A Very Vegan Cyber Monday

As the rest of the world wakes up, the other half has already started their shopping online on this Cyber Monday 2012. From deals to steals, retailers of all kinds have knocked down their prices for all their online available products from 15-75% off! I’ve seen a few deals that have been going on since Black Friday and found plenty of new “doorbusters” just for today’s shopping frenzy. I’ve already completed my “essential Christmas list,” you know, the godchildren, nieces, and nephews. To me, they’re the most important and the ones that you’ll probably get real slack not giving gifts to. So I made sure I took care of them first. Today will be for me and the specialty gifts!


Some may be looking for electronics, some clothing, and most others, toys online. I’m focusing my efforts on the “hard to find” items. Think about it, instead of driving around looking for those specialty gifts (the ones you know you probably won’t find in stores but try anyway and buy yourself something instead) out there in the cold, I just made a fresh cup of coffee, put on my warmest robe, and planted myself in my office in front of the computer to get my hunting on. Even my Pandora app is promoting Cyber Monday deals on its commercials. (No, I won’t get the No Ads App…unless there’s a sale) That’s what makes today the success it is, you don’t have to trudge around in that nasty cold weather with all those unpleasant fellow shoppers. I know some may say that’s what make holiday shopping…fun?!?! I say, “Not my cup of tea!”

Personally, I am on the search for Vegan-friendly products. I woke up this morning and got my daily Vegan Cuts email with all their online deals! LOVE IT! I think I found what I was looking for right away. They had this amazing Vegan Snack Gift Basket with all these different delectable treats to enjoy by yourself or share with your meat-eating friends. Hopefully, they won’t fall in love with them too much! Here’s the Holiday Gift Package that they have on sale for ONLY $39!

Well, plus a $5.95 shipping fee but come on, you didn’t leave your house to purchase this. Fork it over and call it a day.

My favorite item in this package is the Holy Kakow chocolate syrup. I can cook with it along with topping my desserts and making hot chocolate with it. I’m too excited!

So if anyone out there is looking for that one gift for their vegan friend or a fellow foodie, I suggest this amazing syrup. It’s the most versatile vegan syrup I’ve ever found and enjoyed. Made from organic and raw ingredients, this item is dairy, gluten, and soy free along without using refined sugars. If anything the best chocolate syrup for you out there. Trust me, this thing rocks! Once I get mine in, I’ll post some amazing recipes using this syrup along with other ingredients I’ve found on Vegan Cuts and online. Please do the same!

Happy Cyber Monday and Happy Holidays!


Journey to the Garden State

I enjoyed my last two days in Vegas in style! Accommodations by the Red Rock Resort and Casino, I got to indulge in a favorable, however empty, past time! Kind of ironic if you ask me. My daughter and friends enjoyed some fun in the sun by the beautiful Red Rock Casino pool. I tried to absorb much of the desert sun and its dry heat as I could before I left for the humid heat of the east coast. With the help of some friends, I was given a couple of memorable Bon Voyage parties most of which I can’t recall. (Again ironic) Friday night, Sean, a co-worker and friend, was dropped off by a few “unique souls” and joined us for another farewell celebration. I didn’t expect us to have much fun that my goal of departing Vegas at 3AM PST turned into 6AM PST after 3 hours of sleep. All in all, great friends sent me off making sure I’ll be sure to return. By the way, Lily, a dealer at the BJ table we played at was awesome!
With a refreshing 32oz Peach Blossom Iced Green Tea in my hand and a large Iced Coffee in Sean’s, we hit the 15 North revved and ready for this epic trip! My fourth and his first time around, we had the sunrise blinding our view of the road ahead with the excitement of reaching our first destination. As soon as our first 3 hour leg was finished, we realized this desert was larger and more boring than we had imagined. Where are the mountains of the Rockies? We definitely couldn’t wait until we saw that “Welcome To” sign and the elevation begin to rise.

Conversations were definitely had to pass the time and when you have endless dry land and rocky formations, there was plenty of it to go around. We also tried to keep our tunes going but with having only a tape deck and am/fm radio to entertain us, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Before we left, I jumped over to Best Buy across from Red Rock and purchased an AM/FM Radio Transmitter for my iPhone. It was more of a good idea than a reasonable solution. The thought was there. Basically, it only works on stations that doesn’t transmit current radio shows. But with us traveling 100 of miles in one day, every thirty minutes the station frequency changes. It was hard trying to keep the Beatles and Pink Floyd in the sound system for more than a handful of songs.

Through our travels we definitely made sure we caught a glimpse of each state’s “Welcome To” sign. Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and finally, New Jersey were the 11 new states we entered on our way from Las Vegas. By far, experiencing different parts of the country always reminds me of how small I am when it comes to the rest of the world, let alone our country. Kansas was, by far, the most boring state in the country. The same views of rolling plains and wheat fields border to border. Snoozefest is the best way I can describe that state.

Each day we drove at least 800 miles and 13 hours a day. This trip must’ve been the most unhealthy trip I’ve ever taken during my plant-strong journey. Not because I ate crap but because I hardly ate. By the time I ate at night for dinner, I couldn’t help but eat whatever I could and it usually was far from PLANTiful! 🙁 I tried which is all that matters. Remember, making the best decision possible is all that I can ask of anyone trying to live and eat this way. In reality, without proper preparation and 100% sacrifice, we can’t stay strong but it’s about making the best possible choice of food is what counts.

In Denver, we “had” to stop at the Buckhorn Exchange located downtown. The restaurant was featured on Travel Channel’s Man V. Food and was more of a novelty stop than a true dinner experience. So while we were there, why try steaks and lamb, let’s go for the Rocky Mountain Oysters, Alligator Tail, and Buffalo Sausage. Three appetizers and a great bottle of red wine for about $64 with tip. Needless to say, I regretted jumping ship from my plant-strong journey for these delicacies. The bulls balls and alligator were both deep fried and served with dipping sauce. What a special treat…fried food! Ugh! Made the experience a lot worse. Maybe they could’ve served the bulls balls tenderized and stewed in a light white wine broth and the alligator sautéed scampi style. The deep fry of offal and reptile was not easy to stomach.

In St. Louis, we enjoyed three tourist hotspots. Arriving late and starved, we stumbled upon St. Louis Q, probably one of the most unique bbq spots ever. A small shop that bbqs everything on a aged grill in the garage adjacent to the store. Inside we walk into a small counter-style BBQ storefront featuring some authentic eats. What made it unique were the cardboard pieces written with movie titles plastered and scattered all around the store and tv display. What was playing on the tv, you ask? A pirated DVD of Men In Black 3 adorned the screen. Order and watch a movie while you wait. Amazing concept! Just in case, $3 for one and $5 for two. For only $27, we bought a slab of ribs, green beans, baked beans, sliced white bread, and a copy of MIB3 and the Avengers. What a deal! Quite simply, ribs were fall-off-the-bone perfectly cooked and the BBQ sauce perfectly spiced. True St. Louis style BBQ done right! The DVDs weren’t a bad copy either. 😉
In the morning, we planned on getting up at 6AM and leaving at 7AM. By that time, Sean and I thought, “When in Rome…?” We went to visit the “Gateway to the West,” the St. Louis Arch! It was a purely amazing site. Futuristic architecture of the past. It was exactly what was envisioned by President Jefferson for his National Expansion Memorial. For only $10, you can travel 630 feet up into the clouds and view St. Louis from small slits at the top-center of the arch. Totally worth it just as long as you aren’t, “claustrophobic, afraid of heights, and nauseous.”


For lunch, we thought, “Let’s YELP it and find a great eatery! I’m hungry!” I was directed to the Soulard Coffee Garden, a family-owned restaurant in a chic neighborhood with a backyard and patio to offer a great ambience of St. Louis. It was the first restaurant I was excited to enjoy a plant-strong meal at. Check it out if you’re ever there, I promise you won’t regret it!
Well finally by 12 noon, we started our final leg and headed towards New Jersey. Let me start off by saying, “Bad move!” We had a 17 hour drive ahead of us and there was no way we would make it before the start of the next day. But at least we enjoyed what St. Louis had to offer. Again, “When in Rome…!” I didn’t enjoy the drive through Pennsylvania and New Jersey due to the rain and pitch-black road. But we were almost there…New Jersey…home!

4:30AM and we arrive in Lyndhurst, NJ! After 40 hours and 2,520 miles later, we get to our destination. Phew! I never thought ‘Dodgy,” my 2002 Durango would make it but she surprised me the most! Finally, the start of my new chapter in life. New opportunities, new networks of friends, rekindled friendships, and a better life for my beautiful daughter and her gay, single father…we need a reality show! Haha!

[SMN PLANTicious Recipe] Grilled Potato & Onion Salad

I featured this recipe for the first time at one of my Whole Foods Market, Engine 2, 28-Day Challenge classes in Henderson, NV. It was a hit because its amazing flavor that masked the fact it was an oil-less, fat-free, and cholesterol-free version of a traditional American salad. But potato salad is not only popular in America.

Local display of Winnemucca Farms Potatoes and Peri & Sons Farms Onions at Whole Foods Market in Henderson, NV

Throughout the world, there are different versions of this boiled potato concoction that is enjoyed by all kinds of people. From America to Italy and Bulgaria to Brazil, there is a form of this “salad” in their cuisine. Potato salad varies in ingredients but will always have the same, basic ingredients: potatoes, an acid (usually vinegar), and a fat (usually mayonnaise or its counterpart, oil). Then, different accompaniments and garnishes are added to the trifecta. From string beans and red onions in Italy to bacon bits and hard-boiled eggs in the US, there are many things you can add to the potatoes to make it much more tasty.

My version is definitely plant-strong and the healthiest way I serve potatoes in a salad.

Ingredients: 1 1/2# Russet Potatoes (quartered lengthwise), 1 medium white onion (sliced in rings), 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth (I like using Imagine found at Whole Foods Market), 1 tbsp turmeric, 2 tbsp paprika, 1 cup kale (finely chopped), 1/4 cup green onions (slcied), and 1/4 cup dill (finely chopped)…

Mustard Dressing: 1/4 cup stoneground mustard, 1 garlic clove (minced), 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp So Delicious plain coconut yogurt, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tsp fresh oregano (roughly chopped), 1 tsp fresh thyme (roughly chopped), and ground black pepper to taste.

Directions: 1. Bring a medium pot of water to boil and preheat grill to HIGH. 2. Boil potatoes in water for 5-7 minutes or until potatoes are half-way cooked. It will vary depending on the thickness of each potato. Drain from water and let chill in the fridge. 3. While potatoes are boiling and chilling, combine all the ingredients to make the dressing. Dressing will seem like it isn’t enough but it will be. Remember, we want to taste the ingredients not mask it with the dressing. 4. Once the potatoes are completely chilled, toss them in a bowl with the vegetable stock, turmeric and paprika. The vegtable stock is to lubricate the potatoes and cause the spices to stick. 5. Grill the potatoes on the hot grill, skin-side down first. Cook potatoes on all sides until nice and charred, or at least until you see nice grill marks. Grill the onions alongside the potatoes. Once all cooked, set aside to let vegetables cool down. 6. Toss the potatoes and onions with the dressing. Pour the dressing in small batches. You don’t want to overwhelm the salad with the dressing. Remember, its just for flavor, it isn’t the main ingredient. Haha! 7. Add the kale, green onions, and dill to the salad. Chill and enjoy!

Grilled Potato & Onion Salad

 This salad is best served at room temperature. However, I have had it cold, straight out of the fridge and it was still yummy. If you feel the salad is a bit dry, just add a tbsp of the vinegar or the yogurt to revive the moist feel of the salad. The potatoes are a starch and constantly act as a sponge with liquid.

Variations/Additions: I have made this by adding whatever other vegetable I had in my fridge that was going to go bad soon. Remember that my recipes are always just a base recipe. Alter it to your liking and taste, add what you like in a potato sald. Enjoy!

Please post a comment on your variations so we can share with others what we like to do with our salads!

Breakfast, It Should Be Mandatory

It’s the most important meal of the day!

No, seriously, it is the most important meal of any day of any living animal.

Quick breakfast facts:
-It’s a natural, caffeine/energy boost in our day. (Only if it’s a healthy, plant-strong, meal)
-It helps our body to start metabolizing, setting us up for a healthy digestion throughout our day.
-We just came from a 6-8 hour fast, it provides our bodies with nutrients we’ve lacked all night.
-Keeps a steady release of hormones and insulin to keep us on the up-and-up.
-If you bulk up in the morning, you’ll never binge or over-eat in the afternoon or night time when we have the least time remaining to digest the food we just ate.
-It provides kids (and adults) with healthy brain activity to process all that is learned at school. The bulk of school work happens in the morning. Energize your children with a healthy, plant-strong breakfast to be more attentive at school.
-If eaten every day, the less amount of caffeine or energy you’ll need to keep on going the rest of your day.

Last week at my Engine 2,28-Day Challenge at Whole Foods Market, Henderson, I spoke about breakfast and featured three easy and fulfilling dishes that can empower a plant-strong eater each morning. (For specific recipes, clink on the links) I shared Eat Right America’s Chocolate Smoothie which is a “green” smoothie filled with spinach, blueberries, flax seeds, and natural, unsweetened cocoa that is great for breakfast or even an after school or after workout snack. It provides tons of antioxidants from the blueberries and chocolate, omegas and fiber from the flax seeds, and potassium and vitamin c from the bananas and spinach. SCORE! Along with the smoothie, I served up WFMs Cocoa Almond Baked Breakfast Quinoa which is basically a plant-strong protein power bar. It’s amazing and easy to make. Filled with quinoa, hemp seeds and milk that provide the bar with tons of protein, dietary fiber, and essential fatty acids. You get your Omegas and complete protein in this amazing chocolate protein concoction. The best part about it is that the chocolate is not an overwhelming, super sugary, sweet flavor. You get the natural flavor of cocoa, my favorite, that provides us with much needed antioxidants! This recipe helps out the hardworking individual as well. You can make a large batch of these the beginning of your week and have a bar each and every day without all the work to follow it.


Then, I gave them a hot breakfast option. My own breakfast taco recipe. It’s my plant-strong tofu scramble made with Gimme Lean sausage (an oil-less, soy protein meat alternative), peppers, onions, mushrooms, and spinach served with WFM Henderson’s in-house made corn tortillas and their guacamole and salsa. Man, they took one bite and just by the looks on their faces, did not miss the oil, meat, or dairy one bit. Now the sausage alternative provided the dish with enough sodium that I didn’t need to add any other sodium replacer. (As a side note, what I always tell my students is that we definitely want to keep sodium levels below 200mg of sodium per serving but we also need to be aware of the ingredients we put in each recipe. I chose a higher sodium containing ingredient so then we have to watch the sodium content in the rest of the ingredients. It’s all about moderating our entire meal, not necessarily each item) This is my favorite way to serve up tofu scramble. The minute you start making tacos, you forget that it’s made with tofu and what you’re missing from a regular taco, and you just enjoy eating plant-strong!


Those are only three recipes that you can interchange your meal of champions with. The most important thing is that you eat a healthy, plant-strong breakfast. Trust me when I say, it’s my caffeine for the morning. It’s not only your “cup-of-joe” but it’s also a meal at the same time. It’s a win-win! Try it because your body needs it.

A Path That Keeps On Giving


My plant-strong journey started over two months ago. With one Engine 2, 28-Day Challenge behind me and another one on its 9th day, I’m feeling positive about this endeavor. Along with the challenges, I have lost 24lbs (without a workout regimen), my cholesterol levels have gone down 175 points, I have more energy in the morning, and an interest a formal education in dietetics is in the works. This new path in my life has not only kept me on a healthier road but has enlightened me on how I can share this unbelievable “cure” of western disease with, literally, the world.

I love this picture of Homer Simpson because he literally captures what most of our country feels healthy living will do to them. I want to prove everyone wrong! Healthy living will be the only thing that keeps us alive WITHOUT complications!

Over at Whole Foods Market, I’m running my second Engine 2, 28-Day Challenge with another incredible group of people willing and wanting to get healthier. My first group of challengers inspired me to continue to teach others about what I know. But not only did they inspire me to keep sharing my knowledge but also to pursue a more in-depth training on dietetics and nutrition. This second group of mine are continuing to empower me to keep striving to learn more and to perfect what I do best, teach people how to cook in a healthier way than what we are accustomed to. I honestly thank God for being able to work at WFM because that’s where I found my interest in healthy cooking and living.

More recently, I received news that made this journey much more real and achievable. Whole Foods Market offers Total Health Immersion programs for their Team Members to teach and empower them on how to improve their lives and health. I am greatly appreciative of their want to better the lives of their Team Members. That’s exactly why I love working for the company, they care about the people who work for them. Anyway, I applied and was chosen to participate in the Engine 2 Total Health Immersion program this coming spring! Needless to say,


To top it off, guess where it takes place?!?! I’ll be eating, living, and breathing plant-strong for an entire week at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii! And if there is still room next to the cherry on top, I’ll be learning from the top experts in the world’s plant-strong community as well as working out with the best trainers in their respectable fields. I wonder if you can tell that I’m really excited?

On a serious note, the best part about me taking on this immersion program in Hawaii is that I can speak to these experts and find out if this path I’m hoping to take to go back to school is the right path to be on. My main goal is to be able to help transform people’s lives to get healthier, to rid them of their chance to contract a western disease, by teaching them how to live a plant-strong lifestyle. Too often, customers come into WFM searching for food on a list given to them by their nutritionist. A nutritionist that they just met after being recently seen by their physician and told that they have to watch their cholesterol, their blood pressure, or that they may be dancing with diabetes. Now when I help shop with a customer and they purchase everything they are allowed to eat, then what? They go home and don’t know what to do with half of these new, healthier, ingredients. That’s my point. They are told what they can and can’t eat but aren’t taught how to live this new way. Now, no disrespect to nutritionists or dietitians, but they aren’t trained to teach people how to live and cook this healthier way. I want to be able to give a patient or client medical advice, explain why they can’t live or eat like they normally do, then show them how to actually attempt to better their lives by showing them how to cook these new foods and make sense out of them.

When I spoke to registered dietician from the Desert Springs hospital in Las Vegas, that worked with me at the JDRFs Hope & Health Symposium at UNLV 3 weeks ago, she shared with me her complications with what she does. She agreed with me that it’s never a complete path medical professionals lead patients on to. They show them what they can or can’t do or eat, but that’s it. More than likely, the patients go home and attempt to change their lives but without proper knowledge on how to utilize these new ingredients and they never stick to their diet. Or worse, they stick to the diet but in an unhealthy manner. That’s where I want to come in. But not only come in at that point, I want to provide clients and patients with the entire treatment. I want to transform Serve M.E. Now into a “heathy living” service where we can diagnose, treat, and teach a patient to live healthier and keep it that way. And as far as I’m concerned, the only way to achieve these results to live plant-strong!