Two of My Favorite Things

Plant-based eating is about creating food that is as simple as possible, relying on the natural flavors of plants to trump the need for too much added fat, salt, or sugar. Today, I wanted to share with you a couple of vegan delights that I not only love, but that are healthy, too.

Let’s start with the gorgeous truffles you see pictured above and below. PuraTea Water is a fair trade tea shop strategically placed next to a vegan restaurant. (Remember my post about Sage Kitchen and its connected tea shop? Perhaps this is a trend?) As the name suggests, PT sells many varieties of tea and fresh herbs. One of the co-owners makes these truffles as a special treat, sitting at checkout.

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My husband knows the way to my heart and picked up a bunch of these precious goodies while out shopping with our son. The best part? These “desserts” are guilt-free powerhouses of nutrition! Animal product-based truffles are, of course, wonderfully delicious (see my cherry cordial smoothie post), but most are nothing to write home about in the way of nutritional content. The homemade truffles at PT contain such super foods as dates, seeds, cocoa powder, and nuts. They are minimally sweetened with agave and taste very similar to my protein-packed power balls. I ate them for breakfast this morning paired with PT’s iced apple spiced chai. 🙂  Yum!

Upon leaving the tea house, Travis and Nolan wandered into Loving Hut, a vegan chain with over 200 locations around the world. LH’s ethical and environmental stance on plant-based eating makes them a winner in my book. Plus, even though there are some processed items on the menu (gotta watch out – not all vegan food is created equally) there are some fantastic fresh eats, too.

These spring rolls are one of my favorite vegan takeout items ever. Fresh vegetables and tofu are rolled in rice paper and served with a sweet and savory peanut dipping sauce. As I always have my Fresh Formula thinking cap on, I would include unbreaded tofu since the moisture in the surrounding vegetables negates the purpose of a crunchy outer coating. Really, though, I shouldn’t complain…these are vegan bites at their nearly best and I could seriously eat them every day!

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Travis and Nolan coming home with two of my favorite things last night (plus having flowers delivered to the house during the afternoon, if you must know!) was pretty fantastic, but there was extra icing on this cake:  The sweet folks at PT were excited about my blog!  I started The Fresh Formula to help ordinary people like me live healthier lives, so the more people I can reach, the better.  Look forward to seeing what the future holds.  Go green!

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Ice Cold Water, Tea, & Smoothie Infusers

Today’s post features an idea I took from my sister, Petra, author of lifestyle blog 100 Tacks.  She has admitted to me on several occasions that she just doesn’t drink enough water, sometimes even forgetting to stay hydrated in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  While she doesn’t “dislike” the taste of plain old water, she’d rather drink other varieties.  Petra bought a Soda Stream not to make soda, but to carbonate her water.  Sometimes she drinks mineral water.  Other times, she infuses her water with fruit or herbs.

Infusing water has become increasingly popular, especially for those like Petra.  She told me that she will freeze ice cube trays with lemon juice and pop them into ordinary water for a slow release of added flavor.  Today, I’ll be making ice cube infusers that include citrus juice and herbs, whole fruits, and veggies.  When the cube melts, you can eat the “prize” inside!  🙂

For these cubes, I use citrus juice that comes from fruit I would never consider eating whole.  For instance, while you could make these cubes with orange juice, I’d rather just eat an orange; I’m never, however, going to chow down on a lemon or lime, so their juice makes for great infuser cubes.  Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of these super foods:

LEMON:  Loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, lemon juice can prevent/fight many diseases and ailments, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney stones, constipation, and indigestion.  Lemon juice also promotes healthy hair, teeth, and gums, can ease pain, fade scars, and more.  Although unrelated to nutrition per se, lemon juice is a popular all-natural household cleaning product if you’re trying to use fewer chemicals.

LIME:  Lime juice is also packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and like lemon juice, can assist with constipation and indigestion.  It can also relieve oral ulcers, congestion, nausea, and body odor, and rejuvenate hair.  It protects eyes, aids in weight loss, and is instrumental in preventing/fighting diseases such as scurvy and heart disease.

You can freeze lemon and lime juice—ideally with as much of their pulp as possible—alone, but I like to take the flavor profile up a notch by adding in yummy extras like fresh mint, cucumbers, or fruit.  As the cubes slowly melt, their flavors will release into your water or iced tea.

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I also love the idea of dropping these into piping hot tea to get it to a more drinkable temperature more quickly…and with more flavor!  And smoothies need some icy element, right?  While I typically freeze fruit to avoid needing to use ice, these infusers would be an extra punch of flavor and nutrition in the blender, too.

A few tips:

  1. Buy/grow/obtain more citrus fruit than you think you’ll need.  I ended up juicing two lemons and seven limes to make just one ice cube tray’s worth of infusers.
  2. Check your juice for seeds or seed particles than may have fallen through the grates of the juicer.  The seeds are bitter.
  3. Don’t make too many of one infuser combination unless you’re 100% certain you’re going to like it; it would be a shame to waste the cubes!
  4. Play around with flavors that appeal to you, inspired by combinations you already know you like or think that you will like.  Consider fruit salads, cocktails, mocktails, and teas that you’ve tasted.

Hopefully, these flavor infusers will help you on your quest to drink more water.  I always have a glass around and don’t even leave the house without filling up a bottle.  Cheers!

FORMULA BASE:  WATER INFUSERS

Makes 1 ice cube tray of infusers

  • Approximately 1 ¼-½  cups freshly-squeezed citrus juice  à  I’m using lemon juice for some cubes and lime for the majority (I just happen to have more limes!).
  • 1 cup additives (i.e. fruits, veggies, herbs, etc.) (optional)  à  I’m using strawberries and blueberries in my lemon cubes and two different combinations in my lime cubes:  cucumber + mint and mint + blueberry.

Juice your citrus fruits and check for seeds or seed particles.  Place any additives that you’re using, if any, in the ice cube tray compartments.  Fill the compartments the rest of the way with juice.

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Freeze and enjoy in fresh water, iced tea, hot tea, or smoothies.

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Vegan Eats at Sage Kitchen

OutisdeWhile my plant-based, mostly vegan lifestyle isn’t perfect, family members and friends that come to visit me in Arizona look forward to eating clean when they stay at my house. I can’t even count the number of times a visitor has exclaimed about living plant-based for their stay in hopes of feeling refreshed and energized and even, losing weight. So, when I have an eager-to-be-temporarily-vegan visitor, I don’t disappoint! I prepare vegan dishes at home and try to maintain my plant-based lifestyle when heading out for local grub (except when we’re out for authentic Mexican food…that’s one time that I will, against my better judgment, eat copious amounts of cheese!).

My mom was recently in town for Nolan’s birthday and offered to treat my little family to dinner on her last night in Arizona. I perused the web to find a restaurant in the Phoenix area that I hadn’t yet tried and came across Sage Kitchen, an organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegetarian eatery. The food was so yummy I can practically still taste it and I’m excited to share my review of the restaurant with you.

Sage Kitchen is located next to Chakra 4 Herb and Tea House, which shares its owner. As a result, the menu features a variety of teas and herbal remedies that I just had to try. Although I still dislike coffee, after our trip to Japan this past summer, I have recently grown very fond of tea. I sampled a blueberry kukicha green tea over ice that was subtly flavored and not too sweet, which is how I prefer it. Teas at Sage Kitchen are sold hot or cold by the cup, glass, pot, or carafe.

Next, it was time for an appetizer. We ordered a trio of dips with marinated raw veggie sticks and homemade, gluten-free flatbread. Pictured below is an avocado dip with sunflower seeds and pepitas, a black bean hummus, and a lemon herb hummus. We were afraid of becoming too full for dinner, so we ate about half of the dips and took the rest home (they were just as delicious, if not more so, the next day).

FullSizeRender (2) As indicated on the card you see below, Sage Kitchen avoids unnecessarily processed vegan “meats” and “cheeses,” opting for those made in house with nuts, vegetables, and spices. While the menu contains no actual meat products, many menu options offer real or homemade vegan cheese (as well as homemade meat substitutes) that I wanted to taste for myself.

Card In the description of my creamy sauce formula, I admit that there really is no completely satisfying substitute for dairy cheese, but Sage Kitchen definitely came darn close to making it happen. While Travis opted for real cheese in his veggie enchiladas, my mom ordered a black bean quesadilla and I ordered a “sausage and mozzarella” pizza, both containing different varieties of Sage Kitchen’s signature vegan cheeses. Let me tell you, they were so good, I didn’t miss the real thing for a second and am determined to figure out how they did it so that I can try to make these cheeses (and the sausage) on my own.

Enchilladas FullSizeRender[3] (2) FullSizeRender[2] (2) The kids’ menu is not featured on the Sage Kitchen website, but I was happy to see that it offered simple vegetarian/vegan food that is kid-friendly in ingredients and presentation. We ordered Nolan this adorable sunflower butter and apple flatbread. He couldn’t finish it and had to twist our arms to polish it off for dessert. Poor us. 🙂

FullSizeRender[1] (2) The only downside to our dining experience at Sage Kitchen was that the restaurant seemed a bit dead for a Saturday night. Travis and I concluded that this was probably a result of the early hours (it closes at 8:00) and lack of alcohol. The restaurant is a BYOB and does not serve booze of its own. I’m sure that during the weekday lunch rush, Sage Kitchen is packed.

Overall, no complaints. Grab a bottle of your favorite wine and go to Sage Kitchen to get your vegan eat on!

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