Tuesday 2Go: Product Review

Desperate for a quick on-the-go dinner, I ran to Safeway with hopes they had something healthy and cheap that would hold me over for my evening class. I first spotted the cooler by the prepared foods but had no luck there. Every single prepared salad bowl was made with either chicken, turkey, or fish. Disappointed but not yet defeated, I scurried over to the produce section thinking I could grab a few veggies and make my own salad when something caught my eye.

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Earthbound Farm Organics Powermeals! I noticed three different varieties—and each was suitable for veg*ns. I had heard about these but never found one in store until my run to Safeway. It was as if Earthbound had heard my pleas for help.

The three available options were: Asian Noodle, Southwest, and Spinach Quinoa. They each came with a $0.55 off coupon. As veg*ns we are hardly privy to choices and it took me a while to decide which one to try first. I ended up getting the Spinach Quinoa bowl to satisfy a spinach craving I had earlier.

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My immediate concern with these bowls was that each only contains around 200 calories. While perfect for a quick in-between meal or snack, I knew that I needed a few more calories to keep me going and so I grabbed a can of garbanzo beans to toss in with the bowl.

The contents of the salad were packaged well—each item was individually wrapped to presumably allow us to mix in toppings to our liking. I also read on the package that the dressing contained cheese and was high in sodium, so I decided to toss it aside. If you don’t eat dairy and are watching sodium, you probably know to read labels, but just wanted to make it a point.

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The quinoa was stuck together in clumps when it came out of the package, but after tossing it around with the spinach and the other toppings of sunflower seeds and dried blueberries, it broke up a little more. I mixed in a serving of garbanzo beans at the end for some extra protein (not pictured).

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I really enjoyed the flavors of this salad and am grateful Earthbound had the idea to create these bowls. They are perfect for on-the-go eating and you can’t beat the price for an organic, ready to eat salad. My only suggestion is that perhaps Earthbound could include a larger serving of protein for those of us who intend to eat these salads as a main meal. It’s easy to supplement though, with a can of your favorite beans. I’m looking forward to trying the other two bowls and sharing my thoughts with you.

I purchased this product on my own and did not receive any compensation from Earthbound for this review. All opinions are always my own.

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3 Ways Urbanites Can Enjoy Nature

Are you an urban, car-free resident who feels lost in the concrete jungle? Do you find yourself needing to reconnect to the natural environment around you but don’t know how to take the first steps? Read on for a few tips on how to incorporate more nature into your busy city life each and every day.

1. Take time to smell the roses
I pass under a beautiful canopy of lush, tall trees during the 10 to 15 minutes it takes me to walk to the train station each morning. Sure it would be easy for me to send off a couple of text messages, read my emails and catch up on news while commuting to my train. I could easily plug in my headphones and zone into my own world while powerwalking away.
Instead, I’ve learned to savor my precious few minutes spent walking through the neighborhood and embraced the old cliché of taking time to smell the roses. By simply keeping my phone in my bag and out of sight, I’ve noticed the abundance of forsythia, daffodils and roses that grace my daily route to work. I know I’ll have plenty of screen-time when I get to work, so I am sure to enjoy nature while I can.

2. Research local parks

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One of the best things about living in the U.S. is that we have access to a rich source of biodiversity in every corner of the country. I grew up in the southwest where hiking was a daily activity shared by my family. Even though I live on the east coast now, I haven’t let that stop me from finding new mountains to explore.
If you have a city friend with a car, grab a couple of friends and head to a local park for the day. Even if you don’t have a car, many cities now offer a plethora of car-sharing and renting services that allow you to affordably use a car for a short period of time.
Just because you are a city dweller, doesn’t mean you can’t immerse yourself in nature for a day. No matter which urban area you live in, chances are high that there is a fantastic park an hour or two away just waiting to be explored.

3. Make time for a visit outside everyday

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Eating lunch at your desk may lead your coworkers to believe you are an overachiever, but let’s be real– how much can you truly accomplish by scarfing down your sandwich hunched over your computer and spilling crumbs everywhere?
My work building is adjacent to some of our country’s most beautiful monuments, so I’m very lucky that I get to enjoy a beautiful view by simply bringing my lunch outside. Even if you don’t have such scenic views near your office, taking a quick walk outside for 15 minutes is seriously refreshing.
I guarantee you’ll accomplish more if you take the time to step outside during the day rather than sitting glued to your desk chair for 8+ hours.

Meatless Monday: 4 Easy Substitutes to Make Your Meals Greener

1. Hummus for Mayonnaise
I love hummus. My love for hummus requires a post of its own. Packed with protein and flavor–I think hummus makes a fabulous sub for mayo. Hummus is made with a tahini base rather than oil, which makes it a healthier (and in my opinion, tastier!) option for spreads and dips.

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Pile on the hummus!

2. Avocado for Cheese
Avocado’s richness makes it a fabulous substitute for cheese. It works especially well in dishes like sandwiches and tacos, when cheese doesn’t need to be melted. Instead of sliced cheese in your next sandwich, why not try some sliced avocado? Throw in some cubed avocado, or definitely guacamole, in Mexican dishes and you won’t even miss the shredded cheese.

3. Tofu for Steak
Tofu is a wonder food because of the infinite ways it can be transformed. You can bake, it fry it, blend it into a smoothie. You can even grill it just as you would a steak! The beauty of tofu is that its pretty much non-existent taste and variety of texture options ranging from soft to extra firm allows you to prepare it the same way you would prepare a meat dish. Substituting a plant-based meal for a meat-based dish gives you the chance to make a healthier choice for animals, the planet, and yourself.

4. Chickpeas for Tuna
This may not seem like a natural substitute but the other day I tried a really yummy mock tuna salad–and found out that the “tuna” was made out of chickpeas! Usually imitation dishes are made with fake meat products, but the chickpeas are really neat take on this dish. Simply mash up your cooked chickpeas with a little bit of seasoning (I love this recipe!) and you have a delicious “tuna” dish.

Eat a Banana at Night to Sleep Tight

You know that feeling you get when you’ve stuffed yourself at dinner and your stomach is bursting at the seams? I certainly do! Even when I’m sure I’ll never be able to eat again for days, maybe even weeks after a carb-alicious meal, I’m still hankering for a snack come bedtime. Perhaps it’s purely a familiar ritual. Getting ready for bed necessarily requires a tiptoe into the kitchen in pursuit of a late-night munch.

Are you the same way? Do you find yourself needing to grab a quick snack before retiring for the night? If so, I’ve got some great news for you! There’s a bedtime snack that satisfies the sweet tooth, is 100% vegan, gluten-free, and will actually help you fall asleep. Sounds impressive right? You may be surprised to learn that this magical snack is a simple banana!

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Bananas are truly the best snack to cure the late night munchies. They aren’t too high in sugar, like cookies and ice cream. The sugar they do contain is all natural, because they’re fruits! And did you know that bananas contain magnesium, Vitamin B6, and natural complex carbs that produce serotonin? Serotonin helps your body’s natural cues to fall asleep happen a little more easily. Even more, the potassium and magnesium in bananas are useful for relaxing our muscles. These nutrients help calm overactive neurons and reduce brain activity at night.

The next time you’re needing something to cure your hunger at bedtime, be sure to grab a banana. You’ll be dreaming in no time.

Traveling like an Eco-Tourist

Last weekend I visited California with my parents for Independence Day. It’s been a while since I’ve spent time on the west coast, but I remembered quickly that California is a great place to visit as an eco-tourist–the beaches, mountains, deserts, all offer boundless opportunities to explore nature’s beauty.

Eco-tourism? What’s that? You might be wondering.

Eco-tourism asks us to visit new places in a way that celebrates the natural environment. Rather than making consumerism the focus of a vacation, you make it a priority to visit a local botanical garden, state park, or simply lounge on the beach.

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Sounds easy, right? I’ll be the first to admit that the allure of the local mall was too powerful for me to resist. I spent two hours roaming around various shops. Roaming around same stores we have in DC. Do you know how much I bought that day? Exactly nothing! While mindlessly looking through racks of clothes, it donned on me. I traveled all the way across the country only to waste my precious few days of vacation shopping for clothes I didn’t need? Right then, I decided that I wanted to spend the rest of my time taking in everything that makes California special: its outdoors.

My parents and I traveled to Catalina Island the next day. We walked around the island and watched deer playing in the trees. We splashed in the ocean and polished off scoops of homemade ice cream on the shoreline. And that truly felt like what a vacation should be: a time to relax and refresh. To spend time catching up with friends and family if you’re together. If you’re alone, a vacation should inspire you to invoke dreams lost in the quotidian.

And what better place to do so than in nature? Countless studies have shown us that spending time in nature increases our well-being. The novelty of spending time outdoors in a new place exponentially improves our happiness. You are far more likely to reminisce on that time you conquered (or got lost hiking) San Jacinto Mountain than you will remembering the pair of shoes you bought in the city.

The next time you travel this summer, or whenever it may be, travel like an eco-tourist. Take pleasure in the cacti or trees that surround you and you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable vacation.

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Meatless Monday: Kale in Pictures

The abundance of local fruits and vegetables was one of the best things about my trip to California this past weekend. My eyes first landed on the CA-grown, organic kale and I knew this leafy green wouldn’t need much more than a simple steam.

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Here’s the process in action:

Tear off the amount of kale you plan to eat

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Wash and rinse in colander

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Rip kale into small pieces

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Bring water to a boil in the base pot

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Place kale into the steam-insert on top of boiling water

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Remove after 3-5 minutes

Enjoy! I ate mine with some salt, pepper and minced garlic. Do you like kale? What’s your favorite way of eating it?