Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I haven’t even eaten any chocolate yet this week! Psh. I went out and purchased some (chocolate) candies and I plan to make something chocolatey this evening…. I’m just not sure what yet.
I searched through the blogs archives and I found some pretty good stuff (pats self on back – just kidding) – chocolate + cherry, chocolate + peanut butter, chocolate + cinnamon whipped cream… I mean, seriously, YUM.
If you’re in the same boat as me (NEED chocolate, using Valentine’s Day as the justification), check out the vegan recipes below.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pie Again, the undeniable perfect combination of chocolate + peanut butter, with the addition of bananas and an oreo crust. DO it, because it’s goooood… (and has avocado hidden in the recipe as well)
Valentines Day is one of my favorite Holidays because I love celebrating love. And this year, I’m in love. Like, LOVE, love. Like, it’s all I can think about love. Like, my heart flutters 24/7 love.
I also love chocolate, and hearts, and cute DIY valentines, and baking, and the mini love-themed surprises that come with Valentines Day. I wish I could tell you what I’m doing for Valentines Day but my love reads my blog and I don’t want to spoil it.
I also love my blog, and food, and Pinterest, and all of the Valentines Day inspiration that keeps me excited for weeks, eager celebrate love. And I love you all.
My enthusiasm for the holiday this year and my love for PLQ readers has sparked the desire to
3 Vegan Dessert-Themed Books
to one lucky reader,
on Valentines Day.
Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats by Debbie Adler:
Debbie Adler has a popular vegan/gluten-free bakery in LA that draws in A-list celebrities. I’m dying to visit. Until that day, I’ll have to live vicariously through her recipes, and you can too! (if you’re the lucky winner!!)
Rawsome Vegan Baking by Emily von Euw:
I haven’t had the opportunity to make any of the recipes out of this book, and it’s killing me. I want to keep the book but I’m giving it away to a lucky reader, because you deserve it! (don’t worry, I’ll be ordering another copy for myself!)
People who don’t know about Colorado think that Denver is a snowy, wintry mess and they snub it due to their lack of knowledge. Honestly, I didn’t know much about Denver’s awesome weather before I got here, and I almost don’t want to tell people about how awesome the weather is here because there are already too many people moving to this city! (LITERALLY, there aren’t even enough homes to house all the people that are moving here, it’s crazzzzy)
These photos were taken at North Table Mountain (which is about 20 mins from my new home) in January, the dead of winter.
Sure, the mountains get a lot of snow during the wintery months, but down here in the foothills we get very mild weather – a lot of 60’s and 70’s days, and on the day these photos were taken, 80’s. We were in tank tops and we were WARM.
The photo above shows the Denver skyline, from atop the mountain.
You can see snow on this mountain, it sits on the side of the mountain that doesn’t get much sun. And sure, we get snow in Denver but it disappears within a day or two. It lasts just long enough to justify a “snow day” and hang out by the fireplace… then it’s back to the outdoors the following day.
My friend Samantha just moved to Colorado from Georgia. A she was planning her trip out here, her friends told her she needed an SUV, 4 wheel drive, and chains for her tires. It made me laugh, simply because many people really have no idea how good we have it here in Denver.
I’ve been sick the last two weeks (cold, flu, bronchitis, or a sinus infection – who knows) and I tend to avoid doctors and medicine. I just can’t bring myself to take a lot of medicine, so I don’t. Instead, I rest, drink lots of water, and allow myself some fresh mountain air.
Although I felt much better after getting off the couch and becoming one with nature the day we took these photos, I am still waiting to kick this illness….
While many of my friends in the midwest figure out how to dig themselves out of the snow today, I’ll be out enjoying a Coloradical 65 degree, sunny day at the park with my doggie.
Before we left for Honolulu, I made a list of vegetarian restaurants that I wanted to visit while we were there on the island. I only found 2 restaurants that I was dying to visit, Greens and Vines (the islands only raw/vegan restaurant), and the Peace Cafe. We never did make it to Greens and Vines but we LOVED the Peace Cafe, and we’re very happy we made the time to eat there, we did so on the same day we were hanging in Waikiki because of the close proximity.
When we were on the North Shore, a local told us to look up Beet Box, which is an all veg restaurant in the back of an organic grocery store – we went there twice because it was so damn good, probably our favorite restaurant on the island.
Anyway, one of my favorite meals (there were so many, honestly) on the island came from the Peace Cafe. The Yogini plate (pictured below) was full of brown rice, beans, kale, seaweed, sprouts, and a yummy sauce. Patrick loved the food too, he has quickly become an advocate for vegan food (even though he knew nothing about eating veg before I met him) …it’s kind of adorable.
Two other restaurants we really liked: Sweet Home Waimanalo’s (a daytime cafe, serving light, healthy, organic, local foods and yummy, yummy smoothies) and Town (a great dinner spot, veg-friendly, locally-sourced, organic food).
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of veg-food options on the island – we ate dammmmn good there!
On a trip to O’ahu, a typical tourist would probably stay at a resort in Waikiki – there is nothing wrong with that because Waikiki has everything: beaches, shopping, restaurants, night life – however, it’s not my style at all. While in O’ahu, we spent one day in Waikiki, but I would have felt cheated had we spent any more time there because there is so much more to see and do on the island.
So many people in my world have recently spent time in Hawaii, are in Hawaii now, or are planning a visit soon – which is one of the major reasons I am writing this post.
This blog post was written based on my own experience, if you have had a different experience and know of “things-to-do” in O’ahu, I welcome you to share in the comments below
1. Find & Visit some Hidden Beaches
I found an article on Conde Nast titled “Hawaii’s Best Hidden Beaches ” just a few days after returning to the main land. When reading it, I found excitement because we visited a few of the beaches on the list, however I was also bummed because we would have visited one of the beaches on the list had we known about it while we were there. I guess I’ll have to go back sometime soon to visit that beach -Luckily, we have friends in Hawaii who were able to show us a few hidden beaches!
The hidden beaches are worth looking up and seeking out, trust me. Do some research before you visit the island and plan which ones you’d like to find and visit.
2. Visit the North Shore
There aren’t many hotels on the North Shore, so I don’t think many tourists get up to the North Shore unless they are bussed from Waikiki. While you are in O’ahu, you’re going to need to rent a car, as far as I’m concerned. There is too much to see and do on he island to be stuck in one place without a car.
The North Shore is a beautiful, tropical part of the island, chockful of beautiful hidden beaches, surfers, farms, and lush greenery. It is a part of the island that you should definitely spend time at. Situated on a vast, green farm, we found a little hut to stay in for a few nights. The Hobbit Hut we stayed in sat amongst 2-3 other huts, a few tents, an open-air kitchen, and a yoga deck. We had beautiful views of Mt. Ka’ala, which is the highest point on the island.
If you don’t get up to the North Shore on your trip to O’ahu, you are cheating yourself.
3. Watch the Sunsets / Sunrises
It’s not easy to think about setting an alarm clock and getting up at 5am while on vacation, but it’s WORTH IT to catch the Hawaiian sunrise. We got up on Christmas morning and did the Pillbox hike to watch the sunrise over the ocean. On a different morning, we planted ourselves on the beach (Waimanalo) to watch the sunrise before we went out for breakfast. Makapu’u Point is another place we loved for watching the sunrise -although it was packed with people, we loved it – arrive early!
Our favorite place to watch the sunset was definitely at Mount Tantalus, a short drive to the top plants you in the perfect place to watch the sunset over the city of Honolulu. This is a place that you want to arrive early to, there will be a lot of people there, all racing to find the perfect place to plant themselves for one of the most beautiful sunsets they may ever witness.
There is no shortage of hikes to do while in O’ahu – ranging from “easy” to “dangerous”. It’s like a “choose-your-own-adventure” type situation – you get to choose how strenuous a hike you are up for. Regardless, all of the hikes are worth it. Our favorite hike was the Pillbox hike. When you get to the top, you have close to a 365 degree view of the island – it’s pretty sweet.
5. Seek out the Food Trucks
There are several food trucks on the island, mostly scattered throughout the North Shore. If you drive up to the North Shore, you will surely run in to them. Our favorite food truck was Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. They make some killer shrimp with rice and tons of garlic. If you’re a non-vegan, you’ve def got to check out Giovanni’s. (If you’re a vegan, find Beet Box on the North Shore instead of visiting the food truck – then thank me later)
6. Surf / SUP
There are surfers and SUP’ers (SUP = Stand Up Paddle Board) on several of the beaches we visited on O’ahu, it’s hard to not involve in the activities. Riding the ocean water is an experience that goes unmatched.
If you are the adventurous type, and you’re up for a thrilling experience, do yourself a favor and take surfing lessons. You may or may not get up on the board your first time out, but either way you will have the opportunity to experience some waves.
If you’re looking for more of a leisurely activity, rent a SUP. SUP’ing requires a little balance, and a minimal level of physical fitness, so this is an activity well-suited for just about anyone. a paid-lesson shouldn’t be required to ride a Stand Up Paddleboard – once you’re up on the board, it’s pretty easy to get around.
7. Visit Kailua
Kailua is quite possibly one of my favorite towns on O’ahu. It’s definitely a “nicer” area, it’s close to the beach, and has an awesome Whole Foods! We rented a house via airbnb.com in Kailua, it sat in an adorable neighborhood just about 1 mile from the beach. In the morning, we got up and joked to the beach, swan for a few minutes, and jogged back. In the afternoons we went to Lanikai Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in O’ahu.
If you can find a home to rent here for a few nights, I would highly recommend you do.
8. Indulge in the Local Fruits
Driving along the outer edge of the North Shore, you will find fruit stands along the side of the road that are stocked full of fruits and veggies that you can’t get here on the mainland. A few of my favorite finds were the Ice Cream Bananas and the Purple Sweet Potatoes, both could be compared to candy – they’re THAT good.
If you don’t get a chance to go to the North Shore for the fruits, check out the local grocery store (like Whole Foods) for the local fruits. Eat as much as you can while you’re there, and eat some more for me while you’re at it!
9. China Wall
I would have NEVER known about the China Wall had it not been for my friends that live on the island. I feel lucky because the China Wall was definitely one of my favorite places we visited. Lava rock, and pristine blue, blue beautiful waters make up your experience at the China Wall. We walked along the wall until we couldn’t walk anymore, and we saw people who were perched on the rocks for a “beach” day. There are a few places along the rock that are safe for swimming, and some places where the water is fierce. Had we been more prepared, we may have tried to snorkel around the wall.
10. visit the Coffee Farm
If you are a coffee drinker, you MUST check out the Green World Coffee Farm. They’ve got hundreds of flavors of coffees (or so it seems), and you can sample several of them! They also have a super sweet gift shop and you can tour the coffee garden! I’d never seen a coffee plant before, so this was a neat experience for me. We purchased some coffee from the farm, my boyfriend says it’s some of the best coffee he’s had.
A few other things to do while in O’ahu: drink local Kona beer, eat everything with macadamia nuts, try an acai bowl (you can get them just about everywhere on the island including the coffee farm), and eat at Sweet Home Waimanalo’s (my favorite little veg-friendly restaurant on the island).
Picture this: In Hawaii, we stop at a fruit market off the side of the road on the North Shore and we find bananas labeled “ice cream banana” …. WHAT! You better believe we bought them!
Appropriately named “ice cream banana”, these little fruits (smaller than a banana found on the main land) actually do taste like ice cream – they are creamier than any banana I’ve ever eaten and they taste sweet, very sweet, and vanilla-ish – almost custard-like.
We ate the bananas on Christmas morning, after hiking to the top of a little mountain to watch the sunrise. We hiked in the pitch black dark, through tall wet grasses, just in time to see a beautifully colored sky…. there couldn’t have been a more perfect time to enjoy my new favorite fruit.
When I googled the ice cream banana, I found very little information on it so I don’t know much more about it aside from it being the best tasting banana I’ve ever had and that it can be found in Hawaii. So anyway, if you’re going to Hawaii, will you do yourself the favor of finding an ice cream banana or two?
As I was checking in for a yoga class last week, the instructor handed me a post-it note and asked me to write down one word that I wanted to commit to for that particular class but also for the entire year.
I don’t typically make New Year’s Resolutions, because they are hard to stick to, they get forgotten about, and I don’t necessarily need/want to make any drastic changes. Instead, I consciously make decisions, on a daily basis, that will benefit and enhance the person that I already am. I try to make decisions that will improve my well-being, but just like everyone else I make bad decisions – I recognize them, don’t beat myself up over them, and get back on track as quickly as I can.
On my little post-it note that the yoga instructor handed to me, I wrote “maintain health and wellness”. Maintaining health and wellness is not hard to do, it’s the time and commitment that’s hard. My commitment to myself this year is that I will STAY committed and continue allowing myself the time – making my health and well-being my #1 priority.
Luckily, I have an awesome boyfriend who is supportive of my commitments and has committed to his own health and well-being as well. I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who are share the same goals, desires, and hobbies as yourself. I once heard someone say that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with and I completely agree. I took a look at the people I was surrounded by and realized that I had some negativity and bad energy in my circle – I got rid of them and can proudly say that my 5 people, the people I hang out with most often are positive, healthy, happy. successful individuals. I do realize that I became more happy, healthy, and successful when I changed my circle.
Below are a few more things that I like to do and/or recommend my friends do in order to maintain my health and well-being:
Yoga is an exercise for your mental health, physical body, and spirit. It completely transforms your mind and body. Yoga helps to relieve stress, tension, muscle ache, heart ache, and anxiety. Yoga leads to meditation, which will help clear your mind and allow you to think more clearly.
After a yoga practice, I feel like I’m glowing inside and out.
On different days, I choose different types of yoga for different reasons – no matter what is going on in my life, no matter what my needs are, yoga is ALWAYS relevant.
Yoga is also about community – when you visit a yoga studio, you will find positive energy, make new friends, and leave will a feeling of fulfillment. When I meet fellow yogi’s, I’m always interested to hear their story – I know there is one, and I know it’ll always be a good one.
Whether you are an athlete, non-athletic, spiritual, or not, flexible, or not, there is a yoga practice that will enhance your lifestyle, through words, meditation, or physical practice – I promise you that.
Green smoothies are the bomb! Looking at them, one may think they won’t be tasty, however when blended with sweet fruits, the taste of the healthy greens is disguised.
Green smoothies have a multitude of benefits including: an increased intake of fiber, an increased intake of fruits & veggies, natural weight loss, hydration, increased energy, mental clarity, clearer skin, reduced cravings, and overall better body function.
To kickstart health & wellness this year, one of the best things you can do is ditch the morning coffee and replace it with a healthy green smoothie!
New Year, New You, right?
We’ve all been there, and we’ve all said it.
We all also talk about getting in shape for bikini season.
Do yourself a favor this year, and don’t wait until bikini season to get in shape – start NOW!
There are so many fun things you can do in the winter months to stay in shape: hot yoga, indoor rock climbing, indoor swimming pools (+ sauna & hot tub!), or get a Class Pass… and since you’ll be indoors more during the cold months, it’s the perfect time to get more familiar with your kitchen and do some healthy cooking!
My boyfriend is a tri-athlete and trains hard during the season, then typically takes some time off during the off-season. This year, he decided to not take any time off so that when Tri Season approached, he wouldn’t have to get “back in shape.” I like his style, and am inspired by it.
PLAN ACTIVE VACATIONS / WELLNESS RETREATS!
We all know that vacations/getaways are necessary for your mind, your sanity, and productivity. Your mind and body both need breaks from routine. And anyway, life should be about having some fun! If you work, work, work, and never play – what’s the point? My favorite thing to do is go on vacation, or even take quick 1-3 day getaways. I feel like I’m winning when I allow myself the opportunity to do something different than I’ve ever done, go somewhere I’ve never gone, or even just do something out of my ordinary. I have made it my job to plan my vacations around eating healthy food, doing yoga somewhere new, being active, and experiencing something different than the typical traveler would experience. I also like to relax, unwind, beach, and enjoy a cocktail or two
When planning your next vacation, think about a place that offers hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, or fitness in the park.
If you’re booking a beach vacation, pack a pair of goggles so you can swim a few laps every day.
Look for yoga events, yoga on the beach, or yoga on a stand-up paddle board.
If you’re not near a beach, find a local state park, a cool place to hike, or even a local gym.
Regardless of where you go, there are always fun ways to keep yourself active, you’ve just got to look for them!
EAT CLEAN FOODS!
In my opinion, there is no better gift that you can give yourself than feeding your body healthy, wholesome foods. The reason is obvious: You Are What You Eat.
The day I chose to change my lifestyle, start eating healthier, and to stop eating meat is the same day that I picked up books and started reading. Then I started following blogs, and I sought-out like-minded people. The day my boyfriend decided he wanted to be a pro triathlete is the day he subscribed to magazines and joined groups of like-minded people.
Living a healthy lifestyle does not come naturally to everyone – and that’s ok. Before I knew what I know now, I didn’t know that I didn’t know it. I know what I know now because I sought out the information. I spend a few hours (minimum) every week reading blogs, books, and magazines that fall in line with the lifestyle that I want to live, that I am living.
At first I wasn’t going to write this post because I didn’t take “Pinterest-worthy” photos of our (super delicious) Coconut Hot Chocolate on Christmas morning when we made it, but then I said screw it. My photos don’t need to be Pinterest-worthy because this (vegan) mash-up of coconut and chocolate and whipped cream is way worthy of it’s very own blog post. I most certainly strive to create Pinterest-worthy photos because it seems like the most helpful way to grow my blog, but for now I’ll just be me.
My boyfriends birthday is on Christmas, you may know we were in Hawaii for Christmas. We decided to go for several reasons: 1. We both knew we wouldn’t be going “home” for Christmas. 2. Patrick once dreamed of moving to Hawaii, although he’d never been there. 3. My best friends sister lives in Hawaii. With all of these factors at play, we tossed around the idea of just doing it – going to Hawaii for the holidays. And then a month later, we booked.
I asked Patrick what his family holiday traditions are, and what it is the he likes to do for his birthday (Christmas). Two things: 1: He likes to celebrate his birthday on Christmas Eve vs. Christmas Day, which is a genius idea he came up with as a kid in order to be celebrated and showered with gifts. As you can imagine, a Christmas birthday can be overlooked and under-celebrated. And #2: He MUST have hot chocolate on Christmas morning, a family tradition he is not willing to break.
Instantly, I knew I’d combine coconut with dark chocolate to create the most appropriate hot chocolatey beverage to enjoy with our Christmas morning breakfast in Hawaii before we hit the beach for the day. I made sure we were staying in an apartment with a full kitchen over Christmas so that we could prepare a few holiday meals at “home” vs. eating out. On Christmas Eve, we found a Whole Foods on the island, and on Christmas day we cooked, we relaxed, we picnicked on the beach, and we made a cozy, Hawaiian dinner. And for breakfast, we made the richest, most coconuty, Hawaiian, dark hot chocolate possible… complete with a coconut whipped cream, of course.
1 14 ounce can or coconut whipped cream (Trader Joe's brand) or full fat coconut milk (Thai Kitchen brand is best), chilled for 12+ hours
¼ cup powdered sugar
First, prepare the whipped cream topping. Place a mixing bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Sounds silly I know, just do it.
Carefully open the chilled can of coconut cream. Scrape out the top, thick cream and then pour the liquid out in to a separate container. You will not be using the liquid in this recipe, so save it for a smoothie.
In the chilled mixing bowl, beat the coconut cream until it is creamy then add the powdered sugar. Mix until it is creamy and smooth, then place in the refrigerator while you mix the chocolate.
Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it is warm, add the chocolate, raw sugar, and cocoa powder and stir to combine.
Continue heating the mixture until the chocolate has melted.
Serve immediately with a dollop of the coconut whipped cream.
You will have some whipped cream left-over because you only need a dollop for this hot chocolate (or if you’re like me, you’ll take two dollops – which requires a bigger mug – so plan accordingly). Either way, you’ll have leftovers. Don’t get mad, if you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, you’ll find ways to use it. I tend to eat spoonfuls to cure my sweet cravings and I like to use it atop a fruit salad. Pie? More hot chocolate? Ice cream sundae? Yeah…
The first thing I do every winter-y morning when I wake up is look out the window to see if we got any snow, rain, sleet overnight – even if it’s not in the forecast. This morning I woke up to an unexpected layer of fresh powdery snow, just enough to conceal what is underneath it. It seems as though the mornings are brighter, and more vibrant when the sun has the opportunity to beam off of a fresh coating of flawless, glistening snow. Even though there was a chill in the air this morning, I was all smiles getting out of bed, and I’ll give credit to the beautiful outdoor elements.
I decided to make a smoothie his morning, which I haven’t done in quite a while – I’ll blame that on the holidays + travel. I was craving color, something vibrant but contrasting to the outdoor elements. Plus I was all “new year, new me” style this morning, slightly mocking those who only stick with that theme for a few weeks after the New Year.
I don’t think I’m unlike others this time of year, after the holiday season where I’m consciously saving money instead of spending money, therefore finding contentment with being home, staying home, and enjoying the things and people that make up my home.
I found some leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving in my freezer, their jewel-toned beauty attracted me to them this morning. My friends would say “I was feeling it”. I blended them with some frozen berries, frozen bananas, and fresh kale that I had hanging around, and came up with a winning combination.
Although, it was not my original intention to share this recipe on the blog, I couldn’t help but just play around with a few photographs in the snow quick to see what would happen. And now I’m sharing.
We’ve been in O’ahu for 3-4 days now, we traveled the North Shore, Kailua, and we’re headed to Honolulu & Waikiki this weekend / next week. We are grateful for the opportunity to spend our Holiday Season in Hawaii, and we can hardly wait to ring in the New Year with our Hawaiian friends.
I hope you are enjoying your Holiday Season and I wish you a Happy, Happy New Year.
More Hawaiian photos to come…..