good morning fall, hello gluten-free!

GF pumpkin Cover

When I say pumpkin, you say pancakes.  PUMPKIN (me)… PANCAKES (you), PUMPKIN… PANCAKES!!!

What’s better than homemade pancakes on a Saturday morning?  That’s easy –  homemade pumpkin pancakes that are gluten-free and tasty!  I just love fall.  Something about the cool air (ok, Florida status – 70 degrees is cool for me), the smell of a fireplace (yes, on those 60 degree nights) and the fall flavors are just so, perfect!

I’m on (another) healthy food adventure and have been experimenting with gluten-free stuff.  I do have to side bar here and say, not everything I make turns on yummy.  I’m not the kitchen wonder woman and I have really tough critics. Some things make it to the trash before anyone tries it and others as soon as people take a bite.  Most desserts I make do turn out pretty darn good if I do say so myself, but meals on the other hand, that is definitely a challenge for me and sometimes a scary venture for the recipients of the food.  In fact, I’m about to start a paleo challenge and I couldn’t think of what I wanted to eat that was on the list so I am literally eating canned pineapple.  Out of the can.  As we speak.  Yes.  Out.Of.The.Can.  (which I put in the fridge because I like cold pineapple…. I’m sure there’s a warning label about that somewhere)  I don’t think canned pineapple is part of the paleo “cave-woman” diet but it’s the closest I could come.  Definitely not Kitchen WW tonight!  OH MAN I really want some Publix Chocolate Cookie Quary Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt that is sitting in my freezer right now… Focus Cassie, focus….

Back to the Pumpkin Pancakes (crap – now I want these too!)

GF pumpkin ingredientsThis Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake recipe was inspired by the fact that I had left over pumpkin.  I made Pumpkin Cookies with Icing recently and shared them with my coworkers.  They were a huge hit!

This recipe is gluten-free and actually passed the taste test of one really tough critic.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (the 100% real stuff)
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs (protein packed yeah!!!)
  • 1 cup GF baking flour or oat flour (process 1 cup of oats in a food processor until fine)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice

GF pumpkin dry mix

Step 1:  Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk – flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice

GF pumpkin wet mix

Step 2: Mix melted coconut oil, pumpkin, milk and syrup in a blender until combined.  Add vanilla and eggs.

Step 3: Now combine the wet and dry mixes until just combined.

GF pumpkin mix

I was surprised at how thick the batter was, but this is normal.  Now all you have to do is plop these on a skillet!  I added extra cinnamon to one side just to give a little more flavor.  The key to this is the timing.  You want them cooked but not over cooked.  The batter is very gross raw.  I set a timer for 3 minutes on one side and the 1.5-2 minutes on the other.  They came out amazing!  I used dark amber pure maple syrup and a little almond butter on top.

GF Pumpkin cooking

This is a great use of left over pumpkin – or an excuse to open another can.  Next time I will probably make this batter the night before and save some morning time to relax with my cup of joe.  Now I have finished my can of pineapple, which I am slightly regretting admitting I ate canned pineapple.  Directly out of the can.  That I purposefully chilled.  But I ran 5 miles tonight and really didn’t feel like making anything this late.  So thank you Mr. Can.  And thank YOU readers.  I am too tired now to eat that frozen yogurt so you have spared me! 🙂

Bon Appetite!

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MS150 & The Power of Pickles

MS pre race cassie

I completed my first 150 mile, 2 day Bike Ride!!!  September 28-29 marked the 2013 ms150: Cycle to the Shore Ride!  I hopped on my bike at 7:15am from St. Augustine and started the trek to Daytona! Almost 5 hours of bike time later…. hello DAYTONA!  Yes, FIVE HOURS ON A BIKE! But wait, that was just day 1…

Let’s recap my awesome ride/weekend with a few highlights and pictures I took along the way….

  • WHO:  Me, 2 friends, 3 bikes and a lot of pickles
  • WHAT: 150 Miles – 2 Day Route – Start / Finish at the St. Johns County Airport in St. Augustine
  • WHEN:  September 28-29. 2013
  • WHERE: The Sunshine State
  • WHY:  To raise awareness and funds to help create a world free of MS. Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic, often disabling disease that affects the central nervous system. Donations raised through this event benefits the North Florida Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and its mission to mobilize people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenge of everyone affected by MS.

The ride started out damp.  It had rained earlier in the morning so the roads were wet.  When you’re on a bike, this means you get wet.  It’s inevitable.  We started out the ride with the sun rising and it was absolutely beautiful.  Every 12-18 miles or so there is a rest stop.  This is where you can get off the bike, go to the bathroom and the most important – eat snacks!  All sorts of snacks – peanut butter, cookies, bananas, oranges and PICKLES.

MS scene

When we stopped for lunch, we had fresh PB and banana sandwiches.  Can I just tell you how amazing PB&B is?  Especially freshly made!  YUM!  I also learned a new way to prepare PB&B…slice the bananas lengthwise.  The slices don’t fall out… GENIUS!  And of course, more pickles!

The last stop of the ride on day 1 could possibly be my favorite stop of the day… snow cones!  I can’t tell you the last time I had a snow cone.  After biking 60+ miles, this take-me-back-to-kid-days treat was absolutely perfect.  Coupled with pickles, I was one happy girl. 🙂

MS team picHere’s a picture of the fearless-and-slightly-crazy trio!  Daytona Beach was beautiful but I think I was in a daze to much to take it all in.  Partly from knowing the fact I rode a bike 85 miles.  Partly from my aching butt.  OH MY ACHING BUTT!  Partly from my burning (yes, burning!) and bloodshot eyes.  Lastly from my pickled out self.  I must have had at least 5 pickles…..

MS day 1 time

Day 1 was such a success!  We took a quick dip in the pool to cool/rinse off then ate a delicious spaghetti and meatball dinner.  I think I went to bed around 8pm but it felt like it was 11.  Great Day.  Repeat tomorrow.

MS sunriseDay 2.  When I woke up, I initially thought, “oh crap, I have to do THAT again?!?”  But when we got to the beach, it was all worth it.  The sunrise was absolutely amazing.  Breathtaking.

Then I sat on my bike.  Breathtaking.  Literally.  And not in a good way.

Day 2 was only around 60 miles so I thought, easy peasy.  I can do it!  As long as the rest stops have pickles I’m in good shape!

And so the ride began!  Starting in Daytona and backtracking our way to St. Augustine with a few route changes and we were off!

MS cassie seth

The ride was tough.  I felt like the wind completely cancelled out any drafting that a cyclist should take advantage of.  At about 20 miles to the finish, I lost my balance when my bike wasn’t moving and did a little fall.  (Note: Yes, I am admitting that my bike wasn’t moving when I fell – amateur move) It was on dirt and you know the saying, God made dirt so dirt don’t hurt…. well so not true!  I was still clipped in and my knee twisted a little or something.  The next 20 miles were even tougher, but I pedaled through with the help of my teammates.  Oh, and the pickles!  They were at every stop!

MS finish cover

Finally, after another 4 hours on the bike and 66 miles later, the ride was done.  DONE!  This was awesome!  Even though I felt like I just road 150 miles, my butt felt like I just rode 150 miles and my sweaty jersey smelled like I just rode 150 miles, it was so worth it!  This is was farthest I’ve ever rode, for the longest and I felt the best I’ve ever felt.  What’s the secret?  Let me introduce you to, the power of the pickles….

The Power of Pickles:  So I have had (now that it’s proven) a theory.  In the past, whenever I would run over 9 miles or cycle over 3 hours (ok, honestly I’ve only done this a few times), I would feel horrible the rest of the day.  Horrible as in a migraine and exhausted.  I would eat gels and drink a ton of water during exercise but that still wouldn’t help.  After some research and consulting with a few trusty friends, I tested a salt theory during my ride.  So my theory is that pickles are the key to the sodium balance in my body.  At each rest stop, I had a few pickle slices, a few pickle pieces, a few pickle wholes… yummmm

And guess what…. NO HEADACHES…. NO EXHAUSTION… AWE-SOME!

PSA- next time you see me exercising for a long period, I will be carrying pickles! Call me weird, say I smell like pickle juice, but I’ll recover faster!

MS day 2 time

What’s your pickle story?  What do you train with that’s strange?

Boulder, Co: Mile High Travels

Good morning! As I am writing this post, I am sitting in the JFK airport – Jet Blue terminal. I just got off a 3.5 hour flight from Denver… the red eye flight (1am!). If you ever wondered why they call it the “red eye” flight, wonder no longer. I look like a hot mess, and yes, my eyes are red. I got an eye cover up masky thing on the flight and boy did that come in handy! – Until I realized I slept through snacks! – pretty much the best part about flying. Then I realized I normally sleep at that time so probably a good thing I didn’t have a snack.

Analysis of my state of being: tried? – exhausted, hair? – static mess, eyes? – burning, breakfast? – it’s only 5am in Colorado so I think I’ll wait a little, head? – ouch, Starbucks? – nowhere to be found (I asked)….. HA yes, I’m sorry anyone who makes eye contact with me, this is true jet lag.

boulder road tripHowever, I’m remembering the last 5 days of my life and thinking… man I am lucky! I might be completely exhausted but it was-so-worth-it!!! I spent the last 5 days in Colorado. Colorado in the “summer.” Who cares about the exhaustion, headaches from altitude and red eyes that look like I’ve experienced all the mile high city has to offer. I mean, I got to spend the past few days visiting my step sister and traveling all around one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, the Colorado Rockies!!

boulder activities bike YThe adventures began in Boulder, Co. If you’ve been catching the new lately, you’ve probably heard about the Boulder County Flood that happened last week. The damage from the insane rain was, well, insane, for lack of a better word this early in the morning.

All trails were closed, streets destroyed and houses completely evacuated because they were under water. Luckily, Susan’s house (my step sister) was fine but not all units in her complex made it out unscathed.

Something really awesome was how the community was reacting to this tragedy. Bakeries, like Piece, Love & Chocolate, had special “flood relief cupcakes” where a portion of the “mudslide” dessert went to the relief efforts. Stores were having round-up days where you can round your purchase to the nearest dollar and that goes to the relief. Sprouts Farmer;s Market was doing this.

I also got to visit the Y in Boulder Valley which was also aiding in the relief efforts. The Y has partnered with the American Red Cross to be a shelter! So many people came in and out of the Y with supplies and smiles on their faces. Volunteers were actively engaged and everything was so organized. Without people and organizations like the Y and the American Red Cross, the flood victims would have nowhere to go.

Here’s a few pictures I snagged after my workout. — Note: working out in over a mile above sea level was tough!

boulder ymca

Colorado is absolutely beautiful!! If you read my Chicago post, you know that’s one of my top fav cities. Well, Colorado is definitely one of my top fav states (in the summer).

I arrived Thursday afternoon and adventured through downtown Boulder where I saw the really cool biking system in the picture above. EVERYONE bikes. I know that’s a generalization, but I think it’s appropriate. I think everyone owns at least 1 bike and people are biking all day long. It’s wonderful!

Friday morning, Susan and I hit a HOT YOGA class. Yes, Florida girl here goes to cooler weather, freaks out about the cold and finds herself in a hot yoga class… Floridian problems…

boulder red rocksThen it was off to ASPEN for the weekend!!! We loaded the car with my overstuffed suitcase and 2 of Susan’s friends, Jen and Erin, and hit the road. Susan and Erin were doing a half marathon trail ride and Jen and I were along for the ride. We stopped by the Red Rock Amphitheatre!! This was absolutely amazing. The views were breathtaking, if you didn’t already lose your breath from the hike and altitude combo. 🙂

Then we passed though Independence Pass which is a really pretty road that is only open in the summer.

Let me side note here and say I have been to Colorado a few times. In the COLD-FREEZING-TONS-OF-LAYERS-REQUIRED-WINTER. It was so refreshing to visit in September, see the leaves starting to change and wear shorts (well only one day).

boulder foodI can’t forget about the food. I ate too much. But it was-so-worth-it. There are so many healthy choices, local, fresh choices. Frozen yogurt from the Boom Bar Yogurt was yummy and dessert from Whole Foods was a fun treat too. I had pizza from Pizzeria Locale and it was AMAZING. Definitely a must visit place in downtown Boulder.

In the little town of Basalt, I ate the yummy eggs, potatoes and sausage you see here. The place was called Bernard’s Cafe and guess what, Bernard was a cute little old guy! Sorry I don’t have a ton of food pictures. In the moment of all the goodness, the camera was the last thing on my mind!

Friday-Sunday we spent in Aspen, then Monday I had a chance to explore Boulder. I went to the Y, to yoga (again) and just enjoyed the weather before my 1am flight to JFK!

I must say, Colorado exceeded all expectations and I can’t wait to go back and explore more, in the summer/warmer than cold seasons, of course!

I land in Jax around 11am and vaca is officially over! Until next time Colorado!

Thank you so much Susan for making my trip awesome!!