An Evening at Sundown at Granada in Dallas

I’ve become accustomed to the typical vegan dining out experience at non-vegan restaurants. Look up the menu in advance, call to find out if the beans and rice are cooked with lard or chicken stock or if they are willing to make something off the menu for us, trust that the hostess on the other end is actually informed enough to answer correctly, show up and hope for the best. Most places are willing to make modifications for us if we explain what we can and can’t eat and I’m genuinely grateful for their willingness to take these extra steps, but dining out is still one of the most difficult parts of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. Even a lot of vegan dining places can be difficult because they use so much soy and processed fake-products, which I try to limit.

Last week, I happened upon a restaurant in Dallas called Sundown at Granada Restaurant & Beer Garden. They were voted Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant on D Magazine’s 2012 Best of Big D list. I started my usual routine of checking the menu online and was immediately impressed.

They had me at A.N.D.I salad! Our regular readers should know my love for kale and it’s ranking as one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet by now. Any chef that names a salad after the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index has this health geek’s attention. The menu also had several other options, clearly marked vegan.  Jared and I called in the grandparentals to watch the little one so we could enjoy a dinner out that didn’t involve cutting our food into tiny pieces or chit-chatting with every stranger around us whom Jackson has befriended with a flash of his smile.

Sundown is nestled right next to the Granada theater in a cute/funky little part of town on lower Greenville. Though it was July, we sat outside on the covered patio; with shades and fans, we were quite comfortable. The hostess immediately brought us a chilled bottle of water, a nice touch for my water-chugging husband.

It was happy hour, so we put in an order for our $4 margaritas and perused the menu. Though the A.N.D.I salad was tempting, I had just eaten a big kale salad for lunch, and besides, there were so many other things I wanted to try.

The word that kept coming to mind as I looked at the menu was thoughtful. The chef didn’t just slap a pre-made veggie burger on the menu and call their restaurant veg-friendly, he included us in very thoughtful creative ways. Another thing I appreciated, even though I don’t eat meat, is that they use all grass fed beef and free range chicken.

We started with the Stuffed Avocados with Endive, a trio of avocado halves, each stuffed with a different flavor combination: Italian, Southwest, and Waldorf. I would never have thought to mix avocado, blueberry, and candied walnuts together, but it was delicious. We expected the Southwest to be our favorite, but the Italian actually took both of our votes. Again, I don’t think of Italian when I think avocados, but the sun-dried tomato, basil, and almonds married wonderfully with my favorite fruitable (fruitable: word I just coined for a “vegetable” that’s really a fruit).

Stuffed Avocados with Endive (the vegan version)

We decided to share the Quinoa Burger and the Vegatative State Wrap for our entrees. To our surprise, the chef, Patrick Stark, delivered our meals to us. He talked with us for a good bit about his health journey and the process for writing the menu (it took three months to complete). He’s a young and tatted up guy, but killer talented and incredibly kind. After meeting him, I could see his story and personality shine through the menu and was inspired to step up my own cooking game. Oh, and if talking A.N.D.I wasn’t enough, one of his specials that week was “The Liquid Dinner,” a super food “Green Drink” with kale, berries, mint, agave, pineapple, bananas. I’m telling y’all, green smoothies are fine dining!

Me and the chef, who delivered the food to our table personally. Nice guy.

Back to the food. It was delicious. We ate it all. I will be back for more. The end.

The Quinoa Burger topped with avocado and chile-lime slaw, served with sweet potato fries. A nice thick patty made with the super healthy grain. I was surprised how well quinoa worked as a veggie patty, it wasn’t mushy or crumbly at all.

Side of root bear onions. Oh my yum! I assume these are sweet onions slowly cooked in root beer and generously seasoned with cracked pepper. Whatever they are, they are good enough to eat right out of the bowl.

The Vegatative State (Technically not vegan as the wrap has milk in it. They did tell me though, but I already had my mind set on drunken mushrooms and decided to let it slide.) An interesting combo of sweet potato, drunken mushrooms, sweet potato, spinach, and sunflower seeds. Nothing here is run of the mill.

My hot date patiently letting me take pictures of our food at the table and even asking the chef if he would take a picture with me when I was too shy to ask. That’s why I love this guy!


Happy Birthday Jackson Ray! (+ Two Green Smoothie Recipes)

Rachel, the daughter

My little Jackson Ray turned one on Friday. Life has been sweet this year, very very sweet. Knowing deep, heavy, sorrowful years, I don’t ever take a sweet year for granted. Tears rolled down my cheek as I crawled into bed on Thursday night, a reel of sweet moments from the past year flashing through my head.

Feeling my baby’s little (and sometimes not so little) kicks and bumps in my belly.

40 weeks and ready to meet my son!

Holding him in my arms that first day and being so baffled that I actually grew him and that  just hours before he was inside of me. “So that was you kicking around in there this whole time?”

Kissing his perfectly squishy cheeks and pouty lips over and over again. Some things haven’t changed.

Spending hours and hours and hours rocking and feeding and staring and talking to this little wide-eyed wonder. I had no idea how easy those early days were. Ha!

The first warm spring day that we got to go outside and soak in the sun, feeling privileged to get to show the world to this little man, to be there as he he feels grass tickle his toes for the very first time.

The moment I realized my baby was turning into a little boy, as he instinctively made “vroom, vroom” noises while pushing his Tonka truck into the “rough terrain.” Shortly after, to my horror, he ate a rolly polly, driving it home that he was indeed all boy (and possibly not a vegan).

The first time our water-loving boy set eyes on the ocean, at the very same beach where Jared and I got married five years earlier.

Friday morning, Jared and I greeted our one-year old with his very first Happy Birthday duet. Then we moved the party into the kitchen to make a special birthday version of our morning green smoothies. (Jared and I have challenged ourselves to drink one green smoothie a day for a month. Jackson loves them, so he joins us most days too.)

Jackson loves “helping” so much that we got him this little step stool for his birthday designed to let little ones safely be a part of the action. Have you ever met a kid this exited over mixed greens and getting to wash their own dishes on their birthday morning? He is his kale-loving, neat-freak mother’s son! And I am a proud momma!

After Jackson cleaned up :), we went to the Dallas World Aquarium, where once again I was privileged to get to see the world through the awe-filled eyes of a child.

We just finished up week one of drinking a green smoothie every day and it has quickly become a fun morning ritual. I’ve been following my friend and realtor, Terri Camp’s green smoothie experiment for awhile now and finally decided to try it out for our family. Not only is Terri looking and feeling great, but her kids are loving it too. I’ve gone on green smoothie kicks before, but Jared never drank them with me and I never stuck with it on a daily basis. Now that he’s joining me and Jackson is old enough to enjoy them too, I’m having a lot of fun coming up with new concoctions every morning. Peanut Butter Banana, Spicy Tomato & Cucumber, Lemon Blueberry, and Tropical. If you’ve never tried greens in your smoothie, don’t be alarmed by the green color. I promise, you don’t taste the greens at all. I really like to add oats and chia seeds to my smoothies for the extra fiber, omegas, protein, and nutrition. I find they hold me over longer when I include them. You can find chia seeds online, at Whole Foods, or your local health food store. Feel free to omit them though.

Jackson’s Blueberry Birthday Smoothie

Serves 2 (and a baby)

3 T. oats
1 T. chia seeds + 3 T. warm water
1 1/2 c. greens (I used a Power Greens mix of spinach, chard, and baby kale)
1 organic apple, seeded
1 cup frozen organic blueberries
2 bananas, frozen or fresh
1/2 an avocado (makes it creamy)
Juice of one lemon
1 cup non-dairy milk (such as unsweetened coconut or almond milk)
ice

Directions

Soak chia seeds in warm water, stirring occasionally until all the water is absorbed and the chia seeds are soft.

Grind oats in blender into a fine dust. Add (in this order) chia seeds, greens, apple, blueberries, bananas, avocado, lemon juice, milk. Blend until smooth. Add a handful of ice if desired and blend again until smooth.

(Note: I add a little more milk to Jackson’s so it is easily sipped through a sippy cup.)

Tropical Green Smoothie

Serves 2 (and a baby)

3 T. oats
1 T. chia seeds + 3 T. warm water
1 1/2 c. greens (I used a Power Greens mix of spinach, chard, and baby kale)
1 date, pitted
1/2 organic apple, seeded
1 clementine, peeled
1 banana, frozen or fresh
1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
1/4 t. almond or vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
ice

Directions

Soak chia seeds in warm water, stirring occasionally until all the water is absorbed and the chia seeds are soft.

Grind oats in blender into a fine dust. Add (in this order) chia seeds, greens, date, apple, clementine, banana, pineapple, almond or vanilla extract, coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Add a handful of ice if desired and blend again until smooth.

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