20, 2015)

Boston Marathon jacket, medal, and race bib

Boston Marathon jacket, medal, and race bib

Race: Boston Marathon

Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Date: April 20, 2015

Time: 5:07:08

“This is the story of how I died. Don’t worry, this is actually a very fun story…”

So…here is the preface to this.  If you saw and read my previous post, you’ll know that I’m injured.  Not because of over-training or pushing too hard or running too fast.  This is all about body mechanics.  A torn labrum in the hip is, actually, a very common injury in women in their thirties.  And, for me, because I am active, this happened sooner rather than later.  It just seemed to happen at the worst possible time.  I have a tight lower back…which started the problem. I have short and tight hamstrings, which added to the problem.  This was a cocktail for injury that had been building, then something finally gave.  My anterior labrum tore.  Small tear.  But, mother of Meb…it hurts to move.  Like, literally move.

But I’ve never been good at timing things.


Anyway…the basic gist of the weeks leading up to Boston is…I did no running from early February.  In fact…every bit of activity ceased due to lower back pain.  Lower back pain soon became hip pain.  And I immediately went to see the top sports orthopedic doctor in the area.  He got me into physical therapy…where I was given stretches and even tried dry needling.  Relief came and went and I found myself back in the doctor’s office with a week to go to Boston.  He sent me in for an MRI.  NOT an experience I ever want to have again.  That was the Tuesday leading into Marathon Monday.  Wednesday morning and the rushed results were brought up and delivered to me in my doctor’s office…torn labrum.  SUCK.  I had him scrambling to find something for my tears.  He gave me a paper towel.  We discussed some options for healing and he said…I could TRY to walk/run Boston.  He sent me for a Cortisone shot and wished me luck.  That night I had the most epic meltdown ever.  I have never cried so hard and so long in my life.  There was no calming me down.  I dreamed of the day I’d run in the Boston Marathon, and while I could still participate, it wasn’t going to be the experience I envisioned.  And I was struggling with accepting that.  I was broken.  Mentally and physically…shattered.

“I learned, for example, that running injuries can be caused by being female, being male, being old, being young, pronating too much, pronating too little, training too much, and training too little.” ~Amby Burfoot in The Top 10 Laws of Injury Prevention

Me with my race bib at the Boston Marathon Race Expo

Me with my race bib at the Boston Marathon Race Expo

Thursday, the Cortisone shot from the day before was causing more pain than anything, but that soon subsided.  Thank God, because I was certain something was wrong.  I got through work, went to a soccer match, then came home and packed things up for Boston.  Late bedtime…then into work…then off to the airport.  Boston bound.

We got in late in the evening and stayed the night at a hotel near the airport.  My friend Heather joined Cathy and I in the hours before midnight, having caught a late flight out.  We got a few hours of sleep and in the morning, got up to head to our actual hotel in downtown Boston, get some coffee, and get to the race expo.

Sorry…I don’t function without my coffee.  And the Starbucks on Tremont was giving out free tall coffees to any Boston Marathon runners.  So for Saturday and Sunday, I got a free Blonde Roast coffee.  Thanks, Starbucks!

We hopped the T to head to the John B. Hynes Convention Center, where the race expo and packet pickup were being held.  This was the most organized expo I have ever been to.  Seriously.  Our bags were checked when we stepped into the center itself, and then we followed the directions of the volunteers and the signs toward where I would pick up my race packet.  I had my Runner’s Passport (which came in the mail) with me and I went up to my designated number area to receive my race bib.  Now, I wasn’t actually allowed to post the bib itself on social media because last year people swiped bibs that were posted and ran with them.  Seriously.  So, we took pictures, but nothing went up.  After that, I went to get my race packet (which had LOTS of goodies and my shirt inside) and then we headed down to the expo.

Matthew and me at the Boston Marathon Race Expo

Matthew and me at the Boston Marathon Race Expo with our Runner’s Passports

The official merch was the first area you are shuttled through.  All the Adidas goodness (I love Adidas!) you could ever want.  I already had purchased (so I would be guaranteed to have my size) my jacket, but I picked up a little (okay…a lot) more, and also a few things for some friends.  So…I have a lot of Boston merchandise.  But this might be my only Boston.  This was one expensive trip and marathon to do…and that was another thing tugging on my heartstrings…all this money and I couldn’t even perform the race the way I wanted.  Life…is not fair at times.  But, I was here to make the most of it.  With those purchases made, my friends and I ventured further into the expo.  I round one corner and immediately see familiar faces – Dawn & Matthew from my running group.  Matthew was running too and we were in the same corral and wave too.  But he was there to run it and I was there to…survive it.  Definitely not the plan we had going into this.  We took pictures and talked and eventually parted ways to check out the different booths, merchandise, and expo stuff.  We finished up at the expo and took the stroll down to the actual Finish Line on Boylston Street.  That…gave me chills and sent my heart fluttering.  I touched the line.  I sat on it.  I goofed around a bit, hoping that the way I was currently feeling would hold through Monday afternoon.  After we wrapped that up, dropped by Trader Joe’s for some water and snacks, then strolled back to the hotel to drop things off.  Our room was ready now, so we got our key and ventured up and…took a load off.  My friend Jenn had landed in Boston at this point and was grabbing a bite to eat before joining us at the hotel.  This meant…time to relax for a little bit.

Jumping for joy at the Boston Marathon Finish Line

Jumping for joy at the Boston Marathon Finish Line

When she arrived, I left to go and bring her up to the room.  We let her get settled and rest for a few moments before getting our stuff together and embarking on a Boston adventure.  This meant, we took a stroll.  Through Boston Common, down some streets, over to the water, up through neighborhoods…until we got to a T stop and hopped it to go out to visit MIT.  From MIT…on to Harvard.  And that night, I was meeting up with a my best friend from my childhood…the girl I met the day I moved to Big Flats, NY…Lydia…who worked and lived in Boston now.  We were hitting up John Harvard’s Pub & Grill for dinner and a lot of catching up.  I hadn’t seen her since high school.  It was a lot of fun catching up over dinner (I had a beet salad, for the record!), before we decided to stroll through Cambridge for awhile.  We ended the evening talking over coffee at a local coffee house until last call.  Then, we parted ways and headed back to the hotel to cycle four girls through the shower.  I think I finally got to bed around 12:30 a.m.  And I had an early morning alarm set.

Why?  Because I needed to get back to the expo.  I discovered that Sunday morning is the best time to go.  It is deserted.  We all had a variety of missions to accomplish at the expo, so we split up.  And…I ran into Geri and Dan from my running group.  I hadn’t seen them in a very long time and we talked and I was told not to hurt myself…more.  HA.  We snapped a picture and went on our different ways for the day.  After we polished off the expo for a second time, we hopped the T back to the hotel to leave things in the room.  And then…we were hitting up Boston by doing the Freedom Trail.  I know…you’re supposed to rest your legs the day before the race, but…I was here to see Boston.  And this was a great way to do it!  We stopped into church yards, churches, saw the site of the Boston Massacre, and so much more.  We grabbed lunch at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, each scattering to get whatever sounded good to us.  I got a salad (again), Heather got a prime rib sandwich, Cathy got a bread bowl of clam chowder, and Jenn got lobster bisque.  We ate, then did some more shopping and site seeing, before winding our way out to Beacon Hill.  Here, it was still too early for dinner (in my book), so we strolled around and ended up stopping into three different local chocolate shops and making purchases from each.  Chocolate score!  It was very spontaneous of us and very fun.  We then made our way back to our dinner destination.  A very tiny place called Upper Crust Pizza (which came highly recommended by two locals I know), due to the fact that they have gluten-free pizzas.

Heather, me, and Lydia - Big Flats, New York reunited!

Heather, me, and Lydia – Big Flats, New York reunited!

Cathy and I were prepared for what to order when we got here.  We got down a menu for Jenn & Heather in case they wanted to split a pizza…but they ended up each doing 2 slices each.  Cathy and I, however, ordered one of their signature pies…The Charles Street, which is described as “a local favorite combining portabella mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and fresh garlic.”  We asked them to go light on the cheese.  It was awesome.  And Cathy said the gluten-free crust (which I could tell was white rice flour based) was better than the regular crust.  It was just what this marathoner needed the night before the run.  After that, back to the hotel for showers, some pre-race night prep and then…lots of chocolate.

We settled in a bit earlier this time, but I was pretty restless the entire night.  Very little sleep.  I don’t think I was alone.  While the rest of my room dozed…I tossed and turned and went over things in my head.  Sleep would have been nice.  When my alarm went off, I was the first up and into the bathroom…time to get dressed for race day.

Me, highly under-dressed for the weaher for the 2015 Boston Marathon

Me, highly under-dressed for the weaher for the 2015 Boston Marathon

So, let me now preface this by saying, when I packed for Boston…the weather reports were saying it was going to be about 50 degrees at the start line.  After I arrived in Boston, the forecast began to change…and change some more.  We were now looking at 42 degrees at the start with 16-20 mph winds and…yep…100% chance of rain.  Needless to say, I actually forgot the shirt I was going to wear to this marathon at home.  Literally…it was still hanging in my closet.  I also had nothing to wear to the start line to toss.  I realized that when I was packing…so I ended up bringing one of my warm blankets from home and wrapping that around me for the 2-3 hour wait at the Athlete Village.  What I ended up wearing was was my Marathon Maniacs singlet and some arm warmers.  That was going to have to do.  I mean, I could have bought something to wear from a running store, but I hate not testing my clothing out on runs.  No chafing allowed.  Running skirt, compression sleeves, toe socks, and my Newtons.  I put my hair in pigtails, but had to buy them under a hat, with the impending rain. I hate running in hats…so I was not a happy girl.

Cathy, Heather, and Jenn all took turns in the bathroom and I was a complete spaz, trying to get everything else in order to head to the buses to take me to Hopkinton and the start line.  I had made arrangements with my friends Matthew and Jodie to meet them at the Starbucks across from Boston Common (the bus loading spot) the day before.  When I had everything on, including the throw-away gloves with bear head mitten tops (a last minute CVS purchase), we all headed out.  I was carrying my banana and cereal (because I didn’t want to eat too early), and had my fuel belt stocked with GU and my water and Nuun.  We stepped out of the hotel and into the chilly, windy morning.  And we headed for Starbucks.

I spotted Jodie the minute I stepped inside and we gave each other huge hugs.  Matthew was still not around.  We waited for as long as we dared, but we had a narrow window for our corral’s bus time and we didn’t want to miss it.  I texted Matthew to say we were heading for the buses, and then handed off my phone to Cathy.  They walked us over to Boston Common, to the security check point.  We gave hugs all around and then Jodie and I stepped on in.  And we ran into Matthew.  HA!  Perfect.  We headed past most of the bus loading docks because those were filling fast.  We just kept going down further and further until we hit a shorter line.  And that was our shuttle.  We stepped inside, took seats near the back, and settled in for the ride.  As the bus pulled away, we spotted Cathy and the rest standing on the side of the road holding up a sign that read: “RUN LIKE SOMEONE IS SHOUTING GAME OF THRONES SPOILERS!”  FUNNY!  A lot of people got a kick out of it.  I waved…and the journey began.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” ~Mark Twain

It felt like the longest bus ride of my life.  Matthew and I talked.  Jodie and I talked.  We mostly looked out the windows and anticipated our arrival at Hopkinton.  Nerves were high.  Excitement was high.  And for me, I was trying to figure out how I could do this race.  It wasn’t going to be pretty.  When I got the last-minute word that I could run/walk it…I put it out there that I’d love to have some company on the journey.  So many people said they weren’t running this one for time…but for the experience.  No one stepped up to take me up on the offer, and I don’t blame them.  I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s time, expectations, or experience.  But all those times I smiled and said, “No…I don’t want/need/…”…that voice inside my head was pleading, “Please…someone get me through this…someone…say you’ll stick it out with me.”

Heather, me, Cathy and Jenn on race morning before stepping out into the damp cold that would plague us the rest of the day

Heather, me, Cathy and Jenn on race morning before stepping out into the damp cold that would plague us the rest of the day

Anyway…we disembarked at Hopkinton and made our way into the Athlete’s Village.  It was a city of tents and small vendor stations for Gatorade, bagels, and the like.  Unlike NYC, this time, I had my banana with me and the rest of my cereal to polish off.  I ate some of it on the bus there.  Timing is key.  And I also needed to take my Mobic for my pain (I know…this is not a good idea, but it was necessary!).  Matthew, Jodie and I immediately got into the lines for the port-a-potties.  We met some great people behind us and chatted with them for awhile.  We took our turns and then went and found shelter under one of the tents to get off our feet and just try to wrap our head around the experience.  The tents were alive with chatter and they had their phones.  I was wrapped up in my blanket and poncho, huddled in to keep warm.  It was a very breezy morning and I was really regretting my “suck it up, cupcake!” attitude with the start line weather and wishing I had some sleeves on my shirt.  The red corral (or the one that goes off with the elites) was already being loaded up.  I waited until about 30 minutes before we’d have to be in the corrals to eat my banana.  Then, after sitting for a bit more, trying not to tighten up from shivering, the three of us heard the white bibs were being put in their corrals all the way through Wave 8.  We were Wave 8.  We got up…and we headed that way.

Me and Jodie before the Boston Marathon

Me and Jodie before the Boston Marathon

My heart was pounding as we stepped through the different checkpoints with the volunteers.  The Mylar cape I had made out of the wrap they gave us to help keep warm at start village was wrapped tightly around my legs.  My blanket and poncho adorned my upper half.  I was keeping it all in place until 5 minutes before leaving.  And I did.  Matthew branched off to go find a bathroom again and Jodie and I continued on.  We found a spot in the crowd and stood there and shivered, joking around, checking our shoes, and just mentally preparing ourselves.  I knew Jodie was going to kill it.  She’d been doing amazing things in her training.  And she’s super fast.  Hell, she qualified for Boston running a marathon in rain, thunder, lightning, and hail.  YES.  HAIL!  She was badass and this race had nothing on her.  We finally convinced ourselves to ditch our warm gear…tucking the clothing and blankets and poncho into the bags for donation or handing them off to volunteers.  The Mylar went next.  And soon, we were shivering with the rest of them.

Our wave was sent off and for the first 1/4 mile, I hung with Jodie.  The first part of Boston is downhill and she was trying not to go out too fast.  I finally let her go and settled into a pace I thought I could maintain for a little while.  Not going to lie, each step was painful, but I could tolerate it.  Matthew caught up to me before I got through the first mile.  He said, “Well, Karen…we finally got to run a marathon together.” I laughed and told him to enjoy his run.  Everyone would be smoking me this time.  I soon lost him in the crowd ahead.  And then…there was me.

I actually maintained a decent pace (not great…but under the circumstances) for the first 10K.  After I hit that though, I started needing to incorporate short walks in with the running.  I didn’t want to…but I needed to.  I have a torn labrum in the hip…I was hurting.  But…I still managed.  I maintained small walk breaks with running through the next 5-6 miles.  Each move was starting to hurt more and more.  Thankfully, there was a great crowd, and I took all the cheering and high fives I could get.  Around the halfway point is where you hit Wellesley College, and you can hear the screaming from about a half mile away.  It’s insane.  There is a reason that area is called “The Scream Tunnel.”  The women of the college were out and cheering, just like the rest of Boston, despite the horrific weather and cold.  There were a couple of women who had no tops on and were covering up with cardboard signs.  Craziness.  But that was such a rush.  You read about it…but to experience it…that’s another thing.  At about Mile 15, I slowed again, and this was where Tammy, from my running group, tapped me on the shoulder.  She looked at me and asked, sincerely, how I was doing.  I told her I was hurting.  She asked if I needed anything and when I said no, she pulled out, glancing back a couple times at me.  When I ran into her Annie May’s Sweet Cafe back in Louisville the following Wednesday, she gave me a hug and said she should have stayed with me.

Mile 16, I managed a small surge of speed, but after that, my body was done.  It literally hurt to run.  Walking was easier, so my walking became more of what I was doing.  I had 10 miles to go…and I was determined to get through them.  There were people who would call out to me from the sideline, my race number or “Maniac” for the Marathon Manaic singlet I was wearing.  They said encouraging words to me.  Wrapped an arm around me and told me to keep going.  That I was doing good.  Instead of tackling Heartbreak Hill…I had to walk the entire thing.  My heart was breaking because I had dreamed of taking on these hills.  I had a medic stop me around Mile 22 to ask what was wrong.  I told him I was doing Boston on a torn labrum and that I was run walking.  He asked if I was okay.  I nodded.  I was freezing.  But I was moving.  I had a few runners tell me FMP…Forward Moving Progress.  Every little bit made me keep pushing because every synapse of my body wanted to quit.  I am not a quitter, however.  If I cross that starting line, I’m going to cross that finish line.  Tears were pretty much part of the race outfit by this point.  The rain was coming down.  The cold, icy winds were blowing, and I was walking. WALKING…the Boston Marathon.  My heart was breaking more than my body was at this point.  I was so disappointed and angry…emotions were just bubbling over.  Another medic on the course came to walk at my side and asked if I needed a Mylar blanket or anything.  I shook my head and sobbed a “No.”  I said, “I”m almost there…I just need to get there.”  He wished me luck.  I had two Marathon Maniacs come up to me and take pictures with me.  They were just so uplifting at that moment.  I was told I was adorable.

Me running down Boylston Street toward the finish line of the 2015 Boston Marathon

Me running down Boylston Street toward the finish line of the 2015 Boston Marathon

The mental struggle at this point was more than the physical pain.  I’ve run with pain before.  But knowing that time was ticking away and this race, this race which I had wanted so bad…which I earned…was slipping away…I was WALKING my Boston Marathon…it was more painful than the present limp in my stride.  I saw the famous Citgo sign…and I knew I had just over a mile to go.

In my head, as I walked as fast as I could, I said that when I made the turn onto Hereford Street, I would run that hill and then run as much as I could manage…but RUN…down Boylston Street to that finish line.  And when the time came, that’s what I did.  Mind over matter.  Finish this race strong, even though it was the most disappointing, hardest race I’ve attempted.  I pushed up the hill on Hereford and rounded that corner to Boylston.  I started down the stretch, immediately catching sight of Cathy, Heather and Jenn, who were SCREAMING for me.  Not at me…but for me.  I made a heart with my hands, and waved…and then focused on that finish line.  It felt, literally, like it was 100 miles away.  It hurt to make that dash, if you could call it that, but I didn’t care.  I was running across that finish line.  And when I crossed it, the tears just came down.  The rain is a wonderful thing at moments like that.  I was shivering.  My lips were blue.  I couldn’t feel my fingers at all.  If my hip hadn’t hurt so much, I probably wouldn’t have known if my legs were still attached.

But I finished.

From there, I hobbled through the finishing area.  It actually took a good long while to get to the place where the volunteers were handing out medals.  I was shaking and shivering, but I bowed my head as someone slipped it around my neck.  I didn’t ever want to take it off.  A little further up was the Mylar poncho, which I was helped into.  It did little to help.  My body temperature was very low.  I was then handed some water and a bag of recovery food stuff…and I hobbled along, following the signs that would take me to the family reunion area.  It was a long, hard, cold walk.  Along the way, I had about 5 volunteers stop me to ask if I wanted to get into a bus to get warm.  I was suffering hypothermia at the finish line, but I was so focused on getting to where my friends were.  I said I was going to meet my friends and get to my hotel.  They let me go.

Sometimes, the best thing you can see after a race like that is smiling faces.  I got hugs all around and congratulations.  They told me how proud they were of me.  And I just cried.  I just…couldn’t stop.  I wanted to get to the hotel, so we started to walk that way.  I could barely walk, and Heather offered to carry me.  I told her I’d be fine…I’d just be slow.  I was beyond slow.  It seemed to take forever and the rain and wind weren’t helping.  But I got back to the hotel…freezing…sore as hell…and up to my room.  I got my gear off, got out of wet clothes, and took an amazing hot shower.  After changing and settling in on my bed…I answered texts and Facebook messages…I called my parents, who backed out of coming, and my sister.  I tried very hard to let the accomplishment shine, not the disappointment I was feeling.  I think I managed well enough.

We celebrated with cups of wine (Heather & I went high class with paper cups!) and a piece of chocolate.  We toasted to the Boston Marathon.  And then…Heather had to leave to catch a flight.  Hugs were given.  Cathy fetched me some ice…and we settled in for some peaceful relaxation in a warm hotel room until we wanted to get dinner.

So…in the end…The Boston Marathon wasn’t the dream race I had hoped to have back when I qualified a year and a half ago.  Everything went wrong along the way.  My body fell apart months before the actual event.  And I did everything I could to get to that start line without further damaging myself.  Yes…I am a finisher.  I am proud of myself for not quitting.  I am proud of myself for perservering.  I am not proud of that marathon finishing time.  I am not proud of how much I walked.  I am proud for finding out just how fucking strong I am.  THIS…is Boston Strong.  This limpy-gimpy, frozen, crying soul at the finish line…is BOSTON STRONG!

So…with it all said and done, I hobbled my way through to a finish time of 5:07:08.  I was 25262/26610 finishers overall.  I was the 11262/12022 woman to cross the finish line.  And, I was 5608/6011 in my age division.  Yeah…you can bet these statistics don’t sit well with me.  I actually didn’t want to post them.  But, you know…this is a race I won’t forget.  I struggled.  I cried.  I limped.  I walked.  I would have crawled if it came to that…if it got me to that finish line.  But I finished.  It is my worst, and yet, most memorable marathon.  It is my greatest and my worst moment in the years I have been running.  This is, by no means, the race I wanted nor dreamed of.  I can only hope that, one day, I’ll get a redo.

“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” ~Jack Canfield

I find out on Wednesday how my doctor wants to work on getting my hip back into running form.  I want whatever will be the best for me in the end, with the least amount of downtime, and the best option to get me back out there, running stronger than before.  Please…keep me in your thoughts and prayers.  I have a feeling I have a long road ahead of me.

I am a distance runner...

I am a distance runner…

When Bad Things Happen To Good Runners

Never Give Up! Never Give Up!Sometimes, no matter how closely you follow the recovery rules…your body mechanics catch up with you.  And that…has happened to me.

And it’s pretty devastating.  If you’re a runner…you get it.  If not…you’ll probably find me a bit dramatic.  Hell, you might find me that way regardless…but what it comes down to is…my body is fighting back.

It all started in January.  After I ran the Charleston Marathon, I took a good bit of time off to properly recover.  I had been running myself ragged (literally) over the past year, and instead of my usual 1 week off from all activity, I took a bit longer.  But, one morning, I woke up and had a very unhappy lower back.  The left side of my back was sore…to press on and to move.  I took further time off (because you shouldn’t mess around with the back, honestly).  And then…the hip pain happened…

…and then the hip pain didn’t go away.  It was so much that it was hard to even walk.  No running at all.  After waiting an additional two weeks (missing a marathon due to weather too), I went to see a sports orthopedic doctor.  Xrays turned up nothing…which was good.  So, he sent me to physical therapy, which I started that same week.

My physical therapists are awesome.  I started off with Emily Bullerdick, PT, DPT.  And she took much of the first session to assess what was going on.  Turns out, I have a locked lower back.  AH…back to that lower back.  The entire lower back didn’t want to move, so the rest of my body…shoulders and hips, were trying to balance it out by overcompensating.  Okay…I was given some back exercises and scheduled for 4 sessions in the following two weeks.  I went…I did exercises twice a day at home…I even did them at work…and I wasn’t feeling any better.  Emily was off one day the following week, so I got to meet with another PT.  This time I met with Steven Hnat PT, DP.  He took a look at Emily’s notes and plugged away at some of what she had me doing.  Then, tried a little more, working with my nerves.  He mentioned dry needling and gave me some information on that.  I looked it over and got scheduled for a regular PT appointment and a dry needling appointment the following week.

Dry needling…is painful.  It really is.  It is also known as Intramuscular Manual Therapy (IMT)/Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) and is a modern Western medical modality.  Dry Needling is a treatment technique which uses these small filament type needles to release tight muscles with the goal of permanently reducing muscle pain and dysfunction.  With DN, the needle alone and its effects on the tissue is the treatment.  Physical therapists are now using this technique around the world to effectively treat acute and chronic orthopedic and musculoskeletal conditions.  .  My first (yes…first) session, Steven did dry needling in my thigh, my hip, and along my IT band.  The IT band needles he hooked up to an E-stim, which sent pulses of current through the needles and into the knotted muscles.  THAT…didn’t feel good at all.  But I did get a bit of relief from it.

The next week was a follow up with my doctor…and as the pain was subsiding he told me to enjoy Boston and to get some running in.  Emily said the same thing, and before leaving that day, she put me on the treadmill to do some light running.  I kept an easy pace and managed a relatively pain-free 1 mile.  The next day, I went over to the gym and attempted two.  I was fine while running, but when I was done, I was just sore.  It was hard to go down the stairs to do some of my post-run stretches.  And then, that weekend, I set out to do a short run on Saturday morning, and my body hated ever step.  I managed a mile and spent the rest of the day in excruciating pain.  Back to the orthopedic doctor I went…

And that was when the MRI was ordered.

I continued my physical therapy sessions, having one with the actual stretching and another round of dry needling.  This time Steven hit up my hip again, but did the E-stim to my lower back.  That was the most not-fun thing I’ve done in a long time.  I was pretty sore after that for the rest of the week.  Not in my hip…but in my back.  I continued to do my exercises until I decided they weren’t doing much for the problem…and stopped.  I literally just stopped doing anything.

My MRI was on Tuesday afternoon.  My follow-up was on Wednesday (also the 2 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings…and tax day…but…well…).  So, the fate of the Boston Marathon I earned now hung in the results of an MRI.  My orthopedic doctor came in and pulled up the images.  And there…at the top of my hip joint, he pointed out the smallest of soft-tissue tears.  It was an anterior labrum tear.  Super small…but that was the reason for all the pain.

This, by the way, is a very common injury with active women…especially in their 30s.  Weird, I know.  But it’s because we have these things called HIPS!  What caused this?  It wasn’t overuse…because I hadn’t been doing anything when the pain occured.  Turns out that chronically and habitually tight muscles around joints can cause a lack of joint mobility, which, over time, too much compression on those joints can cause structural damage…most commonly labral tears.  This is especially true in young athletes.  Even sitting too much at a computer or in a car can cause habituated muscle tension that won’t go away.  I also have a tilted pelvis which made the soft tissue rub against the joint and bring on the tear sooner as well.  Ah…body mechanics.

Sitting for long periods of time has always been a problem for me.  What this comes down to is the tightness of my lower back through everything else out of whack.  Tie that in with my habitually tight and short hamstrings, and this was basically a problem I was going to face 10 years down the road regardless of whether I was active or not.  It happened to me sooner, rather than later, however.

Am I doing Boston?  I am.  I have been given permission to run/walk the Boston Marathon as I feel.  I was injected with a Cortisone shot on Wednesday as well.  I spent much of yesterday in a great deal of pain from that, but that is wearing off now, thank God.  Upon returning from what will likely be my worst marathon ever…I am going to start working on getting this all fixed.  No surgery.  But lots of hip and core strengthening.  And, we will go from there.

Is this the Boston Marathon that I wanted?  Not one bit.  While I had every intention of not racing here…but just having a good run and drinking in the experience…this was not the result that I wanted.  BUT…at least I can go there and have my race.  Maybe one day I’ll be back to the runner I used to be.  This isn’t going to stop me…it just my hinder and slow me down for awhile.

I do want to say, I did get quite a bit of love and support from people throughout this ordeal, checking in on me, asking how my pain was doing…and letting me know that they missed seeing me out there.  That was nice to know I had that kind of support because being down with an injury is so isolating.  People forget about you…and when you aren’t around…they don’t think to call or text to check in on you.  So, the fact that every now and again, my friends and running mates did, helped.  A lot.

So…Boston is going to be a painful ordeal, I believe.  But, whether it takes me 4 or 8 hours to get to that finish line…I will cross it.  Proudly.  Probably in tears.  And then…I’ll work on getting better.

Think of me on Monday, friends.  I’ll need all the support I can get.

Product Review: Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter

Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter

Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter

Product: Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter – $12.99+

When it comes to food, nothing completes me more than any sort of nut butter.  Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter (technically, not a nut butter…but close enough!), etc.  I love them.  Give me any flavor (add in honey, chocolate, coconut) too.  I love it.  It is, perhaps, my ultimate comfort and snack food.  When I’m stressed out, I just want a spoon and the nearest container of peanut butter.  No joke.

For awhile now, I’ve noticed and heard of a brand of nut butter that contains seven different nuts and seeds.  Needless to say, I knew a few people who swore by this stuff.  Loved this stuff.  And…as chance would have it…I found this stuff at my local Whole Foods Market.

Problem…it was between $12.99 – $17.99 a jar.  And, as much as I love nut butters…even I couldn’t justify spending that much on a simple (seven variety) peanut butter.  As much as it intrigued me.

Until…it went on sale.  Granted, the original crunchy is in the lower end ($12.99) regular price, but it was on sale for $9.99 one day I was in Whole Foods.  I still have money on a gift card I received for Christmas (best gift ever!), so I figured…why not?  I wouldn’t find it any cheaper.  I made my purchase and never felt one iota of remorse.  YAY!  Expensive peanut butter.  Now I’m living large.

So what is it about Nuttzo?  Nuttzo is a gourmet nut and seed butter that, each variety, contains seven different nuts and seeds.  It is billed as the healthiest and most unique super-butter on the planet.  They have three different flavors…available in the crunchy and smooth varieties: original, power fuel with chia, and Peruvian dark chocolate.  Said to be, perhaps, the next big next big thing in nut butter.  They are easy to spot too…standing upside down on the shelf.  Why upside down?  Because they are a little “nuttzo.”  Heh.  Actually, it’s because all the oils that naturally separate in natural peanut butters will now be at the bottom of the jar and not the top.  Open it without the mess.  YAY!  All of the Nuttzo flavors and products are 100% organic, contain no added sugars or oils, are high in healthy fats and protein, contain flax in every flavor for your daily Omega 3 ALA’s, are gluten-free certified, non-GMO certified, and kosher certified.

I love it already.  Good to know there are ways for a gluten-free. dairy-free, vegetarian to get those important Omega 3’s.

So, while the price had me doubting my purchase…on Sunday, I needed a light lunch (as I had made an epic breakfast and would be making an epic dinner!), so my roommate suggested open face peanut butter sandwiches.  I said, “Should we try the expensive peanut butter?”  She said that it had to happen sometime.  So…down from the top shelf of the pantry my jar of Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter came.  I flipped the jar over, opened it up, looked inside and the chunky, nutty and seedy goodness, and gave it a swirl.  I doled up spoonfuls for my roomie and I to “sample” while I put a schmear of it on two pieces of gluten-free toast.

My roomie thought the honey I was going to drizzle on top would make it better.  Me…I was quite happy with all the different things going on in the Nuttzo.  I love smooth peanut butter, but chunky peanut butter…that’s another level.  And this…this is the supreme being…the god of all crunchy and chunky nut butters.  You actually have, swimming in this smooth sea of nutty goodness, chunks of cashews and peanuts and the other nuts (which I will get to), not to mention flax seeds and sunflower seeds, just adding to the texture.  Happy day.  I loved it straight off the spoon.  I loved it spread across a toasted slice of gluten-free bread.  I loved it driizzled with honey.  The only thing I don’t love about it is the steep price tag.  But with all those expensive nuts and seeds inside…I can see why that’s the case.  It just means that if I decide to splurge on nut butter…it will happen only once or twice a year.  This stuff is fantastic…but it is pricey.  Like…I could buy 13 individual cups of Greek yogurt for the price of one jar of this nut butter.  Is it worth it…yeah.  I think it is.  I mean, what’s not to love about something that excites your palate and is smooth and chunky and gritty and rich and tasty and just everything you want from a nut butter all in one?  Absolute nothing.  Except Nuttzo.

Granted…I have a great Vitamix now.  I can probably make this myself for a lot less…but sometimes…convenience wins out.

Let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  With nut butters you usually have 1 to 2 ingredients.  Well, if you buy organic and natural, like I do.  This is that…but loaded with nuts and seeds.  In fact, the Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter is made up of organic peanuts, organic cashews, organic almonds, organic flax  seeds, organic brazil nuts, organic hazelnuts, organic sunflower seeds, sea salt.  LOTS of flavorful nuts and seeds…all that give it this fantastic flavor, sweetness, and texture.  All without adding unnecessary things like sugar.  LOVE!!

As far as nutrition information goes, this is one very super-nutritious, high protein, amazing nut butter.  One serving, of the Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter is 2 tablespoons.  This serving will provide you with 180 calories, 16 grams (healthy) fat, 70 mg sodium, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 3 grams fiber, and 7 grams of protein.  Like I said…powerhouse.  This nut butter, for someone with my dietary restrictions, is definitely worth the cost.  Heck, it’s worth it’s weight in gold!!

Love comes in so many different forms.  When you’re an athlete with food allergies, sometimes love is as simple as a jar of expensive nut butter called Nuttzo.  I might be “Nuttzo” for being willing to pay for said nut and seed butter, but this gives me so many nutrients in just a serving that I think it’s worth it.  Bought it on a whim, scoffed a little at the price, loved it when I tried it…now…completely obsessed.  It’s hidden so I just don’t take a spoon and eat the entire jar.  Because, trust me, it would happen.

Product Review: Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Product Review: Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix – $10.99

I know some pretty amazing people.  I really do.  One of such people is a friend of mine from high school.  Awhile back, she contacted me and said that Tastefully Simple was releasing some gluten-free products that she would love for me to try.  My friend, Rebecca Fifield, just happens to be a Tastefully Simple Consultant.  So, she sent them to my.  And then Tastefully Simple released more products…and I bought them and some of the ones that had originally just been sent to me.  And I loved every one of them that had tried.

I think what I love most about what Tastefully Simple is doing with their gluten-free mixes is that they are making it so easy to make bread or pizza or cake cookies or pancakes.  They take all that fancy flour mixing and make it so you have it in one easy place, and only need to add 2 ingredients to it.  I love it.  LOVE it.

And now, thanks to both Rebecca and my own trial-by-fire with the gluten-free products that Tastefully Simple offers (they’ve added cookies and pancakes since I last looked!)…I’m obsessed.  Because, as much as I love baking and cooking and being in my teeny-tiny kitchen…I love simplicity too.  Because baking can be stressful…gluten-free baking can be catastrophic if anything is off.

That’s the glory of Tastefully Simple.  They take that guess work off.

So, with me heading out of town on Friday evening, the main goal this week is to use up all the fresh produce that would otherwise go bad in my absence.  So, with fresh basil and some tomatoes and onions lurking about, I remembered that I had a Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix in my pantry.  So…pizza it would be.  AND…it would last for three days between my roommate and I.  Added bonus.  No more cooking the rest of the week.  YAY!

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix (prepared)

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix (prepared)

Preparing the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix is super easy!!  For real.  That’s why there is the word “simple” in the brand.  HA!  To prepare the crust, simply combine the crust mix with 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  The dough will be sticky.  Cover it losely with plastic wrap and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.  Using lightly oiled hands to prevent sticking, spread the dough out on a pizza stone or a 12-inch greased pizza pan.  Bake it for 10 minutes in a 400°F oven.

While it’s baking…mix up the sauce.  It’s a breeze.  Simply combine the sauce mix with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and tomato sauce.  Spread it over the warm crust you have now baked for 10 minutes.  Add your favorite toppings (in my case…tomato, onion, basil and Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese shreds) and place back in the oven to cook for another 17-20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Slice into 6 pieces and devour.

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Pizza Crust & Sauce (baked)

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Pizza Crust & Sauce (baked)

The quality, however, always comes in the taste test.  And they totally nailed it.  The dough wasn’t too sticky when I went to press it out on the pizza stone.  And, it cooked up to this amazing crispy, golden brown.  The sauce and toppings didn’t make it soggy.  It held up to slicing and being moved onto plates.  And I loved the flavor.  It had this amazing crusty quality that just made it work.  It was the perfect base for my toppings of choice.  And it was one of my favorite crusts I have made at home.  It was easy, and it didn’t take too long to bake up either.  Perfect way to enjoy my dinner tonight.  Tastefully Simple is not only making gluten-free delicious, but easy too!

So, let’s take a look at what Tastefully Simple puts into their Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix, shall we?  This pizza crust mix is made from rice flour, tapioca flour, sugar, baker’s yeast, potato starch, cassava flour, salt, less than 2% hydrogenated palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, baking powder and, xanthan gum.  The sauce mix is made from maltodextrin, dehydrated garlic, garlic powder, salt, dehydrated onion, spices, roasted dehydrated garlic, sugar, Romano cheese, less than 2% of natural flavors, toasted sesame oil, citric acid, whey, cheddar cheese, hydrolyzed soy protein, disodium phosphate, and silicon dioxide (anticaking).

As far as the nutritional information for the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix goes, this isn’t bad for pizza.  Really.  A serving size is 1/6 of the package.  This serving will dish up 200 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, no cholesterol, 810 mg sodium (it’s a little high, yes), 43 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber, and 4 grams of protein.

If you love pizza and want that “from scratch” appeal with a golden, crispy crunch, without it being the frozen cracker-crusts that the gluten-free community are otherwise delegated to having…then give Tastefully Simple’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix a try.  Hop on over to my friend, Rebecca Fifield‘s, page and place an order.  Not only will you be amazed with how easy this is to make, the taste, texture, and everything else will win you over.  I promise you that.

A slice of gluten-free pizza made with Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

A slice of pizza made with Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Product Review: Krumville Bake Shop Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Krumville Bake Shop Gluten Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookie

Krumville Bake Shop Gluten Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookie

Product: Krumville Bake Shop Double Chocolate Chip Cookies – $24.00+/-

Don’t panic.  Don’t panic at that price.  That’s for about 8 cookies.  So $3.00 per cookie from a gluten-free bakery…that’s about what my local allergen-free bakery runs.

Okay…with that public service announcement, welcome to yet another Cuisine Cube item!  I’ve been doing really well this month working my way through my box of delicious goodies, not really leaving much to settle in the snack drawer or kitchen pantry.  YAY!

You all know everything there is to know about Cuisine Cube by now, but in case there are some newbies out there…the quick run-down is this…

Cuisine Cube is a monthly subscription service were a gift box will be sent to your door with goodies inside.  These are meal/pantry items that are the full-size products, not little sample sizes.  That’s a huge deal, as most of the time these services send you sample products only.  You can sign up for a monthly, three-month, or six-month subscription, which begin as low as $29.99 per month.  Each box you receive will contain one item from each major meal of the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert.  And then, sometimes,  you get a bonus treat.  Bonus treats are always a nice and welcome surprise.  I started with Cuisine Cube a year ago, and absolutely love it.

So, as I’ve been working my way through the March Cube, I got into the dessert yesterday.  We all know that I am a strong believer in dessert.  I am even more of a believer when said dessert is…cookies.  Because, first and foremost, I am a cookie monster.  They are the perfect dessert and there are so many variations and textures.  Love.  You just don’t get bored with cookies.

In the March 2015 Cuisine Cube, the dessert was a container of Gluten Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies from Krumville Bake Shop, which is located in Brooklyn, New York.  Krumville Bake Shop was founded by Antonella Zangheri, who was diagnosed with Celiac in 2009.  She grew up in Emilia Romagna, a region of Italy known for its rich culinary heritage, and now she would be giving up many of the foods she grew up eating.  Not only that, she was highly disappointed with the gluten-free products that were available, noting that she saw a need for more exciting options.  And that is how Krumville Bake Shop was born.  In fact, Zangheri creates amazing focaccia, cookies, muffins, and specialty cakes that taste as good as the foods she grew up eating – just minus the gluten!  Krumville Bake Shop’s mission is to provide wholesome, fresh, and delicious gluten-free products, using only the best ingredients.  All of Krumville’s products are free of GMOs, artificial flavorings, and preservatives.  They use high quality flour blends that are made with whole grains (sorghum, brown rice, millet) and utilize a vast selection of ancient grains as well.  By perfecting their special flour blends, Krumville can offer baked goods with unique flavors and extraordinary textures.  And, to limit the use of refined sugar, the bake shop uses agave nectar as much as possible.

I am falling even more in love the more I learn about this company.

This month’s dessert option had me at Double Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I mean…double your chocolate, double your delicious fun, right?  I think so.  I actually paid attention this time and noted the “Refrigerate Me” tag on the Cuisine Cube product rundown, so into the fridge these went.  And as April has gotten under way, I decided it was time to bust into these.  So, last night after eating my Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie…this was going to be dessert.  I went to retrieve the clam-shell container from the fridge and popped it open.  I removed two cookies…one for myself and one for my roommate to try.  It was a very good thing that I then put the container back in the fridge, because I don’t know if I would have stopped at one cookie.

First of all…these cookies have a perfect texture.  Crunchy outside and a bit of chewiness on the inside.  They explode, with each bite, with fantastic chocolate flavor.  I mean…wow.  Not overpowering.  Not too much.  But just right.  It satisfies that every craving for chocolate.  Seriously.  Because the cookie has this richness to it, and then you get this little burst of dark chocolate with the chips baked into them.  It’s one of the most perfect cookies ever.  They are about the size of a Chips-Ahoy Cookie…but way better than any of that processed garbage I used to eat.  These…are amazing.  Bite-for-bite.  But hide them away in the fridge, or you may find yourself cookie-less and 3 pounds heavier for it.

Worth it.  Totally worth it.

The container doesn’t have any of the nutrition information on there, so I can’t give you the rundown of calories/fat and all that per serving…but I can tell you what ingredients go into these fantastic cookies.  The Krumville Bake Shop Double Chocolate Chip Cookies are made from Guittard chocolate, unsalted butter, dark brown sugar, brown rice flour, light brown sugar, sorghum flour, eggs, pure cane sugar, potato starch, milk, sweet rice flour, rice starch, vanilla extract, baking soda, sea salt, and xanthan gum.

Believe me when I say that these cookies are phenomenal.  They are the right hit of sweetness and that perfect level of chocolate for this major chocaholic.  For real.  I am glad these get tucked away after I pull out that night’s worth for my roommate and I because we’d probably kill off the entire container in one go.  Dessert and cookie perfection.  Nicely done Krumville Bake Shop and Cuisine Cube.

Product Review: Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Original Mix + Recipe Bonus

Neat - A Healthy Alternative to Meat Original Mix

Neat – A Healthy Alternative For Meat Original Mix

Product: Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Original Mix + Recipe Bonus – $4.99+

I am so excited.  And the reason why is simple.  I have found the meat replacement, Neat, at a few of my local stores.  My Kroger, my Meijer, and even a few of my natural food stores now carry these little pouches of meat replacement goodness.  Now, mind you, I’m not one who often will replace meat in a dish.  I usually will use something like tofu or mushrooms instead, but there are some recipes (from my childhood, especially!) that just call for using an actual meat replacement.  I have a few go-to brands that are gluten-free as well as either vegetarian or vegan.  But ever since I received a pouch of the Mexican Mix from Neat in my Cuisine Cube back in October, I was hooked.  I just had nowhere in this area to purchase it on my own.

Until now.

Up until yesterday, my pantry held the Italian Mix and the Original Mix.  I’m using a few things up in my pantry (I have a bit of an overstock, HA!), so I decided I would go ahead and bake up some of the Moon Rabbit Foods pie crusts that I had from another Cuisine Cube.  I could freeze two of them, and then give using the third one a shot in an old family favorite, which I would adjust to make gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian.

Neat - A Healthy Replacement For Meat Original Mix (before adding eggs/egg replacer and water)

Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Original Mix (before adding eggs/egg replacer and water)

With a pie crust baked up…it was time to make the filling.  As I was using my mom’s recipe, I began to brown the sweet onion while I mixed up the ingredients for the Neat Original Mix.  This is really easy.  Simply empty the Neat mix into a bowl, add two eggs (or egg substitute) and 2 tablespoons of water.  Mix well.  Once the onions had began to soften, I added the neat mixture and cooked it on medium heat for about 7-10 minutes, chopping at it as one would with regular ground beef.  It looked and smelled perfect.  I added the tomato paste, cooked it a few moments longer and then put it all in the pie crust.  On went the topping of Daiya cheese and…into the oven it went.

Before I talk more about the original mix, let me tell you a bit about Neat.   Neat is a meat replacement that is derived from nuts and other non-GMO natural ingredients.  It is a product that was created by a mother of two children who decided that they were going to become vegetarians.  At first she would puree beans into sauces to help her girls get the protein they wanted, but after awhile, everyone got tired of it.  And that was when she got into the kitchen, experimented, and created what is now marketed at Neat.  Neat comes in this shelf-stable pouch in a powdered form.  All you do to prepare it is pour the pouch into a bowl, add two eggs (or a vegan egg replacer), plus two tablespoons of water. Then, you just cook it in a skillet, as you would ground beef, for about 7-9 minutes.  It’s really easy…and really delicious too.

Neat - A Healthy Alternative For Meat Original Mix (prepared) cooked with onion and tomato paste

Neat – A Healthy Alternative For Meat Original Mix (prepared) cooked with onion and tomato paste

So, a vegetarian and gluten-free Cheeseburger Pie…that was what this was used for.  When I sliced through the pie crust and the filling, I was just anticipating the crumbling and falling apart.  But Neat surprised me.  Much like my mom’s recipe (which used real meat as I wasn’t a vegetarian at that point), this all stuck together and made for a perfect slice.  The Neat seemed to be the meat replacement I was looking for.  And it was the perfect choice for this recipe for sure.  I dished up two slices of the Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie and handed one to my roommate and settled in with mine.  My roommate took the first bite and said that it tasted dead-up like a cheeseburger.  That’s good.  She’s not a vegetarian, nor is she dairy-free or gluten-free like me.  But this impressed her.  It impressed her a lot.  The most disappointing aspect  of the dish was the pie crust and that was a whole unrelated product, and it still worked out well in the end.

The Neat Original Mix is fantastic.  I mean, it is so close to the real thing.  As I said, I don’t often do meat replacements, but sometimes when revisiting old recipes I grew up with, it is necessary.  I don’t think any other replacement for beef will come close to what Neat does for these dishes.  This is the second time I have used a Neat product and both times I have been beyond impressed.  The taste and texture are phenomenal.  Even meat eaters won’t realize they aren’t really eating meat.  That’s the wonder and the glory of this product.  Anyone can have it (unless they have a nut allergy) and enjoy it.  It was, for the second time, love at first bite.  And it was wonderful to be able to adapt an old family favorite to fit my dietary needs.

A slice of Cheeseburger Pie (gluten-free, dairy free, and vegetarian) made with Neat - A Healthy Alternative For Meat Original Mix

A slice of Cheeseburger Pie (gluten-free, dairy free, and vegetarian) made with Neat – A Healthy Alternative For Meat Original Mix

Let’s now take a look at what goes into the Neat Original Mix.  This product is made up of pecans, garbanzo beans, gluten free whole grain oats, organic whole grain gluten free cornmeal, garlic, onion, sea salt and spices.  Simple.  Delicious.  Clean eating!  It is gluten-free, non-GMO, and kosher.

As for nutrition, the Neat Original Mix is a powerhouse.  A serving is 40 grams and there are 4 servings per pouch.  One serving will provide 190 calories and 15 grams of fat.  You will also be getting 232 mg sodium, 11 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, 4 grams fiber, and 4 grams of protein.  It is filling, so it makes a fantastic substitute for meat.  But there is that added bonus of protein from the nuts that are blended into the mix.

It really did make a great addition and the perfect substitute for actual ground beef in the following recipe…

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie

Servings: 8
Prep: 10 minutes; Cook 30 minutes


  • 1 package Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Original Mix
  • 2 organic cage-free eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 gluten-free pie crust (either made from scratch or bought at the store)
  • 2 cups Daiya Mozzarella Cheese Shreds


Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pour the Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Original Mix into a medium bowl.  Add two eggs (or egg replacer if vegan) and 2 tablespoons of water.  Mix well.

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, brown the Next Mexican Mix and onion.  Cook until vegetables begin to soften and the Neat can be chopped into a meat texture.  Add the tomato paste and stir well.  Allow it to heat through for a few minutes to marry the flavors together.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and top with 2 cups of Daiya cheese shreds.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and pie crust is browned (with any luck).  Slice and serve.


I have fallen head-over-heels for Neat.  It is, without a doubt, the healthiest replacement of meat out on the market.  I am thrilled that it is more available in my area.  In fact, with so many places carrying it, I’m guaranteed to be able to pick it up at one place or another when I need it for a dish.

Neat…you are by far my best find and my favorite substitute in old family recipes.  Nothing else can do what you do!  So much love.

Product Review: Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix

Moon Rabbit Farms Gluten Free Pastry & Pie Mix

Moon Rabbit Foods Gluten Free Pastry & Pie Mix

Product: Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix – $8.79+

So, for awhile now, I’ve been wanting to revamp another one of my mom’s famous recipes.  Making it not only gluten-free, but also vegetarian.  Oh…and dairy free too…but that’s pretty much a given when it comes to me, right?  The actual dish is her delicious Cheeseburger Pie.  Normally, the crust of this amazing meal is made from crescent rolls from the grocery store fridge area zone.  You know, that place I hardly visit these days.


But…then I got to thinking…what if I cooked up a pie crust and used that instead.  Sure, it wouldn’t be the flaky crescent roll shell that this meal was known for, but I was already going to get rid of the whole meat thing (using a meat substitute) and use Daiya cheese for the cheese.  So…why not give a different sort of crust a try?

The problem is…pie crusts and I have never really gotten along.  We are anything but BFFs.  Then…lo and behold…the Thanksgiving (November 2014) Cuisine Cube arrived in the mail.  And inside was Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix.  Everything in the November Cuisine Cube could have been used for Thanksgiving itself…but I wasn’t allowed to host this year so most of it was used at my own discretion.  Well, the final product is up now…but first…

Cuisine Cube is run by a small group of foodies who have put together a completely gluten-free box of goodies and then sends them to your doorstep each month.  These boxes contain 5-6 full-size products from small, lesser-known artisan producers…mostly local…some not as local.  Some you may even have heard of before, but most will be new to you.  I signed up for Cuisine Cube back in May and have never looked back.  Subscriptions start as low as $29.99…which is a great price and great incentive to sign up for this subscription box service and try out some gluten-free products you have been too nervous about purchasing yourself or, perhaps, didn’t even know existed.

Such as Moon Rabbit Foods.  Never head of this brand before in my life.  Moon Rabbit Foods follows a philosophy of choosing the finest ingredients and using the latest techniques of the craft of baking to give those living a gluten free lifestyle (like me!) a rare opportunity to enjoy delicious refined pastries and baked goods.  Their baking and pastry blends provide a source for hard-to-find gluten-free products, allowing customers to enjoy that high quality at home, and even allowing them to add their own inspirational touches.  So, here, in my clutches was a pie crust mix.  I had no reason to make a pie.  No one ever wants desserts at the family dinners.  I usually do because I never really get to eat much of what is offered (part of why I love to host).  But, I also hate being the only person to eat dessert, especially when I’m the one providing it.  So, instead of going sweet, I opted to go savory and attempt to recreate a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian version of my mom’s Cheeseburger Pie recipe.

Cross your fingers…

This mix makes 3 9-inch pie crusts.  I went ahead and cooked them all up because…well…I could freeze the rest of them instead of just letting the mix sit and having to haul out all the equipment (a food processor, really) and ingredients (only 3) to do whenever I felt the need to make a pie.  Because if I did that, it would only get used this one time.  Therefore…all or nothing.  So, I took 1 cup of the pie mix and mixed it with one stick (4 ounces) of butter (or vegan butter) and pulsed it until it looked like cornmeal.  Then, in went 3 tablespoons of cold water and I ran the food processor until it all came together.  I formed the dough into a 6-7 inch disk and then put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Then I rolled it out and fit it into a pie pan.  It fell apart at some points because pie crusts hate me, but I managed to get it into the pie pans and into a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.  Out come the par baked crusts…and there you have it.  Use it as you will.

For the rest of the recipe, I used NEAT original mix and prepared the recipe from my mom’s cookbook as it would have been prepared regularly.  YAY!  That recipe will go in the review for NEAT.  So stick with me here.  Let’s talk about how the pie crusts cooked up and the rest of that important stuff.

A slice of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie on the pie crust made from Moon Rabbit Foods Gluten Free Pastry & Pie Mix

A slice of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie on the pie crust made from Moon Rabbit Foods Gluten Free Pastry & Pie Mix

First of all, I think I sort of expected them to be a little more golden.  They cooked, but they were still a pale white color.  I poked it to make sure it wasn’t still dough.  Then I figured it would get more golden as it cooked with my filling of Neat, tomato paste, onion, and vegan cheese…but it still remained a pale shade of…pale.  It was cooked…it just didn’t look that way.  It was a bit disconcerting.  It tasted good though, so I guess that’s the important thing.  It may look underdone, but it is quite a good pie shell.  I was actually happy to have a pie crust that didn’t incorporate sugar into the mix as I was using it for a savory dish.  This made this a great substitute for the refrigerated croissant rolls that used to make this light, flaky crust for this dish.  Being a thinner crust also helped as well.  So, once again, looks can be a wee bit deceiving.  It’s all in the taste, when it all comes down to it.

So, what exactly is in the Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix?  According to the package, this mix is made up of potato starch, cassava flour, rice flour, sea salt, unrefined cane sugar, and xanthan gum.  That’s it.  Small list and all recognizable ingredients makes me a happy girl. This crust is gluten-free and vegan.  It is also cholesterol free and fat-free until you add the butter…

As for nutrition, the Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix has around 24 2 tablespoon servings in the package.  A serving will provide 60 calories, 115 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber and no sugar or protein.  No sugar or protein is added to the mix so…it remains that way in the end.  When it’s prepared, all of this changes depending on your ingredients and the like.

If you need an easy pie crust, I highly recommend Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust.  Yet another product I never would have even know existed (and, hence, never would have made my mom’s Cheeseburger Pie (albeit vegetarian and dairy free)) if not for Cuisine Cube.  Loving this service and the new products and companies that it introduces to me.

Product Review: Le Veneziane Micrawable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express

Le Veneziane Microwaveable Penne Al Pomodor E Basilico Pasta Express

Le Veneziane Microwaveable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodor E Basilico Pasta Express

Product: Le Veneziane Microwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express – $6.99+

Pasta.  We all know that pasta is one of my favorite things in the world.  I grew up begging for spaghetti each week.  I wanted my mom’s spaghetti when my birthday rolled around each year.  Forget dining out.  I wanted my mom’s cooking.  I didn’t care if it was store-bought boxed pasta noodles.  Her sauce made it.  And that’s what I wanted.  Pasta (in all forms) has been one of my favorite dishes to just dive into.  Ultimate comfort food.  Ultimate meal.

Even after the Celiac diagnosis…one of the first things I sought out were pasta alternatives.  There are so many out on the market.  Some good…others not-so-good…and some that rise above and beyond the bar.  Like…even better than true pasta level of amazing.

Back in my September 2014 Cuisine Cube, I was presented with a box of Le Veneziane Microwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico (Penne with Tomato and Basil) Pasta Express.  And, yes, even the pasta freak in me didn’t immediately make this up.  But…I’ll explain why in a moment.

For now, let me give you a quick run through of what Cuisine Cube is all about.  Cuisine Cube is a monthly subscription service that delivers healthier, lesser-known, smaller artisan bakers/companies gluten free goodies to your door.  Each box contains 5-6 items (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert, and a bonus sometimes!) and subscriptions start as low as $29.99.  Go to their site and check them out.  I’ve really enjoyed my year of Cuisine Cube and intend to keep my subscription rolling.  In fact, I might have to go in for the long-term subscription instead of the month-to-month.  I’m that committed.  LOVE.

So…yes…I realize that September is about 7 months ago and that I am just now reviewing a product from that Cube.  BUT…it is the last item from the September 2014 Cuisine Cube.  And that was one very delicious cube for sure!  The Dinner portion of that box was dedicated to a 1-serving microwavable pasta meal made by Le Veneziane.  Now, I have had Le Veneziane products before and have always been impressed, so I was quite happy to see this company included in the box.  I had no idea they made microwavable pasta meals.  The things you learn!

Le Veneziane corn pasta is actually a very great choice for people trying to stay healthy and for people who follow the Mediterranean Diet.  Why?  It has a very low fat content.  How about that?  Le Veneziane is now one of the most modern companies using high-quality corn and producing amazing gluten-free pasta, polenta, sauces, and cookies.  They put out a high quality product because they believe in using the highest quality ingredients from flour and corn.  It is milled properly and kept in the right conditions to make sure that nothing, including being 100% gluten free, is compromised.  Love that integrity and devotion.

So, last night after a very busy day that included breakfast at my favorite gluten-free bakery and lunch of gluten-free crepes from my favorite food truck at a festival…I wanted something light for dinner.  This was ideal because my roommate and I could split it and it would be the perfect amount.  To accompany it, I made some homemade gluten-free dinner rolls (even though I was so tempted just to grab some out of the freezer section).  So, while the rolls were cooling, I went ahead and opened up the Le Veneziane Microwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express.  Inside was a microwaveable dish that I peeled the top off of and a measuring cone so that I could get exactly 300 ml of water as directed by the instructions.  The corn pasta in the container was perfect.  It had this deep red-brown powder inside too.  And when I added the water and mixed it well, everything got this muddy brown color.  I hoped for the best and popped it in the microwave for 10 minutes.

Le Veneziane Micrwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express (cooked)

Le Veneziane Micrwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express (cooked)

When 10 minutes elapsed, I pulled the tray out of the microwave, a little put off by the brownish color of the sauce.  But, I gave it a stir and then dished up half to my roommate and half for me, giving us each a dinner roll to have with it.  When I handed her the bowl she said, “That’s an interesting color sauce.”  HAHA!!  Everyone was thinking it; she just said it aloud.

Well, despite the rich brown color of the sauce, the Le Veneziane Microwaveable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express was actually very delicious.  I shouldn’t have doubted it.  The sauce was thick and rich with a tomato flavor that was peppered with the right hit of basil.  It was really quite delicious.  The pasta, despite being nuked in a microwave, were cooked to that perfect al dente.  The homemade rolls made the perfect side item for this meal.  And even eating just half of the dish itself was more than enough.  Very filling.  But very, very good.  I don’t know where to find more of the microwave meals from Le Veneziane, but I will keep my eyes open for them now.  It’s nice to have a delicious and healthy meal in 10 minutes sometimes.

So, let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  The Le Veneziane Microwaveable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express pasta is made from corn flour, emulsifier, and the sauce is made from tomato, cream, salt, melted cheese powder, onion, garlic, basil, and sugar.  This is 100% gluten-free.

As for the nutrition information, the Le Veneziane Microwaveable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express portion is 1 pack.  In this serving, you will be taking in 350 calories and 7 grams of fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 820 mg sodium (um…yikes!), 64 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, and 8 grams of protein.  See what I mean…it’s filling.  And delicious.

I want to thank Cuisine Cube for letting me try a new product from Le Veneziane that I didn’t even know existed.  I’ll be on the watch now for more microwavable pasta meals by this great Italian company.

Half of a serving of Le Veneziane Gluten Free Microwaveable Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express with a homemade gluten-free dinner roll

Half of a serving of Le Veneziane Gluten Free Microwaveable Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express with a homemade gluten-free dinner roll

Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product: So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert – 6.99+

Twas the holiday season and stress was high.  I mean…at the top level of high stress.  Why?  Holiday season…I just told you.  People were everywhere, gifts weren’t bought yet, and I had a grocery list to get purchased.

And so…I began working my way through the crowded aisles of Whole Foods.  I don’t normally buy much in the freezer section there, but I always make a point to go down the aisles.  This time, however, as I was going through the frozen dessert treats, some bright (and new) So Delicious treats seemed to wave at me.  I pulled open that freezer door and spotted coconut milk ice cream treats in the shapes of snowmen and stars.  The snowmen were vanilla with a chocolate layer forming the hat.  The stars…peppermint.


Unfortunately, the budget was tight as it was the holidays, but my roomie and I insisted that the following week we’d come back and pick them up…because we’d make some more room by then.

And so…we did.  And the Snowmen treats were there…but the Peppermint Stars (the ones I really, really, really wanted to try) were gone.  I got upset, and we bought the “boring” (they were anything but boring, they were delicious!) Snowman treats and devoured them later that week.  We kept returning, week-after-week, to Whole Foods, but the Peppermint Stars spot always was empty.  They were either really popular…or weren’t ever restocked.

Until something magical happened soon after Christmas.

I was back in Whole Foods and walking down that frozen food aisle.  At the frozen treats, I looked toward the So Delicious Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert area and spotted the red, white, and pink box I had been searching for.  I pulled open that freezer door and pulled it out, showing it to Cathy.  It was the very last box.  THE LAST ONE.  We had so many errands to run that day, so we asked the Customer Service desk if they could put it in the freezers in the back until we came back.  They were happy to do so.  And I was happy that I was finally going to have these in my freezer.

However, it seemed my roommate wasn’t as eager to consume them as I was.  Every week we polished off another dessert (usually cookies of some sort) and I would list off other dessert options to follow…and the ice cream we had in the freezer was never even considered.  BUT…this past week, I asked “Do you want the chocolate cookies from Cuisine Cube or do you want the ice cream bars?”

“Are those the Peppermint Stars?”

“The ice cream I have been referring to all this time that you never want to eat has been the Peppermint Stars.”

“OH!  That’s what I want.”

Sometimes…she needs to be smacked.  HA!

So…it was Friday night…and it was time to finally dig into the frozen dessert bars that I had coveted since before Christmas and, the dessert gods blessed me with the final box of the season at Whole Foods.  I couldn’t wait.  So, I got them out of the freezer and pulled out the box.  I tore into it, handed one to my roommate and then tore the wrapper off of mine.  I had waited three months to finally dig into these.  One taste…and I knew it was worth the wait.

The So Delicious Diary Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert was absolutely amazing.  For the first time ever, I didn’t feel as though the peppermint flavor overwhelmed the treat at all.  It was subtle…but the highlight of the actual flavor in the ice cream.  The bar itself was nice and frozen…but melt-in-your-mouth good.  It was so delicious (ha…see what I did there?).  I mean…it was light and creamy and just…yum.  I loved having a little taste of the holidays in April.  I really did.  So, maybe the wait was worth it.  Well, it was.  I just wish I could have enjoyed more of these.  I’m so thankful I found that one last box before they disappeared for the season.  I will be on the hunt for these this next holiday season and hopefully can have more than two nights worth.  Because, sometimes, a treat is just worth it.  These were beyond worth it.

Let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  The So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert is made from organic coconut milk, organic dried cane syrup, inulin, natural flavor, organic beet juice, guar gum, carbo bean gum, and annatto.  YUM YUM!!  These bars are free of trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, gluten and dairy.  They are also kosher.  They are perfection in peppermint form.

As for nutrition, you’ll love how these add up.  The So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert has a serving size of 1 bar.  Four bars come in the box.  One delicious star-shaped frozen dessert bar will serve up 100 calories and 5 grams of fat (much of that will be from the coconut milk), 14 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Talk about a dessert you can feel good about indulging in.  I am a huge fan of So Delicious, and having the chance to try one of their limited-edition seasonal ice cream treats was amazing.  Totally in love.  It’s like a frozen candy cane in ice cream format.  How can you not love that.  I hope they bring these back next year.  I’ll load up my freezer with them for sure.  DELISH!

So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product Review: Dolci di Marie Gluten Free Classic Biscotti

Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti

Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti

Product: Dolci di Marie Gluten Free Classic Biscotti – $7.00

I love coffee.  I really do.  I wasn’t always that way, however.  Coffee came to me later in life.  I loved the smell and hated the taste…up until I became a barista.  Then…life sort of changed.  And not only, over time, did I develop a taste for coffee, but I now knew how to properly make it.

Sometimes, I like to spice up my mornings a little bit.  No…not by adding cayenne pepper to my scrambled eggs (although I have been known to do that, HA!)…

…I mean having a treat with my morning cup of coffee.  And one of my two favorite morning treats with coffee is a biscotti.  The other is my homemade madeleines…but I digress.

Well, it just so happened that my March 2015 Cuisine Cube had a container packed with biscotti for the “Breakfast” portion of the box.  YAY!

For those of you not familiar with Cuisine Cube…think about how awesome it would be to have lesser-known, smaller company, artisan gluten-free company products shipped straight to your door once a month.  Think of the joy opening said box would bring you and how trying new things entices you.  You get a product for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert.  And sometimes…you get a bonus.  Who doesn’t love a bonus?  If that got your heart pumping, that’s what Cuisine Cube is all about.  And, this subscription service is available for as low as $29.99/month.  Pretty awesome, yes?  You betcha.  So, if you’re curious and want to try something new and exciting and different…hop over to their site.

Because, sometimes, you get products in the box that are like Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti.  I mean, it’s a treat to have while you drink your wine, your coffee, your tea…whatever.  Have it any time of the day, but I like to go the classic route and dip my biscotti into my morning coffee.  It is love.  And who doesn’t love starting off their morning with a cookie, right?  Technically, I suppose a biscotti is consider a biscuit, twice baked so that it is extra dry and crunchy.  And if you’ve never had one…you’re totally missing out.

Dolci di Maria was created by Mari Tantillo, who created gluten-free and dairy-free desserts for her two young children who had food allergies and sensitivities.  She was urged by her friends to start selling her desserts because they were so delicious.  Dolci di Maria strives to create fine gluten and dairy-free desserts that strike a perfect balance with texture and taste.  Everything is baked fresh with natural and organic ingredients.  Even better…many of the products offered by Dolci di Maria are vegan.

So, with all of that being said, this week I decided to stop looking at the container of biscotti that came in my Cuisine Cube, and finally open it up and have one with my morning coffee (a delicious local blend, for those wondering).  Despite being a dry treat (they are meant to be dipped, after all), I always take my first taste without anything else.  That way I can judge what something tastes like and if I like it.  And…when it comes to the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti…I like it…but I don’t love it.  It has nothing to do with the actual biscuit itself.  It actually has a great texture to it…and it holds up to the coffee dunking, that I do religiously when I get gluten-free biscotti in my clutches.  So that was the part that I was okay with.  The part I wasn’t okay with, when it came to the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti…was the overwhelming licorice flavor.  I hate licorice.  And this biscotti definitely had a heavy taste of it.  I inspected the ingredient list on the bottom of the package and discovered the use of anise.  That will do it.  It was just…too much for me.  I think I was hoping for something with more vanilla flavor than the anise.  It didn’t go well with my coffee…nor did my tastebuds really enjoy the licorice flavor.  A little bit of anise goes a long way…and in this batch…it took it too far.  The biscotti itself is great…the flavor just didn’t work for me, and that’s more of a personal preference than anything else.

So, let’s talk about the ingredients that are in the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti, shall we?  These classic Italian treats are made from brown rice flour, pure cane sugar, cage-free eggs, potato starch, tapioca starch, Earth Balance™, baking powder, xanthan gum, anise and vanilla extract, and sea salt.

The nutrition information for the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti is very nice though.  You don’t feel so bad treating yourself at breakfast to a crispy Italian biscuit when you look at these stats.  A serving is 1 of the biscotti, which will give you 65 calories and 2 grams of fat.  You will be consuming 73 mg cholesterol, 102 mg sodium, 2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, and 8 grams of carbohydrates.  These have no fiber.

If you don’t mind the flavor of anise (or that licorice-like flavor) than you will probably love everything about the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti.  For me, the texture was great…it was perfect for dipping, but the anise flavor just overpowered the rest of the biscuit and, for someone like me who dislikes licorice, it was a bit too much.  That being said, now that I know I can find Dolci di Maria products at my Lucky’s Market in Louisville, Kentucky (discovered that via the Web site), I am curious to try other products as she has brownies, pancakes and other flavors of biscotti to see if I like them better.

At least I got a morning treat in my Cuisine Cube this month.  The Dolci di Maria may not have enticed my taste buds, but I now know to look for other products in my area that might play nicer with my palate.