Journey to the Garden State

I enjoyed my last two days in Vegas in style! Accommodations by the Red Rock Resort and Casino, I got to indulge in a favorable, however empty, past time! Kind of ironic if you ask me. My daughter and friends enjoyed some fun in the sun by the beautiful Red Rock Casino pool. I tried to absorb much of the desert sun and its dry heat as I could before I left for the humid heat of the east coast. With the help of some friends, I was given a couple of memorable Bon Voyage parties most of which I can’t recall. (Again ironic) Friday night, Sean, a co-worker and friend, was dropped off by a few “unique souls” and joined us for another farewell celebration. I didn’t expect us to have much fun that my goal of departing Vegas at 3AM PST turned into 6AM PST after 3 hours of sleep. All in all, great friends sent me off making sure I’ll be sure to return. By the way, Lily, a dealer at the BJ table we played at was awesome!
With a refreshing 32oz Peach Blossom Iced Green Tea in my hand and a large Iced Coffee in Sean’s, we hit the 15 North revved and ready for this epic trip! My fourth and his first time around, we had the sunrise blinding our view of the road ahead with the excitement of reaching our first destination. As soon as our first 3 hour leg was finished, we realized this desert was larger and more boring than we had imagined. Where are the mountains of the Rockies? We definitely couldn’t wait until we saw that “Welcome To” sign and the elevation begin to rise.

Conversations were definitely had to pass the time and when you have endless dry land and rocky formations, there was plenty of it to go around. We also tried to keep our tunes going but with having only a tape deck and am/fm radio to entertain us, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Before we left, I jumped over to Best Buy across from Red Rock and purchased an AM/FM Radio Transmitter for my iPhone. It was more of a good idea than a reasonable solution. The thought was there. Basically, it only works on stations that doesn’t transmit current radio shows. But with us traveling 100 of miles in one day, every thirty minutes the station frequency changes. It was hard trying to keep the Beatles and Pink Floyd in the sound system for more than a handful of songs.

Through our travels we definitely made sure we caught a glimpse of each state’s “Welcome To” sign. Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and finally, New Jersey were the 11 new states we entered on our way from Las Vegas. By far, experiencing different parts of the country always reminds me of how small I am when it comes to the rest of the world, let alone our country. Kansas was, by far, the most boring state in the country. The same views of rolling plains and wheat fields border to border. Snoozefest is the best way I can describe that state.

Each day we drove at least 800 miles and 13 hours a day. This trip must’ve been the most unhealthy trip I’ve ever taken during my plant-strong journey. Not because I ate crap but because I hardly ate. By the time I ate at night for dinner, I couldn’t help but eat whatever I could and it usually was far from PLANTiful! 🙁 I tried which is all that matters. Remember, making the best decision possible is all that I can ask of anyone trying to live and eat this way. In reality, without proper preparation and 100% sacrifice, we can’t stay strong but it’s about making the best possible choice of food is what counts.

In Denver, we “had” to stop at the Buckhorn Exchange located downtown. The restaurant was featured on Travel Channel’s Man V. Food and was more of a novelty stop than a true dinner experience. So while we were there, why try steaks and lamb, let’s go for the Rocky Mountain Oysters, Alligator Tail, and Buffalo Sausage. Three appetizers and a great bottle of red wine for about $64 with tip. Needless to say, I regretted jumping ship from my plant-strong journey for these delicacies. The bulls balls and alligator were both deep fried and served with dipping sauce. What a special treat…fried food! Ugh! Made the experience a lot worse. Maybe they could’ve served the bulls balls tenderized and stewed in a light white wine broth and the alligator sautéed scampi style. The deep fry of offal and reptile was not easy to stomach.

In St. Louis, we enjoyed three tourist hotspots. Arriving late and starved, we stumbled upon St. Louis Q, probably one of the most unique bbq spots ever. A small shop that bbqs everything on a aged grill in the garage adjacent to the store. Inside we walk into a small counter-style BBQ storefront featuring some authentic eats. What made it unique were the cardboard pieces written with movie titles plastered and scattered all around the store and tv display. What was playing on the tv, you ask? A pirated DVD of Men In Black 3 adorned the screen. Order and watch a movie while you wait. Amazing concept! Just in case, $3 for one and $5 for two. For only $27, we bought a slab of ribs, green beans, baked beans, sliced white bread, and a copy of MIB3 and the Avengers. What a deal! Quite simply, ribs were fall-off-the-bone perfectly cooked and the BBQ sauce perfectly spiced. True St. Louis style BBQ done right! The DVDs weren’t a bad copy either. 😉
In the morning, we planned on getting up at 6AM and leaving at 7AM. By that time, Sean and I thought, “When in Rome…?” We went to visit the “Gateway to the West,” the St. Louis Arch! It was a purely amazing site. Futuristic architecture of the past. It was exactly what was envisioned by President Jefferson for his National Expansion Memorial. For only $10, you can travel 630 feet up into the clouds and view St. Louis from small slits at the top-center of the arch. Totally worth it just as long as you aren’t, “claustrophobic, afraid of heights, and nauseous.”


For lunch, we thought, “Let’s YELP it and find a great eatery! I’m hungry!” I was directed to the Soulard Coffee Garden, a family-owned restaurant in a chic neighborhood with a backyard and patio to offer a great ambience of St. Louis. It was the first restaurant I was excited to enjoy a plant-strong meal at. Check it out if you’re ever there, I promise you won’t regret it!
Well finally by 12 noon, we started our final leg and headed towards New Jersey. Let me start off by saying, “Bad move!” We had a 17 hour drive ahead of us and there was no way we would make it before the start of the next day. But at least we enjoyed what St. Louis had to offer. Again, “When in Rome…!” I didn’t enjoy the drive through Pennsylvania and New Jersey due to the rain and pitch-black road. But we were almost there…New Jersey…home!

4:30AM and we arrive in Lyndhurst, NJ! After 40 hours and 2,520 miles later, we get to our destination. Phew! I never thought ‘Dodgy,” my 2002 Durango would make it but she surprised me the most! Finally, the start of my new chapter in life. New opportunities, new networks of friends, rekindled friendships, and a better life for my beautiful daughter and her gay, single father…we need a reality show! Haha!

[SMN PLANTicious Recipe] Sunday Chili

I featured this chili recipe at my last Engine 2, 28-Day Challenge cooking class at Whole Foods Market, Henderson. it was a hit with the challengers as well as the “meat-eaters” back in the kitchen. This “Super Bowl Chili” is great for tailgating and for your next family gathering. I’m positive it’ll hold up at your next company Chili-Cookoff but just make sure you give me some kind of credit. ;-D

This particular chili recipe has been transformed three times before it was made into perfection. It started out as a friend’s vegan chili, then into my turkey/meat chili, then into this magnificent creation. This is everything a chili is described to be, hearty, spicy, bold, and comforting but of course built with my own spins and secrets. I promise that once eating this chili you may not go back to that boring crock-pot stew. If anything, take this as a base or guideline and run wild with it.


Ingredients: low sodium vegetable stock, corn, bell peppers, Anaheim chili peppers, red onions, garlic, whole peeled tomatoes, red kidney beans, pinto beans, tamari, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, thyme, ground black pepper, and two secret ingredients! (AS ALWAYS, IF YOU WANT THE FULL RECIPE, SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG AND LEAVE A COMMENT OR YOU CAN EMAIL ME DIRECTLY!)

Remember that this recipe and all of my PLANT-STRONG recipes will always be free of processed oils, meats, dairy, and extremely low to no added sodium!

What I love about this dish is that you get your complete proteins along with plenty of natural sources of vitamins and minerals. It’s also high in fiber and flavor! Like I said, use this as a guideline and add your favorite vegetables to this. Have fun with it and explore the seasoning section of your local all-natural grocer (WHOLE FOODS MARKET) and have at it. Remember that seasonings always count for “free flavor.” what I mean by that is that using dried herbs and seasonings pack your dish full of flavor and absolutely no calories!


If you liked this blog or want the full recipe for this or any other dish, subscribe and leave a comment. You can also email me at

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