• Get Your Probiotics In Ways That Are Actually Fun To Eat

    Howdy, friends. Can I just tell you that probiotics can literally be life-changing, and not just in the digestive sense? They’ve been proven to aid with depression and anxiety, autism, eczema, and a whole list of other ailments (just do a quick google search). Why, you may ask, are they so beneficial to ones health? Because probiotics are living microorganisms that promote a healthy digestive system and intestinal tract.  A lot of disease comes from the gut, the home of the immune system, so if yours is healthy and full of the right types of bacteria, chances are the rest of you will be healthier as well.

    Probiotics boost the immune system, improve digestive function, and also fight food-born illnesses. And I will tell you from personal experience that taking a kick-ass probiotic everyday for the past few months has really helped me deal with my own mental health issues. I read about the life-changing benefits of probiotics in a book called “A Mind of Your Own” by Dr. Kelly Brogan and she is a true advocate of the life-changing benefits of probiotics. I even started giving my dog probiotics for dogs and they eliminated his seemingly constant ear infections. True story!

    So, lets do a dive into my favorite natural sources of probiotics because well, not every human on the earth can or enjoys swallowing pills. I’m also making unique suggestions on how to eat these foods in a way that isn’t traditional so that this list is actually unique from others you can find on the interwebz. When the food is this tasty anyway, why not stuff yourself full of it, getting all the fab benefits from the good little bugs crawling around your body’s interior eco-system?

    YOGURT

    Duh, everyone knows about this one, but have you tried making YOGURT POPSICLES and enjoying them on a hot summers day? Many scientists believe that the good bugs DO indeed survive the freezing environment because anything hardy enough to withstand the acids in our stomach can surely take on zero degrees F. Here’s a vid to some frozen pops I made and enjoyed last summer (no need to use any kind of sweetener though, really).

    KIMCHI

    Kimchi is so good, you guys. It’s even available pre-made now at most grocery stores, so go pick up this Korean condiment like right now. It’s a fermented vegetable dish made from cabbages and seasoned with garlic, salt, chili peppers, and vinegar. It’s the fermentation process that makes Kimchi probiotic. 

    My favorite unique way of using kimchi is in turkey or beef meatballs. Just chop up your kimchi and add to the raw meat along with other ingredients before cooking. You can even add some more kimchi on top of the dish when you serve it! The flavor is spicy and outstanding!

    GINGER BEER

    Ginger beer doesn’t have a high alcohol content, but the fermented drink is certainly high in probiotics. It’s fizzy and delicious and a fabulous mixer when added to cocktails. If you want to really surprise your guests with a fun but sophisticated cocktail, freeze up your ginger beer into ice cubes and use those rather than traditional ice cubes to cool off your drink. Pro tip: put the actual cocktail mixture itself into the fridge for a bit so the ice cubes hold their shape longer than just a few minutes!

    SAUERKRAUT

    I hated sauerkraut when I was a kid but the moment I hit the French Culinary Institute I was asked to make it one day, and turns out, I love it now! It’s made from shredded cabbage that’s been fermented and it has the tangiest taste and crunchiest consistency. I absolutely love it. Rather than put it on a rueben sandwich, I suggest serving it simply as a side salad or as a condiment for lobster rolls or fish burgers (like a piece of seared halibut). Yummo!


    Tell me – what are your favorite probiotic foods and ways to eat them? Let me know in the comments below! I’m always looking for new ideas 🙂

    Images from CookieandKate.com and TheKitchn.com

  • Surprise Your Cinco de Mayo Guests with an Activated Charcoal Margarita

    Activated charcoal cocktails have TAKEN OVER NEW YORK CITY, pals. That’s right – fragrant, sticky, sweet, black goodness is being poured from shakers into frosted glasses in hip bars all around Brooklyn at this very moment. They’re not only breathtakingly beautiful, dark, and mysterious – just like Gotham; these cocktails also help busy city dwellers really feel like they’re drinking something uniquely next level.

    When it comes to tequila – and I’m a tequila girl, I wanted to enjoy a tequila that is authentic to what is enjoyed in Mexico – Tequila Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro. It’s an añejo that’s charcoal filtered, so I though it would be really unique to pair activated charcoal with the star itself to create a beautiful, delicious, and original cocktail to surprise and delight your friends on Cinco de Mayo. We all wear black in NYC – why not have a black margarita as well?

    I do host friends quite often, so surprising them with something new and delightful is always high on my list. I had a couple nice bottles of Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro sent over for my party (I’m a tequila girl almost exclusively) and I love this variety because it has the flavor of smoothness of an añejo with the clear color and crisp agave flavor of a blanco. PERFECT for gorgeous drinks with friends under my blossoming tree, cafe lights hanging in the balance.

    To create such a fun drink I needed a few attempts in the kitchen. I found that the perfect balance of sweetness, heat, and tart flavors combined to create a margarita that felt super refreshing and was incredibly drinkable. To do so you’ll need some agave syrup, fresh lime and lemon juice, a jalapeño, and cilantro leaves. I muddled the leaves together with the fresh juices and jalapeño and let sit for a few hours before combining with the agave and Don Julio 70 and activated charcoal.

    Along with your gorgeous margaritas, may I suggest adding some flair to your decor with cilantro, yellow flowers, and lots of leaves and other greenery. My table of green and yellow certainly celebrates the springtime spirit. My recipe for an Activated Charcoal Margarita is below! Enjoy your Cinco de Mayo, amigos!

    Activated Charcoal Margaritas

    • Prep Time: 20m
    • Total Time: 25m
    • Serves: 1
    • Yield: 1 Margarita

    Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 fluid ounces Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro Tequila
    • 1 fluid ounce fresh lime juice
    • 1 fluid ounce fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
    • 1 teaspoon fresh jalapeño, diced
    • 1 teaspoon agave
    • 1/4 teaspoon activated charcoal
    • 1 lime wedge for garnish

    Instructions

    1. Muddle together fresh lime juice, lemon juice, cilantro leaves, and jalapeño. Let sit for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.
    2. Combine the fresh juices, cilantro and jalapeño with Don Julio 70 Tequila, activated charcoal and agave into a shaker filled with ice. Shake for at least 30 seconds.
    3. Pour into a beautiful glass of your choosing and garnish with a lime wedge.

     

  • 500 Calorie Meal: Chicken Tacos with Cauliflower Tortillas

    Chef Lo here.

    I am obsessed with turning cauliflower into all different kinds of things – pizza crust, pita, chips, tortillas. You name it and it can be done. It’s a great sub for all things corn or flour based because when dried out and baked it really holds its shape. A head of cauliflower clocks in around 140 calories and as a veggie, it’s just plain good for you.

    Cauliflower tortillas take some tender love and care to make but once finished, the final product is so worth it. They are absolutely DELICIOUS. If it wasn’t so lazy I’d make them all the time and eat them exclusively for tacos, but alas, that doesn’t always happen. Today though, IT’S ON.

    For this 500 calorie meal challenge I had a lot of fun putting together a really satisfying meal that’s exceptionally delicious. I chose chicken legs over the breast for the depth of flavor and moisture, and added some unique toppings like pickled radishes, chimmichurri sauce (I didn’t make this at home – it’s left-over from a restaurant meal), and roasted mini bell peppers. All together these tacos are a flavor explosion in your mouth. Better yet, they are super low cal and quite nutritious – full of protein, good carbs, and good fat. Each taco is about 160 calories so you can eat until your tummy’s content. 3 tacos comes in at 492 calories – quite a meal!

    I hope you enjoyed my Instastory of creating the cauliflower tortillas 🙂 And I hope you make and enjoy these tasty taco treats! It is Tuesday after all!

    Raw Cauliflower Tortillas

     

    Chicken Tacos with Cauliflower Tortillas

    Each cauliflower tortilla in this recipe is about 50 calories. A meal of 3 tacos with a single chicken drumstick and thigh between those tacos, along with toppings of pickled radishes, roasted mini bell peppers, and chimmicurri sauce comes out to about 490 calories! Yum!

    • Prep Time: 20m
    • Cook Time: 1h
    • Total Time: 1h 20m

    Ingredients

    • 2 chicken legs, skin not eaten (308 calories, 154 calories per serving - drumstick and thigh
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil (80 calories, 40 per serving of chicken)
    • 2 eggs (144 calories, 72 calories per egg)
    • 1 head organic cauliflower (147 calories)
    • 8 pickled radishes (3 calories/radish)
    • 1 cup roasted mini bell peppers (80 calories)
    • 2 tablespoons chimmichurri sauce (136 calories)
    • 1 teaspoon salt (0 calories)
    • 1 teaspoon paprika (6 calories)

    Total Calorie Count: 164 Calories/Taco, 3 Tacos = 492 Calories

      Instructions

      1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and once hot, 1 cup of mini bell peppers to a baking sheet and roast until browned and cooked through.
      2. Also add the two chicken legs, covered in olive oil, salt and pepper (skin on - you can take it off later). Cook through for about 35 to 40 minutes until no longer pink inside.
      3. While baking, prepare the cauliflower! Remove all the florets from the head and add to a microwave safe bowl. Add a few tablespoons of water to the bowl, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes until the cauliflower is soft.
      4. Once the cauliflower is soft, drain and add to a food processor. Pulse the cauliflower until it's in pieces about the size of small grains of rice.
      5. Using a clean kitchen towel, pour the cauliflower rice out and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then squeeze out as much water as you possible can by twisting the towel around the cauliflower. Do this at least 10 times - you want the cauliflower to be as dry as possible.
      6. In a separate bowl, mix together 2 eggs, paprika, salt, and pepper. Add the dried cauliflower rice and mix together. The consistency should not be too watery. Spoon out the mixture into 6 balls and flatten and shape with a spoon into a tortilla.
      7. Bake at 375 for about 8 to 10 minutes, then flip once they begin to brown and finish cooking for another 5.
      8. Put the tacos together by taking the skin off the chicken and shredding it with a fork, adding the chicken to each cauliflower tortilla. Add toppings - chimmichurri sauce, roasted bell peppers, and pickled radishes. Enjoy!

    • You Have to Taste Golden Turmeric Milk

      Hello, and Happy Friday. Fridays are officially holidays in my book now. The weekend is when my mind can really roam free and I feel the most comfortable, just like every other human on the planet. I’m currently sipping on a cup of overwhelmingly delicious “golden milk” aka milk with turmeric and spices in it. Like, damn, it’s good.

      Since speaking out about the mental health thingies I’ve been going through over the past months, I’ve been getting a lot of recommendations from friends on things to try out from different foods to meditation techniques. I already discovered the incredible healing properties of turmeric and if you don’t know how spectacular this bright yellow spice is, allow me to share what I’ve learned.

      Turmeric is a mainstay in Indian culture and diet, and is arguably the most powerful herb on the planet that can help to fight and reverse disease. Why? It’s an incredibly powerful antioxidant and just as good as acting as an anti-inflammatory agent in the body. Any kind of disease has its roots in inflammation – from depression in the brain to arthritis in your hands to celiac in the stomach. Disease = inflammation. Its most renowned healing compound is curcumin, and is also its main active ingredient. 

      One of the issues with turmeric is that curcumin is found in small quantities, so you have to eat it a lot (like in an Indian diet) or take a supplement that features curcumin for it to be really beneficial. I personally take a turmeric supplement called CircuminRich, but there are a lot of them available out there. Multiple doctors have told me that adding turmeric to any supplement regime is one of the most important things I can do for long-term health and wellness.

      So lets get back to this golden turmeric milk. I picked up a jar of a product called, literally, “Golden Milk” by Gaia Herbs, a blend a turmeric, dates, cardamom seed, ashwagandha root, vanilla bean, and black pepper (you need black pepper for turmeric to be absorbed properly in the body). A serving (1 teaspoon) is only 15 calories. As a turmeric lover, I was obviously interested in a product like this, especially because I don’t drink anything caffeinated but do enjoy a tasty, warm beverage.

      To make golden milk you simply combine the turmeric powder with a bit of melted ghee or coconut oil in a pan, add some milk, heat til almost boiling and bam, it’s ready! It tastes a lot like a chai latte to be honest with you, and this particular company recommends adding a bit of honey to the drink as well. 

      Golden Turmeric Milk

      • Cook Time: 5m
      • Total Time: 5m
      • Serves: 1
      • Yield: 1 Cup Golden Milk
      • Category:

      Ingredients

      • 1 teaspoon ghee, melted
      • 1 teaspoon golden milk powdered turmeric supplement
      • 1 cup milk (dairy, almond, etc)

      Instructions

      1. In a saucepan, melt ghee and add turmeric supplement. Cook briefly until you can smell the turmeric.
      2. Add milk and whisk until almost boiling.
      3. Pour into a mug and enjoy with a touch of honey.

      I’m intoxicated by the healing properties of turmeric, the taste, and the color. I don’t think I’m getting a huge supplemental benefit by drinking golden milk, but because it’s so tasty, I’ll be adding it to my list of “comfort foods” to help ease aches, pains, and daily stresses.

      Have you tried golden milk? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

    • 500 Calorie Meal: Thai Noodles with Turkey Meatballs and Coconut Sauce

      Chef Lo at your service on this beautiful Monday in New York City. As promised, we have another 500 Calorie Meal for you and this one is REALLY GOOD. Like, REALLY, REALLY GOOD. Super rich in flavor because of the coconut milk sauce, super filling and satisfying because of the vermicelli noodles, and also nutritionally balanced.

      I made this recipe up off the cuff and I’m super thrilled with how it turned out. I often open up my cupboard and fridge and throw together whatever it is I have lying around the house. The only other ingredient I would have added to this dish would be pickled red onion – but alas, no red onions at Casa Lo today.

      Let’s break down this recipe into 4 elements so you can prep efficiently: the turkey meatballs, the noodles, the coconut sauce, and the cucumber slices. The stars of this recipe are ground ginger and fish sauce – so make sure you have those on hand before you begin. The flavors of this really come together when pairing ingredients like coconut milk, ginger, coconut aminos (a soy sauce replacement) into something distinctly Thai in smell and flavor. It’s fresh and satisfying all at once. I enjoyed my bowl of noodles in my backyard in the sun (it’s finally spring in NYC).

      This week I’m giving you the recipe and calories for 4 servings, and then will break down the 500 calorie meal into a single serving after that. Let’s get to it!

      Thai Noodles with Turkey Meatballs and Coconut Sauce

      • Prep Time: 20m
      • Cook Time: 25m
      • Total Time: 45m

      Ingredients

      • 1 pound ground turkey (600 calories, 150 calories per 4 ounce serving)
      • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (130 calories)
      • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (10 calories)
      • 1/4 teaspoon ground or fresh ginger (2 calories)
      • 1 teaspoon onion powder (8 calories)
      • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (10 calories)
      • 1 tablespoon whole greek yogurt (15 calories)
      • 1 raw egg (71 calories)
      • 1 teaspoon salt (0 calories)
      • 1 teaspoon black pepper (6 calories)
      • 1 can organic coconut milk (600 calories)
      • 1 tablespoon raw honey (64 calories)
      • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (6 calories)
      • tablespoon fish sauce (20 calories)
      • 1 teaspoon coconut aminos (or soy sauce) (10 calories)
      • 1/2 lemon, juiced (5 calories)
      • 1 organic cucumber, sliced (14 calories)
      • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (6 calories)
      • 4 bunches vermicelli noodles (680 calories, 170 calories per bunch)

      Total Calorie Count: 2,257 (1 SERVING = 494 CALORIES)

        Instructions

        1. 1. In a mixing bowl combine ground turkey with sesame oil, fish sauce, ginger, onion and garlic powder, yogurt, 1 egg, salt and pepper. Mix with hands to combine (it will be pretty sticky).
        2. 2. In a large pan melt 2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil and cook meatballs until brown on all sides and white in the middle (because it's turkey you must cook them through completely).
        3. 3. In a separate bowl, combine sliced cucumbers (I like to use a mandolin for this) with rice wine vinegar and a pinch of salt.
        4. 4. In a sauce pan combine 1 can of coconut milk with honey, ginger, fish sauce, coconut aminos, the juice of half a lemon and stir with a whisk. Allow to boil for a minimum of 10 minutes to thicken a bit.
        5. 5. In a separate pan, boil water. Once boiled, add the vermicelli noodles and remove from heat. Once submerged for 2 minutes, transfer to a colander and run under cold water.
        6. 6. Time to put it all together! In a small bowl, add each serving of vermicelli noodles. Add many slices of cucumber, 4 to 5 meatballs, and a small ladle-full of coconut sauce (to keep the dish around 500 calories only use about this much coconut sauce - each dish doesn't need 1/4 cup of sauce).

         

      • The Items You Need To Kick-Start a Diet

        Like most people, I aim to eat healthy, cook nutritious food, and make good food choices in general. There is a total food revolution happening, a lot of new research emerging about what’s good and bad for you, and so many good food options available at most grocery stores these days that it’s not as difficult to get on the right path.

        Since I went to culinary school and really learned how to cook, I’ve also been able to assess the types of food I’ve been eating and figure out how to make healthy dishes that still taste remarkably delicious and satisfying. It’s pretty easy to reduce salt and fat when you learn to replace those things with fresh herbs, lots of spices, and thoughtful cooking techniques. Don’t get me wrong – I still love a good piece of fried chicken cooked up in old fashioned Crisco, but imagine enjoying a piece of chicken that’s air-fried in bison tallow instead? Yes, bison tallow is a real thing – I get it from Thrive Market! And air-fryers are dope, man.

        With that being said, I’d like to share with you the discoveries I’ve made in the kitchen regarding specific foods and tools that have made eating healthy that make easier and more delicious. Onward ho!


        GHEE

        Oh, the joys of ghee. Really just clarified butter, ghee is what’s left after you remove the milk solids from liquified butter. I know you’re probably giving me the side eye right now because BUTTER, but hear me out. Ghee is a great source of Vitamins A, E, and K – very important when it comes to getting your nutrients in (I should know). It’s also heart-healthy, believe it or not, because it can lower your cholesterol.  Finally, ghee is full of antioxidants, and those antioxidants reduce inflammation in the body, making you healthier inside and out. Final benefit – it’s VERY tasty. Final, final benefit – it’s really easy to cook with. It comes soft in a glass or plastic jar and melts really easily into your pan. You can also make it yourself. Melt a stick of butter on very low heat and scoop off all the milk fat that comes to the top. Reserve the clarified butter in a glass, air-proof container and bam – homemade ghee.

         

        MANDOLIN

        A mandolin is one of my favorite kitchen tools. It makes taking down veggies an absolute fucking BREEZE so that you can do a big food prep when you get your groceries home, allowing yourself to simply go into the fridge for pre-sliced cucumbers or what have you whenever you want. I find that the prep is a huge obstacle for most people when it comes to eating healthy. If it’s already ready, you’ll eat it. If it’s not, it’s a mind over matter type of situation. Hello, pizza delivery.  Good for all kinds of veggies, it easily allows you to cut them down with the simple swipe of the wrist in about 15 second flat.

         

        THESE PLASTIC CONTAINERS

        I got turned on to this specific type of plastic container in culinary school and have been hooked every since. I love them. You can write on them, they’re easy to wash, and loads cheaper than Ziploc and other brands. Plus, because they’re tall you can really pack food into them without taking up too much space in your fridge.

         

        VITAMIX

        I’ve spoken about my absolute LOVE for the Vitamix, and while it’s definitely an investment piece, it’s the best utility tool I have in my kitchen. It’s not just for smoothies, no, no, no. You can put a piece of beef in there and end up with tar tar! Throw in beans and hummus comes out. Put in warm pieces of butternut squash and chicken stock and you’ll get butternut squash soup. Seriously, it’s amazing. I find that I use it for so, so, so many things beyond just a morning smoothie. Getting creative with food is the best way to keep things interesting when you’re trying to eat healthy. For me, that means taking food in it’s original form and literally turning it into something else. I’d marry my Vitamix if I could.

         

        AN OPEN MIND

        Probably the most important thing I bring with me into the kitchen is an open mind. Being willing to experiment, get my hands dirty, mess something up and start over again – all really important when creating healthy and balanced dishes. Never tried an ingredient before? Do it! Never shopped at an online health food store? Why not? I love Thrive Market – take a look around. Even more mainstream groceries stores are stocking their aisles with healthy options that before were really only available at your neighborhood co-op market. Trust that the choices you make will turn out delicious. 

        Good luck!

        X,

        chef lo

        Images via Earthbound Farm, Daily Health Post, Serious Eats, Williams Sonoma

         

         

         

      • The 500 Calorie Meal Plan Quinoa Bowl with Poached Eggs and Veggies

        So, I know a lot of us are on this whole 1200 calorie a day thing so we can be skinny minnies by summertime, but I just can’t with that. I definitely fall closer to 2000 calories a day, and because of that I like to divide up my 3 meals a day into 500 calorie ones, then allow myself 500 more calories in snacks and in-between meals.

        Eating in this way – very measured but with pleasure – allows me to manage my weight as I get older and still get the fuel I need from food to exercise. Also, I’m a professional chef and LOVE food, so getting creative with these 500 calorie meals is a fun way to stay active in the kitchen. I like to focus on an animal protein, vegetables, and some kind of grain or carbohydrate to fill my plate. Half of it are vegetables, 1/4 animal protein, and 1/4 carb of some kind. I know you might freak out about carbs but they are the bodies preferred energy source – if you don’t eat them, your body starts to break down other important elements and you simply don’t function as well. 

        That’s not to say that the carbs I’m eating are like, white bread and pasta…no, no, no. I eat brown rice, quinoa, a little barley here and there – things like this. Most are gluten-free options, but not intentionally. I don’t have any kind of gluten intolerance, I just know that brown rice is far more complex carbohydrate than say, a goldfish cracker. I’m simply choosing my energy sources properly.

        It’s pretty easy to count your calories and plan your meals this way. You can go the traditional route and read the labels on your ingredients and come up with the right ratio of veggies, to protein, to carb, or you can use any number of websites or apps to help you figure out the numbers. I’ll also be posting great meal ideas once a week moving forward that are right around 500 calories, so TheLoDown can be a great weekly source for inspiration. I’ll be breaking own the calories for each ingredient and letting you know what portion sizes are appropriate. I like to determine the calories for the carb and protein first and veggies have so few, and it’s a good model for you as well.

        With that being said, lets jump in to today’s 500 calorie recipe (it’s a breakfast meal): a Quinoa Bowl with Poached Eggs and Vegetables!

        Quinoa Bowl with Poached Eggs and Vegetables

        • Prep Time: 5m
        • Cook Time: 20m
        • Total Time: 25m

        Ingredients

        • large eggs, poached (78 calories each) = 156 calories
        • 1 cup cooked quinoa = 222 calories
        • 1 cup cooked asparagus = 88 calories
        • 1 tablespoon sharp cheddar cheese = 29 calories
        • 1 cup arugula, raw = 5 calories
        • 1 teaspoon Sriracha = 4 calories

        Total Calorie Count: 504

          Instructions

          1. 1. In a medium saucepan, boil water, add quinoa, and cook on low for 15 minutes with lid on until cooked through.
          2. 2. In another pan, bring water to poaching temperature (the bottom of the pan should just be bubbling). When the quinoa is almost cooked, poach 2 eggs by gently dropping them into water. Stir the water gently to get the eggs moving and remove after about 90 seconds (if you like them soft poached). When removing, you can allow them to sit on a paper towel to soak up any excess water.
          3. 3. While the quinoa is cooking, sauté asparagus in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
          4. 4. When all cooked ingredients are ready to go, assemble your bowl. Combine quinoa with asparagus, add arugula, sharp cheddar cheese, Sriracha, and the poached eggs. Break the eggs open, letting the yolks run over everything. Enjoy this delicious and nutritious 500 calorie meal!

          Image via Yes, More Please.

        • How To Prep 5 Days Worth of Food in 2 Hours

          Impossible, you say? Certainly not! Get out a sharp knife, a cheap mandolin, and your food processor and you’ll be geared up to take down all your veggies and proteins and prep for the week ahead. Everyone wants a fridge with everything washed, cut, and cooked – so just make it happen, party people.

          Read More

        • I Finally Made It to the Butler Bake Shop! Nomz

          Hi, LoDown fam!

          I made it down to Brooklyn again and stopped by the Butler Bake Shop on 95 South 5th Street, a bakery I’ve been meaning to check out. Upon walking in, I immediately fell in love with the place. The natural light, gleaming through the huge windows, was so beautiful and Insta-worthy.

          If you’re looking for a casual place to hang, I highly recommend this spot. The food and ambiance was everything I could ask for.

          I’ve never been a huge fan of empanadas, but because this was such a highly-recommended dish, I thought I’d give it a try. Infused with eggs, smoked bacon, arugula, and cheddar cheese, the pastry gave my taste buds quite a joy ride! The dipping sauce that came with it was also a nice touch. I’d actually go back to Butler just to get this empanada over and over again.

          Please please please try the Breakfast Empanada if you ever make your way here!

          I also ordered the Herb & Chili Scone (pictured left) and the Sausage Roll (pictured right) to share with my friends. The Herb & Chili Scone is made with chili, thyme and chives, and is garnished with sea salt with whipped butter on the side. I’ve never had a savory scone, but this one was right up my alley. If you’re wondering, the whipped butter and sea salt complimented the scone quite nicely!

          The Sausage Roll made from ground pork and onions was topped with pickled cabbage. I’m a sausage lover, so the Sausage Roll did not disappoint! As you can see, my tongue tends to lean more towards the savory side of things. But, for those of you with a sweet tooth, Butler also has a variety of sweeter pastries!

          Hands down one of my favorite #coffeecorners. If you’re in the area, do me a favor and hit up this place—you’ll thank me later! Butler Bake Shop is the spot for catching up with a girlfriend, reading up on your current novel, or silent people watching. Oh, and if I haven’t insisted enough, don’t forget to order the Breakfast Empanada!

          Thanks for enjoying this foodie moment with me! ‘Til next time.

          xx,
          Courtney Xu
          Image result for instagram icon@courtneyxu

        • My Top 6 NYC Brunch Spots Yum

          What do the the words “hungry” and “weekend” have in common? Brunch, of course!

          It’s no secret that Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the city are best spent enjoying all the culinary wonders New York has to offer. If you didn’t already know, there are many different types of experiences a brunch enthusiast can opt for: intimate, bottomless, or even an “all out” extravagant champagne party. Not only is the mid-day, mid-afternoon meal a perfect hangover cure, but it’s also a great excuse to set some time aside for gossip and witty banter with your girlfriends. Come on, ladies, it’s time to grab your party hats and become a real New Yorker.

          Let’s raise our Mimosas and Bloody Marys for a toast to my six favorite brunch places!

          Read More

        • How to Make Carrot “Fettuccine”

          Happy Monday, Beautiful!

          As much as I love the oh-so-popular vegetable “pasta” trend, it does come across a little “bit there, done that”—a.k.a. dated. Instead of using zucchinis, everyone’s go-to choice, I decided to experiment, this past weekend, with rainbow carrots.

          Forget the spiralizer, I went old school with a peeler.

          Read More

        • Breakfast Smoothie Bowls

          Happy Monday, Everyone!

          Weekends are perfect for relaxing and treating yourself, but on occasions, over indulgences can occur. When my cheat meal becomes a cheat weekend, I usually reset with a healthy and filling breakfast to get myself back on track!

          Smoothie bowls are a perfect way to start your day (if not week)! They’re beautiful to look at and super yummy to eat! The most important part of a smoothie bowl is to use a frozen base so your end mixture will hold up to whatever topping you add. I like to use frozen Açai, a super fruit that can be found in most grocery stores. I accessorized with tropical fruits, but you can finish your bowl whatever you like—even greens! Best of all, this recipe can be made the night before to give you extra snooze time in the morning.

          Hope this helps you conquer your week!

          Acai Smoothie Bowl

          • Prep Time: 10m
          • Serves: 1

          Ingredients

          • 1 Frozen Pack Acai
          • 1 Frozen Banana (Keep half Fresh, Half Frozen)
          • 1/4 Almond Milk
          • 1/4 cup Blueberries
          • 4 Raspberries
          • 1/2 Kiwi
          • 2 Strawberries
          • 2 tablespoons Granola
          • 2 tablespoons Chia seeds
          • 2 tablespoons Coconut (shredded or flakes)

          Instructions

          1. Run Acai Pack under warm water for 5-10 seconds to slightly defrost, you want to make sure it is still frozen enough to keep the smoothie bowl thick.
          2. In a blender combine the frozen banana, acai pack, and almond milk.
          3. Blend until smooth, if the mixture seems too thin add more ice or berries to thicken.
          4. In a deep soup bowl pour the blended mixture.
          5. In vertical lines, top your smoothie bowl with sliced bananas, coconut, chai seeds, granola, berries, and kiwi. Enjoy!
        • Berry and Seed Granola Bars

          The season may still be winter, but my mind is in total Spring mode.  Just like your house that needs its regular spring cleaning, your body also needs a cleanse before the warm season arrives.  I’m feeling major motivation to eat all things beautiful and healthy these past few days.  Seed and Berry granola bars have just the right about of protein and sweetness to give me that much desired kick midday. They’re super easy to make and so convenient to have around during a busy work week.  Plus, any of the fruits/nuts/seeds, can be changed to whatever you like!  I hope this recipe gets your body and mind ready to take on Spring!

          Spring Berry and Seed Granola Bars

          • Prep Time: 20m
          • Cook Time: 15m
          • Total Time: 3h
          • Yield: 8-12 Granola Bars

          Ingredients

          • 2 cups Oats
          • 1/2 cup Sunflower Seeds
          • 1/2 cup Almonds
          • 1 cup Coconut flakes
          • 1/4 cup Chia Seeds
          • 2/3 cup Honey or Maple Syrup
          • 4 tablespoons Coconut Oil
          • 2 tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
          • 2 tablespoons Almond Butter
          • 1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
          • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
          • 1/4 cup Freeze Dried Bananas
          • 1/4 cup Freeze Dried Strawberries
          • 1/4 cup Freeze Dried Blueberries
          • 1/2 cup Dried Cranberries or Raisins

          Instructions

          1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.
          2. Melt 1 tablespoon of Coconut Oil and grease 13x9 glass baking pan.
          3. Combine Oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, and coconut flakes, lay flat on a baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes in the oven, rotating after 5 minutes.
          4. Once the mixture is out of the oven add the Chia seeds, and reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
          5. In a small sauce pot combine coconut oil, honey/maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and almond butter and boil for one minute. Add to granola and mix, add dried fruits last.
          6. Once combined spread into pan and lightly press down.
          7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, cool 2-3 hours before cutting.
          8. Wrap individual granola bars for the week ahead!

        • How to Make Sweet Potato Toast

          Toast is an easy, fail proof, and delicious way to enjoy breakfast or brunch and can be made savory, sweet, or with avocado! Unfortunately, not everyone can eat toast as frequently as they would like to. Some people prefer to eat whole, unprocessed foods, while others are gluten-free, paleo-friendly, or too nutrient dense to indulge in toast.

          Enter: the sweet potato.

          Sweet potatoes are a great alternatives to toast. High in beta-carotene, they can help keep your hair, eyes, and nails healthy—just like carrots! They, of course, are also super delicious and much better for you than the standard bread.

          This sweet potato toast trend went viral a while back and still makes an appearance on Instagram and Pinterest so today I’ll teach you how to make your own with 4 vegan topping suggestions!

          TOPPING SUGGESTIONS

          • almond butter + banana + cinnamon
          • tahini + fig + agave
          • avocado + chili flakes + lime
          • crunchy almond butter + frozen mixed berries + hemp seeds
          • hummus + cucumber slices + paprika

          Sweet Potato Toast


          • Prep Time:
            5m
          • Cook Time:
            10m

          Ingredients

          • 1 Large Sweet Potato
          • Toppings of Your Choice!

          Instructions

          1. Wash and dry your sweet potato, and peel the skin if you prefer.
          2. Make lengthwise slices about 1/8 to 1/4th of an inch thick. If you have a mandolin, using one will make this much easier! If not, slice as thinly as you can (the thicker the slice, the longer you will need to toast it for).
          3. Toast the slices in a standard toaster, or a small toaster oven, for about 5-8 minutes. If your slices are on the thicker side, you may want to flip them and cook for another 5-8 minutes. You can also use a toaster and just keep pressing down to re-toast until you reach your desired texture. You can enjoy these a bit crunchier, or toast repeatedly until they are more on the soft side.
          4. Enjoy with your favorite toppings and get creative!

        • TheLoDown