Archive for May, 2011

May 27, 2011

Pei Wei – Vegetarian Friendly but is it healthy?

by jem614

My husband’s favorite restaurant used to be PF Chang’s and when we found out that the fast food version, Pei Wei, was coming to Miami we were ecstatic. Lamentably, this fast food chain did not quite meet our expectations.  The hectic atmosphere did not translate into good fair, it was hit and miss; mostly miss.   However, because Pei Wei has so many vegetarian options I end up eating there every couple of weeks anyway, I’m a slave to my vegetarianism (or my laziness).

A little about their food: Their edamame is good, it can be too soft but for the most part it’s crisp, tasty and nutritious.  Just be aware that what you get is actually two servings at 160 calories each (you may be eating healthy but it’s almost worth a whole meal if you eat both servings) and be careful with adding the salt (paired with the meal, you might keel over from sodium overload).  I do usually love their Mongolian Tofu with Vegetables and brown rice.  Seriously, how can that not be healthy? Beware that when they serve you, they are serving you two (2) yes, TWO servings at 360 calories a serving and whopping 1350 mg of sodium – this is heart attack food! Maybe healthy is too much to hope for in a  $7.99 meal?

Warning: Pad Thai dishes have an astounding 2500 mg or above Sodium Content.  Mayo Clinic online recommends 1500 mg or below for those ages 51 and above per day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still eat here but after reading their nutrition information, it will be less than once a month and I’ll probably get something with lower sodium.

For nutritional information on Pei Wei go to http://www.peiwei.com/downloads/PeiWei_Nutritional_Allergy_Menu_Guide.pdf

 

*****Update June 2012
Pei Wei now has “Diner Selects” meals that are supposed to be about 1/2 the portion size so as to reduce the calories and at only $6.50 including an appetizer, how can you go wrong?  Unfortunately they have yet to change their sodium content:

Mongolian Vegetables & Tofu Servings: 1 Calories (this is not including rice) 200 Fat Cal 60 Fat g 6 Sat Fat 0.5 Trans Fat 0 Cholest 0 Sodium (EEEK) 1630 Carbs 27 Fiber 2  Sugars 18  Protein 10

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May 25, 2011

Eating like a Cow. Moo Moos Chipotle Black Bean Burrito

by jem614

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I love trying new things but there are times I get scared that I’m going to waste my money on something I don’t like.  Before I reached for this Moo Moo meal (what a great name), I was thinking that maybe I should just go for the Amy’s Meals as they are familiar and I can trust their taste.  However, because we are here to try new things, into my shopping basket it went.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  Usually I don’t like spinach tortillas, a tortilla should taste like a tortilla, not like a vegetable (yes, this is me, the vegetarian talking) but I didn’t even taste the spinach.  The corn was spiced up with real chili peppers and the burrito had things like avocado, black beans, garlic, sea salt, bell peppers, chili’s and tofu.  It tasted like a real Southwestern Burrito which is a great accomplishment for a vegetarian burrito.  It was spicy but not overly so and after a small side salad, I was stuffed.  This meal is Vegan.

Calories: 280 (wow so little)
Fiber: 7g (great!)
Sodium: 530 (eek! this is really high- can’t have any more today)
Protein: 11g (awesome)

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This is what it looked like out of the microwave- you can’t see it here but the tortilla is a bit greener.  All in all, they did a great job with a frozen product.   I will definitely look for other meals they produce and try them out again.

I give them three and a half carrots only because the sodium content is really high, otherwise it would have been 4. (Edited– since reviewing the sodium content of other products, have realized that this is not that bad so I’ve gone ahead and changed to a “Four” carrot marking).

For More information on Moo Moo’s products, go to http://www.moomooscuisine.com/.

May 23, 2011

Books and Books Cafe (an educated dining experience)

by jem614

It’s official, I’m a total geek for going to see authors.  Last week, Sebastian Junger was at Books and Books in Coral Gables and I threw aside all my plans to go see him.  I had just seen him on PBS discussing his movie “Restrepo” that he made with his friend that recently died reporting in Libya, Tim Hertherington.  Junger provided a very insightful view of life in war zones, I could have listened to him for hours.  Prior to the author event though, I sat down with a book about American Foreign Policy (a little light reading) and had some dinner.

Books & Books has an amazing vegetarian/vegan-friendly menu.  I chose the Tofu and Portobello mushroom couscous with balsamic dressing that is still making my mouth water.   It was just the right amount of sweet and tangy at the same time without smothering the meal.  It arrives in a huge bowl with couscous filling the bottom and the mushroom/tofu glaze on top, I only finished half of it.

Afterwards I had a nice little capuccino made from SoyMilk, it was the perfect ending to a great meal. The waiters seem a bit harried, some were very friendly, others not so much but I still had an enjoyable experience.
They do have outdoor and indoor seating and jazz on Friday nights.

Cost about $14.00 including the Capuccino and it was completely vegan.

Check out their events, they have several locations in Miami and New York!

http://www.booksandbooks.com

May 20, 2011

Elevation Burger Part II

by ashley

by Ashley Morgan

I had extremely high hopes for this restaurant after the first signs were posted on its windows a few months ago. It’s located dead behind my all-time favorite fast food restaurant, Chic-Fil-A, which is how I found it. Jessica and I have been talking for so long about how we need more vegetarian lunch options in the neighborhood, and sure enough, Elevation offers two: one for vegetarians and one for vegans.

The first vegetarian patty they offer is rice-based and, according to the owner Magali Vannier, contains mozzarella cheese for flavor. Unfortunately, I couldn’t taste the mozzarella cheese and the rice made the patty a little dry. The second option is vegan, with no cheese in the patty, and is entirely vegetable-based. It is moist, yet thinner, and more abundantly seasoned. I wasn’t so sure about this place after our first visit eating the vegetarian burger, however after our vegan burger, I’m positive we’ll return.

As Jessica mentioned, they offer the choice to put any burger, including the organic grass-fed beef patties, on lettuce instead of their roll. I highly recommend this, especially with the vegan burger, as the flavor was actually much better without a hunk of bread in the way. And just as Ms. Vannier said to us the first time we met her, it certainly leaves more room for the fries.

My suggestion to Elevation Burger? VEGAN CHEESE! I actually ordered a vegan burger with cheddar and felt like it was sacrilege

The french fries here are cooked in heart-healthy olive oil, which is certainly a step up from canola oil. The only problem is that they seem to be hit and miss. With the burning point of olive oil so low, it is really difficult to get a good crisp fry without it absorbing tons of oil. The first time we visited the fries were excellent, perfectly salted and crispy. This time they fell a little short, but they weren’t incredibly greasy, just somewhat limp. Hopefully this was just an off day for them.

The ordering process here is similar to many other fast-food restaurants, you choose the patty and basic sandwich that you want, add your own toppings, and then order fries and/or a drink. You pay and then a food runner will bring the tray to you when you’re ready. There is a drink fountain as well as milkshakes available. The milkshakes were good, but incredibly rich and only one size, something I wouldn’t be able to eat more than once every month or two. It would be great if they sold kid’s sizes for the option of indulging a little more often.

Overall, this place is a great step towards healthier, vegetarian and vegan cuisine in Miami Lakes. It is certainly wonderful to have options other than salads and Asian food. While they do have a few little kinks to work out, it is a great establishment and one that I will most certainly frequent. For being open only two weeks, they have much more time ahead of them to learn and grow.

May 20, 2011

Elevation Burger Takes it to New Heights Part 1

by jem614

A new burger joint opened up in Miami Lakes and we went to investigate last week.  After a less than stellar first impression with their #1 Vegetarian burger (it was a bit dry), we decided to give them another try today.  After all, the owner Magali Vannier, was extremely nice and suggested that we try their Vegan Burger wrapped in lettuce so “we can eat the fries without the guilt”.  Her friendly demeanor and helpfulness is also reflected in her staff.  In fact, when you get to Elevation Burger, you stand in a short line to order then you go sit down and wait for someone to bring you your meal, I love it already.  One of the worst parts about fast food places is the standing in line!

Elevation Burger prides itself on its grass fed beef and healthier burger options.  They use olive oil for their fries, which Ashley in her infinite wisdom has suggested may be an issue because Olive Oil does not cook as well at higher temps.  Regardless, they were delicious and abundant and I only finished half of them.  You also have to try the amazingly scrumptious shakes that we had last week but because I’m kicking the dairy habit, I did not go for a second round today.  The shakes are thick and creamy and you can choose two additions (oreos, cherries etc) to add into your shake (note to all of you who watched Jamie Oliver on Letterman, we still had the Vanilla Ice Cream in this one and it tasted nothing like beaver).

On to the burger- today’s #2 VEGAN burger was really quite good.  It’s a mostly vegetable patty that is really moist and wrapped in the lettuce, I actually had ZERO guilt eating it.  On the plus side it looked kind of snazzy wrapped in a large leaf of lettuce.  The only negative to this burger would be that I would have preferred it being wrapped in a more nutritious lettuce like romaine or for the more healthy people, Kale (granted, Kale is not the greatest tasting lettuce on its own) but it’s really not worth the complaint when you can add our own toppings of which I had added tomato and pickles and onions.

To top it all off, I left with a refill of their Orange Cinnamon Tea that reminded me of a summer version of apple cider.

I will be going back.

Update: 6/8/2011
We did go back! Discovered a new treasure at Elevation Burger- the most amazing chocolate oatmeal cookies.  You must stop by and try!
The cookies seriously deserves a Five Carrot Crunch!

May 19, 2011

Veg on the Run Disney Edition

by jem614

We were in Orlando this weekend and stayed at a Disney Resort that shall not be named.  It was actually not bad, the room was clean, the price was right and the service was extremely friendly but the vegetarian/vegan options were, shall we say, lacking?  Isn’t Disney supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth?

An option of “Vegetarian Burger” (that was literally the only option at this place for me except some oily oozy cheese pizza) seems to be the go to meal for all restaurants that aren’t sure of what to serve those of us that are mostly “meat-challenged”.  At least they have an option right?  Wrong.  With over 7.3 million (Vegetarian Times, 2011) vegetarians in the world, I think that we’re getting the short end of the stick.  I mean, about 8 million people live in New York City.  That’s like telling New York City that they will have to survive on Veggie burgers because they aren’t big enough for other options.  Can you imagine New York City only eating veggie burgers?  We’d have a riot on our hands!

I’m not saying it’s time to break down doors, stomp, cry or complain (that’s my job) but I think we should make companies aware that there should be other options.  Please talk to your local grocery store managers, fast food joints and others.  If we keep asking, they will start realizing that there is a demand and respond accordingly.

As an aside: I did find a website dedicated to vegetarian food at Disney but it looks like it’s dedicated to the actual “Parks” which, I would imagine, have more variety than the resorts themselves.  Check it out:
http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2009/08/31/best-disney-world-restaurants-for-vegetarians/

Good luck changing the world!

May 19, 2011

RAAW Carrot Lemonade

by ashley

by Ashley Morgan

I bought a bottle of It Tastes RAAW Carrot Lemonade at my health food market today while picking up lunch, thinking it would be a nice drink to calm my appetite while driving back to work. I especially liked that it is manufactured here in Miami, as I like to support local brands as much as possible.

Unfortunately, upon opening the container a strong smell, almost like when you’re walking into an older vitamin store when there is a strong smell of open capsules. If you’re from Miami and you’ve been to that old health food store next to Jimmy’z Kitchen on Alton Road, then you know what I’m talking about. But, despite the smell, I decided to dive in and try a sip. To my dismay, it tasted almost worse than it smelled. I turned the bottle over and read the ingredients, “Carrot Juice, Pineapple Juice, Apple Juice, Lemon Juice…” well, those things cannot possibly taste this badly. I could blend those in my home blender and make a great juice. I continued reading “Natural Flavors, Apple Pectin & Beta Carotene”…wait, what exactly is “Natural Flavors”? And why would we need more beta carotene added to carrot juice?

I hate to do this to RAAW, however I just really did not like their juice. I really hope that they rethink this recipe and come up with something more natural and pleasant.

May 19, 2011

EnviroKidz Organic, Gluten-Free, Gelatin-Free Crispy Rice Treats

by ashley

by Ashley Morgan

It’s rare to find a product that is sold nationwide, but still holds that family oriented, local farming mentality. Founded in 1985, but with much older roots dating back to the 1930’s, Nature’s Path (the owners/creators of EnviroKidz) have built a company through years of dedicated organic farming and family values. I was impressed reading through their quaint, but ample website that they have such strong connections with their workers and farmers. If you have a few moments, I would suggest you read through it a little too. I’ve included a link at the bottom of this post.

When you can place a story with the product you pick up in your hands, whether in a farmer’s market or in a grocery store, something special happens. The product is no longer just a cereal bar, just a piece of fruit, just a bag of rice – it becomes your connection with the hands that made it. And that makes enjoying the product just a little sweeter.

Opening the packaging of the crispy rice treat this morning, I was immediately greeted by the wafting scent of fresh fruit. I turned over the package and re-read the ingredients, noting that the bar contains both fresh freeze-dried raspberries and blueberries. Freeze-dried doesn’t always invoke the most pleasant of thoughts, but in this bar they are lovely. All ingredients are also USDA approved organic and gluten-free. While I don’t have children, I immediately thought why other products aren’t this health-conscious. This is what we should be feeding our children – not chemicals and preservatives, basically poisons.

Nothing artificial, almost vegan (it includes organic honey), made from gluten-free organic brown rice flour and tastes better than any other crispy rice treat out there. I don’t think a healthier sweet snack exists.

Visit http://www.EnviroKidz.com/ to check out their site, I really was impressed with the scope of their dedication to organic farming. Nature’s Path will also donate 1% of all proceeds to an environmental or children’s educational charity for every product you purchase.

May 18, 2011

Heaven and Earth – Part II

by ashley

by Ashley Morgan

Pho lovers rejoice – there is a heavenly veggie version just a short drive from Miami. A traditional pho with a twist, Green Papaya’s version is loaded with freshly cut broccoli, onions, carrots, cucumbers and perfectly boiled tofu. Hints of cilantro and mint finish this delightful concoction of veggie Vietnamese goodness.

For those who haven’t yet tried Pho, it is a soup that originated in the Nam Dinh province of Vietnam. It is traditionally served with either chicken or uber-rare beef, the meat cooking in the steaming broth, and garnished with bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, hot sauce, jalapenos, lime wedges and various other regional pastes, sauces and herbs.

Green Papaya does make the more traditional chicken and beef Pho, being the omnivore that I am I’ve tried both thinking they might be better than the veg version, but nothing can top the amazing Heaven and Earth Soup. Delicate noodles dance around the bowl, marrying with vegetables and tofu into a truly amazing dish that could inspire even the most stubborn omnivore that not all vegetables are evil.

Green Papaya itself is a super cute mom-and-pop sort of a place, and while they have a bit of turnover with their employees, the staff has always been friendly. As Jessica mentioned before me, the wait time for food can be a little long (hopefully meaning that they are preparing each dish fresh, as they sometimes have quite a wait even when they’re empty), but the food is more than worth it.

Another must-try for my omnivorous friends is the special fried rice, which has to be the most delicious and different fried rice I’ve ever tasted in my life. For all, the boba tea they serve there is also quite tasty, but I cannot attest to its authenticity as I have never tried another boba tea. Their version of Taro Boba Tea is a purplish-blue color with a slightly fruity flavor. The most fun part about the boba tea are the tapioca balls that swim along the bottom of the glass. They provide you with a large-mouth straw to pull up the pinball-sized morsels, who knew you could chew tea?

Green Papaya is a must-try for any Pho fanatic, especially those who are looking for a healthier, vegetarian alternative. Prices are a little steep for the area, at around $15.00 per person including soup, boba tea, tax and tip.

May 17, 2011

Heaven and Earth Part 1

by jem614

By Jessica Michael

Heaven and Earth Soup (really, that’s what it’s called)

Ashley and I love this place in Miami Lakes called “The Green Papaya”.  It’s a little hole-in-the-wall place that is basically the size of a small living room, most of the time it takes about 30 minutes to get your food, but it’s soooo worth it.

The broth is light and the soup itself is like a healthy bucket list of mint, cilantro, green pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, white noodles, palm stalks, and tofu.  They even give you extra bean sprouts, jalapeños, mint and lime on the side to add different flavors to your soup.  I can’t imagine a healthier soup and it’s twice the benefit because I can never finish a soup so they always give me containers to take it home.  The service can be slow but they are so nice that it makes up for it.  Unfortunately they aren’t open on Mondays but they are open Tuesday through Sunday.  For more information go to http://www.greenpapayasouthflorida.webs.com/.

I give this soup 5 Carrots because it’s my absolute favorite!  There you go- my first 5 Carrot Review ever!


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