Restaurant Review: The Tomato Vine

Note: I was provided the food in this review at no charge from the Tomato Vine restaurant. All opinions are my own.

salad The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

The peanut dressing on this tofu and grain salad is amazing.

When the restaurant/catering/take-and-heat business The Tomato Vine contacted me about reviewing its food, I jumped at the chance. Having spent last summer looking at healthy, local and fresh catering options for my wedding, this would have fallen into that category.

The Tomato Vine focuses on seasonally, from-scratch meals, and has a lot of options that are clearly marked for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals. All ingredients are labeled, so you know exactly what’s in the food. (See the menu here.) Where possible they source local food. In short, they reached out to me because they prepare food the way I prepare food. I really respect that, for as much as I love cooking, sometimes I just want a break from cooking but I don’t want to sacrifice quality or my beliefs.

Food Options

In addition to the Tomatoes Vine’s set menu, there are weekly specials, and it’s clearly marked what can be modified for dietary needs.

Eating options include delivery or pickup (with heating instructions for later, served in nice Pyrex or disposable containers), a lunch cafe and catering. They focus on catering for corporate and private events.

Lunch options are a few hot choices, salads, sandwiches, sides, snacks and desserts.

My Review

The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

I tried a variety of food, all clearly marked with ingredients and cooking instructions.

As I already mentioned, ingredients and heating instructions are on the label for each meal (which I love, easy to find and see what is in it or to do). I tried a variety of foods:

  • Tarragon grain cakes with apricot chutney
  • Spicy peanut tofu salad
  • Veggie fried rice
  • Red pepper hummus with veggies and chips
  • Maple apple cobbler
veggie cake The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

Tarragon cakes full of grains and tofu.

That night I ate the cakes, and my first impression really was that it is something I would make: Simple with good flavor from real food. I loved that the ingredients it included were easy to taste, and it didn’t include extra ingredients or flavors. The tofu and grain mix that is the base of the cakes was really good, it was also in the salad.

Speaking of the salad, the dressing was my favorite thing I had. I took the salad as a work lunch the day after getting the food, since it was on a plastic container. I tried to figure out (with no luck) how to recreate that dressing. Topped with fresh veggies, it was a hearty, filling and flavorful salad.

I make and eat a lot of hummus and the thing that can make or break it is texture. It had a nice consistancy, smooth yet it wasn’t overly processed, so I loved that the texture was a little chunky, the way I like guacamole or salsa. I’ll have to remember to leave it like that the next time I make hummus.

I’m not a big dessert person, as readers of this blog and anyone close to me knows, but this dessert hit the spot. The sweetness is derived from the maple syrup and cooked apples, and the topping was browned and crunchy, contrasting the soft cobbler underneath.

If I’m looking to cater, I would consider and recommend The Tomato Vine, as they are knowledgeable and accommodating on diet, while using seasonal, wholesome foods.

The Tomato Vine

7134 Shady Oak Road, Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55344

Phone: 952-941-1699

Website: www.thetomatovine.com

Facebook: facebook.com/TheTomatoVine

National Park Service: An Appreciation

The U.S. National Park Service is one of the best things about America. It is America. 100 years old, it’s a national treasure to learn about our nation’s history and lands. I really love visiting different sites, from urban memorials to remote parks. See a list of National Park sites.

While I don’t want to get political, as a NPS lover and free-speech advocate, what is going on now is breaking my heart for the group I love. In January, the new president restricted the speech of parks employees via official social media accounts and talking to the media, for things like climate change, publishing reports and things like that. A group of parks employees are resisting and continue to get information out via Alt National Park Service.

The parks really provide so much value culturally and educationally to me. Aaron and I plan our trips with the National Park Service in mind, and enjoy our time at the sites. I love all the social media accounts for the park services, as the beautiful photos and informative captions always brighten my day and make me proud to live in a wonderful country.

While I’ve been going to National Park Services sites since before I could walk them without getting tired (so, at least the toddler years), I want to share some of my favorite photos from recent trips.

You can follow Alt National Parks. Get involved with the National Park Service, including donating.

I would love to see your photos and hear about your favorite park. If you have something to share, please leave it in the comments below. You are welcome to share or use my photos on this blog post for non-commercial use, don’t manipulate the photos in any way and credit Valerie Dennis at KaleAndAle.com. These photos follow Creative Commons license.

Aaron and me hiking a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. Near the highest point in the park, Tennessee on one side, North Carolina on the other.

Grand Canyon | Kale and Ale

Entrance to Grand Canyon. I’ve been here once as a teen and once last year, 20 years later. Much more appreciation when I’m older.

San Felipe del Morro Fortress is part of San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico.

Golden Gate Park | Kale and Ale

15-year-old Valerie looking as thrilled as any teen not fully appreciating escaping an Iowa winter to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Blue Ridge Parkway | Kale and Ale

When in North Carolina we headed north out of Asheville and went up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beautiful drive and tons of lookouts.

Mississippi Minneapolis | Kale and Ale

The view of the only waterfall on the Mississippi and the Stone Arch Bridge is beautiful at the Mississippi National River area in Minneapolis.

Zion beer | Kale and Ale

Enjoying a hard-earned beer at the lodge in Zion National Park, perhaps our favorite place we have visited yet.

Creative Commons License
U.S. National Park Service Kale and Ale by Valerie Dennis at Kale and Ale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at kaleandale.com.

Homemade moisturizer recipe plus glass container review

Note: I received Infinity Jars reviewed in this blog post at no charge. All opinions expressed are my own. 

DIY moisterizer and Infinity Jars review | Kale and Ale mainI’ve always had very dry skin, which is a blessing during the acne-prone teenage years and a curse every Midwest winter. Since returning from living in a tropical climate three years ago, I’ve tried so many masks, scrubs, moisturizers and serums to make my skin less dry. I’ve spent more on skincare than makeup the past few years.

DIY skincare

Getting into essential oils this past year,  and my affinity for DIY recipes for my body has led me to realize these over-the-counter products are so expensive and can have ingredients I don’t want on my body. (Learn more about what products are more safe or better to avoid.) This has led me to play around with homemade body products recently.

RELATED: Hydrating homemade beer face mask recipe

I love that by making my own body care and using different products I can control scents, textures, moister levels, etc. (I’m also using essential oils to make home cleaning products and am loving the results.) It’s important to use high-quality essential oils and follow the recipe, but there are many resources out there for recipes and information, including this guide to essential oils 101. Some favorite recipes with essential oils include:

Another benefit of making these products at home is price. I was spending a lot on face serum (a small jar can easily run $50-plus) and realized, especially since I wanted as few ingredients as possible, I could make my own, while controlling exactly what’s in it, for much less. So I’ve come up with the following recipe for face serum:

Dry skin facial serum

DIY moisterizer and Infinity Jars review | Kale and Ale recipeIngredients

  • 2 drops cypress essential oil
  • 3 drops lavender essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Vitamin E

Directions

Mix all ingredients into a 30 ml glass dropper jar. Store in a cool, dry place.

To use: Shake before each use. Place 2 to 3 drops in your palm and spread on your face.

Infinity Jar review

Infinity Jars | Kale and AleAfter all that work and time, I need a quality vessel for the products. I’ve looked around for good-quality glass jars, so when Infinity Jars contacted me to review their containers, the timing couldn’t be better. I looked on their website and read about the jars, and they are exactly what I’m looking for in beauty containers. According to Infinity Jars, the containers:

  • Have a tight screw top and airtight seal
  • Contain ultra-violet filtering, blocking out harmful visible rays that degrade organic matter
  • Are scent-proof
  • Naturally preserve and rejuvenate freshness
  • Come in a variety of styles and shapes (over 70) for whatever you are looking to use them for

Suggested uses include a place to hold seasoning herbs, salts, teas, flour, cosmetics, DIY locations, essential oil blends, perfume and more.

Based on my needs, I decided on the following bottle styles:

I loved the idea of the glass screw top jar. It currently has the whipped body butter mentioned above, and is keeping it the perfect consistency (somewhat of a tall order for something with coconut oil as the base). Beyond beauty products, it’s the perfect size for seasoning mixes or herbs I dry and grind from my garden.

And I have been planning to get a glass dropper jar and glass roller applicator for serum and perfume. They both dispense the perfect amount of product, and it’s staying fresh. When I roll the containers around, they are very air tight, with no leaks (which is great because I’m pretty rough on my bottles and jars). I am really happy with the glass jars, and again Infinity Jars come in a large variety of shapes and sizes.

Infinity Jars giveaway-Closed

The great people at Infinity Jars want to share the love. One reader of Kale and Ale will win a $30 gift card toward a purchase at Infinity Jars. Since it’s a gift card, there are no restrictions on who can enter or win, as they ship worldwide. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. The contest starts at midnight Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, and runs until Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, midnight central U.S. time. Winner will be picked at random via Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Three-Day Cleanse: Lessons Learned

three-day cleanse tips | kale and aleI just finished a three-day cleanse as part of my January reset (read about why I picked reset as my word of the month and what it means to me). I cringe at the word cleanse, as I feel it has negative connotations. The one I did was based on foods that are considered detoxifying and superfoods (like carrots, turmeric, garlic and greens), meant to give your body a chance to balance out. It had a smoothie and nuts for breakfast, snacks and full meals through the day. Water and tea were OK. Exactly what I was looking for.

I went on the cleanse because I was feeling bloated from the holidays and travel, and I was trying to have a refresh. I am planning a longer trip with plenty of food and drink in the late summer, and could see this cleanse coming in handy upon my return; I would do it again to get back on track and refresh my digestive system.

Tips For a Cleanse

I’ve gone a full day back after the cleanse, and I learned a few things for when I or you go on one:

  • Make meals simple, wholesome and filling when feeling like a mini-reset is needed
  • Eat less at night after dinner (no late-night nachos) and have more mindful snacking overall. The snacks were flavorful and filling: roasted chickpeas; raw vegetables and hummus; and cucumbers with cayenne, salt, lemon and olive oil.
  • Incorporate more smoothies into the mix. I found this great list of detox smoothies I went off, and plan to make a different one for breakfast every so often.
  • Continue to drink tea in the afternoon when I want to reach for coffee
  • Make more marinades, sauces and dressings myself. They’re easy, quick, flavorful and earlier than bottled, store-bought condiments.

Have you been on a cleanse? What did you think or do you have any tips you learned?

January 2017: Reset

My word for the month is “reset.” No better time than a new year to get back to a previous state.
While a lot of people were calling 2016 “the worst,” it was mostly very good to me: I began the year with a Caribbean beach vacation, got engaged, got asked to be in my brother’s wedding and got married. I joined two book clubs that have connected me with great women reading powerful books, got accepted to volunteer at Louie’s rescue organization and figured out more who I am and what I want in life.

After a great long start, the finally two months brought events that put me in a funk: My candidate lost the presidential election, which shocked me, and after a great Thanksgiving with close family, we suddenly lost one of those people 15 days later. This person lived a full life staying true to himself and giving to other people and organizations. Both events put me in a funk and reminded me I need to look outward, build stronger relationships, give to others and stand for what I believe.

Reset my food, attitude and expectations

And, although I’ve been working out more regularly recently, I feel like my health has gone off track. So this week I’m going through three days of cleaner eating. I hesitate to call it a cleanse. My neighbor suggested it’s a reset, and I like that. It’s filled with detoxifying foods and cuts out coffee and alcohol. I’ve never done anything like this and have had daily coffee for 20 years, so stay tuned on how it goes. The easiest way to watch is to follow my Instagram stories at @KaleAndAle.

So I’ve decided this month will be about resetting–my system, my attitude, my actions. And that starts right away. As spoofed after the election on Saturday Night Live, I need to get out of the bubble. Only this wasn’t funny, since it hot so close to home and wasn’t a parody.

What actions or attributes are you focusing on in the new month or year?