OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (May 7, 2016)

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Me heading into the finish line of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: May 7, 2016

Time: 1:39:28

Four years ago…four years ago I ran the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon as my second half marathon EVER!  I was fortunate enough to have a friend in my corral, a local runner I met with the (now gone) Blue Mile Monday running group.  It was a fantastic race that day.  Hot.  Steamy.  Sweaty.  But fantastic.  It was such a spirited, fun, and well-run race and expo…that I vowed to go back.

And then…it didn’t happen.

Until, I decided to run it again.  It was a really random, really quick decision to run it.  And I didn’t really shout about it because, as I’ve said before, every day is different for me.  I never know when there is a good day ahead or a bad day…so, I haven’t really been talking about races I’m doing just in case it’s not a good day and I don’t actually run it.  It’s hard coming back from injury, but I’m being cautious and smart about it and I’m not pushing it.  So…I left work early on Friday and trekked up to Indianapolis, Indiana to get checked into the hotel.  I always stay at the JW Marriott when in Indy for a run, when it’s convenient.  It was for this race.  The start line was right out the door!  HA!  Besides, I’m a princess…I like to stay in nice places.  (Joking…sort of…).  After checking in and dropping off bags in the room, Cathy and I headed down to the race expo to pick up my race bib.  This was a little bit of a hike through the convention center, but it’s a hell of an expo and worth the hike.

We noted the Starbucks in the hotel and said we’d stop and get a banana for me for in the morning on our way back.  Once we got into the expo, we were handed drawstring backpacks and we immediately headed to the Packet Pickup area.  Since I registered later, my number was pretty high up there, which meant hiking further back in the line of windows with bib numbers.  I found my spot and went up to the window.  They said to have your photo ID ready, but the guy didn’t even ask for it.  He did find my bib and got my shirt…tucked it into a Blue Mile bag and handed it over to me.  YAY!  Officially ready to run.  But first…shopping…

…and the official merchandise store always has some goodies to offer.  Cathy went and bought an official Finisher shirt for me (I can’t buy that…bad mojo).  And I ogled a few other things, but opted to leave it with just the shirt.  So…we began a quick weave through the expo.  This is where I fell in love with the Ocean Spray PACt Cranberry Extract Water.  I am forever having this stuff in my fridge.  HOLY COW!!  SO GOOD!!  We scooted past the Clif Bar place, which had a line due to all the samples they were handing out.  And then…

…I signed up for another race.  It was one I was considering anyway…and with the expo discount and the promise of a free hat…I ended up going ahead and signing up.  Somebody stop me!!  LOL!!  This one isn’t too far away, so I  feel confident I’ll be in good form to run it.

We then found the BondiBand booth…and…oh yeah…there were purchases made.  I ended up getting 3 more…because…I can’t have too many of these.  I wear them on runs, at the gym, and in spin classes…so, yeah…they get used.  I still own the very first BondiBand I ever had…my 13.1 one that my friend, Heather Dillon, purchased for me at my first half marathon in Chicago back in 2011.  You might say that I am a fan…but I’m also a brand ambassador for them now too.  More on that once it’s officially official.  Anyway…more money spent and it was time to leave the expo to get to our dinner reservation.  We stopped for a moment to sign the banner wall at the exit.  Then, food.

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My Gluten Free Penne with Tomato Marinara and Vegetables from Osteria Pronto at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, IN

Now, my pre-race eats is always…ALWAYS…a gluten free pizza.  BUT…we couldn’t find a close spot that offered that near where we were in Indianapolis.  And we really didn’t want to leave the area…so Cathy found out that the hotel restaurant, Osteria Pronto, offered gluten-free pasta on their menu.  I normally don’t do pasta as I am a pasta freak and will EAT ALL THE PASTA…and sometimes it’s too much and I still have it with me in the morning.  But, you gotta do what you gotta do.  Turns out, this place had their act together. The chef and servers were very knowledgeable about gluten-free dining and when they brought out Cathy’s bread…they brought me out some toasted Udi’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread to have with either butter (no dairy for me) or olive oil.  It was a nice gesture.  The chef threw together a pasta dish for me using the Gluten Free Penne and their amazing red marinara and some fresh vegetables (onion, red pepper, broccolini).  Cathy got their signature pasta dish – Straw & Hay (chive noodle & egg noodle, lardo, English peas, garlic cream, pine nuts, and topped with a soft boiled egg).  I didn’t think I was that hungry…but as I said, I love pasta…and I devoured mine.  LOL!!

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Just hanging out with my NUUN guys!  I loved them.  I really loved them.

After dinner, we returned to the expo to finish up.  Starbucks was closed…so Cathy said she’d get a banana in the morning for me. We revisited the entire expo, walking through the slightly less chaotic area this time.  Cathy bought another BondiBand for spin class, and the lady working there gave us the discount so she only paid $5 for it, since we previously bought some that day.  YAY!!  I found the NUUN table and got to talking with the cute guys behind there.  I told them I was a #nuunambassador and we got a picture together.  LOVE!!  It was fun.  My new favorite flavor…the Mango Orange.  WOW!  And…then I signed up for ANOTHER race.  Seriously…stop me.  This one is in the fall…and they gave me a free wine glass and an expo discount for signing up.  Cathy was given a race shirt because they were so impressed with what a great running fan she is and everything she does for not just me…but other runners.  SUPER awesome.  We wrapped up the expo and hiked outside to Circle Center to hit up Rocket Fizz.  We ended up purchasing a Diet Root Beer for Cathy and a Nut Goodie Bar to split for dessert.  I am a firm believer in dessert.  And then…it was back to the hotel.  I talked to my sister on the phone on the way back…and I even stood at the window in my room and watched an ongoing baseball game…which was totally awesome.  Cathy went to go shower and I needed to do my nightly foam rolling.

I had made a promise to my good friend, Deana, after the Derby Mini, that I would dedicate the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon to her.  I kept my word, and in Sharpie, on my race bib, I wrote: FOR DEANA!  I texted her a picture and we chatted for a little while…as I watched some Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives (seriously…this is a tradition!) and did more foam rolling and used THE STICK on my hip and hip adductor.  After that…it was time to set the alarms for the morning and get some sleep.

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The final race day outfit…I was told to NOT wear the tank…I am glad I didn’t.

My first alarm went off and I got up, turned it off, took my medicine, used the bathroom, and then…went back to sleep.  My second alarm got me up at 5:30 am.  I grabbed my pile of race gear and headed into the bathroom to change and put on ALL THE SUNSCREEN.  Hey, I’m a pale, blonde, Irish girl…I burn easily.  And I had to slather it ALL OVER myself.  I wasn’t sure at this point if I was running in just a sports bra or if I was throwing on a tank, but I acted as though I’d do the bra only.  Once I had my Injinji socks on and my Newtons laced up, I put my hair up in my signature pigtails, dressing them up with red and black hair extensions.  And the BondiBand was a pink and black checkered one I found at the expo.  It was the closest thing to a checkered flag I could find.  I went back into the hotel room and made sure Cathy got up out of her bed.  Her mission was to go get me a banana from Starbucks.  They were giving them away for free, but it was a madhouse, and she was gone long enough that I managed to eat my cereal, do all my PT stretches and turn on the news/weather.  When she got back, she changed, ate a protein bar, and drank her Starbucks Cool Lime Refresher.  At about 6:45 a.m., I had my fuel belt on and was heading out the door.  Cathy realized she forgot the sign, so back to the hotel room to snag it.  And then, we were on our way, heading down the elevator and out the door.

My friend, Julia, was running in the 5K, which was going off at 7 a.m.  I was hoping to find her, but, there were SO many people that I never did see her.  I looked and waited.  And never saw her go by.  DANG IT!  Cathy thought she heard the announcer say something about corrals closing and said that it involved mine, so now we were walking the line down to the split in the corrals.  She found an information guy and asked and he aid that my corral was going to open as soon as the 5K runners were though…since I was in C.  So…Cathy made me panic for no reason.  She does this a lot at races.  Seriously.  *deep breath*  We walked back up and I downed my banana and I went to get into Corral C.  I had a moment to do my dynamic warmup moves before Cathy said she needed to stake out her spot at the other side of the start…so she made me take off my NYC Marathon zip I had put on to keep warm.  I parted with it, and was surprised that it wasn’t too chilly at the start.  A little, but not enough that I was shivering.  The National Anthem was sung BEAUTIFULLY and the wheelchair racers were sent off by Meb.  Meb was there running from the back of the mini to the front…I never got to see him.  Dang it.  In fact, I finished the race before he even started.  I did beat his time though, LOL!

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Meb waiving the green flag up in the bucket. I didn’t even see him. I suck.

The corrals moved up and the first wave was prepared to be sent off…by Meb…at 7:33 am.  The horn sounded, Meb waived the green flag, and we were off.  I crossed the start line, started my Garmin, and just went with the crowd.  I saw Cathy and gave a wave and headed toward the Indianapolis Zoo.  I didn’t see any animals out this year…but it is a nice way to start the race regardless.  That zoo is gorgeous!  This was a quick pace for me, though it didn’t feel it at the time.  My first mile was 6:57, apparently, but I dropped back after that.  Let me say, I am very glad that Cathy told me to go with the bra top only and not the tank.  The humidity was very real at Mile 2…and it was still early.  So, yeah…that worked out wonderfully.  I would have died with fabric on me.  As it was, my legs felt heavy and I was wondering how well this race was actually going to play out for me.  But, I pressed on, hoping I’d find my stride and fall into a comfortable pace and hold it.  Mile 2 and 3 are run on W. Michigan Street.  In fact, much of the first 5 miles of the race is through residential and such areas…but always with spectators and people there to cheer, some more populated than others.  Mile 5 is Main Street…and a banner is spread over the top welcoming runners to Main Street.  There are restaurants and the like out here and the crowd was loud and proud.  It was a nice way to make the turn toward the Speedway itself.  You enter the speedway via a steep downhill slope, and then back up.  Inside, you hit Mile 6 and the run around the actual Indianapolis Motor Speedway is on.  This is the part I always look forward to.  This was also the slowest miles of the race for me.  I think it’s because the sun had come out, the humidity was high, and there was no shade out on that track.  But I was running ON THE TRACK of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  How cool is that.  They have 2 pit stops (water stations) inside the track, but I carry my own water and fuel with me, so I never make use of these.  I thought about it though, with the humid air.  I was sweating!  The best part…the highlight, is hitting that brickyard.  I flashed devil horns to the photographers and carried on.  You exit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just before Mile 9.  From here…it’s 4 miles to the finish.

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Me leaving the start gate of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

4 miles is a morning run for me.  So, despite feeling like I was really slowing down, I was super happy with how I was plugging along.  I kept saying, “This is for Deana…and Deana doesn’t quit!”  Or “Be relentless…like Deana.”  Mantras really help.  LOL!  I wasn’t about to quit…when it’s humid and hot, you just slow it down and run comfortable.  Miles 9-11 wind you back toward downtown, and when you get to Mile 12, you see the checkered flags, and hear the crowds, and you just run.  You just run because you’re almost done.  You just run because you are heading to that finish line. You just…do what you’ve been doing all along, but with feeling and spirit and maybe jazz hands.  Or maybe not.  Jazz hands might be a little much…

I love this part of the race.  The energy is amazing.  I could hear the finish line announcer and I knew I was getting close.  My watch beeped long before the 13 mile marker (I was about .20 miles ahead of the mile markers), and I picked it up some more.  I gritted my teeth, dug deep, and pushed it.  I saw Cathy to my right with my sign and just screaming at me.  And I noticed, as I neared the finish, that the clock time said 1:39:45…I crossed.  I just turned out another half marathon (13.29 miles on my Garmin)…and was only 1:07 minutes off of breaking my PR set at the Geist Half Marathon in 2014.  I felt amazing.  And accomplished.  And…yeah!!  I was ushered toward the medals and was handed one, which I eased over my head, somehow not spilling any water in the open water bottle I was holding.  I’m just that talented, folks.

I was given a plastic bag to put water, banana, fruits, energy bars, and whatever else into as I walked through the runner recovery area.  As I got a Dole cup, one of the Dole employees said he loved my outfit and smile and asked if he could get my picture with the Dole cup.  So, I agreed.  If I turn up on any Dole advertisements, let me know.  I am almost famous, LOL!  Afterwards, I headed into the After Party area where I was to find Cathy in the family reunion zone around the end of the alphabet.  I spotted her and rushed over…and she gave me my official time!!  I was SO happy with it.  Impressed because I felt like I was running through tar at some points…no joke.  But this was 2 minutes better than Derby…which was 2 minutes better than NYC.  Nice pattern there, yes?  LOL!

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Getting my post-race massage.  I obviously approve, LOL!!

I changed out of my shoes and put on some recovery shoes.  I snagged some chocolate milk for Cathy and then headed into the massage tent.  I NEVER miss a post-race massage whenever possible.  Seriously, this just helps me with my recovery.  The lines weren’t long yet either.  The nice lady who gave me my massage was awesome.  It was, seriously, one of the best post-race massages I have ever had.  She asked me a lot about running and how I got into it…and she really stretched me out and worked my muscles.  She told me she loves working on people where she can feel their muscles and see how they move when she works on them.  GO ME!  Afterwards, I was ready to head back to the hotel to shower, so Cathy and I headed that way.

The hotel was handing out cold towels to runners so we could wipe our faces and get refreshed, which was SO awesome.  Once we got up to the room, I went to go shower and Cathy packed up everything.  Once I was clean and dressed, she called down to have the car brought out by valet and I downed some water and played on my phone for a moment.  We finally went down just as our car came around.  Packed up…we hit the road to go to Target and then meet up with our friend, Greg, at Cheeseburger in Paradise.  A celebrator Gluten Free Veggie Baja Burger (no cheese or sour cream) was in order.  I got mine with the gluten free sweet potato fries.  I devoured it.  No joke.  We did a bit of shopping after lunch, hitting up Half Price Books…Strange Brew for coffee…and the outlets in Edinburgh, before heading home.

Half Marathon #18…done.  And it’s my third fastest one to date!!

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Half Marathon #3 this year…done…Half Marathon #18 in my running career…done…3rd fastest half marathon time…achieved. Call it a comeback!

So, the official results of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon is that I finished in 1:39:28.  I was 889/24,768 finishers overall.  I was 123/13,487 female finishers.  And I was 21/1,939 finishers in my division!  I am so happy with this result and I texted Deana and she was so honored and happy.  It was a wonderful race, and now I remember why I loved it so much.  I hope not to wait another 4 years to return to this one.  That being said, I’m already in talks with Deana about some upcoming stuff for next year, which I’m super excited about.  I’m sure I’ll discuss that when it all falls into place.  I am certain my endurance will continue to get better.  Half marathon distances used to feel so easy for me, but I’ve been struggling in the last few miles as of late.  But this one surprised me, because I thought I had really slowed down, but I never once hit a sub 7:45 minute pace.  At all.  WOW!!  And to think I slowed down to a pace that felt “easy.”  At least my fitness has been kept up over the span of time I was out with injury last year.  I credit that to my spin classes, regular gym visits, and sheer determination on my part.

Deana…I ran hard and strong for you…I’m glad this race turned out the way it did.  Thank you for being an inspiration, a badass, and truly, an amazing friend.

Restaurant Review: Mythos Restaurant, Orlando, Florida

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Mythos Restaurant, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Mythos Restaurant, Orlando, Florida

Twas the first time since coming to Orlando that my breakfast (the final bagel, it was cinnamon raisin from Erin McKenna’s in Disney Springs) wore off long before I thought it would.  That usually is okay, except my dinner reservation yesterday was actually a late lunch reservation.  So, when my stomach apparently wanted elevensies…I was nowhere ready to pop a protein bar for fear of not being hungry for the best and big meal of the day.

Cathy, Jenn and I all shared a cup of watermelon and hoped for the best…but the 12:45 reservation couldn’t come soon enough.  At 12:30, we went in, hoping that perhaps they could seat us early.

No such luck.  We were told our names would be called around our reservation time.  I wasn’t too surprised though.  Mythos Restaurant, after all, is one of the hottest and most sought over reservations in all of Universal Studios Islands of Adventures theme park.  No joke.  Mythos Restaurant was voted the Best Theme Park Restaurant from 2003-2009, came in third in 2010…and who knows what happened after that.  The thing was…the place was hopping.  There was a 35 minute wait for people/groups that didn’t make reservations…and that wait time quickly escalated.

What makes Mythos Restaurant such hot spot?  Well, it’s located in a prime spot, carved into the side of towering rock formations, cascading waterfalls and ancient figures.  So, you sort of know you’re in for quite a treat as you approach the restaurant itself.  It is known for its exceptional cuisine.  And the setting and friendly staff do make for an exceptional, contemporary dining setting.

About 12:55, we were finally called for our seating and led through the restaurant to a nice corner booth near the open kitchen.  I sat on the side facing the kitchen with hopes of being able to watch the chefs, but the booth was too tall for me to really see.  Ah well.

Our server, Lindsey, was an absolute doll.  And totally hilarious.  I loved that she immediately made us feel welcome by calling us “her friends.”  That continued throughout the entire meal, mind you.  I love making new friends.  Anyway, it took her a moment to come back around to us, but she eventually got there and made us feel immediately welcome all over again.  She asked about where we were from, what all we had been doing, and through in some fun Harry Potter references, because she’s awesome like that.  She took our drink order…a Diet Coke ($3.19) for Cathy, a Unsweetend Iced Tea ($3.19) for me, and Water (FREE!) for Jenn.  We were given some time to look over the menu, which had clear markings for things that could be made vegan and gluten free…not always the same, but some dishes could be both.  This left me with two very good sounding options…the Pad Thai and/or the Seasonal Risotto.  AH…decisions!!

After a spill that Lindsey had to clean up, she came over to the table again to get our orders.  She apologized for the delay and since I was the difficult one, she started with me.  I asked her which she would get if she was a vegetarian and gluten free…and she said that most vegan and gluten-free guests LOVE the risotto, but she is a huge fan of the Pad Thai for that sweet and sour sauce they put on it…that being said, she pairs it with meat and wasn’t sure how it would mix with just vegetables.  So, she highly recommended the Seasonal Risotto.  I went with that per her suggestion. Cathy went with the Mythos Signature Burger with Lamb and the Parmesan Fries.  Jenn went with the Crab Cake Sliders, subbing the potato salad for the Parmesan Fries.  Orders in.

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Mythos Restaurant’s Gluten Free Bread (cut up gluten free hamburger buns)

It took awhile for our meals to come out, which was fine.  I was starving, but I love knowing that food is being prepared to order.  In fact, Lindsey explained that everything, save for two (2) of the dishes on the menu are made to order.  The two that are prepped ahead are the Mediterranean Chicken Salad Wrap and the Pressed Porchetta Panini, due to the volume of orders they get for those.  Interesting trivia.  She delivered some bread and butter to the table…and then said that they had some gluten-free bread if I was interested.  I always am.  She returned a few minutes later with some warm bread…which looked like their gluten free hamburger buns chopped up.  Hey…it worked.  I loved having the option.

But food came out, hot, fresh, gorgeous, and…amazing.

Mythos Restaurant's Signature Burger with Lamb and Parmesan Fries

Mythos Restaurant’s Signature Burger with Lamb and Parmesan Fries

Cathy’s Mythos Signature Burger with Lamb ($14.99) with the Parmesan Fries (+ $0.50) looked fantastic and perfectly cooked.  The bun was huge, encompassing the burger and all the toppings that came on it.  This included grilled onion, shredded lettuce and fresh tomato topped with feta-olive aioli.  She was nervous about the feta-olive aioli, but loved it.  She found the burger to be a little dry (NOT LAMB!), but it was well cooked and full of flavor.  While the patty was thick, it was way smaller than the bun.  To this day, though, she raves about the “killer” feta-olive aioli.  She almost missed out on it as she doesn’t love olives at all…but it worked.  And now, I think she’s smitten.  She ate every bit of that burger.  And the Parmesan fries were “good.” she said.  The cheese, both of my dining compatriots said, needed to be melted so that they stuck to the fries rather than just sprinkled on top.  Otherwise, the cheese fell off the fries.

Jenn’s Crab Cake Sliders ($12.99) dish was her favorite meal of this entire trip.  Nothing overpowered the taste of the crab.  It wasn’t overseasoned.  The remoulade sauce wasn’t drowning the sliders…they had the perfect amount.  While the buns were thick, they were soft and squished down.  She absolutely LOVED this meal.  Like I said, of the 4 days we have been in Florida, this topped her list.  The Crab Cake Sliders were served on mini rolls with lettuce and remoulade sauce.  She subbed the Potato Salad for the Parmesan Fries (+ $0.50) and liked them, but also felt that the cheese needed to be melted on there so it didn’t just tumble off, leaving regular fries.  She didn’t touch the watermelon-tomato medley that was served on the side…it was probably delicious though!

Mythos Restaurant's Gluten Free and Vegan Seasonal Risotto (beet risotto with sauteed mushrooms and spinach)

Mythos Restaurant’s Gluten Free and Vegan Seasonal Risotto (beet risotto with sauteed mushrooms and spinach)

This comes to me.  I ended up ordering the Seasonal Risotto ($15.99), done gluten-free and vegan.  The risotto of the day was a Beet Risotto, which normally would be served with beef on top, but thanks to being practically vegan, that was left off.  This dish was served with sauteed mushrooms and baby spinach on top.  And it was seasoned to perfection.  It was creamy and earthy and just…amazing.  I loved the richness of the beets infused into the creamy rice.  The sauteed vegetables on top added some great texture and bright flavors.  It was really good.  I had to work hard not to inhale it.  But, in the end…gone.  And I was one happy girl.

While Lindsey exercised her Slytherin tendencies and gave us dessert menus, we opted out this time.  We paid the bill and headed out to get over to Hogsmede to wrap up our time at Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios.  Happy bellies and all.

There is a reason that Mythos is a hot ticket at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.  The atmosphere is really great…the service is phenomenal…and the food was delicious.  Also, serving sizes weren’t ridiculous either.  We were full, but not stuffed.  And after a bit of shopping for sweets at the candy store in Hogsmede, we rode rides and all.

Yeah…Mythos was a nice way to treat ourselves that day after a long morning of wandering the parks and riding rides.  It was great food…and a great experience.

Product Review: Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers

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Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burger

Product: Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burger – $6.99+

There is just something so amazing and comforting about a good veggie burger.  The problem that I find, thank you Celiac Disease, is that most veggie burgers on the market use some sort of vital wheat gluten or gluten-containing binder to give them their “meaty” texture.  It sort of takes all the veggie burger eating fun out of it for the gluten-free.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many gluten-free veggie burger options in the freezer sections these days.  I’ve pretty much tried them all.  And they’re a wide range of amazing perfection to…eh…it’s alright.

And just when I think I have pretty much sampled them all, my roommate finds a new one to try.  The Brand…Luna Burger.

Not familiar with Luna Burger?  Neither was I at the time.  But there it was (only one gluten-free variety among the various Luna Burger line), in the freezer section of Columbus, Ohio’s very own natural food store, Raisin Rack.  I. LOVE. RAISIN. RACK.  It’s required shopping whenever I go to Columbus.  No joke.  It really is.  Grocery budgets are planned around the Raisin Rack visit.

Anyway, I digress.  So, here was this small, unassuming box containing two (2) veggie burger patties…by Luna Burger.  Luna Burger is actually based out of Columbus, Ohio.  This company makes artisan veggie burgers with Ohio-grown ingredients.  How amazing is that?  The only gluten-free option they have is the BBQ Burger, but their vegan line-up includes Classic, Garden Thyme, Farmhouse Chili, Peanut-Cilantro, and Kickstart Sausage Patties.  I wish I could try all of them, but, alas…the BBQ Luna Burger is it for me.  Luna Burgers are available at many of Central Ohio farmers’ markets, as well as stores and restaurants throughout Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania.  They can also be ordered for delivery through Green B.E.A.N. Delivery (which I have and use) in certain markets.  And, yes…these can also be ordered online.

This past week, since returning from New York City, it’s been a live out of the pantry/fridge/freezer week.  Use up some things and not spend money on more groceries.  HA!  I am on a very tight budget these days thanks to a raise in rent..and those constant medical bills.  BLARF!  So, yesterday, I was digging around for something to have for dinner and I remembered that I had a box of the Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers in my freezer.  I had just picked up some Allergen Free Sandwich Buns from my local allergen-free bakery (Annie May’s Sweet Cafe), and had some greens, tomatoes and onions that needed some using up.  I also had some Alexia Fries in my freezer too…so it turned into a burger and fries night.

I love burger and fries night.  Not going to lie.  The problem is finding a decent gluten-free veggie burger that doesn’t squish out of the bun or crumble with the first bite.  It is nearly impossible.  Not only that, I don’t want something that is flavorless or tastes like cardboard…or worse.   Been there, experienced that.  I want something that makes me feel like I’m eating a real burger.  I was hoping that the Luna Burgers would live up to my own high gluten-free veggie burger expectations!

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My amazing veggie burger & fries night made possible by Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers

So, I popped the fries into the oven for the 16 minutes it would take to cook them.  Then, I got out my skillet and turned on medium heat.  Opening up the box, I found two thick (yes…THICK) four ounce (4 oz) patties ready to hit the heat.  I placed each one on the skillet and began to slowly cook it per the instructions on the box.  When I flipped the fries and set the sandwich buns on the baking sheet to toast lightly, I flipped the burgers too.  A few pieces flaked off, but for the most part, the Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers held their own in the cooking process.  I was actually impressed.  No trying to piece burgers back together.  That was a nice change of pace for sure.  When the fries were done, I began to layer up the sandwich buns to build a huge…hefty…but amazing veggie burger.  Bun…mustard…greens…Luna Burger patty…tomato, onion, avocado…more mustard…and the other half of the sandwich bun.  Oh…I was already trying to figure out how I was going to get my mouth around the entire thing.  It was a beautiful thing for sure.

But the big test always comes with that first bite.  And this burger delivered.  I was really impressed with how the Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers cooked.  But I was even more impressed with how they held up when being handled and eaten.  Honestly, most gluten-free veggie burgers crumble and fall apart with each bite.  They squish out of the bun and lack that “meaty” texture that you want…even with a veggie burger.  The opposite was the case with the Luna Burger BBQ Veggie Burger.  I loved the texture.  It was soft, but got that nice crust on each side, giving it this great burger texture.  It didn’t fall out of my bun or crumble when I picked it up and took large bites.  I was beyond impressed with the myriad of flavors that came in this burger as well.  I don’t know if I got that smokey BBQ flavor that, but I did get a little bit of heat and sweetness.  And it definitely made for an amazing and interesting (in a good way) flavor profile.  Totally hoping somewhere around here carries these, because I would LOVE to have them in my freezer again.  Delicious!!

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into the Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers.  These burgers are made from brown rice, black beans, onion, brown rice flour, carrots, tomatoes, peaches, sunflower seeds, kale, molasses, garlic, jalapeno peppers, apple cider vinegar, salt, ground mustard, and black pepper.  This burger is gluten-free, wheat-free, corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, and contains no extra oils.

As far as nutrition goes, Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers live up to their healthy packaging.  A serving size is 1 burger (114 grams) and there are two (2) burgers per box.  A serving will provide you with 170 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 310 mg sodium, 31 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 3 grams sugars, and 7 grams of protein.  This is a filling, healthy, completely vegan product that makes you feel good about eating it.  I mean, Luna Burger uses locally sourced fruits, grains, vegetables, and herbs.  LOVE it.

The Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers definitely rank up there in gluten-free veggie burger options.  Not my #1 choice, but definitely close.  Perfect texture, flavor, and so satisfying.  You can’t go wrong.   Need to treat yourself to some comfort food…turn to Luna Burger for your veggie burger needs.

But remember…only the BBQ variety is gluten-free and vegan!

Product Review: Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger

Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger

Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger

Product: Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger – $5.99+

Veggie burgers are one of my current favorite treats.  I just find something so amazingly comforting and…yes…crave-worthy…about burgers.  Since I gave up meat and then had to give up gluten…really good and different veggie burgers have been hard to come by.

Thankfully, there seems to have been a lot of growth in the market.  Some have been outstanding; others have been truly outshined by their competitors.

With growth comes flavor variations, and one of the first to really move beyond the classic or black bean varieties has been Qrunch.

Qrunch Foods was created by Jim Adams (a former restaurant marketing executive) and Brad Holley (a classically trained chef).  Adams’ wife and Holley’s daughter were both gluten intolerant, and both knew from experience that finding delicious, but also convenient gluten-free products could be hard.  That and the “good for you” products on the market were tasteless or…just disgusting.  Gluten free had become associated with “anything free of good flavors” and vegan was simply thought of as “yuck.”

Knowing there were better things out there in the vegan and gluten-free world, Adams and Holley began tasting and experimenting with organic grains, produce, spices and other ingredients, having a goal to incorporate them into something that they would want to eat themselves – but more importantly, be able to offer to their loved ones.  They didn’t want to use soy, so they looked into some lesser-used, unique ingredients that could meet the requirements of their gluten-free family members.  It was from this idea and these trials that the Qrunch Burger was born.  One of the main ingredients and flavors in all of their products is quinoa, hence the “Q” in Qrunch.  With health in mind, millet and organic vegetables were added to each burger base…and they nailed it.  With a goal to create great-tasting, gluten free foods…they have certainly exceeded all expectations.

I have eaten quite a few of Qrunch’s products…the Original Qrunch Burger and the Spicy Italian Burger for starters…and also their Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables.  So, when I spotted one of their Qrunch Burger varieties with the word Curry in it…the Indian food lover in me jumped at the chance to stuff my face with it.  I purchased the box and rushed it home to my freezer.  Then started on a meal plan where most processed and packaged foods aren’t used…and they were forgotten.

Except with the passing of the holidays…I’m on a tight budget so now is the “survive off your pantry/freezer/fridge” days.  And thank goodness I stocked up on some things…like veggie burgers…because I’ve been coming up with new and fun ways to eat these foods that I have hunted and gathered at various grocery stores…and incorporated them into my meals.

This weekend, instead of taking the easy (and more expensive route) for lunch on Sunday, I decided to get a little creative.  I knew I had the Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burgers in my freezer…and I had some salad fixings from the previous night’s dinner (I made homemade dolmades with a Greek side salad)…so I thought…a salad would be good, but I wanted it to be more substantial. The answer…Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger.  No bun needed…just flavor.

I simply got out my skillet and toasted these up on each side, about five minutes per side, and while they were browning, I got out the greens, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and the tzatziki. When the burgers were done, I chipped them up, scattered them over the salad and topped it off with the cucumber and dill dip.  One amazing salad…ready to devour.

Using the Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Burger as the main protein source in the salad was genius.  First of all, as the base of this burger is quinoa, it is a bit softer in texture and a little more…crumbly.  So, not trying to stuff it between a gluten-free bun and not have it spill anywhere was PERFECTION!  This is Qrunch’s newest flavor, and was created to sort of recreate the flavor of samosas, which are available at fine Indian restaurants.  The lentils were added to give it a mild, earthy flavor, and the curry seasoning was a blend of both sweet and spicy.  That is the perfect blend to create the perfect flavor in what might be the perfect burger.  And serving it up with the raw veggies and topped with tzatziki was ideal.  Seriously…it was a blend made in heaven.  The burger had this nice crisp outside, but was flaky and soft on the inside.  It was packed…packed…with fine flavors and just…really impressed me.  I am already going to prepare the other two burgers the same way this coming Wednesday, per the request of my (carnivore) roommate…who absolutely fell head-over-heels for this combination.  We were both very impressed.

So, let’s take a gander at the ingredients that go into the Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Burgers, shall we?  These burgers are made from organic millet, organic quinoa, organic lentils, organic coconut oil, organic onion, organic carrots, organic broccoli, organic spinach, organic arrowroot starch, organic apple cider vinegar, organic psyllium seed powder, sea salt, organic garlic, organic non-GMO canola oil, and organic spices.  This is how you can still eat clean and do it out of your grocer’s freezer section.  I know what all of those ingredients are and love that most of them are organic.  Yep…happiness can be achieved through an amazing, healthy veggie burger.  The Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger is gluten-free, wheat-free, corn-free, soy-free, animal-free, egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free, MSG-free, non-GMO, and low in sodium.

The nutritional information reflects a product that is made from wholesome grains and real food.  A serving size of the Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger is 1 burger (91 grams).  There are 4 burgers in each box.  A serving will provide you with 200 calories, 10 grams fat (health fat), 2.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 25 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 0 grams sugars, and 4 grams of protein.  It is a nutritional powerhouse to be certain.  And filling.  The lack of sugars and the higher fiber and protein ratio helps satiate any appetite.

I fell in love with the taste, texture and popping flavor of the Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burgers.  I am so excited that I am having them again so soon.  Because…total yum.  They were so good and amazing in this salad.  I’m not sure how they would have been sandwiched between a bun, and I’m in no hurry to find out.  I think I found my one true pairing with this salad.  I’ve got a busy day planned on Wednesday, so this will be the ideal dinner to come home to.  I can’t wait.

A delicious salad topped off with Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger

A delicious salad topped off with Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger

Product Review: Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix

Gluten Free Hamburger Buns & Dinner Rolls made with Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix

Gluten Free Hamburger Buns & Dinner Rolls made with Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix

Product: Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix – $8.99

Of all the products that I received when I was a subscriber to Cuisine Cube, the ones that took me the longest to get to were the bread mixes.  I have another mix (which I hope to make in the next few weeks) for gluten-free tortillas…so…this is not an anomoly.  It’s just that I already have my own gluten-free bread/dinner roll flour blend that I make amazing bread with.  So, why use a mix?

Besides, my bread baking skills in the gluten-free realm are…sort of hit or miss.

But my March 2015 Cuisine Cube brought me a lot of amazing goodies that I have already blogged on.  The only hold-out from that cube was…none other than the lunch option (weird, I know…but probably under the impression that sandwich bread would be the end result).  And that lunch option was the Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Bread Mix.

For those of you who are not familiar with Cuisine Cube, let me give you the rundown.  Cuisine Cube is a subscription service that delivers 5-6 gluten-free, full-size products to your door for as little as $34.99/month. Inside the cube, you will discover full-size products (not sample sizes) that are made by local and smaller, artisan companies, rather than those that you can find at the average grocery store.  It has introduced me to so many new and delightful products.  Each box contains a breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert product…and then, sometimes, an extra bonus item.  Who doesn’t love a little something extra, right?   Keep in mind, however, that Cuisine Cube has gone through some changes as of May.  No longer do they strictly only offer gluten-free cubes.  In addition to their gluten-free option, they now also offer Artisan and Vegan cubes as well.  The Artisan cube means that you have no food allergies and foods that contain common food allergens will be included.  The Vegan cubes contain products that are dairy and animal free.  And, they still have the Gluten Free cubes, which will have products that contain no gluten or wheat.  So, if you’re really interested in being introduced to the smaller, lesser-known, artisan companies, give Cuisine Cube a try!  It’s like…Christmas…or your birthday…every month!  Who doesn’t love that?!  I did love it and I hope I’m able to resubscribe next year.

So, the March 2015’s lunch option was filled by the Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix.  Sevierly Good began with the Sevier family, who began their business when they realized how difficult it was to find good, local resources for the things they enjoyed eating.  The company blossomed from the need for their family to eat a gluten-free diet due to high gluten intolerances.  So, with a completely different diet now being served up, the Seviers decided to get into the kitchen and begin to experiment.
With past experience in the baking industry and some great resources, the family created a list of recipes to begin with…and from there, a set of mixes that are versatile and easy to make emerged.  For two (2) years, the Sevier Family made each mix by hand in a local, commercial kitchen.  Since then, they have expanded to working with a manufacturer, enabling them to grow their dream and their product.  Now, Sevierly Good Gluten Free products can be found in the more stores throughout the United States.

This was actually my first introduction to any of the Sevierly Good Gluten Free products.  And while I don’t always appreciate a bread mix…I do love to bake.  So, I sucked it up and got together the very few ingredients needed to mix up this bread and set it to baking.  Except…I decided not to make a loaf.  I wanted to make hamburger buns and dinner rolls.  So…I got out the rings I use to make homemade gluten free hamburger buns and got the oven preheating.

All I had to do was mix together the Organic Multigrain Bread Mix with the (included) yeast packet, 2 large eggs (or egg substitute), 2 cups of warm water, and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Once mixed together, if you’re baking a loaf, you pour it into an oiled loaf pan and pat/spread it into place with the spatula.  For dinner rolls, drop onto an oiled cookie sheet in the desired size.  I filled the hamburger bun rings…and the rest i made into 12 small dinner rolls.  After they were on the baking sheet, I covered them with lightly oiled cling wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes.  Then, it goes into the oven for 10 minutes at 400°F, then I turn down the temperature to 375°F and allow it to finish baking.  For a loaf of bread, that’s around 40-50 more minutes.  Less for the dinner rolls…but this isn’t indicated on the package.  So, watch those rolls!!  I got mine out before they got too baked.  But, what I did notice was how golden brown they got on the top.  I allowed them to cool on a rack…and then…I had to try one immediately.

I admit…I was skeptical.  After finally having an amazing gluten-free dinner roll recipe of my own…I don’t stray from it often.  But, this product was in my pantry and calling to me to (FINALLY) bake it up.  To be honest…I was impressed.  This is, perhaps, the best sandwich bread that I ever baked up from a mix.  They did actually rise in the rising period, which was a step ahead of most mixes.  And then, they baked up to golden rolls just ready for the dining room table.  I sliced one in half, finding the center to be soft (a nice contrast to the crispy outer crust) and the texture reminded me so much of what traditional bread was like.  Seriously, this is a mix that a hearty bread lover will love, even if they don’t have to eat gluten free.  I was so happy with each bite of the roll.  So, now I have a backup for when I’m low on ingredients for my own.  Completely surpassed all my expectations.

So, let’s take a look at the ingredients.  The Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix is made from organic brown rice flour, organic sorghum flour, organic tapioca starch, organic quinoa flour, organic evaporated cane juice, xanthan gum, yeast, and salt.  It is non-GMO, certified gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, dairy-free, bean-free and corn-free.  Wholesome and wholegrain goodness in one little pouch.

As for the nutrition facts, the Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix has 12 servings in a package.  A serving size is 1 slice of bread.  Each serving will give you 110 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 23 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram sugars, and 2 grams protein.

One would think that with the low amounts of fiber and protein that this bread would not be filling.  But I made vegan BLTs for lunch today, using one of the hamburger buns for the sandwich portion instead of bread from my freezer.  I toasted the buns in the oven and then topped them with vegan mayo, baby spinach, heirloom tomato slices, and vegan (and gluten-free) bacon.  This bread was…AMAZING.  I loved using it for this sort of sandwich as it didn’t get soggy (even with toasting) and crumble and fall apart.  It’s wonderful to have a traditional bread feel…but be able to bake it up in various ways, without having to blend all the flours myself.

I, once again, have to commend Cuisine Cube for introducing me to the Sevierly Good Gluten Free brand.  The Organic Multigrain Bread Mix was amazing…like no other bread mix I have ever baked from before.  Now I sort of wish that I had done up an actual loaf, just to see how it turned out.  But…that’s why I can order more.

And you can too.  If you can’t fiend Sevierly Good Gluten Free products in your area, head over to their Products page and have their mixes shipped directly to you.  Then get into your kitchen and bake up something Sevierly Good!

Orders can also be placed online from our Products page and shipped direct to your home.

And, as many have said…”It’s more than good, it’s Sevierly Good”. We thank you for your business!

The Sevier Family

Restaurant Review: Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Restaurant: Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

What do you think of when you think of Portland, Oregon?  Food trucks…yes…but a lot of people would also point to the amazing array of brew pubs that the city has to offer.  Oregon is very much a foodie haven, and there is plenty of places to whet your appetite.

Research began on Find Me Gluten Free…which pulled up hundreds and hundreds of restaurants that cater to people with gluten intolerance and Celiac.  I knew that my traveling partners, Cathy and Jenn, were being very good about where we ate on Hawaii (often out of Jenn’s comfort zone) due to my dietary restrictions…so…going to a brew pub in Portland wasn’t just a necessity, it was a way of thanking them for being so flexible with the food choices while island hopping in Hawaii.

That being said, we narrowed it down to two choices…and Cathy and I made Jenn pick the place.  This was no biggie for me…there were options I was interested in at each place…but it was a matter of whether Cathy got Chicken and Waffles or Roasted Lamb.

Jenn didn’t really care where we went, but in the end, she chose Deschutes Brewery…and that was our Friday night dinner.

After lunch at the food pods, we continued our exploration of Portland, meaning bookstores, record stores, chocolate shops, coffee shops, and all that good stuff.  But all that shopping does work up an appetite.  So, after spending a long time exploring Powell’s Books, we were ready to get some dinner.  And it was just a short hike to Deschutes Brewery…and I loved it from the moment we stepped inside.

Deschutes Brewery is a brew pub located in the heart of Portland and is described as a popular destination for great beer, delicious food, and a relaxed urban atmosphere.  It features 26 taps that include Deschutes mainstays plus a selection of seasonal and experimental beers developed and brewed on site exclusively for the Portland pub.

In addition, no pub is worth its salt without pub grub.  Executive Chef Jill Ramseier leads a talented culinary team that has put forth classic pub food, but elevated it.  In fact, each item on the menu is created, from scratch, with the best possible local ingredients.  SO Portland.  Love it!

We arrived shortly after 5 p.m. and it was already hopping.  We were seated immediately and given menus to peruse.  Water was brought to our table and our waiter, Zach, came over to pour some water and ask if we wanted anything else to drink.  Jenn and I were sticking with water, but Cathy had it on her to-do list to sample a local brew.  She went with the Deschutes River Ale ($3.25).  He went to grab her drink while we finished up decisions for dinner.

With beer delivered, it was time to place an order.  Jenn went with the Dungeness Crab Roll ($17.75), which is pacific crab tossed with onion, celery, lemon and mayonnaise in a seared East coast-style bun.  It came with a serving of fries on the side.

Cathy opted for the Spicy Fried Chicken and Waffle ($16.50).  This dish is a Nashville-style basted chicken breast and thick sliced smoked provolone over a housemade sourdough waffle with maple dressed kale, fenel and pecan salad, served with a maple honey sauce.  For an additional $2…you can add bacon.  Cathy left the bacon off.

As for me…I was given a gluten-free menu.  And on that menu was plenty of items to choose from.  Had I not had a great sandwich for lunch from Juniper at the food pods, I would have opted for the Quinoa Burger ($13.25), which is described as a crispy quinoa cashew patty with chipotle aioli, Rock Face Creamery aged white cheddar (which I would have left off), lettuce, tomato, onion and served, I am assuming, on a gluten free bun.  BUT…I DIDN’T get that.  I could have…and, as I said, had I not had a sammie for lunch, this would have been my dinner.

My dinner, instead, was the half portion of their Spinach and Quinoa Salad ($7.00) with a plate of their Garlic Rosemary Fries ($6.75), which I got minus the manchego cheese that comes served with it.  YES…the fries are gluten-free!!!  *HAPPY DANCE!*  Hey…I eat healthy most of the time, dessert and an occasional plate of fries are treats to me and ones I never turn down when they are available.  A healthy life doesn’t mean there aren’t treats every now and again!

Orders in.

And in true brew pub (and pub) fashion, the food didn’t take too long to come out.  Just long enough to know that everything was prepared fresh and made to order.  Our plates came out…and they were heaped with food.  Even without the plate of fries (which I did share!), my salad would have been plenty filling at the half portion on its own.  So, that was actually a good call on my part.

Deschutes Brewery's Spicy Fried Chicken & Waffle

Deschutes Brewery’s Spicy Fried Chicken & Waffle

Jenn and Cathy both loved their meals.  Cathy said that while the chicken was spicy, it wasn’t overpowering.  The provolone cheese helped to cool things down and the waffle was a nice hit of sweetness to mesh with the savory heat of the chicken.  When paired with the maple and honey, it was a perfect bite.  In fact, after years of wondering why chicken and waffles were such a thing in the south…it took a trip to Portland, Oregon for her to “get it.”  Yes…she gets it now.  And I think she has a new craving in life.  She ate until she was full…and then had to surrender to the dish.  But she made a healthy dent in it, loving and raving about every bite.  So there is that.

Let’s start with the salad.  The Spinach and Quinoa Salad comes with Briar Rose Creamery feta cheese (which I left on…because feta and I get along for the most part), blueberries, pickled beets, fresh spinach, and perfectly cooked quinoa.  It is topped with a delicious vinaigrette, which does come on the side so it isn’t swimming in dressing.  That’s something I totally appreciated.  This salad was filling and provided a myriad of different flavors and textures.  It was inviting with each bite.  Tangy, tart, smooth and creamy.  The quinoa and spinach are both nutritional powerhouses…and I devoured every last bit of this salad.  Besides, you put roasted beets on anything and you have my full attention.  Seriously!  OH…and it came with a gluten-free breadstick laid across it.  I questioned it when it arrived at the table…”This is gluten-free, right?”  “OH yes,” I was reassured.  Happiness comes in breadstick form sometimes.  It’s the little things that aren’t so little for other people but are for people like me.

But the star…as much as I want to point to the salad…was the gluten-free Garlic Rosemary Fries.  These fries are made from hand cut Kennebec potatoes and seasoned with fresh garlic (LOTS of it) and rosemary and served with a rosemary aioli.  These were to DIE for.  Seriously.  I took one bite and I was hooked.  I didn’t want to stop eating them.  Even with some self-control (HA!) and a little help from my friends, this plate wasn’t emptied.  It probably could have been, but we all have our limits.  These were some of the best gluten-free fries I have ever been served in a restaurant.  And fries are hard for me to get in a restaurant.  Everything shares a fryer…so this is always a nice treat.  And this is one splurge I was glad I made.  Holy cow.  I want to recreate these.  I’m going to do the best I can.  WOW!

Save for fries (from both Jenn & I) and a bit of chicken and waffle on Cathy’s plate…we ate the hell out of our meals.  And for good reason…they were amazing.  I was beyond impressed with the caliber of food that came to our table.  Everything looked beautiful and tasted amazing.  Nothing was soggy or overdressed.  Nothing was burnt.  It was pure dinner perfection in true brew pub form.  I am a huge fan…and I wish I lived in Portland so I could continue to go back and try other options from their extensive gluten-free menu.  Just…WOW!!

I have Jenn to thank for actually sending us to Deschutes Brewery in the end…and to me, it was the perfect way to round out an amazing and unforgettable trip.  No better way to end a vacation then with good friends, good food, and good times.  Deschutes…made that all possible…right in the heart of Portland.

Deschutes Brewery's Spinach & Quinoa Salad with the Garlic Rosemary Fries

Deschutes Brewery’s Gluten Free Spinach & Quinoa Salad with the Garlic Rosemary Fries (also gluten free)

Product Review: Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders

Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders

Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders

Product: Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders – $5.99+

Beyond Meat had me with their vegan and gluten free chicken strips from the very start.  I remember first spying those products in my local Whole Foods and immediately latching on to all three varieties and tossing them in the freezer.  Since then, they have not only improved on the vegan not-chicken strips…but they have since added to their non-meat repertoire.  Beyond Meat has introduced vegan chicken poppers, vegan chicken tenders, beyond beef crumbles, beyond beef meatballs, and beast burgers and beastly sliders.

I have yet to find the poppers and tenders and meatballs anywhere in my area, but I have stumbled across the two varieties of Beyond Beef Crumbles and…more recently…discovered the Beyond Meat Beast Burger and Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders.  Now, it’s not every day I stumble across a vegan/vegetarian slider that I can eat.  In fact, the only other sliders I’ve seen are made by Gardein, but they aren’t gluten-free.  So…the instant I spotted these at my Whole Foods, I knew there was no escaping the tight budget.  I’d squeeze it in and give them a try.

Due to my fresh produce and my lack of any sort of gluten-free slider buns…I ignored these in my freezer for a little while.  But after hobbling through The Boston Marathon, and not having a produce bin delivered on time…this past weekend, I needed to do something for dinner.  I searched my freezer, and have a few options remaining in there.  The one that caught my attention was the Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders.

Well…why not?  I was going grocery shopping that morning, so I could pick up some Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain Dinner Rolls to use as slider buns…I figured.  In my head, that was the plan.  I think I forgot that the Udi’s Gluten Free Dinner Rolls were a little longer than a standard roll…so when I had everything out to start cooking…I realized I was going to have to slice the dinner rolls in half and then slice them open to make a close proximity of a slider bun.

Dear Gluten Free bread makers….slider buns…create them.  I will buy them.  For reals!

So while my dinner rolls/slider buns of sorts were toasting in the oven, I got out a saute pan and gave it a splash of olive oil, allowing it to heat up on medium-high heat.  Then, into the pan all six of the slider patties went.  I was impressed upon opening the package of Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders.  The sliders have the appearance of real burgers.  So, it’s not a vegetarian patty that looks nothing like a burger masquerading as a burger.   These actually look like burgers.  I was impressed.  They were so easy to cook up too. Simply add the sliders to a touch of oil in a skillet and cook until lightly brown on both sides.  It takes about 5-7 minutes.  Then…it’s time to eat.

The dinner rolls weren’t a perfect fit for these hearty slider patties, but they worked.  So, that’s what matters.  I sliced each roll down to “slider” size and then loaded on the burger with a hit of ketchup and…BAM…vegetarian sliders for dinner.  It was really that easy.  I served these with a side of Zapp’s Voodoo Chips, which if you haven’t tried those…DO IT!

I haven’t eaten any sort of meat in over four years.  That being said, back when I was big into burgers…you know…Hard Rock Café knew my burger order…these rank right up there with the real thing.  Seriously.  They have this great meaty texture…and they were hearty and held up.  So often, vegetarian and vegan burger substitutes crumble and fall apart.  This is especially true with vegan/vegetarian patties that are also gluten-free.  It’s one of my pet peeves.  This did not happen with the Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders.  My roommate had just had sliders on our way to Boston a week before, and she said these were better than the real thing.  WOW!  I won’t lie…the texture, the flavor…it was awesome.  They were juicy and filling.  Oh yeah…they are Beastly Sliders for a reason…I was full from my serving of 3 of them.  I loved the smokey flavor that these patties had, sort of lending it to the “I taste like beef, but I’m not” flavor.  I’m sort of in love with these.  It is just eerie how much these resembled real beef patties in appearance and in taste.  It sort of freaked me out.  In a good way.  These will definitely find their way back into my freezer.  I might have to experiment with making my own slider buns, but these were truly fantastic.  I was beyond impressed.

Beyond Meat set out to replicate the taste and texture of beef burgers and to prove that there is a better, more sustainable, plant-based way to satisfy any burger craving.  In addition, they prove that there is a healthier, plant-based, sustainable way to make a burger without the need to kill animals.  We just needed a better burger…and these sliders are definitely proof that vegan burgers can run with the real thing.

Let’s discuss ingredients in the Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders, shall we? These sliders are made from water, pea protein isolate, essential fatty acid oil blend (DHA algal oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and palm oil), methycellulose, carrageenan, calcium sulfate, yeast extract, maltodextrin, potassium bicarbonate, potassium chloride, tapioca starch, caramel color, sorbitol, beyond nutrient blend (vegetable nutrient extract blend (spinach, broccoli, carrot, tomato, beet, shiitake mushroom), sea buckthorn juice powder, beet juice powder, hydrilla powder, horsetail herb powder, moringa leaf powder, mesquite powder, fulvic minerals, pomegranate seed powder), natural flavoring, spices, salt, l-cysteine hydrochloride, onion powder, sugar, onion extract, paprika extract and garlic extract. Lots of stuff I don’t recognize.  I admit.  And a lot of ingredients at that.  I know.  But…WOW.  The Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders are gluten-free, soy-free, cholesterol-free, and non-GMO.  They are also contain antioxidants, iron, calcium, vitamins B6, B12, D, potassium, as well as DHA and ALA omega-3’s.

So, let’s talk the nutritional value for a moment, yes?  A serving of the Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders is 3 sliders.  You get 6 in a box.  This serving of three patties will provide you with 260 calories, 16 grams of fat, 480 mg sodium, 720 mg potassium, 7 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams sugars (YAY!), 4 grams of fiber, and 23 (YES…23) grams of protein.  No wonder you feel full after eating these.  WOW!

While I don’t make faux meat products a standard in my home, it is fun to try out products every now and again.  The past four years I’ve had many vegetarian/vegan burger patties.  In the past three years, I’ve consumed quite a few brands that are also gluten-free.  By a long shot, Beyond Meat has provided the best burger patty to date.  To think…plant power all the way.  Totally in love with the nutritional aspect, the flavor, the taste…everything.  Now when I want sliders…I can have sliders.  So much love.

Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders (prepared)

Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders (prepared)