Product Review: Hodgson Mill Lemon Pepper Quinoa & Brown Rice

Hodgson Mill Lemon Pepper Quinoa & Brown Rice

Hodgson Mill Lemon Pepper Quinoa & Brown Rice

Product: Hodgson Mill Lemon Pepper Quinoa & Brown Rice – $2.49+

There are quite a few brands and companies out there that I entrust my gluten-free lifestyle to.  These are the ones that I can find on a regular basis…the few, the proud, the ones carried in most, if not every, grocery store or department store with a food section.  One such brand is Hodgson Mill…who has brought quite a few different products to the gluten-free folks that make up a good percentage of the population these days, whether for medical or dietary reasons.

We all have to have these go-to brands that we can hit up in a pinch.  So, when I find new products by such brands, I don’t really hesitate to purchase them.  They go into my shopping basket (if the budget allows) and then into my pantry.  That’s the circle of my gluten-free foodie life.

While at Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio, awhile back, I stumbled across a couple of packets of Hodgson Mill products that I hadn’t seen around my area.  These were for their new Quinoa & Brown Rice sides, which come in five flavors: Lemon Pepper, Garlic & Herb, Italian, Mediterranean, and Spicy.  I normally would have immediately lunged for the Spicy version, but as this is something I’d be sharing with my roommate (who is a self-professed spice wimp), I opted for something else.  As she is a connoisseur of all things lemony…the Hodgson Mill Lemon Pepper Quinoa & Brown Rice Side seemed like a win to me.

And so…it came home…and sat in my pantry.  Until tonight.  Because of having no CSA bin delivery for the past two (going on three) weeks, I’ve been trying to make due mostly with what I have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.  As these next couple nights are going to include me packing for my upcoming trip to NYC, for my roomie’s birthday, some Broadway shows, and the NYC Half Marathon, I needed foods that wouldn’t demand too much of my time, but still be healthy and filling.

Instead of reheating some of the risotto I made last weekend, I decided to save that for tomorrow and plucked the package of Hodgson Mill Lemon Pepper Quinoa and Brown Rice out of the pantry.  Instead of serving it as a side, we’d simply split the entire package and have it as a meal.  We do that a lot with sides.  I mean…why not?  If it has the nutritional value to double as a meal for two people…might as well go for it.

So, after a long, frustrating, and tiring day at the office…I came home and immediately put 1-3/4 cup of water onto the stove to bring to a boil.  I emptied the contents of the Hodgson Mill Lemon Pepper Quinoa & Brown Rice packet into the boiling water, covered it, and lowered the heat to allow it to simmer and continue to cook…which took about 15 more minutes.  Once the water was absorbed, it was done.  I took the pan off the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 5 minutes before fluffing it with a fork.  While all this was cooking, I was able to put together everything I needed for lunches and snacks for both my roomie and I, which freed up some additional time for me later on.  Love that.  When the five minutes ticked past, I fluffed the mixture with a fork and served it up between the two of us.  We settled in for dinner.

I want to say, this mix cooks up to the perfect texture.  The quinoa and brown rice are a perfect match for each other, making a filling, and satisfying dish (whether a meal or as a side).  However, that being said, the seasoning was definitely lacking.  In fact, my roomie and I actually had to add some salt (which we never do) and even gave it a hit of berbere.  Because, hey, why not?  But, once we had everything properly seasoned, this was really delicious.  I think Hodgson Mill took extra precaution not to overwhelm the mix with the lemon and pepper flavor, but that’s really what I want when I purchase something that boasts a lemon pepper flavor.  So, while the taste was a little bland, this was a really great dish.  Easy to prepare…just season it when all is said and done.

As far as ingredients go, the Hodgson Mill Lemon Pepper Quinoa & Brown Rice side is made from organic whole grain prewashed quinoa, whole grain parboiled long grain brown rice, organic garlic, organic onion, organic herbs, organic carrot, organic black pepper, organic bell pepper, organic tomato, organic red pepper, organic spices, organic orange peel, organic lemon peel, and citric acid (contains mustard).  This blend is gluten-free, cholesterol free, low in sodium, all natural, and kosher.

Nutrition-wise…this isn’t a bad choice to serve as a side or as a main dish.  There are 3.5 servings per pouch, with one serving being 1/4 cup.  This serving will provide you with 140 calories and 1.5 grams of fat.  This serving will also give you 45 mg sodium and less than 1 gram of sugar.  You gotta love that.  One serving will also give you 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.  God bless quinoa!

If you are looking for a healthy side or a hearty dinner without breaking the bank and without having to spend a long time in the kitchen, Hodgson Mill has you covered.  Just make sure you check the seasoning when you finish cooking these up.  You’ll also get a nice protein kick from the quinoa…and the brown rice is a great addition to add a bit of bulk and body to the dish.  Lacking the lemon…that’s my only complaint.  Otherwise…a nice product!

Product Review: Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables

Qrunch Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables

Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables

Product: Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables – $3.99+

Ah…back to one of my favorite things to talk about.

No.  Not food.  Although I do like to talk about food.

Nope.  What I’m about to introduce you to is yet another way that being Celiac/gluten-free doesn’t have to detract from what options are out there for breakfast.  Aside from the natural gluten-free goodness of real foods, such as eggs, potatoes, vegetables, and fruits…there are a plethora of gluten-free breakfast mixes that can help you bake up pancakes, muffins, and scones.  There are frozen waffles, pancakes, French toast sticks, bagels, muffins, cinnamon rolls…the list is endless.

But what really caught my eye a couple of months ago when I randomly dropped into my local Meijer was a new product from a company that I trusted.  The company being Qrunch Foods.  The product – something they call Toastables.

Qrunch Foods set out with a mission, and have since worked hard to carry it out – to create great-tasting, gluten free foods.

Those of us who have made our way through the gluten-free foods out on the market know that gluten-free foods have come a long way.  No longer do you need to fear something tasting like cardboard or wood pulp (although…there are instances this still holds true).  But finding something that stops you in your tracks and makes you go, “Damn…I’d never guess this was gluten free!” is a rare find at times.

Qrunch Foods came out with their line of Toastables back in 2013.  Prior to this, you might have seen and tried (and loved, like me!) their gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian Qrunch Burgers.  LOVE me those Qrunch Burgers.  So, that’s why I didn’t hesitate to pick up one of the two varieties (of four!) of the Qrunch Foods Toastables from my grocery store.  A trusted brand can speak volumes.

My choice: Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables.

Qrunch Foods Toastables are made from ancient whole grains (organic quinoa, organic amaranth, and organic millet) which provides a unique and filling breakfast.  They are, as always, 100% natural and 100% gluten-free.  The idea behind the Toastables is that they are lightly sweetened and go great with any sort of breakfast topping you might enjoy…from syrup to honey to nut butters to jellies to cream cheese.  Whatever floats your breakfast boat.  They look like a mix between a cereal-coated French Toast stick and a hash brown.  I’m okay with this.  And making them is easy too.

Simply pop these into your toaster for a couple of cycles and they are ready to eat.  I was eating these after going to the gym and heading into the office.  This meant that I didn’t have a gluten-free toaster to use.  Other options include cooking over medium-high heat in a skillet for 3-4 minutes per side…except I didn’t have a stovetop.  Luckily, my office does have a taster oven, so I baked these for about 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees until they were nice and warm throughout.  I served these up with a little bit of maple syrup.  Yummy.

I bet you’re wondering how they taste.  Well, they were nothing like I anticipated.  I loved the crunchy outer shell that I got from baking it (and you would too if you baked, used the skillet, or toasted it in the toaster).  If you microwave it, you will lose that aspect of the Toastable itself.  The Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastable had a grittiness to it, which comes from the various grains that are used to comprise it.  I’m on the fence on whether I liked that aspect or not.  It tasted a little dry…but the maple syrup I topped it off with helped with that.  The flavor was subtle, but I could definitely catch hints of the cinnamon and vanilla that were incorporated into the Toastable.  It was a quick bite, but quite filling.  Sort of like a dry, crunchy French toast or waffle…which isn’t a bad thing.  I just sort of expected a little more tenderness on the inside.  Although, overall, not bad.  Not bad at all.  Thank goodness for maple syrup!

Let’s discuss ingredients.  The Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables are made from water, organic millet, organic quinoa, organic amaranth, organic refined coconut oil, organic arrowroot starch, organic cane sugar, organic apple cider vinegar, organic vanilla extract, sea salt, organic cinnamon, and organic non-GMO canola oil.  They are not only made with ancient whole grains, but also 100% gluten-free, soy-free, wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, and corn-free.

As far as nutrition goes, a serving is 1 of the Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables.  There are four Toastables in each box.  This one serving will give you 120 calories and 4 grams of fat.  This will also give you 135 mg sodium and 1 gram of sugar.  Loving that.  These are cholesterol free and free of trans fat.  You will also be taking in 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.  So don’t let the size of them make you think they won’t fill you up.  These will hold you for the morning.

So, not an astounding find, but one that does make for a different and tasty breakfast for sure.  It’s easy to prepare…just takes a little time if you are toasting it up in the toaster oven or toaster, but as long as you aren’t famished, that’s not a problem at all.

Qrunch Foods Toastables are available in four flavors: Cinnamon-Vanilla, Blueberry-Lemon, Rich Maple and Original.  Look for them in your grocery store freezer.

Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables (toasted)

Qrunch Foods Cinnamon-Vanilla Toastables (toasted)

Product Review: Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with Quinoa

Nature's Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with Quinoa

Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with Quinoa

Product: Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with Quinoa – $2.99+

One of the healthiest and best diets out there these days is the Mediterranean diet.  There is little question as to why.  Largely plant-based and focused on seafood and lean proteins, the Mediterranean diet offers a whole lot of health benefits without giving up delicious tasting foods.

But I am no Greek and the Mediterranean diet seems almost Greek to me when it comes to figuring out foods to prepare and the best way to do it.  That being said…thankfully there are shortcuts out there.  One such shortcut is to pick up a box of Nature’s Earthly Choice falafel varieties.  I have previously tried some quinoa products from Nature’s Eartlhy Choice, so trying out falafel (which I love and ate a whole hell of a lot of before going gluten-free) seemed like the next step.  I purchased a box of Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel from The Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio…quite a bit ago.  This once again fell prey to my use of my fresh produce rather than processed and packaged goods…which is not a bad thing.  But this past week and this week ahead, I have no CSA bin for my fresh produce, and trying to keep the budget in check, I am using up foods that I have in my fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Out with the old…and hopefully not replacing the highly processed foods with more in the future.

That being said, Nature’s Earthly Choice is not a bad option when it comes to foods that come packaged.  In fact, Nature’s Earthly Choice was created in 2005 and founded on the principles of creating healthy products.  Originally, this company launched products that were made of quinoa (for the gluten-free), farro and wheat berries, with the expectation of living up to their mission to provide healthy and wholesome products to the public and consumers.  Since then, they have added wild rice, chia, hemp, basmati rice, a continent grain blend, and other grains to their list of products, continuing to maintain the healthy aspect of their foods and expand their line to allow for new and delicious items.  Their products are easy to prepare and hassle free as far as cooking.  No matter the dietary needs (they offer products that are gluten-free, rich in omega 3’s, high in protein, offering alternative grains), Nature’s Earthly Choice is passionate about the products they create and are committed to delivering the best tasting and highest quality products to support everyone’s unique healthy lifestyle.

So with my past love of falafel, I decided finding a mix for a gluten-free falafel, a flavered one at that, would be something worth checking out.  It takes time for me to get around to these things at times…but I do get there.  And tonight, after yesterday’s long ride home from Birmingham, Alabama, and my upcoming trip on Thursday to New York City…I needed something easy and something delicious to cook up for dinner.  This week was going to be a short, but busy one.  My meals needed to fit into my time…I didn’t have time to linger in the kitchen over a hot stove, babysitting something that needed constant stirring and such.

Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel was so easy for me to make after a long day of physical therapy appointments and work.  Seriously.  I came home, poured the mix into a bowl, mixed it with 3/4 cup water and let it sit for 10 minutes.  After it has sit (make sure not to let it sit too long), I formed it into 10 patties and set it in a skillet with 1/3 cup vegetable oil.  Giving each patty a chance to cook for about 4 minutes on each side, letting it brown up evenly and beautifully and get crispy on the outside.  I served mine with lemon hummus…because I had it in my fridge, believe it or not.

As for how it tasted…well…I’m ambivalent.  On its own, I wasn’t impressed.  It was bland and a little…dry(?), I suppose.  There was a small hint of garlic flavor, but nothing that really stood out.  Now, when I paired the Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with the lemon hummus…magic.  It worked.  The hummus brought it out.  True falafel…nope.  Nowhere near it.  A passing acquaintance…definitely.  Would I purchase it again…eh…probably not.  It wasn’t bad…it just didn’t blow me away.  It didn’t make me reminisce about the days of falafel from the nearby Mediterranean restaurant.  It just made me long for those days all over again.  It just wasn’t everything I hoped it would be.

Let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  The Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel is made from fava beans, chickpeas, quinoa, potato starch, garlic powder, spices, onion powder, and salt.  This mix is gluten-free, cholesterol free, and dairy-free.  There is also an option for baking the falafel, but I always find a pan fry seems to work best on such products.

A serving of Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel is 1/4 cup dry mix, or about 2.5 small falafel patties.  As I was making a dinner out of this, my roommate and I split the entire box, making 5 falafel patties for each of us.  One serving, however, would give you 150 calories and 1 gram of fat.  A serving will also provide you with 150 mg sodium and only 1 gram of sugar.  Loving that.  One serving will give you 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein, making this a very filling and long-lasting meal choice.  You won’t be hungry immediately following your meal.  Trust me.

While this ended up being quite a filling meal, the lack of taste and proper texture just sort of left me half empty.  When paired with a dipping sauce or spread…this was amazing.  But on it’s own, there was nothing that stood out or made me wish I had more boxes of this in my pantry.  Decent…but not a favorite.

Recipe: Sweet Chili Vegetable Quinoa Bowl

On Friday, I was quickly scrolling through the blogs I follow on WordPress and came across a blog from Clean Eating Veggie Girl, who posted this amazing recipe for a quinoa bowl, inspired by her friend Molly.  I had virtually everything necessary to make this meal, save for an onion and some frozen stir-fry vegetables, which I could easily pick up at the store over the weekend and prepare this for dinner Sunday evening.

I actually spent most of my day helping my roomie’s sister paint some of her house…so grocery shopping actually didn’t get completed until much later, and it was past 6 p.m. by the time I back to my apartment to cook.  Thankfully, this is a super-easy and super-fast meal to create.

Oh…and super delicious too!

Recipe: Sweet Chili Vegetable Quinoa Bowl

Sweet Chili Vegetable Quinoa Bowl

Sweet Chili Vegetable Quinoa Bowl

Servings: 2
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup dry + 1 cup water)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (I used 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 16 oz bag frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • 1/8 cup Bragg’s liquid aminos (I used San-J Gluten Free Low Sodium Tamari)
  • 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
  • Sriracha sauce, optional
  • 2 to 3 large eggs, optional*

*Recipe is vegan without the eggs

 

Directions:

If you do not already have the quinoa cooked, prepare according to package directions.

Line a large skillet with a thin layer of water.  Heat over medium-high heat until very hot.  Once hot, lower the heat to medium and add garlic, ginger, and onions to the pan.  Cook for approximately 5 minutes, adding additional water as necessary.

Add frozen stir-fry vegetables to the skillet.  Cover with a lid and cook for approximately 5 minutes.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, turn the heat to low and stir in cooked quinoa.

Add liquid aminos/tamari sauce and sweet chili sauce to the skillet.  Stir until well-combined.  Cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until your vegetable and quinoa mixture is hot.

If you are adding an egg to the bowls, cook each one to your liking during the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking time.  I poached mine, but fried or scrambled would work as well.

Scoop the vegetable and quinoa mixture into bowls and, if desired, drizzle with sriracha sauce and top with an egg.

~*~*~

This quinoa bowl is fantastic.  It’s a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy.  And if you love eggs, the runny yolk from a poached egg just really ties the entire meal together.  I was beyond impressed.  It was nice to create a healthy, protein-rich meal for dinner after such a busy day.  I also appreciated how quickly the entire meal came together.  Fantastic.

Product Review: Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry's Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Product: Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie – $2.75+

I want to thank Cuisine Cube for one of the most epic products ever to arrive in my box.  No…this is for real.  Because in September, my cube included a cookie.  But this cookie was not there for dessert.  Nope.  It was clearly the item intended for breakfast.

A cookie.

For breakfast.

Being that I am a cookie monster, this totally made my day…my week…my month…perhaps even my year!

And, after running in the New York Marathon and then the Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I was running out of food in my apartment.  And it was a gym morning.  And grocery shopping had yet to happen.  To much travel time (not time travel, LOL!).  Okay, there really isn’t such a thing, but sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to go to work and get the much-needed grocery shopping done.  And this was a morning I was at a loss as to what to have after hitting up the gym.

And then I remembered the cookie I had toted around with me to both New York City and Disney World…just in case I needed something to eat at some point.  I never had to break into it on the go…but it was just the thing I needed when I returned home.  Go figure.

The Lisa Harris Pantry‘s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie is literally what it sounds like: a cookie intended to eat…for breakfast.  I love being an adult.  HA!

After getting in a good cardio session that morning, I ambled into work and was ready to settle in with something to eat before really beginning my day.  This cookie was so convenient.  It required no toaster oven, no microwave, and no hassles.  All I had to do was open up the wrapper and enjoy.  And that’s exactly what I did.  The cookie was actually quite large, about the size of a small mason jar lid.  And it’s thick too – a perfect drop cookie.  I could see the bits of diced apples and the flecks of cinnamon throughout the entire cookie.  It looked like a great balance.  I also expected these cookies to be hard.  But, while they had a crispy-ish outer edge, the center was soft and chewy and amazing.  For real.  It was, however, very sweet…due in part to the apples, apple flavoring, and the agave.  So, I almost wish I had something savory to pair with it because it was borderline almost too sweet.  But, it is, after all, a cookie.  I thought the flavor was amazing though.  I loved seeing the ingredients in the cookie.  And I loved the boost of protein that came from the quinoa.  As we know, I am always watching my protein intake due to my dietary needs (gluten-free/lactose free/vegetarian).  And being so active…protein is a vital part of my diet.  So, that was a huge win with me.  I loved the texture.  It wasn’t dry at all.  Had the sweetness been tampered down even slightly, I think it would have been the new breakfast of champions.  That being said, I would love to try the other flavor of breakfast cookies that are offered by Lisa Harris Pantry.  Because, every day should start with “dessert first.”

So, let’s talk about the ingredients that go into the Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie.  This flavor cookie is made from organic rice flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, quinoa flour, gluten free rolled oats, agave, egg whites, organic diced apples, lecithin, non gmo canola oil, milled flax seed, xantham gum, cinnamon, natural apple flavoring (whole foods compliant), salt.  All ingredients are non-GMO.  And this particular cookie is dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, high in fiber, high in protein, and low in sugar.  YES…a cookie that is low in sugar.

While on that subject, let’s go ahead and tackle that all-important nutrition information, yes?  A serving of Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie is one entire cookie.  And trust me…these thick and moist cookies are definitely filling.  One cookie will give you 245 calories and 8 grams of fat.  They are cholesterol free.  Each cookie has 69 mg sodium and 11 grams of sugar.  In addition, you will be getting filled up with 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein!  These are definitely hunger satisfying, naturally energizing and perfect for any time of the day, not just breakfast.  But the slow-release carbohydrates will definitely keep you going for hours without even the slightest bit of hunger.

I didn’t believe for a moment that a cookie could fill me up, particularly on a gym morning when I tend to be ravenous.  But it did.  If it weren’t for the sweetness, I think this cookie would be the perfect way to start the day.  I mean, who doesn’t like dessert for breakfast?  I definitely want to check out the other gluten-free options (not all of the products at Lisa Harris Pantry are gluten free) now.  And without Cuisine Cube, I never would have even know these existed!

Another great product brought into my life thanks to Cuisine Cube!

Lisa Harris Pantry's Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

 

 

Product Review: Nature’s Path Organic Gluten Free Mesa Sunrise Cereal

Nature's Path Organic Gluten Free Mesa Sunrise Cereal

Nature’s Path Organic Gluten Free Mesa Sunrise Cereal

Product: Nature’s Path Organic Gluten Free Mesa Sunrise Cereal – $4.39+

Okay…here’s the awful truth.  The moment I pulled this box down from my pantry this morning and looked at the cover I said a silent prayer.  Seriously.  I had to.  I was really concerned that, sort of like the last flaky cereal I ate (sorry Freedom Foods…I love you but…NO!), these would taste like cardboard.  There is nothing worse, especially in this day and age, than getting a gluten-free product and having it taste like…a box.  It just shouldn’t happen.

So, with much trepidation, I opened up the box and scooped out a serving of the cereal.  I snagged a couple of the flakes…just ready to get angry at myself for risking my morning cereal tradition with a new flavor, despite being made by a company I trust.  It didn’t work out for me with Freedom Foods (and I love all the other stuff I tried of theirs…just not that one cereal!)…so I begin to doubt ALL the brand names now.

This…is the life of a Celiac…who is still taking risks and trying new stuff.  I mean, hey, I can’t just stick with the classics.  Well, I could, but what fun would that be.

Nature’s Path has an entire line of organic cereals and a good number of them are gluten-free.  I’ve treated myself to many of their Envirokidz cereals in the past, as well as these “adult” cereals…you know…the ones with actual flakes from ancient grains and no cute animals on the box.  I guess sometimes I do need to act my age.  HA!  Anyway…this was one of the ones that was on sale when I was out shopping for cereal…and it intrigued me at the time.  The sale price, I guess…more than anything.  I am a girl on a tight budget…sometimes I see gluten-free and a sale sticker and that’s what goes in my shopping basket.

The Mesa Sunrise Flakes cereal is a naturally sweetened ceral of crunchy, golden flakes that are made from a blend of Indian corn, flax, and amaranth. Completely gluten-free.  They look like speckled corn flakes, honestly.  And, perhaps, that’s exactly what they are.  But…upon first appearance I had that initial thought:

“Oh…these are going to taste like cardboard…and for the next week…I’ll have to choke them down.”

So, those couple of flakes I snagged from the serving I dished up in my cereal bowl were the primary test.  And…

They were not just good, but really good.

First of all, the texture is great.  You get this perfect crunch with each bite…so you feel like you’re eating something substantial that won’t go soggy in 30 seconds once you top off your cereal with almond milk…or whatever you like to put on your cereal.  That was a huge plus.  But the most surprising thing was the flavor.  I thought these would be bland and dry, but they weren’t.  In fact, they had this nice touch of sweetness to them, the result of sweet corn and the addition of evaporated cane juice, I’m sure.  But it had this great flavor and I could tell that it would stick with me after I ate it…unlike most gluten-free cereals, which tend to be laden with sugar and less protein and fiber.  I burn through those.  This actually felt substantial.  And healthy.  And good!  And being made from some great whole grains does help make this a well rounded and delicious breakfast.

Let’s talk about these ingredients for a moment, shall we?  The Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise Flakes are made with organic corn meal, organic yellow corn flower, organic evaporated cane juice, organic flax, organic buckwheat flour, organic quinoa, organic amaranth, sea salt, and tocopherols (natural vitamin E).  These flakes are gluten-free and cholesterol free.

As far as nutrition goes, the Nature’s Path Organic Mesa Sunrise Flakes are a great way to start your day.  Very healthy.  A serving size is 3/4 cup.  In this serving, you will be taking in 120 calories and only 1 gram of fat.  This serving provides you with 125 mg sodium and only 4 grams of sugar.  And you will be consuming 3 grams of filling fiber and 3 grams of protein.  It’s a substantial and hearty cereal that is low in sugar (LOVE that!) and healthy thanks to being made from whole grains.  I am in love with this cereal.

Nature’s Path has become a reliable and easy-to-find brand when I’m searching for some gluten-free options.  Every cereal I have tried, both in their grown-up line and their Envirokidz line, have been outstanding.  No wonder this company is thriving.  If you need a healthy breakfast, I highly recommend trying the Nature’s Path Organic Mesa Sunrise Flakes.  Great cereal and a great way to start your day!

Restaurant Review: The Liffey Irish Pub, St. Paul, Minnesota

The Liffey Irish Pub, St. Paul, Minnesota

The Liffey Irish Pub, St. Paul, Minnesota

Restaurant: The Liffey Irish Pub, St. Paul, Minnesota

I finished.  I ran.  I walked.  I crossed the finish line of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.  And after all the hullabaloo at the finish line…the gathering of essentials like finisher’s medal, finisher’s shirt, banana, water, photos, chocolate milk, salty snacks, and so on…I met up with my adoring public…Heather and Cathy.  They were at the designated spot at the runner reunion area.  And the night before we had made noises of checking out a pub after my run.

It has sort of become a thing…we either do a pub or Mexican food after I run a marathon.

You don’t mess with a thing.

Bad things happen when you mess with…a thing.

So, it just so happened that a great Irish pub in St. Paul, called The Liffey Irish Pub, wasn’t but a couple of blocks away from the finish area.  While I was getting some compressions socks on and a different pair of shoes, Heather called ahead to see what the wait would be like.  It turned out we were in between the rushes.  So, after I stretched for a moment, we decided to pack up and make the hike to the pub.  It was a slow hike…my foot, my ankle, my legs were killing me.  I had never felt like this after a marathon…but I’d been injured (still was) and couldn’t train.  It sucked, but my friends were more than willing to work with me.

Our good friend, Paul, whom we met through the big U2 summer of concert madness a couple years ago, met us there.  He had been one of the group at Mile 17 and had said he could join us for lunch.  I stepped inside and immediately was given a hug.  We were immediately seated by the hostess, but before hitting up the table, Cathy and I ducked into the bathroom so I could get out of my running clothes and into something more comfortable (yoga pants and a t-shirt!).  We found the table where Paul and Heather were seated and I started looking at the menu.

Usually it takes me awhile to be hungry, but at this point, I was hungry.  Amazingly enough.  And, also a plus, we knew from the Internet search, that The Liffey had a gluten-free menu.  And when our drink orders were taken (water for starters and then Heather and Paul got drinks with their food), we were given the opportunity to think about what to eat.  Easy here.  For the non-vegetarian and gluten-free (my dining compatriots), it seemed that Fish and Chips (Heather & Paul got the North Atlantic Cod – $14.00; Cathy got the Canadian Walleye – $15.00) was the pub grub of choice (naturally!).  For me…the Quinoa Salad ($9.75) sounded like the meal of choice.  Ideal for recovery too!

Orders in…and we started talking about everything we had been up to…and U2 stuff…and all that jazz.  In fact, we were so busy talking that it took us a moment to realize that the tray that came in a little later had our food on it!  I think we were all ready to eat.  Paul actually got his fish and chips with a Guinness and Heather got hers with a delicious Strongbow cider.  Mmmm.  I was feeling dehydrated so it was water only for me with my meal…this time.

The Liffey Irish Pub's Quinoa Salad

The Liffey Irish Pub’s Quinoa Salad

The Quinoa Salad was a fantastic bed of spinach that contained quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, capers, basil, and avocado.  All these amazing vegetables and grains were tossed with a fantastic, and highly delicious lime vinaigrette.  The quinoa and spinach were great protein for after the run. And I loved the flavor.  I didn’t actually expect the sweet potatoes to be cold, but didn’t mind it in this salad.  While I’m not a huge fan of capers, the salty and vinagery flavor complimented the lime vinaigrette and the earthy vegetables in the salad.  I enjoyed this salad down to the last bite.  Amazing.  And it takes a lot to amaze me when it comes to salad.  This one hit all the right notes…and was like no other salad I’ve had before.

I like different.

I also like being able to enjoy a dessert when I go out to eat.  And there happened to be a few that I could indulge in here at The Liffey Irish Pub.  Oh, St. Paul…you’re winning me over with this gem of an Irish pub.  A fruit cup was an option.  Or the local Izzy’s Ice Cream (flavors unknown).  But the one that interested me was the gluten-free version of their S’more Pot du Crème.  We asked for four spoons.

The Gluten Free S’more ($5.50) was a rich chocolate custard with Izzy’s Vanilla Bean ice cream.  All of this was topped off with a fantastic marshmallow fluff brûlée.  It sounded beyond delicious.  And when it came out…all four of us dove in.  Seriously.  Four spoons dipped into the toasted marshmallow top, through that layer of vanilla ice cream and touching that decadent chocolate custard.

BEST. DESSERT. EVER.

We licked that bowl clean.  While I was glad there were four of us going after this dessert, I probably could have eaten the entire thing by myself without feeling any regrets.  It was so good.  The rich custard with the cold ice cream and the warm, fluffy nature of the fluff was the perfect combination.  It felt like I was eating a delicious s’more at a campfire.  But better.  This was just…the best campground treat elevated to restaurant quality.  High class.  Amazing.  I was wishing for one more bite once we polished it off.

It was unanimous, really.

BEST. DESSERT. EVER.

Should I say it again?

BEST.  DESSERT. EVER.

I was way beyond satisfied when I shuffled out of their with my friends.  We each said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  Paul one way, Heather to take us to our car and then meet up with us at my grandpa’s house so I could shower and then we could keep me moving by walking the Mall of America.

Where I bought a fantastic dress…

But, that’s of no consequence.  What is, however, is the fact that, without hesitation, without any doubt, I would eagerly return to eat at The Liffey, in St. Paul, Minnesota, whenever I happened to be in the area.  Forget any other pubs that might be more convenient to where I am in Minneapolis.  This one blew me away.  And, I of course would have to get another taste of the…BEST.  DESSERT.  EVER.

Yep…I’ll be back.  Count on it!

The Liffey's Gluten-Free S'more (aka: BEST. DESSERT. EVER.)

The Liffey’s Gluten-Free S’more (aka: BEST. DESSERT. EVER.)