FRESH Perspective and RAW Conversation - Page 2 of 4 - Vegan Restaurant Owner, Mom & advocate for food education.


Good Friends and Aside of Heart

I have had the honor of working side by side with some amazing and passionate people. All of which have, and continue to contribute something to the growth and success of our cafe and will always have a special place in my heart. It’s not often you find yourself in this world amongst people with their heart in the right place.

Yet as I continue to live a life filled with nutritious and bountiful food, it only brings me the gift of more positive influences. Everything from confidence to good friends. Friends that show their loyalty and gratefulness by eating with us every day. Friends that give without expecting anything in return, just to see you succeed. Friends that make sacrifices in their own lives because they believe … in us. On my hardest days I remember my friends and I am filled with gratefulness to know every one of them; strangers or not. A few weekends ago we had to say goodbye to one of The Cutting Board Crew and two of our friends, for they were about to embark on their own great adventure in life. I’m no stranger to change. In fact I’m very stubborn when it comes to change. But life has taught me that good friends will come and go. Whether they are acquaintances, strangers, or close relatives they will always be remembered.

So we celebrated our last days together the only way we knew how – with Vegan food and music! The Cutting Board Crew migrated to downtown Phoenix to check out Aside of Heart for food and The Lost Leaf for music. None of us had been to Aside of Heart yet so we were all eager to try it out.

I love the chance to get to Downtown Phoenix when I can. The art and culture of downtown makes me yearn for diversity. Sometimes I feel like I don’t really know Arizona until I visit the heart of Phoenix, or spend time walking the small college towns of Arizona’s cooler climates. Aside of Heart was located right on 5th street; a street lined with history. Okay … houses turned into locally owned book stores and coffee shops. Still, I dined wondering whose living room I was sitting in. And where else can you go in the East Valley and see bright and beautiful graffiti art painted on a house that doesn’t look the same as the one sitting next to it? There weren’t too many people in the restaurant but in their defense it was a Sunday night. Who goes out on a Sunday night!? Oh yeah … we do.

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We all started off sipping cappuccino’s (mostly to help get us through the night after a long week and day at work) and took a tour of the house to look at the space’s current exhibition of local artists.

Then we were brought complimentary bowls of Miso Soup before our meal. It was nice sitting in the company of good people. The air was humid from the monsoon rolling into the Valley and the buzzing of the swamp cooler blowing into the room while sipping on my carefully crafted coffee, left me finally feeling relaxed for the night.

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The best thing about being in a big group of people (especially when they are all Vegan) is they all want to try everything! Even better is – we didn’t have to cook any of it!

Everyone ordered something different and we all ended up swapping out portions of each other’s meal which gave us a pretty good taste of the menu. Sean and I ordered the Jackfruit Tacos, the Hummus Sandwich and a side of the Potatoes. For the life of me I can’t remember the exact names of the meals but I do recall that their menu and dish titles were very creative and fun to read. The meals were brought out with beautiful presentation and very obviously crafted with love. This was my second time trying Jackfruit and it was a much better experience than the first time. I loved the texture it brought to the tacos and the flavor from its slow simmer in spices was very savory. I did find myself very envious of the kale salad. I never order salads at restaurants because I often find myself very disappointed by tasteless, cheap ingredients but I would go back just to order that salad. It was loaded with creative veggie combinations and an amazing dressing. The sandwich was good but not as flavorful as the tacos and the potatoes were just a little too tangy for me.

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And of course … desert! Vegans get desert because there are so few chances to have Vegan deserts unless you make it yourself – Brownies, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Strawberry Lemon Cake! . I left Aside of Heart happy for the full tummy and a tasty, worry free and labor free meal – big shout out to the crew at Aside of Heart from The Cutting Board! Thank you for the wonderful dining experience!

After our meal we went to The Lost Leaf, literally a skip hop and a jump across the street! If it were Mesa we would be driving for hours in search of good music and beer. From the minute we walked in we found ourselves at home to an amazing selection of wines and beers. The band, Deltaphonic from New Orleans was just setting up to play – perfect timing!

I felt like we had stepped into another town in some other state. There was so much character and personality brimming from the walls. We were sitting in the kitchen of an old brick house with wood floors jammin’ to the tunes of a band that made me want to buy a plane ticket New Orleans.

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After a few hours everyone bid their farewells. Sean and I stayed. These days it is extremely rare to be anywhere but running around a Cafe or entertaining the baby.

So we had another beer. Talked to a very nice bartender and ran into one of my old friends from college. We stayed until the band took their second break and then decided it was time to turn in the for the night, leaving with a souvenir – the memory of a great night shared with good friends and aside of heart.

Healthy Families Workshop

For me Summer is a very real reminder that I do in fact, live in a desert. It is quite a different experience to grow up in the rural farmlands of the Northwest where my sister and I played outside – rain or shine.

“Put on your rain boots – its off to milk the cows!” When summer temperatures begin I find myself trying to find some source of water – be it the garden hose sprinkler, a pool, or a park spewing water to different heights around running, shrieking kids of all ages that don’t care what a thermometer might read. But then it hits over 100 degrees and if I don’t get out the house by 9am – forget it. Pool-water becomes bathwater, popsicles melt off their stick before I can get a few bites in and I find myself starring longingly out the window at the dusty porch and wilting garden.

Last weekend we hosted an extensive 3 day Workshop for Healthy Families with numerous guest speakers and newfound friends, who graciously volunteered their time to provide information to families looking for answers to numerous topics about how to raise a healthy family in this age of fast, unhealthy food and convenience – from pregnancy and on.

It’s our first summer as a new business and customer’s are trying to beat the heat! I don’t blame them. 110 degrees before noon leaves every local wondering … why do I live in Arizona? Still, I found myself a little sad that our attendance rate was so low, especially seeing how successful our last events have been and that it had been picked up by the East Valley Tribune.

On Thursday, Holistic Health Coach and Educator, Blue Russ hosted a workshop on 3 Keys to a Healthy Pregnancy. She discussed how to use food to treat common pregnancy complaints, how to safely enjoy a plant-based diet during your pregnancy and most importantly how to be a happy and vibrant pregnant woman.

I only wish I had had her as a resource during my pregnancy! Her words were inspiring and her values near and dear to my heart. She talked her belief in Bioindividuality, where each individual is unique and has very specific needs for his or her own health. She also stressed how incorporating nonprocessed, whole, fermented and raw foods are beneficial to everyone’s health; especially to Mom’s during their pregnancy. In the end her advice was simple and powerful,  “No change is too small.”

I highly encourage Woman who are thinking about getting pregnant, are pregnant, or who have babies and kids and even those who aren’t or don’t but are seeking advice or facing challenges in their own lives or with their own bodies, to schedule time to talk to Blue. She is a woman who will make you feel like your decisions are important; like your body and your life are important. For those of you unable to make it to the workshop, feel free to consult, The Cutting Board: Resource Library and download Blue’s generously donated workshop handout!


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On Friday Occupational and Speech Therapists, Kris Sailor, representative of Juice Plus+ and Anne Solcum, owner of TEAM Kids, PC, gave a detailed and resource-packed presentation to attendees about the importance of eating and it’s correlation to oral, mental physical and social development.

Kris and Anne shared information about Anne’s farm and the amazing things they are doing as part her  They did a wonderful job of explaining how early learned eating habits can lead to raising a picky eater or an oral eating disorder; a disorder that most of us haven’t heard of or don’t know exist. They gave easy and simple advice to parents with picky eaters and although we didn’t get to the video in time, discussed the 9 Simple Steps by Dr. Sears. Watch it now or consult The Cutting Board: Resource Library to download the handout.

Part two of Friday night gave people a chance to hear success stories from two Vegan Mom’s including … your truly! Sarah Vanell, local singer and songwrier started off by telling us the story of how and why she became Vegan. She shared her experience of becoming a Mom and why it was important to her to raise her kids Vegan. Through her talk we met her two beautiful Vegan babies leading happy, healthy lives. She shared a handout of her favorite websites, cookbooks and a delicious looking and easy to make Chocolate Cake Recipe!

As for me, it was the first event where I was taking the reigns at the front of the classroom. It’s not something I’ve been avoiding but of course I knew my nerves would get the best of me. I have to admit that looking at the slides of my baby boy and telling the story of our family journey and where we are today, left me begging myself not to cry in front everyone. In the end I could feel my confidence building and I concluded my story with a feeling of joy for being a Mom I could be proud of. Don’t forget to check out my list of resources and this Date-Roll Recipe, currently Will’s favorite snack!

The last part of the workshop was held on Saturday morning and the list of kids attending was slim to none. Luckily, we still all know how to have a good time!

Kris and Anne returned bringing a number of fun and nutritious games for the kiddos! I thought the traffic light eating game was a great hands on activity for children to learn about which foods they should be eating more of, less of, or just in moderation. Mr. Micah also joined us for a Veggie Tales Story Time and brought along a seed planting activity so the kids could leave with their own seed, planted in recycled materials and sporting a handmade sign. The Cutting Board provided fun giveaways including; handheld spray fans for keeping cool outside and freshly juiced and prepared watermelon, strawberry and cucumber popsicles!

There have been many nights in the past year when we have found ourselves near exhaustion and tears and wondering why we decided to embark on such a bold adventure. Yet, once again I find myself amazed and entranced by the generosity and willingness of those eager to learn and live healthier lives. I feel grateful and rewarded by those who volunteer their time to show up at the Cafe and share their life stories and passion for food and health.

When a customer comes up to you and gives you a hug full of warmth and gratefulness and says, “I see what you guys are trying to do here and it’s amazing” you suddenly realize that even if just one person shows up, it might be the one person’s life you make a difference in. And that one person makes it worth … everything.

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Memorial Weekend

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My life has whizzed by me yet again. Every week I think I’m going to write something and then before I know it, another month has passed and I find myself up to my elbows in flour and coconut oil and buried in Mommy duties. Here I am at last. Making a bold attempt to squeeze just one more thing in before bedtime; just one more thing before I miss another month … or another year.

Bare with me. I am in the process of re-envisioning what Fresh and Raw is all about and how it should be organized. I wanted to start my victorious re-entry into blogging with an entry about the Cafe. Starting at the beginning with the fleeting dream we only conversed about while sitting in our favorite Vegan restaurant five years ago, to waking up in it – a full fledge operational Cafe, Bakery, and Coffee House. That story will come but I don’t think I’m quite ready to tell it. In the mean time I have found myself in the midst of something so much bigger than I had imagined and It only seems fitting that Fresh and Raw be a bigger presence and change to fit that vision. I know now that it is much more than just a resource. It is the tales of my life, my family, our cafe and my ever evolving love for food. There are all equally important to my life and purpose. And now about our Memorial Day weekend. Better late than never.

You should never ever think you have cooking all figured out because someday you might find yourself in the kitchen soaking almonds for a fresh batch of almond milk, pickling your first jar of cucumbers and making fresh strawberry chia-seed jam.

Or maybe even cooking your way through the pages of your most recent favorite cookbook after you’ve spent a day running around the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and cooking dinner for an 18-month old who never wants to stop eating. I feel like I’m in Julie and Julia and someday I might even go as far as writing Angela Lidow to tell her that her cookbook, Oh She Glows has inspired me. At first I think there is something wrong with me. I have a million things to do and instead of doing them I’ve made another list of food to make. The list still lingers: brew tea for a new batch of kombucha, make chocolate sauce for the ice cream sundaes and raw macaroons for Will’s lunch for the week (as of now his favorite next to grapes). I think someone finally hit the power button.

I know I’m not crazy when I find myself (in my few precious hours of relaxation) sitting with my son at the cafeteria table of the art museum snacking on organic green grapes and an almond butter and fresh apricot-honey jam I made a few days before.

Or when I’m enjoying a portobello burger with a kale hemp-seed pesto and sautéed walla-walla sweet onions; all harvested from our garden the same morning. Or making popsicles on an already too hot summer’s day, out of freshly juiced watermelon and cucumber from our FarmBox and enjoying grilled vegetables in a mango-peach marinade Sean just happened to whip up for our Memorial Day BBQ. No I’m not crazy. My son will grow strong and healthy. My family will be thoughtful and appreciate what the world has to offer us. I enjoy the beauty of my food. It was made by my hands and every bite is nourishing.

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