Scratch Brick Oven Pizzeria, Serving It Up Fresh In Johnson City, TN

by Danielle Bussone


Scratch Front  Exterior

Scratch Front Exterior


For arguably the best pizza in the Tri-Cities area you need look no farther than Scratch Brick Oven. Located in Johnson City’s historic North Roan Street district, in a restored 1900’s home on the corner of Unaka and Roan, it is only two easy blocks from Interstate 26 in Johnson City, TN.


Rear Exterior

Rear Exterior


Kevin (pronounced Kee-van), Becka and Fran (Francis)

Staff: Kevin (pronounced Kee-van), Becka and Fran (Francis)


Rich and I were first introduced to this gem nearly seven years ago before we embraced a plant-based lifestyle. At the time Scratch was a relatively new establishment that operated as a bakery, smokehouse, charcuterie and wood-fired pizzeria. Since then the business has scaled down to meet the growing demands of it’s clientele as a pizzeria, and for good reason. Everything is made from scratch, even the oven, which was hand-built by the owners.


Scratch: Oven


When we became vegan we put Scratch out of our minds, since it never occurred to us that an establishment that focused on the preparation of meats would have a vegan option, not in this “country-fried-ham” area of the country. An unexpected dental emergency found us in the area recently and while I was having my tooth rescued, Rich sauntered over to Scratch to check out the situation.


Freshly prepared pizza just before going into the oven

Freshly prepared pizza just before going into the oven


What he discovered was one of the best vegan pizzas we’ve had to date! The French bread or whole-grain vegan cheese-less pizzas at Scratch are one price, 16-inch for $16. For those who need their pizza gluten-free, there is a ten-inch offering for $10. This is one of the few restaurants we’ve reviewed that recognize that vegetables are cheaper than meat and cheese and reduce their prices accordingly.


There are, of course, many options for your carnivorous companions and a deep dish Chicago-style pizza is also on the menu. But once your pals see how appetizing your pizza from plants looks, perhaps they’ll want to skip the meat altogether and discover just how delicious a vegan pizza can be! We can always dream…


Finished Pizza

Finished Pizza


You can choose from an array of veggies and fruit toppings, like granny smith apples and mandarine oranges, or you can order a “Trust” pizza, one in which you simply trust the chef to make something special for you, a topping mélange that will be sure to have you coming back time and time again. You can choose either a French bread, whole grain, or gluten-free crust. The sauce is slightly sweet, something that came as a bit of a surprise and one we found paired well with the veggies as was quite delightful.





Orders can be called in for pick-up or you can dine in. There are also picnic tables outside to enjoy when the weather is fine. You may also bring your own wine to have with your meal if you are so inclined.

If you are in the Tri-cities area and hankering for a great oven-fired pizza in a casual, laid-back atmosphere, check out Scratch Brick Oven. It’s a dining experience you won’t want to miss!


Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She author of, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health,” released January 1, 2015.

Danielle’s region is SW Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina and anywhere she happens to stop for sustenance along the road. Contact Danielle  directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.

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Health & Medicine Magazine Introduces a New Way of Living Called “Vegan Living!”


by Valerie Androni


Health and Medicine Magazine


Health & Medicine Magazine has embarked upon an exceptional endeavour of providing a wide range of knowledge regarding the benefits of being vegan. This new magazine is entirely free to readers in Florida and has an amazing assortment of articles that are intended to promote a healthy plant-based lifestyle. The articles in the magazine aim to enlighten readers with the simplest and most delicious ways of adding nutritious foods to their diets while and incorporating fitness and other life-enriching habits into their lives.


Detox Do's and Dont's


Health & Medicine Magazine has a unique collection of the latest books on vegan foods, the major vegan eateries in the United States, plant-based conferences and events, and all things vegan. The magazine brings to the table a wealth of information for the veteran vegan,  those who are new to the plant-based lifestyle, and to those who are just veg-curious and want to be connected with the vegan community all over the United States and abroad.  Additionally, Health & Medicine Magazine offers access to lots of resources from which readers can further learn about how to easily incorporate a plant-based diet and fitness routines that will insure great health.


Couple's Workout



Among these various sources of knowledge that are available for vegans is the collection of major books by authors who have been following a plant-based lifestyle for a long time.  These books offer great insights into the reasons one should consider adopting a plant-based lifestyle and many authors share first hand experiences in these books. One of the books that has managed to find a place on the top of our list is: “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health!” by Danielle Bussone.


Time For Change Cover Danielle's web page


In order to highlight the importance of health and nutrition in one’s body, the magazine’s team is currently amassing support from the backers on the web portal called KickStarter. Realizing the noble endeavour of Health & Medicine Magazine’s founders, people are generously contributing towards the fulfilment of our dream. The project on Kickstarter has already many backers who have contributed more than $1000. However, the goal of the magazine is to reach $12000 in order to cover the cost involved in bringing the magazine free of cost to the citizens it serves. Please be a part of a revolution that will change your life and the life of our planet.




For more information, please visit our Kickstarter Page and view our short video!



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European Street Café, A Favorite Vegan Meetup Venue In Northeast Florida.

by Michael Wilkins


European Street Café Interior

European Street Café Interior


Jacksonville is fortunate to have a strong vegetarian/vegan community. There are a couple of Meetup groups here that host regular functions. The Northeast Florida Vegetarian Society is Jacksonville’s vegetarian society and JaxRaw Meetup Group is for raw food enthusiasts. Recently I had the opportunity to attend one of these gatherings which convened at the European Street Café.

European Street Café Exterior


European Street Café Interior2


Approximately 40 people attended an event which featured a tour through the garden behind the Beach Boulevard location. One of the daughters of the owner is quite involved in setting up the garden.


European Street Café-Garden


European Street Café- Melons in teh Garden


She is working with a permaculturist who has created a garden that is self-sustaining. They grow quite a variety of plants in the garden, featuring peppers, collards, various herbs, fruits and other vegetables. We had the opportunity to tour the garden and learn about how it was put together.


European Street Café Worm Composting


One of the interesting things I saw was a worm composting area where they actually drain the liquid created by the action of the worms and pour that “worm juice” on to the soil where the plants grow. This is done by using the worms and scraps from the restaurant to create the liquid which feeds the plants. The plants then feed us and the whole cycle begins again. This project depends on a lot of volunteers, and people are happy to participate since they learn a great deal about how to create their own self-sustaining garden at home. We picked a bunch of collard greens and some herbs and went back into the restaurant to order our meal.


Alfredo Noodle Bowl

Alfredo Noodle Bowl


On the menu was a variety of raw food choices. I chose the sauzage Alfredo Noodle Bowl, with spiraled garden squash topped with Brazil nut and Coconut Alfredo sauce, almond and Brazil nut sausage, sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives.


Raw Reuben With Dilly Kraut

Raw Reuben


Marjie chose the Raw Reuben with fresh Dilly Kraut, tomatoes, spicy mustard and cashew cheeze slices. We also sampled the Cashew Chesse and crackers featuring creamy cashew cheese, home made gluten free crackers and cucumber slices.


Cashew Cheese with Crackers

Cashew Cheese with Crackers


While we were eating there was a demonstration about how to make pesto and place it into a collared rap with shredded carrot, tomato and parsley.


Cooking Demo: Making Wraps

Cooking Demo: Making Wraps


Cooking Demo: Making Pesto

Cooking Demo: Making Pesto


Then it was time for dessert.We ordered a Shakti dessert called Strawberry Fields (anyone remember this?). The Shakti desserts are totally organic, vegan, gluten-free and made with cashew cheese. After tasting the dessert no one would believe that it was good for you.


Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields


European Street Café Bakery Display 2

They also feature a great selection of beers from all over the world as well as some that are locally crafted.


European Street Café Store


European Street Café Bakery Display


There are four locations of the European Street Café in Jacksonville. There is one downtown in the Riverside area, another just outside of downtown in San Marco, a third in Jacksonville Beach, and a fourth on Jacksonville’s Southside. All of these locations are easy to get to and can be found quite simply by doing a Google search for European Street Café. The search will pull up all four locations with Google tabs which can then be found by clicking the Google map location. Stop in and go raw or get something else from their menu. There are many choices. Just don’t forget to save room for dessert.


Michael Wilkins is a respiratory therapist, an avid scuba diver and an accomplished photographer. He has been living with hepatitis C for more than two decades and is a cancer surviver. Michael has kept liver cancer at bay by employing the healing properties of a plant-based diet.

A year later, after a strict plant-based regimine, his tumor markers are normal and his MRIs are clean! This has made Michael more passionate about staying on a vegan diet. He has met lots of wonderful passionate people with amazing stories while walking down this path. Michael’s area is Northeast Florida, particularly the Jacksonville area. Contact Michael to share your restaurant finds, make comments, or just to say hello!

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Plant-Based Fare At Reggae Shack Café In Gainesville, FL

by Michael Wilkins


Reggae Shack Cafe Storefront

Reggae Shack Cafe Storefront


I attended the Jacksonville VegFest in April of this year which is where I found out about the Reggae Shack and where I met Danielle. The Reggae Shack’s booth at Veg Fest always had a long line. I was busy doing other things and could not spend the time waiting in line to sample their food. I made the decision to visit them on one of my dive trips to Blue Grotto or Rainbow River. I had the opportunity this past weekend to stop there on the way back from Rainbow River.


Reggae Shack Cafe:   Interior

Reggae Shack Cafe: Interior


The Reggae Shack is located in Gainesville, Florida on University Avenue. It is very easy to find since is located on one of the main roads through downtown. Once we were seated I had a chance to look up the owner. I had a great time speaking with Omar and asking him questions about how he does things. They purchase their food as much as possible from local vendors and look for the highest quality freshest products they can get using local, organic and Non-GMO products. All of their food is cooked from scratch using many of their own seasonings grown in a small garden behind their restaurant.


Reggae Shack Cafe:  Interior 2

Reggae Shack Cafe: Interior 2



Reggae Shack Cafe:  Curry Tempeh

Reggae Shack Cafe: Curry Tempeh


 He took me on a tour of the facility and was very enthusiastic about showing me his herb garden behind the restaurant. He let me sample a scotch bonnet pepper and some moringa leaves.


Moringa Plant

Moringa Plant


I was unaware of what moringa was, which led me to start asking questions. He was very enthusiastic about this plant and the nutrition that it possesses. This plant contains 10 times more vitamin A than carrots, more vitamin C than oranges, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas, 25 times more iron than spinach and nine times the protein of yogurt. He uses it in smoothies and other concoctions that are offered at the restaurant.


Moringa and Scotch Bonnet

Moringa and Scotch Bonnet


There are many vegetarian dishes on the menu and I was all set to order the Escoviech Tofu until the waiter informed us they were out of it. He told me that his second favorite dish was the Curry Tempeh which I ordered. My wife ordered the Brown Stew Tofu which was also delectable. Every dish comes with rice and peas, steamed cabbage and plantains. All of the vegetarian dishes are 100% vegan. We both saved room for dessert counting on having vegan coconut cake and vegan carrot cake. We were all set to order this when the waiter informed us that they were out of both items. While this was somewhat disappointing it did not dampen our spirits.


Reggae Shack Cafe:  Brown Stew Tofu

Reggae Shack Cafe: Brown Stew Tofu


 It just gives us another opportunity to come back and sample the cake. Hopefully they will have the Escoviech available when we return.


This establishment can be reached very easily from I-75. If you are going North, take the Archer Road exit and follow Archer Road to 441, turn left and then continue to University Avenue, Turn right, and go about 0.5 miles, The Reggae Shack will be on the right. If you are traveling South on I-75 take the ML King Blvd.(441) exit, turn left and follow 441 to University Avenue. Turn left at University Avenue and go about 0.5miles. The Reggae Shack will be on the right. If you’re driving south from Jacksonville just take a right off of 301 on to 24 and you will go right past the Reggae Shack. It will be on the left. Say hello to Omar and tell him the guy who didn’t know what Moringa was sent you.


Michael Wilkins is a respiratory therapist, an avid scuba diver and an accomplished photographer. He has been living with hepatitis C for more than two decades and is a cancer surviver. Michael has kept liver cancer at bay by employing the healing properties of a plant-based diet.

A year later, after a strict plant-based regimine, his tumor markers are normal and his MRIs are clean! This has made Michael more passionate about staying on a vegan diet. He has met lots of wonderful passionate people with amazing stories while walking down this path. Michael’s area is Northeast Florida, particularly the Jacksonville area. Contact Michael to share your restaurant finds, make comments, or just to say hello!

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Kate Strong Reports On ITU Long-Distance World Championships

by Kate Strong


There’s a special buzz in the air when competing in a World Championships. I adore mixing with the international competitors, flying to a new country and also, of course, competing in a triathlon!

There is a down-side which is the displacement from my home adds extra pressure in packing & transporting my bike, having limited equipment with me and also the pressure of correct nutrition.

I follow a whole-food plant-based diet, which comprises eating less processed foods, such as pasta, breads, gels and pre-packed bars and more fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds. It is always a challenge finding a supermarket that offers a complete range of produce that I require to eat a balanced diet.

I was surprised to find that Sweden offered a limited range of whole-foods and due to this, I was obliged to compromise my diet leading up to the race and eat more pasta and bread than I would normally do.


Kate Strong: PIC 1a


Also, for the race, I prepare my nutrition at home, choosing tasty natural ingredients (such as dates, chia, apricots, lemon and almond meal) to create my fuel. Again, some of these ingredients were hard to source and I couldn’t carry enough ingredients with my on the plane due to weight restrictions.

So…. This meant that I ate some processed sweets and sugary lollies to keep my energy-levels up.

This might not mean a lot to most people, as the Western diet is very high in sugar, yet for the past ten months, I have been consciously reducing my refined sugar intake with the intention to break my addiction to this white poison.

It’s been a test of will-power! I was shocked at how much I crave it and caved into the hunger for it.

So, leading up to a World-Championship race, it was less than ideal that my diet started to lean towards high sugar and processed foods.

My training these past few months has been sporadic: peppered with injuries that prevented me from running to personal tasks pulling me away from the pool and my bike, and also relocating to a different country and finding new training routes. With this in mind, I knew that my result from the race would be impacted, so I chose to see the race, not as a means of achieving a position, but as a day to celebrate the journey of what I’ve completed to date.

To compete for my country yet again is an honor I cherish. The morning of the race, I put on my “green and gold” Australian triathlon suit.

Even in summer, Sweden is quite cold and the water temperature was 14oC: 5oC than my usual outdoor water training temperature.

Conscious that I feel the cold and would be in the water for around 30 minutes, I wore a second triathlon suit over the first for an extra layer of warmth!


Kate Strong: PIC 2


Arriving at the race, there was a hive of activity: other athletes were carrying out their race preparations and I did the same. I checked my bike brakes and wheels and realized I had a flat tire! I still had one hour before the race started, so I stopped myself from panicking and took my wheel to the on-site mechanic to help change the inner tube.


Kate Strong: PIC 3


Fifteen minutes later, my bike was as good as new. I had two bags for the transition area: BLUE for swim-bike transition, and RED for bike-run transition.

I double-checked I had all I needed in them and hung them next to my number in the transition area.


Kate Strong: PIC 4


With only fifteen minutes before the start of the race, I found a quiet corner, changed into my wet suit, wet suit hat (new purchase for this cold-water race) and relaxed.


Kate Strong: PIC 5


Lining up with the other competitors, I delayed entering the cold water for as long as possible not wanting to cool down more than necessary and as soon as I did swim to the start, I treaded water and held my hands out of the water to stop them from becoming too cold.

One minute to go and people are getting excited! There are about 500 other competitors around me and everyone is squeezing together – I realize that there’s not much space to swim and for the 1,500m swim, I am going to be fighting for a space.


Kate Strong: PIC 6


The gun starts the race and I take my first stroke. Kicking hard – to not only move forward but promote blood flow to my legs to keep them warm, I am more pushing people out of the way than actually swimming.

The lake is crammed with bodies. In theory, we are all swimming in the same direction, but every person swims in a slightly different course resulting in spaces disappearing and me being forced to swim over & under bodies.

A few times, an arm grabs my shoulder and I’m pulled backwards, I hope by accident, but then some people do take competitions “seriously” so I’m not sure if this is the case.
For the swim, I struggle to find a rhythm: the crammed group of swimmers adds turbulence to the water and the cold temperature takes my breath away.


Kate Strong: PIC 7


The swim is usually 4km and I am very grateful that it was shortened to 1,500m by the officials because of the low water temperature.

I exit the water and am surprised to realize that the cold affected me so much: my hands are not working! I try to push buttons on my watch to stop the time, and struggle. I try to remove my swim cap and I can’t!

I run to transition, grab my BLUE bag and slowly remove my wetsuit and put on my bike helmet and socks.

My hands are still cold and I waste time putting my timing watch on, clumsily grasping the strap, but eventually I complete all I need to run to my bike and exit transition and start the 3-loop bicycle leg.


Kate Strong: PIC 8


The 120km cycle is absolutely stunning. It passes through forests, past red farmhouses and around fields of hay and grass. The Swedish countryside takes my breath away. I have a fondness for clouds and skylines and have been known to sit in an open field for hours taking pictures of clouds and silhouettes of trees and structures against the skyline. It takes an enormous effort to focus on cycling and remove my attention from the picture-perfect sky and surrounding scenery.


Kate Strong: PIC 9


The road is undulating with some very fast sections downhill. There is also a strong breeze that, when behind you pushes you along, though there is one stretch of the road where you are greeted with a wind similar to cycling into a wall!

I cycle to just past a comfortable level of pushing and maintain this for four hours.


Kate Strong: PIC 10


During the cycle, I also have to ensure I eat. Over 80% of all nutrition for the race is consumed during the cycle and I have reminders when to eat and also drink.

I make my own fuel from almond meal, dates, chia seeds, sesame seeds and maca powder. I also drink ‘natural’ comprising lemon juice and coconut sugar.

For endurance racing, my body needs glucose as a fuel source and I balance the ‘sweetness’ with the bitter lemon making it more palatable and also easier to absorb into my body.

The last 10km always feels like one hour, and I focus on the moment, shutting out ideas of what’s to come: the run.

Cycling into transition, I wave at the remaining supporters, jump off my bike and run back into transition this time in search of my RED bag.


Kate Strong: PIC 11


Pulling off my extra clothing, helmet and glasses, I put on my trainers and exit transition. It’s time to run!


PIC 12


Running along the lake’s shore through a forest distracts me from my nerves surrounding the 30km run. I come from a running background and usually enjoy this last third of a triathlon.


Kate Strong: PIC 13


But, having just recovered from an injury sustained three months ago meant I hadn’t run much let alone trained for this discipline.


Kate Strong: PIC 14


The first two laps passed well and I was pleasantly surprised with my pace. The last 10km was a different story unfortunately: I hit the pain barrier.
The upper part of my legs, my quadriceps started to hurt and pull. Then my hip flexors, the muscle where your legs fold at your hip, made its presence known. I was in pain.

I pushed through and even though I was running much slower, I refused to stop.
Seeing the sign for the last kilometer was a glorious blessing, it was down-hill all the way to the finish-line.


My Mum :-)

My Mum


The crowds built up as I approached the end and I started clapping them, thanking them for all their support throughout the day.

Kate Strong: PIC 17


Regardless of the country you were competing for every person cheered you on. It had been a long seven hours for me and I wanted to acknowledge the crowd as it had also been a long seven hours for them. We all had something to be thankful for and celebrate!

As I crossed the line, I was in the present moment: I had no thoughts about my physical pain, my start-up business put on hold for me to attend this competition, my friends missing me, my home I am building in France. I was void of all ‘what if’ thoughts and relished the success of finishing my second World Championships.


Kate Strong: PIC 18


Coming into this race, I was carrying a lot of pressure: last year I won this competition in China so was defending my title. My (now ex) coach had projected a very intense and aggressive training plan to ensure I was in peak physical condition to do my best at finishing with a good place, maybe back again on the podium.


Kate Strong: PIC 18


Yet, I realized that during the many long hours of training (I was averaging 30-35 hours a week), I was missing out on life. I started to see swimming, cycling and running as a chore: a job I had to do and this did not sit well with me.

I appreciate that short-term pain during training sessions does permit your muscles to rebuild stronger, but I am against sacrificing the joy of the journey in the hope of a one-off destination.

By putting all our focus on one moment in time, I risk the potential to not only wish ‘life away’ whilst building up to that event, but also find the day I’ve been looking forward to a disappointment and leave feeling deflated and let-down.

I chose to focus these last few months on balancing my life: I relocated from Australia to the French Alps; I sold my business and am creating a new one more in alignment with my values; I chose to see family and friends over sleeping and recovering from long training sessions and I decided to focus on the journey, not the reward.

I don’t know my placing in the world for 2015. I know I am no longer World Number One for my age, and I am OK with this. I have rekindled a love for sport and am able to enjoy this with friends, family and with myself.

Sometimes, it’s better to enjoy every day and not get a medal, than amass titles and awards and forget why we started this journey in the first place.

Kate Strong


Kate Strong, aka Strong Kate, is a Welsh-born international traveller. Kate has spread her wings far and wide not only geographically but in every aspect of her life. Having graduated with a double Masters in Mechanical Engineering from French and English universities, Kate has had a diverse career path from working with fashion companies such as Gucci, Diesel and Benetton in Italy, at an environmental protection agency in Russia, to working as a Dive-Master in Mexico! Kate is a 2014 World Champion, Women’s Long-distance Triathlete.

Kate is currently based in Sydney, Australia with the intention to move to the shores of Lake Geneva mid 2015 to develop a conscious-living business promoting health and fitness products and services. Contact Kate with your thoughts and suggestions and follow Kate as she trains for upcoming events.

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Coconut Curry With Indian Spices

by Danielle Bussone



Watch this video to learn how to make Coconut Curry with Indian Spices! This recipe is from my new book, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health!” It is a perfect food for transitioning to a plant-based diet. It is deliciously decadent and filled with health-promoting antioxidants and phytonutrients.  YUM!

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Hi, Y’all!

What? You expect perfection?

What? You expect perfection?

There seems to be a learning curve to this business of making cooking videos. I made lots of mistakes in the production of this one, but the ladies from ElderSpirit were very forgiving and a lot of fun. Rather than cut out the mistakes or redo the video, I’m sharing it with you blunders and all hoping you will be equally forgiving. We did cut out a lot in the interest of time and clarity.

I started to explain about how healthy garlic is and I managed to botch that section of the video. Here is the lowdown as explained by Dr. Michael Gregor of Garlic is the number one cancer fighting food. However, the protective effect of garlic may be destroyed in the cooking process so it is better to eat it raw or to crush it ten minutes before cooking. Crushing the garlic allows the compound alliin and the enzyme alliinase, which are located in different parts of the garlic’s cells, to combine and form the powerful enzyme allicin. This enzyme, once created, is resistant to heat. It takes ten minutes for that enzymatic process to take place.


Hmmm... How do I  fix this?

Hmmm… How do I fix this?

Another gaffe I made is I forgot to put the spices in towards the end of sautéing the onions. This allows the flavor of the spices to develop and adding them at the end of the sautéing process prevents scorching. Usually, spices are tempered in a little oil when cooking Indian and Thai dishes. Since we want to avoid using oil, which damages our endothelial cells and restricts blood flow, we add the spices at this point.

Adding the spices later didn’t noticeably affect the flavor at all, however, try to remember to add them earlier. Just the fragrance of the dish while cooking will make everyone scramble to find a seat at your table.


And there you have it!

And there you have it!

Also, because I was cooking for a crowd who did not care for spicy foods, I eliminated the chili pepper from this recipe. I really love it with the ground chili pepper but it’s fine to eliminate it if you wish. For simplicity I used a five-ounce package of organic spinach for this recipe, however you can add as much as eight ounces if you want to add more of this delicious phytonutrient. The original recipe calls for six ounces.


Coconut Curry With Indian Spices


This dish smells as good as it tastes. The aromas will drive your family and dinner guests wild while they are awaiting this treat. Again, don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients needed. You’ll use these spices over and over. Measuring them out in advance into small bowls will prevent mistakes. It is easy to forget a spice if it isn’t handy. If you prepare the rice in advance, it will save you some time when you are scrambling to get food on the table. It is also very good served with French whole wheat couscous, which only takes 10 minutes to prepare. It is also excellent served over linguini.

Note that the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and cardamom pods are for flavor and should not be eaten. Pick the cinnamon and bay leaf out before serving; the cardamom pods will be harder to find so just warn your guests that they are not to be eaten. They won’t hurt them, but the seeds are very fibrous and have a woody texture. Plus, biting into them may give your guests a jolt of cardamom flavor that could be overpowering.


Coconut Curry With Indian Spices

Coconut Curry With Indian Spices

Time: 35 to 40 minutes
Yield: 7 cups, plus rice



Prepare in advance:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat French Couscous
2 1/4 cups mirepoix vegetable stock or filtered water
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, or one can organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained


Spice Blend:

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground hot chili powder (You can substitute cayenne.)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)


Main Ingredients:

2 cups diced onion (1 large onion)
2 bay leaves
6 cardamom pods
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 can organic coconut milk
6 ounces baby spinach, washed and spun dry
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (1 3/4 cups or about 40)
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Preparation: about 20 minutes

Prepare vegetables.

Transfer drained, cooked chickpeas to a bowl. Set aside.

Set aside cinnamon stick and cardamon pods. Measure remaining spices into a small bowl. Set aside.

Method: 15 to 20 minutes

In a dry skillet, sauté onion with bay leaves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon until soft and translucent, stirring frequently (about 10 minutes).

Stir in ginger and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes, adding a little water a tablespoon or two at a time if necessary to prevent scorching.

Add turmeric, garam masala, ground chili powder, and black pepper. Stir until spices are fully incorporated with the onion mixture.

Stir in coconut milk, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Cook for 5 minutes or so on medium heat until sauce is bubbling and tomatoes have wilted. Adjust spices to taste.

Just prior to serving, remove saucepan from heat and fold spinach** into mixture until wilted.

Stir in lemon juice and serve immediately over rice, couscous, pasta or grain of choice.

*You can cook chickpeas on your stovetop if you don’t have a pressure cooker, though it will take longer. Or you can substitute canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

**Don’t over-cook the spinach. It should be added no more than 5 minutes before serving. Spinach becomes a little slimy if allowed to cook for too long. Heat it only until it is wilted.


In cooking demonstrations I often substitute couscous for rice, simply because of time limitations. Actually, couscous is very delicious with this dish. Coconut Curry With Indian Spices can also be served over linguini or angel hair pasta.  Please refer to my book, Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health!, for instructions on cooking beans, vegetable stock much more.


French Couscous


French couscous is a tiny crumble-shaped pasta that looks a lot like cracked wheat and its precooked form, bulgar wheat. If you store your grains and pastas in jars, be sure to label them. More than once I’ve had to call the large health-food chain in the next city to ask them to look up the bin number on the items I just purchased because I couldn’t tell the difference between cracked wheat and French couscous. When I buy them in bulk, I’ve learned to write not only the bin number but the name of the item on the package.

French couscous is one of the quickest and least labor-intensive foods you will find. It only needs rehydrating in hot water. Boil the water, stir in the couscous, let it absorb the water and fluff. That’s all there is to it! It is a wonderful quick substitution for rice when you’re in a hurry or have forgotten to put rice on to cook in time for dinner.

Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 3 cups



1 cup couscous
1 1/2 cups homemade vegetable stock or water

Preparation and Method:

In a small saucepan bring 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water to a boil.

Stir in couscous, making sure it all becomes wet.

Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.

Fluff with a fork and serve. It is important to fluff couscous because otherwise it will become compact as it absorbs the liquid.


Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About!, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She is author of “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health,” released January 1, 2015

Danielle’s region is SW Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, and anywhere she happens to stop for sustenance along the road. Contact Danielle directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.

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Always Organic, Always Plant-Based At Christopher’s Kitchen, West Palm Beach, FL

by Michael Wilkins


Marjie and I were diving in West Palm Beach over the weekend. On Sunday we decided to look for a restaurant for brunch that catered to vegetarian/vegan diets. We had quite a bit of time, so we sat down on the couch with the laptop and began browsing through the different options available on the internet. Many of the places listed as vegetarian either were not popular or had only one item on the menu that qualified them to be put into the group of restaurants that had vegetarian/vegan offerings. We were patient while looking for a place and our patience paid off.




We struck gold with Christopher’s Kitchen in Palm Beach Gardens, just north of West Palm Beach. The restaurant was easy to find as it was a short distance from I-95 going West on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. As it says on their website, the mission of Christopher’s Kitchen is to serve only the finest high-quality organic plant-based food. In this restaurant you will find food that has great nutritional value and outstanding taste. There will be no need to remove items from your plate that you don’t want to ingest because I found nothing on their menu that any of us would exclude from our diet.


Christopher's Kitchen


Christopher’s Kitchen is located in an area that includes other stores and is built like a town place setting. This seems to be the theme for many of the shopping areas that are springing up in the area. That being said, there were many tables outside and the dining atmosphere was pleasant. The wait staff was knowledgeable and courteous, as well as very gracious when I asked if I could take pictures.


Christopher's Kitchen Staff


Christopher's Kitchen Exterior


The menu is loaded with many different options from starters, such as soups, nachos and nut cheese, to a house classic they call CK tacos which is their most popular dish. The CK tacos are made with handmade vegetable tortillas, sweet and spicy walnut taco mix, lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, and special sauces. I, of course, had to try this when I heard that it was their most popular dish and I was not disappointed. My wife and I actually split the taco because they had the option to order one taco instead of the entire plate which would be two. The reason we did this was so that we could both enjoy entrées of our own but still try the taco.

CK Tacos

CK Tacos


Christopher's Kitchen Burrito

CK Burrito


Marjie ordered a grain bowl called the Powerbowl. This dish included quinoa, black beans, sautéed vegetables, avocado, chickpeas, bok choy, teriyaki sauce and cashew cheese. She really enjoyed this dish, and in fact took some of it home because there was too much food for her to eat. I sampled her dish as well and was pleasantly surprised. I must say at this point that there wasn’t anything we tried here that left us disappointed.


The Power Bowl

The Power Bowl


I ordered the zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna, which is a raw lasagna dish. The taste was outstanding and the lasagna included shaved zucchini and walnut herb pesto which was the best part. It also included macadamia ricotta, red sauce, tomatoes, basil, thyme and oregano.


Christopher's Kitchen Raw Lasagne

Christopher’s Kitchen Raw Lasagne (photo from CK Facebook page)


The options also include a separate menu for smoothies and juices. A wine list is available, which includes offerings that are selected specifically because they are grown organically. I do not consume alcohol but there seemed to be many people enjoying a glass of wine.


Blueberry Bliss

Blueberry Bliss  (photo from CK Facebook page)


Christopher's Kitchen Interior

Christopher’s Kitchen Interior (photo from CK Facebook page)


We were one of the first customers there when the restaurant opened their doors. The outside area filled up quickly and the restaurant seem to be fairly full when we left. The only thing that may be perceived as negative about this establishment is that the prices were a little high. Our bill came to about $55, but I need to say that we sampled a couple of things that normally we wouldn’t have ordered. The restaurant also has a market next door that sells homemade cold pressed juices and many other items as well as take out which can be ordered off the menu.


Christopher's Kitchen Fresh Lemon Vanilla Cheesecake

Christopher’s Kitchen Fresh Lemon Vanilla Cheesecake                                           (photo from CK Facebook page)


If you have a sweet tooth they have a lot to offer in that regard as well. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that their desserts are sweetened with maple syrup, coconut palm sugar and other organic plant-based substances which are not GMO modified or showered in pesticides. We consider this a great find because we go down to West Palm quite a bit to do diving.

 After one stop, Christopher’s Kitchen has become one of our favorite places and we are planning to go back again as soon as possible. It excites me to find these little gems and know that there are people out there offering alternatives and creating great tasting food from organic plant-based options. Needless to say, I think I have already become an evangelist for this establishment.

Christopher’s Kitchen can be found by exiting I-95 at exit 79, PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens Florida. Head West for about a half a mile and you will see an enclave of the buildings on your right, turn into the drive and take an immediate right and you’ll see Christopher’s kitchen to your left.


Michael Wilkins is a respiratory therapist, an avid scuba diver and an accomplished photographer. He has been living with hepatitis C for more than two decades and is a cancer surviver. Michael has kept liver cancer at bay by employing the healing properties of a plant-based diet.

A year later, after a strict plant-based regimine, his tumor markers are normal and his MRIs are clean! This has made Michael more passionate about staying on a vegan diet. He has met lots of wonderful passionate people with amazing stories while walking down this path. Michael’s area is Northeast Florida, particularly the Jacksonville area. Contact Michael to share your restaurant finds, make comments, or just to say hello!

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VOAA Welcomes New Writer Michael Wilkins To Our Team!


Veggin’ Out and About! is delighted to introduce a new staff writer to our team. Michael Wilkins has learned the power of plants the hard way. Living for over two decades with Hepatitis C and discovering he now had liver cancer, Michael turned to plant-based nutrition to restore his health. Plant-strong over a year now, the results have been nothing short of miraculous.

Read his story and join us in welcoming Michael to our restaurant review team! — Danielle Bussone, Editor


Michel Wilkins2


I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania and of course that meant being a Philadelphia Eagles fan. Some of my best memories are of my mother throwing stuff at the television complaining about the Eagles. I was the oldest of 6 which had its own challenges. I went to school at Mansfield University and became a respiratory therapist. I think it is during this point in my life that I contracted hepatitis C. I taught respiratory therapy for many years after practicing and eventually moved into medical sales. I traveled all over the country selling medical equipment, from lasers to anesthesia machines.


Michael Wilkins4


In 2009 I developed a squamous cell carcinoma in my neck. I went through all the traditional treatment, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. This left me with a shoulder that didn’t work very well and no saliva glands on my left side, as well as other issues. I decided that I was not going to let this affect my ability to go diving which is one of my passions, but I still wasn’t convinced at this point that I needed to switch my diet. I did have many challenges regarding my diet and was looking for other alternatives. On one of my regular visits to see my gastroenterologist, I was being evaluated for the new hepatitis C medication. I have been dealing with hepatitis for approximately 22 to 23 years. I have gone through one round of chemotherapy for hepatitis C, which was especially grueling. I made up my mind then, I was not going to do it again unless there was a very good chance that I would be cured. This is why I was optimistic about the new medications coming out.


My physician was going over routine tests and found evidence of cancer on my liver. This discovery sent me to the Mayo Clinic to be evaluated for a liver transplant. The first question I asked was whether or not I would be able to continue to go diving after a liver transplant. I was told that the cancer was in a place where they could not operate. They decided to treat the cancer through a process called chemo arterial embolization. This process helped quiet the cancer but made other issues worse. It was at this point that I decided to start looking around for ways to help myself.


Michael Wilkins3


My chiropractor had been trying to get me to go on a plant-based diet for years. I finally went to see him for nutritional counseling and after attending a nutritional weekend, I dove into the deep end of the pool. It has been a little over a year since I did that and I have not looked back. I’ve lost weight, developed more energy and noticed that my body seems to be working better. My tumor marker is normal and the MRIs have not found anything. This has made me more passionate about staying on a vegan diet. I have met lots of wonderful passionate people with amazing stories while walking down this path.


Michael Wilkins5


When I met Danielle at Veg Fest in Jacksonville, I was taken in by her passion and enthusiasm. I’m at the point in my life where I’m doing the things that I love. I am working as a Diving Instructor and underwater photographer. I have been married to the woman I love for 31 years. She loves to dive, eat vegan food and sometimes gets bored with my photography, probably because she spends so much time waiting for me to take a few pictures. We have two wonderful children and a seven year old granddaughter, who also loves her veggies. We live in Jacksonville, Florida which puts us near the granddaughter, the ocean and a vibrant vegan community. What could be better?

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Serving It Up Vegan At Lemongrass Cuisine of Thailand, Jacksonville, Florida!


by Michael Wilkins

Lemongrass Thai Exterior


Lemongrass Cuisine of Thailand is a great place to find something deliciously vegan in Jacksonville, Florida. The restaurant was easy to get to, reasonably quiet and had great options. The wait staff was courteous and friendly while taking care of our needs. The restaurant is located on Old Bay Meadows Road on the south side of Jacksonville. It has been in this area for quite a while and seems to do pretty well. Most of the entrées had tofu choices as a replacement for the carniverous options.


Lemongrass Thai Interior


I started with a tofu points appetizer and peanut sauce. The peanut sauce was tasty and slightly spicy.


Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad


For my next course I ordered the papaya salad. This salad contains shredded fresh green papaya, thai chili peppers, whole peanuts, cherry tomatoes, garlic, lime juice and a touch of fish sauce. I ordered the salad without the fish sauce. The taste was great and everyone at the table got a chance to try it.


Spicy Drunken Noodles

Spicy Drunken Noodles


For the main course I ordered spicy drunken noodles with tofu. This dish included wok tossed rice noodles, garlic, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, fresh mushrooms, cashews, scallions, srriachi and Thai sweet basil. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy Thai food?


My dinner companions ordered a dish called The Amazing which can be ordered with shrimp, chicken, beef, pork or tofu. The dish includes their famous peanut curry sauce over spinach and broccoli.


The Amazing

The Amazing


There are several Curry dishes to choose from as well. Most of the entrees are priced in the $13-$15 range.The experience at this restaurant was pleasant and I definitely would go here again. For those of you traveling through Jacksonville they offer lunch Monday through Friday from 11 AM to 2 PM and dinner nightly starting at 5 PM. The restaurant address is 9846 Old Bay Meadows Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32256. It is located in the Deerwood Village shopping center. The phone number is 904–645–9911 and you can visit them online at facebook.


Michael Wilkins is a respiratory therapist, an avid scuba diver and an accomplished photographer. He has been living with hepatitis C for more than two decades and is a cancer surviver. Michael has kept liver cancer at bay by employing the healing properties of a plant-based diet.

A year later, after a strict plant-based regimine, his tumor markers are normal and his MRIs are clean! This has made Michael more passionate about staying on a vegan diet. He has met lots of wonderful passionate people with amazing stories while walking down this path. Michael’s area is Northeast Florida, particularly the Jacksonville area. Contact Michael to share your restaurant finds, make comments, or just to say hello!

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Save a Husky and Save Yourself — Siberian Husky Rescue of Florida Will Help You Find A Forever Friend!


Contributed by Janet C, SHRF Volunteer Cooridinator, with Debi K, SHRF President. Segments aslo taken directly from SHRF website. 

 I am Janet C., and I am The Volunteer Coordinator for Siberian Husky Rescue of Florida, Inc. I joined the rescue in 2005 when I adopted my own red and white Siberian Husky, Ranger. As Volunteer Coordinator, I process the volunteer applications which we receive, contact the new volunteers, and help them find and understand the areas where their talents will be most useful.


Watching u 2008


The adoption story of my own Siberian Husky, Ranger, began in early 2005 when he was found in NE Florida. He was taken to a kill-shelter where he was evaluated. After evaluation, it was determined that Ranger was food aggressive. It was decided by the shelter staff that Ranger would either be euthanized or could only be saved by a rescue. That is where SHRF came in to save him. Ranger was pulled from the kill shelter in February of 2005 and I adopted him two weeks later with the understanding that he would need and receive training from a certified behavioral specialist.



Some of our incoming dogs, such as Ranger, may have behavioral issues. It is important to find the right behavioral specialist, with a solid history of treating the specific behaviors.In addition to Ranger, we have taken in other Huskies with a variety of medical conditions.




There is Snoshoo who went through three surgeries for his umbilical hernia before coming to SHRF. His fourth surgery where SHRF had Snoshoo taken to a specialist was a success. He quickly recovered and is now living a wonderful life in his adopted home.




Shyanne is another Siberian Husky who was going to be put down if they could ever get her out of her kennel without being bitten. No one could approach her to get her out as she was extremely fearful, feeling cornered, so she became defensive. Our President, Debi K., drove two hours and spent about 30 minutes getting Shyanne to develop trust in her, and she managed to successfully get her out willingly.

 During the process of getting her out, not once did she raise her gums to show her teeth, but as soon as the shelter staff member would make a move to get close to her, she would show her teeth to her. Once she came out of her kennel to our President, she was full of kisses and rolled right on her back for belly rubs.Shyanne is the sweetest girl. Her foster loved her and it wasn’t long before she was adopted into her loving, forever home.





Siberian Husky Rescue of Florida Inc was established in 1999. Our mission is to rescue stray, abused, surrendered and unwanted Siberian Huskies in Northern and Central Florida. Since that time, our all-volunteer rescue has saved the lives of 1,144 Siberian Huskies. We have a President, plus four other Board Members, and SHRF is an official 501(c)(3).




We list our Siberian Huskies currently available for adoption on our website under the heading Available Dogs. Potential adopters must complete and submit an application to adopt. In addition, on our website we do list other Huskies available for adoption at state and county facilities, but not through SHRF.




We also offer a Referral Service. Referrals are dogs available for adoption directly from their owner. Descriptions of the dogs are provided by the dog’s owner. People interested in adopting one of these referral dogs must contact the owner listed.




We are a not-for-profit organization run solely by volunteers. We have no paid staff. We take in purebred Huskies, primarily from kill shelters. SHRF does not have its own shelter location so all of our dogs are housed in foster homes. We are only able to take in dogs when we have an opening in a foster home, therefore, we can only accept owner surrenders when we have room. The primary mission of SHRF is to help dogs in immediate need of being saved from euthanization before taking in a dog that is being surrendered by its owner. We do offer a referral process for these dogs that will display the dog on our site and refer anyone interested directly to the owner.




We pay to have all our adoptable dogs spayed/neutered; treated for heartworm, sarcoptic mange and other diseases, bathed, groomed and microchipped. SHRF provides loving foster homes and we try to crate train, house train and obedience train the dogs as much as possible. We ensure all our dogs are up to date with their vaccines, flea and tick treatments before adoption.


We are frequently in desperate need of Florida foster homes for our incoming Siberian Huskies. Anyone interested in fostering for our rescue should contact our President, Debi K., at:




We try to educate the public about these beautiful, but sometimes challenging, dogs. We have a page on our website dedicated to Husky Education. This page covers most aspects of owning a Siberian Husky and includes segments such as General Characteristics, Athleticism and Huskies, Cats and Small Animals.


On our website, our rescue also features a national (and sometimes international) registry on Lost and Found Siberian Huskies. People who have lost or found a Siberian Husky can email us with the information and photos. We will post everything free of charge. People can contact our rescue at:


My gorgeous Ranger

My Gorgeous Ranger


Our rescue holds events, primarily across Central Florida, which allows people to meet Huskies available for adoption. We have a month-by-month calendar on our website which lists all events for the year.


In the past two years, our rescue has been using social media sites from which to promote our Siberian Huskies and animal rescue and adoption in general. We use a variety of sites such as the following which I personally manage in my role as Volunteer Coordinator:


Facebook    Twitter   Pinterest   Instagram   Google A   Google B

If any Florida residents would like to foster, volunteer or adopt from our rescue, we would ask that they please visit our website to complete an application form.


Ranger greet every day with gusto March 2015

Saving one of these wonderful dogs will bring joy and meaning to your life you cannot imagine. Save a Husky and Save Yourself!

As a final note, please go to our website and click on the Happy Endings link on the left side of the page. These beautiful Siberian Huskies are our dogs that have just been adopted, and have now gone into loving, forever homes!

Note: Not every dog on this page is currently available. Check our website for updates!

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