Saturday, August 6, 2016

Dottie's Donuts

Dottie's Donuts
4529 Springfield Avenue,
Philadelphia, PA 19143

It's a Saturday morning that started out pretty gloomy. Despite the sweltering humidity, the sky was a dismal shade of "how is it not actually raining right now" grey. Honestly, what better way is there to brighten up a gloomy day then to munch on some sugary goodness?
And that's exactly what you get with absolutely everything served up at Dottie's Donuts; sweet, sweet goodness.

For the past two years Dottie's Donuts could only be found sold wholesale through coffee shops, and other eateries throughout the city. But in March of this year owners Jeff Poleon, and Matt Quinn finally took the plunge, and opened up their very own brick & mortar shop in the heart of West Philly's Spruce Hill neighborhood. And this vegan right
could not possibly be any more happy.

Flavors shown in photo (Boston cream, apple fritter, maple pecan, cherry pistachio)

Offering up seriously creative, and delicious flavors like Cherry Pistachio, Blackberry Almond, Matcha Glazed, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel, and even Crème Brulee. Their flavors are always inventive, and always changing. Though there are a couple standards which you'll see offered up almost everyday, like Cinnamon Buns, Apple Fritters, and Boston Cream. To see the full scope of their creative genius, and to get your mouth watering, check out their Instagram page to see all the beautiful new flavors they're concocting on the regular.

The shop boasts more than just donuts too, and they hope to continue expanding their grab-and-go selection. Though for now you can snag a bagel with your choice of different Tofutti cream cheese flavors, both sweet and savory, and of course an iced coffee from one of my absolute favorites, Elixr Coffee Roasters; with your choice of either soy or almond milk creamer.
Honestly, I'm not typically a fan of black coffee, but this is so good that I never feel the need to add any creamer, or sugar. Cold, and black is how I take it, and on an inescapably hot day like today, this hits all the right spots.
And the icing on the cake? Their cups are even vegan, made from plants, compostable, and made right here in the USA!

Over the years I've had the opportunity to try many of their various flavors, and I've yet to be disappointed. The donuts themselves have a light, almost airy quality about them. Which I've noticed has been a difficult texture for other vegan donuts to achieve. Dottie's Donuts are not what I've found to be typical vegan donuts, ones that are overly dense, and cake-like. You'd have to be told that these donuts are egg, and dairy free to believe it.
Today we made our trip a family affair, and my staunchly omnivorous Mother thoroughly enjoyed her Boston Cream donut. She actually said she enjoyed it even more than most others specifically because of how fantastic she thinks the cream filling is. I definitely agree with her. Again, any omnivore would need to be told that these donuts are vegan to believe it.

Today I tried two flavors that were new to me; Cherry Pistachio, and Maple Pecan. I actually wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy the Cherry Pistachio because I'm not typically a fan of cherry flavored anything, though I love actual fresh cherries. As a bit of a surprise, I really loved it, and the pistachio topping made a perfect combination.  Though honestly, how can you ever go wrong by throwing pistachios on any sweet, bready treat right? This flavor actually ended up becoming my daughters new favorite flavor, which used to be "The Homer," a Strawberry glazed donut with jimmies sprinkled on top to look like, you guessed it, the Simpsons donut.
(On National Donut Day they even made enormous, basically cake sized versions that were being sold at the storefront.)

With the Maple Pecan, I knew I couldn't go wrong. It's always been one of my most favorite flavor combinations, and this was particularly great because it didn't taste anything like a synthetic "maple flavoring." It was legitimately maple, you really can't beat that, and with pecans you've got yourself a no-brainer, all star donut. It's one of their more simple flavor combinations, by comparison, but it's absolutely one of my all time favorites.
Speaking of all time favorites, they didn't have them today unfortunately, but I've gotta say that their cinnamon buns are truly some of the best I've ever had. Again, one of their more basic flavors. But they do it so very well that it shines even amongst the delectably "out there," seriously inventive flavors. If for nothing else, and if you're not into non-traditional flavor combinations, definitely go just for the cinnamon buns. Honestly, I don't think you can go wrong with anything here at Dottie's Donuts. They do what they do extraordinarily well, from the basic everyday donut shop flavors, to the new and creative combos. They're consistently turning out quality food that's so scrumptious you can't even feel guilty about gorging on a few or more, or an entire box full. And the fact that someone like my Mother, who's still quite weary of vegan food, can seriously enjoy these fantastic donuts makes everything so much better.

If you're feeling inclined, come follow me on Instagram for lots more posts of my everyday vegan life!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Tasty [restaurant review]

So I wanted to start doing something a little bit different around here. This blog has always mainly been a personal outlet for me. I've written about some very intimate truths, and the inner workings of my mind, and life. Health and wellness has always been, and will always be a huge part of that. I'm extraordinarily passionate about living a vegan lifestyle, and eating a whole food plant based diet for the health of not just the planet but for ourselves.

I also very much believe that indulgence is a part of a healthy lifestyle. Even "bad" things in moderation can be part of an overall healthy diet. I'm a huge foodie, so going out, and getting to experience new flavors is something that I love, and very much need in my life. I'm extremely lucky to live in the suburbs of one of the most amazing vegan city's in the country, Philadelphia.  As much I adore nature, and need lush green scenery with fresh air and foliage, I'm also completely invigorated by the hustle and bustle of the city. In recent years there's been an explosion of entirely vegan eateries which have opened up all throughout Philly, and the surrounding suburbs. Even in Omni restaurants you'd be hard pressed not to find at least a few vegan options, if not entire vegan sections of menu's. From Cuban, to Chinese, to traditional American diner food, donut shops, and raw organic health food; there really is something for everyone.
But the one thing that I noticed my beloved city was seriously lacking? Vegan food/restaurant bloggers. With such a vibrant food scene, and ever burgeoning vegan food scene, I was pretty surprised when I went looking for blogger reviews on the many restaurants that I wanted to try and came up empty. So I figured why not do it myself? It would give me a great excuse for my daughter and I to get out of the house, and eating some (hopefully) delicious new foods.

After a brief but intense storm yesterday, it was startlingly sunny and humid today. But still not quite hot enough to keep us inside all day long. So off we went to check out a brand new restaurant that opened up in South Philly, in the East Passyunk Ave neighborhood (pronounced Paa-Shunk for locals). Serving classic diner foods like pancakes, waffles, and "egg" dishes alongside sandwiches and BLT's made with your choice of either tempeh or coconut bacon. Just make sure to go after 10am if you want something other than breakfast foods, and for a delicious assortment of pastries make sure to get there on the weekends.

This place is so cozy, with mismatched tables and chairs, and a quintessential diner feel without being at all gimmicky. When you walk in you're handed menu's, and told to sit wherever you like. There are no waiters here, you order food at the counter, and clean your plates up yourself. Which to some may be a turnoff, but I can't say that I minded it at all.
Honestly, there was so much on their menu that I wanted to try, everything sounded fantastic. But ultimately I went with a few things which I'd never had before, either at another restaurant, or that I'd made myself.

I ordered the biscuits & sausage gravy. Admittedly, I've never met a biscuit I didn't like. Except from Whole Foods, their vegan anything is absolutely terrible, at least in my area.
Biscuits from The Tasty were exactly what I was hoping for. They were the perfect balance of light and dense, and the gravy that they were paired with had just the right amount of seasoning and spices.

This dish was very satisfying all by itself, and I really didn't need anything else to fill me up, but I just had to try a little more, so I ordered a side of tofu scramble with onions and coconut bacon. For all of the time that I've been vegan, this was actually my first time eating tofu scramble, and I have to say that it was really good. Again, the seasoning was spot on. Now I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting from the coconut bacon, but I wasn't let down. It added a nice touch of smokiness, and crunch to the scramble.

My boyfriend ordered the Greek omelet, which is made with a chickpea flour base. Personally, I've never been a fan of olives. (I know, I'm horrible at being Italian; a vegan who hates olives!) Aside from that, I enjoyed the omelet, and the tofu feta was especially good. Now if you're expecting an egg-y consistency or flavor, you'll be pretty disappointed. This definitely doesn't taste anything like eggs, but was good nonetheless. Though, I don't think it was anything to write home about, and that's not a reflection of the restaurant. I think it's really more of a personal taste issue. My boyfriend was not a fan of the omelet, but agreed that it probably had more to do with his palate than the food itself.

My daughter ordered the buckwheat chocolate chip pancakes, of course. Now, pancakes are pretty difficult to completely screw up, but a lot of the time even non-vegan pancakes can come out dry and crumbly, which I really detest. But these were truly perfect pancakes. Sweet, but not too sweet. Moist, but not mushy, and you get a nice filling plateful. I'd honestly come back just for coffee and pancakes. But really the biscuits and gravy were the star of the show for me.

Overall, I think that The Tasty is a fantastic little diner, with some really deliciously filling food that you probably can't find very many other places.
Check out The Tasty's Facebook page below with their hours, and full menu.

1401 S. 12th Street, Philadelphia PA
(267) 457-5670

Monday, July 18, 2016

5 Ingredient French Toast

French toast has always been my absolute favorite breakfast food, even though I'm actually not a huge breakfast person. Typically I like to stick to really light, very easily digestible foods in the morning, like yummy green smoothies, and I usually wait at least an hour after I wake up to eat anything so that my body has a chance to really get going. But sometimes you crave something a little more dense, a little more sweet, especially since I think that breakfast foods make fantasticly delicious meals for any time of day.

I'll admit that I was pretty disappointed when I realized that I could no longer eat my beloved French toast, and I lamented the fun memories of my daughter and I preparing it together. I'm not sure why I didn't immediately look up vegan recipes, because there's a vegan recipe for essentially everything these days, and most of the time they're really delicious. I think maybe I just assumed that there was no way to replicate a pure egg batter without buying actual vegan eggs, which only recently came out. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of recipes that were all a bit different. Some used either flax meal, or even chickpea flour as a thickener, and I found one that looked very promising which used ground chia seeds. Being that I'm a single mother with limited funds, and budgeting meals is essential for us, I don't generally keep these kids of ingredients on hand all of the time. I also didn't want to go out and buy a bag of something like chickpea flour that I was only going to use this one time. I also decided to try my hand at vegan French toast very much on a whim; it was completely spur of the moment, I just happened to have a ton of bananas that I really needed to use up. So I pretty much was just winging it with whatever ingredients I typically always have on hand.

I didn't think this was at all possible, but I genuinely love this recipe even more than traditional non-vegan French toast. This recipe is not nearly as dense as an egg batter, but still cooks really well. The edges have a fantastic crunchy crisp to them, while the center stays light and slightly chewy, without being mushy, or overly gooey. They're filling, but not overly filling, and the batter has a perfectly naturally sweet and creamy flavor. One of the best parts? You can use any leftover batter to drizzle right over top of your cooked French toast!

The trick with these is all in the frying. If your heat is turned up too high your French toast will burn on the outside while staying too mushy on the inside, and falling apart. Keeping your stove on low/medium heat, and allowing the toast to fry slowly, is the key to making perfectly browned French toast that won't stick or fall apart.
Because I threw this together so last minute, I only ended up taking one photo. But I definitely plan on making these again, so I'll update with more photos of the process.

Makes about 4-5 slices
  • 1/2 cup Almond Milk
  • 1/3 cup raw Cashews, soaked for a few hours
  • 1 small/medium Banana
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Coconut Oil or Vegan Butter (for greasing the pan)
  • Your favorite thinly sliced bread (I use Sprouted Flax bread)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a blender, and blend on high until everything is smooth and creamy, with a consistency similar to a smoothie.
  2. Oil your pan very well with either coconut oil, or vegan butter (I like Earth Balance soy free buttery spread). Allow your pan to heat up for a few minutes so that the heat is evenly distributed, this is very important for the batter not to stick.
  3. Pour some of your batter onto a flat dish. It's important to not pour too much batter onto the dish so that you don't overly drench your bread. This batter cooks very differently than an egg batter, so it's easy to overly coat the bread, and come out with a soggy French toast.
  4. Dip both sides of your bread lightly into the batter. Don't give the bread time to sit, as it will get too soggy, and fall apart. Place the freshly dipped slices into the pan.
  5. Cook on one side for about 2-4 minutes, it will be ready to flip when you see the batter on the uncooked side starting to look more dry, and less liquid-y.
  6. Flip and repeat cooking on the other side. Plate your French Toast, and top with some extra cinnamon, and your favorite fruit. Bananas go especially well since they're already in the batter. If you have any extra batter you can drizzle it right on top, and for a little extra sweetness you can take a few pitted dates that have been soaked in hot water, and blend that into the remaining batter. Drizzle with a bit of maple syrup and serve.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Blueberry Basil Gelato [Recipe]

      So I've been gone from the blog for a bit, life's been somewhat hectic, and I was beginning to feel myself getting into a kind of slump. Though, it wasn't the usual sort of slump that I typically find myself falling into; this one has been much more circumstantial, and heavily influenced by factors that are mostly uncontrollable for me. With forces somewhat out of my control, I started finding it more and more difficult to keep up with healthy eating habits. I've never really enjoyed the thought of myself as a perfectionist in any way, but I most definitely like to think that, as a mother, I'm capable of feeding myself and my child the best I can. I'm absolutely certain that no one likes to think of themselves as sub par, particularly us parents. Not to say that I've been a horrible mother in any way, but times have definitely been tough for me lately, and I've sort of just been trucking through it with all my might. No one's life is perfect all the time, or even most of the time, but I'm not going to quit being me, or doing what I love, and what helps me feel my best, which in turn makes me the best mother that I can be. It's been hard, but I'm still trying.

      Recently I've been focusing on smaller goals. I realized a pattern, that when I attempt to focus on eating as perfectly as I can all of the time, I tend to have much harder falls. Eating to 'perfection' all of the time, while dealing with any kind of illness or even just life's normal daily struggles, can become a fairly daunting task. At least that's what I've found to be true. I've been aware of this issue for quite a while, while almost subconsciously pushing it aside. It's taken me an extremely long time to truly accept this, but in doing so I'm starting to realize that I'm actually a lot more successful at staying balanced, and maintaining a real groove in my lifestyle patterns when I take on a challenge bit by bit. So am I currently eating as well as I'd like to be? No, and everyday is different, but I'm definitely on the right track to getting back into my groove.

      A lot of my time is spent thinking about snacks, not only because I'm just a foodaholic, but also because, as most parents know, it can be tricky getting a toddler to eat a consistently balanced diet. One day my daughter will only want to eat blueberries and avocados, and for a week straight she may be on a never ending quest to load up on carbs. Often times snacks can be the most difficult meals of the day, because almost all snack foods you find in stores are incredibly processed, with lots of additives, preservetives, unhealthy oils, and sugar. It really seems like the only way to provide truly healthy snacks are to make everything from scratch, but not many people have the time for it. There are tons of foods which I do make from scratch, and a lot of them can be really time consuming to make, so when I find something that's not only super tasty, extremely healthy, but incredibly simple to make as well, I know I've got a real keeper.

      It was while we were at the farmers market about two weeks ago, when as we were leaving, one of the vendors offered my daughter a taste of gelato. I asked if she had anything vegan, and she did, it was a sorbet. Blueberry basil sorbet, which I thought seemed like an odd, yet interesting flavor combination. My daughter and I both loved it! A couple of the ingredients were questionable though, and it contained loads of sugar, so it wasn't something I would want us eating regularly. Before we even made it back home my mind was already spinning with ideas on how I could create something similar, but better; something even more like a real gelato, with that same great flavor, only healthier. Bananas seemed to be the logical conclusion. Banana "nice cream" is pretty big right now, and for good reason, it's always delicious. Though I wasn't entirely certain that bananas would work for this, mainly because I really didn't want a strong banana flavor, which you can often get with "nice creams." So I tinkered with the recipe in my head for a bit, then gave it a go, and it was a huge hit the first try! I've made it at least three times in the past two weeks, it's just so yummy, and if my 3 year old loves it too then I'm a really happy camper.

Blueberry Basil Gelato
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 2 large ripe Bananas
- about 5 ounces, or one small Mango
- about 1/2 to 3/4 pint fresh Blueberries
- 6 to 10 fresh Basil leaves, depending on how strong of a flavor you like
- First slice your bananas and mango into chunks, place them in ziplock bags and freeze, or you can always use pre-frozen mango like I did.
- Once they're frozen solid you can place them into your food processor, and process until it just begins to start getting creamy. First you'll see it turn into crumbles, and you may need to stop your machine to help press everything down.

- Once it begins to get creamy you can add your blueberries and basil, and continue processing.
- Blend until you've reached your desired consistency, though be careful not to over process it, as it can become too watery. But if that does happen all you have to do is pop your mixture into the freezer for a little while, and it'll get right back to where you want it.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Working My Way Back To Normal

      I say "normal," but in all honesty I'm still not entirely sure what that means. Do any of us? I'm nearly 25, I've been "abnormal" for the better part of my life, two decades, and I still can't even begin to fathom how my own mind is supposed to function; what it means to be like everybody else. The good news, I think, is that even most normal people feel the same way that I do at some point in their least I think.

I remember being in kindergarten, we only had half days in our school, and I had been in preschool before so it wasn't an entirely new experience. At that time our bathrooms were in the classrooms, but they were single bathrooms. I distinctly remember the all encompassing fear that I felt just contemplating having to close the door. The mere idea of it terrified me, I obsessed over it throughout the day, praying that I wouldn't feel that uncomfortable fullness indicating my need to go. Barely able to focus at my desk, my daydreams were consumed with every illogical, and unlikely event that could possibly take place, fearing my life would end. I'd look out of the windows for some reassurance, only to be thrust further into a state of terror, thinking that the oddly shaped clouds in the sky were asteroids on a collision course with earth. Everywhere I turned there was some hidden threat, lingering in the shadows just hoping for me to find them. In my mind there were lines on the grounds where I walked, borders which indicated "safe" or "dangerous zones," where I could or could not walk. Though the consequences of stepping into an unsafe area I wasn't entirely clear on, but I was certain death in some manner would be imminent. I was five years old.

Those are some of my first experiences where I can remember thinking, "Why can't I be like everybody else? Why can't I be normal?" Surely none of my peers minds were scrambling in panic the way mine always was.

I've repeated those phrases in my head, begrudgingly shouted these questions more times than I care to remember. I was afraid of everything, simply being away from my mother for any amount of time was a source of infinite anxiety, enough to send me into a tailspin of sheer terror. I was barely school aged, and having full blown meltdowns, panic attacks, on a regular basis. My mother was called to pick me up from school more times than either of us can count. I'm certain that at this time most of the adults around me probably believed that I was just high maintenance. When I finally had the opportunity to meet my first therapist at age 6, 

she told my mother that I was "attention seeking," and to "just ignore her."

      It may be silly, or childish, but I still hold a sort of resentment towards this woman for the years of needless suffering I endured, when it was her job to help me. It took nearly 10 years to finally be given a diagnoses, though it has evolved over time, Obsessive Compulsive with psychotic tendencies. Little did I know that my aunt was dealing with Schizophrenia at the same time. Mental illnesses tend to do that, stay in the family. As I got older I realized that I had been doomed from the get-go; every single woman in my family suffered with varying degrees of anxiety disorders. Apparently, I just happened to have landed with the worst case out of everyone. Lucky me.

Me, age 7

I think the one thing that all people dealing with mental illness understand is that there will always be both good and bad days, and our illnesses can tend to follow somewhat of a cyclical pattern. There's a very fine line that you balance on daily, and any small change or disturbance could potentially send you tumbling 50 feet down into a black hole of worry and confusion, scrambling once again to gain your footing so you can attempt to begin the long and arduous journey back up to your balance beam.

      This is the strange, and oddly comfortable limbo that I've found myself in over the past few months. Sometimes I only begin to regain my footing on the ground before stumbling again. Other times I feel as if I've finally made my way back up, not quite so sturdily perched upon my balance beam, before being abruptly thrown off once more. My tumble downward isn't always a surprise, nor is it always quick. There are times when I can see the decline as it begins, while it's taking place, I often feel powerless to stop it. Almost as if I'm not actually a part of myself, but some spectator forced to watch the madness.

Other times the downfall is so abrupt that it's as if I've been struck by lightening on a sunny day. 

So here I am again, somewhere in the in between stages of trying to crawl my way up. I've been gone from the blog for quite a while now, and the simple truth is that when I originally set out to create a blog I had this immaculate vision in my mind of myself as this put together, adult woman, someone that had fought through their personal struggles but had come out on the other side unscathed. I wanted to be the person who could give advice, who could be looked up to, a person who had it all figured out.

But now I'm okay with admitting that that's just not me, and perhaps never will be. 

Though I want to be clear, I am not trying to disparage myself, or be self deprecating in any way. None of what I've said is a bad thing really. I'm finally getting to a point where I'm okay acknowledging all aspects of myself. I'm at a place now where I respect that this is going to be a lifelong journey for me. There won't ever really be an "other side" to come out on. This is my life, an experience in learning, and in that way, starting this blog has actually been a really wonderful thing. It's beginning to feel like a sort of catharsis, which is what I needed most whether I wanted to admit it or not. This is now providing another tool to help me analyze things from a different angle. 

      So I may not be able to offer up all of the answers, or any. But what I can offer are my experiences, I can offer my journey trying to navigate through all of life's turbulence, and hopefully I can offer someone the comfort of knowing that they're not alone. I know that would've been incredibly helpful to me in the beginning, and probably now more than ever. Because the truth is that I feel alone,


and unable to connect with other humans on any sort of meaningful level. I feel different than others, I do feel strange, in a sort of ostracized environment, perhaps of my own making. But I need to reach out, even if it is in the most passive sort of way, essentially anonymous, but it's a step. 

Still to this day, after having dealt with mental illness for twenty-some odd years, I've yet to find anyone that can relate in this way. So perhaps now, through this blog, I'm trying to connect, to something. Maybe you're reading it looking for the same, or maybe you were just in search of some tasty plant based recipes. All I can say is that from here on out 

I am not going to attempt to be anything, I'm just going to be.

I need to shed all of my layers, peel off the callouses I've worked so tirelessly to try and hide. Talking about mental illness is a difficult thing to do, which is probably why it's taken me so long to finally get started. It's terrifying, I am terrified. The stigma surrounding these types of illnesses are very real, they run deep, and I experience it from others on a nearly daily basis. My own family, as loving and close as we are, still have no idea how to even begin to handle it, or what to really think about it. Though I'm coming to the conclusion that the best thing I can do for everyone is to just open up, at this point it's a necessity, otherwise I may drown in my stagnation. 

So where do we go from here?

     Well I am most definitely still going to be focusing on holistic health, since that's such a huge part of who I am, and dealing with mental illness is what brought me to this place in my life. I will absolutely be posting recipes that I'm trying out, because I do love food quite a lot, and you can't be healthy without providing your body the necessary building blocks.

But first and foremost I want this blog to naturally evolve into a place where I can share my daily struggles, or my daily triumphs. A place where I can both laugh and cry, and talk about all of the wistful meanderings of my mind, while also discussing methods that I'm using to try and better myself and my situation. I want this blog to be a place where I can express all of the intricacies of life, so that's where I'll be taking this, starting with this post right now.

Consider ourselves reborn.


Please feel free to come follow me on Instagram for random tidbits, updates, whimsical musings, but most of all mouth watering food porn. Light & Love xoxo  Antonia

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Quick Update & Thoughts About the Future

Unfortunately, I've needed to take a break from blogging. It was something that came about very unexpectedly, but I really needed the time to gather my thoughts, and deal with some life difficulties, both new and old. I'm feeling much better, and just getting back into the swing of things so I just wanted to very quickly update so that it doesn't seem like I've completely disappeared. I'll be posting a more detailed update within the next day or two, to let everyone know what's been going on. I'd also like to switch things up a bit with the next few posts, and I'd like to begin focusing a bit more on dealing with mental illness naturally, since that's really the reason I began my journey into holistic nutrition in the first place. I will most definitely still be posting fun new recipes that I'm trying out which support a healthy lifestyle, but I'm also planning to speak more about my personal life balancing everyday life and motherhood with mental illness, and learning how to manage my symptoms using a holistic approach.

Thank you so much for all of the support. If anyone would like to stay updated with what I'm up to day to day then please click the link and come check out my Facebook page, Semi Raw Kind of Life.

Love & Light