Recipe: Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Sorbet

We all know that two of my favorite things in life is ice cream and chocolate.  Well, unfortunately, real ice cream and I don’t get along, so I’ve taken to exploring other avenues, such as frozen desserts made out of coconut milk, almond milk, or even sorbets.  Even better…I have an ice cream maker and often do a lot of experimenting on my own.  Sometimes it works brilliantly.  Other times…not so much.

But…HELLO PINTEREST!  While browsing through my Pinterest one afternoon, I ran across a recipe from King Arthur Flour for none other than a dark chocolate sorbet.  WOO!  I had every intention of making this sooner rather than later, so I went home that night and started chilling the bowl for the ice cream maker.  I prepped the actual recipe and let it chill overnight in the fridge.

My roomie and I were having her mom over for dinner the following night, so that morning, I went ahead and made the ice cream up to freezer.  It was brilliant…

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Sorbet

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Sorbet

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Sorbet

Servings: 10
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Chill 8-12 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional, but it really does enhance the chocolate flavor)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Peppermint Mocha Kahlua, regular Kahlua, or vodka, (optional, but it keeps the sorbet from freezing solid)

Directions:

Combine the sugar, cocoa, salt, espresso powder, chocolate chips, and water in a saucepan set over medium heat.

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until the chips and sugar are dissolved.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and Kahlua or vodka. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled; overnight is best.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It’ll remain quite soft; freeze for several hours before serving, to firm up.

~*~*~

This was a rich, decadent treat.  The Peppermint Mocha Kahlua was the perfect touch.  Not only did it lend an amazing flavor to the recipe, but it honestly does help prevent the ice cream from becoming hard as a rock.  LOVE.  This was one of my favorite treats I’ve made in my ice cream maker.

The Lonliness of the Injured Long Distance Runner

...and bling!

…and bling!

No athlete likes being injured.  Nope.  There is nothing worse than not being able to do something that you enjoy.  For most athletes, though, this simply means they show up to practice but don’t get to participate with the rest of the team.  The difference for the distance runner is that running is a very individual sport.  You can run with people, sure, but unless you run as a relay team, this is a very solitary, personal, and, yes…competitive pursuit.

And while you may train with people…hold each other accountable…when those long run miles are logged…it’s just you vs. them.  And sometimes…when you get hurt and are out for awhile…you get lonely.

And that, my dear friends, is the story of my life right now.

I think I’m an oddball in the running community in that when someone I know or train with is unable to join in the group runs or is injured, I send them messages and texts, check in on them, and all that.  And part of that is that I view running as a social activity.  Of course, I do have my own competitive streak.  I compare myself to my friends and other runners, but ultimately, my competitive streak is mostly against myself.  For me, running isn’t about winning a race or placing in an age division.  Running, for me, is about the people I get to meet along the way.  And, because it is the nature of the sport, sometimes these people get hurt or sick.  I try my very best to check in on them.

From past occurrences, I know how it feels to be down for the count.  I know how it feels to have to bow out of every Saturday long run because your body is not where it needs to be to participate.  Perhaps it’s a minor twinge, or something bigger like a muscle tear, stress fracture, or whatever.  Maybe it’s a lingering cold or respiratory thing.  Whatever the case, after weeks of being away, you suddenly feel…lost.

I feel lost.  I feel alone.

There have been a handful (yes, I can honestly count them on one hand) of people in my running community who have continued to check in on me, see how I was progressing, to see how I was feeling.  To find out what happens next, how long I’ll be out, or whatever.  A handful.  Sometimes it’s once a week…sometimes it is almost every other day.  I can’t tell you how much those little check-ins mean to me.

Because, let me be frank…

I AM NOT OKAY!

There, I said it.  This torn labrum in my hip has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to overcome.  My Boston Marathon time and performance have me doubting my abilities and whether I can even get back to where I was.  The fact that I don’t get much sleep because my leg hurts when I roll over doesn’t help my mood either.  And that’s what this is…a mood.  A funk.  A downtime.  The blues.  But every week I have to go with cross training (spin class, elliptical, swimming, yoga, etc) instead of hitting the roads on my own during the week and with my group on the weekends is another week I feel like my running “career” is ending.  I have good days…where pain is down or nonexistent, for sure, but most of the time, I put on the smile, say those positive things you’re trained to say aloud, and don’t let people know that inside I’m breaking apart.

Inside…I’m broken.  I spend at least 5 nights out of the week in tears because I hate doing my PT stretches.  They are boring and tedious.  I yell at my roommate for stupid reasons.  I have panic attacks over the medical bills I now have streaming in.  You ask anyone at my office about me though, and they would say that I’m just happy-go-lucky Karen.  No worries.  Hakuna Matata and all that rainbow unicorn stuff.  I’ve cried at my desk at work out of frustration, out of loneliness, out of just a feeling of doubt and fear…but no one here would know that.

Most of the people I know in the running community don’t know that either.  Well, they might now.  But I just feel like one of my core group of friends…people I have come to let into my tight circle…are lost to me.  And it sucks.  I told my mom the other day that I missed my running peeps…that I feel lonely.  And she said she could understand that.

Everyone can understand it, but not everyone knows how it feels unless they have been there.  I don’t like feeling like a failure, like a broken toy that has been cast aside.  I don’t feeling like I’m all alone in all of this.  Yeah, I know, I have my roommate and some close friends who aren’t runners who have checked in on me…but what about the people who should understand what I’m feeling the most?!  It sucks to feel so isolated when I’ve always tried to make it so no one would feel this way.

I just want someone to say, “How is the hip today?”  “How are you doing, honestly?”  “Do you want to dinner sometime?”  “Come out for coffee…we’d love to see you!”

Every race I miss or have to sit out…every upcoming event I stress out over whether I can do or not…it weighs so heavy on me right now.  I love seeing my friends do well in the sport…and I cheer the loudest for all of them.  But there is that little voice in the back of my head saying, “That could have been you hitting that new PR…that could have been you tackling that speed work…that could have been you placing in that race…”  Instead, I’m sidelined and doing what I can to keep my activity level up so my return in the (distant) future isn’t so rough.  And, to be frank, it just SUCKS!

Nothing turns off these thoughts these days.  I try to look past it…I try to stay positive…

But I can’t.  I am broken…and I don’t know how long it is going to take to get me back out there.  Every time I think about what happened before Boston, how much I fought to get to the finish line of that race…alone…crying for most of the course…I should be proud.  But I just notice that of the people in my group…I had the worst time.  I knew it was going to be rough, but that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done to myself.  Honestly.  It was a very lonely course from the start to the finish.  At times, I wanted to just give up…but I don’t give up…even when I really, really want to.  I’m stubborn like that.

But I miss my group.  I miss my friends.  I miss getting high fives and hugs and being told that I looked strong out there.  I miss being able to open up to people who aren’t my roommate and who aren’t my family.

I promise.  A torn hip labrum is a bitch to “fix”…but it isn’t contagious.  I just don’t want to feel so alone in all this anymore.

Running is competative and individual, I know…but for me…I’ve forged so many friendships that this cone of silence is killing me.  I just…miss feeling like one of the group.

I am not okay.  And I am not going to be okay for a long while.

I think I just want someone who has been there…done that…to tell me…that’s normal.  And maybe to invite me out for gluten-free pizza.

I miss running, sure.  But I miss those friendships more.

Recipe: Charleston Ice Cream

This might surprise you if you are unfamiliar with Carolina Gold Rice and/or Chef Sean Brock (owner of Husk in Charleston, SC and Nashville, TN)…but this isn’t really ice cream.  Not at all.  It’s a rice dish.

*SHOCK! GASP! DISBELIEF!*

But ever since I watched Sean Brock make this dish on Mind of a Chef, and really go in depth into how amazing Carolina Gold Rice really is…I not only wanted to try the rice, but I wanted to make this recipe as well.  Back in January, I went to Charleston, SC to run the Charleston Marathon, and while I was there, I hit up the market and purchased (for a hefty price…but worth it!) a sack of Carolina Gold Rice.  The actual phrase “ice cream” in this particular recipe refers more to the preparation, which involves a boil-and-strain initial cooking of the rice, and then the process of oven drying it to give it a better texture.  each grain is a distinct bit of food…no clumping.  As the rice dries and the butter is added, the rice simply becomes the star.  And that’s why it makes a simple, but perfect meal all on its own.

Since I had a bit of time yesterday, and since I wasn’t screamingly hungry, I went ahead and decided to use some of the field greens I got in my CSA bin as the topper for this dish and prepare it for dinner, using some of the Carolina Gold Rice I brought back from Charleston, SC.  It takes a little bit of time and patience, but the end result…is amazing, simple, and delicious.  A little elegant touch of the South right in your own home.  Trust me, you’ll rethink the way you prepare rice in the future.

Recipe: Charleston Ice Cream

Charleston Ice Cream

Charleston Ice Cream

Servings: 4
Time: Prep 5 minutes; Cook 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup Carolina gold rice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • Baby lettuces (or some julienned greens) (for serving)

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a heavy stockpot, bring the water, salt, pepper, and bay leaf to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add the rice, stir once, and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain the rice.

Spread the rice onto a sheet tray.

Dry the rice in the oven, mixing occasionally. After 10 minutes, spread the butter evenly over the rice. Continue stirring every few minutes. The rice should be dry in about 15 minutes, and the grains should separate.

Serve by plating the Rice in a bowl and garnishing with the baby lettuces.

~*~*~

This recipe is super easy and really simple to prepare.  I was most concerned about the flavor being bland, but I promise, it’s not.  The simple addition of salt and white pepper to cook the rice in, not to mention the bay leaf, brings in a huge amount of flavor.  And don’t skip the greens.  They are refreshing and add a great texture and flavor to the finished dish.  It’s an unconventional way of cooking rice, yes.  But, damn…it’s amazing!

I am definitely hooked on Charleston Ice Cream.  And…will want to keep Carolina Gold Rice in my pantry forever from now on.  If you don’t have Carolina Gold Rice, any long grain rice will substitute for it.  But, if at all possible, order some in, get your hands on some, and try it.  You’ll be amazed.

Recipe: Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

I’m getting back into the swing of using up everything that comes in my CSA bin before the next one arrives.  Sometimes, it’s hard…but this past week, I have literally used up every bit of produce that came to me last Friday in my green bin of happiness.  Ah, I love Friday because it is BIN DAY!

So, after using up the cucumber (I made a childhood favorite…cucumbers in vinegar), zucchini, squash, blueberries, apples, green beans, broccoli, watermelon, and onion, all that remained was the kale.  And, I do love cooking with kale.  Usually I make kale chips or use it in a breakfast egg scramble of sorts.  But I wanted to get a little more creative than that this time around.  So…with just enough white wine remaining in the bottle in the fridge, I set out to master…pasta and kale…with white wine.

The premise of the recipe was skimmed over while reading through the Funny Love blog.  And from there, I tweaked it to fit my dietary needs.  What emerged was a healthy, delicious, and runner-friendly (non-runner friendly too!) meal this evening that both my roommate and I sat down and devoured while watching Friends on Netflix.  Life…can be good and delicious all at once.

Recipe: Gluten Free Penne with Kale and a White Wine Sauce

Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

Servings: 4-6
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8-12 ounces Gluten Free Penne (I used Aldi’s liveGfree brand)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups kale
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup pasta water (reserve right before you drain the pasta)

Directions:

Cook the pasta per the package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, pull out a pan I used the one I was using to make the sauce) and add about an inch or two of water with about a teaspoon of salt.  Place pan on stove and bring water to a boil.

Cut the kale into large strips and remove the stems.

Put the kale into the boiling water for about a minute.  Drain the kale and set it aside.

In the same pan, prepare the sauce.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, the red pepper flakes, and the minced garlic and cook over medium heat, for about 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is soft and golden.  Do not burn the garlic.  It will make everything bitter.
Stir in the wine.  Allow the wine to come up to a boil and reduce for about a minute.  Then, add some of the starchy pasta water, if you’d like a bit more liquid in the dish.  Stir in the drained pasta, the kale, and some Parmesan cheese (as much as you’d like).  Season with salt, more cheese, red pepper, or pasta water as you deem necessary.

Serve.

~*~*~

This turned out to be a light dish, despite having the pasta integrated into the rest of it.  I found it a great way to use of a bottle of white wine from the fridge so that it didn’t go wasted.  And…I love finding new ways to enjoy kale!  Packed with nutrients, light, delicious…yeah…it’s a perfect meal.  And one I might consider the night before a long run…should this hip ever improve enough to get me back out onto the roads.

Product Review: Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels

Product: Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels – $5.00

Twas the day of a new product release and I was just sort of…scrolling through Facebook…completely unaware that such a thing was happening.  And then, one of my latest obsessions in the gluten-free bread world hit me up with the one thing that I, as a New Yorker, cannot ignore.

BAGELS!

GLUTEN-FREE BAGELS!!

Do you know how hard it is to find GOOD gluten-free bagels?  Immensely.  Seriously.  They are either too small and dense, or too light and fluffy.  Or they just taste all wrong.  As far as commercially available gluten-free bagels go, after trial and error on so many brands, Udi’s is the only one ever to keep me coming back.  The rest were just so many kinds of wrong in texture, flavor, or just feel.  Not saying that Udi’s is spot on either.  They are a little light in the middle, because, bagels are supposed to be dense and awesome.  I took to making my own…and that’s fine…but it’s a lot of work and sometimes it doesn’t always work out as planned.

So, yeah, I sort of released a few cries of joy and immediately went over tot the Canyon Bakehouse Web site to order the latest products they were introducing to the gluten-free market.  I skipped the Brownie Bites (for now) and ordered one pack each of the new Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels and Everything Bagels.

HELLO.  GOOD MORNING.

They arrived via Fed Ex yesterday afternoon, so I have wasted no time in getting these tasted, tried and reviewed.

This morning, after my spin class, I came home to load up two of the Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels into my oven (I do not own a toaster…so this is how we roll in my apartment), went to shower while they toasted, and came out to find them just about ready for the vegan cream cheese!

Life…was good.  Almost perfect.  Coffee was poured.  Bagels were toasted.  And the (Better Than) Cream Cheese (non-dairy for my delicate tummy) was spread on each half.  I passed the first bagel off to my roommate and then went to retrieve mine, after taking a few moments to simply wash out a few containers and the coffee pot.  Time to settle in.  Breakfast.

And good morning indeed!  Canyon Bakehouse just won my little bagel loving heart.  FINALLY…something so close!!  SO darn close that I fanned my hand in front of my face as I slowly chewed my first bite.  Now, I’ve had gluten-free bagels from NYC specialty bakeries.  And these…are nothing like those.  But these…these stand out in the gluten-free world for items you can buy in grocery stores and the like.  TOTALLY WOWED!!

Before toasting, Canyon Bakehouse have a nice, hefty feel to them.  They are pre-cut…all the way through so I’m not tearing at to edges (such is the case with Udi’s).  The insides have this amazing looking center, small hole, and a big, crusty, outside to it.  It felt like a real bagel.  It even looked like a real bagel.

I took my first bite…and it tasted like a real bagel.  Yes.  I was beyond elated.  I loved how the outside was crispy, without being hard.  It had some give to it still, and gave way to the perfect, tasted, but still tender bread in the middle.  Oh…my…freakin’…gluten…free…bagel.  These have an actual bagel taste to them too…not just tasting like…well…gluten free bread.  I love the texture and the flavor (yeah…this was the Plain, but still!).  Nothing plain about the taste of these.  Really phenomenal taste and totally filling.  Just as a bagel should be.  I felt content.  I felt loved.  I felt…full…but in a good way.  The best way.  The “I just consumed something mighty and gluten free and I loved every bite of it so much I might have devoured it faster than I should have but that’s okay!” kind of way.  I can’t wait to try the Everything Bagel version as Everything Bagels have always been my most favorite bagels.  Remember…I’m a New Yorker.

So, let’s talk ingredients that go into the Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels.  These amazing breakfast rounds of starchy, carby goodness are made from water, tapioca flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, cultivated brown rice flour, extra virgin olive oil, organic agave syrup, whole grain sorghum flour, xanthan gum, egg whites, baking powder, yeast, sea salt, and natural enzymes.  These bagels are gluten-free (of course), kosher, and non-GMO.  They are also cholesterol free and free of trans-fats.  YAY!  Even better, they are made with 100% whole grains.  LOVE IT.

Now, let’s delve into the nutritional facts for these bagels.  A serving size is 1 bagel (99 grams), and there are 4 bagels per package.  One serving will provide you with 250 calories and 6 grams of fat.  You will also be consuming 450 mg sodium, 45 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugars, 3 grams fiber, and 3 grams of protein.  Trust me, for a bagel this is phenomenal.  And, these nutrition facts beat out those of Udi’s Gluten Free Plain and (for those who do eat gluten) a Panera Bread Plain Bagel in everything but protein.  Healthier.  Canyon Bakehouse has definitely built a better bagel.

And yeah…I’m totally purchasing more of these.  My freezer will not be complete without a package of these tucked inside for those mornings when only a bagel will do.  These bagels make me feel right at home.  And that, my friends, says a lot.

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Plain Bagels with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

Product Review: Laughing Giraffe Organics Cherry Ginger Snakarola

Laughing Giraffe Organics Cherry Ginger Snakarola

Laughing Giraffe Organics Cherry Ginger Snakarola

Product: Laughing Giraffe Organics Cherry Ginger Snakarola – $7.99+

When a product goes by the name “Laughing Giraffe” I take notice.  Funny thing though…I’d never heard of this brand before.  Trust me…if I had, it would probably have already been a staple in my pantry.

This brand and product came to me courtesy of my monthly subscription to Cuisine Cube.  I know most of you, by now, are familiar with this service, but let me give you a quick rundown.  For as little as $29.99/month, you can have Cuisine Cube delivered to your door . What this service provides is 5-6 gluten-free, full-size products that are made by local and smaller, artisan companies, rather than those that you can find at the average grocery store.  It has introduced me to so many new and delightful products.  Each box contains a breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert product…and then, sometimes, an extra bonus item.  Who doesn’t love a little something extra, right?

So, April 2015’s Cuisine Cube featured Laughing Giraffe Organics Cherry Ginger Snakarola for the Breakfast/Snack item.  I was immediately intrigued.  Loved the name of the company and the name of the product.  And I love a good granola…and this looked like it was quality in a little pouch.  So, yeah…excitement.

Laughing Giraffe Organics is a family run business owned by the Gilmour family, based out of the San Francisco Bay Area.  They entered the health food business out of a desire to learn about healthy eating and how it could improve their own well-being.  Laughing Giraffe Organics mission is to provide quality nutritional snack foods that taste great and only use the purest organic ingredients that are nutrient dense and minimally processed.  I am loving this already.  Basically, they make foods that they believe will satisfy hunger without detracting from quality of life.  This is a company that truly wants you to eat well and live better.

Who can’t get on board with that, right?

It was my 5:30 a.m. spin class day at the gym yesterday.  I love my class, but it’s an hour long, and I have to go home, shower, and get everything together to get out the door to work.  It makes for a huge time crunch.  SO…in order to have something my roommate can eat and that I can take with me to work, it is often something like a Greek yogurt parfait or something of the sort.  This was the case this past Wednesday, and so, before heading off to the gym, I made up two bowls of my infamous breakfast parfaits…Greek yogurt, granola, and fresh berries.

I try to keep healthy (ie: low sugar) granola in the house, and since Cuisine Cube had provided me with some, I figured I’d take full advantage on such a chaotic morning.  I washed the berries and prepped the to-go bowl and the nice bowl (for the roomie to eat at home) for the actual assembly of the parfaits.  I put a small handful of the granola in each bowl, then spooned over the Greek yogurt, then added the berries.  Repeat.  Then finish off with another handful of granola.  It’s a filling, amazing, delicious and nutritious way to start the morning.  Of course, I had to try this granola on it’s own, as well as as a mixer with the parfait.

The Laughing Giraffe Organics Cherry Ginger Snakarola is a better granola.  It’s soft (like Van’s Granola), and packed with nuts and and tons of flavor.  I was a bit concerned with the ginger in the name of the product, but the ginger that is included in the mix isn’t candied or overwhelming.  It’s blended in perfectly and offset by the salty-crunchy nuts.  Then…to add to the decadence…dried cherries.  Honestly, it was a perfect blend for me.  Almost like a muesli while still being a granola.  It was amazing.  And it could be used over dairy-free (or regular) ice cream, in cookies, or eaten straight out of the bag…among other tings.  That’s the great thing about a fantastic granola…it can be so versatile.  The Laughing Giraffe Cherry Ginger Snakarola is all of that.  And…it’s addictive…in a good, healthy, and delicious way.

So, let’s take a look at the simple, basic, organic ingredients that go into each pouch of Laughing Giraffe Cherry Ginger Snakarola, shall we?  This granola is made up of organic walnuts, organic pecans, organic agave nectar, organic dried cherries, organic ginger powder, organic vanilla extract (gluten-free) and Himalayan pink salt.  This product compliments a Paleo diet, has a low glycemic point, is nutrient-rich and power-packed, is a fantastic source of healthy fats, and is packed with fiber to keep you feeling full.  This product is gluten-free, certified organic, raw, vegan and non-GMO.

As for nutrition information, don’t be frightened.  Remember much of this granola is made up of healthy nuts, which, are higher in calories and fats (but healthy…just keep to the serving size or below!).  A serving of the Laughing Giraffe Cherry Ginger Snakarola is 1/2 cup.  This serving will give you 290 calories and 25 grams of fat.  You will also be taking in 50 mg sodium, 13 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugars, 3 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of protein.  This granola is cholesterol free.

It was definitely love at first bite with this granola.  It wasn’t too sweet, nor was it spicy.  It was crunchy without being over toasted.  And it was soft and delicious.  Filled with the best sort of foods for healthy and fitness…yeah…this was a definite win.  Now to get more for my pantry.  Perhaps in another flavor.  Thanks to both Laughing Giraffe Organics and Cuisine Cube for this fantastic product!

Product Review: Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting

Grandpa's Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting

Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting

Product: Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting – $5.00+

Okay…I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking…what is the gluten-free vegetarian doing with a breadcrumb coating that is meant for making fried chicken?

Well…it all starts with Cuisine Cube.

I signed up for Cuisine Cube back in May 2014…and for a year have been receiving a monthly subscription box of full-size products from artisan and smaller gluten-free companies.  I love it.  You can subscribe for as little as $29.99/month.  While you might be uncertain about the quality of the service, let me tell you…you will receive products you may never have heard of and are definitely not readily available stores.  You will receive 5-6 products (full-size) each month, each one representing a time when you’d eat: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert.  And…sometimes…a bonus!  For me, some some products get used faster than others…and some sort of linger in my pantry until I can figure out something to do with them.

That was the case when, in my July 2014 Cuisine Cube, I received a 6 ounce package of Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting.  Upon first opening the box, I thought…”I’m a vegetarian…what am I going to do with this?”  But, as most of you are well aware, I do love to coat some of my fresh vegetables in different breading (some made out of re-purposed items, and some…from actual gluten-free breadcrumbs) and bake them up in the oven to serve for dinner.  And, after almost a year of procrastinating on this product, I thought it was time to move the last of the 2014 products out.

That honor…went to Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting.  Grandpa’s Gourmet was founded by a couple – he is a Celiac and she can’t have sugar, making meal planning quite a task.  One night, while she was preparing her grandfather’s old recipe for oven fried chicken, her husband gave into the craving and devoured all the fried chicken he could get his hands on.  He, of course, braced for the inevitable reaction – which never came.  Could it be…they had stumbled upon a recipe that would mean – “One Meal for Everyone!”?

Grandpa’s Gourmet calls their line of products “Encrustings” because they are breading taken to the next level.  Typical store-bought breading (or breadcrumbs) you get are genetically modified, unnatural wheat-based products that contain high amounts of sodium, sugar and preservatives.  Even most gluten-free breadings are loaded with fat because they are nut based or have a gritty texture as they are rice based.  But that’s what sets Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Encrustings apart.  Not only are their products all natural and healthy…but they taste great.  These encrustings have a non-GMO corn base, instead of rice or potato, giving it a fantastic texture.  They are sweetened with natural fruit juice…no artificial flavorings here.  And then, they fold in their own custom blend of spices and seasonings that smell amazing as they cook.

Roasted Broccoli over a Wild Rice Blend using Grandpa's Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting

Roasted Broccoli over a Wild Rice Blend using Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting

I don’t eat chicken…nor do I cook meat…but I do a lot with vegetables.  Had I thought about it before, the Grandpa’s Gourmet even suggests putting it on vegetables on the front of their pouch.  It says, “Also great on: pork, fish, pasta, and vegetables.”  VEGETABLES!  DUH!  So, last night and tonight, it was all about the Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting.

Last night, I roasted up some broccoli that I coated with some olive oil and the encrusting mix.  I did the same tonight with green beans, which I toasted up in the oven to get them nice and crispy and good.  Let me tell you, Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting is phenomenal.  While I liked it well enough on the oven roasted broccoli, it really shined tonight when I put it on the green beans and toasted those up for dinner.  WOW.  This breading is anything but bland.  In fact, it is a fantastic seasoning that would work well even in scrambled eggs.  Honestly…I am beyond impressed with this amazing product.  And to think, I never would have thought about this product otherwise.  It is versatile and amazing.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients that go into a pouch of Grandpas Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting.  This breading is made from organic corn meal (organic corn meal, organic grape and/or pear juice concentrate, sea salt), cashews, almonds, spices, salt, and orange peel.  This encrusting is gluten free, dairy free, soy free, MSG free, and non-GMO.

As far as nutrition goes, I am totally impressed with how this all adds up.  A serving of Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting is 1/4 cup.  There are about 6 servings per container.  One serving will provide 120 calories and 6 grams of fat.  This serving will also dish up 0 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 14 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugars, 2 grams fiber, and 3 grams of protein.

Honestly, I never would have given Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting a second glance, but thanks to Cuisine Cube, I now have a product I can actively seek out (and order) and indulge in and include in so many dishes.  This is one versatile breading…so even if you’re like me and don’t eat meat…you can still enjoy this product.  I am definitely in love.  Enough that I even ate the breading that flaked off my green beans tonight.  A nice salty-sweet treat at the end of a meal.  Definitely a new favorite.

Crispy Green Beans made with Grandpa's Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting

Crispy Green Beans made with Grandpa’s Gourmet Gluten Free Citrus Herb Chicken Encrusting

Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product: So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert – $6.99+

God bless So Delicious!  Because after swearing off the regular ice cream I used to indulge in each weekend (I miss my local ice cream parlor, but the dairy was too much for this stomach, even with supplements to help with the lactose intolerance), I can now have my indulgence back.  Yes…yes I can.  And in so many different varieties for a base.  Soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk…they have a little bit of everything.

But I’m currently on the biggest cashew milk kick.  Seriously.  It’s the companion to my cereal in the morning…a creamy addition to my overnight oatmeal…a key component to my dairy free (and creamy) gluten-free and vegan macaroni and cheese.  I love it more than soy milk, more than coconut milk, more than almond milk…and it seems to be holding true for the frozen items as well.

Then again, So Delicious has yet to really disappoint me with any product I have ever ventured to try of theirs.  It is one very trusted brand in my book.

So, with temperatures soaring outside this weekend, my roommate and I were cooking in and treating dessert as our cool down.  So, Saturday evening, after a simple and delicious dinner (after a long day of shopping and buying groceries and other such weekend sundries), I pulled the pint of So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert out of my freezer.  It was the other flavor of the new cashew milk frozen desserts that my roommate and I splurged on one day while out grocery shopping.  I already reviewed the Snickerdoodle flavor. While we ate, I allowed it the 10 minute defrost time, which is common with non-dairy frozen treats, so that it was scoopable.  Then, after clearing and washing dishes up…it was time to unveil the ice cream that awaited us.

I eased off the lid and pulled back the white plastic that sealed in the freshness.  I saw an amazing looking white ice cream, speckled with dark chocolate chunks and swirls of golden caramel.  I got out the ice cream scoop and easily dished up two servings into the ice cream bowls I had dug out of the cabinet.  Delivering one to my roommate, I returned to the kitchen to tuck the pint back into the freezer.  By the time I took up my own bowl, Cathy had already taken a taste of hers.

“How is it?”

“Mmmmmm.”

Well…that was all I needed to hear.  MY spoon touched the scoop in my bowl, dug in, getting a little bit of everything, and then was introduced to my taste buds.  It tasted like a smooth, creamy, rich…butter pecan (minus the nuts) base with a burst of amazing sweetness from the dark chocolate covered cashews.  Those, I think, were my favorite part.  But this ice cream definitely enhanced all the taste senses.  Salty and sweet, it was a perfect blend of flavor and richness.  I loved how the caramel ribbons were soft and accented the cashew milk base and the dark chocolate covered nuts that were scattered throughout the pint.  They were little bites of joy, for sure.  And I happily devoured each bite.  My only complaint, and this is a personal one, was that there weren’t enough of the dark chocolate covered cashews for my liking.  If these “clusters” are going to be significant to the name of the ice cream, be sure you load your pint down with them.  It was a hide-and-seek game with the scoop…but I managed to get these tasty morsels into each serving for both myself and my roommate.

Let’s talk about what So Delicious Dairy Free puts into their Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, shall we?  This ice cream flavor is made from cashew milk (water, cashews non-GMO canola oil), organic dried cane syrup, chocolate coated cashews [coating (cane sugar, coconut oil, cocoa (processed with alkali), chocolate liquor, natural vanilla flavor), roasted cashews (canola oil, safflower and/or sunflower oil, salt)], caramel sauce [organic tapioca syrup, water, molasses, pea protein, natural flavors, organic cocoa butter, sodium citrate, salt, pectin], natural flavor, sea salt, fair trade vanilla extract, gum acacia, and guar gum.  It is gluten-free, vegan, cholesterol free, free of trans-fats, and non-GMO.

As far as nutrition goes…aside from being a dessert and an ice cream treat at that, this is actually quite impressive and not half bad as far as the data goes.  One serving is 1/2 cup and there are 4 servings in each pint.  One serving will provide you with 180 calories, 9 grams of fat, 130 mg sodium, 18 grams of sugars (YIKES…but then again…ice cream!), 24 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 3 grams of protein.

As tempting as it is to devour the entire pint in one sitting, definitely savor it and eat only the serving.  It’s okay to treat yourself to a nice, cold, delicious treat and when you do…if you can’t handle dairy like me…then So Delicious has you covered for sure.  And…I am a HUGE fan of the new cashew milk frozen desserts.  I can’t wait to try the three other flavors!

BIG YUM!

Oh…yeah…it was polished off Sunday night.  Didn’t last long.  Never does.

A serving of So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

A serving of So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product Review: Pretzel Perfection Salted Caramel Clusters

Pretzel Perfection Salted Caramel Clusters

Pretzel Perfection Salted Caramel Clusters

Product: Pretzel Perfection Salted Caramel Clusters – $4.99+

One thing that most everyone who knows me knows about me is that I have this huge crush on anything salted caramel.  If it’s salted caramel, I want it in my belly.  Seriously…there is no better flavor combination that something that is rich and sweet and salty and yummy and…

I’m making myself hungry again…

So when my Spring (April 2015) Cuisine Cube hit my doorstep this past month, I was really excited about pulling out a little 3 ounce pouch of probably the most perfect snack food in history.  But, before I go into that, a quick recap on what Cuisine Cube is all about.  You see, Cuisine Cube is a gluten-free subscription box that specializes in pantry/meal items.  The best part being, you get full-size products, not just sample sizes.  Each month, you get 5-6 items (a breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert, and sometimes a bonus!) inside your little box of wonder from smaller artisan companies that specialize in some gluten-free goodness.  Subscriptions start as low as $29.99.  So, if you haven’t yet…hop on over to their site and check them out.

Anyway, what I was getting to just before that was that in my Spring cube, the most perfect dessert option arrived.  Sure, it was only 3 ounces of goodness, but everything about this treat screamed for me to just EAT IT ALL RIGHT THERE AND RIGHT THEN.  I didn’t.  I resisted…because I’m a blogger and I need to take pictures…but I now had a new product in my clutches!

The product – Salted Caramel Clusters from Pretzel Perfection.  First thing that won me over…the words SALTED CARAMEL.  The next thing…the delightful photo of these chocolaty covered pretzel things on the front of the pouch.  Chocolate covered pretzels have always been (and will always be) one of my favorite snacks/treats/desserts in the world.  I mean, the salty and sweet with rich and crunchy all rolled into one…HELLO!!  That’s perfection right there.  As the founders of this company must know given the name “Pretzel Perfection.”

Pretzel Perfection was created by Amy Holyk and actually began as a one-person operation in a converted garage.  Since then, Pretzel Perfection has grown into an expanding and thriving business, with focus on treats that are made of real food.  This company creates products that consumers can trust in and are committed to providing products that are of a higher quality, all-natural, and gluten-free.  They take great pride in the fact that they do not use any artificial flavors, colorings, or preservatives.

So…yeah…they had me with pretzels…dark chocolate…salted caramel.  They were already winning without me even tasting them yet.  But…this was the night.  These little bundles of pretzel goodness were my dessert tonight.  So, after a healthy dinner…it was time to indulge a little.

The Pretzel Perfection Salted Caramel Clusters are in their line of gourmet pretzel treats.  These treats are gluten-free pretzel clusters wrapped with caramel, coated in dark chocolate, and then sprinkled with sea salt and dark chocolate chips.  What’s not to love about that, right?  EXACTLY!!  They look like something I’d make to take into the office…which I love.  And I dove right in.  First of all, the dark chocolate is a nice bittersweet note to blend with the saltiness of the pretzel and the sea salt that adorns the top of the cluster itself.  The dark chocolate chips make for a nice compliment and an added burst of sweetness.  The pretzels are crunchy…I mean…dark chocolate coated to perfection.  The little square of caramel holes it all together and is the magic in the middle of this cluster.  Honestly…if heaven exists…it is inside this bag.  I am doing all I can not to raid it and eat the remnants.  Seriously.

My roommate and I devoured these in record speed.  I had a feeling I was going to like these…even love these…but I LOVE these.  Caps lock love.  That’s real love right there.

Let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  The Pretzel Perfection Salted Caramel Clusters are made from dark chocolate, caramel, gluten-free pretzels, dark chocolate chips, and sea salt.  Yep.  that’s it.  They are gluten-free and kosher.

As far as nutrition goes…dark chocolate pretzels aren’t going to be good for you in the long run, but…these really are worth a bit of a splurge.  A serving size is 1 ounce (about 2 pieces), and the pouch holds 3 servings.  One serving will give you 130 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 420 mg sodium, 18 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 11 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein.  Delicious…and…compared to some desserts…a healthy and delicious option.  Or, as they say on their Web site: ” Life is simply too short to not have fun with your food.”  Amen.

Seriously…everything about Pretzel Perfection Salted Caramel Clusters is…perfection.  The taste, the texture, the ccare and love that goes into the products they make.  Oh yeah…I’m a fan.  I have seen that these might be sold at Target.  You best believe I’ll be on the lookout for them and the other flavors that Pretzel Perfection makes.

Hop on over to Pretzel Perfection‘s web site and check out the products they offer and…if you’re feeling a little crazy…ORDER SOME!!  Seriously.  All my love and praise to Cuisine Cube for doing dessert oh, so right this month!

Recipe: Brussels Sprouts in a Gluten Free White Wine Sauce

So…I’m totally addicted to Brussels sprouts.  You may or may not be aware of this.  The first time I ever cooked them up, I made them in a casserole.  And then…it was all about the roasting.  With olive oil and seasoning…or maple syrup and nuts…the possibilities were endless.

But…I have a lot of wine in my apartment.  A LOT.  And with a fresh bottle of white wine now open and in the fridge…I am coming up with clever ways of using it that doesn’t involve drinking it night after night after night.  Not that there is anything wrong with that…but the medication I’m on for my hip sort of doesn’t mix well with alcohol.  So…yeah…

With Brussels sprouts in my bin this past week and wine in the fridge, I went on a small hunt for recipe ideas.  Because I was just going to roast them up…but that didn’t use any wine…

What I found was a recipe from Taste of Home, which I modified slightly to fit the ingredients I had on hand and to fit my dietary needs.  And what emerged…was a nice twist on Brussels sprouts.

Recipe: Brussels Sprouts in a Gluten Free White Wine Sauce

Brussels Sprouts in a Gluten Free White Wine Sauce

Brussels Sprouts in a Gluten Free White Wine Sauce

Servings: 4-6
Time: Prep 20 minutes; Bake 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, cubed
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened cashew milk)
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1 cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons raw whole almonds
  • 1 tablespoons sliced almonds

Directions:

Place Brussels sprouts and a small amount of water in a microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir; microwave 1-2 minutes longer or until partially cooked. Let stand 5 minutes; drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Combine cream and wine. Gradually whisk into flour mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the onions, chopped almonds, and reserved Brussels sprouts.

Transfer to a greased 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and Brussels sprouts are tender.  Season with salt and pepper.

~*~*~

This was definitely a change from the oven roasted version, but it was good to step outside the box and do a little cooking with wine.  And it was full of flavor and cooked up really well.  Everything went together.  I added a few red pepper flakes to my own bowl just to take it up a notch.

If you’re a Brussels sprouts fan…Try this!!