Friday, January 30, 2015

Sweet Peach Sunshine Smoothie

Chris and I were in the mood for peach smoothies so we thumbed through 365 Vegan Smoothies by Kathy Patalsky until we saw the Sweet Peach Sunshine. It sounded simple enough -- frozen peach chunks, frozen strawberries, a banana, and some orange juice, but somehow it came out watery. In my second batch I didn't add the water and it was much thicker. It had a nice taste, but next time, I think I'll use fresh fruit instead.

Sweet Peach Sunshine

  • 1 cup frozen peach chunks
  • 1/4 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 1/2 cup ice
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend from low to high until frosty smooth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rocket Yoga Retreat

I'm addicted to yoga retreats. You come back feeling like you can take on the world! And who wouldn't want to feel like that on a regular basis. This time, I found a new Rocket yoga teacher, Jonathan Ewing, who really knows how to rock a rocket class.

Rocket yoga is a variant of Ashtanga. And, as we discovered during an afternoon talk, it is called that because it "gets you there faster." It combines poses from the beginning, intermediate, and advanced Ashtanga sequences...and it is fun. So a whole holiday weekend of Rocket sounded like it was right up my alley.

The retreat was held in a big, beautiful house on the Eastern shore of Maryland near Cambridge. It's a one-story house right on the water with full access to the piers. I don't think we could have asked for a nicer space. And it was nice having the yoga room in the house given that it was really cold outside!

Photo by Julie Leibee

The retreat started with a Friday evening Rocket 1 class that served as a warm-up to the weekend. Afterwards, we were served a baked potato with three-bean chili topped with jalapenos, avocados, and cilantro. There was apple cranberry crisp for dessert.

And we sat up watching videos and talking until nighttime.

On Saturday, we started the day with an hour and a half of Rocket 2 followed by 30 minutes of meditation. I'm finally at a place in my life where I appreciate and benefit from meditation.

Photo by Jonathan Ewing
Brunch was a butternut French toast casserole with pecans served with mimosas. Yes, there was alcohol on this retreat.

We had a break after that followed by a discussion about what rocket is -- the origins and where it has gone since then, led by Jonathan.

Later, we had an arm balance workshop that served to wear all of us out! And now we all understand proper form for bhakasana, in case you didn't know.

For dinner, we were served corn chowder with seasonal vegetables and fresh biscuits. There were s'mores (with vegan marshmallows!) at the fire for dessert.

On Sunday, we started the day with the Rocket 3 sequence followed by 15 minutes of meditation.

Brunch was an egg strata with seasonal vegetables and a potato crust. A tofu-based strata was also prepared for me along with delicious oatmeal scones! I should mention that this was not a vegetarian or vegan retreat, as is customary. But, most of the dishes were vegan with the option to add meat or cheese if you wanted to so it was very vegan-friendly.

Later that day, we had a nutrition discussion led by Sarah Waybright, RD followed by an acro workshop. The acro workshop was a lot of fun! That is me suspended in the air!

Dinner was a cauliflower curry over brown basmati rice with baked samosa bites and pumpkin custard parfait for dessert.

Photo by Jonathan Ewing

The retreat ended with a final Ashtanga sequence on Monday morning. We all said our goodbyes and went on our merry way only to see each other again at Jonathan's class two days later. I guess once a rocket fanatic, always a rocket fanatic.

Yoga retreats are a good way to get away from your normal day-to-day life, meet new people, experience new things, and get closer to mindfulness. I recommend at least one retreat per year. Till next time!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dan's Restaurant and Tap House, Boonsboro, MD

When we arrived at the Inn Boonsboro on a Friday night, we were pretty hungry. From my research, I found that there weren't many places to eat in this small town, but there was a placed called Dan's Restaurant and Tap House next door so we went there for dinner.

The guests staying at the inn told us we'd need reservations, but we figured they were exaggerating -- I mean how many people were really eating out in Boonsboro? Well, apparently a lot. I guess even when you are in a small town, if there is only one place to eat, it can get packed pretty easily. And packed it was. There was a twenty minute wait we arrived and the place was bustling. We went to the bar and grabbed a couple Manhattans as we waited. It was your typical pub-style restaurant with huge wooden bar, television, and lots of commotion.

We were happy when we were finally seated in one of the large wooden booths.

There wasn't much that I could choose from on the menu, but when there is only one restaurant in town, you become thankful that you can eat at all. We started with the hummus plate complete with crunchy veggies and pita bread. The roasted red pepper hummus wasn't very good as far as hummuses and the pita bread was meh as well.

There was a Garden Penne dish marked as vegan on the menu so Chris and I ordered that. It was made with gluten-free penne in a light chablis sauce with squash, zucchini, asparagus, and red pepper. It was a fine dish -- I was just thankful to find something with lots of veggies in it.

So while I wouldn't go out of my way to go to Dan's, it was a great option in a city with no others. The prices were average with the pasta only being $12 and the food was fine. The service, on the other hand, was slow and not that great, but it is a pub-style restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  It was just nice to see that a dish was labeled vegan on the menu -- this is something you don't see very often in the country.

Dan's Restaurant and Tap House
3 South Main Street
Boonsboro, MD 21713
(301) 432-5224

Dan's Restaurant & Tap House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich

I am just loving The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. This time I made the Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich, which is loaded with chickpeas, celery, green onions, dill pickle, and red bell peppers. You take all these deliciously crunchy ingredients and mash them up with some vegan mayo, herbs, and spices, and voila! you get a tuna-salad like sandwich that tastes so much better. Serve it on grainy, toasted bread with a fresh dill pickle.

Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Serves 3

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2-3 Tbsp vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp minced fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 to 3 tsp fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Toasted bread, lettuce, and dill pickles for serving

In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher until flaky in texture. Stir in the celery, green onions, pickles, bell peppers, mayonnaise, and garlic until combined. Stir in the mustard and dill and season with the lemon juice, salt, and black pepper, adjusting the quantities to taste.

Serve with lettuce on toasted bread with a dill pickle on the side or on top of a basic leafy green salad.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pasara Thai, Alexandria, VA #2

We were heading to the theater from Alexandria one night and needed a good, quick meal that didn't require a reservation. Pasara Thai seemed like the obvious choice.

Because Pasara Thai is in a business area, it isn't nearly as crowded at night as it is during the lunchtime. We arrived around 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night and it was pretty empty. I started with a Tequila Sunrise made with tequila, orange juice, and grenadine. I don't think I tasted any tequila and it was way too fruity for my taste buds.

For my entree, instead of ordering my normal kaprow tofu, I thought I'd try something new. I ordered the Spicy Eggplant and I'm glad I did. Made with Japanese eggplant, fried tofu, onions, and bell peppers with basil in a spicy bean sauce, it was scrumptious. All of the vegetables were cooked just right -- soft, but not overcooked; and the sauce was very good.

Chris ordered the Spinach Mushroom dish that was chock full of sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and beans sprouts in a light garlic sauce. This one was pretty good too, but it had a bit too many bean sprouts for me.

We specifically requested no fish sauce in our meals and they were happy to accommodate. There are twelve vegetarian entrees to choose from including Pad Tofu, Sweet and Sour Tofu, Rama Jae, Veggie Delight, Ginger Broccoli Tofu, and Veggie Curry.

So while the options were plentiful and the dishes were pretty good, the service was not. Even though the restaurant was empty, they barely checked on us. After 10 minutes of trying to flag them down to get the check, we finally just walked up to them and asked for it. It was pretty frustrating. So, if you are looking for good, reasonably priced Thai food, Pasara Thai is a great choice. Just don't expect attentive service.

Previous review
January 30, 2014

Pasara Thai
360 Englhardt Lane
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 299-8747

Pasara Thai on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 16, 2015

Super Blue Recharge

Blueberries and acai powder equals heaven on earth. This smoothie from 365 Vegan Smoothies by Kathy Patalsky is bursting with blueberry flavor and vanilla love! Fluffy hemp seeds add protein and acai powder adds antioxidant power to recharge your body. It's a great way to start the day or a great healthy snack for the middle of the day.

Super Blue Recharge
Serves 1

  • 2 tsp hemp seeds
  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen blueberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tsp acai powder (I prefer Navitas Naturals)
  • 1/2 cup ice

Combine hemp seeds and soy milk in a blender and blend from low to high until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend from low to high until frosty smooth (or just use the smoothie setting on your Vitamix).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Inn Boonsboro, Boonsboro, MD

Chris and I decided to get away for a weekend. We wanted to do something different and go somewhere that was off the grid, but close enough that it would only be like a two-hour drive. I called lots and lots of bed and breakfasts before I found just the right one -- the Inn Boonsboro in Boonsboro, Maryland. Built by New York Times bestselling author, Nora Roberts, this place is nicest bed and breakfast I've ever seen.

The stone front is adorned with flower boxes while the back is mostly wood. The website describes it as having the warmth and welcome of a bed and breakfast with the luxury of a boutique hotel. I couldn't have said it better myself. Right before they were going to open in 2008, it caught on fire and they had to completely redo the inn with a three-million dollar renovation.

Each of eight rooms is named after literary lovers with the exception of the penthouse. For our first night we stayed in the Penthouse. This suite was amazing with its comfortable bed and sitting lounge.

But, perhaps the coolest part of this room was the bathroom. This huge spacious bathroom has his and hers sinks, a large stand-alone bathtub, lighted make-up mirror, shower with four body jets, and a bidet. The toilet cover opens as you approach it and has a built-in bidet that cleans your front and back. There were also controllable heated floors and a heated towel rack. It made me want to remodel my own bathroom.

The other rooms in the inn include a sitting area where wine and snacks are served for one hour per night for the guests and a library complete with books, DVDs, and whiskey -- all complements of the inn.

For breakfast on the first morning, they were happy to accommodate my vegan preferences. I was served a green salad with tangerines and a delicious, fresh raspberry vinaigrette. There was fresh grapefruit with sugar sprinkled on top. And for the main course, there was blanched asparagus, vegan sausage, and herbed baked potatoes. It was pretty good.

The second night we stayed in the Marguerite and Percy room. This was a smaller room with two double beds -- much smaller than the Penthouse, but still very nice. The headboards were so big that you couldn't reach the blinds so a remote control was provided that opened and closed the blinds.

The bathroom, though smaller, still included heated floors and a towel rack, and a huge shower with body jets.

The breakfast on the second morning was almost the same as the first with the addition of a cup of berries and apple slices on top of the salad.

There were sitting areas on the first floor as well as on the second and third floor porches. You could socialize with the other guests or get away and be alone -- whatever you chose.

The chef and ladies running the inn were very nice and made the entire experience quite pleasant. Though the town of Boonsboro doesn't have much in it, it is only twenty minutes from the quaint town of Shepherdstown, WV so we spent a day there shopping, eating, and relaxing. It is also only twenty minutes from the PIGS Animal Sanctuary, which is the reason we stayed there. We had a tour scheduled the first morning. More about that later.

If you are looking for a unique getaway in a really nice place, I highly recommend the Inn Boonsboro. It is pricey at prices ranging from $255 to $305 per night on the weekend, but I thought it was completely worth the price. From the heated floors to the luxurious beds, you won't regret this getaway. Just be sure to book a tour at PIGS as well.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bardia's New Orleans Cafe, DC

As you know, upscale restaurants are really my forte, but the amount of planning it takes to get into the nice restaurants in DC can exhaust anyone. Sometimes, I just feel like taking off to a less popular area and checking out an established restaurant that has been around for a long time. That's what brought us to Bardia's New Orleans Cafe. Well, that and the fact that I saw that they'll serve Cajun vegan!

The New Orleans Cafe was the first to bring Louisiana-style Cajun cooking to Adams Morgan. Chef Bardia Ferdowski lived and worked in the French Quarter of New Orleans until he decided to bring New Orleans to DC. The cafe opened in 1992 and has been there ever since.

We headed over for lunch on a Sunday afternoon. It is your typical divey type place in DC with its old style awning and colorful exterior. Inside, the cafe is very small. With red walls and old wood tables and chairs along with a full bar, this place has some oldschool character. We immediately inquired as to the vegan options. The vegetable jambalaya, vegetable creole, and Mother Nature can be made vegan while the vegetable etouffee and vegetable linguini can not. The gumbo appetizer can also be made vegan. Both the chef and the server recommended the Mother Nature so we ordered as directed.

I started with a mimosa and was delighted when they gave me the rest of the champagne in the single serving bottle. That's a good deal for a $7 mimosa.

The Mother Nature was a dish loaded with cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots stir fried in olive oil with Cajun spices and covered in a tomato sauce. It was served with white rice and white bread. It was a fine dish, but I wouldn't say it was necessarily anything special. It was just a fun low-key meal in an off-the-grid cafe.

At one point, I wanted to use the restroom and found I had to go into the kitchen to use their restroom. This really is a tiny place.

So, I checked out the New Orleans Cafe and it was fun, but I won't be going back anytime soon.  The food was fine, but I think I could make the same at home. And for an $11 entree, I could do better at a Busboys and Poets. Next time, I'll check out another oldschool dive.

Bardia's New Orleans Cafe
2412 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-0420

Bardia's New Orleans Cafe on Urbanspoon