Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – Louisville, KY (April 29, 2017)

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

This was it.  This was the terminus of my job as a 2016-2017 #KDFMarathon/miniMarathon Race Ambassador.  And it was race day.  RACE DAY!!  I love race day!

And, trust me, it took me a lot of sweat and tears to be able to get to that start line.  Because if you had asked me in January, when my hip flexor froze up, if I would have been able to run it…I wouldn’t have been too sure.  As it was, I had to drop from the full to the half…so there was that.

I wanted to be stubborn and just do it.  I’m not a newbie to marathons.  I have run 11 of them total, but I also haven’t really been able to train for one since I ran the Charleston Marathon in January 2015.  Boston was a bust.  And Kauai…well…it didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem and “can-do” marathon mentality.

I wasn’t ready for a full.  Two months of training lost to a paralyzed hip flexor…and a very cautious and slow build-up in mileage put me at my first double digit run (10 miles) exactly one month before race day.  To press on and do the full would have been a fool’s errand.

I’ve learned to be a little more patient with myself and allow myself to heal and train right.  So, the miniMarathon it was.  You win some…you lose some.  I did manage to run most of the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Marathon on Sunday.  It was steamy and humid…and for the last 5 miles, I was run/walking.  It was okay.  These days I worry more about running smart than that finish time.  When it’s hot and the race is flagged (and…for the record, both the Dark Side Half & KDF were yellow flagged due to humidity)…you just run it the best you can without putting yourself at risk for heatstroke or worse.

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My Ambassador Crew at the KDF Marathon Expo: Paul, Me, Amy, and Jack

My second half marathon in the same week was starting off well.  I only ran one time in between to two races.  I didn’t need more.  Wednesday morning, I hit up 4 very easy miles and called it a week.  And on Thursday, I left work early to meet up with Jack, Paul and Amy (3 others in my Ambassador family) to volunteer at the expo as a greeter.  I convinced quite a lot of my friends to come to the expo that day…both local and from out of town.  And it was hopping!  It was great seeing everyone and helping people out when they had questions.  I was feeling good and confident.  And being able to hang with other ambassadors and just be relaxed and help others relax…and drink free wine samples…it was actually what I needed.  I was feeling good.

northendcurrysaute

Curry Sauté with Tofu from North End Cafe in Louisville, KY

Friday I spent most of the day sitting at work…which is not something I normally do, but my coach had decided to have me aim for a 1:40 half on Saturday, so I really wanted to do right by my legs and my body.  And, that evening, I went to the Galt House and picked up fellow Marathon Maniac, and good friend, Michael, to have a pre-race dinner.  Normally, I would just cook an Annie May’s Sweet Café gluten-free/vegan pizza at home and call it a day, but I had wanted to meet up with Michael.  We ended up at North End Cafe.  He had the Lemonade Blueberry Pancakes, and I got the Curry Sauté with Tofu for dinner.  As I have been to races where safe gluten-free pizza isn’t always readily available, I have played around some with my night before meal ritual.  But nothing works like gluten-free pizza.

After we dropped Michael back off at the hotel and went home, I finished making up the “Finish Line Lemon Blossoms” for my friends.  After my PT exercises and some foam rolling…I called it a night.  I set my traditional 2 alarms for the race, but didn’t bother to get up in enough time to squeeze in my PT stuff…because it was going to be storming or raining in the morning.  I figured I skipped them at Disney…I could supplement my walk to the start line for the warmups and I’d be ready to go.

And at 5 am…the 7:30 am start was delayed.  For half an hour.

This definitely made the morning slightly easier.  I was already dressed and had my hair up and everything, so I got to sit and relax a little longer…savor my breakfast…that sort of thing.  Dread the humidity.  Because…it was humid.  And the sun wasn’t even up yet.  In fact, the rain only served to make it steamier.  I was having anxiety over the humidity the night before, texting my coach about my push for a 1:40 and how the humidity might slaughter that attempt…especially since I was in my “uniform” of the Ambassador shirt (which had sleeves).  I’m not a fan of racing in sleeves unless it’s cold.  When it’s hot…it’s a simple bra top or a tank.  So this was going to be a new experience too.  I figured if it got too unbearable, I could shed the shirt and then attempt to wriggle back into it before the finish line.

So…delay #1 was in the works.

The official KDFMarathon Ambassador photo was going to now be taken at 7:30…so we headed that way and actually got down to Slugger Field (and the parking lot) at around  7 a.m.  This gave me time for one of my efficient and essential power naps!!  I got my nap on good!!  With about 10 minutes to go, I got a text from my running partner, Matthew, saying that he was at the statue in front of Slugger Field, so I got up and headed that way.

statueambassadors

Danielle, Tonya, Me, Leah, Paul, and Jamie pre-race delay #2!

A few more ambassadors were gathered, but the whole team wasn’t there yet.  This has been a thing in all these months.  Races and such, we never quite managed to get everyone in a photo together. #goals

Anyway…no sooner had the photos been taken, I snagged my pre-race fuel (a simple banana!) and downed it while talking to Matthew, Natalie, and my fellow Ambassadors, who were hanging for a moment.

And then…another delay.

Race start was now set for 8:30.  And I had now eaten my banana a whole hour before the start, rather than half an hour.  Roll with it.  I wasn’t planning on exerting myself before the race so I figured I’d be fine.  We all started to make our way toward the corrals regardless (it wasn’t even raining!), when we were told to take cover.  My group ducked under the cover of the Old National Bank near the race start with a crowd of other runners and passed the time just chatting away.  Even my running coach and her crew joined us under there.  It was sort of a nervous energy, but a positive energy at that point.

Cathy left shortly after we got up there, because she likes getting a good spot at the start line and the finish line.  So, she gathered up my rain jacket (which had been keeping Natalie warm) and went to go find her spot, telling me she’d be on the right at the start and on the left at the finish.

With the 8:30 a.m. start time coming up, we opted to head out of the shelter to get to the corrals.  And no sooner had we stepped out from under the bank building and down the steps…

Delay #3.  Race start was now 9:00 a.m.

My group and I decided we would duck into the bank building and rest our legs by sitting on the floor there instead of standing around outside.  It was more comfortable out of the humidity, regardless.  With race start happening soon, we decided to make a last ditch move for the port-a-potties for those who needed them.  I didn’t.  I drank a ton of water the day before, but on race morning, I keep it light so I don’t have to pee.  I did tell my friends that I would hold their stuff for them though.  As we were heading out, the doors to the bank building seemed to be giving people some trouble.  We stepped out though for our mission.

On the way to the toilets, my amazing friend, Kelsie, spotted me.  Matthew and I gave her a hug and we stood around and talked for a brief moment.  Then we went on so I could hold gear.  I should mention that my fellow Ambassador and friend, Tonya, had gone on ahead of us too.  I had her plastic bag for race start should rain happen.  But we still had NO rain.  Just delays.  After everyone cycled through, we started back toward the bank for a few more moments of sitting down and resting before…hopefully, a real start.

trappedinthebankAnd this is where we discover that the people (Tonya was now included) that were inside the bank building were now TRAPPED inside the bank building.  Apparently, the Old National Bank’s doors were timed to lock at a certain time.  And…guess what…they were locked.  Runners were trapped inside with 15 or so minutes to go before the race start.  I walked up to the window and Tonya was front-and-center.

Tonya had texted my phone, which Cathy had at this point, so Cathy sprang into action when the S.O.S. came through, alerting some officers, who wrangled up fire department and security to, hopefully, get the runners out.  With like…only 10 minutes to spare…this happened.  Thank goodness.

So…with no further delays and an announcement being made that 9:00 a.m. was go-time for real…everyone started to get to their corrals.  Matthew and I ducked into Corral C to start making our way forward to A.  We ducked under rope flags and everything to move forward in our corral.  I spotted Greg, from Frankfort, Kentucky, who was pacing the 1:50 half marathon group. I said hi and he asked if I was running with him because he thought I was up in Tim’s group (that would be the 1:40 group).  I said that Linda (our coach) had said that all plans were out the window with the delays and to just go have fun, but I was moving up.

And we did.  Almost to the front.  Like…we were behind the elite line.  We saw elite bibs.  Elite bibs have no corral letter on them.

Matthew and I decided we were out of our league up there and he spotted Tim’s pacing group…so we decided to move back.  A bit.

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Kelsie, Me, and Matthew heading out of the Start of the KDF miniMarathon

And we found Kelsie again.  So…this was perfect.  I was starting the race off with friends…it was going to be a good time.  Despite the fact that I was now starving.  And it was humid.

Did I mention that I was starving?

I had fueled for an 8 a.m. start.  I think my corral (Corral A) went off at 9:15 a.m.  That banana was LONG gone.  And I didn’t want to hit up my mid-race nutrition, because I needed that after Mile 6.  I looked at Matthew and Kelsie and I said…”AND…now I’m starving.”  They were too.

Everyone was.

My coach was right…everything was a mess now…it was best just to go and have some fun.

Matthew and I decided we would attempt to at least keep Tim (remember…that’s the 1:40 pacer) in our sites.  The starting gun went off…and the three of us took off.  I don’t know where we dropped Kelsie, but she was doing this race right.  No watch.  No goals save to finish.  I want to do that more.  Just run how I feel and for fun.  What a freeing feeling that has to be!

Matthew and I pounded out the first four miles pretty much together.  The rain poured down on us shortly after the start and I looked at him and said, “We SO would have been done by now!”  Soaked from humidity, rain, and exertion, we pressed on.  Matthew commented that he felt like he couldn’t catch his breath.  The air was heavy with humidity, so I totally knew how he felt.

I lost him after a turn.  I thought he might have gone on ahead.

As we hit Mile 5…I did 2 things.  I slowed for a moment to pull the KDF Marathon Race Ambassador shirt off so I could cool down.  This happened just as I heard, “There’s Karen.”  So I waived, tucked my Ambassador shirt into my fuel belt…and then I fueled.  A whole mile early.  Because my legs were starting to resist my determination to keep going.  Everything was a cluster now.

Tim and the rest of the 1:40 group were still in site…but not really within distance to catch now.  And my body was not feeling the pace.  I told myself to hang on through Churchill Downs.  So…for at least 3 more miles.  I could suffer for that long, right?

I managed.  My pace dropped little-by-little until I rounded the corner at the split…hit Mile 9…and took a walk at the water station.  I carry my own water with me on half marathons and marathons.  Usually if it’s a double-digit run, I have water and fuel with me.  I didn’t care.  I hit that water stop, I slowed.  I took a cup from a lovely volunteer.  I took a sip.  The rest went on over my head.  It cooled me down…and I made myself start running again.

From here on out…it was down to running smart…not running fast.  Since any attempts to hit a certain time goal went away with the 90 minute delays…now it was just about crossing that finish line.  I didn’t care how long it took me…I was down to the last 5 miles regardless.  I managed to make water stops the rest of the way toward the finish…even when I said I would keep running and no more walking…if I needed to throw water over my head…I did it.  And, as I found out in Disney, that really works.

It did, however, work better at Disney…when I wasn’t under-fueled and also dying from the humidity.  At about Mile 11, I had caught up to Pete, a guy who ran with Matthew and I a couple of times before the Norton Sports Health Training Program kicked in and before I was injured.  I had to slow again for one last shower of water, so he got too far ahead of me again.  I had to slow to walk and water myself for about 3 more times before I knew that finish line was close.  This was my Dark Side Half Marathon all over again.  But worse.  My splits were hitting in the 8’s…which I never touched (despite walk breaks) at Disney.

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

I could taste that finish line.  And it wasn’t far.  I could hear the announcer.  I could see Slugger Field.  That meant…it was just around the corner.

And there it was…the turn!!

I never put the Ambassador shirt back on.  I had it tucked in my belt…but to stop to wriggle back into it might mean I wouldn’t start again.

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

I took the turn.  And while I didn’t feel like moving any faster, I attempted to pick up my pace.  That finish line was in site…all I had to do was run over it.  I focused on that line alone.  I heard Cathy screaming on the sideline…and I ran down the stretch and passed under the arch.

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

But Dan spotted me at the finish line and called out my name over the bullhorn.  HA!

I continued down the line, slowly, trying to catch my breath and cool down.  The medals were right ahead, so as I strolled that way, Cathy caught up to me at the fence.  She told me my official finish time, which I couldn’t believe, given how slow my pace had gotten as the morning went on and the miles progressed.  We attempted to formulate a meeting place after I would go through the official finish photo area and the place where they store food and chocolate milk and Powerade.  And as we were discussing…Paul from the Ambassadors came in.  Then another running partner of mine, Ron, was in.  And then…Matthew.  I hadn’t moved except to go and congratulate Paul.  I found Ron.  And Matthew somehow slipped by me, but Cathy found him and he was at the fence when I returned.

We all managed to make our way to the runner reunion area, grabbing snacks along the way.  As I emerged…with banana and chips (I have never seen Cathy so happy to see a bag of chips in my hand), I actually reconnected with Kelsie…who gave that finish line her famous kick and brought it in strong.  I really need her to teach me where she finds that late energy because I’m usually dying at the finish line.  She needed to head out, so after a photo, she left and Ron went to claim his free beer.  Cathy told me to take my phone and see if I could catch more of the 30 people I was tracking while she went to get the bags out of the car that had my clothes to change into and a cooler with food and a big bottle of water.  Tonya came in but texted to say she was in medical.  And Amy came in.  I never found her in the crowd.  I did find former co-workers from IU Southeast, Dana & Graham, after they finished.  So that was cool!

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Finisher of the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky (note the tucked Ambassador shirt)

Cathy and I were camped out under the overpass for the rest of the day.  When my phone told me one of my people were in…I’d attempt to go find them.  I mostly succeeded.  I only missed a few.  I caught Natalie, who I really wanted to find above all, as it was her first marathon, and she was having Siri hit me up for motivation as she made her way to that finish line.  She did great!  I also did distribute Lemon Blossoms.  They were very well received.  My friend Jack even picked me up when I handed him a whole container.  And he had just run a marathon.

I thought everyone was in at that point…but I was wrong.  But that is a long, complicated, and amazing story all its own.

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 1:43:12.  That, mind you, is almost exactly 2 minutes slower than my time last year.  MEH!  That being said, I wasn’t expecting to hit 1:43 at all after the walking began, so I’ll gladly take this.  Given the conditions, I’m beyond happy with this result.  I was 403/8737 finishers overall.  I was 85/5010 female finishers.  And I was 15/794 finishers in my division.  Given that I had just raced a humid half marathon on Sunday…walked Disney World the rest of Sunday and all of Monday…traveled home…worked overtime…worked the expo…and then ran again in the humidity…I exceeded all expectations I had.  Honestly.  There were fewer runners this year (by about 2000) in the mini…but my stats improved on every single category…despite running slower.  I count that as a win too!

Here’s my takeaway…

I came into this event at first meeting with a group of strangers at the KDF Marathon Headquarters.  I found a great group of supportive, amazing, inspiring people who are like family to me now.  So many friendships were formed in this year’s KDF Ambassador group.  I was so fortunate to have been able to be a part of it.  I may not have signed up the most people for the race, but I went to events…I promoted the race…I even went to the training runs (even on the coldest mornings) when I couldn’t run and encouraged others…cheered…high fived…and walked.  The marathon slipped away when my training had to wait almost 3 months to even start.

Dropping to the mini was hard…but it was the smartest decision I could have made.  I would never have survived the full after a humid Florida race series and the 90 minute delays.  With nutrition and scheduling off…this was a blessing in disguise.

The delays have taught me a lot about being a bit more prepared for whatever race morning might throw my way.

I saw so many people finish.  I helped a few out when they needed help.  I hugged so many of my sweaty friends.  I saw people set goals…and whether they crushed them or fell short…they completed what the started.  And that, friends, is what the spirit of race day is all about.

My time as a KDF Marathon Ambassador is coming to a close, but the memories, friends, emotions, and moments that I now carry with me…those will last a lifetime.

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My new family and friends!  What an amazing ride this has been!

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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!

Recipe: Roasted Vegetable “Rice” Bowl with BBQ Sauce

I told you I was playing around with cauliflower rice…which is why you are getting the third consecutive recipe which includes it in part of the lineup!!

As a vegetarian, I get my share of veggies…but my favorite way to eat them…is roasting them in the oven.  I love when they get that slight crispiness to them.  And yes…it happens even without oil!  I take oil out of the cooking process more times than not…and the results are just as amazing.

After my trip to California, I wanted to really get back on track with my eating.  It got pushed to the wayside with the holidays and then with my trip…but I did have a detox in between and it really did make me feel better.  So, with a promise to rely less on those processed carbohydrates and get my nutrients from more real food…I honed in on a few changes.

While I won’t always be replacing pasta and rice with alternatives, I do want to do it a lot more than I have been.  So, instead of plating my roasted vegetables over brown rice…I just got out the riced cauliflower…poured it in a pan with some water and cooked it until it was soft.  I seasoned it the same way I would have the rice…and the results were mind-blowing.  I’d make this again instantly!  It would work even as a breakfast or lunch…but this week…it was dinner for my roommate and for two nights.

The recipe follows:

Roasted Vegetable “Rice” Bowl with BBQ Sauce

image1-1Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends snapped
  • 2 medium yellow squash or zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch-thick rings
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper, to taste


Ingredients for “Rice”:

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari
  • sea salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
Garnishes:
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce of choice
  • 1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced

 

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.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the veggies out over the pan, drizzle with the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes or until veggies are tender and golden, stopping to toss at the 20-minute mark.

While the veggies are roasting, place your riced cauliflower into a pan with 1/4 cup water and cook until softened.  Place cooked cauliflower rice into a large bowl and add basil, balsamic vinegar, and tamari to a large mixing bowl.

Use a large wooden spoon to stir.

Season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste.

Once the veggies are done roasting, remove from the oven and set aside.

Scoop 1 cup of the cauliflower rice into a bowl, top with the roasted vegetables.

If your barbecue sauce is thick, whisk one tablespoon of water into it at a time until desired thinness is achieved. Drizzle over the veggies or serve in a small dish alongside them.

Garnish with the sliced avocado.

ENJOY!

~*~*~

I have SO much Master’s Hand BBQ Sauce in my fridge thanks to a bit of a Thanksgiving kerfuffle.  But, it works out in my favor, as it’s the most amazing BBQ sauce I have ever tasted…and it was magnificent on this dish.  I ended up thinning it out with 2 tablespoons of water to get more of a drizzle over the veggies.  But that is all personal preference.

If you want to get the most out of your veggies…roast them.  If you want to make them awesome…drizzle some BBQ sauce over them.

Oh yeah!

Recipe: Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

I won’t lie…I’m a carb-a-holic.  Is that really a thing?  Is that a word? Doesn’t matter.  Carbs make me happy.  Gluten-free bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, potatoes, rice…you name it…I love to eat it.

That being said, I’m doing a slight bit of overhauling to my diet this year…aiming to cut back on all those processed carbs (like…bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, etc) and try to replace them with real food…healthier choices…and something that will nourish my body more.

Before I was diagnosed with Celiac…I may have lived at the Chinese buffet at least 2 times a month.  I love Chinese food.  I always have.  But, most of it is not even an option for me these days, unless I make it.  I’m Irish…not Chinese.  My Chinese food is never as amazing as when…you know…someone who is Chinese makes it.

That being said, I’ve been craving as of late…and I finally decided to cave and give into it.  And I got out my skillet on Sunday afternoon and whipped up a healthier version of fried rice, replacing the rice with riced cauliflower.  The recipe is below:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Cauliflower Fried

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup carrots, cubed
2 eggs, beaten (if making vegan, sub in tofu or just leave out)
¼ cup low sodium tamari
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp green onions, chopped (optional garnish)


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.  At the end when you add it in with the sauce, cook it until it has softened.
 

Heat a large wok (or skillet) over medium heat and add 1/4 cup water. Add onion, peas and carrots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. (Add more water as needed to prevent veggies from sticking).Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and red pepper flakes; set aside.

Slide veggie mixture to one side of the wok and add in the beaten eggs (or tofu…or skip this step if you opted to go without the protein), scrambling until cooked through and then incorporate with the veggies.

Stir in cauliflower “rice” and pour the sauce over top, mixing well. Cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until cauliflower is soft and tender.

Top with green onions, serve and enjoy!

~*~*~

Simple, easy…and yes…super delicious!!  Oh…and only 220 calories per serving!  You can’t beat that, right?  Highly recommended to your Chinese food lovers if you’re looking for a healthier alternative!!  Or maybe you just want to try something new!

Either way, it’s an easy recipe with little to do but stir away!!  So…no excuses, friends.  Get rockin’ that wok!

Recipe: Cauliflower Rice Pad Thai

So, my roommate and I are making a few more dietary changes this year and so far it’s not been too hard to stick to.  I mean, there are days that are completely off the plan (Hello, Soft Pretzel Wednesday!)…but that’s okay.  This isn’t about perfection, it’s just about progress!

We are working on cutting down on added sugars and processed carbs.  This is not to say that we are never going to eat gluten-free pasta or use rice in dishes ever again.  And this is not to say that dessert is off the table.  I did, however, very proudly, get rid of the stash of chocolate in my office drawer.  I reached for those M&Ms one too many times while stressed out…so they are gone…and not coming back in.

Normally I have a pretty set meal plan going into the weekend, but for some reason, this past week got away from me and I just…didn’t get to it.  Not going to sugar-coat it.  SO…I decided to prep some different things and just attempt to make something a little bit healthier.

One of my favorite types of food (second to Indian) is Thai.  I love Thai food, and Thai food is so easy to make gluten free.  That being said…I didn’t have pad thai noodles on hand and I’m on a tight budget after my trip to California (like…it’s non-existent, to be honest)…so I only wanted to have to grocery shop for the essentials.  I needed filling, healthy meals on the fly…so I bought Trader Joes and Kroger out of their bags of riced cauliflower.

That is not an exaggeration.

And from it emerged 3 dishes made with riced cauliflower (not counting the ones I did earlier in the week, which I should put up in the blog…so if I get time, I will. I promise.  They’re delicious).  But this week…I was most excited about my take on pad thai…using…riced cauliflower instead of noodles.  This dish is SUPER easy to make…so I encourage you to do so!

Recipe: Cauliflower Rice Pad Thai

 

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Cauliflower Rice Pad Thai

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 12 oz bag frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • 1/4 cup lightly salted peanuts


Ingredients of the Peanut Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low-sodium Tamari
  • 3 tablespoon seasoned white vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice


Directions:

**Rice your head of cauliflower by chopping the florets roughly and adding them to your food processor.  Pulse the cauliflower until it resembles rice.  Then heat it up in the microwave for 7 minutes, stopping to stir it once halfway through.

**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.  At the end when you add it in with the sauce, cook it until it has softened.

Line a large skillet with a thin layer of water.

Add the garlic and onions tot he pan.  Cook for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften.  Add additional water, if necessary.

Add the frozen vegetables to the pan.  Cover the vegetables and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until everything is heated through.  Once again, add additional water to keep things from sticking.

***While the vegetables are cooking, whisk the sauce together in a medium bowl.

***NOTE: If you aren’t feeling frisky, both San-J and Annie Chun make FANTASTIC peanut/pad thai sauces that are gluten free.  So…if making the sauce seems like too much work, just use the bottled stuff.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, add the cauliflower “rice” and peanut sauce to the pan.  Stir until well-combined.  If using bagged cauliflower rice, cook until cauliflower has softened, about 5 minutes.

Dish servings into bowls and garnish with peanuts.

ENJOY!

~*~*~

I wasn’t sure how I’d appreciate the change from actual pad thai noodles to using riced cauliflower, but it worked.  This dish was amazing.  And it’s dinner again tonight. And that’s always something to look forward to!

 

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.

Restaurant Review: Mythos Restaurant, Orlando, Florida

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Mythos Restaurant, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Mythos Restaurant, Orlando, Florida

Twas the first time since coming to Orlando that my breakfast (the final bagel, it was cinnamon raisin from Erin McKenna’s in Disney Springs) wore off long before I thought it would.  That usually is okay, except my dinner reservation yesterday was actually a late lunch reservation.  So, when my stomach apparently wanted elevensies…I was nowhere ready to pop a protein bar for fear of not being hungry for the best and big meal of the day.

Cathy, Jenn and I all shared a cup of watermelon and hoped for the best…but the 12:45 reservation couldn’t come soon enough.  At 12:30, we went in, hoping that perhaps they could seat us early.

No such luck.  We were told our names would be called around our reservation time.  I wasn’t too surprised though.  Mythos Restaurant, after all, is one of the hottest and most sought over reservations in all of Universal Studios Islands of Adventures theme park.  No joke.  Mythos Restaurant was voted the Best Theme Park Restaurant from 2003-2009, came in third in 2010…and who knows what happened after that.  The thing was…the place was hopping.  There was a 35 minute wait for people/groups that didn’t make reservations…and that wait time quickly escalated.

What makes Mythos Restaurant such hot spot?  Well, it’s located in a prime spot, carved into the side of towering rock formations, cascading waterfalls and ancient figures.  So, you sort of know you’re in for quite a treat as you approach the restaurant itself.  It is known for its exceptional cuisine.  And the setting and friendly staff do make for an exceptional, contemporary dining setting.

About 12:55, we were finally called for our seating and led through the restaurant to a nice corner booth near the open kitchen.  I sat on the side facing the kitchen with hopes of being able to watch the chefs, but the booth was too tall for me to really see.  Ah well.

Our server, Lindsey, was an absolute doll.  And totally hilarious.  I loved that she immediately made us feel welcome by calling us “her friends.”  That continued throughout the entire meal, mind you.  I love making new friends.  Anyway, it took her a moment to come back around to us, but she eventually got there and made us feel immediately welcome all over again.  She asked about where we were from, what all we had been doing, and through in some fun Harry Potter references, because she’s awesome like that.  She took our drink order…a Diet Coke ($3.19) for Cathy, a Unsweetend Iced Tea ($3.19) for me, and Water (FREE!) for Jenn.  We were given some time to look over the menu, which had clear markings for things that could be made vegan and gluten free…not always the same, but some dishes could be both.  This left me with two very good sounding options…the Pad Thai and/or the Seasonal Risotto.  AH…decisions!!

After a spill that Lindsey had to clean up, she came over to the table again to get our orders.  She apologized for the delay and since I was the difficult one, she started with me.  I asked her which she would get if she was a vegetarian and gluten free…and she said that most vegan and gluten-free guests LOVE the risotto, but she is a huge fan of the Pad Thai for that sweet and sour sauce they put on it…that being said, she pairs it with meat and wasn’t sure how it would mix with just vegetables.  So, she highly recommended the Seasonal Risotto.  I went with that per her suggestion. Cathy went with the Mythos Signature Burger with Lamb and the Parmesan Fries.  Jenn went with the Crab Cake Sliders, subbing the potato salad for the Parmesan Fries.  Orders in.

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Mythos Restaurant’s Gluten Free Bread (cut up gluten free hamburger buns)

It took awhile for our meals to come out, which was fine.  I was starving, but I love knowing that food is being prepared to order.  In fact, Lindsey explained that everything, save for two (2) of the dishes on the menu are made to order.  The two that are prepped ahead are the Mediterranean Chicken Salad Wrap and the Pressed Porchetta Panini, due to the volume of orders they get for those.  Interesting trivia.  She delivered some bread and butter to the table…and then said that they had some gluten-free bread if I was interested.  I always am.  She returned a few minutes later with some warm bread…which looked like their gluten free hamburger buns chopped up.  Hey…it worked.  I loved having the option.

But food came out, hot, fresh, gorgeous, and…amazing.

Mythos Restaurant's Signature Burger with Lamb and Parmesan Fries

Mythos Restaurant’s Signature Burger with Lamb and Parmesan Fries

Cathy’s Mythos Signature Burger with Lamb ($14.99) with the Parmesan Fries (+ $0.50) looked fantastic and perfectly cooked.  The bun was huge, encompassing the burger and all the toppings that came on it.  This included grilled onion, shredded lettuce and fresh tomato topped with feta-olive aioli.  She was nervous about the feta-olive aioli, but loved it.  She found the burger to be a little dry (NOT LAMB!), but it was well cooked and full of flavor.  While the patty was thick, it was way smaller than the bun.  To this day, though, she raves about the “killer” feta-olive aioli.  She almost missed out on it as she doesn’t love olives at all…but it worked.  And now, I think she’s smitten.  She ate every bit of that burger.  And the Parmesan fries were “good.” she said.  The cheese, both of my dining compatriots said, needed to be melted so that they stuck to the fries rather than just sprinkled on top.  Otherwise, the cheese fell off the fries.

Jenn’s Crab Cake Sliders ($12.99) dish was her favorite meal of this entire trip.  Nothing overpowered the taste of the crab.  It wasn’t overseasoned.  The remoulade sauce wasn’t drowning the sliders…they had the perfect amount.  While the buns were thick, they were soft and squished down.  She absolutely LOVED this meal.  Like I said, of the 4 days we have been in Florida, this topped her list.  The Crab Cake Sliders were served on mini rolls with lettuce and remoulade sauce.  She subbed the Potato Salad for the Parmesan Fries (+ $0.50) and liked them, but also felt that the cheese needed to be melted on there so it didn’t just tumble off, leaving regular fries.  She didn’t touch the watermelon-tomato medley that was served on the side…it was probably delicious though!

Mythos Restaurant's Gluten Free and Vegan Seasonal Risotto (beet risotto with sauteed mushrooms and spinach)

Mythos Restaurant’s Gluten Free and Vegan Seasonal Risotto (beet risotto with sauteed mushrooms and spinach)

This comes to me.  I ended up ordering the Seasonal Risotto ($15.99), done gluten-free and vegan.  The risotto of the day was a Beet Risotto, which normally would be served with beef on top, but thanks to being practically vegan, that was left off.  This dish was served with sauteed mushrooms and baby spinach on top.  And it was seasoned to perfection.  It was creamy and earthy and just…amazing.  I loved the richness of the beets infused into the creamy rice.  The sauteed vegetables on top added some great texture and bright flavors.  It was really good.  I had to work hard not to inhale it.  But, in the end…gone.  And I was one happy girl.

While Lindsey exercised her Slytherin tendencies and gave us dessert menus, we opted out this time.  We paid the bill and headed out to get over to Hogsmede to wrap up our time at Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios.  Happy bellies and all.

There is a reason that Mythos is a hot ticket at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.  The atmosphere is really great…the service is phenomenal…and the food was delicious.  Also, serving sizes weren’t ridiculous either.  We were full, but not stuffed.  And after a bit of shopping for sweets at the candy store in Hogsmede, we rode rides and all.

Yeah…Mythos was a nice way to treat ourselves that day after a long morning of wandering the parks and riding rides.  It was great food…and a great experience.