12.02.2019

REVIEW: The Burrowing Owl Vegan Cafe (Colorado Springs, CO)

For lunch this past Saturday, my wife and family ate at the Burrowing Owl (TBO), a 100% plant-based vegan restaurant in Colorado Springs CO.

For those who may not want to read this entire review, it was fantastic. Go there!

Moving on...

I found out about TBO using the Happy Cow website, which specializes in finding vegan restaurants anywhere you want to go. There are a couple of other strictly vegan places in this Colorado town, according to Happy Cow, a different one of which specializes in drive-thru vegan fast food, like fake meat burgers and nutmilkshakes and French fries (which are usually vegan anyway). That's cool and everything, but we have that kind of "junk food" vegan place back home in Madison WI. We wanted to try a place that owned it's veganism without trying to emulate conventional Standard American Diet (SAD) foods just to attract curious non-vegans. TBO appeared to meet that criterion, "like billy-o!"

My wife and I are the only 100% whole-food, plant-based eaters on my side of the family (comprising, on this particular outing, me, my sister Kate, my fraternal twin niece and nephew Millie and Ty, my mom, and my pops). The nice thing about omnivores is that they can freely eat vegan food if they want to. The inverse is not true. So my family humored us and accompanied us for the vegan excursion, or veg-scursion, if you will.

The establishment caters to vegan pacifist intelligentsia, if a great deal of their signage is to be believed. I validated that, but we were mainly there to eat and critically judge the food and dining atmosphere. The atmosphere was chill. Wooden tables lined the walls with some rolling chairs scattered around them. A bar occupied the center of the smallish sized dining area. A place like this doesn't have to be big because it's not catering to the masses. It likely has a small niche clientele.

More importantly, the food was great. I wanted to try everything on the menu, but I couldn't. So, I ordered a vegan mac and cheese, the conventional version of which was one of my favorite comfort foods pre-this-vegan-lifestyle. If I have to say anything negative about the dish, it's that it was really spicy hot. But I can't blame TBO for that...the menu was clear on the heat quotient and I knew what I was getting myself into. The heat did not detract from the flavor, which blew my taste buds out, in a good way.

Nothing is worse than bland vegan food (which is what vegan food tastes like when conventional eateries attempt to modify food to be vegan, by taking ingredients out). The food at TBO was rich and delightful, as vegan food should and can be, if done right. In fact, TBO's food may have stretched the expectations of the rest of my family, if they were expecting stereotypically flavor-neutral vegan food. None of my family members had anything negative to say about their menu selections (which included vegan burgers, a noodle dish, and some kind of soup, as well as some desserts), but neither did they gush over it, in full disclosure. So, make of that what you will.

All the beer TBO serves comes in cans, along with a complimentary can cozy. Of course, I had to order a beer to get the souvenir cozy that says "Vegan as !@#$" on it.

TBO specializes in a vegan queso (spicy cheese) sauce, which they "make by the gallon," according to their menu. This was the sauce that coated my vegan mac and cheese order. Always in the market for a tasty cheese substitute, and much liking what I had tasted at TBO, I asked the waiter if TBO shared its recipes with patrons. They did, and said waiter let me take a picture of the queso recipe, kept in a 3-ring binder with other recipes. I'll likely try my hand at making this in the near future.

The Burrowing Owl gets my highest review rating, 5/5 Stars. Excellent.

11.27.2019

On Being Thankful

The long Thanksgiving holiday weekend has begun. I finished up at the mental health clinic I resident at around noon and drove over to our gym for a 45 minute run/walk on the treadmill. Felt amazing afterward. I went home, chilled with my wife Deborah for a spell and ate some vegan fake meat burgers (ugh!) because I am trying to use them up. Did not feel amazing after that. I might just have to toss the rest, although it saddens me to waste food. I'd donate it to a food pantry if I thought they'd take them, but I doubt it. I practiced a bunch of music down in my Rock Hall. I'm about to call my parents on the phone and check in with them about our fantastic weekend plans.

What am I thankful for? A lot. I'm doing a lot of the things I love to do and not too much of the things I don't. I wish I could travel more, but I'll take what I can get. I'm glad I am eating a healthy plant based diet and getting lots of exercise. I'm glad Deborah and I will be hanging out with some family this long weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving. What are YOU thankful for? Leave a comment below.

11.24.2019

On the Achievement of Demigod-Like Health Status

I woke up today with an almost God-like (aka, Demigod-like) level of mental clarity and physical well-being. I attribute this to a handful of factors.

1. I got a solid night's sleep. Most nights I get a decent amount of sleep according to the Sleep Cycle sleep hygiene app I use at night. But last night I had some super solid slumber. I even remembered dreaming, which I almost never do. When I woke up, my wife was already awake, which almost never happens on weekends. I am almost always up before her on weekend mornings.

2. I batch cooked a vat of oil free, vegan chili yesterday. This is only indirectly linked to today's apparent "near perfect" mental and physical health status. As many of my readers know, I follow a whole food plant based "vegan" diet, which has been scientifically proven to maximize health and reverse chronic disease risk factors. I batch cook food for the week on the weekends, then Tupper it up into single serve portions to conveniently reheat throughout the week when time is more scarce. The past few weeks, I have been batch cooking this coconut curried lentil dish, which contains coconut milk and optionally (but usually) peanut butter. Although coconut milk and peanut butter are "whole foods," they do contain a pretty high fat content, including saturated fat (but not cholesterol), in the case of coconut oil, and inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, in the case of (albeit "all-natural") peanut butter. These foods are calorie dense, even if they are not unhealthy per se. Yesterday's chili recipe is completely oil free and low fat. So my diet has been significantly low in "bad" fat for the past 24 hours. In point of fact, my food has been relatively high (although absolutely low) in "good" fat, namely the omega-3 fatty acids found in the ground flaxseed that I put in my morning fruit smoothies. Studies have shown that a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fat in the diet is remarkably anti-inflammatory and disease-preventing (SOURCE). My personal experience suggests that this ratio is highly correlated with my well being from day to day. A lot of dietary fat in a day definitely knocks me down from Demigod status to mere Superhuman.

3. I went to the gym several times over the past week. This has had both direct and indirect benefits on my overall well-being. Winter came to Wisconsin way too early this year, prematurely ejaculating its white stuff down on us before we had a chance to properly embrace Fall weather. In the warmer months, I get outside and walk, run, or bike. When cold weather hits, I find myself indoors a lot more and it's a real bummer. Deborah and I had been debating if we should cancel our gym membership due to having not gone to the gym in many months. I decided to go this past week to assess if I could be compliant enough to justify keeping our gym membership active. The workouts were just what I needed to lift my spirits and stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as well as burning a few more calories than had become the norm. The exercise boosted my natural endorphin levels ("runner's high"), contributing to my positive mood and boosting my immune function. I was two pounds lighter on the scale this morning, probably attributable to the weight lifting I did at the gym yesterday (muscle mass burns more calories at rest) as well as the reduction in net calories consumed due to eating less dietary fat (See Buller 2 above). Needless to say, we shant be canceling the gym membership any time soon. I was a fool to even suggest it!

4. I used a Happy Lamp. My wife has a full spectrum mood lamp (aka, "Happy Lamp") of the type that has been shown to balance the neurotransmitters in the brain that contribute to mood. Before she leaves for work on weekdays (the days she DOES get up before me, by necessity), she puts the lamp on my bedside table and cranks it up to its full 10,000 lumens of serotonin-spiking radiance. It seems to work, because I have been feeling pretty great since starting to use it about a fortnight ago. But this morning I felt exceptionally great, and I didn't even use the Happy Lamp. So, it may have a lasting benefit.

5. I practiced mindfulness and good self-care. In my practice as a budding marriage and family therapist (in training), I have to hold space for varying levels of angst, sadness, fear, anger, anxiety, confusion, and negativity that my clients carry with them as they seek mental health treatment. I can't take that with me when I leave the therapy room. I have to leave it at the clinic when I go home. Sometimes the negative energy tries to follow me home, and I have to politely ask it to go away. That's where mindfulness comes in. Whenever I notice any negative work-related thoughts trying to intrude on my personal life, as they are wont to do from time to time, I ground myself in the here and now. I focus on my present surroundings and repel the intrusive thoughts from my mind as best I can. I ground myself with enjoyable activities like music, writing, cooking, exercise, and doing fun things with my awesome wife Deborah. Self care is so important (SOURCE).

A good day to you.