Sugar Free Me – Week 2

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Favorite meal this week – shrimp and pork cabbage dumplings

I was off my game this week. My headaches resurfaced on day 8, and I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. After all this work and five days of freedom, it feels unfair.

I promised to be honest with you, and here’s the truth – I thought about giving up multiple times. I felt worse than before I started – headaches, bloating, hives, moodiness. By Friday night, I just wanted to demolish a white pizza and follow it with a giant brownie. Water is getting boring and I should probably chill on the amount of herbal tea I’ve been drinking.

I just have to remind myself that this is 21 days, not forever.

The play-by-play

Day 8: Return of the Headaches

I had a dull ache from the moment I woke up – expected it to dissipate as the day went on, but it’s stuck around. It could feel the pressure around my jawline, ears, and temples, with a pulsing around the crown.

It was so bad when I finally got into bed that I couldn’t switch positions without a stabbing pain on the left side of my head.

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Can’t chew gum? Light a candle before chopping onions. It helps prevent tearing, just like gum!

Day 9: In a Fog

I was hoping yesterday’s headache was a fluke, but it wasn’t. I had a burning sensation until around 4 pm – makes work even less enjoyable.

Today I had a small craving. Not for anything in particular, just for something sweet and yeasty – doughnut, brownie, apple pie?

Really though, food-wise I’ve been pretty okay. My favorite weekday breakfast is so simple – two hard boiled eggs, mashed avocado, hot sauce, and a side of nuts. I’ve been having a green-tipped banana or green apple for a snack in the morning so I can burn off the (naturally occurring) sugar during the day. Both taste so deliciously sweet.

Day 10: Hangry

To be fair, I was only hungry because last night’s leftovers did NOT taste good reheated. Actually, they were terrible, but fabulous the day of. I’m noting this for my recipe roundup.

The headache is still lingering. I thought that it might be cycle or stress related, but I don’t know for sure.

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This vanilla n’oatmeal was fab.

In Dr. David Buchholz’s book Heal Your Headache, he talks about how everyone has a different threshold for headaches, and when the level floods over, the pain begins. One day I might have stress and feel fine, the next day I might have stress and then eat something that puts me above the threshold and boom! a headache.

It’s so complicated to explain to others. Even my doctor said she “exhausted all possibilities with me” after her treatments (i.e., prescriptions for seizure medications) failed. It’s a miserable life.

Day 11: Oh, the Temptations

Did you ever notice that once you get to the halfway point in a book, the second part just flies by? I’m wondering if that will be the case with this program.

Eleven days in, multiple temptations, no cheats. I’ve endured the smell of fresh bagels in the kitchen at work, the ramen noodles my coworker makes for breakfast, pizza, chocolate, cinnamon toast, coffee – so many delicious things. But can you believe my mouth isn’t even watering right now?

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This chicken tortilla-less soup was very filling.

Day 12: Thinking Ahead

Do you know what’s just as heavenly as banana with almond butter? Baked green apples with cinnamon and a drizzle of coconut oil or butter. Oh. My. God. It’s seriously delicious.

I’m starting to think about my Reintroduction and which foods I want to eliminate. I’m really on the fence about dairy. I know it isn’t good for me, but pizza.

Day 13: Feeling Low

I had a nice sore throat to go with the throbbing head. I seriously felt like Debbie Downer this week. My headaches can do that; they make a sunshiny day turn into a cloudy rainstorm.

I checked the “what to expect” section, and on all accounts, I should be feeling good with looser pants. If I really think about it, yes, my pants are looser, today’s workout was on point, and life is good. It’s just my headaches that cloud it all.

Day 14: Out of the Funk

Today looks brighter. Not feeling as hungry and I don’t have any cravings. I went grocery shopping last night and walked past all of my favorite foods without the urge to throw them in my cart.

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A little Sunday prep.

I know I wasn’t technically supposed to weigh myself, but I’m starting a new fitness program tomorrow and had to capture my weight and measurements. I’m officially down 5 lbs and 4.25″ from January 1st. Of course, in addition to eating healthily, I’ve been working out 6 days a week.

I am a little worried about emotional eating. I realize how hard it can be for me to pump the breaks when I’m eating something I really enjoy like sour patch kids and salt and vinegar chips (there are a half bag of these in my cabinet right now). I’ll just have to remind myself of how far I’ve come to reach my goals and take care of my health.

Overall, I feel like I am benefiting from this program. Here’s to a better week and a happier update!

To see how the first week went (spoiler alert: it was better!), click here.

 

 

 

Sugar Free Me – Week 1

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This Portuguese Green Soup was to die for!

Let me start by saying that I can totally understand why a lot of people don’t eat healthy – it’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just so difficult and time-consuming, not to mention expensive.

I made all of my meals and snacks for this detox because sugar is a sneaky sucker. It hides in pretty much everything – condiments, dressings, beef jerky, nut mixed, frozen foods; you name it. I’m doing this to heal my headache and start fresh, so I have to be cautious.

I mostly followed the Plan 3 Week 1 meal plan from the 21-Day Sugar Detox, with a few modifications – removing all of the fish, and meat that wasn’t chicken, beef, or pork.

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Shrimp Pad Thai w/ zoodles

The hardest part was beginning.

The play-by-play

Day 1: Feeling Great!

Seriously, it felt easy. It was nice to start the program when I had a day off of work to get all the meals situated.

I ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one snack. I didn’t even mind serving my husband a piece of cheesecake while I snacked on my chili lime nut mix and homemade jerky (the latter of which, I’ll be honest, wasn’t very good).

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Nope, nope, nope…

Worked out mid-day and wasn’t starving after. I went to bed full and content. Migraine pain about a 4 or 5, but tolerable.

Day 2: Killer Headache

Woke up before six, drank a glass of water and worked out for 30 minutes. By the time I got to work, everything hurt and I felt like I was dying or (more accurately) had the flu. I couldn’t even bend over without my head feeling like it was going to combust. Not sure if that was my body detoxing or just an extension of the migraine I’ve had for two days. I’d put the pain at about an 11 (out of 10). It literally hurt to think.

After lunch, I went to the grocery store on a FULL stomach to pick up a bottle of coconut aminos, and I wanted to hijack the chocolate aisle – I’m not even a chocolate person. I guess it didn’t help that two coworkers filled our back table with candy, cake, and cookies leftover from their holiday parties. I avoided it like the plague and drank three cups of herbal tea. Excessive?

Day 3: Feeling Good

Woke up with a clear head – no pain, not even the fuzziness I sometimes get. Started the day with a cup of Egyptian Licorice tea (no relation to the candy).

Found out that broccoli is not a good friend. After eating the same(ish) meals for the last two days, I was severely bloated after eating a bunch of broccoli for lunch. So sad.

I love how this detox, after only three days, is showing me how to be in tune with my body.

Day 4: Lot’s of Energy

Can I tell you just how heavenly banana with almond butter is? Seriously, it’s delicious (and allowed).

I think I’m supposed to feel pretty crappy right now, but I actually feel great. I was able to do a 30-minute cardio workout, shovel heavy snow for over an hour, and then cook dinner, all without feeling starved or exhausted. Although, by the end of the evening, I was very happy to take a rest on the couch before bed.

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I love snowy days!

I went most of the day without a headache, and it was glorious. A slight stress headache was triggered around 9 pm, but it went away on its own without medication. This is completely unheard of for me.

Day 5: Continued Energy

Third day without a full-blown headache or a migraine. It feels wonderful. I noticed that I’ve been drinking more, which is a huge accomplishment for the girl who doesn’t fancy water.

I’ve eaten some great meals and some not so great ones – I’ll do a recipe round-up at the very end of the detox.

A few simple swaps, such as coconut aminos for soy sauce, have been immensely helpful.

Planned out my meal plan and grocery list for the next week. Yum!

Day 6: Feeling…Normal?

It’s always easier for me to avoid snacking on the weekends. When I’m at my 8-5, I want to snack ALL day. Maybe it’s the stress of the job?

Woke up after 9 (a complete blessing!) and made a delicious egg scramble. Usually, I like pancakes or waffles a la mode with a glass of OJ on the weekends. I didn’t even crave it. And I’ve been fine drinking plain or sparkling water with every meal.

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Said egg scramble

Started meal planning for week 3. I’m really excited about the meals for the next two weeks. And I love that I can still recreate some of my favorite things – like donuts – to be paleo and sugar detox friendly.

I’m feeling great – lighter, less bloated, and energetic. It feels completely amazing to be headache-free for four days straight.

Day 7: One Week Down!

Wow – I can’t believe I made it through 1/3 of the program already. When I did the Whole30 back in 2016, it was so hard for me to remain in control. I relied on Lara Bars and sweet fruits to get me through the days. I guess the difference now is that I’m desperately trying to rid myself of headaches for good. I’ll do whatever it takes – even avoiding my beloved choco mint chip ice cream.

Sadly, I learned that almonds don’t agree with me either. I’ve gotten hives the last 4ish times I’ve eaten them. I switched to almond butter over a year ago after I stopped eating PB and it never bothered me, but now that I’m cooking with it and using it in various recipes, I’m noticing the sensitivity.

Overall, I’m super pleased with how I’ve been feeling and what I’ve been eating. I’m looking forward to the next two weeks in the program.

Can’t wait to give you another update!

If you’re interested in trying your own 21-Day Sugar detox, check out these resources.

 

 

The start of something new

New Year, New Me, right? To be honest, I hate that we always wait until the new year to start losing weight, looking for a new job, paying off debt, or [insert other goal here]. It’s so cliché.

But, maybe it isn’t.

Friday was my last workday of 2017. I spent much of the time finishing my annual self-assessment, cleaning out my old files, ending promotions, and literally wiping away all of 2017’s mess. When I go back tomorrow, I’ll have a blank canvas to begin again. New promos, new invoices, new goals. It’s a fresh start.

Whatever your beliefs, today – Monday – the start of a new week AND a new year, is a chance to begin again (after you pigged out and drained your bank accounts during the holidays, of course).

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My 2018 Vision Board

My only real goal for this year is to do things that scare me – get out of my comfort zone. For me, that’s a HUGE one with many layers.

See, I’m an introvert. I hate any public speaking or presentations; my palms get sweaty when I walk into a room with more than ten people, even if I know them. I’m perfectly content curling up on my sofa with a good book, cozy blanket, and cup of peppermint tea. Just add ten cats, and I’ll be living the dream!

But seriously, if I do this, I know good things will follow.

I’m starting the year with two tangible goals – Complete a 21-Day Sugar Detox and a round of 80-Day Obsession.

Why these?

21-Day Sugar Detox

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Chili Lime Nut Mix & Buffalo Chicken Egg Muffins. Yum!

To start, sugar is everywhere – even in sauces, salad dressings, and other pantry items you would not expect.
Then, there are my headaches. In addition to getting married, buying a house, and moving, part of the reason why I was MIA in November/December was that my chronic headaches/migraines resurfaced with a vengeance. One brutal one lasted ten, yes TEN, days. And I can’t take it anymore. When I feel poorly every day, life is just miserable.

I think this detox, which also eliminates legumes and dairy, and is paleo-friendly, could be the beginning of something good – at least I’ll be able to identify any food triggers that may be contributing to the pain.

So, I planned out my first week of meals, made up my grocery list, and I’m starting TODAY. (I just had a delicious breakfast of buffalo chicken egg muffins [pictured above], avocado, and almonds.) No more excuses. I had to go to four local stores and Amazon to get all of the ingredients I needed, so I’m not taking this lightly.

Will it be hard? Hell, yes. But I’m up for the challenge.

80-Day Obsession

20171220_205559576134467.pngI may be fit, but lately, I haven’t been 100% happy with my body, my stamina, or my mood. It seems like after every fitness challenge I do, I revert to the “old me,” and that’s just not good enough anymore.

January 15th, I’m starting a new Beachbody program that scares the shit out of me. It’s an 80-day commitment (6 days a week for 13 weeks) that will challenge me both mentally and physically. High-intensity workouts will focus on the abs and butt (perfect for the beach!), and it’s just what I need right now.

It’s going to take a lot of planning and effort, but it will be worth it. When the program wraps up in April, I’ll be a different person – one who isn’t afraid to set hard or scary goals and conquer them. I might even be a push-up master by then.

Spoiler Alert: 80DO is apparently filled with all types of push-ups. Scary!

Will it be hard? Without a doubt. But, I got this.

To learn more about this program and see if it’s something that might interest you, click here.

FitBook Lite20171231_0941291589829603.pngI’ll be tracking my daily progress with a FitBook – fitness planner. It’s always a challenge for me to be consistent with this, so I’m starting out with the FitBook Lite, which is a 6-week version instead of the usual twelve.

There’s room for tracking measurements, food intake and how you felt after each meal, water, workouts, positive thoughts, and more.

I’ll also be posting weekly progress updates here – I’m committed. And when both programs are over, you’ll get the full run-down.

Why not make 2018 your healthiest year yet?

In an instant!

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Birthday present from my mom!

Last year I kept hearing about the Instant Pot and how amazing it was. “Cook pulled pork in record time!” “Hottest kitchen item around!” “You need to buy this NOW!” I did a little research and was, at first, a bit turned off by the hefty price tag. Then I started to see all of the amazing foods that could be cooked in the pressure cooker, and all of the time saved by using it, and knew I had to have it.

When my mom surprised me with the Instant Pot for my birthday, I was ecstatic. Seriously an amazing gift for a cook (or want to be cook)! I used it that day. And I’ve used it every week since.

It’s taken me a while to actually write up a review because I wanted to make sure I covered everything. I had a lot of questions in the beginning and if you’re on the fence about the purchase, I’m sure you have a ton too.

Below you’ll find some of the basics.

Pronunciation

Instant Pot, not Instapot – for some reason I keep seeing that one floating out there. Two words – okay?

Who is it for?

This product is good for people with 9-5 jobs, those who want to meal prep but just don’t have the time, people who hate cooking, people who love cooking, people who love gadgets. On second thought, this product is good for people.

Is it worth the money?

I get this ALL the time. If you look at the Instant Pot as just a cooking tool, it seems hella expensive. Retail price for the 6 qt 7-in-1 (IP-DUO60) is $99.99, albeit a step down from last year’s going rate of $129.99.

But, in essence, you’re not just buying a cooking tool. You’re getting a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, and warmer complete with a sauté/browning feature, neatly packaged into one item. That’s big. As much as I love my Crock-Pot, I haven’t used it once since getting the Instant Pot.

Instead of wondering if it’s worth the money, think about how much your time is worth. If this device can cut cook time by 50 or even 75 percent, would it help you out? Would you be more inclined to cook?

What does it do?

Literally, everything described above. It cooks good meals in record time – think 7 minutes for easy-peel hard boiled eggs, 35-minute shredded chicken, 15-minute chili. If you’ve made your own bone broth, you know it can take 24-48 hours on the stove top and 8+ hours in the slow cooker. With the Instant Pot, you can have it in two.

What are all those buttons?

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Ha. There are a lot of controls and that can be intimidating. You typically won’t use all of them. On any given day I tend to use the bottom 8 and the – + buttons because they really cover everything. The Soup, Rice, etc. just take the guesswork out of manual programming.

  • High Pressure – most meals are cooked on this setting
  • Manual – I make most of my dishes in this setting because I get to control the time (and have found that some recipes require more or less than recommended)
  • Timer – changes the input so you can adjust the time for manual cooking
  • Less & More – adjust the time needed for a particular dish
  • Keep Warm/Cancel – stops the cooking and keeps your dish warm until you’re ready/shuts off the Instant Pot entirely
  • Sauté – a good feature to brown meat before adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot
  • The other buttons are not used as frequently, but I would like to include a video of how and when to use them.

How much liquid do you need?

Rule of thumb is 1-2 cups of liquid for every recipe. So, if you are cooking two chicken breasts, 1 cup of chicken broth (or water) would be sufficient. Add more if you want extra juice. The nice thing about the Instant Pot is that liquid under pressure does not evaporate – if you start out with 1 cup, you’ll end up with 1 cup.

Is it safe?

This isn’t your grandmother’s pressure cooker. You know, the one that used rattle, whistle, and shake like it was going to explode? Now, that was scary.

There are 10 proven safety mechanisms including lid close detection (unit will beep and not start until the lid is properly fastened and locked) and high-temperature warning (pressure will not build up in the pot if there is not enough liquid or moisture).

After reading through your user manual and seeing how it works, you should feel completely comfortable using it.

Note: It is important to only use/buy items and accessories that are manufactured and tested by Instant Pot. In particular, the sealing rings have been tested and passed UL, FDA, and LFGB safety tests. The same cannot be said about 3rd party companies/products.

Does it really cook that fast?

Yes. And maybe not. I don’t want you to get discouraged here, but I have to be honest. Many of the recipes don’t account for the time it takes to pressurize the chamber. So, while hard boiled eggs only take 7 minutes to cook, there is an extra 10-15 minutes of pressure time that must be factored in.

But the unit is amazing and will cook a lot of your slow cooker favorites (think pulled pork) in record time.

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So easy to peel – I wanted to cry tears of joy!

How do you clean it?

It’s easy to clean out the Instant Pot. Just remove the stainless steel cooking pot, scrub with hot soapy water and dry. Clean the lid with a damp cloth or sponge, then remove the inner flexible sealing ring and clean in hot soapy water. The cooking pot and sealing ring can also be placed in the dishwasher. I always wipe down the surface of the unit when done in case there are any spills.

Note: After the first use the bottom of my pot was stained. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but couldn’t get it back to its original state. This has not affected cooking in any way but is worth mentioning in case you experience something similar. If this really bugs you, you can purchase a new pot for around $34 on Amazon.

What items and accessories are available?

There are a number of different accessories made especially for the Instant Pot, including sealing rings, cookbooks, tempered glass lids, silicone safety mitts, etc.

Check out Amazon for a full listing and to purchase.

Why I like it

The Instant Pot is very helpful to me when I’m meal prepping on the weekends and if – no, when – I forget to take the meat out of the freezer before I leave for work.

I’ve never been able to cook anything so fast, so good, and so tender. The meat falls off the bone and shreds easily, meals are more flavorful, and there are so many fun recipes online or you can easily adapt your own. Check Pinterest for ideas. Some of my favorites include Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole and Crack Chicken by Adventures of a Nurse.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Thanks to the Instant Pot’s growing popularity, there are now several cookbooks specifically for pressure-cooking. My favorite it is Paleo Cooking with Your Instant Pot by Jennifer Robins, one of my favorite girl bosses. Her recipes are easy to follow and taste great.

Besides the normal slow cooker favorites, you can make all sorts of dishes including soup, bread, cheesecake, yogurt, and rice pudding. It’s really a lot of fun!

Bottom Line

This is one of the best investments you can make – and THE best investment for your kitchen. The Instant Pot is a HUGE time saver. That fact, alone, should have you running to Amazon (figuratively, or course) and buying one for you and a friend. If you use it regularly, and you will, it will quickly pay for itself. If you still have hesitations and are uneasy about the price, Amazon has two big sales where you may be able to snag one for a lower price – Prime Day and Black Friday. Be on the lookout!

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Chili in the making!

 

Please Note: This post is not sponsored by Instant Pot and I am not affiliated with the company in any way. I also do not receive any compensation from the Amazon links included above. All opinions are my own.  

When in Denver

It’s cold and snowy outside, but pretty toasty inside. Reminds me of my trip to Denver in December when the temperatures dipped down into the 5s at night and the roads were blanketed with a sparkly coat of snow each morning. What a fabulous trip filled with amazing friends and delicious foods. It might come as a shock, but Colorado is known for more than just “kale.” (At least that’s how they refer to it in the Netflix Series “The Ranch.”)

The following are some of the best restaurants I visited in the Mile High City.

Old Major

This quaint eatery serves farm inspired American dishes that are sure to satisfy any craving. While I was there, I was lucky enough to meet the General Manager, Gene Fereda, and talk with him for a few minutes during the busy dinner shift.

Let the Beet Drop (cocktail)

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A yummy mix of gin, beet juice, lime, and simple syrup, garnished with a sprig of basil. This is such a fun cocktail, and it has to be healthy if it has fresh beets, right?! Definitely a creative way to start the meal.

Nose to Tail (entrée)

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Dinner was a hard pick because I wanted about five different things on the menu. I finally settled on the Nose to Tail because it sounded the most interesting and I honestly thought it would be cool to say “I tried pig ear.”

This meal is one of the best I’ve had in my life. The sausage, pork belly, crispy pig ears, and pork shoulder ragù were bursting with flavor. I also loved the gnocchi with perfectly seasoned turnip and carrot puree. Have you ever eaten something so good that you didn’t want the experience to end? Like, you know you only have so much left on your plate, but you wish that more would just materialize? That’s how I would describe this meal.

And pig ear? Well, it’s freakin’ delicious.

Bacon Peanut Toffee (dessert)

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The perfect combo of salty sweet. This was a surprise dessert for my birthday dinner that arrived alongside a glass of champagne. A fabulous end to a wonderful meal and experience.

Bottom Line: This restaurant lands at the top of my list for freshness, quality, and excellent service. If you’re in the area of Tejon Street, this is one place you’ll want to check out.

Voodoo Donut

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I’ll be honest, when it comes to donuts I don’t like anything crazy. I could, however, demolish about a dozen glazed in less than 5 minutes. So, even though I was at one of the most famous bakeries in the country known for their crazy concoctions and trademark voodoo donut, I still went with the glazed. And you know what? It was really, really yummy and I don’t regret a thing.

Bottom Line: If you’re in an area that has a Voodoo Donut Shop, stop in to awe at the funk displays, treat yourself to a specialty donut, and snap a photo with that pink box. You’ll be glad you did.

Snooze: an A.M. Eatery

Let’s just say that there wasn’t anything on the menu I didn’t want to try, but after much internal debating, I landed with a meal that has been my favorite for almost 20 years now – eggs benedict.

Benny Duo

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I feel like this restaurant caters to indecisive people, such as myself. I ended up choosing two different styles of eggs benedict – Ham Benedict III, which was the safer classic option, and Bella! Bella! Benny, the daring choice complete with prosciutto, Taleggio cheese, on ciabatta with cream cheese hollandaise with balsamic glaze. Both were completely delicious and I was so full that I couldn’t even finish my neat little stack of hash browns!

Bottom Line: If this place opened in NY, I would be the happiest little foodie on the planet. I would also probably weigh about 25 more pounds, but that’s another story. If you’re big into breakfast, and you live in or are traveling to Colorado, California, Arizona or Texas, make a plan to stop here. You won’t be disappointed.

Denver Biscuit Co.

When I found out we were going here for our last meal, I was ecstatic! There are few foods I love more than traditional biscuits and sausage gravy.

Biscuits & Gravy

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My first thought was “is this going to be enough?” Then the platter came. My next thought? “Oh shit.” All jokes aside, this meal was seriously delicious. The biscuit was perfectly flaky, soft, and squishy in all the right places. The gravy was creamy, savory, and very generously ladled over the biscuit. And, of course I had to top it with a fried egg. I just wanted to keep eating and eating, but my stomach pumped the breaks before I could clear my plate.

Bottom Line: Denver Biscuit Co is the bee’s knees. Everything on the menu is HUGE, but you’ll want to finish it anyway because it’s so damn good. It’s also pretty cool that the property is co-owned by two other companies – Atomic Cowboy bar and Fat Sully’s Pizza. That means if you want beer with your breakfast, you’re having beer with your breakfast. No qualms about that!

So, if you’re out and about in Denver, and aren’t sure where to grab a bite, check out some of these great places. It’s always fun to eat at a new place. Many of the little hole-in-the-wall places pack a big punch and have a lot to offer.

Until the next adventure…

Happy Eating!