Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Restaurant Review: Vitality Bowls

So I'm strolling Stoneridge Mall on Thanksgiving. Swarms of people are standing in lines and rushing into stores looking for a deal when my stomach starts to grumble. My light vegan dinner has already been digested from all the shopping cardio. So I look for something decent to put in my body that still meets my dietary needs. I see Mrs. Fields Cookies, McDonalds, See's Candy, Steak Escape, everything I wont and can't eat. Then I see the word vitality and the word bowl after it. Vitality Bowls the sign read. I quickly broke away from my friends- to check out what type of food a place with that name offered.

The menus were laid out to display a variety of Acai bowls. All of which were non-dairy and full of fruit. Some flavors came with honey, granola, broccoli, and soy milk. The menu also included salads, smoothies, sandwhichs, paninis, and other drinks. An acai bowl is staple breakfast meal in Brazil. It gracefully made its way into vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the Bay. I was utterly surprised to see such a healthy and indigenous treat being served in a mall.

The place was filled with groups of young teens all with a spoon in hand and $10 to fork over for a Vitality bowl. I had to order to see if was really as good as the crowd made it seem. For $9.99 I got a large bowl of blended acai berries topped with granola, strawberries, bananas, coconut, and honey. It was very tasty, fresh, light and fulfilling. I was inspired to make another as soon as I returned home.

Although, my taste buds were pleased I can't help but wonder will the commercializing of healthy foods degrade the quality of the product? Will the high demand for these bowls decrease the nutritional value? Are the fruits organic? Is the soy G.M.O free? Is the granola full of sugar?  Ignorance can surely be bliss when one is hungry in a mall and the only healthy option is a Vitality Bowl, but these are questions I still can't help but ask when health foods start becoming trendy.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Vegan Holiday's are YUMMY!

During the holidays countless people laugh in my face when I tell them I’m a vegan. They respond with “oooh I feel sorry for you” or “that seems boring”, and “oh how sad”. Little do they know that there are a myriad of options for vegans all year round holidays included. I am here to show and prove that vegans can have just as much fun if not more during the holidays without the extra pounds or sluggish feeling after.

 To keep it real, during the holidays I never eat with my family WHY? because every year plates are full of ham hock greens, buttery yams, cheesy bacon string bean casseroles, overstuffed turkey, and the infamous stinky chitterlings (pig intestines). There isn't a vegetable in sight that hasn't been smothered by meat or cheese. At the tender age of 13 I stopped eating most of these foods and by college I just stopped eating it altogether. During these times I would either starve or have to visit my family on an already full stomach. This year a friend invited me to her families dinner and allowed me to construct my own vegan friendly menu which she also volunteered to prepare. 

 Course One: Simple Green Salad

 Course Two: Butternut Squash Soup with Dried Cranberries 

Main Course: 
Vegan Stuffing Stuffed Bell Pepper
Baked yams
Olive Oil Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Sauted String Beans
Amy's Vegan Mac and Cheese

Dessert One: Cinnamon Spiced Baked Pears

Dessert Two: Whole Foods Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Although, I created the menu I owe my first year of eating everything on my plate to Chef Brittany, Amy's frozen Mac and Cheese (which I didn't like), and to Whole Foods for their Brussel Sprouts and Vegan Pumpkin pie. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Race #12: Athleta Iron Girl Half Marathon

The Iron Girl Half Marathon was my final traveling race. It was a mere 2 hours away in Santa Rosa which is known for its famous wineries. I highly anticipated this race because it was hosted by Athleta and strongly supported and recommended by my fellow Black Girls Run team members. I planned to spend a weekend in Santa Rosa to enjoy my last and final non-local race of 2013. Yet, it was the same weekend of the Annual Green Festival in San Francisco. My heart wanted to be at both but being that I’d already made a financial investment and goal commitment to the race- I did what I always do when I cannot make a decision. I chose both.

The first half of my Saturday I walked around the Green Festival trying samples, listening to lectures, and meeting new people. I had so much fun that the one hour time limit I gave myself turned into 3 hours which meant I risked missing the Iron Girl race expo and packet pick-up. Traffic was a stand still to Santa Rosa but somehow I made it in the last 10 minutes in time to get my race bib and chip YAY!!!!

I had high hopes for the race expo and immediately started to feel bummed that I might have missed it. The race was expensive so I foreseen a lot of vendors, samples, massages, the works. But sadly, the race expo was very intimate there were only two vendors and only 300 runners were registered and projected to run (one of the smallest races I’ve been in). The race location was at a local community center with onsite bathrooms which was a plus.

The next morning bright and early at 6:00 a.m myself and 299 other women were ready to run like an Iron Girl. There were 6 pacing groups which I love 1:30, 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, 2:30, and 3:00. I was debating if I should run with 2:15 or 2:30. I decided to be adventurous and begin the race at 2:15. Yet, by mile 4 I was with the 2:30 group and by mile 11 the 3:00 group was gaining on me. Once again my knee was killing me and gradually slowed me down. The race was full of Black Girls Run runners. It was so encouraging to see other women who look like me striving toward a common goal. We smiled, high-fived, and pushed each other to the finish line.

The race course was beautiful. It was by far one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever run. The water stations were lightly stocked (for being an expensive race), the volunteers were friendly, the course markers were legible and well placed. But, the post-race expo was the major disappointment. The food was minimal, stale, and dry. Most of the runners left so it was a large space of empty chairs and a dj speaking to a partially empty audience.

Thank goodness for Black Girls Run who truly made the event a success. We had the largest turnout of any running group. We had our own tent with post-race snacks water, oranges, bagels, and even cake. We took post-race photos, congratulated each other, hugged, and said our goodbyes. Some women were planning to run another race that very day, while others were racing again next month together.

Black Girls Run made my Iron Girl Half Marathon experience fun and worthwhile. I am honored to have been amongst women of different ages, sizes, and athletic levels who were courageous enough to take on 13 miles both for themselves and as a team; representing to a city that is void of color and culture that Black Girls Run and we love it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Race #10: Nike Women's Half Marathon

I didn't know what I had coming to me when I signed up for the Nike Women's Half Marathon. I mean yeah it was the most expensive race I’ve ever paid for but I chalked that up to the price tag of the baby blue box wrapped in white ribbon that will house my soon to be Tiffany's necklace. Little did I know that signing up for the Nike Half Marathon would introduce me to a whole new world of racing. First it began with the difficult registration process.
Nike doesn't have an actual website instead just a Facebook page which requires everyone to enter a lotto  in order to register for the race. Next, the packet pick-up wasn’t any old packet pick-up it was an full out expo. The expo was under a large tent in the middle of San Francisco's busy Union Square. When I entered the tent my name appeared on a big screen which was read digitally from my race chip it was really surprising and cool to see. Inside, Nike passed out free colorful shoelaces, they had all of their new fall fashions on display. Meanwhile, Lara bar passed out samples and hosted a motivational sign making station. Neutrogena was doing full face makeovers and passing out full size samples of mascara, lip gloss, and sunscreen. Kaiser was giving cute spray tattoos, Paul Mitchell had a whole salon set-up with eight chairs curling and styling women's hair. The longest line of them all was  Whole Foods Market who passed out delicious samples of food for every type of diet omnivore, vegan, raw vegan you name it. The expo was amazing and overwhelming all at once.

On race day traffic was crazy. The day before I was tempted to get a hotel nearby but they were all booked. I arrived 15 minutes early and the race was set to begin at 6:30 yet because there were over 30,000 women and a few good men racing I didn’t cross the actual start line until 7:15. The water stations were amazing they were fully stocked with water, fruit, electrolyte drinks, Lara bars, and Neutrogena face wipes (these really improved my post-race photos no salt streaks yay).

The race was super hilly. By mile 6 my knees had taken a serious beating (which reminded why I only like flat terrain). Thousands of women cram their way through narrow paths some running at full speed, some walking, jogging, or on the sidelines stretching. By the time the race neared its end, at mile 12 mini bars of dark chocolate were passed out which gave me the extra push I needed to get to the finish line. Once I crossed it, arms high in the air I was stuck in a very long line of women waiting for post-race food, race shirts, wine, pictures and most importantly the little blue box. Firemen in suits passed them out (except they weren’t like the gorgeous shirtless men from the Divas half marathon).

Once I made it through the mob it took about an hour and half to make it out of traffic and back home. By this time my knee was hurting really bad I didn’t notice it so much during the race because I was so overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery, the great race snacks, the cute outfits, and encouraging signs. It was a very fun race. Other racers were very friendly and supportive I seen a lot of people I knew and a whole lot more I didn’t. I was so fun. I am still debating on doing it again next year. The necklace was just ok- I was disappointed in how plain it was (last years was much better). I could run 13 miles any day I really wanted the necklace (too bad they don’t reveal what it will be before registration).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Race #9 and #11: Fund4Bling Virtual Races

Race 9: September Super Runner Half Marathon

With 2014 looming over me I realized I was three races short of my 13 goal and I was now in desperate need of finding some inexpensive races with some cool race bling. I immediately began searching for local inexpensive races when it dawned on me why not do another virtual race. I completed my first virtual race in May and I made a real spectacle of it. I invited a few friends, had a water station set up, and I even got them to hold up signs and take pictures. I got a race bib, a super cute medal, I chose the day and time all for half the price of an average race.

I found many random sites that offered virtual races some with great prices but not so great bling, some with great bling and not so great prices. A virtual race is designed for runners to choose their own race distance and course. The race is usually to be completed with a 2-4 week window and medals are sent via mail. Some virtual races require participants to post their race bib and time on their websites while others do not. Participants run when and wherever chosen which provides flexibility for busy schedules (such as mine).

While searching for races, I ran across a site called which offers one or more themed races a month for varying distance of choice. A portion of proceeds fund national and international charities. Each themed race has a unique medal to match and they are sent in a timely manner via mail. I loved the site so much I decided to purchase three races with them. Race bibs are posted on their Facebook page and they can be easily printed from home.

The coordinator of, Sandra is also very professional and accommodating she responds quickly to messages and works hard to please her customers. Fund4Bling also offers a 13 in 2013 promotion which awards runners who sign up for thirteen of their races with a free custom 13 in 2013 medal. My favorite part about this organization besides the cool bling is that they offer birthday races with a custom birthday medal for each birthday month. YAY!!!

Race 11: November 15k Cat in the Hat Race

I ran laps around my neighborhood lake path which is a little over 3 miles a lap. My only motivation during this race was seeing the same people recognize me lapping the lake. I felt like an athlete each time I passed a familiar face. I completed my 15k at 1:54 and my half at 2:38.

I didn't meet my time goal but I am glad I completed the run. Although, I love the glitz and glam of big hosted races like the Divas Half Marathon and the Nike Women's Half Marathon with their race expos, water stations, cheering bystanders, and motivational signs. I also enjoy the solitude and simplicity of running alone and still receiving an award which is what virtual races provide.

I love my medal it s heavy, it spins, and the Cat in the Hat is super cute. I ran early in the morning just before the Cali sun came beaming out. The beautiful lake is my go to running course. It is flat just like my knees love, it is full of friendly runners, and there are a lot of great spots to pick up food after.
I am blessed with a beautiful running course right outside my door. I look forward to my next Fund4Bling virtual race in December which will mark race #13 of my 13 in 2013 Challenge. I am so excited. Stay tuned for October's race #10: Nike Women's Half Marathon. 

P.S Race #10 wasn't skipped it's my October Nike Half Marathon Race coming soon...Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Product Review: Better Bean Co.

Like many vegans, a lot of my protein comes from beans, yet as we all know beans can be time consuming to prepare.  Achieving the perfect texture, flavor, and amount can sometimes be a challenge. Due to the fact that my cooking time for the week is often limited I am always looking for new recipes and ingredients to condense my meal prep time, while maintaining health and wholesomeness.

Better Bean Vegan Breakfast Burrito and Potatoes
For the past year, I have been living in bean heaven since I’ve discovered the Better Bean Company. They have over five different flavors all of which I love for different recipes. Tacos, burritos, 5-layer dips, sprout bowls, and sometimes just by itself (it’s that good). Last, September at the Vegetarian World Festival I had the pleasure of meeting co-owner of the Better Bean Company, Hannah. She was more than happy to share about her amazing, expanding company that is taking over a kitchen near you.

Better Bean Breakfast Burrito (non-vegan)

The Better Bean Company is a father daughter run business based out of Portland, Oregon. They are moving into their fourth year offering five bean varieties to fall in love with. Each variety on the shelf began as an in home favorite for Hannah and her sisters. As a family, they value both health and sustainability; the high sodium content and metallic taste of canned beans just wasn't their thing.

Better Bean and Rice Bowl
Hence, a bean awakening emerged in their household, sparking a new idea within Hannah's father to rethink beans and how they are shared to the masses. For many carnivores beans are often the filler food or side dish that receives little care or attention. Hannah shared how historically beans were deemed as the poor man's food. They were often overlooked by the wealthy. Yet, her father wanted to elevate the bean and reveal all of its flavorful nuances in hopes of making the bean just as sought after as fish, poultry, and meat. Together they realized there was a huge gap in the market for fresh, sustainable, ready to eat beans, thus they made it their mission to birth what we now know as the flavorful, non-gmo Better Bean Co. In addition, just as they rethought beans, they also rethought packaging by making their containers
100% compostable, BPA free, and microwave safe.

Better Bean Grilled Tofu Burrito

Hannah explains the impact Better Beans will have on you and your family:  “we make it easy and tasty for a family to eat meat free. I cannot tell you the number of people I have talked to at farmers markets and consumer events who express to me how hard it is for them to cook beans, but their doctor is telling them they need to eat more..."

Better Bean 5 Layer Dip

I personally, love these beans because they taste fresh, they are easy to prepare, they travel safely without spilling and they are full of flavor. I have gotten so many friends and family members hooked on them. I cannot remember the last time my fridge has been without them. Heck! I am eating them tonight in what I call a wellness bowl: beans, quinoa, avocado, kale, and sprouts. 

Better Bean Wellness Bowl

Get some Better Beans today at your local natural foods market and watch your meals improve, your protein increase, your prep time diminish and your taste buds jump for joy. Also, check them out online at:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Race #8: Whole Foods Running School Half Marathon


I left the warm, clear skied Oakland, CA for the hot and muggy capital Sacramento to run my 8th race this year. A year ago when I created The 12 Race Challenge I set time goals for each race; and up until now I had achieved each one. My 14 hour work day limited my ability to train as consistently as I’d like so I was truly grateful to have ran at all.

 I arrived the day before to soak up some Northern Cali sun. I ate my carb load dinner at Olive Garden where I ordered basic pasta with non-dairy sauce and all you can eat salad for only $9.99 (I still had food to go for the next day) a win.

The race was sponsored by Whole Foods Market Roseville and an organization called the Running School which instills healthy habits in children. The race course was pleasantly peaceful and all of the race participants were very friendly and encouraging. It was by far the least populated race I’ve participated in which sometimes made the course feel lonely. There were stretches of time in which I was the only person on the path no one in sight behind or in front of me. The course directions were either non-existent or confusing which left me wondering if I was lost. Struggling to understand the course added at least 10 minutes to my time.

I maintained a 10:30 minute pace yet most runners were either drastically ahead of me or behind me. By 8:15 a.m the Sacramento sun came creeping out and instantly the race became more challenging. I talked myself to the finish line and once I crossed it I was greeted with a medal and complimentary continental breakfast provided by Whole Foods. 

After, I returned to my hotel where I relaxed and packed to return to my own stomping grounds.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Veggies is What's for Dinner: Stir Fry for Beginners

Sooooo...., I've been sleeping on the easiest veggie dish ever. Yes! stir frys. I have to admit it wasn't until earlier this year that I made my first stir fry. I know your thinking what planet was I living on? Stir fry's are truly the easiest and tastiest meals to make. Once you start making them there is no turning back. Here is my beginners recipe:


red pepper
green bell pepper
yellow pepper
sugar snap peas

Wet pan with water, fry onions and garlic until brown. Add oil of choice (not olive) combine remaining ingredients on low for 5 minutes, stir. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, in tortilla as fajitas. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Race #7: Summer Breeze 10K

On Saturday August 3, 2013 at the San Leandro Marina I completed race #7 of The 13 in 2013 Challenge. It was a rushed morning. I worked late the previous night so waking up was hard to do. I started the morning with a green smoothie and a handful of blueberries.

Upon arriving I still had to get my shirt and bib. Just when I attached my bib the race gun shot-I quickly hustled to the start line almost a minute behind the crowd. I gradually gained my ground. It was smooth, flat terrain, a peaceful view of the marina, and the weather was perfect.

This was my second Brazen Racing Race in 2 weeks and I realized this organization has the most post-race junk food I've ever seen. It's Its, cake, cobbler, candy bars, danishes, chocolate, brownies, cookies, etc...It was like a dieters worse nightmare but trust me no one was complaining. Racers surrounded the food tables like a swarm of bees; each person reaching for their share from the smorgasbord of sweets. I opted for the fresh bananas, watermelon, and oranges. Oh were they good.

My medal was heavy, cute design, but I prefer medals that state the particular distance I did as opposed to the ones that state all the distances offered. No worries, I had a great time.

I completed the race at 1:06 which is about at 10:46 minute mile (I can do better). Next month is a half-marathon-ooooh!!! I am so excited.

Monday, August 5, 2013

13 in 2013 Challenge

With 7 Races under my belt this year The 12 Race Challenge is beginning to feel not so challenging after all. Originally, I created The 12 Race Challenge to encourage myself to run one race a month. Yet, lately, I've been hearing a lot of buzz about another challenge among fellow race addicts like myself called 13 in 2013.
This race refers to completing 13 races of any distance in the year 2013. I love the cadence of this challenge and will thus throw out The 12 Race Challenge for 13 in 2013 Challenge. 

Lets recap the races I've already done:

  1. March: Oakland Half Marathon
  2. April: Running of the Elk Half Marathon
  3. May: Divas Half Marathon
  4. May: Fit, Fab, and Lean Half Virtual Marathon
  5. June: Live Ultimate Quarter Marathon
  6. July: Bad Bass 10k
  7. August: Summer Breeze 10k

6 more to go....