Monthly Archives: May 2011

Peeking

As you know, my brother and his girlfriend are visiting this weekend, so I’m off being a tourist in my own city! Which I love. If all goes well, I will have some adventures to share.

His visit got me thinking about the last time he visited New York.

The poor guy was on crunches! In a walking city!

And yet he still made it to the Top of the Rock! Impressive.

It was also the visit my awesome cousin Meghan introduced us to a little thing called peeking.

What is peeking, you ask? It’s an alternative to the “Say Cheese!” posed pictures that just get old. Peeking is creepy. Peeking is weird. Peeking can be hilarious.

The only way I can properly convey it to you is to share a few highlights…

A lovely picture of Dave and I. Can you spot Meghan?

Or how about a one-person peek? Hey, Julie!

We even peeked our way through D.C.–and forced our friends to participate. ;)

Weird!

And here’s the Times Sqaure peek I framed and gave Dave for his birthday. Because I’m such a great sister. ;)

Creepy!

The truth comes out: I am a silly person. Please don’t think any less of me. And I’m really hoping this isn’t anyone’s very first visit to my blog haha.

I can’t promise you any peeking poses on this visit (although, maybe it’s time we brought it back?), but I will be sharing some delicious NYC eats soon. Despite today’s post, I can assure you, this is still a food blog. :)

I hope you’re having a wonderful, relaxing Memorial Day Weekend!

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The World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

There is nothing like starting a post with an outlandishly bold claim.

Is there any truth to it?

Yes–and I can only say that because this is not my recipe! (Not that I’m ever bashful about talking up my own creations ha!)

See, this recipe comes from my mom, and they really are the best. You may remember me talking about this before here.

If you want proof, just check out the original recipe I copied down a few years ago.

Okay, you caught me; I named the cookies. But still.

Given their glory, I knew at some point, I would have to veganize these babies.

Side note: Does anyone else dislike the term veganize? I use it, but it sounds like something terrible. Terrorize. Victimize. Veganize. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me?

But I digress.

Because my brother and his girlfriend are visiting this weekend, I decided it would be a great opportunity to give the recipe a whirl. (Obviously, I’m into baking for others….And for myself!)

Nothing says welcome like a plate of homemade cookies.

But before I share the recipe, I must tell you that this is a bit of an aberration for me. See, I didn’t healthify it. No agave or brown rice syrup, no oats or dried fruit, no whole wheat or spelt four.

I added the one cup of crisco, Paula Deen-style. ;)

I definitely cringed a little lot packing the (plant-based) lard into the measuring cup, but my goal was to stay as true to the recipe as possible; the only change I made was replacing the eggs with flax eggs.

I’m adding this disclaimer not because I feel guilty at all; these ingredients are not a part of my regular diet so I certainly don’t feel bad when I splurge.

But–for my new readers in particular (hi!)–I want to make it clear that I’m a firm believer that “healthy” desserts can taste decadent and delicious; there is no need to compromise. And I strive to show just that with many of the desserts I’ve shared on my blog. They’re not “good, for a healthy dessert.” They’re good. Period.

While these cookies are amazing, I do believe there are chocolate chip cookies out there sans white flour and crisco that would also make you swoon. And make your body happy too. Maybe one day I’ll try my hand at a batch. (In the meantime, I’ve heard good things about Katie’s “Not Guilty” Chocolate Chip Cookies.)

But today’s recipe is about happily enjoying a childhood favorite in honor of my my brother and Briana’s visit. :)

So, temporarily forget what I said in this post, and try these!

The World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Courtesy of my mom!

  • 1 cup crisco shortening
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (not light brown)
  • 2 flax eggs (each egg is 1 Tbs ground flaxseed mixed with 3 Tbs warm water)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • roughly two-thirds a bag of chocolate chips (or to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 385 degrees.

2. Haul out your Kitchen Aids or hand mixers, my friends (or prepare for an arm workout). Beat the sugars and shortening until well-combined.

finally getting some action!

2. Add in the “eggs,” one at a time as you mix, followed by the vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda. (Confession: sometimes we skip this step so as not to dirty another bowl.) Add dry ingredients slowly. Mix until combined.

4. Mix in the chocolate chips.

5. Place dough in big spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Flatten slightly (I use the bottom of a cup, wetted to it doesn’t stick).

6. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool. (Confession: sometimes I bake for 8 or 9 minutes because I like my cookies soft and dough-y.)

Enjoy!

Makes about 20 to 24 cookies, depending, of course, on how monstrous or petite you make yours.

These turned out so well! I was thrilled. Not quite like the way my mom makes them, but then again, I’ve never been able to replicate hers precisely before. (What’s your secret, Mom??)

The World’s Second Best Chocolate Chip Cookies does not have the same ring to it, though, does it?

So delicious.

As I’ve said before, being a vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up the foods you’ve always loved. Case in point.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Anyone who says veganism is boring, always healthy, or restrictive should realllllly have one of these cookies. Just sayin’.

I’m happy to share. :)

And as my mom always did, I stored the leftover dough in the fridge. This way we could have freshly baked cookies (read: spoonfuls of cookie dough) whenever we wanted. ;)

[For my cookie dough lovers out there: Skip the cookies and make my chocolate cookie dough balls instead!]

On that note.

I’m off to prep for Dave and Briana’s arrival! And perhaps bake an even fresher batch…

Any Memorial Day weekend plans? 

What’s your favorite unhealthy indulgence, dessert-wise? Spill it. We all got ‘em. ;)

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Timely Tea

A while back I won Chelsey’s tea giveaway–my first giveaway win ever! I felt so special. Nevermind the fact that there were 50 other winners. Ha.

Just let me have my moment, okay? ;)

I had completely forgotten about my big win until its arrival in Tuesday’s mail.

Yep, that’s Teecinno–coffee-flavored herbal tea. Which I happened to receive almost right after I hit publish on my bittersweet breakup with coffee post. Talk about timing! It completely answered my call for coffee without caffeine and acidity. Coffee in the form of herbal tea? Sign me up!

But I had to wonder if the concept was too good to be true; the tea could either be genius…or really gross.

Well, this morning I tried the hazelnut flavor–and I am so impressed.

Ingredients: organic carob, organic barley, organic chicory, dates, almonds, organic dates, natural hazelnut flavor, organic figs.

Good start.

And the taste? Delicious!

I enjoyed it with a bit of vanilla almond milk, a couple drops of stevia, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. So. Good.

I steeped for a long time because I like my coffee strong and dark. It definitely didn’t taste exactly like coffee–not as bitter or full, but it was actually amazingly reminiscent of it. For real. The hazelnut flavor wasn’t very strong, but it did have nutty tones.

I can totally see myself enjoying this more often; it was a yummy coffee(ish) drink!

It went well with my nutty overnight oats.

In the mix: half a banana, mashed, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, the last of my peanut flour (must restock soon!), a few raw almonds, a splash of almond extract, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and some ground flaxseed.

The topping is a packet of Justin’s chocolate almond butter.

I was feeling decadent.

Coupled with a morning Jillian workout, this was a great–and delicious–start to the day.

I’m really excited to try some of Teeccino’s other flavors, like vanilla nut, mocha, chai, french roast, etc. Mmmm.

What’s your favorite flavor/brand of tea? I’ve mentioned before, I love Good Earth. I’m also really into lemon ginger tea lately.

Until tomorrow!

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Coffee Confessions

It sounds like I’m not the only one who’s inspired by the daily eats of others. Glad I’m not alone! Thanks for all your votes; it looks like the lunch posts aren’t going anywhere. :)

Onto today’s post!

I have a confession.

Are you sitting down?

I don’t drink coffee.

::gasp::

Okay, maybe I’m being a titch dramatic. ;) It’s not that big of deal. Right? Right.

used to drink coffee every. single. day. Without fail. I was a mess without my caffeine fix.

Then, about two years ago, I developed really bad acid reflux. When I finally figured out what was causing my stomach issues and chest pain (yes, chest pain!), I quit coffee cold turkey; caffeine–particularly coffee–is one of the triggers of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Side note: Doesn’t GERD sound so sexy? Ha.

I thought living sans my a.m. coffee would be impossible; I’d hardly gone a day without coffee since I was 17 and working at Victor Allen’s Coffee shop. But it was actually easy for me, because almost immediately after giving up coffee, my symptoms eased, my chest pain ceased. The coffee had been making me sick.

Do I miss it? 

Yes, from time to time. I still maintain that freshly made coffee is the best smell in the world. And once in a while I’ll have a decaf to satisfy my craving.

One of my favorite breakfasts was once coffee + a whole wheat bagel toasted with peanut butter–and every now and then I’ll enjoy the decaf version.

Another confession: I’m a total dunker…

Simply the best. 

One last confession: decaf coffee sometimes makes me jittery, not gonna lie. I think this makes me a caffeine lightweight. ;) I don’t hate it!

With all that said, I am happy to have coffee out my life (and I’m speaking personally here). I like waking up and not needing anything to get me going. I like not craving a hit of caffeine to feel alert. Sure, some days I’m tired or could use a pick-me-up, but I try to find other sources of energy in whole foods and more sleep. There’s no replacement for the buzz of coffee, but I can deal with that.

And since giving it up, I’ve learned some not-so-fun facts about coffee that also make me happy I don’t partake. Without going into too much detail, I’ll outline out a few.

  • Stimulants such as coffee, if overused, can produce uncomplimentary stress–not the good kind of stress. Brendan Brazier in his book Thrive likens daily coffee drinking to using a credit card to shop; it provides energy and productivity in the now, but because of the stimulation you must pay with greater fatigue later. Putting off paying just leads to higher interest rates (greater fatigue), the need for more borrowed energy (more coffee), and it becomes a viscious cycle. This borrowing strategy is just fine once in a while–say if you need to perform for a big test or have a race–but used too often, it can catch up with you and put unwanted stress on your body.
  • Coffee is acid-forming. While it’s true that the human body has an uncanny ability to maintain a healthy blood pH level (the balance of acid and alkaline) on its own, eating (or drinking) too many acid-forming foods can strain our system–and potentially lead to serious health issues. To prevent problems, we should eat lots of alkaline-forming foods such as fruit and vegetables–and not go overboard with acid-forming foods like coffee.

No, I’m not trying to make your morning coffee less enjoyable. I swear–I’m really not! There is certainly no consensus in the health world on the evils or merits of coffee–and there are plenty of coffee advocates. I’m not a health professional and can only speak from my knowledge base and experience. I happen to find the coffee-free argument quite compelling, but I don’t think coffee’s a bad thing–at least in moderation.

So.

Not ready to give up your cup a joe? Here are some tips to making it work…

1. Avoid drinking coffee with food. This way, you can enjoy your coffee without blocking the absorption of your nutrient-rich breakfast. Win win. (Unfortunately, this does not bode well for coffee dunkers like myself. See above.)

2. Buy organic and fair trade. As I learned from Sabine’s recent case against coffee, coffee is one of the most pesticide-ridden crops out there. Who knew? Skip the chemicals and opt for organic. And as you know, fair trade coffee ensures that farmers get a just price for their harvest. Worth it.

3. Cut back–if possible. This might mean trying to drink just one cup a day, which is great. Or perhaps limiting your consumption to a few times a week–or even once a week. Take baby steps and see how it goes. It might not be as hard as you think. Maybe even switch to decaf once in a while to ween you of your addiction and/or quell your craving.

4. Indulge in coffee-flavored treats to get your fix. Like this latte-meets-smoothie-meets-frappuccino goodness…

Healthified Vanilla Frappucinno

      • 1/4 cup decaf coffee + 1/4 cup more
      • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
      • 1 frozen banana
      • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
      • 1 Tbs cashew butter (or other nut butter)
      • 2 Tbs cocoa nibs + more for topping

DIRECTIONS:

1. Process all the ingredients (except for 1/4 of the decaf coffee) in a food processor (or blender) until smooth.

2. Pour 1/4 cup of decaf coffee in the bottom of your glass.

3. Pour the frappuccino over the coffee. Top with more cocoa nibs and enjoy!

Creamy and delicious.

Beautiful coffee swirl. Love.

Starbucks, schmarbucks. This is so yummy.

For a mocha frapp, try using chocolate protein powder and/or adding a scoop or cocoa powder. Or, if you want to get fancy, you could try a hazelnut frapp using hazelnut butter instead of cashew butter and/or hazelnut-flavored nondairy milk. Mmmmm.

Now I want to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Coffee: love it or hate it? 

Which do you prefer: coffee or tea? As I said, I love coffee, but I’m much more of a tea drinker these days. This tea is my favorite.

What’s your vice? Mine is peanut butter–not because it’s unhealthy, but because it’s the food I have the least self-control around! True story.

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Celebrating With…Lunch?

It’s my 100th post today!

And it falls on my weekly lunch post. A bit anticlimactic. I would have made cupcakes or something festive, but I’m all baked out. I did celebrate a little by finally updating my recipe page. If you haven’t been in a while, check it out. :)

It’s funny to me that although lunch is my least favorite meal, it’s the one I document with the most consistency; I’ve shared my packed eats nearly every week since my blog’s inception. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps in part because it’s become habit to photograph my lunch right after I pack it in the morning, and if I have the photos, why not share?

I think it also stems from my interest in what others eat for lunch, or what others eat in general on a daily basis when they’re not making a recipe. Don’t get me wrong, recipes are great–but I often get the most inspiration from seeing what people do when they’re just throwing food together. Maybe that’s just me?

So I’ll put the question out there: Yay or nay on the lunch posts? 

OR

What would you love to see more of on my blog? 

Onto the post!

First, I’ll share my favorite meal of the day: breakfast. I started the day with cookie dough cereal a la The Fitnessista following my morning run (yes, nearly pain-free again!).

Have you tried this yet?

Delicious! 

I took 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder, a splash of vanilla extract, a titch of sea salt, 1 Tbs of Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, and mixed it all up with a spoon.

The key is chopping up the nut butter clump.

Then I topped with almond milk, sliced banana, and cocoa nibs.

So tasty! I was skeptical at first about the texture, but it actually works nicely.

A little sweet treat. It’s especially good for mornings I don’t plan ahead with overnight oats but still want a quick way to enjoy oats.

Now to my last week in lunches…

MONDAY

I was traveling so I got no packed eats to share. And you’ve seen my snacks already. :)

TUESDAY

Apple. It was rainy. I was exhausted from traveling the day before. And low on groceries. Enough said.

I wasn’t terribly hungry–or feeling very well–but eventually I also grabbed a Pret miso soup. 
Miso soup is my favorite. I really think the saying should be, “Miso soup for the soul.” Or at the very least for the digestive system. ;)

Later in the day, my appetite started to return and so I had a new-to-me Larabar: Carrot Cake.

The verdict? So not a fan! I was excited to try this, but it did not taste like carrot cake to me, and I wasn’t a fan of the mix of flavors and textures. Maybe I didn’t like it because I’m not the hugest carrot cake fan in general. Either way, not my fave flavor.

WEDNESDAY

Apple. Green Smoothie. Brown rice cakes with MaraNatha sunflower seed butter.

Love smoothies for lunch–and this one was delicious. It was like a Hippie Smoothie, but with vanilla goodness. In the mix: spinach, frozen banana, frozen blueberries, almond milk, as well as half a serving of hemp protein powder and half vanilla protein powder. Mmmm.

THURSDAY 

Apple. Whole Wheat Wrap. Peanut butter pretzels with raisins.

This wrap was a winner. It was packed with hummus, hemp seeds, spinach, tomato slices, leftover peas, and s+p. 
Loved the peas. :)

FRIDAY

Apple. Peanut butter pretzels with raisins. Limited packed eats yet again. I blame the fact that it was Friday.

I was craving my usual Pret healthy salad–only to find it wasn’t there! I really hope it comes back…

On the upside, there was a new (to this location) vegan wrap I was happy to sample.

Hummus, cucumber, beets, tomatoes, avocado, spinach and Pret seasoning. 
Very crunchy indeed! This was fresh, simple, and delicious. Plenty of veggies.

And that wraps up the week. Always great to end my posts with a terrible pun hehe.

Happy Monday! 

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If You Buy Them, It Will Heal…

Remember my running injury? The one from about six weeks ago?

Yeah, that hasn’t totally healed yet.

My logic today? If you buy them [new running shoes]…

It [the injury] will heal.

Was I hoping for a magic solution?

Maybe. ;)

But I was at my wit’s end. And I needed new running shoes anyway. Can’t hurt, right?

See, I don’t feel balanced without running in my life. I’m fine taking time off, it’s just hard not having an end in sight, always wondering if I’m doing the right thing to heal. I’ve gone to physical therapy sessions, walked, done a handful of short runs, some Jillian workouts, yoga, lots of stretching–which I learned is a pretty big deal–and taken way too many rest days for my liking.

I now try to stretch three times a day–including during work. To avoid looking like a weirdo stretching in my cubicle, I use the “Lactation Room.” Yeah, our office has one of those. Is that common? I had never seen one before starting this job. And it turns out, women actually use it for lactation–a fact I discovered when my stretching was interrupted by a woman needing the room for its purpose. Fair enough. ;)

The point is, I’ve done it all.

And a week or so ago, I started to feel a lot better. So I tried running and still felt pain. Grrrrrr.

So today, I set out to get new kicks at a running store. I was not messing around.

I tried on a few pairs of neutral women’s running shoes that are good for distance running and I liked the Asics Nimbus the best.

I’m not one to adhere to one brand of running shoe; I’ve tried and loved them all in my day–Nike, Saucony, Asics, Brooks, Reebok, New Balance, etc. I just go with what feels the best, and that happened to be the Asics today.

Laced up, I went running.

And you know what?

I didn’t feel pain!

For a little over three miles! I mean, there were twinges, but nothing compared to how it’s been feeling. I still have to be careful, but it felt good for the first time in forever.

I may or may not have kissed my new shoes. ;)

I wanted to keep running, but I did not want to push my luck.

I don’t think the shoes are magic; my injury had already been on the mend. But there is no doubt in my mind that the shoes lessened the impact and eased the pain.

I’m so excited, I’ve started to map out my marathon training plan as well. :)

Let’s just hope this run wasn’t a fluke!

As this is a food blog, I’ll leave you with my post-workout eats: another Hippie Smoothie–this time with spinach instead of kale, as that’s what I had on hand.

In the mix: 1 frozen banana, heaping 1/4 cup frozen blueberries (though any fruit would work), 1 big handful fresh kale (or spinach), 4 Tbs hemp protein powder (I like Nutiva), and 3/4 cup almond milk.

It’s kind of a Birkenstock brown ha, but oh-so-good. Trust.

How about a cheers to health? :)

Happy weekend!

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Baking Up a Storm

Because I was with my family last weekend, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to bring them some of my wonderful baked goods force them to taste test my kitchen experiments.

Thanks guys! ;)

And I did have a lot to bake for: my dad’s (belated) birthday, Mother’s Day (not too long ago), and my sister’s birthday. I was in a baking frenzy before I left.

Firstly, I brought some almond-coconut oat balls (which I had stored in the freezer so they would be fresh) for everyone to sample. We had them with coffee one morning in our hotel.

I am mildly obsessed with these balls–but I wasn’t sure if others would share in my love.

Luckily, they were a hit all around.

We have a winner!

I also baked my dad some snickerdoodles–his all-time favorite cookie.

I decided to try out a vegan version, so I turned to Angela’s favorite snickerdoodle recipe, using baking powder instead of cream of tartar and baking soda.

They felt like snickerdoodles.

They smelled like snickerdoodles.

They baked like snickerdoodles.

They looked like snickerdoodles.

And they tasted…great. By God, I think we have a snickerdoodle!

The thing is, they were not as good as my grandma’s snickerdoodles–which are pretty tough to beat. And part of the problem was my baking mistakes, including the fact that I overbaked them, leaving them too hard.

But if executed correctly, I think I could make these work next time. Dad, guess what you’re getting for Father’s Day?? ;)

For Mom’s Day, I baked my mom a batch of Blackstrap Molasses-Maple Granola–with the addition of pecans because those are her favorite nuts.

This gift was less risky, as my mom had made this recipe before and loved it.

Love in a jar. :)

Finally, I made some special balls for my sister.

Why does that sound so shady?

Anyway. If you remember way back to a certain ball-tastic day, I made some chocolate-covered peanut butter balls.

first try

But–because they weren’t quite perfect–I decided to improve the recipe and share it later.

The balls went into the freezer, soon forgotten.

Fast-forward to a few weeks or so ago when I rediscovered these treasures–and totally fell in love. I could not for the life of me remember why they weren’t perfect.

As my sister also loves peanut butter and chocolate, I decided it would be a good time to make them for her.

As I did, I changed things up. Silly me. They did not turn out well.

So, I went back to the original “imperfect” recipe. And they were perfect. :)

Hopefully you will think so, too.

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Balls

  • 2/3 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup peanuts
  • 2/3 rolled oats
  • 4 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup
  • bit of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbs peanut butter
  • 1-2 Tbs coconut oil
  • Chocolate sauce (see below)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Process cashews, peanuts, and oats until it forms a powder.

2. Add the rest of ingredients (except for the chocolate sauce) and process for a while, scraping down the sides every once so often. The mixture will still be crumbly, but you should be able to press it together and have it stick.

3. Form one big dough ball as you remove from food processor, pressing it together.

4. Roll/press into smaller balls–about 9 or 10. Refrigerate.

4. At this point, make the chocolate sauce. You can:

  • Melt chocolate chips to make a delicious sauce (maybe add peanut butter??)
  • OR create a sauce

Here’s my version: Melt about 1/4 cup coconut oil, whisk in about 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and add about 2 Tbs of agave. Stir in about 2-3 Tbs peanut flour to thicken it up. If you don’t have peanut flour, I would start with just 2 Tbs coconut oil and add more as needed. Do not add milk or water, as you’re looking for a pretty thick chocolate that will adhere to the balls and fully dry.

Note: If you make this sauce, you will have a little to spare. I trust you will find good use for this. ;)

5. Dip the balls into the sauce and place them on wax or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least an hour, until the chocolate hardens.

6. Enjoy! Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

As you can imagine, they are delicious.

And what matters is Abby loved them.

Mmmmm.

And this recipe is my gift to you.

Actually, with all this talk of gifts, today’s post would have been an ideal time for a giveaway. But I did not think ahead and have nothing to offer you. So I owe you one. ;)

Do you ever make food as gifts for friends and family? 

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Twin City Take-Aways

As most of you know, I was in Minneapolis for my sister’s graduation this past weekend.

While the graduates were clearly the most learned among us…

…I did leave with a few take-aways from the weekend myself.

Take-away #1: It is possible to get sunburnt in the Midwest in May. While attending an indoor graduation.

Who knew?

We were only in the sun for the photo shoot.

And my chest was fried…

sunburnt

Can’t tell my chest is bright red?

Yeah, I couldn’t either. Until later, that is.

I should have known, as my skin burns just thinking about the sun. But did I wear sunscreen? Nope.

There wasn’t even a beach involved! #notcool

Take-away #2: Vegan options exist in Minneapolis!

As we headed to Pizza Luce, I was envisioning trying to finagle a cheese-free portion of a pie. But to my surprise and delight, the restaurant was vegan (and even gluten-free!) friendly. I know.

They even welcomed gluten-free vegans and vegetarians with a message:

I was blown away, as normally vegans don’t get an entre option, let alone special recognition.

Vegan menu options include a vegan hoagie, vegan muffeletta, and chocolate peanut bars. AND most of their pizzas are vegan-upon-request; you can replace the cheese with either Follow Your Heart vegan cheese or a “rincotta” sauce made with cashews and tofu. Mmmm.

Done.

The Lil’ Gracie pizza even includes veggie sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, green and black olives, garlic, and roasted red peppers. I’m not big into immitation meat myself, but impressive nonetheless.

We ended up ordering some starters for the table, including a few different salads.

And we got two large pizzas to share.

The vegan pie got all my camera’s love….

Pretty, eh?

We ordered the Pizza Athena with fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, calamata, artichoke hearts, red onions, Greek oregano, and toasted garlic, and–instead of feta cheese–the vegan “rincotta.”

Holy flavorful amazingness! Loved this.

It had a lot of textures and flavors going on–and even a little kick.

Delicious. And I’m not just saying that; my brother was almost converted to veganism from this pizza. True story.

We also had a feast our first night at Chino Latino–specializing in “street food from the hot zones,” or cuisine from countries near the equator, which inevitably meant a very exotic menu.

I went with sushi–although last time I checked Japan isn’t exactly close to the equator, so not sure how it fits into the restaurant’s theme. But we won’t over think it. ;)

Because the point is, it was tasty.

The sushi role was “The Weed Eater”–and it was way more appetizing than it sounds! It had cucumber and shiitake mushrooms layered with avocado and toasted sesame. Mmmm.

Everyone else was pleased and full after shared plates ranging from curry to jerk chicken to tostadas. Plus, the ambiance was very modern and swanky. All in all, it was a winner. :)

Take-away #3: Sometimes, vegan options don’t exist.

I wish I had all happy vegan tales to share, but not every restaurant had a special message welcoming vegans with open arms and special dishes.

Unfortunately, the very cool Townhall Brewery did not pull through on the vegan front, so I went into default mode and ordered a salad.

The good news is, I love salad.

Sure, I usualy prefer my salads a bit more tricked out–and to include a protein source such as nuts or seeds–but as long as the ingredients are fresh, you can’t go wrong.

I may have been *wishing* the black bean burger on the menu (served with fresh guac!) was a vegan patty, but you can’t win ‘em all.

And the mango beer was refreshing.

A taste of summer.

Speaking of which…

Take-away #4: Summit Beer is brewed in Minneapolis. And it’s reallly delicious.

99 bottles of beer on the wall

Unfortunately, this was about all I learned from our Summit brewery tour–which I highly recommend, by the way.

The taste test was my favorite part.

It’s pretty delcious while you bowl, too.

Yes, my family went bowling; that’s how we roll. Terrible pun intended. :)

our team, "striking" a pose--again, terrible pun intended. I can't help it!

And it’s pretty good out of a tower as well.

my cousin Mike and the beer tower

Who needs pitchers?

Take-away #5: Minneapolis is beautiful in the spring. The river shaping the city, the blossoming trees, the greenery….

Yes, nature is neat. ;)

[If you haven't laughed yet today, watch this. I would embed the video into my post, but I'm not sure everyone will think it's as hilarious as me. If you're like my family, you'll love it.]

Take-away #6: Snacks are essential while traveling in any situation. Okay, obviously this isn’t a take-away so much as it’s a tenet I live by. Ha.

I’ll leave you with some highlights.

Banana bread breakfast.

Delicious flavor.

Raw energy to power through the graduation ceremony…

Two Moms in the Raw bars are amazing.

Apple on the airplane.

With delicious Artisana almond butter.

Kale chips along side a clementine and H2O–30,000 feet in the air.

Kale does a body good. :)

And, finally, on the last day, my mom and I hit up the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, and lo and behold, there was a big pot of fresh oatmeal with toppings galore!

It was a dream come true.

I topped my bowl with sliced almonds, strawberries, sliced banana, shredded coconut, and of course, a Justin’s peanut butter packet I smuggled in. Because what’s oatmeal without nut butter? I mean, let’s be real.

This was perfect–but the lighting was not great. My mom probably thought I was nuts as I took about six different angles. 

Lovely way to start my day of travel back to New York. And it goes to show that carrying around packets of nut butter does come in handy from time to time.

And I’ll leave you with that little take-away. ;)

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A Day Late

…and a dollar day short.

I’m back to New York! Before I share any trip updates, I present you this week’s lunch post, which is a little different than usual, as it’s not coming to you on a Monday and I only have four (rather than five) days of lunches to share.

But fret not; it’s here. ;)

(I know you were all worried haha.)

MONDAY

Apple. Hippie Smoothie with almond milk, frozen banana, frozen blueberries, lots of kale, and hemp protein powder. Rice cakes with PB&J dip.

I was a little worried about hemp protein powder in my smoothie because it’s a strong flavor, but with the fruit, it was delicious. And such a great, easily digestible protein source. If you make your own, just be sure to taste test as you go and add fruit and/or sweetener if necessary.

I also brought an almond-coconut oat ball for a mid-morning snack.

Scrumptious

TUESDAY

Apple slices with cinnamon. Wrap. Trail mix with peanut butter pretzels, cashews, dried cherries, and carob chips. 

Plus, more PB&J hummus for apple dippage.

Love it.

Let’s take a closer look at the wrap.

Start with a whole wheat tortilla with lots of hummus. Sprinkle with hemp seeds.

Add greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber.

Top with sliced dill pickles! Pickles = best decision I’d made all week. :)

WEDNESDAY

Same trail mix as above. Salad with greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, chopped pickle, and a cut up Sunshine Burger–dressed with ume plum vinegar, olive oil, and pepper. Apple. 

As the above photo does not have the best lighting, let’s get a closer look at the yummy salad.

Sunshine Burgers are officially my new favorite veggie burger! Such a hearty texture. I can’t wait to try other flavors.

I actually wasn’t feeling my usual trail mix that I had packed, but I was hungry for something in the afternoon. So instead I turned to my snack stash at work.

snack stash at work

It’s getting a little out of hand, I know. I haven’t been snacking on bars lately because I haven’t been very hungry, so the collection has only grown. Decisions, decisions.

I settled on a Peanut Butter Bum Bar made by the Brooklyn-based company Luminous Kitchens.

I’d had the Hemp Bum Bar before and really liked it. Not surprisingly, the peanut butter flavor was a winner, too.

The texture was a little chewier than I remember, but that may have had to do with the fact that it was past the sell-by date. Ooops. ;)
Still a great treat.

THURSDAY

I was low on groceries and inspiration, so I decided to get food out for lunch. I just packed snacks: an apple and another almond-coconut oat chew.

For lunch, I decided it was time to use up a Groupon I’d gotten a while ago for Crisp–a delicious falafal place near my work. I had been once before when my brother visited New York over a year ago and loved it, so I was excited to go back–with a discount no less.

I ordered a hummus bowl served with hummus (duh), falafal, fresh salsa, pine nuts, greens, and extra tahini. It came with warm whole wheat pita as well.

Holy yum! This was so flavorful. The creamy tahini, crunchy pine nuts, flavorful salsa…love it. I couldn’t finish even half, though, so I brought the rest back for Tom.

FRIDAY

Friday was my snack-a-ton travel day which you read all about, so I won’t bore you with more of the same. I will say, it featured red roasted pepper hummus from Crisp, which was so creamy and delicious.

A great note to end on. :)

Do you keep a stash of snacks at work and/or school? What are your staple snacks? Larabars dominate my snack drawer, but I would like to expand my options…

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A Lot to Celebrate

Today, my sister graduates from the University of Minnesota.

Abbs:

I couldn’t be more proud of your accomplishments.

And I couldn’t be more proud of the person you’ve become.

Despite the fact that Mom and Dad would not let me name you Fluffy when you were born. ;) It took me a while to get over that, but I concede that Abigail is a much more beautiful (and appropriate) name. Hehe.

You are strong, beautiful, intelligent, motivated, so brave, and amazing. And I love your sense of humor probably because it’s the exact same as mine. :)

I wish I had advice to pass on to you, but the truth is, I know you will handle everything that comes your way with wisdom and grace. As long as you love yourself, you can do anything.

A little beagle love along the way doesn’t hurt either.

Instead, just know that I’m here for you!

Oh–and happy birthday! :)

I hope you continue to approach life with as much passion, excitement, and love as you always have.

Let’s celebrate, yes?

To my readers: Do you have any advice for a new graduate? What’s the one thing you wish you had known? 

or

What are YOU celebrating? 

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