Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Birthday Dinner at Om Cafe & How to Pack Vegan on a Family Trip

Happy belated Independence Day! I spent the national holiday in Northern Michigan with my other half and his family and friends. And, wouldn't you know it, my birthday was this weekend, as well. 'Merica! With us being the only two vegans in a 7-person party, we had to prepare for a few days being around animal products and having food available for quick meals.

As is our budding tradition, my guy took me to Om Cafe in Traverse City for my celebratory birthday meal. Having visited the establishment last year and fallen in love with its modern, yet rustic and reused decor, I was psyched to return.

Taking a brief hiatus from my CrossFit challenge to eat whole, unprocessed foods (and only whole, unprocessed foods), I threw caution to the wind and enjoyed an adult beverage. In the foreground is a pineapple lemongrass mojito (YUM) and papaya nectar gimlet (ALSO YUM).

Here you see the Greek Plate: roasted red peppers, beets and garlic, cashew cheese, cornichons, olives, chickpeas, lentil walnut pate, peperoncini and rice crackers. If you are in the area, there is no reason NOT to stop by and get this appetizer, even if it's the only thing you order. It's that good.

My guy opted for the Macrobiotic "Long Life" Plate: seasonal vegetables, brown rice, adzuki beans, sautéed tofu, and tahini onion gravy. This got two thumbs up!

I chose the same dish I had ordered the previous year, the Cremini Mushroom Burger: mushroom, walnut, and brown rice blend burger with Daiya cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion, garlic aoli and a side salad. The garlicky-ranch dressing for this salad was out-of-this-world flavorful!

So, there you have it. When it's available (and wallet-friendly), please do try to patronize local eateries who make admirable efforts to include vegan options. Yet, when traveling, it's also important to have other foods and snacks on hand to make sure a vegan doesn't go hungry. Here's what I brought with me on the trip:


  • Sweet potatoes for baking/microwaving
  • Can of Amy's chili
  • Bag of roasted, unsalted pistachios
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Pomegranate-flavored cashews
  • Brown rice cakes
  • Protein bars and protein powder
  • Bags of measured oats & chia seeds (for my overnight oats!) + bags of measured protein powder, peanut butter powder, cacao nibs, and goji berries to add into the oats in the morning.

Perishable, packed in a cooler and stored in the fridge/freezer:

  • Almond milk for overnight oats
  • Carrots and sliced green peppers
  • Hummus
  • Frozen veggie burgers
  • Portions of brown rice & lentils in a garlicky dressing

What are your favorite foods and snacks to pack for a road trip/vacation?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Vegan Ladies Retreat in Bali!

Are you a vegan lady? Do you enjoy getaways to exotic parts of the world with like-minded women for relaxation and incredible scenery? Do you enjoy fitness, lifting heavy shit, yoga, and learning about nutrition?

Then this just might be the best thing to happen to you this year. Christy Morgan (The Blissful & Fit Chef - chef, educator, and personal trainer) and Lori Brannen-Graham (holistic nutritionist & personal trainer) are hosting the first ever retreat for vegan lifting ladies! Located in the mountains above the city of Ubud, the retreat will last for 8 days and 7 nights at the Alam Sari Hotel in Bali (Oct. 18-24, 2014). Featuring all-inclusive vegan meals, 2 spa treatments, fitness and nutrition classes, daily yoga, and numerous excursions to the city and the beach, this trip boasts a hell of a lot of relaxation, culture, and fun.

If you are interested in learning more about the retreat (including prices, all-inclusive details, and a sample schedule), please check it out! And, if you find yourself dusting off your passport and ready to register, be sure to mention Katie of Vegan Noms as your referral. If you pay in full by July 7th, you get $250 off the total price!

Can't wait to see you there. :)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Nuzest Protein Powder - Yum!

A while back, Gena of Choosing Raw had a contest to win some vegan protein powders from Nuzest. Sadly, I was not the winner, but almost everyone who entered received a 30% off coupon for one of their products. AND they sent us a sample! The vanilla flavor was really very pleasant. Some protein powders are overpowering or have a distinct chemical taste… Nuzest powder is none of those things! The flavor was very mild and just sweet enough to enjoy on its own, as well as mixed with other foods.

Using the coupon, I ordered a container of their Creamy Cappuccino flavor. Yum! So many protein powders out there have the same, predictable flavors (chocolate or vanilla, please?). Nuzest has 5: Just Natural, Smooth Vanilla, Rich Chocolate, Creamy Cappuccino, and Wild Strawberry.

What separates Nuzest powders from the rest is the ingredient list. The Just Natural flavor has one ingredient. ONE: 100% pea protein isolate. The others have natural flavors (such as  "coffee" and "cocoa extract") and are sweetened with the katemfe fruit, a West African plant, which is also known as Thaumatin (a protein and natural sweetener). Their products boast being a complete source of amino acids for building protein, being an alkaline food (pH of 7.8), and and being allergen free.

Although the price tag is a bit hefty (500g tub for $45, before tax and shipping), I would probably splurge on their products again, from time to time. It's nice mixing up the protein powder routine and the Creamy Cappuccino flavor is great in oatmeal! Next up: I'd love to try the Wild Strawberry.

If you use protein powders for your workouts, what is your favorite brand/flavor?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Zouq Crunchy Snacks Review

New and innovative company, Zouq, contacted me for a review of their yummy new snack products. These jars feature whole foods such as chickpeas, lentils, nuts, and peas in a new form of trail mix - perfect for anyone looking for some spice! Boasting delicious flavors, these snacks are inspired by South Asian cuisine.

Made from split mung beans, the Golden Lentils flavor was the simplest: crunchy, starchy, and satiating.

The Jubilee Mix provided a diversity of flavors: green peas, chickpeas, cashews, raisins, fennel seed, ginger… the list goes on! It truly is a jubilee of tastiness.

My favorite flavor, Curry Crunch, popped with fiery notes from cumin and peppers, yet also had a mild sweetness, from the peas and peanuts! This was the bomb and I would definitely search for this flavor.

The Fiery Sticks are no joke!  I still have some of these for sprinkling on various dishes… the heat is serious, you guys! But also very tasty.

Thank you, Zouq!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Coconut Jerk Sweet Potato & Black Bean Bowl

Lately my life has been about carbs. Lots and lots of carbs. We're old friends, carbs and me… but I didn't always run with the best crowds of carbs. White pasta, loaves of bread, greasy potato chips, and fistfuls of chocolate chip cookies were my besties. But, what I didn't know, is that those jackasses were playing me behind my back the whole time… the betrayal! The delicious, delicious betrayal.

Starting Memorial Day, I entered the second "Rock the Box" challenge at my local CrossFit gym (CrossFit Copley, represent!). The first round, which took place at the beginning of the year, provided significant body fat loss, muscle gain, and a complete revamping of my understanding (and implementation) of quality nutrition. This time around, I'm looking to pack on some muscle.

So where do carbs come into play? Seeing as we're probably all familiar with the fad diets out there, carbs can often be labeled as the enemy. But they're really not! Not unless you run with the wrong crowd, that is. "Simple" carbs used to rule my life, to the point of frequent omission of fresh fruits (especially greens!), vegetables, and legumes. Cereal for breakfast? Sure! Giant bowl of pasta for lunch? Yes, please! Big sammich with a side of tater chips for dinner? Every day! …What I've come to realize is just how much my overindulgence had been holding me back from reaching any physical goals after which I strived. Spiking my blood sugar, gassing up my gut, slothing me out on the couch, and feeding my cravings for sweets, I was not healthy.

Carbohydrates have been a daily part of my nutritional planning nowadays - when do I eat them? How much per serving? Complex or simple? And, lately: How do I spice them up? Having been recommended daily macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) to follow on an as-clean-as-I-can-eat, whole foods diet, carbs had re-entered my life, center stage! Building muscle requires a lot of these bad boys - er, well, not-so-bad boys.

But one can only have so much oats, brown rice, and quinoa before things need to be kicked up a notch. Feeling inspired after looking through my pantry, I made note of my spicy jerk marinade and jar of coconut oil… and thus, this flavorful bowl was born!

Coconut Jerk Sweet Potato and Black Bean Bowl
4 servings

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
2 tbsp organic coconut oil
1 can (15oz) of organic black beans, drained
1 tbsp spicy jerk marinade
1-1.5 cups organic bell peppers, diced
1 cup red onion, diced
2-4 tbsp scallions (optional)
2 tbsp of your favorite salsa per bowl (to be added before serving)

  • Saute the sweet potato cubes in coconut oil until cooked through - I did two batches.
  • Mix the black beans with the marinade.
  • Layer: sweet potatoes, black beans, veggies, salsa. Nom!

What's your favorite bad-boy carb?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: Vegetarian To Vegan by Sarah Taylor

A few months ago I was offered the opportunity to review a new publication for an interesting audience: vegetarians interested in learning more about veganism. The book is called Vegetarian to Vegan: Give up Dairy. Give up Eggs. For Good. and is authored by Sarah Taylor. It includes detailed sections on the dairy industry, egg industry, impact on health, impact on the environment, how to make the switch, and some yummy recipes to get started.

Within the first few pages, I was impressed by the honest and genuine approach Sarah took: identifying how each person needs to be ready to make a change. Highlighting this reality, I think, really opens some doors to people who may have otherwise felt turned off by veganism and makes the book inviting.

I have to be honest: this book took me quite some time to finish. I read it straight through, without skipping around, and needed to take breaks to preserve my sanity. The first two sections of the book, devoted to the deplorable details of the dairy and egg industries, are difficult to swallow. And they SHOULD be, because that's reality. Each section is meticulously detailed and comprehensive, providing information down to the specific infections that are common on dairy farms and in hatcheries. I learned so much from reading just these two sections - and I've been vegan (and a token vegan who gets questions on the daily about the lifestyle) for nearly 6 years!

The section devoted to physical health and the effects of dairy and eggs was eye-opening. Those chapters clarified information that I had known anecdotally, providing hard evidence and medical explanations in easily understood terms. Do you know, mechanically, how cow's milk affects cancer cells in the body? You will after reading this book.

The environmental chapters were especially mind-blowing… I now can say that I have a firmer, and more terrifying, understanding of climate change - especially just how factory farming has become such a major contributor. This section, as well as the others, equipped me with the knowledge needed to combat asinine questions about environmental issues, as well as genuine ignorance about the issues.

I would highly recommend this book to any vegan, vegetarian, veg-curious, omnivorous, health-conscious, hippie environmentalist, and/or animal loving human out there. A BIG thank you to Ms. Sarah Taylor!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Vegan Cuts Snack Box Review! Yum.

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to try out some products from Vegan Cuts' Snack Box! I was STOKED to be offered a box for review and eagerly awaited its arrival. Look at how much awesome is offered in each box (which has new and exciting products each month):


NuttZo Seven Nut & Seed Butter is an excellent alternative to peanut butter, for those with allergies or just want something different. The Power Fuel flavor includes: cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, flax seed, hazelnuts, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. All organic! Tasted pretty much like almond butter, but a little more savory.

MCT Lean Vegan Protein Blend powder was a very special surprise! As someone who consumes vegan protein powder daily to keep up with my activity level, I was so excited to give this a try. Initially the smell was a bit off-putting (let's just say it smells sour and keep it at that), however the taste was very pleasant. Definitely the most dessert-y protein powder I have tried - kinda tasted like drinking a cupcake. Thumbs up!

The boy and I shared this Almond Chocolate Chip Nii Bar before a nice, leisurely walk. Reminded me of a Lara Bar - super simple and sweetened with dates. I'd like to try the other flavors!

This was the strangest ingredient in the box! Numi teas are often touted as being among the best, most pure and truly organic teas out there. I love their flavors and was willing to take the plunge and try out something different… savory teas! So far I've tried the spinach chive flavor and was not a fan… reminded me of vegetable broth! Hopefully the carrot curry flavor will be better.

This fantastic snack is Vigilant Eats Organic Superfood Oat-Based Cereal. This, in addition to the protein powder, made me wonder if Vegan Cuts followed me around to see what I love before choosing the ingredients this month! I have overnight oats for breakfast almost every morning and was psyched to try a different spin… this stuff is FANTASTIC. There's no heating or prepping the night before. You add cold (or hot, if you'd like) water and you're ready to go. The Espresso Maca Mulberry flavor was to die for… chewy, sweet mulberries with the bitter zing of espresso powder, all mixed into a pleasant oatmeal texture. I would for sure buy these in bulk.

In action!

I have yet to try these Mediterranean Snacks Baked Lentil Chips - they're scheduled to scoop up some chickpea salad in the near future.

This Oat Works Pomegranate Blueberry Smoothie was a pleasant surprise. Usually I am pretty cautious when it comes to pom-flavored products due to the tartness factor, but this was just the right balance of sweet and tart. The texture was perfect, as well - not too watery and not too thick. Very yum!

This Simply Straws glass straw made me squeal! They've always been on my kitchen wish list and now I am a proud owner! Due to me mostly being on-the-go, I haven't used it yet, but it will likely make its inaugural appearance in an iced matcha latte tomorrow morning…

A HUGE thank you to Vegan Cuts for giving Vegan Noms a taste of the Snack Box. Find a link to the snack box and everything you need to know before signing up for your first box of yum on the right sidebar of the blog.

What's your favorite surprise snack?