The summer heat has arrived, and that means cooling off with refreshing summer beverages! When I was a kid growing up in southern California, my Mom didn’t keep soda the house. Instead, she made sure that there was always a fresh pitcher of iced tea (with plenty of lemon and sugar) chilling in our refrigerator. This enduring childhood memory is likely a good reason why iced tea remains my go-to summertime beverage when I really need to quench my thirst. The great news for iced tea lovers is that there are so many grab-and-go ways to enjoy iced teas that not only taste great, but are also good for you. Recently, I learned about the health benefits of something called Purple Tea, available in a brand called Kabaki. Representatives sent me a case of Kabaki Kenyan Purple Tea to review for the blog, and now I’d like to share my finding with you.
First off what the heck is Purple Tea? What I learned is that Purple Tea grows high in the valleys and mountain tops of Kenya, and is sourced from the same single plant, Camellia Sinensis, that produces green and black teas. The intense African sun, coupled with cool mountain air, allows ultraviolet rays to deeply penetrate the tea leaves, which have a purple color because they contain super-antioxidants called anthocyanins. This is the same antioxidant found in ‘superfoods’ like Acai berries, Pomegranates and Blueberries.
I will be the first person to admit that I am not the most creative home cook, so having seriously-restricted access to restaurant-prepared meals means I am fighting food boredom. While I’m relying more than ever on the amazing frozen food section at my local Trader Joe’s, I’m also exploring my ability to make tasty rice and pasta dishes with minimal effort. When it comes to pasta, the more cheese, the better, so Parmesan cheese is always in my pantry. Now, vegans and others following a dairy-free diet can also enjoy the cheesy, umami flavor of Parmesan with Parma! Vegan Parmesan seasoning.
See The Goodness. Left: Garlicky Green Parma, Right: Regular Parma
The folks at Sister River Foods, makers of Parma! recently sent me two different varieties of this versatile seasoning blend to review for the blog, and I can’t believe how much I love it. Parma is the original plant-based parmesan; a dairy-free, protein-rich condiment ideal for use on pasta, pizza, salad, vegetables, popcorn, avocado toast and most other main dishes and savory foods. Parma is made from only natural ingredients including superfoods such as nutritional yeast, Himalayan crystal salt, organic sunflower seeds (clearly identifiable in the above photo) and organic hemp seeds, among other healthy ingredients.
Garlicky Green Parma! – Distinguished by a cheesey umami Italian herb flavour complemented by nutritiously delicious kelp, pumpkin and sesame seeds. Ingredients: Nutritional Yeast, Organic SunflowerSeeds, Walnuts, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Dried Garlic, Himalayan Crystal Salt, Organic Hemp Seeds, Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic Kelp Powder, Organic Dried Basil, Organic Dried Oregano.
And two more I would love try!
Better Than Bacon Parma! – Voted Favorite Bacon Flavored Product by VegNews and featuring a smokey cheesey umami bacon flavor. Ingredients: Nutritional Yeast, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Ground Paprika, Organic Dried Onion, Natural Flavor, Organic Brown Sugar, Himalayan Crystal Salt, Smoked Salt, Organic Hemp Seeds.
Chipotle Cayenne Parma! – Blessed with a smokey umami flavor akin to the most popular barbeque potato chips, with a slight cayenne kick at the end. Ingredients: Nutritional Yeast, Organic SunflowerSeeds, Walnuts, Organic Ground Chipotle Pepper, Himalayan Crystal Salt, Organic Hemp Seeds, Organic Onion Powder, Organic Ground Cayenne Pepper.
A generous dusting of Garlicky Green Parma!on hot pasta elevates the flavor of your favorite sauce, and creates an exciting contrast of textures as the crunchy seeds mix with the tender pasta. Absolutely delicious.
Here, I have seasoned my breakfast of a cheese omelet and a scoop of cottage cheese with Original Parma! The Parma! was especially helpful in adding much-needed flavor enhancement to the cottage cheese, because I had accidentally purchased the unsalted variety — which otherwise, honestly, tastes of nothing. Thanks, Parma!
Founded in 2004, Parma! has steadily grown to its current status as a leader in the dairy-free cheese alternative arena and a key player in the multi-billion-dollar global vegan food category. Looking back on the origins of the Parma! brand, Sister River Foods’ co-founder and CEO Shannon Schnibbe recalls that it all started as the result of her severe allergies and effort to find foods that might give her relief. Introduced to raw foods, she was soon inspired to begin making what is now Parma! for herself, friends and family. After moving to Oregon and becoming pregnant with her first baby, Shannon decided to combine her passion for healthy eating with her corporate experience and turn her hobby into an actual business. The vegan parmesan revolution had begun!
Find Out more about Parma! and Sister River Foods, plus get Delicious Recipes, at This Link!
Photos By Gail (Click on Any Image to Enlarge for Detail)
The holidays may be a few weeks behind us but, if you’re like me, the extra pounds gained from indulging in many (many) delicious treats still remain! The only way to take off the post-holiday fluff is to bump-up the exercise regimen and cut calories, which means feeling deprived — and that is never fun. But don’t despair: let me introduce you to Brooklyn Bites Thin Cookie Brittle, a line of sweet treats that are not only ridiculously low in calories (between 80 – 110 per serving!), but they’re made with decadent, premium quality ingredients and are actually good for you. Just being serious!
Brooklyn Bites Thin Cookie Brittle was created by a mom and daughter duo who share a mutual love for baking and healthy eating. They had a mission to upgrade their cookies with the healthiest, most heart-friendly ingredients available. By default, their cookie became a brittle, which was so thin, crunchy, crispy and delicious that their healthy treats were an instant hit. Over the years, these ladies never lost sight of their goal to deliver the most wholesome and premium products while never sacrificing on taste or quality. All Brooklyn Bites products are still hand-made in Brooklyn with artisan quality ingredients!
Brooklyn Bites Thin Cookie Brittle comes in six tempting varieties with on-trend flavor profiles to please every taste: Chocolate Lovers Delight, White Chocolate Brownie, Crunchy Creamy Pretzel, Chocolate Nutty Sea Salt, Coco Crispy Rice, and (my favorite) Cinnamon Coffee Cake.
Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Detail
It is no secret that I have a day job in a large office and that I sit with an enthusiastic team who never stops talking about food. When I received a huge shipment of Brooklyn Bites Thin Cookie Brittle to review for the ‘Gig, I brought a couple of bags into the office to share with my coworkers, and everyone went insane for them. I am not even fan of cinnamon flavored anything, but the Cinnamon Coffee Cake variety blew by mind with its crispy texture, gingerbread-reminiscent cookie and drizzle of sweet icing that pulled everything together. Best part: a serving of four (4) cookies totals just 80 calories! Anyone can afford to indulge and not go off even the strictest diet.
For chocolate purists, the Chocolate Lovers Delight has a not-too-sweet chocolate taste that gets kicked up a notch by a drizzle of rich chocolate icing . There is no guilt when it’s only 90 calories per four-cookie serving!
Coco Crispy Rice, Detail
Crunchy Creamy Pretzel, Detail
In addition to being low in calories, Brooklyn Bites Thin Cookie Brittle is dairy free, non-GMO, made without white flour to be gluten-free, egg-free, with no white sugar or preservative and — oh yeah — Kosher! Learn more about Brooklyn Bites and find a store in your neighborhood that carries these indulgent, yet healthy, treats at Brooklyn Bites NY Dot Com!
Do you love Steak? I sure do. Shortly before the Christmas Holidays, I was invited to dine at Le Marais, one of NYC’s most highly-rated steakhouses, which also just happens to be Kosher. While there is certainly no shortage of excellent steakhouses across Manhattan, if you enjoy the old school, dark wood interiors and high quality beef of Peter Luger, but would prefer to avoid the endless waiting for a table, accompanying brusk service, and the trip to Brooklyn, then Le Marais is well worth a visit. This is especially true if you keep Kosher, because finding an excellent steakhouse which adheres to Kosher dietary law is not so easy to do.
Le Marais has a charming old New York feel to its decor, with exposed brick, dark leather upholstered banquets, original tile flooring in the bar area, art deco glass wall sconces, and French languge posters that adorn and brighten the walls. They can easily accommodate a large party, or an intimate dinner for two.
I started off my meal with this refreshing and generously-sized (read: potent) beverage, which was one of their signature cocktails, the Absolut Fruit Punch. All cocktails are $15, and a good value.
Steaks really the star of the show at Le Marais, and since it is Kosher you won’t find Macaroni and Cheese, my favorite go-to side dish on any steakhouse visit, on their menu, so my advice is to skip the appetizers and heavy sides (perhaps saving room for dessert) and go right for the beef. In our case, my dining companion and I decided on the Prime Rib, or côte de bœuf , which is a thick, bone-in rib steak. Prime Rib for two is priced at $120 and includes a generous portion of French Fries and a side of salad greens in a light vinaigrette dressing. A side of dairy-free Béarnaise sauce is also included. This cut of steak is close to a 32 ounces, so splitting it means you’ll be very well fed.
We ordered the meat done medium to medium rare, and it came out very pink with a warm center, and a nice, flavorful exterior char — just way we like it! This cut was carved and portioned table side, which is a nice personal touch.
Look at all of that delicious beef. Just look at it.
What a feast! The rib eye is perfectly marbled but also lean and tender. No sauce or additional seasoning is even necessary. Le Marais is a beef lover’s paradise!
This giant mound of Frites accompanies the steak, and they are perfectly done: crispy and crunchy on the outside, but moist and tender on the inside, and not greasy at all. You will want to eat them all, but you will probably not be able to, because you will be so stuffed with delicious meat.
You also get this fresh-baked and served-hot crusty french bread. Amazing.
If you feel like to need to eat a green thing, this side of String Beans with Sautéed Onions ($10) is exceptional, and serves two easily.
Of course, I made room for dessert by saving half of my meat to take home for a second meal (score)! Le Marais has an extensive dessert menu with so many scrumptious choices, such as the the Fresh Lemon Tart ($9.50), Profiteroles ($11.50), Olive Oil Pistachio Cake with Sabayon ($12.00), a Warm Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream (prepared to order, $11.50) and so many more. I went with one of my favorites: a classic Chocolate Mousse with a non-dairy whipped Chantilly topping ($9.50), which was as rich and delicious to eat as it is beautiful to behold. A perfect end to a perfectly indulgent meal!
Le Marais Kosher Steakhouse is located at 150 West 46th Street (Between 6th and 7th Avenues) Adjacent to the Theater District in Midtown Manhattan.
There is no denying that Pasta is a popular go-to ingredient for creating quick, versatile and delicious meals to please any palate. For Pasta Lovers who may have had to eliminate this tasty staple from their diets due to a gluten intolerance, there are now many gluten-free pasta options on the market that make it possible for everyone to indulge. Explore Cuisine has a line of organic pastas made from beans and other plants that are a great place to start when you want to prepare a tasty, healthy meal for yourself or your family. Take a look at a few of the super quick and easy dinners that I’ve recently prepared for myself with Explore Cuisine Pastas and absolutely no advanced planning!
I bet that you had no idea that Edamame, familiar to most as the little green soybeans that everyone likes to nosh on before the meal at Japanese restaurants, can be use to make some of the most delicious pasta you will ever taste. Explore Cuisine makes a few different varieties of Edamame pasta, including everyone’s favorite; spaghetti.
Edamame Spaghetti can be used in all of your favorite recipes as a substitute for wheat-based pasta. You might find that you like it even better, and it’s good to know that Explore Cuisine’s Edamame Spaghetti contains nearly half of your daily protein and fiber requirements in just one serving!
I made an easy and scrumptious Primavera by adding frozen mixed vegetables that I had on hand, and tossing the pasta in butter, salt and pepper to taste.
Then I covered it with cheese, which is how I like my pasta!
Explore Cuisine also specializes in a line of Pulse Pastas; a term that may be unfamiliar to you. Pulses are part of the legume family, and the term ‘pulse’ refers to the dried seed. Dried peas, dried beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. Pulses are very high in protein and fiber, antioxidants, and low in fat! This where Explore Cuisine’s Organic Chickpea Fusilli comes in.
Chickpea Fusilli is a healthy and delicious mealtime choice that contains only four organic, whole food ingredients. This pasta also contains 11g of protein and nearly 20% of your daily dietary fiber requirement per serving. With its soft and supple texture, and mild taste, Chickpea fans will be in Heaven!
Since this pasta is a bit more sturdy than the spaghetti, I topped it with Trader Joe’s frozen meatballs and jarred sauce. Delicious and satisfying!
Red Lentil Penne is also a pulse pasta. With the smooth texture of flour pasta and the benefits of lentils, the Red Lentil Penne is a fantastic choice for any penne based pasta dish. Comprised of only two ingredients, Red Lentil Penne pasta is protein rich and a good source of fiber. Organic, gluten-free and free of GMOs, it’s pasta reinvented!
Here is the penne topped with a light tomato vodka sauce and a dollop of creamy cottage cheese (you could also use Ricotta, if you had that on hand). Out of this world delish!
Explore Cuisine’s Italian style pastas were created in the Apulia region of Italy, which is famed for being the home of pasta. Explore Cuisine worked side by side with pasta masters and professional chefs to deliver the authentic taste and texture of the best Italian pasta but made with the goodness of chickpeas and lentils.
Learn more about Explore Cuisine foods, and get recipes, at This Link!
Do you like pasta? I sure do. One exciting thing about being a pasta fan is how innovative foodies and culinary experts alike are continually coming up with new recipes to make pasta a healthier, better-for-you meal choice, especially if you happen to be on a gluten free diet. At the recent Summer Fancy Food Show, I was introduced to Explore Cuisine pastas, which are made from variety of different kinds of organic beans. The folks at Explore Cuisine were kind enough to send me a couple of varieties to try at home, and happy to say that these pastas are fantastic!
Founded by Joe Spronz, Explore Cuisine products are vegan, organic, gluten-free, and kosher, ensuring your health and igniting your taste buds! These delicious bean pastas contain nearly 20-25 grams of protein per serving and are low in carbs and sodium while simultaneously containing a high fiber content. With Explore Cuisine, you’ll experience the incomparable taste of pasta with all the benefits of nutritious beans! I tried the Red Lentil Penne for dinner earlier this week, and it exceeded my expectations.
A friend of mine who is an excellent Italian chef once advised me that pasta cannot be held to strict boiling times when cooking, and experience has shown her advice to be right on. But with this pasta, the suggested cooking time (8-10 minutes) on the back of the box is a pretty accurate if you don’t want the pasta to get overdone (and I like my pasta on the tender side). Just keep an eye on the clock, is all I’m saying.
Here it is, all plated and topped with Trader Joe’s Bolognese Sauce and a grating of cheddar cheese, which I love on my pasta as a change-up from the traditional hard Italian cheeses. Explore Cuisine Red Lentil Pasta has a distinctive and very satisfying flavor of lentils. And, unlike many gluten free pastas I’ve tasted, it maintains an appealing bite and mouth feel. This pasta is an excellent quality product that anyone should be proud and excited to serve to their family.
Here is close-up of my quick and delicious meal! So yummy!
Learn more about Explore Cuisine foods (they also make rice-based pasta, and soups, among other items) and get recipes at This Link!
When dining out in NYC with a group of more than, say, two people, it can be challenging to find a venue that meets the expectations of both those seeking delicious food and those more interested in experiencing a hot, “night life” scene. Lair Restaurant and Lounge, which opened in Nolita last October, aims to bring together the best of both worlds. Featuring Asian-Fusion cuisine billed as ‘Modern Dimsum’ and potent, eclectic cocktails, all served amid a cozy-yet-cutting edge décor that’s part urban safari and part goth, Lair is a glittering jewel nestled in this up-and-coming trendy neighborhood.
A near-perfect hybrid of restaurant and bar, Lair’s limited menu serves a satisfying selection of light snacks and heartier appetizer ‘small plates’ created by talented Chef Chris Cheung (Nobu, Monkey Bar), who has also figured out a way to ‘keep it Kosher.’ After being seated by our very friendly hostess on plush banquettes surrounding a good sized, low table, we ordered a round of cocktails including the house made red and white sangrias, the much-hyped-by-our-server Mr. Hot Pants and the Mamma Mule Feel Good. Mr. Hot Pants’ “weird” blend of Herradura reposado, mescal, campari, passionfruit and Thai chili pepper agave, while dubbed “interesting,” was frankly too unpleasant tasting for any of us to take more than a sip. On the other hand, both sangrias were bright and fruity and the Mamma Mule (Absolut Vodka, cinnamon five spice syrup, apricot & ginger beer) combined a nice kick with a refreshingly accessible yet exotic blend of flavors.
Please enjoy these pictures of and commentary on the food we ordered:
All Photos By Anne Raso
As a starter for the table, we were encouraged to try the Chinese Chips With Housemade Duck Sauce ($4), which mixes taro chips with fried wonton skins. Nice!
The Chicken ‘Pillows’ with Crispy Chicken Skin ($12) was one of my favorites. The tender chicken meatballs were perfectly accented by the salty, crispy chicken skin “chips” that accompanied it. Decadent for sure, but so worth indulging in.
Being a devoted follower of Top Chef, I’d been curious to try Lair’s take on Roasted Bone Marrow, served here topped with X/O Marmalade alongside crispy Scallion Pancakes ($9). Don’t let the words “Bone Marrow” make you squeamish, it’s just like a buttery tasting spread. The Scallion pancakes were excellent.
Those counting their calories might like to try the Mango ‘Noodles’ Salad with Rock Shrimp and Chili Lime ($7). This salad of julienne mango and raw vegetables was very fresh and light-tasting but needed a bit of additional seasoning (even salt would have helped) to perk up the bland, broth-like dressing.
Warm Coconut Bao Bread with 5 Spice Local Honey Hoisin Butter ($5), a signature creation of Chef Cheung, was sweet enough for dessert but not so sweet that it didn’t also compliment our more savory dishes. I would definitely recommend you order this for your table.
Also succulent and satisfying were the (pictured top to bottom) Dry Aged Black Angus Beef Dumplings ($10) and the Chicken & Foie Gras San Jin Dumplings ($10). Another vegetarian-friendly selection, Eggplant & Mushroom Shumai ($7) was enjoyed by the non-meat eaters at our table.
For dessert we indulged in the Shanghai Walnut Crusted Marshmallows ($7), a ring of lightly toasted marshmallows resting on a pillow of fresh whipped cream, lightly drizzled with caramel sauce and chopped nuts – absolutely delicious and a perfect finale to our fabulous meal.
Not Pictured is the Lobster, Bacon & Avocado Salad in Crispy Wonton Rolls ($12), which along with the Chicken Pillows was my favorite dish of the evening. Also on the menu are Oysters on the Half Shell with Seared Scallop & Truffle Essence ($13), House Salad with Ginger Dressing ($6) and Pickled Root Vegetables with Roasted Peanut ($5) as well as a couple of other desserts.
For those high rollers with money to burn, Lair shifts gears after 11:00 PM with an emphasis on bottle service and exclusive VIP seating. Indeed, Lair Restaurant and Lounge offers a scene for every nearly every taste!
Lairis located at 201 Lafayette Street between Broome and Kenmare (Take the 6 Train to Spring Street and walk Downtown 2 Blocks on Lafayette ) and is open Monday – Wednesday from 5:00 PM to 2:00 AM and Thursday – Saturday from 5:00 PM to 4:00 AM. Phone 212-334-5248 for reservations (recommended).