Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vegan Shops for Veggies

Weekend Warrior: It's time to stock up on my must-have fresh Fruits & Veggies for the week! 

And what better way to do that than by going to a neighborhood farmers market & supporting local farms & small businesses trying to be socially responsible with organic fields & sustainable growing techniques?!

personally LOVE the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood because it houses every bit of fantastic food & delicious drinks & plenty of other goodies, all inside one huge warehouse. 

Buyer Beware: YGFM is only open on the weekends: Sat & Sun 8am-4pm.
So you really do have one-stop shopping for the whole week for your Farm-Fresh kitchen essentials.

Vitamins, Minerals, Anti-oxidants, Oh My! One of the things I delight in when I come here are the beautiful colors of the rainbow! Your diet should be filled with greens, yellows, reds, oranges & more!

Not to be confused with the processed neon orange of Cheetos or highlighter yellow shade of Mountain Dew... But rather the beautiful crayola crayon colors that really exist in nature!

Next, I thoroughly soak up the selecting process! I smell citrus, I thump watermelons, I squeeze avocados, I pick perfect peppers, I like symmetry in sweet potatoes & I search for the deepest green lettuces.

I even put Trent to work in the veggie selection process but here's what I quickly learned... you can take the Indiana boy out of the corn fields... But you can't take the corn fields out of the Indian boy!
Especially when searching for sweet ears of corn... Get it?!

And if you thought I only lost him in the produce department... You have no idea how fast a man's attention span goes flying out the window when there are free samples involved in the grocery shopping trip! 

In his defense, we came straight from the gym & we were both starving! Also, the beauty of a great farmers market is that the booth owners encourage you to taste their treats, so that you feel good about what you're purchasing, instead of just buying blindly!

Taste-Testing is encouraged everywhere! And in our case, the mini-appetizers put us in the mood for lunch & looky what I found:

"My Vegan Place" is run by this amazing Vegan Chef named Marcello that sells burritos complete with veggie "meat" & "sour cream" & awesome Vegan Pizzas!

He's got my business! Trent even enjoyed the Vegan Burritos - they were perfect for a post-workout Saturday brunch while crossing grocery shopping off the to-do list!

Don't forget to partake in the cold-pressed juices or smoothies while you're there to truly get the green experience or for my not-so-healthy friends... Check out the homeade sangria next to the mozzarella stand!

And don't forget about the exotic stuff that you can't find at Publix, Costco, Winn-Dixie or Target! Dragon fruit is ALWAYS at the stand towards the back, near the cooked food, across from the olive bins. 
But when your tummy is stuffed and your grocery cart is full...

Go visit the Animal Rescue booth! As a passionate Animal Advocate, I always preach, "Adopt, Don't Shop!"
Many people don't realize that saving a rescue cat or dog is the best way to control the pet population (along with spay & neuter, which is a MUST!) & save unwanted pets from death or being abandoned in the street. And for those of you who think rescue groups don't have puppies to adopt out... Then just soak up this baby chi-weenie! 
(That's a chihuahua-dachshund mix pup) 

So, after the gym, we got our healthy & organic eats for the week, we chowed down on a yummy vegan brunch & got a little puppy love before we hit the road... Does it get any better? 
Sure beats driving through the mcdonalds drive-thru, dontcha think?! 
Well I think this should be a standing Saturday morning date... Wanna meet us there next week?!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Vegan learns to RELAX...

Let's pretend I'm in an IA meeting...
(that stands for iPhone-Aholic, in case you were wondering)
Here's roughly how it would go...
Me: "Hi guys, my name is Jacey Birch & I'm an iPhone-Aholic."
Group: "Hi Jacey!"
Me: "My iPhone is always in my hand & goes wherever I go, including the bathroom."
Group: "TMI."
Me: "And if I could physically attach it to myself, I probably would."
Group: "Gross."
Me: "And I have a very hard time understanding why people don't text or email me back in split seconds, like I do."
Group: "You have a problem."
Me: "I know. Which is why my Keys vacation was doctor-prescribed!"
(And by doctor, I mean my boyfriend insisted I disconnect & then patiently taught me how to relax!)

Step 1: Put the Phone Down

Trent started off by making me put my phone down & just breathe. Do you know what that did to my Type A personality? I feel like I need to be on-call 24-7. I wonder what will happen if an animal is in trouble & a rescue group can't reach me or what if a friend has a question & I'm not near my phone to answer?! Earth-shattering? No. The world will continue to revolve without me & my phone & my friends can physically function without me. (They can?!)
I tried to use the excuse that I needed my phone for the camera to take pictures but Trent handled that real well when he said he would be in charge of pictures... With an actual camera, not a phone.

Trent snapped this pic of me trying to relax within the first hour of us arriving at Ocean Key Resort in Key West... My face says it all! I'm actually physically uncomfortable attempting to decompress  without my techno-fix! I kinda feel bad for myself looking at this pic :(
So that's where phase 2 comes in...

Step 2: Order a Cocktail

Ok I admitted I'm an iPhone-Aholic, not an actual alcoholic :)
But there's not much that can compare to vacation kicked off with a glass of champagne... & strawberries too! 
Maybe I can get used to this laid-back lifestyle...

Step 3: Lay in the Sun

By Day 2 I was fitting in with the Conchs... They take tense-free living & elevate it to an art-form! I think I was seriously lacking in the Vitamin D department. I actually know I was since I went from sun-kissed to sun-burnt pretty quickly! Embarrassing for a Miami girl to forget to reapply the sunscreen but nonetheless Trent's plan was working like... Well... Almost like he planned it that way ;)

Step 4: Act like a Kid & Ride a Bike

We did get some mood-dampening rain showers in KW halfway through our mini-vaca but we made the best of it by renting bikes & riding right through all the muddy puddles! It brought be back to my youth, growing up in North Miami & doing the exact same thing on my banana-seat bike with streamers hanging from the handle bars! Wow, shave off a few decades from your afternoon activity choice & somehow, those shoulders start sliding back down to a more comfortable level.

Step 5: If it ain't Broke... Don't Fix it

Even as the clouds peeled back to reveal a beautiful island night, I was on a role & determined to keep up the Kid-Routine. It worked all day so why not keep it going into the evening?  I hitched a Piggy-Back Ride with this guy & I felt young & weightless! And not because I lost pounds... But you would be shocked at the amount stress really weighs!

Warning: Piggy-Back Holder has to be strong & up for the challenge for the stress to melt off.

Step 6: Escape to a Secluded Island

I can officially check a visit to Little Palm Island off my Bucket List! Just off of Little Torch Key, this hidden oasis keeps it's promise that guests must "get lost" during their stay. This is made possible by no TVs in the tiki-hut bungalows & no cell phones allowed in public areas! Aaaahhhh Trent did you call ahead?!? It also helps that there is no agenda or itinerary of any sort... Well... Except this one:

Step 7: Follow Expert Advice

Let me first tell you that I actually do have a hammock in my backyard in Miami. Do I ever lay in it? No. Somehow I can never find the time to just lounge. So you can imagine my surprise when I pretty much became, not only a hammock expert, but also a connoisseur of Naps!
I NEVER nap.

Betcha you can't find a Type-A personality in that pic, can ya? I'm pretty proud to tell you that I really don't remember anything that happened on Day 3 besides earning quite a few rope marks on my back from laying in that hammock for more hours than I can count. There is a dirty 4-letter word for the decadence I was diving into: LAZY! And I whole-heartedly loved every single languid moment of it! And when I got mind-numbingly bored laying there by myself... I could always find a partner to share the experience with.

Disconnect? Check.
Relax? Check.
Melt Stress Away? Check.
Escape Reality? Check.
Get Lost? Check.
On Vacation: Mission Accomplished!

Even the animals like the newly relaxed Jacey better! Little Palm Island is known for having some hotel mascots in the form of Key Deer that swim from island to island & are as docile as dogs. But I may not have even noticed this darling deer that curiously approached me if I had my face in my phone... Priceless Moment.

I'm proud to say I did what I never thought I could & it was so much better than I ever imagined it could be! I guess there was a time in the past when we were simple & didn't have the "smart" phones we now can't seem to live without. But now we are the dumb ones if we can't figure out how to turn the darn thing off & just live life!
From now on, all my future vacations will be phone-free! If not, they will just be a change of geography. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Vexed Vegan

Ok... can I vent for a paragraph or 2... Or maybe 3?
Here's the thing... I may look like a diva in that picture above & I do work in TV so you could possibly imagine that sometimes I may be hard to please. I will own that when it's true & when I've genuinely earned that title. But it could not be further from the truth when it comes to me being Vegan!

I swear sometimes it feels like this is all restaurants serve me! Somehow, along the way of differing diets, this misconception developed that Vegans or Vegetarians don't eat normal servings of food! Listen, just because I choose not to eat animals, does NOT mean I choose to go hungry!

A few bites of plants is not my idea of a filling meal! I'm a healthy girl with an even healthier appetite & I like my food! Since I eat clean, that means I don't eat a lot of carbs, fillers or empty calories, which also means I need a hearty serving of the good stuff!

When I'm at home, my favorite thing in the world is grilled veggies & I eat A LOT of them! They're very low calorie & they are essentially fat-free besides the light olive oil I brush on them - so you can pretty much eat veggies until you are sick of them! But when it comes to restaurants, for some reason they get stingy with the plant-based servings! And they charge a fortune for them! What's the deal? Veggies cost pennies on the dollar compared to steak & seafood. But somehow my sparse veggie plates always seem to cost about $20.

This is an example of a restaurant doing it right! 'Blue Collar' in the MiMo district of Miami let's you make your own veggie plate from their pretty ample list of vegetable side dishes. Only problem is, the sides are geared more towards Vegetarians and not Vegans. But even though most of the dishes were slathered with butter or doused in assorted cheeses, I made do with sautéed kale, mushrooms, artichokes & a cool, crisp watermelon salad. I cannot complain about this dinner because I got an assortment of healthy plants at a price of just $12... But it's not always that easy!

Another place that consistently (& consistency is a pretty big deal for restaurants) gets it right is my absolute favorite restaurant from my pre-Vegan days: Carpaccio in Bal Harbour. Everytime I go there, they make me a custom-order plate of veggies. This time it was grilled portobello mushrooms, broccoli, zuchini & eggplant.

And since it's an Italian Restaurant, their white beans are to-die-for & I'm so impressed that they cook their beans in water, instead of butter, like most places. So my veggie plate was $17 & my beans were $3 & I have absolutely no problem spending that on a great meal... Just don't skimp on my portions!

And here's another pleasant surprise... Vegan dessert! Now I don't have much of a sweet tooth & I have cut most sugar out of my diet, but my girlfriend was really craving a sweet end to the meal. So she ordered the coconut sorbet & it was fantastic! Smooth, creamy, dairy-free & filled with REAL coconut chunks!

99% of the time, this is what I eat for dessert: Watermelon!
Now that it's almost summer, my fave sweet treats are fresh, flavorful & in-season! (more affordable - especially when buying organic produce) 
I even learned a great little trick when enjoying red or green grapes...

Put them in the freezer! 
Frozen grapes are the most popular snack at my workplace right now because they are cool, refreshing, sweet, yummy & they hit the spot when you want a low-calorie, low-fat treat in between or after meals.

I have also been making homeade sweet potato wedges -- all I do is slice them up, spray a little coconut oil on them, bake in the oven & sprinkle salt & pepper to taste. This really tastes like an indulgence & you feel like you're eating fries, when actually it's just like eating a regular baked sweet potato!

And this is my latest breakfast of choice before the gym! Trent & I make each other cinnamon-raisin Ezekiel toast with almond butter & raisins sprinkled on top. 
Getting the right amount of protein, carbs, fat & natural sugar before a workout makes you push that much harder & better than if you went there on an empty stomach. And I gotta have my coffee with almond milk too!

Now I'm still experimenting & finding my own way with soy products, like tofu. First things first, I ONLY purchase non-GMO products for obvious reasons. In my opinion, no matter what your diet of choice is, none of us should be buying, eating or supporting the production & mass consumption of genetically modified organisms. The name says it all. I believe in natural, from the earth, organic, plants free of chemicals & pesticides & not genetically altered mutants from a lab. We've done enough of that over the years to make the sweetest corn & the starchiest potatoes. Enough is enough.

Having said that, I do enjoy an occasional tofu scramble with beans & veggies. Trent is adorable - he likes to make my food in the shape of a heart - Awwwwww. I know, I know, our newly dating love is obnoxious sometimes. Sorry! We can't help it! Were happy... Happier than we ever thought 2 people could be. So yes, I'll own that it's obnoxious, but hopefully it's contagious too! Have happy, healthy eating & remember to focus on the love you are lucky enough to have! I know I do!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Springtime Vegan

It's that time of year...
When the temperatures turn warmer...
The skies become bluer...
Fresh-cut grass smells like heaven...
Lemonade becomes crisp, tart, sugary perfection...
And it's time to head to Indiana to meet your boyfriend'a family!!

Ok so it's obvious that those 2 peanut heads above are crazy about each other... If you haven't figured that out yet... you obviously are NOT following me on Facebook! 😜
But what about Trent's family???
I mean I'm a Miami girl born & raised through & through!
However, Trent is from Indiana... Indy... Cornfields... Racecar country & lots of woods! 
"Wood" I fit in? Get it?! Ha ha 

And do you know what they do in those woods during the Spring season?? Nooooo don't go all 'Deliverance' on me!!
And it's not picking spring flowers or climbing trees or looking for leaves like we look for shells on the beach... Oh no... None of those things!

They hunt for mushrooms!! Really, seriously, I'm not joking & I'm not being funny because I'm Vegan. This is actually a thing they look forward to doing annually... So you-know-who got picked to join the bunch & prove my vegetable hunting skills!

Ok so here's the deal: these elusive fungi suckers are hard to find! And I'm good at finding sales, searching for dogs & tracking down interviews... but morel mushrooms look like this in the wild:

Yeah, yeah, yeah... if you didn't know it was there, you wouldn't have seen it either! I spent quite a few hours in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest living the real-life "looking for a needle in a haystack" expression. Full disclosure? I am NOT good at hunting - even if it is for vegetables instead of animals!

So I never did find a mushroom, but the good thing is that my boyfriend is pretty awesome at hunting for hidden mushrooms, so I feel very good about the fact that I will never starve to death if I'm lost in a forest with this Boy Scout!

Another thing I discovered about myself while I was out exploring the wild & wonderful mid-west... I actually don't hate children! Don't gasp or sound surprised right now. If you know me, you know I prefer animals to humans any day of the week!

But Trent has a pretty cute niece & nephew! My maternal side really came out with Aurora since I can't tell you the last time I fed a baby! But I did a pretty good job & she ate that whole bowl of oatmeal or hot baby cereal or slop... whatever it is that babies eat & she really seemed to enjoy the Jacey feeding session! 😁

See? I can't make these things up - I have picture-proof! And just to give you a little background on me... I never thought I would have kids. In fact, it was a point of contention with me & my ex-husband. It's not that I actually hate children... Obviously I just say that to be funny & get a black comedy laugh. But I always thought I was a much better 'Animal Mom' than an actual  Mom to a little person!

I have always thought having children is a very serious, lifetime commitment, not to be taken lightly. And as long as I can remember, I felt different from everyone else because I didn't grow up my whole life dreaming about being a Mother. I'm a product of divorce, I always had 2 dads - my biological dad & my step-dad & a balanced, healthy, calm family-life was not really in the cards for me. So I never really had any maternal instincts & I certainly don't have this biological clock ticking that everybody talks about. 

I think Orion was scared of my kisses - he could sense my lack of the Mommy gene! But between my nephew Kenji...

And Trent's niece & nephew, Orion & Aurora, I'm learning how to be the absolute best Auntie around! And Trent has already earned the best Uncle title fair & square! So now that we have the second-tier parenting awards all wrapped up...

For the first time in my life I'm possibly, maybe, sorta, kinda, almost thinking about the potential of being a Mom... one day, no hurry, no rush. As you know, I'm very supportive of adoption, especially if we wait awhile to take the parent plunge. And if you're asking the obvious question of why? There's only one reason...

This Guy!
He's already the most caring & thoughtful  furbaby father to my 2 little munchkins & he is the most amazing man I have ever met. I don't want to be all sappy & sentimental because we may decide one day (together) that having children isn't the best choice for us... But Trent is the ONLY reason I am thinking I may want to be a Mom one day.

I don't have all the answers about our future. I don't know if we will have a little girl & dress her up in pink dresses & take her to ballet classes... I don't know that.
What I do know is that I have met the man that I will make every decision with for the rest of my life. What I know is that I am now a part of a team & there is only one person on that team... US.
It's not just about Jacey...
It's not totally about Trent...
It's about us together.
And with my best friend, my partner, my teammate, the other pea in my pod, I'm no longer scared of the maybes, the mistakes, the fears, the life changes a child brings...

I have everything I will ever need...
Unless we decide we want to make one of these rugrats one day!

Until then... I'll stick with practicing my Awesome Auntie skills!!!

PS In case you were wondering, yes, his family loved me! What's not to love? 😍
And who wouldn't love this family?
I have found happiness I didn't know existed in this world & I'm not letting go of it... Ever!