Bratworks in San Bernardino

Bratworks is a new gourmet hot dog eatery located in San Bernardino, the city I live in. Ohhhhhhh, how to describe San Bernardino…it has a bad reputation (not completely undeserved), but I believe in this city, and it’s historical roots. It is a bit misunderstood and has been mismanaged for so long. But, I truly hope that things are changing and new businesses are on their way.

I often complain that there are not many vegan options locally and I have to spend my money in other cities in order to find delicious vegan food.

15526838651_c4f08f9a24_o Bratworks is an approximate five minute drive away from my home. I saw someone post about it on my local Facebook board. I was intrigued. I saw a hot dog decked out in delicious toppings and I said a silent prayer that they had a meat-free option

A quick visit to their website told me they did and I jumped at the next opportunity to visit.

Loaded up hotdogs used to be one of my faves as a meat-eater, but luckily I have not been missing out on this as a vegan. Bratworks definitely tends to those cravings and then some.

The eatery is set up Chipotle or Subway-style. You pick your dog, your bread and your toppings and without much of a wait, you are ready to eat!

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I loaded my dog up with onions, jalapeños, pineapple, spicy mustard, ketchup and sriracha sauce. My step-son accompanied me on this trip, but I could not tell you what he chose as toppings, I was way too absorbed in my own food (step-mother of the year!). We also shared a yummy order of fries.

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Bratworks also offers a diverse selection of fountain drinks and beer by the bottle. I love an ice cold hoppy beer with a spicy dog. I will definitely need to return to try that combination out.

I am delighted that there is a new vegan option in my own zip code! I will definitely be back!

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LA Vegan Beer Fest 2014

This weekend I went to my version of heaven, the LA Vegan Beer & Food Fest.

14229803013_34284f8c06_oThere was SO much delicious food and tons of beer tasting, plus, so many of my favorite people, in one place. It really does not get much better than that.

Here is a quick summary of the day:

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And here is the longer version:

We arrived early with the intention to PACE ourselves. Last year, I made the mistake of getting way too excited and eating and drinking way too much, too fast. I was quickly full, tipsy and ready for a nap. This year, I paced myself much better and enjoyed myself much more.

The first food we went for was the grilled mac and cheese from The Grilled Cheese Truck. I had been drooling over this since I saw it posted on Instagram, a few days before! It was genius. I may need to try to recreate this at home.

14186718206_8f0630bf2e_oNext, up was a taco from Mama Tamales. The hot red sauce was the perfect addition.14209709724_b5a549621b_o

Up next was the dish I had been dreaming of since last year’s event; Seabird‘s beer battered avocado tacos. The avocados are the perfect texture; crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The toppings are flavorful and the perfect complimentary crunch.

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At this point, we started to slow down and enjoyed walking around and spotting fellow vegans. I was jazzed to spot two of my favorite authors/bloggers Jennifer Chen and Elizabeth Castoria (I just finished her new book, How To Be Vegan last week, and it rocks!). They were incredibly nice and willing to indulge me:

14209487504_5edaef7569_o I also spotted some of my buddies from my Vegan Meet Up group. It was so nice to see familiar faces. Vegans are truly some of the friendly and cutest people around, it’s a fact.14022965228_a075187b0b_o

At this point, we were ready for something sweet and Pepples Donuts was the perfect answer. I enjoyed the lemon donut. It was creamy, with a wonderful, fresh burst from the lemon.

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We then spotted one of our favorites: Doomies. They were serving up one of their secret menu items: vegan Big Macs! The line was insanely long and we had to wait 35 minutes. The Big Macs were priced at an outrageous $12 each. Yet, I regret nothing. Nothing!

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It also helped that Doomies was positioned right next to Follow Your Heart’s booth and they gave out free grilled cheese samples, while we waited.

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It was totally worth it! 14209632595_4084ec56b3_o

As the day went on, the heat increased. It was in the high 80s and I was ready for a cold treat. Kind Kreme delivered with pina colada ice cream and fresh strawberry juice. These blasts of cold air helped, too.

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Next, we bought some treats  we had been eyeing from Bramble’s. The peanut butter cup was divine.

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Alas, we could not leave without a little more Mexican food. We had the nachos from Gracias Madre and amazing, carnitas tacos from Guru Tacos, with fresh jamaica.

The chips had a wonderful spice mix on them, that reminded me of Doritos. It was a beautiful combination and the cashew cream made for the perfect topping.

14023013660_b191714c8d_oI will be dreaming of these tacos. They were simply amazing, and if I wasn’t ready to burst, I would have bought more.

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It was a sad, sad time when we realized we were way too full to eat anymore. We sipped water, enjoyed the bands and eventually, rolled ourselves back home.

The event was absolutely amazing. I will definitely be back next year!

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LA Times Festival of Books

This weekend I attended the LA Times Festival of Books, why this is the first time I have attended is still perplexing to me. There were a slew of authors I wanted to meet and hear speak. It was impossible to catch each and every one, but I was fortunate to see a few of my favorites.

When I first arrived, I was overwhelmed and in awe of all the book-related amazingness around me. I spent a good amount of time perusing the incredibly affordable books for sale, and brought home one or two…or more.

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The first author I saw was Alicia Silverstone, who was there to promote her new book, The Kind Mama. I have Alicia’s book, The Kind Diet and enjoy many of the recipes and tips she shares in the book.

Alicia gave a great interview on the book and proudly promoted a vegan lifestyle. She graciously answered audience Clueless related questions, and my own question about what book helped her in her transitioning to veganism (The Food Revolution, by John Robbins).

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13819374434_e53a0d21c6_oAfter getting my book signed, I rushed over to the incredible line for the John Green signing. I really wanted to hear him speak, but when I went to get in line for his interview, it was already packed and my hopes were dashed. However, I was told that he would be signing each and every book after his talk.

The line to meet him was insane. It was packed with teenagers and I knew I would be waiting for a few hours. Although it was a test in patience, I was happy to see so many kids exciting about meeting an author and reading books in line (!!!).

I waited in line for 3 hours! My husband was awesome and went to get provisions. The festival had a great selection of vegan options! This helped sustain me through the wait. 

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Although my chat with him was short, I was struck by what a genuinely nice guy John Green was. He looked tired (who wouldn’t, after signing books for 3 hours?!), but committed to sign each and every book there. He was apologetic about the wait time and thanked me when I told him I loaned my book out to my students all the time.

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I missed Ruth Ozeki’s interview, but I made it over to her tent, just in time to get my book signed. This picture came out awfully blurry, but it was great to meet her.

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I walked around the festival a little bit more, but was pretty wiped out and the events were winding down. We refueled at The Veggie Grill (so necessary), before heading home.

Santa Fe "Chicken" Sandwich

Santa Fe “Chicken” Sandwich

Buffalo Bomber

Buffalo Bomber

This was such an amazing event and I am still baffled that it was FREE! Now that I am not a newbie anymore, I will have a better plan for next year and be more strategic about meeting and seeing more authors. It was such an amazing experience and I will definitely return next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Day Yoga Challenge: Week 3

This third week of a challenge, felt much less like a challenge, and much more like yoga was apart of my daily routine. This is exactly what I was looking for.

I know a big part of that can be attributed to the fact that I was on Spring Break from work, and off the whole week. I had all the time I wanted to incorporate yoga into my daily schedule and I absolutely loved it.

I was also extremely fortunate this week to substitute a few classes and have the unique experience of teaching other classes, on different days.

Day 15-I first attended the Pranayama (breath work and meditation) class, then stayed for 90 minutes of Level 1-2.

I had not attended Pranayama class since I did my teacher training, over the summer. I meditate at home, in the morning, before my work day begins. I NEED this time to set up my day with positive intentions. However, I forgot the powerful dynamic that comes from doing this in a group setting and being inspired by other people’s energy. It definitely reminded me to attend more.

I then stayed to teach the Community class. It was a morning filled with yoga and I would not have had it any other way.

Day 16-I started off the morning by teaching the Community class, followed by teaching Beginner’s class. I enjoyed both immensely, and it was great to teach on a different day, with a different group of yogis.

I was scheduled to teach a Level 1-2 class later in the afternoon, so in between, I did my own restorative practice alone. It was an interesting experience to have the whole studio to myself. I was able to relax, restore and renew my soul.

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After my restorative practice, I was energized to teach again. It was a completely blissful day, I felt so grateful to be able to revel in yoga.

Day 17-This was my first “official” day of Spring break. I subbed another 90 minute Level 1-2 class and finally begin to unwind and get into vacation mode. I was considering doing a more vigorous class for my own practice, but decided to keep it mellow and attend the restorative candlelight class, in the evening. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to practice.

Day 18-I attended the Community Yoga class. I love this class, it is a step above Beginner’s yoga class. There is an emphasis on the basics and cues are given to remind you of correct alignment in poses. It is just challenging enough, while still restful and relaxing.

Day 19-I taught my Beginner’s class, then stayed for 90 minutes of Level 1-2.

We are working towards a 5 minute plank, by the end of the 30 days. We did forearm plank pose for 3 minutes and even from my knees I found it a HUGE challenge.

I found this picture on pinterest, and it pretty much sums it up…

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Day 20-We had an overnight backpacking trip planned and were leaving pretty early in the morning to drive out to the trail.

I woke up extra early, and did a YogaGlo class. YogaGlo is definitely a new obsession. It is an online database of a variety of classes. I love the diverse selection and already have quite a few classes queued to try out. On this morning, I did a 60 minute yin class geared at stretching the hips and low back. It was exactly what I needed to prepare for a day of hiking with a heavy pack.

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Day 21-We hiked back in the morning, and made it to our car by early afternoon. After a quick stop to Native Foods (which was soooo appreciated and savored!), we drove the few hours through traffic back home.

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Native Chicken Wings

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Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger

Luckily, we were back in time to shower and nap, and still make it to the restorative candlelight class. I have been bringing essential oil with me to class. My current favorite is the Tranquility blend by Aura Cacia. I rub a little under my nose before class and I feel like it brings deeper relaxation and serenity.

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Do you use essential oils for anything?

Doomie’s Home Cookin

I finally completed another vegan rite of passage and made my way to Doomie’s, in Hollywood. I have read enough blog posts and seen so many Instagram shots of my vegan friends chowing down on some amazing looking vegan comfort food, that I knew I had to experience Doomie’s sooner, rather than later.

Some of the Yelp reviews mention the service and time it takes to get your food. The staff at Doomie’s was incredibly friendly and welcoming, but I was disappointed that they were out of the first three things I tried to order.

The food I did end up getting more than made up for it. We started off with appetizers: buffalo wings and nachos! The buffalo wings were flavorful and “meaty”, it almost freaked me out. The only thing I would have liked was cold ranch, what they gave us was room temperature and it would have been a nice contrast to the spicy buffalo, if the ranch were cold. The nachos were amazing! They reminded me of huge creations I would make in high school, when I came home starving.

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These appetizers were so rich that I was pretty full by the time my food came out.

I ordered the Spicy Chicken sandwich with a side of macaroni and cheese. It was definitely spicy and the batter on the chicken was rich and flavorful. The macaroni was creamy and decadent.

13048096474_eb87980fc7_oMy husband ordered the Big Mac. We were both pretty blown away. It has been a good fifteen or so years since I have been to McDonald’s (I got food poisoning there when I was in middle school and completely swore it off), but this tasted what I remembered a Big Mac to taste like. It was an amazing veganized feat.

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Let’s be perfectly clear. I can put away food. I am what my mom used to call “a good eater.” I rarely have leftovers and have been asked more than oh…a hundred times in my life, “how do you eat that much?” However, Doomie’s did me in. I was only able to take about three bites of my food (and a few of my husband’s) and took the rest home. It made a great meal the next day!

This is definitely not the place to come to if you are trying to lose weight. It is vegan versions of comfort classics. The food is rich, flavorful and divine. It is absolutely not a way I would (or should) eat everyday, but I will definitely be back when the craving strikes. They are a awesome contributor to the vegan community!

Gracias Madre-WeHo

This weekend, I visited the much anticipated Gracias Madre, in West Hollywood. GM is an all vegan, Mexican restaurant. I get waaaaay excited and overwhelmed when I can order ANYTHING off a given menu, and even more excited that some of my favorite dishes were veganized and readily available.

There has been a San Francisco location established already and I frequently drool over the pictures that the VegNews headquarter Instagram posts. I was stoked to find out that a Southern California location was coming.

When we got there, the place was packed and the wait was over an hour. Although I was hungry and grouchy, I could not help but be excited that an all vegan restaurant was generating so much buzz.

We waited exactly an hour, and it was worth every minute.

We started with the essentials; chips + guacamole & Margaritas:

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We were not done with appetizers though, next we ordered QUESADILLAS DE CALABASA (Butternut squash and caramelized onions folded into tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa) and REPOLLITOS CON QUESA FONDIDO
(Brussels sprouts and caramelized onions baked in cashew cheese and topped with garlic breadcrumbs). The quesadillas were savory, but with a nice touch of sweetness from the squash. The brussel sprouts went well with the onion bake and now I know how to say brussel sprouts in Spanish.

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For my entree, I ordered the CHILAQUILES (Tortilla chips simmered in a spicy tomato salsa, topped with cashew crema, cilantro and avocado, served with black beans), which I have literally been craving for YEARS. This dish reminds me of one my grandma used to make me and it is such a high level of comfort food. I have not had it since she passed, and I think I need to get to work on replicating a veganized version of her recipe.

12163351046_3e7d153041_oMy husband did not mess around and ordered EL PLATO (Some of everything. Butternut squash, cashew nacho cheese, plantains, cilantro pesto, escabeche, rice, pico de gallo and beans). I definitely recommend this for a sample of what the restaurant has to offer. The cilantro pesto was a hit.

12163344396_1ca199fa6c_oEven though we were already packing up leftovers, I still really wanted to try a dessert. We ordered MOCHA CHEESECAKE (With chocolate cinnamon sauce). This was pure decadence.12162940433_ba426e7d76_oI cannot recommend Gracias Madre enough. I definitely look forward to my next visit.

Masa of Echo Park-Vegan Deep Dish Pizza

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This past weekend, while on the way back from Venice Beach, we stopped at Masa of Echo Park. I had this restaurant bookmarked on Yelp for awhile now, and was so curious to try their deep dish pizza.

Pizza will never be the same again, the amazingness of this dish completely ruined all other pizza for me.

We had to wait for a while for our pizza, which only made it that much better when it finally arrived.

First, we started with vegan garlic bread, with chunks of Teese mozzarella on it.

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We were told that the deep-dish pizzas take longer to bake, so we happily snacked on our garlic bread.

However, about 20 minutes later, we were told that they made our pizza non-vegan, by accident. The staff was extremely apologetic and bought us a glass of wine.

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Finally, our pizza arrived. We chose the veggie pepperoni, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes as our toppings.

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The pizza absolutely lived up to the hype I read about on Yelp. The crust was thick, yet flavorful, without being too greasy. The toppings were generous, yet not sliding off.

The best part was there was plenty for leftovers and it tasted even BETTER the next day for lunch!

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I will definitely be back!

What is your favorite pizzeria? 

LA Vegan Beer & Food Fest

Do you have a happy place? Like in Happy Gilmore, when he tries to visualize his ultimate happy place, to relax and therefore, play golf better?

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There have been a few places throughout my life, where I feel like I had found my happy place; a beach in Tarifa, Spain as I enjoyed a watermelon mojito and read a great book, a sunny, but brisk afternoon in Napa Valley, as I enjoyed delicious wine and great company. I have one more place to add to this list: The LA Vegan Beer & Food Fest.

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I was surrounded by amazing beer, delicious, flavorful food and amazing company.  It was lovely to be in the company of so many like minded individuals.

I had VIP tickets and was able to get access to the festival 1 hour early. I took advantage of the shorter lines and filled up my cup more than once, throughout the hour.

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Fireman’s Brew was my first tasting. It was delicious and refreshing. Then I moved on the Big Wig IPA, I love hoppy, earthy beers and this one delivered!

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Next was Figueroa Mountain’s Hoppy blend (yum!) and Wahine’s Strawberry Wheat (a little too sweet for me, almost like soda).

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By this time, I was starved and ready for food! I first had a vegan grilled cheese from The Roxy menu:

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I was then ready for more beer! White Dog IPA was flavorful and earthy, Triple Vodoo brewing was up next:

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At this point, I was definitely ready for more food! Seabird’s truck was my favorite of the day. We ordered the beer battered avocado tacos and cheezy potato taquitos. The ingredients tasted fresh and flavorful. The food was crunchy without being greasy.

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Next up was Golden Road’s Heal the Bay IPA (I love IPAs!)

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I was still hungry, so we got Southern Fried Vegan BBQ. We ordered macaroni and cheese and chickun sliders. The flavors were perfectly smoky and rich:

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We also ordered some simple, yet flavorful potato chips with sriracha and sweet potato tamales + black bean pupusas:

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Soon enough, the sun, food and beer started lulling me into a coma. I started getting pretty sleepy and was ready to leave. Next year, I will pace myself a little beer.

This was a great event! There were so many amazing vendors that I did not even get to, I am pretty bummed that I did not stop by the Frakenstand. I definitely will have a different game plan for next year, since this will be a new annual event. Until then, cheers!

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Vegan Junk Food

Let’s be honest. I do what I can to eat whole, unprocessed and nutrient rich foods, most of the time.

But, I still have my days.

I want to share some of my favorite establishments to frequent when I do not feel like cooking, and when I am craving something more fatty and satisfying.

1. Johnny’s Taco-I came across this sport’s bar by chance and it is not the type of place I would normally frequent. There are a few different games on throughout the bar and people come here to loudly cheer on their team and make obnoxious comments. Not my kind of scene.

I was astonished to find “soy tacos” on the menu and even more surprised to find out they were delicious. They serve street style tacos and have the option to order with soy meat, add avocado on it and it is a small slice of heaven. My record number of tacos eaten in 1 sitting is 8.

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To make things even better, they serve my favorite beer on tap and offer free chips and salsa. There is not much more I can ask for in life.

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2. Cheezy Pizza-This place is in my hometown, right up the street from my mom’s house. Not many people know what a vegan is in this city, so I was surprised to see a pizza place that advertised they sold vegan pizza.

I had been meaning to go in and try  it out for years, each time I visited my mom. One day I was over her house and about to head home, I did not feel like cooking, so I decided to finally stop in. I figured I would be able to get the “cheese” pizza they offered and call it a night.

I was shocked when I went in, and saw they had a whole vegan menu. They have an amazing, diverse selection.

Hands down, the jalapeno poppers are the best. This picture does them no justice. They are the perfect balance of spicy and creamy.

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Some of my favorite pizzas are the soyrizo with jalapenos and “chicken” alfredo.

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This place definitely took me by surprise and I am still working on trying everything on the vegan menu.

3. Haybird’s hot dog standI have talked about Haybird’s stand before, but I could not leave it out when talking about my favorite treats.

For reasons beyond my control or understanding, hot dogs are the one of the only foods I ever crave from my meat eating days. (The other, equally as disgusting, is Hamburger Helper.)

A visit to Haybird’s stand fixes that craving immediately. He has tons of fixings to load on the flavor and texture.

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What are your favorite junk foods?

This Week’s Dinners

This week has full of some amazing new recipes I tried, that I have to share with you all.

Monday: First up was one of my favorite blogger Spabettie’s Avocado Shiitake spring rolls . I had never made spring rolls before, so I was a little nervous, but they turned out to be similar to sushi, even easier. Once all the ingredients were prepped, it just became a quick assembly line of work.

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My spring rolls did not turn out quite as pretty as Spabettie’s, but they were still pretty delicious.

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The REAL star of this dish though, is the Spicy Coconut Almond Dipping sauce.

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It’s amazing the amount of flavor that packed in with so few ingredients. I highly recommend trying this sauce for dips or dressings. Thanks, Spabettie!

Tuesday: Korean Tacos. These are one of my favorite fast, weeknight dinners. So much flavor is packed into this small dish. I filled my tacos up with korean tofu, avocado, bellpepper, radishes, cilantro, sriracha and black sesame seeds.

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Wednesday: Cabbage & kale salad and The Soup that Heals

I made huge salads this night using: kale, red cabbage, yellow bell pepper and hemp seeds. I topped it off with Lisa’s tahini cashew dressing. This dressing is so creamy and flavorful, I am glad I have leftovers. The dressing was hearty and decadent enough that I did not even put avocado on my salad, this is a huge deal because I add avocados to everything.

I also made a big batch of The Soup that Heals at the beginning of the week, and had a nice, warm bowl alongside my fresh salad.

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Thursday: Indian food

We went to my favorite Indian restaurant The Clay Oven. We started off with samosas, that ate too fast to take a picture of. Oops.

I ordered the Tikka Masala Curry and ate it with basmati rice and garlic naan. YUM.

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Dessert was my favorite carrot pudding topped with slivered almonds:

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Friday: Loaded veggie dogs with mac & cheese

We had a wild Friday night and made veggie hot dogs, while watching Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (which I fell asleep half-way through), because apparently I am 8.

I loaded up my hot dog with veganaise, hot mustard, ketchup, onions, tomatoes and olives.

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We also had Amy’s Vegan/Gluten-free macaroni and cheese on the side. This was pretty tasty! I topped it off with paprika, garlic salt and fresh cracked pepper.

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Let me know if you try any of these recipes. I highly recommend the spring rolls & tahini dressing!