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Archive for March, 2011

Adios afro

I got a Brazilian Blowout today.  Thanks to Groupon, it was nearly half price (although once I added in the tip and shampoo/conditioner it was basically full price). 

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I’m happy to say, my ‘fro is now going to be well maintained with ZERO effort on my part…at least for the next 90 days…

In the food realm, I had a really rough night.  Top Chef had me sweating for a full hour, but in the end my boy Blais came through.  Phew!  It was nail biting and my poor stomach was in knots the entire time.  Fortunately, my meals were the opposite of intense – after all, I pretty much aim for soothing (read: IBS-friendly) eats on a daily basis. 

I was out and about much of the day and there’s nothing interesting new about apples, veggies and hummus so my camera is on the emptier side. 

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However, one of the day’s snacks is definitely worth sharing.  I received a package in the mail yesterday from Caveman Cookies.  I met the reps at Expo West and was so excited about their cookies, I knew I had to try them out and share them with you guys.  

The Caveman Bakery makes three flavors – original, alpine, and tropical – all of which are dairy and gluten free.  Oh and I discovered something else!  They’re all based on the caveman diet (which I only just learned about). 

Unbeknownst to me this is a way of eating that’s built on the diet of primitive man (hence the caveman term).  It’s basically the paleo diet, a holistic approach to eating that emphasizes the foods humans “grew up on” like vegetables, fruit & nuts.  Supposedly our bodies are best able to digest and enjoy these kinds of foods, rather than ones that have been recently introduced into the human diet (like grains and dairy).  In theory I like this idea because it encourages people to nix processed foods, which reduces refined sugars, saturated and trans fats, salt, high-glycemic carbohydrates, which lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and numerous other health problems.  Although The Paleo Diet isn’t vegan (lean meats are included in the diet), it does encourage people to replace processed food and dairy products with fresh fruits and vegetables. 

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The first flavor I chose was the original…since it contains honey it isn’t vegan.  I love how pure the ingredients are though, with just honey, almond meal, walnuts, raisins, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon

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Isn’t the brown paper bag packaging cute!  They are individually wrapped inside as well. 

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They were much smaller than I expected, but I guess that makes sense as each cookie is only 60 calories. 

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They were kinda chewy like a cross between cookie dough and fruit leather.  The texture was awesome because the nuts were undetectable, but there was still a hint of crispy crunch with raisins mixed in too.  It reminded me a lot of a molasses cookie…with a touch of gingerbread flavoring.  Definitely yummy.  

For dinner I made a rice pasta dish featuring Peacock Rice Vermicelli.

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This product is hard to come by, and is pretty much an online only item at the moment. 

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For a person who is not so keen on pasta dishes (Italian is probably my least favorite), rice pasta has recently made me a convert.  I’ve had it several times in the past few months.  The silky fine noodles are so delicate and soak up sauce like nobody’s business.  And yet, nutritionally speaking, they are almost the Black Swan to my idyllic carbohydrate choice (whole sprouted grains).  What can you do.  

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Kinda reminds me of grandma hair.

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The best part about this pasta, is the fact that it takes all of 5 minutes to cook.  Seriously.  Because the pasta is so stringy, once added to boiling water it’s done before you can even set the table.  I added frozen corn and for the ultimate lazy girl sauce, I used Sabra spinach and artichoke hummus

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I used a LOT of hummus. 

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Swirly, swirly. 

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It was probably the fastest meal I’ve ever made. 

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And since Kyle wasn’t paying attention as I cooked dinner, he thought it involved a lot of time and effort.  Muahaha.  I’m such a good sneaky wife.

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I had a plate full of carob chips for dessert, while Kyle made a ghetto ‘smore.

What is a ghetto ‘smore?  Watch and learn.

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Break off parts of a Snickers bar and place it on a halved graham cracker.

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Put it in the microwave…and watch for melting.

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Not quite done yet.

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Back in the micro…

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There it is.

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Who’s excited!?!?

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This post started innocently enough, with the tempeh recipe I promised from yesterday’s dinner

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But then I got emails asking about tempeh and figured if a few people were wondering it, maybe there were more…so admittedly, this post gets a little educational.  But who doesn’t want to learn about soy, right?  😉

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I’ve tried a few brands of tempeh before, and aside from the fakin’ bacon (which is LightLife’s tempeh version of faux bacon), none have been too pleasing for my palate.  This organic garden veggie tempeh (also by LightLife) is the closest I’ve come to tasty.  It’s still a tad bitter, but the flavors are much more mild thanks to the veggies in it.

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Contains: soy.

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I’m sure you’ve heard all of the rumors about the dangers of soy…yadda yadda whatever.  There’s a big difference between soy in the form of tofu vs. tempeh. 

Unlike tofu, the soy in tempeh is fermented, thus separating it from the foods included in the whole soy controversy. 

Hippie that I am, I’m not sure I really buy into the claims that the (so-called) anti-nutrients in unfermented soy are toxic to the body, but then I do know there’s some validity to the effects of phytates, enzyme inhibitors and goitrogen.  So I take each study with a grain of salt (and look at what company is funding the research) and just remember to eat everything in moderation…

But back to fermented soy.

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When mold grows on foods (such as soybeans) it apparently destroys the toxins present thereby making the nutrients in the beans available to the body.  This process is known as fermentation and has led to the creation of foods like tempeh and miso.  In essence, the isoflavones in fermented soy have been transformed into a non-toxic form making them safe and beneficial. 

TMI?  Ok, I’ll get back to the recipe.

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I cut the tempeh in large chunks, added them to boiling water, and left them to cook for ~10 minutes.  For the record, in the past I have tried steaming tempeh prior to cooking it, but still found it to be pretty bitter.  This time I tried boiling it because I thought it might work as a more aggressive technique to remove the harsh bite.

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I swear it grew in the water!

After the tempeh felt a bit softer, I removed the chunks and placed them directly into a frying pan.

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It crumbled easily in the pan and started sautéing right away.

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At this point I added in spices and (1/4 cup) black beans.  I cheated and used an organic spice packet that I got at Expo from The Spice Hunter.  It was an organic salt free blend of Mexican spices that included organic cumin, onion, garlic, paprika, cilantro, red pepper, coriander, and oregano.  I added in an extra dash of cumin and paprika because those are my favorite flavors in Mexican food.

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And mixed up, I left it to simmer while I got the second part of the meal.

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Making millet requires a tad more water than normal grain to liquid ratios (even when made in a rice cooker). 

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In a separate pan, I added the following:

  • 1 cup (cooked) millet
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • dash of paprika

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The liquid from the tomato and salsa was enough to soften up the millet and everything blended beautifully.

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Ready to go!

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Add-ins: avocado, tomato, romaine lettuce.

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Kyle wanted a burrito, but I felt like a salad, so I chopped extra romaine for myself.

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Talk about a beast of a portion.  Believe it or not, there is lettuce under there…

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The millet was actually my favorite part. 

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I love it’s cornmeal like flavor and chewy texture.  Plus, I had half an avocado in there, which makes everything better.

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I still found the tempeh a little bitter, but Kyle loved it and didn’t think there was anything bitter about it.  Who knows. 

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Like I said, he had his in a burrito.  It may look small, but was definitely not.  Usually vegan dishes don’t keep him full for very long, but he didn’t have seconds and still felt satisfied! 

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I will consider the dish a winner since the non-vegan among us loved it.  Maybe fermentation isn’t my thing?

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Tempeh time

Guess how I woke up this morning? 

I fell out. of. bed.

No joke, I woke up as I hit the floor.  Who am I?  A three year old? 

Fortunately our comforter is really thick and I was so wrapped up in it, my body was cushioned enough.  No injuries to speak of, but not exactly the best way to start the day. 

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Oats, on the other hand, are a perfect way to start the day.

Oats with chopped apples, cinnamon, and peanut butter…that’s the kind of breakfast that makes you forget about even the most ridiculous accidents. 

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Happy belly.

After breakfast I did Jillian’s Shred it with Weights (I don’t have kettlebells but I just used weights), followed by a 30 minute jog through the neighb.  The weather was so gorgeous I headed back out after I showered to take some photos of my route.  I’m not one to brag about my ‘hood, but I think that Santa Monica has got to be one of the most beautiful places to live ever. 

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Breathtaking runs are just the tip of the iceberg. 

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Want to see my favorite running path?

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Are you sick of my picturesque home turf yet?

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This part of the cliff overlooking PCH makes me think of a certain 90210 episode…I never watched it growing up, but thanks to Soapnet I’ve seen my fair share now. 

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Random fact: I love this tree

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Santa Monica with a side of homeless

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If I were homeless I’d definitely be homeless here, though.

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Random fact #2: Birds of Paradise are my favorite flower

Okay, okay, enough with the photo montage.  As you can see, the weather has taken a turn for the better.  I spent a few hours outside strolling Ocean Ave, walking the promenade, and eventually I returned home to get dinner going.  

As per yesterday’s discussion, Kyle and I both had the same (vegan) dinner.

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Tempeh!! 

I have a long standing love hate hate relationship with tempeh (when I prepare it).  When I eat out, I have no problem with it – so clearly professional vegan chefs know how to get out the bitter and make it delicious.  Real Food Daily, Blossom, Candle, Native Foods…they all manage to make a successful tempeh meal that I can scarf down.  But try as I might, I cannot stand the flavor of it when I make it myself.

As per MANY recommendations, I have tried cooking it a variety of ways.  All failed. 

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This dinner was the closest I’ve come yet.

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To start, I boiled it in water…

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This is how it turned out!  Not too shabby right?  Kyle was a big fan, so I am considering it a success, even though my taste buds were still not totally in love.  Maybe fermented soy just isn’t my thing? 

I’ll definitely be posting the Mexi-meal soon, but for now my post has already reached a photo overload.  Today was all about stopping to smell the roses take pics of the scenery.  I can’t help it now that I’m on the West Coast.  Sunshine, ocean, and blue skies…I feel so lucky.  I’m not knocking the East Coast weather situation – for those who can cope, props to you!  I’m okay admitting that I’m a wuss.  I just never got on board with the 9 month long winters and sweltering summers.  But I do think people have a special connection with where they grew up.  Thoughts?

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I had the best patients over the weekend.  Nice.  Appreciative.  Compliant.  They may seem like simple requests as far as personality traits are concerned, but you’d be surprised.  It made the nights fly by.  Another thing that made the nights go by nice and smooth…books. 

You see, when it comes to night shifts, they can either be crazy and chaotic (ER admissions, codes, etc.) or super slow (eyelids drooping, head nodding).  I prefer middle of the road shifts with a moderate amount of activity, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Such being the case, it’s good to have some reading material on hand just in case.  I used to (superstitiously) think that storing books in my locker was setting me up for horribly busy nights (Murphy’s Law).  But after one too many nights of watching the second hands of the clock tick away, I decided to hell with signs and superstitions.   And so I’ve also been bringing reading back into my life. 

I used to read a couple of books a month, but once my subway commute went out the window, my monthly page count took a serious hit.  I think that’s the only thing I miss about NYC.  And maybe a few restaurants too…

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Anyway.  Here’s the book I read on Saturday night.  I literally read the entire book in one night.  It was SO interesting.  Clearly the relationship between diet and disease is one that’s close to my heart, but it’s nice to read about others who are equally as fired up about it. 

There are so many points in the book that I want to discuss in detail.  I wish everyone read it so we could all gawk over the stats together like one big nerdy food blog book club.  For now, I’ll just say that Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes are brilliant and inspiring.  It is horrible that such a pathetic amount of funding goes into school lunch programs and that we expect our kids to learn healthy habits for life on 50 cents. 

Taking processed crap from the lowest bidder is the norm for most of the country.  How hideous?!  Would we ever accept that in any other part of our lives? 

I could list facts for days that would blow your mind, but you really should get the book and see for yourself.  I can tell you I took a TON away from it – and I consider myself to be fairly in the know on these issues.  The key thing I will share with you all is the value in making your own lunches.  As someone who does this every single day, I can attest to (1) the money I’ve saved and (2) the poor quality food I’ve avoided. 

The area I need to work on, is not making this a habit for me and me alone.  Why shouldn’t Kyle get the same treatment?  I’m not sure he wants to dig into seitan salads and oats between his business school classes, but he might!  Recently we discussed it and he actually wants to start eating more of the same meals as I.  It’s not like this will be a huge area of change.  He already packs his lunches 75% of the time which include everything from salads to Clif bars to nuts and fruit…but he also wants to start upping the tofu and minimizing the animal sources in his diet.  Now that’s something I can definitely get on board with. 

For those of you with significant others, how do you deal with meal time prep.  Lunch Lessons emphasizes not acting like a short order cook and making separate meals for each member of a family.  Allergy issues aside, I can see the authors’ point.  Kyle’s a good cook, so we have a good system down (plus we have such different schedules it’s rare that we eat meals together).  It’s going to be something the hippie household starts to take into effect.  So how do you do it?  Feel free to share your own systems!

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Anyway.  My food for the night included a dried fruit and nut sampler from Woodland Foods (Expo West swag) as well as a seitan topped salad.  The mini nut and fruit mix had dried pineapple and papaya.  The serving size was pretty small, but it was perfect for a night shift (eliminating crazy sugar highs and lows).  I used to buy dried pineapple rings by the ton but found my sugar cravings have been more for fresh fruit lately.  Whatevs.  The almonds were also great because they were not overly roasted but still slightly salty :) 

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Of course apples and candied ginger were prominent players as well.   Lately galas have been on the pathetically small side, so braeburns have been my pinch hitters.

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The salad was a mix of the random veggies we had in the fridge, including spinach, alfalfa sprouts (love!), carrots, bell peppers, and seitan

After work I came home and slept for a bit and then woke up craving cereal like nobody’s business.  It’s not that I didn’t want oats, but I craved crunchy, not mushy. 

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Granola is pretty much the crunchy version of oats anyway, right? 

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Step aside oats, there’s a cooler breakfast in town.   All I did was chop up a golden delicious apple, add a LOT of Galaxy Granola and submerge the entire bowl in almond milk.  Vanilla clusters plus apples?  YUM. 

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It got even better though…once I realized the flavors were spot on, I decided to microwave it a bit (to soften the apples and let the oats absorb the milk), then I added even MORE granola…which led to a mega bowl with textures varying from super crisp and crunchy to slightly soggy and loaded with milk. 

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Perfection!  Moderation be damned.  I had two more bowls, (sadly) leaving the bag of Galaxy Granola with little more than crumbs remaining. 

After brunch I wandered into the guest bedroom to clean it up and noticed a new item. 

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No, my grandpa isn’t in town.  Any guesses as to what disaster this photo represents?  Hint: our neighbors are screwed.  If they thought the jumping jacks from 4 am Jillian routines were bad…oh boy.

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I didn’t need anything more than a snack between my afternoon run and dinner.  Enter graham crackers dipped in coconut peanut butter

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Dinner was divine, but left my stomach in knots.  Vegan fried rice from the WF hot bar was the base of the dish, which may have been the source of my GI woes.  Fried food is not my intestines’ bestie.  Far from it, in fact.  One of the main reasons I eat such clean food is because foreign grease wreaks havoc on my system.  But I craved it!  Darn IBS.

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Since it was already 7 pm and we were at WF doing a massive grocery run, it seemed natural to treat ourselves to the hot bar.  Lazy wife.  :P 

My hot bar ADD was at it’s peak, and after 53 laps around the rows and rows of foodie heaven, I finally got down to business. 

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I started with veg fried rice and picked as many of the broccoli florets as possible.  Then I added in extra peas

Dear Whole Foods,

Please make fried rice with brown rice every once in a while.  I don’t hate on white grains every once in a while, but I prefer brown. 

Thank you,

A Loyal Hippie

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And since I’m on SUCH a mega seitan kick right now, I caved and bought some of my favorite Healthy Times brand. 

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Which I then chopped and added into the rice.

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It tasted GREAT in the moment, but caused quite a bit of GI distress.  Nothing a little candied ginger and tea couldn’t handle though. 

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In November I was bragging about how great the 80 degree weather was.  And then in January I was happily soaking up the sun’s rays on the beach.  And now it’s March and the weather is cold and dreary!?  What gives?

Since it’s LA, I know it won’t last too long, but I have to say, these stormy skies and rain clouds aren’t fun at all.

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Breakfast came really late on Saturday.  After saying goodbye to my sis (until we reunite in Europe in May), Kyle and I drove back to Santa Monica so I could get a loooong night’s sleep in preparation for Saturday’s night shift.

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I didn’t get up until after 10 am, and didn’t eat breakfast until almost noon.

To get the day under way, I painted a Alvarado Street sprouted tortilla with Sunbutter.  Look how caked on it was!  I’m a modern day Van Gogh 🙂

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I jazzed up the breakfast quesadilla with thinly sliced apples, then topped it with cinnamon and folded it into thirds.

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If a PB&J sammie had a menage a trois with a quesadilla and a fruit basket, this would be the love child.  Except instead of peanut butter I used sunflower seed butter.

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Wrap-tastic.

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In between Jillian and basketball games, there was a fair amount of snacking.  I had the rest of the tropical dried fruit and two more bowls of nuts, raisins, and carob chips than pictured.  I have to say, salt is amazing.

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Before heading into the office hospital, I pre-gamed with another sprouted tortilla wrap.  This one was more traditional with ‘shrooms, spinach, butternut squash and hummus.

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Even though my pre-shift appetite was pretty much non-existent, I had a feeling it would kick in at some point (most likely around midnight).  The solution?  A snack-esque meal.  Leftover white bean dip with various scoop-ables fit the bill.  Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels were good, but I actually prefer the spelt ones by Newman’s or 365 brand.

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I also packed some veg in the form of blanched broccoli, raw carrots and red bell peppers.  Cold crudités have never tasted so good.  They were crisp and crunchy and I craved 200 more.  Needless to say, the bean dip was gone by midnight, as expected.  The apples suffered a similar fate.

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When I got home, there were leftover waffles calling my name.  They were so hearty and flavorful, this may be the best batch I’ve tried yet!  They were so tasty, they required absolutely nothing on top.

A shower and warm glass of almond milk (with a few drops of NuNaturals vanilla stevia) later, I was ready to tuck into bed.  Lucky for me, Kyle was still asleep (this was his last weekend of spring break) so I was actually able to fall into a semi-deep slumber.  I didn’t wake up until 11:30 – a personal record!

The next day was the same old, same old.

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I had a big bowl of fruit, followed by a snickerdoodle cookie.

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The wrapper is all I managed to capture on film because it was THAT good.  Alternate Baking Company makes a mighty fine cookie, but it wasn’t as chewy as Nana’s.

Like the rest of ABC’s cookies, this flavor is 100% vegan (sans dairy, eggs, hydrogenated oils, or artificial ingredients).  Unlike the other flavors, Snickerdoodle is one of the two wheat-free flavors (the other one is Mac the Chip).

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As you can see, the ingredients are wholesome, but the nutritional stats are still pretty dessert-like.  I’m not saying I take issue with this – it is a cookie after all – but the fact that the cookie is two servings brings the totals to an area that I would pretty much designate for treats alone.  That said, it was a huge cookie!  I liked the first few bites, but by the end, there was an after-taste that was less like dessert and more like a non-wheat flour.  Yes, I know that taste.  It was like gluten free pancake batter.  Kinda weird.

Nana’s still occupies the #1 spot in my heart for sure, but I plan of trying the rest of ABC’s cookie flavors (just to be extra sure).

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My odd lunch was created out of desperation.  The empty fridge turned me to the freezer…which led to a pita pizza.

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Topped with Sabra’s artichoke spinach hummus and a crumbled up vegan Boca burger.  It may sound ghetto, but it was actually awesome.

I again filled the afternoon with basketball, Jillian, and couch time with my beau.  ‘Aint no shame in soaking up the rainy day inactivity, right?

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Just before work, I made a grilled cheese sammie with Almond Cheddar Style veg cheese.

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I’m not sure what to make of this product (by Lisanatti Foods), because it was good, but nothing like cheese.  I think I liked it, but it shouldn’t be compared to other veg “cheeses.”

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Once I got over the fact that it in NO way resembled real cheese (or Daiya) I enjoyed it for what it was.  A flavorful sandwich option.  It didn’t really taste or melt like cheese, but then it didn’t taste like almonds either.  I can’t think of how to describe it.  I doubt I’d buy it regularly (kinda $$$ to be a fridge staple), but it’s a nice option every once in a while.

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As far as nutritionals go, it’s a winner.  Sure, it’s a processed food, but it’s definitely in a different category from cheetos.  It should be noted that this products does contain casein (however, I had no GI reactions).

Anyway, with that, I was off to work.  Another weekend spent in scrubs and PJs…

Do you eat breakfast in your pajamas or work clothes?  Or does it vary?

I avoid doing anything in my scrubs.  I ditch them within seconds of stepping foot in the door and almost always shower before I do anything else (especially eating).  However, when I work day shifts, I’m typically at work for breakfast and therefore in scrubs.

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The past week has been pretty restaurant heavy.  It makes sense since our fridge currently has more condiments than anything else. 

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After returning from Vegas, we stopped at the Culver City location of Tender Greens for some very necessary clean and organic meals.  It was pouring rain and we had no umbrellas, so we decided take-away was the best option. 

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After showering and unpacking, I dug into my “Happy Vegan” salad.  For optimal photography, I removed the toast and greens that were resting atop the other parts of the salad and put them on a separate plate. 

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Look at the gorgeous ingredients that were hiding under the lettuce!

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I’m not usually a fan of tabbouleh but this was exceptional.  It was pretty acidic, but it provided a beautiful zing when combined with the other parts of the salad. 

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Then there was quinoa with cucumber and beets, which also wowed my taste buds.  I don’t recall actually seeing any beets, but I still loved it.  The texture was mushier than I typically make my own quinoa, but I’ve come to realize that consistency is more common with red quinoa. 

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The farro wheat with hazelnuts and dried cranberries was actually one of the best parts of the salad, though, since I haven’t been able to find farro in stores and I adore the combo of nuts and dried fruit.  It was sweet, crunchy, savory, chewy, and 100% perfection.  Farro is an amazing grain.  I’m a big big fan.

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And yet, I couldn’t possibly deny the green hummus the #1 spot.  It was, without a doubt, the best thing to hit my lips in a LONG time.  I was debating calling the restaurant to ask for the recipe…or order another tub of it a la mode.  They should really package this stuff up and sell it in stores.  Do you hear me Tender Greens? 

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To start, I smeared it all over the toast.  Mmmmm…

After my palate was primed, I reconstructed the Happy Vegan salad on a plate.

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I love that their greens are organic and farm fresh and seasonal, but I had to remove a few sprigs of dill (not a fan).  Otherwise, the blend of tender greens was amazingly vibrant and fresh.

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Truth be told, I was apprehensive in ordering this salad because I make damn good salads and restaurant greens rarely live up to my own creations.  However, this was better than ANYTHING I could ever make on my own.  I couldn’t get over how flavorful every single ingredient was.  Not only that, but the unique combination of grains, nuts, fruits and veggies was so creative!  I’m so rarely surprised by restaurant salads, this was such a pleasant treat.

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It was tangy from the tabbouleh acidity, hearty from all the grains, and crunchy due to the textural variety that the nuts and dried fruit provided.  Not to mention the greens tasted like they had been picked that morning!

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All in all, it was a dream meal and I’m so excited that they are opening a restaurant in Santa Monica soon.

Cut to a few days later, and our fridge still hadn’t been restored…

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Since my sister was in town, we decided to hit up a local hole-in-the-wall called Interim Cafe.  I’ve blogged about this place before.  It’s cheap and delicious, what more do you need in a restaurant? 

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Seriously, the dessert display is too close to where you order food.  Laura and I had already picked out two desserts each before we even settled on our entree orders.  That’s what happens when two girls go to dinner starving when it’s that time of the month. 

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I’m not kidding, we left with 5 desserts.  Lesson learned.  But back to dinner…

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After going back and forth half a dozen times, I finally chose the roast vegan chix burger with avocado, veganaise, and the works on a whole wheat bun.  The “chix” portion of the burger reminded me of the soy patties that The Veggie Grill uses.  It was flavorful and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. 

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Kyle ordered the hemp tofu steak sandwich with avocado, tomato, onion, pesto-tofunaise on toasted Rudolph Steiner hazelnut bread. 

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The bread looked SO fantastic, I begged to do a half for half swap.  He agreed, so I had half of his sammie and half of my own.  Kyle thought the tofu was on the blander side, but I liked it.  Plus the veganaise and avo combo is always a winner in my book.  Love me some healthy fats.

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Laura got the Vegan Hot Tamale Platter with a veggie tamale, brown raza rice, sombrero salad, a salsa vinaigrette, and hot mushrooms sauce on the side.

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Clean plates club x3

Interim Cafe is especially good for diners with mixed dietary preferences because they have vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, and gluten free options, but also have meal options with regular cheese and meat.  My sister happens to be lactose intolerant as well, so we both enjoyed the ease of dairy free ordering.  Kyle chose a vegan dish because he’s noticing more and more how much better he feels when he eats animal free. 

After dinner, we paused for digestion, but soon enough it was time to dig in to dessert. 

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I was SO excited for my marshmallow chocolate brownie thing.  It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this thing was a monster.  I heated it in the microwave for a few seconds which got the marshmallow all gooey and part of the chocolate melty.

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So.  Effing.  Yum.

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Kyle and Laura also got the same dessert.  🙂

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Laura and I also split a french press of Peet’s English Breakfast tea.

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It may seem weird to have a caffeinated tea after dinner, but if you knew what time we ate, you’d understand (early bird special!).

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The next day, Kyle had a lunch time meeting, so Laura and I were on our own for lunch. 

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She had a strong craving for the same white bean hummus she had last time she visited…and I am never one to turn down hummus for lunch.

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Enter Huckleberry!

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Last time with split a salad and side of bean dip, but this time we were older hungrier and wiser.

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White bean hummus with bread for each of us.

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And the white bean and spinach salad for each of us.  This salad is a bit different each time I order it.  The cherry tomatoes in this one were orange and sweet (yum!) while the capers added some vinegary tang (which I was surprised that I liked).  As per usual, I liked the bowl clean.  We each had leftover bean dip though.  Score!

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Our restaurant extravaganza continued for dinner and drinks at The Den on Sunset.  The owner was best man at my cousin’s wedding so we refused to let the weather hold us back. 

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On tap.

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On the menu.

What do you think I ordered? 

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White bean hummus with grilled flatbread (obviously).  I ordered a second plate of flatbread after finishing the first because there was still half a pot of hummus left. 

Other orders included the Chicken Club with avocado, grilled chicken, bacon, tomato, butter lettuce, shaved red onion, and dijonaise on foccacia.

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Triple cooked fries.

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Grilled bread (house-made!) with roasted cherry tomatoes, warm burrata, fresh basil and a balsamic reduction.

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Seared Ahi Tacos with salsa verde, red chili cream, and onion jam on corn tortillas

Pulled Pork Sliders with slow roasted pork, BBQ Sauce, shaved lettuce, and pickled red onion (sans buttermilk dressing)

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Grilled cheese and roasted tomato soup

We all enjoyed our meals, although rumor has it the tacos were a bit on the greasy side.

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No complaints from Finn 🙂

The next night Laura and I made our way to Newport Beach and so my Aunt and Uncle treated us to dinner. 

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Taco Rosa is really close to my G-ma’s house, and it’s a bit different from your typical Mexican fare.  It’s a family favorite for sure.   I started with some house vino (so so).

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While we browsed the menu they brought out some cute little pulled pork slider things.  I passed on them, but loved the marinated carrots on the side.

For my entree, I got the pollo con espinacas y champiñones

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The actual dish contains chicken, spinach, mushrooms, red onions, and tomatoes in a whole wheat tortilla, topped with Guajillo tomatillo and Tequila lime sauces with black beans, guacamole, sour cream and escabeche (carrots) on the side.

I asked for a chicken and dairy-free version and they had no problem meeting my requests.

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It was reallllly good.  The sauces on top were fantastic and the inside spinach, ‘shroom, and onion sauté hit the spot.

Laura got a cheese-less tostada salad with blackened chicken.

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How fancy does this look!

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My G-ma’s plate included a sweet corn tamalito (which she practically spit out), rice and beans, with a Oaxaca cheese enchilada, and a carne asada and black bean taco.

I didn’t capture my Aunt and Uncle’s meals, but everyone seemed to enjoy their food. 

So as you can see, the week has been filled with restaurant mania!  Time to dust off the cobwebs in the kitchen…

Do you prefer home prepared meals or dining out?  I love eating at restaurants, but at the same time it can get tiring after a while.  Sometimes I crave simple things that aren’t on the menu, ya know?  That said, it’s pretty fun to get pampered. 

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Bon Voyage

The time has come.  In just a few short days my sister will be heading off to travel the world.  She’s spent months and months planning and will soon be living the dream.  She quit her job.  She packed her bags.  And this past weekend she came to So Cal for a final sendoff. 

If you are prone to major travel jealousy, you may want to skip over the next part…

Laura’s Travel Itinerary

March 30 – April 25: South America (Argentina, Chile, Peru)

April 25 – May 20: Spain

May 20 – 25: Paris, France

May 25 – 31: Istanbul, Turkey

June 1 – 14: Greek Islands

June 15 – 21: Croatia

June 22 – 28: London, England

July – September: Central America (Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama)

Because everyone wanted to say goodbye it was a family packed weekend.  On Wednesday she flew into LAX and Kyle and I got to play with her all day long.  On Thursday we went out to Hollywood to visit our cousins (and nephew Finn)Then on Friday, we headed to Newport Beach to spend some QT with G-ma and my Aunt and Uncle

Here’s some of the fun in photos…

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Dinner and dessert at Interim Cafe

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Note: It is unwise to pick out dessert(s) before you’ve eaten dinner.  There’s more to that story…another time post perhaps.

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Kyle and I both ordered vegan sammies, Laura got a vegan tamale platter.

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Chocolate face.

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Rainy day activities include marathon dessert sessions and Wii golf.

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As you can see, my Mii character couldn’t be more accurate…I promise I didn’t plan to match with the outfit.  What can I say, I like pink!

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Lunch at Huckleberry.

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We ordered the same thing.

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After lunch we braved the LA traffic and made our way to our cousin’s apartment in West Hollywood.

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Happy hour at Cabo Cantina on Sunset.  Ironically, the last time I was at this bar was with also with my cousin (over 4 years ago).  The drink on the left was a mojito that I couldn’t tolerate at ALL.  The beers on the right were my follow-up drink order that cost next to nothing (2 for 1 what whaaat) and got my pretty drunk.  However, when we left the bar, nobody was quite as bad off as Laura.

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As a nurse, I probably should have been more concerned as her skin went from pink to red and splotchy.  Whatever was in her second margarita did NOT agree with her. 

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Naturally I whipped out my Epi pen camera.  ;)  You can’t tell from the photo but she was bright red on her cheeks and chest…which slowly spread to her arm and back.  Our solution?  New bar, new drink.

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We didn’t let the rain hold us back one bit.  Off to The Den…

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Where our other cousin met up with us (Finn in tow). 

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You have a baby…in a bar. [Name that movie]

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White bean dip #2 of the day (shocked? I think not).

Friday had a hideous start with a hangover and rent-a-car issue, but eventually Laura and I made it to Newport Beach…in a sweet a$$ cargo van no less.  Even though she lives (lived?) in SF, she had some furniture being stored in my G-ma’s garage that required shlepping back to Nor Cal.  I was merely the muscle to help load the van up.

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I was rewarded with a dinner at Taco Rosa.  My Aunt and Uncle even drove down from Laguna Beach to treat us all.  Sweet!

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After dinner Kyle picked me up and I said goodbye to Laura…until I meet up with her in Spain in May.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

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