food

veggie grill summer menu review

Yesterday I was sitting at the nail salon and ended up chatting with the woman next to me.  She brought up the recent earthquakes in California, how living in Los Angeles has changed compared to 10 years ago, and how people need to connect more and be kinder to each other.

“And stop eating animals,” she said.

Not knowing anything about me, she mentioned that she doesn’t consider herself fully vegan, but she’s almost there.

Here’s another thing that’s changed in the last 10 years: my go-to response in conversations like this always used to be, “have you been to Veggie Grill?”  It was the perfect place to send someone who wanted to try more vegan options at a reasonable price, right in the neighborhood.

But lately the menus have been iffy, the quality is unpredictable, and the prices keep going up.

These days, I’m more inclined to ask – have you tried the new Beyond Burger at Carls Jr.?

Veggie Grill’s new summer menu for 2019 was surprising.  Some items that I expected to be just okay ended up being my favorites, and a couple that I thought would be the best were actually disappointing.  Keep reading for my full review.

Note:  All items for this review were purchased at Veggie Grill in Torrance, California.

pattymelt

beyond patty melt

“grilled rye, beyond burger, grilled onions, melted cheese”

I usually like burgers piled high with veggies, so I’m rarely in the mood for a patty melt, but this day I was.  The bread was pretty dry, and it wasn’t buttered and grilled like you’d expect.  Were they trying to make it seem healthier?  Patty melts typically have Swiss cheese, but I believe they used cheddar.  It wasn’t a bad sandwich, but a little more attention to greasy-spoon detail could have made it much better.

Would I get it again?:  Probably not.  I’d go for the Luxe Burger or Steakhouse Burger instead.

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carne asada burrito

“carne asada, grilled peppers and onions, mashed avocado, crema, pico de gallo, salsa quemada | optional: tortilla chips | get it on fire: add jalapenos, sriracha”

Flavor-wise, this was delicious.  The taste and texture of the carne asada were great.  But it reminded me of why I don’t usually order Veggie Grill burritos – they’re watery as heck!  Nobody wants a drippy burrito.  I think this could be improved by replacing some of the veggies (or even some of the meat) with a layer of rice and beans.  The best part was the crema; it reminded me of a veggie burrito I used to get all the time in my pre-vegan days, and without that creaminess all other veggie burritos have paled in comparison.

Also, my burrito had a whole stalk of green onion in it, roots to tip:

asadaonion

Would I get it again?:  I wouldn’t not get it, but I still haven’t had many of their tacos, so I’d probably try those first.  I also like their taco salad.  I have no loyalty to this burrito.

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tonkatsu chickin’ ramen

“choice of chickin’ katsu cutlet or fried tofu, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, edamame, ginger, mushroom broth, ramen noodles, furikake”

I’ve made more exciting ramen with a tea kettle in a paper cup.  Next.

(Note:  I’m not a picky eater at all, and the only other times I’ve been less impressed with a meal than I was with this ramen, I ended up getting a cold the next day and realizing the problem was with my taste buds, not the food.  I waited a few days before writing this review just to be sure, and I’m still fit as a fiddle!)

Would I get it again?:  No.

salad
summer celebration salad

“bbq grilled chickin’ or tofu, quinoa tabbouleh, avo-kale hummus, fire-roasted corn+tomato salad over arugula + romaine, citrus vinaigrette | optional flatbread”

They had a similar salad last year – it’s so weird, and I love it!  It’s like taking all the leftovers from a summer BBQ and dumping them on a bed of greens.  This is one of my favorite salads from Veggie Grill.

Would I get it again?:  Yes!

streetcorn

chargrilled street corn bowl

“grilled sweet corn, chipotle mayo, parmesan, cilantro, fresh lime | get it spicy: add chile seasoning”

This is probably not something I would have ordered had it not been for this blog post, but it was one of my favorite items on the menu.  I thought it was a little too heavy on the mayo, but I won’t hold that against them.

Would I get it again?:  Yes.

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smoky corn bisque

“smoky corn bisque”

They couldn’t write a better description for the smoky corn bisque than “smoky corn bisque?”  Anyway, this was another unexpected favorite that I wouldn’t have ordered on my own.  It’s full of roasted corn and veggies!

Would I get it again?:  Yes, probably as half of a pick-a-pair.

peachcake

grilled peaches-n-cream cake

“baked fresh daily”

Those peaches are grey, y’all.  #nofilter

The first time I tried this was in a peak adulting moment where I went to Veggie Grill for dinner, remembered I didn’t have any breakfast food at home, so instead of stopping by the store I just got one of these little cakes to-go.  For breakfast.  You know.  The next morning I had it with coffee, and.. it wasn’t good.  I thought it might be my fault for refrigerating it overnight, so I got another one to eat fresh and write this review (pictured).  And.. it still wasn’t good.  It was a little better once I took the peaches off.  But still, yikes.

Would I get it again?:  No.  God no.

sangria

“prepared fresh daily”

This is the only item I didn’t sample, as I’m not drinking alcohol at the moment.  Have you tried it?

Would I get it again?:  n/a


Let me know what you thought of the summer menu!  What are your favorite things to order at Veggie Grill?  To view the whole menu, click here.

activism

is it time to commit to pet-free pet stores?

guinea pigs

This article was originally posted on my pets blog at veganpetsitter.com on March 30, 2018.

I’ve always found it ironic that when you finish checking out at places at Petco and PetSmart, they pop the question – would you like to make a donation to help homeless animals today?

It brings to mind the thousands of guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, reptiles and birds who end up in shelters or worse.  Many of whom were purchased at places like Petco and PetSmart.

Walking among the cages of small animals in these stores, you’ll see signs that encourage you to “think adoption first.”  But, given the pet overpopulation epidemic, why don’t we think adoption only?

If you browse the Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control website right now (which is looking pretty nice after a recent makeover, by the way!), here’s what you’ll find:

  • 17 rabbits
  • 5 red eared sliders
  • 8 guinea pigs
  • 1 ball python
  • 1 corn snake
  • 1 yellow-headed Amazon parrot
  • 1 cockatiel
  • 1 cockatoo

Searching with Los Angeles Animal Services will give you 273 small animals of similar varieties, plus a few hamsters and mice.  That’s over 300 small animals in need of a home, not even counting the ones on Craigslist, posted on social media and neighborhood apps, abandoned in parks, and being fostered through reputable rescue groups.

I spoke with Michiko Vartanian of Orange County Cavy Haven to get an idea of the number of animals the rescue works with, and to see the breadth of how many small animals need homes in the Los Angeles area.  OCCH is a tiny but mighty organization that works closely with each animal, and focuses only on one species: guinea pigs.  They typically have 25-30 animals in foster homes at any given time, and average about 25 adoptions per month.  One of the largest small animal rescue groups in Southern California is Bunny Bunch, and I counted 158 animals (mostly rabbits, with a few chinchillas and guinea pigs), at their two locations in Fountain Valley and Montclair.

Clearly, small animal rescue groups deserve a huge round of applause.  They are doing the work for these little guys that pet stores don’t, from educating the public about proper housing and care, to rehoming the animals who are no longer wanted.  And even though most animal lovers support adoption of dogs and cats, the idea of rescuing a small animal – or donating to groups that do – might not even be on their radar.

I first got some insight into the world of small animal rescue pretty early on in my activist career, when I started a campaign against a local pet store to stop them from selling puppies from puppy mills.  One of my biggest supporters was Linda Baley, founder of Too Many Bunnies Rabbit Rescue, who also despised the store.  She said that not only did they sell rabbits with cages that were much too small, they kept a stack of her cards to give to customers when the rabbit inevitably outlived their short attention span, or became too difficult to care for.  I also became familiar with a few common dumping grounds for small animals, a plan which is not only cruel to the animal you’re abandoning, it’s harmful to native species, and most definitely illegal. 

My campaign against the pet store was successful, and the location in Torrance pretty quickly closed down.  Their other branches switched to adoption only for puppies, which is what we wanted, but it was hard to see this as a victory.  The conditions these rescue puppies were kept in were far below ideal, and small animals were still being sold.  When the chain eventually went out of business, I have to say it was a huge relief.

In the past decade or so, we’ve seen some corporate and legislative improvements to help animals in pet stores, and overpopulation.  City ordinances have slowly popped up around the country that outlaw the retail sale of dogs, cats, and sometimes rabbits.  PetSmart actually stopped selling rabbits in 2007 after pressure from The House Rabbit Society, and Petco followed in 2008.  Both chains also used to sell puppies, something that is a very foggy memory from my childhood, but gives me hope that their policies can improve for small animals as well.  After talking to Michiko, I’m more convinced than ever that this has to happen soon.  She says:

Our biggest problem is that the laws that require pet stores to sell only animals from rescues do not include small animals.  When these ordinances were passed in some counties a few years back, it only made the situation for guinea pigs worse, as they were one of the few animals now in pet stores, so they are now filling up shelters faster, and the incidences of them being dumped in parks, trash cans, etc., has increased dramatically.  Furthermore, we have a ‘re-home’ program, where we will help people re-home unwanted guinea pigs, and the prior owners now become ‘fosters,’ while we find new homes for their animals.  This helps us help more guinea pigs in spite of having very limited foster space, but we also track the origin of the animals.  In 98% of the cases, they came from pet stores.  It’s sad the new laws won’t help the guinea pigs and other small animals.

I’m writing this post in the wake of yesterday’s PetSmart raid in Tennessee, which I believe accurately depicts the values of these big name pet stores and their small animal suppliers.  We would never support a company that treated puppies this way, and I think it’s time to extend our compassion to the little guys, too.  Vote with your dollars, and support companies that understand animals – big and small – deserve more consideration than a product on a shelf.

 

resources

the best of vegan youtube

The past few weeks have found a lot of YouTubers I’ve never heard of getting a lot of attention by announcing they’re not vegan anymore!  That’s cool, but I’d much rather give the spotlight to folks who are still creating entertaining, informative content to help animals and make the vegan lifestyle more accessible.  Here are a few of my favorites:

1:  the vegan zombie

This was probably the first vegan YouTube channel I ever watched (because, duh, zombies), and they just celebrated their 10 year anniversary!  The Vegan Zombie features host Chris Cooney, with pop-ins from co-creator Jon Tedd and other guests.  Content includes easy to follow recipes, vegan product reviews, event coverage across the country, and more.

2:  no egg craig

I found No Egg Craig through his crossovers with The Vegan Zombie, which usually involve cooking a meal on Chris’ channel and then Craig’s family mukbangs it.  Although the channel primarily revolves around food, Craig also talks openly about living with an autoimmune disease, and his personal experience using a vegan diet to manage symptoms.  His grocery shopping videos with mom are definitely one of my favorite things on the internet, and if you need more mom jokes in your life you’ll definitely want to subscribe to this channel.

3:  sweet simple vegan

So many recipes!  Jasmine & Chris produce a ton of recipes to help you create some pretty impressive meals, even if you’re short on time or working with a tight budget.  They also do a great job of incorporating lifestyle and behind the scenes content, which sets them apart from a lot of other recipe channels.  I like to get to know the people behind the brand, and Sweet Simple Vegan definitely has that personal touch.

4:  happiest vegan on earth

Lisa at Happiest Vegan on Earth mainly focuses on Disney and Disneyland related content, and has created comprehensive guides to all the vegan options across the California parks.  (I always have her website open in my browser on my Disneyland days!)  I also love seeing her Disney movie reviews and trailer reactions from a vegan perspective, since Disney movies absolutely changed the way I saw animals, and made me start thinking about animal rights at a young age.  This channel is fairly new compared to the others, but I can’t wait to see where it goes!

5:  the cranky vegan

I love a good foodie channel as much as the next guy, but it’s great to have a channel focused solely on activism.  Jake Conroy at The Cranky Vegan covers animal rights news, trends, and history.  He also talks strategy and offers unsolicited but constructive criticism for campaigns that could be more effective.  His 3 minute thursdays are a quick and entertaining way to stay caught up with what’s been going on in the movement this week.

6:  cheap lazy vegan

Definitely need to start by saying I LOVE HER BUDGET MEAL PREP VIDEOS!  I’m always busy and on a pretty strict budget, so thinking about cooking and meal planning can feel pretty overwhelming.  (Anyone else regularly buy takeout while the groceries you bought are spoiling in the fridge?  Yeahhh.. me neither.)  Rose at Cheap Lazy Vegan shows that vegan meal planning on a budget is totally possible, and I love that she finds different ways to use ingredients a lot of people already have in their pantries.

7:  brown vegan

I originally found Monique Koch of Brown Vegan through her podcast, where she covers veganism from the perspective of a mom, a business owner, and a woman of color.  Her YouTube channel is more food-centered, which creates an awesome visual to go along with the podcast episodes I’ve been listening to.  I love Monique’s non-judgemental approach to promoting a vegan lifestyle, and her content will be valuable to seasoned vegans and newbies alike.

8:  pick up limes

This is a beautiful channel by Sadia Badiei covering all kinds of vegan meals, from fancy to the everyday.  Sadia has a degree in dietetics, and makes even basic, easy-to-make meals seem special.  “Pick Up Limes was created as a medium to share uncomplicated vegan recipes that are nutritious, delicious and visually appealing. It’s as easy as that.”  Watch:  5 meals I eat each week.

9:  farm sanctuary

After I went vegan, one of the first things I did was visit Farm Sanctuary in Acton, CA.  Connecting with these animals really made my decision more concrete for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who might be questioning why they should go vegan, or struggling with their commitment.  If you’re unable to make the trip to a sanctuary, Farm Sanctuary’s YouTube channel is a great place to start.

[Note:  The video below isn’t graphic, but does contain a few seconds of upsetting audio.  It tells the story of Julia’s life, before and after Farm Sanctuary.]


I hope this post introduced you to some new content creators to add to your rotation!  Who are your favorite vegan YouTubers?  Let me know, and I will check them out!

disneyland · food

my favorite vegan disneyland meals [under $15!]

This year I became a Disneyland Annual Passholder for the first time, and have spent the past three months eating my way through the parks!  There is a bit of a learning curve to eating vegan at Disneyland, but once you’ve got it down it’s pretty easy – and also kind of amazing.  Before you dive into my guide, here are a few things you should know:

  • Some Disney restaurants require reservations on busy days, but for the sake of convenience and spontaneity I’ve only included quick service options in this post – no reservations required!
  • All prices listed are before AP discount and before tax.
  • Please note the MODIFICATIONS bullet point below each item before you order.
  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to the cast member who takes your order and let them know you’re vegan.  Sometimes I’ll give them my modifications and ask, “that makes it vegan, right?”  In my experience the cashier usually knows what that means, but if they don’t there’s someone nearby to confirm.

Please let me know if you have comments or questions, and have a great time in the parks!

 1. frontierland – rancho del zocalo | veggie tostada salad – $12.49*

  • Modifications:  This isn’t officially on the menu, so just ask for a veggie tostada with no cheese or sour cream.  You can also add rice, which is vegan.

This was the first vegan meal I had at Disneyland, and it’s still one of my favorites.  It’s hearty, flavorful, and loaded with veggies.  I think the only downside to having so many vegan options elsewhere is that I don’t get to come to Rancho more often!  *The price given is for the meat-based option; believe it or not, your veggie will actually be cheaper.

2.  paradise garden park [DCA] – paradise garden grill | seasonal vegan item

  • Modifications:  This will vary by item, but the last three seasonal items have been labeled vegan as-is.

So, I don’t even know what the next seasonal item at Paradise Garden Grill is going to be, but the last three have been so great that I had to include it on my list.  For Festival of the Holidays they had a vegan chile relleno, at Lunar New year it was a vegan orange tempeh bowl, and currently for Food & Wine Festival they’re featuring this Impossible meatball sub ($11.99).  These have all been clearly labeled as vegan, and a quick glance around the dining area proves they’re a huge hit with vegans and meat-eaters alike!  You definitely don’t want to miss this option – I would recommend putting it near the top of your list.

3. critter country – hungry bear restaurant | messy melvin’s vegan burger – $13.49

  • Modifications: As you might have guessed from the name, this meal is vegan as-is!  I definitely prefer the standard burger bun over the hard ciabatta this comes on, so you can double check with a cast member that it’s vegan (it usually is) and make that substitution if you like.

When they named this burger messy, they weren’t lyin’.  You might not start with chili fries, but you’ll end up with them.  The patty is from Beyond Burger so you can’t go wrong there, and Hungry Bear is one of my favorite restaurants for atmosphere and escaping crowds.  Look out onto the Rivers of America, watch the Mark Twain go by, and try not to drop chili on yourself.

4. various locations | mickey pretzel & dole whip – $5.25 + 5.69

  • Modifications:  None.

Um, is this a meal?!  A lot of things revert back to a childhood when I’m in Disneyland: my imagination, my sense of wonder.. my appetite.  I don’t see any parents anywhere telling me it can’t be a meal, do you?  My favorite place to get a pretzel is Tomorrowland because the seating is usually less crowded (plus who doesn’t love that futuristic beep boop music from 2004).  But if you’re trying to hit up both of these at once, I recommend the pretzel cart across from The Golden Horseshoe, and Tropical Hideaway for your Dole Whip.  You can also get a Dole Whip Float ($6.49, vegan as-is), or Loaded Whip ($7.99, order with no cookie sticks).  Now, go spoil your dinner.

5. fantasyland – red rose taverne | enchanted samosa sandwich – $11.29

  • Modifications: Order with no fried green beans, and ask for fries or apple slices instead of pommes frites.

I didn’t list these in any particular order (it would be too hard!), but this sandwich is definitely in my top 3.  It’s pretty big and super filling, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.  It also has a great samosa flavor, and I loved every bite!  Red Rose Taverne is a cute little Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant, which makes it a hit in my book.

6. tomorrowland – alien pizza planet | gluten-free vegan cheese pizza – $6.79

  • Modifications:  For this you’ll actually need to place your order with a chef – which actually makes things really easy, because you can confirm you ordered correctly right with the source.  Just let them know you want a vegan cheese pizza, and your wait will be about 10 minutes.  This option is also gluten-free!

This doesn’t look like much, but the crust had a little herb thing goin’ on and was actually more flavorful than I expected.  Plus, it’s only $6.79!  If you’d like more toppings on your pizza, you’ll have to go over to Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta at DCA and ask for a vegan pizza with sauteed veggies.

7. disneyland hotel – tangaroa terrace | lentil garden bowl – $11

  • Modifications:  None.

Did I feel like a rich witch eating this spa food overlooking the Disneyland Hotel pool or what?  This bowl was really delicious, and as you can see from the bottom photo it’s full of hidden yellow curry sauce.  This is a great spot to escape the crowds, and eat something different from your typical park food.  You can also get Dole Whips here, or a cocktail from Trader Sam’s next door.

8. new orleans square – royal street veranda | vegetable gumbo – $11.49

  • Modifications:  None, but I still got nervous and said no cheese.. even after they told me none of the soups come with cheese.

I finally tried the infamous Disneyland bread bowl gumbo!  It was everything I dreamed of and more.  The dining area at Royal Street Veranda is pretty small and often full, so I took mine over to the French Market and ate there – just follow the trail of beignet dust and you’ll find it.  They also have a stage at French Market, and it’s likely you’ll catch live music there or coming from the river.

9. pacific wharf [DCA] – lucky fortune cookery | asian rice bowl w/ tofu – $12.49

  • Modification:  Not really a modification as this is a build-your-bowl kind of vibe, but thai coconut curry is the only vegan sauce and tofu is the vegan protein option.

It took me a while to come here because the option looked like a lot of veggies and rice, but it turned out to be really good and very filling.  The tofu is soft, which isn’t what I’m used to, but it totally worked.  They’ll give you a fortune cookie with your bowl which is sometimes vegan and sometimes not, but you can ask them to check if you’re really jonesing for one.

10. downtown disney – earl of sandwich | veggie sub – $8.99

  • Modifications: No feta, no dressing.  Add mustard or balsamic glaze.

This has been my go-to when I’ve had too much fun in the parks and haven’t stopped to eat, but now it’s time to go home and I’m starving.  It’s a pretty basic veggie sandwich, but toasting it and adding balsamic glaze is what makes it awesome.  If your feet are tired, take the Monorail from Tomorrowland to Downtown Disney, and it’ll drop you off just a couple doors down from Earl of Sandwich.


There you have it!  Did I include any of your favorites, or miss one of your must-eats?  If you try any of these options, I’d love to hear what you think!

food · local

a celebration of suncafe & their anticipated new location

On Saturday, March 2, I joined a small group of guests to celebrate SunCafe and learn the details of their highly anticipated second location.

This event also marked the launch of their KickStarter campaign, which will help them secure a great new space in Santa Monica offering ample parking, a full bar, a banquet room for community and private events, and even a dog-friendly patio.  Did I mention they plan to stay open until 2 a.m.?

If you’ve not yet had the privilege of dining at SunCafe’s Studio City location, you’ve been missing out.  Any time I go, I know I’m guaranteed a special meal no matter what I order (although I tend to be pretty loyal to those nachos).  If I had the power to move any of LA’s vegan restaurants closer to my house, SunCafe would be it!

Super Sun Nachos / Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake (both gluten-free)

In addition to their amazing food, SunCafe is a restaurant with a lot of history and heart.  Throughout the event, owners Ron Russell and Rebecca Smith shared stories of their experience as new restaurant owners working 16-hour days, and how it was the positive feedback from their guests that kept them focused.  Russell mentioned one customer in particular who told him how plant-based eating had greatly improved his health, making it clear the positive impact this restaurant was destined to have.  Over the past ten years, several of LA’s top vegan chefs have called SunCafe home, and it’s not uncommon to find them on food critics’ “best of” lists.

One of my favorite things about SunCafe is that they’ve always been open and authentic about why they run a vegan restaurant — for animal rights, for the environment, and for human health.  The food is impressive enough on its own, but a business with a purpose I believe in is one I’ll gladly support.

SunCafe’s Kickstarter will run through the end of March, and offers exciting perks including food, merchandise, cooking classes, and special events.  Be sure to check it out, donate, and share to help make this new location a reality.

disneyland · food

vegan crepes at downtown disney!

If you’ve been to Disneyland, you know the smell.  A kind of smelly smell.  A smelly smell that smells.. like churros.

Now, imagine being vegan and having that warm, sugary, pastry smell wafting into your nostrils literally all day long, with no way to sate your cravings.  If you understand this feeling, you’ll understand why I was so excited to learn that there is a food truck serving up sweet vegan crepes at the west end of Downtown Disney.

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Crepes Bonaparte is a Food-Network-featured truck that once appeared on The Great Food Truck Race, and is now appearing in a temporary residency in between The Lego Store and Earl of Sandwich.  They’re not exclusively vegan, but they do offer a vegan batter and an extensive list of vegan toppings:

– apples
– avocado
– bananas
– bell peppers
– blackberries
– onions
– strawberries
– tomatoes
– walnuts
– chocolate
– cinnamon & sugar
– granulated sugar
– dairy-free whipped cream **
– lemon juice
– dijon mustard
– cookie butter
– peanut butter

** A note about the whipped cream:  I was told they do sometimes have a vegan version, but their standard whipped cream is not vegan although it is labeled “non-dairy.”  Employees were happy to let me peek at the ingredients to confirm for myself.  They did not have the vegan whip when I was there, but if they had I would have ordered it!

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I ordered mine with strawberries, bananas, chocolate & powdered sugar.  It was great, and my first crepe in at least 9 years!  Next time I would probably add cinnamon & sugar and/or cookie butter, because that’s just how I live my best life.

The truck at Downtown Disney typically opens at 3pm, but be sure to check their posted schedule if you’re planning a visit.  I’ve also been told that the truck will only be at it’s Disney location until construction wraps up and new restaurants open — there’s no official date yet, but it’s estimated they’ll be moving out of Disney by early summer.

If you miss them, you can still get your fix at the Crepes Bonaparte restaurant located at 115 S Harbor Boulevard in Fullerton.  And the two trucks, known as Pierre and Gaston, will continue to make the rounds in Los Angeles and Orange County.  Bon appétit!

health + fitness

january: lost 9 pounds & won a dietbet

So… here’s what happened.

Last month I started noticing a funny feeling in my chest that I definitely wouldn’t call pain, it wasn’t even really discomfort, it just didn’t feel quite right.  I thought maybe it was from stress, or too much caffeine, or I don’t know.. not taking my b-12?  I did all of the things and made small lifestyle corrections to see if it would go away.  It did not.

After a week or so of wondering about this, I realized this feeling was familiar.  I had felt it before when I was a teenager, when I was about 60 pounds heavier.

Out of curiosity I grabbed my scale and was surprised to find that I had gained about 20 pounds in 2018.  (Later I plugged this number into a health app and learned it was actually more like 30 pounds, and also that I can’t be trusted to do math on my own.)

Even though I’m lucky to have access to workout and nutrition programs that I love, last year I lost touch with my community, and lost my motivation.  I also really struggled to navigate the fitness world on my own with a body positive mindset — I found that most of the time, those two things didn’t overlap even though I thought they needed to.  Following fitness accounts on Instagram meant seeing one progress photo after another, with women nitpicking their own perceived flaws, projecting those flaws onto unsuspecting viewers; body positive accounts claimed that any type of diet plan was toxic, anyone talking about fitness was evil, and that loving your body meant that there was no valid reason to lose weight, period.

I was desperately looking for a middle ground.  I stopped talking about fitness because I couldn’t really figure out the right way, and I didn’t want to offend anybody.

I unfollowed all of those accounts, to try and find my voice again.

I figured that if I was having trouble finding a leader who shared my values, other women might be having that problem as well.  I promised myself I would recommit in 2019, and that once I made some traction on my own journey, I would start talking about it.

The goals I set in January were pretty simple.

increased activity

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get more active, but ONLY in ways that felt good and made me really happy.  I started a 3-week home workout program that I had done in the past and enjoyed.  I got a Disneyland Annual Pass, and walk about 7 miles every time I go — sorry, calves!  (I was about to say that my AP is probably cheaper than a gym membership, but then I Googled it, so now I have to stop telling myself that lie.  More fun than a gym membership, though?)

meal prep

I also set a goal to cook at home more to save money, and started doing weekly meal prep.  Although I plan to get a little more structured next month, this month I didn’t measure or count anything, or follow any kind of meal plan.  If you follow my IG you know I definitely still did partake in some Disney food, I just tried to make sure that if I did go to a restaurant it was because I really wanted to, not out of habit or convenience.  Plus, all that walking will make a bitch hungry.

DietBet

I almost didn’t mention this one because there’s a lot to unpack with dietbets!  I think this topic probably deserves its own post entirely.  I’ve done three over the last few years and this is the first one I’ve won, but even the two I lost were positive experiences for me because they served as reminders to stay focused on my habits.  I did not care about winning, and if you think losing a dietbet will make you feel bad in any way, definitely do not do it.  If getting on the scale influences how you’re going to feel about yourself that day, don’t do it.


That’s all!  I plan on repeating the same 3-week home workout program in February and would love some pals to do it with me.  If that interests you, please reach out!  Otherwise, look for another update this time next month!

food

vegan shakeology balls

I’ve been drinking shakeology pretty consistently for over two years now – and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to make these!  I recently bought some delicious peanut butter protein balls from a local juice shop I routinely give all of my money to, so I decided it would be worthwhile to figure out how to make my own at home.

Lately there have been a few mornings I’ve been ready to hit the road (*cough*disneyland*cough*) and decided I didn’t have time to make the shake I had planned, so this will be a great way to just grab a few balls from the fridge and take my shakeology to-go!

Ingredients
  • 1/4 vanilla shakeology
  • 1/4 oats
  • 1/4 shredded coconut
  • 1/4 c peanut butter
Steps

Literally just mix all of the ingredients above in a bowl!  I started with a spoon, then switched to hand-kneading to really get in there.  When you’re done mixing, it’s ok for the finished product to have some slightly crumbly bits, as you’re going to smoosh them back together when you make your balls.  At this point you might want to do a taste-test, and if it’s a little too dry or not as sweet as you’d like, go ahead and add a little liquid sweetener such as agave or vegan honey.  Shape into bite-sized balls and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

food

marinated sesame tofu

I’ve been vegan for nine years, and I’ve been paying too much for overpriced salad bar tofu for about as long.  Not anymore, buddy!

I almost never marinate my tofu.  Who wants to sit around and wait for their tofu to be ready?  But it turns out that having this prepped for the week was actually a huge time saver, and for about $2 per serving compared to $7 per serving at the salad bar, I might be able to learn to be patient.

Get Pressed:  You’ll want to press your tofu before you start working with it.  Here’s a quick tutorial video if you’ve never done that before!  I’m a super lazy presser and usually just squeeze mine a bit over the sink, before wrapping it in paper towels and pressing it by hand.  I think I’ve only placed a heavy object on my tofu once or twice in my life!

Marinade Ingredients

This was enough for me to marinate three pounds of tofu (one pound at a time), and I probably could have squeezed in one more.  I don’t suggest cutting the marinade amount though, as you’ll want enough volume for your tofu to actually, um, marinate in.

  • tofu (firm or extra firm)
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 2 T coconut sugar
  • 1 generous T minced or crushed garlic
  • 3 T toasted sesame oil
Stir-Fry

For this version, I cubed my tofu and marinated it somewhere between 4-12 hours on each side; honestly I just let it do it’s thing in the fridge until I felt like dealing with it, but an hour should be plenty.  It’ll soak up a lot of the marinade, which is why I recommend this method for a stir fry — all that flavor your tofu just absorbed is going to explode out onto your veggies.  I stir-fried my veggies in a little oil first and set them aside, then cooked to the tofu, then added them all together for a couple more minutes (I usually add a big squeeze of lime here).

Cooking the tofu separately should help it keep its shape: more cubey and not so scrambley.  Cooking time depends on your texture preference, but you probably want your tofu lightly browned on all sides so don’t forget to flip!

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Baked

Baked tofu is definitely my favorite, because you can cook it plain and decide how you want to use it later.  For this batch, I baked first, then marinated once it was cool.  It won’t be as spongy this way, and takes on flavor in a way more similar to marinated chicken.  Since more water cooks off with baking, your tofu will be more firm — and if you slice it thin like the photo below, you can get a slightly chewy, meatier texture.  If you’re not into that, you can also do cubes, sticks, or thicker slices.  Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 400° oven for about 20-30 minutes on each side.  Again, cook time will depend on your preferred texture and the thickness of your tofu.  Marinate for about an hour on each side, then use it however you like.  Served below over jasmine rice, with Sriracha, sesame seeds, and Saucy Lips zesty cilantro.

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food

basic vegan chicken salad

One of my goals with this blog is to provide easy vegan recipes that don’t require a lot of ingredients or skill to make.  Something I hear often is, “I would love to eat more vegan food – but I don’t know how to cook!”  (I used to feel that way, too.)  But that’s fine, because this is barely cooking!  All you really have to do is put ingredients in a bowl, and your friends or partner or stomach will think you’re a genius.

Ingredients:

  • Beyond Meat Beyond Chicken Strips (1 package)
  • vegan mayo (1 generous tablespoon)
    • I like Trader Joe’s brand – pictured below – or Just Mayo
  • green onion (1 stalk)
  • pickle juice (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Mrs. Dash (a few shakes)

About Beyond Meat:  I’ve always been loyal to the grilled variety of Beyond Meat chicken since because they’re super basic and can be used in any recipe.  I got lightly seasoned this time because, uh, to be honest I don’t think I was paying attention.  But they did add a nice flavor to the chicken salad, and I will definitely try them in more recipes in the future.  I could be a convert?  These babies are gluten free, and have 20g of plant-based protein per 3-oz serving.

Preparation:

If you can cook a frozen product according to package instructions, congratulations — the hard part is over.  Sauté your Beyond Meat in a little oil until warmed and slightly browned/crispy on the outside.  Remove from pan and allow to cool for a bit; honestly 10 minutes at room-temp is probably long enough if you’re trying to eat this ASAP, or wait a little longer/refrigerate if you’d like.  Cube your chicken and add green onion, vegan mayo, Mrs. Dash (or seasoning of your choice), and pickle juice.  Mix and serve.

About Pickle Juice:  Listen, not only is this recipe not fancy, it includes probably the most not-fancy ingredient you will ever use.  Start with a little, and add more until the dressing is the consistency you want.  I love pickles but I’m very picky – my personal pickle picks are Claussen Kosher Dills, and Sonoma Brinery Wild West Dills.  It doesn’t really matter what kind of juice you use, low-end or gourmet, but I would go for something tangy or spicy over sweet.

I ate this as lettuce wraps this week, but it’s great on sandwiches, crackers, salads, or all by itself.  Enjoy!