Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – Louisville, KY (April 28, 2018)

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Me heading into the finish line for the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 28, 2018

Time: 2:05:03

Three weeks ago (and I hope to put up a blog about this, but time has been short and I haven’t had much time to get online while home (and I’m not home much these days) so it hasn’t happened yet), I was out on a training run.  Nothing big.  It was supposed to rain and storm that morning, so I got up early and headed out in the dark to get in whatever I could, if not the entire run, before the weather moved in.  I didn’t go too far from my apartment, again, just in case the weather rolled in, but I was running on a bit of the sidewalk that I normally didn’t run.  It’s near a cemetery, which is fine, but the sidewalk can sometimes be a path of treachery.  That morning…it was.  It was Mile 3.4 of my run and…

I fell.

I fell hard.

It was one of those moments that seem to happen in slow motion…but it probably played out hilariously fast and painfully.  But it was early.  No cars were on the road at that point and no one was hanging out at the cemetery gates or at the apartments across the street.  My ankle twisted on…something.  I don’t even know what…if it was a rock, a branch, the side of the sidewalk.  I felt my ankle twist…I tried to compensate…but down I went…while heading down a hill.

Gravity…is a bitch.

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I shook it off.  Actually, I didn’t even pause my Garmin.  I think it automatically paused.  At that point, I could have cared less.  I was a few weeks out from the half marathon I wanted to race (KDF was my warmup) so I needed to make sure I wasn’t broken.  I popped up…looked at my feet (thanks headlamp), looked at my hands and arms…I was bloodied…but when I did this jog in place thing, nothing on my foot or ankle bothered me…so I kept going.  And I finished the run, noting the scrapes on my knees, the road rash on my leg, and the gash on my hand from playing Slip-N-Slide with the sidewalk.

I took a shower…and went out for brunch (gluten free pancake FTW) that morning at North End Cafe and…after sitting, really started to feel my foot getting sore.  But…I pressed on.  Until I could no longer press on.  Sitting for long periods of time or stopping my forward momentum became painful.  At one point, I bought a bag of frozen edamame from Whole Foods (I already had frozen peas in my fridge, so I didn’t need more!) to put on my foot/ankle while Cathy (the roomie) finished up grocery shopping.  By the time we got home, I was in tears and putting any weight on my foot was excruciating.  Ice happened in 20 minute spurts the rest of the evening.  I also had to bow out of the Louisville City soccer match that night because there was no way I was getting down the stairs at the apartment, let alone the stadium.

I told the roomie to go.  And she almost did.  But, in the end, she stayed with me.  And ate popcorn and watched movies.  For those who are curious…we watched Apollo 13 and then Coco (the new Pixar movie)!

All that being said, I woke up on Sunday and was able to walk.  YAY!!  I took through Wednesday off from running completely.  I realized just as I was heading out that I was supposed to run Thursday, but it was early and I was suited up and it was a 30 minute run.  And it all went well.  Until my other foot started bothering me.  I took more time off and called my podiatrist.

I was trying to make a long story short…so let me wrap this up.  On the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby miniMarathon (it ran that Saturday) my podiatrist took X-rays of my feet and saw no fractures (but I have an extra bone in each foot!)…but I had some swelling in a muscle on the side of my foot I twisted…and my left foot (the one that now bothered me) had some stress reactions in the 2nd and 5th metatarsals.  So…he taped me and told me to have some fun.

Good thing I wasn’t all-out racing this one.

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My night before the race meal – Vegan Sushi from Dragon King’s Daughter – the Green Acres & Spicy Tofu Rolls

That Friday, I did a short test run and, while a little sore, found everything manageable…and my friend Leah was aiming for a 2 hour marathon, which would keep my pace in check, I figured I had a game plan and one that wouldn’t destroy me.  That night, my roomie and I met up with our local BFFs…Melissa & Paul Nolan…for dinner.  Our fuel of choice…Dragon King’s Daughter.  I’ve been finding that the rice, avocado, tamari combination has been working well for my body…so my dinner was two Vegan Sushi Rolls…the Spicy Tofu and the Green Acres.

They came back to the apartment so that Cathy could tape up Melissa (who had been dealing with an achy Achilles since the blast of cold at the New York City Half Marathon).  They left after that to check out the Balloon Glow and I got busy baking Lemon Blossoms for the finish line and to stretch and foam roll.

I made a point to get to bed at a decent time and got up with enough time to do my stretching routine, eat breakfast, wake up the roommate (because she turned off her alarm and her door remained closed), get her coffee, get into my race clothes (I have some new black running shoes, so I thought I would emulate Des Linden at Boston and wear all black…NEVER AGAIN!), put my hair up, got my number pinned on, and waited for Melissa & Paul to come pick us up.  She had VIP parking and we had nowhere to be until that evening (Louisville City soccer…and they were coming with us anyway), so it worked out.

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Leah, Jay and I – the nuun Ambassadors at KDF Marathon/miniMarathon

We got down to Slugger Field to park, with the aid of Melissa’s barrier pass and VIP parking pass.  YAY!!  We got parked and I headed toward the statue outside Slugger Field to meet up with my running coach, Linda (who was running this race ONLY because she wanted to keep my pace slower than I would run it on my own) and Leah, who we were hoping to pace to a half marathon PR at the 2 hour mark (her current PR is 2:15).

There were a lot of photo ops happening…and I thought I missed the nuun Ambassador one, but Leah is one of the ambassadors and the other one, Jay, happened by, so we went ahead and snapped a photo.  YAY!!  Linda wanted to get into the corrals, so I missed the KDF Ambassador Alumni photo…but…it’s okay.

We worked our way into the corrals, where Linda got us positioned about the back of Corral B.  She thought we were up in A…but she was wrong (and I was right, HA!).  We stayed there though…but we realize in hindsight we should have probably dropped back further for Leah’s sake.

The National Anthem was beautifully sung and they prepped the wheelchair race to go off with a cannon.  That misfired.  So we got a “Ready? GO!” situation there.

Oh my my!

The elites were to be sent off next.  With a cannon blast.  Which also misfired.  So…no boom…but the “GO” shout-out happened.  So exciting.

And then…it was time for the rest of us.  AND…the cannon still misfired so no big boom for us either.  And…we made our way to the starting line…the three of us together…and we were off.

Too fast, honestly, to start.  Both Linda and I noticed immediately that Leah’s breathing was too hard and fast so we reigned it in after the first mile.  We attempted to do that, but the crowd was carrying us along and while I felt we were slowing down, the reality of the Gamin shows that we weren’t…but we weren’t too far ahead of the pace.  But heading into Mile 4, Leah started walk breaks.  This was fine, we now had an unintentional bank to work with.  When she was ready, we started up again.  She looked defeated…but we did our best to lift her spirits…and when she needed to walk again, she said her stomach was starting to act up.  YIKES!

In fact, somewhere near Mile 7-ish, we found some port-a-potties just beyond the water stop so she could make a stop.  Linda and I ducked off to the side to wait, and this was where we met up with Tonya, another of my friends who was an ambassador least year.  She said she was having tummy troubles as well and this was her third stop.  I’ll discover that this was a common theme among people that day.  Maybe it was the change from winter to mid-50s weather.  Who knows?  I felt good though…and when Leah emerged, we started to run again.

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Me, Leah, and Linda in front of Churchill Downs during the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky

And then Linda and I lost her as we neared my favorite part of the race: Churchill Downs.  We hopped up on a curb and finally found her again, making the dash to take a photo in front of the famous horse track.

This is my absolute favorite part of the race.  Every time I have run it.  And, true to form, I did yell, “RUN LIKE PRETTY PONIES!” as we were entering it.  The run down the hill through the tunnel and up into the infield was easy-peasy for me.  And I don’t like hills.  I got to the top with Linda and we realized we had lost our third again.  We pulled off to the side…no horses out training yet…and waited a moment.  She got to us…but she was walking.  I knew that the race photographer was around the corner, and I really wanted some good photos this year inside Churchill Downs…so we got her running again through there.  My photos, for the record, were crap again.  MEH!  I just am not a pretty runner.

We were heading out of Churchill Downs after walking and I spotted the next downhill out through the tunnel and back up toward the road.  I said, “Linda, it’s a downhill.  I HAVE to run the downhill.”  She told me to go on and I got to the top, stepped off to the side, had Linda catch me and we waited for Leah.  We could tell Leah was upset and frustrated, and while we helped get her to the split…where she was looking for another stop, Linda asked her what she wanted us to do.

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Me heading toward the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon (I passed the chick in pink at the end, LOL!)

And with that…we were off.  Linda and I picked up the pace.  Linda had originally wanted me to negative split this race (as I am horrible at finishing fast).  So, we picked it up and ran a bit faster through Mile 10…then I held it steady through Mile 12.  She told me to go on as she was going to slow herself down (she has the Flying Pig Full Marathon this weekend).  And I made every attempt I could to pick it up and just FLY to that finish line.  The 2 hour mark had just passed and I started weaving through the crowd, heading downtown via S 2nd Street before making the turn onto Main Street and heading the few blocks down it before the final turn and the finish line.  I held on strong, just plugging away as much as I could.  It’s hard for me to run slow and kick it in the end.  My legs and body just don’t like to pick it up.  So, this was a mental and physical struggle…but I was, honestly, ready to be done and off the course.  I was also getting hungry because I was out there longer than I normally am.  Is that weird?

I kicked it as much as I physically could make myself kick at that point.  The song “Danger Zone” from Top Gun was playing, so that was motivational at least.  And I crossed the finish line, happy that it was over.  Linda apparently decided she didn’t want to slow down because she kicked it into high gear and was just behind me.  I don’t know how she does it.  She immediately said, “That was stupid.”  LOL!!  We went to get our medals and suddenly, Cathy was at our side!!  Holy Moses.  She somehow got into the finisher’s chute and walked with us around to get our water, our treats, and into the runner recovery area.  Here we met up with some friends of Linda’s and then Linda went to get stuff from her car and try to catch one of her clients doing her first full marathon on the course.  I went to Melissa and Paul’s car to change while Cathy went to get coffee.  I needed coffee…trust me.

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Me (I’m stylin’!), Britni, Melissa & Paul after finishing the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon!

After that, we went to meet up with Melissa and Paul, who were finished and waiting for us in the Chicken Garden near Waterfront Park.  We ended up taking the long way around, but we got to them, and I immediately doled out Lemon Blossoms from my stash.  I also delivered a container of them to the Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town booth in the finisher’s area.  WOOT!  Mission: Accomplished.  Melissa and Paul knew people who were out on the full course and waited to see them in.  We, actually, ended up staying for the entire race…and didn’t leave until the last runner crossed.

Their friend, Britni, had almost an hour PR for her marathon time…which is amazing considering she almost died in a car accident the weekend before when driving home from Disney World (she did the Dark Side Challenge).  And their other friend came in…and between all of us, we demolished the remainder of the Lemon Blossoms.  Paul and Michelle Bolton found us too, and since Michelle is also a gluten-free runner…I passed on a few to her (as promised).

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This photo makes my legs look so long! HA!  Always finish…and finish strong!

After sitting around and letting everyone relax…we decided it was time to head out and head home (because showers needed to happen for sure).  We walked Britni to her car and she gifted Melissa and I with our BB-8 figures she picked up at Disney.  I still owe Melissa money for that, now that I think of it.  HA!  And then we made the walk back to Slugger Field’s parking lot, stopping to take a few photos with the finish line, while it was still up.  After that, we needed to make our way back to Southern Indiana.  We got back to the Nolan’s house and we transferred everything to our car, told them we’d see them around 4:30 to grab Indian food before heading to the soccer match that night.

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 2:05:03 (my slowest KDF miniMarathon and one of my slower half marathons).  I was 2517/8268 finishers overall. I was 965/4792 female finishers. And I was 195/748 finishers in my division. There was definitely no negative splits this time around.  In fact…my first half of the race average a 9:13/mile and my last half was a 9:32/mile.  Ah well…you win some; you lose some.  It was definitely not the race I wanted or intended to run, nor did I hit any of the goals I had set out for this race, except not to blow myself up actually racing it.  It does suck though…as this is the first year I won’t get a Top 100 Female Finisher award.  Dang it.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement…the Indian food was amazing and something the four of us had all been craving…and Louisville City FC got the WIN that night.  So…yeah…in the end…it was all good.

As for the foot/ankle situation…they can be little twingy at times, but seem to be on the mend.  I also am still allergic to the tape adhesive, so I’ve had to remove it for the next few days and will tape it up again for the weekend.  All-in-all…I’m on the mend and looking forward to my next race.

Maybe this time I can fly.

It all depends on these feet…the weather…and just, overall, needing those perfect conditions for the magic to happen.  It will.  Whether it’s the next race or another one. If anything the past few years has taught me…and this whole running slower thing as well…is patience.

OH!!  I also learned that people look for me at races wearing bright colors or a super hero costume, so none of my friends who were out cheering saw me that day.  And those in the race thought they saw me and then said, “But that person was in all black so it couldn’t have been you.”  Guess what.  It was.  Go figure.  I was trying to get my Desi Linden on and instead I got my race ninja on.  Even Cathy told me I wasn’t ever allowed to wear all black to a race because I wasn’t easy to spot coming into the finish line.  Live and learn, friends.

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Cathy and her three runners – Me, Melissa & Paul, displaying our bling at the Louisville City FC soccer match that night.

 

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The Struggle is Real

The mileage is totally going up as my race in early September creeps closer and closer.  And as there weren’t any running plans being tossed around with the normal group I run with…I made plans to run with a couple of speedy guys in Frankfort, Kentucky on Saturday.  We were doing 18 miles.  And for the first 13 miles…we were running the Kentucky History Half Marathon course (which is hilly hell)…and then we were going to run to their neighborhood for the additional 5 miles.

This started off really well, and the first 13 miles went great.  After that…it all came apart and went to hell.  We started off this massive hill and it was just like…my legs didn’t want to move anymore.  They were feeling fantastic up until that point.  And this…this just killed me.  Nothing messes with your head more than having a great run go bad.  I felt bad, slowing down the speediest of the group, as he wanted to do the 18 miles at his MP, and I was running at least a minute slower than he needed to be running.  When I hit the hill…it was even worse.  The struggle…was more than real.  It occurred to me that my September race was going to be way harder than this, and the fact that this course completely shattered my confidence I had been building up.

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Top: Kentucky History Half Marathon Course Elevation      Bottom: My September Marathon race

It was brutal and after I sent one of the runners on, and the other one never got past the 13 mile mark because he stopped to talk… got myself a bit lost and turned around in a city I really know nothing about.  I might have cried a little.  And ugly crying and a bad run make everything worse.  SO…I ended up turning around, heading back toward downtown, and rounding off the mileage on my own.  I got there, but it wasn’t pretty and I felt pretty defeated the rest of the day.  But, on the plus side, I did get the mileage in and I stepped a bit outside of my comfort zone to do it too.

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So, when I went on my little shakeout this morning, I had a little heart-to-heart with myself as I ticked off a couple of easy miles.  And that is…my new focus…and I leave it to The Doctor to share it with you…

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I get so down on myself and hard on myself regarding the paces I can hold, maintain, or even run at different points of the week.  Right now, I need to just focus on the whole…running thing…and less on how much or little time it takes me.  Let’s face it.  A 7 mile hill climb at the start of a marathon is going to SUCK…and right now, I should focus on just prepping myself mentally as well as physically by simply setting the numbers and data aside…and basically…just running.

And with all that being said…the best thing ever happened this past week as plans for my September race started falling into place.  One thing that is going to be entirely necessary is having people around to get me through what will likely be a challenging and…humbling race.  And all the ladies that are traveling with me are on board.  And I feel a LOT better about at least my post-race stuff thanks to that simple fact.

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The gang is getting back together.  It’s been way too long since the four of us have gone on an adventure.  And I promise not to get my purse stolen this time…

Anyone else watching the Tour de France?  I was watching it yesterday and was just blown away by the way these cyclists command that course.  They are amazing and inspiring.  Seriously, it does make me want to get back on my road bike…but ever since taking that spill and having so much trouble unclipping…I just haven’t felt like risking my bones and body in another potential fall.  So, I’m watching all these athletes cycling like mad on the roads of France and they’re just…FLYING!

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And I get on a bike and I feel like…

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True story!  Well, the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, practice.  I am going to look at getting my clips loosened…or possibly new pedals.  We’ll see what happens after that.  Fact of the matter is…I want to get back on my bike.

My other favorite thing this week…going over to Bryan & Michelle’s house on Friday night, eating Daiya pizza, watching Kung Fu Panda 3, drinking a little wine (Reggae Red Wine), and just having more laughs than I’ve had all week.  Seriously…it was just the unwinding that I needed at the right time.  And I love these two.  Two of the best friends I’ve made since moving to the area.

And…SHE. BOUGHT. PIZZA. I. CAN. EAT!  So much love!  I was eagerly eyeing them in the oven ready to devour.  We all know…pizza is my favorite!

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I made Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores for dessert.  I think Michelle now wants a kitchen torch (which is how I toasted said marshmallows)!

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They were a hit!

Pizza party, Panda, and discussion of what a Chi Biscuit would include.  HA!!  God, I love my friends.

And that was pretty much my weekend!  It was a decent week leading into the weekend.  And when my Saturday night finishes up with dinner at Shalimar (mmm…Indian food!), it’s a good time.

Speaking of movies…last night I watched the movie Chef.  It had been on my list for awhile, and all my friends kept telling me I had to see it.  They were right.  I loved it.  It made me really want to go to culinary school.  Maybe not to run a food truck…or…perhaps…to run a food truck.  HA!  If you haven’t seen it…get on Netflix and watch it.  You will thank me for it.

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So, that was pretty much my week.  Sort of a bumpy ride…but more ups (mentally and physically, HA!) than downs.

How do you overcome challenges?  Ever have a run fall apart on you?  How do you mentally and physically recover?  I want to know!!

Oh…it’s National Ice Cream Day…so…scoop up some goodness today!!

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Have a great week!

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: Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger

Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger

Qrunch Classic Curry with Lentils Quinoa Burger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Product Review: OLOMOMO Maple Garam Masala Kettle-Roasted Pecans

OLOMOMO Maple Masala Pecans

OLOMOMO Maple Masala Pecans

Product: OLOMOMO Maple Garam Masala Kettle-Roasted Pecans – $4.99+

One of my fondest memories of my roommate’s late father was taking him to the ballpark on Thunder Over Louisville day here in Louisville, Kentucky.  He had just been re-diagnosed and started treatment for his second round of prostate cancer.  And he was having a good day.  He ordered a foot-long brat and enjoyed that, then bought some German roasted nuts to share with us.

Little did I know that Cuisine Cube was going to bring those memories back to me with the simple inclusion of one product in their March 2015 cube.

Before I explain, let me begin by telling you a little bit about Cuisine Cube.  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.  These box subscriptions start at $34.99/month.  And, part of the charm is that you will receive 5-6 full-size (not sample size) products.  WOOT!  These usually fall into every meal category for the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert…with an added bonus from time-to-time.  So, if you’re really interested in being introduced to the smaller, lesser-known, artisan companies, give Cuisine Cube a try!  I can’t wait to get back to receiving these in the mail.

Tucked into my March Cube was the product that surprised me when I tried it last night as my dessert.  Sometimes it takes me a little while to get around to products, but I always do it.  They all serve a purpose.  And, even though Cuisine Cube presented this product as the Snack portion of their cube, it can be so much more.

I’m talking about OLOMOMO Masala Maple Pecans.

OLOMOMO Nut Company launched in one of my favorite places on Earth – Boulder, Colorado, in 2008 with one simple mission plan: be The Good Nuts and create one of the first socially and environmentally conscious nut companies.  Their beginnings were humble, selling samples at the Colorado farmers markets, and then, eventually hitting the big time with a national debut on the Cooking Channel.  OLOMOMO is quickly becoming a national brand.  Currently, the product is available through natural grocery stores like Whole Foods and in coffee shops and smoothie shops (like Smoothie King) across the country.  OLOMOMO is committed to developing fun, healthy products that infuse exotic flavors with familiar flavors, enticing your taste buds more than you thought possible.  They use simple, real, natural ingredients, including fair trade, organic and sustainable packaging when possible.  OLOMOMO is also the first US nut snack company to become certified as a B Corp for their socially and environmentally sustainable business practices.  What’s not to love?  Even more, what’s not to love about a company that strives to inspire people to be more nutty, good and adventurous.  Now you’re speaking my language!

But, how do they taste?  Well, the OLOMOMO Masala Maple Pecans look like the German roasted nuts you see around ballparks and in the malls during the holidays.  My biggest concern was going to be how well the garam masala played with the flavor.  Garam masala is an amazing Indian spice blend that contains cinnamon and cardamon tones.  I love Indian food…I just wasn’t sure how well this flavor would play with the coating on the nuts.  The answer…was brilliantly.  The nuts, even with the hint of garam masala, have more of a sweet than savory flavor…and it isn’t a spicy tone either.  A lot of people hear the word “Indiana food” and immediately imagine everything to be at volcanic levels of spice.  This is like adding cinnamon to your nuts.  Seriously, the combination of cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and maple sweeten up the nuts while the dash of salt gives it that perfect balance salty/sweet combination.  And, yeah, they taste dead up like those German roasted nuts.  Except…better.  Yep…better!!  I’m addicted to them and sad that they are only available in 3.25 ounce bags at the moment.  Don’t let the strange combination of maple and Indian spices throw you off.  These are truly a delightful treat that will entice your taste buds and leave you reaching for more.  It’s a good thing I weigh out all portions of foods I consume…

These are great by the handful, but would really spice up a salad or some fresh yogurt as well.  Go nutty!  Be adventurous.  That’s the entire point.

Let’s discuss ingredients, shall we?  OLOMOMO Masala Maple Pecans are made with pecans, organic evaporated cane juice, fair trade organic maple syrup, garam masala, and love.  YES…my second product in a week that includes LOVE as an ingredient.  It has to be good!!  Food made with love is honestly really amazing food.

Even more enticing is the nutrition information of OLOMOMO Masala Maple Pecans.  This snack is a nutrition powerhouse.  A serving size is 1/4 cup (30 grams) and there are about 3 servings per package.  This one serving will provide you with 190 calories and 18 grams of (healthy) fat.  You will be devouring 120 mg sodium, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams sugars, and 2 grams of protein.  These nuts are all natural, gluten free, and cholesterol free.

Trust me…this little snack is so addicting.  If you aren’t like me and dish out a serving, you could easily eat the entire package.

I probably have seen OLOMOMO nuts at my Whole Foods and just never given them a second glance.  Or, perhaps my area doesn’t carry them.  But now that I know they exist, I’ll be searching for them for sure.  Without this introduction by Cuisine Cube, I’d be a little less nutty today.  Spice up your nut habit…try OLOMOMO!

Product Review: Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit

Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit

Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit

Product: Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit – $4.99+

It was the start of a new year.  Yes.  January 2015.  And what happens at the start of a brand new year?  New Year’s Resolutions!  WOOO!!  I am proud to say that I don’t make resolutions, because I don’t like to make promises I can’t keep.  I do, however, try to make each year a good one and try to improve on some things.

Like…eating better.

Well, my New Year 2015 (January) Cuisine Cube, took a lot of the work out of that by providing a box of 6 healthy choices for food/snacks.  YAY!  So, as you all are pretty much aware, Cuisine Cube is a delivery subscription service that brings smaller, lesser-known, artisan products from the gluten-free food world to your door.  Yes, some of them I have heard of…but most I haven’t.  And that’s the beauty of this service.  Without it, I’d have no idea that some of these products or companies even existed.  And, subscriptions start for as low as $29.99/month.  It’s a great deal and a great service.  If you haven’t tried it or have been meaning to give it a try…do it.  You’ll end up loving it as much as I do.

So, January was all about healthy products it seemed.  And the product that was packed inside for the Lunch option was this great little Indian spiced meal kit from Jaali Bean.  It was the Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit.  It sounded beyond delicious as I am a huge…and I mean HUGE…lover of Indian food.  Around here, I can find a plethora of the Tasty Bite Indian meals, but this was the first time I ever heard of Jaali Bean.  Already, I was intrigued.

Jaali Bean was created by Brian and Molina Junkins, a husband and wife team who shared a passion for food, family, and healthy living.  They also had a passion for helping people discover the amazing flavors and tastes that are incorporated in Indian cuisine.  They challenge everyone to toss aside their preconceived notions about preparing Indian cuisine at home, because they make it all happen within minutes with these great little kits they put together.  It is super easy and the are just loaded with all-natural ingredients and all the spices that make you fall in love with Indian food.

They really do make it easy.  The Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit comes with two packages attached.  Inside is the brown rice and lentil mixture.  In the smaller pouch…the spices.  Simply set a pot on medium-high heat and heat up 1 tablespoon of oil.  Put the spice packet in and stir for about 40-50 seconds.  You’ll know when it’s done when you get that amazing aroma out of the spices.  Do not burn them.  Add 2-1/4 cup water and bring to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover the pot, and let it cook for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and give it a stir.  Let it sit for an additional 5 minutes.  All the extra liquid will get absorbed.  Trust me.  It works.  You are left with a fantastic pot of moist and creamy looking rice that smells as amazing as it looks.

But the true test is always with the taste.

And, let me tell you…Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Rice Kit cooks up an amazing taste of India.  Better than Tasty Bite…and as close to authentic restaurant quality as possible at home.  Amazing.  I grew up eating Indian food, thanks to my neighbors up the way, who were from India.  The cuisine has always resonated with me.  And I know what is good and what isn’t.  Jaali Bean is delicious.  Seriously…delicious.  The rice cooks up rich and creamy, seasoned to perfection.  It’s mild in flavor, so add a kick of your own heat if, like me, you like things a little spicier.  I think my only complaint was that there wasn’t enough peas for my liking.  How’s that for a complaint, eh?  Seriously, perfectly seasoned and it cooks up beautifully.  Nothing else I have had packaged has come close to tasting this close to the real deal.  I am beyond impressed.

So…let’s discuss what all goes into the Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit, shall we?  This kit is a combination of par boiled long grain brown rice, orange masoor lentils, peas, spices (which include cumin, mustard seeds, coriander, dried red chili powder, and amchur powder), salt, cane sugar, tomato granules, and nutritional yeast.  It is gluten-free, cholesterol free, vegan, and non-GMO.

As for the nutrition information in regards to Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit…I was very impressed.  A serving is 1 cup and there are 4 servings per package.  Each serving will provide 160 calories, 2 grams of fat, 380 mg sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 4 grams fiber, and 6 grams of protein.  Healthy, filling, and delicious.  You can’t go wrong.

Honestly, I’ve never seen Jaali Bean products around here, so without my subscription to Cuisine Cube, I might still be in the dark.  With that being said…these products are now on my radar and I know how to get my hands on them via the Internet, if I can’t find any here.  And that, my friends, is a very good thing.  I’ll definitely keep these on hand for a quick and easy go-to meal.

On a side note, this product wraps up my January 2015 cube.  The only product I didn’t get to blog on was the Budi Bar, because somehow I missed the note on freezing it and it got all fuzzy and moldy.  I was sad when I had to throw it away.  But…perhaps I’ll run across them somewhere around here.  Or, I’ll just order one online.  We’ll see.

Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit (prepared)

Jaali Bean Cumin and Pea Lentil & Brown Rice Kit (prepared)

Product Review: Lundberg Family Farms Organic Whole Grain Lentils &Rice – Mild Curry

Lundberg Family Farms Organic Whole Grain Lentils & Rice - Mild Curry

Lundberg Family Farms Organic Whole Grain Lentils & Rice – Mild Curry

Product: Lundberg Family Farms Organic Whole Grain Lentils & Rice – Mild Curry – $3.99+

I’m having one of those weeks.  One of those weeks where it just seems like I don’t have enough time.  For anything.  Let alone cooking.  And despite some fresh produce still in my crisper, it was the eve of an early gym morning, late afternoon emotional burnout, and a long day at the office.  The last thing I wanted to do, especially with Valentine’s Day goodies to make still, was try to make dinner from scratch.  I did that last night…having to eat my delicious Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts…standing up, while stirring a pot of melting chocolate that would become a decadent and rich chocolate mousse.

SIGH!

Don’t get me wrong…I love making gifts for people who appreciate it…but sometimes I just want to sit down and relax.  More and more these days, there isn’t enough time to think let alone relax.  What would be ideal would be something that I could simply throw in the oven, the microwave, or on the stove, set a timer, and get some stuff done.  Like lunches and snacks for lunch the next day.

So, after much searching through both pantry and freezer, I decided to pick out one of the boxes of rice meal things that were lurking right up front.  I had about three or four to choose from, but ultimately reached for a brand I know, I love, and I trust.

Lundberg Family Farms.

Lundberg is committed to producing the finest quality rice and rice products.  And since 1937, the Lundberg family has been growing healthy, great tasting rice while respecting and sustaining the earth.  With the third and fourth generations currently carrying on the family heritage, using eco-friendly farming methods to produce wholesome, healthful rice, rice cakes, rice chips, risottos, and pastas while improving and protecting the environment for generations to come.

Gotta love a company that has a heart.

So, Lundberg Family Farms recently began expanding their line of rice products into these little rice and pasta sides.  I picked up some pasta awhile back…but this time I had my eyes set on the new rice sides.  I was visiting my friend Jenn in Columbus, Ohio, and stopped into my new favorite store there, The Raisin Rack.  I filled up a small basket of items and products I wanted to try that I had a hard time finding in my area.  And one of these, at the time, was Lundberg Family Farms Organic Whole Grain Lentils & Rice – Mild Curry flavor.  The Mild Curry was what actually caught my attention.  The other being that these little boxes make for easy meals every now and again.  And while I don’t like to cook out of packages, sometimes it just becomes necessary.  But, the best part is, you can choose what you purchase to use in these situations.  And, for me, Lundberg Farms uses great ingredients, non-GMO, and really cares about the environment.  I have never had an issue with any of their products, so…for me…this made for a great meal (my roommate and I split the box between us instead of using it as a side dish).

It was very easy to make.  Just combine water, rice, lentils and the seasoning packets into a pan and stir well.  Bring it to boil, then turn the heat down, cover it, and allow it to simmer and cook for about 30-32 minutes.  Do not lift the lid.  Just let it cook.  Remove it from the heat and allow it to stand for 5 minutes before fluffing it with a fork and serving it up.  Simple.  And it was so hands free.  No need to babysit the pan and remember to stir it every now and again.  It was perfectly ideal for a night like tonight.  I finished up my prep work for lunches and snacks, talked to my sister on the phone, changed into pajamas…and got some gluten-free focaccia bread heated up to accompany the meal.  Then, I dished the rice and lentil mixture into two bowls.

It smelled fantastic.  Honestly.  It had this great cumin and garlic aroma that just wafted up from the pan when I lifted the lid and began splitting the dish between us.  The rice was fluffy and the lentils to that perfect al dente.  The yellow hue was brought about by the use of most of the curry spices, especially turmeric.  I love turmeric.  It’s a great anti-inflammatory.  And with how bad my back has been lately…it’s my new best friend!  So…dinner was served.

And HOLY CURRY GOODNESS…this was fantastic.  For one thing, the flavor is mild.  So, when it says “Mild Curry” on the box…believe it.  This will not burn your tastebuds off or set your mouth aflame.  In fact, my roommate actually turned into me for a small moment and said she missed it having a bit more heat.  That’s weird for her to say, since she is a heat wimp.  But…yes…the mild flavor compliments the grains, rather than overpowers.  And that is a good thing.  I agree though, I could have used a little more spice level regardless.  But, it tasted absolutely amazing.  It cooked up to be light and full of these rich Indian flavors.  And it was packed with nutrients and healthy carbs…so it made for two very happy diners as we ate our meal.

Let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  One thing I love about Lundberg Farms is their use of real ingredents.  You won’t see ingredients you don’t recognize in their products.  In the Lundberg Family Farms Organic Whole Grain Lentils & Rice – Mild Curry, you will find organic parboiled brown rice, organic lentils, organic rice flower, sea salt, organic spices (ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, and fenugreek), organic garlic powder, organic rice concentrate.  This box of whole grain goodness is also vegan, non-GMO, cholesterol free, and kosher.

As for nutrition, a serving of Lundberg Family Farms Organic Whole Grain Lentils & Rice – Mild Curry is 1 cup, prepared.  There are three servings per box.  In this serving, you will be consuming 210 calories and 2 grams of fat.  This serving provides 460 mg sodium and 0 grams of sugar.  Both of these are really low for a boxed product.  In addition, you will feel full after dining on this because one serving also provides 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.

I asked Cathy if she would be happy having one of these boxed rice meals from Lundberg Family Farms again, and she totally said she would.  And I have to agree.  Great flavor. Great texture.  And wholesome ingredients.  What’s not to love when it’s so easy to cook up and so easy to eat.  And good for you too!  Gotta love that.

Another product win from Lundberg Family Farms!