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Hooray!  I’m so so glad you guys like the new look.  I could never have done it without Julie’s services, so if you’re looking for a blog makeover, she’s your gal.  Seriously.  She took a sketch of a header I drew and made it into the reality that you now see.  It’s amazing.  And she was ever-so-patient with my (nonexistent) technology skills.  Not that it’s over…there are still some kinks to be worked out, but for the most part things are running smoothly. 

Feel free to click around and let me know what you think.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated so I can make my site as user friendly (and pretty) as possible.  Aside from the font, which people have mentioned can be difficult to read, let me hear your thoughts!

Moving on…

Night shift steam rolled on by these past two days. 

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I actually really lucked out with my patient load…not only were they the sweetest group of people, but they were stable and compliant and slept through the night.  In the words of Michael Scott: win win win.

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Now that I’m riding my bike to work, it allows for a more restful day too.  I don’t feel rushed and/or anxious about when I’m going to squeeze in exercise (while still letting myself sleep in some) and my commute time is always the same.  For those unfamiliar with LA traffic, having a constant like that is invaluable. 

Biking to work means I can leave the apartment at 5:45 pm, arrive at the hospital at 6:15 pm, clean up, change into scrubs, relax, and I’m ready to get my nurse on when 7 pm rolls around.  Much better than guessing how the day’s 405/Wilshire drama is going to go down (my commute by car can take anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes, no joke).  That construction is getting to be too much stress! 

Next month they are closing the entire freeway down (July 15-18th) and the hospital is already looking to recruit staff to spend the night.  I predict a riot.  Or maybe a plot for J.J. Abrams’ next movie…

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The only thing you need to know about this bowl of oats is that it was made with almost as much peanut butter and raisins as oats

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The combo of PB&R (not to be confused with the beer PBR) makes breakfast (or early dinner in my case) taste like cookie dough. Anyone else think that raisins are very underrated in the oatmeal world?  Or maybe you never consider the rankings of breakfast ingredients like I do…  Eh.  Your loss. 

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Work eats were packed, as per usual…

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Sidekicks of mixed nuts, Three Sisters honey graham cereal (obsessed!!!), apples, and cherries.

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Salad with veggies and grains galore, topped with chopped seitan

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This salad was an everything in the fridge kind of situation.  In other words, a delicious, one-of-a-kind beast.  It fueled me all through the night.  Also, I had fun coworkers to work with, which always makes shifts fun and fast.

How is your work commute?  Do you drive?  Bus?  Subway?  Is it the same every day or does traffic come into play?

Tasting the competition

I have made it my personal mission to try Surprisingly Vegan’s competition…

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It’s a hard job, but somebody’s gotta do it.*  Right?

*False: nobody has to do it, this is an entirely self-imposed task

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Peanut butter melted on top of fresh strawberry slices on top of a frozen waffle.  All in the name of brand research…

I will spare you the name of the company I tried here (it was also vegan and gluten free), but let the record state, the frozen varieties may as well be toast because there wasn’t much waffle flavor going on.

They were crispy and hard, like overly-toasted bread, not thick and soft like the Belgian waffles I’ve been enjoying lately.

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I am spoiled.

My second attempt was better, but that’s because I turned to what I know best…

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Peanut butter and chocolate.  None of this one or the other business.  Both.

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Kinda sloppy, but that’s not really a concern when you are doing the hand-to-mouth shuffle shovel. 

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I’m maintaining my position though.  These vegan and gluten free frozen waffles needed MAJOR enhancing with toppings…whereas Surprisingly Vegan’s waffles are delicious plain. 

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Nothing on top.  Excellent as is. 

[I’m obviously 100% biased here, which is why no brand names are mentioned, but I’m fairly certain everyone would agree with my “research findings”]

This is the first post in a series of posts I’m working on for everyone who has requested that I share my tips on packing food for a long work day. 

As some one who (a) has 12 hour shifts and (b) has fairly high standards for what I put in my body, it’s easier for me to pack my own meals. 

The obstacles for such a feat include: access to a fridge, storage space for ‘yo extra stash, and anticipating cravings.

I’ll address packing my daily eats in a future post.  For now, I’m going to share what I keep stored in my locker.  There are several things I keep on hand at all times and that’s because I’m a former girl scout unwilling to resort to sub-par processed food options. 

The things I’m going to list are my personal faves.  I have a locker that I can keep most of these in, but as I eat things, I sub new items in.  Either way, I make sure my stash is always loaded with choices.  Salty, sweet, quick, just-add-water, chewy, crunchy, whatever.  For those of you who have desk jobs, you can just as easily devote one of your drawers to the following. 

Bars

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No, I don’t keep that entire box at work.  That’s part of my home supply. 

1.  Options with chocolate/peanut butter/nuts for dessert-like cravings. 

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They are healthier than a candy bar and do the trick if I’m in the mood for a treat. 

My favorites include:

  • Larabar (chocolate chip brownie, peanut butter chocolate chip, peanut butter cookie, cashew cookie, etc.)
  • ProBar Halo (s’mores, rocky road, nutty marshmallow, honey graham)
  • Clif bar (peanut toffee buzz, coconut chocolate chip, and the seasonal flavor iced gingerbread)
  • MoJo bar (peanut butter pretzel, dipped chocolate peanut)
  • Z bar (chocolate chip, chocolate brownie, honey graham)
  • Odwalla bar (choco-walla, dark chocolate chip walnut, mocha-walla, chocolate peanut butter)

There are many many others, but those are my top picks.  Costco sells great flavors of Clif bars and Z bars in bulk. 

2. Options with fruit and/or berry flavors for when I’m wanting a non-dessert-like bar.  

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Some of the best in this area are:

Corazona’s oatmeal squares (apple cinnamon, cranberry flax)

KIND bars (blueberry pecan, cranberry almond, apple cinnamon and pecan)

Odwalla bars (berries-go-mega, strawberry pomegranate, blueberry swirl, superfood, super protein)

Mrs. May’s bars (blueberry, cranberry, strawberry & tropical Trio bars) – also available in bulk from Costco

Clif bar (blueberry crisp, spiced pumpkin pie)

Larabar (blueberry muffin, coconut cream pie)

This list of bars is by no means exclusive, because I pick up new ones to try at random all the time.  At any given point in time I will have 3-5 bars in my locker.  I keep the ratio pretty much 50/50 between the chocolate category and the fruity category.  While some of these bars are processed more than others, they are still generally healthier choices than what you’d find in a vending machine.  And on night shift, there’s nowhere else to turn.  So there’s lesson one: stay stocked in the bars department.

Drink Mixes

These are helpful when you aren’t necessarily hungry, but you also need something to keep you going.  For me, this is often on night shift. 

And the best thing about drink mixes is that they take up little to no space.  Also, they don’t go bad, so you can keep them on hand indefinitely.

1.  Green mixes

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If you are die hard, Amazing Grass makes plain wheat grass and green mixes.  If you are into the more (ahem) flavorful options, I’m right there with ya.

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I adore Amazing Grass’ chocolate and orange creamsicle green superfood drink powder packets.

Seriously, these are SO good.  Just add water or milk and you’re instantly ready for the rest of the work day!  Patient in four-point restraints?  Bring it on!  [Ok, nothing makes me that amped]

2.  Emergen-C

I like nearly every flavor, but I usually get the pink lemonade because a portion of the proceeds goes to breast cancer research.  The fizz gives me an instant boost (and some mega Vitamin C too).

3.  VIA packets/tea bags

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Hospitals should have coffee available for their staff 24/7 if they want what’s best for patients.  Obviously, I bring my own java to work…but let’s be real, I have way more than one mug-full of caffeine over the course of a 12 hour shift.  Our cafeteria serves Starbucks coffee, but I can’t exactly leave the unit for a refill.  Plus, it closes at 10 pm, which doesn’t help me at all on night shift.  If you are lucky enough to work in a place that has a coffee maker in the break room, props to you.  We do, but it’s not good.  For these reasons, I rely on Starbucks’ VIA packets and the likes.  Instant coffee isn’t as good as the real deal, but it’s ok in a pinch.

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As for teas, I have many favorites.  I guzzle tea (way more than I guzzle coffee) so I go through my supply crazy fast (and am therefore constantly replenishing it).  I’m planning to write a detailed post on my favorite teas later, so for now, I’ll just say that I have a wide variety of tea bags in my stash.  Decaf, semi-caf, mega-caf, etc.  Tazo, Yogi, and Numi are my go-to brands.  Flavor-wise I love me some chai. 

4.  Protein powder

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I use these far less often that the previously mentioned drink mixes, but they are still good to have on standby.  Vega’s vanilla chai mix is the best.  Obviously it’s preferable to use it in a smoothie (blended with spinach, banana, and almond milk), but what can you do?  It’s still grrrreat when shaken not stirred into water, milk, yogurt or oats.

Packaged

1. Oatmeal mixes

DIY baggies of oats are simple enough to make – just throw oats in a ziplock bag and add in whatever extras you enjoy (dried fruit, nuts, stevia, brown sugar, cinnamon, etc.).  Then, when you are out of food and thinking you’re screwed because there’s nothing in the vending machine but Snickers and Lay’s, you’ll remember you have oats in your locker.  Pour into a cup, add hot water, and voila! 

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If you have enough room, you can always store Dr. McDougall’s hot cereal cups.  They have great flavors and they are pure, wholesome, and really yummy.  But if you’re lacking in space, the DIY baggies are way more practical.

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Three Sisters Cereal makes instant flavored oats too (plain grain, dark chocolate, cinnamon & apples, brown sugar & maple) that have nothing but pure, quality ingredients.  They are cleverly crafted to function as a measuring cup for the water too, but I already know how much water to add to my oats.  This brand is only sold at WF. 

In any event, having something healthy and hearty like oatmeal as a back-up is definitely a must.  Plus, if I ever feel crummy and/or my packed eats aren’t doing it for me, oatmeal is one thing my stomach can always handle and never gets tired of.

2.  Snacks

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Kaia foods has stellar products that defy the laws of packaged eats.  I love their raw granola and nut/seed mixes (they are usually in the raw section of the grocery store). 

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Love Grown Foods (among other companies) makes individual packets of items like granola, but don’t worry if you can’t find these in stores.  I get samples from companies, so I often bring them to work because the size is perfect.  But I also portion out cereal and granola into ziplock bags (just like I do with oatmeal) to keep on hand.  This is a more green (aka hippie-friendly) approach to food storage anyway and it’s generally cheaper than buying mini-servings of products.  Just remember to bring home the plastic bags to reuse once you’ve eaten their contents.  

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Annie’s Home Grown sells mini-snack packs too.  I don’t eat these frequently but I have some of the Bunny Fruit Snacks in my locker for no reason other than emergency purposes. 

3.  Nuts/trail mix

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Costco sells lunchbox friendly packets of both nuts and trail mix, which Kyle brings to school every day.  Even though, I also pack nuts in my lunches, I keep a backup plastic bag of nuts in my locker…just in case. 

Same goes with trail mixes.  DIY nut/fruit/cereal mixes are one of the most basic snacks and they are also what I turn to first.  For reals.  I go through home-made batches quicker than Gaga goes through hair dye. 

Here’s my #1 mix:

  • almonds
  • carob chips
  • dried cranberries
  • raisins
  • cereal (two kinds- ie cheerios, honey grahams)

4.  Dried fruit

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This is another simple snack that has a long shelf life.  I don’t keep the entire bag in my locker – just enough to get some fruit in my system when I’m running on empty.  It’s definitely a more healthy option for when I’m scrounging. 

5.  Nut butters

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My locker is small, so I don’t have room for an entire jar.  Thus, squeeze packets are my next best option.  In terms of storage, these are real estate gold.  They are tiny in size, but super nutrient dense.  Artisana, Justin’s, and Sunbutter all make a variety of nutbutter flavors in squeeze pack form.

Add to oats or on top of rice cakes, crackers, pitas, tortillas, whatever.

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I guess there’s nothing wrong with a straight shot of PB to the mouth either.

Just remember that variety is key, as is having healthy (but satisfying) options.  And you have to be realistic.  Bringing in a pound of carrots is neither practical nor pragmatic.  I try to anticipate my cravings, and rather than nip them in the bud, I honor them, but with a more wholesome food choice than whatever I would turn to without my back-up supply. 

So there you have it!  Locker loading 101 – lesson complete. 

Go collect these goodies to stash in your work space and you’ll never resort to crappy food again.  Questions?  Ask away. 

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Coming up next…power lunches!  Fresh fare to keep your appetite at bay the healthy way. 

PB&J thumbprint muffins

The Green Market Baking Book is full of recipes by amazing chefs like Alice Waters and Dan Barber. 

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And Chef Ann Cooper!  The recipe is actually vegan, but I didn’t have half the items on hand.  So then I did what I do best…took the inspiration and ran with it…making an entirely new recipe altogether. 

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And they wound up tasting AWESOME.

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So here’s what you need.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint Muffins (vegan)

Ingredients:

[dry]

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour*
  • 2 tbsp whole rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup NuNaturals stevia baking mix*
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp Salba*
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts

[wet]

  • 3/4 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup soymilk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vanilla soy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • blackberry preserves (or whatever jam you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350.

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Combine all the dry ingredients (but only half of the peanuts).

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Mix wet ingredients together separately (except strawberries and blackberry preserves), and then add to dry ingredients.

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Fold in strawberries.

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Add to greased muffin tins, filling them only 2/3 way up. 

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Then make little thumbprint divots in the middle of the batter of each muffin and scoop 1 tsp of blackberry jam into them.

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It doesn’t have to be perfect.

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Next, add remaining nuts to the tops of the muffins. 

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Oven ready.

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After 20 minutes in the oven, check and see if a toothpick comes out clean.  They should take 18-22 minutes to bake depending on how packed your muffin tins are. 

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The smell of these was RIDICULOUS.  Waiting for them to cool was torture.

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I halved the recipe and made another batch of mini-muffins, too.  These were without the peanut and jelly top layer though.

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So small and cute!

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I’m happy to report both of my official (non-vegan) taste testers were big fans.  The outcome was 100% delicious and tasted exactly like a PB&J sandwich. 

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It’s been only four days since I made them, and there are only a few left!  Good thing I froze some, too. 

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The minis are just as tasty.  And since they are so small, I can eat six at a time without feeling like I’m being a piglet.  And by six I mean ten. 

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Mmmm. 

*Substitutions wise, if you can’t find (or afford) coconut flour, NuNaturals stevia mix, or Salba, you can sub in different things but I can’t promise it will taste the same.  Coconut flour gives a delicious flavor unlike anything else, but whole wheat flour will work for all intents and purposes.  As for the stevia, you can use any other vegan sweetener, like turbinado sugar or coconut sugar.  Salba is similar to chia seeds and acts like an egg in vegan baking.  Alternatively, you can use chia seeds or ground flax with this recipe. 

Saturday take-away

Working on the weekends isn’t too bad when the days are mellow and the weather is mediocre (I swear I heard the phrase “June gloom” six hundred and fifty three times yesterday).  Having interesting patients helps too…

My shift flew by and as 7 pm approached I texted dinner plans to Kyle. 

me: Veggie Grill take-away tonight?

kyle: yes.  what do you want?

me: Baja Fiesta salad, add chik’n, dressing on the side

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Done and done.

I got this same order last time so I knew it would hit the spot. 

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This time I had my camera to take photos of my Baja Fiesta salad at home (as opposed to my cell phone for sub-par pics).

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Chopped romaine, papaya, avocado, roasted corn salsa, quinoa, cucumber, cilantro, tortilla strips and a ginger-papaya vinaigrette (plus the chillin’ chickin’ I added on).

I love their ginger papaya vinaigrette, but I also squeezed some lime juice in for an acidic punch.  It complements the avocado.  :)  

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I also dumped some extra quinoa on top because I like carbs

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Obviously none of these tweaks were necessary, and getting the salad how it’s intended in the restaurant is perfectly delicious.  I’m just unable to leave anything be once it enters the kitchen.  Cookbook recipes included.  Anyone else have this problem?

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Kyle got the All Hail Kale salad, which is one I’ve been eyeing for some time now.   I’m glad he got it so I could scope out how it looks. 

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It has marinated kale and red cabbage, roasted corn salsa, agave-roasted walnuts with a ginger-papaya vinaigrette (you can add blackened chickin’ or tempeh for extra).  Kyle got it with blackened chickin’ and a side of sweetheart fries (aka sweet potato fries).

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He said it was really good.  In fact, he was talking about it all night…so I’m not sure what he was expecting, but clearly it was way better than he was anticipating.  I don’t think I need to say how the fries were.  They were obviously outstanding. 

The Veggie Grill is definitely becoming a staple take-away in our lives.  It’s such an easy option – fast and fresh – plus I adore that they are bringing veg-friendly fast food to the masses.  I will support that.  They recently opened a new restaurant in The Grove, too.  Expand and dominate a la Starbucks!  Now if only they would open up their next location on the I-5. 

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After dinner I had a lot lot lot of dessert.  I lost track of the number of rice cakes I had, but I know that the peanut butter jar was left feeling significantly ravaged. 

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I’m not an overly dramatic person (must be the residual effects of my tomboy youth…) but I have to say, the lack of candied ginger in ALL the local Whole Foods stores has me freaking out.  I am officially out.  Like Kyle’s chapstick stash, I had back-ups upon back-ups, but they are all depleted now.  Yikes.  Hoarding fail.

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It gets worse!  The above photo is the last of my carob chip stash too.  Folks, this is a state of national emergency. 

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My pre-packed work eats will just have to do without my beloved ginge. 

More leftover Surprisingly Vegan waffles with frozen bloobs (they thaw by the time I eat/heat it the next day). 

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Plus, some Artisana raw cacao bliss nut butter.  For the record, this flavor needs mega kneading before it’s ready to squeeze, but it’s worth the hand exercise.  Mmmmm…

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Cherries, apple, dried fruit, yadda yadda. 

Not the best snacks for eating on the go, but the weekends are generally slower paced on the weekends so I pack fewer bars and more fresh fare.

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I did have one of my favorite desserts though…easy enough to eat whenever and/or wherever.  Nana’s Oatmeal Raisin cookies are a gift to vegans. 

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My salad is admittedly hideous, so for the record, please ignore it’s appearance.  It has huge amounts of avocado and leftover tofu stir-fry on mixed greens

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Happy weekend all!  Who else is working?  Who is lounging in the sun for me?

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If I had to summarized Monday through Thursday in a single post…well…I can’t, so I don’t know how to end that sentence.  But, where I was going with that intro was to say my week has been packed and amazing.

Highlights reel?  Sure, why not.

Monday slash Tuesday I had night shift stuff.  The only thing of note food-wise was how many berries I consumed over the course of the day. 

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I have likely met my Vitamin C quota until October. 

I also made a pita pie (for those of you who keep asking about the-best-pita-ever, it’s from Whole Foods and the brand is called Turlock Pita Bread). 

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My gorgeous pie was toasted then layered (generously) with Tropical Traditions coconut peanut butter and very thinly sliced golden delicious apples.

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Any meal that has fewer than five ingredients, takes under five minutes to make, AND tastes this good should be illegal.  Or accepted into the Foodie Hall of Fame.  Is there such a thing?  Nope. 

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I also did some late night therapy baking.  I find it a very soothing thing.  Just me and the oven, and the rest of the day fades away…

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Kyle’s a big fan of these nights.  Unlike retail therapy, they don’t cut into our vacation rent funds, plus they yield delicious treats.  Who else uses cooking/baking in this way?

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(Vegan) peanut butter and jelly thumbprint muffins.  Recipe on the way!

Wednesday morning wasn’t notably interesting, but I did make a really really yummy tropical smoothie.

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I had it with a massive bowl of cherries (since the strawbeezies are done-zo).

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I didn’t measure anything, but it had: light unsweetened soymilk (365), vanilla soy yogurt (Stonyfield), frozen tropical fruit mix (Costco), and some ice.

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I tried to go slow and eat cherries in between, but you know I froze my brain up because I have no self control.

Of course to compensate I had to make some tea.  I may be having issues with my body core thermal regulation, because I always seem to be the temperature of whatever I’m eating.  Humans are supposed to be warm blooded.  I may be a lizard.  My poor patients have to deal with my frigid hands poking and prodding them (ok, ok, I’m not that rough).  Good thing I suck down coffee like a fiend all morning long which is when I do most of my assessments…at least the heat from that helps my hands stay a bit warmer.  I’m sure the fact that I’m cracked out of my mind and bouncing off the walls doesn’t even phase them. 

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Fact: I drink Yogi tea more for the inspirational messages than the flavor of the tea.  This flavor happens to be Cocoa Mayan Spice.  It’s no Chai, but it fills the roll when my Tazo stash is on empty.

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Wednesday afternoon we picked up our friend at the airport.  In our new car.  His name is Carson and he’s a new 2011 silver CRV.  Yes, we name all our cars.  Who doesn’t? 

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The best feature is the cup holder in the door.  It fits a Kombucha perfectly.

After navigating our way back to Santa Monica (LA traffic wasn’t that bad actually), we immediately dropped off Dean’s luggage and walked to dinner.

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Blue Plate is one of my absolute favorite places ever and I have been craving their falafel burger for a solid month now. 

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We started with chips ‘n guac for the table.

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Plus a nice white bean dip with bread crisps (on the house).

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Kyle got the chicken & veggie soup and the falafel burger

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Dean got the falafel burger with fries.

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And I got the falafel burger on a salad with fresh greens, cucumber, carrots, sprouts and huge amounts of avocado

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I used all the balsamic dressing, plus the remainder of the guacamole that wasn’t eaten with chips.  It would be a crime for avocado to go unclaimed!

SO GOOD.  There’s no two ways about it, Blue Plate makes a damn fine falafel.

Wii tennis and golf duels took up the remainder of the night.  We are party animals!

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Thursday morning was not meant to start at 5 am, but that it did.  Why you ask?  Because we have crazy effing birds that crow incessantly like they are the alarm clock for the entire West Coast (and their home base happens to be directly outside our window).  The rage I was feeling…gah!  Let’s just say there’s probably never been a more conflicted vegan.  I may not be a member of PETA, but I’m still not into shooting down angry birds.  

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In any event, our plans to got for a hike in Malibu were simply pushed forward a few hours.  So after a trip to WF for coffee and a picnic lunch, we headed off to Point Mugu State Park.

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We had a fun hike.  It was relatively mild and only took a bit over an hour.  The weather wasn’t really cooperating, but if we had waited ‘til later on, the cloud cover probably would have blown off.  Sun or no sun, we enjoyed the views. 

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After reaching the bottom again, we made our way to the beach for lunch. 

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Not too bad of a view. 

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I got a veggie sando from WF with hummus, avocado, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and mustard

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I could’ve used more hummus, but that’s pretty much always the case.  In life.

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The rest of the day was mellow.  We strolled on the Promenade, stopped by the Santa Monica Pier, watched some volleyball games, and enjoyed the sun that finally did show up.

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For dinner there was no question about what we were making.  Dean simply HAD to try some home-made vegan waffles.

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We tried out Surprisingly Vegan’s latest flavor and I have to say, it’s even better than the OG recipe.

They really are SO good.  Unfortunately, they take quite a while to make from scratch…and grinding and blending and mixing everything uses up just about every single appliance and counter space in our kitchen.  Needless to say, I’ll be glad when these babies finally hit shelves, because just-add-water is so much simpler. 

The good news is that by late summer they will be sold online!!!  Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you all know when, where, and how you can get your hands on them. 

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Vegan, gluten-free, delicious, and nutritious.  :) 

If you’re wondering about the above creation, it’s a waffle ‘wich that I made with two waffle squares, blueberries and Follow Your Heart vegan cream cheese.  I had two servings.  And even though I was very full after my double serving, I didn’t feel like my stomach was coated in lead.  Heavenly!

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And now I am getting ready for a Friday at the hospital.  Big salad, quinoa with tofu, Inka Crops corn nuts, apple (x2), Nana’s fudge bites – yep, it’s gonna be a good day. 

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Lunch is packed and I have a breakfast of vegan waffles ready for early morning leftovers.  Yeah buddy. 

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