Vegan Father’s Day BBQ

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When I think of Father’s Day, I think of my father’s famous BBQ’s. He loves grilling meat on a grill, but ever since I’ve been vegan he’s been more open to grilling veggies as well. In fact, he has perfected the art of grilled broccoli, so much so that even my teenage step-brothers beg for seconds of his home-made barbecued broccoli. So, keep reading to discover his amazing recipe as well as find out how easy it is to put together a vegan barbecue for your father this Father’s Day.

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The classic staple in any barbecue is the burger. And trust me, vegan burgers do not disappoint. In the words of my husband, the best vegan burger is by Beyond Meat. With 20 grams of protein, 25% of your daily intake of iron, zero cholesterol, and only 5 grams of saturated fat, this burger is beyond healthy but without all the fattiness and cholesterol of a normal beef burger. Beyond Meat keeps the whole experience of cooking burger as similar as possible, so they’ve worked very hard to create a burger that changes color as you cook it just like animal protein by using beets as one of the primary ingredients for the color and for its ability to “bleed”. The beets give the patty a red-meat appearance and provides the juice for it to cook just like a normal burger would normally cook in its own juices and fat. And, while your dad is cooking up these amazing burgers, you can easily prepare the toppings like lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles, etc.

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Another thing you can easily throw on the grill are veggie kebabs. You can make these yourself, or you can buy them in the deli section at your local grocery store. Most kebabs come with pieces of meat stuck between pieces of bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and onions. However, you can ask the deli to prepare kebabs with only the veggies if they don’t have any prepared. You can just simply place them on the grill plain, or you can dress it up in a vinaigrette-based marinade. My two favorite marinades are by Lawry’s, which are cheap and found in most grocery stores, are Lawry’s Lemon Pepper Marinade and Lawry’s Teriyaki Marinade with Pineapple Juice.

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Another delicious grilled veggie is corn. Grilled corn is one of my favorite barbeque essentials, plus corn is super affordable and in season during the summer. I like to top my grilled corn with vegan butter, sea salt, pepper, cilantro, lime, and a hint of cayenne. For non-vegans, you can even top it off with a little sour cream and shredded cheese.

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Ingredients

1-2 large heads of broccoli

Worcestershire Sauce

Soy Sauce

Brown Sugar

Directions

  1. Set oven to broil.
  2. Cut off broccoli florets from the stem and rinse under clean water.
  3. Make a little bowl out of tin foil and prepare sauce by mixing 1-part Worcestershire sauce, 1-part soy sauce, and 2 parts brown sugar in it.
  4. Place sauce on top shelf of oven and broil until the brown sugar begins to bubble.
  5. Take sauce out of oven and place broccoli florets into the tin foil bowl. Cover the bowl with more tin foil to have it fully encapsulated so the sauce can steam into the broccoli.
  6. Place broccoli on the grill for about 15-20 minutes.
  7. Take off the grill and enjoy.

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I hope that this Father’s Day you can share and enjoy a vegan barbeque with your dad, grandpa, or any person who’s been a father figure in your life.

Vegan Sandals for Summer

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With summer now here, I’m exchanging my winter boots for some sandals. One thing that most my vegan friends tell me is how hard it is to find good quality vegan shoes. Yes, you can technically find vegan shoes at places like H&M or Forever 21, but what they don’t show you is the unethical ways in which that shoe was made from the underage labor to the unsafe, toxic environmental damage that the materials impact water sources. So, beware of the true cost of cheap shoes. Instead, try investing in good quality shoes, which will be more expensive upfront, but will last you in the long haul, will be better for environment, and will provide a livable wage to whoever made them. So, keep reading to discovery some of the best companies in the business providing ethically made, sustainable vegan shoes.

This first company, Avesu is a vegan shoe company from Berlin, Germany. They have shipping to almost anywhere worldwide and all shoes and accessories are made from ethically sourced, environmentally friendly materials by workers who are treated fairly and with respect. What I like about this company is how transparent they are. Here are some facts about their workers in their Brazil factory: Location – Franca, São Paulo, Brazil, Production Volume – 50 pairs/week, 600 pairs/month, Factory Size – 11 employees, Working Hours – 7 am until 4.30 pm (including 1hour lunch break), Hours per week – 42.5 hours, Salary – 1.800 BRL/month (+ 275 BRL food bonus), Industry Standard Pay – 1.080 BRL/month. These simple facts go to show you how much their shoes are helping to pave the way for fair and respectful working conditions in factories. And on top of all of that, their shoes are amazing! They offer every type of style you can think of from high heels to hiking boots, to tennis shoes. And they have shoes for men, women, and children. These will be pricey upfront, but if you can spend over $100 on Nike shoes (which have very questionably unethical working conditions in their factories and unsustainable environmental waste from their materials), then these shoes will be a bargain for you in comparison without compromising the integrity of factory workers or without damaging the environment.

Cleo

Check out these gorgeous Cleo wedges that are perfect for dressing up any occasion. They were originally $108, but right now they are on sale for $54. I own a pair of wedges that my mother-in-law (who is from Germany) bought from this company, and seven years later I still have them, and they are in fantastic condition. So, if you choose some of the classier styles, then these will last you a lifetime, which is an amazing bargain. Another style that is very fashionable now are espadrilles. I’ve seen many fashion bloggers on Instagram sporting the Chanel espadrilles, which look chic but are made with leather. Avesu offers quite a selection on a similar style that I think look just as cute.

These shoes are great for when it’s hot and humid outside because they are lightweight and breathable. If you are planning on travelling this summer, these shoes make excellent walking shoes for your travels. I love how you can also easily slip these on or off. And they have many more styles, prints, patterns available on their website too. And at $55, these are way more affordable than the $700 price tag on the Chanel espadrilles.

Shop Avesu for even more options.

My next recommendation is a website called Moo Shoes. This PETA-approved vegan company is focused on bringing vegan fashion to the mainstream. Once you start browsing this website you can see how trendy their shoes are. They offer a selection ranging from budget conscious quality to handmade designer brands. All of Moo Shoes’ products have been vetted to ensure they meet the standards of cruelty-free sourcing to fair and safe working conditions during production. I love their block heels, they have both low and higher heels for this style.

I love the Gwen sandal on the right. It has a texture that makes it almost look like it is made from leather. And the lower block heel on the left is more of my heel preference, which is great if you are travelling or planning to walk around a bunch for the day. But both these shoes are stylishly trendy and great options for summer nights out. The average price of shoes from here ranges from $90-$140. They offer excellent quality with some style.

Leone Mule

Another style that is quite on trend at the moment are mules for summer. This is the Leone Mule from Matt and Nat and it’s simply gorgeous. I love love love the shiny, mirror reflection of the heel paired with the faux leather band of the mule. I can see this paired in so many ways, with jeans and a blazer, with shorts and a classic, fitted tee shirt, with a fun, floral dress, or with a bathing suit and cover. It’s definitely a statement piece, but they will dress up any outfit you can think of for summer. This pair costs $120, but you can trust the quality of Matt and Nat, they make some of the best (if not, the best) vegan shoes out there on the market.

Moo Shoes is located in New York and LA, but make sure to check out their website because they carry all types of shoes for women, children, and men that range from dress shoes, business shoes, boots, tennis shoes, heels, sandals, you name it.

Shop Moo Shoes for even more options.

This summer you can rock some serious kicks that are super cute, fashionable, ethically made, and vegan. Make sure to check theses websites out and show them some love. Shoes plus internet shopping, veganism has never been made easier!

Natural, Organic, and Eco-Friendly 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 seems a bit outdated to me. But, not to worry because more companies everyday are becoming cruelty-free and are making their ingredients vegan. So, I’ve compiled some of my favorite companies that are organic, natural, and eco-friendly. If you are like me and you like to change up your makeup for summertime, then make sure to check these makeup brands because they offer lightweight, colorful, and fun products for summer. But make sure to read to the end to find even more vegan makeup options at the drugstore and high-end vegan makeup options at places like Sephora and Ulta.

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 making them not vegan.

Pacifica

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This is a wonderful, budget-friendly brand. They offer quite a range in skin care as well as makeup items. Their primers, skincare, lotions are by far some of their best-sellers. But I happen to like their eyeshadow palettes because they make have natural colors as well as colorful, smoky palettes as well. Most products range from $10-$20, making these makeup items easily affordable and accessible.

Shop Pacifica online here.

Real Purity

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This makeup brand is perfect for those that are new to vegan, cruelty-free makeup because they are best known for being able to select sample colors to choose from, which makes it easy for you to pick the right color for you and your skin tone. So, you can easily get samples without having to commit right away to the investment of a whole bottle or tube of product. What I like best about this company is that their products are made from all-natural botanical and plant-derived ingredients. Plus, they affordably range from $10-$30 per product.

Shop Real Purity online here.

Juice Beauty

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This natural and organic makeup company is best known for moisturizers and anti-wrinkle treatments and serums. But this company takes eco-friendly to the next level by being USDA certified Organic, using local sources for its ingredients, and using solar and wind power in the manufacturing as well as using recycled packaging. Not only are they vegan and cruelty-free, they also give back to charities as well. They are priced from $20-$40.

Shop Juice Beauty online here.

Afterglow

Afterglow

Afterglow is a great brand for those with sensitive skin because their organic, natural ingredients blends minerals and natural pigments to carefully formulate their makeup to be soy-free, gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan and fair trade. They are best known for the colorful pigments which are exemplified best by their color range in blushes and lipsticks. What’s also unique about this brand is that their products can be refilled (not wasting its packaging) and their packaging is made from recycled materials. Most products range from $20-$40.

Shop Afterglow online here.

Alima Pure

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This makeup brand is highly regarded for its inclusiveness for having their signature powder foundation for all skin tones. They have an amazing wide range of diverse skin colors to choose from, so if you have a skin tone that is harder to find in most makeup brands, make sure to give this makeup brand a try because I’m sure you’ll find your shade with them. Their signature powder foundation is like Bare Minerals, but their high-quality, pure ingredients never includes synthetic dyes to achieve its color. Not only does this company dedicate itself to uncompromising natural and organic beauty, they also are eco-friendly. They use soy-inks on recycled paper for packaging, they are carbon-neutral, and their compacts are refillable. Pricing for their foundations is $28, with eyeshadow pigments costing $14 per color. So, it is a little bit pricier, but it’s still comparable to brands like Bare Minerals.

Shop Alima Pure online here.

If natural looking makeup isn’t your go-to look and you prefer brands at the drugstore or brands at stores like Sephora or Ulta, then below are bullet point lists with a few more of my favorite vegan companies that are sold at these places. And if you are interested in seeing more vegan makeup companies, then make sure to check out Cruelty-Free Kitty. They introduced me to many of the vegan products I have listed here, but they have a great compiled list of vegan makeup brands. And now, onto some of the best high end and drugstore vegan makeup brands.

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Vegan Mother’s Day Brunch (including a Vegan Quiche Recipe)

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One of the earliest memories I have of Mother’s Day was when I was a young girl and my siblings and I (with the help of my dad, of course) made my mom breakfast in bed. I think there is something so wonderful about cooking someone you love a special meal. And on Mother’s Day, I got to be the one who made her breakfast. There’s something distinct about feeding and taking care of the one who always feeds and takes care of you. So, after many years since I last made breakfast for my mom, I thought a special way to show my appreciation for her would be to make her a wonderful brunch featuring one of my own recipes for a vegan quiche. See, how easy you can assemble a little brunch for your mom or grandma and how easy you can impress her with a delicious home-made vegan quiche that I trust you will be easy to cook up.

First up, a brunch isn’t a brunch without drinks. The typical brunch drink are mimosas, which is simple mixture of champagne with a dash of orange juice. But, if you or your mom isn’t one for alcoholic drinks, then try the virgin mimosa. This is mostly carbonated water (like La Croix) with a splash of orange juice. It gives all the same tingly bubbles without any of the alcohol. And if you want to spruce up your real or virgin mimosas then try adding a few raspberries into it to make it taste and feel extra fancy.

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Next up is the main attraction, the vegan quiche. You will find the recipe below. You can make this a day or two in advance if you’d like. All you have to do to reheat it is place the little quiches either back into the muffin tray or on a cookie sheet and heat at 300◦F for 10-15 minutes.

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Vegan Quiche Recipe

Total Cooking Time: 45 Minutes

Makes 6-8 vegan quiches

Tools You’ll Need: Oven, Pan/Skillet, Blender, Muffin Tray

Ingredients:

  • ¼ of a medium red onion sliced
  • 1 medium red potato sliced or cubed
  • 6-8 (1/4 of a container) cremini mushrooms sliced
  • ¼ green bell pepper chopped
  • ¼ orange bell pepper chopped
  • ½ a container of firm Tofu cubed
  • 2 Tablespoons of Garlic Salt (Plain salt will also work)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon of Pepper
  • ¼ cup of Soy Milk (or almond, if you prefer)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vegan Butter
  • 2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 1 slice of Vegan cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350◦F and heat up a pan on stovetop to medium heat.
  2. Slice ¼ of a medium red onion and place slices into warmed up skillet. Continuously stir onions around until they are caramelized.
  3. After onions are tender, place potato slices and chopped bell peppers into pan. Stir often.
  4. While vegetables are cooking in pan, prepare tofu. Place firm tofu into blender with garlic salt, turmeric, pepper, and soy milk. Blend until you get a thick, smooth texture similar to a hollandaise sauce.
  5. After blending, put aside “eggy” base and use a paper towel to spread the vegan butter to wipe the inside and top part of a muffin tray. This will help prevent the crescent rolls from sticking to the tray.
  6. Pop open crescent rolls and use two triangles to shape the bottom portion of your quiche. Don’t worry about the ends sticking up out of the tray, we will fold these back over once the filling is inside.
  7. After placing crescent rolls inside muffin tray, take 1-2 tablespoons of the vegetable filling from the pan and place inside the muffin (on top of where you put your crescent rolls).
  8. Then scoop 1 tablespoon of the tofu “eggy” base and place that on top the vegetables. And if you want to make it cheesy, place a little piece of vegan cheese on top.
  9. Once everything is filled inside the muffin tray, fold over the corners of the crescent rolls so they cover on top of the vegetables and tofu “eggy” base.
  10. Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Use a fork to poke inside, if it comes out clean then it is cooked all the way through. Let stand for 5 minutes, then ready to serve.

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The quiches are quite filling, but if you want to add a little bit more to really make it feel like a brunch then keep reading to see what other things you can put on the table.

My next suggestion is a favorite of my husband’s, which are the Trader Joe’s hash browns. What I like about them is they come in a cute serving size and only take 4 minutes to fry up on the stove top. They are super easy to make and only cost a few dollars for a pack of twelve.

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Another thing which makes any brunch feel extra fancy is fresh fruit. You can go to your local grocery store, like Safeway, and find an assortment of freshly cut fruit packaged up and ready to serve. You can mix and match different fruits to make your own unique fruit salad, or you can buy the fruit salad assortments already available. The prices vary on this, depending on which options you select, but you can expect to spend $5-$8.

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If you or your mom have any other breakfast favorites, make sure to include them on the table. Otherwise, with this brunch menu you are all set to make one amazing breakfast for your mom on Mother’s Day.

Top 5 Travel Tips

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As summer soon approaches, so do summer travel plans. Whether you are travelling stateside or planning to travel abroad, these tips will help you be prepared for your vacation.

Tip 1: For domestic flights, the best time to buy a ticket is six to eight weeks before the desired date of travel. And the best day to buy a ticket is on Tuesdays at 3pm. The reason for this, is airlines release their flight rates on a weekly basis on Mondays, so Tuesday is when airlines see each other’s prices and reduce their prices to be competitive. And if you are traveling internationally, then the best prices will be eight to ten weeks out from the desired date of travel. Just make sure to check that your travel dates don’t align with any domestic or foreign holidays, as this will increase the price of the ticket as well as the pricing and availability for hotels.

Tip 2: Subscribe to airline/train/coach buses newsletters. However you plan on travelling, subscribe to these newsletters as they are always competing to give you the best offered price and deals on tickets. I like to fly with Alaska Airlines domestically, and once a month they send me a newsletter for very cheap flights which require me to pick dates up to two months in advance. When I lived in Europe, I subscribed to Eurostar which also offered a similar newsletter deal for cheap train tickets to certain destinations.

Tip 3: Buy tickets in advance. This may seem obvious, but if you can buy a ticket online in advance then do that. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying more on the day of. I made the mistake of buying a train ticket from London to Paris the day of and it cost me 4x the normal price. But since the train was already full, the only ticket option available was first class. And this applies to all types of tickets. For example, if you are planning to go to Disneyland/Disneyworld, then buy the tickets online since they will be the same price in person and then you get to skip waiting in another line.

Tip 4: Research what you want to do/see and where you want to eat. I use Pinterest to look up free activities to do in cities I travel to, as well as where to find vegan restaurants. What’s great about Pinterest is that there are a lot of blogs linked to the site, and if you are searching for cities then a lot of these blogs are written by locals, which means you can make the most of your travels by visiting the city like a local and less like a tourist. And I’ve used this for everything, from finding vegan food to getting step-by-step directions using the metro in Paris.

Tip 5: Try to plan to do 1 or 2 things a day, but nothing more. Whether this be sightseeing at two spots or visiting a museum followed by dinner, this minimal planning will make your vacation feel less stressful and more enjoyable. To plan on doing one or two things allows time for traffic and travelling from spot to spot without any rush. It also allows you to feel accomplished if you get to do everything you set out to do. If you plan to do 5 or 6 things a day, you’ll find it harder to fit everything into your schedule and end up feeling rushed or you’ll feel disappointed that you didn’t get to do everything.

I hope these tips will help your vacation be more affordable and less stressful. And Bonus tip, make sure to pack a capsule wardrobe to make the most of your suitcase. You can read a step-by-step guideline on how to create a capsule wardrobe for your suitcase here. Make sure to check it out and to follow these tips to make your next vacation a relaxing, stress-free holiday.

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Book of the Month: A Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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February is known as the month of love since Valentine’s Day falls in it. And what better book to pick for this special month than an LGBTQ, historical-fiction The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. This glamorous book manages to fit the first-love of a young gay boy set in Europe in the 1700’s into an action-adventure story.

As the book jacket explains, “Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.”

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Set in the 1700’s, this novel somehow explores many modern-day themes and issues. In fact, I like the comparison of Monty’s grand tour year as the equivalent of the modern-day gap year young adults take after high school before embarking on their studies in college. This book also uses the historical setting to present modern-day themes that today’s YA genre would want to read in a book. These include child abuse (Monty’s relationship to his father, Lord Montague), alcoholism and gambling (Monty’s prolific lifestyle), racism (demonstrated through Percy being high-born yet also being a black character), disabilities (as seen in Percy’s epilepsy and the stigma that comes with his illness), sexism (Monty’s sister Felicity faces sexism as her gender undermines her intelligence and skills in medicine), and LGBTQ (which is illustrated in Monty’s sexuality and his crush on Percy).

I think what impressed me most about this book was how modern it felt within the constraints of the historical narrative structure. I really enjoyed the setting, it gave a fresh take on the similes used in the novel. Sometimes, after reading page after page of YA, you can come across a lot of the same metaphors and similes, but due to this novel’s setting I felt like I was coming across new comparisons that showed off Lee’s writing skills yet perfectly tied into the world-building of this story. It adds this charming, glitzy, old-world glamour feel into it.

The other great thing about this book is how it feels like it’s a little bit of everything – romance, comedy, action, adventure, murder-mystery, historical-fiction, and gay/LGBTQ. And if you like books that travel to other countries, then I highly recommend getting the audio book version of this novel. I listened to this book as an audio book and the voice actor did such a fantastic job at creating these authentic accents for all the various characters ranging from British to French to Spanish accents was just amazing and delightful to hear.

If you are a fun of captivating characters, then Monty is the right guy for you. Lee created such a strong, unique voice in the character of Monty. She manages to capture this entitled, sassy teenage voice right from the beginning while simultaneously making you like it. But this only makes it so much more wonderful for the reader to see Monty’s transformation from the exploits and troubles he endures along the way.

If there is one thing I would critique, it happens to be something that also ends up working in favor for the novel’s plot. I thought the grand tour would be more of this glamorous trip but ended up being a fleeing escape since they are on the run and less of a tour. I felt disappointed because it wasn’t what I had expected, however it also worked in favor of the reader because there was no guessing where this story was going. I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next and I couldn’t ever guess the next thing that would happen. It felt truly unpredictable in the adventure/action portion of the plot, yet the romance side of it however was plenty predictable but in a good, happy-ending kind of way.

If you are in need of some good humor, some witty banter, and fun all-around then this book should definitely be on your To Be Read list.

Vegan Eats: Las Vegas

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You would think in a city nicknamed “Sin City” that your odds of finding vegan food would be as low as your odds of beating the house. When I think of Vegas, the last thing I think of is vegan food. But my assumptions were wrong because it turned out that this devilish city found a way to make vegan food delectably sinful.

Las Vegas is a very accommodating place to people from different backgrounds, including dietary backgrounds. People from all over the world come to Vegas, so it makes sense that this city would be accommodating to all sorts of customs. But one custom that Vegas is known for is their buffets. That’s right, Vegas even has a buffet with vegan food.

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My first recommendation is The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas. This buffet is known for being very luxurious with only the best and freshest food. This buffet has captured the attention of many meat-lovers, but the reason it has captured my attention is because it’s the only buffet with a vegan menu. As you enter The Buffet, you are immediately transported in a colorful, playful room where flowers float from the ceiling and tea kettles and other kitchen objects are ornately arranged with flowers in bouquets. It feels a lot like stepping into the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland. And after being seating, your server will take you to the buffet, which spans over 4 rooms, where you will be introduced to the head chef. The head chef will then give you a personal guided tour of the buffet pointing out what is vegan, since many items that are vegan have to be requested at stations since they are not displayed. My favorite thing was the vegan cranberry muffins, which had these airy, delicious rice-Krispy-like cereal bits in it. I also had the vegan blueberry pancakes, which were amazing. But, you can customize the pancakes to be whatever you wish, I just happened to order blueberries in mine. I tried the vegan matcha chia pudding which was very interesting and different from anything I had before. And if you are a juice or smoothie enthusiast, then you’ll love all the concoctions they make here. I think I must’ve had four of them. This buffet has any and everything you could possibly ask for.

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So, for my second plate back at the buffet, I had the vegan sushi which I customized with cucumbers, carrots, avocado, and pickled cabbage with a side of veggie spring rolls. And for dessert I had the chocolate and raspberry sorbet with a vegan chocolate chip cookie. As you can see, I made sure to get my money’s worth out of this dining experience. Eating here for breakfast will set you back at about $25 per person, but if you are a big eater like me, then you’ll get a lot of tasty food to fill you up for the day.

Vegas Fun Fact: Steve Wynn (owner of the Wynn and Encore Las Vegas) is a vegan, which is why all the restaurants in his hotels have a vegan menu in addition to their regular menus. All you have to do is tell the hostess that you would like a vegan menu. Make sure to check out these restaurants menus online to see what might interest you. I’ve heard the steakhouse at the Wynn has an amazing truffle risotto and a delicious Portobello “steak.”

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My next recommendation is a place that is more suitable if you are with a group that might not eat vegan, but you do. In the Grand Canals at The Venetian, there is a great restaurant called Black Tap Burgers. It’s a great spot to grab a good burger and beer, but what’s surprising is that they offer a lot of vegan options as well. I ordered the Vegan Burger which comes with a black bean patty, vegan mayo, pickled onions, salsa verde, and cilantro with a side of fries. And, if you are gluten-intolerant, then you can also order your burger with a gluten-free bun. This burger was surprisingly juicy for a black bean patty and the salsa added a fun twist to an old classic. Although fries are a classic side to the burger, I decided to try some of their other snacks and sides that also happened to be vegan. I shared the teriyaki broccoli which is seasoned with ginger, garlic, sesame, and scallion. And, because I couldn’t resist one more side, I also had the crispy brussels sprouts which came with a sesame-tahini dipping sauce. These sides were just as amazing as the burger, so make sure not to skip these extras. They also have other vegan options like their burger bowl served with quinoa and a black bean patty, but I think I had some of their best vegan options here. The really nice thing about this place, is I could comfortably get what I wanted while my non-vegan husband ordered a regular burger. And since it’s in the Grand Canals, you get to see one of the coolest and unique place in Las Vegas.

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My trip to Vegas was short and sweet, so I didn’t get a chance to try every vegan restaurant, however, listed below is a list of other restaurants in Las Vegas that have vegan menus that I’ll definitely be trying next time I visit.

  1. Fine Dining Vegan Restaurants at the Wynn Las Vegas include: Costa Di Mare (Seafood), Lakeside (Seafood), Mizumi (Japanese/Sushi), Tableau (American), SW Steakhouse, Wing Lei (Chinese/Michelin Star Restaurant)
  2. Fine Dining Vegan Restaurants at the Encore Las Vegas include: Andrea’s (Asian-inspired cuisine), Sinatra (Italian)
  3. Casual Dining Vegan Restaurants at the Wynn Las Vegas include: Allegro (American-Italian), The Buffet, Charlie’s Bar + Grill (Sports Bar), Le Cave (wine pairings with food), Red 8 (Chinese/Thai/Korean/Vietnamese), Terrace Pointe Cafe (Breakfast/Brunch)
  4. Casual Dining Vegan Restaurants at the Encore Las Vegas include: Jardin (American cuisine), Wazuzu (Pan-Asian)
  5. VegeNation – Located downtown Las Vegas, this place offers a wide-ranging variety of vegan options from Vietnamese Pho to African Yam Stew to veggie burgers all at an affordable price.
  6. Yard House – Located on The Strip, this American burger joint offers vegan options with Gardein meat-substitutes in their burgers and street tacos at a cheap price.
  7. Pancho’s Vegan Tacos – Located on the Eastside, this place offers up vegan tacos for all those taco lovers out there.
  8. Panevino – This Italian restaurant offers a plant-based menu for both lunch and dinner. Located in Southeast Las Vegas, the restaurant offers cool views of the Vegas skyline.

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.

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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 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

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!