Working Hard for a Weekend of Hard Work

Ah, it’s Sunday.  A day to rest and relax right?  RIGHT?!

HA…never!!  Today, I’ve done countless loads of laundry, prepped and cooked all the meals for the coming week, took recycle to the store, took care of a cat, did some necessary shopping, mailed off a package, finished up (much-needed) grocery shopping, organized the pantry, and polished off a book.  I’ve blogged on my race on Friday night, made up lunches/snacks for tomorrow, and have even changed sheets on the bed.  And showered.  Important.

This has been a chaotic and crazy week.  I got back into town from a relaxing (ie: NON-RACE) weekend in Orlando, Florida.  Sure, the Star Wars Half Marathon was running at Disney World that very weekend…but I was not quick enough on making a decision to run, and by the time I was certain I was going to be able to do it, registration had closed.  Instead, the day before I headed out to get to Florida, I did my long run.  On a Tuesday night.  On tired legs.  But it was done and I didn’t have to do it alone…or in Orlando, where I had no idea where I could safely and effectively go running.  As it was, I found a park where I managed 5 miles, and I did 5 miles back and forth on this 0.20 mile boardwalk on Cocoa Beach while I was away.  But that was it for the running.  The rest of the time I was exploring…but we’ll get to that momentarily.

With a couple of days away from the office, I was overloaded with work, so I ended up doing something I hate doing.  I brought work home and put in some time away from the office.  It had to be done…or I’d still be buried.  This made my week even more stressful because I was trying to fit in all my normal stuff while having to do some work at home.  It meant…the normalcy took a lot longer to get around to.  And grocery shopping never happened.  So, my roommate and I were living out of the pantry/freezer/fridge for this week.

So…with all that being said…some good stuff has been going down these past two weeks…so let’s take a look at some of the highlights!

1.  Universal Studios Florida


It’s Marvel Superheroes, it’s Harry Potter, it’s rides, rides, rides.  And I had an absolute blast.  I met Captain America (he told me I had beautiful green eyes!), which had to happen as he is the favorite superhero of my nephew, Chace.  I flirted with the driver of the Knight Bus at Diagon Alley in Universal as well.  SO MUCH FUN.  That being said, I vastly prefer Disney to Universal, but it was actually nice to step away from the Disney monster and do something I’ve been wanting to do, but couldn’t pull myself away from Disney.  HA!  And thank goodness for my friend, Jenn, who was willing to go on the thrill rides with me.  Cathy refuses.  She’s a big baby.  OH…and I bought a wand.  I have my own Harry Potter type of wand.  It’s Ivy…with a Unicorn Hair core.  And I loved it because I was able to cast magical spells at both of the Harry Potter lands at each Universal Studios theme park in Florida.  It takes so little to make me happy.

2.  Toasted
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Eating out with me can be…difficult at times.  Thank you Celiac disease and lactose intolerance.  That being said, while I was in Orlando, thanks to my Find Me Gluten Free app, I found the most perfect place to dine.  In fact, we (Jenn, Cathy & myself) ended up having dinner there three times.  The place is called Toasted, and it specializes in Crafted Grilled Cheese & Burgers.  And…they have gluten-free buns, bread, and veggie burgers.  They also have vegan cheese.  This…was my happy place.  To top all of that off…they had gluten-free fries.  And, let me tell you, the Truffle Oil & Rosemary fries were to die for.  We learned, after our first visit, that one order of fries would do for the three of us.  Amazing sandwiches.  I had a different one each night…never got sick.  Let’s hear it for gluten-free dining done right.  If you find yourself in the Winter Park area of Orlando…go and check them out.

3. Gluten Free Snack Cakes
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Okay…I admit it.  I love my desserts.  I have tried, for ages, to give them up.  But the sweet tooth reigns supreme.  For sure.  And, after getting my roommate a little tipsy on her birthday, I took her grocery shopping.  And bought a bunch of stuff I didn’t need but wanted to try.  And, despite trying to be a little better about my choices…I discovered a new product from Schär‘s Sch’nacks!  These delightful little treats are simply a gluten-free, unrolled version of a Swiss Roll.  They are little single serve cakes that are filled with cream and dipped in German chocolate.  And they are light, and amazing.  I have to resist buying them too often…but a treat every now and again is always fine.  There are 10 cakes per package…and I only have one after dinner each night.  Seriously…a worthy investment for an every-now-and-again treat.  Back to some fruits and vegan yogurts after this.  And I’m back to cooking real food…and not just living out of the fridge/freezer/pantry…which is also a plus.

4.  Road Bike Shoes
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Today, I meandered over to Schwinn in Clarksville, Indiana, and purchased a pair of road bike shoes.  Now that I have a road bike, I figured I needed to get the clip-in shoes so I could ride it.  They are very nice at Schwinn and even discounted the price of the shoes and put the cleats in for me.  YAY!!  I hope to get fitted to my bike next weekend, time permitting!  Crossing my fingers.  Then, I get to practice clipping in and out…and probably taking a few spills during said process.  It’s actually…kind of exciting.  Not the falling part, but getting the necessary gear and stuff done to get out onto my bike.

5.  Running my fastest mile at my favorite 5K

 


Friday was not only Earth Day, it was the running of the Pro.Active For Life 5K in Frankfort, Kentucky.  I go to Frankfort quite often for the races, and while 5K races are one of my least favorite distances, this just happens to be my favorite 5K race.  It’s not just the race itself, but the people.  Frankfort, honestly, some of the best people in that running community.  I can’t say it enough.  Not only did I win my age division this year, but I pulled off a 6:53 mile.  Shocking myself.  Even more shocking…the entire run was pain-free.  And…I was only 6 seconds off my PR (also set at this race).  Stronger every day.  Trying to be really smart when it comes to my training.

6.  A long, solo, pain-free Saturday morning run

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So, Friday night I churn out a speedy 5K (even if my finishing picture looks like I’m just cruising, LOL!), knowing that Saturday, I was on my own for my longest run since…forever.  I am signed up for (although still not 100% sure I’ll be running) a marathon in June.  Bib transfer can only happen through May 1, leaving this Saturday the only chance I had for attempting a long marathon-training type run.  And, I had to do it solo, as everyone I know is either recovering from Boston, running Big Sur, running London, running Derby or running Flying Pig.  So, they are either recovering, out of town, or tapering.  So, Saturday morning, I laced up, still feeling good, and went out for 20 miles in my area.  No crossing the river (it was Thunder Over Louisville day anyway…so this was probably better in the long run…ha…I made a punny).  So, I just sort of went.  I never pushed my pace…I ran comfortably and just sort of made the route up.  The last 5 miles, however, I decided to make the toughest.  I don’t know why.  I’m sadistic like that.  So I hit up the Fast Freddie route…which is HILLS FOR DAYS!…and came out of it better than I even expected.  Once again…no pain.  And 20 miles done.  Alone.  And way better than I dreamed.  WITHOUT ANY PAIN!  I spent the rest of the day out and about, doing some grocery shopping and regular shopping and eating good food for recovery and fuel.  This…was the type of run I mentally needed.  And while it does make me feel better, I still don’t know if I’ll run in June.  I’m pondering for one more day before making that call.

7.  Game Of Thrones
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The new season of GoT starts tonight, and unlike last year, I’m set.  HBO Now was downloaded this morning and I’m set to watch this season as it airs, instead of getting spoiled.  I know I read the books, but the show has gone away from how the books actually worked out, so it’s nice that I won’t have to attempt (and fail) to avoid spoilers this time around.  It’s the little things in life.  SO…YAY!!  It’s the little things in life…like Season 6 of Game of Thrones.

8.  Caramelized Honey Latte at Starbucks

 


They keep selling out of it, but when I went to Florida this past week, I was introduced to Starbucks latest (and greatest) drink.  It’s the Caramelized Honey Latte and it is AMAZING.  It reminds me a lot of The Bee Sting, one of Ha Coffee’s signature drinks in Kauai (I miss Hawaii!).  I get mine with coconut milk and it is…OMG…to die for.  I had it hot and iced while in Florida. The Starbucks at Universal Studios City Walk sold out of them…and the one here in our local Target sold out too.  I think this drink is quite popular.  And it should be.  It is made of super YUM!!  If you haven’t tried it…RUN, do NOT WALK, to Starbucks and give it a try.  You’ll thank me for it.

So, there are some of the highlights these past couple of weeks.  Here’s to hoping for a bit more relaxed and easier week ahead.  And I hope everyone had a great week and enjoyed a beautiful weekend.  And for anyone racing this coming weekend…good luck!!

Restaurant Review: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

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Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

I am a foodie.  Hard to believe with all my food allergies and intolerance…and the fact that I am a vegetarian…that this is a true statement.  But I LOVE food.  I love to eat food.  I love to enjoy food.  And I love to cook food.  I love to share food.  Food is love.  And, as an athlete, food is also fuel.

I am on a nice vacation at the moment, enjoying myself and my time away from the stresses of life.  And, as is the way me and my traveling compatriots do vacations…we work in one nice meal out.  And, as we were enjoying some time at Universal Studios today, we opted to eat on the Universal Studios Citywalk…at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.

Now, I have loved Emeril Lagasse for a long time.  He is, not only, one of the most recognizable and quotable chef’s (“BAM!”)…he is just awesome.  His food is simple, pure, cajun goodness!!  He is pure Louisiana.  And that’s what we went there for.

We were in for a treat.  White tablecloths.  Chairs were pulled out for us.  Napkins were dropped into our laps.  I sort of felt under dressed with my roller-coaster windblown hair and my Wonder Woman t-shirt.  But, none of the staff minded.  We were greeted soon after by our waiter for the night…which was actually going to be three people seeing to us.  Our waiters were amazing and funny and extremely helpful.  We were given the menu to look over and I mentioned that I was a gluten free vegetarian…and after some witty bantering…he pointed out the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day (which changes from day to day) and explained to me that it was a noodless lasagna…where the chef layers squash, zucchini, eggplant and roasted red peppers, all seasoned with amazing herbs, and makes them into the noodles.  They could even make it vegan for me.  They let us peruse the menu and I noticed the special as well being a Roasted Cauliflower in a tomato broth with crispy kale that sounded SO good.  I needed to ask about it being gluten free.  Cathy had settled on the Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop and Jenn said she was getting the Shrimp and Grits (I had a feeling all the veggies would be tossed aside…LOL!).  But then, after checking with the chef about the gluten-free status of the cauliflower special (it was), and answering Jenn’s question as to what an étouffée was (all the veggies)…he went on to say that the Shrimp and Grits was the best dish on the menu.  So…Jenn was sold.  He also went on to say that the other dishes he considers the best served there were the Scallops and the Short Rib.

So now Cathy was undecided.  And I still was torn between the special and the menu special.  Both were special.  LOL!  But…both were different enough that I knew that I couldn’t get them anywhere else.  So, once Cathy decided on the Scallops instead, I was still torn.  And my dinner buddies weren’t making the decision any easier.  Back to our waiter for his opinion…and with his help, I opted for the Vegan version of the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day.  This meant none of the cheese or alfredo would be added to the dish.  Gluten free and vegan vegetable goodness.

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Emeril’s Cast Iron Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam

As we were going to have a little wait while our food was prepared, Jenn and Cathy decided they were going to split an appetizer.  They ordered the Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam ($8.00).  The cornbread looked fantastic.  They said it was light and fluffy and just soft and amazing.  Cathy was a big, big, big fan of the Bacon Jam (pork belly cooked in butter with brown sugar and reduced).  Jenn said she could take it or leave it…but the honey butter at the bottom was just soaking into the bread.  I thought it was just…awesome looking.  But, alas, so not something I could eat.

Before too long, our entrees were being served.  They had Cathy and Jenn’s backwards, but that was easily fixed.  The plates were changed out and we were ready to dive in.

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Emeril’s Shrimp + Grits

Jenn ordered the Shrimp + Grits, which was Louisiana shrimp, étouffée, Anson Mills rice grits, and local cherry tomatoes ($30.00).  She said the shrimp was nailed to the perfect cook.  The grits were smooth and creamy.  I looked at them.  I thought it was rice at first…with all the cheese.  Much of the étouffée was cast aside, as she is not a cooked vegetable person, but the rest of it was devoured.  I really do think it was a 1/1 ratio of cheese to grits…but it looked awesome.  Her only qualm…the tails were left on the shrimp.  It’s kind of hard to be classy in a nice restaurant when you have to use your fingers to remove the tails.

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Emeril’s Blackened Diver Scallops

Cathy went with the Blackened Diver Scallops, which was served with a Creamy Corn Moque Choux, Wilted Greens, and Local Tomato Jam ($32.00).  It looked GORGEOUS!!  The corn sauce fascinated her.  She said it was almost like a corn chowder.  The greens were cooked perfectly.  They weren’t mushy or overly done.  She said the tomato jam was sweet and paired beautifully with everything.  But the star…the scallops.  They were tender and buttery and had a perfect sear.  She said they were the best scallops she ever had.

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Emeril’s Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day – Noodleless Lasagna (tightly stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash and roasted red pepper) with a marinara sauce and greens

So…my perfectly gluten-free and vegan dish is now up.  As I stated, I ordered the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day ($23.00).  This was a noodleless lasagna, where the noodles were stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash, and roasted red pepper.  The seasonings were crazy good.  And all of this was topped off with an amazingly rich marinara and greens.  I could hardly make out the noodles, and I didn’t want to destroy the dish to get a picture.  So, trust me…there are tightly stacked veggies under there.  OMG.  The tomato sauce, for starters, was killer.  Just mouth watering, savory, amazing flavor.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly…not limp and wet, but perfect, with still a little crisp to them, but tender to bite into.  Almost like real noodles.  I didn’t miss the cheese or the heavy Alfredo.  This was pure perfection.  Why go back to noodles when you can do this to have lasagna?!  Seriously…so glad the waiter talked me into this one.  I was one happy girl.

And while we were all rather full from dinner…we decided we had to do dinner.  The waiter had tempted me with a Flourless (and Gluten Free) Chocolate Torte earlier that evening.  And I had been on the fence.  He did deliver dessert menus to us, to let the Cathy and Jenn choose what they might want to have…and then said the sorbets (strawberry lemonade, coconut, and passionfruit tonight) were another option for me.

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Emeril’s Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with Butter Pecan Sauce

In the end, we decided to split the Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with a Butter Pecan Sauce ($10.00) between the three of us.  I am so glad we did.  While the slice of torte isn’t as huge as say, a slice of Emeril’s famous Banana Cream Pie…it was rich.  Smooth, perfect, rich, creamy, amazing, sinful, decadent, chocolatey goodness.  Pure sinful goodness in each bite.  And that butter pecan sauce…oh yeah…that just tied it all together.  Cathy and Jenn split the whipped cream.  I ate the strawberry.  This…was a perfect end to a perfect meal.

I was beyond impressed with the service, setting, and food that we received at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.  They were so good at working with me and my dietary needs.  Didn’t even bat an eye.  Immediately knew what to ask about and explained to me what I could eat and what was delicious.  Our waiter was awesome.  He made me laugh, he made me feel so good about the food that was going to be made for me, and he even helped me make a decision on my dinner that night.

If only more restaurants turned out a meal and an experience like this one did.  Emeril is an amazing chef…and his restaurant didn’t let me down.  This was a meal I will be talking about for a very long time.

Product Review: Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Spread

Dollop Gourmet Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Frosting

Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Frosting

Product: Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Spread – $8.99+

Okay, let me start off this blog by saying…I do not like frosting.  Well, I do, but in minimal amounts.  In other words…usually…not at all.  In fact, growing up, whenever birthdays happened in my family, my mom served me cake without the frosting…and gave my sister the frosting…because she didn’t want cake…she just wanted the frosting.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve either scraped off the frosting or just grin and bear it, making sure I have more cake on the fork than frosting.  It’s a precise ratio.  Trust me.

SCIENCE!

So, you might ask…what the HELL am I doing buying a frosting product??!!

You’d be totally in the right for inquiring, to be honest.  With that kind of lead-in and a full product review for…FROSTING…pending…it’s a natural question to ask.  The answer…I heard about Dollop Gourmet through Instagram…the pictures always looked so good, so I began following them…and my roommate was drunk when I went grocery shopping and spotted the jar on the shelf (first time seeing the product in the grocery store wild) and I get whatever I want when my roomie is tipsy and grocery shopping with me.  So…gourmet frosting it was.

I’m a social media compulsive buyer.  I can’t help myself.

Before I go much further, if you are unfamiliar with Dollop Gourmet…let’s change that. Dollop Gourmet All Natural Frosting was started by Heather Saffer, winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, and author of The Dollop Book of Frosting.  She  found herself regularly buying these amazing cookies from a little local bakery near the car dealership where she worked, but they were topped with “the most dreadful frosting.”  Saffer is passionate about frosting, always fighting for a corner piece of the cake…and it was this artificial frosting at this little bakery that set Saffer on her new mission – to reinvent frosting (and life).

Saffer taught herself how to bake and opened up the first Cupcake Bar in her hometown of Rochester, NY.  Dollop Gourmet Cupcake Creations became an award winning interactive bakery.  In 2012, she took her cupcakes and frosting to Food Network, competing and winning the hit TV show, Cupcake Wars.  As you can imagine, business boomed at Dollop Gourmet Cupcake Creations.  But then, one day, Saffer realized that she wasn’t having fun anymore, so she sold her stores and began to focus on the part of the cupcake that she truly loved – the frosting.  She wrote her first frosting cookbook and then set ou tto create a mindful product that would inspire unique and honest experiences, and to be living proof that you can turn nothing into something.  In other words, proof that frosting isn’t just for cake and that you can pretty much spread some frosting love on just about anything.  Saffer makes sure that Dollop Gourmet All Natural Frostings are made with premium ingredients, and all five (5) of the available flavors are gluten-free, non-GMO, and 100% junk-free.  Gluten-free and vegan frosting that you can literally eat with a spoon, scoop up with pretzels, schmear on a bagel…or just top off those baked goods…I think she’s onto something.

So, with a tipsy roommate ready to spend money on whatever I point out, and my delightful shrieks that I have finally found Dollop Gourmet in stores (because…I have been stalking them on Instagram and I need it in my life now), I grabbed a jar (yes…a jar) of it off the shelf to bring home with me.  Meijer, the store that made my night by carrying this product, only had 2 flavors, so I went with the most obvious one…Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.  Everyone knows, when it comes to me, if it involves peanut butter…it’s going to win.  And with that…it found a home in my pantry.

Fast forward to this morning.  I’m rushing around, trying to get things prepared for when I get home from spin class, while trying to eat some fruit and yogurt and get out the door to get to spin class…obviously…I need to reevaluate my life choices at times (like not crawling back into bed for that 1 minute that turns into 30, HAHA!)…and realizing I didn’t have any more of the yogurt for a recipe I intended to finally make for breakfast when I got home.  I was eating it…with my strawberries and granola.  Because…this is my life.  I knew I had jam, which was part of the recipe, but that yogurt…what to do?

After getting to spin with only 5 minutes to spare and sweating it out on the bike…I had one of those “A-HA” moments!  I recalled the jar of Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough frosting in my pantry and figured…that should be tasty with my Downton Abbey Christmas Preserves and the Irish Soda Bread in a Mug (the recipe I was going to cook up…in the microwave).  So…there it was.  Inspiration at 5:30 a.m.  And by 7 a.m…frosting with breakfast.  Hey…it works on toaster pastries and cinnamon rolls, why not bread from a mug?

It took about 2 minutes to get the mixture of oats (that I turned into flour), sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and other goodies needed to make the bread ready, to cook up to a perfect consistency in the mugs in the microwave.  But when they got there, they were turned out of the mug and onto a plate, where I ladled some of the fruit preserves on top, then followed it up with a ginormous scoop of Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Frosting, and then more of the preserves.  It looked fantastic, I won’t lie.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.

I delivered one to my roomie and I took up the other one.  She was already digging in by the time I got seated, as I had to pour my coffee and take pictures for the blog, you know?  Priorities.  But when I dug in…oh yeah!!  GOOD!

So…here’s the deal.  Dollop Gourmet All Natural Frosting is just that…amazing, sugary, delicious frosting.  And how does someone who doesn’t like frosting like it?  Well…for frosting, it’s pretty damn good.  I took a little bit of it on its own to try, and yeah…it’s sweet and sugary and everything I don’t like about frosting, but I wasn’t offended by this at all.  Would I eat it straight out of the jar…no.  Would my roommate…yes.  But she’s a frosting freak (she’s frosting freaky)…and that would totally be her thing.  With all of that being said…let me tell you more about the Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Frosting.  It tastes…like sugary sweet peanut butter cookie dough.  No false advertising there.  What it is…is what it is.  And while I’m a definite lover of peanut butter, this was almost too sweet for me.  But…it’s not peanut butter…it’s peanut butter frosting.  HA!!  This would be fantastic sandwiched between cookes, stuffed into cupcakes, topping off brownies, as a dip for apples, pretzels, etc.  It is a fresh palate, anyway  you choose to consume it.  Topping off an Irish Soda Bread (made GF) that I cooked up in a mug, pairing it with a sweet plumb jam…it was like the ultimate breakfast PB&J on raisin bread.  Everything worked together, and that was the magic.  Also, as the bread was hot from the mug, the dollop of Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cooke Dough Frosting that I put on top…melted…like peanut butter…and was a delight to sponge up with the bread and jam.

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Irish Soda Bread in a Mug (and then out of a mug) topped with Downton Abbey Christmas Preserves and Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Frosting

This frosting didn’t change my life…but it did make me more aware of how frosting, when done right, can do magical things to simple recipes.  Forget yogurt on this one…frosting!!  It made for a nice Friday breakfast treat for sure.

Let’s discuss what ingredients go into the Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough frosting, shall we?  This product is made from organic, sustainably-sourced palm shortening, powdered organic cane sugar, peanut butter (peanuts, cane sugar, palm fruit oil, salt), brown sugar (sugar, molasses), vanilla extract, salt, rice bran extract, and natural flavors.  This product is 100% gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, soy-free, and has half the sugar of regular frosting (but is still sweet!)

As for nutritional information, well…it is frosting, so keep that in mind, HA!  A serving of the Dollop Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Frosting is 2 tablespoons (24 grams) an there are about 14 servings per jar.  A serving will dish up 150 calories, 12 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 35 mg sodium, 10 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams sugars, and 1 gram of protein.

If you love frosting, or are just looking for something new to dress up your baked goods, breakfast, or snacks…you should truly try Dollop Gourmet All Natural Frosting.  I did enjoy this, even though I’m not big on frosting.  It wasn’t bad at all.  It did taste, dead up, like cookie dough, so there is that.  We all know I’m a cookie monster…so offering a frosting that tastes like two of my favorite worldly things…peanut butter…and cookies…a definite win!

Dollop Gourmet All Natural Frosting is available in these flavors: Madagascar Vanilla, Hot Chocolate, Firebomb Cinnamon Spice, Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, and Sea Salted Caramel.  If you can’t find them at any local stores, you can seek them out online here!

Love frosting or just have a passing acquaintance with it…you’ll find a reason to love Dollop Gourmet!  That was unexpected.

Weekly Wonders

I usually post a little list of blessings, interests, loves, and other such nonsense in my blog on Sunday…but my weekend was SWAMPED.  Race on Saturday, and then Sunday, I had to make the 23 hours that my roommate (Cathy) got to have to celebrate her birthday the best 23 hours ever.  It sucks to lose an hour on your birthday.

It doesn’t suck , however, when you get to wake up and work out, finish up shopping, and then try out a new pub for dinner.

THAT’S how you birthday.  I made sure she got nice and drunk and then I went grocery shopping.  Because if she’s drunk and I go to the grocery store with her, I can buy ALL THE THINGS I want, but normally can’t justify putting in the budget.

No worries, she is very aware I do this.  LOL!

So…this past week’s list includes:

1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
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Harry Dresden.  Are you familiar with Harry Dresden?  If not…get familiar.  The Dresden Files is a (currently) 16 book series written by Jim Butcher that chronicles the life of lead character, Harry Dresden, a private investigator and wizard as he recounts investigations into supernatural disturbances in…get this…modern-day Chicago.  It strikes a bit of a blance between fantasty and detective fiction.  And it’s awesome.  I listened to the entire series on audiobook (it is read by James Marsters…and HOLY HELL…he does it well) while at work and…each book was amazing.  They never really falter.  And, you really do just all in love with the characters.  And Harry’s dry humor is charming and downright hysterical.  I cannot count the number of times I busted out laughing at the office.  If you haven’t read these…start now.  The first book is Storm Front.

Go.


2. Downton Abbey
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With great sadness, I sat down last Sunday with a hot cup of tea and watched the very last episode of Downton Abbey.  I have been an avid follower and viewer of this show.  I’m not exactly sure what to do with myself on Sunday nights now.  It feels like I lost a good group of friends.  One thing I will say is that I was so happy that everyone got their happy ending.  With all the crisis’ and craziness that this show went through in the 6 seasons it was on the air, this was the ending it needed and the one the fans deserved.


3. NUUN Natural Hydration Tangerine Ginger Vitamin & Electrolyte Drink Tabs
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So, awhile back I was in Whole Foods, and I spotted a tube of a NUUN product I hadn’t seen before.  It was up near the registers at the time, and I was intrigued enough to go ahead and just buy a tube.  I now wish I had purchased more.  The flavor is Tangerine Ginger (with my stomach issues, ginger is always a welcome ingredient)…and it was a part of their Natural Hydration line.  This means, the formula of NUUN was created to hydrate the body naturally and “put back a little of what life takes out.”  The tabs are light, low in calorie, and DELICIOUS!  NUUN calls it “U.”  And I have yet to find them on their Web site anymore.  But…I can still find them (for now) at Whole Foods.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I poured a glass of water the other night and dropped a tablet in…but I was wowed!!  Seriously.  Just…a whole lot of healthy yum!!  More, please! (I am a NUUN Ambassador as well, so this is a double YAY!) #nuunambassador2016 #nuunambassador #nuun #nuunlove #nuunlife #nuunhydration #makeyourwatercount


4. Birthday Fun
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As I mentioned above, my roommate rang in another year this past Sunday.  With having to turn clocks ahead, Cathy only had 23 hours to make the most out of her day.  So, we started it off with a traditional visit to the gym.  Hey…we’re a bit odd, LOL! We went

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Allergen Free Candy Bar Cupcake from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe

shopping, where she bought Season 1 of The Monkees on DVD at Half Price Books.  And then, I took her out to eat for dinner at the latest pub here in New Albany…the Floyd County Brewing Company, where she indulged in fish and chips and I ate a large and amazing salad that had berries and spinach and pecans…all the good things.  Cathy even had a beer flight and discovered her favorite of the 4 she sampled was the Bavarian Rapture, which she then got a pint of.  She was a little tipsy when we left, but it was a fun time and she got to try out a restaurant she’d been meaning to for awhile now.  And we were both impressed.  There was a delicious Allergen Free Candy Bar Cupcake from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe afterwards.  We had no birthday candles…so I lit up candle Cathy got as a gift and she made a wish on that.


5. Racing…
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As I mentioned in my previous blog, I ran a 10K race this past weekend.  It has been awhile since I pinned a number on and went out to pound the pavement.  I was pleasantly surprised with my performance, my speed is inconsistent, but it’s coming back.  My hip is still weak so I am continuing to work on that.  But it was SO nice to get back out there and race again.  I had missed it.  Thanks, Rodes City Run 10K, for the amazing morning!

And there it is…hopefully I’ll have some new things to share next week!!

I hope you guys all had a good week and some fun, new adventures!

Recipe: Gluten Free (and Dairy Free) Lemon Blossoms

This is, by far, one of the most popular recipes I bake up on a regular basis.  Why?  Because I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love these.  Everyone loves citrus, right?  Seriously, I’ve had people who don’t like sweets devour these.

My friend, Jenn, introduced me to this recipe, and we just sort of tweaked it to fit my dietary needs.

I think I might need to make these for the next Saturday group run…for afterwards, of course.  Anyway, I do get asked for this recipe often, and it occurred to me I never did throw it up on my blog.  My friend, Megan, is the reason this is happening now.  Trust me…long overdue!!

Without further adieu…

Recipe: Gluten Free (and Dairy Free) Lemon Blossoms

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Gluten Free (and Dairy Free) Lemon Blossoms

Servings: ~60 mini muffins (5 dozen)
Time: Prep 12 minutes; Bake 12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 18 .5 ounce package gluten-free yellow cake mix or vanilla cake mix
  • 3.4 ounce package instant lemon pudding mix
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil


Ingredients for Glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons water


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Spray miniature muffin tins with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and oil and blend well with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Pour a small amount of batter, filling each muffin tin half way. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn out onto a tea towel

To make the glaze, sift the sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, zest, oil, and water. Mix with a spoon until smooth.

Dip each muffins into the glaze while they’re still warm, covering as much of the cake as possible, or spoon the glaze over the warm muffins, turning them to completely coat. Place on wire racks with waxed paper underneath to catch any drips. Let the glaze set thoroughly, about 1 hour, before storing in containers with tight-fitting lids.

~*~*~

I love how easy these are to make and how delicious they are.  I never have a problem when I get asked to make these.  I have whipped them up at the last minute for things too.

So, tomorrow, these beauties are coming to the office with me.  These are a total favorite among the peeps at the office.  So, in honor of my roommate’s birthday (she LOVES lemon)…these help kick off a weekend of birthday fun!

ENJOY!!

The Little Things…

It’s Sunday night, and I’m finally settling in…even though my drier has now stopped for the 4th time and my clothes still are sitting in there begging for me to fold them.  This is the busy, crazy, and rather hectic weekend I have had.  How I haven’t screamed into a pillow just for the sake of my sanity is beyond me.

Do not get me wrong…this really isn’t a bad thing.  But there were a few extra things going on this weekend…and it meant some things had to be put off and other things just, honestly, didn’t get done.  BUT…these things are minor in the grand scheme of things.  It’s just more of a stressor for me.

That being said…deep breaths…laundry can wait…a bit more…

Here are some highlights from this past week…

1.  Zootopia
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OMG…THE CUTENESS!!  This movie was adorable.  And yes…I am so Officer Judy Hopps.  No doubt about it.  Except, minus the cute ears and twitchy nose.  I might have the fluff butt though.  HAHA!!  Anyway…went to the movie theater this morning and caught the first showing of Zootopia and LOVED it.  Totally loved it.  Disney does it again.  The sloth scene that is so famous…still funny…even though the trailer pretty much gave the entire scene to you.  LOVE IT.  I am so costuming as Officer Hopps for a Disney race in the future. THIS. IS. HAPPENING.

All that being said…when the hell did matinee movie prices skyrocket up to $9.00 for an adult??!!  Not loving that.

2.  THIS AMAZING BIRTHDAY CAKE!!
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Okay…regular followers of my blog and Instagram know how much I love, respect, adore, and hype my local gluten-free (allergen-free) bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café.  Well…there is a reason.  This place and I have had a relationship for the past 4 years of my life.  It all started in 2012, when my roommate and I found it in a big search for anywhere local that could make me a birthday cake (because I was told the birthday girl shouldn’t have to make her own cake).  Since then, you could say that we are regulars.  In fact…I might be in there twice a week (SOFT PRETZEL WEDNESDAY!) and for breakfast/brunch/lunch (depending on when we get there, HAHA) every Saturday that I’m in town.  I love the staff…I really love the food.  It’s amazing.

Well, my roommate (Cathy), her mom, her sister, and her niece all have birthdays within 5 days of each other…for real.  So, as we were having the big get-together celebration yesterday, it was cake time.  And cake I can eat is always appreciated. Well, I just so happened to have stumbled across a BB-8 cake on Facebook one night and I tagged Annie May’s in it.  They said they could make it…so we ordered one.  But we did it differently.  Instead of shaping the cake into a standing BB-8…we did a cake topper and set it on top of a delicious, amazing lemon cake.  OMG…it was awesome.  Ashley, the cake decorator there, did a fantastic job with the cake topper and icing.  And the lemon cake…OMG…so good!!  Moist…delicious…and it had the BEST DROID EVER on it.

Hey…foodie geeks are the best.  To the amazing bakers at Annie May’s…THANK YOU!!

3. Fuller House
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Okay…yes…I have decided to take the leap and watch the spin-off of the Late-80s-Mid-90s television show, Full House.  Why?  Because I grew up watching Full House and I really, really, really wanted to revisit the old stomping grounds.

You know what?  It’s cheesy…it’s overacted…but it is just as charming (if not more so) as the original.  And I love every moment of it.  I am about 5 episodes in and already wanting to watch more and more and just not stop.  Marathon time (of the non-running sort!) and I am one very happy girl!  Netflix and Chill!

4. Getting Myself Back on Track
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So, I am taking a few steps in the next couple of weeks to really get myself back on track.  Now that the pain has (for the most part…as there are always good days and bad days) subsided enough to allow me to get back out on the roads and run…I’m taking everything my physical therapist told me to heart.  I’m working on setting up a meeting with my sports nutritionist to get this diet (and my roomie’s too) back on track and in check.  I am going to attempt to either take Body Pump or find someone who can show me how to properly strength train so I am truly building muscle and not just lifting weights or using weight machines completely wrong.  I am finding joy in running again…and even dressing the part.  No…not like Joy in Pixar’s Inside Out, although that’s in the queue too…but I am no longer struggling through every run.  No…I’m not as fast as I was…but I figure once I get stronger, that will come.  That being said, I am running strong and I have been joining different groups of people for their runs.  This past Saturday, I did my 8-miler with my friend Dennis…and we did negative splits…which is AWESOME.  And today, I did an easy 4-miler with the Breakfast Club group.  Also, meeting all the new people out there that I have now that I’m back on the road…it has been uplifting and awesome…and I enjoy seeing and hearing all about their progress too.  We all have different goals, dreams, and reasons…and that’s what makes running special.

That and the Minion leggings I wore to the Breakfast Club run this morning! HA!!  Told you I was back!

So, yeah…I’ve had a week of good things and good stuff.  And I’ve put 12 miles on these legs the past 2 days and heave come out of it feeling confident with myself.  Every run just helps me get past that mental thing.

And having my friends not only tell me they are happy to have me back…but telling me I am totally capable of doing all the things I have discussed with them.  It helps…having that sort of a support system.  I love all of them for it.  Runner friends, baristas, bakers, family, and just friends.  Everyone.  All of you.

Thank you!

Do anything fun this weekend?  Eat anything amazing?  See a good movie?  Get inspired?

Top 10

Another weekend has come and gone, and what a weekend it was.  This week, I had a fantastic meeting with my physical therapist.  She had me working so much more on strength and balance.  Afterwards, she did a strength test on me and discovered that my legs and hips are FINALLY equal in strength.  That took awhile.  And, with 6 days that day to the day the injury began to really bother me…she was very excited about my first upcoming double-digit run on Saturday.  10 miles was the goal…and I was both terrified and excited about it.

And then…my other hip/quad started to act up.  It felt like a muscle strain, but it was enough that got me worried about Saturday morning.  So, on Friday, I contacted Katie (my amazing physical therapist) and we went back and forth as to where the pain was, how it felt, and what I should do.  In the end, she told me to stretch, foam roll, and give the run a shot.  If I didn’t hit 10…then to try again the following week.

On Saturday morning, in air temps that felt like 1°F…I struck out on my run…on a steep hilly course…and got through it. Pain free.  No limping.  No pain.  Nothing.  It made me feel confident and amazing and strong…all at the same time.  And relieved.  This is an ongoing battle, for sure…but I needed that run.  More than I even knew until I was done.

Anyway…here is a list of 10 fantastic and wonderful things for this week…just because sometimes you find blessings…

1. A short, but amazing visit from my sister and nephew

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Me, Chace, and Karla

Side-by-side or miles apart, we are sisters connected by the heart.  Seriously, my sister and I have always been close.  We have seen and done so much together.  We have been with each other through thick and thin.  Our bond is amazingly strong.  When we get together…watch out.  Insanity ensues.  She wanted to come and visit and chose Valentine’s Day weekend to do so.  And we had an absolute blast.  Added bonus…she brought one of her boys with her…Chace (age 6).  And we had SO much fun.  We braved the cold air and the snow…which Chace loved…we ate good food…we shopped…we played video games…we attempted to play Chinese jumprope, we laughed, snorted, and curled up together to watch a movie. Chace and I baked a special cake.  Chace told me that he loved me.  Do you know how much that made me want to cry (in the good, happy way)?  These are the moments I live for…and miss out on…because I live away from the rest of the family.  I hated it when they had to leave.  I cried a little this afternoon.  But, she’s already planning another trip…and bringing Landon (age 9) this time.  I love my sister.  And next time, the weather should be better so she and I can finally get that run in together.


2.  BOSU
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I am now the proud owner of a BOSU.  I have wanted one for a long time now, but when this became part of my physical therapy, not having to go to the gym to do it became a bit of a priority.  The BOSU Balance Trainer is an exercise tool that targets multiple areas of fitness like endurance, strength, balance, and stability.  The squishy dome side on top offers a bouncy surface for everything from cardio to strength training.  Flip it over…and you work your on your core, lower body , and flexibility.  Due to lots of amazing Dicks coupons and a gift card…I didn’t pay anything out of pocket for this.  I love it. It’s pink…not blue like they normally are (because…princess).  And now I can work on the strength and balance exercises that Katie (the PT) gave me to work on…in the comfort of my own home.  SO happy!


3.  Feeling like one of the group again

IMG_20160213_103112[1]As I mentioned, this Saturday I was set to run 10 miles.  I had originally made plans to do this early to have a bit more time with my sister and nephew…but those plans didn’t pan out.  Probably for the best, with how cold it was.  All that being said, I got up and went out to run with the training group, and ended up striking out for the first 3.5 miles with people from my old running group.  It felt so good to be back out with them.  They ended up not tackling the heavy hill climb at Iroquois, but since I skipped hill day due to weather, I decided I needed to climb, even though my PT said to try to stick to flat roads.  Seeing them, running with them, talking to them…it all just lifted my spirits.  I hadn’t felt that good in a long time.  I knew I missed it…but I really miss them.


4. New Running Shoes
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Sometimes something as simple as a new pair of shoes can make the world feel better.  Everyone knows that I love running in Newtons…but…I also love me some bright colors on my feet.  And the new version of my Newton running shoes are…silver.  Life’s too short to be stuck with boring running shoes.  And, as I was in need of new shoes, I went out to fleet feet and went to see Jackson (it was his last day there)…and tried on the shoes I originally went in for…the Adidas Pure Boost X (the ones that were made by women for women).  They were…not what I expected.  Very different.  And, while they felt good, I was a bit worried about lack of support on the arch of my foot.  So, Jackson went to work.  After I said no to the Adidas Energy Boosts (too much shoe)…he brought out a few more to try.  After I gave the Asics Gel Cumulus a try (liked them), and then the Brooks Women’s Launch 3 (loved them), and then the Nike Pegasus Air Zoom 32 (really loved them)…I did something I didn’t expect.  I went back to a Nike shoe.  Of course, I still have to really road test them, but they felt really good in store.  I have heard only good things about the Pegasus…so here’s hoping!  THANKS, JACKSON!


5. My nephew’s reaction to the snow this morning

I’ll just let the video speak for itself…

He wanted to see snow…he got his wish.  He was so excited.  And so cold.  Love this boy!


6. Being treated to a cake by Chace
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Chace is like his Auntie KJ…he loves to cook and bake.  And this weekend, he brought the chef hat and apron I got him for Christmas and go to work baking a cake for dessert and to take home to his dad, brother, and sister.  It was a gluten-free funfetti cake (sprinkles rule!) with a strawberry frosting and decorated with some red sprinkles for the Valentines Day holiday.  He’s an amazing little boy in the kitchen, and he’s got quite a future as the chef he talks about becoming.  The cake…for the record…was super-moist…and super-yum!  Afterwards, we all snuggled on the couch and watched Pixar’s Ratatouille.


7. Morning smiles on an early, cold, running day

12742614_533123900192145_892004465850865809_nI have met some of the best people through running.  After taking an entire (basically) year off due to this nagging injury, it feels good to be out and running (even if it is slower than I would like) with people.  Sometimes, I end up alone and on my own.  But I always start with a group.  And in these groups, there are people who just make you feel welcome.  That’s how Melissa made me feel on Saturday, when I was standing around, arms crossed, just dreading going out in the cold.  She pulls me into a picture…and everything just felt better that morning.  Sometimes it is the smallest gesture that makes all the difference.  Thanks, Melissa!!


8. Gluten-Free and Vegan Cookie Dough
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My local allergen-free bakery…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe…sold out, but reserved a cup of their cookie dough for me…because Valentine’s Day isn’t much fun when you’re single…so a big cup of cookie dough is a good meal choice, yes?  The hardest decision after getting it out of the fridge today was to have it with red or white.  HA!  I love my bakery!!


9. Funny Faces
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Sometimes you just have to be goofy…in a nice restaurant…with your nephew who requested to sit by you.  Because life only happens once.  Just be goofy!  I love him!


10. Chocolate!!
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Forget Valentines Day.  Just give me chocolate.  Dark chocolate, especially.  I’ll love you for life.  And, trust me, I ate plenty of chocolate this weekend.  Because I love enjoying the sweeter things in life with the sweetest people in my life.  And we are a family of chocoholics.  It’s a lifestyle.

~*~*~

Heading into a new week…here’s hoping this upward trend in my recovery continues.  Here’s hoping that the winter weather goes away for good. Here’s hoping for many more good days over bad.

Have a great week, friends!

Product Review: Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix + Recipe Bonus

Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix

Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix

Product: Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix – $8.75

So, this was it…my last Cuisine Cube…and this…this product was the last one that I had from the May (Is For Mom) 2015 Cuisine Cube that I received.  I had to cancel my subscription due to budget constraints…and that wasn’t an easy decision.  I loved…LOVED…this company and I loved discovering new products through them.

Yeah…that’s what Cuisine Cube is all about.  And one day, I sincerely hope to be able to go back to them and subscribe again.  That being said, before I get to the product that I lasted until now, let me tell you a little more about Cuisine Cube.

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?!

The last product from my May Is For Mom 2015 Cuisine Cube box was none other than the dessert product – Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake.  Why the long wait to use this?  Well, believe it or not, with as much of a sweet tooth I am…I am not really big on cake.  Secondly…I’m not a big fan of red velvet either.  Hence…the reason it sat so long on my shelf.  But, as I’m working on clearing out items from my pantry and fridge, prepping for a new year and new goals…this product was up.  And instead of baking a cake (again…not a fan of cake or red velvet), I decided to bake cookies.

Before I talk about the product any further, let me tell you a little about Rabbit Creek Products.  Rabbit Creek Products gets its name from a creek that runs through a small eastern Kansas town.  The founder, Donna Cook, a self-described “country girl” grew up in the heart of Kansas, offering a diverse array of food from traditional country with influences from Germany, Sweden, and other reaches of the world.  She founded Rabbit Creek Products determined to capture the taste of old fashioned cooking with a designer style and share it with people everywhere.  Her innovative mixes make Rabbit Creek a leader in the gourmet industry.  Cook was named business woman of the year in Kansas in 1995. Holding that title to its highest standard, Cook insists that Rabbit Creek does the same with their products.  Rabbit Creek has over 350 different mixes, including dips, soups, quick breads, beer breads, brownies, desserts, and scones mixes, among others.  And…now gluten free products have made their appearance on their product list.

Thanks to Cuisine Cube, I had the opportunity to try out the Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix.  As stated before…I am not a fan of cake nor of red velvet, so this was a tricky one.  But, instead of baking up a cake…I decided to attempt to make cake mix cookies out of this mix.  The recipe will follow below…and, I wasn’t exactly sure this was going to work…but I figured…I love cookies…why not give it a go?

By mixing the Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix with baking powder, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla and folding in Greek Yogurt baking chips…I actually managed to create a decent enough, fluffy, light dough that had a cake-y and a cookie-ish like texture to it.  I scooped it into little balls and placed the dough on a cookie sheet, forming 12 perfectly round cookies.  Then, I put them into a preheated oven and let them bake for about 12 minutes.  Out came amazing looking cookies.  I let them cool for a few minutes, then…it was time to test them out.

I will say this…Rabbit Creek Products really is elevating the world of mixes.  Honestly.  I was amazed with how well the Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake  Mix worked in this recipe.  I had my doubts, but what emerged were light, chewy, soft red velvet cookies that had great flavor and weren’t overly sweet.  One problem I usually have with red velvet is how sweet it tastes.  While these did taste like a treat, they weren’t overly sugary and helped me feel really good about choosing to make them into cookies rather than baking a cake.  The texture was soft, light, and amazing.  Chewy and delicious.  I brought these to work, and got so many compliments on how good these were!  Definitely impressed.

So, let’s talk about the ingredients that go into the Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix.  This mix is made from gluten free flour (rice flour, brown rice flour, modified potato starch, modified tapioca starch, modified corn starch, xanthan gum), sugar, cocoa, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, red dye #40 and natural and artificial flavor.  This product is made in a dedicated kitchen.

Now let’s talk nutrition!  The Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix contains 16 servings.  One serving of the package (about 17 grams) will dish up 60 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grans trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 13 grams carbohydrats, less than 1 gram fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

And here’s how I made the cookies…with a recipe loosely based off of the Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies made by Sally’s Baking Addiction.  I just made changes where I needed for weight of the mix and measure of ingredients.  But it worked like a charm!

Recipe: Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies

Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies made from Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix

Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies made from Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix

Servings: 12
Time: Prep 5 minutes; Bake 12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (9.6 oz) Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons vegetable/canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt Baking Chips (or White Chocolate Chips would work!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix and baking powder. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla by hand. Add the egg mixture to the cake mixture and stir to form a dough- stir vigorously until all of the pockets of dry cake mix are gone. Gently mix in the the baking chips chips.

Drop rounded balls of dough, about 2 tablespoons each, onto prepared baking sheet. Stick a few more chocolate chips on top of the cookie dough balls if you want them for looks, if desired. Make sure the balls of dough are taller than they are wide.

Bake for 10-12 minutes not allowing the cookies get brown. Cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes; they will be very soft at first. As they cool, the tops may settle down; press them down gently with your fingers if they are not sinking much. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

~*~*~

Seriously…this cake mix made amazing chewy, deliciously flavorful, yummy red velvet cookies.  And this from someone who is not a fan of red velvet or cake.  HA!  I do love cookies though.  And the addition of the baking chips definitely was a nice touch.

So, thank you, Cuisine Cube, for the introduction to the products that Rabbit Creek puts out.  And if any of you want to give their products I try, I urge you to visit their Web page and place an order.

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?

Product Review: Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies

Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies

Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies

Product: Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies – $2.25

Ah, Columbus, Ohio.  What a strange place to find so much gluten-free goodness.  But, let’s be completely honest…I find so many gluten-free goodies there.  And one of my primary sources for this is the Raisin Rack, which my friend Jenn, introduced me to once upon a time.  Since then, this store has become a staple as far as stops go when I’m in town (others include the gluten-free crepe place and the gluten-free bakery).

On my most recent visit for a fun weekend with my friend, our final stop before heading back to her house was…Raisin Rack.  My budget was a bit tighter, so I was only given an allowance of 10 food items to try this time.  And after walking around the gluten-free section about 20 times, I started to put in my choices.

At the end of one of the one of the aisles, there was this cooler…and inside were some fun desserts, snacks, treats…whatever. And the ones that really, really caught my attention was these little cylindrical cakes filled with a marshmallow cream.

And…if you see where I’m going…you’ll know that this can only mean…

GLUTEN FREE TWINKIES!

Except Twinkies are trademarked and all that jazz.

So, a local gluten free kitchen created their own take on the Hostess treat…

Cream-Filled Spongies!

Don’t you just love that?  Spongies.  HA!  Just saying it is fun. I bought two of them…one for me and one for my roommate, and we stocked them in my freezer upon transporting frozen stuff in dried ice…all the way back to the Louisville area.  They stayed in the freezer up until tonight…

Because I really just wanted a simple dessert tonight.  And this was as easy as putting these in the fridge the night before to let them thaw to perfection.  I let them sit on the counter, by the way, while I cooked and ate dinner…so they were about to room temperature when it was time to feast on dessert.

Before I get into what I thought of the Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies…let me tell you a little about Bake Me Happy.

Bake Me Happy is a gluten-free kitchen that believes that dessert should always be delightful.  In 2006, Wendy was self-diagnosed with a gluten intolerance and immediately felt relief from a life of digestive issues.  The problem she was encountering was that her food choices were lacking in flavor and texture…and her choices of what she could eat were limited.  So, Wendy began her foray into the world of gluten-free cooking and baking…eventually taking an immersion course at the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America and began to test recipes out on unsuspecting friends.  When her friends and family, who were not even gluten intolerant, began asking for treats for their parties, she knew she was onto something and that her baked goods were ready for the public.  And so, Bake Me Happy is the bakery that Wendy and Letha, her partner in gluten-free crime, opened.  This bakery is commited to making every bite the most decadent gluten free treat anyone has had since sliced bread.  If you have a craving, enjoy a baked good that won’t crumble to dust and leave you feeling like there is no pleasure in food.  Because Wendy has to eat gluten-free, she understands why good food is important and works hard to perfect her recipes.

And so…out of one of these recipes came…Bake Me Happy’s Gluten-Free Cream-Filled Spongies.

And these little cream-filled treats had to make their way home with me.  And tonight…after a stressful day…I really wanted something different and fun for dessert.  The Spongies were the perfect option.  After consuming dinner (I made black bean tostadas) and cleaning up the kitchen…dessert was on.  The Spongies had come to room temperature for the most part…only a slight chill from the fridge remained.  So, I opened up the package, gave one to my roommate and then did the same for myself.

I ate mine standing up in the kitchen.

The Bake Me Gluten Free Cream-Filled Spongies look just like Twinkies.  So…nostalgia happiness.  I know some people who would turn up their nose at the thought of eating a Twinkie of any sort.  But not me.  Not when most of these regular goodies that are the norm for anyone aren’t for me.  Twinkies are a dime a dozen…until you’re gluten-free.  Then…they are a special treat.

The Bake Me Gluten Free Cream-Filled Spongies are golden snack cakes filled with a whipped marshmallow cream.  Yep.  Just like a Twinkie.  And so…I first examined the little cake of cream-filled goodness.  It was soft and spongy like a Twinkie…shaped like a Twinkie…and the filling was piped in through three holes in the bottom.  I took one bite…

The Spongies cake was soft, but slightly gritty.  It had a great flavor to it…that rich buttery flavor that these snack cakes are known for…but the star was definitely the cream that was to fill the treat itself.  Sadly, the three holes were the only places the cream made it.  it was not piped throughout the entire cake itself…but in three little sections.  Which, is a bit of a disappointment.  The best part of the Twinkie is the cream.  Well, that part was true for the Spongies too.  The marshmallow cream was AWESOME.  The flavor and texture was fantastic.  I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of it.  Seriously.  It was lacking in cream.  The cake to cream ratio was WAY off.  But the cream that was there, I wanted to savor and enjoy…forever.  And I couldn’t…because there wasn’t enough of it.  The grittiness of the cake was a little off-putting, but when teamed with the cream, it worked.  But they had to be eaten together.  It was a bit of a let-down.

Let’s talk about the ingredients that go into Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies.  The cake portion of these treats are made from a gluten-free flour mix (white rice flour, cornstarch, sweet rice flour) butter (sweet cream, natural flavoring) sugar, eggs, whole milk, baking powder (cornstarch, bicarbonate of soda, sodium aluminum sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, vanilla bean paste (sugar, water, vanilla extract, vanilla beans, gum tragacanth (a natural thickener)), salt, and xanthan gum.  The cream filling is made from butter, marshmallow cream (corn syrup, sugar, egg whites and vanilla bean paste [sugar, water, vanilla extract, vanilla beans, gum tragacanth (a natural thickener)]}, confectioner’s sugar (sugar, cornstarch), organic shortening (100% organic expeller pressed palm oil), vanilla bean paste (sugar, water, vanilla extract, vanilla beans, gum tragacanth (a natural thickener)).  This product is produced in a gluten-free facility.

As for nutrition, a serving of Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spogies is 1 cake (48 grams).  This serving will dish up 180 calories, 8 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, 26 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 15 grams sugars, and 1 gram of protein.  Not filling…but it’s a dessert and should just be the icing on the cake…or the filling in the sponge-cake as is the case here.  HA!!

I didn’t dislike the Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies.  I just felt a little…cheated by them.  The cake was definitely not up to standard…but the cream was some of the best I have ever tasted.  So, there is the quandary.  I’m not done with the goodies from Bake Me Happy.  Not one bit.  But I think the cream filling in the Spongies needs a bit more room to shine like the awesome fluffy goodness that it is.  That being said…there are other goodies from Bake Me Happy that I’m dying to try.  I might have to go by the bakery itself next time I find myself in Columbus!