My Top 5 Favorite Restaurants Serving Homemade Food in Greenville

Greenville is definitely a foodie city with tons of local restaurants that purchase local ingredients and serve their customers a plate full of just plain good food. I've been here a little over a year and I feel like I haven't even touched the surface. There are still so many more towns and restaurants I want to explore. in SC.

I mean, it's not like I haven't tried some of the CORE restaurants that are often talked about. I mean, Farm Fresh Fast. Need I say more? If you haven't heard of it, you need to go asap. I've even included it on my list below (and you'll find out why!) 

So, if you're as obsessed with the food scene as I am, then you'll visit their hot spots ASAP! 

1. Tupelo Honey Cafe. Why do I love this restaurant so much? In addition to their amazing food, I love the feel of the interior. When I went there a few months ago, I ordered AND devoured my Southern BLT, which was made of Apple cider bacon, dijonnaise, lettuce, tomato, and hot honey. I absolutely love honey and it was the ideal addition to this delectable sandwich. The chicken was crispy and you could tell by its appearance that it was made with care. It wasn’t soggy or overcooked. The honey added a nice sweetness to the meal. Not to mention, the French fries were crisp to perfection and tasted hand-cut instead of served heated from a frozen bag. It's a local staple that you must hit up!

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2. Farm Fresh Fast. Recently, FFF created these vegan protein donuts that are actually healthy called Doughnuts Done Right. A healthy donut? Have you heard such a thing? I have not. But, they're also gluten-free, farm-to-table and the best part is... they're locally sourced. On their restaurant menu, they serve items such as a Shroom Swiss Burger, Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla, Spicy Pulled Chicken Wrap and something that sounds rather intriguing Toasted Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap. The best part about that particular sandwich - for me at least - is it's turkey bacon! So, now that I just made your mouth water, visit FFF asap!

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3. Smoke on the Water. We went to Smoke on my hubby's birthday and not only was their food delicious, our waiter was extremely accommodating. I ordered the Crab Cake Po Boy sandwich with fries while my husband ordered a steak. It was seriously heaven on a plate and the best thing is, all their food is made from scratch. From homemade sauce, an assortment of desserts, sandwiches, burgers, seafood, beef to soups and salads, Smoke has something for everyone. 

4. Grill Marks. If you l-o-v-e burgers, you need to try Grill Marks at the Haywood Mall or Downtown Greenville. I'm not a beef person, but on occasion, I might give in and eat one of their homemade burgers with various toppings. It was honestly THE best burger I've ever eaten and their milkshakes are heaven in a glass. And, oh, I forgot about their fries: crisped to perfection with the right amount of salt. And, if you're not in the mood for a burger, they also have salads and other sandwiches you can try. But, if you're going there for lunch, I recommend grabbing yourself a burger.

5.  LTO Burger Bar. Speaking of burgers, LTO is another one of my favorite burger joints. But, they obviously don't just serve burgers, they also serve tacos, sandwiches, soups, salads, and appetizers that are out of their world. When my hubby and I went there, we ordered their PRETZEL POWER app, which was hot buttered pretzels, grainy mustard, and smoked gouda queso. Obviously I didn't have the queso, but the grainy mustard hit the spot. While I was there, I ordered the Fried Chicken Club, which was a buttermilk-soaked fried chicken breast with shaved ham, bacon, creole mustard aioli served with hand-cut fries. Again, you could tell this crispy piece of chicken was made from scratch and sprinkled with love. The combination between the chicken, bacon, ham and mustard satisfied my craving for something a tad sweet and salty. It was honestly like biting in a small piece of heaven. Is that too extreme? Well, I’m just being honest! 

No matter what restaurant you visit, you won't be sorry! And, if you try all of them, I won't judge!

5 Dairy-Free Brands You Need To Try

Since I'm lactose intolerant, I'm always looking for dairy-free meals, cheeses, coffee creamers and desserts. Recently, I came across someone asking for dairy-free foods and figured I'd suggest some brands I tend to buy at the store.

  • Natural Bliss Coffee creamer.

This brand has three different flavors: vanilla, sweet creme + caramel. The sweet creme is made from coconut milk while vanilla and caramel are derived from almond milk. I've tried all three flavors and have to say my favorite is vanilla. You can't go wrong with choosing any of the flavors.

  • So Delicious.

I love So Delicious! Even though it does tend to be a tad pricey, the cheese tastes amazing! If you're plant-based or lactose intolerant like me, in my opinion, this cheese tastes practically like cheese derived from milk. You're not missing anything! They offer mozzarella, cheddar + cheddar jack. Don't think they just have cheese! Some other products this brand possesses is ice cream, coconut milk, yogurt, coffee creamer, as well as other frozen desserts. 

  • Kite Hill.

Since I'm unable to eat ricotta cheese, I decided to look for a substitute. To my surprise, at Whole Foods I found Kite Hill's ricotta cheese so I could make Eggplant Manicotti. It consisted of almond milk, salt, enzyme, tartaric acid + cultures. If you can read all the ingredients in a product, then you know it's pretty natural. If you're unable to pronounce most of the ingredients in a product, that might not be something you want to put in your body.  And, the best thing about this brand is they don't just sell ricotta cheese, they also offer dairy-free yogurt, cream cheese + two types of ravioli!

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  • Daiya.

From cream cheeze, pizza, shredded cheese, cheezecake, cheezy mac, greek yogurt, dressing to sauce, Daiya has everything you could every want - and a tad more! According to their website, Daiya makes dairy-free eating a joy. From the ooey gooey goodness of a grilled cheese to the rich and creamy taste of fruit-kissed yogurt, all our products taste great. And that makes you feel great. With their variety of options, you can't go wrong with trying any of their products. 

  • Go Veggie.

Go Veggie offers dairy-free cheese, Parmesan + cream cheese. Their products are lactose and soy free as well as vegan. GO VEGGIE® provides a variety of products and flavors to satisfy every cheese-lover’s craving. With more calcium, equivalent protein, less fat and less calories compared to ordinary cheese – and free from cholesterol, lactose and gluten – you can now enjoy all of your stretchy, melty, cheesy foods without all the guilt, according to their website. Try one of their food items today.

 

Whether you're looking for cream cheese, dairy-free ice cream, yogurt, cheese or coffee creamers, any of these brands above will suffice. I've tried all of them and they all taste similiar. They all satifiy my craving for cheese. Even before I was lactose intolerant, I was never a fan of milk, so I really don't miss drinking cow's drink. I'd opt for almond, cashew or coconut milk any day! Let me know which brands are your favorites!

"Eating Healthy on a Budget" Q&A with Holistic Health Coach

Most people think eating healthy is expensive, so they opt for processed food, which is cheap! But, did you know that you can actually eat healthy on a budget? I reached out to Food + Lifestyle Coach from Holistic Glow Bertha Thomas to answer some nutritional questions.

Living Simply Real: What are some meals people can purchase that won't cost them an arm + a leg?

Bertha: Canned goods* are great to have on hand - They're great value! 

Beans and chickpeas are a great example, they're filled with protein, fiber and antioxidants. I personally love the Eden foods because they use kombu seaweed to season their products. 

*In order to avoid the BPA linning and/or high sodium in some canned products you can always opt for dried beans and legumes and cook them yourself. 

LSR: What is some advice you can provide people looking to eat healthy on a budget?

B: What's important to understand is that quality matters, especially when it comes to certain types of food; Consider these options:

Visit your local farmer's market: It will not only save you a few pennies but you will also find fresh seasonal produce and support the local economy in your area. Usually, seasonal produce is cheaper and more available than other "exotic" fruits and veggies.

Go for frozen fruits and veggies -  As long as they're not added any additives, sugars or preservatives you can use them for a number of different recipes! They are picked at their ripe state so they're going to provide your body with more nutrients. 

Visit the bulk section - This is a great place to fill up on your pantry staples, including beans, grains, nuts, seeds and even spices! Always compare the unit prices of bulk vs packaged products to be sure you're getting the best deal. Local stores with bulk sections areas are: Whole Foods (Seeds, nuts, grains, etc), Earth Fare (herbs & spices), Garner's Natural Life (herbs & spices)

Take a look at the Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15 - This is a great resource to understand which fruits and veggies contain the highest amount of toxic pesticides when grown conventionally and will help you select your produce . You can print it out and carry it in your wallet! 

Get in the kitchen more often - You'll notice that making your own food is not only cheaper but it's also a great way to learn what works for you and what doesn't.

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Money saving tips:

  • Shop from the weekly sales flyer and use those coupons!
  • Consider choosing store brands, which offer similar products at a more economical price than the brand names
  • Try buying online - Thrive Market and Vitacost are great options 

A note on animal protein:

If you choose to eat animal protein it's really important to choose the best quality (the toxins are stored in the fatty tissues so when you're eating animal fats and proteins from a bad quality meat you'll be getting more toxins). You want to make sure to avoid conventional meats as much as possible, processed meats and farmed fish (they're fed horrible diets, kept in very bad conditions and little nutrition.They're usually added color and to give them a more "natural looking") These animals are not in a natural environment and are given lots of antibiotics to survive because of the conditions they live in. 

When you choose higher quality meats, you will be getting higher amounts and quality of nutrients, which is directly related to the way the animals are fed, treated and raised. So, if meat is a really important priority to you, choose wisely and you will end up saving so much money in the long run. The cut of meat matters: Opting for cheaper cuts of meat like ground beef or getting a roast and slow cooking them is a good way to save money on this type of food.

LSR: What is the cheapest most nutritious food?

In my opinion, canned fish is an awesome way of saving money and getting great nutritional benefits. Aim for fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. These species are more flavorful than very lean fish like tuna, and they're also more nutritious because you get a bigger dose of Omega-3s and Vitamin D.

B: People always think it's more expensive to eat healthy. Is that true?

It's a matter of perspective. Think of it this way: If you bought a fancy car, would you use the cheapest gas to fuel it? The same idea applies to our food - we should see it as an investment in our health.

We are given this body just once so we want to treat it well and fuel it with the best quality food so we can feel better and do the things we want to do in life - Health is our vehicle.

Organic doesn't always mean better and there are many ways to eat healthier without spending a fortune - You just need to spend some time learning where, how and what to buy. And of course, spend more time in the kitchen, making your own food.

In conclusion: There are always good, better and best options for everyone, so first and foremost we want to make sure we are making the best food choices based on where we're at - Everyone's journey is different. Find what works for you and do what works for you and your finances.

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Why I Chose A Healthier Lifestyle

Two years ago, when we went on our honeymoon, we met two nutritionists who changed our perspective on what we put in our bodies. We were told that most people do not take the time to read food labels on the back on items. If we wanted to lose a few inches and reduce the toxins in our body, we needed to follow this diet for a few months. 

So, we abided.

For a few months straight for breakfast we ate hard-boiled eggs, chose lunch and dinners items such as salad, whole grains and avoided certain foods such as molasses and citric acid. BTW - did you know that citric acid is one of the main ingredients in some of the foods we consume day in and day out? I didn't - until I met with that nutritionists a few years ago.

That's why I opted for a healthier lifestyle. That's why I check ingredients in the foods I eat, That's why I only order from scratch-made, local restaurants around the Upstate.  That's why I bring my lunch to work every day. That's why I'd rather sit across from my husband at our kitchen table eating a home-cooked meal than go out to eat. That's why I'd rather spend 2 1/2 hours in a grocery store making sure I know exactly what I'm putting in my body.

When I wasn't educated about the foods I ate, I'd often bad about my choices and myself in general. Whenever my co-workers order food, I usually always say no because the places they choose are fast food joints or places that serve processed foods.

Now, if you like processed foods, I'm not trying to put you down or change the way you eat. I'm simply stating why I've opted to choose a healthier lifestyle. Processed foods make me feel crappy. Processed foods make me feel hungry, yet empty at the same time. 

And, if you'd like to challenge yourself, instead of grabbing a quick burger at Mickey D's, why not make you and your family a burger. In my opinion, it will be healthier + better for you! Not to mention, you can add all the fixings you want and know what's IN your food.

Let me know your favorite foods to cook!

5 Best Websites To Look for Healthy Recipes

Instead of spending time at a restaurant, my husband and I usually opt to stay home and make our meals from scratch. Not only do I know what goes into making it, I also know what ingredients are included. I'm lactose intolerant and very ingredient-conscious, so I'm constantly checking food labels. In fact, my husband and I tend to spend 3-4 hours grocery shopping because we're always looking on the back on whatever we buy. 

Right before we go on our bi-weekly shopping trip, I usually browse through various recipes to figure out what our weekly meals will look for the week ahead. I usually check different sites, but the following are my go-to's.

1. Minimalist Baker Though she's primarily plant-based, I tend to check out her recipes because they're usually healthy and turn out well. I make her dairy-free cheese meals and I love playing around to see what I can conger up that will exude a similar taste.

2. Good Housekeeping Okay, this one might be a bit bias considering I used to intern for GH, but nevertheless, they have some great healthy recipes!

3. Well Plated by Erin Erin is dedicated to making healthy and scrumptious recipes such as Chicken Caesar Sandwich with Bacon (I sub turkey bacon), coconut flour pancakes, strawberry oat bars (which btw were out of this world) and much more!

4. Sallys Baking Addiction Sally specializes in both cooking and baking! She creates dishes with plenty of flavor without the added chemicals.

5. Delish.com Though Delish might make meals that aren't always what I'm looking for, but I usually go to them when I want to be creative. Their Goddess bowl, which is packed with plenty of protein is amazing!

These are just a few of my favorite websites. What are some online sources you use when searching for food recipes?