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Big Buns

2014 April 13
by Laura

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Big Buns in Ballston is such a well-kept secret that I’m afraid it might someday secretly go out of business and then I would be so, so sad. Therefore, I am posting to remind DC folk that it’s over there in Arlington and to publicly thank a little private establishment for being awesome, gluten-free friendly, and delicious.

From the french fries (which are done in a separate fryer and are therefore GF) to the gluten-free buns (which are absolutely delicious and not store-bought but bakery-made) to the gluten-free beer (Omission) to wash it down, I was so happy we went back to Big Buns last week. My previous go-to burger place had been Red Robin (which still gets kudos for being an American chain that is GF friendly), but after returning to Big Buns and discovering the wealth of options for me, I won’t go back to Red Robin for a while. Plus, Big Buns has the chipotle aioli which is pretty darn life changing.

Thanks to Big Buns for proving that GF food can be tasty, affordable, and accessible.

Riggins

2014 April 13
by Laura

Just cuz you haven’t seen his face lately:

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Sweet spring.

2014 April 13
by Laura

spring

I am so rejuvenated after a weekend with my peeps. It’s been more than two long months since I’ve seen my parents, and how I’ve missed them. These are people whose zip code I just have to live in eventually again — life is too hard and sad without them in it more frequently.

We spent a lovely 24 hours galavanting around the cherry blossoms. And by galavanting, I mean dodging crowds the likes of which I have never before seen in this town (and I’ve been here through 2 inaugurations!). The first really truly beautiful weekend after a winter like the one we’ve just experienced had people coming out of the woodwork to see the peak blossoms. And what a sight they were.

No matter how bitter I get about this town or its inhabitants or the government, there is something pretty magical about the cherry blossoms that forces even the most jaded people to admit “God, those are beautiful.” They just are. They are worth the strollers and dogs and heat and sweaty metro trains to see. Do it once in your life, you won’t be sorry.

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We ate at Central, but I have to admit we were not impressed. I’ve had way better food in my life and in this town, and at those prices, good lord it had better be the best tasting dish I’ve ever met in my life! We were a bit disappointed. (Brunch at Founding Farmers, however, had a happier ending, even though you cannot get served alcohol in DC on Sundays before 10:00 a.m. Who knew?!?! [I've never been up early enough before to be denied!])

So after I felt the sunshine on my face and tons of love in my heart, I leave you with this sweet e.e.cummings poem about spring. Hope you had a beautiful weekend!

—————————————

sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love

(all the merry little birds are
flying in the floating in the
very spirits singing in
are winging in the blossoming)

lovers go and lovers come
awandering awondering
but any two are perfectly
alone there’s nobody else alive

(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes)

not a tree can count his leaves
each herself by opening
but shining who by thousands mean
only one amazing thing

(secretly adoring shyly
tiny winging darting floating
merry in the blossoming
always joyful selves are singing)

sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love

The best gluten free pasta, pizza crusts, and bread

2014 April 3
by Laura

I’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been gluten-free for more than three years now (can it be?!) and as I said back in February of 2011, “it’s going to get easier — more things are going to be gluten free in the future.” That future is starting to become today!

More and more name brands are getting on board with this whole gluten-free thing, and more and more people know what gluten is and what it means to live without it. Restaurants are getting better at menu markings, chefs are getting more careful about cross-contamination, and food stores such as Wegmans and Safeway are making their own store-brand gluten-free food.

Hooray!

Today I share with you a new-ish product that is really one of the best gluten-free things I’ve had: Barilla’s Gluten Free pasta.

If you can even find this in your grocery store (usually the entire shelf is sold out anywhere I go), stock up—especially if you can pick up a manufacturer’s coupon to help you get the price to something more reasonable than $2.69 a box. This is indistinguishable from gluteny white pasta. I was so nervous the first time I ate it that I actually checked the box to clarify that I was indeed eating something without wheat. It’s that good! My parents love it so much they eat it exclusively now, too!

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Next up: The best in gluten-free pizza crusts to make at home.

Gluten free pizzas are taking off, and now Freschetta, Udi’s and Glutino frozen pizzas can be found in most freezer aisles. But if you want to try something new and unique, make your own pizza at home. Here are two easy products to help you do just that:

1. Pillsbury’s Refrigerated Thin Crust Pizza Dough: I made pizzas on this last week—very good, not too cardboardy or soggy. Enjoyed the flavor and was easy to handle and roll out into pizza dough.

gluten-free-thin-crust-pizza-dough2. Cup 4 Cup’s Pizza Dough Mix. I’ve had Cup 4 Cup’s pancake mix and I use Cup 4 Cup flour exclusively in my kitchen, so I can only imagine that this mix (to which you add yeast and eggs) will be incredible. But that is for another weekend.

download*Tip: Buy Cup 4 Cup at Wegmans, not Williams-Sonoma to save tons of money.

The last product/company I wanted to share with you under the heading “Gluten Free Companies Doing Amazing Things without Wheat” is Canyon Bakehouse. Magically, the Safeway nearby carries one Canyon Bakehouse product: a rosemary and thyme foccacia bread. I bought this the other day, warmed it up in the oven, and can say officially that it’s the best foccacia I’ve ever had in my life, gluten-free or not. Someone and Roommate agreed, HOLYCRAPTHATISGOODBREADAREYOUSUREITISGF.

You can order their products online or search to see if they’re available in a grocery store near you.

How about you guys — anyone try any delicious GF products lately you wanna share?

Disclaimer: I am not paid for any of my comments or reviews of gluten-free products by any companies, even though I totally should be.

 

 

2 days off in a row!

2014 March 30
by Laura

Two days off…and on a weekend! WHAT?!

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This weekend was spent mostly in PJs and mostly in the arms of Someone, but I did take some time out from my busy schedule of doing nothing to make this pizza with this pizza crust, to watch several more episodes of the beloved Veronica Mars (thank you, Prime instant streaming!), and to see intelligent, wonderfully amusing The Grand Budapest Hotel. Other than the snow today, it was a fantastic weekend.

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Work has been kicking my butt from here to Texas, but I’ve slowly been getting used to the hours and the way my body feels after a 12.5 hour shift. My brain is still working 1000 miles a minute, and waking up at 5 will never be “easy,” but I’m going to harness the power of positive thinking and tell myself that it will get easier and I’ll get the hang of it soon. I have to.

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Additionally, this weekend we found the world’s largest coffee mug, and Someone’s life will never be the same.

I’m ready for April. I’m ready for a change in seasons, to see daffodils outside NOT covered in snow, and to feel warm sunshine on my face. I’m ready to stop wearing sweaters and boots and fleece. All I wear is fleece.

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It will help when it’s light out when I go to work and light out when I come home (unless, of course, I’m working the dreaded 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. shift, which…horrors). I’m ready for the smell of grass and sand under my toes and chicken on the grill and wine on the patio late into the evening. Dock time. Beach time. Summer time.

Where is the lamb I was promised after the roaring lion that was March?

 

Adjustments.

2014 March 17
by Laura
no. just no.

no. just no. march 17th snow.

“Orientation” is really kicking my ass.

The past few weeks have been difficult for a number of reasons, the primary one being that I have very little clue what I am doing and there’s high pressure to get it right, do it right, and do it quickly. However, I have very supportive coaches on the floor who are helping me adjust to the actual work itself, and who don’t even blink when I miss an IV insertion, ask something stupid, or go utterly loopy for the 10-minute period between hours 10 and 11.

Here’s what I knew: Working 12.5 hours in a row is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting.
What I didn’t know: It’s completely debilitating.

What I knew: I would have to work weekends.
What I didn’t know: Working on weekends sucks way, way more than you think it will.

What I knew: Standing on your feet for hours on end is painful.
What I didn’t know: The day after a shift I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

What I knew: Waking up at 5 a.m. is really hard.
What I didn’t know: Waking up at 5 a.m. three days in a row is harder.

What I knew: You can catch things from your patients in the ER.
What I didn’t know: That I would catch some of the worst pink eye the urgent care NP has ever seen in week 3. (The photo below doesn’t do it justice, that was about 1 hour in. You should have seen me the next day.)

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What I knew: Free time with Someone would significantly decrease.
What I didn’t know: It would kill me a little bit to miss him this much.

What I knew: Life is hard.
What I didn’t know: It’s harder in the ER.

In the past month I’ve had nights where anxiety has kept me up til 2 a.m. and nights when I have slept so hard and so soundly that I woke up in the same position I fell asleep in. I’ve had nightmares of dying patients and medication errors, and I’ve high-fived colleagues when I get something right. I’ve cried in my car because a patient really touched me with their story and I’ve cried in bed when I’ve felt inadequate. I’ve nearly fallen asleep during lectures and I’ve gone a shockingly long time without needing to pee. I’ve laughed with nurses and patients and left work so high on my new job that I nearly skip out to my car — even almost 13 hours after I parked it.

It’s everything I wanted and the hardest I’ve ever worked in my entire life. I have learned more in the past three weeks than I did in half of nursing school. I will be on orientation until sometime in June, at which time I’ll be cut loose, feeling completely unprepared and scared of hurting or killing someone everyday. I’m adjusting, slowly, but surely. I’ll get there.

Black bean brownies

2014 March 14
by Laura

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Black bean brownies, what? Ew, right? NOPE.

Delicious. No butter. No flour. Amazing.

Someone said, “These taste so good. Why does anyone ever make brownies without black beans?”

Head to Skinnytaste for the recipe. You won’t be sorry!

(Modification note: I’m adding more coffee grounds next time, but the rest of the recipe should remain as is. There’s gotta be a reason for that balsamic thing, and you can’t taste it in the final product, I swear!)

The best invention to happen to early mornings since coffee

2014 March 7
by Laura

I have this weird thing.

When I have to wake up before say, 5:30 a.m., I get really nauseated. I’m talking sour stomach, extra acid production, heartburn, the worst. The thought of food makes me want to throw up, and I worry I might do just that for the entirety of the morning. This happens about 1/10 early mornings (which stinks, hi nursing!), and until I just started to accept it, I was pretty miserable.

(This may sound weird to you if you’ve never heard of this, but I’m not alone! It’s pretty common, and lots of my early-rising nursey friends also experience this, which makes me feel slightly better about the affliction!) 

So what do I do about it? On bad mornings, I skip the coffee, make a smoothie for the road, eat 4 Tums, and then thank the lord I found “Baked Oatmeal to Go” and have a stockpile of it in the freezer!

I made a big batch of these a few weeks ago and after eating one almost every morning, it’s time to make more! It’s perfect for that moment at 8:30 a.m. when the oatmeal has left my stomach long ago and I get hit with that hypoglycemic STARVING feeling.

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Part of what makes them so fun—in addition to the portability or the convenience factor (take one out of the freezer and it’s good to go 2 hours later)—is the customizability! I made a few with cranberries, some with almonds; some have chocolate chips or raisins. It’s low fat, low cal, low, sugar, and gluten free. It’s kind of a moist little oatmeal muffin — way more of a muffin than a granola bar. I sprinkled a little more brown sugar on the top of the “muffins” because I like them just a weeeeeeee bit sweeter than they come out using only honey.

These are perfect for the mornings when you’re a hungry hippo, running late, nauseated, or any day at all. (I’ve had them as an afternoon snack with coffee, too, also delicious.) Make and enjoy!

A Friday Recap List

2014 March 7
by Laura

1. Hi, friends! Last week I started working full-time again, and since then I haven’t had much time to breathe, sleep, eat, exercise, think, relax, watch TV, read the Internet, or blog. But! The beauty of the nursing life is working an insane amount of hours just 3-4 days a week, so here I am with a Friday off (don’t get too jealous, because I have to work tomorrow) and time to write to you.

celebratory first week of work dinner with Someone

celebratory first week of work dinner with Someone

2. I am loving this post about how life is a picture, but each today is only a pixel of it. It’s an excellent and thought-provoking look at why living in the future isn’t making us happy, and how hard it is to remember to look down at what we have and realize it’s what we once wanted quite badly. Gratitude, for the win.

3. On Monday it snowed (in MARCH, ugh) and I still had to show up to work on time. Nurses don’t get snow days??? Let’s hope that was the last time this year I have to commute to the hospital in the ice and wind! The Metro was empty c/o federal government closures, and the roads around me never got plowed. It was the last time I’d like to feel quite so cold, wet, and miserable for at least 9 more months. Is it summer yet?

summer

I feel like we need this.

4. Someone and I saw Kings of Leon the other day at the Verizon Center and it was fantastic.

Supersoaker.

Supersoaker.

Here’s one of my favorites, “Temple.”

5. TGIF to all of you (and even to those of us working tomorrow). One week of March down, one week closer to summer. Don’t forget to turn those clocks forward, even though it feels ludicrous to do so!

Cook once, eat thrice

2014 February 25
by Laura

This Greek chicken salad is a great recipe and, as I found out last night, easily adapts to other forms for longevity in your fridge and meal plan. We are all about convenience in this busy nursing life of mine, so the less I have to cook and the more I can eat the fruits of the labor, the better! (Added bonus: the less often I have to eat a crappy sandwich for lunch, the happier I am!)

I bought a cooked rotisserie chicken on Sunday and was able to use it in three meals this week PLUS freeze some shredded chicken for a future busy Laura evening. I don’t know why more people don’t pick those up and use them to their home-cooking advantage — $5 for that much chicken and it’s already cooked for me? Yes, please.

So to make a salad and a pasta salad simultaneously: Set a pot on the stove to boil and cook about half a box of elbows. While you’re doing your prep for the Romaine salad, put half of all your ingredients into a tupperware for a pasta salad version of the same dish. You’ve got a salad for dinner tonight and a pasta salad for lunch tomorrow (and the next day).

  • Bag romaine lettuce
  • 1 purchased rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded (about 1/4 cup for the salad and 1/2 cup for the pasta salad, saving and freezing any additional leftover meat)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large cucumber, sliced and halved
  • kalamata olives, sliced
  • 6-8 thin slices of red onion, chopped into about 1-inch pieces
  • feta cheese (amount as desired)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Greek salad dressing (I used Ken’s)
  • GF or regular elbow pasta, cooked, and drained (half a box)

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Make an entree salad by placing romaine in a bowl and layering all other ingredients, chicken last. Drizzle with feta cheese and Greek dressing. Finish by grating fresh pepper over top.

Make the pasta salad by assembling all ingredients in a container, topping with pasta and drizzling with about 2 tbsp Greek salad dressing. Finish by grating fresh pepper over top.