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Monday, June 30, 2014

Vegan, Gluten-Free & Refined Sugar-Free 4th of July Menu!

Hey y'all! ♡

I wanted to give you, my friends, some ideas for vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free snacks, dips, sides, main meals, and desserts to bring to a party or serve to guests for the 4th of July! I was pretty amped to create a menu full of delicious & creative plant-based items designed to impress. Holidays always get my creative juices flowing now that I'm a vegan.

The vegan lifestyle has really helped to bring forth my creative side. Up until that point, I had just come to accept that that side of me was non-existent or maybe just buried deep down with a key to unlock it that had dropped to the bottom of the ocean floor. My mom was so gifted in art and creating, so it always baffled me how I seemed to lack that quality, but the truth is, I have always been creative, we all are, I just had to find my outlet, which just so happens to be cooking and food. Cooking/baking, recipe development, food photography, food styling, food presentation... they are all truly an art. But I digress...

Anyway... some of these recipes are mine but I'm also going to provide you guys with some recipes from other bloggers, too. They are all certified crowd-pleasers, no need to fear! :-)

4th of July is a day to celebrate freedom with family, friends, food, and fireworks (check out that alliteration!). That doesn't mean you have to slip into a food coma from eating junk though. These delicious options will keep you energized, satisfied and still healthy. Imagine that! :-P I hope you all find something that tickles your fancy below to help you celebrate cruelty-free style!

* indicates recipe sourced from another blogger.


Top left to right: Watermelon Mango Smoothie • Black Bean, Quinoa & Veggie Salad • Sweet Potato Fries
Middle left to right: Black Bean & Quinoa Veggie Burger • Nachos with Cashew "Cheese" & Tempeh Crumbles • Avocado Enchiladas
Bottom left to right: Almond Butter Brownies • Key Lime Pie Bars • Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Icing



Beverages
Watermelon Mango Smoothie
Fresh Orange Banana Lime Daiquiri* (Kathy Patalsky) --adult beverage; use raw coconut nectar instead of agave syrup
Naturally Flavored Water* (Nancy Creative)

Snacks/Dips
Guacamole* (Budget Savvy Diva)
Buffalo Cauliflower Bites & Ranch Dip* (Nutrition Stripped)
Queso* (Detoxinista)
Raw Red Bell Pepper Dip* (Kimberly Snyder via The Wooden Spoon Diaries)
Brown Rice Tortilla Chips* (Kimberly Snyder)

Sides

Black Bean, Quinoa & Veggie Salad with Tangy-Sweet Dressing
Sweet Potato Fries
Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad* (Fat Free Vegan)
Snappy Crunchy Coleslaw* (Gluten-Free Goddess) --use raw coconut nectar instead of agave

Mains
Black Bean & Quinoa Veggie Burgers
Nachos with Cashew "Cheese" & Tempeh Crumbles
Tex-Mex Style Quinoa Salad --you could also stuff this filling in a tortilla & add some cashew "cheese" sauce on top, yum!
Avocado Enchiladas 
Grilled Veggie Skewers* (Love & Lemons)
Ultimate Green Taco Wraps with Lentil-Walnut Taco Meat* (Oh She Glows)

Dessert
Almond Butter Brownies
• Blueberries & Strawberries with Whipped Coconut Cream
Raw Strawberry Shortcake "Nice Cream"
Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Icing
Nutty for Nutella Milkshake* (Vegan à la Mode)
Triple Berry Raw Cheesecake* (Spabettie) --use raw coconut nectar or pure maple syrup instead of agave
Key Lime Pie Bars* (Kimberly Snyder)
Chocolate Chip Cookies* (Healthy Crush)
Light Summer Berry Yogurt Pie* (Chocolate Covered Katie)

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." Nelson Mandela

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Watermelon Mango Smoothie (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

Last 4th of July, I had just gone vegetarian a few weeks prior. We had family over so I was nervous about what I was going to make for everyone to enjoy. I wasn't eating cheese either so I had my work cut out for me. I made brown rice and Daiya cheese burritos and thankfully, everyone really liked them! This year is different though. I really have my work cut out for me as a vegan, but the difference is, I am much more confident than last year in my plant-based cooking abilities, though I still consider myself a novice. It just makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside that I am feeding myself and others outrageously nutritious food without sacrificing flavor and without sacrificing lives.

I was sooo crazy excited coming up with the 4th of July menu! I knew the first thing I wanted to whip up was a watermelon beverage, because let's face it, 4th of July isn't complete without watermelon. This smoothie really, really, really hits the spot. It is oh so flavorful, refreshing, hydrating, and naturally sweet. I didn't know what to call it because it's not thick like a lot of smoothies are. Its consistency is somewhere between a juice and smoothie. I know it will be a crowd pleaser! Make sure to double or triple the recipe for a bigger crowd.

Stay tuned for my next post where I'll list out a vegan 4th of July menu that'll give you some ideas of what you can bring to a party or provide for your guests! :-)

Today, we shine the ingredient spotlight on...

• Watermelon - If you feel dehydrated or lethargic in the summer, watermelon is your best friend! It is 92% water and contains electrolytes, which are necessary for fluid balance in the body and muscle and nerve function. Electrolytes, such as sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, can be lost through sweat so it is important to replenish them by way of food. Watermelon is also high in vitamin A, an antioxidant that is important for strong vision, immunity and skin. It contains antioxidants like lycopene and beta-carotene, which are cancer-fighting flavonoids. Watermelon is also a good source of potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and manganese. [source]

The key to picking a perfectly ripe watermelon is to choose one that has a large, creamy yellow spot on its underside, indicating that it ripened in the sun on the ground for a long time. Also, it should be heavy, firm and without bruises or dents.

Watermelon Mango Smoothie
Yield: 30 oz. / 2 (15 oz.) servings or 3 (10 oz.) servings

INGREDIENTS
• 2 1/2 cups watermelon chunks
• 3/4 cup pure unsweetened coconut water
• 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
• 1 frozen banana, chopped
• Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 small lemon
• 1-2 tsp raw coconut nectar, or to taste (optional - I used 2 tsp & it was really sweet)
• Watermelon wedge, to garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1. Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

"I love, because my love is not dependent on the object of love. My love is dependent on my state of being. So whether the other person changes, becomes different, friend turns into a foe, does not matter, because my love was never dependent on the other person. My love is my state of being. I simply love." Osho

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Easy Quinoa, Black Bean & Veggie Salad with Tangy-Sweet Dressing (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)
































I really cannot stand boring salads. And many salads are, in fact, a snooze fest. That is honestly why I sneak most of my leafy greens into my smoothies so I can drink 'em down in a glorious, flavor-filled (thanks, fruit), smooth, and creamy green smoothie. I wish I could say I love how leafy greens taste and that they make me jump for joy, but I'd be lying to you, and I'm here to keep it real, because you're my friends. But I do get them in one way or another because they're essential for good health. :-)

So, what do I do to spruce up an otherwise insipid salad? I add one of my food crushes, quinoa, black beans to bulk it up and my favorite vegetables with a bangin' dressing. It is still all incredibly healthy for you, it is just healthy and a treat for your taste buds. Some think eating healthy food means sacrificing flavor but I am here to lay that misconception to rest! I certainly didn't sacrifice nutrition to have a delicious meal. Nope, everything is intact here and ready to nourish your body!

This super flavorful and totally non-boring salad is filled with an ample amount of plant-based protein thanks to the quinoa (1 cup = 8g) and black beans (1 cup = 14g). It also contains heart-healthy, LDL cholesterol-lowering mono-unsaturated fats and vitamins E & K from the extra virgin olive oil and avocado. The cilantro helps rid the body of toxic heavy metals, apple cider vinegar assists in liver detoxification, breaks up mucous in the body, which has been shown to relieve allergies, and helps keep the body's alkaline pH levels balanced. It also contains plenty of fiber to keep the digestive system moving and grooving and an abundance of disease-fighting antioxidants from the bell pepper and carrots.

The quinoa, black bean & veggie salad is paired with a slightly tangy and slightly sweet dressing. It's got a bite to it, which I love. It would work great as a side, but it also makes for a satisfying lunch or dinner on its own. You could serve it with a side of asparagus, broccoli or roasted brussels sprouts. Best of all, it is really easy to put together! I suggest doubling the recipe so that you have leftovers/meals for days. I am ALL about that. I am actually the leftover queen, if y'all didn't know (now ya know). I figure, if I am taking the time to make a meal, I want it to last for at least one more meal, although I usually make enough for 2 or 3 more meals. It would also be a wonderful lunch to take to work because it's no fuss and is meant to be eaten cold so no need to bother heating it up. You could even bring an avocado with you to slice up when it's ready to be eaten to give it some more bulk!

Quinoa, Black Bean & Veggie Salad with Tangy-Sweet Dressing
YIELD: 2-3 servings as an entrée; 4-6 servings as a side

INGREDIENTS
For the salad:
• 2 cups cooked quinoa (click here to see how to make the perfect batch of quinoa)
• 1 (15 oz.) can black beans or 1 1/2 cups home-cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 bell pepper any color, chopped (I used 1/2 of 1 red bell pepper and 1/2 of 1 green)
• 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
• 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
• 10 pitted green olives, sliced
• 1 large carrot, peeled
• 3 Tbs currants or chopped raisins or 2 dates, finely chopped (optional - gives it a nice, sweet punch)
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
• Avocado, pitted and sliced, for topping (optional)

For the dressing:
• 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
• 3 Tbs raw apple cider vinegar
• 1 large garlic clove, minced
• 3 drops liquid stevia (or use 1/2 tsp raw coconut nectar or pure maple syrup)
• 1/4 tsp cumin
• A few generous pinches of fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Let the flavors mingle while you prepare the other salad ingredients.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix all of the salad ingredients together. Then, mix in the dressing until well-combined. Enjoy!
*Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

"To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. The more helpless the creature, the more that it is entitled to protection by man from the cruelty of man." Gandhi

Friday, June 13, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread A.K.A "Nutella" (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

I was first introduced to Nutella my senior year of college a few years ago by my lovely roommate. We would make dinner together and have nights in enjoying wine and dessert. She actually used to melt chocolate and dip strawberries in it to make homemade chocolate-covered strawberries, which were uuuunreal, but because we were often impatient and lazy, she had this glorious idea to dip the strawberries in Nutella instead. 

I think the first time I tried it, I consumed half of the jar. I fell madly, deeply, dangerously in love (*Beyonce voice*), with Nutella. Well, now, I have fallen madly, deeply, dangerously in love with this healthier, vegan, soy-free, & refined sugar-free version of Nutella! It is to die for. I've gotten chocolate wasted too many times on this stuff! I even went so far as to stuff it in strawberries yesterday, as seen on my Instagram. The hazelnut chocolate spoke to me. It said, "stuff me in strawberries so I know it's real." What was I supposed to do?? Sigh. If that's what I have to do to prove my love, then that I will do!

Check out the original Nutella ingredient list (and remember, the ingredients are listed in order of most to least used):
sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals (whey), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor

I don't think much more needs to be said when you compare that ingredient list to the one below! No artificial flavors, animal products, soy, refined sugar, or highly processed cocoa powder here. And hazelnuts are first in my ingredient list, as they should be. Be on your way, Nutella. You are not welcome here anymore.

^ My favorite way to enjoy this spread other than eating it straight from the jar. :-P


The ingredient spotlight goes to...

Hazelnuts - If you need a reason to justify eating a chocolate hazelnut spread, the nutritional profile of hazelnuts will give you more than just one reason! They are packed with mono-unsaturated fatty acids which help to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase good (HDL) cholesterol, fiber to help prevent/fight cancer and other diseases, folate, Vitamin E (100g serving of hazelnuts = 100% RDA) for healthy skin, protection against neurological diseases (Alzheimer's) and a strong immune system, B vitamins for energy, anxiety & depression, migraines, and to protect against memory loss. Hazelnuts are also rich in a host of minerals such as copper, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and selenium. [source]

Left: Before roasting. Right: After roasting. You can see they've darkened
& the skins have cracked.
Roasted hazelnuts in a damp tea towel ready to
wrap up & rub the skins off.
Left & Top Right: Roasted hazelnuts turned into hazelnut butter using a Vitamix.
Bottom Right: Final result after blending the rest of the ingredients together.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread ("Nutella")
YIELD: 2 1/4 cups
Adapted from this recipe

INGREDIENTS
• 2 cups raw hazelnuts
• 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
• 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs raw coconut nectar (preferably) or pure maple syrup
• 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
• 3 tsp unrefined coconut oil, melted
• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Move the roasted hazelnuts to a damp tea towel or paper towel, and rub together for a few minutes to remove the skins. You won't get all of the skins off and that's okay.
2. In a high-powered blender (I use the Vitamix), blend the roasted hazelnuts for a few minutes on low speed until a smooth butter forms. Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. If you're using a food processor, it's going to take longer and it won't be as smooth but it'll still work. Allow for 15 minutes to make the hazelnut butter in a food processor. Patience, my friend, patience! It's worth it.
*Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1.5 weeks.

P.S. This would make an awesome gift to give during the holidays. ;-)

"A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there." Unknown

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Review & GIVEAWAY (now closed): Healthy Surprise Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, & Corn-Free Snack Box

Before I get into the review, I have a special announcement! Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Healthy Fare with Claire!!! :-D I cannot believe I made it to one year already! I want to thank you each and every one of you for reading my blog and for being on this journey with me. Your support means the world to me. The sole reason I am committed to this blog is so that I may empower you to make healthier & kinder decisions that make you feel your best from the inside out while simultaneously bettering the environment and caring for the other animals we share this planet with. Please continue to reach out to me! There's nothing more rewarding than hearing from you, whether it's a simple hello, a comment on a post or a personal message sharing your story. Thank you. I love you all. Scroll to the bottom for details on my first giveaway!!

If you haven't heard of subscription boxes where a company sends different samples to you once a month (or less, if you choose), then I am here to enlighten you on this fun and convenient concept with a review of a box I just received! The first subscription service I had ever heard of was Birchbox, a company that sends various beauty product samples to the subscriber's home on a monthly basis. What's really cool is that these subscription box services has evolved over the years, and now there are companies who provide boxes of samples for vegans, health-conscious individuals, gluten-free eaters, and so on.

When I came across Healthy Surprise, I was elated to find a company that is 100% vegan/cruelty-free, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free and void of harmful ingredients. I was impressed with everything I read on their website so I signed up for a subscription for every other month. You can choose to receive a box monthly, every other month, or every 3 months. Here's what I received in the mail two days after I placed my order...


The outside of the box.


On the side of the box.


On the inside of the box.

All 11 full-size samples of snacks (1 isn't pictured).

A nutritional pamphlet with information on 
protein + a nut cheese recipe.







































You can choose from 3 different box options:

• The starter box includes: 11 full-size samples, feeds 1-2 people (16+ servings) $40

• The big box includes: 16+ full-size samples, feeds 1-4 people (32+ servings) $60


• The combo box includes: 27+ full-size samples, feeds 2-6 people (48+ servings) $95


PROS
• The contents of the box are 100% vegan, gluten-free, corn-free, and soy-free with healthy, recognizable ingredients & without artificial colors, sweeteners & flavors
• The snacks are so delicious
• Full-size snack samples
• An informative nutritional pamphlet & recipe is included inside
• Flexible subscription options - you can decide how often you want to receive a box whether one-time only, monthly, every other month, or every 3 months & you can change those settings whenever you want
• A variety of boxes to choose from to suit different wants & needs
• Get to discover new plant-based companies & snacks
• Quick delivery if you reside in the U.S.
• Ships worldwide but shipping cost is higher
• My first box came with a $25 gift card
• Able to order a box as a gift for someone
• Well-packaged

CONS
• Pricey
• Only food samples, not beauty, body or home product samples (this isn't a huge deal, but its competitor, Conscious Box, includes these in their boxes, however, I'm such a foodie that I typically skip past all of the other products & go straight for the food first!)

Even though I listed the price as a con, I still think it is a fairly good value. You receive FULL-SIZE samples of truly healthy plant-based products with health-enhancing ingredients, a nutritional pamphlet & recipe and it arrives quickly. I also loved the packaging and how much effort was put into the whole bundle. These people are truly passionate about their business and spreading the word that healthy eating is absolutely delicious and fun. I highly recommend ordering a one-time subscription to see how you like it! You can always cancel or change your subscription - it's very easy to do so. I love, love, love Healthy Surprise and their mission to promote a plant-based lifestyle that is exciting, easy and delicious!

GIVEAWAY

In honor of my one year blog anniversary, I want to give a little something back to you. Let's get into it! :-)

The contest will begin Saturday, June 7th at 12PM EST and end on Saturday, June 14th at 12PM EST. I will announce the winner in an Instagram video.

PRIZE
1. The winner will receive a Healthy Surprise starter box which will come with everything I mentioned above, including a gift card! The snack selection will be different than mine.

RULES
1. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and "like" my Facebook page.
2. Scroll through my Instagram feed and find your favorite recipe/food or drink creation of mine and re-post it on your Instagram page with my user name @claireblough and the hashtag #hfwcgiveaway *Please do not use a post with a quote, restaurant meal or other that image that isn't one of my recipes/food or drink creations.
3. You can enter once a day. It can be the same image or a different one.
4. The winner will be chosen at random using random.org

Good luck! ♡

Monday, June 2, 2014

Vegan Food Adventures: Los Angeles & San Diego

Fitting in in Los Angeles as a vegan wasn't hard to do! I felt right at home in that respect. I met many vegans and ate at lots of 100% vegan restaurants in both Los Angeles and San Diego. I didn't even get to try to all of the restaurants I wanted to because there were so many and I found several spontaneously that I didn't have on my list. Yes, guys, I succeeded at being spontaneous, which was my goal if you read this post. Anyway, Los Angeles is truly a vegan's paradise! I posted most of the food pictures on my Instagram, so they make look familiar if you follow me. :-)

I visited a friend who I've known since elementary school and who isn't vegan, by the way, so it was a pleasure to introduce her to restaurants she may have never visited otherwise. She was so kind to be so open to my lifestyle. If you're a vegan you know that doesn't happen often or that easily. Luckily, she was so impressed with plant-based eating & raved about many of the restaurants & said she'd definitely be going back. Yay! It makes my heart happy every time a non-vegan is pleasantly surprised with how delicious and fun plant-based food is.

The only real negative was accessibility. It was quite the task to find parking at every Los Angeles restaurant and juice/smoothie bar. You have to pay for parking everywhere. I'm not used to that at all so it was frustrating, but the food was so top-notch at most restaurants that I forgot all about the parking nightmare. Pretty much everything was expensive but the majority of the restaurants and juice/smoothie bars used high-quality, organic ingredients and the portion sizes were quite large at most places so the value was fair overall.

RESTAURANTS 

1. Shojin in Downtown LA/Little Tokyo. Ambience: Casual & romantic. Service: Outstanding.
Shojin won the Los Angeles Times 2012 Readers' Choice Best of Southern California Best Japanese Restaurant. I can totally see why! My friend's boyfriend had the ramen revolution (top), my friend had the dynamite roll sushi (middle) and I had the purple treasure sushi (bottom). We also had the pumpkin croquettes as an appetizer. Everything was delicious! My friend's dynamite roll sushi had too much of a smokey flavor as it had been torched so when we went back on my last night in LA (yes, we went back again), she asked for no torch and it was much better. Mine was wonderful. The sushi was made with brown rice, avocado, tempeh, and had fried eggplant on top with shredded chili and a sweet miso sauce. It is also gluten-free. I actually don't like eggplant at all and still really liked this sushi! Maybe it being fried had something to do with that. ;-) I did go back for a second time which says a lot! I also had the purple treasure for a second time. My friend tried the spicy "tuna" on crispy rice as an appetizer and really enjoyed it. We also had their raspberry chocolate cake. It seriously melts in your mouth. So creamy and delectable.



2. Flore Vegan Cuisine in Silver Lake. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
This was a spontaneous find. A cute, small cafe. I had the B.L.T.A: tempeh "bacon", green leaf lettuce, tomato, avocado, and eggless mayo on gluten-free millet bread with a side of coleslaw. Incredibly delicious all around. I loved this place! It inspired me to make my own version of a B.L.T.A at home. :-) Will be posting that awesome recipe shortly!




3. Elderberries in Hollywood. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
This was one of my favorite restaurants. It's a small, cute place on Sunset Blvd. Really lovely staff. I had the razzle dazzle panini: fig chutney, melted Daiya cheese, avocado, & "honey" mustard between grilled gluten-free bread. One of my favorite meals I had during my trip. Ridiculous combination of flavors! Sweet + savory. I also had the peppermint patty smoothie. They ran out of peppermint extract & used fresh mint leaves instead. Heavenly!




4. Cafe Gratitude in Larchmont. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
We started with the roasted yams and cashew cheese dipping sauce. So great, so great. Amazing on their own, even better together! I had the tacos with sautéed baby squash, pinto beans, tomatillo pico de gallo, guacamole, creamy salsa verde, and raw cacao mole. They were decent, not the best I've ever had (that'll come later). For dessert, we shared the brownie drizzled with chocolate sauce topped with coconut ice cream & coconut whipped cream. Mmm, it was so tasty and perfectly rich.




5. Sage Vegan Bistro in Echo Park. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
My friend & I came here twice. The menu is extensive and so creative. The first time, we had brunch. She had the spinach, avocado and walnut sausage florentine served with roasted potatoes. It was amazing! I could see myself getting that next time. I had the gluten-free biscuits & gravy which was great as well, but quite heavy for breakfast. I knew what I was getting into though. Biscuits & gravy isn't a light meal ever. For dessert, I had the raw superfood "kind kreme" (vegan ice cream) with raw salted caramel on top. It was awesome. My friend had an espresso + ice kreme dessert that she really liked, too. The second time, we came for dinner and we started with the brussels sprouts, summer squash & tempeh "bacon" sauteed in garlic sage butter. To die for!!! That could've been my entree, really. For my entree, I had the gluten-free bowl of soul: roasted sweet potato, black beans, quinoa, okra, baby corn, sautéed kale, gluten-free biscuit, horseradish, and mac & cheese ball topped with wing sauce and pickled jalapeño cabbage. Phew. It was a LOT of food. I couldn't finish it. I didn't need the appetizer but I'm glad I did because it was so tasty. I loved the bowl of soul & all of the different flavors and textures. The mac & cheese ball and roasted sweet potato were the highlights. It could easily be 2 meals though.


 Top: Bowl of Soul. Bottom: Biscuits & Gravy.






































6. Lemonade in Venice. Vegan-friendly but many offerings include dairy and meat. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
This place is quite unique. You first choose how many portions you want - 1, 2, 3, or 4. It is cafeteria style but better quality of course. I had the quinoa, roasted butternut squash and cauliflower curry. The food was just okay. The guava lemonade was good but too sweet for me.




7. Cruzer Pizza in Los Feliz. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
I had the 10" pizza on a gluten-free crust. All of their pizza is made using Daiya cheese. Then I just added lots of vegetables + vegan sausage. My friend ordered the Indian kima gourmet pizza which was really spicy but she enjoyed it tremendously. We also had the potato wedges sprinkled with garlic, melted Daiya cheese and vegan ranch. Ohhhhh man. This was another one of my favorite items that I had. No words can properly describe how delicious they were! My friend kept saying how shocked she was that the ranch was vegan -- "how do they make it taste the same as normal ranch?!?" She also said she wouldn't have been able to tell that the pizza was vegan if she hadn't looked at it, because the Daiya cheese does look different than traditional cheese. It didn't freeze that well so it's best fresh. They have lots of options other than just pizza, too.




8. Veggie Grill in University City (San Diego) & Hollywood. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
We started with onion rings which were totally sinful but so worth it. Yum! For my entree, I had the bombay bowl: herb-roasted veggies, super grains, steamed kale, cannellini beans, cilantro/green curry sauce with coconut milk, almonds, and hemp seeds. Incredibly tasty. Perfect combination of flavors and textures. My friend had a "chickin'" sandwich and really liked it. I went back a second time and had their mac & cheese and sweet potato fries. Both were pretty good. For dessert, I had the strawberry parfait. Now, that was great!







































9. Native Foods Cafe in Point Loma (San Diego). 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Outstanding.
This was another one of my favorites. The staff there were so beyond friendly. Because my meal took a long time to make, they gave us a free dessert. Above & beyond service is what makes me a loyal customer. Besides that, the food was mega tasty. My friend had the nachos and let me tell you, it is a HUGE portion. It could've fed 4 people. I tried them and loved them. I had to compare them to my favorite restaurant in Dallas that serve my favorite nachos and they were certainly comparable. ;-) I had the gluten-free baja blackened tacos: two grilled corn tortillas filled with tempeh, chipotle sauce, salsa fresca, cabbage, and guacamole. Talk about flavor explosion. These were the best vegan tacos I've ever had. I also had the gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip parfait and my friend had the brownie. Both were delicious! My friend was in love with the brownie.





































I loved the cute art work inside!



10. Peace Pies in Encinitas (San Diego). 100% raw vegan, gluten-free & soy-free. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
I had the bliss burger: sun-dried tomato & walnut burger topped with cashew cheese, pickles and homemade ketchup served on onion bread with a side of kale chips. I also had coconut water from a young Thai coconut. Can't go wrong with pure coconut water! Overall, it was expensive for the small portion of food. It was decent. I loved the laid-back feel of the place & the outside seating area.






























11. Green Earth Vegan in Pasadena. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
I really wanted to love this place because it's a family owned restaurant and it has such great reviews but honestly, I just wasn't crazy about the food. I had the nachos and quinoa sushi. I know they look delicious but they were very bland to me. And once you've had Spiral Diner's vegan nachos, the standard is sky high. Those were appetizers, however, so next time I'd try something someone really enjoyed. I would definitely give it another shot because I loved Old Town Pasadena! That was one of my favorite areas that I visited in California.







































BAKERY

1. Babycakes NYC in Larchmont. 100% vegan & gluten-free. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
Y'all. This bakery was everything & more! For someone like me who loves sweets but tries to stay away from them, Babycakes was a danger zone. I really could've gone crazy in there but I contained my inner wild child. On their website, the owner does say that she uses as little sugar as possible, which I appreciate. I tried their lemon & chocolate coffee cupcakes as well as their chocolate iced & toasted coconut donuts. Seriously amazing. My friend said that the cupcake was much better than the non-vegan one she had earlier that day. Woop! I brought a red velvet cupcake back for my very non-vegan uncle and he really liked it as well. They also have brownies, cookies, loaves, and bagels.




JUICE & SMOOTHIE BARS

1. Glow Bio in Fairfax. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
I was school girl excited to go to Glow Bio because the owner, Kimberly Snyder, is one of my greatest inspirations. She is the reason I discovered the healthier, kinder way of living through her blog and books. Even though she wasn't there (sad face), it was still a lovely experience. I was first introduced to green smoothies thanks to her famous glowing green smoothie recipe, so I was stoked to finally able to try it the way she makes it! It was delicious, filling and energizing and the best smoothie I had in California. It was made with organic seasonal leafy greens, apple, banana, pear, and lemon. I also tried her chia seed delight: chia seeds, raw cacao, raw coconut nectar, and almond milk. It was like dessert, kind of like a chocolate tapioca pudding. It was super delicious! Better than I expected. Smoothie cost: $8.75. 




2. Kreation Juice in Beverly Hills. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
I had the orange sunrise smoothie: coconut milk, frozen mango, frozen mango, and almond butter. The interior of this place was really cool. It just screamed "eco-friendly" and healthy and was very clean. There are tons of juice, smoothie and bowl options there. You can create your own but I just chose one off of the menu. Lazy. My smoothie was expensive at $9.67 without any additions.




3. Naturewell in Silver Lake. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Subpar. No image.
I had the coconut kale smoothie. It was pretty good but would try something different next time if I went back. The service was almost non-existent so I'd probably go elsewhere.

4. The Punchbowl in Los Feliz. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great. 
The interior is cute & cozy. I had the greeña colada: coconut meat, kale, pineapple, avocado, coconut water, and coconut nectar. Very creamy. The pineapple really stood out. I enjoyed it but would get something different next time. This place was too expensive! Cost: $10.






































5. Juice Kaboose in La Jolla (San Diego). Vegan-friendly but many offerings include dairy. Ambience: Casual. Service: Poor. No image.
I wrote a review for this place on Yelp here. I used to write reviews on Yelp (before I was a vegan) but hadn't in awhile. I had such a terrible experience with their customer service that I felt compelled to write one. :-( One good thing is that the price was right. Cost: $6.50.

Needless to say, I was floating on cloud 9 in California! The traffic & parking couldn't even get me down and I even got a parking ticket... "welcome to LA, sucker!" :-P

Taking into consideration the overall experience of each establishment (service, food quality & taste, price, and value), my top favorite restaurants, in no particular order, were Shojin, Flore Vegan Cuisine, Elderberries, Sage Vegan Bistro, Cruzer Pizza, and Native Foods Cafe. My favorite juice/smoothie bars were Glow Bio & The Punchbowl. I also loved Babycakes NYC bakery, of course. I hope you'll check these gems out if you ever find yourself in Los Angeles or San Diego, whether you're vegan or not! <3

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