A Hidden Gem in the Poconos: Akwabaa The Mansion at Noble Lane Review

IMG_8233Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on hospitality-related businesses across the nation as many were forced to close their doors to ensure the safety of staff and customers. Now that the case numbers were decreasing and hotels/inn were slowly reopening their doors, I knew that I wanted to take a short socially distanced getaway during my time off. An important part of my health journey, is taking out time to take care of myself. Therefore, I decided to stay at Akwabaa The Mansion at Noble Lane, a black-owned bed and breakfast in the Poconos Mountain Region as seen on Checked Inn on OWN. I also brought along my husband, sister, and her husband. 

Prior to booking the reservation, I visited Akwabaa’s site to see its Covid-19 procedures. The site detailed the many adjustments they have made to ensure the safety of their guests. Upon arrival to the Mansion, I was immediately impressed by the beauty of the grounds. The inside of the mansion had a rustic charm that showed its age and history but with some beautiful modern updates. We were greeted by Monique Greenwood at check-in, the owner of 5 black-owned bed and breakfasts. She gave us a private tour of the Mansion, detailing its history and unique architecture. We stayed on the third floor of the Mansion in their luxury rooms. Our room had a welcome snack basket with some games, which was a pleasant surprise. 

This area of the Poconos Region is truly a gem. Our itinerary for the getaway included horseback riding at Happy Trails Stable, hiking at Prompton State Park, Boat Tour of Lake Wallenpaupack, and a picnic in the park. Every morning at the Mansion, breakfast was served at 9AM and they were able to easily accommodate me and my sister’s vegetarian dietary restriction. The food was delicious and it was comforting to be surrounded by so much black excellence. Our second day was a rainy day so we stayed at the Mansion for the full day but there was more than enough there to keep us entertained. I went to the gym in the morning and we spent the evening splashing in the indoor heated pool. We even made a few friends along the way, who happened to also be from Maryland. 

All in all, I was extremely torn between writing this review or keeping this best kept secret all to myself. I decided that it would be better to spread the word about this awesome place to stay in the Poconos area for a quiet and relaxing time. I truly appreciated how invested Monique was in every customer, how she remembered all the names, and spent time talking to us about family and values. If you ever have a chance to visit the Poconos Mountain Region, I hope you consider staying at Akwabaa the Mansion at Noble Lane.  

 

The Top 5 Hidden Sugar Offenders

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

When you think of sugars, most people think of birthday cake, ice cream, and candy! Many don’t realize that carbohydrates are actually digested and broken down into sugars prior to entering the bloodstream. Eating foods high in carbohydrates is almost synonymous to foods high in sugar.

Research studies show that excess sugar increases your risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Therefore reducing the amount of carbohydrates in your meals is essential to living a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, some processed foods and other seemingly healthier food options have a high sodium content, which is balanced out by adding hidden sugar. Foods you would assume are healthy are actually full of sugars in disguise, either as carbohydrates or added sugars.

Sugar reduction is a major component of the ketogenic lifestyle, which many including myself have attributed their significant weight loss to this method of eating. If you are transitioning to a low carbohydrate lifestyle, here are my top hidden sugar offenders to avoid:

1. Fruit Juices/Sports Drinks

Fruit juices and Sports Drinks are all carbohydrates with little to no fiber. One 20-ounce sports drink contains 34 grams of sugar! 100% Fruit Juices are in the same ballpark. Consider water, unsweetened tea or coffee as your main sources for hydration for expedited weight loss. 

2. Frozen Dinners

While frozen dinners are super convenient, they are not a healthy choice for reducing sugar. Preservatives like starch and corn syrup (which are made up of sugar) are added to keep these foods fresh, making the average carbohydrate level 30 grams or more. Sodium is also used as a preservative, which increases your cholesterol levels and increases your risk of high blood pressure. Thankfully some brands such as Atkins, Real Good Foods, Life/Lean Cuisine are providing low carbohydrate versions of frozen dinners. If you must have a frozen dinner, remember to check the nutrition facts to see if they are high in carbohydrates. 

3. Smoothies

When made the right way using vegetables as a base with some fruit for sweetness, smoothies can be a great healthy choice. However, most smoothie mixes that are sold in stores or juice bars are filled with added sugar. Fast food Smoothies also add liquid sweeteners to their blends. Your best way of avoiding hidden sugar smoothies is to make vegetable-based smoothies at home, using a handful of whole fresh berries.

4. Cereals/Granola

Granola Bars and Cereals are often advertised as a health food. However, they are essentially candy bars in disguise. With an ingredient list that includes dextrose, honey, fructose, sugar, and corn syrup, it is nearly impossible to find cereal or granolas that contains less than 10grams of carbohydrates per serving. Even the healthiest brands range from 20-30grams of carbohydrates. If you are craving a warm bowl of cereal, consider my Keto Porridge Recipe from my 7 Day Modified Keto Vegetarian Meal Plan

5. Ketchup/Barbecue Sauce

Ketchup contains 4 grams per tablespoon which can easily add up when placed on your food. Consider switching to yellow mustard, chipotle mayo, or any other cream based condiment to keep your carbohydrate levels low. 

Unfortunately, there are way more than 5 Hidden Sugar Offenders out there. Ultimately, the best way to avoid all hidden sugar offenders is to read nutrition facts prior to purchasing certain foods. Even if you think it’s healthy, you may be surprised by what you find!
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Review: Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon

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While grocery shopping at my local Giant food, I came across this vegetarian bacon that I have never seen before in the refrigerated aisles. Morningstar brand has always been my product of choice when it comes to vegetarian foods. However, I was delighted to try something new when I discovered the Sweet Earth Hickory and Sage Benevolent Bacon.

After trying Benevolent Bacon for the first time, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The smoked taste is savory and definitely gives it a more “meat-like” taste. The downside to this bacon is that even after pan-searing it with oil, it does not crisp up as much as the Morningstar brand veggie bacon or real meat. As with all vegetarian meats, you can expect a different texture than actual meat. Products that include bacon in their name often leads to misleading expectations, especially for those who are new to vegetarianism. However, as far as taste goes the benefits outweigh the negatives.

I will likely continue to encourage the use of Morningstar Brand Stripples, as mentioned in my 7-Day Modified Keto Vegetarian Meal Plan due to its carbohydrate amounts. Stripples contain 2 grams of net carbohydrates versus Benevolent Bacon, which has 5 grams of net carbohydrates. All in all, if you’re looking to incorporate more vegan/vegetarian food options to your meals, I would highly recommend this product. Rate: 8/10

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Done with Diets: Becoming the healthiest version of you

IMG_2788Honesty moment… I do not like the word diet. I’ve actually made a conscious attempt to remove this word from my vocabulary and willingly chose not to include this term in my 7-Day Modified Keto Vegetarian Meal Plan.

People often ask me if my diet is over now that I’ve achieved weight loss. My answer to that is I’ve never really been on one in the first place. I may not have realized this at the beginning of my journey but I do now. Weight loss was just a by-product to me becoming the healthiest version of myself. I encourage weight loss if it is something you need to do to improve your health. Excess weight can cause and/or make you at risk for a number of health issues including diabetes, heart disease, and much more. However, weight loss isn’t a necessity in the journey to becoming your best self for everyone. 

It’s important to remember that health is an individualized goal. Health looks different for everyone and the journey to health will look different for everyone. Everyone can be given and practice the same health techniques but everyones body may respond to it differently because we are all unique. So my question is “What does the best version of yourself look like to you? Why?” Do you feel like you need to lose weight for societal reasons or aesthetics? Does your body feel more energized or sluggish depending on what you fuel it with? Do you need help identifying what healthy looks like to you?

Comment and let me know your thoughts. 

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Veggie Tots: The Tater Tot Alternative

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Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day and the one meal where I willingly eat the most carbs. Therefore, finding a low carbohydrate tater tot alternative at my local Giant food store was the best thing for me since sliced bread. Green Giant’s Veggie Tots Broccoli and Cheese have now become the new addition to my daily breakfast. At 9 net carbs per serving, I can enjoy this side to my breakfast omelette and not exceed my carb limit for breakfast. These tots when pan seared in oil are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Foods like these veggie tots make it much easier to sustain a low-carb lifestyle without giving up the indulgences you love. 

Green Giant offers other versions of the veggie tots, including broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet potato tots. The other types of tots definitely have smoother textures on the inside, especially the cauliflower tot. The broccoli and cheese version of the tots is by far my favorite out of the bunch. The addition of the cheese helps give the tot structure and texture. I would definitely recommend these tots as a healthy alternative to potato tater tots for those embarking on a low-carb lifestyle journey. Happy Eating! 

 

Keto Mac and Cheese Recipe

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Cauliflower is one of the most versatile ingredients for the Keto Diet. This time it is used for a creamy indulgent Mac ‘n’ cheese. Yes, I know it’s cauliflower but what is the best part of Mac ‘n’ cheese then the seasoning and the cheese cause?! I’ll wait… This healthy low carb Mac ‘n’ cheese recipe with only 5 net carbs per serving is a perfect side to any protein.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (steamed and cut into florets)
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp of garlic power
  • sprinkle of cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cup of Colby Jack Cheese
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare a baking dish with Olive Oil Cooking Spray. Chop your cauliflower head in florets and steam them (with water that has been salted to taste) for approximately 6 minutes until they are tender. Strain the water from the cauliflower and pat them dry before putting it into the baking dish.

In a large saucepan, add heavy whipping cream, garlic power, onion powder, cayenne, salt and pepper to a simmering boil over medium heat. Add the Colby Jack cheese in to create a thickened cheese sauce. Pour in the cheese sauce over the cauliflower in the baking dish and then stir until the cheese is fully incorporated. Finish the top of the cauliflower with more Colby Jack cheese and the parmesan cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Enjoy!