Easy Vegan Valentine’s Day Dinner

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Valentine’s Day can put a lot of pressure to do something extremely nice for your beloved partner. With commercialism pushing materialistic goods onto customers, it can be easy to lose sight of what this day is truly about. Valentine’s Day is about celebrating romance and being with the person you love. A great way to spend one-on-one time with your partner can be having a nice romantic dinner. But trying to get a dinner reservation on Valentine’s Day? Forget about it, I have a better option for you that’ll be way more heart-felt and lighter on your wallet. This Valentine’s Day, give the gift of food by making a beautiful dinner for your loved one. And don’t worry, this won’t be a crazy difficult 5-course French meal. This easy vegan Valentine’s Day dinner will make you be impressed with yourself for putting together a fancy-looking home-made meal with little effort.

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If you’re like me, then you might be disappointed that Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday. Who has time to cook a delicious home-made meal in the middle of week? I know I don’t. Here’s where your new best friend, Gardein, saves the day. Gardein has a tasty orange “chicken” that can be made in less then 20 minutes. And if Gardein isn’t in your local grocery store, you can buy it online, or if you live near a Trader Joe’s then you can see if they carry their own brand of vegan orange chicken.

And the meal itself is seriously easy to put together. All you’ll need to do is cook 1 cup of rice in a pot on the stove. For 1 cup of rice, use 1 ½ to 2 cups of water. About 1 minutes in, start cooking the orange chicken and voila the rice and the orange chicken will be done about the same time. I like to top my orange chicken with sesame seeds, but this is optional.

SpringRolls

And if you want to be extra fancy, I recommend serving spring rolls (which are vegan) as an appetizer. You can find spring rolls in the frozen section of your grocery store. If they are spring rolls, not egg rolls, then they are usually vegan. My favorite spring rolls are from Trader Joe’s, but there are many cheap selections from Safeway that are just as tasty.

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Now, if you can’t find the Gardein orange chicken, or you prefer to make a simple dish then let me recommend this amazing Pineapple Fried Rice recipe that is super easy to make and super impressive for any date.

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Pineapple Fried Rice

Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Ready in 45 minutes

Ingredients

3 cups of water

1 ½ cups of rice

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (Peanut oil if you prefer)

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 cup of frozen peas and carrots from a frozen bag mixture

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons soy sauce

½ can of pineapple chunks

¼ cup roasted peanuts

Directions

  1. In a saucepan bring water to a boil. Stir in rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat peanut or vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, pineapple chunks and pepper flakes, to taste. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and stir in cooked rice, green onions and soy sauce. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add frozen peas and carrots and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat. Mix well. Garnish with peanuts, if desired.

Now, if you want to add a nice dessert to your Valentine’s Day dinner, then we might need to revisit that 5-course French meal again. Just kidding, we won’t be needing all 5 courses, however, let’s revisit everyone’s favorite part of the meal – dessert. My favorite vegan dessert of all time is Pepperidge Farm’s Raspberry’s Turnovers. And yes, they are fluffy, flakey French dessert that is 100% vegan. And best of all, it’s readily available in the dessert section of your local grocery store. They also have them in apple and peach flavors too, if that suits your fancy.

Italian_Soda

I know champagne is the typical go-to for a romantic dinner, but champagne can be pretty pricey. I love to pair a home-made dinner with Italian Sodas, especially the Grapefruit and Blood Orange flavors. It’s different enough to make the occasion special, and tasty enough to add a fun element to your dinner. If you are interested in making your own, try the recipe below to taste a tropical version of an Italian Soda.

Tropical Italian Soda (Non-alcoholic Blue Hawaii)

Ingredients

3 parts Club Soda

½ part Orange Juice

½ part Pineapple Juice

Mix all parts into a container. Serve over ice and enjoy.

Make this Valentine’s Day extra special by trying some of these dishes and/or recipes and I wish you a wonderful, romantic day spent with loved ones.

Vegan Makeup Brands

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If you are new to being vegan, you might not know that a lot of makeup companies still test on animals. I honestly have no idea why animals need to be tested for mascaras and lipsticks. It’s absolutely ridiculous to me. But, not to worry because more and more companies everyday are becoming cruelty-free and are making their ingredients vegan. So, I’ve compiled some of my favorite companies that range from high end, to drugstore, to natural makeup brands.

Before I dive in, I’d like to note that certain vegan makeup brands are excluded from this list because while they retail in the US as vegan; however, they sell to China which tests all their imported makeup on animals.

Below are bullet point lists of my favorite vegan companies and if you are interested in seeing more vegan makeup companies then make sure to check out Cruelty-Free Kitty. They have a great compiles list of vegan makeup brands that you can see here. And if you love the galaxy animal prints above, then make sure to check out The National Anthem on Etsy to buy some of their cool prints and wall art décor. You can see some of their cool artwork here. And now, onto the list of vegan makeup brands.

HighEndVeganMakeup

DrugstoreVeganMakeup

NaturalVeganMakeup

Vegan Eats: Sonoma, California

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Sonoma County is mostly known for its rolling hills covered with rows of vineyards. However, it’s becoming one of the biggest hubs for vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the Bay Area, second to San Francisco. For this post, I am covering three different cities that are within Sonoma County. So, wherever your wine tasting adventures may take you, I’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into the tastiest vegan eats Nor Cal has to offer.

First up is a vegan restaurant in the quaint town of Sebastopol called Slice of Life. It’s nestled next to Whole Foods, so it can easily be missed or overlooked. But this is a place you surely don’t want to miss. There is a wide range from which you can you can order here. Some of the local favorites include: Tofu Rancheros, Kale Caesar Salad, Mushroom Stroganoff, California Tempeh Reuben, Queso Dip (made from cashews) with blue corn tortilla ships, Nachos, Vegan Pizza, and the Nut Burger served with sweet potato fries. I ordered the AvoFresco Sandwich which was jammed full of two layers of avocado mash, carrots, pickled red cabbage, sprouts, and lettuce. This was a very filling yet healthy lunch option also served with a vegan coleslaw. I love a good sandwich and this one is packed full of veggies, so if you are a garden salad lover then this is the sandwich for you. I also had the sprout salad topped with an avocado dressing. As you can see, avocados are a main staple in a Northern Californian’s diet. And for dessert, I had the raw blueberry cheesecake, which this place is known for. There are gluten-free and oil-free options on the menu as well. The dishes range from $5-$12 and since they only use fresh local organic ingredients that means you are getting a good deal to eat healthy.

My next suggestion is a vegan drive-thru in Rohnert Park called Amy’s Drive-Thru. If you miss those days of eating at In N Out or other fast-food chains, then Amy’s is a great option for you. Amy’s might sound familiar to you because this is the same company as Amy’s Frozen Food which is headquartered in Sonoma County. Most of Amy’s frozen food products are vegetarian, but what’s cool about Amy’s Drive-Thru is that there is a whole menu dedicated to vegan options. Just be prepared for a long line, this place can get busy. But the staff does a wonderful job of keeping the line moving and getting the food out fast. They are mostly known for their burgers, chili (vegan) cheese fries, non-dairy shakes, vegan mac n cheese, and vegan pizza. So, since I was craving my non-vegan days at In N Out, I ordered The Amy Burger (with vegan cheese), fries, and a non-dairy chocolate shake. This place does not disappoint. It satisfied all those fast-food cravings I had. The pricing is comparable to other burger joints and that’s impressive since they only use local organic ingredients.

And for my last recommendation, I suggest an Ethiopian restaurant located in Santa Rosa called Abyssinia Restaurant. I first came here many years ago with my husband and his parents. This place is great for vegan and meat-eaters alike since they have options for both. While my husband and his parents ordered the beef combo, I ordered the vegetarian combo. Served on a traditional ingera bread (a thin flat bread) are beans, lentils, a garden salad, and sauces seasoned with spices and flavors that made this dish taste very rich and complex. To eat this dish, you simply tear the ingera bread and scoop it up using your hands. I loved the experience of eating with my hands and the dining experience I shared with my family tasting this culture new to me. For about $15 a person (meal and drink included), you get a great deal on traditional African food.

Places to Eat

  • Slice of Life

6970 McKinley St, Sebastopol, CA 95472

  • Amy’s Drive-Thru

58 Golf Course Dr W, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

  • Abyssinia Restaurant

913 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Closed Sundays

Thrifty Girl Guide: Workout Clothes

Many people start the new year with the goal to work out and exercise more, and if you are on this journey then this post will help you motivate you to achieve that goal. If you aren’t on that bandwagon of new year’s resolutions, then not to worry, because finding workout clothes for a steal is still a good enough reason to keep reading this. Because, let’s be honest, even if we aren’t working out in our workout clothes, they are still incredibly comfy to lounge around in. But work out clothes are so expensive. I knew there had to be a better way to find something comfy enough to move around in without breaking the bank. Keep reading to find out I bought 5 workout outfits for only $50!

Here is my first look where I paired these Reebok capris with this FILA top. I like the contrast of the accenting neon yellow against the greys and blacks. The Reebok capris were only $7 and the FILA top was $5, both found at Goodwill.

In Look 2, I found thee amazing pink Nike shorts at Macy’s for only $4. Buying summer clothes in winter is a great way to find exclusive discounts. Plus, Macy’s also has some good coupons that reduce an already great price to an even better deal. The black top seen here is from Danskin and at only $4 it puts the good in Goodwill.

Look 3 is my comfy lounge around the house look. These are all workout clothes, but I tend to them casually as my normal clothes. You don’t need to workout to feel comfy, so another great use of these outfits is just to wear as your normal clothes. Normally, these Spalding pants retail at $55. But I found these at Goodwill for only $6! I paired them with this athletic top that I was gifted for Christmas, but it too was second-hand.

In Look 4, you can see I found another Danskin athletic shirt but this time in white. I paired it with these Under Armour shorts I found at TJMaxx for $12. So, for a total of $16 you can look like a total work out goddess.

For my fifth and final look, I paired my favorite Adidas capris with this black Nike athletic shirt. Bothe were found at Goodwill. The capris cost $5 and the top cost only $3!

Getting in shape, being more athletic, whatever your goals for 2018 may be, just know you don’t have to break the bank to invest a little into yourself. Now, that you know where to find the best deals for workout clothes, I hope you have enough motivation to kick-start 2018. I’ve linked below some of my favorite YouTube channels if you need a good workout but can’t afford a gym membership. These at-home workout videos are short enough to make it easy to fit into your schedule but intense enough to feel a good burn. Good luck with your workouts or make 2018 your most comfy year yet.

YouTube Channels:

  1. Boho Beautiful: Has great Pilates and Yoga workouts
  2. Lucy Wyndham-Read: Great low-impact and short workouts that make it easy for everyone to exercise.
  3. Zuzka Light: High cardio, core strength, and short workouts that will make you feel the burn.

Save Like a Girl Boss: Issue 1

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One of my new year’s resolutions this year is to save money where I can, but it’s a little hard when I like to spend certain expenses on taking care of myself. I think it’s important to do things that make you feel good as well as boost your morale and self-esteem. For me, that means getting my nails done once a month. I limit myself to once a month, so I don’t spend a lot, but recently I found a way to cut my expenses in half.

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I normally get a fill with gel polish, which costs $26, and including a tip makes it about $30-$31. I have no idea why nail salons charge $10 more just because of the gel polish. However, I do like the gel polish because it can last 3-4 weeks on acrylic nails. But a whole bottle of gel polish costs less than $10. So, for this past Christmas and birthday, I asked for gel polishes that came in plenty of different colors to start my own mini salon. I found some good collections that are reasonably priced on Amazon. This one here has six bottles for only $16, making it less than $3 per bottle. What a steal!

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I still go to the nail salon once a month. But, now I ask for a fill with no polish, no top coat, nothing. This costs $16, and with a tip makes a total of about $18-$19. Afterwards, I go home and apply whatever polish I want to. And recently, I got a chrome kit that included nine colors for only $16 on Amazon, which I’ll link here. Below, you’ll see the evidence of how good this stuff works. I’ve had it on my toes for two weeks and the chrome is still great.

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At the salon, they charge $15 for chrome nails, but for a dollar more you can get a set of nine chrome colors.

Initially, you’ll have to put up some money to invest in a few good bottles of gel polish, but overall, it’ll be cheaper. If you can get gel polishes gifted to you like I did for Christmas and your birthday, then you’ll save even more money like a girl boss!

New Year, New Goals

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In my last post, I referred to new year’s resolutions as a reason for many people changing their diets this time of year. Weight loss is the number one new year’s resolution, but it’s a hard one to keep since true weight loss requires you to change a lifetime of poor habits.

I’ve never been a big fan of the concept of new year’s resolutions, mainly because I’ve always associated them with failure. I don’t know anyone who’s ever stuck to their new year’s resolutions. So, I prefer the term goals. By its definition, the word goal means to have an end or a desired result. So, for the new year, I’m creating new goals for what I want to get out of 2018.

Keep reading to see how I plan my new goals for 2018 and how I’m going to accomplish them.

Goal 1: Eat Healthier

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This is a goal most people try to accomplish with the start of a new year. I’m not trying to lose any weight, but I am trying to reduce how much processed food I eat and to decrease my overall sugar intake. I already eat a vegan diet which helps me get my fruit and veggies in, but I’ve noticed that I’ve relied a lot more on vegan junk food that is highly processed and usually high in sugar. The way that I am achieving this goal is to just cut out what I know is bad for me. No more vegan junk food like potato chips, vegan desserts, and sodas. Instead, I’m replacing them with fruit. If I crave chips, I’ll make myself baked potatoes with seasonings. Same thing, way healthier option. If I crave vegan chocolate chip cookies or vegan desserts, I’ll have fresh fruit like strawberries. And if I crave sodas, then I’ll make a fruit smoothie. The key essential things to do with changing your food habits is to reduce the amount you eat out (so you don’t cheat) and you stock up your fridge. These two things will help you stay focused and not get distracted with other, lesser, food options.

Goal 2: Save Up For A Car

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Believe it or not, my eating healthier will actually save me a lot of money. By staying in, instead of eating out, I will eat out less which means I’ll be saving more money. And this helps with my next goal because my husband and I want to purchase a new car by the time our insurance expires at the end of June. This gives a time line of when we need to buy a car, which motivates us to start saving immediately. In fact, we started saving last month in December. The best way to make a new goal work is to just start it, no need to wait or procrastinate, just start it today. And make sure you plan out how much you can realistically save up each month. My husband and I looked at our last paychecks for the month of December and budgeted how much bills, rent, etc. are for the month and how much we have remaining. So, our goal is to save $2,000 per month. And last month, we did extra good and doubled that and saved almost $4,000. So, we are already at a great start which is good because it propels us forward. And while we are saving, we are researching and researching like crazy for our next car, which constantly reminds us why we are working so hard to save money.

Future Goal Ideas

Those two are the only goals that I have made my definite goals for 2018, but I plan to add a few more as the year goes on. However, I know that things change and so may my plans. As long as you are open-minded and flexible you can add as many new goals for the new year as you want. Here are some ideas that I have (which aren’t set in stone) that I hope to implement in 2018.

  1. Go to my mom’s for Christmas.
  2. Save up to go to Bahamas with my mom and siblings next year for Christmas break vacation.
  3. Plan weekend get-away’s with my husband
  4. Visit my grandparents in California (in February)

And I’ll add things to the list as the year goes on, but for now this is all I want for the new year. I hope you have a great start to a new year and that you get to achieve your new goals too.

Top 10 Things You Need in Your Vegan Kitchen

Fruits And Vegetables

With the new year comes new resolutions. And after the feast of delectable eats the holidays had brought, many people’s New Year’s resolution revolve around diet changes. If you are looking for a new diet to transform your health than I recommend a vegan diet. Some people believe it’s hard to transition to a no-meat and no-dairy diet, but keep reading to find out how easy it can be for you to make this dietary change by following this list of top ten essential items you need in your vegan kitchen.

milk_alternatives

  1. Milk Alternatives

Instead of using regular dairy milk, you have the option to keep soy, cashew, or almond milk in stock. All these milks have less fat than dairy milk. Soy and cashew milk have twice as much as calcium as dairy milk, and almond milk has a lot of protein in it if that’s what you’re looking for. These milk alternatives are great on their own or can easily be used as an ingredient for cooking and baking.

  1. Margarine or Vegan Butter

My favorite brand of vegan butter is Earth Balance, but I also like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter as well because it’s tasty and more affordable. The great thing about vegan butter is that it cooks and tastes just like dairy butter. You can easily use this is in your cooking and everything will taste the same old buttery goodness.

  1. Vegan Bread

Before going vegan, I used to love to eat whole wheat bread but after going vegan I was sad to learn that most whole wheat breads have either or both honey and milk in it. In fact, it can be rather difficult to find vegan bread in general. But there definitely are vegan breads out there. You’ll have to check the ingredients, but locally baked bread is frequently vegan. Oddly, these local breads are often kept in a different aisle than the national brands in supermarkets. If you are interested in national brands, then I recommend Ezekiel or Dave’s Bread.

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  1. Vegetable Oil/Olive Oil

Not only is this great for cooking up some veggies on the stove-top, this is also great to use in baking as well. If you like baking cookies, cakes, or other pastries you can use veggie oil to use as an egg substitute. You just need to use two tablespoons for one egg.

hummus

  1. Hummus

If you aren’t used to snacking on veggies, then I highly recommend getting hummus to dip your veggies in. This delicious snack can be homemade by simply grinding garbanzo beans and adding lemon juice and seasonings to taste. I like to dip bell peppers, cucumbers, and carrots in hummus as a light, delicious snack. But you can also use crackers and other vegetables to dip in it as well.

  1. Rice & Beans

These are probably the most essential thing to add as a staple in your kitchen. If you season it right, you can have a variety of different tasting rice and beans all depending on the seasonings you use. I like making Mexican-inspired rice and beans, but I also try my hand at Indian-inspired rice and Chinese stir-fried rice.

seasonings

  1. Seasonings

Speaking of spices, that brings me to my next must-have item you need in your vegan kitchen. You can make any vegetable taste delicious if you know how to just season it. And you don’t have to stick just to seasonings, you can also use sauces. My dad makes the best roasted broccoli by roasting the broccoli in a mixture of brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. But having a good selection of seasonings can help you adjust to incorporating and eating more vegetables in your diet. Seasonings can be pretty pricey, but if you are new to cooking then I recommend buying a pack of selected seasonings so you can get your money’s worth.

potatoes

  1. Potatoes

Did you know that potatoes contain all your daily vitamins and minerals except for Vitamin D and calcium? Potatoes in my book are the best things ever. You can cook them whole, slice them and bake them, or fry them up. Any way you cook them they are simply amazing. My favorite way of cooking them is cutting them up, toss them with garlic salt, pepper, paprika, and crushed pepper flakes and bake for twenty-five minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

fruits

  1. Fruits

My daily eats for fruits are bananas, cuties, and grapes. For bananas you can freeze them and put them into smoothies later. And speaking of smoothies, this is a great breakfast idea that makes it easy to pack in your fruits for the day. I buy frozen fruit (the tropical mix) in the frozen section at the Dollar Store. So, it is possible to find frozen fruit for cheap.

vegetables

  1. Vegetables

If you’re not fond of eating your vegetables then try seasoning them and experimenting with cooking recipes. I often find that it’s easier to start with the ones you like and slowly incorporate new finds into your diet.

I hope this list can help you start a new lifestyle in the new year, and if you want more vegan foods to add to your grocery list just keep reading below to see the best vegan alternatives to some of your already favorite foods.

Extra Items for Your Vegan Kitchen

If you are completely new to not eating any meat or dairy, then here are some extra recommendations to help you for when you do have cravings for meat and cheese.

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  1. Chao Cheese

This is the best vegan cheese I have ever tried. I like the original flavor best. This is pretty pricey, so I buy it sparingly when I do crave some cheese in my sandwich. It’s mostly made from potato, corn, and soy tofu, but it tastes exactly like processed slices cheese.

tofurky

  1. Tofurky Sandwich Meat

I love sandwiches, so when I went vegan it was hard for me to give up turkey. However, Tofurky makes a great tofu based “turkey” substitute. The best price I’ve found this for is at Trader Joes at only $2.50 per pack, which is a great price for sandwich meat.

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  1. Veganaise (Vegan Mayo)

I love putting mayo on my sandwiches, burgers, and basically everything else. And vegan mayo is just the exact same thing as regular mayo except for the eggs. Vegannaise is a bit pricey, so I recommend buying Best Foods Vegan Mayo. For a large jar I bought it at Safeway for only $3.50, which is half the price of Vegannaise.

  1. Gardein “Meat” Products

I absolutely love Gardein! They have a huge range of awesome “meat” options. My favorites are their “Chicken” Strips, Orange “Chicken,” and their Pork-less Buns. The pork buns are to die for, my non-vegan husband can’t even taste the difference that’s how tasty they are.

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  1. Daiya Soy/Coconut Yogurt

This is a great yogurt substitute if you need one. My non-vegan husband loves to have one of these with his breakfast.

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  1. Tofutti Cream Cheese

My last recommendation is this cream cheese. I prefer it to Daiya’s vegan cream cheese, and it’s usually half the price of Daiya’s too. This cream cheese also works well in cooking too. I made vegan jalapeno poppers using this and it tasted amazing.