Friday, February 20, 2015

Disney Side: I Think Bambi Was a Vegetarian

Brussels Sprouts, ready for roasting
It used to be hard to visit Disney World as a vegetarian, but the powers that be got smart, and now cater to all sorts of special meal needs: gluten free, Kosher and vegetarian.

So when I hosted a DisneySide party, I wanted to highlight fun vegetarian food . I had originally planned to do this for the Super Bowl, but I didn't get my Disney package in time.

We had to warn the kids to be careful of toothpicks. Wouldn't large colorful Disney toothpicks have been great?
The first thing I'd been wanting to try was Brussels Sprouts sliders. I figured these were a great party food, able to be eaten in a bite or 2. The recipe I found incorporated caramelized onions, marinated tempeh, grainy mustard and of course roasted Brussels Sprouts. They were complicated to make, messy and a huge hit.

Brains anyone? My vegetarian cauliflower soup
My youngest daughter has a recent obsession with cauliflower and I've been preparing it every which way. For the party I made a vat of cauliflower soup. I wanted to incorporate the villains theme and the mashed up cauliflower looked a little like brains. Vegetarian brains, of course.

Beet puree, before the toppings
We also had a beet puree that had a certain blood resemblance. But the roasted beets, topped with Za'atar, goat cheese and hazelnuts, was a pure vegetarian delight.

Lentils with roasted carrots
Our final dish wasn't the most attractive - intestines, maybe? But it was a crowd pleaser. It had French lentils, roasted carrots and a spicy harissa made with cilantro and habaneros.  I used purple and orange carrots to make it more colorful.

Note: I received a package of Disney goodies, for me and my guests; there was no other compensation.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Vegetarian Valentine's Day

The beet puree, which I serve with goat cheese & hazelnuts
A giant bloody steak is a Valentine's Day tradition, but not for our vegetarian family. Though I do have a gift certificate somewhere from Omaha Steaks (not to worry; they sell chocolate).

In looking for something red and suitably bloody, I turned to beets. Specifically, the gorgeous beet puree from Jerusalem. This mixture of roasted beets with Greek yogurt and Za'atar, served with goat cheese and hazelnuts, can be spooned on crackers or spread on bread as the base of an amazing sandwich.

Happy Valentine's Day - without the meat!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Westin Workout: Borrow Some Gym Clothes

The workout clothes at the Westin
Nothing is worse than carving out time on vacation to exercise - and then realizing that you left your gym clothes home. I of course NEVER forget anything when I pack (!) but for journalistic purposes wanted to test out the Westin Hotel program, where for $5 you get work out clothes (and keep the socks).

I was a little grossed out by the idea - I approach rental bowling shoes with trepidation - but the clothing I got was completely clean and hardly used. Plus, the sneakers get new insoles after each use, so there's no weird sweat smell.

The lending program is a partnership with New Balance, so all the gear is their brand. And it comes in a mesh laundry bag to leave in your room. I tried out the program at the Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport, where I was staying for the North American International Auto Show.

New Balance running shoes and laundry bag
I was very happy with the capris, short sleeve shirt and sports bra, which all fit perfectly. The running shoes were not so great - they fit, but I buy sneakers that my feet need and these were not right. But for working out in the fitness center, and even for using the elliptical machine, they were fine.

The socks were another matter. I like that you get to keep the socks - but why send a woman men's socks? They were too big and not very padded.

One thing that I really loved - I didn't have to bring home gross sweaty clothes.  Not that MY clothes stink, but my husband is one of those guys who is just dripping after a few minutes of exercise and even when he puts his gym clothes in a plastic bag, the whole suitcase reeks.  It's lam sot worth the $5 to save our luggage.

If you are a serious athlete, you will want your own workout clothes, but for almost any causal athlete, these are a great solution.

My only question is - how about a swimsuit rental program? There was an empty pool, and I had no suit...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Staying Fit: Easy at the Omni Hilton Head

Omni's new sunny fitness center
I was intrigued when I heard that a CrossFit program was coming to the Omni Hilton Head. This beachfront resort has so many opportunities to stay fit that the new CrossFit partnership is icing on the (low cal, gluten-free, sugar-free) cake.

First, the Omni has a new fitness center. The bright, spacious gym overlooks the gorgeous landscaping, and wooden walkways leading to the new pools and beach.

Plenty of weights
The fitness center has plenty of treadmills, stationary bikes, free weights and weight machines. There are stability balls, a stretch area with mats, and plenty of mirrors so you can watch your form. 

There are also soft towels, earbuds for those who forgot, and a water cooler.

If you prefer to exercise alone, Omni offers free Get Fit Kits, which can be sent to your room. The kits contain weights, a mat, a stretch band and water.

Stability balls in the gym
And if classes are your thing, there are free yoga classes Tuesdays and Thursdays.

But the resort offers so much more than the fitness center. the Omni is in the Palmetto Dunes area, which has 11 miles of lagoon for kayaking and canoeing. 

A spot to finally relax
You can rent bikes right on property, and ride them on the hard packed sand. When I heard you could bike at the beach, I assumed there was a boardwalk, but the one speed beach cruisers that we rented, with fat tires, could be ridden right on the sand. Within Palmetto Dunes, there are miles of traffic free bike trails, and even when you go out into the rest of Hilton Head, there are wide, safe bike paths everywhere.

If you need more activities  there are 25 tennis courts and three golf courses. Plus a large playground, a basketball court and a volleyball court (you can borrow equipment from the Omni).

This is one vacation spot where you won't sit still!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Colorful winter vegetarian sandwich

I won a gift pack of spreads from HerbNZest and Nextdoorganics. I was inspired to create this sandwich, which is healthy, filling and a delicious alternative to a basic cheese sandwich. OK, my kids thought squash on a sandwich is weird, but they are also repulsed by our pickles and peanut butter sandwiches, so go figure.

Amazing squash sandwich

Acorn squash
olive oil
4 oz brie 
8 leaves radicchio, torn
2 T HerbNZest caramelized apple champagne mustard 
8 slices sturdy multigrain bread (I baked my own sourdough bread, but anything from Bread Alone would work)
Makes 4 sandwiches
Preheat oven to 400
Cut squash in half from top to bottom. Put a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a jelly roll pan (or cookie sheet with sides) and put the squash halves, flesh side down, on the oil.
Roast for 35-40 min, until squash is tender - pierces easily with a fork - but not mushy.
Scoop out seeds and discard. Scoop squash flesh out, discard skin.
Spread mustard on 4 slides of bread. Load up roasted squash on top. If you have leftovers, save for squash pancakes, muffins, risotto, etc. 

Slice brie thinly and top the squash. Tear up the radicchio and add, top with remaining slices of bread and serve.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fitness on Vacation: Now the Kids Hit the Gym

The fitness center at the Embassy Suites in Savannah
Time was, the first thing my kids checked out at a hotel was the pool. Before we'd even memorized our room number they'd pulled out their bathing suits and asked to go swim.

Not the prettiest but it was functional
Now, they want to keep to their exercise regimens. One daughter is captain of her college's Ultimate team, another is on he high school track and Ultimate teams and the other just works out regularly. So  when we stayed at the Embassy Suites Savannah recently, we all trekked down to the fitness center to get in our regular exercise.

Treadmills waiting for us
What I love about Embassy Suites (besides the room for a family of 5) is the free full breakfast - and the opportunity to grab a cup of coffee and a banana before working out, then eating more after we worked out and showered. (Note: breakfast only goes till 10, so you have to time this right. But we had full days planned in Savannah, so we made sure the girls got an early - ish - start).

A surprise - the outdoor pool was warm enough for winter swimming
The gym had everything we needed; treadmills, with individual screens, stability balls, weight benches and yoga mats. There were foam rollers, free weights, and a bosu ball substitute that worked just fine.

Healthy breakfast options
About the only problem was the empty cold water dispenser. Perhaps since we were in the south we were supposed to bring in some sweet tea.

We had great weather for December - 70s during the day and warm enough to swim in the heated pool.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hotel Monaco: Staying Fit While Eating Around Philly

The well equipped gym at Hotel Monaco in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has become a foodie paradise, and vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of places where they can fill their bellies.

The pulley machine
But what to do about belly bloat? If you stay at the Hotel Monaco, you can work out at the excellent gym. The bright, spotless gym has state of the art cardio equipment, all with their own television screens - or you can watch the hive of activity below around the Liberty Bell.

There are also stability balls and a bosu ball, hula hoops, free weights and weight machines and weighted balls. The large pulley machine intimidated me.

Cardio machines at Hotel Monaco
The gym also keeps in mind creature comforts, with a water cooler, soft towels - and chilled ones - ear buds if you've forgotten, newspapers - even fresh fruit so you don't hit the mini bar and negate all that exercise.

If you are shy about your workout, you can use the yoga mat in your room.

Gym amenities include chilled towels
Group fitness fans can take one of the free weekly classes; cardio sculpting at 6:30am on Wednesdays, or cardio boxing, also on Wednesdays at 6pm. Of course, that cuts right into the free daily cocktail social hour...

If you prefer to get your cardio outside, take one of the free bikes for a spin. The hotel is right on a bike lane and you can easily zip over to Fairmont Park.