My Sugar-Free Journey

Listen to your body, it’s the only one you get!

On Monday, I drank a cup of coffee with no sugar and guess what I survived. I’ve also just completed my 2nd 4 day streak of no sugar and it’s getting easier. At first, I didn’t think I felt any different, but last night I went out to dinner and enjoyed a full plate of pasta (which I never do) and topped it off with a Krispy Kreme donut and as soon as I got home I felt extremely lethargic. Carbs turned into sugar and took over my body and my body was not used to that.

This has been my year (school year) of self-care, regular spa and nail appointments, exercising, relaxing, detoxing, healthy eating. Since I’ve been hearing so much buzz around sugar intake and how it affects our bodies, I decided to give it a rest. My vegan diet is already very limited but I’m always trying to find ways to be better and healthier. This seemed like a natural progression.

I started on a Sunday, since my husband does the food shopping on Saturday. But then on Monday, I received a care package from my sister from home. It included all kinds of goodies and sugar, butterscotch krimpets, peanut chews, sour patch candies, starburst, etc… and Cinnabon opened up here in Qatar. I mean could this be any harder?

I went cold turkey Sunday morning-Thursday afternoon. I didn’t even eat fruit. The menu consisted mainly of vegetables and soups, snacks were raw vegetables, air popped corn with nutritional yeast and activated nuts. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy.

Over the weekend I did eat a few sweets, a couple of mini peanut chews. But during the week, I was completely sugar free. By the end of the second week, the desire for sweets decreased tremendously. I didn’t feel like a drug addict denying myself as I did in week 1.

During this short time, I have learned several things. 1. I had a slight addiction to sugar. 2. There is a lot of sugar in products that you wouldn’t believe and I will check content labels for carbs and sugar more closely. 3. You can enjoy things without sugar. I actually got used to drinking tea without sugar. I think I’ll stick with it. 4. You can have energy without sugar. I never felt tired while staying away from sugar. In fact, I think I had more energy. 5. Sugar-less items cost more -surprise! Why does eating healthy cost more than the alternate when there is less ingredients?

I don’t plan to give up sugar altogether but I do plan to be more conscientious of my sugar intake. I’ve read that natural sugar is actually healthy, like the sugar found in berries and melons. I’ll try staying away from sugar during the work week and enjoy a treat or two over the weekend.

There is a lot of information out there about how enjoying a diet with reduced sugar leads to many health benefits and I believe them. Craving sugar the way I did the first week, was not a good sign. Going two weeks without it gave me a lot of insight. I don’t need as much sugar as I was consuming. Someone once told me, “my body is a temple, if I take care of it, it will take care of me.” Listen to your body, it’s the only one you get!

Vegan Eating in Cape Town

My group of 6 that I traveled to Cape Town with included 2 vegetarians, 3 carnivores and me, a veganere (yeah I just made that up) who sometimes cheats with seafood.  Finding places to eat where we all could enjoy our meals may seem tiresome but we made it work.  In this post, I will highlight a few places where we ate, some vegan, some mixed, and my review of them.

Before I get into to these reviews, I need to first recommend an app my girlfriend put me on on to: Happy Cow.  Make sure to download this app when you are traveling to find local vegan spots and restaurants that offer vegan and vegetarian options.  It will come in handy.  Although, I had done some research on some places to eat vegan in Cape Town, the app proved extremely helpful to finding spots that were close to wherever I was located.  Okay, on to the good stuff.

Restaurant: Hungry Herbivore– it is a bit unfair to start with this one because in my opinion it is the best but it was also the first restaurant we visited in Cape Town.   We went for an early dinner.

Location: They have two locations.  We visited the one located at 11 Orphan Street.

Ambiance: It’s a intimate restaurant with table and bar seating.

Service: The service is good.  Servers bring you menus and explain them while also offering their preferences.

Food (click food to see the menu): Amazing.  Go more than once and try everything.  Personally I recommend the fries, loaded or regular, Oh Sweet Kim Burger, french toast and The Cleanse- fresh juice (best green drink I ever had).  My only regret is that I was too full for dessert.

Hearts: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Restaurant: Royale Eatery– a burger joint that offers carnivore, vegetarian and vegan options.  We went for lunch while shopping on Long Street.

Location: 273 Long Street

Ambiance: Inside has a diner feel with booths and regular seating.

Service: The service was good but my husband ordered a salad and it took the longest.  Our waitress was nice and when we told her we ate at the Hungry Herbivore, her face cringed.  I guess they are in competition for the best vegan burgers.  Sorry Royale Eatery, the Hungry Herbivore has you beat.

Food: The food was good.  I must compliment them on their extensive menu and variety of burgers.

Hearts: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Hungover or not, we've got your Saturday covered. Our kitchen opens at 12 noon so come through for a burger feast!

Restaurant: The Old Biscuit Mill. While this is not really a restaurant it is more of a collection of restaurants.  It gets honorable mention because all of us were able to get good food here and it is not to be missed on your trip to Cape Town.

Location: 375 Albert Road, Woodstock Cape Town

Ambiance: It is outside but with tent coverings and stores to go into, you can escape the heat.  There is live music and wonderful people everywhere.  There are clothing and art shops.  There is food for everyone as well as drinks.

Service: Well it’s pretty crowded but we never waited in line for more than 10 minutes to get anything.

Food: There is all kinds of food, from bison to sushi.  I enjoyed a vegan edo wrap which was very delicious and some Sangria which was also so delicious I went back for seconds.  I purchased some vegan desserts to take back to our Airbnb but they were not good.  I wish I remembered the name of the restaurant, so I could tell you not to go there.

Hearts: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (The distasteful vegan dessert made me take away a heart but the Old Biscuit Mill really deserves 5)

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Restaurant: Tasha’s– contemporary, urban, boutique café.  Everyone that I spoke to prior to going to Cape Town talked about this Butternut Squash Salad that I just had to get at Tashas.

Location: Several locations around the world, from Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi.  We visited the one at the Shop 7117, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town.

Ambiance: Warm and welcoming with flower pots hanging from the ceiling and plants around.  You can sit inside or out.

Service: The service was slow at first but then it picked up.

Food: Of course I had the Butternut Squash salad.  That’s the featured image above.  The salad did not disappoint.  I’ve never tasted butternut squash semi charred, sweet and delicate.  It was a nice addend to a salad.   I also had some beer-battered cauliflower which was yummy.  I would definitely return to Tasha’s for more.

Hearts: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Restaurant: We went to Jarryds, Espresso Bar and Eatery.  A restaurant that boast a commitment to sourcing locally produced and seasonal produce.

Location: 90 Regent Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town

Ambiance: The restaurant reminded me of a train station stop, glass encased and airy, tall vaulted ceilings and seating for large groups.

Service: The service was great with several people attending to us.

Food: I was disappointed that the only true vegan item on the menu for breakfast that I wanted to order was no longer available- The Vegan ‘Nice’ Cream Slice.  Instead I ordered The Summer Quinoa Breakfast bowl without the poached egg.  The breakfast bowl was great and my husband’s potatoes were too.  Everyone enjoyed their meal and wished we had come sooner because we were leaving Cape Town that day.

Afterwards, we met Jarryd and he was sorry about the breakfast item.  He assured me that next time, I could request to speak with the chef or himself and they would make accommodations to suit my preference.

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Hearts: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (normally I would take a heart due to not having what I wanted but because everything else was so good and they were so nice, 5 hearts)

We visited other restaurants but I didn’t feel like they deserved to be discussed in detail.  I really wish we had an authentic African dining experience.  We visited an Ethiopian restaurant, Addis in Cape, but I was disappointed as outside of salads there wasn’t any options for me.  Cape Town is a real gamey eating city, so carnivores will love it and can experience something new and different.  We vegans have a little bit of a tougher time as usual.

 

Zaffran Cafe- an Indian Gem at the Center

With only a few days left of winter break, I decided to call one of my new coworkers and invite her to lunch. Omaimah is from northern India so when she asked me where I wanted to go, I told her I wanted to experience some real Indian food, what else, duhh. lol

She volunteered to pick me up and treat (she said because this is what Indians do), even though I invited her. ♥ She took me to an area in Doha that I was very familiar, The Center, where the Megamart store is. The restaurant, Zaffran Cafe was right on the other side of the market and after all the times I’ve shopped at Megamart, I’ve never seen it. I have to start paying attention more. We walked in a door and there were several small stores in this area of The center that was unfamiliar to me. As soon as you walk in, the restaurant is on your left.

I looked at the menu but asked her to order me something good. She knows I’m vegan so she tried to be very strategic with what she ordered. She ordered several items for herself and for me. She said, she wanted me to taste everything so she ordered one of almost everything and I could take the rest home.

The first thing to arrive was Pani Puri also referred to as golgappa- small fried puff-pastry bowls filled with spiced mashed potato. They are serviced with spiced water and tamarind juice which you pour into the bowls and then eat them whole. They are said to cleanse the palette.

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Then the other items were brought over. There was so much food on our table, we must have looked like two greedy ladies and we didn’t care.

Aloo Paratha and Vegetable Paratha with Indian Pickles (achaar)- Traditional Indian bread made with minced fresh vegetables or potatoes. The Indian Pickles are there for dipping and for some added spice. (Also served with yogurt but I didn’t eat that)

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Pav Bhaji- spiced mixture of mashed vegetables or potatoes in a thick gravy served with toasted white bread rolls for dipping and topped with raw chopped onions and a squeeze of lemon.

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Chola bhatura- a combo of chana masala (spicy white chickpeas), and a fried bread made from soft wheat. The bread was so puffy when it first came out, then it started to deflate like a balloon. You use the bread to sop up the masala, then eat a sliver of onion behind it.

Samosa- wheat flour or maida flour shell stuffed with some filling, generally a mixture of mashed boiled potato, onions, green peas, spices and green chili. The entire pastry is then deep-fried to a golden brown color, in vegetable oil, (speak to the cooks to find out if this is cooked in oil or ghee) served with tamarind and mint dipping sauces. I was familiar with samosas from childhood. A friend of my mother’s used to make these; she was from Africa. So these were sort of nostalgic for me. Don’t eat that green chili pepper, she warned me.

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Last was dessert, that I didn’t catch the name of. Omaimah got me this little pastry with pistachios and silver on it. She told me not to try to peel the silver off just eat it; this dessert is made with an edible silver leaf, not foil. Okay!

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My take on the food: Everything was tasteful. I had heard that Indian food can be very spicy but I think they looked at me like –she’s American, better go light on the spices. The Pav Bhaji was my favorite, so flavorful and delicious. I had a difficult time sopping up the vegetables and gravy on my bread, so Omaimah taught me how to kind of fold the bread around the mixture. I thoroughly enjoyed eating with my hands and she even encouraged it.

My take on the service: Service was excellent. They brought everything out to us rather quickly and they all smiled. The food was hot and I had no problems with anything.

My take on the ambience: Honestly it’s a hidden gem. It’s small but clean, not glamorous but it’s not a big time restaurant either. You can eat in or take out so it’s set up for that. I kind of like the gully places; they tend to have the best food. Next time, maybe I’ll read this wall while I stuff my face.

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My take on the price: I overheard the manager quote a price to my friend of a little over 100 Riyals. That’s about $30 USD and that was amazing for all the food we had plus tea and water for two people. (Note: Omaimah is a regular there and probably gets a good price though)

Would I recommend this place: HELL YEAH! I bought back all my leftovers and couldn’t wait for Darryl to taste everything. And since it is so close to home, this may be my new little spot when I’m craving Indian food.

A High-Tea for Vegans in Qatar

I’ve been hearing a lot about something called High-Tea and I didn’t know much about it but I knew I wanted to try it out.  Through a group on Facebook, I’d heard that the Shangri-La Hotel here in Doha offers a vegan afternoon tea and without knowing any more than that I booked it.

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For 98 Riyals you and a friend can enjoy an assortment of coffee, teas and small bites such as: Falafel in pita bread, mushroom and pine nuts calzone, asparagus baked in filo pastry, berry crumble, banana and date almond bread, banana ice-cream and more.  It was a small amount of food but it was nice for a light, late lunch.  The eating area is comfortable and quiet and several waitresses are there to assist.  I was just happy, this vegan had an uncompromising and tasty lunch.

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