Restaurant Review #3: Tao Natural Foods

I have another Minneapolis restaurant to share until I move on to new locations next week! This restaurant is an old favorite made new again by introducing outdoor seating and at your table service.

Tao Natural Foods, located at 2200 Hennepin Avenue, is a small health food store with an attached cafe, which recently expanded to include an evening menu that is served by wait staff (instead of ordering at the counter and waiting for your food).

On their home page, Tao writes “For over 40 years we’ve been quietly chipping away at creating, quite possibly, the best little health food store around. Please come and relax over a great cup of coffee or enjoy a nourishing meal in our cozy cafe. While we are busy preparing your meal, you can browse our supplement shop and grab that cream, pill or herb for what’s been ailing you. If you can’t find what you need in a bottle, no worries, we’ve got specialized health practitioners here too! We offer services ranging from Integrative Health Coaching to Therapeutic Massage, Acupuncture, Ayurvedic Medicine and Reiki. Call today to make an appointment, or just stop in and see all that we have to offer you. Hope to see you soon!” They offer quite the repertoire of options for any of your health needs. 

Usually, after we order our food, we wander the health food store and see what new products they have. On the cafe menu, I’ve been known to order the Warm Garden Salad, “A generous portion of steamed veggies on a bed of mixed baby greens topped with swiss cheese, sunflower seeds and Goddess Dressing!” And I seriously can’t recommend it enough. I usually get it with a side of their Balsamic Dressing, and as a girl who can’t get enough of her veggies, I am always pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the description (a generous portion of steamed veggies). I’ve also enjoyed the homemade Black Bean Veggie Burger, which I also love.

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About two weeks ago I went back with my brother, dad, and grandma to try their new nighttime menu. We started with the Pickled Plate and Warm Medjool Dates. The dates had meat on them, but got rave reviews from my brother. However, they are very rich so it is definitely an appetizer you’d want to share with at least one other person, if not more. The pickled plate was good, but not something I’d go back to Tao for.

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We also tried a few drinks. Jens ordered the Muscle Mania smoothie (banana, peanut butter, hemp protein, maple syrup, vanilla and almond milk) which was delicious, thick, and filling. My dad tried a juice, which was tangy from ginger but very delicious.

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The real stars of the meal were the main dishes. My brother tried the spicy chicken quesadilla on the started menu and liked it. My grandma went with the cheese plate, which includes local cheese, olives, fruit and crackers. She was happy with her meal, and the tastes I stole of local cheese were delicious.

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My dad and I both decided on the The Tao: Macrobiotic Inspired, which is both vegan and gluten free. Our plate came piled with delicious food: ginger-steamed vegetables, brown rice, black beans, fermented cabbage, and grilled tofu on top. The plate was delicious, my only complaint being that there was not enough flavor. This was quickly solved by tamari and soy sauce, and I chowed down happy as a clam.

Although too full for dessert on this particular occasion, I can’t wait to go back and try the Goat Cheese Ice Cream (with strawberries in balsamic reduction) 

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Shrimp & Pineapple Kebabs

If you regularly read this blog, you know I love grilling in the summer. There’s a seemingly endless amount of combinations you can grill up and they all are so good. And what better way to get the most out of every nice day than making dinner outside too.

My mom and I prepared this recipe the other night in under 30 minutes, giving us plenty of time to sit outside and enjoy a summer night. If you don’t eat shrimp, try replacing it with tofu or chunks of a veggie burger. Swamp out any of the veggies for something you like better!

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Shrimp & Pineapple Kebabs

serves two

Ingredients:

6 shrimps

1/2 cup chopped pineapple

1 red onion

1/2 yellow pepper

1/2 red pepper

3/4 cup halved purple potatoes

1 cup baby bella mushrooms

skewers

dipping sauce (we chose BBQ but anything would be good)

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Directions:

Begin by cutting all the vegetables, potatoes, and pineapple into kebab-sized pieces. Preheat grill. Build your kebabs by skewering the shrimp, vegetables, potatoes, and pineapple in any order. Brush the grill with a little olive oil and cook the kebabs until browning, about 5 minutes each side.

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Remove and serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce!

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Restaurant Review # 2, World Street Kitchen

Still home in Minneapolis, I decided to head to World Street Kitchen with my older brother. He frequents the restaurant and decided I needed to try their tofu bowl or a burrito.
Boy, was he right. World Street Kitchen was an excellent find. What started as a food truck became a restaurant on Lyndale between 27th and 28th, and I couldn’t be happier the permanent location is close to where I grew up.

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According to the WSK website, their restaurant “features a seasonal menu which utilizes only the highest quality ingredients, presented in a fun way: street style. The cuisine is inspired by the food served in street carts around the world, from Morocco to Vietnam.”

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The restaurant is big and open. You walk in and place your order at the counter, and then decide whether to eat there or get your food to go. We got take-out, but if you order for the restaurant, you get a number and sit down at an open table until your food is ready and brought out to you.
The menu isn’t huge, but there were still plenty of options I was excited to try. We started with the pickle plate appetizer, which featured different pickled vegetables. Although good, I’m not sure I’d order it again. The star of our meal was by far the main course.

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Jens (my brother) ordered the Korean “BBQ” Beef Shorts Ribs Bangkok Burrito. It’s a flour tortilla stuffed with fried rice, “secret sauce,” and cilantro and basil, as well as the beef short ribs.

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I chose the Crispy Marinated Tofu Rice Bowl and was not disappointed. The bowl included steamed rice with a soft boiled egg, charred squash, shiitake mushrooms, and Chinese broccoli, topped with peanuts, crunchies, and a “secret sauce.” This dish was SO good. The marinated tofu was excellent, and the egg was cooked perfectly so that when punctured the egg spilled over the veggies and rice. I loved this dish so much I’d have trouble trying something else if I went back (let’s be honest, when I go back).

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The menu features a lot of options to suit every palate, including gluten free and vegan options. the service was also fast and polite, making it a great location to pick up a quick dinner. I highly recommend it!

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Happy Monday!

Good morning! I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th and long weekend ! I’m traveling in Colorado until Wednesday so expect regular posting to resume then.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser of the fun minneapolis restaurant I’ll share this week.

 

 

 

Grilled Seitan and Corn Salad with Avocado

Happy 4th of July!! The 4th is by far one of my favorite holidays. I love sitting out in the sun, by a pool or the lake, with my family and friends. And of course I love the food 🙂 Growing up we always went to my aunt and uncle’s house in the morning for a big brunch, followed by a morning of hanging out by the pool, swimming, and poolside volleyball. In the afternoon we’d head to Lake Minnetonka with the other side of the family. We’d sit and chat on the dock and swim in the lake before grilling up a delicious dinner. The day would end with fireworks we set off and watching big ones all across the lake.

This year I think I’ll make this delicious Grilled Seitan and Corn Salad with Avocado. It’s easy and delicious and goes well with whatever else you want to grill. It’s also great because you can make the dressing in advance and the the salad ready in no time.

This salad is also great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. In my family we cook seitan and chicken on the grill and then serve them on the side of the salad. Perfect for a mixed group of eaters. I use Upton’s Naturals Seitan, my favorite brand of seitan.

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Grilled Seitan and Corn Salad with Avocado

serves 4

Ingredients:

4 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for the grill)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

salt and pepper

1 package Upton’s Naturals Traditional Seitan

3 ears corn, shucked

6 cups baby spinach

1 avocado

2 ounces shaved Parmesan

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Directions:

Heat grill. Once it’s hot, brush with a little olive oil.

Prepare dressing by whisking together lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a small bowl (it also works well to put all ingredients in a small jar and shake it well to mix).

Rub a little olive oil and salt and pepper on the corn and grill the corn and seitan for about 4 to 6 minutes. Cut the kernels off and cut the avocado into small cubes.

Assemble the salad by layering the spinach, seitan, corn, and avocado. Pour on dressing, mix well, and top with shaved parmesan. Dig in!

 

Shared on: Healthy Vegan Fridays

Restaurant Review #1: Hola Arepa

My food philosophy is all about balance. This means something different for everyone, but for me it means I cook really healthy food for myself, and then have fun when I go out to eat. I love finding new restaurants and trying new foods, and being too concerned with healthy eating makes it less fun. That’s not to say I never chose the healthier options, I just don’t restrict myself.

Because I love restaurants so much, I’m dedicating a new blog feature to restaurant reviews. I’ll share what I loved, if there was anything I didn’t like, and what you can’t miss!

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My first review is of Hola Arepa, a new restaurant in Minneapolis near Eat Street. The concept began with a Food Truck and expanded to include a gorgeous restaurant. They serve Latin cuisine and specialize in the Venezuelan style stuffed arepas.

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Right away, regardless of the food, we knew we were going to have a great dinner. The restaurant is gorgeous and bright and feels like summer. As my brother commented, “it feels like we just got transported to Florida.” While waiting for a table we sat at the bar, which includes a huge open window when the weather’s nice, and ordered a drink. With a lot of fun cocktail options to chose from, we decided on the “Center Court” – pisco, pimm’s, honeydew-chamomile soda, and grapefruit bitters. The friendly bartender brought it out and we loved what we were served – it’s light and refreshing but still has a lot of flavor, perfect for a summer night. Next time I’ll try another of their bottled cocktails or the sangria of the day.

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We were quickly seated and decided on an appetizer – the Shiitake Cachapas: a sweet corn pancake topped with shiitake, huitlacoche, truffle oil, goat cheese, and a soft poached egg. Oh my god. I would go back for this dish alone – it has a strong mushroom flavor layered with sweetness from the pancake, creaminess of the cheese, and the poached egg added the perfect finishing touch.

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For dinner we ordered arepas: Slow-roasted Pork, Fried Egg & Ham, and the Black Bean & Sweet Potato. As a pescatarian, I didn’t try the meat ones, but they got great reviews from my family.

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The Black Bean & Sweet Potato arepa came with tomato, citrus onions, homemade queso-fresco, and green onion aioli. I loved it! The sweet potato was cooked perfectly, the corn cake was phenomenal, and the citrus onions added a unique twist to the arepa.

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Each arepa came with a side of yucca fries and your choice of aioli verde or chimichurri sauce. We all went for the aioli which was a great call. The fries are a twist on french fries, and are big thick slabs of yucca fried up. The whole was phenomenal and none of us had room for dessert (although the women next to us ordered a big homemade ice cream sandwich – next on my list).

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Additionally, Hola Arepas is a great place to go with a diverse group of eaters. Everything on the menu (unless otherwise noted) is gluten-free and plenty can be made vegan. I highly recommend stopping in for a quick lunch, dinner, or drinks at the cool bar.

Check back soon for more restaurant reviews – most will be Chicago restaurants but I’ll throw more in from my hometown, Minneapolis.

Grilled Swordfish with Nectarine-Onion Salsa

As promised, I have a new recipe for you today! One of my favorite part of the summer is al fresco eating, and what better way to enjoy eating outdoors than by cooking outdoors too. Although you can never go wrong with a classic BBQ, there are so many other interesting and fun things you can make on the grill. Like this swordfish with salsa. Not only do you grill the fish, you also grill the salsa toppings before slicing and dicing them.

Vegetarian or Vegan? Or just not into fish? Try this salsa on a grilled veggie burger or Portobello mushroom. It’s so good I used the leftovers to top my side salad (and eat on it’s own). The best part of this meal is you can grill and serve within 30 minutes, so you have more time to relax and enjoy the summer!

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Grilled Swordfish with Nectarine-Onion Salsa

serves two (with extra salsa)

Ingredients:

3 nectarines

1 red onion

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp + 1 tsp white-wine vinegar

1/2  jalapeno chile

1/4 cup fresh mint

salt and pepper

2 swordfish steaks

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Directions:

Preheat grill to medium heat. Quarter nectarines and onion. Place 1 tsp olive oil on a piece of aluminum foil, place nectarines and onion inside and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil around the fruits and place on grill for about 15 minutes or until soft and juicy.

Once cooked, remove nectarines and onion from foil and place on a cutting board to cool slightly. Combine mustard, vinegar, and chile in a large bowl. Chop up nectarines and onion and add to the bowl. Mix well, then stir in chopped mint and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Finally, lightly coat both sides of the swordfish steaks with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Top swordfish steaks with the nectarine-onion salsa and serve!

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adapted from: http://www.marthastewart.com/339161/grilled-swordfish-with-nectarine-onion-s?czone=food%252Fproduce-guide-cnt%252Fsummer-produce-recipes%253Fxsc%253Dsoc_pin_GrilledSwordfishwithNecatrineOnionSalsa&crlt.pid=camp.fn6ST7YIYic3

Recipe Round Up #2

Hello! I’m back in action after a vacation, senior week, and college graduation (!!). I can’t believe college is over but I’m excited to see where life takes me from now on. I’ll still be cooking and eating in Chicago as of now, so I hope you keep following along.

I plan to start posting more frequently again starting with a delicious grilled fish recipe tomorrow. Summer is my favorite season to cook (and grill!) in so I’ve have plenty to share.

In the meantime, here’s a round-up of recipes from around the web that I’ve had my eye on:

First off, I’d like to start my day with this Rhubarb Strawberry Chia Pudding –  I’ve yet to try making Chia pudding but when I do this is first on my list.

Second, I’ve been super into shrimp recently, and would love to make Shrimp Po’ Boy with Mango or Grilled Shrimp Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

shrimp po' boy with spicy mango / loveandlemons.com8e9328a22208f0ef9143d0f94ade9c6e

Third, these Chickpea Sliders with Whipped Feta and Cucumber Slaw look like something I want to whip up this weekend. Who’s coming over? While I’m grilling I’ll try my hand at making my own BBQ sauce via this spicy recipe from Food 52.

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Finally, what’s a week without some delicious dessert. These Caramel Blackberry Brownies look dangerous (in the best way possible).

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I hope everyone is soaking up the summer and enjoying the sun. Check back tomorrow for an amazing grilled swordfish recipe!

Stir Fry with Buffalo Vinaigrette

I recently decided to try textured vegetable protein, something I had never cooked with before. It comes dry, and you prepare it by combining it with water and microwaving it. I love it! It’s such a versatile protein and is fun to use. You’ll be seeing more of it in my recipes coming up! If you don’t feel like trying textured vegetable protein, try any type of crumbled protein instead.

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Stir Fry with Buffalo Vinaigrette

serves two

Ingredients:

5 large carrots

1 cup mushrooms

2 cups broccoli

1 yellow onion

1 cup textured vegetable protein

1/2 avocado

1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp garlic

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp lemon juice

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Directions:

Dice onion and place in heated pan with olive oil or cooking spray. Cook about two minutes. Meanwhile chop carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli, add to pan with onions and cook until veggies are cooked (about 6 more minutes).

Cook the textured vegetable protein according to directions on package. Set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients (besides the avocado) in a bowl to make the vinaigrette. Slice the avocado.

Finally, layer the vegetables, textured vegetable protein, and vinaigrette on a plate. Top with avocado and serve.

Lemonade Paloma

It’s the weekend! For me that means I’m less than one week away from college graduation. How did that happen?! For most people it’s a beautiful Saturday in June. Whoever you are, try this drink (it’s also good sans tequila) and drink up! Cheers to being alive on such a wonderful day.

The inspiration for this recipe is a paloma, which is tequila, grapefruit + lime juice, and club soda. I love the drink, but the extra tang from lemonade makes the drink more sweet and more sour at the same time. Delicious!

 

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Lemonade Paloma

serves 2

Ingredients:

3 ounces tequila

6 ounces grapefruit juice

6 ounces lemonade

1 ounce lime juice

Ice

2 wedges grapefruit

Directions:

Mix all ingredients except grapefruit wedges in a cocktail and shake until combined. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, mixing directly in the glasses works just fine for this recipe. Pour over into glasses over ice. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge and serve. Tastes like summer!

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