Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Simple Kale Salad

Kale...the dreaded leafy green.  Well, at least for me.  I've tried and tried to enjoy kale.  Kale chips; not a fan. Kale pesto; couldn't even finish it.  However, I wasn't willing to give up on it completely because I've had it mixed in with a salad and it was decent.  Kind of chewy, almost seaweed like, but edible.  I never would have tried this recipe on my own, but my mom sent it to me and said even my brother enjoyed it.  So, I added it to the ever growing pile of recipes to try.

Sadly, I was able to try several new recipes a couple weeks ago.  My flight to Chicago got cancelled due to the flooding and it was very sad.  Oh, sure, I was bummed because Josh was already there for a conference and now I was going to miss out on a fun weekend with him, but let's cut the sappy stuff and get to the point.  I was soooooo bummed because I had to cancel my RPM reservation.  Oh, the disappointment!  I only called in February to get my reservation!  So, instead of Mama DePandi's pasta and eggplant parmesan on Thursday evening I had kale salad.  Big letdown, I know.  

The good news is, I really enjoyed the salad!  I've made it two times since then and it's going to perfect this summer...by the pool...while reading a magazine...country music in the background...can't wait.  Where was I?  Oh yes, kale salad.  The dressing is so simple and healthy!  I always admire those people who eat a salad and they just put a little oil on top and then some lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Tried it.  Hated it.  I need a little something more than that!  The crazy thing is, that's really all the ingredients in this dressing, but I think the fact that it's all mixed up in the lettuce and I put some cheese and breadcrumbs on there it works.  I don't know how, but it works.  

I also did something to the kale I had never done before.  I knew you were supposed to remove the leaves from the stems, but for this recipe you massage the lettuce.  That's right, you work with it like you were making some bread dough.  Who knew?  Maybe I've been in la la land not knowing you were supposed to do this.  Hmmm.  Perhaps that's why I only like kale when someone else prepares it.  Clearly, I didn't know what I was doing.  Regardless, I found an easy salad that is delicious!  Although, I should put a small disclaimer in here.  I find it delicious.  You will find it delicious if you like salads and enjoy eating healthy.  If you're new to this leafy green thing-don't start with this one.  I will make it lots in the future, but it is a bit "healthy" tasting.  My favorite!

*Recipe from www.healthnutfoodie.com

(serves 4 side salads)

1 bunch green kale, organic if possible!

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2-2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper

1 T. grated parmesan
1 T. toasted breadcrumbs

Use a paring knife to separate kale leaves from thick stems.  Wash and thoroughly dry kale leaves. Place kale in a large bowl and sprinkle with just a pinch of sea salt. (Less than 1/4 teaspoon.)  Tear kale into small pieces (1/2 inch-ish) and massage for 3 – 4 minutes. The kale will start to shrink down and reduce in volume.   
In a small glass jar with lid, shake together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Toss kale with dressing and 1 tbsp parmesan until every green is coated. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with breadcrumbs.  That's it.  Told you it was simple.  Enjoy!

I know kale isn't always a popular grocery store list item.  Just in case you are wondering what it looks like, here's my bunch of kale.

This is the thick stalk you need to cut the leaves away from.

My kale leaves before I "massaged" them.

My kale leaves after 3 minutes.  Notice how much they go down in volume.  That means you're doing it right!       

The pretty salad.  Someday I'll be cool and make some really delicious breadcrumbs. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 "Dirty Dozen"

The 2013 Environmental Working Group "Dirty Dozen" list is out as well as the "Clean 15".  I used to have this hanging on my refrigerator and then one day in my attempt to get rid of clutter in the house I moved it.  Then, I never found it again.  Whoops.  Out of sight, out of mind.

I have to say, I struggle with buying organic.  I love going to Aldi and getting  a good deal on great tasting produce.  However, I am going to make it a goal to work on buying more organic foods that are on this list.  (I made a delicious kale salad over the weekend and I bought organic kale.  Point, Trisha!) More specifically, pesticide free produce.  Sadly, just because it's labeled organic, doesn't always mean it's free of harm.  The good news is, prime farmers market season is just around the corner!  I'm hoping this cold weather and snow hasn't killed everything and I'm looking forward to buying some of these on the dirty dozen list from my local vendors.  

I'm still a couple years away from the ability to have my own garden. Which, means I have that amount of time to magically develop a green thumb.  Fasten your seat belts, folks, it could get interesting.

In the meantime, I'm thankful for this list to help guide me on which produce has the most pesticides and which ones have the least.  Now, go do something fun after this depressing post.  :)


Cauliflower Red Lentil Soup

My mom and I have eyed this package of Red Lentils for months at Trader Joes. 

Every visit it would stare back at us on the shelf as we contemplated if we should buy it or not.  We would continually pass it up as neither of us had any recipes that called for red lentils.  

Then, we started our cleanse!  (I know I mentioned the cleanse in a previous post and I WILL post more about it and the details soon, but for now, you can enjoy this recipe from it.)  For our cleanse, we needed super clean eating recipes.  (no gluten, sugar, no artificial flavors, etc.)  My friend Katie O decided to do it with us and she loaned me a cookbook she had called La Dolce Vegan! by Sarah Kramer.  It had some good looking recipes in it and this one caught my eye.  Well, it caught my eye because it called for red lentils and now I had the perfect excuse to buy that package at Trader Joes.  Hot dog!  

I've made this soup four times since then and I still find it delicious and it's so good for you!  Did I think I'd make it on a Sunday in April?  No.  Did I think I'd wait and post it next Fall when the weather turned colder?  Yes.  However, it's the end of APRIL and I woke up to a dusting of snow this morning.  I mean, really?!  Let's hope that is O-V-E-R, but just in case we get some more cold and you want to make one more batch of soup, here is a great one.  (Or, if you're like me and always cold at work I eat soup even in the summer...anybody else?!) 

Don't you just love the soup bowls my mom got me for Christmas?

Cauliflower Red Lentil Soup
Recipe from La Dolce Vegan!

1 medium onion, chopped

1 T olive oil (or avocado oil if you have it!)

1 T fresh ginger, grated

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 t. cumin seeds

½ t. red pepper flakes

1 t. ground turmeric

2 ½ C. veggie stock

2 cups cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 cup dried red lentils

¼ C. fresh cilantro

½ t. salt

In a medium pot on medium heat, sauté the onions until translucent.  Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, red pepper, and turmeric and sauté for 2 minutes; stir constantly to avoid sticking.  Add the stock, cauliflower, tomatoes, and lentils.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until veggies and lentils are cooked.  Stir in the cilantro and salt, remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes before serving.  Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.

*I added an extra cup of stock because I found this to be very thick, almost stew like and I prefer more liquid.  
*If you can't find red lentils, green ones will work just fine!  If you haven't tried lentils, don't be scared to-they don't have a super strong flavor.


Coconut Oil Spray

BIG news! Yes, big! Trader Joes has a new product....are you ready? Coconut Oil non stick spray.  Yay!!! I talked all about oil in this post.  By now, you all know my inner monologues are possibly a tad different than other people's. And, yes, I wrestle with non stick spray and the best option.  Do I buy the olive oil one over canola? Well, yes, but then the olive oil will reach way past its safety temperature zone in the oven.  (Okay, that sounds like a hot food/cold food safety pamphlet, but I really think of these things) Sometimes, I just slab a bit of butter on the pan because I really believe that is better than some of the alternatives.  Rest easy friends-we now have a new, healthier option! I can't get to Kansas City fast enough.  So excited to try this!  I'll keep you posted on how it works...I'm hoping to get some this weekend.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal

Any recipe that has peanut butter or pumpkin in it and looks remotely healthy, I give a try! This one has been on my list of recipes to test out since January.  My mom sent me an email from a website, http://ohsheglows.com/, which is a blog with all vegan recipes.  In January the blog posted the top vegan recipes from 2012.  This recipe was on it and it had ingredients in it that I knew I would have on hand.  Yes, it's now April and I finally got around to making it yesterday for breakfast.  I love oatmeal, so it's not difficult to please me, but I've never been able to master blending in peanut butter.  (Such a shame, I know)  Look no further, this is a perfect recipe for a wonderful, and most important, thick, bowl of oatmeal.  (Nobody likes thin, soupy, oatmeal.  It's what kept me from eating oatmeal as a kid.  And, to think, I've only spend the last couple years of my life enjoying this healthy, all natural food.  Tragic, I know.)

Anyway, a few simple ingredients and voila, breakfast is served.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal
*Recipe from Oh She Glows

1 serving

1 large, very ripe banana, peeled and chopped
1 t. coconut oil
1/2 T. natural peanut butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2-1 t. chia seeds
1 C. almond milk
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla
Toppings: 1/2 T. peanut butter, nuts, cinnamon, pure maple syrup

1. In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, cook the banana in oil for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Stir in 1/2 tbsp peanut butter, and add the oats, chia, milk, spices, and a pinch of salt. Whisk well until combined.

3. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, stirring often for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

4. Scoop into a bowl and top with peanut butter, nuts, cinnamon, and maple syrup.

A few notes:

*I mentioned above I knew I'd have all these ingredients on hand when I finally got around to trying it.  Bananas never go to waste at our house.  When they start getting too ripe to enjoy, just toss it in the freezer.  Sure, if you have time you can peel it and put it in a bag, but I've been known to just toss the entire thing in one of the side doors of the freezer.  They are perfect for smoothies and in this case, I pulled one out for my oatmeal.

*If you don't have chia seeds it's no big deal to leave them out.  They just add some nutrition if you keep them at your house.  (Since watching Hungry for Change I'm obsessed with chia seeds.)  

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Honest Company

Surprise!  It's Monday and just for fun today isn't a blog about food.  Although I like to eat healthy, we all know there's more that goes into healthy living besides just food. (Although I believe food is a HUGE portion of it)  Several years ago I read an article about how some of the ingredients in our deodorant could contain cancer causing chemicals.  This isn't the article I read, but recently I saw this picture:

A few years ago I heard some talk about fragrance filled lotions and soaps and different items we rub on our skin and how those are absorbed into our bodies.  I've also read several articles (currently, the website is down, but I'll put a link to the article once it's back up) discussing the bad things in hand sanitizer.  That's where I get nervous.  I'm a hand sanitizer freak.  I use it all the time.  All that reading spooked me out a bit and I've gradually made a few minor changes like buying Meyers hand soap and making my own laundry soap and I use these dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.  I even recently found some salon grade shampoo and conditioner (Kevin Murphy) that are sulphate and paraben free.  My mom also introduced me to a lady in Olathe who makes  custom blend powder that is free of all questionable ingredients.  It is exactly the same price as Bare Essentials and I like it even better.  Just last night, my friend Brittany, introduced me to some awesome toxin free nail polish.  I ordered a few bottles and can't wait to test them out.

Those are such small, minor things compared to my awesome friend Katie O.  She's who I go to for all my healthy living everything talks.  I mean, really, lots of people's eyes will just glaze over when you start talking veggie talk and chemicals in the home, but we talk for hours about it!  Several months ago she told me her and her hubby were turning their home chemical free as much as they could.  She's a rock star.  We are talking down to her toothpaste!  She told me about the website she was ordering from and while the products sounded fantastic you had to commit to spending $75 per month.  Although I am a big advocate for spending the extra money to live a healthy lifestyle, and I do on food, at this point in my life I could not add that to the budget.  I knew a move was in the near future and with my job as a substitute teacher summer coming means no income that we have to plan for.  So, I filed the information away with plans to sign up as soon as I could.  

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago and my mom told she saw Jessica Alba on Katie Couric's talk show and I was going to be so excited.  My mom knows me so well....I'm beyond excited!  Jessica Alba recently published a book about living as naturally and toxin free as possible, which is exciting in itself, but that's not even the best part.  She launched a company called The Honest Company and it's full of spectacular products that are safe for you and your children.  And, it's AFFORDABLE!!  Like, really affordable.  And, that's still not the best part.   Are you ready for the best part?  The products work, smell amazing, and I love them!  

I'm sure I'll have lots to blog about once I read the book.  It came in the mail a couple days ago, but for now, I'll focus on the Honest products.

This is a picture of my first order.  I had such a hard time deciding, but since I wasn't sure if I would like it I went with: all purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, shampoo/body wash, conditioner, body lotion, and 4 small containers of hand sanitizer.  (I was most excited about the hand sanitizer...clearly, that's why I ordered 4!)  My grand total for all these products was $50. The body lotion, shampoo/body wash, and conditioner were all $9.95 apiece.  A two pack of hand sanitizer was $5.95.  All three of the household cleaners were $5.95 each.  I was amazed at the affordable prices and who doesn't love the convenience of delivery to your doorstep?

I was so excited to use everything, but the hand sanitizer was my obvious first choice.  I was pleasantly surprised at how good it smells and the texture is perfect.  I like having a product that kills germs, but isn't harming me at the same time.  I'm in love and will never go back to Purell.

Then, I went all Monica Geller and cleaned the house.  The bathroom cleaner has a lovely mint scent and it worked great on all my sinks, bathtubs, and toilets.  The toilet bowl cleaner smells amazing too (tea tree eucalyptus) and it's the thicker substance which I was happy to see as I prefer that much more than the thin, watery stuff.  (I don't know if it's normal that I have a preference when it comes to toilet bowl cleaner consistency??)  I used the all purpose cleaner (grapefruit) in my kitchen and I thought it worked wonders as well.  I was pumped!

After the household items it was time to try the bath and body purchases.  The shampoo/body wash, like all the other products, smells fantastic, (orange vanilla) but doesn't suds up a lot.  That doesn't really bother me, but if you like a lot of bubbles you won't like it.  I was very hesitant to purchase the conditioner because if you know me, well, I have a bit of hair.  Okay, that's an understatement.  I look like a lion before the flat iron hits it (can I get an amen for flat irons!) and it takes a lot of conditioning.  I've used the conditioner once and it was much better than I anticipated.  I had to use quite a bit of it and it didn't feel as smooth and it didn't detangle as I am used to. (In fairness, I could have bought detangler on the website)  However, I think the conditioner will be added to my rotation for when I am wearing my hair curly or just letting it air dry.  Lastly, the body lotion.  It's great too!  Are you catching the theme here?  It is scent free, which is fine, but I do hope in the future it comes with a lovely scent like the other products.  As with other natural lotions, it's a bit thinner than some, but it doesn't feel like those cheap kinds you can't get to rub in.  I'm already half way through this bottle and will purchase more soon!

I can't wait to try the sunscreen, hand soap, dishwasher pods, the fruit and veggie wash and so much more.  Oh, and all you moms out there.  I haven't even started on the baby products.  There's diapers, wipes, bottles, bug spray, etc.  I hope someone I know with a baby tries it so I can hear all about it.  There's also candles, dish towels, dish soap and so much more.  I hope she has much success and more products like deodorant and toothpaste become available.

As mentioned above, the pricing is very affordable when purchased individually.  However, you can save even more and buy a "bundle" and for $35.95/month you can pick 5 products and mix and match each month.  The best part is, you sign no contract or commitment and you can cancel at any time.  If you don't like it you can even get a full refund.  However, I'm certain you won't be asking for that refund!  I didn't do this option only because we are moving in a few months and I'm trying not to keep a lot of extra inventory in the house.  As soon as we move, I plan to sign up for this and order many more products.  

I'm anxious to read the book and learn more about Jessica Alba and her views on how to have a safe, toxin free home.  I saw Fantastic Four while in college and it was a good movie, but I've never really read much about Jessica Alba.  Not because I wasn't a fan, she's adorable and the fact she stays out of the tabloids is a huge kudos to how she lives her life.  Those who knew me back in college know the real reason I don't know much about her; I was too busy watching Newlyweds and loving every second of it.  (Let's stop memory lane right there.  No need to revisit that fateful Thanksgiving when the divorce was announced.  Such a shame)  Anyway, Jessica-Alba that is-has done something about the way products are made and is producing them in a way that is affordable for not just her celebrity friends, but even for those of us here in Kansas!  Visit her website and let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I purposefully left one restaurant off my blog post from yesterday because one new place I tried deserves it's own post.  Back in February I blogged about finding out the first Traqueros, a quick casual version of Coco Bolos in Manhattan, was opening in Kansas City at 119th & Metcalf.  Well, it opened a few weeks ago! At the time of the opening, the Dreiling's were out of town for Spring Break when we visited, but they were so kind to invite us to their pre-grand opening trial run.  I was really hoping I'd like it for so many reasons, but mostly because they wanted some honest feedback.  Good news is-no constructive criticism needed; it was superb!  (I do have one teeny, tiny request, but we'll get to that.)

For starters, let's make sure we all pronounce it right.  It's track-care-ohs.  Moving on to the atmosphere-I loved it!  It was like a mix between Chipotle and Pita Pit.  Casual, brightly colored, and inviting.  

Since I was crazy excited to visit, naturally, like a total normal person does, I looked at the menu online before we got there and knew exactly what I wanted.  (Okay, that might not be totally normal) For 99% of people who will walk in and need to see a menu it is displayed on three digital boards as you enter.  These are perfectly placed for people to look at as they wait.  I failed to get a pic (mostly because the cashier would think I was coo-coo) but Traqueros was very smart and also put the menu on the cash register facing the customer so it's easy to order from. 

As you place your order you get a view of the open kitchen.  You take a number card, sit down and wait for your food to get delivered.  Our cashier as well as the person who delivered our food was very friendly!  We also got asked two more times as workers walked through the dining room how everything was.  I was very impressed with the staff and service, particularly since it's a quick casual concept.  Furthermore, the speed at which our food was delivered was much quicker than our table anticipated.  So far, we were off to a great start.

Here we are with our food just delivered.  Josh was enjoying some chips and guacamole during the pic...clearly, he was hungry.  (By the way, the guac is amazing!  I think it's the lime juice that makes it so great, but I'm not sure.  Either way, definitely order some)

Here's my Dad getting ready to take his first bite of enchiladas.  Notice the large portion and it's served alongside rice and beans.  Are you ready for this?  $7.99!  He said it was delicious!

Josh was almost as excited as me to visit Traqueros.  He loves the Baja Chicken and Shrimp Wrap at Coco Bolo's so he was very excited to see a similar item at Traqueros.  The Traq Burrito ($6.99) filled with chicken, shrimp and rice in a tomato wrap and served with a side of chipotle ranch.  He enjoyed it just as much as Coco Bolo's version. 

My brother, Travis, got the Fajita Quesadillas ($6.99) and I failed to get a picture of those.  However, he agreed all was very tasty.

My mom and I both got the fish taco dinner. ($6.99) They are made with mahi mahi and topped with some cabbage and mango salsa.  Beans and rice are served alongside.  The fish was very flavorful, flaky, and the mango salsa was the perfect compliment.  The tacos were also very generously filled for the price. I highly recommend this dish and will definitely be ordering it again on my next visit.  Now, for my teeny, tiny issue.  And, I hesitate to even find something for Traqueros to improve on because the food tasted so fresh, and for the price, you will not find better value!  However, I never eat refried beans when dining out.  I noticed on the menu there are a few items that appear to have black beans in them, but when I asked the cashier about getting a side of them I learned it wasn't available.  So, I got refried beans and did not eat them.  And, yes, I could have gotten two sides of rice, but who needs that many carbs?  So...I feel I ate fairly healthy in ordering my mahi mahi fish tacos, but I would love it if black beans were offered as a side.

I went to Freebirds back in November and did my best not to compare it to Chipotle.  I failed miserably.  Every bite I compared the rice, the veggies, the salsa, everything.  I was a bit worried that might happen at Traqueros, but here's the good news.  You may look at a menu when you walk in on the wall, the decor may resemble Chipotle a little bit, and the food will be ready almost as fast, but there is no need to compare it to Chipotle.  Sure, you get a lot of food for a little money just like Chipotle, but it's much more like a Mexican restaurant turned quick casual.  My family was very satisfied when we left and we all look forward to dining here again.  It's in a great location and would be a perfect lunch spot on your lunch break at work.  They also will cater soon so use them for your office luncheons! 

Best wishes to Traqueros success!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Restaurants in KC

I was enjoying a morning jog with my run group a few weeks ago and they were talking about my blog.  I have to admit, I freaked out a little bit on the inside...I mean, people are actually reading this thing?  And trying the recipes?  YIKES!  So, I got home and freaked out a little more and haven't been able to blog since.  Totally kidding.  My lack of posts is because I was busy doing research.  Okay, that's the fancy way of saying it.  In reality, my hubby was working for two months in Kansas City and he had the computer so I was stuck with no way to blog.  Sad face.  The good news is, what's a girl to do when she goes to Kansas City to visit him while he is staying in an apartment on the plaza?  Easiest answer ever: try a bunch of restaurants in the area! (DUH!)

And try new restaurants, I did.  I threw all worries about budget out the window and thankfully Josh was on board with me as well.  He kindly pointed out there will not be an abundance of restaurants in Temple when we move and he fully supported my abnormal dining out spending.  Isn't he the best?!

I had so much fun visiting all the places I've wanted to try, but never got the opportunity to.  Three, count them, THREE snowstorms hindered my plans a bit as well as my poorly timed choice to start a cleanse, but I still managed to make it to all but two places on my list.  Not too shabby.  I won't write a ton about each place and it'd take me forever to discuss all the menu options and pricing, but make sure to check out their websites if you're interested for further information.  So, I'll just be skimming the basics, but if it's on here you should definitely give it a try!

(Overland Park)

JR's is actually not by the plaza/downtown area.  In fact, we can walk there from my parents house in Overland Park.  The first weekend I was here visiting we enjoyed an after church lunch as a family.  It's a new BBQ place and I say you have guts to open up a BBQ place with Oklahoma Joe's as competition.  Two reasons I deemed this place blog worthy.  1) I have learned I can find vegetarian food at any restaurant except BBQ establishments.  Unless I want to eat french fries for dinner I'm usually in a jam.  JR's had a salmon salad and a salmon sandwich.  I went with the salmon sandwich.  I was a little hesitant because I'm not usually a fan of coleslaw, but JR's is not too creamy and it was a nice, light addition.  While we were eating, one of the owners came over and told us about their sauces.  Unfortunately, I was almost done, but my last couple bites I tried the Blueberry Habanero BBQ sauce on my sandwich.  LOVED it!  I took the opportunity to ask if the salmon was wild caught...sadly, that was a no, but I'd still recommend this place for BBQ lovers.  (which, I'm not, but the flavorful sauces were intriguing) My whole family was very impressed with the beef and pork dishes and being from KC, the BBQ experts of the country :), I'd say that counts for something, right?!


Right before this picture of Josh and me was taken I learned a lesson.  Perhaps my rule (which is NO CELL PHONES AT THE TABLE) should be amended slightly.  When we were all finished eating I grabbed my phone to have our server take a picture.  I had several missed calls from my parents, and text messages from my parents and my brothers.  My stomach dropped; I knew something bad happened.  Turns out, they were checking on us because they saw that JJ's on the plaza had an explosion and they were worried we might be eating there.  My poor mother!  Because of my silly rule she was worried for much longer than necessary.  Josh ALWAYS tells me he should keep his phone out should someone need him and I tell him whatever it is it can wait for an hour.  He's a keeper for so many reasons, but mainly because this was the perfect opportunity for him to look at me and say, "I told you so", but he restrained. 

Coopers Hawk got off to a rough start.  I had it all planned out.  (Like I always do!)  They have their own winery and all the wines available in the restaurant are their own label.  The bottom floor is a wine showroom as well as tasting area and then upstairs is the restaurant.  My sister-in-law had visited here and recommended it to us and she also got us a gift card for Christmas.  She told me it was a great deal and for $7 you can do a wine flight tasting.  When we arrived we were greeted by a tray of samples and a complimentary tasting of their wine.  Don't you wish every restaurant greeted you like that?  We walked around a bit and then I explained to the hostess I wanted to do a wine flight tasting and I asked if most people do that downstairs.  She informed me I could do it upstairs.  Perfect-we could sit at our table and enjoy the whole experience.  Our server sat us down and as we looked at our menus I noticed the only wine flights listed started at $14.  Trying not to sound like a total cheap-o, as politely as I could I inquired about the $7 flight.  She had no idea was I was talking about, but said she'd go find out.  Turns out, that's only available downstairs. Thanks for nothing uninformed hostess.  For a solid three seconds I contemplated putting my coat back on and telling our server we'd be back in a bit and heading  downstairs.  I decided not to because Josh would have thought I was insane and really, it wasn't that big of a deal.  He ordered a flight, and just to "stick it to them" I ordered a glass instead of a flight.  The wine was nice-nothing that knocked our socks off, but tasty.  I would say the highlight of our food was the appetizer.  Josh ordered a buffalo chicken flat bread and the chicken was plenty large for me to pick off and we both loved it!  Josh ate a chicken sandwich with fries and I had eggplant ravioli.  My final verdict: beautiful decor, great atmosphere, uniformed hostess, nice wine, good food at a very affordable price for the plaza.  I would definitely return to Coopers Hawk for a fun dinner out.


Beer Kitchen was recommended to us by our friends Scott and Katie.  They said the flat bread pizza was good and it was cheap ($5) during happy hour.  So, Josh and I made the short trip to Westport and enjoyed a nice, affordable happy hour meal.  One word of caution: NEVER order the sangria.  It was much too sweet and not drinkable.  I wasn't going to say anything, but when our server asked how I liked it I had to be honest and I told her it was not very good.  She was very understanding and offered something else, but I stuck with water for the night-you can't go wrong there.  Bad sangria aside, our pizza's were terrific.  Josh ordered pepperoni pizza and a slider and I got a mushroom, onion and basil pesto pizza.  I highly recommend Beer Kitchen for a fun, delicious happy hour.  Our server was awesome and we had a fun after work meal.

(Mission Farms)

My Dad actually recommended this place to me after he went there for a business lunch.  It was a very fun atmosphere and I went on a Thursday night and it was packed.  Rest assured, I had reservations.  (Never leave home without them is what I always say!)  I don't know the official decor word to use, but I describe it as the fanciest picnic you'll ever go on.  No, you're not sitting on the floor or anything, but there are checkered napkins on the table and everything is very rustic.  The decor accompanies the menu as they have macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, and you can order a whole chicken.  There was trout, steak, and pork as well.  The menu is a great variety for any meat lover.  I'll be honest, I did have a bit of trouble eating vegetarian here.  Normally, I would never order macaroni and cheese, but this was my first meal after my cleanse (more on that later) and I was excited for some cheese!  If it weren't for the cleanse I would have tried a soup and some salad, but I had eaten to much of that the 7 days prior I splurged a bit.  The picture on the right is a side of Brussels sprouts and they were delicious.  I highly recommend them-perfectly blackened and seasoned.  The best part of my meal was I enjoyed it with two friends I used to play softball with who I had not seen since my wedding.  They agreed, the restaurant was a keeper and they would return soon.


The Roasterie is a local coffee company.  I have visited the actual production roasting plant (we used to serve their coffee at our restaurant) and I always wanted to visit the actual coffee shop.  It's location is prime; right on the corner as you enter Brookside from the plaza area.  However, it wasn't what I was expecting.  When I see the word cafe in the name I assume there's some food involved.  Well, there was if I wanted a fattening pastry or muffin.  I left with just a coffee and it was a delicious cup of coffee, but I was a bit disappointed in the lack of food options.  To sum it up: cute coffee shop, good coffee, I always love supporting locally, and I would recommend it if you're in the area. (Just don't plan on eating breakfast like I was hoping to)  

*However, best cup of coffee is still at Revocup in Overland Park.


You probably can't tell in my tiny picture, but I visited Sama Zama with my mom as snowstorm #3 began to fall.  The good news is, I love snow and we had a perfect seat by the window.  Nothing better than lunch with your mama watching the snow fall.  My mom recommended this place to me months ago.  She read about it in a magazine and took my brother there and they thought the food was so original.  My brother returned with his girlfriend and she was excited to bring her family in as well.  I am so glad my mom read an article about Sama Zama because one of the things we tried is something I never would have ordered on my own.  Check out this description from the menu:


Okonomi Yaki means "grill what you like" in Japanese.  This authentic Japanese dish comes from the traditions of Osaka and Hiroshima.  Often referred to as a Japanese style pizzas, it is a batter made out of a variety of ingredients and grilled to perfection.  Each one comes topped with a fried egg.

A fried egg?  That's what would have kept me from trying this on my own.  Side note, I did just read an article that said the new "craze" is to put a fried egg on food and interestingly enough, we were in Nashville last weekend and Josh ordered a pizza that came with an egg in the middle.  Maybe the Japanese are way ahead of us in America and what's cool for food.  Anyway, the top left picture is our mushroom Okonomi Yaki.  (You can also get it with chicken, shrimp, or pork)  I can't even describe it as I've never had anything like it.  However, it was one of my favorite things I ate while visiting and I can't wait to go back!  The pancake was more crepe like, but not too sweet and the sauce was so flavorful.  Combine the mushroom and egg and I was in heaven.  As I type this, I realize that completely sounds like a breakfast food, but magically Sama Zama's sauce keeps it form resembling or tasting like breakfast at all.  Definitely add Sama Zama to places to eat if you are in the Westport area.  Oh yeah, we had some teriyaki noodles too.  They were tasty, and if you're not feeling adventurous you will enjoy them, but I can't rave about them like I can the Okonomi Yaki.


Season's 52 has been on my list of places to eat forever!  It opened a couple years ago on the plaza and I met my friends there for a glass of wine once, but never had a chance to eat.  I love their concept as they change their menu 4 times a year around what is in season.  They use no butter, no grease, no frying, etc. and overall, you can leave feeling like you ate healthy.  As I mentioned above, I thought it was a good idea to do a 7 day cleanse while in KC with my mom so we could do it together.  It was a terrible idea.  I was in an apartment with scarce resources to cook, plus, it's pretty hard to eat out while cleansing.  My mom and I decided to go to Season's 52 one day for lunch while on our cleanse and see if we could stick to it.  I think we managed to!  We enjoyed a vegetarian bowl of black bean soup.  (It was good, but without patting myself on the back too much, I like the one I make better)  However, the fish we ordered was the bomb!  I love fish and always like trying new kinds.  My mom was very excited when she saw Corvina fish on the menu as that's what she orders at McCormick and Shmick, her favorite restaurant on the plaza.  Just like with Sama Zama I was glad my mom was there to guide me.  She told me Corvina fish is mild and very light.  We confirmed with our server there was no dairy, gluten, or added sugar in the meal and we were set.  He was a very enthusiastic server, which worked out nicely because we were so limited on what we could eat and had lots of questions.  It's been many weeks since I ate this I can't even remember, but I believe the "sauce" on the bottom was pureed corn of some sort.  My  mom and I ate every bite, left feeling like we stuck with our cleanse, and ate a healthy and delicious meal.  The serving was much larger than I expected as well.  I highly recommend Season's 52 if you enjoy dining out, but want to keep it healthy!  I know there are several locations around the country.

(Prairie Village)

I joined my friends at Brio on the plaza for happy hour one night (best happy hour there is!) and I was telling them all the restaurants I had tried so far.  The next day, my sweet friend Emilee e-mailed me a list of places she thought I might want to add.  Her and her husband have an awesome tradition where once a month they go out to eat and they have to go somewhere new.  They rotate turns picking and she said it forces them to try something new one time per month.  I think it's awesome they do that!  On the list was a place called Tavern in the Village.  I looked the menu up online and you know those rare times where you find about 8 things you want to order?  That's what happened to me so I was there the next day for lunch.  I ended up with a scallop salad with a lemon dressing that might be the best salad dressing ever.  I confirmed before I ordered that the scallops were served hot on the plate and they were cooked to perfection.  Maybe I'm out of the loop, but I was so intrigued by scallops on a salad.  I've never heard of such a thing.  But, I love scallops and I love salads so I gave it a whirl.  It's a very complimentary combo and I can't wait to go back!  


Oh, Succotash, how I love thee.  I am NOT exaggerating when I say I went here 7 times.  I wish I was joking, but I'm not.  Furthermore, the dish I found that I'm obsessed with is vegan.  I'll say this, if I had Succotash to cook for me everyday I could be vegan easily.  This might be the best breakfast I've eaten.  Ever.  If you don't know what you're looking for you'll drive right by. It's located close to Children's Mercy Hospital.  So, not in the greatest part of town, but it's an adorable building none the less.  Once again, I have my parents to thank for this gem.  This was the first new place I tried and I got lucky with my drink choice as well.  I love ginger and I noticed they had steamed ginger milk.  I asked about it and they said they take fresh ginger and boil it down and add it to milk.  I ordered one with soy milk and one sip and I knew I'd be back just for the drink.  I went home and Googled ginger milk with no success.  I couldn't find a recipe anywhere.  On my second visit I asked some more questions.  On my third visit I got my server to go ask the kitchen how they make it because I was concerned with how much sugar is in it.  (Which, was true!)  He returned with, "It's a secret kitchen recipe." 


I'm still at square zero in that I have no idea how to recreate this at home and I have no idea if there's 27 grams of sugar in it.  So...I continued to treat myself on visit 4, 5, 6, and 7.  And, there may be some hope.  My mom found a recipe for ginger hot chocolate so I'm thinking I can use it and sub soy/almond milk instead of the chocolate.  I found an $80 milk frother for $19 at Tuesday Morning so I'm all set.  It's on the list of recipes to try. I'll keep you posted.

The decor in Succotash is very eclectic.  The tables don't all match, the silverware is all different, but it's cozy.  The servers are very...hmm...what's the word?  Downtowny?  I don't know, just pink hair, big earrings, funky tights, you name it.  I always had very friendly and prompt service.  Succotash was always pretty busy when I was there.  I order the Vegan Kitchen Sink and it has succotash and edamame hummus on top of spinach and potatoes along with mushrooms and tomatoes.  If it's called the Kitchen Sink I am definitely the human garbage disposal.  Never once did I leave even one bite of this.  (Sorry, Bethenny Frankel fans...I didn't follow her rule in the least!)

The picture below is the main focus on one wall and it drives my mom crazy.  It's a picture of a lady eating tomato soup, but really she looks like a vampire enjoying a bowl of blood.  It's a bit disturbing, but just pick a table away from it and you're good to go.

I met my grandparents here one morning and they ordered omelets and eggs and agreed it was very good.  Then, one day towards the end of Josh's two months I had the chance to go for breakfast with Josh.  He ordered a breakfast burrito.  Let's just say, when he got home from work that night, he said, "Man, that burrito was good."  If he's still talking about it 10 hours later it must have made an impression.  We went back two more times together.  Yes, my entire pay check may have gone to Succotash and I'm totally okay with that.  Once again, a great local restaurant to support.  


Bella Napoli was another restaurant on the list my friend Emilee sent me.  I'm so glad she did!  

My mom and I stopped here for a very late lunch after shopping one day and we were starving!  Just take a look at the middle picture on the right.  Those were our risotto ball appetizer.  My mom ate hers before I could even turn to get my camera out!  :)  Even though we were extremely hungry, I think we fairly judged the food.  It was melt in your mouth delicious!  The risotto balls were definitely not healthy as they were fried and full of cheese. (cleanse was over!)  We split eggplant Parmesan and spinach and ricotta cannelloni.  I love eggplant parmesan and my favorite is at a restaurant in Vegas, but I will say, this comes pretty stinking close to being just as delicious.  Their red sauce is perfect and the eggplant was so tender and flavorful.  Furthermore, staying true to authentic Italian it wasn't loaded with too much cheese.  The cannelloni was also very tasty.  Our only complaint during this visit was both entrees were not hot in the middle at all.  Our server was apologetic and reheated the canneloni, but we were so hungry we ate the eggplant even though it was cold.  

As for decor, I would not recommend this place for a romantic date night.  It's very casual and the set-up is interesting.  On the right side there's a coffee shop (I didn't try any), the middle has a small grocery store as well as a deli along with some tables to eat at, and then the left side is more tables.  It's very casual and laid back, but the food is good.  I think it's a great lunch spot or early/casual dinner.  I bought some sliced deli turkey, ham, and provolone cheese to send in Josh's lunch and he said it was very good.  It was priced just like any deli meat at the grocery store.  Other than the food being cold, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Bella Napoli!

(Prairie Village)

Do you ever have those moments where you take a minutes and just soak it all in?  That's what I did at Story.  True to Kansas weather, yes, we had three significant snow falls the past two months, but somehow the day my friends and I met at Story we got the one day that was nice and we surprisingly got to sit on the patio.  Story is tucked away in Prairie Village and sitting on the patio and looking out it was as if I was on vacation.  It was a lovely evening with my friends.  This, too, was a place Emilee had visited with her husband so we met for happy hour so I could try it.

 Brace yourselves, I went totally crazy and didn't order my standard glass of red wine.  I was living extra dangerously this particular afternoon.  A pomegranate drink caught my eye.  It was made with pomegranate vinegar and vodka.  Who knows, it could have had some secret syrup in it, but I asked my server and it seemed to be a good low sugar option.  I am so glad I ventured out of my norm because it was delicious!  I would go back just to enjoy the pomegranate yumminess. 

We ordered food off the happy hour menu and two of my friends got the cheeseburger and fries and said it was good.  I ordered the shrimp and scallop risotto and the beef rib gnochhi with no ribs.  Looking back, I should have made the connection that if there were ribs on top it would be in a BBQ like sauce, but I was surprised by it.  I wouldn't have picked it had I known and while I ate it, it wasn't my favorite.  Furthermore, I'm pretty sure I was picking around chunks of bacon and when I ask for no ribs on top and if there's meat in things I would have liked my server to tell me there was bacon in it.  Anyhoo...it was good gnocchi, just not what I would have picked.  I ate all my risotto though and very  much enjoyed it.  Emilee ordered the duck empanadas that she had the last time she was there and liked them the second time around as well.  Story was very nicely decorated on the inside, has a beautiful patio, and some interesting and fun food choices.  I would come back for happy hour for sure!  I'm not sure if I'd visit for dinner as it's pricey and I have other placed I'd like to go to if I spend that much.  Definitely add it to the happy hour places to visit! 


Pot Pie got added to my list because I saw someone I went to high school with check in on facebook many months ago.  Just like Succotash, you'll drive right by if you don't know what you're looking for.  There's no storefront sign, just a logo in the window.  The restaurant is very small.  Only about 15 tables, but I loved it.  They change the menu frequently and it's posted on a chalkboard at the back of the restaurant.  Just like at Tavern in the Village I wanted so many things!  

We had a wonderful dinner with my sister-in-law Kelsey and her fiancee, Dustin.  Josh and Dustin both ordered chicken over mashed potatoes and enjoyed their meal.  I recently blogged about Newport Grill and how they change their fresh fish frequently.  One time when I was there I tried monk fish for the first time and I haven't seen it anywhere since.  That is, until that glorious, chilly evening at Pot Pie.  They had monk fish!  I devoured it and then I did the unthinkable.  I ordered dessert.  I never, ever order dessert out to eat.  I mean, ever.  I can't bring myself to spend the money or to devour the calories/fat/sugar, etc.  But, I'd read online how they are known for their chocolate chip bread pudding.  Dustin had also read about it and so we decided to give it a whirl.  It was worth it.  Every penny.  I highly, highly recommend it!

Josh was very excited at dinner to show off his sticker!

*I should mention, yes, they do have pot pie on the menu at Pot Pie.  The table next to us ordered it and it was huge!  It's actually one of the cheaper menu items and I guess if you like pot pie it looked good.  

(Overland Park)

Last, but not least we enjoyed a celebration dinner with my family at J. Alexanders.  We had lots to celebrate that night: my Mom's birthday, Josh's fellowship, some cool stuff with my Dad's job, Tyler had just returned from D.C. where he lobbied for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, and Travis had just returned home from Texas where he's training for football. We missed my youngest brother that night, but he was in AZ for Spring Break and this was the only time we could get almost all of us together for a dinner out.  

Since it was my mom's birthday celebration she picked J. Alexanders.  It's one of my parents favorite restaurants and oddly, I'd never been.  My Dad started us off with a salmon appetizer that was amazeballs!  We all loved it!  It was nice because it didn't have a lot of creamy sauce; just enough to hold it together.  I ordered red fish tacos with black beans and knew at the time I shouldn't even pick up the second taco.  But, I did.  And, then I finished it.  I was full for awhile!  My mom gets the same thing every time-a grilled cilantro shrimp dish.  Her side of purple cabbage was one of my all time favorite side dishes!  It was served warm...I might need to see about making some of that too.  All the boys ordered steaks.  I think my poor dad is caught is a catch 22.  He grills an awesome steak.  I mean it!  Even Josh says my dad has ruined his eating out experiences because every time he orders a steak he compares it to my dad's.  I know it makes him happy to hear such a high compliment, but I doubt he likes that feedback when he's buying us all dinner and they get steaks that are "pretty good".  :)  

We had a fun night celebrating and as I sat there I thanked God for my awesome, close knit family and all the fun stuff going on in our lives this year!  So much to be thankful for!

If you can believe it, I even hit some other restaurants that aren't on here, but I'd eaten at before.  I decided this blog post would only be new places.  If you're wondering, yes, some days, I ate out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I will be cooking for the next two months for sure!

The two places I didn't get to:

Bluestem (in Westport, next door to Pot Pie)  
I looked at the menu and didn't think Josh would like it much and it was very pricey.  They had a nice happy hour menu, but with Josh's work schedule and the snow  I just never got there.

Justus Drugstore.  (In Smithville, MO)
Smithville is a 30 minute drive from the plaza, so it's quite a hike!  I've heard such amazing things about this restaurant so a little drive wasn't going to stop me.  Guess what did though?  Snow! The third and final snowstorm forced me to cancel my reservation and I came back to Wichita the next day.  I was very, very sad!  I guess it gives me two more placed to make sure I eat at before I move this summer.