Comeback Kid…Again! Weeks #7 – #10

Wow, I’m behind on posts in the weeks leading up to the races I have coming up.  Trust me when I say…I’ve been busy!

busy
When I left you about a month ago…I was getting back to running, easing my mileage back up, adding in some speed work and hills, etc.  Right?  Right.  Not all at once, mind you.  That would be Looney Tunes.

looneytunes
So…basically my easing back into things started with a race weekend.  As you know from the previous blog, I ran (not raced) the Rodes City Run 10K with my friend Matthew.  It was a good way to train, and I learned that small, climbing hills and even the 10K distance were a challenge for this now endurance-less distance runner.  My endurance was shot.  Gone.  Kaput.

noendurance
I knew this needed to change.  I just wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it, especially on my own. That being said…I made a promise to not give up and to keep on going!

The following weekend, after Rodes, I was up to 7 miles for my long run (my PT wanted me to increase my long run each week by 1 mile).  Not only was I the milk maid for the #KDFMarathon training run (this simply means I provide the bottles of TruMoo in coolers for those doing the training run.  As we know, chocolate milk has been proven to be one of the most amazing recovery drinks around due to the protein:carb ratio).  I’m lactose intolerant and don’t handle dairy well at all, so I can’t use this method…but a lot of these runners look forward to that little reward at the end.  The run, however, was starting at SWAGS South.  And this meant…we were running Iroquois.  I guess I was about to test this hip flexor out against the hills of Iroquois Park.  It was an all-female cast of characters for the KDF Race Ambassadors that day too!

17498855_10100220176777871_276375054818380673_n
Talk about trial-by-fire.  My running partner, Matthew, joined me and while everyone else was going 10 that day…we were hitting up 7.  It was nice to have company, because…once again…I had to do my own thing.  I just hoped no one followed me as I did it, because that would really screw up the mileage.  There were 2 options that day for those doing the entire 10.  Run to the top of the park (recommended for the marathon runners) or run past that hill and go around the base to some other road.  I didn’t pay that close of attention because Matthew and I were doing neither.  We ended up running to the water stop at the base of the giant hill leading to the top of Iroquois.  We grabbed some water…and then continued on around the base, turning the opposite way of the half marathon runners and going more toward the amphitheater.  We didn’t quite make it there before needing to turn around, so we just sort of turned into a lot, found a path, and ended up way off where we needed to be to get back.  Garmins paused and we crossed through the grass to the main road and got back to the run.  The hills did slow me down, but it was probably the best way to get back to running on hills.  There is no getting around them in Iroquois.  I was tired as we finished up…but as I was the Milk Maid…I needed to wait around for the chocolate milk to be gone.

Which I ended up icing the last 5 bottles because it was after noon…and I had a 2:30 pm Louisville City FC match to get to.  First kick.  And it was a draw.  No purple smoke that day.  But we had gorgeous weather.  And I got a sunburn.  Life was good.  Well, maybe not the sunburn part…

17436046_10100220114597481_1881366845605556902_o
Well, that following weekend would be my first real test.  And here’s why.  I wasn’t allowed to jump from 7 miles up to 10 because…well…obviously injuries happen to me.  A lot.  And the whole point was to ease the mileage back up there.  The challenge, however, was that there was no training run on tap.  Why not?  Well…two reasons…


Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Lexington, Ky, and the Papa John’s 10 Miler in Louisville, Ky.  Most of my fellow local runners and ambassadors were taking part in either RTB (and my coach was providing the pacers), or doing the last leg of the Triple Crown of Running with the Papa John’s 10 Miler (aka: my favorite local race…and I couldn’t do it this year  BOO!).  My running partner, Matthew, was out of town on a family trip.  So…there was me, myself, and I.

And on a morning in the low 40s…it was not easy for me to haul my butt out of my nice warm bed, do all my physical therapy exercises and stretching and get myself out the door to run by myself for 8 miles.  I don’t mind running alone.  I don’t.  I do it all the time.  I just prefer to run with people.  It takes my mind off all the mental stuff.  And it’s that mental stuff that tends to mess with me.  So the sun was long up before I finished up the stretches and stuff and made myself get out on the road.

The first three miles were awful…and that was the flat part of the course I was running.  All that being said, I found my stride when the hills came into play.  And these are some pretty tough hills.  I wasn’t worried about speed or time…just the miles…but I felt so amazing for those last five miles.  And when all was said and done, I finished up in just over an hour.  And I felt good at the end.  I showered.  My roommate made an great recovery breakfast for me.  And the weekend was now officially on.

17758412_10100222728763671_3583428538643685191_o
Did I happen to mention that a few other things happened that weekend that sort of altered the way my weekends as of late were rolling?  As a side…I started prepping healthy and vegan meals for friends of mine.  I love doing this stuff.  The problem was, my little side business was growing faster than I could keep up with.  I was spending Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday morning in my tiny little kitchen.  And there was more stress than letting the cooking relax me like it had been.  So, due to upcoming races and out-of-town trips, I cancelled service through May so that I could come up with a better way of doing this for people, that wouldn’t take up all of my spare time and still allow me the opportunity to help others.  I’m still working on that.  But for the first time in 2 months, I didn’t have to jump right into the kitchen to meal prep meals that I wasn’t going to even eat.  That was also part of the issue.  I was cooking for everyone else and letting my own food prep and nutrition slide.  That wasn’t the point of this.  So I needed to take a step back and figure it all out.  It’s a work in progress.

My roommate and I did FINALLY get patio furniture for the balcony.  She hung up some lights and now…I just want to have people over to kick back outside, eat some food, drink some wine, relax, and just talk.

17629753_10100223011272521_285076922006463331_n
Doesn’t it look amazing?  I’m so happy with it.  Since putting it all up, we’ve been dining al fresco pretty much every night for dinner.  When it hasn’t been too chilly out.  And I think that only happened once.

Let me fan-girl rave here, as well, about something I found and wanted to share with all you ice cream lovers.

Nada Moo.

nadamoo5
That’s a coconut milk ice cream. It’s completely dairy free.  And it is made from real ingredients.  None of that low calorie, low nutrition, chemical-laden crap (Halo Top and Arctic Zero, I’m looking at you) that people actually buy.  If you’re worried about calories to that extent, maybe you just shouldn’t eat ice cream.  If you’ve found a happy, balanced lifestyle…a serving (1/2 cup) of Nada Moo will astound you.  It’s the creamiest, most amazing non-dairy ice cream I have ever had.  And I’ve pretty much had them all.  Locally, I’ve only been able to find a few of the flavors.  Vanilla…Ahhh is the only one I can find that I have yet to try.  Otherwise I have indulged in, and enjoyed, Gotta Do Chocolate, Lotta Mint Chip, Cookies and Crème, That Snickerdoodle Dough, and Mmm…Maple Pecan.  If you live in the Louisville area and spot any other flavor…please alert me!

Which now brings us to this past week.  I got up to meet at Senaca Park for the training run for the half marathon.  I was supposed to do 9.  The group for th half was doing 10.  I figured, if I felt good, and the hills didn’t kill me, I could do my first double-digit run since the Disneyland Light Side Half Marathon (which I did injured, as you recall).  The running gods were with me.  Matthew and I took on the hills of Cherokee Park and did, for me, the entire route as it was mapped out ahead of time for the training run.  And these runs have been going on since Rebel Challenge weekend when I was in California.  I walked around for most of these runs, showing up in the cold just to suffer longer than most as I was not allowed to run.  This run felt so good and gave me the mental boost I needed.  Double digits.  And now…taper.

It was an all-female cast of KDF Ambassador characters that morning too.  And I also ended up being overdressed, despite the 39° start.  When I finished about an hour and a half later…I was dying in the sunlight.  It heated up quickly.  I was wishing I had gone with shorts at that point.

17861545_10100225934424501_481759253973976206_n
And this past month, I’ve gotten back into a training plan using my coach, incorporated strides after my easy paces, stuck to my assigned paces, and yes…have done 1 round of fartleks, and 2 rounds of 4x400s as far as my speed work goes.  So, yes…I am incorporating it.  Speed work and I are still…not friends.  In fact, I normally wake up those days not feeling well because it does just wind me up.  And I have yet to have speed work day go smoothly.  But, at least I’m out there getting it done, right?

dash
Oh…and with the free time I have at the moment…I also snuck in a bit more “ME TIME” by going to the movie theater to see Beauty & The Beast.  And it was a beautiful, amazing movie.  And I’m glad, after putting it on the back burner and never having a moment to just go see it…that I finally made time.

source (2)

Tapering because I have 2 weekends in a row of half marathons coming up.  I think I’m running 8 with the group this weekend.  And that’s it.  That’s what I’ve been up to.  Pretty boring, right?

Stay tuned…I’m sure there is more to come.  But I need to foam roll and get some sleep…because it’s another wake up at the ass crack of dawn morning with body pump and some cardio after.  But, hey, I’m getting stronger and faster and better…and that’s only for the better.

image1 (5)

Save

Save

Save

The Struggle is Real

The mileage is totally going up as my race in early September creeps closer and closer.  And as there weren’t any running plans being tossed around with the normal group I run with…I made plans to run with a couple of speedy guys in Frankfort, Kentucky on Saturday.  We were doing 18 miles.  And for the first 13 miles…we were running the Kentucky History Half Marathon course (which is hilly hell)…and then we were going to run to their neighborhood for the additional 5 miles.

This started off really well, and the first 13 miles went great.  After that…it all came apart and went to hell.  We started off this massive hill and it was just like…my legs didn’t want to move anymore.  They were feeling fantastic up until that point.  And this…this just killed me.  Nothing messes with your head more than having a great run go bad.  I felt bad, slowing down the speediest of the group, as he wanted to do the 18 miles at his MP, and I was running at least a minute slower than he needed to be running.  When I hit the hill…it was even worse.  The struggle…was more than real.  It occurred to me that my September race was going to be way harder than this, and the fact that this course completely shattered my confidence I had been building up.

marathoncompare

Top: Kentucky History Half Marathon Course Elevation      Bottom: My September Marathon race

It was brutal and after I sent one of the runners on, and the other one never got past the 13 mile mark because he stopped to talk… got myself a bit lost and turned around in a city I really know nothing about.  I might have cried a little.  And ugly crying and a bad run make everything worse.  SO…I ended up turning around, heading back toward downtown, and rounding off the mileage on my own.  I got there, but it wasn’t pretty and I felt pretty defeated the rest of the day.  But, on the plus side, I did get the mileage in and I stepped a bit outside of my comfort zone to do it too.

13767223_10100124205704671_1175458530099966844_o
So, when I went on my little shakeout this morning, I had a little heart-to-heart with myself as I ticked off a couple of easy miles.  And that is…my new focus…and I leave it to The Doctor to share it with you…

giphy (31)
I get so down on myself and hard on myself regarding the paces I can hold, maintain, or even run at different points of the week.  Right now, I need to just focus on the whole…running thing…and less on how much or little time it takes me.  Let’s face it.  A 7 mile hill climb at the start of a marathon is going to SUCK…and right now, I should focus on just prepping myself mentally as well as physically by simply setting the numbers and data aside…and basically…just running.

And with all that being said…the best thing ever happened this past week as plans for my September race started falling into place.  One thing that is going to be entirely necessary is having people around to get me through what will likely be a challenging and…humbling race.  And all the ladies that are traveling with me are on board.  And I feel a LOT better about at least my post-race stuff thanks to that simple fact.

giphy (32)
The gang is getting back together.  It’s been way too long since the four of us have gone on an adventure.  And I promise not to get my purse stolen this time…

Anyone else watching the Tour de France?  I was watching it yesterday and was just blown away by the way these cyclists command that course.  They are amazing and inspiring.  Seriously, it does make me want to get back on my road bike…but ever since taking that spill and having so much trouble unclipping…I just haven’t felt like risking my bones and body in another potential fall.  So, I’m watching all these athletes cycling like mad on the roads of France and they’re just…FLYING!

giphy (33)
And I get on a bike and I feel like…

giphy (34)
True story!  Well, the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, practice.  I am going to look at getting my clips loosened…or possibly new pedals.  We’ll see what happens after that.  Fact of the matter is…I want to get back on my bike.

My other favorite thing this week…going over to Bryan & Michelle’s house on Friday night, eating Daiya pizza, watching Kung Fu Panda 3, drinking a little wine (Reggae Red Wine), and just having more laughs than I’ve had all week.  Seriously…it was just the unwinding that I needed at the right time.  And I love these two.  Two of the best friends I’ve made since moving to the area.

And…SHE. BOUGHT. PIZZA. I. CAN. EAT!  So much love!  I was eagerly eyeing them in the oven ready to devour.  We all know…pizza is my favorite!

giphy (35)
I made Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores for dessert.  I think Michelle now wants a kitchen torch (which is how I toasted said marshmallows)!

13717360_10100123278971851_8900131238399620678_o
They were a hit!

Pizza party, Panda, and discussion of what a Chi Biscuit would include.  HA!!  God, I love my friends.

And that was pretty much my weekend!  It was a decent week leading into the weekend.  And when my Saturday night finishes up with dinner at Shalimar (mmm…Indian food!), it’s a good time.

Speaking of movies…last night I watched the movie Chef.  It had been on my list for awhile, and all my friends kept telling me I had to see it.  They were right.  I loved it.  It made me really want to go to culinary school.  Maybe not to run a food truck…or…perhaps…to run a food truck.  HA!  If you haven’t seen it…get on Netflix and watch it.  You will thank me for it.

giphy (37).gif
So, that was pretty much my week.  Sort of a bumpy ride…but more ups (mentally and physically, HA!) than downs.

How do you overcome challenges?  Ever have a run fall apart on you?  How do you mentally and physically recover?  I want to know!!

Oh…it’s National Ice Cream Day…so…scoop up some goodness today!!

giphy (36).gif
Have a great week!

Working Hard for a Weekend of Hard Work

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

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

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

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

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

1.  Universal Studios Florida


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

2.  Toasted
12967518_999787697381_4212866128158657404_o
Eating out with me can be…difficult at times.  Thank you Celiac disease and lactose intolerance.  That being said, while I was in Orlando, thanks to my Find Me Gluten Free app, I found the most perfect place to dine.  In fact, we (Jenn, Cathy & myself) ended up having dinner there three times.  The place is called Toasted, and it specializes in Crafted Grilled Cheese & Burgers.  And…they have gluten-free buns, bread, and veggie burgers.  They also have vegan cheese.  This…was my happy place.  To top all of that off…they had gluten-free fries.  And, let me tell you, the Truffle Oil & Rosemary fries were to die for.  We learned, after our first visit, that one order of fries would do for the three of us.  Amazing sandwiches.  I had a different one each night…never got sick.  Let’s hear it for gluten-free dining done right.  If you find yourself in the Winter Park area of Orlando…go and check them out.

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

4.  Road Bike Shoes
050
Today, I meandered over to Schwinn in Clarksville, Indiana, and purchased a pair of road bike shoes.  Now that I have a road bike, I figured I needed to get the clip-in shoes so I could ride it.  They are very nice at Schwinn and even discounted the price of the shoes and put the cleats in for me.  YAY!!  I hope to get fitted to my bike next weekend, time permitting!  Crossing my fingers.  Then, I get to practice clipping in and out…and probably taking a few spills during said process.  It’s actually…kind of exciting.  Not the falling part, but getting the necessary gear and stuff done to get out onto my bike.

5.  Running my fastest mile at my favorite 5K

 


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

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

20160423_094933[1]
So, Friday night I churn out a speedy 5K (even if my finishing picture looks like I’m just cruising, LOL!), knowing that Saturday, I was on my own for my longest run since…forever.  I am signed up for (although still not 100% sure I’ll be running) a marathon in June.  Bib transfer can only happen through May 1, leaving this Saturday the only chance I had for attempting a long marathon-training type run.  And, I had to do it solo, as everyone I know is either recovering from Boston, running Big Sur, running London, running Derby or running Flying Pig.  So, they are either recovering, out of town, or tapering.  So, Saturday morning, I laced up, still feeling good, and went out for 20 miles in my area.  No crossing the river (it was Thunder Over Louisville day anyway…so this was probably better in the long run…ha…I made a punny).  So, I just sort of went.  I never pushed my pace…I ran comfortably and just sort of made the route up.  The last 5 miles, however, I decided to make the toughest.  I don’t know why.  I’m sadistic like that.  So I hit up the Fast Freddie route…which is HILLS FOR DAYS!…and came out of it better than I even expected.  Once again…no pain.  And 20 miles done.  Alone.  And way better than I dreamed.  WITHOUT ANY PAIN!  I spent the rest of the day out and about, doing some grocery shopping and regular shopping and eating good food for recovery and fuel.  This…was the type of run I mentally needed.  And while it does make me feel better, I still don’t know if I’ll run in June.  I’m pondering for one more day before making that call.

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

8.  Caramelized Honey Latte at Starbucks

 


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

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

Product Review: Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Cannoli Shells

Product: Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Cannoli Shells – $15.99+

20160214_175010[1]

Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Cannoli Shells

So, one of my roommate’s favorite desserts is cannoli.  She can indulge quite a bit when we go out to Italian places that offer it as a dessert…but it is a very rare treat for me.  Gluten free cannoli is just…not often found.  Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck did it once during Cluster Trucked…and I had one at Da Luciano in Chicago the night before the Chicago Marathon…but otherwise, I’m normally not able to partake in this classic Italian pastry dessert.

Which is too bad.  Because I’m the one who introduced this amazing treat to my roommate, prior to the Celiac diagnosis.

But, over the New Year holiday, my roommate, my friend Jenn, and I all ventured out to Jungle Jim’s International Market, and went on a small, tightly budgeted shopping excursion.  Because…it’s sort of become a tradition.  We wound our way through the store, finally reaching my favorite destination…the gluten-free aisles.

YAY!  Let my shopping begin.

And…breaking the budget bank happened almost immediately when my roommate spotted a big yellow box on the top shelf of the first row…

GLUTEN. FREE. CANNOLI. SHELLS.

Oh hell yes.  So…with most of the budget gone for this high ticket…the shopping got a little more picky.  But I was elated…because I had gluten free cannoli shells in my basket and could easily pick up Kite Hill ricotta to make a vegan cannoli filling.

The brand was Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet.  Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet came about from Neil Russo, a professional chef who was hard at work on gluten-free recipes, which he was striving to perfect after hearing about the many people connected to himself that were having a hard time finding food while on a gluten-free diet due to intolerance or Celiac disease.  After experimenting on his Italian bread loaves and Tiramisu, Russo was ready to give his food to the world.  He first introduced the gluten free food in his restaurant, where he got high praise.  Soon, he opened up Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet.  And from there…the frozen versions of some of the classic Italian foods he perfected in gluten-free form.  So good, that people even would ask if he was certain it was gluten free.  All of Russo’s products are prepared in a strictly gluten-free facility.

We decided to do it on our least favorite “holiday”…Valentine’s Day.  And with all that in mind, after a quick jaunt out to the grocery store before the weather hit yesterday…I prepped the filling and made dinner (Smokey Zucchini Cakes with a Vegan Lemon Cream Sauce) and, afterwards, went to fill a cannoli shell for each of us.

I pulled the box of Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Cannoli Shells down from the top shelf of the pantry and went to work.  The shells looked amazing.  Golden and crisp…they weren’t broken, which was my main concern to be honest.  I was terrified they would be these fragile little rolls…but they held their own for sure. I put some of my vegan ricotta cannoli filling into a piping bag and piped it into each of the shells I had removed for us.  I passed one off to my roomie and then went to get mine.  She was already diving in.

And that’s when I knew…this was not going to live up to the expectations I had built up in my mind. Nope.  I was just finishing up filling mine and I look up and cautiously ask…”How is it?”

“The filling is delicious.  The shell…”  When her voice trails off…I know.  I know it can’t be  good.  “…is nothing special.”

Hmmm.  So, I settled in, wine glass in one hand, cannoli in the other.  And take a bite.  Or, at least I attempted to.  This gorgeously constructed, perfectly golden, durable gluten free cannoli shell is…solid.  It was the hardest thing to actually bite into.  It was crispy alright…to the point I was almost concerned about chipping a tooth.  And…trust me…these were marked as good through April…so they weren’t over their best by date.  UGH.  But, I was determined to have my cannoli, dammit.  It was Valentine’s Day.  I owed myself that much.  I finally managed to bite through it and then loud crunching ensued.  It was…really flavorless.  Didn’t taste like much.  Tough as bricks (literally).  And heartbreakingly disappointing.  I had this grand image of devouring cannoli on Valentine’s Day…just me, my wine, and my dessert smorgasbord (I had vegan and gluten free cookie dough from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe as well).  And here I was, with sub-par, tough-as-a-rock, cannoli shells.  UGH.  They were really too tough to eat.  My roommate and I persevered, said a prayer for our teeth…and then today, decided not to risk it again…and tossed them out.  I hate when expensive gluten-free products don’t live up to their price tag.  I wouldn’t pay $5.00 for these, and here I payed $16.  Just to trash them.  Since my filling was awesome, I did dig out my gluten-free cinnamon graham crackers and made up a new recipes…that was much easier to eat and much kinder to my teeth.

Sorry, Russo’s.  Your other products have been good…but these…were horrible.  And I was not impressed.  In fact, I was beyond let down and a little angry I paid that much for a product I didn’t enjoy.  Not even a bit.

Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Cannoli shells are not made of cement, as you might make yourself believe if you ever tried to bite into one.  In fact, these dessert vehicles are made from rice flour, corn starch, tapioca dextrin, xanthan gum, rice extract, water, marsala, eggs, butter, sugar, salt, and vegetable oil.

As for nutrition, I believe you will burn more calories than you consume just trying to gnaw through these, but with that being said, a serving of Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Cannoli Shells is 1 shell and there are 6 shells in the box.  This serving will give you 70 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 14 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, 1 gram protein.

When people conjure up an idea in their mind of what gluten-free foods taste like (cardboard, tasteless, etc)…this would definitely not convince them otherwise.  It has been awhile since I’ve actually been disappointed with a product.  And I am beyond disappointed with Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Cannoli Shells.  Take my advice…don’t spend your money on these.  Your craving for cannoli is not worth the letdown you will endure if you decide to break the bank and try these.  It’s not worth it.  Trust me.

Top 10

Another weekend has come and gone, and what a weekend it was.  This week, I had a fantastic meeting with my physical therapist.  She had me working so much more on strength and balance.  Afterwards, she did a strength test on me and discovered that my legs and hips are FINALLY equal in strength.  That took awhile.  And, with 6 days that day to the day the injury began to really bother me…she was very excited about my first upcoming double-digit run on Saturday.  10 miles was the goal…and I was both terrified and excited about it.

And then…my other hip/quad started to act up.  It felt like a muscle strain, but it was enough that got me worried about Saturday morning.  So, on Friday, I contacted Katie (my amazing physical therapist) and we went back and forth as to where the pain was, how it felt, and what I should do.  In the end, she told me to stretch, foam roll, and give the run a shot.  If I didn’t hit 10…then to try again the following week.

On Saturday morning, in air temps that felt like 1°F…I struck out on my run…on a steep hilly course…and got through it. Pain free.  No limping.  No pain.  Nothing.  It made me feel confident and amazing and strong…all at the same time.  And relieved.  This is an ongoing battle, for sure…but I needed that run.  More than I even knew until I was done.

Anyway…here is a list of 10 fantastic and wonderful things for this week…just because sometimes you find blessings…

1. A short, but amazing visit from my sister and nephew

12728779_10100114844982120_2660799171343200042_n

Me, Chace, and Karla

Side-by-side or miles apart, we are sisters connected by the heart.  Seriously, my sister and I have always been close.  We have seen and done so much together.  We have been with each other through thick and thin.  Our bond is amazingly strong.  When we get together…watch out.  Insanity ensues.  She wanted to come and visit and chose Valentine’s Day weekend to do so.  And we had an absolute blast.  Added bonus…she brought one of her boys with her…Chace (age 6).  And we had SO much fun.  We braved the cold air and the snow…which Chace loved…we ate good food…we shopped…we played video games…we attempted to play Chinese jumprope, we laughed, snorted, and curled up together to watch a movie. Chace and I baked a special cake.  Chace told me that he loved me.  Do you know how much that made me want to cry (in the good, happy way)?  These are the moments I live for…and miss out on…because I live away from the rest of the family.  I hated it when they had to leave.  I cried a little this afternoon.  But, she’s already planning another trip…and bringing Landon (age 9) this time.  I love my sister.  And next time, the weather should be better so she and I can finally get that run in together.


2.  BOSU
20160214_184414[1]
I am now the proud owner of a BOSU.  I have wanted one for a long time now, but when this became part of my physical therapy, not having to go to the gym to do it became a bit of a priority.  The BOSU Balance Trainer is an exercise tool that targets multiple areas of fitness like endurance, strength, balance, and stability.  The squishy dome side on top offers a bouncy surface for everything from cardio to strength training.  Flip it over…and you work your on your core, lower body , and flexibility.  Due to lots of amazing Dicks coupons and a gift card…I didn’t pay anything out of pocket for this.  I love it. It’s pink…not blue like they normally are (because…princess).  And now I can work on the strength and balance exercises that Katie (the PT) gave me to work on…in the comfort of my own home.  SO happy!


3.  Feeling like one of the group again

IMG_20160213_103112[1]As I mentioned, this Saturday I was set to run 10 miles.  I had originally made plans to do this early to have a bit more time with my sister and nephew…but those plans didn’t pan out.  Probably for the best, with how cold it was.  All that being said, I got up and went out to run with the training group, and ended up striking out for the first 3.5 miles with people from my old running group.  It felt so good to be back out with them.  They ended up not tackling the heavy hill climb at Iroquois, but since I skipped hill day due to weather, I decided I needed to climb, even though my PT said to try to stick to flat roads.  Seeing them, running with them, talking to them…it all just lifted my spirits.  I hadn’t felt that good in a long time.  I knew I missed it…but I really miss them.


4. New Running Shoes
IMG_20160214_185110[1]
Sometimes something as simple as a new pair of shoes can make the world feel better.  Everyone knows that I love running in Newtons…but…I also love me some bright colors on my feet.  And the new version of my Newton running shoes are…silver.  Life’s too short to be stuck with boring running shoes.  And, as I was in need of new shoes, I went out to fleet feet and went to see Jackson (it was his last day there)…and tried on the shoes I originally went in for…the Adidas Pure Boost X (the ones that were made by women for women).  They were…not what I expected.  Very different.  And, while they felt good, I was a bit worried about lack of support on the arch of my foot.  So, Jackson went to work.  After I said no to the Adidas Energy Boosts (too much shoe)…he brought out a few more to try.  After I gave the Asics Gel Cumulus a try (liked them), and then the Brooks Women’s Launch 3 (loved them), and then the Nike Pegasus Air Zoom 32 (really loved them)…I did something I didn’t expect.  I went back to a Nike shoe.  Of course, I still have to really road test them, but they felt really good in store.  I have heard only good things about the Pegasus…so here’s hoping!  THANKS, JACKSON!


5. My nephew’s reaction to the snow this morning

I’ll just let the video speak for itself…

He wanted to see snow…he got his wish.  He was so excited.  And so cold.  Love this boy!


6. Being treated to a cake by Chace
20160213_183443[1]
Chace is like his Auntie KJ…he loves to cook and bake.  And this weekend, he brought the chef hat and apron I got him for Christmas and go to work baking a cake for dessert and to take home to his dad, brother, and sister.  It was a gluten-free funfetti cake (sprinkles rule!) with a strawberry frosting and decorated with some red sprinkles for the Valentines Day holiday.  He’s an amazing little boy in the kitchen, and he’s got quite a future as the chef he talks about becoming.  The cake…for the record…was super-moist…and super-yum!  Afterwards, we all snuggled on the couch and watched Pixar’s Ratatouille.


7. Morning smiles on an early, cold, running day

12742614_533123900192145_892004465850865809_nI have met some of the best people through running.  After taking an entire (basically) year off due to this nagging injury, it feels good to be out and running (even if it is slower than I would like) with people.  Sometimes, I end up alone and on my own.  But I always start with a group.  And in these groups, there are people who just make you feel welcome.  That’s how Melissa made me feel on Saturday, when I was standing around, arms crossed, just dreading going out in the cold.  She pulls me into a picture…and everything just felt better that morning.  Sometimes it is the smallest gesture that makes all the difference.  Thanks, Melissa!!


8. Gluten-Free and Vegan Cookie Dough
IMG_20160214_163826[1]
My local allergen-free bakery…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe…sold out, but reserved a cup of their cookie dough for me…because Valentine’s Day isn’t much fun when you’re single…so a big cup of cookie dough is a good meal choice, yes?  The hardest decision after getting it out of the fridge today was to have it with red or white.  HA!  I love my bakery!!


9. Funny Faces
20160213_171006[1]
Sometimes you just have to be goofy…in a nice restaurant…with your nephew who requested to sit by you.  Because life only happens once.  Just be goofy!  I love him!


10. Chocolate!!
forget-love-id-rather-fall-in-chocolate-80
Forget Valentines Day.  Just give me chocolate.  Dark chocolate, especially.  I’ll love you for life.  And, trust me, I ate plenty of chocolate this weekend.  Because I love enjoying the sweeter things in life with the sweetest people in my life.  And we are a family of chocoholics.  It’s a lifestyle.

~*~*~

Heading into a new week…here’s hoping this upward trend in my recovery continues.  Here’s hoping that the winter weather goes away for good. Here’s hoping for many more good days over bad.

Have a great week, friends!

Product Review: Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves

Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves

Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves

Product: Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves – $5.99+

My pantry is overflowing these days with fruit preserves.  I am a jelly and jam fanatic.  Seriously.  If there is a way to utilize jam in a recipe, by God, I’m going to do it.  Fruit preserves are one of the little joys in life.  And I am a huge fan.

So, imagine my excitement when the final Cuisine Cube box I was set to receive (I had to cancel it due to financial obligations toward medical bills) had a jar of fruit preserves inside!!  Insert me…doing a happy dance of joy.  It was the perfect ending to a year-long and fantastic partnership with this amazing subscription box.  So, before I talk more about the product itself, let me remind you or explain (in case you are new) what Cuisine Cube is all about!

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

So…as it stands, we are still delving into May (Is For Mom) 2015 cube.  This morning was a swimming morning at the gym, meaning that I normally take in a smoothie and my roomie gets something easy that cooks up while I shower and get ready for work.  We have gluten-free bread.  We have vegan cream cheese.  Hmmm…

See where I’m going here?!  The best part is, this morning, I needed a new jam to top off the ricotta toast with, and this was just staring at me at the forefront of the jarred preserves shelf in my pantry (I recently reorganized).  It was the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves that I had been so excited about receiving, but hadn’t had a moment to actually use them.  Until now.

Vino de Milo began at a food business incubator, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet).  After a few issues that needed to be worked through, the company obtained a beautiful logo, the addition of wine, and a growing business began.  It began simply when an eggplant sauce for a catering job led to a packaging experiment in the adjoining bottling facility.  One thing led to another, wine was suggested and then added to the sauce…and Vino de Milo, the product line, was born.  This company prefers to use ingredients from local suppliers in Ohio.  And, as the brand has grown, they have added more products and capabilities.  With a research and development chef on staff, new products are not only being developed, but can easily be customized for retail sales.  From it’s humble start in 2003 by Jonathan Milo Leal, Vino de Milo has grown from only offering 3 pasta sauces to a full line of from-scratch-made products that include salad dressings, pasta sauces, bruschetta toppings, salsas, BBQ sauces, and fruit preserves.  All of which, by the way, include wine in some way, shape or form…hence the name…VINO de Milo.

So…as I said…it was my May 2015 Cuisine Cube, and most of the ingredients inside had some sort of Mother’s Day spin on them.  Kinda.  I’d say that the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves did above all other products in that box.  For sure.  Because…WINE!  This morning…it was a wine-infused breakfast morning.  I toasted up gluten-free bread and then gave each slice a healthy spread of vegan ricotta cheese.  Then, I simply scooped out the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves and settled them over the top, giving them a light smoothing with the back of the spoon.  Breakfast…was easily made, quick, and…

DELICIOUS!!  My roommate isn’t big on cherries, like I am, but she absolutely loved these preserves.  I am certain it had nothing to do with the crispness that the Riesling wine (her favorite kind of wine, mind you) brought to this spread.  Or…perhaps it did.  I don’t know about her, but I loved how deep and rich the cherry flavor was, with that Riesling really stepping it up and bringing out this crispness, keeping the cherries from being too tart on their own.  I fell in love with the smooth, yet a little chunky consistency to these preserves, finding chunks of cherries to be an inviting and tasty way to enjoy this spread.  Seriously…packed with great flavor, not overly strong, and just…delicious.  Wine or not, these preserves are the cherry on top.  HA!

Let’s discuss what goes into a jar of the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves.  This amazing spread is made from red tart cherries, sugar, Riesling wine, pectin, cherry concentrate, and citric acid.  Simple.  Basic.  REAL ingredients.  These preserves are 100% all natural.  No chemicals, preservatives, or artificial fillers.  It is also vegan and gluten-free.  YAY!

So, let’s take a look at the nutrition information now, shall we?  A serving size of the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves is 1 tablespoon.  This serving will provide you with 25 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 6 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 5 grams sugars, and 0 grams of protein.  For fruit preserves, that sugar level is fantastic!

I was beyond impressed with the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves.  With it spread over the vegan ricotta cheese, it was almost like eating cheesecake for breakfast.  LOVE a healthy meal that tastes like a treat.  Vino de Milo puts out quality products made with local and amazing ingredients…all blended with a little bit of wine.  And who wouldn’t love that.  Now that I know this is out there, I hope that I can find it on the shelves.  But it’s because of Cuisine Cube that I am aware it exists.  And if I can’t find it locally…I can always order it online!

And so can you.  And this is me…encouraging you to do just that.  Trust me…this is one jam you don’t want to miss!

Recipe: Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

I’m getting back into the swing of using up everything that comes in my CSA bin before the next one arrives.  Sometimes, it’s hard…but this past week, I have literally used up every bit of produce that came to me last Friday in my green bin of happiness.  Ah, I love Friday because it is BIN DAY!

So, after using up the cucumber (I made a childhood favorite…cucumbers in vinegar), zucchini, squash, blueberries, apples, green beans, broccoli, watermelon, and onion, all that remained was the kale.  And, I do love cooking with kale.  Usually I make kale chips or use it in a breakfast egg scramble of sorts.  But I wanted to get a little more creative than that this time around.  So…with just enough white wine remaining in the bottle in the fridge, I set out to master…pasta and kale…with white wine.

The premise of the recipe was skimmed over while reading through the Funny Love blog.  And from there, I tweaked it to fit my dietary needs.  What emerged was a healthy, delicious, and runner-friendly (non-runner friendly too!) meal this evening that both my roommate and I sat down and devoured while watching Friends on Netflix.  Life…can be good and delicious all at once.

Recipe: Gluten Free Penne with Kale and a White Wine Sauce

Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

Servings: 4-6
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8-12 ounces Gluten Free Penne (I used Aldi’s liveGfree brand)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups kale
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup pasta water (reserve right before you drain the pasta)

Directions:

Cook the pasta per the package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, pull out a pan I used the one I was using to make the sauce) and add about an inch or two of water with about a teaspoon of salt.  Place pan on stove and bring water to a boil.

Cut the kale into large strips and remove the stems.

Put the kale into the boiling water for about a minute.  Drain the kale and set it aside.

In the same pan, prepare the sauce.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, the red pepper flakes, and the minced garlic and cook over medium heat, for about 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is soft and golden.  Do not burn the garlic.  It will make everything bitter.
Stir in the wine.  Allow the wine to come up to a boil and reduce for about a minute.  Then, add some of the starchy pasta water, if you’d like a bit more liquid in the dish.  Stir in the drained pasta, the kale, and some Parmesan cheese (as much as you’d like).  Season with salt, more cheese, red pepper, or pasta water as you deem necessary.

Serve.

~*~*~

This turned out to be a light dish, despite having the pasta integrated into the rest of it.  I found it a great way to use of a bottle of white wine from the fridge so that it didn’t go wasted.  And…I love finding new ways to enjoy kale!  Packed with nutrients, light, delicious…yeah…it’s a perfect meal.  And one I might consider the night before a long run…should this hip ever improve enough to get me back out onto the roads.