Restaurant Review: FreeFoods NYC – Midtown

I headed off for another lunchtime meal in Midtown yesterday.  This time at FreeFoods NYC which I’ve walked by several times and have always been intrigued by the awesome looking juices people walk out of there with.

FreeFoods NYC  – Per their website

“Specializing in Contemporary Organic Cuisine – flavorful, nutritious , and creative foods designed especially for a busy lifestyle”

What it SHOULD say is “flavorful, nutritious, and creative foods designed especially for those with a lot of money“.

You see this…

That little slice of pizza will cost you $6.50.

Yes, it’s healthier than the $1 slices Ray’s (or whoever) is selling right across the street.  But, it definitely explains why this spot was close to empty during the lunch hours in Midtown.  And it explains why my salad and juice (to go) cost me over $20.

I absolutely understand that organic, healthily prepared food is worth more.  But, it’s hard to justify spending $20 a day on lunch.  This place is for a splurge, only.

My lunch was fine.  I went with the macrobiotic cobb salad.  (ate it too fast to get a picture) and a delightful juice.

The 7 Green (kale, spinach, parsley, cucumber, pear, apple & lime).  Well, mine was only a “5 Green” since they were out of pears and substituted my lime for lemon.  But, it still tasted fresh, delicious and healthy.  3 of my favorite things.

I think you can tell.  FreeFoods NYC was fine.  I was just a little put off by the prices.  Not customary for the neighborhood and not worth it, in my opinion.

  • Food – * * * *
  • Service – * * *
  • (The juicer was broken & it took about 15 mins for someone to fix it.  And they didn’t seem to care too much)   
  • Ambiance – * * * *
  •  (Cool, clean & beautiful)      
  • Price Value – *
  • Overall – Underwhelmed

And, nothing to do with FreeFoods NYC but, this was my view as I walked home last night.

This weekend, and anytime I look at the Manhattan skyline, my thoughts are with the victims, families and brave first responders who lost their lives 10 years ago on 9/11.  God Bless.

Hurricanes in a Hurricane

Hurricanes with homemade Cherry Syrup

Does this say “Hurricane” to you?

How about this?

Well, it’s 6pm and Hurricane Irene is starting to make herself known here in the NYC/NJ area.  And we expect to be hardest hit between midnight and 2pm tomorrow .  Now, just a bit of rain and slight wind.  The biggest indicator of what’s to come is the eerie quiet on the streets and the stacks of sandbags piled up at all the ground floor / garden apartments.  Iain and I are tucked away inside and I took it upon myself to cook and bake like we won’t be leaving for months!

But, the best thing I’ve made so far, this variation on Pat O’briens’ in New Orleans Hurricanes.  Appropriate, no?  The typical Hurricane calls for Passion Fruit Syrup.  But, I had a bunch of cherries on hand and thought I’d swap it with a homemade cherry syrup instead.  It’s easier than you think.  Even if a Hurricane isn’t pointed directly at you, I recommend this refreshing drink.

Hurricanes with homemade Cherry Syrup

  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz Cherry Syrup (recipe below)
  • 2 oz Rum
  • Ice
  1. Place all liquid in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill shaker with ice.
  3. Shake baby shake.
  4. Pour into a glass and batter down the hatches!

(Iain approved – yes I made him go stand on the deck in the rain for this picture) 

Homemade Cherry Syrup

  • 1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  1. Place pitted cherries in a food processor and pulse until liquid and all skin is integrated.
  2. Pour liquid cherries into a heavy pot on the stove and add water and sugar.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to “medium” and stir continuously for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature.  Use immediately or cover and store in fridge for up to a week.

Voila! You have just made homemade cherry syrup.  Perfect for Cherry Hurricanes or on top of pancakes.  Which I’ll make if we have power in the morning….

Staying healthy and safe during a hurricane – what to buy

I’m no stranger to hurricanes, since I grew up in South Carolina and lived in Florida for 4 years.  They are, pretty much, a Hallmark of late Summer / Fall.   But I definitely didn’t expect to be preparing for one in the NYC / NJ area.  No way.  I think Irene has caught us all by surprise.  And I’m mad because Hurricane Irene thwarted an Annual Girls weekend in Florida this weekend!! Not because she’s barreling down on Florida, because she’s barreling to NYC.  I still can’t get over that!

Nonetheless, we now know in the NYC area that a hurricane is on the way, scheduled to impact our area early Sunday, and we need to start to prepare.   Hurricane prepardness is no joke.  Plan for the worst, hope for the best.  This post assumes that electricity will go out, water will not be available and you’ll be home-bound for 1-3 days.  But, fingers crossed that this will be the worst anyone will suffer.

Stock up on non-perishables AND fill your freezer.  When power goes out, you want your freezer to be chock full of frozen goods so that it takes longer to thaw out.  So YES, this is your excuse to go to the store and PILE up on ice cream.

The hubby and I went shopping last night for some basic supplies (along with the rest of New Jersey). The goal was to stock up on healthy eating items.  Here’s what was on our list:

  • Water (obviously)
  • Bananas (fruit that will be ok at room temp)
  • Bread (tons to stuff in the freezer)
  • Crackers
  • Ice cream!  (We got several So Delicious pints)
  • Lara bars
  • Canned soups (ensure you have a manual can opener)
  • Canned rice
  • Canned beans
  • Almond milk (great because it won’t spoil at room temperature)
  • Candles & batteries (obviously)
  • Apples  (fruit that will be ok at room temp)
  • Pita Chips
  • Garbanzo beans ( I plan on making a big batch of hummus early Saturday)
  • Carrots
  • Green & Blacks Dark Chocolate
  • Board games & Playing cards!

And I most definitely plan on making “Hurricanes” Saturday night.  (come on over !) 

  • 2 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 1 orange
  • Passion Fruit Syrup
  • Dark Rum
  • Maraschino Cherries

I’ll post the full recipe tomorrow as I make it.  Assuming we’ll have wi-fi!

One last thing.  Precautions to take at home:

  • Bring in patio furniture and outdoor plants
  • Remove A/C units from windows.  (don’t want these flying out!)
  • Fill up bathtub and pots with water for extra provisions.

Stay safe, people!!  And “Constant Vigilance”!  (my two favorite words from the Harry Potter series, appropriate in ANY situation, CV).

Restaurant Review: Maoz – Times Square

Blink and you’ll miss this little tiny storefront on the corner of 40th Street & 7th Avenue.  And you’d be missing a fast, delicious, CHEAP, vegetarian treat.

MAOZ

I stopped in here for lunch yesterday and it was tasty, as always.  There are only a few items on their menu (falafel sandwich, falafel salad, fries, drinks) but what they do, they do well.  Plus, the shop is so tiny, they wouldn’t be able to fit any other options in here.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1 – Order your meal at the counter.  (I always get the Falafel sandwich “Maoz” on whole wheat at $5.95, eggplant and hummus is extra $$) then step about 2 feet to the right and wait.

Step 2 – Maoz employee calls out the number on your receipt and and hands you your sandwich.

Step 3 – The salad bar is yours all yours.  Corn salad, Beet Salad, Tabouli, Chickpea Salad, Pickled Eggplant, Cabbage and on and on… stuff as much as you can into your sandwich.   Sidenote: I once saw a girl in Maoz get a salad and use both the salad container and LID to pile food on.  She must have had enough food for 2 days!  Not bad for less than $6!

Step 4 – Hand your sandwich over to the Maoz employee at the end of the line and they’ll wrap it up for you to take on your way.

Step 5 – Eat and try not to get it all over your clothes.  This is a tough task for me.

My masterpiece: (lots of Cabbage and Cilantro Sauce)

Maria’s Masterpiece:

The falafel is as good as I’ve ever tasted.  Hot, crunchy and the pita bread is soft and fresh with a lot of room for stuffing with their great salad bar options.   My dining companion was a little resistant to the “rabbit food” I was forcing her to eat for lunch.  But, she even enjoyed it and remarked that she’ll be going back there again.  And  I know I’ll be back pretty much every Wednesday.  (Wednesday is when I have my long runs.  So, I deserve a fried treat for lunch, don’t you think?)

If you’re not in the NYC – Times Square area, they have tons of other restaurants in the NYC area and around the world. Maoz Locations

Embarrassingly easy Vegan Tostadas with “refried” beans

Mmmmm Tostada…   (last night’s dinner)

A couple of questions for you:

  • Are you looking for a healthy, delicious and easy weeknight dinner?
  • Do you have a can of black beans, corn tortillas and some vegetables in your kitchen?

Then you need to try this out.  It’s husband approved.  (I had a good photo of Iain shoving one into his mouth but, he made me take it down- geez)

Embarrassingly easy Vegan Tostadas with “refried” beans

Serves 2

Total Time: 15 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

  • 4-5 Corn tortillas
  • Spray Oil
  • Refried beans (either a can of Amy’s or from recipe below)
  • 1/2 tomato, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of greens chopped (I had spinach)
  • 1/2 Avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons salsa
  • 2 ounces Vegan Cheddar Cheese (I wish I had used Daiya which melts much better than the brand I had on hand)
  1. Turn oven on to Broil
  2. Spray both sides of the Corn Tortillas, and cook each in a non-stick skillet until golden brown.  Then lay them out on a baking sheet.   

3.   Spread each tortilla with Vegan Refried Beans                                                             

4.  Top each tortilla with tomatoes, chopped greens, avocado, onion and cheese. (or whatever goodness you have on hand, I put some chicken sausage slices on the husband’s).  Slide baking sheet with tortillas into the oven and watch ( be careful to not let them burn) until the cheese is melty (3-5 minutes).

Top each with salsa and enjoy.  I know we did!

Vegan “Refried” Beans

  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor.
                     2.  Pulse until a hummus (ish), refried beans-y consistency.

Cinnamon Banana Breakfast Scramble

Warning.  I am going to eat A LOT today.  9 mile run this morning and bikram yoga this evening, I know I need to fuel up.  This is one of my favorite ways to get a good start in the morning.  Gooey, banana-y, peanut butter-y, warm, crunchy, messy.  Delicious.

(And my husband’s finger)

Cinnamon Banana Breakfast Scramble

Adapted from The Edible Perspective

  • 1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds (I’ll need to write an ode to Chia seeds later)
  • 2 Tablespoons Oats
  • 2 Tablespoons Milk (I Used Almond Milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Banana
  • 1 English Muffin
  • 1 Tablespoon Nut Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Strawberry Jam
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the Chia seeds, oats, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon and mash the banana.  Once the mixture is combined flip into a nonstick skillet and cook on that side for 3 minutes.
  2. While scramble is cooking, toast the English Muffin.
  3. After the 3 minutes, flip the scramble to the other side.  This may be a little messy.  And cook 3 minutes on the other side.
  4. Top one 1/2 of the English Muffin with peanut butter and the other 1/2 with jam and then add the Banana scramble.
Mmmmm.  Good morning to you!!

Chocolate Covered Cherry Green Monster

I woke up this morning “NEEDING” some fruit and vegetables.  ASAP.  A Green Monster was calling my name.

It may have had something to do with eating an entire loaf of focaccia last night in lieu of dinner.   That wasn’t my intention, I just stopped by a local market to pick up the loaf on the way home, and before I knew it; GONE.  But, delicious.  I blame it on the 12 mile run + 4 mile hike I had done the day before.  My body apparently still needed to replenish some carbs.

Anyways, on to the Green Monster.   Thanks to Angela , I LOVE Green Monsters.  Healthy, delicious and easy.  And my friend, Heidi, swears these smoothies result in an immediate improvement in skin tone. What could be better?  Well, the color could be improved.  Green / black smoothies don’t appeal to everyone. 🙂

Chocolate Covered Cherry Green Monster (Vegan)

  • 1 cup pitted cherries – highly recommend getting yourself a cherry pitter
  • 1 frozen banana chopped
  • 1 cup Almond Milk
  • 2 Big Handfuls of Spinach
  • 2 teaspoons Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 Scoop Amazing Grass Amazing Meal
  • 1 teaspoon Agave Nectar
  • 1 Tablespoons Chocolate Chips (vegan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 – Toss all ingredients in a blender (don’t get weirded out by seeing the Chocolate Chips & Spinach hanging out together)

2- Blend

3 – Pour into a glass and drink your veggies!

First Post – Vegan City Grits

Well, this is my first attempt in the blog world.  I’ve been wanting to post for awhile but, decided I couldn’t have a blog with the name “Nitty Grits” without the first post being about grits. Come on!

Not just grits.  But, vegan grits.

Tough task.  I live in NYC and it is NOT easy to find grits in this town.  After a search of about 3 specialty food stores, I found a box of instant Arrowhead Mills hidden on the bottom shelf of a Whole Foods.  And it was the last box!  I pitty the next person who goes looking for them.

Obviously, instant grits are not ideal.  I usually love Arrowhead Mills but I’ve never tasted any instant grits that are anywhere close to the real thing.  But, if you find yourself in the same predicament (are there many people looking to make vegan grits outside of the south – or anywhere?), this recipe still turns out pretty fabulous.   I love the crunch of the fresh corn mixed in there.  Yum.

Vegan City Grits – Topped with Tomatoes, Peppers and Corn

Serves 2

  • 1/3 cup of instant grits
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (About 1 ear of corn)
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Soy Milk
  • 1 oz nondairy cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon Earth Balance
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 strips of tempeh bacon, crumbled
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Tabasco sauce (to taste)

Heat the 1 tablespoon Olive Oil on medium-high in a large skillet on medium high.

Add onions and cook until translucent.

Add the green pepper and cook until onion browns a little.

Add the tomatoes and jalapeno.  Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes.  Stir often.

While the onion mixture is cooking, bring water to a simmer and slowly add in the grits.  Reduce heat to low and stir constantly so that the grits don’t get lumpy for about 5 minutes.  Add the soy milk, cheese, Earth Balance, salt and pepper and stir until cheese has melted.

While onion mixture and grits are cooking, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet and add crumbled tempeh.  Cook until crispy then lay out on a paper towel to cool down.

Divide grits into two large bowls, top with 1/2 each the onion mixture and 1/2 the crumbled tempeh.

Top with as much Tabasco as you can take and taste the south, wherever you might be…