Updates & Eats

Hello everyone! Just thought I’d give you all a brief update on what’s been going on lately.

Work

I started work two weeks ago, as I posted about before, and have been insanely busy trying to establish and good balance of work and other activities. It’s going to take a little while getting used to working full time while also doing some of the more classic Gray Eats Green activities, such as running, cooking, going to marketing, writing this blog, etc. But the good news is, I absolutely love work so far!  I may even started to shift this blog (or create a new one) towards one that showcases and discusses healthy and/or vegan food in Detroit. Only time will tell so stay tuned on that project.

As far as on-job-eats goes, I am very fortunate to work in a company with a couple cafeterias that have pretty great salad bars. 7 Greens Detroit Salad Co. also recently opened up and has been my go-to spot. The “Yoga Girl” salad, which is a mix of kale, spinach, shredded carrots, and roasted beets, brussels, and tofu with a miso dressing and a drizzle of Sriracha is so up my ally. The Zingerman’s spelt bread it is served with is the perfect addition. I love how they emphasize fresh, local ingredients. This place has truly changed the work lunch game in Detroit!

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I also whipped up a big lentil, wheat berry and roasted vegetable salad this past weekend, which I kept in the fridge and mixed with arugula each morning. That lasted me from all the way until Wednesday which was great!

Most mornings I’ve still been enjoying Rip’s Big Bowl cereal for a quick, but filling and nutrient dense breakfast.

Although I haven’t had much time to cook dinners, I am fortunate enough to live at home and my mom has been whipping up a lot of great vegetables, grains and pasta dishes. It’s also been fun going out to dinner with friends in Detroit after work, Wright & Co., Green Dot Stables and Gold Cash Gold have been some spots I’ve tried so far.

Travel

Tomorrow, I will begin my journey with 18 of my other family members to South Africa. This trip has been in the works for a long time and I am a bit nervous, although very excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My goal is to document my experience with the local cuisine and eating vegan while traveling here on the blog. Although I’m not sure what kind of Internet connection I’ll have, I will do my best.

Yesterday, I stocked up on a bunch of plant-based protein bars and made a huge bag of trail mix to take with me on the trip.

Stay tuned for more of my South African adventure!

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The Kombucha Encyclopedia

So far, this blog has been a random collection of ramblings, recipes, and things that excite and inspire me in the health & wellness foodie world. Yet I have been trying to carve out a more specific niche and purpose for this blog, my interest of all things wellness, food and my Institute for Integrative Nutrition education, have me gradually shifting toward “foods and beverages I love to eat, drink and prepare and the health-benefits of said food and beverages.”  hippocrates

That is what excites me so much about healthy food in general, not only can it taste great and look great, but it can be great for you. Putting food in your body is like putting gas in your car, you can alter the output performance by the quality of the input.

Today, we are going to discuss one of my favorite beverages from both a taste and health-promotion standpoint, kombucha. 

If you’ve ever walked into your local health food store and seen a wall that looks like this, you’ve seen kombucha.

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What is Kombucha?

There is nothing that makes you feel quite like an alien from another planet than explaining Kombucha to someone who has never heard of it before.

“Uhhh… it’s like a really healthy Japanese fermented tea…”

The next question that follows is usually, “why would you want to drink tea that is fermented?”

“Well, it tastes really good and there are a ton of health benefits and… just try it… you’ll see”

At which point the person may make a face, wrinkle their nose, and exclaim that it tastes like vinegar. Most of the time, it will grow on them. I’ve converted many naysayers to Kombucha devotes. My college friends now use Kombucha as their vodka chaser/mixer of choice. It’s certainly an acquired taste.

I Love Kombucha

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Kombucha. It’s quite possibly my favorite beverage and you can often spot me walking around doting a glass bottle full of the stuff or the passenger seat of my car littered with empty kombucha bottles.

I love the taste and there is just something about the way it makes me feel, an energy boost yet a calming and relaxing feeling at the same time… and I haven’t even mentioned the health benefits yet.

Some people may collect keychains or some other little memento when on vacation, I collect local Kombucha bottles. You should see my eyes light up when a place has Kombucha on tap. I’ve had the pleasure to visit a Kombucha brewery in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Although I’ve tasted many different kombuchas from around the country, my favorite brand continues to be G.T.’s and my favorite flavor continues to be Trilogy.

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I’ve even experimented with brewing my own Kombucha, a very weird process that involves water, tea, cane sugar and a S.C.O.B.Y (a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacterial Yeast… do you think I’m officially a weirdo yet?) Some may call me a Kombucha addict, but I prefer dedicated fan.

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Health Benefits of Kombucha

Okay, now we’re getting to the good stuff. Other drinks may taste just as good as the magical wonder potion, but they most likely do not boast the same health-promoting properties.

According to DrAxe.com, the newest research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food 2014 states that “it is shown that [kombucha] can efficiently act in health preservation and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.”

Let me break it down for you in simple terms for why Kombucha has magical properties.

Kombucha has been shown to detox the body by counteracting liver cell toxicity.

Kombucha boasts high levels of beneficial acids, probiotics and enzymes, which is why is great for the digestive system.

As far the the energy promoting properties go, some of the iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process has been shown to increase energy. Kombucha also contains B-vitamins and trace amounts of caffeine, which help to energize the body as well.

Lately, I have been upping my kombucha intake in order to support my immune system during these winter months. Kombucha contains a powerful antioxidant known as D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone (DSL) that emerges during the fermentation process. DSL, coupled with the high levels of vitamin-C and probiotics found in Kombucha, have been shown to give the immune system a boost.

I find that Kombucha also works as a natural appetite suppressant for me, which is why it has been credited as having weight loss properties. The natural effervescence (“fizziness”) of the beverage really fills me up. When I want something to sip on and a little energy boost, but don’t want to eat a full blown snack or meal, I turn to a kombucha. Although beware of the bloating that may occur!

For more information about the benefits of kombucha, click here, here or here.

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What About The Alcohol?

Due to the fact that kombucha is a naturally fermented product, it contains a trace amount of alcohol and you need to be 21 in order to purpose certain brands. But, I can assure you that the amount of alcohol essentially nonexistent.

Another one of my favorite, kombucha products, is Unity Vibration Kombucha Beer, a unique beverage of kombucha + hops. This product is an entirely different beast and I can assume that the amount of alcohol in this product is quite existent.

New Neu

Proof that the kombucha movement is continuing to pick up traction, I found this new brand local Kombucha made in kitchen in Royal Oak, Michigan at a health-food restaurant and I have a feeling it will continue to appear around Detroit! There is talk of it being sold at Eastern Market next season which I am very excited about. I love supporting local business and local kombucha is even better!

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Cheers!

Pre-Thanksgiving Tuesday in Detroit

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the morning in downtown Detroit with someone I am very thankful for, my mom.

What started as a Thanksgiving dinner Eastern Market shop quickly turned into a lovely morning expedition exploring some of the cool spots that the city has to offer.

I recently accepted a job offer in Detroit so this is not the first time you will be hearing about this awesome city! I love the hip vibe and gritty charm of the city and I am excited to be a part of the movement and revitalization. I also have high hopes of helping Detroit blossom into more of a health and wellness hotspot.

After spending some time in Brooklyn this past fall, I’ve noticed that Detroit gives me a similar feel. The cities share a strong emphasis on local and artisan products along with a unique smattering of individuals, industrial roots, and underdog attitude. I got the chance to soak up a bunch of these vibes yesterday morning.

Eastern Market

We started off at Eastern Market, one of the best farmer’s markets in the country and a signature Detroit destination. While this market is normally hopping and plentiful during the summer months and on Saturdays, we were let down on this special Holiday Market Tuesday. The local vendors were extremely scarce due to the off-season time of year, and the market was focused more on handmade items and imported produce. We did purchase some local cranberries, shallots, onions and some imported sweet potatoes, but decided to buy the rest of our holiday haul at Trader Joe’s.

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Avalon Bakery

After being let down by Eastern Market, I wanted to continue my Detroit adventure. I had my heart set on making my vegan stuffing out of Avalon Motown Multigrain bread so we headed over to the bakery. I hadn’t been to Avalon in a while and I was impressed and excited by the freshness and variety of baked goods at the flagship store. We got two of the multigrain loaves, a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and my mom got a cherry walnut scone to snack on.

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Shinola

After Avalon, we headed over to Canfield Avenue, home of Shinola and some other hip hot spots. My mom had never seen the Shinola store before and had been feigning to check it out. I love the watches, handmade leather goods and design of the store, the new Commonwealth coffee bar doesn’t hurt either. I find that Commonwealth has some of the best coffee in town.

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Willy’s Detroit

After admiring leather goods at Shinola, we headed a couple doors down to Willy’s Detroit. This was my first time checking out Willy’s, I had heard great things about this place and I was not let down. They are also home to Drought juice, a new favorite of mine, so I couldn’t help but purchase one of their 4oz. immunity potions. I also got an awesome gift for a friend. All the clothes and cool accessories stressed the fact that they were made in the USA. So cool.

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I love whenever I have the opportunity to explore downtown and I am absolutely thrilled that I now have the opportunity to work down there and are going to get to enjoy it everyday.

Now back to my Thanksgiving preparations. Have a cozy day-before-Thanksgiving Wednesday!

World Vegan Day

World Vegan Day

Happy World Vegan Day! I honestly had no idea this day existed until I checked Twitter this morning and was greeted with quite a few #WorldVeganDay hashtags from some of my favorite vegans.

With Vegan Month of Food in September, National Kale Day last month and now World Vegan Day, it seems as if we can hardly go any time at all without celebrating this lifestyle.

Although these “holidays” seem common place for people like me, who are very in tune with the vegan community and who are connected with social media and other digital technology, not actually many people know about them. I think it is important that we continue to raise awareness about these celebratory days and months because even getting people to make a small change, such as going meatless one day a week, will have an impact on their health and their planet.

Top 10 List

As many of you know, The No Meat Athlete, also known as Matt Frazier is one of my favorite bloggers and influences in both the vegan and running worlds. He once put out a list of The 17 Weirdest Things I Do Now That I’m A Vegan. Since today is World Vegan Day, I’m going to follow Matt’s lead with a Weird Vegan list of my own. So, without further ado, in no particular order…

The Top 10 Weird Things I’ve Started Doing Since Becoming Vegan

1. Attend vegan festivals and speaking engagements

With so few vegans out there, its fun when a bunch of them unite. I’ve even dragged a few skeptical friends to these events and they ended up loving it.

2. Brew my own Kombucha

You may have heard of a S.C.O.B.Y., but have you ever seen a Symbiotic Culture of Bacterial Yeast?

3. Eat salads out of giant mixing bowls

My salads have become too big for a normal sized bowl and why dirty a plate?

4. Make my own salad dressing

I usually whip up an oil free dressing each week. Packaged salad dressings have been out for a while and oil + vinegar just doesn’t cut it anymore.

5. Read a bunch of vegan non-fiction and listen to Podcasts

I just can’t seem to take in enough information on the subject.

6. Run with Medjool dates in my SPIbelt for natural energy 

Gels and goos are much too artificial.

7. Order a side of toast and a side of avocado at restaurants to make my own “avocado toast”

A surprisingly great option at brunch spots. Your waitress and dining mates may look at at you a little weird, but then will proceed to understand and get jealous once you have whipped up your masterpiece.

8. Grow my own kale, collards and herbs

I started gardening a couple of summer ago. There is something to be said about stepping into the backyard for a pinch of basil.

9.  Eat an obscene amount of vegetables

When you turn the vegetables into the main, you’re gonna need a lot.

10. Put vegetables in my desserts

Chickpea “cookie bars,” sweet potato “brownies” and avocado “pudding” and “frosting” are surprisingly delicious and a great way to sneak in yet another serving of veggies.

What are some “weird” things you’ve started doing since becoming vegan? Please share in the comments section!

“Health-o-ween”

Halloween remains my least favorite holiday of the year.

It all starts out innocently enough in what I like to call the “primary years” of Halloween. As a child I have very fond memories of these years; a half day of school complete with class parties and a costume parade, my parents throwing a Halloween party for our family and friends where my dad would get dressed up in the most elaborate and funniest costumes, and finally, trekking through the neighborhood, collecting a huge pillowcase full of candy, sorting and eating it, and getting to stay up “late.” Congratulations, young child, you have now hoarded enough processed junk to have a piece in your lunch box every day and a piece after dinner every night until Thanksgiving. Halloween is like a child’s dream.

But then things take a turn for the worse; the “awkward years” of Halloween begin. You know you’re too old to get dressed up and go trick-or-treating, but your parents deem you too young to go to a party. I spent a year or two hanging out, watching my little sisters dress up, and answering the door for trick-or-treaters, all while trying not to get candy stuck in my braces.

And then the “partying years” begin and Halloween goes from eating processed junk to drinking processed junk. The costumes also make a 180 turn and go from adorable to inappropriate. I never really cared for this side of Halloween and it only got worse during college because my least favorite day turned into my least favorite week, as wearing and admiring scantily clad outfits and binge drinking is like a college kid’s dream. I avoided it the best I could and would succumb to one night of this nonsense by throwing on a festive hat and having a few cocktails but could never really get into it. I think Halloween may be one of the reasons I graduated early, but unfortunately I’ve heard this type of behavior continues through the postgrad years.

As I have become more and more health conscious I’ve gone full circle with my Hallohatred. Yes, I am still not a fan the “awkward years” and the “partying years,” but after reading this story last year about how one women is handing out “fat letters” to overweight and obese kids instead of candy, my feelings about the “primary years” of Halloween have even changed. Sure, this woman may have been wildly offensive and inappropriate, but she raises a good point. Are we simply feeding into one of the biggest problems our country faces by celebrating this holiday?

And in more recent times, as I have become more educated on the effects of childhood obesity, passing out copious amounts of processed sugar to kids is sending the wrong message. Needless to say Halloween is not a very healthful holiday, no matter what age you are. Although other holidays have unhealthful habits attached to them, such as eating too much on Thanksgiving and drinking too much on New Years Eve, I can find the good in those experiences, such as family time and resolutions. But Halloween remains a bit more of a challenge to find the good in.

Luckily, I have found it. By re-“vamping” some Halloween treats, I have turned Halloween in Health-o-ween. As my culinary skills and my health consciousness have increased, every Holiday is a reason to get into the kitchen and cook up some nutrients. From vegan fajitas on Cinco de Mayo to butternut squash hummus on Rosh Hashanah, holidays are a great excuse to break out your culinary best and attempt to get family and friends on the healthy eating bandwagon. Halloween is no exception.

This year, I made “Caramel Apples.” A 100% whole food, plant based treat that tastes like the real deal. I was inspired to make this recipe after listening to an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast featuring Chef AJ, this episode touched on turning the focus of Halloween for kids more on creative costumes and fun games, rather than candy. Of course, not even Health-o-ween would be complete without some sort of treat so that’s where the “Caramel Apples” come in.

The recipe involves using soaked medjool dates and water for the “caramel,” apples (I used Honey Crisps) and a variety of crunchy toppings (I went with crushed peanuts.)

Stick a popsicle stick in an apple, slather on the date purée and roll it in the crushed peanuts, and you have a delicious, all natural, refined sugar free Health-o-ween treat. No tricks here.

You can find the original recipe here.

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However you decide to celebrate this year, have a Happy Health-o-ween!

This whole blogging thing…

You’ll have to excuse me, I’m afraid I’m not good at this whole blogging thing. 

When people find out I have a passion for vegan food, cooking, and living a heathy lifestyle AND they find out I can write, it only seems natural to ask… “so do you blog?” 

I have tried countless times over the years to blog but my perfectionist attitude always seems to get in the way of creating good content and simply getting my thoughts down. I’m also too frustrated by these amateur blogging platforms and wondering why I can’t make this picture go there and make a really sweet logo, etc. etc. 

But this time I’m really going to do it. I am going to blog every day for 21 days, no excuses, to create a habit. I’m not going to worry about fonts, or megapixels, or tagging my posts, or who’s reading it or not reading it, or why I am not a professional graphic designer, I’m just going to get content out on the blog each day for 21 days. 

I’m excited to begin this journey, catch you tomorrow!

Update on Goals: 21 Days to Create a Habit

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve been slacking on the blog post front. With it being 21 days after I wrote my 2014 goals and resolution posts, which is the amount of days it is supposed to take to make or break a habit, 2 days away from my 21st Birthday, and currently having a few quiet minutes in a coffee shop, I thought I’d take this time to review my 2014 goals and resolutions and make sure I am still in check.

Since I wrote that blog post, I have been meditating for 5 minutes each morning. I’ve really begun to enjoy this practice. WHile I don’t think I am actually “good at it” yet it has been nice to completely unplug, listening to some soothing sounds, and lay out a plan and review what I’d like to accomplish each day.

I have also incorporated dark, leafy greens into my diet every single day, whether it be in salad, smoothie or soup form.

I have followed a whole foods, plant based vegan diet every day so far this year, which has been incredibly easy (and fun with new recipes!) because I have been cooking for myself at college and eating in for pretty much all of my meals. I don’t see this habit 100% continuing when I go out to eat in social situations or are eating with family and friends, which is perfectly okay, it’s just something I’m enjoying keeping up. I have also felt a lot better because I have completely removed dairy from my diet which has given me stomach issues in the past.

I’ve tried new recipes; like lentil chili from Forks Over Knives, “Plant Strong” Sushi from Engine 2, and a millet chili that I found online, in addition to making up my own plant based recipes. I also created a big container of “Rip’s Big Bowl” cereal and have been eating that pretty much every morning, which I am very much enjoying.

I did a $20 two-week trial at the hot yoga center near my school and I seriously loved it! I just bought a three month unlimited package so that’s where I’m off to once I finish this blog post!

While I haven’t read any of the literate I’ve been wanting to read (yet) I’ve become a Podcast Fein! My latest favorites are Rich Roll and the 5am Miracle.

I keep reminding myself to stay focused, stay positive and simplify. That’s all for now but expect to be hearing from me again soon, I don’t wanna let 21 days go between posts next time!