Daiya'S Newest Plant-Based Products!
Expo West came and went this weekend and boy - it was NUTS! I have worked the event with Ozery Bakery as a chef for the last two years, so I haven't had to worry about perusing the halls as a blogger - which is a huge stress reliever. It's hard to make contact with brands and can be overwhelming dealing with the crowds, but I also love seeing all my foodie friends and finding the newest and most exciting plant-based products at the show.
Since I was stuck in my booth most of the weekend, I made it a point to connect with some of my favorite brands when I had time - and Daiya was one of the brands I was most excited to check out. They make comfy, crave-able, totally vegan foods that are also free of dairy, gluten and soy! Now found in over 25,000 grocery stores over the US and Canada, they are leading the charge is making dairy-free cheese accessible to everyone. And I LOVE that! This year they're introducing a bunch of new products that I am super stoked to share with you guys - there's literally something for everyone! A Meatless Meat Lover's Pizza with vegan sausage and pepperoni, Yogurt Duets - creamy yogurts with lids full of sweet and crunchy toppings, Savory Burritos (in four flavors!), plus a few extra goodies I didn't expect to see including cheese sticks and new frozen desserts!
I made my way all around Daiya's big, bright green booth and had as many samples as I could - they were all so GOOD! Since I can only show you and not share with you (yet!), I wanted to give you a breakdown of all my faves from the show so you know what to expect when they come out. You should start seeing these goodies by summertime!
Meatless Meat Lover’s Pizza
The first-ever plant-based meat lover’s pizza, Daiya Meatless Meat Lover’s Pizza is a better-for-you, dairy-free pizza crafted with meatless sausage and pepperoni, Daiya’s signature melty shredded cheeze, and zesty sauce atop a newly improved artisan gluten-free crust! Unlike its traditional counterpart, Daiya Meatless Meat Lover’s Pizza is entirely plant-based and free of dairy, gluten and soy, making it a swapworthy alternative for those with dietary restrictions or looking to live a healthier lifestyle. Plus it tastes SUPER good - a little spicy and crunchy, it's the perfect Friday night-in dinner alongside a movie! Perfect with kombucha or a glass of wine.
Daiya Duets are the perfect combination of creamy and crunchy, each containing 5-6 grams of plant-based protein per serving. The clever duel packaging keeps the toppings crisp until joined with the velvety coconut cream yogurt, which only enhances your yogurt-eating experience. Duets come in flavors including Chocolate Coconut, Key Lime Crumble, Cranberry Harvest, and Salted Caramel Crunch. YUM!
Daiya just added savory burritos to its line of plant-based comfort foods, each packing a hearty 8 grams of protein and perfect for late-night snacking, on-the-go lunches or to simply satisfy a burrito craving! The new Daiya Burritos are free of dairy, gluten and soy and come in four varieties: Traditional, Tuscan, Chipotle, and Aztec. I LOVED the flavors in the spicy Santa Fe, but also tried the white bean-filled Tex Mex at the show and it was really great, too. These will definitely be a product we keep the freezer stocked with!
The are going to be a MAJOR hit with all the Mom's out there! These portable, lunch-friendly snacking sticks are great for kiddos who are dairy-intolerant, allergic, or simply need to eat more plant-based foods. They're an easy swap that taste so good, kids won't miss the old stuff. And they're available in two flavors - mozzarella and cheddar!
Pretty sure these are also going to be available in 4 flavors! I tried the chocolate coated vanilla bar, but also saw chocolate and expresso ice cream versions with fudge crunch coating on the outside. UPDATE! The official flavors are as follows:
-Chocolate Fudge Crunch—This decadent chocolate dessert bar with a deep fudgy swirl is dipped in rich fair trade dark chocolate and finished with crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds.
-Classic Vanilla Bean— Rich and creamy, this classic vanilla dessert bar is dipped in rich fair trade dark chocolate and finished to perfection with a semisweet chocolate drizzle.
-Salted Caramel Swirl—Rich and velvety smooth, this vanilla dessert bar is swirled with a salted caramel ribbon throughout and dipped in semisweet chocolate and finished with a dark chocolate drizzle.
-Espresso Coffee—Bold and smooth Arabica coffee is blended in a dessert bar, and dipped in rich and velvety fair trade dark chocolate.
These seemed to be the hit around the time I got there, late afternoon after the lunch rush. The perfect dessert - everyone around me agreed! Sweet, satisfying, and dairy-free. Basically a dream!
For more information about Daiya, please visit www.daiyafoods.com, become a fan on Facebook or follow them on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the release of these awesome new products! And please do let me know when you start seeing them in stores - its always nice to know where they start popping up so I can find them for myself. I found the Meatless Meat Lover's Pizza this very morning in our local Sprouts Market! Keep an eye open this weekend for a post of our other favorite finds from Expo West this year, and make sure to look back on our fave products from 2015 + 2016, too!
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AVOCADO SMOOTHIE! (VIDEO)
This anti-inflammatory, healthy fats-rich smoothie is packed with iron, nutrients and hidden greens - and tastes AMAZING! It's become one of my favorites in the morning - and you'd never know how GOOD it is for you! Get the full recipe below or head to our YouTube page for more. Enjoy!
Anti-Inflammatory Avocado Smoothie
1 ripe avocado
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups non-dairy milk
1 cup frozen mango
1 frozen banana
1 cup ice
a few drops of vanilla stevia, to taste (optional)
Blend it all together in a high speed bender until smooth. Serves 2. Enjoy!
Veestro's Vegan Holiday Meals - We Tried Them, You Get 15% off!
Veestro is a plant-based, organic meal delivery service that offers meal packs, juice cleanses and dishes a la carte on it's website. We've tried and loved their Wedding Prep pack, which comes with lunch and dinner for 30 days, for either one or two people. We tried just a 5-day version, but it was so nice to have the option of NOT cooking the week of our wedding! All of the meals are clearly labeled, so I was easily able to avoid the dishes with soy, and the offer gluten-free dishes as well. This time of year Veestro is back with an awesome new batch of Limited-Edition Holiday meals available through the end of this year! They have a NEW Turkey Scallopini with Sweet Potato Mash, Cauliflower Milanese with Green Beans, and Herbed Crusted Turk'y with Stuffing and Cranberry Sauce - plus Baked Mac n Cheese Dinner and a slice of Pecan Pie.
The meals are actually quite affordable, about $6-$12 per dish, and a decent sized portion at that. The meals are shipped on dry ice straight from the prep kitchen here in Southern California. I loved that they came frozen because it gives us the option of picking and choosing meals when we're ready to eat them. Most of the meals are baked straight from frozen, literally eliminating any meal prep work. And, all of the packaging was either recyclable or compostable and totally BPA-free.
These meals are perfect for vegans and non-vegans alike, because the ingredients are simple, clean, and most important: recognizable! Yup, all the ingredients are real , whole foods - things I would cook with in my own kitchen. A lot of the meals come with sauces to spice them up, and it was easy to add our own fresh accents, like cilantro or parsley, if we want to make the meal feel a little more homemade. One of my favorite things about these meals were how fresh they actually tasted on their own - it didn't feel like we were being lazy or eating "frozen dinners". The meals were creatively and thoughtfully prepared with health and a real focus on vegetable in mind. Did I already mention there are NO preservatives? Because that's a pretty big deal. That's how you know it's fresh.
I was especially thankful for the Holiday meals because it took SO much stress off of me the week after Thanksgiving. No more cooking or messy meal prep for me for the WHOLE week after that fiasco. Veestro made it so easy! If you're someone who's looking to stick to a hearty, healthy, plant-based diet during the Holiday season, this may be your perfect option. To see all their menu options and meal packs, head over to Veestro.com! Use code "GOODSAINT15" for 15% off any a la carte dishes until 12/31.
Infusing with Levo OIL - Review + Recipe
If you've hung out here for awhile, you know I love making my own Holiday gifts AND things that save me time and money. I'm a girl who loves a good deal! We've made a couple fun Holiday crafts on the site (see our Homemade Cookies in a Jar, Thanksgiving Centerpieces + 2-Ingredient Christmas Ornaments), but today we're talking about infusing your own oils at home, how to use them for yourself and friends, and the incredible new machine that helps you do it more easily than ever before. I'm obsessed!
When I first heard about the LEVO Oil machine I was totally intrigued; a machine that allowed you to create any custom infused oil, at home, with all the conveniences of a countertop coffee pod maker - but easier, cleaner, and sleeker than any other model on the market. Now maybe you're thinking "What kind of infusions could I possibly make?" And friends - the list is so, so long. As a yoga instructor I see value in this machine beyond food infusions, as a tool to help me create my own custom massage oils for practice and teaching. As someone with a love for cooking, I see unlimited infusion possibilities. Everything from garlic-infused olive oil and vanilla-infused vodka to cannabis-infused coconut oil and cinnamon-infused maple syrup. If you can cook with it, you can infuse it! The machine uses controlled heat and time are used to transfer the flavor, scent, color, and nutrients from a variety of ingredients into the carrier of your choice. The possibilities are nearly endless!
If you've done your own infusions before, you know that process is often time consuming, messy, and often fills your house with whatever smell you're cooking with for DAYS - which can sometimes be fine (think vanilla) and can sometimes be a problem (think marijuana). The old method often involved using a crock pot to keep a low, constant heat for hours or days until the desired infusion was reached. It took too long and was inconsistent. Plus, you had to have a crock pot! Then you were stuck making large batches just to make all of the work worth it, and you still had to strain the cloves or flowers or herbs from your oil once you were done. With the LEVO, it couldn't be easier! When you pull the machine from the box one of the first things you'll notice is just how sleek and counter-friendly the design of this machine is. It's no bigger than your standard Keurig, with a digital, touch-responsive keypad for adjusting everything from the power and lock buttons to the time and temperature of your infusion. The parts are all easily removed and dishwasher safe for easy cleaning, which is always a plus. The machine comes with a a small pod for fitting your infusing item - flower, herb, nut, fruit or root - and a small herb press for packing the herb (what we used) into the pod. Since their release, LEVO has since released a larger, double-sized pod for heavier infusions and a silicon pod press for pressing the last of the oil from your pod post-infusion (both items available on their website).
We've used the LEVO several times now, and the process is incredibly simple. Simply pack the metal mesh pod with your herb of choice - we used marijuana for the infusion in these photos. How much will depend on your personal preference, but for this particular infusion we used 2 grams of Utopia Farms C. Banana Strain Cannabis Flowers infused into 1 cup of Primal Kitchen Extra Virgin Avocado Oil. The flowers contain about 25%-30% THC. This combination means that for every tablespoon of oil, there should be about 36 mg of THC. Good to know if you're dosing! If you're using something like garlic or lavender flowers to infuse, it becomes more about how potent you want the flavor and smell to be and less about dosage.
Figuring out how long and how hot to infuse for can be tricky. Luckily LEVO has an incredible calculator right on their website, so it was easy for me to figure out that our infusion should be set at about 180-200 degrees F for about 2.5 hours. They have clickable options for all kinds of infusion situations, so you should be able to find the setting you need. After that it's easy peasy! Simply pack your pod, place it inside the oil reservoir - its magnetized! - and then pour in your oil or base. Close the lid, and use the keypad to lock the machine and choose the length and temperature of the infusion. Then wait! When the infusion is finished, simply dispense your infusion into a sealable container like a glass jar. Remove the used parts and throw them in the dishwasher. That's it!
LEVO Oil has made the infusion process one of ease, and this chef totally approves. I can see endless possibilities for what we'll make with the LEVO, and have plans for lots of homemade Holiday gifts using the machine. We love the people behind the company, who very much believe in knowing what you're putting into your body and supporting consumers so that they can be self-sufficient and successful. Interested in how you can play with the LEVO Oil? Check out their website for more info + to shop their NEW colors! And don't forget - use code GOODSAINT to get $10 off your LEVO infuser!
Want to learn more about cooking with infused oils? Click the link below to download a simple Thanksgiving recipe that'll have you celebrating Danksgiving, instead! (Don't worry - it's a very small dose. And if you like, you can always just make the most delicious garlic-infused butter or ghee instead.) Happy Thanksgiving!
Amsterdam Travel Diary
Okay guys, it took me 4 1/2 months BUT our Amsterdam Travel Diary is finally here! After our wedding, we spent the weekend recovering and packing and then left bright and early Tuesday morning for LAX where we boarded our the first leg of our flight to Reykjavic, Iceland and then over to Amsterdam for the first 5 days (technically 4 - we didn't get to our AirBNB until like 10 pm on the first night) of our 14 day honeymoon. When we first stepped off the train we were right downtown, just outside the Amsterdam Centraal Station. The sun was just beginning to set low in the sky - they're on about 20 hours of daylight over there in late June. We found our way to our AirBNB, not far from downtown but worth jumping on the metro. We checked in - our host was awesome and even had warm beer waiting for us - which apparently is how they prefer to drink beer in Europe. I had no idea...and my Dad is a US beer company executive! 😝
Since the sun wasn't due to set until around midnight, we were wide awake when we hit the AirBNB. Plus, we were just SUPER excited to be in Amsterdam! We used the HappyCow app a couple times during our trip to find vegan food, but mostly just used the incredible lost of recommendations you guys sent us on social media. I collected them all on a list and then starred all the places on Google Maps, so that as we were walking around cities I could see how close we were to our recommended places at all time! PRO TIP: You can download maps for offline use on Google Maps, so before our trip I downloaded maps for all of the cities we were visiting (Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and London) and then used them offline and without burning up data overseas while we walked and traveled through the cities. Since your GPS works without needing data, you'll even see where YOU are on the maps. Very convenient!
Anyway, after we arrived we went to a HappyCow recommended, vegan restaurant near us called Mezebar Bodrum that served a sort of Greek-inspired tapas that was truly phenomenal. The first real food we'd had in hours, sure, but we went back again and I can confirm that is truly wonderful. The owners were sweet and accommodating and gave us awesome recommendations of stuff to see all over the city, plus they literally served us dinner at like midnight. The best introduction to this super friendly city! After we ate we found a 'coffee shop' and tried our first joint in Amsterdam. We didn't really understand why it made us feel SO weird until later, when we figured out that spliffs in Europe are usually rolled with tobacco. For a California girl used to a regular old joint, it was an unpleasant surprise and a serious head rush. Ick. We walked it off around the general area of our 'home' for the week before calling it a night. We were staying in a cute 1 bedroom overlooking the East side of Rembrandt Park. It was a huge, beautiful green space not far from the more famous Vondelpark. The parks and green spaces like the Bos quickly became our favorite part of being in the Netherlands. That and all of the friendly, off-leash dog culture! So many chill dogs, it was truly amazing.
Day two we started early, grabbing bagel sandwiches at the Bagels & Beans nearest us. I got hummus and veggies - a welcome meal after all the traveling. They are a chain, so we were able to find them all over the city. Perfect in a pinch! (I did bring probiotics with me while traveling to help with my crazy wonky digestion - more on how I pack for trips in an upcoming post!) After food we walked the city - over 17 miles the first day we were there! I came back with THE best, strongest booty I've ever had. It was awesome. We perused the canals and hit up the Van Gogh Museum area, including the Park Museumplein where the I Am Amsterdam sign is. There were also a bunch of small eateries, touristy shops, and plenty of people tripping on mushrooms in the park. We also stumbled upon some super cool Banksy and Salvador Dali exhibits at the Moco Museum, just across the park. We even found some kombucha at a small grocery store! It wasn't quite the 'booch we're used to, but it was cool to try different flavors and brands. We tried to get one or two different brands in each country and definitely ended up finding our favorite brand, Jarr, while we were in London. The whole 'I Amsterdam' area was super cool and busy with locals and tourists, and we stopped for lunch after seeing a big sign advertising vegan hemp burgers. It was delicious, and awesome to see so many plant-based options in Amsterdam. I totally fell in love with that area, and we ended up walking through it again on day 3, too!
Because of my soy and dairy allergy and dietary restrictions, we ended up eating a LOT of bread. This was no problem since I LOVE bread, but I did start craving fresh veggies at every meal pretty hard early on into our trip. Luckily for Alex, a baguette a day is literally what he wishes he could eat everyday. Luckily for me, we walked 11 more miles on day two, so I could deal with the bread intake. And of course the freshly baked bread from real neighborhood bakeries was SO much more satisfying than the grocery store crap we have here in the States. That said, we were super excited to find Maoz Vegetarian (last picture in this post), basically the Chipotle of falafel in Europe. It was so convenient and easy to make your own pita pocket stuffed with things you actually liked, and nearly everything was soy-free. Score!
The 2nd night in town we ventured over to the famed Red Light District, or De Wallen. We found it near the Hash, Marijuana + Hemp Museum, among other coffee shops, boutiques, cheese counters and tourist trinket shops. It sure was something! The dark, thin alleyways were lit up so that you could see them before you arrived. After turning down the alley you are immediately greeted on both sides by matching glass doors, spanning the length of the alleyways. Each has a woman in the window, usually wearing a small amount of lingerie or waggling her finger at you as you pass by. It's kind of crazy to see, but in a country with legal prostitution and brothels, its certainly not out of the ordinary. Rumor has it that the woman are actually generally quite respected and have close relationships with city police. We saw that in action, with friendly ladies chatting up the local police patrolling the area, offering them a drink or letting them in to chat. It was a very professional way of doing things, really, and was wonderful to see the women so in charge of their space and presumably their bodies. As a couple we were smiled at a lot but I think they generally knew we were tourists just talking a look; we did see a few people enter the rooms and quickly shut the door behind them, but for the most part, everyone around were curious tourists, too. We even found a few tobacco-free joints in that area, and enjoyed those for the rest of our stay in the area.
Day three we decided to trek like locals and rent bicycles! That's how most of the population gets around in Amsterdam, and it felt only right that we participate while we were in town. We started early in the morning, trekking nearly 6 miles over to the Amsterdam Bos, a huge green space of over 2,500 acres with a full forest, rowing lake, and even a few small restaurant snuggled inside. It's over three times the size of Central Park!
That was probably my favorite part of Amsterdam - the incredible swaths of bright green space. Not overly manicured, but full of people enjoying it. I wish we had more spaces like that here! We spent hours biking around, watching a rowing race, stopping at small cafes for rolls and fresh fruit, and just straight up loving being on our Honeymoon. For a late lunch we headed from the Bos back toward a place I'd been recommended on instagram called De FoodHallen, which was basically this amazingly designed old warehouse that has been converted into a community space for restaurants. There were at least 12 small cafes and restaurants in the space, and a bunch of long, community style tables in the center. Alex ordered a veggie temaki roll from Meneer Temaki and LOVED it, and I found and fell in love with a small Mexican place call Fento. They made killer jackfruit nachos and homemade iced teas, and I was really impressed that there was such good Mexican food in the middle of Amsterdam! Turns out Fento is owned by someone from LA who moved to Amsterdam and opened up this place - which is probably why it tasted to authentic and good to us. I totally LOVED it and highly recommend stopping by! After lunch we headed back to the AirBNB for a nap - those long days were killing us! - and then back out to a small, local hole-in-the-wall Indian spot for some chickpea curry for dinner. We returned our bikes and headed home. Renting bikes are enjoying the city really is a must-do while you're in the area, but know that the bike traffic moves fast and waits for no-one. Know where you're going before you start biking so you stay out of the locals way!
On day four we walked all over the city one last time, hitting up all of the favorite spots we'd accrued over the previous 3 days. We went all the way across town on foot to get to Dophert, a restaurant we'd heard literally rave reviews about. It was pretty good, and a super cute spot - plus the staff was incredibly friendly. That said, like most of the places we visited on our trip, the soy-free options were abysmal, and the portions were pretty small. But Alex really liked his Fried Seitan Sandwich, and we ended up loving walking around that part of the city, so it was totally worth the visit. I even found and made Alex take my picture in front of 'St. Peterhalsteeg' street sign! We finished off our last day walking the canals and stopping by the Vegabond vegan grocer. They didn't have a ton of options for on-the-go eating, but had some great groceries to take back to the AirBNB and a quality selection of kombucha, too. That night we hit up Mezebar Bodrum one more time and crashed hard, and were up early the next day for our train trip to Brussels! Hopefully I'll get it together and have THAT travel diary up next week! 😝 Until then, check out the resources below to help plan your trip, and check out our IG posts from the trip for more on what we ate + saw, and make sure to visit our youtube channel to watch the video recaps of our Amsterdam trip here. Vaarwel!
IG Photo Links:
Ask the locals! Seriously - they know.
10 Must-Have Pumpkin Recipes for Fall!
Fall is HERE my friends, and we are so excited! While we don't get quite as much cool, crispy father here in Southern California as I might like, the temperature are still dropping slightly and Pumpkin Spice-EVERYTHING is available wherever you go. We've got a solid collection of some really great, tried + true Pumpkin-lover's recipes around here, so we assembled our favorites into one post for your enjoyment. We've got all the bases covered - everything from cookie, brownies and fudge to donuts, steamers + fresh pumpkin juice. You'll find something to make your mouth water + curb your Fall cravings for sure. Scroll on for the goodies!
1. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
I'm gonna get really real with you for a second: these are fucking delicious cookies, but they're packed with butter and sugar. Again, SERIOUSLY SCRUMPTIOUS, but not seriously healthy. Just maybe don't eat 6 per sitting? I'm not even apologizing, just a warning for the haters. These are celebrating your birthday cookies. They're follow with a glass of champagne cookies. They're decadent and rich and insanely delicious. If you're on a diet, these are not for you. If you wanna have a fall-flavored mouthgasm, then these are definitely for you.
2. Baked Pumpkin Cinnamon Sugar Donuts
These Baked pumpkin donuts are rolled in cinnamon sugared are literally are SO EASY to make that I thought I must be doing it wrong. From start to finish this was maybe a half-hour project, and I was so happy with how they came out. They so remind me of getting fresh donuts at apple farms when I was a little girl. These are the kind of donuts that give you street cred for being such a great cook. And you'll be like "Oh these easy things? I whipped these up lickety split!" and feel like a badass. So grab a donut pan and come bake with us!
3. Glowing Pumpkin Juice
Packed with citrus and seasonal pumpkin, this juice will brighten your day...and your skin! The beta carotene in the pumpkin is a powerful antioxidant crucial for normal skin cell development healthy skin tone. The Vitamin C found in the oranges, apples, and lemons not only builds a strong immune system and helps blemishes heal properly but also helps firm & tone skin, prevent free-radical damage, protects skin cells, and prevents signs of aging (like wrinkles!). And the mango? Delicious, yes, but also packed with beta carotene and Vitamin A- giving you that extra soft, smooth skin you CRAVE in this cool fall weather. Plus, what could be easier than cutting up your fruits and letting the juicer do all the work?
4. Pumpkin Zucchini Bread
Its stuffed full of zucchini and pumpkin so its basically just a vegetable. Or at least, that's what I told myself after eating 3 slices yesterday. We're really trying to cut back on the amount of sugar we're eating lately too, so like our recipe for Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies, this recipe has about half the amount of sugar you'll find in a traditional zucchini or banana bread recipe. The pumpkin adds some sweetness and helps keep it moist, and if nuts are your thing I bet a sprinkle of walnuts before you tossed it in the oven would be kind of amazing. Either way, we think you're gonna like it.
5. Pumpkin Chocolate Freezer Fudge
Now as an adult, and one who watches my sugar intake at that, fudge isn't something we make often. But with this crazy hot weather we're still having in Souther California, I was CRAVING some fall. That being said, we all deserve a treat, and being freezer fudge, its easy to eat just a piece of week and preserve the goodness for months to come. Plus, I'm a SUCKER for pumpkin/ chocolate combos, and the velvety, rich pumpkin layer compliments the dark chocolate beautifully.
6. Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
These cookies are perfectly fluffy and moist, and have an almost muffin-like texture. They're soft, chewy, and packed with oats and pumpkin spice. Plus, we cut the sugar way down so you can eat like six instead of one. (That's how that works, right?) They're easy to whip up and perfect for serving at parties or just binge-eating while you watch Hocus Pocus. They're also about to become your new favorite oatmeal cookie. Let's bake!
7. Pumpkin Spiced Steamer
A frothy, foamy, sweet, pumpkin-y cup of steamed dairy-free milk blended with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. It's fall, all wrapped up in a mug. Topped with a spoonful of coconut whip would be lovely, but this drink stands just fine on its own. Its the perfect fall drink for those avoiding caffeine or who just want a kid-friendly version. We know you're going to love it.
8. Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Maple Vanilla Icing
This sweet, spiced loaf is the perfect breakfast OR dessert! And the maple vanilla icing makes the perfect topping. It screams Fall, and whips up super easily - it's a nearly fool-proof loaf. Perfect for taking to Holiday gatherings and sharing with the people you love...or hoarding for yourself - we're not here to judge!
9. Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
These brownies make me think of words like rich, ooey-gooey, and decadent. And those are words I love. I also love chocolate, which is why we used bars of dark chocolate, cacao chunks, and rich cacao butter to make these brownies a trifecta of chocolatey heaven. The pumpkin was a brilliant addition. I mean it! It adds a soft, gooey pumpkin layer to an already sweet, fudgy bottom layer. The combination creates an almost cheesecake-like brownie that will make an appearance at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and daylight savings day too.
10. Pumpkin Oat Muffins
Don't these look scrumptious? Trust me, they are. We had some leftover pumpkin puree and some browning bananas to use up and came up with these little buggers. The fruit keeps the muffins moist and flavorful, while the muesli topping adds just a little crunch and texture. Ready to start your day off the right (and delicious) way?
Planning our Plant-Based Wedding
It took us eight years to get here, but that happened to be just the right amount of time for us to get it together and plan ourselves a wedding. We were engaged for a total of a 18 months and I felt like planning took up every second. How does that happen?! Weddings are crazy guys, I'm not going to hold any punches there. They're crazy and stressful and beautiful and magic, all rolled into one. But man - am I glad it's over! I didn't start going into full on plan-and-panic mode until about 6 months before the big day. Before that, its hard to get other people interested in accomplishing anything. "It's still so far away!" they'd say, as I'd be obsessively reloading my email hoping for a response from a vendor. Here's my biggest advice for you: DON'T wait until the last second - on anything! The more you plan ahead, the more you can relax on the big day. I wasn't even stressed to get married - that was the best part, to me! Marrying my best friend and biggest supporter wasn't the stressful part - it was making sure everyone ELSE was where they needed to be, and that all the people who needed to be paid, got paid - on time. But they did, and it went off without a hitch! Okay, that's not true. Our speakers blew mid-reception and I literally ended up having to go bra-less, unexpectedly, in my wedding dress all day. But would we even remember the day if everything went smoothly? Probably not as well nor with as much fondness for all of the things that did go right. So without getting into too much madness, I'm going to break down how I planned this crazy thing and in a follow-up post we'll go over the event itself. I've broken up my planning into stages by vendor essentially, since that's how I went about planning. Now, we kept our wedding under 10K. How? Being smart + thrifty, whenever we could, and using any and all resources available to us! My Mom, Dad, and Alex's parents each gave us a little money to spend on the wedding, but we mostly paid for it ourselves. Look, getting engaged is the hardest part - the second is finding a venue. So we'll start there!
The venue was the biggest part for us. The first real decision to be made, and the first expensive thing we'd be paying for. We decided on The Riverbed Farm in Anaheim, CA for three main reasons: first, it was close to where we live, about a 15 minute drive from our house. That made it easy for us to get there for set-up, easier for our friends and family who live nearby to attend, and easy to bail at the end of the night! Second, we'd done a cooking event there months before so we were familiar with the venue set-up and employees. Third, the PRICE! I'm all about being transparent, so I'll be honest when I say we rented the space for just $2,000. Cheaper than almost ALL the places we looked at, and way nicer! We were only the 2nd couple to book a wedding here ever, so the price was still pretty low when we did. No guarantees what it is now - it's become a busy spot since we booked, nearly a wedding each weekend in the summer! We loved this space because as a working hydroponics farm, all vegetables and eggs raised on the property from the roaming chickens are donated back to the community. Schools and church crews regularly volunteer time here, as it's a totally non-profit organization. The space was about half-filled with guests and tables and decor and about half-filled with rows of towering, growing vegetables and ladybugs. We loved it! It was the perfect blend of our Maine and California lives. We set up a dance floor on a deck to the left and set up our ceremony and couples table on the deck at the front of the farm, so we could easily see our guests and socialize between snack breaks. All of the decor in the space was provided and arranged by Alex's Mom, Jennifer. We were so lucky to be able to use her design skills to make the farm into our perfect wedding venue!
PICKING A THEME / COLORS:
This is really a preference things, obviously, but there are a few things to consider before you decide. First, consider your location. If you're having a wedding with lots of green and brown - like ours - maybe you pick a more neutral, earth tones-based palette with lots of wood and natural decor. If you're getting hitched by the ocean, maybe you lean into blues, greens, and glass accents instead. Or maybe your favorite color is pink and you've always envisioned your wedding PINK. Then do that! I wanted to pick colors that both played up our outdoorsy theme and accented my skin tone and dress, personally. I have green eyes, so I wanted some green in there somewhere to help them POP in photos. We got married on June 10th, so I envisioned a light, summery color scheme. It was easy then to add cream and blush pink to our colors, and a bit of dusty yellow and maroon for contrast. I also used gold as an accent - no silver at our wedding. It's just not my fave! In the end, we had a gorgeous palette that wound in colors from from our venue and outfits, and looked beautiful in photos. We stayed as natural as possible with the decor. Since our colors were summer-inspired and our tones muted, we accented with a lot of lace + burlap, as well. We bought a few pieces - garland and hanging things, mostly - from Etsy, but the rest was conceived and brought to life by Alex's Mom, Jen. She's an interior designer, and we were so lucky to have her help decorating the space. She completely handled the tablescapes full of fresh fruit, greenery, blue glass jars and wood accents herself - and we loved how it turned out!
HOW TO PICK A PHOTGRAPHER:
If you can't tell by this post, I LOVE my wedding photos. I'm happy to show them off because our photographer did SUCH a great job! Her name is Natalie, she runs Like Morning Sun Photography, and she's a recent college graduate who lives here in the OC. I found her through Instagram (the best!) and we chatted through email before meeting in person. I found a LOT of great photographers on Instagram, but I was immediately drawn to Natalie's photography because of her unique use of natural light. Her photos are bright and romantic, and she captures candids beautifully. Also, she was affordable. People pay an INSANE amount of money for wedding photos. And I get it! They're forever, and you want them well done. Plus, it is a lot of work for the photographer - they're often justified and fair in their pricing. But we were having a smaller wedding at smaller venue and we didn't need all the bells and whistles (video, 2+ photographers, ect), and we just couldn't see spending more on the photography than we had on the venue + food combined. Nat gave us a fair rate for her work, and then went ahead and exceeded our expectations over and over again. Her shots came out beautifully, and her energy and presence at the wedding were wonderful. Our family and friends raved about her afterward, and I just hired her to do the new shots here for the site. If you're looking for a phenomenal photographer, she's your girl!
DECIDING ON FOOD + DRINKS:
This was my favorite part - and maybe one of my biggest stressors in the beginning! As someone who LOVES food, I was pretty set on having really great vegan food at our wedding. We even got a little kickback from Alex's family at first about keeping the food vegan - but we quickly reminded them that it was our wedding, and that frankly, they could choose to eat one great vegan meal or skip dinner - not our problem. And honestly, that's how it has to be; You can respect your guests dietary preferences without sacrificing your own!
Luckily, we're blessed with all kinds of great, plant-based food here in Orange County, so I hit up one of my all-time favorite food trucks, Falasophy, for a tasting. They killed it, and we were happy to hire them to feed our 100 guests. They ended up serving two main dishes, a falafel-stuffed pita bahn mi and spicy falafel tacos, and served them right from the truck. They also provided a range of apps for us and our guests, including tabbouleh, dolmas, pita + hummus, which went straight to the tables.
For desserts we had both a wedding cake and a donut bar. Our wedding cake, something I originally thought I'd make myself, was handmade by Meghan from Dr. Raw Organics. She made us a custom marijuana-infused edible 2-layer white cake with strawberry frosting that she decorated beautifully with edible flowers and topped with a matching garland. I am still OBSESSED with it! We let our guests know it was medicated, should they choose to enjoy some, and also set-up a 6-flavor donut bar across the venue for those who'd rather not indulge in cake. The donut bar was something I saw become trendy a few years ago and loved the idea of. We called up the best vegan donut purveyor in the area, The Caffeinated Kitchen in Long Beach, to help us make it happen. We decided on 120 donuts in 6 flavors: matcha, blueberry coconut, strawberry sprinkled, churro, blood orange, and cookies and cream. Alex's mom set up the table decor and it was simply gorgeous - the donut bar was the busiest spot at our wedding for sure!
When it came to deciding on drinks, we kept it cheap and biased. Haha. We don't drink much alcohol (read: any, really) and din't want to spend a ton of money on it at the wedding since we wouldn't be partaking. So we opted to just buy two kegs of beer (Golden Road Hefeweizen and 805 Pale Ale) and then served Whalebird Kombucha on tap, as well. We let our friends know ahead and a few decided to bring small flasks with them for their own party enjoyment. Since we also had an edible cake and we didn't want everyone getting toooo screwy, we kept the rest of our drinks for the evening non-alcoholic. We had wheelbarrows around the venue packed with ice, bottles of water, HonestTea in two flavors, and fresh juices from 1915 Organic - which kept everyone hydrated and happy in the June heat. My rec: have a variety of drinks! Our friends still drank plenty and we ended up moving the after party to a bar later, anyway. Plus, everyone was well hydrated and no one needed to call a cab. It was a win-win!
It's all about the music! From getting you down the aisle to grooving the night away with your guests, you want music that'll keep the party going all night long. I've included an upload of our full playlist below, but I should note that about 1/2 of our music didn't get played because the speakers blew at our wedding...TWICE. We had a big span in the middle with no music - which no-one seemed to notice except me, of course! We did have a DJ, but I can't really blame him for that. He did a great job getting the party going as soon as the speakers were working again!
In case you don't want to dig through the whole playlist, I'll highlight the best parts for you:
While I walked down the aisle and while we exited after the ceremony, my best friend from childhood, Emma, played live violin to the tune of Jeremih's 'Paradise'. Alex walked down the aisle before me to Childish Gambino's 'California'. Our first dance was to 'Breathless' by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
FINDING THE DRESS (+ SHOES!):
It only took me visiting 4 different salons before I found my dress. That may sound like a lot, but I promise it isn't many. I tried on a few dresses as each place and fit like none of them seemed worthy of the big day. Luckily, I kept searching - I knew I wanted a lace, floor-length dress with sleeves - and found mine at a tiny showroom nestled deep in the Hollywood Hills. Kite and Butterfly is a funky space overlooking the Hollywood Sign and literally own by two sisters named Kite and Butterfly, a set of long-haired whimsical twin ladies with an eye for gorgeous, unique dress designs. Their showroom was full of sunlight and I tried on about 3 dresses before this one. I didn't exactly have a "THIS IS MY DRESS" moment; more like I put it on and was like - yeah! I look good! And these sleeves!! Haha. My dress was handmade and unique in that way, but we customized it a bit more by taking out some of the bottom layer of the dress and lowering the neckline an inch. I ended up losing a lot of weight before the wedding because of the sheer amount of stress I was under, and my last fitting ended up being about 8 weeks before my wedding. I should've waited. On the day of my wedding, I tried on my dress and the bra I had bought to wear with it only to realize that my breasts had gotten SO much smaller, the bra didn't fit any more. I was SWIMMING in that top half of the dress. It was annoying, but I ditched the bra wore the dress by itself on the big day. And it worked out just fine!
The shoes were a little harder to find. I hate wearing high heels, and because of the soft ground at our venue I was pretty adamant about wearing flats or something at least under a 3-inches. I wanted to be able to dance the night away, not complain about blisters and sore feet all evening! I looked online a lot without any luck, and one day while driving through Silverlake realized MooShoes was down the street. I stopped in - no expectations - and walked out with my wedding shoes! They were about $80 and have a low, wooden heel. I liked the cut-out accents and that they matched my dress - PLUS were the kind of shoe I could totally wear again.
And since I know you'll ask: Alex's outfit! He put to together himself, mostly. His pants and shirt are from Zara, the suspenders from Express. He owned the bowtie already, and he bought the shoes super last minute (thanks for the rush shipping!) from Insecta Shoes. They make really cool, unisex shoes that we totally love. He found a pattern with some florals in our wedding colors, and they worked out perfectly. Oh! And the flower crown, bouquet, and boutonniere were all custom creations from The Crown Collective here in LA. Carolyn made them to order based on my descriptions and our color scheme an they literally could not have come out more perfectly. They MADE our outfits!
USE YOUR RESOURCES!
Use who and what you have! Your friends and family are going to be so happy and excited for you - and they'll want to be involved! Give them small jobs here and there to relieve your own stress, and if you have a wedding party (we didn't - oops!) then DELEGATE! You can save a lot of time and money by reaching out to your inner circle before jumping online to try and search through thousand of reviews from people you don't know. Alex's mom ended up decorating nearly our entire wedding and my Dad was totally in charge of arranging the keg arrival and set-up. That doesn't speak to the tons of friends we had helping us arrange pick-ups, set-up, and break-down. It was less for us to worry about, and our parents and friends were glad to help. If you have those people, use them! Then thank them profusely and give them all the hugs for getting you there. We all need a support system, and you'll be far less stressed if you tap into yours early.
Stay tuned for PART 2: Our Plant-Based Wedding!
WEDDING MEAL PREP with VEESTRO
As most of you probably know, we just got married! After 8 years of being in love and putting up with eachother's weird habits, we finally did it. It was so wonderful, and so fun - but the lead up was truly awful. The amount of stress near the end sent me into a anxiety attack - I wouldn't wish wedding planning on anyone...ha! I'm kidding, mostly. I should've hired more help. The one thing that saved my sanity the week before the wedding might've just been these Veestro meals; This is a sponsored post but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. Veestro is a plant-based, organic meal delivery service that offers meal packs, juice cleanses and dishes a la carte on it's website. They have several different types of meal packs, including a 21-day kickstart, protein pack and lunchbox pack. I was excited to check out their unique Wedding Prep pack, which normally comes with lunch and dinner for 30 days, for either one or two people. We tried just a 5-day version, but it was so nice to have the option of NOT cooking the week of our wedding! All of the meals are clearly labeled, so I was easily able to avoid the dishes with soy, and the offer gluten-free dishes as well.
The meals are actually quite affordable, starting at $7-8 per meal, and a decent sized portion at that. The meals are shipped on dry ice straight from the prep kitchen here in Southern California. I loved that they came frozen because it gave us the option of picking and choosing, and if you ordered a larger pack - the full wedding pack with 30+ meals, for example - would allow you to save fridge space as you took out and defrost the meals one at a time. We don't own a microwave, so we had to make sure to take our meals out the night before to defrost before reheating the next day, which was the only downfall for us. That said, we were impressed that all of the packaging was either recyclable or compostable ad BPA-free and it stayed frozen, even after sitting on our front step for a few hours.
The meal variety was awesome, though I forgot to tell them I was allergic to soy (I'm still getting used to it!), so more than half of the meals we received became Alex-only meals. He didn't seem to mind! And he really, really loved them. Here's the full list of meals we received: Morccan Melange, Beluga Lentil Braise, Veggie Empanadas, Veggie Lasagna, Spinach Pie, Country Fried Chick'n, Thai Chick'n Stew, Roasted Beet + Kale Salad, Indian Kamut Stew, Portobello Steak Dinner and Raspberry Cheezecake. Alex's faves ended up being the Empanadas, Country Fried Chick'n, and Cheezecake, and I liked the Lentil Braise and Indian Stew next. Next time we order, we'll try different options - there are a bunch to choose from!
These meals are perfect for vegans and non-vegans alike, because the ingredients are simple, clean, and most important: recognizable! Yup, all the ingredients are real , whole foods - things I would cook with in my own kitchen. A lot of the meals come with sauces to spice them up, and it was easy to add our own fresh accents, like cilantro or parsley, when we wanted to make the meal feel a little more homemade. One of my favorite things about these meals were how fresh they actually tasted on their own - it didn't feel like we were being lazy or eating "frozen dinners". The meals were creatively and thoughtfully prepared with health and a real focus on vegetable in mind. Did I already mention there are NO preservatives? Because that's a pretty big deal. That's how you know it's fresh. I was especially thankful for the Wedding Prep pack because it took SO much stress off of me in the week before the wedding. So much less to deal with, plus we didn't want to buy many groceries just to be leaving on our honeymoon days later. Veestro made it easy! And if you're someone who's looking to stick to a lean, plant-based diet leading up to your big day, this may be the perfect option. To see all their menu options and meal packs, head over to Veestro.com!
'Pantry to Plate' Cookbook Recipe + GIVEAWAY!
Chances are, you've been to Heather's beautifully designed website YumUniverse. If you haven't yet, drop everything and GO NOW! Everything she does is gorgeous - including her website layout. So clean and user-friendly, which makes it a perfect extension of her cookbook as a useful tool for creating delicious meals! Her plant-powerful, gluten-free, whole food recipes are always thoughtfully presented and beautifully photographed, and definitely drool-worthy. Her website is a treasure trove of over 500 recipes, meal plans, do-it-yourself projects, and brilliant e-books. Heather is NAILING it! Her new cookbook, Pantry to Plate, is a testament to her skills as a chef and her creativity in creating delicious, exciting new recipes...this time with foods you already have in your kitchen! This book is teeming with 30 flexible recipe templates plus over 100 recipes that show the templates in action and keep a focus on whole foods and flavor. The book is as much a guide as it is a cookbook, with thoughtful substitutions and pairings laid out amongst gorgeous, hand-painted art and beautifully shot photos. With sections like Breakfast Cookies, Bites & Tots, Tacos & Wraps, and Hand Pies there's something for everyone in this book. I made the Sriracha Mac recipe Heather's shared with us below just before we left on our honeymoon and it was PHENOMENAL! Spicy, tangy, cheezy - perfect.
Heather began her journey into healthy cooking and eating as a way to help heal her body of health issues that started in her early 20's. As someone with a lot of unexplained sickness, I totally understand- that's why I went plant-based, too! Heather keeps it real and is super relatable in her writing and her simple approach to creating meals that appeal to everyone. These are meals I feel like I could confidently cook for my meat-eating family with no complaints. Pantry to Plate is more than a cookbook- its a must-have for anyone with a desire to get more of the food in their pantry, and to stay healthy while doing it. Scroll all the way down for Heather's Sriracha Mac recipe AND a chance to WIN her new cookbook!
Get a large pot of water boiling and prepare the macaroni noodles according to the package instructions.
While the noodles cook, combine the squash, water, cashews, garlic, lemon juice, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, salt, Sriracha, and ginger in the blender and purée until ultra-smooth. Taste and add more Sriracha if you like. Transfer to a large pot heated to low.
Drain the noodles and dump into the pot of sauce; add the scallions. Stir together, seasoning with more salt if necessary. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil if you like and serve warm.
(Recipe from YumUniverse Pantry to Plate © Heather Crosby, 2017. Photographs copyright © Heather Crosby, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com)
My Vegan Bachelorette Weekend!
Hi friends! This post has taken me a lot longer to write than it probably should have, between my crippling anxiety that dealing with this particular event gave me and the fact that my wedding was Saturday. If you wanna see some sneak peeks from our gorgeous, perfect wedding (posts coming soon!), check out my instagram page + story. If you're interested in reading more about my anxiety attack and how I am learning, in an ongoing way, to deal with it, you can check out my recent post on both subjects here. If not, then I'm going to dive right into this post and focus on the good: because that's really how I'd prefer to remember it! It wasn't a perfect weekend, but it was pretty great, and I'm really lucky that I had people there that had my back.
The weekend kicked off in a caravan to Palm Springs and a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum to see the new Jeffrey Gibson installation in the sculpture gardens. Our ultimate goal that afternoon before our AirBNB check-in would be to visit Desert X, his other running installation just a mile from where we were staying in PS. The sculpture garden was really neat, and I particularly loved the amount of blown glass artwork they had - so cool to see!
After the museum we headed a little further into town to the Palm Greens Cafe, one of my favorite places to grab a meal whenever I'm in town. They have a great, super vegan-friendly breakfast, brunch, and lunch menu, plus a board full of fresh juices and smoothies that'll keep you cool in the hot desert weather. My favorite is their Pineapple Jalapeño Cucumber juice - it's sweet, spicy, and super refreshing. We met up with most of the rest of our group at the restaurant for lunch, and texted final grocery and alcohol orders to the stragglers meeting us at the house later. At this point I was getting super excited to see where we'd be staying and to finally head over to the Desert X exhibit. We headed to the AirBNB for check-in, and were a little surprised at how small it was; cute - totally! But also super much smaller than it looked in photos (isn't that always the case?) and a little dingier. But it would do the trick! It was a strange setup - like a house with most of the rooms combined, plus two attached in-law apartments. A strange structure that made for even weirder sleeping arrangements, but it had a pool and hot tub! Not even the semi-creepy on-property manager (yeah, that definitely wasn't in the listing) could kill the vibe.
We split into rooms, my sister and I splitting one of the larger and more personal in-law apartments, and then headed back to the outskirts of town towards Desert X. The exhibit is basically a large house made entirely of mirrors - and it is super cool! Only about half the group made the trip, but we all thought it was rad and made sure to get plenty of cool photos. I mean, we had to! It was incredible to be alone in an entire room of mirrors - which you might've seen behind the scene footage of if you're following my instagram stories. 😉
Since I want to be super transparent and honest with you guys, you should know that I was lucky enough to have some really great brand support the weekend through product donation from the following brands: Dandies, Eat Pastry, Harmless Harvest, YumEarth, Organic Gemini, Tater Tats, Larabar, Ozery, Juicero, Hippeas, NadaMoo and Utopia Farms. I want to give them all a HUGE shoutout for being involved and for sharing their products with us for the weekend. They kept us fed, hydrated, full and ready to party, and for that I am so thankful. I love and support ALL of these brands, and recommend their products for real: no paid advertisement needed!
The snacks made the weekend a freaking blast - and saved us a bunch of time and money. Our fridge was fully stocked - it was truly a thing of beauty. I wish I'd gotten a better picture, but the lighting info ur AirBNB was total crap - lots of shade to block out that hot desert sun. There's a picture of every product on here, but the Ozery + Juicero (in the bottom right of the first photo set) are unlabeled - though were maybe the most eaten products! 😝
We loved using Organic Gemini's tigernut-based protein for our morning smoothies along with some fresh fruit (especially those that indulged in alcohol the night before, haha!) and munching on Larabars all day long between meals to keep us full-time on healthy fats. The Harmless Harvest and Juicero kept us hydrated around the pool, and the Dandies, Eat Patsry, YumEarth and NadaMoo made delicious desserts! Most of the attendees had never tried Hippeas before and they were and instant hit at the party. Utopia Farms provided the medicated edibles - which was AWESOME for me because I don't really drink, and Tater Tats gave us the temporary tattoo entertainment!
The first morning we woke up and everyone was a little hungover - except me - so I practiced a little yoga and made morning smoothies for the group. The rest of the day was the perfect pool day - lots of sun, drinking, poolside snacking, and floating around in fruit-shaped inflatables. I brought along a tie dye kit and we made rad, very nineties souvenirs take home. Turns out you can get a super easy, 30-dye kit with easy apply nozzles at Michaels for like $20. It was so worth it! The evening was a blur of games of Cards Against Humanity, late-night hot tubbing, and some serious dance sessions. We headed to bed late and got up early the next day for our 11 am check out. Everyone was sleepy, a little hungover, and tired of being in the sun.
Lots of long and loving goodbyes later, we were on the road home. I was exhausted from the weekend emotionally and physically, and was so ready to get home to see (my now HUSBAND!) Alex. We cruised back past the Cabazon Dinosaurs and home. Over - a great weekend. My tips? I've got a few!
And once it's all over, just remember - no matter how it goes - you are that much closer to marrying your partner and that part is so, so worth it. A snapshot of the crew below - thanks to all my friends for sharing my bachelorette weekend with me!