Saturday, February 22, 2014

Feed Zone Portables, A Book Review

Back in November I was looking through Competitor magazine and came accross a full page ad picturing these shiny little foil packets of food.  Immediately I thought- "genius idea"!  I've never loved using energy gels before during or after my runs.  Many times I have ended up with an upset stomach, especially when trying out new brands.  I had also been looking for alternatives to sending granola bars, both prepackaged and home made, for my daughter to take to her 3 hour gymnastics practice sessions.  So I was super excited to give Feed Zone Portables recipe book a try! 

I contacted the PR manager and was sent a free copy of the book.  Please know that I only review books and products that I find interesting and helpful to my readers.

The idea behind Feed Zone portables was created by Dr. Allen Lim who teamed up with Chef Biju Thomas to make delicious portable foods for cyclists and other athletes looking for healthier options beyond gels and energy bars.  You can read more about how Lim and Thomas got started with Scratch Labs at Scratch
Pictured above we have the first two layers of the oh so yummy Blueberry and Chocolate Rice Cakes.  If the word "Rice Cake" brings to mind those hard, dried out hocky puck like things you buy in the grocery store, try to erase that image.  These are nothing like store bought rice cakes.  They are moist, they are flavorful, they are what a rice cake should be.

Here they are packaged in little BPA free baggies.  A more affordable option than wrapping in aluminum foil and wax paper.  They are not zip locked and they still held up well for a good 5 days in my refrigerator.  I think the moisture of the coconut milk helps to keep the rice from drying out.  My daughter has been eating one before practice and one after practice each day, along with a Trader Joe's Seaweed Snack.  Besides the Blueberry & Coconut version, we have also enjoyed the Peanut Butter and Jelly and the Cinnamon Apple Rice Cake.

These muffin like things are actually mini gluten free Zuchini and Spinach Fritatas.  They are made with Pasture Raised eggs, so no, they are not vegan.  We have decided to allow two or three times a week, especially for Anika since her competive gymnastics schedule has her working out up to 16 hours weekly and she was having trouble keeping weight on her body through several growth spurts. I did not want to resort to vegan protein powders for her at this age, and since this is working we are feeling good about it.

I will do a follow up post on this book in the future featuring photos of more portables including the baked rice balls and sticky bites. I just wanted to get this review posted since I missed my own personal deadline due to some international travel which I will update you on by next month!

If you want access to the recipe for the Blueberry and Chocolate Coconut Rice Cakes along with the Table of Contents for the book, it can be found at the website

Below is also a video of Chef Biju preparing the rice cakes...


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Experimental Grocery Bag Garden

And here it is...Our "Grocery Bag Garden"!  As mentioned in my last post, we are renting a home here in sunny San Diego, so our best option for growing food is via container garden.  My husband challenged me to do this on a super tight budget of less than $50.  Since we had saved seeds from last year's garden, seed cost didn't count in the budget.   After hours of looking for inexpensive containers, I found some fabric "containers" called Smart Pots on Amazon and even found those to be pricey for what they were.

So, I started thinking about what I already had on hand that resembled the Smart Pots and thought about the fact that I have TONS of fabric grocery bags, many that I received free from the grocery store or as a free "goodie bag" from Half Marathon races I ran.  So I thought, why not use them?!  They allow water to seep through the sides so the plants can never be over watered.  However, I do need to remember to water them every day. These are not "self watering bags" as I wish they were ;-)

We started all of our seeds in a seed tray which you can buy for around $10 from Home Depot or Lowes.  You can also recycle your egg cartons, or borrow them from a neighbor that eats eggs.  Put Organic potting soil in them and place one seed in each egg place.  I used Miracle Gro Organic Potting Soil for Vegetable container gardens.  It's not the best, but it works for people who want to keep it simple in the beginning.   You can also make your own soil by mixing together separately purchased bags of Humus (not to be confused with Hummus that we eat!), Azomite, Vermiculite, Worm Castings, and Compost.  So some of our grocery bag containers will have the Miracle Gro and some will have the soil mix.  I know the Miracle Gro soil will eventually need to be topped off with some of my soil mix as the nutrients deplete.

My husband planted some of the seedlings into the ground, which I warned him was a bad idea for three reasons.  1. The soil is most definitely lacking nutrients (and may contain chemicals!), as apparent by the near death of our existing rose garden.  2. The dog will definitely pee and poo on them.   3. The garden/landscaping crew will eventually forget that the plants are food/ mistake them for weeds, at which time they will be plucked and tossed....which actually already happened.

Let's see which group of seedlings does the best over the Winter/Spring seasons.  If you found this idea helpful please leave a comment in the comments section below this post.  You can also follow me on Facebook.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back to Blogging in 2014!

I'm back from blog death!  Well, technically my blog didn't die, but it was dead here for six months of not posting.  My last post was in July 2013, right after our trip to Barcelona, where I announced we were getting ready to move to San Diego in August.  Well, what a big change it has been for the whole family. Leaving all of our friends and family behind- all of the friends my kids have grown up with and homeschooled with, my daughter's gymnastics team mates, my close mama friends, and some of the neighbors we had become good friends with over the years.  Here my husband and I are at mid life, thousands of miles away, trying to form a new circle of friends that took us years to create.  It's really hard, really really it is.  Our kids will be fine, they will make friends quickly.  In fact, they already have, but for us big people, it's going to take more time. 

In San Diego there is traffic and large crowds of people every where we go. It makes Orlando seem like a rural farming town.  Even grocery shopping can be a rediculous time zapper.  But yes, it's beautiful here.  You cannot beat the near perfect moderate temperatures and sunshine pretty much year round.  Having access to lots of really fresh, organic food from mostly California farms. And being able to see the beach, the desert and the mountains all in one day.  Its' really fantastic.

When we arrived in August we started out in temporary housing at a condo on the beach in La Jolla.  This was a really good thing but it also spoiled us when we started searching for long term rentals.  Once you are on the beach, you really don't want to move to the desert. In fact, it doesn't even feel like you are living in San Diego from that side.  Families choose to live in the desert because it is cheaper, and you can get a big huge house with a big back yard in a neighborhood full of kids. My husband and I will take living as close to the beach as possible in a shack over that option.  And that's pretty much what we did.  Though our home is not really a shack, it is just old, or what I like to call "vintage".  It's a short 10 minute walk and a 3 minute drive to the beach!  So we go pretty much every morning to walk the dog and catch at least two sunsets a week. And guess what that means moving forward?  You will be seeing lots of beach photos like the one above!  Hope you don't mind :-)

You might be wondering what we have been eating all this time, since this is a food blog not a travel blog.  If I have to summarize it, I would say we eat a lot of food from Trader Joe's.  It's the best health food store here, hands down.  I can get in and out in under 45 minutes because the store is small and well stocked.  I can fill my cart to the top including the child seat for $150-160 and it lasts the whole week.  No need to go out for lunch or dinner.  I might have to buy fruit from Von's because their fruit is priced better, but that's my only other stop for groceries during the week.

While not everything sold at TJ's is perfectly Organic and Vegan (or even Gluten Free), their prepared foods section is so crazy convenient.  I mean who doesn't love their Japanese Style Fried Rice with edamame and carrots?   Their Spinach and Kale pies?  And what about their Stuffed Tofu Turkey?   Not having to think too much about what to cook and relaxing the "food rules" some days has helped to make life here a little less stressful for us all in the the past 5 months.  Below is a recent photo of most of the food from a shopping trip.  Missing in the photo are some sprouted wheat bagels, sourdough bread, a few packages of berries, a bottle of California wine called "Cocobon", sparkling water, hummus dip, frozen and fresh berries, bananas, and pomegranite "sherbert".

We are not sure how much of a garden we will be able to build since we have a rental, but I assure you, we will have a garden!!   We have space in the back yard, but we cannot build anything permanent.  So I'm looking into an idea I have about creating some planters out of something I will reveal in a future blog post.

Some other projects I have been busy with and may write posts about in January/February include:

  • Providing feedback to the proprietor of Panda Packs, a vegan kids meal service. (I won't be writing about this because the company is starting up and it's proprietary information, but you can check out their FaceBook page!)
  • Reviewing the book "Feed Zone Portables", a brilliant recipe book of portable packets of yumminess for athletes.
  • Writing a product review for Viva Labs Coconut Oil.  
And that about wraps things up! Thanks for reading this far down :-) I'm going to Home Depot tomorrow to get all the things I need too make awesome soil for the planters, so stayed tuned on FaceBook or subscribe to my feed!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Adventures in Barcelona...and announcement of our move!

This post is long overdue!  We took a 10 day trip to Barcelona back in May and upon our return Ksenia got sick, then we started preparing for our move with a major decluttering/organizing the house project....along with a house hunting trip to San Diego.  Yes, we are moving to San Diego very soon :-)

Barcelona was a really great place to take the kids, even though they complained a lot about walking everywhere and being tired from the time zone change.   There was lots for them to see and do and we found the city to be "kid friendly" with lots of parks and play areas scattered throughout the city.
In our pre-kid days we would have had some train trips out of the city and probably a very heavy sightseeing agenda.  With kids, pretty much you need to stay in the city and see all that can be seen (it will be less than half of what you think you want to see!)  on a light schedule.  There were days where we didn't see much and spent time in the room resting, and that was okay.  Vacation is also about relaxing, right?

If you are going with kids, I highly recommend NOT staying in a hotel, but instead renting a flat.  You can find hundreds of options on a website called "AirBnB".  We rented a one bedroom flat with a futon in the front room and a full kitchen and bathroom.  It also had a nice little terrace.  No view, except for water on one side, but a very short walk to the beach, to restaurants, to a large grocery chain and fresh market.  The bus stop was also close by, the metro was probably a good 10 minute walk.

Be careful where you eat!  Stay clear of the heavily trafficked tourist areas, you will over pay for pretty average tasting food.   This Paella was 45 Euros and the reason why is they charged extra because it was meant for "2 plates", so there was an extra 20 Euro charged for two extra plates. On top of that there is NO differentation between eating Paella with meat vs. vegetarian.  So we paid the same price as the Paella loaded with seafood and sausage.  Really you should never pay more than 15 Euro for vegetarian Paella.  It's rice and veggies!

The trip up to our room was 6 flights of stairs, there was no elevator!  The kids thought it was fun, but man it was a workout for me and my husband.

Here's the view from our room to the right side....

The beach was a 2 minute walk from our flat.  It rained a lot while we were there, but the sun finally came out on the day before we left!

The narrow streets of Las Ramblas.  It's safe to walk them during the day, but it's still creepy.  We were told by the owner of our flat to not walk them at night as it is frequented by pick pockets and criminals.

Not exactly a healthy breakfast, but part of enjoying our vacation was experiencing the bakeries and coffee shops of Barcelona.  It was sugar overload, but fun.

In Spain, you will find tapas on every menu.  It's a large "appetizer" type dish to be shared.  Pretty much the only vegetarian options are fried foods.  So here we have "Spicy Potatoes" and "Fried Artichoke".  We ate a lot of this sort of fare along with a big salad.  And of course, a lot of vegetarian Paella! 

Vineet and Anika enjoyed the Salmon with veggies.

More vegetarian Paella....Ksenia says "that was yummy".

We drank mostly Cafe Americano coffees at the cafes.  We like bold coffee so this was the best tasting and less pricey option compared to other coffee drinks.  Also remember to read your menu carefully since outdoor seating commonly has an extra "tax" as well as "bread service".  That's the bread they bring out to you and assume is free of charge here in the United States.  You will be charged for it so always refuse it unless you want to pay an extra 3 to 5 Euros. 

So so tired girls....and this was day 5 or 6 of our trip!

Wonderful salad we had at a Japanese fusion noodle house called "Noodles and Fun" in the heart of Barcelona.

Vegan Thai curry that Vineet ordered at Noodles and Fun.  This was an entree!  So little food for 12 Euros. 

 Veggie Pakoras at Salcafe on the Barcelona Beach.

Not so exciting hummus and pita chips and salad at SalCafe
"Chocolate Lava" from a cafe in Badalona.  I think it was just chocolate and heavy cream melted together.  There wasn't any left, so I assume it was good.

We stumbled upon this graffiti on the wall as we walked toward downtown Badalona.  Apparently there are a number of vegans and vegetarians in the area...

Lunch with our extended family in Badalona.  They were awesome tour guides and hosts.  We really enjoyed our time with them and can't wait to see them again :-)
And last but not least, this was the thing my kids enjoyed the most.  They requested to play on it every day.  There is one on the Barcelona Beach and Badalona Beach.