Sunday, August 7, 2016

How to eat vegan in NYC: review of Blossom restaurant


For the past few weeks (er, months), I've been feeling a bit down in the dumps, stressed, over-worked and just generally anxious about life. I think I have a split personality - sometimes I am carefree and optimistic, but often times I am worrying about something, planning, overthinking and just stressing myself out!

But I'm a firm believer that travel is good for the soul and is some of the best therapy that you can pay for. Because of my day job in media, I am not able to get away as much as I like, but was lucky enough to spend a long weekend in New York City recently to celebrate my birthday. In my late teens and early twenties, birthdays were usually a long, drawn out affair filled with weekends of partying, champagne, hangovers and general rowdiness. As I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate traveling more, preferring experiences I can remember and savor for years to to come.

This may sound cheesy and cliche, but NYC was all I had dreamed it would be and more. My bf and I stayed at a great hotel that was minutes away from Times Square and the hustle and bustle. I loved the mass of people that was always on the streets, that it was so easy to get where you wanted by walking, the Broadway shows, the shopping and most importantly the vegan food I got to eat.

I was so swamped with work in the two weeks leading up to the trip, coupled with a crappy wifi connection at home, that I didn't get enough time beforehand to properly map out all the restaurants I wanted to try. But I did book a table at Blossom on Columbus for my birthday meal and it was exquisite! One of the best meals I've ever had for sure.

For an appetizer, my boyfriend and I shared their empanadas which had a delicious flaky crust, warm filling that all came together well with the guacamole and corn.



My entree was the Seitan Scallopini, which I was weary of at first because I have only had seitan from a package once and it was okay but not amazing. But this seitan was pan-seared and tasted almost fatty, like a real cutlet but not in a gross, overly meaty way, if that makes sense. It was served on a bed of truffle mashed potatoes and sauteed kale.



By this time I was stuffed, but I had come all the way from the Bahamas for this, so I was going to eat my fill, dammit! So for desert, the server recommended the tiramisu. I again was a bit weary of this because my last experience with tiramisu was when I was vegetarian, and it was filled with regular milk and coconut and some cake, which probably sounds good but didn't taste great at all. So I was apprehensive about how a vegan take of this dessert would come out but I was I pleasantly surprised.


The tiramisu was rich, creamy but light, so it didn't leave me feeling like I had just gorged myself on sweets. It was the best dish out of the lot and I have had dreams about it ever since!

My boyfriend had their curried stuffed sweet potato, which I forgot to take a picture of. He didn't finish it because he doesn't really like sweet potato. I had a taste of it and wasn't wowed, but that's because I prefer sweet potato wedges over a whole baked one.

However, I would definitely recommend Blossom for anyone living or visiting NYC looking for delicious vegan food in a trendy, upscale atmosphere. I can't wait to go back and get that tiramisu.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Visiting Exuma, a jewel in paradise!


It’s been a long time; I shouldn’t have left you. . .

I’ve been away from this blog for a while, because well, life and procrastination. My one big vice, putting off things I should do that make me happy and further my dreams.

But alas, I am back and more committed to keeping this place an active space.

I spent a few days in Exuma last week. The experience opened my eyes to what’s important in life. Spending time with people you love, being in nature and outside of the concrete prison that is my office building, and just living in the moment.

Our first day my friends and I spent time at the Tropic of Cancer Beach in Little Exuma. It is hands down one of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas. The beach was nearly secluded. A small group was there when we arrived but left a few minutes later so we had the gorgeous scenery to ourselves.


(Tropic of Cancer Beach)

Before that we stopped at the Fish Fry for lunch. Options there were limited but I ordered salad with peas and rice from one of the food shacks which was satisfying enough.

The next day we went on a boat tour arranged by a one of the local tour companies. It is a one of a kind experience and I recommend it to anyone planning to visit the Bahamas. We booked with a company called Four C’s.

We were picked up from our hotel around 8am before taking a 45-minute drive to the company’s office to pay for the tour and then head out on the boat. We sailed through the Exuma cays, passing celebrity homes, before stopping to ‘Pig Island’, a little cay where the swimming pigs of Exuma live.

The pigs literally jump into the ocean and swim out to boaters when they hear them come in, jostling for food and drink and seemingly happy to have the company. The pigs live on the island by themselves and I was told that local boaters and tourists stop by regularly to feed them.

After the pigs we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant at Black Point. I was scared they would have nothing for me to eat because traditional Bahamian food is heavy on meat, seafood and dairy and light on the veggies. And this was a buffet style lunch! Concerned, I asked one of the tour guides if there was any salad I could eat with the peas and rice that was put out, explaining to him that I don’t eat meat or dairy. He went in the back to talk to the restaurant’s owner and I was not expecting much but she fixed a plate especially for me with fries, corn, and a salad which I ate with rice. She was more accommodating than most restaurants in Nassau, let me tell you. It may not sound like much but it was all yummy and filling.

So for any vegans going on a tour with Four C’s, speak up about your dietary needs beforehand and I am sure they will accommodate you.

We also went to another cay where native iguanas live. We were able to feed them lettuce and take pictures with them.


We also stopped to a beautiful place called the Thunderball Grotto where my boyfriend and friends snorkeled. I can’t swim (gasp) so I stayed on the boat, but they raved about it. There were lots of other interesting sights on the tour including a chance to swim with nurse sharks and a stop at a breathtaking sandbar.





(gorgeous sandbar)

It was a fun-filled day that is worth the money and the trip.

Our last full day in Exuma we visited Chat n Chill Beach on Stocking Island. You can catch a ferry from downtown George Town, it’s a short ride, and chill on the beach and pet sting rays. While we were near the shore, two sting rays kept swimming through our group, obviously familiar with humans and hoping for food. The main draw at the beach is a pig roast that’s served buffet style with more traditional Bahamian food. There’s also a regular bar menu. I brought my own snacks because I knew options would be limited and by this point I was tired of fries and salad.

Exuma is truly a beautiful place. I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough to eat but all the restaurants had some sort of vegan option so I never went hungry, even if my choices were limited. I also packed fruit and tons of snacks to tide me over. The hotel we stayed at (Hideaways) has a nice restaurant called Splash but again, vegan choices on the menu are slim. I mostly ate salad and fries while there.

A short walk away is the Exuma Beach Resort which had pasta dishes that were customizable to become vegan.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I can’t wait to go back again!

Here's a video my boyfriend made of the trip:


Xo

Sunday, February 21, 2016

How to fall in love with fitness




Have you ever struggled with maintaining a fitness routine, giving up after a few days or weeks because it was too hard or you didn’t see results?
Or do you just hate exercise and would rather sit on your bum watching TV while wishing you were 20 pounds lighter? 
If you answered yes to these questions, then I totally feel your pain. I’ve been there. 
Ask me a year ago and I would have said I was a veteran couch potato with a knack for stuffing my face as I binged on Netflix. 
No wonder my weight ballooned to 156 pounds on a 5’1” frame (oh the horror). 
Last August, I made a commitment to myself to get strong, not skinny. Of course I wanted to lose weight, but I was tired of feeling like a marshmallow with noodle arms. 
I wanted to be the girl that could run for 20 minutes without stopping. I wanted to be able to do pushups. I wanted to become fit. I’m still on my journey (and it hasn’t been easy) but I’ve lost 14 pounds so far and gone from exercise-phobic to working out six days a week. 

Here are my tips for falling in love with fitness: 

1. Start slow. One of the biggest mistakes people make when jumping into a new fitness routine is going too hard too soon. Of course we all want to see results quickly and challenge ourselves but if you jump into a hardcore workout when the most exercise you normally get is walking from the couch to the fridge, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. 
You will feel tired and achy, can possibly make yourself sick and get so discouraged you may not want to work out again. I suggest starting slow. When I began my fitness journey, I started with the Couch to Five K app. The plan calls for you to jog for three times a week, which builds your endurance slowly. The first week you jog for one minute and walk for three minutes and repeat until the end of the workout and progress each week until you can run for longer distances. This helped me see small gains in stamina each week that totally motivated me to keep at it. 

2. Find a program you love. After slowly (and I mean slowly) making my way through the Couch to Five K plan, I decided it was time for a change. The jogging had built up my endurance and before I switched my fitness routine, I went from struggling to jog for one minute to running for more than 20 minutes without stopping. I stopped the program at week seven to try something new. I looked up a bunch of workouts on YouTube but none of them motivated me. Enter Jillian Michaels. 
I have always loved her programs but before was too out of shape to keep up. I gave her workouts another go last October, starting with 30 Day Shred, which I highly recommend. (A lot of her workouts are available for free on YouTube). After doing the first two levels, I moved on to Six Week Six Pack. I love her training style and the changes I have seen to my body with her workouts. She motivates me to workout each day. I'm now on week three of her Body Revolution program and loving it.

3. Focus on strong, not skinny. It's easy to get discouraged when you're working hard, eating right and the numbers on the scale don't seem to budge. While on my journey, the weight hasn't come off as fast as I'd like, probably because I'm not dieting. I try and eat a balanced vegan diet, but never deprive myself from carbs or the occasional glass of red wine. But what I have noticed is gains in my strength and endurance. I can do intense cardio that would have left me gasping for breath last year, I can do a few real pushups, I can hold a plank and side plank. The list goes on. I can only imagine how much stronger I'll be at the end of the year.

I hope these tips help you on your fitness journey. Tell me, what motivates you to exercise?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Yummy Chickpea Salad

I have a confession. When I was a meat eater, I never liked tuna salad. It would either have too much mayo, not enough salt, or worse yet - taste and smell too 'fishy'. After I became a vegetarian, and later vegan, I found myself craving foods that reminded me of my childhood and for some reason wanted something that was similar to a tuna sandwich. Weird I know. 

Enter chickpeas, stage right. What can I say about chickpeas, or garbanzo beans as they are otherwise known? I love these little guys. Not only are they cheap and versatile, they are packed with protein (five grams a serving), fiber and iron, all things a busy vegan needs. 

You can make pretty sophisticated dishes with these legumes, but when I'm feeling lazy (as I often am) I make a quick salad that comes together in under 10 minutes, depending on how fast you chop, and can be tweaked to suit all tastes. It tastes kind of like tuna, in a good way, and you can eat it guilt-free knowing no animal had to die for this dish.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  


Yummy Chickpea Salad
One 15oz can of chickpeas, drained
Two tablespoons of vegan mayo (I use Follow Your Heart)
Juice of one lime
Half a small onion, diced
Two tablespoons of sun dried tomatoes, drained of oil, diced (optional) 
1/4 cup of apple, diced (optional)
One teaspoon nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste
Place drained chickpeas into a bowl and mash roughly with the back of a fork, leaving a few chunks. Add diced onion, sun dried tomatoes, apple (if using), mayo and lime juice and stir.
Add nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. I like a lot of lime, but if you don't, adjust the juice to half.
Best served chilled after a few hours but still tastes awesome if you eat it right away, which I usually do because I can't wait! Serve on a bed of lettuce or on top of your favorite bread.

xo

Friday, January 8, 2016

Easy vegan pancakes



I can't believe it's a new year already.

So much has happened to me over the past year, as I'm sure happened to you, but I won't lie, I'm glad to see the backside of 2015. It was a year of frustration, disappointment and stagnation for me. I realized I spent too much time focused on what was wrong instead of what is right in my life.

I'm sure we all can relate. So instead of a long list of resolutions I won't keep, the one thing I want to focus on this year is loving myself unconditionally, being positive and appreciating what I have. It seems cheesy and cliche, but I want to zone in on the moment, the small things in life, live in the now instead of lamenting past mistakes or longing for something that may or may not happen in the future.

One of the little things I love is a lazy breakfast eaten on the couch in front of Netflix. Don't judge! I decided to whip up some blackberry pancakes earlier today, drizzled with organic maple syrup that I ate while watching Mr and Mrs Smith. Nothing better than vintage Jolie and Pitt on a lazy day off.

These pancakes came out so light and fluffy thanks to the baking powder and have lots of fiber due to the whole wheat flour. I added organic blackberries, but I'm sure they would be great with some other berry or chocolate.

Let me know what you think of the recipe and what your goal/resolutions are for 2016.

xo




Easy vegan pancakes 
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 cup frozen berries (optional)
oil/vegan butter for pan

Sift all dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix water, milk and oil in a separate small bowl. Create a well in dry mixture and slowly add liquid mixture, stirring carefully. Add frozen berries if using.

Fry pancakes in greased skillet on medium heat. Flip cakes when they start to bubble and edges get brown, about two-three minutes each side. 

Enjoy topped with additional fruit and organic maple syrup!



(adapted from allrecipes.com)