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.

Mineral Fusion- Vegan brand

Previously, I featured posts on Mineral Fusion, a vegan, gluten, and sulfate free brand that can be purchased online or at Whole Foods. This cruelty free brand sells a full range of products including cosmetics, hair care, body care, nail, and skincare. Mineral Fusion is committed to delivering effective and gentle results using only the finest and natural ingredients such as aloe, rosemary, and orange oils each utilized for a specific concern and need.

I have featured the cosmetics and nail care, but want to focus on the wide range of hair care products, which would make a beautiful gift this holiday season! Mineral Fusion offers hair care products that address needs including dandruff, color treated, and damaged hair as well as products for all types of hair- fine, dry, curly. Shampoos and conditioners are not the only products available. Specialty balms like the Volumizing beauty balm provide a lift from the root using sunflower oil and biotin.

Mineral Fusion

During the season, the last thing you want to worry about is gray hair.  Unfortunately, since everyone feels the same way, hair salons are packed and an appointment may be difficult to acquire. In the meantime, between touch ups, try the Mineral Fusion Gray root concealer offered in black, dark brown, medium brown, and light brown. The wand on this concealer is similar to a mascara wand, only grasping fine hairs including the difficult temples and covering grays entirely. There is no off putting odor to the product, the color glides over hairs covers completely and dries quickly.

Make sure to visit the Mineral Fusion site of purchase at your local Whole Foods. This brand would make a beautiful and thoughtful gift this season.

Mineral Fusion

The Pub at Wegmans

As an upstate New York native, I have grown up with Wegmans. I feel about Wegmans the same way I feel about Wawa now living in the Philadelphia area. Something about the store is comforting and the selection is always expansive. I know that I can always find the specialty items that I require with all of my dietary restrictions. It can be challenging to eat at a restaurant when you have as many restrictions as myself and so many others do. I never even stopped to consider eating at The Pub in the Wegmans in the Providence Town Center in Collegeville, PA. On a night out with a friend we tried the Pub and had a wonderful experience. There were plenty of vegan, nut and gluten free options. My server was also more than willing to make any special requests to make sure that I could eat my dinner without worry. The attention to detail and cleanliness as well as the friendly laid back atmosphere made this a enjoyable dining experience. Check out The Pub menu here.

I ordered the white bean hummus with truffles and veggies. If you are gluten free kindly request that the rosemary bread is left off and replaced with extra veggies. This dish was absolutely delicious. The hummus was flavorful, smooth, and creamy; perfectly paired with the fresh cucumber and roasted sweet red peppers.

Hummus

I also ordered the portabella mushroom entree served with artichoke hearts, red peppers, and an arugula salad lightly tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil without the mozzarella. Satisfying and scrumptious!

Mushroom

Try the Tuscan Fries, deliciously fried potatoes perfectly seasoned with rosemary, sage, Italian parsley, and garlic.

Rosemary Tuscan Fries

 

 

 

 

Sweet treats

Ashley

I have been dying to visit Sweet Freedom Bakery for quite some time and sample some of the delectable goodies that they bake. The website descriptions alone are enough to make my mouth salivate. The best part about these scrumptious treats…totally vegan! Actually they are nut, soy, corn, dairy, and gluten free.

Yesterday, I decided I just could not take it anymore and made a trip to the Sweet Freedom Bakery located on Lancaster Ave in Bryn Mawr, PA with my mom and sister. I was so excited driving in the car I could barely contain myself, trying to decide which item I would buy. Of course that was a silly notion as I walked away with three delicious treats.

As I entered into the meticulous bakery I reverted into a child- nose pressed against the glass, ogling all of the beautiful desserts. The women working at the counter were welcoming, sweet, and energetic, ready to answer all questions and make suggestions. Especially since I needed to narrow down my selection and refrain from ordering one of everything!

I have to say, for someone with so many food restrictions and allergies ( and I know I am not alone) this was my first relaxed bakery experience. Normally, it is an anxiety inducing situation. I have to ask a million questions whether or not the items with nuts touched the items without etc.- holding my breath and EpiPen as I take the first bite. After 30 years what a pleasure to walk into Sweet Freedom Bakery and simply point to what I wanted without the worry and stress. When explaining this to the women they were so thrilled and said they love to hear that from customers because that is the whole reason for this bakery. The bakery refers to itself as a “safe haven” and I could not agree more.

Ash

I will not keep you in suspense any longer. Now for my purchases. As I said it was a challenge to limit my selection, but I settled on three luscious treats including a rich cake like brownie,  a chocolate chip cookie sandwich filled with decadent chocolate frosting, and a finger licking magic bar chock full of coconut and layered with chocolate. Each treat was better than the next, absolutely delicious, and worth the wait.

Brownie at Sweet Freedom Bakery

Chocolate Chip Cookie sandwich at Sweet Freedom Bakery

magic bar at Sweet Freedom Bakery

Check out the full menu here. Also Sweet Freedom Bakery offers fresh smoothies, juices, and cake options, which can be ordered ahead of time for a special event.

The Great New York State Fair

 

NY State Fair Logo

I spent my childhood in Upstate New York, enjoying the gorgeous outdoor natural treasures like Green Lakes, Taughannock Falls and of course the heavy annual snowfall. Since living in Philadelphia, I do miss waking up on Christmas to a winter wonderland. There is so much to do, an incredible amount of outdoor activities like hiking and exploring and many attractions to visit.

My relatives still live in New York so I am fortunate to see the sights when I visit them. The Great New York State Fair is one of them and this year I have the great pleasure of covering it for Sugarpeel. The Fair is an annual event offering traditional fair faves like fried foods, games, and rides along with agricultural and livestock competitions, Iroquois traditional dances, agricultural and carriage museums, a giant sand sculpture, and concerts. Of course these are just some of the many fabulous attractions. Click here for the complete list of must see attractions and events.

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NY State Fair Sand Sculpture

Photo by Michael Okoniewski-NYS Fair

As I mentioned above there is no shortage of food at the Fair from gyro’s to bbq and all snacks in between like kettle corn popcorn and strawberry shortcake. For those of you non vegans, make sure to stop by the Rainbow Milk Bar for a glass of ice cold regular or chocolate milk for only $.25!

Rainbow Milk Bar

Visit the horticultural building for the famous baked potatoes served with fresh butter and sour cream. This year there are some new options for those with dietary restrictions including a gluten free booth and vegan and vegetarian choices. Local Strong Hearts Cafe will be there serving delicious vegan options including quinoa lentil salads.

This year the Fair will run from Thursday, August 27th to Monday, September 7th 2015. Make sure to buy your ticket! Syracuse, New York is only four hours away, a manageable and exciting destination for the last vacation of the summer. Take a look at the special fair days, which may help you to determine which days you would like to attend. If you are traveling from out of town, take a look at the hotel partners to plan your trip. Stay tuned for my coverage. Hope to see you there!

Credits: all photos provided by The Great New York State Fair – Department of Agriculture and Markets

Kinky Boots on Mother’s Day

KinkyBoots

Last weekend was Mother’s Day and what better way to spend it than to take Mom to see a risque musical?! One of our favorite films is Kinky Boots based on a true story (and book) of a man trying to save his father’s shoe factory. Kinky Boots was turned into a play featuring all new original music by the one and only Cyndi Lauper.

I will not spoil the show for you. All I can say is it is worth seeing! High energy, lovely message, amazing music, wonderful performances, and the costumes were fabulous. I was able to see this beautiful show at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia from the Kinky Boots tour. This weekend was sadly the last in Philly, but tickets are still available for Broadway.

I wore an all black jumpsuit that I bought for a steal at the Ann Taylor Philadelphia Premium Outlets with a pair of Vera Wang platforms from Kohl’s, similar here.

For my makeup, I wanted to create a berry kissed look. I am wearing the lightest shade in the Mineral Fusion eyeshadow trio from the Density palette. This gorgeous peachy bone shade is long lasting and crease free, with age defying ingredients like pomegranate and white tea. For my cheeks, I wanted a flushed stained look. I chose the Mineral Fusion 3 in 1 color stick in Berry Glow. I applied a small amount with my fingertips and kept on building the color. The consistency is smooth and creamy, incredibly lightweight, and easy to blend. As with all of the cosmetics from this line, it is talc, paraben, gluten, and cruelty free!

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Wearing Mineral Fusion 3 in 1 color stick on cheeks in Berry Glow with NYX Cosmetics Soft Matte Lip Cream in Copenhagen

Ashleyjumpsuit

Ashley2

 

 

The big 3-0!

Well I can no longer call myself a twenty something woman, as my friend would say. With each passing year in the twenties, my roommate from college would say we no longer need to disclose our actual age (except on legal documents of course), just that we are twenty something. That logic sounded good to me!

Today I am 30- really no other way to say it. I will admit I was pretty stressed leading up to today. I was completely consumed with the number. I had no intention of even celebrating. Then something magical happened. I began to realize that the number doesn’t matter, it’s the way you feel, plus a party is a party, no matter what age. 30 is going to happen whether I like it or not, so I might as well mark the day. With that said, I will never be comfortable with those lawn ornaments broadcasting my age for all to see.

I feel good. I am happy, thankful, and blessed. Keep moving forward, continue to grow and be a better person, become more comfortable in my own skin. These are my hopes and goals for the decade to come!

My family had a beautiful party to celebrate my birthday. They made my favorite foods for dinner, fabulous and thoughtful gifts, and even a cake made entirely of flowers and one real cake too!

EggplantParmasan

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan fried with Flax meal and Quinoa flour and baked with Daiya cheese and tomato puree.

ChiaPudding

Vegan chocolate chia pudding with fresh berries.

DateTruffles

Chocolate date truffles.

BirthdayCake

Birthday cake made from chocolate and avocado with So Delicious coconut ice cream.

floralbouquet

Butterfly floral bouquet.

FlowerCake

Beautiful cake made of flowers.

 

 

Vegan chocolate

Sorry if I lost some of you with the title, but I promise, you will want to continue reading. For those naysayers, vegan chocolate is delicious. Not all are created equal, but I found an artisanal gourmet chocolate that is delectable. Yesterday, I strolled down the aisles of Whole Foods, in search of something tasty. Easter is fast approaching and I was feeling a little nervous that my basket would be a little light on treats.

Amore Di Mona chocolate was a major find. This specialty chocolate is gluten, soy, nut, dairy free, vegan, non GMO and still tastes amazing. I legitimately could not purchase these bars fast enough and will admit that I ate one in the car. Why waste more time driving home? Plus I needed to sample one before they ended up in the Easter basket- for research purposes. I devoured the Caramela with cranberries. The rich chocolate melted in my mouth- the exact same texture as traditional chocolate. The inside was soft and chewy similar to caramel, filled with tart sundried cranberries. The exterior was coated in hardened chocolate. I ate all three of the squares and licked my fingers to boot. This is the chocolate option for those in search of an alternative, whether you are suffering from allergies, food restrictions, or considering a Vegan diet.

AmoreDiMona

 

Ashley

Lavender vanilla bean cookies

I love the smell of lavender. The fragrance is intoxicating, which makes the edible component excellent. I purchased a bag of fresh lavender flowers at Herbiary in the Reading Terminal Market and wanted to do something more than just add to tea. I developed this vegan cookie recipe instead. I have to say they are the perfect, elegant, just the right sweetness cookie. I really needed to restrain myself from eating the entire batch. Here is the recipe, just in case you need a hostess gift or are staying home for a movie marathon.

Dry ingredients:

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill gluten free quick oats

1/2 cup Ancient Grain quinoa flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp fresh lavender flowers

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp flax meal

Wet ingredients:

6 tbsp Olivio coconut vegan spread

2 vanilla beans

2 tbsp warm water

How-to:

Combine oats, flour, baking powder, and lavender flowers in one bowl. Wisk together. In a microwave safe bowl add vegan spread and vanilla bean and melt partially-no more than 15-20 seconds. Remove from the microwave and whip on high speed with beaters until smooth. Add brown sugar, flax meal, and warm water and stir with a wooden spoon. Gently add half the dry ingredients. Stir and then add the second half. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake on 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let finish cooking on sheet until cooled.

Vanillabean

Vanilla

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Lavenderbatter

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Superbowl snack

The New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks will be playing in the Superbowl this weekend and as thrilling as I find football, I am more concerned with everything else. I am looking forward to the halftime performance by Katy Perry and the incredible Idina Menzel singing the Star Spangled Banner.

Of course, the best part about Sunday’s big event for me, is the food! I want to share a very simple, very delicious, and addicting snack- perfect for the Superbowl. Here is a healthy, vegan, and gluten free alternative to the traditional smothered in butter popcorn recipe.

Ingredients:

Popcorn- air popped (I leave the cup size up to your discretion- a large bowl approximately 8 cups)

1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

PopcornIngredients

How-to:

Pop the corn. Melt the coconut oil and pour over the popcorn, add the seasonings and stir.

The coconut oil is just as rich and flavorful as butter. When sprinkled with the smokiness of the paprika and the spicy Chili the popcorn is a savory and delicious treat.

Popcorn

Enjoy!