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All About Walnuts

13 Dec

Growing up, I lived on a 1-2 acre plot of land that had multiple black walnut trees. I remember as a child finding fallen walnuts (or what I called “wonuts”), cracking them open with a hammer, sometimes smashing my fingers in the process, and then eating the walnut meat fresh from the source. There aren’t many people who are fortunate enough to have grown up with this amenity, and I for one, am thankful as it gave me an appreciation for nuts.

Walnuts

Walnuts are round stone fruits containing a single seed, which comes in the form of two halves. The most common types are English walnuts (juglans regia) originating from Persia, and Black walnuts (juglans nigra), which are native to eastern North America. The most commercially available walnut, however, is typically a hybrid of the English walnut, due to its ease of harvesting. When ready to harvest, the walnuts’ hulls break open, exposing the dark shell inside.

Walnuts are becoming increasingly popular with over 3 million metric tons being produced in 2012 alone. The year’s top five producing countries, in descending order, were: China, Iran, United States, Turkey and Mexico (source).

With a softer texture similar to pecans, walnuts resemble the shape of a brain. This is no coincidence as walnuts provide brain boosting benefits by contributing antioxidants, B vitamins, monounsaturated fat and vitamin E. Perhaps the most commonly toted benefit of walnuts, however, is their hefty dose of 20.8g Omega-3 and 86.4g Omega-6 fatty acids per cup (source).

1 cup shelled walnut halves contain the following daily values:

  • 12% Potassium
  • 28% Dietary fiber
  • 30% Protein
  • 9% Calcium
  • 16% Iron
  • 25% Vitamin B6
  • 39% Magnesium

(source)

Due to how easily it stains, the dark pigment in walnut hulls is sometimes used as ink for writing and dye for fabric.

Interesting fact: Bach flower remedies have listed walnuts as one of the 38 substances they use to prepare their products (source).

Crispy Coconut Bacon

5 Oct

If you enjoy bacon but not the part about it coming from a pig, you are in luck because there are various tasty alternatives available (one such version is my Tofaken). The latest craze, however, is coconut bacon. People go cuckoo for this stuff and I can understand why. While coconut flakes pack a lot of calories and fat, they are also low in carbohydrates and high in fiber (source).

To further boost the nutritional value of this coconut bacon, these crispy little guys are seasoned with liquid aminos (which boasts 16 different amino acids) and practically melt in your mouth. They make an excellent addition to nearly any salad, sandwich or wrap, and can even be enjoyed by themselves. Enjoy!

Coconut Bacon

Crispy Coconut Bacon
Yields 1 cup

1/4 cup liquid aminos
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
oil for the pan

Place first three ingredients in a small bowl and mix until combined. Add coconut flakes and stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 300° F. Grease a large baking sheet with oil.

Evenly spread marinated coconut flakes on prepared baking sheet and spray with oil. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until desired crispness is achieved. Remove and allow to cool before consuming.

All About Chia

21 Sep

Chia Seeds

Salvia hispanica, most commonly referred to as chia, is an annual flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. Chia is likely best known for its use in chia pets, where, upon watering, their sprouts grow to resemble animal hair. Having gained popularity in the 1980’s, chia pet products have since expanded to include a plethora of other “pets” such as people and, yes, even zombies.

The word “chia” is said to have been derived from chian, which translates to oily; fitting because the seeds contain at least 25% extractable oil. The chia plant is native to Guatemala and Mexico and can grow to upwards of 3 feet. The most commonly used part of the plant is its seed, which has recently gained popularity due to the seed’s richness in nutrients such as manganese, Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and phosphorus. These black and white ovular seeds, typically no larger than .039 inches in size, may be tiny but they are nutritional powerhouses (source).

Having five times the amount of calcium and protein than milk (source), at least two times the fiber than nuts (source), more potassium than a banana (source), more than two times the iron than spinach (source), more protein than an egg (source), more than 25 times the iron, seven times the omega 3 and more than eight times the omega 6 than salmon (source), it’s no wonder chia seeds have become so popular as a food source.

1 oz of chia seeds provides the following recommended daily values (source):

  • 13% total fat
  • 3% potassium
  • 4% total carbohydrates
  • 40% dietary fiber
  • 9% protein
  • 17% calcium
  • 12% iron
  • 23% magnesium

Chia seeds are easily incorporated into your diet, whether it be via smoothies, oatmeal, salad dressings or baked into bread. When placed in liquid, chia seeds develop a gelatinous coating which makes them an excellent egg replacer and thickener, perfect for pudding. Chia seeds can also be sprouted for use in salads, sandwiches and wraps.

What is your favorite way of incorporating chia into your diet?

Vegan-Friendly Kansas City

11 Sep

Kansas City is known for its BBQ and steak, but thanks to the growing desire for plant-based food, it is being put on the map as a vegan-friendly destination. With three (as of this posting) 100% vegan establishments and a variety of vegan-friendly bars, restaurants and stores, Kansas City is embracing its compassionate side.

Following is a list of vegan-friendly establishments located in one of the Show Me State’s most popular cities.

Café Gratitude

Café Gratitude is a 100% organic and plant-based restaurant chain primarily located in California, with a single location outside of the west coast. Needless to say, this location is in Kansas City! I was shocked when I first heard that Café Gratitude was opening a location here, and by the looks of it, this bold move was a smart one. Café Gratitude is almost always busy, which is a sign that the times are changing and people are moving towards healthy eating. This uplifting restaurant has creatively given their dishes positive and inspiring names.

My family and I began with an order of Present (“Bruschetta — toasted ciabatta with cashew mozzarella topped with tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette & fresh basil”). For our main dishes we enjoyed Grateful (“Shredded kale, brown rice, black beans & garlic tahini sauce”), Sensational (“Spaghetti squash noodles, spinach & portabella mushrooms tossed in our alfredo sauce. Topped with Brazil nut parmesan, basil & crushed red pepper. Served with our house side salad”), Transformed (“Two organic corn tacos with brown rice, black beans, guacamole, salsa fresca & cashew nacho cheese. Served with a side salad”), and Warm-Hearted (“Grilled pesto polenta over sautéed spaghetti squash, spinach & puttanesca sauce topped with Brazil nut parmesan, ricotta & basil”). We washed it all down with Incredible (“Banana, raw cacao, maca, almond butter, dates, coconut milk, & vanilla bean smoothie”).

Present Bruschetta from Café Gratitude

Present Bruschetta from Café Gratitude

Grateful dish from Café Gratitude

Grateful dish from Café Gratitude

Sensational dish from Café Gratitude

Sensational dish from Café Gratitude

Transformed dish from Café Gratitude

Transformed dish from Café Gratitude

Warm-Hearted dish from Café Gratitude

Warm-Hearted dish from Café Gratitude

Incredible smoothie from Café Gratitude

Incredible smoothie from Café Gratitude

Eden Alley Café

A 100% vegetarian restaurant, Eden Alley Café is located in the basement of the Unity Temple on The Plaza. Most of their dishes can be made vegan and many are gluten and soy-free. With an emphasis on local organic ingredients, Eden Alley Café does what they can to be kind to the environment including conservation, waste reduction, and recycling. Serving lunch and dinner Wednesday through Friday and brunch on Saturday, their large open space provides seating for more than 100 people and even includes a little shop with cookbooks, t-shirts and more.

FooDoo

Kansas City’s newest 100% vegan restaurant, FooDoo is a small establishment that prepares delectable dishes using fresh local produce, focusing on what is currently in season. Perhaps my new favorite plant-based restaurant in Kansas City, FooDoo definitely delivers in the flavor department.

My family and I enjoyed the Broadway Burrito (“Roasted Peppers – Caramelized Onions – Pepper-Jack – Hey Joe Chorizo – Jerked Potatoes – Jalapeno Jam” served with “Quinoa Black-eyed Pea Succotash & Organic Greens”), Taco Trio (“Cheddar – Shredded Lettuce – Tomato – Cilantro – Cactus Relish with Vietnamese Ham Gluten”), and The Bella (“Portabella Steak – Roasted Peppers – Pickled Onions – Italian Hot Peppers – Garlic Spinach – Mozzarella” on a Pretzel Bun and served with “Quinoa Black-eyed Pea Succotash & Organic Greens & Spicy Pickle”). I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious all of our meals were and will gladly return the next time I am in town!

Broadway Burrito from FooDoo

Broadway Burrito from FooDoo

Taco Trio from FooDoo

Taco Trio from FooDoo

The Bella sandwich from FooDoo

The Bella sandwich from FooDoo

The Foundry

The Foundry is a beer garden and bar + grill serving a handful of plant-based options. Such options include their Cheat Lover’s vegan pizza, guacamole, nachos (with “cheat meat” and vegan cheese, sans sour cream), Zucchini Fries (without honey or sauce), Sunflower Salad (with oil and vinegar dressing), and their Mean Joe Green salad (sans cheese). Thanks to a variety of options the plant-based crowd is sure to leave with full, happy bellies.

FüD

One of Kansas City’s first all vegan restaurants and a favorite among the plant-based crowd, FüD is a cash-only establishment specializing in both raw and hot dishes, and strives to serve organic meals. FüD’s sustainable practices include using “fluoride-free filtered water, composting, recycling, biocompostable to-go packaging and cutlery, buying local organic produce and providing the lowest impact food on the environment.” Now that is impressive! One such local item served here is Central Soyfoods tofu made in Lawrence, Kansas.

The dishes enjoyed at my table were the Smoked Tofu Nuggets (“A Basket of Fried Local Tofu Nuggets with side of Sweet Pickle Thrillanaise & spicy Chilinaise”), the Tune-Rahh Melt (“Tune-Rahh sandwich Panini Grilled with Garlic Sweed Cheese on Rye”), Phishwich (“Tune Rahh infused with cinnamon curry spice deep-fried and topped with Thrillanaise, Dillanaise, El Cream, Lettuce, Tomato & Purple Onion on Rye”) and the Olivewich (a mixture of olive tapenade, cashew cheese, lettuce and tomatoes), a brand new sandwich which is the cook’s favorite.

Smoked Tofu Nuggets from FüD

Smoked Tofu Nuggets from FüD

Tune-Rahh Melt from FüD

Tune-Rahh Melt from FüD

Phishwich from FüD

Phishwich from FüD

Olivada sandwich from FüD

Olivada sandwich from FüD

GreenAcres Market

GreenAcres Market is a natural foods store with seven locations (as of this posting), one of which is in Kansas City. With an emphasis on organic foods, nutritional supplements and body care items, this health foods store provides prepared foods in addition to pantry essentials and other grocery items. GreenAcres Market also takes it a step further by providing regular in-store classes and seminars to further educate the public on healthy lifestyles.

Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee is Kansas City’s first and only (as of this posting) 100% vegan bakery and coffeehouse. The super friendly folks here at Mud Pie make some delectable desserts and are happy to provide for various events including birthdays and weddings. One such event I used them for was my mother’s 60th birthday! In addition to desserts, Mud Pie also offers savory treats including house made scones and burritos from FüD.

The items I enjoyed from Mud Pie were their Lemon Kiss cupcake (filled with a delicious lemon curd), Coconutz bar, Mostess cupcake (fashioned after the popular commercially sold cupcake), Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treat, and their Apple Crumb Cake. Every single item I have had here has been delicious — highly recommended!

Coconutz from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Coconutz from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Mostess Cupcake from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Mostess Cupcake from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Peanut Butter Crispy Treat from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Peanut Butter Crispy Treat from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Apple Crumb Cake from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Apple Crumb Cake from Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee

Natural Grocers

Located in nearby Independence, MO, Natural Grocers (formerly Nature’s Pantry) is an excellent natural foods store providing a plethora of goodies including those which are difficult to find. Having opened its doors in 1995, Natural Grocers has since expanded and opened a Deli Café, providing paninis, pizzas and salads. In addition to groceries, Natural Grocers has a bulk and vitamin section, and sells various household and personal items as well. Some of the local items they sell are Central Soyfoods tofu (in Garlic Herb, Hickory Smoked, Hot Fiesta and Plain flavors) and Manifest Chocolates, which provides caramels and chocolates that are vegan, gluten, soy, dairy and nut free.

While here, I picked up a bunch of treasures including some Gardein Fishless Filets, a container of Garlic Just Mayo (Natural Grocers currently carries all four flavors), a package of Rising Moon Organics Artichoke and Olive Ravioli, and a container of non-dairy Scotch Chocolate ice cream from Steve’s Ice Cream — perhaps the best ice cream I have ever had! Definitely check this place out.

Nature's Pantry

Natural Grocers

Steve's Ice Cream - Scotch Chocolate Ice Cream

Steve’s Ice Cream – Scotch Chocolate Ice Cream

One More Cup

One More Cup is a coffee shop serving assorted smoothies (most, if not all can be made vegan with soy milk), and items from various local businesses including sandwiches from FüD, Tamales from Mean Vegan, and desserts from Kneaded Specialties and Be Free Bakers. The owners seem very passionate about their business so this is one worth supporting.

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill

A more upscale restaurant with separate vegan menu, Seasons 52 Fresh Grill is a chain located throughout the United States with dishes that are 475 calories or less. Their plant-based menu currently (as of this posting) features various appetizers, sides, entrees, a couple salads, and blueberries for dessert.

Spin! Neapolitan Pizza

A pizza chain with locations in California, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, Spin! Neapolitan Pizza has a Kansas City location that offers Daiya cheese, which can be used on any of their pizzas (minus the meat). While their soups are not vegan, Spin! does offer a few salads that can be ordered without meat and cheese, and topped with vinaigrette dressing. Their croutons are cooked in olive oil.

Succotash

Succotash is primarily a brunch and lunch restaurant with a few plant-based items and a variety of juices and smoothies. Soy milk is available. The folks at this establishment pride themselves in using locally grown/made ingredients whenever possible. As of this posting, available lunch items include pancakes, scramble and a wrap; the latter two featuring Succotash’s signature lima bean hummus and succotash.

Waldo Pizza

With two locations in the metropolitan area, Waldo Pizza gives Kansas Citians their choice between their Waldo and Lee’s Summit locations. This pizza chain goes above and beyond for their plant-based crowd, offering a variety of pizzas, starters, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages. For the gluten free vegan crowd, Waldo Pizza even offers an egg & gluten-free pizza crust (ask to make sure). Pizza offerings include both Daiya and Follow Your Heart cheeses, a large variety of veggies, various meat alternatives including chicken, hamburger, Italian sausage, pepperoni, and taco meat, and a variety of exciting sauces including, but not limited to, barbeque, buffalo, taco sauce and vegan garlic butter. After you’ve gorged yourself on delicious food, Waldo will send you on your merry way with a vegan after dinner mint.

I have been to Waldo Pizza multiple times and their pizza (and offerings) just seem to get better and better. My choice this time was a hand-tossed crust with artichokes, capers and “chicken” topped with Daiya Mozzarella. The capers added a really nice flavor to the pizza, which was delicious, but my only complaint this time around is that there was hardly any “chicken” on the pizza…I wanted much more! Definitely support these guys and gals.

Artichoke, Capers and "Chicken" Pizza from Waldo Pizza

Artichoke, Capers and “Chicken” Pizza from Waldo Pizza

Yogurtini

Yogurtini is a self-serve frozen yogurt shop that offers 1-2 vegan flavors of sorbet with various toppings including fruit, nuts, Oreos, Nutter Butter cookies and a handful of sauces. When I stopped by, Yogurtini had just one vegan flavor, their Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet, which was very good. Previously they had a pomegranate flavor.

Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet from Yogurtini

Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet from Yogurtini

Have you been to Kansas City before, or do you currently live there? What are your favorite vegan-friendly places to frequent?

Vegan-Friendly Portland

26 Aug

Portland goes by many names: The City of Roses, Bridgetown, PDX and Stumptown to name a few. Currently the largest city by population in the state of Oregon, Portland has a plethora of restaurants, shops and grocers catering to vegans. Because of this, Portland was rated the #2 Most Vegan-Friendly City of 2013 by PETA (source).

Below is a list of establishments I visited while in Portland. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it will give you a good idea of what places to stop by while visiting.

Back to Eden Bakery

Back to Eden is a 100% vegan and gluten-free bakery serving various pastries, ice creams, lunch items and beverages. Catering to any food sensitivities you may have, Back to Eden provides many raw, soy and sugar-free delectables. I stopped by this bakery twice while in Portland. Opting for their Boston Cream Mini Cake, I ate the whole darn thing in one sitting. While the cake seemed a little over-baked and dry, and the flavor didn’t remind me of traditional Boston Cream Pie, it was still good (and beautiful to look at). I wanted to try one of their shakes or sundaes on my second visit but alas, I was too full.

Boston Cream Pie Mini Cake from Back to Eden

Boston Cream Pie Mini Cake from Back to Eden

Blossoming Lotus

Many sing the praises of Blossoming Lotus‘ weekend brunch and they are right to do so! With mouth-watering choices like a Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll and Zucchini Bread French Toast, this upscale restaurant covers its bases with the basics in addition to creative alternatives. The name alone sold me on the cinnamon roll so I ordered that as a starter and split it with my sister. After devouring half of this mammoth 5-inch plus cinnamon roll, I was already beginning to feel full. This thing alone could be a meal! Crazy enough, I also split the Lotus Benedict, which is “a split biscuit topped with tofu scramble, sausage patties, sliced tomato, wilted spinach, and hollandaise, served with steamed greens” and the Breakfast Burrito, filled with “tofu scramble, roasted potatoes, kale, tomato, avocado, red onion, coconut bacon, and cashew sour cream” with my sister. Needless to say we had leftovers!

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll from Blossoming Lotus

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll from Blossoming Lotus

Lotus Benedict from Blossoming Lotus

Lotus Benedict from Blossoming Lotus

Breakfast Burrito from Blossoming Lotus

Breakfast Burrito from Blossoming Lotus

Bob’s Red Mill World Headquarters Tour / Bob’s Red Mill Restaurant, Whole Grain Store and Bakery

If you have a car at your disposal, a fun thing to do is to drive to Milwaukie, OR (approximately 20 minutes south of Portland) and take a tour of Bob’s Red Mill World Headquarters. Offering two daily tours Monday-Friday, the friendly folks at Bob’s Red Mill will guide you through the factory where you can see each stage of the production process, and if you’re lucky, you may even get to meet Bob himself! After the tour (or before, if you prefer), you can visit Bob’s Red Mill Restaurant, Whole Grain Store and Bakery about a mile down the road, where you can shop for any Bob’s Red Mill product imaginable. Attached to the store is their bakery, which features a couple of vegan items, and on the other end is their restaurant. Though I had already enjoyed breakfast before visiting, I was happy to see that their menu has its very own vegan section!

Bob's Red Mill Grain Store

Bob’s Red Mill Grain Store

Vegan Menu at Bob's Red Mill Grain Store Restaurant

Vegan Menu at Bob’s Red Mill Grain Store Restaurant

Cacao

Cacao is a small specialty chocolate shop downtown, which offers solid chocolates from around the world, in addition to drinking chocolate and hot cocoa. The carefully selected chocolate sold here is chosen based upon criteria such as small manufacturers, organic and fair trade practices, and value pricing, just to name a few. Upon perusing Cacao’s shelves for vegan goodies, my eyes fell upon a jar of Hot Cakes Caramel Sauce. Never having tried this particular brand, I quickly snatched it up. The introductory flavors are very pleasant and finish with a slightly darker burnt flavor. Cacao also offers various vegan chocolates should you so desire.

Hot Cakes Caramel Sauce from Cacao

Hot Cakes Caramel Sauce from Cacao

Chef Fresh

A self-serve yogurt and smoothie place located in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Place Mall, Chef Fresh offers 12 different house-made rotating flavors, with 2-4 being 100% plant-based. The flavors on hand while I visited were Nutella (fashioned after the popular non-vegan spread), vanilla creamsicle and another one, which unfortunately, I cannot remember. In addition, Chef Fresh offers various toppings for you to enjoy with your soft serve. If you aren’t sure which are vegan, the friendly ladies behind the counter are happy to help. Dish out as much or as little soft serve as you want, top it with your desired toppings, then take your treat up to the counter where they will weigh it and charge you by the ounce.

Nutella & Vanilla Creamsicle Soft Serve from Chef Fresh

Nutella & Vanilla Creamsicle Soft Serve from Chef Fresh

D.C. Vegetarian

A 100% vegetarian food cart located in downtown Portland, D.C. Vegetarian makes their own seitan and offers a vegan alternative for every item on their menu. A favorite among many, this food cart offers brunch and lunch every day of the week except for Sunday (as of this posting). Opting to visit D.C. Vegetarian twice during my trip, I enjoyed their Sausage, (Not)Egg and Cheese sandwich for brunch, which was topped off with avocado, tomato and roasted red pepper sauce, and on the second trip had their Chicken Salad Sub (no picture, sorry) for lunch. “A mixture of soy curls, Beyond Meat, celery, red onion, and Vegenaise with lettuce and tomato,” their Chicken Salad Sub was very filling. Though I would have liked a little added flavor, it was still very good. My sister had the Italian Sub (not pictured) and it was delicious.

Sausage (Not)Egg & Cheese from D.C. Vegetarian

Sausage (Not)Egg & Cheese from D.C. Vegetarian

Departure Restaurant + Lounge

Departure Restaurant + Lounge is an upscale roof-top establishment located above The Nines hotel and features various Asian-inspired dishes, a few of which are vegan. With a bar that opens to the outdoor lounge area, Departure is the place to be when you want a fancy evening out. Hearing great things about their Departure Banana Split, I stopped by and got one to go. Consisting of “banana tempura, cherry compote, miso butterscotch, peanut brittle ice cream,” and topped with peanuts, this treat is possibly the most intricate and most well thought out dessert I have had in Portland. Word has it that the peanut brittle ice cream is from the popular Salt & Straw ice cream shop.

Departure Banana Split from Departure Lounge

Departure Banana Split from Departure Lounge

FLAVOURspot

The FLAVOURspot is a creative waffle sandwich food cart with two locations. Though they have a small menu consisting primarily of meat-based options, they DO have three vegan options: Vegan Sausage & Maple, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and PBM (peanut butter and maple). I decided on the Vegan Sausage & Maple waffle sandwich, which featured 2-3 vegan sausage patties (which I believe to be Gimme Lean) and The FLAVOURspot’s organic pure maple spread. The smell alone of this sandwich is enough to make your mouth water, so devouring the entire thing was no problem for me. I would definitely order it again and would love to try their other vegan options.

Vegan Maple & Sausage Waffle Sandwich from FLAVOURspot

Vegan Maple & Sausage Waffle Sandwich from FLAVOURspot

Food Fight! Grocery

Part of the first, and only (that I know of), vegan mini-mall, Food Fight! Grocery is a small 100% vegan grocery store selling the obvious groceries in addition to household and personal items, as well as apparel and accessories. Trying not to spend TOO much money, I settled on some Earth Balance Vegan White Cheddar Mac & Cheese, Sol Cuisine Veggie Breakfast Patties and a Caramel Cashew Bar from Amy E’s Bakery. You should definitely stop by this store while in Portland and pick up some vegan staples. Support local!

The Fruit Loop

Located in Hood River County, approximately an hour and 15 minute drive east of Portland, The Fruit Loop is basically a loop of various farms and fruit stands running along highways 35 and 281. Offering seasonal produce, many allow you to pick your own, which is what my friends and I opted to do. Needless to say, we ended up with the freshest and most delicious blueberries and strawberries we had ever had. Nothing makes you appreciate fruit like U-pick and it is fun for the whole family!

Fresh Picked Strawberries from The Fruit Loop

Fresh Picked Strawberries from The Fruit Loop

Los Gorditos

Starting out as a food truck in 2006, Los Gorditos‘ popularity quickly grew, which caused them to later open two restaurant locations. Los Gorditos provides a separate vegan menu with multiple items to choose from including various tacos, burritos and other plates, and from what I understand, they are all good. Having visited the Pearl restaurant location, I decided on the Soy Curl Fajita Burrito and was very pleased with it. Seasoned perfectly, this burrito was stuffed with “soy curls, grilled fajita veggies, beans, rice, onion & cilantro.” I thoroughly enjoyed it and wished I was able to visit a second time so that I could order it again! Does anyone want to ship one to me?

Soy Curl Fajita Burrito from Los Gorditos

Soy Curl Fajita Burrito from Los Gorditos

Herbivore Clothing

Located in the vegan mini-mall, Herbivore Clothing is a 100% vegan clothing shop that also sells various accessories, household items and books. Need a hoodie to proclaim your vegan awesomeness? Want a leather-free belt? How about a beverage cozie? They’ve got them all, and luckily for us we can order them online! Keep in mind, however, that their shirts run small.

Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ

Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ is a 100% vegan food truck that serves various comfort food items. Aside from their regular menu, they offer a different special each day, which keeps the crowds coming back. After browsing through the menu, it was difficult to decide on what to get, but finally my sister and I decided on the Grilled Hyam and Cheese (not pictured), which is “Applewood smoked maple-ginger hyam, tomato, Daiya mozzarella, Mellow Yellow, and Nocheese sauces on grilled sourdough,” and the Macnocheeto Burrito (“Smoked soy curls, creamy Macnocheese, BBQ beans, grilled peppers, onions and Maple-Bourbon BBQ sauce all wrapped up in a grilled wheat tortilla”). It was a hot and sunny day so I topped it off with an Arnold Palmer.

Macnocheeto Burrito from Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ

Macnocheeto Burrito from Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ

New Seasons Market

Giving Whole Foods a run for their money, New Seasons Market is a locally owned chain of health food stores offering various food and household items. They support local businesses and provide health-conscious consumers with multiple options, many of which are vegan. I recommend stopping by, just to see what kinds of goodies they may have.

Paradox Cafe

Located on the east side of Portland is Paradox Cafe, a 100% vegetarian restaurant with multiple vegan options. Paradox Cafe serves brunch all day (in addition to lunch and other items) and focuses on freshly made food that is easy on your wallet. Because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, I chose their Country Comfort dish, which has tofu, veggies, breakfast potatoes and a whole wheat biscuit topped with almond gravy. The potatoes and other vegetables were nicely seasoned, however, I wasn’t pleased with the biscuits as they were too light and tender. My sister opted for the Supa-Dupa Sandwich, which consisted of “tomato, avocado, sprouts, cucumber, [vegan] cream cheese and cranberry chutney served on Good Seed bread.”

Country Comfort from Paradox Cafe

Country Comfort from Paradox Cafe

Supa-Dupa Sandwich from Paradox Cafe

Supa-Dupa Sandwich from Paradox Cafe

People’s Food Co-op

A local, community-owned co-operative, People’s Food Co-op has a nice selection of vegan items, including some that are hard to find. One such item is the Snackrilege line of sandwiches, which is 100% plant-based. For my plane ride out of Portland, I opted for the Joey DeMayo sandwich, which features “red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, seitan and balsamic vinaigrette Vegenaise, all on a Portland French Bakery Ciabatta roll.” People’s also sells fabulously soft and chewy cookies in a variety of flavors including chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip and snickerdoodle. I regret not taking photos of my sandwich but I did snap a picture of the cookie…it was DELICIOUS.

Chocolate Chip Cookie from People's Food Coop

Chocolate Chip Cookie from People’s Food Co-op

Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

A super cute shop located in downtown Portland, Petunia’s Pies & Pastries is another 100% vegan and gluten-free bakery. I stopped into Petunia’s around noon one day for an Ice Cream Sundae (hey, I was on vacation okay?) featuring a scoop each of coconut and salted caramel chocolate ice cream, topped with house-made salted caramel sauce, peanut butter and cookie dough pieces. Also enjoyed during my trip was a Salted Caramel Cookie Bar, a Peanut Butter Crispy bar and a Root Beer Float. Heavenly!

Ice Cream Sundae from Petunias Pies & Pastries

Ice Cream Sundae from Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

Salted Caramel Cookie Bar & Peanut Butter Crispy Bar from Petunias Pies & Pastries

Salted Caramel Cookie Bar & Peanut Butter Crispy Bar from Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

Root Beer Float from Petunia's Pies & Pastries

Root Beer Float from Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Portobello Vegan Trattoria is a must if you are visiting Portland. This upscale Italian restaurant is very popular so reservations are highly recommended. Offering dishes featuring seasonal ingredients, Portobello’s dishes have light, yet very satisfying flavors. Perhaps their most popular appetizer is their Beet Tartare, which features “diced roasted beets with carrot aioli, fines herbes & capers atop cashew puree with olive oil, sea salt and toast.” As a matter of fact, my Beet Tartare with Cashew Cheese recipe was inspired by this very dish. Enjoying an order of this and their Mushroom Arancini, which are “crispy mushroom and risotto fritters with tomato basil sauce,” we were off to a delicious start. For dinner we enjoyed a large plate of the Mushroom Leek Ravioli (“mushroom and cashew cheese filled ravioli with caramelized onion cashew cream sauce”) and a small plate of Zita’s Cavatelli (“house made cavatelli noodles with brocolini, capers, oyster mushrooms finished with bread crumbs”). Regrettably I did not have room for one of their fabulous desserts or cocktails, but dinner was delicious.

Beet Tartare from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Beet Tartare from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Mushroom Arancini from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Mushroom Arancini from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Mushroom Leek Ravioli from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Mushroom Leek Ravioli from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Zita's Cavatelli from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Zita’s Cavatelli from Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Powell’s City of Books

Located in downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books is the largest new and used bookstore in the world. This bookstore is so large, it takes up an entire city block and recently opened up a second building for their overflow, right across the street. Consisting of nine color-coded rooms which feature over one million books in total, Powell’s is THE place to go if you would like to buy a book (or ten). Unlike other bookstores, Powell’s has a good two isles full of vegan books! I, of course, couldn’t leave without purchasing a book and my choice was the 365 Vegan Smoothies cookbook, which is currently assisting with my detox from all the Portland gluttony!

Sizzle Pie

Open until after 2am each day, Sizzle Pie has two locations in Portland. Though not a vegan or even vegetarian establishment, this pizza joint offers a variety of vegan options. With ten vegan pizzas, three salads and breadsticks with four signature sauces to choose from, Sizzle Pie is possibly the most popular pizza place in Portland among vegans. One such reason may be because they offer breakfast pizza! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to eat here for breakfast, but I did enjoy a slice of their Bad Reputation pizza and an order of breadsticks with their marinara and two signature dipping sauces.

Bad Reputation Pizza from Sizzle Pie

Bad Reputation Pizza from Sizzle Pie

Breadsticks with Marinara, Creamy Caramelized Onion Spread and Creamy Basil Cashew Spread from Sizzle Pie

Breadsticks with Marinara, Creamy Caramelized Onion Spread and Creamy Basil Cashew Spread from Sizzle Pie

Sweetpea Baking Company

Perhaps the most well known 100% vegan bakery in all of Portland is Sweetpea Baking Company. Part of the vegan mini-mall, this bakery has been around since 2008 and offers various pastries, breakfast, lunch and beverage items. After stopping into Food Fight! Grocery and Herbivore Clothing, I finished my vegan mini-mall trip at Sweetpea. From what I understand, their busiest time is in the mornings, so when I visited in the afternoon, the pickings were somewhat slim. After quickly browsing their selection, I decided on a peanut butter brownie and enjoyed every bite of it. You know how I am with peanut butter. My only regret is that the already healthy size wasn’t even larger.

Peanut Butter Brownie from the Sweetpea Baking Company

Peanut Butter Brownie from Sweetpea Baking Company

Veggie Grill

Veggie Grill is a 100% vegan fast food chain with various healthy salads, bowls and plates, sandwiches, beverages, and desserts to choose from. Opting for the “Crab” Cake (“Crispy ‘Crab’ cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce, red onion”) and a side of seasoned Yukon Gold fries, I was very pleased with the flavor, though I certainly could have used more tartar sauce. I was also hoping for more food for the price. Regardless, I enjoyed my food and even went back a second time for their Chill Out Wings (not pictured), which are their Chickn’ wings “with tangy BBQ sauce and chipotle ranch.” If you like Native Foods, you will surely enjoy Veggie Grill, which seems to have even more items to choose from.

"Crab" Cake from The Veggie Grill

“Crab” Cake from The Veggie Grill

Vita Cafe

Just down the street from Back to Eden Bakery is Vita Cafe. While not 100% vegan or even vegetarian, this place is very vegan-friendly. Vita Cafe features multiple plant-based options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. I had the pleasure of visiting Vita Cafe twice while in Portland, once for dinner and once for brunch. For dinner I couldn’t choose just one thing to eat so my sister and I each ordered a dish and then split them. I chose the ‘Fish’ and Chips, which is “battered and deep-fried tofu with fresh-cut fries + vegan tartar.” The tartar sauce was tasty and unique, featuring a familiar ingredient that I just couldn’t put my finger on. The other choice at my table was the Vegan Club Sandwich featuring “organic tempeh ‘fakin’, homemade faux turkey, vegan mayo, guacamole, lettuce, and tomato between 3 layers of toasted sourdough bread.” This sandwich had a variety of flavors that meshed well together and was very good.

For my second trip to Vita Cafe, I ordered their Sloppy Biscuit Sandwich with fried tofu, “faux turkey, [Daiya] cheese, & gravy between a vegan biscuit” with a side of potatoes. While I certainly didn’t have biscuits at every establishment I went to, Vita Cafe has THE best biscuits I’ve had in Portland. This dish was absolutely delicious and I devoured every bite of it, down to the last piece of potato, which was seasoned wonderfully. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about this dish. Needless to say, everything I had at Vita Cafe was very good so I highly recommend it for every meal of the day.

'Fish' and Chips from Vita Cafe

‘Fish’ and Chips from Vita Cafe

Vegan Club Sandwich from Vita Cafe

Vegan Club Sandwich from Vita Cafe

Sloppy Biscuit Sandwich from Vita Cafe

Sloppy Biscuit Sandwich from Vita Cafe

Voodoo Doughnut

If you are familiar with Portland at all, you probably knew this one was coming. Voodoo Doughnut is a must when visiting Portland, especially if you like doughnuts. With the tagline of “The Magic is in the Hole,” you know this place has got some spunk. With two locations in the city, Voodoo almost constantly has a line out the door, filled with adoring fans. Both Portland locations have two separate cases filled with doughnuts, and each case has an entire level dedicated to vegan doughnuts. They feature your classic doughnuts such as regular, maple and chocolate glazed, apple fritters, and cream and jelly filled, in addition to more exciting options with Fruit Loops cereal, Oreos, and other exciting toppings. What’s more, Voodoo takes it a step further by providing a giant glazed doughnut, a voodoo doll doughnut (he is raspberry-filled and has a pretzel stake through his chest), and even a phallic-looking doughnut, that, yes, is cream-filled! If you want a good chuckle and to enjoy some delicious doughnuts, I highly recommend Voodoo — just be prepared to wait in line.

Various Vegan Doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut

Various Vegan Doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut

Whole Foods Market

As you know, I always have to visit Whole Foods Market while in a new city. Here I purchased some Mighty-O Donuts Cini Minis, a package of Love Strips featuring Butler Soy Curls, and a box of Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Mac & Cheese. Mighty-O Donuts is a Seattle-based doughnut company so it was exciting to find that I could purchase their Cini Minis (which are delicious, by the way) in Portland. Whole Foods always has various other items I want to buy but there is only so much room in my suitcase!

Mighty O Donuts's Cini Minis from Whole Foods

Mighty-O Donuts Cini Minis from Whole Foods

Have you been to Portland before, or do you currently live there? What are your favorite vegan-friendly places to frequent?

All About Asparagus

1 Jun

Asparagus

Asparagus officinalis, or simply asparagus, is a flowering perennial and cousin to garlic and onion. Native to Africa, Asia and Europe, asparagus is not only enjoyed as food but is also used in medicine due, in part, to its diuretic properties (source).

Grown in saline soils, asparagus crowns are planted in winter, and shoots begin to peek out of the soil in spring. White asparagus, which is the same botanical variety as green asparagus, obtains its color via a blanching process, which involves covering the growing shoots with soil in order to prevent photosynthesis from occurring. The result is a pale, less bitter, tender shoot sometimes referred to as “the royal vegetable.” Purple asparagus differs from the green and white varieties in that not only is it a different color, it was developed by means of a different process. Asparagus is typically cultivated when young, otherwise the shoots can become woody in texture.

Providing a plethora of nutrients, asparagus is a very good source of beta-carotene, chromium, copper, dietary fiber, iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, rutin, selenium, thiamine and vitamins C, E and K. Also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and zinc, asparagus is low in calories and sodium, and is made up of approximately 93% water (source).

Asparagus is very easy to prepare. Simply spray it with a light coating of oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then bake in the oven until crisp tender.

Interesting fact: In Turkish, asparagus is called “kuşkonmaz,” which literally translates to “bird can’t land.” This is in reference to the shape of the vegetable.

Vegan-Friendly Austin

21 Apr

Known as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is home to the TV concert series Austin City Limits and the annual SXSW music festival. Austin is currently the fourth largest city in Texas with nearly 1 million people. Having proudly adopted the unofficial slogan “Keep Austin Weird,” Austinites love their city and make strides to be environmentally conscious (source). What’s more, PETA ranked Austin the #1 vegan-friendly city in 2013 (source).

Now having seen for myself the many wonderful things this progressive city has to offer, and being the foodie that I am, I want to share with you the various food establishments, grocery stores and markets I went to while visiting.

Biscuits + Groovy

A food trailer that offers breakfast for herbivores and omnivores alike, Biscuits + Groovy specializes in, you guessed it, biscuits! Boasting fun names for their dishes such as The Donna Summer, The Johnny Hash and The M.C. Hammer, all items on the menu can be made vegan. Having enjoyed my meal of The Aretha Franklin so much, I went back later during my vacation and had The Donna Summer.

The Aretha Franklin from Biscuits + Groovy

The Aretha Franklin from Biscuits + Groovy

The Donna Summer from Biscuits + Groovy

The Donna Summer from Biscuits + Groovy

Capital City Bakery

Previously a food trailer, Capital City Bakery offers a 100% vegan selection of desserts including cupcakes, cookie sandwiches, brownies, cheesecake and ice cream, in addition to beverages. Opting for a samoa cupcake, a slice of blueberry cheesecake and a plain brownie to enjoy later, I was not disappointed. Every delicacy I tried was delicious and left me wanting to try every other offering they had. But alas, my stomach is only so big!

Blueberry Cheesecake from Capital City Bakery

Blueberry Cheesecake from Capital City Bakery

Samoa Cupcake from Capital City Bakery

Samoa Cupcake from Capital City Bakery

Central Market

A large supermarket with hard-to-find items (including this fruit-based whipped topping I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of), Central Market was a lot of fun to walk around. Furthermore, they have a sense of humor. One such example is a special they were having for bundt cakes and their headline was “We like big bundts.” Love it! Having a sizeable bulk section with various snacks and spices, loads of health food items, and a nice selection of items to suit anyone’s fancy, Central Market is a must if you are a foodie. Being the peanut butter fan that I am, I spotted a bunch of nut butters by Reginald’s and decided on a jar of Bourbon Pecan Peanut Butter.

Reginald's Bourbon Pecan Peanut Butter from Central Market

Reginald’s Bourbon Pecan Peanut Butter from Central Market

Cornucopia Popcorn Creations

Before visiting a new city I sign up for daily deal alerts so that I can save some money while on vacation. Luckily for me, Cornucopia Popcorn Creations had a deal so I couldn’t help but to indulge. This creative place offers 40+ flavors of popcorn (10+ are vegan). After trying nearly every vegan flavor available, I finally decided on caramel (which I was told is now vegan), cinnamon toast, garlic & herb, lemon poppyseed, and veggie green corn. Cornucopia is making popcorn right, and I love that they have so many flavors!

Lemon Poppyseed & Garlic and Herb Popcorn from Cornucopia Popcorn Creations

Lemon Poppyseed & Garlic and Herb Popcorn from Cornucopia Popcorn Creations

Counter Culture

Also formerly a food trailer, Counter Culture specializes in raw unprocessed foods with much of their menu being free from oil, gluten or soy. Having heard rave reviews on their brunch, my guest and I decided to give it a try. We opted for the specials of the day: mocha stuffed french toast and a tofu omelette with spinach, artichokes and mushrooms. And what is a vacation brunch without a watermelon lime mimosa?

Mocha Stuffed French Toast from Counter Culture

Mocha Stuffed French Toast from Counter Culture

Watermelon Lime Mimosa from Counter Culture

Watermelon Lime Mimosa from Counter Culture

Mother’s Cafe

Perhaps the oldest vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Austin, Mother’s Cafe has been serving the public since 1980. Serving a mix of American, Italian and Mexican dishes, Mother’s Cafe has a warm, welcoming feel with various plants and a little pond/fountain in the back room. Being that we were in Texas, my guest and I decided on an order each of the Artichoke Enchiladas and Tofu Enchiladas. For dessert we shared a piece of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.

Artichoke Enchiladas from Mother's Cafe

Artichoke Enchiladas from Mother’s Cafe

Tofu Enchiladas from Mother's Cafe

Tofu Enchiladas from Mother’s Cafe

New India Cuisine

I’m a big fan of Indian food so I was more than happy to enjoy a meal here. New India Cuisine offers a variety of choices with vegan options clearly marked on the menu. What’s more, they have vegan naan which most establishments don’t serve. With so many options, I decided on the 5 Star Thali Platter which features “curried potato, chana masala, sprouts mung, dal, lentils masala, green beans, achar, dessert & choice of flat bread,” topping it all off with a cold bottle of gluten-free Estrella Daura beer. A testament to the spunk of New India Cuisine is that they have Hippie Hour instead of Happy Hour. Awesome!

5 Star Thali Platter from New India Cuisine

5 Star Thali Platter from New India Cuisine

Promise Pizza

An organic pizza chain, Promise Pizza caters to both gluten-free and vegan crowds. My guest and I decided on an order of garlic knots with Daiya cheese, and a pizza with black olives, minced garlic, Italian spices, red onion and mushrooms.

Black Olive, Garlic, Mushroom and Red Onion Pizza from Promise Pizza

Black Olive, Garlic, Mushroom and Red Onion Pizza from Promise Pizza

Cheesy Garlic Knots from Promise Pizza

Cheesy Garlic Knots from Promise Pizza

Rabbit Food Grocery

Austin’s only 100% vegan market, Rabbit Food Grocery is currently an online store with pop-up shops at various locations throughout the city. I had the pleasure of meeting these lovely folks after enjoying brunch at Counter Culture. Needless to say, I left their pop-up shop with my arms full of various goodies including a Caramel Cashew Chocolate Bar, a Polar Dream Vegan White Chocolate Bar, a Peach Jel Dessert mix, Caramel & Nougat Bites and a super cute Cruelty-Free Kitchen towel.

Cruelty-Free Kitchen Towel from Rabbit Food Grocery

Cruelty-Free Kitchen Towel from Rabbit Food Grocery

Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery

I can’t say enough good things about this place. The folks at Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery are super friendly and their doughnuts are absolutely delicious. While in Austin, I couldn’t stop myself from going back to their food trailer for more. Not only did we devour two Austin Cream Pies, one Maple Glazed with Walnuts, one Coffee Glazed, one Yellowbird Glazed, and two Apple Fritters, I brought along five more doughnuts with me on the flight home.

Assorted Doughnuts from Red Rabbit

Assorted Doughnuts from Red Rabbit

Sweet Ritual

If you want non-dairy ice cream, Sweet Ritual is the place to go. Creating coconut and soy based ice creams, some of which are gluten and/or soy free, this shop offers a variety of exciting flavors including toasted coconut and salted caramel with various toppings to further satisfy your sweet tooth. My guest and I decided on two scoops peanut butter cup ice cream with a peanut butter shell for one dish and one scoop each of the peanut butter cup and salted caramel ice creams with caramel, chocolate and cookie dough toppings for the other. Sometimes you’ve got to go all out while on vacation.

Sundae from Sweet Ritual

Sundae from Sweet Ritual

Veggie Heaven

A Taiwanese restaurant off the popular strip of Guadalupe, Veggie Heaven has a largely vegan menu. Needless to say it was difficult to decide on what to eat because there were so many options! After gobbling up a fried spring roll and curry bun as appetizers, we had Taipei Lomein and Tropical Rainforest for our entrees, polishing them off with a glass each of peach iced tea and soy Thai iced tea. This place isn’t as nice-looking as other establishments I’ve been to, but the service is super fast and friendly.

Taipei Lomein from Veggie Heaven

Taipei Lomein from Veggie Heaven

Tropical Rainforest from Veggie Heaven

Tropical Rainforest from Veggie Heaven

Wheatsville Food Co-op

Wheatsville Food Co-op is practically a vegan’s heaven. Having heard nothing but good things about this place, I had to stop by for a meal at their deli. My guest and I decided on Popcorn Tofu Po’Boy and Southern Fried Tofu Sandwiches (which we devoured before even thinking about taking photos — sorry!) Needless to say, they were delicious and I highly recommend the Southern Fried Tofu Sandwich. With our bellies full, we happily walked down each aisle of the grocery store and found multiple items to take home with us. Two such items were The Hearty Vegan’s Texas Tempeh Mild Sausage and a package of Louisville Vegan Jerky. Not much of a spicy fan, I opted for the Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper flavor, and boy am I glad I did. If you ever have a chance to try this stuff, DO IT. As far as my favorites go, it is right up there with Primal Strips. Even better, it is 100% gluten-free!

Louisville Vegan Jerky from Wheatsville Food Co-op

Louisville Vegan Jerky from Wheatsville Food Co-op

Whole Foods Market

Anytime I visit a new city, I have to go to Whole Foods Market. Why? Because Whole Foods in different parts of the country carry different items that you can’t get at your local store. Not to mention, Whole Foods was born in Austin. Opting for the location on Lamar because they have their own vegan doughnuts, I was in a little bit of a time crunch so I was only able to walk around for a little bit. As always though, I found couple items I wanted but had to stop myself from purchasing them because my suitcase was getting full. Bummer!

Have you been to Austin before? Or do you currently live there? What are your favorite veg-friendly places to frequent?

5 Foods to Buy in October

20 Oct

Officially the first full month of fall (or autumn, depending on where you’re from), October brings with it a bounty of fresh produce. At the peak of their growing season, there is no better time than now to stock up on these hearty fruits and vegetables:

Apples and Pumpkin

Apples
Whether making applesauce, cider, pie or simply enjoying one plain, a medium apple provides approximately 95 calories, 17% DV Dietary Fiber, and 14% DV Vitamin C (source). 

Cabbage
Most commonly used for coleslaw, kimchee, pierogi and sauerkraut, 1 cup shredded cabbage provides approximately 17 calories and 42% DV Vitamin C (source).

Pumpkins
Pumpkin pie. Need I say more? 1 cup cubed pumpkin provides approximately 30 calories, 11% DV Potassium, 197% Vitamin A and 17% DV Vitamin C (source).

Turnips
These root vegetables are often consumed pickled, cooked in stews and even eaten on salads. 1 medium turnip provides approximately 34 calories and 42% DV Vitamin C (source).

Winter Squash
Winter squash can be eaten in soup, ravioli and other various dishes. 1 cup cubed winter squash provides approximately 40 calories, 11% DV Potassium, 31% DV Vitamin A, 10% DV Vitamin B6 and 23% DV Vitamin C (source).

All About Avocados

26 Aug

Avocado

Sometimes referred to as alligator pears due to some varieties’ pear-like shapes and textured green exteriors, avocados are technically a fruit and are botanically considered to be large berries.

Originating in Mexico, the avocado tree thrives in environments with no frost and little to no wind. Once matured, avocados are picked and allowed to ripen, typically in one to two weeks. Now cultivated in various Mediterranean and tropical climates throughout the world, avocado trees are partially self-pollinating and can grow to be 66 feet tall (source).

Currently the most common type of avocado is Hass, accounting for more than 80% of cultivated avocados in the United States (source). Oval in shape with pebbly green-black skin and a small-medium seed, the Hass avocado is easy to peel and ranges in size from 5 to 12 ounces (source). Other popular varieties include:

Bacon: oval in shape with smooth green skin and a medium-large seed, the Bacon avocado is easy to peel and ranges in size from 6 to 12 ounces (source).

Booth: oval in shape with shiny yellow-green skin and a large seed, the Booth avocado ranges in size from 14 to 22 ounces (source).

Fuerte:  pear-shaped with smooth green skin and a medium seed, the Fuerte avocado is easy to peel and ranges in size from 5 to 14 ounces (source).

Lula: pear-shaped with shiny green skin and a very large seed, the Lula avocado ranges in size from 8 to 16 ounces (source).

Reed: round in shape with a medium seed, slightly pebbled green skin and easy to peel, the Reed avocado ranges in size from 8 to 18 ounces (source).

Zutano: pear-shaped with shiny yellow-green skin, a medium seed and a light taste, the Zutano avocado is moderately easy to peel and ranges in size from 6 to 14 ounces (source).

One cup sliced avocado provides a variety of nutrients. Some of which include:

  • Potassium – approximately 20% daily value
  • Dietary Fiber – approximately 40% daily value
  • Vitamin B6 – approximately 20% daily value
  • Magnesium – approximately 10% daily value
  • Vitamin C – approximately 24% daily value

In addition, one cup sliced avocado provides approximately 32% of your daily recommended amount of fat, most of which is monounsaturated (source). According to the American Heart Association, when consumed in moderation, monounsaturated fats have the ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, in addition to lowering bad cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats also tend to be high in Vitamin E, an antioxidant (source).

Craving some of this buttery, creamy, heart-healthy fruit? Try my favorite recipe for guacamole.

CAUTION: According to the ASPCA, avocado bark, fruit, leaves and seeds can be toxic to various animals such as cats and dogs (source).

All About Cinnamon

30 Jun

Cinnamon, said to come from the Greek word kinnámōmon, is a spice obtained from the inner bark of various trees which are members of the genus Cinnamomum. It has long been valued by various cultures, using it in religious events and as gifts, and has been used as far back as 2000 BC (source).

This aromatic spice is produced by first allowing cinnamon trees to grow for two years, at which point they are cut near ground level, allowing new branches to grow out of the stumps in a process called coppicing. These branches are then removed, scraped free of their outer bark, then beaten in order to loosen their inner bark. This inner bark is then removed, processed and dried, causing it to curl up into what we are familiar with: cinnamon sticks (source). From this point, it is either sold in stick form or as a powder which has a stronger flavor.

Cinnamon

True Cinnamon” as it is sometimes called, is cultivated mainly from the Cinnamomum verum tree, native to Sri Lanka. This type of cinnamon is also sometimes referred to as Ceylon as it is the name Sri Lanka went by until 1972 (source). A second type of cinnamon is referred to as “Cassia,” which is obtained from related species of cinnamon trees grown in China, Indonesia or Vietnam. When compared to cassia, Ceylon cinnamon is lighter brown in color, less dense, has more of an aroma, and is more subtle in flavor, whereas cassia is a medium to light reddish-brown, more dense, and has a much stronger flavor (source).

Most commonly used in cooking, cinnamon is popular in a variety of cuisines including Middle Eastern, Persian and Turkish, and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

Cinnamon also boasts various health benefits including its anti-clotting and anti-microbial benefits, blood sugar control, brain function improvement, colon health and heart disease prevention (source).

Fresh cinnamon should have a sweet aroma and is best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can also be kept in a cool, dark place such as in a closed cabinet away from heat sources. Ground cinnamon should keep for up to 6 months and cinnamon sticks for up to one year (source).

While true cinnamon should be fine, it is not recommended to consume large amounts of cassia cinnamon over a prolonged period of time, as it contains potentially dangerous amounts of coumarin, a naturally occurring plant component with strong anticoagulant properties (source).

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