Saturday, December 31, 2016

Juicing it up in Florida and Connecticut – Juice Bars and Cafés

In late December 2016, Bob and I visited Sarasota, Clearwater Beach, Safety Harbor, and Tampa Florida to spend some time with family and friends. I wanted to find a way to stay healthy on this trip especially being around so many people when traveling.  It's not easy to get needed vegetables because of eating out often and from dinners at homes where there is little control of the meals prepared (without feeling like a pain the butt to your hosts)...  So I decided to find a place that made juices and/or smoothies so I could get a blast of some nutrients to help me.  Raw food, vegan, and vegetarian juice bars seemed like the best place to get some quick nutrition for an immunity boosting and hopefully anti-inflammatory action. I wanted to try them and to have a juice on hand for breakfast or lunch.  I had tried juicing a few times at home a few years ago (until the juicer broke…) and made some green goddess type of smoothies recently but had never actually visited a juice bar/café/vegan type place.

Here are a few places that we went to over the week on vacation:

Sarasota, FL:
Ionie Retreat * Raw Food Café

Ionie Raw Food Café was our first stop after landing at the airport in Tampa, FL on the way to our friend’s house in Sarasota.  I wanted to get a juice and hopefully find something for my husband to eat.

Ionie’s foods are organic or wild-crafted ingredients, vegan, raw, and gluten-free.  The café eating area inside is small but cozy.  There are also a couple tables outside.  For my juicing needs I wanted something as green as possible with as little fruit/sugar as possible as well to keep it as alkaline as possible.  My choice was Green with Envy a mix of Parsley, spinach, cilantro, kale, cucumber and celery.  It was pretty tasty but with a bit stronger celery taste than I like.  For a light vegan lunch we had their specials of Zucchini hummus & Crackers and Bob had a Gyro: Onion Pita, Tzatziki, arugula and cherry tomato.  It was really tasty and I loved the hummus and crackers.  The crackers had a caramelized onion taste to them.  Yum.  They also had a few juices and assorted salads freshly made to go if you desired.  I really wanted to come back and try their vegan Lasagna because I had read some really good reviews of it online but we ran out of time to stop in again. I liked the Zen vibe here too along with the friendly service and explanations of the juice and food.

The bonus to Ionie Retreat is that it is a Retreat!  They had treatment options that I had never heard of before such as Rolfing, a type of massage, Thai Yoga, and a Crystal light bath.  I so want to go back to Sarasota to try these!

CROP Juice - 2320 Gulf Gate Drive, FL

Next we tried CROP Juice on Gulf Gate in Sarasota.  It happened to be closer to where we were staying and I needed to get a quick juice before we went out for a boat ride. They have a large menu with many juices and smoothies to choose from, organic as well unless noted. It was hard to make up my mind so we were able to taste a few samples of a few of them.  I settled on Camouflage, a spinach, kale, pineapple, green apple, and lemon juice.  That one was a little on the sweet side but good and “green” tasting as well.  They also have daily freshly bottled juices so I got one to go for the next day.

CROP Juice’s owner, Karen Odierna, was interviewed for the Natural Awakening Magazine’s December 2016 edition.  In the article she states “Begin with a commitment every morning to incorporate one habit that benefits your well-being.  Stay active, unwind your brain, and nourish yourself and just breathe.”  Sounds like excellent advice and trying her juices was a step in a healthy direction for me.

And not to forget about dessert, there were some vegan cacao truffles with only maple syrup as a sweetener so I bought a couple for one of the family who is a vegan.  It’s always good to travel with a little flexible cooler so I was able to keep them cold.  I didn’t try them but I liked the ingredients so I may try to make something similar at home.

Onward to Clearwater Beach and…

Organic Goddess Juice Bar & Café, Safety Harbor, FL

We wanted to take a drive through Safety Harbor, one of our favorite small towns, and found Organic Goddess!  Juice heaven again… Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Fresh and Organic. I liked the feel here because it had another element of mind body health, food/juices that align with your chakras.  Now that was cool.  I had the Green Goddess Horta Kale which is:  Spinach, Chard, Celery, Carrot, Apple, Lemon, Ginger, Topped with Lemon Zest.  This was the best tasting blend so far.  Even hubby got in on it and ordered the Third-Eye (Ajna), which is:  Cherry, Blueberry, Carrot, Orange, and Lemon.  He thoroughly enjoyed it.  I could get into hanging out at the Organic Goddess because the counter reminded me of a hometown diner/bar with the chef preparing the food right in front of you.  Order up your juice or lunch while he makes it to order in just a few short minutes.  And it’s easy to just strike up a conversation with someone that way, as we did!  In addition to the café, there is also a boutique that has gifts for sale and the back room is the dance and Yoga studio with many different events available.  It all seems very community oriented as well.  A plus for the Temple Goddess!

Finally, we made our way back home to Connecticut. Then we tried our own hometown juice bar, Pure Alchemy!

Pure Alchemy Juice Bar & Café, Wallingford, CT

This is one of those places that I’ve driven by hundreds of times and always wanted to check it out.  I’m so happy I finally did.  Pure Alchemy has plenty of juices, smoothies, and superfood smoothies to choose from.  The first visit I choose The Afterglow.  It had spinach, celery, apple, lemon, ginger, pear and turmeric.  I really needed that turmeric!  They juice their juices to order as well.  It was so made so quickly and it tasted perfect.  The next day I came back for another one and some lunch.  The Kale Punch did the trick with kale, cucumber, lemon, apple, pear, ginger, and celery.  They had no pear available but that was fine because I wanted less fruit anyway so it was even better for me. 

Pure Alchemy also has many other items available include salads, wraps, entrees, rice bowls, and more.  On the special menu that day was Kale soup.  It was chock full of veggies and I could eat it every day it was so good.  Perfect for a chilly day and filling as well.  Since I’m starting a Whole 30 program (a nutritional reset) in January 2017, I will be visiting here much more since they are also Paleo friendly because they have many vegetable items.  There are several entrees, and plenty of salads to choose from. It’s nice to know I have a place to go when I haven’t planned everything out and need a quick lunch.

Also, what would a juice bar and café be without a delicious vegan dessert?  There were some mouth watering vegan house made chocolates and desserts to choose from.  The best looking of all was the vegan peppermint pie – only a couple of slices left!  Maybe after the Whole 30… ;-) Pure Alchemy has a Face Book page as well that is up to date.  Looking through that I see that they hold many different mind, body, and spiritual related events throughout the year.  Love it!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin Dinner

Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin

February always seems like a good time to have a dinner party with friends so we all can bring some sharing of warmth of friendship, smiles, laughter, and an overall good time to help bring us closer to Spring.  One couple brought the amazing appetizers (shrimp cocktail and stuffed mushrooms) Bob and I made a simple arugula salad with lemon and the beef tenderloin, and another couple brought the awesome chocolate raspberry cake and chocolate wine for dessert.  Of course, there was plenty of wine to go around as well.

I had made this same bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin for a dinner recently so I had some practice.  I had already forgotten what temperature I had cooked it at so I decided this time I'd write it down if it came out great - which it did!  The timing is usually the hardest part of cooking for me.  I vowed to just relax, cook the meal with a loose timing schedule and we'd all have a great time.   

Earlier that day I had prepped the beef tenderloin.  The butcher had cut and trimmed two half loins about 3 lbs each.  We kept the tenderloin piece on the side, rubbed the roast with the rosemary/garlic mixture, wrapped it in bacon, and tied it up with butcher's twine.  This recipe is as simple as it gets and it came out perfect!

First,  puree a mixture of fresh rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and Kosher salt for seasoning and rub it all over the roast.  

Some beautiful fresh Rosemary for seasoning the roast and to use with the fingerling potatoes.

Place strips of bacon down on wax paper with alternating pre-cut pieces of butcher's twine to be able to tie up the roast and the bacon.  

Place the seasoned roast on the bacon and pull the strips of bacon over the roast and tie each twine piece to secure the bacon and hold the tenderloin together nicely.  You may have an easier way to do this but it worked fine using this method. 

 Here's how it looked after the bacon was wrapped and tied over the roast.  I prepped this in the morning and left in the refrigerator until about 3PM and removed to the counter to rest before cooking.   The roast went into the oven at 4:30 PM at 375 degrees F and removed it when it reached 125 degrees - about 90 minutes.  Your oven may vary... just keep an eye on it!  Tent it with aluminum foil until ready to cut and serve.  Luckily we all wanted it cooked rare/med rare so it was better to undercook it.  If you need it cooked more then you can cook it more if need be.

The final cooked rested beef.

A nice side of fingerling potatoes cut and tossed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and some fresh rosemary, baked until crispy on the bottom.  
A little lighting for ambience, a small amount of cheese and crackers and wine to start...  then the shrimp cocktail and fabulous perfectly mildly, silky, cheesy stuffed mushrooms.   Following the appetizers was a small tart fresh arugula salad with sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado and tossed only with fresh squeezed lemon.
Yes, we did eat all of that and had room for the awesome chocolaty goodness for dessert.

The fabulous chocolate cake with a raspberry filling and topped with fresh raspberries and served with chocolate covered almonds AND Chocolate Essence wine from the Taylor Brooke Winery in CT for dessert!  Can we say Devine?  

It was a fabulous night forging new friendships with stimulating conversation, laughter and smiles, and a meal to remember.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mediterranean Sea Scallops

Mediterranean Sea Scallops

Starting another round of getting back in control and cooking at home.  Fresh Scallops were available and I found a previous post I had made about this dish 4 years ago!  Unfortunately I could not find the recipe so I made up my own going by what was in my last picture.  This turned out very tasty and a little rich so you might want to have a nice dry white wine with it. Looks a little messy in the photo but this is real life folks and what it looked like right after I mixed it all together.  Try it.  Be flexible.  It turned out really well using the Ghee instead of olive oil or regular butter and I'm sure the wine helped too!  I wouldn't call this Paleo because of the wine but you can leave it out.  I'd say it's more of a great low-carb dish.  Enjoy!
  • 1 pound sea scallops (dry packed if you can get them so they don't have the preservatives in them) (about 1-1/2 to 2 dozen) remove muscle from each scallop if necessary
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes 
  • ½ cup Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1 lemon (for 1 Tblsp of zest and Tblsp juice)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large bag fresh baby spinach leaves / power greens mix if you can find them. 
  • Salt to taste. 
  • dash of ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons Grass-fed Ghee – (or butter if you desire).  The Ghee holds up better and doesn't burn since it has no milk solids in it.
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay).
1. Rinse scallops under cold running water and pat dry. Lightly season with salt.
2. Zest lemon to equal about 1 tablespoon. 
3. Heat pan over medium-high heat and then add the Ghee.  Add shallots and cook and stir 1 minute.  Add the spinach/greens mix, lemon zest, some lemon juice if you want a tart mix or leave out; salt and pepper to pan. Cook until spinach starts to wilt; and remove spinach to serving platter.
4.  Add tomatoes and olives to pan.  Heat until the tomatoes are warmed and start to split.  Move to separate plate until end when you will add them to the pan with the deglazed scallop juice.
4. Return skillet to heat or using another pan – heat over med-high heat 2-3 minutes or until hot. Add Tbsp Ghee. Add scallops and cook 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown, turning once.
Remove scallops and place over spinach.
5.  Add white wine CAREFULLY to pan to deglaze.  Stir up the browned bits in the pan to make a juice. Add the tomatoes and olives to heat and mix together.  Pour over spinach/scallops.Serve immediately.

Yield - 2 large servings