Vegan Beachin’

I’ve spent this week at the beach relaxing with family and my bestie, so I haven’t been posting many recipe because I haven’t been cooking much. We’re in Blue Mountain Beach near Seaside, FL. As I mentioned, I packed a lot of food to have as back ups in case there weren’t many options for me to eat here, since last time was beyond frustrating, but luckily this time has been a lot easier eating vegan so I haven’t even had to dip into some of the things I brought. The first night we got down here we went to a restaurant called Surfing Deer and it’s one of few in the area that has some vegan options and they label them on the menu which is always helpful. It’s a beautiful restaurant with an awesome patio with a view of the ocean and little pools giving it an almost Mediterranean feel. The only complaint was that the service was extremely slow. I ordered the Strawberry Fields salad to start which had kale, strawberries, vegan honey, vegan feta spread, and puffed quinoa and it was fantastic! For dinner, I ordered the watermelon poke tostadas under the appetizers section. The watermelon and cucumber was fresh and the spread underneath gave it a more savory/sweet element. They were tasty as well.

For my dad’s birthday I made him some avocado and tomato toast on fresh multigrain sourdough bread he’d gotten from the bakery with a drizzle of sriracha and everything but the bagel seasoning. There was also fresh cut peaches on the side, I had the same thing and YUM!

We had a big family cookout by the pool on the 4th and I made my usual oil free hummus with toasted pita and tortilla chips and also Cowboy Caviar (both previously posted on the blog.) I guess I was hungry because I forgot to take a picture before I started eating! There were so many things to eat for dinner! I made my tofu based classic dill potato salad, grilled vegetable kebabs, and marinated a portobello and grilled for a burger. Also we had baked beans and watermelon. Everything was really great and no one could tell the potato salad wasn’t mayo based, win win.

Last night we went to Grayton Beer Company which is a new restaurant in the area. It used to be Craft Bar which had a bigger cocktail section and I preferred the food there more I think. They had two vegan options on the menu, a black bean and quinoa stuffed pita or a vegetarian bowl. I got the veggie bowl without yogurt and it was quinoa, kale, roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash, tomatoes, and toasted pepitas. It was mixed with olive oil or something pretty bland. It was good and I was happy with it, I just thought it needed a little more flavor.

Tonight we’re ordering pizzas by the pool which is always a good kid friendly option. I’ll just have a veggie pizza without cheese and be happy! Off to one more beautiful beach day!

Meal Prepping for Travel

Well, the travel portion of my summer is here and I’m ready! I’m headed to my family’s beach place for the week and then I’m headed to Italy for almost two weeks. I’m so excited! I’ll be taking pictures while there and writing blogs about where to eat in Venice and Positano. Unfortunately, Josh can’t make it to the beach and has to stay home to work and cooking is NOT his forté. I went ahead and meal prepped some simple meals for him to have for lunches and dinners while I’m gone and packed some things to take with me to the beach so I know I have some staples. It’s always better to be over prepared and have something you know you can eat, than wing it and then be frustrated when there’s nothing for you to have. I think as a vegan it’s just what you have to do when you don’t know what is going to be available to you. You can’t just leave it up to chance.

For Josh, I made several burrito bowls with brown rice, black beans, cucumber, and lettuce and he just has to add to pico, guacamole, and salsa. I also made some salads with lettuce, cucumber, carrots, chickpeas, and broccoli and he adds the oil-free balsamic. I left him homemade hummus with pita that he can toast and have that with grapes. He has a leftover burger from the other night with fruit and I’m sure he’ll grab some Chipotle along the way as well.

For the 4th, we’re going to have a lot of people there to celebrate my Dad’s birthday so I made 6 cans of chickpeas worth of oil-free hummus to have for an appetizer. I’m also bringing a side of hummus for my lunches with lavash or bread, and with veggies to make sandwiches. I’m bringing rice crackers, pretzels, and fruit for snacking. I’m also bringing brown rice, dry whole wheat pasta, and tofu for lunch or dinner. I can always fall back on potatoes, veggies, and fruit. These are just some staples that I know I can rely on while I’m out of town and they can help me stay on track while on vacation. I’m going to try my best to stay high carb low fat and get my steps in walking or biking.

I hope these meal prep ideas and staples to bring on vacation help you with your summer travels! The more you plan ahead, the easier it is to succeed.

Vegans in Vegas, baby!

Bellagio

Bellagio

This past weekend we were in Las Vegas for my best friend’s wedding and I was really excited for more vegan options available for us to have. I did some research and asked others what restaurants were favorites, but unfortunately most of them ended up being off the main strip so we didn’t want to taxi or Uber there. There were definitely more vegan options than our area still, so that was a plus. I did know that the Wynn and Encore had a vegan menu for each of their restaurants because Steve Wynn is vegan so we learned it was easier just to take a (long) stroll from Caesar’s Palace to have a for sure meal option. If we ever go back to Vegas, I’d love to just stay there so that every restaurant will have an easy meal option.

When we arrived, we were starving and wanted to go somewhere in our hotel quickly before I went to the bride’s room to help, so we went to Beijing Noodle Co. It had big tanks of goldfish when you walk in, and we got vegetable spring rolls and I asked for them to make a tofu vegetable noodle bowl because I couldn’t find anything on the menu that I was looking for. It was really oily and the tofu just tasted like a sponge that absorbed water or oil, couldn’t tell. I of course ate it because I was so hangry at that point I was worried for other’s well-being if I didn’t, but it wasn’t as good as our local Chinese take out and for a lot bigger price.

Bejing Noodle Co.

Bejing Noodle Co.

For dinner, we walked around MGM for a bite to eat before going to the welcome party in a suite there. The more we walked around looking at places, the more confusing it got so we ended up going to a restaurant called Crush because I thought it looked romantic and pretty. They had a vegan menu but it had about 3 choices on it, so I asked if they could make a vegetable flatbread without cheese and they did. It was good! Not worth the price, but it did the job.

Crush MGM

Crush MGM

Suite at MGM

Suite at MGM

The next morning we woke up and decided to actually do more research before we spent that much money for food so we would have better luck and have more options, so we started walking to the Wynn. I found a vegan menu online for Terrance Pointe Cafe and I’m so glad I did because it was amazing! They had a vegan menu and the atmosphere was elegant and beautiful. We had a view of the pool and we got a vegan Belgian waffle with berries and spilt a side of breakfast potatoes and vegan sausage. I also got tea that was a cute little tea teepee from Tea Forté. It was the best breakfast we’ve had in so long!

Terrace Pointe Cafe

Terrace Pointe Cafe

img_2401That day Josh picked up Chipolte from the Venetian food court on our walk back so he could do school work in the room and I went to go get ready for the wedding with the bride and had some peanut butter crackers for a snack, which was poor planning because it was a late dinner. After a beautiful wedding in Red Rock Canyon, we went to a private dinner at Carmine’s at Caesar’s and my sweet friend had already called ahead to ask them for two vegan meals. They brought platter after platter of food, and by then everyone was chowing down. They brought out bread, and salad for us with oil and vinegar as dressing. Then they brought a platter of gluten free rotini in a chunky tomato sauce, and then a huge bowl of sautéed garlic broccoli. We ate SO much I felt like I needed to be rolled back to the room, so I’m glad there were so many speeches and it gave me some time to digest before walking back! I didn’t take picture because I didn’t want to be rude in front of a table of people.

The next morning we ended up walking back to the Wynn for breakfast to have a sure bet and we were eying the French toast the day before. There was a very drunk and disorderly guy who I think never went to bed the night before and came to breakfast ready to rage, so after almost knocking over a table and yelling fight songs, the staff talked to him and I’m pretty sure asked him to leave. He began pleading and said he would pay for everyone’s breakfast who was sitting around him who he disturbed. Score! We had vegan French toast with berries, breakfast potatoes and tea, thanks drunk guy! Delicious and maybe even better than the waffle. I’m glad I did carbo load since I ended up walking 26,400 steps that day!

Terrace Pointe Cafe

Terrace Pointe Cafe

I went to the pool for most of the afternoon so I skipped lunch and had some rice crackers in the room for snack that I brought and we got cleaned up and walked to the Bellagio and Cosmopolitan, then all the way back to the Encore for dinner at Wazuzu. We had a 30 minute wait so we threw some money in the slot machines and walked around, then we were seated and I was really excited about the great looking vegan menu options. We got the Gardein chick’n and cabbage pot stickers and shiitake roll with vegan eel sauce for appetizers and those were my favorites of the meal. For dinner I had the tofu drunken noodles, and I wasn’t super impressed. The amount of oil they had on them was too much for me and it wasn’t as flavorful as I was hoping for.

Wazuzu @ Encore

Wazuzu @ Encore

Wazuzu @ Encore

Wazuzu @ Encore

Wazuzu @ Encore

Wazuzu @ Encore

After dinner we walked back to the Wynn to meet friends for a drink before going back to pack and go to sleep before a busy day of travel. We went to the bar in the lobby and ordered Dakota’s favorite drink called The Dream. It has a candied hibiscus flower, St. Germaine liquor (my favorite), and champagne. For $22, it had to be good champagne! It was tasty, and after that we were ready for the walk back and part ways for the journey home.

The Dream @ Wynn

The Dream @ Wynn

It was an amazing time with beautiful friends and I’m so glad we got to witness such a meaningful and breathtaking wedding! The food of course wasn’t the focus, but it was really nice to try some new vegan selections while we were there and I wanted to tell you all about them in case you trek out that way. After a weekend in Vegas, I’m planning on napping for the next few days, so happy summer everyone!

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Atlantis Veg-antures

IMG_1206.jpgAs still a semi-new vegan, travel is something I get a little anxious about food-wise. Atlantis has an option to call the chef’s office 2 weeks ahead of time to let them know of any dietary needs but I figured vegan is something that is getting common enough that they can make things work and I was right! With thousands of people milling around the resort each day, they did a better job accomadating me than the restaurants we went to in Florida which is saying something. I wanted to write a blog post about the vegan finds that I ate while in Atlantis and the restaurants we went to so that it may help anyone else who wants vegan travel advice.

Tip #1: I always look at menus before I go anywhere to see my options/how I can edit something to work. In this case, they have so many restaurants on property that I looked at the website to find as many menus as I could and wrote down a few restaurants that looked like they would be good options. You’ll have to make reservations far in advance.

Tip #2: Keep things simple. At home I try to make something different every night with different ingredients, but when away just get something that will fill you up and fits in your lifestyle. Of course you want to enjoy delicious and new things on vaca, and that happened, but sometimes it’s just a matter of what can work.

Tip #3: Tell the waiter or restaurant beforehand so they can help guide you in ordering something that can work for you. Most of the time they can come up with a solution to make an item vegan or create something new.

Tip #4: Don’t stress about it! At home you can eat exactly how you want and that’s your choice. I for one haven’t been eating oil when I cook at home, but I knew eating out at restaurants I was bound to eat oil in most everything I ordered. I asked a few places to go light on oil or asked if it could be made without it, and other times you just have to do it and know that it’s temporary and you can go back to eating exactly how you want when you get home. I didn’t want that to ruin my vacation!

We got to Atlantis late Wednesday night and we were ready to have something quick for dinner when we arrived. Most places were already closed, but we found Olives was still open so that’s where we went. I ordered a flatbread pizza with marinara and whatever veggies the chef wanted to add. The waitress asked the chef if it could be done and they said it could, and it was good! They added lots of spinach, chopped asparagus, garlic, and mushrooms. However, the Goombay Smash was not the drink I remembered and was way too sugary for my taste!

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This was my typical breakfast for the few mornings we were there. We went back to Olives to have breakfast since we didn’t want to wait in a mile long line for Poseidon’s Table buffet. They had a big menu, but everything had meat and dairy so I ordered the Continental Breakfast with wheat toast and this beautiful fruit plate and a cup of hot tea. I put raspberry jelly on my toast and it kept me full til lunch!

The first day we explored the resort and found an awesome pool called The Coral Pool with a swim up bar and a DJ. We got the last chairs available and so we didn’t want to move, so we ordered lunch by the pool. Josh and I got the black bean burger topped with guacamole and vegetable chips. It was alright, nothing amazing but it kept us satisfied. Sorry, some food pictures did not get taken before I chowed down, but I tried to remember!

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For dinner we went to Cafe D’Angelo for Italian. It was a really nice restaurant and as a starter they brought out fresh bruschetta and focaccia. YUM! I asked if they could make a dish with whole wheat penne, marinara, and vegetables and they did. It was filled with different varieties of mushrooms, broccolini, spinach, and peppers. It was one of the best things I ate there. IMG_1319.jpg

The next day we ate breakfast at Olives again so I had the same thing, then took a long walk around the property. It’s so well maintained, tropical, and gorgeous. There’s something to see wherever you are so it’s a lot to take in. It’s relaxing, but there’s also a ton to do if you want to stay busy.  We ate, took walks, went to the pool and beach, and did the casino thing at night.

That day for lunch we went to the Lagoon Bar and Grill that is located by the pool and I had a grilled vegetable sandwich and added avocado and mustard. I had some chips and a side salad with it. Again, it was okay, so we figured the lunches just weren’t going to match the nice places we went for dinner but it kept us full. IMG_1290.jpg

We went to Chopstix for dinner and the service was awful. We had edamame, vegetable dumplings (my TJ’s ones are better), but the wok-fired tofu udon was really good. I ordered it without the oyster sauce and they made a soy based sauce for it instead. IMG_1332.jpg

The next morning I wanted something different for breakfast so we tried Poseidon’s Table buffet. Luckily the line was short and it was a huge buffet with a lot to offer. I got a piece of raisin seed toast with jelly, grits (made with water), fruit, and home fries topped with spinach, mushrooms, and onions with guac and salsa.

For lunch we wanted to stay by the pool so we had a late salad. I ordered the grilled veggie chopped salad without cheese and got balsamic.

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Good thing I got a light lunch before the best dinner of the week, or month..maybe year. Nobu is definitely well-known for a reason. We saved it for the last night and I’m so glad we did! It was so delicious and there was so much variety on the menu. I could order many items right off the menu and everything we got was fabulous. I got a cup of miso soup for my appetizer and then shared the mushroom sizzle plate, which was a pile of different kinds of mushrooms on a hot skillet tossed in a citrus soy sauce and topped with few grilled asparagus. It was packed with flavor and cooked to perfection.

I also got the hot dish of mixed vegetables in a garlic sauce and added tofu. It was beautiful and really tasty. Josh usually doesn’t enjoy tofu, but he really loved this dish. IMG_1417.jpg

It’s all served family style, so everyone can get what they want and everyone can try it out. For sushi, my family ordered the kinds they wanted and I got the vegetable roll. It was my least favorite item that I ordered because of the herb that was inside and we couldn’t tell what it was. I was disappointed because they’re known for their sushi, but everyone else LOVED theirs. I was already full from all of the other yummy things I ordered, so no big deal there. Overall, it was all of our favorite out of the restaurants we went to there.IMG_1420.jpg

This morning before we left we went to the buffet at Poseidon’s Table again because it’s SO much fast than Olives. We didn’t have time to waste before our car came, so it was a good way to get in and out. I had fruit, toast, and grits then had to say goodbye to a beautiful place!

After my frustration with my food during my last vacation, this proved to be a success. I was happy I could stay on track pretty easily and everyone was helpful. The service there is on Bahamas time (very slow) but the people are so nice and it’s an amazing place to stay. Hope everyone had a relaxing spring break! Back to reality tomorrow!

Now we’re home and even though I was tired I wanted to eat something homemade and healthy. I made lentils and rice with mushrooms in the rice cooker because it’s really easy and quick prep, but comforting and hearty. I decided I needed more veggies so I stirred in a few cups of baby spinach right as the rice was done so that it wilted right in. I also added a little more veggie stock so it was a little creamier than I usually make it.

A Vegan at the Beach

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We had a relaxing week at the beach filled with reading, tanning/burning, taking Louis on walks, getting a couples massage, eating in and out, and watching sunset from the top deck. The beach is so relaxing to me and I love escaping life to come down here and just watch the ocean with my morning tea. No morning dolphin watch this time though because the waves were huge! We’re about to leave to come home, but I’m so thankful we have a place to come when we need a reset and need to relax because no where is more relaxing to me than the beach.

We went out to eat typically once a day for lunch or dinner, and while taking Louis on a walk through Seaside I found one vegan place (Raw and Juicy) and bought a local brewed kombucha that was tasty. There’s also a bakery less than a mile away that had gluten-free and vegan options so we went there for a muffin one morning and we were pleasantly surprised.

WARNING: RANT STARTING– I was anxious to eat out this much in a week because 1. I was worried about finding vegan options and 2. that I wouldn’t be following HCLF no oil because restaurants put oil on everything. I was willing to handle that once a day because I was so excited for the experience of eating out and getting a break from cooking 6 nights a week. The first meal we had for lunch when we got here was at a restaurant close by and I had ahi tuna with a cabbage asian type salad.

When transitioning to vegan, we said we would still eat fish sometimes because we liked it the best, thought it was the best of the worst for us, and it made going out to eat easier because there was still options we could order without making it difficult. We ate a lot of fish in the first few months, and then I stopped really cooking it at home. If we went out to sushi or if we went out I would order it because it was available and I liked it. Then one day the taste of the fish on my sushi didn’t give me the same joy, it made me gag. I think my taste was changing to the point that any fleshy texture wasn’t doing it for me anymore so I haven’t been eating fish lately. I didn’t feel great about eating that tuna for lunch, and then I came home to read while laying out and read about fish in Starch Solution. Fish are being taken from the ocean faster than they can reproduce and we’re about to have a shortage on sea life. I’ve always been a big fan of the ocean, and don’t really want to do anything to mess it up if I don’t have to. I read that fish is filled with the contaminants that pollute the ocean like chemicals and plastic, and mercury is something you don’t want inside your body. Fish still has a significant amount of cholesterol so if you’re trying to get your cholesterol down without taking medication, fish won’t help. Also, the things they feed farm-raised fish are pretty nasty. The more I researched, the less I felt like I needed to eat fish. Do I like it? Yes. Do I need it to survive? No. Was it going to make me healthy? No. Josh still wants to eat it, and he can order it when we go out, he just knows that I don’t really want to partake in it now.

The rest of the week when we went out, I tried to find vegan options on the menu and it was challenging. I had to ask the waitress’s if they could make things vegan and they always had to go ask their chef then come back to me then ask their chef and come back to me. It was a hassle, and it was mildly embarrassing. There was butter in the bread, there was butter on the mushrooms and onions, there was chicken stock in the pasta salad, there was butter in the rice…etc. Pretty much butter in everything. For one dinner, edamame was the only vegan option on the menu, so I asked if they could make a veggie roll and they did, so that’s what I had for dinner. I got a vegetable sandwich for lunch on an Italian herb roll (only one without butter) without mushrooms and onions and it was great. For dinner last night we went out and I was going to get a Spanish rice bowl with veggies, easy enough right? No, butter in all of the rice options… they said I could have a salad or a bowl of veggies. Oh, just what I wanted with a margarita! We went back and forth until I asked if they could use the roasted veggies and make tacos with the corn tortillas on the menu. We finally came up with a solution, but it’s a process. I apologized for the inconvenience, and she said “oh no problem, we get asked all the time!” If they do, why isn’t there one vegan option on the menu? I felt frustrated because why aren’t there any options anywhere I go, and embarrassed because I feel like my Uncle Kirk trying to special order and cause a scene. It wasn’t enjoyable, and I’d rather just cook at home so I can avoid that situation. Could I have just said I’m fine with the butter in things? I could have, Josh is okay about dealing with that but I don’t want to. I don’t want to eat things that I normally don’t eat. I don’t want to eat dairy if I don’t eat dairy. I don’t want to pick meat out of baked beans to make it easier for someone else if it’s against what I eat.

I’ve been vegan for 8 months and the more research I do, the better I feel about my decision. The research I find pushes me to try harder and pushes me to do better than I currently am doing. The joy I’m getting now isn’t from a big steak or pizza, it’s from knowing that I’m doing everything I can do to put food in my body that will benefit instead of hurt me. That I’m not hurting any animals in the process, because once you see that process it’s heartbreaking and I really enjoy what I’m eating. Also, that I’m doing what I can to help the environment. I shouldn’t have to see people roll their eyes at me, tell me I’m crazy or I’ve gone too far, or react like I’m doing something negative to them. I’m only doing what I think is the best thing, it’s not like I’m joining a gang and getting neck tattoos. If they don’t want to hear what I’ve learned, then they don’t have to ask. Most people don’t want to hear that what they’re eating isn’t healthy or it’s hurting something else so they can keep eating what they want, so they don’t want me telling them when I’m only trying to help. If people want information from me about being vegan and it’s benefits, then I hope I can be a role model and example. If they want to make fun of me for it, then go ahead, look like an uneducated idiot. I’m over people judging me for something that I’ve become passionate about, and I enjoy.  It did make me more anxious to eat out on our upcoming vacations, but I guess I’ll just have to be the annoying one trying to find something at restaurants now, and I have to be okay with that. END RANT

Other than those feelings coming up that I’m glad I can get off my chest, it was a great trip. I’m glad I packed food and came prepared because it did help to be able to have choices to eat at home. Now Josh is telling me we have to start packing up and heading out, so unfortunately we have to go home. I could get used to blogging with this view though! Hope everyone is having a good week!IMG_0651.jpgIMG_0693.jpgIMG_0690.jpgIMG_0673.jpgIMG_0641.jpg