Monday, October 20, 2014

Blissed Out Retreat - Day Two

Day Two of the Blissed Out Retreat was filled with relaxation and social connection. After a solid night of sleep, I awoke to the now-familiar sounds of roosters and the cooks preparing our breakfast in the nearby kitchen. The spread was similar to Day One and, dare I say, the gf muffins just keep getting better.

Our hostesses had prepared a high intensity interval training session for mid-morning - a perfect start to the day! Both being personal trainers, we were in good hands and felt invigorated to take on the rest of the day.

After wading in the pool for a bit, it was lunchtime! As you can see, the spread is always beautifully and brightly presented:

Clockwise from top: rice with (hot!!!) sambal chili sauce, tofu & veggie skewers with peanut sauce, roasted potatoes with a mild tomato-garlic sauce, papaya salad, steamed veggies, and ginger stir-fried veggies. Everything was so flavorful and fresh... and that hot sauce is just spectacular.

The rest of thof afternoon was filled with lounging in the pool and getting to know the other retreat-goers. Christy hosted a discussion on Meal Planning which provided inspiration to get back into regularly preparing properly portioned, whole foods-based meals for the week.

After the talk I received a facial spa treatment, which was more massage than facial (wonderful!). The building devoted to such services is so peaceful and serene, which put me in a pleasant mind space.

Dinner was another spread of incredibly tasty plant-based foods...

Green curry tofu and rice, steamed veggies, salad, stir-fried eggplant, raw pad Thai, and more sinfully yummy-sweet, fried tempeh.

With happy bellies, we all chatted and unwound ourselves for a centering and peaceful hour of yoga.

Some more laughter and conversation over tea, cake, and fruit rounded out the night.

Tomorrow brings a day trip into the nearby city of Ubud - stay tuned!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blissed Out Retreat - Day One

Day One of the Blissed Out Retreat in Bali has been both stimulating and relaxing. The day began with progress toward conquering jet lag after getting a mostly-full night's sleep and a view of my room and the resort in the light of day.

To be honest, it still felt like a dream! The temperature was humid, but not unbearable - perfect for our first breakfast together in the outdoor restaurant area.

Fresh fruit, a gf muffin, gf bread with homemade orange marmalade and mixed fruit jam, rice porridge with toasted nuts and muesli, papaya juice, and a soy latte sweetened with fresh palm syrup. Great fuel for the first day in paradise.

The morning really began when we were given a tour of the resort's organic garden. Can you guess what this is?

It's fresh nutmeg! We also were shown what wild cinnamon and clove plants look (and smell) like. Also, one of the worlds most beloved products, in its natural form: the cacao pod:

Dewa, our tour guide and local educator on how the spiritual philosophies of the area - which require maintaining balance and harmony - greatly influence farming practices and, above all, everyday life.

Plus, ohmygoodness, look at this adorable baby pineapple.

We walked through the village and soaked in the beauty of the rice paddies which covered so many sprawling hills.

Lunch was served back at the resort, which I ate in between sessions of wading in the pool.

Clockwise from top: roasted sweet potatoes, veggie dish with peanut sauce, salad with delicious & tangy dressing, coriander tofu, rice and a chili sauce with an impressive kick, tempeh fried in a sweet sauce, and grilled corn. Everything was so fresh and tasty - such a nice twist to a Westerner's usual unhealthy, greasy vacation fare.

More time by and in the pool passed by as we awaited our evening event: a cooking class taking place in the home of Dewa, our guide. I have such enormous gratitude for Dewa and his family for inviting us into his home, teaching us about Balinese housing and family traditions, and putting up with us as we worked-but-mostly-watched-his-family make dinner for everyone.

Clad in aprons and knives in hand, we each followed instructions to chop ingredients for our various dinner dishes, including fresh garlic, shallots, red chilies, lemongrass, ginger, and turmeric root.

Have you ever seen fresher tofu or tempeh?! So good - unlike anything that can be found in the US.

Grating fresh coconut!

The outcome of everyone's hard work was well with the wait. All seated together, we enjoyed good conversation, incredible local flavors, and sniffles from the heat from the chilies!

My favorite part, perhaps, were the fresh corn fritters... so crunchy and just the right amount of spice. Please forgive me for not knowing the names for each of these dishes, but keep posted for an eventual link to some recipes for these beautiful dishes.

Lest anyone forget dessert, we were surprised by banana fritters with fresh palm syrup (which is made from local trees and cooked over a stove for up to 5 hours to reach its optimal consistency and sweetness). These were positively incredible.

So many thanks for our beautiful hosts and their hospitality. What an honor.

The night was rounded out by some evening yoga and a final convention of retreat guests before bed to enjoy lemongrass tea, fresh fruit, and a light & delicious cake for a guest's birthday.

Blissed Out Retreat - International Vegan Travel

Hello, all! I'm posting from Bali, Indonesia, at the Blissed Out Retreat. An all vegan, all women, all health-conscious weeklong event held in the hills of Bali, near Ubud. It's been an amazing first day... here was my reward for my lengthy travels - check out this view:

The Alam Sari Keliki Resort is tranquil and beyond gorgeous with its hilly backdrop, warm & humid temperatures, and kind staff. Day One has been a relaxing experience, but let's talk about international travel as a vegan.

My second connection was from Chicago to Tokyo and I lucked upon a shop serving some cold vegan entrees, such as this Vegan Buffalo Tofu.

Unsure what the veg offerings on my 13 hour flight would be, I was eager to have something with staying power as a meal option. Luckily, my vegetarian meals on the plane were almost entirely vegan! I flew ANA and was very pleased with the services on board.

Dinner with an array of veggies, including asparagus, broccolini, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, a single carrot... It had a bit of everything!

Breakfast was similar, but with fruit. (I didn't eat the rolls in either meal - not sure of the ingredients).

I had a 14 hour layover in Tokyo, overnight, and chose to stay at the Nine Hours capsule hotel located at the airport.

This place was so cool! $55 USD for an overnight stay which included access to showers and your own sleeping pod.

It was just what I needed, without any extra frills, to carry me through to my next flight.

Narita Airport had limited vegan selections, but I was able to locate a decent, snack-sized breakfast - including an iced soy latte!

Landing in Denpasar was next, after another lengthy flight, and getting through immigration and customs took about 2 hours... Luckily, the resort had sent a driver and I didn't have to use my fried traveler's brain too much.

My late evening arrival at Alam Sari was accompanied by welcomes from some of the other 15 retreat guests, including Christy and Lori (the masterminds!), who showed me to the last of the dinner buffet before I shuffled off to bed.

Stay tuned for a recap of Day One!

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!