Healthy Cereal Bars Review-Nakd Natural Balance Food

I was contacted to by Natural Balance Food to try and review their Nakd healthy cereal bars. I am always up for free, vegan goodies and was not disappointed by their product.

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I was pretty stoked when this variety pack arrived in the mail. My step-son started calling dibs on flavors and we dug in. We made it a family tasting event and shared the various flavors, each sampling all the bars. Dylan was thorough and took copious notes to document his impressions. He is pretty adamant about sticking with cursive writing. Long-live cursive!

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These bars are all vegan, gluten-free and made with all natural ingredients. I loved how few ingredients each bar contained. I was thrilled to see there was no added sugar, syrups or sweetners. My favorite aspect was how simply the ingredients were stated on the packaging.

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I was sent the Sampler box and fortunate to try each flavor!

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Cocoa Delight-great for any chocolate-lover, it could cure those cravings for candy!

Cashew Cookie-my absolute favorite. The only ingredients were dates and cashews. A winning combination.

Berry Delight-Dylan loved this one. He is the avid berry lover in our family and this meet his standards.

Cocoa Crunch-reminded me of a healthy Nestle bar!

Pecan Pie-loooooved this flavor. According to Dylan, it “tasted like pumpkin pie.”

Apple Crunch-reminded me of apple pie. YUM.

Caffe Mocha– a little too coffee tasting for me. Dylan loved this one, and I suspect coffee lovers would, as well.

Strawberry Crunch-another of Dylan’s favorites.

Cocoa Orange-I loved the citrusy hints. Orange and chocolate are always combination.

Ginger Bread-I would have loved if this was more ginger-y, but it still has a great flavor, without being too spicy, for those who don’t appreciate that “kick” from ginger.

Rhubard & Custard-this was my husband’s favorite, but Dylan remarked it was “too tangy.”

Cocoa Mint-mint haters beware, this one is pretty minty. I personally loved it, but my husband did not.

Banana Crunch-cashews, bananas and dates harmonize beautifully!

I truly enjoyed all the bars. They were a wonderful snack that could be taken anywhere. They were low enough in calories, but high enough in nutrition to be a small, sustainable snack in between meals.

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Natural Balance Food is a Britain based company, but they have FREE shipping available to the US, until January 15th, 2015. Heck yes! I definitely recommend these bars for anyone looking for a vegan, gluten-free, all natural snack.

Natural Balance Foods provided their product to me free of charge, however, all opinions are words are my own.

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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!

Bacon Kale Salad

Quite often, when people find out I am vegan, they have some sort of response that involves bacon. Even though I get tired of hearing this, I get it. Bacon is good. But, when you really think about it, it’s not necessarily the pig portion of the bacon that makes it good. It’s the wonderful mix of spices and texture that give it it’s appeal. Without the flavorings, it would just be a piece of pig fat and I am doubtful that many people (although there may be some…) are craving that. Fortunately, the flavoring is easy enough to replicate, and it’s accessible to have those components of bacon, without harming any of our animal friends.

I have experimented with creating this version of bacon with shiitake mushrooms, but, when I am feeling lazy, I buy this brand. It has the texture and seasonings I love and adds a nice, smokey component to meals.

I used this bacon in a kale salad for dinner, last week.

I started off by removing 2 bunches of kale from their stems.

15407255965_b26a600367_o I lightly steamed the kale for about two minutes, just to give it a nice, bright color, but not wilt it down.

I also sautéed:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • garlic salt to taste

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I made a quick dressing of the following ingredients, whisked together:

  • 2 tablespoons of tahini
  • 1 tablespoon of Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • Juice of 1 lemon

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I massaged the dressing into the kale, then topped

  •  chickpea mixture
  • diced strips of 4 pieces of tempeh bacon
  • 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
  • 1 diced avocado

This salad was amazing! It had a balance of vibrant and smoky notes. The bacon flavor was very prevalent and the smokiness was heightened by the chickpea mixture. The avocado and dressing added a nice, fatty, creamy texture, and the kale kept it all feeling healthy and fresh. The salad is packed with calcium and healthy fats.

This is how vegans still enjoy their bacon.

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Vegan Cheese Spread

My friend Eddie and I got together the other night to discuss and brainstorm ideas for our new blog Spiritual Bahanas. Creativity requires food and wine, so I set about to try this vegan cheese recipe I have had my eye on.

Vegan cheese sounds like such a paradox, so I guess we can call this a delicious spread, and that it is. I was a little nervous, since I had never attempted this type of recipe before (I was particularly intimidated by the Agar. I think it’s the name of it that inspired some fear….like a frightful Game of Thrones character.)

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The recipe I used was from Maple Spice (all things vegan and nice!). Debbie posts three different variations; chive, sun-dried tomato & basil and chili & rosemary. I tried the sun-dried tomato & basil version and doubled the recipe to make an extra large batch.

I question if it’s because I have not had cheese for so long, but this sure did taste like the real thing to me. The texture was solid and spreadable. The olive oil added a nice touch of fattiness and the sun-dried tomatoes and basil added a delicious flavoring. The cheese spread really well and paired perfecto with Kashi crackers.

15159124407_463c208f23_o We needed lots of enforcements to get us through our creativity session. Along with the cheese and crackers, we also had chips + hummus (topped with fresh tomatoes & parsley), sautéed mushrooms, crackers & tomatoes to dip in olive tapenade and sun-dried tomatoes, plus Trader Joe’s amazing peppers stuffed with olives and garlic. And, we cannot forget, delicious vegan cookies from The Loving Hut.

15345347682_1befeebfc1_oThis all paired nicely with red wine and lots of fun conversations and planning. Colored pens were, in fact, necessary.

15315474406_e83ca3cd1e_o Eddie and I have some fun things planned for our new blog, and hope you all will check it out. Stop by Spiritual Bahanas and let us know what you think!

 

Raw Vegan Stir Fry

I have been on quite a raw kick, lately. The weather is still pretty hot in sunny Southern California, and the last thing you want to do in 90+ degrees is turn on the stove. I picked up Gena Hamshaw’s new book “Choosing Raw” and have been inspired by her creative, raw spins on traditional dishes.

My husband requested a raw stir fry and it was much easier than I imagined. He sliced up the veggies (since I have not got over my mandolin fear) and I went to work on a sauce. He thinly sliced up the following veggies:

  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 carrot

We also threw in a handful of edamame and broccoli.

14983394587_92a3df59e4_o The sauce was made by trial and error and adjusting seasonings here and there. The ingredients were:

  • tahini
  • sesame oil
  • tamari
  • sriracha
  • rice vinegar
  • turmeric powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • ginger powder

I used a dash here and a spoonful there. I was constantly tasting and whisking the sauce till I got it just right.

14983234129_6ef1d77a90_o After that, it was simply a matter of pouring the sauce over the veggies and stirring. We served the stir fry topped off with sliced avocado and black sesame seeds.

15169959275_7be81c1a69_o The flavors melded so nicely together and it was much more filling than you would think. I don’t think I can get enough sesame oil in my food lately, and you really cannot go wrong with a dish that contains both sriracha and avocado, right?

What is your favorite raw meal?

2014 in Books-July

1. Shantaram– My husband read this book about one year ago, and said it was one of the best books he ever read. He is much more particular about books that interest him, than I am, so I knew I definitely wanted to read Shantaram. However, it’s nearly 1,000 pages long, and I had a hard time deciding when to make the time commitment to it.

I started this book on the plane back from Europe, and was quickly caught up in the windy story of an Australian escaped prisoner, who begins making a life for himself, in Bombay, India. The story takes so many twists and turns that it quickly captivates the reader. It also gives a pretty amazing tour of Indian and outsider analysis of the culture, that I found very interesting.

The novel is based on a true story. The author did in fact, escape from prison and spend time in India. Much criticism about the book lays in the embellishment of the story and facts. You can read an interesting response the author wrote here.

Embellished, exaggerated or made up, Shantaram still makes for a unique and interesting story. I highly recommend it if you have any interest in the Indian culture.

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2. Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses-This was this month’s pick for my book club. The author goes about telling her life story by choosing a yoga pose, each chapter and relating it to a particular time in her life. Sometimes…that was a little bit of a stretch (poor yoga pun, intended). Every once in awhile you wonder how in the heck this anecdote relates to that certain pose.

The author really started off annoying me. She seemed whiny and approached yoga too goal-oriented and for aesthetics sake. However, eventually, she did begin to approach yoga from a more practical and even spiritual perspective, and the manner in which she describes some of her struggles with anxiety and the need to be perfect, definitely resonated with me, and how yoga has helped me address these issues.

poser 3. The Green and The Red (Le Vert Le Rouge)-This book was sent to me by Ashland Creek Press for FREE for review. This book was about a vegetarian restaurant owner who begins to date a distributor of pork products, and all the drama that can potentially ensue.

The book definitely threw in all the possible cliches that can be heard about vegetarian and vegans, but it was interesting to see them addressed and how the characters dealt with these conflicts. It also brings up the lingering question of should a vegetarian/vegan date a omnivore, and takes the reader through the potentially disastrous scenarios.

I also liked that the book addressed the vegetarian v. vegan conflict. It puts all these taboos out on the table and they are finally worked out in a respectable manner.

This book was a fast read, and overall, very charming. It was nice to read a novel where the main character was a vegetarian.

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Vegiversary

March has usually been a month of examination and transformation, in my life. It may be something to do with the changing seasons, or transition to daylight savings time, but it seems that I am often making evaluations and alterations in my life, during this month.

This March marks 8 years since I went vegetarian. This was one of the most pivotal and important decisions I ever made. You can read all about my transition to Vegetarianism and then to Veganism by clicking those links.

The bottom line is I first went vegetarian for the animals. I had strong convictions about eating animals, I was finally honest with myself and could not do it any longer. I felt SO much better ethically, when I cut out meat (along with physically, emotionally and psychologically).

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I later learned about the environmental and health benefits of an animal-free diet, later and this strengthened my resolve in the decision and eventually, helped me decide to transition into veganism.

I recently watched Earthlings, a documentary about the way that humans relate to and treat animals. It was one of the most horrific things I have ever seen. I was incredibly emotional through the whole documentary and it was very difficult to get through and continue to watch, I kept telling myself, if animals have had to endure, I can at least watch it and educate myself further.

Earthlings_(film)This is my no means an easy, entertaining film, but I urge everyone to watch it, to have a better understanding of where their food potentially comes from and make informed decisions about their food choices.

The one word that continually resounded through my head throughout the film was WRONG. I feel the way that human beings have treated animals is WRONG. I feel speciesm is WRONG. I feel, for myself, using an animal for food, when it is not necessary is WRONG.

I feel much better about myself and the choice I have made in being vegan. If you have ever been curious about veganism, March 20th is the great Meat Out, a day that encourages everyone to try veganism out. If you cannot do it March 20th, do it another day. If you cannot do it the whole day, try it for half. Give veganism a shot and do something healthy for yourself, our animal friends, the earth and raise collective compassionism.

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If you have ANY questions about veganism or vegetarianism, I can answer the best I can, based on my experiences. I am not interested in judging or bashing anyone’s eating habits, I simply love to spread the benefits I have found in this lifestyle and save as many animals as I possibly can.

Thank-you to my sister, for making the commitment! ❤

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May ALL beings, be healthy and free.

Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen

I had been eagerly anticipating the release of Joni Marie Newman’s new cookbook, Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen.

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The recipes in the book combine cuisine styles, ingredients and flavors from various cultures to produce tantalizing dishes that highlight on the best spices and textures from around the world.

I am eager to begin cooking my way through this book. I have already made the Notchows  with miso cheese sauce and the roasted red pepper macaroni and cheese, both were huge hits.

This weekend, I wanted to try the Bean Ball Bahn Mi with Hot, Sweet and Sour Bean Balls, Creamy Sesame Sriracha Sauce and California Kimchi. This was definitely more of a weekend recipe, the ingredients took some time to prepare, however, it was nothing too difficult.

I started off by making the bean balls. It involved some blending of ingredients in the food processor, kneading of the dough and allowing it to sit, then rolling it out into balls in preparation for baking.

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While the dough sat, and the balls baked. I worked on the kimchi and the sauce.

The sauce was made easy enough by throwing the ingredients into the blender. It made a lot more than I expected, I have plenty for leftovers that I plan to use this week, along with the leftover kimchi, on top of couscous.

12426859893_b6419f508c_oThe kimchi called for a lot of vegetable ingredients. I used what I had on hand, in my fridge, so there were some items left out, but I still think it came out great. There is plenty leftover. It added such a nice colorful crunch to the bahn mi.

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Once all the ingredients were finished, my husband cut up some huge pieces of french baguette, and we started to build our sandwiches.

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I also made a side of the Spicy Broccoli recipe from the book. This is definitely a great idea for a weeknight meal, it only took fifteen minutes to prepare.

100_1454The dish came out wonderful. I really liked the flavor and texture the kimchi added. The sauce tied the sandwich together nicely with creamy, spicy finish. The balls were “meaty” and flavorful. The broccoli had a nice crunch, with a spicy after kick from the red pepper flakes.

 

100_1459What is your favorite cookbook?

 

 

 

 

Vegan Meet Up

I finally did something I have been saying I was going to do, and joined Meet Up. I also actually attended an event! I found a group of vegans in my area and was hyped to see they would be hosting a potluck nearby. It is definitely harder to make new friends as an adult, and often feels near impossible to connect with fellow vegans, this was a great way to do both and stuff my face. Win. Win.

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The potluck was held at one of my favorite stores Viva La Vegan (another win. I was able to pick up coconut bacon, which I cannot seem to find anywhere else). The theme for the potluck was “Brinner” (breakfast for dinner) which made me do the Dougie.

dougieI made vegan quiches. I broke my own rule, that I continually brake so much, it’s insane that I consider it a rule, and brought a dish I had never cooked before. All turned out well though, and I will definitely be making it more.

I bought two pre-made vegan pie crusts from the freezer section of Clark’s, my local health food store.

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The following recipe made two quiches:

  • 2 cups of chickpea flour
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • a handful of chopped broccoli flourettes
  • 1/4 red onion diced
  • 5 slices of Yves Canadian bacon diced (this could also be tempeh bacon or a Tofurky product)Shredded Daiya cheddar

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Whisk the chickpea flour, water, oil, s&p together till all lumps are gone.

Pour the mixture in the two pie crusts.

Add in the remaining ingredients.

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Bake at 375 degrees in the oven for about 25 minutes (stab the center with the fork to check if it’s done, the fork should come out clean, not runny).

Slice and devour.

I was pleased with how it came out and ridiculously excited when I saw the rest of the buffet. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of the whole spread, but I did take some of my plate…OK…plates. I did go back for seconds.

Some of my favorites included;

“Chicken” and waffle sandwiches, tofu scramble, banana pancakes, soyrizo con papa, chilaqules, potatoes, poptart pops (!!), donut pops (!!!), tamales, (more) soyrizo and pancakes and grits. Major YUM.

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I had so much fun, met some great people and consumed way too much amazing food.