Friday, April 17, 2015

Lebanese Taverna, Tysons Corner, VA

Lebanese Taverna is a nice Lebanese restaurant that has several locations in Maryland, DC, and Virginia. I was meeting a good friend in Tysons Corner and decided to give it another go. My last experience there wasn't that memorable, but they have lots of vegan options, so, why not?!

Plus, my friend has lived in and around Lebanon so she knows good Lebanese food from bad Lebanese food so I knew she would be a good critic. We met at the restaurant located inside of Tysons Galleria. From the outside mall, you might not expect to walk into such a nice restaurant, but it is very classy. From the stone pillars to the plush, white chairs, it is a modern look and the servers are dressed quite nicely.


There are many vegan options from your typical hummus and babaganoush to other less traditional offerings like the pumpkin kibbeh. We munched on the delicious pita bread with za'tar spices and olive oil while we perused the menu.


I decided to go with two small plates. The Fattoush Salad was simple and very good. It had romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, mint, radish, and toasted pita chips in a pomegranate-sumac dressing.


I also ordered the Arnabeet, which was roasted cauliflower and onions with pine nuts and tahini. Unfortunately, this dish lacked some flavor as the sauce tasted like straight-up tahini without much else mixed in. It was good, but quite plain.


My friend ordered the falafel salad and wasn't that impressed with it.

Overall, I think it is a good option for vegans as there are a lot of options on the menu. One of my dishes was very good and the other was so-so. They were priced appropriately at around $7.50 per small plate so that was fine. And the service was great. I'll give them another try sometime in the future.

Lebanese Taverna
2001 International Drive
Mclean, VA 22102
(703) 847-5244

Lebanese Taverna on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Daiya - Frozen Pizzas

It has been a long journey towards healthful eating and one that I am very proud of. Nowadays I choose organic and non-GMO products 90% of the time over other similar products that are not organic or non-GMO. I care a lot about what I put into my body. And I rarely choose faux meats and cheeses. But, it wasn't always this way. As a vegetarian teenager, I had my share of fast-food fries and greasy pizzas. And as I was making the transition to veganism, faux meats and cheeses were like comfort foods. So, in an effort to seem a little more real, I have to admit that every once in a while, I put all of my healthful eating habits aside and eat non-organic frozen pizza.  There -- that felt like a dirty little secret and now that it is out, I already feel better.


My willpower really broke when I saw Daiya's new frozen pizzas including a new supreme pizza at Expo West. I tried to walk by and just look at them, but curiosity killed the cat, as they say, and I had to try them. And I loved them.

So, it made me realize that I avoid eating that kind of food regularly, but every once in a while, it probably won't kill me. So, I went back home and tried the three Daiya pizzas that have been out in the stores forever.

My favorite was the Fire-Roasted Vegetable pizza. Atop a typical frozen pizza-tasting crust made of non-typical gluten-free ingredients was a tomato basil sauce, Daiya mozzarella shreds and roasted red onion, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.


The Mushroom and Roasted Garlic pizza was the same gluten-free crust, but with both mozzarella and cheddar shreds plus shiitake and crimini mushrooms and roasted garlic. We were big fans of this one as well.


Lastly, we tried the Cheeze Lover's pizza as well. A simple mix of mozzarella and cheddar shreds allows one to just enjoy the simplicity of the cheese or top it with their own stuff. I topped mine with black olives and red onion just for fun.


So, yes, these taste like frozen pizzas. The crust is quite thin and not soft like a fresh pizza. But, when you are in a pinch, these really hit the spot. The vegetables and mushrooms are yummy and Daiya shreds always taste great. The only downside is that they are quite expensive as I've seen them sell for as low as $8.99 and as high as $10.99. For a frozen pizza, that's pretty pricey. But, it's the non-traditional ingredients that drive the price up.

If you are planning to stay in and watch a movie and just contemplate life, a Daiya pizza might just be the perfect complement. You can find them in Whole Foods nationwide. Pizza, pizza!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kramerbooks, DC

Affectionately referred to just as "Kramers," Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe feels like a national monument in DC.  First opened in 1976, Afterwords Cafe was the first bookstore/cafe in the country to feature cappucino, espresso, a full bar, and food. Back in the day, I spent a lot of time at Kramers as it was one of the few places in the late 80's that was open 24 hours on the weekends. So, we'd find ourselves at the cafe at 3 a.m. enjoying a huge entree or salad and talking until the wee hours of the morning. My days of staying up late are over, but apparently the enjoyment of Kramers can continue.


Kramers is now hosting author talks and book signings and after attending one, I went to the bar for drinks and dinner. I ordered the Catcher in the Rye, which was absolutely fantastic. It was made with Rittenhouse Rye, orange turbinado syrup, and peychaud bitters. I might have had two, but I'm not telling.


I inquired if there was anything vegan and was told there was only one entree that was vegan as-is. I ordered it and patiently waited. After about 30 minutes, I inquired about the status and it was brought to the bar soon thereafter. I ordered the Cafe Whole Grain and Veggie Platter. It didn't sound exciting, but it actually was. When it arrived on the bar, Chris exclaimed, "it's a Thanksgiving feast!" And, right, he was. This huge platter was loaded with all kinds of good stuff. The mushroom crostini made with wild mushrooms was spectacular. In fact, everything was quite good. My favorite veggie -- broccoli rabe had been sauteed with sliced garlic and roasted red peppers. There was a black bean and corn salad, quinoa salad, grilled corn, and pan-roasted root veggie hash with sweet potatoes. It was all seasoned well and tasted delish!


For $17, Kramers isn't the cheapest place in the city, but I was quite happy with my meal and drinks. And who couldn't love the vibe. It's a hip bookstore that existed before Busboys and Poets and continues to survive in this cutthroat restaurant scene. Take a trip away from all of the new and go visit a DC staple.

Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe
1517 Connecticut Ave NW  
Washington, DC

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 9, 2015

CRUDE Juice

Crude means unrefined and is a fitting name for the new line of beverages put out by 19-year old Brett Robinson of Robinson Beverages.  CRUDE juice is cold-pressed juice made from simple, high-quality, whole-food ingredients out of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Each juice is high pressure processed (HPP) in BPA-free plastic bottles to preserve the naturally-occurring nutrients.


Brett was always interested in whole foods and nutrition and fresh juicing appealed to him. But, he got tired of shopping for all the fresh ingredients he needed to juice; and juice bars in his area were hard to find. So, he perfected his recipes and created his own company to offer fruit and veggie-blended juice in a ready-to-drink format. CRUDE has no added water, sugars, concentrates or flavors so it is really 100% crude.


I got to try two of the three flavors. My favorite, surprisingly, is CRUDE Red #1.  It must be the tanginess from all that ginger that makes it not taste like coconut water because coconut water is not a flavor I enjoy. Instead of cringing from the flavor, I absolutely adored it! Inside the bottle is just pears, beets, ginger, aloe vera, and coconut water. Aloe vera is very good for you for many reasons. I have used it to support digestive health, but there are probably 100 reasons why it is something you should incorporate in your diet. This is a really nice mix that has the hint of pear and beets with the tanginess of ginger that can't be beat!


CRUDE Green #1 is spectacular as well. It is a great-tasting green juice made of spinach, pears, limes, carrots, oranges, and spirulina. Spriulina is a superfood that is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants and other nutrients. It is an acquired taste, but it is used lightly enough in this juice that I think even the most unrefined palate will be able to enjoy it.


They have just come out with an Orange flavor as well.  What I really like about CRUDE besides them not using heat to pasteurize their drinks is that they do not use concentrates, purees, or added sugars.  They are also certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. CRUDE just launched a few months ago so distribution is limited. They are currently available in Michigan and Illinois but aspire to be nationwide. They retail for $7.99 each for a 16-ounce bottle. Ask your grocery store to carry CRUDE today and hopefully we'll be seeing it all over the country soon. CRUDE is juice unexploited.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Black Bean Soup with Cashew Sauce

Simple, yet luscious. That is the way I'd describe the black bean soup out of the YumUniverse cookbook by Heather Crosby. This delicious black bean soup is topped with cashew sauce that serves to not only thicken it, but also add creamy texture and flavor. It's the prefect combination of spices and fresh herbs...so simple, yet luscious. And it's even better the next day!


Black Bean Soup
Serves 4+

Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp applewood smoked sea salt + more to taste
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 cups black beans, cooked (2 cups dry)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Cashew sauce
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish

Instructions
Heat a large stockpot to medium, add coconut oil, red bell pepper, and onion, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, lime juice, spices (cumin, smoked sea salt, coriander, and chipotle pepper), and cilantro leaves and stir together for 3 minutes.

Now add water and cooked beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer together for about 20 minutes.

Take half of your soup and puree it in the blender. Fold back into remaining soup mixture.

Season with smoked sea salt and pepper to taste. Topped with cashew sauce and fresh cilantro.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Cashew Sauce

This versatile sauce made of cashews can be added to soups or stews for flavor. You can also toss it with noodles, veggies, greens, and more for a non-dairy sauce.  I topped my black bean soup with it.

Cashew Sauce

Ingredients
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
Instructions
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time if you need to in order to reach desired consistency.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Karma - Wrapped Cashews

I'm going nuts over Karma's wrapped cashews! The truth is that I eat nuts every day. Cashews, specifically, contain high levels of essential minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese. But, most of all, I like them because they are super tasty and that is what really matters! Karma is a company that has taken the already tasty cashew and made it even better by roasting it in its own skin. It's revolutionary in the nut world!


So not only do they look super cool, they also have a unique flavor because they have this flaky skin wrapped around them. The skin is slightly crunchy so when you first bite into the cashew, you get the flaky, crunchy skin that then reveals a perfectly roasted cashew inside -- slightly salted, but not overly so.


These cashews are air roasted to keep them mininimally processed and healthier than other cashews that are fried in oil. They use a hint of sea salt to enhance the natural cashew nut flavor. And the skin doubles the fiber as compared to regular cashews! The wrapped cashews have four grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving size and two grams of fiber.


So, yes, I'm going cuckoo over wrapped cashews. I'd say they'd be a hit for a party, but with a price tag of  $12.49 per 10-ounce container, you may want to keep these for yourself. I know I'm not sharing. To try them for yourself, order them here.

Full Disclosure: Although these nuts were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.