True Food Kitchen, coming to a location near you!

20161217_142206-truefood-kitchenWhile traveling in Atlanta, we had the pleasure of visiting a refreshingly different kind of restaurant. True Food Kitchen is dedicated to not only serving delicious and unique recipes, but their menu closely adheres to the principles of Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. True Food Kitchen is based on the idea that food should make you feel better — not worse — and that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice taste to live a healthier lifestyle. The menu includes a variety of gluten-free, organic, vegetarian and vegan options influenced by Mediterranean, Asian, and California cuisine. The restaurant uses locally seasonal and organic whole foods whenever possible. It was nice to see a menu that is light on meat. (The meats available are “clean,” if you must have it.) Hot and cold teas, smoothies and natural juice blends are offered along with an extensive wine list, seasonal cocktails using fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices paired with organic spirits, plus local beers and cider.

We visited True Food Kitchen for an early afternoon brunch. From the list of teas and refreshers I chose one called “Medicine Man.” It was an iced triple-brewed black tea with cranberry, pomegranate, honey, and sea buckthorn. Very refreshing. From the extensive list of tantalizing main dishes I ordered the vegan Ancient Grains Bowl with tofu. Not really a bowl, this was more like a platter (no complaints here) and came with miso glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow peas, grilled Portobello, avocado and hemp seed. The portions were more than generous, and I was the last one at our table to finish eating because I did devour every delicious morsel.The prices at True Food Kitchen are moderate for upscale casual dining.

I was impressed with the cuisine and also the attention to environmentally friendly architectural detail, lighting, and décor. This truly is a green restaurant in every sense of the word. To learn more, check out their website: http://www.truefoodkitchen.com.

At the present time there are 16 True Food Kitchen’s scattered across the US, with 7 more coming soon. For my friends in the northeast, look for a new True Food Kitchen in King of Prussia, PA scheduled to open in Summer ’17, and in the Mid-Atlantic region Bethesda, MD in Spring ’17. Definitely try to find one near you… you won’t be disappointed!

 

Iris Inn Spinach Artichoke Breakfast Casserole

iris-inn-spinach-casserole

For several years my husband and I made an annual long weekend excursion to the Shenandoah River Valley in Virginia. Always in Autumn so we could enjoy the gorgeous scenery dressed in stunning colors of orange, red and gold, and we were never disappointed. In mid to late October Virginia is still warm enough to enjoy outdoor fun like hiking and kayaking with only a sweater or light jacket occasionally needed.

We’ve stayed in many hotels and B&B’s on these vacations, but our favorite has always been The Iris Inn in Waynesboro. (www.irisinn.com). Built as a Bed & Breakfast (never a family home), this establishment offers everything you could want: secluded country location, yet close to many things to do and sites to see, beautiful accommodations from private rooms to individual cabins, and delicious bountiful breakfasts.

As vegetarians, breakfast at any B&B is always a challenge, however our hosts at The Iris Inn always tried to accommodate when we warned them in advance. One morning we were pleasantly surprised when the friendly innkeeper handed out recipes for the breakfast being served. Now, we usually tell people when we eat out that we are vegetarians (to relieve some of the pressure on them), but at home we follow a vegan lifestyle, so I was thrilled to have a copy of this casserole recipe that I easily veganized to enjoy at home. If you are planning to serve a brunch or take a dish to a potluck, this recipe is perfect for either occasion. It goes together quickly with only a few ingredients and is a welcome savory addition to any brunch table that even a vegan can enjoy. I hope you like it!

Ingredients:

3 – 10 oz. packages, or 1 – 32 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (you can do this overnight)

12 ounces vegan “cream cheese” ( I used Tofutti brand Better Than Cream Cheese)

1/4 cup organic butter or vegan “butter” at room temperature

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 – 6oz. jars marinated artichokes, drained

Cracked pepper

1/2 cup Vegan “Parmesan Cheese” (Search under “Recipes” to make your own)

-Place spinach in the bottom of a large greased glass baking dish. Top with chopped artichokes.

-Mix together vegan “cream cheese,” “butter,” and  almond milk. Spread this mixture on top of spinach and artichokes in the dish.

-Top with vegan parmesan and cracked pepper, to taste.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve warm.

 

 

 

 

Healthy Thymes Market, 265 Route 94 Vernon, NJ 07462. Phone: 973-209-8555

Healthy Thymes Market may have been there for 25 years, but I just discovered it on Saturday. What a treasure trove of health foods, supplements, and expert health advice all tucked away in the little town of Vernon in the Highlands of northern New Jersey! It may look small from the outside, but Healthy Thymes Market has managed to fill every inch with things you can’t find in your local grocery or drugstore, including refrigerated and frozen items. When we were there a Kombucha Demonstration was also going on, so we had a chance to sample Aqua ViTea elderberry kombucha… crisp and fizzy!

Besides all that, there is also a snackbar, The Kitchen, where you can order breakfast until noon Monday thru Friday and lunch/dinner all day any day. We decided to get our lunch at The Kitchen the day we stopped in. All items on the menu are vegetarian and can be made vegan if desired. I chose the Sweet Potato Quesadilla which consisted of a whole wheat wrap (gluten-free is available) stuffed with organic mashed sweet potato, saluted onions, spinach, and vegan mozzarella cheese (dairy cheese is an option). This was an unusual combination for a quesadilla, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was very delicious, and the cheese melted perfectly. The price, only $6.99! My husband ordered the Falafel Wrap, also $6.99: organic store-made vegan chickpea patties served with romaine lettuce, onion, tomato and tahini dressing served on a whole wheat wrap (gluten-free available). He said that it was good, but he would have liked more dressing on his. We both got cold bottled drinks with no high fructose corn syrup from the refrigerator case; strawberry lemonade for him and watermelon lemonade for me. The one downside, there is no place to sit and eat once you have purchased your meal at The Kitchen. Fortunately there were some benches by a pond across the street, and the weather was lovely for eating outdoors, so we enjoyed our healthy lunch in the sunshine.

We will certainly go back to Healthy Thymes despite the fact that it is a bit of a drive for us. I hope they add seating for The Kitchen soon. Even so, for health food shopping or a yummy and healthy takeout meal, it’s worth the trip.

Hours are: M-F 8 am – 7 pm; Sat.-Sun. 9:30 am – 5 pm

Beauty of Sprouts

   It’s been some time since I’ve posted a restaurant review, but while vacationing in Florida we came upon a new restaurant that simply must be recognized. If you try to eat vegan, or even just healthfully, then you know how difficult it is to find a restaurant that meets your needs. Even vegetarian restaurants bury their entrées in cheese. Eating a vegan meal when out on the town can stretch your creativity to the limit.

   Today we were fortunate enough to stumble upon Beauty of Sprouts, 1474 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota, FL; 941-350-8449. Chef  Rano has worked at Rockefeller Center and is an award winning chef in her native Russia. Her menu features all vegan, mostly raw, dishes that are lovingly prepared and artfully presented at reasonable prices. Fresh healthy sprouts are the highlight of each dish.

   As an appetizer, we ordered guacamole with spicy dehydrated crackers. The portion was generous enough for two hungry people to nosh on while we waited for our entrées, and we devoured it all. My husband also ordered the mildly seasoned, sprouted hot mung bean soup, because he eats likes to eat soup whenever he can get it. As an entrée he had the vegan burrito, which was wrapped in a chard leaf instead of a flour tortilla. He liked the filling of fresh veggies and side of salsa, but left the chard leaf on the plate — just his personal preference. I had the raw vegan Pad Thai. It was scrumptious! A mountain of thinly sliced cabbage and carrots, kelp noodles and cashews all served in a tangy sauce. I loved it! Several beverage options are on the menu, including some unique teas and homemade Kombucha, but as we were feeling dehydrated after a day of vacation fun we chose the restaurant’s own purified, ionized, alkalinized water to drink. We topped off our meal with a lovely raw lavender crème brulee for dessert. The serving was deceivingly small but filling, and you don’t want to miss this sweet taste of heaven!

   If you like chatting with the friendly chef, clean bright surroundings, and nutritious food, then you will surely enjoy Beauty of Sprouts. This was definitely the healthiest meal of our entire  vacation. We like to eat nutritionally dense food and also to get the most nutrition for our dollar. Beauty of Sprouts meets both criteria. If you ever want a delicious, guilt-free meal in Sarasota, then this is the place for you!

Chen Vegetarian House, 709 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611- Phone: 610-374-2288 or www.chenvegehouse.com

Chen Vegetarian House is an all vegetarian Asian restaurant with a full menu of vegetarian dishes to choose from…just what the health-minded people of Berks County have been waiting for!  Tonight was our first visit there and I was impressed.  We will be going back!  Although this is a small establishment, probably more geared to take-out than dining-in, our experience was entirely enjoyable.

We entered the newly remodeled restaurant (next to Haute Chocolat) and were promptly seated at one of the two tables by the window.  Several other tables were available near the take-out counter.  Our server answered all our questions and explained the menu (Yes, EVERYTHING on the menu is vegetarian — even the chicken, the beef, the pork, and the seafood).  They do not use MSG in any of their food.  We talked and drank green tea until our dinners arrived.  The spring rolls were piping hot and very fresh (not frozen and reheated).  My Pad Thai was delicious, seasoned perfectly with not too much “chicken” and lots of crunchy bean sprouts.  My husband ordered General Tso’s “Chicken” (his favorite) and we were both impressed by the quantity and presentation.  Our meals were delicious and the service was efficient and courteous.

Chen Vegetarian House also features something other Asian restaurants don’t offer — fresh vegetable and fruit juices (3.99) and fruit smoothies (4.29).  Hallelujah!

The menu states that lunches including white or brown rice, hot & sour soup or spring roll, and entrée are only $5.99.  To save time you can pre-order online and pick up at the counter. Business hours are Mon. – Thurs.: 11 am – 10 pm, Fri. and Sat.: 11 am – 10:30 pm, and Sun.: 12 pm – 9:30 pm.  Visa, Mastercard, and Discover are accepted.  Now until 1/31/2014 is their Grand Opening and you get 10% off a minimum $20 order!

If you want a healthy and delicious meal for not a lot of money, then I would highly recommend Chen Vegetarian House.

Mikura Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar, 840 North Park Rd., Suite #8, Wyomissing, PA 19610, Phone:610-373-5851/8805, 610-927-5555

Mikura is a new Pan-Asian restaurant at the site of the former China King in Wyomissing.  China King was one of our favorite take-out restaurants, but I must admit the dining area was tiny and decor minimal, so we didn’t eat there often. Since Mikura has taken over this location the changes have been dramatic: The restaurant has doubled in size, and they have done major remodeling. It is now decorated in a sophisticated modern Asian theme, dark wood, colorful dimmed pendant lighting, and “stone” wall.  Everything is new, clean and inviting, and the staff goes out of their way to satisfy every request.

I am happy to say the food is still delicious, and the menu has expanded to include many new dishes!  The sushi bar is brand new, and they also offer party trays for office and home catering. They have kept their famous, very reasonably priced ($5.99/person or $5.45 for senior citizens) lunch buffet, although there is not much on the buffet for vegetarians.  We have found that ordering from the menu is a better option for those wanting non-meat dishes.  If you see something you’d like on the regular menu they will do their best to make it vegetarian for you. The menu also includes many vegetarian entrees ( I counted 17, but as stated, they will make any substitutions for meat if you ask).  Some items on the menu are listed as gluten-free and brown rice is available on request if you prefer that to white (yes!).

Mikura is a classy, moderately priced restaurant for lunch, dinner, business, or pleasure. Service is excellent, food is delicious, decor lovely.  Highly recommend!

 

Van’s Cafe, 448 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611, 610-741-6466

Today the Reading Eagle did a nice piece on Van’s Cafe, the new Vietnamese restaurant in West Reading, so we had to go there for lunch to try it for the first time.  For those who are familiar with West Reading, Van’s is occupying the same space as the former Fire and Ice Cafe. The place is casual, the decor minimal, but clean.

I hope I can give it a fair review because my main thought about Van’s is that they won’t win any prizes for speed.  We went on our lunch hour, which was a mistake — don’t go there unless you are under no time constraints.  After sitting at the table for about 15 minutes we went to the counter to order.  I still don’t know if that is how you are supposed to do things there; some people did have a waiter come to take their order, but we and others went to the counter.  No one greeted us, seated us, or told us what to do (a simple sign “Please place your order at the counter” would have been helpful).

The food was very good and fresh.  They had a few vegetarian options.  We both ordered the Vegetarian Spring Rolls and Vegetarian Rice Noodle Soup (huge bowls) called Pho.  I don’t think the soup broth was vegetarian, however.  Service was very slow and disorganized. (I could see my husband’s blood pressure rising by the minute).  Our appetizer came out after the noodle bowls, and I don’t think we would have gotten it at all if we didn’t remind the server.  We were missing a set of silverware and had to hunt one down ourselves.  No one came to freshen our ice teas or offer water.  As we ate we saw people leaving and more coming in and standing waiting to be seated.  Tables weren’t cleared as new orders were coming out and there was nowhere to put them or to seat the people who were waiting for a clean table — Did I mention that the service was SLOW?

Prices at Van’s are all under $10.00, and the food is good.  Convenient parking is available in the rear. I am hoping that this was not a typical lunchtime at Van’s, and that they were just having an off day.  I would love to go back to sample their bubble tea, but I know my husband won’t be going next time.  With some people you don’t get a second chance.

Franchia Vegan Cafe, 12 Park Ave. (between 34th & 35th St.) New York, NY 10016, (212) 213-1001.

Franchia is another healthy restaurant in the heart of Manhattan. They specialize in vegan Korean and Thai cuisine.  Bibimbap is a popular traditional Korean health staple consisting of rice (your choice white or brown) with various toppings including vegetarian “chicken” or “duck.”  A variety of Asian noodles and toppings are also available along with vegetarian sushi (all chicken, shrimp, crab meat, and tuna are vegetarian versions based on soy gluten and seaweed).

At Franchia I counted no fewer than 50 different hot and iced tea flavors.  They’re sure to have your favorite or a new favorite you haven’t tried yet!  You can linger over the Royal Tea Tray (26.95) or Prix Fixe lunch (26.95) or dinner (29.95) which includes everything from appetizers to dessert, or choose from one of the many lunch specials (12.95). The decor at Franchia is tranquil, modern, and upscale — a quiet haven in the middle of the bustling city.  You will love it!  The website is: http://www.franchia.com.

Madras Mahal Vegetarian Indian Restaurant, 104 Lexington Ave. (between 27th & 28th St.) New York, NY. (212) 684-4010

Having just returned from a delightful couple of days in New York City, I thought I’d share some great vegetarian restaurants we tried while there.  I know it’s always a challenge to eat healthy when traveling, so I appreciate it when someone can point me in the direction of a good vegetarian restaurant when I’m away from home.  Madras Mahal in Midtown Manhattan is one I can highly recommend.  The restaurant specializes several diverse Indian cuisines with options we don’t often have the opportunity to try in traditional Indian restaurants. They offer dishes from both southern and northern India (yes, there is a difference), and the restaurant is strictly kosher.  Actually, if you love Indian food this block of Lexington Ave has many establishments from which to choose if you’re feeling adventurous.  We found the food to be delicious, prices moderate for the city, staff attentive and courteous — everything clean and efficient.  Judging by the number of happy patrons at Madras Mahal we weren’t the only ones who felt this way. To learn more you can visit their website: http://www.madrasmahal.com.

Austin’s Restaurant, 1101 Snyder Rd., West Lawn, PA 19609, 610-678-5500

Austin’s is an upscale American restaurant suitable for family dining, date night, or business lunches.  The decor is classic and clean on two levels with brick appointments and an open view of the kitchen.  The food may be a couple of dollars on the high side of average, but they do use the freshest of ingredients and everything is made to order.  Their servers work as a team, which keeps things moving smoothly and efficiently.  There are several vegetarian options on the menu, and there is even a gluten-free menu available if you ask your server.  Austin’s will gladly substitute brown rice or gluten-free pasta for any pasta for only $1.00.

On the night we visited I ordered the Vegetable Platter ($12.99).  It included steamed broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash and snow peas served with Austin’s own homemade Chipotle Black Beans and brown rice with two slices of garlic toast.  Everything was delicious, and the portions were more than generous.

My husband ordered the Vegetarian Pasta ($14.99): vegetables stir-fried with oil, garlic, and spices tossed with linguine, Parmesan cheese, diced tomatoes and toasted bread crumbs.  A large side salad was included in the price.  We both had hot tea to drink (free and prompt refills).

Austin’s has a variety of desserts on their menu (if you have any room left), and they also feature a Kid’s Menu for their younger clients,  and Daily Lunch Specials.  They open everyday at 11:00 am for lunch and dinner.  Reservations are not required, but we have found that it is wise to call ahead and get on the list before arriving.

I would recommend Austin’s for any occasion when you want to go somewhere a little upscale.  It is conveniently located on the corner of Snyder and Van Reed Rd. just across from that big church on the corner (Glad Tidings). You will be pleased with the appearance, location, food, service, and atmosphere at this classic restaurant.  I can’t think of a thing they could do to improve.

To see their complete menu and learn more: http://www.austinsrestaurant.com.