Winter Wellness

The dead of the winter has finally hit NYC, encasing the city in sub-zero temperatures. Thankfully, January is nearly over and this is the first of extremely low temperatures that we’ve experienced this winter, so I can’t complain… after all it is January in New York City. This weather however, and I assume as we continue on through winter, makes it seemingly harder and harder to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits. The gym, which a few weeks ago was filled to the brim with people, is becoming increasingly less crowded as we delve deeper into the winter months. It’s important, however, to maintain a healthy eating and exercise regimen this time of year. So, what are you doing to stay active, healthy, and happy this winter?

Greens. First and foremost, do not forego eating greens. Even though we tend to crave heartier, carbohydrate-dense food in the winter, it is very important to get your daily dose of greens as well, which are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, are loaded with antioxidants, and boast high levels of fiber, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. These phytochemicals are essential for keeping our bodies nourished, as well as regulated during the winter months. Thankfully, we now carry Farmhouse Lab dressings, which makes consuming your greens even easier and so very delicious! If you’re not in the salad mood, try adding raw greens like spinach and kale to a smoothie, or sauté heartier greens with lemon juice, garlic, chili pepper, and olive oil to accompany roasted chicken or fish. It may sound silly, but getting your daily dose of greens is really so important to keeping you not only healthy, but happy this winter.

Balance. Not only are greens important, but it’s also important to make sure that the food you’re consuming is balanced. Each time you sit down for a meal, your plate should contain protein, fat, complex carbohydrates, as well as greens. Creating a balanced plate will help keep you fuller longer, will create satiety, and will also help you from over-eating, which is so easy to do in the winter time, as heavier foods feel warming and comforting. Balance should also include finding time for meaningful play, and balancing that play with your hectic work life. The winter blues are no joke, and one way to combat them and stay mentally healthy, besides consuming the proper nutrition, is making time for play. Whether it’s meeting friends for drinks, going to the movies or a play, or perhaps going bowling, it is so important to make time for laughter and enjoyment. Your body will thank you!

Stay active. Finding time for exercise is necessary to stay healthy this winter. Whether it be going to the gym, lifting weights, taking a yoga or spin class, or going for a run outside if the weather permits, making time for exercise will aid in staying healthy and happy this winter. It doesn’t have to be everyday of the week, but one should shoot for at least two or three active days per week. It’s tricky at times, especially when it’s blistering cold outside, but speaking for myself, I always feel so much brighter and happier after completing a workout. The endorphins that are released during exercise trigger positive feelings in the body, in addition to other brain-boosting chemicals, which all aid in improving cognitive function and mood elevation. I also find that keeping an exercise regime helps me make healthier food choices, as I feel more in-tuned with my body and what it needs for nourishment and sustenance.

All-in-all, the coldest part of winter has just seemed to set in, and being that it’s nearly February, hopefully we don’t have too many more months of winter left. But in the meantime, it’s important to find happiness, peace, and enjoyment amongst the cold and barren landscape. I hope that the tips above help you, as they have helped me, find health and happiness this winter.

Happy Friday, all!

Payton

Classic Meatloaf, Amplified

Growing up in the Midwest, meatloaf was a staple comfort food during the long and cold winter months. The combination of ground beef, sweet onions, bread or crackers, salt, pepper, and a sweet and tangy ketchup glaze seems to make every midwesterner that I know very happy during the winter time. I feel that it is almost customary that every midwestern mother has her own meatloaf recipe, or at least her own unique addition or adaptation of one. In my house, my grandma Carolyn’s meatloaf recipe reigned supreme, and no matter how hard my dad and I tried, regardless of the step-by-step handwritten instructions given to us by my grandma, our meatloaf never seemed to taste as good as hers… she just has the magic touch in the kitchen, where muscle memory and eye measurements outperform numerical metrics.

Whether served hot right out of the oven, or cold between two slices of buttered bread, a basic meatloaf comes together in minutes and provides the hearty and stick-to-your-ribs satisfaction that most individuals crave during the winter months. I no longer eat meat, and I haven’t for years, but I vividly remember the delicious comfort that meatloaf provides, a comfort that is both filling and warming, as well as nurturing.

In hopes to provide you with the best possible meatloaf recipe, I called my grandma this afternoon to request verbal instructions of her exact procedure. Of course, as mentioned above, she reiterated that she relies only on sight rather than measurement, but she was able to provide me with a quantifiable recipe that is similar to hers. Thankfully, it’s quite easy, as any meatloaf recipe should be, containing only a handful of simple ingredients. Of course, because I can never leave well enough alone, I’m going to swap out saltine crackers for The Matzo Project Salted Matzo Crackers and Heinz Ketchup for D.a.T. Ketchup which I think will provide a more unique and complex flavor, as D.aT. Ketchup boasts a few additional spices that Heinz Ketchup doesn’t contain. I’m leaving everything else alone, so please rest assured that this meatloaf will be nearly as good as my grandmas.

First things first, it’s all about the beef. Not all ground beef is created equal as it can contain various amounts of fat, so when choosing ground beef for your meatloaf, choose something with a higher fat content to insure that your meatloaf doesn’t get too dry during the cooking process. 70/30, which is the ratio of lean meat to fat, is a good choice, as the higher fat content will keep your meatloaf moist as well as add additional flavor and richness. Second, a ketchup glaze is key. A tangy and sweet glaze is not only delicious, but is also needed to cut through the fatty richness of the meatloaf rounding out the flavor to make it even more palatable. Lastly, chose your additions wisely, as simplicity lends to the best final result.

I hope you all have had a wonderful start to the new year! Cheers to lots of love, laughter, hugs, happiness, and of course, delicious food this 2019!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Classic Meatloaf, Amplified

Ingredients:

1 lb 70/30 ground beef

1 c crushed Matzo Project Salted Matzo Crackers

1 c minced white onion

1/2 c whole milk

1 large egg, whisked

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

2 tbsp D.a.T. Ketchup

Glaze:

1/4 c D.a.T. Ketchup

2 tbsp packed brown sugar

1 tbsp white vinegar

Method:

-preheat oven to 350 degrees

-to a large mixing bowl, add ground beef, crushed crackers, onion, milk, egg, 2 tbsp ketchup, and seasonings. Mix until just combined, being careful not to overwork the meat

-gently compress meat mixture into a 9”x5” loaf pan

-meanwhile, combine 1/4 c ketchup with brown sugar and vinegar and then spread on top of meat mixture

-bake for 1 hour, uncovered, and then remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing

Enjoy!

Gifts and DIY, Oh My!

Gift giving can be something of a chore but when you find the perfect gift it can be magical. Nothing beats watching someone open your present and seeing their eyes light up and a big grin come across their face.  That is when you know you made a good choice. This can happen for kids of all ages, meaning kids and grown-ups alike, have the same reaction to the perfect gift.  We’re coming down the home stretch of holiday gift giving but there is still time to get that perfect gift and also to have it arrive in time with out paying an arm and a leg for shipping😊You can check out our Experience Gift Guide here to find out how to give the whole experience and not just something in a box.

If you are more of the crafty type, here are some DIY ideas that you could make mostly with things around your house.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar – Of course we would substitute chunks of our favorite Rococo Chocolates Bar in place of the chocolate chips but this recipe from Very Best Baking by Nestle hits all of the right notes.

T-shirt Chew Toy for Dogs – I actually made this one and my sister’s dog can’t put it down. We all have old t-shirts laying around, right?

Kid’s Dishtowel Apron – If your kids love to cook as much as mine do, this is the perfect use of one of those extra dish towels spilling out of your kitchen drawer.

With gift giving it is often more about adding a personal touch than it is about how much you spent. As long as the gift is from the heart it will be loved by the recipient.

Happy Friday,

Julie

P.S. Our Showroom will be open today and tomorrow from noon to 5pm for your holiday shopping needs. Stop by for a visit if you are in NYC, we’re at 210 W 80th Street New York, NY 10024.

Holiday Treats… an ode to National Cookie and National Brownie Days

I’m sure that it’s no surprise to any, but I love baking. At times, I find myself dreaming about sugar and sweet creations. Seemingly infatuated by the all-encompassing world of pastry, I find the combination of sugar, flour, fat, salt, heat, and other flavor components to be something of a magical science. As a child, instead of watching Saturday morning cartoons, I found myself enchanted by the cooking shows on the Food Network, and nurtured by a family of wonderful cooks and bakers, I find much comfort and joy in creating in the kitchen. The realm of pastry is vast and endless, and I quite love exploring it.

During the holiday season in general, more over as soon as the weather begins to cool, my urge to bake begins to intensify. Cold weather plus the joy of the holiday season creates the perfect baking environment, as being surrounded by friends, family and warmth makes the experience all the better. Sugar cookies are by far one of my favorite things to bake for the holidays, with gingerbread cookies following in close second. My grandma makes the best cut-out sugar cookies, which are thin and crisp, yet they surprisingly still melt in your mouth, that she decorates with vibrant holiday colors — which I attribute to the reason why I love to bake them. I recently purchased a rolling pin embossed with a holiday scene that I’m so excited to try out on this years cookie creations.

Every Christmas morning, I find myself baking cinnamon rolls for my family and myself. On occasion, they come from the Pillsbury can, other times they are scratch made. I made cinnamon rolls the last time I was home in Minnesota which I plan to recreate this Christmas. This time, however, I plan to add more of a pecan pie element to the rolls — I’ll let you know at a later date how they turn out. I also recently made lemon scented Belgium Waffles which were quite fluffy and airy due to the addition of a high quality Italian lemon soda that I can’t wait to make for my family!

Since the holidays are soon approaching, and since both National Cookie Day and National Brownie day were celebrated this week, I wanted to share with you two amazing recipes that you can wow your friends and family with! The fi-rst recipe is my take on a traditional peanut butter blossom cookie — which my grandma always makes for Christmas as well — in which I subbed Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramels  for Hershey Kisses. These cookies are so moist and pack a serious peanut butter punch! The second recipe is for fudge brownies featuring Rococo Chocolates Organic Drinking Chocolate and a Gus and Grey Spellbound infused cheesecake swirl. The combination of rich chocolate and blueberry and lavender cheesecake is truly irresistible!

If you’re anything like me, you love baking with friends and family for the holidays. My wish for you is that you’re able to find some time in the kitchen surrounded by those you love and together create your favorite holiday treats. The recipes below are a great place to start! I wish you all a safe and happy holidays!

And most importantly, happy baking!

Payton

Classic Peanut Butter Blossoms with Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramels

Yields 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 c granulated sugar, plus extra for dusting

1/2 c firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 c creamy peanut butter, I prefer natural

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 c unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 box Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramels, unwrapped and cut in half

Method:

-preheat oven to 350 degrees

-cream butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and peanut butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, roughly 3 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well incorporated

-Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring just to combine. Be careful not to over mix

-Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, scoop the dough, roll into a ball, roll in granulated sugar, then place the dough onto a parchment lined sheet tray approximately 2 inches apart

-Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden and set. Immediately place a Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramel in the center of each cookie and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Fudge Brownies with Rococo Chocolates Organic Drinking Chocolate and Gus and Grey Spellbound Infused Cream Cheese Swirl

Yields 1 8×8 pan of brownies

Brownie Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 c granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 c Rococo Chocolates Organic Drinking Chocolate, plus additional for dusting

1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Cream Cheese Swirl Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 c granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 c Gus and Grey Spellbound Jam

Method:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees

-Butter an 8×8 inch cake pan, then lightly dust with drinking chocolate, making sure to tap out any excess

-Combine melted butter, which has been allowed to cool slightly, with sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon powder, drinking chocolate, and salt, whisking to combine. Gently fold in flour and baking powder until just combine, be careful not to over mix, then pour into prepared baking pan

-Meanwhile, make cheesecake swirl by combining cream cheese, sugar, egg, and Gus and Grey Jam, whisking to combine. Dot the surface of the browning batter with the cheesecake mixture, then using a wooden skewer, swirl the cheesecake mixture and brownie batter together

-Bake for 30 minutes, or until slightly set

Enjoy!

Hostess Gift Ideas

The holiday season is in full swing, and I’m sure you, like many, are frantically searching for the best gifts to give to those in your life. Finding the perfect gift can be challenging, as it should be thoughtful, personal, and enjoyable. Admittedly, I am not the best gift-giver, never have been, and may in fact never be, but I always try my hardest to be thoughtful of the individual receiving the gift. This year at Julie’s Beet, we’re highlighting experiences paired with delicious culinary gems from our marketplace as gifts to give to the treasured people in your life, but that’s for another post. This post will be focused on giving something sweet and thoughtful to the host of your holiday party…. and if in fact that individual happens to be you, more the reason to treat yourself for a job well done this holiday season.

A host or hostess gift can be large or small, simple or elaborate, and acts as a symbol of thankfulness and gratitude to that individual for hosting you in his or her home or space. It can be something as simple as a bottle of wine, or something more elaborate like a wine decanter, candles, a decorative vase, or dinnerware. Whatever the gift may be, it’s always a nice touch to show the host or hostess that you thought of him or her.

Since we’re all about food, we think the best host or hostess gift should be comprised of something edible or food related. Below, you’ll find some of our favorite products paired together to create the perfect gift for the host or hostess. If you chose to purchase the products together, or instead purchase a single item, we can assure you that the recipient of the gift will be delighted!

First, who doesn’t love chocolate? Barely anyone. Chocolate is a great gift because it is adored, treasured, and craved by many. It also pairs nicely with wine… and no one is ever disappointed with a gift of wine. This year, shower your host or hostess with an assortment of Rococo Chocolates Artisan bars, which are crafted from the finest quality ingredients, are wrapped in beautifully designed packaging, and are a luxury British chocolate. Pair the assortment of bars with Rococo Chocolates Organic Drinking Chocolate and Paul and Pippa Cocoa Chip Biscuits for a host or hostess gift fit for a God or Goddess… (Get it? Because chocolate is said to be the food of the Gods.) This gift of chocolate is sure to please!

Maybe the individual hosting your holiday party is an avid home cook, and if so, help him or her stock their pantry with the essentials. Five Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Five Balsamic Vinegar, Jacobsen Salt Co. Kosher Sea Salt and Oregon Flake Sea Salt are an amazing addition to any cupboard or pantry, and any home cook would be more than delighted to receive them as a gift. Five Olive Oil was created by World Excellence Products in Greece, and they hold their product to a very high standard — which is apparent after first taste, as the taste of Five Olive Oil is unparalleled. Founded in 2011, Jacobsen Salt Co. was the first company to harvest salt in the Pacific Northwest since Lewis & Clark built their salt works in 1805, and is now recognized as America’s leading salt maker. Jacobsen Salt Co. salt boasts a pure taste and beautiful presentation and is treasured by chefs and home cooks alike. If you really love and treasure the host or hostess, add in some beautifully crafted spice blends from La Boîte which are meticulously studied and crafted. These pantry essentials will act as the perfect gift for the chef or aspiring chef in your life.

Next, on to our wine and cheese loving host or hostess. A bottle of wine by itself makes for an amazing host or hostess gift, but pair it with a box of The Matzo Project Matzo Crackers, a jar of Gus and Grey Jam, a bottle of Bee Local Hot Honey, and maybe an assortment of cheeses, and you’ve got yourself a gift that keeps on giving. This is the perfect gift that can be enjoyed as a relaxing ‘treat-your-self’ snack as a means to relax and regroup after hosting a holiday party.

Lastly, why not give the host or hostess of your holiday party the option for a quick and easy breakfast? Cue Lucy’s Granola, a box of Paper and Tea Tea, a jar of Gus and Grey Jam, and loaf of sour dough bread. This gift will bring bring an amazing post-holiday breakfast together in no time flat. This too is a gift that keeps on giving.

This holiday season, in midst of shopping for the perfect gift for those on your  list, be sure to include something special for the individuals hosting your holiday gatherings. As mentioned above, the gift can be small and sweet, or slightly more elaborate, as it’s the gesture and thought that counts — but with the help of our suggestions above, we hope that the thought and gesture is well received and greatly appreciated.

Happy Holidays!

Payton

A walk through the Farmers Market & beyond

Imagine yourself strolling the aisles of the Farmers Market on a brisk fall morning, maybe with a hot coffee or hot spiced cider in hand, browsing the beautiful bounty of the fall season. Although the early morning hours have yet to be kissed by Autumn’s crisp lips, cooler days are soon upon us, and with them comes an incredible array of fall produce. There is nothing I enjoy more on a fall morning than waking with the rising sun, brewing a cup of coffee, and traveling to the Union Square Farmers Market to be windswept through the smells, colors, and tastes of the fall harvest. Since I am not Winter’s biggest fan, I try to enjoy every moment of the fall season, knowing all too well how short lived it is. Even in New York City, the fall air is painted with notes of caramel, cinnamon, hazelnut, allspice, clove, nutmeg, and ginger, the quintessential fall flavors that play in such perfect harmony with one another, seeming to dance through the bustling streets. It’s pure magic. Please, if you have yet to do so, find your nearest farmers market and take yourself there on a fall morning and taste anything and everything that you can. You’ll be so happy that you did!

It’s hard for me to name a favorite fall farmers market find, but apples are near the top of my list. We are so lucky that New York state is home to some incredible apple orchards, growing a vast variety of apples, so whether you like crisp and sweet, crisp and tart, or any combination in between, you’re nearly guaranteed to find the perfect apple! I love apples for their versatility, as they can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, served cooked, raw, hot or cold, apples add a little magic to any recipe they touch. I add cubed Gala or Braeburn apples to my morning quinoa and oatmeal porridge to add a delicious sweetness and crisp texture. In combination with a touch of cinnamon, a dash of pure vanilla extract, and a generous drizzle of almond butter, this is the perfect ‘get up and get moving’ fuel! Pancakes are my breakfast of choice on Sunday mornings, accompanied by a hot cup of coffee, so you best believe that all pancakes that I consume in the fall months contain apples. Make your favorite pancake batter, I always add cornmeal to my pancake batter to add texture and create a more complex flavor, and ladle onto a hot griddle. While the pancake is cooking on the first side, I thinly slice a Honeycrisp apple, with the skin on, and right before the pancake is ready to flip, add a layer of sliced apple on top of the pancake, sprinkle with a little apple pie spice, flip, and let cook through. This pancake is magic! The apples become slightly tender and caramelized and adds so much depth to your basic pancake.  Apples are also a delicious addition to meat or poultry, add before roasting, as they caramelize in the oven and release a syrupy sweetness that compliments the savory meat so well.

One of my other treasured farmers market Autumn finds are squash and pumpkins. There are so many varieties to choose from and endless ways to cook with them. As I’ve mentioned countless times, I’m a sugar junkie, so I’m always dreaming of pastries and other sweet creations. One of my favorite things to do with a sugar pumpkin is to roast it low and slow with a sweet apple, like Gala or Honeycrisp, until it is very tender and caramelized. I then puree it, creating a pumpkin pie filling far superior to any canned version! Use this puree for pumpkin cinnamon rolls, my all time favorite fall treat, served with maple cream cheese icing — I’ll do you all a major favor and post this recipe in the coming days! This puree can really be added to anything, like oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes, so on and so forth! I also use it to create a simple pumpkin butter bursting with fall flavor. To make, simply add pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, and pecans to the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Enjoy on toast, spiced cornmeal waffles, or evenbetter, by the spoonful! For a savory option, I cube butternut squash, kabocha squash, or acorn squash, and roast with thyme, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper, and served chilled as a salad component. You could also turn roasted squash into a beautiful fall soup! Squash add a lovely buttery, nutty, and sweet note to any recipe, so it a very versatile fruit to cook with.

As the air begins to breathe a cooler breeze, I find myself craving pastries and baked goods more than usual. The bake stands at the farmers market always seem more magical, more alluring, to me during the fall months. Teeming with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove, the baked goods throughout the farmers market seem to scream my name. Body & Soul Bakery makes some amazing vegan pastries, ranging from muffins, to cookies, to cinnamon rolls. My favorite items being the apple spiced muffins and miniature pumpkin pies, which both pair amazingly well with a hot cup of coffee or hot cider. There are countless other bakeries offering a wide array of breads and pastries, which during the colder months, I feel are more common to crave.

To end my farmers market excursion, I’m always sure to pick up a few ingredients for a craft cocktail. There is nothing I enjoy more than a warm, warming cocktail on a cool fall or winter evening. I love mulled wine, spiked cider, and a hot toddy. If it’s hot and boozy, I certainly won’t say no. There are a few amazing craft distillers at the Union Square Farmers Market, so if you’re like me and enjoy a hot toddy, be sure to pick up a nice bottle of whiskey. If you’re more the cider or mulled wine type, pick up an assortment of apples, ranging from sweet to tart, peaches, prunes, plums, and grapes. There are countess recipes for mulled wine and spiked cider online, so do a little research before picking your poison. To make both, its really as simple as infusing either wine or apple cider with spices and fresh fruits in a saucepan over medium heat, portion the hot liquid out into glasses, and then topping off with a shot of liquor.

I love fall and all of the beautiful and delicious produce it yields. Treat yourself to a morning of culinary exploration, right as the sun rises, before the crowds arrive, with a lovely hot drink in had. I can almost assure you that you won’t be disappointed. You can thank me later.

Happy Friday!

Payton

 

A Wedding Upstate

This past weekend, I assisted in catering a wedding at Gilbertsville Farmhouse in upstate New York… and let me tell you, the beauty of upstate is unparalleled this time of year. As we ascended the Catskills Mountains en route to the wedding venue, we were welcomed by a gentle summer rain, which only seemed to enhance the mystic beauty of the surrounding forestry. Wildflowers of every hue painted the surrounding landscape, bridging our seemingly magicless world with the realm of universal intelligence, a beauty far beyond human reach, intensified by a billowing fog dusted across the tree-line. The venue, a converted barn and milking parlor, was equally as beautiful, a chic upgrade from its original intention, now studded with linen drapes, chandeliers, pillar candles, lounges made from hay bales, and expansive gardens. A converted Airstream camper turned photo-booth was one of the main attractions, nestled perfectly among vintage upholstered lounge chairs surrounding a roaring open fire, adding to the ambiance of this boho-chic affair. Picturesque beauty surrounded by the most incredible natural setting made me remember how lucky we are as New Yorkers to live so close to untouched nature.

The food, although I may be biased, was equally as stunning. An array of bright, plant-based culinary creations played in perfect harmony with the surrounding nature. A low-fuss, yet high-end application was the perfect juxtaposition to the livestock barn turned wedding venue ambiance of the property. The first course, accompanied by the playful sound of a live band, was a beautiful summer salad embellished with a rainbow of edible flowers. In addition to the plated salad, servers passed hors d’oeuvres in the likes of Tomato Tartare with Sriracha Aioli, Crispy Cauliflower atop a Buckwheat Waffle with a Smoked Bourbon Maple Syrup Syringe, Artichoke Oyster with Mushroom Ceviche and Seaweed Caviar, and Tomato Gazpacho with Mini Grilled Cheese just to name a few. For the main course, guests were allowed to choose between lobster mushroom ravioli, steak spice grilled carrot, or chick’n picatta, all equally beautiful and delicious, orchestrated perfectly with seasonal vegetables. The star of the show for me, however, was the milk and cookie bar, an ode to the old milking parlor the venue used to be, where guests were greeted with with a dozen different cookie options, as well as miniature milk bottles filled with vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate almond milk, a monogrammed souvenir that the guests could bring home with them. In addition to the milk and cookie bar, there was also a miniature hand-pie bar, as well as a donut bar, playing in harmony with the rustic tones of the event. Needless to say, the food was nearly as beautiful as the surrounding nature it was enjoyed in.

I think it’s easy to forget how close we are to our next adventure, looking to other states or countries to satisfy our exploration needs, but my short four hour drive from Brooklyn to Gilbertsville, New York reminded me that we are surrounded by unscathed beauty and natural phenomena. From mountain hikes, rafting explorations, bike trails, holistic health and yoga retreats, and hilltop castles turned hotels, we are within a days trip of some spectacular adventures, some of which are housed at Gilbertsville Farmhouse. Not only is the property used as a wedding venue, it also boasts a lakeside cabin, a number of yurt inspired ‘glamping’ tents, and goat yoga, a property built for weddings, retreats and group getaways alike. It is so refreshing to get out of the city, even if just for a day to enjoy nature and the beauty that surrounds us. If needing a moment of tranquil relaxation, I would suggest a simple road trip upstate to realign and recenter. Pack a picnic, a good book, a bathing suit, and a pair of hiking shoes, and set out to explore the beauty of nature, and if you’re up for a little ‘glamping’ checkout Gilbertsville Farmhouse to see what yurt life is all about.

Happy travels!

Payton

 

All-you-can-eat… Resort Style

I am a firm believer that staying at an all-inclusive resort is one of the best ways to vacation… because everything is included. Food, drinks, hotel amenities, all included in one package price, which in return affords you the luxury of a more relaxing vacation. When I vacation, I really enjoy doing nothing but taking in the moment in a peace-induced manner. I don’t want to have an agenda, I don’t want to be on the go, I only want to allow my body the rest and rejuvenation that it deserves. So for me, all-inclusive translates to stress free and hassle free, and is the only way to go. 

This past winter, in an attempt to escape the cold New York winter and rid my body of its winter blues, I took a trip to Cabo. The resort, all-inclusive of course, was beautiful and loaded with amenities. With a dozen different restaurants and pool side bars, finding food and drinks throughout the day was quite easy… and easy always equals relaxing. The resort boasted cuisine from across the globe, so there was really something for everyone, served at all hours of the day and night, both indoors and outdoors. With no need to search for restaurants or plan meals, choosing an all-inclusive vacation really heightened my stress-free holiday. 

Outside of stress-free dining, choosing an all-inclusive package also takes the stress out of finding activities to do while on vacation… if you’re in to that sort of thing… but I however, as mentioned above, am not. Most resorts offer a plethora of activities to keep you occupied throughout the day and night. The resort that I stayed at had 10 pools, a bowing alley, two spas, a shopping center, a sports club, two night clubs, water aerobics, pool side entertainment with a fabulous entertainment staff, and nightly shows. For people like me, the resort also had beautiful beach cabanas for endless hours of lounging by the water. 

With airfare, hotel, and food all bundled together in one package, all-inclusive travel really does make for the most stress-free vacation. 

Happy travels!

Payton 

Homecoming

Last week I brought you on a journey to Roanoke, Virginia, where the food culture is not so vegan friendly, and this week, we’re off to Spring Grove, Minnesota, a tiny Norwegian settlement in the Southeast corner of Minnesota boasting a population of 1,200 people… a modern-day village that I am proud to call my hometown. Not unlike Virginia, most restaurants in Minnesota are meat and dairy forward, and finding delicious vegan options, especially in my hometown, is nearly impossible. For the longest time, my grandparents couldn’t grasp the concept of veganism and had no idea what I ate to survive — they have since come around, and are now trying to adopt a more vegetable forward diet. Thankfully, Spring Grove is a farming community, so fresh produce is abundant in the summertime. 

In terms of food, the thing I look forward to most when visiting home is drinking a Black Cherry soda from Spring Grove Soda Pop Company — I never drink soda, but I allow myself to have one during my trips home. The company was founded in 1895 by pharmacist G.G Ristey, who served soda from a soda jerk counter that was a staple of his pharmacy. To meet customer requests of having soda that they could bring home, Ristey and his brother-in-law purchased bottling equipment and began producing soda that was sold at local venues. The company has changed owners throughout the years, but the original recipes have gone unchanged, and the company continues to produce nine, pure cane sugar, old-fashioned sodas, to an expanding market of consumers, a network spidering far outside of Spring Grove. The soda is rich, nearly syrupy in consistency, but so delicious. For me, it’s a taste of childhood. 

Outside of soda, when home, I cook many of my own meals, in part due to the lack of vegan food, but mostly because I love to create in the kitchen. Thankfully, my mom is a heath food junkie, and frequents a food coop near her office in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a beautiful 45 minute drive through the bluffs from my hometown, so she always stocks the pantry and refrigerator with beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables before I arrive home. The sweetest and most thoughtful mom, she always requests that I send her a grocery list a few days before I fly home to insure that I have everything that I need to create in the kitchen. The food coop also has a plethora of vegan options at their cafe, so when in a bind, or when I don’t feel like cooking, my mom stocks up on cafe items as well, my favorite being a toasted almond and quinoa salad with supremed orange segments and spring peas. They also sell Dandies marshmallows, a vegan marshmallow, at the coop, so I’m able to enjoy a s’more at the fire, using Endangered Species vegan dark chocolate of course!

Happy travels! 

Payton 

Traveling Vegan

Finding vegan food while traveling is not always easy, especially when traveling to areas of the country that rely heavily on meat and dairy products. I was in Roanoke, Virginia during the 4th of July week, and finding vegan food at restaurants and markets was really quite challenging. Aside from a beautiful array of fresh produce at roadside farm stands, fresh and delicious vegan food was nearly nonexistent. Thankfully I’m a chef, and I enjoy a challenge, so I was able to whip up quick and delicious meals on the go, to be enjoyed at the hotel, on the road, or before going out to dinner with my family. It’s a little awkward sitting food-less at a table of dining individuals, but when the majority of restaurants have no vegan options, there are only so many french fries one can consume in a weeks time, so it’s better to just pass. With a little planning and willpower, it’s really no effort at all to create beautiful and nutrient dense vegan meals with little to no kitchen equipment in a hotel room — you just need to be prepared. When shopping, remember balance, knowing that each of your meals should contain greens, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Choose fruits and veggies that need no kitchen equipment to prep for consumption. If craving melon, opt for the pre-cut and packaged options — not something I would normally advocate for, but when you’re in a bind, it’s okay to use. If preparing a salad, like mentioned with the melon above, chose pre-cut and packaged produce that can simply be added to salad greens. A simple vinaigrette can be made with vinegar — like red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, whisked with a fork in a plastic bowl. Fresh fruit is always a delicious add-in to a salad, so feel free to add whichever fruit you desire, and maybe add some roasted nuts and a protein rich canned bean like chickpeas, and boom, an easy and delicious lunch or dinner. For breakfast, I enjoyed either avocado toast with roasted red pepper hummus and a side of fresh fruit, toast with raw almond butter, a smear of coconut yogurt, and fresh berries, or a bottled organic protein shake. The moral of the story is, whether traveling near or far, finding vegan food at restaurants may be a challenge, but creating beautiful food doesn’t have to be. With a little imagination and preparation, you’ll have an amazing meal in minutes flat. 

Enjoy the journey! 

Payton