A Search for Great Vegan Food in San Diego

Tag Archives: gluten-free

Uncle Steve’s Italian Sauces

We all know that the freshest, best ingredients are the foundation for high quality products. Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces are proof of this. For someone who grew up on Prego and Ragu (their ingredient lists include things like citric acid, tomato paste, sugar, and soybean oils), really good tomato sauce is a special treat! And Uncle Steve’s tomato sauce definitely falls into the special treat category.

Uncle Steve makes three varieties of sauces: (1) marinara, (2) tomato basil, and (3) arrabbiata.  They are all USDA certified organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and don’t contain any added sugar!


Marinara Sauce:


Uncle Steve’s Marinara Sauce is made from Italian whole peeled tomatoes, fresh onions, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, sea salt, basil, basil, and black pepper.  Quite simply, this sauce puts other marinara sauces to shame.  Its fresh, flavorful taste evokes images of tomatoes ripening on the vine.


[caption id="attachment_2801" align="alignnone" width="360"]Uncle Steve's Marinara Sauce Uncle Steve’s Marinara Sauce[/caption]


Tomato Basil Sauce:


Italian whole peeled tomatoes, fresh onions, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, basil, sea salt, and black pepper make up the Tomato Basil Sauce.  It tastes just as fresh as the marinara sauce but with a stronger basil flavor.  This might be my favorite (I say might, because it’s so difficult to choose!).




Arrabiata Sauce:


Last but not least, Uncle Steve makes an Arrabiata sauce made Italian whole peeled tomatoes, fresh onions, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, sea salt, basil, crushed red pepper, and black pepper.  As the ingredient list indicates, the Arrabiata sauce contains peppers that help give it a bit of a spicy kick!  A great variation on a classic.


[caption id="attachment_2800" align="alignnone" width="414"]Uncle Steve's Arrabiata Sauce Uncle Steve’s Arrabiata Sauce[/caption]


More about Uncle Steve’s:


So who is the Steve behind Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces? It turns out Uncle Steve is Steve Schirripa, the actor, who played Bobby Baccalieri on The Sopranos and appeared on the ABC Family show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager. He is also a New York Times best seller author (check out A Goomba’s Guide to Life, Schirripa’s book, documenting some of his experiences growing up in Brooklyn)!


[caption id="attachment_2794" align="alignnone" width="640"]Uncle Steve's Sauce Uncle Steve’s Sauce[/caption]


After sampling Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces, I felt inspired to make something Italian. And so I found myself making vegan pizza on Friday night. Delicious.  There were no leftovers.  The fresh, light Tomato Basil sauce made a great base for my pizza!!  Next, I’m picturing some pasta covered in one of Uncle Steve’s fabulous sauces 🙂


[caption id="attachment_2795" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Pizza with Tomato Basil Sauce Vegan Pizza with Tomato Basil Sauce[/caption]


For more information on Uncle Steve and his sauces, check out his website!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.


Healthy Creations: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2638" align="alignnone" width="640"]Healthy Creations Healthy Creations[/caption]


ENCINITAS.  I love, love, love Healthy Creations.  I stop in every time I am up in Encinitas.  They don’t have a particularly fancy menu or crazy interior decor.  So what makes Healthy Creations so great?  Every menu item is created with careful thought and made with quality ingredients.  Quite simply, everything tastes amazing.




Healthy Creations always has two home made soups, one of which is usually vegan.  And believe me, they are worth sampling.  The butternut squash soup has become one of my favorites.  It is thick with an almost pumpkin flavor and reminds me of fall.


[caption id="attachment_2639" align="alignnone" width="640"]Butternut Squash Soup Butternut Squash Soup[/caption]


Another great option is the Vegetable Soup.  This is not the bland veggie soup out of a can, I grew up eating.  It is full of fresh vegetables and seasoned with just the right mix of herbs.


[caption id="attachment_2640" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegetable Soup Vegetable Soup[/caption]


Sandwiches and Burgers:


The Sunshine Veggie Burger is one of my staple orders.  The gluten free and soy free burger is topped with spring greens, tomatoes, sprouts, chipotle aioli, and avocado.  Just remember to ask for vegan bread as the burger is usually served on a bun that is NOT vegan.


[caption id="attachment_2641" align="alignnone" width="640"]Veggie Burger Veggie Burger[/caption]


Healthy Creations has recently added a vegan BLT to their menu.  House made coconut bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado are sandwiched between two pieces of vegan bread.  The vegan BLT’s I’ve tried in the past use tempeh bacon, so I was intrigued to try the coconut bacon.  I really enjoyed the taste, and  the fact that the coconut bacon isn’t a processed product like tempeh bacon!


[caption id="attachment_2642" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan BLT Vegan BLT[/caption]


And if you fall in love with the coconut bacon, it is available for purchase at Healthy Creations!


[caption id="attachment_2648" align="alignnone" width="493"]Coconut Bacon Coconut Bacon[/caption]




Healthy Creations doesn’t forget about dessert.  One item that shouldn’t be missed is the mini-cream sandwich.  The cookies are soft and chewy and the frosting inside is smooth and creamy.  I also love their size — they’re the perfect way to satisfy a sweet tooth without going overboard.


[caption id="attachment_2643" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mini Cream Sandwich Mini Cream Sandwich[/caption]


And then there is the Raw Lemon Bar.  Each bar has two layers: a sticky, cakey bottom and a tangy, lemony topping.  This is a refreshing dessert and a great choice if you  are looking for something sweet and light.


[caption id="attachment_2646" align="alignnone" width="640"]Raw Lemon Bar Raw Lemon Bar[/caption]


Drinks and Smoothies:


The drinks at Healthy Creations also should also not be overlooked.  My favorite? The Chocolate Malted Almond Milk.  This is the drink for anyone who has fond memories of chocolate malts from childhood.  Somehow when maca is combined with chocolate almond milk, the result is a rich and satisfying, malty flavored drink.  Mine always disappears before the food arrives!


[caption id="attachment_2644" align="alignnone" width="490"]Malted Chocolate Drink Malted Chocolate Drink[/caption]


If you’re feeling like something cool and fresh, I recommend ordering the Gogi Berry Bliss Smoothie.  This bright pink smoothie is made from strawberries, house made almond or coconut milk, goji berries, and dates, and is then topped with hemp seeds.  The fruit and house made milk combine to make a creamy and irresistible smoothie.


[caption id="attachment_2645" align="alignnone" width="511"]Strawberry Smoothie Strawberry Smoothie[/caption]


Healthy Creations has a cozy interior.  A perfect place to relax and enjoy a snack or a meal.  Customers order at the front and wait until food is brought out to their table.  Healthy Creations also has a “to-go” case with juices and pre-made, frozen meals.


[caption id="attachment_2649" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior Healthy Creations Interior Healthy Creations[/caption]


Recently, Healthy Creations has created a separate menu listing their vegan options.  Now you don’t have to examine the ingredient lists to determine whether an item is vegan!  So thank you Healthy Creations! I can’t wait to visit again soon.


[caption id="attachment_2651" align="alignnone" width="640"]Healthy Creations Vegan Menu Healthy Creations Vegan Menu[/caption]


376 North El Camino Real

Encinitas, CA 92024


Native Foods: 100% Vegan

[caption id="attachment_2533" align="alignnone" width="652"]Native Foods Cafe Sign Native Foods Cafe Sign[/caption]


POINT LOMA and ENCINITAS.  If you have never been to Native Foods, you are missing out.  It is a haven for vegans and is guaranteed to impress even habitual meat eaters.  The menu boasts an array of starters, salads, bowls, burgers, and desserts that will leave you feeling satiated, happy, and planning your return trip!

On my most recent trip to the new Point Loma location, I started with the chili — white beans and Native chili meat simmered with tomatoes and special spices — and cornbread.  I thoroughly enjoyed this starter.  It has a great flavor thanks to the spices, and I enjoyed dunking my generous piece of cornbread in it!  We’ll just say that it disappeared (with the help of my lunch partner!).  Quickly.


[caption id="attachment_2534" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Chili and Cornbread Vegan Chili and Cornbread[/caption]


You can’t go wrong when ordering one of the bowls from Native Foods.  The Rockin’ Morrocan is a satisfying mix of grilled veggies and quinoa mixed with tofu or Native Chicken and topped with homemade Moroccan sauce, currants, and toasted almonds.  There is a lot going on in this bowl, but it is all good!  I love the crunch from the toasted almonds mixed with the sweetness from the currants.  Plus, you end up eating a good number of veggies without even realizing it!


[caption id="attachment_2535" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Rockin' Moroccan Bowl Vegan Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl[/caption]


I have fond memories of inhaling fish tacos on San Diego’s pervasive “Taco Tuesdays.”  Since becoming vegan, I’ve looked for a replacement.  And I finally found it in Native Food’s Baja Blackened Tacos.  These tacos are comprised of two grilled soft corn tortillas stuffed with blackened Native Tempeh and topped with creamy chipotle sauce, salsa fresca, shredded cabbage, and guacamole.  Delightful!!    Native Foods completely transforms the tempeh, so it is soft and tender to bite.  The best part?  The creamy chipotle sauce and guacamole give these plant-based tacos a rich, full flavor and ensures they are not dry.


[caption id="attachment_2536" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Baja Blackened Tacos Vegan Baja Blackened Tacos[/caption]


Native Foods doesn’t rely on typical offerings to prop up the burger section of their menu.  Instead, you will find unique items like the Portobello and Sausage Burger.  Juicy grilled portobellos and home made Native Sausage Seitan make up the base of this burger.  It’s then topped with caramelized onions, salsa pomodoro, sweet roasted garlic, creamy pumpkin seed pesto and mayo.  The full-bodied sausage seitan contrasted nicely with the mellow portobello flavor.  Plus, the caramelized onions were cooked to perfection.  And who can say no to pumpkin seed pesto?  This is a choice that is sure to please everyone.


[caption id="attachment_2537" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Portobello and Sausage Burger Vegan Portobello and Sausage Burger[/caption]


Native Foods has some great home made beverage options that are great alternatives to soda.  Pick from Lavender Lemonade, Watermelon Fresca, or home brewed iced teas.  The Hibiscus iced tea pictured below was a refreshing option.  Particularly, if you are visiting Native Foods during part of a heat wave like I was!  And did I mention that you get unlimited re-fills?  That means you can rotate among the drinks if you want to try them all!


[caption id="attachment_2540" align="alignnone" width="460"]Hibiscus Tea Hibiscus Tea[/caption]


Of course, I couldn’t get out of Native Foods without a dessert.  They are too good.  And for a chocoholic like me, the chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting was the perfect choice.  The desserts are all made in house, and you can tell.  Each chocolately bite was well worth the indulgence.


[caption id="attachment_2538" align="alignnone" width="523"]Vegan Chocolate Cupcake Vegan Chocolate Cupcake[/caption]


Native Foods has a friendly, bright interior.  It’s perfect place to pick up a “to go” lunch when you’re in a hurry or to sit and linger with friends and family.  The staff is also extremely helpful in offering suggestions whether it’s your first time visiting or you just want to try something new.


[caption id="attachment_2539" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior Native Foods Interior Native Foods[/caption]


Native Foods also provides outdoor patio seating with umbrellas.  A perfect spot to enjoy warm weather and relax.


[caption id="attachment_2541" align="alignnone" width="640"]Native Foods Interior Native Foods Interior[/caption]


Native Foods is also a great to place if you have any additional dietary restrictions or preferences.  The restaurant offers gluten-free, soy free, and nut free menus for customers’ convenience (check out the links below).  So enjoy!



Point Loma:

3369 Rosecrans Street

San Diego, CA 92110




127 N. El Camino Real

Encinitas, CA 92024



Go-Lo Dark Hazelnut Spread

At the beginning of March, I attended the Natural Product and Food Expo in Anaheim, California.  It’s a time for companies — both those that are starting out and those that are established — to gather, network, and share their products.  I was meandering around the booths, when I was offered a sample of the Go-Lo’s vegan Dark Hazelnut Spread.  I quickly fell in love.  I then learned that in addition to being vegan, Go•Lo Dark Hazelnut Spread is gluten-free, sugar free, kosher, made in the US, and is free from GMO ingredients!


[caption id="attachment_2308" align="alignnone" width="558"]Go-Lo Dark Hazelnut Spread Go-Lo Dark Hazelnut Spread[/caption]


I’m all about finding vegan foods that taste good.  So I am always on a search for new products.  Especially products that will satisfy my sweet tooth.  Go-Lo uses cocoa powder and hazelnuts for the the base of the spread and sweetens it with plant products.  The end result is a product that is both delicious and difficult to stop eating!


[caption id="attachment_2309" align="alignnone" width="640"]Go-Lo Dark Hazelnut Spread Container Go-Lo Dark Hazelnut Spread Container[/caption]


You might notice that the Dark Hazelnut Spread container in my picture below isn’t full.  That is because despite my admonitions to my husband to NOT to eat the spread until I had taken some photos, I arrived home one night to find him eating it out of the container with a spoon.  Since that time, he has been asking me when I would be taking pictures of the spread, so he can dig in without feeling guilty!


[caption id="attachment_2310" align="alignnone" width="640"]Go-Lo Dark Hazelnut Spread Spoon in Container Go-Lo Dark Hazelnut Spread Spoon in Container[/caption]


Whether you dip fruit in it, add it to oatmeal, use it as an ice cream topping, or simply eat it out of the container, Go-Lo’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread will not disappoint!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I (and my husband!) have.


[caption id="attachment_2311" align="alignnone" width="640"]Go-Lo on Dark Hazelnut Spread on Spoon Go-Lo on Dark Hazelnut Spread on Spoon[/caption]


For more information on Go-Lo and their products, check out their website!

Pure Bar

Big ideas can come from unexpected places.  One day, Veronica Bosgraaf’s six-year old daughter, Anna, visited a petting zoo and decided she wanted to be a vegetarian.  Ms. Bosgraaf perused the grocery store for healthy, vegetarian snacks and was disappointed by the offerings.  So, she decided to make her own.  Ms. Bosgraaf began making bars out of ingredients like nuts, fruit, and brown rice protein.  The bars were well received both by her family and the community, and Pure Organic Bars were born.

It’s not hard to see why Pure Organic Bars quickly fly off of supermarket shelves.  The bars are certified organic, vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO verified, and with flavors like Wild Blueberry, Cherry Cashew, and Chocolate Brownie, there is bar everyone is sure to love!  Most recently, Pure Bar debuted two new flavors: (1) Peanut Butter Chocolate and (2) Cashew Coconut.


[caption id="attachment_2266" align="alignnone" width="640"]Pure Bars Pure Bars[/caption]


Pure Bar: Peanut Butter Chocolate


The Peanut Butter Chocolate bar is part of Pure Bar’s Ancient Grain’s line (it’s made with a base of quinoa, amaranth, flax seeds, and hemp).  With a delicious peanut butter and chocolatey crunch and just 160 calories and 5 grams of protein, there’s no need to feel guilty after eating one!


[caption id="attachment_2267" align="alignnone" width="640"]Peanut Butter Chocolate Pure Bar Peanut Butter Chocolate Pure Bar[/caption]


Pure Bar: Cashew Coconut


Pure Bar found a unique plant protein source, the Sacha Inchi seed, when creating the Cashew Coconut flavor.  The Sacha Inchi seed is full of omega-3’s, protein, and fiber and was first cultivated by the Incas in Peru over 3,000 years a go.   The seed is thought to have a wide range of health benefits which  include promoting brain and bone health, easing joint pain, preventing premature aging,  improving vision and eye health, encouraging healthy skin and hair, and curbing free radical damage.  That’s a lot for one seed!  Click here to learn more about Sacha Inchi seed!

Bite into this bar and enjoy the creamy, smooth coconut taste.  The bar clocks in at 190 calories with 5 grams of protein.  A great, healthy, on-the-go snack!


[caption id="attachment_2268" align="alignnone" width="559"]Coconut Pure Bar Coconut Pure Bar[/caption]


To learn more about Pure Bar and their other great products (fruit and veggie strips anyone?), check out their website!


Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss

Coconut Bliss proves that vegan ice cream is as good (or in my opinion better!) than the dairy options out there. This Oregon based company has created a delicious array of creamy, coconut milk based ice cream flavors (and ice cream bars!!) that are vegan, soy free, and gluten-free.  And with flavors like Chocolate Walnut Brownie, Mint Galactica, and Cherry Amaretto, there is sure to be something that appeals to everyone.


[caption id="attachment_2134" align="alignnone" width="640"]Coconut Bliss Ice Cream Pints and Bars Coconut Bliss Ice Cream Pints and Bars[/caption]


Coconut Bliss Ingredients?


Coconut Bliss has a strong commitment to using quality ingredients.  Each flavor is made from a base of organic coconut milk (from Thailand) and organic agave (from Jalisco, Mexico).  Coconut Bliss uses certified fair trade sources for their vanilla, cocoa, dark chocolate, and coffee.  The organic hazelnuts for the Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge are grown in Oregon, and the almonds in Naked Almond Fudge come from California.  Want to know more about the ingredients or nutritional information for a specific flavor?  Click here!!


[caption id="attachment_2136" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mocha Maca Coconut Bliss Mocha Maca Coconut Bliss[/caption]


The Coconut Bliss Story


As with most awesome vegan companies, Coconut Bliss has a great story.  The co-founders, Luna and Larry, had always loved ice cream but were unhappy with how dairy ice cream was made and how it made their bodies feel.  They tried the available soy and rice based ice creams but were not satisfied.  So in 2004, Luna and Larry took matters into their own hands.  They bought a hand-cranked ice cream machine at Goodwill for $1.50, and they made their first batch of coconut milk ice cream.  Soon, they were having weekly ice cream tasting parties for their friends.  Among their guests were two local shop owners who asked Luna and Larry to make Coconut Bliss for their stores.  Now Coconut Bliss can be found in thousands of natural food stores and supermarkets around the country!  Want to find a store that sells Coconut Bliss? Just use their store locator!


[caption id="attachment_2137" align="alignnone" width="507"]Mocha Maca in Ice Cream Glass Mocha Maca in Ice Cream Glass[/caption]


Other Reasons to Love Coconut Bliss


Coconut Bliss also sounds like an incredibly fun place to work.  In 2010, the company moved to a 100 year old plus farmhouse and have someone who comes in 3 days a week to prepare vegan, organic lunches for their employees!  They also offer a “biker’s incentive” to staff who regularly use their bicycles as transportation, and they buy CSA shares together.  Maybe it’s time to move to Eugene, Oregon, so I can apply for a job!


If you still have questions about Coconut Bliss, chances are the answers can be found on their extensive  FAQ page.


[caption id="attachment_2140" align="alignnone" width="640"]Variety of Coconut Bliss Variety of Coconut Bliss[/caption]

Rejuvenative Foods Raw Sauerkraut

Have you ever tried quality sauerkraut?  Not the kind you find as a condiment on bratwurst in a football stadium.  I mean the real home made type made from fermented cabbage that adds a deliciously pungent flavor to foods?  If the answer is no, you have been missing out on a great tasting food that has some amazing health benefits.


[caption id="attachment_1967" align="alignnone" width="631"]Rejuvenative Foods Raw Sauerkraut Rejuvenative Foods Raw Sauerkraut[/caption]


History of Sauerkraut


Sauerkraut is German for “sour cabbage.”  It’s believed that laborers working on the Great Wall of China over 2,000 years a go first to made sauerkraut by fermenting shredded cabbage in rice wine.  A thousand years later, Ghengis Khan introduced sauerkraut to Europe as part of his empire’s expansion.  Later, seamen (including Captain James Cook) relied on sauerkraut to prevent scurvy in sailors during long sea voyages.  For more information on the history of sauerkraut click on:



How Does Cabbage Become Sauerkraut?


Sauerkraut is made by finely shredding cabbage, layering the cabbage with salt, and leaving the mixture to ferment.  The naturally occurring air-borne bacteria on the cabbage start the fermentation process.  Different bacteria thrive and multiply as sugars are broken down, and the environment becomes increasingly acidic.  There are many more details on fermentation that can be found at:



[caption id="attachment_1968" align="alignnone" width="640"]Open Rejuvenative Foods Raw Sauerkraut Open Rejuvenative Foods Raw Sauerkraut[/caption]


Why Should I Eat Sauerkraut?


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines probiotics as “living microorganisms that provide a health benefit to the host when ingested in adequate amounts.”  More simply, probiotics are beneficial bacteria.  In fact, they are an important part of a healthy digestive tract.  Probiotics have a wide range of health benefits including: managing weight, lowering “bad” cholesterol, decreasing allergies, managing Type 2 diabetes, combating anxiety and depression, and more!  To learn more about probiotics, check out the following links:




[caption id="attachment_1971" align="alignnone" width="640"]Rejuvenative Foods Raw Sauerkraut on Spoon Rejuvenative Foods Raw Sauerkraut on Spoon[/caption]


Rejuvenative Raw Sauerkraut


Rejuvenative Sauerkraut is made from cultured cabbage and is a raw, gluten, free, vegan, and non-GMO food.  Rejuvenative Sauerkraut is never heated or pasteurized.  (Most commercially available sauerkraut is heated which kills the naturally occurring enzymes and beneficial bacteria that are vital for the digestive process.) Most importantly, it is tastey!  If I knew sauerkraut could taste this good, I would have been adding it to all of my favorite dishes.  Check out the Rejuvenative website for more information on their sauerkraut and other great products!



Love bananas?  Then it’s time to try Barnana’s chewy banana bites.  Barnana dehydrates organic, bite-sized pieces of bananas to create a vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free snack.  The best part is that bananas have a ton of health benefits — they are high in fiber and potassium, protect against muscle cramps, and aid in digestion.   To learn more about the benefits of eating bananas, check out the link below:



[caption id="attachment_1838" align="alignnone" width="640"]Original and Chocolate Barnanas Original and Chocolate Barnanas[/caption]


Original Barnanas


[caption id="attachment_1844" align="alignnone" width="640"]Original Barnana Original Barnana[/caption]


The ingredient list for Original Barnanas simply reads: “Organic Bananas.”  Each Original piece is chewy and sweet– the natural banana sugars slightly concentrated from the dehydration process.  They’re perfect for a snack any time of day.  Remember that the browning of the pieces is natural.  After all, Barnana doesn’t use preservatives or chemicals to artificially keep the bites yellow!


[caption id="attachment_1840" align="alignnone" width="640"]Close Up of Original Barnana Close Up of Original Barnana[/caption]


Chocolate Barnanas


[caption id="attachment_1841" align="alignnone" width="581"]Chocolate Barnana Chocolate Barnana[/caption]


Barnana takes it up a notch by dunking the Original Barnana in chocolate.   Chocolate + banana = bliss.  I would venture to say it is impossible to eat just one of these bites.  In fact, the bag pictured is actually the SECOND bag I purchased.  My boyfriend ate the first bag, before I could take photos!


[caption id="attachment_1842" align="alignnone" width="640"]Close Up of Chocolate Barnana Close Up of Chocolate Barnana[/caption]


I’m not the only one impressed with the Chocolate Barnanas.  In 2012, VegNews listed the chocolate bites in their “This Week’s Must-Have” section stating they would “make the perfect addition to any backpacking snack pack or campfire menu.”  For the full review, click on the link below:



Ready to try some Barnanas? They can be purchased from Amazon!



For more information on Barnana, check out their website at:


Vegan Brownies

I am a brownie lover.  I am a brownie lover who has (until recently!) shied away from making vegan brownies.  Why?  They final results are often dry, tasteless, and crumbly.

So, when I walked into my vegan cooking class and my teacher, Liz Gary, announced the group of recipes for the day would include vegan brownies (which were also gluten-free), I knew I had to be assigned to the brownie group.  We used the recipe from BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna.  This was my first time using a recipe from the BabyCakes cookbook.  After making these brownies, it is high on my list to purchase!



First, we gathered the ingredients…


[caption id="attachment_1213" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Brownie Ingredients Vegan Brownie Ingredients[/caption]


Including the apple sauce that would ensure the brownies were moist!


[caption id="attachment_1819" align="alignnone" width="300"]Apple Sauce Apple Sauce[/caption]


The dry ingredients went in the bowl first.  I would recommend taking a moment to smell the cocoa powder! YUM!


[caption id="attachment_1212" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Brownie Dry Ingredients Vegan Brownie Dry Ingredients[/caption]


Then add the wet ingredients.


[caption id="attachment_1820" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mixing Vegan Brownie Ingredients Together Mixing Vegan Brownie Ingredients Together[/caption]


And mix together.  Looking at this picture of the vegan brownie batter is making my mouth water right now!


[caption id="attachment_1824" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Brownie Batter Vegan Brownie Batter[/caption]


The only thing better than brownies? Brownies with chocolate chips!


[caption id="attachment_1830" align="alignnone" width="640"]Brownie Batter with Chocolate Chips Brownie Batter with Chocolate Chips[/caption]


Once the chocolate chips were mixed in, it was time to pour the batter into the pan.


[caption id="attachment_1825" align="alignnone" width="640"]Pouring Vegan Brownie Batter into Pan Pouring Vegan Brownie Batter into Pan[/caption]


Spread the batter evenly.  I was happy my class made a double batch of these brownies, because I had a feeling they were going to go fast!


[caption id="attachment_1826" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Brownie Batter in Pan Vegan Brownie Batter in Pan[/caption]


The brownies went in the oven, and soon aromas of baked chocolate were wafting through the kitchen.  Heavenly.


[caption id="attachment_1827" align="alignnone" width="640"]Baked Vegan Brownies Baked Vegan Brownies[/caption]


The brownies were soft, moist, melt in your mouth, chocolate bombs.  I’m thrilled that I have a “go to” recipe for vegan brownies.  They will definitely be in my rotation for potlucks and dinner parties.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Happy baking!


[caption id="attachment_1828" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Brownie Topped with Cashew Cream Vegan Brownie Topped with Cashew Cream[/caption]


Vegan Brownies
  • 1 cup garbonzo/fava bean flour
  • ¼ cup potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • ½ cup coffee
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Grease pan with coconut oil.
  3. In bowl mix together garbonzo/fava bean flour, potato starch, arrowroot, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt.
  4. Mix in chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into 9 x 13 pan.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Brownies are done when toothpick in center comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool. Serve immediately or store in airtight container.


Good On Ya Breakfast Bar

We all eat on the go.  Despite efforts to plan meals, at some point we all find ourselves grabbing something as we head out the door.  My “go to” snack is often a Good On Ya Breakfast Bar.  Why?  I love the taste, and I recognize every organic, vegan ingredient listed on the nutrition panel.

Kristen Buchanan, a former Olympic athlete, founded Good On Ya in 2001.  The company is dedicated to creating quality products.  Good On Ya lives by its motto, “every ingredient matters.”  All of the ingredients used in the Good On Ya Breakfast Bar are organic and non-GMO.  The bars are also free from gluten, soy, and dairy.

To learn more about Kristen Buchanan and Good On Ya, read the following link:



[caption id="attachment_1639" align="alignnone" width="640"]Good On Ya Bar Out of Package Good On Ya Bar Out of Package[/caption]


So what exactly is in the Good On Ya Breakfast Bar?  Raw hemp seeds, raisins, maple syrup, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate, sprouted flax, Brazil nuts, unfiltered olive oil, ground vanilla pods, and Celtic sea salt.   The breakfast bar is moist with contrasting sweet and salty flavors.  I always feel satisfied and happy after I finish a bar.


[caption id="attachment_1640" align="alignnone" width="640"]Good On Ya Breakfast Bar Good On Ya Breakfast Bar[/caption]


The Good On Ya Bar comes in multiple flavors.  However, be aware that the Breakfast Bar is the only flavor that is vegan (the other flavors use honey).



For more information about Good On Ya check out their website:




If you think Nutella is the best spread out there, you obviously haven’t tried Rawmio’s nut butters.  Rawmio specializes in stone ground almond and hazelnut butters that are certified organic, vegan, raw, and gluten-free.  Theses nut butters are decadent treats that come in 3 varieties: silk, original, and crunch.


[caption id="attachment_1555" align="alignnone" width="640"]Lined Up Rawmio Nut Butters Lined Up Rawmio Nut Butters[/caption]


Almond Butters


(1) Original Almond

Rawmio Raw Chocolate Almond Spread – 6oz

The original almond butter is anything but boring.  It is made from raw almonds, raw cacao nibs, and coconut sugar.  It has a rich, dark chocolate flavor that is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth!


[caption id="attachment_1548" align="alignnone" width="564"]Rawmio's Original Almond Butter Rawmio’s Original Almond Butter[/caption]


(2) Almond Crunch

Rawmio Almond Crunch Spreads – 01/6 oz. Jar


The Almond Crunch is a crunchy “milk” chocolate spread made from raw coconut, raw almonds, coconut sugar, raw cacao nibs, raw vanilla bean powder, and raw Himalayan pink salt.  The pieces of almond and the cacao nibs give this spread a pleasant crunch.


[caption id="attachment_1549" align="alignnone" width="389"]Rawmio Almond Crunch Butter Rawmio Almond Crunch Butter[/caption]


Hazelnut Butters


(1) Original Hazelnut

Rawmio Chocolate Hazelnut Spreads – 01/6 oz. Jar
The original hazelnut butter is a smooth, dark chocolate spread made from raw sprouted hazelnuts, raw cacao nibs, and coconut sugar.  Does there exist a better pairing than chocolate and hazelnuts?  This one disappeared fast.


[caption id="attachment_1550" align="alignnone" width="413"]Rawmio Original Hazelnut Butter Rawmio Original Hazelnut Butter[/caption]


(2) Hazelnut Silk

Windy City Organics Rawmio Hazelnut Silk Spread — 6 oz


Hazelnut Silk presents a fun twist on a white chocolate spread.  It is made from raw coconut, raw sprouted hazelnuts, coconut sugar, raw cacao butter, raw vanilla bean powder, raw Himalayan pink salt.  The coconut and cacao butter deliver the “milky” flavor.  This product might take the prize for most unique nut butter.  In a very good way.


[caption id="attachment_1551" align="alignnone" width="395"]Rawmio Hazelnut Silk Butter Rawmio Hazelnut Silk Butter[/caption]


Wondering where you can find Rawmio? Check out their online store:



More information on Rawmio’s nut butters and other products (think raw chocolate bars and cakes!) can be found on their website:



[caption id="attachment_1547" align="alignnone" width="640"]Rawmio Nut Butters Rawmio Nut Butters[/caption]

Home Made Hemp Milk




Do you have to give up milk if you are vegan? NO!  Absolutely not.  Non-dairy milks are delicious, and the options are quickly multiplying.  We now see milks made from nuts, grains, beans, and seeds – any of which can bring cereal to life, make oatmeal creamy, or just sit in a tall glass alongside a carob chip cookie waiting to be dunked.

So the question is not whether to try non-dairy milk.  Rather, the real question is WHICH type of non-dairy milk to pick off the shelf.  My current love affair is with hemp milk.  A recent turn of events.  In fact, last year I had only a vague idea that hemp existed and, today, it is a worthy contributor to my credit card debt.


[caption id="attachment_998" align="alignnone" width="604"]Raw Shelled Hemp Seeds Raw Shelled Hemp Seeds[/caption]


What Are Hemp Seeds?

Hemp seeds come from a variety of Cannabis that has low levels of THC (or none).  In other words, hemp seeds contain THC like poppy seeds contain opium.  Interestingly, cultivating hemp in the United States, even for culinary purposes, is still illegal.  You can drink it, eat it, and wear it, but you better not grow it.  As a result, the United States imports hemp seeds, mostly from Canada.  For more information on hemp seeds, check out:



[caption id="attachment_1001" align="alignnone" width="640"]Hemp Seed Close Up Hemp Seed Close Up[/caption]


Why Hemp?

Hemp seeds are nutritionally superior to other seeds because of (1) their fatty acids and (2) their protein make-up.

(1) Hemp’s Fatty Acids:

Health agencies recommend that humans consume foods that have an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of around 4:1.  Western diets, however, typically have an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 10:1, or more.  In other words, most Americans are ingesting too much omega-6.  This is where hemp seeds can help to balance you out!  The ratio in hemp seeds is about 3:1.  So, even if you feel slightly betrayed reading about ratios on a food blog, at least there is a healthy payoff!

(2) Hemp’s Protein:

Hemp contains all of the essential amino acids – and in an easily digestible form!  For more detailed articles on hemp seed nutrition check out:


How to Make Hemp Milk:

The good news is that it takes less than 5 minutes to make hemp milk!  First, you need the hemp seeds (of course!).


[caption id="attachment_1003" align="alignnone" width="640"]Hemp Seeds in Measuring CupHemp Seeds in Measuring Cup Hemp Seeds in Measuring Cup[/caption]


Then it’s on to the sweetener.  The sweetener is an optional ingredient, but I prefer the flavor with it! I used maple syrup in my milk, but you could also use agave.


[caption id="attachment_1004" align="alignnone" width="640"]Agave and Maple Syrup Agave and Maple Syrup[/caption]


I also like to add a little vanilla extract to my hemp milk.


[caption id="attachment_1006" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vanilla Extract Vanilla Extract[/caption]


Place the hemp seeds, sweetener, vanilla, and water in the blender…


[caption id="attachment_1007" align="alignnone" width="536"]Hemp Milk Ingredients in Blender Hemp Milk Ingredients in Blender[/caption]


And after less than a minute, you have hemp milk!


[caption id="attachment_1008" align="alignnone" width="475"]Hemp Milk in Mason Jar Hemp Milk in Mason Jar[/caption]


For me, this recipe tastes amazing straight out of the blender.  Don’t be afraid to drink a glass right away! And remember to give the milk a brisk stir after it has been sitting in the refrigerator – there aren’t any preservatives or chemicals milk to keep it from separating.


Home Made Hemp Milk
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • 4 cups of water
  • ¼ cup raw shelled hemp seeds
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Put hemp seeds, water, maple syrup or agave, and vanilla extract in blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds or until creamy.
For sweeter milk, add additional maple syrup or agave.
This milk can also taste great with some added cinnamon!


Casa de Luz: 100% Vegan

[caption id="attachment_941" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casa de Luz Sign Casa de Luz Sign[/caption]



NORTH PARK.  Casa de Luz is a 100% vegan, 100% macrobiotic, 100% organic, and 100% gluten free restaurant in North Park.  Further, Casa de Luz offers itself as an educational community center.  This is what makes it special.  Casa transcends the common boundaries of a restaurant to focus on events, classes, and bringing the community together.

What is Macrobiotic Food?


For most folks walking into Casa for the first time, the question immediately becomes:  “What is macrobiotic food?”  Turns out, however, that this is a challenging question to answer.

The word “macrobiotic” derives from Greek and means “long life.”  But the diet originated in Japan, then spread across borders of nationality and culture.  Today, many advocates of the macrobiotic diet embrace both principles of East Asian philosophy and the objectives of the western vegan diet.  And for many, it is a lifestyle choice.

Whether a diet or a lifestyle, macrobiotics promotes eating local, seasonal foods that are “balanced.”  Specifically, this targeted balance is a function of (1) each food’s inherent acidity versus alkalinity, and (2) the dueling energies of yin and yang.  First, because most people in modern society consume highly acidic foods – which yield a lower pH level in the blood – macrobiotics recommends more alkaline food and drink.   The list of highly acidic foods is long and surprising.  For example, both milk and sugar are highly acidic. Alkaline water is optimal for humans, check it out for yourself on sites like AlkalineWaterFilterExperts.com. If you want to see where other foods land on the spectrum of alkalinity and acidity, here is a good website:


Second, and much more mystifying to me, is the pursuit of a balance between the energies of yin (the expanding, outward force) and yang (the contracting inward force).  The good news:  the body seems to crave a balance between the two.  The bad news:  it often craves the extremes, paired together.  Wine (yin) and cheese (yang).  Beer (yin) and burgers (yang).  Unfortunately, each of these foods is highly acidic and – huge surprise – not so good for you.  As a result, macrobiotics relies on foods that are inherently balanced – even on their own – such as certain grains and most of the plant kingdom.  Here is a more robust listing:


Bottom line, with macrobiotics, it feels like you need at least a Masters degree just to put together a single meal.  But this is where Casa de Luz comes in!  Casa has the experts who do all the thinking, all the planning, and all the cooking for us simple folk.  All we have to do is show up!


Meals at Casa de Luz:


The menu at Casa de Luz changes daily.  If you don’t like surprises, simply check Casa’s website for the daily menu!  You can also consult the schedule outlining which cuisines (Asian, Italian, etc.) are served on certain days.  Except for Friday and Saturday, because those days are Chef’s Choice!


[caption id="attachment_942" align="alignnone" width="680"]Casa Theme Nights Schedule Casa Theme Nights Schedule[/caption]


Lunch: 11:00am – 5:00pm

Dinner: 5:00pm – 9:00pm


For both Lunch and Dinner, Casa offers two options: (1) Plate or (2) Seasonal Bowl.


1. Plate:

The Plate consistently offers the same building blocks for a true macrobiotic meal: leafy green + grain + bean + veggie + pickle.  The Plate also comes with soup, salad, AND tea.   In fact, you pick up your soup and salad immediately after ordering and paying at the front desk.  Then, later, a Casa staff member will bring the main Plate to your table.


[caption id="attachment_943" align="alignnone" width="640"]Sample of Casa Lunch and Dinner Menu Sample of Casa Lunch and Dinner Menu[/caption]


On my most recent visit, the soup was Wild Rice and Veggie.   The veggies, celery, zucchini, onions, and carrots, were perfectly tender (but not overly soft).  The flavor, sublime and wonderful, is an excellent example of how macrobiotic food stands apart.  It is not salty, not spicy, and not infused with other flavors seeking to dominate the taste buds.  This soup relies on the quality of its vegetables.  And this soup disappears quickly.


[caption id="attachment_944" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Wild Rice and Veggie Soup Casas Wild Rice and Veggie Soup[/caption]


Next up was the salad: mixed greens, carrots, and cabbage with a nutty fig balsamic dressing.  Casa’s salads never disappoint.  The greens and veggies are always fresh, and the salad dressings are unique and home made.  The nutty, fig, balsamic dressing was a special treat.


[caption id="attachment_945" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Salad Casas Salad[/caption]


The Plate showcased how simple, sturdy blocks can build something wonderful.  The leafy green was kale with a walnut-dill sauce.  The grain was a blend of coconut quinoa and brown rice.  The bean of the night was the reliable black bean, and the vegetable was lemon-herbed broccoli.  Finally, the pickle was not a single stick of cucumber but, rather, a fun medley of unexpected veggies.

The delight is in the details.  The walnut-dill sauce brings the kale alive, and the grains are cooked to the point of perfection – not beyond.  Also, pickled vegetables inject the plate with acute flavor that somehow ends up on the alkaline end of the spectrum.  It is a weird science, but delicious.


[caption id="attachment_946" align="alignnone" width="640"]Sample of Casas Entree Sample of Casas Entree[/caption]


2. Seasonal Bowls:

Your second option when ordering lunch or dinner is one of two Seasonal Bowls.  These bowls are a recent (and welcome!) addition to Casa’s menu.  They are great for those times when you are not hungry enough to eat a soup, salad, AND entree plate (or when you don’t have a lot of time to eat).


[caption id="attachment_947" align="alignnone" width="380"]Casas Bowl Sign Casas Bowl Sign[/caption]


The two Seasonal Bowls available right now are the: (i) Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread and (ii) Grilled Pineapple Curry with Brown Rice.  I recently tried the Tempeh Chili.  Wow.  The chili was warm with a hint of spice.  The tofu crema was creamy (move over, sour cream) and the cornbread was soft, moist, and full of actual kernels of corn.  Always real food.  Always amazing.


[caption id="attachment_949" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread Casas Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread[/caption]


Weekend Brunch


Casa de Luz has recently stopped serving breakfast on the weekdays.  However, rumor on the street is that Casa will begin a weekend Champagne/Kombucha brunch in November.  This is one brunch I don’t want to miss.  Stay tuned for a follow up post!



If you have room for dessert after your meal, take a look at Casa’s display case to the left of the cashier.  Cookies, puddings, maple bars, cheesecake, and more!  How are they vegan?  Casa magic.

Most recently, I tried the Mexican Chocolate Mousse.  To say it exceeded my expectations would be a gross understatement.  This was the richest, most intensely chocolate mousse I have tasted.  Ever.   The type of rich where you close your eyes each time you take a bite.


[caption id="attachment_950" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Mexican Chocolate Mousse Casas Mexican Chocolate Mousse[/caption]


Smoothies and Juices:


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the special smoothies and juices offered at Casa de Luz.  Casa offers four smoothies or you can create your own juice!  Because the ingredients are of the highest quality, each smoothie and juice is a standout.


[caption id="attachment_951" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Smoothie Board Casas Smoothie Board[/caption]


I enjoy the Leafy Green Smoothie.  Made from kale, green, apple, cucumber, Vitamineral Green, almond yogurt, almond milk and dates, it is smooth and creamy.  You would never know by its taste that it’s full of veggies!


[caption id="attachment_953" align="alignnone" width="547"]Casas Leafy Green Smoothie Casas Leafy Green Smoothie[/caption]




Even Casa’s water is special, as it is somehow filtered and transformed to an alkaline friendly pH level of 9.5.  Drink it straight up, or infused with cucumber.


[caption id="attachment_954" align="alignnone" width="400"]Casas Alkaline Water Dispenser Casas Alkaline Water Dispensers[/caption]


Tea and Coffee:

I have mentioned that the lunch and dinner plates come with complimentary tea.  Customers are able to fill (and re-fill!) their glasses with Kukicha Tea.

Before Casa de Luz, I had never heard of Kukicha Tea.  It is made from the twigs of the same plant that produces green tea.  Because they come from the same plant, Kukicha Tea shares the same antioxidant properties as green tea.  It has a smoky flavor and has 90% less caffeine than coffee (green tea has 60% less caffeine than coffee).


If Kukicha tea doesn’t sound appealing, Casa also has a variety of herbal, green, and black teas available by the pot.

I don’t drink coffee but if I did, Casa de Luz would be my first stop.  I often see individuals sitting with a blissful look on their faces as they wrap their hands around their Guatemalan French Press Coffee.  And don’t worry, Casa has non-dairy creamers and sweeteners if you don’t like your coffee black!


[caption id="attachment_955" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Tea and Coffee Board Casas Tea and Coffee Board[/caption]




Casa’s space is the product of the owner’s passion for community.  The main floor has beautiful dark wood tables of all shapes and sizes, including large community style seating.  The outdoor patio offers a sunny spot for those with dogs.  And the upstairs features an educational utopia, complete with extensive seating, state-of-the-art kitchen, and vast counter space for demonstrations.  Casa is ground zero for food and cooking enthusiasts.


[caption id="attachment_956" align="alignnone" width="400"]Casa Interior Casa Interior[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_957" align="alignnone" width="400"]Casa Outdoor Patio Seating Casa Outdoor Patio Seating[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_960" align="alignnone" width="400"]Upstairs Learning Space at Casa Upstairs Learning Space at Casa[/caption]




As I mentioned earlier, Casa de Luz is more than a place to eat.  Casa’s online calendar shows the upcoming community events to be hosted in house – check it out at: http://sandiego.casadeluz.org/events–classes.html


[caption id="attachment_958" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casa de Luz Calendar of Events Casa de Luz Calendar of Events[/caption]


I could never list all of the events Casa offers, but I will take the time to highlight a few!


Test Kitchen Tuesdays:

Test Kitchen Tuesdays is a series of vegan cooking classes, taught by Liz Gary, that are held every Tuesday morning from 9:30am – 11:30am.  The class is a donation based, hands on cooking class – attendees break up into groups to make the recipes in Casa’s amazing upstairs educational space.  I attend almost every week.  Our creations range from vegan doughnuts to quiche!


[caption id="attachment_959" align="alignnone" width="377"]Casa Test KItchen Tuesday  Doughnut Casa Test KItchen Tuesday Doughnut[/caption]


Casa de Luna:

Casa de Luz holds its donation based “Casa de Luna” celebration on the first Saturday night of every month beginning at 9:30pm.  The event features activities like partner yoga, meditation, and an art show.  And no event would be complete without delicious food and drink: Casa offers organic wine and sake, juice, tea, and desserts to attendees!


Kale University:

On many Wednesdays at 6:30pm (check the Casa calendar for an detailed list!), Casa de Luz is home to the Kale University Meetup group.  Kale University advocates a whole-food plant-based diet and is open to individuals who are interested in taking health into their own hands.  Kale University uses Wednesday evenings to bring in speakers and to provide classes for its members.  To learn more check out Kale University’s Meetup page at:



In sum, life at Casa de Luz is always evolving.  Although breakfast will be missed, I expect that the upcoming brunch program will be something special.  Hope to see you there!





2920 University Ave

San Diego, CA 92104