Tag Archives: vegan food

15 Interesting Food Trends & Finds at Expo West

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

Last week I got to attend an expo where healthy food and conscious foodies collide: Natural Products Expo West. It’s an awesomely overwhelming show with every kind of food producer you could possibly imagine – from things you’d expect like protein bars, nut butters, and salad, to things you probably have never thought of, like brand new products that have never been sold before. There’s no shortage of yumminess, and brands are eager to have you sample their latest products. I sound like Captain Obvious saying this, but I love attending Expo West!

Today I thought it’d be fun to dive into 15 things that stood out to me at the show. Let’s get to it!

1.) Vegan food has gotten more delicious. Even as a vegetarian myself who eats vegan the vast majority of my meals, I used to shy away from some veganized products because they just didn’t taste that good to me. Well, that has changed, as brands are perfecting the art of meat & dairy-free food! Daiya’s vegan cheeses have gotten tastier and more melty, and I also liked their caesar dressing. Ozery Bakery introduced vegan brioche buns that were fabulous.

And Kite Hill is doing dairy-free deliciously too. I’ve bought their yogurts before so I already knew that I liked them, but I tried a bunch of their cream cheese spreads at the show… and trust me when I say that you wouldn’t even miss the dairy if you spread it on your bagel.

2.) Protein cookies are big right now. And I am not complaining about that! I like eating cookies and I like making sure I eat enough protein since I lead such an active lifestyle, so why not combine the two? Munk Pack came out with 4 tasty vegan, gluten free, non-GMO certified protein cookies flavors.

I also got to try Buff Bake‘s protein cookies, and their chocolate donut flavor was my favorite.

3.) Millet tots. For two days of the show, I was working at the booth of Rollin’ Greens with a blogger friend of mine, Laura. Since they’re doing something unique (& tasty of course!) in the market, I had to include them in this rundown. Rollin’ Greens is a Boulder-based company that puts their own healthy twist on tater tots, making them with the ancient grain of millet instead. They have their original flavor, and recently came out with two new flavors: an Italian herb + a spicy-sweet combo. Healthier takes on comfort food is one of my favorite things to create, so I love what Rollin’ Greens is doing!

4.) Cold soup bottles are the new green juice. Okay, I actually don’t know if I should take it that far, but know that soup in a bottle is a thing now. One company doing it is ZÜPA NOMA. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what I’d think of the soups… but in trying their flavors, I was pleasantly surprised to really like them! Their tomato gazpacho was full of fresh flavor, and I would totally buy soup bottles to drink on-the-go and get my veggies in.

5.) Sambazon’s new chocolate covered acai bites are delicious. Sambazon makes frozen acai packs that you can buy to make your own acai bowls at home, along with other acai products, and at the show they unveiled a new product: chocolate covered acai bites. They’re awesome, and I’ll definitely be buying them when I see them in stores!

6.) Tea with maitake mushroom powder is a thing. At the show I sipped on some organic tea from Blue Buddha that was made with ashwagandha extract and maitake mushroom powder. Sounds a little odd, but tastes good I swear! The company focuses on the tradition of using plants and herbs to help keep people healthy for thousands of years. The antioxidants from maitake mushroom help support a healthy immune function, while ashwagandha has been shown to relieve stress and increase mental focus. I’ll drink to that!

7.) Vita Coco gets the most clever booth award from me.
Vita Coco makes coconut-based water, milk and oil products, and their Expo West booth had the awesome above pictured display of a cow on vacation. I also thought their tagline, “Tastes like no udder” is pretty clever!

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Healthy Smoothies Made Easy with Green Blender {Review}

Smoothies. They’re kind of a never-ending obsession in my household. It’s an almost daily occurrence in my diet to blend up a bunch of goodness into one nutritious, delicious cup.

Smoothie Collage

While my hubby has his standard go-to smoothie (a chocolate peanut butter protein shake), I like to switch it up. However, sometimes in the busyness of life, I feel like I lack smoothie creativity. I’ll get into a routine of making my same few smoothie favorites. Don’t get me wrong, they’re delicious, but I could use some new smoothie ideas sometimes.

And that’s where Green Blender smoothie delivery service comes in. Recently the NYC-based company reached out to see if I’d like to try them out, and I happily agreed to see what they’re all about. When my delivery arrived, I was like a little kid in a toy store excited to see what was inside.

Green Blender-1

The box contained pre-portioned fruits, veggies, herbs, nuts, spices, and coconut milk for me to make 5 different smoothies (each make 2 servings). Included in the delivery is a recipe sheet for those smoothies, along with info about the smoothies’ benefits and nutritional content.

Green Blender-2

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Las Vegas Fun: Boating Around Lake Mead & Vegan Dining at Downtown Container Park

Hi there!

La Jolla

Hope that you all had a great weekend. The highlight of my weekend was hanging out in beautiful La Jolla, where my favorite activity is….

La Jolla sea lions-1

La Jolla seals

La Jolla sea lions-2

…sea lion stalking! It’s the time of the year when all of the mamas give birth and there are lots of sea lions and their pups lounging around. It is too cute!

La Jolla sea lions-3

I so badly want to befriend one and start playing with her, but I let them have their space to soak up the sun. This one lady kept getting a little too close, and the sea lions would look up and let out a I-suggest-you-back-the-hell-up-lady noise.

La Jolla sea lions-4

La Jolla is always packed with people, and it’s no secret as to why. I think the coast there has the most gorgeous views in San Diego, and I’ve taken a lot of my visitors there to walk around, check out the seals, and visit some of the shops and restaurants.

La Jolla coast

Any who, today I want to back it up a bit to two weekends ago when I arrived in Las Vegas for work. Before the show I was there for started, my co-workers and I got away from work to have some fun in the area. Stereotypical Vegas is not really my thing, so I enjoy exploring outside of the strip every time I’m there.

This trip we decided to go for a boat ride around Lake Mead, which was formed by the Hoover Dam and is the largest reservoir in the country when at full capacity – which it’s nowhere near given the crazy drought that has been taking place. In fact, Lake Mead is currently at about 40% capacity, which is the lowest it’s been since it was built in the 1930s.

Lake Mead-1

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My First PGA Event & Dining at Gracias Madre


Last Saturday marked my first time attending a pro golf event. My hubby is a golf fan, so I got us a few tickets to see the Charles Schwab Cup at Harding Park in San Francisco. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad time at a pro sporting event, even if I have little idea who the athletes are and how the sport works, like in golf!




We walked around a lot following a few of the top players as they moved from hole to hole. I’m not sure if it’s usually like this since this was my first golfing event, but I didn’t realize that the golfers move so quickly from one hole to the next. They were booking it!



After spending the afternoon at the event and working up an appetite walking a bunch of miles, Adam and I were starving for an early dinner. Protein bars can only hold you over for so long!

Usually I wind up just winging it when I dine in San Francisco, but this time I wanted to pick out a cool local spot, so I did a bit of research beforehand. For this, I turned to Tara over at Food and Other Things. She lives in the city and is always reviewing the best food spots all over town, so I knew she’d be a good source. When I checked out her restaurant page and saw the description of Gracias Madre as a vegan Mexican joint (BTW, the descriptions were super helpful in me picking out a food spot easily, thanks Tara!), I thought it sounded like my kind of place — authentic, local, organic, meat-free food. 

In visiting their website, I was sold after just reading their opening Who are we? paragraph:

“Gracias Madre is truly an expression of who we are – it represents our deep love of and reverence for food, our commitment to health and sustainability, our unconditional love for our multicultural family and community, our devotion to the Earth and the divine feminine, and our commitment to raising consciousness on the planet.  It is our intention that the emphasis we place on the sourcing of our food will bring consciousness in the community to the importance of sustainability and of buying and selling locally grown organic food.”

Dinner here? Yes please! 

We arrived at Gracias Madre a bit before 5 and it was already getting crowded. They have communal tables and bar seating, and we opted to sit at the bar.

I just stuck with water, though they had a variety of interesting sounding cocktails. My hubby got one with beer and tomato juice. Not for me since I don’t like beer or tomato juice, but he said it was decent.

gracias madre-1

The menu’s seasonal ingredients come from their organic farm in Pleasants Valley, California, the BE LOVE Farm. All of their cheeses, milks and ice creams are made using nuts, and their tortillas and tamales are handmade from non-GMO Organic heirloom corn. I had a bit of a hard time picking out what I wanted because everything on the menu sounded delicious!

To start, we split an order of gorditas – potato-masa cakes topped with lettuce, salsa verde, avocado and cashew cream. They were lightly fried and nice and crispy. The order came with 2 cakes, and each of us having 1 was the perfect amount for a small appetizer.

Gracias Madre-2

For my entree, I ordered tacos: one of which had roasted butternut squash, one with sauteed seasonal greens with chilies, and one with sauteed mushrooms. All of the veggies had a mild, just-right garlic and olive oil taste. The tacos were served with cashew cheese on top and black beans on the side.

Gracias Madre-4

Yum, I especially loved the butternut squash! Mexican food lovers, don’t hate me for saying this, but I generally don’t love authentic corn tortillas. I think me not being crazy about them has something to do with how they tend to be kind of thick and dense, but it worked out well because I topped the tacos with the black beans and ate all the veggie fillings out with a fork.

Gracias Madre-3

Adam ordered the spicy mole enchiladas, which was topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, and served with a pile of sautéed greens and black beans on the side. He ate every bite on his plate!

I resisted the temptation to try dessert there, but a few dessert dishes passed us and they looked fabulous. The pumpkin spice cake with maple cream sauce and toasted coconut ice cream sounded appealing to me, and I’d be interested to see what dairy-free ice cream made with nuts tastes like. I also thought that their persimmon salad with almonds and queso blanco sounded good. Perhaps I’ll make my way back there sometime soon to try those!

We both had very happy bellies afterwards, and I would definitely recommend Gracias Madre to anyone looking for a healthy Mexican joint. Forget the vegan part, because you won’t even miss the meat and dairy! 😉

Memorable Eats & Drinks in Amsterdam

My days in Amsterdam this time around have come and gone. I had a great time there for work, but I was excited to leave the city and start my European vacation! My hubby and I spent some time in Cologne (more on that later!), and now we’re rolling through the German countryside on the train en route to Austria. But today I’m sharing my eats and drinks from my time in Amsterdam.

A lot of my eats were at the city’s convention center where my work event was, looking mostly like this…

convention center food

tomato soup, bread & fruit

…but I also had some fun foodie experiences. Here are my top 3:

1.) TerraZen Cafe: I talked about this Japanese/Caribbean fusion vegan eatery last year, and this year I went back to the restaurant – twice actually! It’s completely hippy-ish & not in the least bit a formal eatery…and the food is really yummy! I went there once with my boss, then took my hubby there the last night I was in Amsterdam. My hubby declared it to be, “one of the weirdest places I’ve taken him,” but said that the food was tasty. I walked out with a happy belly both times! Dishes I shared there include miso soup, tempeh katsu, avocado natto, tempura and teishoku: 







2.) Trying akvavit: One of my company’s clients is based in Norway, and during a reception they had, they served akvavit, a traditional spirit enjoyed often by Norwegians at Christmas. Distilled from potatoes, I did not expect the akvavit to taste quite so strong. It was like sipping on a shot – with an empty stomach nonetheless! – but it was interesting to try anyways.



3.) SPACE MUFFINS: I saved the best for last! Even if you’ve never been to Amsterdam, you’ve probably heard that there are coffee shops at every corner with happy people ingesting legal marijuana. I hadn’t tried any in Amsterdam on my previous trips because it’s not my thing, but I figured why not? It’s Amsterdam after all! I tried a chocolate muffin, which surprisingly tasted good. I didn’t feel the effects until hours afterwards, at which point I was giggling as I happily ate at the above vegan restaurant. It was a fun time!

IMG_1372Question: Have you ever been skeptical of a restaurant at first, then wound up loving it? 

I felt a bit iffy about TerraZen at first, but it wound up being a hidden gem in a city not known for its cuisine. The same goes for my favorite Chinese food in the whole world – Veggie Heaven in Jersey! It just shows that you can’t judge a book by its cover right? 🙂

Fennel & Endive Salad with Almonds -n- Cherries

heart fruit

I always eat a bunch of servings of fruits & veggies on a daily basis, but lately I’ve been really putting in an effort to ramp up my produce intake even more. I just feel that eating whole foods as often as possible is the healthiest way to eat. I’m somewhere in between a vegan who eats a high amount of (good for you) carbs, and someone who thinks that eating lots of protein is key. I’ve been trying to find balance between eating a ton of fruits and veggies, while also getting what I feel is enough protein in my diet to feed my muscles, especially on days when I have hard workouts. Today I’m sharing my eats from yesterday to show you what that balance looks like to me.


Note that every single day isn’t as clean eating as this. I indulged on Tuesday night and had tortilla chips with my veggie quesadilla dinner + fro yo for dessert, so yesterday my diet was strictly lean and green!

For breakfast, I whipped up a simple green monster:



The color is not so appealing, but I’ve really gotten used to the taste of green monster juices as long as there’s some fruit in there to sweeten it up. Plus, getting an entire day’s worth of the recommended amount of produce in one little glass? Yes!

I squeezed in a lunchtime workout, and when I got home, all I wanted was my usual chocolate peanut butter protein shake.


In the mix:

  • 1 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 2 TBSP PB 2 powdered peanut butter
  • A packet of stevia sweetener
  • 1 TBSP dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder

With a growling stomach around 3 hours later, I whipped up a salad that I first made last week and loved:


Such a colorful dish right? I picked up a couple of endives at Trader Joe’s recently just because I thought they were pretty. Not sure what to do with them, I chopped them up with fennel and came up with this winning combo. 


There’s something about the mix of flavors in this salad that I really dig – the crunchy, licorice-like fennel, sweet cherries, toasted almonds, sea salt, and a light olive oil/lemon juice/balsamic dressing.

Per yesterday’s post, of course it includes cherries! 😉 The exact recipe is at the end of this post.

Dinner was a little odd yesterday. I wasn’t all that hungry because I had this salad in the late afternoon, but I had something to attend in the evening and wanted to eat beforehand. I decided to make some garlic parmesan edamame, a recipe I saw recently on another blog and have made a couple of times.


I combined an individual bag of frozen edamame with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, minced garlic and a few TBSP of grated parmesan, then popped it in the oven for a bit. I’m a fan of edamame – it’s a great veggie protein source. A single serving has 17 grams of protein!


Later on, I snacked on a Nature Valley granola bar + a banana Chobani Greek yogurt with sprinkled cinnamon.




I <3 cinnamon.

With that, my day of eats was complete.

And now I’m off to bed, good night!

Fennel & Endive Salad with Almonds -n- Cherries
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
  • 1 large fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 small endives, chopped
  • 2 oz shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • 2 TBSP slivered almonds, toasted
  • ½ TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TSP balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ TSP sea salt
  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic, and ⅛ TSP sea salt.
  3. Pour dressing over salad.
  4. Sprinkle remaining sea salt on top.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 330, Fat: 15 g, Saturated fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 46 g, Fiber: 7 g, Protein: 6 g

The Perfect Sunday Dinner: Veggie Chili & Corn Muffins

Weekend Recap 

Yesterday I got to see my awesome friend Angi at her baby shower. I met her when I first moved out to San Diego, and she became my partner in crime when our Marines were deployed together. Last year her and her hubby moved to Arizona and I miss her horribly! It was great seeing her and getting to catch up a bit (and inappropriately touch her baby bump more than once!).

Did you know that it’s National Park Week?

Harley and I went for a long hike this afternoon at our nearby regional park. Usually it’s pretty busy there on a Sunday, but today, there was barely anyone around. Kind of nice, slightly creepy. My legs are still sore from my workout last Friday, and they were feeling seriously fatigued a bit into our hike. But we made it to the top! The puppy seemed pretty pooped (but happy) by the time we got up there:

awesome shadow shot!

I even saw a hummingbird on my way down the mountain. The best pic my iPhone could get:

Onto food… 

This evening I made a hearty & healthy meal that seemed perfect for a Sunday dinner – homemade chili and corn muffins! I mixed the cornbread batter up first, threw it in the oven, and then made the chili while the muffins were cooking.

Veggie Chili, adapted from this recipe for Insanely Easy Vegetarian Chili

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped 
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • A few TBSPs of water to sauté veggies
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced
  • 2 c of Morning Star Grillers recipe veggie crumbles
  • 1 TSP chili powder
  • 1 15-oz can of whole peeled plum tomatoes, with liquid, chopped
  • 1 15-oz can of kidney beans with liquid
  • 1 c whole kernel corn (I used canned)
  • Vegetable stock to thin out mixture, optional (I used 1/2 cup)
  • Pepper, oregano, dried basil to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onions, carrots, and garlic in a bit of water until tender. Add in bell peppers, celery,  and chili powder, and cook for a few minutes until tender.

Stir in tomatoes, beans, “meat” crumbles and corn. Add vegetable stock if you’d like, then season with pepper, oregano, and dried basil. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Nutrition stats: 230 calories, 3 g fat, 16 g protein, 42 g carbs

To eat with my chili, I made the cornbread recipe from The Kind Diet. This cookbook has been getting some use lately! I made a few substitutions to the original recipe. One thing to note: the cookbook said to bake for around 25-30 minutes. When I checked on the muffins after 15 minutes, this is what they looked like:

Whoopsies. They were a little bit on the “well done” side, but still tasted yummy! Funny enough, the recipe notes that you shouldn’t peek on the muffins until the end of the recommended cooking time… well it’s a good thing I did! I think it had less to do with my subbing ingredients and more to do with my nutty oven. Nonetheless, I really like how they turned out a bit on the sweeter side, and they’re crazy easy to make.

Corn Muffins

Makes 6

What you need:

  • 1/4 c molasses
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 TBSP safflower oil
  • 3/4 c cornmeal
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 TSP baking soda
  • 1/4 TSP salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Line muffin tin with 6 muffin cups.

Combine the molasses, syrup, milk, and oil in a medium bowl. In another bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mix to the wet mix, and stir just until well combined.

Pour the batter into the muffin cups evenly, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean (for me, this would have been probably about 12 minutes, in the cookbook they recommend 25-30 mins).

Facts per muffin: 175 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g protein, 31 g carbs