CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (November 3, 2018)

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Me heading into the finish line of the CNO Financial Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, IN

Date: November 3, 2018

Time: 3:46:17

“Ever tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.”
~ Samuel Beckett

I admit it.  The results of the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon  were a hard pill to swallow.  In all honesty, I had hoped that my training, regardless of changing plans and going solo on it all…making it all up as I went, catching up on miles I didn’t get to run to build up that marathon base…I really thought it would be enough.  I didn’t feel like I was in marathon shape.  But I felt confident.

And, as we know…I crashed and burned soon after the 14 mile mark.  I finished.  But not with a time I was happy with.

Moral of the story.  Do NOT ever leave me along with an upcoming half marathon with the option to upgrade to the full marathon when I’m pissed off with my previous marathon performance.  Less than one month apart.  27 days apart, to be exact.  Because, I figured, hell, I was already in “marathon shape”…might as well try again with a different plan of action.  So, it happened.  I upgraded my registration to the full marathon (trust me, I was starting to doubt the wisdom of this the morning of the race, but I’ll get there, LOL!) and then…didn’t really broadcast it anywhere.  I told my training partner, Lauren.  My roommate, of course, knew.  And a couple of people at the gym who asked me what was next for me knew…but no one else.  Not. A. Word.

My plan for the days in between?  Recovery.  Easy runs.  Not a ton of miles.  Just easy, training runs.  I did maybe 3 speed intervals…all of only 4 miles.  My longest long run was 10 miles…last weekend.  Slow and steady with Lauren who took me on an adventure and kept the pace right where I wanted and needed it.  Some people like to pile on those miles and brag about weekly and monthly totals.  I have never been that sort.  And, honestly, it is a rare thing for me to ever hit 200 miles in a month, even during marathon training.  There is training and there is overtraining.  One of these benefits you.  The other leads to injury, burnout, and a plethora of other issues.  Just like pace, I don’t usually post my miles or mileage either.  Honestly, who cares other than me?

Deep breath.  Let’s start with the day before the race.

Thursday night was filled with packing and not trying to overthink anything.  Cathy picked out my outfit…she packed recovery wear, shoes, race gear, fuel, etc.  Everything I would need for another 26.2.  I made her pack capris because I was nervous it would be too cold at the start of the race for the running skirt she had picked.  She allowed for that…but nothing more.  We went to work as usual on Friday, planning to leave around 2 pm to make the drive up to Indianapolis.

I made certain that I got as much work done that I could in the time I was in the office.  Lunch was just a giant salad, made from all the fresh ingredients/produce that I had lingering in my fridge heading into the weekend.  We packed up, brought bottles of water that had our Nuun Immunity Tablets in them.  If you haven’t tried them…HIGHLY recommended!  And we hit the road, with our mid-day snacks to get us through the drive and the expo before heading to dinner.

We hit a small amount of traffic on the way, but we made it to the Omni Severin Hotel, in downtown Indianapolis.  Honestly, if you’re looking for a hotel in downtown Indy…STAY HERE!!  I was blown away by the hospitality, even if they didn’t do late checkouts due to it being an event weekend (I get it…but after a marathon, I usually appreciate a hot shower).  They did say that they had a fitness center with a shower and if I needed one I could get a key made to get in there and shower.  So…I mean…there was that.  Our luggage was taken up to our room by the nicest guy, Matt, who gave us the rundown about the hotel and the history behind it.  He showed us the amenities in the room and made sure we had plans for dinner because otherwise the hotel was doing a pasta dinner for the runners.  Honestly, I’ve never felt so welcome at a hotel.

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Cathy at her first major packet pickup for the Monumental 5K

Next stop…the expo.  We took the inside path through the hotel and Circle Center Mall to get ourselves over to the Indianapolis Expo Center.  Some roads were going to be closed because Trump and Pence were in town (BARF!), but it wasn’t affecting us.  We had a work-around.  The Expo felt a lot smaller this year than it was last year.  We got there, and immediately collected posters and headed to the back to get race packets and shirts.  YES…that’s plural.  Since I upgraded to the full, Cathy decided she could do the 5K, as it started AFTER the full and half marathons were sent off.  Had I stuck with the half, she wouldn’t have done it otherwise she’d miss my finish.

We stopped at the 5K booths first and Cathy did her first ever official big race 5K packet pickup.  She had to show her ID and everything.  The volunteers at her table were SO fun and very cool.  They even had thrown safety pins into her bag.  It was awesome.

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Cathy and Me with our race numbers for the next morning.

After she got her stuff…we headed over to the marathon tables where I collected my shirt and bib and we went straight into Official Merchandise.  Where I spent more money.  This time only on a lapel pin and a jacket.  The jacket is SUPER nice though.  I could have spent SO MUCH more.  HA!  We made our walk through the vendors and races that were represented at the expo.  Cathy had forgotten a BondiBand to keep her ears warm, so we had to go and get her one of those.  She found one…bright pink…that says, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”  Just like the button she has worn since NYC.  I spotted a different flavor of Gluten Free Honey Stinger Stroopwafels (I can only ever find Salted Caramel…which is GOOD…but I know there are other flavors out there…and I found a Vanilla & Chocolate one!).  But we wrapped it up quickly, stopping to find my name on the poster and then take a few pictures with the banners.  A volunteer was kind enough to get a lot of these photos for us, from every angle.

From there, we made the trek back to the hotel room.  We had about 30 minutes to kill before dinner, so Cathy went ahead and tried on her race shirt to get my opinion on the fit.  I decided I should do the same, and thank GOD I did.  Turns out, the volunteers at my end of the table gave me a men’s small and not a women’s small.  I was NOT happy.  With 20 minutes to get to our dinner reservation, we packed up the shirt and stepped outside to take a quicker route to the convention center in hopes of changing it out.  I booked it down the hall and back into the expo to the shirt exchange area and snagged my women’s small.  Whew!  Cathy was waiting in the hall outside.  We had about 5 minutes to make a 10 minute walk to our dinner reservation at Napolese.  Honestly, whenever we are in town for a race, this is our go-to restaurant.  I mean…GLUTEN FREE FOCACCIA AND GLUTEN FREE PIZZA!!

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Napolese’s Gluten Free Focaccia

I apologized to the hostess for being late and told her we had a 5:45 reservation.  Our table was still there though, next to two very loud men who were drinking a lot and talking REALLY LOUD about Queen and movies and games and whatever.  I was over it.  Thank God they left while we were eating our appetizer.

We had already had plans on what we were going to do for eats that night.  I looked at the menu on the way up so we could formulate a plan.  So when our waiter came over, we got glasses of water and put in our order.  Gluten Free Focaccia (no dairy) and then we were going to Freestyle our pizza and do a Gluten Free Pizza topped with the Housemade Tomato Sauce, Winter Squash, Mushrooms, and Duck Eggs.  He asked if the gluten-free was an allergy and made note that it was for a Celiac on the ticket.  And also made note of the NO DAIRY preference as well.  They are VERY efficient there.  And trust me…the food is amazing too.

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Napolese’s Gluten Free Pizza – no cheese, tomato sauce, mushrooms, winter squash, duck eggs

The focaccia came out first…olive oil, garlic, parsley.  SO GOOD.  And as we were polishing that off, the pizza came out.  But it was missing…the duck eggs.  Cathy pointed it out and he apologized and took it back.  He returned with a little thing of olive oil to go with the pizza if we wanted to add it and said that he took the pizza before they had cooked up the eggs and it would be up momentarily.  And we didn’t really have a long wait before it was returning to our table.  Looking SO good.  And even with polishing off the focaccia…I was ready to eat.  We polished off the pizza and took his advice, adding the olive oil…and it was light and fruity and just added a whole new level of deliciousness to the slices.  BIG FAN.  We finished eating and were given the bill, where they didn’t charge us for the duck eggs (that was sweet…but they didn’t need to do that).  We left a big tip, because or waiter was awesome.  Then headed to CVS to pick up some waters for the next morning, and then hit up the Hard Rock Cafe for a pin.  Mind you…I was not wanting to be on my feet much this time around.  But, we were never far from the hotel and we were back into the hotel by 7:30-ish.  Cathy went to shower.  I got out all my race gear and laid it out and then started my foam rolling because I was determined to do that the night before the race.  As I was doing that, there was a knock at the door.  It was housekeeping delivering a bottle of water, some ice, and a card.  It was from the hotel.  Super sweet gesture.  I knew it would all come in handy.  We finished up an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…and then…

Lights out…9 pm.  On the nose.

I woke up a couple of times during the night…like my usual wakeup time of 3 am.  At 4

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Cathy’s complimentary drink tray that morning – orange juice and coffee!

am, my first alarm went off so I could take a pill and use the bathroom.  Back to bed for 2 restless hours.  At 6 am…we were both up and starting our morning routine.  I popped open a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar.  I ate one before I ran the Monumental Half Marathon last year.  Why not do it again?  I prepped my pre-race drink and started to slowly get dressed.  At 6:15 am, Cathy’s free orange juice and coffee arrived outside the door.  We got up at 6 am so we could have a more relaxed moment and this gave her the chance to eat her Clif Bar and drink some coffee and juice as she does most mornings.  Including in her own training.

I finished getting ready, and this included slathering on some sunscreen because…it was going to be a sunny day that morning and I refuse to be the person with a sunburn in November.  I was wearing two different color CEP sleeves, my Injinji toe socks, my Newton Distance IIIs, a black running skirt, my Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon singlet, red arm warmers, and a red BondiBand that said “Breathe.”  I had some pajama bottoms to toss away prior to the race and a halfzip that I bought in a child’s size a long time ago that I was okay parting with.   I put my Nuun Energy into two of my bottles and water into the other two bottles and put my fuel belt on.  I put my new nutrition (tested once) into the front zip pouch and called myself ready.  Cathy ended up putting on a second layer on top and then we headed down to the lobby.  They had water and bananas out for the runners.  I usually eat a banana before a marathon so…I snagged one.  We ran into people from Louisville that we didn’t know, but I spotted his Chicago Marathon t-shirt and said I had run it too, but he was smarter than me this morning since he was only doing the half.  We had a good laugh over that.

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Race outfit for the marathon – minus the arm warmers, which got put on soon after.

And after they moved on…I started to have a small meltdown.  Why?  Because, despite being easy on my body and training smart leading up to this…I felt like my legs weren’t going to let me go another 26.2 so soon.  Cathy talked me down, as she usually does.  And then she had us moving out the door and into the cold Indianapolis morning.  It was 34 degrees outside.  We made the walk from the Omni to the start line, where I ate my banana and slowly drank my water.  We made it here and Cathy took a few pictures.  When we saw the pacers getting into the corral, she told me to go find my pacers and talk to them.  She gave me a hug and I left…stepping into the network of corrals and finding the 3:35 pacers (see what I’m doing here?), in the 2nd wave.  My bib was good for the first wave, but like I said, I was learning from my mistakes at Chicago…I hoped.

My plan for this race…line up with the 3:35 pace group and hold on as long as I could.  I

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Cathy & I staying warm in the hotel lobby for a few minutes before walking to the start of both of our races!

didn’t expect to be with them for long, just given how my training runs had been coming off of Chicago.  But, I figured it would be a good way to keep from going out way too fast (and we all know I would have) and at least keeping a constant pace going forward.  The male pacer’s PR was 3:09 and the female had just run a 50K the weekend before, so I can only assume that she is normally super fast as well.  Crazy good.  I never run with pacers, but I figured…this might be what I need.

I ditched my toss-away clothing and got back to the pacers just as the national anthem was being sung.  It was gorgeous.  The wheelchair racers were sent off first.  Wave one was next.  And we were moved up to the start gate.  I gave a wave to Cathy since I wasn’t on the outside of the corral…I was right behind the pacers because…I didn’t want to lose them.  After about 5 minutes…off we went.  We hit the roads of Indianapolis…and Cathy went to line up for her 5K.

The pacers guided our group down Capitol Avenue, reminding us that the pace would be slow for the first couple of miles until the race spread out a little bit.  Since the half and full marathon start together, it can be very congested at points.  Reminder, Indianapolis roads are awful.  The male pacer pointed out holes as we ran and I heard the female pacer say, “You’re going to be saying that a lot.”  HA!  She wasn’t wrong.

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Game face on as I stick close to the 3:35 pacers at the start line

We made a couple of turns before running across the first water/aid station.  They were nice enough to shout out each station as we approached so anyone who needed water or Gatorade could grab it.  It was a little chaotic through there, but I stuck with them as we made a couple more turns and made the half rotation around Monument Circle.  There was another aid station before we hit Mile 3 and the pacer sign was passed from the male to the female.  He had a pace tattoo on his arm and when we hit three, she asked, “How are we?”  He said, “We’re a little over.”  So she picked it up slightly.

Not only was I incorporating a “stick to the pacer” technique this race, I also decided to fuel more.  So every 4 miles…I was trying something new (I know…nothing new on race day, but…MEH)…Maurten Gel 100, which is apparently what Kipchoge uses!  I am no Kipchoge, nor was I aware of this when I purchased it to try…but it isn’t bad.  I like the texture way better than the Honey Stingers or Gu type gels.  I took my first one at Mile 4, which had me ease back on the pace just enough.  I took a drink of water, and pushed my way back up toward the pacers.

It was just about the 10K area that I discovered how dangerous it was to run with a pace

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My new form of fueling – Maurten Gel 100

group.  As more people fell into the group it got crowded…fast.  Someone clipped my foot from behind, sending me stumbling.  I recovered, but was pushed into someone ahead of me, which sent them stumbling.  Then someone else closed in and his foot pretty much tripped me…and again I had to catch myself.  And then someone clipped me again and that one nearly took me down for good.  The adrenaline was rushing at this point which was definitely NOT what I wanted to have happen.  I eased back just enough to allow some space so I wouldn’t get trampled at this point.

At Mile 7, the half marathoners turn left and the marathon runners continue up toward the State Fairgrounds.  At Mile 8…I fueled again.  And I was still hanging onto the pace group.  YAY.  I was a little bit behind them, but I felt that was for my own safety and sanity.  We turned onto Washington Boulevard, which we would be on for almost the next two miles.  They were giving out Clif Gels at Mile 11, but I had my own fueling to contend with.  But it was here…HERE…that I started to get a side stitch.  I wasn’t pushing my pace…but it soon turned into a stomach cramp of sorts.  I gutted through it until we made the turn and hit Mile 12…and then I slowed it to a walk to see if I could get it to pass.  This was when I was supposed to fuel again anyway…and I took the opportunity to do that before I felt I would be okay to pick it up again.  And I did.  No problems.  I made sure to drink more water this time.  I think that was the problem.  I was now further behind the pace group, but was about to hit the halfway mark.  I pushed through and continued…still feeling strong for the most part.  I was just frustrated that I was off the pace group earlier than I would have liked.

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Do you see my name on the poster? I meant to post this earlier. LOL!

I loved winding through the streets of Indianapolis.  There were crowds and people cheering in places you wouldn’t expect.  If we ran through neighborhoods, people were there too.  I may have been a bit off my pace, but I was going strong for the most part.  I made the turn onto Meridian and picked it back up a little.  Mile 16…I eased back again to fuel and drink more water.  And now I decided I would start walking some water stops in order to make sure I was hydrating.  When it’s cold outside, I forget to drink water.  I wasn’t letting anything stupid like that take me down that day.

The 3:40 pacers caught me just before Mile 18, where we ran through this area that felt like a park and were met with a wall of screaming from the people inside.  I think it was a college group, but they were fantastic.  I got quite a few compliments at aid stations and as I ran through here on my pigtails.  Love that story.  We exited onto the highway and headed toward my favorite part of the course, this gorgeous, twisting downhill on an exit ramp.  YES!  Downhill is my favorite speed as we all know!!  And this was fun.

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Cathy after she did her 5K!  She did it in 46:42!

Mile 20…and I had only a 10K left.  I took a little longer on my walk to fuel here because not only did I fuel and drink some water, but I also moved my one and only Honey Stinger Gel from my zip pocket in my running skirt to my fuel belt.  Why?  Because I was going to do one more fueling and I didn’t have enough Maurten with me.  I wanted to feel good and strong at the end of this.

At this point, if there was a hill…I speed walked it.  If there was a water stop, I walked it and took in some water.  If there was a crowd, I ran.  I was running more than walking, which was opposite Chicago, so already my plan was paying off.  I think it was at Mile 23, I went ahead and took my last gel, fueling for the last push.  The water stop here was AMAZING.  They were blaring this great song about being downtown.  And it just helped me pick it back up.

The next three miles went well, even though I could tell I was slowing down.  I think at some point the 3:45 group passed me.  I tried not to let it get into my head.  I took any water break walks that I needed and promised that I would push it at the end.  I was going to finish this one strong.  I made the turn onto W New York Street.  The crowd was amazing.  Someone shouted, “The finish is just around the corner!”  They were right.  I rounded the corner and could see the finish line down the way.  It seemed so far, but I found another gear and I started to pick it up.  As I got closer, I saw Cathy standing near the finish, screaming her head off for me.  I pressed on, crossing the finish line, arms in the air, and stopped my Garmin.  I never looked at it. I wanted to beat my Dopey time.  But I didn’t want to be disappointed yet either.

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Me crossing the finish line at the CNO Financial Monumental Marathon

So I never looked.  I started walking down the row.  I was wrapped in a Mylar blanket.  I saw some people with their medals on…and thought for a moment I had walked right past that station.  But I hadn’t.  I just hasn’t moved up far enough.  I continued on.  A nice woman put a medal around my neck and congratulated me.  I smiled and thanked her, snagging a bottle of water before stopping to get an official finisher photo from Marathonfoto.  On down the aisle of snacks, snagging a banana, a Clif Bar (for Cathy), a bag of Lay’s chips, and the famous cookie (I can’t even eat it…but I knew plenty of people who could).  And then…I made my way out to be greeted by Cathy with a hug.

I asked her, “Did I beat my Dopey time?”  And she said, “You smashed it by over three minutes.”  I was elated.  It wasn’t the time I was hoping to hit, but I once again chipped away from my time I set at the beginning of the year…doing a run/walk for the entire race.  This time, I mostly ran and felt strong and good throughout…and that was saying something.  As Cathy was finding a spot for me to lay down and put my feet up, I spotted the hat in her clear backpack and said, “You got a hat?”  She said I should have gotten one too and I told her I must have walked past that station.  She told me to lay down and she would see if she could get one for me.  After about 5 minutes, she returned victorious, saying she flagged down a happy looking marathoner to see if she could get another one.  It worked.

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Feet up…suns out…guns out.  FINISHER!

After stretching my feet up for a little bit, just basking in the sun, we finally decided to get up and head back toward the hotel.  Cathy checked us out of our room and had our bags checked.  It felt like the walk took forever, but it was a good way, save for the wind that had picked up.  I drew my arm warmers back up over my arms and we zigzagged our way back to the hotel.

We stepped inside and got into the elevator to go up one floor.  Cathy told me to go over to the bench to sit down and wait while she got luggage.  It didn’t take too long.  She opened up my suitcase and pulled out the outfit I had set out to wear afterwards, compression socks, jeans, the race t-shirt, new underwear, a proper bra, the basics.  We went ahead and took off my shoes, socks and put on my compression socks while I was sitting there.  She pulled my pigtails down, getting my hair extensions out and grabbing my hair brush.  And then she sent me around the corner to the bathroom to change.

I ducked into a stall and did that in record time after a marathon.  I realized that I had left my deodorant in my toiletries bag so I made sure I looked presentable, brushed my hair, and then went to grab that while leaving my race clothes with her.  Quick duck into the bathroom to apply deodorant, a wash of the hands, and one more fix of the hair…and I was good to go.  Once I put on my recovery shoes.

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My celebration meal at Woody’s Library Restaurant in Carmel, IN!

We headed out and she gave me the valet ticket to get the car while she went into Starbucks to grab me a much-needed coffee.  They valet went to retrieve the car, which took about 5 minutes and she hadn’t yet made it out.  I had no money on me to top the valet, which I felt AWFUL about, but I couldn’t help that.  I texted her and she said about 14 teenagers had been in front of her and she was coming. She was out in about 3 minutes and we loaded up her luggage.  I snagged my coffee.  And we were off, heading to Carmel, Indiana, the home of Woody’s Library Restaurant, my new favorite place to eat in all of Indianapolis.  Our friend Greg met us there.  I didn’t have an appetite at this moment, but went ahead and ordered the Gluten Free (Lettuce Wrap) Tex Mex Quinoa Tacos with a side of the Gluten Free Sweet Potato Fries, and Cathy got me a little side of pickles…just in case I wanted them.

I made a go at the food…taking my time to chew and to digest so as not to set my stomach off.  And I managed to eat the fries and most of the tacos before calling it quits.  I maybe had two of the pickle chips.  I was surprised I managed that much.  Afterwards, to stretch me out a bit more before we made the car ride home, the three of us went to the Antique Mall and looked around.  They both found things to buy, but I didn’t this time.  Maybe next time.  Then we hit up the gluten-free No Label at the Table bakery there.  I picked up two of their Lemon Cookies, a Brownie, and a Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf.  The lady who owns the bakery was there, and she was excited to see a marathoner there and asked me about other local races and Disney races as I shopped and decided what I wanted.

Afterwards…it was time to make the long drive back home.

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Until next year…BE MONUMENATAL!

So, the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 3:46:17, which makes it my fastest marathon this year and the one that closes out my actual racing season, as far as I know.  HA.  I was 1377/4568 finishers overall. I was the 377/1983 female finishers. And I was 106/391 in my age division.  Very happy with my results as I was dedicating this run to the people I know…who can’t run.  Spontaneous Marathon #14 is in the books and I already can’t wait to sign up for next year.  This was a great race, all around.

Comeback Kid…Again! Week #3

There is a good possibility that I will be back to running on the streets in as little as three (3) weeks.  Yep.  That is how confident my physical therapist is with my progression.  That being said, he really put me through the wringer this past week.

My appointments were later in the week…Wednesday and Friday.  Due to his schedule this time.  Next time…it’s all me.  I have a Sting concert to attend and all…

But I digress.

That being said, it gave me the whole first part of the week to work on the marches and all the lunges he assigned me to work on at home.  And here I thought I was totally done with homework. Let me tell you…my quads were burning.  I tend to do my PT stuff twice a day.  So, that was a whole heap of lunges.

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This is, legit, one of the lunge moves I am to do to help strengthen the hip and get that hip flexor firing properly.  He also added a new resistance band move for the left hip as well…in addition to the other stuff I was doing.  OH…and the lunge matrix.  Five lunges with each leg in basically every direction possible.  It is beyond hellish.

Told you…lunge hell.  If I don’t have the best looking ass at the end of this I will be highly disappointed.

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On Friday…it got a little more real.  After going through the stretches, exercises, and adding some fun new plyometric lunges and leaps with the BOSU to help with not only the push-off but also landing.  It’s a great exercise, and I luckily own a BOSU ball, so I can do this one at home.  Outside.  I’m in a 2nd floor apartment after all.  HA!

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So, then my PT had a little heart-to-heart with me.  For real.  He said I was coming along great…and my pain was minimal these days.  So…he wanted to know how I would feel if he told me to go outside and run 3 miles.  Just go.  Right then.  And run.

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So, he asked me why I felt that way…and I told him that I was nervous about it hurting again, or doing further damage.  And that I don’t want to take any more steps back.  He said that I was ready to get on the Alter-G treadmill…and he wanted me to pick a pace I felt comfortable with and see if I could run for about 25 minutes on it.

He had to kick someone off of it, but he got me all zipped in and I got started…

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So…this wasn’t a fix.  Not at all.  In fact…I still had some twinging in my left hip flexor while doing this…and I was running with a slight limp.  He pointed that out immediately.  So, he told me to attempt to even it out as I was going, and I could keep going for the 10-25 minutes as long as the twinge didn’t escalate.  It didn’t.  So I managed 2.83 miles at a 8:34 pace for 25 minutes.  It wasn’t perfect…but look at that smile!  I WAS FINALLY RUNNING!  It had been a full month since that had even happened.

This week, I think I’ll be doing a lot of work on the Alter-G.  He had me at 80% of my body weight on Friday…and I think he’ll move me to 90% this week or next…and then…I’m on the road…IF all things go well.

That being said, I showed up for the training run for the Norton Sports Health Training Program for the Kentucky Derby Marathon/miniMarathon…and I was able to do some of the jumping jacks and other dynamic warm-ups that I had to phone-in before.  So, I do think the process is working.  It’s just slow.  But I’ll take any improvement at this rate.  I took a short walk, went and got my taxes done, and then met back up with my fellow Ambassadors at Big Four Burgers + Fries for a social.  It was the best way to spend my Saturday for sure.


Looking forward to moving forward some more this week.  But now…I’m off to officially cook my first Gordon Ramsay meal…Mushrooms on Toast for dinner!!  Yes…his class…his recipe…me cooking it.  Wish me luck.  I’ll need it…it involves bacon.  Not for me.  For my roommate.  Mine is minus the bacon.  Chef Ramsay has his hands full with this gluten-free vegetarian!!

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Recipe: Anti-Inflammatory Stir Fry Bowl

So…two weeks ago I was in California.  I was taking in the Los Angeles area…I was doing the whole Disney thing…I was running a 10K and Half Marathon injured…I was fighting aches and pains the rest of the time.

On our last full day in California, my roomie and I got into our rental car after saying good-bye to our friend Tanya, and took a long drive down to San Diego.  What was in San Diego?  Apollo 9.  Duh!

And a taco stand that my roommate fell in love with in 2015, when we stayed in San Diego for one night en route to Hawaii for a marathon I was unable to run (due to a stress fracture to my leg three (3) days before).  She was eager to return…maybe try something else…maybe redo the tacos that she fell so in love with.  But…there was nothing safe for me there…so she scouted out a Thai food place just around the corner.  They had an amazing gluten-free menu (almost everything)…but with my body hating me after I put it pushed it through races being held together with KT Tape and ACE Bandages, the Anti-Inflammatory Stir Fry Bowl really caught my eye.

It was simple…yet delicious.  Broccoli & shitake mushrooms stir-fried in a warming seasoning paste made with peppercorns and turmeric.  It was served over Thai red rice.  And it was amazing.  It was a HUGE order…but I ate it all.  And I felt good about it.  And I kept talking about that meal…so I knew there was something to it.

And so…when I got back home, I set out to recreate it.  It wasn’t perfect, but it sure was delicious.  And as I had some riced cauliflower on hand…instead of cooking up some brown rice…I gave it a go.

Recipe: Anti-Inflammatory Stir Fry Bowl

15995272_10100193941937701_3064135310889359941_oServes 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces broccoli florets
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Directions:

**Chop head of cauliflower into florets and place in food processor. Pulse until it starts to resemble rice; set aside.

**NOTE: If you want a less-mess, no maintenance way of doing this, go to Trader Joes, Kroger, Target, or pretty much ANY grocery store these days and they have bags of already riced cauliflower in their produce section and even in the freezer section.  I do this…because food processors are a pain to clean!  So, skip the first step if you cheat and get the already riced cauliflower.

Line a large skillet with 1/4 cup water and add cauliflower rice.  Cook until softened.

Line a skillet with 1/4 cup water and add ginger paste and garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add in mushrooms and broccoli.  Cook until the broccoli has turned bright green and the mushrooms have softened.

Add turmeric and black pepper.  Stir until everything is well coated.

Place half of the cooked cauliflower rice in each bowl.  Top with the broccoli and mushrooms.

ENJOY!

~*~*~

One great thing about this dish, all the seasoning means no salt needs to be added.  The dish is amazingly filling and so good.  The turmeric and black pepper are the perfect anti-inflammatory blend.  I intend to make this dish more often.  It’s simple…yet…so flavorful!  Don’t miss this one!

Restaurant Review: Kalapawai Café, Kailua, Hawaii

Kalapawai Cafe, Kailua, Hawaii

Kalapawai Cafe, Kailua, Hawaii

Restaurant: Kalapawai Café, Kailua, Hawaii

Normally humidity and heat don’t get to me.  I thrive in warmer temperatures, to be completely honest.  But the sun, heat, and humidity that were brought to Hawaii by the hurricanes and tropical storms is a new level of humid.  And it’s a level that, being so close to the equator, I am not used to yet.

I was melting.  Literally.  Melting at Pearl Harbor yesterday afternoon.  But, myself and my traveling compatriots all survived and had quite the experience at Pearl Harbor.  Totally…unforgettable.  It was the one place I was making a requirement…and the other two also felt the same way.  Despite the intense sun, the humidity, and the heat…it was all worth it.

All that being said, afterwards we headed toward Kailua, which was home to the restaurant we would be having dinner in that evening.  The little restaurant is Kalapawai Café, this quaint little café and market.  We were early, as they don’t start serving dinner until 5 p.m.  So, while waiting, we scoped out a bit of Kailua.  We went to Walgreens so Jenn could pick up more Ibuprofen (sunburns suck!).  We dropped by this little bookstore called Book Ends.  It was in disarray, but it killed a bit of time.  And as we were heading out, it was time for dinner.  Talk about timing, eh?

We were greeted at the door as we entered and were able to ogle the dessert case, where I spotted macarons immediately.  Jenn noted the Flourless Chocolate Cake as well.  Mmmm…dessert.  But, our hostess guided us to a nice cool spot (we must have looked hot!) right under the air conditioning and got us situated with menus.  Our waitress soon followed, bringing us glasses of water and asking us if we wanted anything besides water.  We were all trying to rehydrate after Pearl Harbor, so we just stuck with the H2O.  She went over the specials and over what the Auction Price Fish of the Day, Auction Price Fresh Fish for the risotto was, and what the Auction Price Fresh Fish for the Greek Salad was.  She gave us a moment to peruse the menu.

Upon her return a few minutes later, we were pretty much set.  We mentioned that I was a Celiac vegetarian and she said…”Okay…so no wheat no meat…” She asked if I did dairy…I said I can…but I don’t always handle it well.  So she recommended the meal I had been eyeing in the first place due to the fact that it was labeled gluten-free AND contained no meat.  She said she’d just have the chef leave off the cheese.  Perfect.  Jenn and Cathy put in their orders too…and we cooled off, chilled, and got to watch the kitchen work.  I love open kitchens.  Hearing the expediter call off the orders was awesome.  Seeing the small line of chefs preparing at their different stations…yep…I love this stuff.

And soon…it was our order being made and being delivered.

Oddly enough, I had pegged what Jenn was going to order.  I know my friends!  Jenn ordered the Crab & Artichoke Dip ($12.00), which contained huge chunks (I mean HUGE) of blue crab, chopped artichoke (which didn’t overwhelm), fresh mozzerella, provolone, parmesan, red bell pepper, sweet onion, and served with toasted crostini.  Her meal looked cheesy good.   And it was delicious according to her.  Especially since they used great care to put chunks of crab meat into the dish itself…instead of skimping on the prize protein.  That was a huge plus.  The plate got polished.  She said she’d offer me some, but basically everything about the dish offended me.  LOL!

Kalapwai Cafe's House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli w/ asparagus, roasted grape tomato & lemon-thyme brown butter sauce

Kalapwai Café’s House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli w/ asparagus, roasted grape tomato & lemon-thyme brown butter sauce

Cathy had gone back and forth on what she wanted, opting between the ravioli and the shepherd’s pie.  In the end, she ordered the House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli ($15.00), served with asparagus, roasted grape tomato, and a lemon-thyme brown butter sauce.  She said the pasta was okay (duh!), but the star of the plate was that sweet potato and goat cheese.  The star of any ravoili should be the filling.  That’s the entire point.  The pasta…it should definitely be homemade and good…but it it simply a way to hold the delicious filling inside.  She devoured her meal.  In fact, for the first time, she was the first one done eating.

Kalapawai Café's House-made gluten free potato gnocchi w/ grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom & tomato, ver’jus & sauce romesco

Kalapawai Café’s House-made gluten free potato gnocchi w/ grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom & tomato, ver’jus & sauce romesco

As for me, I ordered the House-made Gluten Free Potato Gnocchi ($16.00), served with grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom and tomato, ver’jus and a sauce romesco.  It normally would come with Manchego cheese, but they left it off my dish since dairy and I are broken up.  These “gnocchi” were toasted potato puffs.  Sort of like…a naked tater tot.  And to be honest…that’s exactly what they tasted like.  This dish was like eating breakfast for dinner.  The gnocchi had this great toasted outside, think…perfect hashbrowns, and then were soft like the inside of a tater tot, on the inside.  The vegetables were grilled and cooked to perfection, pairing nicely with the breakfast-like gnocchi on my plate.  And the sauces gave a nice hit and addition of flavor to be sure.  I loved it…because breakfast is one of my favorite things in life.  It wasn’t what I was expecting.  Definitely less pasta more potato.  And I was okay with that.  It just wasn’t what my palate had been expecting.  It was a nice surprise.

Afterwards we were asked if we’d like to see a dessert menu.  As we never turn down looking at least, we perused and finally opted on splitting the macaron plate (it came with 3) ($5.00).  Normally this was an assortment of vanilla, lemon, and lime ginger, but they were out of vanilla, and I wasn’t too sure on the lime ginger…so we went with three of the lemon macarons.  They were retrieved from the case and…oh…oh yes…they were worth it.  Little pillows of lemony flavor.  Like…big lemon flavor too.  None of this fake stuff or lack of flavor.  It was like a lemon bar and lemon chifon cake.  It was just…yummy.  And we were happy that we went that way with the dessert in the end.

I was actually quite impressed with the service and the food that came  out of Kalapawai Café.  I would return there to eat in a heartbeat.  I loved the dish I was served, even if it wasn’t what I expected.  And having macarons on the dessert menu always wins, because they are a light option that still feels like a treat.

What a way to end the first night in O’ahu.

Kalapawai Café's Lemon Macarons

Kalapawai Café’s Lemon Macarons

Restaurant Review: Brick Oven Pizza, Kapaa, Hawaii

Brick Oven Pizza, Kapaa, Hawaii

Brick Oven Pizza, Kapaa, Hawaii

Restaurant: Brick Oven Pizza, Kapaa, Hawaii

It was a long day of driving, shopping, and some exploring.  There was even beach time and some wading into the water.  It was a good day, filled with a few minor bumps in the road.  But…there comes a time when you suddenly realize that the crepe you ate for breakfast has completely worn off and that protein bar you consumed as a snack…even though you weren’t really hungry but you knew dinner was still a ways off…wears off.

That was yesterday.

And with me not being able to run the Kauai Marathon…dinner plans were sort of up in the air.  Original plan was to get gluten-free pizza from this local chain (they have 4 locations on the island) called Brick Oven Pizza.  From the reviews on Find Me Gluten Free, they did a good job with avoiding cross-contamination as much as possible.  BUT…pizza was a pre-race thing and I was definitely not prepping for a race now.  Before leaving for Hawaii, I had noted this to Cathy and she did a bit of poking around, finding a little spot called Caffe Coco, also in Kapaa, that serves up dishes made from island-grown produce, fresh fish, and organic chickens, wanting to support local farmers as much as possible.  They specialize in vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.

We were sort of…not really sure what we wanted for dinner, but after looking and re-looking at menus, we decided to just go for it and get a pizza.  Between the three of us, we could eat a small (8 slices) gluten-free pizza and not overdo it and kill ourselves trying to polish it off.  So…Brick Oven Pizza won out.

We piled into the rental car and headed that way.  It’s a very short drive from our resort, and we pulled into the parking lot and made our way inside.  We were seated by the hostess near the back of the restaurant and given the menu to look over.  We already knew that we were doing a gluten-free pizza.  The thing is…I am not able to handle much dairy and Jenn and Cathy are cheese-lovers.  I am a vegetarian and Jenn is not a not a huge fan of vegetables.  So…the thought was to do a half-and-half pizza and Cathy (who can eat either way) can share on each end.  BRILLIANT!

Our waitress wasn’t sure that one gluten-free pizza would be enough for the three of us, but we decided we’d grab dessert if we were still hungry (we heard about a place on the radio that had vegan ice cream)…so we convinced her that we wouldn’t starve with it just being one pizza between the three of us.  So, we put in our special order, with one half of the pizza having mushrooms and pineapple with no cheese, and the other half having cheese and the house-made Italian sausage.  This is how we do it!

It was quite a wait for the pizza to be made, which is fine.  They did explain that the gluten-free pizzas take a little bit longer, and with a dairy-free vegetarian getting half of a pizza that has dairy and meat on it, they were just trying to be a little more diligent with the cooking and the slicing process.  So, I’ll take that as a good sign.  But when the pizza did arrive, we paused long enough to take pictures and then…it was time to devour.

And it did meet with a messy, messy death.

The crust itself was your typical cracker crust, which is not my favorite, but when you are gluten-free and want pizza…you get what you get.  And, while it’s a thin and crispy crust, it means that it isn’t quite as filling and you don’t feel as guilty devouring it.  That being said, three of us were consuming 8 little pieces of pizza.  So, it was actually the perfect light pizza meal as far as we were concerned.

My carnivorous cheese-loving traveling partners really raved about the sausage on their half of the pizza, saying how full of flavor it was.  They loved the cheese, and even topped off their slices with the Parmesan cheese from the shaker.  The odd piece out was split between them.

My un-cheesy, pineapple and mushroom topped side was delicious.  The red sauce wasn’t too heavy, but it had good tomato flavor to it.  I loved the way the mushrooms were cooked in, giving them that meaty texture.  And the pineapple was juicy and amazing.  I really enjoyed this pizza…healthy as a pizza could be with it still being…pizza.  It was easy for me to digest, which was the important part.  Delicious!  I was satisfied when I split the odd-ball extra piece with Cathy and we considered our dinner…done.

The waitress tried to entice us with more, but we said we were done.  She happily delivered our check…our Gluten Free Half Mushroom/Pineapple Half Cheese/Italian Sausage Pizza ($18.95) was a hit, for sure.  And, for a gluten-free pizza…affordable.  Brick Oven Pizza does charge an extra $3.50 for a gluten-free pizza…so there was that.  In the end, what we had delivered what all of us wanted in the pizza.  And thank goodness they could do half and half so that we all got something that we wanted/needed with the actual pizza.

For a local chain offering a gluten-free crust, I was happy with the pizza I received.  It was just enough to allow us to go to that ice cream spot we heard about and indulge a little in some local ice cream.  And that…was a nice bonus.  If you are in the market for a safe gluten-free pizza…try out Brick Oven in Kapaa.  I’ll go back next year before the marathon for sure!

Brick Oven Pizza Gluten Free Half Mushroom/Pineapple (no cheese) and Half Cheese and Italian Sausage Pizza

Brick Oven Pizza Gluten Free Half Mushroom/Pineapple (no cheese) and Half Cheese and Italian Sausage Pizza

Recipe: Tomato-Miso Soup

If there is one thing that I love almost as much as breakfast…it’s soup.  I am a soup junkie.  I will eat soup at any time of the year…even in the summer.  I think it can be the most perfect meal.  And, when made right, it can be quite good for you too.

I bought some white miso paste a few weeks ago to use in an eggplant recipe and had quite a bit still left over in the fridge.  I was interested in what I might be able to make with it…and that’s when Food & Wine Magazine sent through one of their recipe e-mails, and this one was timely, indeed.

This Tomato-Miso Soup both light and hearty…and definitely healthy.  It became one of my favorite lunches I have brought to work thus far.  And it’s made from real ingredients…which makes it even better.  The flavor is earthy and sweet…bringing this fantastic balance.  And the star…the shiitake mushrooms.

Recipe: Tomato-Miso Soup

Tomato-Miso Soup

Tomato-Miso Soup

Servings: 6
Time: 10 minutes; Cook 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup light miso paste (shiro)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (I used reduced sodium tamari)
  • 3/4 pound soft tofu, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 3 large scallions, thinly sliced
  • 6 small to medium radishes, thinly sliced

 

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.

Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Cover and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until the mushrooms are tender, about 6 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Pour in the water, stir well and bring to a boil.

Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.

Whisk in the miso and soy sauce and return to a simmer.

Add the tofu and simmer for 2 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with the scallions and radishes and serve.

~*~*~

I loved everything there was about this soup.  There were so many textures, and this bold flavor, thanks to the miso.  The radishes and scallions added before eating brought a bit of crunch, while the mushrooms gave this soup a meatiness to it, without any actual meat.  I can’t wait to make this one again.  If you have a great love of soup and rich flavors without simmering it all day…this is the soup for you.

Recipe: Gluten Free Garlic Mushrooms on Toast

I was watching a British cooking show a few years ago and absolutely began to salivate over the dish that was being prepared.  A simple European breakfast of Mushrooms on Toast.  With my food allergies and dietary restrictions, I, naturally had to adjust the original recipe, but it quickly became a favorite here in my apartment.  I started making this about five years ago, and then forgot all about it…until I got fresh crimini mushrooms in my CSA bin.

And so…I decided to revive a favorite.

Recipe: Gluten Free Garlic Mushrooms on Toast

Gluten Free Garlic Mushrooms on Toast

Gluten Free Garlic Mushrooms on Toast

Servings: 2
Time: 15 minutes prep; Cook 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, stems trimmed, thickly sliced
  • 1 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 slices gluten free bread, toasted (I used Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread)

Directions:

Heat butter and oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat until sizzling. Add onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute or until aromatic.

Add rice milk and water. Stir until heated through. Sprinkle with thyme. Serve on hot buttered gluten-free toast.

~*~*~

After digging into this amazing dish (if you do gluten-free, I highly recommend the gluten-free Food For Life Sprouted For Life breads for this recipe), I remembered why I loved it so much all those years ago.  The mushrooms were tender and enriched with the garlic and freshy thyme.  I topped mine off with a poached egg, which, when paired with the sauced mushrooms was the perfect addition to the meal, although on its own, this would still be delicious.

If you are a fan of mushrooms, I highly recommend this recipe!

Product Review: Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread

Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread

Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread

Product: Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread – $5.99+

A little while ago, I was introduced to a couple of new breads on the market.  While the brand name has been producing gluten-free breads for awhile now, it wasn’t a brand that I actively sought out.  Yes, I saw it all the time in the freezer section of Whole Foods and other natural food stores, but I had grown accustomed to snagging Rudi’s or Udi’s or (now) the Aldi liveGfree brand or Canyon Bakehouse.  Food For Life was there…I just always overlooked it.

And why?

Who knows?  As an active (even now, with an injury) athlete, it’s important to properly fuel my body and eat wholesome foods.  Most products on the market for the gluten-free diet happen to be junk food.  It drives me nuts.  I hit that gluten-free section of a store and I can find a vast array of cookies, crackers, chips, pretzels, and the like.  It is one of the biggest pet peeves of the grocery store.  Yes, a lot of people with Celiac and gluten intolerance do miss out on some of the finer treats like Oreos and the like, but the shelves are literally overrun with products that aren’t going to feed your body right and healthy.

But Food For Life set out to change that.  Through a lot of research and development, Food For Life released the first ever gluten free breads made from sprouted grains, such as quinoa, millet and chia.  A majority of gluten-free breads, while satisfying the “gluten free” bread requirement, don’t address the overall health needs of consumers.  Without the gluten to give bread the soft, elasticity of regular breads, most manufacturers choose alternative ingredients that mimic the feel of gluten, using egg, milk, and refined starches in order to achieve a softer and chewier texture.  But these breads are created from ingredients that you wouldn’t expect to find in natural breads, many of which are devoid of nutrients.

Food For Life stepped up and decided to start a line with four varieties of completely gluten-free breads that were specifically created with the health of consumers in mind.  Not only are they gluten free, but they are also vegan and made from nutrition packed ingredients that have been sprouted to maximize nutrition and digestibility.

I was fortunate enough to be sent one loaf of each of the Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Breads from Food For Life.  These loaves come in Original 3 Seed, Almond, Cinnamon Raisin, and Flax.

The hardest part, for me, was choosing where to begin.  It had been a long and tiring week and I was looking for a nutritious, but filling dinner.  And, as breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day, I decided to hit up one of my favorite recipes and have breakfast for dinner.  Hence, it was time to bust out a very British, and all-time favorite in my book, breakfast recipe – Mushrooms On Toast.

And I had the perfect vehicle for the toast portion in my kitchen freezer. I consulted with my roommate and we decided to start with the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread.

I thawed out four slices of the bread and then prepped them to toast in the oven while I prepared the rest of the meal.  This involved sauteing up mushrooms, red onion, garlic, seasoning, and some of my homegrown fresh thyme.  I made it creamier with rice milk.  And then poached some eggs to top off the entire dish.

Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread turned out to be the perfect vehicle for Mushrooms On Toast.  The bread is firmer, and stands up a bit more to toppings and the like.  I was a bit worried when I thawed it out, as it seemed really dense and heavy, but that was ideal.  That was, actually, a good thing in this case.  The Flax variety of the Sprouted For Life line of gluten-free breads is amazing.  It is dense and has this rich nutty flavor to it.  The texture, if made into a sandwich might be a bit dry and heafty, but in a dish like this, where a sturdy bread is needed, it is ideal.  In fact, this bread was almost like a sourdough, and that was where the magic was with this bread.

I loved the crunchy, sturdy nature of the bread when topped off with the creamy garlic and mushroom sauce.  It held up to the runny middle of the poached egg and even a smattering of hot sauce.  It was crispy, and delightful with each spoonful.  Seriously, any other bread would have gotten damp and soggy, but this…this held up and stayed a piece of toast throughout the entire eating process.

Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread is rich in essential fatty acids and was developed specifically to help you perform at your best.  With a great balance in the nutritional aspect, this bread is quite appealing.  Made with sprouted chia, sprouted quinoa, and sprouted millet, this bread is a trio of health.  And the flax is an added bonus for sure.

Let’s talk about ingredients.  Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread is made from organic sprouted quinoa (red and/or white), filtered water, organic arrowroot, organic potato starch, organic sprouted millet, organic tapioca, organic sprouted flax, organic applesauce, fresh yeast, organic safflower oil, organic cactus, organic sprouted chia seeds, organic agave, organic vanilla, sea salt, vegetable gum (xanthan and cellulose), and organic psyllium.  It is gluten-free, vegan, high in fiber, cholesterol free, and free of added sugars.

So, let’s talk nutrition.  Since starting my nutrition course (oh…did I not mention that yet?), I have learned that there is more to counting calories.  Sure, it is important, but it shouldn’t be the focus.  It’s all about the nutritional aspects of the food.  Avocados are high in fat and calories…but SO much better for you than that chocolate bar with the same amount of fat and calories.  See what I mean?  So, a serving of Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread is one slice of bread.  This slice of bread will give you 110 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.  This bread is free of saturated fat and trans fat (YAY!).  The Flax Bread also will provide 115 mg sodium per slice, 0 mg cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.  I was freaked out at first with the high calories per slice, but, again, not all calories are created equal and there is nothing fake going into this bread.  It’s all healthy, all good, all nutritious.  Making this a fantastic choice.

I was so excited to receive the loaves of the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Breads.  And if they are all as amazing and delicious as the Flax variety, then I am in for a treat for sure.  My hat is off to the nutritional value, the top-notch ingredients, and the amazing taste of the new Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread from Food For Life.  My only complaint, as with most gluten-free breads out there, is the small size of the loaf.  Aside from that…amazed.  Happy to have been given the opportunity to really try it out.  I am beyond impressed.

Garlic Mushrooms on Toast made with Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Bread

Garlic Mushrooms on Toast made with Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Flax Brea

Restaurant Review: Upper Crust Pizzeria, Boston, Massachusetts

Upper Crust Pizzeria, Boston, Massachusetts

Upper Crust Pizzeria, Boston, Massachusetts

Restaurant: Upper Crust Pizzeria, Boston, Massachusetts

So…I was in Boston…for The Boston Marathon.  And you know what it means when I’m gearing up for a race.  The traditional night-before-the-race gluten-free pizza.  It is a must.  Sure, I can do gluten-free pasta, but pizza seems to be my mojo.  My magical little race-day helper.  And so, this tradition has gone unchanged whenever possible.

I consulted with a good friend of mine, Julie, before heading to Boston, looking for restaurant recommendations, especially for pizza.  She sent me so many different options, I was elated to see how many options were available in Boston.  If you are a Celiac or gluten-free and planning on a trip to Boston, trust me…it is so easy to find something to eat there.  It’s wonderful.  Never before have I had so many options in one place.

With her high recommendation, and the praise of my high school friend, Lydia, it was decided that we would be noshing on Sunday night (Monday is marathon day in Boston!) at a place called Upper Crust Pizzeria.  They have several locations throughout the Boston area, but as we were spending the day hiking the Freedom Trail, we decided that we’d wind our way out toward Beacon Hill and land there right around dinner time.

We actually ended up getting there sooner, rather than later, so we ducked into some candy shops and walked around the Beacon Hill area until around 5 p.m.  That was when we made our way back to the little establishment and stepped inside.

It wasn’t what I was expecting.  This was one tiny little establishment, indeed.  In fact, the kitchen was on the far right as you enter, with one long community table in the middle of the restaurant.  That was it.  We lucked out in that people finished up eating by the time we ordered, so we had a place to settle in and eat.  Because there was no way the pizza would make it back to the hotel and still be hot.

Cathy and I had scouted the menu prior to leaving for Boston and already knew what we were going to get.  This left my friends Heather and Jenn to either have pizza by the slice or split a pizza.  As Heather wanted pepperoni and Jenn does just cheese, they ended up getting two slices each.

Their slices were ginormous!!  Seriously!!  Holy cow.  It made me more than a little concerned over how big the gluten-free pizza slices were going to be and whether Cathy and I could eat it on our own.

But, our 14-inch gluten-free pizza arrived a short time after their slices…and it looked fantastic.  We ordered one of the custom pies that is a “local favorite.”  It’s called Charles Street ($19.00 – the gluten-free crust is a $2 upcharge), and we had it made on the gluten-free dough.  It comes topped with portabella mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and fresh garlic.  For the sake of my stomach, we asked them to go light on the cheese on this pizza.  And it looked absolutely fantastic when it arrived at the table.  We paused long enough in our hunger to snap a picture before diving in, each peeling off a slice.  The pizza is their “small” size…and it’s actually quite big…but it was perfect for 2-3 people to share.  And since we hadn’t eaten much that day, it was perfect for Cathy and I to split without any help.

The Charles Street pizza at Upper Crust Pizzeria is AMAZING!  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!  Totally and honestly.  I ate a bite on its own and immediately was all “Mmmmmm.”  Like in “Mmmmmmarathon” and “Mmmmmmore please” and “Mmmmmmgoooooood!”  But then, I doctored it up with some dried herbs and a little bit of red pepper flakes.  My stomach fears no spice, not even before a marathon.  The crust of the pizza was thin, but not a cracker crust.  You could definitely tell it was white rice flour based, but it wasn’t a distracting overlying taste.  In fact, the crust was one of my favorite things about this pizza.  I love a good crust, but I also love to indulge in more pizza…so a thin crust is a nice thing in my book.  Cathy tried a bit of Jenn’s pizza and said the gluten-free crust was even better than the original.  Score!!  I loved the earthiness that flavored this particular pizza.  The Charles Street had this great balance of savory with a hint of sweetness from the sundried tomatoes.  It was amazing.  I devoured every slice.  For the first time ever, I think Cathy finished her pizza just as I was polishing off mine.

I can’t say enough good things about this pizza.  At first I was a little uncertain, due to the venue more than anything.  I mean, one table…and no room when we arrived for us to sit and enjoy…it was a little intimidating and off-putting…but a spot cleared up and we settled in after ordering, and all of us were happy with our pizza.  I would go back and eat here the next time I was in Boston, even if there wasn’t a marathon involved.  Really fantastic.  There were a few other signature pizzas that they make that sound absolutely amazing, so I’m definitely eager to return and give them a taste.

If you’re in Boston…and you want a great gluten-free pizza…find one of the locations for Upper Crust Pizzeria (or go to the original one, like I did, in Beacon Hill) and order up a slice of heaven in pizza form.  I know I’ll be back.  Oh yes, I will be back!

Upper Crust Pizzeria's Gluten Free Charles Street Pizza

Upper Crust Pizzeria’s Gluten Free Charles Street Pizza

Product Review: Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Product Review: Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix – $10.99

I know some pretty amazing people.  I really do.  One of such people is a friend of mine from high school.  Awhile back, she contacted me and said that Tastefully Simple was releasing some gluten-free products that she would love for me to try.  My friend, Rebecca Fifield, just happens to be a Tastefully Simple Consultant.  So, she sent them to my.  And then Tastefully Simple released more products…and I bought them and some of the ones that had originally just been sent to me.  And I loved every one of them that had tried.

I think what I love most about what Tastefully Simple is doing with their gluten-free mixes is that they are making it so easy to make bread or pizza or cake cookies or pancakes.  They take all that fancy flour mixing and make it so you have it in one easy place, and only need to add 2 ingredients to it.  I love it.  LOVE it.

And now, thanks to both Rebecca and my own trial-by-fire with the gluten-free products that Tastefully Simple offers (they’ve added cookies and pancakes since I last looked!)…I’m obsessed.  Because, as much as I love baking and cooking and being in my teeny-tiny kitchen…I love simplicity too.  Because baking can be stressful…gluten-free baking can be catastrophic if anything is off.

That’s the glory of Tastefully Simple.  They take that guess work off.

So, with me heading out of town on Friday evening, the main goal this week is to use up all the fresh produce that would otherwise go bad in my absence.  So, with fresh basil and some tomatoes and onions lurking about, I remembered that I had a Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix in my pantry.  So…pizza it would be.  AND…it would last for three days between my roommate and I.  Added bonus.  No more cooking the rest of the week.  YAY!

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix (prepared)

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix (prepared)

Preparing the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix is super easy!!  For real.  That’s why there is the word “simple” in the brand.  HA!  To prepare the crust, simply combine the crust mix with 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  The dough will be sticky.  Cover it losely with plastic wrap and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.  Using lightly oiled hands to prevent sticking, spread the dough out on a pizza stone or a 12-inch greased pizza pan.  Bake it for 10 minutes in a 400°F oven.

While it’s baking…mix up the sauce.  It’s a breeze.  Simply combine the sauce mix with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and tomato sauce.  Spread it over the warm crust you have now baked for 10 minutes.  Add your favorite toppings (in my case…tomato, onion, basil and Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese shreds) and place back in the oven to cook for another 17-20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Slice into 6 pieces and devour.

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Pizza Crust & Sauce (baked)

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Pizza Crust & Sauce (baked)

The quality, however, always comes in the taste test.  And they totally nailed it.  The dough wasn’t too sticky when I went to press it out on the pizza stone.  And, it cooked up to this amazing crispy, golden brown.  The sauce and toppings didn’t make it soggy.  It held up to slicing and being moved onto plates.  And I loved the flavor.  It had this amazing crusty quality that just made it work.  It was the perfect base for my toppings of choice.  And it was one of my favorite crusts I have made at home.  It was easy, and it didn’t take too long to bake up either.  Perfect way to enjoy my dinner tonight.  Tastefully Simple is not only making gluten-free delicious, but easy too!

So, let’s take a look at what Tastefully Simple puts into their Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix, shall we?  This pizza crust mix is made from rice flour, tapioca flour, sugar, baker’s yeast, potato starch, cassava flour, salt, less than 2% hydrogenated palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, baking powder and, xanthan gum.  The sauce mix is made from maltodextrin, dehydrated garlic, garlic powder, salt, dehydrated onion, spices, roasted dehydrated garlic, sugar, Romano cheese, less than 2% of natural flavors, toasted sesame oil, citric acid, whey, cheddar cheese, hydrolyzed soy protein, disodium phosphate, and silicon dioxide (anticaking).

As far as the nutritional information for the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix goes, this isn’t bad for pizza.  Really.  A serving size is 1/6 of the package.  This serving will dish up 200 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, no cholesterol, 810 mg sodium (it’s a little high, yes), 43 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber, and 4 grams of protein.

If you love pizza and want that “from scratch” appeal with a golden, crispy crunch, without it being the frozen cracker-crusts that the gluten-free community are otherwise delegated to having…then give Tastefully Simple’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix a try.  Hop on over to my friend, Rebecca Fifield‘s, page and place an order.  Not only will you be amazed with how easy this is to make, the taste, texture, and everything else will win you over.  I promise you that.

A slice of gluten-free pizza made with Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

A slice of pizza made with Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix