On the Go: CORE Meals Review

I was recently given the opportunity to receive a sample of CORE Meals to review. As a person who is always on the go and always hungry, when I read one of their taglines, “We make portable FOOD,” (as opposed to the candy that most so-called nutrition bars offer), I knew that CORE Meals were made for someone like me.

Core Foods Review

When my package was shipped, I was warned to be on the lookout. Because Core Meals are real, whole food, with no preservatives, they are perishable. It was shipped with a cold pack (which honestly wasn’t cold anymore by the time it arrive), but I quickly brought my package in the house and put it in the freezer.

After I was first contacted by Core Foods, I was interested to learn a little more about the company. They are a West Oakland based not-for-profit company that takes pride that they make only the healthiest produce-based foods with no syrups, salts, flours, oils, or additives. Each CORE Meal is tested gluten free. The folks at CORE Foods are committed to their business model, which is based on four standards:

  • Not-for-profit. 100% of profit is re-invested in CORE and the community. Not shareholders.
  • All employees earn a living wage.
  • Executive salaries are capped at the industry average.
  • Environmental impact is calculated and held accountable. All carbon is reduced or offset.

I was sent a sample package of CORE Defender. Each high fiber, vegan bar is made with five fresh organic plants to pack all 13 amino acids, high plant fiber, and essential fatty acids into one bar. For example, the Raw Almond Raisin meal has whole oats, almonds, raisins, flax, and ground spices. That is all. If you eat one bar with water you are eating a full bowl of hearty oatmeal!

Core Meals Review

 I had my opportunity to try a CORE Meal last weekend after finishing the London Bridge Half Marathon. Right after the race, my stomach was a little upset, so I stuck with water for a while as I stretched and rested. Then, I drove back to the hotel to get cleaned up and check out while Alan was still working. I sat down before my shower and ate the Raw Walnut Banana CORE Meal.

Core Meals Review

I am the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth. I am trying to defeat it by eating less sweets. A CORE Meal is not a candy bar. It is real food that has no sugar. It is sweetened naturally, in this case with banana and raisins. It has a chewy texture, and it was mildly sweet and nutty. Not the sweetness that I prefer, but one that is healthy and natural. Not only that, but it satisfied my hunger for about three hours. That is saying a lot for me, because, first of all, I had just finished a half marathon. And second, as I said above, I am always hungry.

Core Meals Review

Back at work on Monday, I brought along the Raw Cashew Cacao CORE Meal for my second breakfast (I eat my first breakfast early, before 5:00 because I work at 5:30. That means that I am ready for a second breakfast about about 8:00). This was my least favorite of the three CORE Meals that I tried, not bad, but I thought the cacao was a little bitter.  And it did the trick and tided me over until lunch time.

Core Meal Review

The next day I put my final CORE Meal to the real test. I ate it for first breakfast. I am not very inventive in the morning. I usually have cereal with some fruit, nuts, and almond milk, and toast. I may be in a rut, but it is what I want in the morning. So substituting the Raw Almond Raisin CORE Meal was a big deal for me (and my dogs, who always get a little piece of crust when I’m done eating). To be honest, I didn’t believe it would fill me up and hold me over.

While the Walnut Banana was my favorite flavor, the Almond Raisin was very tasty too. Again, not sugary, but chewy, nutty, with just a touch of sweetness. And best of all, not only did it fill me up, I stayed full for at least four hours, through an exercise class and a meeting!

I was very happy that I got to try CORE Meals. They are the perfect on-the-go food: they are made with whole, organic ingredients, they taste good, and they are very satisfying. In addition to the vegan CORE Defender Meals, which I tried, CORE Foods also makes CORE Warrior Meals, which have extra protein in the form of the world’s only fully soluble, organic whey protein.

CORE Foods is currently holding a contest on their Facebook page. You can enter to win a case of CORE Meals. Plus, if you like their page, you will receive a discount code worth $5 off you purchase.

Disclosure: I received a free sample pack of CORE Defender Meals. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated in any other way.

The Gluten Free Experiment: 5 Things I Learned

It has been about 10 days since my three week gluten free experiment was up (a day early because of my Native Foods event). I’m sure you are all wondering how it went, how I felt during and after, and what I’ve decided for the future.

As a reminder, after my WellnessFX blood tests showed that my cholesterol was a little high and my thyroid was a little low, my nutritionist suggested in my follow up consultation that I try a gluten free diet for a few weeks. She thought that it could improve my cholesterol and thyroid numbers, get rid of the random pain that I get under my rib, and possibly even help my migraines. She also suggested that I eat less starchy carbs and add more vegetables.

I was actually kind of excited to try a gluten free diet. There is only one way to find out if you have sensitivity issues, whether it is with gluten, soy, or other foods. That is to take them out of your diet for a while, see if you feel better, then, try adding them back in to see if your troubles return.

My excitement lasted about five days. I did prepare. The first four days were great as I had planned ahead, used leftovers for lunches, changed some old habits (cereal and rye bread for breakfast, for one), read labels even more thoroughly that I already did. Then I went to Las Vegas, where it was very challenging to eat both vegan and gluten free on the road.

I was more successful the following week when we traveled to Malibu. I didn’t write a post about it (busy, busy!), but, along with bringing appropriate food for snacks while Alan was working, the Los Angeles area has many more dining options that Lake Las Vegas. We had dinner at Hugo’s, which has an extensive vegan and gluten free menu.

Gluten Free

Green Tamale Plate
( [Can be Vegan] )
Two spinach infused sweet-corn tamales covered with our tomatillo sauce, mozzarella or Daiya vegan cheese and pico de gallo. Served with tomato chipotle black beans and turmeric basmati rice

Gluten Free Vegan

Apple Crumble
( [Can be Vegan] )
Spiced apple-maple mixture topped with a lightly sweetened, Energy Nut crumble. Dusted with organic powdered sugar, topped with vanilla ice cream and a mint leaf. (Substitute vegan whipped cream for ice cream upon request)

We also got to stop for lunch at the Veggie Grill in Santa Monica, which is an all vegan restaurant that clearly marks their gluten-free options.

Gluten free vegan

Urban Plate
Gluten free. Blackened
tempeh-carmelized onion-portobello
mushroom stack, steamin’ kale,
sliced tomato salad, chipotle ranch

gluten free vegan

Sweetheart Fries
Scrumptious sweet potatoes with chipotle ranch.

gluten free vegan

Chocolate Pudding Parfait
Made-from-scratch pudding,
topped with chocolate sauce,
crushed cookies, walnuts + VG Crema (ordered without cookies to make it GF)

At home I stuck with the tried and true. I’m not much of a baker and even my cooking time is limited (the reason why my recipes are fast and simple!), so I didn’t make a lot of the dishes from the various blogs that specialized in gluten-free, vegan recipes. If gluten free were to become my permanent lifestyle, I certainly would get more creative and try different things. Some of the recipes looked and sounded delicious. But, for my three week Gluten Free Experiment, I stuck with the KISS method, Keep it Simple, Silly.

So, breakfast was usually a smoothie with a slice of gluten-free toast, mid-morning I’d have some oatmeal (remember, you need to find gluten free oatmeal). Lunch was a salad or leftovers. For dinner I was a little more creative, varying from grilled tofu or tempeh, veggie “pastas” made from zucchini or spaghetti squash, and big salads. I did make burritos once, made with beans, tofu, potatoes, rice, and salsa, wrapped in rice tortillas.

So, after three weeks did I decide to make a permanent change in my diet? First, here are the things I learned about being a gluten free vegan.

1. It is hard. I should say that it is harder than I want it to be. I really wanted to say that it was such an easy transition, no problem, etc., but, in all honesty, I had a hard time. As a vegan, I never feel that my diet is restricted..there are so many delicious, simple foods out there to eat. But, when I added gluten-free to the mix, suddenly I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I was going to eat. I’m sure that if I remained gluten free it would become second nature. But, for three weeks, for me, it was hard.

2. There is a lot of gluten free junk food out there. Remember that just because it has no gluten doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. The same goes for vegan prepared food. Easy, yes. Healthy, not necessarily.

3. Planning is vital. Having a meal plan in place can make it so much easier. I am really not organized enough to do so, but I’d recommend sitting down and planning out a week at a time. Include snacks too, because otherwise you will find yourself between meals, hungry, and not sure what to eat.

4. If you goof up, don’t give up. When I was in Vegas, I finally settled on a cheese-less pizza for dinner one night after a long day, when neither Alan nor I felt like driving anywhere to search down a better meal. It wasn’t until I sat down to wait for my ordered pizza that the little light went on over my head that said (something like), “hey, pizza dough = gluten.” I did eat my pizza, and I enjoyed it. But I didn’t use it as an excuse to give up on my gluten free experiment. I jumped right back on the wagon.

5. Be honest with yourself. In spite of the hype these days, not everyone has gluten “sensitivities.” If you feel better without gluten, that’s wonderful. If you don’t notice any difference in how you feel, don’t worry, you’re still special. Be grateful that you don’t have a true disease like Celiac, which would force that gluten free diet upon you.

As for me, in case you’re wondering, I did not notice any difference in how I felt while following my gluten free diet. I had the same amount of headaches (darn it–I was hopeful!), I had my little random ghost pain once or twice, which is about the same frequency as always. After my three weeks were up (actually one day early due to the Native Foods Pre-Opening party), I didn’t see the need to continue on a strictly gluten free diet.

After plunging deeply at Native Foods, I’ve settled in to a more moderate version of my previous diet. While I do eat gluten, I am more aware of what I do eat. I’m still skipping the cold cereal in the mornings, opting instead for smoothies, oatmeal, fruit, with just maybe a slice of toast with peanut butter. I’m eating more vegetables, less starches and I feel really good about that. For example, dinner last night was gluten free without even trying.

gluten free vegan

Spaghetti squash with olive oil, tomato, garlic and tarragon.

gluten free vegan

Massaged kale salad.

So, that’s the story. I’m anxious to know your stories. I know some of you follow a gluten free diet. I’d love to hear your experiences.

My Gluten Free Adventure: An Update, a Fail, and Vegas

I’ll call it a “Learning Opportunity.” Ironically, it happened within minutes of my telling my husband, “thinking about gluten free eating is challenging for me right now. I know what is vegan, what to look for, what I can eat, but gluten free does not come naturally at all.” I’m told that it gets better. Even the Gluten-Free Vegan which my sweet son and daughter-in-law gave me for my birthday, described me perfectly, standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open, just looking inside. But, I digress.

In the week since I’ve started my Gluten Free Experiment, I’ve actually done pretty well. I’ve tried zucchini pasta, I had a tempeh burger on gluten free bread, I eliminated the tortillas for my tofu burrito (I also tried rice tortillas when I made the leftovers). I’ve eaten more vegetables, skipped bread, except an occasional slice of gluten free toast. I’ve skipped my morning cereal, replacing it with a healthy smoothie.

But then we went on the road. We traveled to Las Vegas where Alan announced the Really Big Free Marathon on Saturday. We stayed in Lake Las Vegas, which is about a half hour from Vegas, and at least 10 miles from most restaurants, though there is a small village with a variety of cuisines surrounding the hotel. None were vegan or vegetarian.

I did quite well the first day. I brought snacks, including that burrito. For dinner we didn’t want to drive all the way in to Las Vegas, so we found a PF Changs, which clearly marks their menus where they are vegetarian and gluten free (most of their vegetarian food is vegan). We also found a Whole Foods and picked up some food for the next morning, including peanut butter, fruit, and smoothies. The problem was, it wasn’t enough.

After a very long morning on the day of the race (arrived at 5 am, the last runner came across the finish at about 2:30 pm), Alan and I had finished off all of our snacks and were tired and hungry. It was close to 4:00 when we finally found the Subway (yeah, but it was a no-brainer and that’s what we needed). I had a pretty good spinach salad, so I was full and still gluten free.

As dinner approached, Alan and I agreed that we were too tired to follow the original plan, which was to go to the Mint Bistro in Las Vegas. The drive was at least 30 minutes in each direction, plus traffic and that just didn’t sound appealing. In fact, driving anywhere didn’t sound appealing. Instead, we decided to take a stroll around the village by our hotel, read menus and see what we could find.

It was on this walk that I said to Alan the words in the opening paragraph. We walked, we looked at a few menus, then finally, passing a little pizza joint, I said, let’s just go here. We can order a veggie pizza without cheese. It’s easy, we can take it back to our room. Fine.

Then, as I sat waiting for my pizza, a little light bulb went on over my head. Um, pizza crust=wheat=gluten. Oops. Like I said, my brain is just not attuned to this yet.

If you are wondering, yes, I ate the pizza, yes, it was delicious, yes, I felt just a little bit guilty. I did not, however, have the leftover piece for breakfast the next morning. I decided to get back on track.

So, that’s the latest update on my gluten free experiment. I’m pretty happy about where I am with it right now. I think I still need to add more veggies (big salad for dinner tonight). I still feel hungry a lot of the time because I don’t have a go-to snack or small meal.

On a brighter note, Alan and I spent two nights in Lake Las Vegas at the Aston Montelago Village Resort. While it is about 20 miles outside of Las Vegas, it was a lovely place to stay. We had a great one bedroom suite at a fraction of the cost of a similar room in Vegas, plus it was quite and relaxing and, well, just nice. That may not be what you’re looking for when you go to Las Vegas, but it was perfect for us.

As befits Las Vegas, Lake Las Vegas is a strange combination of Mediterranean architecture and desert landscaping.

We finish with a Whole Foods fail. On the way out of town, we decided to skip Vegas altogether so that we could get on the road for our four hour drive. Instead we opted to stop at Whole Foods again, pick up some lunch and snacks for the drive, then head on home.

Alan laughs at me when I get excited about going to Whole Foods. It is kind of like vegan grocery heaven and since we don’t have one in the desert, it is a rare opportunity for me. As we wandered around the prepared food section, I studied all the options, checking out the vegan and gluten free choices.

I finally decided on ordering the Tofu Scramble. I had a choice of four veggies and I chose onions, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and spinach, along with vegan cheese. When we ordered I was asked if I wanted turmeric. I said yes, thinking that a dash of the spice improves both the flavor and the color of the tofu scramble. We were told our order would be ready in 10 minutes.

After 30 minutes, our order was finally ready. There was no charge for either order, because of the ridiculously long wait. Even so, I was tempted to return my scramble because someone had a heavy hand with the turmeric. A very heavy hand.

So much that I couldn’t even eat it. I was too tired to deal with taking it back, so I went back to the salad bar to search for a few vegan, gluten free selections. A rare Whole Foods fail. This almost made up for it all, though:

So, I’ve rambled on long enough. All in all, a fun weekend. One goof up on the gluten free trail, but I got right back on track. Next weekend we’re traveling to Malibu where Alan is announcing the Malibu Marathon. I know that I need a better plan before we go. Something to work on.

How was your weekend? Any events, travel or generally fun stuff you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it!

Gluten Free Update: 4 Days In plus GF/Vegan Resources

So, I’m four days into my gluten-free experiment. In a nutshell: I’d feel great if it wasn’t for the root canal and extraction that I had today. As I sit here with gauze clamped between my teeth, I just want to share a bit about my first few days of going gluten free.

While I haven’t been very adventurous, my diet for the last few days has not been boring. Breakfast has generally been a smoothie, using up my fruit servings for the day (I added some spinach today to get some veggie servings in too). I’ve also had a slice or two of Udi’s gluten free bread. Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner the night before, but I also stopped by Clark’s the other day and picked up an Evolution bean wrap that was gluten free.

For dinner, I have made a couple big salads, which is a great way to get extra veggies in. I also made tempeh burgers the other day (Alan had his on a bun, mine was on a slice of the Udi’s). Tonight, I made the filling for tofu and potato burritos. I am on a soft food diet for a couple days, so I made sure everything was cooked thoroughly and easy to chew.

How do I feel? I feel good, but, honestly, I don’t know that I feel any different. I’m sure that four days isn’t enough to truly get an idea of results.

As I promised, here are a few links that I want to share with you. These are blogs that are vegan, gluten free, and some of them are soy free as well. I have not really explored each website yet, but I am excited to do so. I hope that you will check them out too!

The first blog, Cupcake Kitteh, is vegan, gluten free, and soy free. I’ve been following her for a while (from afar, she’s in Australia) and she is the source for many of the blogs below.
I am happy that I found Marathon Mom when she commented on my gluten free post.
Gluten Free, Soy Free, Vegan, food that feels good.
Green Vegan Living, living each day to the greenest, cooking gluten-free and vegan along the way.
Happy Vegan Face, vegan eats, gluten-free cooking, and all the awesome along the way.
In the Mood for Noodles,
Living Free, vegan and wheat free.
Veg-am, ramblings of an amateur vegan cook.
Two Cups of Love, gluten free and vegan cooking.
The Vegan Chickpea, the gluten-free and vegan musings of a Ms. and Mr.
The G-Spot Revolution, because a healthy life shouldn’t be hard to find.
The Discerning Kitchen
The Manifest Vegan, gluten-free, animal friendly recipes.
Eat to the Beet, gluten-free, vegan blog.
Diet, Dessert, and Dogs, Sugar-free, gluten-free, allergy-friendly. Anti-candida living. And comments from my dogs (my favorite part!).
Barefoot and Frolicking, a space for musing on living, raw foods, and vegan cuisine.

A couple things I’m saving for another post:

Tomorrow is my birthday! Alan and I are heading off to Vegas where he will be announcing the Really Big Free Marathon.  I won’t be running the race, but I hope to get a few miles in while he’s working.

Our girls cross country team is going to CIF (the first round on the road to state!). I can’t wait to write about this, the girls were so awesome in their final league meet (they even beat our rival, ahem, La Quinta).

cross country

And, of course, the full story of the root canal.

So, what are your plans for the weekend? Hopefully no root canals!

Going Gluten Free Update + Weekend Workouts

So, since receiving the suggestion to try a gluten free diet for a few weeks at my Wellness FX consultation a few days ago, I’ve been doing some research, planning, and, um, eating.

I’ll discuss the eating first. I feel at the moment that I’m being pulled in two directions. While I have totally decided to follow through with the gluten free experiment, these last two days have been spent either trying to finish up the gluten filled food in my cupboard, or thinking that I should start small and start to eliminate some of the gluten in preparation for the total no gluten thing.

So, while I haven’t had any of my cereal for the last three days, and I skipped my beloved rye toast yesterday, today was spent devouring several slices of toast (hate to waste!), finishing up a tofu quiche that I made last night, and eating my last Subway veggie delight. Today I went shopping and picked up a few things, including the most expensive bread I’ve ever purchased, Udi’s Gluten Free Multi Grain. I’m hoping that it will make my transition a little easier. I also picked up some Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oatmeal. Did you know that oats are gluten free, but in the processing of the oatmeal it may get cross-contaminated with wheat, barley or rye? See, I’m learning things! Of course, you pay a high price for the purity of gluten free oatmeal. It costs about twice as much as good ol’ Quaker Oats.

Oatmeal & Udi's bread

I have decided to start Monday morning with my gluten free and vegan plan. New week, new diet. Actually, tonight’s dinner will qualify because I’m making a spaghetti squash with asparagus. My meal plan so far (and as I’ve commented on a few blogs that are about meal plans, I really suck at this, so it is kind of vague):

Breakfast: Smoothie and one slice of the gluten free toast. I’ll make a big smoothie that will use up the 3 or 4 servings of fruit recommended by the dietician, saving part of it for later in the morning. I’ll throw in the suggested tablespoon of chia or flax. I might add some greens to get in some of those extra veggies she ordered too. Because I work so early, I usually have a second breakfast around 9:00, so I will have the oatmeal then along with the rest of the smoothie.

Lunch: Okay, here is where my lack of planning will challenge me. I’m hoping I’ll have some leftovers from tonight’s dinner. If not, I’ll take the final slice of quiche, remove the crust, and have it with a slice of the precious gluten free bread.

Dinner: Right now I’m planning a big salad that will use some leftover quinoa, plus beans, nuts, veggies and basically everything but the kitchen sink (or anything with gluten).

So, after making it through the first day, I’ll worry about day two when it arrives. My easiest lunch plan during the work week is to bring leftovers from the night before. It’s really the dinner menu that will challenge me. To that end, I’ve found several vegan and gluten free blogs to follow (I will share those in a future post). I also realized that I already had a vegan/gluten free cookbook on my Kindle app, The Gluten-Free Vegan, by Susan O’Brien. I look forward to trying some of her recipes.

So, here we go!

This weekend I rode my bike for the first time in a long time (June 9 according to my Garmin!) Only my sixth ride in 2012. That shocked me. It was a beautiful day, and I tried to focus on that and not how sore my seat felt. With cross country season almost over, I plan to ride a little more. Alan and I always have a great time riding together.






17.6Yes, I managed about 17.5 miles. We’ll see how I feel on Monday.

On Saturday, we had the cross country team meet us in La Quinta to run on our trails. Our final meet is on Wednesday, though our varsity girls should be moving on to the CIF semi-finals. In spite of losing a few (they run ahead because they are faster and, um, younger that we are, then don’t know where to go), we had a great run. Yes, we did find the lost ones.

I know. I look like a giant on the end there. Penny was with us, but she didn’t want to be in the picture. She wanted to run. Although, she always waits for me:

Most of the team was running ahead of us at one point, and in spite of being told to stay right, they veered left. Fortunately, one of the girls was wearing a bright yellow top and I saw her off in the distance. Alan has a pretty loud voice and they finally heard us and came back. Here, they return, whining about a little downhill that they have to take. I guess they’re getting tired.

As for me, I managed to run 5.2 miles on Saturday and ride 17.6 miles on Sunday. How were your weekend workouts?

Tempeh Tacos. Vegan and Gluten Free

After writing up my recipe for Tempeh Burgers the other day, and talking about my new found love for tempeh, I decided to take it a step further and try something beyond “just a burger.” I decided to give tempeh tacos a try because I’ve never made them before and they just sounded good. As good a reason as any, I guess.

This recipe is so easy that it I can’t believe I never tried it before. Seriously, a half hour from start to finish, including prep time. I served my tacos with some refried black beans.



1 package tempeh, crumbled. Note: For gluten free, check ingredients. Some tempeh is not gluten free.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped and divided
2 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup water
corn tortillas
Taco Filling: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, salsa, jalapenos, avocado, lime juice…


Remove the tempeh from the package and crumble into small pieces.

Combine the cumin, coriander, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add half the onion (reserve the other half for taco filling), and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the tempeh and cook for about two more minutes. Stir in the tamari and the spice mixture. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Cook until heated through, the water has evaporated, and the tempeh is slightly browned.

Heat your tortillas. Place a couple spoonfuls of tempeh on each tortilla. Top with the fillings of your choice.

Yoga Challenge Update

Day 11 is complete (my, this month is going quickly!). I did a half hour Yogadownload.com audio this morning. It was called Lunchtime Flow, but it was the only 30 minute audio that I had already downloaded. I skipped the run, because, what with all the time off over the weekend, I’ve run three out of the last four days. So, I gave my feet and knees a break and enjoyed a moderate 30 minutes of yoga.