Vegan Birthday Freebies

Sprinkles Vegan Red Velvet Cupcake

September was quite the month of decadence with me trying out as many vegan birthday freebies as I could. Turns out I only had time to get to just a few of them. Unsurprisingly, I made sure to hit up some of my favorite spots first.

Since they open at 9am, first up is a vegan red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles. It’s still the one and only vegan option available. To get it, join their birthday club and on your b-day, you’ll get a email for a free cupcake that’s only good on your actual birthday. They will ask to see your id.

Veggie Grill B.T.L.A.

At Veggie Grill, you get a free entrée of your choice, I got the B.T.L.A. – smokey tempeh bacon, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro pesto tossed arugula, aioli mayo on grilled sourdough with yukon gold fries. It’s another awesome new addition to their menu. So far, I’ve liked everything that I’ve ever tried at Veggie Grill.

The birthday offer is good for 14 days from when it’s sent, I received it a week before my b-day. The email said they check id but they didn’t for me. To get it, join the GrillClub and get a free dessert just for signing up and occasionally they’ll send coupons to try out various items for free.

Starbucks Hearty Veggie Brown Rice Salad Bowl

Register a Starbucks card to get a birthday reward redeemable for your choice of drink or food. I went with the Hearty Veggie and Brown Rice Salad Bowl – roasted butternut squash, beets, kale, red cabbage, steamed broccoli florets and peas with lemon tahini dressing over brown rice. It was pretty good. Nice and healthy. Although I would prefer it if they had de-stem the kale.

Ike's Place Vegan Tom Brady

For a free birthday sandwich from Ike’s Place, join Ike’s E-Club. You’ll get an email with your free sandwich coupon a week before your b-day. It said to bring your id since they’re going to card you but they didn’t ask to see my id. It’s good for 14 days from when the email was sent.

I got the Vegan Tom Brady – vegan breaded chicken, garlic, mushrooms, herb sauce, avocado, vegan cheddar on Dutch Crunch. Messy to eat but so good. I can only managed to eat half of an Ike’s sandwich at a time. I also phoned in my order so I didn’t have to wait in line. As always, you get a free lollipop at Ike’s whether or not it’s your birthday.

I received these other birthday freebies that I didn’t get around to trying. But there’s always next year.

Red Robin, free birthday burger
Rubio’s, free meal up to $7
Johnny Rockets, free hamburger with a purchase of any entree and drink
Noodles & Company, free birthday bowl

Rice Cooker Vegan Frittata: A Guest Post at Vegan Miam

Rice Cooker Vegan Frittata

Guess what? We’re going for a visit today! I’m so excited to be guest blogging over at vegan miam, one of my favorite blogs. Rika + Doni travel the world over searching out the very best in vegan eats.

From Paris to Thailand and points in between, they make me want to pack my bags and hop on a plane. Back home in Oregon, they cook up delicious meals such as Gochujang Tofu Pickled Cucumber Bowl and Taco Beer Flatbread Pizza with Roasted Corn Poblano.

Today, I’m sharing a vegan frittata made in a fuzzy logic rice cooker, let’s click on over for a visit and the recipe.

The Veggie Grill Mountain View

Veggie Grill Buffalo Wings

I finally got around to eating at the Veggie Grill in Mountain View that opened earlier this year. I’ve been down to the Southern California one in El Segundo a few years ago. I loved it then and I still love it now. In the interim, they’ve expanded their menu and they have a number of interesting new items.

Buffalo Wings, while good (I think they’re just Gardein Chickin’), weren’t quite as exciting as the below cauliflower bites.

Veggie Grill Crispy Cauliflower

Crispy Cauliflower – fried panko breaded cauliflower florets tossed in a sweet and spicy, orange sauce. I got the sauce on the side as well as extra buffalo sauce. If you’re going for something fried, this is the thing to get.

Veggie Grill Bombay Bowl

Bombay Bowl – roasted veggies, super grains, kale, cannellini beans, almonds and topped with a green curry coconut sauce. Not the most photogenic of bowls but flavorful and filling. I wish I had asked for the sauce on the side as I couldn’t eat it all in one sitting.

Veggie Grill "Crab" Cake Sandwich

The “Crab” Cake Sandwich was exceptional – crispy “crab” cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce and red onion on a wheat bun with Yukon Gold fries. I don’t know where they get the crab cakes from but they’re really good.

Veggie Grill Carrot Cake

And the Carrot Cake was fluffy with big strands of carrot and the cream cheese icing wasn’t overly sweet, just the way I like it.

It’s pretty quick too, I usually get my food in about 10-15 minutes or so after ordering. Super friendly people and very helpful with menu suggestions if you’ve never been or are unsure.

There’s only two other Veggie Grill locations in all of Northern California, one at Santana Row in San Jose which I haven’t been to yet and the other that just opened in Corte Madera. If only there was one closer to me, I would be eating there all the time.

Stir-fried Lettuce

Stir-fried Lettuce

Have you ever tried cooked lettuce?


You’re probably thinking, no way, it’ll be like when the lettuce leaf on a hamburger gets all warm and limp. Yeah, I don’t like that on my burger either. But what I’m talking about is cooking lettuce on purpose. Stir frying lettuce Chinese style.

While the cooking brings out the sweetness, the lettuce ribs retains some of its crispness. In Chinese cooking, there’s hardly any food that’s raw.

I have to admit as a kid I thought it was strange when my mom cooked up lettuce but it’s actually quite good. Back then, only iceberg lettuce from the supermarket was available. Nowadays, I use romaine from the farmer’s market.

I usually make it one of two ways, either with fermented bean curd (Chinese cheese) or a simple sauce. Either method is super quick and easy. And if you have a lot of lettuce that needs to be eaten up, it’s a great way to go as it cooks down quite a bit.

Stir-Fried Lettuce

1 medium head romaine lettuce
1/2 teaspoon oil
1 green garlic or garlic clove, minced
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Salt to taste

1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon rice wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Cut the lettuce into approximately 2-inch lengths. In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat a wok on high, when hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for a few seconds. Add the lettuce and cook until it begins to wilt about a minute or so. Stir in the sauce and salt to taste and continue cooking for another 30 seconds until the leaves are just wilted. Serve immediately.

Fermented Bean Curd Variation
1 to 2 cubes fermented bean curd
1/2 teaspoon oil

In a small bowl, mash the fermented bean curd cubes in a bit of water and set aside.

Heat a wok on high, when hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the lettuce and cook until it begins to wilt about a minute or so, then add the fermented bean curd water mixture, stir to mix thoroughly and cook for another 30 seconds until the leaves are just wilted. Serve immediately.

Other Greens
Stir-fried Yu Choy Sum
Stir-fried Amaranth with Garlic
Sautéed Spinach

Pressed Juicery Freeze

Pressed Juicery Half Greens Half Chocolate Freeze

For those of you who don’t live anywhere near Palo Alto, California, you might want to turn away and not read any further. Continuing on may very well result in a little sad face.

Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Over the weekend, I stopped by Pressed Juicery in the Stanford Shopping Center to try out their new frozen treat called “Freeze”. Basically, it’s their cold-pressed juice frozen to a consistency like soft serve. But it’s not ice cream. It’s like eating a soft serve popsicle only it’s not icy or slushy. It’s smooth and creamy and airy like soft serve but the taste is similar to a juice popsicle.

It’s amazingly good! And it’s 100% juice, nuts and vegetables. Nothing else. That’s actually Pressed Juicery’s motto. There’s no dairy, no added sugar, no gluten and it’s vegan.

I got half Greens and half Chocolate as I couldn’t decide which flavor to go with. There’s six to choose from:

  • Greens – kale, spinach, romaine, cucumber, apple, lemon, dates, coconut meat
  • Roots – carrots, beets, fuji apple, lemon, ginger, dates, coconut meat
  • Citrus – orange, apple, pineapple, coconut meat and dates
  • Fruit – fuji apple, strawberry, coconut meat, dates
  • Chocolate – almond, dates, sea salt, cacao
  • Vanilla – almond, dates, sea salt, vanilla

I got the small size (4 oz) for $4.95. I didn’t get any but there’s also a range of toppings available and they’re the healthy kind too. Add a dollar for up to 3 toppings, everything from fresh berries, to chia and hemp seeds to granola and almond butter as a syrup.

They also had their bottled juices for sale which I barely glanced at. And while they’re known for their juice cleanse, I probably won’t ever do that, but I would happily stop by anytime I’m in the vicinity for a healthy, nutritious frozen treat.

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Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana Pismo Beach

Quinoa Farro Salad

Eating out as a large family is a constant challenge with everyone’s likes and dislikes, will eat and won’t eat. But now we have a new favorite for when we’re all together down on the central California coast, where there’s something good for everyone, Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana in Pismo Beach.

When it was first suggested as a dining option, I didn’t have much hope but called the restaurant anyways to ask about menu options that can easily be made vegan. I was delighted to hear that any of the salads can be made without the cheese and that the pizza dough is vegan.

I’ve eaten there three times now, each time I’ve gotten the salad off the specials-for-tonight menu. Pictured above is from the most recent visit, the quinoa farro salad without the cheese. It was huge. I didn’t expect it to be quite so large and only managed to make a small dent. No one wanted to help me eat it, because you know, it’s “healthy”. I don’t care, it’s more for me.

Vegetable Pizza

I also got a pizza with no cheese, just vegetables. It’s not on the menu but the chef just puts on whatever veggies that are available that night. It’s been different each time I’ve ordered it, summer veggies vs winter, but it’s always comes out great.

I’ve often wondered though, after calling the first time about vegan options, do you call again each time you plan on eating there? Or do you just assume they can make something vegan as they’ve done it before? I usually just assume unless I haven’t eaten there for a long time.

The service really was outstanding and very accommodating (we had a lot of special requests at our table and it wasn’t all me). The setting is casual, cozy, a bit on the small side so when they’re busy, there can be a wait. But it’s totally worth it.

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Summer’s Bounty

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Coconut Bacon

While my sister was away on holiday, I raided her backyard garden. Because I’m a pirate and that’s what pirates do. Arrrr! That’s pirate talk for “I like vegetables.”

Back in the kitchen with my loot, I made a simple pasta dish so that the freshly picked from the garden tomatoes and basil can really shine. It’s so simple and easy, a recipe is hardly necessary.

Just chop said tomatoes and chiffonade the basil leaves. Mix together with a minced garlic clove, a splash of balsamic vinegar, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss with your favorite pasta, I like whole wheat spaghetti noodles. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and top with coconut bacon, because that’s how we pirates roll.

Disclosure: Alas, I’m not really a pirate. I actually had permission to help myself to the bountiful garden. Really. But don’t tell Mom I’ve been fibbing. The recipe is for real though.

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My Sweet Mid-year Status Report

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting

It’s past the mid-year point and well past the time most New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Me? I’m still going strong on my resolution to try every cupcake flavor from the vegan bakery, Sweet Aha! And not just the cupcakes, I’ve extended the goal to encompass everything that’s available including the muffins, scones and cookies.

Bet you thought I couldn’t keep such a resolution and that I would crack under such decadence. But no, I’m a trooper and so far I’ve stuck to it and with going to the gym regularly so I can keep up with the resolution. Experts say accountability is the key to reaching your goal. So here goes, the latest flavors I’ve tried:

Pictured above, a classic flavor combo – chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting, drizzled with chocolate. The peanut butter flavor is a bit on the subtle side and like all of their offerings, it wasn’t overly sweet.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake

Chocolate frosting on a chocolate cupcake is just like taking a big bite of devil’s food cake. As always, the cupcakes are all ever so light and super fluffy.

Vegan German Chocolate Cupcake

Another chocolate cupcake, but this time with chocolate buttercream frosting with German chocolate topping. I’ve always loved German chocolate cake back in the day, especially the topping. It’s exactly like it but in a cute cupcake form.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffin

I’ve had my share of vegan muffins, can’t say I’ve enjoyed each one. It actually took me awhile to branch out and try a Sweet Aha! muffin (pictured above is the chocolate chip). I don’t know why I hesitated so long, like their cupcakes, the muffins are airy and light and made with all natural, organic, vegan ingredients.

Vegan Lemon Poppy Muffin

In fact, for their lemon poppy seed muffins, they actually squeezed and zested fresh lemons, by hand no less, for a pure, real lemony taste.

Vegan Banana Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Lest you go away thinking there’s only chocolate, chocolate or chocolate cupcakes available, I also tried a banana cupcake with coffee buttercream frosting with peanuts. Out of their many flavors, there’s usually a selection of three options: a vanilla one, some sort of chocolate one and one other flavor. You really can’t go wrong with any one of them.

Next check-in, end of the year, until then I’ll be striving to stay the course…

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