Eating My Way Through Austin Texas

I travelled to Austin Texas recently, the land of music and food, where people like to keep things weird. I was forewarned that my visit would be filled with live music, open mic nights, and delicious food, from food trucks and of course the health food mecca itself, the original Whole Foods Market. My best friend requested my banana strawberry oatmeal, so of course I had to deliver! And man did it come out tasty!

My first few days were a bit chilly and cold, but before the rain set in, I managed to fit in a hike on the Greenbelt. An urban natural area away from the busy city, that provided a bit of peace and quiet.

From here my hunger set in and food adventure commenced. Let me just say, vegan-friendly spots were not hard to find, and many restaurants offered gluten-free and vegan options, so I felt right at home.

The first place I visited was called Casa De Luz "House of Light," and man do they know how to ignite a light in your soul with their balancing macrobiotic food. The short walk on the pathway through the tranquil landscape filed with bamboo shoots, and butterfly art pieces hanging from trees on the war to the restaurant only prepared you for the quiet and relaxing self-service experience at Casa De Luz. For $12, you receive a  soup, salad, and entree, as well as filtered electrolyte water, and cleansing iced and hot teas. Yeah all this for $12, I wasn't in New York City anymore… The best part about this place were the fresh flavor. The soup of the day was a sweet potato and tamari soup, and the salad was lettuce with what tasted like a tahini dressing. The main was simple, and my favorite part were the beans, they were cooked perfectly!

Now let me give you a close up...

Naturally, you need something sweet for dessert. Well my friend knew about this vegan ice cream place called Sweet Ritual, and the location we went to was actually connected to a juice and smoothie place, both of my favorite things combined! Can I move in?

After trying almost every flavor they had, I decided on a scoop of the peanut butter chocolate and the mint chip. What was great about their ice creams was that they were all made with different bases and categorized as such; coconut milk, peanut butter, cashew, or almond based. There was a variety of flavors and nothing was overpowered by the base of the ice cream. The flavors were rich and creamy, just like ice cream should be. What I loved about their mint chip was that they made it green with spirulina, for added superfood goodness..I mean come on..who could feel bad about indulging in that!? So I dove in head first and ordered a scoop of each, and proceeded to go back to Sweet Ritual twice more throughout my trip. Hey, Austin got warm ok?! A girl needs to cool off…and ice cream thats vegan, say no more!

Well I was in Austin, the land of Whole Foods, where the health food mecca came from. There was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to visit. I was like a kid in a candy store, didn't know which way to turn or look, and wanted absolutely everything. Especially when I made my way over to the salad bar/juice bar/stir fry/just about anything you could ever want to eat stations. Now thats when confusion and panic set in, "Do I want the pho, curry, salad, a mixture of things?!?! What should I get?!?" After walking and walking around the food stations to absorb all my options, I decided to go for a variety of things at the salad bar with a fresh green juice on the side. Although, I wish I had enough room in my belly to have tried it all! I've never seen so many options inside of one Whole foods before. Everything was fresh, full, and met all the Whole Food standards of healthy delicious food.

One cute thing I loved, was upon entering the store they had a free fruit stand for kids! I mean what a way to promote health and provide kids with a fun snack while shopping. I thought to myself, "hey, I'm a kid at heart, can I have one?" hehe. Only a thought though guys…I of course left all the fruit there for the kids. ;-)

I also went to a local farmers market nearby where I was staying. Farmers market hold my heart. Especially ones filled with homemade kombucha, pesto, sauces, Indian food, gluten free baked goods and fresh fruits and veggies galore! This one did not disappoint, and it was a beautiful sunny day! Perfect weather for wandering through food stands, and eyeing everyones cute puppy dogs. Too bad they weren't giving any of those away!

The friend who I was staying with also hosted a potluck dinner party where everyone brought a dish. I decided to make two, because when else will I have an excuse  to make a few recipes I've been wanting to make for a while. I think you all know by know my obsession with peanut butter, so I was practically obligated to make a peanut butter recipe, and I chose Kris Carr's no bake peanut butter cup pie recipe. I also made a rainbow coleslaw with raw mayonnaise recipe from Fully Raw Kristina's website. Because you gotta balance the peanut butter pie out, right? Both were a hit, but I have to say the peanut butter won the cake [no pun intended ;-)].

What I really loved about grocery shopping in Austin, were the prices! Everything was so cheap, compared to New York City prices! If only I could bring those prices back to NYC with me, just today I almost bought 2 organic peppers for $7, thats $3.50 each! I mean..really New York.

I saved  the best for last, and this says a lot, me being a sweets girl and all. But mexican food holds my heart, especially mexican done right. The Vegan Nom serves up vegan taco creations, sure to make your taste buds wanting more, even when your stomach disagrees. I'm still dreaming about these tacos, and am currently salivating thinking about them! I am telling you now, hands down, best mexican food of my life, and for a foodie this means a lot. So if you live in Austin, Texas, get your booty out of your chair and drive over to this food truck now! You will not regret it, and please remember to thank me after your first bite. I ordered the Grilled Avocado Reale, because who doesn't love avocado? And the Bean Diablo both on a corn tortilla accompanied with their homemade spicy and flavor filled hot sauces, I could just eat those straight! Is that crazy!? No, thats just how CRAZY good their food was. All of this heavenly deliciousness stowed  away in a food truck..

We did more than just eat though, we found a great yoga studio, called Practice Yoga and went to a bunch of great classes, with fun music and inspiring and motivating teachers. FYI its donation based yoga, SCORE! I'm happy to say I've continued practicing yoga every day since returning to NYC and I'm loving it. The relaxation, breathing techniques, and stretching. I want to be super flexible like I sued to be when I was little, so thats my goal, and man, yoga is tougher than it looks! If you're a yoga fan and have a wanderlust soul like me, you should look into attending Anzan, a yoga and meditation retreat I'll be co-hosting this April 2015 in one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

My last morning in Austin we went to Juiceland, the juice and smoothie bar attached to Sweet Ritual. And I of course ordered a peanut butter smoothie with almond milk, dates, goji berries, and cocao nibs. It was delicious! Probably one of the best smoothies I've had outside of my kitchen! 

Austin was a great city filled with young creative people, a plethora of bars and restaurants, and talented musicians. Didn't hurt that the weather is spot on during the winter either. I'll be back Austin, I'll be back...

5 Foods to Detox From Your Diet

Do you feel like you stuck your hand into that candy jar filled with Halloween candy a bit too much? Are you on sugar overload, and just feel like its time to get back on track? People are always asking my what foods I recommend to avoid, so here are my top 5.

Detoxing your diet from these foods will allow you to feel more energized, refreshed, and less weighed down by food. Here are my top 5 foods to detox from your diet.

1. Processed Sugar: Sugars are not created equal. You may think that sugars found in fruits are the same as chemically enhanced ones, but they are not. They are recognized and processed by your body extremely differently, and natural sugars aren’t addicting the way that sugars like high fructose corn syrup are formulated to be.

Do you ever wonder to yourself why these ingredients can never be found to buy at your local grocery store, yet they are in almost every packaged food? We train our eyes to look for corn syrup on labels, but there are other names for sugar. Other processed sugar pseudonyms  found on labels to confuse  you are corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, sucrose, dextrin, dextrose, and  so many more.  Growing number of names for sugar has the effect of confusing us about sugar amounts. That’s because, by adding several different types of sugar, companies can list each sweetener lower on its list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed in descending order based on weight so that the first ingredient has the highest weight, which usually means it is the most prevalent. While sugar might rightly be the first ingredient on a package if it was all added as one formulation (say, cane sugar), by adding several different formulations of sugar, each will appear lower on the ingredient list — making the product seem less sugary than it is.

Not only does this make reading labels more trivial but it also allows for consumers to be uninformed and not recognize or realize what they are ingesting. Heres an example of what a label with multiple sugars looks like:


Sweetening additives such as corn syrup make food more addictive. Have you ever devoured a bag of chips and thought to yourself, “I wasn’t even that hungry, but I couldn’t stop eating them.” That is because they have been chemically modified and enhanced with processed sweeteners to make you want more of the food. The more food you eat, the more food those companies sell.

2. Farmed Fish: Have you ever walked up to the fish section of your grocery store and stared through the glass at the fish selection, overwhelmed and not knowing what to choose? Should I buy the Salmon, or Tilapia? Well let me make this decision a little easier for you. Whenever you see farm-raised fish next to wild caught fish, opt for wild caught. Why? Because these fish are allowed to feed and live in their natural habitat.

Farmed fish are fed an unnatural diet and live in overcrowded areas. This promotes pollution. Pollution of the water and area these fish are raised in and pollution of the surrounding fish. Large-scale fish farm operations force fish to live in conditions much more crowded than they would in the wild, sometimes leaving each fish less room than an average bathtub. The excess of fish waste and unconsumed feed pollutes the surrounding waters. Additionally, living in such close proximity gives rise to increased disease and infection, which is usually responded to with antibiotics, further polluting the surrounding environment.

Also, many of the chemicals banned in the US are still used in international fish farms for disease and parasite control. Due to a lack of regulation, these chemicals make their way to our dinner table through the large amount of fish we import from other countries.

3. Dairy (Processed and Pasteurized): Did you know that 83% of people who are lactose intolerant, can tolerate raw dairy? You are also more likely to be tolerant of sheep’s and goat’s milk. The dairy industry has exploded and exploited animals over the years by artificially inseminating cows and using their breast milk intended to nurse their babies, for profit. If you enjoy dairy and believe it should be consumed by humans, that’s fine, but to forcefully inseminate and use animals in unnatural ways for one’s benefit, is not right.

Pasteurization is the destruction of certain disease-carrying germs and the prevention of souring milk. It is undoubtedly beneficial to destroy dangerous germs, but pasteurization does more than this-it kills off harmless and useful germs alike, and by subjecting the milk to high temperatures, destroys some nutritious constituents.

Recent figures published regarding the spread of tuberculosis by milk show, among other facts, that over a period of five years, during which time 70 children belonging to a special organization received a pint of raw milk daily. One case only of the disease occurred. During a similar period when pasteurized milk had been given, 14 cases were reported.

Besides destroying part of the vitamin C contained in raw milk and encouraging growth of harmful bacteria, pasteurization turns the sugar of milk, known as lactose, into beta-lactose — which is far more soluble and therefore more rapidly absorbed in the system, with the result that the child soon becomes hungry again. This is because when the milk is pasteurized it becomes mainly sugar.

Some milk alternatives that are available in stores or can be easily made at home are nut milks, hemp-seed milk, coconut milk, and rice milk.

4. Non-Organic Produce: Buying organic guarantees that your food is Non-GMO as well as less harmful to your body. Pesticides are substances meant for attracting, seducing, destroying, or mitigating any pest. They are a class of biocide. They are meant to kill insects, and imagine how powerful they are to kill tons of insects. Now imagine the effect they have once ingested into your body. They negatively effect and kill precious cells in your body.

Pesticides have also been linked to causing cancer.  Farmers who frequently use pesticides have an increased risk in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Scientists believe that the use of lawn chemicals has been a significant factor in the 50% rise in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma over the past 20 years in the American population. Pesticides have also been linked to malignant lymphoma in dogs.  Pets are exposed to higher doses of pesticides because they are closer to the ground where concentrations are the highest. Over a million people are diagnosed with cancer in the US reach year.  10,400 people in the US die each year from cancer related to pesticides.

It’s still important to eat fruit and vegetables regardless of being organic or not. Heres a list of the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables:

12 Most Contaminated

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

12 Least Contaminated

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya

5. GMO Foods: GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

How common are GMO foods? In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food. Thats a pretty scary statistic. Knowing that more than half of the processed food that consumers eat has been genetically modified into food-like substances.

Not only are GMO foods harmful to your health and digestive system, but they also are harmful to to the land used to grow these GMO crops. They have tainted the soil and water surrounding farms, and the harmful pesticides travel to other areas and are ingested by other animals.