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Entries in FitMamaEats (181)


Field Trip to Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Kickboxing Class

I feel blessed to live in a time when health and wellness is on people's minds. It has always been my passion and now everyone else seems to agree. Everywhere you look...the successful growth of healthy supermarket chains and restaurants, fitness boutiques specializing in one exercise format, and corporate employee wellness programs are all signs that people are hungry to get fitter and healthier.

Along those lines, a recent field trip took me down to Seekonk, Massachusetts. I went mainly to visit Tropical Smoothie Cafe, who had invited me to taste their healthful fast food menu and just opened this particular branch last Tuesday. Though they have four locations in Massachusetts, the closest to me is 30 miles away in Seekonk. But I didn't mind because I'm very familiar with the locale, having grown up next door in Barrington, Rhode Island. The strip of stores in Seekonk where I often shopped as a teenager has exploded with new businesses, a great thing to see! Serendipitously, my young niece Alexa (who's a contributor to this blog and now a certified personal trainer) informed me that she recently started teaching kickboxing classes at ILoveKickboxing.com located right next to Tropical Smoothie Cafe. So I woke up early one Friday morning and commuted south to take her 9:00 am class and then refresh at the cafe. Perfect!

First off, at the risk of offending both businesses, I'll admit that I wasn't expecting much from either as I thought the names were cheesy. Now having experienced both, I'll explain that the reason I dislike the cafe name is because it suggests a juice and smoothie bar (a dime a dozen nowadays). But their sandwiches, flatbreads and wraps are out of this world! The "ILoveKickboxing.com" name sounds trite and wishy washy, but the class was incredibly intense and hard core. Though all young women attended my session, I'm sure there are plenty of guys who would not last an entire class!

Walking into Tropical Smoothie Cafe for the first time made me smile. Bright, cheerful, sunny, clean and modern with a warm friendly staff. 

Tropical Smoothie Cafe is a popular national chain, now located at 20 Commerce Way in Seekonk, MA.

One half of the menu boasts a nice selection of sandwiches on seeded or ciabatta bread, flatbreads, wraps, tacos and saladsall with very fresh meats and vegetables. Smoothies rule the other half of the menu: "Classics" like their Sunrise Sunset (strawberries, pineapple, mango and orange juice) or "Superfoods" such as the Avocolada (avocado, pineapple, spinach, kale, coconut and lime). There are add-in "supplements" like vitamin C complex, probiotics, vitamin B12, and whey, soy or pea protein...and more natural add-ins like ginger, whole grain oats or ground flaxeed. Smoothies range from $4.69-5.49 for a whopping 24 ounces. The cafe offers full disclosure of their nutrition information, and yes, almost all the smoothies have at least 300 calories (up to 700 calories) so choose your smoothie wisely! Keep in mind that turbinado sugar is added to these drinks, so opting for Splenda instead of sugar reduces calories significantly...or better yet just request no added sweeteners of any kind.

I ordered all vegetarian, starting with the special smoothie of the day Blueberry Bliss (blueberries, strawberries, banana) with an add-in of powdered spinach and kale. Followed by two sandwiches made with Beyond Meat Chicken-Free strips in place of regular chicken: Baja Chicken Flatbread (green/red peppers, red onions, romaine, lowfat mozzarella and light southwest ranch dressing) and the Thai Chicken Wrap (wontons, carrots, sesame seeds, romaine, cilantro, scallions and peanut sauce). Both sandwiches were less than 560 calories. The sodium was not low; I won't go into details as you can view yourself but sodium is not an issue for me especially after that kickboxing class where I sweated out about 3 pounds of fluid and electrolytes!

Blueberry Bliss Classic Smoothie, made darker by the spinach/kale add-in. Notice how it's so thick, the liquid remains in the whole straw.

My second smile came after tasting. Awwwesomme!! The Blueberry Bliss was thick, creamy and full of real berry flavor. One of the best smoothies I've ever had. The flatbread and wrap were lightly toasted, adding a unique crispness. I devoured the warm Baja Chicken Flatbread...it was such easy comfort food. The Chicken-Free strips had the texture and flavor of chicken and the vegetables were fresh. The Thai Wrap with peanutty flavor was also nourishing and authentic. However I ate most of the wrap before noticing that I forgot to look for the wontons. Don't recall seeing them inside the sandwich so I'll have to reorder another time to check. At $4.60-6.99, these sandwiches are filling and nutritious. The wrap came with one side (fresh orange, apple, kettle chips, fruit medley, or kale & apple slaw). I chose the slaw, yummy with slices of freshly cut green apples and chopped kale.

Thai Wrap (above) and Baja Flatbread (below) both made with Beyond Meat Chicken-Free strips at no extra charge.

Check out this place if you can! I can at least vouch for this location that the staff is lovely and the food tastes amazing. It's affordable and the nutritionals are excellent for "fast food." 

As for the kickass kickboxing classes a few doors down, they are having a special offer for new students: $20 for 3 classes and a pair of boxing gloves to keep! There are morning and evening classes Mon-Fri, and morning classes Saturdays. The workout is performed in socks or bare feet on high density foam flooring. Part One is conditioning with jogging, squats, squat jumps, planks, mountain climbers, etc. Part Two is a series of 7 rounds of different combos of punches and kicks using the punching bag. Part Three is partner work that may include abs or other targeted muscle groups. I think of it as a blend of CrossFit, circuit training and HIIT. The energy from the music and motivational instructors is through the roof. Check out this promo video:

Twenty-four hours later (that included a step class I had to teach that night) I could barely walk. I think of my lower half as pretty strong but my quads/hams/gluts were super sore and tight like never before. My upper back and arms ached as well. I'm leery of HIIT because of neck and lower back pain that can act up with certain workouts, but 48 hours later my entire body had recovered. I'd taught a Zumba class the next morning, which actually further helped dispel the soreness.

The boxing floor and bathrooms were immaculate. The fitness room was wiped down and sanitized after class. Keep in mind that this is a chain, so I can't confirm that every branch is the same quality. If you're new to exercise or have injuries, be sure to chat with the instructors before class starts so they can demonstrate modifications during class. ILoveKickboxing.com Seekonk is located at 20 Commerce Way. Call 401-479-0100 for more info. If Seekonk is too far, check out the web link above to find ILoveKickboxing.com classes closer to Boston or across the country. 

Disclosure: I received gift cards from Tropical Smoothie Cafe, which helped facilitate my restaurant review.


Treat: A Cupcakery Standing Strong

I'd never thought much about cupcakes until one day about five years ago when I walked past a bright, extremely cheerful new storefront in Needham Center. I had just finished a visit with former coworkers at a medical journal on Pickering Street that I'd worked at for several years, and was seeking an afternoon snack. The minute I stepped in, I knew I'd found something special. Treat Cupcake Bar opened its doors in July 2010, and I wrote a review in August Getting Tipsy at the Bar. At that time until now, I marvel how their vegan gluten-free cupcakes (made with flaxseed and chick pea flour) taste moister and more delicious than their regular cupcakes. Their build-your-own cupcake remains a popular choice for cupcake lovers of all ages.

So what's new? For one, it has survived the invasion of cupcakeriesmore than a dozen in the Boston area—to open a second location at The Street Chestnut Hill. In addition, the original Needham location has expanded by purchasing the adjacent space (previously Swizzles frozen yogurt), preserving the froyo concept but renaming it The Dessert Workshop.

When you first enter the expanded store in Needham, you have the choice to go right or left...

Left takes you to The Dessert Workshop where you can customize a frozen dessert with dozens of flavor options

Right takes you to cupcake heavenLast week I chatted with Sarah Waters, the marketing and events manager at Treat. She shared an update on this successful community-centered business. 

Q: Since you opened in July 2010, how is business?

A: Business is an adventure. Running three storefronts is an interesting way to connect with the community and to learn the pulse of a neighborhood. What makes it fun is meeting the families and being a very sweet part of their milestones. We have had the honor of having first dates and proposals, as well as creating custom wedding cupcakes and then baby shower cupcakes for the same families!

Q: It seems that so many cupcakeries have opened in the Boston area...do you feel this is a very competitive business? What makes Treat unique from other cupcake stores?

A: Having a cupcakery is a competitive business to be in for sure. What makes us unique is we care deeply about our community so we listen closely to what our customers want from us. This is what helps us evolve and stay present. 

Q: What is your top selling cupcake flavor?

A: Love this question but sometimes it is hard to answer! If I had to really choose I have to choose the Sprinkle Me Silly cupcake, which is a confetti cake with our classic buttercream and sprinkles. But, my cupcake of choice is the Chocolate Surprise...a gold cupcake filled with fudge and swirled with cream cheese frosting.

Q: Some of my friends especially love Treat because they serve allergen-free cupcakes. Are these a big seller for you? 

A: Our Gluten Free / Dairy Free / Egg Free / Vegan options are absolutely flying! They are the fastest growing part of our business. And we have expanded our Gluten Free options to include muffins, loaves and meringue cookies!

Q: It was a bold move to add a frozen yogurt shop to the mix (especially when the previous owners were struggling). But it looks fantastic! Has it enhanced the cupcake store?

A: Thanks for asking about The Dessert Workshop. The addition of the shop gives our customers the option to have soft-serve ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt or even vegan sorbets in a cup or added to a cupcake. It's a way to increase the creativity at Treat and we are enjoying the new addition. 

Q: How about offering a frequent cupcake buyer card (say, buy 12 get 1 free) for cupcake fanatics like me? 

A: Great idea! We'll have to give this some thought!

Ice Cream Sundae Cupcake

Hazel-nutty CupcakeTreat Cupcake Bar is located at 1450 Highland Avenue, Needham, and at 40 Boylston Street, THE STREET, Chestnut Hill, MA.


Pumpkin Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Cashew Cream

I don't love the hot and humid of summer and yet I was sad when August faded, replaced by hints of fall: back-to-school sales, olive and mustard hues in mall stores, and the most obvious—pumpkin recipes. Guess I just wasn't ready to let go of summer highlights like ice cream on the beach and wearing flip flops every day.

But pumpkin has been showing up everywhere, including inside a package I received from Stop & Shop promoting their new pumpkin products. So I've decided to be a grateful New Englander and embrace the changing seasons, starting with a new fall recipe for pumpkin pizza.

It's inspired from flavors that I already like. I used the Stop & Shop pumpkin sauce as a base instead of tomato, and added caramelized onions to heighten its natural sweetness. As a change, I experimented cooking the onions in a little maple syrup instead of regular sugar and they came out great! I then covered the sauce and onions with corn and black beans, a common duo, and arugula. I decided to skip the cheese—I know, a pizza sacrilege—but two ingredients were a great substitute: cashew cream and nutritional yeast. Cashew cream is so easy to make...just soak cashews for 30 minutes or overnight and blend with water. I made it similarly to this easy recipe except I used roasted instead of raw cashews. After the pizza ingredients were heated through and the dough was nicely browned, I drizzled on the rich cashew cream and sprinkled the nutritional yeast, which has a naturally cheesy flavor. Yum! I completely forgot about real cheese.

I mean seriously, this is simple deliciousness.

Disclosure: I received the above pumpkin products from Stop & Shop in kind, which helped facilitate my recipe.