Top 5 Travel Tips

Travel_Planning2

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.

Travel_Planning

7 Vegan Side Dishes for Easter Brunch

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With Easter right around the corner, there is easily a maddening rush to get to the grocery store and cook some homemade dishes. But if you don’t have a lot of time to make Easter dinner then no worries because I’ll show you readily available options that you can most likely pick up at your local grocery store. Whether you’re making Easter dinner and you want to try to include vegan sides for your vegan guests or you are vegan and will be attending as a guest to an Easter dinner then keep reading to find seven vegan side dishes for your Easter brunch or dinner. Try one, two, three dishes or try them all, I guarantee you’ll be very happy and satisfied this Easter.

Deli Options

At your local grocery store there is usually a deli that offers fresh options such as salads. Here are three recommendations that you can most likely find at your local grocery store (specifically in the deli/fresh-made section).

Three-Bean-Salad

  1. 3 Bean Salad – This salad is very hearty and full of protein and most of the time is made vegan. But do be careful because some variations include mayo or adds bacon bits into it, so if you aren’t sure about the ingredients just ask the deli counter. A 3-bean salad typically comprises of three different types of beans, celery, onion, parsley, rosemary, vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. So simple, yet so delicious.

Kale-Cranberry-Salad

2. Kale and Cranberry Salad – This delicious salad is in a lot of delis now thanks to the popularity of kale. The only thing to look out for in this dish is the addition of cheese. Some, not all, do include goat cheese, however the last few times I’ve seen this salad in the deli they didn’t include the cheese, but instead offered it after you ordered, so the batch is made vegan with the option of adding cheese. This tasty salad is made of kale, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, vinegar, orange juice, mustard, shallot, and garlic dressing.

tabboulehSalad

3. Tabbouleh Salad – This Mediterranean dish is a vegetarian salad made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. This is simple enough to make at home, but I often find it in the deli sections in most grocery stores. So, it can be one less thing you have to make on Easter day.

Frozen Options

This next section covers options that are available in the frozen aisle in your local grocery store. My suggestions cover frozen foods available at Trader Joe’s, however you can find similar frozen food options at other grocery stores.

zucchinifries

  1. Zucchini Fries – Trader Joe’s offers a lightly battered zucchini in their frozen aisle. Luckily, its batter doesn’t include any dairy, making these bad boys completely vegan. You can have these as a side or serve them as an appetizer. These are great for making at home (it takes a short time with no fuss) and bring over to a lunch gathering.

tjpakoras

5. Vegetable Pakoras – This isn’t the typical side dish you’ll see at Easter brunch, but it’s a fun option to offer a different flavor to the meal. These vegetables ae delectable and if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, alternative versions of these can easily be found in your local grocery store.

aloochaat_tj

6. Aloo Chaat – This is a potato snack originating as street food from northern India. It’s typically made of potatoes, spices, and oil served with chutney. Again, this dish isn’t a traditional Easter dish, but it will provide a hearty yet delicious palette to your meal.

Homemade Recipe

If you want to try making a simple side dish at home, then let me introduce you to my vegan Macaroni salad recipe. It’s simple enough to not take too much time, yet it’s so delicious that I often have my friends praising it.

macaroni-salad

7. Macaroni Salad

Ingredients

1 Bag of Macaroni Pasta

1 Large pot of Water

1 Red Bell Pepper

¼ Large Red Onion

2-3 Stalks of Celery (If you don’t like celery, then just replace this with carrots)

1 Large Pickle

6-8 Tablespoons of Vegan Mayo

4-6 Tablespoons of White Vinegar

2-3 Tablespoons of Yellow Mustard

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once water is boiling, add the bag of macaroni pasta. This will cook for about 10-12 minutes, make sure to continuously stir to avoid the pasta sticking to each other and the bottom of the pot.
  2. While pasta is boiling in pot, chop up red bell pepper, red onion, celery (or carrots), and pickle. Place all chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl.
  3. After pasta is cooked, drain the macaroni into a colander. Rinse with cold water, and after pasta is fully drained add pasta to the large mixing bowl with the vegetables.
  4. Mix in Mayo, Vinegar, and Mustard and stir until everything is evenly mixed in. Feel free to add more of anything you want to get desired taste and/or texture. I usually skip seasoning with salt and pepper but feel free to add those if you want.

I hope these great vegan finds will make your Easter brunch or dinner taste even more delicious. And I wish you a wonderful Easter filled with family, friends, and delicious vegan food.

EasterLamb

Here is a cute little Easter lamb just for you for reading until the very end 🙂

How to Pack for Spring Break

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For Spring Break most people travel to celebrate and welcome the warm spring weather. If you are planning on travelling this month or next month for Spring Break, then keep reading to check out how to pack the easiest and best suitcase to help make your travels hassle-free.

The best method I’ve found for packing a suitcase is the 5,4,3,2,1 Packing Guide. Thanks to apairandasparediy.com for introducing me to this method because it has helped me travel throughout Europe while I live there. And once you use this method, you’ll never go back. This method is essentially creating a time capsule wardrobe for your vacation. I find that this wardrobe lasts about one week without washing, but if you bring laundry pods/laundry detergent packets then this suitcase can last you for weeks. For your suitcase, you pack 5 tops (make sure to include one jacket), 4 bottoms of your choice (shorts, pants, jeans, skirts, etc.), 3 dresses and/or rompers, 3 shoes, 2 swimsuits, 2 bags, 1 hat, 1 watch, and 1 pair of sunglasses. This packing guide just makes it so direct and easy to pinpoint exactly what you need. But also, one last thing to make sure to pack are 7 pairs of underwear and 7 pairs of socks.

54321_packingguide

Now that you have a list of your essentials, here’s a few more tips on how to pack everything so it fits perfectly in your suitcase.

The first thing you should pack are your shoes. Place shoes foot-to-toe in the bottom of your suitcase to save some space and to ensure that your suitcase is balanced. Two ways to cover your shoes and avoid the dirt from the bottom of them getting everywhere is to 1) lay a towel over the shoes to serve as a barrier (plus, if you are staying at a hostel remember to bring a towel since most hostels don’t provide them) or 2) if you have a plastic bag you can place them in there.

The next thing to pack are your socks. Put rolled up socks inside your shoes to help save space and preserve the shape of the shoe while inside the suitcase.

Next, you will pack your clothes. Roll clothing up and then se are compression bags to squeeze air out of the clothes. If you don’t have air compression bags, then use large gallon size plastic bags instead. These are just as helpful. When choosing which clothes to bring invest in wrinkle-free, light-weight clothing that you can layer. Pack clothes with a similar color palette so you can mix and match outfits.

For toiletries, pack travel-sized toiletries that are 3 ounces are less. The best and cheapest place to find these are at the Dollar Store. Also, make sure to double-bag toiletries to prevent spills. If you bring a razor with you but you don’t have a protective case for it, just use a binder clip over your razor blade to preserve it and prevent you from getting nicked.

For all your wires, chargers, and cable cords, use a pencil case or sunglasses case to store cables in your carry-on or suitcase. If you’re travelling internationally, don’t forget to bring an adapter (a multi-plug universal adapter is one of the best options).

And don’t forget your bags/totes/purses. Even if you think you won’t need two bags, it’s a good idea to still pack a couple of totes so you can put your toiletries, wire cables, accessories, souvenirs, etc. inside your bags to keep everything organized and stored safely in a conserved space.

One last thing I like to do is place dryer sheets inside my suitcase to ensure that my clean clothes don’t take on the odor of the dirty clothes. And this packing list will last you for about a week, but if you want/need it to last 2-3 weeks, then bring individual packets of laundry detergent (or laundry pods), so you can wash your clothes on the go.

I hope this packing guide and these packing tips will help make your travels a little easier, so you can focus on a fun and relaxing vacation this spring break.

Photos courtesy of @michelletakeaim and apairandasparediy.com

Easy Vegan Easter Dinner

SugarCookies

Easter is a holiday spent in the comfort of your home with friends and family. A big component of this holiday is the Easter brunch or Easter dinner. I remember as a kid the excitement of finding Easter eggs followed by a delicious lunch with some of my favorite foods. This Easter I hope to recreate my childhood Easter dinner but with vegan options instead. If you are planning on making your own Easter dinner, then keep reading to see how easy it can be to pull off a vegan Easter dinner.

TofurkyHam

When I think of Easter, I think of the traditional Easter ham. I don’t know how I would make a a vegan ham from scratch, but luckily, I won’t have to. Tofurky makes a delicious Vegetarian Ham Style Roast. It comes with a delicious beer glaze that adds a nice sweetness on top. The great thing about this ham is how super easy it is, you just pop it in the oven and about 15 minutes before it’s done cooking you add the glaze on top. And for about $10, it’s a great buy that can easily 4-5 people. If ham isn’t your thing, then I recommend trying Tofurky’s Holiday Roast, which is another great option to affordably feed about 4-6 people.

tofurky-holiday-roast-gravy-package

A great side dish to go with the vegan ham or vegan roast is gravy. Finding vegan gravy can be difficult, but I found a couple of options that can make your ham or mashed potatoes even more delectable. The easiest one to find in a grocery store near will be Campbell’s Mushroom Gravy. If you prefer organic, then I recommend Simply Organic Vegetarian Brown Gravy, or Imagine’s Vegetarian Wild Mushroom Gravy or, Pacific’s Vegan Mushroom Gravy.

And one of my favorite childhood foods that was always made with our Easter dinner are Pillsbury’s Crescent Rolls. Believe it or not, these crescent rolls are accidently vegan with no dairy, butter, or milk in them, yet they are still amazingly delicious. So, make sure to get your hands on these delicious dinner rolls for your table this Easter.

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Now that you have your main staples for dinner, here are a few of my favorite side dishes that are easy to pick up from the store and add to your dinner. I absolutely love the Zucchini fries from Trader Joe’s. You can either serve them as an appetizer or they make a great side dish to your meal.

zucchinifries

Another one of my favorite side dishes that you can find at Trader Joe’s or at your local grocery store is Tabbouleh Salad. This Mediterranean dish is a vegetarian salad made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. This is simple enough to make at home, but I often find it in the deli sections in most grocery stores. So, it can be one less thing you have to make on Easter day.

tabboulehSalad

If you want to whip up a side dish, then I recommend trying this vegan potato salad.

VeganPotatoSalad

Ingredients

5 to 6 red, white or Russet potatoes

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I like the Trader Joe’s brand best)

3 tbsp. vinegar

1 medium redonion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1/3 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Top and mix in 2 teaspoons of paprika for a smoky taste addition

Add 1/2 cup of yellow mustard to add some extra tang to the dish

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the water from the pot and cool the potatoes completely, about 15 minutes.
  3. Peel the potatoes completely and chop into bite-sized pieces. Set aside (Alternatively, you can leave the peels on some potatoes for more texture)
  4. Gently toss together all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the potatoes gradually and cover with the ingredients until evenly distributed.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Chill for at least one hour before serving, if you have enough time. The flavors would be best after an overnight refrigeration.

And to make your easy vegan Easter dinner complete, don’t forget about dessert! When I was a kid, it was my favorite thing to frost the sugar cookies at Easter. My mom would bake sugar cookies in the shapes of Easter eggs and us kids would get to decorate them with icing and sprinkles. For this easy Easter dessert, I recommend using Annie’s Sugar Cookie Box Mix. The mix calls for milk and eggs, but you can simply replace these. For milk, you can use soy, almond, or coconut milk. And for every egg you need you can replace it with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. This dessert will be fun for both adults and kids alike.

AnniesSugarCookieMix

If you are attending an Easter dinner this year, make sure to stay tuned for my next article where I’ll share some easy vegan side dishes you can bring to dinner.

This Easter, you won’t have to fret or worry about compiling a vegan meal. Instead, you will see that there are many options available to you to make this Easter dinner your easiest one yet.

EasterBunny

Here is a cute little Easter bunny just for you for reading until the very end 🙂

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.”

grandcanals

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.

Vegan_Orange_Chicken

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.

TJ_spring_rolls

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.

pineapple_fried_rice

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 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

5 Things to Use Instead of Wrapping Paper This Christmas

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As a child my favorite thing about Christmas morning was ripping open my presents. I loved the feel of soft plush bows, satiny ribbons, and crisp new boxes. In fact, when I was three I preferred the boxes my gifts came in instead of the actual gifts. I played with those boxes for hours.

However, I think everyone can agree how satisfying it is to tear off that wrapping paper, but had I known then how bad the gift wrapping paper was I would never have unwrapped my gifts. Now as an adult, buying wrapping paper is so costly for something that’s just going to be thrown away. I’m sure, like my family, this Christmas, after all the wrapping paper is torn off the gifts, you’ll gather up all the paper remains into a trash bag and throw it away. This is such a huge and unnecessary waste. Keep reading to find out how to replace gift wrapping paper with Eco-friendly options that also have multiple uses too.

The tradition of wrapping gifts in paper isn’t a very long one in American history. For most of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century, gifts were presented in keepsake boxes which brings me to my first recommendation. A keepsake box today can be in the form of a nice storage container. You can find them for under $10 at places like TJMaxx, Ross, or HomeGoods. What’s nice about them is they come in various sizes, artistic designs, and they usually have magnetic top lids. So, after your friend or family member opens their gift they’ll have a great and unique box to use afterwards.

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However, if those boxes aren’t quite your thing my next recommendation can be used for many occasions. You can buy cardboard gift boxes in a bundle for pretty cheap at the dollar Store or online at Amazon. Since they are plain you can reuse them for many occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. If you store them nicely, you can keep using these over and over saving you lots of time and making gift wrapping less of a hassle.

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If you have a smaller gift, you can try out this next recommendation by also buying a scarf. There are many tutorials on YouTube which demonstrate how to wrap a small gift with a scarf. This is a great idea since the scarf is not only the wrapper but also a bonus gift too!

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If a scarf is not suitable as a bonus gift, then I also recommend a small blanket, a coffee table cover, or even a table runner to use as the wrapper. These can also be useful in wrapping larger gifts too.

For my last recommendation, I suggest using reusable grocery bags. These are pretty affordable since most only cost between $1-$3. Plus, after Christmas is over you can easily put these into great Eco-friendly use at the grocery store.

I hope this list helps you create some new Christmas traditions that are Eco-friendly without the holiday waste.

Thanksgiving Finds at Whole Foods

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I can’t get enough of this holiday season and the amazing food options available in the grocery stores. If you’ve been like me lately, you’ve been checking out your local grocery store to see what festive foods are available this year. And for vegans, we are always on the hunt for new vegan creations or discovering old favorites that have been made vegan. So far, I have not been disappointed in what I’ve found in Trader Joe’s and Safeway. But this past weekend, I went to Whole Foods and found some of the best vegan food for the upcoming holidays. So, here are some amazing festive food to add to your table this Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner.

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My first suggestion is from one of my go-to vegan brands Gardein. They have this wonderful Stuffed Turk’y that is stuffed with veggie stuffing and comes with a delicious gravy. It serves two roasts in a bag, one per person. But they also have a larger roast they can serve a larger family.

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One of my favorite finds this year, is this holiday ham by Tofurky. I’m curious to try this but I know that I already love their regular Tofurky sandwich “meat.” So, I imagine this will taste just as tasty. I love how it even comes with a beer glaze just to make it extra special.

If you want to see which sides to add with these dishes, make sure to check my last post Vegan Thanksgiving Made Easy to see which foods are readily available in a local grocery store near you and/or available on online services such as Amazon. There are many great finds that might surprise you to discover they are vegan.

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But, if you’re like me and you want to skip straight to dessert then let me introduce you to this festive and seasonal dessert. Daiya has introduced a Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake. Nothing says more fall and winter than pumpkin spice, and this dessert is in the form of a cheesecake. Whether you’re vegan or not, I’d recommend this dessert.

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However, if pumpkin spice or cheesecake isn’t your thing, then you need to try Pepperidge Farm’s Raspberry Turnovers. Bet you didn’t know that these goodies were accidentally vegan. Not only are they vegan, they are amazingly delicious and they make an easy dessert to pop into the oven and serve.

Try some of these vegan finds at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas this holiday season and share veganism at the dinner table.

Vegan Thanksgiving Made Easy

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Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday in my family since it’s one of the few times during the year where we can all get together and share delicious food, stories, and memories. And this year, I hope to share veganism with my non-vegan family members. A couple years ago on my first vegan thanksgiving I was surprised to see how easy it is to create a vegan version of the traditional thanksgiving food on the table. And this year, I am even more surprised to see many food options that are pre-made and readily available as vegan. So, without further ado, let’s look at what traditional vegan thanksgiving feast options are available in your local grocery store (and even available online, for those who don’t have too much free time to make a trip to the grocery store).

The first thing you think of when you think of Thanksgiving is the main roast, which in most households is a huge turkey and maybe even a ham. But for those of us who are vegan or vegetarian, it’s hard to find a good replacement for this. Luckily, there are good replacements out there.turkey-less-stuffed-roast-gravy-label

I’ve tried Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast with Gravy. This delicious roast is made of a soy-based tofu and stuffed with a cranberry stuffing mix and covered in crumbly breadcrumbs. This serves two people generously, or four people conservatively.

tofurky-holiday-roast-gravy-packageBut if you want a larger roast then I recommend Tofurky’s Holiday Vegetarian Roast and Gravy. I found this at my local Safeway for $12, but you can also find it online in case none of the stores near you carry this.

Another classic thanksgiving dish is stuffing. And if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to make this from scratch then here are a few options that are happily accidentally vegan.

pepperidge farm herb seasoned stuffingPepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing contains no animal products, but be careful because a lot of their other flavors do contain chicken and/or chicken broth. And the Cornbread Stuffing Mix at Trader Joe’s is also vegan.

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The directions on both these boxes do suggest mixing butter and water into the stuffing, but if you use vegan butter then this will make the whole thing vegan. The Pepperidge Farm stuffing is available on Amazon, and if you have Amazon Prime take advantage of that free overnight shipping. Also, another helpful hint, make sure to check out your local grocery chain’s brand of herb seasoned boxed stuffing because often they are accidentally vegan, like the grocery chain Kroger on the East coast has their own brand of stuffing that’s vegan.

If you do want to try your hand at making your own vegan cornbread stuffing, click here to find a great recipe at Trendeing.com.

And what family dinner doesn’t include dinner rolls?

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I don’t know if you know, but Pillsbury’s Crescent Rolls are accidentally vegan. Just pop them out of the can, roll them up, and bake. It’s as simple as that! Plus, if you aren’t hosting thanksgiving dinner, offer to bring these over to thanksgiving dinner. It’s a nice gesture and no one will believe you when you say they are vegan.

Another side dish you can offer to make and bring to thanksgiving dinner are roasted vegetables.

At my local Safeway, in the vegetable section, there are pre-made butternut squash with thyme, carrots with dill, or fingerling potatoes with rosemary. You can either make these a little sweet or savory. For example, with the carrots and dill you can drizzle maple syrup and brown sugar on top and roast for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Or if you want them to be savory, you can drizzle olive oil, salt, and black pepper on top of the potatoes and roast for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a simple dish that elevates any meal and is easily shareable.

Another Thanksgiving side dish that is always included is the cranberry sauce.

cranberry_SauceIn most grocery stores you can find this sauce in a can. My go-to is Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce. But beware of any of the jellied cranberry sauces since they may contain gelatin, which is mostly not vegan. You can find a lot of variety online that ranges from homemade jars of it to organic.

The only thing I had a very hard time finding a vegan substitute for are Boxed Mashed Potatoes. These packages of instant mash potatoes usually have butter, milk, and eggs in their ingredients. However, I do know a great and easy recipe to whip up some mash potatoes if you want to make a vegan version for the table. Click here to make garlic mash potatoes with shiitake mushroom gravy.

My absolute favorite finds this thanksgiving are the desserts I discovered that are accidentally vegan.

Both Sara Lee and Marie Calendar’s Cherry and Apple Pies are completely vegan. I couldn’t believe it at first, but after re-reading the ingredient list I could confirm that there are no animal products in these pies. And what goes best with pie?

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How about some vanilla ice-cream? So Delicious soymilk vanilla ice-cream is a great option I found at Safeway. It’s the best price for the amount you get.

These products can be made for your own vegan Thanksgiving dinner, or if you are having thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home you can offer to make and bring these vegan options. I recommend bringing your favorite vegan dish, whatever that may be, so in case there aren’t too many options you at least have your favorite food there. But feel free to make one, two, three, or as many dishes as you want. I think thanksgiving is all about sharing, and what better day to share your love of food and veganism than on a day that celebrates sharing thanks with friends and family.

This Thanksgiving, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, compassion, and delicious vegan eats.