Friday, May 24, 2013

What Travel Has Taught Me

I consider myself to be an independent person, but that wasn't always the case.  My teens and early twenties included a string of long-term relationships that lasted close to a decade.  When my last one ended in the Fall 2011, I decided it was time to get out of dodge for a while. 

My first stop was San Antonio to visit an old friend.  I came home after my weekend out west with a new perspective and a deep desire to see more.  So I got a second job to fund my travels and set out on a plan to see the world....well, at least the country, for now.  Since then I've hiked in the Colorado Rockies and Hollywood Hills, listened to stories from an old Italian couple on the north end of Boston, watched a rodeo in Texas, and took in a show at Madison Square Garden in NYC. 

Have you ever heard the term "travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer?"  I have never seen nor experienced anything truer in my life.  Travel amplifies your gratitude, broadens your horizon, and deepens your understanding of life and how people choose to live it.  I've compiled a few little tidbits of knowledge I've gathered along the way:

1) Some of the most beautiful places on Earth are right here in the good 'ol US of A. 
You don't need to fly across the pond to be awestruck by nature's beauty.  Sip on a glass of wine in Santa Barbara, drive through the hills of Virginia, or soak in the New York City skyline at night, and you will see how lucky we are to live in such a gorgeous and diverse country.

At the top of Runyon Canyon in Hollywood.

The coastline in Santa Monica, CA

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Denver: A Weekend in the Rockies

This weekend I jetted off to the Rockies to spend a few days with my good friend Molly.  This was my first trip to Denver in my adult life.  Plain and simple, this town rocked my socks off.

I got into town on Friday and was STARVING.  We headed straight to Ace for a cocktail and a few appetizers.  Ace is an Asian themed restaurant/bar/ping pong hall.  Who woulda thought?!  It's a great spot for after work cocktails as it has a huge outdoor patio.  Obvi I ordered an RBV (red bull vodka!) because I was a little jet lagged and needed an energy boost.  Molly recently returned from a two-week trip to Thailand, so she ordered a Singha, one of Thailand's local beers.  We decided on the crispy beef and crispy Brussels sprouts. See a theme here? I was on vacation so calories clearly don't count.  The crispy beef was fried and doused in honey and Thai chilies. AMAZE!  The Brussels sprouts were marinated in lime mayo and topped with mushrooms and sesame seeds.  Is this real life?!  I was in food heaven.  Afterwards, we stopped at a local dive bar and had a few more drinks before calling it a night.

Saturday we were a little hung, so we opted for a few cups of coffee and a stroll around town to get back in the game.  What I love most about Denver is how active everyone is.  I saw a group of 70'ish year old men biking around town and immediately felt bad about myself.  Girl needs to get to the gym!  Hundreds of people were walking, running, and biking all over town.  Working out is VERY trendy in Denver.  I love that!

After our fried fiasco the night before, we decided it was best to eat something light for lunch on Saturday.  Watercourse Foods is across the street from Molly's house and she had never tried it so we decided to be a little adventurous. Watercourse is a local, all vegetarian, mostly vegan restaurant.  First order of biz was an appetizer.  The whole "eating light" idea went out the window and we splurged on the vegetarian nachos.  They were your typical nachos topped with cheese, beans, salsa, and avocado.  Don't be fooled though, these weren't your Applebee's nachos!  Everything is so fresh and somehow they trick you into thinking it is healthy for you! I'll take it.  I then stuffed my face with sweet potato, black bean, and avocado tacos.  I'm not joking, I may go meat free on taco night from now on! 

organoblondes approved!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Smoothie Love

I'm a smoothie kind of gal. I'm all about nutrient bombing my food, and smoothies are one of the easiest ways to do that!  I'm also convinced smoothies are THE hangover cure.  You best believe these guys are in my belly every Saturday...Sunday...and ummm *cough Wednesday cough* morning.  Stop with the judging eyes!

After one particularly boozy Friday night in Charlotte, I got my life together the next morning and headed to Lauren's in hopes that this delish little guy would cure my vodka head.

The miracle ingredients are listed below:
  • Organic Spinach (get as much of it as you can in there!)
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • Organic Frozen Blueberries, Mangoes, and Raspberries
  • 4 oz. 50% Reduced Sugar OJ
  • Flax Oil ( a tablespoon or so)
  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 Banana
  • Ice
  • 1 Packet of Stevia
  • 4 oz. Green Tea (I usually steep two tea bags and let it chill in the fridge)

To be honest, I don't measure the amount of fruit I put in.  I throw in enough to fill the entire blender.  If you're feeling rebellious, you can experiment with what fruits you enjoy most.  Sometimes, the blender is so full that I have to mix it down so that the concoction has room for more ridic ingredients.  

Does this smoothie not look ridicballs?!?!

Don't be fooled, I'm still wearing my clothes from the night before.

I understand it looks like mud.  Who cares? It tastes friggin' phenom. 

Get in my belly!

I want to give ya"ll a little disclaimer.  If you're used to smoothies from Jamba Juice or any of those other WHACK places, these smoothies will taste a bit different to you.  That's because they DON'T have artificial sugars or any other mystery ingredients.  You can also remove the green tea if you're not down with caffeine (ummm...who are you?!) or simply don't like the taste.  Nevertheless, WHOLE FOOD smoothies are amaze.       

All in all, If this smoothie doesn't rock your socks off then you are whack balls.

I'm interested in what your favorite ingredients are.  Have you found any magic ingredients I'm missing? 


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Harvest Moon Grille

As I brainstormed organic, local food spots to hit during Leigh’s Charlotte visit, Harvest Moon Grille was at the top of my list…and apparently it’s at the top of everyone’s list. Numerous publications have hailed HMG as the ultimate locavore spot, and The New York Times even called chef Cassie Parsons the “undisputed queen of local food in Charlotte." Um, scoreboard. We decided on brunch, because they’re known for their redic Grateful Growers pork, and mommy needs her some sausage.

I should note that Grateful Growers and Harvest Moon Grille are from under the same umbrella – Ms. Parsons runs them both, so the restaurant experience is truly from her farm to your fork in her joint. Joint meaning the restaurant and revered HMG food truck. So, hoping I had not overhyped (and thus jinxed) our brunch, I gathered up my husband, sister, baby, 19 pounds of baby crap, and headed uptown.

HMG is located in the historic Dunhill Hotel and, get this, opens for brunch at 6:30 AM! Unfortch we couldn’t order booze apres-noon here in North Cackalacky, so caffeine was our vice of choice at 11:00 AM.

We people-watched while trying to keep Dylan entertained by playing a game of pickup with her teething ring. I felt badly about the baby disturbing other customers, until I caught a snippet of a fellow patron loudly describing her walk of shame via cell phone, and was relieved (and intrigued).




Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I Ate Bugs Today

I'm talking bona fide beetle juice. 

I'm about to put Dannon Light & Fit Greek blueberry yogurt on major blast right now.

I've recently developed a deep love for Greek yogurt.  It's lower in sugar and calories and has double the protein of the lameballs regular kind.  However, while looking through the Greek selections at the store, I came across Dannon Light & Fit blueberry Greek variety.  It's flavored but only has 80 calories and 7 grams of sugar.  Did I just hit the Greek yogurt jackpot?!  I picked up five of them, smug that I found a steal.

While downing this little gem as a morning snack the next day, I ran across the list of ingredients.  This is something I usually do with all foods, looking for major offenders like aspartame, artifical flavoring, BHT, high-fructose corn syrup, and sodium nitrates.  I had done this at the store, and it had received the green light.  Well boys and girls, I've got one more to add to the list.  I came across carmine on the ingredient list.  It didn't sound very threatening, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was, so I did a little research.  Warning: make sure you are near a bathroom, just in case you need to vom.

                          Nutritional Info
In Layman's terms, carmine is crushed up cochineal insects.  For the full rundown of the gory details, you can check it out here.  The bugs are basically boiled, dried, then crushed up and ground into a powder.  YUMMY!  Why the EFF do manufactureres use this, you ask?  Carmine creates a vibrant red color that is appealing to the eye.  It's used in everything from yogurt, to ice cream, to sports drinks. Just what I want after a good workout, some tasty bug juice!  The worst part is this ingredient can also be listed under the the vague "natural flavors" label, so you will literally have no idea that you are eating it.  My advice to you: avoid this 'ish like the plague, BRO!

Here's the good news.  Not all yogurt brands have carmine.  And although not all Dannon flavors have carmine, my favorite flavor does, so they can kick rocks for all I care.  I'm going back to my trusted brand Fage Greek yogurt.  They have tons of flavors and are free of bug guts.  It may have 20-50 more calories than the Light & Fit version, but if my options are to chomp on beetles or run an extra 2.5 minutes on the treadmill, I'll take the latter. 

Here are a few helpful tips when nativating the Greek yogurt section:
  • Look for brands with 12 grams or more of protein per serving
  • Go for plain whenever possible.  You can always add your own fresh fruit.
  • Avoid brands that have "natural flavors".  This can be ANYTHING.

What is your favorite bug free yogurt?