Edible Options Gluten-Free Bakery

Every year my husband participates in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer here in Ontario and joins about 4500 other cyclists in riding from Toronto to Niagara Falls in the name of raising funds for cancer research.

While he cycles in whatever weather Mother Nature throws his way, I travel with our daughters and my sister to Niagara Falls so we can camp out at the finish line and cheer for the riders as they cross the line.

This year, my husband was one of only 97 riders (out of just over 4500) that took on the added challenge of a 260+ km course called The Hammer. I’m proud to say, not only did he complete the entire route, but he crossed in the best shape of all the 12 years of the ride thus far. I am blown away by the amount of time and effort it takes to train for this ride and my hat goes off to all the riders.

Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer – Ride #12, The Hammer

Dedicated Gluten-Free Bakery

Before we left town last week, I was told that if I was going all the way to Niagara Falls, that I must stop at a little gluten-free bakery in St. Catharines for what is claimed to be THE BEST gluten-free bread anywhere.

I hadn’t heard of the bakery so I looked it up…Edible Options is a dedicated gluten-free bakery that offers vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free, cane sugar-free baked goods. Always ready to try and support anyone in their gluten-free endeavors (and excited to support anyone who works in a dedicated gluten-free shop as I do), I put it in the back of my mind and made note to try and visit the bakery if time allowed.

Thankfully we were able to take the time to stop in St. Catharines on the way home and wow! The gushing reviews online were not overstated!

As soon as we opened the bakery door, we were greeted with incredible smells of fresh-baked goods that had everyone in our group drooling (gluten eaters included). The bakery is an industrial-style cafe with plenty of room to shtop and enjoy whatever you’re lucky enough to buy and try. Almost immediately I was getting asked ‘are you sure it’s gluten-free’ because 1) there were no signs anywhere saying so, and 2) everything looked incredible!

I went straight for the bread and stood in awe at the height and size of their loaves. It was the first thing I ordered, without hesitation – two multigrain loaves, and one cheese & herb. Only then did I wander along the counter to check out the rest of the goods. The staff were fantastic.. patient, and smiling at how happy and excited we all were to be there.

By the time I’d ordered the bread and the staff had sliced all three loaves for me, everyone in my group had their eyes on something they wanted. They all ordered something different for the long ride home: shortbread cookies, ginger cookies, chocolate whoopies, coconut bombs, banana crumble muffins…there were so many options. I was truly in Heaven…EVERYTHING GLUTEN-FREE! Believe me, it’s not very often I get to walk into a bakery and choose anything I want and know that it will be safe.

I was told that the best way to keep the bread was on the counter (wait, what?!) and NOT in the fridge. Unheard of for gluten-free bread! Yep, apparently the bread will keep for about 7-9 days (seriously?!) but it does also freeze well if I wanted to go that route. I smiled but secretly didn’t believe the cheerful young lady behind the counter.

I don’t think we were even out of the parking lot before everyone in the car began eating their treats and started with the gasps of delight, trading bits of their items for bits of someone else’s so everyone could try everything.

The Best Gluten-Free Bread

Back at home, I immediately broke open the loaves of bread. Gorgeous!

My youngest was into them right away and without anything on it, ate a slice. She was two steps away when she turned around and asked for more saying it was the best bread EVER! That’s all it took…my eldest was right behind her begging to try. Yet again, BEST BREAD EVER! Now neither of my kids has to eat gluten-free (and generally prefer not to) so needless to say, none of the loaves I bought will make it to the freezer. As for the claims of the bread lasting 7-9 days out on the counter, I’ll let you know….if any of it lasts that long.


Volunteering Benefits Everyone

There’s no doubt that being able to see the results of hours of your hard work, makes putting the time in a little easier.

And when countless hours spent volunteering to help make tissue paper flowers for a Mother’s Day charity event goes from a pile of paper on your dining room floor, to a beautiful venue…

you smile and feel good inside.

I believe volunteering makes a difference – in both the individual who does the volunteering, and in the world around us.

With our busy lives today, it’s easy to say we don’t have time, but the rewards of volunteering even as little as one hour of our time can be enormous. It can be a chance to give something back, gain new experiences, develop skills, meet new people and socialize, or get out and discovery more of your community.

Our children are required to complete 40 hours of volunteer work before they can graduate from high school, but why stop there? And shouldn’t we set the example for them?

I volunteer my time in different ways: as a member of the parent council at my daughter’s school, at different school functions, and often for various local running and charity events in our community.

Over the past couple of weeks, I spent hours making tissue paper flowers alongside my youngest daughter for a local Mother’s Day charity event. She’s too young to have her volunteer hours count toward her required hours for high school just yet, but our little girl gladly put in her time regardless.

In the end, we were able to attend the event, a Mother’s Day high tea, and see how our hard work brightened up the venue and brought both smiles and a touch of spring to the room. While both my daughter and I are not too eager to see another tissue paper flower for a while, I know we’ll step up again next year with a smile and do it all over again if given the chance.

Do you volunteer your time in any way? What reward or benefits do you gain?


If At First You Don’t Succeed

Here we go again…

Today was the day. I got up this morning with mixed emotions and decided I would late fate decide: to run the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend, or not.

Yes! Who am I kidding?? Of course I’m going to take another shot at a runDisney event!

I drove my daughter to school, put on a pot of coffee, logged into my laptop, fired up the runDisney Events page and waited.

Thirty grueling minutes later, it was done. I’m in!

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A New Hope

But…

I will admit I was so excited for the Star Wars Rival Run trip and the excitement I’m feeling for this trip/run is very different. I had to rethink this trip: how much to keep the same and how much to change? Turns out switching it up has helped me get excited about it all over again.

First, my Star Wars trip was meant to be a solo trip and a personal challenge for my 50th birthday. This new trip is not that. Instead of registering for the challenge, I’ve registered for “just” the 10K (a girl can only throw out so much in Canadian funds to sign up for runs that offer no refund). I did however register for the Star Wars Virtual Half Marathon so that will be my challenge to myself once my doctor gives me the ok to run again. And I’m keeping the solo aspect of this trip and am excited at that. Disney on my terms, my way.

Second, I LOVE everything Star Wars and was absolutely stoked at the idea of being a part of the Rival Run excitement. Light side vs dark side? And those medals?? Loved it all! So only a food-themed run during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival could get this chef as excited to try again. And hey, thanks to Disney’s latest announcement about the earlier than anticipated opening of Galaxy’s Edge, I get to combine both of my loves in one trip (just me and about 5 million others).

Third, was the resort issue. Stay at the original resort I had planned, or pick a different one? I decided to go for a whole new one. I’m picking a Disney Resort that we’ve never stayed at in the past (more about that in a future post).

So here I sit excited about a whole new trip and a new experience. This will be my first solo trip, my first runDisney 10K, and my first time at my selected resort. If I can just keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and avoid anymore accidents between now and then…

…just 225 days to go!

 

 

 

 


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve

Attending a family wedding on New Year’s Eve.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m still here. Work and life were busy over the holidays, so I stepped away from writing for a while, but now things have settled and it’s time to get back to it.

Let’s start with an update:

Marathon Training

I’m happy to say, my marathon training continues!

I backed off of my running a little bit to take a couple of months to focus more on weight training and core work. The idea was to build some muscle and I’m happy to say, it’s paying off. My body is beginning to show some definition, and now that I’m back to regular running workouts, I’ve noticed a big difference. It’s become ‘easier’ and I’m running faster and with better form (if I run on the track at my local YMCA I can see my reflection in a wall of windows which helps a lot).

I use a run/walk method and have been able to increase my intervals to 1:30 (one minute run, 30 seconds walk) and maintain that throughout my workouts without pushing too hard. It’s a big jump from the 30:30 when I started running that left me huffing!

With just 69 days to go until my runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Challenge, I’m focusing on adding those longer runs, and on fine-tuning my diet. It’s tough to figure out pre and post workout foods that work best – what was enough before, isn’t working now with the extra effort. I also know that I’ll be eating around 3-3:30 am when I do the run, but it’s likely I won’t leave my corral until 6-6:30 am, so I need to figure out the food that will help then too: what to eat when I get up, and what to eat (if anything) while I stand around in the corrals waiting to start. If you have tips on what’s worked for you, I’d love to hear from you!

At this point in the game, I’m now running 3x’s per week (two short runs and 1 long run), with 1 or 2 cross-training workouts in-between: strength training and core work.

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I’ve been watching all the social media sites as the runDisney weekends keep coming. I drooled through the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend posts, and I awed at those participants that pushed themselves through the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

And just when my marathon challenge seemed so far away, we all got a look at the medals for the upcoming Star Wars Rival Run Weekend. Did you see them? I’m so excited! In case you missed them, you can see them all here. Now I’m more determined than ever to complete my challenge: I want that Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader medal hanging on my wall so bad! I just have to watch everyone else enjoy the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend coming up in February, and then it’s my turn (and good luck to everyone in February!).

Not long now! Just 69 training days left!

Holiday Food

I won’t say I didn’t indulge in any holiday treats, I did. I didn’t go crazy, but I still allowed myself to indulge now and then. As a chef, it’s hard not to take advantage of that time of year to play with and test recipes. Hey, Christmas only comes around once a year, right?

One of the hardest things I endured after going gluten-free was probably my first gluten-free Christmas. Watching everyone else indulge without a second thought in holiday buffets, party food, and stuffing…oh, the stuffing. It hurt.

After that, I promised myself I would never feel left out again. I created a small library of gluten-free recipes of every holiday food I had missed out on, and tested them. And tested…and tested. Some were good, most were not. I crossed out option after option until I was left with a few good recipes I was able to modify or convert to gluten-free and that wouldn’t leave me cringing when I ate them.

Now every year in the weeks prior to the holidays (and I mean even before Thanksgiving starts here in Canada – October), I grab my gluten-free holiday booklet of recipes and get to work. I make sure my freezer is full and my cupboards have all the ingredients I might need to bake a last minute treat. I rarely feel left out anymore. Mincemeat tarts, Christmas cookies of all kinds, holiday scones, cannoli, mini pizza bites, pulled pork empanadas, mozzarella sticks, stuffing, and more.

And I’ve decided, why just leave these foods for Christmas? Keep watching my blog for holiday food posts throughout the year, and by Christmas, we’ll all be ready to indulge!

And so begins 2019..

I hope this year brings you health, happiness and all the things you’re looking for in this adventure called life.


Running for Charity in Toronto

We did it! And what a great way to see the city of Toronto.

STWM5kaThis morning we ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 5K Charity Challenge in support of the Canadian Celiac Association. It was great! With a 5:30 am wake-up, and a 6:30 am hike to the shuttle buses, it was cold, but great!

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While normally we would push to run for a good finish time, this morning we took our time and tried to enjoy the scenery. After all, when else can you walk/run through the streets of Toronto without the worry of traffic or traffic lights? Still, we did break into a run several times and managed a decent finish time, so we’re happy. I’m so proud of our girls (who are not runners) who endure early wake-up calls and cold, dark mornings to participate in a sport that is not really their favourite. I’m even more proud to say they do it to raise funds to help others.

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This was our first run in Toronto, but I can guarantee, it won’t be our last.



Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Breakfast Review (gluten-free)

If you’re like me, you typically eat the same four or five breakfast meals over and over: toast, eggs, cereal, and oatmeal. Well, when I’m away on vacation, the one thing I allow myself to indulge in is breakfast. And indulge I do.

On our recent trip to Walt Disney World in April I could not get enough of their breakfast potatoes. Whether it was in a cheesy casserole, or baked muffin-style (I’ll write about those another day), I loved them. And all of them gluten-free.

My absolute favourite breakfast potato dish though was at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at the Norway pavilion in Epcot. This was our first time dining at Akershus and we chose to go for the Princess Storybook character experience at breakfast.

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Akershus is a unique dining experience in that it’s both a buffet and a family-style meal. They have an extensive buffet set up with assorted meats and cheeses, pastries, cereals, bagels and more. On top of that, a family-style platter is delivered to your table complete with eggs, sausage, bacon, and breakfast potatoes. And as if that isn’t enough, there are gluten-free waffles, muffins, and hash browns available to order.

Thankfully, there is an allergy-friendly menu to walk you through all the items and as always, you have the option of talking directly to the chef if you would prefer or if you have questions.

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While everything on the breakfast platter was safe for me to eat, I also ordered the gluten-free waffles. Much to my surprise though, these were not the usual Mickey-shaped gluten-free waffles that I was used to at Walt Disney World and they certainly weren’t as tasty.

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They were cold and tasteless…oh, and they came alone on the plate. Unlike at other Disney restaurants, the waffles did not come with their own little pitcher of maple syrup. I’m not sure why they were different but after a couple bites, I opted to pass.

Then I discovered the potatoes. Incredible! Creamy and hearty, topped with cheese, I could not stop eating them.

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Definitely one of the better potato dishes on property!

Once back at home, and after returning to my regular breakfast routine, I could not stop thinking about the creamy goodness I’d enjoyed. I decided to try to duplicate the potatoes at home. Thankfully, having spent a number of vacations at Walt Disney World, I had collected a few Disney cookbooks over time, so I turned to those.

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Sure enough, one of them contained my beloved Cheddar Breakfast Potatoes recipe.

I must admit they turned out quite well but were not exactly the same.

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Maybe it was the illusion of eating them in a castle that was missing, or the absence of princesses parading around my kitchen table, I’m not sure. But I do know that every last bite of them was loved both by myself and the rest of my family. Even without the princesses.