Girls on Food

Healthy Foods

Jillian’s (Vegan & Gluten-Free) Chocolate Sweet Potato Cake with Coconut Creme Fraiche

chocolate sweet potato cake

chocolate sweet potato cakeOh heyyy there, don’t mind me drooling/crying over this mouthwatering cake situation ? Maybe you’re thinking that I’ve finally lost my marbles because chocolate and sweet potato are two foods that you would never imagine mixing together. But wait! ✋ Let’s stop and think about this for a minute. After making the most delicious confections using beets as my secret ingredient (Fudgy Vegan Beet Cupcakes, Vegan S’mores Fudge Brownies, and Chocolate Chip Chia Beet Scones), I began to wonder what else I could bake using earthy root vegetables, because they make baked goods moist & amazing without tasting like earthy root vegetables.

Around this time I also began binge eating sweet potatoes in many forms, but mostly in the form of these Sweet Potato Fries with Magic Sauce. Let’s just take a minute and give sweet potatoes a shout out ????

What I came up with was a moist chocolate cake with a subtle sweetness, topped off with coconut creme fraiche and fresh mint ? You can thank me later.

chocolate sweet potato cake

Here are the ingredients you will need for this vegan and gluten free cake:

Dry Ingredients

1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Wet Ingredients

1 medium sweet potato, roasted
1 tsp vegan butter, melted (or coconut oil)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup roasted pureed beet
3/4 cup organic sugar, very fine (can pulse in coffee grinder)
1/4 cup cashew milk (or other non dairy milk) – add more if needed, I ended up using 1/2 cup the first time I made it

Poke some holes in your sweet potato using a fork and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the skin once the potato is cool. This recipe also calls for roasted beet. I would say it’s optional, though. To roast the beet, clean it and cut off the stem, then rub a little coconut oil all over and wrap up the entire beet in aluminum foil. Place on a small baking sheet and roast in the oven at 375 degrees for about an hour. When it’s cooled off, place in a blender and puree, adding water if needed. If you don’t use beets in this recipe and the batter feels too dry, just add a little more milk.

Mix your dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients together with a hand blender or regular blender until you have a velvety texture. Pour wet ingredients into dry and gently mix.

Line a small loaf pan (mine was about 8×4 inches) with some vegan butter or oil. Pour batter in and smooth. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 35 minutes.

chocolate sweet potato cake

Coconut Creme Fraiche

Leave a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight, upside down. Pour out the liquid content (can use for smoothies). Put the solidified coconut milk in a bowl with 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract and 1 tsp of maple syrup. Mix with beaters (or hand blender) until you have a thick, yogurt or sour cream like consistency. Keep in fridge until ready to use.

 

 

 

Slice and plate your cake and add a dollop of creme fraiche when you’re ready to serve it. You can also add a sprig of fresh mint or dust cocoa powder or cinnamon on top. You can definitely bypass all those things and eat this cake just as it is because it doesn’t need all the fancy extras, although coconut creme fraiche can only enhance anything you put it on by a million percent.

chocolate sweet potato cake with coconut creme fraiche

If you roast the sweet potato and beet ahead of time, the cake itself is super quick and easy to make. Perfect for a fancy party, or for eating in your jammy jams with tea or coffee ☕️

Jillian ♥

Quinoa with Sauteed Veggies & Gravy

quinoa with sauteed veggies & gravy

quinoa with sauteed veggies & gravy

I think I can say it’s officially fall in Texas, which means I can use all autumn related emojis… ? ? ? ☕️ ??

While other states have already gotten snow and freezing temps, I’m down in Texas like… it’s November ? ??

Here in the Lone Star State we like pumpkin spiced everything & cozy sweaters just like the rest of you, and the thought that maybe-just-maybe we’ll actually get to use our fireplaces at least once this year. It may have hit 75 degrees yesterday where I live, but that won’t stop me from making delicious, seasonal dishes that make me feel like we have autumn for more than two seconds in Texas.

Cue today’s post ☝️ because how fall/autumn does this dish look?! Quinoa with Sauteed Veggies and Gravy – I mean, how often do vegans get to eat gravy, am I right? I created this recipe after buying a box of Pacific Mushroom Gravy for the first time and then realized I had no idea what to use it for ? Then I came up with this yummy, filling (not to mention healthy) entree. It consists of fluffy quinoa with sauteed garlic, onions, squash & mushrooms, and all simmered in savory mushroom gravy ? ?

quinoa with sauteed veggies & gravy

Start by soaking 1/2 cup of quinoa in a sealed container with filtered water. I like to soak it overnight, or you can start soaking in the morning if you aren’t making this dish until dinnertime. Soaking the quinoa in water allows the removal of acids and makes it easier for your body to digest it and absorb the nutrients. When you’re ready to prepare the dish, rinse and drain the quinoa.

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, add the quinoa, and turn down to low heat. My quinoa cooked freakishly fast, probably because I soaked it for longer this time (about a day and a half), so keep an eye on it while cooking and turn down to the lowest setting if necessary. Normally it should take about 20 minutes. You want the quinoa to be nice and fluffy.

quinoa with sauteed veggies & gravy

While the quinoa is cooking, dice up a couple slices of yellow onion and mince a few medium cloves of garlic. In a large sauce pan, heat up a little coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. Toss in the onions and when they start to become translucent, add the garlic. Once they both start browning, add one sliced squash and a handful of sliced mushrooms. You can sub any veggies you like, I just really like the squash and mushroom combo. Cook on medium heat and add liquid as necessary (water, chickpea broth, etc).

Season the cooked quinoa with salt, pepper, garlic powder and about 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast (if you like). Once the veggies are all cooked and browning, add salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I like to have my veggies resting on a comfy bed of quinoa as opposed to a heaping mess of savory goodness (nothing wrong with that but for photographing and serving purposes I like to be fancy ?). Scoop the veggies out of the skillet and set them aside. Line the pan with a layer of quinoa, lay the veggies over, then pour gravy over everything like you just don’t care ? If you want to be real fancy, you could make your own mushroom gravy.

Cover the saucepan with a lid and let it sit for a few minutes to heat the gravy and let everything simmer together. Chop up some parsley for garnish and it’s ready to serve! It tastes best served fresh but if you eat it as leftovers later, I would suggest adding a little more gravy because it soaks into the quinoa after sitting. This recipes serves two, but it’s super easy to double or triple!

quinoa with sauteed veggies & gravy

Other suggestions: Substitute the quinoa for millet, which has a similar texture and taste, as well as numerous health benefits. Add some tofu for a heartier dish. Serve straight from the skillet and top with some generous sprinkles of nutritional yeast.

quinoa with sauteed veggies

This is the perfect dinner recipe for a crisp autumn night, or if you live in Texas, a humid semi-autumn night. Either way, it’s delicious and easy to customize. And dat gravy ?

Jillian ♥

Spanish Bikinis at BCN in West Hollywood

BCN (the airport code name for Barcelona) is serving beautiful Bikinis in WeHo.
These Bikinis are not the swimwear that you have in mind. A Bikini in Barcelona is a softly pressed sandwich and also the specialty at BCN among other traditional and vibrant Spanish street foods like Cocas and Bocatas.

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BCN West Hollywood
8719 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA
http://www.eatdrinkbcn.com

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BCN is located in the heart of West Hollywood. The place is cozy with a minimalist and modern vibe. The staff is super friendly, and it has an inviting terrace on the front that makes it the perfect spot to catch up with friends while enjoying delicious food and some virgin sangria.

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We ordered the Patatas Bravas as an appetizer. Let me tell you that this was not your ordinary potato fries. The patatas came with a zesty tomato sauce and aioli. They were crispy but still soft inside and very well seasoned. The tomato sauce sits on the bottom of the plate so you can smother your patatas as much as you’ll like.

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It wasn’t quite dinner yet, but we were able to try the Saltwater Prawns Coca that was only served on the dinner menu. The Coca is not soda it is a stone baked flatbread. The Saltwater Prawns were cooked to perfection. I absolutely loved this dish. I would have eaten the whole thing by myself.

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After that, I had to try the itsy bitsy Smoked Tuna Bikini. The Spanish Bikini is an adaptation of the croquet monsieur without the béchamel, in other words, a softly pressed sandwich. Smoked Tuna is such a Spanish thing that you typically don’t see in LA not even in WeHo so I couldn’t resist. It was delicious. Although it was smoked, the Bikini was light and flavorful.

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BCN is the kind of easygoing everyday Spanish spot perfect for the neighborhood. They use high-quality ingredients imported from Spain and from local vendors that support sustainable practices so if you are in the area make sure to stop and get yourself a bikini and don’t forget to try the desserts.

 

Orangetheory Fitness: Sunday Funday Can Be a Fitday!

Sunday Funday is a time for so many activities of note. Some of us worship at the altar of fantasy football; others gather around swanky downtown tables for a boozy brunch while I took the time to journey to the magical Mall of Yeah Old Staten Island for The Orangetheory Fitness celebrity breakfast. 
Offering up generous portions of bagels and schmears for free while patrons could hear the mission of Orangetheory currently gearing up to open up a location nearby on Staten Island. Outfitted with licensed personal trainers- Orangetheory offers the client a customized exercise program that provides specialized data to track your progress while working out. It’s like Fit Bit times a gazillion and with real live people touting the trendy logo “Orange Is The New Fit”. However, you won’t be sent to jail for the hardcore training program these ladies will set you on.

I had a chat with local food celeb, Staten Island’s own Frank Bilotti from Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, who told me about the joys of getting yelled at by Gordon Ramsey and explained the origins of his sweet tattoo. Designed personally, it’s the contents of stock, the base of any good meal.

Stand-up comedians Mike Bocchetti and Stacey Prussman, who regularly appear on The Artie Lange Show, were in attendance to bring some comic relief to the event. See above as Stacey tests out their state of the art water rower. Audience members were encouraged to compete row for row in hopes of winning prizes.

The event included raffles, a spirited question and answer session about the new Staten Island location, and cheeky live blogging shenanigans.

Former NY Jet Rob Carpenter was on hand to make the ladies of Orangetheory go wiiiiilllllld and of course, lend his hand to pulling raffle tickets.

If you’re looking for a way to burn calories and feel like a celebrity every day, look no further than the staff at Orangetheory. You’ll get a workout as personalized as a monogrammed L.L. Bean backpack circa 1996 but like…..it will also give you a super hot bod and who doesn’t want that?

GOF Dish and Discuss: Eat This, Not That!

Reese's Nice

A few of the Girls on Food are doing their best to enjoy food but keep it on the healthier side so we can give the upcoming holidays 100% of our stomachs. Our favorite healthy foodie swaps are below:

Jillian: Banana Nice Cream is all the rage in the health foods world right now, especially for vegans like me that still want to enjoy yummy desserts. Dairy is very inflammatory to the body and causes a myriad of health problems like heart disease and cancer. Plus, ice cream is sugary and fattening. But the main ingredient of Banana Nice Cream (bananas of course!) is chock full of potassium, fiber, magnesium, folate, and other cancer fighting nutrients. This dish is so healthy that you can consume Banana Nice Cream for breakfast, as a pre-workout snack, dessert, or pretty much anytime of day.

Nice Cream

To make one serving, slice up two ripe bananas and place in a Ziploc bag or container in the freezer for a few hours. Put slices in a food processor and blend until they break down and produce a whipped, creamy consistency like ice cream. This only takes a couple of minutes and it’s pretty cool. Who knew bananas could do that! Dress it up with different flavors and toppings, especially if you want the banana flavor to be subtle. My favorite is Reese’s Nice Cream! I blend the bananas halfway, and then add some ground cinnamon, peanut butter, and cocoa powder. Finish blending and top with semisweet chocolate chips. I also topped mine with fresh raspberries, unsweetened organic coconut flakes, and pecan pieces. It’s seriously delicious and tastes just as good as dairy ice cream, but without taking a toll on your health!

coconut oilReno Tastebuds: Every few months I get on a health kick and start reevaluating my life. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but I do evaluate what choices I make regarding food and beverages. Who would’ve thunk I would be whipping coconut oil into my coffee every morning? I love a good sugary coffee creamer more than anything. Especially pumpkin spice or sweet cream, but you really can’t beat the health benefits of what coconut oil has to offer. I did a lot of research and after curiosity got the best of me, I caved and tried it out for myself. I was extremely pleased with the taste, and with the texture as well. When you blend the coconut oil with the hot coffee, you get a frothy creamer that gives your coffee a hint of tropical bliss. I was sold, and I have actually made this part of my daily routine. Be careful though, blending hot liquid can cause splatter and you don’t want to burn yourself.

Kind

Ellen: Sometimes a girl just wants chocolate in snack size. Instead of reaching for a candy bar which is packed with excess sugar and preservatives, go for one of the delicious healthier snack bar options instead. Kind Bar and Lara Bar make some of my favorites! They come in a variety of flavors to mimic your favorite candy bar or cookie, yet are made with more wholesome ingredients which actually contain some nutrient dense substances – like whole nuts or dried fruit.

Also, plain water can be, well, plain. So I totally understand the desire for soda. Yet soda is absolutely toxic. It has complex sugars your body has a difficult time breaking down and nasty preservatives such as Aspartame (which has been linked to cancer). Plus studies show that people tend to go over their recommended daily calorie intake because of what they drink! Ditching soda really just makes sense.

soda stream

The great thing is that there are many sparkling water options to fill the flavor gap. You can buy them pre-made at the store, or make your own at home with a SodaStream (I have one and love it!). If you go the SodaStream route you can buy your own soda syrups, some of which claim to be natural and/or use Sucrose, a more simple sugar. Or you can do what I do, and just add some fresh lemon juice (which has the added bonus of alkalizing your body!). Just make sure that if you buy sparkling water at the grocery store you check the ingredients! Not all of them are made the same. There are some that include the same junk as sodas, so just be on the lookout. Arrowhead and Trader Joe’s sparkling water are a couple brands that I go for.

Julianne: I totally get where Jillian is coming from on milk. I’ve actually curbed a lot of the milk/dairy I was ingesting by replacing it with almond milk. But sometimes I still get cravings for something creamy at night. Instead a batch of ice cream, cupcake or some sort of high sugar dessert, I recommend 1 cup of non-fat Greek yogurt. I like to add 1/2 tablespoon of flax seeds for an extra “oomph” to it. This may sound a little strange, but I also add a very light drizzle of fig balsamic reduction. It’s a great swap for syrup and sugary toppings. This filling switch will provide you with less fat, sugar and more protein than other dairy based desserts!

greek yogurt

Alex’s Whole30 Adventure

Now that we have all spent the weekend stuffing our faces with Halloween candy, lets talk about a system reset (because who wants to use the word diet). One that is much needed for many of us after the holidays and will have everyone looking and feeling great in no time.

I first heard about Whole30 when I was volunteering at Modo Yoga in LA, and I thought it sounded absolutely insane. Who wants to give up everything good? Definitely not this girl. Then recently my stomach pain had gotten out of control, I was bloated and tired, and I felt totally miserable. So I decided to give it a go. That meant 30 whole days of no sugar, no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no alcohol, no processed food, and for me, no coffee. Yikes!

For me, I knew the hardest part was going to be sugar, as I don’t really eat grains or dairy anyways, but I have a mean sugar addiction. The first week was brutal, with a headache that wouldn’t quit, but after that passed I had a renewed energy, clarity, and strength that I hadn’t felt in months.

There are a few tricks to success with Whole 30, and the biggest two are adequate prep and keeping it simple. I ate mostly the same thing each day, mixing it up just a little here and there.

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Breakfast was usually an egg white omelette full of veggies and greens, and topped with avocado, and a bowl of berries or a banana. This is a great start to the day that basically hits every food group, and fuels you through to lunch without the need to snack, and it’s delicious to boot. I paired it with tea, which I found to be enough to power me through the day without reaching for coffee desperately at some point in the afternoon, though coffee is totally allowed if you are one of those crazy people that drinks it black.

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Lunch was definitelymy biggest struggle, with long work days and a tendency towards snacking and not wanting a whole meal in the middle of the day. I usually veered towards a bunch of raw veggies and olives. I also usually had a mini lunch or post workout a few hours before that was an apple with almond butter or some sweet potato fries as a little treat to power me through.

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Dinner was another tricky one, because I’m a pretty lazy cook and was usually tight on time. Then spaghetti squash saved my life. I went through so much spaghetti squash this month it was unreal. It is so easy to roast, just slice it in half and scoop out the seeds, add some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast squash side down for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. One squash usually got me anywhere from 3-5 meals, and I’d add some grilled chicken, tomatoes, kalamata olives and sometimes avocado. Seriously satisfying and you can almost pretend its pasta! Sweet potatoes baked in the crockpot were also a huge lifesaver, I mixed up what I topped them with, but it’s such an easy base for so many toppings, and so easy to make!

IMG_8884Suffering through guacamole with no chips and margarita. Ouch.

So all in all, totally doable, if not a lot of work and a little bit boring if you don’t mix it up every few days, but the results are so worth it!  I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, the whole30 website has awesome meal guides, shopping lists, and recipes that guarantee success!IMG_9221

Final results!

While I would definitely do it again, I also really enjoyed my home brewed apple cinnamon kombucha, pumpkin bread, pumpkin hummus, and tons of halloween candy the second I was finished!

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Homemade pumpkin hummus and pumpkin cranberry crisps to celebrate the end!

IMG_9252Successful home brew of apple cinnamon kombucha!

(This is what your face looks like after 2 beers when you haven’t had alcohol for a month)

If you decide to give it a shot, I wish you the best of luck!

Summer’s Spooky Halloween Peppers

With Halloween only a few days a way I wanted to bring you a fun, healthy way to celebrate. Yes halloween is a day full of sweets and treats but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a little healthy option in there as well. Allow me to present to you Franken pepper and Jack-o-pepper. Basically they’re stuffed bell peppers with cute little faces carved into them.  You can celebrate in the festivities and maintain a clean diet with just a little bit of creativity. My recipe is just a guideline. You can add whatever you want to the filling. I like to keep mine grain free but if you like rice or quinoa add some freaking rice or quinoa.

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Here is my Halloween stuffed pepper recipe.

 

orange-and-green-pepper-e14461399126711 Orange pepper

1 Green pepper

1  Jalepeno, diced

1 Sweet Onion, diced

turkey-tomato-jalepeno-onion-e14460693689312 Tomatoes, diced

1 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 lb. of lean ground turkey

Olive oil

shredded-mozzarella-e1446069288991Salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, to taste

1 mushroom, a few slices of red onion, a couple sprigs of brocolini (this is for your garnish)

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees.

 

In a medium pan heat up your olive oil, add ground turkey and season. Once the turkey is no longer pink add your tomatoes, onions, jalepenos and season. Cook on low until onions are transparent and jalepenos are tender.pepper filling

While your filling is cooking take the tops of your peppers off, set them aside. Scrape out the seeds.

I used a small, sharp knife to cut out the faces of my peppers.orange pepper carvedgreen pepper carved

Sprinkle a little cheese inside the peppers.

Once the filling is cooked stuff the peppers all the way to the top. Make sure they are full.

Top them off with more cheese, place the pepper tops back, place them in a  shallow baking dish and place them in the oven. I cooked mine for about 25 minutes. I like my peppers to still be crisp when I bite into them. If you want your a little softer then leave them in a little longer.

While the peppers are baking heat up some olive oil in a small sautee pan and add your garnish veggies, salt and pepper them. Once they are cooked set them aside.

Pull your peppers out. place them on a plate and add your garnish. I used toothpicks to hold the mushrooms on Franken peppers neck. I rolled the sliced red onions up and placed them in his eyes. For Jack-o-pepper I just took the broccolini and placed it on top of his lid. And thats it. Voila halloween dinner is served.

Enjoy!

cooked peppers

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Dia de los Verdes & Food Day in Long Beach, CA

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This past Saturday, I had the amazing privilege of attending the Dia de Los Verdes & Food Day Celebration in the beautiful Long Beach, CA. Dia de los Verdes and Food Day were actually two separate events held by different organizations that merged their efforts into a collaborative event. In honor of the city of Long Beach participating in Food Day for its second year, Green Long Beach, Squeeze Art Collective, The Growing Experience, and many more organizations, vendors, and community members joined to fill the day with fun, learning, and of course, food!

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Before walking into the event, which was held in the majestic and lovely Growing Experience Urban Farm (pictured below), I knew very little about what “sustainable food” really meant. I came to learn that sustainable food is food that is produced safely and humanely, distributed fairly and effectively and disposed of responsibly.

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There were so many resources for education about the production and disposal of food and how to be mindful of waste in general. One table that caught my attention was that of Zero Waste LA (dontwastela.org), a new system for waste and recycling that is soon t come to Los Angeles.

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In keeping with the “Dia de Los Muertos” theme, there were also beautiful and creative altars throughout the event. Food Day Long Beach organized the Food Day event aspect:

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One of my favorite parts of the day was the vegetable pickling demonstration. We were shown how to pickle just about anything. The demonstrator just used his favorite vegetables, apple cider vinegar, and Himalayan pink salt. Some jars he said he’d had for 2 or 3 years!

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Next I watched a cooking demonstration for a creative cauliflower stir fry recipe. The cauliflower was processed to serve as a substitute for rice, then stir fried with mixed veggies, ginger, olive oil and soy sauce. Absolutely delicious

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The vendors present at the Food Day all had one thing in common: they all served vegan dishes and treats exclusively. My first stop was at The Caffeinated Kitchen for the most delicious vegan donuts I’ve ever had. Well, it was actually my first vegan donut but it will most certainly not be my last! I had the pecan praline donut, and it was absolutely delightful. It managed to be cakey (probably because of the fact it was baked rather than fried), yet still very light and fluffy.

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Next, I made my way to Southern Fried Vegan: completely southern vegan food! I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about whether or not a vegan twist would take all the yum out of a traditionally southern meal, but I was pleasantly surprised. The way SFV works if you choose different items to go into a single bowl. I had a combination of jambalaya (made with vegan sausage), collard greens, and fried “chickun”. And had I not spied the “u” spelled in “chickun”, I’m sure I wouldn’t have known the difference.

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Later, I stopped by the Falasophy food truck,  a mobile falafel and hummus bar. Filled to the brim. However, I opted for their spicy garlic fries as a snack. They were flavorful and packed a bit of a tangy kick that was right up my alley.

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What was most impressive about Dia de Los Verdes & Food Day was the incredible sense of community I felt there. But then again, has anything in history been known to bring people together more than food?

It’s a Date: Romancing the Bean Cafe

Romancing the Bean Cafe is a family own and run cafe that fits perfectly with its neighborhood. Located in the super cute and community oriented Magnolia park in Burbank. Kerry Krull’s is the owner and chef. Her son Ramsey set up the computer system of the place and from time to time acts as a barista and her daughter Kendra decorated the place. The atmosphere at the cafe is very chic. It has an upscale vibe with a warm welcoming décor.

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Romancing the Bean Cafe
3413 W Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505
romancingthebeancafe.com

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GOF, Girls on Food, got invited to sample the new menu at Romancing the Bean. The point of the event was to showcase the exciting new food and drinks that are currently being served. They are proud to use the freshest organic ingredients available to them and to support local farmer markets. Their menu has been crafted with a little bit of something for every taste including gluten free bread for the gluten free Angelinos.

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They welcomed GOF with a beautiful and delicious table spread that included some of their best selling items that you can get in their sammies, wraps and salads. We had samples of their famous chicken curry, salmon tartare, tuna, Italian chop salad, the superfoods salad and amazing cheese and cold cuts plates with a variety of bread.

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I particularly liked the superfoods salad. It was so tasty and full of good foods like kale, almonds, cranberries, blueberries and goat cheese.

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I also enjoyed the tuna, but then again I’m a sucker for tuna. It was flavorful and lite. It is made with albacore, capers, red onions, lemon zest and tomatoes. So good!

tuna

Romancing the Bean cafe is the perfect place to catch up with friends, meet people for business or just to have a little bit of me time drinking an amazing cup of coffee. They’re open 7 am – 7 pm during the week and 8 am – 5 pm on the weekends.

Romancing the Bean Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Vegan in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas

vegan in the rio grande valley

 

farmer's market

raymondville countryside

This is the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Oddly enough, there are no valleys here. It’s flat, lush land for miles and miles. I’ve spent the past week and a half traversing this southernmost region of Texas and I have to say – I love it. Maybe it’s all the palm trees, tropical flowers, sunshine, and friendly people, but there’s something about this area that captivates me. ?? It’s made up mostly of small towns, many dotting the border of Mexico, so as a vegan coming down to visit I had no idea what to expect in terms of veg friendly food. But I was pleasantly surprised.

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There’s a handful of health foods stores in the city of McAllen, which is where I spent most of my time. McAllen is pretty small compared to the big cities I’ve lived in (Dallas, Austin, Beijing), but it’s got a nice mix of old town feel and modern amenities. There’s a Sprouts Farmers Market near downtown, which is one of my favorite health foods stores, so I was really excited to find one in the valley. I also explored a local store called Major Health Foods that has a wide selection of vitamins, supplements, beauty & skin products, vegan cheese, ice cream, and more. They even have a little bulk foods section.

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I also found the biggest jar of coconut oil I’ve ever seen. 54 ounces for $44.00. I think it would take me a few years to use up that much! If you head past the registers toward the back of the store, you’ll come across a vegan cafe that has a different special every day. Major Health Foods has everything a vegan could need, but since they are local and not a chain, expect slightly higher prices.

mcallen public library

I ended up going to the McAllen Public Library several times. It used to be a Walmart, but when they got a new location, they gave the building to the city and it got turned into a huge library. Awesome! ? ? ?

 McAllen Public Library
4001 N 23rd St, McAllen, TX 78504

As soon as you walk inside the lobby, there’s a brand new cafe in the right hand corner. They have a wide array of coffee drinks with the option of using soy milk or almond milk, tea, salads, and a Jalapeno Veggie Wrap. I decided to try the wrap, but minus the jalapenos because I’m a little intolerant of super spicy foods.

jalapeno veggie wrap

It was quite tasty and still had a little kick to it, even without the jalapenos. It contained black beans, which made it a very filling meal, plus sauteed zucchini, spinach, carrots, a green sauce, with a side of veggie sticks and a pickle. The only thing that could’ve made it better was a few slices of avocado. For my drink, I went with their homemade sweet tea. I liked it because it wasn’t overly sweet like most, and it had a hint of citrus.

coconut chips

Across the street from the library is the 99 Cent Store ? ? woo hoo! Forget the Dollar Store ? they are sooo expensive. The family I stayed with introduced me to these delicious dark chocolate coconut chips which are normally 3 or 4 bucks, but at the 99 cent store they’re ONLY 99 cents!! They also come in a regular flavor without chocolate. The store had a nice selection of teas and I picked up an organic green tea. There’s a small produce section, wines marked down to $2.99 ?(not sure if any are vegan brands, but if so, it’s worth a visit just for that), home goods, and lots of other things.

nectar avenue

On my way back, I stopped to take a look at the McAllen Food Park, which is located in the parking lot connected to the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. Food trucks are slowly but surely becoming popular in McAllen, and I saw several during my stay. This is the menu for Nectar Avenue ☝️, the only food truck in the park with vegan options. They serve fresh juices, smoothies, a fruit bowl, veggie bowl, gazpacho, garden wraps, and more!

McAllen Food Park
400 W Nolana Ave, McAllen, TX 78504


farmer's market

homemade jam

Every Saturday in McAllen there are 2 farmer’s markets – one is at the public library from 10 am – 1 pm and the other one is at Fireman’s Park from 9 am – noon. The weekend that I went there happened to be a big music festival in town, so a lot of the regular vendors at the market were at the festival. Despite a smaller market than usual, I was still really impressed with the local products available. I ended up going to both markets because I was in total farmer’s market mode.

homemade granola

farmer's market

I found lots of vegan items: jams, jellies, fruits, vegetables, granola, pecan butter, and even deodorant! I bought locally handmade rose jelly with roses straight from their garden, a small bag of pecans, Mexican squash, and deodorant because I was having a situation with my current one (it wasn’t working, ewww).

vegan tamales

By the time I got to the market at Fireman’s Park it was lunchtime and I was hungry. Lucky for me I found the perfect meal. One vendor was selling homemade tamales wrapped in banana leaves. There were 3 flavors: bean & cheese, chicken something or other (I glazed over that one), and spinach & mushrooms. I love the spinach & mushroom combo so I grabbed them and chowed down – and they were SO good.

There’s usually a vendor at the farmer’s market called Le Vegan Factory, but I couldn’t find them and I suspect they were stationed at the music festival.

chickpea burger

On Monday I hit up a restaurant called The Mighty House because they have Meatless Monday. The vegan items on their menu are the falafel and the veggie burger, and every Monday both items are on special. I went with the burger which is made with chickpeas and topped with spinach, tomato, and avocado. It comes with chips or a side salad. And I couldn’t resist getting the fresh coconut cucumber juice.

The Mighty House 
1303 N 10th St, McAllen, TX 78501

organic juices

On my last day in the valley, I went to the Green Owl Deli and found myself in vegan heaven. Green Owl has a couple of items containing meat, but most of their menu is vegetarian and vegan. They have a beautiful selection of organic juices, vegan desserts, gluten free options, helpful employees, and a lovely seating area.

Green Owl Deli
2901 N 10th St, McAllen, TX 78501

green owl deli

green owl deli

After much consideration, I narrowed my choices down to the lasagna and the chalupas, both being vegan and gluten free. I also grabbed the Turmeric Elixir juice which was very tasty. Everything was super yummy, but I think the lasagna was my favorite. Instead of pasta, the base is made of eggplant and zucchini, and filled with black beans, lentils, & marinara sauce. It’s topped with cheese and comes with a side salad.

Needless to say, vegans will not go hungry in the valley. There’s lots of delicious options!

Here’s a couple general tips if you’re traveling and not sure where to find vegan food:

Mexican and Chinese restaurants almost always have vegetarian and vegan options, or can be easily altered if you ask. Local restaurants are great and usually accommodating, but if you need something that’s quick and can be found along he highway, try Chipotle or Taco Bell. Taco Bell recently announced a slew of menu items that are certified by the American Vegetarian Association. Yay! And you can’t go wrong with rice + veggies + tofu at a Chinese restaurant. Lastly, the local grocery stores are chock full of vegan ingredients perfect for a home cooked meal or putting together a quick snack for the road.

I will definitely be back to the valley soon, and it’s nice to know there’s no shortage of cruelty free food 🙂

Jillian ♥

P.S. To check out all the cool things there are to do and see in the valley (besides the food?), go to my Compassionate Women blog next Friday for the full scoop!

7th Annual Eat Real Food Festival in Oakland, CA

One of the best things about living in Northern California is no matter which direction you turn there is always something to do. Head north, you can stomp grapes, hike among the redwoods and explore the little tiny towns that connect the dots throughout the upper portion of the state. Look west towards the Pacific Ocean and endless oysters can be feasted upon, whales can be watched until your hearts content and waves can be caught with just a cowardly lion’s thimble full of courage. Look below, towards the south and you can lose yourself amidst the fog as your roam the streets of the city by the bay, cheer on the red and gold at the future home of Superbowl XLIX or chew until your jaw falls off on some of the best saltwater taffy Santa Cruz has to offer. This weekend, however, my compass pointed towards the east. A direction known for Cal Bears, an entire nation who bleed silver and black and a community whose cultural heritage and pride often help to carry them through the most adverse of life circumstances.

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I was in Oakland this weekend for the 7th Annual Eat Real Food Festival, a community celebrating one simple thing… GOOD FOOD!! If a state fair, a block party and a street-food festival had a threesome and created a baby from it… Oakland’s Eat Real Food Festival would be its amazingly beautiful and delicious offspring. With an eye on teaching the public how to support local food systems as well as promoting a stronger and healthier community-run organizations and businesses, the Eat Real Food Festival strives to bridge the gap between the average consumer and their local food producers and growers.   Individual food artisans mingled with national sponsors who in turned rubbed elbows with regional farmers and mom and pop businesses as a way of showing their support for one another. With 100% of the proceeds going to support the Food Craft Institute, a non-profit educational institution which supports the entrepreneurship and economic growth of small traditional food businesses, the Real Food Festival allows the community to sample the offerings of up and coming Bay Area businesses. Which really, when you think of it is a win/win situation for everyone.

The Eat Real Food Festival has, thus far, been the biggest food festival I have ever been to. With over seventy-five thousand people attending the event within a three-day period, there were more than a few mouths to feed. Fortunately, the sweet and savory selections did not disappoint. Over 120 food, wine and spirit vendors showed up with the very best of all types of cuisine. Mexican, Peruvian, Spanish, Korean, All-American, Portuguese, Soul Food, Seafood, French, Italian, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner… you name it they had it!!! Enough to make your head, or really your stomach explode.

One of the first items I happily indulged on was actually not a meal at all. I am a firm believer in dessert first, therefore I saddled up to the West Coast Style Frozen Custard Truck to try my first ever frozen custard. Half custard, half ice cream and all completely heavily (literally I think that is what heaven tastes like), it left me asking one question: How after 29 years of being on this earth have I never tried frozen custard before. Though there were numerous selections to choose from, including vanilla bean and rich chocolate, it was easy for me to pick a flavor. Being a sucker for anything Thai inspired, I immediately went for the Thai Ice Tea flavor with sweetened condensed milk on top.

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With the temperature being over 90 degrees outside, it was no surprise that the creamy treat cooled me down, but even if it was ten below zero I’m sure I would have found myself face deep in the bowl of goodness.

Next up came the paella from San Francisco based catering company ñora. Paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish is known for being cooked in a large round, shallow pan, which allows the rice in the Paella to become extra crispy. Along with aiding in the cooking process, this cooking vessel and the chefs who work the Paella in the pan create quite an exciting spectacle for those waiting to try. Fortunately, the taste was worth the wait… it was absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned with saffron and not too hot right off the Paella pan.

DSC00334  Following the Paella, I decided to give my tummy a bit of a break so I wondered over to the entrance to the festival where many of the information booths were located. I learned about the importance of urban farming and sustainable food systems from the fine volunteers at City Slicker Farms, a non-profit organization designed to educate the general public about where their food comes from.

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After collecting a complementary package of antique sweet pea flower seeds I quickly made a beeline to the Love A Bee honey stand, where I learned about importance of bees in our ecosystem all while sampled some local varieties of organic honey. I ended my mini farm tour with a visit to some adorable fine feathered friends, baby chicks  DSC00304

brought by Clover Stornetta Farms in Petaluma, where they along with eggs, produce a wide variety of delicious organic dairy products.

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My second lunch (my first being the paella) came from Bombzies Asian BBQ. The Vietnamese BBQ chicken, their original recipe had me at first site.

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Next came giant pickles and marinated vegetable salad from Happy Girl Kitchen Co.

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followed by a demonstration from the Chipotle on how to make their signature fresh guacamole with only six fresh ingredients: ripe Hass avocados, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno and kosher salt… yes, please!!

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It was impossible for me to end my day without grabbing a few things to go for my hungry folks waiting at home. That was actually an easy choice. It was organic modern soul food in the form of a BBQ pork belly sandwich from Keenan’s Kitchen for my dad.

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And for my mom, the ultimate mushroom lover, it was wild mushroom and cheese empanadas from the El Porteño, an Argentinian food truck and caterer located out of San Francisco. Empanadas so good, I found myself look up the locations of their food truck for future reference.

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Finally, my last stop before departing the Eat Real Food Festival was to glutinously pick up something which I had been thinking about all afternoon. It was to an unpretentious little popcorn stand I stopped by and quickly sampled at the beginning of my day. The popcorn at the POP Mama POP Artisan Popcorn booth is easily the best popcorn I have ever had, and this coming from someone who grew up on classic air popped popcorn all her life. Their organic locally grown corn paired with the delicious flavors they create is out of this world good. Flavors such as Jalapeno Sweet, Parmesan Garlic, Hot Chocolate and Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper left this life-long popcorn connoisseur coming back for second and third samples.

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I came back so many times the founder Kathleen Hackett, couldn’t help but laugh as I stuffed yet another sample of the kettle corn in my mouth (nearly choking on it in the process.. thanks to the random bystander for the quick smack on the back) Kathleen, who not only makes a good product and was generous enough to indulge my numerous samples, but was also generous enough to have all of the festivals tips go towards the victims of the valley fire. But in the end it was the popcorn that kept me coming back for more, especially the Snickerdoodle flavor. What was once a childhood cookie memory, had been transformed into the ultimate sweet and salty snack. A snack so good I have no shame in admitting that I ate the entire bag I purchased from the festival for breakfast this morning.

To say the Eat Real Festival treated me well is an understatement. If life was being played out in the novel pages of Charlotte’s Web, I was for the briefest of moments Templeton the rat, the errand boy (or girl) set out to bring back to you messages of up and coming, new and thriving food favorites in the area. I and my stomach are more than happy I followed my compass east this weekend. If I had not done so I would have surely missed out on the veritable smorgasbord-orgasbord of deliciousness.

Vegan Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

chocolate chia seed pudding

This may be the most beautiful recipe I’ve shot yet! And it’s not because of my mad photography skills – all the credit goes to the food and it’s natural beauty?? Not to mention, this chia seed pudding allows me to consume chocolate in breakfast form. Now I just gotta work on lunch and dinner.

chocolate chia seed puddingI’ve made this recipe a handful of times since photographing it and I love it because it’s so simple to make. Simple is good since I’m one of those people that wakes up and refuses to talk or make contact with anyone until I’ve had coffee and breakfast + a substantial amount of time to process the fact that it’s morning and I’m awake. So basically, I’m delightful. ?

 

 

 

However, I can’t take all the credit for this masterful recipe you are about to read. I adapted it from the Minimalist Baker, another awesome food blog with some great recipes.

The star of this show is obviously the chia seeds. They are native to South America and were consumed by the Aztecs and Mayans because they provided sustainable energy. Chia seeds are high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.

chocolate chia seed pudding

For this recipe, all you do is mix the following ingredients together in a large bowl:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups rice milk (or any non-dairy milk)
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar

The cocoa powder will be clumpy, but continue stirring and it will dissolve. Stir or whisk for a couple of minutes until you have a smooth mixture. Cover and keep in the fridge overnight (recommended) or for a few hours until it gains a pudding like consistency.

raspberriesI poured some of the pudding into a nice sized glass, followed by a layer of fresh raspberries, then the rest of the pudding until it filled the glass. I topped with a few more berries, a drizzle of vegan chocolate sauce (melted coconut oil and cocoa powder) and a sprig of mint. This makes one portion. You can sub the coconut sugar for maple syrup or vegan honey.

Enjoy this tasty, easy to make recipe packed full of nutrients. You’ll love it if you’re a morning person, and if you’re not (like yours truly), you’ll love the zero effort needed to pull this dish out of the fridge and eat immediately. Even better, double the recipe and have your breakfast for the following day, too!

Jillian ♥