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.
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!!
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!
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.
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:
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!
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!
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
Wondering where you can find Rawmio? Check out their online store:
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.”)
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:
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!
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!
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:
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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:
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!
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.
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.”
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:
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:
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 does not have a menu listed online, so I am posting pictures I took of the menu.