First Meals: Baltimore

Some of you may have seen my hastily posted Move Recap.  I actually wrote that as a final “assignment” for my coaching program.  It was the best possible outcome for the move and let me tell you: it basically worked!  Long story short: we hit practically no traffic, made it down here in 6.5 hours with at least 1 hour of that in stops (picking up my coffee table on the other side of CT, gas fill ups, food breaks, etc).  We had everything moved in in a couple hours and with the exception of Verizon screwing up (which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise…more on that in a minute) my internet order, everything went ridiculously smoothly. 🙂  It basically rocked.

Four days later and I’m almost settled.  The past couple of days have been a flurry of errands…running around to return that, pick up that, replace that, etc.  I managed to get a couch + some chairs for the exact amount I wanted to pay for my couch (win!) and have basically furnished my entire apt for around $500.  Again, I can’t complain!  🙂

Of course we’ve had to check out the local cuisine as well and for the most part I’ve been impressed.  The first night mom, the beau and I grabbed a quick bite at Mimi’s, a local Mediterranean food place that does everything from burgers to pizza to falafel (yea…you know the type of place I’m talking about).  There were definitely some options on there I’ve never seen before (an Egyptian version of hummus that was outstanding) and though it wasn’t the most outstanding food, I’m glad there’s such a veg-friendly place within walking distance.

The next night we planned on going out to a nice dinner to celebrate.  We ended up at a new Mount Washington establishment called Blue Sage Cafe & Wine Bar.  They are a fairly new restaurant that opened in Mount Washington Village, the little downtown area in my neighborhood, that specializes in freshly-made foods + craft brews, high quality wines, and specialty cocktails.

First we got dressed up…

Next we decided what we wanted to eat…

Note the vegetarian section… 🙂

Then we toasted with our amazing cocktails…

Cucumber sangria…it tasted like a green smoothie with wine in it. #win

And finally we enjoyed our delicious meals!

Portobello fries…seriously they tasted like chicken wings.  SO good.

Gnocchi with asparagus and spinach in a white wine sauce.

Beau’s pizza with olives, tomatoes, spinach, and feta.

All in all our evening was wonderful.  The service was rather slow but the food was amazing.  For some reason the pictures on my iPhone came out no better than the ones on my old phone but oh well…I’m still learning how to use the darn thing!

The next morning we dropped mom off to catch her train home and headed into downtown Bmore to get some brunch.  We ended up at the City Cafe which was less of a hit with me.  The food was delicious but they were not good about substitutions or accommodating food needs.  I must say, it is a huge pet peeve when places want to charge me to substitute veggies for meat.  Bertucci’s does it all the time (and its part of the reason I don’t eat there as often) and City Cafe wanted to do it as well.  There is no way a veggie burger costs more than country ham.  And if I decide to not get the country ham then yes, I do deserve a discount because it is significantly more expensive than the other items in the order.  *rant over*  On to the oh-so-delicious food…

My potato pancakes with apple chutney and scrambled eggs.

The beau’s breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, green chili chickpeas, Monterrey jack cheese, guac + sour cream, and the most amazing potatoes ever.

For some reason, I was craving eggs that morning.  I can’t remember the last time that happened but I did indulge…and was absolutely positively stuffed to the point where I couldn’t finish my potato pancakes!  They were good but not delicious and I’m glad it was a small serving of them because in reality I did feel a bit weighted down (literally?  figuratively?  a little bit of both?).  I think my body was craving protein or some other nutrient in eggs because very rarely do I crave animal products (except cheese but as we all know, its meant to be addicting!) except when I’m craving something deeper.  Since their brunch menu wasn’t too veggie friendly (they had salads and a veggie burger on their lunch menu but I was still in bfast mode) I went with it.

All in all my first few dining experiences have been pretty wonderful.  The company also helps.  😉  I’m excited to continue exploring Bmore’s  food options and seeing where I can get good, fast, cheap vegan eats. All in good time my friends.  All in good time.

Apartment photos are forthcoming…there are still too many boxes around for that.  😉

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

Project: Food Budget, Week 32 + Past Weeks’ Eats

Welcome back to another exciting week of saving money with y/b/l.

Tip of the Week

Splurge when you can!  Maybe you are living back at home and mom is picking up some of your groceries and you are drawing all grains and beans from your stockpile.  Or maybe you just don’t need that much this week.  Either way, you have a bit of room in your budget to buy some new-to-you items that normally wouldn’t be in-budget.  Go ahead…be rebellious!  And enjoy every second of it.  🙂

Weekly Menu

What happens when you move and then proceed to travel immediately?  Meal planning goes out the window.  The downside: this can lead to overspending.  The upside: I’ve been forced to get a creative and good great things have resulted.  The only items I brought into mom’s kitchen are my box (yes box) of spices, my cutting board, my knife, and my blender.  I do occasionally grab beans, oil, or grains from the storage room basement but all-in-all, I’ve been creating yummy dishes with very little.

Now by creating I mean going back to my college years of depending on the stir-fry.  I could sing the praises of stir fries for hours but I’ll get straight to the point: they are the most versatile, fantastic, go-to meal on the planet.  Grains + veggies + protein + seasonings and you’re good to go.  Veggies on their way out?  No problem…just toss ’em in and go!  Don’t love that grain you bought in bulk?  Mix it in.  You get the picture.  😉

First there was the Road Trip Fill-Her-Up which consisted of Alter Eco red quinoa, vidalia onions, spinach, chickpeas, garlic, chili powder, liquid smoke, and s&p.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the liquid smoke!  It added a depth of flavor to this dish that makes it totally unpredictable but incredibly delicious.  A bottle doesn’t cost that much and will last you forever since you only need a couple drops (max) to get the desired effect.

Next up, the Unique Use-‘Em-Up:

Isn’t mom’s deck table pertiful?

This guy had brown rice, the rest of my dying bag of baby bell peppers, black beans, and ginger/rosemary/s&p as well as a unique new-to-me oil that I splurged on at…of all places…Marshalls!

Why yes that is rosemary, ginger, sweet orange-infused olive oil!

Oh my word this was to-die-for.  I not only sauteed the veggies with the oil + spices but also mixed them into the rice.  You couldn’t really taste the orange on the veggies but it was definitely there on the rice.  Which I proceeded to nibble on repeatedly.  Is this oil absolutely necessary?  No.  Did it take lunch from good to outstanding?  Yes!  Will I be experimenting with more infused oils?  Yes again.

Then of course were my sweet potatoes, which I sung the praise of in yesterday’s post<–see savory recipe there

Cheezy Sweet Potatoes

And another new-to-me product that provides great snacking, with or without milk.  😉

I’ve also been eating out a ton between my trip to Bmore and just catching up with people.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of meals not pictured because either a) the photos didn’t come out at all or b) I was too hungry to remember to snap one.  Putting that sad fact aside, I am happy to report that Bmore is a very veg-friendly city.  Or maybe its just my recent shift in perspective, who knows.  Either way, I’ve been consistently looking for and finding a plethora of veg options at dedicated and mainstream restaurants alike.

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My Come-to-Vegan Moment

I have a confession to make: I’m not an animal-rights person.  I recognize that in many vegan circles, this is full blown blasphemy but it is the truth for me.  Or so I thought…

Note: This doesn’t get graphic.  Nor is it a judgement on anyone who consumes animal products.  It is simply a story…my story, just like every other experience on this blog.  So I invite you to read on regardless of your dietary lifestyle.  If all you do is roll your eyes and groan: that is ok.  If you learn something: that is ok.  If you skip today: that’s ok too.  I still love and respect you with all my heart.  🙂

When I first gave up meat, it was solely based on taste preferences.  I was living on my own for the second summer in a row and had begun down the foodie path by experimenting with new foods and flavors.  My cooking and palate have evolved significantly since nightly stir-fries in the dorm, but I must admit, I am where I am today because of two burners and a convection oven in the senior courts!  Anyway, one day in May 2009 while eating yet another stir-fry, a thought hit me like a ton of bricks: I didn’t even like meat.  Eating had become a truly sensual experience for me, one that I enjoyed with every fiber of my being.  Yet what I really enjoyed were veggies…and grains…and fruit…and beans.  If I didn’t enjoy eating meat, why should I waste calories on it?  And so I became a vegetarian.

I backtracked and did the necessary reading about how to stay healthy on a veg diet.  I “came out” to my friends and family.  And, in all honesty, I still nibbled bacon and Mom’s meatballs from time-to-time.  Those flavored I enjoyed, so I figured, why not?

Fast forward to June 2010.  I had just graduated and moved to Worcester where I had a giant kitchen.  I began reading more and more about clean eating and vegetarianism and my cooking continued to evolve.  By this point the only animal products I consumed on a regular basis were cheese, eggs, and ice cream.  I had given up cow’s milk several years prior because I found soy milk lasted far longer in the fridge and, therefore, ended up being more budget-friendly.  I enjoyed the taste and mouthfeel of it so much that cow’s milk, with its options of skim but watery or fattening but thick enough, just didn’t cut it anymore.

Somehow I stumbled upon Lindsay’s Blog.  I don’t remember the details now but I remember waiting with anticipation for her cookbook to arrive at my door.  I remember how after the first week I accidentally ate 100% vegan,  I ran to the fridge and consumed some of my prized (read: rather expensive) cheese.  I remember scoffing the first time someone told me that giving up dairy helped decrease the severity of their asthma symptoms and post-nasal drip.  I remember thinking I could never in the world be “that person” who burdened everyone else with their optional dietary restrictions and preferences.

Fast forward a bit more.  The timeline is not exact as this transformation was slow and unplanned and instead evolved seamlessly over time.  I’m reading vegan blogs daily, producing vegan foods in my kitchen, and choosing vegan options when I am out.  I am able to talk vegan nutrition with the best of them and can counter most any argument against the healthfulness of a veg diet with hard data.  I both dream of and crave overnight oats, green smoothies, and quinoa anything.  More and more I am asking about the use of eggs and dairy in products I order and choosing differently if they are present.  More and more, I’m seeking out veg-only restaurants or calling ahead to mainstream ones to let them know that my dietary restrictions choices and I are coming for a visit.  More and more I’m telling people I follow a mostly whole foods, plant-based diet.

But I’ll still swear to you that its not about the animals.  No, it isn’t about them at all.  On the contrary, it is about my taste preferences and my health and the earth.  And yes I’m happy to help the animals and yes I think cows are the cutest things ever…but no, this isn’t for them.  Its for me.

Fast forward to yesterday.  My not-quite-yet MIL and I were walking through Stew Leonard’s, a farm-to-store grocery in CT and NY.  The store is set up in a maze-like pattern so that you walk through every single section before  reaching the check-out.  <–smart, eh?  We grab samples of bread and muffins and I pick up some produce (3/$3 avocados? yes please!).  Eventually we make it to the meat department where she grabs some flank steak…and I’m overwhelmed with a deep feeling of sadness and grief and the threat of a full on breakdown.  WTH We turn a corner and I see the ribs staring me in the face.  Despair changes to nausea.  On our way out of the store I see children reveling with the beauty of the calves they keep in the small “zoo” outside.  Nausea changes to rage.

I want to sob and vomit and rage all at once.  I wanted to hit the parents over the head and shout at them about the disillusionment and disconnect they are passing along to their children.  I wanted to stomp and stamp and punch and throw out every single piece of meat in there.  I wanted to just do something to get my point across: this just isn’t right.  Those ribs have bones attached to them for crying out loud.  Effing bones!  Like, you know, those things that we sometimes break…that make up our skeleton…that keep us walking?

Then I realized that for the past three years since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve been out and out avoiding the meat department.  It was easy for me to say that I didn’t care about the animals because I never actually saw them. Sure others ate meat in my presence but never before did the connection become so startlingly clear as in that moment.  Never before did it really click that by consuming meat and eggs…we are actually eating another animal’s flesh.  <–I now understand why Kris Carr uses this rather disturbing term.  *ew*

I eventually calmed down, texted a friend, and told the beau about it.  Most importantly, I committed to never consuming meat again.  No more, “Just this once” or “Well I have no choice because I’ll burden everyone else.”  As for everything else (the eggs, dairy, and honey), I’m still somewhat flexible.  I will not be purchasing or preparing them, but if I steal a bite of my honey’s grilled cheese or leave the goat cheese on my salad because its the only thing giving it any depth of flavor, well I’m ok with that.  Maybe one day I’ll be content eating a lame salad and recognizing that its about the company, not the food…but for now, well its still all about the food!  If this journey has taught me one thing, I should never say never!

Yes that is a blurry picture of me…on a pole…in a shirt that reads, “Ask me why I’m vegetarian” 😉

After all that though, I still recognize that veganism might not be for everyone, as much as I do believe it can be.  All I ask is that you eat consciously.  Recognize what you are eating.  Educate yourself and your children.  Decrease your consumption.  Try a new veg food (my momma’s vegan chocolate cake has become her signature baked good thankyouverymuch).  Give thanks to the creature which provided you with your meal.  <–a little Once Upon A Time reference there…anyone???  Be conscious, be mindful, and know where your food comes from.  Honestly, that is all I ask.

And yes, you can still eat meat in front of me.  I won’t ridicule or lecture you and I ask for the same respect in return.  If you ask, I’ll provide you with long-winded scientifically-sound answers.  If you don’t care, don’t ask and I won’t bring it up.  Don’t be totally surprised, however, if I start moaning a bit because my food is so dang good.  😉  <–I had to get sassy somewhere, right?

Oh and in case you are wondering: I’m happy to report that cutting out dairy did help with my asthma and post-nasal drip.  🙂

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait

Project: Food Budget, Week 30

Welcome back to another edition of what I ate, what I bought, what I spent, and how much I saved!   Tehehe

Let’s get right to it then.  🙂

Tip of the Week

Don’t discount big box stores…just keep your list out and don’t waver from it!  Head straight to the section where you can find the things you need and keep blinders on the rest of the tie.  😉  The beau and I ventured in to activate my two month free trial (random mail offer) and only spent a total of $31…on whole foods + trash bags.  I’m pretty sure we were as atypical as a couple can be in a big box store considering we also had a coupon for almost everything in our cart!  Getting a bunch of bananas for less than $2 and a 2lb carton of cherry tomatoes for around $4 kind of rocked.

Weekly Menu

I had a great meal plan this week…which never happened as I strove to use up leftovers and pantry staples.  I got a bit creative and my tastebuds thanked me many times over. Don’t you just love when clean-out-my-fridge meals end up being delicious?

Takeout – Baked Avocado Tuscany from Evo

Chipotle Salsa Lentils over a bed or arugula and leftover pasta

“Sausage,” peppers, and onions over more leftover pasta

Salsa Lentils over Brown Rice + topped with Hummus

Sausage, Peppers, and Onions (vegan, goitrogen-free)

Serves 1

High-heat cooking spray (e.g. Canola) to coat pan
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 Tofurky Beer Brat. diced
2 TBSP Frank’s Red Hot
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat cooking spray + garlic over medium heat.  When garlic turns golden and is fragrant, add peppers and onions.  Cook for a couple of minutes until onions are almost transparent and peppers are  beginning to turn bright green.  Add sausage and continue cooking until everything is heated through.  Remove from heat.  Mix in hot sauce and pepper.  Serve over cooked pasta or brown rice. Do not skip the hot sauce.  It totally made the dish.

I also made quinoa using Kath’s Oatmeal method and OMG was it delicious.  Also, if you haven’t added pasta to salad before, I highly suggest it.  🙂

Spending Savings

BJs: $9.55
Wegmans: $12.44
Trader’s: $15.88

Total: $37.87

Under budget! <–its about time, right?!  😉

BJs: $1.60
Wegmans: $4.10
Total: $5.70 (15%)

I really can’t complain since I bought almost exclusively organic, fresh foods.  I love buying less  but higher quality food and staying on budget while still using coupons (for 2 lb cartons of tomatoes and 5lb bags of onions).

Congratulations to Heather B for winning last week’s Alter Eco giveaway! I’ve e-mailed you to get your address.

That’s all folks.  Don’t forget to show some $$$ saving love to my fellow P:FB bloggers.

Yoga/beauty/savings,

Kait xo

The Big Bday Recap, Pt 1

Happy Monday lovelies!  I hope you spent your weekend being productive, relaxing, and spending time with the ones you love.  🙂

For those who missed it, I turned 24 last week (Tuesday, to be exact)!  I spent the entire week celebrating, starting with Worcester VegFest and ending with a night out with my girls.  I can hands down say that this was the best birthday ever!  Thank you to everyone for your well wishes and for coming out and celebrating with me.  🙂

Last Sunday (April 15) was the Worcester VegFest.  Think great food, great company, and an absolutely awesome photographer. 

I should be professional photographed all the time, no?  😉

I met T. Colin Campbell, bought some awesome gear, saw old friends, made new ones, and ran into this other (awesome) girl named Kaitlyn who also lives in Worcester.  The beau enjoyed every second and there was lively conversation all around.  I, admittedly, was a bad food blogger and have no pictures but will happily fill you in on my newly discovered obsessions.

I have a confession to make: I think Daiya tastes like plastic.  These Shreds on the other hand…to-die-for.  You can bet I’ll be doing a giveaway with those soon!  I’ve sent e-mails to all my local natural grocers (and by local I mean those local to me currently in MA, those soon-to-be-local to me in CT, and those kinda-soon-to-be-local to me in Baltimore).  They are the closest thing to real cheese that I have ever tried and I am so excited to make Averie’s Mango Basil Personal-Sized Tortilla Pizzas.  Especially since this guy was one of my bday gifts:

Yes that is pizza stone you see…

My love for Theo runs so obviously deeply that they asked me to be the rep at the CT VegFest this upcoming weekend.  Unfortunately, I’m a busy Passion Diva and have not one but two parties to do.  <–Like that’s a bad thing?!  Plus there’s that pesky little thing called moving.  Ugh.  Anyway this is new bar and it was outstanding!  Nice and dark with a little saltiness to calm even the most angry/tearful/frustrated/etc/etc/etc PMS-er.

Ok so I admit: these kind of suck.  They don’t do a good job of grabbing on to things but at the end of the day I’m still happy I invested in them.  Its an easy and cute solution to remaining sustainable while eating on the go.  And it comes with chop sticks.  Need I say more?

Monday was Patriot’s Day aka Marathon Monday aka a day off.  <–I’m going to miss this random MA holiday!  It also happened to be warm (hot?) and sunny and perfect.  I relaxed and cooked and started packing and went to yoga and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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Looking Forward: Kitchen Edition

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In case you haven’t heard, I’m moving to Baltimore in less than 4 months.

I’m all sorts of excited and terrified.  It means I will quit my job (which I’ve outgrown), leave my current apartment (my first…and you always will have fond memories of your first, right?! 😉 ), move away from my family, and go back to school.  It also means I get to move closer to other friends and have the opportunity to experiment with a whole host of new thing.  Shockingly, many of these experiments will occur in the kitchen.

Since I love making lists (I pretend like they actually help me get stuff done) here, presented in no particular order, are the Top 10 hings I’m Looking Forward to Experimenting with in My Baltimore Kitchen:

  1. Crock Pot cooking.  This is a skill I will need to develop but cannot wait to try recipes like this and this.
  2. Non-stick cookware.  I love using stainless steel now that I’ve learned how but it does take longer to clean.  Since saving time will likely be of the utmost importance, being able to wash and go will be a beautiful thing.  I intend on investing in these.
  3. Using a rice cooker.  Another make-my-life-easier appliance.
  4. Using my George Foreman again.  There will be many a summer dinners of “grilled” veggies + tofu on top of salads.  Its easier + faster than turning on the stove.
  5. Not having to share my kitchen.
  6. Having newer appliances…including an oven that doesn’t take 20 minutes to boil water or run 15-30 degrees under.
  7. Shopping at a year-round farmer’s markets.
  8. Shopping at Costco.  There is one right on the outskirts of Baltimore (er…it looks like the outskirts to me!).  Nature’s Path cereal, MaraNatha almond butter, Alexia frozen fries, 13 lb bags of baking soda, bottles of spices (and pure vanilla extract), bananas and nuts galore!
  9. Shopping at Glut.  Not technically in Baltimore, this amazing, fantastic, food-gasmic, life-changing co-op is high on my list of places to visit again and again.  Bulk everything including liquids + carob-covered amazingness + non-sulphered dried fruits at reasonable prices.  Because its a bit of a drive, I’ll probably do a stock-up monthly.
  10. Exploring all of the awesome sauce veg and veg-friendly restaurants and cafes.  Look at this list of places within 5 miles of JHSPH.  *sigh*

I want to address the likely question of why I cannot use the items listed in numbers 1-4.  Depending on how much you’ve creeped this site, you may know that I share living space with this little menace.

Kaybird!

So the short answer to the question is because of Kaybird.  The long answer is this.  The chemicals released when non-stick coating is heated include some nasty buggers called PFTE and PFOA.  The safety of inhaling these in humans is currently being explored by the EPA.  While I don’t exactly entrust my safety to government agencies (see here) and nothing may come of it, the fact that they are examining it says something.

Nevertheless, it has long been known that inhalation of these chemicals by birds is fatal. While the jury is still out on the coating in rice cookers and crock pots, my roommate prefers that any and all non-stick coating be avoided.  Since I am in love with Kaybird (you thought I was going to say my roomie for a minute there, weren’t you?  creep.  😉 tehehe), I’ve learned to cook with stainless steel and live without the other appliances.  This is fine but let me tell you…I really can’t wait to get perfect rice and meals that cook overnight or while I’m in class etc.

For more information on non-stick cookware, click here.

#6 is, of course, dependent on where I end up living but let’s just say, for now, that it looks promising.  🙂  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I’m also eager to see how I’ll do sticking to a food budget. I apparently thrive on challenge!  Who knows….maybe I’ll end up teaching my fellow grad students a thing or two about saving $ while eating green.  I’d actually love that very much.  Caring is sharing, right?

Over the next couple of months I’ll be updating more about my move to Baltimore, my bucket list of experiences to have before leaving, etc.  I’m so excited to still be on an adrenaline rush to be walking with you into this next stage of my life!  I’ve already contacted other HLB members and made connections with friends and friends-of-friends in the area.  I’m heading down for the JHSPH Open House at the end of March and hopefully will find an apartment then.  I’m in get-it-done mode which is good for the move but not-so-good for current stuff (like, ya know, work and working out and all those other things that are important currently).  Don’t worry…you can expect to hear all about it!

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

Project: Food Budget,Week 20

Don’t know what this is?  Click here…or check out all my P:FB posts using the tag cloud/categories.

Zoom zoom.

Tip of the Week

Today I want to revisit the topic of making your budget work for you.

My food spending was a bit all over the place this week.  While in VT last weekend, I had the chance to shop at some farm stands and purchase local-produced products.  Some of these were things were on my grocery list while others, though they were not, were simply too good to pass up!  By the time beau and I arrived home on Sunday, we were exhausted!  Napping for too long led to a woozy/drowsy/kinda-seemed-drunk Kait which, in turn, led to the following exchange:

Me: “Hooooooneey!  I dooooonnnn’t waaaaannna go to Wegmans.  I only neeeeeed a few things and can get them alllll at Trader’s…”
Beau: “Ok then don’t go.  Just shop at Trader’s.”
Me: “But it’ll be more expensive.”  *pouty face*
Beau: “Look if you only need a few things from Wegmans don’t go. ”

So that’s what I did.  Did I pay more for certain products because I didn’t shop around?  Yes.  Was it worth it for my sanity?  Yes.  Did I still stay on budget?  Well, you’ll have to keep reading to find out!  😉

Anyway, back to the tip!  As you’ll see below, only one of my VT purchases is included in my spending.  Huh?  Well, I didn’t include the items purchased off my grocery list because beau paid for them in exchange for me covering our accommodations for the weekend.  <–Teheh I’m one smart cookie budgeting genius!  I also did not include the splurge items I bought because they were my souvenirs from the trip and therefore money for those came out of my discretionary fund.  The only other money I spent on the trip was to cover our accommodations.  Snowshoeing was free.  So was sitting around the house, eating, drinking, and playing Catchphrase.  When I travel I either buy locally-produced food or jewelry.  My splurge foods are someone else’s trinkets.  Same concept, different manifestation.

I operate on the same philosophy when dining out (which I don’t do that often): its an activity, not a necessity, so the money for it comes out of the fun fund!  Eating out is one of the few activities I actually spend $ on since I’m not a big shopper (besides grocery shopping, of course) so if my weekened plans are waffles at WooDaddy + dinner at The Citizen, there’s no way I’m not cutting into my grocery budget!

At the end of the day, this system works for me.  You have to do what’s best for you, so long as its honest and within your means!

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Worcester Weekend Discoveries: Life Alive, Mezcal Finds, and More

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It was another (mostly) great weekend in the Woo.  I love finding new places or just exploring new experiences at well-loved places.  My goal when I moved here was to really get to know the city and everything it had to offer.  Luckily for me, that was one goal I found easy to keep!

Life Alive Urban Oasis & Organic Cafe, Lowell and Cambridge, MA

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When my good friend and Passion Parties sponsor Vanessa and I finally set a date to meet and catch-up, we first had to figure out where the halfway point between Worcester and east-you-know-what New Hampshire (I honestly can never remember the name but I know its out there…she told me so!).  Thankfully, she trusted me to pick the restaurant, something more and more friends are learning to do.  Love you guys!  Lo and behold, I discovered this gem.

I was drawn in not only by delish looking menu, but also by their beliefs and goals.  From the website: “Our mission is to feed the vitality of the world . We do this by providing healthy fantastic food for people on the go, while honoring and protecting our environment.” 

Yes please!

We spent about 20 minutes deciding what to order and just exploring the little place which was pleasantly packed in a city not really known for having a good “scene.”  We jammed to the live music, explored the different products available (essential oils, natural H&BC products, incense, etc), and asked a million questions about the food.  I cannot speak highly enough of the staff at Life Alive.  They answered our questions knowledgeably, patiently, and in detail.  It was clear that everyone there was passionate about the restaurant, its mission, and its food.

Turns out, Vanessa and I soon were too!

Warning: drooling may commence.

Thrive Alive juice and The Goddess warm meal

I ordered a taster plate of The Goddess and a Thrive Alive juice.  The former, “a nurturing blend of smoked tofu, short grain brown rice, [lightly] steamed carrots, beets, broccoli, and dark greens surrounded by our zesty Ginger Nama Shoyu dressing” (source), is Life Alive’s signature dish so I knew I couldn’t pass it up.  I subbed quinoa for the brown rice, added garlic, and received kale as my dark greens.  I love eating cooked kale that someone else makes.  For some reason, I can never seem to get it as tender without getting it water logged.  #needasteamer

I soon discovered that the salad was, essentially, raw.  Thankfully I wasn’t kissing anyone later that night.  The kale was super tender and flavorful, the beets were delish and eating them lightly steamed was a totally new experience, and the dressing was a perfect balance of smooth and spicy.  I later discovered that the steaming is the only form of cooking used at Life Alive.  See my # above!

The juice contained beet, carrot, and apple.  I love this combination so much!  It is a bit earthy but since giving up most sugar, my taste buds have come to the point where it is pleasant-earthy rather than gag-me-earthy.  Beau started making beets in 2011 and we both became obsessed.  Preparing them, however, still intimidates me so I was super excited to get my beet on someone else’s time.  <–Yes I just made a corny joke.  😉

Next!

The Romantic

Nessa ordered The Romantic and a Superhero Alive juice.  The Romantic has “Hass Avocado (when available), shredded cheddar cheese, broccoli, garlic, nutritional yeast and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos all embraced in a soft whole wheat tortilla” (Source).  Her juice was made with carrot, apple, ginger, spirulina, cayenne, garlic, apple cider vinegar, honey, and water and had a bit of a kick at the end.  This also was to-die-for as we, obviously, exchanged bites of each others’ dishes.

I also bought a 1/2lb of their organic granola which is specially made for Life Alive, uses honey as the only sweetener, and is chock full of dried fruit.  It is amazing and I had to really think hard about my food budget to stop myself from buying it in super-duper bulk.

Perhaps my favorite part of Life Alive is how good I felt after.  I was so vitally energized and ready to go, a huge feat after working 10 hours in a windowless office.  In fact, some would say I was hyper, but those who know me best know better than that!  😉  The feeling lasted during our bar stop and my entire hour drive home.  It was amazing.

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