Traffic jams: annoying. A sudden rain shower when you just left the hair salon and have no umbrella: annoying. Chatty talkers when you are trying to relax at a spa: annoying. The takeout delivery guy forgetting something in your order: annoying. Loving animals, saving the planet, enjoying yummy vegan food: not annoying. Vegans are Not Annoying: Here are 10 Reasons Why.
So, why this post instead of a recipe today? Today I listened to this awesome interview on NPR about how a new breed of boys, including two of my faves, Joshua Katcher and Dominick Thompson, are claiming their masculinity by embracing veganism.
After I listened to the audio, I started reading the webpage comments and was shocked to read such negative replies after such a rockstar, easy-going interview .. and on NPR. I would expect as much on say, BuzzFeed or even YouTube. But NPR? One of the oddest comments was how someone insisted that vegans are annoying. Why? Well his google search suggestions confirmed it for him. Well OK then. I was so mind-boggled that people are STILL so discriminatory towards vegans, calling them (me) annoying, that I decided to comment back here on my blog.
(This seems like such an obvious thing to me, but I guess I live in my happy Los Angeles, vegans-are-super-cool bubble. So for everyone outside the bubble, lets go now..)
Last week the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Nutrition Bill passed in the senate with flying colors - and while you may not need convincing that this bill is a step in the right direction - here is my take on why the Nutrition Bill matters and why we should dream big when it comes to the big picture story of kids and food. This is a longer-than-normal post, discussing an issue close to my heart: kids nutrition. I hope you will take the time to read, comment and discuss.
Even if you aren't a parent, most everyone has or will have a child in their life who they love dearly. This issue touches us all. My reflections and big dreams..
A Bit of Background...
The Washington Post reported,
"The Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act on Thursday, a bill that provides an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years to federal child nutrition programs including school lunch. If signed into law, it will be the first time that the federal government has increased funding for the programs in 30 years."
In regards to vegetarian efforts, Veg News reported,
"The Child Nutrition Bill cleared the House committees with added vegetarian amendments. The $8 billion bill for the proposed Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act now has an added $1 million vegetarian pilot program. Additionally, the committees added trial programs for increased organic foods and vegan foods...."
The bottom line: 1) funding. Funding for a wide variety of programs aiming to improve the health of kids via the foods they eat. The invisible weapon: 2) intention. The Bill shows that our nation has good intentions for the health of our kids. Will we - can we - deliver healthy results?
Why the Nutrition Bill Matters: Even skeptics of increased government funding for programs have to agree that 1) education is crucially important in our country. And 2) no amount of education, from math to social studies to science, chemistry and literature is going to make a difference in a child's future if that child is unhealthy. Health is number one.
...If you haven't learned that lesson yet - you will. At some point in your life you may get ill, or a loved one will get ill and the only thing that will matter is getting well. Wellness. Without a well state - you cannot succeed in anything. And that includes school.
But I do want to stress that health is relative for everyone - what is healthy for me - may be very different than what is considered healthy to you. The point is that we should all strive to take care of ourselves and preserve what health we do have. But this essay is about kids. School kids. And the food they eat everyday to fuel their minds and bodies. And for the kids, I like to dream big...
This is what school lunches could look like in my dreams..
A few yummy details of my dream school lunch...
Organic Local Blueberries..
Who Needs Tuna..when you can have Tu-Nut on Spelt Bread with carrots...
Silken Tofu Chocolate-Berry-Almond Pudding...
It's no secret that our kids need help. Childhood obesity and type two diabetes rates continue to soar and as a nation we need to come together and help the kids in our backyard and kids we have never met.
Unhealthy kids will surely lead to an unhealthy future. Bypassing "health" on our list of priorities for "childhood education" is a horrific and doomful thing to do. Healthy kids are more focused and energized - which in turn leads to a greater ability to learn - which leads to lifelong success, wellness and happiness.
I am pleased about the Nutrition Bill - but the bill is only a door opening. What we carry through that door will define if we are successful on the other side or not.
While I am not skilled enough to discuss the vast complexities of this bill - I do know how to dream big and envision healthy kids. So here are my hopes and big dreams for what the bill could mean for kids and our nation's food future.
My Big Dreams for Improving Food in Schools:
1) I Love Tempeh! More kids will be exposed to a diverse, wide variety of healthy alternative foods at a younger age. Foods like tempeh, seitan, edamame, quinoa, spelt, coconut water, nutritional yeast, soy/almond/hemp milk, non-mainstream produce items like papaya and goji berries, soy ice cream, vegan cheese and many more..
2) I'll Take the Veggie Burger Please! More kids will be offered vegan plant-based options when they choose to dine in a school environment - and more kids will see other kids enjoying plant-based options. Eating plant-based foods will become acceptable and even delicious and "cool" to kids.
3) I Know Where Those Nuggets Have Been. More kids will learn where their food comes from. And no, your apple didn't come from a supermarket. Your chicken nuggets didn't come from a freezer box. Everything you eat has an origin and those origins have consequences.
4) I Grew These Tomatoes! More kids will be able to produce their own food and get involved in farm-to-table growing programs that teach kids the skills of gardening as well as an appreciation for fresh, local foods as opposed to "tourist produce" from far away.
5) I Cooked This Meal Myself! More kids will be given school-based opportunities to get involved in the cooking process of their meals. Nutrition and cooking classes will be essential and kids will learn to make their own lunches and acquire the skills to feed themselves healthy plant-based foods - for their lifetime.
A girl can dream big right? Lets all dream big together. I can see it happening. Can you?
Now I take a step back and reflect on my childhood and how school foods impacted my path to health and veganism...
My Big Picture Analysis...
Health Comes First. When I named my blog "Healthy Happy Life" my husband asked my why I didn't name it Happy Healthy Life. I stand firm that Healthy comes first. Always. Without health, you cannot have happiness in your life. This fact should be the same for our kids.
Adults and Food. You stare at the clock around noon and your stomach gurgles. Is it lunch yet? Your lunch break finally hits and you and your co-workers split in all directions grabbing lunch bags or lining up to use the lunchroom microwave. Maybe you even swing around the block to grab a to-go sandwich or salad at your favorite neighborhood joint - maybe a Starbucks tea or smoothie. Adults have options. Lots of them. Kids don't.
Lunchtime for kids means sitting down in a cafeteria with two options: what was brought from home or what is offered at school. No matter what you send your child off to school with (money, a lunchbox, or a lunch ticket) - every option at school will have a mental impact on your child. The challenge: making healthy plant-based options the "cool" and desired option in a child's mind (and stomach).
Even if your child is packed a to-go Pure Food and Wine raw vegan meal, coconut water to drink and a giant bag of farmers market produce to snack on - that child will still be exposed to what other kids are eating. And what is served at school. That double cheese greasy pizza with a side of chocolate milk and french fries will still be in view. And maybe even "the cool" thing to eat. What kind of message are we sending our kids if the same place we serve them esteemed education, spelling tests and math books is serving them low quality, pathetically unhealthy food options?
My Memories. It's funny how horribly I remember eating in school when the food came from school. In Junior High I remember kids running at the lunch bell to get in line to buy slices of Dominos pepperoni or cheese pizza and a soda - before the pizza ran out.
Running, sprinting..it was a free for all to get that pizza! If the pizza had run out, the next favorite option was a greasy bean and cheese burrito. No veggies, just high fat beans and cheese wrapped in an enormous flour tortilla. After that there was chips, doughnuts, candy, soda and fruit juice. And if healthy snacks were there - no one bought them. Even a healthy adult vegan like me remembers eating more than a few slices of cheese pizza and tubes of powdered doughnuts back in school. I cringe thinking about how happy those foods made me.
And the crazy part is that this was Northern California - Santa Cruz - an area known for healthy vegetarian living - farmer's markets and fresh produce everywhere. At home I ate healthy foods, but the unhealthy options (viewing my friends eating or eating them myself) still saturated my daily "food story" at school. Bad habits can die hard.
My Awakening. Finally in high school I put down the fluorescent blue Poweraide and bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and started reading labels and nutrition books by trailblazers like Marilu Henner - who was leading the charge of dairy-free vegan living.
Marilu's best-selling Total Health Makeover book really did change my adolescent life in a number of ways. But I was also conflicted. What had I been eating for the past 16 years of my life?? Was my mom right? Was I really supposed to eat my veggies and trash the junk foods all my friends and I loved? Yes I was! I was shamed because I had bought the doughnuts. I grabbed the chips. I craved fast food.
Then suddenly a switch flipped. I got it. The veil had lifted and I was frightened by what I saw. The reality of food in America can be a scary one. I ran screaming from junk food once I fully realized just what I was eating all those years by my own choice. I jumped off a cliff so to speak...
For me, it was like jumping off a rocky cliff into a high tide ocean. Not the easiest transition to make. Jumping off cliffs can be dangerous stuff. That's why it's our job as adults to guide teens and kids down the cliff - carefully so they can grab a boat and sail away on their healthy adult life.
Lucky for me, I had that profound realization. The same schools that brought me lifelong skills in science, writing, math and the arts had been betraying me when it came to lunchtime. The most basic skills of how to eat well and where my food came from were being ignored. Sure there were glimpses of the nutrition pyramid in health class and a food groups chart on the wall in the nurses room - but actually - those guides are ones that I shun today. Dairy, meat and eggs - not in my fridge. Milk free. Meat free. Eggs are not so incredible to me. So looking back I have to ask my school: Where was My Healthy Food Pyramid??
Thank goodness for my parents. And books. And Marilu. And PETA. Yes, PETA. My parents and my healthy city surroundings gave me the healthy food tools I craved to succeed in eating well. And PETA enlightened me to the dark side of food. My first exposure to the horrors of our nation's factory food systems: a PETA pamphlet someone handed me - somewhere. I was only about fourteen or so. I read it and cried. I read it again and cried some more. Some call those pamphlets propaganda. I call them truth-tellers.
Every child will grow up and have a different food story. A food point of view (as Food Network's NFNS show likes to call it!) No one can judge or change or shun your food point of view. But as adults we must understand the profound effect we can have both positively and negatively on a child's food story. Lets tell a good story from here on out.
Lets tell a story of health, wellness, truth and creativity, with a hands-on/can-do attitude - all with a forever goal of health and happiness in mind.
What do you think??
Tu-Nut Sandwich Recipe...
I read a news headline from CNN today that said:
"Nearly 1 in 5 Four year-old's are Obese."
Deep sigh. Heavy gloom in the pit of my stomach.
Another depressing statistic about health, bull-horned via the media. For a second I am saddened. But never shocked. Then, hope resurfaces.
Sad. Mad. Then hopeful. A while back, I decided that I wasn't going to waste my precious energy on negative facts, people or situations. I step back, think big picture and look beyond any gloom smogging up my view. While I'm no fan of obliviousness or ignorance, (everyone needs to be informed) I'm a much bigger fan of hope. Hope in life and in health.
"If it Bleeds, it Leads." The media regularly report (and love) negative statistics and stunningly sad stories because 1) it's their job. 2) it gets people to pay attention to them. 3) It Sells. Big time. But, no one, not even the media folks, like bad news, it's simply a part of life. When I hear a discouraging headline (i.e. the four-year-old's obesity stat.) I first get sad. Then get mad. (How are we letting this happen?!) Then, if I'm lucky, I end with hope.
A glimpse of my hope...
... it's kinda my version of The Sound of Music's "My Favorite Things"...:
"...farmers markets, sunny days outside, sweet potato biscuits you baked yourself, brown-bag lunches with "I Love You" notes tucked behind apple slices, whole grain bread warm from the toaster, waking up full of energy because you've been taking care of yourself, mint, lemon zest, basil, olive oil, garlic, gardening when the spring air hits the breeze, chai green tea on a rainy day, grocery shopping with your family on a lazy Sunday, a hot home-cooked meal after a very long day, discovering your favorite bright purple, green or crimson colored smoothie at the best juice bar in town...."
Where do you find hope?
Click ahead to read more hope thoughts and a photo of me at age four...
Me at age four, enjoying sunshine, a post-preschool nap and an apple:
Changing our Minds. Health is all about outlook. We need to focus on the positive and send the negative to the back of our minds. We do this in other areas of our lives, so why not health.
For example, If a child gets an "F" on a spelling test his parents immediately say: "Study More!" And studying hopefully ensues. And in the end, hopefully good results will come. Problem solved. If a four year-old is obese, we all get very upset and the media reports it with a hopeless attitude. But I say, fix this problem the way you would a spelling test. Focus on the positive. Healthy eating is not rocket science. If a four year-old is obese, there has to be some sever dietary problems in play. Parents need to take a serious look at how they can "Study More!"
Here's why I have hope for health in America: I think positive. Call me unrealistic, call me silly, but I do indeed have hope for health. I have seen people transformed from sick and unhealthy to vibrant, happy and healthy well people. Those who have experienced health would never go back to not taking care of themselves, a practice that is different for each of us.
Positive. Positive. Think Positive! The road to healthy living is actually a nice road. There's no glamour or beauty or happiness in being unhealthy. Doughnuts, cigarettes, super sizing-it and buttercream frosting is not the Rx for happiness (no matter what product marketing may communicate to you.)
Myprescription health and happiness?
The simple and slow road to living healthy and well everyday:
Fresh fruits and veggies, long walks to clear your mind and loosen your muscles, morning green tea after a long restful slumber, whole grain bread warm from the toaster, fresh squeezed juices and smells of herbs and fresh-picked produce, farmers markets, sunny days, brown-bag lunches with "I Love You" notes tucked behind an apple, waking up full of energy because you've been taking care of yourself, hot soup full of rosemary, potatoes and fresh carrots, mint, lemon zest, basil, olive oil, garlic, tomato sauce, steamed tofu glazed in a ginger sauce, reading a book on a rainy day, gardening when the spring air hits the breeze, grocery shopping with your family, reading Lunchbox Bunch books and laughing at the Paparazzi Peas, sweet potato rolls that you baked yourself, eating ripe red strawberries on a lazy afternoon just because they looked delicious, blended smoothies and taking deep breaths as you walk right past the long-lined fast-food joint.
"Healthy living is nice." And those four-year old's mentioned in the study probably don't know that yet. But I really hope someone will be there to teach them to focus on health and focus on the positive. And come to know healthy life experiences that enrich their lives.
If we can teach each other to focus on the positives of healthy living, I really think it's all going to turn out OK.
What do you think? Where do you find hope when you read these discouraging headines?
I'm happy to announce that my photo (above) of a "Roasted Red Pepper" was a runner-up in Grubs Club's Food Photography contest. First place went to "The Perfect Poached Egg" by Siddharth Khullar. It is a delicious photo. Too bad I don't eat eggs!
Click ahead for the complete list results...
Grubs Club Food Photography Contest Results:
First Place: The Perfect Poached Egg, by Siddharth Khuller
"The Roasted Red Pepper" by Kathy Patalsky
"The Sushi BirthDay Cake" by Blackswan
"Clam Dish" by Isabelle Mazzoni
"Grilled Chicken" by Siddharth Khullar
"Kodbale" by Saraswathi Shankar
"Eggplant, Oven Dried Tomato and Skordalia Stacks" by Danielle Pallaske
"Eggplant Rolls" by Jeremy Blackman
Visit http://grubsclub.webs.com/contestresults.htm to see the winning photos...
I recently discovered that one of PETA'S celebrity endorsers, Dita Von Teese, has her own fur line and is quite open about it. If fact PETA, apparently has no problem working with Dita even though she wears and sells fur. Am I the only one who thinks this is upsetting?
Click ahead for the full story and my thoughts on PETA'S contradiction...
Lets define, shall we...
Contradiction (noun)-variance to something
PETA- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Fur- Not an ethical treatment of animals.
Don't celebrities and organizations value the quality of authenticity anymore? Authenticity is pretty simple: If you talk the talk, walk the walk.
Like most vegans, I am an animal lover. In fact, my first inspiration towards veganism was out of my childhood love of animals. And I support people and organizations who promote animal rights. But sometimes PETA confuses the heck out of me.
Numerous news outlets reported that Dita Von Teese was spotted having a vegan lunch at Real Food Daily in Santa Monica California. One of my favorite restaurants in the country might I add.
This brought up a huge history of Dita's work with vegan animal rights company PETA. And the background story is quite questionable. It begs the question: Is PETA being a hypocrite?
PETA and Von Teese
The Vegetarian Star reported this:
"Von Teese worked with PETA in a campaign to encourage pet owners to spay and neuter their animals and was also set to star in a Beauty Without Cruelty campaign in cooperation with Chanel, to show how animal cruelty was unnecessary in the cosmetic industry.
But she has a collection of vintage furs she’s not ashamed to discuss.
“PETA’s totally aware of me,” she once told PEOPLE. “I’m not working with PETA to tell people to be vegetarians or to stop wearing fur. I am there to strictly speak about spaying and neutering your pets.”
PETA had responded by saying, “She said she has some vintage furs she wears occasionally. PETA often works with a celebrity on an issue they feel comfortable supporting, whether it’s supporting spaying and neutering, or speaking out against products that are tested on animals. So they may not be an animal rights activist, but their contribution to any of our campaigns is appreciated.”
I am against fur, but I certainly wouldn't take away Dita Von Teese's right to wear or sell fur. I can only do my best and snarl at all the fur coat wearers this time of year in New York City.
Dita is her own person, and is open about her fur-accepting stance.
However, PETA runs across runway stages splattering red paint on fur wearing models. So how in the world can they dare work with someone who sells and wears fur???
Confusing and upsetting.
I wish PETA would not choose its celebrities based on popularity, but rather on cold hard facts about what they represent. So many celebrities and everyday people say they represent one thing and actually LIVE something totally different. I would like to see more authenticity in PETA'S celebrity endorsers. Anyone can pose naked for a PETA ad and make the news. But if at the end of the day you are eating a hamburger while draped in a mink fur coat, I say you are nothing more that a fake. And if PETA was too blind to see that, then they are just as bad.
Authenticity is a pretty simple concept: If you talk the talk, walk the walk.
Hunger. Is it good or bad? I was fascinated by Weight Watchers new program mascot (as seen on TV), the "Hungry" Monster, from the new Momentum program. But it got me thinking, is hunger really a bad thing?
Weight Watchers seems to think that hunger should be avoided at all costs. Their new volumetrics-style, higher fiber program guidelines seem to hint that staying constantly full or satisfied will help you lose weight.
But what about the good factors about hunger? What about the taste of a healthy meal when you are hungry compared to when you just ate a snack an hour ago. And didn't mom always say that snacking before dinner would "spoil your appetite?"
It's an interesting debate. Thus I started a poll of the topic. I hope you will take it and join in the conversation regarding hunger. Or is it the "hunger monster"...
Read about and see the hunger monster commercials here.
"Maybe nice girls don't always come in first, but they are still winners in my opinion." -Kathy
Hosea was the winner on last night's Bravo Top Chef Finale. In the Top Chef world it appears that nice girls finish last. Or do they?
Carla did not do well last night. I was cheering for Carla to win, once my favorite Jeff got sliced out of the 'second chance' competition in New Orleans.
Since the Top Chef winner was Hosea, what does this mean for the culinary world? For society even? Why did Padma and Tom keep requesting a chef with "heart" and end up with guys like Stefan in the finale, who appeared to care less if he won?
Well I have a few thoughts on this...
Read more for my "nice girls" theory on how Carla bombed and Hosea pulled through...
Nice Girls Finish Last?
I am a nice girl. And all 'nice girls' know that they are going to lose out a few times in life by the 'mean girls or boys'. But in this case, it wasn't anyone 'mean' who sabotaged Carla. Carla sabotaged herself. She had all the makings of a Top Chef winner:
Unique Culinary Identity
and "that something special"
Unfortunately, her 'nice girl' attitude killed her. How?
1. She listened to someone else. She listened to Casey. I love Casey, but Casey is good at cooking Casey-style, not Carla style. Carla should have taken more initiative to shut Casey up when they were brainstorming and refining the Carla's menu. The nice girl in Carla said: "Trust Casey. She has great ideas and she almost won Top Chef!"
2. She didn't listen to her "Blink," aka Malcolm Gladwell's theory. She didn't listen to her heart or her gut. And the worst part about that is that Carla knew it. She knew what she was cooking was not 100% her, but she pressed on anyways. She took Casey's advice. Carla stopped using her heart as her guide and tried using her head. Not smart for a girl who cooks with some real heart and soul.
I was shocked to see Carla cave in the finale. She caved mentally, emotionally and skill-wise. Look how she stood up to the "I don't drink, so I'm not serving an alcoholic beverage" issue at the New Orleans Mardi Gras. That took some real personal passion and guts to do that.
Top Chef winner: Hosea. So in the end, Hosea, the under-the-radar, looks like the Frat kid next door chef won. He did an amazing finale meal and he deserves to win for that.
Last Word: Stefan
Stefan was not a 'nice guy'. He was the typical, "I don't care about the other contestants," contestant. Which in some ways is good. It shows backbone and determination. And clearly since he was runner-up, he had skills. And interestingly, his cocky attitude didn't get him kicked off. The judges didn't even blame his loss on his 'bad attitude'. They blamed it on his circa 1982 dessert and frozen fish technique. Yet Carla got blamed for both her failed food and 'pushover' attitude.
In the end, the top Chef winner, Hosea will I'm sure do well. And I'm sure you will find the losers in a town near you doing celebrity cooking demos and signing autographs. And as for Carla? In my deepest heart of hearts I don't like to think that the "nice girls finish last."
...I like to think that she gained a lot of fans from being 'nice and silly and cheerful' on the show. And will indeed do very well. If you had to hire someone, who would you pick from the loser pile: Carla or Stefan? I'd pick Carla.
Maybe nice girls don't always come in first, but they are still winners in my opinion.
TOP CHEF ON BRAVO
Carla's Catering Company in Washington DC: Alchemy Catering
Walking into a Starbucks here in NYC, you are greeted by a dazzling display of calorie numbers for each and every baked good in the display case. Even at a Le Pain Quotidien you can see very clearly that your Blueberry muffin will cost you 400 calories, and why is the buttery croissant only 230? And that nice fruit salad is only 110.
At places like Le Pain Quotidien, I love comparing the Tartine sandwiches and realizing that one is actually 500 calories less than another that is equally as yummy! 500 calories?! That's a whole blueberry muffin and small fruit salad I could add to my day!
I love the calorie counts on the menus. They are even at Chipotle and Dunkin Doughnuts as many people have 'complained'.
I started a YELP conversation asking Yelpers to weigh in on the situation. I asked: "Calorie Counts on NYC menus: Love 'em or hate 'em????"
Click here to read the discussion on Yelp.
Click forward to read a few of my fave responses....
YELP CALORIE COUNTS CONVERSATION
Calorie Counts on Menus...love em or hate em?
I love them-full disclosure is my best friend. But what does the YELP community think?
Should restaurants have calorie counts on all their food items? Do you like knowing that, say, the lemon loaf at Starbucks has 500 calories in it....
Others I liked:
I've walked out of McDonalds because of the calorie numbers. 750 for fries. Screw that.
If you are an educated consumer, you know that a muffin is like eating cake or anything fried is not good for you. Having calories on the menu would not sway me either way. If I want to eat something and I am dining out. I will eat it.
Could care less but it would keep me away from this one,http://www.menshealth.com/20worst/worstfood.html
I love it because it only applies to chain restaurants. Anything to make people stay away from mass-produced sound good to me.
I think its a great thing, people should be aware of what they are eating, even if you dont care it still bothers you when the simple meal you are eating is 1400 calories, way over half of what you're supposed to be eating in one FULL day.
As far as fast food goes, I think it makes sense. The amount of calories, fat and sugar that many processed foods have is sometimes astounding, and more than many think. I knew that Burger King (for example) wasn't a healthy think to eat, but I didn't realize that one of their burgers can be over half a day's calorie intake until I saw it in print. Processed food can be sneakily laden with unexpected calories.
When we're talking real food made from real ingredients (instead of processed crap) things are more obvious, so I think calorie counts are silly, bordering on Nanny State kind of nonsense. We all know that animal fats (butter, cheese, cream, rich meats) are loaded with calories, so foods heavy with such aren't much of a surprise. I'm not shocked to discover that an alfredo sauce or a cassoulet is loaded with calories, and I don't need to be told that.
Love 'em. Like Tina, I know when to put the fork down. And to that end, I also tend to eat pretty healthy 90% of the time. But, I still like having that information out there.
Read the complete conversation here.
Hey blog readers.
I want to give you all a peek inside my world. Here are some facts about my life, my brand the Lunchbox Bunch, my favorite restaurants, my favorite foods and a few fun facts that might surprise you.
I even included a lot of photos from my everyday adventures.
Click here to learn all about Kathy...
ALL ABOUT KATHY PATALSKY
Last night was Valentine's Day eve. Instead of staying home and resting up for our delicious, raw-vegan, five course Pure Food and Wine Planned VDAY evening, G and I went out to James Barbour's "Love Songs" concert at Sardi's. Special guests were Morgan James and Constantine Maroulis. And as James Barbour posted on his blog, this was a "WOW!" of a show.
The Love Songs show last night was awesome. Constantine sang a cover of one of my favorite songs, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. And Morgan James sparkled. Her voice can only be described as powerful.
One of the most important wellness tips I have for you is to get out and attend a concert, a show, a reading, a high school play, an opera, a poetry reading, a coffeehouse jazz concert-something live! There is nothing more soul-soothing than experiencing some form of art with a group of people. And there is something miraculous about the interaction between performer and audience (big or small). If you are in NYC, I recommend you go see Barbour's Love Songs show. There are only a few more dates. Tickets here. Oh, and Constantine will be starring in Rock of Ages on Broadway next month. I am definitely going to check that show out.
Click forward to read more details from the concert and my fun "Valentine's Day Eve" night out...
I became a fan of James Barbour after seeing him star as Sydney Carton in the short-lived Broadway musical A Tale of Two Cities. I saw the show three times, including closing night. After the show sadly closed, JB did a successful holiday concert show at Sardi's. To see Broadway talent up close and personal like that is an experience you can only find in NYC.
Back at Sardi's
James Barbour's concerts, Holiday and Love Songs, are both at Sardi's. Now don't get me wrong. I love the nostalgia of 'old Broadway' that Sardi's brings. It has an ambiance that is friendly, cozy and warm. Perfect for JB's personality and show style. But I probably wouldn't go there if it wasn't for these shows! So finding myself back at a Sardi's table for the third time, made me giggle. Sardi's walls are decorated with caricatures of celebrities, and it is right on 44th st across the street from where Phantom of the Opera plays. Tourists and nostalgia-of-Bway-seeking folks will love Sardi's though.
What an amazing display of talent-all packed into one show. JB did an array of old and new, known and obscure love songs. I love the selections he chooses from The Hunchback of Notre Dame show he was in. He started out the show with a whopper of a tune, his soul-shaking voice belting out through the crowd, hushing any chattering tables and knocking the sounds of clanking silverware and glasses to the very back of the room. All focus is on JB with the personal stories he tells and his friendly interaction with the adoring crowd. He always sticks in a few audience interaction songs. He did the hilarious "Muskrat Love" song and "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific. He also did "On the Street Where You Live" from my fave, My Fair Lady. As an intro to "On the street.." he always tells his story about how he sang that song in high school and before he even opened his mouth, a cruel student shouted out "You suck!" Little James sang anyways and I'm sure he wowed those dumbstruck classmates.
The Special Guests
Special indeed. I was a huge fan of Constantine Maroulis back from his American Idol days. Voted off in sixth place - booo! (Sixth Place Records is what he named his private label. Nice.) So, I was intrigued to see Maroulis perform live. Wow. He is such a fun and charismatic 'rocker-with-a-soul' style performer. He had his amazing guitarist accompany him. He sang a few songs-all cool, all made me tap my toes-the true sign of a good soul-filed beat. But it was his cover of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" that left me breathless. He nailed it. Even if he did forget the words a bit....he did give us an extra verse in the end. Fabulous.
And Morgan James is a beautiful chicka with a voice and personality fit for the stage. She belts out jazzy style tunes with passion and confidence. She must have been amazing in "Hair".
After the concert G and I skipped through the chilly windy streets of NYC. Past the crowded sidewalks of Times Square, past the dimly lit fashion week tents at Bryant Park, past the line-around-the-corner to get into the Bryant Park Hotel event, and off to a yummy dinner. Fun night out indeed.
Something about a good show really centers me. It sharpens my brain and takes my thoughts off the surface level superficial thingsin life. It makes me crave a good story, a passionate voice, a transforming conversation - something that teaches you something through the event. Something that takes your spirit to a higher-sharper-brighter-bolder part of your heart.
...getting to that brighter part of your heart with someone you love.
That is what Valentine's Day means to me.
There are a few things we can all count on as we meander through life: Noisy streets at midnight on New Years, laundry day, presents on your birthday and a sweet aroma when you smell the soft petals of a rose.
...and in my life I can always count on chocolate on Valentine's Day.
So in honor of Valentine's Day, here are the top five chocolate brands that place marked and in many ways, changed my life. A few brands full of nostalgic memories and a few with a taste I can't live without....
And don't forget that dark chocolate is one of those "superfoods" I love to rave about. Longevity.com reports:
Heart Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate:
-Dark chocolate is good for your heart. A small bar of it everyday can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well. Two heart health benefits of dark chocolate are:
-Lower Blood Pressure: Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure.
Lower Cholesterol: Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent.
Click forward for my FIVE CHOCOLATE BRANDS... list...
Five Chocolates that Changed my Life
5. The Regional Childhood Favorite: See's
Memories and nostalgia. Growing up in California, the gotta-get-it brand of mainstream chocolate was See's. And every Valentine's Day my parents would "surprise" my sister and I with a beautiful heart-shaped box of chocolates. A sweet simple gesture, but it always made me feel giddy to break into a brand new box of V-Day chocolates. I was a bit odd. I'd bite into every singe piece and figure out what was what. I hated the dark ones with pink or white cream. So when I found one, I'd shuffle it off to my mom. She always thanked me for the half-eaten chocolate. My favorite piece of chocolate in the box? Those crunchy milk-chocolate covered toffee bites. Every region of the country has some regional favorite. I asked around, and a Pennsylvania-area regional favorite is Betsy Ann chocolates. Do you have a regional favorite?
4. The First "Worldly" Taste: Ghirardelli Chocolates
In the summers when my family would travel the 1.5 hour car trip from Santa Cruz to San Francisco for a walk on Fisherman's Wharf, a trolley ride and a nice dinner out overlooking the bay, my sister and I would always request a trip to Ghirardelli's Chocolate Shoppe in where else, Ghirardelli Square. There is an amazing ice cream shoppe with a Hot Fudge Sundae to die for. As a teenager, who still had the world to discover, I thought Ghirardelli was the tops. The best. Ghirardelli is amazing. But I had never been outside the USA.....
3. The Best of the Best, I Have Lived: La Maison Du Chocolat
In my college years I took a dream trip to Paris with my soon-to-be husband. That trip changed my life and so did the chocolate. We stumbled into a little chocolate shop that had more red-carpet, silver-spoon, white glove flair than any Michelin starred restaurant. The shop was dressed up like a Cartier or Tiffany Jewelery store. Low hanging lights, glossy glass display windows containing a plethora of amazing chocolates and confections. We had to decide on a few items and I ended up spending more than a lot on some chocolate. Something I rarely do. The best of the best? The dark chocolate chocolate-whole almond "brittle"-looking bars. There are La Maison's all over the world. I suggest you visit one, try a piece and experience world-class chocolate.
2. Going Raw: Pure Delights Raw Cacao
After moving to NYC, I discovered Organic Avenue. A gem of a store with raw, vegan, wellness-inspired goods, books and treats like raw chocolate. I get my fresh coconut water here. One day my husband and I tried the Pure Delights Raw Cacao. It comes in a tiny box of six chocolates, each decorated with a nut or dried berry such as cashews, pecans or goji berries. The box of six is only $12.50, which is so incredibly worth it. These raw and vegan chocolates blew me away. It made me realize that 100% "good stuff" chocolate can really taste amazing. I wish I could eat one of these chocolates everyday.
1. NYC Chocolatier Mecca: MarieBelle
Moving to NYC I noticed that this is a chocolatier mecca. Chocolatier shops are everywhere, there is Jacques Torres, Bespoke, Richart Design et Chocolat, Neuhaus Chocolatier, Teuscher
, Kee’s Chocolates, Martine's Chocolates and my favorite in the south-west end of Soho? Mariebelle. The Mariebelle original truffle chocolates are painted with cute little designs and all set in the beautiful crafted Mariebelle boxes. Flavors like peanut butter, champagne, Aztec, coconut and espresso - these all natural flavors are bold and rich. Also of note: the hot chocolate (all dark chocolate) is the best I have ever purchased to make at home. Aztec flavor-yum. The branding of Mariebelle simply makes me happy. The pin-up girls from the 50's large bars of chocolate are adorable. The old fashioned tea tins. Oh and the chocolate makes me swoon.
I cannot wait to see what journey I go on and what city I land in to add the next chocolate-marker to my life.
What are your top chocolate brands that changed your life??
LA MAISON DU CHOCOLAT
PURE DELIGHTS RAW CACAO
Keep reading for my answer...
Thanks for the great question. Standard yogurt with the labeling of "contains live and active cultures," will contain a minimum of 100 million living organisms per gram at the time of manufacture, (probiotics). A number of companies currently participate in this labeling program by the National Yogurt Association:
Cloud Top, LLC
While this label is a great standard to look for,
today there are a plethora of SUPER-probiotics on the market.
If your main goal is to really re-vamp your intestines, I suggest trying something a bit stronger than standard yogurt and see if you notice a difference.
My favorite brand is BioKPlus which contains 50 billion organisms per shot of yogurt! And it comes in a yummy vegan non-dairy mango soy flavor! I try to drink a shot a day and can feel the difference in both my digestive and immune systems. Some studies show that 70% of your immune system is linked to the health of your digestive system, AKA your intestines where those bacteria set up shop.
Just think. Yogurt is usually 170 grams. So that's around 17 billion organisms per yogurt (at time of manufacture). BioKPlus guarantees 50 billion at time of consumption.
If you drink one full shot of BioKPlus a day, that is equal to around 3.5 yogurts.
Maybe more, maybe less.
Yogurt live cultures are highly volatile living organisms, and thus will vary from container to container.
So yeah, I guess super-probiotic products can make standard yogurt seem a bit pathetic...
I suggest a test of something stronger and see how you feel.
Give a stronger probiotic product at least two weeks to make a real change in your digestive health.
Read my original probiotics post here:
So I promised you a birthday-adventure rundown of events. So here it is. But it's not the quiet, sweet-toned night out I first imagined! ....And that's good.
The planned events included a 9PM dinner at an elegant, intimate, quiet and delicious vegan restaurant in the city. One of my fave restaurants. But it came upon 8 PM and I had a bold, pit-of-my-stomach craving for two things: an energetic scene and a big lava rock bowl filled with fresh, spicy, table side guacamole. And no we didn't go to Rosa Mexicana because I've had too many screaming kids/they took the one veggie dish off the menu experiences there. So-in the cab to our original destination- we grabbed the blackberry and cancelled our vegan-dining-bliss reservation. We shouted to our taxi driver the location of our new destination address: 26th and Park: Dos Caminos. (Iwhispered to my understanding husband, "Isn't life with me excitingly spontaneous?" He smirked. No doubt he agreed with my guac craving, and being a seafood lover, I'm sure he was dreaming of lime-marinated ceviche.
So our cabbie did a quick detour route to the 26th and Park Dos Caminos and the birthday deliciousness began.....
Having no reservation, we hoped to get a table. This would thoroughly suck if they were all booked. But they weren't. They don't do opentable.com, so it's easier to just walk in off the freezing street. Luckily, the wait was only 30 minutes, said the host. Real time wait: about 45 minutes. Not bad. And I did like my company, so the pre-dinner chat was welcomed. Squashed in the small entryway/bar area, we waited, our tummies growling and our limbs still frozen from the twenty degree air. Each opening of the door brought in a swift gust of chilly air. And I was getting a little sick of the 'bag bumps' and "excuse me's" from push-n-shuvey bar bound patrons. But thoughts of guacamole kept my spirits high.
Yay. We were seated in a cozy table on the far end of the center of the dining room. This main room was packed with a lively bunch of diners. Just what I craved for my festive birthday dinner. A huge party of twenty-something girls to our left and a huge party of night-on-the-town guys to our right. Loud, but not too loud, music was playing on the speakers. A Counting Crows cover of Mr. Jones was my favorite bop-around-in-my-seat song, but the eclectic mix of tunes was complimentary to the scene. Great energy for a cold Friday night in the city.
I'LL HAVE THE GUAC, PLEASE
So we immediately ordered a bowl of guac, spicy. And a pitcher of classic red sangria. My favorite celebration beverage. Oh and a salsa trio sampler and a side of corn tortillas. And some water, sparkling.
OH, I'M VEGAN, FYI.
It's always an adventure ordering vegan food from a non-vegan friendly menu. Not even a vegetarian main entree dish. And no asteriks of *can be made vegan. Well duh. I already knew this is the case here. But I've ordered successfully at DOS Caminos many times before, so I knew I'd be OK. And my husband eats anything on the menu except beans and rice. (Yes he has his own food issues.) My hubby got the tuna ceviche to start, white wine braised short ribs. A meat splurge for him, since I so often bombard him with tempeh-infused Caravan of Dreams nights. I got the pomegranate, beet, jicama salad, no cheese to start. And the tacos, done vegan style, lots of veggies and citrus tones. And a side of the red Mexican rice. We also ordered our favorite to share, the fried plantains, no cheese.
The wait was long for our food. But that was very OK because we were savoring the guac, and the trio of salsas was equally appealing. Something about the salsas tasted extra fresh today. And the red sangria-so easy to drink. And perfect to cool off a hot mouth. "Sangria always hits me later." (I say this out loud to my husband as I chug down my first two glasses.)
YUM! DINNER IS SERVED.
So again, everything was extra delicious this evening at DC. The plantains were extra moist on the inside and charred crisply on the outside. The veggies in my tacos were extra flavorful. They had a Asian flair to them. My corn tortillas were definitely handmade-which has not always been the case here! And the second round of salsas were just as tasty as the first. Delicious! I had that spicy taste of lime, cilantro, chipotle and chile's on my palate and I was a happy camper. Just cool the tongue burn off with some sangria and I was in the zone of appetite-zen.
We finished the meal with some guava and pineapple lime sorbet.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY...
I got that yummy 'bowl of guacamole' I had been craving all day.
Happy Birthday indeed.
It's my 28th birthday! So happy birthday to me!
I already received a great present from you, my blog readers: My 20th follower!
Maybe with your help I can make it to 28 by the end of today????
To celebrate, I am going out to dinner tonight with my husband, to my favorite NYC vegan restaurant. I will tell you all about it tomorrow.
...oh and the cupcake in the photo is from a great LES NYC vegan bakery called babycakes. For my birthday, I will do a special review of a few different yummy cakes later today! Check back.
Want a few more fun facts about my birthday? Click ahead...
Kathy Birthday Fun Facts:
-This is my third birthday living in NYC. Last year I went to famous all-vegan restaurant, Candle 79. It was delicious. All the awards are well-deserved.
-Two years ago I went Craft. Tom Colicchio's NYC restaurant. Best mushrooms I've ever had. Yum.
-My mom always writes me the same cute note every birthday: "Happy Birthday to our beautiful daughter -- Hope you have a great day and a happy dinner tonight. You were born at 12:30 PM. There was a rainbow in the sky in the morning as we drove over the hill to the hospital."
-As a child I always had rainbow sherbet on my birthday...in honor of the rainbow in the above quote. :)
-My birthday also coincides with my half wedding anniversary. I was married on July 30th, 2006 in Miami.
-I share my January 30th birthday with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gene Hackman, Vanessa Redgrave and I always like being sandwiched between Oprah (Jan 29th) and Justin Timberlake (Jan 31st.)
-My birthday usually falls on or very close to the NFL Superbowl.
-My favorite cake flavors? German Chocolate, Strawberry Shortcake and Carrot Cake.
Thanks again for reading my blog, and allowing me to share my Healthy. Happy. Life with you.
A few special pizza places have pizza D.O.C certification.
Pizza D.O.C is believed by some foodies to be the most authentic form of pizza available.
No deep dish, meat-lovers, stuffed crust, dipping sauces or cheesy bread here.
Where does this title come from and is Pizza DOC healthy?
D.O.C. stands for 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata'
Normally seen on authenticate bottles of Italian wine.
There are two pizzas you need to make to certify:
Marinara: tomatoes, oil, oregano , garlic
Margherita: tomatoes, oil, mozzarella, basil
But simply adding the ingredients do not make you DOC, aka "real pizza".
The oven must be wood burning.
The dough does matter.
Here are the basic VPN Guidelines?
1. A Wood-Burning Oven:
Pizza Napoletana must be cooked in a wood-fired dome oven operating at roughly 800ºF.
2. Proper Ingredients:
Tipo 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, all natural Fior di Latte or Bufala mozzarella, fresh basil, salt and yeast -- only fresh, all-natural, non-processed ingredients.
3. Proper Technique:
Your pizza dough must be kneaded either by hand, or with a low speed mixer. No mechanical dough shaping is allowed, such as a dough press or rolling pin, and proper pizza preparation. Pizza baking time should not exceed 90 seconds.
There is an organizations in Italy and USA that help certify pizzerias.
A link for info regarding Pizza Napoletana :
The movement gained visibility in 2004, when the VPN Association worked with the Italian Ministry of Agriculture to present Pizza Napoletana to the European Union as a protected food product, similar to cheese, olive oil or wine. The resulting press coverage in the United State created a stir, and today, Vera Pizza Napoletana claims to be DOC (Denominazione d' Origine Controllata), the same status as Chianti Classico.
IS IT HEALTHY???
Yes! As I have posted before, a simple pizza margherita or pizza marinara is much healthier than something like a Pizza Hut Au Natural Pizza. Even though the marketing may confuse your brain....go all natural-the Italian's true way... D.O.C.
Read more for my "NYC to DC and back again, in ten hours, story."
Kathy's Story: NYC to DC and back again, in ten hours
I had to travel down to Washington DC for business. I wanted to be back to New York in time for dinner. And since the Presidential Inauguration is next week, I knew I had to get my one-day trip done before the DC chaos hit. My appointment being at 10am, I decided to take the 5:30am train. Wake time: 4 AM. Mind you, I usually wake up around 9:30 AM.
One by one passengers began to arrive. All a bit groggy and half-asleep. Some wore large puffy winter coats and hats. Some men were dressed in tightly tailored business suits and charcoal black polished shoes. I could hear some ladies wearing loud clanking high heels, as they paraded down the main hallway. Roller-luggage grinding down the hall in tow. Many people were carrying scruffy Styrofoam cups of coffee. Clearly not from Starbucks, a s there isn't one near the Amtrak part of the station. Which sucks. Checking their blackberries. Out of habit, I'm sure. Who else is up at this hour?
If you have never boarded an Amtrak train from PENN station, you should put it on your life's to-do list. While the Amtrak station is old and dingy at best, it is all about the all-knowing, ticker board. All the passengers gather in a giant hall with different tunnels marked by numbers-off the the sides. There is only one large ticker board hanging in the center. On it, is the trains, times, and then a few minutes before the train is scheduled to leave, the tickers will flip and the tunnel number you are to board at will appear. The board looks like it is from the twenties, or fifties. I don't know. But it's pretty old. Sometimes, when the number flips, there is a rush of people running to the tunnel. Many are seeking that perfect window seat. Or perhaps that coveted upper storage area for their luggage. Or maybe they just think the train will leave without them. It won't.
The train before mine was a 5 AM train bound for Newark New Jersey. I saw a long line of groggy pedestrians head for their tunnel and I was very glad that Newark was not my final destination. Sorry Newark.
I leaned up against a cool tiled wall, checking my text messages and updating my facebook status with posts like "Kathy is shocked that this many people drink coffee at 5 AM." and "Kathy is about to board a 5:30 AM train to DC." Finally my train tunnel number flipped. I heard that nice classic ticking sound with each fast flip of the board. I walked quickly to my tunnel as the short line began to form. Most of the DC bound passengers were nicely dressed. Business travel. It was a Tuesday...
I walked down the icy outdoor train runway and boarded the train. I was in the car right after the Cafe Car, so the smell of coffee, store-packaged blueberry muffins and biscuit foil-hugged breakfast sandwiches wafted down the aisle. I got a window seat and hoped that no one would sit next to me. (I think we all hope that at 5:30 AM in the morning.)
"All Aboard!" the train conductor shouted and we departed NYC, bound for the lovely Union Station in Washington DC. I placed my ticket in my lap, and closed my tired eyes, waiting for the ticket guy to clip my ticket. Eavesdropping on the passengers in front of me saying their "Hello. Good Morning." greetings to the ticket guy, I could audibly survey the crowd. A few business guys, an older woman. A travelling woman who had her seat all the way back even before I got on the train, I'm guessing. A touristy looking man who was incredibly spry and cheerful for 5AM. "Good Morning!" he shouted.
My ticket was clipped and I was free. Free to close my eyes and sleep.
But it is never a real deep snoozing-all-the-way-to DC sleep. It is an intoxicating, hush-pumping of the train, shushing sounds, rocking back-and-fourth, listening to random passengers conversations, looking out the window and closing your eyes again kind of sleep. I love it.
I heard at least three groups of men, all daily commuters. Many who got on at the Philly stop, all networking and telling travel stories. "Yeah, I do this everyday." one man said.
"Wow! I go down on Tuesday and come back on Thursday." another man replied.
"Ha-huh Yeah, I uh, have a wife who requires me home." The first man chuckled.
Then in front of me was a college grad chatting with an old-timer in a similar industry. The banter back and fourth was highly entertaining. The young newbie bragging about his world travels, his upcoming plans to hop around Barcelona and maybe France. He had already spent two summers in South America. The old-timer was impressed, saying "Ya know, that kind of thing is better than a crummy old summer internship at a company. Sometimes ya know?" I didn't hear the reply, and I sighed and closed my eyes for another fifteen minute train nap.
I woke up drooling. But it was starting to get lighter outside, so I knew we were close. The outside of my window was littered with breaking black trees, crusty white dusted forest-brush and tiny quiet houses with puffy white streams of chimney smoke gushing from the rooftops.
You Have Arrived
Finally. We arrived in DC. I was so cozy on the train, I had to do a few stretches and deep breaths to wake myself up.
My favorite part about Union Station in DC is the fact that it is right across the street from the Capitol Building. (My favorite building in DC). Maybe even the world. The Tour de Eiffel being my favorite monument. Those twinkly night lights...who can resist.
So I did my business errands, and surprisingly was done by 10:45 AM. I actually made the departing 11:02 AM train back to PENN station. Wow, right?
My return trip was just as calm-inducing and peaceful. I finally got to eat my strawberry-peach vegan muffin that I had stuffed into the bottom of my bag at 4:30 AM that morning. I ate my muffin, and with a happier tummy, I took a nice long groggy awake-asleep nap on the train home. I was in the back row. No one sat by my the entire return route. Ahhh... Nice.
In closing, that is my train travel story. I was reminded about how peaceful travelling by train can be-in winter especially. If I had been travelling by car, I would be alone-the dry heater blasting in my face-and there would be no light chugging of the train to let me rest. And when the weather is this cold and gloomy, we all need a good soft, woke-up-way-to-early-that-morning, morning-time nap.
I highly recommend that you take a train trip this winter. Do it for the train ride, and not the destination.
I believe that is a theory to life..enjoy the ride and not just the destination? Well the same is true for the train. If nothing else, you will get a good few hours of no-TV, no-Internet, turn off your cellphone calm.
Planes vs. Trains
Oh, and PS. Yes a plane will get you there faster, but my gosh if you have a few hours to spare. Take the train. Planes are fast, loud, uncomfortable and you can't even rest with all the lack of leg room and grinding engines stress. Choose those larger-than-you-remember seats on a train. The cushions are squishy and the leg room is plentiful. And isn't that all you need when traveling anyways?
Tip: Bring your own muffin...