Tag Archives: more fruit please

CT Veg Fest 2012!

Can you believe Connecticut didn’t have a vegetarian and healthy living festival of some kind in the Hartford area until this year? Me neither! Although if you’d asked me a few years ago, I probably would have scoffed at the idea of attending such an event.

Luckily my eyes have been opened to the wonderful world of my adventurarian lifestyle ūüėČ and even though I am not vegetarian or vegan, I still enjoy reading about other eating “lifestyles” and trying vegetarian and vegan foods. They are just as delicious as the rest! No bias here. After all, that’s what being adventurarian is all about. And that’s why I was beyond excited to attend the 1st Annual CT Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival this past Sunday!

Registration and donation area.

Entry was free, but monetary or non-perishable food donations were encouraged, and it looked like a great turnout for both. I think that ideas for healthy living should be accessible for all, so Veg Fest organizers hit the nail on the head by making the donations optional. I donated money because I am able to do so, but those who cannot should still be able to attend something like this and learn about the options they have!

Erika, Bethany, and I.

I started out the event solo, but ended up meeting up with my blend Bethany and her sweet cousin Erica after they got out of the sessions they were attending when I arrived. Erica was awesome and even knows Jenn of She’s a Fit Chick, who was one of the first bloggers I ever discovered and is also an original founder of FitFluential! Small world.

I knew I was in the right place (the CT Convention Center in Hartford, to be precise) when I walked in, looked to my right, and saw this guy grinding out fresh wheatgrass shots!

I didn’t even know CT grew chickpeas!

I am not a huge beauty product hoarder (lucky for me, though I do hoard plenty of magazines about them) so I didn’t spend too many time at the all-natural beauty product booths, but there were plenty of them.

Soaps from CT Natural Soapworks.

Tower of yummy Fanciful Fox soap flavors.

The mother and daughter duo working this booth were handing out free soap “scraps”, so I got a piece of the green bar above, called Wise Guy.

Soap doubling as a centerpiece?! Gorgeous!

Loofahpalooza!

Just one variety of product offered by Hartford-based company Soul Purpose.

The small part of me that doesn’t have to be practical ALL the time paid $1 for one of the blue crystals below. The girl at the booth had so much faith in their ability to absorb only positive energy – I guess this specific kind is often used to clear negative energy from other crystals, that’s how many “good vibes” it carries. So I figured, why the heck not?! I tucked it into a pocket in my purse and have been carrying it with me since.

Erica, Bethany, and I also got to enjoy a free yoga class Рthey were running every hour on the hour! I had gone to Step that morning and my quads were sore from doing leg-heavy workouts the couple days before that, so the yoga felt good, and it was another great way to give free access to an activity that many may have been unfamiliar with, averse to trying, or doubtful of. Yay yoga!

Lots of speakers and cooking demos going on too, including a Smoothie Workshop for kiddos!

Whole Foods kids smoothie demo.

Now, let’s get to the products! I love that this event gave so many passionate vendors the chance to get the word out about the foods they have worked so hard to create. All that many of them want is shelf space at a grocery store – it seems like little to ask for, but shelf space is actually VERY scarce with all the big corporations out there (and their big wallets) – getting even a little bit of shelf space is a BIG deal. If you ever attend one of these kinds of events and try a product you love, suggest to your grocery store that they start carrying it – it often takes the voice of the people to convince a store that they should stock a product, because of course they exist to make money, and want to be positive it will sell.

I don’t use dressings on my salads at home (I find that I really don’t need it at all, since my beasts include about 10-15 ingredients on average, many liquid-based, and “marinate” in my fridge overnight) but if I did, I’d be all about purchasing one of the above bottles of Wholesome Creations salad dressings. The green tea and ginger dressing on a cup of greens blew me away.

Mama Micki’s was sold out of all three varieties of their vegan cookies¬†by noon – a good sign for this all-natural bakery that is trying to get into stores! I sampled all three varieties – molasses, chocolate orange walnut, and oatmeal raisin sunflower seed (pictured above). I’m a sucker for a good molasses cookie, but have to declare the chocolate orange walnut the winner for its unique, complex flavor.

Soya Foods of MA had a generous amount of flavors of their Creative Chef Tofettis for patrons to sample Рall of these are made with non-GMO soybeans!

I tried BBQ, Brazilian, Hot & Spicy, Lemon Garlic, Jamaican Jerk, Teriyaki, and a faux “chicken nugget” as well (not pictured).

Seitan is a meat substitute I’d never had and I loved how it perfectly mimicked the texture and taste of ground beef. Upton’s Naturals of Chicago offered traditional, chorizo, and Italian varieties. I tried all three and especially loved the chorizo – it would go great in tacos or atop a big pile of nachos.

Bethany and I totally adored these Kathy’s Kitchen SuperSeedz. Kathy and her partner had plenty of flavors of these pumpkin seeds on hand, as you can see from the sign above!

I sampled Original Curry, Coco Joe, and Cinnamon & Sugar. The Original Curry flavored seeds were awesome and the chocolate-y coffee flavor of the Coco Joe was perfectly balanced. The Cinnamon & Sugar were good (can’t go wrong with that combo) but not nearly as remarkable as the first two flavors.

Local chip-makers Pan de Oro of Hartford (I sent a bag to Diana for foodie pen pals this month) partnered up with Good Neighbors of NH (love that) and provided a carb-tastic vehicle for sampling of salsas, salads, and hummus.

I’ve bought Good Neighbors black bean spread before at Whole Foods and it was awesome. I didn’t know they sold falafel too – or as they call them, veggie burgers? Check out the cute snack pack offerings as well!

Love me some tabouli! I may be one of the few bloggers who can take or leave quinoa but it was still tasty. And LOTS of salsa choices, hand it over!

Oh geez, where do I begin?! I wish I hadn’t downed my hummus samples so quickly because I honestly didn’t taste a ¬†huge difference between the flavors I tried (cilantro jalapeno, spicy chipotle, a couple others I can’t recall). However, the flavor I tasted was certainly delightful.

CT Veg Fest = free lunch!

One of MANY courses.

Check out this nifty magnet Bethany snagged for me from a booth! I notice the Splenda I use at home isn’t on there, oops, haha…

One of my favorite products of the day came from The Olive Oil Factory of Waterbury. Gourmet olive oils and balsamic¬†vinegar¬†seem to be “all the rage” now, and I’m certainly glad because that means more and more unique varieties are coming out.

I opted to receive my samples on vegan brown rice bread in the spirit of Veg Fest, but a non-vegan bread was also available. I started with the below chocolate balsamic – it blew me away! Holy crap. I just wanted to drizzle it (or pour it…) over a mound of fresh strawberries.

I also tried blueberry, lime, and peach balsamic. All were so, so fantastic. The blueberry balsamic drizzled on a scone or muffin would seriously be the perfect weekend breakfast.

Another favorite of the day? Boston-based Biena Snacks Roasted Chickpeas! These have plain-Greek-yogurt-mix-in written ALL over them.

The Sea Salt flavor was good but compared to the other two, Lime & Chili and Cinnamon Maple, it was just blah. That’s because the other two flavors were so amazing! I’ve always wanted to try roasted chickpeas and am glad I finally was able to.

Pan de Oro had their own booth of course, but by the time I got there they had run out of all their new varieties of chips (I missed out on the GARLIC!!!). I still wasted no time in sampling the original flavor. Erica had stopped by earlier than me and purchased two bags of the garlic chips!

They were kind enough to sell their chips at a discounted price at the event (many vendors were doing this).

The Simply Bar is probably the most impressive bar I’ve ever seen, from a nutritional stats standpoint.¬†I tried the Cocoa Coffee, which contains real caffeine, and enjoyed its taste as well! These bars are VERY low in sugar and saturated fat, unlike most bars I’ve seen, which remind me of candy bars.

Being a long-time blog reader, I’ve seen Sun Warrior and Vega proteins all over the place. I’ve never been that interested in protein powder though, so have never bought any. Perfect opportunity to sample some – expertly prepared by VeganProteins.com!

I liked the vanilla Sun Warrior protein shake! The desire to drink any more than a few sips, though, was not there.

And I had no desire to drink another sip again of the chocolate Vega protein shake. Sorry – not for me! However, I know that protein powders are something that is enjoyed by many a blogger and blog reader, and it’s great that there are so many vegan options. My twin Heather is a huge Vega fan and uses their powder to make protein pudding oats almost every day!

The Taza chocolate above had an amazing flavor different from any chocolate I’ve ever tried, because it is made from stone-ground cacao nibs. Due to the manufacturing process, the cacao nibs are not completely ground up, which leaves a lot of the cacao flavor in the bars. It’s very complex and hearty.

And check out all the benefits of Chocholistic chocolate! Its creator is Kenzie Harrick, a Certified Health Counselor with a sweet tooth and a passion for healthy eats. Those two things drove her to create “the only chocolate that you can eat every day that will improve your health while you eat it”. Like the Taza, the complex, rich flavor left me feeling very satisfied. I’d take this stuff over a regular candy bar any day (even a Twix!)

Cedar’s is the hummus brand of choice in my house and they passed out a ton of these nifty snack packs! Can’t wait to munch on mine.

Coconut butter is another product that’s been very popular in the blog world, but I hadn’t been able to try it until now. Nature’s Approved had the great idea of serving it up with a dallop of chocolate atop a graham cracker – just as good as any s’more! Well OK, maybe not, because there’s nothing like a charred-to-a-crisp marshmallow. But this was darn close.

Of course Vitamix was there, because it’s not a food event without Vitamix!!

I sampled a handful of freeze-dried corn from Raw Foods Central. It was really good – nice and sweet. I wonder how the peas would taste!

Litchfield based Boxed Goodes Pantry served their herb dips with fresh-cut bread. Not only did they taste delicious, but the packaging was so gorgeous and colorful. A set of jars in a kitchen filled with these herbs would really brighten up the place.

What a FUN event! Bethany and I are heading to Wesleyan University this weekend to attend 2012 Foodstock next. Loving all these FOODIE conferences!

Clearly we were prepared to get our yoga on!

Have you ever been to a vegetarian and/or healthy living festival?

Have you ever tried any of the products I sampled?

Group Core and Catsup and Mustard

Have you entered the giveaway to win a copy of “Working Out Sucks!”, the new book from Anytime Fitness’s CEO? You have until Friday night!

I got to try a new group fitness class¬†yesterday! After Casey and I finished up a sweaty hour-long spin class with one of my favorite spin instructors, Jocelyn, we were feeling pretty wiped. Jocelyn announced to the class that she had just been certified in Group Core, a Body Training Systems class that would be coming to our gym soon. She planned to practice in a conference room and needed some guinea pigs. I was intrigued – I’m ALWAYS down to try a new group fitness class, so Casey and I volunteered!

The equipment required was very simple: a towel, a mat, and a 10-lb plate. The 25-minute class was extremely efficient and consisted of 5 songs. They were pretty good, not the best I’ve heard, but I did like that Britney’s “Circus” was on there!

This class really did work the entire lower body, even legs. Lots of dynamic movements while holding the towel (never tried that before) like lunges with an oblique twist, and squats with arm raises. We also did squats followed by simultaneously raising the 10-lb plate to one side and our leg on the other, which challenged my balance, something I can always improve on.

The ab work was very tough. I sometimes find myself unchallenged by abs, but this class actually had me having to take breaks during the last song. The entire thing was planks and oblique crunches, without much rest at all. I totally felt the burn!

If your gym has Body Training Systems classes, I highly recommend finding out if Group Core is on the schedule or if the gym is considering getting it. If they aren’t, why not try to change their minds? It really is great to get in a good lower body workout in just 25 minutes!

I have some exciting plans tonight – a friend I met through Twitter, Olivia, is meeting me for dinner tonight at one of my favorite local spots!

Chef¬†Corey Wry is a local celeb in my area. He first opened up a delicious, low-key breakfast and sandwich place in Manchester, CT called Pastrami on Wry in 2005 (the Elvis pancakes are the stuff of dreams). His most recent (third) restaurant, Chops ‘n Catch, serves fancier steak and seafood fare, with an emphasis on local ingredients. The fish is excellent and the baked potatoes are giants, just the way I like ’em.

The man himself, courtesy of chopsncatch.com.

His second restaurant is like the filling of a PB sandwich (no, I don’t like jelly) or an Oreo – you know, the best. And it’s where Olivia and I are going tonight!

Catsup & Mustard¬†lives true to its motto of “eat, drink, laugh”. As you can imagine from the title, an emphasis is placed on burgers and fries, though there are plenty of other options¬†for all kinds of diners, from the picky child to the healthy living blogger to the unique-burger-obsessed foodie (and I am very aware that those last two can be found in the same person). Catsup & Mustard was even featured on an episode of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives! You can find a recipe submitted by Corey himself for Catsup’s Buried-Under Cheeseburger Salad on FoodNetwork.com.

Image courtesy of catsupandmustard.com.

But if you’re going to go to Catsup & Mustard, please don’t order that. Go home and make it yourself! Instead, I’d recommend the quesadillas from their Appetizers section. Or one of their amazing turkey burgers (yes, a restaurant that makes a good turkey burger exists). Or a burger with pastrami layered on top. Perhaps a spinach salad with salmon strikes your fancy? How about grilled cheese and tomato soup? Those are just some of my favorites, and all can be paired with their many varieties of fabulous fries.

One order is more than enough for two or three people. Make sure you ask for the dipping sauces – the Kicked-Up Catsup is delicious and unique.

The first time I met my new “blend” (blog friend), Bethany of More Fruit Please, we met at Catsup & Mustard for dinner. Guess it’s my go-to spot for meeting new friends! She hadn’t been since moving to the area, and I wanted to show her a nearby go-to spot. ¬†I chose the Garlic-Parmesan fries, my favorite flavor (obviously, I’m Miss Garlic), for us to share.

Bethany was torn between the Pretzel Grilled Chicken and the Turkey California. I immediately advised her to go with the turkey burger – I’d had the grilled chicken sandwich before, and it wasn’t anything special, even with a pretzel bun, which was actually too overpowering for the meat. The Turkey California is a turkey burger on a golden roll topped with chardonnay onions, turkey bacon, avocado, and a spinach-tomato-bleu cheese salad. It’s one of my dad’s favorite things he’s ever ordered there (and mine too).

All sandwiches come with a side of coleslaw and a famous Corey half-sour pickle.

I wanted to try something I hadn’t ordered before, and I was craving greens since I’d been wining earlier that day, so I got the Teriyaki Salmon salad on baby spinach, with cucumber, carrot, roasted red pepper, and a tasty sesame vinaigrette. The salmon was cooked to perfection and the combination of the dressing and teriyaki gave it an Asian flare.

All salads come garnished with crunchy and satisfying potato "whistle stix".

I cleaned my plate, and had a hard time not finishing more than half of the fries!

Of course, I asked for, received, and consumed three half-sour pickles on the side. I also brought three more home – jackpot!

I had a great time meeting Bethany and am already excited to go back tonight with Olivia. Thanks to Corey for providing local, fresh, unique food to Connecticut!

Have you had any good (or bad) experiences with restaurant turkey burgers?¬†I’m wondering because I rarely have good experiences, except for at Catsup or another local favorite, Max Burger. I eat my dad’s at home all the time though!

Have you ever tried Group Core or something similar?

Holiday Activities Abound!

STOP! have you entered my Maybelline giveaway yet?¬†And have you seen my cookies on Part 1 of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap Recipe Roundup?¬†OK, now you can move on ūüôā

‘Tis the season for holiday events – and I love it! Family, friends, food, drink, music, decor…I could go on and on. So far this holiday, I’ve been lucky enough to attend both a fancy Winter Festival at a banquet hall and a cozy, intimate holiday brunch at a blogger buddy‘s apartment!

My fellow marketing/fitness/foodie nerd friend, Alexis, and I.

My mom and I accompanied my dad to his holiday work party as his “+1s”. I was more than happy to oblige! I started the evening off with a couple glasses of Cabernet. There were apps set out, but I was too busy chatting and wine-ing to really notice them! By the time it was our turn to approach the Italian buffet line,¬†I was totally starved (we were one of the last tables sent up). The food was worth the wait, though. For a banquet hall, Maneeley’s of South Windsor¬†did a pretty good job!

Your basic salad.

Steamed veggies (not too much butter either!)

Mmm potato starch.

My plate! The meat is Chicken Marsala, but it looked too ugly in the tray for a pic.

I enjoyed hanging out with Alexis, my parents, and their friends. I met a lot of great people and even handed out a few cards – hello to any new readers from Winter Fest!

The mom and I.

In the same weekend (I know, right, how lucky am I?) I got to attend a holiday Sunday brunch hosted by Bethany of More Fruit Please. I walked into her apartment and was immediately in awe of how well-decorated and organized it is.

A coordinated Christmas tree greeted me when I stepped inside.

Fabulous coffee and tea "station"!

Adorable foyer table arrangement.

I spy Jennifer!

Bethany draws her decor inspiration from Pinterest, of course! And no, I have not yet caved and signed up.

In love with this concept. Each heart is a place she's lived!

As a cinnamon freak, I have much love for this candle.

To continue the cinnamon love, I had the best tea I’ve ever had. No joke – thank you Trader Joe’s for making this cinnamon and vanilla black tea! I made two teabags last through about three mugfuls of hot water. Has anyone else tried this?

Bethany and some of her awesome friends worked away in the kitchen. I swear I offered some help! ūüėõ Bethany was running all over the place, and I was and still am in awe of her hostess skills!

Potatoes and veggies for quiche getting some saute action.

A quiche setting, just after coming out of the oven.

Some appetizers were set out for munching. I eventually could wait no longer and had to dive into Bethany’s to-die-for sun-dried tomato olive tapenade with Stacy’s pita chips. Make this for your next party. Immediately.

Also available to tide us over until meal time: assorted cookies and pretzels, some of which I contributed from my Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap stash, and a beautiful Harvest Loaf¬†baked by an amazing, spunky fashion blogger I met at the brunch, Lydia. Check out her fashion blog – it’s awesome!

My mug is too the left – I loved all of Bethany's mugs! My plate of cookies is the red one.

Harvest Loaf ready for slicing!

Soon, brunch was ready! Mimosas were poured, but I sat out since I was still feeling the half bottle of wine I’d had the night before

Oops, looks like pouring led to a little spillage.

Bethany’s dining table was transformed into a Sunday¬†smorgasbord¬†(I needed spellcheck on that one).

The tree is just too much – I LOVE IT.

A little tour of the table for you…

Fruit salad (with kiwi – YES) and honey yogurt dip.

Broc, tomato, and pesto quiche.

Turkey sausage and potato quiche.

Whole wheat blackberry-lemon and apple scones from Jennifer.

Plain, chocolate, and almond croissants from La Petit France of West Hartford.

"Carb tower" all together (bagels and yoga bread from Bethany on bottom).

Apple butter and cranberry orange cream cheese spreads for bread. How cute are the spreaders?!

I wanted to try as much as possible! I filled my first plate with a plain croissant, half an apple scone, slice of veggie quiche with reduced sugar ketchup, and fruit salad with yogurt dip.

Plate one of two. Very hard to be patient enough to take pics before diving in.

The scone was wonderful (I don’t care what you say Jennifer!) and so was the dip. But the real stars were the croissant, which was so authentic-tasting, and the quiche, which was MADE thanks to the pesto.

Dying over the plate. Dying of cuteness the entire brunch.

After finishing this plate, I went back for a slice of the turkey sausage and potato quiche. The veggie quiche was still my favorite because the pesto biases me, but the meat and potato quiche was fantastic as well. Perfectly cooked!

After writing this post, I am now ready to eat my entire fridge. I want to go back and re-taste everything! Thank you Bethany for being an amazing hostess, cook, and home decorator ūüėČ

Which component of the brunch would you most want to try? What would you have seconds of?