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Celebrating Mom and Pop Health Food Stores

Published May 15, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_7343Basil Bandwagon (Photo by Maryanne Mistretta)

I took a much needed day off today and went on a little adventure and ended up, for the first time at two amazing health food stores I was never in before! Big Bear Natural Foods (http://www.bigbearnaturalfoods.com/) in Pennington, New Jersey and Basil Bandwagon (http://basil-bandwagon.tumblr.com/) in Flemington, New Jersey.

Basil Bandwagon has been around since 1993 and Big Bear since 1971 (with locations in Pennsylvania too!)

Since the mid-1980s when I first became health conscious, I was all about supporting the local health food stores. Back then, they were a real novelty. You go to the Mom and Pop stores and find amazing items you couldn’t find elsewhere. Then fast-forward to modern times and now all the big corporations like Shop Rite, Stop & Shop, A&P sell the goods, even the goods you’d least suspect: grass-fed beef, Miracle Noodles, kombucha and non-homogenized grass-fed milk. And that is a good thing, but not for the Mom and Pop stores. So I like to continue supporting them as much as possible.

The thing with Mom and Pop stores though is that they do jack their prices up, so my game plan is to look for sales or very unique products that are not yet in supermarkets.

Both stores went beyond my expectations!

At Big Bear I purchased Brad’s Kale Chips which were on sale. These raw chips are my favorite, but extremely pricey. So kudos to Big Bear for having a sale!

Then at Basil Bandwagon my favorite score was Nick’s Sticks (http://www.nicks-sticks.com/), grass-fed beef snacks with no nitrites, no added antibiotics or MSG (and no sugar either, I might add). These treats were absolutely delightful! As a little girl I favored Slim Jims (an unhealthy treat) and I gave them up in my early 20s learning how bad they were for you. Nick’s Sticks is the first grass-fed beef snack I ever had that was just as fabulous as Slim Jims — but they are GOOD for you. With 10 grams of protein, a fairly low sodium content for a snack, zero carbs, zero grams of sugar and nine grams of healthy fat — you can’t go wrong! This brings me back to the day of eating beef snack sticks on the porch, reading comic books, while my Grandma and Aunt Sophie chatted. What a great thing to have a healthy version of a favorite childhood treat!

And I’m ecstatic to say, the service at both Big Bear and Basil was excellent!

At Big Bear, the woman who helped me went out of her way looking for other health food stores in the area to help me find a product I was looking for. That’s how I came upon Basil Bandwagon, which was huge — possibly the biggest health food store I was ever in, including those in NYC. They had a counter where I ended up having a bean burger without bread. They put it on a huge salad platter, accompanied with fresh salsa. The greens were super fresh too. They had Bragg’s amino liquids on the counter and balsamic vinegar, as well as pink Himalayan sea salt. It’s so nice when health food stores go the extra mile for you and you don’t have to ask for stuff. Everyone in the store was extremely helpful and I spent a lot of time there.

You can guarantee I will be back at both health food stores

(Even though they are not in my area, they are well-worth the trip!)

And I gotta be honest too. Even though I’m a Young Living Oils distributor, I do LOVE a diffuser that was being used at Big Bear by a company called NOW. So I will be going back to get that diffuser. (No disrespect to Young Living, but hey, you gotta love my honesty! I still spend over $100 a month on Young Living products and always will. I’m just madly in love with that diffuser. Tee-hee!)

KUDOS to TWO AWESOME MOM AND POP HEALTH FOOD STORES!

YOU GIVE NEW JERSEY A GOOD NAME!

SAM_7349Looking forward to eating my Sea Snax!

It’s Greek Coffee to Me!

Published April 26, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_7150Oh, yeah!

Today I had my first Greek coffee ever. It was heavenly.

I love coffee, but I’m not a snob about it like I am with food. I’ll drink non-organic, Dunkin Donuts, espresso, etc. and mainly black when I’m out (and buttered at home, where I could blend it with my grass-fed butter and cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil).

But after drinking Greek coffee, I may be ruined for anything else. It’s so rich and thick and gives you an incredible jolt of energy.

I tried this delightful treat at It’s Greek to Me in Holmdel, New Jersey. It’s Greek to Me is a chain restaurant, but foodies, do not let that discourage you. I’ve been a fan of this chain a few years now and the food is always super fresh. I had a small Greek salad and let me ask you, when does a foodie rave about romaine lettuce? When it tastes like it was just picked from the garden. When it’s so fresh that you just might confuse it with another type of green. I was so perplexed I asked the waiter, “What kind of lettuce is this?” I expected an exotic answer, but no, it was just romaine.

It’s Greek to Me has nine New Jersey locations. Until today, I’ve only been to the one in Clifton, but now I like this one so much better. As much as I always raved about how good the food was in Clifton … Holmdel has Clifton beat. The pita bread just melts in your mouth. Plus, the Holmdel eatery is more spacious.

Here’s a link to the It’s Greek to Me chain: http://itsgreektome.com/

The menu has a little something for everyone, including gluten free desserts (but I’d call the restaurant first to make sure, as I only saw the gluten free dessert on the Holmdel restaurant, not the Clifton one).

Other things I’ve tried in the past were the grilled octopus salad, the fresh beets, the Greek Fries (which are spiced to perfection with oregano and fresh lemon), grilled vegetables and baklava (a rich pastry with filo dough, walnuts and honey).

And let me add, this is one of the few restaurants in New Jersey that I went to more than once and ALWAYS got great service!

If you’re anti-chain restaurants, give this one a chance and you’ll definitely change your mind.

Can Paleo and Vegan Co-Exist? Yes, yes, yes!

Published January 2, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_8649Grass-fed beef and salad = perfect meal!

If someone told me, a year ago, that I’d be consuming grass-fed beef, I’d laugh in their face. Since the age of 23, late 1986, I became a vegetarian. And stayed a vegetarian for the next 28 years.

During the course of those 28 years, I’ve stayed very true to my path and in the mid-1990s I stopped buying products that tested on animals as well. No leather bags or leather jackets and absolutely no beauty products that tested on animals. I even went a step further, not consuming alcoholic beverages that were processed through a bone-char filter.

And during that time, I’ve respected all people’s choices. I was told by many that I was their favorite vegetarian because I didn’t judge others. In other words, I wasn’t a fanatical PETA card carrier.

One time I was dining out with an artist couple who were about 15 years older than me. When I ordered, it was obvious I was vegetarian. The husband commented that he and his wife were also vegetarians, but as they got older, they felt they needed a little extra, so once a month, they’d have some beef. I respected that and didn’t argue. I never felt that all people were meant to be vegetarian. Anti-animal testing was — and still is — more important to me than what people ate. And what works at one point, may not always work. Bodies change as we grow older and we make adjustments.

A few months before my 51st birthday, I wasn’t feeling up to par. And I was always the “go to” person when it came to health. I do not look my age. I’ve always had a ton of energy. And I get up at the crack of dawn even on weekends. I’ve practiced yoga since fourth grade. It didn’t make sense not to feel optimal. Then I remembered what the artist said.

I spoke with a holistic healthcare practitioner and he said I’d probably feel better if I ate a little bit of meat. After much research, I decided to give paleo a go. I eased into it. First I gave up gluten. Then a month later I gave up grains. And finally I said a little prayer to the animals added chicken and meat back into my diet. I felt AMAZING!

But what bugs the shit out of me, is how many of my “vegetarian” (not vegan) friends started judging me. The hypocrisy was mind blowing!  All of a sudden, in their eyes, I was this satanic animal killer for eating grass-fed beef (even thought I was still anti-animal testing, only drinking vegan alcohol, and still refusing to eat pork). 

And the “vegetarians” went on their merry way wearing their “MEATLESS” badges as they guzzled wine made from fish bladders, cheese made from the lining of a sheep’s stomach, and continued dying their hair with Loreal — one of the biggest offenders in animal testing. And let’s not forget desserts made with conventional milk, cheese, eggs and butter. Oh, but a gal’s gotta have dessert, right? Never mind what processed foods do to our environment.

After all that critique from vegetarian friends, I thought, okay, maybe now at least my meat eating friends will be on my side. But they didn’t get it either. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when my meat eating friends made the assumption that I was now pigging out on White Castles.

Then I decided to face my biggest fear — telling my VEGAN friends I was now PALEO.

But guess what? Surprise, surprise! They were the most compassionate and understanding of everyone! Wow, I thought to myself, somebody gets it! In fact, I’m now closer to my vegan friends as a paleo eater than I was when I was simply a vegetarian.

Vegans understand that eating grass-fed beef from a farm (once a month or so) is more environmentally responsible than eating soy and other processed foods.

As a paleo eater, I’m now eating more like a vegan as I consume more vegetables, fermented foods, and seaweeds. And I keep a variety of organic teas in my home too. Vegans love this!

And what’s really cool is that on paleo you don’t have to eat animal protein every single day! Sometimes I’ll even go two or three days in a row where I eat no animal products at all and feel fabulous. Only a vegan can understand that, since they don’t eat animal products at all.

When it comes to health, I truly believe that paleo eaters and vegans do the most research and take care of themselves the best. Like paleo people, many vegans are also grain free, sugar free and gluten free. They also understand the concept of telling each other what is in the food. They read labels and are compassionate to the dietary needs of others. And they do research — a lot of it. For vegetarians, they are just in denial when it comes to finding out what they really are eating. I was the exception. Whenever I mentioned to other vegetarian friends what animal by-product was in something they were eating, they turned a blind eye and ate it anyway. Vegans would never!

Both paleos and vegans don’t count calories, skip meals or over-exercise. They just have a sixth sense about being full and naturally stay at a perfect weight for their height (and age!)

Being environmentally conscious is a way of life for both paleos and vegans. We all love to practice yoga and qi-gong. We love to meditate and walk around barefoot. We enjoy buying second-hand clothing so the dye of a new outfit doesn’t seep into our skin. We are works in progress, trying consciously to make the world a better place to live. We stand up for what we believe in, no matter what, as we certainly don’t throw all caution to the wind in order to get a cheap alcohol buzz.

In fact, I have so much fun with my vegan friends because they don’t need to drink in order to unwind!

Happy National Spicy Guacamole Day!

Published November 14, 2014 by Maryanne

avocadoAvocado — GOOD fat!

Today is National SPICY Guacamole Day. Wanna celebrate? I got you covered. This has been my “go to” party dish for years. I found this recipe on a raw food message board over 10 years ago. It’s very simple.

To make a small serving, blend one avocado, one banana and one clove of garlic. Yes, garlic — that’s what gives it the spicy kick! I’ve had someone tell me, “This is the best guacamole I’ve ever had!”

This recipe is not only good as a party dish, but great to pour over greens when you’re seeking something different in a dressing. It comes out thick and creamy. The fat in avocado is so good for you, I have one every day.

This recipe is suitable for paleo minded as well as vegans and raw foodists.

ENJOY!

“Healthy Pasta Alternatives” Lecture and Food Sample

Published September 11, 2014 by Maryanne

SAM_5981My kelp Pad Thai dish

Last night was the second time I lectured to the cooking club at Washington Township Library in Long Valley, New Jersey. (Thanks to librarian Jane Gold for having me back again!)

The topic was “Healthy Pasta Alternatives” and we had a wonderful turn-out with people wanting seconds!

My dish was made of  kelp noodles, carrots, and sprouts with a dressing of raw almond butter, coconut amino acids, onions, garlic and juice from fresh limes.

Here is the description of the class:

Healthy Pasta Alternatives

Pasta, a typical dish of unleavened dough of durum wheat flour, has been a traditional Italian staple, dated back to 1154 in Sicily.

It can be presented in a variety of shapes and made with flour from cereals or grains, and eggs. It’s a simple dish that can be served hot or cold, varying in taste, color and texture.

Discover how pasta evolved and changed over time – from a small simple item to an elaborate culinary dish.

Learn about the nutritional value of pasta, which contains complex carbohydrates, essential nutrients such as iron, vitamin B and folic acid. And depending on the flour, may also be a good source of protein.

Gather information about healthy pasta options such as: brown rice noodles, soy noodles, seaweed noodles, buck wheat noodles, squash pasta, and more!

This presentation will include a cold pasta salad made with one of the healthy noodle alternatives.

Class is limited to an audience of 20. Please have a sign up sheet.

IF YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE THIS PRESENTATION AT YOUR LIBRARY OR WOMEN’S GROUP

I can be reached via email at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com

 

 

 

Sunday Happies!

Published August 24, 2014 by Maryanne

SAM_5883It’s Sunday and I’m ready to hit the road with my hubby!

Another gorgeous Sunday in New Jersey.

I was thrilled to finally be able to grab a bite at Cave in Avon-by-the-Sea. It’s a paleo restaurant. I’ve been eating paleo for a few months now and my body loves it! I had grass-fed beef chili, with avocado and a bullet-proof coffee for dessert. The place was cute and cozy and service was excellent!

SAM_5886Grass-fed beef chili with avocado

This dish was so heavenly. It took me back to my Girl Scout days when I had a dish called “Sloppy Joe.”

SAM_5888Bullet Proof Coffee!

Bullet Proof coffee is organic coffee made in a blender with coconut oil and grass-fed butter. Your body will love the healthy fats that give you great energy without the caffeine  jitters! Something about the mixture just does a body good! I serve it to my husband in bed. I also make a great oolong tea version with unsweetened cocoa — it’s killer!

After Cave, we cruised along the beach and then visited a friend. A lovely full day with perfect weather!

SAM_5891How cute!

We don’t know these people, but the dog was so adorable, I’m so glad I got a great shot on the way home!

Paleo/Vegetarian Avocado Kale Slaw

Published June 26, 2014 by Maryanne

SAM_5026Photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

I’ve been eating a vegetarian version of paleo for about two weeks now. I can’t do enough to rave about this lifestyle. It’s easier than raw. I feel full and satisfied. My blood sugar doesn’t drop and best of all, I can eat all I want without gaining weight (note, I do work out every day, 10 to 40 minutes). But what really amazes me about eating this way is how super soft my face is!

Here’s a WOW! recipe I found in a paleo magazine … it was so delicious it blew me away! I will make this salad every day until I get sick of it, it was perfect and has everything you need: healthy protein, healthy fats, greens, etc.

It serves four, but if you have a fast metabolism like I do, you can definitely polish off all four servings in one sitting.

Avocado Kale Slaw

Ingredients (I used all organic)

6 cups chopped kale (of course remove stems)

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds

1/2 medium ripe avocado

1/4 cup coconut milk and 1/4 cup water

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp raw honey (or use agave if you want this to be a VEGAN salad)

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s with “the mother”)

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (I used cold-pressed)

1 Tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 Tsp. garlic powder

Sea salt and black pepper to taste (which I didn’t even use because it was sooooo delicious and flavorful without!)

Combine the kale, carrots, onion and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.

Scoop the avocado flesh into a blender or food processor. Add the coconut milk, water, lemon juice, honey, vinegar, olive oil, mustard and garlic powder. Blend until creamy and smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper before serving.