Quick Thoughts From the Week

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

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

MEH.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

I love getting chefy.

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

Product Review: Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix

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Gluten Free Sugar Cookies made from Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix (and topped with Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting and sprinkles)

Product: Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix – $3.99+

I blame my neighbor.  I do.  Because she knows how much I like to cook and bake and make tasty treats for myself, my roomie, my friends, my co-workers, and just…people in general.  So, while she was out at one of the discount stores, she snagged me four (4)…yes…FOUR…boxes of the Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix and one (1) box of the Immaculate Baking Company’s Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough.  I love it when she surprises me with gluten free goodies.

All that being said…I was out at Michael’s a couple of weekends ago and spotted a T-Rex cookie cutter.  Don’t judge.  My roommate loves dinosaurs.  Yes…she’s in her mid-30s…but…that’s just who she is.  And then…there was the Unicorn cookie cutter.  UNICORN COOKIE CUTTER.  I used to have a unicorn collection.  I am a Boston Marathon runner.  Unicorns are sort of my spirit animal.

Now, sugar cookies and I don’t have the best relationship.  Every time I have attempted to make them, be it from a mix or from scratch…they have been ultimate fail.  And, while the Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix gives instructions for round cookies, I really wanted to make cut-out cookies.  So, learning from my past in sugar cookie baking, I made up the dough and wrapped it in Saran wrap before sticking it in the back of the fridge and letting it chill while I was out and about running errands that day.

That afternoon, when I returned…and called my dad to wish him a Happy Father’s Day…I set out rolling out the chilled dough between two pieces of plastic wrap, flattening it out.  Then, I took my new cookie cutters and carefully (there were some really tiny parts that were not easy to come out of the cookie cutter (hello unicorn horn)) cut out T-Rex and Unicorn shapes as I chatted with my dad.  The mix set up perfectly for this…and I kept it chilling when I wasn’t using it.  So, onto a baking sheet these cookies went and…BAM…into a preheated 375°F oven.

So, while these are virtually baking in my blog, let me tell you how easy this mix is to make.  All you need is the cookie mix, 1/2 cup of butter (I used Earth Balance Vegan Butter Sticks – room temperature), 1 tablespoon water, and 1 egg.  Simply combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until soft dough is formed.  From here, you can form dough by rounded teaspoons and put onto a baking sheet 2 inches apart…or you can chill it like I did (this was me being stubborn…I wanted cut-out cookies, dammit!) and roll it out after it’s chilled and cut out fun shapes like dinosaurs and unicorns.  Adults can have fun-shaped sugar cookies too, you know?

I lost track on the first batch as my dad was a fun and worthwhile distraction.  These bake for about 8-10 minutes, except in my oven, because it is old and doesn’t get as warm as it says at times.  So, the cookies weren’t ready after 10 minutes, so I figured I’d go for 2 more minutes.  Didn’t set a timer, and as I was rolling out the second batch and chatting with my dad…remembered those were in there and pulled them out.  The edges got a little toasted, but they were still fine.  I noted, much to my dad’s amusement, that the unicorns became fat unicorns.  They did spread slightly…but still resembled the original shape.

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T-Rex and Unicorn Cut-Out Sugar Cookies made from Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix

While out grocery shopping early that weekend, I picked up a jar of Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting.  And some green sparkle sprinkles for the dinosaur cookies.  I had rainbow sprinkles at home already for the unicorn cookies. HA!  So, after the cookies cooled and I was off the phone and not browning the edges of the rest of the cookies, I cooked dinner…and knew these cookies would be dessert.

I snagged one T-Rex and one Unicorn cookie and gave each a schmear of the Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting.  Topped each off with some sprinkles…and dessert was ready.

I have been really impressed with the Pillsbury Gluten Free products, and these were no exception.  This mix was not only easy to make…but tasted great.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for sugar cookies (I used to bake them with all the neighborhood kids at a neighbor’s home every Christmas)…because they are so versatile.  Top them off with frosting, sprinkles, stuff them with ice cream, or more frosting…add nuts or chocolate chips…the possibilities are endless.  Sugar cookies are the ultimate decoration cookie.  And while I’m not big on frosting at all (I really am not a fan), these required delicious frosting (hence…Dollop Gourmet), and sprinkles…because sprinkles are awesome.

Know what else is awesome?  These cookies.  They have that buttery flavor, with a touch of the sweetness from the sugar in the mix.  I asked my roommate what she thought and she said they tasted just like “regular” sugar cookies.  And they should.  The only difference is rice flour and tapioca starch and potato starch replace the all-purpose flour that would go into regular ones.  These cookies have that nice crunch on the outer edge with a soft center.  SO good.  And this made SO many of these.  So, I have sugar cookies for days…and am wondering if I’ll ever run out at this point.  At least they are amazing and yummy.

So, let’s discuss what Pillsbury puts into their Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix, shall we?  This mix is a blend of sugar, rice flour, tapioca starch, canola oil, potato startch, contains 2% or less of: salt, baking soda, cellulose, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, natural and artificial flavors.

As for nutrition information…keep in mind…these are sugar cookies.  Mmmm…cookies.  COOKIE MONSTER strikes again.  Anyway, a serving size is 1/18th of the mix (if you make the drop cookies, this box makes 3 dozen; if you make the cut-out cookies, it varies.  I got 22 cookies in mine).  A serving size (for drop) is 2 cookies and for the cut-outs 1 cookie.  This serving (when prepared per package instructions) will provide you with 160 calories, 6 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams sugars, 1 gram protein.

I am very happy with the mix that Pillsbury has created for those of us who, perhaps, missed the amazing cookies that a company like Pillsbury puts out.  I am also intending to use a box of this to make Strawberry Streusel Bars or Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars for the office birthday party that is happening next week.  Just have to decide on which one I want to make.  Trust me, with an office that usually turns its nose up at anything that is gluten-free, I wouldn’t serve this mix to them if I didn’t think it was worth it.

Thank you, Pillsbury, for making gluten-free baking mixes for those of us who love to have an easier and more convenient way to make cookies.  Especially sugar cookies.  Because sugar cookies are evil. But this was so easy and my cut-out cookies were…perfect.

And that always makes this cookie monster happy!!

Recipe: Gluten Free & Dairy Free Lemon Blueberry Scones

So, this past weekend, I did something I have never done before…but, believe it or not…it was on my Summer Bucket List.  I went and picked blueberries.  Yes…I went out…in nature…to a local blueberry farm and spent 2 hours with my roommate, Cathy, picking over 10 pounds of blueberries.

What does one do with 10 pounds of blueberries, you might ask.

Well…I make a killer blueberry jam.  And I did that with 5 pounds of them.  And then…before we even picked them, back when only jam was in the plan, she kept saying that I was going to make Lemon Blueberry Scones.  This was news to me…but I seriously hate to disappoint.  So, after spending an afternoon making gluten-free sugar cookies and then…my famous blueberry jam…I got to work on some scones.

I LOVE scones, but haven’t made them in quite a long time.  But…any excuse for scones, right?  So…I got to work and this is what I baked up…

Recipe: Gluten Free & Dairy Free Lemon Blueberry Scones

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Servings: 8
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Bake 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour, plus more for hands and work surface (I used 1-2-3 Gluten Free All-Purpose)
  • 6 Tablespoons (75g) granulated sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup (115g) vegan butter, cold and grated (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) coconut cream
  • 1 large egg (or egg replacer)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Adjust baking rack to the middle-low position.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.

Grate the cold butter (I use a box grater; a food processor also works).  Toss the grated butter into the flour mixture and combine it with a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the cream, egg, and vanilla together. Drizzle it over the flour mixture and then toss the mixture together with a rubber spatula until everything appears moistened.

Slowly and gently fold in the blueberries. Try your best to not overwork the dough at any point. Dough will be a little wet.

Work the dough into a ball with floured hands as best you can and transfer to a floured surface.  Press into a neat 8″ disc and cut into 8 equal wedges with a very sharp knife. Place scones at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush top with extra coconut cream and sprinkle with lemon (or plain) turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

To make the glaze, simply whisk the confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice together until smooth. Add 1 Tablespoon of lemon zest.  Drizzle glaze over scones.

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These scones are best enjoyed right away, although leftover scones will keep at room temperature for 2 days.  These freeze well for up to three months.  Just thaw overnight in the refrigerator and heat up to your liking.

Want an amazing way to start your day…you gotta bake up some of these!!  ENJOY!

Winding Up A Windy Week

Whew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Cupcake of the Week

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

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

4.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe: Gluten Free (and Dairy Free) Lemon Blossoms

This is, by far, one of the most popular recipes I bake up on a regular basis.  Why?  Because I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love these.  Everyone loves citrus, right?  Seriously, I’ve had people who don’t like sweets devour these.

My friend, Jenn, introduced me to this recipe, and we just sort of tweaked it to fit my dietary needs.

I think I might need to make these for the next Saturday group run…for afterwards, of course.  Anyway, I do get asked for this recipe often, and it occurred to me I never did throw it up on my blog.  My friend, Megan, is the reason this is happening now.  Trust me…long overdue!!

Without further adieu…

Recipe: Gluten Free (and Dairy Free) Lemon Blossoms

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Gluten Free (and Dairy Free) Lemon Blossoms

Servings: ~60 mini muffins (5 dozen)
Time: Prep 12 minutes; Bake 12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 18 .5 ounce package gluten-free yellow cake mix or vanilla cake mix
  • 3.4 ounce package instant lemon pudding mix
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil


Ingredients for Glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons water


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Spray miniature muffin tins with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and oil and blend well with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Pour a small amount of batter, filling each muffin tin half way. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn out onto a tea towel

To make the glaze, sift the sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, zest, oil, and water. Mix with a spoon until smooth.

Dip each muffins into the glaze while they’re still warm, covering as much of the cake as possible, or spoon the glaze over the warm muffins, turning them to completely coat. Place on wire racks with waxed paper underneath to catch any drips. Let the glaze set thoroughly, about 1 hour, before storing in containers with tight-fitting lids.

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I love how easy these are to make and how delicious they are.  I never have a problem when I get asked to make these.  I have whipped them up at the last minute for things too.

So, tomorrow, these beauties are coming to the office with me.  These are a total favorite among the peeps at the office.  So, in honor of my roommate’s birthday (she LOVES lemon)…these help kick off a weekend of birthday fun!

ENJOY!!

Life’s Too Short to Miss the Sweeter Things

Two fun facts about me:

1. I love eating healthy
2. I love sweets (especially chocolate)

What we have here, my friends, is a constant battle of sheer willpower.  But, the fact of the matter is…sometimes you just have to find a way to treat yourself.  Naturally, I stick to my necessary gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian lifestyle…however, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy some of the finer things in life.

That being said, 2016 is a year of change for me.  I’m trying to improve myself, my body, my soul, my mindset…I’m trying to reach both long-term and short-term goals.  And part of that is definitely making certain tweaks to the diet.

I’m not saying I am cutting out sweets and desserts entirely.  That’s inhuman.  But, I am cutting back on them.  And once the current ones in the pantry are moved out…they aren’t coming back in.  I buy gluten-free…so I’m too cheap to just toss the stuff away.

That being said, I’m always game for trying new ways to make an indulgence healthier.  And awhile back, the amazing Lottie Bildirici, better known in the social media world as “Running on Veggies” posted about the treat she made for Kara Goucher (yes…THE Kara Goucher) when she was coming to NYC to run the NYC Marathon.  Kara chose blondies as her treat and Bildirici got to work researching and coming up with a recipe that would not only seem like a treat, but be made with real ingredients, nothing processed, and be healthy.  When the recipe posted, I was beyond intrigued.  Granted, my foray into baking using beans as a base resulted in brownies that tasted like black beans, so I did have my reservations going into this…but I decided to give it a try.

Blondies made without flour…and by using garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and dates as the sweetener.  Well…there was only one way to find out how this would turn out.  I hoped for the best, since Kara Goucher was a fan…but…hey…some things you have to try yourself.

So this was what I put into my food processor this past Sunday afternoon:

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Everything but the dairy-free dark chocolate chips, that is.  Any nut butter (or nut-free butter) will work, but I’m a huge fan, and an ambassador, for NuttZo…and it really is the best stuff on the market.  Find it.  Trust me…it’s worth the price!

After giving everything a whirl in the food processor, I was left with a light and fluffy fatter.  I folded in the chocolate chips, sprayed down some muffin tins and began to evenly distribute the batter into 24 muffin tins.

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After baking for around 40 minutes, I removed the pans from the oven and let everything sit, untouched for over an hour.  At that point, I moved everything to a sheet pan (carefully) and then into the freezer.  But not without trying one.

First of all, they don’t taste bean-y…and they don’t taste like dates either.  They actually taste like a decadent little dessert or muffin.  Especially when warmed up in the microwave for about 30 seconds or longer.  Although, I love them frozen too…but I’m weird like that.  These are an amazing treat and one that I don’t feel bad about eating because…it was made from real food.

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I know a lot of people look down on those who enjoy a treat every now and again…but the fact of the matter is…we’ve got it all wrong.  Not all calories are created equal.  Just like now not all carbohydrates and fats are either.  That’s the being said, I am a firm believer in counting nutrition, not calories.  And that’s what making something like this is all about.

And trust me…they are SO good.

If you want to give them a try…you can get the recipe here!  They are easy to make, and delicious.  Trust me…you’ll want to keep these on hand!  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack or dessert…these are truly a delicious and healthy treat.

Eat real food.  These treats are more like a healthy choice than an indulgence.  And what’s not to love about that?!

Product Review: Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread + Recipe Bonus

Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

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

It has taken me way too long to review this product, for sure.  Which is strange, because I am very enthusiastic and happy with the Sprouted For Life Gluten Free breads from Food For Life.  In case you’re new to this blog, I have previously reviewed the other three varieties of the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Breads: Original 3 Seed, Almond, and Flax.

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.

But I think I was saving the Cinnamon Raisin version…because cinnamon raisin bread (or anything) has always been one of my greatest flavor loves in life.  I was very fortunate to have a loaf of each of Food For Life’s Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Breads to try.  I flew through the other three…but the Cinnamon Raisin version has waited a very long time for its turn to shine.

That being said, I am doing a lot of baking and cooking these days (okay…that’s not unusual for me…but I’m trying to create amazing foods with fresh, healthier ingredients).  And I had a thought about a bread pudding that would incorporate some of my favorite things in life: cinnamon raisin bread, peanut butter, banana, and coconut.

How could this be a bad thing?

And, thankfully, I had saved the loaf of the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread.  I pulled it out of the freezer this past weekend and allowed it to come down to room temperature (and thaw beautifully) before getting to work in my kitchen.  I pulled 12 slices of bread and cut them up into large cubes.  This bread is absolutely perfect for a bread pudding recipe as it is not a soft bread.  This bread is sturdy, and when eaten on its own, I prefer it toasted.  Although, I nipped a few of the cubes of bread, just to get a taste for it as I knew I’d be blogging on it.

Guess what?  Even not toasted, the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread is just layers of flavor.  Not only is each slice loaded with plump, juicy, organic raisins, but it has this nutty flavor to it as well.  It’s amazing.  I couldn’t wait to taste it toasted and in my recipe I was working on.

The beginnings of a Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter Coconut Bread Pudding using Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread
The beginnings of a Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter Coconut Bread Pudding using Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

After combining it with the other ingredients of the bread pudding, which also includes NuttZo Original Crunch 7 Nut and Seed Butter, a ripe banana, unsweetened coconut flakes, unsweetened cashew milk, Earth Balance, and 4 large eggs.  All of this went into my (vintage) Pyrex bowl, and I gave it a good toss and tucked it into the liquid, allowing the bread to really absorb the liquid for about 5 minutes.  Then…I loaded it into a baking pan and popped it into the oven.  I then proceeded to clean up my apartment, stopping briefly to really admire and fully absorb the fantastic smell that was coming from my oven.  Nutty and sweet…it smelled like heaven.  I am assuming, of course, that heaven smells like a bakery…and peanut butter.  And if so…I’m okay with that.

Once the bread pudding was set, I removed it from the oven, and barely allowed it to cool at all before cutting a small piece to give it a try.

OH…YEAH!!  While the flavor profile mostly goes to the peanut butter and coconut, the bread is the main vehicle of any bread pudding…and the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread was ideal…no…it was perfect…absolutely perfect, for this recipe.  The bread toasted up gorgeously, developing a richer, nuttier flavor to it after being toasted.  The raisins remained plump and sweet.  The edges of the bread…crispy…sweet…savory…and amazing.  The flavor of this bread meshed SO well with the other ingredients.  I fell in love with this cinnamon raisin bread…and that means it has to be good, due to my affinity for cinnamon raisin products.  Just…YUM!!

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread, shall we?  This particular type of bread is  made from organic sprouted quinoa (red and/or white), filtered water, organic arrowroot, organic potato starch, organic raisins, organic sprouted millet, organic tapioca, organic applesauce, fresh yeast, organic safflower oil, organic cactus, organic sprouted chia seeds, organic agave, organic vanilla organic cinnamon, sea salt, vegetable gum (xanthan, cellulose), and organic psyllium.  Made with sprouted chia, sprouted quinoa, and sprouted millet, this bread is a trio of health.  Not only is it made with sprouted grains (which are SO good for you!), it is also vegan, gluten-free, and high in fiber.  It is so rare for a gluten free bread to be high in fiber.  This is a welcome addition to my freezer.

Now let’s take a look at the nutritional information, because, honestly, in this day and age, it’s important to pay attention to those labels.  A serving of the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread is 1 slice of bread (43 grams).  This serving will dish up 110 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium, 22 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 5 grams sugars, 1 gram protein.  When I was first introduced to this bread, the high calories on only one slice of bread really freaked me out.  But, a good reminder is that not all calories are created equal and there is nothing fake…no colors, preservatives, or fillers…going into this bread.  It’s all healthy, all good, all nutritious.  It’s a great choice of bread for those of you who are (like me) really trying to eat clean.

Has this product sparked your interest?  I really encourage you to give it a try.  And…if you’re feeling saucy…you can always give the recipe for my bread pudding a go.

Recipe: Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter Coconut Bread Pudding

Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter Coconut Bread Pudding
Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter Coconut Bread Pudding

Servings: 12
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup organic unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 large ripe banana, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups unsweetened cashew milk
  • 1 cup NuttZo Crunchy Original 7 Nut & Seed Butter

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare an 9×13 inch pan with nonstick baking spray.

Cut the cinnamon raisin bread into cubes and place in a large bowl.

Drizzle melted butter over bread.

Add shredded coconut, banana slices, eggs, cashew milk and peanut butter; gently toss to combine and lightly push down until bread is covered and soaks up the liquid.

Once liquid is absorbed, pour into the baking dish.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top springs back when tapped.

Serve warm with a drizzle of blueberry (or maple…or any flavor) syrup, or additional peanut butter.

~*~*~

I absolutely adore how amazing this bread is, not just in this recipe, but on its own as well.  Depth of flavor is delicious.  And it baked up so well in the recipe, I couldn’t imagine making this again without using the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread.  I have a few extra slices left…so I can’t wait to toast them up next week, once I polish off this amazing bread pudding.

ENJOY!

 

Product Review: Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix + Recipe Bonus

Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix
Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix

Product: Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix – $8.75

So, this was it…my last Cuisine Cube…and this…this product was the last one that I had from the May (Is For Mom) 2015 Cuisine Cube that I received.  I had to cancel my subscription due to budget constraints…and that wasn’t an easy decision.  I loved…LOVED…this company and I loved discovering new products through them.

Yeah…that’s what Cuisine Cube is all about.  And one day, I sincerely hope to be able to go back to them and subscribe again.  That being said, before I get to the product that I lasted until now, let me tell you a little more about Cuisine Cube.

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

The last product from my May Is For Mom 2015 Cuisine Cube box was none other than the dessert product – Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake.  Why the long wait to use this?  Well, believe it or not, with as much of a sweet tooth I am…I am not really big on cake.  Secondly…I’m not a big fan of red velvet either.  Hence…the reason it sat so long on my shelf.  But, as I’m working on clearing out items from my pantry and fridge, prepping for a new year and new goals…this product was up.  And instead of baking a cake (again…not a fan of cake or red velvet), I decided to bake cookies.

Before I talk about the product any further, let me tell you a little about Rabbit Creek Products.  Rabbit Creek Products gets its name from a creek that runs through a small eastern Kansas town.  The founder, Donna Cook, a self-described “country girl” grew up in the heart of Kansas, offering a diverse array of food from traditional country with influences from Germany, Sweden, and other reaches of the world.  She founded Rabbit Creek Products determined to capture the taste of old fashioned cooking with a designer style and share it with people everywhere.  Her innovative mixes make Rabbit Creek a leader in the gourmet industry.  Cook was named business woman of the year in Kansas in 1995. Holding that title to its highest standard, Cook insists that Rabbit Creek does the same with their products.  Rabbit Creek has over 350 different mixes, including dips, soups, quick breads, beer breads, brownies, desserts, and scones mixes, among others.  And…now gluten free products have made their appearance on their product list.

Thanks to Cuisine Cube, I had the opportunity to try out the Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix.  As stated before…I am not a fan of cake nor of red velvet, so this was a tricky one.  But, instead of baking up a cake…I decided to attempt to make cake mix cookies out of this mix.  The recipe will follow below…and, I wasn’t exactly sure this was going to work…but I figured…I love cookies…why not give it a go?

By mixing the Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix with baking powder, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla and folding in Greek Yogurt baking chips…I actually managed to create a decent enough, fluffy, light dough that had a cake-y and a cookie-ish like texture to it.  I scooped it into little balls and placed the dough on a cookie sheet, forming 12 perfectly round cookies.  Then, I put them into a preheated oven and let them bake for about 12 minutes.  Out came amazing looking cookies.  I let them cool for a few minutes, then…it was time to test them out.

I will say this…Rabbit Creek Products really is elevating the world of mixes.  Honestly.  I was amazed with how well the Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake  Mix worked in this recipe.  I had my doubts, but what emerged were light, chewy, soft red velvet cookies that had great flavor and weren’t overly sweet.  One problem I usually have with red velvet is how sweet it tastes.  While these did taste like a treat, they weren’t overly sugary and helped me feel really good about choosing to make them into cookies rather than baking a cake.  The texture was soft, light, and amazing.  Chewy and delicious.  I brought these to work, and got so many compliments on how good these were!  Definitely impressed.

So, let’s talk about the ingredients that go into the Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix.  This mix is made from gluten free flour (rice flour, brown rice flour, modified potato starch, modified tapioca starch, modified corn starch, xanthan gum), sugar, cocoa, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, red dye #40 and natural and artificial flavor.  This product is made in a dedicated kitchen.

Now let’s talk nutrition!  The Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix contains 16 servings.  One serving of the package (about 17 grams) will dish up 60 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grans trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 13 grams carbohydrats, less than 1 gram fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

And here’s how I made the cookies…with a recipe loosely based off of the Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies made by Sally’s Baking Addiction.  I just made changes where I needed for weight of the mix and measure of ingredients.  But it worked like a charm!

Recipe: Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies

Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies made from Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix
Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies made from Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix

Servings: 12
Time: Prep 5 minutes; Bake 12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (9.6 oz) Rabbit Creek Products Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons vegetable/canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt Baking Chips (or White Chocolate Chips would work!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix and baking powder. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla by hand. Add the egg mixture to the cake mixture and stir to form a dough- stir vigorously until all of the pockets of dry cake mix are gone. Gently mix in the the baking chips chips.

Drop rounded balls of dough, about 2 tablespoons each, onto prepared baking sheet. Stick a few more chocolate chips on top of the cookie dough balls if you want them for looks, if desired. Make sure the balls of dough are taller than they are wide.

Bake for 10-12 minutes not allowing the cookies get brown. Cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes; they will be very soft at first. As they cool, the tops may settle down; press them down gently with your fingers if they are not sinking much. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

~*~*~

Seriously…this cake mix made amazing chewy, deliciously flavorful, yummy red velvet cookies.  And this from someone who is not a fan of red velvet or cake.  HA!  I do love cookies though.  And the addition of the baking chips definitely was a nice touch.

So, thank you, Cuisine Cube, for the introduction to the products that Rabbit Creek puts out.  And if any of you want to give their products I try, I urge you to visit their Web page and place an order.

Recipe: Gluten Free Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter Waffles

So…it’s a thing that we do whenever there is a weekend at my friend Jenn’s house (aka: Weekend at Jenn’s)…where we bake up or cook up something different, fun, unsual, and (hopefully) delicious every Sunday morning.  It’s nice because it’s a great way to spend the morning, and, it means that Cathy and I depart with full bellies to get us home to Louisville.  It’s a fun little tradition.  And, both Jenn and I make it a point to find interesting recipes to attempt each time.

Except, as this past weekend approached, we realized we hadn’t done our usual scouring of Pinterest for something new, exciting and fun.  So, aside from the Pink Salad (a must!) that she makes and that we managed to eat in 2 days, we thought of revisiting the the Gluten Free Strawberry Breakfast Cake, which we made the last time we were there.  And, while this was definitely a tasty option, I was in the mood to try something new.

And, for some reason, I was thinking waffles!

So, after a bit of google-fu, I stumbled across the website Buttercream Blondie: Flirt With Desserts.  And the google search that brought me there involved Magners Irish Cider (the best hard cider!) and the word…WAFFLES.  Hence, her recipe for the Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter Waffles.  Jenn and I simply had to swap out the flour with some of the gluten-free ones she keeps on hand (because she is awesome like that!) and we had breakfast in the making.  We also adjusted some of the measurements because we were not going to open up a bottle of Magners and only use part of it at 8 am in the morning.  Not happening.  So, below is the adjusted recipe to fit my diet and what we had on hand!  Guess what…theses were phenomenal.

Mickey shape not required…but with a Disney trip in the planning stages, I figured it was appropriate!

Recipe: Gluten Free Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter Waffles

Gluten Free Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter (Mickey) Waffles
Gluten Free Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter (Mickey) Waffles

Servings: 7-8 (depending on waffle iron)
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Cook 10 min per waffle

Ingredients for Waffles:

  • 2 cups Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (we used King Arthur Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, browned (or Earth Balance Vegan Butter)
  • 1 bottle Magners Irish Cider
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (or non-dairy milk)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for Magners Syrup:

  • 1 bottle Magners Irish Cider
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or Earth Balance vegan butter)

Directions:

Make the syrup.

Bring Magners and light brown sugar to a boil in a medium-size sauce pan.

Reduce heat to medium and allow mixture to buble away for about 10-20 minutes.  It should reduce down to about 5 ounces or so.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.

Meanwhile…make the waffles.

Brown the butter.  To do this, simply start melting butter over medium heat in a pan with a light-colored bottom so that you can keep track of the color.  Swirl the pan occasionally to be sure that the butter is cooking evening.  As it melts, the butter will begin to foam and the color will progress from lemony-yellow to golden-tan, and finally, a toasty-brown.  Once you smell that nutty aroma, take the pan off the heat and transfer the browned butter to a heat-proof bowl to cool.

Heat the waffle iron.

In a bowl or measuring cup, mix together the milk (dairy or non-dairy), vanilla extract, and 2 egg yolks.

In a larger bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar).

Add the cider, milk-yolk-vanilla mixture, and browned butter to the dry ingredients and whisk together until smooth.

Whip up 2 egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Spoon into waffle iron and cook until golden brown.

ENJOY!

~*~*~

Let me start by saying that I think that this syrup is the best syrup I have ever had the pleasure of drinking…er…pouring over my waffles.  It is sweet and delicious and amazing.  And yes…tastes like Magners (aka: BEST HARD CIDER EVER!).  And when paired with a waffle, that has a batter that is prepared with the fizzy goodness of Magners, well, you have a winning combination.  The waffles were crispy, golden, amazing on the outside, and boozy, soft, and warm on the inside.  It was Disney Boozy Breakfast perfection.  And I was one happy waffle-eating gluten-free girl.

This recipe is phenomenal.  Especially the syrup.  Just don’t over reduce the syrup or you’ll end up with Magners caramel…which happened to us on our first attempt to make the syrup.  We ended up with boozy Magners caramels though, so it all worked out okay. And the second batch of syrup cooked up perfectly while I made Mickey waffles with the boozy-good batter.  Best. Breakfast. Ever.

 

Recipe: Gluten-Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

All you naysayers beware!!  Just because something is gluten free and dairy free does not immediately mean it will be flavorless or taste like cardboard.  I don’t know what cardboard tastes like since I’ve never had the urge to lick it or anything, but I promise you…this recipe will surpass all your expectations.

I was looking for a different sort of snickerdoodle treat to bake up for my amazing friends and neighbors downstairs.  They had a rough couple of weeks, but with things starting to turn around, I wanted to make something to celebrate.  That being said, I set out to bake up something snickerdoodle, that wasn’t necessarily the cookies themselves.  I still have to play around with my mom’s snickerdoodle cookie recipe and attempt to convert it to gluten and dairy free.

So…I found a recipe on The Cool York and changed it up to fit the diet they are starting out following, which just so happens to coincide with mine.  BONUS!!

Snickerdoodle Blondies…are life changing.

Recipe: Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies
Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

Servings: 16
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2-2/3 cups gluten-free baking flour (I used Mina’s Purely Divine Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (2 sticks) softened
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the butter & brown sugar in the mixing bowl and cream together.

Add in the 2 eggs until combined.

Add the baking powder to the mixture. Now, add in the flour.

Line a 9 x 13 baking sheet (or 8 x 8 if you prefer them thicker, like me) with parchment paper. Spread the batter over the pan.

Combine the white sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle generously over the batter.

Bake in the oven for 28-32 minutes (up to 40-45 min if using the 8 x 8 pan like I did).

Take out of the oven and let cool before serving!

Slice & enjoy

~*~*~

These blondies baked up light and soft and chewy and amazing.  Seriously.  I took half of the recipe and gave the rest to them.  I am beyond words with how well this worked out, honestly.  Totally delicious.  I especially loved the gooey and rich texture that these had.  I warmed mine up for about 20 seconds in the microwave and WOW!!  Just WOW!!  The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of both sugar and cinnamon to top…but that was really heavy on the cinnamon.  So I reduced it to 1/3 of the amount and it was that perfect sweet/spicy level.  If you like snickerdoodles…you’re absolutely going to love these.  And…if you don’t have to eat gluten-free or dairy free…regular flour and butter can be used, of course.

I can’t wait to make these again.