Being Thankful…

Thanksgiving!!

Thanksgiving!!

This past year, I spent a good portion of the prime running months sidelined with a very unhappy foot.  Throughout this time, I tried very hard to just be thankful that it wasn’t something worse.  I wasn’t very successful most of the time.  The runner brain kicked in and all I could focus on was the fact that I couldn’t run, that I couldn’t train, that I was going to lose fitness, etc.

But as the time went on, and the injury wasn’t getting any better, I found a shift in my attitude for the most part.  I started to be thankful for the mornings the foot wasn’t too sore to get in a slow, easy run.  I was thankful for the gym, for opening at 5 a.m. so I could at least go for a swim.  I was thankful for the people in my life, who would call to check on me, who would find ways to make me laugh and to get my focus to change from what I couldn’t do…to what I still could do.

But there were other things to be thankful for this year.  Here is a small list:

I am thankful for my family, who I don’t get to see often enough.  I wish I could come visit every weekend, because living so far away makes me feel like I am missing so much. I have seven nieces and nephews…and every time I see them, they’ve grown up more and have changed so much.  It’s so hard.  But through the distance and over the years, my family’s love and support and constant phone calls and texting have seen me through both good and bad times.  I am nothing without my family.

I am thankful for my secondary family…my roommate (Cathy), and her immediate family…Amanda, Judi, Janet, and Richie.  For dinner’s out, movies in, and always being up for an adventure.  Oh…and for letting me cook for you.

I am thankful for my job.  It may not be what I want to be doing, but I am really good at it and I get a lot done.  I know I can complain a lot about it, but it’s just because I’m a perfectionist and, as in life, the job isn’t always perfect.

I am thankful for my friends, those I can see on a regular basis, those I can see a few times a year, and those I rarely get to see…because without friendships…life is lonely.  And whether we see each other always or never, the fact that you are always there and a part of my life means the world to me.  Friendship is one of the single most important things in life.  If you find yourself lacking friends, go and rekindle some you thought you lost…or go make some new ones.

I am thankful for the ability to cook.  Because nothing makes me feel happier than being able to take a few fresh ingredients and turn it into something new and something, hopefully, delicious.  I used to set things on fire when I tried to cook…but when I moved here, it became something I needed to learn.  I caught on fast.

I am thankful for fresh foods, and good gluten-free products.  Being a gluten-free vegetarian is hard.  Add being an athlete to it, and it becomes even more of a challenge.  That being said…changing my diet has been a challenge, both budget-wise, and health-wise.  But it’s important and it had to be done.  I’ve gotten some help this year when I signed up for Cuisine Cube…and thankfully, fresh fruits and veggies are always gluten-free…and are two of my favorite things in life.

I am thankful for each year I can travel up to Minnesota and see my family there.  Moments with my grandpa are my most cherished.

I am thankful to be able to travel.  Sometimes it’s not far.  Sometimes it’s not even somewhere people would call fun or interesting…but nothing makes me happier than exploring somewhere new and stepping away from real life for a little while.

I am thankful to my friends who run…for inspiration, encouragement, and for just being awesome.  You all know who you are.

It’s Thanksgiving Day.  What are you thankful for?

Survey Says…

Can you answer a few questions for me...?

Can you answer a few questions for me…?

This was a fun little survey thing posted by The Dancing Runner on her blog.  I thought it would be something fun to fill out and share with my readers!!  Feel free to do it yourself.  And enjoy!

Four Names That People Call Me (Other Than My Real Name):
-KJ
-Wonder Woman
-Donkey
-Gael

Four Jobs I’ve Had:
-Starbucks Barista
-Assistant Manager of a CD store
-Loan Processor/Funder
-Assistant to the Alumni Director at a universityFour Movies I’ve Watched More Than Once (and can quote from memory):
-Pirates of the Caribbean
-The Princess Bride
-National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
-Lord of the Rings (the entire trilogy!)

Four Reads I Recommend / Can’t Live Without
-The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (yes…the ENTIRE series)
-Runner’s World
-Mile Markers by Kristin Armstrong
-The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

Four Places I Have Lived:
-Minneapolis, Minnesota
-Big Flats, New York
-Birmingham, Alabama
-New Albany, Indiana

Four Places I’ve Been:
-Ireland
-Scotland
-Germany
-England

Four Places I’d Rather Be Right Now:
-A beach
-Hawaii
-Ireland
-Australia

Four Things I Don’t Eat:
-Gluten
-Jello
-Anything fried
-Olives

Four of My Favorite Foods:
-Avocados
-Greek Yogurt
-Fruit!!!
-Peanut Butter (and I eat WAY more than I should!)

Four Shows That I Watch(ed):
-Dr. Who
-Master Chef
-The X-Files
-Face Off

Four Things I’m Always Saying:
-“Stop ending your sentence in a preposition!”
-“For real?!”
-“Here…taste this!”
-“Let’s do this thing!”

People I’m Tagging To Do This Next:

-I’m not tagging anyone…do it if you want.  If not…no pressure!

Five Random Facts:
-The only person who has ever heard it is my sister, Karla, but I can sing a wicked death metal version of Coldplay’s “Yellow.”
-If I’m having a bad day, one thing that always makes me smile is my sister’s impression of Dracula, because it is just that damn good.
-I was once in a commercial.
-When I was in high school, my artwork was displayed in a few art shows!  Did you know I was an artist?  Now you do!
-I have a blue belt in karate!  If I hadn’t moved away from New York, I’d probably still be practicing.

So, there you have it.  A fun little questionnaire.  Maybe you already knew this about me…and maybe you didn’t.  If you feel like doing it…copy and paste it to your own blog.  And if not, well, don’t worry about it.  It’s all up to you!!

Recipe: Fresh Corn with Avocado, Onion, and Spiced Vegan Scallops

I’m doing my best to make do without my CSA bin for the past month.  And that means I’ve been doing a lot with some products and foods that I have in my fridge and freezer.  My freezer happened to have an open box of Sophie’s Kitchen Gluten Free Vegan Breaded Scallops and this amazing corn that I cut off the cob and froze for later use.  My fruit bowl is holding one of my favorite things in life…avocados.  And yesterday, I purchased an onion for use in my previous recipe.

So, when I spotted a recipe on Health.com for a meal that involved fresh corn, avocado, scallions and scallops, I knew I could easily adapt the recipe to use ingredients I had on hand, and keep it vegan.  Of course, if you eat seafood, feel free to use regular scallops.

With the seasoning and the fresh vegetables, this was one fantastic meal.

Recipe: Fresh Corn with Avocado, Onion, and Spiced Vegan Scallops

Fresh Corn with Avocado, Onion, and Vegan Spiced Scallops

Fresh Corn with Avocado, Onion, and Vegan Spiced Scallops

Servings: 2
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium diced peeled avocado
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1-1/4 pounds sea scallops (I used Sophie’s Kitchen Gluten Free and Vegan Breaded Scallops)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice)

 

Directions:

In a small bowl, toss avocado and lime juice.

Sprinkle scallops with salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops; cook, turning once, until golden and cooked through (about 3 minutes).

Transfer scallops to a plate.

Add corn, scallion, white wine, and remaining cumin to skillet; cook corn until tender, stirring constantly (about 2 minutes).

Spoon corn mixture onto 4 serving plates, add avocado and top each with half of the scallops.

~*~*~

This was one fantastic meal.  I loved the healthy fat that came into the dish with the avocado.  The seasonal corn was an amazing ingredient on its own, but when seasoned and cooked with all the other ingredients, it became elevated.  The scallops, simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and cumin made the perfect protein and topper for this dish.

Give it a try!  Vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian…you’ll really enjoy this meal.  I’ll definitely be making this again!

 

Recipe: Sweet Chili Vegetable Quinoa Bowl

On Friday, I was quickly scrolling through the blogs I follow on WordPress and came across a blog from Clean Eating Veggie Girl, who posted this amazing recipe for a quinoa bowl, inspired by her friend Molly.  I had virtually everything necessary to make this meal, save for an onion and some frozen stir-fry vegetables, which I could easily pick up at the store over the weekend and prepare this for dinner Sunday evening.

I actually spent most of my day helping my roomie’s sister paint some of her house…so grocery shopping actually didn’t get completed until much later, and it was past 6 p.m. by the time I back to my apartment to cook.  Thankfully, this is a super-easy and super-fast meal to create.

Oh…and super delicious too!

Recipe: Sweet Chili Vegetable Quinoa Bowl

Sweet Chili Vegetable Quinoa Bowl

Sweet Chili Vegetable Quinoa Bowl

Servings: 2
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup dry + 1 cup water)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (I used 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 16 oz bag frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • 1/8 cup Bragg’s liquid aminos (I used San-J Gluten Free Low Sodium Tamari)
  • 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
  • Sriracha sauce, optional
  • 2 to 3 large eggs, optional*

*Recipe is vegan without the eggs

 

Directions:

If you do not already have the quinoa cooked, prepare according to package directions.

Line a large skillet with a thin layer of water.  Heat over medium-high heat until very hot.  Once hot, lower the heat to medium and add garlic, ginger, and onions to the pan.  Cook for approximately 5 minutes, adding additional water as necessary.

Add frozen stir-fry vegetables to the skillet.  Cover with a lid and cook for approximately 5 minutes.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, turn the heat to low and stir in cooked quinoa.

Add liquid aminos/tamari sauce and sweet chili sauce to the skillet.  Stir until well-combined.  Cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until your vegetable and quinoa mixture is hot.

If you are adding an egg to the bowls, cook each one to your liking during the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking time.  I poached mine, but fried or scrambled would work as well.

Scoop the vegetable and quinoa mixture into bowls and, if desired, drizzle with sriracha sauce and top with an egg.

~*~*~

This quinoa bowl is fantastic.  It’s a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy.  And if you love eggs, the runny yolk from a poached egg just really ties the entire meal together.  I was beyond impressed.  It was nice to create a healthy, protein-rich meal for dinner after such a busy day.  I also appreciated how quickly the entire meal came together.  Fantastic.

Product Review: Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Product: Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix – $5.99+

YES!!  FINALLY!!  At long last, I am trying out one of the Cup 4 Cup baking mixes.  I have been dying to do this since these products emerged on the scene back in 2012.  I had eyed the Cup 4 Cup Original Flour Blend back when it was exclusive only to Williams-Sonoma and online purchases.  The problem was, I couldn’t fathom paying the $20+ dollars to try a flour blend that was being touted as the best on the market.  I wish I could have made room in the budget for it, but I live paycheck to paycheck with very little wiggle room most weeks.  Especially having to eat gluten-free.

So, when I was in Columbus, Ohio at The Raisin Rack, and my roomie told me to fill up a basket with products I wanted to try…I knew, immediately, that I wanted one of the Cup 4 Cup baking mixes.  The problem was choosing which one.  The other one on the shelves at the time was the Pizza Crust Mix…and I have so many pizza crusts here just waiting to be made, the pancake mix seemed like the most obvious choice.  And so…it has the honor of being the first product by Cup 4 Cup that I have tried.

So, if you aren’t familiar with Cup 4 Cup or why I’m so enthusiastic about this product, you must take into consideration that I am a food and chef junkie.

This brand of gluten-free flour and baking mixes was created by Chef Lena Kwak, while serving as Research and Development Chef in the famed French Laundry in Yountville, California.  Her mentor, Chef and Owner Thomas Keller, knew they had stumbled upon something amazing when a guest at the restaurant tasted Lena’s gluten-free brioche and cried because she hadn’t tasted bread in years.  It was then that they knew they needed to share this product with the rest of the world.  Cup 4 Cup is not just great-tasting gluten-free flour, but it’s great-tasting flour for everyone.  The name comes from this brand’s ability to substitute all-purpose flour in traditional recipes, cup for cup, making it easy to translate some past favorites into a gluten-free version.  And no one will be the wiser.  Basically, Cup 4 Cup allows you to not only create, but also enjoy all the foods that you always loved…but now makes them gluten-free so that you can love them again.

It is a pretty high standard and tall order to hold yourself up to.  But you have to trust products when Thomas Keller is involved. Really!

On Friday, last week, I had made the decision to finally break into the Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix and make some pancakes.  This was going to be a little time consuming, as I rush home after my 5:30 a.m. spin class on Friday’s to shower, change, and eat something for breakfast.  But, the roomie and I had no real rush, so…I just had everything that I could prep ahead of time done and ready with all the rest of the ingredients out and waiting…with the glass mixing bowl.  I showered.  I changed.  I went into the kitchen, preheated my skillet, and got to work.

Making the Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix is easy.  Even when I doctored the mix up.  You see, I asked Cathy if she wanted just straight-out pancakes, or if she’d like the Lemon Poppy Seed version that was mentioned on the back of the pouch the mix was in.  She said, “You can’t throw lemon poppy seed at me and expect me not to want that!”  So, one quick trip to the grocery store very early that morning to get lemons…I zested and juiced them before heading to the gym so that I just had to melt the butter and mix things together before scooping it out onto the skillet.

Nothing could be easier.  With the skillet preheating, I poured the contents of the pouch into the mixing bowl and added milk and 1 egg to it.  I stirred this together, then added the melted butter and (optional) vanilla extract.  Then, I added the additional stuff to make it the Lemon Poppy Seed variety…1/4 cup sugar, the zest of 2 lemons, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds.  With everything incorporated, I scooped 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle and repeated the process again.  With two pancakes cooking, I noticed that they were getting those perfect bubbles around the edges after a couple of minutes.  Time to flip the pancakes!

As I did, I noticed the gorgeous golden color on the other side.  These were not only properly crisping, but they were fluffing up to these gorgeous, thick, and light pancakes. I was beyond pleased with the look of them.  And they smelled amazing.  That lemon scent was so refreshing.  I checked the skillet side, and noticed it was now golden too…so they were moved to a plate and a new batch was started.  These got a light treatment of butter and some delicious maple syrup.  Breakfast was served.

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes made from Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes made from Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Cathy got the first two pancakes that morning and when I saw her finish her first bite, I had to ask how they were, since mine were still cooking.  She immediately cut another piece and began to devour it.  “YUMMY” she said, with a mouthful of lemon poppy seed pancakes and maple syrup.

Mine finished up and I ate them in the kitchen while I prepared pancakes from the rest of the mix to have at a later time.  In fact, four of them are coming out of the fridge tomorrow for our post-gym breakfast at the office.  So, it will be interesting to see how they do on a microwave reheat.

That being said…these pancakes did have that perfect golden crust, giving it that amazing golden flavor and initial crunch as your fork slides through it.  These pancakes were not dense or heavy at all.  In fact, I found them rather light and airy in comparison to other pancakes I’ve made from baking blends.  The lemon flavor was incredible…and at just the right level.  Any more and it would have been too tart.  I was glad I left the vanilla extract in, despite it being an optional addition.  I just think it added to the flavor in the end.  Overall, I devoured these in record time, cleaning my plate of every last remnant of the pancakes.

In the end, I ended up making 12 pancakes from the mix itself.

So, let’s talk ingredients.  The Cup 4 Cup Pancake & Waffle Mix is made from cornstarch, white rice flour, sugar, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, baking powder, potato starch, salt, and xanthan gum.  It is gluten-free…but trust me…you’d never know it.  No one would.  And these pancakes were definitely diner-style and diner quality.

As for the nutritional information…a serving of the Cup 4 Cup Pancake & Waffle Mix is 1/4 cup of the mix.  This serving provides 140  calories and is fat free.  It is also cholesterol free.  This serving also will provide 440 mg sodium and 8 grams of sugar.  One serving has less than 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  Of course, all of that changes when you prepare it with the rest of the ingredients.  I used almond milk in mine, for the record.

Beyond impressed with Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix.  On a busy morning, breakfast was still simple to make.  And these really are some of the best pancakes I have had since going gluten-free.  I think having a product that was developed by chefs for consumers helps keep up the integrity.  And we all know that nothing that Thomas Keller touches would be sub-par.

I’m hooked.  I sort of always want to have these in my pantry.  Forever.

Product Review: Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin

Jac's Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin

Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin

Product: Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin – $3.50+

Many of you know by now that back in May, I signed up for this amazing delivery service that sends a box of gluten-free goodies to my doorstep.  All for a very reasonable fee.  The company is Cuisine Cube, and the seek out lesser-known gluten-free companies and the products that have to offer.  It’s great, because I know that a lot of us hang onto the same brands and are hesitant to branch out and try something new and different.  Cuisine Cube totally takes the guess work out of the equation and each month is like Christmas, opening up this box and seeing what products await you inside.

It’s my favorite delivery day.

Well, it is the end of November, and while I was away at Walt Disney World, running in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, my cube arrived.  Never fear, it was waiting for me upon my arrival home.  A special box this time…all Thanksgiving themed.  I loved pulling out the variety of items and tying it back to the Thanksgiving table…which now will provide plenty of options for me!  However, I knew one particular product that was included inside wasn’t going to survive long around me.

Three of my favorite words: Pumpkin. Pecan. Muffin.

HELLO!!

The business that is responsible for bringing these into my life is Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro, which is Long Island’s first certified gluten-free bakery.  How about that?!  And to think, I was in New York City back at the beginning of the month to run in the TCS New York City Marathon…and I didn’t even know this place existed.  Trust me…this knowledge has now been filed away for my eminent return to the Big Apple.  A little bit more on Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro though…

Jac’s was opened back in 2009 by owner, Jac, who was diagnosed with Celiac disease and then, later in 2010, an egg allergy.  Being a professional bakery, Jac had to now find new ways to prepare the same foods she already loved…now sans gluten.  After years of trial and error, she perfected her recipes and opened up a 100% gluten-free bakeshop and bistro on Long Island.  All of her products are natural, 100% whole grain, use no refined sugars (only organic sugars), are 80% organic, and, according to her Web site, 500% extraordinarily scrumptious.  In addition to the items she sells in the shop itself, she also offers cooking classes.  That is super cool.

In this vacuum-sealed pouch, inside the November Cuisine Cube held what looked like the biggest, most amazing pumpkin muffin I have ever seen.  Literally, it fit into the palm of my hand.  It was epic.  And…honestly, two of my favorite ingredients are pumpkin and pecans.  And in the fall, I really do want ALL THE PUMPKIN FOODS AND DRINKS.  I mean…it’s that time of year.  And these things are only available during certain times of the year.  So when a muffin turns up…a muffin I can eat that I didn’t have to make myself and is ginormous…oh yeah…I take immediate notice.

Which is why this treat inside my Cuisine Cube has already been devoured.  Obviously.  I’m blogging on it, right?

It was…of course…a gym morning.  I mean, what better time to indulge in things than after hitting the gym, right?  Hey…I’ve been out of town…it happens.  Anyway, I brought the Pumpkin Pecan Muffin to work with me and sliced into the packaging.  A bit of the top layer came off the crown, but, all in all, the muffin traveled well and held up.  I set it down on my plate and gave it a short warm-up in the office microwave.  Then, I returned to my desk, muffin ready…and settled in with my fork to take my first bite.

Oh…wow.  This muffin hit all the right notes at all the right time.  The pumpkin flavor was perfect.  It wasn’t too much, nor was it overly spiced.  The nutty flavor came through as well, and gave the muffin a bit more texture and kept it from being “squishy-soft.”  It was perfect.  And I am particular about the amount of moistness in a muffin.  Whatever Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro does when they bake their muffins, they need to keep doing it.  I was loving each and every bite, savoring it as much as possible.  I am certain I was consuming more calories than I should, but it was perfect from the first to last bite, and when you’re enjoying a baked goodie for breakfast…just enjoy it.  Let go of the calorie count for one meal.  If it’s delicious, it’s worth it.  I can’t tell you the nutrition information on this product as none was provided…but it was GOOD (yes…caps lock good!).

The Pumpkin Pecan Muffin from Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro is made from almond milk, applesauce, organic evaporated cane juice, organic brown rice flour, oat flour, arrowroot, organic almond flour, organic coconut flour, golden flax meal, guar/xanthan gum, eggs, organic coconut yogurt, baking soda/powder, vanilla, pumpkin, and pecans.

Trust me…whatever amount of calories and fat may be inside this muffin, you won’t care.  I don’t care.  It was scrumptious!

So, yet again, my Cuisine Cube brought a product that I otherwise would never have known existed into my life.  From there, I learned more about the business, and have every intention of getting over to the actual shop the next time I am in New York City (*crossing my fingers for March*).  I love that this particular muffin not only engaged my taste buds, but also my curiosity.  And that’s the wonderful thing about Cuisine Cube.

As for Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro…you wowed me at first bite.  And now…I only want more!

Jac's Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin (unwrapped)

Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin (unwrapped)

 

Product Review: Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry's Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Product: Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie – $2.75+

I want to thank Cuisine Cube for one of the most epic products ever to arrive in my box.  No…this is for real.  Because in September, my cube included a cookie.  But this cookie was not there for dessert.  Nope.  It was clearly the item intended for breakfast.

A cookie.

For breakfast.

Being that I am a cookie monster, this totally made my day…my week…my month…perhaps even my year!

And, after running in the New York Marathon and then the Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I was running out of food in my apartment.  And it was a gym morning.  And grocery shopping had yet to happen.  To much travel time (not time travel, LOL!).  Okay, there really isn’t such a thing, but sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to go to work and get the much-needed grocery shopping done.  And this was a morning I was at a loss as to what to have after hitting up the gym.

And then I remembered the cookie I had toted around with me to both New York City and Disney World…just in case I needed something to eat at some point.  I never had to break into it on the go…but it was just the thing I needed when I returned home.  Go figure.

The Lisa Harris Pantry‘s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie is literally what it sounds like: a cookie intended to eat…for breakfast.  I love being an adult.  HA!

After getting in a good cardio session that morning, I ambled into work and was ready to settle in with something to eat before really beginning my day.  This cookie was so convenient.  It required no toaster oven, no microwave, and no hassles.  All I had to do was open up the wrapper and enjoy.  And that’s exactly what I did.  The cookie was actually quite large, about the size of a small mason jar lid.  And it’s thick too – a perfect drop cookie.  I could see the bits of diced apples and the flecks of cinnamon throughout the entire cookie.  It looked like a great balance.  I also expected these cookies to be hard.  But, while they had a crispy-ish outer edge, the center was soft and chewy and amazing.  For real.  It was, however, very sweet…due in part to the apples, apple flavoring, and the agave.  So, I almost wish I had something savory to pair with it because it was borderline almost too sweet.  But, it is, after all, a cookie.  I thought the flavor was amazing though.  I loved seeing the ingredients in the cookie.  And I loved the boost of protein that came from the quinoa.  As we know, I am always watching my protein intake due to my dietary needs (gluten-free/lactose free/vegetarian).  And being so active…protein is a vital part of my diet.  So, that was a huge win with me.  I loved the texture.  It wasn’t dry at all.  Had the sweetness been tampered down even slightly, I think it would have been the new breakfast of champions.  That being said, I would love to try the other flavor of breakfast cookies that are offered by Lisa Harris Pantry.  Because, every day should start with “dessert first.”

So, let’s talk about the ingredients that go into the Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie.  This flavor cookie is made from organic rice flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, quinoa flour, gluten free rolled oats, agave, egg whites, organic diced apples, lecithin, non gmo canola oil, milled flax seed, xantham gum, cinnamon, natural apple flavoring (whole foods compliant), salt.  All ingredients are non-GMO.  And this particular cookie is dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, high in fiber, high in protein, and low in sugar.  YES…a cookie that is low in sugar.

While on that subject, let’s go ahead and tackle that all-important nutrition information, yes?  A serving of Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie is one entire cookie.  And trust me…these thick and moist cookies are definitely filling.  One cookie will give you 245 calories and 8 grams of fat.  They are cholesterol free.  Each cookie has 69 mg sodium and 11 grams of sugar.  In addition, you will be getting filled up with 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein!  These are definitely hunger satisfying, naturally energizing and perfect for any time of the day, not just breakfast.  But the slow-release carbohydrates will definitely keep you going for hours without even the slightest bit of hunger.

I didn’t believe for a moment that a cookie could fill me up, particularly on a gym morning when I tend to be ravenous.  But it did.  If it weren’t for the sweetness, I think this cookie would be the perfect way to start the day.  I mean, who doesn’t like dessert for breakfast?  I definitely want to check out the other gluten-free options (not all of the products at Lisa Harris Pantry are gluten free) now.  And without Cuisine Cube, I never would have even know these existed!

Another great product brought into my life thanks to Cuisine Cube!

Lisa Harris Pantry's Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

 

 

Product Review: Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle

Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle

Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle

Product: Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle – $5.49+

Sometimes I get big ideas and then wait awhile to actually try them out.  When I first spotted the words “traditional egg pasta” on a box of gluten-free tagliatelle from Jovial…I thought immediately of soup.

What?

You don’t immediately think soup?

The reason I thought of soup was, as I was growing up, my mom would make a homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, which required an egg noodle in the recipe.  So…this immediately sparked that in my memory.  So, I told myself that I could easily make my mom’s recipe…but make it vegetarian.  After all, I had one last package of Beyond Meat “Chicken” in the freezer, and for some reason, I think I was mentally saving it to make soup.  So…the perfect opportunity presented itself for sure.  The only big change was I didn’t make the stock myself.  I couldn’t.  I wasn’t using real chicken.  So, instead…I picked up a couple of the Imagine Vegetarian No Chicken Broth and adjusted the recipe from there.

It worked out brilliantly in the end.

But…that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I am here to discuss the use of the Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle.  The pasta is actually the last thing that gets added to the soup.  Not only does this help to thicken the broth a little bit, but it also brings a heartiness to the dish.  I love a good, comforting bowl of soup.  And as we were in the low teens temperature-wise last week…this was the ideal food to have on hand.  And my roomie and I ate it…three days in a row.

Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle (uncooked)

Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle (uncooked)

Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle was the ideal and perfect noodle for this soup.  It is a thin, but longer noodle.  Sort of like fettuccine, but different.  Did you follow that?  HA!  It cooked perfectly in the broth with my not-chicken “meat” and my carrots.  These noodles absorbed the flavors of the broth and the items cooking in it.  And, for the first time, the fake chicken didn’t taste…fake.  That was more the broth than the noodle…but that’s an observation I thought I should share.  Anyway…Jovial actually managed to make a brown rice noodle that didn’t turn gummy and didn’t fall apart when it cooked.  I loved how these noodles held their shape and were so prominent throughout the soup.  What’s the point of having a “chicken” noodle soup if the noodles don’t hold up?  They really did bring the dish up to where it needed to be.  And, even on a reheat, they were perfect.  Three days in a row…noodle perfection.

I was beyond impressed.  I would purchase these again in a heartbeat to use in other dishes, including pasta dishes with a simple sauce.  They went above and beyond my expectations.

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into Jovial’s Gluten Free Brown Rice Pasta, shall we?  These shelf-stable noodles are made from organic brown rice flour and organic eggs.  Yes…they really are made from only two ingredients.  In addition to being gluten-free, these noodles are also free of casein, tree nuts and peanuts.  These are also certified kosher.

As for nutritional information, as far as pasta goes, this is right in line with even the regular stuff.  A serving of Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle is 2 ounces of pasta.  There are 4 servings in the package.  A serving will deliver 210 calories and 3 grams of fat.  One serving will also provide you with 40 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium, and no sugar at all!  You will also be taking in 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.  So, yes…these will make you feel full.  Trust me.  I made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches to eat with them and I was stuffed at the end of my bowl of soup and sandwich.

Another win for Jovial in the gluten-free pasta.  Seriously continuing to fall in love with this brand when it comes to my pastas.  Great noodles that are easy to cook and use…and don’t fall apart like some other brown rice pastas.  That is definitely a win!

Gluten Free and Vegan

Gluten Free and Vegan “Chicken” Noodle Soup made with Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle

Product Review: Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Beef Lasagna

Mrs. Leeper's Gluten Free Beef Lasagna

Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Beef Lasagna

Product: Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Beef Lasagna – $5.99+

Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten-Free products have yet to let me down.  Honestly.  The two I have had prior to this one have been out-of-this world delicious.  And, they reheat so well the following day or so as well.  So, I’m having a bit of a foodie love affair with the packaged and easy-to-prepare Mrs. Leeper’s dinners.

The Beef Lasagna was no different.

But…before you freak out…let me assure you…no beef was added to this dish.  Much like when I made the Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten-Free Cheeseburger Mac, I substituted the beef with the Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo, which is also gluten-free.  So much love for Trader Joe’s for bringing that back to shelves!  WOOT!

Another big plus for these meals is how efficient, convenient, and easy they are to prepare.  Trust me.  I don’t have time every night to prepare something from scratch.  As much as I would like to…

And, as I haven’t had my CSA bin delivered in almost a month (this is what happens when you go out of town…then go out of town…then think you’re going out of town, but end up not going out of town…twice…and having already cancelled the bin), I’m basically living off my pantry/fridge/freezer.  This…has been my unfortunate life.  I hate not getting my fresh produce.  I’m trying to get back into the habit of more clean eating, less processed stuff…but it’s been hard when my fresh produce isn’t delivered to my door and my roomie isn’t big on purchasing it from the grocery.

So, instead of living off the land, I’m living off the stocked shelves of my various kitchen stock rooms.  So, thankfully I had the Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo in my fridge because that meant…this box could move off my pasta shelf and make an easy dinner.  So…that’s what happened.

Preparing the Mrs Leeper’s Gluten Free Beef Lasagna was easy.  I heated up a skillet and put the soy chorizo into the pan.  I let it warm up a littie and then stirred in three cups of hot water and the packet of sauce mix included in the box.  That all had to come to a rolling boil, and then the pasta was added.  The heat was then reduced, the skillet covered, and the pasta allowed to cook for about 10 minutes (or until tender), with an occasional stir.  The skillet is then removed from the heat and left to stand for about 3 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

So, this dinner took about 15 minutes to prepare and it was totally legit and delicious.  The box says that ground turkey or tofu could be substituted for the beef, or the protein could be left out all together.  Any way you decide to serve it up, you have a delicious meal that is fast and easy to prepare…and…most importantly…DELICIOUS!

Because, yes…this, like the Mrs. Leeper’s meals that came before, was perfection.  The flavors were amazing.  The soy chorizo brought a nice touch of heat to the actual dish, but the rich tomato sauce was a great counter-balance to the heat.  And the corn pasta was, as always, brilliant.  I love corn pasta because it doesn’t fall apart, nor does it get gummy.  This cooked to a perfect al-dente, and when the leftovers were heated up later that week, the same held true.  I am actually quite addicted to these easy and fast meals.

Besides…I love pasta!

So, let’s talk ingredients.  The Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Beef Lasagna is made from corn pasta, and a lasagna seasoning, which is a blend of tomato powder, sugar, salt, potato starch, whey, autolyzed yeast extract, onion and garlic powder, hydrolyzed soy protein, citric acid, spices, beet powder, extractives of turmeric and paprika, natural flavor, lactic acid, xanthan gum, caramel color and silicon dioxcide to prevent caking.  Not bad, but not clean eating either.

As for nutrition…the Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Beef Lasagna serves 5.  Each serving contains 130 calories as packaged and 0 grams of fat.  You will also take in 0 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, and 3 grams of sugar.  A serving will also provide 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  Of course, that does change with the addition of your protein of choice.

Another brilliant pasta meal that is ready in about 15 minutes from Mrs. Leeper’s.  I am beyond impressed.  And, I’m certain I’ll be giving the remaining few Mrs. Leeper’s meals a try…with or without a substitute protein.  Guess it just depends on what I pick up and what might or might not work with it.  But, if you haven’t given the Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free pasta meals a try yet…do so.  It’s like Hamburger Helper…but SO much better!

Mrs. Leeper's Gluten Free Beef Lasagna (prepared)

Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Beef Lasagna (prepared)

 

Product Review: Improveat’s The Pure Wraps

Improveat's The Pure Wraps

Improveat’s The Pure Wraps

Product: Improveat’s The Pure Wraps

Looking for a good tortilla alternative?  Hey…sometimes we are.  I know I’m usually searching for some sort of wrap that I can use…in some fashion.  And I managed to find a few options in other areas of the country…but never really in my state or region.  One product that I have seen, but haven’t gotten the nerve to try are The Pure Wraps.  I spotted these at a few of my local natural food stores on end caps and the like…but I just haven’t managed to talk myself into getting them.

Enter my monthly delivery from Cuisine Cube!  If I haven’t gotten you curious enough to sign up for a month of this delivery…then you aren’t human.  Seriously, click on the link above and check them out.  It is affordable and you really do get some interesting and otherwise unknown products each month delivered right to your door.  All gluten-free.  How’s that for amazing?

So, in only my second cube to arrive, back in June, one of the products included were The Pure Wraps from Improveat.  Hmmm…now I didn’t have to talk myself into purchasing them.  I now had them within my clutches.  Thanks Cuisine Cube!  Anyway, I tucked these away in my hall pantry, and sort of had the fact that they were there lingering in my mind for awhile.  I just needed a good reason to get them out and try them.

Filling form y quesadillas: The Pioneer Woman's Butternut Squash & Kale

Filling form y quesadillas: The Pioneer Woman’s Butternut Squash & Kale

That moment presented itself in the week following my trip to Walt Disney World to run the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon.  My roommate and I are getting back on track with our clean eating and I still happened to have a butternut squash from my bin a couple weeks before.  I purchased some organic kale and whipped up a recipe from The Pioneer Woman for her Butternut Squash and Kale.  She had a link using it as a stuffing for quesadillas.  And I thought…well…I do have those Pure Wraps in my pantry.  I wasn’t sure how well it would work, but I figured…it was at least worth a try.

So, that evening, I managed to properly cut a butternut squash without almost losing a finger and without much problem.  I cooked up the delicious squash and kale mixture and then it was time for the quesadilla part.  I retrieved the packet of Improveat’s The Pure Wraps and opened it up.

Improveat's The Pure Wraps (raw)

Improveat’s The Pure Wraps (raw)

What I pulled out were squares of what almost looked like thin paper.  I was now wondering how these would work with the whole “drop in some butter to crisp up the outside” method for the quesadillas.  I figured there wasn’t much to lose, so, into the pan one went.  It took a moment to begin to brown, but it did…so I flipped it.  These didn’t exactly crisp up right away, so when I went to do the other one, I set the first on a paper towel.  That’s when it began to crisp up.  Maybe it would work.  Maybe not.  If not, just wrap it around the filling and eat it like…shawarma or something.

But…it did work.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when the wraps charred up and did become solid enough to hold the amazing filling I prepared simply with local squash and organic kale…and a little bit of seasoning.  Mmmm.  So, there it was…dinner.  It wasn’t a normal looking quesadilla,but it wasn’t made with your typical ingredients.  So…I cut them in half…and they crumbled slightly, but it worked.  Dinner was served.

I was actually so happy with the way Improveat’s The Pure Wraps tasted.  Considering they are made from only three ingredients, and not a typical tortilla, I wasn’t sure how well this would work.  But they worked perfectly.  And it was a different take on how to eat them.  Next time, and there will be a next time, I think I will leave them in their natural state.  But, even with the attempt at crisping them up, I still got the bit of sweetness from the coconut these wraps are made from.  And this really paired well with the earthy and spicy flavors of the squash and kale that I placed inside.  I was beyond satisfied with these wraps and honestly will be heading out to the store for more.  I’m excited about them.  I fell in love with them.  And, they fall right into the clean eating regimen that my roomie and I are trying to get back on.

So, what exactly are Improveat’s The Pure Wraps made from?  Simple.  Each wrap is made from only three ingredients: young coconut, coconut water, and Himalayan sea salt.  Boom.  That’s it.  You can’t get more pure than that!  The entire purpose of these wraps being created by Improveat (based out of Atlanta, Georgia) was to have a healthy bread/tortilla substitute that was highly nutritious, free of major food allergens (including gluten!) and convenient for today’s busy lifestyle.  It took over two years of research and testing to come up with the right product, realizing the vision of the creators without sacrificing their high standards.  Talk about a labor of love…and one that really paid off.  These wraps are gluten-free, raw, alkalline, corn-free, soy-free, dairy-free and egg-free.

As far as nutritional information goes, Improveat’s The Pure Wraps come in a package containing four wraps.  A serving size is one of these wraps.  One wrap will serve up 60 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.  They are cholesterol free.  You will be consuming 240 mg sodium and less than 1 gram of sugar.  Don’t you love that.  These wraps won’t make you feel bloated or stuffed either.  Each one contains less than 1 gram of fiber and they have no natural protein.  Thanks to the coconut that goes into each one, you also get a bonus of 120 mg potassium.  Gotta love that.

And you will love these wraps.  Honestly.  I can’t wait to try them again, and this time just use them in the simple manner they are prepared.  Just fill, roll and enjoy.  But, on a whole, these were very good the way I prepared them too.  They held up to even cooking, which I wasn’t sure how that would work but it did.

So, once again, Cuisine Cube, you have made a believer out of me.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to try a product that I had been too nervous to try before.  Stepping out of your comfort zone when it comes to food is important, and this made it easy to do so.

Gluten-Free Butternut Squash and Kale Quesadillas made with Improveat's The Pure Wraps

Gluten-Free Butternut Squash and Kale Quesadillas made with Improveat’s The Pure Wraps