vegan pudding

12 miles/hr

Here’s a fun little “would you rather.”

It’s pretty much the question that most Angelinos face on a daily basis.  Would you rather drive or ride your bike for 12 miles?  What if I told you the cycling route would be a guaranteed 60 minute commute, but you may or may not be in your car for 1-2 hours? 

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Welcome to my life.

I chose the bike.

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My parents are in So Cal this week to see all the new babies in the fam, so on Monday night they took us out to dinnah.

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My cousin joined us too, so when picking a restaurant I opted for one that was somewhere between us all. 

Kyle driving from his internship in Glendale.  My cousin coming from her casa in West Hollywood.  My parents heading north from my g-ma’s in Newport Beach.  And ME cycling over from Santa Monica. 

Final Destination?  M Cafe de Chaya on Melrose for a fun vegan dinner outing!

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I’ve heard about this place from soooo many different sources lately.  Just yesterday I was flipping through the 2011 Best Of LA awards and saw that Bob Harper listed M Cafe as his top LA restaurant choice.  Holla!

Other reasons to love it?  They are don’t use any refined sugars, eggs, dairy, meat, or poultry (they do have some fish dishes).  They have Babycakes NYC desserts.  And the chef used to be Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal chef.  Sign me up!

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Lynn is also a huge fan and she made sure I knew to order the kale salad with peanut sauce before I went.  She’s never done me wrong before and as soon as I saw it I knew she was on the money.

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I chatted with a few employees – asking for their faves and any recommendations.  You see I made a vow last month…when dining out I want to will order outside my comfort zone and try dishes I wouldn’t normally get.  Long gone are the days of reordering the same meal time and time again!  If a restaurant has a signature dish – even if it’s something I wouldn’t ordinarily choose – it must be famous for a reason.  And I should give my taste buds a chance to experience it!  Right?  Right!  Also, I can’t help but feel a bit lame for ordering things I could make myself…that often messes with my head when I browse menus.  No more!  I will clear my head and feel it out in the moment. 

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My meal! 🙂

The kale salad was a prime example of me rolling with recommendations…and it totally paying off.  I wasn’t in the mood for peanut dressing, but it was fantastic (and then some). 

I got the kale salad alongside my main…the Big Macro.

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Whole grain brown rice & vegetable burger, special sauce, lettuce, soy mozzarella, tomato, pickles, onion, and sprouts on a house-baked whole wheat bun. 

And get this.  Since I am “in the know” I asked for my burger “loaded”…which is why mine has avocado and tempeh bacon too.  EFF YES.

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Jealous?  It was everything I wanted and more.  With success like this, I should definitely continue ordering this way.

Kyle got the California Club with a side of sesame tofu soba noodles.

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A triple-decker of savory tempeh “bacon”, lettuce, tomato, avocado, carrots, sprouts & soy-mayo on house baked toasted sourdough (the alternate bread choice is multi-grain & seed). 

And about that noodle side dish…

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Kyle thought this was one of the best vegan meals he’s had in LA.  The portion was satisfying and the flavors were simple yet delicious.  He was especially happy that he could get a real side dish with his main course. 

My mom got the Tuna Tataki salad, which was obviously not vegan but had quite the assortment of deliciousness piled on top. 

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Citrus-soy marinated tuna seared rare, over mixed baby greens with cucumber, avocado, kaiware sprouts, wasabi mayo, and ponzu vinaigrette. 

And on the side a beet lemonade.

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Yes, you read that correctly.  Lemonade with beets.  I had a few sips and it was surprisingly delish.  It was more tart than sweet and even though it was definitely lemonade-y there was also the distinct taste of beets.  Which was (insert shock here) good! 

My dad and cousin both got the Hummus & Falafel Wrap.  [Aren’t you floored that I didn’t get this for myself????]

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Roasted garlic hummus, mixed grain falafel, carrots, radish, cucumber, red onion, sprouts, lettuce & tahini-soy yogurt dressing in a whole wheat lavash.

My dad got a side of zucchini noodle slaw (above), while my cousin got the peanut kale salad (below). 

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Pretty sure everyone was completely satisfied with their orders.

After quite a bit of chit-chatting it was time for dessert.  My cousin’s husband conveniently arrived right as we were perusing the chocolates.  🙂

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My dad suggested we order several treats to share (which I suspect had more to do with his indecisive sweet tooth than his appreciation for communal dining).  No complaints here! 

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The chocolate pudding was crazy thick – so much so that it was hard to spoon bites out.  Seriously, it was that thick.  It was really good though.  Really good. 

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I didn’t try the tiramisu because (don’t think I’m crazy now) I don’t like tiramisu.  Kyle said it was good and he wouldn’t have known it was vegan.

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The chocolate cake was too dry though.  Not sure how long it had been out. 

My choice?  The biggest cookie in the case. 

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I had my eye on these as soon as we walked in the place and when I discovered all the desserts were vegan, I picked my jaw up off the floor, wiped away the drool, and then got a cookie to go.  Since mine was for later, we got two (so everyone else could sample some). 

Truthfully, I ordered it thinking it was dark chocolate.  Then I tasted it and discovered it was gingersnap!  Ummmm…even better!!!!  Any excuse to get more ginger in me is welcomed.  Gingersnap and oatmeal raisin (without nuts) are my two favorite cookie flavors.  Of all time.  And this was a perfectly chewy one.  Spicy and sweet and I wish I’d gotten a case of them for the road. 

If you’re appalled that I didn’t order any desserts by Babycakes NYC, just know that (a) I own the cookbook, (b) I wasn’t in the mood for cupcakes, and (c) I’m going to NYC in a month and have big plans to do some serious cupcaking.  It’s a verb, look it up. 

Honestly, I hardly had any room for dessert, but I still dabbled in a few of the other desserts. 

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Thanks for making the drive and treating us to a great dinner mom & dad! 

The good news about Kyle coming to the restaurant separately was that I got a ride home.  In a car.  Having my bike is great for rush hour, but when there’s no traffic to battle, the commute is far faster by vehicle. 

I would like to give a shout out to M Cafe’s restrooms.  I arrived in such a hideously sweaty state, I was prepared to be on the stinky side through dinner.  Lucky for me, the bathrooms were so nice I was able to take a 4 second sink shower.  Kidding (kinda)!  As you can imagine, the drive home was way quicker than the ride there. 

So have you figured out your answer to my “would you rather” question yet?

Norway nights

Kyle’s cousin from Norway is visiting, so even though I’ve been working for most of her time in LA, I managed to join up for dinner and drinks the other night.

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We got drinks at The Misfit (rapidly climbing the charts in favorite Santa Monica bar/restaurants).  The above is a Gin Fizz – minus egg whites which are apparently a normal component of the drink?  Weird.  The drink was delightful, but got me kinda wasted.  I’m so pathetic.  It takes nothing to get me drunk nowadays.  Fortunately we were off to dinner after that.

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Stopped for photos along the way.  Here’s Kyle and his cousin with the Santa Monica Pier in the background.

At True Food Kitchen we met a friend to make us a foursome.

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We started with two appetizers for the table.  Well, they were intended to be shared.  I ate almost the entire hummus platter by myself. 

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The sardines were for Kyle and Joe.

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I’m a bit bummed with myself for not branching out with my order.  Next time I will definitely try something different.  Not that I didn’t love my kale salad with tofu, because I did.  But I have a bad habit of sticking to the same thing every time I return to a restaurant. New goal: order differently every time I repeat dine. 

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Back home I got ready for another work day and played around with a chocolate tofu chia pudding recipe.

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It’s still not totally ready, but that doesn’t mean it was excellent.  Mmm…

Do you tend to order the same thing when you go back to a restaurant?  Or do you branch out and show the rest of the menu some love too?

Din-Fast

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I’ve been a terrible blogger the past two days.  If you are thinking I’ve been living it up since I’ve been job-less…well…think again.  I can pretty much summarize the last 48 hours as follows:

Couch –> bed –> couch –> bed (and repeat)

I felt like Mama Pea but without the delightful side-effects that being ‘viked up brings (sadly pamprin doesn’t have quite the high that vicodin does…).

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As an homage to my fave vegan MILF MILTSFF (Mom I’d Like To Steal Food From), I made a crack wrap for one of my dinners/breakfasts.  I know, I know, you’re thinking, what does she mean by dinner slash breakfast.  Well, as far as I know, 3 am doesn’t have a real clear cut meal name, so for now I’ll call it dinfast.  This crack wrap contained Soya Kaas mozarella “cheese” and Cedar’s roasted red pepper hummus melted between two pieces of warm and toasty bread.

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Dinfast good.  (I’m kinda hearing a Sesame Street character’s voiceover while typing right now…Vicodin?…is that you?). 

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I only slept from 3 am to 6:30 am, so other nibbles through the night/day/night included vegan chocolate pudding (a pretty legit dessert-disguised-as-health-food due to the presence of tofu in the ingredients list) and One Lucky Duck raw blonde macaroons.

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The yum factor here is too amazing for words. 

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Also, did you know you can order these online?  With an upcoming move, that kind of knowledge is dangerous…here I thought my wallet would finally be safe from O.L.D. splurges…

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Obviously, I was in a chocolate & banana kind of mood…

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Good thing I had the world’s largest banana on hand (wow, that sentence is all kinds of ripe with TWSS potential).

I’ll get back to regular blogging soon…

Drinking on the job

Before you all have collective heart attacks, no, I did NOT get sh!t faced while doing my nurse thang.  However, Saturday night WAS the cardiac surgery holiday party (aka open bar on the MDs tab).  Unfortunately for yours truly, I still had to work my 12 hour shift on Saturday…as well as the next day (Sunday).  Boo!

I can think of about 15,000 other things I’d rather do after work than put on a dress and pretend that I feel pretty while I’m covered in a patient’s ventilator spew and C. diff. 

Oh, and did I mention one of my patient was so unstable she had to go back into the OR?  Yeah.  So while I was putting on my game face (makeup) in the staff bathroom after work, my patient’s chest was being reopened.  Time to celebrate?  Not so much. 

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Some simple math:

12 hours in the ICU + two patients on the cusp of peacing out = so much stress I hardly ate all day

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I did manage to scarf down this salad in 7 minutes flat, along with the pretzels and an apple.  But that was all :(  I always pick the wrong days to float to the ICU!  It was a mad house.  Every single patient was intubated and hemodynamically unstable.  Pretty much the opposite of jolly.  And yet, I still sucked it up and put on a dress and a smile and headed to mid-town after 12 hours of hell.  What choice did I have?  Kyle met me at work with my clothes, so I was def past the point of no return. 

Hardly eating all day + all you can drink booze + awkward social situations with coworkers = the textbook definition of screwing yourself over

Talk about setting myself up for a horrible Sunday shift. 

Being the lightweight that I am, I got good and drunk in 5 seconds flat…but being the responsible nurse that I am, I stopped after two drinks and sobered up before leaving at 10 pm. 

Like last year, it was at Cibo, a cute “Tuscan-New American” restaurant that closed the place down for our group.  They offered a pretty extensive menu, from which we each chose our three courses (app, entree, dessert).  My appetizer was the three lettuce chopped salad with marinated cippolini onions, chickpeas, and a balsamic roast garlic vinaigrette.  Perfection.  For dinner the vegan options weren’t exactly plentiful.  When the waiter took my order, I simply chose the dish with the best veggie sides that I wanted, which happened to be a seared scallop dish.  While flashing my cutest smile, I asked if the veggies were sautéed in butter or olive oil, as I couldn’t eat dairy.  Once I sensed that he was aiming to please (and not begrudgingly tolerating the food preferences of 140 medical staff), I asked if it would be possible to just amp up the veggies on the plate, and eliminate the scallops al together.  He was happy to oblige.  Win, win.  I wish I could have taken a picture of what they brought me.  OMG.  Soggy veggies this was NOT.  You know how sometimes the vegan options are the afterthought of the chef?  The Cibo chef prepared a dried cherry cashew quinoa dish with broccoli rabe and sautéed eggplant and zucchini.  Just for me!  This was WAY above and beyond what I was expecting from a restaurant catering to a huge audience, but that just goes to show you how great they are.  No wonder the holiday party has been at this same restaurant for 17 years!  I bet if the owner of Cibo ever came for a cardiac bypass it would be on the house :)  Anyways, it was an amazing dinner, and I didn’t even have to break into the bar stash that was still in my backpack. 

I really wish I could have enjoyed the party more.    Last year I had SO much fun dancing the night away, but then, last year I didn’t have to work the day of the party or (more importantly) the day after.  The silver lining (if you’re looking for it) is that I didn’t stay long enough to do anything embarrassing or take pictures that would inevitably end up on Facebook, thereby ruining my pristine work reputation ;)  Kyle and I headed out after the chief of cardiac surgery gave his speech…I was nearly sober, but still buzzed enough to agree to take a taxi home. 

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Seeing as I didn’t pack my lunch for Sunday the night before, this Yves vegan Meatless Chili was the quickest thing for me to grab in the morning.  I’ve had this product before (it was a lifesaver when I first went vegan and hadn’t yet started experimenting on my own in the kitch).  I love how filling it is, while still not feeling like a brick in my stomach.  Plus the ingreds are great and pure (no multi-syllable chemicals for me thankyouverymuch). 

After dragging my a$$ to work, the first thing I checked was how my patient from yesterday did after surgery numero dos.  A-OK!  Phew. 

I’m happy to report that Sunday’s shift went much smoother than I thought it would.  Mostly because I was back in my comfort zone on the step down unit (as opposed to the ICU).  But also I had great patients.  Not the picture of health clinically speaking, but total sweethearts. 

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At least I was able to get a full hour lunch break…to play with my food. 

I was perfectly happy – (im)maturely using my pretzels as a scooping device shovel for my chili (amazing combo btw) – enjoying the warm salty/bean combo, when a nice older gent (Hugh Hef older) sat next to me and started chatting me up.  Normally I’m pretty antisocial on my lunch break (with my precious down time, I prefer to zone out with a crossword or book), but he was such a cutie, and happened to pass on some wonderful life advice/words of wisdom (all the while complimenting the crap outta me)…who wouldn’t love that!?  So although my free time to eat, drink, regroup, and perk myself up flew by (and this hung-over one was especially rough) it was nice to spread some holiday cheer.

I should also mention that I was stupidly trying to save $ and deemed this weekend the time to abstain from the siren.  I brought my own tea, but it’s just not the same as the full bodied Pike Place (mi amor).  Not even close.  At least the cash I saved went to a good cause

The rest of my shift dragged by slower than the OJ trial, but eventually I made it home for some grub.  IMG_6169

My dinner snackplate included home-made seitan, home-made falafel, spelt pretzels and carrots.  And as you can see there was a tub of Cedar’s roasted red pepper hummus on the side (and by “on the side” I mean “the central feature”).

If you want, I’ll go into the deets on how I made the seitan at a later time. 

For now, I’ll show you my dessert(s).

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Two apples and chocolate/cherry/tofu puddingSomehow a few apple slices made their way into the pudding.  Oh yeah!

A while ago I won a contest hosted by the lovely Abby and wound up with a bunch of Nasoya coupons. 

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Thanks girl!  I love love love their silken tofu, and it has the perfect texture for pudding.  So clearly that was the first thing I made. 

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Ok, so it wasn’t exactly “pudding” per se since I used frozen fruit…more like a thick smoothie, but what’s in a name?  The flavor of the frozen cherries was barely evident, and the texture still wasn’t quite right.  Hmph.  I have heard avocadoes are key, so next time I’m going to try that…I’m determined to get the magic formula right.

Stuffed (in the hole)

I recently discovered this oh SO Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer.  I am cray cray in love with it, and since I now add it to my java on the daily, I felt the need to shout it from the rooftop post about it, too.  No soy, no dairy, no fat, just pure vegan yumminess with french vanilla flavoring to boot.  FYI, I usually flavor my coffee with NuNatural’s vanilla extract, but since my stash is nearly gone, this discovery couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. 

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This morning I slept (wayyyy) in, but eventually rolled myself from the bed to the couch where I lounged around with trashy tv and a side of caffeine.  My cup floweth over.

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I also had some [me] & goji cereal (which I purposefully soggified and then warmed up in the micro).  I heart mush.  Contrasting the soggy cereal were crispy, cinnamon-sprinkled apple slices (2 apples worth). 

[insert hours of college football here]

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Snack plates while cheering on my Bruins.  Many, many more apples, carrots, falafel, eggplant chips, and kale chips.

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And since they were nearly gone (read: looking neglected in the fridge), I decided to polish off two different tubs of hummus.  When there’s football on, that’s how I roll…ok, ok, football has nothing to do with it 😉

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[insert trip to the gym here]

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Reppin’ the DKB.  Pre-gym fuel in the form of sugar caked pineapple rings wasn’t exactly the best choice.  It’s no wonder I struggled through 6 miles (on the elliptical no less).  No complaints though since I haven’t really exercised since my iPod died in early October.  I think that’s a pretty legit excuse reason to take a hiatus from running, don’t you?  There’s a new Apple store opening this weekend on the UWS, though, so I may have to go shopping (thus eliminating that excuse all together).

[insert Whole Foods shopping trip here]

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Dinner took a while, so I sipped on a Gingerberry Kombucha while getting busy in the kitchen.

1.  Make quinoa, then add in spinach and chickpeas.

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2. Roast halved kabocha squash in the oven (first face side down, then flipped).

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3. Fill the hole to the brim.

(it took all self control not to write something crass there)

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(You can add it to the oven again after filling it if you want, but I like my quinoa cold, so I didn’t)

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4.  Enjoy!

I know everyone in the blog world is all gung-ho about kabocha, but it’s not my fave squash varietal.  Sorry guys.  It was good (and I still ate every last bite), but I think I’m just so used to butternut squash, that nothing else measures up!  Oh, and if you are wondering if I ate the skin, yes indeed!  Every green fiber-ific bite.  The quinoa stuffing was fan-freakin-tastic and super easy, so don’t be surprised when it reappears several times in the near future.

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I had a big bowl of peas on the side because I was really really craving them.  More than I’ve craved any single food in a while.  Kinda weird, but who in their right mind would deny themselves peas when the mood strikes?  If only I always had such healthy cravings… 

Side note: I used to eat peas by the truck load in college.  It was literally my favorite food.  Now I’ve moved on to greener hummus-ier pastures…

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I ended the night with a bowl of vegan cocoa tofu pudding.  Tomorrow is going to be a fun filled day of food prepping for the week (aka my favorite type of day).  I love mellow weekends.