Tag Archives: fresh

Spring is Sprung

The Spring Equinox is upon us and the season of spring is coming into full bloom! Each season has it’s own beauty and importance. Spring’s beauty is in its power as a time of renewal, of freshness and growth, of more sunlight and warmth, and of enhanced energy. There is much to be enjoyed in this new, bright season. And as with any season, spring brings different flavors and focuses. Here are a few of my favorite articles that are rooted in this great season to help you have the best spring possible!

(1) Pasta Primavera 

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Pasta Primavera translates in Italian to “Spring Pasta” as this dish features on the fresh and bright flavors of the season.

(2) Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherds Pie

Saint Patrick’s Day is technically in winter, but we still consider it a Spring Holiday. And on this holiday, it is time for a Celtic Classic: Shepherd’s Pie.

(3) Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

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Spring is a time for brighter flavors and of course, artichokes! This Slow Cooker dish can be dumped in the pot within 2 minutes and you come ready to a zesty and fresh meal!

(4) Saucha and the Spring

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Spring is a time of cleansing and growing. Explore this with yogic concept of “Saucha.”

Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

In the past year, I have fallen truly and deeply in love with my Slow Cooker, whom I affectionately call Carlotta. The relationship that I have with this piece of home-cook culinary equipment is nothing short of magical. In my busy 50+ hour work week, Carlotta often makes sure that I am fed healthful and delish meals with unimaginable ease. I adore her for it. This new recipe for Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken that Carlotta and I created together is just one of my favorite meals to make for the whole week, especially in the warmer months.

OH CARLOTTA!

Carlotta carlotta 2

The recipe is unfathomably simple, quite inexpensive, and greatly healthy! Chicken, onions, garlic, pre-prepared artichoke hearts, capers, lemon, herbs, and a splash of wine make this dish zesty and bright with the chicken so tender it can be shredded with a fork. Essentially, you dump all of these ingredients into the Slow Cooker (I’ll let you name your own) and turn it on: that’s it! If you invest in a quality Slow Cooker complete with a timer that switches to the “Warm” setting after it is finished cooking and stays there – like Carlotta here – you can make this on your way out the door in the morning and when you get home in the evening, the Slow Cooker will have kept it warm and ready for you all day long. Once you experience this for yourself, you will find it hard to break away from your Slow Cooker for more than a week.

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It looks messy because it is all so tender, but boy does it taste great!

I like to serve this Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken with seasonal vegetables and some sort of carb to soak up the sauce like quinoa, rice, couscous, or my personal carb-fake-out cauliflower rice. This is the ultimate late-Spring and all-Summer week night meal that you are going to love!

Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours
  • Difficulty: Absurdly Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (your choice)
  • 1 yellow onion, large diced
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts or 2 cans artichoke hearts
  • ¼ cup capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 lemon, halved then sliced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Place the chicken at the bottom of the Slow Cooker. Cover with the onions, garlic, artichoke hearts, capers and dried oregano. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the lemon slices and half of the basil over all. Pour in the white wine.

Cook on the low setting for 4 ½ hours or on the high setting for 2 ½ hours.

To serve, plate the chicken with desired sides. Spoon over some of the sauce and top with additional torn basil leaves. Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Nice Cream

If you are part of the healthy foodie world, then you may have noticed the recent craze around “Nice Creams”. Let me tell you, the craze is with good reason. If aren’t sure what a “Nice Cream” is, it is a nice cream dessert made from a base of frozen banana and flavored with other whole food ingredients like strawberries, vanilla bean, cocoa, and coconut oil. The frozen bananas once churned in a food processor and then refrozen mimic the texture of ice cream while also providing natural sweetness, and the other ingredients mixed with in it provide the true flavorings and sense of indulgence. The result is an ice cream dessert that is as nutritious as it is delicious!

I’d seen a few Buzzfeed Tasty and Food Network videos on these “Nice Creams” and had to give them a shot. After my first try, I was hooked! I couldn’t believe how well these “Nice Creams” totally satisfy the desire for a bowl of sweet and creamy ice cream, while packing on the nutrition and reducing the intake of added sugar and fat. My mind was blown.

 

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How can that just be banana? Vegan magic!

Now, Disclaimer: You do really, really have to like bananas to enjoy “Nice Cream”. Bananas are the base and so unsurprisingly, these desserts have very distinct banana notes. If you are a fan of these sweet yellow tropical fruits, however, then you are set!

After trying the recipes I’d seen in videos, I decided I would come up with my own. Keeping in mind that “Nice Cream” does taste strongly of banana, I thought the perfect flavorings would be chocolate and peanut butter! And thus, my Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream was born!

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Incredibly, all you need is three ingredients: frozen bananas, cocoa powder, and creamy peanut butter! It’s that simple! Well, it is and it isn’t. As easy as the videos make “Nice Creams” look, the frozen bananas do resist being churned in the food processor. It can be a bit of tedious process and you have to exercise some patience. It’s not traditionally hard though. Once you get going, it is so easy and you get a naturally sweet, fiber, vitamin, and protein rich dessert that anyone could love.

Vegan Nice Cream is perfect for summer time when you are looking for a cool dessert while also keeping it light! Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 3 large bananas, cut into small slices and frozen for several hours
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • Optional: dark chocolate and banana slices for serving

Directions:

Working in thirds, add the frozen banana slices to a food processor. Turn until starting to resemble crumbled butter. You may have to scrape the sides of the processor and smash down pieces of the banana several times as you go. Be patient, this could take up to ten minutes.

Once all the banana slices have been incorporated and they resemble more of a dough, mix in the peanut butter and cocoa powder. Churn until all mixed.

Remove into a freezer safe glass bowl.

Place in the freezer additional 2 hours or until ready to serve. Spoon into bowls, garnish with dark chocolate and banana slices if desired, and enjoy!

Pasta Primavera

Sunday March 20th 2016 marked the bringing of another spring!

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YAY Spring is here!

Traditionally for the Spring Equinox, I always make my Pasta Primavera, and this past equinox was no exception. Pasta Primavera is a traditional Italian dish – Primavera means spring in Italian – and this dish is made all throughout the spring to celebrate the fresh produce that has come into season and harvest after the winter. I love making Pasta Primavera because it is simple, it is elegant, it supports seasonal eating, and it is actually quite healthy since it is loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.

food jennifer lawrence

Because a season change just means an excuse to eat more foods.

Sound good? I know you want to make it. Great! Well, you should make MY recipe for Pasta Primavera. Whereas many other recipes for this springtime dish call for boiling, steaming, or sauteing the vegetables within it, I roast them to really intensify the flavors because roasting brings out the best in vegetables. I also add goat cheese to this dish to bring a bright tang that I think is indicative of spring which gives the dish a slight richness and definite creaminess.

It is so simple and inexpensive, yet so fresh, bright, and absolutely delicious; I think you should definitely make my Pasta Primavera, and make it often! Buon Primavera!

Pasta Primavera

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 2 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 large carrots, sliced and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
  • 10 medium thick asparagus spears, cut to two inches
  • 15-20 sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup basil, julienned
  • ½ pound Farfalle (bowtie) pasta or other short cut pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400̊F.

Arrange the broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and garlic. Toss until all the vegetables are well coated and spread into a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once half way through, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the last 1o-12 minutes of the vegetables cooking, add the pasta to the water and cook till al dente, about 10-12 minutes.In the last 2 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas to the water with the pasta as well. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta, asparagus, and sugar snap peas.

Add the roast vegetables to a large pasta bowl, followed by the pasta. Add the goat cheese and parmesan cheese on top of the pasta and toss thoroughly until the cheeses melt and coat all the pasta and vegetables, using the pasta water as needed to help spread the cheese out. Toss in the basil.

Serve into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with additional basil and parmesan cheese!

I Made Cauliflower Steaks – Steaks Made of Cauliflower

As you probably know by now, though I may love a good Italian meat sauce and a gourmet burger, I am a huge lover of vegetarian and vegan food, a proponent of a more plant rich diet, and an active supporter of Meatless Monday. This fondness for the veg has led me to try lots of different recipes and restaurants in search of tasty and satisfying plant-based meals! I heard whisperings (meaning I saw Instagram posts) on how some of our vegan friends have utilized cauliflower to replace even the most carnivorous of meals. So, I did what they do and I made Cauliflower Steaks.

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What? Yes! Steaks literally made from the head of cauliflower. And I must tell you, it was delicious and satisfying! Cauliflower is taking the place of a lot of meat-centric dishes these days: we’ve got cauliflower buffalo wings, cauliflower orange chicken, cauliflower calamari, and now cauliflower steak!

Now, let me answer the question that is trying to burst forth from your mind’s eye right now as you attempt to comprehend how cauliflower steak could be: no, it does not taste just like a real steak, I don’t really think there is any other food source that can without heavy processing. However, when cauliflower is cut into the shape of ribeye and cooked properly, it can emulate the texture and heartiness of a steak dinner while also heavily taking on any flavors that you add to it. In this way, it can actually be more versatile than steak.

Furthermore, it is so easy! Cauliflower Steaks are something that nearly anyone can make for minimal culinary effort. Another bonus, this is a great inexpensive alternative for a home cooked meal; a head of organic cauliflower can cost you $3 or less and give 3-4 steaks from it. For that it, will fill you up surprisingly full and be satisfying to the tastes buds too if you do it right.

So, I made cauliflower steak, and here is what I did and what happened!

I took a gorgeous head of organic cauliflower….

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And I cut it in half! It looks like I’m cutting into a brain////

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Straight down the middle, all the way through the stem.

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Then, I cut the halves into inch thick steaks.

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I laid the steaks out on a baking sheet and drizzled with a bit olive oil, seasoned both sides with ample salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Then I put it in the oven to bake!

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I made a “Fridge-Clean-Out Sauce”, taking veggies and tomato sauce from the fridge to use them up at the end of the week. This was basically a vegan mushroom and chickpea Bolognese sauce.

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I roasted the cauliflower steaks for 20 minutes, flipped them over, then let them roast another 15 minutes until they were browned and caramelized.

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I smothered them in the made up sauce and serve them with other roast vegetables!

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I know, you’re probably thinking….

what-sorcery-is-this

I’ll tell you! It’s VEGAN MAGIC!

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Cauliflower Steaks - Basic Technique

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1-2 heads of cauliflower, cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch steaks
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning or Herbs de Provence
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Place the cauliflower steaks on a baking sheet. Drizzle with half the olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and half of the garlic powder and herbs. Flip and repeat. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes until the face up side starts to brown. Flip and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes until the face upside is nicely caramelized. Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Mitasie 3 Review

I have recently been having a lot of foodie fun trying more vegetarian and vegan foods. I am experimenting with more vegetarian/vegan recipes, like my Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili, and am enjoying visiting more veg-friendly restaurants (Native Foods and Veggie Grill are long standing favorites of mine).

 

you don't eat meat

While I am not a vegetarian, I do think we need some animal protein in our diets and know that I certainly need some in mine, I am also a firm believer that we can and should cut way back on our meat consumption, utilize better practices when it comes to meat, and make better sustainable choices overall. An easy way to help our own health and the health of the planet is to enjoy some more veggie centric meals. This has led me to seek out more vegetarian establishments recently.

Enter Mitasie 3! I can’t believe it took me this long to discover this little gem of a restaurant; located literally around the corner from me in Huntington Beach, its right next to the PetSmart I take my dog to all the time. Mitasie 3 is a self-proclaimed “Healthy Vegetarian Vietnamese” restaurant serving up completely vegan versions of Vietnamese classics. My colleagues and I stopped in for lunch this past Friday for our “Cultural” lunch and were not disappointed!

A small restaurant, the space is bright with Asian décor and a definite feeling of light and freshness. Also cool, they display artworks from local artists that are up for sale! It wasn’t busy when we went and were quickly seated and attended to. The service from there continued to be superb with two very friendly servers making sure that we were happy throughout our experience.

look food

Now to the food! On this particular outing, we decided to order a bunch of different dishes and share.

We started with two different types of Mitasie’s Spring Rolls.

Mitasie Jimaca Rol

Jicama Spring Roll

The Jimaca Spring Roll is comprised of steamed jicama, shredded carrots, basil, and soy ham all rolled up into rice paper and served with a spicy peanut sauce. The rolls were tasty light and refreshing, perfect on a warm day!

Mitasie BBQ Spring Roll

BBQ Pork Spring Roll

The clear winner of the Spring Rolls, however, was the Soy BBQ Pork Roll. BBQ soy ham, avocado, mint, lettuce, sprouts, and cucumber, again rolled up into the strangely clear rice papers and served with the same peanut sauce. These rolls were slightly hearty and packed the great flavor of tangy BBQ while being contrasted and complimented by the fresh veggies. I would make a meal just out of these and a salad!

Mitasie Thai Salad

Thai Salad

I actually ordered another dish just for me because, food. I ordered the Thai Salad which was moderately spicy and fully fresh. Mixed greens, carrots, bell peppers, basil, a special Thai sauce, and soy chicken. This salad was a surprising amount of food. The Thai sauce really gave the dish a nice kick and the soy chicken really did look, feel, and taste like chicken! I’d order it again.

Mitasie Shaking Beef

Shaking Beef

Next we had the other clear winner of the day, the Shaking Beef. Marinated and roasted soy beef, shallots, tomatoes, peppers, and garlic in a sweet vinegar sauce over a bed of greens. I’ve had vegan chicken that tasted like chicken before, like in my salad above, but never have I ever had a vegan version of beef that tasted legit. Holy Hera! This dish beautifully danced between sweet and savory and was entirely delectable. This is another one I would order just for me next time!

Mitasie Cryspy Shrimp

Salted Pepper Cryspy Soy Shrimp

We also shared the Salted Pepper Cryspy Soy Shrimp. This baby is spicy! Soy shrimps that have been fried to a perfect and satisfying crunchiness, onions, peppers, and jalapenos. This one just had a great depth of spicy and savory flavor. Plus, it was fried! Get this one too!

Mitasie Garlic Noodle

Garlic Noodle

Lastly, we had sides of the Mitasie Garlic Noodles; spaghetti noodles, garlic, tofu, mushrooms and olive oil, as well as the Garlic Fried Rice. As you might have guessed it, both were very garlicy; and garlicy is good! The noodles can be ordered as a main whereas the rice is a perfect and cheap side order. If you like garlic and need some carbs with your meal, either of these should do nicely!

The prices at Mitasie 3 are incredibly fair. You can easily enjoy a nice, healthy meal for $10 or under. I am so used to having to pay a premium to eat healthfully that I went into the restaurant expecting to spend more than was actually necessary. How refreshing, no pun intended, to find a place where I can eat well for less!

so good

We left full of plant-based deliciousness and with happy hearts. Mitasie 3 is a little hidden treasure in my eyes. The atmosphere is bright and inviting, the service is friendly and quick, and the food is fantastic and equally healthy. I especially love that I have another vegan option nearby when as I begin to order more vegetarian. I hope you make a trip over to Mitasie 3 and enjoy what they have to offer!

True Food Kitchen Newport Beach

Last month, I revisited one of my favorite restaurants in Orange County: True Food Kitchen. Located at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, CA, True Food Kitchen is one of twenty restaurants spread out across the country. As the name suggests, True Food Kitchen emphasizes quality food that is healthful and nutritious as well as seasonal, sustainable, innovative, and delicious.

True Food Kitchen is one of those restaurants that at once makes you feel healthier just for being present in the building while also getting you excited for a truly fantastic meal. The space is open, warm and inviting. A color scheme of bright green, soft yellow and honey woods help to convey the focus on fresh and healthy. The open dining room with high ceilings is set up to feel all at once collaborative and communal while also spacious enough for diners to enjoy conversations privately with their friends and family. Large wood islands stacked with vibrant produce and ingredients divide the diners from the visible kitchen, allowing guests a chance to see the ingredients they will be eating, the preparation of said ingredients and the chefs that make all of the magic happen. I can’t speak for the other True Food Kitchen locations, but the Newport Beach location also offers two different private dining rooms which can be rented out for private parties and events as well as a very nice, semi-private outdoor space complete with heating lamps and fire pits. The restaurant also boasts a beautiful full bar in one half of the dining room, making it easy to grab a drink while waiting for your table or to simply stop in for a cocktail and an appetizer. It’s all very casual and comfortable, but also classy and fun, and it possesses a very clean, organic feel. At any rate, I feel right at home here!

PLEASE EXCUSE THE PICTURE QUALITY – FORGOT CAMERA THAT NIGHT AND USED IPHONE!

Now, let’s get to the part you’re all waiting for: the food! One of the best parts of True Food Kitchen and its concept is that it offers a seasonal menu. So the menu options change several times throughout the year and highlight the foods that are in season and at their very peak for freshness and flavor. Remember my article on seasonal eating, its importance and why we should practice more of it? Well, True Food Kitchen has the same beliefs as I do and they help to make it easier for diners too.

I took my mom with me to True Food Kitchen for dinner before our annual Fashion Island Christmas Shopping date. We were there in mid-December so the menu being offered was the “Volume One: Winter” menu. Fall and Winter foods are my favorite: the root vegetables and hearty greens, the earthy herbs, and the warming braises and stews; so this menu was right up my alley!

True Food Kitchen Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board

Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board

For our first course, along with our wine of course, we split the Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board. A literal board of roasted winter vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, beets, mushrooms, and Brussels Sprouts, served with two different dipping sauces: an avocado green goddess dip and a pimento cashew cheese spread. To be completely honest, I could’ve eaten this entire board by myself and called it my dinner. These winter vegetables, which again are my favorite, appeared to be dressed with little more than olive oil, salt, and pepper, but were roasted to absolute tender perfection which intensifies the natural flavors of the vegetables. The dips were fantastic compliments to punch up the produce just a bit more. The pimento cashew cheese spread added a nice heat, but the avocado green goddess dip was just phenomenal as it added a nice sweet richness because, avocado. Vegan and Gluten-Free, this is a dish anyone could eat with a very happy heart.

True Food Kitchen Braised Bison Short Rib

Braised Bison Short Rib – Split Plate

Next, we decided to split the Braised Bison Short Rib. When it’s Winter and cold outside, I love a good, hearty, braised dish that fills me and warms me from the inside out. This was the dish for exactly that on a rainy and unusually cold Newport Beach night at Christmas time. A large bison short rib braised slowly with lots of flavorful cooking liquids (I think there was red wine in there) to the point where the meat was so tender it shredded at the slightest touch of your fork and dissolved in your mouth, served with a creamy and savory cauliflower mash and earthy sautéed Swiss chard that acted as the perfect light sides to the meat. This entrée was masterfully done. Honestly, I like bison, but it does sometimes taste a bit gamey and plainer than say a beef short rib; but you could not tell at all with this bison. The dish packed tons of rich and developed flavors that hit all the marks of a good braised meat dish. A generous portion, mom and I were glad we split; and the best part – they split the dish for us ahead of time so we didn’t have to fuss with it at the table! That is a great point about True Food Kitchen, they cater to all needs; these guys are more than happy to split your dish, omit an ingredient, substitute, add, whatever you want! Even the pickiest and neediest of eaters can find or create something here.

True Food Kitchen Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

You cannot go to such a restaurant and not have dessert, right? Right. A Gluten-Free Flourless Chocolate Cake was our choice this night – we are chocoholics. This decadent and moist cake is made of nothing more than cocoa, eggs, and almond butter, baked till warm and gooey and topped with a touch caramel and sweet vanilla bean ice cream. Dear Lord, Dear God. This dessert was simply perfection; it had all the things I love in a dessert and with very little guilt. Couldn’t have been happier! You simply must get dessert when you come here, they are all great and innovative, ideal with a cup of fair-trade coffee or tea that True Food Kitchen also offers.

All in all, our experience was yet again wonderful. A warm and healthy atmosphere with delicious seasonal foods that are both nutritious while also pleasing to the tongue and stomach. I adore True Food Kitchen and am a regular guest there; it really has something for everyone. Omnivores and carnivores, vegetarians and vegans, gluten-frees and special needs, the folks at True Food have something for you, and if they don’t, they will make something for you. It’s affordable for a nice-ish dinner out; great for a catch up meal with friends, a casual date, a quick cocktail and appetizer, or even a celebration. I would recommend True Food Kitchen to anyone! Here’s to hoping there is one by you!

You can learn more about True Food Kitchen here.