Category Archives: healthy eating

Eating (vegan and gluten free) in Austin, Texas

I recently took a trip to Austin, and I had to share all the wonderful food I found. I’m gluten-free (non-celiac), dairy free, and mostly vegan (I do eat eggs occasionally), so you know I’m always worried about how I’m going to eat while I’m traveling. Well, I’m happy to report that eating in Austin was not only easy, but super enjoyable. Below are some of my favorites. Let me know if I missed any and I’ll be sure to check them out next time!

Case De Luz

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This place is special. You walk in through a magical garden of lights to a room filled with smiles. If you’ve lived on a kibbutz or in an ashram, it has that kind of feel. The menu is set and consists of a soup, salad, steamed veggies, greens, a grain and bean. There’s usually some type of pesto, tahini or nut-based sauce that comes with the veggies. Your meal comes with cold drinks (I had hibiscus) and hot tea (kukicha). They also have a-la-carte desserts. I only had the pecan pie (twice), but once I find something good I tend to stick with it! The whole place is vegan and gluten-free, so no need to worry about cross contamination. And, the price tag is quite impressive – just $12. The staff is kind and if you go alone, you’re more than likely to make some friends.

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Counter Culture

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I have a special place in my heart for Counter Culture because they were my refuge when my Airbnb turned out to be a disaster and I needed a place to chill, eat and charge my phone while I figured sh*t out. Their walnut and beet burger is fantastic. I had it with a collard wrap, but they also have a gluten free bun. Their chickpea “tuna” is also fantastic. They have tons of raw (vegan/gf) desserts to choose from as well.

Curcuma

The best Aryuvedic food truck you could ask for. Right in the center of East Austin, the ladies at Curcuma are so warm and welcoming. The sweet potatoes toasts are delicious, my favorite was the “ricotta”.

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Bouldin Creek

OMG, the sweet potato pecan tamales… I only ate here once, but those tamales will be on my mind for a while! Definitely go for 3 instead of 2.  The staff encouraged me to order the pecan pesto (top right), which was good, but the tamales definitely didn’t need it. My server also allowed me to try the regular and refried beans 🙂 I liked the refried best. There’s a huge selection of vegan food, less selection for vegan and gluten free, but you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything eating these tamales, that’s for sure.  There’s also plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.

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True Food Kitchen

Wow. We had the vegan butternut squash, smoked onion and almond ricotta pizza on the gluten free crust. One of my favorite meals, for sure. The crust was out of this world, not like some of the gf crusts that are super thick or dense. Apparently its made with tapioca and rice flour. All I know is that I would go back for this pizza any day. We also had the mezze salad bowl (warm) and the flourless chocolate cake (gluten free and vegan if you leave off the caramel sauce). The staff was sooo informative and friendly.

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Snap Kitchen

There are at least 3 Snap Kitchen locations in Austin. They are 100% gluten free and have many paleo and vegan options (that are clearly labeled). Lots of selection, lots of great dishes like this kale, hummus, brown rice and sweet potato bowl. I also really liked their black bean sliders. Only downside is everything comes in plastic (BPA free) and the only way to heat the food is in the microwaves they provide. I just ate my food cold or took it with me to go and ate it room temperature. Not the end of the world, but a bit of a downside. Definitely great options for bringing to the airport!

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Thai Fresh

I went for the ice cream. You got me. Cashew and coconut milk based ice cream in 10+ flavors. I tried the horchata, gluten free cookie dough, mint chocolate chip and a few others. They had a cookie batter flavor, turmeric, and a handful of other super unique and delicious ice creams. They also have a ton of gluten free and vegan baked goods. I was eyeing the lemon bar, but it just couldn’t happen that day. Next time, I’m definitely getting it.

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Blenders and Bowls

I saw at least 2 of these during my stay. I’m not really into smoothies or smoothie bowls, but sometimes it was just super hot, and I was craving something cold. I got the green smoothie bowls both times I was there, it has the least fruit and sweetener of any of their stuff, but it’s still pretty sweet. I also got one of their pre-made veggie wraps which was really good and perfect to take with me on a hike.

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There were also a number of places that had gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options that just required some modification. I had delicious Tacos at Torchy’s (an Austin staple), Veracruz (check them out on Food Network) and Whole Foods (their taco bar piles free steamed kale on any taco!)

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Veracruz chips, guac, amazing salsa and migas.

 

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Crunchy Crunchy Chips!

Our Love Affair with Crunchy

Do you ever wonder why you love eating crunchy foods? I love crunch. LIke, really really love it. I hadn’t thought too much about it (I assumed it was the salt) until a few days ago. I happen to be reading an amazing book called Gulp, by Mary Roach. She is one of my favorite authors. Somehow she manages to take really taboo subjects and make them accessible and hysterical. Gulp is all about digestion. Another favorite of mine is Stiff, which is all about what happens to our bodies when we die. Sounds morbid, but it’s so so informative, interesting and funny!

gulpAnyway, back to crunch. According to Roach and the experts she interviews, there are a few reasons we like crunchy foods. One reason is that humans have a penchant for destroying things. Think about video games, going to the gym, boxing, popping bubble wrap (thanks, Alex), or any of the other things we do to “let off steam”. When we eat crunchy food, we are getting sensory feedback that we are destroying something, from the sound of the food breaking into pieces, to the feeling of the pieces in our mouth. Way to go! Who needs violent video games when you can eat crunchy food!

But, even more importantly (to me, and maybe you if you’re reading this because you’re into health), we have evolved to prefer foods with a crunch. In nature, we can tell if a food is fresh by its firmness. What a carrot is just picked, it’s full of nutrients and has the most nutritional value it ever will. At that point, it will be crunchy because it’s cell walls are all intact and full of water. As the carrot gets older, some of the cell walls break down, leaving the carrot limper and limper. In this case, there is no longer a nice crunch. This is the case with many vegetables. So, pre-nutrition label times, our wonderfully smart bodies evolved to prefer crunch as a sign of maximum nutrition.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years and in comes processed food. Now our bodies are confused! We’re wired to love crunch, and now there is more crunch available than ever before, all in shiny bags! What do we do!

Right, what do we do?

With all the crunch readily available, we’ve become desensitized. The crunch of a pepper or piece of celery is nothing like the crunch of a chip. It’s the same with sweetness! A fresh berry used to be one of the sweetest things we could get our hands on. The sweetness gave us the feedback that this berry was ripe, delicious and nutritious. Now, a ripe berry barely tastes sweet at all because of all the sugar we consume on a daily basis.

Well, now that we’re aware, we can start the process of re-sensitizing ourselves. What does it take? It takes looking at the foods in our diet and refocusing on the things that are actually good for us. Take note of your cravings. When you’re craving something crunchy are you looking for stress relief? Is your body craving nourishment? Instead of reaching for a bag of chips, try reaching for a fresh carrot or pepper. At first it may not satisfy you, but over time, your body and taste buds will recalibrate. Then, the crunch of a pepper will by music to your ears, and berries will be lusciously sweet again.

 

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Raw Corn Salad – Recipe

The Farmers’ Markets have been so beautiful and inspiring over the last couple of months. I feel so lucky to be at a market almost every day! Corn has been amazingly fresh this summer, and it’s been a big hit at the markets. Check out the recipe below, courtesy of the Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables program, for a refreshing, healthy and simple salad. Corn is also a great source of fiber. Who said healthy couldn’t be delicious? Make sure to read to the end, too. That’s where I give away my pro tips 🙂

For those of you who don’t know, I’m also chronicling my Farmers’ Market and cooking journeys on Instagram, so stop by for some photos and inspiration!

Raw Corn Salad

71cbbf65-21de-49c6-905d-fc00f8b1c882Corn is one of those vegetables that almost everyone loves. It’s bright and sweet, and just screams summer. While corn is quite popular, a lot of people don’t realize you can eat it raw! Yup, you heard me. RAW!

I remember the first time I had raw corn. I was driving back to NY from working at a retreat site in Maine. When we got to New Hampshire, one of my friends saw someone selling corn on the side of the road and demanded we stop. He bought a few ears and proceeded to eat the corn as it was, no cooking, no salt, no butter… nothing. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t reluctant, but I was surprised at how sweet and delicious it was right off the cob.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:
4 ears of corn
2 tomato, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 carrots, grated
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Remove the corn kernels from the the cob by running a knife along each side.

Mix together all ingredients and enjoy!

Pro tip: Get all the delicious juices from the cob by running the back of your knife along each side of the corn. No toothpicks or floss required!

Pro tip #2: If you’re anything like me, you hate to waste. Instead of throwing away the cobs, you can make a delicious and sweet corn stock by simmering them for 45 minutes with some onions and herbs (optional). Corn soup is awesome!

Till next time!

Samantha

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What’s a Healthy Diet? Plus 3 Ways to Create Your Own

The other day I was eating dinner outside with a friend and a man approached us and said, “Hey! I see you’re eating diet food, this is my wife’s card. You should call her. She sells (insert company name) weight loss shakes.” You might be able to guess that we weren’t interested.

While I appreciate his intention, I also found the conversation frustrating. We weren’t eating “diet” food. I had quinoa, some roasted vegetables, kale, tahini and avocado. My friend was eating greens with fruit and some raw veggies. For me, these aren’t diet foods, they are simply real food. I choose to eat these foods for lots of reasons, here are some of them:

  1. Vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats taste awesome
  2. They make me feel good
  3. They give me energy
  4. They keep my body healthy and happy

The foods we were eating were simply whole, unprocessed foods. A variation of the foods my grandparents ate, and the foods his grandparents likely ate. Some people may eat this type of food to lose weight, which is great (and effective). For me, health isn’t a quick fix that can be found in a shake or packaged food. It’s about a lifestyle that places value on real, whole foods. While I use the term diet, as in a “healthy diet”, I am not on a “diet”, nor do I encourage my clients to follow “diets”. The way I eat is a part of my lifestyle, and there isn’t an end in site. It’s hard to know what to eat when there are so many quick fix diet programs and fad diets out there. I once had a coworker tell me about a diet she was on that involved eating 3 soda crackers each morning, another 3 in the afternoon with a can of tuna, and an allowance for some grapefruit and mayo. She lost some weight, but it’s not sustainable.

So what’s a healthy, whole foods diet?

balanced-plate1. Keep packaged foods to a minimum. Even if it has all sorts of buzz words on it like “healthy” “organic” “high fiber” etc.
Stick to foods you can find in the produce section of the grocery store as much as possible. Broccoli doesn’t need a nutrition label. Marketing teams aren’t spending millions trying to make fruits and vegetables look good. You get exactly what you see. No trickery or buzz words involved.

2. Eat whole and unprocessed foods.
When choosing grains, always go for the least refined option. That means brown rice over white, whole wheat or whole grain bread or pasta, and other fun grains like millet, quinoa, buckwheat or barley.

3. Fill half your place with veggies!
Ok, the USDA says fill half your place with fruits and veggies, but I say fill up on those veggies! Especially green ones. I like to call green leafy veggies the gold of all the veggies. Try to eat some at every meal. The simplest way to make greens is to saute them with some olive oil and garlic. It’s super easy and makes a great addition to any meal. (Needs more ideas? try adding frozen spinach to beans, or thinly sliced kale to your omelets. You can also check out my instagram to see what I’m eating).

Give it a try and let me know how you do. I love photos, too!

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Recipe: Chickpea Soup

Chickpeas were always a staple in my family. The first thing I learned how to cook on my own was roasted chickpeas with cumin, salt and olive oil. I guess I did inherit some of the habits and tastes from the Moroccan side of my family!
In the last year, my dad found a chickpea soup that he just loves. It seems like he’s made it almost every time I go to visit. It’s very basic, just chickpeas, onion, rosemary and lemon. I decided to add my own flare to it with more veggies and greens.
For those of you who follow my posts, you know I’m not that into recipes. I like to work with what I have, what looks good in the market, and I tend to measure by eye. That said, someone on Instagram (hi Yogacheeks!) asked that I post a recipe for the soup after posting this photo. So here it goes!
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*Note* This recipe uses dried chickpeas. It makes the soup really rich and creamy because you’re basically making stalk while cooking the beans. However, this takes a longgggggggggggg time, so feel free to sub in canned chickpeas and start at step 7.

Chickpea Soup with Spinach, Cauliflower, Tomatoes and Herbs

Ingredients
  • 4 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon
  • 1 carrot, grated or cut into small pieces
  • 1 tomato (fresh if in season, canned if not)
  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 2 cups)
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Preparation
  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight.
  2. Drain them the following morning, add the baking soda and leave for 1 hour.
  3. Rub the chickpeas in your hands or with a towel to remove the skins.
  4. Rinse the chickpeas very well 4 or 5 times.
  5. Put chickpeas in a pot and add just enough water to cover the chickpeas.
  6. Bring to the boil, removing the froth at the top with a wooden spoon just before they come to the boil. Boil for 15 minutes.
  7. Drain the chickpeas and then put them back in the pot with more water (cover them by about 2 inches). If you are using canned chickpeas, this is where you start.
  8. Bring to a boil, add grated onion, carrots and rosemary and simmer for about 1½ hours (30 minutes if canned) or until they are really tender – don’t let them get dry and add water if necessary.
  9. Add cauliflower and tomatoes when the chickpeas are soft, cook for 5 minutes, then add the spinach.
  10. Whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice together and add to the chickpeas.
  11. Simmer for about another 5 minutes and then serve.
  12. Add salt and pepper to taste and add any fresh herbs you have on hand (cilantro, parsley, basil or chives would be amazing).

Enjoy!

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Dinner for Breakfast

Say it 5 times fast and see what happens! ha, just kidding.

A couple of years ago I spent a week in San Diego in the middle of February. One of the best parts about being on vacation was having time in the morning to relax. Add the inspiration of the beautiful and bountiful produce, and you end up with on of my favorites, dinner for breakfast!

Over the week, we made use of whatever was fresh and local. By the way, did you know that California grows over 28 varieties of avocado? What a great reason to eat guacamole!

Here are some of the dinner-like breakfasts we enjoyed:

  • Sauteed red cabbage with fresh peas from the farmers market
  • Garlicky asparagus and avocado
  • Heirloom tomato and avocado salad
  • Sauteed kale with shallots

Everything was prepared simply, we just sauteed the veggies with a tad of coconut oil, salt, and garlic or shallots when they were around. For our protein, we had paleo bread (it’s a type of gluten free bread made with coconut flour and eggs) with almond butter.

It may seem strange at first, but there are a lot of cultures around the world that eat more typical lunch and dinner items for breakfast. In fact, they might look at our sugary pancakes, cereals, donuts and bagels as strange! Want some visuals? Check out these breakfast photos from around the world.

Breakfast in Turkey, Courtesy of NYT Magazine

Breakfast in Turkey, Courtesy of NYT Magazine

Besides it tasting good, why eat dinner for breakfast? So many of the foods we eat for breakfast in the US are heavy and filled with refined carbohydrates and simple sugars. If you’re used to it, you may not notice how these foods make you feel. But, if you start observing your energy levels, you’ll likely see that it’s a surefire way to end up crashing. After the initial energy boost from the sugar, these foods often leave us feeling tired, bloated, and unsatisfied. It’s a perfect setup for the chocolate in the office, or the candy bar across the street. I know you know what I’m talking about. You know, I always wondered why my former boss kept chocolate for all of us in her office, but it made perfect sense. And more chocolate, candy bars, coffee and muffins means more spikes and drops in our blood sugar, leaving us tired and worn out.

But there are other ways to keep your energy up throughout the day without depending on these pick-me-ups. One way is by starting your day with dinner foods for breakfast. You don’t even have to cook! It’s a perfect way to eat your leftovers 🙂

Here are some ideas for wintery breakfast foods, I am back in NY, after all. These recipes include things like whole grains, protein and veggies. The whole grains and veggies are rich in fiber, which keep you feeling fuller longer and keep your digestive system running smoothly. They also will regulate your blood sugar level. The protein will also give you the energy you need to hold you to your next meal without crashing. Remember, you can use whatever seasonings you like to fit these recipes to your taste. You can also substitute the types of grains, beans, and veggies used. The possibilities are endless!

Dinner for Breakfast recipe ideas (just click on the links for the recipes):

  • Brown rice with chickpeas and some steamed or sauteed greens (kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard etc).
  • Savory Steel Cut Oats with Miso and Walnuts: I leave out the sweetener in this one, it’s super delicious and rich.
  • Root Vegetable Stews: One of my favorite flavor combos is adding peanut or almond butter to soups and stews, especially with sweet potatoes. It adds a lovely creaminess, and a bonus of extra protein. The links above include recipes for Sweet Potato and Peanut soups and stews.
  • Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with a cumin lime dressing.
  • Miso Soup with loads of veggies, a boiled (or poached) egg and some rice or soba noodles. If you are gluten-free, make sure you read the ingredients on the soba noodles, they often are made with a percentage of wheat flour.
  • Tofu Scramble or a Veggie Omelette

What are some of your favorite breakfasts?

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