Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vegan MoFo #10: Pure Unadulterated Vegan Food Porn (a.k.a.: This is what I eat)

It's been fun, Ahimsa Lifers and other Vegan MoFos.  I didn't quite live up to writing a post a day about food, but I got a solid 10 in and, let me tell you, I ate A LOT of food.  Here are the previous 9 posts for you to go back and read/drool over:
#1     #2     #3     #4     #5     #6     #7     #8     #9

Here are some of my favorite recently documented meals:

Veggie Grill Dessert Sampler - Choco Chip Cookie, Choco Pudding, Carrot Cake

SporkFoods Heart of Palm & Tofu Crab Cakes

A Quinoa Medley of my own, with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, kale, and raisins

Sage Vegan Bistro's Jackfruit Tacos

A Good Ol' Frankenstand Beer Brat

Veggie Grill's Buffalo Wings

Veggie Grill's Thai Chickin' Salad

Browned Tofu w/gravy, Sweet Potato, and Broccoli in a Pumpkin Sauce

Pumpkin Themed Meal - Brown Rice Pasta w/veggies, tempeh, topped in Pumpkin Cream w/Shock Top's Pumpkin Ale

Blackened Tempeh over Steamed Kale, with sweet potatoes

Field Roast Sausage Salad w/cherry tomatoes and avocado

DESSERT. Fried Bananas & Peanut Butter on Gluten-Free Brown Rice Bread w/melted chocolate

SporkFoods Caprese Salad - Mozzarella, Tomato, & Basil

Veggie Grill's All-American Stack & Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

You can see from the above that I've been living my best and yummiest.

All the best and yummiest to you. 

If You Want to Fly, You Gotta Be Willing to Fall...

A simple concept, yet hard to grasp.

The baby bird being nudged out of the nest, flapping his/her wings and very ungracefully plopping on the ground.  A child standing up on wobbly legs, taking a couple of monumental steps before plopping down on his/her bottom.  A lot of plopping it seems.

If you want to fly, you gotta be willing to fall.  Any other way wouldn't be fair, right?  To just have your way, anything you want, anytime you want it? Come on.  

Hard work + trust + repetition = success.  And not always on the first try.  Very often not on the first - or second, or third through <fill in number here> - try.  But eventually.  Through that hard work & effort. Through trusting that you deserve what you're working for. Through doing it over and over and over again until it's more difficult not to do it. That's how you learn how to fly.  By falling so many times that falling gets old, and flying becomes a more natural feeling/happening.

On the other hand, fear + needing to prove something + lack of confidence = staying right where you are.  Stuck on that branch - while all the other birds are floating through the air. Being the only toddler who just crawls around all the time.  Being terrified that something bad will happen when you haven't even put the slightest effort into an attempt forward.

I've turned a new page in life.  As a kid, fear of "failure" took over in areas in which I wasn't naturally gifted.  For that reason, I never really embraced diving into a pool.  For that reason, I didn't learn how to ride a bike.  For that reason, I didn't raise my hand in class unless I absolutely positively knew the answer to the question.  My fear of falling - of failing, of showing weakness - kept me from flying, from soaring, from excelling, from living how I truly wanted to live.

A simple concept, yet hard to grasp.  But once grasped - what can you not accomplish?  Sure it takes time, sure it takes effort - but you have both, and adding the trust in yourSelf to achieve leads you to the flight of success.

For me, I walked over hot coals without burning my feet.  For me, I climbed a 15+ rope and battled through a mud run of beastly obstacles. For me, I did a headstand.  For me, I jumped excitedly into the world of improv.  For me, I got married. For me, I moved across the country. For me, I started my own business.  For me, I finally got on that bike - at least a decade later than I probably should/could have - and I wobbled and wiggled and found my balance and rode.  

It wasn't until I was willing to fall that I found mySelf succeeding.  To put mySelf in a place of Un-comfort, of discomfort, and accept whatever would happen that time, knowing deep down "I got this.  If not this time, then next, and if not next, then definitely the time after," I ensured mySelf the exploration, discovery, and growth needed to achieve.  And that's exactly what's happened.  

Whether it's something small - like talking to a stranger, running a mile without stopping, trying a new food - or something big - expressing your true feelings & asking out that girl/guy, running a marathon, skydiving - you gotta be willing to take the chance.  With proper preparation, trust, time, and effort, your wings will grow and you will soar.  

I'll see you in the skies...

All the best and yummiest to you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vegan MoFo #9 - Live for Live: The Joy of Raw Foods Part 2 (Choose Your Dessert!)

This one is a dessert test.  It's as simple as it comes.  Three desserts.  You rank 'em from your favorite on down.  When it comes to live/raw desserts, the flavor, creaminess, and overwhelming pleasure are all still there.  To make the dessert experience even better, raw desserts are lighter.  So much lighter.  So you can indulge in a raw dessert and not have to worry about the heaviness in your tummy, the bloat, the yucky "too rich" feeling, the "Uhhh, maybe I shouldn't have eaten the whole thing" feeling after.

Cafe Gratitude busts out the goods and, in celebration of family visiting us in LA, we decided to go for the gold with three of their most delicious delicacies.  Here they are, in random order.  Please comment below with your #1, #2, #3 and why (I'll share mine after a few comments).  If you've already tasted CG's treats, you know where it's at.  If you're just going based on visual and personal flavor/dessert preferences, get your butt to LA and meet up with us for a meal at CG. You can be sure it'll be a taste bud trip you'll never forget.

Contestant #1: Fig & Cream Topped Chocolate Mousse

Contestant #2: Mint Chocolate Cream Pie

Contestant #3: Tiramisu

What's YOUR favorite dessert?

All the best and yummiest to you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Interviews with Ahimsa Lifers: Food w/ Chef Christine Oppenheim (#3) + Vegan MoFo #8

Mushroom = stuffed.
Now stuff yourself with this 5 star dish!
If your life is not a healthy life, why not? If your life is not a delicious life, why not?  If your life is not an easy life, why not?  Well, healthy, delicious, and easy is just what today's Ahimsa Lifer brings to the table.  Literally, she brings it to the table in the form of Avocado Nipole Timbales, Seitan Piccata, White Bean Bruschetta, Pecan Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Gluten-Free Pizza, Stuffed Mushrooms, Fresh Fruit Tarts and Cupcakes and Savory Crepes and... and... whew, sorry, I think I got a bit carried away.  Talk about a typing-induced food coma.

These tasty dishes - and more! - are the creation of Chef Christine Oppenheim, of Veggie Fixation.  If you love food, Chef Christine is definitely a go-to resource for your next meal or two or ten.  She brings out the best in food and will wow you with creative, exciting, mouthwatering plant-based eats - for both the vegan and "omnivorous" eater.  Good food is good food, right?  Well, then regardless of what you choose to eat, this spectacular chef will be pleased to serve you up some spectacular food.

To celebrate Vegan MoFo, I'm so excited to introduce you to Chef Christine, so all of you Ahimsa Lifers can get to know her, all of you LA-based Ahimsa Lifers can connect with her for catering, classes, or other meal services, and everyone can find greater Ahimsa in what you eat every day.

Home field advantage. In uniform.
Chef C is ready to cook.
Ten words that paint us a picture of who Christine Oppenheim is: 
Caring, Creative, Dedicated, Determined, Friendly, Fun, Inspiring, Passionate, Snuggly, Teacher 

When did cooking/baking come into your life? What role does it play now? 
I've been cooking and baking since I was a child; I was always at my dad's side growing up, watching him while he prepared our meals and eventually started to take the reigns. Over time, my creativity in the kitchen developed and I would often use food as an excuse to bring people together. Realizing that my true passion was found in preparing delicious meals for friends and family, I decided to attend culinary school at Bauman College in Berkeley, CA for a more "formal" training. I've also worked in a couple of different vegan restaurants (as a chef, a baker, and in front of house) in Los Angeles.

How long have you been vegan?  What does eating plant-based and living compassionately mean to you?
I went vegetarian at the age of 15, so to reveal my age, that was over 16 years ago! I started gravitating towards a more organic, plant based diet after seeing Woody Harrelson's documentary, Go Further, in 2003, which heightened my awareness of the health benefits eating in such a manner. I tend to stay away from the label of "vegan" to describe myself because to me it has a sense of activism attached to it.  While I am an advocate for plant based eating and try to encourage others to live compassionately through preparing delicious meals and introducing people to amazing vegan restaurants, I am not what would be defined as an activist. I like to encourage people to come to their own conclusions with a little boost in the right direction. Eating even one plant based meal a week is good for your health, the animals and the environment. 

What separates "gourmet" from any other meal?
I think "gourmet" is really all in the terms used to describe the food, perhaps the sauces, the added ingredients and definitely the presentation. A basic dish like macaroni and cheeze can become gourmet with a different presentation. Pasta shells with creamy cheeze sauce garlic crouton topping. Then it's maybe presented with sauteed lobster mushrooms, or tomato and roasted broccoli. At the end of the day though, it's still mac and cheeze. 

How is food preparation different for: meals for yourself vs. meals for a client vs. meals for a group of 10 vs. meals for a group of 100?
Simplicious.  You know... simple and delicious.
Unless I'm recipe testing, I eat pretty boring at home most of the time. I'm perfectly content with sliced avocado next to a plate of steamed sweet potatoes and kale, with a drizzle of flax oil and sprinkle of nutritional yeast, where as I generally amp it up for my clients. As far as the services I provide, for a group of 10, I may do a multi-course plated dinner with appetizer, salad, soup, entree and dessert, where as for a larger group, it may be more along the lines of tapas style or finger foods. As a private chef, I work out of people's homes, so I really don't find myself doing parties that are larger than 25 or 30. 

Tell us about Veggie Fixation.
Veggie Fixation provides plant-based, eco-friendly private catering and seasonal cooking classes, as well as personal chef services to prepare delicious and healthy meals to clients on a regular basis. Chef Christine works to break down common misconceptions that vegan food is bland or boring through the preparation of food that is flavorful, nourishing and fun to eat, to satisfy all palates.

What are Christine's Top Tips on:
Making Food Healthy & Fun?
Find ingredients you like and experiment with them!  Eating your produce locally and seasonally is great for keeping your meals healthy, and giving you fun, changing variety. 

Buying organic/conventional?
Buy organic as much as possible. Since this can get expensive, I always encourage people to, at 
the very least, refer to the "dirty dozen" - produce with the highest amounts of pesticides - when selecting fruits and veggies.

Meals in 15 minutes or less?
Chef C in action. Don't Mess With The Chef.
If you use one day out of the week as your cook day, you can chop all your veggies, cook your grains and beans and any long cooking items so that you can prepare a quick meal when you're ready to eat.  When you're short on time, go for quinoa, pasta or quick cooking grains, simple veggies and focus on a tasty sauce! 

Shopping cost-effectively?
Buy from the bulk bins if it's an option for you; saves you money, allowing you to buy only what you need at the time. Farmers' markets often have better prices than the grocery stores, and if you go regularly and get to know the growers, they'll often be eager to give you deals. 

Ahimsa Quickfire:
Favorite whole plant foods?
Avocado, kale, broccoli 

No cow's milk/cheese needed & I still get my tasty,
gooey, Mac N Cheeze? That's a winner in my book!
Favorite meals?
"Comfort Foods": soups, Shepherd's pie, mac n cheeze, anything Thai

Favorite quotes?
I'm a fan of the Ghandi quote: "Be the change you wish to see in the world..." and Virginia Woolf's "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well."

Favorite resources?
Anything written by Isa Chandra Moskovitz and Terry Hope Romero (; CIA Professional Chef books; VegNews

My dad. :)  Local vegan chefs: Dave Anderson of Madeleine Bistro; Sanae Suzuki and Eric Lechasseur of Seed (they are so wonderfully talented, supportive and inspirational!) 

Don't forget about dessert! Bon Appetit!

Here's Chef Christine's contact info:

Be sure to check out her website, blog, and keep an eye out for upcoming classes/events.  Your next new favorite meal may be a Veggie Fixation!

All the best and yummiest to you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Farm Sanctuary's LA Walk for Farm Animals!

It's that time of year again! In fact, it's been that time of year for a little over a month now!  It's time to Walk for Farm Animals!

Every year, the leading farmed animal protection organization in the United States, Farm Sanctuary, leads Walks all over the country to help raise awareness about the plight of the millions of farmed animals who are abused, confined, and lose their lives every day for the food and clothing industry.  The Walk becomes a rally, a force of good, a massive community gathering to provide a voice for these voiceless beings and help others connect more closely with their values & beliefs (especially when 97% of Americans oppose cruelty to animals).  The Walk allows an opportunity to bring a visual of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, sheep, goats, horses all in an open, free natural environment - living, breathing, playing, thriving. The Walk opens up opportunities to raise funds that go to rescuing farmed animals, providing urgent care and lifelong refuge, and education and advocacy efforts.

We've been a part of three Walks so far, in Rehoboth Beach, DE, New York, NY, and Santa Monica, LA, CA, and are excited for the possibility of our fourth!  Overall, we're excited to raise money for such a powerful, valuable cause close to our hearts.  The Walks started at the beginning of September and will continue through the beginning of November.  Our Los Angeles Walk is coming up just next week (yeeps!) on Saturday,                                                                                      October 27th in Pasadena.

Team Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!/Ahimsa Life Coaching asks you, you passionate Ahimsa Lifers, for your support and to please help us contribute to the animals. A sponsorship donation as little as $1 or $5 is amazing, and anything beyond is absolutely tremendous.  

You can check out our Walk sponsorship page here.  Please leave a note if you contribute so we can say thank you (or not, if you like the whole anonymous benefactor thing).
If you live in or around the LA/Pasadena area, maybe we'll get to see you!  As of this post, there are still Walks happening in Louisville, KY, Atlanta, GA, New York City, NY, Sacramento, CA, Phoeniz, AZ, Austin, TX, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, Philadelphia, PA, and Tampa Bay, FL.  If you don't have one in a city near you or you just can't make it, there's an even easier way to get involved with the Sleep In for Farm Animals on November 3rd.

Since its inception in 1986, Farm Sanctuary, headed by founder Gene Baur, has paved the way for opening the hearts and minds of millions of people to true compassion.  This year, Peter Dinklage, of Boardwalk Empire and other television/films, is the WfFA Spokesperson. Please join Gene, Peter, the thousands of people walking around the country, and, of course, us!, in support and celebration of our beloved farmed animals. 

All the best and yummiest to you.

Vegan MoFo #7 - Live for Live: The Joy of Raw Foods Part 1

That's Live ("L-ih-ve") for Live ("L-eye-ve").

Cooking is a blast. So much fun. Mixing, measuring, creating. Beginning a relationship with your food. Pots and pans and burners. Fire. Warmth. Mmm, there's something about the process of making your food that actually makes it taste better, you know what I mean?

BUT. That's not to say that cooked food is the only way to go. Not by a long shot, mister and misses. Whole plant foods in their raw food are delicious. How much more simple and flavorful can you get than a piece of fruit or vegetable. Their original essence. Mmm, there's something about consuming a food in its natural form that actually makes it taste better, you know what I mean? (And that's not even to mention the incredibly high nutrient quality of live food.)

Whoa, I think I just love food. We can all agree that whether cooked or raw, there are tons of incredibly delicious plant-based options for you always and forever.

Last post was a yummy, cooked pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal. Here's a raw one to satisfy that side of things. And it comes from one of my favorite restaurants, Cafe Gratitude.

I AM HAPPY: Mediterranean wrap with live falafels, zucchini cilantro hummus, spinach, red onion, tomato, cucumber, red chili pepper sauce and garlic tahini dressing on live sun-dried tomato bread

A colorful salad of mixed greens and other veggies with a flavorful dressing + a raw wrap chock full of goodies.  The meal is very tasty, very light, very fulfilling.  Live food, indeed, makes you feel alive.  There are so many fun raw/live options to our cooked favorites.  Check it out if you haven't.  Give yourSelf the gift of life in food.

I just wanted to share Part 1 with you for now.  Part 2 involves DESSERTS.  So be ready - I'm gonna ask you to make a decision.  Start thinking with your taste buds.

All the best and yummiest to you.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vegan MoFo #6 - A Mini-Thanksgiving in October

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for life, for love, for freedom, for everything. Thanksgiving is about family, about connection, about community, about the bonds we have together as human beings. Thanksgiving is about food, about sustenance and nourishment, about fulfillment and variety, about health and well-being.

Why only celebrate this one day a year?  Lindsay's brother, Jon, and his girlfriend, Kate, visited us in LA for a few days, so we decided to have a mini-Thanksgiving.  Another chance to celebrate, an opportunity to, ya know, prep for the real deal in November.  Come on, let's make some food and eat!

Our mini-T-Giving allowed us to be thankful for browned seitan, sauteed broccoli & onions, a mixed mash medley of sweet potatoes, red bliss potatoes, and other small potatoes, all topped with a delicious homemade gravy.

The seitan and broccoli & onions are easy.  We boiled & mashed up the medley of potatoes, added a bit of almond milk and tahini to add to its creaminess.  Here's the gravy recipe:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • hefty dose of poultry seasoning (can't go wrong - to your flavor liking)
  • 1/2 cup Nooch
  • 1-2 Tbsp of garlic powder
  • arrowroot powder/water rue

Add the non-rue ingredients into a pan/pot on low/medium heat. Separately, dissolve arrowroot powder slowly in water - we did about 1 part arrowroot powder to 2 parts water - to create a rue, and pour it into the pan/pot mixture once it's warm (also slowly).  You can use flour or cornstarch instead of arrowroot, if you choose.  Keep stirring the mixture as you go, continue adding to your preferred thickness and taste.

Completing the full panoramic view of our Mini-Thanksgiving meal

We should be thankful for the delicious, plant foods with which we're blessed on this earth! Celebrate the food, celebrate yourSelf, celebrate your loved ones, celebrate your taste buds, celebrate your tummy, celebrate Vegan MoFo!

All the best and yummiest to you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vegan MoFo #5: SunCafe is all it's Cooked up to be. Here's the Raw scoop.

When I am in the mood for some delicious food, when I want a tasty treat, when I need some fuel & energy after a strenuous, grueling 10K Gladiator Run, I know I'm in good hands when I find myself in an eatery voted Best Raw Food Restaurant in Los Angeles and 3rd Best in the World (, 2011).  There's only one place that holds that honor & title - that's SunCafe.

On their About page:

SunCafe is dedicated to serve healthy, organic, exceptional tasting meals full of vibrant flavors. We hope to change the way you think about food in general. Our restaurant doesn't fry it, kill it, overcook it, we just give you exceptional tasting food that's healthy for you!

Featuring both raw and cooked organic cuisine from pizzas to salads to burgers and sandwiches to juices and shakes, SunCafe has a fresh, scrumptious take on our favorites.  Almost every menu item has a raw option, so, depending on your mood, you can get q
uinoa pasta or Zucchini "noodles;" you can get nachos with baked blue corn chips or jicama slices.  Or, if you're a "best of both worlds" person, you can get them half & half, like I did.  Nuts and seeds become the creative foundation for many meals (load on the cashew cheese!), and SunCafe adds extra pizzazz with SunChorizo (spicy!) and Garlic Pecan Crumble (mouthwatering...).  

Of course, you should wash everything down with a Sweet Kale Shake or a Lemon Ginger Blast or Cacao Superfood Shake.  Which is exactly what I did.  Here's my menu (shared amongst friends and family):

The Biscuits and Gravy was delectable and very comforting.

The Sun Nachos provided the jam-packed flavor with a much lighter feeling in my belly (I totally dug the jicama chips.) Holy moly, guacamole.

The Fiesta Burger couldn't fit in my mouth until I jimmied it open two more inches.  My taste buds said thank you.

The Sweet Kale Shake soothed my mind, body, and spirit.  Only four ingredients needed to do so.  Read ingredients above.

I love food.  Food loves SunCafe.  Therefore, do I love SunCafe? Be it science, intuition, mathematical law, or yum-yum-yummy in my tummy feelings, the answer is yes.  I love SunCafe.  Now you should go love SunCafe too.  Throw in 3711 Cahuenga Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604 into your GPS and go.  Bring your appetite.  You're in good hands.

All the best and yummiest to you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vegan MoFo #4 - My Favorite Bean!

There are many types of beans.  I did not know in 5th grade, when, for United Nations Day - representing Kuwait - my group made hummus for our food to bring in, that I would fall in love with the beans we used to make this hummus.  These delicious, tasty, filling garbanzo beans.


They are my go-to.  Chickpeas in salads, chickpeas in soups, chickpeas in pasta, chickpeas on their own.  Chickpeas in their alter ego form, hummus.  Creamy, protein-packed, and fun to play with.

I love chickpeas so much that on several occasions I have dipped a chickpea in hummus.  And then ate it, of course.  I'm not the only one who loves chickpeas.

Chickpeas are so delicious, even my cat, Jumper, loves them.  He may love them even more than me.  I won't roll over for them; he will.  

What's your favorite bean?

All the best and yummiest to you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vegan MoFo #3 - But I love cheese...

I will probably post more about cheese.  A recipe with cheese.  A picture of gooey, melty cheese.  Something(s) involving cheese.

Oh, but it won't be cheese that came from an animal.  It won't be coagulated cow's milk cheese.  No rennet.  No casein.  The cheese I speak of is completely, positively, 100% plant-based.  And it's gooey, it stretches, and it's incredibly delicious.

So, since almost everyone loves cheese, we'll start small and work our way up throughout the month.  Everyone should know that you can enjoy your favorite cheesy foods - nachos, pizza, mozzarella sticks - without the cholesterol or the cruelty.  So if you're not aware of the numerous vegan cheese options, keep an eye out and just know: you're about to be enlightened.  Cheese and vegan can go together like rama-lama-lama-kadingiddy-ding-dee-dong. (or whatever.  I did Grease back in high school, it's been awhile.)

My favorite vegan/plant-based cheese?  Why, it's Daiya, of course!  Daiya comes in three flavors currently (in shreds): mozzarella, cheddar, and pepperjack.  

In addition to being casein, whey, and lactose-free (because no mammal milk is involved!), Daiya's cheeses are also free of soy, gluten, eggs, rice, peanuts and tree nuts (except coconut oil). That's a tasty way to stay allergen-free.

I used to eat shredded animal cheese right out of the bag.  I do that occasionally with Daiya.  Nostalgia, with compassion and health in mind this time around.  I mainly melt it on stuff though.  Everything.  Food, I mean.  But I guess you can melt it on other stuff too.

I love cheese.

All the best and yummiest to you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Vegan MoFo #2: Green Smoothies!

Perfect in the morning, for a wake-me-up/perk-me-up breakfast (bye-bye coffee)!

Perfect for an in-between snack (and healthier than all the processed snacks out there)!

Perfect for you, for me, now, later, anytime. Simple. Delicious. And so good for you.  I mean,

it's GREEN.

Here's my green smoothie for the day:
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Blueberries
  • Banana
  • Cucumber
  • Coconut water
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Throw 'em in the Vitamix and let the green magic happen.


What's your favorite green smoothie recipes?

All the best and yummiest to you.