The Little Things in Life

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This week has been full of reminders that sometimes, it’s best to take a step back and take stock of your life, and find joy in the little things. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern where everything seems mundane. Instead of doing that, I’m thinking out loud about a few of the moments I’ve recently had that brightened up my day and made me feel like everything’s going to work out in the end!

Sunrise over the East River

Sunrise over the East River

 

Yesterday, watching the last moments of the sunrise over the East River as I jogged up to meet everyone at November Project, I was reminded again how shockingly beautiful nature is. Unadorned and unaltered by mankind, it’s bigger and brighter than all of us (and we should work hard to keep it that way!)

 

 

 

Puppies preening

Puppies preening

 

Later in the morning, I saw a group of the cutest puppies on my way out the door. If you can believe it, dog-walkers in New York handle twice as many pups as this at one time – this was the group for the left-hand leash! It’s so nice for the dogs that the weather is better, they can run and play in the park to their heart’s content without worrying about salt in their paws.

 

 

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WIAW #6: Yogurt and Peanut Butter and Ice Cream, Oh My!

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Welcome to another round of WIAW! I’m really getting into this habit and look forward to seeing what everyone over at Peas and Crayons is featuring for their eats. This morning’s November Project workout temporarily distracted me. I was loving the shout-out from Christopher MacDougall in the NY Times today…and then he showed up at our workout! Now that I’m home and showered and cozying up to a plate of pancakes, I have some major food photo drooling to do before I head to school. Without further ado, here’s a snapshot of my yesterday’s eats…

 

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast: Coffee, yogurt, a Braeburn apple, and an egg and goat cheese wrap inside a Food for Life brown rice tortilla. I received a package courtesy of Food for Life, and I’m happy to report that they’re a great new discovery. I love the Trader Joe’s kind, but the nearest TJ’s is one block south of my apartment – and about 1.5 miles to the west! Sometimes I buy groceries there and walk across Central Park, but in future I can find these at the natural foods store around the corner. The trick is to warm one for a minute in a pan before wrapping around your favorite filling. Then they’re nice and chewy and don’t break like a lot of gluten-free wraps!

 

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Five Things I’m Loving This Friday

Today I woke up feeling a little jumbled. It’s Friday and I have no class to attend or internship hours to fulfill, but I do have a national ethics exam for law students to take tomorrow morning at 8am! It’s sort of strange feeling like I have a jump-start to the weekend when I have to take a test on Saturday, but I decided to follow my usual rules for the day before a big test, which means taking it easy and not thinking about it too much. At this point, there’s not much I can do – if I don’t know something already, I’m not going to learn it by tomorrow, so it’s best to relax and refocus. To take my mind off of it, I decided to share a few things I’m loving this week with all of you, and think about them instead!

 

Cloudsurfers

Cloudsurfers

 

1. My Cloudsurfer sneakers. I’ve been wearing these since August now, and they’re better than any running shoe I’ve tried before. I’ve worn them on my weekly long runs and to race the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and NYC Half Marathon. I think I’ve logged 400 miles on my first pair, and 100 miles on the second pair (which I bought at the Expo in Disney, and broke in after that weekend). So far, they’ve held up very well, and with my tendency to aggravate old knee and hip injuries, they offer a nice flexible cushion without being too clunky.

 

 

 

 

A delicious base for a brunch dish

A delicious base for a brunch dish

 

2. Garden Lites Spinach Souffle. I’ve been a fan of these gluten-free, nut-free veggie souffles for awhile now. They’re a little expensive for the size of the dish (most are 7-8 ounces and they retail for $3.79-$4.79 in the grocery stores closest to me) so I can’t eat them too often, but I love trying out new ways to use them in meals.

 

 

 

Brunch bowl with a spinach souffle base

Brunch bowl with a spinach souffle base

 

 

I just made myself a hearty brunch bowl with a spinach souffle, two scrambled eggs, frozen veggies, Al Fresco spinach and garlic chicken sausage, and goat cheese. Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy to behold this beauty

Happy to behold this beauty

 

3. The return of one of my favorite paintings, The Lighthouse at Two Lights, to the walls of the Modern wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Edward Hopper is one of my favorite artists, and of all his works the studies he did of the New England coast capture my mind and heart the most. This painting was in storage for awhile (I wandered into the Met the birthday before my last one to catch a glimpse and it was no longer there, which took a lot of birthday ice cream to make up for!) but it’s being displayed once again, at least until the Met moves the modern art to its new home in the old Whitney building. I dropped by this week after school!

 

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Beat the chill…with ice cream!

Ice cream is my favorite food. Of course, I eat more fruit and veggies and yogurt and eggs than ice cream, but when I picture my happiest times, ice cream was always what I was eating (or what I wanted to top off an otherwise perfect day). Even on my birthday, I’d opt for ice cream over cake or cupcakes – and since I have a summer birthday and was often away at camp as a kid, this worked out well! Lots of people think of ice cream as a summer treat, but I enjoy it year round. While it may seem counter-intuitive, eating a bowl of ice cream can enhance an evening of sitting by a cozy fire with hot cocoa. The trick is to create an ice cream experience that doesn’t rely on the tradition of grabbing a cone of your favorite flavor at an outdoor window, and mix it up instead!

 

Salted caramel ice cream in a crystal cruet

Salted caramel ice cream in a crystal cruet

 

One of my favorite ways to treat myself is to have a decadent flavor of ice cream nicely scooped into a crystal glass, topping it with a complementary seasoning. Here, I took caramel ice cream and added a pinch of sea salt and a dash of molasses, and paired with a mug of spiced apple tea.

 

 

 

Perfect nostalgic treat

Perfect nostalgic treat – vanilla with rainbow sprinkles

Another serving style evokes the nostalgia of childhood. I have four small ice cream dishes, with pastel bowls on the inside of little tubs shaped like the bottom of wafer ice cream cones. I’ll scoop a classic flavor like vanilla or strawberry into one of these, and top with gluten-free rainbow sprinkles. It takes me back to summers down the Cape, where I used to get strawberry ice cream with rainbow sprinkles from a shop called Emack & Bolio’s in Orleans, Massachusetts. They’ve expanded throughout New England and the rest of the US, but to me, the other locations aren’t quite the ‘real thing’!

 

 

My peanut butter cup sundae - I just threw the rainbow sprinkles on top for good measure!

My peanut butter cup sundae – I just threw the rainbow sprinkles on top for good measure!

For an extra special splurge, turn your ice cream and toppings into a swoon-worthy sundae. Start with a basic base flavor, then add sauces and toppings. One of my favorites is a peanut butter cup sundae. I start with peanut butter cup ice cream, then add some extra peanut butter and chocolate chips. If I’m feeling very nostalgic and I happen to have some regular-size peanut butter cups around, I’ll break one in half and stick the pieces on top to make it look like those Friendly’s sundaes with the smiles! (And if you really want to go all out, make a batch of peanut butter cookie bites to crumble on top).

 

 

 

Of course, you can just have ice cream straight from the carton or in a regular dish, but I like to dress it up a little in the winter. It feels like a special treat, a welcome spot of cheer on an otherwise dreary day. (Caveat: I run outside when it is below freezing all the time. I am probably a classified crazy winter weather person, at least for locations outside the Arctic and, you know, Chicago. So feel free to mock my recommendation of eating ice cream this time of year. I’ll keep doing it anyway.) And I’ll mix it up with the seasons. In the autumn, I love pumpkin ice cream. In the spring I go for berry sorbet. Summer will find me with a gluten-free cone full of strawberry or Moose Tracks. So find your flavor and figure out how to make every spoonful special.

 

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Ready to be filled with delicious creations!

 

I’m planning to fix myself a bowl of ice cream for dessert tonight, to basically tell this snowstorm it’s time to get lost!

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Do you eat it all year round or save it for a seasonal treat?

Have you ever tried making snow-cream? It’s delicious (but I would never trust NYC snow…)

 

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Welcome to WIAW!

So now that I’ve been at this blogging thing for a few months, I’ve learned a lot more about the whole universe of writers out there sharing their thoughts and lives. It’s provided me with so much inspiration, and made me feel like part of another community, which is awesome. In the spirit of many of my favorites, I’ve decided to post a ‘What I Ate Wednesday’ on the first Wednesday of every month. This definitely makes me feel like I’m more integrated into the blogging community, but it’s also important to me because while I post many of my recipes here, what I eat on a daily basis obviously includes so much more – and I think it’s totally possible to eat for both health and happiness! Part of my growing love for cooking is experimenting with new foods, and figuring out ways around my allergies when trying different dishes. But there are some standbys I can’t live without (apples, Greek yogurt, eggs, baby carrots) that you’ll probably see in every future WIAW post. So without further ado, this is a little look at how I lived and ate yesterday!

 

Two muffins to start the morning

Two muffins to start the morning

Pre-run breakfast: A good little cautionary tale is how I ran my first half marathon last year without eating beforehand and taking in about 5 sips of water, then basically threw a temper tantrum when my parents and I went to JG Melon for brunch about an hour after finishing and there was a wait to be seated, so was taken to the diner up the street and not only ordered like an impatient kindergartner, but ate a plate of sweet potato fries bigger than my face and was promptly sick. Sad face. I’ve realized that anything more than a 10k for me requires a little fuel in the tank. I hate gels and goo, and I’m allergic to many bars, but I can stomach one of my little muffins, a perfect mix of protein and carbs. This time, it was two Banana-Maple-Oat Muffins.

 

 

Rudi's GF spinach wrap with white Cheddar, turkey, and scrambled eggs

Rudi’s GF spinach wrap with white Cheddar, turkey, and scrambled eggs

Post-run brunch: My schedule is a little strange because I’m a law student – I have class in odd blocks of time and fit running, reading, working at my internship, blogging, and other daily activities around those hours. So on Tuesdays, for example, I end up eating lots of little meals and snacks. I had a wrap with turkey, eggs, and Cheddar cheese with some cucumber slices, with a chaser of cottage cheese with some blueberries, for a post-run refuel before I headed to school. Oh, and about two bottles of water and a cup of coffee to rehydrate. (I hydrate more than pretty much anyone else I know, but hey, whatever works!) 

 

School and internship snacks: I had class from 11am-3pm, so I had a yogurt with GF apple cinnamon cereal, a Braeburn apple, and another muffin. Then, I was at my internship from 3:30-6pm, and I had a bag of baby carrots and one of those little to-go packs of hummus, along with a second yogurt. Honestly, my snacks are pretty repetitive – they have to be small and sturdy enough to throw in my backpack, and it’s hard to bring more than one thing that needs an ice pack. I’ve started freezing yogurts and using those as the ice for other foods if I want to bring a real lunch, but then I have to wait for them to thaw to eat them, which is sort of unpredictable! I also drank about four bottles of water and a bottle of Propel.

2% Greek yogurt with apple cinnamon O's

2% Greek yogurt with apple cinnamon O’s

I poked that little hole in the top of the muffin to pack in some peanut butter before wrapping it up to take along!

I poked that little hole in the top of the muffin to pack in some peanut butter before wrapping it up to take along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bowl of Veggie Quinoa 'Pagodas' with chicken, cheese and more veggies

A bowl of Veggie Quinoa ‘Pagodas’ with chicken, cheese and more veggies

Dinner: I was home early enough to whip up a home-cooked meal, so I went for one of my big bowls. I just bought a box of Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta on sale and tried it for the first time as a base – it was pretty good. I never really ate a lot of pasta as a kid, except for mac and cheese, because I didn’t like tomatoes or tomato sauce (luckily I’ve reformed!) and I’m allergic to pesto. But I’m starting to try it more often. I topped it with chopped grilled chicken breast, the 365 brand of mirepoix (basically peas, carrots, corn, and green beans) and a bunch of Parmesan cheese. With another bottle or two of water, of course.

 

 

My peanut butter cup sundae with sprinkles

My peanut butter cup sundae with sprinkles

 

Dessert: I love ice cream, even in winter, so as my own way of telling the snow it was time to go away, I made myself a little sundae – peanut butter cup ice cream with a little extra peanut butter and some chocolate chips, plus my favorite allergy-free rainbow sprinkles tossed in for good measure. I also had another apple, Pink Lady this time. And a cup of apple cinnamon spice decaf tea.

 

 

 

 

I really like salted rice cakes as a delivery vehicle for PB + J - something about that sweet n' salty combo!

I really like salted rice cakes as a delivery vehicle for PB + J – something about that sweet n’ salty combo!

Evening snack: some rice cakes with peanut butter and raspberry jam. Nothing fancy! And, admittedly, yet another apple. Empire, if you’re wondering. I’ll be perfectly honest, I eat far more apples than the one a day your doctor recommends – easily two or three a day in fall and winter. It’s a little less in the warmer months, when peaches and berries are in season and added to the mix, but even then, apples are just so easy to grab and go, or to slice up and enjoy with a little peanut butter. They go well with both sweet and savory foods, and to be totally honest, I don’t feel like I’m done with meals without finishing off an apple at the end sometimes.

 

 

 

So there you have it! 6 ‘eating times’ in a day, with food in a variety of shapes and sizes. I pretty much eat within the 8am-to-8pm range, so it’s every couple of hours. And I enjoy every bite!

 

So I refill that water bottle about 10x a day...and altogether this gets me through 24 hours!

So I refill that water bottle about 10x a day…and altogether this gets me through 24 hours!

 

 

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Running Disney: Fueling Me Gluten-Free

Whether fueling up for the race to come, or tucking in to a celebratory feast, food is essential for the health and happiness of all runners (and really, all humans)! As a gluten-free runner with several other allergies, I’m used to making my own pre-race meals so there’s no risk of illness or allergic reaction before I even toe the starting line. But lucky for me, Disney is so wonderful with allergies, I didn’t need to worry during my Walt Disney World Half Marathon trip. First, Disney sent me lists of gluten-free and nut-free foods available at certain restaurants in the parks and hotels prior to my trip so I could peruse and plan. Then, when I made each dining reservation, there was a place to note any allergies to give the chef a heads up. And each eating experience over the course of my trip far surpassed my expectations.

 

Gluten-free Udi's dinner roll with salted butter

Gluten-free Udi’s dinner roll with salted butter

For a pre-race dinner on Friday night, my family and I arrived at The Wave of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort the early side because of the timing of the race the next morning, but since many other runners had the same idea, the dining room was already bustling! Because there were allergies noted on our reservation, the chef came over to speak with our table and she let me know which menu items were appropriate. I chose the seasonal sustainable grilled fish, a swordfish with roasted potatoes, onions, and butternut squash – a delicious dish. An extra perk was the basket of gluten-free rolls sent out along with the regular rolls. Usually, I kick back while family and friends indulge in the carby precursor to dinner, but having my own rolls on which to slather the sea-salted butter was great! Though warm, they were a bit crumbly, but just having the option was unusual and wonderful.

 

 

Gluten-free Mickey waffles

Gluten-free Mickey waffles

After the half marathon, I wolfed down a banana and a bottle of water, then headed back to my hotel with my family to shower and get ready for a celebration brunch. We were staying at an Epcot-area resort, convenient for both the finish line of the race and for eating at the Captain’s Grille at the Yacht Club Resort. Just like the prior evening, the chef came over to our table. He would have been happy to walk me through the breakfast buffet options, but I was sold the minute he mentioned gluten-free Mickey waffles! I ordered those with scrambled eggs and fruit on the side. Served warm with maple syrup and powdered sugar, this was easily the culinary highlight of my trip because I got to eat one of my favorite childhood comfort foods and feel like a kid again while basking in the glow of my recently run 13.1!

 

Gardens Kiosk

Gardens Kiosk

 

That wasn’t the end of the fantastic food. Dining in the Disney parks was just as allergy-friendly. Eating lunch one afternoon in the Animal Kingdom at Restaurantosaurus, the waitress at the counter had the manager come out to take our party’s order. The manager brought a binder that was full of substitute foods for all sorts of allergies, from Amy’s macaroni and cheese to Tofutti ice cream. I had a simple grilled chicken and cheese sandwich on a gluten-free bun with apple slices as a side instead of fries. I was too full for dessert, but I was tempted when we walked by the Gardens Kiosk, a special allergy-free dessert booth with a variety of Enjoy Life, Babycakes, and Lundberg Farms treats.

 

 

 

Gluten-free grilled chicken sandwich and apple slices

Gluten-free grilled chicken sandwich and apple slices

I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, but my family is. For dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion, the chef kindly made me a plate of simple grilled mahi mahi and vegetables and a side of gluten-free white corn tortillas. If you’re gluten-free, this would actually be a great choice overall, as most menu items with the exception of flour tortillas were already GF, including the tortilla chips and all the sauces. I’m a bit more limited because the orange and avocado allergies obviously cut out guacamole, but for someone who is just gluten-free and loves Mexican food, I’d recommend either here or the sister Cantina and San Angel Inn.

 

 

Candy cane ice cream with rainbow sprinkles

Candy cane ice cream with rainbow sprinkles

I was completely spoiled for choice with desserts. I had cherry vanilla ice cream at Beaches and Cream at the Beach Club resort, and candy cane ice cream at the soda fountain at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel. At the Main Street Confectionery in the Magic Kingdom and Seashore Sweets on the Boardwalk, I even found Minnie’s Bakery Rice Krispies Treats that were certified gluten-free! (They did contain milk and soy, as the ears were covered in milk chocolate. I asked one of the chefs at dinner one evening to confirm that the sprinkles and jimmies used at Disney were gluten-free.)

 

 

 

 

Roasted salmon and asparagus with cherry tomatoes and cauliflower puree

Roasted salmon and asparagus with cherry tomatoes and cauliflower puree

My family ate several meals at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel and at Downtown Disney restaurants. Todd English’s Bluezoo, Fulton’s Crab House, and Wolfgang Puck were all wonderful options for a seafood lover like myself. All the waitstaff were extremely friendly and asked about allergies when we were first seated. The shrimp and warm mixed greens, roasted salmon, and sautéed corvina with brussels sprouts I had at each establishment were all melt-in-your-mouth delicious. However, I was a bit surprised that none of them offered any gluten-free grain substitutes (even though they’re all on Disney property, they are not operated by Disney, and so they do not carry the same items). I was completely fine with it, since I usually don’t eat any grains or baked goods that I haven’t made myself, but something to consider if you, like me, found it a special treat on a race-cation to be so catered to!

 

Admittedly, there were some calorie- and wallet-bombs for the unsuspecting...

Admittedly, there were some calorie- and wallet-bombs for the unsuspecting…

To sum up, fueling for a run at Disney on a gluten-free, nut-free, orange-free, and avocado-free diet was easy and fun. The chefs and other staff at all Disney restaurants, whether ice cream stands, counter-service luncheonettes at the parks, or signature dining rooms at the resorts, were friendly and accommodating. I was amazed at the sheer variety of substitute foods and menu alterations available, even coming from Manhattan. Of course, the prices for food at Disney are high, but one great surprise was that those substitutions did not cost a penny extra, whereas in Manhattan, asking for gluten-free toast instead of rye will set you back an extra dollar or two, and vegetables instead of fries up to $5! And those prices were actually comparable to Manhattan eateries for the most part (a gut-wrenching thought to those of us who reside there, and a warning shock to anyone from more reasonable America). Some people think of Disney as a turkey leg, chocolate fudge brownie sundae, healthy athlete’s nightmare, but I found instead that it was simply a place where they would make any guest anything they wanted – as in the rest of life, it was up to you how you wanted to eat and treat your body!

 

 

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© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.