National Chocolate Day! Chocolate Bar Review

Did you know that it's NATIONAL CHOCOLATE DAY?? I must be in sync with the universe, because I was planning and writing this post for the past week without knowing! 

You guys know I have a huge sweet tooth. However, I've found that traditional sweets and sugar just don't do it for me - they make me feel like crap, so I've learned (slowly, very slowly) to stay away from them. Over the years I've found some awesome replacements to satisfy my sweet cravings without wrecking havoc on my body and energy levels. 

Here are my current FAVORITE chocolate bars. You won't find any white sugar, sketchy ingredients, or preservatives in these - just real, pure, chocolately goodness. Now that's something to celebrate! 

ALOHA Superfood Chocolate / 60% Cacao // Chocolate with greens in it! SCORE! This bar is sweetened with coconut and maple sugar and packed with superfoods: spinach, wheatgrass, moringa, blueberries, raspberries, spirulina, beet juice, and mushrooms. Wow! It’s a bit more fruity than a traditional chocolate bar, but still delicious. {Pssst... Use my code WELLNESSWITHEMILY at checkout for 20% off your purchase of all ALOHA products!}

Fine & Raw Lucuma and Vanilla / 67% Cacao // This bar was my first experience with raw chocolate, and it was love at first bite. Lucuma is a tropical fruit which contains iron, zinc, calcium, and beta-carotene— it’s often used as a natural sweetener (it’s very light, nutty almost). If you are in the Big Apple, its fun to check out the Fine & Raw factory in Bushwick; you can sample all their chocolates and truffles here!! 

Hu Kitchen Almond Butter + Puffed Quinoa Chocolate Bar / 72% Cacao // Dark, but still sweet. Nutty from the almond butter, and crunchy from the quinoa. Reminds me of a Crunch bar, but darker. Better. Sweetened with organic coconut sugar. I appreciate that there are only 4 ingredients: almonds, puffed quinoa, cacao and coconut sugar. 

Eating Evolved Crunchy Caramel / 85% Cacao // Paleo chocolate with a super cute tagline “Chocolate: It’s Food Not Candy." Lightly sweetened with coconut sugar. My favorite is the 85% Crunchy Caramel - it’s got TWO ingredients. TWO!!! Amazing. Cacao + coconut sugar and THAT’S IT. Definitely intense, but not bitter, like so many other dark, dark chocolate bars I've tried. Eating Evolved also sell amazing coconut butter cups!! You've got to try these. {If you place an order of from Eating Evolved today, they are throwing in a free chocolate bar in celebration of the day!}


And my TOP choice in chocolate?? My own, homemade Superfood Chocolate. I'll be sharing the super easy recipe for this delicious treat in my November newsletter, so make sure you are on the list by signing up here!

homemade superfood chocolate with almond butter, goji berries, chia seeds, cacao nibs + coconut oil - YUM!!

homemade superfood chocolate with almond butter, goji berries, chia seeds, cacao nibs + coconut oil - YUM!!

What's your favorite chocolate bar or healthy treat? Let me know in the comments below. 

JOYA Restaurant Review

Ever since our epic backpacking adventure to Thailand last year, Ariel and I are always on the look out for great Thai food.  Shortly after moving to Brooklyn, we found a local spot which quickly became our go-to.  However, this past weekend we decided to venture a little further and check out JOYA in Cobble Hill, and boy am I glad we did.  Delicious, cheap, and full of veggie options, JOYA is definitely our new favorite Thai spot.  We've already been back and I expect there will be many a takeout order in the near future.

To start, we've ordered the Papaya Salad and Summer Rolls (with tofu instead of shrimp).  Both were good, but nothing too spectacular.

Mountain of papaya salad

For main dishes, our hands down favorite has been the Spicy Noodles (vegetarian version).  Wide noodles loaded pan-fried with vegetables, this dish perfectly balances both spicy and sweet, something I personally love about good Thai food. Just thinking about it makes me hungry...

Spicy Noodle mess

We have also tried both the green and red curries.  Both were good, but the red curry definitely had better flavor.  I appreciated that both curry dishes had tons of different veggies that were perfectly cooked - not raw, but also not overdone.  Also, JOYA does offer brown rice... you just have to ask for it!

Blurry green curry

We haven't tried the Mango Sticky rice, but that will change soon. =)

As far as the atmosphere, JOYA is a happening spot.  It's been crowded each time we have gone, the bar filled with folks enjoying a cocktail while waiting for a table.  I will note that the inside is pretty loud - the crowd plus the music may be overpowering for some.  For those who prefer a quieter vibe, try to get a seat out back.  While it may be a little harder to see your food (if its dark, as it was both times I visited as you can see from my pictures above), it will be much easier to enjoy conversation with your dining mates.

I will note:  JOYA, like many NYC establishments, is CASH ONLY.  Sigh.  While it won't keep me from coming back, it is a little disappointing that so many places in NYC still don't accept plastic.

Do you like Thai food?  If so, do you stick with one tried-and-true restaurant or are you always checking out new places?

The Butcher's Daughter - Restaurant Review

This past weekend, Ariel and I had our first date (okay, first dinner together) in a long time (I have been traveling, he has been working crazy hours).  We decided to check out The Butcher's Daughter for dinner in Nolita.

The Butcher's Daughter is a cute little eatery on the corner of Kenmare and Elizabeth.  There are tables outside, as well as a family-style table and counter seats inside.  It was raining out, so we opted to sit at the big table inside.

Funny face + mint water

The menu is mostly vegan, with just a few dishes that include eggs.  We decided to start with the charcuterie plate  which included the following served with crostini: mushroom walnut pate, white bean and fennel sausage, and cashew ricotta with fig mostarda.  Ariel loved the pate, while my favorite was the sausage which reminded me so much of pepperoni.

Appetizer - "charcuterie" plate

For our entrees, I got watermelon ricotta salad - more of the cashew ricotta and juicy watermelon served over a bed of baby spinach.  It was decent sized and very tasty.  Ariel got the Pulled Pork BBQ sandwich - shredded, BBQ sauce soaked portobello mushrooms served on a brioche bun with potato wedges and cole slaw.  While mushrooms stand in for meat on so many dishes, I had never seen shredded mushrooms as "pulled" meat, and I thought this was super creative.  I definitely plan on trying to recreate this at home.  

We didn't get dessert because all they had left were muffins.  I suppose will just have to go back again when they are well stocked with vegan ice cream and chocolate mousse.

Watermelon + ricotta salad

Portobello "Pulled Pork BBQ"

My only complaint with the meal was that  the potato wedges were really greasy.  I was really craving potatoes and was super dissapointed how they came out (good thing we didn't really like them because there were only like 4 in total!).  I will also say that, like many organic/sustainable/vegan places, the meal was not cheap.  It was not crazy expensive, and I'm willing to pay for the quality of food, but just wanted to throw that out there.  Overall, I really enjoyed the creativity of the menu as well as the atmosphere so I'm sure I will be back for lunch or dinner again.

Smorgasburg at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Spring is here and that means that the Sunday Smorgasburg has moved outside  to Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Since this is a 10 minute walk from my apartment, I am stoked, to say the least.  I have been every weekend since it opened, with the exception of the two weekends I was out of town, and I expect this will continue throughout the summer and fall.  Local food + insane people watching + sunshine = can't get much better.  Okay maybe if we added yoga and green juice in there... Hmmm... Seems like a business opportunity...

Anyways, here's my current top picks from the 'Burg:

-ISH Premium Horseradish - Super fresh horseradish paired with sweet and tangy ingredients like beets, citrus, ginger, and garlic.  Most people forget about horseradish as a condiment, but ISH is bound to change this.  I'm personally addicted to the beet flavor, but they are all delicious.  No idea what to do with premium horseradish? The folks at ISH got that covered: with each purchase they include a recipe guide with tons of suggestions for each flavor.

-Chickpea and Olive - Vegan sliders and sandwiches made from wholesome ingredients and a super cute logo, not much not to love about Chickpea and Olive.  I tried their Phatty Beet Slider last year when I visited NYC and fell in love so it's no wonder it's one of my top picks. And the eggplant "bacon" oh my goodness. 

-Alchemy Creamery- Vegan ice cream, holler!  Not only ice cream, but push pops and ice cream sandwiches, in crazy awesome flavors like salted peanut butter and chocolate blackberry.  And free toppings.  Bring on summer!

-Bunna Cafe- Yummy vegan Ethiopian food.  They recently opened a full restaurant in Bushwick which I'm dying to visit. 

-Barry's Tempeh- The best tempeh I've ever had. For realz.  I don't know what it is, but this stuff is so superior to any other tempeh I've tried.  I bought some at the most recent Vegan Shop Up, and I'm excited to see if I can make it taste as magical as Barry does.

I'll update this list as the summer goes on and I find more favorite vendors (which I'm sure I will).  For anyone who lives in New York, have you ever been to Smorgasburg? If so, who are your favorite vendors and products?

Vegan Shop Up

When I visited New York City in July, I heard of a vegan pop up sho in Bushwick that was going to be happening the weekend I was in town.  It sounded really cool - vegan food, plus other vendors selling unique, crafty goods.  I was dissapppined that I didn't get to make it to the "shop up" that weekend.  Or the following two weekends that I visited NYC this past fall (the shop up only happend once a month so it was pretty coincidental that I happened to visit those exact weekends).  Once I moved, I was determined to check on the shop up... and the boyfriend and I did just that two weeks ago.

We spent most of the afternoon furniture shopping, so we were tired, frustrated, and hungry by the time we got to Pine Box Rock Shop (a vegan bar, what?!), where the shop up was held.  After a quick scan of the goods and goodies, Ariel hopped right in line for a vegan hot dog.  This was no ordinary dog - made from veggies and sunflower seeds instead of meat, or wheat, soy, etc, it was one large, yet completely wholesome dog.   It was served with all the fixins - slaw, pickles, coconut bacon - and a kale salad.  I don't know if it was because we were really hungry, but it was good, and I appreciated that it was made with sketch-free ingredients.

After we had refueled, we revisited the vendors and shopped for a bit.  There were all sorts of tasty things to try, and a few we liked enough to buy:

-We Vegans - Chipotle Vranch - Ariel is obsessed with this spicy vegan ranch dressing.  I used to love ranch as a kid, but stopped eating it around the age of 12 - this version is definitely an improvement on the standard ranch, healthier (it's made with soymilk) and tastier (it's got a zesty kick of spices).  We've been eating with carrots, but I'm sure it's going to be amazing on sandwiches and salads.

-Right Tasty Ramp Vinaigrette - I've always been intrigued by ramps... they are all over the farmer's markets in the spring, but I have yet to buy them (fear of the unknown...).  Hopefully this tasty dressing will convince me to face my fear and try cooking with ramps myself...maybe.

-Fine and Raw Lucuma Vanilla Chocolate- We discovered Fine and Raw chocolate a few weeks ago on a different Bushwick adventure.  Their chocolate is out of this world.  I had the chance to sample a few of their flavors at the shop up (coconut, sea salt, espresso), but the Lucuma Vanilla is still my favorite.  The bar is wrapped in gold... and like gold I savor every bite of this chocolatey goodness.

I also got some vegan bourbon balls to round out my lunch (I only had a bite of Ariel's dog plus some kale salad).  These were just being sold by one of the vendors on the side, so I don't know if you can find them elsewhere, but boy were they tasty! I will need to figure out how to recreate them.

I'm so happy that I finally got to check out this event, and I hope it will continue in the future.  It's awesome to see all these vendors prospering.  Who knows, maybe someday I could be one of them!