Product Review: Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing + Recipe Bonus

Olivia's Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing
Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing

Product: Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing – $6.50+

There are a lot of Thanksgiving foods that, as a gluten-free vegetarian, I no longer indulge in at the dinner table.  That being said, my Thanksgiving meal usually consists of a scoop of vegetables, some plain potatoes, and usually a fruit of some sort…or whatever I brought with me for the occasion.

This year for my contribution to the Thanksgiving meal, I brought desserts.  YAY!  I also, however, brought gluten-free stuffing.  From my local gluten-free bakery.  I actually pre-ordered it prior to receiving my November 2014 Cuisine Cube.  But…this just gave me the opportunity to have stuffing…all over again.

And this is a good thing.  Because I absolutely LOVE stuffing!  I never ate it much as a kid, because, prior to going vegetarian, my family’s go-to Thanksgiving meal was shrimp creole, not turkey, but sometimes, on Christmas, my mom would cook up a turkey and I would request stuffing.  And…it was usually Stove Top.  But, to me, it was amazing!

So, stuffing was one of my guilty pleasures that I rarely indulged in, but would devour every time I had the chance.

When my Cuisine Cube happened to have a box of a gluten-free stuffing in it, I might…might…have done a happy dance of joy with a few bounces and jumps and squeals of happiness.  This isn’t uncommon each month when I open up my Cuisine Cube…but we are talking GLUTEN FREE STUFFING!!  Did I make that clear yet?

Olivia's Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing
Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing

So, since I had my local allergen-free bakery make me some gluten-free stuffing for the big meal on Thursday, I got to have some fun and get a little creative with my box of Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing.  But, this still meant that I needed to cook it up properly.  And this stuffing is really easy to make!  I cut up some onion and celery per the instructions on the box, cooked it in my vegan butter, and then added some vegetable broth.  I transfered the liquid into a large mixing bowl and added in the Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing mix.  I gave it a stir and let it sit for about 8-10 minutes, until the cubes were moist and the liquid was completely absorbed.  After that, I put the mix into a baking dish and baked it for 30-40 minutes per the instructions on the box until it was beautifully golden and ready to eat.

I won’t lie…I had a small serving of it then.  I had to.  The smell as it was baking was phenomenal.  Really.  I was practically salivating the entire half hour it was cooking.  So, yeah…I wanted to try it so I could tell you, my readers, how it was before I had some fun with it.

It was amazing.  No joke.  Freakin’ fantastic.  The chunks of bread got to that perfect golden crispness, while the vegetables and the absorbed liquid kept it moist and delicious.  The level of flavors was spot on.  Definitely perfect on its own.  I didn’t even need to add any additional salt and pepper.  Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing was better than any stuffing I have ever eaten in my life.  Way better.  That goes for the boxed stuff as well as the stuff made from scratch.  This was an total win.  I wish I had made it up for dinner at my roommate’s family’s home.  Perhaps next year.  They wouldn’t even begin to guess that it was gluten-free…except for I’d be eating it, so they would know!

Olivia's Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing (prepared)
Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing (prepared)

I am so in love with this stuffing.  My only complaint was there was only one box of it.  Good thing I can order more through Cuisine Cube and Olivia’s Gluten Free Web site.  Trust me…this will be happening!

Let’s talk about the ingredients in Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing.  This stuffing is made from gluten-free bread, certified non-GMO canola oil, granulated onion and garlic, rosemary, sage, thyme, celery seed, sea salt and pepper.  It is cholesterol free, gluten-free and made in a dedicated gluten free facility.

As far as nutritional information goes, Olivia’s Gluten Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing makes about 9 servings per container.  If you use it traditionally.  A serving size is 3/4 cup prepared.  This serving will provide you with 110 calories and 4 grams of fat.  You will also be taking in 200 mg sodium and 1 gram of sugar.  In addition, you will be consuming only 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein.  On its own, this stuffing won’t make you feel stuffed, but you will love every single bite of it.  Trust me.

But…as I mentioned earlier…I had some fun with this stuffing.

Why eat it straight up when you can do something a little outside the box, right?  Well, on Black Friday, I picked up a new waffle maker (shaped like Mickey Mouse!) and I really wanted to test it out.  I’m like a child…I get something new and I want to try it out right away.  So, on Saturday night, I took the stuffing that I cooked up out of the fridge and put it into a big mixing bowl.  It was time to use the “leftovers” in a new way.  Prepare yourself…

Recipe: Gluten Free Leftover Stuffing Waffles

Gluten Free Leftover Stuffing Waffle (shaped like Mickey Mouse)
Gluten Free Leftover Stuffing Waffle (shaped like Mickey Mouse)

Servings: 4 large waffles
Time: Prep 5 minutes; Cook 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups crumbled leftover gluten free stuffing
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you’re not vegetarian)

 

Directions:

Preheat the waffle maker and grease it with cooking spray.

Gluten Free Leftover Stuffing Waffle with Vegan Homemade Vegan White Gravy and Cranberry Chutney
Gluten Free Leftover Stuffing Waffle with Vegan Homemade Vegan White Gravy and Cranberry Chutney

In a large bowl, stir together the leftover stuffing and eggs.  Add 1/4 cup of vegetable broth and mix until well combined.  Continue adding broth as needed until the mixture is well-moistened.

Scoop the stuffing mixture into the prepared waffle maker, spreading it evenly.  (The stuffing will not spread or expand like regular waffle batter as it bakes, so arrange it in an even, thin layer).   Close the lid and let the waffle bake until golden brown and the egg is cooked throughout.  Stuffing waffles take longer to cook than regular waffles, as the egg must be completely cooked throughout.  Don’t be afraid to let the waffle bake until it’s golden brown and crispy!

Transfer the waffle to a serving plate then repeat the filling and baking process with the remaining stuffing.

Serve.

~*~*~

I know what you’re wondering…you are pondering what I served these waffles with.  Simple.  I prepared a gluten-free white gravy and took some fresh cranberries from my CSA bin and made a cranberry chutney.  I poured a bit of the warm gravy over the waffle with a side of the cranberry relish and…BAM…dinner was served.

It tasted amazing.  Mine, being in a Mickey Mouse waffle maker, was shaped like Mickey Mouse…but it came to this perfect golden crispiness on the outside.  It paired great with gravy, making it a savory dinner.  And the cranberry chutney tied it all together.  A great way to use up some of those holiday leftovers for sure!

TRUST ME!

Thanks to Cuisine Cube for including a box of Oliva’s amazing Gluten-Free Rosemary & Sage Stuffing in my box for Thanksgiving.  I am forever thankful!

Product Review: Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix
Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Product: Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix – $5.99+

YES!!  FINALLY!!  At long last, I am trying out one of the Cup 4 Cup baking mixes.  I have been dying to do this since these products emerged on the scene back in 2012.  I had eyed the Cup 4 Cup Original Flour Blend back when it was exclusive only to Williams-Sonoma and online purchases.  The problem was, I couldn’t fathom paying the $20+ dollars to try a flour blend that was being touted as the best on the market.  I wish I could have made room in the budget for it, but I live paycheck to paycheck with very little wiggle room most weeks.  Especially having to eat gluten-free.

So, when I was in Columbus, Ohio at The Raisin Rack, and my roomie told me to fill up a basket with products I wanted to try…I knew, immediately, that I wanted one of the Cup 4 Cup baking mixes.  The problem was choosing which one.  The other one on the shelves at the time was the Pizza Crust Mix…and I have so many pizza crusts here just waiting to be made, the pancake mix seemed like the most obvious choice.  And so…it has the honor of being the first product by Cup 4 Cup that I have tried.

So, if you aren’t familiar with Cup 4 Cup or why I’m so enthusiastic about this product, you must take into consideration that I am a food and chef junkie.

This brand of gluten-free flour and baking mixes was created by Chef Lena Kwak, while serving as Research and Development Chef in the famed French Laundry in Yountville, California.  Her mentor, Chef and Owner Thomas Keller, knew they had stumbled upon something amazing when a guest at the restaurant tasted Lena’s gluten-free brioche and cried because she hadn’t tasted bread in years.  It was then that they knew they needed to share this product with the rest of the world.  Cup 4 Cup is not just great-tasting gluten-free flour, but it’s great-tasting flour for everyone.  The name comes from this brand’s ability to substitute all-purpose flour in traditional recipes, cup for cup, making it easy to translate some past favorites into a gluten-free version.  And no one will be the wiser.  Basically, Cup 4 Cup allows you to not only create, but also enjoy all the foods that you always loved…but now makes them gluten-free so that you can love them again.

It is a pretty high standard and tall order to hold yourself up to.  But you have to trust products when Thomas Keller is involved. Really!

On Friday, last week, I had made the decision to finally break into the Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix and make some pancakes.  This was going to be a little time consuming, as I rush home after my 5:30 a.m. spin class on Friday’s to shower, change, and eat something for breakfast.  But, the roomie and I had no real rush, so…I just had everything that I could prep ahead of time done and ready with all the rest of the ingredients out and waiting…with the glass mixing bowl.  I showered.  I changed.  I went into the kitchen, preheated my skillet, and got to work.

Making the Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix is easy.  Even when I doctored the mix up.  You see, I asked Cathy if she wanted just straight-out pancakes, or if she’d like the Lemon Poppy Seed version that was mentioned on the back of the pouch the mix was in.  She said, “You can’t throw lemon poppy seed at me and expect me not to want that!”  So, one quick trip to the grocery store very early that morning to get lemons…I zested and juiced them before heading to the gym so that I just had to melt the butter and mix things together before scooping it out onto the skillet.

Nothing could be easier.  With the skillet preheating, I poured the contents of the pouch into the mixing bowl and added milk and 1 egg to it.  I stirred this together, then added the melted butter and (optional) vanilla extract.  Then, I added the additional stuff to make it the Lemon Poppy Seed variety…1/4 cup sugar, the zest of 2 lemons, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds.  With everything incorporated, I scooped 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle and repeated the process again.  With two pancakes cooking, I noticed that they were getting those perfect bubbles around the edges after a couple of minutes.  Time to flip the pancakes!

As I did, I noticed the gorgeous golden color on the other side.  These were not only properly crisping, but they were fluffing up to these gorgeous, thick, and light pancakes. I was beyond pleased with the look of them.  And they smelled amazing.  That lemon scent was so refreshing.  I checked the skillet side, and noticed it was now golden too…so they were moved to a plate and a new batch was started.  These got a light treatment of butter and some delicious maple syrup.  Breakfast was served.

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes made from Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix
Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes made from Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Cathy got the first two pancakes that morning and when I saw her finish her first bite, I had to ask how they were, since mine were still cooking.  She immediately cut another piece and began to devour it.  “YUMMY” she said, with a mouthful of lemon poppy seed pancakes and maple syrup.

Mine finished up and I ate them in the kitchen while I prepared pancakes from the rest of the mix to have at a later time.  In fact, four of them are coming out of the fridge tomorrow for our post-gym breakfast at the office.  So, it will be interesting to see how they do on a microwave reheat.

That being said…these pancakes did have that perfect golden crust, giving it that amazing golden flavor and initial crunch as your fork slides through it.  These pancakes were not dense or heavy at all.  In fact, I found them rather light and airy in comparison to other pancakes I’ve made from baking blends.  The lemon flavor was incredible…and at just the right level.  Any more and it would have been too tart.  I was glad I left the vanilla extract in, despite it being an optional addition.  I just think it added to the flavor in the end.  Overall, I devoured these in record time, cleaning my plate of every last remnant of the pancakes.

In the end, I ended up making 12 pancakes from the mix itself.

So, let’s talk ingredients.  The Cup 4 Cup Pancake & Waffle Mix is made from cornstarch, white rice flour, sugar, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, baking powder, potato starch, salt, and xanthan gum.  It is gluten-free…but trust me…you’d never know it.  No one would.  And these pancakes were definitely diner-style and diner quality.

As for the nutritional information…a serving of the Cup 4 Cup Pancake & Waffle Mix is 1/4 cup of the mix.  This serving provides 140  calories and is fat free.  It is also cholesterol free.  This serving also will provide 440 mg sodium and 8 grams of sugar.  One serving has less than 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  Of course, all of that changes when you prepare it with the rest of the ingredients.  I used almond milk in mine, for the record.

Beyond impressed with Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix.  On a busy morning, breakfast was still simple to make.  And these really are some of the best pancakes I have had since going gluten-free.  I think having a product that was developed by chefs for consumers helps keep up the integrity.  And we all know that nothing that Thomas Keller touches would be sub-par.

I’m hooked.  I sort of always want to have these in my pantry.  Forever.

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon – Orlando, FL (November 8, 2014)

Me, dressed as Venellope von Schweetz, at the staging area of the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon - Orlando, Florida
Me, dressed as Venellope von Schweetz, at the staging area of the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon – Orlando, Florida

Race: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: November 8, 2014

Time: 1:50:09

I’m starting to think I angered the running gods somewhere along the way this year.

Seriously.

Because before I go any further, let me start with these two words for you:

BROKEN TOE!

You read that right.  My first night at Disney World this time around…and what do I do?  I BREAK A FREAKIN’ TOE!  And you know, broken toe stories never really are a good story…because they always just happen randomly and in such a stupid and simple manner.  For me…climbing into the shower at my resort.  No joke.  Jammed it on the tub.  Yeah…

So…running gods and goddesses…whatever it is…I apologize.  Please, please show me some mercy from here on out…

*COUGH*

That being said…not even a week removed from the New York City Marathon and I find myself up in Columbus, Ohio.  Yes…this journey starts in Columbus, because my roomie and I were taking our good friend, Jenn, with us to Walt Disney World this time around.  And, believe it or not, it was cheaper to drive up to Columbus and fly out of there on Friday morning than it was to do it from Louisville.  Worked out in the end.  The three of us could now travel together.  YAY!!  But…this also meant a very early morning after a night spent on the road to get there.  We didn’t get in too late, but we didn’t want to stay up too late either, as our ride would be coming in between 4:15 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. Friday morning.  Our flight out was at 6:30 a.m.  Early flight…nonstop…meant…in to Disney early.  WOOT! Jenn’s dad came and got us, drove us to the Columbus Airport, and dropped us off.  Cathy and I checked our bags…Jenn carried hers on…and we went through security.  Our first stop…Starbucks.  Caffeine was needed for sure at this hour.  And I had a tall soy salted caramel mocha calling my name.  With coffees in hand, we settled in at our gate and just started discussing the plans for that day.

And…it ran smoothly.  We boarded the plane on time and were in the air without any sort of delay.  This was a new thing for me.  And, believe it or not, our flight team got us in to Orlando a full 20 minutes early.  HELLO!  This is my happy dance.  Cathy went to get the rental car while Jenn and I waited for luggage.  The bags came through really quickly, actually, so Jenn and I headed out the way we were directed for rental cars and ended up at the Enterprise kiosk outside.  Cathy was inside.  Figures.  So, she had to come to us.  The representative took us out to the midsize cars and pointed out the Prius, as we are accustomed to Toyota vehicles as both Jenn and I own Toyotas.  We were sold.  Hello amazing as mileage!!  Car acquired, we were now setting out to make our required Publix stop, to pick up some fruit, snacks, and some water.  Jenn and I also replenished our protein bar stores.  I am glad we did this, because I ate my way through all of mine this trip.  After that, we headed to the resort and got checked in at…where else?…Port Orleans Riverside.

Yes.  Again.  Why change up the resort when we love this one so much.  I mean…it’s one of my favorite Disney Princess’ place…Tiana, of course!  And I know the layout and the rooms (or so I thought, HA!).  We got our room…which was…a maze to find.  Opposite end of the elevator, all the way around by the pool…second floor.  We just had to do some exploring to find it.  But, heh, we managed.  We settled into the room for a moment…Jenn cooling off by the air conditioner, while I got out my tiara (requirement at Disney…because they call me Princess if I wear it…and I LOVE being called Princess).  I had to get my waiver in order to pick up my race packet at the expo.  And we grabbed a snack prior to heading out for the day.

First up…the expo.  And thankfully, the resorts on Disney property run shuttles to the event.  The expo was held at the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex.  Just like it normally is.  Well, it was for the Dopey Challenge anyway.  Love this venue.  It’s really easy to navigate now…but at first it was slightly confusing.

The most amazing thing happened with this race though.  In New York City, I met running legend Kathrine Switzer.  When she ran the Boston Marathon, she was the now famous Bib 261.  Well, my bib number at the Disney Wine & Dine was…261.  Having this race bib number has been a dream of mine…Disney Magic made it happen!  I love surprises like that.  As I was one of the lower numbers, I had virtually no line to stand in.  This is usually the case with Disney races for me.  I was going to be in Corral A, which anyone with the numbers between 21-500 will be in.  They gave me my commemorative pin, which I ordered ahead of time, and then sent me across the way to the actual expo, where I would pick up my t-shirt.

I avoided the vendors upon entering and made my way over to the area in the back for my t-shirts.  Not too many people were in line for a women’s small either, so I stepped up and handed my bib over to the lady at the counter.  She looked at it as she tore the t-shirt tab off and said, “WOW!  You’re the lowest number I’ve seen…how fast can you run a half marathon?”  I told her my fastest time and she asked if I was going to try to beat it here.  I told her, in my mind, I’d love to, but I had just run a marathon on Sunday, so it wasn’t likely.  The body was still recovering.  I said I intended to have some fun and just enjoy it.  And take pictures with characters this time around.  Next time…  She laughed and handed me my shirt.  Time to shop!

I really intended not to purchase anything.  Just look.  But…heh…that didn’t work out as planned.  I didn’t get a BondiBand here either, for the record.  My mojo is off.  My usual customs aren’t happening.  ACK!  But I didn’t see a booth, honestly.  Cathy found me the race specific equivalent though in the Official Merchandise area…so we went with that.  It would do.  One thing I did do, however, was visit the Garmin booth and ended up getting a watch I could wear so I didn’t have to wear my Garmin running watch if I needed to know what time it was.  After all, I was at Disney World and I was NOT going to live on my cell phone.  Nope!  This was vacation!  With that purchase…I said I wasn’t allowed to spend any more money…so I avoided the Newton booth and tried to ignore all the cute running clothes.  I made it out of there with only that purchase and a wine glass (Disney Wine & Dine…get it!) from Official Merchandise.  I did well!

We wrapped things up and took the shuttle back to our resort to drop off our bags.  Then…with no pausing, we were back out and this time hopping the regular shuttle bus to take us to Animal Kingdom, our park of choice for our first day there.  We had things planned…like Jenn and I were going to ride Expedition Everest, the roller coaster there in Animal Kingdom.  We did.  And it was epic fun.  It was nice to have a ride buddy this time around, as Cathy refuses to do any of those rides…because she somehow became less fun at amusement parks between when we first went to Disney in February 2013…to today.  BUT…before any attractions or rides…we needed more coffee…and a snack.  So…I hit up the allergy friendly Gardens Kiosk in the park for some hummus and vegetables and Cathy and Jenn grabbed some fries at a restaurant there.  We noshed and then…went to grab the infamous COFFEE!!  You see, Animal Kingdom has this one place that serves up this fantastic iced coffee in either a French Vanilla or Mocha flavor.  I have always done, and will always do, the French Vanilla.  But it tastes like a light milkshake.  Seriously.  It is the best thing ever.  My favorite coffee at any Disney park.  And…I might be addicted to it.  With coffee now acquired and caffeine hitting the system…we had the roller coaster to do and the Kilimanjaro Safari.  LOVE dong the safari at Animal Kingdom because the guides are fun, the animals are RIGHT THERE…and it’s just a nice way to relax and see some wild animals.  LOVED it.  While there, we also did the “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” show and rode on Dinosaur.  By the time we wrapped things up, we were running just a tiny bit late to the shuttle to get to the Animal Kingdom Lodge…home of our traditional first meal at Disney World feast…Sanaa.

Sanaa is African food that sort of borrows from the flavors of India.  Can you see why I love eating here so much?  After talking with the chef, I ended up getting the Vegetarian Sampler, which is Basmati Rice and the choice of two of five of their vegetarian entrees.  I went with the Chickpea Wat and the Seasonal Greens and Tomatoes.  It was…beyond fantastic as always.  For the record, Cathy ordered the Lamb Shank and Jenn got the Slow Cooked Dinner Sampler, which was Basmati Rice with a choice of two of the five plate offerings.  She went with Butter Chicken and Goan Seafood Curry.  We ended up splitting the dessert…as usual…we ordered the Seasonal Kulfi, which was pumpkin this time.  And it was delicious.  The couple next to us made conversation with us the entire time, and he ended up getting the trio of desserts, which included the kulfi that we were raving about.  He took a bite and his wife said, “That was your sex face.”  Hilarity ensued.  Anyway, with dinner wrapped up, we had a full day and we knew the race was the following night, so we headed back to the resort to take our turn through the shower and get some much needed sleep.

Broken toe...*sigh*
Broken toe…*sigh*

And this…is where it all went down.  I was first up to shower, so I went into the bathroom and got the water going.  And as I was climbing into the bathtub…BAM…jammed my foot on the edge of the tub.  Hard.  And bad.  I doubled over for about a minute before toughing it up and finishing the shower.  After I was dressed, I hobbled out and pointed to my foot.  “I think I broke a toe!”  Cathy and Jenn looked up at me with big eyes and Cathy said, “SERIOUSLY!?”  It was confirmed the next morning…when I woke up to find it swollen and a pretty shade of black-ish purple.

*SIGH*

Being proactive, we decided to use the athletic tape that we brought with us (because my feet are delicate things and I apparently need to wrap the hell out of them these days) and Cathy taped my broken toe (the 4th one)…to the middle toe.  And that was how I managed to get through a full day at Hollywood Studios.  For real.  Being that the race started at 10 p.m., today was going to be a bit strange for me…because…I had to eat backwards.  I also was not going to be having gluten-free pizza prior to this race.  Night races…they screw everything up.  So, we were having a character breakfast at Cape May (Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald, FTW!).  And this was going to be our biggest meal of the day.  Honestly.  The chef came out to talk to me and she ended up making me GLUTEN FREE MICKEY WAFFLES!!  These are a requirement when I go to Disney World and Disneyland.  I have to have them at least once.  I paired that up with scrambled eggs for protein and a big heaping bowl of fruit.  Because…it was there and really delicious!  And that was breakfast.  Off to Hollywood Studios.  Cathy had somehow managed to get the times wrong for the fast passes we had for both the Aerosmith Rock ‘N Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror.  But, we begged and pleaded and after being treated like children, Jenn and I were allowed on our thrill rides that Cathy refuses to even try.  We also did Star Tours (always fun!) and Muppet Vision 3-D.  LOVE THE MUPPETS.  We had some time, so we headed over to The Magic of Disney Animation and sat in on one of the drawing classes, where we were taught how to draw Donald Duck this time.  This made me happy…I hadn’t done a Donald Duck before.  My lunch was my protein bar and a clementine, which I ate on the go.  And after we wrapped up everything…we went back to the hotel, because I had a race to get dressed for…and to get to…broken toe or not.

I actually took the tape off my toes for the race, fearing blisters.  We also had weather moving in (even though I was told on numerous occasions that Orlando didn’t have rain for months!).  So…yeah…there was that.  I was dressing up as Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph this time around.  Why?  Because Vanellope is awesome.  HA!  A co-worker of mine even sewed the top for me and it looked fantastic.  I was pretty excited about the costume.  Not so happy with my toe.  And definitely not happy about the impending rain.  But, you just suck it up cupcake and get it done.  Right?  Right!  So, I got dressed, and went ahead and ate my cereal (treating my dinner as how I would eat on a race morning…because I was eating backwards all day!).  Cathy put all the little candy bits in my hair and I packed a set of dry clothes (but not shoes) for after the race…just in case.  The best part about Wine & Dine is the after party in Epcot.  You get to try foods and drinks from different countries.  And included in the race bag is a $10 gift card to put towards those purchases and samples.  So, dinner for Cathy and Jenn was going to be tasting around the world.  For me…probably a protein bar because there isn’t too much there for a gluten-free vegetarian.  But…I figured I would take in the experience.

So, I grabbed the banana we purchased at the grocery store when we got there on Friday and we headed out to the shuttle to take us to the start of the race, which would be near the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  The staging area was mostly in the grass, and it started to sprinkle a bit.  The first thing we did was head to information to figure out the best way for Cathy and Jenn to get from the start to the finish.  They were told, especially since I was a Corral A runner, that they needed to leave and get a shuttle before I started the race.  So…after dancing around and helping me put a garbage bag over my head to keep my body warm as the wind picked up and the weather started to roll in…they gave me hugs…I was told that the “power of Dean compels me” and not to “pants my poop.”  TRADITION!  And they were gone.  So…I just sort of plopped myself down somewhere and tried to stay warm.  I ate my banana.  I watched people expend a lot of energy by jumping and dancing…and it was fun!!  But soon…it was time to get in those corrals.  And I made the short hike from the staging area to the corrals, moving all the way up to Corral A.

One thing I loved was seeing so many people in this corral in costume.  Disney race or not, a lot of times the higher up corrals don’t get into the Disney spirit.  I have always and will always costume for Disney races.  They are Disney races.  If you run Disney for time, you’re missing the point!  I stayed in the black garbage bag until after the wheelchair racers were sent off.  The elite runners and Corral A were then moved up to the start line.  I shed it then…and that’s when it started to rain.  Lightly at first.  So, when they sent us off with the fireworks and all…it was like a spring shower.  But soon after that first mile, where I met a fellow runner who had just done New York City in that horrible, awful, crazy wind…the rain started to pick up.  And then…it was just…a downpour.

The first three miles of this race are done on the highway…and this race also embraces the most hills of any Disney race I have run yet at Disney World.  But…after New York City…these didn’t seem too bad.  Not really.  After the 5K mark, we come into Animal Kingdom.  Running through the parks is the best part because you get to have the park employees cheer you on.  That and this is normally a key place to snap pictures with characters.  The problem was…with the downpour…many of the characters weren’t out.  BUMMER!  But, you go on.  We run around the Tree of Life just after Mile 4 and then duck outside of the park before hitting 5 Miles.

The rain was relentless and my shoes were full of water.  The good thing was, my feet were so cold and numb that I couldn’t tell if my toe was hurting or not at this point.  But, I knew it was hindering me.  There just comes a point where you just can’t do anything about it…so you just stop worrying about it.  The next few miles were back on the roads, part of the path we ran for the Disney World Marathon.  I recognized it.  I was about halfway through and running down the street parallel to those just getting started.  On the opposite side of the highway…the later corrals were just getting underway.  And we got a lot of cheers from them as we went on.

It’s around Mile 10 that we get filtered into Hollywood Studios.  Great park to run through.  It was decorated for Christmas and everything was lit up.  This has great scenes to run past and the support there is nothing but phenomenal from the cast members.  Honestly.  Despite running in the shadow of the Tower of Terror and through the various lots that they feature, my absolute favorite part of Hollywood Studios involved disco balls and the Costuming Tunnel in the Backlot.  Honestly…I loved looking through the windows, while disco balls are sending lights everywhere in this small tunnel, and seeing people pressing and prepping the costumes for the following day.  It was spectacular.  I wanted to stop and linger…because…well…it was dry in there…and…IT WAS FLIPPIN’ COOL!  But, I was nearing the end of the race and the after party and two very soggy spectators awaited my arrival at that finish line.

Onward.

Out of Hollywood Studios and onto the slick and slippery boardwalk, which runs past the Disney Yacht Club and Disney Beach Club Resorts.  Even with the hard rain and cool air, people staying there still came out to cheer.  I love the vibe I get at every Disney race.  But the electricity through these last two miles was fantastic.  Honestly.

From the Boardwalk we took a turn through Epcot, past the giant ball, and out into the parking lot.  I know this finish area well, trust me.  Around the corner and BAM…there was the finish line.  I pressed hard to that finish line, ignoring my foot and toe, just wanting to get over that mat.  And I cleared it, soaking wet and dripping with rain and pure determination and stubbornness.  Broken toe…check.  Half marathon…check.  BEAST MODE, BABY!

As I recieved my medal and my mylar blanket, I saw Cathy and Jenn waving to me from the bleachers.  They were as wet as I was.  They started down while I got the finisher’s photo, some water, and, of course, the goodie box that RunDisney hands you at the end of every race, filled with goodies like Skittles, Clif Bars, Craisins, Fruit Snacks, and Tortilla Chips with a Cheese spread.  I wasn’t ready for food.  What I was ready for was getting out of the chute and meeting up with my friends.  I sipped on some water and went to where I was directed to exit.

There they were.  Cathy came up to me and gave me a hug.  Jenn came over to do the same and said, “You can tell I love you…”  LOL!!  I really do have amazing friends.  And I give a lot of props and love to the spectators and volunteers who stood or sat out in that downpour for as long as they did.

But now…it was time to check out the after party, which meant an uncrowded spin around the World Showcase with some tasting portions of food at the different country booths and kiosks.  But first…I was freezing…and I wanted hot tea.  We got that immediately and set out to see what each country had to offer.  If something sounded good…devour.  If not…move on.  I probably should have changed clothes, but at that point, it was still raining, so I didn’t see the point.

Cathy tried foods from 7 countries: Mexico, Singapore, China, Brazil, Belgium, France, Canada.  Jenn tried food from China, Brazil, and France.  Me…I had tea.  And after stopping at France, I decided I REALLY needed to be in dry clothes.  I was shaking more than walking.  And since it was just an intermittent drizzle, I figured it was the best time to get out of my cold, wet costume and into my long pants and running jacket.

Me, in dry clothes, after walking the World Showcase and enjoying the after party at Epcot after the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon
Me, in dry clothes, after walking the World Showcase and enjoying the after party at Epcot after the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

BEST FEELING EVER!

I was dry and now…warm.  I also ate one of my protein bars to help with recovery.  And we finished up the World Showcase that night and called it a morning.  Because by the time we got on the shuttle and returned to the hotel, it was 2:35 a.m.  And we all still had to shower.  I went first, making it quick.  Then Jenn.  Then Cathy.  We didn’t have any reason to be up early the following morning, so we slept in until 9:30-ish.  It was Magic Kingdom day that day…which meant Dole Whip for dessert that night.  We ended up having Dole Whip for breakfast the following morning before hitting up Epcot on our last day there.

I even randomly was found by my friend Michele, who also did the half marathon.  She found me in Morocco of all places.  HA!  And we ended up talking about a lot of things for awhile, before she and her group moved on to try more foods from the showcase, and we went to continue on around the other way, killing time before dinner that night.

So, my official results for the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon are that I finished with an official time of 1:50:09.  ON A BROKEN TOE! IN THE POURING RAIN!  I was 418/11,941 overall.  I was the 97/7928 woman to cross the finish line.  And I was 15/1442 in my division to finish.  Disney Magic.  Had to be.  Not my best half marathon by a long shot, but given the circumstances…just…amazing to me.

Now, really, I need to show some mercy on my poor foot and toe.  Time to heal.

Once again, Disney…you were expensive…but totally worth every bit of money I poured into you for those 4 days I was there.  Despite not having the characters out on the course for much of the race, I have every desire to come back and do this one again.  This time…without the downpour and preferably without the broken toe.

Disney…as always…you are my happy place.  Thanks for another great race (and another great reason to dress up in costume to run!).

Product Review: Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake & Waffle Mix

Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix
Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix

Product: Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake & Waffle Mix – $7.99

Okay…I think this is a first.  An absolute first since I started receiving my Cuisine Cube orders.  If you’re just tuning in, Cuisine Cube  is a brilliant service that sends a box of 5-6 lesser known company products in the gluten-free world to my door…for me to enjoy…each month.  Yes.  Each month.  And for a really good fee as well.  I always look forward to my cube and have been trying to get through the items that have been sent in May-July as my August cube is to arrive tomorrow and I still have quite a few untried and untested products in each box.  But…I’m getting there for sure!

So…there is my plug for Cuisine Cube.  And I encourage anyone in my gluten-free reading circle (or even if you’re not gluten-free!) to give Cuisine Cube a try.  You can cancel at any time…but I’m loving it too much to even dream about canceling.  Because, it seems, they have nailed these products and sent some of the most amazing products I, otherwise, never have discovered or heard about.

And usually…these products wow me and astound me and make me want to seek them out so I can keep them in my pantry.  But…this time…for the first time in four months…I didn’t care for a product that was inside.

The product in question was in my June Cuisine Cube.  It  was the Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix.  Now…I absolutely love pancakes and waffles.  I wouldn’t be a runner if I didn’t.  Let’s face it.  HA!  Seriously, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a delicious soft pancake with hot maple syrup drizzled over it…or a crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside waffle fresh from my waffle (stick) iron.  And yet…they are a breakfast item I so rarely make as the waffle maker sometimes drives me nuts and, well, I just haven’t done pancakes in awhile.

With my friend, Greg, in town…I figured I could test out the Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix for breakfast on Sunday.  I had already hit up the gym and done some laps in the pool (SIGH!), so after a shower…I grabbed the little container of the Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix and headed into the kitchen.  I dug out my waffle stick maker and got it heating up.  I sprayed it with cooking spray and then got to making  the batter for the waffles.

I realized I had no eggs…but thankfully there is a vegan version of the mix on the container.  No eggs needed.  I emptied the bag of mix into a large bowl and added 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk and 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Per the instructions.  I gave it a mix…and it was just dry and clumpy and…not batter.  So I added more almond milk, and it didn’t do much different…but at least it was a bit creamier.

I pulled out my 1/3 cup scoop (that’s the serving size) and poured the batter into the waffle iron.  I spread it out with a knife, adding a little batter here and there where needed to fill in holes.  Then, I closed the lid and let it steam and cook and get toasted and crispy.  It took about 6 or 7 minutes total.  I decided to take a chance and serve Greg first.  He’s rather particular about his food…so I crossed my fingers, laid it out with some warm maple agave syrup, and went back to start on Cathy’s (the roomie!) waffles.

I repeated this process again, handing over her waffles and heading back to make mine.  And as she dug in I had to ask…

“So, what do you think?”

And her response…was shocking.  “Actually, I’m not a fan.”

“Really?  Why?  What’s wrong?”

“It’s…salty.”

So, this immediately sent me scrambling for the package to see what might be salty in the mix.  And, near the end there is salt, but it was one of the last ingredients listed.  However, I did note that there were two different bean flours that were used in the mix…and I thought, perhaps, the bean flours were giving it that flavor to her.  I would have to wait for my waffles to finish so I could see for myself.

I pulled my waffle sticks from the waffle iron, gave them a drizzle of syrup, and settled in to tuck into my breakfast.

One bite…and I totally knew it was the bean flours.  The flavor of the Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix…is, supposedly, vanilla.  I don’t get vanilla at all.  I did see what Cathy meant about the “salty” aspect of the prepared waffles.  I definitely could pinpoint it as to being a result of using both chickpea and fava bean flours.  It sort of reminded me of why I disliked the flavor of some of the Dr. Lucky’s Gluten-Free Cookies, which also uses bean flours as a base…and you can tell.  The texture of these waffles were perfection.  It got that golden crust on the outside and nice and soft in the middle.  A perfect cook indeed.  It fluffed up in the waffle iron and was golden perfection.  I was really excited about them.  Until I took a bite.  Because they didn’t have that vanilla flavor that was advertised.  They had bean flavor.  And I don’t want bean flavored waffles.  Seriously.  That’s…disgusting. When you bite into a waffle or pancake, you want the buttermilk or vanilla or whatever flavor you expect.  This salty, bean flavor was not what I expected…or wanted.  I was really turned off and it was a fight to actually get me to finish them off at breakfast.  Drown anything with syrup and you can get through it, I guess.

So…yeah…

So, let’s talk about the ingredients in the Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix.  This mix is a blend of an organic gluten-free flour blend (garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, whole grain sweet white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour), organic sugar, leavening (monocalcium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate, cornstarch), baking soda, salt, vanilla bean powder, and xanthan gum.  The mix itself is gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, and cholesterol free.

As for nutrition information, a serving of the Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix is 1/3 cup.  There are 4 servings per container.  One serving will provide you with 170 calories and 0 grams of fat.  This serving will give you 590 calories and 3 grams of sugar.  And finally, you will be taking in 1 gram of fiber and 5 grams of protein.

All-in-all…I was just really disappointed with the Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix.  I had gone into it with an open mind and a lot of confidence because it was from Cuisine Cube…and I’ve never disliked something (until now) that was in my Cuisine Cube.  This just was strange…the flavor was way off.  I wish it had been delicious because I liked everything else about the waffles.  Just not the taste.

Too bad.

Well, we can’t win them all.  I can’t wait to move forward and try something else from my next cube.  But I don’t think I’ll be ordering any more of the Southern Culture Artisan Foods Shortstacks Gluten Free Vanilla Pancake and Waffle Mix.

Product Review: Stroopies Gluten-Free Authentic Dutch Stroopwafels

Stroopies Gluten-Free Authentic Dutch Stroopwafels
Stroopies Gluten-Free Authentic Dutch Stroopwafels

Product: Stroopies Gluten-Free Authentic Dutch Stroopwafels – $2.50

I know what you’re thinking…you’re thinking..

“What the hell is a Stroopwafel?”

Am I right?  Am I?  Well, up until I received my July Cuisine Cube, I fell into that category too.  In fact, I didn’t even know such a thing as a Stroopwafel even existed.  Never heard of one.  Never would have thought to even look for one to try.  But, thanks to the miracle of my Cuisine Cube, I not only am introduced to a new company, but also a new product (and in a sense, a type of food I didn’t even know existed until then).

So, to answer the above question…Stroopwafels are all the rage in Holland.  It is a type of Dutch cookie with a rich, flavorful, caramel taste.  It is apparently best enjoyed with a warm beverage or as a snack.  These cookies are made from two thin layers of baked dough with a thin caramel syrup-ish filling in the middle.  They are a popular street food in the Netherlands and, I am assuming, a nice accessory with a good coffee.

Stroopies is based out of Lancaster, Pensylvania, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country.  Dan and Ed, the owners of Stroopies, make these delicious cookies from classic ingredients that are locally sourced and all natural.  What Stroopies manage to do with their Stroopwafels is find that perfect balance between the cinnamon and the caramel.  And what emerges is this delightful, light, tasty treat.

With my August Cuisine Cube on its way, I began picking through some of the stuff left in my current cube.  And, as we used up the dairy-free ice cream in the freezer yesterday, I was giving my roommate the option for dessert.  The Dutch cookies from the July cube…the dairy-free chocolate freezer pops, the last pint of dairy-free ice cream, or the gluten-free biscotti we picked up at the grocery store.

As the Stroopies were in my hand at that moment…that’s what she chose.

And so, after our dinner of Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Walnuts, dessert was going to be a synch.  All it required was for me to open the little plastic pouch the cookies arrived in.  As I wasn’t prepared to brew up a decaf coffee to have these with, I ended up just popping them in the microwave as an nontraditional way to warm these up (instead of over the cup of a hot beverage).  So, a quick 20 second hit in the microwave and these were ready.  I handed my roommate hers and she immediately dug in while I went to warm up mine and retrieve it.

“It tastes like…a cinnamon roll.  A really thin cinnamon roll!” she declared.

To me, this can only be a good thing…because I absolutely love cinnamon rolls, as you all very well know.  So, as I settled in to try it myself, I was already anticipating that first hit on my tongue.  I broke off a piece of the cookie, the two thin waffle layers breaking apart slowly with the now warm caramel layer in the center coming with it.  I popped the little bit into my mouth and…magic.  Pure cookie magic.  This is probably one of the most unique and best cookies I have tried that is nothing like anything I have ever had before.

Stroopies actually do find that perfect balance between the cinnamon and the caramel.  In fact, the thin caramel layer perfectly matches the waffle cookie shells that sandwich it inside.  It’s the perfect layering…very even…so nothing outshines anything else.  This was one unique and fantastic dessert, for sure.  Honestly, it does taste like a cookie version of a cinnamon roll.  I can see why these are so popular in Holland.  I was hooked at the first bite and found myself wishing that we had more than the two cookies that came in the pack inside my Cuisine Cube.  Each bite brought more flavor and more of that soft and amazing texture.  I was more than enamored with this cookie.  And if you can…I highly recommend these.

As these are one of those local-ish products, I don’t have any nutritional information, however I can go over the ingredients with you.  The Stroopies Gluten-Free Authentic Dutch Stroopwafels are made from brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, soy flour, corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, butter, margarine, eggs, salt, spices and flavorings.

I will note that these cookies are made on dedicated equipment, however they are produced in a factory that contains wheat, soy and peanut products.

Another fantastic product that came to me via my Cuisine Cube.  Subscribing to my monthly Cuisine Cube has been one of the best things I have done in a long time.  I’m really enjoying getting introduced to smaller gluten-free companies out there that I would otherwise know nothing about.  And if you are interested in trying Stroopies Gluten-Free Authentic Dutch Stroopwafels…head on over to their Web site and place an order.  Trust me…these are worth ordering without trying.  I am about to go order more myself.

Stroopies Gluten-Free Authentic Dutch Stroopwafels
Stroopies Gluten-Free Authentic Dutch Stroopwafels

Product Review: Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle

Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle
Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle

Product: Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle – $6.95+

It was one of the best moments ever.  I am in a natural food store my friend, Jenn, had been wanting to take me to for years, while in Columbus, Ohio (Raisin Rack is the store).  The aisles and aisles of gluten-free products are calling to me.  Like…literally.  I’m getting all whiney and needy and really, really wanting to try some items that I hadn’t found anywhere else.

And my roomie comes over with a medium-size basket and tells me to fill it up.

Of course…she helped.

One of the products that she insisted that we try was Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle.

Why?  Because it had the word “lemon” on it.  And we had seen these before at our Whole Foods and never picked them up.  Second chance.  We’re taking it.

What are pizzelle?  A pizzella is a traditional Italian waffle cookie that is made from flour, eggs, sugar, butter, and flavoring (like…in this case…lemon!).  Depending on how they are prepared, pizzelle can be hard and crisp or soft and chewy.  These are known to be one of the oldest forms of cookies.  The cookie dough batter is put into a pizzelle iron (sort of like a waffle iron).  They are typically stamped in a snowflake pattern on both sides.  These cookies are thin, golden, and usually crisp in texture once it’s cooled.

I had never had pizzelle before, so I was already intrigued.  After we polished off some dinner (leftovers from the Corn & Black Bean Salad I posted about in my “Cooking With Amy Farrah Fowler” blog), I cleaned up the dishes and pulled the plastic container out of the pantry so we could enjoy some dessert.  I opened up the container and removed the sealed cookies.  I carefully cut into the seal and eased out two thin cookies, handing one over to Cathy while I kept the other one for myself.

These cookies are so light and thin.  Loved that. I wouldn’t feel guilty when the dessert I’m “indulging” in doesn’t feel heavy and fattening.  HAHA!  I took a bite.

The Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle is of the soft and chewy type.  I was really, really expecting them to be crunchy.  Everything about them screamed crunchy.  I think I was slightly disappointed that they lacked crunch.  But…even more…the lack of lemon flavor was a bigger disappointment.  And what I could taste was almost…fake in flavor.  They also seemed a bit…dry.

As I have never had pizzelle before, I don’t know if this is normal or not, but it was a bit of a letdown in the end.  The cookies look beautiful.  But they really lack in the texture and flavor.  At least this version of them.  I’d be willing to try the other flavors of gluten-free pizzelle offered by Bella Lucia…but the Lemon Love were slightly disappointing.  At least for me.

Ingredients in the Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle include white rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, xanthan gum, pectin, sugar, canola oil, eggs, and lemon extract.  They are gluten-free…the founders wanting to make traditional baked goods that would meet new dietary needs without giving up flavor and taste.

As for nutrition information, a serving size of the Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle is one cookie.  Just one.  This serving will give you 100 calories and 4.2 grams of fat.  In addition, you will be consuming 28.8 mg cholesterol, 6.3 grams of sugar, and 9.5 mg sodium.  Finally, you will be taking in less than 1 gram of fiber and only 1.3 grams of protein.  So…don’t expect these cookies to fill you up.  They won’t.

I expected something completely different in a pizzelle.  And while I’m not totally disappointed, I’m  not entirely impressed either.  I love what Bella Lucia is doing.  And I think I might have enjoyed it more with more lemon flavor infused…but these were just a little bland.  And not crispy.  When I get a thin cookie…I want some crunch to it.  So, slightly lacking.  But not bad.  Not amazing.  But not bad.

Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle
Bella Lucia Lemon Love Gluten-Free Pizzelle

Product Review: Simple Truth Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles

Simple Truth Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles
Simple Truth Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles

Product: Simple Truth Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles – $2.49+

Okay…they aren’t Van’s Gluten-Free Waffles…but they aren’t half bad!

I admit it.  I had a coupon for Kroger’s organic brand of waffles from Simple Truth…and they happen to have two varieties of gluten-free waffles on the market…so I definitely took advantage of the coupon this past weekend.  And, no sooner had I bought them, I was whipping them out for a quick breakfast.  After all, I circuit trained and did spinning this morning.  This meant…easy breakfast that can toast while I showered and got ready for work.

Waffles.

Easy peasy!

Onto a baking sheet and into the oven they went (ever since being diagnosed as Celiac…the toaster went into the garbage due to cross-contamination problems…and was never replaced).  10 minutes later, I was pulling golden, perfectly toasted waffles from my oven.  They smelled amazing.  They toasted up perfectly.  And I could even see the blueberries inside the little waffle shapes.  Quick, but efficient breakfast was about to commence.  A little dab of butter and some maple-agave syrup over the top…and we were in business.  I paired it with some water and a cup of coffee.  Just the easy meal I needed after a hectic morning.

So, how were they?

Less soft and substantial than Van’s Gluten-Free Waffles.  But, for a freezer waffle…for a gluten-free freezer waffle…I give them a solid 8 out of 10.  The batter seemed really thin in parts, making them more of a crunchy waffle, rather than that crisp outside, soft middle that I associate with perfect waffles.  The blueberries weren’t even throughout…mine were mostly to one side of the waffle…but at least they were in there, right?  Yeah!  They were sweet, which I love…waffles should be sweet…and they had a good flavor.  And, when all is said and done, that is the most important thing.  Were they perfect?  Nope.  Were they edible?  Beyond edible.  They were tasty.  And organic…which you have to love.  And they, honestly, were good!

They just weren’t as good as Van’s Gluten-Free Waffles.  But…I haven’t found one that is yet either.

Let’s talk ingredients.  Simple Truth’s Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles are made from water, brown rice flour, potato starch, vegetable oil, corn flour, organic tapioca starch, blueberry bits, sugar, potato flour, inulin, leavening, soy lecithin, fruit juice concentrate blend, natural flavors, and salt.  So…it’s sort of a mess…but not too bad.  Not really.  Not for a quick dine-and-dash morning meal anyway.  Especially one that is, honestly, coming out of a box in the freezer.

Nutritionally speaking, a serving is 2 waffles.  These waffles will serve you up 220 calories and 8 grams of fat.  Not great…but not bad either.  Van’s does better with 10 fewer calories and 2 grams less fat.  So…there is that.  The Simple Truth Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles also will serve you up 350 mg sodium and 7 grams of sugar.  Van’s beats them here too, with way less sugar and 30 mg less sodium.  You will also have 2 grams of fiber an 1 gram of protein.  Not exactly a filling breakfast…but it’s a sugary treat from the freezer (and not one I make a habit of consuming either!).

So, the basic gist of this is…Simple Truth puts out a good gluten-free waffle.  The blueberries gave it a nice added bit of flavor.  And they had a nice crusty outside that toasted up perfectly.  They weren’t the best frozen waffles I have had since going gluten-free…but they are close.  I liked them.

So, if you can get Simple Truth products, I recommend trying the Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles, or even the Gluten-Free Homestyle Waffles (which I’ll get next time I have a coupon).  They make a good, quick, and easy breakfast when you have a busy, busy morning.  Thumbs up.

Simple Truth Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles (toasted)
Simple Truth Gluten-Free Blueberry Waffles (toasted)

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Café Allergen Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

Annie May's Sweet Café Allergen Free Pancake and Waffle Mix
Annie May’s Sweet Café Allergen Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Café Allergen-Free Pancake and Waffle Mix – $5.00

I am a lucky one!

I am.  I am one lucky lady.

And I’m about to tell you why.

I live just outside of Louisville, Kentucky.  One short drive over a bridge and I am in the city.  I can see Louisville from my apartment.  I’m that close.  But it’s not the city itself that makes me feel lucky.  It’s the gem that sits at the heart of it.

Recently, Louisville has really come onto the foodie scene.  With chefs showing up on television shows, the restaurant scene exploding (especially over in NULU), and features in food magazines like Food & Wine, Louisville really has something to offer for everyone.

Yes.  Everyone.

Including me – a gluten-free vegetarian.

The place – Annie May’s Sweet Café, located at 3110 Frankfort Avenue.  It’s a short little journey there…and one that I make weekly…if I’m in town.  I don’t miss any opportunity to support this business and the people who make this genuinely good food.  And trust me…you don’t need to have a food allergy to enjoy the products that they put in their case and offer Tuesday – Saturday.

Really, trust me.  My roomie eats there every week with me.  I’ve taken my running friends Natalie and Harry there.  I’ve taken my sister there.  I’ve taken my friend Greg there…and he is hooked on her Allergen-Free Double Chocolate Brownies.  Trust me…he always buys at least two when he’s in town.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to tell her food was gluten-free or dairy-free it wasn’t advertised.  Seriously.  Good eats.  All around.

But today, I am not just going to talk to you about the business.  Today…I want to talk to you about one of the mixes that is available for purchase from Annie May’s.

I’m talking about Annie May’s Sweet Café Allergen-Free Pancake and Waffle Mix.

Yes.  More pancakes.  The world would be a better place if more pancakes were consumed.  But…they must be good pancakes.  I’ve eaten a lot of different pancakes since going gluten-free.  Frozen, from mixes, from restaurants.  And this mix really does cook up some fantastic pancakes.  I actually utilized the mix two ways to be honest.  I did my first four pancakes just plain…made as the bag instructed me to make them.  But for the second batch…I added Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips…and made chocolate chip pancakes for the following day.  The mix is so easy to make and it has a great texture.  I just had a good feeling when I put it all together in my mixing bowl and then scooped up the 1/4 cup to set on the skillet.

The pancakes cooked to perfection.  No joke.  Golden and crusty on the outside.  They were a thing of beauty.  In fact, I might have let out a little squee of glee and did a little hop-dance of joy in the kitchen after I flipped the first one.  Because it was gorgeous.  A stunning and perfect pancakes.  I only had to be sure not to burn them.  And…I didn’t.  I totally rocked these out and they fluffed up and got all soft and hot in the middle.  I am drooling just writing about them.  Then, after serving them up with real maple syrup…I devoured.  And as I was savoring and scarfing all at the same time…I got the chocolate chip version cooking.

Once again…perfection.  I tucked these into a container and put them in the fridge.  I had a spinning class to take on Friday morning, so I figured when I got back from that, I could pop these bad boys in the microwave, nuke them to reheated perfection, and serve them up with that maple syrupy goodness.  I was so pleased with how well these reheated.  Honestly.  So many times you just get a soggy, mushy mess.  While these don’t get that golden crust they have fresh off the skillet, they don’t wilt and fall apart after a day in the fridge either.  They reheated really well and maintained the integrity of the previously consumed pancakes…still so delicious…down to the last bite.

I have two pancakes left.  Can you guess what I’m eating Sunday morning?  HA!  I can’t eat them tomorrow…I’m going to Annie May’s Sweet Café for their amazing breakfast menu.  Might even splurge and get a few extras.  Because…I can.  And I want to.  And so…I will.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t live in or near Louisville, Kentucky.  Annie May’s Sweet Café ships!  Yes…they ship.  Just go to this page and place an order.  Trust me…you will not be disappointed.  And, yes…the Allergen-Free Pancake and Waffle Mix is available for order.  So…don’t think.  Just do.  DO IT!

And…I still count myself as one very lucky lady to live near a place that has a restaurant that I feel totally and completely at ease in.  I know I can get good food there…and I will continue to bring my friends and family there.  So far, no one has been disappointed.

And to Annie May, Kenna, and the staff…keep up the good work.  See you tomorrow morning!

Perfect pancakes made from Annie May's Sweet Café Allergen Free Pancake and Waffle Mix
Perfect pancakes made from Annie May’s Sweet Café Allergen Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

Product Review: Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Nature's Path Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles
Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Product: Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles – $4.99+

FINALLY!

Just…FINALLY!

As much as I love gluten-free waffles made from scratch…these days it seems impossible to find the time to actually make them.  Trust me…it is an undertaking and a half.  Seriously!  And, my favorite homemade gluten-free waffles to prepare are…pumpkin!  Yep…pumpkin.  Delicious.  Tasty.  And we all know how much I love pumpkin flavored things.  Just…YUM!!

These days, however, I just am never home long enough to actually work through the recipe and get the pumpkin waffles made from scratch.  So…waffles have been off the menu.  Because, regular waffles can be a task and a half to make as well.  So…it’s been pancakes, Greek yogurt parfaits with fruit and gluten-free granola, cereal, and things with roasted potatoes…or just gluten-free bagels.  No waffles.  Not for a very long time.

But that changed.  That changed the moment I stepped into the freezer section of my local Whole Foods and spotted…one of the most wonderful things I have ever encountered in that aisle.  Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles.  YES!  GLUTEN-FREE PUMPKIN SPICE WAFFLES!!  Shout it from the rooftop friends.  I did another happy dance of joy in the aisle.  I should really stop doing that…but I just get so excited!

This box of frozen waffles is made by Nature’s Path.  I tried one other variety of their gluten-free waffles a year or two ago…but don’t remember too much about them.  Other than that Van’s gluten-free versions blew them out of the water.  For real!

But…let bygones be bygones…and…Van’s doesn’t make pumpkin spice waffles…so…HA!  These were in my basket and at the register before my roomie or I could talk ourselves out of the purchase.  The deed was done.

And with me taking an early morning spin class a couple mornings a week…these are the perfect thing to throw in the oven to toast while I shower off before work.  And that’s exactly what I did on Friday.  Friday was already crazy.  I had just gotten back in town from my Christmas trip to see my family.  My luggage had gone missing and was returned late that night.  I was worn out…but really wanted to get a little activity in before settling back into my routine for one day.  Spinning did that.  And I just happen to get home right as my roomie is waking up.  So, I put these waffles in the oven and went to shower.  They were done just as I finished off dressing.  I warmed up some of my agave maple syrup to pour over them and…just like that…brekkies was served.

Oh…these definitely made an impression on me.  The pumpkin spice flavor is there…but not overpowering.  There is pumpkin and then there is PUMPKIN.  I love pumpkin flavors…but I want to taste the other spices too.  In this case…cinnamon and nutmeg.  Perfect compliments.  The waffles toasted up beautifully…their orange color turning a deep golden as they reached the perfect level of toastiness.  This gave them this great crunch on the outside, but that soft, steamy center that make every waffle perfect.  Oh…it was bliss.  Bliss in a pumpkin-y waffle-y form.  These made my hectic morning easy…and super delicious.  I hope these aren’t a seasonal thing because I really want to stock up!

Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles are made from water, organic pumpkin puree, organic brown rice flour, organic potato starch, organic yellow corn flour, organic soy oil, organic tapioca starch, organic cane sugar, organic potato flour, baking powder, organic flax seeds, organic soy lecithin, organic pear and/or grape juice concentrate, organic quinoa, organic amaranth, organic spices, and sea salt.  Whew.  It seems like a lot of ingredients, but I recognize every single one of them.  That’s something.  And I love how a majority of the ingredients are also organic.

So, let’s talk nutrition.  A serving of Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles is 2 waffles.  This pair of pumpkin waffle yumminess will serve you up 210 calories and 7 grams of fat.  These waffles contain no cholesterol, have only 385 mg sodium, and 6 grams of sugar.  Not too bad.  They also have 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein…so not too filling…but I wasn’t starving all morning either.  Definitely a healthier choice for breakfast if you have to do the “from-the-freezer” grab on a busy morning.  Seriously…worth it.

These waffles are amazing.  I love the pumpkin flavor.  I loved the texture and taste.  The crunch with the warm, soft center.  Oh yeah.  Perfect for those busy mornings…and always good drizzled with syrup.  Makes these winter mornings cozy and warm.  Let me tell you…I think I’m in love with a new gluten-free waffle.

Delish!

Nature's Path Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles (toasted)
Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles (toasted)