Healthy Holidays

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The most wonderful – and most tempting – time of the year is almost here.

When families and friends gather to celebrate the holidays, food is often a centerpiece. Rich casseroles, calorie-laden side dishes and decadent holiday desserts abound. One report from the New England Journal of Medicine found that on average, adults gain about one pound every year during the winter months. While that might not sound too bad, it can add up over time and, according to the study, people who gain weight during the holidays are less likely to shed pounds throughout the rest of the year. Here are five tips to get a jump start on your spring break body by avoiding holiday food pitfalls.

Don’t overeat because of stress.
End-of-semester deadlines, projects and tests are piling up, and it’s tempting to indulge in caloric comfort foods and fast food instead of making smart choices. Take frequent breaks from long periods of study and make exercise a priority to avoid “comfort eating.” It can help to slow down and focus on the foods you’re consuming insteading of taking in mindless calories while you watch TV or scroll through your phone.

Keep healthy snacks readily available.
Know you have a late-night study session coming up? Throw a piece of fruit or a granola bar in your backpack. You’ll be much less likely to be tempted by every organization’s Christmas cookie or donut study break that way.

Don’t neglect exercise.
Squeezing in a morning jog, afternoon walk, or fitness class at the local gym will keep your metabolism high and your energy up. Replace your post-Turkey Day nap with a brisk walk around the neighborhood and you’ll burn off unwanted calories and stay on track physically. Even short 10 or 15-minute sessions of exercise will help when you don’t have time for a full workout.

Be aware of portion size.
As one saying goes, “no one ever got fat off of one cookie.” Treat yourself to your favorite holiday foods, but enjoy them in moderation. Try avoiding pre-packaged sweets and only enjoy special holiday desserts. Think indulging in your mom’s famous pumpkin pie, not a bag of holiday candy from the store you could find year-round.

Don’t skip meals.
Skipping meals to “save calories” will only result in overindulging later. Eat a healthy breakfast of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal and light snacks before bigger meals. Katherine Tallmadge, author of “Diet Simple,” says “eating sensibly throughout the day will take the edge off the appetite and empower a bit of restraint.”

Birmingham goes nuts for Peanut Depot

JMPeanut1Lex Legate was working at The Fresh Market grocery store when a local produce seller came in and told him that Peanut Depot was for sale.

“I thought, ‘No kidding. What is that?’” Legate says. “You have to come down and see it,” the produce seller told Legate. “What you see is what you get.”

Legate liked what he saw and has now owned Peanut Depot for the past seven years. The business has gone through a number of ownership changes in its 106 years of operation. It was originally owned by the Cassimus family and then changed hands several times before Legate bought it.

Peanut Depot peanuts are roasted on site in a 90-minute process involving antique roasters. Peanuts are for sale in three flavors: roasted, salted and Cajun. Roasted peanuts are natural with no salt or oil. Salted peanuts are lightly salted in their shells. Cajun peanuts are a hot and spicy variety. Boiled peanuts are also sold.

Peanut Depot in Birmingham, ALAdditionally, Peanut Depot distributes peanuts to a variety of businesses including grocery stores, the Birmingham Barons and several colleges.

For those wanting to explore Peanut Depot, Legate provides tours of the store. “You call here and go, ‘Can we come down?’” Legate says. “Yeah, you can buy peanuts. I can tell you about it. Ask for the tour.”

A visit will not only give you a look into a local business, but also a look into history.

“It’s part retail. It’s part historical,” Legate says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

And if you’re looking to buy good peanuts, Peanut Depot is the place to go.

Legate says, “They’re just simply the freshest.”

 

To find out more about Peanut Depot’s roasting process, watch this video of owner Lex Legate explaining it.

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Peanut Depot
2016 Morris Ave.
Birmingham, AL 35203
(205) 251-3314
http://www.peanutdepot.com

Photos by Julie Matthews

Oodles of Approval for Doodle’s Sorbets and Ices

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As warm weather shines on Birmingham, the “doodle dance” comes out of hibernation. “What’s that?” you say. Oh, just this happy little jig a satisfied customer will do after a bite of delicious sorbet from the one, the only, Doodle’s.

This Birmingham original claimed the title as a lighter ice cream alternative long before the frozen yogurt train chugged through Steel City. And now that it’s warm enough to eat an icy sweet treat outside, Doodle’s will be calling in the crowds.

This homegrown business operates out of a simple white trailer on a vast patch of green in Cahaba Heights; complete with patio furniture and real life Lincoln logs to rest your caboose. It’s a little off the beaten path, but one trip to this trailer park will have you hooked on all 53 flavors and counting.

RRDoodle3Cookies and cream is a fan favorite, with ample chunks of real Oreo cookies. Then there’s Ninja Turtle—a green mix of flavors you’ll just have to try on your own. For the indecisive, don’t distress. The friendly staff offers suggestions, free samplings and multi-flavored scoops.

If you’re looking for a local hangout, Doodle’s is definitely your destination. It’s one of those hidden gems where the cool people know to frequent. You might have to put up with high school crowds on weekends, but you can’t blame them for their good taste. Grab a friend or two and make your way down to the hot spot behind The Summit. Try not to love this sensational sorbet—I dare ya.

Doodle’s Sorbets & Ices
3238 Cahaba Heights Road
Birmingham, AL
(205) 478-6082

Open all week 11:00 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cash and now debit cards are accepted.

 

Photos by Reed Richardson

The Best Burger in Birmingham

Tucked away in Cahaba Heights, Blackwell’s Pub offers a juicy burger called “The Gambler” to those customers who enjoy taking a risk.  “The Gambler” is a burger made up of whatever the chef decides to create that day. You don’t know what you’re getting until your waiter sets it in front of you.

The Gambler topped with macaroni and cheese, bacon, jalapeños, lettuce and tomatoes.

 

“The Gambler is something we’ve come up with in the back [in the kitchen] on the spot,” says Tyler DeStefano, owner and executive chef.  Toppings include everything from pico de gallo with bacon to jalapeños with macaroni and cheese; it all depends on what the chef feels like using for that order.

Even though no pairing of ingredients seems weird or unusual to the staff, they still try to surprise their customers with delicious, yet unusual burgers.  “We’ve done some crazy different [burgers]-like once we used pancakes as the buns on a Morningwood burger,” says DeStefano.

Another creation includes a burger topped with cream cheese, jalapeños and grape jelly.  “The cream cheese, jelly and jalapeños definitely didn’t look or sound like it would taste good, but it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had for sure,” says Whitt Thompson, customer of Blackwell’s.

It may not sound like a regular good ol’ burger, but you have to trust the chef.  “Some people are scared,” says DeStefano.

The Morningwood burger, which contains an egg, homemade jelly, peanut butter and bacon.

These concoctions are not designed for the “Classic” burger eaters, they are meant for people who enjoy opening their minds to what a unique burger could be like.

However, for those of you who like to stick with what you know, Blackwell’s offers the “Blackwell Burger,” the signature burger topped with onion rings, blue cheese crumbles and Swiss; the “Bacon Burger;” or the “Pimento Cheese Burger.”

All the burgers begin with freshly ground beef and then built from there.  Their jelly is also freshly made in house every day.

You can start your adventure by trying Blackwell’s famous “Gator Bites,” which are fried alligator bites, as an appetizer.  Not to sound like a cliché, but the gator slightly resembles chicken.

LBBestBurger07So, if you’re ready to step out of your comfort zone, or just stick with the signature Blackwell Burger, head toward Blackwell’s Pub for a night of fun and adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by Leslyn Bantley

Bottletree Café offers delicious healthy food, along with music

Bottletree2The Bottletree Café is known throughout Birmingham as bringing big name musicians to this small bar and live music venue. During the day, however, Bottletree provides an inventive vegetarian-friendly brunch, offering soy sausage, tofu tacos, veggie burgers and chili.

“I’ve been trying to turn towards a more meat-free diet and when a friend of mine suggested this place, I was surprised as I had only been to shows there,” says student Lauren Howell. “I have only been a few times now, but I’ve changed up my order every time and never been disappointed with the quality or pricing of the food.”

In the outdoor seating, the walls are papered with past concert posters and photographs of musicians that exude the nightlife concert venue for which Bottletree holds its name.

“We are a unique music venue and bar, so we also try and cater to the same crowd with our menu,” says manager Merrilee Challiss. “We have a great staff and we listen to their suggestions, which lead us to want to provide fresh, vegetarian options. We didn’t even think about it being different from any other restaurant in Birmingham in our doing so.”

Established in its following of music lovers, vegetarians and even vegans, the Bottletree Café has created its niche in Birmingham as one of the well-loved venues that provides amusement for all types.

Authenticity served fresh at La Paz

For those who have that constant hankering for top-notch queso and classic Mexican food, look for the neon lights in Crestline Village that point to La Paz.

La Paz caters to customers’ cravings for authentic plates such as fish tacos, “over the top fajitas,” Texas barbecue quesadillas and any other Mexican combo you can dream up. La Paz has introduced fresh twists to classic entrees that will fulfill your need for adventure.

La Paz is not only recognized for its delicious food assortments, but the eclectic, Latin American ambiance. Upon entering through the aged wooden door, it’s clear that La Paz is alive with vibrant and natural colors.

Families and neighbors of the restaurant have gathered here for more than two decades. Because La Paz is located in charming Crestline Village, visitors often come by foot and enjoy their meals on the outdoor patio or take it to go.

La Paz has been voted “Birmingham’s Best Mexican Restaurant” and continues to be a local favorite. The original La Paz opened in cityscape Atlanta in 1979. Although many locations have opened and closed since then, the Crestline location is treated as a village landmark that won’t be turning its lights off anytime soon.

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Photo by Stevi Sappenfield

The People Place That Serves Coffee

RRChurch3Tucked away in a compact corner of Crestline Village is Church Street Coffee and Books. The store’s skeleton tells tales of a once-upon-a-time Starbucks, but inside resides a business far from the likes of the Seattle chain—rather it’s a business of good people, good books and most importantly—good coffee.

Owners and friends Cal Morris and Carrie Rollwagen opened the doors of Church Street Coffee and Books not long ago on July 5, 2011.

“We had always tossed around the idea of doing something like this,” Morris says. “When I found out Starbucks was closing, I called her [Rollwagen] up and was like, ‘Coffee and books?’”

Now the dream is a real-life production of coffee meets cozy, open all days of the week. There is something for everyone on the menu whether a snack or a surge of caffeine is being sought. Morris lists the Breakup Cookie (salted ooey-gooey chocolate chip), the Treehugger (homemade granola bar), the chai tea and the Yerba Mate Latte as fan favorites. He also adds, “Everything is baked and mixed, in house from scratch.”

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Not only does Church Street cater to customer food and drink cravings, it also satisfies the appetite of a ravenous reader. A collection of literature, both in print and e-book form, is dispersed and displayed throughout the shop available for purchase or perhaps just inspiration.

“I love to read,” Morris says. “And [the books] they’re based off my own library and Carrie’s library, built on the idea of what we think avid readers would want to read.”’

Everything from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to Jayber Crow sits on the shelves, waiting for a curious mind to browse or a conversation to start. Morris mentions that the staff and customers share all kinds of ideas and conversations, and Church Street also plays host to a few book clubs.

“Food and ideas are really great avenues to explore life. They are good vehicles for discussion,” he says. “We wanted to have this place become a cultural hub where ideas are shared more freely and openly. Book clubs are just a natural progression of those ideas.”

Such activities are just the start for Church Street Coffee and Books, the place that’s all about the Birmingham community.

“We’re in the people business. We just happen to sell good books, good coffee, good pastries,” Morris says.

Stop by and discover what you’ve been missing.

 

Church Street Coffee & Books
81 Church Street Suite 106
Birmingham, AL 35213
(205) 870-1117

Hours
Mon-Sat: 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun: 7 a.m.- 10 p.m.

 

Photos by Reed Richardson

 

Birmingham’s best meals under $10

For your next lunch or dinner, check out the following spots for a delicious and affordable meal.

SURIN

Surin of Thailand

This location tucked away in Crestline Village is one that you may miss if you’re just walking by. Don’t be mistaken by its unassuming storefront; the cashew chicken is one of Birmingham’s best Asian dishes. For an inexpensive date night or girl’s night out, be sure to visit Surin of Thailand.

GILCHRIST

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A Birmingham favorite for years, this old-fashioned soda fountain shop is a tasty lunch option. I recommend the chicken salad (hold the extra mayo), with some barbecue chips and a strawberry limeade to top it off. It’s a classic lunch for any Birmingham resident.

Moe’s Original BBQ

 Down South, everyone says they have the best barbecue, but few can rival the taste and price at Moe’s. While, I generally go for the hot wings, the pulled pork sandwich meal is spot on. With two sides (I recommend the baked beans and cornbread) and a drink with your sandwich, it’s a combo that can’t be beat!

Which Which

While I’m not one to choose a chain over local, Which Which is delicious and you get a lot of bang for your buck! The regular combo meal allows you to get a soda, 7-inch sandwich and chips of your choice for a steal. The possibilities of your sandwich are endless, but I’m partial to the Italian. Next time you’re at The Summit or in Homewood, check out Which Which.


ROJO Rojo

Located off Highland Ave., this is a restaurant you need to visit. Great for lunch or dinner, Rojo offers a Latin American menu as well as an American menu. However, the only thing I ever order, and I encourage you to do the same, are the barbecue tacos. Two tacos stuffed to the brim with pulled pork and topped with coleslaw offer a unique twist on a classic dish. The meal also comes with a side of black beans and rice, allowing for a cheap feast!

 

 

 

Photos by Katie Stewart

 

Restaurant Review: El Barrio

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Tucked away along the outskirts of downtown Birmingham, El Barrio provides a party—well, more like a fiesta—atmosphere despite the restaurant’s crowded space.

I recently tried Birmingham’s trendy Mexican restaurant for the first time to see what all of the hubbub was about and El Barrio didn’t disappoint.

Atmosphere

Although it’s a smaller restaurant, El Barrio’s atmosphere is rather unique. It is complete with murals along the walls and community tables where customers can mingle and eat with a group they may not know

There is a full bar and an open dining area, so it lends itself to being a louder environment. In my opinion the louder nature of the environment is a positive for the restaurant. When I ate there, a sizable group of young professionals enjoyed drinks and several orders of chips, as well as each other’s company.

Food

I’ve only made one trip to El Barrio so it’s impossible to have tried everything, but I was able to eat one of the specialty tacos and the popular chicken quesadilla.

The pollo taco features a soft-shelled taco stuffed with roasted chicken, bacon, cheese, chipotle slaw and avocado sauce. You really get a lot of bang for your buck with these tacos. They’re decent in size, so two should be just enough to fill you up.

El Barrio also has three kinds of quesadillas to choose from; I chose the chicken. Although El Barrio doesn’t “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to quesadillas, the chicken quesadilla had a nice surprise. The sauce inside the quesadilla was a green and tangy tomatillo sauce that really helped make the quesadilla special in my opinion.DL El Barrio-4

On a side note, the chips and queso dip are delicious. Make sure to get that as your side when you take a trip to El Barrio. You won’t be disappointed.

Cons

The only negative with El Barrio seemed to be the space. It’s hard to find a time for dinner when it’s not crowded. I attempted to go to El Barrio on a Saturday night, but it was an hour and a half wait, so make sure to be careful about when you choose to go, or you could be waiting a significant amount of time.

Overall

4 out of 5

Photos by Drew Laing

Three Cheers for Otey’s Tavern

In Mountain Brook, Ala., multiple generations have grown up relying on Otey’s Tavern, not only for great food, but also for a charming and laid-back atmosphere.

Tucked away in Crestline Village for more than two decades, Otey’s Tavern is a restaurant and bar whose customer base is as varied as its menu. Loyal customers range from teenagers grabbing a bite after school, to moms gathering for lunch with their small children, to college students looking to relax when the sun goes down.

Otey’s serves a variety of appetizing foods such as award winning wings, fried chicken salad, classic burgers and the soup of the day.

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The tavern may be small in size, but its entertainment is vast. You can listen to live music from the best bands in the Birmingham area on Otey’s stage. Wednesdays at Otey’s are known for team trivia nights, which have become enticing and competitive for regulars. Occasionally, Otey’s even hosts block-style parties that attract larger crowds.

On March 16, Otey’s will co-host a St. Patrick’s Day party with About Town Magazine called “Shamrocks and Shenanigans,” featuring Seth Capper and The Cap Guns.

In no way does Otey’s consider itself fine dining, but instead a classic neighborhood hangout where everybody knows your name. Otey’s Tavern is more than a bar and more than a restaurant— it’s a staple of the Crestline community.

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