Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day is less than three weeks away, are you ready to celebrate your mom? Some of my staple gift ideas include gift certificates to a spa, her favorite restaurant or store, and how can you go wrong with a heartfelt card and bouquet of flowers?

This year, the thought crossed my mind that all of these could be combined with a different flair, making an entirely new gift!

Make your mom a goodie basket, filled with some of her favorite things from lip gloss to specialty foods. You don’t need to break the bank either. You can start now collecting items to include. For instance, instead of the traditional floral arrangement, opt for a more permanent bouquet of dried flowers.

Flower bouquet

Add a bag of her favorite coffee with a new mug and a book so she can enjoy a lazy Sunday. Simply Enjoy offers a tasty and decadent Swiss Chocolate flavor and is a UTZ certified company; dedicated to sustainable farming!

SimplyEnjoyCoffee

A beautiful candle or diffuser for the home is a perfect way to complete this gift. Try a complex fragrance profile from Aquiesse ranging from sweet floral to rich amber.

Aquiesse candles

Vegan Easter Candy

Happy Easter to all who celebrate! I hope everyone had a beautiful and joyous Sunday. I was very thankful that the Easter bunny brought me a delectable assortment of chocolates. I have mentioned Amore Di Mona before, but I could not resist sharing the adorable bunny shaped treats and gourmet box of chocolates.

The entire brand is dedicated and committed to producing quality chocolate that is completely allergen free- nut, gluten, soy, and dairy; safe for all those who have restrictions and allergies. Amore Di Mona can be purchased through amazon, vegancuts.com, and Nordstrom cafes. This is the perfect hostess gift, treat for a friend with dietary intolerances, or as a low calorie indulgence for yourself!

EasterCandy

CaramelaBunny

AmoreDiMona

ChocolateGiftBox

Easy Vegan Recipe

This particular vegan recipe was created from my craving of something fresh, mediterranean, and filling. Serve this gluten free pasta dish with a juicy orange and all the food groups are represented. It’s simple to make and satisfies hunger.

Here’s what you will need:

2-4 oz of your favorite Banza pasta (I used shells and elbows)

1-2 teaspoons of olive oil

3-4 jarred red bell peppers

1/2 cup organic canned sliced mushrooms

5 large stuffed green olives

1 teaspoon of garlic

1/2 teaspoon of parsley

1/4 teaspoon of red chili flakes

pinch of salt

Juice from 1/2 of lemon

How to:

Boil pasta, drain and add to large bowl. Add the olives, drained mushrooms, and peppers. Finely chop the garlic and add to olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. Drizzle over the pasta, stir, and serve. Enjoy!

Vegan Pasta Salad

 

White Dog Cafe- Wayne PA

How many times have I passed the White Dog Cafe? Many, many times. Sadly, I have only just dined at this beautiful and delicious restaurant and it was well worth the wait!

This farm to table treasure, offers locally sourced (no more than 50 mile radius), sustainable, and fresh food options. The menu changes according to the season, the restaurant cans and preserves food as well to enjoy all year round. Read their story here. 

An allergy free menu is available for all those suffering with dietary restrictions including (but not limited to) shellfish, nuts, and gluten. There is also a vegetarian menu available and most items can be tweaked to accommodate vegans as well.

My menu included an amuse-bouche of roasted red beet with sorrel and lemon olive oil, which awakened my palette with a burst of bright flavor.

beet amuse-bouche

I am a creature of habit after all and even with many options to choose, I decided on the homemade hummus trio with fresh cut vegetables for my appetizer. Beet, red pepper, and garlic graced the table in small mason jars and served on a butcher block. What stands out the most about this hummus is the way it was left slightly chunky, which allowed every flavor and ingredient to shine.

Hummus trio

My main course consisted of sauteed cruciferous and root vegetables with lemon olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction glaze. The melody of flavors were in perfect harmony with each other and I found myself finishing the entire plate.

veggies

The meal would not be complete without dessert. Homemade blueberry coconut and grapefruit sorbet. This sweet and thirst quenching dessert was a real treat after a savory and healthy meal. The smooth, creamy and icy consistency melted in my mouth and satisfied my sweet tooth.

sorbet

The atmosphere of the White Dog is decorated with a running theme of man’s best friend. Portraits of dogs, dog coat hooks, and knick knacks filter tastefully throughout the establishment. Even the bathroom contains paw prints embedded in the floor and wall tiles. Dim lighting gives the restaurant a warm and inviting glow. White Dog is spotless, the servers are friendly and approachable, more than willing to create something special to accommodate any health concern.

White Dog Cafe

White Dog Cafe

White Dog Cafe

White Dog Cafe

White Dog Cafe

I absolutely recommend White Dog Cafe. If you have not yet, make a reservation and enjoy a delicious meal with a fabulous philosophy, atmosphere, and service.

Healthy Food Brands

I love to include recipes that are easy and satisfying, especially for those of us with dietary restrictions or interested in eating healthy.

I want to take a moment to backtrack a bit and list some of my favorite food brands, which include gluten free and vegan. It is important to mention that not all gluten free brands are equal and can have cross contamination. For instance, I cannot have any oats that claim to be gluten free. If you are extremely sensitive oats may bother you as well- beware.

King Arthur Flour is a delicious brand with a variety of gluten free options. I love the Bread and Pizza Crust Mix  that can easily be converted to a vegan mix as well by using coconut butter and flax eggs.

KingArthurBreadMix

Amy’s Kitchen offers gluten free, vegan, soy fee, nut free prepared meals and desserts in the frozen specialty section. I am a big fan of the tamale, burrito, and chocolate cake options.

For a sweet tooth, Enjoy Life and Amore Di Mona specialize in allergy free snacks and chocolate, which is a comfort knowing that I can still enjoy a treat every now and again without fear of a reaction.

Banza is my favorite gluten free, vegan pasta alternative. All of the pasta options are made with chickpea flour and are packed with protein, especially helpful for those on a vegan food diet.

Vegan meat alternative brand, Beyond Meat offers a delicious Beyond Burger void of soy and palm oil. This “burger” contains 20 grams of protein derived from pea protein.

Please leave a comment to share your favorite vegan and gluten free brands! Also, feel free to ask any questions about other food brands that I love.

Autograph Brasserie- Part 2 The Menu

Last month I visited Autograph Brasserie in Wayne Pennsylvania for the first time and enjoyed a fabulous dining experience. As previously mentioned in my review article, today I am featuring the scrumptious menu that Chef Ralph prepared. Keep in mind that if you suffer from multiple dietary restrictions, Autograph is a dining option for you. The entire staff and of course Chef Ralph are willing and happy to create a dish that you can enjoy without the stress and worry of contamination.

I began the night with fingerling potatoes in a balsamic glaze that Chef Ralph served while I was reviewing the menu. The potatoes were cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside while the glaze was packed with flavor.

FingerlingPotatoes

Roasted root vegetables followed and all I kept thinking was, “how can I reproduce this dish?” Although, part of the fun of dining out is having someone else create the meal for you, without all the work. This is definitely a dish that I would recommend for plant eaters and carnivore’s alike.

RoastedRootVegetables

Autograph can accommodate all restrictions, including serving fresh gluten free rolls from a local baker with gourmet dipping olive oil. Most alcohol contains gluten as well and for true Celiacs, try the signature Autograph mocktails. The King Palmer is cool and refreshing and contains lemonade, iced tea, agave, and fresh lime juice.

Gluten free rolls

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables, versatile and filling. Chef Ralph created an absolutely delicious roasted cauliflower with fresh apple and scallions. This dish was seasoned perfectly and is a satisfying side dish, but could be served as a main.

cauliflower

However, my main included mushroom risotto. This showstopper really needs no description. Suffice it to say by the time the main course arrived I was stuffed, but it was so delish that I just had to take it home to enjoy later!

mushroom risotto

Please be sure to make a reservation at this lovely restaurant with delectable food options for everyone!

Autograph Brasserie Review

autograph

The night before Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of dining at Autograph Brasserie located in Wayne Pennsylvania. The expansive restaurant sits in the heart of the main line within the Eagle Village shopping center, filled with beautiful and interesting boutiques.

As I walked into Autograph, I felt slightly embarrassed for my visible jaw drop. The honest truth is anyone entering this atmosphere is a little taken aback by the fabulous and large scale decor, completely unique atmosphere from albums and framed celebrity photographs mounted on the wall to themed dining spaces, and chandeliers made out of brass instruments. Each section has something to see and admire, which of course only enhance the experience.

Autograph

Autograph

Autograph

Autograph

Autograph

Autograph

Autograph

I was seated in the Sycamore room, a magical environment with a stunning realistic sycamore tree as the focal point. Gold butterflies decorated the room and the celebrity photographs continued into the space. I was definitely in my element as one of my favorites, Sophia Loren was in this room! Chef Ralph greeted me at once and welcomed me. Only his passion for food and love for creating rivals his impressive career. The servers were all friendly, attentive, and accommodating. As you all know by now, I have several food allergies and restrictions, which can be a challenge when dining out. However, Chef Ralph was excited to follow all of my dietary concerns and present me with delicious options. More on the scrumptious menu to come!

Autograph

Autograph

Autograph

Autograph

During this time of year the Eagle Village shops really shine. Valley Forge Flowers is decorated with Christmas trimmings and the boutiques are selling the latest trends. Make a reservation at Autograph, enjoy an amazing meal and then plan an evening of shopping! Next week, I will be posting in detail my entire menu. Also, please do not forget to vote for Sugarpeel for Best Local Blogger– I promise it only takes a moment.

 

 

Best Mexican Cuisine

First let me say that I acknowledge that the restaurant that I am featuring must warrant such a title, which it does. Second, I recognize the fact that I have previously featured this restaurant, but it deserves another one.

I have been dining at Taqueria La Michoacana for over ten years. The atmosphere is lively and energetic. The decor is traditional and pays homage to the culture. Most of all, walking into the Mexican restaurant I feel the love and passion. There is a great sense of pride in preparing each dish and presenting an ambiance that is relaxing and friendly. This gem of a restaurant is tucked away in Norristown, PA- unassuming, not flashy just quality and authentic dishes.

Last weekend I went out to dinner with my family and was all ready to cherry pick vegan side dishes on the menu, except this was not necessary. La Michoacana now offers a complete list of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. I could have squealed in delight I was so happy. I began by munching on the delicious and freshly homemade corn tortilla chips served with three different types of salsa from spicy to hot. As my vegan tacos rounded the corner and ended up sitting in front of me, I was giddy. It may sound superficial to get so excited by a meal, but dining options can be challenging when you have restrictions, but when your favorite restaurant includes a menu that you can eat…heaven! I am going again tomorrow night then off to see the new Ghostbusters movie. I cannot stress this enough- if you love Mexican food, this is the place to try. If you have been disappointed in the past by bad Mexican food, this is the place to try. Check them out on Twitter @lamichacana301

Taqueria La Michoacana

Six Courses by Liberté Urban Lounge Executive Chef Luke Rogers

Video and Photo credits: Aubrey Basla

As promised here is the detailed description of my most delicious meal, prepared by Chef Luke Rogers at the Liberté Urban Lounge Sofitel Philadelphia.

Menu The Sofitel Philadelphia

My special menu included five delectable courses, but Chef Luke added a bonus course.

Hors d’Oeuvre

Beet Tartare- orange, chili avocado oil, avocado, chickpea served with taro chips

Beet tartare

Beet Tartare

Salade

Tomato Discovery- grilled cherry peppers, frisée, strawberry

Tomato Discovery

Roasted Carrot Salad- pickled carrots, artichoke, watermelon radish

Roasted Carrot Salad

Soupe

Watermelon Gazpacho- spicy ice

Watermelon gazpacho

Entree

Eggplant Cannelloni- cauliflower, tomato, romesco, basil puree

Eggplant Cannaloni

Eggplant Cannelloni

Les Desserts

Strawberry Popsicles- watermelon, strawberry pearls

Strawberry Popsicle

Popsicle

Each course was more scrumptious than the next. I was impressed with the complexity of flavors in each dish. Bitter, sweet, salty, spicy all perfectly working in harmony to create a truly unique experience.

At The Sofitel Philadelphia, 240, 000 bees reside, providing honey for the guests. There is a beautiful rooftop garden with over 3,000 pounds of soil that produces most of the herbs provided for the meals. Chef Luke Rogers curates this fabulous garden and many of the items on my menu were picked fresh for my meal!

Garden

Garden

Garden

Liberté Urban Lounge Sofitel Philadelphia – Hotel Series Part 1

Liberte Lounge- Sofitel Hotel

I have never gone to a restaurant, completed six courses and left feeling healthier. However, this was the case last week after eating one of the best meals of my life at the Liberté Urban Lounge in the Sofitel Hotel. The food was prepared by Executive Chef Luke Rogers. Let’s backtrack just a bit before I dive into the dining experience.

When I first decided to feature a hotel series on Sugarpeel, I wanted to capture the unique differentiators that make some of the best hotels in Philly special. Each one that I cover will focus on something different- whether it is food, stay, services. I focused on the Liberté Urban Lounge in the Sofitel. Prior to confirming my reservation, I gave my dietary restrictions to Chef Luke, convinced that it would be an inconvenience. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chef Luke agreed immediately and began his homework and prep for my visit.

As a Celiac, Vegan, and allergy sufferer it is usually an anxious experience to dine out. I also have an unsettled feeling wondering if there is a cross contamination in the kitchen that will leave me fishing for my Epipen. The moment I entered the Liberté Urban Lounge and sat down there was a beautiful personalized menu with a series of courses specifically designed by the Chef. I had a wave of relief; knowing that I would not have to worry and cautiously eat my food.

Each server was kinder than the next. I would like to personally thank Michael, Kurtis, and Mary who were exceptionally attentive, knowledgeable, and a pleasure to meet. The courses utilized all of the fresh ingredients that I could eat. Chef Luke played with textures, complex flavors, and modern plating. He describes his cuisine as “refined yet approachable.” Everyone should be able to experience a delicious meal.

Chef Luke leads by example by treating his staff with respect in order to foster a creative and healthy atmosphere in the kitchen. Fear is not the way to produce excellent food. To ensure this atmosphere, Chef Luke prefers a hands on approach by hiring each new employee, making sure that everyone is on the same page and works as a team. You will not see anyone throw a pan in his kitchen!

It was an overall inspiring experience as I often find myself struggling to create a satisfying meal without defaulting to something plain and flavorless.

The Sofitel is just minutes away from Rittenhouse Square, which is one of my favorite locations in the city. The park is beautiful, lively, and a great spot to people watch. Friends of Rittenhouse  provide a complete guide of the events and happenings in the square. If you are staying in the area of the Sofitel, make sure to visit Rittenhouse, which has something for everyone, every age. If you love shopping, walk on Walnut street in the shopping district for luxury boutiques.

Stay tuned for my next post including a video and detailed description of the scrumptious menu customized by Chef Luke at Liberté Urban Lounge!

Chef Luke Rodgers

Chef Luke Rogers, Ashley