Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN (August 6, 2016)

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Me crossing the finish line of the Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN

Race: Minnesota Half Marathon

Place: St. Paul, Minnesota

Date: August 6, 2016

Time: 1:41:24

Two weeks ago, I had a plan.  I was to run 12 miles…either around my grandpa’s neighborhood in Minnesota…or with my friend Julie (depending on her schedule) somewhere in the Minneapolis area.  Neither came into fruition, because Southwest had that computer meltdown that literally grounded and cancelled flights that entire weekend.  So, while my family was in Minnesota, celebrating my grandpa’s 95th birthday, I was still in Indiana…and Southwest was willing to reschedule for up to 2 weeks out.  And after checking with my aunt and my grandpa about their schedules…I was rescheduled to visit now at the beginning of August instead.  The rest of my family would be back in Alabama, but I would get a bit more one-on-one time with my grandpa, aunt, and cousins (and their families).  So, there were pros and cons.

It just so happened that in my current marathon training schedule, my long run for that weekend was a 13 mile run.  And, as luck would have it…there was a local half marathon running on Saturday.

Maybe this was meant to be.

There were a lot of things that compelled me to sign up for the Minnesota Half Marathon.  For one thing…if I’m going to put in the time and miles, why not get a medal for it?  Another reason…it benefited the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and a friend of mine is currently in Chicago at the Ronald McDonald House with her niece, who is being treated for cancer…and kicking cancer’s ass if I do say so myself.  Also…there was an inline skating division.  Yes…roller bladers were invited to also do the 13.1 mile course.  I have never been part of a race with an inline skating division.  So cool.  OH…and the course…has you running right along the Mississippi River the entire time.  Sounded perfect to me.  And so…as a rather last minute decision, I registered and packed my racing gear in my luggage.

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Caribou Coffee!!!!!

Upon arriving in Minneapolis, after a much-needed and fantastic stop at Caribou Coffee at the airport, my roommate and I got our rental car and headed out to St. Paul…down to The Running Room to pick up my packet.  We arrived just slightly before they opened (let’s hear it for making good time!), so we went up the street and killed some time in CVS, before heading back down to the store and stepping inside.  There was a small table set up with a laptop, some race bibs, and boxes of t-shirts off to the side.  A young woman was manning the table and she asked my name, typed it into the computer, and grabbed the next race bib on the stack (2490), took a sharpie and marked the half marathon checkbox, and told me to grab my size t-shirt.  That was it.  Super easy.

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French Meadow Bakery’s Gluten Free & Vegan Cornmeal Waffle

From there, we headed over to Minneapolis to hit up the grocery store (I was cooking 2 meals while there AND making dessert), and then get to grandpa’s house.  We let ourselves in…and he was inside and very happy to see me there.  We were, of course, already ready for some lunch.  We invited Grandpa along, but he was tired from his trip earlier in the week that he took.  So, Cathy and I packed up and headed out to one of our favorite places to eat while in Minnesota…French Meadow Bakery.  I was cooking dinner that night for my Grandpa, aunt, my cousin Natalie, and my cousin Molly and her family (hubby and 3 kids)…and I was making BigMAC Potatoes.  I normally do gluten-free pizza before a race, but since I was treating this as a training run, I figured it was fine to change things up.  Who knows…maybe I’d stumble across something that worked better.  Cathy ordered the Mac & Cheese for lunch and I went with the Gluten Free & Vegan Cornmeal Waffle (which is topped off with bananas, toasted walnuts, and a toffee syrup).  Because…we all know how much I love breakfast.  We devoured our food and did a little bit of shopping at the Electric Fetus (that’s a record store, in case you were wondering), a Half Price Books, and then went back to home base, as I needed to bake the Gluten Free Strawberry Streusel Bars that I brought ingredients (yep…I brought the last 2 jars of my strawberry jam to Minnesota for this) to bake specifically for the birthday peeps (my aunt celebrated her birthday a few days after my grandpa did).  The dessert needed to cool for 2 hours, so I got it baking and then settled in to talk and hang out with grandpa for a little while.  Eventually, my aunt came home from work and Molly & Co. arrived.  Molly volunteered to make her famous green beans…and I was excited about eating them because they sounded SO good.  I put Cathy on the task of rinsing, poking, and rubbing the potatoes down with a light bit of olive oil.  We got them in the oven, since it would take about an hour to bake, and then I got to work on the lentils, which would make the “meat” portion of the vegan dish.  Soon, we had everything cooked and we settled down at the table, where I walked everyone through how to assemble their potatoes.  And we devoured them and half of the Strawberry Streusel Bars too.  Vegan cooking FTW!!

The Olympics were starting that evening, so the opening ceremonies were put on the screen and while I foam rolled (and taught my cousins all about foam rolling and the stick!), I watched what Brazil was bringing to the world stage for these 2016 Summer Olympic Games.  I was exhausted, as I had been up since 12:45 am to squeeze in all my stretches, warm up, and manage a short (2 mile) run and shower before my ride to the airport had arrived at 4 am.  But, as the United States were walking in the E’s (Los Estados Unidos!), I was at least able to stay up and see Michael Phelps carry in the flag.  Once that happened, I was in bed and setting 2 alarms for the morning routine for a race.

The first alarm came WAY too soon, but I got up, went through the first part of my race-day routine, and then climbed back into bed for about another hour.  The second alarm was go-time…so I had to get up, get changed, eat something, and get to the race.  I managed to get into my race outfit before checking the weather and discovering that it was currently 57 degrees outside.  So, bra top wasn’t going to work.  I came prepared with 3 different singlets though, so I grabbed my purple Boston one and slipped it on.  That would do.  Cathy was up just as I stuck a bagel in the oven to toast for her and prepped my oatmeal cup I brought with me.

So…basically I was doing EVERYTHING that they advise against in preparation for this half marathon.  I forewent the pizza the night before…I stayed up late…I ate a big bowl of oatmeal pre-race (I usually have a serving of cereal before leaving for the race and then a banana 30 minutes before the race)…I was testing out Skratch as a form of fuel (as my current fuel has been giving me stomach cramps)…and I didn’t give myself any time to stretch, do my PT exercises, my dynamic warmup stuff, or my plyometrics…yep…I was doing it all wrong and just hoping for the best.  HA!  Good thing I wasn’t racing this.

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Pre-race nap in the rental car

After we ate, I quickly brushed my teeth, filled up one water bottle in my fuel belt with water, the other with Skratch, and grabbed my banana.  Then, we were off to the races.  Via a detour.  Where Cathy managed to get where we needed to be without even trying.  Talk about luck!  She got us parked in the parking garage the race site recommended to park in…with time to kill.

So…I took a nap.

No joke.  I took a freakin’ nap.

Ah…my power naps are so…awesome.

After about 2o minutes, we decided to head on down toward the start line so that we wouldn’t feel crushed for time.  One problem…we couldn’t figure out how to efficiently get down to the ground level over by the river.  Hmmm…

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The Minnesota Half Marathon has an inline skating division…HOW COOL!

After a few false starts and a lot of back and forths…and many stair wells and elevators, we figured it out and got down to where we needed to be.  From there, we followed all the runners toward the start area.  And I immediately ducked into the long lines for the port-a-potties.  Apparently potatoes and oatmeal make me have to pee.  I rarely make use of the port-a-potties…and the lines were LONG.  Cathy found me in time to pass of my banana at 6:45 am…as the half marathon was to go off at 7:15 am.  The inline skaters were sent of at 7 am.  The bathroom lines had a TON of inline skaters in them and as the time ticked down and the lines barely moved…they had to move to the front or miss the start.  Banana…bathroom…time to watch the inline skaters go before getting myself ready to run.  There were some seriously incredible skaters who lined up…but the majority were casual racers.  Still…it was pretty awesome to see them take off.  Some were SUPER fast.

After they were out of the starting area, the half marathon runners were asked to line up.  So, I hopped into the start area…just behind the 1:40 pacer.  I had no pace expectations…just to run comfortably.  It was a training run, after all. We were sent off a few minutes early, to be sure.

But I was off.

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Me…heading out at the start of the Minnesota Half Marathon in St. Paul, MN.

This race was beautiful.  The entire run is done along the Mississippi River.  The roads are closed to traffic, so it’s just you, the runners, the river, and…the occasional struggling roller blader.  This course was reversed from the years previous to help make the last 5 miles a bit flatter.  You know what that means?  The hills hit in the first half of the race.  Some of these climbs brought some more of the novice roller bladers to a stop, or to a crawl (while clinging to the cement divider on the road), but I just worked my way up them.  I’m still trying to get my spring and speed back when it comes to hills.  That being said…I just adjusted my stride and pushed on.

We turned around just before Mile 4 to head back toward the start area, so any downhill we had, now was an uphill.  There was a small amount of support out on the side of the road…but mostly I enjoyed listening to the pacers whenever they were around.  OH…and the one guy who was totally flirting with this girl in the 1:40 group.  He literally turned to her and said, “I like your pace!”  Um…right…

Anyway…the run beside the river was quite pleasant…even though most of these miles were put in right in full sun.  Yeah…I was regretting not just doing the bra top at this point.  The singlet was light…but I would have been way more comfortable without the fabric.

At Mile 5, I decided to take a risk and try out some of the Skratch that I picked up samples of to see how it did as a fuel.  By Mile 6, the pacer in front of me was telling the runners that were with him that it would be a good time to gu.  LOL!  One good thing about running so close to a pace group, was I knew when “the last hill” would be hitting.  I let them go soon after Mile 8.  This is also the point of the race where all the runners are sent past the finish line.  Seriously…we had to run up the road for another few miles before turning around again.  This is the second race I’ve done in Minnesota where we are sent past the finish area…like a tease…

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This is me…running past the finish line area just after Mile 8.  What a tease!

Cathy saw me and was screaming and cheering.  And I gave a wave and continued on.  Mile 10…more Skratch…but I was feeling a bit tired.  So, I knew Skratch was not going to be a good fuel for my upcoming marathon.  UGH.  This means that I am back to square one on the whole nutrition/fueling thing.  MEH.  I had a backup Huma gel, but I was only 3 miles from the finish, so I stuck it out.  Just before Mile 11, we make the turn and run back toward the finish area, this time…to finish for real.  This involved a bit of a hill climb…and then it was just over 2 miles to hit that finish line.

With the gentle breeze coming off the river, I relaxed, settled into my pace, and just made my last couple of miles count.  I could see the finish line ahead and started to pick it up as much as I could manage.  And…I even managed to pass up another female runner right at the finish line.  You see that line, you sprint, dammit.  SPRINT.  Even I do that, and I don’t sprint.  I am not a sprinter.  LOL!

Anyway…upon finishing, I was given my Minnesota-shaped finisher’s medal and took some time to walk through the recovery area.  I was introduced to Aspire Sports Drink, which is made with natural ingredients and doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives.  It was AMAZING.  I tried 4 of the 6 flavors.  Only 35 calories per bottle too.  Gotta love it.  I eased out of my racing shoes and into my flip flops for recovery.  And, after a bit of walking…Cathy and I went to get some coffee at the nearby Caribou Coffee (of course), before heading back to Minneapolis so I could change and then hang out with my friend Heather for some lunch and shopping that afternoon.

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Me with the Mississippi River behind me…after the finish of the Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN

So, my official results of the Minnesota Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:41:24, which is only 6 seconds slower than my finish at Derby.  AND…my Garmin had this course at 13.25 miles exactly.  Anyway, I was 86/1164 finishers overall.  I was 16/640 women to cross the finish line.  And I was 3/87 people in the 35-39 female division!  Third in my age division.  HOLLA!!  Imagine if I had been racing this thing (but I know better…and I am SO close to my marathon this year!).

I had a lot of fun at this race.  Not only did it benefit a great cause, but it was a fantastic way to work in a training run.  Afterwards, I went and had delicious Mexican food for lunch and walked the Mall of America with one of my best friends in life…Heather…who brought along her 8 month old niece…and we had a blast.  It was a perfect start to a perfect visit to Minnesota.  Gorgeous course…challenging…and if you aren’t feeling up to the half distance, they also offer an unusual 6K distance as well.

A Wild & Wonderful Weekend

In the midst of everyday stresses and stressors, it’s always nice to have a little break from the things that are just…making you feel so BLAH about life and what you are doing with your life.

For me, this week, it was having my beautiful sister, Karla, drive up from Birmingham, Alabama, with her eldest son, my nephew, Landon.  I didn’t know how much I needed her and the distraction of having her and Landon here to really just allow me to relax, smile, and be me again!

Family, especially my sister, is, apparently, the cure to what ails, troubles, and bothers you.  I’ve been having…a not so amazing time these past few weeks…and, unfortunately, it’s something I am not really allowed to discuss.  Censorship sucks, yes?  YES!  But…just trust me…the type of personality I have and the person I am…it’s been bothering me on a fundamental level, which, has added a lot of added stress to my already chaotic life.

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Suckage.

But this weekend…was amazing.  I love spending time with my sister…and it doesn’t happen often enough.  So, her texts and calls that ask what I’m doing on certain weekends means…she’s coming to visit.  And I LOVE when she comes to visit.  She and I are best friends and sisters and just…have always been close.  So, me living this far away for 11 years (YES…11 years as of Friday)…has not been easy on either of us.  But here is some of the mischief that we got into this weekend, helping me to not even think about the bad and sucky things that have made a certain portion of a time of my day…a thing I have resented and even loathed at times over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s to sisters…and nephews…and family…and general FUN!  They make the world right again.

1.  Fish in the Water

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One thing Karla and I had discussed for Landon to do while here was to go to the new water park in New Albany.  Unfortunately, Friday left us with thunderstorm warnings and the threat of pop-up storms.  So, at around 3:30…when she arrived and we left the office…the lifeguards were being sent home and the park was closing.  So, Plan B…go to the YMCA and let him swim.  He was swim tested and given permission to go to the life guard chair in the lap pool and to go down the slide in the kids pool.  So, for a good portion of the afternoon…about an hour and change, that’s what he did.  Cathy, Karla, and I all sweltered to death in the humidity of the pool area of the YMCA while he played and cooled off in the pools.  It was worth it to see the smile on his face!

2.  SUSHI TIME!

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My sister commented a week or so ago about how delicious my vegetarian sushi looked when I Instagram-ed it and posted it to Facebook.  And then…I had a brilliant moment of brilliance.  My nephew, Landon, is a very, very, very picky eater.  BUT…he does love cheese things.  Cheese quesadillas, cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese….ALL THE CHEESE!  With the excitement over sushi on my post, I thought of the perfect place for us all to grab dinner, that even Landon couldn’t turn his nose up and refuse to order anything.  Dragon King’s Daughter to the rescue!  For those of you who are not local, Dragon King’s Daughter is an Asian-fusion restaurant with two locations…one in New Albany, Indiana, and one in Louisville, Kentucky.  The menu includes traditional fare from the Far East, as well as contemporary fare with a unique twist.  They offer classics of Japanese dining such as lemongrass miso, vegetable, and sushi rolls, as well as a multitude of new creations including a mixture of East and West forms and flavors.  On the kids menu…a cheese quesadilla…and for the adults…we all went sushi.  My sister and I figured we could get a roll each and split one…so I got the Vegetable Roll, she got the Buffaroll, and we split the Green Acres Roll.  Cathy went for the fishies…and got the Shrimp Tempura Roll and the Dragon King’s Daughter Roll.  And after that…a trip over to the Comfy Cow for an ice cream dessert.  What a great first few hours.

3.  Playtime at the County Fair

It just so happens that the Floyd County Fair happens across the street from where I life.  Convenient, yes?  After dinner and dessert, we came home and walked over to the fairgrounds to scope out some rides and the barns with Landon.  He went on three rides (he had 4 tickets, but he wanted his mom to ride with him on one he wasn’t sure about).  He loved going to see the animals.  And one of the highlights for me was seeing my sister crack up every time the goats bleating.  Her laugh is so contagious.  We all shared lemon shakeups and just walked around.  After that…it was time for showers and then we were all down on the couch to watch Zootopia and then…they took over my room and went to bed and I crashed out on the couch so I could get up early and head out for my 12 mile run and get it done before too much of the morning was passed.

4.  It Runs in the Family

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One of the best things we decided to do, was to go for a short run together.  After my 12 miler, I got home and Karla and Landon put on their running clothes.  We hiked up to Sam Peden Park and ran a loop.  It was hard for Karla, as she hasn’t run in a long while…and she’s not used to the crappy air quality of the Ohio River Valley, but she was a trooper and pressed on.  I ran right there with her to encourage her…and Landon…he was busy chasing down the Army men who were running there.  He beat quite a few.  It was awesome.  Landon has amazing speed and gorgeous running form.  He’s a natural and I love watching him run.  Needless to say, it was a great way to start the day as a family.

5.  Wild Eggs

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Breakfast was the next most important stop on Saturday.  We stopped off at Highland Coffee for some coffee first…and then took the drive over to Westport Road to go to Wild Eggs.  Landon already knew he wanted pancakes and BACON.  He made sure to tell me that if I got an omlette, he wanted my BLUEBERRY muffin.  Since I can’t eat the muffin, I was totally cool with this.  It had been forever since I went to Wild Eggs for breakfast…but it was a nice return.  They even have gluten-free bread and a gluten-free menu now.  LOVE that.  Yes…it even includes gluten-free pancakes, French toast and the like.  That was exciting.  But after 13 miles of running and a hike to and from the park…I wanted some protein.  So I ordered the Surfer Girl Omlette (fresh spinach, wild mushrooms, tomato, cream cheese and onion and topped with diced fresh avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream and fresh alfalfa sprouts. Served with skillet potatoes).  I got mine without the cream cheese and sour cream.  My sister got the same thing, just without the mushrooms (she hates mushrooms).  And Cathy got the Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict (green chili cheddar corn cakes,topped with chorizo, two poached eggs and queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado. Served with skillet potatoes and an Everything Muffin).  And, yes, I got a blueberry muffin for Landon.  He was pretty full after eating the two pancakes that were as big as his face and the bacon he ordered…but he took a few bites.  The rest…came home with us and then went home with them today.

6.  Pierced Ears

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Okay, here is something that I didn’t expect to happen this weekend.  My sister and I got to talking about earrings…and she brought up how her daughter (she’s 16 months) had her earrings work out perfectly…and how my mom (whose holes closed because she stopped wearing earrings) had just gotten her ears pierced a few weeks ago.  I said that I keep saying I need to get it done but just haven’t pulled the trigger.  I think a part of me thinks it will fail again.  As a kid, I gave the pierced ears a try about 5 times, but always and an allergic reaction to them.  My sister was the same way, but it worked for her as an adult.  So, she told Cathy to pull into somewhere that could pierce my ears.  We did.  And now I sit here with beautiful 4mm white gold studs in my ears.  Karla taught me how to clean and turn the earrings every day (3 times a day)…and the rest is history.  So here is hoping that they work out this time around…because I have wanted to have pierced ears for a long, long time.  Leave it to my sister to get me to do something like this on a short weekend visit.  HA!

A shopping trip to a few of our favorite stores followed up that little adventure.

7.  Putt-Putt

Because you can’t just spend the day shopping when you have a 9-year-old boy with you, we took Landon to the Renaissance Fun Park.  We had discussed Go Karts…but opted, instead, for putt-putt.  It had been ages since my sister and I went putt-putting.  It was a lot of fun.  The easy holes on the course they put together there are actually quite challenging.  But we had a blast.  Afterwards, Landon and I took on some air hockey…which he won…and then he played a few more games after that…until the money on his card ran out.  It was worth every moment to see him out there laughing and being a competitive little boy.


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.  SOCCER!!!

One of the main reasons my sister aimed for this weekend was that the local professional soccer team, Louisville City FC, was playing on Saturday night.  And, since Landon is a HUGE soccer fan, and soccer player himself, we thought it would be fun to take him to a match.  I said I wanted to get him a replica jersey for him to wear during the match and she picked him up a hat and then got a t-shirt for Chace.  I made sure Karla wore the logo t-shirt I owned to the match as well.  They got some pizza for dinner and we settled into our seats at midfield to enjoy.  I have never seen Landon so into an event as that soccer game.  Seriously, he was shouting at the players and the refs…and it was just magical and fun and amazing.  I bought him ice cream at half time because…it’s my job as Auntie…to spoil him and get him hyped up on sugar.  HAHA!  In the end, after a horrible call by a ref, we ended in a draw of 1-1…and Landon had hoped that some of the players would come over to the midfield (they usually do) so he could get pictures and some autographs, but they all returned to the locker room without coming over.  He was bummed, but he still had a fantastic time, and I loved seeing him light up the way he did when Louisville City scored the first goal of the match!

9.  Home-Cooked Breakfast

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I gave my sister and Landon the option of grabbing breakfast out at a restaurant before they hit the road…or having me cook breakfast for them.  Landon really wanted waffles (with powdered sugar, which he now LOVES thanks to Wild Eggs putting it on his pancakes), scrambled eggs…and bacon.  So, my sister and I hit the grocery store for bacon (this vegetarian does not have bacon on hand), eggs, and a gluten-free waffle/pancake mix.  And then, this morning, I got to cooking.  I started the waffles first, knowing that would take the most time.  He wanted the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles…so I made that happen for him.  And, because we adults weren’t too sure we wanted waffles, we had gluten-free avocado toast with our eggs.  I started cooking the bacon before Karla emerged from the bedroom, but she took over that so I could focus on toasting the bread, doing the waffles, and scrambling the eggs.  It all finished up at the right time…everything done when it should be.  Breakfast was served.  And I didn’t take a picture of it, but Karla and I cook epic breakfasts together.  And Cathy now has lots of bacon in the fridge for this coming week.  Which makes her happy.

After that…they had to hit the road and get home…

It was hard to let them go, but I know Karla’s husband and other two kids were missing her and Landon like crazy.  I just was having such a good time and all the time together went by way too fast.

They got home late this afternoon…and she said that they missed me as well.

I hope we do it again soon.

Sisters really do make everything better!

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Take The Heat

Guess what, folks?

It’s SUMMER!!

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And let’s face it…the Olaf/Frozen/In Summer references don’t get old.  Because…it’s Olaf.  And Olaf is awesome.  Anyone who says so has no soul.

Summer is H-O-T.  HOT!  So hot.  And while I prefer to train in the heat…the one thing I do suffer through (like most other people) is the humidity.  And being that I live in the Ohio River Valley…it’s pretty damn humid.  Like…all the time.  One morning, this past week, I got up to run and it was 84 degrees at 4 am.  That’s not normal!  And it’s not even July yet.

With all that being said, how about I highlight some of the things that made this hot and stormy week a little cooler…

1.  Game of Thrones

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So, last Sunday was, possibly, one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones.  The battle scene, shown above, was one of the most intense and best things I have ever seen on television.  Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow, was amazing in this episode and totally deserves to win some awards.  I mean, he really had 100 horses charging at him.  That is not CGI!!  Unfortunately, my HBO Now stream was locked up (as was the rest of the world, apparently), so I ended up having to stay up an hour later than usual to actually watch the episode.  I was NOT looking forward to spending an entire day off the Interwebs if I saved it to watch the following day.  It was totally worth it, but damn, it through off the rest of my week for sure.

All that being said, tonight is the season finale!  OMG!!!  I hope HBO Now isn’t bogged down this week and that the finale lives up to this past week…because…DAMN!

2.  Blueberry Picking
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First of all…yes…I picked the blueberries pictured above.  I went to Bryant’s Blueberries with the intention of only picking 5 pounds of berries…but the crop of Blue Crop berries this week were AMAZING!  I mean…big and ripe and awesome.  Oh yes…I was in a good place.  So, as it was bound to happen…I got 10 more pounds.  WORTH IT.  These are the best blueberries I have ever had.  Forget anything you get in the store.  I don’t know if more jam will be in the future, but I think some blueberry bagels and/or waffles and/or pancakes will be happening.  And blueberry muffins are definitely happening.

3.  Louisville City FC…SOCCER BABY!!
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So, on Tuesday (which meant I did my hill repeats in the heat of the day…after 2 spin classes on Monday), and last night, I was at Louisville Slugger Field, not for baseball…but for soccer!!  I am a season ticket holder to Louisville’s very own professional soccer team.  In fact, last night’s match was broadcast on ESPN3.  Which is pretty cool.  We also had our highest attendance record to date, finally breaking that 10,000 mark.  In fact, it was 10, 062 showed up for the match last night.

But, beyond that, after the match on Tuesday night, I got to get my picture with my favorite player this year, Enrique Montano (#20).  I look horrible in the picture, as I still had my hat on (I hate hats), and I had been melting in that heat I had been speaking about…but this picture is…awesome!  I love when the payers come over to the midfield section to meet the fans.  And Montano is very good about that.  Happiness.

If you’re local and haven’t made it to a Louisville City FC match yet…stop delaying.  Our team leads our division…so we’re pretty awesome.  It’s worth it

4.  Fun Hair
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I don’t think it will last for long, but on Wednesday afternoon, I went to my hairdresser and we got a little funky with my hair.  Teal.  Yes…I dyed my hair teal.  Not all of it, but quite a bit of it.  The problem is, I workout and run quite often, so I sweat.  And my hair, just being blonde, doesn’t hold color too well.  So, I’m enjoying it while it lasts, but it’s already, sadly, fading.

5.  Roadside Assistance
exit105

I’m not talking about AAA or the local trucks that stop and help out stranded drivers.  Nope.  I’m talking about a super-amazing project that I am a part of with some great friends of mine.  One of my girls, Indy (aka: Jennifer), had a spark of genius about creating a project that centers around the songs released off of Peter Cincotti’s new album.  Since Exit 105 was released the other day, Indy put together a Tumblr blog and posted a recipe already for a cocktail based off the song “Long Way From Home.” So from now until Peter’s birthday on July 11th, we’ll be developing and sharing recipes inspired by the songs on the EP. These will be shared everywhere we can think to post them, but will also be collected onto a Tumblr blog-http://exit105-roadside-assistance.tumblr.com/ Check it out!!

And if you are unfamiliar with the talent of Peter Cincotti…discover him…NOW!

Did you do anything amazing, fun, and/or exciting this past week?  Ever dye your hair a crazy color?  Got any fun plans for the upcoming 4th of July holiday?

Product Review: Hungry Jack Gluten Free Funfetti Pancake & Waffle Mix

Hungry Jack Gluten Free Funfetti Pancake & Waffle Mix

Hungry Jack Gluten Free Funfetti Pancake & Waffle Mix

Product: Hungry Jack Gluten Free Funfetti Pancake & Waffle Mix – $3.99+

Who doesn’t love sprinkles?!

I mean, be honest here!  Who in the world doesn’t love sprinkles?!

Sprinkles make the world go ’round.  Sprinkles bring happiness and joy.  Sprinkles are what smiles are made of.  Sprinkles…totally rule!

And pancakes…who doesn’t love an amazing, buttery, soft, amazing pancake?!

Pancakes are awesome.

I mean…seriously…they are one of life’s most perfect food.  Don’t argue this with me.  It’s true.

So…imagine my glee…my elation…my “I MUST BUY THIS NOW AND EAT THIS” attitude when one day, while in Louisville and shopping the aisles of the Walmart Neighborhood Market (because, hey, it’s less skeevy than the regular Walmart), I spotted a gluten free mix that involved both sprinkles…and…pancakes.

It wasn’t a dream.  Nope.  It was a reality.  And this very special (and happiness-inducing) product is brought to your grocery store shelves by the one and only…Hungry Jack.  Yes…the Hungry Jack known for potatoes and syrup and regular amazing pancake mixes.  That Hungry Jack.

Turns out they now offer a Gluten Free Funfetti Pancake & Waffle Mix.

Yep…you read that right…Hungry Jack Gluten Free Funfetti Pancake & Waffle Mix.  How many different ways can you say, “Get in my belly!”?

I purchased this box of pancake and waffle mix back in…October.  I had every intention of making them while my parents were visiting, but, instead, my dad requested lemon poppyseed muffins…so this had to wait.  However…good things come to those who wait.  And patience is a virtue.  One I don’t normally have when pancakes and sprinkles are involved, but, hey, I can be an adult.

I ended up bringing the mix with me to Columbus, Ohio, over the New Year weekend.  It’s tradition to spend said holiday with my friend Jenn…and Jenn is quite open to gluten-free foods.  She even has gluten free foods stashed in her kitchen for my visits.  She eats said gluten free foods with me.  Well, since Sunday we traditionally cook the breakfast, I told her I’d bring the mix and we could have some pancakes that morning.  She upped the carb-fest with the promise of using up some more of the Magners Syrup we made when we made boozy waffles the last time I visited.

And so…game on.

The pancakes are super easy to mix up.  The box says that 1 cup of the mix and 3/4 cup of water will make enough batter for 6-8 pancakes.  This is false.  Since there were 3 of us, this is what I made, thinking we all could have 2 pancakes, but I ended up adding more mix and water just to get the last necessary pancake for 6 pancakes each made from about 1/4 cup of the batter.  So…trust me, you’ll need a slight bit more for those 6 pancakes.  8 isn’t happening.

All that being said, when these were browning on the skillet, they not only puffed up beautifully, but they got that rich, golden color too.  The pancakes had that nice crisp outside, but were cake-y and soft and fluffy on the inside.  And…they had sprinkles.  Seriously…so, so, so good.  Kind of like eating a slice of cake for breakfast, because…sprinkles!

All that being said, I am only now getting around to typing up this review.  But in that time, I have also decided to give the waffle recipe a try.  This just involved 2 cups of the mix (lots of sprinkles), 1-1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I substituted unsweetened applesauce), and 1 egg (or egg replacer).  Just stir it up until you get rid of any large lumps…pour into the waffle iron…and let them cook to that perfect golden brown.  This made 6 large Mickey Mouse waffles…but the box claims it will make 12 (4×4-inch) waffles.

The waffles were even better than the pancakes.  And for the first time, my gluten free waffles got to a perfect golden brown on the outside.  I was so impressed.  And when I served them up (with a splash of real raspberry maple syrup from Michigan), it was like…a food epiphany.  I mean…cake.  Cake all over the breakfast plate.  Not only were my waffles Mickey Mouse shaped, but they had sprinkles in them…and looked and tasted like an indulgent treat.  Oh yeah.

So…I had the mix as pancakes…and then as waffles…so…how was it?

The product that the Hungry Jack Gluten Free Funfetti Pancake & Waffle Mix produces is fantastic in either form.  From the splattering of rainbow sprinkles to the rich, buttery flavor that comes from the buttermilk base…it’s pancake perfection.  A rainbow of pancake perfection. These are the unicorns of gluten free pancakes.  The pancakes and waffles are soft and fluffy on the inside, golden and crispy on the outside.  And that…it pancake and waffle perfection if you ask me.  In addition, this mix actually is a good source of calcium.  And a nice way of having candy (or sprinkles) for breakfast.

might still be a little (or a lot) excited about these.

Anyway, as always, let’s take a look at what goes into the Hungry Jack Gluten Free Funfetti Pancake & Waffle Mix.  This mix is made from rice flour, sugar, dextrose, leavening (baking soda, calcium phosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, candy bits (sugar, vegetable oil [palm and palm kernel], modified corn starch, confectioners glaze, soy lecithin, colored with [yellow 5, red 40, blue 1, yellow 6]), potato starch, pea fiber, buttermilk, tapioca starch, canola oil, and contains 2% of less of: salt, potassium bicarbonate, hydroxypropyl, methycellulose, xanthan gum, calcium carbonate, eggs, artificial flavor, cellulose gum, yellow 5, and red 5.  Yeah…not a very clean eat, but nice for a treat every now and again.

As far as nutrition goes, the mix isn’t too bad.  The serving size is 1/3 cup of the dry mix (or about 3 4-inch pancakes) and the box contains about 11 servings.  This serving will dish up 190 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, less than 5 mg cholesterol, 540 mg sodium, 40 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 10 grams sugars, and 3 grams of protein.  Despite being a pancake and waffle mix with sprinkles in it…the fiber and protein is higher than most to make you feel full longer.  So, there is that.  There is also 15% calcium and 4% iron in each serving.

So, yeah…delicious, amazing, fun, and fluffy…it’s everything pancakes should be.  It’s everything waffles should be.  And it is what so many gluten-free pancake mixes fail at being.  I loved these.  I have no shame in admitting it.  It’s nice to change things up and have a bit of a treat every now and again.  This mix was a fun, and also delicious way of brightening my breakfast plate…and my morning.

Product Review: Nature’s Path Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Waffles

Nature's Path Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Waffles

Nature’s Path Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Waffles

Product: Nature’s Path Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Waffles – $4.99+

There is just something so decadent about having a bit of chocolate with your breakfast, isn’t there?  Growing up (and even now), one of my favorite things to have for breakfast (and it was only done on nights I had sleepovers or special occasions like my birthday) was chocolate chip pancakes.  I mean…it’s the perfect amount of chocolate, so you sort of feel like you’re being wicked…but really, you’re just indulging that sweet tooth a little bit.

Well, I often do my own take on something with chocolate in it for breakfast every now and again.  The problem is…I’m in charge of making it.  And there are definitely mornings when the last thing I want to do is stand around in the kitchen and attempt to make a decent (and decadent) breakfast when I’m already short on time or just…busy.

I’m often busy.

Well, it just so happens that Nature’s Path has released a new product in its gluten free line-up.  And I just happened to be shopping in a different Kroger this past weekend and stumbled across it.  You better believe the moment I saw it, it was going into my shopping cart.  My grocery list wasn’t very long this week so I had a bit of wiggle room.  And having something quick and easy on hand for breakfast is never a bad idea.

Especially when it involves dark chocolate.

Nature’s Path Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Waffles…are a gift from heaven.  The gluten free heaven.  Where chocolate reigns and waffles are all the rage.  Seriously.  I love chocolate chip anything…but chocolate chip waffles are a rare frozen find…in the gluten-free realm of the grocery store.  Homestyle…perhaps blueberry…maybe an oddball pumpkin or berry…but…dark chocolate…that’s not a common find.

Nature’s Path is known for their healthy, great-tasting organic foods.  One of their biggest incentives is to promote sustainability…and that’s why growing organic, healthy food is their passion and the cornerstone of this family company.  But, in addition to that, they naturally want to put out products that they can stand behind, making sure that everything that hits the market is delicious and exciting.  Because healthy food doesn’t need to be boring and tasteless.

And, I can promise you that there is nothing boring about the Nature’s Path Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Waffles.  Nothing.  I toasted them in my oven this morning while I took a shower after my spin class.  I gave 2 waffles to my roommate and I settled in with another two.  A drizzle of agave maple syrup was the only flourish I had on these.  And they were spectacular.  They got to this amazing golden color in the oven, crisping up gorgeously on the outside.  Inside, aside from the rich dark chocolate chips was a soft center that just begged you to carve off another bite and indulge once again.  It was amazing that my waffles weren’t just hoovered off the plate this morning.  But I did take my time, to chew and to enjoy, each and every single bite.  What good is food if you don’t savor it a little, right?

So, let’s discuss the ingredients that Nature’s Path puts into their Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Waffles!  These waffles are made from water, organic brown rice flour, organic potato starch, organic corn flour, organic chocolate chips (organic granulated sugar cane juice, organic chocolate liquor, organic cocoa butter, soy lecithin, organic vanilla extract), organic soy oil, organic tapioca starch, organic granulated sugar cane juice, baking powder, organic potato flour, organic soy lecithin, organic pear juice concentrate, organic flavor, and sea salt.  These waffles are vegan, gluten free, and contain 10 grams of whole grains per serving and are a fantastic source of ALA Omega-3, meaning they are nutritious…indulgent…and tasty.  What a great combination from the freezer aisle, yes?

As for nutritional information, for waffles with dark chocolate in them, these aren’t too bad on the caloric scale.  A serving size is two (2) waffles.  There are 3 servings per box (I hate this…I wish I could at least get an even number of servings).  Each serving will provide you with 220 calories, 7 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 3.5 grams polyunsaturated fat, 2 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 490 mg sodium, 34 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 7 grams sugars, and 2 grams of protein.  I think my biggest complaint was that after I feasted on two of these waffles, I was hungry about an hour and a half later.  The lack of filling fiber and the small hit of protein are much to blame for this.  And…even with only 7 sugars…it is still a waffle.  So, definitely pair this (or just 1) with something with protein.  Instead of maple syrup, perhaps a spoonful of nut butter would be nice.  Actually…that does sound frickin’ fantastic.  I think I want to do that tomorrow with the last couple of waffles.  YUM!

Dark chocolate chip waffles sound decadent, but they just bring one of the best flavors in the world (chocolate) to your breakfast table.  And now, even the gluten-free consumer can easily pop these into their toaster and have an indulgent, delicious breakfast…without having to whip them up themselves.  Leave the waffle mix, mini chocolate chips, and the waffle iron in the pantry.  Thanks to Nature’s Path…you just have to reach into your freezer.

And for that, I am one very happy chocoholic.

Recipe: Gluten Free Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter Waffles

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

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

And, for some reason, I was thinking waffles!

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

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

Recipe: Gluten Free Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter Waffles

Gluten Free Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter (Mickey) Waffles

Gluten Free Magners Hard Cider Brown Butter (Mickey) Waffles

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

Ingredients for Waffles:

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

Ingredients for Magners Syrup:

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

Directions:

Make the syrup.

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

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

Meanwhile…make the waffles.

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

Heat the waffle iron.

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

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

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

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

Spoon into waffle iron and cook until golden brown.

ENJOY!

~*~*~

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

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

 

Product Review: Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix + Recipe Bonus

Harvest Muffins made with Zema's Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix

Harvest Muffins made with Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix

Review: Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix – $7.99+

It seems like ages ago, back on a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, when my parents first took me to Organic Harvest, the latest and newest health food store in their area.  I was gobsmacked by the amount of products inside this store that I had never seen before.  I might have heard of the brand, but the product itself or even the brand, was not available to me in any convenient form.

So, naturally, I went on a shopping spree.

Because…I do that.

Well, I get very overburdened with mixes.  I do this to myself, naturally.  I just get really, really excited when I see something new.  Or course, as of late, I’ve been making a point of eating more unprocessed foods for breakfast than something that comes out of a box (cereal included) or from a mix.  So, yeah, the pantry is well stocked with so many mixes that I honestly just need to work through.  And as this one was (obviously as the packaging has been since updated) nearing expiration…it was time to use it up and move it out.  So, out came the Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix.

Zemas Madhouse Foods is committed to manufacturing gluten-free, ancient grain baking mixes that help support a clean eating lifestyle through the use of minimally processed ingredients that can be safely incorporated into diets that are limited, allergy-free and diabetic.  They are committed to keeping their products free of dairy, soy, rice, yeast, tree nuts, peanuts, sulfites, additives, trans fats, preservatives, and refined sugar.

Now, I had high hopes for this mix.  I was first introduced to Zema’s Madhouse Foods by Cuisine Cube when I tried their mix for Focaccia and/or Pizza Crusts.  I loved it.  So, the fact that I had another Zema’s Product (yes…I had this one before Cuisine Cube sent theirs), I had very good expectations for this.  But…why stick to something as simple as the box exclaims.  After all, this is a pancake and waffle mix, and there are recipes for both on the back.  But I am really pancaked out these days and waffles are great…but a pain to make (time consuming, really).  So…I opted for the other recipe on the box, making a few minor adjustments to fit what I had in my pantry and my own idea of what constites a Harvest Muffin.

Oh, yeah…I made muffins with the Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix.  Yes.  Muffins.  I sort of ripped off Udi’s version of a Harvest Muffin, but utilized most of the recipe from the back of this exact box.  YAY!  The recipe will follow, of course.

Naturally, I can’t bake something and not try it.  How else am I going to report on it?  So, after these came out of the oven and rested for 10 minutes in the pan, I removed them and put them on a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.  After running some gluten-free and dairy free goodies downstairs to my neighbors, I came back upstairs and decided that both my roomie and I had an obligation to see how the muffins turned out.  If they were crap, well, we certainly didn’t have to keep them.  But…if they were good, they were getting bagged up and put in the freezer for those stressful and hectic days where cooking a breakfast is just not feasible.

Let me tell you…Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix is amazing.  Seriously.  Okay…so the muffins are a little dense…but I’ve grown to that being mostly the norm when it comes to gluten-free goodies (especially of a bread-like quality) that I bake.  However, there is a lot of flavor in each and every bite of these muffins.  And I absolutely love the combination of the sweet potato and pumpkin flavors, making this a perfect autumn mix for any sort of morning recipe…even pancakes and waffles.  Just…really good.  And not overly sweet either, which is a nice change.  I love dessert as much as any girl, but I mostly want my muffins to be muffins, not a fruit/veggie based cupcake.  But, maybe that’s just me.  The fact that there is no added sugar in the mix is a big plus with me, as I am working on cutting down on the amount of sugar I eat every day.  I also love that this mix is made with the superseed trio of hemp, chia and flaxmeal.  Flax is one of the best gluten-free plant-based sources, which contains alpha-linolenic acid, which converts in the body to the same heart-protective Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines and mackerel.  It also contains 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon, which promotes intestinal health.  The chia seeds (like chia pets, yes!) are also naturally gluten-free and contain Omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber, calcium and protein.  LOVE a breakfast that packs a bit of extra nutrition into each and every bite through healthy and beneficial ingredients.  This might be a mix, but it has great ingredients making it a better choice than all the lack-luster and nutrient-sparse mixes on the shelf.  Oh yeah…have your breakfast treat and treat your body too.  Now we’re talking.

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix, shall we?  This mix is made from sorghum flour, organic flax seed meal, sweet potato flour, potato starch, organic quinoa flakes, tapioca flour, aluminum free baking powder (monocalcium phosphate, baking soda, corn starch (made from non-GMO corn)), hemp seeds, organic cinnamon, contains less than 2% of each of the following: baking soda, chia seeds, xanthan gum, sea salt, organic ginger, and nutmeg.  This product is manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility free of the top 8 allergens(milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish).  It is vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and verified non-GMO.

As for nutrition information, here you go…a serving of Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix is 1/3 cup of the dry mix (44 grams), and the box contains around 6 servings.  In each serving, you will be taking in 150 calories, 4 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 510 mg sodium, 29 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 2 grams sugars, and 4 grams of proteins.  This one might actually be the best nutrient-packed mix out on the market to be honest.  WOW!

And now…the promised recipe!

Recipe: Gluten Free Harvest Muffins

Servings: 18
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 28-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Pancake & Waffle Mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice (I used unsweetened cashew milk)
  • 2 eggs (or egg replacer)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (I used agave)
  • 1/3 cup oil of choice (I used coconut)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas
  • 1/2 cup craisins

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mix and xanthan gum.  Set aside.

n a large bowl, whisk all liquid ingredients together.  Add the dry mix to the wet mixture and combine,  Add in the pepitas and craisins, mixing well.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way.

Bake for 28-30 minutes.  Check the doneness with a toothpick.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then take muffins out and cool on a rack.

This recipe freezes well.

~*~*~
I have the remaining 17 muffins in my freezer now for hectic crazy days…but I already am looking forward into diving into them.  I’m sure it won’t be long.

If you are interested in a pancake mix with more benefits than sugar and fillers, I can’t praise Zema’s Madhouse Foods enough.  Their Gluten Free and Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix surpassed all expectations.  And I didn’t even make pancakes or waffles with them.  Go figure.  Although, I am more than certain this mix would make some of the best pancakes or waffles out there.  Next time I pick up another box of this mix…I think I’ll go for traditional pancakes and waffles.  That being said…give this muffin recipe a shot!  And seek out Zema’s Madhouse Foods in your natural food stores…or order online!  It’s worth the hunt.

Restaurant Review: Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Restaurant: Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

What do you think of when you think of Portland, Oregon?  Food trucks…yes…but a lot of people would also point to the amazing array of brew pubs that the city has to offer.  Oregon is very much a foodie haven, and there is plenty of places to whet your appetite.

Research began on Find Me Gluten Free…which pulled up hundreds and hundreds of restaurants that cater to people with gluten intolerance and Celiac.  I knew that my traveling partners, Cathy and Jenn, were being very good about where we ate on Hawaii (often out of Jenn’s comfort zone) due to my dietary restrictions…so…going to a brew pub in Portland wasn’t just a necessity, it was a way of thanking them for being so flexible with the food choices while island hopping in Hawaii.

That being said, we narrowed it down to two choices…and Cathy and I made Jenn pick the place.  This was no biggie for me…there were options I was interested in at each place…but it was a matter of whether Cathy got Chicken and Waffles or Roasted Lamb.

Jenn didn’t really care where we went, but in the end, she chose Deschutes Brewery…and that was our Friday night dinner.

After lunch at the food pods, we continued our exploration of Portland, meaning bookstores, record stores, chocolate shops, coffee shops, and all that good stuff.  But all that shopping does work up an appetite.  So, after spending a long time exploring Powell’s Books, we were ready to get some dinner.  And it was just a short hike to Deschutes Brewery…and I loved it from the moment we stepped inside.

Deschutes Brewery is a brew pub located in the heart of Portland and is described as a popular destination for great beer, delicious food, and a relaxed urban atmosphere.  It features 26 taps that include Deschutes mainstays plus a selection of seasonal and experimental beers developed and brewed on site exclusively for the Portland pub.

In addition, no pub is worth its salt without pub grub.  Executive Chef Jill Ramseier leads a talented culinary team that has put forth classic pub food, but elevated it.  In fact, each item on the menu is created, from scratch, with the best possible local ingredients.  SO Portland.  Love it!

We arrived shortly after 5 p.m. and it was already hopping.  We were seated immediately and given menus to peruse.  Water was brought to our table and our waiter, Zach, came over to pour some water and ask if we wanted anything else to drink.  Jenn and I were sticking with water, but Cathy had it on her to-do list to sample a local brew.  She went with the Deschutes River Ale ($3.25).  He went to grab her drink while we finished up decisions for dinner.

With beer delivered, it was time to place an order.  Jenn went with the Dungeness Crab Roll ($17.75), which is pacific crab tossed with onion, celery, lemon and mayonnaise in a seared East coast-style bun.  It came with a serving of fries on the side.

Cathy opted for the Spicy Fried Chicken and Waffle ($16.50).  This dish is a Nashville-style basted chicken breast and thick sliced smoked provolone over a housemade sourdough waffle with maple dressed kale, fenel and pecan salad, served with a maple honey sauce.  For an additional $2…you can add bacon.  Cathy left the bacon off.

As for me…I was given a gluten-free menu.  And on that menu was plenty of items to choose from.  Had I not had a great sandwich for lunch from Juniper at the food pods, I would have opted for the Quinoa Burger ($13.25), which is described as a crispy quinoa cashew patty with chipotle aioli, Rock Face Creamery aged white cheddar (which I would have left off), lettuce, tomato, onion and served, I am assuming, on a gluten free bun.  BUT…I DIDN’T get that.  I could have…and, as I said, had I not had a sammie for lunch, this would have been my dinner.

My dinner, instead, was the half portion of their Spinach and Quinoa Salad ($7.00) with a plate of their Garlic Rosemary Fries ($6.75), which I got minus the manchego cheese that comes served with it.  YES…the fries are gluten-free!!!  *HAPPY DANCE!*  Hey…I eat healthy most of the time, dessert and an occasional plate of fries are treats to me and ones I never turn down when they are available.  A healthy life doesn’t mean there aren’t treats every now and again!

Orders in.

And in true brew pub (and pub) fashion, the food didn’t take too long to come out.  Just long enough to know that everything was prepared fresh and made to order.  Our plates came out…and they were heaped with food.  Even without the plate of fries (which I did share!), my salad would have been plenty filling at the half portion on its own.  So, that was actually a good call on my part.

Deschutes Brewery's Spicy Fried Chicken & Waffle

Deschutes Brewery’s Spicy Fried Chicken & Waffle

Jenn and Cathy both loved their meals.  Cathy said that while the chicken was spicy, it wasn’t overpowering.  The provolone cheese helped to cool things down and the waffle was a nice hit of sweetness to mesh with the savory heat of the chicken.  When paired with the maple and honey, it was a perfect bite.  In fact, after years of wondering why chicken and waffles were such a thing in the south…it took a trip to Portland, Oregon for her to “get it.”  Yes…she gets it now.  And I think she has a new craving in life.  She ate until she was full…and then had to surrender to the dish.  But she made a healthy dent in it, loving and raving about every bite.  So there is that.

Let’s start with the salad.  The Spinach and Quinoa Salad comes with Briar Rose Creamery feta cheese (which I left on…because feta and I get along for the most part), blueberries, pickled beets, fresh spinach, and perfectly cooked quinoa.  It is topped with a delicious vinaigrette, which does come on the side so it isn’t swimming in dressing.  That’s something I totally appreciated.  This salad was filling and provided a myriad of different flavors and textures.  It was inviting with each bite.  Tangy, tart, smooth and creamy.  The quinoa and spinach are both nutritional powerhouses…and I devoured every last bit of this salad.  Besides, you put roasted beets on anything and you have my full attention.  Seriously!  OH…and it came with a gluten-free breadstick laid across it.  I questioned it when it arrived at the table…”This is gluten-free, right?”  “OH yes,” I was reassured.  Happiness comes in breadstick form sometimes.  It’s the little things that aren’t so little for other people but are for people like me.

But the star…as much as I want to point to the salad…was the gluten-free Garlic Rosemary Fries.  These fries are made from hand cut Kennebec potatoes and seasoned with fresh garlic (LOTS of it) and rosemary and served with a rosemary aioli.  These were to DIE for.  Seriously.  I took one bite and I was hooked.  I didn’t want to stop eating them.  Even with some self-control (HA!) and a little help from my friends, this plate wasn’t emptied.  It probably could have been, but we all have our limits.  These were some of the best gluten-free fries I have ever been served in a restaurant.  And fries are hard for me to get in a restaurant.  Everything shares a fryer…so this is always a nice treat.  And this is one splurge I was glad I made.  Holy cow.  I want to recreate these.  I’m going to do the best I can.  WOW!

Save for fries (from both Jenn & I) and a bit of chicken and waffle on Cathy’s plate…we ate the hell out of our meals.  And for good reason…they were amazing.  I was beyond impressed with the caliber of food that came to our table.  Everything looked beautiful and tasted amazing.  Nothing was soggy or overdressed.  Nothing was burnt.  It was pure dinner perfection in true brew pub form.  I am a huge fan…and I wish I lived in Portland so I could continue to go back and try other options from their extensive gluten-free menu.  Just…WOW!!

I have Jenn to thank for actually sending us to Deschutes Brewery in the end…and to me, it was the perfect way to round out an amazing and unforgettable trip.  No better way to end a vacation then with good friends, good food, and good times.  Deschutes…made that all possible…right in the heart of Portland.

Deschutes Brewery's Spinach & Quinoa Salad with the Garlic Rosemary Fries

Deschutes Brewery’s Gluten Free Spinach & Quinoa Salad with the Garlic Rosemary Fries (also gluten free)

Product Review: Kellogg’s Gluten Free Eggo Waffles

Kellogg's Gluten Free Eggo Waffles

Kellogg’s Gluten Free Eggo Waffles

Product: Kellogg’s Gluten Free Eggo Waffles – $3.49+

I had heard the rumors…

I had.  There had been word of Eggo putting out two (yes two!) gluten-free versions of their infamous waffles.  I had seen photographs of the boxes.  And yet…despite checking the freezer section at virtually every store with frozen waffles inside…I hadn’t had the fortune of seeing them out in the wild.  I didn’t give up though.  I never do.

As luck would have it, I finally stumbled across a freezer that held these majestic boxes…at a Target in Louisville, Kentucky.  This has now been dubbed “the best Target in my area!”  I have since checked other Target stores and NONE of them have these inside.  Believe me…if I can get them on this side of the Ohio River, I would…but…for now at least, I’ll have to journey over the river into Louisville if I want to indulge in these beauties.

So, why do I care if I can eat Eggo Waffles?  I mean, plenty of mid-size gluten-free companies have had waffles on the market for years.  Van’s, by far, have been my favorite, but Nature’s Path also offers quite a selection of these frozen breakfast options.  I guess I cared because I grew up eating Eggo Waffles.  I did.  I was diagnosed as a Celiac until I was 30.  My entire childhood is made up of mornings where my mom would toast up some Eggo Waffles (she believed in sending us to school with a hot breakfast in our bellies, whether she made pancakes or French toast, or toasted up something like waffles from the freezer) before sending us out to catch the bus to school.  We saved cereal for the weekends.  And when I struck out on my own, working a job that didn’t pay much, and just living paycheck to paycheck, Eggo was there to make sure my mornings at least had some sustenance to them.  I loved Eggo’s.  I mean, what child (or adult, I don’t judge!) doesn’t get a little giggly when they say, “L’eggo my Eggo” to someone, right?

So, yeah…the fact that Kellogg’s was making an effort to put out a gluten-free version of one of their most popular breakfast items was pretty huge.  And I was pretty excited.  Even the Vice President of Marketing and Innovation for Kellogg’s frozen foods, AnneMarie Suarez Davis, stated that Kellogg’s is making sure to not sacrifice the crispy texture and wholesome flavor of their waffles as they move into the gluten-free territory.  It was critical for them to avoid the pitfall of some gluten-free items that actually due sacrifice taste and texture when being compared to the original versions.  So…their goal…to be as delicious and wholesome as the original Eggo’s.

I’d like to say I could tell you right off if these were just as good as the original versions.  However, it has been about 3-4 years since I last had an Eggo Waffle.  So, I don’t exactly remember what they tasted like.  There are a lot of things I don’t remember what they tasted like since going gluten free.  It’s a bit sad at times.  And sometimes it is a relief.  But this…this is a bit more on the sad side than anything.  I know I loved them…both as a child and as an adult…so it was time to put the gluten-free version to the test.

This past week, I needed some non-stressful, easy breakfasts to make.  I was beyond tired and sore from the Boston Marathon and my sleep schedule is way off.  WAY off.  As in…not happening much.  I had appointments out the wazoo as well, so the less I needed to do to prepare a breakfast, the better.  Additionally…my CSA bin failed to deliver to me on Friday, so I had little to no fresh produce to use.  Perfect excuse to just reach into the freezer.

I don’t own a toaster.  I got rid of it after the Celiac diagnosis…back before my roommate said our kitchen could be 100% gluten free…and she still had regular bread.  I toast everything up in the oven instead, so I preheated the oven to about 450°F and laid out four (a serving size is 2 waffles) of the Kellogg’s Gluten Free Eggo Waffles on a baking sheet.  Into the oven they went, where they toasted up in about 5-7 minutes.  My oven is never as hot as it’s supposed to be (it’s old!)…so it takes a bit longer on some things.  When they came out, they smelled like Eggo Waffles…and were this light golden color…just like regular Eggo Waffles.  I spread a little butter and poured on some maple syrup.

I was already in a better mood that morning, just for having Gluten Free Eggo Waffles.  No joke.  Seriously, it’s sometimes just the simplest things in life.

My roommate settled in with her two waffles first.  When she took a first bite, I asked how they tasted.  And she said, “They taste like Eggo Waffles.”  That being said, she hasn’t had Eggo Waffles in 3-4 years either, because of me…but…we’ll just go with it.  I tucked in that morning with my breakfast and sliced off a bite of the waffle.  The outside of the waffle was crispy and flaky.  It sort of broke into a few little pieces.  The inside…soft…and arm.  It was almost perfection.  I don’t remember much about how Eggo Waffles tasted, but I could definitely tell a bit of a difference with these.  Probably the use of oat flour over the enriched wheat flour that the other varieties have.  Other than that, however, I couldn’t really tell if there was much of a difference.  Soft and fluffy on the inside, crisp and toasted on the outside.  That’s waffle perfection.  And…to top it off…it was a bit satisfactory to stroll over to my roommate that morning, handing her a plate of waffles and saying, “L’eggo my Gluten Free Eggo.”  HAHA!  I told you…simple pleasures.

Let’s talk about the ingredients in the Kellogg’s Gluten Free Eggo Waffles, shall we?  These waffles are made from water, rice flour, whole oat flour, eggs, sugar, soybean and palm oil, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), 2% or less artificial flavor, xanthan gum, salt, soy lecithin, and whey.  These waffles are gluten-free and free from trans-fat.

As for nutrition…for gluten-free waffles, the Kellogg’s Gluten Free Eggo Waffles don’t do too bad at all.  A serving size is 2 waffles, and 8 come in a box.  This serving of 2 Gluten Free Eggo Waffles will provide you with 170 calories, 5 grams of fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 75 mg potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, and 4 grams of protein.  So it actually is a filling breakfast without being really big.  And the waffles are pretty large in size too.  Like standard Eggo Waffle big.  Bigger than Van’s and Nature’s Path gluten-free versions.

Kellogg’s Gluten Free Eggo Waffles come in two different flavors – Original and Cinnamon.  I only have found the Original, but that’s fine.  I’m okay with that.  I’m okay with these waffles.  They were tastier than I anticipated and really live up to the high standard that Kellogg’s set with their regular versions of Eggo Waffles.  Seriously, for a quick, easy breakfast, I’d be more than happy to keep a box of these in my freezer.  Totally happy.  Worth hugging the box in the aisles of Target.  And totally worth devouring in the mornings.  Really…really good!

Kellogg's Gluten Free Eggo Waffles

Kellogg’s Gluten Free Eggo Waffles

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix

Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix

Product: Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix – $4.49+

It was October 2014 and I was entering the great land of Trader Joe’s in Louisville, Kentucky.  I had just passed the big center display of bananas when my gaze fell upon an end cap that was holding a bunch of pumpkin goodness.  I love anything pumpkin.  This is no secret.  And a Trader Joe’s mix with pumpkin pancake-y goodness?  HELLO!  Sign me up.

I snagged a box of it and gave the sad Celiac eyes to my roommate.  And…yes…we fit them into the budget.  Sad Celiac eyes work wonders!!  So, checkout was complete.  And fall turned into winter.  And then spring came around.  And while I had been making things for breakfast…pancakes even…I had other mixes and flour blends that had to be used first.  But, as the great kitchen pantry purge continues…Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix was up to bat today!

So, this morning, I decided to haul out the Mickey (Mouse) waffle maker and make some pancake waffles.  Why?  Because waffles are delicious and fun…and these are shaped like Mickey.  They win.  Always.  I mean, pancakes probably would have been less labor intensive but…I was craving waffles for awhile.  In fact, I sort of promised my roommate I’d make waffles after we went to our gluten free bakery Saturday morning for breakfast and she lamented that she wished they still offered their gluten free waffles (and pancakes).  So, a promise is a promise.

Mixing up the Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pancake Mix is super easy.  Simply get out a bowl and crack an egg inside.  Then, add 2 tablespoons of melted butter (or oil).  I melted down 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance.  Then, whisk them together.  Add in 2/3-cup of water plus 2 additional tablespoons and whisk that up as well.  Then, scoop out a cup of the Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix and add it to the wet ingredients.  Mix until just combined.  It’s okay if it’s a little lumpy.

So easy.  I had all that done by the time my roommate hauled herself out of her room.  Perfect timing.  I ladled the mix into the waffle maker and closed the lid, allowing it to cook to that perfect crusty outside, soft inside consistency.  It usually takes about five minutes to get there.  And while that was working, I warmed up some pure maple syrup to pour over it.  YUMMY!  I lifted the lid of the waffle maker when the steam subsided and lo and behold…the perfect pumpkin-y gluten-free waffle shaped like Mickey Mouse.  YES!  I was already feeling good about this mix.  I slathered it up with some Earth Balance spread and then dowsed it in some maple syrup.  I then got my own waffle working and prepared to do the same thing.  Once again, the perfect waffle emerged, with this golden crust on the outside.  I was elated.  As the third (and final) waffle (now in the freezer) was working, I settled in to enjoy my breakfast.

So…it was awesome.  Let me just say that.  Some flour mixes and pancake mixes don’t get that golden crust on the outside, but Trader Joe’s managed it to perfection with this mix.  It had the perfect amount of pumpkin spice flavor.  Not too much.  And not too little (although my roomie says that she didn’t get much pumpkin).  I disagree with the roomie and think that the amount of pumpkin flavor was spot on.  As I am the pumpkin freak…I know best.  The crust on the outside was crisp and crunchy and the inside of the waffle was light and soft and just…so amazing.  I was in love with each bite.  I may have hoovered it, using the last bite to mop up any extra syrup lingering on the plate.  Really, very impressed.

The Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix was a new product that was introduced last October due to numerous requests from their fans of the original Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake Mix, who had found themselves now eating a gluten-free diet.  The Trader Joe’s peeps went to work for months to get the right texture (no soggy, heavy pancakes allowed) and finally it it spot on, even getting the seasoning right to bring that warm fall-ish feeling to the finished product.  The recipe for the pumpkin pancakes (the one I listed above) was on the side of the box to make sure you succeeded on your pumpkin pancake quest.  They did well.  They did very well.

The Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix is made from white rice flour, potato starch, cane sugar, dehydrated pumpkin flakes, buttermilk powder, tapioca flour, molasses powder, baking powder, sea salt, organic vanilla flavor, expeller pressed canola oil, ground cinnamon, ground allspice, ground ginger, xanthan gum, annatto for color, and ground nutmeg.  This mix is gluten-free and cholesterol free.

A serving of Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix is 1/3 cup dry mix or 2 pancakes prepared.  A serving of the mix will provide 130 calories and 0.5 grams of fat.  It contains 250 mg sodium and 7 grams of sugar.  The dry mix will also give you 29 carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 2 grams of protein.  When it is prepared as per the instructions on the side of the box, you will be taking in 210 calories and 8 grams of fat.  You will be taking in 70 mg cholesterol, 270 mg sodium, and 7 sugars.  Prepared, you will have29 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber and 4 grams of protein.

Honestly, it is one of the better gluten-free pancakes mixes out there.  I was above and beyond happy with the way my Mickey waffles came out.  Not only were these full of perfect pumpkin flavor, they were crispy and soft and the texture was right where it needed to be.  Trader Joe’s definitely nailed the gluten-free pumpkin goodness in these.  I hope this mix is back on the shelves this upcoming fall.  Total yum!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Mickey Waffles made with Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix

Gluten Free Pumpkin Mickey Waffles made with Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix