July 18, 2014

2014 Vegetarian and Vegan Miami Spice Guide

by ashleyjmorgan

2014 Miami Spice Vegetarian and Vegan GuideIt’s that time of the year again! Miami Spice offers three course tasting menus to some of the hottest restaurants in South Florida. Lunch menus are $23 pp and Dinner $39 pp. We have scoured the menus and created this list of restaurants that offer vegetarian options for their Spice menus.

*All meals listed have vegetarian options for appetizer, entrée and dessert. Meals with vegan options have the word vegan in bold.

View the full guide HERE!

July 18, 2014

I love Orangetheory Fitness!

by ashleyjmorgan

Orangetheory FitnessHave you heard of Orangetheory Fitness? I have been hearing people talking about these classes for a few months now, but my aversion to boot camp style fitness classes has made me shy away from it. Yesterday I finally conjured up enough courage to go and check them out, and I’m so glad that I did. It was so much fun, challenging yet not overwhelming as I had been afraid it might be. A little background on me: I am 26 years old, active on and off but certainly not an athlete. I am slightly overweight, BMI of about 26, and have never been religious about working out. I was afraid that I would get there and be way too out of shape to keep up, but the class really is tailored for anyone. The Orangetheory next to my house offers three free classes and I was able to make an appointment to come the same I called. When I arrived the manager greeted me and explained how the classes work, handed me a heart rate monitor and introduced me to the instructor. The instructor, Kelley, then took me around to the different machines and explained how to use each one. It is important that you come about thirty minutes early your first time so you can have this instruction, otherwise you may be lost during the class. The class itself is fast paced, but if you pay attention to the instructor you will be able to follow along. Your heart rate will be shown on a screen for everyone to see so that the instructor can make sure you are getting as much out of the class as you can. This is great, as you aren’t competing with the others in your class, who will most likely be at different fitness levels, but rather you are competing with yourself. At the end of the class the instructor will look over your heart rate statistics to see if you got into the “orange zone” for at least 12 minutes, where the name Orangetheory comes from. The logic behind this is that if you are in the orange zone for 12-20 minutes of your work out that you will spike your metabolism for up to 36 hours.

Orangetheory Stats E-mail

Orangetheory Stats E-mail

During the class you will be on a treadmill for about 30 minutes using one of three programs: power walker, jogger or runner. The instructor will call out instructions for each level as the class progresses. The other 30 minutes is a mixture of the rowing machine, free weights and body weight exercises. The instructor at my Orangetheory was really great about paying attention to the newcomers and making sure our form was correct during the free weight and body weight exercises, which was wonderful for me as it was the first time I was doing many of these.

After the class is over Orangetheory will e-mail you a report of your heart rate, calories burned and your time in each heart rate zone. This is great for tracking your own progress. Memberships aren’t exactly cheap, but are on par with many of the comparable gyms in my area. Single classes are $25, the basic membership (4 classes per month) is $59, the elite membership (8 classes per month) is $99 and the premier membership (unlimited) is $159. Additional classes for basic are $14 and elite are $12. You can also use your membership at any Orangetheory location.

I’ve only done one class so far, but I signed up for the elite membership and am thinking about switching to the premier. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going!

July 16, 2014

Bennachin Restaurant, a taste of Africa in New Orleans

by ashleyjmorgan
Akara - Black Eyed Pea Fritters

Akara – Black Eyed Pea Fritters

I’ve been so busy these last six months and it was left up to Jessica to keep up the blog (she did a great job, thanks Jess!!). Finally I am back in town and ready to share all of my experiences with our readers. Since I last posted I’ve been to Orlando, Denver, New Orleans, Lisbon (Portugal), Vaduz (Liechtenstein), Munich (Germany), Baden Baden (Germany), Innsbruck (Austria), Chur (Switzerland), Fussen (Germany), Frankfurt (Germany), Strasbourg (France) and several other cities in Europe that would make this list way too long. I won’t have updates from all of these places individually, but I plan to post as much information as I can on vegetarian eating in these regions.

A while ago I posted some pictures on the Facebook page (if you don’t follow us on Facebook, please click here!) of a meal I had in New Orleans that was amazing. Away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy side of Bourbon street lies Bennachin Restaurant, an African restaurant with amazing food and prices. If you are looking for a unique experience while visiting New Orleans, you should definitely give them a visit. I have been wanting to try Ethiopian food, but could never find an African restaurant from any country in South Florida. Bennachin focuses on cuisine from Gambia and Cameroon, catering heavily to vegan and vegetarian diners as well as meat eaters.

Kone ni Makondo - Black-eyed peas in onion and tomato stew served with coconut rice and fried ripe plantains

Kone ni Makondo – Black-eyed peas in onion and tomato stew served with coconut rice and fried ripe plantains

The interior has an intimate, homey and inviting atmosphere that put us at ease immediately. The staff were so friendly and all of the guests were also helpful when it came time to order. The menu was foreign to us, but we asked guests around us what they were eating and chose items that looked good. I ordered Akara (black-eyed pea fritters, $4.50 VEGAN), Kone ni Makondo (Black-eyed peas in onion and tomato stew served with coconut rice and fried ripe plantains, $13.95 VEGAN) and Makondo Yogurt (fried plantains with yogurt sauce, $5.00 VEG/DAIRY). The portion sizes are enormous here and I really didn’t need any appetizer or dessert, but I was so intrigued by everything I wanted to try as much as I could. Unfortunately we only learned of their famous Jama-Jama (sautéed spinach, $4.50 VEGAN) after ordering, which is a hit at the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. When I am in New Orleans again, I will definitely go back and order it.

Makondo Yogurt - fried plantains with yogurt sauce

Makondo Yogurt – fried plantains with yogurt sauce

The restaurant has been a staple of New Orleans since 1992 yet many tourists don’t get to experience it, even though it is well within walking distance of the tourist area. Located at 1212 Royal Street, it is only one block off of Bourbon Street and less than a mile from Canal Street. Their full menu and more information about the restaurant can be found on their website at http://www.bennachinrestaurant.com/.

 

July 16, 2014

The Wonders of Ghee and Ladoo/Laddu

by ashleyjmorgan

Ghee and Ladoo/Laddu Ghee is traditionally used in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Sri Lankan cuisine, however versions of it are used throughout the world. It is very similar to clarified butter and made almost in the same way, just cooked a bit longer until the milk solids are browned. While not vegan, the process of making Ghee removes all of the milk solids, so it is a safe alternative to those with milk/lactose allergies. The flavor of your Ghee will depend greatly on the quality of the butter you start with. The best Ghee will come from grass fed cows, best if you can find fresh butter from a local farmer. If you are not near a farming community and live in the United States or Canada, Kerrygold butter is also a great alternative. Make sure you buy the full fat, traditional Kerrygold if you choose that route.

I am most familiar with the traditional uses of Ghee in Indian cooking, which they use to cook rice, dosas, curries and many other popular items. Ghee is also frequently served on the side for dipping in Indian cuisine. Naan, one of my favorite breads in the world, is usually brushed with Ghee while cooking to give it that sweet, buttery flavor.  

Ghee can be used to cook almost anything requiring the use of butter or oil, and when prepared with high quality butter it will contain no trans fats. So while Ghee is 100% fat, many doctors agree it is much healthier than many oils. Trans fats have been shown in laboratory testing to raise the risk of heart disease. Be careful if you choose to purchase pre-made Ghee instead of making your own, as there are many companies that market as “pure Ghee” when in fact they use vegetable oils containing trans fats. When made properly, Ghee is aromatic and nutty, with a hint of sweetness that lends itself to a variety of dishes and cuisines.

 

Making Ghee at Home

What you’ll need:

1lb high quality, full fat, unsalted butter

Large pot

Wooden spoon
Double mesh strainer

Cheesecloth

Large mixing bowl with lip for pouring

Jars for storage (I use mason jars)

 

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat, stirring constantly until butter foams and starts to boil. Lower heat to medium low and let simmer, do not stir in this phase. Allow the butter to continue to simmer until the foam disappears and the butter starts to clear. While waiting, place your double mesh strainer over the mixing bowl with the cheesecloth laid over the strainer. You will see the milk solids begin to form, stir gently a few times just to let the milk solids fall to the bottom of the pot.  Keep simmering, stirring occasionally so the milk solids don’t stick. Your Ghee will be finished cooking once the milk solids are a medium golden brown and the butter is finished foaming. Immediately pour the Ghee over the cheesecloth to strain out the milk solids. Some may choose to discard these, others can follow my short recipe below for a delicious treat to make with these. Pour into glass jars for storage. Your Ghee should be a lovely clear gold color, which will solidify as it cools. It is now ready for use!

 

Ladoo (Laddu) – Tasty treats made from leftover milk solids

Ladoo/Laddu

If you do not have a dairy allergy, there is no reason to discard the delicious milk solids that are left over from your homemade Ghee. They are very simple to make and are a great way to enjoy the fruits of your Ghee labor right away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you’ll need:

Leftover milk solids from making Ghee (recipe above)

½ cup wheat flour

3 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp Ghee

3 tbsp halved raw, unsalted cashews (optional)

Parchment paper

 

Combine the milk solids, sugar and wheat flour in the same pan you just made Ghee, mix well to fully incorporate and heat over medium low until golden brown. In separate pan, lightly fry the cashews in two tablespoons of Ghee. Add cashews to the wheat mixture and incorporate by hand, adding the remaining tablespoon of Ghee if mixture is not wet enough. Begin hand forming small balls in your hands and set out on parchment. These can be eaten immediately or cooled and eaten at room temperature. Either way, they are delicious!

 

July 15, 2014

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

by jmichael614

Just a quick post to share this amazing dinner I had last night!  I’m done with two months of NutriSystem and trying to feed myself better, smaller portions.  This poblano pepper is stuffed with Spanish rice, block Feta cheese and cheddar cheese blend.  On top is a delicious green salsa mixed with some avocados and more cheese on top.

A simple dish that is healthy and filling!  Let the race food begin…

June 25, 2014

Nouri (as in “Nourish”) Gets It Right With Simple Nutrition Bars

by jmichael614

I received a cute little box of Nouri Bars in the mail a couple of days ago.  I have to say that I honestly had no idea who they were before they contacted us and I thought it was just another “vegan” bar out on the market.

 

Then, I opened their little box of goodies and read right on the package that every bar you buy provides a meal for a child in need.  Stop everything, we have found the Tom’s Shoe company of food people!  They won me over even before I ripped off the package.  I have to say that the bars are not the prettiest but they are nutritious, delicious and come in three great flavors that really it makes no difference.  My son, who is picky eater of picky eaters, kept asking me for “more” when I broke off a few pieces of their chocolate cashew bar.

What’s another great feature of these bars?  They are usually around 150 calories- that’s almost unheard of in a nutrition bar.  Seriously?  150 calories?  That’s like a cup of tall chai latte at Starbucks.  Also, each bar packs in about 6 grams of protein and has some pretty fabulous organic ingredients as well (forget sugar or corn syrup, these babies have dates, hemp, vanilla, etc).

And when they asked us to try their bars, they focused on their mission to end child hunger, not on getting more sales.  We think we’re in <3!

Thank you Nouri Bar for introducing us to a new brand – you now have yet another loyal fan.

For more information and to see what this amazing company is doing, go to http://www.nouribar.com/

June 20, 2014

A Cosmo In Your Freezer (and other delicious combinations), Pop Lab Brings It!

by jmichael614

 

On Thursdays, at Whole Foods, there is a great little Farmer’s Market happening in Pembroke Pines.  We found homemade nut butters, soaps, vegan Jamaican food, pie in a jar (amazing), gluten free nut free sugar free desserts and much much more.

I also found this great “Pop Lab” ice pop bar.  Delicious, all natural and they do parties!  This pop was literally coconut milk and a chai latte- kind of spicy and creamy at the same time.  It was refreshing and the Chai latte was an interesting twist to your regular, boring ice pop flavors.  They do have milk and non-dairy options available and you can have them shipped.  They also have some pretty delicious combinations like banana milkshake and dulce de leche for those of you that just have to have some dairy.

But these guys don’t stop there, no!  They are the THE people to go to when you want to throw a party, if you know what I mean.  They have Sangria, Cosmos, Watermelon Mojito, even a Bloody Mary popsicle.   So, sit back, relax by the pool and let them bring the party to you in the form of a delicious, ice-cold popsicle.

For more information, go to www.poplabusa.com.

May 30, 2014

Month 1 of Nutrisystem Down!

by jmichael614

Today is the last day of Month 1 on Nutrisystem.  Well, at least it’s the end of 5 weeks on Nutrisystem.  After one month, here is what I have found:

1. Obsessive weighing can keep you from going off plan but can also kinda mess with your head.

2. Keep those pair of jeans you can’t seem to fit into yet- it’s sooooo motivating putting them on and having them fit!

3. A piece of fruit is actually a treat!!

4. No matter how much weight you lose, you still need to go to the gym to lose the pooch (blame my son for that).

5. I still need to go to the gym.

6. It’s totally possible to go out to eat on this plan.

7. I’ve actually saved money not eating out all the time.

8. 8.2 lbs later, I feel pretty accomplished and realize that 1 or 2 lbs a week is an incredible goal and so easy if you stick to your plan.  It adds up so quickly.

9. Take the time you have while on your diet to retrain your brain to eat healthier- I have already changed my July order to include only breakfast, lunch and snack so that I can teach myself how to eat dinners on my own.  For August, I may go it alone.

10. For the first time in a very long time, I might actually be able to wear a cute bikini for the summer and look half decent in it.

So there you go, diamonds of wisdom.  Go forth!

April 28, 2014

Nutrisystem for Vegetarians

by jmichael614

I finally did it, I signed up with the millions on Nutrisystem.  I know many of you are tut-tutting and shaking your head thinking I’ve gone off the deep end.  Before you judge me, let me give you a little background:

I’ve been curious about Nutrisystem for years and never jumped on board because I was afraid of spending $300 on something I would hate.  I also didn’t want to eat a bunch of prepackaged foods that were full of salt and crap for a month or more.  However, after researching it and after several people in my life have recently lost on NS, I was convinced I needed to at least try it. I don’t have hundreds of pounds to lose, just 15-20 lbs that I’ve been packing around since leaving New York (and travelling by car instead of walking around the city).

IMG_3048

 

The Positives:
A friend of mine lost her baby weight by doing NS and she liked it as a great way to get on track.  Our pastor at our church also recently signed up his family and the entire family has lost weight.  They look amazing, I think they are actually what sealed the deal because his wife is losing so much weight, it’s obvious.

Most of all, after reading a bunch on it, I realized that NS actually advocates healthier eating.  Yes, the foods are frozen or freeze dried and yes, they aren’t realistic to eat long term (though some do) but they encourage the food groups and you’re required to eat 4 servings of veggies a day, healthy protein sources, minimal fruit to cut down on the sugar habit and they even use stevia and monkfruit in some of their products.  I am seriously impressed because this company always seemed to be so unhealthy to me.

Nutrisystem also has a vegetarian plan, though most of it is pastas and pizza and lasagna, it is quite tasty.  I haven’t found one meal that I hate yet.  In just three days, I’ve already lost 3 lbs.

If you order now, you get the 28 days + the Fast Five and it comes out to less than $50/week average (if you have the right discounts, etc) for month 1- just remember if you choose auto ship, you will be charged a penalty if you choose to cancel after month 1.

For those of you that are worried about paying $200-300 right out of your pocket, there is the Bill Me Later option and you can pay as you go- no interest and no payments for six months (if that is still available).

The Negatives:
The portion sizes are really small.  I was excited to eat my muffins every morning but they are so tiny!  I seriously thought I was missing some of my breakfast.  The soups are so minuscule that I thought there must be a mistake.  Nope, not a mistake, amazingly I’m not craving crap though!

It comes all at once.  I have an incredibly huge box sitting behind my desk right now.  28 days + 7 days of the Fast 5 is a lot of food.  The benefit of this is that you can pick and choose what you have each day so you don’t get bored.

Your first week, you will be hungry (unless you’re used to eating very little).  My stomach is shrinking slowly but I’m still hungry on day 3 around 3pm and today, I forgot my veggies so I’ll have to starve till I get on the road and can get some veggies from the store.

But….
The most important thing- it’s Do-ABLE!  The portions are small but honestly, it kills your cravings because it’s tons of fiber and the shakes really take the edge off.  Be careful not to drink too much caffeine as it could impede your efforts.

If you are interested in joining, you can click on this link for more information.  I am looking forward to the next two months and will keep you all updated!

The Skinny on Pricing

As mentioned, you can do autoship and get the discount plus right now you can get the fast 5 and 28 days for $239.  If you choose my link below, I believe you can get $30 off the total cost of your shipment.  You can also check with Nutrisystem to see if they have a discount for your health insurance (mine did).  My first month came out to only about $44/week which is less than I spend in 5 days eating out.  For me, it’s actually more affordable than going to the grocery store but keep in mind you are still required to buy some of your own food.

Good luck if you try it- let me know how it goes.

http://online.nutrisystem.com/nsmembers/jsps/shop/all_plans.jsp

http://www.nutrisystem.com

April 21, 2014

Date, Fig, Granola Energy Bars

by jmichael614

Have you ever made something and were so excited about it that you left off the main ingredient?  This site should be “follies of a veggie” because I do that quite often.  Thankfully, in this case, it wasn’t a bad result.

I saw someone post about this amazing nutrition bar recipe on their twitter feed a while back but because I am not a “paid” subscriber, I could not access the full site.  So, I took it upon myself to make up my own recipe and I have to say, though I left out one main ingredient, it still tasted delicious.

Handful of pitted dates
Handful of dried figs
1/4 cup flour (I used tapioca flour to make it GF)
Handful of Dried Apricots
1/4 cup oatmeal (*my missing ingredient)
small portion bag chopped walnuts
small portion bag chopped macadamia
small portion bag slivered almonds
Nutmeg
Cinnamon (to taste)
Honey or agave
Chia seeds (sprinkle them in)
Flax seeds (sprinkled)
and lest we not forget chocolate: Raw cacao nibs

All this goes into a large pot and toasted (try toasting the nuts first and then adding in the rest).  These aren’t exact measurements because as you probably have already surmised, I make this up on the go.

I didn’t bake them but you should probably do so to set them better.  Lay them out flat on a cookie sheet after getting it out of the pot.  Mine was enough for a small cookie sheet.

Enjoy- I can’t wait to go home and have another one (just remember these are high calorie so small bars are ideal if you’re needing to watch #’s).

They turned out delicious and nutty.  You could add more oatmeal to make the nuts less dense and it would probably be just as delicious.

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