Bittersweet in Brooklyn

Hey––just returned from a whirlwind trip to Brooklyn, New York where I was helping my recent college grad daughter get settled in her new apartment before she starts her new job. I titled this “Bitterweet” as it seemed nothing went as planned but if it had we would have never discovered a new place!

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Of course, my mind was on the food. Before we left, I researched all the fabulous Vegan restaurants that we’d have to try. I was so excited that I’d get to see all the wonderful places the I had coveted on Instagram. We had a list of some favorites––Modern Love Brooklyn, The Butcher’s Daughter and Wild Ginger. I was only staying two nights, but we thought we had a plan?!!

Thursday night turned out to be a monsoon rainstorm. It was raining so hard that we couldn’t leave our hotel. Seamless food delivery came to the rescue to bring us some Thai food from a nearby place. It was just so-so. OK, moving forward, there was still Friday, right?

Friday brought a new set of problems involving plumbing and furniture delivery issues. Lunch had to be delivered. Luckily we found a great place to order falafel and hummus. After a whole day of problems, we were determined to make my last night a good one. One in which we could actually have a sit down dinner.

We didn’t want to venture too far from the area and we preferred a short subway ride, if possible. We found a place online that looked rather intriguing. It was called Greedi Vegan. I hadn’t heard of it before, but the website looked really nice and I liked the owner/chef’s story.  So, on the subway we went.

Wow. That’s all I can really say. We walked up to a modest storefront located on a quiet residential street located inwhat I think bordered Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy.  (Excuse me if you have to correct my geography). We walked into a cozy little place where three people busily workded behind the counter. We were greeted with a friendly hello as we seated ourselves at two of the four sets at the counter. Latisha, chef and owner of Greedi Vegan, was busy cooking and chatting with a few diners. As she wrapped up some dessert to go for a customer, she asked if we had been here before.  I told her we were here to move my daugher and I mentioned that I was a plant based blogger. We explained that everything had gone wrong and this was our first sit down meal since we arrived the day before.

After taking a look at the menu, we had a tough time deciding because everything looked THAT good! Latisha told us there are a few things not on the menu that she could also make for us. We decided on the “beef” nachos to start, followed by the Portobello Sliders (me) and the Loaded Grilled Cheeze (not on the menu-Darcy).

As Latisha cooked, we chatted about her place and how she got there. She told us she was raised as a vegan (at a time when it wasn’t really a thing). She had gotten away from eating that way, but slowly came back to it and opened Greedi Vegan only a year ago, And from what I could see in my short time there, it is quite a success. Regulars were streaming in and out with take out orders and a few others joined us at the counter to order as well. Even in the tight space, no one felt rushed to give up their place. It was like eating at the kitchen counter in your own home. If your own home served the most delicious vegan food EVER!

Latisha’s attitude and delicious food really inspired me when I returned home to Florida. Last night for dinner I made some quinoa “taco meat” and some air fryer corn tortillas to try to replicate the nachos. I was short on time and wasn’t able to make a “cheesy” sauce, but next time I’m craving those scrumptious nachos, I will be ALL IN! Watch my blog for some new recipes inspired by Greedi Vegan. And please stop in and say hello and get yourself some fantastic vegan eats next time you’re in Brooklyn.

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

 

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Why should you go plant based?

Earlier this month, I gave a presentation to a group of men and women at a local senior center. It was my first time speaking to a group such as this and I wasn’t sure what to expect or even how I would be received. The organizer from the Meals on Wheels program told me that they like to have a snack, preferably sweets, and suggested I bring something for them to sample and incorporate that into my talk.

I had about a month’s notice to prepare for the talk which was going to be with “The Lunch Club” at the center. I had my keynote (Power Point) all set up and rehearsed and my speech notes were all ready to go. I wasn’t nervous, well, maybe just a little. Why would they want to listen to a talk about plant based eating?

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Yukon Gold “waffles”-side of chickpeas and roasted asparagus drizzled with balsamic glaze

I started talking, and a few latecomers walked in, and one woman said that I should start over. I had only gone through one slide, so she said..”oh, go ahead and start again”. I though to myself…Hmmm, they’re actually listening––and they’re interested!! In all honestly, I did offer the chocolate chip banana cake FIRST!

My talk progressed, and I had a few questions along the way. And everyone took an interest in what I had to say. We had a really great discussion afterwards. Only one or two people left when I finished talking, but the rest sat around and had another piece or two of cake. These men and women had at least 20 years on me. A few ladies had just come from the chair yoga class. One woman proudly announced that she is in her 70s and she does not take one single pill. She said she only eats organic (but she is not vegan). We had a great discussion on my why.

I am asked almost daily “why” I eat this way––vegan, plant-based, whole food––whatever you want to call it. My simple answer is that my body feels better when I eat this way. After more than 2 years of eating this way it has become my lifestyle. Although my motivation to begin this was purely for my health, I am definitely more conscious of the toll that animal farming is taking on the environment. After watching documentaries such as Food, Inc , Eating You Alive and Forks Over Knives, I believe many of you would think very differently about what you put on your plate.

Just yesterday, the Canadian government issued their 2019 health guidelines. And what do you know….their new food guidelines eliminates dairy as a food group and features fruits and vegetables on half your plate! Water is also encouraged as the beverage of choice and protein includes plant protein choices. I wonder how long until the US catches up??

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“Clean out the fridge” salad–tons of colors and flavor!

In our country, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity are all preventable lifestyle diseases that can be reversed and prevented through a plant based, whole foods diet. The scientific evidence is out there. It’s as simple as changing what’s on the end of your fork. I know that I will continue to choose plants over pills, how about you?

Do you like my food photos? Stay tuned for my next post and I’ll show you how I made those waffle fries and how I cook with no oil.

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

“This post is part of the wellpreneur blog challenge.”

http://learn.wellpreneuronline.com/blog-challenge/

 

Viva Las Vegan!

I just returned from a quick trip to Vegas and I thought I’d give you my culinary diary while I was there. From a vegan diet perspective, the choices were better than I expected. From a plant-based diet view, the choices were not exactly on plan and I’ll explain why and what the differences were.

We arrived on Sunday evening, and with a three hour time change, we were starving! Let me backtrack by saying that I did a lot of research before our trip and found the Vegans,baby  website extremely helpful in deciding which restaurants to choose.  We used a Groupon for dinner on Sunday night at SEA, The Thai Experience. SEA is located in the Bally’s Casino. We had eaten there on a previous trip, so we were familiar with the food and knew it would be a good choice. Our Groupon was for 2 appetizers and 2 entrees. For my appetizer, I chose the coconut spring roll, and I ordered the Malay Massaman Curry with Tofu for my entree. The spring rolls were fried, so probably not the healthiest choice-but it’s vacay, right? My curry dish was very good, although I did have to send it back because the spice level was too high when I had ordered it “mild”. The staff was very attentive and took care of it right away.

Day 2 of my culinary adventure brought me to Cañonita at the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. Cañonita is situated on the Canal and we had a beautiful table next to the water and throughout lunch, we were serenaded by the Gondeliers. It was lunch and a show! The menu didn’t offer too many vegan options, and I chose the Herbed Mushroom Tacos and made sure there was no dairy added. It’s very typical of Mexican restaurants to add “crema” on their dishes-so I always ask. The soft corn tortilla tacos were served with cilantro rice and black beans. If we hadn’t started our meal with the basket of chips, then this would’ve been my healthiest meal of the trip.

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After some serious steps walking The Strip (25,000+) on my step counter, it was time for dinner. Again, after consulting Vegans, Baby, I made a reservation at Stack, located in the Mirage Hotel.  Before our trip, I scanned the menu carefully and saw that there were multiple vegan offerings. When we were seated and I opened the menu, my heart sank because I didn’t see any of those menu items. Could they have changed their menu that suddenly? This is a steakhouse-clearly not what I had in mind. I quickly flagged down the waiter and asked where the vegan menu was and he brought me the separate menu (whew!). My dinner choice here was the “Chicken” Piccata and a side order of Roasted Wild Mushrooms. The “chicken” was Gardein “chicken” transformed into the most flavorful dish I’ve ever had. The chicken was served on top of peewee potatoes and cauliflower florets, all garnished with a creamy, lemony piccata sauce and lots of capers. It was delicious. My side order of roasted wild mushrooms was a very generous bowl, enough to share with my carnivorous dinner companion/husband!

And just like that, it’s our last day in Vegas. I spent most of the afternoon at the Fashion Show Mall, mostly browsing the hundreds of shops and again, accumulating thousands of steps on my step counter app. Lunch today was a little disappointing. I had high hopes of finding a really innovative and plant based restaurant at the mall, but all I found were chain restaurants that don’t exactly cater to vegan or plant based diners. I settled for a hummus and falafel wrap in the Food Court, where I had to have them re-make my salad without cheese (story of my life). The falafel was very tasty and although it was fried, it wasn’t greasy. After being refueled, I was ready to make the long trek back to my hotel and rest my feet.

Dinner on our last night was at Jardin, located in the Encore Hotel. This was my favorite meal of the trip-because of the food and the atmosphere. The decor is just beautiful.  The mid-century modern decor was what I’d call upscale Brady Bunch. The tables are white lacquer with a gold veining running through and the chairs were chunky and covered in white leather. The tables and chairs made a fabulous contrast against the bright floral mosaic tiled floor. The while ceiling and rotunda were certainly designed to bring in the light and make you feel as though you are in your own private garden.

The food was just as spectacular as the furnishings. I chose the Mushroom Tartine as my starter and the Kale and Spinach Ravioli for my entree. Our server told me that the Mushroom Tartine, was one of the most popular menu items (even though it’s vegan!). I was served with three large pieces of sourdough bread which was topped with an artisan asmod milk cheese, a marsala glaze and mushrooms with a truffle vinaigrette-it was so delicious.  My ravioli entree was a gorgeous green pasta filled with a vegan almond ricotta-topped with roasted mushrooms and pine nuts and served over a red pepper puree.  A magnificent way to end our getaway to Vegas.

As I mentioned earlier, my meals were Vegan, but not necessarily Plant-Based. I certainly met the criteria for avoiding any animal products, but most everything I ate was cooked with oil-which goes against the plant-based philosophy. I do adhere to the plant based way of eating at home, but for a vacation, I allow myself to indulge. As soon as I’m home, I go right back to my plant based plan. And I’m okay with that–it’s all about balance and enjoying your life.

I hope this helps you if there’s a Vegan trip in your future. What restaurants have you found that serve spectacular vegan food? Leave me a comment!  And I’ll see you soon in the kitchen!

Heidi

Living in a (non)plant based world

Ahhh…imagine walking into any restaurant and seeing so many choices that you couldn’t possibly make up your mind. The appetizer section has whole wheat crostini topped with a dairy free pesto and brown rice paper spring rolls filled with just veggies. For the entrees there’s bbq tempeh and seitan piccata, or your choice of stir fry with tofu. The dessert list has sorbet and fresh fruit and not a single buttercream topped cupcake or death by chocolate brownie sundae. Have you seen this place? Yeah, neither have I. This is the restaurant in my dreams! But, the tide is turning.

Last week, I was a guest at the Empty Bowls at Lakewood Ranch- a fundraising event to benefit Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee County. It was billed as the “longest lunch table” It’s mission is to unite one table to envision hunger relief together in Manatee County.  When attendees arrived  at the event (for a $30 ticket), they were given an envelope with several tickets and 3 small tasting cups. The first ticket was to pick out their bowl. Beneath a massive tent were hundreds of hand painted ceramic bowls that volunteers and board members created for the event. After choosing the bowl, you then moved on to a long table filled with soup pots from more than a dozen local restaurants. You were able to sample 3 soups with your mini cup and when you decided on your “bowl”, you turned in your ticket for your soup. In addition, there were bread slices and water to compliment the soup as well as some dessert options. Once you had your soup, it was time to join a large community table and enjoy!

This was my first time attending an event like this and I was very impressed. Initially, I was worried that there wouldn’t be any soup for me. ( I could hear the soup Nazi in my head saying “No Soup for YOU”). But, I was pleasantly surprised that I had 3 really great options in that pool of restaurants. I spoke to the man from Spacco Italian Grill who was serving Pasta Faglioli-which he promised me had no meat and no dairy and was cooked in vegetable broth. It was delicious and he also assured me that when I come to his restaurant, there are vegan options on his menu. There were two other vendors who provided plant based soup choice. There was a roasted garlic bisque from Ortygia and a healing vegetable soup from Jubilee Organics. The Pasta Faglioli was definitely my favorite!

And all of this gives me a positive feeling that restaurants are starting to take notice and offering healthier options for their guests. There is definitely a need for more fully plant based restaurants.  Let’s hope that this trend continues. If you’ve had a positive experience at a restaurant, let them know they are doing a great job. When I have a great meal and the staff is accommodating to my needs, I tell them. Let’s keep this going and hopefully someday we will see plant based foods as mainstream menu items.

See you in the kitchen (or restaurant) soon,

Heidi

Brunch with my tribe

Spending a few hours and a meal with a room full of plant based eaters doesn’t happen very often for me. Yes, I did spend a three day weekend in August at Plant Stock and that was amazing! But, here, in my everyday life in beautiful Florida, I am seldom surrounded by my plant based tribe.

Today, my husband and I attended a Vegan and Oil-Free Buffet with friends who happen to be vegan also. (Disclaimer, my husband is a flexitarian who also enjoys many plant based meals).  The event was hosted by The Food Pharmacy. I didn’t know much about the Food Pharmacy until very recently when a friend had mentioned it to me. In a nutshell, the Food Pharmacy is just that. Their mission is show people that eating and preparing plant based foods is a better option than medications to treat disease. I was lucky enough to speak to one of the Food Pharmacy’s owners, Evelisse Capo. She and her partner, Elisa Burgos, addressed the group at the restaurant today and explained the importance of a plant based lifestyle.

By a show of hands, perhaps more than half of the attendees were fully plant based or vegan, some new to this way of eating, and some partially vegan. Evelisse explained “why” oil free is so important. Vegetable oils are stripped of all nutrients. It is a processed food that has no place in a whole food, plant based diet. For years, we’ve always been told that olive oil is a healthy fat. It simply is not true. Look at the following picture below that shows the calorie density of 500 calories.

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Brunch today was held at The Curry Station restaurant in Sarasota. The chef/owner, Chef Narendra, prepared an entire Indian Buffet cooked without any oil. Everything was plant based, whole food and the most delicious Indian food I have every had. The buffet had chickpea curry, whole wheat roti, several rice options, and an eggplant dish, just to name a few.  He explained to us that he always has oil free options on his menu and emphasized that this was not just a special meal for our group today. I was so thrilled to hear that and I know that we will definitely frequent his restaurant.

This was a very well attended event. It was so exciting to be in a restaurant full of people who eat like you do and to hear why many of them eat this way. Evelisse told us that she is a Doctor of Pharmacy, but she left the practice of pharmacy to start the Food Pharmacy and that her entire family is plant based. I also heard a few other people comment that they eat this way because they want to prevent or reverse a chronic disease, like heart disease or diabetes. I also got into a discussion with two people at the buffet about how the meat industry is destroying our environment.  We all spent a few minutes sharing our thoughts on our favorite documentaries: Forks Over Knives, What the Health, Eating you Alive. (I loved all of them-I couldn’t say which was my favorite) Whatever the reason, this event brought so many like minded people together, but it’s just a start.

We need more restaurants to get on board and offer something more than a salad for its customers who do not eat animal products. Chef Narendra showed us all how delicious and healthy this way of eating is. I am ready to spread the word in my community. How about you?

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Spreading the Plant Based Wisdom sure isn’t easy…but I’m trying!

After an inspiring weekend spent immersed in the Plant Based culture at Plant Stock 2018 (see previous post here), I thought I was prepped and ready to face the outside world of SAD (Standard American Diet) eaters. At practically every corner, there are doubters and skeptics that think this isn’t a feasible way to eat and live or its just too much trouble to change. True, as one of our speakers said last weekend, “you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable”.

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Homemade granola breakfast bowl

I am back in my hometown of suburban Cleveland, Ohio this week taking care of family issues. I am pretty much alone when it comes to my eating habits, although my family is used to my special requests and they are supportive and understanding when I decline the meals they have prepared. For me it is just second nature to prep my own food and decipher a restaurant menu to find just the right thing I will eat.

I guess my wish and hope is that more restaurants can come on board with the whole plant based idea. I had lunch on Saturday with my cousins at a “make your own salad” kind of place, called Hello Bistro. This was pretty close to being a perfect option for anyone following this way of eating. (Outside of a strictly vegan only restaurant) They have some ready to order salads and sandwiches, but they also have a huge assembly line salad bar where they fill your bowl with whatever you want, add in a dressing and toppings and then chop it to your liking. It was really delicious.

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Sarasota Farmer’s Market-perfect plant food choices every Saturday!

I’ll be returning home to Florida tomorrow. Back to my own kitchen and all my ingredients and familiarities. And my next steps in my whole food world? I am going to enroll in an online wellness/nutrition course and learn as much as I can about the healing power and health benefits of plants. I’m so excited to begin a program so that I am better equipped to answer questions and hopefully guide others if they are curious and ready to “join the tribe”

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ll will definitely keep you all posted on my progress, and there will be more recipes and tips follow in the near future.

See you soon in my kitchen,

Heidi

Plant Stock 2018: Three Days of Peace, Plants and Love

IMG_1435I just returned from Plant Stock 2018 recharged, inspired and motivated to continue my whole food, plant based lifestyle. Plant Stock was a three-day event held at the Blue Ridge Assembly in the Black Mountain area outside of Asheville, North Carolina. It was hosted and presented by the incredible team from the Engine 2 program, and most notably, Rip Esselstyn. Rip is the founder of the Engine 2 program as well as a member of the Esselstyn family, who are all plant based crusaders.

My dear friend Lisa Gianvito and I made our reservations for this event way back in January of this year. We both are members of several Facebook groups that are under the wing of Engine 2. There is a 7 Day Rescue Challenge group, which is an online support group that follows Rip’s Engine 2 7 Day Rescue Program. We joined this group in its infancy in 2017. At the time, there were just a couple hundred members. The group now numbers in the tens of thousands. The other (less stringent) group is the Engine 2 Plant Based Community group. We had both heard of previous Plant Stock events and we agreed to book for this event, which very quickly sold out.

We arrived Friday afternoon at the YMCA camp property. When we turned off the main road, we were greeted by various signs in the road: “Honk if you pooped (twice) today” and “Kale yeah, you made it.” As we drove up to the registration, we were greeted by staff in bright tie-dye shirts and a giant sign that said “Welcome to your Tribe.” We were home.

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I was a little uncertain about what to expect and what I’d come away with from the weekend. I had been following a plant-based way of eating since the beginning of 2017. I was excited that all the food we would be eating all weekend was Engine 2 plant strong and that there was no need to worry about asking for any modifications like I do at practically every restaurant on the planet!

After checking into our modest accommodations, we had free time before the welcome assembly. We had choices of yoga, hiking, swimming and gym workouts. After a fabulous yoga session with Martha of Black Mountain Yoga studios, we headed to the welcome program. It’s hard to describe the spirit of the room when over 700 people who eat “just like you” are gathered together! It was simply overwhelming. The next stop was the dining hall for the first of a weekend full of plant strong meals.

After a fabulous first dinner, we joined together once again to watch the premier of a new film, “The Game Changers,” which has not yet been released. Imagine a movie about elite athletes that follow a Plant Based Diet! This is a must-see movie, especially for all the people out there who constantly ask: “Where do you get your protein?” It dispels all the myths that animal protein is essential for strength and endurance. It was truly eye-opening for the entire audience.

Day 2 was filled with inspiring speakers and panels. We listened to Dr. Michael Greger from NutritionFacts.org and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, (patriarch of the Esselstyn family),who detailed the benefits of a plant based diet and the reversal of heart disease. Every medical professional that spoke this weekend gave their insights and experiences and proof that this way of eating and lifestyle can reverse obesity, reverse diabetes, slow down the progression (or eliminate the risk) of dementia and improve health like no pill can do. Each speaker emphasized that the way out of the health crisis that this country is in is as easy as what you put in your mouth. All you need are whole foods — specifically minimally processed, plant based food. We were entertained by Rip’s sister, Jane Esselstyn, as well as their mother, Ann. Jane and Ann are YouTube sensations!

This brings me back to my why. I am fortunate to not be suffering from any of the common chronic diseases that plague our society. I just want to avoid them. I enjoy this way of eating. It’s not hard. The food is delicious. I have a community of people who think like I do, and I really hope that I can convince more people to join our tribe.

If you’re curious about the Engine 2 program, check out their plan. You can sign up for the 7 Day Resuce challenge here. It is completely free! The support from the Facebook group is absolutely amazing.

In my next post, I’ll show you how to make a mango and corn salsa that is so easy that I made the entire recipe while I was on hold with John Hancock insurance, waiting to be connected to a “live” person.

Until the next time,

Heidi

Eating my way through Israel…and enjoying the spectacular country at the same time

We just returned from a 10 day trip to Israel with some good friends and a bus load of people who became our new friends. There were many challenges when you travel with a diverse group of people, but we all seemed to enjoy one thing for sure, and that was the plentiful Israeli food along the way.

We celebrated our first night in Tel Aviv at a Yemenite restaurant called Maganda. When we arrived at the restaurant, the tables we already set up with platters of salads, hummus, pita, grilled veggies and more. All of us were so tired and hungry after our long flights. We pretty much devoured everything in sight. Most of us thought that was dinner- but no, there was more to come. Next came shish kebab. Skewers with both beef and chicken were brought out to each person with great flourish. And then the waiter came to me….I said, no thanks. He said, in his accented English, “vegetarian”.so, I said, yes. A few minutes later he brings me a huge plate with stuffed peppers, green beans, stuffed grape leaves and sautéed mushrooms. I didn’t starve!

The next day brought us to the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. We strolled through the open air market where one could buy anything from olives to spices to candy. It was also the place to find souvenirs to take home. We had so much fun going up and down the crowded alleys to look at all the amazing foods. The spices were just amazing.

Each day took us to a new place to tour and the country is just beautiful, and of course, we were treated to more delicious foods. During our day visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, we stopped in the Arab section of the city and feasted on chicken shwarma, falafel and pizza. The lively shop owner gave everyone a choice of meals and no one left hungry.

The hospitality we received was wonderful and I can’t possibly describe every meal we had but I hope this gives you a taste and maybe you too will make the trip yourself too.

Until the next meal,

Heidi