Sanwa Farmer’s Market: A Flavorful Foreign Affair

The Sanwa Farmer’s Market is a local goldmine for exotic and ethnic foods. (Photo by Paige Butterfield)

I don’t know what I expected when my professor said we were meeting up at a farmer’s market to explore Tampa culture. Rows of quaint tents occupied by wrinkly cute old ladies? The occasional offering of Granny Smiths and Galas?

But Sanwa’s Farmer’s Market is different. Imagine how taken back I was when I arrived at a warehouse-like building surrounded by cars. Upon entering the palace, my senses were overwhelmed with the buzz of different languages and colors and people.

Exotic Market Must-Haves

This brand of sriracha is a vegan pantry must-have. (Photo by Paige Butterfield)

In the initial Sanwa room lay rows of foreign products, perfect for spicing up a boring palette. The “rooster brand” sriracha, as I like to call it, adds sensual vegan spice to noodle soups and stir-fry. In fact, most things taste better with sriracha. Except cereal. Just say no to sriracha cereal.

Also available were five-gallon buckets of soy sauce, and exotic edibles like pink guava syrup.

Beans, Beans…

Jasmin browses Sanwa’s wide selection of dry beans Sunday. (Photo by Paige Butterfield)

My friend Jasmin was the first to spot the Holy Grail of beans. Beans are at the bottom of the vegan food pyramid, offering plenty of vegan protein. Make sure you soak them for maximum nutrients and digestibility. Extra points if you have the patience to sprout them!

Foreign Fruits (And Veggies)

One of the many ethnic oddities I stumbled upon at Sanwa’s Farmer’s Market: fuzzy squash. That’s their real name: fuzzy squash. (Photo by Paige Butterfield)

Just when I thought I’d explored every cranny of the Sanwa Market, I found the glorious produce room. Among generic produce like onions, apples, and strawberries, nestle foreign fruits and vegetables.

I found squash that I could pet, taller-than-me cane stalks, and fruit that looks like a small fluffy creature: rambutan.

randofruit1

White asparagus, starfruit, and Chinese winter melon were just a few of the exotic produce I found on my adventure. (Photo by Paige Butterfield)

 

Organic Nook

Sanwa included it’s own organic section of produce, albeit small. I scored a huge tub of organic mixed greens for around seven dollars. At other nearby grocery stores, like Publix, you get half the amount for that price. Even if I’d just gone home with my lettuce-find, I’d have been a happy camper.

A huge organic tub of mixed greens were only around seven dollars at Sanwa’s Farmers Market on Sunday. Score! (Photo by Paige Butterfield)

I love frequenting farmer’s market, but there’s a certain thrill when I discover a new Tampa gem. Sanwa’s Farmer’s Market was exceptionally exciting because of the array of funky produce and foreign market fair.

Sanwa, you haven’t seen the last of me.
What’s your favorite exotic produce to incorporate in vegan dishes?

 

Munk Pack Review: Grab & Go Goodness

Munk Pack Title1

*This post was written for the exchange of samples.

I’m fond of the idea of “squeeze & go” pouches, but they tend to leave me unsatisfied. One slurp, two slurp– gone! One hundred calories vanish and I’m left with a rumbling tummy.

Let’s be real. When I was given the opportunity to sample Munk Packs, the oatmeal-sister of regular squeeze & go pouches, I had mixed expectations. Flavors like Raspberry Coconut left me eager to Munk-out right away.  But would these leave me unsatisfied, staring at my ceiling in a melancholy, hungry haze?

Munk Pack, I must apologize for judging your subtly sweet and satisfying allure too quickly. You, my sweet pouches of pleasure, are different.

 

Photo Credit: MunkPack.com

Taste: 4/5

Munk Pack takes a daring leap by only having three flavors, when their competitors offer a bouquet of choices. However, they’ve nearly perfected their trifecta.

Raspberry Coconut tastes mostly like raspberry with a subtle creamy end-note. I do wish the coconut flavor was more pronounced.

Blueberry Acai reminds me of fresh berry smoothies.

Although I couldn’t taste Apple Quinoa, for I’m allergic, my roommate devoured it in two squeezes. She said it tasted like morning cinnamon oatmeal.

I was worried about the consistency when I heard Munk Packs contained oatmeal, but the pulpy bits were pleasant and convinced me I was eating real food, not baby puree.

 

Convenience: 5/5

Munk Packs make wonderful, “Crap, I woke up 10 minutes before Reporting 101 class,” breakfasts and between-meal snacks in lieu of vending machine desperation. Unlike other squeeze & go pouches, they actually put a dent in my hunger.

 

Price: 3/5

For around $2.50 a pack, the price is doable– especially if you compare it with snack-alternatives (like those you might find in a vending machine.)

 

Branding and Packaging: 3/5

Munk Pack is endearing. Although it’s hard to imagine burly men wiping Raspberry Coconut Munk Pack from their mustaches between cabinet installations, children will love the personable packaging with the squirrel logo.

Munk Pack’s packaging, although convenient, is not new or innovative. Many other squeezy-pouch companies have come before them. But why change something that works? Their pouches are functional and convenient. Keep doin’ your thing Munk Pack.

(Photo Credit: Munk Pack’s Twitter account)

 

Nutrition: 5/5

(I save the best for last…)
1. Vegan
2. Non-GMO Project certified
3. Certified gluten-free
4. Dye & artificial nonsense free
5. High in omegas
6. High in fiber
7. Contains ingredients pronounceable ingredients that don’t end in numbers.

These satisfying portable treats on-the-go are the perfect companion for busy children and adults alike. Consider me a Munk Punk.

Looking to purchase a pouch or 12? Abe’s Market sells them here, or purchase them through Amazon here.

 

 

Hiatus

I’m going on hiatus (and have been on such for the past few months, oops!) until further notice to focus on my schoolwork and other obligations. However, I will be back! There’s too many yummy, veg spots in Tampa waiting to be explored.

For the Love of Pizza: Pizza Fusion (Tampa, FLA)

 

Two of my favorite things in one picture!

Two of my favorite things in one picture!

 

The Veg Verdict

Price: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5
Casual enough to order a pizza to-go for devourment in the comforts of your abode and Game of Thrones re-runs. Special enough to take your girlfriend/boyfriend out for a romantic dinner for two.

Vegan Food: 5/5
This isn’t Papa Johns (sorry, not sorry Papa Johns)– Pizza Fusion uses quality, organic ingredients. They have vegan options throughout their menu: appetizers, salads, pizzas, wraps and desserts.

Their pizza crusts and sauces are always vegan, and they have tons veg-friendly toppings, including two vegan cheeses to choose from. Did I mention they have a vegan, gluten-free brownie that’s seriously addictive?

Vegan Beverages: 3/5
Juices, sodas, teas, and a lengthy alcohol menu complete Pizza Fusion as the ultimate veg-friendly grub ‘n brew spot.

 

Veg Bites

  • Appetizers: Although not clearly stated, Pizza Fusion is more than happy to create a vegan appetizer for you. In the past, I’ve had them make me pizza sticks with Daiya (vegan) cheese, and Marinara dipping sauce.
  • Salads:
    • Pear & Gorgonzola Salad (w/o Gorgonzola)
    • Roasted  Beet & Feta Salad (w/o feta)
    • Fusion House Salad
  • ‘Wiches & Wraps:
    • Fusion Veggie Wrap
  • Fusion Pies:
    • Very Vegan
  • DIY Pies: Make your own vegan pizza pie by choosing from their sea of toppings! You have a vegan green light on all DIY Pie creations, with the exception of the meats and cheeses, of course. They offer TWO different vegan cheese options: Daiya, and soy-based Follow Your Heart.
  • Desserts:
    • Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownie

 

// Pizza Fusion’s Food Menu //

——————————————————————————————————————

 

Pizza Fusion isn’t your average college town 3 a.m. pizza dive. It doesn’t have frozen, prepackaged ingredients that are slapped together when you call, desperate for your fix. It doesn’t have artery-clogging goo, passed off as “fresh cheese,” or GMO-laiden crust. It also doesn’t stay open for delivery until 3 a.m. at the Tampa location (but I’m petitioning to change this.)

Instead, Pizza Fusion chooses to use fresh, organic, local ingredients. Vegans have options to choose from on every page of their menu, including dessert.

But that’s not all. Pizza Fusion decided to take their plan a step further by incorporating their ideals throughout their entire business-plan. They use sustainable resources, like 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and “spud-ware,” disposable utensils made from potatoes that biodegrade in 50 days. Their deliveries are made in hybrid cars, and their employees arrive to you door in 100% organic T-shirts. These guys are serious.

 

Fusion House Salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side.

 

The half Fusion House Salad was as flavorful as it was vibrant. I enjoyed the rustic, chunky cut tomatoes and crunchy, munchy bread sticks.

 

My DIY Pie: Paige's Pineapple Perfection! Pineapple, squash, onion and bell peppers with red sauce on a crunchy gluten-free crust.

My DIY Pie: Paige’s Pineapple Perfection! Pineapple, squash, onion and bell peppers with red sauce on a crunchy gluten-free crust.

My DIY Pie was heaven in a pizza. I have a gluten sensitivity, to I try to stay away from it when I have the option. This was my first time trying their gluten-free crust. Many gluten-free crusts tend to be chewy and grainy. However, this rice-based crust was perfectly crunchy and crisp. I also chose not to have any cheese on my pizza, although they do offer veg-friendly Daiya and Follow Your Heart brands. Ryan ordered his pizza with Daiya cheese and attested its yumminess.

 

Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownie.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownie.

I didn’t plan on dessert, but then again, who does? Before she could even get “We have a vegan, gluten-free brow-” I said yes. Yes, yes, and more yes. It’s rare that I get to go out to dinner and eat a full-course vegan meal, so I was unabashedly stuffing my face. The brownie was big enough for Ryan and I to split, and to go home in a food-coma. Ryan commented on how he’d never tasted a vegan brownie so moist, nevertheless gluten-free. I don’t know what magic voodoo they use to create this masterpiece, but it’s heavenly. If I had a single word of advice to give you about visiting Pizza Fusion, it is to put this in your mouth.

Whether you’re looking for an excuse to eat more pizza in your life, or it’s your one-year vegiversary, Pizza Fusion is the place to be.

 

What are your favorite vegan pizza toppings?

Abe’s Market: Too Good to Be True?

(Source: BuildinChicago.org)

*This is not a sponsored post.

What’s an Abe’s Market?

Abe’s Market is an online natural products and organic living superstore. They sell anything from nut-butters to duvet covers!

Why should we care?

I usually stay away from online shopping when it comes to my groceries, (but unfortunately not Forever 21,) because it’s pricey. Abe’s offers LOTS of vegan products at affordable prices.

is shipping free at Abe’s Market?

No. Not always, at least. But (and this is a big but,) they offer periods of free shipping very often. So often, in fact, that I question how they can afford to do this. But really, who cares? FREE SHIPPING.

Be sure to sign up for their emails to receive the latest information, including coupons usually for about 10-20% off your entire purchase. On top of that, their sale section is stocked full of goodies at thrifty prices.

(Source: AbesMarket.com)

They have free shipping through July 27th, and are marketing “Abe’s Summer Road Trip,” where goods are categorized by their locality and up to 40% off!

 

What’s this “Try for $2″ I hear about?

Abe’s offers you to be a “tastemaker,” with a program that lets you try certain products for just $2 (shipping included) in exchange for a bit of feedback to the brand. This is a great opportunity to test out your products before you buy more– something that shopping at your local supermarket wouldn’t offer you.

How was your experience, shopping with Abe’s?

Spectacular. I bought some Dastony Sprouted Sunflower Seed Butter that I’ve been curious about, and 2 packs of natural, vegan candy for my boyfriend. It was a free shipping day, and I used a 20% code, making the total around $12. My order was timely and everything was in perfect condition.

(Source: AbesMarket.com)

I certainly recommend used Abe’s for quality natural/organic vegan items that you can’t find in your area, or to snag some great deals.

 

What’s your favorite thing about shopping at Abe’s Market?

 

7 Reasons you Should be Bananas About ‘Nanas

(Photo Credit: VeganMermaid.com)

 

Frozen in smoothies, sliced on cereal, or sushi-rolled in sunflower butter– bananas are magic stuffed into little, yellow packages. In fact, I love them SO much, that I’ve dedicated a whole post to the fruity gold. Seriously.

So, what’s so wonderful about bananas?

1. They could lower blood pressure.

Bananas are high in potassium, which is often linked to lower blood pressure. Back in 2005, a study from St. George’s Medical School found that potassium citrate (found in nature,) had the same blood-pressure lowering effects as potassium chloride that had been studied in the past (Harvard Family Health Guide).

2. They beat the blues.

Our yellow friends are high in tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin, which naturally improves mood (Live Science)!

3. They keep you regular.

Bananas are full of fiber that helps push waste out of your digestive system. A single banana has about 10% of your daily fiber needs (Healthy Eating)!

4. They’re cheaper than two gum balls.

You can usually buy a conventional banana for around 35 cents. I buy organic bananas for about 43 cents each at my local health foods store! For a fruit that packs such a nutritional punch, they’re worth every penny.

4. They come in their own convenient, little packages.

5. They help you count sheep.

Bananas are high in vitamin B6, a vitamin that helps create melatonin. Melatonin helps “regulate your internal clock (Every Day Health),” and is often sought as a supplement for insomniacs.

6. They tell heartburn to keep quiet.

They’re a natural alternative to popular antacids like Tums (that can often lead to worse problems,) and may help certain individuals with GERD and acid reflux (Food Matters).

7. They’re scrumptious.

Need I say more?

 

Kaleisia Tea Lounge (Tampa, FLA): A Kaleidoscope of Teas

Photo Credit: Kaleisia Tea Lounge. Buy this mug @ http://www.thetealounge.com/onlinestore/

 

The Veg Verdict

Price: $$

Atmosphere: 5/5
A relaxed atmosphere I can get lost in while studying or catching up with an old friend. There’s a special “quiet room,” where you can kick off your shoes (literally,) and find your zen with a hot cup of tea.

Vegan Food: 5/5
There are 9 vegan items to choose from on the menu, but I’d go back even if there were just one. Unlike the “vegan options” at big restaurant chains, these options have complex flavors that omnivores loves, too.

Vegan Beverages: 6/5
Kaleisia is tea addict’s dream. They have a whole book of teas to choose from, including add-in options of boba, lychee and chia seeds. They also have smoothies and tea lattes.

 

Veg Bites

  • Appetizers: Vegan Spring Rolls, House Spring Rolls, Edamame, Hummus & Chips.
  • “Light Bites”: Hummus Avocado Wrap, Cranberry-Walnut Salad.
  • Entrees: Pumpkin Coconut Soup, Asian Noodles, The Vegginini
  • Desserts: Vegan Cupcake (Flavors vary by day.)
  • Drinks: Teas with additional options of Boba, chia seeds or lychee; Smoothies (with the substitution of soy milk); Tea Lattes.

Kaleisia’s Food Menu //Kaleisia’s Drink Menu // Kaleisia’s Book of Teas

——————————————————————————————————————

 

For a vegan, Fletcher Avenue is like The Book of Eli. Bleak, haunting buildings like House of Meats and Seafood Select line the road. Except, in Tampa’s tale, the book is replaced by the twinkling lights of Kaleisia Tea Lounge.

Kaleisia is occupied by people of all ages and backgrounds, and colored with laid-back vibrations. Kaleisia was named by putting the words “kaleidoscope ” and “asia” together. The Kaleidoscope part “represents the infinite varieties of tea around the world.” The “Book of Teas” may as well serve as their holy scripture. They have 100+ teas, each which will enlighten your taste buds. The vegan cupcakes at the check-out counter will undoubtedly swoon you to take a bite. Or two. Or three.

My favorite spot in the lounge is the “Quiet Room,” where low-level seating invites you to take off your shoes and soak in the silence. This is one of my most beloved study places in all of Tampa. Kaleisia also offers patio seating– perfect for drinking warm LapSang Tea (known for its uniquely smokey flavor) in the winter months.

 

Photo Credit: VeganMermaid.com

Photo Credit: VeganMermaid.com

The Hummus Avocado Wrap (above) is a creamy, refreshing “Light Bites” vegan option. The dipping sauce transforms the wrap from so-so to SO good. Although this meal is placed under “Light Bites,” the good fats from the chunky avocado keep me full, and so I often order the wrap as my whole meal.

 

Photo Credit: VeganMermaid.com

Photo Credit: VeganMermaid.com

My boyfriend is always loyal to his Veginini (above) every time we come to Kaleisia. The delightfully crunchy bread and the vegetable chips are super, but the secret’s in the balsamic sauce. Ryan and I have tried to decode it and copy it in our recipes at home, but we just can’t seem to match the zingy flavor. This panini is also filled with lots of spinach, which is high in essential nutrients like iron, magnesium, and folate.

 

Photo Credit: VeganMermaid.com

The Vegan Spring Rolls on the menu are delicious, but I prefer the House Spring Rolls (above) that pop with bright flavors like lemongrass, pineapple and mint. The peanut sauce gives them a second layer of umami decadence.

 

Photo Credit: VeganMermaid.com

Photo Credit: VeganMermaid.com

Kaleisia’s Hibiscus tea is perfectly refreshing and sour. Adding chia seeds to my tea gives me wonderful energy, but lychee is my favorite treat. I enjoy chewing the little pieces of lychee that I suck through my bubble straw!
Keep up with Kaleisia’s calender for the latest updates on their events, like twilight markets, free Boba days, yoga, organic farm stands and more!