Too Good to Be True | A Gluten Free, No Sugar AND Decadent Dessert!

glutenfree, dairyfree, nutfree chocolate muffins or coffee cake with added antioxidants

Believe me when I say, you can eat healthy, gluten free desserts without any added sugar and still enjoy a dish of decadence! Say sayonara to feeling deprived when you’re watching your weight or cleaning up your diet!

If it sounds too good to be true, we thought so, too, until we discovered Chef Danielle Shine’s Vegan Sweet & Healthy Chocolate (Eggplant) Muffins. After adding a little Sprout and Rosebud sparkle, we must say, of all our veggified recipes, this one takes the cake!

The rich flavor of the cacao mixed with the hint of coffee is a mouth-watering combo, and provides an antioxidant, free-radical fighting  along with the … eggplant! Stay with us; it’s delicious, and you don’t even taste it. It even impressed the very picky meat-and-potatoes-minded dinner guests!

The sweetness of the pitted dates (aka no sugar!) and the maca come together, and you’ve got yourself quite a sweet treat to boost your mood and your body.

PS. These also freeze beautifully, and can be used for on-the-go breakfasts & snacks!

Too Good to Be True Cake

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 small to medium eggplant, or 1/2 cup steamed eggplant, once squeezed
  • 1 bar of dark chocolate – 70% or higher is best; we used 88%
  • 2 tbsp ghee, olive oil, coconut oil or a blend of all three
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh ground coffee
  • 8-10 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
    Note: you can make this recipe vegan by omitting eggs and relying on oil instead of butter or ghee. For Paleo, sub your gluten-free flour with almond flour. If steering clear of nightshades, omit the eggplant, keep the eggs, and you’ve still got yourself a rich antioxidant infused dessert!

Directions

  1. Chop eggplant into large chunks and steam.
  2. Pre-heat oven 400F.
  3. Once eggplant is mushy, peel off the skin, if desired, and squeeze as much of the liquid out as you can.
    It will be a mess! If you have kids, now’s the time to get their help because it’s a lot of fun, and also kind of gross. 🙂
  4. Place lump of eggplant in food processor with dates, eggs, cacao, ground coffee, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Break up the bar of dark chocolate into chunks (lessens melting time) and on medium-low heat, melt along with the oil or butter until liquid, stirring constantly to prevent burning or sticking.
  6. Pour into food processor. 
  7. Add gluten free flour to processor, and blend until well combined, scraping down the sides when needed.
  8. Pour mixture into pre-greased baking tin.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until an inserted fork comes out almost clean.
    (Sometimes, with gluten free baking, the goods will get dry if baked fully, like traditional baked goods. Either way, if the texture is not perfectly to your liking, slice some fruit on it, drizzle tahini or frost with an icing of your choice, and neither you, nor your guests, will be able to tell! 🙂 
  10. Remove from oven, leave to cool for a few minutes, then flip onto a wire cooling rack until ready to serve.
  11. Serve & enjoy! 

As always, we love hearing how you take these recipes and further customize and create ones that are yours! Share your creations with us on social media or leave us a comment below!

Cheers to decadent gluten-free goodness!

‘The Struggle is Real’ Rice Pudding

Fast breakfast of Rice Pudding in a white porcelain mug on top of a dark wooden table with goji berries and a drizzle of date paste syrup.

Named accordingly, this healthy-carb’d, protein-packed, deliciously fast dish is the perfect breakfast for those mornings when you want to eat well, yet you have NO TIME to make anything that would resemble a breakfast of champions, if you eat breakfast at all! The struggle is real, right?

Well, first things first, put down that Pop Tart and Double Soy Unicorn Latte (not a good breakfast, girls!), then check this out.

Print

"The Struggle is Real" Rice Pudding

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups cooked rice (brown or black is the best!)
  • 1/4 cup milk (almond, soy, organic cow, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup egg whites or one egg
  • 1/8 tsp ghee, coconut oil or grass-fed butter

Optional Ingredients

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon, ginger, cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbl raisins or Goji berries
  • Drizzle of honey, date syrup or brown sugar; go easy if your milk is sweetened

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a microwave-safe non-plastic bowl (plastic leeches chemicals into the food when cooking).

  2. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. If you prefer the stove, bring the ingredients to a boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

  3. Stir.

  4. If still runny, add another minute. Continue doing so until the eggs are cooked.

  5. Enjoy!

As you see, there are yummy & healthy options available to you in a pinch (particularly if you’ve been using your healthy shopping lists). All you need is a few minutes, and you’re good to go with a breakfast that will keep your brain sharp, your belly full and you at your peak. Now, THAT is a Breakfast of Champions!

As always, we love to hear your thoughts, your breakfast best practices, your tips, tricks and techniques – and so does our community! So please share them below, and if someone in your tribe, network, company needs a little morning overhaul, please feel free to share this post!

S&R’s Gluten-Free Protein Pancakes

Gluten-free pancakes, Gluten free, protein rich, easy pancakes plated on a white plate

My on-the-go go-to’s for easy-peasy nutrition and variety, as is widely known, are salad bowls, rice bowls and smoothies. I fancy myself a mixologist in the kitchen, and these mixed-up menu items are my favorites! I can toss whatever I have together for an easy meal that is nutrient dense and delicious in minutes.

Who doesn’t love that?

The newest member to this roster are Pancakes, specifically S&R Protein Pancakes. (Still working out a wittier name; suggestions welcomed!)

Within five to seven minutes, you can have a healthy, balanced breakfast at your fingertips. This one is also good for kids to help make! (The younger ones will need added supervision with the pan-related tasks, though.)

 

Print

S&R Gluten-Free Protein Pancakes

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup milk (dairy, almond, Ripple, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup gluten free old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (cage free and local, if you can. Same with the egg.)
  • 1 scoop protein powder of your choice, chocolate is best!
  • 1-2 tbl gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat your pan on medium-high.

  2. Whip or beat all the ingredients above except the flour.

  3. Once fully mixed, the batter should be runny and evenly colored.

  4. Add the flour and mix thoroughly.

  5. Spray pan with cooking spray or drizzle olive oil or ghee to keep pancakes from sticking.

  6. Check the pan to ensure it's sufficiently hot by dripping a few drops of water; if you hear a sizzle, it's time.

  7. Add 1/4 c. of batter for each pancake to the pan, flipping when the side-up face of pancake begins to bubble or look aerated.

The fun really begins when you divert from the basic recipe below and add your favorite mix-in’s, like maca powder, a smidgen of crushed ripe banana, almonds, cacao powder or nibs, chia seeds, etc.

Gluten free, protein pancakes plated
These easy flapjacks are nutrition goldmines!

We love to hear how you make our recipes your own! Leave a comment below and let us know how you do healthy breakfasts on-the-go!

Out & About @ Taqueria del Mar in Monterey, CA

On a recent trip to Big Sur for the infamous Big Sur International Marathon, our appetites and Yelp! App led us to one of the highest-rated restaurants, yet best-kept secrets in Monterey, California. The unassuming Taqueria del Mar, a Mexican eatery, is a beautiful hidden gem found on Lighthouse Avenue.

Taqueria del Mar logo and wall signage
Look out for this friendly parrot in the window, or you might walk right by this hidden gem!
small bowl of fresh guacamole topped with fresh pico de allow and a small basket of gluten free corn chips
Delicious guacamole with housemade gluten-free chips! (aka my favorite appetizer!)

Its calm, warm ambience with simple decor offers the freshest, made-to-order fare you may find in the area. (Trust me, I ate my way through the region!) Worthy of its cult following, the carnivore, vegetarian and gluten-free menu items range from the expected, such as burritos, tacos, and enchiladas to the quite unexpected, like guaraches, chimichangas and carne al pastor!

 

Grilled fish guarache covered in raw cabbage and pico de gallo alongside a crab soft taco with fresh lettuce and pico de gallo
Delicious grilled fish guarache and crab soft taco with a slew of fresh cabbage and pico! Hold the cheese, please! 🙂

The food at Taqueria del Mar is nourishing, delicious and prepared with care; the airy, open space with its bar of window-seating facing Lighthouse Ave and Mexican tile floor reinforces the simplicity and authenticity of the cuisine. Within walking distance of Cannery Row, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Fishermans’ Wharf, it’s a convenient “must-try” for your next adventure along the Monterey Bay!

Taqueria del Mar
530 Lighthouse Ave
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 372-7887

Out & About @ Bistro on Main in Highlands, NC

Fried green tomatoes, crab cakes

File_002I have been traveling a bit more lately, particularly taking road trips, and what I have come to love about North Carolina in these recent travels are the many healthy options available in seemingly small towns that offer both experience delicious cuisine and gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free options.

The most recent of these road trips took me to Highlands, NC, an absolutely darling town amidst waterfalls and gorgeous mountain views, and, as it turns out, the location of a quaint bistro tucked inside a local historic boutique inn, The Inn on Main Street.

After walking through the charming streets (and one of us checked Yelp), we landed on Bistro on Main (which had great Yelp ratings, in case you were wondering 🙂 ). The patio offered a wonderful view of a sunset to complement the yummy noms we enjoyed al fresco.

Something unique about Bistro on Main is that it has quite the array of appetizers, salads and entrees that would appeal to almost anyone, regardless of dietary style or preference, which is quite impressive considering the menu is simply one page!

Every item that we ordered, from the craft cocktails to the fare itself, we raved about. If you’re in Franklin, Cashiers or even in Atlanta, just looking for a fun day trip, definitely make the trip to Highlands!

Bistro_on_Main_Header
A Quick Snippet of the Menus @ Bistro on Main.
File_004
Ginger Lemon Drop Martini with a slice of candied ginger! Very delicious, a little sweet. The bartender kindly made the next round specially for me with more spice, less sweet. 
File_006
Fried Green Tomatoes appetizer (NOT gluten-free) and the Lemon Basil Crab Cakes, which were simply DI-VINE! 
File_008
Lightly blackened North Carolina Mountain Trout with spicy green tomato-cilantro salsa, rice and broccoli. So, so good! 
File_009
A wonderful, wondrous view of the sunset as we wrapped up our celebration dinner in Highlands. Simply spectacular. 

Easy, Inexpensive and Healthy Snacks for On-The-Go

Apples, Edamame, tomatoes!

 

No more vending machine snacks!Does this sound familiar? It’s late morning or that ever-delightful mid-afternoon slump time, and you’re hungry. You do a vending machine drive-by and grab some chips or peanut butter crackers to quell the hunger pangs. … Or how about that time when you snagged whatever you could find in the break-room that was leftover from a lunch meeting earlier in the day? #HelloCookies

Afterwards, you probably felt icky… not just from the lack of nutrients of which you’re in dire need, but also from the side of guilt that went along with it. You deserve better!

To help take some of the work out of figuring out healthy alternatives that require minimal prep time, here are some low-maintenance, healthy snacking options for you busy bees!

 

Veggies + Hummus
Think baby carrots, sliced zucchini, sliced yellow squash, sliced cucumber with a few tablespoons of any variation of hummus will do! Even edamame or homemade black-eyed pea hummus (for you overachievers) serves as a nutrient-dense option for curbing hunger. The crunch is also satisfying, and you won’t miss the chips!

Tuna/chicken/”egg” salad + veggies
This one is a favorite of mine. Homemade tuna salad + carrots, cukes, even pickles satiates me for longer than veggies on their own b/c of the protein from a healthy homemade tuna salad that can be tossed together in seconds. If you’re vegan or partial for chicken salad, there are other options that you can make quickly at night or over the weekend, so you have convenient, healthy choices throughout the week!

Fruit slices + nut butters (or go nuts and do veggies, too!)
Peanut butter, almond butter, even nut-free sunflower seed butter or tahini (my fave!) is delish with a tart apple or crunchy pear. If you’re a fan of the crunch, like I am, include some celery sticks, as well (see above note about the satisfaction of crunching)! If you find yourself needing healthy snacks multiple times a day, then consider including this option among others vs. relying solely on nut butters to satisfy you. The higher calorie/higher fat content, when overeaten, may cause weight gain.

Fruit slices + single serving of cheese wedge
Similar to the fruit and nut butter option, fruit with a serving of soft cheese, like Laughing Cow, offers sweetness or tang with crunch and protein in one compact, nutritious dose! With the single serving of cheese – if you’re into that sort of thing – you may find you have more portion control (and, subsequently, have confidence that you can make healthy choices), which will certainly satisfy and motivate you on your road to good habits!

Yogurt + berries (easy on the sugar and additives)
For the dairy-friendly folks, unsweetened Greek yogurt, for instance, is a lovely, nutrient-rich option. Sweetening with berries gives you a burst of antioxidants and natural sugar, so your blood sugar stays relatively stable, meaning you won’t crave sweets or chips later. If you are dairy-avoidant, try goat milk yogurt or soy yogurt. Again, use moderation because many of these yogurts have added sugar, which will encourage you to crave sweets later in the day.

Other grab-and-go options include:

  • A handful of nuts (see above note on using moderation)
  • One or two string cheeses
  • Steamed edamame, which you can find in the freezer section and steam the night before to eat at any temperature when you get the snacking bug
  • Yogurt with granola (light on the granola to keep the fat and sugar content lower; less than 1/4 cup)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Raw veggies
  • …Any combination of the above!

If you’re a road warrior and looking for healthy tips and tricks, check out this post.

The important thing to all snacks (anything you put in your body, actually) is to pay attention to how you feel after you consume it. Did a combination keep you full or not so much? Did your nose start running or your tummy feel strange within a few minutes of having a yogurt? Tapping into your body’s signals will help you navigate the road to YOUR optimal well-being, so you can choose the snacks that will work for you. Every body is different, and only you can be the expert on what your body needs, what foods make you feel your best, how often you need to eat, and how much is right for you!

Happy snacking!

Apples, Edamame, tomatoes!

Out and About @ Cooks + Soldiers

Cooks + Soldiers, Cooks & Soldiers, Gluten Free dining, Atlanta gluten free restaurants

Cooks + Soldiers, Cooks & Soldiers, Gluten Free dining, Atlanta gluten free restaurants

We ventured out the other night to celebrate a recent promotion (woot, woot!), diverting from our usual “celebratory” faves in favor of trying a new place. As you have probably learned, finding a foodie-worthy restaurant that also offers gluten-, nut- and dairy-free options can be akin to finding a needle in a haystack!

Thankfully, Atlanta’s restaurant scene is evolving (and quite quickly, too!), and Cooks + Soldiers is among the trendsetters.

Unique for serving traditional cuisine from the Basque region of Spain, C+S is located on the Westside of Midtown. Its menu is comprised of pintxos, similar to tapas, and asado, meaning “grilled” or “barbecue”, and its name is inspired by the annual Tamborrada festival of San Sebastian in January, during which, for 24 hours, the entire city is awash with the sound of drums. The adults, dressed as cooks and soldiers, march in different companies across various parts of the city. The passion and tradition of the event from which the restaurant takes its name is evident in every detail.

The dining room is reminiscent of a gentleman’s establishment from a different era: warm, rich and inviting, yet subtle and minimalist. Not trying too hard. Just genuine and authentic. The patio is simply decorated for al fresco dining.

Even though the fertile lands of the Spanish Basque region yield many grains, the cuisine itself is not very grain-based, nor is the C+S menu, which made it easy for us to try a variety of traditional dishes . The servers and staff also delivered allergy-free recommendations with flair and whimsy, enhancing the entire experience to a new level. (Never did they offer up a super pricey alternative, either. So refreshing!)

If you’re a wine enthusiast, you must take a look at their wine list! It goes beyond what I’ve seen in many Atlanta restaurants, particularly those wines offered by the glass. We tried a sparkling pinot noir wine, a cava made from the pinot noir grapes, that was unlike any other, as well as a Riesling blend that was simply decadent!

A Riesling blend after we enjoyed our cava!
A Riesling blend after we enjoyed our cava!

 

Gambas y Pulpo, gluten free restaurants in Atlanta, tapas, atlanta, cooks + soldiers, cooks and soldiers
Gambas y Pulpo (sans toasted bread for this girl!)

 

Roasted cauliflower,  Azalorea Erreta, gluten-free restaurant in atlanta
The absolute pièce de résistance. Azalorea Erreta. Cauliflower steak with cauliflower, capers and carrot chicharrón. We ordered seconds.

 

 

Cauliflower ice cream, glue free restaurants in atlanta
Cauliflower ice cream with a gentle sweetness + a hint of anise. Unexpectedly delicious!

From the ambience, to the greeting, seating, and serving staff, to the chef, to the meal, itself, each interaction was a consistently delicious and jovial experience. I would certainly recommend it for anyone looking for a fine, fun place to celebrate a special occasion, entertain clients, or simply enjoy a glass of wine. After such a five-star experience, I’m certainly planning to join them again!

Cooks + Soldiers
691 14th Street NW
at Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30318
Tel. 404-996-2623

Out and About: The Park Cafe, Charleston, SC

I took a little road trip recently to the Holy City of Charleston, SC. One my absolute favorite places in the absolute world (ok, at least among the many places I’ve visited), Charleston hosts, among other things, some pretty fine eateries. From farmers markets’ fresh fruits and veggies to the soulful fare and Southern cuisine on E. Bay St. to local taquerias on King St. (not to mention Shem Creek, IOP and Mt. P, oh my!), there are endless epicurean adventures to be had, particularly on the weekends. Hello, brunch! With my dear soul sister, Ms. Disco Teepee herself, Meggie, leading the way, we took to a cafe in her new neighborhood for Sunday brunch with our close-knit framily in tow.

The Park Cafe, a gem in the Hampton Park neighborhood of Charleston, is just… well…wonderfully… honest. That is the best and only phrase I can use that even comes close to conveying the look, feel and flavors of this place. A come-as-you-are, welcoming hideaway that reminds me of what it felt like when I was growing up and ate lunch at a next-door neighbor’s house on a Sunday afternoon; her mom genuinely concerned that the food we ate was healthy, yet tasty and satisfying, having prepared our meal with care. Not overly casual, nor pushy, superficial or pretentious, just attentive, genuine and familiar, and…honest. As they say, themselves: “At The Park Cafe, we believe that great food isn’t complicated.” #True. Every dish we ordered was made of simple ingredients, locally sourced, and was just superb, as you’ll see! (ALERT: your mouth may water when you see the French Toast.)

One last thing: As we all know, the dining experience is more than just the food quality, isn’t it? Lousy service or rowdier-than-necessary (especially before the first round of coffee) can quickly tarnish the entire experience. No worries on either of those fronts at Park Cafe. From the servers, to the manager, to the clientele themselves (some even four-legged and furry!), the entire experience could not have been more lovely.

If you are in the Charleston area and looking for a refreshing, honest-to-goodness spot to savor your Sunday (or any day, really!), Park Cafe should be your g0-to. I am absolutely mandating it be on the agenda for my next weekend in CHS.

Enjoy!

 

Park Cafe Matinee
THE PARK CAFE
An incredible brunch spot in Hampton Park, Charleston, SC!

 

Ambience with fans
THE PATIO
We lucked out with an available table on the patio on a beautiful Sunday morning. I love the fans and lighting fixtures that are au naturel (and a little bit bee hive-y, don’t you think? So fun!)

 

Ambience wall of ferns
THE ICONIC WALL
Many a time photo’d, this wall is quite literally a breath of fresh air. Park Cafe is not a very large place, but the ample natural lighting, man-made illumination and greenery open up the dining room giving it a deceivingly spacious feel. The ambiance is truly refreshing and peaceful , yet lively and fun. (They have plants hanging from the walls and allow dogs outside! Of course it’s alive and fun 🙂 )

 

Cappuccino
Why, A SOY CAPPUCCINO, of course!
As Meggie promised, this was one of the best soy cappuccinos I have ever had. Something about this specific roast of coffee beans and the gentle sweetness of the soy made for a simply decadent first cup. (There was also a second, I won’t pretend.)

 

Meggie Needs Coffee
MEGGIE
Finally caffeinated.

 

Katherine got coffee
YAY COFFEE
It’s hard to say whether my excitement was derived from the Cup o’ Joe or just lingering from an incredible weekend in one of the places on this earth that just makes my heart brim over. …It was really good coffee, though…

 

Puppy 1
SWEET PUPPY #1
You can probably tell by her cautious, yet gentle demeanor in this picture that this sweet pumpkin was not really sure about her Sunday morning adventure, but for us, she was a welcomed surprise. We were not expecting any canine companions that morning, but her arrival made us all smile. Maybe she was just trying to move us along with those puppy dog eyes… after all, we did have a prime spot!

 

Cafe Potatoes
CAFE POTATOES
As a girl who relies on potatoes a good deal as her “go-to” gluten free brunch carb, I must say, I know potatoes. And these potatoes were quiet probably some of the BEST “hash browns” I have had in a very long time. The outside crispy, the inside cooked and soft, not grainy or dry at all. The onion and garlic lent wonderful flavor without being overpowering. Everyone nibbled away at them until we ordered a second serving.

 

Shirred Farm Eggs
SHIRRED FARM EGGS
with Soubise, Soldiers & Parmesan
Shirred Eggs are new to me, and I must say, I was quite intrigued with Lauren ordered them. If you aren’t already in-the-know, this tres chic dish is served with “soldiers” or thin toast slices and is actually baked eggs with cream, herbs and cheese. Unfortunately, I could not take part in this traditionally French fare, but the rest of the table could, and they raved.

 

Toast with Fresh apple Butter
TOAST
Fresh Butter & Apple Butter
Fresh butter and homemade apple butter? It was all I could do not to just sample a little on my spoon! Divine.

 

Veggie Mess
VEGGIE MESS
Farm Egg Scramble, Vegetable Curry, (sans) White Cheddar, Avocado
Although I dare say I could not recreate the curry to a “T,” I will try my hand at a homemade curry veg scramble in the near future as this one opened my eyes (and tastebuds) to the possibility. Peppers, carrots, peas, onions and cauliflower added a sprinkling of both color and texture to this dish. As you see, I opted out of cheese, but I don’t think it took away from the scramble a bit!

 

House Omelet with Arugula Salad
HOUSE OMELET & ARUGULA SALAD
Beech Mushroom, Leek, Brie, Espelette…and bacon
The salad with a light vinaigrette was the perfect substitute for Josh, who enjoyed the freshness of the vinaigrette in contrast to the earthiness of the mushrooms and creaminess of the brie. Of course, he liked the bacon, too 😉

 

French Toast
FRENCH TOAST
Portuguese Sweet Bread, Caramel, Bananas, Pecans & Whipped Cream
Where to even begin with this … Just looking at it, you can easily enjoy not just the beauty of this “French Toast,” but the sinful richness of each mouthful! Let’s just say that, thankfully, Dodd is a good sharer because I don’t think he had a choice when this one hit the table. Bananas, walnuts, a homemade buttery maple syrup, and spongy sweet bread? It’s a wonder he even got a bite at all!

 

Puppy 2
THIS GUY
Oh my goodness, this absolutely adorable creature provided at least 30 minutes of entertainment for us! He was hanging out immediately next to our table, and his zeal for this large stone (that looks like a ball in this picture; however, it most certainly was NOT) was contagious! He played with it as though it was his long-lost toy, and his joie de vivre made us stop mid-bite and just laugh. He was lost in enjoying himself, and so were we!
Oh man, did he make us happy!

 

Friends with Nosh
JOSH, aka “NOSH,” & MOI
With subtle French influence in the menu, I figured I’d sprinkle a little into the commentary (My French is a bit limited!) 🙂

 

Friends with Lauren
LAUREN & MOI

 

Friends Meggs and Nosh
AH, MAIS OUI!
Caffeinated, fed and enjoying our Sunday!

 

 

Friday Faves

Blame it on the full moon, but this week presented me with some pretty larger-than-life aha! moments. Physical, spiritual and emotional doozies. Despite teetering on a cliche, let’s just all nod when I say “life has a way of showing us what we need to learn.” Through the (sometimes cracked) lens of gratitude, I tried to take it all with grace, perspective and kindness towards myself (one of the biggest challenges of all!). Here’s to hoping each of us face every day with a “bring it on!” attitude and an unfaltering faith that we can handle whatever comes! (Spoiler alert: we can 🙂 )

Hope you had a wonderful week and are treating yourselves to a simply fabulous weekend! xo!

Epidural
The Wake-Up Call, a.k.a The Infamous Epidural

I had an epidural this week, which is a more aggressive treatment for the nerve pain that, quite honestly, I’ve grown a bit bored with and am ready to have to move on. The pressure, pain and discomfort of the actual procedure itself, though less stellar than a gluten free molten lava cake obviously, was virtually nothing compared to the fear I had of the procedure itself. The heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and whole-body freak-out was just out-of-control; positive self-talk, attention on my breath and mantra recitations be damned. They weren’t helping a bit. Once a pretty fearless “bring it on, gimme whatever you got” girl, I have noticed that although experience has “wizened me” to the potential pains and disappointments life can hold, I’ve really let fear play too much of a lead role in my life. I’ve read (and observed with clients & myself) that our fears are protection mechanisms, but I have decided that I can protect myself well enough, thank you very much, and this so-called “frenemy” can take a hike! Enough already! Needless to say, I am so thankful for finally getting this message loud and clear and, as such, had to give it top billing in my favorite things of the week!

Friends
#wearefun

Celebrating the sparkling, bubbly fantasticness of each other’s lives and successes, showing up to share the moments that just plain stink, and lending shoulders and backs when you just can’t do it on your own, our Tribes get us through life. They are our family, our biggest cheerleaders, our tough-love disher outers. I so appreciated the love and support of these girls (and others with whom I didn’t take any pictures 🙂 ) throughout the week!

Gluten Free
No really, a sign from Heaven!

Finding this sign in the airport quite literally made me stop in my tracks! One of my favorite pre-GF bagel shops EVER is now schlepping gluten free goodies!? WHAT? I perused their special section and was pleased to see Udi’s GF muffins and salads sans croutons. I can hardly wait until they have authentic-ish NY bagels for us gluten-free carb queens. Even more of a pleasant surprise, having stopped and shopped here, I ended up sitting in the cafe’s vicinity, which gave me the unique privilege of having a birds’ eye view of the foot traffic, making it easier-than-ever to spot a dear friend with whom I hadn’t connected in far too long! It was simply kismet.

 —

Snuggling Pups
Snuggle Buddies

Just as spending time with our human compadres soothes one’s soul, so does snuggling with sweet animal friends, like these two: Parker & Lilly. They’ve been giving me a little more attention lately, and I can only assume they just know I need it. So fortunate to have found these little creatures and very thankful for their gentle animal nature this week!

Baby Elephant
How can you NOT smile looking at this guy?

This adorable little guy found his way into my Instagram feed, and I could not have been happier about his apropos appearance! Simple joy and love embodied in a baby elephant. I don’t think this one needs any other explanation 🙂

Roadside Assistance: Healthy Snacks for Weekend Warriors

On the road, adventure, puerto rico, charleston, plane ride, travel buddies

‘Tis the season for spring breaks, weekend getaways & music festivals, and you know what that means? Road Trips!

But, for all their allure and adventure, they can also throw a wrench in our healthy habits. How easy it is to fall off the wagon when we are tempted to grab Fritos and Coca-Cola for “lunch” at the BP when stopping for gas, or chugging a Red Bull to stay alert for the five hour drive ahead.

We know we really should be making better choices, like walking away from the pre-packaged honey bun beckoning us in all its cellophaned glory, but we are ramped up  from the anticipation of reaching our final destination, and we just want to get there already! We have adopted the vacation mindset and a spirit of urgency and indulgence! Besides, could there really be healthier choices lurking just off the interstate?

Indeed, you hungry traveler, there are!

Here are some secrets to help keep you on track no matter where the road takes you:

Plan Ahead
If you know you’ll be hungry before you’ll need a pit stop, pack healthy snacks & drinks from home. If your adventure includes lots of sightseeing or rushing from party to party, bring enough to last for the trip, if space allows.

Here’s an example: On a recent trip to Charleston (5 1/2 hours), I brought along two liters of water, baby carrots, a small tub of hummus and a medium-sixed (reusable) plastic container full of chopped romaine
lettuce leaves and leftover fresh basil rolls & sushi from dinner the night before. It was not only easy to eat in the car, but it kept me from binging on french fries or potato chips when I finally did stop. Since I had the water, I didn’t need to buy anything on the road either and could much more easily walk past the soda fridge or my old childhood favorite, the make-your-own-concoction fountain drink machine! (What is it about those whacky flavors that just spelled F-U-N!? …ah, memories. <sigh>)

Road Trip, on-the-go snacks, travel snacks, kid friendly, gluten free, gluten free snacks, nut free snacks

Another easy-peasy hint along these lines: Fill snack size ziplock bags or a small container with your usual go-to’s, like veggie or apple slices, pretzels, hummus or nut butter, trail mix, lean meats or smoked fish, or whatever your heart desires. You can even make some lettuce wraps or sandwiches!

Mommy Poppins, trail mix, homemade snack, gluten free snack, kid-friendly snack, snack for kids, nut free trail mix, nut free
Yummy Bubby Trail Mix
Mmm Mmm! G-doubleO-D good!

Scout out the healthy(ish) options in Convenience Stores
Worst case scenario, you (your kids, your S.O., your travel mates, your dog) have eaten all your finely prepared snacks, and popping into a grocery store to refuel with carrot sticks and hummus just isn’t a viable option. Don’t fret! In most gas stations, sunflower seeds and a variety of nuts are easily found, and some stop-n-go’s even have apples and bananas at the checkout. If the fresh fruit looks a little iffy, try to find some dried apricots or other trail mix with dried fruit, if you’re hankering for some sweet with your salty. As always, check the ingredient list for any additives or unrecognizable ingredients (i.e. sugar additives or you can’t pronounce them) before buying.

on-the-go snacks, road trip, eating healthy on the road, sunflower seeds, trail mix, gluten free, nut free, kid friendly snacks, Walgreens snacks
Roadside Snacks!

For even better luck with a wider array of choices, try to choose a gas station in a more populated/commercialized area, particularly a Pilot if you can find one. Added bonus with Pilot: they are usually well-lit, the bathrooms are clean, and the gas competitively priced!

Steer Clear of Sugar and Soft Drinks
Ah, yes, sugar. Candy and sweets, though appealing and a throwback to our childhood jaunts in the family station wagon (Circus Peanuts, anyone?), will mess with your blood sugar, leaving you drowsy and craving more sugar later in your trip – both of which are quite inconvenient for the traveler on a mission to her final destination! Instead, count on your seeds and nuts to keep your blood sugar stable with their protein/fat content, and rely more heavily on water than on sugary, caffeine-laden colas to keep your thirst at bay. If you’re craving the carbonation, get a bottle of club soda. For those who travel with your own Stevia, put a few drops (or one of the individual packets) into the bottle, and you’ve just made your own all natural, refreshing soda without any of the guilt or garbage!

Let’s be honest, though, sometimes, we just need a jolt, and when the energy slump really hits you, particularly if you’re driving through the night, you really do have to have a pick-me-up. Pick up a coffee or hot tea with the least amount of additives.

Wherever your travels take you, Ramble On, Rosebuds, and enjoy your adventures!