CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (November 3, 2018)

Me heading into the finish line of the CNO Financial Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, IN

Date: November 3, 2018

Time: 3:46:17

“Ever tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.”
~ Samuel Beckett

I admit it.  The results of the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon  were a hard pill to swallow.  In all honesty, I had hoped that my training, regardless of changing plans and going solo on it all…making it all up as I went, catching up on miles I didn’t get to run to build up that marathon base…I really thought it would be enough.  I didn’t feel like I was in marathon shape.  But I felt confident.

And, as we know…I crashed and burned soon after the 14 mile mark.  I finished.  But not with a time I was happy with.

Moral of the story.  Do NOT ever leave me along with an upcoming half marathon with the option to upgrade to the full marathon when I’m pissed off with my previous marathon performance.  Less than one month apart.  27 days apart, to be exact.  Because, I figured, hell, I was already in “marathon shape”…might as well try again with a different plan of action.  So, it happened.  I upgraded my registration to the full marathon (trust me, I was starting to doubt the wisdom of this the morning of the race, but I’ll get there, LOL!) and then…didn’t really broadcast it anywhere.  I told my training partner, Lauren.  My roommate, of course, knew.  And a couple of people at the gym who asked me what was next for me knew…but no one else.  Not. A. Word.

My plan for the days in between?  Recovery.  Easy runs.  Not a ton of miles.  Just easy, training runs.  I did maybe 3 speed intervals…all of only 4 miles.  My longest long run was 10 miles…last weekend.  Slow and steady with Lauren who took me on an adventure and kept the pace right where I wanted and needed it.  Some people like to pile on those miles and brag about weekly and monthly totals.  I have never been that sort.  And, honestly, it is a rare thing for me to ever hit 200 miles in a month, even during marathon training.  There is training and there is overtraining.  One of these benefits you.  The other leads to injury, burnout, and a plethora of other issues.  Just like pace, I don’t usually post my miles or mileage either.  Honestly, who cares other than me?

Deep breath.  Let’s start with the day before the race.

Thursday night was filled with packing and not trying to overthink anything.  Cathy picked out my outfit…she packed recovery wear, shoes, race gear, fuel, etc.  Everything I would need for another 26.2.  I made her pack capris because I was nervous it would be too cold at the start of the race for the running skirt she had picked.  She allowed for that…but nothing more.  We went to work as usual on Friday, planning to leave around 2 pm to make the drive up to Indianapolis.

I made certain that I got as much work done that I could in the time I was in the office.  Lunch was just a giant salad, made from all the fresh ingredients/produce that I had lingering in my fridge heading into the weekend.  We packed up, brought bottles of water that had our Nuun Immunity Tablets in them.  If you haven’t tried them…HIGHLY recommended!  And we hit the road, with our mid-day snacks to get us through the drive and the expo before heading to dinner.

We hit a small amount of traffic on the way, but we made it to the Omni Severin Hotel, in downtown Indianapolis.  Honestly, if you’re looking for a hotel in downtown Indy…STAY HERE!!  I was blown away by the hospitality, even if they didn’t do late checkouts due to it being an event weekend (I get it…but after a marathon, I usually appreciate a hot shower).  They did say that they had a fitness center with a shower and if I needed one I could get a key made to get in there and shower.  So…I mean…there was that.  Our luggage was taken up to our room by the nicest guy, Matt, who gave us the rundown about the hotel and the history behind it.  He showed us the amenities in the room and made sure we had plans for dinner because otherwise the hotel was doing a pasta dinner for the runners.  Honestly, I’ve never felt so welcome at a hotel.

Cathy at her first major packet pickup for the Monumental 5K

Next stop…the expo.  We took the inside path through the hotel and Circle Center Mall to get ourselves over to the Indianapolis Expo Center.  Some roads were going to be closed because Trump and Pence were in town (BARF!), but it wasn’t affecting us.  We had a work-around.  The Expo felt a lot smaller this year than it was last year.  We got there, and immediately collected posters and headed to the back to get race packets and shirts.  YES…that’s plural.  Since I upgraded to the full, Cathy decided she could do the 5K, as it started AFTER the full and half marathons were sent off.  Had I stuck with the half, she wouldn’t have done it otherwise she’d miss my finish.

We stopped at the 5K booths first and Cathy did her first ever official big race 5K packet pickup.  She had to show her ID and everything.  The volunteers at her table were SO fun and very cool.  They even had thrown safety pins into her bag.  It was awesome.

Cathy and Me with our race numbers for the next morning.

After she got her stuff…we headed over to the marathon tables where I collected my shirt and bib and we went straight into Official Merchandise.  Where I spent more money.  This time only on a lapel pin and a jacket.  The jacket is SUPER nice though.  I could have spent SO MUCH more.  HA!  We made our walk through the vendors and races that were represented at the expo.  Cathy had forgotten a BondiBand to keep her ears warm, so we had to go and get her one of those.  She found one…bright pink…that says, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”  Just like the button she has worn since NYC.  I spotted a different flavor of Gluten Free Honey Stinger Stroopwafels (I can only ever find Salted Caramel…which is GOOD…but I know there are other flavors out there…and I found a Vanilla & Chocolate one!).  But we wrapped it up quickly, stopping to find my name on the poster and then take a few pictures with the banners.  A volunteer was kind enough to get a lot of these photos for us, from every angle.

From there, we made the trek back to the hotel room.  We had about 30 minutes to kill before dinner, so Cathy went ahead and tried on her race shirt to get my opinion on the fit.  I decided I should do the same, and thank GOD I did.  Turns out, the volunteers at my end of the table gave me a men’s small and not a women’s small.  I was NOT happy.  With 20 minutes to get to our dinner reservation, we packed up the shirt and stepped outside to take a quicker route to the convention center in hopes of changing it out.  I booked it down the hall and back into the expo to the shirt exchange area and snagged my women’s small.  Whew!  Cathy was waiting in the hall outside.  We had about 5 minutes to make a 10 minute walk to our dinner reservation at Napolese.  Honestly, whenever we are in town for a race, this is our go-to restaurant.  I mean…GLUTEN FREE FOCACCIA AND GLUTEN FREE PIZZA!!

Napolese’s Gluten Free Focaccia

I apologized to the hostess for being late and told her we had a 5:45 reservation.  Our table was still there though, next to two very loud men who were drinking a lot and talking REALLY LOUD about Queen and movies and games and whatever.  I was over it.  Thank God they left while we were eating our appetizer.

We had already had plans on what we were going to do for eats that night.  I looked at the menu on the way up so we could formulate a plan.  So when our waiter came over, we got glasses of water and put in our order.  Gluten Free Focaccia (no dairy) and then we were going to Freestyle our pizza and do a Gluten Free Pizza topped with the Housemade Tomato Sauce, Winter Squash, Mushrooms, and Duck Eggs.  He asked if the gluten-free was an allergy and made note that it was for a Celiac on the ticket.  And also made note of the NO DAIRY preference as well.  They are VERY efficient there.  And trust me…the food is amazing too.

Napolese’s Gluten Free Pizza – no cheese, tomato sauce, mushrooms, winter squash, duck eggs

The focaccia came out first…olive oil, garlic, parsley.  SO GOOD.  And as we were polishing that off, the pizza came out.  But it was missing…the duck eggs.  Cathy pointed it out and he apologized and took it back.  He returned with a little thing of olive oil to go with the pizza if we wanted to add it and said that he took the pizza before they had cooked up the eggs and it would be up momentarily.  And we didn’t really have a long wait before it was returning to our table.  Looking SO good.  And even with polishing off the focaccia…I was ready to eat.  We polished off the pizza and took his advice, adding the olive oil…and it was light and fruity and just added a whole new level of deliciousness to the slices.  BIG FAN.  We finished eating and were given the bill, where they didn’t charge us for the duck eggs (that was sweet…but they didn’t need to do that).  We left a big tip, because or waiter was awesome.  Then headed to CVS to pick up some waters for the next morning, and then hit up the Hard Rock Cafe for a pin.  Mind you…I was not wanting to be on my feet much this time around.  But, we were never far from the hotel and we were back into the hotel by 7:30-ish.  Cathy went to shower.  I got out all my race gear and laid it out and then started my foam rolling because I was determined to do that the night before the race.  As I was doing that, there was a knock at the door.  It was housekeeping delivering a bottle of water, some ice, and a card.  It was from the hotel.  Super sweet gesture.  I knew it would all come in handy.  We finished up an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…and then…

Lights out…9 pm.  On the nose.

I woke up a couple of times during the night…like my usual wakeup time of 3 am.  At 4

Cathy’s complimentary drink tray that morning – orange juice and coffee!

am, my first alarm went off so I could take a pill and use the bathroom.  Back to bed for 2 restless hours.  At 6 am…we were both up and starting our morning routine.  I popped open a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar.  I ate one before I ran the Monumental Half Marathon last year.  Why not do it again?  I prepped my pre-race drink and started to slowly get dressed.  At 6:15 am, Cathy’s free orange juice and coffee arrived outside the door.  We got up at 6 am so we could have a more relaxed moment and this gave her the chance to eat her Clif Bar and drink some coffee and juice as she does most mornings.  Including in her own training.

I finished getting ready, and this included slathering on some sunscreen because…it was going to be a sunny day that morning and I refuse to be the person with a sunburn in November.  I was wearing two different color CEP sleeves, my Injinji toe socks, my Newton Distance IIIs, a black running skirt, my Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon singlet, red arm warmers, and a red BondiBand that said “Breathe.”  I had some pajama bottoms to toss away prior to the race and a halfzip that I bought in a child’s size a long time ago that I was okay parting with.   I put my Nuun Energy into two of my bottles and water into the other two bottles and put my fuel belt on.  I put my new nutrition (tested once) into the front zip pouch and called myself ready.  Cathy ended up putting on a second layer on top and then we headed down to the lobby.  They had water and bananas out for the runners.  I usually eat a banana before a marathon so…I snagged one.  We ran into people from Louisville that we didn’t know, but I spotted his Chicago Marathon t-shirt and said I had run it too, but he was smarter than me this morning since he was only doing the half.  We had a good laugh over that.

Race outfit for the marathon – minus the arm warmers, which got put on soon after.

And after they moved on…I started to have a small meltdown.  Why?  Because, despite being easy on my body and training smart leading up to this…I felt like my legs weren’t going to let me go another 26.2 so soon.  Cathy talked me down, as she usually does.  And then she had us moving out the door and into the cold Indianapolis morning.  It was 34 degrees outside.  We made the walk from the Omni to the start line, where I ate my banana and slowly drank my water.  We made it here and Cathy took a few pictures.  When we saw the pacers getting into the corral, she told me to go find my pacers and talk to them.  She gave me a hug and I left…stepping into the network of corrals and finding the 3:35 pacers (see what I’m doing here?), in the 2nd wave.  My bib was good for the first wave, but like I said, I was learning from my mistakes at Chicago…I hoped.

My plan for this race…line up with the 3:35 pace group and hold on as long as I could.  I

Cathy & I staying warm in the hotel lobby for a few minutes before walking to the start of both of our races!

didn’t expect to be with them for long, just given how my training runs had been coming off of Chicago.  But, I figured it would be a good way to keep from going out way too fast (and we all know I would have) and at least keeping a constant pace going forward.  The male pacer’s PR was 3:09 and the female had just run a 50K the weekend before, so I can only assume that she is normally super fast as well.  Crazy good.  I never run with pacers, but I figured…this might be what I need.

I ditched my toss-away clothing and got back to the pacers just as the national anthem was being sung.  It was gorgeous.  The wheelchair racers were sent off first.  Wave one was next.  And we were moved up to the start gate.  I gave a wave to Cathy since I wasn’t on the outside of the corral…I was right behind the pacers because…I didn’t want to lose them.  After about 5 minutes…off we went.  We hit the roads of Indianapolis…and Cathy went to line up for her 5K.

The pacers guided our group down Capitol Avenue, reminding us that the pace would be slow for the first couple of miles until the race spread out a little bit.  Since the half and full marathon start together, it can be very congested at points.  Reminder, Indianapolis roads are awful.  The male pacer pointed out holes as we ran and I heard the female pacer say, “You’re going to be saying that a lot.”  HA!  She wasn’t wrong.

Game face on as I stick close to the 3:35 pacers at the start line

We made a couple of turns before running across the first water/aid station.  They were nice enough to shout out each station as we approached so anyone who needed water or Gatorade could grab it.  It was a little chaotic through there, but I stuck with them as we made a couple more turns and made the half rotation around Monument Circle.  There was another aid station before we hit Mile 3 and the pacer sign was passed from the male to the female.  He had a pace tattoo on his arm and when we hit three, she asked, “How are we?”  He said, “We’re a little over.”  So she picked it up slightly.

Not only was I incorporating a “stick to the pacer” technique this race, I also decided to fuel more.  So every 4 miles…I was trying something new (I know…nothing new on race day, but…MEH)…Maurten Gel 100, which is apparently what Kipchoge uses!  I am no Kipchoge, nor was I aware of this when I purchased it to try…but it isn’t bad.  I like the texture way better than the Honey Stingers or Gu type gels.  I took my first one at Mile 4, which had me ease back on the pace just enough.  I took a drink of water, and pushed my way back up toward the pacers.

It was just about the 10K area that I discovered how dangerous it was to run with a pace

My new form of fueling – Maurten Gel 100

group.  As more people fell into the group it got crowded…fast.  Someone clipped my foot from behind, sending me stumbling.  I recovered, but was pushed into someone ahead of me, which sent them stumbling.  Then someone else closed in and his foot pretty much tripped me…and again I had to catch myself.  And then someone clipped me again and that one nearly took me down for good.  The adrenaline was rushing at this point which was definitely NOT what I wanted to have happen.  I eased back just enough to allow some space so I wouldn’t get trampled at this point.

At Mile 7, the half marathoners turn left and the marathon runners continue up toward the State Fairgrounds.  At Mile 8…I fueled again.  And I was still hanging onto the pace group.  YAY.  I was a little bit behind them, but I felt that was for my own safety and sanity.  We turned onto Washington Boulevard, which we would be on for almost the next two miles.  They were giving out Clif Gels at Mile 11, but I had my own fueling to contend with.  But it was here…HERE…that I started to get a side stitch.  I wasn’t pushing my pace…but it soon turned into a stomach cramp of sorts.  I gutted through it until we made the turn and hit Mile 12…and then I slowed it to a walk to see if I could get it to pass.  This was when I was supposed to fuel again anyway…and I took the opportunity to do that before I felt I would be okay to pick it up again.  And I did.  No problems.  I made sure to drink more water this time.  I think that was the problem.  I was now further behind the pace group, but was about to hit the halfway mark.  I pushed through and continued…still feeling strong for the most part.  I was just frustrated that I was off the pace group earlier than I would have liked.

Do you see my name on the poster? I meant to post this earlier. LOL!

I loved winding through the streets of Indianapolis.  There were crowds and people cheering in places you wouldn’t expect.  If we ran through neighborhoods, people were there too.  I may have been a bit off my pace, but I was going strong for the most part.  I made the turn onto Meridian and picked it back up a little.  Mile 16…I eased back again to fuel and drink more water.  And now I decided I would start walking some water stops in order to make sure I was hydrating.  When it’s cold outside, I forget to drink water.  I wasn’t letting anything stupid like that take me down that day.

The 3:40 pacers caught me just before Mile 18, where we ran through this area that felt like a park and were met with a wall of screaming from the people inside.  I think it was a college group, but they were fantastic.  I got quite a few compliments at aid stations and as I ran through here on my pigtails.  Love that story.  We exited onto the highway and headed toward my favorite part of the course, this gorgeous, twisting downhill on an exit ramp.  YES!  Downhill is my favorite speed as we all know!!  And this was fun.

Cathy after she did her 5K!  She did it in 46:42!

Mile 20…and I had only a 10K left.  I took a little longer on my walk to fuel here because not only did I fuel and drink some water, but I also moved my one and only Honey Stinger Gel from my zip pocket in my running skirt to my fuel belt.  Why?  Because I was going to do one more fueling and I didn’t have enough Maurten with me.  I wanted to feel good and strong at the end of this.

At this point, if there was a hill…I speed walked it.  If there was a water stop, I walked it and took in some water.  If there was a crowd, I ran.  I was running more than walking, which was opposite Chicago, so already my plan was paying off.  I think it was at Mile 23, I went ahead and took my last gel, fueling for the last push.  The water stop here was AMAZING.  They were blaring this great song about being downtown.  And it just helped me pick it back up.

The next three miles went well, even though I could tell I was slowing down.  I think at some point the 3:45 group passed me.  I tried not to let it get into my head.  I took any water break walks that I needed and promised that I would push it at the end.  I was going to finish this one strong.  I made the turn onto W New York Street.  The crowd was amazing.  Someone shouted, “The finish is just around the corner!”  They were right.  I rounded the corner and could see the finish line down the way.  It seemed so far, but I found another gear and I started to pick it up.  As I got closer, I saw Cathy standing near the finish, screaming her head off for me.  I pressed on, crossing the finish line, arms in the air, and stopped my Garmin.  I never looked at it. I wanted to beat my Dopey time.  But I didn’t want to be disappointed yet either.

Me crossing the finish line at the CNO Financial Monumental Marathon

So I never looked.  I started walking down the row.  I was wrapped in a Mylar blanket.  I saw some people with their medals on…and thought for a moment I had walked right past that station.  But I hadn’t.  I just hasn’t moved up far enough.  I continued on.  A nice woman put a medal around my neck and congratulated me.  I smiled and thanked her, snagging a bottle of water before stopping to get an official finisher photo from Marathonfoto.  On down the aisle of snacks, snagging a banana, a Clif Bar (for Cathy), a bag of Lay’s chips, and the famous cookie (I can’t even eat it…but I knew plenty of people who could).  And then…I made my way out to be greeted by Cathy with a hug.

I asked her, “Did I beat my Dopey time?”  And she said, “You smashed it by over three minutes.”  I was elated.  It wasn’t the time I was hoping to hit, but I once again chipped away from my time I set at the beginning of the year…doing a run/walk for the entire race.  This time, I mostly ran and felt strong and good throughout…and that was saying something.  As Cathy was finding a spot for me to lay down and put my feet up, I spotted the hat in her clear backpack and said, “You got a hat?”  She said I should have gotten one too and I told her I must have walked past that station.  She told me to lay down and she would see if she could get one for me.  After about 5 minutes, she returned victorious, saying she flagged down a happy looking marathoner to see if she could get another one.  It worked.

Feet up…suns out…guns out.  FINISHER!

After stretching my feet up for a little bit, just basking in the sun, we finally decided to get up and head back toward the hotel.  Cathy checked us out of our room and had our bags checked.  It felt like the walk took forever, but it was a good way, save for the wind that had picked up.  I drew my arm warmers back up over my arms and we zigzagged our way back to the hotel.

We stepped inside and got into the elevator to go up one floor.  Cathy told me to go over to the bench to sit down and wait while she got luggage.  It didn’t take too long.  She opened up my suitcase and pulled out the outfit I had set out to wear afterwards, compression socks, jeans, the race t-shirt, new underwear, a proper bra, the basics.  We went ahead and took off my shoes, socks and put on my compression socks while I was sitting there.  She pulled my pigtails down, getting my hair extensions out and grabbing my hair brush.  And then she sent me around the corner to the bathroom to change.

I ducked into a stall and did that in record time after a marathon.  I realized that I had left my deodorant in my toiletries bag so I made sure I looked presentable, brushed my hair, and then went to grab that while leaving my race clothes with her.  Quick duck into the bathroom to apply deodorant, a wash of the hands, and one more fix of the hair…and I was good to go.  Once I put on my recovery shoes.

My celebration meal at Woody’s Library Restaurant in Carmel, IN!

We headed out and she gave me the valet ticket to get the car while she went into Starbucks to grab me a much-needed coffee.  They valet went to retrieve the car, which took about 5 minutes and she hadn’t yet made it out.  I had no money on me to top the valet, which I felt AWFUL about, but I couldn’t help that.  I texted her and she said about 14 teenagers had been in front of her and she was coming. She was out in about 3 minutes and we loaded up her luggage.  I snagged my coffee.  And we were off, heading to Carmel, Indiana, the home of Woody’s Library Restaurant, my new favorite place to eat in all of Indianapolis.  Our friend Greg met us there.  I didn’t have an appetite at this moment, but went ahead and ordered the Gluten Free (Lettuce Wrap) Tex Mex Quinoa Tacos with a side of the Gluten Free Sweet Potato Fries, and Cathy got me a little side of pickles…just in case I wanted them.

I made a go at the food…taking my time to chew and to digest so as not to set my stomach off.  And I managed to eat the fries and most of the tacos before calling it quits.  I maybe had two of the pickle chips.  I was surprised I managed that much.  Afterwards, to stretch me out a bit more before we made the car ride home, the three of us went to the Antique Mall and looked around.  They both found things to buy, but I didn’t this time.  Maybe next time.  Then we hit up the gluten-free No Label at the Table bakery there.  I picked up two of their Lemon Cookies, a Brownie, and a Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf.  The lady who owns the bakery was there, and she was excited to see a marathoner there and asked me about other local races and Disney races as I shopped and decided what I wanted.

Afterwards…it was time to make the long drive back home.

Until next year…BE MONUMENATAL!

So, the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 3:46:17, which makes it my fastest marathon this year and the one that closes out my actual racing season, as far as I know.  HA.  I was 1377/4568 finishers overall. I was the 377/1983 female finishers. And I was 106/391 in my age division.  Very happy with my results as I was dedicating this run to the people I know…who can’t run.  Spontaneous Marathon #14 is in the books and I already can’t wait to sign up for next year.  This was a great race, all around.

Life’s Too Short to Miss the Sweeter Things

Two fun facts about me:

1. I love eating healthy
2. I love sweets (especially chocolate)

What we have here, my friends, is a constant battle of sheer willpower.  But, the fact of the matter is…sometimes you just have to find a way to treat yourself.  Naturally, I stick to my necessary gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian lifestyle…however, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy some of the finer things in life.

That being said, 2016 is a year of change for me.  I’m trying to improve myself, my body, my soul, my mindset…I’m trying to reach both long-term and short-term goals.  And part of that is definitely making certain tweaks to the diet.

I’m not saying I am cutting out sweets and desserts entirely.  That’s inhuman.  But, I am cutting back on them.  And once the current ones in the pantry are moved out…they aren’t coming back in.  I buy gluten-free…so I’m too cheap to just toss the stuff away.

That being said, I’m always game for trying new ways to make an indulgence healthier.  And awhile back, the amazing Lottie Bildirici, better known in the social media world as “Running on Veggies” posted about the treat she made for Kara Goucher (yes…THE Kara Goucher) when she was coming to NYC to run the NYC Marathon.  Kara chose blondies as her treat and Bildirici got to work researching and coming up with a recipe that would not only seem like a treat, but be made with real ingredients, nothing processed, and be healthy.  When the recipe posted, I was beyond intrigued.  Granted, my foray into baking using beans as a base resulted in brownies that tasted like black beans, so I did have my reservations going into this…but I decided to give it a try.

Blondies made without flour…and by using garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and dates as the sweetener.  Well…there was only one way to find out how this would turn out.  I hoped for the best, since Kara Goucher was a fan…but…hey…some things you have to try yourself.

So this was what I put into my food processor this past Sunday afternoon:


Everything but the dairy-free dark chocolate chips, that is.  Any nut butter (or nut-free butter) will work, but I’m a huge fan, and an ambassador, for NuttZo…and it really is the best stuff on the market.  Find it.  Trust me…it’s worth the price!

After giving everything a whirl in the food processor, I was left with a light and fluffy fatter.  I folded in the chocolate chips, sprayed down some muffin tins and began to evenly distribute the batter into 24 muffin tins.


After baking for around 40 minutes, I removed the pans from the oven and let everything sit, untouched for over an hour.  At that point, I moved everything to a sheet pan (carefully) and then into the freezer.  But not without trying one.

First of all, they don’t taste bean-y…and they don’t taste like dates either.  They actually taste like a decadent little dessert or muffin.  Especially when warmed up in the microwave for about 30 seconds or longer.  Although, I love them frozen too…but I’m weird like that.  These are an amazing treat and one that I don’t feel bad about eating because…it was made from real food.


I know a lot of people look down on those who enjoy a treat every now and again…but the fact of the matter is…we’ve got it all wrong.  Not all calories are created equal.  Just like now not all carbohydrates and fats are either.  That’s the being said, I am a firm believer in counting nutrition, not calories.  And that’s what making something like this is all about.

And trust me…they are SO good.

If you want to give them a try…you can get the recipe here!  They are easy to make, and delicious.  Trust me…you’ll want to keep these on hand!  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack or dessert…these are truly a delicious and healthy treat.

Eat real food.  These treats are more like a healthy choice than an indulgence.  And what’s not to love about that?!

Product Review: Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough

Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough
Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough

Product: Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough – $3.99+

My neighbors are awesome.  Let me just reiterate that fact now, if I haven’t said it enough in my previous blogs.


I was downstairs having dinner with my amazing neighbors and friends on Sunday night (after a very entertaining game of cornhole), and we were just talking about anything and everything, as we very often do.  For awhile, they were trying out a gluten free and casein free diet for their young son, but it wasn’t making much of an impact…so they dropped off the wagon for now.  That being said, for a few weeks now, Michelle (that’s one of said neighbors) had been mentioning that Kroger now carried gluten-free and casein free cookies in the refrigerated section.  I am rarely over that way, so after feeding me delicious red lentils for dinner (they had bison burgers, but she made these AMAZING lentils for me and for others to use as a side), she was packing up leftovers.  They were keeping the remaining gluten-free and vegan corn pudding I made and she surprised me with a package of the very cookies she was talking about.

The Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough!

Immaculate Baking began with a cookie.  Now that’s the best start to any story, don’t you think?  Creator, Scott Blackwell used his garage to manifest a simple dream…to create perfect, mouth-watering, wholesome, homemade cookies that he could share with the world.  Today, that dream is becoming a reality.  Immaculate Baking offers cookies, sweet rolls, biscuits, pie crusts, and even…gluten-free cookies.  All products remain true to the company’s commitment to use simple and carefully-selected ingredients…so that every bite is packed with amazing, mouth-watering, crave-worthy flavor and texture.

I have had the Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough that is made by Immaculate Baking, and have to still give the Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookie Dough a try…but last night was all about chocolate.  My roommate was craving it and I never say no to a cookie or chocolate.  Two of my favorite things.  So, out of the refrigerator (after being in there less than 24 hours) and onto a baking sheet these went.  Yep…it is that easy.  These break and bake cookies are little balls of dough that you pull apart and then set on the baking sheet.  Place in a preheated 325°F oven for about 13-15 minutes and…at the end…you get an amazing, chocolatey-scented home…and fantastic little rounds of cookies.

Of course, the test is always with the taste.  And so, I dished one up to my roommate and one to me. One bite…one bite and I was in chocolate cookie heaven.  This reminded me, at first bite, fresh from the oven, of a warm pudding cake that I used to beg my mom to make for me.  Fantastic chocolate flavor.  Rich, chewy, and decadent.  These are an amazing, chewy bite of cookie.  Think about merging a dense, chewy brownie with a cookie…and that happy marriage is what this cookie is all about.  I was enamored with it.  I was lucky to hold myself to one.  That’s how good these are.  This is everything a cookie, gluten-free or not, should be.  I’m beyond impressed.

Let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  The Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough is made from palm fruit and canola oil, semisweet chocolate pieces (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla), powdered sugar (cane sugar, corn starch), potato starch, cane sugar, tapioca starch, rice flour, eggs, molasses, cocoa pressed with alkali, water, vanilla extract, xanthan gum, sea salt, guar gum and baking soda.  These cookies are certified gluten free.

As far as nutrition goes, the decadent Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough makes 12 cookies…and a serving size is 1 of these cookies.  This one cookie will provide you with 150 calories, 8 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 55 mg sodium, 19 grams carbohydrates, less than 1 gram fiber, 12 grams sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.  A sweet, not going to fill you up treat.

When a cookie that you don’t even have to dirty a bowl by mixing up a bunch of ingredients can spark memories and satisfy the biggest chocolate craving, you know something is amazing about them.  Immaculate Baking made a cookie that is for the serious chocoholic.  This cookie monster was beyond impressed…because it was everything I wanted in one perfect cookie.  And, with the chewy and fudgy texture, you’d never guess these were gluten free.

I’m in a chocolate cookie coma…and I’m happy there.  Join me!

Restaurant Review: Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio
Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Restaurant: Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Okay…technically this is not a restaurant.  There is no open seating, no tables, no hostess…none of that.  This is a bakery.  Not just any bakery though. This bakery has huge kitchen space to work out of, and in turn, offers up quite a lot of gluten-free goodies in their store.

Bake Me Happy was started by the lovely Wendy and Letha, committing themselves to making each and every bite that you have from their products the most decadent thing you’ve had since sliced bread.  Sliced bread, however, is not on their menu.  After being self-diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2006, Wendy immediately felt relieve from a life of digestive issues.  The only problem was…the gluten-free food choices available lacked flavor and texture, seriously limiting what she would be willing to consume (and who can blame her!?).  After many years of self-study, she decided to take the plunge and signed up for an immersion course at the Culinary Institute of America, experimenting with recipes and trying them out on unsuspecting friends.  Soon, both friends and family began requesting her treats for parties, and none of them were gluten intolerant.  From there, Wendy expanded and began offering her products to the public.  And from the huge response she got from her goodies…Bake Me Happy, the bakery, was born.  And because Wendy understands what it is like to have a food intolerance , you can guarantee that she takes great care and pride in the products that she puts out for the public.  Not only does she understand the importance of what she does, she also knows that a perfect recipe cannot be rushed and that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Just over a month ago, I wrote up a review on Bake Me Happy’s Cream-Filled Spongies (think Twinkies), which I found in the freezer at Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio.  While they were…okay…they didn’t wow me.  And in response to my post about their product, the owners very kindly invited me to check out the bakery the next time I was in the Columbus area.  As one of my best friends lives in that area, I make the trip there numerous times a year.  And…this past Halloween weekend…that was where you found me.  And, I recalled their invite to check out what fresh goodness they had at their bakery, instead of a freezer at a natural foods store…so…that morning after breakfast, my friends and I journeyed over to their Merion Village retail location to check out what fresh goodies awaited.

First of all, I was completely blown away by the amount of space they had in there.  HUGE location.  I am so accustomed to my gluten free bakeries being little, tight spots that have a few seats and a small kitchen.  Not to say they don’t turn out quite a lot of products (Annie May’s Sweet Cafe and Cherbourg Bakery, I’m looking at you!), but this kitchen space was unbelievable.  You step inside and it’s just open and not congested, even if there is a line.  It was nice.  Their storefront contains a counter that was jammed full of fresh baked goodness, and a smaller fridge that kept items like their cheesecake bars and other dairy-based goodies chilled and fresh.  It was organized.  It was adorable.  And I already knew I wanted one of their soft t-shirts before I left.  HA!

Bake Me Happy's Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin
Bake Me Happy’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin

So, after going back and forth on a few items (I really wanted one of the huge Apple Dumplings, but the roomie, who I was splitting everything with, was less enthusiastic), we finally got our turn at the counter and we made our selections, keeping it reasonable and promising to return to try more.  So, four items.  It was hard to narrow it down.  In the end, we ended up going with a Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, a Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin, a Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and (not pictured above because I devoured it on the car ride home) a Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Scone.  In addition to that (and for a later blog) I purchased a box of their Take-And-Bake scones in the Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil flavor (roomie’s choice!).

So, let’s start with what I ended up eating first.  The (not pictured) Gluten Free Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Scone ($3.50) sounded like a dream to me.  Like…a baked treat version of an Almond Joy.  Delicious, right?  Absolutely right!!  This is the first time I have had a gluten-free scone that lived up to the scone name.  I make scones, but none of them get the layers of pastry, and that flaky and crumbly texture to them.  This one had exactly that.  It was the most perfect scone I have had since going gluten free.  It had that hard outer layer and inside was a dry, crumbly, but not dense.  More biscuit-like.  I was in love.  And the blend of the sweet coconut and chocolate with the nuttiness of the almond made for more love and praise than I can even convey in words here.  Needless to say, the scone was devoured in record time.  And I loved every single bite.  I might have licked my fingers clean too.  You can get Bake Me Happy’s Gluten Free Scones in the following flavors: Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Chip; Ham, Cheese and Chives; Maple Cream, Bacon and White Cheddar; Blueberry, Goat Cheese and Basil; Jalapeño, Pepper Bacon and Pepper Jack Cheese; Apricot, White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut; and Dill, White Cheddar and Stone Ground Mustard.

As I visited the bakery on Halloween, they had quite a few Halloween themed treats.  One of these was the adorable Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart ($3.50 (I think…)).  I mean, come on…they are tarts that look like mummies.  Eyes and everything.  Bonus…pumpkin flavored.  YUM YUM!!  This was the first thing I ate the next day when I set out to devour half of each pastry (with my roommate, who is not gluten-free) consuming the other half and giving me her thoughts.  I loved, loved, LOVED the light and flaky pastry that these tarts are made from.  It reminded me of puff pastry…flaky, buttery, amazing, delicious, heavenly.  And the pumpkin cream cheese filler was the perfect amount.  Not too much.  Not heavy handed.  But just enough to make it feel like you were taking a bite out of an amazing pumpkin pie.  I was in pumpkin-everything heaven, let me tell you!!  So happy.  The first thing I said to Cathy when I took a bite was, “OH MY GOD THIS PASTRY!”  Blown away.  This was the first pastry crust that has actually impressed me since I’ve been gluten free.  Total win.  Totally want another one…or ten.

The Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt ($4.50) was Cathy’s (the roomie) choice when it came to items that we selected.  She is a sucker (see what I did there?) for anything lemon.  So, I had a feeling when we were making our selections that she would go that route.  Next time I want a flippin’ apple dumpling.  Because I have never seen a gluten free apple dumpling before.  But…no matter.  The bundt cake was dense, but not heavy.  I loved how moist and sticky good this little cake was.  The blueberries brought a nice pop of sweetness.  Cathy didn’t think there was enough lemon flavor in it, but I thought it struck a nice balance.  The lemon was complimentary to the blueberry, not overpowering or underwhelming.  Just right.  I might have saved this for my last bite because, while dense, I found the texture quite light, airy, and amazing.  And I thought the flavor was above and beyond what I expected.  Crazy good.

And, last but not least, falling under the category that if it’s pumpkin I want to eat it…is the Gluten Free Pumpkin Donut Muffin ($3.00).  Strangely enough, this turned out to be Cathy’s favorite thing that we bought at Bake Me Happy.  I was shocked when she told me that.  But, quite honestly, this was one of the most perfect gluten-free donut anythings that I’ve had in a long time.  The texture was perfect.  Not too dense, but not too light either.  Perfect balance.  The flavor was AMAZING.  Seriously.  It was pumpkin, and it was rolled in this fantastic cinnamon sugar topping that made each bite both savory and sweet and I loved it.  I devoured each and every forkful.  And I wish I had bought more of them. Pumpkin flavored or their standard donut muffin, it wouldn’t matter.  This is the consistency of donuts that I’ve been searching for…for years now.  Nailed it.  And I loved it enough to lick the plate.  No joke.

I have to say…fresh beats a freezer any day and Bake Me Happy sure did impress me with their fresh, made right there in the bakery, treats.  There was so much to choose from and not enough room in my budget or stomach for all of it.  That being said, I happily am ready to bake up some scones this weekend.  And I can’t wait to add this place to my list of stops for every single time I visit Columbus, Ohio.  I was beyond impressed.  And the staff was so friendly and helpful.  I didn’t get to meet the owners, as they were at the Celiac Conference that was going on (and that I didn’t know about until Friday as I was traveling), so hopefully next time I will be able to talk them up some.

If you are in or around Columbus, make it a point to drop by Bake Me Happy.  Buy a shirt (they are SO SOFT!) and buy up their goodies.  You won’t be disappointed.  Not one bit.  They certainly changed my tune.  Fresh is best.  And why not get some great gluten-free treats fresh out of the kitchen of a place that loves to bake up happiness?

Recipe: Gluten-Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

All you naysayers beware!!  Just because something is gluten free and dairy free does not immediately mean it will be flavorless or taste like cardboard.  I don’t know what cardboard tastes like since I’ve never had the urge to lick it or anything, but I promise you…this recipe will surpass all your expectations.

I was looking for a different sort of snickerdoodle treat to bake up for my amazing friends and neighbors downstairs.  They had a rough couple of weeks, but with things starting to turn around, I wanted to make something to celebrate.  That being said, I set out to bake up something snickerdoodle, that wasn’t necessarily the cookies themselves.  I still have to play around with my mom’s snickerdoodle cookie recipe and attempt to convert it to gluten and dairy free.

So…I found a recipe on The Cool York and changed it up to fit the diet they are starting out following, which just so happens to coincide with mine.  BONUS!!

Snickerdoodle Blondies…are life changing.

Recipe: Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies
Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

Servings: 16
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 45 minutes


  • 2-2/3 cups gluten-free baking flour (I used Mina’s Purely Divine Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (2 sticks) softened
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon



Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the butter & brown sugar in the mixing bowl and cream together.

Add in the 2 eggs until combined.

Add the baking powder to the mixture. Now, add in the flour.

Line a 9 x 13 baking sheet (or 8 x 8 if you prefer them thicker, like me) with parchment paper. Spread the batter over the pan.

Combine the white sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle generously over the batter.

Bake in the oven for 28-32 minutes (up to 40-45 min if using the 8 x 8 pan like I did).

Take out of the oven and let cool before serving!

Slice & enjoy


These blondies baked up light and soft and chewy and amazing.  Seriously.  I took half of the recipe and gave the rest to them.  I am beyond words with how well this worked out, honestly.  Totally delicious.  I especially loved the gooey and rich texture that these had.  I warmed mine up for about 20 seconds in the microwave and WOW!!  Just WOW!!  The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of both sugar and cinnamon to top…but that was really heavy on the cinnamon.  So I reduced it to 1/3 of the amount and it was that perfect sweet/spicy level.  If you like snickerdoodles…you’re absolutely going to love these.  And…if you don’t have to eat gluten-free or dairy free…regular flour and butter can be used, of course.

I can’t wait to make these again.

Product Review: Dolci di Marie Gluten Free Classic Biscotti

Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti
Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Product Review: North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Brownie + Heath Bar Crunch Blondie

North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble - Double Chocolate Brownie and Heath Bar Blondie
North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Brownie + Heath Bar Blondie

Product Review: North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Brownie + Heath Bar Crunch Blondie – $8.50+

Double your pleasure.  Double your fun.  Double your dessert.

Trust me…that is not a complaint.

I was surprised with my Holiday 2014 (December) Cuisine Cube when I found two amazing desserts inside.  Even better…two of my favorite things for dessert.  Cookies (which I’ll nosh and blog about later) and brownies.  Not just one brownie…but two brownies.  Pardon me whilst I drool a little.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, back in March I signed up for a fantastic gluten-free food delivery program called Cuisine Cube.  Each month, I am sent a box of 5-6 different gluten-free products from smaller and lesser-known gluten-free companies.  Some…are just from local bakeries…much like the product I am eating today.  Cuisine Cube is a fantastic way to broaden your gluten-free culinary and foodie horizons, because, honestly, I never would have even known any of these products existed for the most part.  New to me…and I’m loving it.  I have already vowed to hit the Stock Up page on Cuisine Cube’s site more than once to get more of a product that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dessert x 2 this month.  As it should be with the holidays.  Hey…I’m a runner and I work out.  Dessert is not an option; it’s a way of life.  I was raised having dessert every night after dinner…and that tradition carries over even now when I am on my own.  It’s the best way to wrap up the day.  A little treat at the end.

So, the first dessert I reached for was the one that came with two options.  Yes.  I am talking about North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble.  Why “Double Trouble?”  Well…inside this little unassuming bag are two decadent looking dessert bats.  Yes.  North Brooklyn Eats included a Heath Bar Crunch Blondie and a Double Chocolate Brownie.

Before I discuss the dessert bars themselves, let’s discuss North Brooklyn Eats for a moment.  The local small town bakery is dedicated to making homemade confections that are gluten-free and “don’t suck.” (I pulled that right off the little info thing online!)  It is run by two brothers, Josh and Michael Kimberg out of Beacon, NY, in the Hudson Valley.  It is the goal of these two brothers to change everyone’s perception of gluten-free dessert.  They specialize in gluten-free cakes and muffins, but, obviously, have other baked goods to offer as well, but desserts are their forte.

And yes…they are knocking it out of the park.  A simple Double Trouble Home Run!!

As I believe in everything in moderation, including dessert (even if my sweet tooth says otherwise), I only ate one dessert bar at a time.  And I split each one with my roommate (who is not a Celiac and doesn’t have to eat gluten-free).  We started with (because I deemed it so) the Heath Bar Crunch Blondie.

The only thing I did to this blondie was that I gave it a quick warm up in the microwave.  Desserts are always better when warm (when it comes to things like brownies, bars and cookies).  It smelled absolutely fantastic when I removed it from the microwave.  I got a knife and sliced through the blondie.  Immediately I liked what I could see.  The edges had this nice crispy border to them (my favorite part of any brownie!) and the inside was soft and chewy.  I gave half to my roommate (Cathy), and kept the other half for me to devour.  I tucked in under my snuggie (Hey…it’s cold here!) and dove in.

Holy dessert gods!!  I have always loved brownies and enjoyed blondies.  This blondie was definitely done up very well.  The North Brooklyn eats Heath Bar Crunch Blondie tastes like…a Heath Bar…but in a more rich and decadent form.  It’s like a sweet snack transformed into a delicious dessert.  And I loved it.  The blondie was baked to perfection, golden and speckled with toffee and chocolate goodness.  It was a nice play of flavors on the taste buds for sure.  I was just casually eating each little forkful, until I just had to pick it up and shove it in my face.  Well, maybe not so barbarian and brutishly…but I did give up on the fork method as just getting my fingers on this treat was a necessary pleasure.  It was moist and crumbly and just perfect.  If heaven were a brownie…it would be a blondie!  THIS particular blondie!!

The North Brooklyn Eats Double Chocolate Brownie was up the next night.  Meaning…it was totally scarfed up tonight.  HA!  If you love chocolate…you will totally love this.  This brownie…think cake-like, not fudgy, is a rich, chocolatey, delicious treat from the first bite to the last.  I love that it isn’t overly sweet.  It hits all the right notes. The brownie itself is light and soft in the middle, not heavy and dense.  I love that.  It makes me feel like I can eat more!  The edges had that fantastic crunch to them, but inside was all chocolate and all business.  Chocolate brownies with chocolate chips.  Yeah…you can’t go wrong with that.  Insanely good!  Double insanely good.

As this is a product from a local bakery in the New York City area…there isn’t any information as to what ingredients they use or the nutrition information.  But…they are brownies and blondies…assume it’s a treat.  If you’re anything like me…you can split it with a friend or loved one.  All the taste, half the guilty pleasure…er…guilt.

Two nights, two desserts, two fantastic dessert bars…all brought to me by the awesome people at Cuisine Cube…as well as the master bakers at North Brooklyn Eats.  I’m still dreaming of dessert.  If you want the best of both dessert bar worlds…opt for North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Brownie + Heath Bar Crunch Blondie.  Enjoy every last bite!  And then…go buy more.

Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest – Indianapolis, Indiana – August 23, 2014

GF Jules and me at the Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest in Indianapolis, Indiana!
GF Jules and me at the Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest in Indianapolis, Indiana!

This past Saturday, I had the honor of being able to attend the Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest up in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I love going to gluten-free expos and events and Indianapolis seems to always have one at some point during any calendar year.  This year was no exception, and I was thrilled to read about the new location for this year’s event – the Indian State Fairgrounds.  With all the vendors and exhibitors I saw listed, I knew this year’s event was going to be HUGE! I was not let down at all.One of the magazines I currently subscribe to, Gluten Free & More (formerly Living Without), was putting on the Living Without Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest in various cities this year as a way to show those with food allergies and/or sensitivities that we can live life without deprivation and missing out on delicious food.  It was a coming together of the magazine, as well as over a hundred of their favorite exhibitors to celebrate living well.  And it was open to anyone who wanted to stop in.

Tickets went on sale and, as a subscriber, I received a free entry, and then received a discount code for another ticket…so I had Cathy taken care of as well.  So, on Saturday morning, we ate a light breakfast before climbing into the car and hauling up to Indianapolis.  We timed it perfectly because we burned through our breakfast just as we got up there, about 30 minutes after it officially opened.

And…there was already a line waiting to get in.

Oh…that made me happy, indeed.

It was a hot summer day already and standing outside in the blazing sun didn’t sound like too much fun…but it wasn’t going to be a long wait.  Just about 5 minutes, at the most.  And while standing in line, I got to listen to people who have done expos like this before (like me) describe the events and how things work to the first timers.  I even got to geek out over favorite products and the like for a few moments.  I love making gluten-free friends!

Before we knew it, we were inside the doors, in the air conditioning, and getting the tickets scanned.  We were given blue wristbands to wear (for re-entry purposes and to show we paid!).  Cathy and I put them on and headed into the expo proper.  We were greeted at the door by people passing out reusable shopping bags from Glutino (a personal favorite!).  Perfect for all the samples and products you are bound to pick up and buy.

Trust me, you don’t walk out of these events empty-handed.

Cathy and I decided that we were going to be systematic about our approach to each table/vendor/aisle.  We’d start on one side and then work our way up, then come back down the other side.  This was a good plan in theory, and we decided to start in the middle aisle to avoid the congestion of the end aisles.  We soon found out…no matter what…it was just hopping and congested.  People were surrounding tables, getting free samples, trying products, trying local baked goods, and the like.  So, we ditched our original systematic plan for the…let’s just see what there is and wriggle into open areas when we can.

We’re pros.  HA!

That being said, we began our Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest at the Glutino/Udi’s/Earth Balance booth, which was giving out samples of Udi’s Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Cashew Cookies as well as Glutino’s Gluten-Free Multigrain English Muffins, schmeared with Earth Balance Creamy Coconut and Peanut Spread.  It was all crazy, crazy delicious.  I actually have the Glutino English Muffins in my freezer, I just haven’t tried them yet. Now…I know buying them wasn’t a mistake at all.  They were delicious.  And that Earth Balance Creamy Coconut and Peanut Spread…out-of-this-world good!

And from there…it only got better.  We made a point to stop by each vendor’s table and talk to them about their products, if we had tried them.  If we hadn’t…we would ask all about them.  I made a point of raving to the Pamela’s Product people about the Figgies & Jammies.  Because they are awesome and worthy of praise.  I talked to the Hodgson Mills representative and when I mentioned being a food blogger he said to reach out to the Hodgson Mills team anytime.  I was told the same thing by various other vendors as well.  And one local vendor who was selling the most amazing bar-b-que sauce and seasoning (which we purchased) said to tag her on Facebook when I use their products so they can read my blog.  I was having a great time.

I think, though, the best moment had to come at the Freedom Foods table.  Because, as many of you are aware, Freedom Foods only makes my favorite gluten-free cereal, Tropic-O’s.  NOM NOM!  I can’t find this cereal here anymore, since my Whole Foods stopped carrying it, so my parents ship it to me from Birmingham, Alabama.  We have a system down.  But, recently, they put out a gluten-free, dairy-free, and not-free version of Nutella…which I fell in love with.  My local Kroger is the only place that had it…and I bought the last jar of it a few weeks ago.  It has never been restocked.  So…I stocked up on some Quinoa Pancake Mix, lots of “Smudge” (that’s the Nutella stuff!), and a few other products to try, all the time raving about how much I love their products and how they honestly care about what ingredients go into all of their stuff.  It didn’t hurt that the guy at the table had a New Zealand/Australian accent.  HELLO!  I actually ended up going back to the table before leaving that day and buying 4 more jars of Smudge.  I hadn’t opened the one I had at home for fear I would never find it again.  Now…it’s on!

I was able to sample some of the best gluten-free Snickerdoodles I have ever eaten.  And this pasta that was made from lentils that tasted exactly like regular pasta…but I couldn’t afford the hefty price tag on it.  Unfortunately.  It was nice to sample it, however.  At the very back of the building, for those over 21, was the gluten-free cider/beer tasting area.  There was so much food and samples…so I was glad we ate light.  And Cathy and I have a system down…where we split a sample so we aren’t filling up on our own.  It always works at these events.

However, I have to say the greatest moment ever was when I finally got to meet GF Jules in person. GF Jules (formerly Jules Gluten Free) was one of the first Celiac/Gluten-Free bloggers/recipe makers/amazing people I started to follow on social media after my diagnosis.  While I have been to events where she has been present, I have never been able to actually meet her.  That changed.  We discovered that we were food allergy soul sisters, both of us being vegetarian Celiacs who also can’t handle dairy.  Go figure.  She was so nice and just so easy to talk with.  I picked up one of her cookbooks, which she signed, and she was kind enough to take a picture with me.  I might have geeked out a little bit.  Or a lot.  You know how it goes…

And soon, after a couple hours of tasting, testing, buying, talking, and exploring, our time at the expo drew to a close.  We were going to meet our friend, Greg, for lunch that day, so we bid adieu to the fantastic event and made our way out to the car.

This event was probably the best one I have attended so far.  Great people, great vendors, great information all around.  And I came home with samples and products to try in the very near future.  Can’t argue with that, right?  Right!

I hope they return next year.  I’m already making plans to attend.  If one of these events happens near you…I definitely encourage you to go!

Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies ‘N Cream Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies 'N Cream Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert
So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies ‘N Cream Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert

Product: So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies ‘N Cream Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert – $6.99+

I have a lot to give thanks for when it comes to delicious things in my life.  When most people hear that I’m a lactose intolerant and gluten-free vegetarian, I often wonder if they think I eat grass.  I don’t…for the record.  Although I do eat a lot of veggies that are green…but not grass.  Never grass.

That being said, sometimes I also get the chance to try out some products that fit into my diet.  And recently, my friends over at So Delicious Dairy-Free gave me the chance to try out some of their latest products to hit the market.  One of these included the previous blogged about So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookie Dough Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert…and now…another bit of excitement…



Pardon the unnecessary, but highly needed caps lock abuse.

First of all, as a Celiac do you realize that I never…NEVER…get to eat anything that in any way, shape, or form resembles ice cream that has the words “cookie,” or “dough” in it?  It’s true.  Those have become relics of my past.  Ice cream that I used to know.  Favorites of mine, left to melt away in my memory…of their flavors and their deliciousness.

Or…so I thought.

Thanks to the good people at So Delicious Dairy Free…that is no longer the case.



Oh, you better believe the first pint I dove into was the Gluten-Free Cookie Dough.  Growing up, whenever we got ice cream from the store or went to our local ice cream parlor (The Dairy Barn!), I was a cookie dough ice cream girl.  That was what I wanted.  Oddly enough, I never ate raw cookie dough…but put it in ice cream and…oh…yeah.  Magic.  We all know I about died when I got to eat the So Delicious variety, having gone YEARS now since having a taste of one of my favorite flavors.  And if you are just tuning in, click on the link above and read all about that moment!

But…we come back to the present now…and tonight…tonight it was time to give the other childhood favorite a shot.  Another flavor of ice cream I always have to just stare at and dream about eating.  But not now…not again.  Not when So Delicious comes through and delivers their So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies ‘N Cream Coconut Milk Ice Cream.




So, while my roomie and I were feasting on dinner, I set the pint out to thaw a little.  I find that non-dairy frozen desserts often need about 5-10 minutes of sitting on the counter to make scooping easier.  Trust me.  Do it.  It means you won’t have to go to battle with your pint of delicious goodness.  The last thing you want to do is go to battle with dessert.  That’s just not…human.

After we finished dinner and doing the dishes, I went to get out the ice cream scooper and serve up the latest flavor of non-dairy frozen goodness from a company that prides itself on their products that they call themselves So Delicious!  That’s bold.  And I love them for that!

I scooped us each up a serving and settled in to finish watching a Food Network show of our choosing tonight.  I was practically on the edge of my seat…anticipating that first taste.  I dipped my spoon into my bowl, scooped up a bit of the ice cream…and BAM…everything I missed about Cookies ‘N Cream ice cream came flooding back to me.  I might have teared up a little.  Amazing.

First of all, So Delicious does not skimp on the fillings.  You are getting chunks of gluten-free sandwich cookies in this ice cream.  You are getting this rich and luxurious base made form coconut milk that doesn’t overpower.  The vanilla is a nice compliment to all the flavors.  And those cookies…OH MY GOD…those cookies…they are the things that dreams are made of.  Especially for someone like me…who has had to ignore anything with the word “cookie” in it for so long.  Dreams do come true and So Delicious truly makes it…delicious.  Each bite had that rich sweetness to it…plus the chunkiness of the cookies.  You get that crunch with the creamy texture of the dessert itself.  Oh…yes.  If heaven were a pint of ice cream…I was devouring it at that very moment.  A new favorite.

It’s also really good over a warm gluten-free brownie with hot fudge drizzled over it.  I’m just throwing that out there.  I might have done that too.

So, what exactly goes into a pint of the So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies ‘N Cream Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert?  I’m about to tell you!  This ice cream is made from organic coconut milk, organic dried cane syrup, gluten-free creme cookies, chicory root extract, natural flavor, carob bean gum, and guar gum.  Not only is this free of dairy and gluten, but it is also cholesterol free, vegan, non-GMO, and kosher.

And…I know it’s a treat…it’s dessert…but I always hit up those nutrition facts.  A serving of the So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies ‘N Cream Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert is 1/2 cup.  In this serving, you will be consuming 160 calories and 7 grams of fat.  Keep in mind, some of that fat count comes from that nutritious coconut milk!  You will also be taking in 50 mg sodium and 16 grams of sugar.  Yep…it’s high in sugar…but it’s an ice cream treat.  You sort of expect that.  And, finally, you will be provided with 7 grams of filling fiber and 1 gram of protein.

Not too shabby for a frozen dessert, right?  RIGHT!

Yeah…my love for So Delicious continues to grow every time I get to try one of their products.  Stay tuned…because there are more frozen treats from So Delicious in my freezer just waiting for me to pick them next to try.  It’s a good thing that ice cream is one of my most favorite things in life.  And, now, here’s one I can safely consume!

Oh, So Delicious…how I love you and your magical pints of frozen goodness.

A serving of So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies 'N Cream Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert
A serving of So Delicious Dairy Free Gluten-Free Cookies ‘N Cream Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert

Product Review: Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Fudgy Brownie Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie Mix
Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie Mix

Product: Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Fudgy Brownie Mix – $11.99

I want to give a quick shout out to my friend, Rebecca Fifield, a Tastefully Simple consultant and friend of mine since middle school.  When Tastefully Simple first put out their new gluten-free products, she sent me a box containing said products and asked me to try them out.  Sometimes, I get distracted, but I always get around to it.  And while I have already reviewed the Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Gluten-Free Beer Bread Mix and the Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Vanilla Bean Pound Cake Mix, I had yet to get around to the (honestly) most important one…the Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie Mix.

Why is this one the most important product?  It’s not…I just made that up.  Why?  Because it involves chocolate.  And brownies.  And second only to cookies…brownies are my next favorite treat in life.  Seriously.  And while there are plenty of gluten-free options out there for brownie mixes…let’s face it…they aren’t all great.

Well…I don’t know what convinced me that today was a good day to make brownies.  It was 97°F outside…I had just returned from Detroit (I was seeing Queen in concert!) and the World Cup Final was about to begin.  Of course, brownies seem logical, yes?

Well, the best part about Tastefully Simple is…how simple their products are to make.  So, this took me, literally 5 minutes to get ready to go into the oven.  Anything that doesn’t require me dragging out my Kitchenaid Mixer and a bunch of different bowls and ingredients is a good thing in my book.  And this…required only two additional items to the mix itself – 2 eggs and butter.

That’s it.


Tastefully simple.

So, here I was, moments away from kickoff and I’m preheating my oven to 350°F and getting out a large bowl.  I empty the Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie Mix into a large mixing bowl and crack open 2 eggs.  I add the melted 1-1/2 sticks of butter to the bowl, grab a spoon, and simply stir it all together.  The thick, chocolate batter then is poured into a greased 8×8 baking pan…and into the oven it went.  No World Cup missed.  And dessert well on its way to being done in 40 undisturbed minutes.

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownies (baked and fresh from the oven)
Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownies (baked and fresh from the oven)

Near the end of the first half, my timer beeps and I get up and pull the brownies out of the oven.  I had been smelling them all during the match and my mouth was already watering.  They looked amazing…a little crisp on the edges, but crumbly and flaky all throughout the center.  I inserted a toothpick to see if it came out clean…and it did.  The Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie Mix was done baking.  I placed the pan on cooling rack and got to work on dinner while they cooled.

After dinner, it was time to give my dessert a try.  I got out a knife and sliced the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Fudgy Brownies into 16 squres, as the serving is 1/16th of the package.  Math is my strong subject.  I eased out two squares, one for my roommate and one for myself.  As we are coming off of a mega concert high and World Cup excitement, it was time to doctor these up.  I got out my gluten-free So Delicious Coconut Milk Cookie Dough Ice Cream and placed a scoop on top of the brownies.  Then, topped it off with a drizzle of hot fudge.  Gluten-Free Brownie Sundaes done in time for the second half of the final match.

So…here’s the thing…

The Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie Mix bakes up really rich and fudgy brownies.  Oh…my…GOD!  These were chocolate heaven.  I ended up pushing my scoop of ice cream off the top of the brownie so I could simply enjoy it and all it’s moist, chocolate goodness.  Seriously.  I wasn’t expecting to fall this in love with this dessert, but Tastefully Simple truly nailed it with these.  They have a nice, crisp, outer edge…but the rest of the brownie is ooey, gooey, soft, fudgy goodness.  From one bite to the next, I was already anticipating the next rich burst of chocolate.  I was just…loving each and every bite and had to stop myself from going back to steal another square.  I did, however, pick up all the crumbs from the two pieces I dished up and ate those.  Hey…nothing this good should go to waste.

I know, you’re thinking that $11.99 is a lot of money to spend on a brownie mix…but when Tastefully Simple does something…they do it right.  And with it being so easy to prepare and bake, you’ll never want to go back to any other brownie mix.  Phenomenal flavor…sweet, rich, moist and simply tasty.

Let’s look at ingredients, shall we?  The Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie Mix is made up of sugar, rice flour, cocoa, potato starch, tapioca flour, and less than 2% of natural flavors, salt, xanthan gum, and silicon dioxide (anticaking).  It is gluten-free and can be made vegan by using vegan butter (like Earth Balance) and using an egg substitute.

As for nutrition?  Well…they are brownies.  So…remember that.  A serving of the Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownies is 1/16th of the package.  So that’s about a 2-inch square, I think.  This serving will give you 130 calories and 0.5 grams of fat.  It is cholesterol-free.  You will be taking in 60 mg sodium and 20 grams of sugar.  Yep…it is high in sugar, but it’s also the first ingredient on the pouch and…it is BROWNIES!  Dessert.  Hello!  This mix also provides 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein.

Thank you Rebecca for introducing me to Tastefully Simple and their gluten-free line.  I have a few more products to review, but so far, everything I have been able to try has gone above and beyond all expectations.  I think the Fudgy Brownie Mix will never leave my pantry.  Ever.  Simple and delicious.  That’s Tastefully Simple.  And they make some of the best gluten-free products I have ever been able to easily make and try.

Make sure you head over to Rebecca Fifield‘s Tastefully Simple page and order some for yourself!  You will not be disappointed.

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie (serving size)
Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie (serving size)