Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, OH (April 28, 2019)

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Me after finishing the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, Ohio

Race: Mercy Health Glass City Marathon

Place: Toledo, OH

Date: April 28, 2019

Time: 3:38:46

After a really good shakeout run using Glass City’s Savage 5K as just that (and somehow placing in my age group), I spent the rest of Saturday in my hotel room.  Sitting on my bed.  Feet up.  Eating.  Blogging.  Watching television.  Not out walking around Toledo.  Not hanging out at the expo.  Off my feet.  Foam rolling.  Stretching.  All of it.

I was really taking this prep seriously!  I didn’t actually leave the room until about 4 pm…when Cathy and I headed into Toledo to hit up Organic Bliss Deli & Bakery for dinner.  We had looked at a few places in Toledo, but it is so hard to gauge  how safe some places are, and some reviews on places I had been looking at weren’t so good on my Find Me Gluten Free app.  We were going to do my new favorite thing before a major race – sushi…but Toledo’s only safe sushi place only had the a vegetable roll, cucumber roll, or avocado roll for vegan options.  BOOOO!  I am lucky to have Dragon King’s Daughter for my vegan sushi needs in Louisville/New Albany.  As we were driving up to Toledo, my fellow Celiac blogger and Instagram friend, Margaret, was on her way down to Columbus for the Gluten Free Allergy Free Fest and posted about Organic Bliss.  They closed at 5 pm, so we went early and got there to figure out what we wanted for dinner.  And, of course, we would get a box of goodies to go back to the hotel with us.

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My Gluten Free Caribbean Avocado Sandwich with a Chickpea Salad from Organic Bliss Deli & Bakery in Toledo, Ohio

The people there were very kind and gave us some time to look over the menu, and we finally came to our conclusions…Cathy went ahead and got the BLT with Chips.  And I went with the Gluten Free Caribbean Avocado Sandwich (avocado, romaine, spinach, tomato, cucumber, black beans, papaya poppyseed dressing).  I got that with a side of the Chickpea Salad.  And then we boxed up some treats: A Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake, an Almond Scone, a Cranberry Orange Scone, a Cinnamon Roll, and the Peanut Butter Quinoa Bar.  We paid and went and took a seat in the corner while meals were prepared and brought out to us.

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All my baked goodies I took back to the hotel with me from Toledo, Ohio

Sandwiches before a race are a good back-up it seems.  And this sandwich was AMAZING.  I loved it.  And the Chickpea Salad was the perfect side.  Got some carbs, protein, healthy fats…perfection.  They were trying to get ready to close, so the floors were being swept and people were coming in for last minute purchases.  We finished up and headed out to go back to the hotel for the night. And you better believe Cathy and I split that Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake for dessert back at the hotel.

I went ahead and posted on my Instagram feed the motivation, the drive, and the reason I was running the following day: my mom.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer back in January, just after the New Year.  It was a shock to my family and one that none of us were prepared for.  Right now, she is going through chemo, keeping her spirits high and her thoughts positive.  What a warrior.  This race, save for a couple of miles, was to honor her.  Mile 1, my roommate claimed.  Mile 26, my friend Natalie claimed,  And Mile 10 was in memory of my friend Tina’s daughter, Kinsley, who died in her sleep at the age of 10 a couple of days before I left for Toledo.  I would carry these honors with me respectively on the race course.

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My mom – she’s a warrior!

I did one last round of stretching and foam rolling while watching Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network…and got an onslaught of uplifiting and motivational gifs from my coach.  I do love my coach.  He has been amazing, even when training went slightly off the rails when I busted up my knees.  The gifs made me laugh.  And he threw in a Game of Thrones reference, so that was winning.  But, soon it was time to turn in for the night.  I set two different alarms.  One for me to get up and take my medicine and use the bathroom…and then go back to bed.  And then one for Cathy…which would be when I would get up and get dressed.  No surprise…I couldn’t sleep well.  And I shut off my first alarm before it even went off.  Tried to climb back into bed and wait for the other alarm, but then my mind wouldn’t shut off.  So, I got up and did my PT stretches for my hips…and then went ahead and started to get ready.  By the time the second alarm went off, I was pretty much dressed and ready to head out the door.  So, while Cathy got ready, I started prepping my hydration vest bladder with 1 liter of water, grabbed my Maurten gels to use as additional fuel on the run, and put on my clothes I would shed prior to the race.

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Race day ready!!

Because up in Toledo…it was 41 degrees on race morning, but with the windchill, it was in the real feel was in the low 30s.  They had been predicting snow…but thankfully that didn’t happen.  I had, thankfully, packed some clothes that I could wear over my race gear (and a back up short sleeve shirt since a tank top was the original plan for this race), so I felt like I was good in the wardrobe department.  I was glad I had the clothing to give to Cathy before I got into the corral, because I was cold in that wind.

We left the hotel early.  Like 5:45-ish early.  And we made the 20 minute drive to the University of Toledo, where we found a lot to park in.  And then…then was the walk to the start.  It was slightly drizzly, but Cathy had purchased some trash bags at Kroger so, we both donned them and set out down the sidewalk to get to the start.  It was a pretty big walk, but it was a good way to warm up for sure.  If you know Cathy’s history with directions, you will understand that I kept checking with her to make sure that she was on track to getting us to the start line, especially when random runners who were walking near us would veer off and we’d continue on…into the land of empty sidewalks and roads.  But, we turned at an intersection and I could hear the tunes of the start line, and they just so happened to be playing my theme song for this year, Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes.”  It was a good sign.

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This was not the start line that I expected for a spring marathon. Wet, cold and windy!

We went to find a spot for Cathy to stand for the start of the race and just sort of made that base camp.  I stood behind her to break her from the wind.  We took a few photos.  I looked miserable.  I was miserable.  Spring marathons were not meant to be spent freezing.  At least, not in my opinion.  I drank my bottle of UCAN with 30 minutes to go and eventually, with about 10, shed my extra layers, save the trash bag, got a hug from Cathy, and headed to Corral B.

It was here in Corral B that I set out on my mission to find the 3;35 pacers.  The Web site had two of them listed, but as I hunted for the tiny yellow signs the marathon pacers held, I just couldn’t find any in my corral.  So, I went up to one of the half marathon pacers and asked him where the marathon pacers were.  He said that they should be in here…and asked which group I was looking for.  I said, “The 3:35.”  And he told me that there was no 3:35, only 3:30 and 3:40 and to find and line up with the 3:40 so that I start slow.  I was determined not to melt down or let this mentally get to me.  The National Anthem was about to be sung, and after that, I gave one last look around my corral for pacers….shed my trash bag, and decided I was going to have to pace myself this time.

That’s a scary thought  right?  But that was how it was going to be.  Corral took off and I saw the bobbing of the yellow pacer signs up there.  So…one more chance to check for them in my corral.  No luck.  None.  Deep breath. We were moved up toward the start line.  Waited two minutes.  And then…we were off.

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Just before Mile 4 in the Glass City Marathon

I reeled it in immediately.  Normally that race start is intense and the adrenaline is rushing and you just GO.  You bolt it out and find some space, but it uses up valuable energy, and I had been given a plan to follow, and while I couldn’t see the first 5 miles through with the pacer as the plan said, I wasn’t going to blow it up by going out too fast too soon.  I could hold it together and hold back.  Five miles.  I had this.  My coach wanted me to be around an 8:12-8:10 pace for these miles.  I did the best I could, and while a few of them were slightly fast, the last two were just slightly slower (not by much) than that pace.  Just before Mile 4, Cathy had found a spot on the side of the road to cheer. It was amazing.  Cowbell and all with a crowd.  I will say this, for being a smaller race, I never felt like I wasn’t supported out there.  Going into Mile 4 was a huge example of this.  Lots of people, even in the damp cold, just there to cheer on the runners.  It was great.

From Mile 6-15, I was supposed to maintain a slightly faster pace, not sprinting, not going too fast, but hitting those high 8’s.  And I managed this.  Holy crap, I was doing it.  And I felt good.  I didn’t feel like I needed anything, and technically with UCAN, I didn’t…but I didn’t want to run out of steam, and I have always been told to fuel early and often.  So, I took my first Maurten gel at Mile 6. Here we were guided through some neighborhoods, and people were down at the end of their driveways cheering.  Our bibs had names on them, so they would shout out your name and some encouragement as you went by.  Loved that.  While big races are all fine and good, this was the feel of a big race without all that big race stuff.

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Me heading into the finish line of the Glass City Marathon

It was actually just before Mile 10 that the half and the full marathons split.  This was clearly marked with big gates for the runners to go through.  The half marathon runners turned left, while we continued on.  This did bring the number of people around down some.  But, again, I never, ever felt like I was running alone.  At Mile 10, I fueled again (remember, early and often) and then I did give a point up to the sky and said Kinsley’s name.  She gave me some wings on that mile.

It is just before Mile 11 that the marathon course enters Wildwood Preserve Metropark.  We would actually run through this park twice on the course, but, trust me, it didn’t really feel repetitive.  The open streets we had been running on narrowed to a running/biking path, but it was paved and beautiful.  There were race volunteers out there, handing out water at the two water stops that were inside the park.  There was a band playing as well at some point.  On the first pass through the park, somewhere after Mile 12, we are sent to the right to run out onto the streets again.  I fueled again at Mile 14, and pressed on, still feeling strong and confident.  It was somewhere in Mile 16 that I caught up with the 3:40 pacers.

WHAT?!

Yep…the 3:40 pacer.  I shook this off, figuring that it was fine.  The problem was, I joined up with them as we were sent to run on the shoulder of a road, and in a pace group, that made for some tight, tight quarters.  This made my split at this mile much slower than I would have liked, but I was afraid of clipping runners ahead of me, or being clipped by runners near me.  This happened twice, if you recall, when I started with a pace group at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon back in November.  When I had an opening, I did pass and get ahead, able to stretch my legs back out and pick it back up.  I didn’t panic.  Not at all.  I just found my own pace again and was happy to not be in that pack anymore.  I had some breathing room and it took that anxiety away.  I fueled again at Mile 18 and just kept on going.

Just before Mile 20, we re-enter the park again, from a different entrance and make our way back through that path.  It was here that we have to navigate a small bit of an incline.  And it was here, that my legs slowed down and just wouldn’t pick it back up.  The final 10K…where I wanted to just maintain and keep going strong.  A tiny little bump in the elevation took the speed away from me.  I felt like I was picking it back up, but I wasn’t.  I truly wasn’t.  This time as we go to exit, if it’s your second loop, you turn left, and now you’re heading back out toward the university.  I still felt good, I just couldn’t find any sort of speed at this point.  We are still on this paved trail, and runners were scattered, but we were strong.  The 3:40 pacer passed me again.  And I didn’t fret or sweat it.  I did shed my gloves around Mile 22.  My hands were getting really hot finally.  And I was close.  I also took my last gel at this point.  Fuel for the final four miles.

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Me crossing the finish line of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, Ohio

There were some really perky and happy ladies running a friend in for his last few miles, who were fresh and really uplifting.  It was nice that they came by me because they definitely helpful in that stretch.  Around Mile 25, you can pretty much see the school.  You know that finish line is on the field of the football stadium, and you know…you really are almost there.  People are cheering.  Shouting your name.  Encouraging you.  Telling you how good you look.  How fast you look.  That you’re doing amazing.  I still felt good.  I still felt confident and strong.  I knew I wasn’t getting the BQ I had been training for, but I hadn’t glanced at clocks or my watch for time…just my pace.  I never peeked at it if it wasn’t buzzing at me for a mile lap.  I hit the turns to take the chute into the 26th mile…and then it was on to the stadium.  The crowd was amazing.  Loud.  Screaming.  I saw Cathy as my name was announced and I kicked as much as I could toward that finish line.  Crossing it…with my hands up.  I paused my Garmin and took a look at the time.

3:38.

I was just off of my BQ time by 3 minutes and off my goal time by 5 minutes.  I was so close.  I didn’t get my goal, but I was incredibly happy and proud.  I hadn’t hit the 3:30’s in a marathon since 2013, where I did it twice.  Both BQ times.  I was elated.  I cried.  Cathy came over after I got my Mylar and my medal and gave me a hug.  I told her I needed to put my feet up so we went over to the field and I laid down in the sunlight and propped my legs up on her.

Eventually, I decided that I did, in fact, need to move.  So, we headed out of the stadium to the runner finish area.  Here we collected my commemorative glass mug (you get it upon finishing), and went to the food tent.  I couldn’t eat anything, but poor Cathy was starving so she had my beer and pizza tickets, so I let her claim those.  I was feeling lightheaded, so I went to sit down and shiver in my Mylar.

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My Spicy Ginger Tofu & Ancient Grains bowl from Corelife Eatery

Cathy and just shown up when my Instagram friend, Scooby (who had a fantastic day as the 3:15 pacer) wandered by.  I called him over and we chatted for a minute, but he had just snagged some pizza and I didn’t want it to get cold…so we congratulated each other and I let him go.  Cathy had two beers to try.  The first one she hated, the other one she sipped on until I decided I was ready to go get warm with a hot shower at the hotel while she went to get me some coffee from Bigbee Coffee.  The walk to the car felt longer than it probably was, mostly because my body was tired and a little sore from the effort that day.  I eventually foam rolled, stretched, and went to get dinner at Corelife Eatery before seeing Avengers: Endgame that night (the theater was advertised as having reclining seats – it didn’t…and by the end, I knew I had made a big mistake).  It was a good day, and I am still basking in my accomplishment.  I think, next time, I’ll get it.

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Nothing is impossible.  Keep on dreaming!  Glass City Marathon Finisher!!

So, the official results of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon are that I finished in 3:38:46, making it officially my third fastest marathon and the first one back in the 3:30s since 2013.  HOLLA!  Stoked.  I was 408/1278 finishers overall.  I was 108/527 female finishes.  And I was 30/96 in my age group!  How amazing is that.  I felt good and strong the entire time, never letting any self-doubt or negative talk enter my head.  I was focused on the race at hand and the people I was running it to honor.  Marathon #15…done.  Now to find the perfect fall marathon to make the next attempt on that Boston Qualifying dream.

Remember…training rarely is linear…race day can throw so many factors at you…trust the process and remain focused on your own race that day.  You never know what you are capable of until you try.

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Winding Up A Windy Week

Whew.

Anyone else out there have to contend with stupid strong winds this week?  I swear, it was strong winds all week.  You know…those types of winds that, when you head out for a run, you are running into the wind…and when you turn around to come back…you are still running into the wind.

That being said, the cold temperatures have really wreaked havoc on my body.  At least, I hope it’s the cold weather…hard to say when spring weather has all but disappeared…despite being mid-April-ish!  UGH!

But that being said, there has been some amazing stuff going on this week for me too.  Sometimes it might seem mundane, but, you know…simple things make me happy, and there is nothing wrong with that.

1. My new favorite piece of kitchen gear
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This…is a cutting board.  This is a cutting board made by my super speedy, awesome, super-talented friend and running buddy, Dennis!!  How amazing is this?!  I love it.  I tried it out all this week, and it seriously makes me happy just to chop up my vegetables and fruits and tofu…and whatever else needed a happy bit of chopping.

Dennis, you’re super talented and I thank you so much for this gift.  Seriously, my favorite thing in the kitchen.

2. Game of Thrones
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Okay, so, I don’t have cable.  Nor do I have anything Apple that I could get HBO Go or whatever it was so I could watch Game of Thrones Season 5 while it was airing.  This meant, I was dodging spoilers (and still am whenever an actor from the show starts trending).  But, I purchased the Blu-Rays the other day, and have dived headlong into the season.  I’ve gotten through half of the season so far and am eager to wrap it up.  And then I need to figure out how to watch Season 6 as it airs…if possible.  Shhh…no spoilers!

3.  Cupcake of the Week

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Annie May’s Sweet Café Cupcake of the Week – Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake (vanilla cupcake filled with strawberry jam and topped with vanilla frosting and a fresh strawberry)

I have never been a cupcake person, but lately, Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, has been putting out a new weekly special…CUPCAKE OF THE WEEK!  And they always just sound so amazing.  I think I’ve only missed out on 2 of the weeks (once because I got a cookie, and the other because they were sold out).  But it has been my favorite thing to check out when I go in for Soft Pretzel Wednesday. It’s usually the dessert I split with my roomie that night.  A nice mid-week treat for sure.  Anyway, some of the standouts have been the “Unicorn Cupcake,” the “Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake” and the “Hot Fudge Sunday Cupcake.”  I missed the Cookie Dough one so maybe they’ll bring that one back sometime.  All allergen-free…and all have been totally yummy!!

4.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Are you aware that the new Star Wars came out on Blu-Ray and DVD this week?  I got the special edition at Walmart…because it had BB-8 on the cover.  Dammit, I’m such a BB-8 fangirl.  Regardless, I LOVED this movie.  And I love the new characters.  And I really love BB-8.  So, yeah, I braved Walmart and bought the Blu-Ray this past week.  I hear my Sphero BB-8 droid will react to the movie if I have him turned on and watching it when I am.  So, yeah…that’s happening.

5.  PB&J Breakfast Bowls
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Want to know what my latest obsession is?  Parfait bowls.  Now, I’m not new to breakfast parfaits, but this is a brand new, and SUPER good way to eat them.  And I have the Chobani Cafe in SoHo, NYC, to thank for it.  I eat this every morning after the gym.  And this coming week, with me heading out of town, this is breakfast all week.  Super easy to make:

  • 1 cup yogurt (vegan, Greek, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup grapes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons natural grape jelly
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (I use NuttZo!!) #NuttZoAmbassador #NuttZoFanatic #NuttZoLove #NuttZo
  • 1 tablespoon peanuts

Place yogurt in a bowl.  Scatter grapes over yogurt.  Place the grape jelly in the center.  Place the peanut butter around the edge of the bowl.  Top off with nuts.  Enjoy!

I have done variations on this, using orange marmalade and either Smudge, Nutella, or the NuttZo chocolate versions.  Also strawberry with the chocolate Smudge, Nutella, or NuttZo is also delicious.  Want a healthy but delicious breakfast?  Make this.  You’ll thank me for it!

6.  I HAVE A ROAD BIKE!!
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It finally happened.  After years of talking about it.  And over a year of trying to get one for myself, but always having medical bills (hello, MRIs) to cover instead…the perfect bike finally came into my life.  Someone was selling their road bike that they hardly rode for a really good price.  Way less than what the bike was originally purchased for.  It had been sitting in her storage room.  It came with all the gadgets and gizmos.  And it is BB-8 colors, so it was truly meant to be.  I’m taking it to get fitted properly for me so I don’t do any hip damage or get injured…and then…I’m road ready.  FINALLY!!  I love this bike.  And, yes, I did name it BB-8.

How was your week?  Has the wind in your area been crazy-strong and gusty too?  What fun and exciting things do you have coming up?  Buy anything fun this week?

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!

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?

Restaurant Review: Be Our Guest – Fantasyland – Magic Kingdom, Disney World

Be Our Guest - Fantastyland - Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida

Be Our Guest – Fantastyland – Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Be Our Guest – Fantasyland – Magic Kingdom, Disney World

It’s probably one of the hardest reservations to get at Disney World at this time.  One of the newest restaurants at the theme park itself, Magic Kingdom opened the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland.  And yes, just as the name suggests, the basic theme of this restaurant is Beauty and the Beast.This means, should I ever take my neice Kaytlynn to Disney World…this is where we would eat!

We didn’t get the much coveted dinner reservation, however, my Disney Travel Agent and friend, Karen, managed to snag a spot for a lunch reservation.  She added it to our Fast Passes and we were good to go for Sunday lunch.

We had big dinner plans that evening at The Wave, so we opted for a “dessert first” approach to our reservation.  In other words…forget the real food…give us something sweet!

One of the reasons I had wanted to get into Be Our Guest was the fact that they had…

…wait for it…

…a GLUTEN-FREE CREAM PUFF!!!!

*cough*

Sorry…I get excited sometimes when it comes to things I love but haven’t been able to eat in years.

The rumors were true, however, so once we got into the Fast Pass line and were ushered up the walk to the restaurant, the hostess handed us each a menu and we perused it.  I knew what I was getting.  Cathy was torn between getting soup or getting a dessert.  As Jenn and I were getting desserts and had declared it “dessert first” day…she eventually let go of the soup thought and went with her choice for a dessert.  No duplicates.  Actually, normally with the three of us…little duplication ever happens.

We stood in line in this amazing Great Hall, with suits of armor and screens that showed images of the items available on the menu.  When we got up to the host, he directed us to stand inside and await the help of someone else, who would then direct us to one of the pay stations.  We had wanted to charge these to our cards, but were sent to a kiosk thing instead of the cashier.  When we questioned it, we were told it would take a card.  Jenn was first…and she wasn’t given any option except her Fast Pass.  So…onto the bracelet it went.  Cathy and I played around with it, and we did find where we could charge it to a card…except it automatically made us use the Fast Pass.  So…yeah…that was confusing, convoluted, and just chaotic.

From there, we turned over our menus and were told to take a seat at any of the tables in any of the rooms.  This involved a little bit of investigation.  The main room you enter was packed.  There was a darker room near the back, that had more of a tavern feel to it.  But…it was also packed.  So, we moved to the more ballroom-ish room.  Plenty of seating in there.  We pulled up a booth (and chair) at one of the tables at the back.  I was facing the rotating statue of Belle and The Beast dancing.  Absolutely…gorgeous.

Cathy and Jenn both got “Adult Cold Fountain Beverages” (aka: SODA!) ($2.99), so while they went to retrieve their drinks from the fountains at the other side of the room, I sat and manned the table.  While they were gone, a man came over to check our receipts and wrote down something on a pad.  I’m assuming this is how they eventually figure out where to bring our food, instead of playing a game of Marco Polo with each and every customer.  They returned and I got up to get my drink.  I don’t do soda anymore…so I opted for an “Adult Hot Beverage” (aka: coffee, tea, hot cocoa) ($2.39), and had to go retrieve a cup to get some coffee.  Caffeine was necessary.  The coffee in this room was out of order, but I was told to just go around the corner to the other room as they have coffee there.  So…I did.

Brewed hot coffee.  Not fancy.  Very basic.  But…served it’s purpose.

Finally, we were settled in and taking in the entire place.  And then, this gorgeous cart rolled up and Jenn was given her dessert.  Yes…just Jenn.  She ordered the Éclair à l’Orange ($4.19), which was an éclair with a custard filling with zested orange and finished off with chocolate ganache.  Jenn loves chocolate and orange together…so this was a definite win.  She was kind enough to wait for Cathy and I to receive our treats before she dove in.

And they did…about 5 minutes later.

Cathy went for the obvious Cathy choice…the Lemon Meringue Cupcake ($4.19).  This is a vanilla sponge cake with a lemon custard filling and flamed meringue icing.  It just screamed Cathy because…it was lemon.  And she loves lemon.

As for me…I went with the item on the menu that I wanted to begin with.  It is gluten-free.  It has no added sugar.  It, my dearest friends, is the Lemon – Raspberry Cream Puff ($4.19).  It is exactly what it sounds like.  A pastry that is filled with lemon custard and topped off with raspberries.  Gorgeous.

With all of our sweet treats now present, we dove in.

Be Our Guest's Éclair à l’Orange

Be Our Guest’s Éclair à l’Orange

Let’s start with Jenn.  Jenn loved the Éclair à l’Orange.  She said it was perfectly orange-y.  In fact, it managed to be smooth and light, not heavy like some cream-filled pastries (especially eclairs) tend to be.  Her only stipulation…it could have been bigger.

Be Our Guest's Lemon Meringue Cupcake

Be Our Guest’s Lemon Meringue Cupcake

Cathy’s Lemon Meringue Cupcake looked like a little, personal, lemon meringue pie.  She used her fork to dive in, the cake portion completely encased in this gorgeous paper.  It was small…she said almost like two biter.  And it wasn’t knock-you-over lemony, but definitely had that bright citrus flavor in each bite.  In fact, when I asked her to describe it, all she could say was…”It was lemony!” Uh…yeah…the name tells me that.  So…there you have it.  It’s lemony!

Now onto the Lemon-Raspberry Cream Puff.  I admit.  I heard rumors of the gluten-free cream puff and knew…just knew…it had to be mine.  So…here it was…this little dough puff in front of me.  I took my fork and cut through the crusty pastry, watching it flake away to give way to the gorgeous, yellow, lemon cream inside.  I paired it with the cream and raspberries on top…and we’re talking a heavenly, sinful dessert.  I loved that this also had no additional sugar in it.  I’ve been trying to cut back on the amount of sugar I consume, which isn’t easy because of natural sugars in things I love…like fruits.  But, I don’t really count natural sugars.  Still, I didn’t think this really needed any additional sugar.  It was light…fluffy, and just a dreamy dessert for a girl who last had a cream puff when this gluten-free journey began…and I cheated.  And suffered.  And that was the end of that.  This…was huge to me.  I have to agree with both Jenn and Cathy though…the dessert was small.  Which is fine…but I just thought for close to $5, there would be a little bit more.  Other than that…we devoured the delectable, delicious desserts, and raved about them the entire time.

Be Our Guest's Lemon - Raspberry Cream Puff (GLUTEN-FREE!!)

Be Our Guest’s Lemon – Raspberry Cream Puff (GLUTEN-FREE!!)

Dessert first…achieved.

Being a grown-up is awesome!  HA!

So, while I thought the ambiance of the restaurant was killer…like being in the film Beauty and the Beast…it was really chaotic, really loud, and a bit…of a mess when it came to ordering and checking out.  But, it was a great way to dine and I am thrilled my friend Karen managed to snag us lunch reservations.  The atmosphere at this restaurant is hard to top.  But, in a way…it was like eating at a 5 star cafeteria.  If you know what I mean.

I was definitely happy to have the chance to dine at Be Our Guest…and I thank them for offering one of the most amazing and fantastic gluten-free desserts I have had in awhile.

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Café Easter Basket 2014

Annie May's Sweet Café, Louisville, Kentucky

Annie May’s Sweet Café, Louisville, Kentucky

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Café Easter Holiday Menu 2014

I am a little late on posting this blog because…life has been crazy-busy as of late.  But…I didn’t want anything to fall by the wayside, especially when it is my favorite allergen-free bakery.  Lucky me…it’s in my own hometown.  And every year, around Easter time, Annie May’s Sweet Café offers people the chance to have their own individually wrapped items for an Easter basket.  This year’s Easter Holiday Menu was enticing.  And…I told my roomie to order for me…and surprise me with what she chose for us to try.

This year brought a change to the standards normally seen on the menu.  Due to a chocolate shortage at the wholesale level, Annie May’s Sweet Café announced they would NOT be making the chocolate bunnies or chocolate candy this year.  Bummer…because that sunbutter bunny I ate last year was beyond amazing.  But…with the rising cost and lack of availability, I can’t blame them.

So…the weekend before Easter, Cathy placed an order at the bakery…and I didn’t listen in or anything.  I was so excited about being surprised with what I would find inside.  The only thing I was aware of was the 1 Dozen Gluten-Free Lemon Bars that Cathy and I had discussed purchasing, because I had been eying these on the menu every time…but they were never in the case.  And Lemon Bars are one of Cathy’s favorite thing in life.

Mine too, honestly.

So…

The Saturday before Easter, we stepped into Annie May’s Sweet Café for breakfast.  After we ate, Cathy went to get all the goodies for the Easter Basket she ordered.  We got a large pink box containing the one dozen Gluten-Free Lemon Bars.  But it was the surprises that I was ready to discover.

Turns out, Cathy put in an order for one of everything…save the Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Brownie as that item is always in the case at the bakery.  Always.  Trust me…our friend Greg always orders at least two of them.

So…here’s a review of everything inside my Gluten-Free Easter Basket of Awesome!

Gluten-Free Lemon Bars – $38.50

Annie May's Sweet Café Gluten-Free Lemon Bars

Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten-Free Lemon Bars


One big pink box is what we brought home and immediately stuck in the refrigerator.  Because lingering inside was 12 bars of lemony goodness.  For real.  And these weren’t small bars either.  This dozen lemon bars could easily have been split in half and been enjoyed for much longer.  But where is the fun in that?  Needless to say…Cathy and I didn’t do that.  Not at all.

These bars had this delicious shortbread-like crust.  Then…the lemon curd in the center.  And a delicious sugary crust on top.  It was heaven.  Heaven with each bite.  The lemon was fantastic and refreshing.  The curd inside was soft and lemony, without being overwhelming.  That sugary crust on top added a bit of texture.  And…I think I have declared these the best gluten-free lemon bars I have tasted.

And yes…I have had a few…some from Cherbourg Bakery in Columbus, Ohio…and some from Sinfully Gluten Free in Dayton, Ohio.  But these…these from Annie May’s were the best ever.  I hope she starts putting them in the case for Saturdays…because I will literally buy them all.  Yes…they are that delicious.  Trust me…I can’t make this up.  I looked forward to dessert for six days straight!  Lemony goodness indeed!

Annie May's Sweet Café Allergen-Free Mini Oatmeal Cream Pie

Annie May’s Sweet Café Allergen-Free Mini Oatmeal Cream Pie

Allergen-Free Mini Oatmeal Cream Pie – $3.50

Annie May’s Sweet Café is known for their Oatmeal Cream Pies.  The thing is…these things are so huge at the bakery…that they can be quite daunting to eat.  This is often the treat my guests choose to eat…and then they end up taking more than half of it with them.  Oh…they are good.  Just…sometimes a bit much.

So, for Easter, Annie May’s Sweet Café downsized them.  And this…was absolutely perfect.  You know those oatmeal cream pies you’d buy at the grocery store and devour as a child.  These are sort of like that…but better.  Two soft mini oatmeal cookies surround a thick layer of frosting.  It’s sweet…with a hint of that savory oatmeal cookie appeal.  I love texture of the cookies and the way they pair well with the filling.

It might just remind you how sweet some of life’s simplest pleasures really are.  Like…cookies and icing.  Simple…but oh…so good.  And since this is one of their signature items…it’s totally worth the purchase!

Allergen-Free Mix & Match Petit Four Pack – $4.00

Annie May's Sweet Café Petit Fours

Annie May’s Sweet Café Mix & Match Petit Fours

Mmmm…little bite-size cakes of goodness.  I love petit fours.  Before I had to go gluten-free, I was often sent little petit fours at Christmas time from Swiss Colony.  So, I totally missed these little one-bite goodies.  But…not anymore.  Not at Easter.  Thanks to Cathy!

Annie May’s Sweet Café did up a four-pack of Petit Fours, two chocolate with a chocolate ganache topping, and two vanilla with a vanilla icing.  And…boy, were these ever moist.  I actually found that the vanilla was my favorite.  Not a surprise.  While I am a choc-o-holic, I also find that I prefer vanilla in some cases.  Especially when it comes to cakes.  I don’t know why…I just do.

I loved how the icing complimented the moist and sweet cake beneath.  I enjoyed having a dessert I could just pop into my mouth and not feel guilty about the little indulgence.  Not that I ever feel guilty about enjoying a dessert…but you get what I mean.  These little cakes made me so happy.  They didn’t last long if that tells you anything.

Annie May's Sweet Café Gluten-Free Decorated Sugar Cookie

Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten-Free Decorated Sugar Cookie

Gluten-Free Decorated Sugar Cookie – $5.00

Mmmm…sugar cookies.  I never make sugar cookies.  Ever.  Well, I tried a couple of times.  It never ends well.  Ever.

So…when I see gluten-free sugar cookies in the wild…you better believe I want one.  It doesn’t get much better than a sweet, sometimes a bit gritty (mmmm…sugar!), soft cookie.  It is one of the simplest…but most amazing cookies ever made.  Almost always, sugar cookies have some sort of decorative flair to them.  Last year, Kenna (co-owner of Annie May’s Sweet Café) hand painted Peter Rabbit on the cookies.  This year, the cookie was shaped like an egg and decorated with white icing and various designs to make it look like an Easter egg.

I almost hated to cut it in half and devour it with Cathy’s assistance.  But, my sweet tooth wins out over the artistic beauty of the cookie in the end.  This sugar cookie was soft and sweet, without it being too sweet.  Even with the icing, it found a nice balance.  And it really was a beautifully decorated cookie.  Hands down one of the best, and softest, gluten-free sugar cookies I have had to date.

Gluten-Free Six-Pack Caramels – $4.50

Annie May's Sweet Café Gluten-Free Caramels

Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten-Free Caramels


Two words.

Homemade Caramels.

I actually saved these for last.  Honestly.  I had to.  I wanted them to be last because caramel is one of my favorite things in the world.  Especially if it’s salted.  This wasn’t…but that’s okay.  Seriously.  Because caramel is the thing that delicious dreams are made of.

Always.

The caramels that Annie May’s Sweet Café put together for Easter were chewy and soft…and sweet.  I loved how stretchy it was.  But it didn’t attach itself indefinitely to your teeth either.  I could taste the sugar, and how it caramelized down into the soft candy.  These were so amazing.  They practically melted in your mouth when you took a bite.

These were love.  Soft, chewy, caramel-y love.

I’m addicted.  And the three days I had these in my life were some of my best.  More, please!

~*~*~

So…there it is…

Another Easter has come and gone…and for the second year in a row, Annie May’s Sweet Café provided me with a safe and epically sweet and delicious Easter basket.  Their Easter menu was out of this world this year.  I didn’t even miss the chocolate candies and chocolate bunny.

And seriously…if they ever start putting the lemon bars in that case…I’ll buy them all.

I’m already craving them again.

Maybe I can see about getting these for my birthday this year…

Maybe.

Thank you, Annie May’s Sweet Café, for another fantastic holiday treat.  I seriously had some of the best desserts of my life in the comfort of my own home…without having to turn on my oven once.

Now that…is one delicious treat indeed.