Health Tips for Road Trips

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It’s the season of road trips. School is out, summer approaches, adventure beckons. It’s the perfect time to load up the car and head off down that highway. I just recently completed my first road trip for the year, to beautiful Blue Ridge, Georgia in the mountains.

As Greg and I prepped for a 700 mile drive across five states to reach our destination, I did more than pack clothes and fill my daily medication holder with supplements. I also prepared for a long ride in the car, with the desire to make it as supportive of my health as possible.

The trip was a success, in terms of the enjoyment I experienced exploring a new to me place and doing well riding for hours in the car.

Try these simple health tips for road trips on your next long distance adventure.

Healthy Tips for Road Trips title

Wear Comfy Clothing

As with flying, when riding for miles and hours confined in a car, it’s important to wear loose fitting, comfy clothing. This isn’t the time for constricting clothes that can cause discomfort by interfering with blood flow. Lightweight, flowing pants or shorts, a loose fitting shirt and sneakers are perfect.

If you have trouble with restless legs or muscle cramps in calves while riding long distances, try compression socks. There are cute ones available, if that lessens the perception of wearing compression socks. They help with circulation, and prevent swelling, which can keep legs more comfortable as you travel. I bought these before my last international flight and they helped so much!

For extra fun, wear a graphic travel tee with ADVENTURE spelled out across the front of it or has ROAD TRIP vibes.

Protect Eyes with Sunglasses

Eyes are exposed to sunlight and glare while riding in the car. Protect them with sunglasses. Polarized with UV protection is a good choice. Amber, grey, brown or grey are the best lens colors, to reduce brightness while not distorting colors. Blue and yellow lenses cause color distortion.

Additionally, reducing glare with sunglasses increases visibility while driving, keeping you and other drivers safer.

Health Tips for Road Trips sunglasses
Health Tips for Road Trips – wear sunglasses for eye protection and better visibility

Buckle Up

Along with wearing comfy clothes and protective sunglasses, wear a seatbelt. It just makes sense for everyone in the car to wear a seatbelt while traveling. The cross body and around the hips belts keep the body from being thrown around the car in an accident, or worse, ejected through the windshield. Seatbelts also prevent injury or even death from a rapidly inflating air bag.

The bottom line is, seatbelts save lives and prevent getting stopped for a violation. Ensure you arrive safely to your destination by buckling up.

Stay Hydrated

To feel your best while traveling, stay hydrated by drinking enough water. I know. Most people on a long car trip do the opposite, fearful that drinking water makes them have to stop too often for bathroom breaks. First of all, that’s the next tip: stop every couple of hours to stretch and move. And secondly, drinking enough water while on road trips helps the body to function better meaning you feel better.

Adequate hydration regulates body temperature, keeps those joints that are often bent while riding in the car lubricated, delivers nutrients to cells and keeps all your organs functioning properly.

You’ll feel less tired when you arrive at your destination and less thirsty as well.

Health Tips for Road Trips stay hydrated
Health Tips for Road Trips – stay hydrated

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Sun exposure happens while riding in the car, especially on the face and arms. Use an SPF 50 sunscreen. It’s more about protecting the skin than preventing sunburn. A good rule of thumb is, when outdoors, use sunscreen.

Pack Healthy Snacks

One of the fun activities while road tripping is munching on snacks. Instead of bags of potato chips, cookies or candy bars, take along healthy choices to fuel your body.

Good suggestions include fruit such as apple slices, bananas, grapes and oranges, cut up veggies, nuts, unsalted airpopped popcorn and low sugar treats such as Munk Pack bars.

As a bonus, I packed groceries for our trip since we knew we would arrive late to our accommodations. The cabin offered a full kitchen and groceries on hand meant I could easily cook healthy meals there. However, more than once on the drive we broke into our box of groceries for a light meal.

Health Tips for Road Trips healthy snacks
Health Tips for Road Trips – pack healthy snacks

Take Breaks to Stretch and Walk

While it might seem like it takes too much time away from the journey to stop every couple of hours, getting out of the car even for a few minutes is good for the body.

Stretching, walking and moving gets blood circulating, eases tight, stiff muscles and keeps you alert, especially when you are the driver. It’s a great time to take that bathroom break as well, after drinking your water. Stretch out the spine, roll shoulders, walk around the car or into a convenience store or restaurant. Loosen up those muscles and you’ll ride better when you return to the car.

Put the Phone Down

If you are the driver, this is a must. Keep attention on the road and traffic and off of the phone. A driver is 23 times more likely to have an accident while sending text messages than if he or she is driving only.

You can still use your phone’s GPS for driving directions by starting the app and then placing the phone in a holder or the console. Listen to music or podcasts but don’t text or try to use the map while driving. Designate a passenger in the car as the message sender, map adjustor, music selector and keep eyes alert and attention focused.

Do You Have Other Tips?

Are you headed out on a road trip this summer? What is your destination?

I hope these health tips for road trips are helpful. Do you have other tips that you find useful? Add them to the comments.

Health Tips for Road Trips no texting
Health Tips for Road Trips – have a designated phone person to text, FaceTime and adjust the map. No texting and driving.

 

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Health Benefits of Hugging

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“I have learned that there is more power in a good hug than in a thousand meaningful words.”  Ann Hood

Did you know that the simple act of hugging someone, holding someone in your arms, is not only a crucial part of human development but also creates positive effects in the body?

It’s true. Hugging raises the energy level in the participants as it promotes wellbeing.

Check out these eight health benefits of hugging…and then embrace a friend or loved one.

Health Benefits of Hugging title

20 Second Hug

According to psychotherapist Virginia Satir, we all need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs daily for growth.

On average, when people hug the embrace lasts for three seconds or less. And while a short hug is better than no hug at all, those longer hugs bring the most benefits. Strive for at least 20 seconds. The feel good hormone oxytocin is released during a sustained hug, which strengthens connection and heightens the health benefits.

What are the benefits? Here they are.

Oxytocin Reduces Anxiety and Stress

Oxytocin released through hugging reduces anxiety and stress in both participants. That’s why we instinctively gather up a hurt child or embrace a friend who is struggling. That act of holding another…and being held…comforts while also demonstrating compassion and support.

Hugging also stimulates dopamine, another feel good hormone that helps boost mood and combat depression. Serotonin is released as well, easing sadness and pain and even prolonging life.

Health Benefits of Hugging goodbye
A hug goodbye as a child begins college.

Hugs Protect Against Illness

The stress reducing effects of hugging help to promote overall health.

In a study of 400 adults, researcher found that hugging reduced the likelihood of the participants becoming sick. Those who felt the most supported experienced greater health and fewer illnesses. And those who felt most supported who did get sick displayed less severe symptoms than those with little or no support.

Hugging also decreases autoimmune disease symptoms and lowers glucose levels in children with diabetes.

Improves Heart Health

An affectionate relationship with another, that includes frequent hugs, is good for heart health.

In a study, scientist divided 200 adults into two groups.

In he first group, romantic partners held hands for 10 minutes followed by a 20 second hug.

During time together in the second group, romantic partners sat in silence for 10 minutes and 20 seconds.

Those in group one showed greater reductions in blood pressure levels and heart rates than those in group two.

Health Benefits of Hugging Day and Fin
Health Benefits of Hugging – improved health

 

Hugs Lessen Fears

Hugging helps to reduce anxiety in those with low self esteem along with fears about their existence. It helps to calm other fears as well. Even hugging an inanimate object such as a stuffed animal has a beneficial effect.

Hugs Make Us Feel Happier

Oxytocin is sometimes called the cuddle hormone because levels rise when we hug. Women seem to experience this boost to feelings of happiness the most, especially when receiving hugs from their partners and when they hug and cuddle their babies.

Health Benefits of Hugging couple
Health Benefits of Hugging – greater feelings of happiness

Pain Reduction

Hugging and other forms of touch can help to reduce pain.

In a study with fibromyalgia patients, people received six therapeutic touch treatments that included hugging and light touching of the skin. Participants reported less pain and an increased quality of life.

Hugging Improves Communication

Communication occurs verbally and also through facial expressions and through touch. Hugging for at least 20 seconds is a way to communicate love, acceptance, support and comfort through physical touch. During an extended hug, both participants experience relaxation in addition to slower breathing and heart rates. The pair often begin to breath in sync as they embrace.

Strengthens the Immune System

A hug puts gentle pressure on the sternum, stimulating the thymus gland which regulates the body’s production of white blood cells. These cells help keep the body healthy and free from disease, boosting the immune system and creating a greater sense of wellbeing.

Health Benefits of Hugging cousins
Health Benefits of Hugging – strengthened immune system

Be a Love Pharmacist…Dispense Hugs

Have you had a dozen 20 second hugs today?

In our oft times busy lives, with school, work and appointments, we call out a quick “I love you” and give a peck on the cheek as we dash out the door or before collapsing exhausted onto the sofa at the end of a long day.

What if we intentionally gave hugs throughout the day, taking time for a full contact, 20 second embrace? If 12 hugs a day seems too many at first, start with four and then increase to eight and finally, to a dozen.

How might that not only improve our health and wellbeing but shift the energy of our days? And how might the recipients of our hugs respond and feel?

I’m willing to find out. Are you?

Health Benefits of Hugging group hug
Group hug!

 

Free Hugs T Shirt…click photo to order.

 

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

Improve Your Gait

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This week’s walk, from the book 52 Ways to Walk, intrigued me. I’ve experienced issues with my walk since my toddler days.

I toe in, a condition that others jokingly called “pigeon toed” during my childhood. As a tiny tot barely mobile, I wore braces on my feet at night, in an attempt to point my feet outward rather than inward. They didn’t work, because it’s a hip/leg connection problem, not a foot one.

I broke my right leg twice and surgery removed a benign tumor from that same leg, all by age five. Those incidents required hip to toe casts and later a walking cast, which severely hampered my activity level for a while.

And a serious car accident in my late 30s injured my low back and began a 20 year journey of unrelenting pain, stiffness and inflammation in my back and legs. Eventually, I used a cane to walk and faced the prospect of using a wheelchair. Thankfully, a plant based lifestyle ended the pain and inflammation and greatly reduced the stiffness in my legs.

All of those situations throughout my life has left me with a walk that is less than perfect. Although I’ve accepted my unique stride, I welcomed the challenge to be more mindful as I walk.

This Walk #2, Improve Your Gait.

Improve Your Gait title

Improve Your Gait

After Canadian scientists studied 500 walkers, they came to a startling conclusion. With a 70% accuracy, they were able to identify which walkers had early cognitive impairment, just by watching their gaits.

Their findings agree with earlier studies. Our walking gait, at age 45, can predict our chances of getting Alzheimer’s. The takeaway: how we walk provides a hint about the health of our brains. The question scientists are still studying…does gait affect the brain? Or does the brain affect the gait?

The Long Term Effects of a Sedentary Life

One of the factors contributing to cognitive decline and the need to improve gait is a sedentary lifestyle.

We sit for long periods of time, so much more than our parents and grandparents did.

Our bodies lose strength, balance and flexibility due to hours hunched over a laptop followed by evenings camped out on the sofa. For some women, add in tight, ill fitting albeit fashionable shoes with high heels and our feet suffer.

Those bones, muscles and joints in the feet get out of whack, tighten up and lose the ability to walk gracefully and smoothly.

Sports scientist Joanna Hall also believes that a sedentary lifestyle affects HOW we walk. Sitting for too many hours every day shortens and tightens the hip flexor muscles and encourages the abdominal muscles to slacken.

Leaning over computer keyboards forces the neck and head forward, unnaturally, restricting back muscles and tightening the spine. And poorly fitting shoes cramp toes and stiffen the joints and muscles of the feet, causing us to walk with a flat plod that Joanna calls a passive foot strike.

So is it important to improve and correct gait, even if we’ve been walking since age one? Yes!

Improve Your Gait stance
I’ve paid attention to my walk this past week.

Tips to Improve Your Gait

Joanna, who works with people helping them with gait, recommends relearning how to walk properly to avoid injury and joint pain and to enable us to walk faster and for longer periods of time.

Her tips include:

Pushing off from the back foot, using the muscles in the back of the legs.

Rolling through each foot, from heel to toe, using the toes to power us forward.

Lifting the ribcage and lower back to strengthen abdominal muscles and create space in our core.

Lengthening and straightening the neck which frees the spine to move as we walk while relieving stiffness in the neck and shoulders from hunching over a desk or computer.

Swinging arms freely from the shoulders as we walk. Hands should be relaxed, not curled into fists.

Look 10 to 20 feet ahead and use the eyes to look downward, not the head.

And swivel hips slightly, which boosts power to the stride. Focus on shorter steps, so as not to overextend the legs, however take more steps.

Wear properly fitting shoes.

Improving My Gait

Walking comfortably is important to me, as is endurance. When I travel I love to walk all over a city or area, exploring and taking photos, learning the history of the location and getting a feel for the culture.

An improved gait helps create a smooth walk and also increases the ability to walk faster, longer and farther. This is exactly what I desire.

For the last week, I’ve mindfully noticed how I walk. I’m implementing the tips, one by one, noting how an improved gait feels.

As this chapter in 52 Ways to Walk suggests, ingrained poor walking habits can shift, with “a little work”. I’m discovering this is true.

Improving my gait felt a little awkward at first. And seriously, my legs muscles became sore. That means I’m using muscles in different ways than I did before.

Overall, I like what I’m experiencing. I stand taller. I’m more mindful and aware. As my leg muscles adjust to my improved gait, they will grow stronger and perhaps, less stiff.

I’m excited to see how I’m walking…and feeling…in a month.

Improve Your Gait library
Improving my gait at the Joplin Public Library, where I snapped photos.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Cold at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share highlights of some of the walks.

Have you ever consciously thought about your gait and the way you walk?

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

Easy Vegan Cornbread

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I switched to a plant based lifestyle in 2016. And since 2016, I’ve tried to create a decent vegan cornbread. Most of those attempts failed. One, Greg jokingly said, would be delicious with chocolate icing on it. That cornbread more resembled cake than anything else!

As a pot of Cajun 15 bean soup simmered on the stove a couple of days ago, I decided to give cornbread another try, using ingredients I already had on hand.

For the first time, I felt pleased with the results. Maybe I’ve been trying too hard!

Here is the simple recipe for Easy Vegan Cornbread. As a bonus, it’s oil free as well.

Easy Vegan Cornbread title

Easy Vegan Cornbread

Using only seven ingredients, readily found in the pantry, this cornbread came together in minutes. I popped the pan out of the oven as the Cajun bean soup finished simmering.

You can easily adapt this recipe to use what YOU have on hand.

Switch out the almond flour for regular flour, if you aren’t gluten sensitive, or a gluten free 1 to 1 flour like Bob’s Red Mill. Change out the coconut sugar for regular sugar if that’s what you have available. And you can substitute 1/3 cup of oil for the applesauce.

Easy Vegan Cornbread ready to eat
Ready to eat easy vegan cornbread

Easy Vegan Cornbread Recipe

Easy Vegan Cornbread

Easy Vegan Cornbread

This quick from scratch cornbread is vegan, gluten free and oil free
4.50 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish.
  • Combine all dry ingredients in medium sized bowl.
  • Add almond milk and applesauce. Still well, combining all ingredients.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting.
Keyword cornbread, oil free, Vegan

 

Tips for Easy Vegan Cornbread

This recipe is so simple that it doesn’t require many tips!

For a less sweet cornbread, reduce the amount of sugar.

Don’t overmix the batter. Stir until ingredients are just combined.

I haven’t tried doubling this recipe however it should work. Of course, use a larger baking pan.

Check for doneness after 20 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the center. When the toothpick is clean after removing, cornbread is done.

Store leftovers loosely covered, at room temperature.

Easy Vegan Cornbread
Easy Vegan Cornbread

The Taste Test

I admit I was almost afraid to try the cornbread. I’ve felt disappointment over earlier attempts.

Happily, this batch passed the taste test. It holds together well and has a light texture and a slightly sweet taste.

The cornbread paired well with the bean soup. And no icing required. This cornbread doesn’t taste like cake!

We enjoyed this batch of cornbread so much that we finished it off this evening.

Do you have a vegan cornbread recipe that you love?

Easy Vegan Cornbread with bean soup
Easy Vegan Cornbread with Cajun bean soup.

 

 

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Van Gogh’s Eeterie

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Last fall, Greg and I set off on an adventure in the nearby city of Springfield, MO. We walked the cute downtown area. Because I was working on a post on haunted Springfield, I took photos of specific destinations in the downtown area.

We had an early evening tour booked at spooky Pythian Castle. In between our walk and the tour, we decide to try a new to us restaurant on historic C Street just north of downtown.

I spent a solo getaway weekend a year ago, on C Street, (check out my fun accommodations), and during that trip enjoyed Peruvian food at Café Cusco. This trip, we chose another fun restaurant, Van Gogh’s Eeterie.

I’m so glad we stopped by!

Van Gogh;s Eeterie title

 

Van Gogh’s Eeterie

Joseph Gidman, the owner of Café Cusco, open a second restaurant at 334 E Commercial Street. Inspired by his time spent traveling abroad and living in Rotterdam, Joe opened Van Gogh’s Eeterie with his parents, bringing a taste of the Netherlands to Springfield.

Van Gogh’s Eeterie offers a variety of Dutch inspired breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Try traditional favorites such as bitterballen, snert, Dutch meatballs, stroopwafels and apple tarts.

Or, experience the restaurant’s specialty, Dutch pancakes. These large, crepe like pancakes come with savory or sweet toppings. Plus, Van Gogh’s Eeterie offers a full bar with beer, wine and kombucha on tap.

Meals are served in an early 1900s brick building with a vibrant, contemporary interior. During mild weather, enjoy a meal on the pretty outdoor patio.

Van Gogh’s also offers vegan and gluten free options.

Van Gogh's Eeterie interior
Van Gogh’s Eeterie’s contemporary interior
Van Gogh's Eeterie wooden shoe light
A wooden shoe serves as a light at Van Gogh’s Eeterie.

Hours of Operation

Hours of operation are:

Monday through Friday, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

Saturday 8:00 am – 9:00 pm

Sunday 8:00 am – 2:00 pm

We dined at a time between lunch and dinner, and the restaurant wasn’t busy. However, normal breakfast, lunch and dinner times can be. Make a reservation HERE, to ensure you get to enjoy a meal at Van Gogh’s.

Van Gogh's Eeterie outdoors
Pretty outdoor dining patio at Van Gogh’s Eeterie

Our Van Gogh’s Eeterie Meal

To get the full experience, we ordered an appetizer, entrees and dessert, all vegan.

Check out what we ate.

Appetizer

To start our meal, we ordered Peace Fries as an appetizer to share.

These vegan fries are made from golden potatoes. The fries are topped with sunflower pesto, pickled onions and curry catsup.

Yum these fries were good! I enjoy trying new foods and this twist on a traditional food was marvelous.

Golden Peace Fries as an appetizer
Peace Fries appetizer

Entrees

We ordered two different vegan entrees, so we could sample two new meals!

Greg chose the Vegan Curry Mac. This tasty bowl contained cooked macaroni mixed with tofu, green pepper, pineapple, onion and green onion smothered in coconut lemon curry sauce. This was such a fresh take on mac and cheese and it was delicious.

I selected Vegan Boerenkoot. This bowl offered sauteed veggies, seasoned broccoli and sunflower pesto over mashed potatoes blended with kale, spinach and swiss chard. I loved this vegan bowl with its unique blend of flavors.

Van Gogh's Eeterie entrees
Vegan entrees at Van Gogh’s Eeterie

Dessert

As we did with the appetizer, we decided to share a dessert. Van Gogh’s Eeterie offers a delectable finish to the meal with Vegan Berry Lemon Tart with Vegan Ice Cream.

The lemon tart was served with a berry compote in a coconut date crust. We don’t often order dessert at restaurants so we savored this special treat. Truly it was the perfect way to complete the meal.

Van Gogh's Eeterie dessert
Vegan Lemon Tart with Vegan Ice Cream

Dutch Delight

We enjoyed our leisurely meal at Van Gogh’s Eeterie. The location on C Street placed us close to Pythian Castle for our tour. We actually had time to walk up and down the historic street after our meal and appreciate the sunset.

Have you eaten a Dutch inspired meal?

I laughed later when I remember that as a young girl, with the help of my mom, I prepared a Dutch dish and dressed in Dutch clothing for a Campfire Girls dinner. I believe we made apple dumplings. So perhaps Dutch food isn’t quite as new to me as I first thought!

Regardless, I look forward to another meal at Van Gogh’s Eeterie.

Sunset on C Street in Springfield

 

 

 

 

Walk in the Cold

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I admit that I am not a fan of cold weather. Normally I choose to stay indoors when temperatures dip into the 30s and lower.

However, on my December trip to Edinburgh, Scotland I knew I’d better change my mindset. I didn’t travel to Edinburgh to sit inside my temporary apartment. No. I traveled to Edinburgh to attend the city’s Christmas Market and to explore the city on foot.

It was fun to combine that trip with one of the walks from 52 Ways to Walk, the book I purchased last year.

This is Walk #1, Walk in the Cold.

Walk in the Cold title

Why Walk in the Cold?

Some people love the winter season and absolutely enjoy spending time outdoors in spite of the colder temps. In fact, those people feel exhilarated by the brisk air.

I’m not one of those people, or at least, I wasn’t. No, I’m more a snuggle up indoors person waiting for winter to shift into spring.

For many years however, I wanted to explore my favorite city during the holiday season and experience the Christmas Market. I researched the weather in Scotland during December and watched the forecasts on the Weather App. Expected day time temps were expected to hover in the mid 30s with night time lows in the 20s. That’s below average temperatures for Scotland in winter.

I adjusted my attitude about the cold, read Week One, Walk in the Cold in my book and prepared for those low temps by purchasing the proper clothing and outerwear. (Read about the essentials for cold weather that I traveled with HERE.)

I discovered there are benefits that come from spending time in moderately cold temperatures. Check them out.

Walk in the Cold coat
For my daily walk in the cold in Edinburgh, warm layers and a heavy coat kept me comfy.

Cold Reduces Inflammation and Pain

We know this is true. Injuries such sprains respond well to an ice pack. The cold eases painful muscles, joints and tendons while reducing inflammation and swelling. Cold also raises the levels of adiponectin in the body, a protein that combats inflammation.

Cold Increases Fat Burning

The body has stores of brown fat tissue, which is different from white fat. Brown fat burns calories and uses energy, essentially turning calories from food into heat. Cold increases brown fat activity and raises metabolism.

Researchers studying brown fat found that it also contains mitochondria, tiny factories inside the cells that convert food and oxygen into a form of energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP supports all the processes in the body, regulates appetite, improves insulin sensitivity and stops the premature death of cells.

Walk in the Cold boots
Walk in the Cold – keep feet warm and dry with wool socks and sturdy boots.

Cold Strengthens the Nervous System

An increase in fat burning modulates the sympathetic nervous system. The colder temps act as a mild workout for the nervous system, which in turns adapts and grows stronger.

The brain functions better as well, during colder temperatures. The brain needs glucose and when glucose is low, the brain becomes sluggish. That’s why we think more clearly when exposed to cold rather than heat. The body uses more glucose to cool down than it does to heat up. Studies found that we think more clearly, decisively and calmly when in cooler temps than we do in warmer temps.

Cold Improves Mental Health

Spending time outdoors, during cold temps, has powerful restorative and revitalizing effects. The cold calms the nervous system while slowing and steadying the heart rate, easing anxiety and stress. We build endurance as well, without requiring the body to work so hard.

Walk in the Cold st andrews square
Walk in the Cold – St Andrew’s Square, Edinburgh

Tips for a Walk in the Cold

First, we are talking about walking in moderate cold with temperatures above 0. Anything below that is considered extreme cold and great care should be used when outdoors in those temps.

Dress in layers to keep the body comfortable without sweating. The hands, feet and head cool down first so wear gloves, thick woolen socks, boots and a cap on the head. Make sure boots have adequate tread on them to prevent slipping on ice and snow.

Keep the body hydrated. Carry water or even a warm drink in a thermos. Caffeine, found in coffee and some teas, actually spurs on brown fat activity.

Fuel the body with frequent highly nutritious snacks or small meals. We burn more energy while out in the cold. The body needs the extra fuel.

Walk briskly. We use our arms for balance so keep gloved hands out of pockets. Use a walking stick to navigate slick areas and step sideways on stairs and when going downhill.

Walk in the Cold castle
I carefully climbed many stairs, some coated with a thin layer of ice, for this incredible view of Edinburgh Castle.

My Walk in the Cold

I spent a week in Edinburgh, walking in the cold daily. And you know what? I came to deeply appreciate my cold walks.

I dressed properly. I carried snacks and water. And when necessary, I walked with care in icy places. Every moment spent in that magnificent city was wonderful and the cold didn’t deter me at all.

My daily routine included breakfast in my top floor apartment (Check out CoDE Boutique Hostel), a morning spent exploring, lunch at a vegan restaurant and then more walking until dark, which occurred about 3:30 in the afternoon. Yes, the Scottish days are extremely short during winter. I ate dinners that I prepared in my apartment.

Some days I headed back to my apartment shortly after darkness fell. Other days I attended scheduled events such as Christmas in the Botanics at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. And some days I just enjoyed wandering Edinburgh’s cobbled streets after dark, taking photos and marveling over lighted Christmas displays.

My last full day in Edinburgh was the coldest. Temperatures never rose above the low 20s. After days of walking in the cold though, my body acclimated and I like to think my brown fat was firing away! I did well that day, exploring Dean Village, strolling through the Christmas Market and saying goodbyes to beloved places in the city.

I did indeed feel energized and revigorated. And I learned that I can tolerate the cold and not only that, I can enjoy the outdoors in chilly weather.

Walk in the Cold circus lane
One walk in the cold took me to a new to me area in Edinburgh…Circus Lane.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Rain at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.

Do you enjoy walks in the cold?

Walk in the Cold Edinburgh

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Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome

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One of the highlights of my recent trip to Edinburgh was a vegan afternoon tea at The Dome. This gorgeous restaurant seemed perfect for a fancy afternoon tea. My nearby accommodations meant I could walk to The Dome. And I knew, from photos on social media that the interior was magical, all decorated for the holidays. I couldn’t wait.

And yet, that afternoon tea almost didn’t happen!

Check out my beautiful experience. It’s a memory I cherish.

Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome title

History of The Dome in Edinburgh

Located at 14 George Street, in New Town, The Dome occupies the site of the former Physician’s Hall. Built in 1775, the construction of the hall ran over budget, leaving the Physician’s College in debt. The college eventually sold the building to the Commercial Bank of Scotland.

In 1844 the hall was demolished, making way for the current structure. The Graeco-Roman style, with arched and keystoned upper windows and a Corinthian portico offered a magnificent presence on George Street. Inside, twin staircases rose to offices on the floor above and in the main hall, arched ceilings and a coffered dome capped the center of the building.

In 1959 Commercial Bank of Scotland joined with the National Bank of Scotland. The building on George Street no longer served as the head office. Caledonian Heritable Ltd bought the building and created The Dome, opening its doors in 1996.

Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome exterior
The beautiful exterior of The Dome on George Street, Edinburgh

What The Dome Offers

Whether you desire afternoon tea or a delicious meal, a meeting room or a place for a private dinner, The Dome provides.

The Grill Room

The former banking hall under the dome now functions as the Grill Room. The Bar Area in the room serves snacks, sandwiches and drinks. The meal menu is a la carte. The Grill Room opens daily at noon. Check out the menu and make an online reservation for a meal or drinks HERE.

Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome under the dome
Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome – the Grill Room under the dome

The Club Room

​The sumptuous Club Room is considered one of the most beautiful rooms in Edinburgh. Sparkling mirrors and chandeliers preside over dark green banquettes and tan chairs. This room provides the perfect setting for a romantic meal, a casual catch up with friends over tea or a special family get-together.

The Club Room opens daily from 10:00 – 2:00 for breakfast and Morning Tea.

Click LINK for menus and to make a reservation for the Club Room.

Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome lobby
Looking up after walking into The Dome.

The Front Bar

If you want a cozy yet gorgeous room for a drink, look no further. The Front Bar occupies the building’s storeroom. Outfitted with rich wood paneling and Swarovski crystal chandeliers, it’s an intimate yet showy spot to share drinks with friends.

Choose from superb cocktails, an amazing malt whisky selection and a huge range of gins. Or try a craft or draught beer, champagne or Prosecco.

A 50 inch television allows sports fans to catch a rugby game or a Wimbledon match.

Opening times for the Front Bar differ daily. Call ahead to find out when the bar room opens.

Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome lighted doorway
Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome – lighted doorway into the Grill Room.

The Georgian Tea Room

Daily afternoon tea is served in the beautiful and classy Georgian Tea Room upstairs. In Scotland this is called the first floor, as opposed to what Americans call the second floor. Climb the gorgeous curved staircases for access to this room or take the lift (elevator).

The tea room offers a variety of tea services: afternoon tea, gluten free tea, vegan tea, tipsy tea and children’s tea. The tipsy tea provides a tea infused cocktail for each tier of food.

The Georgian Tea Room opens daily at noon. Check out each menu and make reservations ONLINE.

Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome georgian tea room
The Georgian Tea Room

The Afternoon Tea That Almost Didn’t Happen

As I shared at the beginning of the post, this beautiful experience almost didn’t happen.

I booked the trip to Edinburgh in August, inspired by years of dreaming about attending the city’s Christmas Market. After two years of shut downs and limited travel due to COVID, I was excited to finally attend in 2022.

A formal afternoon tea at a special location, like The Dome, was high on my list of planned activities.

I knew I needed to make a reservation. What I didn’t realize is how popular The Dome afternoon teas are, especially during the holiday season. Early November I got online to make my reservation and found The Dome completely booked up for the week of my visit. I felt so disappointed. However, I knew other places for vegan afternoon existed in Edinburgh. The search began for another afternoon tea time.

Two weeks before my trip, having not found another unique place like The Dome for afternoon tea, I felt a nudge to check online reservations again. Perhaps, I thought, a cancellation opened a spot. I am so glad I checked. There was indeed a time available, three days after my arrival. I happily booked my vegan afternoon tea at The Dome.

Cozy Georgian Tea Room.

My Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome

I chose the vegan afternoon tea. Although I do have a gluten sensitivity, The Dome can’t combine gluten free AND vegan so I didn’t worry about gluten that afternoon.

My accommodations on Rose Street, CoDE Boutique Hostel, was one block away from George Street. My second day in Edinburgh I walked by, to make sure I knew the precise location and then eagerly anticipated my special afternoon tea.

With my reservation pulled up on my phone, I arrived at The Dome fifteen minutes early on Friday, December 9. On the portico, people queued, waiting for an opportunity to step inside The Dome and admire the Christmas decorations. With a reservation though, I didn’t have to wait.

Once inside I took photos of the lobby and then climbed the stairs to the Georgian Tea Room. My table for one was ready!

I ordered a pot of Delicious Berry tea and while waiting for my afternoon experience to begin, took more photos before the room filled with people.

Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome Christmas trees
Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome – Christmas trees in the Georgian Tea Room

Unforgettable Afternoon Tea

Truly, even after all the anticipation, the experience surpassed my expectations.

The wait staff appeared often to see if I needed anything. Soft lights, Christmas decor, crisp white linens, a silver teapot and shiny silverware created a beautiful oasis to relax and savor the moments along with the tea.

I know my eyes teared up when the tiered tray with my vegan treats appeared.

On the lower tier I found a baby potato with walnut pesto and three sandwiches: roasted veggies and hummus, sundried tomato and basil, and artichoke, peas and mint salad.

The next tier contained a scone with vegan cream and jam.

And the top tier offered sweet treats: lemon tart, strawberry sponge cake and Mille-feuille, a puffed pastry filled with vegan cream.

It was ALL delicious, filling and perfectly prepared. I had an hour and a half to enjoy this special treat so I took my time, nibbling and then pausing to sip tea. I relished my the time at The Dome and made it count.

Pot of Delicious Berry Tea at The Dome
Pot of Delicious Berry Tea at The Dome
Vegan Afternoon Tea at The Dome
Beautiful vegan afternoon tea at The Dome.

Afternoon Tea Fan?

I’ll never forget my afternoon at The Dome. In a city I dearly love, enjoying a Scottish tradition that I practice daily, this experience felt magical. I’m ever so grateful.

And, I look forward to a return experience someday.

Are you an afternoon tea fan? When you visit Edinburgh, I highly recommend The Dome.

For other wonderful vegan fare in Edinburgh, check out this post.

The Dome

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Vegan Eats in Edinburgh

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In December 2022, it was my great pleasure to experience my first international solo trip. A long held dream of mine became reality as I visited Edinburgh, Scotland during the holiday season. I enjoyed the Christmas Market, the beautiful décor and festive atmosphere, visiting areas of the city I’d yet to explore AND the amazing vegan food.

This was my fourth visit to this extraordinary city, my third as one who practices a plant based lifestyle, and I so appreciate all that Edinburgh offers in the way of vegan options.

Check out these vegan eats in Edinburgh, for your next visit to Scotland.

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Researching Vegan Eats in Edinburgh

Because of my dietary restrictions, by choice, before I travel I research places to eat. And because I am typically on foot once I reach my destination, it becomes especially important to find accommodations near where I’ll explore and then search for vegan options in the surrounding area.

I’m very familiar with Edinburgh, Scotland. The city centre is comprised of Old Town and New Town, separated by a valley that is now Princes Street Gardens. The Christmas Market occupies space along Princes Street and in the gardens, which is officially in New Town and at the edge of Old Town.

Fortunately, I found the perfect accommodations for me, on Rose Street just a block from Princes Street and the market. You can see why I fell in love with CoDE Boutique Hostel, in this post on my other blog site.

Once I reserved a cozy, private apartment in the hostel, I searched the area for vegan cafes or at least, restaurants that offer vegan options. Edinburgh is home to SO many wonderful vegan restaurants. Plus, many regular cafés offer vegan and gluten free options as well.

I stayed a week in Edinburgh. The apartment’s kitchen meant I could prepare healthy breakfasts and dinners there while allowing me to dine out for lunch and/or afternoon tea.

Vegan Eats in Edinburgh typical breakfast
The breakfast that I prepared each morning…oatmeal.

Vegan Eats in Edinburgh

These are the places I chose during my week in Edinburgh. All but one were new to me, which meant delightful first experiences. And all were within easy walking distance from my accommodations except for one.

Seeds for the Soul

My sister and I enjoyed lunch at this 100% vegan restaurant in 2019. I KNEW I wanted a return meal here, even though it is not located near the city centre.

Located at 167 Bruntsfield Place, I dropped my carryon off at CoDE Boutique Hostel and then took an Uber to Seeds for the Soul for a leisurely lunch. This is literally the first place I visited upon arrival, other than a quick stop by my accommodations. After a long day of travel, Seeds for the Soul was such a treat, easing my weariness with hearty, nourishing vegan food.

Seeds for the Soul offers an impressive menu. From full vegan breakfasts to an assortment of hearty and healthy lunches and specialty drinks, this café believes in changing the world one plate, one meal at a time.

They make most of their food from scratch using organic and locally sourced produce. And they take to heart the words, “be the change you want to see in the world”, offering cruelty free meals, always. Read more about my first visit HERE.

This visit I lingered over the Nourish Bowl and then savored a pot of tea with a slice of vegan carrot cake. Seeds for the Soul was the perfect way to welcome myself back to Edinburgh!

Vegan Eats in Edinburgh seeds for the soul
Vegan Eats in Edinburgh – Seeds for the Soul bowl
Vegan Eats in Edinburgh seeds for the soul dessert
Seeds for the Soul vegan carrot cake and a pot of tea.

Holy Cow

This cozy café, located at 34 Elder Street , was one of the first fully vegan restaurants to open in Edinburgh. While they are famous for home-made vegan burgers, Holy Cow offers a variety of mouth watering meals and desserts.

Holy Cow prepares their food with careful attention to every detail, using only fresh, local, organic ingredients. Their Chefs bake organic rolls and gluten free breads every day. And if there’s room still after the meal, try one of the luscious home-made sweet treats created by Pastry Chefs Justina and Anatol.

A short 10 minute walk brought me to Holy Cow. The cozy café is located down a flight of steps, below sidewalk level, with windows along the front wall. I enjoyed a vegan Reuben sandwich, which was marvelous, and a side of rosemary fries…called chips in Scotland!

As I did at Seeds for the Soul, I took half my meal back to the apartment, for dinner, so that I had room for a slice of mango cheesecake with blackberries and a pot of tea. So delicious!

Vegan Eats in Edinburgh holy cow meal
Vegan Eats in Edinburgh – Holy Cow Reuben Sandwich
Vegan Eats in Edinburgh holy cow dessert
This vegan mango cheesecake tasted amazing!

The Dome Afternoon Tea

The Dome, located at 14 George Street, occupies a site that originally contained a physician’s hall before becoming a bank and then an award winning restaurant and bar. The current stately structure was built in 1844 after the original building was torn down.

The massive building houses a bar, a dining room, a private dining area, meeting rooms, an outdoor garden area for summer dining and a Georgian Tea Room. While it is not 100% vegan, The Dome offers vegan options.

There’s a cool story behind my afternoon tea at The Dome. Due to its popularity, reservations are required for dining and for afternoon tea. About a month before my trip, I attempted to make online reservations for the second week in December. To my dismay, there wasn’t any availability. The Dome was fully booked.

Disappointed, I began searching for another place for a special afternoon tea, however, as of two weeks before my trip, I had not found anything quite as unique as The Dome. I felt a “nudge” to check the online reservations again, in case there was a cancellation. Indeed, there was an opening, and I happily booked my reservation for a Friday afternoon, ordering a vegan afternoon tea.

This was such a treat, truly an experience I will treasure always. My afternoon tea was a visual and culinary delight. Check out The Dome online, for reservations and to see the menu. And watch for a full, upcoming blog post on this experience.

Vegan Eats in Edinburgh afternoon tea
Vegan afternoon tea at The Dome.

NovaPizza Vegan Kitchen

After a morning spent exploring in a new to me section of Edinburgh, called Stockbridge, I visited this charming vegan Italian café for lunch. Because of my pre-trip planning, stopping by was no coincidence. I looked for vegan restaurants in the Stockbridge area before I visited Edinburgh.

NovaPizza claims status as the first Italian vegan restaurant in Edinburgh. It’s owned by a Roman family that prepares and serves authentic Italian dishes, plant based style!

Located at 42 Howe Street, NovaPizza uses local products as much as possible, while offering pizzas, pastas and other meals. They also offer gluten free options as well.

Although I arrived as the café opened, and was seated immediately, the small, cozy interior fills up quickly with hungry patrons. A reservation is recommended. I enjoyed a vegan gnocchi with a homemade rocket (arugula) pesto sauce, topped with tomato confit. It was incredible! And very filling.

Vegan Eats in Edinburgh novapizza
Vegan gnocchi at NovaPizza Vegan Kitchen.

Stack & Still

This fun restaurant, located at 53 Rose Street, was literally steps from my accommodations on the same Street. They serve pancakes…in many different combinations, sweet and savory. You can create your own stack…or choose from their selection of signature dishes.

And while they are not 100% vegan, they offer vegan, gluten free and no added sugar options. That made Stack & Still my destination for a wonderful Sunday brunch.

I chose a vegan, gluten free, no added sugar pancake topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries, with a side of pure maple syrup. It was the perfect start to my day of exploring.

Vegan Eats in Edinburgh pancake with fruit
Vegan Eats in Edinburgh – Stack & Still vegan pancake with fruit.

Wanderlust Café & Bistro

Located on the Royal Mile, in Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town, this little café was the perfect spot for a quick meal and a chance to get out of the cold!

Wanderlust offers savory breakfast meals along with lunch, freshly squeezed juices, smoothies and hot drinks. You can request a vegan menu and non dairy milk for your coffee or tea.

Their specialties include vegan crepes, both sweet and savory.

I felt like nachos, however, and LOVED the vegan version served by Wanderlust. The meal warmed me up and gave me an energy boost to continue my walk along the Royal Mile.

Vegan Eats in Edinburgh wanderlust cafe and bistro
Vegan Eats in Edinburgh – Wanderlust Café & Bistro vegan nachos.

Christmas Market Vegan Food

On my last full day in Edinburgh, I chose to eat “festival food” at the Christmas Market. I’d already walked through the market several times on previous days and scouted out which of the many food booths offered vegan options.

There were plenty of choices. I found an assortment of vegan offerings, from brats and hotdogs to sweet treats to hot chocolate made from non dairy milk to crepes and nachos.

It was very cold on this day, with temps hovering around 24 degrees Fahrenheit. I enjoyed a dairy free hot chocolate. And although I ate nachos the day before at Wanderlust, I couldn’t resist the smell of nachos…with vegan cheese, vegan haggis and jalapenos! I needed the heat. And how often do I get to eat vegan haggis??

I loved the lively, colorful, festive atmosphere at the Christmas Market. The cold didn’t stop people from enjoying the rides, the booths, the music, the sights and the food, me included.

I carried my steaming hot plate of food to a large communal dining area, with stand up tables and canopies overhead to protect from falling rain or snow. A light layer of snow clung to the table nevertheless, which felt perfect to me! I smiled at the mother with her children across the table from me and tucked into my meal.

It felt like a wonderful final vegan meal in Edinburgh.

Christmas Market nachos
Christmas Market nachos with vegan cheese and vegan haggis! It was wonderful. And yes, the photo is slightly blurry. It was so cold that my iPhone was not operating well.

Edinburgh, Scotland

I absolutely loved this solo trip to my favorite city in the world. It always feels like coming home to me, like I belong here more than anywhere else.

With their wealth of vegan restaurants and options, I certainly appreciate the ability to find plant based food here. In fact, there are so many vegan options in Edinburgh that I’ve only barely scratched the surface of what’s available. That just means I must return, to try more restaurants!

Have you visited Edinburgh, Scotland? What restaurants did you enjoy?

Enjoying tea tine at The Dome
Enjoying afternoon tea at The Dome.

For more info about being plant based in Edinburgh, read this post.

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Vegan Eats in Washington DC

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On my recent trip to Washington DC, to explore the city for the first time and to see my grandson Dayan, we came up with a fun daily plan: eat brunch together…walk in DC and visit museums and memorials…eat dinner.

DC offers many restaurants with very diverse food choices and vegan options are plentiful. While I’ve been plant based for more than six years, my grandson is not. Living, working and going to school in DC, he gets ample exercise walking everywhere. And he eats on the healthier side as well. So we chose places from different cultures that also offered vegan options.

I felt excited to try so many new restaurants and foods. Check out these vegan eats in Washington DC.

Vegan Eats in Washington DC title

Vegan Eats in Washington DC

What a rich foodie experience in DC. We enjoyed a wide variety of food, learned it’s best to make reservations for evening meals and definitely walked off our calories. That’s important due to generous meal portions! I usually ate half of my meal and sent the rest home with Dayan.

Art and Soul

Located in the Capitol Hill area, this hip restaurant offers seasonal, locally sourced dishes from owner and chef, Art Smith. In warm weather, enjoy dining on a spacious outdoor patio. Chef strives to make sure every plate achieves that perfect combination of sweet, salty and sour flavors.

Menu offerings range from southern favorites to bowls to pasta dishes to avocado toast.

Vegan options are limited here, however I enjoyed a delicious pasta dish with freshly sauteed veggies.

Vegan Eats in Washington DC art and soul
Vegan Eats in Washington DC – Art and Soul

Busboys and Poets

DC is known as a brunch city, which worked out so perfectly for my grandson and me. I looked forward to our first brunch together at this popular spot.

Busboys and Poets is located in a lively neighborhood, at 14th and V Streets NW, and serves as a bookstore, coffee shop AND restaurant. They focus on global fare and offer a wide variety of vegan meals. Busboys and Poets cares for the body, with its carefully prepared food, for the mind with curated events and for the soul with their books and poetry.

We made reservations and then browsed in the bookstore after we arrived. I loved the fun atmosphere. I also loved my meal, a vegetable quinoa bowl full of grilled eggplant, asparagus, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, avocado, red peppers and kale. Truly, it was SO good. And the portion was huge. Dayan took half my meal home to enjoy later in the week.

Busboys and Poets
Vegan Eats in Washington DC – Busboys and Poets

Doi Moi

For our Saturday evening meal, Dayan and I selected a Vietnamese restaurant, Doi Moi. This popular spot on 14th Street NW offers Southeast Asian fare, a vegan menu and fresh pressed juices.

Executive Chef Wade Foo Fatt finds inspiration for his dishes in the vibrant street markets of Vietnam. He relies on fresh herbs and vegetables to deliver a flavorful, healthy menu.

The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, with flickering candles at each table. I enjoyed the Ratatouille Curry, richly flavored with bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant, macerated tofu, coconut milk, cilantro and peanuts, with a side of rice.

Doi Moi Vietnamese Restaurant
Vegan Eats in Washington DC – Doi Moi Vietnamese

Gypsy Kitchen

For brunch on Sunday, we visited the bohemian inspired Gypsy Kitchen, also located on 14th Street. Even though it was cool and rainy, Dayan and I sat on the covered patio on the rooftop. Large heaters circulated warm air, making the setting perfect for our meal.

Gypsy Kitchen serves international dishes and cocktails for brunch, lunch and dinner in laid back, eclectic surroundings with warm vibes. Flavors hail from Morocco, Israel, Spain, Greece and Lebanon. I was particularly drawn by the boho decor…plump pillows, tapestries and woven rugs…and the fun menu.

Dayan and I started with the delicious house made hummus, served with flatbread. My meal was crispy cauliflower with a lemon tahini, dried fruit relish, capers and pistachios. We splurged on desserts, a Basque cheesecake slice for Dayan and grilled peaches for me. So yummy!

Delicious crispy cauliflower
Vegan Eats in Washington DC – Gypsy Kitchen

Rasika

As the long weekend wound down, we selected Rasika, a modern Indian restaurant for our evening meal. Located on D Street, between 6th and 7th Streets, this sumptuous restaurant offers authentic Tawa, Sigri, Tandoori and regional curry dishes, with vegan options.

We started with flash fried spinach and delicious naan bread. I chose fragrant Dal Makhani with lentils, tomato, garlic and fenugreek served with rice. The whole meal, which we enjoyed in a leisurely fashion, was amazing. It was a fitting end to the weekend.

Rasika Modern Indian Food
Vegan Eats in Washington DC – Rasika Modern Indian Cuisine

Arepa Zone

Although Dayan returned to work on Monday, and I flew out that evening, we decided to meet for lunch near his office. In keeping with trying different foods, Dayan selected Arepa Zone, a Venezuelan cafe known for food truck style hand held meals.

This cafe says they exist to create delicious, authentic Venezuelan food in a casual dining atmosphere. They’ve served arepas, cachapas and tequenos in DC since 2014 and offer vegan options.

I selected the vegan arepa, a hand held sandwich with bread made from white corn meal, full of sweet plantains, avocado and black beans. I loved it!

My first arepa
My first arepa, from Arepa Zone in DC.

Vegan Foodie

You can live a vegan lifestyle…and still enjoy being a foodie!

What a fun four days in the nation’s capital, visiting my grandson, exploring the city and trying a wide variety of foods. I happily discovered that every coffee shop we popped into for a snack between brunch and dinner offered vegan options as well. And our sampling barely scratched the surface of what’s available in DC.

There’s no help for it. I simply must return!

Have you visited Washington DC? What was your favorite restaurant?

Busboys and Poets restaurant and bookstore
Busboys and Poets restaurant and bookstore.

Check out our DC walks in the rain in this post. And Fun Things to Do in Washington DC on my other blog.

 

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Minestrone Soup

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As colder weather moves into my area this week, the time felt right to make a pot of healthy, nourishing soup! Soup is one of my favorite foods. It is so versatile and I like creating a large pot of soup on Sunday and storing it in the fridge for a quick meal.

Flipping through the pages of my Blue Zones Cookbook, I landed on a minestrone soup recipe that looked amazing. After creating a pot of this flavorful soup, I discovered that it is, indeed, amazing.

Plus minestrone soup is easy to make, using on hand veggies, gluten free pasta and legumes.

Check out the recipe!

Minestrone Soup title

Why this soup?

I selected this recipe from the cookbook for a couple of reasons: I possessed most of the ingredients in my kitchen already and it has a good story behind it.

In the cookbook, this recipe is called the Melis Family Minestrone.

Which made me wonder who this family was!

They are a family in Sardinia, Italy, who hold the Guinness World Record for oldest family in history. The nine siblings boast a collective age of 851 years, with the oldest living to 109.

Everyday the Melis family ate the same lunch: sourdough bread, Cannonau wine and minestrone soup.

Minestrone is a soup made from veggies, beans and a grain, typically some sort of pasta. It is high in protein and dietary fiber, which is good for gut health.

Minestrone Soup Recipe

This soup is a great way to use up left over vegetables in the fridge. Below is a standard recipe but feel free to add other veggies.

Minestrone Soup ready to eat

Minestrone Soup

Rich with veggies, beans and gluten free pasta
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped fennel (bulbs, stalks and stems)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can navy or white beans, drained
  • I can red beans, drained
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2/3 cup gluten free pasta
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onions, carrots and celery, cooking and stirring until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic. Cook 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, basil, parsley, rosemary, beans, veggie broth and water.
  • Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and cover, simmering for 30 minutes. Add pasta, salt and black pepper and more water, if needed. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender but not overcooked.
    Serve with more olive oil, if desired, and a slice of sourdough bread.
Keyword minestrone soup

 

Tips for Making Minestrone Soup

If desired, substitute dry beans for canned. Soak bean overnight, drain and rinse. Simmer for two – three hours, or until beans are tender.

Switch out the beans, according to what you have on hand. I recommend always including chickpeas, at least, and then two more beans of choice.

Add or swap out veggies, using what you have on hand. Some good choices include summer squash, zucchini, and green beans. If fennel isn’t available, leave it out. I didn’t have fennel for this batch but found a source for it and I’ll include it next time.

Use a small size pasta. I chose gluten free elbow macaroni. If you don’t have gluten sensitivities, use regular pasta.

Include or swap out seasonings. Use dried Italian seasoning or thyme or try fresh basil, rosemary and parsley.

If you don’t have veggie broth, use water. Or use all veggie broth and no water for a rich broth. Make your own veggie broth using this recipe.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator, knowing you can heat up a yummy bowl of soup in a few minutes.

Minestrone Soup pot
Pot of minestrone soup.

My Minestrone Soup

I’ve enjoyed this delicious minestrone soup for lunch every day this week. While I intend to make a fresh and different pot of healthy soup each Sunday, this minestrone soup certainly stays in the rotation. It has the perfect blend of veggies, legumes, pasta and seasonings. I’m watching my sodium intake, so I appreciate the flavor the seasonings provide, without having to use much salt.

And as an extra bonus, this soup smells amazing while it simmers. And that is an important part of the soup experience for me.

I’m loving the Blue Zones Lifestyle. It is simple, nourishing and healthy. It keeps my blood pressure and blood sugar levels in the normal range, without medication. And it inspires me to try new recipes from the different blue zones regions.

What’s your favorite soup? Is it time to create a pot of soup at your house?

Minestrone Soup ready to eat
Minestrone Soup – ready to eat

 

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