My Vegetarian Whole 30: The Prelude

Monday, August 31, 2015
I'm drinking the kool-aid.

Well, technically I'm not drinking the kool-aid since kool-aid is super processed and is made up of high fructose stuff and not at all Whole 30 compliant, but details.

(also, please ignore my horrific manicure.)

It has recently come to my attention that I like food. A lot. I don't know if you know this.

I suppose I always have.

(that picture above was taken two weeks ago, btw.)

And on the opposite end of the spectrum I also like being healthy. Sometimes those two things don't always align, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case of course.

So in an effort to do a sort of body and life reset, and after hearing more and more about Whole 30, I decided to try it during the month of September! Well, a vegetarian version.

Yes, I realize the bread in this picture makes the meal not Whole 30. It was the closest thing I had in my aresenal.

Now before the paleo gods come at me with pitchforks, I KNOW that a vegetarian Whole 30 is not a true Whole 30. And I've read the schpeel about how if your reasoning for being a vegetarian is to be healthy, it's illogical because you can still be healthy/er while eating meat. But my reasons for being a vegetarian don't really have much to do with being healthy at all (because, duh potato chips). They're more personal belief based, which is why I'm not all of a sudden going to start eating meat to complete the Whole 30 program.

Which sidenote, I never realized until I became a vegetarian how deeply personal the question "Why are you a vegetarian?" is. If I don't know the person who's asking me very well, I usually default to the [untrue] answer of "to be healthier" or mumble something [essentially true, but surface-level] about yoga and my dog having a personality which makes me feel guilty about eating meat. If only people knew what a little a-hole my dog can be....

I feel like I've been eating a lot of not-so-great-for-me things lately (summer indulgences anyone?), which in turn has left me feeling a little sluggish and less confident.

Which brings us here!

For the next month I'll talk about my meals, my exercise routine, and the highs and lows of it all. I'll try to eat out every now and then to see if it can be done without just nibbling on lettuce and olive oil. I'll maybe even share new recipes. I'll discuss my own tips, and I'll gladly welcome any of yours! Maybe I'll post before and after pictures. (MAYBE.)

So on the eve of my first Vegetarian Whole 30, I'd like to identify ahead of time where I anticipate my difficulties will lie:

1) Not being able to eat potato chips, cheese, or beans of any kind. Potato chips are my #1 vice, I pop cheese like candy, and beans are one of my main sources of protein. Fortunately I do eat eggs, so I will still be able to rely on them for animal protein during my Whole 30. And fun fact, so many vegetables contain more protein than you realize! (The second most personal question people ask vegetarians is "HOW ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN?!?!" I promise you, I'm getting more than enough from all of the fingernails I eat and incense I inhale, but thank you for your concern.)


2) Not being able to drink wine when I eat out or cook. Since I won't be eating out as much though, hopefully the first part won't be too difficult. BUT I will be cooking a lot, and cooking and wine are pretty synonymous in my mind. It's okay though, I'll just sip my water. *SOB*

3) Not being able to weigh myself or count my calories. So confession time, I totally do that thing you're not supposed to do and weigh myself every morning. I also totally do that thing you probably shouldn't do and count my calories during the week. I don't know, I certainly see how these practices have the potential to drive people insane, but they really don't make me feel nuts. More than anything it all just keeps me in check. Like, "Hey there scale, I'm not a huge fan of that number, let's tone it down a bit and be more mindful of our eating today now shall we?" or "Scale, you are looking awesome today, now time for all of the potato chips!"

I know. You talk to your scale too. You get me.

4) Meal prep. To be honest, I'm actually pretty okay at meal prepping. However, in researching and planning my meals for the Whole 30 program, I have realized that this is going to be a whole new ballgame. I need to commit the entire afternoon (or quite potentially even the full day) every Sunday to meal prepping for the week if I hope to survive. These days my lunches consist of throwing a can of soup in my purse, and that ain't gonna fly.

5) Not being able to eat at Coltivare. I don't even want to talk about this. Next.

6) Saying no to awesome food events. I've recently met several awesome Houston foodies and have gotten to attend some freaking amazing events around town. I think the thing to focus on here is that this is only 30 days. One month. 1/12 of a year. It will be okay if I miss a few things. OR attend things but choose to eat at home prior to going or afterwards. I think this will also be a great exercise in time management and finding a nice work/life/home/foodie balance! (because sometimes often, I am not so good at this.)

So yes, the majority of my blog posts in September are going to be focused on my Vegetarian Whole 30 journey (I've still got a few dangling posts in the hopper from August). This is something I would like to do for my health, AND something I would like to share with all of you! Again, I invite you to join me in the conversation, and I welcome any words of wisdom you may have. I also promise to be completely honest, while still keeping a sense of humor (because lord knows I'm incapable of being serious ever). And if for some reason, this just isn't healthy for me - which I don't anticipate because of everything I've read - I will immediately stop.

Here's a little story about that: When I was 22 I did that dumb lemon juice cayenne pepper diet. It might be one of the dumbest things ever and one of the dumbest things I've ever done (if you are a lemon juice diet advocate, apologies). Basically all you consume is a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup or something, plus detox tea in the morning. I wanted to do it for 10 days, but I only lasted 3. This is because on the third day I just completely stopped consuming anything instead of drinking the juice because I would rather not eat than ingest another ounce of that horrible stuff. And then it hit me like a lightbulb: "Huh. This is really dumb." So if I have one of those moments (which again, is unlikely since I know already that I love all of the foods I'll be eating) I will stop immediately! Being unhealthy sort of defeats the purpose of all of this, you know?

Thanks so much again for following along! Here's to good times, good food, and good health!

Just... please don't bring up potato chips.

The Great Cookie (C)Rumble

Friday, August 28, 2015
It's Friday! You made it! You deserve a cookie!

...or twenty.


(twenty thousand.)

If any of you regularly follow the local food bloggers, you may have seen that there was a super fun get-together involving chocolate chip cookies last weekend. A group of Houston bloggers did a blind sampling of twenty different chocolate chip cookies from around town, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it! Organized by my idol-turned-awesome-friend Erika, and hosted by Ashley Rose and Jared in their beautiful studio, the sugar-fueled event was a total blast!

The bakeries and restaurants that participated in the (c)rumble were Ooh La La, Mongoose Versus Cobra, Weights + Measures, The Chocolate Bar, New York Bagels, Fluff Bake Bar, Barnaby's, French Gourmet Bakery, Petite Sweets, Brown Bag Deli, Tout Suite, Michael's Cookie Jar, Common Bond, Pondicheri, Red Dessert Dive, Smoosh, Siphon Coffee, Tiny Boxwoods, Tiff's Treats, and Revival Market.

Several of these awesome places donated a bunch of their cookies to the cause, including French Gourmet Bakery, the bakery whose chocolate chip cookies I've been devouring for quite some time now and my "entry" in the (c)rumble! (Shoutout to Morgan who picked their cookies up since I wasn't able to!)

After overdosing on chocolate chip cookies, our votes (based on Flavor, Appearance, Texture, and Chocolate) were tallied (in an impressively record-quick amount of time by Erin, might I add). The top five rated cookies were:

1) Tiny Boxwoods

2) Common Bond

3) Michael's Cookie Jar

4) Brown Bag Deli

5) Red Dessert Dive

My personal top five were as followed (there was a four-way tie for second place because I love everything apparently, and no I'm not surprised):

1) Michael's Cookie Jar

2) French Gourmet Bakery

2) Ooh La La

2) Tiny Boxwoods

2) Common Bond

That being said, all twenty cookies were unique and lovely and delicious in their own way, and I would gladly order them all at different times, depending on what kind of mood (i.e., super chocolatey mood, not so sweet mood, gooey mood, salty get me) I was in!

The cookie monsters in attendance were Erika (The Pancake Princess), Ashley Rose and Jared (Sugar & Cloth), Lisa (Maple and Love), Isabel (, Claire (The Petite Professional), Julie (Aces of Taste), Lauren (How to Eat, R.D.), Jenna (, Abby (ShopGirl Blog), Megha (, Morgan (The Foodie Chef), and Erin (Tidbits). If you have a chance, go pay their sites a visit - They are all super awesome!! Not only are their sites and contributions to the Houston food scene awesome, this is a warm, friendly, inclusive group of people. One thing I've learned from the many food events I've attended in Houston is that no one is a stranger!

And thank you again to all of the bakeries and restaurants who contributed to this wonderful shindig! They each bring a unique and exciting flavor to the Houston food scene. I recommend every one of them!

(though maybe not all in one sitting because #CookieComas are a real thing people.)

All of the cookies.   a l l.   o f.   t h e m.


Thursday, August 27, 2015
"It's a little chilly outside"...

...said Jon to me, on a morning this week when it was 75 degrees and sunny. You know you've just been through a brutal Houston summer WHEN...

But seriously, how downright refreshing has this week been, with its highs in the low 90s?!

Last week, Jon and I had dinner at Caracol with our friends Dillon and Melinda. The beautiful, open, airy, modern restaurant was packed and buzzing for a Monday night.

As soon as we were seated, I ordered a martini with a twist, which was shaken up by our lovely server, tableside.

My martini was crisp and strong and perfect for a Monday.

(quite frankly all Mondays need a martini, ammiright?)

Everyone else enjoyed their drinks as well - Melinda and Dillon with their Caracol ritas, and Jon with his mojito.

We had every intention of dining off the Houston Restaurant Weeks menu, but we were all too enticed by their dishes on the regular menu not to order from it.

In fact, I was the last woman standing, determined to select the vegetarian HRW menu, but when I went to order, our server informed me that they had an extensive vegetarian menu I could peruse.


To start, we shared a side of their repollitos asados (charred brussels sprouts). Drizzled with a tangy pesto and presented on skewers, the super crispy, smokey sprouts were playful and completely outstanding.

The others also split the colorful petalos de huachinango (red snapper, tangerine, cucumber) and seemed to enjoy it!

I couldn't resist ordering another starter, the vegequeso, which came from the vegetarian menu.

Served in a hot skillet, the gooey, oozey, velvety concotion of smooth mushrooms, fragrant peppers, and caramelized onions was incredible. Even Jon, aka Mushroom Hater, was a fan! When used as filler inside of the accompanying warm, fresh tortillas, the result was just sinful.

Upon our server's recommendation, I ordered the enchiladas verdes de vegetales de verano as my entree.

Two spongy enchiladas were stuffed with roasted & chopped zucchini, corn, poblano peppers, and epazote, and were served with a side of white rice and refried black beans.

The enchiladas had a beautiful, simple, lightness to them, but the combination of delicately prepared fresh ingredients left me with an experience that was anything but simple. I ate - and thoroughly enjoyed - every bite of the fluffly little enchiladas. The silky - borderline nutty flavored - refried beans and herbed white rice were also elevated sides.

And since we were already on the path of ordering All of the Things (aka slightly influenced by cocktails + wine + amazing culinary appetizers and entrees), we threw caution to the wind and ordered four desserts!

First up was what I *believe* (again, cocktails + wine, sorry) was a cherry-filled empanada with chocolate ice cream. The general consensus was that this was our least favorite of the desserts. While it certainly was not bad, it was incredibly heavy compared to the other desserts, and more notably, compared to almost everything else we had eaten that night. The hearty dessert didn't quite fit in with all of the other light, fresh dishes we had experienced prior (with the exception of the vegequeso of course, which I could swim in all day every day and never look back).

The crepas de chocolate con salsa de grosella were delightful. Crepes filled with light, yet indulgent dark chocolate mousse were made even more enjoyable with a tart red currant sauce and pillow-y vanilla ice cream. Everyone loved them.

Everyone also loved this:

The piña rostizada consisted of roasted pineapple, vanilla ice cream, and a pistachio "cake." The caramel-y pineapple was sweet and rich, yet light. Another crowd-pleasing dessert.

But the favorite of the group, if not solely for the sheer original cinematic effect of it, was the el coco:

 photo caracol dessert gif_zpsnllbv5nt.gif
If burning 2 calories while eating your dessert sounds appealing to you, then you must order the el coco. AND not only was it fun to smash something with a wooden mallet (Well, Melinda smashed. The rest of us watched with way more excitement than a group of  adults should ever have over smashing things), the dessert was also delicious. The thin, delicate chocolate coconut shell is filled with a fluffy, textured coconut buttercream, coconut ganache, coconut streusel, and whipped coconut. The chocolate was strong enough in flavor to balance out all of the coconut elements, leaving us with a wonderfully executed, indulgent dessert!

Our experience at Caracol was fantastic. While we didn't try the Houston Restaurant Weeks menu, after the dinner we had, I'm sure it's equally as wonderful as everything we ate, AND it's an excellent opportunity to sample their delicious fare at a reasonable price and contribute to a great cause. If you don't dine off of the restaurant weeks menu and feel bummed about not having a portion of your meal go to the Houston Food Bank, it's super easy to donate online afterwards!

The service was attentive, yet respectful, the ambiance was refreshing and fun, and the food was absolutely incredible. Caracol should definitely be on every Houstonian foodie's checklist!

Bonus: If you go now, you can take refuge from all 85-degree cold weather we've been having lately.
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Houston Restaurant Weeks at Kiran's + A Giveaway!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Scroll down to bottom of page for giveaway info!

Question: How does one avoid awful neck pain resulting from intense head banging during awesome 80s air guitar solos at wedding receptions?

Unacceptable answers include "don't intensely head bang during awesome 80s air guitar solos at wedding receptions" and "don't be 30 years old". 

Can I tell you about the terrible horrible no-good very bad day I had last week? I'm over the trauma of it, and it's funny now, I swear (I think). 

Last weekend I attended a wedding in San Antonio (see above, re: head banging), but prior to that, I drove to Austin on Thursday, sort of last minute, to help out with a work event. The events of Thursday morning went as follows:

8:20 am - Go to take laundry out of dryer. When lifting head up from dryer, nail the top of my head so hard on the corner of the suspended platform holding up the water heater, that I sort of fall to the floor and tears instantly start exploding from my eyes.

(no, I did not have a concussion. yes, I cried. yes, I'm 30 years old. (see above, re: head banging))

8:40 am - Leave house to take adorable pup and BFF Newton to vet for boarding. Vet is 10 minutes from my apartment, so I'm giving myself plenty of time to be on the road by 9:00. Apocalyptic monsoons erupt everywhere around me. Flooding! Traffic! Cursing that would make my mother blush! Absolute Madness.

9:15 am - Still driving, but finally on straight path to vet.


9:30 am - Drop arch nemesis off at vet. Attempt to clean car with the best CVS has to offer, while getting drenched outside.

10:00 am - Finally get on the road.

1:30 pm - Arrive in Austin 1 1/2 hours late, after having sat in pee-smelling car for 3 1/2 hours, where I cannot open windows because of aforementioned monsoon, only to discover I have been dragging a GIANT tree branch under my car for God knows how long.

Wonderful day, huh?

The car was fine. I'm fine. Still not speaking to Satan's right hand canine, but we'll get through this. So thank you for the therapy session. While at times it may seem that food bloggers live lives of rainbows and sprinkles and chocolate chip cookies, I am here to report that we still have dog-peeing-in-our-cars kind of days.

(at least I do). 

But enough of that!

Jon and I went to dinner recently with our friends Lindsey and Caleb to Kiran's, where we all ordered from the Houston Restaurant Weeks menu. Since Kiran's serves Indian food, vegetarian options abounded!

We sat down and were greeted with a lovely little starter of crispy flatbread (if anyone knows the name for this, I give you full permission to start writing all future blog posts) and sauces. The red sauce tasted like a barbecue sauce, while the green sauce seemed like some sort of spicy pesto. Both were great!

For my first course, I ordered the soup flight with onion bhaji, and holy smokes, y'all. 

The three soups, served in little drinkable espresso-type cups, were tomato saffron, mulligatawny, and corn chowder. Each soup was completely different from the next one, unique in its own way, and downright delicious. The tomato saffron was crisp, light, and acidic, and the mulligatawny was briney and earthy. My favorite (and the crowd favorite) of the three was the creamy, hearty, sweet corn chowder.

The onion bhaji served with the soups seemed to include zucchini, and the result was a beautifully battered fritter. Outstanding!

For my second course, I ordered the chef's vegetarian tasting, which included (pictured below, clockwise, from top left) bagare bengan, saffron rice pulao, daal makhni, and paneer makhni.

Made up of lentils and kidney beans, the smooth, filling, pureed, daal makhani reminded me of refried beans - but a more carefully concocted, silky, refined version of refried beans. I was a fan for sure.

The saffron rice pulao was pretty flavorless and wasn't anything thrilling, but it did serve as an excellent neutral base to the paneer makhni.

The bagare bengan, a stew-like eggplant curry, was earthy, and nuanced with many different exciting spices. This was my second favorite of the four entree bowls.

My FAVORITE of the four though? The paneer makhni was absolutely incredible. Tofu swimming in an intoxicating, sweet, spicy, thick, cheesy masala-like sauce made this a remarkable, unforgettable dish. Spooned over the saffron rice pulao? Heaven!

According to the HRW menu, there was also supposed to be English cucumber raita and some lachedar paratha or chickpea pancake, which were not included in my meal. However, there was so much food put in front of me that I totally forgot about those items and did not miss them at all! (and let's be honest, I hardly had a clue what I ordered in the first place anyway).

For dessert, all four of us ended up ordering the bread pudding, and all four of us thoroughly enjoyed it. The pudding is a swirl of apricots, cranberries, and white chocolate crème anglaise. Not too sweet, this dessert was right up my alley!

Kiran's hits it totally out of the park with their food, specifically with regards to their Houston Restaurant Weeks menu. Each dish was sprinkled with variety, care, and an orchestra of palate-pleasing flavorful surprises. Restaurant Weeks is the perfect way to experience the many outstanding offerings there!

Oh, and don't think I forgot about the Giveaway I mentioned....

On Saturday, October 24, The Houston Press is hosting their Inaugural Houston Press Tacolandia. Tacolandia is an outdoor taco-sampling event and festival that will feature Houston’s best tacos, ranging from urban contemporary to authentic street style. The event is complete with live music and a cash bar with beer and cocktails, as well as awards for best tacos in various categories!

Here's where the Giveaway comes in

One lucky Adventures in a New(ish) City reader will receive two (2) general admission tickets to this year's Tacolandia, held at Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston on October 24 from 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm. To enter, all you have to do is follow me on Instagram (if you don't already), post a picture of your favorite taco, and use the hashtags #TacolandiaHOU and #newishcityHOU in the description. The contest will run from now until Friday, August 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm CST. The more creative, funny, and insightful your entry, the better! You must be a Houston resident to enter, and only one entry per person, please. One lucky winner will be picked and announced by Saturday, August 29, 2015.

Good luck!

Indian food, and tacos, and well behaved dogs - These are a few of my favorite things....

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Brunchin' at Provisions

Monday, August 17, 2015
I feel like I can finally breathe.

Last weekend Jon and I (and our pups Baxter and Newton) moved into an apartment in the Heights, and while I did my best to practice my meditative breathing and stay calm and centered during the busy, transitional, throwing-my-hair-in-a-ponytail-every-day-because-I-can't-be-bothered week prior, there always seemed to be...

food stuck in my teeth.

While the food in my teeth was literal, it was also metaphorical, serving as a constant reminder that as much as I tried to have it together? Ha! Not even close. I would eat breakfast, go about my day, talk to a bunch of my coworkers, then HOURS LATER would go into the bathroom to notice a giant horrifying piece of spinach wedged (and I mean WEDGED) in between my two front teeth. Lunch was the same. Dinner was the same. Every day. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You know those weeks. You get me.

But now I can finally breathe! Breathe, and enjoy this exciting new living and learning situation!

(and start carrying dental floss around with me at all times.)

The weekend prior to the move, I snuck away from packing for a little while to join my friends Judy and Erika for brunch at Provisions. I still cannot believe it took me so long to finally dine there.

As a veteran Provisions brunch-goer, Judy insisted we order the buttermilk biscuits with butter and honey to start.

Sidenote, you know what's awesome about eating somewhere you've never been before with a foodie who has? They will never steer you wrong.

These biscuits were OUTSTANDING. They were flaky, buttery, and light, with several pillow-y layers of biscuit-y goodness. Paired with the herbed butter - which we deduced was flavored with thyme - and the smooth, sweet honey, they were absolute heaven.

Because all three of us are food-obsessed, we ordered a bunch of things to share.

Next up were the roasted shishito peppers with Thai soffrito and cilantro.

These were another hit! The pop-able peppers were beautifully roasted with a hint of smokiness on the skin. The smooth inside of each pepper was a great contrast to the slightly tougher exterior, and the flavors were playful and satisfying. Judy told us she'd heard that one in every ten shishito peppers is spicy, so we played a really fun game of "who got the hot pepper?" for an indeterminate length of time.

...are you still my friend?

After the peppers (about 4 of mine were spicy, I knew you were dying to know), we enjoyed what was far and away my favorite part of the meal - the wood oven baked eggs florentine with spinach, mushrooms, and parmesan.

Lordy these were incredible. The velvety roasted potatoes were intoxicating with the silky, garlicky spinach and fragrant parmesan swirled in. The bubbling baked eggs sent everything over the top in this Skillet of Wonder. Accompanied by fluffy, fresh toast, this dish was utterly sensational.


Last up was the belgian waffle with smoked maple ice cream and banana caramel.

So, basically dessert. Fantastic, beautiful, brunch-y dessert. Since I don't really have a sweet tooth, I cannot tell you the last time I even ordered a waffle. But Nelly, was this good. The waffle itself was fluffy, yet wonderfully crispy on the outside. The mashed up banana/caramel fosters-esque situation was divine. And that maple ice cream was light, not too rich, and not too sweet. I'm no waffle expert, but I feel confident in saying this was an impressive and exceptional waffle. Even The Pancake Princess herself seemed to enjoy it!

My brunch experience at Provisions was a home run. We did hit a small bump in the beginning when we were given an incorrect menu from the previous week (the menu changes, so look alive people) and were disappointed to learn there would be no falafel hash browns. BUT the great service and amazing food we ended up with more than made up for it! Brunch at Provisions is lovely and affordable, and the quality of the food is outrageously awesome. I'm dying to go back to try their dinner menu soon!

 Do I have food in my teeth?

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