Product Review: Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Chicken Alfredo

Mrs. Leeper's Gluten Free Chicken Alfredo

Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Chicken Alfredo

Product: Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Chicken Alfredo – $5.99+

Awhile back, while on Manager’s Special, I picked up a box of Cheeseburger Mac made by Mrs. Leeper’s.  I know what you’re already thinking…

Vegetarian…cheeseburger…and chicken?


Because when I made the Mrs. Leeper’s Cheeseburger Mac, I used Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo (also gluten-free!) as the meat instead of the ground beef called for in the recipe.  It worked out beautifully.  So, while at my local grocery store a few weeks ago, some of the other Mrs. Leeper’s boxed meals were on closeout.  To me…this means that they are about to go away…and never return.  So…my roommate said that I should go ahead and choose one for us to try, since we both liked the last one that we had.

After looking them over for a few moments, I decided to go with the Gluten Free Chicken Alfredo.  For two reasons.  Reason number one: YUM!  Reason number two: I had the Beyond Meat “Chicken” Strips in the freezer that were just begging for some vehicle to carry it to the dinner table.  That came in the form of this exact box.  And this weekend was the perfect time to dish it up.

For one thing…BRRRR.  For another…I’m having a bad life right now and comfort food just sounds…comforting.  So, last night, I pulled one of the containers of the Beyond Meet Grilled Strips out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge.  This box came out of the pantry and sat in a place of honor on my counter top.  It would be dinner the following night.  TONIGHT!  I was thinking about cooking it up pretty much all day.

When it was just after 5 p.m., I finally got off the computer (I was blogging!) and went into the kitchen.  I pulled out my big skillet and set it on high-ish heat.  Out of the fridge came the chicken strips.  I opened them up and sliced them into bite-size pieces.  That didn’t take too long.  Then, into the hot skillet they went.  I gave them a stir, letting them warm up a bit.  Then, I opened up the box of Mrs. Leeper’s Chicken Alfredo and removed the sauce mix packet.  I measured out the 2 cups of hot water the box called for, as well as the 3/4 cup of milk.  As this meal actually has milk products in it, not wanting to risk discomfort of my tummy, I used my Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk instead.  Both of these were added to the skillet and then the powder mix inside the sauce packet.  I stirred it all together and brought it up to a boil.  Once there…in went the noodles.  I gave it another stir, reduced the heat, and covered it.  My homemade gluten-free dinner rolls went into the oven and I went to work on folding the first load of laundry, stopping every now and again to give it a stir.  It took about 11 minutes to cook completely and get the noodles to their perfect al dente.  I turned off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes before I was ready to dish it up.

It looked and smelled amazing.  But, then again, how can you go wrong when you have fake chicken and perfectly cooked rice pasta swimming in a creamy sauce?  Oh, I was anticipating dinner already.  I dished it up, two bowls for tonight and two bowls for another time.  I snagged the dinner rolls from the oven…and served it up with a helping of this week’s Dr. Who.  Because, dinner is always better when shared with The Doctor.

Anyway, I digress…

Let me just start by saying…WOW!!  Just…WOW!!  This actually tasted like the butter and cream-laden alfredos that I would devour at Italian restaurants all the time.  Hey, I was young and I didn’t know what calories were.  I just knew what I liked.  And that creamy, rich, delicious sauce over the cooked chicken with the pasta was…honestly…so comforting.  Like I said…comfort food.  So, this…this took me back.  It was that good.  The sauce was amazing.  Perfectly seasoned.  Light.  Yes…light.  Let’s hear it for unsweetened almond milk.  And the pasta…it was perfect.  While this can be served without a protein, the Beyond Meat Grilled Chicken Strips were a perfect substitute.  They really absorbed the sauce and paired well with the soft, velvety noodles.  This was heaven in a bowl.  And I might have attempted to savor it, but, in reality, just scarfed it down.  I’m glad there is another bowl waiting for me in the fridge.  That will be later this week for sure.

So, now that I’ve gone on and on about how great the Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Chicken Alfredo is…let’s talk about what is inside it.  Now, I am lactose intolerant, and I know people with dairy allergies…this does contain milk products.  Just be aware.  The ingredients are brown rice pasta, and the alfredo seasoning: whey, corn starch, salt, sour cream, Romano cheese, nonfat dry milk, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, spices, lactic acid, malodextrin, citric acid, buttermilk solids, natural cheese flavor, less than 2% soybean oil and silicon dioxcide to prevent caking.

Now, let’s talk nutrition.  Generally speaking, you get 5 servings out of this…but I made 4 slightly bigger servings with mine to keep it even.  A serving, however, is 1 cup prepared.  In this serving, you will be taking in 250 calories and 1.5 grams of fat.  You will also be consuming 5 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, and 5 grams of sugar.  Finally, you will be taking in 1 gram of fiber and 4 grams of protein.  All of this, however, does go up if you use real chicken and/or fake chicken or tofu.  This is just for the pasta and sauce itself.

For the second time, I have been pleasantly surprised by Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free products.  First the Cheeseburger Mac took my kitchen by storm, and now…I just want to keep eating more of the Mrs. Leeper’s Gluten Free Chicken Alfredo.  It really was amazing.  Great flavors, great textures, and a great dinner overall.  I couldn’t have asked for a better dinner tonight.  Comfort from comfort food…achieved.  Thanks again, Mrs. Leeper’s.

Restaurant Review: Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, Ohio

Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, Ohio

Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, Ohio

Restaurant: Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, Ohio

It had been a long day for me.  No…really.  And, while a part of me was super stoked that I was leaving right from work to drive up to Cincinnati, Ohio, with my roommate, for a concert, another part of me just wanted to curl up under a blanket on the sofa at home.  But…there was music to be enjoyed.  And she had purchased a set of tickets to see Bastille in Cincinnati awhile back to help cheer me up.

This foot injury has had me pretty down since July…and she thought a surprise and a band I love might just help lift my spirits.  It did.  but this was a crazy, intense week at work, and my brain was ready to shut down.

Thankfully, that mindset changes when you actually get on the road to an event that you are really looking forward to.

So, at 4 p.m., we departed the office and hit the road up to Cincinnati, Ohio.  A couple of days prior, Cathy had made reservations with a place not to far from US Bank Arena (the venue for the show) due to some gluten-free options available on their menu.  I love trying out new food places so…WOOHOO!  Even better…it had fish and chips readily available for her.  YAY!  She made the reservations for 6:30 p.m., which would give us some time to hit traffic and get into the city, park, and get to the venue.  The last-ditch food option would be Chipotle, if the traffic gods were not with us.

But they were…and we arrived in Cincinnati just before 6 p.m., having only hit some traffic in Covington, Kentucky, just before crossing into Ohio and hitting Cincinnati.  We readily found parking and got out, making the short stroll from the parking garage (with it’s $20 event parking!) to the restaurant, which was literally one block up and then over…down toward the river walk.  Beautiful night too.  Perfect weather.

We walked up the stairs to Moerlein Lager House and stepped inside.  There were a few people ahead of us, but most went right to the bar.  We stepped up and Cathy mentioned that we were early, because traffic wasn’t as bad as we anticipated…and they were more than happy to sit us down early.  Nice.  We were shown to a very nice table, somewhere between the rowdy bar and the floor to ceiling windows, which offered a spectacular view of the riverfront.  We were given our menus and a menu that had the specials on it, where if any item were ordered off that menu, a donation would go towards a charity.  Tempting, but there really wasn’t anything on there for me…and Cathy had her heart set on fish and chips.  Our waitress, Kelly, came over to see if we wanted something to drink.  We started with water.  And when she returned, she asked if we wanted any appetizers or had any questions on the menu.  Cathy mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian…and she came over.  I think she missed the “vegetarian” part following gluten-free…because she highly recommended the crab cakes.  But…hey…she tried.  And…working in it’s favor – the restaurant labeled everything V for vegetarian and GF for gluten-free.  And wouldn’t you know it…they had a dish that fit both requirements.

Cathy ordered her Fish and Chips ($18.00), which was cod that was battered with their house beer, Hudelphol, and served with a jalapeno tartar sauce, coleslaw, and fries…and decided she’d live dangerously with a non-alcoholic beer (I agree with some friends of mine on this…what’s the point??!), Einbecker ($7.00) to have with her entree.

As for me…I happily placed an order for the Crispy Balsamic Tofu ($17.00).  YES!  You read that right.  This entree was served with a spinach basil risotto and roasted tomatoes, cipoline onions, and wild mushrooms, topped with shaved asparagus and preserved lemon salad.  It had actually been a toss-up between that entree, or ordering a few sides and dining on that.  Cathy pointed out I could get those sides offered virtually anywhere…but the tofu dish was an original.  I agreed…and that’s what I ordered.

Moerlein Lager House's Crispy Balsamic Tofu

Moerlein Lager House’s Crispy Balsamic Tofu

While we waited for food, we discussed the concert…the music…my upcoming marathon…my foot (which to this day still bothers me!)…and the restaurant itself. And, when our food arrived, we were both certainly ready to dive in and devour.

My dish looked beautiful.  It was a true culinary work of art.  The tofu was sliced on the diagonal, making perfect triangles that had this great crispy coating on the outside.  It was all set over this mound of perfectly creamy risotto with the vegetables framing the outside of the dish.  Shaves asparagus topped it all off and there was this gorgeous balsamic reduction that was drizzled over the plate.  I felt bad slicing into it…but I was hungry, so that moment only lasted briefly.

One bite was all I needed to realize how much I loved this meal.  The tofu had this great crispy outside, but inside it was still rich and soft.  It was glazed perfectly with the balsamic reduction and the hit of lemon just made it shine.  The shaved asparagus was cooked to a perfect al dente and used as not only a garnish, but as a great addition to the roasted vegetables on the plate.  The onions were spectacular and the tomatoes were soft and juicy.  But the star…the absolute star of this entree was the spinach basil risotto.  It was phenomenal.  Creamy and rich and packed with great earthy and herby flavors.  I was already telling Cathy after one bite that I wanted to recreate this dish at home.  She sampled the risotto and understood why.  I also had her try the tofu…and she really liked that as well.  This dish hit on everything I liked.  It had a nice tang to it, but the flavors were simple and real.  And I ate the entire thing…possibly in record time.

A dessert menu was brought to our table and after a bit of discussion…and the mention of a Chocolate Creme Brulee ($7.00), Cathy and I decided that we could treat ourselves and split the dessert.  Cathy checked with Kelly to make sure the Creme Brulee was gluten-free.  She said she thought it was, but would check.  It was…and after a small wait, the delicious looking dessert was arriving at our table with two spoons.  Holy Moses!  This was one spectacular and rich dessert.  The burnt sugar on top was fun to crack through, but what it gave way to was this rich and decadent chocolate cream.  Cathy described it as high-class pudding.  HA!  And that’s what it tasted like.  It was amazing.  And I think once we set the spoons down, Cathy might have licked the bowl a little bit.

Honestly, the service was amazing and I didn’t feel nervous about eating here.  The clearly labeled items on the menu helped make it very easy to navigate and to make sure I got what I needed and wanted.  And what would be safe for me.  Cathy loved her meal, and even enjoyed the jalapeno tartar sauce.  She said it was her second favorite tartar sauce she’s had yet.  That’s something.  The food was outstanding.  I mean…it’s not every day I can get a vegetarian dish that is also gluten-free at a restaurant without it being…a salad.  So, this was a nice treat, indeed.  And one day, when I run the Flying Pig Marathon…you better believe this is the place I’ll be hitting up for dinner.

Thank you, Moerlein Lager House…you exceeded my expectations!

Moerlein Lager House's Chocolate Creme Brulee

Moerlein Lager House’s Chocolate Creme Brulee


Product Review: Udi’s Gluten Free Spicy Southwest Veggie Breakfast Burrito

Udi's Gluten Free Spicy Southwest Veggie Breakfast Burrito

Udi’s Gluten Free Spicy Southwest Veggie Breakfast Burrito

Product: Udi’s Gluten Free Spicy Southwest Veggie Breakfast Burrito – $3.49+

It all began at Expo West…which I always dream about attending but know that it is highly unlikely.  The best part about Expo West is that all the companies who are in attendance usually announce and promote their new products that are set to hit stores throughout the coming year.  I try to follow my Twitter feed closely while Expo West is happening, just waiting for one of the gluten-free companies or a gluten-free blogger who is there to post what they are releasing or what they have seen at the booths of certain gluten-free companies.

So, when I saw not only freezer meals but also gluten-free burritos pop up from Udi’s Gluten Free…you better believe I perked up and took interest.  Of course, it took until now for me to find the burritos in my area…but it happened yesterday.  I made a random stop off at my local Meijer and discovered these little delights hidden in the freezer section.  I scanned the boxes…seeing so many of them to choose from, but most of them with meat.  And then…I spotted the two versions that did not include meat.


One was a breakfast burrito and the other one for lunch/dinner.  My roommate spotted the Udi’s Gluten Free Chicken Apple Sausage Breakfast Burrito, so it was decided that today, after we went swimming, we’d come home and have breakfast burritos for breakfast before running some errands and whatever else needed to be done.  So, I grabbed the vegetarian version – the Udi’s Gluten Free Spicy Southwest Veggie Breakfast Burrito, and we checked out.

And I was excited.  My laps in the pool couldn’t end soon enough.  And when they did…I changed…I drove home…and I was totally ready to eat.  For real.

Preparing the Udi’s Gluten Free Breakfast Burritos is super easy.  Remove from the freezer, and take out of the wrapper.  Wrap the small (it is small) burrito in a moist paper towel and microwave for 1 minute and 35 seconds on high.  My microwave is old…so I did it for 2 minutes to ensure they were warm all the way through.  Allow the burrito to sit for 1 minute before removing it from the paper towel and devouring.

My roommate had hers done first.  And as I threw mine, wrapped in a paper towel, into the microwave, I asked her what she thought.  She said that the tortilla was nothing special but the filling was phenomenal.  So, that was good.  YAY!  Made me feel good about mine as it cooked through.  When mine finished up, I allowed it to sit, and then, for blogging photo purposes, I cut mine in half.  It was still a little frosty on the inside, so I tossed it, now unwrapped, back into the microwave for an additional 30 seconds.  That worked.  Time to eat.

I sliced into my burrito, having not had a burrito in ages.  Seriously.  Ages.  Years.  Since I have been a Celiac.  So…I was just…dying to try it.  I took my first bite and was…slightly underwhelmed.  It wasn’t bad at all.  It just…didn’t have much flavor to it.  It felt like it was lacking seasoning or something.  A dash of something just to elevate the flavors.  But…it wasn’t bad.  I could taste all of the vegetables that were inside, and loved the various textures that they brought to my palate.  But, I actually think the tortilla was my favorite part of mine.  If I had thought about it while eating, I would have put some hot sauce on the burrito…but it didn’t even occur to me.  Weird, because I always put hot sauce on breakfast things that involve veggies and potatoes and eggs.  I guess I was focusing on eating it…seeing what I liked and what I didn’t.  The tortilla was soft and delicious.  The inside was stuffed, for sure, with all the egg whites, vegetables, potatoes, and even some cheese.  It was a good breakfast, for sure.  Filling and ultimately good…but I just thought a little dash of something…cayenne or salt or something…might just make it great.  And…I found this more mild than spicy for sure.  No spice at all.  Hence…add your own hot sauce.  For real.

So…let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  The Udi’s Gluten Free Spicy Southwest Veggie Breakfast Burrito is best examined in two parts.  The filling of the burrito is made up from cooked egg whites, roasted potatoes, cheese sauce, heavy cream, butter, water, potato flour, onions, rice starch, parmesan cheese, tomatoes in juice, poblanos, corn, cheddar cheese, jalapenos, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, corn starch, lime juice, salt and spices.  The tortilla is made from water, tapioca starch, modified food starch, sweet rice flour, powdered cellulose, tapioca syrup, palm oil, egg whites, pea protein, tapioca maltodextrin, cane sugar syrup, glycerine, gum, cellulose gum, cultured corn syrup solids, citric acid, lactic acid, salt, enzymes, fumaric acid.  Whew…it’s a laudnry list of ingredients…and not all of them sound like real food, right?  So…yeah…there are some chemical-ish sounding things in there…but a majority of the ingredients are real food.

As for the nutritional information, a serving is 1 burrito.  This burrito will provide you with 200 calories and 5 grams of fat.  Not bad for a breakfast burrito, right?  You will also be consuming 5 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, and 4 grams of sugar.  Finally, you will be eating 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein.  Like I said…filling!

So, the filling wasn’t much to scream about, but the tortilla was delicious and cooked up to perfection, without getting dry and hard in the corners or anything.  Love that.  Would I purchase this product again…maybe…if I needed something easy and fast.  But next time, I’ll have my own hot sauce ready.  Don’t believe for a moment that these flavors bring any sort of spicy heat…but that is really my only complaint.  A little more flavor will bring this to breakfast perfection!

Udi's Gluten Free Spicy Southwest Veggie Breakfast Burrito

Udi’s Gluten Free Spicy Southwest Veggie Breakfast Burrito

Product Review: Nature’s Path Organic Gluten Free Mesa Sunrise Cereal

Nature's Path Organic Gluten Free Mesa Sunrise Cereal

Nature’s Path Organic Gluten Free Mesa Sunrise Cereal

Product: Nature’s Path Organic Gluten Free Mesa Sunrise Cereal – $4.39+

Okay…here’s the awful truth.  The moment I pulled this box down from my pantry this morning and looked at the cover I said a silent prayer.  Seriously.  I had to.  I was really concerned that, sort of like the last flaky cereal I ate (sorry Freedom Foods…I love you but…NO!), these would taste like cardboard.  There is nothing worse, especially in this day and age, than getting a gluten-free product and having it taste like…a box.  It just shouldn’t happen.

So, with much trepidation, I opened up the box and scooped out a serving of the cereal.  I snagged a couple of the flakes…just ready to get angry at myself for risking my morning cereal tradition with a new flavor, despite being made by a company I trust.  It didn’t work out for me with Freedom Foods (and I love all the other stuff I tried of theirs…just not that one cereal!)…so I begin to doubt ALL the brand names now.

This…is the life of a Celiac…who is still taking risks and trying new stuff.  I mean, hey, I can’t just stick with the classics.  Well, I could, but what fun would that be.

Nature’s Path has an entire line of organic cereals and a good number of them are gluten-free.  I’ve treated myself to many of their Envirokidz cereals in the past, as well as these “adult” cereals…you know…the ones with actual flakes from ancient grains and no cute animals on the box.  I guess sometimes I do need to act my age.  HA!  Anyway…this was one of the ones that was on sale when I was out shopping for cereal…and it intrigued me at the time.  The sale price, I guess…more than anything.  I am a girl on a tight budget…sometimes I see gluten-free and a sale sticker and that’s what goes in my shopping basket.

The Mesa Sunrise Flakes cereal is a naturally sweetened ceral of crunchy, golden flakes that are made from a blend of Indian corn, flax, and amaranth. Completely gluten-free.  They look like speckled corn flakes, honestly.  And, perhaps, that’s exactly what they are.  But…upon first appearance I had that initial thought:

“Oh…these are going to taste like cardboard…and for the next week…I’ll have to choke them down.”

So, those couple of flakes I snagged from the serving I dished up in my cereal bowl were the primary test.  And…

They were not just good, but really good.

First of all, the texture is great.  You get this perfect crunch with each bite…so you feel like you’re eating something substantial that won’t go soggy in 30 seconds once you top off your cereal with almond milk…or whatever you like to put on your cereal.  That was a huge plus.  But the most surprising thing was the flavor.  I thought these would be bland and dry, but they weren’t.  In fact, they had this nice touch of sweetness to them, the result of sweet corn and the addition of evaporated cane juice, I’m sure.  But it had this great flavor and I could tell that it would stick with me after I ate it…unlike most gluten-free cereals, which tend to be laden with sugar and less protein and fiber.  I burn through those.  This actually felt substantial.  And healthy.  And good!  And being made from some great whole grains does help make this a well rounded and delicious breakfast.

Let’s talk about these ingredients for a moment, shall we?  The Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise Flakes are made with organic corn meal, organic yellow corn flower, organic evaporated cane juice, organic flax, organic buckwheat flour, organic quinoa, organic amaranth, sea salt, and tocopherols (natural vitamin E).  These flakes are gluten-free and cholesterol free.

As far as nutrition goes, the Nature’s Path Organic Mesa Sunrise Flakes are a great way to start your day.  Very healthy.  A serving size is 3/4 cup.  In this serving, you will be taking in 120 calories and only 1 gram of fat.  This serving provides you with 125 mg sodium and only 4 grams of sugar.  And you will be consuming 3 grams of filling fiber and 3 grams of protein.  It’s a substantial and hearty cereal that is low in sugar (LOVE that!) and healthy thanks to being made from whole grains.  I am in love with this cereal.

Nature’s Path has become a reliable and easy-to-find brand when I’m searching for some gluten-free options.  Every cereal I have tried, both in their grown-up line and their Envirokidz line, have been outstanding.  No wonder this company is thriving.  If you need a healthy breakfast, I highly recommend trying the Nature’s Path Organic Mesa Sunrise Flakes.  Great cereal and a great way to start your day!

Product Review: Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Twists

Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Licorice

Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Licorice

Product – Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Twists – $3.19+

So…I’ve been savoring a product that I received in my first ever Cuisine Cube (May 2014)…for good reason.  You see…I love sweets.  No surprise.  I mean, I’m all about eating healthy and all that, but I believe treats are a welcome part of life.  And without treating yourself every now and again, you will go insane and be no fun at all.  This is why I believe in dessert after dinner.  Moderation is key, of course, but…I think your day of eating should end with a treat, be it fruit, a piece of candy, ice cream, a cookie, a brownie, or a slice of cake.  You’ve earned it.  Even if it’s just a bite.

Well…having just signed up for my monthly cube of gluten-free goodness, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  I, of course, had read about Cuisine Cube before actually choosing to sign up for the delivery service…but knew next to nothing about what would all be involved.  What is involved is that, every month, a delicious box of gluten-free goodies arrives, spanning the entire spectrum of meals.  One breakfast item, a snack item, a lunch item, a dinner item, a dessert item, and then…every now and again…a bonus.

In May 2014’s cube…there was a bonus.  This one included…


Yes…I am an athlete…but I’m also a real person…and I like candy as much as my 7 nieces and nephews do.  However, when I had to go gluten-free three years ago…certain candies that I loved were now off the table, as it were.  One such favorite treat was…Twizzlers.  Not only did Twizzlers make mouths happy throughout my childhood and…yes…even my adult life…but I loved them.  Simple flavored licorice (only the red…not a fan of black licorice at all!)…fat free…chewy…delicious.  Something so simple and yet…so fundamentally iconic.  Makes mouths happy, indeed.  But…Celiac disease happened…and Twizzlers became only a fond, distant memory.

Until…May 2014.  Inside my Cuisine Cube that month was…this little pouch of little organic licorice twists.  The brand was Candy Tree.  I’d never heard of them before but now I wanted to marry them.  Hey…sometimes it’s the little things in life that bring the most joy.  I vowed I was going to eat them and relive all my Twizzler moments.  I put them in my snack drawer…and thought about opening them on countless occasions and then…I just…didn’t want to.  I didn’t want to fall in love with them and not be able to have them again.

But, after not really wanting to make anything for dessert tonight, and not feeling cookies (shock!)…I wanted something light.  And, then I remembered the licorice twists in my drawer.  The package held two servings…perfect for my roommate and I to split between us.

Candy Tree was actually founded in 1984 by two parents who were concerned with what their seven children were eating.  They began to cook up lollipops, toffees, licorice and hard candies, all made with organic ingredients and using an organic corn malt as a base.  They then would flavor these treats with real fruit and organic apple juice.  These treats are made in Holland, with strict precautions being taken so that there is no gluten contamination.  So…you are literally getting something to satisfy your licorice craving without all the bad stuff.

And…tonight…I opened up the little plastic pouch and split the Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Licorice Twists between myself and my roomie.  Moment of truth.

I don’t remember much about Twizzlers, as it has been three years since I’ve had them…but I do remember them being really soft and chewy.  The Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Licorice Twists…are not as soft and chewy.  My roommate, who literally just had Twizzlers on Friday, said the same thing.  They are a little tougher than licorice twists she’s used to…but the flavor was amazing.  You would be hard pressed to believe that these organic licorice twists have no added sugar at all.  None.  Everything comes from the real fruits and fruit juices that help to create these.  While these were a little tougher than I normally would like licorice…I just want to say…I WAS EATING LICORICE!!  So, I didn’t care that they had a little bite to them.  They were packed with great flavor and they were sweet without being over-the-top sugary sweet.  In fact…I ate through my serving in what is probably record time.  You try not having something you love for three years and then having something that is the gluten-free equivalent in your grasp and see how long it lasts.  HA!

So, let’s discuss what the Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Twists are actually made from, shall we?  These licorice twists are made with organic corn syrup, organic rice flour, organic rice starch, organic apple juice, organic concentrated fruit juice: raspberry (3%), organic flavor: raspberry, citric acid.  This product is gluten-free, wheat-free, milk/casein free, soy free, and organic.

As far as nutrition goes, a serving size of the Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Twists is 40 grams (or 1/2 of the package).  There are two servings per package.  A serving will provide you with 140 calories.  These are completely fat free.  One serving also will give you 19 grams of your daily sugar intake.  A serving has no fiber and only 1 gram of protein.  So, it isn’t filling.  It’s candy.  A treat.  Enjoy it.

So…while they weren’t the highly processed (thank goodness!) Twizzlers I grew up eating, they were very delicious.  It was a very nice throwback to a candy I used to devour at every waking moment.  These were a great, organic, no sugar-added treat that I would be more than happy to eat all over again.  Thank you, Cuisine Cube, for introducing this fantastic candy treat to me.

Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Licorice Twists

Candy Tree Organic Raspberry Licorice Twists

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

Neat - A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix

Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix

Product: Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix – $4.99+

For the last few issues, I’ve noticed that my Delight Gluten Free magazine has had ads for this vegan meat replacement called Neat.  I was beyond intrigued and immediately went on the hunt in my local natural food stores.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, no one in my area carried this product.  At least not yet.  I said I’d get online and see if I could order it, but, naturally, I forgot to do that.  Story of my life.

I can’t help it.  I have too much to think sometimes and these mental notes and reminders get lost in the shuffle.

But then…it was as if they felt the need to answer my unspoken prayer…my favorite monthly delivery arrived.  Cuisine Cube’s October cube arrived in the mail and I immediately tore into it, wondering what sort of surprises awaited inside.  And if you haven’t looked into ordering a Cuisine Cube yet…get over to their Web site and try it out.  Seriously, this is one of the best investments I have ever made.  Receiving gluten-free items from smaller and lesser known companies each month has become a treat I look forward to every month.  So…if you have made a mental note to check them out, and it’s gotten lost in the shuffle…click on the link above and check it out.  For real.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog…

So, October’s Cuisine Cube arrived and one of the items inside was…you guessed it…because I’m blogging about it…Neat – A Replacement For Meat!  The version included in the box was the Mexican Mix.  Neat, for the record, also has an Original Mix (for burgers/chili), an Italian Mix (for “meatballs” and lasagna), and also a Breakfast Mix (for quiches and breakfast sandwiches).  Let me tell you…I did this happy little dance of joy and might have squeaked a bit when I pulled that pouch out of the cube.  Seriously…after reading about it and looking for it…I finally had it in my clutches!

As a gluten-free vegetarian, vegan/vegetarian meat substitutes are hard to come by.  Most vegan/vegetarian meat substiutes have some sort of vital wheat gluten in them.  And a lot of companies refuse to go the gluten-free route because it would “jeopardize the integrity of the product.”  BOOOO!!  So, up until recently, I’d just season up some tofu and work with that.  But…it’s not the same.

So, what exactly is Neat?  Neat is a meat replacement that is derived from nuts and other non-GMO natural ingredients.  It is a product that was created by a mother of two children who decided that they were going to become vegetarians.  At first she would puree beans into sauces to help her girls get the protein they wanted, but after awhile, everyone got tired of it.  And that was when she got into the kitchen, experimented, and created what is now marketed at Neat.

Neat - A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix (in a skillet with chopped onion and chopped green pepper)

Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix (in a skillet with chopped onion and chopped green pepper)

Neat comes in this shelf-stable pouch in a powdered form.  All you do to prepare it is pour the pouch into a bowl, add two eggs (or a vegan egg replacer), plus two tablespoons of water.  Stir all the ingredients together and throw it into a skillet over medium heat, just as you would ground beef, for about seven minutes.  To make it into crumbles, as it cooks, stir and chop it up, and what you end up with is this perfect texture of meat crumbles that is not just completely vegan/vegetarian…but also gluten-free!

Now…gluten-free and vegetarian tacos are sort of something I’m famous for.  I have gotten really creative with how to prepare tacos (Tour De Taco happens often at my apartment) to make them not just gluten-free, but also meat free.  And a meat replacement hasn’t been used in a long time.  So, while I had a pouch of the Mexican Mix from Neat, I decided to bring back an old favorite of mine as a kid, back when I ate meat and would basically beg my mom to make this for dinner.

What I did was cook up my mom’s famous Enchilada Hotdish.  Normally this is made with ground beef, but this meant I could use the Neat Mexican Mix for a different purpose.  Tacos…been there, done that.  Enchilada Hotdish…haven’t had that in AGES!!  So, that’s what I did.  I picked up a gluten-free and vegetarian can of chili and I got a roll of Teese Vegan Nacho Cheese…and the rest was vegetables and seasonings I already had at home.  Perfect.

So, tonight…I pulled out the Cuisine Cube treat of Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix and set out to prepare it.  I chopped up the vegetables that were needed and then retrieved the can of chili and the vegan nacho cheese (which I substituted for the cheddar cheese soup) and had them ready with my seasoning.  First things first…preparing Neat.

Super easy.  I poured the powdered contents of the package into a medium mixing bowl.  Then, per the instructions, I added two eggs and the water and mixed it up.  It created this…sludge of sorts…but I trusted it and went with it.  I had a non-stick skillet on the stove and put the Neat into it to start browning.  The vegetables were also added so they could start to get soft before I added the rest of the ingredients.  With everything in the pan, and heated through, I began to assemble the hotdish itself.  This meant putting the “meat” mixture into the casserole dish, then layering it with tortilla chips, then repeating it.  Into the oven it went to bake and about 30 minutes later…viola!!  I was enjoying a version of my mom’s Enchilada Hotdish.

So…how was it?

It is not an exaggeration when I say I want to marry Neat.  For real.  WOW!  I was SO impressed, not only with the flavor, but how great the texture it.  Here is a company that is getting ti right.  Going into the pan to cook, it didn’t look appetizing or promising, but it all came together.  And it was the perfect meat substitute for the beef that would have been normally used in this recipe.  I am thrilled with this product and think I’ll be placing an order to try ALL the Neat products.  And, I also might straight-out make tacos next time.  But, I figured I should really put this product to the test.  Trust the hype…it’s amazing.

Also…tested it out straight from the pan on the tortilla chips and…oh…yum.   Makes a great dip too!  HA!

Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Enchilada Hotdish (made with Neat - A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix)

Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Enchilada Hotdish (made with Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix)

Let’s first delve into the nitty-gritty ingredients and nutrition of Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix.  The Mexican Mix version of Neat is made from pecans, garbanzo beans, organic whole grain gluten free cornmeal, sea salt, and spices.  So, where this is meat-free and dairy-free, and also gluten-free…it is NOT nut-free.  So, if you have a nut allergy…this product is not for you.

As for nutrition, a serving of Neat Mexican Mix is 40 grams and each pouch contains 4 servings.  This serving will give you 21o calories and 15 grams of fat (healthy fat as it is coming from beans and nuts).  A serving will provide you with 333 mg sodium and 2 grams of sugar.  And, trust me, the 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein will leave you feeling full…whether you’re making a hotdish or having taco night.

But…there is more!

I’ve decided, since it worked out so well, that I would share the recipe I used this product in.  This is a family recipe of my mom’s and it is SO delicious!!  If you are not a vegetarian, you can use 1 pound of lean ground beef…and if you can handle dairy, please use your cheddar cheese soup (as long as it is gluten-free!)…but this is how I prepared the dish tonight…with great success!!

Recipe: Gluten Free Vegetarian Enchilada Hotdish

Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Enchilada Hotdish

Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Enchilada Hotdish

Servings: 6
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Cook 40 minutes


  • 1 package Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Mexican Mix
  • 2 organic cage-free eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 package Teese Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
  • 1 can vegetarian chili (I used Amy’s Organic Light in Sodium Medium Chili)
  • 1/2 can water


Preheat the oven to 350° F.

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

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, brown the Next Mexican Mix, onion, and green peppers.  Cook until vegetables begin to soften and the Neat can be chopped into a meat texture.  Add the chili powder, vegan cheese sauce, chili and water to the mix and mix well.  Allow it to heat through for a few minutes to marry the flavors together.

In a 9×9 oven-proof dish, place in layers, alternating the meat mixture with 1 package of tortilla or nacho chips.

Bake for 30 minutes.


Thanks to Cuisine Cube and Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat, I was not only able to recreate a version of an old family favorite, but it tasted so much like how I remembered it tasting when I was growing up.  I couldn’t have been happier tonight as I sat and devoured my dinner.  I can’t wait to get my hands on the other Neat products.  Talk about having a desired product land in your lap!!

Seriously…seek out this product!!  I highly recommend it!  The product is so versatile…beyond just a protein base for tacos.  Try out the recipe above or use it in one of your own family favorites.  You will not be disappointed.  I promise!

Slaying dragons and fighting demons

Patience, grasshopper!

Patience, grasshopper!

I am my own worst enemy…

A very good friend, Jen Greunke,  from one of my running groups randomly posted something today on Facebook.  She simply said:

“Here’s the ugly truth: there will be people in your life that will always let you down, people that no matter how much you want something for them, they can’t find the desire and courage within themselves to want it for themselves.  You can not help everyone.  Sometimes the people you want to help the most are often the most difficult.  Sometimes the people you want something for just aren’t ready…they may never be ready.  Here’s the part you HAVE to understand: just because you can’t help those people does NOT mean you’re not helping people.  There will be people who make promises, people who say they’re going to do something and then break those promises and fail on what they say.  Keep trying anyway.  Life isn’t about the hurt but about the happiness and joy in the people you CAN help because they WANT to be helped.”

I read her post over a few times and it all just sort of hit home with me.  I’m notorious for caring way too much…about people…about what other people think about me…about how I am perceived by others.  And all of this came to a stressful and explosive head this past weekend for me.  The matter is personal, but the basic gist of the tale is this…

I cared too damn much again.  And in the end, all I got was hurt.  I trust the wrong people.  I believe people won’t be hurtful.  And sometimes…I’m wrong.  I’m just wrong.  When things are said to me…about me…that are so off-base with the person I am…well…it makes me take a good long, hard look at myself and my life.  It made me really think…long and hard…about the people in my life…and what they do FOR me.  Do they lift me up when I’m down…or simply compare their woes to mine?  Do they make me smile or do they pull me further down?  Do they support me or do they hold me back?  Do they truly know me or did they never bother to look past the surface in the first place?  Yes…people let me down and people hurt me…even when I’ve done whatever possible to help them and get them through tough times.  But you know what?  I also let myself down and I often find myself thinking negatively about who I am…what I do…how I look.  It’s a never ending cycle…and it’s also very human.

This has been a pretty damn hard summer for me this year.  Starting in July, my foot flared up, for no reason…and has yet to get back to normal.  I rested it for two months…I got othodics…I got hurt by the orthodics…I put on weight…I stressed…I went swimming to not put pressure on my foot at all…I gave up my cardio sessions for lifting weights…none of this was as satisfying as the run.  It made me cranky…it made me restless…it made me angry…at life…at God…at my body.  I felt betrayed by my own body…lost.  And it sucked.

And people…very good people…some I know in person and some only via some close groups I met via Facebook…gave me their shoulders, their advice, their love.  And while the words they say didn’t always make me smile and didn’t sugar coat the situation, I trusted them.  And they helped me believe in myself again.

But demons…they are tricky.

Demons…as in the internal kind.  Those little parasites in your mind.  Those thoughts and words that make you give up and give in.  I SURRENDER!!  I can’t do this.  I’ll never get back to my racing shape.  I hate the person I am right now.  I don’t like myself.  Say what you like, but self-hatred is a hard beast to slay.  And when you grew up with low self-esteem, and as an adult still have issues with how you perceive yourself because a part of you will never see that you’re beautiful, or good at this, or strong at that…well…those little thoughts become a huge problem.

And days like today…that huge problem feels larger than life.

As I was making my initial comeback, I was doing better.  Negative thoughts were there, my speed was slower than I liked, but I was out there.  And when the custom orthodics created another big problem in my recovery and comeback, the setback was enough to bring me to tears.  I was supposed to be getting better…not worse.  How can something that was meant to help me end up hurting me?

Yeah…I had some Nancy Kerrigan “Why me?!” syndrome going on.  It happens.  Thankfully there are people in my life who snapped me out of it.  Those are the people I need.  The people who know I’m stressed out and take the peanut butter jar and spoon away from me and tell me to do some fucking yoga instead…

The go-getters.  The can-doers.  The glass is half full so drink it down and start again-ers.

I site my friends Heather Dillon and Cathy Dailey for recent events.  I was set to run the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The days leading up to the race left me with no training runs due to the orthodics being wrong and leaving my foot throbbing and aching worse than when it was initially inflamed.  All the way to Minnesota and throughout the day before the race, I kept saying I didn’t think I could do it.  There was no way I could run it.  I wasn’t trained.  I hadn’t been able to run or train.  I didn’t want to get hurt…

And they nodded and simply said, “You can do it” and “You will do it” and “When you finish…”

Positive reinforcement.  Suddenly, not running it didn’t seem like an option.  And held together by KT Tape, determination, good friends along the way, and a whole lot of prayer…I toed that start line and even made it to the finish line.  It wasn’t the race I wanted it to be.  I walked more than I wanted to, but when you can’t train to run that distance, you can’t expect to just go out and run that distance.  Lots of walking…but I had no shame in it.  I cried a lot on that race course.  And when I crossed that finish line, as sore as my body felt, I was really damn proud of myself and so grateful for so many things: the strangers on the sidelines who encouraged me when I had to walk, for my family for being there, for two of my running friends for the hugs on the race course, for Heather  and Cathy…because I might not have gotten up that morning without their encouragement and belief in me and my abilities.  Or, their belief in me…when I was doubting it all.

The fact of the matter is…we all have dragons to slay and demons to fight.  And sometimes…it’s not an easy battle to win.  Trust me.  I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions since July.  I’m still fighting my way through it.  This comeback kid was starting to fall back.  The comeback was no longer sweet…but sour.  All my fight and perseverance…was turning into just giving up and giving in.  It’s hard to fight what seems and feels like a battle that you just can’t win.  I make progress…and then fall back.  Two steps forward, three steps back.  It gets tiresome after awhile.  And you finally just have enough.

Thankfully…while I gave up on myself and my abilities…not everyone did.  These people HELPED me.  And I wouldn’t be typing this today if they hadn’t been there through all the darkness.  Some people have turned away, let me fight my own battle, but some people lift their own shields and weapons and stand strong with me…because while I feel like a quitter…I’m not going to quit.  And they know that while I might be in a dark place right now…I have a spark inside of me…and when it finally flares…well…the comeback will be complete.

Demons will be banished and dragons slayed…

As for my comeback…the process is slow.  I have the New York City Marathon in 19 days…and have yet to feel confident about my run.  In fact, wisely enough, I have taken over a week off to allow my body to heal from the strain of the Twin Cities Marathon.  My limp is gone.  My foot still hurts, but it is manageable.  And that’s why I haven’t set out to run…because…I don’t want to make it unmanageable again.  I do my ankle exercises and my foot exercises and every day I wake up hoping to feel a little bit better than the day before.

My friend, Julie Larson, a fellow runner who is coming back from surgery, posted a quote this morning on her Facebook page.  It struck home.  It said:

“At some point you have to stop making a comeback and start running toward who you are meant to be.” – Lauren Fleshman

It really just struck a chord with me.  I want to make a comeback, of course, but first…I think I need to rediscover myself.  I need to just…do this for me for awhile.  Not times, not races, not miles…but just…for me.  I let myself down, but it doesn’t mean that I have to stay down.  Time to get back up, dust myself off, and try it again.  Time to stop letting others and my own self-doubt and self-hate bring me down.  Time to learn the art of patience.  Because, everything takes time.  And the greatest accomplishments aren’t achieved overnight.  Patience really is a virtue and it’s something I’m going to work on.

The rest…will all fall into place and come together.  Yes…very recently I have felt let down, betrayed, hurt and lost.  And some of it has been due to others, but a lot of it has been because of me.  Time to refocus.  Time to keep believing…in what I do and who I am.  And when I falter, because I’m human and it will happen, I at least know I’m in good hands…with friends who know me and take me for who I am…but refuse to let me give up.

Restaurant Review: Izzy’s Ice Cream, St. Paul, Minnesota

Izzy's Ice Cream, St. Paul, Minnesota

Izzy’s Ice Cream, St. Paul, Minnesota

Restaurant: Izzy’s Ice Cream, St. Paul, Minnesota

There are a few traditions that I keep when I run.  The first thing is…after a big race, I hit up a pub or a Mexican restaurant.  Don’t ask me why or how this became “a thing” as mentioned in the previous review…it just did.  But the other thing I do is treat myself to something creamy, cold, and delicious.  Mainly…ice cream.

Here is the sudden caveat, however.

While I have, in the past, been able to tame the lactose intolerance by taking a lactase supplement…it hasn’t been working out so well for me in the recent weeks.  Frustrating.  Because I am an ice cream nut.  Oh…and this is one tradition I refuse to let up on.

Before leaving for Minneapolis, Cathy was already on the hunt for a place to uphold this long-standing tradition.  And so…she found Izzy’s.  And what made Izzy’s Ice Cream (aside from being a local specialty ice cream shop in the Twin Cities) stand out from the other options was…they had soy ice cream flavors.  YAY!  No dairy to wreak havoc on my tummy.  This…made me happy!  So…so…so very happy!

What made the Izzy’s experience even better was, that day, I was spending the afternoon with my grandpa.  Yes…the very man who got me interested in running.  Cathy and I took him out to lunch at The French Meadow Bakery & Café in Minneapolis.  Then, afterwards, I told him that we were going to get celebratory ice cream at Izzy’s Ice Cream.  If he was interested, I’d love for him to come along.  He was certainly interested!  So, we made the short 10 minute drive from our lunch spot over to St. Paul.  Izzy’s Ice Cream awaited…and we entered and couldn’t wait to get started.

As I was the goofy one, Cathy made me order first.  I asked about the soy ice cream flavors, hoping that there was a chocolate or peanut butter option here.  But, alas…my options today were either Soy Strawberry, Soy Mango, Mango Sorbet, or Strawberry Sorbet.  I was just a little disappointed.  A little.  At least they had other options instead of just sorbets though.  So, without chocolate to fulfill my craving…I opted for the best option available.  Strawberry.  Because I am not a fan of mango.  Not really.

So…order in.  On a gluten-free ice cream cone (because…yeah…they have those and…yeah…I wanted one because I never get ice cream cones!), I ordered a regular scoop of Izzy’s Soy Ice Cream ($3.75) with the Izzy Scoop (a 3/4 ounce scoop) of the Strawberry Sorbet on top.  Because that’s what Izzy’s does.  You get this cute little scoop atop your scoop.  And it’s like…an added bonus of ice cream awesomeness.  And…I GOT AN ICE CREAM CONE!  I might be 34, but sometimes I want to be 5 and eat my ice cream out of an ice cream cone.  Added bonus, because she knew of my gluten-free and lactose intolerance, she wrapped the scoop in paper before she dished up my ice cream.  How fantastic is that?!  Guaranteed not to give me a tummy ache!

Cathy ended up getting a regular scoop on a regular sugar cone of Izzy’s Lemon Custard with the Izzy Scoop of Ricotta Ice Cream ($3.75).  And grandpa…grandpa went classic.  Traditional.  As grandpa’s tend to do!  He was torn between the vanilla and the chocolate, but ended up getting a kiddie scoop of the Chocolate Ice Cream on a cake cone.  Oh…and they topped it off with a little chocolate candy on top.  Nice touch!

The verdict?

Really good.  Really solid (as in it had good taste and texture…not that it was rock hard!) ice cream.  Cathy thought the ricotta flavor was interesting, but, naturally, loved the lemon custard.  Seriously, if you give this girl a choice between ice cream or custard, she’ll choose custard…which is awesome.  And if there is lemon involved…she is all over that.  Grandpa really enjoyed his cone of chocolate ice cream.

And my choice…was good.  I loved the creamy nature of the soy strawberry ice cream.  I loved tasting the real bits of strawberry inside.  And the topper of strawberry sorbet made it a berry-licious treat indeed.  But, even more than the ice cream, I was happy when I got to crunch and munch on the gluten free sugar cone.  I love ice cream cones more than most adults should…but when you really can’t have them, you tend to appreciate them more when you can.  It’s the little pleasures in life…like soy ice cream and…gluten free sugar cones at an ice cream shop.

Life was good that day.  I had a great afternoon with my grandpa.  We had great eats and treats.  And he even loved the ice cream.

A great place to go…with spots in Minneapolis and St. Paul.  You better believe I’ll be back.  And maybe this time they’ll have some Soy Chocolate for me.

Izzy's Soy Strawberry Ice Cream with an Izzy Scoop of Strawberry Sorbet on a Gluten Free Sugar Cone

Izzy’s Soy Strawberry Ice Cream with an Izzy Scoop of Strawberry Sorbet on a Gluten Free Sugar Cone

Restaurant Review: The Liffey Irish Pub, St. Paul, Minnesota

The Liffey Irish Pub, St. Paul, Minnesota

The Liffey Irish Pub, St. Paul, Minnesota

Restaurant: The Liffey Irish Pub, St. Paul, Minnesota

I finished.  I ran.  I walked.  I crossed the finish line of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.  And after all the hullabaloo at the finish line…the gathering of essentials like finisher’s medal, finisher’s shirt, banana, water, photos, chocolate milk, salty snacks, and so on…I met up with my adoring public…Heather and Cathy.  They were at the designated spot at the runner reunion area.  And the night before we had made noises of checking out a pub after my run.

It has sort of become a thing…we either do a pub or Mexican food after I run a marathon.

You don’t mess with a thing.

Bad things happen when you mess with…a thing.

So, it just so happened that a great Irish pub in St. Paul, called The Liffey Irish Pub, wasn’t but a couple of blocks away from the finish area.  While I was getting some compressions socks on and a different pair of shoes, Heather called ahead to see what the wait would be like.  It turned out we were in between the rushes.  So, after I stretched for a moment, we decided to pack up and make the hike to the pub.  It was a slow hike…my foot, my ankle, my legs were killing me.  I had never felt like this after a marathon…but I’d been injured (still was) and couldn’t train.  It sucked, but my friends were more than willing to work with me.

Our good friend, Paul, whom we met through the big U2 summer of concert madness a couple years ago, met us there.  He had been one of the group at Mile 17 and had said he could join us for lunch.  I stepped inside and immediately was given a hug.  We were immediately seated by the hostess, but before hitting up the table, Cathy and I ducked into the bathroom so I could get out of my running clothes and into something more comfortable (yoga pants and a t-shirt!).  We found the table where Paul and Heather were seated and I started looking at the menu.

Usually it takes me awhile to be hungry, but at this point, I was hungry.  Amazingly enough.  And, also a plus, we knew from the Internet search, that The Liffey had a gluten-free menu.  And when our drink orders were taken (water for starters and then Heather and Paul got drinks with their food), we were given the opportunity to think about what to eat.  Easy here.  For the non-vegetarian and gluten-free (my dining compatriots), it seemed that Fish and Chips (Heather & Paul got the North Atlantic Cod – $14.00; Cathy got the Canadian Walleye – $15.00) was the pub grub of choice (naturally!).  For me…the Quinoa Salad ($9.75) sounded like the meal of choice.  Ideal for recovery too!

Orders in…and we started talking about everything we had been up to…and U2 stuff…and all that jazz.  In fact, we were so busy talking that it took us a moment to realize that the tray that came in a little later had our food on it!  I think we were all ready to eat.  Paul actually got his fish and chips with a Guinness and Heather got hers with a delicious Strongbow cider.  Mmmm.  I was feeling dehydrated so it was water only for me with my meal…this time.

The Liffey Irish Pub's Quinoa Salad

The Liffey Irish Pub’s Quinoa Salad

The Quinoa Salad was a fantastic bed of spinach that contained quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, capers, basil, and avocado.  All these amazing vegetables and grains were tossed with a fantastic, and highly delicious lime vinaigrette.  The quinoa and spinach were great protein for after the run. And I loved the flavor.  I didn’t actually expect the sweet potatoes to be cold, but didn’t mind it in this salad.  While I’m not a huge fan of capers, the salty and vinagery flavor complimented the lime vinaigrette and the earthy vegetables in the salad.  I enjoyed this salad down to the last bite.  Amazing.  And it takes a lot to amaze me when it comes to salad.  This one hit all the right notes…and was like no other salad I’ve had before.

I like different.

I also like being able to enjoy a dessert when I go out to eat.  And there happened to be a few that I could indulge in here at The Liffey Irish Pub.  Oh, St. Paul…you’re winning me over with this gem of an Irish pub.  A fruit cup was an option.  Or the local Izzy’s Ice Cream (flavors unknown).  But the one that interested me was the gluten-free version of their S’more Pot du Crème.  We asked for four spoons.

The Gluten Free S’more ($5.50) was a rich chocolate custard with Izzy’s Vanilla Bean ice cream.  All of this was topped off with a fantastic marshmallow fluff brûlée.  It sounded beyond delicious.  And when it came out…all four of us dove in.  Seriously.  Four spoons dipped into the toasted marshmallow top, through that layer of vanilla ice cream and touching that decadent chocolate custard.


We licked that bowl clean.  While I was glad there were four of us going after this dessert, I probably could have eaten the entire thing by myself without feeling any regrets.  It was so good.  The rich custard with the cold ice cream and the warm, fluffy nature of the fluff was the perfect combination.  It felt like I was eating a delicious s’more at a campfire.  But better.  This was just…the best campground treat elevated to restaurant quality.  High class.  Amazing.  I was wishing for one more bite once we polished it off.

It was unanimous, really.


Should I say it again?


I was way beyond satisfied when I shuffled out of their with my friends.  We each said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  Paul one way, Heather to take us to our car and then meet up with us at my grandpa’s house so I could shower and then we could keep me moving by walking the Mall of America.

Where I bought a fantastic dress…

But, that’s of no consequence.  What is, however, is the fact that, without hesitation, without any doubt, I would eagerly return to eat at The Liffey, in St. Paul, Minnesota, whenever I happened to be in the area.  Forget any other pubs that might be more convenient to where I am in Minneapolis.  This one blew me away.  And, I of course would have to get another taste of the…BEST.  DESSERT.  EVER.

Yep…I’ll be back.  Count on it!

The Liffey's Gluten-Free S'more (aka: BEST. DESSERT. EVER.)

The Liffey’s Gluten-Free S’more (aka: BEST. DESSERT. EVER.)

Restaurant Review: Pizza Lucé, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pizza Lucé, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pizza Lucé, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Restaurant: Pizza Lucé, Minneapolis, Minnesota

This past week I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I was there for a few reasons.  To visit with family.  To see some friends.  And to run/walk the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.  Yes.  Run/Walk.  Am I ashamed of this?  Not at all.  This race was a warm-up.  A warm up to the race I am running in 3 weeks exactly.

New York City Marathon.

And, as my training schedule was completely killed with my foot injury and then…orthodic problems…I went to Minneapolis not quite certain I’d be able to even run/walk the course.  I figured, I could at least spend time with family.  On Saturday morning, I was pretty certain the race was off.  I went to the expo and hobbled through, getting my race number, buying new shoes, shopping, checking out the vendors and other races that were there…and the more time I was there, the more I wanted to do it.  It also helped that my friend Heather was telling me I could do it.  Walk the hills.  Just walk the hills.  And to help, she took me on the tour of the entire race course…and…yeah…I figured I could at least give it a go.

While touring the course, my aunt, Jan, and my cousin, Molly, texted me to find out dinner plans.  They know that the night before the race is gluten-free pizza night.  And to avoid that horrible mistake that was Pizza Ranch last time I raced in Minneapolis, Cathy did some research before we left.  I heard only good things about Pizza Lucé, both on Find Me Gluten Free and in regular reviews.  In fact, they are touted as “The Best Pizza In Minneapolis.”  So…that had to be good right.  We hadn’t thought of reservations, but as there was going to be at least 11 of us there…Molly went ahead and got that arranged.

That evening, at 5 p.m., we showed up at Pizza Lucé on West 66th Street in Richfield, Minnesota.  My cousins, their significant others, and the children were all there.  My aunt was the last to arrive.  But there we were…me, my roomie, my bestie, my family…ready to give this place a try.  I don’t think the Pizza Ranch experience will ever be forgotten.  We joke about it even now.  All of us who endured it.

But, as this place had not only gluten-free, but also vegan options…I was already feeling good about it.  We were seated and our drink orders were taken while we looked over the menu.  Heather was onboard with splittling with Cathy and I up until I said I needed the vegan cheese.  Then, Cathy left it to me to choose what pizza to do (or build our own, which is an option).  I was actually torn between a seasonal special or one of the signature pizzas on the menu.  I was going back and forth and when I mentioned the Curried Coconut Butternut Squash Pizza (roasted butternut squash whipped with curry and coconut milk and finished with fresh red bell pepper, feta cheese, red onion, pineapple and fresh cilantro) to Cathy, she seemed very unenthusiastic about it.  So, I decided to go with my other choice…the Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza ($18.89).

While the various orders for each of us (some of us got pizzas, some got pastas)…we all sat around and talked about tons of things.  My cousin Molly had a new baby girl that I hadn’t met yet…her two boys were entertaining on the other end of the table.  My cousin, Andy, just got married and he and his wife were there…so we talked wedding.  We talked running.  We talked family. We talked about everything.  Literally.

And then…tasty food began arriving.

The Gluten Free Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza was set down next to me – a fantastic 10 inch gluten-free crust that was topped off with olive oil, fresh basil, arugula, caramelized onion, garlic, a wild mushroom blend (cirimini, oyster, portabella, and shiitake) and Daiya cheese (vegan!).  It looked AMAZING!  I mean, my mouth immediately began to water.  And it was then that we realized that Heather, Cathy and I totally forgot to grab lunch today.  So, yeah…we were ready to dig in.

I served 3 slices, half of the pizza, to Cathy and saved the other half for me.

OH. MY. PIZZA. GOODNESS.  This was creamy, crunchy and good!  Beyond good.  This pizza was so delicious.  I love a good white pizza and this went above and beyond what I am used to.  It was so creamy because they actually got the Daiya cheese to melt down to a perfect gooey texture.  The blend of flavors was classic, with the arugula adding a hit of peppery flavor to the sweetness of the caramelized onion and the earthiness of the mushrooms.  I might have devoured every single bit of it.  Seriously.  Like hoovered it all down.  I was so happy with the food here I really considered going back.  They, after all, also have a gluten-free stuffed shells on the menu.  Pardon me while I drool!

In a heartbeat…I would definitely return to Pizza Lucé in the future.  This place beyond impressed me.  And I think all of us who survived the disgusting nastiness of Pizza Ranch the year before were grateful to have delicious food and the variety of options that Pizza Lucé offered.  If I had been there longer, I would have returned during the rest of my stay in Minneapolis.  Seriously…so happy and can’t wait to go back next time I make it to Minneapolis!

Pizza Lucé's Gluten-Free and Vegan Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza

Pizza Lucé’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza