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Rio Coco Cafe, Vero Beach – What a gem!

RioCocoKaraBeanSalad

Finally, a new post!  It seems like it’s been ages since I had posted anything.  Terrible, I know.  So what’s been going on with me?  Work, traveling, trying to be healthy and enjoy life.  During my little travels to Vero Beach, FL I found a cute little coffee shop.  There’s just something I love about coffee shops.  The smell of fresh roasted coffee beans, the relaxing atmosphere, it’s just a good place for a quick mental getaway.

 

RioCocoExteriorRioCocoCounterRio Coco Cafe has all that and it’s been around for over a year.  Don’t let the exterior fool you, the inside is full of goodness!  It’s located in a shopping plaza near the Vero Beach Airport.

When you walk in the atmosphere is instantly welcoming, filled with the smells of roasted coffee.  I absolutely love coffee shops and this place doesn’t disappoint.

The staff is extremely helpful and friendly!  There’s a food menu, drink menu and a coffee beans menu.  The food menu consists of breakfast items, salads, paninis and wraps.  I’m at a coffee place so you know I’ve got to try some of the coffee here!  White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Espresso Drink it is!  Sweet, strong and tasty.  Not a bad way to get the day started.

RioCocoMacadamiaNutEspressoDrink

 

RioCocoKaraBeanSaladI ordered the Kara Bean Salad with Chicken and my boyfriend ordered the Pesto Chicken Panini.  The Kara Bean Salad ($7.01) is vegan and gluten free unless you decide to add additional items to it.  I added chicken for an additional 2 dollars.  This is a vibrant salad with spinach, romaine lettuce, shredded red cabbage, black beans, corn, mandarin oranges, almonds, Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  This salad had great texture and was very hearty.

 

RioCocoChickenPestoPaniniThe Chicken Pesto Panini ($7.24) has chicken, roasted red pepper, mozzarella, and pesto.  The wraps and sandwiches come with multi-grain flax chips and a pickle.  This was another filling menu item but not overly filling where you want to take a nap after lunch.

 

RioCocoFlankSteakSaladThere are two flank steak items listed with fairly close prices.  The Flank Steak Salad ($7.48) and the Flank Steak Panini ($7.71).  The Flank Steak Salad has steak, spinach, romaine lettuce, sweet peppers,red onions, tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette.  The Flank Steak Panini consists of french bread, steak, red onions, horseradish sauce, and RC sauce.

RioCocoFlankSteakPaniniI found the salad to have more flavor and more content than the Flank Steak Panini.

 

 

 

 

RioCocoCoffeeRoasterYou’ll notice their slogan, “good coffee, great cause.”  The folks at Rio Coco Cafe call their coffee 100% humanic.  That’s right, “humanic”, not organic or fair trade.  They have a nifty little video about it on YouTube if you have the time to watch.  Basically the profits that Rio Coco Cafe earns goes to help children and teachers in Nicaragua that are involved with Project Ezra.  The coffee is roasted in small batches, in house.

Overall the food is good and the service is great, but you should really come here for the coffee.   If you aren’t in the local area to try the coffee, you can always order coffee from their website Rio Coco Beans.


Rio Coco Cafe on Urbanspoon

First Watch Maitland

FirstWatchFloridaFrenchToast1

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Well, in that case, ya better eat good!  It’s a bit strange for me since I work nights.  Is it technically still breakfast?  Do I count it as dinner for me?  Regardless of what I should classify my meal to be, I aim for it to be a tasty.

Whenever I find myself craving breakfast food after I get off of work, I end up at First Watch in Maitland.  First Watch has been around since 1983 and it’s easy to see why.  I have consistently had great service and consistently good food.  The interior isn’t much to brag about but when I come here, I’m not going for the ambiance.  It’s clean, bright and simple.  No frills.

FirstWatchFloridaFrenchToast

First Watch has a breakfast and lunch menu.  Most of the food I’ve ate here has been from the breakfast menu.  One of my favorites is the Florida French Toast.  I love all the fresh fruit on here.  Banana, kiwi, strawberries, what’s not to love?  Yummy sourdough french toast with a delectable very berry compote.  This is definitely a great way to start the day!

FirstWatchFloridaFrenchToast1

 

 

For those not into the sweets for breakfast, I always recommend the Chickichanga.  It’s always great tasting and fun to say.  A flour tortilla filled with eggs, chicken, chorizo sausage, green chilies, Cheddar and Monterey Jack, onions and avocado.  Delicious and hearty!  Topped with Vera Cruz sauce and sour cream.  The taters are good with the Chickichanga.

FirstWatchChickichanga

 

 

Both of these meals aren’t the most healthy items, needless to say.  For those who are more health conscious, there are plenty of options.  Give First Watch a go and start your day off right!

 

http://www.firstwatch.com/

HOURS:
Sun-Sat: 7am-2:30pm

First Watch on Urbanspoon First Watch Maitland
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Italio Kitchen Winter Park

ItalioSalad

ItalioOrderingWe want it all when it comes to food.  Healthy, quick, and cheap.  Italio Kitchen in Winter Park achieves that mission (well, perhaps not necessarily cheap but it’s fairly inexpensive).  The most expensive item on the menu is $8.98.  There are actually three Italio locations in Florida but only one in the central FL at this time.  Italio is like an Italian version of Chipotle Mexican Grill.

 

ItalioInterior

The interior is clean and crisp with red, gray and white throughout.  You get more of a casual, urban feel here.  Outdoor seating is available.

ItalioProteinsItalioVegetablesThe basic run down:

1. Pick your style: pasta, piadina, or salad.
2. Pick your protein: shrimp, steak, chicken, Italian sausage, meatball,
chicken fritte, or veggie (zucchini and baby portabella mushrooms).
3.  Select your sauce, pesto or dressing.
(FYI: all of the pestos are nut-free).
4. Select your toppings.
(Lots of fresh toppings here.)
Don’t forget the cheese!  MMMM… cheese.  I love some shaved Parmesan.

ItalioSpadinaSaladPastaFor the pasta, you have two options (traditional or whole wheat thin spaghetti).  Piadina is actually an Italian flatbread but at Italio you eat them as a wrap.  At first, I couldn’t get into it conceptually.  All the pictures I saw had the wraps with pasta in it.  Pasta?!  That’s like…carb overload!  Well, I stopped and thought about it.  People eat rice in their burritos, so why not pasta in their piadina?  Makes sense.

So the last time I went to Italio, I ordered a salad bowl (once again).  My salad consisted of: shrimp, romaine, blended greens, arugula, baby spinach, basil chiffonade, black olives, carrots, chickpeas, cucumbers, eggplant & sun-drired tomato caponata, mushrooms, red onions, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic and parmesan cheese.  That was a mouthful! Literally.  I had the balsamic dressing on the side and I actually barely used any.  The roasted garlic and basil chiffonade gave my salad an extra boost.  The staff mixes all the contents together and I recommend getting the dressing on the side.

 

ItalioCalamariMisto

 There’s also other items on the menu as well such as the Italio Sticks, Calamari Misto, and Cannoli Chips.

Italio is good for a quick meal, fully customizable.  There’s even online ordering for this location but you’ll still need to go to Italio to pick it up.  It’s a healthy option to grab a bite if you happen to be in the area but not a must-try place.

http://italiokitchen.com/

HOURS:
Monday – Sunday 10:45 am – 10:00 pm
Italio Modern Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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Vespr New Menu Items

VesprMan'sManSalad

VesprCupVespr has quickly become a new favorite of mine.  In my previous post about Vespr, I shared some awesome items such as the “Barrel Smoked Sweet Iced Tea”.  Currently, Vespr has baked treats which is good and all but how about some REAL food?  Don’t get me wrong, cookies and all them baked treats are fine but…this girl likes to eat!  Well, let me tell ya… new items are coming soon.

VesprMotherJarSalads, parfaits and lattes, oh my!  Yes, that’s right…I said salads at Vespr.  The new menu items are set to launch Saturday, July 20, 2013.  The two featured salads are the “Mother Jar” and the “Man’s Man Salad”. Both salads are served in large Mason jars.  The “Mother Jar” is perfect for the vegetarians and it’s a nice, light salad.  Mixed greens, sweet cherry tomatoes, penne pasta, fresh mozzarella, and a delicate spice vinaigrette.   I loved the fresh basil in the slightly sweet dressing.  The dressings are portioned out to be 0.7 ounces.   I’m not a big salad dressing girl but I thought I would need more.  Nope, it was jusssst right.  I highly suggest after you thoroughly shake your salad,  to let it rest.  Letting the dressing permeate into the salad allowed the flavors to really come out.

 

VesprMan'sManSaladNext up, the “Man’s Man Salad”.  Mixed greens, bacon, grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, toasted pecans, with whiskey and candied bacon vinaigrette.  Let me tell you, this was a hearty salad.  The whiskey and candied bacon vinaigrette was something I hadn’t had before.  By itself, I can’t say I’m terribly fond of it but with the salad, it was really good.  This salad  is full of protein with the chicken, bacon (who doesn’t love bacon?!) and blocks of cheddar cheese.  Each salad is uniquely different but delicious.

 

The new menu features a “Smart Snacking” section.  This is the perfect snack food while working or studying.  There’s the Agave Parfait (low fat yogurt, agave nectar, granola), the Vespr Parfait, and the Vespr JAB.  The Vespr Parfait is composed of greek style yogurt, speciality jam, and granola. All the specialty jams come from local Forbidden Fruit Jam Company.  For the Vespr Parfait, you have your option of Sweet and Sassy Tropical Jam or the Watermelon Mint Mojito.  The Sweet and Sassy Tropical Jam is pineapple, blueberry and grapefruit.  Just so ya know, the Watermelon Mint Mojito does not contain any alcohol.  I am not the biggest fans of mojitos in general but I fell in love with this jam.  It tasted like a sweet minty watermelon jolly rancher.  MMMMMM….   I decided to go with the sweet and sassy tropical jam for the Vespr parfait.  It is served in a long jar so that you have enough room to stir the parfait.  As soon as opened my jar, I smelled the parfait.  AHHHH…. The delightful aroma reminded me of a blueberry pie.  The tartness of the greek yogurt, the sweet jam, the crunchiness of the granola.  Me gusta!  I even found some almonds in here!VesprParfait

TheVesprJABThe Vespr JAB (Jam & Almond Butter) is served with celery sticks.  The jam choices are the  Ménage À Trois Berry (raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) or the Peach-Raspberry Seduction (made with Jupiter peaches).  This is another great healthy snack.  Nuff said.

VesprButterscotchLatteVespr has 3 new specialty lattes they will be introducing.  The Butterscotch Latte, the Maple Madagascar Vanilla Latte, and the Lavender and Rose Latte.  The Butterscotch Latte is amazing!  Served with whip cream on the side of the cup, you could either stir it in or drink it from the whipped cream side.  A little whip cream mustache never hurt anyone.  The espresso still really shined through even with the extra flavors.  Needless to say, I drank all of this to the very last drop.

VesprMapleMadagascarVanillaLatteThe Maple Madagascar Vanilla Latte has real maple sugar around the cup.  This is a very sweet latte and it’s pretty much how it sounds.

VesprLavendarRoseLatteThe Lavender and Rose Latte is definitely interesting.  It has rose sugar crystals around the cup and lavender syrup in the latte.  I probably could eat this sugar by the spoonful.  It was floral, sweet and tasty.  And did I mention this latte is pretty?  Before you take a sip, make sure you stop and smell this latte.  One of my friends loved the latte but for me, it left me a bit perplexed.  I’m not quite sure what to make of it, I didn’t necessarily dislike it nor did I love it.  I kept smelling and drinking it, it really left me on the fence.  This latte is one of those you either hate it or love it, except for me.  I’m still not sure how I feel about it.  It’s a latte of interest.

 

So, my fav picks from the new menu: Man’s Man Salad, the Vespr Parfait and the Butterscotch Latte.  Bottom line… lots of new delicious items at Vespr!

 

http://thevespr.com/
Vespr Craft Coffee and Allures on Urbanspoon

 

 

Michelle’s Homemade Golden Sana Banana Chips

MichellesHomemadeGoldenSananBananaChipsBag

Banana chips. So many kinds, so many flavors? Let me tell you, Michelle’s Homemade Golden Sana Banana Chips are DELICIOUS! Golden, sweet, crunchy, and just plain amazing. Amazon does sell these chips but it’d be worth it to check out at your local Asian grocery store. Everyone that has tasted these chips so far absolutely love it. These banana chips are not different in their taste but also by the way they’re sliced. It’s more like long banana chips so you have various size of pieces yet the flavor and thickness remains consistent.

MichellesHomemadeGoldenSananBananaChipsNutritionLabel7 grams of dietary fiber never tasted so sweet. And no preservatives? Yes, please! These Phillipino snacks are a new favorite for me!

 

Hot Krust Panini Kitchen

HotKrustCactusChili

HotKrustExteriorI walked into Hot Krust Panini Kitchen not knowing anything about it and left loving it.  Recently, I had an opportunity to attend an event where I got to sample many of the food items.  I meet the owner Evan Dimov and he’s so genuinely nice and super passionate about this place!  Everything is fresh, no processed meats, the meats are actually roasted in house and they don’t even have a deep fryer.  I did have a little difficulty locating this place.  It’s somewhat hidden from the main road of Turkey Lake but it’s next to Barnie’s right by the Whole Foods.  I really came in here with no expectations aside from knowing that they offered sandwiches.  As I entered inside, I get a sense of a simple, clean, and open atmosphere.  The menu is on a screen above the registers.  It’s definitely got this “new” appeal in here.  By the soda fountain, there are Fat Cat hot sauces which are locally based.  The Purry-purry sauce was my favorite, garlicky flavor with a medium level of heat.

HotKrustInterior

 

HotKrustCactusChili

I had the cactus chili first.  It was hearty but not the typical dense chili I was accustomed to.  The menu description lists: “Savory cactus, ground beef, diced tomatoes, onions, corn, northern beans & spinach in a spicy broth.”  Spicy broth?  Well, it wasn’t THAT spicy which is fine since some people’s heat tolerance can be quite low.  The cactus chili wasn’t just a name, it actually had cactus in it.  That was a first for me but no complaints on my end.  Next, I tried the waffle fries.  Hot Krust offers three types of waffle fries where are regular, spicy and sweet potato.  These fries are actually baked so I didn’t feel as guilty about eating them.

Then I see the Burgernini “HK Monster”.  Wow, what is this?  I took a bite and wanted more!  The  100% Angus beef burger patty was cooked perfectly.   Wait, am I eating fries in it too?  Yep but it works especially with the BBQ-honey mustard sauce.  I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of a burgernini before but whatever this is, it’s just great.  The actual size of this sandwich is an 8 ounce burger on a huge bun.  The Cowboy Jack was my second favorite sandwich.  It has steak, horseradish peppercorn, black olives, tomatoes, spinach, red onions and Monterrey Jack cheese.  Fear not, the horseradish peppercorn is mild.  It does sound a bit intense but the sandwich is seriously fantastic.

The Florentine chicken panini had roasted chicken, sundried tomatoes,  havarti cheese, spinach,  lite mayo & pesto sauce.  It was really good.  And I mean, really good.  The Buffalo Bill Chicken (chicken, buffalo sauce, onions, jalapeno peppers, lettuce, provolone cheese and blue cheese crumbles) was a bit strong on the blue cheese flavor.  A little blue cheese definitely goes a long way and in this instance it managed to overpower the other ingredients.

My vegetarian friends, I can assure you the veggie sandwiches here are great.  The Alibaba Veggie (hummus, fresh mozzarella, red onions, lettuce and tomatoes) was good but Veggie Vacation (freshly roasted portobello mushroom, Swiss cheese, bell pepper, pesto, spinach, red onions and tomatoes) was even better.  They definitely don’t skimp out on the toppings here.

The Sangria Shrimp was “different”.  It has grilled shrimp glazed with sangria vinaigrette, pesto, red roasted pepper, spinach and provolone cheese.  I’m sure there’ll be fans of this one but it was a tad too sweet for me.  I do appreciate the originality of this sandwich.  If they have any chocolate chip cookies, go for it.  MMMM cookies…..  My only gripe would be that I wish the chicken wings were a bit more crisp aside from that, everything really was enjoyable.

I’ve tried enough sandwiches here that I bet everybody will find something they’ll like.  The price of the food is definitely reasonable considering the quality of the food here.

 

This place may be small but the flavor certainly isn’t!

www.hotkrust.com

HOURS:
Mon-Sat: 8am-8pm
Closed on Sundays

Hot Krust Panini Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Homemade Potato Chips

Homemade chips
What to do with a sack of potatoes?  I didn’t want to eat mashed potatoes for days so at first I thought I’d make potato bread.  How much potato bread can one person eat?  Then I realized many potato bread recipe used instant mashed potatoes rather than real potatoes.  Interesting.  Well, next idea…. Potato chips!  Ah, I love potato chips.  So addicting!  I could never just eat one chip.  One chips goes to two chips, and then oops, the bag is gone.  Then regret soon follows.  All those extra calories consumed as I stare at my empty bag of chips.  So, how about healthy potato chips?  It’s exists!  And without compromising flavor.
Garlic Salt Microwave Potato Chips 
  1. Peel potatoes (optional). If you have fresher potatoes, then it’d probably be tasty with the skin on. I peeled mines.
  2. Rinse potato.
  3. Use mandoline on the lowest setting, or if you don’t have a mandoline, try to cut the potato slices as thin and evenly as possible. If you want to keep the slices in water to prevent oxidation, remember to dry the potatoes before putting it in the microwave.
  4. Use parchment paper, microwavable plate or the glass tray itself. I sprayed with PAM, then added the seasonings (in this case, garlic salt).                                                                                                      ♦ Instead of PAM, I have seen recipes with olive oil, or no oil at all. If you opt to use no oil, make sure the surface the potato chips are going on are non-stick or else you’ll have a fun time prying the chips off. Also, you can sprinkle the seasonings on top or after the chips are done. From my trials, I have found that placing the seasonings underneath works best.
  5. Place potatoes on the plate/paper/tray. If you have more on there, it will need to cook longer.
  6. It will take 2-8 minutes, and depends on your microwave. Once you see it slightly brown, stop the microwave. Let it cool and enjoy!
So for me, I have a microwave that is 950 watts. I used a microwavable dinner plate, and it took me at 4 minutes 30 seconds for each batch.
The chips were crunchy like kettle cooked chips.  You don’t have to feel as guilty about eating these chips.  On a side note, I was at bed bath and beyond the other day (I love that store!) and they had potato chip makers for the microwave.  I didn’t think it was necessary to buy that but if it works, why not?  Whatever works for you, go for it!

The World’s Healthiest Foods

I’m sure we hear about “superfood” this and “superfood” that.  Sometimes, it can be hard to really know what’s what.  I utilize this one site very often to just educate myself.  All the information on here is very sound.

http://www.whfoods.com/foodstoc.php

 

To a happy and healthy life~!