• Meal Ideas

    Dinner Idea-Taquito Night!

    I have always loved cooking and baking. There is no better feeling, to me, than cooking for someone and seeing them truly enjoy their meal. It’s the thing I do to cheer someone up, say thank you or let them know I’m thinking of them. It’s my therapy and it’s something I absolutely love doing.

    But as much as I love cooking and baking, I am no recipe creator. I do not come up with my own recipes, although I wish I could. But every now and then, I come up with a great dinner idea. And this is one of my hubby’s favorites: Potato Taquitos. They are delicious and relatively easy to make which makes them great for a week night meal. I will try to recreate my recipe below but in the mean time, here’s a picture of a recent batch of taquitos.

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    Since my hubby love these, I usually make enough potatoes to make taquitos for a few dinners or about 20 taquitos. Feel free to adjust the ingredients below for the number of taquitos you are making.

    Potato Filling

    • 8 regular sized Yukon Gold potatoes (you can use any potato but I use Yukons because they have a natural, buttery flavor)
    • Veggie Stock
    • Cumin
    • Coriander
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Corn tortillas
    • Veggie oil
    • Toppings (fresh pico de gallo salsa, vegan sour cream, guacamole, chimichurri or whatever you want!)

    Fill large pot with water.

    Scrub, rinse and peel the potatoes. Cut potatoes into quarters and add quartered potatoes to pot. Place pot on the stove over medium high heat and boil potatoes until they are fork tender, about 15 minutes or so.

    Once potatoes are tender, remove from heat. Drain potatoes in a colander and add potatoes back to the pot. Add a few splashes of veggie stock and mash potatoes with a potato masher. You want the potatoes to have the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add veggie stock a couple of splashes at a time until you get the desired consistency. Add cumin, coriander, salt and pepper to taste. Start with about 1/2 tsp of cumin, coriander and 1/4 tsp of salt and pepper and adjust to taste.

    Warm up your tortillas that you will be using, placing them in a towel to keep warm. Once your tortillas have been warmed up, start heating up your oil. Place about 1/2 inch to 1 inch oil in a pan. Place pan over medium high heat until oil is hot.

    While you are heating your oil, assemble your taquitos. Take a warmed tortilla and place a spoonful of potatoes on one side. Be careful not to overfill, your tortilla may break. Gently roll up the taquito and place seam side down in the oil when ready. (I can get about 6 taquitos in my pan so I will assemble all 6 first, then drop them in the pan). Fry until golden brown and crispy, turn over and cook until golden brown and crispy.

    Serve with salsa, vegan sour cream, chimichurri, guacamole or whatever you’d like!

    Enjoy!

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    Chimichurri. Hand chopped and delicious!

     

  • WTFriday!?

    WTFriday!?-Silken Tofu

    Tofu is an amazing little staple in a vegan diet. There are so many kinds of tofu available at most stores-soft, firm, extra firm, baked, marinated-you name it! Silken tofu is one of the many variations of tofu that can be found. Silken tofu is shelf stable, meaning that no refrigeration is needed and is typically packaged in aseptic packaging. In my local stores, it’s in the ethnic food aisle with the other Asian food items. Also, it is not packaged with as much water as cold tofu. The package usually has very little water and you can cut the box open and slide the block of tofu out. It’s much less messy than those “easy open” cold tofu packages.

    While refrigerated tofu is mainly used for tofu scrambles and pan frying, silken tofu is used for baking, sauces and creams. I made my first vegan chocolate cream pie with silken tofu. It was amazing! A quick google search will yield many recipes for the many ways to use it.

    My first chocolate cream pie. It was delish! I was slightly impatient and took it out before letting it get completely chilled.
    My first chocolate cream pie. It was delish! I was slightly impatient and took it out before letting it get completely chilled.

    Next time you’re in the mood for a creamy delicious pie, try using a silken tofu based pie. You can even top it with coconut whipped cream. You won’t even miss the dairy!

     

     

  • Travel Vegan Style

    The Gentle Barn

    Have you ever met a farm animal? Have you hugged a cow, rubbed a piggy’s belly or held a chicken? Most of us never have. But places like The Gentle Barn give us a place to do that. Located in Santa Clarita, CA, The Gentle Barn is home to over 160 animals (cows, pigs, chickens, horses, goats and many more!) all of whom are rescued. They are victims of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect. The Gentle Barn takes in the animals that no one else wants. They rehabilitate them with medical attention, proper nutrition and love. These animals are then given a loving place to live out their lives free from harm. It’s a long process to get these animals healthy-both in their bodies and minds. But, Ellie, Jay and their staff work relentlessly with their residents to give them the best lives possible.

    Duchess, the llama, and her friends lounging in the upper barnyard.
    Duchess, the llama, and her friends lounging in the upper barnyard.

    My first visit to The Gentle Barn coincided with the semi-annual vegan bake sale that is held to benefit The Gentle Barn.  This is done in conjunction with the “Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale” events that take place across the country. All items for sale and supplies are 100% donated free of charge and 100% of the proceeds go to The Gentle Barn to help them continue the amazing work they do for the animals and their community. I was very excited to volunteer my time at the bake sale but I was even more excited to spend some time loving on these wonderful animals.

    After working part of the morning at the bake sale, I was able to spend some time checking out the barn and it’s residents. The barn is split into upper and lower barnyard sections. The lower barnyard is where you’ll find the horses and cows (and the restrooms, snack shop, Frankenstand’s Veggie Dogs and the gift shop). The upper barnyard is home to the pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, chickens, turkeys and peacocks. At select times, there is a short presentation that is given by Ellie explaining how the barn came to be. After the presentation, the upper barnyard is open for visitors.

    Bodhi, a resident of the upper barnyard at The Gentle Barn.
    Bodhi, a resident of the upper barnyard at The Gentle Barn.

    I absolutely fell in love with Biscuit, a 1000 pound pig, and Zeus, an 800 pound pig. Both pigs were raised to be slaughtered for meat, thus their very unnatural sizes. These gentle giants were fast asleep in their stalls but still very much enjoyed their bellies being rubbed. In fact, Biscuit legs would twitch and Zeus would grunt when you rubbed their favorite spots.

    arethaHowever, there was one special animal that stole my heart. Her name is Aretha. Aretha is a cow who was rescued from slaughter. During this visit, she had only been at the barn for about 2 months and still had a long road to recovery ahead of her. She was very skittish and would stand still for a few moments to allow someone to touch her. Her brand was still visible and her ear tag remained in her ear because she was not yet comfortable enough for them to attempt to remove it. Aretha stood there and you could see the hurt in her eyes. I quietly walked up to her and pet her for a few minutes but I really just wanted to wrap my arms around her! Her “person” (each animal has a “person” who keeps an eye on them and stays with them) and I chatted for a while while I pet Aretha and she told me to go ahead and try to give her a hug. She gave me instructions on what to do and where to stand and I did. And she let me hug her! She stood there, totally still and I think we bonded. Now every time I visit the barn, she is my first stop. And I think she remembers me. She just looks at me with these eyes, like she knows who I am. Aretha has come a really long way in her recovery, allowing more visitors to pet her and spend time with her. But she is still learning to trust to that no one will ever harm her again.

    I also visited their horses and donkey, Addison. I’ve always loved horses and thought they were such gorgeous beings. But they terrify me. I spent some time admiring the horses from afar (I didn’t want to try to pet one at first) but then decided to buy a bag of carrots to feed them. I fed several of the horses and spent a little extra time with Patrick. He was adorable and greedy! He literally stuck his head in my bag to get some carrots. But he was so very gentle. I also fed some carrots to his neighbor, Addison the donkey, because he was just too cute!

    When visiting hours were over, I was so sad to leave. This place is so wonderful and there are so many amazing things happening here. From the work they do with the animals, to the amazing staff who volunteer their time and the animal therapy programs that help children and adults, you can’t help but fall in love with The Gentle Barn. Since our first visit, we have been back several times and every time, I am so grateful that a place like this exists.

    This is Benny, a turkey that was rescued from slaughter. Benny loved to be pet under her wings. Unfortunately, Benny passed away a couple of months after this picture was taken. But, I am so grateful that she was able to live the rest of her life in such a loving place.
    This is Benny, a turkey that was rescued from slaughter. Benny loved to be pet under her wings. Unfortunately, Benny passed away a couple of months after this picture was taken. But, I am so grateful that she was able to live the rest of her life in such a loving place.

    The Gentle Barn is located at 15825 Sierra Highway Santa Clarita, CA 91390 and they are open for public visits on Sundays from 10am to 2pm.

    Plan your visit today!

     

     

  • WTFriday!?

    WTFriday!?-Kala Namak

    I discovered this little ingredient thanks to this wonderful recipe (which is amazing!). Kala Namak is really the star ingredient because of it’s ability to bring out a true egg flavor in any dish.

    Kala Namak, otherwise known as black salt, is not black at all. It’s actually a pinkish color. And unlike salt, it has a powdered consistency rather than a true grain like salt texture. And, it smells just like the yolk of a hard boiled egg (side note: I don’t suggest taking a bit whiff of the salt in the bag. I did it so you don’t have to).

    I found black salt at my local Indian grocer. It paid $2.85 for a bag that I will probably have to pass on to my future relatives because there is no way I’ll ever use it all. It’s one of those ingredients where a little goes a long way. Black salt can also be found on Amazon or other online shopping sites, if you don’t have an Indian grocer in your area.

    There are many uses for black salt. Add it to tofu scrambles, create an egg-less “egg” salad, sprinkled on veggies or in Indian dishes. But definitely give the Egg VcMuffin recipe above a shot. It’s so delicious! I add Vegenaise (try adding Frank’s Red Hot to your Veganaise) and my hubby likes his served with strawberry preserves. You really can’t go wrong!

    Enjoy!

    Egg VcMuffin on Sourdough bread with Vegenaise and Frank's Red Hot.
    Egg VcMuffin on Sourdough bread with Vegenaise and Frank’s Red Hot.
    egg vcmuffin
    The Egg VcMuffin

  • Meal Ideas

    “Meat”ball Subs

    I know what you’re thinking: Meatball sub with no meat? No way! Well, believe it. I decided to make these subs after our trip to Sonoma, CA where we were able to try Ike’s Place for the very first time (which you should do if you go to the San Francisco area). I hadn’t had a meatball sub in so long and I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed it. While these subs were no Ike’s subs, they were dang delicious. And that’s really all that matters.

    So, here is what you’ll need for your subs:

    1 French Roll per person

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    The package says it all. “For meat and veggie lovers alike!”

    1 Package Gardein Meatless Meatballs

    1 Jar of your favorite marinara sauce or homemade marinara

    Daiya Mozzarella style shreds (or your favorite non-dairy cheese)

    Earth Balance Roasted Herb & Garlic spread (or your favorite vegan butter spread), slightly softened

    Here’s how to assemble them:

    1. Add your marinara to a saucepan and heat through. Once hot, add the desired amount of meatballs (I use 4 meatballs per sub) to the pan and simmer on low for 15 minutes.

    2. While simmering the meatballs, slice your french roll lengthwise along the top (don’t cut all the way through. Your sub will turn into a very messy sandwich!) and spread Earth Balance on each side of the inside of the roll.

    3. Wrap the french roll in foil but leave the slit across the roll uncovered.

    4. Put the wrapped rolls into the oven and bake for about 5 minutes or just until the inside of the bread is slightly toasty and the butter is melted.

    5. Once bread is slightly toasty, remove the bread from the oven but keep it wrapped in the foil. Add the meatballs and some of the marinara sauce (don’t over do the sauce, your sub will be really soggy!)

    6. Top with cheese and pull the foil down around the sides so that the foil is only under the bottom of the roll (basically, your roll should sit on a “plate” of foil). Put the rolls into the oven and set the oven to “Broil” and broil until the cheese is melty and your bread is as crunchy as you’d like it (about 5-10 minutes).

    7. Enjoy!

    Shopping Note: If your new to plant based cooking, you might be wondering where to find Gardein and Daiya. Gardein can be found at Von’s, Sprout’s Farmers Markets, Target and Whole Foods in the Frozen aisles. Daiya can be found at Von’s, Sprout’s Farmers Markets and Whole Foods. If you aren’t sure about stores in your area, you can also check out there product locators: Gardein and Daiya.

    Perfectly toasty!
    Perfectly toasty!

     

  • Travel Vegan Style

    Kauai-Vegan Style

    My husband and I have wanted to go to Kauai for many years. But life always seemed to get in the way. Last year, we decided that we were finally going to make our dream happen. So, for my birthday, we headed to The Garden Isle. But before we left, I did plenty of research to find vegan friendly places all over the island. The upshot was that our condo had a full kitchen so if we had to, we could cook at the condo. But who wants to cook on vacation!? We found some suggestions and also stumbled onto other places that we hadn’t heard of in our research. This is my attempt to create a comprehensive list of the places that we enjoyed so that you can enjoy them on your visit to Kauai, too.

    After a long morning of travel, we finally landed in Lihue around 2:00pm. We picked up our rental car and headed south to our condo in Poipu. We checked in, dropped off our luggage and headed down to the beach. After a while, we were quite hungry but tired so we headed to Plantation Gardens, which was on the property. We were surprised that we had quite a few vegan options here! After ordering drinks (I had the Sweet Li Hing Mui Margarita and he had the Lavender Pina Colada-both were delicious!), we ordered the Tofu Inari appetizer. It was so good. The outer tofu wrap was fried so it was really airy and slightly crunchy. The texture and weight was similar to mexican chiccharones. The veggies inside were perfectly cooked and complimented the tofu wrap. The hoisin sauce was well balanced between sweet and salty. On to the main course! We ordered two dishes to share: Yamaimo Soba Noodle salad and the Vegetable Quinoa Bowl (without the parmesan cheese). Everything was delicious. We enjoyed mango sorbet for dessert. This dinner was a great way to start our vacation!

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    Tofu Inari appetizer from Plantation Gardens at Kiahuna Plantation resort.

    The next day, we headed out to find something for breakfast. As a vegan, this is always the trickiest meal for eating out. Usually relegated to bagels or oatmeal, we were determined to find something yummy! We stumbled onto The Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company. Since the choices were few, we ordered their Veggie Tofu Wrap (specify no cheese and no sour cream). It was so good and very filling-perfect for our day trip to Waimea Canyon. This wrap was stuffed with tofu squares and perfectly cooked veggies. Served with salsa and your choice of potatoes, this breakfast has all your favorites in one dish! Their coffee was also very good. Be sure to ask for almond or soy milk, which is kept behind the counter.

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    Veggie Tofu Wrap from The Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company. Be sure to order without cheese and sour cream! Salsa in a separate dish would also not be a bad idea.

    On our way back to Poipu after day tripping to Waimea Canyon, we stopped off in Waimea town to enjoy shave ice from JoJo’s Clubhouse. Apparently, there a two locations named JoJo’s clubhouse but we stopped at the shady looking one across from the high school in town. Supposedly, this is the original location run by new owners. We ordered two shave ices-no ice cream or whipped cream. It was so refreshing on a warm day! The ice reminded me of a snow cone but much softer. No big chunks of ice, just smooth, cold ice.  The flavor that my husband ordered reminded us a of a Big Stick popsicle and I chose a pina colada flavor. Both were great!

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    Shave ice from JoJo’s Clubhouse which may or may not be the original location run by new owners. This was a perfect treat!

    We also stopped by The Kauai Coffee Company plantation on the way back to Poipu because we are coffee lovers. You can take the self-guided tour through the plantation (takes about 15 minutes) and learn about the coffee crops and how they harvest the coffee. After the tour, you can taste their different coffee roasts and pick some up to go from the gift shop. If you enjoy coffee and are in the area, this is a fun little stop. We picked up their Estate Reserve Peaberry roast to bring home with us.

    After a long morning out, we wanted to pick a quick lunch to take back to the condo with us. We stopped by Da Crack, since it was less than 5 minutes from our resort. This was the oddest little place. It literally is a walk up window between two store fronts. It’s a little sketchy but oh my, the food was delicious. We both ordered veggie burritos. Stuffed with beans, rice, veggies, guacamole and jalapenos (opt for no jalapenos or ask for them on the side. You can’t say I didn’t warn you!), this was a great meal to enjoy on our lanai with some ice cold beer. Oh, and their chips are addicting. They don’t make the typical corn tortilla chips. The use flour tortillas for their chips. And they’re crazy good.

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    Da Crack is a bit hard to find because it’s literally a walk up window between two store fronts. Pictured is the veggie burrito. Pick up some beer at the grocery store next door and head to the beach!

    That night, we were off to dinner at Roy’s before our luau at Luau Kalamaku (Side note: You can buy show only tickets here. And you get stage side reserved seating. This luau is wonderful!) This was the only meal on Kauai in which I had reached out to the chef before our trip. I swapped several emails with Executive Chef Melanie, who was more than happy to put together an entirely vegan menu for us. She asked for our likes and dislikes but other than that, she took total control of our menu and we had no idea what to expect.

    Two pina coladas, please!
    Two pina coladas, please!

    We checked in for our reservation and were seated by the windows that were a perfect birdwatching spot. Our menu was laid out on the table for us and as we read over it, our mouths started to water. Our waiter came over to take our drink order and we both ordered pina coladas. We enjoyed our drinks as we perused our menu.  Our appetizer was Poipu Style Granny Smith Apple and Sweet Potato “Poke”. This was so good! The apple and purple sweet potatoes were layered with smoked onions, avocado and Himalayan salt. Our second course was a Watermelon Carpaccio salad with hearts of palm, mac nuts and ginger dressing. The watermelon was shaved thin and was nice and refreshing. This was definitely a nice, light second course. Our main course was up next: Crispy Rice Cracker Seared Tofu. Now, I don’t know what to say about this other than you should book your trip to Kauai, if only to eat this dish at Roy’s. The tofu had a wonderfully crispy layer on top and sat in this amazing ginger soy sauce. There was also bok choy, tomato and jasmine rice on the side. We nearly cried tears of joy while eating this dish. It was hands down, the best dish we’ve ever eaten. Our final course was dessert. This was Poached Pears with Tropical Fruit Streusel and Ginger Caramel Cookie ice cream. Again, Chef Melanie was a genius. This dish was delicious but we were so full, that we barely made a dent! Very pleased with our dinner, we asked if we could meet Melanie. She came to our table a few minutes later to chat with us for a bit. She was sweet as could be and was so happy to have planned our menu for us. She told us that it was a nice change of pace and it really pushed her to think out of the box. She asked for our critique and the only thing we could think of was that there so much food! She said that she was afraid that we would leave hungry! It was quite funny. But we enjoyed her dishes so much that we asked her if she would do another menu for us again. She said absolutely and so we made reservations for dinner on my birthday. P.S. That dinner did not disappoint either! She made an entirely new menu and our dessert, the Maple Macadamia Nut Cinnamon Bun, is now a regular menu item!

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    Granny Smith Apple and Sweet Potato “Poke”
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    Watermelon “Carpaccio” Salad
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    Crispy Rice Cracker Seared Tofu
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    Poached Pears with Tropical Streusel

     

    The next morning was our awesome catamaran tour up the Na’Pali Coast. The day trip we scheduled through Captain Andy’s  was the Northern Star which included a BBQ lunch. There seems to be some confusion about the veggie burger that they offer so we were told we could bring our own food and snacks, which was awesome. (Note: They’ve updated their website with vegan and gluten free options!) So, we skipped breakfast (which turned out to be a horrible idea for me) this morning since check in was early!

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    The Na’Pali Coast from the Northern Star. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

    After a long day of snorkeling and cruising, we opted for a quick dinner. My hubby went over to Puka Dog since it was right across the street. We each had a veggie dog (which is vegan) but with different toppings (skip the secret sauce-it’s not vegan). He opted for the old fashioned ketchup dog and I tried to the lilikoi mustard and coconut relish combination. I don’t even know where to start with this. The veggie dog itself was great. They don’t overcook or undercook them, which is easy to do. The lilikoi mustard was a little sweet and a little spicy but very good. The coconut relish was delicious. It reminded me of soft gel and it had bits of shredded coconut throughout. If you like coconut, get this. But can we talk about the bun!? The bun is served hot, like fresh out of the oven hot. And it’s so soft but it doesn’t collapse under the weight of the veggie dog and condiments. And, it completely envelopes the veggie dog so you get bun in every bite. These veggie dogs were so good and great for a quick meal! Also, check out Papalani Gelato next door for a great dessert! They have quite the selection of dairy free gelatos. We picked up the dark chocolate and pineapple gelatos.

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    Veggie dog (minus secret sauce) with lilikoi mustard and coconut relish from Puka Dog. So good!
    Gelato from Papalani's
    Gelato from Papalani’s

    The next day we headed to Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee company again for breakfast because it was just so good the first time. We spent the day checking out the sights along the East and North shores. We also checked out the Kilauea Lighthouse and decided to stop by Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza for lunch. The shopping center is super quaint with their resident bird, Daphne. Kilauea Bakery is towards the back and has a small patio with racks of books for your enjoyment. It’s beautifully landscaped and a great place to relax with some good food! We ordered the veggie deluxe pizza with soy cheese. The pizza had all the veggies and they didn’t overdo the cheese. The crust had a nice crunch to it and was really flavorful. It wasn’t just pizza toppings on cardboard which happens sometimes. It was pizza done right and it was delicious. And, we ordered dessert. We picked up the Lilikoi Coconut Cream cake. The cake was another winner. I have to say though, that I mostly tasted coconut, which I am not complaining about. I think the lilikoi is just super subtle and so the coconut overpowers it a bit. But I don’t think this is the fault of the bakery. And the cake was super moist. It reminded me of Tres Leches cake but without the excess liquid. It was definitely something I was hoping to get again before our vacation was over!

     

    Lilikoi Coconut Cream cake from Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza.
    Lilikoi Coconut Cream cake from Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza.

     

    Veggie Deluxe with Soy Cheese pizza from Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza.
    Veggie Deluxe with Soy Cheese pizza from Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza.

    For my birthday, we spent the entire day beach bumming around the South Shore. We checked out Poipu Beach. It’s a great spot for snorkeling (aqua shoes are a great idea!) and sea turtle watching-we even saw a momma and her babies! This beach also has a grassy area that overlooks the beach so it’s a great spot to have lunch while taking in the sights. We also checked out Shipwreck Beach. The beach itself was beautiful since its lined with cliffs on one side but the waters and sand were a bit rough for my tastes. And, apparently, the cliffs are a favorite jumping spot for adventurous folks. That night, we had reservations at Roy’s again. Here is a picture of our menu that night. We didn’t think Melanie could outdo our first meal but she did!

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    We spent the next couple of days enjoying the beaches, sights and revisiting some of our favorite places on the island. It was an amazing vacation and completely relaxing. And it was so easy to be vegan on the island! There are options out there, you just have to do some research. And don’t be afraid to ask! There are some other vegan friendly restaurants (Caffe Coco, Red Hot Mama’s, Banana Joe’s to name a few) that we didn’t make it to simply because we ran out of time. It’s funny, they say island time moves slow but it seemed like it was time to go back home the minute we got there. Our vacation was wonderful and we just cannot get back to the island soon enough. I hope this little vacation recap helps you plan your vacation. I enjoyed writing this post simply because I got to relive our vacation. I hope you enjoy yours too!

    Overlooking the ocean at Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Preserve
    Overlooking the ocean at Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Preserve
    The grassy area above Poipu Beach. You can see the reef in the background which makes this an awesome snorkeling spot!
    Poipu Beach
    The grassy area above Poipu Beach. You can see the reef in the background which makes this an awesome snorkeling spot!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Restaurants

    Gracias Madre

    My hubby and I live in Southern California but we are not fans of Los Angeles. It’s so crowded, traffic is a nightmare and it’s just much more commotion than either of us care to deal with. It sends my anxiety levels through the roof! So, it’s rare for us to venture out that way.

    But we were looking for a place to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and wanted to go some where new for dinner. After some discussion, we settled on the fairly new Gracias Madre, a San Francisco restaurant that had recently opened a location in Los Angeles. So, we made a reservation and mentally prepared ourselves for a trip to Los Angeles. And, it was the best trip ever!

    gracias madre

    We left super early because you never know if it will take you thirty minutes or an hour and thirty minutes to get to L.A. We arrived at Gracias Madre about fifteen minutes before our reservation time. When we walked in, we were suprised at the interior. It’s very open, bright and airy. It seems like all the new places have dark, wood decor so this was a nice surprise. There was a nice outside patio that we could see from the hostess area with very large, glass doors that lead to it. There were also big windows along that same wall which just added so much light and warmth to the space. The seating for the main restaurant was super cute. The tables had chairs on one side and couch like seating on the other. There were pillows in bright colors that served at your backrest if you were sitting on the bench side. I was already in love.

    We checked in but told the hostess that we were going to seat ourselves at the bar while we waited for our table. She was very friendly and said that we could take our time and that our table would be waiting for us.

    So, we took at seat at the bar and quickly reviewed the drink menu. I already knew what I was ordering but my hubby was unsure. The bartender recommended a beer for him so we placed our order: El Guey Aguanta for me, Uinta Wyld Extra Pale Ale beer for him. My hubby really loved his beer! It was very smooth and had a very light, clean feel to it. It is definitely something he would drink again. And my drink was pretty amazing too! It essentially was horchata spiked with Mezcal. Topped with cinnamon, mint and little lime rind curly pizzazz, this drink was amazing! I loved the horchata and they were not stingy with the Mezcal. We excitedly sipped on our drinks while we watched the wonderful looking food come out of the kitchen. After finishing our drinks, we closed out our bar tab and checked in with the hostess again who took us to our table.

     El Guey Aguanta and Pale Ale

    Our server was great! He was super friendly, gave us some great suggestions and seemed genuinely happy to be there and to have us there. We chatted for a moment and placed our appetizer order: Guacamole and Papas al Horno. The guacamole was really good and it was served with warm handmade tortillas instead of chips, which was a nice change of pace. The serving of guacamole was on the small side but it was tasty and it was the perfect amount for the tortillas. The papas were definitely the highlight here. These tiny potatoes were perfectly roasted, seasoned and then drizzled with a spicy cashew cheese sauce. Just describing them makes me hungry for them again! These were insanely delicious and we tried to very casually stuff our faces with all of the potatoes. Here’s a little tip: Make yourself a taco with some guacamole and a few potatoes. You’re welcome.

    papas

     

    After some small talk and important decision making, we ordered another round of drinks. My hubby ordered another beer and I went with the seasonal sangria (which was delicious!) because if I had another adult horchata, it was going to be a long ride home. Our drinks came and we ordered our entrees. My hubby ordered the chilaquiles and I ordered the flautas. Neither dish disappointed us. The chilaquiles were perfectly spicy and topped with cashew cream, cilantro and avocado to cool the spiciness. The flautas were stuffed with sweet potatoes and caramelized onions. They were also topped with cashew nacho cheese, pico de gallo salsa and guacamole. They were absolutely delicious! A little sweet and a little spicy and loads of flavor! Both entrees were served with refried black beans that were perfectly seasoned and tasty!

    chilaquiles flautas sangria and beer

     

    Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Frosting and housemade vanilla coconut ice crean
    Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Frosting and housemade vanilla coconut ice crean

    And obviously, we couldn’t not get dessert, right? So, we ordered their Pumpkin cake with Maple Cream Frosting and housemade vanilla coconut ice cream. It was absolutely amazing. The cake was a bit denser than a regular cake since it was a bundt style cake. The frosting wasn’t overly sweet but really contrasted the spiciness in the cake. The ice cream was super creamy and had a little hint of vanilla that complemented the cake and cream very well. As a side note: you can order their Mexican Wedding Cookies to go. And we did. And they were delish.

    Overall, our experience at Gracias Madre WeHo was one of the best dining experiences we’ve had in a while. Everything that we were served was absolutely perfect. The flavors on the plate were balanced and the seasonings were well done. And everything tasted fresh. I highly recommend the trip out to Los Angeles to treat yourself! Oh, and while you’re out there, you can do some shopping at Viva La Vegan Express, which is about 10 minutes away.

  • WTFriday!?

    WTFriday-Coconut Cream

    I’m a dessert person above all else. One of my favorite desserty things is whipped cream. I’m talking fresh whipped cream; none of that tub stuff. I love whipped cream on ALL the things-strawberries, bananas, pineapple, pie, waffles. I can’t think of one thing that doesn’t taste even better when doused in whipped cream.

    When we first gave up dairy, I thought I would never get to enjoy one of the sweetest little treats that I loved (when you are new to veganism, you always think this!). Enter my friend, coconut cream.

    Coconut cream is NOT the same thing as coconut milk. Some people make that mistake and wind up very sad. Coconut cream is much more dense than coconut milk. It is actually the byproduct of coconut milk making. It’s the thicker, almost paste like “cream” that is left after coconut milk is made. It has a mild flavor to it and isn’t very sweet which makes it perfect for smoothies (even those adult kind!), fudge (oh yeah!) and of course, whipped cream. It sold in cans and generally can be found in Asian/International aisle of your local grocer.

    The next time you’re looking for a luscious dessert, check out this recipe or this one (note: this recipe says coconut milk but use coconut cream instead since it’s becoming easier to find. And keep a can in the fridge at all times!)

    PPL Latte
    Look at that creamy topping! Homemade coconut whipped cream on top of pumpkin spice lattes. Take that, Starbucks!

     

  • WTFriday!?

    WTFriday!?-Tamari

    I keep a well stocked cabinet with several bottles of this on hand at any given moment. I think this is one of the most used items in my kitchen. But what is it!?

    Tamari is very similar to soy sauce. It is made from fermented soy beans, just like regular soy sauce, but it contains very little to no wheat. This produces a darker, slightly thicker sauce. I find the flavor to be much less salty that regular soy sauce. And, because of this, it is very versatile in cooking-I even have a challah bread recipe that calls for tamari!

    Gluten Free Tamari is readily available and is a great soy sauce substitute for people that must avoid gluten. My favorite brand of tamari is San-J which I buy at my local Sprouts Farmers Market.

    tamari

    So, swap out regular soy sauce for tamari sauce in your next recipe! It might just be your new favorite find!

  • WTFriday!?

    WTFriday-ACV

    Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of the products that I always have on hand. It can be used in so many ways! I always use Bragg’s Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar with The Mother. The Mother is where all of the beneficial enzymes are.

    Apple cider vinegar is a sweeter, fruity vinegar. It is used in a lot of recipes from dressings to marinades. It isn’t as harsh as white vinegar and helps create a lighter, tender texture which makes it great for baking. Once added to batter, it has no vinegar-y taste. I use apple cider vinegar to curdle almond milk that I use in place of buttermilk in my recipes. Simply add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of your non-dairy milk (I use almond milk). Allow the mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes. You may see some curdling or separation on the surface but don’t panic if you don’t. It doesn’t look like  curdled dairy milk that you are used to. Add the curdled milk your mixture and proceed with your recipe.

    Apple cider vinegar also makes an amazing facial toner! I use it everyday in my skin care regimen. To make your facial toner, mix water and ACV in a resealable jar. I store mine in a glass mason jar. I use a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part ACV but use whatever feels comfortable for you. When I started using this toner, I used 4 parts water and 1 part ACV and slowly decreased the amount of water. You can also use witch hazel in place of water or add your favorite oil  When you’re ready to use your toner, dip a cotton ball in your jar and then gently swipe over your face. Allow to dry and then follow with your moisturizer, etc.  I have noticed that my complexion is more evenly balanced, my skin is more hydrated and my skin is brighter. *A quick note about using this for the first time: keep it away from your eyes or any open scratches, pimples or sores. It will burn!

    There are so many other uses for apple cider vinegar around the house, too! Use it to sanitize your bathroom, clean fruits and veggies, sanitize your countertops and cutting boards and as a deodorizer. Really, the list goes on and on. And it’s completely cruelty free and so inexpensive!

    What’s your favorite way to use ACV? I’d love to hear it!