Monday, January 28, 2013

Get Creative: My "Raid your Fridge" Salad

Hi all, the week has been hectic and I haven't had the time to stock up on groceries. Instead, I've been making smoothies, eating a lot of beans and rice, and snacking on fruit and veggies with hummus. I was super hungry today and craving something fresh and light. I didn't have much in the fridge so I decided to get creative. With the help of a friend (shot out Brittany) we put together a huge, delicious, and simple salad.

"Raid the Fridge" Salad

5 baby tomatos cut in half
1/4 c. Crimini Mushroom sliced
1 Tangerine
2 tbsp. Sliced almonds
1 carrot shaved
2 handfuls of Mixed baby greens
1/2 Avocado

It was super yummy! Now, go raid your fridge and share your recipes here. Have fun and remember to be creative.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Restaurant Review: Gracias Madre


 Delicious, spicy, flavorful, and vegan are just a few of the words to best describe the food at Gracias Madre Restaurant. Nestled in the belly of San Francisco’s Mission District, the sister company of Cafe Gratitude houses tasty traditional favorites like enchiladas, tacos, and even horchata with a vegan twist.

As you enter you are welcomed by a larger than life size glass mosaic of Mother Teresa outstretching her arms. The outside seating, seats large parties and echos warmth and laughter. Inside, the restaurant is set up family style with large chairs and long tables designed to seat multiple parties. 

I arrived a few minutes earlier than my friend, so I sat at the bar and defrosted with a warm cup of spicy vegan Mexican hot chocolate. When my friend arrived we sat at one the large tables, we reviewed the menu and quickly made a decision. We both wanted the tacos; good thing Gracias Madre offered a variety to choose from. 

I chose the kale, butternut squash, and plantain tacos. While my friend ordered the mushrooms, plantain, and cauliflower tacos. When our food arrived our plate looked beautiful. A colorful arrangement of three tacos, surrounded by black beans, with a cashew cheese garnish sat before us. It smelled delicious and the taste was beyond words. Our table became dead quiet as we focused on the flavors that enveloped our mouth. We cleaned our plates and although,  satiated we didn’t want to pass on dessert. We ordered the warm apple cobbler a la mode. The vanilla vegan ice cream was amazing yet the cobbler left more to be desired. 

Please, believe I will return again and again for the great service, the delicious tacos, the vegan drinks and for a great time.

If your in the area pop your head and hunger into Gracias Madre and share your thoughts, located at 2211 Mission Street San Francisco, CA 94110, 415.683.1346 you wont be sorry. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Protein Pack Your Diet

>Protein is essential for the growth, maintenance, and repair of our cells, for energy, fluid balance, immune function, and enzyme function. We need it to survive. So when people ask
the infamous question asked of all vegetarians and vegans: "where do you get your protein?" I love to answer because its what I consider to be a teachable moment. There are a host of foods that are packed with protein but its all about the combination and quantity eaten of these foods to ensure your diet is protein packed. 

First thing to know is that all protein is not the same. Animal and dairy protein are higher in protein per serving and easier to digest. While, plant proteins are lower in protein per serving and harder to digest. Thus, it is important for non-meat eaters to eat a variety of protein sources that are complete proteins.

A complete protein contains 8 of the essential amino acids our body needs. A serving of animal protein contains all 8 amino acids and is thus a complete protein within itself. However, plant, grain, nut, and bean proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids and are thus incomplete proteins.


Complete proteins: All 8 essential amino acids, found in animal meat and dairy (some grains).

Incomplete proteins: Lack one or more of the essential amino acids, found in all other food groups outside of meat and dairy. 

 Don’t get discouraged my non-meat/dairy eating friends, there is another group called complimentary proteins which are incomplete proteins that can be combined with another incomplete protein to create a complete protein.

To ensure that your diet is protein packed the following complimentary proteins should ALWAYS stay on your plate, these include: 

Beans (legumes): Full of protein, calcium, fiber and iron. Beans (legumes) are a win-win option they are inexpensive and easy to prepare (slow-cooker style). When combined with a grain they provide the body with the essential amino acids it needs.

Nuts/Seeds: Go crazy with a few handfuls of almonds, pecans, walnuts these tasty nuts are packed with flavorful nutrients. They are great in trail mixes, salads, yogurt, oatmeal, as a paste on bread, or as is. In addition, seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, and chia are also great in salads, smoothies, cereals, and as baking substitutes for dairy. 


Vegetables: Dark-hued veggies always rule in the nutrition factor. Colorful foods such as peas, chickpeas, broccoli, artichoke, spinach, kale, and potatoes contain both phytonutrients, fiber, and protein. When these vegetables are added to rice and bean dishes consider your body protein insured. 


 Grains: My go to is always "Oats for breakfast" and "Quinoa for lunch". There are may grains that offer a lot of bang for their buck. Many of these grains are ancient traditional staples for many around the world. They are now being recognized by America for their efficient source of protein. My first time tasting millet was in a village in Mali where it was being pounded by a woman into a paste that we dipped into an okra stew. It was delicious and filling. I had never tasted anything like it before. Grains such as oats, quinoa*, millet, amaranth, bulgur, and buckwheat are high in fiber and provide ample protein. These foods are great additions to bean and vegetable meals and tasty on their own as hot or cold cereal.

Remember although these items contain a good source of protein they are incomplete proteins and must be combined with one another to become a complete protein to give your body the nutrients it needs. Below are a few combinations you can try at home.

Beans + Rice + veggies
Beans + Corn or wheat tortilla + veggies
Lentils + Rice + veggies
Pea Soup + Bread or crackers
Peanut butter + Bread
Pasta + Beans (Pasta/Bean Salad) + veggies


* Some nutritionist argue that quinoa is a complete in itself.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Restaruant Review: Souley Vegan

Vegan soul food sounds like an oxymoron to some but at restaurant Souley Vegan its a way of life. Here soul food is re-imagined and recreated from its infamous fatty, salty, and artery clogging history to a vibrant, healthy, and flavorful modern meal.

Nestled in the heart of Downtown Oakland, CA, Souley Vegan mirrors the restaurants of the south with its picnic style tables, chalkboard menu, and self serve water as family photos and Blues artist adorn the walls. An in-house DJ entertains a jam packed room full of hungry people from meat eaters to die hard vegans. This is a great place for large groups, an informal date, or family meal.

Nothing like Blues Greats for Wall Decor

I always order the everything plate which is a reasonable $20 and can be shared between two people. This plate offers all of my favorites: mac and cheese, bbq tofu, lentils, potato salad, yams, cornbread, tofu catfish, black eyed peas, and greens (for extra $5 I add fried okra and red beans and rice). After my meal I’m usually too stuffed for a dessert but they do offer various vegan treats that seem appetizing.

$20 Everything Plate

Add $5 fried okra and red beans and rice

During my last visit I brought two of my meat eating besties. One ordered a three item combo meal for about $10. It included the juicy bbq tofu, creamy mac and cheese, and the tender sweet yams. This meal went far above her expectations. 

Three item combo plate
If three items is too much, something smaller like the gumbo may do. The gumbo is a mryiad of well seasoned veggies atop steaming rice. The presentation is beautiful and will have you coming back for more. 

Vegan Gumbo

 My friends came in as non-believers and left knowing that vegan soul food is tasty and there is, in fact life after meat. A long, healthy, and active life that is.

 If your ever find yourself hungry in downtown Oakland with only $10 to spend check out Souley Vegan and report back on your experience. Souley Vegan is located at 301 Broadway Oakland, CA 94607.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Vegan on a Budget

Cheddar, bread, mula, dead presidents, green there are many names for the thing that billions of people are trying to save or get more of. Within, our current economy coupons, deals, and multiple jobs are the name of the game to stay afloat. People are striving harder to make their money stretch.

With this said, many complain that eating healthy is too expensive yet like many other health advocates our theory is this: we’d rather spend a couple hundred on healthy food for prevention as opposed to thousands on cures and treatments. After rent my biggest expense is food and although, I am all for spending money on healthy, quality food I refuse to go broke over it. Today, I will share a few of my Top 5 money saving tricks as a vegan on a budget.

1. Create a budget. Devise a monthly budget outlining all your expenses. Next, decide how much you’d like to spend on food (not including eating out). Knowing exactly how much you want to spend gives you a guideline to stay within while shopping and meal planning. Without a budget you could spend way more than you’d like and may still find yourself running back to the grocery store.

2. Create a meal plan using your new budget create a meal plan outlining what you’ll eat for every meal of the day Monday-Sunday. Your meal plan will tell you what items to put on your grocery list down to every seed, this will allow you to save time, money, and stress. With a well stocked fridge your less likely to eat out and you wont have to worry about shelling out extra money and gas to grocery shop daily .

3. Create a grocery list that includes every single item needed for the week. Indicate where you purchase your items and the approximate price for each also include the exact amount of what you need, for example If you eat bananas for snack include 7 bananas. Having a a grocery list will ensure you are eating the items you want at the price you want.

4.  Make large portions. I love to use my crock pot to make a weeks worth of beans and I make about 3-4 days worth of brown rice or quinoa. These two items serve as my staple meals. For lunch I wrap the beans into a raw collard or tortilla with greens and veggies for a light vegan wrap. While for dinner I combine the rice and beans with avocado, raw kale, and tahini sauce. Large portions save time and they ensure that you’ll always have something to eat even in a rush. Now the time you once used to cook can be used to exercise, relax, chat on the phone, or clean.

5. Look for deals. Everywhere I turn there are coupons, deals, and savings books all ready to assist in saving money. I clip coupons for items I use, I keep them in a file that stays in my purse at all times. I even use the Chinook book ($20 but, I got for free, talk about deals) which caters to a health conscious audience offering over $500 in savings for various venues from restaurants, to spas, to grocery stores. 

I get my biggest savings from the farmers market where produce is sometimes half the price of health food stores and it’s more sustainable and keeps your dollars local. I visit in the last 30-45 minutes when vendors are anxious to pack up, and more willing to bargain. With this strategy you could easily leave with a weeks worth of produce for under $30. I also take a genuine interest in the farmers especially being that they supply the food I put into my body. Making friends with farmers is important because you have created a deeper connection with the food you eat and they will be more apt to offer you future deals.