Vegas Girls’ Night: GIADA at The Cromwell [Restaurant Review]

Hi and Happy Friday!

Whose ready for the weekend?? Today I’m taking it back a couple days to when I spent last week in Las Vegas to work at a tradeshow. While I’ve been there many times for work, this trip marked the first time that I actually had a night devoted entirely to fun.

Vegas selfie

My close friend Danielle, who lives in NYC, happened to also be there for work, so we both extended our trips for a night out on the town together. Being that we’re both foodies, there was obviously some discussion ahead of time as to where we’d have dinner… and we decided to try out celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis’  new restaurant inside The Cromwell, aptly called GIADA.

Giada twitter

(Image via GiadaVegas on Twitter)

I’m usually not big into the whole celebrity chef restaurant thing, especially in Vegas where I feel like there’s one everywhere you look. However, I was looking forward to trying out Giada’s restaurant for a few reasons:

One, she’s probably my favorite celebrity chef ever & I think that she is adorable.  My hubby does too, as I recall that he used to watch her cooking show when we were dating…and he does not cook!

Two, she specializes in Italian cuisine, which is my all-time favorite.

And three, this is her one and only restaurant, so it’s not like she owns all of these chain eateries. This makes me feel like she’d be more involved in the restaurant and menu, not just putting her name on something as some celebrities do. This idea was confirmed more when our waiter told us that Giada is often at the restaurant.

Giada

When we walked into the restaurant, I immediately got excited. The space itself is gorgeous, with lots of flair and classiness. You can tell that a lot of thought was put into the details. The restaurant’s theme is contemporary Italian with California influence, and that’s exactly the vibe you get when you walk into GIADA. Our table had a sweet view of the Fountains of Bellagio.

Giada iPad

Cocktails are selected via an iPad, where you can scroll through and check out the ingredients and images. I read here that the cocktails are named after the movies that Giada’s grandfather Dino De Laurentiis produced — Barbarella, Blue Velvet, La Strada, the Hannibal. I kind of wish that they have more of a specialty cocktail selection, but I settled on ordering a La Strada cocktail – which had Campari, homemade lemon sorbeto, Bertagnolli Limoncello and Prosecco. 

Giada cocktails

Danielle and I elected to eat dinner in my favorite style: ordering a bunch of things to share in courses. I love appetizers and eating a couple bites of many things! The menu had plenty of vegetarian options for me, and conveniently specified dishes that were vegan and gluten free. I totally appreciate this, although much gluten AND cheese were eaten during this meal… It was definitely a splurge dinner!

First they brought out a complimentary bread basket, which was all types of amazing. It was filled with focaccia, lemon thyme flatbread and parmesan breadsticks, along with some spices and toppings that weren’t even needed since the bread was so good on its own.

Giada bread

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Superfood Chocolate PB Chia Smoothie + Amazing Grass Giveaway!

We all know that eating a healthy diet tends to most often be associated with looking good, but there’s more to eating well than the physical results of those smart choices. Fueling with high-quality foods that nourish my body help me to not just survive, but to thrive. With every task and moment of my day, from completing a writing assignment to finishing a challenging workout, consuming a high-quality diet enables my body and mind to perform at its best.

Amazing Grass campaign image-2

The concept is simple: If you constantly eat crap, your body is going to (eventually) respond to your low-quality diet by feeling tired, lethargic and gaining weight, among other things. If you consistently fuel your body right with high-quality food, your body should respond by feeling amazing. The millions of cells that make up our bodies are constantly regenerating, and just what our newest cells are made of is dependent on the food we’ve been fueling it with.

One major way that I make sure to fuel properly is by following my #1 diet trick of eating fruits and/or veggies at every single meal. I eat a ton of whole foods, and since I lead a very active, busy lifestyle, I also consume a smoothie almost daily that’s supplemented with a high-quality protein. Lately I’ve been using the Protein Superfood from Amazing Grass, and today I’m teaming up with them to bring you a superfood smoothie recipe & giveaway!

Choc Chia Smoothie-1

Amazing Grass has been growing, harvesting, and dehydrating organic greens at its family farm in Kansas for over 50 years. All of their products are plant-based, non-GMO, and sustainably farmed, and the new Protein Superfood line is a complete plant-based protein made with greens, fruits & veggies.

Their organic Protein Superfood powders contain hemp, chia, quinoa, and pea protein, along with 7 alkalizing greens and 9 nutrient-dense fruits & veggies (including wheat, barley, & alfalfa grass, acai & goji, pineapple, sweet potato & more!). They’re also gluten free and contain no added sugars. THIS is the kind of high-quality fuel that I’m talking about!

Amazing Grass Choc PB protein

The Protein Superfood line includes vanilla, original, and chocolate peanut butter flavors, and being the chocolate & nut butter lover that I am, I naturally chose the chocolate PB to try out.

Choc Chia Smoothie-2

This smoothie features my favorite blender fruit, the potassium-rich banana, along with omega-3 and fiber-rich chia seeds. Many people are deficient in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and chia seeds are a great way to sneak both into your diet! The smoothie also includes two of my favorite ingredients that add in flavor without calories, cinnamon + vanilla extract.

This superfood recipe has been fueling my healthy on-the-go lifestyle, and I hope that you try it out too!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate PB Chia Superfood Smoothie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup chocolate almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ scoop Amazing Grass Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Superfood powder
  • 1 TBSP peanut butter OR 2 TBSP powdered peanut butter
  • 1 TBSP chia seeds
  • 1 TBSP cocoa powder
  • ½ TSP cinnamon
  • ½ TSP vanilla extract
  • ½ TBSP maple syrup, optional add-in for sweetness
  • A few handfuls of ice
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

 

And now it’s giveaway time!

One lucky reader will win a full-sized (15 oz) Amazing Grass Protein Superfood powder, and can choose their flavor preference: vanilla, original or chocolate peanut butter.

Amazing Grass Giveaway Image

Enter by using any or all of the Rafflecopter giveaway methods below! The giveaway is open until next Wednesday, May 4th, when a winner will randomly be selected. Open to U.S. residents only.

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Veggie & Crispy Tofu Old Bay Breakfast Stir-Fry [vegan]

Hi friends!

How was your weekend? Highlights of mine were a date night to celebrate my hubby’s admission into his MBA program of choice for the fall (exciting stuff!), a trip to the dog beach with my pup, and recouping from last week’s Vegas work trip. Resting up felt so nice after this busy time of work for me. I got a massage, hung out with my hubby, got a lot of sleep, did some yoga and drank a few glasses of wine. It all felt wonderful and was much needed!

Del Mar Dog Beach-April '16

Today’s recipe is one filled with veggies and a food that many people seemed to be freaked out by: tofu.

Tofu Stir Fry-4

The truth is, I wasn’t always a tofu fan. Tofu is something that is totally dependent on how you prepare it and the flavors you add into it, and in the past, I didn’t know how to cook it to my liking. That is until I figured out how to get my tofu nice and crispy: pressing it, cutting the block into tiny squares, and stir-frying it in a bit of oil until the tofu is browned and crispy on each side.

crispy tofu

This is the method of cooking that I used for the tofu in my recipe today using avocado oil – along with the addition of Old Bay seasoning to give the tofu some nice spiciness and flavor.

Stir Fry Ingredients

I nabbed my first bottle of avocado oil at the farmers market a bunch of years back, and I noticed that it’s become really popular recently. Avocado oil is heart healthy and rich in Vitamin E and the essential fatty acid called oleic acid that has lots of health properties. It’s mild while also being sort of rich in taste, and has a high smoke point – making it perfect for use in stir-fry dishes like this one.

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The Quickie Do-It-Anywhere Low-Impact Workout

When I travel, I always try to stay active and incorporate movement into my day just like when I’m home. I prefer to exercise outdoors or do something adventurous in the area I’m in. But sometimes, the thing that works out best is just waking up in my hotel room, busting out a quick workout to get my endorphins flowing, and moving on with my day’s agenda.

Vegas rooftop yoga

A yoga session this week on the rooftop of my Vegas hotel

This is most definitely the case when I travel for work. Although I’ve walked a ton on the convention center floor in Las Vegas this week, I’ve also been fitting in morning exercise a couple of days this week. One morning I even made it to the gym for a strength training session, then taught my co-worker some yoga on the rooftop of our hotel. Another morning I did today’s workout: a quickie, 10-exercise circuit that requires no equipment at all…. because body weight training is easy & effective, especially when I’m on the road!

It’s perfect to do in a hotel room, and I actually made the workout up when I was in my hotel room in San Francisco last month. It takes around 20 minutes to complete, which is the perfect amount of time for me to do, then add in some yoga & stretching for a nice little workout. It’s also low-impact since I can’t do any jump training at the moment because of my foot injury.

Quickie Low Impact Workout

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California Wine Country ’16 Trip: My Favorite Sonoma & Napa Wineries

Hi friends!

How was your weekend? I flew to Las Vegas yesterday for a work trip and will be in Sin City for the week. But today, I want to back it up a few weeks to my vacation road trip up to Sonoma wine country. I already recapped my favorite eats and reviewed my Sonoma hotel, so today I’m chatting about my favorite wineries of the trip!

Limerick Winery

Whenever I visit a wine region, I like to do my research to find wineries that I want to visit beforehand. During this trip we did a nice combo of tasting at smaller establishments and larger productions. It’s always kind of fun to compare and contrast, and I tend to gravitate towards smaller wineries. While I love wine and obviously appreciate the wine itself, what I also love is meeting the people behind the wine. I’m the same way with food: The people behind the product can really draw me in and make me love it more (or vice versa!).

Limerick Winery-2

Of course, I also live for oohing and aahhing at beautiful vineyards and tasting rooms. There certainly is no shortage of any of this in Sonoma and Napa! Everywhere you look, it’s just gorgeous.

Chateau St. Jean

Chateau St. Jean

Out of about 20 wineries that we picked to visit during this trip over the course of 3 days of wine tasting, here are my top 5 favorite ones:

Kunde Winery. I reached out to Kelly from Made in Sonoma to get her winery recommendations, and one winery that she mentioned was Kunde. Located in the Kenwood area of Sonoma, Kunde has been family owned and operated since 1904. Their wines are estate-grown and sustainably farmed, and they offer a mountain top tasting at 1,400 ft above the valley floor surrounding the vineyard. I wish we had the chance to do that, and the next time I’m in Sonoma, that experience will be high on my list! Instead, we did a regular bar tasting with a lovely Kunde employee, and I really enjoyed their zinfandel and cabernet sauvignons.

Kunde Winery

Kunde also hosts a hiking program, including a group dog hike and a hike & taste option. I’ve never done a hiking excursion that includes wine tasting, and combining two of my favorite things sounds pretty amazing!

Cline Family Cellars. Wine from Cline is typically inexpensive and easy drinking. I buy their wines all the time and have visited their tasting room before, and we made a stop in this time around because we all are Cline fans.

Cline Cellars

Kind of going against the statement I made about friendly people making me love a winery more, our server at Cline was a pretty cranky older woman… but since we already are familiar with their wines, we still loved them and bought a couple of bottles home with us. Plus, tastings at Cline are free!

St. Anne's Crossing

St. Anne’s Crossing. This is the type of place where you can really chat with the wine bar manager and learn more about the company. It’s the type of place where the tasting is inexpensive – how it was before California wine country got really commercialized, and how I think it should be still – or free, if the winery employee at the end says, “You know what? Don’t worry about the tasting fee. Thanks so much for visiting us!”

St. Anne's Crossing Collage

This is the type of winery that I fall in love with. Each wine on the St. Anne’s Crossing Winery menu produces just 150 cases or less, and my favorite varietals were their zinfandel (their 2013 Rowe Reserve was my top pick) and chardonnay.

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Feeling Strong & Powerful at CorePower Yoga [Studio Review]

After doing a lot of high-impact exercise during my HIIT studio fitness challenge throughout February, in March I was ready to get back to my yoga roots more. I had been doing a short at-home yoga practice most mornings, but it seemed like a good time to change gears a bit and get deeper into my practice by attending some yoga classes.

Om-Nomnom

(Pretty much!) 

That’s why it was perfect timing when CorePower Yoga reached out to invite me to try out their studios, in celebration of a new class that they now offer called CoreCardio Circuit.

CorePower has over 140 locations around the country, with several studios surrounding the San Diego area – including in Encinitas, Poway, Del Mar, La Jolla and San Diego itself. I had heard of them before but had never visited because… duh duh da duh… their classes are heated. I’ve expressed my general dislike for heated classes before, but since I’ve heard people rave about CorePower, and also because I apparently like to torture myself, I wanted to give them a try. After all, even though 100 degree fitness classes aren’t my favorite, dripping a little sweat has never really hurt me!

The fun package that CorePower Yoga sent me

The fun package that CorePower Yoga sent me

What I Liked Best About My CorePower Experience: 

Yoga Sculpt. My favorite of the yoga classes at the studio was definitely Yoga Sculpt. I love the combo of practicing yoga poses and flows while also working on strength and mixing in cardio moves.

Yoga Sculpt HRM

Note that my hand is actually sweating in the above photo! The classes were held in rooms that were about 95 degrees.

The Studios. I primarily took classes at the studio closest to me in Encinitas, which is super clean and nice. To my excitement, one of the instructors there, Meagan, was actually my physical therapist when I was rehabbing my calf injury a couple of years back. I thought she was awesome back then, and I love her as a yoga instructor at CorePower now.

CorePower floor mat

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Creamy Spring Veggie & Asparagus Puree Soup [vegan]

Oh springtime, how I adore you. Gazing at all of the colors outside lately instantly puts me in a good mood. My rose bushes have been blooming like crazy, and every time I step into my backyard and see new flowers blooming, I practically squeal with delight. What can I say, I’m a dork nature lover! It’d be nice if my sinuses didn’t hurt every day from my allergies bugging out this time of the year, but I’ll focus on the good parts of spring here…

…which leads me to today’s post: a recipe ode to the lovely springtime!

spring veggie soup-5

I know I’ve said it before, but I just love soup. It’s such a great way to throw a ton of veggies and goodness into one filling, nutrient dense meal.

springtime veggies

For this recipe, I incorporated a lot of different veggies. I used some herbs from my garden and played around with a few veggies that I don’t cook with all that often – including radishes. I really liked using them… radishes and herbs

…and check out that vibrant color! So pretty.

spring veggie soup-4

You may be wondering, so what’s the deal with the soup being green? 

Well my friends, the broth of this soup is an asparagus puree! First, you simmer the asparagus until tender, then throw it into the food processor with coconut milk and fresh lemon, then cook all of the veggies and pasta in the puree, along with some vegetable broth.

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Inn at Sonoma Review + My Favorite California Road Trip ’16 Eats

As a California transplant, I’m always in awe of how vast and beautiful this state is. Having been born and raised in New Jersey where you can drive from the top of the state to the bottom in a couple of hours, it’s amazing to me how massive California is. There are so many awesome places to visit and explore, and we’ve gone on many weekend getaways and vacations without even leaving state lines.

Golden Gate Bridge

This was the case two weeks ago, when my hubby and I set off on a California road trip vacation. We traveled from San Diego up to San Francisco to meet my parents, who flew in from the East coast, stayed there a night, then headed into wine country for the remainder of the week.

A gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay

A gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay

We elected to stay in Sonoma at the Inn at Sonoma, which I was excited about because while I had wine tasted in the town before, I’d never spent a lot of time there.

{Photo via the hotel website}

{Photo via the hotel website}Wine country is not a cheap place to vacation.

In all of its beauty and awesomeness, Sonoma and Napa wine country are not cheap places to vacation, and nice hotels are usually pretty pricey. Luckily, I found a good deal at the Inn at Sonoma. I did all of the planning for this trip, so I was really hoping that the hotel would satisfy everyone in the group. Luckily, the Inn at Sonoma turned out to be a great choice!

Inn at Sonoma street

The inn is located in the heart of downtown Sonoma, which was great. We were able to casually walk to dinner, and we explored downtown Sonoma one morning during the trip.

Downtown Sonoma-3

It’s full of little shops, restaurants and wine tasting rooms, and has a nice park and historic museum in the middle of it. I found downtown Sonoma to be a lovely, charming area.

Downtown Sonoma park

Downtown Sonoma-1

Our room at the Inn at Sonoma was pretty, tidy and clean, complete with a fireplace and a balcony. It was nothing too elaborate, but it had everything we were looking for in a hotel.

Inn at Sonoma room

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San Diego Spotlight on Lotus Cafe & Juice Bar

Hi friends!

Today I’m sharing another installment of my San Diego Spotlight series, when I talk about a local restaurant, bar, dessert spot, or winery that I love. Today we’re heading to the town of Encinitas to talk about Lotus Cafe & Juice Bar.

Lotus Cafe logo

Lotus Cafe is one of my favorites eateries around here. When I’m out & about running errands or just don’t feel like cooking and want a healthy meal, I head to Lotus. Located in the heart of the action in Encinitas a block away from the beach, Lotus Cafe is a casual, affordable restaurant that serves fresh, healthy, natural food. It has lots of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options, but also offers fish, chicken and turkey items. Patrons place their orders at the counter, get a table number, and pick up water, utensils, and napkins themselves, pick a table, and wait for a food runner to bring them their food.

I’ve never met the owners, but they totally sound like my kind of people! They’re longtime vegetarians and yogis, which is indicative by the restaurant’s name – as the lotus flower holds a lot of symbolism in the practice of yoga.

Lotus Cafe owners

(photo via the restaurant website)

A note from the cafe’s website concludes: Our hearts are here. We are closely involved in the operations of the cafe, and it is important to us that the quality of the food, the harmony of the staff, the happiness of the customers, and the energy of the cafe is of high vibration. 

As you can tell, it’s a hippy dippy SoCal eatery with a lot of love put into it, and these types of places are one of the reasons that I love living here!

A Lotus Cafe Mexican salad

A Lotus Cafe Mexican salad

What I haven’t mentioned yet is how delicious the food is at Lotus Cafe (obviously!). The menu features a little bit of everything – from sandwiches, lasagna and daily soup specials, to stuffed baked potatoes, Indian curry and items with a Mexican flare. One of my favorite things to order is their black bean enchiladas. My hubby and I both love soup, so we usually order cups of whatever the special of the day is, or I get their veggie chili. Usually I then take 1/2 of my dinner home because I’m too full… which means leftovers for the next day!

The black bean enchiladas are my go-to dinner at Lotus Cafe!

The black bean enchiladas are my go-to dinner at Lotus Cafe!

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Injury Report! A Broken Foot Bone Bummer

Injuries. Just about all of us experience them at some point – especially those that lead a super active lifestyle. I’ve only had a few of them in my life, but they seem to come back to haunt me…

Two weeks ago I found out that I have a new foot injury – well, a new old foot injury that is. It was a couple of years ago that I initially went to a doc to figure out why my foot kept feeling achy, and was diagnosed with sesamoidiitis. I explained it in this post awhile back, but basically it’s the chronic inflammation of these small bones within tendons by my big toe called sesamoids.

sesamoid bones

(source)

Back then, I reluctantly wore a boot for a good 6 weeks to let it rest and went to physical therapy to strengthen my foot, ankle, achilles, and calf (which is also an issue), and initially it felt better. But, there’s a reason why it’s referred to as a chronic situation, and the pain started to come back awhile ago.

Honestly, I was just kind of ignoring it because I had been told that it’s a chronic overuse injury that I’d have to deal with. The sports medicine doc suggested removing one of the bones if it kept being a problem, but I am not a fan of elective surgeries. I mean, bones always serve a purpose right?!

Rockin' the boot circa 2013, on the way to cover a food festival when I was writing for a newspaper

Rockin’ the boot circa 2013, on the way to cover a food festival for a local newspaper

The dull throbbing started to get worse while I was doing my HIIT studio challenge in January & February. I think that I was just doing too much jump training for what my sesamoids and calf could handle. Finally, I went to the podiatrist to figure out what was happening.

As it turns out, both of my sesamoid bones are broken. X-rays showed that one had healed from a fracture (likely when I rehabbed my foot the first time) but had another break, and the other sesamoid was broken – “crushed” as the doc put it.

It’s not so much the fact that I have broken foot bones that bums me out – although I don’t think anyone ever wants their doc to refer to bones in their body as crushed – but the fact that it’s a chronic condition. I tore my calf 6 years ago, and it still gets aggravated and sore. I think it’ll always be a weak point for me, and when that happens, it leads to my Achilles Tendon and foot getting sore, my sesamoidiitis flaring up… and apparently to bones fracturing. As my doc put it, “This is something that’ll prevent you from running marathons and going on 100-mile hiking trips.”

That’s the bummer, because damn it, I want to go on 100-mile hiking trips! In thinking more about it, I realized that this was already preventing me from endurance feats. When I hiked 23 miles around Catalina Island in one day, I limped for a week. It’s clear to me that endurance athletics is just not doable for me without injuries flaring up.

Hiking Catalina-1

Hiking on Catalina Island

What’s also clear to me is that I need to be mindful about resting when my foot and calf are sore. Resting has never been my strong suit, and when I have a goal in mind – like finishing a fitness challenge strong or completing my 9 mile run (how I tore my calf), I have tunnel vision to do it. I believe that being focused is an attribute, but in this scenario, it can also be a detriment.

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