Moving Forward…No Regrets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t ask why I have a mermaid dress…


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

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

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

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

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

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

8.  Father’s Day


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

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

Hope everyone had an epic week!!

Because…SUMMER!

Guess what…

Like it or not…summer is here.  This…this is the weather of my people!!  Yes…I understand that I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota…but let’s ignore that for a moment and focus on the fact that…THIS is the weather of my people.

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I love summer.  Even the hot temperatures that slow me down when I’m out running.  Goal this summer…to not be injured and out all summer.  The past two years…that’s exactly what has happened.

NOT. THIS. YEAR. (I hope).  So…with that in mind…

1.  My fist humid, hot, sunny run… (IN SUMMER!!)

So, it only seems fitting that my first hot run back this year was done with two of my favorite people to run with…Tammy and Matt.  We headed out early on Saturday, trying to beat as much of the heat as possible to get in our 15 miles.  It was brutal (humidity-wise), but it kept me on pace and I had good conversations and we pushed through our miles that morning, finishing up just after 9 am.

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This picture represents your brain on 15 hot, humid miles on hills.  Whew.

2.  Morning Running, Soccer and Dinner with my Sole Sister…(IN SUMMER!!)

I was THRILLED to have company on my Thursday morning run this past week.  I am usually doing my (early) morning runs solo, but Natalie had this past week off for vacation and we managed to work it out so that we could run together one morning.  The best option was Thursday…I had 5 miles on tap so she came over around 4 a.m. and we headed out, running together down to the YMCA and then back to the apartment.  We had great discussions and enjoyed the last morning of cooler temps.


And then last night we put our season tickets to work by taking in the Louisville City FC (that would be Louisville’s professional soccer team…they play at Slugger Field and if you haven’t gone to a match, you’re missing out!) match.  It was hot, but what a game.  We were up in the 2nd half…until a late goal by Wilmington Hammerheads FC tied it up in stoppage time.  And, while we put though a valiant effort to come back, we just didn’t have time.  So we drew…2-2.  MEH.  But I’ll take a draw over a loss.  Tonight, Natalie is coming over for dinner.  I’m cooking up some Cauliflower Breadsticks and Smokey Zucchini Cakes.  There will probably be peach wine too.

3.  Cotton Candy Gapes…(IN SUMMER!!)

Nothing makes me happier than the return of Cotton Candy Gapes!!

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If you haven’t tried these yet…you are SO missing out.  These plump, juicy, all-natural green grapes (non-GMO too) is a new variety of grape that is brought to you by Grapey.  These grapes actually do taste like that pink spun-sugar treat that you get at festivals and fairs.  And I mean exactly like cotton candy.  Cathy spotted these at the Whole Foods in Louisville yesterday, so this is my afternoon snack this week!!  So excited.  I do know that Kroger eventually started carrying them last year.  Anyway, if you love cotton candy, but could do without all the stickiness and ALL THE GRANULATED SUGAR that comes in that fluffy treat…these grapes…will blow your mind.  They will blow your mind anyway.  Try them.  Trust me.

4.  Zootopia on Blu-ray…(IN SUMMER!!)

Well, I wrapped up the Disney Animated Movies In Order marathon viewing last weekend, but one more was just released.  And it is one of my favorites.  ZOOTOPIA!  And you better believe I went out to Target on Tuesday and snagged a copy of it.

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Seriously…I am Officer Judy Hopps.  She’s totally just like me.  I relate to this.  You will too.  If you missed seeing this one…or wasn’t sure what to make of it…trust me…you’ll love it.  Redbox it, Netflix it, Buy it.  But WATCH IT!

5.  Louisville Says Goodbye To The Champ…(IN SUMMER!!)

Okay, I almost didn’t take on the “in summer” part there…but it’s the theme.  Regardless, on Friday, Louisville, Kentucky put on a beautiful, memorable goodbye to The Greatest.  Muhammad Ali’s procession, burial, and memorial was held in Louisville this past week and it was a memorable and beautiful event.

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All week since he passed away, the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville became a memorial to the late boxer.  Now, I didn’t grow up watching boxing or knowing much about the sport.  That being said, I do know a lot about Muhammad Ali.  You can’t live in this city and not know much about The Greatest.  I was able to watch the last couple hours of the memorial service after work on Friday and the speeches were amazing.  Billy Crystal was fantastic when he spoke.  I was tearing up during different speeches and admired how stoic the family members were.  He was laid to rest in Cave Hill Cemetery. This city mourned, celebrated, and came together to celebrate the life of this hometown hero. RIP, CHAMP.  RIP!

My trip to the Ren Faire this weekend has been pushed to next weekend, which is good…because I think I would have melted out there today.  I want to get out and about at some point because I don’t do well just sitting around the apartment on a Sunday, but it will be in air conditioning.

Anyone else happy to have the warmer temps?  What is your favorite part of summer?

Stay warm…or cool…or however you like it!

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Product Review: Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten Free Soft Donuts

Product: Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten Free Soft Donuts – $6.59+

It’s National Donut Day.  No really…it is national donut day!  Mmmm…donuts…

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I have a soft spot in my life (and stomach…poke, poke)…for donuts.  And they aren’t something that I get to have very often.  Sure, my local bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, offers them (and sometimes donut holes) in a variety of flavors, every Saturday (and they go FAST.  Like…FAST!), I don’t always treat myself to one.  I am tomorrow…because…they have my favorite flavor…BLUEBERRY!

But I am digressing…as always.  The point is…it is a rare thing for me to get a donut.  Because, let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of places where you can easily get a gluten-free donut.  Fresh.  Hot out of the oven or fryer or whatever.

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Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten Free Soft Donuts with Vanilla Icing

That being said, not too long ago, a rep for Kinnikinnick Foods contacted me about sending me a couple of their products to try.  As I am a food blogger, I never, ever turn this down.  When the box arrived, I was beyond elated to find a box of Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten Free Vanilla Wafers and Kinnikinnick Foods NEW Gluten Free Soft Donuts with Vanilla Icing.  I put the cookies in my pantry and the donuts in my freezer, waiting for the perfect opportunity to break them out.

Hello!!  I’m lucky I was working my way through gluten-free bagels, because that meant I had these in my freezer when National Donut Day rolled around.  So, whereas prior to finding out it was National Donut Day, I was planning on opening the one pint of Ben & Jerry’s Vegan Ice Cream that I can safely eat (Chunky Monkey)…that soon became “Let’s have donuts for dessert.”

Hey, everyone at work got donuts provided by the boss from a local bakery.  I got a banana.  Yes…she brought me a banana.  I love bananas and all…but…IT. IS. NATIONAL. DONUT. DAY.  Sometimes you just take matters into your own hands…and freezer. (For the record, Annie May’s had donuts today…I just didn’t have time to drive over there).

So, after devouring dinner tonight (because I knew donuts were happening), I pulled the box out of the freezer and tore into it.  I was so excited.  DONUTS.  ON NATIONAL DONUT DAY!  Don’t mock me.  When you’re a Celiac, it’s the little things in life.

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My hand showing the true (and small) size of the Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Soft Donut

But, my excitement waned slightly (very slightly) when I pulled out the sealed package of six (6) donuts.  Because, in my head I expected this giant box to contain six amazing, Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme-sized donuts.  But…these donuts were small.  Like…three bites…amuse-bouche small.  I was a little let down.  I just expected…DONUTS…not donuts.  But…you know…it was a minor thing.  I removed a donut for my roommate and myself and tore off a packet of the vanilla icing that was included in the box.  These are super easy to prepare…microwave from frozen for about 20-30 seconds (my microwave in older than God, so I had to do 30 seconds), then drizzle with the icing pack.  Then…cram into mouth and devour.  I handed my roommate hers and she wasted no time, going on about how soft it was, how it wasn’t dense or heavy…and she licked the icing off her plate.  No joke.  Licked it.

So, the Kinnickinnik Foods Gluten Free Soft Donuts are…just as advertised.  Soft.  They aren’t quite as light as a yeast donut would be, but they don’t have the heft and density of a cake donut.  They are a perfect medium between the two popular types of donuts.  The icing…is soft of like the icing that you’d drizzle over a warm toaster strudel…and added a nice sweet glaze to the donut as well.  I lifted the little donut and took a bite…

Usually when I settle in to try a new gluten-free product…I’m like…

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…and sometimes I’m surprised…and sometimes I’m disappointed. As for these…

Oh…these were definitely good.  They sort of have the flavor of a funnel cake.  No joke.  Lighter than that fried dough treat, these donuts are a sweet treat that I would have savored more, had it not disappeared within three bites.  I’ll stop ragging on the size to say…YES…these are amazing.  They have a fantastic flavor, texture, and sweetness to it.  I felt like I was eating a donut…and you can’t even tell they are frozen.  It’s donut voodoo, I’m sure.  No disgusted face.  I ate this faster than I probably should have.  I was tempted to go fix up the remaining four, but restrained myself.  It wasn’t easy…because these easily left me wanting MORE.

So, let’s take a look at what ingredients go into Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten Free Soft Donuts, shall we?  These donuts are made from water, white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, fuctose, non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening (palm oil, modified palm oil), egg whites, cellulose powder, tapioca syrup, psyllium fiber, cellulose, yeast, glycerin, salt, pure vanilla extract, enzymes, Icing (icing sugar (sugar, corn starch), water, glucose, xantham gum, sodium citrate, natural flavor, salt, locust bean gum, natural color (titanium dioxide), citric acid)).  These Soft Donuts are gluten free, dairy free, nut free, soy free, and cholesterol free.  And…they are soft, light, and fluffy donuts…with a glaze!!

As far as nutrition goes, the small Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten Free Soft Donuts with Vanilla Icing aren’t bad…I don’t think…for the size of these donuts.  A serving size is one (1) donut (45 grams), and there are six (6) servings per box.  One donut will provide you with 130 calories, 4 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 23 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 1 gram protein.  Not filling, but also not too high in sugar either.  I was impressed, before opening the box, with the 130 calorie count, but, these donuts are about 3-4 bites…so the 130 calories is sort of right in line with the higher calorie count a regular (and normal-size) donut would hand you.  Yeah…pastries are calorie bombs, I get that.  But…NATIONAL DONUT DAY. It was totally on.  And I am not ashamed and I regret nothing.

I haven’t had a lot of Kinnikinnick Foods products, but I’m definitely open to trying more.  These donuts are just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure.  And, don’t let my disappointment in the size fool you…these were actually really good.  I’ve seen other versions of Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten Free Donuts (and other snacks) in regular grocery stores, so I may investigate a few more.

National Donut Day or not…these are definitely worth a taste.  So stock your freezer and be prepared to be wowed by the flavor.  Not the size…but the flavor.  And I guess, when it comes to gluten-free treats, that’s all that really matters.  Treat yourself.  And enjoy.

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels
Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels – $7.25

Breakfast.  Breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day…but the most versatile and best meal…in the history of ever.

Anything can be breakfast, honestly.  There was a time when a cold slap of pizza would carry me through my morning classes to lunch time.  That was a very long time ago.  Back when a container of spaghetti was fair game for brekkies.

That being said, I have always been a fan of “real” breakfast food.  Seriously.  Breakfast has always been the most magical and wonderful meal of the day.  My mom made it a point to cook a hot breakfast for myself and my two siblings every morning before sending is off to school.  It was always something different…nothing fancy…but just what we needed.

We were also that family that would eat pancakes for dinner.  Or scrambled eggs.  Maybe waffles or French toast.  Yep…breakfast has always been one of my favorite things in the history of ever.

So, you can only imagine how my mind was blown when the Crazy Bagelers at Sweet Note Bakery put together the ultimate fusion of ultimate breakfast favorites.  Bagels (because…New Yorker here!)…and French toast.

YES…introducing the ONLINE EXCLUSIVE Gluten Free French Toast Bagel.

FRENCH. TOAST. BAGEL.

Let those three words sink in for just one moment…

…one epic moment.

Because this, my friends, is epic breakfast food.  Bagel fusion at its finest, for real!  Imagine, if you will, the most perfect, dense, chewy, amazing New York-style bagel.  Now…imagine if it tasted like maple syrup and dreams.  Can you imagine it?  If not, you’re in luck…because this heavenly breakfast food is available through Sweet Note Bakery’s online store.

It’s Friday…and I was out of the vegan and gluten-free pumpkin pancakes I made earlier in the week.  I asked my roommate if bagels were okay in the morning.  She agreed.  So, as is my typical Friday morning…I did my core work, my physical therapy exercises, and all that before heading to my 5:30 am spin class.  Upon my return, I turned on the oven, greeted the roomie who was on the couch, ready for the freshly brewed coffee.  She got a nice warm cup of coffee and I pulled the last package of Sweet Note Bakery bagels out of my freezer (don’t worry…four new packages that I ordered came in today).  It was the (amazing sounding) Gluten Free French Toast Bagels.  I set out to my usual perfect thawing method…heat for 30 seconds on side, flip over, heat for another 30 seconds.  Let sit for about 30 seconds…slice…toast in oven.  It’s simple…and this has been the best way to not get harder parts on the bagel when you thaw them in the microwave.  My microwave is ancient…but it came with the apartment…so maybe that just happens with my caveman microwave…but this helps even out the heat and allows the bagel to get to that right level of softness to make the knife slip right through.  I placed them on a baking sheet, stuffed them in the oven, and went to take a shower.  15 minutes later, I was out of the shower, dressed, and pulling these amazing smelling bagels out of the oven.  Seriously…it smelled like…like warm maple syrup and pancakes.  But like toasty bagels too.

Before leaving for spin, I pulled the Daiya Vegan Cream Cheese out of the fridge and measured out two servings.  Then, I sifted in a bit of confectioners sugar and drizzled in a bit of maple syrup.  I whipped it all together and put it back in the fridge to chill.  This is what got spread over each half of the Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels.  To finish it off in true chefy fashion, each half got a small additional drizzle of pure maple syrup.  I walked out a bagel to my roommate, schmeared with my special cream cheese and set her to feasting.  I went back to prepare my own…ready to dive in because I was H-U-N-G-R-Y.  And these smelled A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

As I was preparing to grab my own cup of coffee and settle in on the couch to watch some of the news before heading to work, I asked her what she thought.  She was chewing…and didn’t actually answer me.  I asked her later on and she said, “I don’t know where the French Toast part came from, but they were tasty.”  I explained that the French Toast part of the name probably comes from the cinnamon and maple flavor that infuse the bagel and rests atop it too.  Finger-licking-good!

Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels with a schmear of Vegan Sweet Maple Cream Cheese and Coffee!!
Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels with a schmear of Vegan Sweet Maple Cream Cheese and Coffee!!

So, here is my more thorough take on the Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels.  Do you love a breakfast that you can pour maple syrup over and devour?  Do you like French Toast?  Do you like bagels?  Texture-wise…the Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels taste like…a bagel.  But the sugar-y, maple-infused top and bagel itself, with that little brush of cinnamon flavor…definitely makes you think of French Toast.  Without that weird egg-y flavor/texture that you can sometimes get.  It’s, honestly, the perfect fusion of two of the most amazing breakfast foods.  I loved the little hint of spice that the cinnamon adds, and the sugary sprinkle on top was a very nice touch.  That maple flavor is key, though, making it taste like pancakes and bagels and French toast and breakfast.  All the breakfast.  I think the sweetness that the confectioners sugar added to the cream cheese made for the perfect topping for this breakfast treat.  I mean, powdered sugar and French Toast go together like…pancakes and syrup.  The maple syrup that was stirred in added to that French Toast appeal.  And yeah…I had to remind myself to slow down and savor my breakfast instead of just gobbling it down mindlessly because it tasted so amazing.  That perfect golden toasted crust and that soft and chewy dense center…ah…so good.  So very good…and reminiscent of the bagels I could eat back before the Celiac diagnosis.  Seriously, no one would guess these were gluten-free if they were just given one to eat.

So, what exactly goes into this breakfast nosh of dueling breakfast treats?  Well, I can tell you!  The Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels are made from love (yep…that’s an actual ingredient), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, molasses, maple syrup, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.  As with all other Sweet Note Bakery bagels, the French Toast variety is gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free. And breakfast heaven.

As far as nutritional information goes, these bagels have all the basics covered.  A serving of the Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels is 4.5 ounces (128 grams), or one (1) bagel.  This bagel will serve you up 310 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 65 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 14 grams sugar, and 4 grams protein.  Due to the higher fiber and protein, these will leave you feeling full all the way through lunch.  I know the sugars seem a bit high, but it’s a French Toast bagel.  There’s going to be sugar.  Worth it.

Okay…so if you still haven’t tried Sweet Note Gluten Free Bagels…what are you waiting for?  I have reviewed every single one of them…so look up the tag “Bagels” on my site and look them over.  Seriously…you need these in your life.  Whether you have to eat gluten-free or not, these taste amazing and are the most authentic gluten free bagels I have ever eaten.  The first time I ate one, I had to double-check the package to make sure they were seriously gluten free.  Small, dense, and NY-style all the way…you’ll love every bite of the French Toast bagels…or any of the other varieties.

Hop over to their Web site and check them out.  Just…trust me!

Restaurant Review: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana
Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Restaurant: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Normally, whenever I venture up to Indianapolis for an event, race, or whatnot, my one requirement is a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise…because I can get a gluten-free veggie burger with gluten-free fries (or sweet potato fries)…and the burger custom made (no cheese; no sour cream) to fit my dietary needs.  This is awesome, as any frozen burger patty, or even homemade burger, tend to be a bit mushy and end up slipping out of any sort of gluten-free bread used as a bun (be it an actual gluten-free bun or just some gluten-free bread).  Cheeseburger in Paradise doesn’t have that problem…and it’s nice to be able to safely eat a veggie burger (so many use breadcrumbs as binder) out at a restaurant AND not have to eat it with a fork and knife (meaning…they have a gluten-free bun and I can pick it up).

Needless to say, I ran two half marathons, two weeks apart up in Indianapolis.  After the first one (OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon), I did hit up Cheeseburger in Paradise.  But two weeks later, I wasn’t ready to revisit Paradise.  I just had it.  My craving had been satisfied.

That being said, when I returned to the Indianapolis to run the Geist Half Marathon, I wanted to try something different.  Step out of the comfort zone…try something new.

I had been hearing some buzz around a place located in Greenwood, Indiana, by a bunch of my friends up in that area.  It was a craft beer tap house called Hops & Fire.  And what was pointed out more than once was that when you step inside to be seated, the hostess will ask if you require any special menus.  In addition to their regular menu, they have extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus.  I told her I was a gluten-free vegetarian and she grabbed both of those menus and a regular one for Cathy and told me that the menus don’t often cross over each other, but anything on either menu can be made gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian.  She took us to our table and we were seated.

Our waiter was totally adorable and came over to introduce himself.  His name was Kyle and he asked how we were doing.  Cathy pointed at me and said, “Well, she just ran a half marathon…”  He raised his eyebrows and said, “So I’m guessing you want water.”  HA!  He was so right.  Cathy had thought about trying one of their craft selections, but in the end started with the water.

Two menus and having so many options was a bit overwhelming to me.  The only thing I knew I wanted to try was Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread.  I bought Lactaid specifically for this meal.  No joke.  We went ahead and mentioned that we wanted that as an appetizer and Kyle said he’d put that in while we finished making our decisions on what to eat, as it was the appetizer that took the longest to prepare.  While he was gone, I started to narrow down my choices, getting it down to three options.  After a little back and forth and pros and cons, I went for the one that didn’t contain cheese…as I was certain I was about to consume more cheese than my body was going to like momentarily.

Kyle returned to take our order, and as usual, as I’m the complicated one, I ordered first.  I went with the Gluten Free California Wrap…keeping the House Chips as a side.  Cathy went with the Stout Pork Belly BLT, which was served with a side of their Parmesan House Chips.  Orders were in…after Kyle had to go and figure out how to combine two menus to make a dish.  Poor guy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread
Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Only a few moments late, a large plate was being carried to our table and put in front of us.  Clearly, when I saw the fact that I could get Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread…I didn’t read the description.  This plate and appetizer was HUGE.  Definitely enough for 4-8 people.  Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread ($9.00), is a full gluten-free baguette, which is drenched in roasted garlic and salted butter, served with a gooey, melted blanket of shallots and chives, which are smothered in Provolone, Mozzarella, and Romano cheeses.  This is then baked so that the top of the cheese gets golden and everything is melty and ooey-gooey.  It comes with a side of marinara.  I took my Lactaid and hoped for the best (sometimes it helps; other times, it doesn’t).  I grabbed the slice on the end and pulled it away, the cheese stretching and making me…so happy.  I cut it up, dipped a piece into the marinara…and immediately lost my mind.  If you go to Hops & Fire, this is their signature appetizer and it is not to be missed.  The gluten-free baguette was crispy on the outside and that perfect toasty, but still soft on the inside.  The cheese was melted to perfection.  The garlic was superb.  Yeah…this made me SO happy.  And, for the record, the Lactaid worked…this time.  Thank goodness!  This was A LOT of food, so Cathy and I said we’d eat half of it and get a box and take the rest of it home.  That’s what we did as our food arrived.  We boxed it up…and it was lunch the next day.

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips
Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

So, let’s start with Cathy’s lunch, shall we?  My om-nom-nomnivore (haha) friend loves to eat pig in any form she can.  This is no joke.  She loves her pork products.  So it was no surprise to me that she chose the Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT ($12.00) off of their Brewed Baskets selections on the regular menu.  It came with a decent serving of their Parmesan House Chips on the side.  This sandwich is not your typical BLT.  Hops & Fire serves up a stout beer and kosher salt-brined local pork belly, which is seared, roasted, sliced thin, and pan fried, then topped with baby bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, and homemade apricot onion jam…served on their grilled garlic shallot bread.  Here’s the thing…they do NOT skimp on the pork belly bacon in this BLT.  Not one bit.  You’ll see by the photo I’m putting up here for those of you who are not a gluten-free vegetarian like me.  I mean…it was BACON. FOR. DAYS.  She had more bacon than Parmesan House Chips.  And that’s not a bad thing, as the protein is, honestly, what you are shelling out money for.  She said the garlic shallot bread was amazing (we Celiacs will never know…).  She said it could have used a slight bit more mayo…but it was awesome.  And yes…she devoured it all and the chips.  Carnivores.  Oy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a mountain of House Chips
Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a side of House Chips

As for me…I went ahead and combined an offering on the Vegetarian Menu and asked that it be made gluten-free.  I opted for the Gluten Free California Wrap ($12.00)…mostly because it didn’t have cheese and avocado always wins.  The California Wrap is a gluten-free tortilla that is stuffed and rolled up around fresh sliced avocado, beefsteak tomato, bibb lettuce, pickled onions, and a roasted garlic aioli. OH MY GLUTEN FREE GODS!!  This was a simple, basic, wrap, but it tasted amazing to me.  Maybe it was because I had just pounded out 13.1 miles and was living off of watermelon and water at that point, but this wrap was great.  Gluten-free tortillas are nothing to write home about, and I’m pretty certain this was the standard gluten-free teff tortilla.  But it just serves as a way for me to pick up and devour the veggie-licious produce that was stuffed and rolled up inside.  The aioli, by the way, was delicious.  The avocado was ripe and sweet.  The tomatoes…so good.  I loved every bite of this wrap.  It came with a mountain…no…a landslide of their House Chips, which I couldn’t even finish.  Where Cathy had a decent side of hers, the chips serving was bigger than my wrap…so…I ate what I wanted and left the rest.

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae
Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

We were full, but we couldn’t end our experience there.  Kyle tempted us with a dessert menu, pointing out that those marked with a gf were gluten free and also the codes for vegan and vegetarian as well.  We were very tempted to get one of the Desserts For Two (yeah…we so wanted the Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores Cast Iron Cake), but in the end, decided we were too full for that and went with splitting a single serving of the Vegan Ice Cream Sundae ($5.00).  This was a small bowl (thank goodness) that had a scoop of vegan ice cream, drizzled lightly with hot fudge.  It was perfect and a great way to end the meal.  It was amazing.  The ice cream was not as creamy as regular ice cream, but it was cold and melty and amazing.  And the hot fudge…that’s always a welcome addition to anything ice cream-ish.

Kyle brought us our check once we had polished it off and we paid in cash and got our things together to go.  We talked about the food for a bit of the drive home…and how amazing and good it was.  I was beyond happy with the service and the attention paid to each dish that was ordered, making sure that it fit my dietary needs…nothing that made me take pause and question whether it was safe for me to eat or not.

I’m already planning my return to Hops & Fire.  So, if you happen to be in the Indianapolis area, or traveling through, do make the trip to Greenwood and check out this amazing and delicious place.  You have a specialty diet…they have you covered.  And I love it.

Next time…gluten-free onion rings.  It’s happening!

Enjoying the Ride into the Long Weekend

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

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

YAY!

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

1.  Clipping Into A Road Bike

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

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

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

3.  Strawberries…Strawberries For Days…

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

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

4.  The Most Perfect Soft Pretzel Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Hard for a Weekend of Hard Work

Ah, it’s Sunday.  A day to rest and relax right?  RIGHT?!

HA…never!!  Today, I’ve done countless loads of laundry, prepped and cooked all the meals for the coming week, took recycle to the store, took care of a cat, did some necessary shopping, mailed off a package, finished up (much-needed) grocery shopping, organized the pantry, and polished off a book.  I’ve blogged on my race on Friday night, made up lunches/snacks for tomorrow, and have even changed sheets on the bed.  And showered.  Important.

This has been a chaotic and crazy week.  I got back into town from a relaxing (ie: NON-RACE) weekend in Orlando, Florida.  Sure, the Star Wars Half Marathon was running at Disney World that very weekend…but I was not quick enough on making a decision to run, and by the time I was certain I was going to be able to do it, registration had closed.  Instead, the day before I headed out to get to Florida, I did my long run.  On a Tuesday night.  On tired legs.  But it was done and I didn’t have to do it alone…or in Orlando, where I had no idea where I could safely and effectively go running.  As it was, I found a park where I managed 5 miles, and I did 5 miles back and forth on this 0.20 mile boardwalk on Cocoa Beach while I was away.  But that was it for the running.  The rest of the time I was exploring…but we’ll get to that momentarily.

With a couple of days away from the office, I was overloaded with work, so I ended up doing something I hate doing.  I brought work home and put in some time away from the office.  It had to be done…or I’d still be buried.  This made my week even more stressful because I was trying to fit in all my normal stuff while having to do some work at home.  It meant…the normalcy took a lot longer to get around to.  And grocery shopping never happened.  So, my roommate and I were living out of the pantry/freezer/fridge for this week.

So…with all that being said…some good stuff has been going down these past two weeks…so let’s take a look at some of the highlights!

1.  Universal Studios Florida


It’s Marvel Superheroes, it’s Harry Potter, it’s rides, rides, rides.  And I had an absolute blast.  I met Captain America (he told me I had beautiful green eyes!), which had to happen as he is the favorite superhero of my nephew, Chace.  I flirted with the driver of the Knight Bus at Diagon Alley in Universal as well.  SO MUCH FUN.  That being said, I vastly prefer Disney to Universal, but it was actually nice to step away from the Disney monster and do something I’ve been wanting to do, but couldn’t pull myself away from Disney.  HA!  And thank goodness for my friend, Jenn, who was willing to go on the thrill rides with me.  Cathy refuses.  She’s a big baby.  OH…and I bought a wand.  I have my own Harry Potter type of wand.  It’s Ivy…with a Unicorn Hair core.  And I loved it because I was able to cast magical spells at both of the Harry Potter lands at each Universal Studios theme park in Florida.  It takes so little to make me happy.

2.  Toasted
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Eating out with me can be…difficult at times.  Thank you Celiac disease and lactose intolerance.  That being said, while I was in Orlando, thanks to my Find Me Gluten Free app, I found the most perfect place to dine.  In fact, we (Jenn, Cathy & myself) ended up having dinner there three times.  The place is called Toasted, and it specializes in Crafted Grilled Cheese & Burgers.  And…they have gluten-free buns, bread, and veggie burgers.  They also have vegan cheese.  This…was my happy place.  To top all of that off…they had gluten-free fries.  And, let me tell you, the Truffle Oil & Rosemary fries were to die for.  We learned, after our first visit, that one order of fries would do for the three of us.  Amazing sandwiches.  I had a different one each night…never got sick.  Let’s hear it for gluten-free dining done right.  If you find yourself in the Winter Park area of Orlando…go and check them out.

3. Gluten Free Snack Cakes
schnacks
Okay…I admit it.  I love my desserts.  I have tried, for ages, to give them up.  But the sweet tooth reigns supreme.  For sure.  And, after getting my roommate a little tipsy on her birthday, I took her grocery shopping.  And bought a bunch of stuff I didn’t need but wanted to try.  And, despite trying to be a little better about my choices…I discovered a new product from Schär‘s Sch’nacks!  These delightful little treats are simply a gluten-free, unrolled version of a Swiss Roll.  They are little single serve cakes that are filled with cream and dipped in German chocolate.  And they are light, and amazing.  I have to resist buying them too often…but a treat every now and again is always fine.  There are 10 cakes per package…and I only have one after dinner each night.  Seriously…a worthy investment for an every-now-and-again treat.  Back to some fruits and vegan yogurts after this.  And I’m back to cooking real food…and not just living out of the fridge/freezer/pantry…which is also a plus.

4.  Road Bike Shoes
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Today, I meandered over to Schwinn in Clarksville, Indiana, and purchased a pair of road bike shoes.  Now that I have a road bike, I figured I needed to get the clip-in shoes so I could ride it.  They are very nice at Schwinn and even discounted the price of the shoes and put the cleats in for me.  YAY!!  I hope to get fitted to my bike next weekend, time permitting!  Crossing my fingers.  Then, I get to practice clipping in and out…and probably taking a few spills during said process.  It’s actually…kind of exciting.  Not the falling part, but getting the necessary gear and stuff done to get out onto my bike.

5.  Running my fastest mile at my favorite 5K

 


Friday was not only Earth Day, it was the running of the Pro.Active For Life 5K in Frankfort, Kentucky.  I go to Frankfort quite often for the races, and while 5K races are one of my least favorite distances, this just happens to be my favorite 5K race.  It’s not just the race itself, but the people.  Frankfort, honestly, some of the best people in that running community.  I can’t say it enough.  Not only did I win my age division this year, but I pulled off a 6:53 mile.  Shocking myself.  Even more shocking…the entire run was pain-free.  And…I was only 6 seconds off my PR (also set at this race).  Stronger every day.  Trying to be really smart when it comes to my training.

6.  A long, solo, pain-free Saturday morning run

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So, Friday night I churn out a speedy 5K (even if my finishing picture looks like I’m just cruising, LOL!), knowing that Saturday, I was on my own for my longest run since…forever.  I am signed up for (although still not 100% sure I’ll be running) a marathon in June.  Bib transfer can only happen through May 1, leaving this Saturday the only chance I had for attempting a long marathon-training type run.  And, I had to do it solo, as everyone I know is either recovering from Boston, running Big Sur, running London, running Derby or running Flying Pig.  So, they are either recovering, out of town, or tapering.  So, Saturday morning, I laced up, still feeling good, and went out for 20 miles in my area.  No crossing the river (it was Thunder Over Louisville day anyway…so this was probably better in the long run…ha…I made a punny).  So, I just sort of went.  I never pushed my pace…I ran comfortably and just sort of made the route up.  The last 5 miles, however, I decided to make the toughest.  I don’t know why.  I’m sadistic like that.  So I hit up the Fast Freddie route…which is HILLS FOR DAYS!…and came out of it better than I even expected.  Once again…no pain.  And 20 miles done.  Alone.  And way better than I dreamed.  WITHOUT ANY PAIN!  I spent the rest of the day out and about, doing some grocery shopping and regular shopping and eating good food for recovery and fuel.  This…was the type of run I mentally needed.  And while it does make me feel better, I still don’t know if I’ll run in June.  I’m pondering for one more day before making that call.

7.  Game Of Thrones
game-of-thrones-2
The new season of GoT starts tonight, and unlike last year, I’m set.  HBO Now was downloaded this morning and I’m set to watch this season as it airs, instead of getting spoiled.  I know I read the books, but the show has gone away from how the books actually worked out, so it’s nice that I won’t have to attempt (and fail) to avoid spoilers this time around.  It’s the little things in life.  SO…YAY!!  It’s the little things in life…like Season 6 of Game of Thrones.

8.  Caramelized Honey Latte at Starbucks

 


They keep selling out of it, but when I went to Florida this past week, I was introduced to Starbucks latest (and greatest) drink.  It’s the Caramelized Honey Latte and it is AMAZING.  It reminds me a lot of The Bee Sting, one of Ha Coffee’s signature drinks in Kauai (I miss Hawaii!).  I get mine with coconut milk and it is…OMG…to die for.  I had it hot and iced while in Florida. The Starbucks at Universal Studios City Walk sold out of them…and the one here in our local Target sold out too.  I think this drink is quite popular.  And it should be.  It is made of super YUM!!  If you haven’t tried it…RUN, do NOT WALK, to Starbucks and give it a try.  You’ll thank me for it.

So, there are some of the highlights these past couple of weeks.  Here’s to hoping for a bit more relaxed and easier week ahead.  And I hope everyone had a great week and enjoyed a beautiful weekend.  And for anyone racing this coming weekend…good luck!!

Restaurant Review: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

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Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

I am a foodie.  Hard to believe with all my food allergies and intolerance…and the fact that I am a vegetarian…that this is a true statement.  But I LOVE food.  I love to eat food.  I love to enjoy food.  And I love to cook food.  I love to share food.  Food is love.  And, as an athlete, food is also fuel.

I am on a nice vacation at the moment, enjoying myself and my time away from the stresses of life.  And, as is the way me and my traveling compatriots do vacations…we work in one nice meal out.  And, as we were enjoying some time at Universal Studios today, we opted to eat on the Universal Studios Citywalk…at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.

Now, I have loved Emeril Lagasse for a long time.  He is, not only, one of the most recognizable and quotable chef’s (“BAM!”)…he is just awesome.  His food is simple, pure, cajun goodness!!  He is pure Louisiana.  And that’s what we went there for.

We were in for a treat.  White tablecloths.  Chairs were pulled out for us.  Napkins were dropped into our laps.  I sort of felt under dressed with my roller-coaster windblown hair and my Wonder Woman t-shirt.  But, none of the staff minded.  We were greeted soon after by our waiter for the night…which was actually going to be three people seeing to us.  Our waiters were amazing and funny and extremely helpful.  We were given the menu to look over and I mentioned that I was a gluten free vegetarian…and after some witty bantering…he pointed out the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day (which changes from day to day) and explained to me that it was a noodless lasagna…where the chef layers squash, zucchini, eggplant and roasted red peppers, all seasoned with amazing herbs, and makes them into the noodles.  They could even make it vegan for me.  They let us peruse the menu and I noticed the special as well being a Roasted Cauliflower in a tomato broth with crispy kale that sounded SO good.  I needed to ask about it being gluten free.  Cathy had settled on the Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop and Jenn said she was getting the Shrimp and Grits (I had a feeling all the veggies would be tossed aside…LOL!).  But then, after checking with the chef about the gluten-free status of the cauliflower special (it was), and answering Jenn’s question as to what an étouffée was (all the veggies)…he went on to say that the Shrimp and Grits was the best dish on the menu.  So…Jenn was sold.  He also went on to say that the other dishes he considers the best served there were the Scallops and the Short Rib.

So now Cathy was undecided.  And I still was torn between the special and the menu special.  Both were special.  LOL!  But…both were different enough that I knew that I couldn’t get them anywhere else.  So, once Cathy decided on the Scallops instead, I was still torn.  And my dinner buddies weren’t making the decision any easier.  Back to our waiter for his opinion…and with his help, I opted for the Vegan version of the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day.  This meant none of the cheese or alfredo would be added to the dish.  Gluten free and vegan vegetable goodness.

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Emeril’s Cast Iron Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam

As we were going to have a little wait while our food was prepared, Jenn and Cathy decided they were going to split an appetizer.  They ordered the Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam ($8.00).  The cornbread looked fantastic.  They said it was light and fluffy and just soft and amazing.  Cathy was a big, big, big fan of the Bacon Jam (pork belly cooked in butter with brown sugar and reduced).  Jenn said she could take it or leave it…but the honey butter at the bottom was just soaking into the bread.  I thought it was just…awesome looking.  But, alas, so not something I could eat.

Before too long, our entrees were being served.  They had Cathy and Jenn’s backwards, but that was easily fixed.  The plates were changed out and we were ready to dive in.

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Emeril’s Shrimp + Grits

Jenn ordered the Shrimp + Grits, which was Louisiana shrimp, étouffée, Anson Mills rice grits, and local cherry tomatoes ($30.00).  She said the shrimp was nailed to the perfect cook.  The grits were smooth and creamy.  I looked at them.  I thought it was rice at first…with all the cheese.  Much of the étouffée was cast aside, as she is not a cooked vegetable person, but the rest of it was devoured.  I really do think it was a 1/1 ratio of cheese to grits…but it looked awesome.  Her only qualm…the tails were left on the shrimp.  It’s kind of hard to be classy in a nice restaurant when you have to use your fingers to remove the tails.

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Emeril’s Blackened Diver Scallops

Cathy went with the Blackened Diver Scallops, which was served with a Creamy Corn Moque Choux, Wilted Greens, and Local Tomato Jam ($32.00).  It looked GORGEOUS!!  The corn sauce fascinated her.  She said it was almost like a corn chowder.  The greens were cooked perfectly.  They weren’t mushy or overly done.  She said the tomato jam was sweet and paired beautifully with everything.  But the star…the scallops.  They were tender and buttery and had a perfect sear.  She said they were the best scallops she ever had.

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Emeril’s Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day – Noodleless Lasagna (tightly stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash and roasted red pepper) with a marinara sauce and greens

So…my perfectly gluten-free and vegan dish is now up.  As I stated, I ordered the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day ($23.00).  This was a noodleless lasagna, where the noodles were stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash, and roasted red pepper.  The seasonings were crazy good.  And all of this was topped off with an amazingly rich marinara and greens.  I could hardly make out the noodles, and I didn’t want to destroy the dish to get a picture.  So, trust me…there are tightly stacked veggies under there.  OMG.  The tomato sauce, for starters, was killer.  Just mouth watering, savory, amazing flavor.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly…not limp and wet, but perfect, with still a little crisp to them, but tender to bite into.  Almost like real noodles.  I didn’t miss the cheese or the heavy Alfredo.  This was pure perfection.  Why go back to noodles when you can do this to have lasagna?!  Seriously…so glad the waiter talked me into this one.  I was one happy girl.

And while we were all rather full from dinner…we decided we had to do dinner.  The waiter had tempted me with a Flourless (and Gluten Free) Chocolate Torte earlier that evening.  And I had been on the fence.  He did deliver dessert menus to us, to let the Cathy and Jenn choose what they might want to have…and then said the sorbets (strawberry lemonade, coconut, and passionfruit tonight) were another option for me.

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Emeril’s Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with Butter Pecan Sauce

In the end, we decided to split the Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with a Butter Pecan Sauce ($10.00) between the three of us.  I am so glad we did.  While the slice of torte isn’t as huge as say, a slice of Emeril’s famous Banana Cream Pie…it was rich.  Smooth, perfect, rich, creamy, amazing, sinful, decadent, chocolatey goodness.  Pure sinful goodness in each bite.  And that butter pecan sauce…oh yeah…that just tied it all together.  Cathy and Jenn split the whipped cream.  I ate the strawberry.  This…was a perfect end to a perfect meal.

I was beyond impressed with the service, setting, and food that we received at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.  They were so good at working with me and my dietary needs.  Didn’t even bat an eye.  Immediately knew what to ask about and explained to me what I could eat and what was delicious.  Our waiter was awesome.  He made me laugh, he made me feel so good about the food that was going to be made for me, and he even helped me make a decision on my dinner that night.

If only more restaurants turned out a meal and an experience like this one did.  Emeril is an amazing chef…and his restaurant didn’t let me down.  This was a meal I will be talking about for a very long time.

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?

Product Review: WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters

WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters
WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters

Product: WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters – $7.00

One of the best parts about receiving a monthly subscription box is the products I never would have tried and/or heard of without it.  After Cuisine Cube…I needed a change.  So, I opted to get a subscription to Conscious Box, which has become Bestowed.  I love my little monthly treats and this one is affordable, and often has a blend of samples and full-size products.

I received the April box a few days ago…

And I’ve already delved into it.

This morning, I was prepping for a 6 mile run, and per the instructions of my sports nutritionist, I needed to get some fuel in my body before heading out.  So, I went to the pantry and pulled down a package of one of the products I received a full-size sample of.  It is like a granola (and we all know I love granola) and from a company called WholeMe.

WholeMe was created in 2003 by Krista Steinbach and Mary Kosir, two women who were dedicated to developing nutrient-dense, delicious, convenient foods.  Like so many of us, they were leading busy and chaotic lives.  But one thing they both took into consideration was that food has power over everyone’s daily lives and they really wanted to make eating real food delicious and convenient.  In early 2014, they launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $40,000 to begin WholeMe.  Their products offer a real alternative to the preservative-filled, sugar-laden snacks that infiltrate the grocery store, and then inevitably…our pantries.  They like to say, “Real food should have a limited shelf life.  Remember, food is perishable.  ours is.  And that’s why the only preservative we use is the fridge.”

So, thanks to my Bestowed Box, I now was the owner of a package of one of WholeMe’s three variety of clusters.  Their granola clusters are available in Almond Coconut, Lemon Berry Chia, and Cinnamon Banana Chip.  As luck of the draw (or in this case…box) had it, I received the Cinnamon Banana Chip.  And this morning…with 6 miles needed at 3:30 a.m…I needed to get some fuel before heading out.  Without any extra sugars, I thought this might be a nice thing to munch on while I got dressed and ready to stretch and warm up.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I opened it up and reached inside, snagging a few crumbly clusters of the chocolate-y looking snack, I wasn’t expecting to see real banana chips scattered throughout the blend.  I love banana chips.  Always have.  So, yeah, this made me so happy!  The only real chocolate in this, by the way, is the smattering of cocoa nibs inside the mix.  I figured to give it a go, and I popped the handful in my mouth…

…and was immediately hooked.

In fact, I went back for some more and then went and finished getting ready for my run.  It’s sweet, without being overly sweet.  It tastes mostly of banana.  The cinnamon is nice for the flavor, but it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the product.  In a word…these clusters are freakin’ amazing.  Out of this world.  And GOOD FOR YOU!!  They are soft and have great texture.  Especially if you get a bit with a banana chip in it.  Yummy!  The bits of chocolate add just enough sweetness to keep the flavor interesting.  And everything inside these clusters…is made from real food.  Real food!  I love eating real food.  With a blend of nuts, seeds, natural sweeteners, and an appropriate hit of salt, cinnamon, and maca…this snack blend is a real treat…no guilt.

It is perfect for…as the back of the bag reads:

“What’s in it for Me?  The watch-what-I-eat Me.  The work-out-addict Me.  The grain-free Me.  The paleo Me.  The give-me-something-good-to-eat Me.  The diabetic Me.  The gluten-free Me.  No matter which Me you happen to be, WholeMe is determined to provide genuine, delicious, convenient foods.  Food that makes all of Me (you) happy.”

So, if it’s so good for you, let’s take a look at these natural and real ingredients that go into a package of WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters, shall we?  This granola mix is made from banana chips (bananas, coconut oil), honey, pecans, coconut, almonds, dried bananas, coconut oil, sunflower seeds, pure maple syrup, cocoa nibs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and maca.  This blend is grain-free, gluten-free, naturally sweetened, paleo, nutrient-dense, preservative-free, soy-free, and non-GMO.  It is all natural goodness, for sure!

So, with that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the nutrition facts for the WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters.  A serving size of the clusters is 1/3 cup (28 grams).  There are 8 servings per package.  A serving will serve you up 133 calories, 10 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 0  grams trans fat, 1 gram polyunsaturated fat, 2 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 67 mg sodium, 11 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 2 grams protein.  Not too bad for something that you can eat as cereal, by the handful, or as a topping to yogurt or ice cream.  Seriously…options are endless.

I haven’t seen this in stores anywhere in my area, and it looks like it is mostly available in Minnesota (where WholeMe is based out of).  That being said, there is an online store…which I will definitely be hitting up in the near future.  With real food that is really good…why wouldn’t I?  This is right in my wheelhouse…and definitely gave me adequate and perfect fueling for my run.