A Search for Great Vegan Food in San Diego

Tag Archives: organic

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!).

 

IMG_6359

 

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.

 

Harmless Harvest Coconut Water

Harmless Harvest Coconut Water:

 

I love coconut water — I sample every new brand I see.  And Harmless Harvest is by far my favorite.  It’s sweet (but not too sweet!) taste will quench your thirst in the most delightful way.  What’s in Harmless Harvest 100% raw and organic coconut water? Just coconut water. Harmless Coconut water is not from concentrate, not pasteurized, not irridated, not UV treated, and does not have any added sugar added. Specifically, Harmless Harvest is made from the Cocos nucifera coconut grown in Thailand.

 

Why is Harmless Harvest Sometimes Pink?

 

Harmless Harvest’s coconut water is clear when bottled.  The water sometimes spontaneously turns pink when antioxidants interact withe the light — the bottles that contain the highest levels of antioxidants are those that may turn pink over time.  I can attest to the fact that when I bought my bottle of Harmless Harvest coconut water it was clear.  It sat in my refrigerator a few days before I had a chance to take pictures.  When I took the bottle out this morning it was pink!  It still tasted delicious 🙂

 

[caption id="attachment_2522" align="alignnone" width="504"]Harmless Harvest Raw Coconut Water Harmless Harvest Raw Coconut Water[/caption]

 

Is Harmless Harvest Raw?

 

Yes! Harmless Harvest uses high pressure processing (HPP) to process its coconut water.  Basically HPP works like this: the product is subjected to elevated pressure (up to 87,000 pounds per inch!).  The pressure eliminates bacteria to maintain natural freshness and extend shelf life and can be completed without the use of heat.  If you want to read some scholarly work on HPP check out this site.

 

Coconuts and Formaldehyde:

 

Young coconuts (the white ones) are shaved down and often dipped in formaldehyde to preserve the shell. There is currently a debate as to whether trace amounts of formaldehyde are able to make their way to the coconut meat and water. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer yet, but happily, Harmless Harvest uses coconuts that are NOT dipped in formaldehyde. If you want to learn more about the great coconut debate, click here!

 

[caption id="attachment_2523" align="alignnone" width="640"]Harmless Harvest Raw Coconut Water in a Mason Jar Harmless Harvest Raw Coconut Water in a Mason Jar[/caption]

 

If you have any additional questions about Harmless Harvest, I suggest taking a look at their informative FAQ page.

Traditional Medicinals Tea

Do You Know What’s in Your Tea?

 

Tea drinking is ingrained in my routine – I drink anywhere from 6-8 cups a day.  I find tea soothing and love the idea of maintaining my health naturally.  Recently, I read an article Do You Know What’s Really In Your Tea? by Food Babe that made me realize that I wasn’t being careful enough when making tea purchases. I highly suggest reading the entire article, but the main takeaways are:

  •  most tea is not washed before it is put into bags, so unless your tea is organic, you are likely drinking pesticides
  • many teas contain artificial flavoring, natural flavors, and GMO’s
  • many paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a compound that is considered a potential carcinogen and that is mainly used in the production of epoxy resins
  • many “silky” and “luxurious mesh” tea bags that hold loose leaf teas are made of plastics, and these plastics may break down and leach out when steeped in boiling water.

 

[caption id="attachment_2348" align="alignnone" width="640"]Traditional Medicinals Tea SteepingTraditional Medicinals Tea Steeping Traditional Medicinals Tea Steeping[/caption]

 

Choosing Traditional Medicinals:

 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom!  There are tea companies like Traditional Medicinals that shine even brighter because of their efforts to provide quality, clean tea.  Traditional Medicinal’s teas are all organic and non-GMO verified.  The herbs in Traditional Medicinals tea go through at least 9 rounds of testing before being deemed “good enough” for the tea bag.  Microscopists and lab analysts test each herb’s identity, strength, and purity while the cupping team ensures that the tea tastes right.   These quality control measures make for good tea.  And with a wide variety of teas – greens, herbals, and those especially formulated for detox and relaxation – Traditional Medicinals is sure to make a tea that suits everyone’s taste buds.

 

New Teas:

 

Traditional Medicinals recently debuted two new Dandelion based teas (2) Dandelion Leaf and Root and (2) Every Day Detox Dandelion.  Why all the focus on dandelion?  Dandelions naturally stimulate the liver and help with your body’s detoxification process.

 

Dandelion Leaf and Root:

 

The Dandelion Leaf and Root tea is made from a combination of dandelion leaf and unroasted dandelion root.  It’s an herbal tea with a mild taste designed to promote healthy digestion.  It’s a great tea to sip on any time of the day!

 

[caption id="attachment_2349" align="alignnone" width="640"]Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Leaf and Root Tea Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Leaf and Root Tea[/caption]

 

Every Day Detox Dandelion:

 

The Every Day Detox Dandelion is a blend of dandelion leaf, dandelion root, licorice, fennel, and peppermint.    This tea has a sweet and refreshing taste and is designed to aid the liver and promote flushing of waste from the kidneys.  I really enjoy the harmony of flavors at play in this tea.

 

[caption id="attachment_2351" align="alignnone" width="640"]Traditional Medicinals Every Day Detox Tea Traditional Medicinals Every Day Detox Tea[/caption]

 

To learn more about Traditional Medicinals and their delicious (and clean!) teas check out their website! I hope you enjoy the teas as much as I have 🙂

 

[caption id="attachment_2350" align="alignnone" width="640"]Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Teas Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Teas[/caption]

 

 

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]

Barnana

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:

http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/25-powerful-reasons-to-eat-bananas

 

[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:

http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=4584&catId=9

 

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

 

 

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

http://barnana.com/

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:

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/Feb/04/Former-Olympic-athlete-expanding-organic-foods/

 

[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:

www.thegoodonyabar.com/

 

Rawmio

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:

http://www.rawguru.com/store/rawmio-raw-chocolate/

 

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

http://www.rawmio.com/

 

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

Melinda’s Maca Balls

Chocolate treats that are good for you?  Count me in!  Melinda’s Maca Balls are an organic, vegan, raw, snack bursting with rich, chocolate flavor.  And there is one teaspoon of maca in each ball!

 

What is Maca and Why is it Good for Me?

 

Maca has been around for a long time.  Legend has it that Incan warriors used to ingest large amounts of maca for strength before heading into battle.

http://www.thewellnesswarrior.com.au/2011/03/superfood-profile-maca/

 

David Wolf, a vegan who is well known for his dedication to raw foods, superfoods, and longevity, summarizes some of maca’s benefits in the following YouTube Video.  (Mr. Wolf will be familiar to you, if you have seen the documentary “Hungry for Change.”)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJd49HdMDn0

 

Mr. Wolf notes that maca supports healthy hormones, is rich in fatty acids, and contains important trace minerals and amino acids.  Maca is also important, because it helps the body adapt to stress.

Maca’s other possible benefits include increased libido, decreased cholesterol, increased stamina, reduction in post-menopausal symptoms, regulation of hormones, and reduction in migraine headaches.  For additional information on these topics, click on:

http://www.naturalnews.com/maca.html

 

Melinda’s Maca Balls:

 

Melinda’s Maca Balls are made from whole, organic ingredients and come in 3 flavors: (1) Chocolate Walnut, (2) Double Chocolate Chip, and (3) Chocolate Mint Chip.  Agave nectar, cacao, maca, coconut oil, cacao butter, vanilla bean, and Himalayan pink salt make up the base of each ball.

The Chocolate Walnut Maca Ball with its dense, chocolate center is coated with walnut pieces.  It is my favorite — in my opinion, chocolate and walnuts can and should be mixed together as often as possible!

 

[caption id="attachment_1199" align="alignnone" width="640"]Chocolate Walnut Maca Balls Chocolate Walnut Maca Balls[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_1203" align="alignnone" width="640"]Chocolate Walnut Maca Ball Container Chocolate Walnut Maca Ball Container[/caption]

 

The Double Chocolate Chip Maca Ball has the same dense, chocolate center but is covered with cacao pieces.  It’s chocolate on chocolate – perfect for those who are looking for their next sumptuous treat!

 

[caption id="attachment_1201" align="alignnone" width="640"]Double Chocolate Maca Balls Double Chocolate Maca Balls[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_1200" align="alignnone" width="640"]Double Chocolate Maca Ball Cut in Half Double Chocolate Maca Ball Cut in Half[/caption]

 

So far, I have not been able to find the Chocolate Mint Chip Maca Balls in a store.  However, if the other flavors are a barometer for the Chocolate Mint Chip flavor, I am in for a treat!

 

Melinda’s Maca Balls are a decadent maca delivery device.  I recommend enjoying them sooner rather than later!

 

 

More information on Melinda’s Maca Balls can be found at:

http://www.macaballs.com/home.html

 

For a list of stores where Melinda’s Maca Balls can be purchased, check out:

http://www.macaballs.com/stores.html

 

 

Casa de Luz: 100% Vegan

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

 
UPDATE: AS OF 12/9/2013 CASA DE LUZ IS CLOSED.  THEY WILL BE MISSED 

 

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.  If you want to see where other foods land on the spectrum of alkalinity and acidity, here is a good website:

http://landsofwisdom.com/?p=3820

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:

http://macrobiotic.about.com/od/gettingstarted/a/YinYang.htm

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!

 

Dessert:

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]

 

Drinks 

Water: 

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).

http://www.oprah.com/food/Superfoods-List-2012-Sunchokes-Adzuki-Beans-Chia-Seed/5

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]

 

Seating:

 

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]

 

Events:

 

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:

http://www.meetup.com/KaleUniversity/

 

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!

 

UPDATE: AS OF 12/9/2013 CASA DE LUZ IS CLOSED.  THEY WILL BE MISSED

http://sandiego.casadeluz.org/

 

2920 University Ave

San Diego, CA 92104

619.550.1857

 

 

 

 

 

Vitality Tap: 100% Vegan

Vitality Tap Sign

 

DOWNTOWN/LITTLE ITALY.  You might walk by Vitality Tap without noticing it.  But that would be a mistake.  Because Vitality Tap, though it is tucked away inside a Nutrition Zone store, fills a critical void in the downtown area – superfoods.  Specifically, the newly established Vitality Tap sells vegan smoothies, juices, superbowls, sprouted nut milks, shooters, coolers, kombucha, boosts, and juice cleanses.  And it’s 100% organic!

We arrived hungry and focused first on the “Superbowls.”  You can customize the bowl by choosing from different bases, like acai and pitaya, and then a list of toppings like granola, berries, and other fun options.

I took our server’s recommendation:  the vegan Half & Half Bowl made from acai, pitaya, banana, and coconut water, topped with granola, goji berries, coconut, and extra almond butter.  Success!  The smooth base was not too sweet (like so many bowls are these days), and I enjoyed the combination of coconut and almond butter.  I would definitely order this bowl again!

 

Vegan Half & Half Bowl

 

We also ordered the vegan Almond Butter Bowl.  Here, the almond butter is part of the base, which also includes acai, banana, and almond milk.  We topped it with granola, coconut, and goji berries.  (Again, superfoods are running wild at Vitality Tap.)  The Amond Butter Bowl is equally delicious, but thicker than the Half & Half Bowl.  I highly recommended it for the hungry crowd.

 

Vegan Almond Butter Bowl

 

In addition, Vitality Tap has a large selection of vegan juices and smoothies.  Most impressive, however, is the variety of “Superfood Boosts.”  The menu offers 33 boosts and illustrates their respective health benefits through in a helpful diagram entitled, “Superfoods Directory.”

 

Vitality Tap Boosters Chart

 

I am a fan of green juices, so I ordered the vegan Popeye Juice – a blend of kale, spinach, romaine, celery, cucumber, and jalapeno.  I “boosted” with the nutrient dense, tasteless Chaga mushroom.  I loved this juice, but WARNING:  it is NOT for those looking to dip their toe in the juice pool.  It has an earthy taste with a spicy kick from the jalapenos.  However, if you prefer sweeter juices, there are plenty of options on Vitality Tap’s menu.  One insider described “Drop Some Beets” as liquid candy.

On a side note, I was curious to learn more about the Chaga mushroom.  The Chaga mushroom is not soft like traditional mushrooms, but hard like wood.  In order to survive harsh climates, the mushroom stores nutrients for its protection.  These nutrients are then passed on to the lucky person who eats the mushroom.   It’s essentially a party of phenols and minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and iron.  If you want to know more about the Chaga mushroom check out this link:

http://www.chagaknowledge.com/chagabenefits.htm

 

Vegan Popeye Juice

 

Vitality Tap also has a tap for their homemade kombucha.  Kombucha is a vegan, carbonated, probiotic, fermented tea.  Kombucha is my “go to” drink when I’m tired, starting to feel sick, or want something to quench my thirst.  Usually, I buy bottles in the grocery store.  To drink it as a “draft” was a treat.  To learn more about kombucha click on:

http://beyondkombucha.com/about/what-is-kombucha/

 

Vegan Kombucha Tap

 

Another reason to love Vitality Tap, you ask?  Free samples.  After making a vegan juice or smoothie, they pour any extra into sample cups for customers.  I was able to try both the Lunch Box and Stay Classy smoothies while waiting for my food!  (The Lunch Box is now first on my list for next time.)

The biggest highlight of Vitality Tap was the service.  Everyone was super friendly and patient while I asked my many, many questions.  And knowledgeable – I received excellent menu recommendations.

Vitality Tap does not have indoor seating, but the outdoor space is plentiful.  The tables are a great place to get some sunshine, relax, and enjoy the superfoods!  The patio is also a popular option for those eating with dogs!

 

Vitality Tap Interior   Vitality Tap Patio

 

Vitality Tap does not have a menu listed online, so I am posting pictures I took of the menu.

 

Vegan Menu 1

Vegan Menu 2

Vegan Menu 3

 

650 First Avenue

San Diego, CA 92101

619.237.7625