Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

News flash: I’m in a relationship. If you know me, you know I’ve got a personal and fan page on Facebook. I’ve got a twitter account too. I share a great deal of my personal life publicly but this part I kept to myself until now. I’ve met someone great an want to introduce you to her. Her name is Jenn and, not long after we started dating, she started the Primal Blueprint lifestyle. She started making primal dinners with me and coming up with great recipe ideas.
I received an incredible surprise back on August 26th. For my birthday, Jenn took me to Cafe 118°. I hate to admit that when she told me she was taking me to a meatless, raw food, vegan restaurant the birthday excitement went slightly out of me. This was before the 30-day Primal Blueprint Challenge and in the back of my mind I was secretly hoping for a birthday dinner splurge of sushi or a churrascaria of non-stop meat. Instead we were going to Cafe 118°.

Earlier in the afternoon we found the menu online and my excitement level jumped right back up. My curiosity was peaked. The menu at Cafe 118° offers juices, smoothies, ‘milk’ shakes, living entrees, raw desserts and raw ice cream. Each of those food types has several selections beneath. They also offer a selection of white and red wines by the glass or bottle along with a warning for those that have problems with nut allergies. Joe Diaz opened this restaurant because he saw the demand growing in the area for natural, veggie-based meals. Here’s some info from the Cafe 118° website and the back of the menu:

You & Us
Cafe 118° promotes balance and health; within our food, within our family, within our community. Utilizing many locally sourced organic ingredients, our goal is to provide modern raw cuisine that will benefit your everyday life and those you share it with.

What Is Living Cuisine
Living Cuisine are foods that are highly nutritious, free of animal by-products and processed/refined sugars. These foods are heated below 118° in order to preserve their rich vitamins, enzymes, coenzymes, minerals antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber – helping bioavailability and cell reconstruction.

The most beneficial characteristics of eating Living Cuisine are they are mostly alkaline forming and naturally fortified with amino acids. The enzymes (amino acids) help facilitate digestion, while the chlorophyll content in raw food help cleanse and balance your body’s pH levels.

At Cafe 118°, we harness raw organic ingredients to satisfy your wellness. Our entrees not only offer food in its simplest, most natural state, but explode with nutrients and flavor which will charge your body, strengthen your immune system and leave you feeling invigorated, engaged and energized.


So this menu sat before us and, I must tell you, it all sounded good to me. We decided to order something from each menu section and share tastes.

Jenn ordered a Cucumber Mint Cooler ($6). It had a little fizz to it and a great, fresh and bright combination of flavors. Very refreshing.

‘Milk’ Shakes
These are dairy-free and infused with house made nut milks. I ordered the Divine Cherry ($8). It’s a blend of cherries, cacao, almond milk and banana and let me tell you that if I’m craving Cherry Garcia by Ben & Jerry’s again, I’m driving over to Cafe 118° to enjoy this instead. It was sweet, chocolatey and thick. It made me realize that, when made properly, healthy food can be just as enjoyable as the things I used to binge on before I made a conscious choice to get healthy.

Living Entrees
We started off by sharing the Spiced Macadamia Hummus ($10)
The hummus was made from Macadamia nuts and was surprisingly good in texture and seasoning. It came with Sundried Tomato and herb flax crackers that were out of this world. So a little smear of the hummus on a cracker and I was hooked. This shared appetizer didn’t last long at all.

For our meals, Jenn decided to get the ‘Lasagna’ ($18) and I ordered the Traditional Italian ($16). Being raised Italian, I tend to be a snob when it comes to restaurants trying to re-create the flavors of home. I threw that idea aside and decided to sample these entrees with a clean palate. Jenn’s ‘Lasagna’ was comprised of Sun dried tomato, herb pesto, macadamia ricotta and, where there would normally be pasta layers, there was sliced zucchini. The stack was topped with raw spinach and herb pesto and surrounded with a drizzle of oil. I found it pretty amazing that they managed to take the same macadamia nuts and combine them with a different level of moisture and seasoning and make something that tasted just like ricotta. The texture was identical. I was fooled. I’m also not a fan of crunchy veggies but by heating these to a temperature lower than 118° managed to take a good deal of the crunch away leaving only a slight bite which I didn’t mind one bit.

The Traditional Italian is Zucchini noodles topped with Sundried tomato sauce, cashew parmesan and vegetable ‘meatballs’. The ‘meatballs’ are made from a mixture of sliced tomato, avocado and hemp seed and were very delicious. I won’t lie, they aren’t like the ones mama and grandma used to make but they were surprisingly tasty and the texture was very similar to a meatball. I enjoyed them. The zucchini noodles were soft enough to twirl around my fork and, again, had just enough bite that I wasn’t put off by the crunch. The portion size on this entree was large enough that I wound up having to take it home to finish the next day. I enjoyed it both times.

Since Jenn is an incredible baker, she made me primal cupcakes so we decided to pass on dessert at Cafe 118°. We were both pretty full anyway and didn’t need to be stuffing ourselves so we left and took a break to open presents and relax. The menu offers ‘Cheese’cake, Chocolate Hazelnut Tart, Berry Parfait and ‘Smores’ along with four selections of raw ice cream. I have every reason to go back and sample the desserts. They sound amazing. I’m very excited about going again.

If you eat according to The Primal Blueprint or the Paleo Solution, Cafe 118° is worth a visit for a casual dinner or special occasion. The flavor combinations make for a very exciting time and you can walk away feeling pleasantly full and without bloated guilt. Check it out. I’ve included the details below.

What: Cafe 118°
Owner: Joe Diaz
Location: 153 East Morse Blvd.; Winter Park, FL 32789
Phone: (407) 389-2233

  • Monday: 11:30-5p
  • Tuesday – Thursday: 11:30-9p
  • Friday & Saturday: 11:30-10p
  • Sunday: Closed

Paddleboard Orlando

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Fitness, Motivational, Reviews

I’ve been talking a lot lately about my favorite outdoor activity: Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends asking things like:

What is it?
Where did it come from?
How did you get in to paddle boarding?

So I’ll take this post to tell you a little bit about it.

A Brief History…

This is going to be very brief because I haven’t actually researched where it came from until today. If you’d like the history of Paddle Boarding according to Wikipedia, click this link. As far as explaining how I got in to it, I just saw people doing it. The first one I saw was my uncle, Mark. He shared some pictures of him out in the surf and on flat water on his Facebook.

Here are a few:

That first one is my favorite. The airborne dog seems to like it too. After seeing my uncle, I started a few Google searches for Paddle Boarding and I came across Paddleboard Orlando.

Paddleboard Orlando

This seemed pretty perfect. I managed to find paddle board lessons in the town where I live. I really thought I’d need to head out to a coastal area and learn there. This was much more convenient. Paddleboard Orlando is owned by Ned Johnson and David Rose. In addition to the paddle board lessons they host, they have a paddle board store set up at Ski World Orlando. You can also shop online here: Paddleboard Orlando Store. You’ve got to take a look at both websites if you’re interested in this sport.

My First Time

Ned explains the basics.

I went out on my first paddle board lesson with Paddleboard Orlando on June 22, 2011. I was still slightly over 300 pounds and I didn’t bother mentioning that to the owners. That was bad on my part. I arrived at Dinky Dock in Winter Park just before 6:30 p.m. Ned showed up with the boards and paddles. There were around 12 other people there for the lesson. We were each fitted for proper paddle according to height. After that, we were given a board. They gave me the biggest board they had but didn’t bring a board that was large enough to support my weight. I was able to sit/kneel and paddle. I tried standing up on the board and fell off into the lake. I think after that, I was just slightly scared to try again since I wasn’t up for looking like an idiot twice. Everyone else stood up on their first try. I still had a great time. I enjoyed the feeling of being out on the water and going wherever I wanted while getting great exercise. Everyone there enjoyed the experience. Some were on their second lesson and came back with a friend. Ned was extremely informative and encouraging. I told him I’d be coming back with friends and he told me he’d bring a bigger board if I let him know in advance.

Take 2

One of the SUP Cruise Meetups

So after my first lesson, my father took an interest. He was ready to buy some paddle boards. I convinced him to come out to one of the beginner lessons with Paddleboard Orlando first. We both signed up and I asked Ned to bring the big board. This time I was under 300 pounds and determined to stand up on that board. I already had the paddling part down and just needed to balance myself enough to stand. We met on the shore by dinky dock again and Ned sized us all up for paddles and boards. After all the ladies were helped on to their boards, Ned helped me and then dad. We both stood up right away and never fell off. On top of that, I was putting a pretty good amount of strength into my strokes so I was able to stay right up at the front of the group next to Ned. The whole time he would throw me little words of encouragement by telling me “Dude I’m so stoked you’re standing”. The best part of the beginner paddle board cruise was toward the end of the lesson where Ned yelled out to the group “I’m not feeling it. Let’s stay out a bit longer.” Why not? The weather was nice. Everyone was successful and enjoying the new sport. I couldn’t get enough of it. So we all brought our boards to a spot on the water where we took a break to sit on the boards to rest and chat. It was great talking to some of the others that were first timers.

Proud Owners

On the Banana River with my new 12' paddle board.

Since that night, dad and I have been shopping around for boards and he found and purchased two twelve foot boards. We take them out on the Banana River in the morning and at sunset when I come to visit him. It really is a great way to get outside, burn some calories, take in the scenery and be at peace. I have to give major props to Paddleboard Orlando for giving me my first lessons and for getting me incredibly excited about Stand Up Paddleboarding. If you’re looking to tap in to a new outdoor activity, give this a try.

Paddleboard Orlando host multiple paddle boarding events each month. If you’re interested in signing up for one of the meetups, go to and sign up for a free account. Once you’ve done that, go look at the calendar and find a beginner SUP cruise that works with your schedule. They’ve got great special rates for Florida Residents that are well worth the price. Go check out Paddleboard Orlando and email me at to let me know if you’re going for a lesson. I’ll be glad to come along!

Talk to you later!


Yesterday I was walking around Park Avenue in Winter Park, FL. If you’ve never been there, it’s full of various shops, salons/spas and restaurants. On Saturdays there’s also a great farmer’s market held nearby.

I stumbled upon The Spice & Tea Exchange and wanted to share. When you enter the store, it’s full of shelves with glass jars containing loose teas, sugars, salts, spices and spice blends. The owner came over to welcome us and invited us to uncap any of the jars and inhale the fragrant blends.

I started off with the salts and found many of them very interesting, especially the Applewood and Hickory salts. I moved on to the spice blends and found many great varieties of curries and ethnic blends.

The spices were next and you can find everything you need including whole nutmeg and star anise. I love anise in chai and espresso.

In the middle of the room were the sugars and a sample of iced plum tea that the shopkeepers made from their loose leaf selection. It was tangy, naturally sweet and very refreshing since it was 94 degrees outside the shop door.

After the sample of tea I went over to smell some of the loose leaf tea blends. I’m a big fan of earl grey and their chocolate blend but in the end I didn’t purchase either.

I walked away with a Korean BBQ Rub and one ounce of the Cinnamon Plum tea.

Grilling the Chicken

I rubbed this chicken with the Korean BBQ blend this morning at 7 a.m., kept it refrigerated and covered and grilled it for lunch on a gas grill like this:

– Heat all burners on high to burn off food particles from last time.

– Brush the grill with a wire brush.

– Oil the grill plates.

– Turn off the right side burners.

– Grill chicken four minutes per side on the far left side of the grill and keep the cover down before and after flipping.

– After four minutes on side two, move the chicken to the far right side of the grill.

– Leave the far left burner on high and wait 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. Mine were about an inch thick and ended up going 15 minutes for perfect doneness.

The flavors are incredible. You get a distinct Asian flavor that contains sesame and a slight sweetness. If you dry out your grilled chicken, I don’t think this would taste good but when done properly utilizing a combination of direct and indirect heat like I explained makes it comes out very nice. It’s crisp and flavorful on the outside and juicy in the center. Slicing thin and resting over a salad would create a satisfying primal meal. 20110716-113536.jpg

Brewing the Tea

I warmed a glass measuring cup with hot water while the tea water came up to temperature. I emptied the measuring cup and added 1.5 tsps of the tea leaves. I covered them with 8 ounces of hot water and let them steep for 4-6 minutes since this is an herbal and takes longer than a cup of green tea. While I waited I added 1 Tbsp of Webb’s local wildflower honey to my tea cup. Using a wire strainer over my cup, I poured the steeped tea catching all the loose tea.

This tea is insanely good. You taste currants, hibiscus and plum with subtle notes of cinnamon and licorice. I enjoyed this hot cup a little more than the iced sample I tried yesterday. This is a new favorite of mine.

I can’t wait to go back and try some other teas and spices. If you’d like to check out The Spice & Tea Exchange, here’s how to do it:

The Spice & Tea Exchange
309 N. Park Avenue
Winter Park‎ FL‎ 32789
Phone: (407) 647-7423

I talked with Primal Toad this morning and he is giving me two of his smoothie recipe eBooks to add to the June giveaway. One of them will go to the winner of the blender and the other will go to the runner-up. I’ve made several of these smoothies already and they’re pretty amazing. Go check out Toad’s blog a

So I’m feeling generous. Good things are happening for me and I want them to start happening for you too. Thanks to The Primal Toad, I found a great personal blender for making primal smoothies at home. This thing is fantastic. It’s small in size but still strong enough to blend ice. It is very portable and comes with two containers and two lids. The lids have a sliding opening at the top where you can sip your smoothies immediately after blending or place a straw in there if they’re a little too thick to gulp.

I really like the fact that you just pop the container off after blending and you’re ready to go. The blades are right inside the container so you blend your drink, take the container off, open the sliding lid and you’re drinking. I’m a big fan of having less to clean in the kitchen and this blender does the trick.

I have them available for you to purchase through my amazon affiliate account. By purchasing them from these links, you get the same great items I’ve personally tested and I get a little bit of money to help with my fitness expenses, registration fees for 5ks, biking events and equipment needs.

So, if you really want it now, you can buy it by clicking here:

The Road BEYOND Warrior Dash Recommends

OR…you can…

Get Something For Free

I’ve decided to purchase an extra blender for you. It’s completely paid for and you can have it by helping me increase blog subscribers and Facebook fans. Here’s how it works:

1. You use your social networks like Twitter, Facebook and such to send people to my blog ( or Facebook Fan Page (

2. The person has to subscribe to the blog or click the LIKE button at the top of the Facebook page.

3. Once the person has subscribed/liked either or both of them they need to leave a comment on a blog post or on the fan page wall stating who referred them to the page.

The person with the most referrals on June 30th will be the proud owner of a very awesome, very new Hamilton Beach Personal Blender like I use every day. It will be shipped direct to the winner by me so there’s no cost to any of you. I’m just asking for a little of your time to help me share my blog and story with others.

Quick Fitness Update

I’m still deep in the midst of training for my first 5k run with Ben Davis on June 25th. Today was my final run for week four. I jogged a total of 16 minutes spread out in intervals. At the beginning of this week, I went 1.72 miles in 35 minutes. Today, I went 1.85 miles in 32 minutes. My Runkeeper stats say I went from 19 minutes per mile to 17 minutes per mile. I feel great today. I feel like I’m starting to accomplish greater things and as I sit here and type this blog entry, I’m REALLY glad I went jogging at 7:30 this morning because it’s pouring outside my window right now.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for taking part in the giveaway. Talk to you later!

I’ve got so much to say today and so little time to type all of it. A few weeks ago I was made aware of a way to get locally grown, organic produce in Orlando. My friend, Jenny, told me about Homegrown Co-op. In Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Cookbook he talks about where to get food and one of the things he mentions is finding a local co-op for produce. Well, thanks to Jenny, I found one.

You can click this to be transported to their site.

When you go to the website for Homegrown Co-op, you’ll find a lot of information so I’m going to only cover the basics here and tell you of my experiences thus far. On the website, they define a co-op as:

an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

This is a way for you and me to receive locally-grown, unprocessed foods from a network of local farmers that are based within 50 miles of downtown Orlando. The website says that the producers of the Homegrown Co-op range from very small to mid-sized farms. Some are certified organic through the USDA; some are Certified Naturally Grown; and others are non-certified practicing organic. We develop close relationships with our farmers, and visit their operations often to ensure the highest quality of your foods. They say it’s a little more expensive but I have yet to notice the difference if I were to go through the produce section at Publix or Whole Foods and compare costs. After two weeks, I really feel like it’s close in comparison. Also, think of what you’ll save in medical bills later by putting these good quality foods into your body instead of produce that is genetically produced, coated in wax and God knows what else…

The thing I like most about Homegrown Co-op is that they offer an item called “Season’s Pick Box”. It’s available in small, medium or large and it comes full of vegetables that are currently in season. It’s a random mix and you can’t substitute items. Let me tell you something about this item. I am not a fan of vegetables. Having switched to primal eating, it has been a challenge for me to come up with stuff I like. Since I started getting stuff from Homegrown, I have become an Iron Chef of sorts. I get home with my box and I find that there’s stuff in here I have never eaten. Things like Swiss Chard, Yellow Squash, Broccolini, Beets (YES, I ate beets) and more. My stomach says “uh-oh” but my brain says “you just spent $35 on produce. It better NOT go bad and you better FIND a way to cook it to your liking before it spoils. Your body needs this! Do it!” So I’ve had to jump on Google and start searching for things like “what to do with beets” and I have found several options.

Here’s a little breakdown of my experience with the co-op.

The first thing you need to know is that you cannot place an order in the online market unless it is between 5:00 p.m. on Sunday and 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday of each week. That is the only time that the shopping cart icons will appear for you to add your selections. The website is easy to navigate and you can choose categories from the left side that will display relative items to the right.

Week One

I decided to start with a small Season’s Pick Box. I got yellow squash, tomatoes, swiss chard, green pepper, onion and a head of Bibb Lettuce. I honestly can’t remember all of it. What I did feel is that for one person, there wasn’t enough. I will tell you it was all great. The freshness and flavor stood out nicely above what I’m used to. The co-op offers delivery for a fee depending on your zip code. For me it was $9 but I wasn’t going to be available to pick it up myself. I left a cooler outside and they promised to deliver between 2:00 and 9:00 p.m. It arrived around 7:00 p.m.

Week Two

This is what I really want to talk about. This week, I decided to drive down to the co-op to pick up my box. It’s a small building just north of downtown Orlando. You have to pick up your orders on Thursday between 2:00 and 8:00 p.m. I went at 2:30 and the parking lot was slammed. I had to block a car in just to be able to park. Luckily for me, they filled my order before his and I got out without anyone making a scene.

Inside the building, they have tables and glass coolers with a surplus of things you can buy on the spot. Eggs, breads, spices, meats and various other things. I decided to stick with my order and gave my name at the counter. The person went out of the building to another building out back and came back with a bin full of seasonal produce. NOTE: Bring your own bags or boxes to take your items home. I missed this detail and they gave me some but they didn’t have much. Next time I’ll know.

Words can’t describe it so here’s a picture:

This is a medium Season’s Pick Box. This week I got (starting at 6:00 and going clockwise-ish) 1 Onion, 2 Green Peppers, 2 Poblano peppers, 4 tomatoes, 3 cucumbers, 1 eggplant, 2 yellow squash, 1 head of bibb lettuce, 1 pound of green beans, a bunch of broccolini, beets and swiss chard. The eggs belong to my brother-in-law and sister and can be purchased separately from the co-op. Holy Cow!!! I didn’t know where to begin. I knew that there was a recipe for Swiss Chard Frittata in the Primal Blueprint Cookbook so I knew where that would go. Two days ago, a friend told me about Ratatouille. I’ve never made or eaten it so I was anxious to try it. Do you know that everything I need for Ratatouille is in this box. Ok, sure I’ll be substituting the squash for zucchini that the recipe calls for but squash is squash and it’s going to be mushy and slimy once heated so I don’t see the difference. Cucumbers. I do not like cucumbers by themselves. I went back to my middle eastern cuisine days and made tzatziki using some of the greek yogurt I had in the house. I also cut some up and made cucumber water and that’s very refreshing. The real challenge were the beets. I didn’t think I liked them and was pretty scared that they were in there. I started looking frantically for something to do. I found a recipe for a beet soup with feta over at After finishing, a quick taste revealed an earthy/sweet taste I might enjoy now and again. I went ahead and froze it into three seven-ounce portions for later days.

I also never cooked Broccolini. I didn’t even know what it was. Google took me to where I found this article about Broccolini. I really like Food Mayhem. I added them to my RSS reader so I can keep up with their blog for new food ideas.

Week two gave me much more to work with. I love that it helps me be creative again in the kitchen. I love that I’m eating things that are grown by local farmers that are monitored by the co-op for quality. This really adds a new level to the changes I’m making with my food selections. I hope you’ll find this blog encouraging and if you live in the area, that you’ll check out Homegrown Co-op for your produce, dairy, meat or miscellaneous needs.

A Quick Update

My cracked/bruised/broken rib is not fully healed but I’m pleased to report minimal pain. I’m sleeping on my back again and I’ve been biking and walking regularly. I’m going to wait to the end of a full eight weeks before trying any weightlifting again. I biked 18 miles today, 14 yesterday and there’s a chance I’ll be doing 14 tomorrow.

One more thing. I got on the scale and lost four more pounds. I’m at 321 now and all the excess weight I gained after injury from swelling and fluid retention is gone. I smiled.

If you haven’t done it yet, go to the The Road Beyond Warrior Dash Fan Page on Facebook and click the LIKE button at the top. Stop in regularly for food ideas and just to see how I’m doing.

  • If you’re one of the people that motivates me and tells me I’ve inspired you, please tell someone about my journey and how to find the blog.
  • If you’ve got a friend, co-worker, family member…ANYONE that doesn’t believe there’s still time for them to turn their life around and be healthy, please tell them about my journey and how to find the blog.

I’m doing it. If I can do it, I believe others can too. Thanks for reading and for supporting me.

Have a great Easter weekend. Talk to you later!