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.

Quick Thoughts From the Week

It was a long, holiday weekend.  YAY!!  And, as is usual for me over the 4th of July…I was out of town.  At a convention.  In Indianapolis.  Now, normally when I am up in Indy for this convention, my Saturday morning is spent running the Monon Trail.  It’s gorgeous.  Seriously.  I always look forward to it.  The past few years (last year I wasn’t able to run at all at this point), I have managed to get out there for my long run of 10-12 or so miles.

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But, this past weekend, Saturday’s Monon Trail run wasn’t happening…

MEH.

SO…on Saturday morning, I was down in the fitness center at 6 am…and on a treadmill to do 12 miles that morning.  I started easy and worked up a ladder to a comfortable speed and then took it back down.  It was mind numbing, despite the music (and to think, I almost left my iPod in my room).  But, my training run was done.

And if that wasn’t enough punishment, I got up on Sunday morning to do my shakeout run.  I decided to do an easy run for an hour…getting 7.36 miles in during that time.

I was feeling it Saturday and I really felt it Sunday.  I hate running on treadmills.  They seem to do more damage to me than road running does.  I was sore through Wednesday, honestly.  I don’t know how people do long distances on these things on a regular basis.  My body couldn’t handle it!

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My runs have been suffering since those treadmill runs.  The hip was not mad…but not happy either.  MEH.  Not enough foam rolling in the world.  Of course…the epic humidity with air so thick you could cut it with a knife…isn’t helping either.

But, despite the humidity and the fatigue from late nights, I’ve been keeping up with my training runs.  Which…is impressive for me.  It’s not been easy to get out of bed to just go outside and melt…but…

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…I’ve been getting it done.  It hasn’t been pretty…and I’m not always happy with the results on my Garmin, but I’m doing what my body is currently capable of…so, there is that.

OH…and this past week, I got to play around with recipes that I created.  I made 6 different recipes…2 pasta dishes, a fusion pizza, a rice dish, a sandwich, and a dessert.  I was quite proud of the results…all based off of Peter Cincotti’s recently released EP, Exit 105.  Check out these images of the completed dishes…

 

Top (L-R): Island Spell Pizza (song: Palermo) – Jerk seasoned tofu, topped with onion, bell pepper, pineapple, cheddar cheese, and a Jamaican jerk coleslaw; Missing Sara Sammie (song: What’s Sara Doing?) – sammie layered with sweet potato, hummus, avocado (or guacamole), and kale; Unexpected Beat Tagliatelle (song: Long Way From Home) – tagliatelle pasta in a bechemel sauce and topped with shredded beets, goat cheese, parsley, toasted pine nuts, and toasted bread crumbs

Botton (L-R): Roamin’ Skies Pasta (song: Roman Skies) – my take on the traditional Roman dish – Cacio e Pepe – pasta mixed with butter, black pepper, Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses; Exit 105 Rice-A-Roni (Album Title: Exit 105) – my version of the San Francisco Treat (after all, Exit 105 takes you to the Golden Gate Bridge)…and it has been dubbed my “best rice dish in the history of ever”; Sexy on the Beach Ice Cream (song: Sexy) – a vegan ice cream made from coconut cream, pureed raspberries, pureed pineapple, chambord and vodka…just like the drink Sex on the Beach…

I love getting chefy.

So, aside from a little bit of work stress…that’s what’s going on thus far.  Stay tuned as this weekend is going to be amazing.  I can tell.

Moving Forward…No Regrets

You know…it’s heating up outside.  Yes.  It is.  And I sort of love it.  I really, really do!  I mean, I don’t want those blazing hot triple digits, but I have been waiting for the warmer weather…and suffered through the chilly, cold, bitter winter.  We never really have spring here, so…yeah, I’ve been waiting for this.

Yesterday was beautiful.  It was humid, but definitely not as stifling as last week.  And I met with my training partner in a new space with new people…the Louisville Landsharks.  Most of them were keeping their runs down to an hour or 2-6 miles, as they were all doing the TriLouisville triathlon this morning.  As he and I are both running hilly races (and selfishly, we really didn’t want to take on Eastern Parkway), we continued on into Iroqouis Park, and ran all the way to the top and then back.  It was one of my best training runs to date.  I felt good during and after.  Now before…before…not so much.  Let’s take a look at some stuff this week.

1.  Grandma’s Marathon
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When I started back to training this past January, after being cleared to run, and getting approval from Katie, my physical therapist, to follow the Norton Training Program as they all prepped for a late April marathon or half marathon (I ran the half), it was all part of going back and forth between the full and half training program as I prepped for the NYC Half Marathon and then…Grandma’s Marathon.  I was signed up to run it.  It’s my grandpa’s absolute favorite marathon.  And this year…it was their 40th Anniversary.  Big!!  I pepped for this by jumping right into a 20 miler in April because…I needed to see how my body could handle long, long distance.  I came out of it feeling great.  But I didn’t feel ready.  So I transferred my bib and that was that.  The race ran yesterday…and that morning, I felt good.  I felt really good.  Physically, I could have gone out and run this marathon and completed it.  But I think, mentally, I need more time before tackling the 26.2 mile distance.  So, while giving up my spot in that marathon was the best choice, it wasn’t an easy one.  I don’t regret it…but I know I could have done it…now.  Even though the race did get black flagged due to extreme heat.  Runners were allowed to stay out…but that’s pretty intense.  Still…I do sort of wish I had gone…but I know this will just make me better and more prepared (mentally) for my brutal (but beautiful) September race.

2.  The Best Water Stop Ever
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Need a good laugh?  Check this out.  As I mentioned, Matthew and I were running 14 miles yesterday and we took it to the hills.  Along the way, there are a few spots we can stop to refill our water bottles.  When the weather gets this humid and hot, hydration is important.  So, on our way back to our starting point, we made our final water stop, thinking we were actually embarking on closer to 15 miles (which was fine…) to finish up.  We filled up at the water fountain, took some swigs and poured the water over our heads to cool down.  And started on our way again.  Only to see that our finishing point…was not but 0.15 miles away.  Seriously, we rounded the corner from the little alcove the water fountain was in and…BOOM.  We could see our start point.  We both busted out laughing.  But it did get us to our 14 miles we set out to run…so there was that.  This is what happens when you do something new.  You don’t exactly know how much further you have to go.  HA!

3.  Mediterranean Food
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My roommate might be addicted to a meal that I make…although not too often.  I say this because last night, I had the bright idea of making some Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) for dinner.  I had one last batch of grape leaves in the fridge to use.  But…as I went to get dinner prepped, as the rice was cooling…I noticed the grape leaves had gone bad.  I told her we’d just have them tomorrow, but she insisted she’d been looking forward to them all day, and actually went out to Meijer to pick up more grape leaves.  That was how much she wanted me to make these.  So…for dinner, I cooked up the dolmades, served it with tzatziki and a side salad of greens and veggies and a garlic vinaigrette.   It was really good.  I love making these.  Sort of labor intensive…but worth it.  Besides, the Mediterranean Diet has been proven to be the healthiest one out there.  Consider me…a giver of health.  HA!

4.  How A Superhero Learns To Fly…
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So…last Sunday, I had my friend Natalie over for dinner.  I cooked up Smokey Zucchini Cakes with a Creamy Lemon Sauce, and some Cauliflower Breadsticks.  She brought the fruit.  SO GOOD!  And then, we all settled in to watch Zootopia, rounding out the Disney Animated Movies In Order (as it is currently the last one) marathon.  She had never seen it, so that was fun.  But, during the movie, there was a loud BANG that sounded at the door.  Instead of cowering and wondering what it was, Cathy, Natalie and I sprung up to go check it out.  We ain’t afraid of no ghost…intruder…whatever it was.  Turned out it was the wind, but it we all laughed at how we were ready to get our crime fighter mode on. Which started this talk about being Superheroes.  Which lead to Cathy in a Jane hat (Firefly), carrying a Captain America shield (Marvel), with a cloak on (Lord of the Rings) and a pipe…for some reason (Sherlock), armed with a plunger (Dr. Who); Natalie in a pirate hat and coat, armed with a pistol and sword; and me in a mermaid dress and a squid hat carrying a Dinglehopper…er…I mean a fork…

We were…the Fandom Fighters…and we went outside in public like this and got caught by one of my neighbors.  It was so much fun.  I haven’t laughed like that in a long time.

Don’t ask why I have a mermaid dress…


5.  Blueberry Picking
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Cross another thing off the Summer Bucket List.  For real.  Yesterday…after my humid and hot run, and after refueling with some Allergen Free Biscuits and Jam from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe…Cathy and I headed out to New Salisbury, Indiana, to Bryant’s Blueberries.  There, under the screaming hot, mid-day sun…we picked 10 pounds of blueberries.  What am I doing with 10 pounds of blueberries.  Jam!!  I am making jam.  And, apparently, scones.  Because Cathy keeps mentioning scones.  And…I’m sue there will be pancakes.  Pancakes are always a good idea.  Or…maybe donuts.  Hmmm…I’ve been meaning to make some donuts.

Or maybe…blueberry bagels.  I need to make bagels.  I might make bagels…I should make bagels.

Anyway…I have ALL THE BLUEBERRIES!!  Blueberries for days!!!

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And I’m known for my jam…so…I can’t wait to give some of these out to people!!

6.  Finding Dory
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Well, the Renaissance Faire is a no-go this weekend.  It is, after all, Father’s Day weekend.  That being said, Cathy and I needed to fill in some time…so we are off to see Finding Dory this morning.  SO excited for this sequal.  Finding Nemo is probably my 2nd favorite Pixar movie (the first being Inside Out).  So, this is a big huge deal for me.  And I’m so excited to go.  Other than being a film lover, and someone who used to want to animate for Disney, I just love the Finding Nemo story.  And it is INCREDIBLE how far technology has come since the release of the original movie in 2003.

7.  Earth to Echo
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Okay…I realize that the film, Earth to Echo, came out over 2 years ago, but I’ve been in this 2 year loop of ALL THE DISNEY ANIMATED MOVIES for the past 2 years.  So, now I’m watching movies I wanted to see, but couldn’t since Disney was taking over my life, time, and movie watching time slot.  I had my eyes on Earth to Echo for a long while…as it was made as an homage to Spielberg.  I mean, the plot is pretty much lifted from E.T., but also borrows heavily from The Goonies and other 80s movies about kids hanging out and doing things.  But it is filmed in that old-school Spielberg technique which just makes you feel like you are right there in the movie itself.  I didn’t expect too much, but this film was adorable and I loved every moment of it.  Seriously.  If you overlooked this one…it’s on Netflix…go watch it…NOW.

8.  Father’s Day


And…last, but not least…HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!  My dad has been such a steadfast, supportive, and integral part of my life.  I may live in a totally different state, but he has always cheered for me, guided me, and helped me to understand the value of making it in the world…on my own.  He’s why I am a strong, independent woman.  My dad is one of the nicest men in the world, still opening doors for my mom, my sister and me when we are with him, still waits at the security check until I am completely through at the airport, and still wants to take me out to eat when I come visit.  He’s my (super) hero…and I am lucky to have such an amazing man to call my dad!!

Did you do anything special in honor of Father’s Day?  Seen any good movies lately?  Ever pick blueberries?

Hope everyone had an epic week!!

Enjoying the Ride into the Long Weekend

Sometimes the hardest things in life to do is to branch out of the norm and try something new.  However, the only way to grow, to experience, and to become…is to step outside of your comfort zone.  I certainly did that a couple of times this week…and it’s not easy…it’s quite scary…but it’s helping me more than I can even see at the moment.

As the holiday weekend is shifting into gear, and I have an extra day off from work, I’m trying not to focus on everything I’ll have to attempt to do to stay caught up at work the four days I’ll be there, and instead focusing on a few things that I get to enjoy while not working on Monday.

YAY!

So…with that sort of attitude in mind…here are a few things that have made this week amazing.

1.  Clipping Into A Road Bike

Me on my 2nd attempt at riding - 5 miles - before I took my first (of many) falls.

Me on my 2nd attempt at riding – 5 miles – before I took my first (of many) falls.

I made huge progress this week with riding my road bike.  BB-8 has been sitting against the wall of my room in the apartment…but I wasn’t able to ride him until I had him properly fitted.  And I had that done last week…and was eager to get on the bike and ride.  It’s scary, using clipless pedals on a bike outside.  But, my first attempt was twice around the parking lot without any issues.  I was feeling confident on Friday night.  And then on Saturday afternoon, I headed back out…deciding I’d still keep to the parking lot, but aim for mileage.  So I did 5 miles.  In my last mile…I was making a turn, and a car came out…and I panicked.  I attempted to brake and forgot that I was clipped in, so I tried to put my foot down, was stuck, tried to unclip, but was now off-balance and BOOM…down I went.  Totally crashed down on my right hip and side.  The right hip is the injured hip, but, I thankfully have some nice padding there and just came out of it with a bit of road rash on my elbow and lower arm, a scraped up right knee, and a bit of a bruised ankle.  I was fine…more embarassed than anything.  The driver, a young 20-something, stopped and hopped out of his car, asking me if I needed help, but I was already unclipped and pulling myself back up.  I told him I was fine and I took a few deep breaths, clipped back in, and finished my ride.  After that, I had enough for the night.

2.  Finishing up the Disney Animated Movies In Order Movie Marathon
disneyanimatedmovies
It took two (2) years, but last night, Cathy and I finished up our attempt to watch every single Disney Animated Movie (available on DVD or Blu-Ray, or for purchase to view on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon) in order from their theater release date.  We started with Snow White over two years ago and last night wrapped it up with The Good Dinosaur.  Zootopia comes out in a couple of weeks, and we will watch that after I purchase it, but as of last night…we completed our bucket list goal of watching every single Disney (and later Pixar) animated feature, including a few hybrids like Mary PoppinsTron, and Tron: Legacy.  It was a lot of fun revisiting some films…and realizing they were either better than I remembered (Oliver & Company)…or worse than I remembered (The Sword & The Stone)…and some I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised I liked (Planes and Planes: Fire & Rescue).  Next up, after we view a few movies we have been meaning to watch, but had Disney taking over our lives…Spielberg movies.  YAY!

3.  Strawberries…Strawberries For Days…

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Jars of my homemade strawberry jam…processed and ready for giving away!

On Sunday morning, I ran in the Run For The Berries 5K up in Starlight, Indiana.  I love this race, and hadn’t run it since 2013 due to other commitments (2014 Buffalo Marathon) and injury (all of 2015).  One of my favorite things about this race is the big bowl of strawberries I purchase after running.  This year, I turned in an amazing time (not a PR), clocked a new fastest mile (6:48) and conquered some hills.  I came in first in my age division as well…which was exciting.  But one of my favorite things to do after the 5K and scoping out the festival is to drive over to Huber’s Family Farm and buy a LOT of strawberries.  I got enough to use with my yogurt bowls, my PB&J Breakfast Bowls, and to make some homemade strawberry jam.  YUMMY!!  I do love my berries!!

4.  The Most Perfect Soft Pretzel Wednesday

Annie May's Sweet Cafe Allergen Free Cinnamon Sugar Soft Pretzel

Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Allergen Free Cinnamon Sugar Soft Pretzel

When you are a Celiac, simple pleasures like soft pretzels don’t happen every day.  In fact, they happen very infrequently.  Unless, you live near my local allergen-free bakery here in Louisville, Kentucky.  Every Wednesday, Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, on Frankfort Avenue, host Soft Pretzel Wednesday, offering three varieties of pretzels each week: Salt, Cinnamon-Sugar, and Everything.  And, every week they are amazing.  But there was something so delicious about this past week’s pretzels.  They were the perfect size.  They had that perfect crust on the outside and chewy center in each bite.  Serious pretzel perfection.  I was one happy lady!

5.  The Monkees
themonkees
So, it’s Memorial Day.  And after my morning run and a little bit of final grocery shopping for stuff I realized I needed but forgot to put on the list, didn’t realize needed to be on the list, or just didn’t buy enough of something.  So, while working in the kitchen and around the apartment, Cathy and I threw on the DVDs of The Monkees.  I can still recite the episodes from memory…that’s how much I watched these.  HAHA!!  Seriously, you don’t get nicknamed Monkeegirl in school without having The Monkees to thank for it.  It’s been amusing to revisit these episodes and just…relax and enjoy the holiday off of work.  Their latest album was released on Friday…I haven’t gotten out to FYE to purchase it.

6.  Outlets & Lunch with Amanda, Richie, and Cathy

Taziki's Gluten Free Dolmades Plate (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Taziki’s Gluten Free Dolmades Plate (Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves)

On Sunday morning, Cathy & I met up with Amanda & Richie (that’s Cathy’s sister and brother-in-law) at the Outlets of the Bluegrass in Simpsonville, Kentucky for some shopping and hanging out and just escaping real life for a moment.  Amanda said she needed help finding shoes for her maxi dress and I found her a cute, strappy pair.  I finally replaced the Sketchers that I use as my airport shoes/spin class shoes (they slip on and off), I purchased a new sports bra, Amanda found some shorts, Richie got some shoes and shirts…it was a successful day.  And then…we went to one of my favorite places to eat…Tazikis Mediterranean Grill in Louisville, on Shelbyville Road.  LOVE their food.  And they do a good job with food allergies…when they remember to prepare the dish properly.  The past two times, they have had to remake my dish…but it gets fixed.  They are normally much better than that.  If you haven’t eaten there yet…you need to.  Check to see if there is one in your area!  Healthy, amazing food.  I love their Dolmades Plate (the vegetarian stuffed grape leaves done gluten-free) and Cathy, Amanda and Richie got their favorites…the Lamb Gyro.  I love good times and good eats with good friends!

7.  Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck & Steel City Pops

Gluten Free The Eccentric Crepe from Sweet 'N Savory and a Strawberry Lemonade Popsicle & Pineapple Popsicle from Steel City Pops

Gluten Free The Eccentric Crepe from Sweet ‘N Savory and a Strawberry Lemonade Popsicle & Pineapple Popsicle from Steel City Pops

On Saturday, after the Strawberry Festival and before heading to Annie May’s for treats for that evening and the following morning, Cathy and I stopped by the Fleur de Flea at Waterfront Park.  The main reason…Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck.  It’s under new ownership, but the crepes are still being done 100% gluten-free.  And they are using all of Richard & Ashley’s recipes.  The new owner, Brandon, knows the importance of keeping things gluten free as his wife is a Celiac.  So the truck and recipes are in good hands.  Brandon was on his own when we arrived, only one of his crepe stones functioning, and his help not having shown up yet.  Service was slow, but as always, worth the wait.  He was doing the best he could with what he had, for sure.  I got one of my favorites…The Eccentric.  OM NOM NOM!!  And afterwards, while we normally would get the gelato, I had heard so much about Steel City Pops, we decided to try them out.  Cathy got the Strawberry Lemonade popsicle and I went with the Pineapple.  OMG…I’m stopping by the store on Bardstown Road and buying a bunch of flavors…these were phenomenal.  All natural…gluten-free…vegan…and amazing.  LOVE helping out local businesses!

I hope everyone has been enjoying their long weekend, spending time with people that mean the world to them, and eating amazing things!!  And I hope everyone took some time to remember those who fought and died for this country that we live in and the freedoms we enjoy!

Product Review: Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Product: Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps – $4.59+

There was a time, not too long ago, back when I was first entering the world of Celiac Disease and the gluten-free lifestyle, that I discovered there was a huge lack of things like…sandwich wraps…at least decent ones…out on the gluten-free market.  That has since changed, thank goodness, as more familiar products are being created.  It’s nice to actually have a gluten-free product that isn’t chips or cookies or brownies or cake or…you get my point.

When it comes to food, I like my snacks too, but I really crave real food.  And, as I’ve been making a point of cleaning up my diet, real food is taking a top priority over highly processed, nutritionally-lacking foods.  I mean, I still have my (gluten-free) cake and eat it too…but I’m making better, plant-based, real-food choices more than anything else.  I am working off a meal plan and it’s really a life savor.  Sometimes it does mean a ton of prep work…but it’s worth it.  In the end…it is totally worth it.

Well, tonight’s meal plan called for Greek Tacos.  The original recipe called for pita bread, but the one version of gluten-free pita bread I found isn’t be sold at my grocery store anymore…so…tortillas it is.  When I went shopping at Jungle Jim’s International Market on my birthday, one of the gluten-free products I picked up that I hadn’t found anywhere else was…sandwich wraps.

It is so difficult to find good gluten-free wraps, even today.  You go to fold one and it breaks.  It’s too thick…or perhaps not thick enough.  It doesn’t have a good flavor.  It doesn’t cook well.  It doesn’t hold together or immediately crumbles when you wrap them up.  They rip and tear…you get the drift.

Well, as I had never heard of the Toufayan Bakeries brand before…I decided it was worth trying.  If anything else, I was just stuck with another wrap that crumbled under my high expectations.  Well, with these Greek Tacos being prepped and needing a vehicle in which to be built upon, I pulled the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps out of my pantry and immediately set to work on building dinner on them.

Toufayan Bakeries is one of the largest, privately-held, specialty bakeries in the United States.  It produces over 100 varieties of baked goods daily, including its own line of gluten-free wraps and gluten-free pita chips.  I have yet to find the gluten-free pita chips, but I found a few varieties of the wraps while grocery shopping.  Being on a budget even on my birthday, however, I only picked one to try in the end.

Available in four different flavors— original, garden vegetable, savory tomato, and spinach— the wraps are 100% gluten free. These wraps are processed a separate, dedicated gluten-free line, routinely tested to be under 10 ppm.

It was definitely time to put this new (to me) brand to the test.  And what does that better than a mess of Greek vegetables, lentils, and sauce, right?  I went to work immediately building the Greek Tacos up with warm lentils, thinly sliced red onion, tomatos, local bibb lettuce, and diced cucumber…topped off with a vegan tzatziki sauce.  Talk about testing the durability of a wrap, right?  Well, the only problem was…there was too much veggie goodness for the wrap, so actually folding it up wasn’t happening.  I had to eat it…like a taco.  And since this is Greek Tacos…that actually was okay.

So…this is how it stacked up…

I absolutely LOVED the taste and texture of the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps.  It had a great feel to it,  However, it wasn’t quite able to stay together…but for the most part, it handled the plethora of textures and volume of food that I hefted into it.  So, I’m not surprised it got a bit soggy (lettuce, tomato, cucumber and a yogurt topping…yeah…it happens) and crumbled a little.  But, for the most part, it did hold up and I was able to eat the wrap like a taco for much of my dinner.  That is a HUGE thing as most of the time I’m left eating the remnants off my plate with a fork.  The flavor was amazing and didn’t distract from the filling itself, just acted more as a kick-start to flavor town.  And, finally, someone got the texture right.  It wasn’t gummy or dry.  It was pliable and light and just…really delicious.  I will have to check around at stores around here for more Toufayan Gluten Free Wraps…because I just want to keep trying them out in various ways…

I’m thinking quesadillas or burritos might be next.  Maybe just a basic sandwich wrap.  We’ll see.  With wraps that don’t fall apart instantly…the possibilities are endless.

So, what are the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps made from?  Well, they are made with tapioca starch, water, rice flour, soybean flour, shortening (canola oil, palm and palm kernel), vegetable blend (spinach, parsley, red bell pepper, carrot, tomato, onion, shallot, garlic) food starch modified (corn starch, tapioca starch), potato starch, contains 2% or less of the following: yeast, baking powder (calcium acid pyprohosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, whole eggs, fumaric acid, mono and diglycerides with citric acid (a preservative), maltodextrin, dextrose, xanthan gum, egg whites, calcium propionate (to maintain freshness), and salt.

Whew.  That’s a laundry list, yeah?  I actually would prefer for my wraps to have fewer ingredients and additives in them, but I guess that’s what gets them so close to that flour tortilla flavor.

As for nutritional information, a serving size of the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps is 1 wrap (52 grams) and there are 6 wraps per package.  This serving will provide you with 120 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugars, and 5 grams protein.  They do have the fact that they are high in fiber and protein to make them feel more filling in the end.  So, that is very handy.

I absolutely loved what I tasted when I bit into the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps.  And while my first attempt at using them wasn’t exactly as I envisioned, I have high hopes for the next.  If you can track down the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Wraps…I highly recommend it.  One of the best attempts at a wrap I have ever had.  Nicely done!

Greek Tacos made on Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Greek Tacos made on Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Restaurant Review: Bandar, San Diego, California

Bandar, San Diego, California

Bandar, San Diego, California

Restaurant: Bandar, San Diego, California

It’s not every day that I get to travel somewhere new and exciting.  But this current week, I’m off on an adventure.  Albeit (see an upcoming post), not the adventure that I was expecting, but you make the most of the cards that are dealt to you.  You can’t change the circumstances, but you can change the attitude, right?

You betcha!

So, for one day only, I was knee-deep in the surroundings, hills, and the beautiful bay of San Diego.  While my traveling buddies (Cathy (aka: the roomie) and Jenn) went to a local taco stand for lunch, I made my lunch out of a protein bar that I brought with me.  I hadn’t planned on lunch, and when I can’t check out places online, I get a bit cautious.  I like to read reviews and look at menus and be confident in my choice to eat somewhere.  When you have food allergies, you just learn not to take risks.  It was all good.  My bar was filling and got me through to dinner time.  Because Cathy had made reservations at a place called Bandar in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego.

Bandar is a Persian restaurant of all things.  Now, I’ve had a lot of different cuisines in my life, but my taste buds had never had a go at Persian cuisine.  Bandar’s owner, Behrooz Farahani, graduated with a degree in architecture and originally owned his own architectural firm.  When he visited San Diego in 1986, he decided to move his family (a wife and twin daughters) there to provide them with a better life.  Behrooz and his wife, Shokooh, purchased the historical buidling in the Gaslamp Quarter…and soon Bandar emerged, becoming an overnight phenomenon.  This husband and wife team raised Persian dining to new heights, using authentic marinades for signature dishes involving beef, lamp, chicken, and fish.  Using only the finest ingredients, Farahani insists on personally choosing each cut of meat that is served in his restaurants.

The restaurant, Bandar, is best known for its use of healthy ingredients and bold, complex flavors, bringing the flavors of saffron, limes, and other Persian spices to the forefront of each dish, highlighting the amazing flavor that comes in such a healthy and exotic cuisine.

It had been a long, long day.  I was sore from making the hikes through airports to get to my flights.  And then hauling around San Diego.  But, it was all culminating with the final outing of the evening…dinner.  And Cathy chose Bandar as our place to eat as it had great reviews on Find Me Gluten Free…and mostly everything (save the bread) is gluten-free in the restaurant (although I think the desserts are also an exception, but we were too full to even consider dessert).  Therefore, this made it a great place to check out.

We were there a little earlier than the reservation and for most of the meal, we were the only ones in there.  Considering it was prime dinner time, I was a bit surprised by this.  But, what do you do?  You get seated early (we all decided we could eat…although I’ve realized that traveling still does a number on my appetite and most times I’m not exactly hungry, but I know I need to eat something.  The hostess seated us near the back at a gorgeous table and left us with menus.  Water was poured and we settled in for a moment.  Flat bread and butter were brought out…and to be sure we asked (because the menu misleadingly says that all food there is gluten-free) about what I could have…and the bread was a no-go.  From what I was told…it was good.

The first thing we noticed was the price of the food.  Holy hummus, foodies…it was pricey.  And with Hawaii on the horizon, we weren’t looking for an expensive meal, for sure.  I mean, the cheapest (and pretty much only) vegetarian entree on there (Eggplant Stew) was around $26.  I wasn’t sure how big the entree portions were either, and, as I said, I wasn’t all that hungry to begin with.  A combination of fatigue and the heat, I believe, are to blame for that.  My internal clock was three hours ahead, so in my mind, it was bedtime, not dinner time.

While we decided on what to do for dinner, Cathy placed an order for the Hummus Classic ($10.00) that we could split.  With that order in, we continued discussing whether or not to split some appetizers or just let me get an appetizer size plate and Cathy and Jenn split an entree.  This actually went on for longer than it should have, but mostly because we were all just tired, and probably hungrier than we realized.  BUT…with that being said…our Hummus Classic arrived, without anything to dip in it, so I guess that was meant for that flat bread.  Cathy asked our waitress if we could have some tomatoes or something so that I could have some too…and she very quickly said she would bring out some cucumbers for me.  YAY!  Cathy and Jenn each scooped up a little.  This was actually Jenn’s first time (she is a bean-hater, BTW) trying hummus and she did not like it at all.  To dry and beany she said.  Cathy, however, did like it, and when I got my cucumbers and was able to try it…it was actually really good.  Smooth, seasoned with paprika and just…yummy.  It had that bit of olive oil to finish and it made for a flavorful touch.  It was a nice little appetizer to help get us more focused.  And while we enjoyed the hummus and Jenn enjoyed some flat bread, we finally decided on dinner.  YAY!

Bandar's Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice and Chicken Kebab)

Bandar’s Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice and Chicken Kebab)

Jenn and Cathy, in the end, decided to split the Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice with Chicken Kebab) entree ($26.00).  This is exactly what the dish sounds like…chunks of grilled chicken tenderloin served up with rice and black cherries.  The waitress asked if they liked sweet things because it was a sweet dish.  The two poultry-loving sweet-toothers were okay with that.

As for me, I went with the Dolmeh (Stuffed Grape Leaves) starter ($12.00).  I have had horrible grape leaves at a local place in Louisville, Kentucky (oddly enough called The Grape Leaf) and then had some fantastic ones at a Mediterranean chain called Taziki’s.  So, this is like my go-to food.  This version of Dolmehs were large grape leaves stuffed with split peas, tarragon, basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, rosemary and basmati rice.  When I ordered it, she said it was like a meal…so that was a good sign.

The food actually took a little bit of time to get to us.  That was fine, because everything at Bandar is cooked to order.  Although, it did get to the point that Jenn and I were joking about having to go find a chicken, kill it, pluck it, debone it, etc.  But, lo and behold…as a few more people were coming in, our food arrived.  I am very glad that Cathy and Jenn opted to split the entree they got because that platter was HUGE.  It easily could have fed 3-4 people.  Honestly.  And the waitress said that she has seen diners finish it on their own.  How that is even possible, I’ll never know.  They let me try the black cherry rice, and it was really tasty.  But I had my own food to dive into, so I left them to their chicken platter of DOOOOOM, while I settled in to feast on my own meal.

The starter size Dolmehs at Bandar come with four (4) very stuffed grape leaves, each one resting on a fresh slice of tomato.  That was a nice touch.  After photos for the blog, I carried over the first Dolmeh to my plate and settled in with fork and knife to give it a taste.  I sliced through the cooked grape leaf, seeing the seasoned basmati rice, split peas, and herbs poke out and fall onto my plate and the tomato.  The rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned.  The flavors were awesome.  My first bite and I got the fresh herbs immediately in the rice, the spices, and even the peas.  It was a great texture, the rice soft, but not mushy, the peas the same…and that grape leaf…it was cooked to perfection.  Pairing it with a slice of tomato brought a nice added touch and I ate it, whether it was a garnish or not.  I love tomatoes…I could eat a full one as a snack.  Needless to say…it was worth the wait…and the indecision…and the price.

And, in case you were wondering, Cathy and Jenn loved their Albalu Polo dish too.  Not only was the rice cooked to perfection and paired beautifully with sweet black cherries (I never would have imagined that combination to work), they said the chicken was moist, tender, and tasty.  But they hardly made a dent in the actual entree dish itself.  But, they did what they could. In the end, Cathy said she could always eat the leftovers for breakfast (which I didn’t believe for a moment, and lo and behold, I was right), so they boxed it up and we left with full and happy tummies.

So, in the end, expensive, but damn, you really do get what you pay for.  Honestly, I was not expecting that much food.  So, honestly, when you look at it in perspective, Bandar is giving you your money’s worth on their expensive entrees.  I was relieved I didn’t attempt the Eggplant Stew on my own after seeing the Thanksgiving Day platter of food that Jenn and Cathy attempted (and failed) to make a dent in.

Bandar was an interesting experience and got Jenn to at least try something new.  I’m still working on getting her to try avocado.  She says it scares her…but I’ll work on it.  That being said, Persian food is very interesting, delightful, and delicious.  And I was beyond happy with the food I was able to eat at Bandar.  They brought out a tray of cakes to offer us dessert, but we were done and ready to head back to the hotel, cycle through the shower, and get ready for a 3 am wakeup call to get to the airport and continue on our way to Hawaii the next day.

And by the time we were leaving, there were a few more people inside eating.  I guess the Gaslamp Quarter (home of SO MANY restaurants) isn’t quite as busy on a Thursday night.  But that worked in our favor, as we never felt rushed, and our food was given extreme focus and care.  It showed.  It was everything I hoped for…and a little more.  I’d be more than tempted to go back should I ever find myself back in San Diego.

Bandar's Dolmeh starter

Bandar’s Dolmeh starter

Product Review: Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous di Mais

Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous di Mais

Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous di Mais

Product: Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous di Mais – $5.00+

Here’s the story…of a lovely lady…who used to always cook with couscous.  Then she was diagnosed…as a Celiac…and couscous had to vamoose.

Here’s the story…of this thing called Cuisine Cube…who was packaging up gluten-free products.  And in May, the box included couscous…and there was much rejoicing in the land.

*cough*

Sorry…I couldn’t resist.  My last name is Brady…so the Brady Bunch theme has pretty much been a big portion of my life.  And, for just over a year, I can honestly say that Cuisine Cube was a big portion of my life.  I hated to have to give up my monthly subscription, but I had medical bills from this torn hip labrum eating into my budget big-time.  But that’s not to say that I don’t miss it.  I am in the process of using up the final few things that I have from past cubes…and part of me hopes to jump back into the subscription again soon.

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

So, as my sing-songy typed up intro to this blog explained…one of the May (Is For Mom) 2015 Cuisine Cube included an 18 ounce box of Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous.  I was thrilled…because I used to use couscous all the time in recipes.  And now, it wasn’t off limits.  Here, right in my clutches, was an amazing box of gluten-free couscous.  And I totally get that it took me until the end of August to actually get around to using it, but…wow…was it ever worth the wait.

First of all, the Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous is simple and easy to prepare.  Pour one cup of boiling water over one cup of the uncooked couscous.  Add a pinch of sea salt and cover, allowing it to sit for about 5 minutes.  After the water is absorbed, gently separate the grains with a fork and spoon, add olive oil, and top with your favorite condiments.  Which…is normally what I would do.  But I went a little CRAZY this last week.

A couple of weeks ago, my roomie picked up some lamb chops at the local farmer’s market for me to cook up.  Hey…I have dreams of appearing on Master Chef…so she said I needs to learn to cook all the proteins, even if I don’t eat them.  She volunteers for that.  So, with the recipe on hand for Honey Balsamic Lamb Chops ready to go, I pulled up a recipe online from Giada De Laurentiis’ couscous cakes…which involved cooking up the Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous Cakes.  I just took 2 cups of the cooked couscous (which was made from 1 cup dry), mixing it with fresh basil, 2 eggs, ground coriander, lemon zest, salt, black pepper, and gluten-free all-purpose flour.  Place 1/4 cup of olive oil into a pan and pat the mix into little 1/4 cup cakes (it will make 8) and fry them up, draining them on a paper towel.

Of course, with the leftover couscous, I had to try it out.  Untouched.  And…OH MY GOD…this is really the first gluten-free couscous (I tried 2 others) that really has that real couscous texture.  I would have questioned the authenticity of the gluten-free status of this product, but it’s right there in print.  Amazing.  And, let me tell you, when I combined it with the listed ingredients from Giada’s recipe and made the couscous cakes…the flavor was only elevated.  The taste and texture of the Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous was phenomenal.  I mean, I was beyond surprised.  In fact, I had to double-check the box just to make sure it truly was gluten-free.  To say I am blown away is an understatement.  This wowed me in every way possible.  It paired great with her honey balsamic lamb chops and my honey balsamic portobello mushroom cap.  Seriously.  So yum!

Let’s discuss the ingredients of Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous.  This amazing couscous is made from organic corn flour and water.  That’s it.  Yep.  It’s that easy.  Clean eating at its best.

As for the nutritional information, one serving is 1/4 cup of the couscous (about 40 grams). This serving will provide you with 140 calories less than 1 gram of fat, less than 1 gram of saturated fat, 30 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of sodium, about 0.5 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.  Isn’t that fantastic?

So, without a little help from Cuisine Cube I never would have known about Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous.  Made from 100% corn, the taste and texture are amazing and honestly…spot on.  You would never guess that this was a gluten-free version of one of my favorite grains to cook with.  And now, it is back in my life again. You can order Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous from online shops such as The Shop Agora.  Trust me, this one is not to be missed!

Honey Balsamic Glazed Portobello Mushroom Cap with Couscous Cakes made from Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous di Mais

Honey Balsamic Glazed Portobello Mushroom Cap with Couscous Cakes made from Biatalia Gluten Free Couscous di Mais